AN: Hello my dears! My exams are finally over and hopefully I'll have lots of time and inspiration to write this summer. I promise to get going on the next chapter of A New Beginning as soon as possible, but this little story has been playing in my head for a little while and I just had to get it out there. I don't have an update schedule.
Let me know what you think!
Love to my Beta: Bel
I don't own the Twilight characters, they merely inspire me to write.
"All the world's a stage…" – William Shakespeare
The mirror shook as the music vibrated through the thin walls of the nightclub. The small back room was packed with half naked bodies dressing into skimpy costumes and preparing for show time. There was something wrong with the air condition in the room, the heat so strong it caused my makeup to run and my already tight costume to stick even more to my body. My eyes looked tired under the dark eye shadow and heavy eyeliner. Here, I no longer was Isabella Swan, the innocent daughter of a police chief from the small town of Forks, Washington. Here at La Push Night Club my identity changed every evening and I would become whomever or whatever I needed to be to get through the night. Tonight I was Belle, the French maid complete with fishnet stockings, a feathery duster and a god awful, exaggerated French accent. I guess I had to be thankful for my high-school French lessons. However, I couldn't imagine dear Madame Dubois ever considered that one of her students would be using French in an adult night club, but hey! At least her lessons weren't a complete waste of time! Gone were my dreams of visiting France or traveling around the world, now I simply focused on getting through each day and paying my way through college. It was still a mystery to me how men actually paid to watch women dance around in skimpy outfits, fulfilling some odd fantasy, but the money was good and with the lack of a better option… Let's just say, I was grateful for whatever helped me pay the bills.
With a final touch of lip stick to my now sultry red lips, I stood up anxiously awaiting my turn behind the stage. Rose was on and I found myself studying her graceful movements. Rosalie Hale, a spitfire from Fairfield, Ohio had moved to the great city of New York with the dreams of making it big as a Broadway dancer. After years of lousy jobs with horrible pay, Rose was desperate and depressed. Billy Black, the owner of La Push, saw her perform as a background dancer for some sleazy singer at a local shopping center a few years back. Apparently, it hadn't taken much convincing before Rose found herself at La Push Night Club. Here she was the club's star and Billy's right hand. She was responsible for all of the other dancers and had therefore become my mentor and good friend. Rose was a hard shell to crack and kept most guys (except when performing) and girls at arm's length. She was strict and, for lack of a better word, a real bitch, but for some odd reason, she had taken me under her wing and we had become great friends. When I started at La Push, a little over a year ago, I had just turned 21 and had experienced very little in life. Rosalie introduced me to this new world, with its good and bad sides. She taught me to distance myself, to put on a role and hide behind it for the period of time I was working. The costumes, the makeup and the different roles made everything easier to deal with. I mean what girl ever imagines that she'll be working as an exotic dancer in a night club? This was my coping mechanism, to put on a role and became whomever I needed to be to get through the night. Isabella Swan did not exist in this world.
Rose twisted gracefully around the dancing pole, her music coming to an end as she completed her pose. Even after a year of performing on stage, I still felt intimidated every time I had to enter the stage after one of Rose's popular routines. Rose and I were complete opposites. Rose stood tall, the personification of beauty and sensuality. Her dancer's body was to die for, firm yet soft in all the right places. Her hips and ass were round and shapely, and her breasts were large yet perky with perfect pink nipples. Her skin was naturally tanned, her long blond hair and sparkling blue eyes completed her look. She was stunning.
I, on the other hand, was lean and petite with a pale complexion, brown wavy hair and dark brown eyes. Another major difference between Rose and I was our personalities. Rose was confident and unafraid while I was careful and easily embarrassed. I had come a long way from the shy, innocent bookworm I had been when I first moved to New York. Rose had worked long and hard with me until I finally felt somewhat comfortable in my own skin. I couldn't exactly become an exotic dancer if I continuously tried to cover myself up! Like Rose, but unlike some of the other girls, I never took off all of my clothing. My routines were sensual and unique, and I used my characters to the fullest, putting on a performance very different from the other girls'. Beside Rose, I was the dancer that received the most tips and the most attention from the audience. This was probably why Billy quickly decided to put my routine directly after Rose's. Although we were very different, our performances complimented one another and the audience loved it. Billy had on several occasions expressed his wishes for me to work in the club full time, but because of school (much to Billy's dismay) I was only able to work four times a week.
