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By Zara Cox
Read by Holly Chandler
Read by Fleet Cooper
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I love women. I love sex. I love money. I love hot, wild nights with no promise of a future, because a future is one thing I don’t have. I’m twenty-eight years old. I won’t live to see thirty, and I don’t care. Or I didn’t, until her.
Nobody plans for a life like this. Some of us just end up here.
They call me Lucky, though luck has never been on my side. Before I met Q, my life was a big, twisted mess. Never enough money, never anyone to trust. No way out. With Q, the shame and fear disappear. Instead I feel pure pleasure, and that’s something I’ve never had before. But if what I’ve just learned is true, we’d better enjoy every second together while we can…before our time runs out.
“An exotically filthy, devastatingly beautiful story that will captivate and tease you long after the book is finished.” — Audrey Carlan, New York Times bestselling author
Previously published as Porn Star
There’s no reason for me to be here. I don’t need to do it.
Not another one.
I have more than enough to work with. I should end it now.
It’s what I’ve been telling myself for months now.
Shit, who am I kidding?
Enough will never be enough. He has to pay for what he’s done with absolutely everything I can take away from him.
Besides, I have big enough balls to admit it’s become a rush. The delayed gratification is part of the game. It’s an addiction. In my jaded world where everything comes to me with a snap of my fingers, risky highs like these are to be treasured.
They’ll be gone in a blink of an eye. Just like every other pleasure in my life.
I peer at my watch.
I rise from my sofa, walk down the wide hallway and enter the empty room. It’s not completely empty, but it might as well be. I haven’t bothered to decorate since acquiring it six months ago when my time in Boston was done and I moved back to New York. It’s as if my subconscious knew I’d need it just for this purpose.
In the middle of the room, I grab the remote on the table and hit the power button. Three screens flicker to life. I sit down in the leather chair I’d placed in here earlier. Three faces stare back at me. The darkness and mirrored glass means they won’t see me as clearly. Even if they do, my mask is in place. My black clothing and leather gloves take care of the rest of my disguise.
Anonymity is key. I’m too well-known for anything else to be acceptable. Or acceptable for now, at least. Who knows what’ll happen a month, two months from now? Every day I fight my impulse. I might wake up tomorrow and decide the time has come to give in, unveil my plan.
I’m not ashamed of taking this route to achieve what I want. Far from it. In fact destroying myself in the process is exactly what I’m aiming for. I want there to be absolutely nothing left to be sustained or redeemed by the time I’m done.
For now, though, my public role is integral to my grand plan. And since my sins are already numerous, I don’t have any qualms about adding vanity to them and admitting I love my other life. Keeping my identity secret adds to the thrill.
It’s all about the thrill for me. Without it, I risk prematurely succumbing to the dark abyss. The abyss my shrink keeps warning me I’m rimming.
She thinks it’s a revelation, that morsel of news she dropped in my lap three years ago. Little does she know I’ve been staring into that abyss since I was fifteen years old. I’ve stared into it for so long, it’s fused with me. We are one. We haven’t done our final dance yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
I’m twenty-eight years old.
I won’t live to see thirty.
It’s an immutable inevitability, so I take my pleasures where I can.
“You each have scripts in front of you. When I tell you to, read them out loud. You go first, Pandora.” I use a voice distorter because my natural voice contains a distinctive rasp that could give me away. Because of who I am, I’ve had cameras shoved in my face more times than I’ve had sex. And that’s saying something.
Pandora—fucking idiotic name—giggles, and her golden curls bounce in an eager nod. I suppress a growl of irritation and relegate her to the possibly maybe list.
“May I feel, said he.” She giggles again.
Ten seconds later, I place her firmly in the hell no list and press the intercom. She’s escorted out, and I switch my gaze to the next girl.
The redhead is staring into the camera, her full mouth tilted in an I-was-born-to-blow-you curve. I admit the lighting is better on her, but her eyes are a little too wide. Too green.
I adjust the camera and scrutinize her closer. “What color are your eyes? And don’t tell me they’re green. I can see the edges of your contacts.”
