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Goddess of Vengeance Jackie Collins 9781849831444 Jackie Collins 2012 filed by AScribe v.4.6.811 on 21/02/2012 It was early evening and the garden restaurant was only half-full. The patrons were trying to play it cool, because after all, this was L.A. and stars abounded. However, most of them couldn’t resist an occasional surreptitious glance over at Venus, the platinum-blonde, world famous superstar, as she picked at a chopped vegetable salad. Sitting at the table with her was Lucky Santangelo, a dark-haired beauty who’d experienced her own share of controversial headlines and scandals over the years. Lucky – the former owner and head of Panther Studios – was a businesswoman supreme, who currently owned the luxurious hotel, casino and apartment complex, The Keys, in Las Vegas. The two of them made a formidable couple. In Hollywood, where looks were everything, Venus and Lucky ruled. Venus with her in-your-face blondeness, startling blue eyes and toned and muscled shape. And Lucky – a dangerously seductive woman with blacker-than-night eyes, deep olive skin, full sensuous lips, a tangle of long jet hair and a lithe body. ‘I’m beginning to think you’re a sex addict,’ Lucky said lightly, smiling at her close friend. ‘Excuse me?’ Venus retorted, raising a perfectly arched and pencilled eyebrow. ‘Last week you called me a Cougar, and now I’m a sex addict. Seriously, Lucky?’ Pushing back her mane of unruly curls, Lucky grinned. ‘Yeah. I’m so wrong,’ she drawled sarcastically. ‘It wasn’t you who slept with your twenty-two-year-old co-star last week, and it wasn’t you who screwed your sixty-year-old director two days later.’ ‘Oh please,’ Venus said, dismissively waving her hand in the air. ‘I’m getting a divorce, what do you expect me to do? Join a convent?’ ‘That might be a touch extreme.’ Lucky smiled as she thought about Venus wreaking havoc in a convent. ‘But anyway – I’m sure you know what you’re doing.’ ‘You bet your fine ass I do,’ Venus answered vehemently. ‘Billy is all over the internet and the magazines with that juvenile skank he’s supposedly hooked up with. Just like Cooper.’ She paused for a long thoughtful moment. ‘Another cheating rat. I sure know how to pick ’em.’ ‘You certainly do,’ Lucky agreed, thinking that Cooper Turner, Venus’s husband before Billy Melina, was a whole different ball game. Cooper was a much older movie star with a Warren Beatty-style track record, and everyone had known that Cooper would eventually cheat. Billy – not so much. Even though Billy was thirteen years younger than Venus, he’d seemed thrilled to be with her. And why not? Like Madonna, Venus was a true original with legions of worldwide fans. ‘I cannot believe Billy turned out to be such a loser,’ Venus said, determined to verbally trash ‘Hardly a loser,’ Lucky couldn’t help pointing out. ‘His current movie has grossed over a ‘Yeah, yeah, rub it in,’ Venus snapped irritably. ‘Billy’s career is on fire, but as a man I can assure you he turned out to be a big waste of space.’ She narrowed her eyes. ‘And what’s up with you today? Shouldn’t you be agreeing with me, not regaling me with his box office?’ ‘Hey – don’t say I didn’t warn you about marrying a much younger man,’ Lucky responded. ‘Billy isn’t that much younger,’ Venus insisted. ‘Anyway, it’s sure working for Demi and Ashton. Besides, I thought you liked him.’ ‘I did,’ Lucky said carefully. ‘I mean, I still do. Only marrying a younger guy . ⁠. ⁠. it’s kind of a given that they’re bound to cheat.’ ‘Oh thanks!’ Venus said, frowning. ‘When did you turn into Miz Cynical and a half?’ ‘Not cynical, merely practical.’ ‘Says you,’ Venus snorted. ‘You know I tell it like it is,’ Lucky said, picking up her wine glass and taking a sip. ‘Oh yes, we all know that about you. Nothing’s off limits.’ ‘Very true. I believe in the truth.’ ‘And I guess it works for you.’ Lucky regarded her brilliant friend, and wondered why any man who was fortunate enough to be with Venus would ever want to stray. Venus had it all – beauty, brains, and talent. ‘Exactly why are you divorcing Billy?’ she asked. ‘’Cause he—’ ‘Cheated!’ They both finished the sentence together, then broke up laughing. ‘Well,’ Venus said sagely, ‘it was fun while it lasted. Eighteen months together and six months married. Now I’m almost free again, and believe me, it’s not such a bad thing. I enjoy being on my own. Living with Billy was like doing time in a frat house. It’s such a pleasure that I don’t have to pick up dirty socks and underwear from the floor, no endless midnight snacks everywhere, and I get full control of the remote.’ ‘Surely you always had that?’ ‘Actually I didn’t. You know me – when I wasn’t working I was busy playing wifey to the hilt, and you can see where it got me.’ ‘Free to fuck your co-star, and your director,’ Lucky commented. ‘Not so bad.’ Venus gave a wicked smile. ‘I know. Shame we just finished shooting.’ ‘You should fly to Vegas this weekend,’ Lucky suggested. ‘It’ll take your mind off all things ‘What’s going on in Vegas – apart from your fantastic hotel?’ ‘A board meeting of all my investors, and since you were one of the first, it would be great if you showed your face; everyone would really love it. And – even better – I’ve decided to throw an eighteenth birthday party for Max, although the brat is driving me crazy. She’s still carrying on about moving to New York.’ ‘I cannot believe that Max is about to be eighteen. Little Maria, all grown up.’ ‘Tell me about it,’ Lucky sighed. ‘Time goes too fast.’ ‘You do realize that at eighteen there’s no way you can stop her from doing anything she ‘Unfortunately I understand that,’ Lucky said, nodding. ‘And if I know my Max, she’ll take ‘Hey – you were married young,’ Venus said brightly. ‘So maybe she’ll turn out to be street ‘Married off, you mean, by dear daddy Gino,’ Lucky said, shaking her head as if she still couldn’t quite believe that Gino had forced her into a marriage she didn’t want. ‘Can you imagine that Gino thought he was protecting me from my wild ways? What a joke that turned out to be!’ ‘I was sixteen,’ Lucky said, remembering the overwhelming rush of helplessness and dread she’d felt on her wedding day. ‘I guess I considered myself powerless to say no.’ ‘C’mon, Lucky, it didn’t do you any harm,’ Venus said. ‘Just look at everything you’ve accomplished. You’ve built hotels, run a movie studio, had three kids, and you’re married to Mister Amazing. Admit it, you’re goddamn superwoman!’ ‘No,’ Lucky answered after a thoughtful pause. ‘I’m a woman who took chances every inch of the way. I had to fight for my independence.’ A long beat. ‘Believe me, it wasn’t easy.’ ‘Right,’ Venus said. ‘And that’s exactly why you and I understand each other so well. We both know that being a strong successful woman in this town can be a lonely and difficult path.’ ‘Agreed,’ Lucky said. ‘You gotta kick ass like a guy, and get called a bitch for your trouble.’ ‘Ain’t that the truth,’ Venus said. ‘But you know something?’ Lucky added. ‘I know who I am – and I wouldn’t have it any ‘Me too!’ ‘I think we should drink to strong invincible women,’ Lucky said, raising her glass. ‘You got it, sister,’ Venus murmured. They clinked glasses and smiled at each other. ‘I’ve been meaning to ask you,’ Lucky said. ‘Who’s getting the apartment at The Keys, you ‘Me, of course,’ Venus answered firmly. ‘I’ve already told my lawyer there’s no way I’m giving it up. It’s mine. Billy can go piss in the wind to get his hands on that piece of real estate.’ ‘Glad to hear it. In this world you gotta claim what’s yours.’ ‘Hell, yes. The apartment is in your hotel, and you’re my friend, so screw Billy.’ ‘Right on!’ Lucky said, nodding her agreement. After coffee and more conversation – mostly about what an asshole Billy was – Lucky A young waiter who’d been watching them all night, edged toward their table and presented it to her. Lucky threw down her black American Express card. ‘I guess that means it’s your turn,’ Venus said, removing a small gold compact from her oversized Chanel tote, and inspecting her flawless image. She knew there’d be a pack of paparazzi waiting for her exit, and there was nothing they liked better than catching a celebrity looking like crap. She wasn’t about to give them that pleasure. The waiter hovered and cleared his throat. Although he was nervous, he saw an opportunity and he was seizing it – even if it meant getting fired should the manager catch him bothering a guest. ‘Excuse me, Miz uh . ⁠. ⁠.Venus,’ he ventured, stammering slightly. ‘I’ve uh, written a script that is so right for you. I was uh, hoping you might find time to read it.’ Venus threw him a look – the famous cool as an iced Martini look – her blue eyes raking him Oh no, Lucky thought. Here we go. The diva is on the loose. Venus didn’t disappoint. ‘Do I look like an agent?’ she purred. ‘Really?’ The waiter blanched, quickly picked up Lucky’s credit card plus the check, and slunk off. ‘Poor guy,’ Lucky said sympathetically. ‘He was merely taking a shot.’ ‘Well, let him take a shot elsewhere,’ Venus said grandly. ‘I can’t stand being harassed when ‘Oh my God, you can be such a queen bitch!’ Lucky admonished. ‘Wouldn’t want to get on ‘So be it,’ Venus said with a wry smile. ‘Shall we go?’ Seventeen-year-old Max Santangelo Golden could somehow or other wrangle her way into any club she wanted. Fake I.D. No problem. Lavish tips to the doormen. No problem. Cultivating a friendship with one of the promoters. No problem. ‘When it comes to getting in anywhere, I rule,’ Max often boasted. Her two closest friends, Cookie, the chocolate-skinned daughter of soul-icon Gerald M., and Harry, the gay son of a TV network honcho, agreed with her. Ace, her on-again off-again boyfriend, was not so pleased. The L.A. club scene failed to enthrall him. He wasn’t into drinking, drugging and spotting out-of-control celebrities. But Max, at seventeen, loved every minute. Not that she drank much or did drugs, but she did get off on people-watching and dancing on tables. Music was her special thrill – especially rap and unknown British groups with wasted-looking lead singers. Oh yes, she was totally into lean and mean. Ace was way hot and sexy, but sometimes Max considered him too nice a dude, and she often craved a more edgy relationship. Besides, Ace didn’t live in L.A. so he wasn’t always around when she wanted to do something with him. ‘Where’re we goin’ tonight?’ Cookie asked as she sat cross-legged on her messy bed picking ‘There’s a rave for some old rock group at the House of Blues,’ Harry said, speaking up. ‘’Spose we could crash if you’re up for it.’ Harry was the palest boy known to man, pallid-faced and skinny, with gelled and spiked hair dyed a ruthless black. It was only recently he’d emerged from the closet, although Max and Cookie had always known and totally accepted that he was gay. He had yet to come out to his controlling father who would probably disown him. ‘No can stand the House of Blues,’ Max opined, her brilliant green eyes flashing disapproval. ‘It’s always full of major wannabes; besides we’ll never make it into the Foundation Room.’ ‘Why not?’ Cookie inquired, leaning over and reaching for a can of 7UP balanced ‘Yeah, why not?’ Harry repeated. ‘Thought you could get in anywhere.’ ‘Anywhere I want to,’ Max answered pointedly, tossing back clouds of wavy black hair. ‘Who needs the freaking Foundation Room? It’s always full of ancient rockers gulping down handfuls of Viagra. So not cool.’ Cookie let forth a manic giggle. ‘I bet my dad takes Viagra,’ she said, swigging 7UP from the can. ‘Bet he pops those pills by the dozen.’ ‘All old guys do,’ Harry said with a knowing smirk. ‘They can’t get it up without ’em.’ ‘Gross-out!’ Cookie squealed. ‘Don’t wanna think of my dad with a boner!’ Max decided that sometimes Cookie and Harry could be too much of a good thing. The three of them had grown up together, attended the same school, and shared some interesting and sometimes frightening experiences, but in a way she felt she’d outgrown them. As soon as she was eighteen, she planned on making a break for New York and freedom. Not that her parents weren’t great, but the two of them were a lot to live up to. Lucky – who’d achieved absolutely everything she’d ever wanted. And Lennie, a multi-talented writer/director who helmed all his own independent movies. Max was tired of being referred to as their daughter. Fed up with the pressure it put on her to do something spectacular with her life. Big brother Bobby was her role model – Bobby, who had escaped and made his own way. He was definitely her inspiration, and she adored him. Although now he had a permanent girlfriend, Denver Jones, and much as she reluctantly admired Denver, a Deputy D.A., she missed having Bobby all to herself when he was in L.A. ‘Got it,’ Max said at last. ‘Whyn’t we hit the Chateau for dinner? There’s always something ‘S’long as I don’t bump into my old man,’ Cookie said, wrinkling her nose. ‘He’s got himself another dumbass girlfriend, an’ I think she stays at the Chateau when she’s in town.’ ‘What’s the deal with this one?’ Max asked. ‘English, complete with uptight accent and a bug up her ever so tight British ass,’ Cookie said, making a disgusted face. ‘She thinks she’s like the second coming of Keira Knightley. As if.’ ‘Your old man sure covers the waterfront,’ Harry remarked, pulling up the collar of his long ‘Tell me about it,’ Cookie said with a weary sigh. ‘I’ve had more almost step-moms than you’ve had filthy thoughts about Chace Crawford!’ ‘Okay, okay,’ Max said, interrupting them. She was into making fast decisions, not screwing around and vacillating about what to do. ‘We could check out a new club that opened a couple of weeks ago. River. I’m sure we can get in.’ ‘Let’s do it,’ Cookie said, fiddling with the dark chocolate-brown dreadlocks that framed her ‘D’you think Chace Crawford’ll be there?’ Harry asked hopefully. Max threw him a look. ‘Calm down,’ she said. ‘Surely you know? Chace Crawford is so into ‘That’s what they all say,’ Harry muttered. ‘But I know better.’ ‘Lucky has invited us to Vegas next weekend,’ Bobby Santangelo Stanislopoulos said, stretching his six foot three frame on Denver Jones’s shabby chic couch. ‘She’s planning a party for my sister Max’s eighteenth birthday, one of her big family events.’ Denver regarded her boyfriend of several months with slight trepidation. Oh, man, the longish black hair, dark-as-night eyes, Greek nose, and strong jawline got her every time. If only he wasn’t so damn handsome. If only she hadn’t harboured a crush on him since high school. If only he wasn’t such a fantastic lover with all the right moves. ‘Your mom intimidates me,’ she said at last, stroking the belly of her dog, Amy Winehouse, who lay on its back making happy sounds. Amy was a mixed breed that Denver and her ex, Josh, had found wandering on Venice Beach. They’d named the dog Amy Winehouse because of its low throaty growl. Plus the fabulous Miz Winehouse was one of Denver’s favourite singers. Bobby laughed – he had a fantastic laugh. Naturally. ‘C’mon,’ he chided. ‘I’m sure Lucky thinks you’re the greatest thing that ever happened to me.’ Denver raised an eyebrow. ‘Thing?’ she said coolly. ‘Y’know what I mean.’ ‘The problem is,’ Denver said, desperately searching for a suitable excuse, ‘I’m moving over to the Drug Unit next week, so there’s a ton of stuff I feel I should research.’ ‘You’ll bring your laptop – that way you can do all the research you want. It’s a forty-eight- hour trip, sweetheart. I’m calling for the plane’. She hated it when Bobby said things like ‘I’m calling for the plane.’ It was so elitist, so exactly who she wasn’t. Some girls might get off on all the luxury, but private planes, lavish parties, and hanging with Bobby’s illustrious family was not for her. Plus she wasn’t that fond of Vegas, and she hadn’t told Bobby – but she hated spending time at his ultra-happening club, Mood. She especially hated the way women fawned all over him, and flirted outrageously, ignoring her as if she didn’t even exist. The truth was that she loved Bobby. But she didn’t love the trappings that came with him. Bobby stretched again and yawned. ‘Whaddya say?’ ‘I say I’ll think about it.’ ‘Sounds good,’ he said, reaching up to pull her down on the couch beside him. She acquiesced. It was early evening and they had no plans, so what was wrong with relaxing They’d been seeing each other on and off for the past three months. The on was when Bobby was in L.A. The off was when he had to spend time at his two clubs. Mood in Vegas, and Mood in New York. The on was the best of times. The off was missing him and wondering what he was doing, and trying to have some decent phone sex which left them both in a hysterical state of laughter. Neither of them had uttered the L word. Although they had conducted the talk about being Both of them were wary about getting too involved. Secretly they couldn’t wait. But playing it semi-cool seemed to be the name of the game they were currently into. Bobby began stroking her hair. Denver felt good about her hair; it was long and thick, chestnut brown with natural golden highlights. She knew that her hair was one of her best assets, along with her widely spaced hazel eyes and full lips. If she lived in any other big city she’d be considered a ten. In L.A. she felt she barely made it as a seven. She was wrong. Bobby’s hands moved down to her breasts, and with a quick move under her T-shirt he released her bra and began playing with her nipples. Oh yes, unusual for L.A., her breasts were actually real. Sighing with anticipation, she leaned into him. It made no difference that they’d already made love in the morning. Desire was desire, and they were both in the mood. Sometimes she couldn’t help wondering how long it would last. Her previous serious boyfriend, Josh, had been a pretty decent lover for the first six months of their three-year relationship, then after that it was a total slump. ‘What’re you thinking?’ Bobby whispered in her ear, giving her a little tongue action at the ‘That’s such a girly question,’ she murmured, fiddling with the zipper on his jeans. ‘You calling me a girl?’ he asked, mock serious. ‘You do have some female tendencies,’ she teased. ‘Like what?’ he responded, challenging her to come up with something. ‘Oh,’ she said vaguely, dragging his jeans down, delighted to find that he wasn’t wearing underwear. ‘You have soft lips . ⁠. ⁠.’ ‘All the better to kiss you with . ⁠. ⁠.’ And with one swift movement he flipped her so she was trapped beneath him. ‘Soft lips and a hard cock,’ he joked. ‘How female is that?’ ‘Bobby!’ she exclaimed. Then the banter stopped and the passion began. He had a way of making love to her that forced her to lose every inhibition she’d ever possessed. One moment he was slowly caressing her, the next he was all hard driving action. The combination drove her nuts. She wanted more and more and more . ⁠. ⁠. After it was over, they were spent, wrapped up in each other’s arms, sleepy and content. Denver often wished that those precious times would last for ever. Just the two of them. No But the outside world was a big presence, and they both lived in it. Tomorrow Bobby was driving to Vegas before flying to New York for a few meetings. And she had her job as a Deputy D.A. to attend to, which right now was especially exciting and challenging since she was transferring to the Drug Unit. Once more they would be separated. The good news was that she loved her job. It was extremely gruelling work, but the end results were incredibly rewarding. She was so glad she’d changed tracks. From working at a high-powered law firm as a defence attorney, she’d scored a job as a Deputy D.A. prosecuting people, and she was thrilled with the switch. One of her high-profile cases was a movie star who’d arranged his wife’s murder – then walked. He was the catalyst for her change of plan. Why defend the probably guilty when she could be doing meaningful work – such as putting the bad guys behind bars? How rewarding to go after the dregs who distributed drugs and got kids hooked at an early age. Talk about job satisfaction! ‘Hey,’ Bobby said, ‘wanna catch a movie and grab a pizza?’ Yes, that’s exactly what she wanted to do. Normal activities with her man. If only things could stay that way. Somehow she had a strong suspicion that this was not the case.

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