Elizabeth Barone

New Adult Romance & Suspense

Tag: sandpaper fidelity (page 1 of 6)

Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 17

Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 17, by Elizabeth Barone

—START FROM THE BEGINNING—
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“I think you’ve got the wrong club, buddy,” Ingrid said, backing away from the man.

He shook his head. “Do I need to make an offer? Is that how it works?” He remained seated, his arms resting on the padded chair arms.

“I said no.” She took another step back.

He scowled. “My associate told me this place offered more than teases. I’ve been on a plane for hours. I just want a cold beer and a warm girl.”

Ingrid’s stomach churned. “I’m not that girl.”

He pulled out his wallet and waved a stack of twenties in the air. “I’ve got more where this came from.” He flashed a credit card. She couldn’t make out his name in the dim light. “I don’t want the scumbags that are out there. I want you,” he said. “I like blondes.” He shrugged.

“You’re disgusting,” she spat, “and I’m calling security.”

He rolled his eyes. “Is security really going to throw me out? You’re a cock tease. I’m not even from here and I know what your place offers. They’ll throw you out.”

Ingrid backed up until she reached the door, then pounded her fist on it. She stepped aside and Jared, an ex-football player, burst in.

“What’s the problem?” Jared towered over her and, as his eyes settled on the man in the chair, flexed his muscles.

“This guy thinks I’m a prostitute,” she said, crossing her arms and cocking an eyebrow at the stranger.

“Time to get out,” Jared announced, pointing a thick finger at the man.

The stranger rolled his eyes and stood. “What, you guys don’t like out-of-towners? This place—”

“Lady said no,” Jared said, and grabbed the man by the arm. As they walked past her, Ingrid leaned back onto the wall, her heart thudding in her chest. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“You’re never gonna cut it here,” Mercedes said from beside her. Ingrid opened her eyes to see the other woman smirking. “That guy practically had money oozing out of him.”

Pushing off from the wall, Ingrid brushed past Mercedes and went straight for the dressing room, hot tears already gushing down her cheeks.

* * *

Josalee sat up in bed. She stilled herself, listening. Dress shoes tapped along the floor as her new roommate entered the house. She heard him lock the door behind him and sighed. Already she regretted her decision to rent out David’s old room. Drawing the sheets closer around her, despite the warm early summer temperature, her mind jumped back to the day David moved out.

“I’m not marrying you,” he said, taking a step back from her. “I’m gay.”

“We can make this work,” she said, barely letting him finish. She reached a hand out to him.

He leaned away. “Jo, I get that you’re worried. I know what your father is like. He’ll get over it—”

“He called our baby a bastard, and me a whore!” she said, tears streaming down her face, her nose running. She stepped closer to David. “Please.”

His eyes wide, he shook his head again. “I’m gay,” he repeated.

“So you’re telling me there’s nothing between us?” She stood in the middle of their living room.

“I’m with Wes.” As David’s eyes met hers, she felt her heart break.

The sound of her new roommate’s bedroom door closing brought her back. She mulled over what she knew about Niall Darcy—or at least, what he told her: he hailed from Los Angeles and was in Clarington to scout for a potential film project. Even though she knew it would never happen, visions of designing costumes danced in Josalee’s head. It didn’t hurt that Darcy had the brightest green eyes she had ever seen, and when he came to pick up his key, kept running his hands through his dark blond hair, making it look like he just rolled out of bed. She couldn’t help but imagine him in her bed, a fairytale where the director and costume designer fell madly in love on set and raised her baby.

She frowned, fresh tears filling her eyes. David moved out within a day, saying he would call her “soon.” She wondered when “soon” would be. When she asked him where he would live instead, he just placed his key on the table near the front door and walked out. As soon as he left, she turned on her computer, posted an ad on Craigslist, and made flyers for a room rental.

She lay back in bed and listened to Niall settling. Her mind flicked to the brochure sitting in the bottom of her purse, listing options for pregnant women. For the first time, she wondered if she could walk into an abortion clinic and walk out feeling okay with her decision.

She shook her head. David would come around. She might even have to kick Niall out so David he could have his old room back. She fell asleep imagining their reunion.

* * *

“You again,” Ingrid said, eyes narrowing. She paused on the stage, frozen on the balls of her feet.

“Me again,” the stranger from the night before said. He took off his sunglasses and perched them on top of his head. He held out his hand. “Niall Darcy.”

She stared at him, an eyebrow raised.

“I figure maybe you’ve gotta be a regular here before you get any extra services.” He smirked, and his green eyes sparkled.

Scowling, she jerked a thumb toward the bar, where a man taller and more muscular than their nighttime bouncer sat.

Niall held up his hands. “I’m leaving,” he said, “but I think you’re pretty.” He pulled out a business card and set it down on the stage, just in front of her feet. “When you come up with a price,” he called over his shoulder as he strode to the door, “give me a call.”

