He was too damned good-looking.
Julie Turner leaned back in the rickety wooden chair, bracing her scuffed sneakered foot against the table leg.
Spread out before her were photos of a dozen or so scantily clad young men. Directly in front of her lay a slim stack consisting of twelve lean bods. Right on top was the one who had caused her to exclaim out loud to the empty strip club she ran for her dad.
She couldn’t believe it was actually going to happen.
It had been her idea to add stripping to the regular weekend karaoke and Ladies’ Night Happy Hour at the once decrepit beer and burger joint.
She’d come home with an MBA and three years’ experience as the regional manager for a chain of gift shops headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, to find her widowed father slowly sinking into a morass of unpaid bills and the club rundown and floundering. She really hadn’t planned on coming home to stay. She was content with her new life in Virginia, but her dad had turned those puppy dog eyes on her just like he used to do on her mom, and she’d caved.
Using all the skills she’d learned over the past years, she’d taken over the management of the place and finally, after almost a year, had started turning a meager profit. All spiffed up, the bar was slowly acquiring new customers and regaining old ones.
But it still needed something different to draw more traffic. Something unique. It took the luncheon reunion with three of her high school girlfriends to spark the stripping idea.
They called themselves the BBGs -- the Big Bad Girls -- for their weight and their daydreams. Naughty fantasies of making out with the jocks that didn’t give them a second glance were a favorite scenario. Going down to Cancun and flashing their boobs, modeling lingerie for Victoria’s Secret, marrying an international playboy -- all harmless, silly dreams they thought would never come true because they were beyond the realities of succulent plump women.
They sat around a scarred wooden table in the back of the bar, nibbling on fried onion rings and sipping their third (or was it their fourth?) round of Sea Breezes, when Connie Majors, full-bosomed, blonde, beautiful and unofficial leader of the BBGs, took another bleary-eyed look at the forty-year-old bartender and sighed with unfeigned lust.
“Damn, I’d love to get a look at Gary nekkid as a jay bird. Too bad he’s married and my husband’s best friend.” She took another deep sip from her glass and belched delicately. “Think he’d strip if I offered him money? I’ve got a twenty here someplace.”
Tory Johnson shook her head. At a size twenty, she was the most statuesque of the group. Her voice was as lush as her figure. Tall and Rubenesque, she’d yet to find either a worthy lover or a worthy stage for her singing.
“Know who I’d want to see stripped down to his jock strap? Rick Hartman. Remember when Mrs. Dochter made him sing that duet with me for senior assembly?” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “All that rehearsing of “One Hand, One Heart.” I never forgot his face when we finally performed it. He actually looked like he …” She stopped and shook her head. “Nah. Cathy Mandan. She had her nails in him so deep.” She giggled. “Oh, well. Just a thought.”
Patty Donohue, eyes blue as the Irish sky, hair curly and fiery as a sunset over Galway Bay and skin milky white with nary a freckle, sighed so deeply her size 40D breasts almost popped out of her halter top.
“Tony Dominguez. Black leather slacks, black t-shirt, black leather jacket and boots. And that Harley.” Another deep sigh. “He gave me a lift home from church on his bike one time. My father almost puked up his beer.” One more sigh. “I saw him once. Naked.” Her voice took on a dreamy tone.
“He was swimming over at the quarry. I was taking a shortcut after one of our BBG bitch sessions. It was late. It was hot. I thought I’d take a dip. And he was there. Right at the quarry edge. The moon shone down on him. He looked like a statue.” She took a deep gulp of her drink and continued. “He was so … big. All over. Then he dived. The splash was so loud, like thunder. I couldn’t move. He swam to the middle, treading water. He flung his hair out of his eyes, then swam to shore.” She paused, but no one spoke.
“He sloshed to the bank where he’d left his clothes and stood there. His head cocked as if he’d heard something. Me? I didn’t wait to find out. I ran home.” She closed her eyes. “You know, I thought I heard him call my name.” She shook her head. “Couldn’t have been. But that’s who I’d like to see naked. Again.”
Julie looked down at her empty glass, then up again at three expectant faces.
“You want to know whose equipment I’d like to see?” She shrugged. “I don’t know.” She giggled. “Maybe a whole line-up of guys strutting their stuff.” She looked at her friends’ amused faces. Then, a thought struck her. “Why not? Would you spend money to look at a bunch of naked men dancing and moving on stage? Do you think there are enough women in the area who’d pay to see them?”
“You mean like Chippendales?” Connie asked. “With enough promotion, could be. But where would you get the men?”
“A contest!” Patty’s eyes twinkled. “With prizes.”
“Good prizes.” Tory spoke with authority. “And a female mistress of ceremonies.” She looked at Julie. “You.”
“Me? Are you outta your mind? I’d look ridiculous up on stage with a bunch of lean, muscled guys.”
Tory snorted. “C’mon, Julie. You’ve got a damn cute figure. And I’d kill for that long, black hair. You could give Shania Twain a run for her money.”
Now it was Julie’s turn to snort with disbelief.
“If Shania were sixty pounds heavier. But you know, the stripping idea isn’t bad at all. Tory, do you think you could convince the radio station to publicize it once we figure out the details?”She shrugged. “I could try.” She chuckled. “I could call in some favors. I’ve filled in for everyone at WKTY. The General Manager owes me.”
“I could help with fliers and … you need a website. Let me work on that.” Connie’s voice brooked no argument.
Julie nodded. “You’re right. A website. We’d need a new name for the place. What could we call it? Joe’s Joint just won’t work any more.”
“Real Bad Boys.”
“Perfect. It’s perfect, Tory. Trust you to think of the right name.” Julie turned to the others. “Well, girlfriends, what do you think?”
Connie giggled. “I think you better pass this by your dad first. He’ll have a conniption fit!”
Oddly enough, he didn’t. For the first time in a long time, he didn’t have to spend 24/7 at the place, and he was loving it. And loving the sweet little widow who ran the Curl & Swirl Beauty Shop in the two-street-long downtown. With a sigh of thanks that Julie’s college smarts actually were paying off, he gave her his blessings.
So here Julie sat staring at a pile of pictures of hunky men and wondering what she’d gotten herself into.
Because the guy she was staring at was just too damned good-looking.