Reyna glanced across the street and saw a nondescript brick building with a neon sign that read BOTTOMS, A GENTLEMAN’S CLUB.
“Ugh,” Reyna groaned. “A strip club?”
“Yeah. And they don’t open for a couple more hours so we’re going to have to kill time until we can get inside.”
“The stakeout. My least favorite part of a job,” Gabe muttered.
They hiked back to the car to make sure it was still in one piece and then whittled away the next couple hours until Bottoms opened for business. Gabe phoned Meghan to let her know that they’d be later than anticipated. He didn’t mention the strip club. Smart boy.
They made their way back to Bottoms right before it opened and watched the line of regulars who filed in the front door. When Gabe gave her the okay, they trotted across the street and inside. It was the first strip club Reyna had ever been inside. And it was even seedier than she could have imagined. There was a small stage that jutted through the middle of the room, with poles spaced across it. Seats ringed the stage and tables took up dark secluded corners. She could see a few marked doors that she assumed were for private dances. A bar ran along a whole wall and waitresses in lingerie strutted around offering drinks to patrons. A busty blonde was onstage in nothing but a G-string and black leather boots up to her knee.
“Let’s get a table,” Gabe said.
“Are you out of your mind? Let’s talk to the manager and get out of here like we agreed.”
“Change of plans.”
Reyna groaned. “Why? What the hell could have changed it?”
Gabe pointed his finger at the stage. Reyna whipped around. Striding onto the stage in a ruby red negligee and clear mile-high heels was…Jodie.
“Fuck,” Reyna muttered.
“Sit. Now,” Gabe growled in her ear.
“She can’t. She…couldn’t.”
“Reyna. You’re drawing attention to yourself.”
“Do I look like I care?”
“We’re not exactly in a position to draw attention to ourselves.”
Gabe put a hand under her elbow and drew her into a corner. She never took her eyes off of Jodie—fearless, confident, strong Jodie standing on a stripper’s stage.
“What the fuck?” Reyna said as she plopped down.
“I’ve seen people do worse to survive,” Gabe reminded her.
“Yeah,” Reyna whispered. She had seen people do much worse. But this wasn’t great either. There were other options.
Why hadn’t Jodie come back to the bunker? If she needed to strip to survive then couldn’t she have just come back? Had she stayed for June?
Reyna had about a million questions running through her mind. All of which she wanted to jump on the stage and demand answers to immediately. If it wasn’t for Gabe’s hand on her arm, she would have done just that.
“If we disturb the show, we’ll get kicked out. Then what will we do?” Gabe asked her.
She bared her teeth at him. She didn’t want to watch this. She didn’t want to see her friend fall this low. Reyna didn’t have anything against stripping. She’d never resorted to it, but if someone did then she didn’t begrudge it as a last resort. It just felt so wrong for Jodie to do. So out of character. So wrong on a fundamental level to escape Visage’s prison only to fall into this.
It took only a minute of Jodie being onstage before it was clear that she knew Reyna and Gabe were in attendance. Her eyes kept shifting to their table. Reyna hoped that she would just march off that stage. But she didn’t. She did some sexy little dance, removing her negligee, and baring herself to the crowd.
Reyna sighed heavily through her nose and gritted her teeth. “How much more of this do we have to endure?”
Gabe snapped his fingers twice. A girl scurried over and started dancing just for him. He stopped her. “I want a solo room with the girl onstage, for me and my girl here.”
He grinned wickedly at Reyna, who had the sense not to bite his head off.
“I can get that solo room now for me and you,” the girl said with a wink.
“The girl onstage,” he said. “Now.”
“It’ll cost you.”
“Now,” he growled.
The girl lifted an annoyed shoulder and then disappeared. Within the next minute another girl was taking over Jodie’s spot on the stage and Jodie was being ushered into a private room.
“You’ve done this before?” Reyna asked dryly.
A manager came to escort them to the back room and take payment for what was clearly an expensive private room. Gabe paid the manager without complaint and then they walked into the room. Jodie was back in her flimsy nightgown and had her arms crossed over her chest.
“What the hell are you two doing here?” Jodie snapped as soon as the door closed.
“What the hell are we doing here?” Reyna gasped. “What the hell are you doing stripping?”