Desiring the Dancer First Chapter

Monday, December 6, 2021

Chapter One

"When's my stripper getting here?"

Good Lord. I pull the last two champagne flutes from the cupboard and set them on the marble counter on the kitchen island. Holding back a heavy sigh, I reply, "I thought you didn't want one."

Valerie rolls her eyes, brushing by me as she walks to the refrigerator. "I changed my mind. Can't a person change their mind, Carlie?"

Of course they can. It's just funny that you waited until the night of your bachelorette party to do so. "Yes, you're allowed to change your mind."

"So, you'll get me one?"

"What?" I spin around, my jaw practically dropping.

"What do you mean?" She grabs a bottle of water from the fridge and chugs it.

Um, we're less than two hours from the party and I'm the one who's supposed to locate, book, and pay for a stripper? I'd like to say she's unbelievable, but this isn't out of the ordinary for my stepsister. "I wouldn't even know where to start," I say finally.

"I'm sure you could Google it. Oh!" Valerie snaps her fingers. "Myra got one for Cora for her birthday last year. Maybe she can put you in touch with them." She waves a hand and walks outside, her blonde hair flying behind her. "Thanks, sis!"

I stare after her, watching her walk down to the beach. Frustration builds up inside of me. It's unfair of Valerie to expect all of this from me. I doubt she'd be willing to put any effort if I were the one getting married. After all, I'm only her stepsister.

I make a fist and release it. Gotta focus. First, I need to call Myra, hope to God she has that number on hand, and cross my fingers they're available for a last-minute booking.

Myra answers after one ring. "What does Bridezilla need now?"

Valerie's best friend already knows the drill. "According to her, you're the one who can put me in touch with a stripper."

"I knew it! I knew she would want one last minute."

"Do you have a number for them?"

"Oh, don't worry about it, dear. I had a contingency plan for one just in case. I'll take care of it."

A wave of relief washes over me. I don't know a thing about strippers, other than the fact that they take their clothes off, obviously. Also, that some are themed, like firefighters and policemen. "Thanks, Myra. You're a lifesaver."

Now that the whole stripper thing is taken care of, I can get back to work on setting everything up for the party. Valerie said it's going to be a small, intimate gathering of her closest friends, but her estimate is likely way off. Especially given that she insisted on using her father’s fancy beach house for the party. Best case scenario, it's double her original number. As I stare at the glasses on the counter, I decide the smartest thing to do is assume she meant triple that number and get more glasses out.

When the doorbell rings five minutes later, I'm expecting to see one of Valerie's friends. Instead I open the door to find a woman with short jet-black hair, wearing a sharp navy suit. Behind her are a couple of vans and two cars in the driveway. Several men and women are standing around outside the vehicles and talking amongst themselves.

Blinking a few times, I say, "Uh… hello? How can I help you?"

The well-dressed woman says, “Hello, I’m Henrietta Livingston from Catering Limited. We’re here to cater the bachelorette party for a”—she glances down at her clipboard—“Ms. Valerie Coleman.”

After staring dumbfounded for a few seconds, I say, "Wait, cater?" Since when is a bachelorette party catered? I thought her father already had the refrigerator and wine cellar stocked before we arrived.

"Yes, ma'am." She holds out a clipboard. "Are you the bride to be?"

I glance at the paper and see Valerie's name on it. "No, I'm her stepsister, Carlie."

"Well then, I guess we are at the right place."

"I guess you are. Come in." I step back, holding the door open for them.

She tells the people at the van to begin bringing things inside. They file in, some carrying covered dishes and boxes of other items. As I follow them into the kitchen, I send a text to Valerie. Your caterer is here.

Oh, good! They're early.

Thank you for telling me earlier.

Sorry, I thought I told you.

Of course she didn’t tell me until after the fact. Leave it to my stepsister to not only spring this on me, but also not even be around when they arrive.

“Sorry about the counter full of glasses,” I tell Henrietta. “My sister didn’t inform me that you were coming and I started to get prepared.”

“Don’t worry about it, um...”


“Yes, Carlie.” She flutters her hand, gesturing at the huge kitchen. “We’ll move things around as needed as long as this is okay with you.”

“Of course, go right ahead.” I watch everyone move around the room with ease. It’s almost as though they’ve been here before by the way everything seems to flow. Must be a really good catering company. “I’ll leave you to it. If you need anything, I’ll be around.”