She flushes. “Umm…they’re grey.”
I check the notes on my tablet. “Missy, is that your real name too?”
She nods eagerly.
“Did you read the brief?”
“Umm…yeah,” she answers, her voice trailing off in a semi-question. This one is clearly dim.
“What did it say about lying?”
The blow-you expression drops. “They’re just contacts.” She leans forward, nearly knocking out the camera with her double Ds. “Here, I can take them out—”
“No, don’t bother. Your interview is over. Leave now, please,” I command in my best non-psycho voice, and press the intercom again.
I may be slightly unhinged, according to some spectrum my shrink keeps harping on about, but Mama, God rest her pure soul, taught me to be a gentleman. Mama’s worm food now, but that’s no reason for me not to honor her with a touch of politeness.
Missy’s lips purse, then part, as if she’s about to plead her case. The burly guard who enters the room and taps her on the shoulder convinces her words have lost their meaning at this point.
I turn to the last screen.
Her eyes are downcast. Her lashes are long enough to make me wonder if I have another fake on my hands. I sigh, then take in the rest of her face. No makeup, or barely any if she made the effort. Her lips are plump, lightly glossed. I use the controls on the remote to zoom in. There’s a tiny mole on the left side of her face, right above her upper lip. Not fake.
I zoom out, examine the rest of her that I can see. Her grey T-shirt is worn to the point of threadbare, and her collarbones are a little too pronounced. Malnourishment wouldn’t be a crowd-pleaser, but that problem can be easily taken care of.
Unlike the previous stock from which I plucked my prior subjects, she doesn’t seem like the BDSM club-going type. For a second, I wonder where my carefully placed adverts unearthed this one.
Beneath the T-shirt, her chest rises and falls in steady breathing, although the pulse hammering at her throat gives her away. I zoom in on the pulse. The skin overlaying it is smooth, almost silky, with the faintest wisps of caramel blonde hair feathering it.
Something about her draws me forward to the edge of my seat. I like her pretended composure. Most people fidget under the glare of a camera.
My gaze flicks to her skeleton bio. “Lucky.”
Slowly, she raises her head. Her eyelids flick up. Her eyes are a cross between green and hazel with a natural dark rim that pronounces its vividness. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but something about that look in her eye sparks my interest.
Hell, if I had a heart, I’d swear it just missed a beat.
“Is that your real name?”
She shrugs. “It might as well be,” she murmurs.
Fuck, I have another liar on my hands. “Cryptic may be sexy if you’re auditioning to be the next Bond Girl. It’s not going to work here. Tell me your real name. Or leave.”
“No.” Her voice is a sexy husk, enough to distract me for a second before her answer sinks in.
“With respect, you’re tucked away behind a camera issuing orders. I get that you hold the cards in this little shindig. But I’m not going to show you all of mine right from the start. My name, for the purposes of this interview, is Lucky. It may not officially be on my birth certificate, but I’ve responded to it since I was fifteen years old. That’s all you need to know.”
Well…fuck. I note with detached surprise that I’m almost within a whisker of cracking a smile.
I rub my gloved finger over my mouth, torn between letting her get away with mouthing off to me this way, and sending her packing.
Sure, she intrigues me. And whatever relevant truth I need would be dug out before she signs on the dotted line, should it come to that. But for this to work, she needs to obey my commands, no questions asked.
“Stand up. Move away from the camera until you reach the wall.”
She rises without question, restoring a little goodwill in her favor. Moving the chair out of her way, she backs up slowly. The hem of her loose T-shirt rests on top of faded jeans. Even before she’s fully exposed to the camera, I catch my first glimpse of the hourglass figure wrapped around the petite frame. She’s a fifties pinup girl dressed in cheap clothes. Her breasts are full but not quite double Ds, her thighs and calves shapely enough to stop traffic, with a naturally golden skin tone denoting a possible mid-west upbringing.
She’s knock-out potential—subject to several nourishing meals. But I’ve seen enough and done enough in this twisted life of mine to know her body isn’t what would draw attention. It’s the look in her eyes. The secrets and shadows she is trying hard to batten down. They’re almost eating her alive.
