In a daring departure from the standard lesbian mystery, this exciting new author brings you a brilliant crime novel of love, deception and revenge. A novel that will take you deep into the dark side of desire and engulf you in wave after wave of raw eroticism and heartpounding suspense . . .
Fully clothed, Brett parted the shower curtain. Desire hung in the air like the mist on the bathroom mirror and Storm felt her nakedness more than she ever had on stage. Brett brought her lips to Storm’s and they kissed as the water from the shower came down on them like a thunderstorm’s rain.
“You’re gonna get wet,” Storm panted.
“Do I look like I care?” Brett replied, pulling Storm’s mouth back to her own.
Sometimes, there is a fine line between right and wrong, between good and evil. As lieutenant to the owner of a chain of adult bookstores and “entertainment centers,” Brett Higgins walks that fine line. People often mistook the tall, broad-shouldered woman for a man, but Storm never did. She knew right from the start what Brett was, and she liked it. The problem was, so many others did too . . .
WHEN THE DANCING STOPS
Cold rain, threatening an early Michigan winter, pelted her as she got out of her car and walked to the nearby gathering. The wind whipped through the trees, making them dance to its own bizarre tune while leaves were blown from limbs to scuttle across clearings. The sky above broiled while dark clouds fought one another in an ongoing battle of dominance. No winner was in sight.
It was the sort of dreary, early fall day that should have been spent in front of a roaring fire with a lover, a soft blanket, a bear rug, a bottle of champagne and a bowl of strawberries. She no longer had any of that. She shivered and pulled her coat closer. The darkness of the day matched her mood.
The cemetery was cold and gray as she stood just outside the huddled ring of people, wondering if they knew she was the one who had pulled the trigger. She pulled her hat a bit lower.
A tall woman with dark hair and a black umbrella was speaking, and the words floated across the clearing like smoke. “Although some try to say otherwise, she was a good person...”
A cold gust of wind blew across the clearing and she pulled her coat closer, fervently hoping no one recognized her. She stared at the coffin being lowered into the ground and a cloud of emotion, darker than any on this cold and uncaring day, swept over her like a rag. Too young to die, she thought to herself, too much left to do and say...
“Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust...”
The few moments it took to end a life were chiseled onto her mind like the lettering on the tombstone. When she closed her eyes she again felt the cold steel of the gun in her hand, heard the blast as the shots rang out, felt the pull of the recoil. She saw the body crumple into a pool of blood. Angry lightning had flashed through the night sky. She saw the dream of what could have been die with the woman she loved. The only woman she could ever truly love.
She shivered as her heart tightened, as the tears ran from her eyes. She shook with the pain that would forever be hers. She was sad, hurt and vengeful; but most of all, she was filled with regret.
Part One: Friends and Foes
Chapter 1—The Dance Begins
It was the early ‘90s and the Democrats had just taken control of the U.S. legislature. Bush still chose the decor of the Oval Office, and a storm was brewing in the deserts half a world away. All of this made no difference to Rick DeSilva and Brett Higgins, who met at Six Mile and Woodward in Detroit—Motown, the Motor City, the Murder Capital of the World. All that mattered to them was the bottom line.
The building they met in was decorated with a frieze that proclaimed it had once housed the Highland Park National Bank. Now it was home to an adult theater, an escort service, and a pornography distributor and held the offices of Rick, Brett and Frankie Lorenzini, the people who ran those businesses, as well as a few others. Rick was the owner, worried mostly about expanding the businesses, Brett was the advertising/marketing head and general manager, and Frankie took care of problems.
Rick looked up as Brett entered his office and poured herself a drink. He reached underneath his desk and brought forth a black leather briefcase, which he slammed down and opened for Brett’s inspection. Brett leaned against the large oak desk, which he had bought when he first took over the business, saying that no real work could be accomplished on the old stainless steel one his father had used.
“There it is, fifty grand, all in twenties,” Rick said, standing and crossing his arms in front of his lean frame. At only 5’10” and 165 pounds, Rick preferred to show his power through his actions and possessions rather than his size. He always dressed immaculately in expensive suits with silk ties, fashioning himself after a rich businessman, because that was what he imagined himself to be. “Twenty-five hundred little pieces of green paper.”
