What am I doing here?
A tiny note of panic crept into her inner monologue. She took a few deep breaths and tried to clear her mind, tried to calm down. It was her first night, the nerves were to be expected. Or so she’d been told. They’d also told her to keep her reason in mind: she really needed the money.
Andy ran her hands over the front of her dress, tugging the hem an inch down her thighs. She knew the problem was all in her head and she’d just have to figure out a way to keep in quiet. The elevator beeped, the doors opened.
You can do this.
Andy was very practical and had approached her problem a rational way. She’d been laid off from her finance job, along with millions of other people when the market collapsed. Waitressing and temp jobs just hadn’t been enough and any salaried job was snapped up like bait for a shark. Still the interest piled up on her student loans and the simple cost of living was ever high. A smaller apartment had helped, as had selling her car. But it had been six months and Andy was close to desperate.
Better to do something now.
It was the ‘something’ she wasn’t crazy about. But she was qualified. Twenty-four years old, five foot eight with long, wavy brown hair and the fair skin of her Irish immigrant grandparents. She wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous, but she didn’t need to be. Instead of working, Andy had spent plenty of time at the gym over the last half a year and she looked good, felt good. At least physically.
She’d been approached by a Vivian, a friend from college. The promise was a lot of money, wining and dining and, for some of the girls, vacations and parties and gifts. The foundation was organization and protection.
“Think of it this way" have you ever had a one night stand?”
Andy had, a couple times in college. Nothing memorable, except maybe a funny story or embarrassing morning after.
“Exactly,” Vivian said. “Did any of those guys pay a thousand dollars for the pleasure of your company?”
Here goes. Andy knocked on the hotel room door.
Vivian had gotten her an “audition”: a fancy party full of rich guys and working girls, or potential new ones. They were to chat and charm the men into wanting to ‘hire’ them. Whether you got the job depended on how well you did. Andy had been nervous at first, but found the talking and flirting and slightly suggestive double entendres easy. Almost fun. Since she was new, the organizer simply told anyone who requested a date that Andy had already been booked for the evening, but they were welcome to select another girl or another night. If Andy was hired, these men would go in her client file as potentials. At the end of the night, there had been four.
She was called in the next day to meet with the Henry, the boss. He was an older man, nice-enough looking in an expensive way. He was also married to a former employee who ran the place from behind-the-scenes: she made sure the girls were clean, protected and kept her husband’s hands from reaching into the cookie jar. Her name was Susanna.
“I heard you talking to a few of the guests about sports last night, Andy. Particularly hockey. Two of those who requested you suggested they take you to a game. Are you a fan?”
Andy looked at Vivian, hoping she hadn’t done something wrong. “I am. They were interested in the topic and I thought it would be good to have something in common. I’m sorry if I talked too much or…”
Susanna sushed her with a little hand. “Andy, we want you to have a personality. The clients want that. If you were into stamp collecting, I doubt it would be very profitable. But if hockey is your thing, then go with that. In fact, we have a suggestion.” She looked at Henry. “We” meant that Susanna had already decided and was doing whatever she damn well pleased. Henry nodded as if his consent mattered.
“We’d like to put you on retainer for athletes only. We’re back in season for the NHL, and we do a fair amount of business from both the home and visiting teams. The NBA brings in more, but the requests are ,” she paused a second and looked at Vivian, “the requests are usually for girls more like Vivian. Occasionally you’d get such a booking. There are other events, tennis and soccer, etc. But I anticipate that in-season you’d be quite popular with our NHL clientele. And it will give you a chance to start slowly and get comfortable.”
Vivian was five foot four and African-American with a big, loud voice to match her personality. Her body was all ass and tits and she was all fire. She was like a sparkplug and Andy could imagine that NBA guys would adore her.
“Most of our new business is word of mouth, recommendations from one client to someone we’ve not yet worked with. This is especially true with athletes – locker room talk and all that. It generally does not involve an entire evening date, as they’re in town overnight at best.”
Andy guessed that made sense, but Susanna hadn’t answered the most obvious question. “If I could… forgive the question but, why do these guys hire someone? Aren’t there plenty of girls who would do it for free?” She cringed because the question sounded so insulting.
Susanna actually smiled. “Andy, as a fan, have you ever thought about doing it for free? Going home with someone from a game?
Andy blushed, but she nodded.
“And you blush. But every woman in the arena is thinking the same thing. You’ve seen the girls standing down front in their little tank tops and skirts? Hoping to be noticed? It’s my favorite at hockey, because it’s goddamn freezing in there and these girls are half-dressed.”
They laughed – it was true, Andy had often seen it. And she’d always wondered if it ever worked.
He opened the door. One hand held a highball glass half-full of what Andy could smell was whiskey. His tie was pulled loose and the top two buttons of his collar open, revealing the glint of a gold chain where his neck disappeared beneath his shirt. His hair was styled, but it didn’t matter. Soft lips tried to smile but collapsed under the weight of a bad night.
Under his left eye, a dark circle was forming and it would be black by the morning. Without thinking, without so much as a greeting, Andy reached up and ran her thumb lightly over the bruise on his face.
“Fucking Carcillo,” she said.
