Four sisters who, on the surface, appear so different from one another. Together with varying childhood experiences they grow into four very different women who discover, at the heart, they are not so dissimilar after all.
Esther was laughing at the bar with one of her girlfriends when the bar manager approached the stools where they sat. Tears of amusement were leaking out of the corner of her green eyes; her long wavy blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders & down her back, swishing against the seat of the stool as she talked animatedly. The night was still young, the nightclub packed & the dance music was loud.
“You seem to have caught the attention of our newest bouncer.” Jason Anderson observed without preamble, talking loud enough to be heard over the music. The stout manager in his mid 40’s stood near them, hands casually in his trouser pockets.
“Oh?” Esther feigned ignorance but she had felt the heat of the bouncers’ attention for well over an hour. Her own subtle perusal had observed a man much much taller than her own 5 feet 2 inches, darkly tanned skin, black hair to match & muscle. Lots of muscle. Whoever he was he wore the black jeans & black Bonds t-shirt as if he were doing them a favour she had mused to herself. Casually she lifted her drink and took a sip, turning her head slightly to find his dark brown eyes connect again with her own. She quickly looked away smiling, knowing she was also blushing. Her friend giggled, tipsy on bourbon & cola. Jason Anderson crossed his arms over his chest and stood with his feet apart. His head tilted back slightly & his face adopted a devious expression.
“You owe me one.” Esther stilled, amusement wiped from her face suddenly at those four little words. Eyes round she looked at him. He grinned and nodded knowing she had guessed what was coming. Her eyes flitted ever so briefly to the new bouncer who was at that moment watching the dancers on the floor, scanning for possible trouble makers. She looked back at Jason shaking her head slightly.
“Oh yes.” He spoke over her plea.
“No, no, no please.” She begged, her already creamy complexion draining of colour. “Not the new guy, please I’m shy!”
“New guy, standing lap dance, and we’re even.” Jason Anderson barked off his list. Her friends’ mouth fell open as Esther gasped. Two red spots of mortification appeared high on her cheekbones. The music of the club seemed to have faded to the background, in fact the air was suddenly feeling quite thin & the room was going dark.
“No. Please anything else.” Esther had engaged in similar fun before but usually it was with other people they knew or complete strangers whose intense interest didn’t make her insides flip flop...people who....didn’t matter! For some reason the thought of dancing for this man...it mattered!
“I won’t take no for an answer Esther. You know as much.”
Esther swallowed nervously. When she saw that the manager was not going to back down she started to peel herself off her stool slowly. Suddenly her legs seemed too sweaty and her hot pants too short. The form fitted black singlet top she wore was modest enough, except for the way it clung to every curve of her petite frame. Always on the smaller side Esther knew she was however perfectly proportioned, thanks to years & years of dance. Her hips were so slim she could still shop in girls wear if she so chose, which came in handy when sticking to a tight budget as she was, her waist narrow, her bust small & modest. Due to her slight frame & porcelain complexion she was often mistaken for someone much younger than her 22 years.
As she walked through the crowd between them, it was hard to know for sure, but Esther had a feeling that the stranger was well aware of her approach but was choosing to ignore or acknowledge her presence. Finally in front of the man, Esther gulped as she realised just how far she had to look up to see his face and that was with her stiletto heels!. He was a giant compared to her! Rubbing her sweaty palms against the butt of her pants nervously, Esther cleared her throat quietly. She felt like she had barely made a sound over the pounding of the music and she looked back over her shoulder nervously at Mr Anderson. He made a motion with her hand that she supposed was meant to encourage her to 'get on with it'. As she turned her head forward again she parted her lips on a gasp. Arms still crossed, muscles bulging, the bouncer was staring straight at her. He wasn’t 'the Rock' muscular, but the dude obviously worked out. Esther felt her heart stop, or maybe it just paused or skipped a beat as a few seconds later it started pounding away again. As they stared at each other he raised one perfectly arched eyebrow in query at the same time as the current song suddenly stopped & the lights went out. The club went dark but it was not fully silent as a few patrons exclaimed in surprise or laughed. Suddenly a spotlight came on and very quickly honed in on Esther and the bouncer who, despite the blanket of darkness, still only had eyes for her.
The opening base of a song kicked in and Esther took in a deep deep breath before exhaling. Looking up into his molten brown eyes, she gave him a crooked self derisive smile.
