I kept my face as emotionless as possible as I walked out into the lobby with Joe. I could feel my buzz wearing off, but the guilt beginning to sit in. How could I have just cheated on my fiance like that days before our wedding? I didn’t want to think about it. I made a promise that nobody would ever know about this and take it to my grave.
“Good to see you had a blast,” Joe winked as we walked outside into the chilly springtime air. “I thought I was going to have to send someone over to you, but I should have had confidence that my little brother could hold his own.” Oh, so he didn’t send her to me? He reaches in his pocket and hands me my phone. I quickly looked to see if I had any missed texts or calls, and thankfully there weren’t any.
“Nothing happened, Joe,” I mumbled. “I was just hanging out.” I’ve never been a good liar and Joe’s laughter confirmed it.
“Sure, then why did I hear the noises I heard waiting for you?” My face flushed, realizing I had been caught.
“Don’t you dare tell Amanda about this,” I scoffed, knowing Joe could run his mouth when he wanted to.
“I’m not going to tell Amanda anything. What happened tonight stays with tonight. You deserved to have your last taste of freedom before you settle down,” he smirked.
“It’s never right to cheat, Joseph,” I whispered. “I...she seduced me. I fell under her spell. I was weak, and the drinks didn’t help. God dammit Joe, this is your fault!”
Joe chuckled as an equally disgruntled Kevin walked out of the building. He looked like he had been in a fight. His hair was disheveled, he had bruises on his neck, his clothes a bit tattered, and a noticeably swollen left eye. “Kevin, what the hell happened?” I remarked, trying to understand what happened.
“Lexi happened,” he groaned. Oh right. Lexi, that girl he was with all night and Destiny’s best friend. When she said she was wild, I guess she wasn’t lying. “Guys, that woman gave me my awakening. She’s amazing. Apparently everyone else thinks that too, because one of the bouncers gave me a shiner for spending too much time with her. Totally worth it.”
Joe and I just looked at Kevin, stunned by how smitten he was to not comprehend that he, a rockstar, just got punched in the face at a strip club.
“No stop two, I think we all need to go home before this night ruins us and the paparazzi sees us,” I say as the taxi pulls up and we pile in. I could tell Joe was pleased with himself while Kevin was lost in a daze. My mind was on Amanda, wondering how her bachelorette party was going. God, I hope she doesn’t have anyone taking her to a strip club. Knowing Amanda’s stubbornness, she probably wouldn’t have allowed it. She was definitely the headstrong one in our relationship, and I loved that about her.
The three of us didn’t say a word as the cab dropped Kevin and Joe off at their apartment. When the cab pulled up to my building, I gave him a tip and made the walk of shame to my top floor apartment. It looked so empty inside. I knew it would be a temporary stay, but so many memories were made here. The boxes stacked by the wall made everything feel so real. This would no longer be my bachelor pad or Amanda and I’s home. We had just bought a house in Malibu, where we planned to spend the rest of our lives at. It’s crazy to think about, being with someone from the time you’re 17 until you die. The home needed renovations, so they were well underway to cater to Amanda’s taste. I just had to marry the HGTV addict.
I walked into our bedroom and let out a sigh at the sight of our picture on the nightstand. I felt like I wanted to throw up. I took a long bath to cleanse myself of everything that happened to me that night, and it wasn’t until a rubber ducky fell into the tub that I did something I rarely did--cry.
The next day was uneventful besides further packing up the home, and packing in preparation for the wedding itself. Tomorrow I was to fly to Cancun for my wedding rehearsal, and the first time I would have seen Amanda in days. There was no doubt in my mind her she was a full fledged Bridezilla by now. The movers would start the process while we were away, so we would not be returning to the apartment. Instead, I would be leasing it out.
I was ready to make some dinner when Kevin’s name popped up on my phone.
“Hey bro, what’s going on?” I asked, hoping he wasn’t going to bail on being my best man at the wedding.
“Whatcha doing tonight? Are you free?” He asked hurriedly.
“I was just about to eat, what’s going on?” I asked, reaching for a couple of pans off the hook.
“I want to go see Lexi,” he admitted, “bro, I can’t stop thinking about her.”
I sighed into the phone. “Kevin, that’s why you shouldn’t have lost your virginity to a goddamn stripper, especially when you’re the type to get attached too easy.”
“I do not! Well,” he trailed off, “it was really good. Really really good. Like, she knew what she was doing. But Nick, she’s funny as hell and she didn’t know who the fuck I was. I was just Kevin, not Kevin Jonas of the Jonas Brothers. I can’t stop thinking about her.”
