Chapter 1: A Rose Is Still A Rose
“Thank you Miss Maraj!”
“You're welcome.” Nicki scanned his card and stamped the little boy’s library book before he and his mother left. Nicki leaned against the counter and sighed.
“You look tired,” Britney said.
Nicki smiled weakly, “I am. These classes ain't no joke.”
“But you’re almost there! How many semesters you have left?”
“After this one, only two. Then I take the Bar. I'm so nervous,” Nicki said as she packed up.
“Why? How much you have your face in a book, spitting off law terms all the time,” Britney said as she checked around the library. This was routine day in and out.
“Yeah, but these loans Brit. By the time I finish, I'm going to have to pay back so much money.”
“And you will, once you become an attorney.” Britney stopped her and gave her a hug. “Just hang in there, okay?”
Nicki nodded, “I’ll try.”
“Now get home,” Britney said while handing Nicki her coat.
"You don't need help closing up?”
"No, go home and get some sleep,” Britney smiled pushing her friend along. Nicki sighed as she threw on her coat and waved goodbye as she walked towards the library’s parking lot. As Nicki moved towards her car, she could see a stretch limo pulled up beside it. Nicki looked in her purse for her keys as a man stepped out of it.
"Onika Maraj?" At the sound of her name, Nicki looked around. The man was huge in stature, the massive muscles on his arms ripped out of his shirt.
“Yes?” Nicki asked.
“Beast wants to have a word wit you,” he opened the back door.
Nicki knew the name, but she wasn’t buying it, “I’m sorry, I don’t have the time.” Nicki opened the door to her car.
“Miss Maraj,” the man said sternly. “I highly suggest you talk to Beast now.”
“And if I don’t?” Nicki asked.
A man emerged from the limo, his light skin contrasted against his black suit matched with black leather shoes. His light brown eyes pierced down at her, the Beast.
“Nicki,” he said coolly. “May you please get in the limo, I would like to talk to you.”
“About what? Why can’t we talk out here?” Nicki asked.
“Come in and find out. I don’t want our business in the street like this. I won’t keep you long, I promise.” His smile was charming, but Nicki knew that he was deadly. Cautiously, Nicki got into the limo and slid in followed by Beast. She sat on the opposite side of him, watched at his cut and lit a cigar. He let down the window some to let the smoke out. He watched her intently. He had been tracking her for some time, watching her movements at her job, her school, where she lived. But he finally had her in front of him.
"You know you're more beautiful in person,” he finally said.
"What do you want?" Nicki asked cautiously. Everyone in Queens knew that its cocaine trade was ran by "The Beast," a man said to have the vicious bite of an animal if he didn't get what he wanted. She had only heard about stories of "The Beast," how he killed and tortured with no mercy, moved weight through the borough with ease.
He took a long pull from his cigar, "You're father owes me money."
"Well I haven't seen him in almost three weeks. He only comes around when he needs money. I don't know where he is," Nicki said quickly, hoping he'd just let her go.
"Yes, well he's still indebted to me. This means that he has to pay, whether in cash or by other means." The Beast stared at her for a while, studying her movements. She shifted in her seat, recrossing her legs. He was making her uncomfortable, he liked this.
“I told you, I don’t know where he is,” Nicki said again more strongly.
"I’ve been watching you. You’re librarian that is trying to make her way through law school while helping to support you family. Your mother, Carol? And you have two brothers, right? Jelani and Micaiah?"
Nicki became alarmed at the mention of her family, "They don't have anything to do with this.”
“That’s all up to you,” he shrugged.
“I told you, I don’t know where my father is,” Nicki said, almost pleading.
“I believe you, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still need my money,” Beast tapped the ash of hi cigar out of the window causally.
Nicki glared at the man in front of her, "How much does he owe you?”
Beast took another pull from his cigar blowing it out slowly, "$25,000."
“Shit,” Nicki could only shake her head. If he wasn’t using it for drugs or booze, every penny her father got his hands on went to his gambling addiction. Nicki knew that her father owed money to a few people, but she never knew that it was such much. “We don’t have that kind of money.”
"I have a proposition for you." He eyed her legs again, admiring their honey glow. "You know about my establishment?"
