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Possession by Marteeka Karland

Vampsblood, Book 1
by Marteeka Karland

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 06112-01962

Harael. Relaren. Valael. Vampsblood — creatures of myth. They’re predators. Killers. Bigger, badder, and more powerful than even their own legends. So how is it the three biggest, baddest Vampsblood out there have been undone by a mere slip of a girl — a human at that? They never saw this one coming.

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Chapter One

[Continue Reading…]

Victoria’s Secret Life
by Laura Ashton

Siren-Bookstrand, Menage Amour Imprint

eBook ISBN: 1-60601-750-0

Victoria’s life is crap, working in a grubby men’s club, prancing around naked in front of howling men. Even worse, she is the plaything of a mobster she doesn’t even like. She wants out bad, but she’s stuck. Can she free herself and her mother from the clutches of the mob and begin again with three hunky navy SEALs?

Chapter One

Returning from a doctor’s appointment, Vickie was surprised to see a medium-size U-Haul truck in the driveway next door. After being absent for several months, her neighbor, Jasmine, had apparently returned from wherever she had been, and two men were moving things into her townhouse.
As she drove slowly to get a better look, she noticed the men looked oddly familiar. When one of them turned and gazed Vickie’s way, she was flabbergasted.
Oh, my God. It’s…Gabriel!
Jaz waved and started walking toward her car. Damn! She had to get away. She smiled and waved back before taking off in her PT Cruiser. Glancing in her rearview mirror, she saw Jaz standing in the street, her hands on her hips.
No doubt, what she had done was rude, and she felt bad, but she just couldn’t talk to them.
This is terrible.
She would come back when they were gone. Then, she remembered many of the items they carried were men’s clothing. One of them had to be moving in. This was worse than terrible. Her brother or uncle would be living next door. How did this happen? What could she do?
After Vickie drove around for a half hour, her cell phone rang. She reached in her purse and pulled it out.
“Vickie, it’s Jasmine. I hope you don’t mind my calling.”
“No, that’s fine.”
“Are you angry with me?”
“Of course not.”
“Then why did you drive off like that?”
“I can’t talk about it. Jaz, who are those men?”
“They’re my husbands.”
Victoria did a double take. “Husbands?”
“Well, not officially, but we think of ourselves as being married.”
I have to think.
“Jaz. I have to go. I’ll call you back.” She had no idea where she would go.
Maybe it’s a sign that I should try to reconcile my awful life.
At a stoplight, she dialed a number she hadn’t called in years.
Water welled in her eyes, forming tears that ran down her cheek.
“Hello. Is anyone there?”
It’s Mum. Just say hello. She couldn’t do it.
“Hello. I know someone is there.”
Victoria disconnected.
Now what? Without thinking, she headed to her home away from home. Thirty minutes later, she pulled into The Men’s Club parking lot. Four women milled around carrying signs.
Shit, the pickets are back.
It was almost four thirty p.m. Her shift wouldn’t start for an hour and a half. Maybe the pickets will leave by her shift. She rolled down her window for fresh air. She didn’t want to wait in the club, but she had nowhere to go.
Suddenly, a hand reached through the window and touched her arm. “Vickie? Is that you?”
She recognized the voice but couldn’t place it. She turned her head and recognized a man she hadn’t seen in seven years. It was Les Patton, her best friend’s older brother.
“Les! Fancy running into you.”
“It is you? I barely recognized you. What are you doing here?”
She felt dreaded heat flush through her. A picketer walked by the hood and glanced at them. “I…ah, I’m picketing. And you?”
He sucked his lips in. After removing his ten-gallon hat, he raked his fingers through his thinning hair before replacing it. “You’re going to be mad at me. I was just going to go in here and check this place out. Neva was here before. Why don’t you come in with me? I’ll buy you a drink, and we’ll catch up.”
She shook her head, but he wasn’t swayed. “Julie will be dying to hear what you’ve been up to.”
I’ll bet. “I can’t, really. I’m picketing.”
His eyes narrowed. “If you’re picketing, why are you sitting in the car?”
