Monday, April 16, 2018
I love this opening chapter for Book 3 of The Heiress Games (The Forgotten Heiress). 


Chapter One

            Jackson Stone watched in reluctant fascination as Marilyn Monroe slowly stripped right in front of him. The screen goddess reached up and removed her platinum-blond wig, revealing a skullcap underneath. He found himself holding his breath as her arm rose again, this time to pluck the cap off her head. A few strategic bobby pins later and a mass of ginger-colored curls spilled down across her creamy-white shoulders. It was like watching a curtain of cinnamon rain down on a frothy cappuccino. 
            Raining cinnamon? 
Where had that come from? He must be out of his mind.
            The striptease continued as Marilyn reached under the hem of her iconic white dress. Jackson caught a glimpse of a shapely thigh as she flicked a fastener and began rolling a silk stocking down her leg. 
Old-fashioned garters…
            He shifted on the couch as a part of him that had mostly been dead for the last year stirred to life. Heat washed over him as a savage want surged through his veins.
Two days ago Jackson’s best friend, Cameron Reed, had asked for a favor. A high-priced lawyer with a large estate to probate, Cam needed help looking after three women who were possible heiresses to an immense fortune. Jackson didn’t know the whole story about the will. He did know there was some kind of competition…and a pig was involved…somehow. 
He’d been cursing his friend for sending him on this fool’s mission ever since he left Miami, but now that he’d seen Bailey Tenant, he didn’t know whether to be grateful…or run like hell. He hadn’t traveled to the outskirts New Orleans expecting to take part in a peep show. Then again, he hadn’t expected to find a fake, long-dead actress taking off her clothes, either. 
He should alert her to his presence. 
Yeah…absolutely, positively should do that.
Then she raised both arms to her chest and Jackson forgot all about being a gentleman. Except, instead of untying the top, she reached inside and removed what looked like two huge, raw chicken breasts.
Jackson’s startled laughter filled the room.
Bailey screamed and then something warm and soft hit him in the chest. He looked down as one of the chicken cutlets plopped into his lap. After over a decade of being around women in dressing rooms, he’d certainly caught a glimpse of breast inserts before, but never up this close.
“Get out of here, you pervert!” She wound up and threw the other cutlet.
This time Jackson was prepared and he caught the missile in midair as he rose from the battered couch. Her screams had effectively deflated his body’s reaction to the striptease so at least he could stand now. 
“It’s okay.” He lifted both hands in a, I come in peace gesture, only to realize he still held the fake boobs. He dropped them onto the couch. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
Bailey was having none of it. “Get out of here, you mother puss bucket! Jerry! Help!” 
Jackson blinked at what he assumed was an insult. “Did you just call me ‘mother puss bucket’?”
A hairbrush whizzed by his ear and then a can of industrial size hair spray clocked him in the jaw.
Enough was enough. Jackson was supposed to tell this crazy female impersonator that she might be coming into a fortune. He didn’t need to put up with assault by accessories. In two steps he reached her, his arms going around her waist to keep the enraged banshee from winging anything else at his head.
Lord, she was tiny. He was tall, but the top of her head barely reached his shoulder.
“Bailey, listen to me,” Jackson said, trying to be heard over her continued screams. “I’m not going to hurt you, but you have to stop throwing things at me.”
“Screw you, pervert!” 
Instead of listening, she rose up on her toes and butted her head against his chin. The crunch of skull on bone snapped his head back and Jackson’s eyes watered. Before he could recover, she twisted in his arms and rammed her bony elbow into his gut. A knee to the groin took him to the floor.
“Scumbag! Do you think I grew up in bars and recording studios without learning how to defend myself?” she screeched. “Jerry, you idiot! Where are you! I’m being assaulted! Call the police!”
            Jackson glared up at the human tornado, while he tried to catch his breath and retrieve his gonads from his rectum. Cam was a dead man. No woman was worth this much pain and suffering, no matter how sexy she looked taking off silk stockings.
            “Bailey, for the last time, I’m not assaulting you,” Jackson gritted out through his teeth. 
            She stopped screaming long enough to look at his face. “You know my name?”
“Yeah, and I’m here to—”
            Suddenly, her eyes went wide and her cheeks turned a sickly shade of white. “Holy sugar cookies!”
            Sugar cookies? 
“What?” Jackson shook his head, wondering when he’d entered an alternate universe. Obviously this very sexy lady was very crazy.  
