Jackie Jones is a wealthy but naïve college student from Texas who knows there are two things her mother expects her to obtain at Karrington University: a degree and a husband. Influenced by her row house roommate and caught up in the racy Washington, D.C, lifestyle, Jackie spends nearly all her allowance in one afternoon on a frivolous shopping spree. Fearful to ask her parents for more money, Jackie decides to follow through on an offer for what she thinks is a quick, one-time sales job to recoup the funds. She has no idea that her choice is about to land her in the hands of Nita Lockheart, the ruthless head of a coke party empire.
Trapped in a battle between her conscience and her desperate need for cash, Jackie finally gives in to temptation and begins hosting secret cocaine parties in her home. With her life quickly unraveling, she must do everything she can to retain her scholarship, end a dangerous and intoxicating love triangle, and reclaim her life. After more than two years of being beaten, traumatized, and manipulated,
Jackie finally finds the courage to confront Nita.
In this suspenseful tale, a college student must face the consequences of a bad choice that will leave her wondering if there is any way to find the redemption she so badly needs.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.69(d)|
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DEGREES of DECEPTION
By KIMBERLY THACKER WEBB
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2013 Kimberly Thacker Webb
All rights reserved.
Two Years Earlier
Brittany got out of the cab and paid the driver for her trip from the airport to her new college home. As the driver removed her bags from the trunk, Brittany glanced at her paper detailing the address and then at the house in front of her. Puzzled by its appearance, her British accent took hold as she blurted out, "Oh bloody hell! You've got to be kidding me. This is absurd."
Although deeply disappointed with her surroundings, Brittany couldn't wait to see Jax. They had become lifelong friends since their junior year in high school. Brittany was the first and only exchange student that Jax's parents hosted. Although originally from Africa, most of Brittany's education occurred in London, England. Recent events prompted her parents insistence that she return to America to finish her college degree.
Brittany again studied her environment as she stepped onto the sidewalk from the street. She was almost knocked down by children riding their bikes, laughing, and yelling as they blew right by her. Although, perturbed by their rudeness, her attention quickly diverted to the sounds of loud rap music playing from a car burning rubber and speeding down the street. Brittany then questioned, "My God, where am I?"
With a slight smile of thanks to the driver, she picked up her bags and walked toward the house. The reddish brick row house was three stories high, with dark brown awnings covering some of the windows. From her vantage point, at least one window on each floor had an air-conditioning unit hanging from it. Throwing her head back in disgust, she said, "No central air? Oh dear God, how am I supposed to live here?" Remembering her plush and roomy high rise flat in London, complete with an entertaining lobby for guests, maid service, and a doorman, she was already beginning to feel like she was being reduced to live like a peasant instead of the daughter of a diplomat.
Brittany stared at the five steps to the house and spotted the chipped paint that coated each step—an image that reminded her of her own broken heart. She thought about her parents, and then closed her eyes, attempting to control her anger toward them. Moving from London to D.C. was one thing, but if her parents thought that moving her away from Charles was going to stop their relationship, then they were sadly mistaken. She would never leave him; he was her soul mate.
With bags in hand, she moaned and then leaned on the black iron railing. Gazing at the green indoor/outdoor carpet covering the porch, she longed for the baby she lost, but strove to put it out of her mind. She took a deep breath, looked up, and shook her head, sighing at the dilapidated house as Ike, an off-balanced drunk, stumbled behind her.
Through his booze-slurred speech, he tapped Brittany on the shoulder and said, "Hhhhheeeyy, I need to catch a bus to see my sick momma, can ..." As he spoke, he struggled to keep his balance, rocking from side to side, "... ouuuu spare some change?"
Brittany rolled her eyes and turned to him, amazed that he was bold enough to approach and talk to her. No drunks in London had ever been so brazen. Smelling the stench of cheap liquor and musty body odor, she said in a very sharp tone, "I have no such thing. You, dear friend should get a job!"
She moved forward, but he stepped in front of her, almost falling on her. She stepped back to avoid physical contact with him.
His head swayed with his body half slumped over. He gave her a strange look and said, while pointing his dirt-laden finger at her, "You ain't from around here. Where you from?"
"If you must know, I am from South Africa."
"Oh ... You here to go to school?" He stood upright, putting his hands on his hips. "You college girls, you all the same. You think you betta' than us. You think I ain't ever had a job."
Quick to spout off, Brittany said, "I did not say that you have never had a job. I merely said get a job, and quit begging people for money." She shrugged her shoulder and turned her nose up at him. "It is most embarrassing."
"Embarrassin'?" he asked with his eyes down and mouth wide open. He lifted his head and looked her in the eye. "Let me tell you what's embarrassin'. Workin' and tryin' to take care of yo yo yo family and never makin' ends meet."