Nicki grimly nodded seeing where his thoughts were going. ‘Rose Petals’ was a strip club ran by Beast, a side operation filled with the finest exotic dancers in Queens.
“If you work for me to pay off your father’s debt, I will make sure nothing happens to you or your family."
"You would hurt me and my family for my father’s debt?” Nicki asked.
"No, but there are some other people looking for your father. And I doubt they will be more sympathetic than I am."
Nicki stared across the limo at him, his eyes focused on her as well. The smoke of his cigar burning her throat, mixed with the smell of Hennessy. Stories of his demise played through her head, the thought of her family being his next victims, or someone else’s. She felt trapped, Nicki didn’t have a choice but to agree, making a deal with the devil.
“Ok,” Nicki said.
He raised an eyebrow, “So we have a deal?”
“Yeah,” Nicki said lowly. She didn’t feel she had any other choice. He was right, he father had endangered her and her family. She had to do this.
“Good,” he smiled. “Come by tomorrow so we can get you started,” he opened the door for her. “Hope to see you there.” Nicki slid over and went to step out, Beast admired her ass as she stepped out. The guard closed the door behind her and got back in the passenger seat before the limo drove away.
Nicki quickly placed the key in the lock and opened the door to her mother's apartment. "Mom!" Nicki called out frantically. "Mom where are you?"
"Nicki?" Carol emerged from her bedroom. "Child, what are you hollering for?"
Nicki let go of the breath she hold been holding the whole car ride there. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, why?" Carol could see the frighten look in her eldest child’s eyes.
"Where's Micaiah and Jelani?" Nicki asked.
"Jelani is at work and Micaiah is staying over a friend's house. Onika, what's wrong?" Carol asked her eldest.
Nicki let out a breath, "Nothing, I just got worried."
"Sit down, I'm going to make some tea,” Carol said as she turned on the stove. She looked at Nicki, whose eyes stared off in the distance. "What were you worried about?"
"You seen daddy?" Nicki asked avoiding the question.
"No," Carol eyed her daughter. "Why?"
Nicki shook her head, "Just asking.”
"Don't you lie to me Onika. Why are you asking about your father?"
Nicki sighed, knowing she couldn’t lie to her mother. "Word around town is that daddy owes some people a lot of money. And no one has seen him in days. I thought that they would come after us for the money."
Carol shook her head, "That man, I swear. I don't know when it ever got to this. I,” Carol suddenly began to cough violently.
“Mommy?” Nicki ran over to her mother. “Mommy, you okay?” Nicki went got a glass of water for her.
Carol nodded her head taking a sip, “Thank you baby. I’m fine.”
“That cough is getting worse. You been to the doctor’s yet?” Nicki asked sitting her mother down on the couch.
“I’m fine, it’s just a small cough.”
“Onika,” Carol held her daughter’s hand. “I’m fine.”
“Mama, what did they say?” Nicki looked her mother in the eyes.
Carol sighed, “Don’t tell your brothers. They think it may be pneumonia or bronchitis. Or,” Carol sighed. “It could be lung cancer.”
“What?” Nicki asked panicked.
“Calm down now, they don’t know yet. They’re still doing some tests.”
Nicki looked at the various bills spread across the coffee table. She was trying hard to help her mother raise her brothers. Between everything, they were just getting by. But that fear of losing her mother scared Nicki. She felt helpless. Nicki knew she had to take Beast’s offer.
“I’m here to see Beast.” The guard eyed Nicki before allowing her inside. The neon signed the read ‘Rose Petals’ glowed in the dim room with a red hue, cigarette smoke cast a haze as club music played through the speakers. Nicki could see male, and a few female, customers sitting down on the plush burgundy sofas as they were being given a lap dance by the dancers. On the stage was another dancer as she worked the pole, slowing grinding and sliding on the staff to the music. Bills were being thrown from all directions at her as she teased her audience which her body moving her ass in every direction. She went faster working up the crowd as they threw more bills.
“Twerk dat ass ma!” A guy yelled as he threw $20 bills at her.
Nicki continued to follow the guard in silence. She received some glares from the dancers on the floor, she quickly adverted her eyed. She never thought she’d find herself in here. They went deeper into the back of the building, up a flight of stairs to a door.
The guard knocked, “Aye yo Beast!”
“What!?” He asked behind the door annoyed.
