by Anne Kane
eBook ISBN: 06599-02123
Brandi needs to make some money fast or she’ll lose her home. She applies for a job as a hostess at an adult club, but when she gets to the interview the boss turns out to be her old high school flame.
Brandi stared at her reflection in the mirror. The color suited her better than she’d expected, the lush black velvet contrasting nicely with the soft brown of her skin. She’d had her hair straightened last month, the day before her world fell apart, and it fell just below her shoulders in a shimmery dark curtain. Definitely a good investment. She twisted sideways, wiggling her butt. Yup. That skirt was short. Real short. Short enough she’d be afraid to bend over. Then again, if she bent over her breasts would probably spill right out of the low-cut top that formed the other half of the costume. Did people really work in outfits like this?
She gave her head a mental shake. Of course they did. If you wanted the big tips, you needed to show off a little of the merchandise.
Life wasn’t fair, and happily ever afters only happened on the pages of those sappy romance novels. Losing her job and then watching her husband desert her for a teenaged slut sure brought that one home in a hurry. She needed this job, needed to make some money to pay off the huge stack of bills he’d left her with before she lost her home as well, and in this labor market she couldn’t afford to be picky.
When she’d seen the ad for a hostess at a local after-hours club, she’d plastered what she hoped was a come-hither smile on her face and applied for the position. If nothing else, it would give her some breathing room while she figured out what she wanted to do. She’d be damned if she’d let that lecherous excuse for a husband ruin her life.
Opening the front closet, Brandi perused the selection of winter coats. Since she’d been reduced to using public transit, she’d better make sure the skimpy costume didn’t get her mugged before she got to the interview. The man who’d dropped off the costume had been very specific. The interview for the job was at three sharp, and the manager did not expect to be kept waiting.
Picking a thick wool coat that fell partway down her calves to hide the scandalous outfit, she made sure she buttoned it all the way up to her chin. Catching a chill and sneezing all over the manager would not improve her chances of getting this job. She grabbed her purse off the side table and locked the door behind her.
* * *
Oh, shit! Brandi folded her hands behind her back and tried not to stare. Greg Bridger. With the way her luck had been going lately, why hadn’t she realized it would be him doing the hiring when she desperately needed the job? Greg Bridger was the guy she’d spent her entire high school career dating. The guy everyone expected her to marry. The guy she’d walked out on for the worthless piece of trash who’d just deserted her for the pom-pom queen.
She hadn’t kept track of him for the past ten years, hadn’t really given him much thought while she’d been so entranced with her scumbag of a husband. Maybe she should have. He carried himself with a self assurance that spoke volumes. He wore his dark hair short these days, in a cut that flattered the rugged lines of his face. Six feet tall, he had the muscular frame of someone who spent hours every week at the gym. That hadn’t always been the case.
Although he’d been quiet in high school, more of a geek than a jock, Greg had always had plans and dreams, big dreams. Somehow she never thought of him settling for a safe job like manager of an adult club, even if it was the most popular club on the east side of town. Maybe he’d decided to trade in his dreams of corporate success for that fantastic body.
She had no idea if she had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting this job. If Greg recognized her, he gave no sign. He circled her slowly, his eyes impersonal as he made notes on the clipboard he was holding. Was it her imagination, or did his eyes linger with just a hint of lust on her cleavage? And should that upset her or give her hope?
Brandi made an effort to rein in her errant libido and tried not to fidget. It wasn’t her fault. Seeing Greg again had been a shock, and reawakened feelings she’d long forgotten. He’d been an enthusiastic, if somewhat awkward lover in high school, and he’d matured impressively in the last ten years. Sex appeal was stamped all over his rugged frame, and if she were honest with herself, she had to admit that her husband had never really satisfied her in the bedroom. She’d always longed for him to be a bit more inventive, but he’d never really done more than give her a quick slam-bam before he’d rolled over and commenced snoring.
After the first few disappointing months, she’d resigned herself to a less than inspired sex life. She was surprised to feel the corner of her mouth tugging upward as she wondered if the little tart he’d run off with was getting bored with his insipid technique yet.
“Do you find this amusing? I was under the impression you wanted this job.” Frost tinged Greg’s voice as he stopped in front of her, one dark eyebrow raised in query.
“Not at all, sir.” It was fairly obvious he didn’t recognize her, and personal history aside, she really did need this job. “I was thinking of something else. It won’t happen again.”
