"Can I get you anything?" The waitress asked from behind the counter.

"Coffee." The word was harsh. Her throat hurt, her chest hurt, her head hurt. Laurel knew she should be in bed under the influence of cough syrup, but she did not have the time.

"Yes, sir."

"Excuse me?" Indignation made her voice crack.

"Sorry, ma'am. Your voice was just so deep. Sorry." The waitress meekly placed a cup of steaming hot coffee in front of the bassist.

"Thank you. I have a cold. It's not my fault I sound like a foghorn." Laurel placed less sugar than usual in her cup. She wanted the liquid's heat to soothe her throat. That was more important for her than taste at the moment.

"It could be the baseball cap." BJ pointed out as he joined her at the counter seats.

"Women wear baseball caps. Besides, it's too damn cold outside to wander around with a wet head. I'll take a shower after we get back to the hotel." Laurel adjusted the brim on her baseball cap. It was a green one with their logo on the front. She liked it more than she liked the shirts. The cap only had the gecko on it.

"Yeah, but you dress like a guy. Sometimes you have to expect the less enlightened to make ignorant errors." He waved over the waitress. "Can I get a cup of coffee please?"

"Sure. Anything else?" The waitress made a note on her pad.

"Not at the moment." He accepted his coffee eagerly. "It's part of the mysteries of the world, you know."

"All that reading you've been doing lately is working wonders on your vocabulary." Laurel told him. The coffee soothed her throat enough to allow her to speak in sentences again.

"Yeah well, it's not like we have much else to do. Quit scratching." He commanded.

"But it itches." She complained as she stopped rubbing her hand over her arm. The first one had not itched as badly. Actually it had, but it wasn't in a spot where she could easily scratch it in public.

"It itches because it's healing. If you scratch it, the scabs will come off and then the ink won't be even. It'll stop in a few more days."

"How do you survive this?" She asked. The Celtic tattoo on her bicep was driving her crazy. She liked the pattern, after the ring she wanted to give Nicole, but the itching had to go. The bass playing blue gecko on her thigh was already completely healed so it no longer itched. The other was newer and only partially healed.

"I put lotion on it every time it itches. You should be doing the same." He looked at her. "Bless you."

"Thanks." She sniffed. She hated sneezing. "I feel like road kill."

"For the record, you look like possum on the half shell." He flagged the waitress down again.

"Thanks. I needed to hear that I look like a dead armadillo." She made a face at him. "Just wait until you catch this cold."

"Do you have any soup?" He ignored Laurel's protests. "We need a bowl of chicken noodle, an order of hash browns, and a large glass of orange juice for my friend here. I'll take the pork chop meal with double hash browns."

"Do you want those scattered or dressed?" The waitress asked as she made more notes on her pad.

"I want mine done everyway you can do them. Hers should be plain. I don't think it'd be a good idea to add anything to them yet." He turned back to her. "If you would eat properly, sleep properly and maybe cut down smoking, you wouldn't be so prone to colds."

"I rarely get sick." She protested. "Half the guys have this." It was true. The current cold was running through the roadies, bands and managers. The tour doctor could not tell if it were flu or a common cold since it varied so much from person to person. Laurel had yet to see him for her diagnosis.

"Yeah, but you seem to be suffering more than the rest too. I'm worried about you, kiddo. You're not taking very good care of yourself."

"I eat. I sleep."

"You eat when you remember and you sleep when you pass out from exhaustion." He pointed out. "Don't make me call Mandy again today."

"You've already talked to her?" Laurel asked. Her head was starting to pound.

"Yep. Sam was there when I called."

"And?" She prompted. She was fighting the urge to cough.

"We talked. They're going to join us during part of our vacation."

"So you two made up then?" She was happy. She knew he was miserable without his girlfriend. He was almost as miserable as she was without Nicole.

"We talked some things out. We're going to talk more when I see her. You know, she can play the bass but doesn't because Derrick can only play the bass."

"No, I didn't know that. What does that have to do with anything?" She was confused more than normal. Her head felt as if it were about to explode. Her chest really wanted to join it.

"If you needed a break or anything, I think she could cover for you." He suggested.

"Is that it?" She felt paranoid. "Are you trying to edge me out?"

"Laurel, I hate to say this, but you talk in your sleep. If you really want to go home, maybe Sam can cover for you. If she were to join the band, I'd stay with them."

"Have you mentioned this to anyone else?"

