Just below the pristine surface of school uniforms, wistful first crushes, and newfound freedoms, a lurid opportunity exists for a daring few. Selectively recruited and refined into specialized companions, Legacy Girls enter mutually beneficial contracts that bind them to the exploitation of flesh in exchange for riches. As Jaycee penetrates the layers of her cousin's pubescent inner circle, she uncovers a world where innocence has become opportunity, and secrets are too lucrative to expose. Jaycee sifts through rumors, myths, and potential witnesses, building a fondness for her spirited young cousin, and a wariness of a potentially lethal pact now controlling her every move. As she races to root out the players, Jaycee learns that sometimes surviving isn't enough, and justice can be the ultimate final transaction.
About the Author
Jennifer Vaughn is an Emmy nominated, award winning TV news anchor at ABC affiliate WMUR-TV, in New Hampshire. Her work has earned a Red Cross Sword of Hope Award, Associated Press honors, multiple NH Association of Broadcasters commendations, and she has contributed to coverage recognized with an Edward R. Murrow Award. Jennifer has held roles in internationally televised presidential debates alongside CNN, ABC News, and Fox News, and has conducted one-on-one interviews with sitting presidents of the United States, and every presidential candidate to cross the NH border. Jennifer has ventured to Houston, Texas, to interview President George H.W. Bush, and his wife, Barbara, and been dispatched to Arizona, to cover the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXll. When ABC's Extreme Home Makeover rolled into New Hampshire, she was there when a local family saw their new home for the first time. Jennifer is the author of three novels, Last Flight Out, Throw Away Girls, and Echo Valley. Her most important job of all: mom. Alongside her husband, Brad Dupuis, Jennifer is joyfully raising two great kids, Brody and Darby, and their cocker spaniel, Fletcher.
Read an Excerpt
Moonlight filtered through sheer curtains cast long silvery lines upon Eve Levesque's naked thighs. They reminded her of piano keys, bone-colored planks of white interrupted by dusky jutted nubs. If his swollen, arthritically deformed fingers arched over the keyboard of her leg could emit a sound, it would be woeful, in B-flat minor, that melancholy flavor featured in several arrangements by her favorite composer, Tchaikovsky. Eve blinked sharply to pull her gaze away from the grotesque hands climbing upward over her well-defined quad muscle. She blinked again, opting for the blackness behind her lids, the safe place where she would retreat to for the remainder of this encounter.
There had been strict instructions not to cower, wince, or show any emotion at all that might disrupt the passion of The Messiah. Those were the rules. As a Legacy Virgin, Eve had agreed to abide by them, but at the time, they were merely words. She had no context of what they meant, or how they felt beneath her skin. Her Mother had never discussed what to do if her body betrayed her with nerves that rattled her teeth and clamped her legs so tightly together sweat was dampening the lavish Victoria's Secret black lace underwear he'd provided her.
They weren't hers. No, she had never liked the overpriced and itchy scraps of fabric that barely covered her butt cheeks. Eve had no reason to impress anyone with her undergarments, so she had always opted for the comfortable Hanes Her Way bikini cut sold at the Kmart near her house. They fit nice and snug under the compression shorts she wore beneath her soccer uniform. The scratchy lace gave her another sensation to focus her senses on, because if she let herself feel The Messiah's prickly tongue assaulting her upper bicep like it was a salt lick, she just might heave up the tuna fish onion roll she'd had for lunch.
"Relax, Number 14," he moaned. Even his voice was old and weathered, as she remembered her grandpa's had been after decades of smoking menthol cigarettes. She wondered if this decrepit being slobbering his way across her collarbone was someone's grandfather. Great grandfather? Had he walked a daughter down the aisle at her wedding? Did he have a wife at home? A woman with equally gnarled hands and white hair who had once been lovely and idealistic? Had she pledged to love him for the rest of her days? Had he promised to love her back? Who in his life was he betraying? There was always someone. Entry into Fantasyland was only granted at the expense of an innocent. Eve had already sacrificed that part of herself. She wasn't the victim here, just a willing partner in a business arrangement.