“I just want to apologise in advance.” She muttered huskily. She licked her dry lips nervously. She did not miss the fact that his eyes followed the movement of her tongue over her lips. She cleared her throat again self consciously.
“For what....?” The bouncer started to ask but his voice trailed off as Esther turned her back to him and started doing her thing. Trying not to think about the people watching or the incredibly handsome man behind her, she let the beat of the song carry her away & before long she was swept up and lost in the dance moves. Oblivious to everything & everyone around her, until it came time to step back and move closer to him. Esther was a professional dancer and knew how to keep her head in the game but she would have to have been made of stone to ignore the warm flesh just inches from her own barely covered skin. Esther turned to face him and then dropped impossibly low, feet together, knees spread wide, her hands on her thighs to steady herself. Her head was below his groin but she slowly started rotating her hips raising herself up again her lips brushed accidentally against the fly of his jeans. Her hips continued to gyrate until she was standing at full height again, which left her momentarily staring at his muscled chest.
She dipped, twirled, grinded & swung her hair around. Vaguely she became aware of the crowd going wild. To his credit the object of all her attentions stood as still as a statue until Esther spun closer still, her hair flying out flicking in his face, and then she stopped again with her back to him, her small hands grasping his Jean clad upper thighs and started to grind her soft butt against the steel of his groin, or as close as she could get to it with their height difference, as the crowd cheered and applauded. Esther faltered slightly & gasped softly as she registered the length of his obvious erection in his jeans. It was then the bouncer seemed to lose all humour for the situation. His arms snaked out quickly before she could move away, his hands clamping down on her slim forearms, engulfing them, and he pulled her back against his lean, lithe body with a jerk and a hiss.
Afraid & in a position of disadvantage, Esther tried to pull away, her eyes searching the room for Mr Anderson. The spotlight turned off, the show apparently over, and the regular club music started up again, the lighting once again dim. They were effectively shut off from the rest of the crowd in the club by darkness.
In response to her struggles the bouncer let go of one of her arms and used the length of his whole arm across her mid rift to anchor her snugly against him. Esther was barely able to keep her tippy toes in contact with the ground & she squeaked wordlessly. Now she was pressed against his groin. Her face burned. She wanted to die. Instead she employed a manoeuvre taught to her by her eldest sister. Esther made her body go limp in his arms. He shook her.
“Stop squirming around would you?” His warm breath tickled the hair at her ears as he bent over her, cradling her closer. She could smell a strong minty tinge in his breath. “You caused this predicament. You can at least pay me the respect of staying here for a minute until it sorts itself out.” His allusion to his apparent erection made Esther blush even more. She had never had a man speak so frankly to her about being in such a state. Intrigued she turned her head to the side and looked at him from beneath her lashes and the sheen of her flaxen hair that hung between them.
“I like your accent.” Esther complimented quietly. “It's really different.”
“You have a strange way of introducing yourself to people.” His voice was husky but Esther detected a hint of humour in his response. She felt his weight shift behind her, pulling her backwards slightly, leaning his back against the brick pillar, Esther guessed.
“I warned you I was sorry. It was a bet.” Esther informed him.
“What are we? In high school?” His tone wild mildly facetious. “And on the topic of high school, you know I'm going to have to card you. 12 year olds aren’t allowed in here.”
“Do you often get boners for 12 year olds sicko?” Esther spluttered, shocked, before executing the move she had been waiting for the opportunity to make since she'd made her body go floppy. Without warning she stomped his foot hard with her sharp shoe & with surprising force jerked her free arm backwards, her elbow making painful but satisfying contact with his ribs. He did not shout out in surprise as Esther had expected, merely grunted as if he were used to taking hits, but he did let her go enough so that Esther could spin out away from him, to face him. The bouncer was standing to attention now and he had retained his hold on her left arm with his right hand.
“Your parents must be very proud their daughter is such an expert twerker.” Esther narrowed her eyes at his deliberately hurtful words.
“Let me go.” She stated, eyes holding his, her tone even.
“I can't. I'm sorry.” He returned in a tone that belied his apologetic words. “I need your ID.”
“I work here you ass.” Esthers tone was not as nice.
“Prove it.” He smiled. He actually smiled at her, his grip holding fast.
“I cant wear my staff tags on the dance floor. Occ health & saftely rules.” She fired back.
“I'm wearing mine.” He pointed out reasonably, casually dangling his coloured lanyard with his free hand that had his plastic ID attached to the end.
