Samantha was happy they had been luckier than the hot-air balloon that had flown in Kalamazoo. She telephoned Pamela and told her friend the news about the death of a passenger on a hot-air balloon ride.

Pamela was unnerved and said, “That’s it for me. No more balloon rides. I’m chicken-hearted.”

“I feel the same way. I’m chicken too. If Albert asks us to go again, we can tell him no way,” said Samantha.

They said good-bye to each other, promising never to fly in a hot-air balloon again.

Later that week Albert phoned Samantha and asked her if she wanted to go on a Friday night date to Lucky Jack’s for pizza, beer, and a pool game. She said yes and accepted his offer with delight. They agreed to meet at seven o’clock at her mansion. When the time arrived, Albert drove his Buick to Samantha’s home and picked her up for their date. 

Once they arrived at Lucky Jack’s Samantha was surprised to see the interior of the building was very large, almost 12,000 square feet. Inside the “Lounge” the walls were blanketed with large screen TVs and a long bar. Albert introduced her to the bartender named Jason and a waitress that went by the nickname of Montana. They sat down at a large table with some of his friends, including Ray Kilinker, his wife, Rose, Larry Meyer, his girlfriend Arlene McKinnon, and a bachelor named Andy Kelsey.

Albert introduced Samantha to everyone. He ordered a pitcher of Blue Moon craft beer and chicken nachos. A pool table opened up. Ray and Larry stood up and played a game of strips and solids with a poison eight-ball. They both were excellent pool players and competitive. The beer and chicken nachos arrived at their table. Everyone ate the appetizer and drank beer while the two friends played pool.

When Ray and Larry finished their game, Albert asked Samantha if she wanted to play pool.

She said, “I haven’t played pool much before.”

“That’s okay,” said Albert. “I give free lessons.”

“You break,” said Samantha.

Albert racked the balls and chalked the cue ball. He hit the balls directly on target. The rack exploded and a number twelve strip ball fell into the corner pocket. Albert methodically shot the other striped balls one by one, running the table. Samantha stood there amazed.

“You didn’t even give me a chance,” she complained in jest.

“I got lucky,” he said, feeling pleased.

“That wasn’t luck. You ran the table. You’re a good pool player,” praised Samantha.

Albert racked the balls again and chalked up. This time when he broke the pool balls again none fell into the pockets. Samantha took a shot and managed to hit the poison eight-ball into a corner pocket.

“Damn,” she said, feeling like she wasn’t having any luck playing pool.

“Remember to chalk up the cue each time you go to shoot one of the balls. Keep practicing your game and drop the all the balls into the pockets while I watch,” encouraged Albert.

Samantha slowly cleared the table, saying, “I told you I don’t play pool well at all.”

“Getting good at pool takes practice. Let’s sit down and order pizzas,” suggested Albert.

They returned to the table and sat down again. Albert told Montana to get them four large deluxe pizzas. Larry and Andy played next and after a long game the bachelor won. Rose and Arlene played next. After the break, Rose dropped the eight-ball and lost the game.

“See,” Albert told his girlfriend, “shooting the eight-ball into a pocket happens to everyone, even experienced players.”

“Now I don’t feel so bad,” said Samantha.

The four delicious deluxe pizzas arrived a half an hour later. They all dove in and ate until their stomachs were full. The rest of the evening was spent taking turns at the pool table. At eleven o’clock Samantha and Albert said good-bye to their friends and left Lucky Jack’s.

Once they’d returned to the mansion, Samantha asked Albert to come inside. He met Blue Birdie for the first time and Prince again. They chatted about the good time they’d had at Lucky Jack’s. Samantha told Albert she had enjoyed meeting new friends. After talking for a while Albert seduced Samantha in her bedroom. They made passionate love until late at night. He was a most satisfying sex partner and she felt fulfilled as a woman. Afterward they cuddled under the silk sheets and fell asleep. Prince hopped up on the bed and lay with them until daybreak. Then early in the morning the puppy woke Samantha up, licking her face.

“Hello Prince,” she said to her puppy.

Albert rolled over and kissed Samantha’s lips. “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning, lover,” she told him. 

