For the record, I actually kind of hate Pretty Woman, but I think the idea is interesting. If this looks familiar, it’s because I posted the beginning of it many years ago. It is completed now. I hope you enjoy it.
This is dedicated to my old friend Amanda, who is sadly no longer with us. She supported me a lot when I began this story. Hopefully it does her proud.
Thank you to blackrandl1958 for editing and for her awesome advice. She is kind to me, in spite of my use of oxford commas.
“Everyone fucks for money, one way or another.”
Morgan applied lip gloss nonchalantly, as if she hadn’t just corrupted all of my childhood dreams. I sat down on the edge of the bathtub, thoroughly depressed. There were examples I knew that would prove her wrong, or so I thought, but even then, when I practically glowed with inexperience and ignorance, I still knew better than to disagree with her.
I was nearly resigned to my choice, but I hated the thought of the world being so crude. I thought of the Disney princesses rammed down our throats while we grew up and felt sick. “That can’t be true. You don’t really believe that.”
Morgan smiled indulgently at me and then glanced back at her reflection. “You asked.”
“I don’t know if I can do this, Morgan. You’re so you, and I’m so ... me.”
She put away her makeup and smoothed down the beautiful brunette hair she spent hours styling. “I’ll take that as a compliment.” I started to apologize but she went on, ignoring me. “You don’t have to be you. That’s the beauty of it. You can be anybody you want to be, and he can be whoever you want him to be, too.”
She plucked my bra strap and smirked. “So, are you in? This is the last time I’m going to ask you.”
The dress and makeup I wore, all borrowed from Morgan, were foreign on my body. I felt like a complete stranger, one I was terrified I might one day recognize. All the months I’d lived with Morgan, silently judging her for going out into the night trampy and coming home the morning after with sex and smoke oozing from every pore; I never once thought I’d be preparing to join her.
Sighing, she sat next to me on the tub and nudged my arm with hers. It was the only time I could think of her being semi-affectionate to me. We got along and I considered her a friend, but she was rough around the edges. Where I was a shy and anxious pushover, she was brusque, ruthless and supremely confident.
“Jo, you don’t have money to pay rent. You won’t make it much longer living here by just waitressing alone. Then your father will have something to say, and we both know you don’t want that.”
Her words were the same that ran on an endless loop in my head. They were turning into a taunting dirge that prevented sleep and haunted me throughout the day.
I moved to the city for a chance that someone would look at my photos and say, “This isn’t just some chick taking pictures of her toenails. This is art!” And, just like in the movies, I believed that maybe after a few terrible interviews, a handsome genius would take a peek and proclaim I was just what he was looking for. An exhibition would be held in my honor, he’d ask me to marry him, and I would have made it.
It didn’t work out that way. A year later, I was sharing my living space with Morgan and a squeaky family of rats. I was rail-thin, not because it was en vogue, but because I had no money for food. I wouldn’t ask my father for money, and my mother didn’t have any. I worked as a waitress in a shitty diner and began to wonder if I’d ever be happy again.
“This is a way out,” Morgan continued, drawing me from thinking about my family and the loneliness those thoughts generated. “A really good way out. You won’t be just a hooker, a prostitute, or even a call girl. You’ll be a kept woman. There is a difference, believe me. He takes care of you, buys you things, makes life easier. And sometimes you even enjoy the sex.”
Morgan took a deep breath, her cheeks red and her eyes wide with excitement. She was getting worked up; I wondered if this was a speech she often repeated to herself in order to leave the apartment and face the night. To face herself.
“Fuck, he even respects you because you’re classy and you know it. You call the shots. You’re straight up with him about what you want and what he wants; you’re not gonna say you have a headache. All he does is fuck you, but guess what, Johanna?”
Morgan stood, her dress falling just right across her ass. I could see how she easily fell into this world. Her body was something even I, the shy and repressed mouse, could appreciate with a dark sort of attraction.
“Johanna?” I looked up. Her red lips were smiling. “You’ll fuck him back even harder.”