“Ya girl is here!” After a few moments, the door opened to show a stripper, she had was small with long black hair, exotic almond eyes, her light tanned skin showed underneath only her bra and panties. She walked past the guard and Nicki looking her up and down before vanishing down the stairs.
“Beast is waiting on you,” the guard said. Nicki slowly walked into the office. It was as if it was a palace for a bachelor; the dark wood desk was in the middle, hookahs lined the wall all under solace lighting. A money counting machine was situated on the opposite wall. Behind the desk was a burgundy couch, a built in pole in front of it. In back of the couch was a cut out window to the stage and ground floor, Beast could see out but no one could see in.
“Nicki,” he coolly took a pull from his cigar and blew it out. “I’m surprised you came.”
“You told me to be here,” Nicki said lowly. The sound of the door closing behind her made a hallow thud sound.
“Yeah,” he eyed her. “I did. I just didn’t think you’d show.” He watched her for a few moments. She looked scared as she looked around nervously holding her purse. Honestly he didn’t want to do this to her, he saw something different in Nicki from the rest of the girls that worked for him, he saw that seeing her around town. But if he let Nicki’s father’s debt go unpaid, word would get around and he couldn’t have that. He put out his cigar, and walked over to her. Nicki backed away slightly, not knowing what he was doing. He was dressed more causally; he wore a print sweater with jeans and dress shoes. He was handsome enough, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “Once the debt is paid off, you’re free to go. And as promised I will make sure your family remains safe.” Nicki nodded. “Follow me.” Nicki didn’t say a word and followed him back down to the ground floor he crossed over to the other side of the building where the dressing room was. Without out knocking, Beast simply walked in.
“Raven,” Nicki could see among the half naked strippers getting dressed and doing their makeup at their mirrors, a light skinned one towards the back of the dressing room as she stood. Raven was tall with firm breasts and ass. She was light skinned with grey eyes, her light brown hair full of natural curls. Nicki received the stares as she followed Beast to the back. “This is Nicki, she’s new. I want you to tell her everything about us, train her. She’s never danced before. Teach her how to be a Rose.” Raven looked at Nicki and instead of staring her down, she smiled.
“A’ight. I got her,” Raven waved her over. Nicki looked back at as he playfully slapped a dancer’s ass before leaving the room.
"You can use this locker, it’s empty. Make sure you lock it up all the time. It’s some jealous, thieving ass bitches in here,” Raven eyed a few girls. “And your spot is next to mine, so if you need anything just take it, I don't care." Nicki could feel Raven's eyes studying her as she sat at her vanity. "So what's ya story?
"My father owes Beast money,” Nicki said lowly, trying not to be heard.
“And ya father ain’t nowhere to be found?” Raven concluded.
Nicki nodded her head, “Yeah.”
Raven shook her head, “Yeah, Beast going get his money. So you ain't ever strip before?" Nicki shook her head. Raven smiled as she stood and walked over to the radio and turned it on. Raven pulled her chair to the middle of the room and sat in it, legs opened like a man. “Show me what you got,” Raven said.
“What?” Nicki asked.
Raven leaned forward, elbows rested on her legs, “Everybody got a little freak in ‘em.” She sat back in the chair, “Let me see where you at so I can help you.”
“Right here?” Nicki asked looking at all the rest of the girls who were staring.
“You gotta be able to strip anywhere in any situation,” Raven stared at her. Nicki looked around for a few moments, the music playing behind her.
“Naw, I’m good,” Nicki said sitting back down.
Raven shrugged, “A’ight. But don’t get mad at me when them niggas booing ya ass ‘cause you can't dance. A girl who can’t dance is a girl without no money.” The girls behind Raven agreed. Nicki stared at Raven. She breathed in and out. Nicki walked over to Raven slowly. She stopped right in front of her and closed her eyes trying to block out the fear. Slowly she began to move her body shyly dancing to the music.
“Wait,” Raven stood and sat Nicki down in the chair. “You dancing like you in the club. You can’t dance for yourself though, you dancing for the perv in the chair,” Raven smiled. She began to dance, shaking her ass to the music. She then came around dance and moved her hands down her chest, Nicki’s heart was beating fast. “Make them feel like it’s just you and them.” She came back around and threw leg over Nicki’s lap sensually grinding. “Fuck them without fucking them.” Nicki could feel her stomach tense, Raven slowly against her lap. The music stopped, but Raven was still straddling Nicki. She looked at her, “Now.” She climbed off and they switched positions. “You try.”
