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Lady boss 1990, p.1
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       Lady Boss (1990), p.1

           Jackie Collins
 
Lady Boss (1990)


  Jackie Collins

  Lady Boss

  PROLOGUE:

  September 1985

  "Kil her," the voice said.

  "Who?"

  "Lucky Santangelo, that's who."

  "It's as good as done."

  "I hope so."

  "Don't worry--the lady is already dead."

  Chapter 1

  From the very beginning they were destined to be a lethal combination--Lucky Santangelo and Lennie Golden.

  Two stubborn, crazy, smart people.

  Lennie was tal and lanky, with dirty-blond hair and ocean-green eyes. He was good-looking in an edgy offhand way. Women loved his looks. At thirty-seven, he'd final y made it as a movie star. He was the new breed--a comedian of the Eddie Murphy/Chevy Chase school.

  Cynical and funny, his films made big bucks--the bottom line in Hol ywood.

  Lucky Santangelo Richmond Stanislopoulos Golden was the thrice married daughter of the* notorious Gino Santangelo. In her early thirties, she was darkly, exotical y beautiful, with a tangle of wild jet curls, dangerous black eyes, smooth olive skin, a ful sensual mouth, and a slim body. She was a fiercely independent, strong-wil ed woman who never compromised and always took chances.

  Together they generated blazing heat. They'd been married for nearly a year, and both looked forward to their wedding anniversary in September with a mixture of delight and amazement. Delight, because they loved each other very much. Amazement, because who'd ever thought it would last?

  Currently Lennie was in Los Angeles shooting Macho Man for Panther Studios. The film was a comedy takeoff on al the Hol ywood superheroes--Eastwood, Stal one, and Schwarzenegger.

  They'd rented a beach house in Malibu, but while Lennie was filming, Lucky chose to stay in New York where she headed a bil ion-dol ar shipping company--left to her by her second husband, Dimitri Stanislopoulos. She also had wanted Bobby, her six-and-a-half-year-old son by Dimitri, to be educated in England, and being in New York meant she was closer to his English school.

  On most weekends she either visited Bobby in London or Lennie in Los Angeles. "My life is one long plane ride,"

  she joked rueful y to friends. But everyone knew Lucky thrived on activity, and to sit by Lennie's side playing movie star's wife would have bored her. As it was, they had a volatile and passionate marriage.

  Macho Man was causing Lennie nothing but problems.

  Every night he cal ed Lucky with a litany of complaints. She listened patiently while he told her the producer was a jerk; the director was a has-been lush; his leading lady was sharing her bed with the producer; and Panther Studios was run by money-mad grafters. He wanted out.

  Lucky listened, smiling to herself. She was working on a deal that--if al went according to plan--w6uld free him from the restrictions of answering to a director he didn't respect, a producer he loathed, and a studio run by people he never planned to do business with again--even though he'd foolishly, against her advice, signed a three-picture contract with Panther.

  "I'm about ready to walk," he threatened for the hundredth time.

  "Don't," she said, attempting to soothe him.

  "I can't make it with these assholes," he groaned.

  "Those assholes can sue you for a fortune. And stop you working elsewhere," she added, the perfect voice of reason.

  "Fuck 'em!" he replied recklessly.

  "Don't do anything until I get out there," she warned.

  "Promise me that."

  "When, for crissakes? I'm beginning to feel like a virgin."

  A throaty chuckle. "Hmm . . . I didn't know you had that good a memory!"

  "Hurry it up, Lucky. I real y miss you."

  "Maybe I'l be there sooner than you think," she said mysteriously.

  "I'm sure you'l recognize me," he said dryly. "I'm the guy with the permanent hard-on."

  "Very funny." Stil smiling, she replaced the receiver.

  Lennie Golden would be shocked and delighted when he found out her surprise. And when he did, she planned to be right there next to him, ready to enjoy the expression on his face.

  Once he put the phone down, Lennie felt restless. His wife was the most exciting woman in the world, but damn it-

  -she pissed him off. Why couldn't she say, "Lennie, if things are tough I'l be right there." Why couldn't she forget everything else and be with him?

  Lucky Santangelo. Drop dead gorgeous. Strong.