"No. It hit me after I got off the phone. That's why I followed you over here. I really am worried about you. I know you miss her, why don't you go get her?"

"I haven't heard from Jessie in a few weeks. I don't know what the situation is down there." She explained. "Thank you." She moved her elbows so the waitress would have more room to set the food.

"Eat." BJ commanded. "We can talk as we eat. We're already labeled as rednecks, politeness won't save us now."

"That's a valid point." She dipped her spoon into the soup. Normally she hated soup. Lately she hated food. She knew she had to make a pretense of eating in front of BJ.

"Well, then call her."


"Jessie or Sheryl. One of them should tell you what's going on. I don't understand why you don't just hop a flight down there anyway and go hash it out with Nicole." He covered his pork chops in steak sauce. She grimaced.

"BJ, she told me in a note that she didn't want me anymore. What would you have done?" It seemed a tired argument.

"You still love her. Don't let a little piece of dead tree stand in your way. Think about it, but think about using our vacation to go home and talk to her. Eat."

"I'm eating."

"No you are not. You're playing in your soup. At least eat the hash browns."

"I'm not hungry." She protested weakly. She lied. She was hungry, but the thought of food was unappealing. Nonetheless, she ate the hash browns. They were almost tasteless, but warm. She knew the tastelessness was from her cold. "I'll see if I can find Jessie or Sheryl. I can't run home blindly. I need to know a few things first."

"Why? What do you need to know?" He seemed curious.

"I can't explain it." She lied again. She knew the reasons for her insecurity. She was honor bound not to explain them though. It was her story, but not hers alone. There was someone else involved in the history that shaped Laurel's psyche.

"Alright. Don't talk to me about it." He seemed upset.

"Big man, there's a full length novel behind this, but I'm not the main character. Or at least I'm only one of them. I can't tell the story because I don't know how it ended for everyone." Her tongue felt heavy. She really wanted to lay down somewhere and sleep.

"One day you'll have to explain that to me. How much of this deals with Nicole?"

"None of it. It was a long time." She paused. The world seemed to spin against its axis. "It was a long time ago. I think I need to go to the hotel." She managed to stand. That was all she remembered until she woke.

"Hey, Lakky, you in there?" A strange voice called through the darkness.

"Yeah. What happened?" She opened heavy lids to see another hotel room. The area beneath her was too soft to be the floor. She reasoned it was a bed.

"You fainted at the restaurant. BJ carried you over here and fetched me. We've met, do you remember who I am?"

"You're the doctor on tour with us. Dr. Albright." She felt better than she had in the restaurant. "What did you give me?"

"You have the flu it seems. I gave you a shot to ease the symptoms." He leaned back. She could focus in on him better now.

"Thanks. I think. Where am I?"

"Your hotel room. The rest of the band is here." He pointed off into the distance. She wondered why she could not see beyond the shadows.

"Where're my glasses and what happened to my contacts?" She struggled to sit.

"You must have lost one on the way over here. We took the other out so I could give you a few eye drops." The doctor explained.

"What type of eye drops?" She felt suspicious. Terry visited the doctor a lot. She wondered about his qualifications.

"You're eyes were blood shot. I just gave you these." He held up a normal bottle of eye drops for her approval. "I am a fully qualified medical doctor, you know. I travel with bands like some of my colleagues travel with sports teams."

"It's a good thing too." She could hear Harold's voice, but she could not focus in on him yet. "If you'd passed out while alone here, we'd all be at the hospital."

"Yeah, Lakky. Why didn't you tell us you were sick?" Steve asked.

"It just kinda snuck up on me." She explained. She was getting tired again.

"You can chastise her later. She needs rest right now." The doctor interrupted.

"What about our concert tomorrow night?" Jenna asked.

"I wouldn't think about it." Dr. Albright answered.

"I'll go on." Laurel told them. "Unless the good doctor ties me to my bed. I won't do anything else but play." She refused to let her illness put her out of commission. "Would that be acceptable?"

"No." The doctor answered. "You need several days of bed rest. I recommend that you all stay here until she gets better. Then you catch up with the rest of the tour, or go on without her."

"We'll discuss it, doctor, thank you." A shadow of Harold shook the doctor's hand and walked him to the door. "We'll pick that medication up too, but the shots every day will work?"

"Yes." That was all she heard of his reply.

"Now, we can't all stay here, and we can't leave you here. We've kinda gotten ourselves into a mess." Harold stated when he returned.