“Because you're not a dancer and you can probably kill people with your pinky finger if they tried to strangle you with your tags.” Esther intoned with false sweetness. Suddenly the music changed again, grew louder, and Esther looked toward the raised dance floor at the front of the room where the other dancers were assembling. Looking back at the bouncer, her eyes became round & pleading. She tugged her arm, frustrated.
“Seriously, you're going to get me fired. That's my cue. I have to go up there!....I'll be straight back afterwards anyways.” She pointed to a round raised podium to his right. “That's my spot. It'll be your job to keep the drunks off me for the rest of tonight. You should buy a lotto ticket.”
“You're one of the club dancers?” He made no attempt to mask his surprise.
“Yeah. And I'm 22, not 12.” Esther used the surprise caused by her statement to quickly move closer to him, pushing against his hold on her arm, which loosened, and then she used the momentum of the moment to reach up on her tippy toes quickly & kissing him sweetly on the lips as she pulled her arm free. She heard his shout of surprise but did not wait around. Esther moved toward the stage where the other girls had started the routine, and the watching crowd swallowed her as she went. As Esther hurried up the steps and popped into formation as seamlessly as possible she was intensely aware of the eyes that followed her every move from the back of the room as she started to dance. Usually Esther was very proficient at switching off to the leers of the crowd as she went through the suggestive choreography, but as she moved her hips into wind pound, wind tap and moved into position for dry roll, she had never felt so exposed as she did with those intense brown eyes watching her, lazily taking in each lean exposed limb of her compact body, clinging to the sway of her body as if he were caressing her skin with his hands.
When the set finished Esther reluctantly made her way back to her podium and the bouncer who made her feel a world of emotions that she didn’t have words for. As she approached her personal podium he uncrossed his arms and offered her his hand to assist her to step up in her high heels, obviously taking a cue from watching the other bouncers on the floor. As their hands touched Esther felt her fingers tingle and he closed his big hand firmly around her own smaller fingers, to help lift her slight weight as she stepped up. When she was steady in the middle of the podium and would have let go his grip tightened and she looked at him surprised. Esther was slightly above him now and the whole room; the club, the people, the music all receded as she stared into his brown eyes, mesmerised. But his next words shook her from her reverie.
“I still need that ID.” His deep voice purred.
“Seriously?” Esther rolled her eyes. “Dude, just keep the drunks off me, I have a long night ahead. You can check my ID when I'm off.” She instructed and snatched her hand free. Turning slightly so that he was no longer in her direct line of vision, Esther listened briefly to the current song and then started to dance. Ever since she was young Esther had found her freedom in dance, and she knew she was good at it and had never doubted that she would make a career out of it. But a stupid argument with her father months ago had thrown her life off course. Going through the dance steps without much thought due to the nightly routine, her mouth turned down a little as she became lost in thought remembering the disagreement with her beloved father. It had been quite silly really. He supported her dancing, but something in the way he had spoken that day had made it sound like he thought she was capable of so much more, and suddenly Esther was furiously vowing to prove to him that she could make it in the real world, his world, of hotel management.
It had meant going undercover in order to make it on her own steam, cutting ties with her parents so they couldn’t secretly help her along, changing her name, moving to the opposite side of the country, to Perth, in an effort to be out from under her fathers huge net, and lesson the chance of being recognised as either his daughter or the dancer that she was in her own right.... The irony that the only entry level job she had been able to secure with no training papers or references was as a night club dancer had not been lost on Esther. But she had quickly shown her employer Jason Anderson that she was a quick learner and willing to try her hand at almost anything and within a month of starting at the Hotel complex she was also tending bar, waitressing, and on the cleaning crew, taking as many shifts as was offered to her on top of her commitments at the nightclub.
A fight broke out at the bar, to the right of where Esther was dancing. Looking in that direction she saw the bouncers attention had also been drawn to the brawl as the group of men were pushed away from the bar and jostled against the bouncer who did his best to keep them away from her but inevitably one man spun to the side as he was grabbed by the arm, knocking her right hip. The brawling man was yanked back and concerned brown eyes looked up to see if she was okay, his brows drawn down in frustration at the pushing crowd.
