Love Stripped

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Chapter 23

Jake was everything Kimberly would’ve never expected – perfect. He was perfect, and the same thing applied to their relationship.

Since they’d come from his mother’s house, about a month ago, Kimberly had never been this happy, and not once she’d considered breaking up with him, because Jake had never given her a reason to.

Their moments alone were unique.

Between her work, and between Jake’s almost full-time job, their finals had already started, but they always found a way to spend time with each other. When Kimberly had her nights off, Jake would be with her in his room, and most of their time wasn’t even spent on sex. He’d play the guitar for her, they’d talk about their day, or would just have dinner out. But then, later on, the atmosphere would drastically change into a sensual and addiction one, and so Kimberly would strip down for him, and he’d make love to her, pleasuring her in all ways imaginable.

Her favourites moments with Jake were when she’d come back from work, and would find him lying awake in his bed, waiting for her with a smile on his lips. He slept before she arrived, of course, but then he’d wake up thanks to the alarm clock he always set, so that he’d be up when Kimberly came back from work.

The red haired woman would sneak into his room, and he’d be there, smiling, drawing her to his bed. Kimberly already knew his moves. Jake would kiss her in an unusual gentle way, knowing her body would flare up if he went on, which he certainly went. He’d trail lingering kisses along her hourglass figure, and finally, they easily became one.

Of course Kimberly loved when he’d just take her out to dinner or would just walk with her to get some fresh hair and let off some steam. She was aware of how exhausted he always was by the end of the day, since he had to focus on his pharmaceutical company, as well as study for his college finals.

Angeline, his mother, was being hard on him, but Jake had managed. Kimberly knew his routine. When he’d come from college, he’d study, and when she was working, he’d go over everything he needed to run his mother’s company. Although the company was already Jake’s, Angeline was still replacing her son, until Jake finally graduated and moved in.

She hadn’t told him yet, but she’d already caught him looking for houses – well, mansions, near the company. Kimberly hadn’t dared to say a word about it, because she just didn’t want to talk about him, and realize Jake would be really leaving soon. However, when Jake seldom brought that up, Kimberly always tried to change the conversation. Jake knew how she felt, and that was way he’d let her have her way. For now.

It was a hot Sunday, and Kimberly was in her room, studying. It was about six-thirty, which meant Jake would be arriving soon. He’d spent the weekend at his mother’s house because of company-issues he had to attend to. That had been a constant for the last two weekends, and Jake had invited her several times, as well Angeline, to go with him, but she’d not accepted. Jake knew why, he wasn’t stupid.

Eric was her reason.

She hadn’t spoken to him since she’d last seen him at Angeline’s house, when the argument had taken place. Eric hadn’t called her either, and because she didn’t want any more problems between her and Jake, she’d decided it was best if she didn’t contact Eric.

All of a sudden, she heard the door being opened. Her smiles were tore in a perky grin as she leaped to her feet and darted for the door. Jake came inside, and closed the door behind. He looked exhausted.

“Hi, baby!” Kimberly jumped towards him, forcing him to drop his suitcase. Her hungry lops met his for a while, until she finally pulled back, gasping for air. She noticed Jake was wearing a fancy Armani suit, which made him look older, yet sexier – a CEO sort of look. “Why are you all dressed up?”

“I had to attend a meeting. My mother forced me to buy this. You like it?”

“Of course, it’s good on you.” She replied, engulfed by Jake’s strong arms. “Any news?”

Before she could listen to his answer, she sneezed, her nose still streaming. She’d had the flu the entire week, but she was feeling much better now. However, Jake was still worried. “You’re still feeling sick?”

“No, I’m better, don’t fret about it, Jake. Anyway, how’s your mother?” She led him to the kitchen, where he sat down and drank a glass of fresh water.

“She’s fine. She’s been nagging me about when you’ll be visiting her again.”

“She called me last Thursday, I told her I had the flu and she began teasing me, asking if I’d had the flu for the past two weeks since I didn’t go with you those other weekends.” When Kimberly first met Angeline, her first thought was that the woman was just as arrogant as Jake was, but nevertheless, nicer, and quite alive for her age. Sometimes, she’d just call Kimberly when she wasn’t with Jake, asking her was she was doing.

“You had to work.” Jake said, watching her sitting down on his lap.

“I know,” She avoided his eyes. Whenever her work was their conversation’s topic, Kimberly couldn’t help but to just stiffen and change their chit chat.

“Are you going to quite? After you graduate, you’re not going to keep working at night, are you? I don’t like that all.” Jake’s disapproval was clear on his words and striking features. Truth was, Kimberly didn’t like that as well, but she had to. However, this was the first time Jake disclosed he didn’t like the fact that she had to work at night.

“I really don’t know, Jake. That’s something I don’t feel like talking right. All I want is to make you feel good.” And she tried to smile, gazing into his dark green eyes. “Sid went out with James, and Tom went out with Ben and Aiden.”

“Oh really?” Jake’s lips broke forth in a smile. He knew what she was longing for.

“Yeah, which means we’re alone...” She purred, leaning down to caress his neck in a smooth, yet stimulating way, at the same time she slid his jacket down his shoulders. But then, when she inhaled his fragrance... something went totally wrong. “Oh God...”

Kimberly bolted up, took her hands to her mouth and dashed towards the bathroom. The instance she reached it, she fell down in front of the toilet, and couldn’t stop the atrocious medley that came up her throat involuntary.

“Kimmy, are you ok?” She heard his rushed steps and his cultured and worried voice right behind her. She felt his concerned gaze on her back, watching her throwing up. “Baby, are you ok?”

She couldn’t answer straight away, of course, but as soon as she felt her stomach lacking that horrible mixture, she was able to stand on her two feet, and turned to wash her face. Then, she finally met Jake’s eyes, her face drained of colour. “Is that a new perfume or something?”

“Yeah, why? My mom offered me like one week ago or something, but I just used it today. What, you don’t like it? Was that what made you puke?” His face framed her colourless face carefully, as if he could crush her if he tightened his grip.