"No we don't. I can play. I feel better. I'll sleep tonight, sleep on the bus tomorrow, stay doped up to my eyebrows, and be a good little girl. We will continue to play though." She hated being ill. It always made her more determined to finish whatever her illness interrupted.

"Get some sleep. We'll talk about it in the morning." Harold waved the other's out. "BJ are you staying in here?"

"Yes. This is my room too. ‘Sides, someone needs to be here with her." The rest of their conversation was lost on her. As soon as the adrenaline wore off, she was sound asleep.


"You know, I think the scarecrow looks a little wimpy." Stan complained.

"Then go make him more macho." Phil advised from the couch.

"It's too late. The trick-or-treaters will be here soon." Stan sat down heavily in a chair. "What's grandmother think of the decorations?"

"The nurse had her up and around a little in the wheelchair today, but I don't think they made it far enough to see the lights and things." Nicole commented. For the first time in fifteen years, the Herbert house was decorated for Halloween. It was something Nicole used to take her mind of things. Today was also Laurel's birthday. A fact Nicole learned late in their relationship.

"Ah well, I'm sure you'll show her the pictures." Jay commented. Every day, when Adia was able, Nicole went through her portfolio with her grandmother.

"Yes I will. You think it all looks nice though?" She asked.

"It looks great." Phil told her. "Now what's the plan of action? Who's going to handle the candy detail?"

"We all are. Does everyone have a costume handy?" She looked around. Jay was a skeleton, all he had to do was put his mask on. She could not tell what the others were dressed as.

"Got mine." Stan held up an alien mask. "Don't even need to change clothes." He was dressed in dark green.

"Cheater." She told him. "Phil?" He held up a hockey mask. He was in black attire. "Where's Melba?"

"She's making treats for us." Jay grinned. "Tell me, Nicky, why are we going through this again?"

"Consider it a dress rehearsal."

"Ah yes, for the wee little one." Phil massacred an Irish accent. "Have you thought of names yet?"

"Not really." She answered honestly. "I really just got over the shock. The doctor called today though."

"And?" All three of them set up straighter in their chairs.

"It's all ok. Everything is fine, normal and clean." She watched as they sighed with relief. It was a relief she shared. After she hung up the phone she had spent an hour sitting in her room listening to one song over and over. She finally opened all her mail a few weeks ago and discovered the single CD Laurel made with BJ. It was her favorite. It was difficult, but she could sleep easier if she listened to the CD right before she closed her eyes. That and the imaginary conversations with her lover made the healing process bearable. Danny had finally shown her the article. She no longer questioned Laurel or herself. Now all she needed was the right moment to call the bassist home.

"Guess that's the first of them." Phil donned his mask as the doorbell echoed throughout the house. "I'll get these."

"I'm surprised we have anyone showing up this year. We didn't get more than a handful last year." Melba entered the room with a tray of drinks and snacks.

"It's probably the decorations." Nicole answered. She pulled her mask from the bag. Decorating for Halloween had been a last minute decision. All the good costumes, candy and decorations had been taken. She searched until she found a semi-decent mask.

"You know, if you'd have gotten a stork one, it would have been more amusing." Jay commented. The mask was in the shape of a parrot's face.

"Lovely plumage though." Stan teased.

"Yeah, yeah. No dead parrot jokes, or I'll strangle the lot of you." She threatened with a smile.

"Why would a stork have been more amusing?" Melba asked. Nicole had not yet informed the entire family. She wanted to wait before dropping that bit of news.

"You know storks have long legs and heavy um…" Stan trailed off at Nicole's glare.

"Oh, I get it now." The housekeeper laughed. "All in the front with storks and flamingos."

"You guys are not amusing." She grumbled as she pulled her mask on. "I'll go see if Phil needs help."

"Nope, Phil is fine." Her uncle called from the doorway. "Ack. A Norwegian blue."

"Funny." She regretted asking them to wear costumes. "Did you frighten them?"

"Like he can be scary." Stan snorted. "I get the next bunch."

"I can be very scary." Phil protested.

"He really can be. You should see him in the morning." Jay teased his lover.

"I can really feel the love in this room." Phil sighed. "Are we watching blood and gore movies all night?"

"I stopped and picked up a few." Stan pulled several videos from a bag at his feet.

"I thought you said you got a few?" Nicole looked at the stack in shock.