“For a few million particles of dust.” Brett leafed through the cash, liking the feel of the money and the way it looked, situated all nice and neat in the case. “And I always thought Ralph just liked the dancers.” She pulled out the engraved Zippo a woman had once given her and with one hand expertly opened it, flipped a flame and lit her Marlboro.
“He does. But he also likes the cash. Being a cop don’t pay much.”
“And who better to get the shit through Detroit Metro?”
“I really don’t give a rat’s ass how they beef up airport security—if the right people have a good enough reason to get it through, it gets through.”
Brett took a sip of her Glenfiddich single malt scotch and walked over to the window to gaze at the grim day and the busy street below. Woodward at Six Mile—no one ever referred to streets anywhere in the metropolitan area with “Street” or “Boulevard” or “Avenue”—was corroded with potholes, bordered by burnt buildings, broken pay phones, abandoned buildings and a few working but disreputable convenience stores and laundromats. Some said Detroit was making a comeback, but she didn’t think it was possible. Detroit had always relied on the auto-makers for its sustenance, but now the cars were being manufactured overseas, leaving Detroit a mere has-been of a city. Rick came up behind her.
“As long as they demand, we’ll get the supply,” she said.
“That something you learned in college?” Rick asked, frowning at a splotch on the window.
“Sort of,” Brett replied as Rick cleaned the smudge.
Frankie Lorenzini, a big man at 6’ 6” and 275 pounds who looked every bit of his Italian heritage, entered the room and gazed at them with sleepy eyes. He grabbed the briefcase, slammed it shut and handed it to Brett.
“You goin’ anywhere from here?” Frankie asked.
“Just to the rap group in Ferndale,” Brett replied.
“Storm’s been askin’ ‘bout you.”
“That so?” Brett checked herself out in the mirror, quickly smoothing her hair back. She had just changed from her work clothes into black Levismen’s 550 jeans and a black T-shirt. She picked up her well-worn black leather jacket and flipped it over her shoulder.
“Maybe you should stop by and say hello.” Rick buttoned the jacket on his tailored suit. “Frankie’ll watch the case.” He escorted them from his office, locking the door behind him.
The trio headed down the stairs. Frankie and Brett headed into the theater and Rick went off for a meeting about other forms of business. He was always interested in expansion.
Allie climbed into her dusty blue Geo Prizm and silently hoped the rain wouldn’t turn into snow.
She thought about the end of the fall and how it was like the end to a chapter of her life. She hoped the next chapter would be better than the last. She hung a right onto Big Beaver and headed west, toward Woodward. She wondered if I-75 would be a better route to take, but she didn’t want to risk getting stuck in the evening rush hour traffic. She was a bit nervous tonight; she didn’t want to be late because this was the first time she was going to the Women’s rap group at Affirmations, the local LesBiGay Community Center. Up until now she had only ever gone to their youth group.
At 17, Allison Sullivan had always been her daddy’s little kitten—pretty, cute, shy. She loved her father, who was a design engineer at General Motors. He had given her the Prizm for her Sweet 16, wanting her to know he trusted her and realized she was old enough to start having greater independence.
John and Maggie Sullivan had all but given up hopes of ever having children when Maggie became pregnant with Allie. When he was younger, John wanted both a son and a daughter, but he was thankful when Allie was born free from defects and that Maggie came through it all right as well. They had been worried, as they were both in their early forties by the time Maggie got pregnant, and there is a great deal of danger in having a first child that late in life.
Allie loved her parents, and wanted to be everything they wanted her to be, but then, exactly one year ago, Allie’s best friend Cybill told her she was a lesbian. Then came that fateful Saturday, when she woke up all alone in the house—her parents were at the mall. She walked into the bathroom and looked into the mirror: full lips; a small, dainty nose; long, wavy, golden hair that had covered the faces of so many guys as she lay upon them; clear, deep blue eyes; a sexy 5’8” near-model body that guys seemed to want with its long legs and tiny waist.
