Dirty Bad Strangers(10)

By: Jade West


“And your hair! It’s like fire.”

“My parents call me firecracker.”

“Suits you. Where are you from?”

“Hatfield, moved to London about six months ago with a couple of friends. Haven’t really met anyone else yet, so I thought this would be a start.”

“You’ll meet some great people here, don’t worry about that. Welcome to Dirty Angels, Firecracker Gemma.”

I just knew I was going to love it.


Pole fitness burned like a bitch. It burned my arms, my legs, my stomach. I was a sweaty wreck when the hour was over, but I’d made swift work of the warmups and the first few spins.

Cara had grabbed my arm as the other ladies herded out.

“The way you move to the rhythm is so raw, so real, it can’t be taught. You were stunning up there, truly. I hope we see you next week.”

I was still buzzing. Alive from the music, from the beat, from the dance. My skin was flushed, heart pumping, and it felt good. Really, really good. I’d taken my first real steps towards making friends, people who loved to dance as much as I did, people who didn’t want to tear me down and shoot me evils on the dance floor. I was in my happy place.

I was itching to share, but there was nobody really to share with. Chelsea and I still weren’t on the greatest terms, and Tessa was run ragged with work and study assignments. I called my parents but they were out with my uncles. My mind steered to my only other confidant: the man with the voice.


I hadn’t heard anything more from him last night. Not since the shriek on the line. I wondered where he was, what he was doing. I wondered whether I’d even hear from him again after that little kick-off. I hoped so.

It scared me just how much I hoped so.

I guess that’s why I booked in the extra hours and set my alarm for 1:45 a.m., and I also guess that’s how I knew I really wouldn’t need the alarm at all.



Once upon a time having April on my arm made me feel richer than any ridiculous salary Kensington Rangers could have put me on. Now it only made me feel like shit. I watched her watching me, like she’d always done in social situations. Only now I knew the truth. April wasn’t watching me with doe eyes out of affection, or pride. She was watching me for the sake of the cameras and the gossip, and the stupid fucking sponsorship deals.

I’d believed it all in the beginning, all the smoke and mirrors. I’d believed the adoration in her eyes, the tenderness of her arm through mine, the soft press of her hair against my cheek. I’d believed it right up until our wedding day, when tears of happiness pricked at her eyes and her voice had trembled with just the perfect fucking amount of emotion as she made her vows.

I’d believed all of her manipulative little games, only now I knew the truth.

It had to be a lie, because the bitch was still doing all those things, and doing them well. Playing a fucking part, same way she’d always played.

I sat in silence alongside her at our stupidly over-priced table, smiling when she smiled, meeting her eyes when they flashed in my direction. Ten years we’d been doing this shit, and each year it got so much fucking harder.

I’d have served less time for class-A drugs, and an easier pissing sentence.

Champagne after supper, because nothing says help the homeless better than a seven course meal and vintage bubbly. I’m sick to death at the whole pissing hypocrisy of this cruddy scene we creep around in.

Reece fell into the empty seat beside his weathergirl other half, Kate, already half gone on scotch. Reece was from April’s circle, but he was one of the few good guys. A property expert on one of those shitty daytime TV shows.

He pooh-poohed my mineral water, chugging back another shot of whisky.

“Not even one? You bloody paid enough for it.”

I waved his comment aside. “Training tomorrow, heavy session.”

“Dunno how you do it,” he laughed. “Mr Clean, no vices.”

If only he knew.

“Odds are this is my final season, want to go out on a high.”

“Nah, April says you’ve got at least another year in you.”

“April’s convinced I’ll be signed until I’m on a mobility scooter, just as long as I schmooze the right people and look the part when I get on the pitch.”