I don’t really give a shit what those secrets are. But the chance to fuck them…to fuck with them, expose them to my cameras, sparks a sinister flame inside me.
“Turn around, let your hair down.”
Her fingers twitch at her sides for a second before she faces the wall. One hand reaches up and pulls the band securing the loose knot on top of her head.
Caramel and gold tresses cascade down her back. Thick enough to swallow my hands, her wavy hair reaches past her waist, the tapered ends brushing the top of her perfectly rounded ass.
I watch her for a few minutes, then speak into the mic distorting my voice. “Do you have any distinguishing birth marks I should know about, Lucky?”
The question sinks in. Her back goes rigid for a second before she forces herself to relax. “Yes.”
“At the top of my thigh,” she responds.
“Show me,” I reply, although I don’t really need to see it. My carefully selected stylists can disguise any unseemly marks.
Slowly, she turns around. I expect her gaze to drop or a touch of embarrassment to show, but she stares straight into the camera as her fingers tackle the buttons of her jeans. The zipper comes down and she shimmies the denim over her hips. Her white cotton panties are plain and the last word in unsexy. All the same, my eyes are drawn to the snug material framing her pussy lips.
I also see the hint of bush pressed behind the cotton.
I shift in my seat, but don’t reach for the hardness springing to life behind my fly. Hand jobs are a waste of my time. I either fuck or I don’t. It’s that simple.
She lowers the jeans to knee-level and twists her right leg outward. The round red disk just on the inside of her thigh is distinctive enough to need covering up. I make a mental note.
“Thank you, Lucky. You may put your clothes back on.”
A hint of surprise crosses her face, but she quickly adjusts her clothing. When she’s done, her hands return to her sides.
“It’s time for your screen test. Sweep your hair to one side and come closer. Place your hands flat on the desk, bend forward, but don’t sit down.”
She follows my instructions to the letter. I adjust the camera so it’s angled up to capture her face.
“Are you ready?”
She gives a small nod.
“You’ve just walked into a bar. You don’t know me. But you see me, the guy in the corner, nursing a bourbon. And I see you. All of you. Every fantasy you’ve ever had. I want to give it to you. You’ve found me, Lucky, the guy who wants to fuck you more than he wants his next breath. Do you see me?”
Her nostrils quiver slightly. “Yes.”
“Good. Look into the camera. Don’t blink. Show me what I want to see. Convince me that you’re worth fucking. Convince me you’re worth dying for.”
Her lids lower, her face contemplative, but she doesn’t blink or lose focus. Slowly, her expression drifts from disinterested to captivated. Her lids lift and she’s a green-eyed siren. Her attention is rapt, unwavering. Her bruised-rose lips part, but she doesn’t swirl her tongue over her lips as I expect. She just…breathes. In. Out.
She swallows, a slow movement that draws attention to her neck, then lower to her breasts. Mesmerized against my will, I watch her nipples harden against the thin material of her top. Her fingers gradually curl into the hard wood and every inhalation and exhalation becomes a silent demand.
I remain still, even though my fingers itch to twitch and my muscles burn with a restlessness I haven’t felt in a long time.
I watch her command the camera, her body rigid with lustful tension. Her eyes widen with the need to blink, but she doesn’t.
She stays still, hands curl into fists and she just breathes sex. Her eyes water and a tear slips down one cheek. The sight of it is curiously cathartic, a tiny climax.
I subside into my seat. “That was convincing enough. You may sit down, Lucky.”
She blinks rapidly before she sinks into the chair. A quick swipe and the tear never existed. Neither does the promise of the fuck of a lifetime that was on her face a moment ago.
Her acting skills are remarkable. For a second, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t want her to be too polished. I dismiss the notion and glance down at her notes.
“You list your address as a motel?”
The address in Queens is unfamiliar to me, but the motel chain is notorious for being exceptionally bad. I hide my distaste and wait for her answer.
“I arrived in town recently. I don’t have a permanent address yet.”