We went to her favorite bar in a nicer part of the city. Men smelled like the best cologne with just a hint of the metallic scent of their money. Their wallets probably cost more than my entire wardrobe, and their smiles were as decadent as the drinks they held a touch too elegantly in their hands. I noticed more than a few of those hands were manicured and well-cared for; my own were scabbed, and the nails were jagged and broken from all the times I gnawed on them.
Morgan was quickly spotted by her companion. He waved us over and, though I was warned, I was still startled by his appearance. It was bizarre to see the young, pretty, vibrant Morgan making out with a man close to seventy.
After they tore their lips apart from each other, he noticed me. “Johanna. Lovely to meet you, I’ve heard so much about you. Like how you always do the dishes.” He winked. Yuck. “I’m Roger.” He shook my hand; his was wrinkled and paper-soft with age.
I fought a shudder, imagining Morgan’s soft and youthful body entwined with his dry and scaly one. “You too.”
He smiled and gestured for me to take a seat in the little booth he claimed as his own. Morgan sidled up next to him, kissing each fingertip.
“Missed you, Daddy,” she purred.
He kissed her cheek. “You did well.”
His whisper wasn’t meant for me but I heard it anyway. I was a piece of meat, a prize dragged in by Morgan’s jaw for Roger’s friend. I tried to hide my disgust, but the flicker of Morgan’s irritated eyes told me I didn’t do the best job.
He ran a hand down her side and took a sip from his amber-colored glass. His eyes assessed me. “My girl tells me you want me to fix you up with someone.”
It was strange being so blunt, especially about something like this. I imagined cheesy innuendos and shifty eyes. Roger kept his eyes on mine and there were certainly no innuendos.
My cheeks burned; it was like I was back in the playground at school, playing the silly game of “So-and-so likes you”. Only this was a far more dangerous game and I didn’t know the rules, or even the players. I just nodded meekly and took a big gulp of whatever drink Roger had deigned to order me.
His chuckle at my response surprised both me and my roommate. “Oh, he’s going to love you. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to just eat you up.”
Instead of being pleased by this, a flurry of concern swelled in my stomach. Me blushing would please him? Little Red Riding Hood came to mind:
“My, what big teeth you have!”
“The better to eat you with, my dear!”
Maybe it wasn’t too late to flee. I could take another loan out. Get another job. Ask my grandma for a couple hundred.
Or maybe I wasn’t meant to live in New York City with all the glitz and glamour. Maybe I was meant to go back home to the ‘burbs, to the elite crowd I never fit in with, and turn into someone like my mother, a Stepford wife who managed to escape but whose life was ruined forever. Or worse, like my father.
I was about to stand when a heavy hand dropped on my shoulder and squeezed possessively. I froze and waited for Roger or Morgan to tell off the stranger lurking behind me but they were too busy eye-fucking each other.
Irritated with them, the situation, and myself, I looked up and prepared to flip out on whoever wasn’t respecting my space. Then I froze. With messy dirty-blonde hair and brown eyes that sizzled beneath the gauzy lights of the bar, the guy I wanted to tell off was pretty fucking good-looking. He looked about thirty-five, thirty-six, but it could’ve been just the way he carried himself. He had the most probing kind of eyes, and had just the right amount of facial hair.
“You’re Johanna,” he stated, his voice deep and masculine as hell.
Then he sat down next to me and chugged the rest of my glass. He eased back comfortably, put a warm arm around my shoulders, and said hello to Roger. I was confused. His body language already said he owned me.
This is the guy, I realized.
“Johanna,” Roger said a few minutes later, “this is Tate. He works with me at the firm. You’ll like him.”
“More important if I like her, isn’t it?”
His brown eyes slid over me, taking in Morgan’s dress that didn’t fit me quite like it should, my dark hair made messy by the rain, and my impressively high heels. He lifted his glass to Morgan. “Fair effort, Morgan.”
Then he drank down the rest of it, signaling to a waitress for two drinks: one for me and one for him.