She looked into the mirror, took a deep breath and said the words too long denied and delayed: “Allie, you are a lesbian.”
And it felt good, it felt right. But Cybill didn’t see it that way.
“No, Allie, you’re just confused,” Cybill had said later that evening as she calmly sipped her wine at the dining room table in her apartment. The dinner dishes lay scattered around them.
“I am not confused!”
“You just see the fun we have...”
“It has nothing to do with you—this is about me.”
“Don’t let me be a role model to that extent.”
“Why can’t you, of all people, understand that this is just the way I am?”
“Some friend you are—first you come out, and then you can’t understand it when I do!” Allie cried as she ran from the apartment. She was hurt when Cybill didn’t follow. She never found out what Cybill was thinking and feeling that night.
Thank God for Erin, though. Cybill apparently felt so guilty about Allie’s “delusions,” she told her 21-year-old girlfriend Erin about it, and Erin was the one who gave Allie a shoulder to lean on. She also introduced her to the youth group at Affirmations. That was what became her true life preserver in the storm to follow. Of course, that was also where she first met Kirsten.
She had driven by the building which housed the group several times, on several different weekends, before she screwed up the courage to enter.
She sneaked into the group and looked around, trying to go unnoticed. There were about fifteen guys, and only five other women, and all of them were greeting one another with hugs and kisses, regardless of sex. Before she could find a corner to crawl into, a woman with shoulder-length auburn hair walked up to her. Although she wasn’t the most gorgeous woman Allie had ever seen, there was something sensual and sexy about her.
“Hi, stranger,” she said. And Allie remembered, to this day, with some embarrassment, that the first thing she noticed about Kirsten were her tits.
“Uh, hi,” Allie nervously replied to the floor. Dirt was ingrained into the worn tiles, becoming a part of the pattern.
“This your first time here?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“You look like you wanna run the hell out of here.”
“Oh.” Allie felt a blush rise up to her cheeks.
“C’mon, you can sit next to me.” Kirsten took Allie’s hand and led her to two vacant seats. Allie knew everything was going to be all right.
As it turned out, everything was more than all right. The first time Allie kissed Kirsten, she knew for sure. The softness of those lips, the gentleness no guy could ever match, the feeling of another woman’s body pressed against hers... It all added up—the soft, melodic voice, the smooth legs, and the chest that was so like a pillow after sex—now it all made sense, these were the things that turned her on, that made her melt. Allie finally knew why men loved women as much as they did.
Allie wanted a relationship just like her parents had—lasting, loving, nurturing. She wanted to build both a home and a life with someone, a life that would endure through the hard times and shine during the good.
Kirsten, a senior at Cousino High School in Warren, had been out since she was fourteen. She shared her first hand knowledge about being gay with Allie, showing her how two women communicated, where to meet other lesbians and how to interact with the community as a whole. Kirsten made Allie feel important, wanted. She was good for Allie, in the beginning at least. Until Allie found out more about her.
Kirsten liked things her way; everything had to be just so. They dated for three months, and although they had never discussed monogamy, Allie had heard of an unwritten lesbian code that said one should only date one woman at a time. Apparently no one ever told Kirsten this.
At first she thought it was just rumors spread by jealous people who had no one. Then she began to pay attention and started to notice a pattern to the times Kirsten wasn’t available, realized that Kirsten avoided conversations about what she did when she wasn’t in school, at work or with Allie. When Allie confronted her on the subject, she skillfully denied it. She denied it throughout their entire break-up, then plied Allie with gifts and attention, trying to win her back.
“You know,” Kirsten said a few weeks later when they ran into each other at group. “We coulda had it so good.”
“We can still be friends.”
“I’m willing to give you another chance.”
“Give me another chance? I don’t need another chance. You were the one that screwed up.”
“That was only until I realized how much you meant to me,” Kirsten replied, always quick on her feet and with her tongue. In more ways than one.
“How much I meant to you? That only became apparent when you knew I was outta there.”
“All those other women meant nothing...”
“So you finally admit you were cheating on me.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“You sound just like a man!” Allie headed for the exit.