Modern advances and technology that rewarded instantaneous solutions would never blunt the power of the oldest business known to man. It never changed. Simple, pure, and untainted by time, it remained the root of all pleasure, the ultimate victory, the symbiotic win-win human beings were built for. So, when a Legacy Girl accepted the deal from her Messiah, she was taken care of for life. She would know what it felt like to jet off for a weekend of shopping in Paris, or to build a house from the foundation up with all the upgrades included. A Legacy Girl lived out her days surrounded by all fine things. An American Express Centurion Card would bear her name and there was never a spending limit to worry about. She would travel the world on someone else's dime, sit in first class, and dine upon the tastiest cuts of Kobe beef as she sipped Cristal champagne on the French Riviera. She would have it all. Eve had never wanted it all, she just wanted better.
With considerable effort, she forced her breath to come faster, harder, and more sensuous-sounding. Eve knew she had to prove herself worthy of The Messiah's long-term investment. She was the stock before the IPO. Messiahs only bet on the ones guaranteed to take off.
She had to show him she was about to soar.
It had started easily enough. Eve had been coached to believe she could control this — it would not control her. The drive out to this barren northern New Hampshire estate was quiet, peaceful even, as the supple leather passenger seat of her Mother's Range Rover wrapped her up like a present. It was flashy and red, hard to miss. Boys in cars traveling along I-93 to the mountains with snowboards hanging from their roofs nodded their approval through the tinted windows. Her Mother preened. Unlike the Legacy Virgin she was in the process of nurturing, Mother was luxurious in every way. Her Messiah made sure the Rover had its oil changed every four thousand miles, was always gassed up, and had her most current playlist loaded into its onboard sound system. Its shiny exterior was free of winter road gunk. Mother's world rotated around a number plugged into her iPhone that she texted often. No name, just a series of numbers. Within a half hour, theater tickets appeared for a new show on Broadway, or a square envelope encasing the signature blue Tiffany box popped up in the mailroom at school. Whatever the whim, no matter the request, the text activated action. Eve didn't ask where all that shit came from, but she was certain this grandiose vehicle with a comical sticker price had been delivered without hesitation. Her Mother had every aspect of her life taken care of. She was a kept woman, and loving every minute of it. Despite being dumb as fuck, Mother had already been accepted at Harvard and her Messiah had booked a graduation trip to Dubai. She had a bevy of admirers at their school who assumed she came from old money.
In a way, she did.
Eve was Number 14 on her Mother's side, the fourteenth generation of the Legacy Girls. She would never have a name in this family. She would never have a say, or be valued for the vibrancy of her brain. She would never again own the right to say no. After tonight, if she maintained good Legacy standing, she could count on guaranteed acceptance into the college of her choice. Did she want a career? That would be a sure thing, too. Messiahs had connections and strings to pull in boardrooms and corporate headquarters across the globe. She had been told of past Legacy Girls from several other exalted boarding schools who had gone on to medical school, become hedge fund managers, international beauty pageant winners, and stay-at-home moms. Rumor had it one of them was an Academy Award-winning actress! They were everywhere. Across every walk of life. Legacy Girls represented a deep and unblemished tradition seamlessly carried out for a very long time. Every member of the inner circle played his or her role with the utmost discretion.
Their secret was to be protected at all costs. Even if real love brought marriage and children, Legacy Girls remained committed to their Messiahs. In their very late years, many Messiahs called upon their girls merely for companionship. When the body could no longer perform, the fondness and familiarity became the lasting connections.
