Episode 12: The Chess Board

Act Three

"Hey. Hey, sweetcheeks! Earth to hottie, come in, hottie."

Camryn could vaguely tell that someone was trying to get her attention. Still dazed from her daydream, she shook her head and focused her eyes . . . and saw the reason for said daydream standing right in front of her. Grimacing, she took a step back, putting a bit more space between them.

"Carlo. Great to see you," she said, not bothering to hide her sarcasm.

"Likewise. Though I'll admit, it'd be nice to see even more of you."

He took a long, slow look over her body that made Camryn's skin crawl. She was used to being stared at by both men and women alike, but when Carlo did it, it just made her feel dirty. Wrong.

God, how did his ex-wife put up with it? No wonder the lady was a drunk.

"Well, you know where to find me if you do," she said, the tone of her voice as sugary sweet and fake as her smile was. "Speaking of which, I'm running late and it's almost rush hour. I have to leave now if I want to make it to work on time."

Carefully edging around him as though he was the actual steaming pile of shit she always imagined him to be, she was almost free of him when she felt his bony, cold fingers clasp around her wrist. Annoyed - she didn't like being touched when not invited - she turned to face him, jaw clenched. Her emotion flared and her pupils dilated making her eyes look dark and almost unnatural. He must have received the wave of fear that she sent at him as he suddenly let go and took a step back, trying to maintain his cool.

It wasn't a power of hers that she liked using - manipulation of emotion - but she found that it had its pros and cons and came in handy on occasion. She never used it on friends or family though; not unless it was purely for their benefit and wouldn't do any harm.

"What now?" she asked him tersely.

"This ain't a social visit," he said, trying to quash his sudden inexplicable fear. "Payment."

Exhaling loudly, Camryn looked up toward the ceiling and then back at his beady little eyes. If ever there was a man who looked like a rat, it was Carlo.

"In the cookie jar, like always. Don't bother her; she's . . . she's having a rough day."

Feeling a sudden onset of guilt at what had transpired between her and Niecey, she sighed and rubbed her temple, then turned to leave. Before she walked through the front exit, she looked back, not surprised to find Carlo watching her still. She stopped and waited until he met her gaze.

"And don't take anything from her apartment this time, Carlo. Especially her pain meds," she said. Her emotion flared and her pupils dilated again, making Carlo take a step back. "I'll know."

She turned around and left without another word, a tiny smirk playing at the corners of her lips.

Traffic, as expected, was bumper to bumper, and no matter how many times she honked her horn and yelled, the line of cars in front of hers didn't budge. That was one of the things she hated about working relatively close to the strip; any time a new hotel was going up - and they always were - traffic was even worse than usual. It was frustrating; why the hell did Steve Wynn need another hotel anyway? Wasn't he rich enough?

If she had that kind of money . . . damn. Camryn shook her head just thinking about it. She'd do everything she'd ever wanted to do but had never had the chance. Twenty-three wasn't too old to be the prima donna of a world renowned ballet company. And hey, she could totally fudge her age. She definitely had the ass of a nineteen year old.

Still, she wasn't going to kid herself. She knew that she was right where she was supposed to be. That didn't mean that she wasn't meant for great things; it just meant that the great things were going to keep her right where she was. That really didn't bother her a great deal; as much as she complained about Vegas, she loved it.

It was home.

Putting her car into park seeing as that traffic was at a complete standstill, she rested her elbow against the door and lazily combed her long blonde hair through her fingers. She wanted to get a cute little pixie haircut but knew that in her line of work, the longer the hair, the better the tips. After inspecting the ends, she tucked a few strands behind her ear and rested her head on her palm, then let out a long sigh.

Yep, she was definitely going to be late. Again.

Stupid traffic.

She saw a pedestrian making its way down the sidewalk and followed its path with her eyes, her gaze stopping and lingering when she realized exactly where she was. She ducked her head down a little bit so that she could see the sign up high on the building alongside her car. It was then that she could hear the music from inside the building pumping out into the street as a man walked out, letting the door slowly close behind him.

