The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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58

The room was full of smoke from the cigarettes Jase had been smoking.

“Where’s Janine?” Madison asked. It was only Sam and Jase in the living room with her. Which put her on edge. Jase’s demeanour was different. His eyes just watching her as he took a long drag on another cigarette.

“She’s not coming down tonight,” he said placidly. She swallowed, sinking into herself on the sofa, knees up to her chest. The knock on the door made her jump. Sam went to answer it, inviting someone in. Jase didn’t take his eyes off of Madison.

The stranger sat down on the other side of the sofa. He wore a suit, navy, cheap and not tailored. His off-white shirt had creases running through it and a pair of small blue eyes sat behind square rimmed glasses. Madison looked to his hands clasped together then released, wiping sweat on his thighs. She wondered if Jase made everyone this nervous or if it was his first time.

He looked too kind for this kind of thing, but she supposed real escort services didn’t come cheap.

“Ugh, hello, I’m Toby-” he introduced. Jase looked away from Madison at the guy that he placed in his mid-thirties.

“I know who you are. What are you looking for?” He leaned forward, tapping ash in the tray sat on the coffee table. Toby laughed uneasily,

“I’m not actually here for me. It’s for my boss.” No one said anything and he proceeded. “He wants a girl, a young girl. Preferably blonde, small...” His eyes went down to his hands. Jase sat back. He liked the silence between them. He liked watching people squirm in their seats. It reminded him why he had originally enjoyed the job to start with.

Killing that customer had caused the person he used to be to resurface. Before Madison was in the house. He needed that, the power trip. The encounters with Madison had started making him question himself and whether he still wanted to do all of this. Last night had confirmed that he did indeed want to continue with his role, and that meant the shit had to be cut. Seeing the body drop to the floor, limp, one ankle twitching as the last nerves spasmed and he had felt nothing. It had awoken something within him again. He was no longer bored.

She had almost had him.

And something told him that she knew it, she’d planned it. That’s why she’d switched up. It had been in the back of his mind since the night of her breaking out. How could a girl with so much fight suddenly change and behave herself without ulterior motives? And then with what Janine had said, she would have known it would get back round to him, she was too smart not to. He’d had the whole night to think about it. Before, it hadn’t made sense. But now the puzzle pieces fit in nicely. At first, he was impressed, amused, even. Those feelings were overridden with the anger he held, both towards himself for originally buying it and towards her for trying it.

“What about her?” Jase asked, nodding at Madison. Her eyes widened as her breath caught in her throat. Jase’s expression didn’t change. Her skin crawled as Toby turned his attention to her, looking guilty. He frowned.

“Could you stand up?” Madison looked at Jase.

“Stand up, Madison,” he ordered. Her legs felt like jelly as she got to her feet, wringing her fingers. “Turn around.” She did as he said, rotating slowly, unable to compute what was going on. Just hours ago she’d been laid in bed with him and now she felt sick to her stomach with confusion. Toby nodded.

“She’ll do. I can send a taxi out tomorrow?” They all looked at him, and Jase shook his head.

“The girls don’t leave the house.” Toby’s brows furrowed.

“But he won’t come here, he only does home calls,” he said. Jase shrugged, stubbing his cigarette out.

“And we only do in-house. Madison, go upstairs.” She dashed out of the living room, barely able to keep the contents of her stomach down as she threw herself into the bathroom. Jase looked back at Toby. “Fuck off then.” Toby stammered for a second and Jase raised his brows, almost daring him to protest. That was enough to have him scramble to his feet and show himself out.

The atmosphere shifted, and Sam sat back in his chair, smirking as he crossed his arms.

“It’s good to have you back,” he said. Jase just grunted. Part of him had hoped that his suspicions about Madison trying to lead him into a false sense of security weren’t true but her reaction to him offering her to Toby had convinced him otherwise. She had tried to play him at his own game.

*

Muffled sobs were coming from Madison where she sat on edge of the bed, her back to the door. She could barely catch her breath. The door opened, but she didn’t bother looking over her shoulder, she knew who it was. She pulled the sleeves over her hands, trying to control her crying.

“You’re very smart. But you already know that, don’t you?” Jase said. “You had me for a minute. The little act you were putting on. I’m assuming your end goal was to get out?” He walked into the room and round to her, crouching in front of her. She wouldn’t meet his eyes. “What were you aiming to do, Madison? Did you think I was going to catch feelings for you or something? Save you?” She clenched her teeth, swallowing the lump in her throat.

