STRIPPED BARE - Chapters 1-3

Introducing a brand new, erotic romcom standalone, STRIPPED BARE, coming June 21st. Read the first THREE chapters today! Pre-order links are at the end.

Note: These chapters are unproofed and content may change before publication.

Chapter One

“I don't want to see a bunch of naked penises writhing at me!”

My best friend's words slid right over my head, but their meaning didn't: Taking my virgin best friend to Las Vegas for her bachelorette party might not have been the greatest idea.

All right. “Might not have been the greatest idea” was a total understatement. Las Vegas was the worst idea I'd ever had, mostly because the entire plan was a night at a strip club. On the Strip. Strippers on the Strip. Pole-dancing, hip-grinding, booty-shaking male strippers.

It was proving to be pretty damn hard convincing her to go.

“Since when were penises not naked?” Jaz snorted, putting her mascara wand down and flipping her jet-black hair over her shoulder. “They're not usually suited and booted with a bow tie, Al.”

My blond best friend and bride-to-be pouted glossy, pink lips and crossed her arms in annoyance. “I know that. I'm not a total virgin. I just... I don't know. I didn't know a cock fest was on the agenda.” She punctuated that with a dark look at me, but her heart wasn't in it.

Allie’s trying to be angry at me was like trying to be angry at a puppy. It was literally impossible. That's what twenty-four years of being attached at the hip will do to you.

“It’s your bachelorette party! What did you expect me to do? Buy you pajamas and fluffy socks for a slumber party?” I raised my eyebrows and handed her a glass of the Long Island Iced Tea I'd just finished shaking.

Yeah—we'd brought our own alcohol. We were...resourceful that way.

Plus, all of my cash may or may not have been in one-dollar bills, and I didn't want to check out the next day and find I had eight hundred dollars of alcohol on my bill.

Not that I'd found myself there before. Just, you know. Hypothetically.

“Allie, it's just a strip club,” Lucie reasoned, taking her glass from me. She tucked her dark-brown hair behind her ear, and not for the first time, I found myself mildly amused that, with my fiery, auburn hair, we were like a walking Pantene advertisement or something. “Besides,” she added, sipping on the cocktail. “It's not gonna hurt you to see some real-time peen.”

Twenty-seven years old or not, Allie had decided at fifteen—after a disastrous blow job incident when her mom had walked in on her—that she wasn't going to have sex until marriage. Her fiancé, Joe, was a reformed Christian and a supposedly born-again virgin, and I respected that, but lord... The girl needed a bit of peen in her life.

It was a wonder we were best friends at all.

“You guys act like I've never seen a cock before. I've seen a lot of cocks. I've touched a lot of cocks. I just don't want to see or touch...stripper cocks.” She shuddered as she spoke and then took a long drink through her straw. “Who knows where they've been?”

“Inside their tighty-whiteys, ready to play peekaboo for a good portion of my life savings?” I offered, fighting the smile my lips were threatening to form.

“I have no idea how I've tolerated you for this long.” Allie sighed and put her glass down.

“Because she's the crazy to your straitjacket?” Jaz suggested, pulling three pairs of heels out of her suitcase.

“The one-click to your Amazon?” Lucie added cheerfully.

“The smut book to your Kindle?”

“The bra to your boobs?”

“All right, all right,” Allie grumbled and picked her glass right back up. “These are strong. If I didn't know better, I'd say you're trying to get me drunk, Mia.”

I whistled low and turned around to check out Jaz's shoes. She had the best shoes known to man, and god only knows where she freakin' found them. She's the ultimate shoe hunter. She could make a career out of that shit.

Meanwhile, I wasn't even going to dignify Allie's comment with a response—honestly, she should have known I was damn well trying to get her drunk.

All right, so maybe the cocktails were a little stronger than I’d intended, but since we hadn't even left the room yet and we were already fighting about the club, it's not a bad Big? Or “not a bad thing”? thing. She was gonna need to be a little giggly—as in sober enough to walk but drunk enough to forget the plan.

“You know Joe's gonna be going to one, right?” Lucie slid her gaze over to Allie. “It's pretty much a given for most guys. Or one will be brought to him.”