Someone placed the music back on again and Nicki closed her eyes. She blocked out everything and everyone that was around her. She let the music guide her as she moved. She copied Raven’s movements as she stood behind her and felt on her. Nicki came back around and began to pop her ass. She lifted her leg and rested it on Raven’s thigh before popping her ass. Nicki could feel Raven’s hands rest on her ass, she flinched.
“These guys are going to touching you, you gotta get used to that,” Raven said. Nicki continued her dance, popping a few more times before coming down onto Raven’s lap. Nicki straddled Raven, grinding against her. The music suddenly stopped and Nicki opened her eyes. All eyes were on her. Nicki stood up and backed off of Raven embarrassed.
“What the fuck is going on?” Nicki turned around to see another dancer. She had curls that flowed down her back, she was dressed in black lace panties and bra with heels. Nicki thought she could be a model.
“We got a new dancer Naja,” Raven said as she stood.
“You sure you ain’t never danced before girl? Like damn!” one of the girls asked Nicki. Naja looked over at Nicki before rolling her eyes.
“Y’all bitches need to get back outside and give them niggas some lap dances. Come on!” At the command, a few of the girls went back outside to the floor. Naja walked over to Raven, “The next time ya freak ass want a dance, get it after work.” Naja said to Raven before leaving back out.
“Who’s that?” Nicki asked moving back to her vanity.
“That’s Naja. She been here a long time, came in when I did. She real close wit Beast. She Beast’s bitch.”
Nicki rolled her eyes, “Who the hell calls themselves ‘Beast’?”
Raven smiled, “He got that name from the streets. Some of us call him Champagne Papi ‘cause boy can dick down in the sheets. But inside Beast can be a sweetheart once you get to know him. He treats all of us wit respect.” Raven could see Nicki’s wary face. “Look, I know this ain’t something you do every day. But it’s the only why we all can make quick cash.”
“I don’t know how Imma make it through this though,” Nicki admitted.
“You’ll be fine, Imma make sure of that. A’ight?”
Nicki nodded, “Thank you.”
“A’ight now for the rules. Every night after you’re done your day, you go up to Beast’s office and give him half of what you got. So make sure every day you make what you want to get. On the floor there ain’t no nudity unless it’s Friday or Saturday, but that’s your choice though. If any of these niggas get rough wit you, tell a guard or tell Beast and he’ll handle it. Beast don’t play when niggas try to mess wit us. None of the girls can drink when we on the floor, only before or after. Never leave the floor unless you going to change or you done your night. If you finished dancing for one dude, move to the next. Beast hates when their ain’t a girl in every lap. We all get our own shows on the catwalk, but you won’t get up there until like your second week. But we gotta get you an outfit and name.” Raven pulled back and looked at her. “You are real beautiful, you know that?”
Nicki placed on a weak smile, “Thank you.”
“That’s your name Beauty. Naw, Bella. My dad used to call my mom Bella. It’s Italian for beauty.”
“You Italian?” Nicki asked.
Raven smiled, “Yeah. My dad was Italian, my momma is Black. He migrated here when he was in his twenty’s, met my momma and they fell in love. My dad used to call her that all the time before he passed.”
“I’m sorry,” Nicki said.
“Naw, he lived a good life. I just think I ain’t living the life he wanted for me, but I need to take care of my mom, ya know?” Raven stared off, “I miss him though. He would always say, ‘I’m going to get us out of here, ‘Inizia una nuova vita’, start a new life.” Raven shook her head, “We never did.”
“My parents and I are from Trinidad. We moved up her when I was little. My parents always wanted the best for us. I said, ‘I want to be a lawyer’ and my mom has backed me up ever since.”
“You tryna be a lawyer?” Raven asked.
“Damn, you pretty and smart?” Raven smiled. “That’s more than half of these ratchet ass bitches in here.” The two laughed.
Nicki closed her eyes and breathed in and out.