“It’s not that I don’t like it, but... when I smelt it, it was as if I’d just walked out of a rollercoaster.” She tried to explain the way she’d felt, watching the probing expression on Jake’s face. “Just... don’t use it near me.” God, that perfume had a really strong smell. She practically threw up everything she’d eaten during lunch! In addition to that, she could still feel that awful taste.

“You need to rest,” Jake just didn’t say it, he set the rule when they went to his room. “Maybe it’s the flu... you shouldn’t go to work tonight, Kimberly.”

“Yeah, right...” She muttered under her breath. She’d missed that weekend because of Jake, so she wasn’t going to going miss another one just because she’d threw up. Not to mention she’d already skipped work because of the virus. It was just the flu trying to get back at her. Kimberly could always take more pills as she’d been doing for the past few days, and she’d be good in a second. “I can’t miss work and you know it. Besides, I’m ok.”

“Oh really?” Sarcasm ran thick in his voice. “Your face’s like... colourless. You should really quit that job.”

“We already talked about this, Jake.” She said wryly, lacking patience to have that conversation. “I’m not rick like you, so I have to work whenever I can. We’re not married, so you can’t pay me all the things my sister and I need, nor would I want you to do that! Not to mention we’ve just been together for a month only! You shouldn’t rush these things.”

“I hate to know you’re out there at night, working.” His tone rose, and his green eyes darkened even more. That was a warning an argument was about to blow. She hated when that feeling just crept into the core of her bones. “You’re a hell of a hot woman, what do you want me to think?”

What the hell did he mean with that? Was he saying...? No. No. “Do you think I’m a fucking whore?”

“You did not hear me saying that.” He averted his eyes, and that handed him in.

“My God, I cannot believe you think that of me!” Kimberly shouted at him, utterly insulted. Yes, she did sell her body, but it was totally different! She didn’t allow some sick man have sex with her! They could see her! “If you fucking think that, why are you even with me, then?”

“I don’t think that of you...” She noticed him watching her through the corner of his green eyes. “It’s just I’ve realized... I like you, I really do, but what do you think I imagine you doing every night?”

Kimberly just stared at him, dumbfounded. “You know what? I’ll go to my room before I say things I’ll definitely regret and then I’m off to work.”

Before Jake could pronounce a word, Kimberly darted out of his room, slamming shut the door behind her and off she went to her room. Unlike Jake, she didn’t have to study anymore, because her finals were over. So far, she already knew about some of her grades, which had been excellent, but she was still waiting for the rest. If she managed to excel in her other finals, she might have the possibility of getting hired by a very good company once she’d set off looking for a quality job.

Alas, Kimberly couldn’t find anything that could distract her of the argument she’d had with Jake, especially when he came storming into her room later.

“We could end this stupid fight right now...” He suddenly trailed off, watching Kimberly get dressed. “Wait, where are you going? Oh, stupid question.” His voice was full of sarcasm and spite.

“Yeah, I’m going to work. Sid ought to arrive at midnight, so would you please see to that?” She didn’t look at him. She was still angry, but she didn’t have the guts to gaze into those dark green eyes.

“No problem,” He said, watching her walking past him, and out of her bedroom. Kimberly heard his steps following her. Then, his voice. “Kimberly, come on, you have to understand my point of view!”

“I do, Jake, I really do understand you.” She spun around, glaring at him. Could he comprehend she just couldn’t tell him? What would he think when he found out his girlfriend works as a stripper? “Unfortunately, you don’t understand me.”

“I told you everything about me, Kimberly, even when we weren’t dating! Why can’t you tell me something about you? Why can’t you trust me as I’ve trusted you?” He was ready to plead, regardless of his striking features marked by frustration.

Those words clung to Kimberly’s confused mind.

She remembered how much time it had taken her to trust him. How much would it take her to trust him even more, and disclose she worked as a stripper? Jake was good to her. She hadn’t expected he’d be that good, that perfect, but he was. He was off limits to everyone, but her. Maybe... maybe telling him wasn’t such a bad idea. Perhaps knowing she was a stripper would ease things in some way. After all, she wouldn’t have to lie to him anymore.

Unfortunately, things weren’t that easy.

“I don’t know,” She whispered, avoiding the way he was regarding her by turning around and opening the door. However, she did look back at Jake over her shoulder, and added, “I’ll think about it, baby, I will, but please... forget about this now.”

She begged, but Jake just shook his head. Furious about the fact that Kimberly didn’t trust him as he trusted her, Jake just twirled around, and left her staring at an empty space.

Sighing, and angry at herself, Kimberly turned and hit the road towards the strip club.

On her way, she considered. Did any of the strippers have any boyfriends? She didn’t know. Bob had warned them all that, if they indeed had boyfriends, then they better not come to his strip club unleashing their fury because of their girlfriend’s job. Did Sandy have a boyfriend? No one knew Kimberly was dating Jake, because she hadn’t told anyone.

Maybe she ought to ask Sandy’s opinion about that matter. After all, Sandy was the stripper Kimberly trusted and befriended the most. She didn’t hide the fact that she was a stripper, and she was always in a good mood. All Kimberly knew, she’d learned with Sandy.

When she arrived at the strip club, she was glad to find the club half empty. That meant she’d have time to speak with Sandy about her problems, without having some guy calling her for a lap dance.

“Hey Carl,” Kimberly greeted the big man as she approached the strippers’ lounge.

Carl smiled at her, and stepped aside so that Kimberly would walk inside. There were only three stripers inside, and Sandy wasn’t one of them. “Have you girls seen Sandy?”

Before any of them mouthed a word, Kimberly heard a familiar voice behind her. “I’m right here, sweetie.” The red haired immediately spun around, and caught the blonde woman standing right in front of her. “Do you need anything?”

“I want to... talk to you about something...”

“What is it?” She questioned her, but Kimberly didn’t answer. Instead, she pressed her lips tightly, and glanced back at the three strippers. The curvaceous woman read her expression, and resolved their problem. “Girls, don’t you think it’s time to work? There are men outside! Go play with them and make some money!” In a matter of seconds, the strippers scurried away, leaving them finally alone.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” Kimberly blurted out.

“Yeah, why?”

“He knows you’re a stripper?”

