Elizabeth Barone

New Adult Romance & Suspense

Tag: sandpaper fidelity (page 1 of 4)

Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 11

Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 11, by Elizabeth Barone“Hey, are you working tonight?” Victor asked Ingrid. He leaned against the door frame of the master bathroom and watched as she applied a coat of mascara to her lashes.

She glanced at him, then returned her attention to the mirror. “Yeah, why?” She teased her lashes with the brush, building up the volume.

“This bar’s really got you dressing up, huh?” He studied her tight jeans, heels, and her black, silky tank top.

“What are you trying to say?” she snapped, whipping her head around to face him.

“Oh, now I have your attention?” He pushed off the door frame and stomped out of their bedroom.

She rolled her eyes and returned to her makeup routine. Her hands shook as she unscrewed the cap of her liquid eyeliner, remembering a night years ago when they walked out of a movie theater, hand in hand. The movie had been about a guy’s bachelor party, and she jokingly asked Victor what he would do for his.

“I’d never go to Vegas and fuck a bunch of strippers, if that’s what you’re getting at,” he’d said, squeezing her hand. He scrunched up his nose. “I like good girls. Clean girls. Teachers.”

She blinked back tears at the memory and capped the eyeliner. It’s only temporary, she reminded herself. She tossed the liquid eyeliner into her makeup bag and pounded down the stairs, brushing past Victor. She’d have to finish her makeup at the club. She slammed the front door behind her.

* * * * *

Ingrid crawled into bed, her ears ringing with the music from the club and her knees sore and bruised from practicing on the second stage. She smiled, thinking of the piles of ones and twenties in her purse. Prez hadn’t been completely truthful; on a weeknight, she could only hope to make $200, but on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, she might see almost $600. As they practiced simple pole tricks, Bambi recommended she come in every night. “You’ll get better at pole tricks that way,” the dark haired girl said with a wink.

Ingrid was quickly learning they were called “pole tricks” for a reason; the pole itself spun on its own, and the girls were really only limited by their fear of heights. “I mean, there’s more to it,” Bambi called as she climbed to the top upside-down, her bare breasts poking down at Ingrid. “You’ll get the hang of it.” She turned herself right-side-up, then spun rapidly down the pole, her body moving to the music, her legs out. The crowd around Stage 1 thinned as people gathered around Stage 2 to watch the girls who didn’t seem to care whether anyone watched. Even though she fell more than anything else, Ingrid made around $250 on a Tuesday night.

She lay on her side next to Victor, whose chest rose and fell rhythmically. She fell asleep smiling.

* * * * *

When she woke up the next afternoon, she made herself a bagel and sat at the kitchen table, her laptop open in front of her. Her email was empty except for a few advertisements from Victoria’s Secret, where she bought some lingerie to fit in with the other dancers after a few nights of dancing in her own boring underwear.

She called Josalee. “Hey,” she said when Josalee answered. “I’m sorry I let you go so fast the other day. I have to tell you something.” She heard Josalee sniffle on the other end. “Jo? Is everything okay?”

“No,” Josalee sobbed.

“I’ll be right over,” Ingrid said, standing and grabbing her car keys.

She found Josalee with her head down on her own kitchen table. Ingrid sat next to her and rubbed small circles on her back. “What’s wrong?”

Josalee laughed bitterly and lifted her head. “I knew I shouldn’t have told Kimie. I knew it.” She sat back in her seat and looked at Ingrid with large, watery eyes. “She told my parents, and then my father called me. He yelled at me mostly in Japanese, but I know the words for ‘whore’ and ‘bastard.’ And then he said whatever’s wrong with my baby is my own fault.” Tears flowed down her cheeks and snot burst from her nostrils.

Ingrid glanced around the kitchen table for a napkin or tissue. The screen of Josalee’s laptop caught her eye. “Are you pregnant, Jo?” she asked, gaping at the WebMD page.

Josalee nodded, blotting her eyes with the corner of her tee shirt. “And something’s wrong with my baby,” she wept. Through her tears, she told Ingrid about her blood work.