“Allison!” Kirsten called. Allie looked at her. “You don’t know loneliness like you’ll know if you walk out that door.”
Allie felt like her best friend had just killed her dog. Intentionally.
• • • • •
It was all of that that led Peggy, one of Affirmations’ youth group facilitators, to suggest that Allie might want to try going to the women’s rap group instead. She thought Allie was mature enough to fit in and would only be further hurt by continued contact with Kirsten, and Allie definitely wanted to keep going to Affirmations, because she always felt like she belonged there.
With Tina, Allie thought she found it all: looks, common interests, brains and a cute ass. They had both tested the waters and felt good about becoming serious, or so she thought, and she even entertained notions of settling down with Tina, or at least she had until two weeks ago, when she decided to pay a surprise visit to Tina. And surprise it was, for both of them. Maybe for all three of them, but then again, maybe not.
Allie had walked into Tina’s bedroom to find Tina with her face buried between Kirsten’s naked thighs.
Especially during the past week, as she nursed both her broken heart and ego, Allie found solace in imagining herself in uniform. She knew her parents wanted her to go to college, get an education and go on to be a white-collar worker, maybe even a doctor or lawyer, but she couldn’t picture herself as a desk jockey; she had too much energy and loved people too much for that. Plus she also knew her father wouldn’t retire until she finished school, so she wouldn’t get an advanced degree.
There had been cops in her family for as long as she could remember—her grandpa and Uncle Jack. She thought it was about time a woman joined. She remembered the way people looked at her grandpa, the respect and admiration they gave him, she gave him, and she imagined people looking at her that way—seeing beyond her hair, face and body and respecting her both for her accomplishments and what she could do.
People would learn to take her seriously.
Storm walked along the wall to the stage as the men hooted and hollered and the slow, agonizing, almost religious music of Enigma filled the auditorium. Pictures on the huge screen cast strange, flickering lights upon the audience and the stage lights cast light and shadow across Storm’s body, making her slightly olive-colored skin all the more exotic. She walked onstage in her small, tight red dress and threw her long black hair back over her shoulders, boldly staring with dark eyes across the rows of seated men, as diverse in their skin color as they were alike in their appetites.
She started moving to the music and the men quieted. Her movements were slow, subtle and sexy—sexy as she inched her thin skirt up to display shapely legs clad in stiletto heels and fishnet stockings, sexy as she pulled her top down just enough to reveal the curves of her full breasts. Her job was sex, and she did her job well.
In the darkness of the auditorium, with its black walls and floors, cigarette-burnt seats and sticky floor, Storm spun, strutted and stretched, revealing her body slowly, bit by bit, for the admiration of the drooling men in the audience. She danced not for the men, but for herself.
It was into this murkiness that Brett came. She looked about, adjusting to the sudden darkness, listening to the heavy breathing of the men as they released their ever swelling members from the tight restraints of their pants. But it was the smell that was the worst, the smell of sweat and filth and urine and semen, the smell of stale cigarette smoke and new cigarette smoke, the smell of men in their most primal state.
Brett sat in the center of the auditorium where the nearest client was several seats from her and looked to the stage, where Storm danced for herself.
Storm pulled down the top of her dress to reveal her luscious breasts in their entirety. She licked her lips and stretched, still moving to the music, as she slowly looked over the audience until she found Brett. Her dark eyes met Brett’s and she smiled a soft, sultry, knowing smile. She stepped out of the dress and casually tossed it to the side.
Wearing only fishnets, g-string and heels, she didn’t dance for the men, she didn’t dance for herself, she danced for Brett. As she spread her legs, to hint at the secrets there, as she fondled her smooth breasts and excited the nipples even more, as she moved to the music and thrust her hips out, as she slid her g-string off, she did it for Brett.
When she tossed her g-string to Brett, Brett deftly caught it and smiled, then brought it up to her nose to inhale the intoxicating scent. She slowly smiled as Storm turned and spread her legs, legs that Brett imagined wrapped around her waist, wrapped around her neck.