Rose finished, smiling widely and flirting while she charmed the audience passing around her police hat collecting her winnings. We seemed to have a packed house this evening; business was going to be good tonight. She blew them several kisses as she made her way off stage, giving me a wink for good luck as she passed me.
"Knock them off their feet, Bella!" she encouraged, her eyes glowing after a great performance.
"And now, please put your hands together for our very own French Belle!" Jacob, Billy's son and heir to the family business, said introducing me.
The speakers were quickly filled with Edith Piaf's "La Foule", the French music setting the tone for my performance. I let the music fill me as I focused on portraying my character and took my first steps on stage. While Rose preferred the dancing pole, I opted for the simplicity of a single chair in the middle of the stage. The lights were bright and I could barely see the audience. I let the music guide me as I began my dance allowing the feathered duster to trace the lines of my body. As my performance went on I made sure to use my prop, sensually opening my legs as I sat down on the chair while shedding a few pieces of clothing. As my performance came to the ending, I made my way to the front of the stage, flirting with the nearest seated men and making good use of my duster as I "cleaned" them. I had shed most of the clothing on the upper part of my body, but my fishnet stockings still remained since they had large enough holes for the men to thread their bills through them. I allowed the men to touch, but was careful to use my duster to swat hands away so that their touches wouldn't linger. I had learned this little trick the hard way. After a few extra turns and winks I headed off the stage to the wonderful sound of applause and catcalls. It had been yet another successful performance.
I passed the next dancer offering her good luck as I made my way to the back room. Rose was there dressed in her "floor" outfit. Since La Push was a fairly small night club, all the dancers worked a short waitressing shift after they had completed their dances. Since we would be working the floors filled with horny, and somewhat drunk men, our outfits covered more, but still stayed true to our personas for the evening. Rose's police officer uniform, although tight, was really quite modest, with long pants and jacket showing just a little bit of cleavage, and completed with handcuffs and plastic baton in her belt. Understandably, we weren't allowed to wear any weapons, but something to smack away any unwanted touch was always a plus. There were multiple guards working the floors, so any client who became too touchy was kicked out immediately, there really wasn't much to worry about. Billy made sure to take special care of his girls.
"Hey! Good job out there!" Rose exclaimed, giving me a quick hug.
"Thanks! You too," I responded.
We continued with light conversation as I changed to my "floor" outfit. Rose was helping me with a simple touchup on my makeup when Paul, one of the guards and Billy's nephew knocked on the door.
"Hey Bella, Billy wants to see you in his office."
"Now?" Billy never asked me to see him in his office right before I started my "floor" shift. Especially not when there were so many customers in the house as there were this evening.
"Yeah, he said as soon as possible," Paul stated curtly.
Rose furrowed her brow in question and gave me a "you better tell me what's going on " look.
"Okay, boss gets what boss wants I guess," I answered, unable to hide the nervousness I was feeling as my voice quivered.
"He probably just wants to tell you what a kick ass performance you had tonight. I swear, you had the whole room panting for that pretty little French toosh of yours," Rose said laughing, squeezing my hand briefly in encouragement. Rose knew me well, she knew I didn't like it when anything unexpected happened. I squeezed her hand back in thanks, and made my way to Billy's office with Paul in toe.
I could count on one hand the number of times I had been in Billy's office. Two of them being my interview and the day I signed my contract. The office was on an upper floor overlooking the club. The dancer's called the office "Billy's tower" because he hardly left it, but still knew anything and everything that happened in his night club. Billy was a good man, but he was a strict and was someone you didn't want to disappoint nor anger.
He was sitting by his large desk flipping through some paper work when I entered. The room was sparsely lit, the lights from the nightclub pooling through a large window overlooking the club. Billy had soundproofed the room, so there was only a faint vibration from the loud music downstairs.