He staggered as he talked and grabbed Brittany's bag for balance. She jerked it away from him, almost causing him to fall forward. He held onto the black railing to steady himself while he finished his speech. He stepped closer to Brittany, attempting to make eye contact. She waved away the stench with her hands and backed up again. Brittany looked at him and then glanced at the front door of the row house. She wondered, What kind of a con is this fool trying to play on me? Pointing his crooked finger behind him, he said, "Givin' up, 'cause you can't find no job that pay worth nothing. Lookin' at your eighty year old mother who can't get her diabetes pills and watchin' her foot hav' to get cut off, cause I can't get no help fo' her. Now that's embarrassin'." With confidence, he managed to stand tall and hold his head high.
Brittany heard Ike's plight, took another deep breath, and with a somber attitude, she said, "I am sorry for your trouble." She put her bags down, reached in her purse, pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, and handed it to him.
"I hope this can help you catch your bus." Brittany rolled her eyes, not just at Ike but also at the despair and laziness of many Americans.
Ike stared at the money and said, "Oh yes ... this sure will, thank you, thank you so much." He smiled as he walked back down the walkway.
She picked up her bags and rushed up the stairs, once again eyeing the house. She shook her head in disbelief that she would make it her home for the next three years. Before ringing the doorbell, she paused in front of the weather worn door with its rustic doorknob and sighed.
Jackie opened the door and said, "Hi, Brit. How was your trip?"
As she crossed the threshold, Brittany peered back at the drunk, wanting to forget the exchange. She set her bags down and said, "It was a bit bumpy, but other than that, I am here."
They hugged each other, and of course, Brittany gave Jackie the double kiss, one on each side of her face.
"Here, let me help you with your bags. I see you met Ike," Jackie said as she moved Brittany's bags from the foyer and placed them by the stairs.
"Thanks. You ... know him?" Brittany said with a squeamish smirk.
"Yes, everyone in the neighborhood knows Ike. He's good people."
With a half-hearted laugh and a grim look, Brittany said, "Jax, you can't be serious." Even though Brittany heard Ike's story, she still thought he could be doing more with his life than panhandling.
Jackie ignored her. "So, how are your parents doing?"
"Oh, you know the usual; Dad's at home doing his diplomat thing and Mummy, of course, busies herself with the boutique in London, or planning the next dinner party. That is, when she is not in my business."
Brittany and Jackie had one thing in common—their parents. Their fathers were always gone, and their mothers were usually busy entertaining friends and watching their daughters' every move.
"Well, let me show you around the place. This is the den and dining room. Feel free to hang out here with your friends. As long as you are not disturbing the rest of us, we don't care."
Brittany studied the lounge with a scowl on her face and finally said, "Oh, I don't think you have to worry about that."
"Oh yes, I'm supposed to tell you no overnight guests, no drugs, and no parties. Of course, these are my parents' rules, but we don't always follow them. Besides, they never come up here anyway."
"Well, that's much better. I have never done well with rigid rules."
They both laughed, and Brittany walked past the lounge into the kitchen with Jackie following.
"This is the kitchen." Jackie opened the refrigerator and said, "We mark all of our food with our names so we don't get it confused. If you want to cook, that's up to you, but we all mainly go out to eat except for LaJuana, who sometimes cooks." Jackie whispered to Brittany even though no one was in the house but them. "Oh, and I wouldn't put anything in the fridge that you really want, because most of the time, it's gone the next day. I think LaJuana eats the leftover food."
They both chuckled as Jackie opened the cabinets to show Brittany where the pots, pans, and plates were kept. "Do you have any questions?"
"Jax, you know I don't cook, but who is LaJuana?"
"Oh, she is one of our housemates, and she lives on the other side of the kitchen, right down this hallway." Jackie pointed down the hallway.
"What kind of name is LaJuana?" Brittany asked. She had always been amused at the ridiculous names Americans gave their children.
"I don't know, but she is a nice girl. Kind of fat, but she stays to herself."
Brittany turned up her nose again and then pulled Jackie out of the kitchen and back into the lounge. "Listen, show me around later. I want to get some new trousers in Georgetown. I heard they have charming clothes."
Brittany walked into the hallway and up the stairs, leaving her bags resting at the bottom.
"Okay, let's at least take your things to your room." Jackie picked up her two bags and walked up the stairs behind Brittany. "Your room is on the second floor, the third door on the left." Jackie set the bags down, took the key, opened the door, and walked in. "Feel free to put in a TV and whatever else you need."
A bed and a desk were the only furniture in the room. Brittany simply stood in shock.
"Are you okay?" Jackie asked.
She paused and then responded, "Uh ... I ... I do not know."
Jackie ignored her stammering and continued, "There are two phone jacks, one behind your bed and the other is by the window. You will have to contact the telephone company and have your phone turned on." Brittany's expression didn't change, so she kept going. "We pay for the water, electricity, gas, and trash pickup, so you don't have to worry about that. Here's the door to your closet."
Brittany opened the closet door and her eyes bucked open. She said, "Dear God. This is so tiny! How am I going to get all of my clothes in here? I just packed a few things to get me through the next couple of days." She buried her head in her hands and said, "This is crazy. Several trunks of my clothing are being shipped here next week. How am I supposed to make this work?"