She raised her hand and slipped the forefinger between her teeth. “Ahh…I’m on a break. My break’s almost over. It was nice seeing you again.”
He put his hand on her arm again. “Well, at least give me your phone number.”
She nodded, reached in her purse for her scratch pad, and wrote the first group of numbers that popped into her head. “Here.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Give my love to Julie.”
He held the Post-it Note and said, “I will, and I’ll give her this, too. She’ll be thrilled.”
Vickie felt rotten to the core as she so often did when she deceived people. “I can’t wait to hear from her.” Remembering her shift was going to be in less than an hour and a half, she continued, “Are you going to be in there long?”
He shrugged and waggled a single eyebrow. “Who knows? I may be in there fifteen minutes, or I could be there all night”
He walked briskly to the building and disappeared inside. What a pickle she was in. Her shift began at six, and her best friend’s brother just walked in the club. The manager wouldn’t be happy if she called in sick this late.
Then she brightened. Les walked out of the club, but his eyes averted her gaze. Thank God. His posture appeared hunkering as if it was cold out. He hustled into his truck and sped away.
* * * *
Sitting at her desk in her office, Camilla picked up the ringing phone. “Hello.”
“Mrs. Dewhurst?”
“This is Julia Abernathy. My maiden name was Patton. I don’t know if you remember me.”
“Yes, Julia, I remember you well. What can I do for you?”
“Do you remember my brother, Les? He took Vickie to the prom, just before sh—”
“Yes, I remember Lester.”
“Well, there’s something I think you should know.”
“Go on.”
“Les sometimes likes to go into these topless and nude bars, and about two hours ago, he started to go into a nude bar called the Men’s Club when he ran into Vickie.”
Camilla snapped to. She sat up straight, her eyes wide. “My Victoria?
“That’s what he says. Anyway, he said she was sitting in a car in the parking lot, and they started talking. There were some women picketing the place, and Vickie told him she was one of the pickets. Before he went in, he got her phone number.”
Camilla was so excited that she could barely sit still. After seven years and an intermittent hunt, Victoria had surfaced. “Good. Let me have it.”
“It’s no good. I called it. She must have made up a number. Anyway, that’s not what’s important. Les went into the club, and after his eyes became accustomed to the dark, he looked over a photo gallery of the performers on the wall by the front door. Vickie’s picture was in the gallery. Mrs. Dewhurst, I think Vickie’s a performer there.”
Camilla’s heart sank. “Is there anything else?”
“Just that Les went back two hours later and Vickie’s car was there but empty. He stepped inside once more and looked around as best as he could without paying the cover charge and spotted her in a bikini serving drinks to two guys.”
“Thank you, Julia. And thank Lester for me, too. I’ll take over from here.”
* * * *
Vickie dreaded her three-song set. True, this was when she made the most tips. However, she hated taking her clothes off and despised the three minutes of nudity when all the gash hounds ogled her, wiggled their tongues, trying to look up her vagina.
Four years ago when she had been first sent here, she picked all two-minute to three-minute songs and played the shortest song last, but Tony, the manager, had curbed that. He pulled her two-minute final song and played an eight-minute marathon to teach her a lesson. It had been an eternity. Afterward, he cornered her.
“From now on, I want nothing but three-minute-plus songs and the longest played last.”
She had nodded and tried to leave, but he grabbed her arm.
“I know you’re Joey’s personal stock, but you’ll get no favoritism over the other girls. Starting tomorrow, I want to see that pussy shaved or, better yet, waxed. The customers come in here to see your cunt, and you’re not going to hide it with hair.”
She had crossed her arms. “Is that all?”
“No. I’ve seen you playing around on the pole, and you’re good. Very good in fact. I want to see that worked into your routine. Is that clear?
She’d nodded, and he’d swatted her bare butt as she walked to the dressing room.”
Ever since then, she followed Tony’s rules, barely. All songs were just over three minutes with the longest last. Her pussy was hairless, but she spent most of the last song on the pole where it was less exposed. Only for the last third did she interact with the lechers sitting beside the runway.
