“Well done, Andy. Not every girl gets a call back from her first client, and very few for the second night in a row. You seem to be handling this well,” Susanna said.
“He’s… really nice,” she was glad no one could see her blushing.
The smile was audible in Susanna’s voice. “I’m sure he is. Now, not to alarm you, but please be mindful that some clients get a little… possessive about their girls. We make exclusive arrangements only in very rare cases. This could be one, we’ll see how it plays out. But if you feel he is getting at all inappropriate….”
“I will tell you,” Andy cut her off, thinking she would never have to.
Mike’s mind drifted as he was suiting up – he held an elbow pad in one hand and just looked at it, not moving. He wanted to pick the perfect place for dinner, somewhere he would feel at ease with Andy and could show her that he wasn’t a broken down sad sack. A little help, he needed that. He’d gotten that. But he couldn’t have her thinking he was nothing else.
“You called,” Alex Ovechkin stated like it was a fact.
Mike knew he’d have to talk about it – Alex had given him the number, with a wink and a nudge. Lots of the guys hired girls at least occasionally, they were locker room banter and war stories. He didn’t think he was better than them. He just didn’t want to talk about Andy that way.
In the past, Mike had been a player. He’d been with more than his fair share of girls and treated plenty of them like shit. It never bothered him much – flashy with his money and easy with his company, like a young superstar millionaire athlete at the top of his game should be. Right? The only real female friends he had were at home, where he was better behaved during the off-season.
Then the season ended. Not just ended – it imploded, decomposed, combusted. One year had been a fluke, he’d recovered quickly. A second disgraceful playoff exit in a row had really hit home. Suddenly the top of his game seemed a million miles away. Then over the long, depressing summer, he’d seen one of his closest female friends put through the wringer and kicked to the curb by some guy who didn’t deserve her. Already in a terrible mood, it had registered. That’s me, he’d thought. With that realization and a whole summer to think about how he was handling his life, Mike had resolved that he would do some growing up.
Now, back in action, the guys were looking for the dirty details like they always used to get.
“Yeah man, thanks. Really helped,” Mike said.
“Was she hot?”
Mike slipped the shoulder pad on. “She was incredible,” he said honestly.
“Come on man, was she dirty? Fuck your brains out so you can get your head out of your ass?” Alex tapped his stick against Mike’s shin guards. “What her name? Maybe I already know her.”
Bile rose in the back of Mike’s throat. Totally irrational, he scolded himself, to think that this was his call girl, that she had never been with anyone else. But he really didn’t want to know. “Andy,” he said, hoping she would not at least have given her real name to someone like Alex.
Alex shook his head. “I know Amanda. And Anna. No Andy. Guess I’ll have to request special next time.” He left with a wink.
Vivian brought two cups to the coffee shop table. “Drinks on me for making me look good, girl! Two nights, first try – maybe they’ll give me a bonus for referring you.” Andy gave a cheers with her hot chocolate and licked at the whipped cream. She knew what was coming.
“So… how was it?”
“It was… crazy. It was amazing. And now I’m scared shitless that I’m going to fall in love with him and become a psycho call girl,” Andy admitted.
“Stop worrying. You will get settled with this job. At first, you can’t stop the feelings – not with the good clients. It’s what you’ve associated with great dates and sex your whole life. Takes time to undo that wiring. Once you get a grip on that, it becomes a little more… clinical. I think that’s why clients often try new girls, they’re looking for someone who still has that rush.”
Andy sipped her drink. She didn’t want to lose this and she didn’t want to lose him. Her stomach clenched at the thought of being with someone else, or him seeking solace with another girl. She doubled her resolve to help him as best she could.
At 6:59 PM, Andy’s doorbell rang. She ran a hand through her loose hair and straightened her strapless, knee-length red dress. Her heels clicked across the hallway floor.
“Hi,” Mike said, holding up a small bouquet of white roses. He smiled and resisted the urge to pull on his tie. He’d seen video of himself giving interviews and knew he moved his hands, tongue, mouth too much. Nerves. He kept on smiling.
She got the distinct impression he’d taken a long time getting ready – his hair was perfectly disheveled, his white shirt open at the throat with no tie under a dark suit. Before taking the flowers from his hand, Andy put her hands on the lapels of his suit jacket, leaned in and kissed his lips softly. He shrank an inch as his spine relaxed.
I probably shouldn’t have him into my house, Andy thought as she held the door open. This is not a date, this is not regular life. Too late.
He followed her into the kitchen. The apartment was small, the furniture mismatched but cozy. Her kitchen table was too big and she squeezed between it and the cabinets searching for a vase.