Storm ran her hands over her body, stopping to tease the nearly bursting nipples, before she opened the lips of her pussy and spread her legs wider still. She dipped the tip of her finger into her own juices and slowly brought it up to her lips to lick it like a lollipop.
The beat of the music became her heartbeat and the beat played on. All that existed were Storm and Brett and the music. The music that swelled and filled the air like static electricity, with its beat that controlled their groins, pulsating their cunts like a lapping tongue.
The song ended. Storm strutted, proud in her body, proud in her nakedness, to the control panel to dim the lights. And as Brett stood to leave, Storm walked up to her.
“I believe you have something of mine.” Storm’s voice was husky as she pushed her thick hair back over her shoulders.
“And what will you give me for it?”
“What would you like?” She wrapped her arms around Brett’s neck and pressed her naked body into Brett’s.
Brett slid her hands around Storm’s waist, pulling her crotch in to touch her own, and as the next song started, as the next beat invaded their universe, Storm and Brett stood, melded as one, in a room full of men.
“This one’s on the house,” Storm murmured in Brett’s ear as she pushed her into the seat and sat on her lap.
Brett knew the dancers were supposed to wear a g-string when performing lap dances, but this was a special lap dance given only for her.
Storm swayed on Brett’s lap, her arms around Brett’s shoulders, and the beat played on. Strange images on the screen cast weird lights throughout the auditorium. Brett ran her hands over Storm’s body, examining her curves, touching the tender skin behind her knees, enjoying the softness of her breasts and the hardness of her nipples. Brett buried her face in the bountiful flesh of Storm’s breasts and ran her tongue over Storm’s nipples.
Storm groaned and pushed Brett’s hands between her legs. “I want you.”
“And what if you can’t have me?” Brett teased, pulling Storm’s mouth to her own while Storm wrapped her long legs around Brett’s waist. Brett shoved Storm’s back against the seat in front of them as Storm’s moans increased.
Brett’s fingers explored Storm’s wetness, expert in finding just what they sought as they opened Storm to the chilly air. Brett toyed with her; she flicked the hardened clit back and forth while the men around them merely pretended to watch the movie where people fucked like minx but never looked like they enjoyed it.
And the beat played on as Brett bit Storm’s nipples. Her fingers grasped the place of being and pulled, flicked and teased.
Not one man failed to notice Storm’s moans as every part of her body tightened and she came.
When Brett left the auditorium, Frankie was standing in the entry smiling at her. “Didja have fun?”
“I always have fun,” Brett said coolly, licking her fingers. “Where’s the case?”
Brett left the building, walked around the corner, climbed into her black Ford Probe and took off, heading north on Woodward to the weekly lesbian rap group at Affirmations, which she tried to make once a month.
Brett was the youngest of seven children, the only girl. Her mother never wanted a girl, because girls only grew up to relive the horror of their mother’s lives. Thus, Alice Higgins turned the other way when her husband and sons beat and abused the young Brett. Although Brett was haunted by nightmares, the only thing she’d ever tell anyone about her childhood was that it gave her strength and the will to succeed. She fought hard through high school, excelling in her classes while maintaining two jobs so she could pay for college, even if she couldn’t get a scholarship. She wanted to get out of the house and away from her family.
Her bachelor’s degree in business from Michigan State University had led her to her position as Rick DeSilva’s first lieutenant. It had been a strange journey, but at 23 she was right hand to the mogul of porn in the Motor City, supervising not only the House of Kinsey, Rick’s LesBiGay book and giftstore, but also Rick’s adult theater, eight adult bookstores, phone sex service, escort service and distribution service, which supplied the surrounding areas with magazines, toys, videos and a few other items. Plus, she had a hand in his more creative enterprises as well. She found her job fun, challenging and interesting. She liked hopping from one activity to another—one minute she’d be taking care of deposits or tracking inventory and sales, discovering what the diverse men who came into these places wanted, from the dancers to the products, and a little later she’d be on the street or in a bar somewhere recruiting a new dancer or escort.
Brett noticed flashing lights behind her. She swore, pulled over and watched as the officer approached.
“Do you know how fast...” he began.
