WIP – Under the Black Widow’s Spell

This is another work in progress. This hasn’t been edited.

Trigger warning for crude language and about prostitution due to the FMC’s profession. Nothing sexual is detailed in this preview.

Chapter One

If one more person made another cat call while I walked down the street, I’d personally give them a fist sandwich they would never forget.

I didn’t ask for much, but it was rough living on my own since my family went back to Puerto Rico without me. I missed the two bedroom apartment with eight people in it, but at the time, I didn’t know they planned to leave while I was in school.

Imagine my surprise when I found the front door locked and all our stuff out front of the apartment building. I was only sixteen at the time and had only been in the United States for a few years.

Shit, if Puerto Rico wasn’t part of the United States, I’d have been in big trouble. At least now, I could get a job, but not a lot of people want to hire someone who breaks things without trying due to their super strength. So, I did the only thing I could do.

I became a lady of the night.

It had its perks, but most of the time, the men acted like this asshole who kept cat calling me while I walked down Charm Street. His black Mercedes slowly followed me while I walked out of the police station where my boyfriend’s father worked. Every couple of minutes, he kept trying to talk to me, thinking I was going to give him what he wanted.

I kept my purse close and told myself not to run. If I ran, it’d only entice him further.

Tonight, I was working at one of the well known clubs in the Charm City area—a new club called Luscious. It had a pretty high paying list of clientèle that didn’t want for anything. Actually, I thought they had too much money to burn and most of them were in their own gentleman’s clubs, but if it brought in money, I could eat the next day and put some gas in my car to keep me warm during the winter.

Then again, Luscious was a gentleman’s club in itself. I had only been there six months and I had already had a list of people who wanted to give me free shit if I went further than just giving them a blow job for a quick fifty bucks. However, I hadn’t convinced myself to lose my virginity just yet, so I stuck with the simple stuff for now. It was a miracle Martel hadn’t found out about it yet, but he would soon. Someone would complain and then I’d get flack for it.

I strutted up to the club like I owned the damn place, flashed my fake ID at the bouncer, and he let me pass through the doors. As soon as I entered, business already boomed in the establishment.

The lights were dim and the air was thick with the scent of fine tobacco and aged whiskey. Plush velvet curtains adorned the walls, casting a deep crimson hue over the opulent space. The soft jazz music played by a live band in the corner provided the perfect backdrop for the evening’s festivities.

Goddammit, I hated jazz with a passion. If I was going to pole dance for these assholes, then I wanted it to be fast-paced dance music. Slow jazz always felt like the world’s biggest cocktease. Besides, Spanish music was great for dances. If Selena were alive, I’d have continued to use her music to dance the night away and forget about the gentlemen in tailored suits and their prim, polished shoes shoving dollar bills down my breasts.

Speaking of them, the gentleman mingled around tables adorned with crystal glasses and flickering candles. Each conversation carried an air of sophistication, blending business deals with witty banter in perfect harmony. The atmosphere hummed with an electric energy, drawing everyone deeper into its intoxicating spell. I knew some of the mafia people came here under the cover of going out with the guys, but some of their conversations proved interesting.

I looked over at the farthest table and groaned at one particular set of businessmen sitting there, but the man I hated the most resided at the table: Martel Durant. He controlled most of Charm City’s prostitution ring and made sure he got his cut of the money out of all our clients. Furthermore, he controlled how much money we received for the evening depending on the client’s satisfaction at the end of the night.

If I could describe him in one sentence, I’d call him a scum-sucking leech. He always wore his stupid beige fedora with different colored suits. I mean, let’s be honest—he could afford them with all the money he stole from us at the end of the night. Today, he had his beard shaved so his five ‘o’clock shadow didn’t affect his looks, and he didn’t have on his stupid sunglasses hiding his sinister hazel eyes. Also, I should point out how he wore the ridiculous gold blazer, matching pants, and the cane he didn’t need at the moment. He only wore those when he needed to make some major money.

The asshole claimed it brought him good luck.

One of these days, I’d find a reason to make him use that cane.