I put one of Jaz's red shoes down and moved to my own. The red-soled, pointed Louboutins were born of the devil, but good lord, they looked like heaven when they were on. They'd also gotten me my current job and let me keep it, so I was pretty sure my baby toes had finally come to an agreement with them.

My friends all thought I was crazy for wearing those things for a minimum of five days a week, but I called it love. And made the shoes promise to never, ever break on me, because it had taken me forever and a day to break them in.

“If Darren is in charge, they'll strip-club hop until five in the morning,” I reminded her.

“You said his name without spitting. I'm impressed.” Allie had skipped right over the club thing. Maybe that drink was hitting her already...

“I'm a mature adult.” I slammed both of my shoes down on the table. “I can speak about my ex-boyfriend without wanting to scoop his balls out with a potato masher.” Just.

“You sure about that? 'Cause, now, I'm more worried about taking you to a strip club than getting her out the door,” Jaz said, one scarlet-red heel hanging off her finger while she pointed between me and Allie.

“Look.” I gripped my glass a little too tightly, feeling the familiar buzz of frustration that zinged to life whenever my cheating son-of-a-bitch ex was mentioned. “This is one wedding where the maid of honor isn't gonna get it on with the best man, because she's already been there, done it, and got the 'fuck you, heart' T-shirt. So let me have tonight, will ya? I'm not getting it on the wedding night because I'm gonna be sitting by my phone, waiting for somebody to call me.”

Allie's cheeks flushed bright red. “I'm not going to call you right after I lose my virginity to my husband!”

“Uh... Yeah... You will. You're gonna call me and ask me why the hell you waited so long. You know...once you've forgotten that it kinda hurts.”

“Mia!” Jaz gasped. “You can't tell her that!”

“Sure I can! It's practically in the Best Friend Code of Ethics. It's my responsibility to make sure she's prepared for that night, and if that means telling her that her taco might get a crack Hahaha!! ( , that's what I'm gonna do.”

“My taco might get a crack?” Allie half screeched. “The hell kinda explanation is that?”

“Oh, Allie.” I turned to her and sighed heavily, gently waving my glass. “It's a polite way to tell you that's it gonna hurt like a motherfucking bitch.”

“There we go. Break it to her gently, why don't you?” Lucie rolled her eyes and took a new, full glass of Long Island Iced Tea to Allie. “Drink this. With any luck, you'll forget her crap by tomorrow morning.”

“My crap? I take offense at that. You can't tell me it didn't hurt when you lost your V-card.”

“No idea,” she replied as she perched on the edge of the bed, her light-brown eyes lifting to meet mine. “I was crammed into the back seat of a Corolla and uncomfortable enough without thinking about the pain my vagina might have been experiencing.”

“A Corolla? Really?” Allie asked, her nose wrinkled.

Lucie shrugged a shoulder. “Junior prom. Where else was I gonna lose it?”

“In a bed. Like normal people,” Jaz fired at her, buckling one of her heels at her ankle before sitting up straight.

“You lost it on your dad's sofa.” Allie frowned delicately. “And I know for a fact Mia lost it in a tent when we went camping the summer before senior year.”

I groaned and covered my face with my hand. Why'd she have to go and bring that up? She knew how I felt about that awful night.

“How did we go from convincing Allie to go to strip club to the worst two and a half minutes of my entire life?”

“Two and a half minutes?” Jaz snorted. “You lucky duck.”

“Lucky? How is it lucky? He screwed me like he was a drill and I was a solid-brick wall. Then I hit my head on a rock I didn't know was in the tent. I still have freaking nightmares about it.”

“I had ten minutes of relentless pounding that felt like he was trying to break into Fort Knox via my cervix,” she said dryly, grabbing her glass. “I was thirty seconds away from calling the FBI to report an attempted break-in when I clenched, yelled, and he finally came.”

“You're all insane.” Allie sighed and ran her hand through her sleek, blond hair, messing it up.

Yep. She was getting drunk.

“If she's messing up her hair already, does that mean she's tipsy enough that we can go?” Lucie asked hopefully. “Because I've got a clutch full of ones ready and waiting.”