Ingrid ran a hand through her hair, biting down on her lower lip. She stood and grabbed a paper towel off the roll above the sink and handed it to Josalee. After pacing for a moment, she took a deep breath and sat once more. “Damn, Jo.” She rubbed her friend’s back again. “I’m sure it’ll be okay. Your parents will come around.” Josalee snorted. “Well, okay, maybe they won’t, but fuck ’em. You’ve got us. I bet David’s excited!” She tilted the other woman’s chin up and smiled. “Right?”

Josalee pulled her chin away and looked down at the floor. “David doesn’t know.”

“Why not?” Ingrid asked. Josalee broke down again, tears splattering onto her clothes. “Are you guys fighting? What, he doesn’t like the guy?”

“No, Ingrid, David is the guy!” Josalee spat.

Ingrid’s blue eyes widened. “What? When?!” she blubbered. “I thought he was gay!”

“He is, Ingrid. That’s why my father said my baby is cursed.” Josalee stood and turned the burner underneath her tea kettle on. The stove clicked and flames burst around the metal, hissing. She pulled out two mugs and set tea bags in them.

Ingrid stood. “So why did you guys hook up? How does that even happen?”

“Tequila,” Josalee said, leaning against a counter.

Ingrid half smiled. “Tequila,” she repeated, shaking her head. “Yeah, that’ll do it. So what are you gonna do?”

To Be Continued…

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Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 10

Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 10, by Elizabeth BaroneDavid smiled across the table at Wes. “Thank you,” he said, and squeezed his hand.

Wes blinked at him, then laughed lightly. “For what?”

David sighed. “For making me feel so welcome at the support group.” He took a sip of his latte. They sat in a booth in a quiet upstairs corner of the wine bar. Other conversations floated around them, insulating them in their own little world, walled off by oak paneling and the scent of apple cinnamon candles. Their meetings at the wine bar were becoming a nightly habit and, David hoped, maybe something more. Neither of them could afford anything more than a watery latte; the bar’s crowd ate prime rib while drinking thirteen-dollar glasses of wine.

Wes squeezed David’s hand back and smiled sadly. “Have you told anyone else yet?”

David shook his head. “I can’t. I don’t even know how to tell her. She used to be my best friend.” Tears dribbled over the stubble on his cheeks.

Wes tugged at the ponytail at the nape of his neck, an eyebrow raised. “You mean your roommate?”

Taking a deep breath, David leaned forward. His ringtone for Josalee cut through the air like a knife. He wrestled his phone out of his pocket and pressed it to his ear. “Hey JoJo,” he said, his voice cracking.

“Where are you?” she asked.

He swallowed hard. “Out with Wes,” he said. He plucked at the corner of the bar’s menu. “Everything okay?”

Wes raised an eyebrow at him, then took a sip of his own latte. Grimacing, he added more sugar to it.

“Yeah,” Josalee said shakily. “I just… haven’t talked to you in a few days.”

He felt like he was being pulled into a whirlpool. “I know,” he said. He turned the mug of his latte around and around. Its ceramic bottom grated against the wood of the table like a dresser being pushed across a hardwood floor.

He heard her take a deep breath. “So are you guys having a good time?” she asked.

David blushed and glanced away from Wes. “It’s not like that. Well, not yet.” He peeked up at Wes from underneath his lashes.

“Sorry,” she said. “I mean, you guys have been spending a lot of time together.”

David shrugged. “We’ll see,” he said, and wiped a streak of sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. “I’m being rude, though, so let me go.” He and Wes locked eyes across the table.

“Oh. All right,” Josalee said. “Have fun.” She hung up.

David put his phone down and took a deep breath, then looked up at Wes. “So I guess there’s something I need to tell you.”

* * * * *

Josalee stared at her phone in her hand. Her eyes burned and she pressed the pads of her fingers to them, holding in the tears. As she sucked in a deep breath, her phone went off. She squinted down at it, wiping the tears from her eyes, and snatched it up. “Kimie,” she gasped.

