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Dark Secrets

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After two months she was still getting used to the loud music and the cacophony of people's voices. Looking for a job since she came from Ohio, she was more than relieved when her old friend Lily convinced the house's manager to give her a chance as a waitress. "Dark Secrets" was one of the most respected and exclusive night clubs in the city and Nigel, the manager, was very proud to have the most beautiful girls. Only select members of New York society were patrons of the club, so the employees were chosen very carefully to prevent any problems.

Looking back, Andy realized her job interview was similar to a police investigation, involving questions about her personal habits, relationships and interests. The only reason she got the chance, was Lily's insistent recommendation and the guarantee that she would never tell to a living soul anything she witnessed in the club. As she came to understand later, privacy was Nigel's number one priority, in order to guarantee that the famous and influential patrons wouldn't be involved in any scandals. Respectable men and women would have their fantasies satisfied, not worrying with potential public scandal.

Truth be told, she was not interested in any of it. It was only a job, an opportunity to make honest money. She was indifferent at who these people were, what they did for a living or if they cheated on their partners - they meant nothing to her. The waitress function was pretty generic, even considering the specific nature of Nigel's business, who explained the house rules to her diligently. Nigel did inquire about her interest in dancing or in attending the patrons. Despite the fear of losing the waitress opportunity, she politely refused his offer, even if the payment would be three times higher. She accepted the task of serving tables, period. She was just a girl with no special abilities, interested in finding a way to survive in New York and pay for her studies. After all, she was still her father's daughter and would starve before she expanded her job duties.

Just to make things clear, she had nothing against the services that were offered at Dark Secrets and would never judge the girls that were, after all, just working. Despite the initial weirdness of being in such a different reality, she found the job adequate and even fun most of the time. She still admired the girls' beauty - their graceful movements on the stage and their discrete profile. They were goddess on an untouchable fantasy world, providing unforgettable moments to the guests. In her modest opinion, they should be respected for it.

In just a few weeks she made good friends among the staff, especially because her function didn't compete for the patrons' attention or money. While working, she admired the girls' graceful movements and mischievous smiles as they walked between the tables. Dealing with the club members was still the hardest part of the job and she was still getting used to their ostentatious attire and the air of superiority stamped on their faces. Unfortunately, from time to time she had to explain to a guest that she was unavailable to provide certain services, even if their offer would pay her bills for a year. Often, a polite refusal would be enough; especially because the place was full of gorgeous women, they didn't have a problem choosing another one. Despite that, a couple of times she had to avoid unwelcome hands and insistent demands. To her relief, on those occasions, Nigel intervened before things went too far.

She looked around checking the tables. The doors would open in a few minutes and the decorations must be impeccable. The house occupied three floors of an unsuspicious building, located on a busy street. As a waitress, Andy was restricted to the main area, a large bar, surrounded by tables and three stages, where the girls would perform a variety of dance numbers. She was never allowed in the upper floors, frequented exclusively by the girls and the club members.

While she cleaned the tables she thought with sadness about her family, killed in a car crash just a year ago. She was completely alone now, with exception of Serena and Lily, her best friends and roommates. Her new job would be enough to honor the shared rent and to keep her solvent. Using the inheritance her father left, she would be able to pursue her dream career, journalism.

She was cleaning the balcony when she heard her name being called. Lily gave her an affectionate hug.

"God, this place is crowded tonight, there's a line in the reception area, can you believe it? I guess everybody is here tonight."

"Yeah, that's great, are you dancing later?"

"Yes, Nigel gave me a great number. That'll attract good customers. The house is full, so you don't need to wait for me. I hope to be very busy."

She laughed, hugged Andy again and left. Across the balcony she saw Doug, the bartender. The young man was one of her favorite colleagues with his positive attitude and funny comments. He greeted her smiling.

"Hey there gorgeous, ready to feed the wolves?"

Andy laughed at the daily joke, picking up one of the trays from the counter.

"Hi Doug, hope the wolves attack the right prey tonight."

"We always hope… if I was a straight wolf, you would be in trouble sexy lady."