“Kevin, I can imagine the tabloids now. ‘Stripper Uses Jonas Brother’, ‘Kevin Jonas Exposed’. That’s not ideal for you, or us as a band.”
“You’re the one to talk,” he scoffed. “Come with me? Please? I want back up if that bouncer decides to come for my other eye. I’m going whether you come with me or not, but if I get beat up, it’s on you for not coming.”
“Kevin, you’re 24 years old. You can defend yourself better than I could ever defend you.”
“There’s safety in numbers. Please Nick? It’s the most you can do for your Best Man.”
I groaned, “Fine, I’ll be your babysitter. I’ll meet you over there in twenty.”
I parked my Mustang far enough away to not be associated with the club, and wandered my way down the block hooded in my New York Yankies jacket. I was in stealth mode. Kevin, however, was not. He was tapping his feet in plain sight at the entrance, waiting for me.
“Come on,” I said as we both paid our entry fee. The club seemed less crowded tonight, but it still had the same smell of cheap perfume and alcohol. I put my hands in my pocket as I followed Kevin looking for his girl. I zoned out as he asked others where she was, trying to avoid the fact I was back in this place.
“There she is,” his face lit up like the Fourth of July and he dragged me over to the curtain area. It was obvious she had just come from one of the stalls. “Lexi!” He shouted, sounding like a lovestruck high schooler. I followed him as he dashed over to her. She smiled at him genuinely and waved over to me. “Lexi, this is my brother Nick!” I nodded my head at her. She offered me a smirk, which didn’t sit too well with me.
“Nice to meet you,” she said sweetly. I picked up a little bit of an accent in her voice, which I knew had to drive Kevin wild.
“You two go have fun, I’ll be waiting at the bar,” I pointed. “Kevin, come find me if you think you’re going to get punched in the face again. We have lawyers for that shit.”
Lexi’s face dropped, remembering what had happened the other night. I could tell she felt remorse about it. “Don’t worry about Michael, I can handle him,” she offered. Somehow by the look in her eyes, I could tell she probably could.
Then I remembered who this Michael guy was that Destiny told me about. He was the guy to punch my brother? I decided not to think more of it as I watched the two of them move past the curtain.
I sat down in the same area that I had been the other night, hoping I wouldn’t have an awkward run-in with Destiny. As I looked up to the stage, I realized my prayers had not been answered. There she was, moving her sexy body on the pole, dancing for the men below. She had more makeup on tonight,and almost looked like she wasn’t real. She was absolutely phenomenal to watch, and it made me thirsty to think I was one of the only men she had ever let touch her the way I had. I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts and I began to look through my phone, hoping Kevin didn’t want to stay long.
When I heard someone walk up to me, the scent told me exactly who it was, and my eyes shot up. “Destiny,” I breathed.
“I didn’t expect to see you become a frequent flyer here,” she giggled.
“My brother wanted to come back,” I coughed, “I’m just here babysitting him in case this Michael guy punches him in the face again.”
Her face fell, acknowledging the situation. “He must have said something to piss him off. Michael is never like that to customers. That or he made the moves on Lexi.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me,” I sighed. “He’s infatuated with her. He’s some kind of stupid to think he has a shot with a whore.” I caught my words as they slipped out, nervously looking away. “I’m sorry. I...I didn’t mean that. I’m sure she is a lovely person.”
Her eyebrows furrowed at me. “She’s a wonderful person. She’d give you the clothes off her back if you needed it. It’s not like she or myself want to be here doing this work. It’s so degrading. All men want to do is fuck you, and half the time they don’t last and its not enjoyable at all. She talks about it all the time.”
I happened to wonder if I fell into that category. “Then why don’t you leave? There has to be other places to work.”
“It’s not that easy,” she sighed. “It’s hard to get out. It’s dangerous to get out.” I couldn’t help but look over her perfect body until I noticed a bruise on her arm. It was pretty big, though I could tell most of it had been covered up by makeup. She caught me staring. “It’s nothing,” she assured me. “Michael gets a little carried away sometimes.”
“In bed or?” I trailed off, gently reaching out for her arm. She winced a little bit as my fingertips traced it.
“Both,” she whispered. “He found out we, you know, and he got mad and took the money. I had to be punished.”