“Ah, the lady of the hour.” Martel gestured his hand toward me and frowned at me. “You aren’t ready for the evening, Jem. Go ahead and doll yourself up for us.” He rose from his seat and pretended to take my arm, but grabbed my bicep and led me past the stage. “Where the fuck were you? You were supposed to be here half an hour ago.”

Well, shit. I couldn’t tell him I overslept in my car because my phone died. As far as he knew, I didn’t own a cell phone. Then again, I had nowhere else to go and he knew that, too. So I did what any woman would do. “Ah, I was freshening up at someone’s place, but their kid threw up on me, so I wore the best clothes I had. I was gonna borrow a dress from one of the ladies for the evening.”

He looked up and down at my body. “You’re a big girl. I want to flaunt your curves. Every other girl might as well eat nothing but avocado toast and fucking salad based on how skinny they are. You know most men are afraid to break them cause they look like twigs. But you…you’ve got meat and the goods they want. If you want, I’ll give you some money to get an outfit that will wow the crowd. We got some big names in here tonight and I want to see results.”

Oh, no. Martel had a plan and I didn’t like where this was going.

“I might have something out in my car.” Truthfully, I didn’t, but I wasn’t going to let Martel control this situation by giving me money I’d have to pay back on top of what I owed for buying my freedom out of his sex ring. “Give me about half an hour and I’ll come back with something special.”
His fingers tightened around my bicep. “I’ll go with you.”

“No, I insist you stay here. You can—”

He hit me in the left side of my face with the metal part of his cane.

I grabbed the side of my face and my left eye teared up at the pain.

“Never tell me what to do again.” He pulled me out of the club. “However, I will let you go alone this time provided you come back at the appointed time. Don’t make me regret this, Jem.”

As I strutted away from Martel, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt for the lies I had to tell just to get out of his grasp. I had always prided myself on my honesty, but now it seemed like my past was catching up with me, and I had to use every ounce of cunning I had to survive.

With shaky hands, I fumbled through my pockets for my car keys and made my way across the dimly lit parking lot. My heart raced. I needed a suitable outfit to wear that would wow the crowd enough to earn Martel’s approval.

I spotted my old, beaten-up car in the corner of the lot, its headlights flickering weakly in the dark. As I reached in, I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me. This was the same car I had driven when I was just another lost soul, desperate for a way out of old life. However, I still hadn’t found a way to escape since I needed another thousand dollars to even think of bartering with Martel about my freedom.

A sudden memory flooded my mind, and I could see myself standing in front of my dressing room mirror, trying on the most extravagant outfit I could find. It was a gown that once belonged to Martel’s wife, a woman with an undying love for luxury and high-end fashion.

I remembered how good I had looked, how confident I felt, and how I had hoped to leave that life behind for good. But now, as I rummaged through the car, I realized that I couldn’t wear this gown tonight. It had become a symbol of my old life, a life I had thought I had left behind.

I spotted a simple, yet elegant, black dress tucked away in the corner of the trunk. It was the dress I had worn that fateful night when I had made my first attempt to flee from Martel’s clutches. I took a deep breath and decided to make it work for tonight.

With the dress in hand, I headed back to the gentleman’s club, opened the doors, and headed down to the dressing rooms to meet the other girls. They would let me know what to expect this evening.

The dressing rooms were bustling with activity when I walked in and went to my assigned place in the area. Most people didn’t have much since they were homeless, and technically, I was homeless too, but I had a few pictures in my station of Joe, Gunther, and the frenemy of our friend group. It reminded me of what I still had in America after my family abandoned me and left me with nothing save this particular line of work.

I sat the dress on the chair and turned on the full length mirror, hating the woman I saw staring back at me. I had been a chubby girl, but my time on the streets and only eating one meal a day cured my weight issues. Instead, I came off as curvy with a smaller frame, and I was already small at five foot one. I didn’t need any other reasons to lose weight.

I bent down to one of the drawers and pulled out some mascara, lipstick, foundation, and eyeliner and got to work dolling myself up.

“Jem.” One of the girls walked up to me and grabbed a brush, running it through my long curly black hair. “We thought you ditched us this evening. Where were you?”

