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Poles apart, p.1
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       Poles Apart, p.1

          










I have a lot of people to say thank you to so please bear with me!



First off, to Sarah at Okay Creations. Thanks so much for the beautiful cover. I absolutely love it!



Secondly, to the ladies at Hot Tree Editing. Thank you so much for taking my baby in your hands and making it all shiny and mistake-free!



Thirdly, huge thanks to the beautiful Cassy Roop at Pink Ink Designs for making the interior of the book just as amazeballs as the exterior! You all rock, so thank you a million times over.



Lastly, I want to thank my ‘PA Lady’, Keelie Chatfield, for taking me under her wing and making my life so much easier with her freaky organisation skills and spectacular talent for making forms! Woman, you’re amazing. Mwah xx











For my mum, Sandra.



You’re the best mum a girl could ask for, and I love you to bits. xx











TIRED DID NOT BEGIN TO EXPLAIN how I felt as I stood at the bar waiting for my order to be filled. My feet were hurting in the stupid ‘uniform’ they provided for me – the cheap, white plastic shoes with the four-inch heels. The tiny, black booty-shorts, which barely covered to the bottom of my butt cheeks, were slowly creeping higher and higher, making me shift on my feet uncomfortably. I glanced at my watch. 10:24p.m.



Great, only another three and a half hours to go!



The only good thing about today: tomorrow was Sunday, and I had the night off for a change.



The door opened and a cool breeze blew through from the foyer, moving around some of the stuffy air in the club. A group of lads stepped in, and I felt the smile creep onto my lips.



Scratch that, there were two good things about today now. Carson Matthews was here.



Without my permission, my eyes dragged down his body as he laughed with one of his friends. He looked so incredibly hot tonight in nicely fitted blue jeans and a white short-sleeve shirt, undone teasingly low. It exposed his throat and part of the incredible chest I knew was hidden under the material. Forcing my gaze back to his face, I swallowed the desire rising in my throat. His light-brown hair was styled to perfection, as usual. His face was flawless, his deliciously full lips made my finger long to reach out and trace them. The air left my body in one long, breathy, needy sigh.



When his head turned in the direction of the bar where I was standing, a sexy little smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.



“Lover boy’s here,” the bar manager, Jason, teased, pushing the tray of drinks toward me. “Table five.”



I nodded but didn’t say anything. What was there to say? He knew how I felt about Carson so there was no point in denying it; it was clear on my face, I’d bet. I picked up the tray of drinks and turned to deliver them to the waiting clients, attempting to look sexy as I strutted across the room in my four-inch plastic stilettos. The music started up, the lights went down and the next ‘performer’ stuck her leg out of the curtain. She began teasingly running her hand up the bare skin as the men all started howling and crowding around the stage, waiting for the big reveal.



That’s right. I work in a strip club. Of course, probably like everyone who did this job, I didn’t want to do it. It was more like I had to. There are things people have to do to avoid sleeping on the streets. Waiting tables in cheap shoes, booty shorts and a figure-hugging vest top is one of those things for me. My job included nightly lap dances to clients and the occasional pole dance on stage, but thankfully, that didn’t happen particularly often. We had proper performers for stage shows. Not many people would request me over someone who looked like a glamour model. Not that I had a horrible figure. In fact, I was happy with my body, but I was real, and most guys didn’t like real. They also didn’t like average size. Instead, the men who came to this club usually abide by the rule ‘the bigger the better’ – hence me waiting tables and barely bringing in enough money to pay the rent, pay for my university fees, and feed the two other people I was responsible for.



The group of middle-aged, desperate men all rushed toward the stage as ‘Precious’ stepped into the spotlight in her little black, corseted burlesque outfit. She started to shake her booty to the beat of the music, hypnotising the dirty men with ease.



Hoisting the heavy tray above my head with both hands, I wove through the crowd, trying not to spill the five beers and two whisky shots. I couldn’t afford to spill anything; I had a lot to pay out for this month. Whatever I dropped, spilt, smashed, or even had stolen from my tray was docked from my wages, and let me tell you, drinks were freaking expensive in this place. The order I was carrying probably came close to fifty quid.