“Jackson Stone,” she said, horror flashing across her face. “You are…you’re really Jackson Stone.”
Jackson nodded. “Correct, and you’re Bailey Tenant. At least I hope you are, otherwise we’re both in trouble.”
“Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!” The crazy lady groaned and covered her face. “I just kicked Jackson Stone in the willy.”
Maybe the kick to the groin had affected his brain. “Willy?” 
Bailey knelt by his head. “I’m so sorry, I’m so-so sorry!” she babbled, as she ran her hands across his chest. “Are you okay? I normally don’t go around beating up famous singers. Not that we get too many famous singers in here.”
Her hand drifted a little too far south, and his dormant hormones leapt to attention again. Jackson had wondered if he’d ever truly desire any woman again, but now was not the time celebrate the return of his sex drive. And he certainly wouldn’t celebrate it with Lady Lunatic. 
“I’m good.” Jackson removed her hand away and tried to sit up. “What’s a willy anyway?”
Her cheeks turned a dusky rose. “I’ve been teaching music lessons to preschoolers so I had to train myself not to swear.”
A woman who blushed.
Jackson couldn’t remember the last time he’d encountered a female who actually showed embarrassment. Most of the women he met – from studio execs and journalists to groupies – were long past feeling a sense of shame over anything. “So, by day you teach the ABC song and by night you assault men in a Marilyn Monroe costume?”
Lady Lunatic let out a gusty sigh. “Apparently, I do now.” 
Her fingers wrapped around his bicep to help him up, and the simple touch sent a bolt of heat up his arm, like he’d touched a live wire. He knew she must have felt the surge, too, because she let out a smothered gasp and dropped her hand.
Their eyes met. Hers were green and clear, like the water surrounding the Bahamas islands. Those arresting eyes darkened and she licked her lips. 
Suddenly, the dressing room door opened and a guy who was probably only an inch or so taller than Bailey strolled in. “Where is he?” he asked, without any hint of concern. In fact, he sounded irritated at being called.
Jackson arched an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me?”
“Nice of you to show up, Jerry,” she said, with a touch of sarcasm Jackson couldn’t help but admire. 
He eyed Jerry again, wondering if he really was the only protection for the female performers here. Jackson knew from experience that things in nightclubs could go south real fast. Combine drunken idiots with beautiful, drunk, scantily clad women, and there was bound to be trouble. 
“I was counting receipts,” Jerry said, as if adding numbers trumped the safety the star attractions. Although, in a place like this, it probably did.
Bailey apparently came to the same conclusion. She let out a short, bitter laugh and rose to her feet. “Nice to know the bankroll matters more than the possibility of me being murdered and cut into little pieces by a maniac.”
 Her would-be rescuer gave a world-weary sigh, like he’d long ago given up caring about anything. “So, I guess you’re not being assaulted? Should I cancel the 911 call?”
“I’m fine.” She patted Jerry on the shoulder. “Thanks for the effort, though.”
One corner of his mouth curved up, as if even he couldn’t resist the charms of the faux-Marilyn. He pointed his chin in Jackson’s direction. “This guy giving you any trouble?” 
She shifted slightly, blocking Jerry’s view. “No, he just startled me.”
Jerry nodded once. “Fine. See you tomorrow night.”
Once the door closed, Jackson put his hand down and levered to his feet. His gonads had finally returned to their proper location, but minimal movement would be required for a while. He couldn’t stifle the pained curse as he gingerly lowered himself onto an ugly leather couch. 
He glanced up to see her wincing as well. “I really am sorry.”
“I’ll live.”
“Of course, you were spying on me,” she said, folded her arms across a now severely deflated chest. Apparently, Bailey Tenant was small everywhere. Without the chicken cutlets, the top of her dress sagged like an eighty-year-old grandma. Still, her slim figure packed quite a punch. Not to mention the cinnamon hair… and those green eyes.
“I wasn’t spying. I was waiting to talk to you.” He picked up the breast inserts. “Then you came and there wasn’t really time to announce myself before you started undressing.”
Color flooded her cheeks again as she snatched the inserts out of his hand. “This night could not get any worse.”
“My night’s been pretty good.” He grinned at her. “Other than losing my ability to have a few Jackson Juniors some day, of course.”
She let out a whimper and slapped her forehead. “Don’t remind me. With my luck you were here to whisk me off on a world tour and my first official act was maiming you.”
Despite the lingering ache in his junk, he chuckled. “No tour, but I think I can offer you something just as good.”