Today was no different from her normal routine. Before she went onstage, she had her friend Russ, the bartender, make her a spiked drink. After downing that, she went into the dressing room and donned her easily removable striptease costume over the bikini she wore on the floor. She never took anything off before the second song, making the bawdy patrons sweat before displaying her goodies. She always started with Motley Crew’s “Girls, Girls, Girls.” For her second and third songs on this set, she picked Britney Spears’s “Baby One More Time” and “Continental Shuffle” by the Rolling Stones. When the music started, she began her routine.
* * * *
Camilla arrived just as Victoria came out on the stage to a smattering of applause, and eased into a shadowy corner where she could watch without being observed. Her heart swelled at the sight of Victoria. She was still beautiful, if anything even more so than when she had been Texas Junior Miss. Her long chestnut hair was up, and she wore a tight, shimmery, ankle-length gold gown with white gloves up to her elbows. For the first song, she didn’t do much except pace around the stage, each step in front of the other in time with the song as a runway model might. Occasionally, she would make a spinning dance move to one side and then the other.
When the second song started, she began to provocatively shed items. Camilla knew that this was a nude men’s club, but she hoped against hope that her grandniece didn’t have to take every stitch off. That hope was dashed when, to enthusiastic applause, Victoria took off her thong and tossed it from the runway back on the stage.
Victoria reached up high on the pole, pulled herself up, and revolved down the pole slowly in a beautiful combination of dance and athleticism. Then she lifted her feet up the pole, crossed them, and raised herself up again. In an amazing exhibition of strength, Victoria turned at a right angle to the pole as if she were a flag. As her flawless performance continued, patrons were clapping, whistling, and catcalling their approval, but apparently, it meant nothing to Vickie because she never smiled. Camilla gloried in the beauty and grace of Vickie’s routine, and honestly, her beautiful naked body enhanced the elegance of the routine. It was not tawdry. It was artistic.
She recalled how Victoria had always been so graceful and athletic, taking dance and gymnastics for eight years, plus martial arts for four years.
* * * *
The last song was two-thirds over. This was the time that Vickie loved and dreaded, the time she interacted with the patrons, collecting tips for her performance and exacting a toll in the form of pinches, fondles, and grabs.
She noticed one guy had a hundred dollar bill out in front of him, but he had the look of trouble she’d learned to avoid. She picked up all tips but his.
Apparently irritated, he reached up on the runway, grabbed her ankle, and jerked her toward him. She lost her balance and fell. The man yelled, “You think you’re too good for my money? Well, I’m going to shove it up your pussy.”
With her lying flat on the runway, but struggling, he laid an arm across her belly and proceeded to insert the C-note, folded between two fingers, into her vagina. She laid there helpless as other patrons, taking advantage of her vulnerability, roughly grabbed parts of her, like her breasts, arms, legs and hair.
Vickie started screaming, and the bouncer headed her way to help, but before he arrived, a big heavy purse smashed Vickie’s attacker in the face, knocking him backward to the floor, chair and all.
“Take your fucking hands off my daughter, you perverts.”
It was a woman, one whose voice Victoria knew. However, she couldn’t look because some guy with bad breath had a hold of her hair and was trying to kiss her. Then he suddenly disappeared, and Vickie was able to see and recognized the enraged grandmotherly woman who beat off her attackers, one by one.
Where had she come from? God bless you, Mum!
As each of the other attackers looked up toward the woman, they, too, received a purse or a fist from the irate lady who’d apparently been infuriated by their boorish behavior.
One by one, the remaining assailants backed off and removed their hands. As Vickie bawled inconsolably, Camilla helped her to her feet. Up close and still sniveling, Vickie threw her arms around her. She fell apart. Tears and snot running down her face, she blubbered, “Mum. I’m so sorry.”