After he wiped his mouth and judged me one last time, he nodded to Roger. “She’ll do.” He paused and his eyes flicked to my bare knees. “For now.”
It pissed me off, but I recognized there wasn’t much I could do about the situation. I had signed up for it, after all. We didn’t say much to each other for the next hour. Roger and Tate talked amongst themselves. Morgan pretended to hang on to every word, stroking Roger’s tie and giving me a wink every now and then. Tate drank more and more, though none of the alcohol seemed to take effect. Eventually a slow song wept across the dance floor and Roger, feeling younger than he really was, swooped Morgan up and onto the dance floor.
Being alone with Tate was uncomfortable. A thousand different excuses of why I had to get the hell out of there ran through my head, but then he shifted towards me. Disturbed, scared, worried, I stared at his clenched jaw.
“First thing’s first. I’m not like Roger. I don’t enjoy being the center of attention. I don’t want to lavish attention on you. I won’t. So if that’s what you’re looking for, you can just walk out right now.”
He paused for a moment, his eyes not on me but on the dance floor. I had the sensation he wasn’t watching the silhouettes of throbbing bodies but that his mind was elsewhere—far, far away from the stupid bar.
“Also, don’t expect this to be some kind of love affair. I give you money and you fuck me when I feel like it. You come with me to parties. You smile and pretend to be interesting.” His eyes glittered as they met mine. “Don’t ever think this is some kind of fairytale. I’m not going to magically fall in love with you and become reformed. I’m not some troubled guy in need of a girl to fix me. You’re not Julia Roberts and I’m sure as fuck not Richard Gere.” His brief grin told me he’d been down that road before. “I am who I am and I will treat you fairly well. Bills will be paid. I just ask you cooperate with me. I’ll be, for all intents and purposes, your sugar daddy.” A small grin twisted across his face. “Just don’t ever call me that. I prefer companion. Friend.”
“Benefactor?” I asked, playing along.
He smirked. Obviously he appreciated my effort. “That makes me out to be about eighty, so no. The label of ‘friends’ will suit us just fine.”
Wordlessly, he ordered us another round.
“I have to say you’re not at all what I expected.”
I swallowed, trying to keep up my facade of strength. “What did you expect?”
A shrug was his answer.
“Someone like Morgan,” I surmised.
He laughed and touched the part of my thigh where my skirt had ridden up. Tingles worked their way from my toes to my head. Already he touched me like I was his. A sobering thought came to me: I was likely his the moment I accepted Morgan’s effort to meet him.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. Exotic. Confident. Flirty.” His fingers clenched into my skin as he added, “And fucking boring. It’s tiresome when a girl tries too hard, for both parties involved. Look at her out there, acting. Pretending. She’s not real. But that’s Roger’s kink, I guess. My kinks are much different.”
“You’re not like what I expected, either.” The words flew from my mouth before I could stop them. My mind sought frantically to reach out and grab them, collect them before he could hear, but his eyes were piercing mine and I knew it was too late.
“Oh? And what did you expect? Roger?”
Honesty seemed to be the theme of the night, so I went for it. “Someone ugly or seriously damaged. Someone with issues. Someone ... just not like you. I don’t really understand why you’re doing this. You could go out with any woman you wanted, right? Why pay for it?”
He let out a dry laugh and took a last swig of his drink. “I pay for it anyway. At least in this kind of arrangement it’s understood and no one gets any impressions.” He swept a heated glance over my body. “I like timid girls. Honest girls. Sweet girls who haven’t learned every single way to charm a man so she can get what she wants. Girls who aren’t out to find out what the world owes them. Girls who are the opposite of your friend out there. That’s hard to come by naturally in my world.”
Tate got up and dropped a bunch of bills on the table. “Sometimes novelty is a good thing. Naiveté is underrated, too.”
He kissed my cheek and brazenly pulled down the strap of my dress to also peck my shoulder. His eyes slowly lifted to mine. “Don’t disappoint me.”