"Bella my dear! Thank you for seeing me on such short notice," he said smiling brightly as he made his way towards me. He gave me a quick kiss on each cheek, before he dismissed Paul leaving the two of us alone in his office.
"Wonderful performance as always, darling. Would you care for a drink?" he asked charmingly as he led me to a chair.
"No thank you, sir. I'm fine," I answered, a forced smile on my face. I wished he would simply cut to the chase and tell me why he'd called me here.
"You're always so polite, Bella. That's one of the things I appreciate the most about you," he complimented pouring himself a drink. Something was definitely up, Billy wasn't shy on giving compliments, but two in such a short matter of time was unusual.
"Thank you, sir, but I'm guessing that's not why you called me up here on one of the busiest nights of the week." I kept my voice respectful, but firm.
Billy looked down briefly, his eyes darkening somewhat as he cleared his throat.
"You are a smart woman as well," he stated.
I smiled briefly, folding my hands in my lap, as I kept my eyes on him. There was an uncomfortable silence between us, before Billy finally broke it.
"You have been requested in a private room for the evening."
A cold shiver ran down my spine and I felt my eyes widen and my jaws clench shut. Billy had a small amount of private rooms for a handful of very special customers who wanted some-one–on-one time with one or two of the lady workers. Sex was prohibited of course, but lap dances or blowjobs were quite a common occurrence in those rooms. I had clearly stated when signing my contract that this was not something that I would take part in. My father had taught me to respect myself and my body, and although working as a stripper wasn't exactly something my father would accept, I swore to myself that I would NEVER get involved with any of the other areas of the business. Billy had agreed to this….A fact I had kept hidden since I started working at La Push was that I was a 22 year old virgin by choice, and no one was taking that from me! I felt betrayed by Billy's presumptions; angry, upset…I forced my eyes to find his, his dark eyes which seemed to be pleading with mine.
"Mr. Black-," I tried before being interrupted.
"Bella, I know what we agreed on when you signed your contract with us. You are perhaps the single most requested girl when it comes to a private audience, and I have always declined no matter what. But this man is extremely influential…"
I couldn't listen to this! I shook my head standing up quickly as I made my way to the door. Billy was fast and grabbed my hand, stopping me. Rage and disappointment flew through me as I felt his touch and I pulled my hand harshly away from his, wanting to get as far away from him as possible.
"Get your hands off me!" I yelled, my voice cold.
"Bella, please hear me out! He says he just wants to talk with you!" Billy was now standing in front of the door, his eyes pleading as he waved his hands back and forth.
"Let me out, Billy. My answer is no." I was surprised by how firm and cold my voice was. On the inside my emotions were a mess! Billy wasn't moving… I knew there was no way I could take him, but I was desperate to get out of the room!
"Isabella, he is paying five grand just to speak with you!" Billy exclaimed as I made my way towards him.
My movements paused abruptly. 5,000 dollars? That was more than I made in… For a chat? This was all so unusual, there had to be a catch. I began shaking my head.
"I promise! I'll have both Emmett and Paul guarding the door. One wrong move from him and you'll be out of there, I swear it!"
My movements stopped completely as I tried to absorb what Billy was telling me. Could this man really just be wanting to talk with me? Then why wouldn't he just contact me on the floor for free? Order a drink and strike up a chat like normal people do!
"Why?…" I struggled with formulating my question.
"He said he just wanted to speak with you privately, he'd be willing to pay $5000 for it to happen and that he'd sign a contract stating he wouldn't touch you unless you asked him to." Billy had noticed my hesitation and was doing everything he could to get me to agree. I snorted in response to his words. 'If I asked him too… Yeah right! Like that would ever happen!' $5000! I began pacing as I considered Billy's words… Billy kept his distance allowing me time to think and consider the proposition.
"You swear he just wants to talk?" I asked, searching Billy's face for any clues of dishonesty.
"I swear it Bella… That's all he wants." Billy's face was open as a book, he was telling the truth.
I considered everything for a few more seconds… I could really use the money! Business was good that evening, but for the past month things had been really slow and I was running low on money this month… My heart began to pound in my chest as I came to a conclusion.
"I want 80 % of the money," I stated, proud when my voice didn't quiver.