She stared after him and, when he disappeared through the door, picked up his card.

—TO BE CONTINUED—

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Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 16

Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 16, by Elizabeth BaroneNiall Darcy stared out the window as his cab passed a “Welcome to Clarington” sign. The sun casted mid-autumn afternoon light over the town. He stretched in his seat, waking up his muscles in an effort to wake up his brain. He pulled out the notepad his producer, Ash Clarke, pressed into his hand at LAX and uncapped a pen. Niall and Ash had been friends since they were boys, but he wasn’t entirely convinced Ash hadn’t lost his mind. The first thing he noticed about Connecticut, as his plane landed, was the trees. The second thing he noticed was the temperature. Autumn in New England was not as romantic as Hollywood made it out to be. The cab driver rolled his eyes when Niall asked him to turn on the heat, and he planned on buying a jacket as soon as he got into town.

Even worse, Ash actually wanted to film in Connecticut. “Wait’ll you get to winter,” the cab driver laughed as he turned the heat on low. The last thing Niall wanted to do was experience winter in Connecticut. He couldn’t imagine spending six months freezing his ass off in anything other than air conditioning.

As the cab coasted toward the small inn Ash made arrangements at, Niall observed several things. For one, the town only held a couple thousand people—less eyeballs as they filmed. It also looked just like a classic New England town. They wouldn’t have to spend any money constructing money in a studio. Ash was right on at least that front.

The cab stopped at a light, and Niall sighed.

* * *

“Just put me through to Ash Clarke,” he said through his teeth less than thirty minutes later.

The secretary on the other end remained unfazed. “Mr. Clarke is in a meeting. I’m to hold all calls until—”

“I’m his director,” Niall seethed.

“I’m sorry, sir, but—”

He hung up on the secretary and shoved his hands into the warmth of his new fleece jacket. Everyone he met so far wore short sleeves or very light long sleeves. He shivered even more.

There were no rooms available at the inn, and wouldn’t be until the end of the week. The Morning Dove Inn was the only accommodations in town, and nearby motels and hotels were also full. Somehow Ash picked the busiest tourist time of year.

Sighing, Niall rolled his luggage across the street to a coffee shop. So far he hadn’t seen a single Starbucks. He hoped they at least had Wi-Fi.

A bell tinkled as he opened the door, and the scent of apples, cinnamon, and pumpkin assaulted his senses. He rolled his eyes. This whole town’s a cliché, he thought as he strode up to the counter. A blond barista met him on the other side.

“Hi, how are ya?” she said, smiling.

He nodded and glanced to the left where a “Specials” menu sat encased in a plastic countertop stand. Next to it, in a twin stand, was a flyer looking for a roommate. He glanced back up at the barista. “Give me a medium whatever your strongest blend is, two sugars and three creams.” He pulled out his phone and punched in the number on the flyer.

* * *

Ingrid saw the stranger walk in just as she finished a pole trick. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mercedes pause on the other stage. Great, she thought. A regular slid a few bills her way. She batted her eyes at him and turned, her eyes still on the newcomer. He wore a fleece jacket, sunglasses topping his short dark blond hair. His dark dress pants practically screamed money. Mercedes hopped off the stage and flitted toward him, shaking her curls and smiling. As Ingrid turned back to her customer, who pushed a few more ones her way, she saw the stranger brush past Mercedes. A smile touched her lips and she danced harder, celebrating Mercedes’s loss.

The music rose in volume and she removed her top, letting the regular see her breasts. He leaned forward in his chair, signaling he wanted more, but the pile of ones hadn’t grown. She pulled them out of his reach and danced away to a group of younger men who, she hoped, came with more money.

Bambi and Diamond—a ghost of a girl with a bad coke habit—climbed the pole together, and the group’s eyes quickly moved away from Ingrid. She danced anyway, wearing only the tiny tutu Bambi bought for her, her eyes closed. When she opened them, she saw the stranger sitting a couple of seats away from the younger guys. He locked eyes with her and smiled, sliding a twenty her way.

Her eyes widened but she quickly recovered, flipping her hair and taking a few steps away. He feigned disappointment, then slipped another twenty out of his wallet and onto the stage. She dropped to all fours and stalked toward him until their noses were only a breath away.

“How much for a lap dance?” he asked.

She pretended to think about it, then gave him a figure only slightly higher than her usual fee, testing the waters.

He cocked his head. “All right,” he said. She stuffed the twenties and the regular’s ones into her tutu, grabbed her top, and jumped off the stage, taking the stranger’s hand in hers. She led him to a room slightly smaller than the Champagne room and turned the lights on low.

Without time to change her costume, her breasts exposed, she worried for only a second he might read more into it. He sat docile enough, his hands resting on the arms of the chair, his eyes on her. She began to sway, the tutu ruffling, moving closer and closer to him until her thighs pressed against his knees.