‘Precious’ dropped to her knees, arse in the air, and started whipping her head around, flicking her hair. In his excitement, one guy surged forward and crashed into me, sending me sprawling to the floor, drinks smashing all over the place. I closed my eyes and yelped as the cheap carpet burnt my hands where I’d put them out to protect myself.



People jeered around me, laughing and clapping at my stupidity.



Cringing, I pushed myself up onto my hands and knees, my cheeks flaming with embarrassment. This was a typical moment for me: a sexy girl on stage shaking her thing, and what do I do? I fall and make a complete idiot of myself. I had a sudden urge to pat myself on the back and award myself the medal for being the biggest loser.



Oh, you are so awesome, Emma!



Not one person offered to help me up. The balding, beady-eyed man who’d bumped me had skulked off into the crowd – probably so he didn’t have to pay for damages – leaving me to clear up the mess. I sniffed, swallowing my sob as I grabbed the tray and started picking up the bigger bits of broken glass from the floor. Crestfallen, I silently wondered how I was going to pay for the drinks. I needed to pay for my little brother’s school trip this month, £365 to go to freaking Scotland for some weeklong field trip.



Stupid, stupid Emma!



Sometimes, I hated my life. I was almost nineteen and had been responsible for my fifteen-year-old brother, Rory, for the past year. As if my life wasn’t already hard enough without having to look after him, too, but in truth, I wouldn’t be able to get through the day without his help, so I couldn’t exactly complain. Rory was a godsend, just a freaking expensive godsend.



I reached out for a smashed bottle, tossing the glass onto the tray angrily. Just as my hand closed around another piece, someone grabbed my waist, hoisting me up. I squeaked in surprise, panic rising in my chest as I frantically looked around for a bouncer to come and help me; they usually milled around to take care of the girls. The warm hands lifted me to my feet, and a hard chest pressed against my back. Sweet, hot breath blew down my neck, brushing across my almost-exposed chest in my stupid uniform.



“Tut tut, Em. You should be more careful,” the voice whispered in my ear, sending a little shiver through my body.



Carson Matthews.



My face grew hotter as his hand brushed across my stomach, straightening my top for me before he rested his hands on my hips, still standing dangerously close to my back. I could barely breathe. He always caused this reaction in me; he had since the first time I laid eyes on him when I was sixteen. That was on my first shift here at the club, a night which changed my life forever, yet it was just another Saturday night for him.



I gulped, willing my voice not to betray me. Turning to look at him over my shoulder, I attempted to look seductive even though I had just fallen to the floor like a moron. His pale-blue eyes locked on mine. The sexy little smirk on his lips made my heart flutter erratically.



So. Damn. Handsome.



“Thanks for the concern, Mr Matthews. I’m fine, by the way; thanks for asking,” I teased.



“That you are, Emma. That you are.” He slapped my bum and laughed as I gasped at the slight stinging pain. “Come on, you’re waiting on us tonight.” Grabbing my hand, he lifted it up high, guiding me to do a graceful little turn to face him. His smell filled my lungs – the unmistakeable scent of orange blossom and chocolate, mixed with dirt and car grease.



So hot! Why does he have to be so hot?



Wait a second, what did he say? Waiting on him?



I flicked my eyes over to his six friends; they weren’t sitting in my section tonight. Their waitress was Charlotte, not me. Resisting the urge to pout, I shook my head. “You’re not in my section tonight, baby.”



He frowned, looking over at the table, clearly bewildered. “I thought you worked tables eighteen to twenty-four?”



I smiled because he would recall something like that. That was when I noticed he and his friends had sat themselves firmly on twenty, a table which, up until two weeks ago, would have been mine. “We had a little move around. I’m one to six now.” I bit my lip, looking at him apologetically, but he’d probably prefer Charlotte anyway; she was much prettier and flirtier than me.