“Big table,” he said stupidly as she reached high overhead to bring down a glass carafe. The stretch defined every muscle in her back and lifted her perfect ass level with the counter. He wanted to lay her on it.
“I used to live in a bigger place,” she said, putting the roses in water. Please don’t ask. She didn’t want to lie, but would not tell the sob story that brought her to this point. Most people would look around at her perfectly adequate apartment and decent things and assume she was a call girl by choice, not necessity. Anyone who could afford brand name breakfast cereal must just be a whore. A young, rich athlete was the last person who would understand.
He tried to look quickly at everything in her apartment, to explore her life. On the wall in the living room, he moved close to a photo of her striking a pose in front of the Eiffel Tower. That trip to Europe was true, he thought with satisfaction. Not everything is a lie. He helped her into a coat and turned her around.
“You look stunning,” he said, body already responding to his words. Her long dark hair hung free, the dress was just shy of being too much and it hugged her body like a sports car on a windy road.
“Very handsome yourself, Mr. Green,” she smiled. “That black eye is the kicker – such a bad boy.” His hands drifted at her sides and his lips brushed her cheek. Outside, she stopped on the curb and laughed. She’d seen it in pictures and on TV, but there was Mike’s white Lamborghini Gallardo in all its low, sleek glory. He stood by the passenger side, holding the door.
“Wow,” she said. What she thought was the car was worth at least four times what she owed in loans. For about the trunk of that car, she wouldn’t be here at all. Her stomach sank, then again when she saw him smiling.
“Your chariot,” he swept his hand in a bow.
Oh Andy, her brain said.
She was dressed the part. Feeling like a Bond girl, Andy slid into the front seat in her sassy dress and fuck-me shoes and tried not to touch any of the shiny, complicated-looking instruments. Mike pulled carefully into the street, car so silent it felt like it wasn’t even turned on. Andy cooed appreciatively and felt she was in way over her head.
He took her to The Palm downtown. It was upscale without being too stuffy – he had thought about Maestro or something really exceptional, but those places made him nervous. He was already nervous enough. The Palms was a partner of the Capitals organization and always took good care of the guys. They were seated in a booth toward the back and Mike ordered a bottle of Syrah.
Andy smiled, “That’s my favorite.”
There was a half-empty bottle on your kitchen counter, he didn’t say.
He let her approve the wine. She ordered in good French, so he changed his choice at the last second to avoid stumbling over any words. The waiter eyed her rather greedily and Mike swore he was trying to look down her dress. When he left, Andy made a face that told him she had seen it too. Then she actually ate a roll from the bread basket. His brain mewed weakly.
Andy watched Mike watching her. The scowl on his face when the waiter flirted was adorably similar to the tough guy look he tried to pass off in his official Caps photo. Still not too confident, she thought as she reached for his hand across the table. He wrapped her fingers in his tightly.
They ate and talked, and eventually Mike brought up hockey. Tomorrow was a big game so Andy didn’t want to psych him out, but he seemed okay and even mentioned the team’s issues and a few things he wanted to improve on. For desert Andy ordered something chocolate: Mike had two bites, she ate the rest. When they were finished, the maitre-d brought her coat to the table. As he opened the door to the street, people were coming in.
“Mike!” Alex said, peeling his arm from around a very skinny blond to shake hands. The girl scowled.
Mike’s hackles rose, fight or flight coming to his mind. But Alex had already moved on. Ignoring the baleful stare of his date, he turned to Andy. “I am Alex,” he said generously, like he was the King introducing himself to a housekeeper. His huge hand lifted hers to his lips.
Andy smiled tightly. Ew gross, this is who could have called me. She reached for Mike with her free hand and he stepped in, holding tight. She forced herself to smile, not wanting to make a problem for Mike. “I’m Andy, nice to meet you.”
Alex raised his eyebrows. “Andy. I’ve heard a lot about you.” He gave Mike a meaningful, completely obvious look before letting his eyes roam slowly over Andy from head to toe. “Too bad you are leaving, but maybe we meet again soon.”
She nearly ran from the restaurant. In her haste, she failed to really look at his date – was she a working girl? Was she one of Susanna’s? Was Alex the client who recommended Mike? Get a grip! It wouldn’t do to have a panic attack at the valet stand. Mike stayed behind her, hand resting on her lower back. When his zillion-dollar car rolled to a stop, she felt a flood of disgust.