"I rented a few. I own the rest." He displayed them all on the coffee table. "What do we want to watch first? We've got sorority girls getting massacred while wearing their underwear, college kids getting killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, werewolves, vampires, babysitters hacked to pieces, camp counselors chopped into bits, monsters, and the occasional parody."

"Sounds like most of those are parodies." Nicole picked up one and read the back. "Might as well start with this one."

"Ok." Phil grabbed it. "Are we going to watch it in here?"

"Might as well." Nicole stood. "We could at least move the furniture around so everyone can see and still be comfortable."

"Let us handle that, ladies." Jay poked Stan and made him help.

Soon the living room bore little resemblance to its former state. The couch, loveseat and chairs were comfortably positioned around the television. They even moved the coffee and side tables. It was easier to keep their drinks and snacks on those. Melba had made lots of snacks too. The housekeeper provided them with popcorn, homemade candied apples, angel food cake, chips, dip, vegetables and dip, nachos and chocolate. The choices were perfectly designed for a horror movie marathon.

They each took a turn answering the door. The trick-or-treaters were few and far between. Most people took their kids to friends, family or enclosed areas such as the malls. Nicole and her family did not care. It meant more junk food for them, and less time away from the movie.

"Why do they always separate?" Phil asked after they started the second movie. "Don't they know they'll only die easier that way?"

"True. A group can easily take out one lone bad guy, as long as the baddie doesn't have a gun." Jay agreed.

"It'd wreck the plot if they did that." Stan pointed out. He was a big fan of horror movies.

"Plot?" Nicole asked. "This one doesn't have a plot. It's a bunch of kids trapped in a cabin being possessed by wood demons and chopping one another into bits. There's no plot."

"Yeah, but this movie launched at least two great careers." Stan told her.

"Ok. Whatever. Can we watch another one now?" She asked as the credits finally rolled.

"Sure." Stan was the designated movie changer.

They watched another two movies before the late hour caught up with them. Nicole bid her uncles farewell at the door. Stan opted to stay in one of the guestrooms instead of driving back to the Warehouse. She did not blame him. She would have done the same thing.

The vanilla scent from the monkey had completely faded, but it was still her favorite cuddle toy. She called Mozart into the room before shutting the door. He liked to stay in the backyard, and she had left him there while the children were roaming the streets looking for candy. He did not like strangers in his house.

"Happy birthday, sweetheart." She whispered as she held the monkey tight in her arms. She drifted off to sleep like that.


"You know, I don't understand why we can't go trick-or-treating." BJ grumbled.

"What would you go as?" Laurel asked. She was not really interested in the answer. It was Samhain, and she wanted to spend the night alone.

"I don't know, some cartoon hero maybe. I just don't like having nothing to do on this night. Usually we're with the others and having the dumb supper and the celebration. How can we do that this year?"

"I think I know a way." She smiled. "We're not performing tonight because Terry thinks it's bad luck. If we can borrow Larry's van, we'll go get some supplies." She grabbed her jacket. "We can find a nice restaurant and order a few meals for take-out. The hardest part is going to be finding black candles."

"Maybe the mall has a candle store like Mandy's." BJ seemed more eager now they had a plan.

"Almost anything is possible. Within reason of course."

"Maybe they'll even want to join us. I'll find Steve if you get Larry."

"That'll work. I'll meet you at the van." She headed off in the direction of Larry's room.

Larry was very interested. He had never celebrated Samhain. He was eager to participate. Steve only agreed out of habit. He was not a believer in their traditions, but he was willing to be the fourth. While three was not considered an unlucky number, they wanted more participants to make it more familiar.

They found a restaurant that served steaks. Laurel and BJ ordered and paid for nine meals. It would be hard to find a place to bury the extras, but a shovel was on their list of things to buy. Three extra meals were for Jon, BJ's mother and Larry's father. They only bought meals for departed love ones not for everyone they knew who had died. They honored them through remembrance otherwise they would be burying more meals than they consumed that evening.

A trip to the mall provided the rest of the things they needed, candles, candleholders, a cheap set of silverware and steak knives, a shovel, and a small brass bell. They returned to the restaurant and picked up their meals. Finally, they were ready to return to hotel. BJ suggested asking Harold to join them. He went in search of the manager while Laurel and Steve set up the table in the bassist's hotel room.

Harold readily agreed. He asked for the extra meal to be in honor of his great aunt. It was an easy request to fill. The five of them ate in silence. Each bite chewed thoroughly as they offered silent prayers or memories of the departed to run through their minds. After the meal, they took the extras behind the hotel and buried them. Laurel recited the speech Mandy usually gave after that part was finished.

