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If The Seas Catch Fire
Author:L. A. Witt

If The Seas Catch Fire by L. A. Witt

“Trust your heart if the seas catch fire,

live by love though the stars walk backward.”

– E.E. Cummings

Chapter 1

Sergei Andronikov hadn’t been in the guy’s lap thirty seconds, and there was already a hand on his ass.

Carefully schooling his expression—keeping the irritation well beneath the surface—Sergei batted the asshole’s hand away. This was Sergei’s fourth or fifth client of the night, and he was one of those middle-aged financial types. The kind who’d been behind a desk in a bank long enough to think he was God. Sergei hated those fucks.

But he was getting paid, so he writhed and undulated on the banker’s lap, sharing it with a sizeable paunch. And after a few beats, the hand was back, this time coming up off the armrest to caress Sergei’s hip. Before it could inch toward his ass—these fuckers were so goddamned predictable—Sergei again pushed it away, adding a playful, “No touching. That’s the rule.”

The banker grinned, revealing teeth that were flawless aside from the misfortune of being in this man’s head. “I’m paying you good money.” He placed a defiant hand firmly on Sergei’s leather-clad hip. “I’d say the rules are negotiable.”

“Actually.” Sergei dropped the playfulness as he grabbed the man’s wrist and shoved his hand away. “They’re not.”

Do it again, and you’ll be swallowing those pretty teeth.

The guy snatched Sergei’s arm, gripping it painfully. “Customer’s always right. Now you’ll—”

In a heartbeat, Sergei had him shoved back against the chair, fingers around the asshole’s throat. Blood pounded beneath the skin, one squeeze away from being cut off, and Sergei dug his knee against the man’s crotch.

“What the fuck?” the guy ground out.

“The rules are not negotiable, and this dance is over.” Sergei dug his thumb just hard enough against the banker’s jugular to make him nervous. “Now get the fuck out of here before I turn all three of the ex-Special Forces bouncers loose on your ass.” He leaned in closer. “You know what kind of ex-Special Forces guy becomes a bouncer in a gay strip club in a shitty little town like this?”

Eyes widening even more, the asshole shook his head. “N-no…”

“The kind who are too fucked up in the head to do anything else.” Sergei pushed himself up, using the stupid sap’s throat and balls for leverage and nearly tipping the chair back in the process. “Get the fuck out of here.”

The banker wisely got the fuck out of there. Probably the smartest thing he’d done all night. He’d have moved even faster if he’d known just whose ass he’d been trying to grope.

But he was gone, and Sergei still had a few hours left on his shift, so after he’d straightened his hair and clothes, he stepped out of the booth.

Roy, the burly black bouncer hovering near the entrance to the private dance booths, grinned at him. “That guy left in a hurry. You feed him that ex-Special Forces line?”

“Maybe.” Sergei batted his eyes. “You have to admit, it gets the point across.”

Roy laughed. “Well, I think you scared him good.”

“That’s the idea.” Sergei headed back out to the lounge, ignoring the creepy tingling where the asshole’s hands had landed. He was used to a lot of things in this job, but the groping still made his skin crawl. Oh well. Occupational hazard.

As he stepped up to the bar for some water, Jesse, one of the other strippers, came running up to him.

“Hey, Sergei.” Jesse grabbed his arm, eyes huge and face white. “We gotta call the cops.”

“What? Why?”

He gestured shakily at the back door. “I was outside having a smoke, and some guys pulled up. Started fucking up some dude they pulled outta the trunk.”

Oh, shit. Not here. Not this close to where I work.

“No cops.” Sergei squeezed his shoulder and started toward the back. “I’ll chase ’em off.”

“What?” Hot on his heels, Jesse said, “Dude, they’re big guys! They’re—”

“I’ve got this. Relax.”

Jesse exhaled sharply and muttered, “Your funeral.”

“I mean it.” Sergei spun around and stabbed a finger at him. “No cops.”

“Okay, okay!” Jesse showed his palms. “No cops.”