“No!” Jaz exclaimed. “Wait!” She grabbed her case and pulled out a hot-pink sash from the top. Then she shoved it in Allie's direction, a big grin on her face. “You've gotta look the part.”

Allie's eyes widened as she took in the bright pink satin sash. “No. I'm not wearing that.”

“Why not?”

“It's pink.”

“And? Your cheeks are gonna be too the second one of these hunks grinds his butt in front of you.”

“She has a point.” I tipped my empty glass toward her. “You're gonna blush like...well, a virgin when you go in there and see their erections.”

Allie froze. “They're gonna have erections?”

“Obviously. No one wants to see a guy with a softie strip, do they?”

Several thoughts visibly flitted across her face. And, yep—she was definitely tipsy, because she actually looked like she was considering it.

Jesus. She was considering it. She was more than tipsy.

Allie pushed herself to standing, still clutching her empty glass in her hand. “Fuck it,” she announced, surprising me by not slurring her words in the slightest. “Let's go!”

Well. I was ready.

---

She looked a little like...a virgin in a strip club.

I couldn't stop laughing.

I had no idea what she'd expected to find, but I didn't know if this was it. In fact, I was pretty sure it wasn't it.

Rock Solid, the strip club of my choice, was nestled at the far end of the Strip. When I had been researching, I'd assumed that meant it'd be quieter than the ones in the middle, but I had been wrong.

So. Wrong.

The place was stupid busy, and it wasn't hard to see why. We'd been there for a little over an hour. The drinks were great, the atmosphere was great, and the lighting was great. Our booth, with smooth, dark-brown leather seats, allowed us a ton of room, and the reserved sign that glared out at everyone walking past meant none of the ladies forced into standing up could take our space.

But really—who was paying attention to that?

Not me.

The stage, which generously allowed us a flawless view of some of the most perfect men I'd ever seen in my goddamn life, stretched almost entirely through the center of the club. At least fifteen feet wide and god knows how long, it was the only part of the club aside from the bathrooms that was completely lit. The strobe lights that flashed across it occasionally, in time with the pounding, wall-vibrating music, only lent a hand to its vibrancy.

And the ripped, defined men dancing on the stage in various stages of undress, both against and between the poles, were the sole cause of the vibrant, electric atmosphere.

Jaz tapped the bottom of her cigarette packet on the table before opening it and drawing one out. “Hot. Damn.” She whistled appreciatively as a tall man wearing nothing but black dress pants approached our table with a bottle of champagne and four flutes balanced on a round, black tray.

“Your second bottle, ladies. Would you like me to pour it for you?” His smile was dazzling as he set everything out on the table and swept the table for our empty glasses and bottle.

“No, we're good, thank you,” Lucie answered, passing Jaz a lighter.

“Perfect. Can I get you anything else?”

“Yes!” Allie clapped her hands. “One round of tequila shots, please.”

Oh, Jesus...

The server nodded, that same, hot smile plastered on his face. Then he disappeared.

Jaz blew smoke to the side and raised an eyebrow at Allie. “Al, the last time you had tequila shots, you threw up inside my shoes.”

“So keep your shoes away from me.” She grinned, not caring at all. “It's my party, and if I wanna drink until I vomit, I'm gonna.”

“That's the spirit,” I muttered, unable to fight my smirk as I reached for the champagne bottle. My fingers closed around the ice-cold neck of the bottle, and the ice in the bucket crunched as I lifted it out.

What? She was in the strip club. I was calling the night a win, so if she vomited, then, well, I knew I'd have to hold her hair.

Hashtag best friend ever.

“Note to self: Keep Allie away from shoes later,” Lucie muttered, shoving her glass in front of my face.

Dutifully, I poured. “Preach it, sister. Preach it.”

Allie rolled her eyes as Hot Server brought the shots out and set them in front of us. Jaz grinned again as he lifted his tray and winked at her. I'd have sworn his smile grew a little.

“Twenty bucks says you're taking him back to your room tonight,” Lucie piped up.

“Nooo...” Jaz said slowly, putting her cig out in the ashtray. Her gaze followed Hot Server as he walked away. “It's my best friend's bachelorette party. I can't do that.”