“Shit,” he muttered, frowning. Then he gave me a mischievous grin. “Well, just for the night, you can swap back.” He bent down quickly, gripped hold of my waist tightly and threw me over his muscular shoulder, making me whimper in surprise. Laughing, he slapped my bum again, a little lower this time so his hand actually made contact with the skin rather than the material of the ridiculously short shorts. There was a loud smacking sound and a couple of guys near us cheered again, causing me to blush harder and press my face into Carson’s toned back.



“Put me down!” I ordered breathlessly as he carried me effortlessly across the room toward his table. Catching sight of the tray of broken glass I had just left lying in the middle of the floor, I groaned. “Carson, I need to sort out that mess!”



Gently shifting me on his shoulder, he altered his course and strutted to the bar instead. “Emma had an accident. Get someone to clear that up, would ya?” he said to Jason, tossing two crisp fifty-pound notes down before turning away, not waiting for an answer. Behind me, Jason laughed as I struggled to get down. Well, struggled wasn’t exactly the right word. Of course, I really didn’t try very hard because this was Carson Matthews, the guy I had been totally and utterly in love with for almost three years. Carson Matthews, the world famous Grand Prix Motorcycle driver and most eligible bachelor in England. No girl in her right mind would seriously want this experience to end.



As we got to his table, he tugged on my legs, making me slide down his hard body. His arms tightened around my waist, crushing my body against his, our faces were level so my feet dangled a little way off the floor. He smiled his nice smile, the one which made him get the adorable little dimples in his cheeks, and I couldn’t help but smile back at him.



“Now then, champagne, I think…” he trailed off, setting me gently onto my feet, straightening my top again because it had risen up from being thrown around so much.



I rolled my eyes and did a little curtsy, forcing a sweet smile. “Anything your heart desires, Mr Matthews,” I replied sarcastically.



He laughed and reached out, brushing the hair away from my face, pushing it behind my ear. “You’ve had your hair cut since I last saw you,” he mused, playing with my dirty-blonde hair, which now hung in natural, loose curls down to my bra strap instead of my bum. I winced, thinking it probably looked like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards because of being upside-down.



I smiled and nodded in confirmation. “Yeah.” My heart sped because he’d noticed even though I hadn’t seen him for close to three weeks. He’d been off being the big-shot celebrity, doing a modelling shoot in LA before kicking butt in all of his races in a bid to get to number one on the leader board. Carson was the hottest driver around at the moment, winning everything. At only twenty-one, he had the whole world watching, captivated, just waiting for the ‘young rookie English driver’ to become this year’s MotoGP champion.



“It looks good, Em. You look good.” He smiled softly.



I needed to go; I couldn’t keep standing here having this conversation with him. It was hard when I hadn’t seen him for a while. My resistance to his charm faded the longer I was away from him, and then when I did see him, I could barely control my emotions as everything threatened to burst out of me.



“Thanks. You do, too.” Wow, that’s the understatement of the century right there! “I’d better go get you some drinks then.” My skin was blazing under the layers of make-up I was wearing as I turned back to the table of his friends. “Right then, boys, what can I get you?” I asked, forcing my work-smile onto my face.



Carson traced his hand across the small of my back as he slid into an empty seat.



The boys wanted three bottles of champagne – easy enough to remember. I just prayed I didn’t drop this order, especially not at two hundred quid a bottle.



I walked to the bar quickly and looked at Jason apologetically. “Sorry. Did someone clear it up, or do you want me to do it?”



He waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it, it’s done. Lover boy even covered the cost, so don’t stress about Rory’s trip, okay?” He smiled kindly and I sighed in relief. Jason was a nice guy; he was the son of the owner and someone who I could talk to. We’d always got along well.



Charlotte trotted over, scowling at me as I went to pick up the tray containing the expensive fizz. “What are you doing? That’s my table!” she growled possessively, grabbing my wrist to stop me from picking up the tray.



I sighed and instantly released my grip. It was her table and, to be honest, I didn’t really want to see Carson too much tonight. The damn boy literally drove me crazy, and I knew I would be crying myself to sleep tonight because of him.



She huffed and threw her long, silky brown hair over her shoulder, tugging her top down more than necessary as she plumped up her cleavage. I tried not to roll my eyes. Weren’t girls supposed to have a slight air of mystery about them? She obviously didn’t understand that you didn’t need to show everything to get attention. Wordlessly, she grabbed the tray and slinked her way over to Carson’s table.