Barbie was appropriately named for her stage name because of her porcelain skin and long blonde hair. She had the blue eyes to match as well. Tonight, she wore a blue sequin dress with matching pumps and the dress had a large opening to show the tops of her breasts. The dress seemed too small in her chest area, but then, nothing much fit her F-cup breasts.

“Martel made me get another outfit for tonight,” I said, throwing off the baggy blue baggy t-shirt I wore over to the club. “He’s in his ‘I need to make money’ outfit tonight, so he’s really on edge about us looking good.”

Barbie rolled her eyes. “I swear, he’s impossible to please. I don’t know how you do it.”

I kept my mouth shut. They didn’t need to know Joe visited the club or that he was my boyfriend. I had told everyone else he was family, but other than that, I hadn’t disclosed our relationship. As far as they knew, he was just a regular client who tipped me well and wanted private sessions, using them whenever I got stressed out.

God, I hope Joe came tonight because Martel had something up his sleeve.

I put on my foundation, then used a brush to apply it on my face. “We all have certain clients that make the job worthwhile. I mean, you have yours, and I have mine.”

“Heh.” Another girl joined in the conversation—this time a redhead with resting bitch face. “We’ll eventually steal some of your clients, Jem. You can’t hog them all.”

I turned to the redhead. “If you change your attitude, they would like to see you, Annabelle.”

“Not everyone can be as slick as you, though.” Annabelle’s voice oozed with disdain. “Come on. You have to give the new girls at least one client.”

I put my hand on my chest. “I don’t have to do anything. They need to earn their keep like everyone else.”

Anna turned heads wherever she went, too. A busty redhead at five foot seven, she towered over most of us and the heels she wore only made her taller. Today, she had curled her shoulder length hair and wore a forest green cocktail dress that had slits on the thighs, riding up to her stomach. I could see her matching lacy panties underneath the slits. The top of her chest almost showed all of her breasts which I didn’t like because the men should work toward seeing her goods, but it was her choice to wear the outfit, so I didn’t say anything.

“Look, everyone was new once,” Barbie interjected. “You really should teach the other girls about their new clients. We’ve tried to teach them, but they seem to listen to you.”

I made a sour expression. The last thing I wanted to do was teach Dominique how to please the clients. Her attitude was worse than Annabelle on a good day. At least Annabelle listened to what I had to say. Dominique thought she knew everything because men paid attention to her since her middle school days or so she claimed.

If you want my personal opinion, Dominique had a face only a mother could love.

I finished putting on my foundation and then worked on my eye liner, putting it in all the right places. A moment of silence came between us before I said, “Well, Dominique doesn’t listen to a damn thing I tell her.”

A snooty voice called from behind me. “Well, if you didn’t have a holier-than-thou attitude, maybe I’d take your advice, Miss Priss.”

I spun on my heel and faced Dominique, almost laughing at the afro on her head. She must have just taken out her dreads today because she didn’t have the afro yesterday night when she worked. What did she think she’d attract looking like that? Her outfit would have worked with a different hairstyle. She took the approach of wearing a halter top dress with billowy sleeves—something my frenemy would have worn just going out with my man. She also had four inch pumps that made her almost as tall as Barbie.
Dominique’s dark brown eyes glared at me, daring me to argue with her before we all took our turns on stage. She crossed her arms over her chest with a smirk on her lips.

Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. I was not getting into a pissing contest with Dominique right now.

“Don’t look now, but Martel is coming,” Anna murmured. “Let’s help finish getting Jem ready. Barbie, you curl her hair. Dominique, you go entertain Martel and find out what he wants. I’ll standby in case Jem needs anything else.”

Dominique huffed. “Why is it always about her?”

I finally got to the mascara and used it on my eyelashes. “I’m the only one who isn’t ready. Now, kindly fuck off before I give you a reason to hate me even more.”

Dominique stood there with her mouth open.