After rising, Albert and Samantha went to the tiny Ham-Bonz Restaurant on East Eighth Street for breakfast omelets, orange juice, and coffee with cream. Although it was a small-size nook, Ham-Bonz had the best early morning menu in Traverse City. After breakfast Albert joined Samantha for her morning walk along Lake Michigan’s sandy beach. Then they said good-bye to each other.

Samantha went to Horizon Book Store and then on to her mother’s house. She told Alice about the good time they’d had the previous evening at Lucky Jack’s during a light lunch. Samantha told her mother she had fallen in love with Albert. Alice asked to meet him in the near future. Her daughter said that was a good idea and that she would plan a visit with her boyfriend to Alice’s home sometime soon.

Later that week when Albert met Alice at her home he was well received. Alice thought he was a good catch for her daughter and liked him. Samantha felt pleased by her mother’s positive reaction to her latest boyfriend, unlike all the others she had met before Albert. Everyone remained cheerful.

Afterward, while sitting around the mansion’s swimming pool Samantha said, “You know, Albert, you’re the only boyfriend of mine that my mother has approved of.”

“Alice is a sweet lady,” he said, honestly. “I like her.”

“I have been blessed by having a wonderful mother. Too bad you’ll never meet my father. He was a true gentleman, the same as you. I adored him,” said Samantha.

“I can imagine you did. I loved my deceased parents as well. I’m full of fond memories of them from when I was growing up,” Albert told the young woman.

They kissed each other and said good-bye.                                                   

            Bored one Sunday afternoon back in Hollywood, Mason, Charlotte, Michael, and Cheyenne decided to tour the Queen Maryocean liner. They took Michael’s Chevy Belair as it could hold four people comfortably and drove to the dry dock in Long Beach where the Queen Marywas moored. Much of the ocean liner’s machinery, including one of the two engine rooms, three of the four propellers, and all of the boiling rooms had been removed to make way for a floating hotel.

During the tour, they kept their eyes open to catch a glimpse of the “Lady in White” ghost that was said to reside onboard and haunt the Queen Mary. They looked for her but didn’t see any ghosts while aboard the ship.

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” said Michael.

“I do,” said Mason. “A pale white ghost comes to visit me after midnight in a nightmare once in a while with a message.”

“What kind of message?” asked Charlotte, curious to know what Mason’s ghost said.

“Warnings and disturbing messages,” replied Mason, sounding upset. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Charlotte, Michael, and Cheyenne thought they should not push the issue with Mason. They didn’t pressure him to tell the ghost’s messages, immediately dropping the subject from the conversation.

“It was a good idea to come and see the Queen Mary,” said Cheyenne, pleased that she had come on the trip.

“I also enjoyed the self-guided tour of the ocean liner,” said Michael.

“So did I,” agreed Charlotte.

“Good,” said Michael. “Thanks to all of you for coming with me to see the famous ship.”

Once they finished their tour of the ship they returned to Mason’s mansion. The rest of the afternoon they did drugs, getting high while relaxing around the swimming pool and drinking ice tea. Mason wore a T-shirt in the pool to cover his bullet scars as they embarrassed him. Cheyenne smoked the highest grade marijuana she could find in Hollywood. She didn’t do hard drugs such as Quaaludes or cocaine like her friends did because she was afraid to get addicted to them. However, she smoked a lot of grass while at the mansion.

Cheyenne was discreet and didn’t let Michael or Charlotte know about her sexual relationship with Mason. The new BMW he’d bought Cheyenne could have complicated things but she told everyone her parents bought it as a present to her for graduating from the film academy. Everyone at Welling’s studio except Mason believed Cheyenne’s lie. She met him whenever possible for passionate sex while Charlotte worked in the mornings at the movie studio. He stole a pair of her soiled panties for his collection. Like Charlotte, he gave Cheyenne a generous weekly allowance. Mason thought he experienced the best of times, having two attractive and sensual women in his life. It was expensive but well worth it, in his opinion.

Eventually Michael and Cheyenne left the mansion and went home together. Mason and Charlotte retired to bed early because of her film schedule. His sexual appetite had been heightened considerably by all the cocaine he had snorted. Before they fell asleep Charlotte and Mason made love but it did not satisfy him. After she had gone to sleep, he rolled out of bed and watched porno movies in a spare bedroom. Plus, he viewed the photographs of the bisexual escorts and sorted through his panty collection until two o’clock in the morning. Finally, he went back to the bed and fell asleep with a swollen penis from masturbating so often.