“Of course, Kim. I’ve been dating him for three years, so yeah, he pretty much knows what I do every night.” She rolled her eyes, as if Kimberly’s question had been a silly one. “Why?”

“What does he think about it?”

Sandy’s eyes narrowed, and Kimberly knew right there she was suspicious. Reading the fervent and guilty expression stamped on Kimberly’s face, Sandy easily discovered what the purpose of those questions. “You’re dating him, aren’t you?”

Kimberly swallowed dryly, and nodded. “I am,”

“I’m guessing you want to tell him you’re a stripper?”

Sighing, and feeling abruptly exhausted, Kimberly went to sit down on a red couch, opposite to the shiny mirrors on the wall. “I do, but the problem is that I’m only dating him for like... a month, and I’m afraid he’ll leave me because... because I’m a stripper! I want to tell him so bad, Sandy, but I’m afraid he’ll freak out!”

“When I told Jared, he was everything but happy about it, but he got over it eventually. He doesn’t like it, of course, but it’s what I do, and he respects me. And we already live together.” Sandy revealed, and that just depressed Kimberly. If only Jake was like Sandy’s boyfriend... “Do you really, really like him?”

Of course she did, otherwise she wouldn’t be dating him. “Yeah, I do.”

“Do you love him?”

The question caught her off guard. “W-hat?”

“You heard me, Kim.”

Well, she really liked him, she had to give him that, but... love him? They’d only been dating for a month! Still, they’d been involved before, much before. They’d kissed countless times, they’d had sex and they’d spent good times without the sex, like that day in the hotel. Jake had admitted she had him, and he’d even been the first who’d taken the first step to admit he wanted to date her, and it was worthless to say he was a perfect boyfriend, and made her more than happy. He made her feel safe and pleased, just like he also made her feel both desire and anger... Kimberly loved that.

Just like... she loved him.

“Yes,” She whispered, more to herself than to Sandy.

“Then why won’t you tell him? Do that, Kim. If you really love him, and you think he feels the same way... tell him.” Sandy stated, beaming at her. “I’m sure he’ll understand!”

“You don’t know that, Sandy! You don’t even know him the way I do!” Kimberly flipped out, the worse possibilities clinging to her mind. “What if we break up? I live with him, Sandy! I see him every freaking day! What the heck am I going to do if he won’t like what I’m about to tell him?”

“That’s a risk you’ll have to take.” She said with a grim tone, and Kimberly nodded nervously, acknowledging the blonde woman was right. If Jake really liked her like Kimberly though she liked him, and like he told her all the time, then... she had nothing to fear.

“Life’s a bitch.” Kimberly uttered depressingly.

Sandy leaped to her feet, and warned her, “Well, I suggest you to forget about that for a while, and get ready to go to work before those three complain to Bob.”

Kimberly nodded, but didn’t care. Her mind kept labouring, pondering the pros and cons about telling Jake she worked a stripper.

As the night went on, she kept convincing herself she ought to tell Jake, and reached the conclusion that the only thing that was really stopping her was Jake’s possible reaction towards her revelation. It’d break her heart if he didn’t accept it.

She was sent home earlier. Not because she wasn’t in the mood to dance around the pole, but because the strip club didn’t have many clients that night.

When she got home, she walked up to her room, and changed into some shorts and an old brown shirt. Then, she went down to the basement.

Jake lay in bed, sleeping. Sadness flooded her body. She was aware he hadn’t waited for her tonight because of the fight they’d had. She didn’t dare waking him up, afraid that, even sleepy, Jake would want to talk about their earlier conversation. She just needed time to consider whether she should tell him or not, and if Jake waited with her, maybe everything would be fine.

Sighing, the red haired crept to the bed, and pulled up the sheets. Regardless of Jake being mad at her, she still cuddled against him. Then, she thankfully drifted off to sleep, and all depressing thoughts faded away.

***

For a week, both of them didn’t speak a lot.

Tom and Sidney tried to find out what was going on, but none of them managed to discover what had happened between the couple, since neither Jake nor Kimberly seemed willing to talk about it.

Both of them were finished with finals, and now, they could only wait for the results. Although Jake’s classes had been officially over for a week, he stayed home instead of driving to his mother’s house to deal with the company’s business, as he always did during the weekends. However, he was still mad at Kimberly but, mercifully, he didn’t pressure her to talk about it. Well, he seldom talked to her at all!

“So I guess you didn’t have any fun for the past nights.” Lisa remarked, sitting down on an empty chair in Kimberly’s kitchen while she prepared dinner.

“We just did it twice,” She spoke freely, knowing Sidney was in her room, and Tom had gone out. “But he just did it to let off some steam. You know, because of the company and all.” What a lie. Jake hadn’t had sex with her to let off some steam; he’d done it because he wanted to punish her.

They had had sex twice that week, and it hadn’t been like their previous times. It had happened when Kimberly had had her two nights off. Jake was mad at her, and even in bed he let her know.

Kimberly had lain down, right next to him. It was always an unusually sizzling temperature in Jake’s bed, or maybe it was just the pressure around them, and so she’d gone to bed with her laced underwear. Some time passed, and when she’d thought he was asleep, Jake had approached her very slowly, inch by inch, until he’d reached her and pulled her to him. She hadn’t rejected his touch, hell no, she was longing for it, but it’d been chilly.

Jake hadn’t even asked her if she felt like doing it, he’d just kissed her in a rather hostile way and had stripped her off her underwear. Then, he’d screwed her. Just like that. He hadn’t made love to her, he’d literally screwed her.

She’d known instantly he was penalizing her for not telling him about her job. Jake knew Kimberly liked when he made love to her, sometimes in that slow way, sometimes in that yearning way, when she just wanted to clung to him, and alleviate her body of the desire that had deluged her throughout the day.

Jake had even done her from behind, and he knew how much she loathed that ever since she’d caught him having sex with Joanne.

“Yeah, right... You still haven’t told him, have you?”

“Oh, Lisa, I want to tell him, really!” Kimberly said, pleading for her friend’s understanding. “But how can I tell him? I still haven’t even told Sid, and she’s my own sister! She’s been in the dark or two years!”