“Hey, Ralph!” Brett said to the regular Paradise Theater patron, whom she was to meet with later that night.
“Shit, Brett—if I’d known it was you, I woulda called for backup.”
Brett laughed as she mimicked him. “‘Attention, this is Ralph. I’m in hot pursuit of a dyke doin’ five miles over the speed limit. Request backup.’”
“Five miles? Try twenty-five! And there’s no tellin’ what all you got in this piece of shit...”
“Few dildos, coupla magazines—nothin’ that’s illegal in this town.”
“How ‘bout your gun? Or maybe some drugs?”
“So, Ralph, how’s the wife?”
A few minutes later Brett was again heading north on Woodward. As she pulled into the parking lot across from Affirmations she glanced at her watch and realized she was a bit later than she had planned. She hurriedly ran her hands through her hair, grabbed a bottle of cologne from the glove compartment and spritzed herself. She reflexively checked around before she climbed out of the car with the briefcase, which she locked in the trunk before setting the alarm.
Affirmations was located in Ferndale, a small community just north of Detroit where the crime rate was so low she had once seen three police cars show up to investigate grand theft dog food—someone had stolen three bags of dog food from a local grocery store.
Eight Mile was the demarcation line between Detroit and its neighboring suburbs. On the south side of the road was the #1 murder city in the U.S., and to the north were all of the nice places to live. An old joke was that signs on northbound roads heading out of Detroit said “Last one out, turn off the lights,” because no one really lived there. This pissed Brett off, because even though she had worked hard to get out, she was born and raised in the city.
In Ferndale Brett wasn’t worried about the safety of her Probe. If she drove a Jag or a Porsche, she might, but that was the reason she’d bought the inconspicuous Ford.
Shortly after she moved back to town after college she had come to Affirmations, to one of the multifarious rap groups the center had, and had had to search first for the poorly marked building, then for the exact room where the meeting was hidden. Now she quickly crossed the street to the red brick building, noticing along the way A Woman’s Prerogative, the new women’s bookstore, just a few doors down. She made a mental note to check out the competition sometime soon.
She walked quickly under the dirty red canopy, opened the glass door to the old building and energetically leapt up two flights of squeaky stairs to the meeting.
The fairly large, well-lit room was warm from the fifty women jammed together in a rough circle. Brett shrugged off her black leather jacket and took one of the last vacant seats, which was just outside the circle in a corner.
A tall, good-looking woman entered. Brett noted her long, blond hair, which fell like a halo about her head. She had a slender figure and wore a leather bomber’s jacket, brightly patterned silk shirt and khaki dress slacks. Brett held her breath and smiled when the woman spotted the empty chair near hers.
For the rest of the meeting, Brett kept glancing at this stranger who looked out of place and nervous amidst the group. She was over-dressed, as if she were trying to prove something. Even Brett had changed out of her normal attire—a man’s suit with a silk shirt and tie. As soon as the meeting was over and everyone stood in preparation to depart, Brett looked at the woman. Or, that was the game plan—but somehow she had vanished and some other woman was launching herself at Brett.
“Hi! I’m Shelly!”
“So, what’d you think of the discussion?”
Who was paying attention? “It was, ah, interesting.”
“I just think it’s so exciting that the Democrats have control of the House and Senate...”
Someone yelled her name and grabbed Brett from behind. Brett turned around just in time to catch Denise, who leapt into the air and wrapped her legs around Brett’s waist, hugging her tight. Brett laughed and swung Denise around in a circle before landing her back on the ground. She took both Denise’s hands in her own and stepped back for a long, appreciative look at bobbed, brown hair, trim figure and twinkling eyes. Denise hadn’t changed much at all since that lustful first term at college.
“Oooo! You are so-o-o butch!” Denise squealed in delight as she gave Brett a big hug and Brett lifted her off the floor again.
Shelly cleared her throat.
“Shit,” Brett whispered into Denise’s ear, putting her back on the floor. “You’ve got to save me.”
Denise pulled Brett’s mouth to her own, saying, “You gotta kiss for me, lover?” Brett was all too willing to oblige, and while they reacquainted themselves, Shelly wandered off to make another new friend.