            At four o’clock the alarm clock went off and Charlotte got up from the bed. She brushed her teeth and combed her blond hair immediately as she was going to Welling’s studio. Charlotte was becoming a movie star in her own right with the lead role in The Love Affair. She had captured the attention of other movie producers and directors, getting offers to do other projects once she had finished making The Love Affair. As a rising star she had the potential to become a well-known actress on the big screen. Soon she would be rich enough to leave Mason and buy her own mansion. That was her dream, to have a luxury home after becoming a major movie star. Her future looked promising.

At nine o’clock one Sunday morning while eating whole wheat toast at the breakfast counter with Mason, Charlotte got a telephone call from Cheyenne. They spoke a few minutes and then without hanging up, Charlotte asked him, “Do you want to go to the Hollywood Beach this afternoon? Michael bought a new Ford SUV that he wants to show us and I want to sunbathe.”

“I don’t know if I do or don’t want to go,” replied Mason.

“Don’t be such a homebody. I’m bored sitting around the swimming pool. Let’s go with them to the beach,” urged Charlotte. “It will be a blast.”

“Okay, I’ll go,” agreed Mason, agreeing to Charlotte’s idea of how to spend the afternoon.

“Good,” said Charlotte who told Cheyenne to pick them up at the mansion at one o’clock.

Charlotte packed their swimsuits and suntan lotion in a small bag. She also packed some beer in an ice cooler. At noon Cheyenne and Michael came to their home to pick them up.

“Nice car,” complimented Mason.

“I got a good deal on it,” said Michael.

Mason and Charlotte loaded up the SUV with their gear and all four of them went west to the Hollywood Beach. Once they got to the beach Michael parked the SUV in the free lot. He unloaded a bodyboard, spandex socks, and swimming fins from the car.

Mason asked, “Where did you get all that stuff?”

“I shop at the Turtle Beach Swimwear store in West Hollywood on North La Cienega Boulevard,” answered Michael. He had been on his junior and high school swim team and did weightlifting competitions not too long ago. Michael came from an athletic family who loved to swim in the ocean. He was a fit man and in shape, unlike Mason who didn’t exercise at all.  

            “I also bought my bikini at Turtle Beach Swimwear,” said Cheyenne. “They have a great selection of swimming gear; Pamela Anderson shops there.”

            “I’ll have to check it out,” said Charlotte, always looking for a new store to shop in.

            Everyone was set to have a good time at the beach.

“I’m going bodyboard surfing this afternoon. This beach only has sand, no seaweed at all. Keep an eye out for sea lions and dolphins. They are fun to watch. Mason, you can borrow my gear if you want to learn how to body surf,” offered Michael.

“No way,” said Mason. “There are sea creatures out there in the ocean that are looking for lunch.”

“The chances of a shark or barracuda attacking are a million to one. Plus, there are two lifeguards on the beach over there to protect us,” said Michael, pointing them out nearby. He was not afraid of the ocean at all.

“I’ll watch you,” said Mason, not impressed by the odds. He was scared of sharks and barracudas roaming around in the ocean that might attack him if he got into the water.

While Michael put on his gear the other three friends spread out beach towels and lay down in the sun. The women were dressed in tiny bikinis that showed off their youthful bodies. Mason opened a beer and watched Michael approach the water.

“Michael, in those swim fins you look just like a duck,” said Mason, joking around.

Michael nodded yes in assent and put his bodyboard in the water with a sling to keep it close to him. He swam thirty yards into the ocean and began to head to the shoreline. There were five-foot waves, which were ideal conditions in which to surf.

The women put sunscreen over their bodies, their tan skin glistening like goddesses. Mason drank his beer in the sun, sitting on a beach towel, and finally lay down at the shoreline. Everything was going well as Michael made repeated trips out in the ocean on his bodyboard.

Suddenly, heading back to shore, he screamed for help. A great white shark was attacking him in the water. The lifeguards, Mason, Charlotte, Cheyenne, and some other people on the beach rose to see what was happening.