  Determined. Enormously rich. And too independent. Lucky Santangelo. His wife.

  Sometimes it al seemed like a fantasy--their marriage, his career, everything. Six years ago he'd been just another comedian looking to score a gig, a few bucks, anything going.

  Lennie Golden. Son of crusty old Jack Golden, a stand-up Vegas hack, and the unstoppable Alice. Or "Alice the Swizzle" as his mother was known in her heyday as a now-you-see-'em, now-you-don't Las Vegas stripper. He'd split for New York when he was seventeen and made it al the way without any help from his folks.

  His father was long dead, but Alice was stil around.

  Sixty-five years old and frisky as an overbleached starlet, Alice Golden was caught in a time warp. She'd never come to terms with getting older, and the only reason she acknowledged Lennie as her son was because of his fame.

  "I was a child bride," she'd simper to anyone who'd listen, batting her fake lashes and curling her overpainted lips in a lascivious leer. "I gave birth to Lennie when I was twelve!"

  Lennie had bought her a smal house in Sherman Oaks.

  She wasn't thril ed at being shunted out to the Val ey, but what could she do? Alice Golden lived with the dream that one day she'd be a star herself, and then, as far as she was concerned, they could al watch out.

  "You're wanted on the set, Mr. Golden," said Cristi, the second assistant, appearing at the door of his trailer.

  Cristi was a California natural blonde with an earnest expression and extra-long legs encased in patched dungarees. Lennie knew she was a natural blonde because Joey Firel o, his friend and cohort in Macho Man had been there, and when it came to women, Joey had a notoriously big mouth--not to mention a notoriously big dick, which he'd affectionately christened Joey Senior.

  Lennie, however, wasn't even interested. Since Lucky had entered his life he couldn't be bothered to look, and he real y didn't appreciate Joey's giving him a rundown of the sexual habits of every female on the set. "You're just jealous, man," Joey had laughed when he'd complained.

  "Out of action an' gettin' no action, huh?"

  Lennie had merely shaken his head and given Joey a

  "Why don't you grow up?" expression. Once he'd been a serious cocksman. "If it's blond and it moves, nail it" had been his motto. For years he'd explored every possibility, managing to avoid any lasting commitments.

  Along the way there'd been a few women who'd left their mark. Eden Antonio, for one.

  Ah, Eden, he thought rueful y. She was something else, a real operator.

  Poor Eden. In spite of al her dreams she'd ended up living with a vicious mobster who had used her in a series of porno movies. Not exactly the future she'd planned for herself.

  And then there was Olympia. He'd married the plump, spoiled shipping heiress because he'd felt sorry for her.

  Unfortunately, even he was unable to save her from her self-destructive excesses. Eventual y she and spaced-out rock star Flash overdosed in a sleazy New York hotel, and Lennie was a free man.

  Now he had Lucky, and life didn't get any better.

  Grabbing a pack of cigarettes from the dresser, he said,

  "O. K., Cristi, I'm on my way."

  The girl nodded thankful y, earnest expression firmly in place. This was not an easy movie to work on, and any cooperation at al was a definite plus. On the set Joey Firel
o was arguing with the old-time director Grudge Freeport about the next scene. Grudge wore a bad rug and chewed tobacco, spitting great gobs of it indiscriminately wherever he pleased. As usual he was almost drunk.

  Marisa Birch, Lennie's leading lady, who doubled as the producer's girlfriend, leaned against a slant board idly picking her cuticles. She was a startling-looking woman, six feet tal , with spiky silver hair and frighteningly huge silicone breasts--a present from her former husband, who hadn't considered thirty-six inches enough. Marisa was a terrible actress, and as far as Lennie was concerned she was helping to ruin the movie in a big way.

  Macho Man, he thought sourly. A comedy destined to be dead on arrival at the box office, in spite of his presence. His other movies had been hits; now he was stuck in a real disaster waiting to happen, and there was nothing he could do about it. The trouble was he'd been dazzled by the astronomical amount of money Mickey Stol i--the head of Panther Studios--had offered him. And like a greedy fool, he'd gone ahead and made another three-picture commitment.

  "Don't do it," Lucky had warned him. "The lawyers only just got you out of your other deal, and now you're tying yourself up again. When are you going to learn? I'm tel ing you, keep your options open--it's more of a chal enge."