I tried not to watch. I tried really hard not to watch… but I just couldn’t help myself.



Carson frowned as she put the tray down on his table and threw him a seductive smile. His eyes flicked to me and one eyebrow rose, silently asking why I wasn’t working his table tonight. I shrugged, chewing on my lip. It really wasn’t my call, so he’d just have to do without me for one night.



I turned back to Jason thinking maybe I could ask to leave early tonight, pretend I was sick or something. I loved seeing Carson, I really did, but it was pure agony most of the time.



Suddenly, two muscular arms rested on either side of my body, trapping me against the bar as his smell surrounded me, making my scalp prickle. I didn’t move, didn’t speak, just stood there like a statue as he pressed against my back almost possessively.



“Jason, I want Emma to work my table. Tell the other girl to take a break or something,” Carson insisted, as if he just got to make demands like this. Well, in total honesty, he did. He was one of the most prestigious members of the club, and they did a lot to keep him happy. We had different rules for high-paying celebrities, and they got special treatment.



Jason shrugged, his eyes darting to me for a split-second. “That’s Charlotte’s section, Mr Matthews. I can’t take a table away from her, she’ll be losing out…” he trailed off, clearly uncomfortable.



One of Carson’s arms moved off the bar; there was a fumbling near my hip and then he threw a wad of cash. I gulped as I looked at it; it was more money than I earned in a couple weeks. Crisp fifty-pound notes, easily about three hundred pounds’ worth, dismissed, just like that, as if it were nothing. Well, in all honesty, it probably was nothing to him. It must be a great feeling to never have to worry about money. I silently wondered what it was like to never go hungry because you could only afford to buy enough food for two people instead of three or to not have to scrape pennies from the back of the sofa because you were thirty-seven pence short for the electricity bill. I just couldn’t imagine having enough money to throw it away like that. My eyes prickled with tears because it just reminded me how hard my life was. I looked away, willing the tears not to fall. I couldn’t cry here; instead, I’d cry when I was in bed tonight.



“Now she won’t be losing out,” Carson stated, taking my hand and pulling me toward his table. “I want Emma exclusively tonight. I don’t want to share her with other tables, so take her off the floor, too, okay?” he called to Jason over his shoulder.







TWO HOURS LATER, they were getting pretty rowdy. They didn’t watch the show at all; only a couple of them even glanced in the direction of the stage. They came here for the privacy, the selective clientele, the expensive champagne, and the ambiance of being in a high-class establishment. Angels Gentlemen’s Club was the best of its type in London.



After nine bottles of champagne between six of them, they were more than a little tipsy. The more they drank, the flirtier they became. I had always liked waiting on them, though, because none of them ever touched me – unlike some of the drunken clients I had to deal with.



I’d had two glasses of champagne, so I was a little merry myself. Carson had insisted I sit and have a drink with him. The whole time I had sat there blushing like crazy while he played with my hair, telling me time and time again he liked the cut, that it suited me, how good I looked, and how it felt like he hadn’t seen me in forever. It had felt like forever for me, too. Especially when he was plastered all over the papers, celebrating his victories with beautiful celebrities in LA, sunning himself on a beach with swimwear models, or the worst one, him on a billboard right outside my crappy little flat. Oh, and did I mention it was for Calvin Klein and he was only wearing a pair of white boxers in the photo? Every day, I opened my curtains and was greeted by a ten-foot picture of the guy I was in love with – not good for the soul, that one.



Carson came to the club once a week at the very least, more if he could. He came every Saturday night for almost three years, missing only when he was out of town. These last three weeks had been like torture.



He leant in closer to me, his breath blowing down my neck, and I knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth. My body was already on high alert waiting for it. As soon as he’d walked through the door tonight I knew this would happen.



“How about a dance, Em?” he purred.



I gulped, swallowing my nervousness; I should have been used to doing this by now. In all honesty, I was used to it. Clients weren’t allowed to touch me. I’d done this hundreds of times, to
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