1 19th Birthday

Kaiden hates this place.

He hates how the booming music seeps through the thin walls no matter where he is. He hates how difficult it is to force the thigh-high boots through his legs. He hates the way hungry eyes follow his every move while he dances on stage. He hates how cheap the pay is compared to the required physical strength it takes to shimmy up and down a pole in high heels.

Most of all, he hates how badly he needs the job. There are not a lot of places that will accept an omega who is barely out of high school. Even less so where he can release his pheromones without inhibition.

When he was younger, he never guessed he would one day be an omega dancer at a shady, pheromone nightclub, yet here he is, undressing in front of a flimsy locker in the dressing room.

If only he wasn't born with a higher concentration of pheromones, then maybe his family would not have kicked him out—maybe he won't be here.

Kaiden laughs at himself at that thought.

No, his sweet older sister will find a way to kick him out no matter what. After all, she did well in secretly tormenting him over the years. At least now, he's free. Broke—yes, but free.

The old smartphone in his hoodie buzzes. He accepts the call and places the phone between his shoulder and ear, both hands busy with tying the black corset around his waist.

"Hello," he says.

Kaiden is not surprised to hear his aunt's voice through the speakers. He has no one else, she is the only blood relative he has that cares for him. "Kaiden, how are you doing?"

"I'm doing well, Auntie Jean. I'm preparing for my shift." He turns back to look at the mirror in his locker, checking how tight the corset is from the back.

"Are you still working in that nightclub?" There's an obvious concern in her voice, and Kaiden feels warm upon hearing it. "They're not making you do things against your will, right?"

"Don't worry, Auntie. This is still a legal establishment no matter how shady it looks. I don't sell myself, just my pheromones."

He intends for his tone to be teasing, a light joke, but his beloved aunt doesn't take it that way. Her voice is laced with sadness as she complains, "What is your idiotic father doing? One child is working himself to the bone while the other lives like a princess. I should give him a piece of my mind once the guests leave."

"Don't do that," he says, quickly stopping her. "You know how your brother gets. It's best not to get in trouble."

The line goes silent for a while because Jean can't refute Kaiden's words. She also can't chastise her nephew for refusing to properly address his father, not when he hasn't been a proper one in years. She's at a complete loss for words, feeling sorrow and anger on behalf of the child.

As if sensing his aunt's heartache, Kaiden takes advantage of the lull in the conversation to switch to a lighter topic, asking, "Are you enjoying the engagement party?"

Jean, aware of her nephew's good intentions, responds with a scoff. "It's as obnoxious as always."

"You know my older sister has the /best/ taste, after all."

Her haughty laughter rings through the phone, and as if infected by her joyful mocking, Kaiden can't stop the grin that forms on his face at the expense of his sister.

"Seeing the so-called 'love of her life' tonight, I wonder where she got the audacity to claim that you tried to seduce her fiancé." She continues with the derision, "The guy is barely a tenth of your beauty."

Kaiden says nothing, already numb to his sister's schemes.

"That little witch even said in her speech that their love is tried and tested. If by tried she means he tried to get in your pants and then tested your father's tolerance for bullshit, then yeah, it is."

He hums in assent and allows his aunt to rant for a minute, fully aware of how emotionally exhausting a party hosted by the Westers can get. Jean has always been called the 'black sheep' in the family and seeing as how this prestigious family cut off relations with him, it seems that Kaiden is the current beholder of the title.

Even so, he won't trade places with Jean if given the chance. He will rather shake his hips to sensual music than trade fake smiles and forced courtesy with the rest of high society. He doesn't have to be wary of being stabbed behind his back when all he's doing is dance.

"She really got Kramer wrapped around her little finger." Jean refers to her brother—Kaiden's father and the current Wester patriarch, with obvious disrespect.

"She's always been his favorite," Kaiden replies as he puts the rest of his belongings inside the locker.

"And you're mine."

"I know, Auntie. I love you." He looks at the clock hanging on the wall. It's almost time for his shift.

"I love you too, Kaiden. Remember that my doors are always open for you."

He hums in agreement, not wanting to have this conversation again, before ending the call with a promise to call some other time. She offered to take him in when he was chased out of the Wester family home, and he still refuses again and again. It will be too troublesome if she is to actually do that. He's sure his sister will only torment the both of them if he's ever around the vicinity.

It's safer this way, hiding in some faraway city with a job that pays him under the table. To Kaiden, there are fewer dangers in Nysus City than a vicious relative who wants him dead.

He puts the phone in his locker as he pushes the thoughts away. Telling himself that his bills will not pay themselves, he gives himself a mental pep talk to endure another night full of lewd gazes. 

He walks through the dressing room door and makes his way to the dance floor. The air heavy with aroused pheromones is the same as always.

As he silently prays for the night to pass without any incident, he mutters to himself, "Happy 19th birthday to me."

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