“You’ll be fine. Just go out there and dance. That’s all,” Raven said behind her. Nicki nodded her head and walked out on the floor in but a bikini and black stilettos with a blonde wig with bangs. Wearing this made Nicki feel slutty, she felt like a whore. But it was the part she was playing. She wasn’t Nicki when she danced, she was someone else.
Nicki walked over to the chair she was assigned to, a lustful body already occupied it. He licked his lips as she neared, ready for his show. Nicki closed her eyes and began to move her body, gyrating to the music.
“Damn ma. You got a fat ass.” She suddenly felt a slap on her ass, she immediately stood up frighten. Her heart was racing, she didn’t know what to do.
“Come here ma,” he pulled her towards him closely, she could smell the liquor on his breath.
“Get off of me,” Nicki tried to break free, but his grasp only tightened around her waist.
“I ain’t get my dance though,” he began to kissed her neck.
Nicki struggled under his strength to push away, “Get off of me!”
“Not ‘til I get my dance,” he said again moving his hand to the inside of her bikini bottom feeling her ass. Suddenly he was swiftly pulled from her, a guard dragged him off of her. As the drunken man argued with the guard, Nicki quickly made her way to the bathroom. She opened a stall and vomited in the toilet.
“Nicki?” Raven bent down and held Nicki’s hair back. Streams of tears were flowing down Nicki’s face.
“I can’t do this,” Nicki said.
“Yes, you can. Look, it was your first time, it’s okay. We all get scared the first time. It’s a’ight.”
There was banging at the door, “Nicki!” Raven stood and opened the bathroom door. “What the hell is she doing!?”
“It’s a lot for her, just give her some time.”
Beast peeked through the door and could see Nicki leaning against the sink. Beast pushed through the door and stormed to Nicki grabbing her wrist, “Aye! You need to get your ass back out there and make me that money!”
“He grabbed me!” Nicki yelled through her sobs.
“That don’t mean you leave the fucking floor!” Nicki could do is cry at his yelling. Beast pulled her wrist up shaking her, “Do you fucking hear me!?” Nicki’s eyes were fixed to the floor.
“Beast,” Raven tried to stop him.
“Look at me!” Beast pulled on her wrist again, making her stumble forward towards him. Slowly Nicki looked up at him, tears in her eyes.
They stared at one another. “I’m sorry,” Nicki whispered. Beast watched as the tears flowed down her cheeks, falling on her chest. Gradually he let go of her wrist. Beast didn’t say anything, he just walked back out.
“Tell her she needs to get her ass back out there soon,” Beast said before leaving the bathroom.
Raven walked back to Nicki, “You a’ight?”
“I can go back out,” Nicki said wiping her tears. She kept breathing to calm herself. Nicki couldn’t believe she was doing this. But she didn’t want to, but she needed to. This was her only way to help her family.
“You sure?” Raven asked. Nicki checked her makeup before moving back to the floor. Raven followed her, “Nicki, you sure?”
Nicki shook her head, “Who am I giving a dance to?”
Raven sighed, “Over there.” There was a guy sitting on the sofa waiting. Raven watched as Nicki walked over to him. She began to move her body to the music once again, letting herself go. Nicki bent over and shook her ass in his face, trying hard to steady her breath. She could feel his hands grope her ass all over. But Nicki did let his touching stop her, she continued to dance as he placed bills in her outfit. She turned around and straddled him, grinding against his pelvis. Nicki could feel his bulge growing stronger as she moved against it, making him moan with each grind. But Nicki wasn’t there, only her body was. Her mind was far away. The music stopped and Nicki finally came back to the room. Her ‘client’ had a bright smile on his face.
He pulled out a hundred dollar bill, “I want an encore.” Nicki danced for him two more times before moving on to the next guy, and the next guy. Soon it was the end of her night. Nicki gathered up her money and made her way to the empty dressing room. She sat at her station and rested her face in her hands, staring at the stack of bills she made. Curiously, she began to count it. She totaled over $600, she had made $300 in just one night.
Nicki could hear someone walk in, she looked over to see Naja walk over to her vanity, holding her unstrapped bra to cover her chest. She caught Nicki’s stare; Nicki looked back at her money.
Naja smiled, “I heard you walked out on a customer.” Naja undressed trying to change into her clothes. “Beast hates that, you cost him money.”
