Dark Hunger


Page 23



Sam. Sam. Sam. His name had become a bass drum beat in my head. Four and a half years of wondering had turned to four and a half hours of bliss. It was as if fate had snapped its fingers and decided that my entire life would take a different trajectory. I had been sad, and a little desperate, and yearning for something that I could never have just a few hours ago, going a bit shamefaced and sheepish to watch Random Acts of Crazy in yet another dark bar.

And then, he marched off that stage, his eyes on me and only me, as if the rest of the world didn’t exist. I’d tried to say something and he’d shut me up with those lips. That’s what Sam was. That’s who he was making me become. Real. All the words that had flown between us over the past few hours, the touches, the sighs, the needs, the wants, and the restraint, formed a giant web inside me that I was trying to untangle right now, even as my hands slipped over my thighs, imagining they were his.

The brush of my cotton sheets against bare skin was a kind of torture, because it wasn’t the warmth of his fingertips. My cheek against my pillow left me bereft, because it wasn’t Sam’s shoulder that I rested against. Even the glow of the security lights of middle-of-the-night Boston left me empty, because they weren’t reflecting on his skin. What did all of this mean? Where did we go from here?

We’d both held back, his hands going to find the core of my desire for him, and my own hands touching parts of him that I had dreamed about for so many years, finding the truth so much better than anything my imagination could conjure. Hard muscle and soft skin met my palms, my forearms, driving into his flesh, my fingers, my lips, my mouth seeking every part of him that I could connect with.

Why had I held back? Why had I breathlessly poured out my heart like that, all while keeping my body at bay? It’s not as if we were virgins; that train had left the station long ago. Liam. Liam had been the conductor on that one. Sam would be my third. And I hoped Sam would be my last.

The touch of his tongue on my clit had been divine. The feel of him throbbing in my grasp, of his flesh wrapped by my lips, how he lost control and I gained it in one move—all of that was just a brief glimpse of what we both knew could be more intense, more revealing, more raw.

More.

Exhaustion hit me in increasingly-massive waves until sleep took me away. I didn’t dream that night.

My favorite, most frequent dream had just happened in real life.

Chapter Six

Sam

Two beers, a sandwich, and an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia later, I was just getting settled on the couch under a thin blanket, loose and a little buzzed. The heat of what had happened between me and Amy made even the lightweight cotton feel like a torture blanket of lava, and the crazy shit Charlie, Glen, Dee and Mac did on the show reminded me a little too much of Darla, Trevor, Joe and Liam. And, I guess, me.

As that thought rumbled around in my mind, my phone buzzed again. Maybe Amy this time? I checked, but it wasn’t her.

Can you come in now? it said.

And then the name, Louise.

That’s weird. I checked—it was the same number as the person who had texted me for the interview.

I typed back, Now? It’s 4 AM.

Yeah, now, the reply came back quickly. Are you available?

What the hell kind of job was this? I wondered. It couldn’t be that bad if Liam had referred me to them, but a 4 AM job interview?

OK, I texted back, Where are you?

She typed back an address, one that I knew. I could walk there in ten minutes, but...this time of night? I guess I’d be all right.

I wrote back, Anything I need to bring?

Her reply was quite simple: No.

I looked at my jeans and collected tee shirts, thinking. All the advice we’d received from the career counselors at UMass said that you went to a job interview dressed in business clothes with a fresh haircut, clean and sharp. I didn’t have any of that. In fact—I ran a hand across my jaw—I hadn’t even shaved today. A job interview is a job interview, but a spur of the moment 4AM interview request made me doubt “Louise” was a particularly particular HR manager. And even if she were, for some reason, expecting a suit, all I had here were jeans, and t-shirts, and a few winter things.

I went into the bathroom to clean up at least a little. My hair was caked with sweat along the scalp line, and yet, I had never seen my face so alive. She did that to me. Amy. I smelled like sex and beer. At least I could wash the sex off.

A quick face wash, then I pulled out the electric razor and buzzed through quickly, scrubbing the sweat away ruefully. Some deodorant to make sure I wasn’t too stinky, and I figured whatever came next was whatever was fated for me.

I regretted not grabbing a jacket when the cold air hit me outside, but I shoved my hands in my pockets and walked. Living in the city had taught me not to make too much eye contact, which was my tendency, but to keep my head down instead—looking people in the eye all the time was kind of a pain. I found that at least some of every single person’s emotions were reflected in their eyes and after a while, and I too easily became too full, full of everybody else’s feelings.

Struggling with my own was hard enough – I didn’t need to have anyone else’s suffering ping back and forth inside me. Maybe that was why it had been so hard to do anything but shut Amy out four and a half years ago. Thank God she was the forgiving type.

