Excerpt from the forthcoming release PLATONIC
She shouldn’t have gotten mad. All he’d been trying to do was pay her a compliment. He’d just been clumsy as hell at doing it.
After screwing up he’d tried to lighten the mood by asking her more questions about herself, but she wasn’t having it. She’d given him her standard “streetwalker” answers about her life, which were really no answers at all. Like all johns he really didn’t give a shit about her personal life. He just wanted what he wanted from her.
He got the hint quickly enough and shut up and left her to eat breakfast in peace. When she finished eating and was ready to go he walked her out to the Beemer. He didn’t mention wanting to see her again.
It was a punk move anyway, trying to buy a friend. Who does that?
Now that she was done with the customer and in her car Terri grabbed her cell phone and turned it on. One of Michelle’s rules was that a customer was supposed to feel that the time they paid for was all about him or her, so while with a customer they had to keep their cell phones off, except in case of an emergency.
Her voicemail light was flashing. As she drove out of the upscale township of Rumson she put her phone on speaker and listened to a message from Lindsay, asking her to return her call ASAP.
Lindsay had hooked her up with the agency and had been her sponsor for her first three months on the job, but since then, just like back in high school, they weren’t tight. So Lindsay wouldn’t be calling her just to chit-chat. Terri figured the call must be job-related.
Had Brandon already called the agency to bitch about how his appointment ended? Had Lindsay heard about the drama and was calling to give her a heads up that Michelle or Marita was pissed?
Well, one thing she’d learned in the Army was that it was best to make the calls you didn’t want to make first, to get them out of the way and take that stress off the rest of your day. She tapped the phone’s screen, initiating a callback.
Terri was only slightly relieved when Lindsay said, “I have a humongous favor to ask.”
“Can you work for me tonight? I know you worked last night and you don’t like back-to-backs, but Frankie just told me that Bruce is playing a surprise concert at the armory tonight, and he got us tickets.”
“Oh.” That figured. Lindsay’s rich boyfriend Frankie was about two hundred years old. It wasn’t likely he’d be hunting for Bruno Mars tickets.
“Please Terri?” Lindsay whined. “Frankie wants to go so bad. I’ll make it up to you.”
Ordinarily Terri wouldn’t give a shit about what Lindsay wanted, not if it meant her working a back-to-back, but it wasn’t like she’d really worked last night, at least not with her body. And if she worked tonight she could afford to take off until next weekend.
“You need to clear it with the house,” Terri said.
“God, thank you Terri! I already called. Marita’s at the house this morning. She said to call her if you want to take it.”
“Okay, I’m on my way home. I’ll call her when I get there.”
“Who’s the customer?” Terri asked as she turned the key in the front door of her Red Bank apartment.
“Someone new, but someone I think you will know,” Marita said. “He did not wish to use his name when he scheduled the appointment. He would prefer to meet here, so that the paparazzi won’t catch a scent of what he’s doing.”
Visions of Usher naked danced through Terri’s head, but she figured that knowing her luck, the customer would more likely be somebody who was a sitcom star back in the 1960s, and who was middle-aged back then.
“Okay. What time?”
“He will arrive at 10:00 p.m. Give him a half an hour to settle in and get comfortable.”
“So it’s okay to bring the car back tonight?” she asked. “My appointment ended an hour ago.” The fee for using one of the agency’s luxury vehicles was a cheap flat rate, but it only covered the time of the appointment and a three-hour window on either side of that period.
“It’s no problem. You weren’t expecting this appointment. By the way Terri, your customer from last night called a little while ago.”
Shit on a hot brick! “And?”
“He would like to see you again next Saturday, at 10:00 a.m.”
“Oh…okay. That’ll be fine.” So she hadn’t blown it.
“Very good then. He provided a different address than his residence, so I checked it out.”
It was part of the agency’s safety protocol to look up any new customer address. Any place that smelled strange, like an abandoned warehouse or some shack in the boonies of South Jersey, wouldn’t be approved. In their profession there was never an absolute guarantee of safety—you could get your throat slashed in a Manhattan luxury hotel suite as easily as in a dark alley—but the agency was at least cautious about locales that seemed odd.
“Where’s the place?” Terri asked.
“The Ocean Park Health Club in Monmouth City.”
Ocean Park was the ritzy no-you-can’t-afford-to-live-here suburb of M-City. Why would he want to meet at a health club there? Oh, right: racquetball.
Depending on how long Brandon wanted to play her fee might barely cover the gas she burned to get there.
As if reading her mind through the phone Marita said, “He would like you until 6:00 p.m.”
Okay, nobody played racquetball for eight hours straight.
Since she was talking on the phone Terri entered her apartment on auto-pilot. When her call ended she found herself upstairs in her bathroom, standing in front of the bathtub naked and ready to get cleaned up.
Ordinarily after working she would steam herself in the shower, scrubbing her body until her skin felt ready to peel off, and then run the hottest tub she could stand and stew in it. Then she’d shower again. Sometimes, when a customer left her feeling particularly grimy, she’d repeat the process until her apartment’s hot water heater tapped out.
But she hadn’t been touched last night. And she’d slept alone in his guest bedroom between clean, crisp sheets. And she’d showered at his house.
She had just come from a job, yet she felt clean and rested.
It was almost as if her night spent with that guy Brandon was yet another illusion.
COMING APRIL 2014