They lived otherwise normal lives with every financial whim covered. A Legacy Girl was beholden to her Messiah until he decided she was free — or until either of them stopped drawing breath. The contract was for life. No Legacy Girl came to her decision for the same reason. Many of them, like Eve herself, had known a simpler, no-frills kind of childhood. They likely resented their hand-me-down wardrobes, and the pockets of rust that decorated their dads' old Camrys or Civics. Maybe a few of them felt underserved by fate. And, perhaps some were just immature and wanted a music video life full of yachts, beachside bungalows, and G6s stuffed with professional athletes and boy bands. Eve figured some of them had signed on solely for the adventure.
It is the Mother's responsibility to find, nurture, and prepare her Legacy Virgin to assume her role in their tribe. Her Mother had befriended her during freshman orientation. Eve remembered how hot that early June day had been, an uncharacteristically humid morning for late spring in New Hampshire. She sat in the crowd of well-heeled young adults and their chaperones all by herself, no one in her own family could take a day off from work to attend. The kind of parents who sent their kids to a boarding school with this level of exclusivity also sent someone else to deal with the paperwork and the swampy heat. She wore her finest white sweater and a fitted black skirt on loan from her neighbor. Her straight brown hair with sun streaks of golden blonde hung down her back in a neat ponytail, and she had applied a light coating of mascara on her eyelashes. In spite of her youth, Eve's hazel eyes reflected wisdom and patience, but her insides churned with a neurotic stamina that was never off duty. Her friends told her she was beautiful and appealing but she knew it was more like sturdy. She had a muscular body honed by years of grueling soccer sprints and endless conditioning. Hours of practice and studious attention to her grades had earned her both academic and athletic standout status in her woodsy hometown about an hour south of the co-ed Episcopal school that welcomed all faiths, and encouraged its campus dwellers to forge a path through their lives that was solidly built upon a common devotion to their fellow man. Lovely in thought and marketing purposes, but in practicality the tony school was an historic cash cow and king-maker. It boasted graduates that ranged from a former president, to two secretaries of state, and one Arabian prince. Eve had slipped through the elegant gates by being nominated for scholarship status. Her family committed without hesitation, even though they would be responsible for the supplementation of her education and housing. Soccer travel, books, and expensive apps on their school-issued iPads ran these kids several thousand dollars a semester. Both her parents, and her very pissed-off twenty-year-old brother, were now logging extra hours at menial jobs to pay her way. It was a humiliating feeling that tugged at Eve's indomitable desire to be self-sufficient. She worried the weight of her debt might one day kill her. Wasn't there a better way?
Mother sure thought so.
Eventually, she realized the attention of her Mother that began that day had been part of the grooming process. She never asked why she had been marked — it would have been painful to hear that she presented to the world as an easy target, a woebegone but feisty come-from-nothing go-getter with a chip on her shoulder and a slanted view of society. She was guarded and quiet at first during the Get to Know You BBQ on the sprawling front lawn of the Academy. Her Mother was insistent, forcing chit-chat that felt ridiculous and stilted. She couldn't figure out why this gorgeous light-haired creature, who moved with the silky body awareness of a dancer, was wasting her time on inane banter with a lowly incoming freshman. Below her sweat-sticky eyelashes, Eve watched Mother's glossy lips stretch and strain with overblown animation as she gushed about campus life, some sweet little candy store with homemade chocolates, and the low water pressure in Dawson Dorm. She was exotic and alluring, the kind of imposing presence who would hashtag her selfies with #nofilter. She didn't need one. In spite of knowing they were hardly BFF material, the sturdy girl and the goddess became friends.
About six months later, over café mochas at a brick-faced coffee shop a short walk away from campus, Mother brought up Eve's drawn and tired-looking eyes. She was so conscientious of her real family's sacrifices to pay her way that she was working herself ragged to maintain a 4.0 GPA with all honors classes. She was bone-weary, had lost weight because there was no time for a full meal, and had started leaving handfuls of her hair behind in the shower drain. Her body was taxed and it was starting to show.
