January (Calendar Girl #1), страница 1
January: Calendar Girl
By Audrey Carlan
Text copyright © 2015 Audrey Carlan
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic format without expressed permission by the author.
You have been with me since the very beginning…
Your beta reads have saved me a hundred times over.
Thank you for believing in me, my stories,
and loving them as I love you and all your pieces.
Namaste my friend.
True love doesn’t exist. For years I thought it did. As a matter of fact, I thought I’d found it. Four times to be exact. Let’s see, there was:
Taylor. My high-school sweetheart. We were together all through high school. He was an all-star baseball player. Best the school had ever seen. Big, more muscles than brains, and a winky the size of a circus peanut. Probably because of all the steroids he was taking behind my back. He dumped me graduation night. Ran off with my virginity and the head cheerleader. I heard he was a college dropout working as a mechanic in some no-name town with two kids and a wife that no longer cheers for him.
Then there was the teacher’s assistant from my first psychology class in the Las Vegas Community College. Maxwell was his name. I thought that young boy walked on water. Turns out, he walked all over my heart by screwing a girl from every class he TA’d for. In his case, the TA stood for Tits and Ass, and he made sure he had plenty of it. That’s okay. He ended up getting two of the girls pregnant at the same time, then was kicked out of the college for misconduct. At nineteen, he already had two different baby mamas hounding him for child support. There was something ultimately poetic about that. Thank God I always required he wrap it before he stuck it in me.
In my twentieth year, I took a break. Spent all year waiting tables at the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas Strip. That’s where I met lucky number three, Benny. Only I wasn’t lucky and neither was he. He was a card counter. At the time, he said he was in sales, worked the casinos, and loved to play poker. We had a whirlwind romance, which wasn’t all that romantic. I think I spent most of the time drunk and underneath him, but alas, I believed he loved me. He told me all the time. For two months we drank; we swam in the hotel pool, and fucked all night in one of the rooms I was able to score from my buddy in housekeeping. I served him and his friends free drinks at the bar, and he’d give me a room key most nights. It worked. Until it didn’t. Benny got caught counting cards and disappeared. For the first year of his disappearance, I was frantic. Then I found out he’d been beaten to within an inch of his life. He spent time in the hospital and skipped out of town, ditching me completely without even a word.
The last mistake was the one you could say was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The same reason I was certain true love is something crafted by greeting card companies and people who write romance novels and romantic comedies. Blaine was his name, but it should have been Lucifer. He was a smooth-talking business man. I use the term businessman loosely. In actuality, he was a loan shark. The same loan shark that loaned my dad more money than he could possibly ever pay back. First he turned on me, then he turned on him. Back then I thought our love was the stuff of fairytales. Blaine promised me the world and delivered me hell on earth.
“That’s why I think you should just take this job from your auntie and call it a day.” My best friend, Ginelle, smacked her gum loudly into the receiver. I pulled the phone away from my ear. “It’s really the only way, Mia. How else are you going to get your dad out of this bind with Blaine and his goons?”
I sucked down the crisp water as the California sun split the drops into shards of speckled light across the rippled bottle. “I don’t know what to do, Gin. I don’t have that kind of money lying around. I don’t have any money lying around.” I sighed, and it sounded loud and overly dramatic even to my own ears.
“Look, you’ve always been in love with love—“
“Not anymore!” I reminded my lifelong best friend.
Through the phone, I could hear the noise of Vegas. People thought the desert was a quiet place. Not on the Strip. Slot machines tinkled and bells rang in a monotonous drone no matter where you were. You really couldn’t escape it. “I know, I know.” She shuffled the phone making it crackle in my ear. “But you like sex, right?”
“I’m not like Barbie, Gin. Math isn’t hard. Please don’t ask me stupid questions. I’m dying here.” Or rather, if I didn’t find a way to come up with one million dollars, my father would be the one dying.
Ginelle groaned and smacked her gum. “I mean, if you take the job as an escort, all you have to do is look pretty and fuck a lot, right? You haven’t been laid in months. Might as well enjoy the ride, eh?”
Leave it to Ginelle to find a way to make being a highly paid call girl sound like a dream job. “This is not Pretty Woman, and I am no Julia Roberts.”
I made my way over to my bike, a Suzuki GSXR 600, which I simply referred to as Suzi. She was the only thing of value I owned. Slinging a leg over the seat, I situated my phone and put it on speaker. I pulled the heavy weight of my long black tresses into three chunks and deftly braided them into one thick rope. “Look, I know you mean well, and I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not a whore. At least, I don’t want to be a whore.” The mere thought sent rivers of dread barreling through my chest. “But I’ve got to figure something out. Make some serious cash and fast.”
“Yeah, I hear ya. Let me know how the meeting with Exquisite Escorts goes. Call me tonight if you can. Shit, I’m going to be late for rehearsal, and I still have to get dressed.” Her voice turned labored, and I could picture her running through the casino to beat-feet it to work, cell phone plastered to her ear, not giving a shit who watched her or thought she was a lunatic. That’s what made her so special. She told it like it was…always. Just like me.