Billy's eyebrows rose to the top of his hairline in surprise. He quickly closed his face off and stood taller in a businesslike fashion.
"Bella… that's too-."
"Take it or leave it," I interrupted. Now it was Billy's turn to search my face for weaknesses.
"75," he stated after his quick search.
"Deal," I agreed. Billy smiled widely and shook my hand. My body was reeling with conflicting emotions… What the hell had I agreed to?
"I want Jacob by the door, not Paul," I demanded quickly before losing my nerve.
Jacob and I had been flirting with each other for the past couple of months. We'd shared a few kisses and intimate touches, but there wasn't anything serious between us. In all honesty, my feelings for him were more on a friendly level, but I was worried about letting him down. However, I knew I would feel safer knowing he was on the other side of the door rather than Paul. Jacob would never let anything happen to me.
"As you wish," Billy answered briefly.
"I'll call for Jacob. Emmett's outside the door and will take you to the room immediately." Billy said as he stepped towards his phone.
"The customer is already waiting in the private room?" I asked startled. I thought I would at least have a few minutes to prepare.
"He's been waiting there after he saw your performance," Billy answered shortly, before calling Jacob on the phone. Before I knew what was happening, I was blindly following Emmett's large figure to the basement, an area of the club I rarely stepped into. The lights were darker here, the smell of cheap perfume stronger… I felt sick to my stomach with worry and anticipation. What on earth could this man want to speak to me about? 'Oh dear God, please don't let it be some old fat guy with some strange fetish or something!' I prayed, as I started to wonder who this man might be. Billy had said something about influential; a politician perhaps? I was deep in thought when Emmett suddenly stopped, causing me to bump into him. He quickly grabbed me by the shoulders to steady me. I could feel my body shaking. Emmett's grey eyes narrowed in concern as he studied my face. His hands started to move up and down my arms as he tried to warm me.
"Bella, you're freezing!" he exclaimed.
Emmett was like a big brother to me. He and Rose had an on and off thing going on so we'd hung out quite a few times. He was one of the main guards at the club, and although I knew him as this laidback, funny guy who was always cracking jokes, now he was nothing but concerned and protective.
"I'm okay," I promised, my body shuddering slightly in contradiction to my words. Emmett's brow furrowed, but he stayed quiet. After a few seconds of silence, he pulled a small device out of his pocket.
"If you feel uncomfortable or if he tries to do anything you don't want him to, just push this little button and I'll come get you, okay?" Emmett's voice was firm and serious. I took the little object, shaped to look like a small pen between my fingers and nodded, unable to use my voice.
"Okay, I see Jake. I say you better get in there before he shows up here though, 'cause that boy looks insanely jealous and I'm kind of worried he'll grab you and make a run for it or something," Emmett said lightening the mood as he feigned an exaggerated look of fear on his expressive face.
Emmett's language and expression caused a smile to appear on my lips. I agreed with him. I knew I was selfish in wanting Jacob on the other side of the door, but I also knew it would be very difficult for him to actually let me enter this lion's den. He'd probably put his foot down and order me not to go in or something. I reached for the doorknob, entering quickly before I could change my mind.
The room was dark, the only light coming from a few cloth covered lamps filling the room with a dark reddish glow. I closed the door, pausing for a moment to steady my breath before turning around. The room was large… carpeted floors, a big round bed to the side, an uncomfortably looking couch, a few chairs, a desk… I could hear the music from the nightclub above me, the base causing vibrations to run through my body. I froze as the large office chair behind the desk turned to reveal a male figure.
"Good evening, Miss Swan."
My mouth went dry in an instant, my fingers tightening around the device in my hand. Billy never gave out the names of his employees! How did this man know my name?
"Please, don't be alarmed, Isabella. I have no intention of making you feel uncomfortable," he said standing up although he didn't move from behind the desk. I huffed silently in response to his words, but calmed myself as I noticed how he raised his hands in a way of surrender which seemed odd.