"So, now that's finished, are you celebrating your birthday?" Harold asked when they returned to the hotel room.

"I don't celebrate my birthday." Laurel told him. "It doesn't seem right to celebrate a birthday on Halloween."

"Did you ever do anything for it?" Larry asked.

"Yeah, when I was a kid, we'd have parties. In junior high, there was a group of us all born within two weeks of one another. We had combined parties then with our friends." She sat down on her bed. Muggster was snoring under the bed. For a small dog, she could snore worse than BJ.

"I say we do something to celebrate tonight. How old are you?" Larry asked.

"Twenty-three." She answered. "What could we do? I don't feel like going out to a club or anything."

"We've already had dinner. Wanna go see a movie?" BJ asked. He picked up a copy of the local paper. "There's a few that look pretty good and they start within an hour or so."

"Yeah, we could do that." Laurel shrugged. She was not concerned with the activities of the evening.

"Anyone else we need or want to invite?" Harold asked.

"Hey guys." Jenna knocked on the open door. "They're throwing a huge party for you in the hotel's ballroom, Lakky."

"How'd they know it was my birthday?" She asked.

"I told Terry yesterday. He's a really great guy." Jenna gushed.

"I'm sure he is." Laurel commented dryly.

"That sounds like it'll be fun. Wanna do that instead?" Steve asked.

"Sure. Whatever works." She did not care. "You guys go on ahead. There's something I need to do first."

"Ok. We'll meet you down there." BJ followed Steve and Jenna out the door.

"You two as well. Go on, I'll only be a few." She shooed Harold and Larry out.

"Are you sure?" Larry asked.

"Yeah. This party isn't going to make you uncomfortable or anything is it?" She asked as Harold disappeared.

"Nope. I've been to parties sober. I don't even feel the temptation anymore, really." He shrugged. "Are you going to be ok with it?"

"Yeah I should be. I can avoid the drugs. I'll just go there for a beer or two. Shouldn't be a problem." She shoved him gently through the door. "Go on, I'll be there in a minute or two."

As soon as he was gone, she turned back to the table. She pulled a single white candle from the bag on her bed. She turned off all the lights in the room but the one in the bathroom. She placed the candle on the dresser and knelt before it. As she lit it, she let her thoughts turn to Mandy's goddess and to Nicole. She prayed for guidance and protection for the photographer. That finished, she cleared her mind and set contemplating the candle for a long minute. Only when her knees protested did she extinguish the flame and leave the room.

Laurel attempted to make her way through the hotel ballroom. The place was packed with people. The party was supposed to be in honor of her birthday. She knew better. It was nothing more than an excuse. The other bands did not seem to need an excuse to party, but at least they used a decent pretense this time. She decided to attend out of politeness. It was her contribution to the pretenses this party was thrown under. She only hoped her band was not paying for it.

"Lakky! Beer!" An arm reached through the mass of people and pressed a plastic cup into her hand. She could not locate the owner. Band members, managers, deejays and groupies were everywhere.

The beer tasted a bit odd. She passed it off as a difference in water. She hated drinking draft beer for that reason. She could always taste the subtle differences in the water used from brewing beer. Regardless, it was wet and she was thirsty.

The crowd shifted in its ebb and flow causing a space to appear before her. She was finally able to see her friends. Larry and BJ were standing in one corner talking. BJ was resolutely ignoring the panting females gazing at him longingly. He was trying to keep his promise to Sam. She had made up with him on the condition that he behaved. Larry on the other hand seemed to ignore the rest of the room. The bottle of water in his hand was testament to his inner strength. Laurel admired that. He was resolved to remain sober at all times, no matter the consequences. She was touched that he would brave the temptations of the party for her. It was a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it seemed larger in the moment.

"Hey, what's up?" Laurel yelled. The music was almost deafening. Fortunately the CD playing was not by one of the bands they toured with. Laurel might have gone postal otherwise.

"Did you get done what you needed to do?" Larry shouted.

"Yeah. Are all parties like this?" She asked. It was the first real party she had attended on this tour. She attended three during the other tour.

"The ones I remember are." He answered. "There are a lot I don't remember of course."

"I think we all have those." BJ agreed.

"I know I do." Laurel commented. "So what usually happens at these things?"