It didn’t dawn on me until after he left that I didn’t have his number, but Morgan waved away my concern with a flick of her hand.
“You’re such an idiot sometimes. Of course he already has your number.”
“How did he...”
“I gave it to him, Johanna. You said yes to the offer, so I gave it to him. Simple. Now, let’s go home. I have a run in my stocking and a massive headache.”
We waved down a cab and settled into the back. Morgan was in a mood, but I couldn’t let myself get consumed with wondering why. Instead, I focused on the fact that I’d virtually sold my soul to an asshole.
An intriguing asshole. A handsome asshole. An asshole, nonetheless. An asshole who would make sure he got all he wanted from me, like an emotional vampire. He would drain all of the little innocence I had left. I would turn into Morgan, I was sure of it ... brittle, hard, tough, and disillusioned about the way the world really worked. I was already on that path, having so many dreams shattered and so many starts turn out to be false, but this was it. I was signing a contract, literally and figuratively, that would also sign away the last few pieces of myself I tried so desperately to hold onto, and that would officially turn me into Tate’s kept woman.
We climbed up to our apartment still shrouded in quiet until I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed sound. I needed a friend. Unfortunately my best option at the moment was Morgan.
“What’s up with you? Did something happen tonight?”
Morgan fell onto her bed, still wearing her dress and makeup. Her eyes stared at the ceiling as she said, “Yes. Something happened.”
My feet sighed when I yanked off the heels she’d forced me to wear. “Are you okay?”
“It’s part of the trade.”
“What is?” I pulled off the uncomfortable clothes and slipped into my bed naked, letting my identity take over again.
Whatever that was.
Her breath was uneven when she reached over for her lamp and confessed to the darkness. “Being left behind.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ugh. It’s like you’re thirteen.” Her breathing was even choppier and I thought I heard a sniffle. “I mean Roger told me tonight he’s going back to his wife. That he can’t afford to spend time or money on me. Which really means he met someone new. Unfortunately, this can happen from time to time, but don’t freak out. Tate will treat you well for as long as you need him. This is my own bullshit. I always get with guys who can’t commit for long.”
Freaking out was part of my nature. Immediately thoughts of being used and discarded right after, going through all the self-castigation and torture and bullshit to only be cast astray, flew through my mind. It was terrifying. I also felt horrible for Morgan. She wanted to be a doctor. I knew some money was saved up but “some” is rarely enough.
“I don’t understand. He was so good to you tonight.”
“You’ll never understand men, as hard as you try, just like they’ll never understand us. Our minds work differently. We’re different animals. It’s our curse. So stop worrying about me. This is my world. You’re just on vacation here. Now go to fucking sleep.”
Two days later I was sitting in a cafe, sipping on tea and half-reading a book when a number I didn’t recognize flashed across the screen of my phone.
I’d almost put the night with the wealthy “benefactor” out of my mind. Almost. At night I thought of him, the way his jaw slid beneath the soft silk of his skin as he spoke, how he commanded someone like Roger to listen to him. He’d only spoken directly to me for a few minutes, but he had already seeped into my brain.
As soon as I saw the mysterious number, I knew it was him.
“I’m thinking Nobu tonight. 8PM. Would you like me to pick you up or would you prefer meeting me there?”
My throat wasn’t working correctly. Neither was my heart. I knew he was interested, as Morgan prophesied he’d be calling soon, but his invitation was making it come true. I wasn’t merely fantasizing about fucking for money; I was going to be doing it, and soon.
I cleared my throat. “Yes, sorry. That sounds good.”
“Do you like Japanese food?”
He sighed slowly, as if releasing all the words he really wanted to say to me out into the atmosphere. I could tell he was trying to restrain himself, to be on his best behavior. For now.
“‘Sure’ isn’t an answer, Johanna. Not a real one.”
“I like Japanese food,” I breathed.
His smile was audible when he said, “Good. See you at eight. I’ll pick you up.”
Then he hung up.
I must have tried on ten dresses before Morgan threw a heavy text book at me.
