Excerpt from Served Cold

A pack of the kind of boys her mother was usually too drunk to warn her about took to following her when she walked home from school. At first, Layla was flattered. But one simmering afternoon, under the banyan and the Spanish moss, she learned a brutal lesson about the kind of attention her new body attracted.

And when her mother's latest boyfriend started looking at her with those same hot lustful eyes, Layla cut and run. One way or another, she'd been running ever since.

At least the work came easy. Depending on how much she covered up, she could get anything from selling lingerie or perfume in a high-class department store, to exotic dancing. She soon learned to slip on different personae the same way she slipped on a low-cut top or a demure blouse.

Tonight she was wearing a tailored white dress shirt with frills down the front and a dinky little clip-on bow tie. Classy joint. The last time she’d worn a bow-tie to wait tables, she’d worn no top at all.

The fat guy in charge of the wait staff was called Steve and had hands to match his roving eye. That he’d seen beyond Layla’s homely face was mainly because he rarely looked his female employees above the neck. Layla had noted the way his eyes glazed and his mouth went slack and the sweat beaded at his receding hairline, and she wondered if this was another gig she was going to have to try out for on her back.

She didn’t, in the end, but only because Steve thought of himself as sophisticated, she realised. The proposition would no doubt come after. Still, Steve only let his pants rule his head so far. Enough to let Layla—and the rest of the girls—know that he’d be taking half their tips tonight. Anyone who tried to hold anything back would be out on her ass.

Layla didn’t care about the tips. That wasn’t why she was here, anyhow.