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3

This is how we end up at the hotel restaurant downstairs. I offered to take her out would have preferred it after the strangeness of our meeting. To text a friend of mine at the hottest restaurant in Tanglewood and secure a table for us.


It would have given me a sense of normalcy. Most of the women I see prefer to be courted before I take them to bed. And I enjoy courting them.


Beau Ciel has predictably a pretentious matre d’. Less predictably Bea greets him with the smile of an old friend. “I’m sorry I didn’t make reservations Pierre.”


Of course not he tells her. She needn’t ever he tells her.


Then we are led to a private table tucked behind heavy velvet curtains. The ceiling has been painted with a thousand stars on a dark background. It feels like looking up in a dream.


“You come here often?” I ask keeping my voice casual.


She studies the menu like it holds the answer if she can only find it. I would bet that she knows every single item listed there. That she’s tried them all. “Mostly by room service. I don’t usually come down.”


I warn myself not to ask how long she’s lived in the hotel. It’s too personal of a question even for two individuals who are going to have sex. The only purpose would be to assuage my curiosity. It would not set her at ease. It would not seduce her. I must not ask.


“How long have you lived in L’Etoile?”


Damn.


The words are out before I can even comprehend them. I have only ever been charming with women. It is my one skill in life discovered before I knew what I was doing honed over the years. How has this one slip of a woman reduced me to a bumbling first date?


A faint flush touches her cheeks.


“You don’t have to answer” I tell her because she shouldn’t answer.


“Ten years” she says so soft I barely hear it. Then her eyes meet mine the soft green of them like a fog I don’t want to clear. “That’s weird isn’t it?”


It’s very very weird. “Of course not. You must love it here.”


She lifts one slender shoulder in a shrug. “It’s safe” she says.


I swallow down every other question that comes to mind. She can’t be much older than twenty. Ten years means she lived here since she was a child. There was no sign of a parent in that hotel suite. So who raised her there?


An image flashes through my mind of the princess locked in a tower her hair dropped out of the window for a prince to climb up. I have always been dramatic mind. This isn’t anything new. Un rêveur my mother called me. Anyway this girl could never be the princess from the story. Her hair is a wild mass of curls completely unsuitable for climbing rope.


“Where do you live?” she asks a challenge in her voice.


I understand that she’s turning the tables attempting to make me feel uncomfortable the way that she is uncomfortable. There is nothing personal about my living space however. “A loft in a recent development on the east side. Beige carpet. Granite counters. It is also safe.”


Her lips twist as if she’s fighting a smile. “That sounds very…”


“Boring?”


“I was going to say normal.”


I lean back in the chair crossing one ankle over my knee. This is a conversation I’m comfortable with. The woman’s curiosity about the life of a high-priced male escort. It doesn’t bother me. It isn’t even about me. They aren’t asking about Hugo Bellmont the man. They want the persona. That’s all I have to give them anyway.


“Did you expect me to have shag carpets and a mirror on the ceiling?”


She pauses as if fighting with herself. In the end her curiosity must get the better of her because she blurts out “Why would you have a mirror on the ceiling?”


“To watch you” I tell her my voice low and blunt. “While you ride me. To see your beautiful ass move as you make yourself come to turn you over so that you can see mine.”


Her mouth is open eyes wide. I’ve shocked her. “Oh.”


“But we aren’t going to have sex in my boring loft with its boring walls. After we’ve eaten and enjoyed each other’s company I’m going to ask you to take me upstairs.”


She makes a sound like a squeak. I want her to make it again when I’m inside her.


“And you will say yes Bea won’t you?”


“Maybe not” she says but it’s a thin rebellion. I can hear the arousal in her voice.


“You will because you were curious about the pleasure. You didn’t want it which is interesting. Maybe sex without orgasms seems to you like your penthouse—safe. But I won’t be safe sweetheart. I will make you come so hard you cannot breathe.”


Her pretty breasts rise and fall under the black dress. “That is—that is—”


Before she can tell me what that is the waiter arrives. He unveils an expensive Bordeaux which is on the house. I order the steak au poivre medium rare to give her time to get her bearings. She does not even glance at the menu as she orders for herself a blanquette de veau in an accent more Parisian than my own. Interesting.


When the waiter takes our menus away I busy myself with my cuff link. I have learned the art of foreplay which extends outside of the bedroom. It starts right now when I make her feel something only to retreat. The absence makes it sweeter.


Except she takes me by surprise. “Hugo” she says almost tasting the name.