“Now, now, Jem,” Martel said, coming closer to us. “You need to get along with the other girls. I’ve told you this multiple times. You’re not the only girl running the show. Now, listen up. We’ve got the creme de crop of clients out there tonight. We’ve got the kingpins of Charm City out there, so we cannot fuck up for even one second. They requested the works. You know what that means.”

I hid my sneer from Dominique. The works was where most of them required specialized services in the private rooms and they paid damn good money for anything we did. However, this also meant that most of them wanted sex—something I avoided for the entirety of my career.

Martel’s devious smirk was for me and he rested his eyes on me.

“Anna, Dominique, and Barbie—you’ll go to the main clients of the evening. I have a special client for Jem. She also has her usual client—the one who pays her rather well. Since she owes me some money, I’d like her to work on those two for the evening. One of them will pay rather lucratively if she plays her cards right. The rest of you will earn enough money servicing our clients. As a matter of fact, you three ladies can head out into the main area. I want to speak to Jem alone while she finishes getting ready.”

All three ladies talked among themselves as they headed out of the dressing room.

“Jem, I have to give you credit for one thing.” Martel took a seat in my dressing room chair. “Somehow, you always get the same clients to come back—ones with big money without sleeping with them. How did I not realize this sooner?” His voice turned dangerously low as he spoke again. “You will put out like the rest of the girls. You’re not a special princess saving herself for marriage. You work in a damn brothel—an expensive brothel.”

I slipped out of my jeans and put on the dress I brought with me. “I know. Sometimes, they don’t want to sleep with me because they’re reminded of someone else. It happens a lot, actually.”

He got up and seized my chin in his hand. “It doesn’t happen to every fucking client you take into the back. I set up cameras in there the other day.” Martel’s gaze lingered on me for a moment before snapping back to the present. “Well, well, well. Looks like you’ve managed to find something after all.” He smirked, a glint of suspicion in his eyes. “And it’s quite becoming on you, I must say.”

I shuddered. I did not need Martel thinking of me the way he thought of the rest of the girls. They would screw him without a second thought because they were scared of him. Sure, I resisted—and I got hit a lot because of it—but as I said, I had standards. If I was going to sleep with a man, I wanted to be in a relationship and they had to protect me when I couldn’t protect myself.

Martel had tried to find out who the people in my photos were for months, but I never let him see me with Joe or Gunther. I did my best to keep my work out of my personal life.

I applied my dark red lipstick, did one last check to make sure I looked perfect, and then pointed to the door. “Let’s go see this client of yours. Maybe I can get them to—”

“It’s someone from a prestigious organization.” He headed to the door. “Don’t fuck this up, Jem. If you play your cards right, you might get your freedom, after all.”

He opened the door and waited for me.

I followed him, my heart skipping a beat at the small glimmer of hope for my freedom.

When I made it back inside the main part of the club, the atmosphere turned into one of lust and power. However, I did not head with the other girls to the gentleman like I normally would on a night like this. Instead, I continued to follow Martel until we came to a table in the back with another man—one with blonde hair and golden eyes sipping on a martini with an olive inside his drink.

He had on a blue blazer with a carnation inside of his pocket along with a white handkerchief. I caught the expensive silver cufflinks and the silver chain necklace he wore around his neck. This man was clean shaven and didn’t even have nose hairs. It seemed like he plucked them which was weird in itself.

“Martel.” The man greeted him, then took a sip of his drink. “I take it this is the young lady you spoke of earlier?” He held his hand out. “A pleasure to meet you.”

I shook it. “Jemina.”

He had a strong handshake—stronger than a human by a long shot.

“Yes.” Martel gestured for me to sit down at the opposite end of the booth. “Jem, this is Lowell Sanderson. Someone recommended him to you for a particular job he has in mind for you. I will leave you two to get acquainted. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Martel headed back to the main area of the club.

“I finally found you, Jemina.” Sanderson’s grin showed off his canines. “You’re a hard woman to track, you know.”

I shuddered at the sharp canines resting on his lower lip. “Why were you looking for me?”