Andy giggled. "Thanks for the compliment, gay wolf; maybe if I were straight you would have a chance."

Still smiling, she goes back to her cleaning routine while waiting for the guests. Lily was right, they would have a full house tonight and she could certainly hope for tips that would compensate her efforts. She was beyond tired due her strenuous routine of balancing work and college. Lately, she was able to sleep no more than four hours each night when she was really lucky, but when the house was full like tonight, she would probably have no more than an hour to take a shower and eat a snack before running to catch her first class. On Mondays Dark Secrets was closed, but unfortunately, the first day of the week was the most hectic of her college schedule. Considering all, she was convinced that resting would be a privilege to be achieved next semester.

With this crazy schedule her personal life was nonexistent. She left her last girlfriend heartbroken in Ohio, preferring to begin a new life in New York. A few colleagues had asked her out, but she couldn't see herself dating someone and sharing their attention with the patrons later. No, she was an hopeless romantic, dreaming of her soul mate and a love that would change her life, so the least she needed a relationship that was exclusive and was based in commitment.

The music announced the first show and she began to attend the tables. A little after midnight there were just a few seats available and the girls were making good money. In the dim lights she could discern the beautiful shapes of her best friends. She saw Lily talking with a handsome guy while Serena was performing a lovely number on the main stage, getting admiring glances and applause from almost every man and woman. Andy couldn't rest even for a minute and her feet were screaming in the high heels, but she was happy with the money in her back pocket. She made another round between the tables getting orders and collecting empty glasses, careless she turned abruptly in the direction of the bar. She felt her body hit another one and before she could apologize she lost her breath as the most beautiful pair of blue eyes looked directly into her own and a firm grip on her arm prevented her fall. Andy could feel the warmth from the woman's body pressed along her side and the soft arms holding her waist. Her scent was delicious, a delicate combination of floral and musk. Seconds passed between them as neither spoke, until Andy found her own voice.

"I'm so sorry for being so clumsy. Did I hurt you?"

The woman gave her a small smile, still holding around her waist.

"No, you didn't, but you should be more careful, you could hurt yourself carrying this heavy tray. I've never seen you here before, are you new?"

Andy took a step away from the woman, missing her soft touch immediately. Looking again at her face she politely answered.

"Yes, I've only been working here for two months."

Before Miranda could speak again a rude male voice could be heard behind them.

"Hey delicious thing, could you please stop chatting and bring my order?"

Miranda gave him a frosty glare but before she could put the man in his place Andy answered him politely. "I'm so sorry Sir; it will just be a minute."

Turning again to the woman she smiled apologetically. "Sorry, I need to go."

The silver haired woman gave her a final dumbfounded look, as the young woman turned away.

Miranda arrived right after midnight, acknowledgeing some familiar faces at the door. She was one of the longest-term patrons and never once had a problem. "Dark Secrets" was known for its discretion and new members had to meet all the requisites to be part of the exclusive club.

During the last two decades the night club became a refuge, a place to forget her problems and have fun. Fame could be a heavy burden, especially on these days, when loneliness became her most faithful companion. She missed the old times when she could just be herself without the daily preoccupation with measured words and actions. She forgot the last time she had the pleasure of good company without the need for constant vigilance against exploiters interested only in her money and social position. There were always calculating what she could give them.

Miranda could ask nothing more from her brilliant career. She was successful, rich and powerful, but on these days she truly missed intense passion and deep desire. She was feeling old and lonely. Her first marriage was a poor attempt to ignore her own deep feelings toward women and obviously had been wrecked on the lies and betrayals on both sides. From that union she had her two daughters, the real joys of her life and her only weakness. She would do anything for her two little monsters, even tolerate their father. After a few years, they were able to achieve a mature and civil friendship making things easier and healthier for the girls.

Her second marriage on the other hand was more similar to a business contract. She was old enough to know that sex with a man would be unbearable, so she carefully chose someone interested in her money to accept her terms. As an executive of a large company she had an image to maintain, an accordingly stable life. So Stephen provided the image of a devoted husband and adequate father figure. Unfortunately, he was not able to maintain the contract and once again she had to tolerate a media storm. Her girls, already so exposed to the press, were once more obligated to endure the humiliating scrutiny of those hyenas that called themselves reporters. Her guiding principle nowadays was trust no one and she had the good intention to guide her life with this simple rule.