  Sure, his wife loved a chal enge. The trouble was he couldn't resist the lure of megabucks. And megabucks put him one step closer to his wife's unbeatable fortune.

  Oh, yeah, he knew he should have listened to Lucky; she had the Santangelo knack of knowing al the right moves and when to make them. Her father, Gino, had made it al the way from nothing. The old guy had style, and Lennie admired him. But what the hel --big bucks were big bucks, and he never wanted to be the poor relation.

  Fortunately they were back in the studio shooting interiors. The week before they'd been on location in the rugged Santa Monica mountains--a real pain. And coming right up was a five-week location shoot in Acapulco.

  With a sigh he entered the fray.

  Marisa puckered up luscious swol en lips and blew him a kiss. She'd been after him from their first meeting. He'd managed to remain total y uninterested.

  Even if he didn't have Lucky, he'd never been turned on by silicone.

  "Hi, Lennie, cookie," she crooned, erect nipples straining in his direction.

  Shit! he thought. Another fun day at the studio.

  Lucky hurried from the tal chrome-and-glass Park Avenue building that stil bore the Stanislopoulos name.

  She had no desire to change it. One day everything would belong to her son, Bobby, and Dimitri's granddaughter, Brigette, so the name stayed.

  Lucky was extremely fond of Brigette. The sixteenyear-old reminded her of Olympia, the girl's mother, at the same age. Olympia and Lucky had once been close friends. But that was long ago and far away, and a lot had happened since their out-of-control teenage years when they'd attended boarding school in Switzerland and ended up getting expel ed.

  Olympia's young death had been a senseless tragedy.

  Its only positive aspect had been the release of Lennie from a lifetime of burdensome responsibility. Occasional y she'd felt guilty that everything had worked out so wel . But what the hel --that was life. Hers hadn't exactly been a day at the beach. At the age of five she'd discovered her mother's body floating in the family swimming pool. Then, years later, Marco, her first love, was gunned down in the parking lot of the Magiriano Hotel. Shortly after, Dario, her brother, was shot to death. Three tragic murders. Lucky had taken her revenge. She was a Santangelo after al . Don't fuck with a Santangelo--the family motto.

  As soon as she walked out of the building she spotted Boogie lounging against the side of a dark green Mercedes. When he saw his boss striding purposeful y toward him, he leaped to attention, quickly throwing open the passenger door.

  Boogie was her driver, bodyguard, and friend.

  They'd been together many years and his loyalty was unquestioning. He was long-haired, tal , and skinny, with an uncanny ability to be there always when she needed him.

  Boogie knew her better than almost anyone.

  "The airport," she said, sliding onto the front seat. "Are we in a hurry?" he asked.

  Lucky's black eyes flickered with amusement. "We're always in a hurry," she replied. "Isn't that what life's al about?"

  Chapter 2

  When Gino Santangelo took his morning constitutional he invariably fol owed the same route: straight out of his apartment building on Sixty-fourth Street, across Park to Lexington, and then a brisk walk along Lexington for several blocks. *

  He enjoyed his routine. At 7 A. M. the streets of New York were not crowded, and in the early hours the weather was usual y bearable.

  He always stopped for a Danish at his favorite coffee shop, then picked up a newspaper from the corner vendor.

  As far as Gino was concerned, this was the most pleasurable hour of his day, except when Paige Wheeler visited from Los Angeles--which was not as often as he'd like.

  When Paige came into town his morning strol was put on hold while he spent lazy mornings rol ing around with her on his comfortable king-size bed. Not bad for an old guy in his seventies. Suffice to say Paige brought out the best in him.

  Goddamn it, he loved the woman, even though she stil steadfastly refused to leave her producer husband of twenty years.

  For a long time he'd been asking her to get a divorce.

  For some unknown reason she wouldn't do it. "It would destroy Ryder if I wasn't around," she'd said simply, as if that was explanation enough.

  "Bul shit," Gino had exploded. "What about me?"

  "You're strong," Paige had replied. "You can survive without me. Ryder would crumble."

