Chapter 3

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"I know almost nothing about you."

"It's better this way."

- Age of Adaline, in theaters April 24

The thing about being a woman in these times was that men well underestimated you and when you were in the business of keeping secrets and pulling off tricks, it was an indirect but worthy advantage.

Still, one had to be careful because while some men might be too self-absorbed to notice, there were a few who paid keen attention. Men like Eddie, for example, who saw me as nothing more but a slow-growing but potentially high-yielding investment.

"Thank you, loves. No need to clap so hard. We already know you adore us," I purred on the microphone, winking and flashing a sultry smile at the audience as I fell back in line with Rita and Cindy, the two women I just performed a lively jazz number with. With flair and flourish, we made our bow. Rita was really the only one who could carry a tune but Cindy and I made good back-ups, contributing mostly with our flippant and flirty dancing and flashy costumes. I made all the quirky quips, teasing and amusing the audience until they were so heartily entertained they just couldn't help but spend more cash.

I liked the money but it had become more than that.

On stage, I could usually forget my life and bask in the warm and blinding light instead, unobscured by the shadows for once and unafraid, even just for a moment, of my own dangerous secrets.

The music would carry my feet, animate my bones and fill my being with lightness-except tonight.

Beyond the edges of the spotlight and the applauding crowd, I spied Brandon in the shadows and my heart catapulted against my chest with breathtaking force.

Every night I pleaded for him to stay away, to distance himself from the danger of being discovered.

But in the short time I'd known him, I knew that once Brandon had his mind set on something, he would not be deterred.

It would be the death of us.

Stepping off to the side to exit the stage, halos of the spotlight still in my vision, I found my hand clasped hard in a tight grip. I looked up, thinking it was Terry, our soundman who often worked around the stage, and stared into Eddie's beady eyes. I blinked several times to clear my vision but the man I faced remained the same. Unable to suppress a wince, I pulled away from Eddie's sweaty grasp but his fingers wouldn't budge.

"Rousing performance as always, my dear," he said with exaggerated flair, bringing my hand up to his lips to plant a moist kiss on it that made my skin crawl. Then he leaned in to murmur in a low voice that sent shivers down my spine. "The things you make me dream of when you move your body..."

This time, even as it wrenched at my shoulder painfully, I yanked my hand away and wiped it down my feather-covered skirt. "Yes, dream of my arm moving up and down-that's me stabbing you to death. Dream of my foot swinging back and forth-that's me kicking your cold corpse. Enjoying it yet?"

I thought Eddie would explode but he just gave me a cold smile. "There's something different about you, Charlotte. Something that's made you bolder and more stupid. Something that distracts you as you do about the only thing you enjoy around here. I'm curious."

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