“I think that’s a tad bit different, Kim. Sid’s your sister, Jake’s your boyfriend.” Lisa frowned at her. “It’s like... she doesn’t need to know, so why bother telling her? Now Jake... He’s your boyfriend, and although you’ve only been dating him for more than a month, I can a bright future ahead of you two... if you tell him, of course. I think he ought to know. After all, you don’t want him to find out through someone else-” Lisa stopped talking as she stared at Kimberly’s face, twisted with disgust. “What’s wrong?”

“Not again...” The red haired mumbled. Then, her hand flew towards her mouth, and she ran in the direction of the bathroom, so that she could throw up. It was the fourth time that had happened so far.

Jake must’ve heard her or Lisa’s worried shrieks around her, because he immediately came up. When he got there, Kimberly felt his presence, but she didn’t listen to a word from him. Instead, Lisa questioned him, “What’s wrong?”

“She’s been throwing up lately...” Jake replied grimly. Then, putting behind his back the fact that he was still angry, he rested his hands on her shoulders. “Are you ok?”

Kimberly leaped to her feet, but didn’t turn around right away. She closed her eyes, and thankfully, it seemed she didn’t have anything else in her stomach to vomit. So she washed her face with cold water, and then faced Jake’s dark green eyes. “Yes.”

For some moments, Jake gazed at her, his face and eyes darkening as if something awful crossed his mind the more he looked at her. Then, putting on a blank mask on, he told her slowly, “You need to go to the hospital if you keep throwing up like that.”

“I’m fine!” Kimberly rolled her eyes, dismissing his preoccupation. He always too controlling whenever she got sick. “It’s just the flu, I’ve told you!”

“Fine,” He prompted, “Do whatever the fuck you want.” He turned around, and sauntered away.

As for Lisa, she just stared at her. “What?”

“Nothing,” She said, but her eyes then flickered in a way that told Kimberly she was reasoning. “When do you have your period?”

“Oh my god!” Kimberly’s jaw fell open when the words first struck her, but then, she burst out laughing as she left the bathroom, with Lisa tagging along. “You can’t possibly think I’m pregnant, Lisa! Come on, I admit I’ve thought about it too, but I’m on the pill, and you know it.” She’d indeed considered she might be pregnant, but it was impossible! She was on the pill, for God’s sake, and not once she forgot to take it!

Just the thought of being pregnant made her heart race frenziedly.

“You’ve been having sex with him every week,”

“So? I didn’t forget to take the birth control pill, don’t worry.”

Still, her best friend wasn’t convinced, but she didn’t insist on that matter. Thankfully.

“Anyway, where were we?” Kimberly asked, trying to forget the way Jake had spoken to her and Lisa’s impossible conception of her being pregnant.

“Comparing Jake to Sidney. I said Jake was different because he’s your boyfriend.” Sidney said, getting back to their previous topic. “Can you imagine how Jake would react if someone told him his girlfriend worked as a stripper?”

“Of course I’ve imagined that! And you know what else have I imagined?” It was a rhetoric question. Kimberly glared at her best friend, and then added, “Jake breaking up with me and calling me nasty names.”

Lisa sighed. She knew it was possibility, but seemed keen on convincing Kimberly to reveal her secret to Jake. “You know he wouldn’t do that.”

“Yeah, right...” She rolled her stormy gray eyes, and looked back at the food she was preparing. Of course Jake would do that. She hadn’t still forgotten about the way he’d treated his previous sex adventure – Joanne, just because Kimberly had wanted! Imagine when he’d discover Kimberly worked as a stripper!

“Whatever. Either way, I think you should tell him.” Lisa stated after a few moments in silence. “Tonight?”

Kimberly even stuttered, “W-what? You’re joking!”

“Tell him to drive you to the strip club, and then tell him when you get there. He can’t possibly react that bad if you’re the one telling him!”

It wasn’t a bad idea, but she was afraid of Jake’s reactions. Yes, he was sweet while dating her, but Kimberly was also aware he could freak out sometimes – like when Bob appeared with his mother, more than a month ago!

Before Kimberly go say anything, the door bell rang. She left Lisa and the food, and strolled towards the door. When she opened it, she spotted Aiden smiling at her. If only Jake could be just as sympathetic as Aiden was... It’d be much easier!

The blonde walked in the house, and greeted her, “Good evening, Kim.”

“Hi, Aiden,” Kimberly kissed him lightly on his cheek, and after, she closed the door. “How are you?”

“He’s fine,” A cultured voice replied sharply behind them – Jake. He completely ignored Kimberly glaring at him for his rudeness, and addressed Aiden. “I’ve been waiting for that the whole afternoon, man!”

“Calm down, dude, I have a girlfriend too, you know.” Aiden’s smile didn’t waver with Jake’s rude tone. “Why do you need the book, anyway?” He asked, giving Jake a thick book.”

“I need to read something that here about something for the company.” Jake gripped the book, and while leafing through the pages, he added, “I’m going to my mother’s house this weekend, and since I’m going tonight, I needed this now.”

Kimberly regarded Jake. What had he just said? That he was going to his mother’s house tonight? He wouldn’t even look her in the eyes to tell her that?

“You didn’t tell you were going to spend the weekend there!” Kimberly snapped, feeling insulted and ignored now. She knew Jake always spent his weekends at his mother, but... he always told her about it, especially when he’d go and come back! Fury flooded her body, and before she could stop herself, she was shouting at her boyfriend. “Are you so mad at me that you won’t even tell me when you’re leaving? You’d just go without a warning? You’re so fucking stupid, Jake!”

“Oh no, not again...” Jake muttered though clenched teeth.

“Again what?” She was about to dart towards her room, but she stopped herself. Sidney and James came running into the corridor, attracted by her hollers.

“These mood changes! God, I just didn’t tell you I was going to my mother’s house, and you act as if I hid something worse?” Maybe it was true, but Kimberly still felt angry at him. She was sick of putting up with his bad mood! “I could almost say you’re pregnant!”

“As if you’d know how a pregnant woman feels!” Kimberly spat furiously.

“As a matter of fact, I do!” Jake yelled back at her, fury blazing in his eyes. “I remember when my mother was pregnant, so yeah, I do know how a woman pregnant feels!”