“It’s important that you learn a few things up front Andy,” Susanna continued. “Most, if not all, of our clients could find our services elsewhere for less or for free. These are not unwanted men, sad lonely cases with cats and creased photos of the cheerleader they had a crush on in high school. They’re powerful, intelligent men with business sense and social grace. And what they want is a woman with the same, without having to do the work. Many of them are a little vain, a little arrogant – especially the athletes. They want to come into town and have a sophisticated, interesting date with a beautiful woman. By providing them with a woman who knows the game, who can fawn a little, we make them feel like stars. We deliver and we don’t gossip, that’s where we are a world apart from picking up some fan at the game. The rest is just sex and frankly, that’s the easy part.”
Andy had wondered about that – they made no secrets about sex being involved, nearly all the time with every client. But she hadn’t been asked about her experience, her preferences or, thank god, asked to audition for that aspect of the job.
“Anyone can spread her legs, Andy. But not everyone can be seen on the arm of a CEO at a political fundraiser. That’s why they call us ‘escorts’ – it’s more than just a nicer term for ‘hooker.’ You will be a date, a showpiece, an actual person with almost every client, as well as providing sexual release. And you will be expected to perform your job well in both areas. Do you understand?” She looked at Andy expectantly.
“Yes,” Andy said.
“Good. Now here’s the important part: money,” Susanna said frankly.
Andy once again glanced at Vivian, who was smiling. She’d dropped a few numbers when convincing Andy to get this far along in the process. But every girl was different, every job its own consideration.
“Your rate to begin with will be $1500 a night. $900 of that is yours, plus tip should the client choose to provide one. They almost always do. After two months, depending on the word of mouth your services are generating, the rate will increase to $2000 and your cut will be $1200 plus tip. Any dinners, parties, trips or gifts are yours to keep, but we do ask that you inform us of the approximate amount that clients are spending on you beyond our rate. There may be an opportunity to increase the fee, which would put more cash in your pocket. I’ve always preferred that to food in my stomach.
“Our business has a legitimate side. One third of what you’re paid here will be by check that reflects ‘consulting’ work you do for our company. With your finance background that’s easy. These earnings are reported and taxed, and work out to an average of $40,000 a year. The other $80,000 or so, plus tips, is all cash. We offer the service of showing you how to divide and hide it, but I’m guessing that you can do that for yourself.”
Andy smiled. She’d already worked that part out.
“You can do really well here, Andy. We have girls making over a quarter-million dollars a year in fees alone, and they are often on a yacht in the Mediterranean. So that is our sales pitch. What do you think?”
Andy twisted her hands in her lap. That was a fortune. She owed just under $40,000 for school, and to be able to pay it off in under a year sounded like a godsend. Somewhere in Florida her mother felt a disturbance in the atmosphere as Andy said, “I’ll do it.”
“Excellent, Andy. We think you’ll do quite well here. We’ll book you someone we know as your first client, let you start slowly. And, if you don’t mind,” Susanna said in a tone that didn’t care what Andy thought, “we’ll call you Andrea.” She pronounced to “Ahhhhndrea,” like Andy was British royalty.
“That’s fine,” Andy said.
“Fucking Carcillo,” she said.
That got a quick half-smile. She let her hand drop to his shoulder, her fingers at the back of his neck. He looked defeated and beaten, sad and exhausted. Andy had no idea what came over her, it must have been the puppy dog eyes and the slump in his shoulders. A lot of the players were good looking, even great, but he’d always been her favorite. She leaned in and very softly kissed his full lips. He let her, exerting almost no pressure of his own, but he sighed. Then he stepped left and let her into the room.
Flowers, he thought. She smells like flowers.
Andy had been in this hotel before during her finance days. It was upscale and modern, full of earth tones and textured wallpaper. She knew the bathroom would have a big Jacuzzi tub and the bedroom a king size bed with an even bigger TV. He’d eaten part of a chocolate bar from the amenity stand, leaving the other piece open in a torn wrapper. An empty bottle of water lay on its side on the nightstand. She looked around the room so he would have time to look at her.
She wore a short black cocktail dress – simple, elegant, sexy but not outrageous. ‘Classy’ was the word Susanna always used. Andy had been required to present her working wardrobe for approval. The only real fun was allowed with shoes, and the only outlawed items were clear plastic six inch heels that Andy never would have worn anyway. Tonight she sported a pair of brand new cage heels with a high ankle wrap and open toes.
He watched her take off her coat and drape it over the back of a chair. Her long legs were stretched by those heels and seemed to reach the ceiling. The simple silhouette of her dress accentuated the fit, healthy shape of her body and the bare skin of her shoulders practically glowed in the soft light. Dark hair crashed down her back in waves that also framed her face. Even if she hadn’t made a hockey reference, even if she hadn’t lit him up like a pinball machine with the barest hint of a kiss, he’d be half in love with her already.
Don’t be a fool, he scolded himself. She probably pities you for needing this and hates you for bringing her here.
“I’m Andrea,” she said, turning to face him.
Her eyes were dark beneath her subtle makeup and her smile seemed so genuine that he could almost let himself believe her. You get what you pay for, he thought. She looked less like a working girl than half the women he’d seen at the game that night.
“Hi,” he said. She already knew his name.