Entering the night club she decided to leave her problems outside. The place was crowded and she was disoriented for a few minutes. After her eyes got used to the dim lights she made her way between the seats, looking for her customary reserved table. A blonde tall woman was dancing on the main stage as avid eyes followed her sensual movements. She kept pace between the tables, but her passage was blocked by a slender body crushing hard into her chest. Instinctively, she reached out to grab the woman that would certainly hit the ground if she didn't help. Before she could accuse the inept girl for being so careless, she lost her breath as sweet brown eyes looked timidly at her. She barely heard the girl's apology, mesmerized with her beautiful features. Their encounter was too brief, thanks to an idiot that interrupted them asking for his drink.

Before she could say anything the woman was gone and Nigel approached her with a warm welcome smile on his face. She air kissed the man, before he guided her to an available table and she lost sight of the girl. Turning her attention to her host she had already chosen her company for the night.

"Miranda, I'm so glad to see you again! It's been a while. Was that husband of yours keeping you locked up? What can I do for you tonight?"

"It's good to see you Nigel. As you can see, I'm back after a long absence. My sham marriage is finally over. The idiot failed in the only task I gave him; be circumspect. I just needed a husband figure and I would pay for his expensive habits. But the fool fell in love and forgot the main clause of our contract: discretion. So, I was obligated to send him back to no one's land. At least, the media problem was already contoured so I'm able to be back. I see you have a few new faces around."

"Indeed, there are a few beautiful ladies you never saw. The patrons are very satisfied. I had a hard time finding the right girls, you know how hard it is to keep problems away. I have maybe five or six girls you never saw and I'm sure you're going to love all of them."

He looked around as if searching for someone and pointed to a beautiful girl talking with a man.

"That's one for example, her name's Lily and she's a very free spirit, if you know what I mean."

"She's indeed very beautiful, who else?"

"Hum, let me see. I have Serena, over there on the stage. She's the favorite these days."

"Hum, no. I already decided. I want that one."

"I'm sorry, which one?"

She turned her head in the direction of the bar and Nigel closed her eyes praying to any gods that she was not pointing to Andy, but unfortunately, she was. Miranda was one of the longest-standing and wealthier patrons and he would do almost anything to attend her wishes. Despite that, Nigel had become very fond of Andy and was used to protecting her if a patron became too insisting. The girl was gorgeous, with voluptuous curves and innocent doe-like eyes. Considering Miranda was not the first client to ask about her, Nigel was lamentablely aware that he could make a lot of money with her, if the girl waswilling to work. He was the owner of Dark Secrets for twenty years, always faithful to his own principles: no woman would be obligated to attend clients in his house. They were very well compensated - enough to leave the job after a while to seek other opportunities.

"Oh, I'm sorry, that one is just a waitress, she doesn't attend clients Miranda, but you can choose any other girl and I can guarantee that you'll be satisfied."

Looking again, Miranda noted that even thought the girl had a polite beautiful smile on her face, she delicately avoided the patrons touches. She was walking gracefully between the tables, taking orders and delivering them to the bartender. Miranda's heart was beating unusually fast - she couldn't take her eyes off the girl. She was also sensing her competitive nature surface as the voluptuous prize was denied to her. She looked straight into Nigel's eyes, daring him to contradict her.

"Well, I'll wait until you talk to her. I'm willing to pay whatever she wishes. She's just waiting for an adequate offer. Just tell me the price."

"I'm sorry my friend. This will probably be a lot more difficult than you're predicting and you know the rules, they must be interested in the offer, I can't force them to take it."

"Of course I know the rules! In case you've forgotten, I was here when they were created. I would never force a woman, what's wrong with you? I'm just stating my interests, so I have to insist. Bring her to me, as I said, I can pay any amount she desires. I'm not used to be denied and I already looked around, I'm not interested in any of the others."

