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The low, sensual beat brought her onto the stage like a siren. One gloved arm wove through the slit in the curtain and then the other, parting them as she stood, framed for a long moment. Her dark hair was piled up on her head artfully. Long, fake lashes framed big brown eyes. A deep blue satin dress hugged every curve lovingly, her breasts pushed up and out of the scooped neckline and as she walked, the slit on each side of the dress would show her legs to the upper thigh.

She let the music grab her senses and her rhythm as she slowly sauntered out onto the narrow stage. Dancer’s heels, still very high, led her through the beginning of her routine as she carefully maneuvered the long feather boa to keep from tripping.

Caught in the music, Dahlia’s muscles burned as she did a high kick leading into a round kick swiveling her body away from the audience all in a seamless set of movements.

A feather from the boa stuck to the sweat on her neck as she slowly rotated her hips in time with the horns in the jazz band. Her hands rose, slowly taking the boa to wind around her body. Down it went until she finally stepped out of it as it lay at her feet, kicking it to the side.

Giving her back to the audience, she raised one hand into the air as she turned her head, winking over her shoulder.

Knocking her hips from side to side to the smoky jazz beat, she brought the tips of her gloved fingers to her mouth to grab the material and pull it off slowly.

The first glove went over her shoulder, into the bar pit the stage encircled. The second glove came off as she stood in front of the trumpet player and pulled it off around his body.

A bump and grind circling the band and she lay down on the side of the stage near where the bottle service tables were. Throwing a foot into the air, she gave them all a lot of leg to look at as the dress slid back. Rolling up onto her knees, she unzipped the front of the dress and shimmied out of it. Then she turned, cleverly giving them her back and a pair of boyshort bottoms with a winking kitty on the ass.

The dress dropped as her forearms came up to cover her breasts and she bent, looking at them all upside down through the vee of her legs.

The cheers and applause bolstered her confidence. Up there she was beautiful and desired and that was okay. More than okay, it felt marvelous.

Still facing the band she reached out quickly, grabbing the hat off Timmy’s head. The trumpet player widened his eyes in a choreographed move and she spun, clutching the prop hat just so to cover herself.

Sensual smoke and mirrors. Dahlia didn’t show the audience any more than she’d show at the beach. They wouldn’t see her nipples and her panties would stay right on her booty with the fishnets below that.

Playing coy, she waved with one hand, pretending to almost drop the hat as she took the first step back up to the dressing room. And another step and two more. Once her body was in the doorway she turned and tossed the hat back to Timmy. With a hand over her mouth stifling a pretend giggle, she kicked up her leg and was gone behind the curtain.

Her robe hung just inside the doorway and she grabbed it, putting it on as she made her way back to her dressing area. She smiled as the music started for Roseanne, the dancer who shared the ten p.m. time slot.

Tapping her foot to the notes of Viva Las Vegas, Dahlia took off her stage makeup and got changed. She usually tried to hang out twice a week or so to watch her friends dance and also have a few drinks. She’d met a lot of interesting people and oddly enough, gained a following of sorts.

The Dollhouse was a burlesque lounge. The women did not strip totally nude and Dahlia thought of the show as an elaborate celebration of women’s sensuality. The women there always reminded Dahlia of the Elvgren pin-up girl art her grandpa used to have in his garage. Dahlia loved the coy, sex kitten she embodied on stage. It often felt like that Dahlia was her other half. The part of her she could only release up there for those minutes she was performing. The half she put away when she turned back into a pumpkin. Or more precisely a graduate student.

The club had been open for six months and already had a hip, young following with lines outside every night. The lounge itself was small and intimate, it didn’t hold more than seventy-five people. The interior was subtly sexy with lush fabrics and deep-colored leather. A nice place to hang out and have a drink with her friends that she’d never have been able to afford were it not for the fact they worked there.

Emerging from the back of the club and walking into the lounge area, she searched for her friends’ table. Catching sight of them, she also noticed her boss at his usual table. William Emery was a very sexy man. High powered, really charismatic and extraordinarily successful. He’d broken ground on the first retro style burlesque club in Vegas and now others copied him. He seemed to constantly be in motion, working twelve to fifteen hour days. She admired that even if he did come off like a cold asshole sometimes.

He certainly liked a wide variety of women. Although she’d give it to him, he seemed to keep a professional wall between himself and his dancers. He flirted, but he didn’t prey on them. He paid her well and didn’t hit on her, she was down with that. Smiling, she sent him a wave and a wink as she made her way past.


Nash Emery sat with his brother William, the owner of The Dollhouse, and a bevy of beautiful women at one of the VIP tables. He’d been sipping a very fine scotch when he caught sight of the statuesque dancer who’d just been on stage.

