Every night he destroys her innocence. Each morning she awakes anew, memory clean "pure enough to be tainted, twisted, and adored for the devil"s sick pleasures.Books by Author:Addison Cain Books
The whole city of New York stank.
Boulevards, vacant due to poor weather, crusted with a slush of mud and garbage. But it was the living crammed inside tightly packed houses, drinking coffee by their radios, snoring in their beds, that stung Pearl"s nostrils.
She could hear them, their scratching and breaths. Worse she could smell them.
Every last one reeked under cheap perfume and lack of washing.
Patchy fur collar hitched up to cover cold ears, cloche hat doing little to keep the snow off her face, she kept her arms tight around her middle and plodded onward through the night streets. Under the threadbare coat, a fringed dress too short for common decency did nothing to keep out the winter chill. Each draft up her hem set her teeth chattering, stronger gusts earning a hiss.
Even with the smell, no matter the icy cold, she wasn"t complaining.
So far, life in the big city was grand.
She"d had a busy night in the smoke-filled supper club, Palace Delight. Her neck may have been sore from supporting the weight of her cigarette box"s strap, but she"d made two dollars. Added to the cash she"d earned the night before, and the night before that, Pearl was set to have a little extra for New Year"s.
Maybe she"d get a new dress, or a nice lamp to spruce up her apartment. Better yet, some ruffled lace curtains for the room"s single window"something pretty that would frame the view of the street below but keep the sun bright on her body when she slept beneath it.
She"d never had so fine a place to sleep. The walls were papered in fading floral ribbons, linoleum floors showed previous tenants" wear, but the one room abode was all hers. If she was lucky and kept to the night hours, it would be many years before neighbors even noticed she lived there. She might continue to enjoy her view of the busy street, remain sheltered, while decades crept by.
Small town life had been much more complicated. Everyone asked questions, everyone watched. Big cities, no matter how bad the inhabitants inside their borders reeked, were a boon.
If she played her cards right, no one would know that… that there was something deeply wrong with her.
All Pearl had to do was stay out of trouble.
She"d heard him, but she knew better than to so much as raise her chin to a stranger on the street, daylight or midnight.
The Roaring Twenties offered much for a girl… but it had not changed the hardline manner of men. They were as much trouble as they"d ever been.
This one, in his pricy coat and polished wingtips, had no place wandering her working class neighborhood at 3:00 a.m. This one, huddled under the corner drug store"s awning, didn"t smell of bootleg whiskey; he didn"t sway from too much drink. He had not come from one of the speakeasies and just gotten lost. Even from across the street, Pearl could smell that there was no lingering wash of women"s perfume telling the tale of a late night dalliance with a mistress to explain his midnight stroll in foul weather.
Cocky by half, he was lurking with a purpose and by the growing beat of his heart, he"d found it: prey.
Poor women made easy targets.
Two more blocks and she"d have a locked door between herself and everyone else in Manhattan. Two more blocks and there would be nothing to worry about.
The would-be Casanova pushed from the building, cutting across the slushy street in a beeline for her. "Isn"t it a little late for a stroll""
Pearl took a sharp left, hoping he"d be wiser than to follow.
He was not.
She"d stolen a sidelong glance at his face, but did not recognize the man. It wasn"t her habit to catalogue each patron she"d served. After all, they came and went night after night. Hell, she rarely spoke more than one word during her shifts unless she had to. "Cigarette"" A quick nod and an exchange of funds and Pearl would slip to the next table. "Cigarette""
Her job wasn"t to be memorable. It was to be pretty while making correct change. That"s what they paid her for.
Pearl could afford her little room on the fifth floor of the Madison Building. She didn"t have to make small talk or flirt. Beyond the occasional pat on the rump, patrons left her alone. No one really wanted to gab with a cigarette girl. She was part of the scenery"an ornament that made underground supper clubs like Palace Delight swanky. It was the female patrons who earned all the attention. Pearl"s hair wasn"t sparkling bottle blonde like theirs, it wasn"t finger waved and bedecked with feathers. Hers was sleek and dark, heavy bangs across her brow, bob tight and simple.
Men didn"t follow her home…
But then again, it seemed this one had been waiting for her.