Goddamnshitfuck, Mike thought. Ever since coming back a little more mature from the summer, Mike’s opinion of Alex had changed. He was a great player, they were still friends, still hung out. But Mike had stopped looking at Alex as a role model, the big-man-on-campus he aspired to be. Now some of Alex’s antics seemed sloppy and offensive. Mike still wanted to be a star, but more because it helped the team succeed than so he could get laid and buy shiny toys. To have seen Alex now, with Andy… worst luck ever. Andy stood stock still until the parking attendant opened her door.
Mike drove around the corner and pulled over in a loading zone. “Andy, I’m sorry. What he said, that he’d heard a lot about you… it’s not how it sounds. I just….”
“He’s the one who recommended you,” Andy stated the obvious.
Mike nodded. “He asked your name today. I have to admit, I was really relieved he didn’t know you.”
“He wouldn’t,” she said, but didn’t stop long enough to elaborate. “I didn’t know that girl with him, I wonder if she’s….” She’s what? A whore? A working girl? Like me?
“She’s Russian. Someone from home, that’s why he didn’t introduce her – she doesn’t speak English.”
“So he doesn’t call anymore?”
The tiny note of hope in her voice made Mike want to punch something. But he couldn’t lie to her about this. “He still calls.”
They sat a moment in silence considering what would happen when Alex called and requested Andy. Because he obviously would. He’d all but asked her “how much?” with the look on his face in the restaurant. And he would be… different that Mike. They both knew that. Alex was competitive enough that he would have called for Andy even if he didn’t like her, just to fuck with Mike. But it didn’t seem liking her would be a problem.
Be cool, Andy. You knew something like this would eventually happen. Hell, it’s supposed to happen! According to Susanna’s math, the guys would recommend Andy to each other, to other players. Her client list would grow. That was the whole idea. Now it was happening and for the first time since she knocked on Mike’s hotel room door, she wanted to throw up.
“Well, he’s less scary off the ice,” Andy offered.
Mike hid his left hand between the door and steering wheel, hoping she couldn’t see where his knuckles were white from gripping so hard. “He’s not a bad guy. Just kind of an attention-whore.” He was trying to shake it off, to keep it from ruining the rest of the evening.
Andy gave him a deadpan stare. “Says the guy in the white Lamborghini.” Then she cracked a smile. Nervous breakdown some other time, she reminded herself she was still on the clock. Less than a day till Mike’s next game. She lifted her hand to the back of Mike’s neck so he would be sure she was only kidding.
He took a deep breath. He hadn’t planned on going out after dinner but just now it seemed too awkward to take her home. More time, that’s what they needed. Mike drove them to a wine bar a few miles away. The maitre-d recognized him and showed them to a small, cozy booth in the back.
“So popular,” Andy teased as she slid onto the bench. Mike made for the other side of the table, but she patted the space next to her. He just fit, broad shoulders taking up all the space she didn’t. She needed to be near him, physically. It felt like he would protect her.
He draped an arm behind her and read the menu over her shoulder. “I put a wine room in my condo, and the owner here helped me pick just about everything in it,” Mike explained. On cue the owner himself turned up to say hello and take their order.
“Okay, now you’re popular,” she turned toward him in the close confines of the booth. He smelled warm and expensive, which was her feeling of this night overall. Wined and dined, Susanna had said that was one of the perks of the job. Not a stranger to nice places, Andy hadn’t expected her financial trouble to make her see everything as a dollar sign. Everything except Mike.
Why do you do this? he wanted desperately to ask. He’d known her 24 hours and could easily see that she was worth more than whatever her price tag read. He kissed her cheek and earned a shy smile, dimples appearing. He kissed her again.
Andy let herself forget Ovechkin and money and everything else she was worried about. She could worry about those things after Mike’s game – for now, she just wanted to be here for him. His thick, solid body was warm against her side, no space between them. He was telling a story about the team’s last road trip; she was half-listening and watching the corners of his mouth twitch with a smile.
When he laughed at the end of the story, she did too without knowing why. Then she kissed him. Can’t help it, she thought, her lips firmly planted on his in the most chaste move she could manage.
Can’t stop, Mike knew as he fought to keep his mouth closed against her kiss.
Mike politely declined another round from the owner. Andy found herself happy to see his ostentatious car because it was taking them somewhere they could be alone. She assumed it was a hotel, and looked confused when he turned into a residential part of town.
“Do you mind if we go to my house?” he asked, suddenly unsure. Too soon? Too personal? Should be conducting our business in a neutral location?
“You just want to show me your wine room,” she smirked. Yes I want to go to your house, she thought. And no this is probably not a good idea.