Her bright-eyed teenaged Mother was disturbed about stress and the toll it takes on a young person. "You're still growing, for fuck's sake!" she'd fuss, sniveling at Eve's heavy chin bobbing with exhaustion upon her open palm. She was double-booked as a student athlete, the starting striker on the soccer team, and year-round three-day-a-week practice often ran late into the night. Her coach was pushing and her teachers were pulling; she was caught in an exhausting game of tug of war and the rope was slipping right through her overworked fingers.
"There's a way to make it all stop," she said finally.
"Make what stop?" Eve asked, sipping on her skim mocha latte and giving her head a quick shake to wake up.
"The madness," Mother stated firmly. "This crazy assault on your body and mind. The stupid rat race. All the ridiculous scholarship crap you're trying to keep up with. Getting straight A's in boring classes that mean nothing in the real world." Her angular face was vivid with expectancy. Eve squinted at her. What the hell was she talking about? "I'm trying to tell you it doesn't have to be like this for you. It isn't for me. I can teach you how to get so much more."
Eve huffed. A new way? So much more? Seriously. At the time, it sounded ludicrous. There was no such thing. To be truly exceptional, there was no gain without pain. She knew she had only just begun paying off her portion of life's sweat equity requirement. Mother's intense eyes glistened. She wanted to take away the agony and get straight to the trophy.
All Eve had to do was believe.
"I'm about to share with you a secret that's been protected by generations of women just like us," she crooned.
"Are you punking me? For real? What the ..." Eve wasn't following.
"You're special," Mother interrupted. "And you deserve a life full of adventures and country club memberships. Honey, famous designers have my measurements on file. I snap my fingers and they start sewing." Eve peered into her eyes. People sewed for this girl? The bewilderment must've been sorely apparent. "I'm going to teach you how to make the ultimate investment in your own future." Eve smirked at the obscurity. Mother sounded just like the Scientologists on that HBO special Eve had recently watched. How they worked a new recruit with promises of community and acceptability. It was just a smoke screen. Totally not real.
As she leaned her perky chest over the square wooden table between them, Eve's eyes dropped to the iron breasts stuffed inside a white button-down shirt. They never even budged. She chuckled on the realization that those perfect mounds were artificially fabricated, but felt dismay that some surgeon out there would agree to supplement someone so young.
"Sounds great, sign me up," she trilled, still assuming they were merely mocking the absurdity of the rich as only the poor can.
"Actually, I already have," Mother told her, ignoring her attempt at humor. "And all you have to do is ..."
The rest of it sounded so surreal Eve left the coffee shop in a daze.
She tossed and turned in her tiny dorm-sized bed that night, asking herself impossible questions. What would her legacy truly be? Was hers to be a life spent trying to measure up? Would she be mortgaging her future before she even had one? How would she carve out time to be a mother someday if she was holding down three jobs, managing housework, and hating herself for settling? How would she ever pay back her family for what it was sacrificing for her? She would be forever indebted to so many people!
Was that the life she wanted?
Mother told her the first time was the hardest.
She was so right.
Her Messiah had left a rectangular pink box on the bed at The Heights, the hulking stone mansion where Legacy Girls and their Messiahs shuttered away for weekends at a time. Tucked deep inside an obscure town with more moose than residents, southwest of the Canadian border, The Heights was an architectural beast with a medieval old-world facade and gleaming marble floors. Library-like in its stillness. The soaring wooden ceiling spun intermittent sound into echoes that swirled a melodic hum through the cavernous foyer. Eve and her Mother arrived early to set up and get settled. Mother led her to a room on the second floor and turned the glass knob of the heavy wooden door.
"There will be a box on the bed. Inside will be either a costume of your Messiah's choice, or lingerie."
"So I'm either a naughty nurse, French maid, or a porn star?" Eve snipped.
"Yes," Mother said sharply. She grabbed her tightly, spun her around and placed her palm on Eve's back. With an elbow against her spine, she thrust her across the threshold into her new life.
Excerpted from "Legacy Girls"
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Vaughn.
Excerpted by permission of Waldorf Publishing.
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