“I didn’t mean to. I got back on the floor,” Nicki looked over to see Naja was naked, her caramel skin glowed as her breast hung perfectly from her chest, her toned stomach, the small patch of her area held between two thick thighs. Nicki turned her head back around as she dressed.
“Yeah, but you cost him money.” Naja walked over and stood behind Nicki, staring at her in the mirror. “I know why you’re here.” Nicki didn’t say anything. “And I can tell you now, you ain’t going pay back Beast boo. You ain’t going to last here. You don’t belong here.” Naja lean down and whispered in Nicki’s ear, “And if Beast don’t get what’s owed to him in cash,” Naja snaked her hand down to Nicki’s thigh moving it to her center. “He’ll get it another way.”
“Naja,” Raven said as she moved towards them. “Get the fuck away from her.” Naja smiled as she finally backed away to her station and grabbed her things.
“Bye Nicki,” Naja said before leaving.
“Fuck her. How you doing?” Raven asked.
“I’m fine,” Nicki sighed.
“You did good for your first night.” Nicki looked over at her. Raven laughed, “Naw, you did. I’m proud of you.
Nicki sighed, “I’m just glad today is over.” She moved to her locker and pulled out her clothes. “I just want to get home and forget this night.” Raven went to her locker and began to change as well. Raven secretly watched Nicki get dress, she loved her body the moment she saw her. She watched Nicki untie the bikini top to reveal her breasts momentarily before she covered them with arm. Raven wanted to touch them, touch her. None of the other girls connected with her like Nicki. She watched her slip her bra on before changing into her panties. Raven tried to quickly dress herself, it was torture to watch Nicki dance on the floor, but the temptation of her naked body was making Raven horny by the moment. Raven threw on her sweats and a T-shirt before grabbing her bag.
“A’ight,” Raven closed and locked her locker. “See you tomorrow.”
Nicki sadly sighed, “Yeah, see you.” Nicki waved to Raven before she left. Alone in the dressing room Nicki began to think as she dressed. She’d made $600 tonight; $300 went to Beast for the debt and $300 went to her. If she could make more the next time she danced hopefully she could pay off this debt soon and be done with all of this. But she had made as much as she did working as a librarian in one tonight dancing. This extra cash could help pay next month’s rent early in advance. But it still wasn’t enough to cover all her financial problems. Even though it was extra money, Nicki felt ashamed about how she got it.
Finally dressed, Nicki grabbed her things and money before making her way upstairs to Beasts office. She stood outside the door, half afraid to knock. After a few moments she knocked lightly.
“Come in.” Nicki opened the door and walked in. Beast looked over to see her enter.
Nicki walked to his desk, “I have your money.” She handed him the stack of cash.
Beast looked at it, “I see you came to your senses.” He took the money and went over to the money counting machine and placed the money in letting it flicker away as it counted. The two remained quiet until the machine finished counting.
“$634. Not bad for your first day,” Beast grabbed the money and split it walking back to her. “Here, $317.”
Nicki took the money not looking at him.
“I handled that nigga that messed wit you,” Beast said nonchantly.
“Thank you,” Nicki said.
“But next time you want to have a breakdown, don’t do it on my fucking time, a’ight?” Beast said sternly.
Nicki stared him straight in the eyes, showing her hate, “Yes.” Nicki turned to leave, but she felt his hand grabbed her arm. She looked back at him.
“Yes, what?” Beast asked.
She cut him piercing eyes. “Yes Beast,” Nicki said before snatching her arm away from his grasp. Beast smirked as he watched her leave.
Nicki yawned for the fifth time at the librarian’s desk.
“Nic, you okay?” Britney asked as she gathered up the returned books. “You look tired.”
“When am I not tired?” Nicki asked. She had been going to classes by day working as a librarian in the afternoon and giving out lap dances at night for two weeks.
“You just look more tired than usual. You okay?” Britney asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just studying too hard.”
“You need to take a break then. Take some time for yourself. Imma take you out this weekend, we going out.”
“No Brit, I can’t. I have an exam coming up,” Nicki lied.
“Aww, a’ight. What about tonight?” Britney asked.
“I can’t, umm,” Nicki looked at the time. She needed to get to Rose Petals. “I have to visit my mom.”
“How is Mama Carol?”