My eyes fell out of their sockets, not able to believe what I was hearing. “Destiny, you gotta get out of here before he really hurts you.” She looked away. She was scared, and with good reason to be. I felt sorry for her, genuinely. Nobody deserves to be treated this way. Clearly Michael was abusive towards anyone and everyone. There was no telling how long she’d been here, and she was only 18. She had so much of her life in front of her to be trapped in this life. It killed me to see her sad. Surely there was something I could do for her. I felt like I owed her for my assholery the other night.
“What if I knew of a place that's hiring that had decent pay, benefits, and best of all, no sleazy men. Granted you don’t have a felony charge on you, I could probably get you hired,” I offered. My heart of gold typically leads to my stupid mouth. “Do you like dogs?”
She looked at me strangely, raising her perfectly sculpted eyebrows. “Love them, but Nick, I can’t leave. I don’t have any skills. I only have a GED. I don’t even have a place to go if I leave her. I’ll be homeless. My family is back in Nebraska.”
I should have thought about logistics before I opened my mouth, but an idea struck me. “I’m sure you’re a quick learner, and one of the benefits of the job is to live at the residence. You’d have your own suite separate away from everyone else. The guy is really nice and the dog is such a good boy. They’d be happy to help you on your feet.”
I could still see the hesitation in her eyes. I’m sure she thought she was getting conned.
“Destiny, do you trust me?”
“Destiny doesn’t trust you, but Libby does.” I gave her a puzzled look as she took a seat beside me. “Destiny is my stage name. Elizabeth is my real name, but my friends call me Libby.”
I offered her a quick smile. She did trust me.
“Well, I’m here to talk to Libby, not Destiny. And if Libby is interested, I’d love to have her come on board as help. Amanda, um, my fiance, and I just bought a house. It’s pretty big and with my job and hers, we’ll definitely need help keeping it up.”
I looked up at me, “How do you buy a house when you’re 18?”
“Let’s just say I’ve come into some money recently,” I said. “It’s better not to ask questions, but I promise you it is all legal money. I’ll even have the lawyer draw up your contract.”
“Nick, I could never,” she pleaded. “I slept with you and you expect me to live in the same home as your wife? That’s all kinds of fucked up.”
I let out a frustrated sigh, knowing she was right. “It’s not like we’d do it again. That was a one time experience. This will be a strictly professional environment. You won’t even see us most of the time,” I offered. “Libby, you have my word on that. Let me help you.”
Her gaze met mine and whispered “Okay.” I could tell she was defeated, but she realized she was not in a position to say no. “When Michael leaves to go to the bank, we’ll exit the back door. That’ll give us roughly fifteen minutes to get out of here because once he realizes I’m gone, hell will break loose. We need to be untraceable.”
I nodded in agreement. This was starting to sound like one of Amanda’s crime shows about getting away with murder. I guess Kevin would have to be on his own. “Do you have, um, any regular clothes here with you?” She nodded her head. “Okay, here’s the plan.I will leave first and pull my car around two blocks away. I’ll leave my jacket here with you. Put the hood up in case any cameras are filming so they don’t recognize you. Whatever you do, don’t look up. Look at the ground and keep walking, and don’t stop for anyone. Keep walking until I honk at you. Any questions?”
She nodded. “Um, one….how the hell did you think of that so fast?”
I chuckle, “Amanda makes me watch all her crime shows with her. I guess I learned a thing or two.”
I knew I better tread lightly, because if Amanda ever found out about any of this, she would dispose of my body and I would never be found. “Now, I’m going to find Kevin and tell him I’m out. Wait ten minutes and then start walking. Remember, don’t look up.”
With that, I left her at the table with my hoodie and made my way to the back of the club to the curtained area. There was only one stall closed shut, which made it easier for me to locate him. “Kevin,” I yelled, “I’m out.” When I didn’t get a response from him, I walked away and exited the building and made my way several blocks to my car.
I looked at my watch and quickly got in, wasting no time starting the engine. She may have been old, but she still had the speed I desired. I pulled down a couple of blocks and turned off my headlights and unlocked the door. I waited several minutes before I saw a figure approach my vehicle, looking at the ground, wearing my jacket. I gave a honk, and she quickly rushed into the passenger seat. I sped off like a bat out of hell.
“Did anyone see you?” I asked, focused on the road, taking winding ways through downtown Los Angeles to be sure we weren’t being followed.
“No,” she said quietly. “It won’t be long until they know I’m gone.”
“Take the battery out of your phone,” I suggest. “No one should be able to trace you if you do that. Whatever you do, do not turn it on. I’ll get you a new one before I leave tomorrow.”
“You’re a spy. That’s how you have money and drive such a sexy car, it all makes sense to me now,” she chuckled, starting to relax as she took the battery out of the phone and tossed it in her purse.
