Authors: JM Stewart
A Second Chance at Forever
J. M. Stewart
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
A Second Chance at Forever
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Joanne Stewart
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
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Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Champagne Rose Edition, 2013
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-619-2
Published in the United States of America
For my loving husband, Chris.
For always supporting me
and encouraging me to reach for my dreams.
And for my critique partners. You know who you are. For unerring encouragement
and for pushing me to be my best.
“You don’t even look like the same person, Ang.”
Angela Lewis followed her best friend Stacy Bennett’s gaze and shook her head. The two of them stood in the backstage dressing room of the Diamond, the club on the Las Vegas strip where Angela had been working for six months now. Stacy stood behind her as they stared at Angela’s reflection in a full-length mirror bolted to the wall.
All around them hummed the muted sounds of a busy club in full swing—music drumming low and faint, the muted chatter of patrons and workers, the clinking of glasses—all drifting through the walls. Friday night, and it was a quarter to ten. Angela’s first show began in fifteen minutes.
“Incredible isn’t it? I almost don’t recognize myself.” The change never ceased to amaze her. She watched herself get dressed in this mirror three nights a week, but the transformation always surprised her.
She looked like a naughty schoolgirl. The blue plaid, pleated mini skirt stopped just below her bum, exposing the length of her legs and revealing her pale pink panties when she bent over. She’d knotted the button-down blouse at the waist, baring the tummy she’d worked darn hard to achieve, but left the top three buttons open. She hoped to create the right amount of cleavage that would make men want to stuff dollar bills inside of it. Fifties if she played her cards right.
“I’m still as nervous as ever though.” Angela held out her trembling hands before turning to grab an elastic band. She divided her hair into two sections then pulled each one up into a messy ponytail.
Every single night her stomach tied itself into a knot. Her limbs shook so much she swore this would be the night she’d go out on stage and make a complete fool of herself. Prove to the world she was still geeky Angie Lewis.
Lord, if the guys on her team at Harvelle could see her now, they wouldn’t even recognize her. By day, Angela worked for a small software development company as a Systems Data Analyst. She was in charge of the help desk, where she and five men fielded problems from clients. Most days, she pulled her hair up into a ponytail and didn’t bother with make-up. She dressed business casual, usually in dark slacks and buttoned up shirts. By night, as Candy Cane, she got to indulge in the wanton side of her psyche. The part of her that had been dying to get out for years.
Her own mother wouldn’t even recognize her now.
Her stomach twisted at the thought. “If Mom ever found out what I do here every night, that I’m not a waitress in one of the casinos…”
In the city of sin, Angela had become a willing participant. Her mother was a devout Catholic who attended mass every Sunday. She’d made certain Angela and her brother, Brock, knew the Bible and had instilled Catholic traditions in both of them. Her mother wouldn’t approve of this job, even if it did help pay for her overflowing hospital bills.
Her mother had defeated breast cancer. Her three-year fight with it had ended barely a month ago when her oncologist gave her the all clear. Unfortunately, her mother was drowning in the cost of the very treatments that had saved her life.
Stacy laid a hand on her shoulder. “She won’t find out, sweetie.”
Angela sent her friend a grateful smile. “I hope you’re right, Stace. I need this job too much. Between the two of us, with both my jobs and Mom’s salary at Barnes and Sons, we barely managed to save the house this last time. She and Dad bought that place just after they were married, before Brock and I were born. She loves that house. I refuse to let the bank take it.” She glanced at Stacy’s reflection and sighed. “But if she finds out this is how I earned the money, it’ll kill her.”
She was pushing her boundaries, and she knew it. If she was being honest with herself, she liked the perks of working as a dancer. While up on the stage, she felt sexy, desirable. Men looked at her, drooled over her, begged for her phone number. They whispered things in her ear that made her blush while they stuffed dollar bills into her costume. It made her feel…powerful.
Her alter ego, Candy Cane, was everything Angela wasn’t. Candy had bedroom eyes. She wore the kinds of skimpy outfits that made Angela blush four shades of pink when she had to go buy them in the store. She was bold, comfortable in the body she flaunted on stage, and wasn’t afraid to flirt with the men who came to watch her. After all, the club hired bodyguards for a reason.
Men noticed Candy.
Nobody had noticed Angela in so long she’d almost forgotten she was a woman.
She twirled a full circle, watching the flounce of her skirt as the breeze lifted the edge. Candy was everything Angela wanted to be.
“If only David could see you now.” Catching Angela’s gaze in the mirror, Stacy winked.
David, her ex-husband. The louse had left her a year ago for his pretty blonde secretary, a woman as young as most of the dancers Angela now worked with. Apparently he’d been having an affair for years. After ten years of marriage, he’d traded her in for a younger, newer model. Six months later, he filed for divorce, during which he took the house
the car. Easy for him, because he was a rich divorce lawyer. He’d known how to work her along with the system.