“See that it doesn’t.” His voice rang with disapproval. “I expect my staff to pay close attention to my instructions at all times.”
“Of course.” Damn. She really needed this job.
“Well, then.” His gaze swept over her in frank assessment before he consulted the tablet. “I have to say, I don’t feel you are suited for the position.”
Brandi felt her heart drop. She really needed this job. “You don’t? I’ll work really hard, I promise.” She hated the whining note in her voice. “I’ll do whatever you want me to. Just give me a chance.”
A hint of a smile hovered at the corner of his mouth. “I’m afraid not. We are looking for someone younger, someone the clients will keep buying more drinks from in the hopes of getting lucky.” His gaze swept over her briefly. “You are definitely not the cheerleader type. The clients would take one look at you and know they were outclassed. I do, however, have another opening that you might be interested in. If you would care to take a seat out in the lobby while I finish up here?”
Crap! He’d as much as told her she was over the hill. Definitely not something you want to hear from an ex-lover. Then again, he had mentioned another position. She’d come looking for a job, not a lover. At least he wasn’t holding their shared past against her, assuming he even recognized her. He’d given no signs of it.
As long as it was legal and there was a paycheck involved, she’d take the job. Turning, she went back to the lobby and took a seat, trying not to look too conspicuous in her scandalous black velvet outfit. Not an easy task. It felt like forever as she leafed through a pile of old magazines.
“Ms. Winter?” The receptionist smiled at her. “Mr. Bridger will see you now.”
“Thank you. Do I look okay?” She felt her cheeks flush as she stumbled over her words.
The young receptionist smiled sympathetically. “You look fine. Not a hair out of place. Are you ready, or would you like a few minutes to freshen up?”
“I’m fine.” No way was she going to keep Greg waiting.
“This way, then.”
Brandi followed the young girl back through the interview room, pausing to let her open the door to the inner office and announce her.
Greg stood looking out the window, turning as the receptionist beckoned Brandi into the room. She gave her an encouraging smile before closing the door behind her with a soft click.
The man’s dark good looks and commanding manner sent another wave of heat rolling through Brandi. He’d matured since high school, gaining an air of authority. Definitely not the eager puppy-dog boyfriend she remembered.
His dark gaze slid over her in a frank appraisal. “It’s been a long time, Brandi. I was surprised to see your name on the list of applicants. I don’t usually take an interest in the hiring of temporary staff in any of my enterprises, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see you again. I thought your husband didn’t like you to work?”
Her name rolled off his tongue in a deliciously smooth slide, sending a shiver of memory through her. Lordy, she needed to get herself under control. “I’m not with him anymore. He’s moved on to greener pastures. I take it, then, that you’re more than the manager here?”
He smiled. “You know I always dreamed big, and I’ve done okay for myself these past few years. My company owns several adult lounges in the tri-city area, and we’re negotiating a deal for a location in the hotel and shopping complex out by the airport.” He shook his head. “Your husband is a fool. You’re better off without him.” His eyes narrowed. “Are you okay with that?”
She nodded slowly, realizing it was the truth. Her pride was hurt, but her heart remained intact. She’d stopped loving her husband a long time ago. “I am. I think I knew it was over for a while. I just need to get myself into a better financial position, and to do that I need to get a job. Not working all those years leaves a big hole in my resume.”
He studied her for a moment. “Well, I should be able to help with that. I can tell you right now that you wouldn’t have enjoyed the hostess job. The hours are long, and you’d be depending on being able to generate a decent amount of tips. I do, however, have another position available.” He walked around her, once again studying her like an artist looking for a suitable model. “A position where you can put that luscious body of yours to work for you.”
She opened her mouth to reply, and then closed it without making a sound. What on earth was he talking about? Was he propositioning her? And more importantly, why didn’t the thought offend her?
“Let me explain.” A ghost of a smile crossed his face as he walked back to his desk, seating himself in the expensive leather chair behind it. He waved in her direction, indicating she should take the remaining seat. “I’m throwing a party for some close friends. I do it every year around this time, but this year I thought I’d add a bit of whimsy to the evening by making it a costume affair. I am currently unattached, and I need a date for the evening. Of course I want every man there to envy me, and as soon as I saw you in that outfit I realized you were exactly the women I wanted. Now, let me make this perfectly clear, this is an adult party, and the entertainment will be of an adult nature. If you would be willing to be my partner, I would make sure that you would be well compensated for the evening. Does five thousand sound fair?”