“I am not pregnant!”

“I didn’t say you were, did I?”

“What the hell is going on?” Sidney approached Kimberly, putting an over her sister’s shoulders. “Kim, are you crying?”

“No!” But she was. Her gray eyes streamed tears.

“What did you to her?” Sidney enquired, staring directly at Jake, and yelling as well.

“I didn’t do anything! She just started crying because I yelled at her and didn’t tell her I was going to my mother’s house tonight!” His eyes jumped from Sidney to Kimberly, and anger lit them up. “You know I always go there, but just because I didn’t warn you freak out? And it’s not just that! Whenever I get worried about you, you practically show me the middle finger! I’m sick of your mood changes!” He was unleashing everything he’d kept for himself throughout the whole week, and all of it hit her hard.

“Jake, you need to calm down.” Aiden walked up to Jake, and tapped his shoulder. “She’s already nervous; you don’t need to keep yelling.”

“You’re already sick of me?”

It was Kimberly’s voice, weak, as if someone had just broken her heart.

“Kimmy...” Jake’s attitude drastically changed. His stare softened, and his voice soothes, as if he’d break her if spoke louder or rougher, but she didn’t care. She spun around and dashed to her room, locking the door, so no one would get in.

Almost immediately, everyone began yelling and whispering.

“You shouldn’t have yelled at her, especially if you knew she was having those mood changes.” It Aiden’s soothing voice.

“Are you cheating on my sister?” Sidney snapped, shouting at Jake, but Kimberly didn’t listen to his cultured voice. Sidney went on, “She was crying, Jake! You must’ve done something!”

“Sid, calm down.” That was Lisa. “This is between your sister and Jake.”

“Let me in,” It was Jake, leaned on the door. Listening to everyone yelling, Kimberly hadn’t even paid attention to the steps that had come down the hallway, towards her room. “I don’t want to argue, baby, I just want to talk. I’m sorry for yelling.”

“No,” She mouthed, wiping off her tears. “I know you’ll yell. You always end up yelling...”

“Kimmy, I won’t, I promise.” Since Jake sounded sincere and worried, Kimberly unlocked the door, and opened just the enough for Jake to glide through. This was between her and Jake, like Lisa had pointed out, so everyone else stayed outside. “You need to calm down first.”

“I’m calm, can’t you see?” She snapped, hating herself for shedding those tears.

“No, you’re not. I said I wouldn’t yell, so you can’t either. Come on, Kimmy...” Jake slowly reached her, and engulfed her tightly against his chest. Kimberly didn’t push him away. She didn’t want to push him away. “I’m worried about you.”

“I’m fine,” She muttered.

“No, you’re not. I know we haven’t talked much, but I know you’re not ok-”

Eagerly and impatiently, Kimberly went on to interrupt him. “You’re already-”

“Of course not, Kimmy.” Listening to that wonderful answer, Kimberly leaned her head against Jake’s chest, and breathed his scent. He heard the unspoken words, and added, “I’m not sick of you. I still like you. I might be angry at you, but I’m not going to like you less because of that, baby.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to your mother’s?” She questioned him, stilling hiding away from his gaze, whether it was an angry or caring one.

“She called me a few hours ago. You were talking with Lisa and I had to go through some stuff for a meeting.” Oh, so that was why he hadn’t told her about it... His mother had only called him a while ago. “You’ve been really nervous lately, are you sure everything’s ok?”

“I’m fine, Jake.” She held onto him, tighter, suddenly afraid he might run away.

“Maybe you’re still anxious because of the finals results.” Jake chuckled nervously, and Kimberly felt the tension in his body. He didn’t really believe that. Something else was on his mind. “Because if that’s not the explanation, then I’d definitely think you’re pregnant.”

“I’m not pregnant.” Kimberly retorted, leaned backwards to frown at him. Not again! “Can’t you and Lisa understand that? God, I’m on the pill! I am not pregnant!”

Jake’s face didn’t change. Instead, he said, “No yelling, remember?”

“I’m sorry.” She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly; attempting to calm herself down before she screwed up that quiet moment with Jake. “Yeah, maybe I’m anxious about the finals.” That was a lie. She was anxious about whether tell him or not that she worked as a stripper.

“No, you’re not.”

She looked up at him through narrowed eyes. “Yes, I am.”

“I know you pretty well, already. You’re having these mood changes because you still haven’t forgotten about last week’s argument.” It wasn’t a question. He was telling her so. Not handling the way he was eyeing her, ever so carefully, as if he was in the process of discovering something, Kimberly turned around. She just couldn’t face him. However, Jake’s hands touched her shoulders, and then she heard him, “Baby... I love you.”

She looked over her shoulder, believing she hadn’t heard it right. “What?”

“I love you.” He stated as she turned around, watching a grin break forth on his lips. He repeated yet again, “I love you.”

“You love me?” She beamed at him, dumbfounded.

“I do, I have no idea whether you love me or not, but I’m sure I love you.”

“Are you serious?”

“I wouldn’t lie, but-” Jake was unable to finish his sentence, because the moment Kimberly flew towards him, her lips met his, and words were lost.

Jake loved her! Jake had said he loved her! They’d only been dating for a month, but he already loved her! All the arguments they’d had that week were automatically erased from Kimberly’s mind.

She finally allowed him to breathe when she broke the kiss, grinning with sheer happiness stamped on her striking features. Should she say she loved him too? She already knew he was perfect for her, but saying I love you was a big deal. Yet, Jake had said it!

“What I was going to say is that,” Jake didn’t let her continue her reasoning as he began speaking. “I don’t really care whether you’ll tell me or not about your job. I trust you, and if you don’t want to tell me... that’s ok.”

Kimberly found herself utterly thunderstruck.

Now that was a nice surprise! However... something in the back of her head nagged her. Jake was her boyfriend. He deserved to know the truth, didn’t he? It was funny the fact that Kimberly wanted to tell him about it when he didn’t care about it any longer. Still, Lisa was right. If Jake did find out she was a stripper through someone else... it’d be a catastrophe.

“But I do care if you’re pregnant.” He said, catching her off guard.