“What could be better than a world tour with Jackson Stone?”
“That’s why I’m here. I’m supposed to tell you about Victoria Armington’s will.”
“Victoria Armington?” Her eyes narrowed to green slits. “How do you know that name?”
“My friend Cameron Reed is her attorney. Or I guess his firm was her attorney. Now, he’s in charge of overseeing her will. He sent me to bring you to Palm Cove, Florida for the reading.”
An odd expression swept across Bailey’s features and then her face went blank. “Victoria’s dead?”
“Yes.”
“What does that have to with me again?”
Even her voice had gone flat. Jackson decided he hated an emotionless Bailey Tenant. Where had the sexy, elfin creature he’d first seen gone? And what did she have against old Victoria Armington?
“You’re named in the will.”
            “She left me something?” Surprise and what sounded like extreme doubt emerged despite her seeming efforts to remain unaffected. 
“I don’t know the specifics,” Jackson said. “I only know you’re named in the will, and you need to be in Palm Cove for the reading day after tomorrow. Which means we need to be on the road tonight if we have a chance of making it in time.”
It wasn’t entirely the truth. Bailey was named in the will, but things were not so cut-and-dried when it came to Victoria Armington’s will. The details might be fuzzy, and the part with the pig still didn’t make sense, but the case had Cam rattled enough to call in his two best friends to help oversee the proceedings. Still, it wasn’t Jackson’s job to tell Bailey everything. He just needed to get her to Florida.
“Yeah, that’s not happening.” Bailey turned and started shoving her things into a battered duffel bag. The breast inserts disappeared first. “You can tell your friend, thanks, but no thanks.”
He blinked in astonishment at her abrupt refusal. “What do you mean, no?”
“It means I don’t want anything from Victoria Armington.” Bailey put the wig and skullcap into her bag. “I’m sorry you came all this way for nothing.”
Jackson opened his mouth in shock, but couldn’t get any words out for moment. “You are aware that Victoria Armington was an heiress, right? Are you telling me you’d turn down a big inheritance?”
A pair of pumps disappeared into the duffel next. “If it comes from that family, then yes.”
“Why? What did they ever do to you?”
“Nothing.” She finished packing and threw the bag over her shoulder, not even bothering to remove the white dress. “Absolutely nothing.”
He cut her off before she fled the dressing room. “Wait.” 
            She glared up at him, and Jackson decided he much preferred anger to her previous blank gaze. “Please move.”
He should move. It wasn’t like he could make her go. He’d just tell Cam that Bailey didn’t want to take part and then get back to…
Get back to doing what exactly? 
Staring at the walls? Missing Lacey so much he sometimes wondered if it might be better to end it all and join her in the hereafter? Drinking to easy the pain? Mourning the loss of the muse in his head? Songs used to flow through him like his own blood, but he hadn’t heard a single note since the crash.
He’d felt nothing up until the moment a fake Marilyn Monroe walked into the room. Maybe he owed it to himself to find out why. Besides, Bailey seemed down on her luck in the worst way. Maybe he could help her, too.
“I know a lot about pride and wanting to make it on your own,” Jackson said. “But do you really think it’s smart to turn your back on money that could help you out of whatever bind you’re in?” 
“Who says I’m in a bind?”
He gave her a ‘who-are-you-kidding’ look. “You’re dressing as Marilyn Monroe for a bunch of drunks and teaching rugrats on the side.”
“Maybe I like playing screen stars,” she countered. “And it’s a privilege to impart my love of music to the next generation.”
“No one works in a place like this for the fun of it,” Jackson said. “This is where washed up musicians go to die.”
Her chin came up and green fire shot from the depths of her eyes. “Maybe I’m washed up then. In any case, it’s none of your business. Now, if you’re not going to take me on a world tour, I have to get to bed. The job with the rugrats starts early.”
Jackson couldn’t believe she’d turn her nose up a possible fortune. “Do you hate them that much? You’d really throw away the opportunity to find out what your great aunt left you?”
She shook her head. “I don’t hate them. They simply don’t exist. The same way I’ve never existed for them.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, they cut my mother off for daring to fall in love with someone who didn’t meet their standards. I never heard one peep out of those rich as—jerks. Not even when my mother was dying in a hospital bed. So, excuse me if I don’t leap for joy now that Victoria Armington decided to recognize me only after she kicked the bucket.”
“Bailey—”

“Goodnight, Jackson Stone.”

1 comment:

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