The secrets in her eyes, the threadbare clothes, the unkempt hair and unshaven pussy begin to tell their own story. She may be brave enough to sass me when she risks losing a job that promises a once in a lifetime payday, but she’s also desperate.
How desperate is the question.
“Are you currently working?”
She nods. “I work on and off for a catering service. But it’s nothing I can’t work around, if needed.”
“So you’ll be free to do this if I want you?”
The desperation escalates, then a hint of anger flashes through her eyes. “If? You mean I did all of this for nothing?”
I give a low laugh at her gumption. “You didn’t seriously think you’d waltz your way into a million dollars on a simple three-minute screen test, did you?”
The anger flees from her eyes, although her mouth tightens for a moment before she speaks. “So it’s true? It’s not a con? This job really pays a million dollars? For…sex?” she rasps.
“You think I’d admit it if it was a con? What did the ad say?”
Her delicate jaw flexes for a second.
“One million uninhibited reasons to take a leap.
One million chances to earn a keep
One million to give in to the carnal
Are you brave enough to surrender,
For a payday to remember?”
It speaks even more to her desperate state of mind that she remembers the ad verbatim.
I remain silent and wait for her to speak.
“So…assuming it’s not a con, how will this work, then?”
“If you pass the next few tests, and I decide you’re a good fit, you get the gig. You’ll receive one hundred thousand dollars with each performance.”
“So…ten performances…over how long a period?”
“Depending on how many takes are needed, anywhere between three weeks and a month. But I should warn you, it’s hard work, Lucky. If you think you’re just going to lie back and recite the Star Spangled Banner in your head, think again.”
Her fingers drum on the table, the first sign of nerves she’s exhibited. “I…I won’t be doing anything…skanky, will I?”
“This is going to be straight up sex. No other…bodily stuff? Because that would be a firm no for me.”
My mouth attempts another twitch. “No water works, waste matter or bestiality will be involved in the performances.”
Her fingers stop drumming. “Okay.” She waits a beat, stares straight into the camera. “So when will I know?”
I hear the barely disguised urgency and I rub my finger over my lip again. “Soon. I’ll be in touch within the week.” I’m not sure exactly why I want to toy with her. But I sense that having her on edge would add another layer of excitement I badly need.
When she opens her mouth, I interrupt. “Goodbye, Lucky.”
A passing thought about the origin of her name is crushed into oblivion. I press the remote to summon the bodyguard to escort her out, and I leave the room.
In my study a few minutes later, I bring up the screen on my desk and activate the encrypted service I need. I open the application and within minutes, the members of my exclusive gentlemen’s club are logging in.
My email is short and succinct.
The next Q Production is scheduled for release on 20 May 2015.
Limited to ten members.
Bidding starts in fifteen minutes.
I start the countdown and rise to pour myself a neat bourbon. I swallow the first mouthful with two prescribed tablets, which are meant to keep me from going over the edge, apparently, and stroll to the floor to ceiling window. I look down at Midtown’s bumper-to-bumper traffic. This mid-level penthouse is one of many I own in this building and around New York City.
Technically, I don’t live here. I only use it when volatile pressures demand that I put some distance between the Upper West Side family mansion and myself. I would never stray far for long. For one thing, I’ve accepted that my family would never leave me alone.
I know what I know. So they’ve made it their business to keep me on a short leash. But with over three hundred properties in my personal portfolio, and a few thousand more under the family firm’s control, there are many places to disappear to when the demons howl.
Today, the Midtown penthouse is my temporary haven.
I turn when the timer beeps a one-minute warning.
I return to my desk and adjust the voice distorter. When the clock reaches zero, I click the mouse. “Gentlemen, start your bids.”
My words barely trail off before the first five bids appear on the screen. Sixty seconds later, the total bid is at a quarter of a million dollars. I steeple my fingers and wish I were more excited. The money means nothing. It never has. It’s the end game that excites me.
My mind drifts back to Lucky. I turn the gem of her elusiveness this way and that and admit to myself she has potential.
I want to take a scalpel to all her secrets, bleed them and soil my hands with the viscera. I also want to fuck her until her body gives out. Right in this moment, I’m not sure what I want more.