Ginelle worked for Dainty Dolls Burlesque Show in Vegas. Like the name, my best friend was short and sweet and knew exactly how to best shake her ass. Men from around the world came to watch the risqué show on the Strip. Still, she didn’t make enough to bail me or my old man out, not that I’d ever ask.
“Okay, love ya, bitch,” I said sweetly as I shoved my braid into the neck of my leather jacket so it fell down between my shoulder blades.
“Love ya more, skank.”
I turned the key on my bike, revved it up, and pushed on my helmet. Slipping the phone into my inside coat pocket, I hit the gas and sped off towards a future I didn’t want, but one I had no way to avoid.
“Mia! My sweet baby girl,” said my aunt as she wrapped her bone-thin arms around me, crushing me to her chest. She was strong for such a slight woman. Her black hair was pinned up into an elegant French twist. She had on a white blouse that was soft as silk, probably because it was silk. It was tucked into a fierce black leather pencil skirt, paired with sky-high stilettos that sported that red sole I’d heard so much about when randomly flipping through the latest Vogue. She looked beautiful. More than that, she looked expensive.
“Aunt Millie, it’s so good to see you,” I started to say when two fingers with long nails capped in blood red nail polish shushed me.
She tsked her tongue, “Ah ah, here you will call me Ms. Milan.” I rolled my eyes for dramatic effect. She narrowed hers in return. “Doll-face, first off, don’t roll your eyes. It’s rude and unladylike.” Her lips pinched into a tight line. “Second
“Chin up.” She smacked the underside of my chin forcing an immediate adjustment. Then she did the same to the bare patch of sensitive skin at the base of my spine where my tight concert t-shirt didn’t quite meet the painted-on jeans I adored. Instantly, I straightened my spine, thrusting my chest out. Her red-lipped smile widened showing perfectly bleached, straight teeth. The teeth were the nicest money could buy and a regular expense for the rich girls here in Los Angeles. I couldn’t spit five feet without hitting someone who sees their dentist more than is medically necessary, but just barely less than they see their dermatologist for their monthly Botox injections. Aunt Millie was obviously a regular paying customer at veneers-R-us. Still, as she kissed the edge of fifty, she definitely had it going on.
“Well, you’re definitely gorgeous. More so once we get you into something presentable and take your test shots.” Her face twitched into a grimace as she took in my very biker-on-the-go threads.
I stepped back and banged into a leather chair not far behind me. “I haven’t agreed to anything.”
Millie’s eyes narrowed into a point. “Did you not say that you needed a lot of money and fast? Something about my no good brother-in-law being in the hospital? In trouble?” She sat down slowly, crossed her legs, and laid both arms delicately on the white leather arms of the chair. Aunt Millie never liked my father. Which was unfortunate because he did the best he could as a single dad, especially when her sister, my mother, abandoned her two daughters. I was ten years old at the time. Madison was five and, to this day, doesn’t have even one tiny memory of our mother to hold onto to.
I bit my lip and looked into her pale green eyes. We looked so much alike. Aside from all the little nips and tucks she’d had, it was like looking into a mirror twenty-five years from now. Her eyes were the same light green, almost yellow, that I’d had people rave about my entire life. Green amethyst they’d say. Like looking into a rare green diamond. Our hair was exactly the same shade of jet black, so much so, that when the light hit it, you’d swear it was midnight blue.
Adjusting my shoulders against the uncomfortable chair, I took a breath. “Yeah, Dad’s got himself in big this time with Blaine.” Millie closed her eyes and shook her head. I bit my lip, the memory of my father pale and gaunt, bruises covering every inch of his body as he lay lifeless in the hospital. “He’s in a coma right now. Four weeks ago they beat him pretty bad. He still hasn’t woken up. The doctors think it could be the trauma in his brain, but we won’t know for a while. A lot of his bones were broken. He’s still in a body cast,” I finished.
“Jesus Christ. Savages,” she whispered and slid a hand up to her hair sweeping back a strand around her ear silently composing herself. I’d seen her do this before. Millie was a master manipulator and could control her emotions better than anyone I’d ever known. I coveted that talent. Needed it.
“Yeah. And last week when I was holding vigil at Dad’s bed, one of Blaine’s goons came to see me. Said, this was it for Dad. If they didn’t get their money with interest, they were going to kill him. Then they’d come after me and Maddy for the money. They called it “survivor’s debt.” Whatever that is. Either way, I have to come up with a million dollars and fast.”
Aunt Millie pinched her lips together and flicked her first nail against her thumb over and over again. The incessant ticking almost made me lose my shit. How could she be so calm, so callous? A man’s life, my life, and the life of my baby sister hung in the balance. She didn’t care for Dad, but she’d always had a soft spot for me and my sister.
