Overexposed

By: Leslie Kelly

Prologue




THEY CALLED HER the Crimson Rose.

As her name was announced in sultry, almost reverent tones at Leather and Lace, an exclusive men’s club, an awed quiet began to slither through the crowd. The room stilled, noisy conversation giving way to quiet expectation.

Businessmen in open-collared shirts stopped their whispered flirtations with waitresses wearing tiny black skirts and skimpy tops. Attendees of an entire bachelor party returned to their table, elbowing the groom to watch and weep. Single men who came every week just to see her sat back in plush leather chairs and stared rapt at the stage through hooded eyes. The ice tinkling against their glasses was soon the only sound in the lushly appointed room, even the servers knew better than to interrupt the clientele when the Rose was on stage.

She danced only twice a week-on Saturdays and Sundays-and since the night she’d started, the Crimson Rose had become one of the hottest attractions in the Chicago club scene. Because while the jaded city had long been used to hard-looking dancers taking off their clothes and gyrating to the heavy beat of sexual music, they simply hadn’t seen anything like her.

She wasn’t hard-looking, she was elegant. Her delicate features and natural curves made every man who saw her wonder what it would feel like to touch her creamy skin.

She didn’t strip…she undressed. Slowly. Seductively. As if she had all the time in the world to give a man pleasure.

She didn’t gyrate, she swayed, moving with fluid grace. Every gesture, every turn an invitation to gaze at her.

Her sound wasn’t sexual, it was sensual, erotic and soulful enough to make a man close his eyes and appreciate it. Though, of course, when she was onstage none ever would.

While her job might have diminished some women in the eyes of those around her, the Rose owned it, embraced it, lifted it up to a level of art rather than pure sexual titillation.

She liked what she did. And they liked watching her.

The low, sultry thrum of a smoky number began, but the stage remained dark as the workers put final placement on a portable red satin curtain, used only by her. It had been a recent addition by the management, who’d realized that the high-class, stage performer feel was part of the Crimson Rose’s appeal. As was the mystery.

While most of the other dancers at the club performed under bright overhead light and full exposure, the Rose danced in shadow and pools of illumination provided by precisely timed spotlights. Her red velvet mask never came off. Most figured the management was playing upon the popularity of the aura of secrecy surrounding the Rose.

Finally the music grew louder, the gelled spotlights, ranging in color from soft pink to bloodred, illuminated the stage, dancing back and forth, each briefly touching on one spot: the seam of the closed satin curtain.

“Now, for your viewing delight,” said a smooth male from the sound system, “Chicago’s perfect bloom, the Crimson Rose.”

No one clapped or whispered. No one moved. All eyes were on the center of the curtain, where a hand began to emerge.

It was pale. Delicate, with long fingers and slender wrists. A colorful design-painted-on body art-began at the tip of one finger, with a tiny leaf. It connected to a vine, which wound up her hand, around her wrist. As her arm emerged, more of the leafy vine, complete with sharp thorns, was revealed. It glittered, sensuous and wicked, alluring and dangerous.

Sinuous, slow, unhurried, she emerged from the drape, until she was fully revealed. But her head remained down, her long reddish-brown hair concealing her face.

The tempo throbbed. The dancer stayed still, as if completely oblivious to the crowd. Finally, the spotlights changed color, the vibrant reds giving way to a soft, morning yellow. And, as if she were a tightly wound blossom being awakened by a gentle dawn, the Rose began to move.

Her head slowly lifted, the delicate beauty of her pale throat emphasized by more body art. Her hair fell back as she turned toward the light, as if welcoming the morning.

Her full lips-red and wet-were parted, sending vivid images and erotic fantasies into the minds of every man close enough to see their glisteny sheen… This was a woman made for the art of kissing. And sensual pleasure.

There the view of her face stopped. A soft red-velvet mask covered the rest. The mask glittered with green jewels like those in the vine, leaving her audience certain that the temptress’s eyes must be a pure, vivid emerald. Most already knowing the mystery of her face would not be revealed, her admirers refocused their attention to the rest of her.

She wore layers of soft fabric, cut in petal shapes. Still like the flower being awakened by the sun, she began to indulge in the spotlight’s warmth. Swaying, she stretched lazily like a cat in a puddle of light. Her movements were unhurried, revealing a length of thigh, a glimmer of hip.

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