Deuce McCall slammed the office door after his assistant Cindy sidled in, her head down as she focused on filing a broken fingernail, the Charleston Post and Courier dangling from the hand with the broken nail. A skinny little waif in her mid-twenties with mousy brown hair hastily scrunched up into a loose bun, a virginal puffed-sleeve white and peach floral blouse, and a russet corduroy mini-skirt so short it angered her boss for its distracting qualities, she was the glue that kept the Charleston club running when he was away. Unafraid of her often intimidating boss – and that was saying something, because most of the Renegade staff were indeed cowed by him – and happy to indulge his physical needs as they arose, she was a gal who took life with a grain of salt and a shrug-your-shoulders C’est la vie attitude.
She yawned during Deuce’s tirade.
Her boss was literally growling, his balding head blooming with an interesting vague purple tinge. “I am not interested in hearing about how well Jessie Wheeler’s fundraising campaign for teen addicts is going, and no, I am definitely NOT donating to the cause.”
Grabbing the Post and Courier out of Cindy’s manicured fingers, Deuce threw it on the floor by her teetering high-heeled sandals. It landed right side up, the headline glaring Charleston’s girl does it again.
“This city has a short memory. Jessie lived here for what, three years, if that? And what did she do here – she played in my club and prostituted herself the same as the rest of you sluts. In my mind, she doesn’t bear remembering, much less celebrating.”
Inside, he was churning, but it wouldn’t do to let cocky Cindy know how he really felt, that Jessie was his and would always be his. That he was in the thick of planning how to coerce her into becoming his for eternity. That he, Deuce McCall, had big plans for the former lounge singer who so unceremoniously quit his employ just over a decade ago, almost single-handedly destroying his business. Never mind that things had picked up in the last few years of Jessie’s fame, when word got out she once worked at the Renegade.
Trying to keep the place afloat had been hell for a while. Deuce was humiliated in the business community and amongst his own family, including a father who loved to smoke a pipe on his front porch in nearby Mount Pleasant and declare Deuce a failure – not just in business, but also in life. Deuce had been biding his time, choosing the right moment to strike. Especially after that yuppie kid’s death, the boyfriend, he felt he ought to lay low. But the time was coming. Jessie might think he was out of her life, but after his test run with that Terri kid, he was growing more and more hungry to speak face to face with her again, to see the fear in Jessie’s eyes at the moment she realized he was still in control.
Deuce glanced down at the newspaper as Cindy lounged coquettishly in the corner and prepared a soothing glass of brandy for her boss. He blinked, and then peered closer. What is this? With a pointed velvety white snakeskin boot, he toed the paper closer. Huh. She is dating her co-star. What’s his name? Josh?
Grinning spitefully as he lowered his tight butt into the red leather office chair, Deuce anchored his feet on the expansive glass desk with its neat piles of papers and notes, and lit a cigar. Well. That explains the new sparkle in Jessie’s eyes – a look he hadn’t seen in her photos with Charlie. She had a new man in her life, one that made her feel the way she felt with that Sandy kid a decade ago. Suddenly Deuce knew exactly what he needed to do in order to get access to Jessie once again. The timing was perfect. He had ammunition. And its name was Josh.
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