The bouncer and Tony, the manager, arrived. Tony asked, “Is she all right?”
“I think so. No thanks to you. I want charges filed against these men. If you don’t, I will.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m her mother.”
Tony shook his head. “No you’re not. Her mother is in Las Vegas.”
Camilla raised her chin. “I raised this child from the age of two to sixteen. I’m her mother! I want charges filed against these men, especially the ringleader, or I will personally talk to District Attorney Walker about shutting your establishment down as an unruly nuisance.”
Contritely, Tony nodded.
“Good. Victoria’s obviously in no condition to stay here, so I’m taking her with me.”
Tony raised his eyes skyward, as if he were making a decision. “All right, but make sure she’s back by Friday night.”
With her arm around Vickie, Camilla led her to the dressing room to dress. They took the side door out to the parking lot. “Where are we going?”
“To the ranch. Which car is yours?”
Vickie pointed to her metallic green car near the entrance. “It’s the PT Cruiser over there.”
“Lock your car up. We’re taking my car.”
In Camilla’s Lincoln Town Car, Vickie’s blubbering lessened to a snivel. They drove in silence for long minutes. As soon as she regained her composure, she let Camilla know how much she appreciated her help.
“Thank you, Mum. God, I hate to think what would have happened if you hadn’t been there.”
“You would have been all right, sweetheart. The manager and bouncer were on their way over with baseball bats. What makes you do it, baby—dancing naked in front of dirty men? You’re much too good for that, and you weren’t raised that way.”
Vickie frowned and snarled back. “You think I want to do that? I have no choice.” Then her effusive nature asserted itself. “I’m sorry I jumped on you like that. It’s just that my life seems to have fallen apart today. It really, really is good to see you.”
“And I cannot tell you how happy I am to see you. Look at you. You’re all grown up.” Camilla laid a hand across the console onto Vickie’s knee. “I missed you so. And I’ve been so worried about you.”
She set her hand over Camilla’s. “I never knew how much you meant to me until I ran away. I love you, Mum.”
They drove the rest of the way in silence. They got to the ranch around eight-thirty and entered the house holding hands.
“Come, let’s sit down.” Camilla looked at her right-hand man. “Chen, would you bring some iced tea.”
He nodded and left.
Camilla and Vickie sat next to each other on the couch in the great room, just off the foyer.
“Sweetheart, I want to hear how you came to work in The Man’s Club. Can you tell me about it?”
Vickie felt a gnawing feeling in her stomach. “I was forced to work there. It’s nice to know you care after me running away and everything, but you may not want anything to do with me when you find out the life I’ve been leading.”
Camilla lifted her hand and cupped her chin. “Is it the life you chose? Is it the life you want to lead?”
Chen brought a pitcher of iced tea, two tall glasses, lemon slices, and a sugar bowl and set it on the coffee table.
Vickie answered quickly with staccato-like speech, “Of course not. I’ve been a tramp…an embarrassment to the Gregory family…and…to you…who I love as much as my real mother. I hate it, but…it’s all I know. Mum…I’m so confused. I don’t know where to turn.”
Camilla picked up the pitcher, poured two glasses, and handed one to Vickie.
She took it. “Thank you.”
Camilla raised her chin. “Well, you’re home now, and I’ll help you. I take it when you ran away you went to your mother?”
Without looking at Camilla, she nodded.
Camilla sipped her iced tea. “How did you know where she was?”
“Remember Jinella?”
“Yes, she was one of our housekeepers.”
“Mother contacted me through her when I was fifteen, and we stayed in touch by e-mail until I left.”
“You went to Vegas, didn’t you? Your mother is a kept woman, isn’t she? She’s Joey Bertollo’s girlfriend.”
Vickie’s mouth opened in disbelief. “How?”
“Your father, Jonathan, loved your mother until the day he died. After his death, I came across papers that indicated as much. He hired private investigators to track her down. I blame her for Jonathan’s untimely death.”
Vickie suddenly stood and began pacing. In an agitated voice, she asked, “Mum, did anyone named Gordon ever live here?”