I rubbed my arm and glared at her.
“Wear the red one and chill the fuck out. Tate is a pussy cat.”
My head shook back and forth. “No. You will not minimize him to me. I’ve already met him, remember? You can’t lie. He’s fucking terrifying.”
Morgan rolled her eyes. “Everything and everyone terrifies you.”
“Not true. You know he’s scary, that’s why you’re trying to be a bitch!”
She stood and stretched, casually picking up her book from the floor. “Johanna, deep breaths. Remember, he’s just a guy.”
“Just a guy,” I snorted.
There was a knock at the door and Morgan gave me a meaningful look. I stared back until I gathered she meant for me to answer. I scurried to the door, knocking over a chair in the process. I was so busy being nervous and focusing on opening the door that I hardly saw him when I swung the door open.
He looked perfect. He wore a casual sweater and sleek dress pants. His hair was messier than the last time I saw him, which made my chest ache with heavy attraction. And his eyes, those eyes I thought about after switching off the light when I went to bed, were on me, sparkling brown beneath the obnoxiously bright hallway light.
“Nice outfit,” was how he greeted me. “You might want to consider getting dressed before we leave.”
I glanced down and, to my horror, I was still in my robe. I’d gone out to confer with Morgan after my tenth dress and completely forgotten to go get changed.
I realized she had plotted this and I threw her a nasty look. She could barely hold in her laughter.
“Thanks a lot, bitch!”
Without speaking another word to him, I ran to my room and quickly slid on the red dress. A gaze in the mirror assured me I was all wrong. My makeup was wrong, my hair was wrong, my dress showed rolls, and I was wobbling in my heels.
I didn’t look like a high-class call girl. I looked like a mess.
When I finally gained enough courage to step back out, I noticed Tate and Morgan were talking in hushed murmurs. When they noticed my presence, they stopped. I could taste the anger in the air. Of course I was curious, but I couldn’t demand an explanation yet. I just stored away the incident for later and plastered on a smile for now.
“Let’s go,” Tate ordered. “The limo is waiting.”
I followed, without realizing that I was already filling my role quite well.
“We’ll have the bigeye tuna tataki, sea urchin tempura, followed by the spicy garlic scallops and the Colorado lamb chops.”
Tate handed the menus to the waiter, never taking his eyes off me. I was being tested. For what, I wasn’t certain. If he was trying to test my stomach, I knew my stomach and I would lose. I was a picky eater and none of his choices were appealing to me.
Unnerved by his constant gaze, I fidgeted and took an unwanted sip of the sake. I knew I would hate it and I was absolutely correct. I had to fight spitting it out.
Tate laughed under his breath and I finally forced myself to look at him. He nodded at my cup. “Why are you drinking it if you don’t like it?”
I shrugged and then realized that probably wasn’t the most graceful thing to do. “You ordered it. I figured it must be good.”
“What do you typically like to drink? Sweet white wine? Red?”
“Red. Any kind.”
He waved the waiter over and ordered me a glass. His smile was strangely friendly when he looked back at me. “All you need to do is ask, Johanna.”
“You’re perfect for this job, aren’t you? All blushes and blissful ignorance. All ‘thank you’ and ‘yes, please’. Drinking something you don’t like because I ordered it. Not speaking up and saying you are repulsed by what I ordered us for dinner.”
It was like I was sixteen and getting berated by my father again. The feeling wasn’t fun and I unexpectedly lashed out. “Fuck you. If you want to order sea urchin, fine. You’re paying for it.”
“I’m also paying you to have a brain. To be exciting. To have a little fire in you. Otherwise you’re no different from a body I can hire for fifty bucks.”
The pressure of tears welled up behind my eyes and I blinked to hold them back. “I’m leaving.”
Tate rolled his eyes and took hold of my wrist. “Calm down. I’m telling you what I want. I want you to be you. If you want to have red wine, have the red wine. It’s not hard.”