A wry smile made its way on her lips and she immediately recalled the first time she'd seen the very same building - nearly unchanged - almost four years ago.

The sun was high in the sky as she stood in front of the building, her shadow falling behind her nervous form as if it, too, was afraid to go inside. Renee didn't blame her shadow; up until two days before then, she never thought she'd ever find herself going to a place like this. Not for a job, anyhow.

As it was, she didn't really have much choice at that point. Carlo was coming around for another six thousand dollars in less than a week and seeing as that her grandmother was M.I.A., probably gambling away even more borrowed money by the minute, she knew it was up to her to come up with the money.

Besides, once she had that money paid off, she'd be able to start saving for tuition again. That was what she had to keep telling herself to get her legs to work so she could enter the building after hesitating outside for more than five minutes. Finally psyched up enough, she pulled on the metal handle and opened the door with the blacked out glass, instantly getting hit with the stench of smoke, stale booze and cheap perfume.

Trying to hide her grimace in case anyone was watching her, she slowly made her way inside, keeping an eye out for somebody who could help her. Music pumped loudly even though the club was closed to the public and a man behind the bar doing re-stock nodded at her but didn't say anything, leaving her to believe that he wasn't who she was looking for.

There was a girl up on the stage in cut-off jean shorts and a bikini top, dancing around with no rhythm whatsoever. She shimmied up and down a brass pole, nearly losing her balance and toppling over at least twice. Renee quickly averted her eyes just in time when the girl tugged at the strings on her top, letting it fall away to the floor and leaving her naked from the waist up.

The girl might not have had much rhythm but she sure as hell had a nice new pair of fake boobs. Looking down at her own perky but not nearly as inflated chest, Renee began to feel even more nervous.

Letting out a shaky breath, she steeled herself and continued on. This wasn't permanent, it was just temporary. She could make more money doing this than anything else in Vegas, and seeing as that her grandmother had forbid her from using her powers to work in the casinos for Carlo, this was her last resort. It could all work out well . . . if she could just bring herself to actually take off her clothes for money.

"Hey! Hey over there, blondie!" Renee looked over to a seat beside the stage and saw a middle-aged man calling out to her. "You here to audition?"

"Uh, yeah. Yes I am. I'm Renee. I'm supposed to see Rick?"

"That's me, cupcake. Go on back and get changed, then you can show me what ya got."

Nodding, Renee headed toward the back dressing room and sat down at the first mirror she saw available. There were a handful of other girls back there, some working on their hair and makeup while others just sat around and chatted. A few girls smiled and greeted her but it seemed that most of the girls feverishly getting ready gave her the cold shoulder; they were obviously her competition for the job opening.

While she knew she was an attractive girl, she suddenly began to feel self-conscious. Her lips had no collagen, her boobs were real and nowhere near the size of the 36DD sitting across from her, and her hair had no extensions that went down to her waist. The only thing she really had going for her was that she could dance better than anyone there. She just hoped that counted for something.

She took about ten minutes fixing her hair and makeup, her eyeliner and lipstick much darker than she was used to wearing. The outfit she chose was inspired by a dancer she'd once seen while out with friends; she remembered thinking how beautiful and confident the woman had looked up on the stage. But as she looked down at her bare legs and abdomen and the small bits of silky fabric that barely covered her, she felt anything but confident.

Shaking off her sudden shyness, she stood up and gave herself one last once over before walking out into the club again. There was no one on the stage so Rick waved her out, then looked up to the man in the deejay booth and nodded. The deejay smiled and gave Renee a quick wave, then went back to what he was doing. A few seconds later a new song began and Renee took a deep breath before taking her place alongside the brass pole.

