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By: Cassandra Dee

But now that we were standing before the bouncer, about to be pushed out, my reservations came roaring back.

“Come on Jennelle,” I said, grabbing her arm. “Let’s go, we’ll find another place. My treat,” I added hurriedly, hoping to tempt her. “I’ll pay for the drinks.”

But that only set my friend off.

“You’ll do no such thing!” she declared, jaw set, face determined. “You’ll do no such thing,” she said, shaking off my arm. “Listen,” my friend said, turning back to the bouncer. “Like I said, we’ll work for it. We’ll do your matching, we’ll do the pairing, we’ll talk to guys if that’s what the club’s looking for. So come on! Let us in.”

And something flipped in the man’s face, or more likely, a voice went off in the earpiece he was wearing. Because he stopped shutting the door, and instead, pulled it open once again, pausing as if listening.

“Fine,” he grunted. “This way,” he said, pointing to a velvet curtain.

And I goggled. What the hell? What was with the switcharoo? But more likely what had happened was that he was supposed to turn away randoms, but Jennelle was too cute. The invisible eyes took one look at those big blue eyes and tiny dress, and we were in. So it probably didn’t matter anyways, once again, my friend had gotten by on her good looks, dragging me along for the ride.

And Jennelle wasn’t losing an instant.

“Thanks,” she said breezily, striding through the velvet. “Let’s go Abby, it’s time to party.”

Reluctantly, I tottered in after her. It was so dark inside that I couldn’t see anything at first, eyes adjusting. But slowly, the gloom came into focus and I realized we were looking at bushes. Yep, big bushes shrouded the interior and I turned to my friend once again.

“Um, is this an indoor garden or something?” I asked. “I didn’t know we were here to look at plants.”

But magically, a woman appeared, hair swept into a tight bun dressed in a black cocktail dress, looking very competent and business-like.

“Welcome,” she said smoothly, “I understand you’re the new girls.”

Before I could say anything, Jennelle piped up.

“That’s right, that’s us,” she chirped. “I’m Jennelle and this is my bud Abby.”

I gaped, mouth opening and closing silently. What had happened to our fake names? My friend was supposed to be Candy tonight, and I was supposed to be Barbie. What the hell, she’d just given away our real names, and I groaned internally, shaking my head. If we’d gotten off to a bad start, then this was only making it worse. I’d never be able to live this down if word got out.

But it was too late because the woman nodded, writing something on her clipboard.

“Well you’re just in time,” she said, “because we have some guests waiting. Let me take you to your first assignment.”

She turned, both of us trailing in her wake. But before I took two steps, the woman in black spun back to look at me.

“I’m sorry, this is for your friend only,” she said smoothly. “Only the blonde.”

I stopped, gaping. What? We were supposed to stick together, this nightmare was only getting worse. It was one thing to be matched with guys, it was another to be separated from the only person I knew in this place. My warning bells went from ringing mildly to a five-alarm fire, going off in my head like siren’s wail.

“Um no,” I said quickly. “I’ll go too, I can meet the same guy.”

And Jennelle for once, agreed.

“Two for the price of one!” she piped up. “It’s his lucky day!”

But the woman shook her head again, expression cold.

“I’m sorry, only one customer per companion,” she said. “You’ll have to stay here,” she said again, looking at me pointedly.

I’m not one to be cowed easily, but her expression was so sharp and definitive that I faltered.

“Um okay?” I asked hesitantly. “You won’t be long, will you?” I asked my friend, pleading a little.

And for the first time all night, Jennelle looked a little hesitant. I could tell this was spiraling out of the blonde’s comfort zone as well, throwing her into the deep end. We’d counted on being placed as one, there was so much comfort in having a buddy with you, we’d be okay if we stuck together. But now, we were being separated and it was like getting doused with ice water, the reality of the situation hitting us full in the face.

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