Millie’s eyes shot to mine, fierce and sparkling with an unknown excitement. “It can be done, in a year. Do you think they’d give you a year if you made payments?” Her eyebrow came into a point as she focused her full attention on me.
The hairs on my arms started to rise, and I jutted my shoulders back in defense. I shook my head. “I don’t know. I’m sure Blaine wants his money, and since we had a thing a while ago, I could probably plead. That sick, sadistic fucker always liked me down on my knees begging.”
“Keep your sexual escapades to yourself, doll-face,” she grinned wickedly. “Looks like we’ll just have to put you to work right away. Top dollar accounts only. We need to move up everything. I’m going to need you here first thing tomorrow morning for the photo shoot. It will be an all-day event. We’ll shoot stills, some video, etc. I’ll have my guys get them up on the secure site by the following day.”
It was all happening so fast. The words “It can be done” rang through my ears like a life line, a raft out in open water surrounded by sharks, but still afloat.
“But do I have to sleep with them? I mean I know there’s different kinds of escorts.” I closed my eyes waiting until I felt something warm clasp my hand. She had covered both of mine with hers.
“Doll-face, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. But in order to make that kind of money, you ought to consider it. My clients and I have an unwritten agreement, if you will. My girls sleep with them, and they add twenty percent to their fee. That twenty percent is left in cash, in an envelope in my girl’s room. None of that is exchanged with me or my service, as prostitution is illegal in California.” Millie touched her chin with her index finger. “But my girls should get more for the convenience, don’t you think?” She winked. I nodded lamely, not knowing what to think but going along with it anyway.
“I’m going to book you by the month. It’s the only way to make a six figure paycheck each month.” Her pale green eyes looked bright. So much so that I almost believed this could be easy if I just had an open mind. “You’ll be flown wherever the man is, and be whatever he needs for that month. However, I do not sell sex. If you sleep with them, it’s because you want to, although when you see some of the men I have on a waiting list, you’ll think twice about not hopping into the sack, not to mention the extra payout.” She grinned and then stood. She walked around her glass desk, sat down, then turned to her computer silently dismissing me. I felt stuck to the leather seat incapable of moving. Thoughts of how the hell I’d make this work swirled like vicious vultures through my mind, hunting and pecking at my morals one by one as if they were living prey available for the taking.
“I’ll do it,” I heard myself whisper.
“Of course you will.” She looked at me over her computer. Her lips turned into a crooked grin. “You haven’t any other option if you want to save your father.”
The next day was a whirlwind of activity. I felt like Sandra Bullock’s character in Miss Congeniality. I’d been prodded at, scrubbed, plucked, and waxed to within an inch of my life. I felt like a human pin cushion and almost ended up punching out the beauty consultant Millie hired to “fix” me. Her words, not mine. I couldn’t deny the proof was in the pudding. When I looked in the mirror, I barely recognized the woman staring back. My long black hair was shinier than ever, falling into perfect waves down my back and over my shoulders. Everywhere the light touched my skin, a shimmer effect twinkled back. The normal sun-kissed tanned look that I’d worked on for weeks in the California sun now shone like a fine honey, really highlighting all of my best features. The dress she had me in was lavender, comfortable and slinky. Fitting perfectly along each rounded curve and toned edge giving it the desired effect. Sexy and sleek. I looked like a dark angel as the photographer set me on a cold white marble bench. He moved me this way and that, and before long, I actually got the hang of pouting prettily and staring blankly off into the distance devoid of emotion. That’s what I had to be now. Emotionless.
“Doll-face, these shots are magnificent! I always knew you’d be perfect for modeling.” She clicked at her computer as I walked around and glanced at what she was seeing. All the air left my lungs as I took in the image of myself the photographer had taken.
“Amazing.” I lost my words for a moment. “I can’t believe that’s me.” I shook my head as one image after another loaded up to the Exquisite Escorts website. If I didn’t know for a fact that was me, I’d never believe it.
A slow smile slipped across my aunt’s lips. “You’re very beautiful.” Her light-eyed gaze caught mine. “You look so much like…“
“Whatever.” I shook my head and leaned a hip on her glass desk not wanting to hear how much she thought I looked like mother. “What next?” I asked while crossing my arms over my chest feeling a strange desire to protect myself against whatever was going to happen next.
She leaned back into her black leather chair, her eyes twinkling. “Want to see your first assignment?”
A slow sense of dread crept up my spine, but I stiffened my shoulders and looked at her with a bland expression. “Game on.”
Millie chuckled then clicked a few times into her internet browser bringing up an image of one of the most excruciatingly gorgeous men I’d ever seen. There was nothing that could take away from this man’s stunning good looks. Even in the overtly corporate headshot his dirty blond hair, green eyes, and chiseled jaw were something to write home about. His hair was long, layered, and had that messy, yet perfectly styled, appearance that was all the rage right now. Something didn’t add up. The man couldn’t be more than thirty. Plus, he was not the type of guy who would need to hire a date. He looked like the type of man women fell all over themselves and became brainless husks of lust for.