“Look at her,” Jenna Colsen said, scowling at the TV in front of her.
“What about her?” Tara Riley asked.
On the screen a pretty brunette spoke into the camera, gleaming white teeth exposed in a cheerful smile, reporting on the arrest of a suspected murderer.
“That’s Carrie Calabro, the ‘golden girl’ at the station. She was hired the same year I was, but she gets all the high-profile stories while I cover bake sales and dog shows on Wake Up, Union City
!” Jenna snorted in disgust as she took a deep drink of her wine.
Tara sipped from her own glass at the other end of the couch. Both women were dressed in sweats and T-shirts as they lounged in Jenna’s apartment.
“I have got to find a case that will show the news director I can do more. You’re a bartender—surely someone has confessed some dark and dirty secret to you.” Jenna curled her legs beneath her as she cradled the glass. Sorry, babe. The only stuff people usually tell me is the wife won’t put out enough or the husband’s a dick, or maybe their boss doesn’t appreciate them.”
“Come on,” Jenna pleaded. “You’ve lived in this town your whole life—there has to be some kind of scandal I can break. Crooked cop, mayor taking bribes, something?”
“Who would want to bribe the mayor? She’s nearly seventy and so senile she’d forget what she was taking the money for.” Tara laughed.
“I’ve been stuck covering human-interest stories since I got here. The evening-news reporters get the big stories, but if I could find a public corruption case, I could do the story myself and really get some attention.” Jenna took a sip and stared into the wine.
“What’s the big rush? Good things come to those who wait, and your career is just getting started.” Tara looked at the level of the alcohol in her glass as though trying to measure it.
Jenna poured her friend a generous portion before continuing. “Mariel Campbell, the anchorperson at five o’clock, is retiring in a few months. I’m not crazy enough to think I could replace her, but I might get moved up to reporting on some real news.”
“I think you’re out of luck, honey. Nothing to do in Union City but screw.” Tara laughed.
Jenna threw her head back in frustration. “How about you? Banging anyone new? I haven’t heard anything juicy through the walls lately.”
Tara groaned. “What a way to meet a new neighbor. ‘Excuse me, but could you keep the noise from your fucking down a little?’” She shook her head, her ponytail, colored black with a white-blonde streak this month, almost flying into her face.
“I didn’t say it that way. I just wanted you to know I could hear you. I would certainly want to know.” Jenna smirked as she took another drink.
“Yeah, right. Your bedroom has been as quiet as a crypt since you moved in. What’s it been, at least six months?” Tara pursed her lips in a mocking pout.
“Hey! I told you, I work a lot. I have to get up in the middle of the night…and it’s been closer to nine months.” Jenna raised her glass in a mock salute.
“You poor thing. I bet you’re going through batteries by the case. I wear out my vibrator if I go more than a week.” Tara grinned as a blush spread across her friend’s face. “You have to have the boys in the office all hot and bothered. You’re like the blonde, blue-eyed reporter guys fantasize about.”
“You changed the subject. I asked about your love life. I have to live vicariously through you.” Jenna hoped Tara would take the bait and talk about herself.
“I’ve been staying with Rob after work most nights. It’s going pretty well.” Tara reached for a refill.
“Wow. Getting serious?” Jenna asked.
“God no.” Tara snorted. “He’s good in bed though. Want me to see if he has a friend?”
“No way! I’m focusing on my career right now, and I’ve got to make some waves if I’m going to get ahead. No offense, but I don’t want to work at Channel Five forever. I’m hoping to get to a major market in five years and be at a national network in ten.” Jenna sighed and stared into her glass, studying the light reflecting from the wine.
“I’m not offended—I want you to take me with you!” Tara laughed before frowning thoughtfully. “You know, I do know something kind of scandalous, but I’m not sure how you could use it.”
Jenna sat up straight, one leg reaching the floor as though she was preparing to jump from her seat. “Really? What is it?”