“Help me! Help me!” yelled Michael, feeling the bite of a shark on the left side of his back. He screamed loudly in agony. Intense pain rushed through his body, stunning him.

The shark left for a moment and came back again, this time raising Michael above the surface and then pulling him underwater. The shark eventually broke off its attack. Three lifeguards entered the ocean and swam out to Michael. They pulled him to shore as people rushed up to see what was happening to him.

Michael had had a chunk of flesh ripped off his left side, from his armpit to pelvis, by the shark’s jaws. The lifeguards moved him up the shore and wrapped a large white beach towel around his body, trying to stop the massive bleeding that had occurred. A huge piece of his back was missing. A lot of blood ran out of his body, staining the beach towel red. Michael then fell unconscious. It was an injury that in any other part of his body would have certainly been fatal. The shark had gotten a mouthful of flesh but had missed vital organs and bones. It had digested the left side of his back. There was a gaping wound on Michael’s body.

This looks bad for Michael. I wonder if he is going to live after this shark attack. I don’t know if he’s going to make it alive to the hospital, Mason thought to himself.

Cheyenne began to cry. Charlotte and Mason stood worried to death about Michael’s chances of survival. One of the lifeguards used his cell phone to call for an emergency medevac helicopter to rush Michael to the Hollywood Community Hospital. The helicopter arrived promptly, landing on the beach. Everyone watched Michael being loaded onto the air ambulance. Cheyenne stepped into the aircraft. It would rush Michael into surgery to stop his bad bleeding. The surgeons looked worried and didn’t know if Michael had much of a chance of survival while they operated.

Mason and Charlotte traveled to the hospital in a rush. Michael underwent two surgeries within hours of each other. One operation was to stop the bleeding and another to repair the skin tissue damage. The surgeons removed a large shark tooth embedded in his back. He would have five surgeries in the coming months. Despite the low odds of surviving the shark attack Michael was lucky to live and recover from his wounds.

The next day Cheyenne, Charlotte, and Mason got to see him in the hospital. Michael was in good spirits considering the near-death situation the day before. He said, “I’m going to have a gold necklace made for my shark’s tooth.” His cheerful nature shocked them as they thought he would be depressed, but he was in good spirits.  

Based on the severity of his wounds an expert determined that the shark was a great white, about seventeen to eighteen feet in length and weighing at least two tons. The shark attack made national news and Michael was interviewed by reporters eager for a shark story. Warning signs were put out at the Hollywood beach. The city hired additional lifeguards to keep a lookout for sharks. However, people generally ignored the warning signs placed in the sand and flocked to the popular area to swim in the ocean. Fortunately there were no additional shark attacks that summer on the beaches in California.

Cheyenne, Mason, and Charlotte visited Michael in the hospital every day for a month. They felt deeply sorry for him. He was finally released from the hospital but had to go back for more surgeries to repair the damage to his back. When he left the hospital, he bought a gold necklace and had the shark’s tooth hanging from it around his neck. The shark attack was a life-changing event for Michael. His acting career never fully recovered from the bad incident.

Just before Labor Day, Charlotte decided she wanted to go to Las Vegas and gamble. Mason was reluctant to agree to this because of Charlotte’s tendency to gamble compulsively but she begged him. He finally gave into her wishes. They packed their suitcases after Friday’s film session and got ready for the holiday road trip.

Mason took $100,000 to spend on gambling during their mini-vacation. He decided not to tell Charlotte how much money he was taking to Las Vegas, being afraid she would gamble it all away too fast at the casinos. Trying to impress Charlotte that he loved her, Mason gave his mistress a $50,000 necklace to wear while they were in Sin City. Charlotte was pleased about the gift, telling Mason how much she loved and appreciated him, which was a lie. She wasn’t interested in love; only his money attracted her actual attention.

On Friday after filming, Mason and Charlotte traveled along the I-15 highway across the desert to Las Vegas. Charlotte was thrilled that Mason had agreed to go on the trip and told him she was attracted to him. Having never been to Las Vegas before, she felt like she was on a fun adventure. Pleased with Charlotte’s positive attitude Mason hoped he would get some hot sex out of her that night while they were in the gambling mecca.

