Poles Apart Read online

  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.” Grabbin