Stopping the coffee machine mid-flow, I poured a cup, added cream, and downed it in one hit. I was tired as hell. My muscles ached in the very best way. I wanted to respond, but didn’t have a lot of time to get ready to meet my best friend Harry for lunch. Instead, I closed my laptop, stood, slipped out of my boxers, and walked naked to the bathroom. Showering in record time, I ran a hand through my too-long-to-call-neat hair, sprayed deodorant all over my body, and dressed in jeans, a Rolling Stones tee, and white sneakers.
As I walked out the door, I tossed a black jacket over my shoulder and unlocked my car. It was nothing fancy, but it was my day car, and I liked it well enough. My night car was normally a rental, care of the agency, and could be something as classy as a Maserati, or something as plain as an SUV. With the keys in the ignition, I hesitated.
I should have left it be. But something was bugging me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what. A sigh escaped me when I reached into my pocket for my cell. I accessed my mobile email and responded to Maya.
From: [email protected]
Subject: RE: RE: RE: Setting a date.
Meeting with you would be a privilege, but I understand your hesitancy.
You don’t know me from Adam. I could be a serial killer for all you know.
If you’re still willing to talk to me, we can continue getting to know each other over email?
PS: No, I’m not a serial killer. That was probably a bad example.
I pressed send before I could second-guess myself. Then thought about what I’d written. A serial killer… Really?
My forehead landed with a thud on the steering wheel and I groaned at my stupidity. Now I’d never hear from her again. I resigned myself to that fact and drove over to Harry’s place.
Harry Bridgeton had been my best friend for the past five years. I’d never wanted or needed a best friend before him. But Harry had a way about him. It wasn’t easy being my friend sometimes, but he always stuck by me. He met me when I was in a bad place. He helped me through that bad place, encouraging me to do something with myself. In fact, it was Harry who suggested I become an escort.
I remembered it like it was yesterday.
Harry turned to me and held my hard gaze. “I don’t want to push you into anything, but I think you need a new job. Construction’s not for you, bud.”
I knew this. Work was declining and I barely had enough money to feed myself. Harry always let me know he was there when times got tough, but I declined, my pride stinging every damn time. I was twenty-six years old and had a chip on my shoulder. A big one. “Oh, yeah? What do you suggest? I don’t have a college education behind me, Har. I’m lucky to get what I’ve got.”
But Harry just smiled easy-like. “What do you like doing? What are you good at?”
“Drinking and fucking.” See that? There’s that chip I mentioned.
Harry looked past my shoulder, out into nothingness. After a while, his brow lifted then he muttered, “You ever thought about becoming one of those escorts? I hear it pays a lot.”
My brows narrowed. “How would you know how much it pays?”
Harry looked at me with wide eyes, a picture of innocence, and said in perfect calmness, “I may or may not have been an escort through college.”
I jumped up from my seat. “No way! You dirty, dirty fucker. You were a hooker, Har? A hooker?”
Harry scowled. “An escort, fucker. A high-end escort.” He looked over at me as I clutched my stomach from laughing so hard, and stood. “You know what? Forget about it. Looks like you don’t want to earn ten grand.”
My laughter faltered. Harry’s smile held a secret, and I wanted in. “Ten grand?” I sputtered. “A month?”
Harry turned and made to leave. “A week, loser.”
After I’d tackled Harry and forced him to tell me all he knew, he admitted working for a respectable escort service called DFT. He knew the owner, Steve, and said he’d put in a good word for me.
A week later, I had resigned from construction and was employed by DFT. I soon found out what DFT stood for.
Dolls for Trolls.
I didn’t like it, but as long as it was abbreviated and none of the women knew what it meant, I supposed it was okay.
It didn’t take long to get to Harry’s. I lived on the beachfront in a decent-sized apartment overlooking the ocean. Harry lived in the suburbs, but it still only took a twenty-minute drive.
The moment I arrived, I spotted Harry locking up and talking on his cell. I assumed he’d done this to meet me. But the moment he saw me walking up the drive with my arms extended in a gesture reading, What the fuck, dude? his face gave him away.
He cussed into his phone. “Fuck!” At the response on the other line, his brows drew together and he uttered, “Not you, Minnie. I forgot about Quinn. He’s here. We sort of do lunch every Saturday.” I couldn’t hear the reply he was given, but figured it out pretty quickly when he scowled and barked into the phone, “No, not like a date, dipshit!”
I chuckled at his irritation then shrugged. “What’s going on?”
Harry held up a hand and quickly griped, “Hold on, Minnie.” Covering his phone, he muttered, “My sister moved back into town two days ago. I thought I’d go by, check out her apartment, and see what she needed. Help her get settled. Do my brotherly duty, you know?”
I nodded. I understood that. Harry had always been fond of his sister. They had a small family, just Mama Jane, Harry, and Minnie. Since I’d only been a friend of Harry’s for five years and the majority of that time Minnie had been away at college, I didn’t know her well. And when I said well, I meant at all.
I’d met her once, at a Christmas party hosted by their family five years earlier, but since I was caught up in my own bullshit, I’d had so much to drink that most of the night was a blur. The few things I knew about Minnie were that she was shy, short, and chubby. I kind of remembered mousy brown hair and doe eyes, but I wasn’t sure if my mind was playing tricks. She seemed nice, and the way she ribbed her brother meant we’d get along just fine.
My brow furrowed. I suddenly found myself protective of this shy little creature. “Why isn’t she living with your mom?”
Harry scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Are you fucking kidding me?” He shook his head. “Mom would be too damn overprotective of her. What would she do if she wanted to bring home a date or some shit?” He chuckled. “Mom would send him packing.”
My brow continued to furrow. How many men would she be dating? Furthermore, how many would she bring home? That didn’t seem like the behavior of the girl I’d met all those years ago. I hated to butt in, but I felt as the best friend of the brother, I needed to say my piece. If I’d wanted a sister, Minnie would be the closest thing to it. “You’re okay with her bringing men home? How old is she? Are you sure she wouldn’t be better off living with Mama Jane?”
Harry suddenly looked at me like I’d sprouted horns. After a moment, he shook his head and uttered, “Dude, she’s almost twenty-seven. Not much I can do about that. As if I could stop her from dating, she’d chew my ass. And Minnie bites. Hard.”