At night in the darkness they drove down the Las Vegas Strip, by several casinos with their bright lights blazing. The strip covered four miles of what Charlotte thought was paradise. Mason had made reservations at Caesars Palace. He gave his Porsche 911 keys to the valet parking attendant, and a bellboy took their suitcases inside the hotel.

Caesars Palace’s casino was busy with Labor Day weekend gamblers. After a ten- minute wait, they checked into the casino and went up the Julius Tower to the fifth floor.  The bellboy showed them to their luxury suite. Mason thanked him and slipped a generous tip into the bellboy’s hand who then left them alone in the suite. He gave Charlotte $5,000 to gamble with and put the rest of the money in the room’s safe, locking the cash inside. She wore the expensive piece of jewelry he had given her. Mason thought it best not to give Charlotte the combination to the safe. He was tired from driving and went to bed. Charlotte took the elevator downstairs to the gambling floor and played the high-stakes roulette wheel.

The popular casino table game was marked with numbers 1 through 36 as well as 0 and 00. You could choose your lucky numbers or bet on the even, odd, red-and-black spots. Charlotte bet heavily on her favorite numbers 1, 9, and 21. She promptly lost $1,000 and took a break at the slot machines. Soon Charlotte became bored with the slot machines and returned to the roulette wheel. She won a little amount of chips and then lost another $1,000. Even though she was losing money the excitement of the game gave her a natural high. After losing her last $3,000 she returned disappointed to the suite and fell asleep.

The next morning, a Saturday, she asked Mason for another $5,000 to gamble with. He thought her demand was extreme but gave her the money from the safe. They ate breakfast at the casino’s bacchanal buffet. Once Mason found out she had been gambling on the roulette wheel he asked her to take it easy and play the slot machines instead. When he was out of sight wandering around the casino, she returned to the roulette wheel, again losing some more money.

They walked over to the Mirage Casino and played the slot machines, this time losing money much more slowly. After becoming bored again with the one-armed bandits, Charlotte went to the casino’s spa and had a beauty treatment. Mason waited at the bar sipping a glass of wine and watching the other gamblers play high-stakes poker.

Later, Mason made reservations for the six o’clock Tournament of Kings evening dinner show at the Excalibur Casino.The show featured a popular medieval experience. They ate roasted Cornish hens and vegetables with just their hands like the lords and ladies had back in the Middle Ages. A sweet pastry dessert was served after the main course. Mason thought the dining experience without utensils was great but Charlotte felt grossed out. She didn’t like it at all.

After the unique dinner, Merlin and a court jester came out to entertain the crowd. White and black knights mounted on their horses rode out into the arena. All the knights were dressed in costumes rich in color and design. Each horse was adorned with bright plumage.  

Next King Arthur appeared. Things started to heat up when the evil Mordred came into the arena and attempted to seize King Arthur’s kingdom. A competition ensued among the knights to determine who would be crowned champion. Swords clashed and sparks flew as the battle between good and evil erupted inside the arena. The white knights won the competition and were cheered by the crowd of spectators.

            Mason enjoyed the performance, especially the galloping horseback riders, but Charlotte was happy when it finally ended. She wanted to return to the roulette wheel. She asked Mason for more money to play the game. They walked back to their suite in Caesars Palace and he gave Charlotte another $5,000 but told her she had reached her limit for the day. He wasn’t going to give her any more money to gamble with at the casino until tomorrow.

Charlotte said good-bye to Mason and he went to bed feeling sleepy. She returned downstairs to the roulette wheel and promptly lost all of her money allocated for the day. Charlotte wanted to continue to gamble. She came up with an idea about how to get more money. Charlotte decided to pawn her new diamond necklace and buy it back with her potential winnings at the roulette wheel.

Walking down the Las Vegas strip she entered the Midnight Pawn Shop, which took advantage of compulsive gamblers. A tall man with a handlebar moustache waited on Charlotte and offered her $5,000 for the expensive necklace that Mason had bought for $50,000. He wanted to buy the necklace outright instead of doing a pawn deal. Charlotte wanted more money but he was firm about the price and told the movie star that. He gave her one-hundred dollar bills and returned to the casino.