“Just keep them off me pretty boy.” She shouted over the music, implying he was not doing his job properly. Esther started dancing again. 'Just another night on the podium' she told herself with a little mental shake. Suddenly Esther heard squeals to her left and she looked over her shoulder, barely registering in her peripheral vision a man crashing through a group of women dancing, then she felt a hand grab her left ankle. Eyes wide with surprise Esther felt the man tug at her ankle and she felt her feet slip out from under her one after the other, almost in slow motion. Her butt hit the black wooden podium with a dull thud and jolted her out of slow motion and instead into a weird kind of fast forward. Reacting purely on instinct drilled into her years before Esther moved without thinking. The man, though large framed, was unsteady on his feet no doubt due to an abundance of alcohol and had become unbalanced when she had fallen, losing his grip on her ankle. Placing her feet apart on the ground hip width apart, one slightly in front of the other, Esther use both hands to grab the unsuspecting man firmly by his collar and tie in one grasp then using the podium she was still sitting on to steady herself, in one motion she pushed herself forward, feet unmoving and Esther used the mans continuing forward motion to toss him head over heels onto the floor in front of her where he landed, stunned and winded on his back, legs splayed away from her. The manoeuvre left Esther in a crouched position on the night club floor. She quickly moved again until she was positioned with her left knee on his right elbow and her own elbow pushing into his throat. The man gasped.
Her hair whipped as she looked over her left shoulder to lock eyes with the obviously surprised bouncer. He was frozen to the spot in disbelief.
“Hey this is your job!” Esther yelled over the noise of the crowd. The bouncer just blinked. Suddenly the boss Jason Anderson broke through the gawking crowd. Laughing he slapped the bouncer on the shoulder.
“So,” He boomed over the music. “I see you've met Esther. Ain't she something?” Esther swallowed, a sinking feeling invading her stomach.
“Esther,” Mr Anderson said, still jovial, “This is Dan, the new hotel owners nephew. He's sent Dan ahead of him to see how we do things here in the West.”
Esther felt sick in her stomach as Mr Andersons laughter continued to ring out.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“All kidding aside Dan, Esther is the woman to stick to like a glove for the next 48 hours or so, until you find your feet. You can learn a lot of this little one. Your Uncle will be very impressed by the time he flies in next week...” Mr Anderson gave Esther a sterling introduction, eyes still twinkling with humour.
“I cant show this guy around Mr Anderson!” Esther protested as they stood around in a circle, in one of the offices out the back of the bar, Dan and Esther eyeing each other off warily. She lowered her voice and shifted her hips so that she could lean in closer to her boss. Her next words intended just for him. “You know I'm juggling jobs...”
“I certainly do Esther, a favour you just repaid tenfold. Honestly, in my wildest dreams....!” He started laughing again at the memory of the lap dance and the mayhem that had followed. When the manager saw neither Esther or Dan joined him, he broke off his laughter, ending on an awkward coughing fit. “Listen Esther, this mans uncle is THE ducks nuts in the hotel industry in the UAE.” Mr Anderson pointed to Dan, who looked uncomfortable at crass description on his uncle. “He tells me to put Dan, his beloved nephew, in the hands of the best worker I have until his arrival in about 72 hours. That's you. That's a compliment babe. And if you crack a smile and be nice to him, make him look like a super star pupil for his uncle, I'm sure he'll happily overlook your little....indiscretions...shall we call them.”
Esther and Dan looked across at each other sheepishly, although his arms were still crossed defensively. Esthers own hands were in front of her and she fiddled with the band of her watch as she thoughtfully took in her bosses instructions that were heavily layered amongst sickly sweet compliments.... She had a chance to impress the new big boss, and all she had to do in order to achieve that was help his nephew Dan, not a challenge on the eyes at all, learn everything he could from her, in 48 hours, so that he in turn could impress his uncle also.
A sudden feeling of positive energy seemed to surround Esther and her heart started racing. 'This is it.' She thought to herself, lowering her eyes, shuttering the workings of her mind from the two men watching her, awaiting her answer with bated breath. 'This is the opening I've been waiting for...'
Esther raised her head and her face broke into her sweetest friendliest smile. She blinked so languorously it almost turned into a sultry wink, not that Esther did sultry naturally... Both men blinked in surprise but otherwise did not move.
“I'd love to show you the Hotel Dan. Heck, in 48 hours, I'll show you the whole damn city.” She crooned and arched an eyebrow. She was a woman after all. Time to start practising those wiles. Dancing had proven she wouldn’t achieve everything she wanted in life on smarts alone....
“Good.” Mr Anderson rubbed his hands together gleefully. “I'll leave you two kids to it then.”