**(Suggested Listening: I Banged A Sinner by Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival)**

The song was slow, way too slow, but it didn't exactly seem like the kind of club that played popular music and pop hits. Strangely enough, the song fit the establishment pretty perfectly. While she would have preferred to be in one of the nicer clubs with better music and customers more likely to give bigger tips . . . this was one of the only places that hired inexperienced dancers.

Closing her eyes, she tried to lose herself into the slow, hard rhythm. She struggled to shut off her brain and let her body take over and sure enough, her hips slowly began to sway to the beat. She opened her eyes and looked down at her rapt audience - Rick and the bartender who had been busy just a few minutes before - but quickly decided that it was easier to keep her eyes closed.

Slowly but surely she grew more comfortable, her hands traveling over her tanned skin and the silky material that eventually pooled around her high-heeled shoes. As much as she tried to turn her brain off, she could still feel the lust and appreciation coming off of the two men in waves and it only spurned her on, filling her with a confidence she usually felt while on stage.

Her sudden lack of clothing didn't make that confidence waver, oddly enough.

She twirled around the brass pole just one last time until the music stopped, then stood unsure of what to do next as the club remained quiet and the men kept staring. Rick finally began a slow clap, a pervy grin forming on his unshaven face. Smiling, Renee quickly bent down and gathered up her discarded outfit, holding it partially over her chest as she waited for her assessment.

"Nice. Very nice," Rick began, then shouted back over his shoulder without taking his gaze from Renee. "Mike? Whattaya think?"

Mike, the bartender, let out a long, low whistle and winked at Renee before going back to his duties behind the bar.

"That means he likes ya," Rick said to Renee. "And I do too."

"Thanks," Renee replied.

"No thanks needed. You've got the face, you've got the body, and baby, you've got the moves. All those years of fancy fru-fru dancing are payin' off."

Renee could only laugh awkwardly. All those years of dance lessons and ballet to become an exotic dancer. Yup, the universe had a cruel sense of humor sometimes.

"I guess you're right."

"I've got big plans for you. I'll give you two months to prove yourself to me. You do good? You're gonna be headlining."

"Me? Headlining?" Renee asked, shocked. Headliners made lots of money!

"That's right, baby. We'll put your name in lights. You'll bring in all kinds of traffic. All we gotta do is get you some new clothes and change your name."

"I have to change my name?"

"Trust me, cupcake, you don't want a hundred horny guys knowing your real name. We get you a hot name to go with that hot face and body and we're all set. Ya got any favorites in mind?"

"Not particularly," Renee said with a shrug. "Just nothing based on a fruit, mineral, or city," she added quickly. "Or flower."

Rick seemed to think about it for a minute and then stood up, walking to the edge of the stage and holding his hand out to her. Renee took it and walked down the three short steps so that she was face to face with him.

"Camryn. That's your new name."

"Camryn," Renee repeated, trying the name out for herself. She couldn't help the tiny smile that crept up on her lips. "I like it."

"It's a good name," Rick replied, then moved so that their joined hands were pointing towards the dressing room door. "Now get back there and claim a station. You start tonight."

Renee - No, Camryn - smiled and began heading toward the door, only momentarily stunned when Rick let go of her hand . . . and firmly smacked her behind. Shaking her head, she laughed quietly to herself and pushed the unexpected smack to the back of her mind.

That was something she was going to have to get used to doing from now on.


Several hours later, 'Camryn' was standing at the very back of the stage behind a black curtain, watching as two girls danced for a steadily increasing audience. As it turned out, she wasn't actually going to be dancing on stage that night. Rick had her shadowing another dancer to learn the tricks of the trade and how things worked in the club. He assured her that she'd still make money . . . so long as she was a quick learner.

With only four days until Carlo came for payment, she was sure that she'd be the quickest learner that ever existed.

She felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to see Ruby, the dancer who was supposed to be teaching her the ropes. Ruby was in her later thirties easily and wasn't much to look at, but she had two of the biggest fake books that Camryn had ever seen. Trying her best not to focus on them, Camryn smiled a little too brightly as she stared into Ruby's eyes.