“Yeah, you can, and you will.” Allie laughed loudly and lifted her shot.

We downed them in sync, and I shuddered as the strong, cold liquid burned a harsh path down my throat. Should have gotten a Blow Job instead... I'd never mixed well with tequila, but I knew, if I’d refused, there were three of them and one of me.

I’d refused once before.

I’d ended up very, very drunk.

“Are we going down to the stage?” Lucie asked as I finished my previously interrupted champagne-pouring and put the bottle back. “These one-dollar bills aren't going to tuck themselves into boxers, you know.”

“In a minute.” I couldn't help the grin that formed on my face. I was going to be killed a hundred times over for the shenanigans I was about to pull, but what kind of best friend would I be if I didn't organize a lap dance for Allie?

That's right. I'd be a shit one. Besides, I'd booked it when I’d called and paid over the phone, so it wasn't like I could cancel. She was gonna be all kinds of pissed off, but one day, she'd thank me for it. Hopefully, that day was tomorrow.

A guy wearing nothing but tight, black briefs approached the table, and from beneath dark, floppy hair, brown eyes scanned the four of us. Allie paused when his gaze zeroed in on her and her bright-pink sash, and he grinned slowly, totally sexily, and closed the distance between them.

Her eyes shot to me, and it was a mix between horror and excitement. My own smile was literally glued to my face as he leaned down and whispered something in her ear and she nodded. Jaz's following laugh was loud as she realized along with Lucie what was about to happen.

Allie was about to get some real-time peen.

The girl in question was blushing furiously as the stripper pulled her to the edge of the seat and all but straddled her. She was torn between obviously wanting to kill me and wanting to see what was going to happen next, and given the fact that she was under probably one hundred and eighty pounds of ripped muscle, she was waiting to see what would happen next... Whether she liked it or not.

The stripper flexed his hips, light glinting off his flawless skin. His muscles rippled with each move he made as he treated Allie to some fine-ass moves. Seriously—no man should have been able to move as easily as he did. The last time I saw hips snaking like that was while watching a Shakira music video on MTV—a long-ass time ago Must have been a long-ass time ago. LOL!! ( .

He encouraged Allie to touch him, which only made her cheeks blaze brighter. Still, she looked more delighted than I’d thought she would after running her hands over some guy's abs.

“Fifty bucks says Joe doesn't have abs like that,” Lucie yelled into my ear as Allie once again touched the stripper's stomach as he sat on her and ground his hips against her.

“Joe doesn't have abs at all,” Jaz threw in. “He has one ab, and it's his entire stomach. She's probably rethinking her choice of man. Look at her, all happy and shit.”

I felt a little smug. She'd been so apprehensive about this plan, but she was happy now.

I guessed having a hot, naked guy grinding his junk in her face would do that to a girl.

Hell, I wasn't even grumpy and I could guarantee it'd cheer me the fuck up.

When he finally finished his dance, Allie continued to blush so many shades of red that a paint color chart would have been jealous. Then she turned her flustered face toward me.

“I can't believe you did that to me!”

“Moi?” I gasped and pressed my hand to my chest. “Why do you think it was me?”

“Because!” She threw a perfectly pressed napkin at me. “You're the only whore who'd dare book me a freakin' lap dance!”

I considered this for the briefest moment. “Yeah, you're right.” I was grinning again, but I couldn't help it. It was almost an illness, how amused I was.

“Ugh!” She grabbed her glass and downed the champagne before looking at us. “I'm going to get something stronger than mosquito piss. Anyone else?”

“Yep!” Jaz stood, grabbing another cigarette and lighting it. “Mia, wine?” she directed to me on an exhale of smoke.

Drunk Jaz resembled a choo-choo train where nicotine was involved.

“Yep.” I picked my champagne up as they disappeared, Lucie yelling her order of a cocktail after them. I sure as hell needed something stronger than just champagne. A bottle seemed a lot when it was for one person—split between four people? Not so much.

It was like splitting a bottle of water between the sand grains of the Sahara or something. Almost certainly an exaggeration, but whatever.