“Live and loaded,” her younger sister said.

She inhaled slowly through her nose, blinking back more tears. “What’s up?”

“We haven’t talked in a while,” Kimie said. “Is everything okay?”

She imagined her sister sitting in her college dorm room, at a desk piled high with textbooks and papers. If I can’t talk to my own sister, who can I talk to? she thought. “I’m in trouble, Kim,” she said. “But you can’t tell Mom and Dad.”

She could almost hear Kimie straighten in her seat. “Like what kind of trouble?”

“Last time I told you anything, when I told you about the musician I was dating, you went straight to Mom and Dad. You can’t do that this time,” Josalee said, her eyebrows furrowed. “You have to promise.”

Kimie snorted. “Is this about your gay roommate? The one you’re in love with?”

Josalee’s eyes widened, then she squeezed them shut. She kept them closed the entire time she talked.

* * * * *

Ingrid stared at the strip club owner, her lipstick painted mouth gaping.

“Most of the girls here pull in five-hundred a night—the dancers, I mean. My bartenders only pull in about $300,” he went on. “Don’t look so shocked. I’m telling you because you’re a pretty girl and you’re probably in a jam since you’re here.” He smiled at her, flashing his nasty teeth.

She fought the urge to crinkle her nose, and instead stared at his receding hairline. “Look,” she began, then paused, a hand on her hip. “I never got your name.”

“Prez.” He smoothed his hair over his head. “And before you turn me down, hear me out. The girls here pick whenever they want to work. There are two stages, so you’ll never have a slow night. Guys come here to see the girls dance, not to watch them serve drinks.” His neck seemed to retreat further into his torso as he talked, and his head bobbed up and down. Ingrid pressed her lips together. “How about this?” he continued. “You dance tonight and see how you do. If you hate it, I’ll put you on as a bartender. I’d hate to do that to you, though. You’d look a lot prettier with a lollipop in your mouth. Hell, I think I’ll call you Candy.”

Her jaw dropped.

Prez shrugged. “I’ll be at the door to the dressing room.” He left the office.

She wrapped her arms around herself. The sludgy grind of an electric guitar slammed into the walls of the club—a welcome change to the rap. She thought of the bills piling up on the kitchen table, then tried to see herself shaking her ass in her underwear. She bit down on the inside of her lip, her white teeth drawing blood.

Five-hundred bucks, a little voice insisted. That’s half your rent right there. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment.

Then she followed Prez to the dressing room.

To Be Continued…

Thank you for reading Sandpaper Fidelity! If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, get the entire ebook for free here.

Catch Up: Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7 • Chapter 8 • Chapter 9

Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 9

Sandpaper Fidelity: Chapter 9, by Elizabeth BaroneRecap: Victor went to a strip club to work off some steam. When he got home later that night, he climbed the stairs to his and Ingrid’s bedroom. She wasn’t there.

Catch Up: Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7 • Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Ingrid skimmed through the description of a paraprofessional job listing. “Temporary,” she muttered. “What else is new?” Her phone rang and she snatched it off the table. Her shoulders sagged as she read the name on the display. “Hey Jo,” she sighed.

“Hey,” Josalee said. “You okay?”

Ingrid exhaled into the phone. “No offense, but I was really hoping you were someone calling for an interview.”

She practically heard Josalee frown. “An interview? Why? What happened?”

Ingrid scrolled through the rest of the education job listings and, finding nothing, went back to the main page with all of the job categories. “I got laid off. The position was only temporary, and I knew that going in, but they told me they might keep me. I wasn’t even there long enough to be able to collect unemployment, Jo. They screwed me!”

“Why only temporary? Aren’t aides important?” Josalee asked.

“We are, but let’s face it: if the school doesn’t have to pay for health insurance and 401(k), they save money.” She tapped her fingernails on the table as she looked through the categories.

“Well, I’ll keep my eyes open,” Josalee offered.

“What’s ETC?” Ingrid asked, frowning at the last category. “Listen to these, Jo. Paid MRI study. Help couples struggling with infertility… Dude.” She giggled.

