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Published by: eXtasy Books

Author : Valerie Herme'

ISBN :978-1-4874-3989-7

Page :223

Word Count :67567

Publication Date :2023-10-06

Series : #

Heat Level :

Available Formats : Devices (epub) , Devices (mobi) , Devices (pdf) , Devices (prc)

Category : Contemporary Romance , Erotic Romance

  • Product Code: 978-1-4874-3989-7

Broke and resigned to selling her body, Lee signs on as Wil’s art guide. She doesn’t get what she expects.

Lee Hallows possesses a master’s in art history, a string of failures at painting and romance, experience as a part time pizza waitress, an eviction notice, her looks, and not much else. Wil Scott is saddled with a teetering business empire, three ex-wives, and a weight problem. He advertises for a traveling companion with an art background to accompany him to Europe. She gets the job. The pay is high and the perks are incredible. Wil’s lawyer assures Lee that bed favors are not part of the bargain. Since the job ad egregiously requested a photo, she doubts this is true. 

Required or not, the arrangement seems headed in that direction until Wil confesses to Lee that his reputation has been shattered by justified accusations of bargaining for intimacy with his female employees. His bankers are demanding a show of rehabilitation. If he fails, his former spouses, estranged children, harassed subordinates, and nervous creditors are ready to pick over the bones of his assets. His treatment of Lee is supposed to exemplify his new hands-off attitude. The effort isn’t going so well.

A man sitting by himself at an umbrella-shaded table stands when he sees me. He looks too much like what I expected. If I want to eat today and sleep under a roof tonight, I must not show shame or fear. To fake a receptive mood, I call up my best enslavement fantasy and put him in it.

“Closer,” he orders.

I take another half step. One more, and I’ll be in his reach. He’s sitting on MY leather couch, beneath MY Yayoi Kusama print, in MY plush office. His hands rest on his knees. Those hands are thick and stubby, like the rest of him. His dark gray suit curtains a heavy gut. A stiff-collared white shirt, open at the neck with no tie, rims his jowly face. He has a bald dome with a close-trimmed salt and pepper fringe. I want to jab a heel of my bright yellow Manolo Blahniks into his crotch, but I can’t dare lift my foot. He spreads his knees, and with one finger beckons me to come between them. My arms hang stiff at my sides. My fists are clenched. I can’t refuse.

From behind the light blue lenses of his sunglasses, the standing man’s eyes absorb me with new intensity. The tingle of my humiliating script must be showing through. I owe this trick to my favorite guy, Red. He’s given me deep experience in the link between imagination and stimulation. I can pose in front of a mirror, think of what Red does to me, and watch my memories of private pleasure flow out through the heat in my eyes and the curl in my lips.

The maître d', a short, thin, almond-skinned woman with long straight black hair held tightly to her scalp by a wide golden clasp, checks my name against her reservation list. Her black waistcoat has mannish lapels. Her butt barely dimples her black slacks, but her hips sway as she leads me across the patio. 

I’m watching her closely because when you are facing big bad moments, the little hidden flighty-winged center of you tries to escape into details.

Red umbrellas over every table, brown and red terrazzo floor, white tablecloths, wide cityscape backdrop—the place is designed to make people look good. 

A white cloth napkin dangles from the standing man’s left hand. Those gold-rimmed sunglasses with lenses the blue of the late autumn sky don’t go with the rest of his look. If I was painting his portrait, would I ask him to leave them on? 

A grin stretches the folds of his cheeks and disappears as quickly as it came.

The big smile I give him in return makes me feel creepy. My conscience bores hot needles into my lack of scruples. Can you do this? Ummm, everything has a price. And mine is marked way down.

“Ms. Hallows?” he asks. “I’m Wilson Scott.”

His grin comes and goes again.

“Call me Lee, please,” I say, hoping I make my voice breathy enough. 

My enduring smile feels as relaxed as the kind an embalmer puts on a corpse. Get used to it. You’ll be faking with a lot more than your tooth covers.

If I stood on the balls of my feet, I’d be tall enough to kiss him on the top of his hairless head. Instead, I sag my knees, press my heels to the floor tile, and try to look shorter. He extends a hand. We clutch palms, his dry, mine sweaty. By the hesitant way he withdraws from my touch, you’d think he was the penniless, unemployed person ready to sell their body, and I was the one dangling the so-called job. 

“Please,” Wilson Scott says, waving his napkin toward the empty chair in front of me.

Or is he Scott Wilson? Damn. Pay attention. You’re ready to fuck the guy. Get his name straight.

The table seems smaller when we’re on either side of it with our legs underneath. His half is occupied by a plate with a partially eaten steak and a bowl of lettuce and olives. Juice from the steak pools across the white plate. The olives glisten. It’s a struggle to look away from the food. I’m not afraid my stomach will growl. It’s given up. 

Champagne flutes, wine goblets, and water glasses cross the white tablecloth in two rows, marking our borders. 

He puts his napkin on his lap. His elbows settle on the table. His hands grasp one another above his plate. He looks toward me but not into me. He says nothing.

I take this as my cue to start throwing myself at him. “I’m sorry I’m late,” I begin, feigning feminine confusion. “The subway…”

“Don’t worry,” he says. His grin peeks out and slips off. The expression must be a habit. 

I try not to hate myself. How would I paint my unease? By contrasting the way his shoulders slouch forward while mine refuse to relax? Or using bits of shadow to capture the searching quality of the noon light?   

The waiter puts a menu in front of my face. Something to hide in, for a few seconds. I lower it and give Wilson Scott my gaze. He doesn’t take it. The way he keeps looking not quite at me makes me feel out of focus.

My subway alibi isn’t completely untrue. What happened to make me late is that I got off two stops early, took the return train, and didn’t quit retreating until I was back in the stinky hallway of my walk-up, staring at the front door of my apartment. While I was gone, an eviction notice had been taped to it. A padlock secured the door.

Reconsidering my options took less than time than blinking away the tear that came with the decision. Don’t ruin your makeup. You’ll need it. I got back on the subway. What the hell. I had already branded myself a willing harlot, just by answering the ad in Gallery World.

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Tags: erotic romance, Contemporary