“Couldn’t be further from the truth,” I chuckled. “Tomorrow we’ll get you a new phone and some clothes, whatever you need. I’ll then call the movers and have them set up your suite in Malibu.”
“Malibu!? Dear god, you really are a spy or something. There is no way, no way you’re moving to fucking Malibu.”
“Let’s just say I dabble in some music and have collected quite a few royalties,” I smirk as we pull into the parking garage. I helped her with her bags and took the elevator up to my penthouse apartment. “Here we are! I apologize for the mess, I’ve been getting everything ready for the movers. Make yourself at home. The bedroom with the ensuite bath is down the hall on the left. It’s all yours until you get to Malibu. I’ll stay on the couch.”
She looked around the apartment in silence, taking in how nice it was. I watched her and she made her way down the hall until I heard her let out a yelp followed by a thud to the ground.
“You okay?” I asked as I ran down the hallway to her. I quickly saw what the culprit was: a red block. “Damn, I thought I had put those all away.”
I could tell by the look on her face that she had found out the inevitable. I was hoping to guide her into this, though maybe I should have mentioned this before I rescued her. “Between this block and the Hello Kitty 3-in-1 shampoo in the bathroom, I think you have something to tell me.”
I reached into my back pocket and took out my wallet. It made me feel like such an old man for keeping so many in there. I flipped through and found what I was looking for. I handed the little picture to her. A smile appeared on her face.
“Her name’s Arianna,” I smiled. “She’s almost a year old. She’s with my parents right now.”
Libby nodded. “She’s a spitting image of you, the curls, the eyes, everything. She’s adorable, Nick.”
“She’s my princess,” putting the picture back in my wallet. “She’ll be happy to have you around. It’s been really hard on me and Amanda with my career. I mean, I didn’t expect to become a father so soon in life. The pro tip here is that birth control does not work when you’re on antibiotics,” I chuckled. “I don’t regret her for the world, she’s my everything. Don’t take it as it sounds.”
“I love kids,” she replied. “I can’t wait to meet her. We’ll have a lot of fun. But, um, what am I to do when you’re away?”
“Well, this place is yours to do whatever with. The movers will come and pick up everything. I’ll have someone pick you up and drive you to the new place after that. There, you can help clean everything and get everything arranged for our arrival. When we get back in about a week from Bali, then you’ll go into full nanny mode.”
“Nick?” God, it sounded so good hearing her say my name. “I...I can’t thank you enough for this. You’re a really good person and I don’t deserve any of this. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.”
“By changing diapers and keeping how we met a secret,” I chuckle. “Libby, you don’t owe me anything. You owe nobody anything. You’re your own person now. Enjoy it.” She wrapped me in her warm embrace, her blonde hair cascading down her back. “Get some rest.” She offered me a smile as I walked out of the bedroom to the living room.
I managed to snooze for about an hour or so on the couch before I heard shouting from down the hall. I shot up and raced down the hall, clad in my boxers and a wife beater. I flipped the light switch on to find Libby sitting up in bed in a sweat, breathing heavily. “He’s here, oh God he’s here!”
“Who? Who is here” I asked, still groggy from my slumber.
“Michael! He's banging at the door. He’s trying to get in. He’s going to kill me, oh my God!” She pulled the blanket up over here, still shaken.
“Libby, Michael is not here. Nobody is here. I have cameras outside. It was just a dream,” I sat on the edge of the bed. “It’s just a bad dream.”
She pulled the covers down, still wearing the same clothes from earlier. Her eyes were red and watery, her hands still trembling. This man still had his grasp on her psychologically. I felt a sense of rage come over me, but the sound of her sniffles made me feel something else entirely. “Come here,” I offered, scooting closer to her and I wrapped my arms around her in a hug. I could feel her tears stream down my shoulder as I held her. I would never know just how truly traumatized she was, but that was never my story to tell.
I held her quietly for a few minutes, gently rubbing her back, much like I would my daughter’s when she cried. “Can you stay with me,” I heard her stifled voice ask. “I don’t want to be alone.” When her blue eyes looked up at me, I couldn’t say no.
“Of course,” I promised. “I won’t go anywhere. Nothing is going to happen to you. I promise.” She nodded and I began to shut my eyes, drifting back to sleep. I felt her move around in my arms as our backs hit the mattress. She adjusted herself in my arms before placing an innocent peck on my lips. My eyes fluttered open and I blushed, only to find her eyes were now closed and a smile on her face. I went to sleep.