Author: Stephanie Brother

I wish I knew what was going on inside his head. I listen to the sounds of our breathing and the distant beat of the music from the club. Life is going on outside this room but it feels remote. Existing here feels as though I’ve stepped into a bubble, away from my usual existence. I don’t think I realized how much I was just going through the motions until now. As stupid as I feel for admitting it, I feel safe here and the prospect of opening the door to this shabby room and slipping back into my life fills me with dread.

Life has taught me one very harsh lesson; counting on there being a tomorrow is a dangerous business. My husband had plans before he died, lists of things he wanted to do, books he wanted to read and places we were going to travel to. He hated his job but didn’t make the effort to find something that would have fulfilled him more. Everything was put off until another day, until there just weren’t any more days.

“Jessie,” Ryan says softly, reaching out to stroke my cheek. “Will you come with me tonight?”

My heart skitters at his invitation. What is he thinking? That he can buy my time here but invite me out for freebies when I finish work? I’m stupid for feeling a little stab of hurt. I know what I do for a living and I know what people think about it too. No man is going to come to a place like this and want to make me his girl. No one is coming here to find a wife. His eyes are searching my face and I know I have to answer. “Where?”

He pauses, focusing on a strand of my hair that he’s rolling between his fingers. I can feel the tension in his body as he contemplates what to say. His hesitation makes this feel like he’s about to say something important. Something that he’s considering carefully. “I’m taking some time off,” he says. “A month. I hate being alone. Will you come and stay with me? As a companion, or more if you would be willing. I’m willing to pay you fifty thousand dollars cash for one month of your time.”

I almost choke. Did he say fifty thousand dollars?

“A companion?” I want to laugh because that isn’t what I was expecting him to say at all. I feel as though I’ve entered into an episode of Downton Abbey without knowing it. Sitting here in my underwear, I don’t exactly feel like companion material, and as a customer of the Kitty Cat Club, Ryan shouldn’t be the kind of man who would suggest that.

“You sound amused,” he says, and I think I see a little color rise on the soft parts of his cheeks just beneath his eyes. I get a sudden urge to kiss him there, to feel the heat of his embarrassment on my lips, but I don’t. Instead, I lean back into the sofa and look up at the ruined ceiling.

“A companion,” I say again. “Fifty grand.” Just the sound of that rolling off my tongue sends a shiver over the skin of my arms. Fifty thousand bucks is money that would change my life. It’s money that would get me back on my feet. It’s also way more money that I can believe anyone would be prepared to pay for a month of my time, without me having to do some seriously terrible shit.

“What would I need to do?”

He looks me dead in the eyes as though he wants me to see that he’s genuine and trustworthy. All things that I’m doubting at this precise moment. “You would need to stay at my home. Accompany me to social occasions and on trips. Spend mealtimes and weekends with me.”


He runs his hand through his hair, a stress-tell that I find endearing and completely unexpected. Why is he nervous? I’m just Jessie, and if he has fifty grand to spend on hiring me to keep him company for a month then he must be pretty important at doing something.

“It’s been a long time since I had someone,” he says gently.

I blink slowly at that admission. He’s the kind of man who could find a different woman every day of the week, so knowing that he hasn’t been making the most of his god-given talents makes me feel sad. “It’s been a long time for me too,” I say softly.

The moment hangs between us like a fragile line of spider’s web. Two lonely souls contemplating something that will take us both somewhere we’ve been before but lost to the perils of life.

Things like this just don’t happen to people like me. This is Pretty Woman territory. Or Christian Grey-esque.

“Fifty thousand?” I say again.

He nods and reaches into his pocket and pulls out an envelope. My eyes widen as he tugs out a stack of bills. “I have it here and I’ll give it to you now. I know we don’t know each other enough for you to trust me, but I hope that if you have this upfront that it will be enough for you to know I’m genuine about the proposal.”

He hands me the envelope which feels heavy in my hands. Heavy with the weight of a decision.

I’m a stripper not a whore. I might sell my body in a way but looking is a whole lot different from touching. This is not a decision that I can make sitting in my underwear next to this man who both intrigues me and terrifies me in equal measure. I feel a little lost. I wish I could call my sister and tell her, but she doesn’t know what I do and how would I explain any of this? As long as I keep this job a secret it feels like a blip in my life that I can move on from without it tarnishing my future. If I take Ryan up on his proposal would the next month feel the same? I could agree to what he’s asked of me and tell no one. If only I knew, could I get away with it?

But this isn’t just about my reputation, it’s about my heart too. I know what I’m like. I can’t get involved with someone sexually without my heart somehow getting sucked in. I think women are made differently like that. Men can see sex as a purely physical release. They can reduce it to a transaction in the way that Ryan has and think nothing of it. I look at Ryan and I can’t work him out. I think he’s a good man. Well, as good as a man can be who finds it necessary to pay to see women take their clothes off. I know he’s been through a lot; things that I can empathize with. But I don’t understand this. He’s a good-looking man. He has presence and charisma. I’m sure with all his natural attributes and the addition of his obvious wealth that he could get a woman without paying for it. What is driving him to do this?

“Are you going to say something?” he asks.

I want to find out the answer to my question but I just don’t feel able to ask it. Is it stupid that I’m considering saying yes to this outlandish proposition, one that will most probably involve me having sex with this man, but I don’t feel comfortable enough to ask him a simple question? I know the answer. It’s completely ridiculous. But this is about fifty thousand dollars, money that will get the monkey off my back.

My life really needs changing for the better.

His eyes are soft when I finally look to them for reassurance. He puts his hand to my cheek and gently strokes back a lock of my hair. My hearts skips at the tenderness, and I know in that moment what my answer will be.

“Yes,” I say softly, and that one word feels like the most important that I have spoken since the day I said ‘I do’.






She said yes.

I’ll be honest and say that I thought she would. When fifty grand is on the table, there aren’t many people who’ll turn it down. Well, not many women who work in a place like this. It’s why I brought it with me. I’m not a man who likes to take chances. I size up my opposition and find their buttons. Then it’s just a matter of pressing them.

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