I ripped my wrist out of his hold and stared at the table. We were quiet for a while. I sat sullenly like a chastised teenager while he lounged serenely, sipping his sake and picking at the strange assortment of food that had been brought out.
I wondered what my father would think if he could see me now. He used to go crazy if I got a 90 on a test, or if I came home from school five minutes later than usual. What would he say if he knew I was on a “date” with my “benefactor?”
“What are your thoughts on your new profession, Johanna?”
The question made me jump. His hands were folded beneath his chin and he was waiting with an eager look on his face.
“Are you asking if I like it so far or something?” I was suspicious.
He gave a short laugh. “No. I mean what are your thoughts about the morals of it all?”
My heart thudded unpleasantly. “Fuck you.”
Tate laughed again. “You keep saying that to me tonight. Not yet, honey. Later.” My heart pumped unsteadily due to the intent in his eyes. “I’m not trying to insult you. I’m curious. Do you think this is something you could potentially like? Maybe even get addicted to? Or will you slink off once you save up all the money you need and pretend like the time with me was all a bad dream?”
My stomach churned. The food smelled horrible and the words he used were ugly and peeling away at the mask I’d crafted for the evening. I was beginning to wonder if he got off on demeaning his girls. “I don’t like these questions.”
“Why?” His finger toyed with the rim of his plate. “Is it because they bring you back down to Earth?”
“If you’re asking if this is how I wanted to end up, the answer would be no. Definitely not. I look down on women who do this, and now I look down on myself even more.” He opened his mouth to speak but now the floodgates were opened and I couldn’t stop. “And I find the men who go out and so called ‘support’ these girls are the real assholes because they’re taking advantage. And right now I’m thinking the worst of you because not only are you taking advantage, but you’re being a dick while doing it. You like making me feel like shit.”
He ran a hand roughly through his hair, and let out a brittle laugh. “Being a dick is my nature. You’ll have to get used to it. And honestly, at the moment I’m just trying to have a conversation with you. I’m curious about you.”
That got me blushing. “You are?”
His face grew serious. “Remember your name isn’t Julia, or Vivian, or whatever her name fucking was. You’re Johanna and I’m paying you.”
He opened his briefcase and there it was: the contract Morgan warned me about. It was brief and what I expected. Most of it was about privacy; I would agree not to disclose anything specific about what went on between us. Basically, that I wouldn’t go around at dinner parties shouting I was a paid companion.
“It’s up to you, and you can end this anytime you want. Me, too. Only sign this if this is something in which you’re interested, but you are still not bound to me. Understand?” I nodded. He smiled. “I will never force you, okay?”
I kept reading. After a while the words blurred together. I reached for his pen and signed my name in a grand flourish.
The ink bled together, making my name unrecognizable.
The rest of dinner was interesting. He asked me a few questions about the other facets of my life that I dodged.
“What does your father do?”
I took a sip of water and looked around the restaurant, grateful we were fairly secluded. I happened to know my father loved coming into Nobu. “Something incredibly boring. How about your father?”
He stared at me for a moment, letting me know he wasn’t thrilled with my answer. “Same as me. Finances. You wouldn’t want to hear about it.”
Tate nodded. “Enough boring chat. I have something for you, now that this stuff between us is a done deal.”
He reached back into his briefcase and brought out a large blue box with silver lettering on it. I recognized the brand immediately: Swarovski. My mother used to wear Swarovski jewelry all the time.
The necklace was huge and ostentatious. It must have cost him a fortune. Links of crystal knotted together all around in a large but graceful swoop. Without asking me, he unclasped the plain necklace my mother bought me four years ago that said my name in delicate script. I felt the weight of the necklace across my collarbones as he fastened it. He stroked the necklace and caught a couple of inches of my sensitive skin.
He gazed at my lips when he whispered, “Now you’re mine.”
My head was fuzzy. I drank another glass of wine and let the rest of dinner fade into merely background noise. I lost track of his words, of me, of the waiters around us.