Walking away, I can’t help but wonder if she ran all of this by her father before setting it up. I’m sure he doesn’t care all that much about the expense, but I wonder if he’s aware of the fact that she wants men to strip off their clothes and let it all hang out in his vacation home. Knowing Valerie, she likely told him it would be a low-key affair with some friends. It’s the impression I got when she invited me to come last month.

As I wander through the house, I’m still overcome with how impressive it is. It’s the second time I’ve been here since our parents married. I feel out of place both in this house and the one they’re living in right now. My mom and I never lived in such fancy places. We rented a smaller house much closer to the Nevada border than coastal Southern California. While I do enjoy having the ocean nearby, part of me misses the quiet life away from the hustle and bustle. My mom is happy, though, so I can’t complain.

The doorbell rings again after I start to walk upstairs, so I go back down to see who’s out there now. Did Valerie hire a fire eater or a magician, too? When I open the door, it’s only a couple of Valerie’s friends, Cora and Felicia. They’re already dressed to impress, both wearing party dresses and carrying tiny presents. The two of them squeal when they see me, giving me a group hug and asking where the bride is.

“Oh my God, you guys are here already?” Valerie asks as she races toward them. They all hug and give cheek kisses, talking so quickly I can barely register the words.

“What do you need help with?” Cora asks.

Holding up her index finger, the almost-bride says, “First of all, I have to check to make sure the caterer is on schedule. Then I’ll need one of you to help Carlie move some furniture around in the sitting room and the other one to come upstairs with me to help me get ready.”

Wait, what? “Why do we need to move furniture?” I ask as I glance over to the room in question. It’s already pretty open as it is.

“Not just furniture, but also some of the breakables. I don’t want somebody to accidentally break one of Daddy’s heirlooms.” Her friends nod knowingly at her.

Given the fact that there will be alcohol at this party, this is pretty smart. Hopefully we don’t have any accidents even without fragile items sitting out. Maybe moving things around in there isn’t a bad idea after all.

“Cora, you help Carlie,” Felicia says, taking Valerie’s hair in her hands. “I want to practice my makeup and braiding skills on the bachelorette.”

As the two of them walk arm in arm to the kitchen, a disappointed Cora follows me into the sitting room to move things around. I pick up all the figurines and vases, tucking them in the bottom cabinets of an armoire in the corner of the room. The two of us move a few chairs around to create a more open space. I’m still not sure how many of Valerie’s friends will be here tonight. Hopefully this room is big enough for them all.

And a big enough space for… other things.

A few more of her friends arrive and come into the room to help us. Lydia tells us that she took an interior decorating class in college and knows the art of feng shui. Since I’m the only one in the room who isn’t even dressed yet, I excuse myself and leave them to it. I’m sure they can finish it up on their own.

Just as I’m walking away, Goldie calls out to me. “Hey,” she says with a smile. “You should leave your hair down tonight. I know you favor buns like me,” she points to the loose bun in her ash blonde hair, “but I think it’ll look great on you.”

Out of all of Valerie’s friends, I like Goldie the best because she’s the most genuine. And she’s right. I do wear my hair up often, like I am right now. I return the smile and tell her, “You know what, I think I will.”

Grinning, she gives me a wink and goes back to help everyone out. I finally make it up the stairs without having to answer the door for more arrivals. As I’m getting my dress for the party out of the closet, part of me wishes I didn’t have to be here for this. Yes, it’s my stepsister’s bachelorette party and I’m glad she even wanted me here in the first place. However, I’m a bit worried about how tonight will go down. Caterers, strippers, and a room full of twenty-something women drinking wine and champagne while eating hors d'oeuvres off silver platters?

Lord, help save me from the chaos that may ensue in the next couple hours.


| Add to your Goodreads shelf |

Carlie Coleman is not looking forward to her stepsister’s bachelorette party.

It was supposed to be a simple affair with a small group of Valerie’s closest friends at their parents’ beach house. Instead, the guests have tripled, there’s a fancy caterer, and at some point there will be strippers.

It’s going to be a disaster… until she meets the cute waiter.

Aiden Carter is sweet and she’s smitten. They can’t stop staring at each other from across the room. Their mutual attraction is undeniable. Before the night is over, she discovers something else.

The cute waiter is also the entertainment.

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