She rolled her eyes, tired of that same old topic. “Why don’t you believe me? I’m not pregnant, Jake.”

“As I said, I know the signs. I remember my mother being pregnant. You’ve been throwing up, and you’ve been having those awful mood changes.”

“Do I need to buy a pregnancy test or something? I’m on the pill, Jake!” It was hard trying not to yell, especially when Jake seemed to be testing her calmness.

“If you’re so sure... I just don’t want to have a kid, right now. I’m pretty young, and I have a lot to do before having any children, besides, we’ve just...” He trailed off, and avoided her stormy gray eyes, but Kimberly knew what he meant.

“But we’ve been dating for just a month, is that it? And we might break up like, tomorrow, for example?” She tried to restrain from looking that exasperated and hurt, but Jake word’s, even if said carefully, Kimberly knew they meant what she’d just finished saying.

“Baby, I didn’t mean it like that.” He assured her, gripping her hand tightly. “It’d be too early to have a kid of our own. I’m rich, I know, but we’re young! And we’re not going to break up. You’re everything I want, Kimmy.” And then, with a sugary smile forming on his lips, Jake pulled her closer, and kissed her for short moments, until he pulled back, and teased her. “When you’re not crying or yelling, of course.”

“Oh, shut up!” She poked him in the arm, sticking out her tongue.

“Come on, let’s go. I’m sure dinner’s ready and they’re probably eavesdropping on us.” He laughed at that, and pulled her towards the door, but Kimberly didn’t move. Instead, she stared at him. “What?”

“I want to tell you.” She unexpectedly uttered, catching him completely off guard. If she’d regret this decision later, she had no idea, but she needed to take a risk. “Tonight.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” She smiled faintly, “Just don’t ask any question right now. You can drive me to work before going to your mother’s house?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Then, I’ll tell you on our way there.” She said, her heart hammering hard on her chest. “I do trust you, Jake.”

Jake smiled, and pulled her into his arms. “By the way,” He began, “I want to apologize.”

“For what?” Kimberly’s eyebrow cocked up. There was nothing Jake should apologize for.

“It’s about the sex...”

“Oh,”

“Yeah, I’m sorry, Kimmy.” He let out in a slightly pleading tone. Now that was something he really ought to apologize for! She’d hated what he’d done to her! “I shouldn’t have done it. I know you hated it. I was selfish, and I was furious at you.”

She looked up at him, and locked his dark green eyes. “That’s ok. I just want to forget about it.” And that was the sheer truth. In fact, after telling him tonight about her job, she just wanted to forget about that dreadful week. “Anyway, before we leave this room, just promise one thing, Jake. Promise me you won’t be mad at me tonight.”

His green eyes narrowed. “Why would I?”

“Just promise,” She begged.

“I promise.” With that answer, Kimberly’s lips curled up in a smile, and she put aside the horrible feeling she was having about telling Jake as she dragged him out of her bedroom, beaming at him.

Lisa, Aiden, Sidney and her boyfriend were all rooted in the corridor, waiting for them. They eagerly waited for the both of them to say something, but Sidney just couldn’t resist the silence. “Are you ok, Kim?”

“I’m fine!” She replied, walking past them, and into the kitchen. “Are you going to join us, Aiden?” She asked when all of them came along, trying to ease the heavy atmosphere.

“Thank you, but no! I’m going home now, actually. It was nice to see you, though.” He offered her a smile, and then he went on his way to leave their house. “Goodbye, everyone!”

At last, they all strode towards the table and took a seat to have dinner, after Jake accompanied Aiden to the door. It was quiet and pleasant, and Kimberly thanked for the fact that none of them referred to her earlier quarrel with Jake. She was rather silent during dinner, and Sidney tried to incite her to chat, but all she could think of was that she’d be telling Jake about her job later.

Throughout the whole dinner, it felt as if her heart would burst off her chest with the pressure that turned heavier and heavier as the time drew nearer.

“Well, thanks for the dinner, honey.” Lisa told her, after she’d helped Kimberly cleaning up the kitchen after dinner.

“You’re welcome,” The red haired replied as she opened the door and stepped aside. Lisa walked out, but before she went away, Kimberly disclosed, “You know, I told Jake I’d be telling him before he sets off to his mother’s.”

“It was a wise decision. Besides, he’ll have time to think about it, in case his head gets filled with doubts.” When Lisa said that, Kimberly’s face was suddenly drained of blood. “Oh, don’t fret, Kim! He’ll understand!”

“God, I hope so, Lisa. Well, I’m going to get dressed, and then I’m off to work with him. Wish me luck.”

“Good luck, honey.” Her blonde friend presented her with an encouraging smile, and then she turned around and walked away.

Kimberly’s heart began racing.

Her hands shook hysterically, and her stomach twisted with the anxiety as she kept thinking of what she was about to tell Jake tonight. She’d already imagined from where she’d start telling Jake her story, but she didn’t know whether it was a good start or not. Only Jake’s reaction could tell her.

On her bedroom, Kimberly put on some clothes, made her hair, and brushed her teeth. The more time she took to call Jake, the sicker she felt.

“Ready to go, Kimmy?” Jake’s cultured voice startled her.

Trying to catch her breath, she spun about, and her gray eyes met his. Jake was what she wanted. That should be enough to put her heart at ease, shouldn’t it? After all, he admitted her felt the same way about her!

“Yeah. Hmn, can I drive? I want to tell you while I’m driving us there. I’ll ask Sand- I mean, someone else to take me home after.”

“I can wait if you want.”

“No!” Kimberly prompted, as Jake offered to wait until her shift ended. She saw the way his green eyes darkened, and rushed to say, “Thanks, but no, baby. I’ll be fine. Now, shall we go? I’ll be late if we don’t hurry!”

Jake nodded, and grasped the bag with clothes he’d take to his mother’s. Finally, they walked out her bedroom, and then left the house. Jake guided her to his car, and while Kimberly climbed inside, he went to put his bag on the back of his expensive car. When he came back, Kimberly started the car, and drove off.

“So...” She quavered, “I guess this is the moment you’ve been waiting for.”