“So how much for a blowjob?” he asked, as though he were asking her what she thought of the Jets.

To Be Continued…

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Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 15

blog_sfch15_08042015Ingrid lay under the dark ceiling. She could feel the heat from Victor’s body and the whisper of his soft snore in her ear. If she turned her head just slightly, they would be nose to nose. Her muscles ached, and ordinarily it would be a good ache, but her heart felt heavy. Eventually, she would have to tell Victor what she really did at night.

She liked dancing. She liked the way her muscles were toning, how strong she felt. The money was good, too, but she liked the sense of independence and power she felt on the stage, her legs wrapped around the pole. She enjoyed her job—even if the other girls performed other services. She crinkled her nose and slid out of bed, then padded to the bathroom. As she sat on the toilet, Victor’s phone vibrated against the bathroom counter and she snatched it up before it could wake him.

She stared at the dark phone for a moment, weighing it. If something happened to his mother, she decided, the woman would have called. She bit down on her lip, watching the phone for a moment longer. When no other message followed, she placed the phone back on the counter and walked away.

* * *

Josalee awoke to warm sunshine streaming through her window and birds chirping in her air conditioner. She smiled, and when she realized she hadn’t smiled in about a week, she smiled again. An almost warm, fluid feeling rushed through her, and she lay in bed for an extra moment before tossing the covers back and practically jumping out of bed. She strode into the kitchen and then stopped dead, the smile falling from her face.

David sat at the table, two mugs of coffee in front of him. He gave her a little wave, then motioned to one of the mugs.

She stared.

As he started to say “I owe you an apology,” she said, “I thought you’d never come back.” They looked at each other across the white linoleum. Finally, he stood and motioned to the chair again. Her eyes shimmered and she took the few steps to the chair. As she sat, tears splotched onto the table.

He brushed them away. “This isn’t your fault,” he said, taking her hand. She shook her head, started to interrupt, but he touched a finger to her lips. “No, Jo.” He took a long, slow breath. “I’ve been sick for a while,” he exhaled. He looked straight into her eyes, watched it register, let her shock and pain pierce him the way Shakespeare’s Caesar was punctured with Brutus’s dagger. “I didn’t know when we…” He massaged the bones under his eyes, and she noticed that the skin was dark with worry and fatigue.

She sat back in her chair as though she had been shot. Her heart pounded in her chest and she turned her thoughts inward, blocking out the rest of what he might say. After a few moments, her eyes opened and met his. “We both kept things from each other,” she said. Tears dribbled down her cheeks. “Kimie told my parents. I only told her about the baby, and I asked her not to say anything, but she told them, and the things they called me…”

He pulled her into his arms, inhaled the scent of her hair. Her tears dampened his shirt while his dripped onto her head.

“They said our baby’s a bastard,” she sobbed. She tilted her head up at him, her eyes red and wet. Her mind flicked back to the moment when, only a few minutes ago, she smiled at the morning sun. It felt like years had passed. “They’re going to disown me, David, unless we get married.”

He released her and stumbled back.

* * *

Octavia settled into bed, an almost empty orange smoothie on her nightstand. “Dear Lord, I sure hope Curls is makin’ out okay, ‘specially since he chickened out yesterday,” she said, resting her head on her pillow. “I also hope my parents don’t call me. Thank you and amen.” She closed her eyes and waited for sleep to take her, but she felt wired despite the twelve-hour shift she’d just finished. She sighed and stared into the velvety black of her shut eyelids. As she began to relax, her phone went off. Her eyes snapped open and she snatched it from the nightstand. “Should’ve silenced this damn thing,” she said as she read the caller ID. She frowned, shrugged, and accepted the call. “Hello?”

“Is this Octavia?” an unfamiliar, breathy male voice said.

“Uh, yeah,” she said. “Who’s this?”

The caller exhaled heavily into the phone for what seemed like an entire minute.

“I just worked twelve hours” she snapped. “Out with it already, man.”

The man laughed, then the call disconnected.

She scowled at her phone. “Seriously?” She turned the ringer off, slid the phone back onto her nightstand, and snuggled back underneath her comforter. Within a few minutes, she drifted to sleep.

* * *

Victor couldn’t stop looking at the time on his computer. He called number after number and only made a handful of leads, but he remained buoyant on the image of the ring sitting in his sock drawer. He made reservations for Ingrid’s favorite restaurant during his lunch break, and spent the last half hour of the day logging his leads. At five on the dot, he left the office and sped home.

The second he got in the door, he knew she wasn’t home. He went into the kitchen anyway, where he found a note.

“Picked up an extra shift at work. See you later,” she wrote.

He slumped into a chair and rested his chin in his hands. After a few minutes, he called and canceled the dinner reservations. Then he texted Mercedes to see if she was in. When she texted him back, he left the house, his tie already loosened.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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