Chapter 1 Excerpt

The aroma of various foods heavily saturated the air, causing her stomach to viciously growl.  She could not remember the last time she consumed food and decided to find something worthy to eat.  There were only a few places in town where she had not sat down for a meal, and with so many that were good, it was hard to decide which one to visit that night.  She closed her eyes to imagine exactly what it was she desired.  A vision of dinner came to mind, and she headed towards her choice.  Warm smiles greeted her at the door, alongside hearty handshakes and people who knew her by name.  They escorted her ahead of a small line and seated her at the best table in the house.  She did not even require a menu, the kitchen knowing she wanted the usual, and the chef was happy to prepare the dish.  As she eagerly waited, her eyes wandered around the room.  They always gawked when they saw her.  Was it envy?  Were they curious as to how someone like her could possibly attain such a high social status?  The sly smirk that graced her lips and confident composure—with head held up in pride—said yes.

Among her admirers was a young man named Jesse.  His nature was to be a hustler, as he had been doing it since he was just a boy.  An instinctively fast talker, he could sell anything to the marks and rubes, but also often found himself in numerous confrontations.  Not everyone enjoyed his bullshitting skills, however the notorious reputation he carried was also respected by certain individuals in a situation where it brought great profit .  In truth, he was still hustling, but the motivation did not come from the monetary compensation for a job well done.  There was pride that stemmed from long hours of work—even if he was just being himself and making money at the same time.  As Jesse cut into the veal parmesan, he could not divert his eyes from the vivacious young woman who had walked in a moment ago.  His attention was utterly drawn to her and thoughts became perverse rather quickly.  Jesse could not put a name to her unique face, and while he wanted nothing more than to introduce himself to such a lovely lady, he was not a man who approached women—Jesse had a way of making them come to him.

When the waiter stopped at the table to collect his plate, Jesse slipped him a few bills and requested the name of that exotic girl.  The waiter smiled as he walked away, and Jesse sat back in his chair, a smug sense of satisfaction evident on his face.  There would be no games with her, as she seemed far too sophisticated to be hustled, but she definitely had potential.  How he would love to watch her work a crowd,  so drawn to her, they would not even realize if money or other valuables went missing.  Just thinking about it was enough to hive him a hard-on.  It was then that he knew she was no ordinary girl—she had substance and her mysterious nature was what made her so appealing.

While Jesse sat and stared from his table, Sacha quietly ate her dinner across the room.  She carefully chewed a piece of broccoli and cut the linguini so that she did not have to lean over and slurp it off the plate.  Manners were important when she was in public.  As much as she enjoyed dining out, she despised having a captive audience, as though it were feeding time at the zoo.  People seemed incredibly fascinated by the simple mechanical act of lifting food with a utensil to place it in the mouth for the purpose of grinding it with the teeth, and thus making it suitable for swallowing.  If they insisted on staring, she would be sure to give them a performance of etiquette unexpected from a modified individual—often stereotyped to the point where even daring to appear in such an upscale place was ‘uncommon’ for such people.  Sacha could tell their minds raced with stupid questions, such as how it was possible to eat with so much metal in her lips.  Was that not the purpose of the fork?  She glanced at them every now and then to catch them off guard and watch their faces turn in embarrassment.  It was then that she noticed the well-dressed man who casually admired her—there was a slight flutter in her stomach as a chill ran up her spine.

Sacha found herself eyeing the handsome young man in the fine red suit, crisp blue shirt nicely accented with a light yellow tie, impressed with the quality of his clothes.  She wanted to see the face hidden under shadows cast by the red bowler secured on his head.  Something in her knew that he was watching her, but not the way everyone else did.  He exuded confidence without having to act like an arrogant asshole and seemed more sophisticated than the usual male she came in contact with.   They had one-track minds and were a waste of her time, but this gentleman was different, and suddenly she became utterly captivated by him.  Sacha could feel her face flush and lowered her gaze to the plate in front of her, overcome with shyness.  It was not every day someone showed genuine interest, and the pessimistic side of her said that he was really looking at someone else.  Glancing up again, she caught a slight twitch on his lips, as though he were smiling. There was no doubt his eyes were fixed on her, and as a reflex, she smiled too.  The waiter paused at her table and casually leaned over to deliver a message.  It seemed the gentleman in the red suit wanted to know her name.

So that is how he wants to play?’  she thought to herself. ‘Okay, I can dig that.

The gentleman could be informed her name was Sacha, she explained to the waiter, her smile growing.

Jesse eagerly chewed the inside of his lip in anticipation.  She must have said something, as she smiled at the waiter.  He returned to the table, leaned over and whispered her name.  Jesse thanked the waiter again with another bill, then sat back in his chair as his thoughts ran wild.  He had to find out everything he could about her, but the growing erection had become rather annoying.  While Jesse wanted to follow her out of the restaurant, down a dark ally and take her on the sidewalk, she was not some cheap fuck.  Far too intelligent to be involved with petty mind games, in fact, and there was only one way to get her attention—by taking full advantage of his skills.  However, he was still a man after all and could not quiet the devil in his pants.  As nonchalantly as he could, Jesse rose from the table and headed for the bathroom, turning his head slightly to catch a glimpse of Sacha.  His gaze paused as he checked her out, slightly nodding with approval.