“Almost as good as I remember,” Brett said.
“You must be losing it in your old age.”
“Honey, I lost it long ago.”
“Many will testify to that.”
“I should get you for that.”
“You had me long ago.”
“Not that long ago,” Denise said as she wrapped her arms around Brett’s neck. Over the years, Brett wondered if she and ‘Nise had done the right thing by breaking up, but even though she still loved her as a friend, she knew they had.
“Hey, watch out.” Brett pushed Denise away as her mystery woman returned. “I’m cruising someone else.”
Brett noticed the woman’s long, curly blond hair, aristocratic nose and long legs—legs long enough to wrap around her waist twice. She smiled to herself as Shelly launched herself at the woman, who shyly tried to pull away while she looked over at Brett, who could only stare into her clear, piercing blue eyes. Brett suddenly realized they were almost the same height—something Brett was not accustomed to at 5’10”. Brett felt her knees go weak.
“Breathe.” Denise stood by Brett’s side, then said, “Let’s take a walk.” She took Brett by the arm and led her across the room.
“Excuse me,” Denise began, cutting off Shelly’s barrage. “But my name’s Denise and this is my friend Brett and she would really like to commit a felony with you.”
Brett playfully punched Denise’s shoulder, Shelly turned red and bustled off, and the blond’s jaw dropped before she burst out in laughter.
“Should I be pissed or glad that you got rid of that woman?” she said.
“I’m gonna...” Brett began, but Denise glanced at her watch and cut her off.
“Oh my! Will you look at the time? I’ve just got to get home!” Denise said with a smirk, quickly heading for the door.
“Is your friend always so blatant?” the woman asked, carefully eyeing Brett’s slender, muscular frame up and down.
“My friend is gonna die real soon.”
The woman leaned in close and in a throaty whisper murmured, “Does that mean you don’t want to fuck me?”
Brett dropped her jacket.
“...Meanwhile, When the Dancing Stops is in my bookbag burning the proverbial hole. It is a sexually explicit story set in the porn industry. When the Dancing Stops is a story written for lesbians, by a lesbian, about lesbians who enjoy public and private sex acts. Although it is set in the sex industry, male sexuality is not the focus—males are only observers, and the two males who try to move beyond this position are summarily disposed of. It is the women's sexuality that is developed, explored, and empowered...”
—J.A. Myers, The Lesbian Review of Books, Summer 1998
• • • • •
“...Brett Higgins is the manager of a chain of adult entertainment venues, pornography stores, and places where a napkin is not what will end up on your lap... Therese Szymanski clearly has done some research about the sex trades and sex workers... The plot, with its various permutations concerning drugs, prostitution, undercover sting operations, unrequited love, stalking, and bringing the little woman home to meet mom and dad, covers a lot of ground...”
—Deborah Peifer, Bay Area Reporter, December 25, 1997
• • • • •
“When the Dancing Stops is definitely for those women who say all lesbian mysteries are too white, middle class, or vanilla. It is decidedly a “walk on the wild side” complete with lots of very hot, very rough sex. It tells the story of Brett Higgins, a tough woman who has pulled herself up from the wrong side of Detroit to become one of the three people who head a company specializing in adult bookstores, videos andporno houses. Brett, a definite butch, has succeeded in a man's world by being very strong and by doing what needs to be done... Brett walks the fine line between right and wrong; with actions that are definitely questionable in the eyes of the police. In this long novel that covers a span of about six years, the reader is able to see what becomes of three women and the choices they are forced to make. Billed as “The First Brett Higgins Mystery,” Szymanski has given us a decidedly different heroine that will assault the reader on many levels, including those of values, eroticness, and sensitivity. For a rewarding venture into an entirely new country, look for When the Dancing Stops...”
—R. Lynne Watson, MegaScene, Palm Springs, October 1, 1998
(fact truly is sometimes
stranger than fiction)
During college, and for a while after, I wrote plays. Won a couple of awards for doing so, even. So I was writing, but it was playwriting, not novel or short story or regular fiction-type writing. But then, after college, I couldn’t find a job in my field, so I ended up simultaneously managing a GLBT book and gift store, an adult theatre, an adult distributorship, and an adult bookstore.