“I have a man who needs a partner with a…particular skill set.” He folded his hands into a steeple at the table. “You know him. You’re friends with him. Anyway, the job I have for your is a dangerous one—one that will test your limits and can make you stronger. It can also buy you your freedom from this shithole.” He waved his hand around the club. “Of course, there are certain conditions to it, but you’d be able to move around freely without selling yourself for money.”

I didn’t like where this conversation led. “What if I refuse?”

“Let me put it to you this way.” He pulled out an ankle band that had a timer on it. “Either you take the job willingly or I’ll force you to take it. Either way, the choice is yours.”

I stood up. “I’d rather sell myself than be a slave again.”

“I’d pay you.” He undid the ankle band. “I’d pay you more than Martel could ever pay you. You could finally get your own place and stop living out of that hunk of junk you call a car. You’d be able to eat actual fresh food instead of dumpster diving and going to your cousin’s house just to shower.”

I straightened in my seat. I didn’t like either one of these choices. At least with Martel, I could leave and do anything I wanted at the end of the night. This Sanderson person didn’t make it sound like working with him would be enticing no matter how much he paid me.

“I have a dangerous job that requires a discreet and reliable associate to pull it off.” He put down the anklet and then pulled out a suitcase that somehow had been next to him. He opened it and showed me the contents—a shitload of money. “I’m willing to pay you enough to get your own place now, and the rest when the job is completed.”

I had to admit, having somewhere safe to sleep sounded more enticing by the second. “What kind of job is it?”

“Martel needs to be knocked down a peg or two. He’s getting too comfortable with his position as a pimp. However, he’s dabbling in things that are messing up my agents and working girls like yourself. He’s involving underage children in his business.” Sanderson closed the briefcase. “I need you to just do what you’ve been doing—working for him and finding out more about his plans. We’ll talk about the next steps when we cross that bridge.”

The anklet made everything so real—one life for another kind of life. It seemed I would never get away from slavery. However, no amount of money would get me to agree with him.

“I can see the doubt on your face, so let me sweeten the deal.” Sanderson pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of my boyfriend with my son. “If you don’t take this deal, I’ll make sure they disappear. It wouldn’t be hard, you know.”

I watched Sanderson’s face closely, trying to decipher any hint of deception or malice. His eyes held a cold determination, and a faint smirk played on his lips as he studied my reaction.

“You’re mistaken, Mr. Sanderson. I don’t know who those people are in the photo, but they have nothing to do with me,” I insisted, my voice steady despite the turmoil raging inside me.

Sanderson chuckled softly, a sound that sent shivers down my spine.”Oh, but I assure you, I know exactly who they are. Your son, Reginald, and your boyfriend, Joe. Such lovely names for such precious individuals. I have plans for them, too—plans you may not agree with if you don’t accept my offer.”

Realization dawned on me like a dark cloud looming over my head. Sanderson had been watching me all along, studying every aspect of my life without my knowledge. Panic threatened to consume me, but I forced myself to remain composed.

“Here is another picture.” Sanderson swiped his thumb to the left on his phone and a picture of a mulatto man with long black hair in a tuxedo stood with a brunette woman in a blue sundress and black glasses appeared. “I also know about these two. You will wait until the time is right to bring the girl to me. Rest assured, Aviere is safe—for now.”

“What do you want from me?” I asked, unable to keep the tremor out of my voice.

Sanderson’s smile widened into a grin that held no warmth. “It’s simple. Continue working for Martel, but now you’ll be working for me as well. Your loyalty will be to me alone. In return, I’ll ensure the safety of Reginald, Joe, and your friends. Unfortunately, I can’t touch your cousin because of her affiliation with the kingpin of South Charm City and Edith Eisen, but I can get her to come around if I have you in my pocket. I’ll eventually need them as well.”

My mind raced with a thousand thoughts and fears, but one thing was clear—I had no choice but to comply. Sanderson had woven a web so intricate and menacing that escape seemed impossible.

With a heavy heart and a silent vow to protect my loved ones at all costs, I nodded slowly.

Sanderson’s eyes gleamed with triumph as he closed the briefcase, sealing my fate with a decisive click.

Just like that, I was ensnared in a world far darker and more treacherous than anything I had ever known.

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