He paid the bill and we walked out together in the brisk December night. The sky was clear and stars were white and pure, twinkling down judgmentally at me. My heel trapped itself in a crack and Tate knelt down, skimming his hands down my bare leg and over the muscle of my calf on his way to freeing me.
I could have sworn he kissed my knee before getting my heel out but I was drunk and it happened so fast.
Andrew, Tate’s limo driver, was waiting patiently by the back to let us in. I searched his face for any suspicion, any knowledge of who and what I was to his boss, but he gave me a small smile that seemed genuine. I told myself to get over it.
The feeling of cold leather sliding against my skin was bizarrely soothing when I got into the car. Tate thumped down next to me and told Andrew to take me back to my place. I thought maybe he would make a move on me, but he didn’t. I was a little confused and he noticed with a short laugh.
“I want to, but I want you to want it, too. I’m not interested in pressuring you.”
I stared at him with wide eyes, wildly impressed. We pulled up at my apartment building. His eyes flicked down to my necklace, then to my cleavage. “Can I kiss you, though?”
I recognized that I had a choice in this; I didn’t have to kiss him that night if I didn’t want to. Still, I wanted to kiss him. I thought he was the most attractive man I’d ever met, and he was paying me to hang out with him. It would have made more sense if I were the one paying, but I didn’t let myself get caught up with those thoughts. He wanted to kiss me, and I wanted to kiss him fiercely.
“Yes,” I said in a low voice that didn’t sound anything like me.
He leaned over slowly, giving me an opportunity to change my mind. Then his full lips descended upon my own. Our first kiss was outstanding. There was nothing awkward or weird about it; it was thrilling how he just took charge and kissed me deeply, as if he’d been kissing me this way for years. Only when he pulled back to look at me did I become shy again.
Tate’s lips slowly turned up, but he didn’t look amused. “This has the potential to be disastrous.”
“Never mind.” He kissed me again, then pulled back when the car came to a stop. “I could kiss you all night.”
“So could I,” I admitted with a deep blush.
He sighed. “Goodnight, Johanna.”
“Um ... bye, Tate.” It felt weird saying his name. The awkwardness was intense, so I was grateful when Andrew opened the door for me.
I went back inside and turned to watch the limo drive away. Feeling drunk, I went upstairs and ignored Morgan sitting up on the couch, watching me with alert eyes.
I reluctantly turned to her and she gasped when saw my face.
“Holy fuck. You’re high!”
“What? I am not!”
“Not literally high, idiot,” she said, shaking her head as she stood and came over to me. “You like him and you’re feeling the high.” Her light blue eyes traveled down my body. “I wondered if you’d feel it, too.”
“I didn’t. I don’t.”
Morgan looked at me with pity. “Sweetness? Go look in the mirror. It’s all over your face.”
She walked to her room but paused before shutting the door. “And it’s okay, by the way. It means it’s good. You’ll enjoy it.” Her eyes met mine. “Just don’t get addicted. It’s easy to, and that will be the end for you. Remember, drugs are good in moderation.” She lowered her eyes and smirked. “By the way, nice necklace.”
I touched it gently, having forgotten it was there. Now it felt as heavy as an albatross.
Morgan went to bed and I made tea robotically, definitely not thinking about Tate. I sunk into a hot bath, putting my tea next to me. My eyes closed and I tried to relax. Unfortunately, Morgan’s words haunted me. Irritated but curious, I stepped out of the bath, dripping water every which way, and stomped over to the mirror.
And then I knew why Morgan gasped. I was fucking glowing. I was grinning. I was unrecognizable.
I touched the lips that Tate had kissed and hoped he would call soon.
I was in a cage of snakes. They hissed and flapped their tongues at me, watching me with their beady eyes that flashed with a mixture of hunger and amusement. I had nowhere to go; every time I twitched they snapped their heads at me. I could nearly smell the venom swelling in their mouths.
They wanted to penetrate my skin with their fangs, inject their poison. Kill me. I cried out for help but we were alone in a dark, damp cellar. That’s when I noticed the large silver links chaining me to the ground. My screams bounced off the empty walls. There was nothing to save me.