Some friends said all of that was so different and interesting, I should write about it.
And then, one day, I was in the box office introducing dancers and Star was onstage. I had some time, waiting in the box office until the clerk showed up, that I put pen to paper and wrote the first bits of this book. Shortly thereafter I wrote some more and then a bit more, and got up to about 100 pages before I quit and put the project aside.
I kept on working on my playwriting and had several plays produced and signed contracts to have four of my plays published by the U.S. offspring of a British company. Unfortunately, before any of my plays were published, the top two people in the U.S. branch of that company were diagnosed with fatal diseases. Obviously they quit their day jobs and the company took it as a sign and closed up their U.S. shop.
I became disgusted and turned to fiction… namely to Dancing. I threw away every bit of those first 100 pages except for the scene where Storm dances, the bit I'd writtten that day in the box office, and that bit made it all the way into the finished book (as you can see above). Of course, back then, my submission to Naiad was known as When Two Souls Meet. Barbara Grier axed that title and I came up with a new one we both liked, which I later argued against, and, finally, the woman who wrote the jacket copy read the book and came up with the title we used, When the Dancing Stops.
One thing I'd like to mention is that those years between my first work on the book and when I actually wrote it gave me enough distance from the actual events to be able to write it. I was too attached to it in the beginning, shading it with too much reality to make it an effective work of fiction and that changed, for the better, when I waited a few years to write about it.
Now, once I finished writing it, I sent in my submission materials to Naiad. Snail-mailed them down to Tallahassee (remember, this was before the Internet was so big. I didn't know a single person with e-mail when I sent it to them. Not a single, solitary person). About a week later, Barbara Grier called me at work when I was on a commercial shoot, so I got a note from the receptionist.
I returned Barbara's call the next morning before I went into work. She used more four-letter words than I knew, and was appalled to hear I’d cut a sex scene. She asked me if Highland, the street I lived on, was anywhere near Highland Park, where she'd gone to high school. (Apparently at that time, she lived with her aunt and her aunt lied about where they lived so Barbara could go to the much better school in Highland Park.)
She ultimately told me to cut something like 60 pages from a 260-page manuscript. She expected to hear back from me in three months and I called her up three days later, instead. Ever ever since we’ve had a running joke that I stood on top of the Fisher Tower in downtown Detroit and randomly threw pages onto the street below. (Of course, some of that material made it back into the book before it went to press…)
Of course, before that could happen I had to wait about 16 months for Naiad to tell me they wanted my book… (Years later I discovered who sat on it for most of that time, but we were friends by then, so I couldn't hold it against her.) During all that time I waited, I occasionally called Naiad to tell them my work number was changing, or I was moving, or whatever other excuse I could come up with, and they kept telling me I could pull the book from them and take it elsewhere, but I stuck with it and am now very, very glad I did. After all, Naiad was the best, and I'm very glad for my time there, and getting to know Barbara and Donna a little bit, since they're incredibly wonderful women, and now I get to feel that I know a little piece of lesbian history.
As for everyone who read the book and asked me how I got Naiad to publish it, since they thought it was somewhat outside the box for Naiad—as in too risqué and sexual and all that—and would’ve expected it more from Alyson or Cleis, that’s another story of words entirely….
Okay, other notes:
I’ve often referred to Brett as my evil fraternal twin (she’s about 6 inches taller than me, after all).
I've got some friends who just ask me to tell them about things I haven't done, since I have done so much, down to managing a candy store/lunch counter/ice cream parlor/soda fountain during my last month in the adult industries.
I was a busy girl.
And you can buy the book from your local independent/feminist/LGBT or rockin' lesbian bookstore, or any really cool store that might sell books like mine.
Oh, and of course, you can buy it/find out about its availability and such from my terrific publisher, Bella Books.
My books are also available on a veritable plethora of online booksellers, including
all the Amazons in the world:
And a whole lot of other places.
Make sure to check out all of the heartpounding
Brett Higgins Motor City Thrillers!