Nigel sighed heavily, giving her a pleading look, still trying to dissuade her from choosing Andy.

"Miranda, I almost didn't hire her exactly for this reason and believe me, I offered her a good salary. She has the perfect look: an alluring shyness, a gorgeous body and a brain, what we both know is a rare combination around here. Most of the girls are just interested in money or fancy clothes... She's certainly a jewel, but unfortunately, she's not interested in anything that anyone around here has to offer. At least, not in the terms you're putting it."

"Don't blame a woman for trying Nigel, who knows? Maybe your beautiful waitress will surprise us proving to be a good negotiator…"

Nigel was having a hard time hiding his worries for the young woman. He tried another tact.

"Emily is here tonight Miranda, you could have her or any other, you just have to say the word. Maybe you could have more than one, wouldn't you like that? My girls are always anxious to be at your service and you know it."

"No, thank you. I was bored with Emily two years ago, why would she be any different now? And the others… well, I'm tired of model aspirants. As I said I already chose one, could you please stop babbling and go bring her to me? You know how difficult I can be when I get impatient."

Nigel was used to insistence. That was one of the main reasons he used to avoid hiring someone who would not be able to do the entire job. He made an exception with Andy. The girl had survived a personal tragedy and worked hard since she has been hired. He already knew the answer, but decided to let Andy deal with Miranda's arrogance. It was one of her occupational hazards; she should learn how to deal with the patrons, even if they were insufferable or rude.

"Ok, Miranda, I'm going to get her, but I warned you, she will refuse the job."

She dismissed him with an annoyed hand gesture. "Just go and let me deal with her?"

"As you wish."

…..

Andy was still recovering from the early encounter with the gorgeous lady. They had exchanged just a few words, but she was already impressed. The woman seemed charming and sophisticated and so out of her reach. Doug brought a few orders over to her.

"So, I'm waiting to hear about the beautiful woman you'd attacked a few minutes ago. She looked… hum, what would be a good word to her… expensive…"

"Hey, I didn't attack anyone, it was an accident and I should thank her, because I would have fallen if she didn't catch me."

Doug laughed hard while putting the drinks on her tray.

"Well, I think that you should really thank her later and ask her out."

"Doug, I appreciate your concern about my life, but that one, as you said, is probably out of my league. I would never have the courage to even talk to her, not to mention asking her out…"

She smiled and winked at him.

"But, if she asks me out… well, that would be another story…"

They were still joking about the woman when Nigel approached the bar, smiling tenderly to Andy.

"Hi boss, do you need anything?"

"Unfortunately I do."

"What happened?"

"One of the clients insists on talking to you."

Andy rolled her eyes. Just when she was looking for the sexy lady.

"Didn't you tell him I'm not available?"

"It's not a he, it's a she."

Andy was amused now, it was the first time she received an offer from a woman. She laughed.

"Really... Well, that will be easier. At least I won't have the urge to laugh in the poor guy's face."

Nigel sighed.

"I wouldn't be relieved if I were you. This client is definitely one of the most difficult."

"What do you mean?"

"Andy, please be careful, she's rich and powerful and not used to having her wishes dismissed. So, it won't be easy, just hang on, okay? Go and talk to her, and I'll be here if you need me."

"Right, who is she?"

"Miranda Priestley, she's one of our oldest associates and she was very impressed with you."

He pointed in the woman's direction, but it took a while for her eyes to adjust to the low lights and discern the woman in the distance. When she recognized the silver hair beauty a cold feeling gripped her heart. She had admired her from afar, even hoped that maybe she could approach and initiate conversation. But reality came rushing toward her, dismissing her delusional innocent thoughts. She was just like the other powerful people that came here, seeing women like objects to be pursued and conquered. She looked at Nigel's eyes with a sad expression in her face.

"Don't worry, I'll be careful."

With that she walked in the woman's direction.

…..

"Nigel told me you wished to talk to me?"

"Hi, your name is?"

"My name's Andy. How can I help you?"

"Andy is a nickname, I asked your name."

Andy was a little surprised with the icy tone coming from the woman. Has she done anything to offend her? Who would understand these people? She decided to keep the conversation light.