“Baby, if you’re uncomfortable-”

“Don’t, Jake.” She promptly cut him off, before all the courage she’d gathered, deserted her. “I want to tell you now.” Although she wasn’t sure she could safely take them to the strip club, she was thankful for the fact that she was driving, because she had an excuse to avoid his predatory green eyes. “You should feel lucky. Lisa’s the only one who knows about my job. Not even Sid knows.” It was better if Kimberly didn’t mention his brother and mother for now. Oh, and his best friend.

“What do you mean?”

“Remember when I went to bed with you? That first time? I had a huge fight with Sid.” Damien was probably the best way to start her story, since Jake already knew someone had harmed her.

“Yeah, you went to bed with me because someone had done something to you, and thinking about me... being with me distracted you.” Oh, he still remembered her words.

“You’re right. That guy... he was my ex-boyfriend, Damien. I broke up with him two years ago, but I met him recently, after all this time, while I was working. He immediately thought of blackmailing me, because he knew that my job wasn’t... wasn’t a good one.”

“Wasn’t a good one?” Jake repeated, and Kimberly felt his probing green eyes on her. At that point already, she prayed no red lights would come up on her way, so that she wouldn’t have to stop and stare into his eyes.

“Yeah, he blackmailed because of what I do. Now, you have to understand that having this job saved me. And I mean it. I lived with my uncles before moving into your house, and they didn’t help me and my sister at all. Lucky me, a nice man offered me a job.”

Now, all she wished was that she could step on the speed pedal harder and get to the strip club faster, to tell him for once and for all.

“Tell me more,” Jake incited her grimly.

More? Oh, Kimberly could remember more – Peterson. But that was a very touchy issue that she could only disclose once they go to the strip club. She couldn’t tell him while she drove. Jake would freak out, and Kimberly as well, too. They’d have an accident! “Jake... give me some moments, ok? I’ll tell you more when we get there.”

“Ok,” Was everything he said.

Kimberly had no idea whether telling him about Damien had been a good one or not. She honestly hadn’t known the right way to start telling him, but she knew she just had to. Well, maybe it was better if she told him everything straightforwardly. She didn’t want any lies tearing them apart.

“I know this road...” Jake whispered when Kimberly turned right at an intersection. “You work near that strip...” The words in his mouth were lost when he became aware she was already parking the car. The strip club was located feet away from them.

When she killed the engine, and climbed out of the car, Jake did the same. Then, she told him nervously, “We’re here.”

“Where do you work, then?” Jake looked everywhere else but at the strip club. He was deliberately ignoring it.

“Baby, please. You promised you wouldn’t be mad.”

“Kimmy...” He breathed, and gazed into her eyes in the way that had allured her so many times before when she’d just wanted to be away from him. “Just tell me.”

Her heart skipped several beats. “I... I’m a stripper.”

No shouts. No shocking stares. No hysterical reactions. Just plain and dreadful silence.

“You’re a stripper?” He questioned her quietly. Too quietly.

“Yes,” She admitted, nodding. Oh yes, he was so going to break up with her... “Jake, say something.”

“Damien blackmailed you because he knew you were a stripper.”

“Yes,” Kimberly replied, her heart hammering hard on her chest. “We only did it once, Jake.”

“You didn’t let him keep... doing it, did you?” It felt as if he hadn’t heard what she’d said. But, at least, he wasn’t paying much attention to the fact that she was a stripper. “You didn’t allow anyone to... to have sex with you, did you?”

“No, of course not. No one touched me. Not even when we weren’t dating. I told you I was no whore, Jake.”

“But you still sell your body,” He remarked, those cold and dark green eyes cruelly piercing right through her.

“It’s different,” Kimberly promptly defended herself. “They don’t touch me, they-”

“They see you practically naked!” Jake’s voice rose, and his tone resonated with anger. Fear seeped into her bones. “And I thought I was the only one who could have you! But apparently, those guys can pay you a hundred bucks and have you for half an hour!”

“You said you wouldn’t be mad!” Kimberly begged. Not that deep inside her, she was already regretting her decision. “You promised!”

“I didn’t know I’d have to face something like this!”

“This is why I didn’t want to tell you! I was afraid you’d be mad! Jake, I’ve never gone to bed with any of those perverts! During the two whole years I’ve worked here, you were the only one I’ve been with!” And none of it was a lie. But of course, Jake doubted her more than ever now.

“What about that guy?” He attacked her, glaring at her. “So if I knew you from college, it’d be enough for me to know you were a stripper that you’d go to bed with me right away?”

“No!” She cried out, suddenly furious at what Jake was implying. How dare he saying she went to bed with whoever knew she was a stripper? Eric knew, and never would Kimberly have sex with him! “I only let Damien do it, because he was threatening to take Sid away from me, since she wasn’t eighteen! He’s a fucking lawyer, Jake! It’d be easy for him to say to a judge that I was a stripper and Sidney underage, and the judge wouldn’t even think twice about taking her from me! I couldn’t bear that!”

When he spoke, his tone had thankfully dropped. “Ok, I can see your point of view.” Oh, Kimberly could easily notice the effort Jake was doing to control himself. “How did you get rid of him, then? I’m sure the guy wasn’t at all satisfied with that one time.”

“Well, hmn...” For the first time since she’d revealed she was a stripper, she avoided his eyes. Jake was definitely going to hate her from now on. “Eric... You brother, he... He helped me.”

“What?” Jake gasped, swiftly reaching out for her, and obliging her to look into his dark green eyes. Anger grew to icy fury. “Eric knows? My own brother? Why the fuck didn’t you tell me? You weren’t even dating! I could have beaten the shit out of that motherfucker, but instead you decided to...” Jake paused, trying to take hold of his temper, but it was no use. He was completely out of his mind now. “Now I get it! That’s why Eric told me that I shouldn’t pressure you to tell me anything. He fucking knew!”

“Jake,” Kimberly quavered, hating herself for sounding so weak and fearful. She only hoped that what she’d say next would soothe things down. “Eric only found out because he caught me going home! He didn’t even know I lived with you!”