Ruby laughed, her voice hoarse.

"That's usually the reaction they get," she said, adjusting her bra straps so that her boobs jiggled a bit. "Well, that and tips. Just to be clear, it's the tips I'm after."

"Same here," Camryn said with a nervous chuckle. "Though I'm sure mine won't pull in quite as much as yours will."

Ruby laughed again and began to walk out towards the floor area, signaling for Camryn to follow her.

"Well it's all pretty simple, kitten. Cash only, upfront. Single dances are thirty; anything more than that, you make them pay for a private booth. Don't let them talk their way out of it. Most of these guys are regulars; they know the drill."

"And what exactly does the private booth package entail that makes it private?"

Ruby smirked. "That depends how much money you wanna make, honey."

Camryn shuddered a bit, thinking about what really went down in those private booths. As much as she needed money, there were some things she just wasn't willing to do for it.

"Don't let any of these jackasses make you do something you don't wanna do," Ruby continued. "They get grabby, you get smacky."

"I can smack them?" Camryn asked, surprised.

"Damn right you can. It's not like Rick springs for more than two bouncers and they can't be everywhere all the time. Just a heads up though, honey: some of these guys like getting smacked around. That happens, you get up and move on."

"Right. Okay," Camryn replied, nodding slightly as she tried to absorb everything she was being told.

"It's not the nicest club but we look out for each other. You need anything? You come find me. I'll put some foot to ass if I need to."

"Thanks, Ruby."

"No problem, doll. Now see that guy over there?" Ruby asked and shrugged her shoulder toward an armchair nearby. Camryn spotted the 40-something man and nodded. "He's been making moon eyes at you since you walked out here."

"Yeah, I could feel it," Camryn said easily but quickly caught herself. She wasn't used to slipping up when it came to keeping her powers a secret but with so many flares of emotion all around her, it was making her head feel clouded. At Ruby's raised eyebrow, she continued, "I just meant I could feel his eyes all over me."

"Well, it's your call, hon. You can make your move or you can follow me around for a bit, see how it goes. He's a newbie around here so you might have to lay down the rules for him, but far be it from be to stop you making a quick buck off an obvious admirer."

As much as Camryn knew that she probably needed a bit more training, the ever present issue of paying off her grandmother's debt was weighing heavily on her mind and she decided to wing it a bit so she could make some money. How hard could it be anyhow?

"I think I'll take this one," she finally said after a moment, giving Ruby a quick smile. "He doesn't look so bad."

Ruby stared at her for a moment and then laughed hard, eventually patting her on her shoulder as she began to walk off toward a customer of her own.

"Infamous last words, kiddo. You need me, you just shout!"

Camryn watched her walk away, then turned toward her own admirer. He was smiling now and waving her over. Breaking her own rules, she decided to quickly open herself up to his emotion and did a quick read. He was feeling lust, and desire . . . and the need to indulge. He wanted to spend money on her.

Turns out, that was exactly what Camryn was looking for.

Smiling, she confidently strode over to him, putting a little bit of extra wiggle in her walk. He smiled even bigger as she approached and she felt his emotion flare even more. Or maybe that was from the guy just a few feet away. Shaking her head and trying to close off the many emotions she felt hitting her from all directions, she tried to focus instead on her job and what she was doing.

"Hi there," she greeted the man with a smile.

"Hello, beautiful," he replied. His smile began to look more like a leer and for a moment, Camryn wished she'd stayed at Ruby's side.

But it was too late now so instead she took a deep breath and steeled herself.

"Are you interested in a dance?"

"I'm interested in a private booth." He pulled a small wad of bills from his pocket and held them up, looking at Camryn expectantly.

