The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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Madison joined the showing later in the evening. She knew someone would come and get her if she didn’t. As with the previous showing, she grabbed a drink and stood in the corner, keeping her head down and trying not to draw any attention to herself. Every now and then, she’d look at the other girls in attendance wearing expensive dresses. She’d never seen any of them before.

“Hey honey, why the long face?” one of them asked as they opened the fridge. Madison looked at her, then around her, she wasn’t with anyone.

“Are you serious?” she asked. The girl chewed her lip. She had dyed brown hair, ironed straight, that brushed her shoulders and her make up appeared high end.

“I suppose that’s a stupid question.” Madison couldn’t place her accent, but she wasn’t local. There was a smoothness to it, as if it were glazed with soft southern tones. “You got a name?”

“Madison,” she replied, shuffling uncomfortably. The girl raised her eyebrows, recognition in her expression.

“Ah, you’re the famous Madison.” Madison didn’t say anything and the escort smiled. “People talk. News travels fast.”

“What’s been said?” Madison questioned hesitantly. The last thing she wanted to do was get in trouble for what could be perceived as gossip. The woman shrugged.

“Enough.” She looked Madison up and down, taking in the unrevealing outfit. “Enough to know you have made it very clear that you don’t want to be here.” She closed the fridge, a fruity drink in hand.

“And you do?” The woman disregarded her question, tossing the metal cap in the bin.

“I’m Stacey, by the way. I’ve been doing this for a long time. There is no getting out so you may as well quit whilst you still have your soul left.” She took a mouthful of the drink. “But there are tricks so that you can at least keep some of your dignity intact.” Madison shifted her weight from one foot to the other, folding her arms.

“Go on,” Madison encouraged, currently willing to listen to any piece of advice at this point. Stacey’s thick lips twitched upwards, a solemn look in her eyes.

“I remember being your age, grasping on to the fringes of survival.” Madison stared at her and she sighed. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow but once you get used to doing it, it’s a doddle. Convince yourself you want it,” Madison’s brows furrowed and Stacey shook her head, “I know it sounds mental but hear me out. They take everything from us. Our clothes, our names if they don’t like the one you have, everything. If you can convince yourself that it’s a choice, at the very least you can feel empowered.” Madison narrowed her eyes.

“What are you getting at?” she questioned. Stacey grinned.

“Sex appeal. Men are animals. They can’t help themselves but admire it. Your life isn’t going to be perfect, but trust me if you do what you’re told and act like you enjoy doing it, they’ll see you as an asset. We’ve all got to sell out a little bit but it’s a coping mechanism that hasn’t failed me yet. Eventually, it won’t seem so bad.” Madison mulled over her words. Stacey was tall, her legs slender and faintly tanned. The red body-con dress she had on fit her curves. She was on the thinner side but she looked a lot healthier than the other girls making Madison feel slightly inclined to believe her. Then she noticed the track marks on her arms.

Of course.

Stacey was doing what Madison had done with Tia and Gabby. Get them to behave. She’ll get an extra dose of heroin when she went home. Except Stacey had taken it a step further, trying to convince her that she should enjoy it but realistically, all she’d really done what relay what the boys had already told her to do but with a smile.

Rolling her eyes, Madison stepped past Stacey, making her way into the living room.

She spotted Jase, Janine and Sam sitting at the table, Jase leaning over his phone with a rolled-up twenty in his hand. Keeping in mind what Janine had said about staying in the visuals of the boys in case something went wrong, Madison made her way over. A pair of hands grabbed her as she tried to walk past the sofa, pulling her down onto the lap of a man she didn’t recognise. The stench of beer and stale cigarettes making the ordeal even more uncomfortable and disgusting.

“Fuck me, you’re lovely, aren’t you?” he laughed at her squirming. Janine looked at Jase. He was watching Madison, tapping the end of a cigarette on the table. He looked agitated and she wondered whether that was the coke or something else. After a few more seconds, he put the cigarette between his teeth, turning his attention away as he lit it.

“Let her go,” he said calmly. The guy did and Madison quickly scrambled to her feet, hugging herself. “You want to play; you pay.” The man leaned forward, slapping Madison’s arse so hard it could be heard over the music.

“How much for this one then?” he asked. Jase looked at Madison, taking a long slow drag.

“She’s reserved,” he said, watching her as tears welled in her eyes. Jase raised a single brow. “If you’re going to cry Madison, get upstairs. No one cares to see that here.” She quickly edged herself out of the living room. Janine glared at Jase. “Have you got something to say, sweetheart?” She gritted her teeth and got up from Sam’s lap, following in Madison’s footsteps. Sam tilted his head at Jase.

“Don’t be a dick to her,” he said, not taking kindly to Jase speaking to Janine in that manner.

“Get her in line then,” Jase warned.

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