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“Life rarely does,” I said.

“Isn’t that the truth. That doesn’t mean you have to like it,” she said.

“Why don’t you just go home? Tomorrow, things might seem different.” And you can dump his dumb ass.

“I wish it was that simple, but I have a job to do. I just can’t walk out.”

“You work here?” I asked, totally surprised. She nodded. Nothing about her - the way she dressed in a sweater up to her neck, or the fact she looked as innocent as they came - hinted that she could be an employee. Damn, talk about calling this one wrong.

“It’s my first day. I’m just not sure I can pull this off. I mean, I know I can do it, but it’s just…not what I want to do. It feels…forced and I’m shaking inside, worried that everyone is going to notice it, too.” She shook her head ruefully. “But I have no choice.”

So she hadn’t actually gotten up on that stage and taken her clothes off? Why did that please me? I don’t care what she does.She’s a complete stranger I’ll probably never see again. Yet I was still standing there and now I was about to give her advice. “Of course you have a choice. Quit.”

Those beautiful honey-brown eyes of hers widened as though the thought had never crossed her mind. “My parents would be so disappointed in me if I did. I mean, they weren’t thrilled with me working here at first, but they need the money. I have to do this, not for me, but for them.” She sat back down on the step and said, “It doesn’t matter if I don’t want to be here, I belong here.”

Helping her parents was one thing, but what the fuck was wrong with those people? A father was encouraging his daughter to strip so he could have a fucking easier life? I didn’t know the guy, but I’d love to give him a piece of my mind and maybe a right to his jaw while I was at it.

My heart was pounding with anger over something I shouldn’t have gotten involved in. But it was too late. I knew and now I felt compelled to help. Don’t worry. I’ll be shutting this place down once I get Trixi to sign the papers.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

She looked up at me and replied, “Anne.”

“I’m Andrew. Do you have to go right back in?” She shook her head. “How about joining me for a cup of coffee?”

“I don’t know you,” she said.

“Trust me, I’m just offering coffee.” That was more than I should be doing, but maybe if I got her to blow off work tonight, tomorrow she’d be strong enough to tell Trixi what she could do with this job.

“I can’t just leave. Trixi will worry that something happened to me,” she said.

“If you want, I’ll wait while you let Trixi know. Besides, I’m sure she has it covered for an hour while you go grab a cup or two.”

Anne got up and said, “Do you know the diner on Main Street?” I nodded. “I can meet you there in twenty minutes.”

“I can drive you,” I offered.

She shook her head. “You’re right. Being out here by myself wasn’t a smart thing to do. Getting into a car with a stranger is even dumber.”

Smiling, I said, “Very true. I’ll see you at the diner.”

Anne went back into the club and I headed to my car. I wasn’t positive she would show up, but at least I knew she was listening when I spoke. What I would say to convince her not to return there, well, I didn’t have a clue on that yet. But it definitely made me want to speak to Trixi sooner rather than later.