She reached out and took the bills, then nodded her head toward the booths along the wall and began walking toward them. She didn't have to turn around to know that he was following hot on her heels; she could practically feel him leering. Fighting off another shudder, she stopped when she reached the booth and pulled back the curtain, making sure that it was empty before indicating for the man to step inside first.

He walked slowly into the tiny room and took off his jacket, tossing it off to the side before casually dropping down onto the faux-leather bench seat against the wall. Draping his arms over the back of the seat, he smiled up at Camryn and winked, obviously ready for his show to begin.

Camryn took one last look out into the club and, finding everyone too preoccupied to even notice her, took a shaky breath and entered the booth, letting the curtain close behind her.

The room was mostly dark with the exception of a few neon pink and orange bulbs hung high on the wall. It consisted solely of a u-shaped booth with a curtain closing off the opened end. Camryn felt a bit claustrophobic but she swallowed down her anxiousness and put on a sultry smile as she faced her client. He was ready and waiting, and seeing as that a new song began playing, Camryn chose that moment to begin.

She only hoped the songs were nice and short.

As she approached the customer, she slowly began to realize that she'd much rather be up on the stage in front of a crowd than one on one with a customer; this was much more personal than she was sure she could deal with. She was used to crowds; she'd learn to deal with the partial nudity with time.

As her apprehension washed over her, she unconsciously let her mental guard down. A slew of feelings and emotions assaulted her senses and she had to close her eyes as she tried to focus; tried to push them all out of her head like she usually did. She needed to focus on the task at hand and on the customer sitting just two feet in front of her.

"Hey cupcake, I ain't paying you to stand there with your eyes closed," the man gruffly said. "Lose the clothes and dance. Now."

Camryn could hear the change in his tone and, seeing as that she was having difficulty drowning out the feelings and emotions from everyone else in the club, she decided to focus all of her power directly on him.

Her heart began to race when, aside from the change in his tone, she could feel the change in his presence as well. No longer was he filled only with lust and desire; he was full to the brim with the need to dominate. To be the aggressor. He was masking it as best as he could but it was starting to seep out; his jaw was clenching, as were the fingers on his right hand which he thought was hidden in the darkness.

She turned away from him, trying to mask her own fear. She didn't know much about the man, but she knew a thing or two about predators. They thrived on fear; feeling it from their victims only spurned them on. As much as she was feeling fear and anxiety over the man's silently growing aggression, she tried to keep a calm air about her. As she eyed up the closed curtain and how many steps it would take her to push through it, she reached behind her back, pretending to busy her fingers with the clasp on her silky bra.

And that was when all hell broke loose.

The man, having silently stood up while her back was turned, grabbed the both of her hands and held them pinned against her back with one of his hands while pushing her up against the booth with the other. She lost her footing and stumbled clumsily until one of her knees rested on the booth and her face slammed none-too-gently against the wall. Though the force of the landing would certainly leave a bruise, she couldn't feel any pain yet. All she could feel was the weight of the man keeping her pinned as she was and his hot, alcohol-laced breath against the side of her face telling her to be quiet and play nice . . . or else.

Like she'd felt many times already in her short life, her fight or flight response was beginning to kick in. It was different this time though. Instead of struggling, she became incredibly lucid and focused. A warmth began to radiate throughout her body like she never felt before and it focused on the man's aggression.

Camryn felt a change in her demeanor; every emotion around and inside her and the man swirled in colors and she could see them, feel them all. But unlike before, she could move them now. Could focus on any single emotional aura swirling before her and manipulate it. She didn't understand how or why, and frankly, she didn't care. If this was an added ‘gift' from her mom and grandmother, it was one she was going to gladly accept.

Focusing on the swirling emotional auras, she began to draw from the man's anger and aggression, finding the strength to pull one of her arms from his grasp so that she could elbow him, hard, right in his side. She continued to feed on his aggression, all while pushing on her own fear and sending it toward the man.