This time she tried to pace herself, making low bets on the roulette wheel.  However, within a few hours, she lost all the remaining money she had obtained by selling the diamond necklace. Charlotte didn’t know what to tell Mason about the gift she had sold. Upon returning to the suite she woke Mason up and told him she had been robbed out on the strip by two men. Despite her objections Mason insisted on calling the police to report the robbery. He promptly used his cell phone to notify the cops of her misfortunate loss.

Half an hour later a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police team consisting of a detective and two uniformed officers knocked on the door. They entered the suite and Charlotte lied to them about the alleged robbery. She filed a false police report. They had dealt before with the same claims from compulsive gamblers who said they’d been robbed to cover their tracks, and asked for her driver’s license. With her photo ID they left the hotel suite and began their investigation, going into three pawn shops. At the Midnight Pawn Shop the owner recognized Charlotte’s picture on her driver’s license. He told the police she had sold the diamond necklace to him earlier that night.

Ending the investigation, the police returned to Caesars Palace and confronted Charlotte in front of Mason. The detective told her she had committed a felony by filing a false police report. Charlotte didn’t know what to do when the police attempted to arrest her. She fought with the detective and police officers, kicking at them with her high heels and striking their chests with her fists. Using a Taser gun one of the officers stunned Charlotte, who fell helplessly to the floor from the shock.

She was handcuffed with her wrists behind her back and they confiscated her purse, which had some full bottles of Quaaludes in it; almost three hundred bandits. The police escorted Charlotte out of Caesars Palace and drove her to the Clark County Detention Center where they found the large stash of Quaaludes in her purse. Now Charlotte was held in jail for filing a false police report, resisting arrest, and possession of an illegal substance, all serious felonies.

Once striped searched by a female officer, Charlotte was confronted by inmates who all looked mean and tough. She was placed inside a cell with another woman named Cookie who had tattoos up and down her arms and on her neck. Cookie only had one front tooth and wore a large silver ring on the bottom of her nose. She was a big woman, much larger than Charlotte. They introduced themselves to each other and Charlotte lay down on a hard bunk bed, feeling totally defeated.

“What were you arrested for?” asked Cookie.

“It’s a long story and I don’t feel like talking about it,” answered Charlotte, licking her emotional wounds.

“I’m a biker. I got in a fight with a bitch who called me a whore,” explained Cookie. “I decked her out with one punch to her face. The police arrested me for assault and battery but it wasn’t my fault.”

Charlotte hoped Cookie didn’t fight with her as the biker would clearly win if it came to fists and cuffs. Cookie tried to get Charlotte to talk but she was greeted with silence.

Meanwhile, Mason went over to the Midnight Pawn Shop to see if he could get the expensive diamond necklace returned to him. He found out Charlotte had sold the necklace instead of pawning it for money. The owner quoted him a price of $55,000 if Mason wanted to buy it back. That upset him and he told the owner to go to hell and left the pawn shop without the diamond necklace.

All of Sunday and Monday, which was Labor Day, Charlotte cooled her heels in jail waiting for a judge to set her bail bond. Eventually she became friends with Cookie despite the woman’s rough edges. However, she didn’t tell the biker she was a movie actress not knowing how Cookie would react. Charlotte kept that a secret from her cellmate and the other rough individuals who were being held in the jail.

Tuesday morning she was finally arraigned in a Clark County courtroom. Mason was there to listen and assist Charlotte out of this jam. An older female judge who would be hearing the case wasn’t happy about the large amount of Quaaludes Charlotte had had in her possession when she was arrested. She thought Charlotte must be a major drug dealer. The judge told her she should expect some jail time if she was convicted of the crimes. Her trial date would be within sixty days. Charlotte could go back to Hollywood until she returned to Las Vegas for her court appointment.

Crying real tears, Charlotte pleaded not guilty to all charges against her. Mason actually felt sorry for her. A cash bail was set at $20,000, which Mason paid to the court clerk. He promised Charlotte he would get the best legal defense team he could find in Las Vegas to defend her at the upcoming trial. She was relieved at the prospect of a plea bargain and hopefully no further jail time because she didn’t have a previous record.