Two days after the divorce had become final, Angela had met Stacy, her mother’s Oncology nurse at the hospital. They’d hit it off immediately. Stacy, as it turned out, had a weekend job. She’d suggested dancing as a means of picking Angela’s crushed self esteem up off the floor.
“Try it,” Stacy had said that fateful night. “If you don’t like it, you can always quit.”
Angela had spent hours practicing before that interview. Her first night, she’d loved every minute on stage. The empowerment she’d found in the music. The way she’d held the audience spellbound. Who’d have thought that she, of all people, could captivate a man?
At the thought, Angela crossed to her dressing table that was lined up against the far wall. She sank down onto the stool to apply her false eyelashes. The best part of the job was the anonymity. Nobody in her real life would ever come to a place like this. Here she was safe to fulfill a fantasy. Candy was the person deep inside who’d been dying to get out for years. The one who wanted to prove to everyone who’d ever pushed her aside that she was more than Angie Lewis, geek extraordinaire.
Joe, her boss as well as the nightclub’s owner, poked his head around the dressing room doorway. “You’re on in two minutes, Candy.”
She dabbed on a smudge of gloss, then smiled at him. “I’m ready.”
“That’s my cue,” Stacy said, turning to her. “I have a shift at the hospital in half an hour.” She walked with Angela as far as the backstage curtain then gave her a quick farewell kiss on each cheek. She murmured, “Knock ’em dead, hon,” in her ear before leaving.
Angela waited behind the curtain for the dancers on stage to finish their set. The music out here, which had been a dull throb within the confines of the dressing room, seemed to make even the walls vibrate. The upbeat rhythm pulsated through her, licking along her veins. It set her heart hammering with excitement.
When the new music began, Angela held her head high, summoning Candy from deep within the pit of her stomach before strutting out onto the small stage. The sultry beat set her on fire. Like every time before, her body moved of its own accord, her hips shifting, swaying, every beat taking her further into it. Until the room disappeared altogether. She forgot herself, focused only on the music flowing around her, through her. Let it take her body where it wished, let it fill her with the inexplicable joy of being wholly free, like a bird soaring through sunny skies.
As she swept her gaze over the sea of faces around her, one in particular stopped her cold. Seated halfway across the room, the low lighting made it difficult to get a clear view of him, but she could swear she knew his face.
Alex McKinley, her brother’s best friend. He’d been her first kiss. Lord, she’d had such a crush on him in high school. Living right around the corner, they’d grown up together. Oh how she’d yearned for him to notice her back then, to finally see her as more than Brock’s little sister. To look at her then, the way these men all looked at her now.
Several men approached the stage to offer tips, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the man in the middle of the room. It couldn’t be him…could it? He had the same dark hair, cropped short in back with bangs just long enough to hang in his eyes. She couldn’t see the color of those eyes from this distance, though.
As if she’d somehow called him to her, he rose from his seat and approached the stage. It wasn’t until she
see the color of his eyes that she knew. For a moment, her steps faltered. Her breath caught in her throat. God help her. It
Alex. The scar that bisected his right eyebrow left no doubt.
He hadn’t changed at all. He still had the same deep, rich chocolate eyes a girl wanted to get lost in, the same broad shoulders and long legs. As he came to a stop in front of the stage, those dark eyes locked with hers. His thick, masculine fingers grazed her skin as he slipped a twenty into the waistband of her skirt. When his hot gaze slid down her body and back up, she felt it as surely as if he’d touched her.
Every inch of her flooded with heat, a sense of power surging through her, making her tremble with delight. He hadn’t ever looked at her like she was a woman he wanted.
When their gazes caught, she swallowed her nerves and gave him a flirtatious smile. Her heart hammered with anticipation. Any moment now, recognition would flare in those desire-filled eyes. She’d have to somehow convince him not to tell her brother that he’d found her here. Alex, however, merely smiled in return, winked, then turned to move back to his table. A mixture of disappointment, relief, and confusion seeped through Angela. Was it possible he didn’t recognize her? She’d been fifteen the last time she’d seen him, just before he’d gone off to college. Twenty years had passed. Had she changed that much?
She followed his trek all the way back to his table, where he sank into his seat. He leaned back and folded his hands over his stomach. She still couldn’t see his eyes from the stage, but she could feel him watching her, feel the power of his gaze. The knowledge sent a delicious thrill through her.
As her body began to move once again to the provocative beat of the music, the whole world narrowed down to his gaze. She found herself immersed in the fantasy that the moment presented, dancing solely for him. The thought set her body on fire. Each piece of clothing she stripped off felt personal, like there was no one else in the room but the two of them. A private dance for him alone.
When her set ended, she turned and blew a kiss at the audience, the way she did every night—this one aimed directly at him—before skipping off stage. She found one of the waitresses waiting for her backstage.
“Candy has another admirer.” Janet winked at her as she handed Angela a business card. “From the dark haired gentleman at table five.”
She took the card, glancing down at the name.
Alex McKinley, Attorney at Law.
On the back of the card, he’d written:
In town for the weekend. Call me.