"My name is Andrea Sachs, Mrs. Priestley. Do you want me to get you something from the bar?"

"No Andrea, I just want to talk to you, would you have a seat please?"

Andrea was worried. Every single time she was invited to someone's table she had to refuse an offer. She knew the routine: first they offer a seat, then a drink and soon they're telling you how sexy you are and how much they can pay for having you. This time, she was feeling worse, because the customer was very attractive. It was easy to refuse men, because she was just not interested in them in any way. But this beautiful woman in front of her was different. Her voice and her blue eyes were causing shivers to course through Andy's body. In other circumstances Andy would haveno problem in having her in her bed. But not this way, never in exchange of money. She was silent for a moment, waiting for the upcoming trouble. Looking to Nigel still at the bar counter, she was reassured by his smile.

Andrea looked at Miranda and smiled politely.

"Oh, I don't see why you need to talk to me, I'm just a waitress here, there are so many beautiful women around."

Miranda was looking at her body with narrowed eyes, as if evaluating her. Andy cheeks became pink under the scrutiny, but she held the other woman's stare. The older woman laughed before speaking in a condescending tone.

"Oh, she blushes, how adorable. Tell me Andrea, would you care for a drink?"

"No, thanks, I'm working."

"Yes, you certainly are working. I'm one of your patrons and I ask you to drink something in my company, how difficult it is to attend this simple task?"

"I appreciate your offer, but as I said I'm working now and entertaining the clients is not my job. You would be very disappointed with me if I tried to… entertain you."

Miranda was still smiling in a predatory way. Andy was feeling cheap under her gaze, she looked like one of the disgusting men that treated her like an object.

"I doubt I would be disappointed, you look very competent."

The words were voiced in the most ironic tone and Andy had to control herself to be polite.

"Thanks again for your offer, but I'm not interested."

"Well, I didn't make an offer yet. You don't know how much I'm willing to pay."

In the face of Miranda's insistence Andy fought to keep her smile in place.

"The value is irrelevant Mrs. Priestley, I just can't accept."

"Do you have any idea who I am?"

"An arrogant rich woman, who is not used to taking no for an answer?"

Miranda's temper raised.

"You're a silly girl! I can destroy your life for that impertinence!"

Andy looked at her with sad brown watering eyes.

"That wouldn't be the first time my life became difficult Mrs. Priestley. Believe me I'll survive again if I have to."

With that she turned away, heading to the bar.

From afar, Nigel had a hard time seeing the poor girl's fidget before the imperious woman. He had to deal with an annoyed Miranda once or twice in the last two decades and knew that it was not an easy task. Nigel could see Miranda was furious. He approached the table again sitting by her side.

"Miranda, I hope you understand I'm not firing her."

"Who asked you to fire her? I want her back here, I didn't dismiss her!"

"Miranda, please, I'm sure you don't want a scene. She already gave you her answer, she won't change her mind. I had powerful men offering me enough money to pay a year's rent and she refused without even flinching."

Miranda was intrigued and more interested than before.

"Tell me about her."

Nigel looked at her narrowed eyes.

"Seriously Miranda, just drop the subject, choose any girl and have a nice evening, please."

"No. I'm not going anywhere and you're going to tell me everything I need to know about her."

The earlier worry became a serious concern as he saw the distinctive trace of hurt pride crossing the older woman's face.

"Miranda, this is not a game; she's a young girl, with feelings."

"Oh my friend you're such a romantic. Everybody is interested in something, I just have to discover her price, don't you think?"

Nigel was irritated now. "No, I don't think so and I'm not helping you in this madness! If want to meet the girl, at least have the decency to ask her out or something! You know why I keep this place?"

She gave him a bored look but let him finish.

"I hope you're not giving me a sermon about virtues and sins."

"No Miranda, I don't intend to bore you with speeches. I just need you to understand that I keep this place because I really believe that dreams and wishes come true. We do this every single day here. This is a fantasy land and not a place to break people. That girl over there is probably the greatest dreamer I have around here and I would love if you just keep your distance from her."

Before Miranda could answer, he left her alone.