Jackie replied, "It's a row house, not the mansion you are used to living in. Look, my room is down the hall from you, and in between your bedroom and mine is the bathroom." Jackie walked down the hallway, motioned her to follow, and opened the bathroom door. "It's quaint but functional. You are responsible for your own towels and toiletries, including toilet paper."
Brittany faced her friend, placed her hands on her shoulders, and shook her. "How do you live here? This is so ..." She frowned. "... basic. Your home in Dallas is nothing like this." She looked around and said, "I was really expecting a lot more."
Jackie glared at her and shrugged out of her grip.
Turning to look at her surroundings, Brittany said, "I hate to say this, but this is barbaric. It looks like a peasant lives here."
Jackie raised her voice. "Brit, this is not the Ritz Carlton! This is the real world. In case you didn't know, this is how most college students live. In fact, we probably live better than most college students do. Where did you live in London?"
"In one of London's premier flats with a doorman and maid service. I think you call it a high-rise apartment building."
Jackie shook her head and focused on the floor.
Brittany said, "I know, I know. It is going to take me a moment to adjust. It just seems so primitive." She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and said, "I can do this, I know I can. Let me unpack a bit and figure out how I am going to make this work. Then we can go to the mall. It will help me get my mind off this place."
Jackie said, "Okay. Let me know when you're ready, I'll be in my room."
Thirty minutes later, they took the subway headed for the mall. Only a couple of people were on it, as most people were still at work and it was only the middle of the day. They got off at their stop, and Brittany said, "I heard that everyone at Karrington University looks like they stepped out of a premiere of New York's Fashion Week. Is that true?"
"Well, it's not quite Fashion Week. Most of the people who dress like that are in the business school. Friday is the one day out of the week when everyone's on the yard, and it looks like a fashion show then."
"Well, I still need some new rags," Brittany said, almost skipping toward the mall door with Jackie following behind her.
"Okay," Jackie said, "But I really don't have any money for clothes."
Inside the mall, they saw everything from hip hugger pants to the latest Donna Karen shirts. They went in and out of the stores, trying on clothes and buying a few must-have items. Brittany had two bags and Jackie had one of her own, but somehow Jackie was carrying all of them.
Brittany stopped and said, "Ostentatious? We have to go in here."
Jackie followed Brittany into the store. Down the center of the store was a long red carpet leading to the cash register. It caught their eyes. They looked at each other and in unison said, "Love it!"
Jackie and Brittany rushed around in opposite directions looking for their favorite designers. As they searched, they marveled at the color scheme in the boutique. It was black and white with hints of deep purple swirled in designs all over the walls. Sporadic splashes of purple material swooped down from the ceiling. The black and white checkered marble floors gave the boutique a clean and sleek look.
Brittany yelled, "Jax, I love this store! We should have come here first."
Jackie said, "I know, I've never been here before," as she thumbed through the clothes in the Versace area.
They both found outfits and headed to the fitting room.
Brittany slipped on a pair of Gucci pants and said, "I love the way these trousers feel."
She came out of the fitting room and spun around to see herself in the mirror. Jackie peeked out and saw Brittany's outfit. She said, "It's so cute. You've always had the pizzazz and style that I wish I had."
Brittany then said, "Stop it. Let me see yours."
Jackie came out of the fitting room. "Oh, Jax that is it, you must get that! Wow! You are fierce. Who is the designer?"
"The jacket is Nicole Miller, and the pants are Donatella Versace."
Brittany said, "Wait." She walked out of the fitting room toward the cash register, picked up some Armani sunglasses, came back to the room, and handed them to her.
"Here Jax, try these on with it."
Jackie put the sunglasses on. "I know I like it, but I've never seen this combination of colors before ... black, teal, yellow, and pink? It's almost like a shirt and a jacket together. But, I can't buy it."
"Yes you can, you have to! Look how the jacket accentuates your waist and the trousers hug your curves. It was made for you. Besides, these must be the new colors for the fall season. They go well with your eyes. Turn around. Aw, it's magnificent! You simply must get it."
Jackie looked in the mirror, "You know this would look a lot better on me, if I had a tan." Jackie sighed. "Brit, I can't. My parents gave me two-thousand dollars to buy all of my books plus a little spending money. It's supposed to last me until Thanksgiving. Besides, I just spent a bunch on books plus some stuff for my bedroom. If I buy this outfit, I'd be dipping into my spending money and the rest of my book money. I still have to buy two more books. "
Brittany said with a flippant expression, "So, use that."
"Are you crazy? How am I going to study? I can't do that. My parents warned me this year that they were not giving me any extra money. Anyway, I need those two books, because both of the classes start on Monday and Tuesday. The bookstore was out of them earlier this week, but they will have a shipment on the first day of school. I don't want to be irresponsible."
Brittany admired the outfit and pled her case. "Think about it this way. It would be irresponsible not to buy this outfit because it looks so good on you. How many times do we go shopping wishing something fit better here or there? Or, we see an outfit we like, and decide not to buy it. Later we come back to the store, and 'ta da' it's gone."
Excerpted from DEGREES of DECEPTION by KIMBERLY THACKER WEBB. Copyright © 2013 Kimberly Thacker Webb. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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