The club seemed livelier than ever that night. 

The excitement of the men was tangible, the smell of alcohol and sweat nearly nauseating. She slipped backstage just in time to see a small group of women whispering in the corner. Her friend, Beth waved her over. 

"Ellie! You must hear this!" She whispered excitedly. 

"Hear what?" Ellie responded, matching her tone. 

Beth grabbed her arm and together they stepped away for a brief moment. "There's an investor coming tonight. Rumor has it that Ray is seeking to make an deal with him! Isn't it exciting?" 

Ellie's heart sank slightly. She knew that whenever a big shot entered the club that she always had to go above and beyond in her performances and there was almost always a special, private encore. It was moments like this when she found herself daydreaming of running away with Ray. It wasn't perhaps ideal given their relationship, but she was convinced that anything was better than the life she had now. 

She nodded in agreement, and excused herself. As she turned the corner to her dressing room, she tried to find any ounce of excitement and try to muster it. It was challenging, and she opened the door to her room, hoping to have a moment or two to herself. She was wrong of course, and greeted by Ray. He stood when she entered, smoothing his suit coat and giving her a warm smile.

"Hello, darling." 

She returned the smile, closing the door. "Ray." She replied. She noticed a box sitting next to him on the counter. "What is that?" She asked, stepping closer. 

Ray picked up the box. "I'm sure by now the girls have told you about tonight's special visitor." He began, setting it down in front of her. She nodded, and he continued. "Well, I wanted to reward you, for sticking with working here, and for staying with me. I know I've said it a thousand times but I will get you out of here. You're one of the most beautiful women around and it's been quite challenging to find someone who can measure up to your standards. So, as both a thank you and to mark the grandeur of tonight, I have something for you. I hope you like it." 

Her curiosity peaked, she slowly lifted the lid of the garment box. Inside was one of the most stunning costumes she'd ever seen. It was a long gown, with straps on the shoulders and a metallic shine somewhere between gold and silver. Black swirls danced around the fabric, and black gloves rested on top of it. "Ray," She breathed, lifting the gown. "It's absolutely beautiful...." She paused, turning to look at him. "Thank you." 

"Also, I've asked Beth to take your main spot tonight. I only want you to focus on our friend. Be in the exclusive room at 8:00." Ray instructed, stepping towards the door. 

"Ray," She began. "I don't know what else to say." 

"You don't need to say anything. Just make sure the duke has a good time, and sees us as a desirable partner. Can you do that?" 

She smiled. "It's like you don't know me at all." She taunted. 

He chuckled. "That's my girl. Now get dressed. We've got a big night ahead of us." He said, stepping out and closing the door behind him. She turned her attention back to the dress and sighed. 

A big night indeed. 

The End

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