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Please enjoy the following excerpt of Her Secret Revenge, copyright 2023, Jo Rees

Peaches Gold knelt on all fours on the antique ebony bed and examined her hair for split ends. Thankfully, her trademark chestnut mane was still perfect, but a trim wouldn’t hurt. She made a mental note to swing by Rodeo Drive and see Sebastian at the salon in the morning. After all, he often told her she was one of the only five women in LA who he’d waive his twelve-week waiting list for.

     Through the slit in the handmade red silk blinds covering the floor-to-ceiling windows in the penthouse suite of Boulevard 19, Tinseltown’s newest – and certainly priciest – hotel, Peaches could see that the sun was already high in the sky. It was sure turning out to be a scorcher.

     And it was crazily hot in here too. Peaches wished she could stop for a moment and turn up the air-con, but if Valentin wanted to pay to see her in black silk underwear first thing in the morning, hell, she wasn’t complaining.

Now that she’d beaten off the competition to become Hollywood’s most exclusive madam, it wouldn’t be long before Peaches could stop seeing clients herself entirely. But she’d be reluctant to give up Valentin. Thanks to him, a healthy six-figure sum had already found its way into her bank account. Only a few more Valentins and Peaches could retire, sooner than planned. Certainly before anyone found out that she was at least seven years older than anyone thought she was.

But then her youthful appearance did seem to be fooling everyone for the time being, thanks to the genius of her best friend, Ross Heartwood, California’s most celebrated plastic surgeon. But Peaches knew the score. Ross couldn’t keep her young forever. Besides, she was smart. She was going to get rich and get out. And then maybe she’d really shock everyone and grow old gracefully.

     ‘Yeah, baby, just like that,’ Peaches purred, turning her attention to the job in hand.

     ‘I can see why you’re called Peaches,’ Valentin said, in his gravelly Russian accent. He rubbed the soft skin on her taut buttock appreciatively before giving it some firm slaps.

     Peaches flicked back her hair and looked over her shoulder. Valentin stood behind her, holding on to her hips, his teeth clenched, a vein throbbing at his temple. He had shaggy dark hair and his tanned face was pock-marked with bygone acne, but there was a roughness about him that appealed to her.

     ‘You got it, baby,’ she said, winking slowly.

     He smiled back at her, revealing a gold tooth that matched the thick gold chain nestling in his hairy chest. He leant forward over her, wrapping his arms around her slim waist. His breath was hot and fast through her hair and smelt of the Diaka vodka Peaches had got in especially. Valentin had been excited when he’d seen it – as he should be. It was the world’s most expensive vodka, distilled through diamonds. But Peaches lived by her motto: always the best of everything.

     ‘So, what you want? You like this, huh?’ he asked. She felt his fingers reach down and obligingly, Peaches let out a slow moan. It was important that her clients felt that their efforts were appreciated and not just their money.

Usually, she didn’t allow herself to become too aroused. She had to monitor carefully how Valentin was feeling. Make sure that she held back her own pleasure. But she’d seen him quite a few times now and she’d become accustomed to his touch. Despite the early hour, she felt the familiar tingle spread through her abdomen.

     ‘Oh yes, baby. I like that,’ she gasped, wriggling back on to him for a while, before kneeling up and sliding her hand up behind her into his hair.

     She could see their reflections in the teak-framed mirror at the end of the bed. With their heads side-by-side like this, there was something about them that looked compatible. In another life, maybe they could have had a real relationship.

     ‘Oh . . . keep going . . . keep going —’

     ‘But I want to undress you. I want to see all of you,’ he said suddenly, pulling away and leaning back to undo the hooks on her silk basque. ‘This is so sexy, but I need to feel you.’

     Bull’s-eye, Peaches thought. It had worked. She’d been designing her own exclusive lingerie line with Christoph Zerelli for six months now. Peaches’ old friend Monica DuCane, the famously busty serial actress, had agreed to front the whole business, which was Peaches’ retirement project.

     The silk basque was an experiment Peaches had insisted upon, even though Christoph had claimed it wasn’t sexy enough. But Peaches had explained that underwear should be like the best wrapping paper. She knew what turned men on better than almost anyone. And, judging from Valentin’s reaction, she’d been right on the money.

     She made another mental note to call Christoph and tell him that the basques should definitely go into production. She liked the idea of them in red. The same shade as those blinds, maybe . . .

     But she’d think about that later. Right now, she watched in the mirror as the basque fell away and Valentin reached around her. Peaches always liked the way her perfectly full double Ds looked in a man’s hands. Especially in hands as strong and dangerous as Valentin’s.

     She was savvy enough to know that young Russian businessmen like Valentin – what was he? A few years older than her? Thirty-seven, thirty-eight maybe? – might not have an entirely legitimate background.  He certainly didn’t look as if he’d been born into the money he flashed around. She wondered whether its source would ever dry up, like the rumored gas pipeline from which it came. Hopefully not in the near future.