Once in the confines of the sanitized bathroom, complete with grey tiled walls and polished chrome sinks, Jesse locked himself in a stall and tended to his business.  No woman had ever gotten him so hard so fast.  The chains in his pocket jingled as he masturbated over the cold and unyielding toilet.  He wondered if he should say something to her, but decided now was not the time.  He wanted to ensure that she sought him out.  A groan escaped his lips, head leaning against the cool wall.  His body shuddered as he came in the stainless steel bowl, silver rings on his fingers clinking together when he zipped up his pants, then flushed.  They had not even made direct contact yet, but a slight bit of nerves restrained him from approaching her.

Jesse glanced down at his watch and realized there was somewhere he had to be.  However, he could spare a few seconds to snort some lines to keep his head straight.  The grey marble counter next to white porcelain sinks made an excellent surface for the coke.  A short black glass straw appeared from his pocket and was jammed into his nose, the powder racing towards the back of his head in a matter of seconds.  Examining himself in the mirror, glaring at the reflection as he smoothed out the collar of his shirt and jacket, he was not in the mood for the feelings that were surging through his body.

“Not now,” he whispered.  “This was over a long time ago, got it?”

***

The coke was reaching its pinnacle; heart raced so fast that she swore he could hear it, palms sweating and clammy at the same time.  Had he noticed when she touched him?  Thoughts swirled and collided in her head.  Sacha highly admired the man who sat across from her, even though he was shrouded in mystery.  There was more to Jesse that he seemed reluctant to reveal, for no other reason than he was afraid of what she would think of him.  There was not much that could cause Sacha to treat him any differently, particularly since she had been taught to always give people what one would expect from them in return.  Part of her was full of curiosity as to what sort of business he was involved in, but with those vague comments it was only natural.  There was something in his eyes that said he wanted to pour his heart out, but there were reservations because Jesse did not know how she would react, in addition to the fact they barely knew each other to be having that type of conversation.

“Maybe this was a bad idea,” Sacha said after her question was met with silence, slowly rising from the table.  “I would like nothing more than to work with you, and I really believe that we could hustle the fuck out of the marks and rubes.  However, it seems that you have other things on your mind.  When you get your shit together, then come find me.”  She paused to approach Jesse, captivated by the winged anatomical heart crowned with flames that was inked on his neck.  “At some point you are going to have to trust me.  Whatever it is that you are hesitating to tell me…” The words were lost as she became distracted by his intense grey eyes, small pools of blue and purple faintly floating through the iris.

“I want you to be my partner,” Jesse suddenly blurted out as he eased out of the chair, never breaking his gaze from those lush green eyes.  “You have what it takes to be a hustler, and you have the talent to use that skill to its full advantage.  I may have come across in a certain way, and perhaps you are unsure of what to make of me just yet.”  A slight smirk danced on his lips as he gently laid his hands on her pierced cheeks.  “I will tell you whatever you want to know, so long as you hear me out before you decide if you want to walk away.”

“Who are you?” she bluntly inquired, running her fingers through his slick dirty blonde hair.

My main purpose in life is being a part of that carnival down the West End,” he confidently replied.  “While I have filled many roles over the years, currently I am a featured performer of the sideshow.  The gigs I get in the city are just for extra income.  Oh, and then I like to entertain myself with picking pockets and anything else that might strike my fancy.  It is not about the money really—you seem like the type of person who would understand the motivation and reasons behind doing such a thing.  Anyway, I want you to be my partner in all of this.”

Sacha remained silent as she processed the information.  ‘So that is why he was afraid’, she thought to herself.  Holding Jesse tightly in her arms, she nestled her head between his neck and shoulder.  Everyone in the small close-knit ocean-side community knew about the Carnies, though there were more rumors than facts and fantasies instead of brutal reality that floated in hushed conversations.  Despite the imagination that sort of life was full of luxury and glamour, those who lived it could certainly argue the truth.  There was immense fear of rivals who were eager to take control—by force if necessary—and those who called themselves friends would not hesitate to commit betrayal as long as the price was right.  Then John Law was always waiting for someone to make the wrong move, but the cops were easily kept at bay as well, so long as nothing noticeably illegal took place.  Sacha actually knew all about that sort of lifestyle, as she had grown up in it.

***

 Sacha was already falling asleep before he even finished the sentence.  Jesse watched her for a few hours, smoking a joint while fingers were tangled in those luxurious white-blonde locks.  It was quite uncharacteristic for him to feel so caring for someone who might as well have been a stranger, but she had opened up that heavily protected part of himself with simple and natural charm.  Every one of her smiles melted his heart, and just being in close proximity to such a gorgeous woman was enough to wake up the primitive urges that had been dormant for so long.  Jesse knew that she did not realize he truly meant what he had said—no other individual had been valuable enough to protect with his own life.  There would be a time when she fully understood who he was, but at that particular moment, he just wanted her to dream.  Meanwhile, Jesse released his sexual desires in the toilet once again, pausing for a moment to splash cold water on his face and throw a scowl towards the grinning reflection in the mirror.  It had been a long day, and the last thing he needed was that voice in his head; that incessant, maddening laughter.

Easing into the bed, Jesse held Sacha close, and finally there was silence.

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