The smoky taste smoldered on his tongue as his heart sped at her saucy, sexy wink. His eyes drank in every detail of her face and body that he could in the low light of the club. Her deep black hair was drawn up into a chic, fifties-style ponytail and bright red lipstick painted her carnal lips.

The captivating sway of her walk and the jiggle of her breasts in that dress mesmerized him. Her legs were miles long and she was all curves and valleys—the kind of woman a man wanted to sink himself into for days without coming up for air.

The kind of woman they didn’t make anymore. All coy and smoking hot all at once. Suddenly, he felt a little less jaded and a lot more interested.

He leaned into his brother. “Who is that?”

William’s eyes quickly raked over the woman before turning back to Nash. “That’s Dahlia. No shit, that’s her real name. From some hick town, college student. She’s one of the favorites here. Not too often you see a package like that, even here in Vegas. Hot, isn’t she?”

“Hot isn’t a word that does her justice,” Nash murmured as he extricated himself from the knot of people at the table and moved to intercept her.

She hadn’t been paying attention and ended up bumping into him, her hand moving to his chest to keep from falling. That small touch sent electric warmth through him.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there.” Big brown eyes met his and damned if his cock didn’t jump. Her voice, like smoke and whiskey, low and sexy, stroked over his skin.

The scent of her perfume just beneath the smell of cigarettes, alcohol and sweat in the club tickled his senses. Reaching out, he put his hand at her waist. The abundance of her body and the incredible beauty of her face knocked him out. Damn, he couldn’t recall being so excited by and interested in a woman in a very long time.

“No need to apologize, honey. I’m Nash. Why don’t you come and join us?”

One perfectly shaped eyebrow rose slowly. Imperiously. She took a step back, out of his grasp. “That’s all right. I have friends waiting.”

He reached and took her forearm, caught sight of the cherries on her dress, the red fingernails and toenails through the open toes of her very high heels. The woman was a fucking sex bomb and he wanted to detonate her right then and there.

“Wait. Can I give you a call? I’ve got a very nice penthouse here on The Strip. What do you say we go there? Drink some champagne while I scrub your back in the bathtub. You can show me what was under the hat. You know, be my private dancer.” He laughed, teasing her.

Her lip curled in a sneer as she pulled out of his grip. “Private dancer? Like a whore? Oh, sure. Give me your number and I’ll just show up, blow you and be on my merry way. Because that’s what all showgirls do, right?”

He put his hands up in defense. “I…uh, I didn’t mean for you to be offended.”

Her hands went to her hips like an angry Amazon. “What the hell else would I be? You don’t know me from Adam and you’re propositioning me thirty seconds after you bump into me? Didn’t your mother raise you with any manners?”

Holy shit was this going badly. He’d really fucked this one up. It’d been a long damned time since a woman had turned him down, about as long as it’d been since he’d misjudged one so severely.

“You’re right. I apologize. It was rude of me. In my defense, you’re so beautiful I sort of lost my mind. I do hope you won’t hold my terrible behavior against me in the future.” He bowed. “Can we start over? I’m Nash Emery and I really was raised with manners, I swear to you.”

“You’re going to have to do better than that. That was the fakest apology I’ve heard since, well since the last rich asshole hit on me.”

Nash might have been offended but he couldn’t help but like her fire and he had been an asshole. Cocky was a fallback position for him. Women usually dug it. Not this one. A smile crept back onto his face.

“You’re a hard woman. I’m sorry. I was a jerk. But I meant it when I said you were beautiful. And you do knock me out. Can we start over?”

He held out a hand, cocking her head and hesitating a moment, she took it. “Emery huh? I suppose you’re the playboy brother I’ve heard all about. Although frankly, I’d expect some more original lines from someone of your reputation. Private dancer, gee, I’ve never heard that one before. I’m Dahlia Baker and I am not a roundheeled tart. I’m getting my MBA at UNLV.”

He laughed, chagrined. Okay, okay, so he’d made some snap judgments. He’d taken one look at the eye-popping body and face and added it to the fact that she danced in a burlesque show and made some assumptions.

“I don’t know if I’d say I was a playboy and I’d love to know what you’ve heard about me. Can I buy you a drink, Dahlia? I promise to be on my best behavior.” He sent her his most charming smile.

“I bet you would.” One dimple at the right corner of her mouth showed as she fought a smile. Nash wanted to lean in and lick it. Until she continued speaking. “No, thank you, Nash. I don’t have drinks with patrons and my friends are waiting for me.”

“Oh. Well all right. Have a nice night, Dahlia. Again, I apologize for offending you.” He wanted to argue that he wasn’t a patron but he’d done enough damage for one night. Dahlia Baker tickled his fancy and Nash Emery wasn’t a quitter. He’d be back to wear her down until she went out with him. He just needed to come at it better.

She shrugged. “Just behave yourself.” With a wave, she moved to sit with her friends and he went back to his table.

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