Ryan James is a professional escort. For Ryan, it’s the perfect mix of challenge and satisfaction. He’s handsome and charming, and the constant variety ensures he’s never bored. One day he’s attending a special exhibition at the River Street Art Gallery with a political wannabe--a man who holds Ryan’s attention but can’t hold his liquor. Then later delivering the man to the home of a campaign contributor with no stops on the way. The next, he’s preserving the anonymity of a restaurant reviewer, showing a young tourist the town, or helping a spurned lover deal with a broken heart. For his clients, Ryan is a dream come true. He’s everything they could have wished for and more.
“So, are we ready to move on to our next appointment, Mr. Becker?”
“Almost.” He checked his watch and frowned. “There’s just enough time left for me to work my way back to the exit and chat up anyone I missed.”
I nodded, having guessed as much. “Would you like me to find you another glass of sparkling water before you begin?”
He almost smiled at me again. “I’d appreciate it.”
“Coming right up.” I slipped out of the room, intent on my errand. At the bar, I ordered two sparkling waters with lemon twists. I handed Brock a glass and he murmured his thanks before he turned his back to the room with me as a shield and gulped down half of it. I took a few sips and checked out the well-dressed couple strolling into the room. I’d not seen them before so I cleared my throat. Brock looked at me.
“Over your right shoulder. You didn’t speak with that couple.”
He handed me his glass and left me to return it to the bar. How much trouble could he get into without me at his side? I didn’t think much, but I hurried to complete the task. I stopped in my tracks when I returned to the spot where I’d left Brock.
His face was transformed by a genuine smile as he talked with the stylish pair. The handsome, brooding features morphed into a countenance full of vitality and charm. I knew in that moment I was seeing the real man, the one he kept hidden…a revelation that started a chain reaction of thoughts and feelings that surprised me but I was quick to suppress. I took a deep breath and joined them, standing a little behind Brock’s left side.
The woman smiled at me as Brock and her companion talked about the need for noise ordinances. I hesitated when she held out her hand, not liking the speculative glint in her dark eyes.
My inner alarm system kicked in. She looked familiar.
Bandit at twelve o’clock?
“Hi, I’m Eve. Are you Mr. Becker’s…assistant?”
That little pause sent an uneasy shiver down my back.
“No, I’m just filling in this evening. Acting as gofer, calling the limo. That sort of thing.” I checked my watch. “Also, making sure Mr. Becker remembers a conference call he has scheduled and gets to his next event on time.”
Her smile reminded me of a feral cat. “I didn’t catch your name.”
In that moment, I recognized her. She was a reporter with the local paper. What story was she fishing after?
I discreetly squeezed Brock’s elbow. “It’s almost time for your conference call with those PR bandits. It’s scheduled for nine.”
If he were surprised I’d sneaked in the code word as well as misrepresented his other plans for the evening in front of Eve, he hid it well. “Oh. Thank you. I didn’t realize it was so late.”
He said his goodbyes to the pair and headed to the door without a glance in my direction, leaving me to follow. By the time we reached the lobby, his cell phone was at his ear. We stepped out into the night air and into the limo. Brock settled back in his seat and glared at me.
“Well? What did you see?”
“That woman is Eve Taylor. She looks different off the air, doesn’t she?”
His gaze locked onto mine. “Are you sure it was her?”
I nodded. “Positive. And she was interested in my employment with you. Are you out?”
He smiled, one of those confident, butter-wouldn’t-melt kind of smiles that fueled an urge to smack him. It also gave me the start of a hard-on and a delicious achy feeling in my balls.
“Out? You mean as in out for the rest of the evening?”
“No, sir. I do not.” The smile I gave him in return was as phony as a politician’s promise. “I mean o-u-t. As in out of the closet.”
He feigned surprise. “You think I’m gay?”
“You’re saying you’re not?”
He bared his teeth, then chuckled. “I’m not saying a thing.”
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