“Is this what I think it is?”
He merely looked at me, a sly smile wrinkling the corners of his eyes.
“Seriously?” I said. I knew these things happened, but as much as I traveled, I’d never been approached by someone like him.
“You’re shocked,” he said, a lock of his blond hair falling over his eye. He didn’t bother to brush it away.
“Of course I’m shocked. I’ve never…”
He leaned very close and directed his words to my ear, finishing my sentence. “Paid for sex?”
His breath sent a shiver down my spine. I clenched my thighs together and squirmed in my seat.
He sat upright again and gazed down at me through those long, thick lashes. “My name is Luke.” He held his hand out for me to shake.
I’d already shaken fifty hands that day. Some hands I wanted to shake. Others made me wipe my palm on my skirt immediately after. When you’re in Washington, D.C., you tend to shake a lot of hands.
So it shouldn’t have been a big deal to wrap my fingers around his palm, give it a respectable squeeze and let go. I didn’t expect the electric charge that shimmered up my arm.
He sucked in a breath and looked at our joined hands. I figured he was a good actor. Of course I knew it was impossible that this guy, this Adonis, would want me. He’d chosen me for commerce. He’d singled me out as a likely customer. In a bar full of twenty-somethings, I probably looked like the one most desperate for attention. Not to mention the one most likely to have the means to pay for his services.
I wanted very much to leave.
The problem was, what he’d said, his touch, the way he looked at me, the gasp he made, no matter how fake, no matter how false it all may have been, in a place buried very deep inside me, I wanted what he was selling.
He stood and moved his bar stool a little closer until he sat directly next to me. He leaned his shoulder into mine and continued with his sales pitch.
“Haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like? Wondered what would happen if the man you were with was only there to make sure you were pleased?”
The answer to that question was absa-fucking-lutely. But would paying someone, even someone as handsome and sexy as Luke, do it for me? Could I pay for sex and still enjoy it?
When she sighed deep and long, I buried my face in her hair, wrapping my arms around her, tucking her in and I knew she could feel the staccato beat of my heart. She smelled like almonds and spice. The feel of her curls against the palm of my hand and on my cheeks sent shivers through me. I was almost embarrassed by the way I trembled.
“Mercedes, Mercedes,” I said, squeezing her closer. “I like saying your name.” She chuckled, the sound muffled against my chest. “Hmmm, I like the sound of that.”
She shook her head no, slowly, as if to refuse the things that were happening whether she wanted them to or not. “Oh, Mercedes. Why is it so hard for you to believe that I’m interested in you? Can’t you see what you’ve done to me?” I took her hand and lay it on my chest, the pulse a relentless beat under her palm.
She looked up, those questions in her eyes. I could have kissed her then, but she let go of my hand and stepped back, her eyebrows drawn together.
“I am at least fifteen years older than you. Look at you,” she said, pacing now, walking back and forth in front of me. “Just look at you.”
I shrugged. “Yes please, look at me. I was born like this. I’ve got a pretty face, so what?” I grabbed her arm to stop her nervous movements. “Now stop and look at you,” I said. “Understand that I’m not just trying to pick you up. I’m not pretending to be attracted to you. I’m just …” I shook my head, unsure what else I could say to convince her. “I’m not–Luke the escort now.” I took a deep breath and stepped closer to her, twined my finger into her hair again and pulled her head back until she looked up to meet my gaze. “I’m Luke the man that wants to get to know you. I could come back tomorrow if you’d prefer. We could have a real date. Just, let me show you that I mean what I say.”
When she didn’t say no, I allowed myself a small feeling of victory. I released her hair, ran my hand down her back to her waist and drew her gently to me. Her face softened as she mulled it over, I could almost hear her wheels turning, considering, weighting the possibilities. It would have been so easy to bend down and kiss her. I couldn’t stop myself from licking my lips. The movement drew her attention and she stared at my mouth. I wanted to taste her, but I knew it would only give her an excuse to run away.
“It’s still early,” I said. “One more glass of wine? Please.”
She dragged her attention away from my lips. Did she look disappointed? Perhaps she’d wanted me to kiss her.
She stepped out of my embrace, straightened her dress and turned to walk toward the hotel. She’d given me a reprieve, more time to convince her that I was being honest. She reached her hand out behind her and I gladly took it and couldn’t help but smile at her simple gesture of acceptance.