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Charlie worked the pole like her life depended on it. Because it did. She’d been working at the strip club for the past two months and counted on her tips and her anonymity to survive. As she moved to the driving bass and took another spin around the pole she tried her best not to think about what had put her there in the first place. She’d been on the run for six months trying to escape a man who couldn’t keep his hands to himself.

She finished her routine and was collecting tips when she spotted him in the audience. There was no escaping the rage in his eyes, and like a veteran with PTSD she shifted into combat mode immediately. Without missing a beat she calmly turned and headed backstage to the dressing room. There were only a couple of other strippers in various states of undress getting preparing to go onstage or head to the champagne room for a private dance. The dressing room was narrow with a row of lockers running against one wall, and a row of vanity tables against the other. Charlie quickly headed to her locker and grabbed a mini-dress and a platinum blonde wig. Her heart was pounded in her chest and her hands shook as she quickly pulled the dress over the skimpy thong she had worn on stage. She changed the short purple wig that she’d worn onstage in favor of a platinum blonde one that covered her dar​​k unruly curls. She strapped on her emergency backpack and headed out the locker room. It had taken her only five minutes.

The backdoor was being guarded by Jonah, the club owners younger brother. At 6'3, raven haired and completely ripped, Jonah wasn't someone to fuck with. Charlie had seen him remove unruly customers, break up fights, and kick the asses of many men who tried to challenge him after having a few too many drinks. He doled out violence when necessary, but was always gentle with the dancers. Especially her. It was only a week ago that she’d let him kiss her for the first time. Getting past him was going to be a challenge and she was out of time.

“Hey beautiful, I thought you were going to wait for me until I get off.” He said. His bright blue eyes traveled up and down her body with greedy anticipation.

Six minutes.

“Yeah, um I’m sorry. I can’t go home with you tonight Jonah. Something I gotta do.”

He shifted from his post so that his frame blocked the exit. “Do? Like what?”

“Please Jonah. Let me out.” She bounced from one foot to the other as she tried to figure a way out without anyone getting hurt. Including herself.

“You’re running.” His said as he nodded his head from side to side in disappointment.

“I don’t want anyone to get hurt.” She said in a trembling voice.

“Hurt? Who’s fucking with you?” His eyes flared as he triggered the security alert button on his handheld as an automatic reflex. He was head of security for the club and he took nothing for granted.

Seven minutes.

“You don’t understand. I need to get out of here now.” She wrung her hands as she glanced back toward the dressing room and considered other options to exit the club. Unfortunately, the next closest exit would lead her back through the club and straight to her ex which would basically be a death sentence.

Jonah stepped closer to her and tipped her chin up with a strong finger. “Tell me who you’re running from so I can take care of it baby.”

She clutched his wrist and was about to answer him when she felt his body stiffen.

“Nevermind. Fuck!” He shouted.

Oh God. She didn’t have to turn around to know her ex had somehow managed to get backstage. Jonah had already pushed her behind him when the first shot rang out.

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