was beyond her ability to fix. Nick had made her see the truth. He had broken them up, and he had sent Evan to jail. She had thought after a dozen years that Evan had moved on; she’d been wrong. He had just been waiting for the right moment to pounce.
“Leave Nick alone, Evan,” she said “If you ever cared about me at all, do this one thing for me.”
“I’d do just about anything for you, Jen. You’ve never appreciated how good I am at what I do, but I’m going to show you. I’m going to show everyone. I’m the best there ever was. You’ll see.”
“Evan, please listen to me.”
There was nothing but silence. Evan had hung up.
Her hand shook as she closed the phone, and a wave of helpless fear ran through her. Evan wanted revenge.
How far would he go?
Charlotte Hirsch felt more than a little trepidation as she parked her car on Broadway between Columbus and Montgomery streets, not far from the strip club where she’d once worked. As she stood on the corner looking down the block at the neon lights, the billboards touting sleazy midnight shows, she wondered why it hadn’t seemed so seedy back in her day. Or maybe she just hadn’t seen it that way. She was older now, more mature, more conservative. In the fifties she’d been a young woman poised on the verge of her own life, and she’d wanted to have it all.
She didn’t even remember now what having it all had entailed. She’d just known that she wanted more than the small-town farm-wife role her mother had settled for. At eighteen she’d left the garlic-growing town of Gilroy and headed north to San Francisco, determined to be a dancer or an actress. She’d auditioned, waited tables, worked as a grocery-store checker, and dreamed about being a star.
When the money ran out, she let a friend talk her into dancing at a small club on Broadway. The pay was great.
The customers were rich, exciting, sometimes dangerous 84
men. Before she knew it she was dancing on tables and answering to the name “Sweet Charlie.” After the shows, she drank cheap wine, smoked pot, and listened to jazz with her friends. She was part of the beat generation made famous by Jack Kerouac, not that she’d known that at the time. She’d just been living her life as recklessly and joyously as possible.
She’d made mistakes, lots of them, one particularly big one. His name was Johnny Blandino. She’d fallen hard and fast for him. One lustful smile and she’d been his, no questions asked. Johnny had changed the course of her life — some might say for the worse; some might say for the better. Who knew what road she would have gone down if she hadn’t met him? She certainly didn’t know. And looking back never got her anywhere.
Sighing, she wished now that she’d kept Johnny in the past, where he belonged. But when she’d given Kayla his watch, the watch she was never supposed to let out of her sight, she’d ripped a hole in the protective covering that had surrounded her for the past fifty years, hiding her secrets from the world. She had to find a way to make it right . . . or to make it stop. Which was why she’d come back to a place she’d been careful to avoid for decades.
Forcing herself to move, she walked down the street and entered the club, named simply Deception. It was quiet and nearly empty, not surprising for a Saturday morning. She paused in the dim light to get her bearings.
The bar was on her left. A raised stage surrounded by tables took up most of the room, with two shiny gold poles on each front corner of the stage. Several private booths ran along the far side of the room. She wondered just how far the dancers went these days; she suspected farther than she’d ever gone.
TA K E N
“Can I help you?” a young man asked, coming up behind her.
“I’m looking for Dana,” she said, feeling suddenly nervous. It had been a long time since she’d seen the woman who had gotten her into the business, and she
Ashlyn Chase, Dalton Diaz