  My ass, he'd crumble, Gino thought to himself as he walked along the street. Ryder Wheeler was one of the most successful independent producers in Hol ywood. If Paige dumped him, he'd jump the nearest bimbo and that would be that.

  What made Paige think she was so goddamn

  indispensable? To Gino she was indispensable. To Ryder she was just a wife he'd had for twenty years. The guy would probably pay for his freedom.

  Gino had seriously thought about sending in a third party to plead his case. Offer Ryder a mil ion bucks and goodbye schmuck!

  Unfortunately, in the last eighteen months Ryder Wheeler had fathered two movie megahits and had no need of anyone's money. The jerk was shoveling it in.

  "Screw the sonofabitch," Gino muttered aloud, wel aware of the fact be was not getting any younger, wanting Paige by his side permanently.

  There was a crisp breeze as he stopped at his usual newsstand and schmoozed for a moment with Mick, the dour Welshman with one glass eye and a bad set of yel owing false teeth. Mick ran his little kingdom with unfailing gloom and bad humor.

  "What's goin' on in the neighborhood?" Gino asked casual y, pul ing up the col ar of his windbreaker.

  "Hookers an' cabdrivers. They should bloody shoot the lot of 'em," Mick replied, a malevolent gleam in his one good eye. "A couple of 'em bastards nearly got me t'other day. It's a good thing me wits are about me--I paid 'em back good."

  Gino knew better than to question further. Mick was given to tel ing long, imaginative stories. Throwing down change, he picked up a New York Post and hurried on his way.

  The headlines were lurid. Mob* boss Vincenzio Strobbinno gunned down outside his own home. There was a picture of Vincenzio face down in a pool of his own blood.

  The jerk had it coming, Gino thought with hardly a flicker of surprise. Young turks. Hotheads. The assholes never waited to see if they could work things out, they just blew each other away as if that was the answer to everything.

  Today Vincenzio--tomorrow another one. The violence now was relentless.

  Gino was relieved he was out of it. Many years ago he would have been right in the middle, loving every minute.

  Not now. Now he was an old man. A rich old man. A powerful old man. He could afford to say nothing--merely observe.

  Gino did not look sev
enty-nine years old. He was amazing--easily able to pass for a man in his mid-sixties with his energetic gait, thick mop of gray hair, and penetrating black eyes. His doctors were constantly surprised at his energy and enthusiasm for life, not to mention his remarkable physical appearance.

  "What about this AIDS problem I keep hearin' about?"

  he'd recently asked his personal physician.

  "You don't have to worry about that, Gino," his doctor had replied with a hearty laugh.

  "Yeah? Says who?"

  "Wel . . ." The doctor cleared his throat. "You're not stil .

  . . active, are you?"

  "Active?" Gino roared with laughter. "Are you shittin'

  me, Doc? The day I can't get it up is the day I lie down an'

  die. Capisce?"

  "What's your secret?" the doctor asked enviously. He was fifty-six and a tired man. He was also ful of admiration for his feisty patient.

  "Don't take no crap from no one." Gino grinned; most of his strong white teeth were stil intact. "Hey --'scuse me, Doc--correct that. Do not suffer fools. I read that somewhere. Sounds more like it, huh?" Gino Santangelo had obviously led a fascinating life ful of adventure. The doctor thought gloomily of his own five years in medical school, fol owed by over twenty years of private practice.

  The only adventure he'd experienced was when one of his patients fel in lust with him and they'd enjoyed a furtive six-week affair. Not much to get excited about.

  "Your blood pressure is perfect," he assured Gino. "The cholesterol test turned out fine. Uh . . . about your sex life.

  Maybe you might consider investing in some condoms."

  "Condoms, Doc?" Gino began to laugh. "We- used to cal 'em rubber joy-kil ers. Y'know--like takin' a swim in your boots."

  "They're much improved today. Thin latex, a smooth feel. You can even get them in different colors if you're so inclined."

  "No kiddin'?" Gino laughed again. He could just imagine Paige's face if he slipped a black johnny over his cock.

  Oh, boy! Not such a bad idea. Paige loved variety.

  Maybe he'd try it. Maybe .. .

  The airport was a mob scene as usual. Lucky was met by an efficient young man in a three-piece business suit who escorted her from her car to the private TWA lounge.

 
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