“You were doing the exact same thing,” she spat back. Jase grinned menacingly.

“The games were fun while they lasted. Unfortunately, a few people have been going around saying I’ve softened so play time’s over now.” Tears ran down her cheeks and Jase frowned, reaching his hand up and placing it on the side of her face, brushing them away with his thumb. “Don’t cry bub, I wasn’t actually going to let him tell his boss you were available.” Madison blinked, meeting his eyes, he was smiling softly. “I’m saving you for someone special.” Her brows creased in anger.

“Fuck you,” she hissed. Jase laughed, standing up.

“I’m almost so impressed by how well you toyed with me that I probably would have let you. But you’re somebody else’s property now, they’ve already paid the money and I’m not big on the product we sell here.” Madison squeezed herself tighter, the tears weren’t letting up. “Oh, and you can talk as much as you like, Benny needs me right now so you’ll be the only one that suffers.” He left her alone in the room, closing and locking the door behind him. The thought that she’d lost Jase’s protection was almost too much to bear but there was nothing in her stomach to bring up any more. The tears didn’t stop. She had been so close to gaining his trust and building a genuine bond with him and it slipped through her fingers like fine sand. What hurt most was that it wasn’t all a game, Madison had grown to somewhat understand Jase and even enjoy his company at times. That would all change now. Everything would.

Jase grabbed his leather jacket, shrugging it over his shoulders.

“Where are you going?” Sam asked.

“To the club,” he replied. He couldn’t even bring himself to feel sorry for Madison. She’d made her bed and, in the process, nearly made him look like an absolute idiot. It wasn’t just her he was mad at though, his anger cast itself over his own head too for biting the bait.

Well, he’d put a stop to it all.

He drove to the club, breaking most of the speed limits, hoping the girl who had been there last time was working. Maybe she’d help him release some tension.

Sasha was behind the bar when he walked in, she was already clutching the bottle of brandy and filling up a glass for him.

“You look like you’ve had a long night,” she said. Jase hummed.

“Something like that.” He took out a twenty, sliding it over. “Keep it. This won’t be my only one.” She shrugged, clipping the money in the till draw.

“You want to talk about it?”

“Not particularly.” Sasha nodded, taking his lack of conversation as a hint to leave him be.

Jase was halfway through his third double when the familiar face came strutting over. She was smiling, a practised smile. The same one that the girls flashed to customers.

“I was getting sad, thinking I’d never see you again.” The nameless stripper said, placing a hand on Jase’s thigh as she slid herself onto the barstool opposite. He returned the smile, out of politeness more than interest. She was making it too easy and the thoughts he had in the car subsided.

That was the thing when you didn’t find anything a challenge, it held no appeal. He could abuse his power back at the house, that’s why he never bothered. Anything he wanted, just at his fingertips, there was no satisfaction. No working for it. That was half of the excitement.

“You here for some fun?” The stripper continued. Jase picked up his glass, watching her over the rim.

“Not tonight,” he said before taking a sip. She shrugged.

“Never mind, maybe next time.” She slipped away and he watched her leave. His mind drifted to Madison.

“Fuck you.”

He smiled at her words. The fight was contagious. The anger and venom that stewed in her. That was the real her. Not the sweet, sensitive girl she’d pretended to be. He could see it now that he’d exposed her. It should have been more obvious, nice girls didn’t know how to pick locks. It was such a shame to see her go to waste in that house but there was no use dwelling on it. They had a job to do.

He only had himself to blame really, but he was in the process of setting things straight. He had returned back to how he used to be, and that had to be the way it was. But he couldn’t deny the fact that when he’d originally sussed out the little game she had been playing, it had given him a rush. He’d sat in his car laughing after disposing of the body. Everything had clicked out of nowhere, the sudden submissiveness, the nice things she was saying to Janine. Of course they were part of an agenda.

Pictures of her crying herself to sleep swamped his mind and a coldness ran over him.

Served her right.

Most people that tried to test Jase like that ended up underground, if anything, she was lucky that Peter had paid for her.

He returned to the house just before the sun was coming up. Madison was asleep, her cheeks stained with tears. He found it incredible she could still bring herself to wear one of his t-shirts. From the door, he stared at her with disdain.

He was slightly drunk and it was making his temper boil. Few people got the better of Jase and saw the light of day again. Yet here was a tiny girl of all things that had nearly rocked his entire reputation. With a grunt at the sight of her, he pulled off his t-shirt and slumped down in the sheets. The brandy helped everything fade to black rather quickly.

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