“Five thousand dollars?” That would make a sizeable dent in the pile of bills on her desk.
He nodded. “That is what my financial controller assures me is a reasonable figure for this type of engagement.”
“To accompany you to a party?”
“Yes.” He seemed amused by her reaction. “Dressed in that outfit, of course. I think it suits you admirably.”
“What exactly would you expect me to do at this party?” Desperate or not, she really should be asking a few questions. She wasn’t quite desperate enough to sell her body.
He smiled gently, his dark eyes gleaming with an emotion she couldn’t quite place. “Nothing you don’t want to, although I certainly don’t rule out consensual sex. You know I’ve always found you very attractive, and we used to get along quite well in that department. And, of course, you have to know you look drop-dead gorgeous in that outfit. I enjoy being seen with a beautiful woman, one whom I know is not playing an angle or trying to deceive me. Success does have its pitfalls. With you at my side, I can relax and enjoy the party.”
“Been betrayed by a girlfriend lately, have you?” Look cute and make Greg’s ex jealous. Given current events in her life, this suddenly seemed like a fantastic job. Too bad Steve wouldn’t be there to see her having fun without him.
A wry twist of his lips confirmed her guess. “Let’s just say I’m not eager to re-enter the meat market just yet.”
She nodded sympathetically. “I know that feeling. Very well, then. I’ll do it. When is this event?”
“Next Saturday evening.” He opened a drawer and pulled out a piece of paper. “This is a standard casual employment contract. You can take it home and have your lawyer look it over if you’d like.” He handed it across the desk. “My assistant, Mr. Jenkins, will give you half the fee up front when you return the signed contract, and the rest will be payable at the end of the event.”
Brandi scanned the sheet of paper. Not much to it, really. She agreed to act the part of his date for the evening, not revealing to any of the other guests that she was a paid companion, and in return he would pay her the sum of five thousand American dollars. “Looks fine. Do you have a pen? I can sign this now.”
Greg produced a pen, his mouth curving upward in the first genuine smile she’d seen since the beginning of the interview. “Excellent.”
He pushed the intercom button. “Mr. Jenkins, please prepare a check for Ms. Winters in the amount of twenty-five hundred dollars and bring it in.”
Brandi signed the form, dating it in the space indicated before handing it back to him. The door opened silently and Mr. Jenkins crossed the room to hand a check to Greg, who signed his name to the bottom in a careless scrawl before handing it to her. The assistant disappeared with a quiet efficiency.
“Mr. Jenkins will give you a copy of the signed contract on your way out, and I’ll touch base with you later in the week to arrange details. I will of course have a limo pick you up on the night of the party. If you have any other questions, please contact him here at the office. He handles the details of my social life.” He dismissed her with a sharp nod, transferring his attention to some papers on his desk. Just as she was about to leave, he spoke. “Brandi, wait.”
Brandi turned¸ her hand already on the doorknob. He’d changed his mind. She’d known this was too good to be true. “Yes?”
He crossed the room, his dark eyes gleaming with some indefinable emotion. Grasping her wrist, he pulled her gently toward him. “I remember how much I loved to hear you say my name when I kissed you goodnight. Let’s see if it still sounds the same.”
“Greg.” She said it softly, realizing the word sounded like an invitation as soon as it left her lips.
He heard it too, and used one hand to tilt her chin up before he lowered his head to sear a scorching kiss across her lips. Time stood still as he explored her mouth, using his tongue to invade her in a way that made her knees melt. The kiss deepened, his lips becoming more demanding. He tightened his arms around her, his fingers brushing the bare tops of her breasts where they bulged out of the black velvet costume.
Brandi’s heart raced, and she leaned against him, opening her mouth in answer to his unvoiced question. She’d never felt this way before, so sure of herself and yet willing to let him take the lead. He’d changed from the enthusiastic lover she remembered, matured into someone who took charge as if it were his right. His hands roamed her body, the scraps of black velvet the only barrier to their explorations. It seemed like ages before he lifted his head, releasing her from the sensual spell he’d woven around her.
“Very well then, Brandi. I’ll see you on Saturday evening.” A thoughtful look adorned his face as he watched her stumble from the room.
* * *
Brandi sat in her living room, the check on the table in front of her. It seemed surreal. Her husband couldn’t be bothered to stay with her, but the man she’d walked out on ten years ago was willing to pay her a huge amount of money just to spend one night in her company? Life really was stranger than fiction.