I woke up screaming, sweat sticking my clothes to my body. There were no snakes in my bedroom, just the lingering sensation of bad memories.
Morgan watched me carefully when I stumbled out and fixed breakfast.
“I had a bad dream the first night, too,” she said, drawing me from swirling around my Cheerios.
I let out a long breath. “Is this the part where we bond over being whores?”
Morgan sighed and put some sugar in her tea. “Good for you. You’re getting a spine.”
I instantly felt bad. “I’m sorry, Morgan. I just haven’t had coffee yet.”
“I know what it’s like to feel disgusted with yourself. To feel like the hottest shower you can take will never be enough to clean off all the slime. To look yourself in the mirror and be unrecognizable. It’s not going to get any easier. So, if you want to come and talk to me about it, I’m here.”
The next day Morgan forced me to go panty shopping. I dragged my heels and acted like a brat on the entire walk over.
“My panties are fine!”
Morgan snorted. “All of yours are ripped or from 2003.”
“That’s not true!” She dragged me into Victoria’s Secret by the elbow, ignoring me. “I like my underwear.”
“It’s boring and not fitting for a woman in your trade.”
“Now you sound like you’re from the 1800’s.”
Morgan ignored me and beckoned over an associate. “She needs an entirely new wardrobe.”
“Morgan, I can’t afford...”
“I meant to give you this envelope.” Morgan handed me something with my name on it. I didn’t recognize the messy handwriting but I knew who it belonged to, anyway. “It’s from Tate. He came by this morning and you were still asleep.”
I blushed thinking of him being around when I was unconscious. And that he returned to me so quickly, even if it was just to pay me.
“He says he’ll call you tonight. Anyway, I highly suggest you spend some of it on this, Jo.”
She looked back at the girl helping us and nodded.
The eager associate brought over one set of lingerie more provocative than the next. Morgan picked it all out for me, something for which I was totally grateful. She headed over to the register when we were done. Now I had all the finest lingerie in sapphire, blush, crimson, plum, and sage. I didn’t see the bill and Morgan handled the transaction, but I could just imagine what the final amount was. It made me sick to my stomach, but I felt even more grotesque when Morgan gave me what was left over and it was close to $2,000.
“How the hell much did he give me for one dinner out?” I asked. “It’s not like I even gave him a blowjob!”
An associate glanced at us with wide eyes and then fixed them back on the underwear she was arranging. Morgan laughed and wrapped her arm around mine, leading me out into the late afternoon.
“You really have no idea. It’s almost cute. I wonder what you’ll be like with the others.”
Morgan grinned at me. “You don’t have to see just one at a time. There’s nothing in the contract about that, at least not usually. And you could make more money faster.”
“I don’t think I could do that.”
Morgan walked into Starbucks and shrugged. “Only you know what you’re capable of, and even then you’ll surprise yourself.”
She ordered a latte and I watched her, forever marveling at her self-confidence.
“Why do you do this, Morgan? Really. I mean, I know you’re saving up for med school, but you spend a lot of it, too. You don’t save as much as you could. You act like you enjoy it.”
She took her finished latte and smirked at me. “Because I do. There’s a certain power in it, like when you give a blowjob.” She handed the barista a five and ushered me out into the afternoon. “I know a guy. He’s nice. I’ve been with him a few times. You’d like him.” She sipped her latte and put on oversized sunglasses. It was all so natural for her. I couldn’t stand it.
I tugged on my hair and shook my head. “Having sex with two guys at once is outlandish for me; getting paid for it is just outrageous.”
“Why? If you’re doing it, baby, you might as well go all the way.”
“You’re shitting me,” Iggy shrieked.
I shushed him, but it was too late. The entire restaurant was staring at us. “Can you please keep your voice down, especially about this?”
Iggy rolled his eyes, but thankfully he lowered his voice when he continued. “Morgan actually persuaded you to do this? I’m beyond baffled, honey. You didn’t ... do anything with him yet, right?”