"It varies. Usually everyone just stands around drinking until they pair off with groupies or one another. Occasionally people fight, but it's not that often. I will warn you, Terry has set a hotel room on fire before."

"That can't be good." She laughed.

"They toured with us before they got popular. It took them longer than it took you guys. Apparently the stage was set right for your band." He did not sound as if he resented them. "I've seen it happen a few times."

"It is kinda amazing how it happened. It's all been so fast." BJ commented.

"That it has. I feel so old already." Laurel laughed. "It's like I'm twenty-three going on fifty."

"That's a common thing around here. You're either going on fifty or perpetually seventeen." Larry told them. "As soon as you feel like you're really fifty, it's time to get out."

"You think so?" She asked. She was approaching that point.

"Yep. Otherwise you crack or revert. We've gone through two drummers for that reason. Not everyone is cut out for life on the road."

"I think it's time for another beer." BJ commented. "Conversation is getting too deep."

"I agree. This is a party, and you're supposed to be having fun." Larry smiled.

"Ladies, gentlemen, groupies, roadies and everyone else. May I have your attention please?" Terry called out as he entered the ballroom. Jenna was on his arm. "This is a special party. Lakky, front and center."

"What's going on?" She asked as the crowd parted around her.

"I have no idea. We'll go with you." Larry offered his arm. BJ did as well. She accepted both. She felt like a child dwarfed between them.

"Thanks." She fought down the urge to skip between them. It seemed out of place.

"Today is not only Halloween, it's also Lakky's birthday. I know, it explains a lot." Terry paused as the gathering laughed. Laurel did not think it was funny. "We've got a special treat this evening. I've been watching lots of old movies, and had a little help with this idea. Bring out the cake."

"Oh my." Laurel was astonished. Several men pushed a large cake into the room. Her name was spelled out in the icing. Candles were placed all around it.

"This is exactly what you're thinking. Blow out the candles and claim your present." Terry grinned. "Go on."

"Ok." Laurel slowly approached the cake. She knew as soon as a cue was given, someone would jump out of the cake. For one wild moment, she wondered if Nicole were in the cake. She shook the thought from her head. Though it would be a dream come true, it was not the photographer's style. She could never see Nicole, who was very claustrophobic, letting herself be placed in a cake.

"Come on Lakky, blow them out." Jenna encouraged.

"Alright." She drew in a deep breath. It was not that easy. She was still recovering from her recent bout with the flu. However, after two tries, she was able to blow out the candles. As soon as she did so, the surprise popped out of the cake. It was a stripper.

The stripper was tall, with long dark brown hair and green eyes. She danced around the ballroom after placing Laurel on a chair. One by one, pieces of her clothing were ripped away. Most landed on the bassist. Laurel could not have moved had she wanted to, she was held to the chair by Terry's hands on her shoulders. The stripper soon added to the bassist's misery. It was Laurel's first lap dance. She understood the attraction then.

"Happy birthday, Lakky." Terry led the group in a round of the traditional birthday song. "Drink up then unwrap your present." He handed her a glass of green liquid. "It's a bullfrog."

"So I can smell." The liquor in the drink was strong. She could tell by the smell. "Why are you being so nice?"

"You're on tour with us. Jenna's become a friend, which makes the band a friend. We like to keep our friends happy. Besides, maybe a good fuck will loosen you up a bit."

"Thanks, I think." She rolled her eyes. The drink was stronger than she thought. Already she felt a slight buzz.

"Lucky you." BJ elbowed her. "I don't think there's a straight man or lesbian who wouldn't want what you got for a present."

"She is nicely put together." Laurel agreed. She grabbed another drink from a tray passed around the crowd.

"Should I stay in Steve's room tonight?" He asked as the stripper returned.

"Are you ready for the rest of your present?" She asked.

"Um. Sure." Laurel had no intention of having sex with the stripper, but she did not want to refuse in front of the others. She did not want Terry to be offended. It was a nice gesture, in strange way.

They made a rather quite exit. Laurel was grateful. She did not want the added embarrassment of applause. The stripper almost refused to take no for an answer. Only Laurel's determination kept the young woman from trying to make the first move. Laurel had to assure her that the bassist would never tell anyone what really happened. With the reassurance, the stripper left her at the door.

It was an interesting birthday. As she drifted off to sleep, she wished it had been better. She dreamed of dinner in New Orleans, and a lap dance by a certain photographer. The dreams were better than her present reality.

To Be Continued

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