“She’s fine. She has pneumonia the doctor said. She’s taking antibiotics. But the bills for those tests and for the medication is running through the roof,” Nicki yawned again massaging her temples.
“Aww, tell Mama Carol I’m thinking about her and praying for her.”
“I will.” Nicki grabbed her jacket and purse, “You need help closing up?”
Britney sighed, “Naw, I got it. See you Monday.”
“Coming to the stage for the first time, she’s every man’s fantasy. She’s as sweet as a rose, and her ass is even sweeter. A true beauty, it’s Bella!” The lights hit the stage as Nicki walked out in a red leather mini skirt and bustier bra with black knee high boots and a black wig. Nicki felt sick to her stomach, but she let the feeling go. Raven had trained her how to work the pole, but now Nicki was too scared to even dance. Lights shining bright on her, she had the whole crowd looking at her, she knew Beast was watching her from above too. Nicki breathed in quickly closing her eyes. The music started, Nicki let the music sway her. She opened her eyes, she didn’t think about what she was doing. She could see the hungry faces of the men as she moved to the pole. She spun around, holding onto the pole as she slid down slowly. Every movement was slow and sensual. Nicki had become someone else when she danced, she let someone else take control of her body as she worked her routine on the pole. She shook her ass in their face, teasing them. She felt their hands stuff bills in her outfit, grabbing her body all over, but Nicki wasn’t fazed, she was becoming numb to the feeling. Shouts and cheers exploded from everywhere, bills were thrown onto the stage. The more bills that were thrown, the more Nicki’s ass shook.
Finally the music stopped, and the same relief poured over Nicki. She quickly grabbed the money on the stage and walked off into the back as the crowd cheered.
“Nicki!” Raven hugged her. “Damn girl! You got those niggas feining out there!” Raven looked back outside at the customers still rowdy from Nicki’s performance.
“Rae? I thought you left?” Nicki said.
“Naw, I went and took my money up to Beast. How much you make?”
“I don’t know. I just grabbed the money and left,” Nicki laughed as she continued to pull out bills from her top. Some of the girls in the dressing room congratulated Nicki on her first show. Raven and Nicki went to their lockers to unchanged.
“Raven?” Nicki asked.
“Who were the girls going back in the VIP area?”
“Those are ‘Thorns’,” Raven said.
“Yeah, we all start off as Buds, then Roses, and if you want to, you can become a Thorn,” Raven said putting on a shirt.
“What do they do?” Nicki asked as she slipped on her jeans.
Raven shrugged, “Show a high paying customer a really good time.” Nicki caught the hint.
“They have sex back there?” Nicki whispered.
“Yeah, but depending on how Beast ranks you, some of them girls be banking like a thou a night.”
The idea suddenly flew into Nicki’s head. A thousand dollars a night or more could definitely help her and her family out. Nicki hesitated, “You think I could be a Thorn?”
Raven stared at her for a few moments, “Nicki, you can’t do that.”
“Why not?” Nicki asked.
“Girl, you just got here. That’s not you.”
“I need the money Rae.” Raven could see the desperation in her face.
“Nicki if you need more money I can-,”
“No,” Nicki shook her head and sighed. “It’s my mom. She’s sick.”
Raven sat back in her seat, “Damn.”
“Her medication costs so much and I got brothers I gotta take of. It’s my bills, her bills, school loans,” Nicki rubbed her forehead. “Rae, I need the extra money.”
Raven covered her mouth trying to think. She knew what Nicki was going through, she had her mother and siblings to look after too. Raven sighed. “Nic, you a good girl, you going to school, you trying to be something. I don’t want you caught up in all this bullshit.”
“I’ll be fine,” Nicki said. The more she thought about it, the more Nicki liked the plan. “Once I get the extra cash, I can stop. And then once I pay Beast back, then I can leave from here.”
“You know how Roses become Thorns?” Raven asked. “Beast has the say. He has to sample each girl before he decides whether they’re Thorn material.”
Nicki stared at her, “He has sex with the girls?”
“He gotta make sure that what the customers are getting is grade A pussy. If he thinks you are, you become a Thorn,” Raven looked at the worry in Nicki’s expression. “Nicki, you don’t need to go through all of that. That shit ain’t worth it. Trust me.”