So I concentrate on the numbers racing higher on the screen.
Half a million. One million. One point five.
My phone beeps twice. I pick it up and read the two appointment reminders on the screen.
7pm – Dr. Nathanson. My shrink.
9pm - Dinner with Maxwell.
I re-confirm the first and delete the second.
Cancelling dinner with Maxwell will bring a world of irritation to my doorstep. No one cancels dinner with Maxwell Blackwood. For a start he’s one of the most powerful men in the country.
He’s also my father.
Yeah, my name is Quinn Blackwood, heir to the Blackwood Estate, only child of Maxwell Blackwood and Adele Blackwood (deceased). My family owns a staggering amount of property across the eastern seaboard of the United States and a few in the west. According to the bean counters, I’m personally worth twenty-six billion dollars.
But tangling with my father in hell is what I live for. Have done since I was fifteen. So I ignore his summons and watch the stragglers fall away until I’m left with the top ten bidders. The bids wind down, and within the space of half an hour, I’m just under two million dollars richer.
I spot the familiar name of the top bidder and I sneer. Taking his money on top of everything else is darkly satisfying.
Once bidding ends, I close down the application and call up another list. Dozens of charity websites showing pictures of starving children flood my screen. Within minutes, fifty charities are the grateful recipients of two million dollars.
I may be Quinn Blackwood, occasional user of prescribed meds to keep the demons in check, who moonlights as Q, porn star to an exclusive few who pay millions for my work.
And I may be an unhinged asshole with serious daddy issues.
But no one said I wasn’t a giver.
How are you feeling today, Quinn?”
I sigh. “I’ll pay you a hundred thousand dollars, if you promise to drop that question from our sessions.”
Adriana Nathanson regards me silently for a full minute from the top of her rectangular glasses. She looks good for a woman in her mid-forties, would even pass for a decent blonde-and-blue-eyed MILF, although I glimpse signs of a burgeoning Botox habit. “Why do you want me to drop it?”
“Because we both know whatever answer I give would be a lie.”
“Here’s an idea. Why don’t you try the truth for once?”
“Here’s an idea. Fuck off, Dr. Nathanson.” My pulse barely rises, but there’s more than a hint of venom in my response, which surprises even me.
Her thin lips purse. “I thought we were past the hostility stage, Quinn. Making progress.”
“Did you?” I query with zero interest. “And why would you think that?”
“Because you haven’t shown signs of it in over a year.” She scribbles in her notes.
I remain silent.
Eventually she looks up. “Quinn?”
“Did something happen since our last session? You appear…agitated.”
I crack my knuckles loudly. “No. I am not.”
We stare at each other. We’ve played this game a thousand times.
“How are the nightmares?”
The space between my shoulder blades twitches. Have to hand it to her. She has her moments. They’re not many or I wouldn’t have been coming here for ten years. Although, technically there’s no cure for what I have.
I lean back, rub the twitch against the leather chair. “They’re still three shades above garden variety.”
“There’s nothing garden variety about them, Quinn. Tell me about the last one.”
The twitch intensifies. I shrug it off. “It was no different from the one before that. And the one before that.” No matter what I do, how loud I scream, she still dies in the end.
Her lips purse again. “It’ll help to talk through it.”
“I’m absolutely sure it won’t.”
She sighs, lays her Montblanc pen on top of her notes and removes her glasses. I’m hit with a set of determined baby blues. “Your father is back in town. Have you seen him yet?”
I freeze. The twitches abruptly cease. Before it manifests, I sense it. The abyss. It’s like a deadly virus, worming its way through me. It starts in my left wrist. Feeds through my veins and takes root in my brain. It’s not easy to control it, but I give it a shot. “No, I haven’t.”
“And your stepmother?”
I crack a sinister smile. “That’s a stupid question, Dr. Nathanson.”
She has the grace to look ashamed. We both know my stepmother has been banned from seeing me without my father present. Ergo…
“How do you feel about his return?”
“Half a million.”
- On Sale
- Sep 13, 2016
- Hachette Audio