“What was Eric doing here, then?” Jake suddenly enquired, and all of a sudden, she knew she’d make the biggest mistake of her life by revealing that. As she looked away, Jake pressured her. “What the fuck was Eric doing here? Answer me, Kimberly!”

“You know why he came to a strip club!” She shouted back at him, tears prickling her gray eyes. “He came to look for that stripper your father harassed!”

Jake’s lack of violent reactions let her know he hadn’t gotten the true meaning behind what she’d said. “Who else knows?”

“Aiden...” She saw his eyes flicker with pain, and anger. His best friend knew his girlfriend worked as a stripper, yet he hadn’t told him. “Aiden was already suspicious when we arrived at the strip club, which was their birthday present for you. But Eric got drunk that night after we left, and... he told Aiden everything.”

“I can’t believe Aiden didn’t tell me anything...” He muttered, reasoning. Oh, if Aiden was there... Jake would go nuts. “Aiden’s the only one, besides Eric?”

“No...” Oh God, why had she decided to tell him? There was no point in lying now! He’d eventually find out about everything she’d hidden from everyone! “Your... mother knows too.”

That was a nasty blow, and Jake couldn’t take it anymore.

He spun around, trying to hide the damage stamped on his face. Kimberly comprehended him. He was the one dating her, yet his brother, mother, and best friend, all of them knew she was a stripper, but not one had stepped forward and told Jake about it.

A few feet away, she could listen to him saying, “I can’t believe you kept this from me.”

“Jake...” She drew closer to him, and reached out for his arm, but he pulled back.

“Why the fuck would my mother know about you?” He turned to face her, now laughing. “Seriously, I don’t understand! Oh, wait! Don’t tell me you were the stripper Peterson harassed! Because that’d be the cherry on top of the cake, baby. My own stepfather harassing my...” He wouldn’t pronounce the world girlfriend.

Kimberly stayed put. “Actually...”

Jake’s laughter died when he looked into her damp silver eyes. “You’re not the stripper, are you?”

“Remember when I got drunk? The first time we kissed?” As she spoke, she harked back to that night, and played in her mind the scene where Jake kissed her for the very first time. Little did she know she’d end up sleeping with Jake afterwards, or even dating him after the way they’d both treated each other. “It was that night.”

Jake’s reaction was unexpected. He walked back to his car, and unlocked it.

“Where are you going?”

“Far away from you.” The words said with so much hate, and the disgust burning in his eyes caught her utterly off guard. How could Jake be capable of speaking to her like that? How? Didn’t he love her?

“Don’t do this to me, Jake!” She began yelling before she was even aware of it. “You’re going to break up with me?”

“What the fuck am I supposed to do? Ever since we met, our relationship has been jammed with lies! I’m your fucking boyfriend, but are my friends and family that know you work as a fucking stripper! My own stepfather harassed, and no one told me! I trust you, Kimberly, but you kept everything from me!” He yelled hysterically, as if there was no one else in that street but the both of them. He was completely out of control. “I thought you were perfect! Shit, I even thought you were the one already!”

“Jake-”

“Just get the fuck away from me, Kimberly.” He said cruelly, as if she was just another one of his sex adventures.

“Don’t do this to me, Jake!” She clung to his arm, but he shook her off too easily. “No! Please!”

“Let me go! You’re the last person I want to be with right now.” He climbed inside the car, and started the engine. However, before he took off, he told her in a despicable way, treating her like he’d treated Joanne. “Don’t call me for the next days, and when I come home, I don’t want to see you there. From all the bitches I’ve been with, you’re the worse, Kimberly, because no one lay to me like you did.”

Then, he took off, and broke her heart.

Her momentary perfect life was ruined. Why had she decided to tell him?Why? Jake hated her, and now he was everything she wanted! It was the first time Kimberly loathed herself. If she hadn’t told him... he’d still be with her.

But now... she meant nothing to him.

Her vision blurred with thick tears streaming from her stormy gray eyes. She could only sight the strip club, the road, and the alley where she usually parked her car. Because she didn’t want to walk in the club crying hysterically, she strode towards the alley to calm down.

All she kept thinking was that she should’ve been honest with him ever since they’d met, or when they’d kissed for the first time. Or maybe when they’d had sex! She just should’ve just told him!

Now... Now, she’d lost him.

Shedding tears because she’d been stupid, Kimberly didn’t listen to the steps coming closer.

It happened way too fast.

Someone gripped her from behind, and immediately swathed her mouth with a damp handkerchief that reeked of something Kimberly couldn’t make out what it was.

In seconds, the darkness took over her.

***

When Kimberly’s silver gray eyes opened, she tried to move straight away when she became aware she had no idea where she was.

Someone had approached her, and she’d smelled something funny. Something that had made her faint... That was all she could remember. Aside from that, she tried to move in that moment, but she couldn’t. Her arms and legs were tied to the bed’s angles, and suddenly, she saw a figure moving in the darkness.

Oh no...

“Help!” The adrenaline rushed through her uncontrollably. “Help!”

“Shut up, slut!” Someone hissed from her left side. It was a male voice.

“Who are you?” She enquired desperately, feeling her heart in her throat. It was way too dark to see the man. “What do you want?”

“You know damn well what I want.”

“I’ve done nothing wrong, I-”

“I said shut up, bitch!” The man shouted furiously, as if Kimberly had already done something to infuriate him that bad.

However, the fear running through her veins, making her heart race inside her chest, couldn’t be ignored. She couldn’t help yelling for help. Someone had to come for her! “Someone help me! Please!” She cried out, but no one heard her. No one came to help her.

“You’re going to get some right now, you fucking whore.” And then, she heard noises too close to her, but she couldn’t see a damn thing. What the hell was going on? Where was she? What was the man going to do to her? He couldn’t possibly... No. No, no, no.

“Please,” She begged, tears falling to the sides of her face. “I won’t tell anyone, just... just let me go... I didn’t do anything...”

“Oh yes, you did.” The man whispered, and then laughed. “You’ve been a very naughty girl.” Having said that, the man stepped into the light, and Kimberly’s heart skipped a beat when she recognized him.

“Oh my God-” Before she could yell for help once more, the man hit her in the head, and she mercifully slipped into darkness.

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