“Speaking of,” Josalee said. “Ingrid, I need to tell you something.”

“Oh wow,” Ingrid said, “there’s even an ad for strippers. I mean, they’re calling them ‘dancers,’ but that’s not obvious or anything.” She shrugged and clicked on it, just to see.

Josalee laughed. “Listen, Ingrid…”

Ingrid’s eyes flew across the screen. “Jo, I’m sorry. I’ve gotta go. I just found something kind of promising. I’ll call you tomorrow.” She hung up and turned back to the ad. She didn’t really want to work at a strip club, but the thought of making $300 in one night and catching up on her half of the rent in less than a week was too tempting. She could do it for a little while, keep her eyes open for a permanent paraprofessional position, or even go back to school for nursing like her mother kept suggesting. No one needed to know where she worked in the meantime.

* * * * *

She applied a final layer of lip gloss, glanced at her hair in the mirror on the driver’s side visor, and opened her car door. She winced as little jolts of pain flew up her calves with each step, her heels clicking on the asphalt. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d worn heels; she’d quickly learned to love flats while working as an aide.

A bouncer the size of a linebacker stopped her at the door. “Five for ladies,” he said.

“Oh,” she said, digging into her purse. “I’m just here about the bartending job.”

He glanced at her heels and smirked. “Right.” He moved aside. “Go on. Owner’s at the bar.”

She squeezed by him and pressed her lips together as the heavy bass in the music assaulted her ears. She paused and watched, hypnotized, as two topless girls swung around the pole, so close to each other that they looked like they were having sex. Ingrid quickly looked away, blushing. She glanced at the door. The bouncer stood with his arms crossed, watching her. She rolled her eyes. I don’t have anything to be embarrassed about, she reminded herself, and marched past the stage toward the bar. Plastic sea shells covered the walls and changed color every thirty seconds or so. For some reason, they reminded her of The Little Mermaid. She wondered whether the girls on stage felt like mermaids, or if they felt humiliated.

“What can I get ya, hon?” a short man with yellow, saggy skin and bulging eyes shouted to her over the music. He almost looked like a turtle, with his round head and the way his shoulders hunched around his neck.

She held out a hand to him. “I’m Ingrid. I’m here about the bartending job?”

He grinned. His teeth were nearly brown, crooked. “Come on back,” he said, motioning to the swinging door at the side of the bar counter. She glanced toward the end of the bar. A bartender with large breasts and skinny legs slid a beer across the counter to a tall man wearing a too-small jacket. A group of loud and scrawny, acne-bitten men strode up to the bar at the same time as a group wearing University of New Haven sweatshirts squeezed into a hole at the counter. She crossed her fingers, hoping the owner would have her stay and start making drinks. A group of men came inside from a small porch, the scent of cigarettes barely masking the sharp scent of vodka rising off them the way steam rises off a swamp. She followed the turtle man behind the bar and into a dimly lit office area.

He gave her a once over, his eyes hovering at her breasts.

She crossed her arms. “You’re looking for a bartender?” she asked, an eyebrow raised.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, waving his hands. His thin hair, combed over the bald spot on top of his head, flapped as he moved. “We only put the ugly girls behind the bar.” He put two fingers to his chin and stroked the stubble there, staring at her.

She snorted. I’m a teacher, she thought. Well, sort of. “I’m really just here for the bartending job,” she said, feeling heat spread across her cheeks anyway.

“Pretty girl like you, you’ll make a ton of money up on that stage. Five-hundred dollars a night,” he said, his eyes burning into her. “What do you say?”

She shook her head.

He folded his arms and cocked his head. “Do you even know how to make drinks? What’s in a Long Island iced tea?”

She bit down on her lip. Her shoulders slumped.

He touched her arm. “You’re too pretty to be behind a bar. What do you say?”

To Be Continued…

Thank you for reading Sandpaper Fidelity! The next chapter will be available on Thursday, June 18th. Don’t want to wait? Click here to download the entire novel for free.

Catch Up: Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7 • Chapter 8

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