He was a tall man with a lean figure from what I could see. His suit reeked of money; he was recently shaven and well groomed. The only thing somewhat un-kept about him was his hair. The color was difficult to determine in the room's lighting, but it looked bronze like, and his locks stood up like a messy mop on the top of his head. He stood still allowing me time to observe him. The lighting was causing shadows to fall on his face, I could tell this was no old, nor middle aged man, I was curious as to what his face looked like. Gingerly I took a few steps closer; there was a chair on the other side of the desk he stood behind which I felt stood at an appropriate distance. My eyes focused on their goal as I decidedly made my way to the chair, the man didn't move until I had taken my seat. He sat down in his own chair, respectfully keeping his distance. Slowly I forced my eyes to meet his, and I gasped loudly as I recognized his face.
"Mr. Cullen!" I felt my cheeks warm in response to my behavior, and to his resounding chuckle.
"I guess I can assume you know who I am then," his melodic voice filled the room as a smile spread on his lips.
"You'd have to have been living under a rock for the past few years not to recognize you. You're everywhere." I blurted thoughtlessly, my cheeks warming even more as I realized how blunt I was being.
Edward Anthony Cullen was the CEO of one of the largest industrial companies in the US, Cullen Industries. He was a corporate golden boy, son and heir to the throne of the former CEO Carlisle Cullen. The Cullen family had been in the tabloids for years! Carlisle a business master mind and his wife Esme an Oscar winning actress and designer had grown to be one of the richest families in the country. They had two children the twins Mary Alice and Edward Anthony. Edward with his striking good looks and charm had graced the pages of most tabloids for as long as I could remember. He was 28 years old and the youngest CEO ever to have been appointed in the history of Cullen Industries, and he was absolutely gorgeous. The tabloids, even television hadn't done the man in front of me justice!
Mr. Cullen's lips raised in a half smile, his green eyes actually sparkling as he held my gaze.
"I like your honesty, Isabella. It's quite refreshing," his smooth voice caused a strange chill to run down my spine.
"How do you know my name?" I demanded, remembering my initial concern. Mr. Cullen was still for a moment, twirling his fingers while intently holding my gaze.
"I always do my homework before initiating contact, Isabella," he stated firmly.
"Don't worry. Mr. Black had nothing to do with the information I'm holding."
"And what kind of information is that?" I asked, my voice quivering a bit. I didn't like the thought of anyone checking up on me.
Mr. Cullen paused again, narrowing his eyes slightly as he searched my face. He was probably trying to gauge the extent of my nerves. He exhaled loudly through his nose before responding.
"Your name is Isabella Marie Swan, daughter of Renee Dwyer and Charles Thomas Swan. You're 22 years old and student at Columbia University's department of English and Comparative Literature. You share a modest apartment with your friend and coworker Rosalie Hale, and four times a week you work here at La Push adult Night Club to make ends meet."
I began playing with the device in my hand, nervous and unsure if I wanted this "meeting" to continue. This man already knew way too much about my life. He hadn't mentioned a lot, but what he did say made me extremely uncomfortable. I had to avert his attention somehow.
"Why would a man in your position interest yourself in a woman like me?" I questioned, forcing myself to keep eye contact and not showing my obvious discomfort.
"You cut straight to the chase," he stated.
"I don't like to beat around the bush," I responded curtly.
My response caused a half smile to rise again on Mr. Cullen's lips as he chuckled lightly.
"I find myself strangely drawn to you, Isabella. You are a woman of contradictions. On the one hand you appear to be the perfect innocent daughter of a police chief and yet on the other hand you put on such a performance that I would expect you to be nothing but a vixen or a temptress."
I began biting my bottom lip nervously, feeling my mouth run dry in response to his words. He felt "drawn" to me?
"I simply play my part, Mr. Cullen. I can imagine that a man such as yourself, who is so often in the public eye, should be somewhat familiar with the concept of playing a part," I said trying to turn some of the attention on him.
"I guess it's true what they say: 'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.'" Edward's voice was low as he quoted Shakespeare; a mysterious smile and look entering his features.
Before I had time to think I continued the quote:
"They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts."
He seemed to ponder my words for a moment, thinking hard on what had just passed between us. He raised two fingers to his lips, clearly contemplating his words before finally speaking.
"I have a proposition for you, Miss Swan. A new part for you to play on life's grand stage."