Camilla inhaled deeply. Her eyes widened. “Why would you ask that?”
She stopped pacing and, with her hands on her hips, stared at Camilla. “My mother told me someone named Gordon raped her when she was here.”
Camilla’s usual in-charge demeanor slipped a notch. She leaned back in her chair and placed her palms to her cheeks. “Oh, no. All these years I’ve misjudged her. I thought she was a selfish…never mind.”
Vickie’s eyes grew wider. “So, there was a Gordon?”
“I’m afraid so. He’s in jail now. He was a cousin of Ted’s father, Roger. Three months after your mother left for the last time, the sheriff’s department arrested Gordon for two counts of sexual assault of one of the housekeepers. At first, Roger tried to shield him. I wonder if…”
She shrugged. “Oh, nothing. I was just speculating.”
Vickie nodded. “I know what you’re wondering. She was raped, and you think your husband covered for him.”
Camilla hitched her chin for a single nod. “Yes, I can see that now, possibly more than once.”
“Sweetheart, you said your life started falling apart today. Was there something else before the incident where you work?”
“Yes, I saw Gabe and Ted. They’re apparently moving into my next-door neighbor’s townhouse.”
Camilla leaned back into the couch and chortled. “Jasmine is your neighbor?”
Vickie nodded. “You know her?”
“Yes. You may be surprised to know your brother and my son are in a ménage a trois relationship with Jasmine.”
“Jasmine mentioned that when she called after I drove off in a hurry. She called them her husbands.” She found the idea of Jasmine in a threesome surprising. Unlike her, Jasmine had always seemed so grounded, so conventional. Still, she couldn’t say that she blamed Jasmine. Both men were catches, handsome and upstanding. “Is that all right with you?”
“Surprisingly, it is. I’ve grown very fond of Jasmine. I guess she took your place as my girl.”
When Vickie frowned, Camilla changed the subject back to her.
“How is your mother? She’s still a young woman. Fifty-three, I believe.”
Vickie blanched. “Joey B keeps her locked up in a suite in the Odyssey Hotel, drunk and drugged as if she were a possession. When I first got there, he was nice to me, but after a couple of years, he forced me to have sex with him. When my mother found out, she was furious. That’s when he put her in a virtual prison. He would do the same with me except his wife found out about us, so he shipped me here to work in The Man’s Club. He visits me at the club occasionally, usually unexpected. Sometimes he’s nice—he flew me to Paris for a week once and Disneyworld another time—but usually he’s mean. He claims he loves me, but I hate him.”
Camilla’s jaw dropped. “Why didn’t you come to me?”
“I was embarrassed and didn’t want to drag you into my mess. Plus, I didn’t know how he’d react. He does have my mother.”
“Is that what you’ve been doing all this time, working in a men’s club?”
Vickie gave a nod.
Camilla closed her eyes and raised her head as if addressing a higher power. “Well, providence led you back to us. The tawdry little secrets you have you can withhold. Your lawyer may want to know more, but I only want to know enough to extricate you from your debauched life. Assuming that is what you want. You did seem unsure.”
“Oh, yes, definitely. I need to get away from Joey and keep them from finding me. I’ve been taking a class here and there and managed to accumulate forty credit hours, about two and a half semesters’ worth at Southern Methodist University. I’m registered under my real name, which I don’t think Joey B knows. Mother managed to get me a social security number under Gregory. They think my last name is the same as Mother’s—Armstrong.”
“All right, Victoria, don’t worry. I’m going to get you away from Joey B. I’m going to start by calling my lawyer in the morning to see what he thinks we should do. Why don’t you get a good night sleep, and we’ll talk in the morning?”
Vickie was confused. “But where will I sleep?”
There was a sparkle in Camilla’s eyes as she smiled. “In your room. Where else? It hasn’t been touched since you left.”
Vickie’s eyes grew wide as she realized what her grandaunt and surrogate mother said. Excited, she rose and kissed Camilla on the cheek. “I should have known. Thank you.”
“For what?”
“For being you. I may sleep in a little. I’m still shaken. Is that all right?”
“Of course.” Camilla waved her away. “Go.”

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