As I crossed the street and took a left, headed toward the address, I thought about that one for a minute. Thank God—God? I hadn’t thought about God for four and a half years. That wasn’t quite right...it’s more that I hadn’t wanted to think about God. Dad’s entire career was built around Our Heavenly Father, and he expected us to worship him the same way that he expected his congregants to worship The Almighty.


If God had a hand in my interview right now, then it was a pretty fucking random one. And if God had a hand in my life, then he had some really twisted ways of trying to lead me to salvation. You know where I found The Divine? In Amy’s kiss – that’s where.

I found the address quickly. I looked at the door; it listed a lawyer and a CPA on official, businesslike placards. The third listing read L. Erhardt Entertainment. That must be it. I pushed the doorbell and shoved my hands deeper in my pockets, my arms covered in gooseflesh until the door opened with a buzz-click!

I got an immediate creepy feeling despite the welcome warmth; my muscles tensed and my arms instinctively readying to grab, hit, or run.

Why had it taken me this long to realize that maybe I was being set up for something? Liam would never do that in a million years, but…I had only assumed.

Those texts hadn’t mentioned Liam.

Looking around, I forced myself to calm down. Whatever this was might be a little on the sketchy side, but this was an office building, respectable looking. The office directory on the lobby wall said L. Entertainment was on the second floor. I took the steps, not wanting to get caught in an elevator with anyone hinky. Just opposite the second floor landing was a door with a black painted window in its center. Above the window, in a boring and businesslike font, gold and black lettering read L. Entertainment Industries.

A light shone under the door, so I knocked, and someone shouted, “Come in!”

An older woman with short, curly, gray and black hair sat behind a desk; two guys about my age, lounging on a couch. They wore jeans and t-shirts, and one of them was counting cash out in a roll. I looked around. I didn’t see any bags of grass or white powder, this wasn’t some kind of drug operation, but what the fuck had Liam gotten me into?

She stood, blue eyes behind gold-rimmed spectacles. Her face was a bit plump; she could have been anybody’s mother. She held her hand out and I crossed the room, remembering my manners. As we clasped hands she looked me straight in the eye, narrowed her own, and combed over my entire body as if I were a rack of ribs. “Louise Erhardt,” she said.

“Sam Hinton,” I nodded. I looked around and our hands let go.

She thumbed toward the guys. “That’s Aaron and Jack.” They both nodded, one of them grunting. I did the same. “Did Liam explain to you what we do here?” she asked, looking at me with a cagey expression.

I just shrugged. “He just said that this might be a good gig for me.”

“You comfortable with undressing?” she asked.

That made me stop cold. “Undressing?” I asked.

“Yeah. I’ll bet, in the right uniform, and under the right circumstances, you’ve got what it takes.”

“What it takes?” I was regretting those beers. The room was a little too...something. Maybe my life really was turning into something like Charlie Kelly’s. Minus the glue huffing.

“What it takes to make three hundred a night for about...five hours work.”

“If you’ve got a gig that pays three hundred a night for five hours work, I’ll make sure I’ve got what it takes,” I said. Holy shit! Three hundred bucks a night? I could work two nights a week and be fine, and the rest of my time would be saved for music. “But...what is this?” I asked, wary and looking around.

Suddenly, two guys walked around the corner, both dressed in cop uniforms. In one fluid motion, one of the guys reached up to his collar and pulled down viciously, the entire outfit separating into two parts, neck to ankle, along velcroed seams. He stepped nimbly, almost delicately, out of the fabric and stood there in a shining blue g-string and the hat on his head.

Louise pointed. “That’s what the gig does.”

“Stripping?” I choked out.

The two pseudo-cops and the guys on the couch started laughing, a low gravelly sound. They weren’t making fun of me. This was why I was here for a job interview at four in the morning – these were the hours. I got an extra good look at the cop who hadn’t stripped down, the rim of his hat bent over his face, and realized I knew him.

“Goddammit, Liam! Why didn’t you just tell me what this was?”

He threw the hat on the couch and burst out laughing, golden hair more caked with sweat than mine had been. He crossed his arms over his chest, the fake gold badge on his shirt brushing against his forearm, and he said, “’Cuz in a million years I never imagined you’d actually come and try this out.”

“For three hundred bucks a night? I’ll try out damn near anything.” And then I frowned. “Wait a minute,” I mumbled. I looked at Louise. “It’s just stripping, right?”

The guy standing there in the shining g-string, looking like a very hot version of Borat, said, “That part is up to you. Some of us,” he mulled over his answer, “let opportunity dictate how much we make.”

“He means that some guys will take the extras that women offer,” Liam said bluntly.

Louise pretended not to notice the conversation and started shuffling some folders. I was starting to get the point. “How does this work?” I asked.

She said, “Well, I need you to do an audition.”

“An audition?” I choked out.

Liam mugged, his blue eyes sparkling. “We all have to do it,” he said.

“Do I get a chance to practice?”

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