Nicki looked at Raven, “You was a Thorn?”
Raven nodded, “Was. The money was good too. But Nicki, you don’t need to be selling ya body like that. Them dudes don’t give a fuck about you. They just looking for that pussy.”
“I thought you said Beast doesn’t let anything like that happen,” Nicki asked.
“He doesn’t, there are cameras in each room to monitor what goes on, but it don’t mean that nothing can happen.” Raven lowered her voice, “My last night as a Thorn I was almost choked to death.” Raven moved back her hair to show the scar. “Beast got there, but I was already semi-conscious. A few more seconds, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
Nicki covered her mouth in shock, “Oh my God.”
“Nicki, I don’t want that to happen to you.”
Nicki looked at the scar again and back at Raven. She was scared that same thing could happen to her. But she needed to take that risk. “Rae I got to though. I need the money.”
Raven sighed, “A’ight.” Raven touched Nicki’s shoulder, “Nic, promise me that once you get the money you get out. And once you pay off that debt, I want you to get the hell outta here. Promise me.”
“I promise Rae,” Nicki said. It was hard for Nicki to come here day by day. She felt like she was selling her soul every time she walked into the building. The moment she was free, Nicki wanted to leave and never look back.
The two women finally got dressed and walked out of the dressing room. Raven looked towards the sight of Beast’s office.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Raven said.
“Thank you Rae,” Nicki said before giving her a hug. Raven held onto her, inhaling her scent, feeling her body close. She cared for Nicki a lot even in these short weeks. She didn’t want anything to happen to her. She finally let go, a fear in the pit of her stomach as she watched Nicki ascend the stairs to Beast’s office.
There was a knock at the door. He knew it was Nicki, he saw her from the window. He watched her whole performance from start to finish. He had to say, he was impressed. “Come in.”
As usual, Nicki didn’t speak. She silently placed the stack on the desk. Beast took the stack of cash over to the machine and let it count it out.
“Beast,” Nicki stared at him for a while, thinking of what she was going to say. “I want to be a Thorn.”
Beast sat back in his chair, “What?”
“I want to be a Thorn,” Nicki spoke up.
“You know what Thorns do?” Beast asked.
“So you know I gotta see whether or not you can be a Thorn?”
“Yeah,” Nicki tried to say with confidence, but inside she was scared.
Beast looked at her for a while surprised she had even considered it. He shook his head, “No.”
“What?” Nicki was confused, “Why not?”
“‘Cause Nicki, I signed you up to be a Rose, not a Thorn.”
Nicki moved towards him, “Why does it matter what I was signed up for? I want to be a Thorn.”
Beast eyed her, “Why?”
“The extra cash. I need it,” Nicki said lowly.
“If you need me to pay for ya school loans, I’ll do it.”
“I never asked for your help,” Nicki said angrily. “I need that money for my own reasons. I can pay you back quickly and handle some business.”
Beast eyed her for a few moments. He never had any of his girls stand up to him besides Naja and Raven, but even they knew they’re place. He shook his head again, “No.”
“Why the fuck not!?” Nicki asked half yelling.
“‘Cause I said so, here,” Beast passed her the money she earned, “$582. Now go home.”
“You got me up here stripping for you and now you care about who the fuck I have sex with? I would still be making you money! Why the fuck do you care!?” Nicki yelled. Her frustrations were all coming out now.
“Remember who you talking to!” Beast roared at her. He quickly stood and walked over to her. His tall stature towered hers. Nicki backed away slightly, but her eyes pierced him from below. In a way it her defiance excited Beast.
“I told you no. Now get the hell out,” Beast growled.
Nicki took her money and began to leave. She stopped at the door. With everything going on, she needed the money. “How about a bet?” Nicki asked.
Beast looked back at her, “What?”
Nicki licked her lips, contemplating her options. It hit her that she had none, but this one. “You have sex with me. The first one to make the other cum wins. If you win, I won’t ask you to be a Thorn again. If I win, I become a Thorn.”
Beast looked at her and laughed. Her heart was strong willed, he could see it in her eyes. He finally stopped laughing once he could see she was serious. He moved in front of her staring her in the eye. If she wanted to play this game, Beast wasn’t going to pass up the offer. “Your place or mine?”