     Valentin knelt behind her out of sight and began kissing up her spine. Then he stopped for a moment examining her back.  Stretching her skin, he pressed his tongue hard on to the scar just below her left shoulder blade.

     It felt like an electric bolt to her spine. Her whole body seemed to lock.

     ‘It’s like a sickle,’ Valentin said, intrigued. He ran his finger over the scar. ‘Same shape.’

     Peaches felt the hot sexual energy that had been seeping through her evaporating. She hated being touched there. She knew that some girls were turned off by their bellybutton being touched, or their feet. For her, it was that small scar. It triggered a nauseous feeling in her and the shadow of a dark and terrible memory, just a whisper, a flicker that left her feeling unsettled and confused.

      She closed her eyes for a second, beating down the nausea, desperate to focus on the shard of memory. But nothing was clear except the feeling that the scar was connected to her being very young, in an un-recognizable, strange place, surrounded by people shouting in unfamiliar voices. And that whatever had happened there had left her vulnerable and violated. She wished she could remember more. But as always, further details were elusive, and the feeling was gone in an instant.

Was it because her subconscious wouldn’t let her remember? she wondered. Or had she imagined something sinister when there wasn’t anything sinister at all? But still the scar remained. The proof that somewhere, somehow, someone had branded her like a piece of meat.

     She couldn’t stand Valentin touching it anymore. ‘Don’t,’ she said, more harshly than she meant to, and jerking away.

     ‘Ah!’ Valentin grabbed a handful of her hair. A knowing smile played on his lips as her eyes flashed at his in the mirror. ‘You know, if you weren’t American, I could swear you have Russian blood in you.’

     She quickly pulled away from his grip and turned around to face him, away from their reflection in the mirror. He didn’t frighten her or intimidate her. There wasn’t a man in the world who frightened her. Or a man she didn’t reckon she could control.

     ‘Where are you from, Peaches, huh?’

     She didn’t answer him. He didn’t get to pry for personal details. That wasn’t the deal. And Valentin was a fool if he thought he could see inside her. Nobody ever had. And nobody ever would.

     This was about sex. Sex he was paying her for.

     Still kneeling on the bed and face to face with him, she raised her eyebrows. ‘I can be from wherever you want me to be. Do you want me to be Russian, Valentin, huh?’ she enquired archly. ‘You vant me to be your little Russky?’  Her Moscow accent was perfect and Valentin, with a deep, lusty laugh, lunged after her. Peaches clenched her perfectly manicured nails into his buttocks as they rolled together on the bed.

     But then, just as he was getting to the point of no return, his cell phone bleeped. He growled with frustration as he scrambled off her. He grabbed the phone from on top of the pile of clothes on the velvet sedan.

     Peaches hated cell phones and she usually insisted that her clients turned them off. After all, she cost a hell of a lot more per hour than the best seats at Madison Square Garden. She should be treated with at least as much courtesy and respect. But somehow, she’d forgotten with Valentin.

     Valentin looked at the number and took the call. He gabbled something in Russian, which she didn’t understand, then he waited a moment, and when he spoke again his manner had changed, his voice had become smooth and subservient, as if he were trying to impress someone.

     But no one was more important than Peaches. She grabbed the ice-cold vodka from next to the bed and, making sure he was watching, trickled some over her nipples. She didn’t care about the sheets. That’s what maids were for.

Valentin winked at Peaches and said something else. This time, she understood one word, because he wasn’t the only Russian client she had. And that word was ‘whore’.

     That was it, Peaches thought. This guy was toast. After today, she would be giving Valentin up for good, no matter how much he was willing to pay her. He hadn’t been respectful enough for her liking. And Peaches required respect.

     ‘Da. Pushkin,’ Valentin continued, then snapped the cell phone shut. ‘I’m sorry, baby,’ he said.

     ‘Who was that?’ she asked automatically, even though she knew it was none of her business.

     ‘Yuri.’

     ‘Who the hell is Yuri?’

     ‘Yuri Khordinsky.’

     ‘Oh?’ Peaches raised her eyebrows at him. She knew perfectly well who the billionaire Russian was. ‘You work with him?’ she asked, suddenly realizing how lucrative such a contact could be.

     ‘I work for him,’ Valentin said, making it clear there was a big difference. He started towards her, clearly anxious to carry on where they’d left off. ‘But forget it, I’m all yours now.’

     Yet as he slid back on top of her, Peaches knew the pleasure had gone and she was on autopilot.

     But even though she was still annoyed, pondering it now, she thought perhaps she wouldn’t give Valentin up. The guy clearly had good contacts. And contacts were the most valuable currency in Peaches’ business because, in one way at least, they made her more powerful than Valentin could possibly imagine...

(end of excerpt)

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