In a matter of moments he stumbled backwards across the small room and onto the bench seat, a look of complete horror on his face as he met her icy eyes. She stared him down, concentrating on amplifying the fear that he was now feeling.

It had to be crossing some kind of cosmic lines, manipulating his emotions like she was, but after what had nearly just happened, she didn't quite care.

Assholes always got what they had coming to them. As far as she was concerned, it was just a complete bonus that she somehow found a way to make him piss himself.

"Fucking creep!" she finally yelled, feeling herself start to come down from her adrenaline high.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled through his trembling lips. When he reached a hand out to her Camryn felt her emotion flare again and she amplified his fear again, making him pull his arm back and cower against the seat even further.

"Don't you dare think about touching me," she said through clenched teeth. "You think that just because you paid for this room that you own me?"

"No," he all but whispered.

"That's right: no, you don't," she said angrily. Taking a deep breath, she tried to calm herself down, still riding the waves of his long gone aggression. "This is what's going to happen. You're going to leave here, and you're never going to come back again."

"Never," he repeated, shaking his head for emphasis.

"You're never going to lay a hand on another woman again, unless you are invited to do so and unless you can do so respectfully."

"I promise."

Camryn watched him carefully for a few seconds, trying to read his emotions. Behind the layers of fear, she could see that he was being honest, or at least trying to be. Taking another deep breath, she took a step toward the curtain and held it open, indicating for him to leave. He stood up on shaky legs and inched his way over, eyeing her warily the whole time. It actually made her chuckle.

As nice as the wad of cash he'd given her was, it wasn't worth this. It was going to take lots of really, really generous tippers to even make a dent in her grandmothers mountain of debt, and no way did she ever want a repeat of what happened in that booth.

If it hadn't been for her fucked up ability and the strange mutation it seemed to be going through, things could have gotten ugly. Really ugly.

She needed to talk to Niecey and see what the hell was going on with her. Drawing on someone else's emotions? Emotional manipulation? None of it was right, or normal, and she needed to figure out exactly what was happening before something else unexpected happened.

The man quickly slipped past her as she was lost in thought and as Camryn watched him scurry away, a thought dawned on her. Emotional manipulation; just exactly what could she do with it? It might not be the worst thing in the world . . .

Taking a glance over at a well-dressed gentlemen a few yards away tucking fifty dollar bills into a dancer's thong, an idea came to mind. He was obviously feeling generous; could she take that feeling in him and amplify it? And if so . . . could she transfer that to someone else?

She concentrated hard on the man, looking for the swirl of green that was faintly emanating from his body. When she had a lock on it, she glanced over across the room and saw the man who had just attacked her coming out of the men's restroom, trying to wipe the big wet spot running down the front of his pants away with a cheap paper towel. She focused on him and pushed and pulled the green energy, trying to penetrate him with it.

Surprisingly enough, he looked up as if in sudden realization and sought out her gaze, smiling crookedly when he found her. Reaching deeply into his pocket, he pulled out another wad of cash and made his way over - but warily - still obviously feeling the fear she'd amplified within him.

"Uh, this is for you," he said awkwardly, holding out the rolled up bills. "I just feel like . . . you deserve it."

Grinning, Camryn took the money . . . and then sent another wave of fear at him so hard that he fell backwards over a chair behind him before scampering for the exit once again. She watched him until he exited the club, then looked down at the wad of money in her hand. There had to be almost one thousand dollars there.

"This job might not be so bad after all," she said easily before smiling seductively and looking for her next customer.

The sound of a horn honking pulled Camryn from her thoughts. She looked ahead of her and saw that the traffic had moved significantly and that a man directing traffic with an orange flag was anxiously waving her forward. Shaking her head lightly, she took one last glance toward the building at her right before pulling away, leaving it all behind her once again.

Act Four || Leave Feedback

Back to Episode Selection

Home ||| Buffy Fics ||| Non-Buffy Fics ||| Other Authors ||| Site Updates ||| Update Alerts