I look up at her this fairy creature at her wildfire hair and sea moss eyes. Her smile is all the more devastating because it’s pointed at herself.


“You aren’t even hungry are you?”


My eyebrows go up. That isn’t what I expected her to say. “Hungry? No. But I’m always willing to eat especially food that is delicious and rare.”


We aren’t talking about food. “Don’t you ever get tired of it?” she asks.


“Well if you hadn’t already told me I would know now that you haven’t had sex by the question alone. At least not good sex. If you had you would know the answer to that. We could eat all night and I would never tire.”


* * *


It’s when we get to the creme brulee that I realize something has changed. The conversation is still foreplay but we aren’t talking about sex. Even in veiled terms. We’re talking about childhood and dreams. We’re talking about intimacy which is all the more disturbing.


“It’s the cars” I admit my weakness. “I would see them pull up night after night with rich men and beautiful women. These Porches and Bugattis. I knew that one day that would be me.”


“And now that is you” she says pride in her voice as if anyone would consider being a prostitute a success.


“I suppose—” Suspicion narrows my eyes. “How do you know what I drive?”


She flushes a deep crimson. “I may have seen you out the window.”


“Really?” I ask because it’s the right thing to say. It makes her feel charmed but the truth is I’m the one charmed by her. This sweet mysterious creature.


“I don’t usually use that window” she says the words rushing together. “It’s too bright from the lights on that street unless I keep the drapes shut. But this time… well I was over there.”


“And?” I prod gently because there’s clearly more.


“And there was so much dust. I sneezed and then the lamp fell over and then Minette got so freaked out she ran behind the dresser and wouldn’t come out.”


I don’t mean to laugh but the image of this girl watching for me out the window like a nervous prom date is too adorable. “I’m sorry” I tell the hands that are hiding her face. “I’m really not laughing at you.”


“I think you are” she says her voice muffled.


“Bea. Bea look at me.”


Her hands finally drop revealing this wry twist on her lips that I’m coming to recognize. “Are you done now?”


“Only getting started darling. But I do have to ask why do you live here? Besides the fact that it’s safe. You must have money to go anywhere.”


At some point in the meal there was a bottle of wine. It hasn’t made me drunk but there is a pleasant lightness to me. Any walls I might have had are gone.


The same might be true for Bea because she leans close as if to tell me a secret. “Because I don’t leave. I can’t.”


“Don’t leave where?”


“L’Etoile.”


“You mean you aren’t allowed to move?” I understand what she’s telling me but I don’t want to understand. This woman is so young so full of life. How can she be imprisoned?


“No I mean I don’t leave the hotel. Like

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to go to the grocery store. Or the park. Or anywhere.”


Jesus. “How long has it been since you left? I mean you weren’t born here were you?”


“No I wasn’t born here. I moved in when I was ten. I was… troubled you know? The way only a rich kid can be.” She laughs at herself the sound hollow. “So my guardian he got me a tutor who came every day. A therapist who came every week for all the good that did.”


I blow out a breath. So many years in the tower. “That’s terrible.”


She makes a face self-deprecating. “Yes it’s a hard life living in the penthouse.”


“‘I am a winged creature who is too rarely allowed to use its wings.’”


With a strange look she replies “‘Ecstasies do not occur often enough.’”


“So you can quote the Diary of Anais Nin but you do not believe in pleasure?”


“It’s not that I don’t believe in pleasure” she says her voice painfully earnest. “I’m sure it’s very nice. But it isn’t necessary tonight. Only the act itself.”


“The act?” I’m taunting her and it’s only a little about foreplay.


“Fine” she says speaking fast like she does when she’s nervous. “Fine. I want to have sex with you. I want you to have sex with me. You know the whole thing.”


There’s more she isn’t telling me and it feels important. I have never asked a woman her motives for hiring me before. It’s never mattered. “Because you can’t leave?”


“Yes because I want to do this thing and I need to do it here.”


I glance behind her at the many meals happening around us. There are women who look at me. And men. I am somewhat ostentatious with my suit and my assuredness. But even beside me she shines. “And there has never been a man passing through the hotel that you have wanted? Someone sitting at the bar who bought you a drink?”


“There’s you” she says softly which isn’t really an answer.


It’s a distraction and a successful one. Because for the first time in a long time maybe ever I want her. Not her body or her money. I want to unlock her secrets. “Then let’s go upstairs and we will see if we can make those ecstasies come more often.”


* * *


Entering the penthouse this time knowing that Bea lives here is a revelation. Minette greets us with a plaintive meow winding around our ankles as if we both belong.


