Why the hell had Mother Nature decided to unleash the storm to end all storms on Christmas Day? Carter wrapped his jacket closer around himself and ducked his head against the wind. His winter coat was wonderfully warm, but the elf costume that had been requested was about as much use in a blizzard as his G-strings. Why had he agreed to do this?
Oh yeah. Furnace. Heat.
Heat was good.
He never thought he’d have to go back to doing strip-o-grams. Still, it was better than working in a coffee shop, like he had when he’d first ended up on the streets. He’d lived in the cheapest room he could find and worked as much as he could without giving away that he wasn’t actually going to school, but it had been hard keeping himself fed and sheltered on minimum wage. It felt like he’d fallen into a gold mine when he started stripping. He liked it better too, which had surprised him.
Back when he’d first started, he’d stripped at night and done strip-o-grams during the day. He’d needed the extra income while he built up a fan base and…well, got good at his job. As soon as he could, he dumped the strip-o-grams. They were time-consuming, didn’t pay as well as regular stripping, and some of the jobs had been downright creepy. At the club, he could choose his outfit, choose his performance. It had rules, and bouncers to make sure the johns kept their hands to themselves and to handle anyone who felt overentitled to Carter’s body. But he could do strip-o-grams during the day or on holidays like today. It was extra cash, over and above what he could pull in during the evenings. And right now, extra cash was a good thing.
Other than the lower pay and the unreliability of gigs, the other problem with strip-o-grams was that they could be kind of a crapshoot. Most of the time the worst that happened was he got groped a little more than he appreciated, but there was always the odd one… Carter crossed his fingers and hoped this wouldn’t be a weirdo. Probably just a creeper, some lonely man looking for a little fantasy on Christmas. He’d have to watch out for wandering hands and set out the rules right at the start. But it shouldn’t be bad. He just hoped the guy didn’t smell. Those were the worst.
Then again, it wasn’t a lap dance they’d paid for. Phew.
A gust blew up the street, and he staggered, feet slipping in the rapidly gathering snow. His tear-away leggings somehow managed to wedge themselves in his butt crack, and he had to spend a few embarrassing minutes digging them back out before he could keep going. He’d put on muscle since the last time he’d used them.
This was a bad idea. He’d known it when he left the house, but once he was done and had called in to the service, he’d be seventy dollars richer. Not bad pay for twenty minutes’ work—thank God for holiday rates. It would help make up for how crappy tips were at this point in the year.
Carter squinted into the blowing snow, gauging how fast it was piling up. Maybe it wouldn’t even be twenty minutes—he should probably cut it down to the one song because the sidewalks were a mess and not getting any better.
Too bad the damn buses weren’t running.
He dug his phone out of his pocket and pulled up the map to the client’s place. Looked like one more block and then a left. Good.
Visibility was so poor he ran into the street sign before he saw it. “Shit!” He rubbed his forehead and pulled the damn elf hat down a little farther to cover the mark. This stupid storm couldn’t be over too soon. He turned left down the street and squinted at the first building. The wind dropped for a second, a passing moment of clarity; then it picked up again, swirling the buildings away in a wall of snowflakes. But the lull had lasted long enough for him to see the number: 2037. This was it.
He trudged up the walkway to the door and pushed the button for apartment three.
It felt like half an hour of shivering as the storm drove snow down his neck and up his back, but was probably only thirty seconds before the speaker crackled to life. “Hello?”
“Telegram for Thilo Petes?” he shouted over the wind. A few seconds later the door buzzed, and he grabbed for the handle so fast he almost knocked himself down. Going back to working at the coffee shop was looking pretty good as he kicked a bunch of snow out of the way to get the door open.
Once inside, though, with warm air against his face and no icy wind goosing his butt, he shook off the mood. He was a professional, and he was good at his job; a little snow wasn’t going to throw him off his game. His boots got switched out for elf shoes while the door closed behind him. The jacket came off as he went through the inside door, and he cued up his music on the way up the stairs. When the door to number three opened, he was ready.
“Strip-o-gram!” he sang and hit Play on his phone. While the first notes of Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” glided out of the bluetooth speaker in his jacket pocket, he eased the young man in the doorway back into the apartment and followed him inside.
* * * *
He’d forgotten that there were also a few upsides to doing strip-o-grams. One of them was the expressions on the faces of people who weren’t expecting him. From the half-scandalized look on this client’s face, this strip was a gag gift. Well, he could have some fun with that. He closed the door and grinned, dropping his coat to one side so it was out of the way. It muffled the sound a little but not bad. And no one really cared about the song anyway once he started dancing.
The apartment wasn’t big, one large room that played the part of dining room and living room, with a tiny kitchen separated from the rest by a half wall, and a door in the opposite wall that would probably be the bedroom. It made it easy for him to spin one of the mismatched chairs out from the dining-room table and herd his client into it.
A client who, now that he had a chance to look at him, was kind of cute in a nerd-with-glasses sort of way. And about to die of embarrassment.
Oh, this was going to be one of the fun ones.
Carter pulled the front of his curly elf hat over one eye and swung his hips in a rakish curve. His client’s eyes went wide as saucers, pupils glued to the fluffy hem that hung just above the bulge in the front of Carter’s leggings. Carter inched forward, still rolling his hips from side to side, until he stood over the other man’s knees. Maybe he’d throw in a little lap dance as a bonus. With a cutie like this, he could be generous.
The client made a strangled noise and glanced up at Carter with eyes the clear blue of springtime skies. Very nice.
Unfortunately, Carter might have appreciated it more if his leggings hadn’t been creeping up his backside again. He cupped his hands around the backs of his thighs and slid them slowly up to his buttocks. The urge to squirm was almost irresistible. Instead he bent his knees, coming dangerously close to sitting on the man’s thighs, and used the shift to wiggle the leggings back where they belonged.
“Santa Baby” was a good song for slow seduction with a bit of humor, which was about the only thing he could do in the god-awfully uncomfortable elf suit. But next time the damn things migrated, they were coming off. To hell with a slow strip—it’d be a relief to get down to his G-string.
Speaking of—it was time to start taking a few things off. First Carter popped the snaps on the cheap green velvet of his elf top, fingers sure as they hunted through its red-and-white marabou-feather trim. He let the top fall off one shoulder, then stepped to one side, leaning over the client so the feathers teased along his cheek.
The young man chuckled awkwardly and leaned away. “Yeah, uh, you don’t have to do that.”
“You don’t like it?” Carter moved around behind him and slid his hands over the guy’s shoulders. He pressed his chest against the accountant-cut hair and shimmied his shoulders. “I’ve always been told I have fantastic hip movement.”
“I’m sure you do.” The guy’s voice squeaked, and he cleared his throat and started to get up.
“Whoa! Can’t have that.” Carter jumped in front of him, startling him into sitting back down. “You don’t want to miss the rest of the show.”
“I’m fine. Really, you don’t need to do this.”
“Oh yes, I do. How often do I get to dance for a cutie like you? Now sit back and enjoy yourself. Just remember”—Carter took the client’s hands and folded them in his lap—“no touching.”