The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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The kitchen door opened, making the girls jump. Sam looked at both of them and decided not to question it.

“Upstairs now girls. There’s another party tonight. You’re welcome to join,” He said. They both stood up.

“Do they always have this many parties?” Madison asked as they walked upstairs. She shrugged,

“Good for business, they sell a lot of their drugs at their own parties.” That made sense. They went to their rooms. Madison sat on the bed, facing the mirror and pursing her lips. Her wavy blonde hair cascaded past her shoulders to the bottom of her ribs. It had lost some of its shine. She looked tired, bags creating shadows under her eyes.

Girls are good in this business; they can look pretty, get away with most things.

Her dad’s words rang in her head.

She could hardly attend the party looking like she did. Hesitantly, she made her way back downstairs, standing in the living room doorway.

They had a customer with them and her hands clammed at the realisation that she’d interrupted. Jase looked up from the scales he was piling cocaine onto, causing Sam and the stranger to look at her as well.

“What?” He asked, unimpressed with her presence and putting emphasis on the ‘t’.

“I was wondering if I could sit in Janine’s room with her?” The other men looked at Jase. He turned back to the cocaine.

“Whatever, just stay upstairs.” She quickly took herself out of his sight, knocking on Janine’s door.

“What’s up?” she whispered, looking over Madison’s shoulder to make sure no one was coming upstairs.

“Jase said I could come and sit with you,” she replied. Janine narrowed her eyes but pushed her door open as a silent invite.

“That’s weird too,” she mumbled, but Madison said nothing, looking around Janine’s bedroom. She had a box of condoms sat on her bedside chest of drawers, next to a bottle of lubricant and baby wipes. Make-up was laid out over her dresser. It was more like an actual bedroom than a prison.

“Can I use your make up?” she asked, looking at Janine sat at her dresser.

“Sure. Is that why you wanted to come in here?” Madison hummed, grazing over the collection of cosmetics.

“It gets boring in the room.”

“At least you don’t have to work,” Janine said, grabbing a make-up wipe and running it over her face.

“What’s it like?” Madison asked, “working?” Janine looked at her in the mirror and sighed.

“For me? Not the worst thing in the world. I’m safer here than I was out there. I miss the rain and stuff but at least I’m not getting in people’s cars, going God knows where.” Madison nodded, taking a wipe for herself and Janine moved up on the seat so she could perch on the end.

“Do you prefer it here because of Sam?” Janine shrugged. “Do you love him?”

“It’s complicated,” she said, a solemn look in her eyes. Janine was sweet-natured, she’d gone out of her way to offer Madison advice and was the closest thing she had to a real friend in the house.

“Want to talk about it?” For a few seconds she remained silent. Considering the idea of actually being friends with Madison. She thought of the times she’d seen girls she had worked with before coming through the house. How she’d learned not to hold anyone close because it was likely they wouldn’t be there long. Then she remembered how Jase was towards Madison. Even if it was temporary, it would be nice to have a girl to talk to. She could only converse with Sam so much.

“Sam was my first. We went to school together. We were always close. He looked after me at school, you know?” She smiled but it was laced with sadness.

“How did you get here?” Madison asked.

“Just over two years ago, he saw me get out of someone’s car, crying. They’d refused to pay, threatened to stab me and kicked me out.” Madison pressed her lips together, listening intently. Janine let out a weal laugh, looking up at the ceiling and blinking back tears. “He saved me. I know it sounds stupid because of the situation I’m in now but he did. I’d had enough that night. I was ready to count myself out,” she wiped her eyes, “but he was in the right place at the right time. He asked me what happened and I told him the guy had threatened to stab me and wasn’t paying. Sam pulled a gun on him. After that, he offered me a new job here. He explained all the rules but he promised to look after me while I’m here,” she looked at Madison, “he hasn’t broken that promise once. He even stood up to Jase and refused to let me have more than five customers a day. He lets me come downstairs when Benny isn’t here, lets me pick my food. It’s almost normal.”

It was moving but it made Madison cautious. Janine’s loyalties were obvious and she didn’t want to go trusting the wrong people.

“Why are you giving me advice on Jase?” she asked. Janine quickly gathered herself, sniffing and sitting up straight.

“Because he’s dangerous,” she replied, not exactly answering her question. Madison nodded, turning back to the mirror.

“I’m aware of that. But you’ve got a pretty sweet set up here, all things considered, and you’re more than aware that you aren’t supposed to say certain things to me and yet, you do. Why?” She pressed on. Janine picked up a make-up brush, held it for a moment and then turned to face Madison directly.

“He’s an attractive man, and he treats you differently. Have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome?” Madison laughed,

“You think I’m going to fall in love with him?” Janine rolled her eyes, turning back to her reflection.

“It’s not impossible, and it’s not that crazy. As soon as he has you in his clasp, he’ll treat you like a puppet. I was your age when I started working because I was sweet-talked into it by a man that told me he loved me. He had money troubles and we were desperate to get away, it seemed like a quick fix. I don’t want to see you go down the same rabbit hole.” She got sweeter and sweeter. Madison almost wanted to let her in on what was actually going on but there was only so much she could expose Janine to without putting them both at risk.

“Well,” she said, opening an eye shadow palette, “we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?”

“I don’t know what you’re playing at, Madison,” Janine said, her eyes narrowed in curiosity, “but for the love of God, please be careful.” They looked at each other in the mirror again. Madison nodded once.

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