There is a coatrack beside the entrance draped with a herringbone coat. A tightly wrapped umbrella sits in the base. I know without touching them that they won’t be damp despite the weather because Bea didn’t go outside today. She didn’t go outside yesterday. How long has it been since she stepped foot outside this hotel?


“Do you want some coffee?” she asks in that too fast way. I’m not sure whether she’s asking as a kind of date etiquette or whether she wants a reprieve but I say what I always tell my clients.


“Yes please. I would love some.”


I follow her to the corner of the suite where a wet bar would be. It’s been expanded I see to include a small two-range stove top with a wardrobe beside it that I assume serves as a pantry. It’s still less than even a small apartment would offer but much more utility than any ordinary penthouse suite. A gleaming mini-fridge must hold the meager contents of her food supply when she doesn’t order down for baked camembert or oysters.


What a life she leads both decadent and desolate.


Her hands are shaking. The mug trembles for a beat too long against the metal plate of the fancy machinery revealing her weakness. I take it from her gently setting it aside.


“Darling” I say softly.


She gives a small shudder. It isn’t quite a sob. That’s the only warning I have before she crumples not against anything not on top of anything it’s more like she becomes suddenly small. Tiny. Like she’s shoved herself behind a dresser in an effort to be invisible.


I wrap her in my arms before I can think better of it. That’s what I’m here for isn’t it? To provide comfort with my body. That’s all I am—my hands or my mouth. My cock. And if that makes me feel cold and paper-thin it does not matter.


This woman though she seems to like me for my arms.


I stroke her back softly murmuring words of assurance. In French I realize belatedly but it doesn’t matter. She proved downstairs she could understand and the language doesn’t matter. Not for what we’re doing here.


Her body feels impossibly slight in my grasp like smoke that will disappear if I hold too hard. But her hair—God her hair. It does not care that she is trying to make herself small; it’s a perfect bronze cloud tickling my nose curling gently into my skin.


Her shoulders shake against me. The sound of her worry and her grief carve themselves into my skin leaving marks I’m not sure will be gone by morning.


“Bea.” I tilt her tear-stained face up with my thumb and forefinger. “Tell me what’s wrong. Why have you called me here tonight? Why are you hurting?”


“I’m embarrassed” she says her cheeks a deep red. “I mean I know I should have gone downstairs to the bar. That makes way more sense than paying someone to have sex with me.”


“Why didn’t you?” I’m genuinely curious.


She speaks into my chest her voice muffled. “I did. Five nights in a row I wore this dress and went downstairs. Every night someone would send me a drink.”


My voice is softer now. “Did you accept?”


“I tried to. I took a sip and gave them a smile when they sat down at the stool next to me. But it was too real somehow. Like they would expect something more than… you know.”


“Sex” I say with gentle encouragement.


“Sex” she repeats.


The word sends a soft breath of heat into my cock. God this woman. Even hearing her say the word is enough to make me hard what will it feel like to peel the black dress from her body? To hear her moans and sighs and a thousand other sounds?


“I have no expectation” I tell her. “Not even sex. If you want to sit with me and recite nursery rhymes that is what we’ll do. Or if you’d like me to leave. However…”


She looks at me hope in her green eyes. “However?”


“However it would be an honor to take you to bed tonight.”


“Even though I haven’t done it before?”


Especially because of that.


So much that it terrified me before when she first told me. But I’ve had time to consider it over dinner and besides the caveman-like effect it has on my body how hard she makes me it makes sense that I should be the one to do this.


One of those assholes at the bar what if they don’t make her come? What if they demand more from her than she wants to give? No the way to make this good for her is to do it myself.


Even though I haven’t done it before?


“Even though” I tell her my voice grave.


She smiles then the parting of clouds. “My friend Harper said this would be a thousand times more awkward than a one-night stand but it’s not. It’s easier. Is that wrong?”


“It’s perfectly right.”


I said it to reassure her but I’m the one reassured when I stroke my thumb across her cheek. It feels perfectly right to bend my head and breathe in the faint smell of lavender. Perfectly right to press my mouth against her plush lips.


She opens her mouth with an acquiescent sigh and I know she’s still finding this easier. The men downstairs none of them could have given her this. There’s seduction in my movements but confidence too. The kind of confidence that can only come knowing I can please her.


An entire city of men who would have had her who would have been happy for the privilege of a single night no money exchanging hands and she paid for me.


I wasn’t lying to her before. It will be an honor.

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