“My friend Julie from the bar has been moonlighting at a swingers’ club. She says it gets pretty wild there.” Placing her glass on the coffee table, Tara stretched and arched her back. “Don’t know if that qualifies as a scandal these days.”
“A swingers’ club in Union City? Does anyone important go to it?” Jenna gazed intently at her friend.
“According to the rumors, a lot of important people go. Very kinky, I hear.” Tara grinned. “Is that news?”
“I don’t know, but it beats anything else I’ve heard. Tell me more.” Jenna got up and crossed the room to grab a notebook and pen, and returned to her seat ready to write, her wine forgotten.
“You know the old Long Hills Country Club?” Tara asked.
“No, but I haven’t lived here very long. What about it?” Jenna tapped her pen against the notebook.
“The Gann family were the ones who owned the old bottle factory, and they built a mansion called Long Hills, a huge place with, like, twenty bedrooms. This was back around 1900 or something. Anyway, fast-forward to the 1950s, and the last of the family died. The local folks, at least the rich ones, decided to turn the place into a country club.” Tara paused for a sip of wine. “It turns out Union City doesn’t have enough rich folks to pay the tab on a place like that, so it closed up about ten years ago.”
“And?” Jenna asked, again tapping the notebook.
“And a few years ago the land was bought by some developers who turned the golf course into a neighborhood of luxury homes, but no one knew what to do with the old mansion. Eventually somebody bought it and turned it into a high-end event venue—you know, weddings, corporate retreats, that kind of stuff.” Another wine break silenced Tara for a moment.
“I swear to God, Tara, if you don’t get to the point soon…”
“Keep your panties on. Here’s the good part: from time to time, the place gets rented out for a night, and people come from all over for a giant sex party. From what I hear, a lot of politicians and business tycoons show up in limos, all wearing masks and fancy clothes, to fuck like rabbits.” With a satisfied smile, Tara leaned back, watching Jenna.
“Okay, maybe there is something there. I think I want to talk to your bartender friend. Could you set it up?” Setting aside her notebook, Jenna suppressed a yawn.
“Maybe. I’ll talk to her.” Tara checked the time on her phone. “Look at that. Almost nine o’clock. It’s past your bedtime!”
“Yeah, I’m covering the opening of a new senior center in the morning. They’re holding some kind of lawn-bowling tournament. Really dramatic stuff,” Jenna said with heavy sarcasm.
“Honey, I will still be dead to the world by the time you smile for the camera.” Tara uncurled herself from the couch and headed to the door. “Fair warning—Rob is coming over tonight.” She shot a mischievous grin over her shoulder as the door closed behind her.
* * * *
Jenna fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow, but strange dreams began to unravel in her unconscious mind. The dream was always the same—half memory, half fantasy—but it always started in that room, with Him
He was at least fifteen years older than she was. It had seemed like a huge difference at the time. Standing there in his coat and tie, he’d looked so sophisticated, and she’d felt so inadequate wearing nothing but a simple sundress.
“Take it off,” he ordered as he moved behind her.
His voice was soft yet commanding, and she could hear the drawer open. That sound always made her wet. She knew what the drawer held. Hating herself for her weakness, she unbuttoned the front and shrugged out of the dress, allowing it to pool on the soft carpet at her feet.
Jenna stood in her simple white bra and panties and waited. She could hear him behind her, breathing steadily, and then it touched her.
The braided leather caressed the left cheek of her ass and then the right. This was just the handle; now he reversed the implement, and its feathery-soft fingers crept up her back, dragging slowly. Jenna fought the moan of anticipation, determined to make him earn it this time. The longer she held out, the more he worked to draw the sounds of her appreciation from her, and the more delicious it would be.
A pounding noise interrupted their progress, and Jenna searched wildly for the source. She spun, but there was no one there—she was alone in the room. Was it the door? She yanked it open, uncaring of her lack of attire. No one was waiting there, either.
Slowly, she floated up into consciousness, an image of leather cuffs holding her to a wooden frame melting into a memory of her holding a riding crop, pointing it in anger at someone. A moment later, she opened her eyes in her own bed.