Authors: Eden Bradley
I shrug. “I just need to relax, that's all. Come on, drink with me.”
“Maybe a small glass of champagne wouldn't hurt,” Regan says. “Especially you and your sour mood. Ooh, I feel like a college kid sneaking booze into the dorm.” She grins.
“You've never been in a college dorm in your life, Regan,” Rosalyn says.
“I have a good imagination. Have a drink with us, Ros.”
She sighs. “Okay. I'm sure it won't kill me.”
Lhe steward arrives and after some discussion we order champagne. He brings it back within moments, a nice Mumm's
Cuvée. I settle back onto the sofa and take a long sip, feel it loosen my limbs right away. I'm not a big champagne drinker; the bubbles always go right to my head.
“So,” Rosalyn asks, “when are you going to tell us what's wrong, Val?”
Jesus. Is it that obvious? Or is it only because these women are my friends? They know me as well as anyone does. As much as I let anyone know me aside from Enzo. And even he only knows so much.
I shrug, pulling up my shoulders, aware suddenly of how tight they are, despite the champagne. “I don't know. Nothing is wrong, really. I've just been … a little reflective lately.”
Regan shakes her head. “That's not necessarily a good thing for us, Val. We're the live-in-the-moment girls. You know it works better that way.”
“I know. I know.” I take another sip of the champagne, savor the mild bite of the bubbles on my tongue.
Rosalyn, always the more gentle of the two, asks, “Do you want to tell us what brought this up?”
“I don't know.” I stop, let out a long, sighing breath. If there's anyone in the world I can talk to, it's these two women. Why am I so scared? But I need to tell someone before I really do lose my mind. “It's … a man.”
“A client?” This from Regan, her golden brows shooting up, arching over her green cat-eyes.
“What? No. God, no. Not that this is any better.”
Regan asks, “Who then, Val?”
“He's someone I met at the opera. A client canceled last minute and I was there already … He was sitting next to me.”
I remember that night, how spectacular he looked in his crisp suit. Rugged and elegant at the same time, all calm, cool male. The way he smelled.
“Tell us about him,” Rosalyn prompts.
I twist a strand of hair around my finger, take a breath. What is there to say? What do I want to say? There is something sort of lovely about keeping Joshua my little secret. But perhaps something even better in talking about him
“There isn't a whole lot to tell. Joshua is … he's beautiful. I don't mean in a pretty-boy way. He's extremely masculine. And he's smart, which always gets me. Kills me, really. Smart and generous. He has this gorgeous, smoky voice … We went out once, for drinks, talked. And I could barely concentrate on the conversation. He makes me …” I stop, tug on the end of my hair. “God, I don't know. It's better that I've hardly seen him, hardly talked to him. I know I should keep it that way. I should cut things off right now.”
“Yes, you probably should,” Regan says quietly.
“I know you're right. And I tried to. But I can't seem to do it. I'm too … intrigued. He's gotten under my skin somehow.” I pause, sip my champagne. “To be honest, I can't stop thinking about him. Like some teenager with a crush. How pathetic is that?”
“Maybe that's all it is,” Rosalyn suggests. “A crush.”
“Look, Val,” Regan says, her voice urgent. “You cannot be thinking of seeing this guy, starting something with him. We don't do that, have relationships. Date. Real dates, I mean. You cannot reveal yourself to someone not in this business. It's dangerous to you personally, and to the rest of us.”
“I know,” I say quietly, staring down at the glass in my hand for a moment. But suddenly I'm angry. I raise my gaze to hers. “Don't you think I know all that, Regan? But I can't seem to help myself with this guy. You have no idea howl feel! I barely have a grasp on it myself. But it's not as though I'm
trying to start a relationship. I just want to
him. Be with him once. Don't I deserve that much? Or are we such damaged goods we deserve nothing just for ourselves? Jesus!”
“Okay, Val. Calm down, honey,” Rosalyn comforts, a hand on my arm. She's right. I need to calm down.
“Val, I didn't mean to upset you,” Regan says. “I really didn't. I'm just trying to be your reality check. Forgive me for saying so, but it seemed like you needed one.”
“I know. God.” I run a hand through my hair, my fingers tangling, and pull hard, until my scalp burns. I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment, then open them and find both girls watching me. “I'm sorry, Regan. I didn't mean to snap at you. It's just… this guy has done a number on my head. I'm sorry.”
“It's okay, hon. Don't worry about it. Just… watch yourself, okay? Don't get in any deeper than you already have. You need to protect yourself, Val.”
“I will.” I nod, sip my champagne, letting the bubbles and the alcohol go to work, loosening my shoulders again. But inside I know it's all bullshit. Because it's too late. I'm already in deep. And I'm not going to stop until I see this thing to whatever sad end is in store for me. Because I know it'll be sad. Fucking story of my life, after all, isn't it?
THE PLAZA IS LIKE
no other hotel in the world. Old-world elegance, done even better than in Europe. This, of course, is where Zayed has his New York apartment.
We take the elevator up and the bellman lets us in, turning on lights, opening curtains to the view of Central Park South, with the small lake, the sweep of green lawn. It's late
in the afternoon, and the sun is just beginning to lower in the sky, to change colors, going soft and gold and watery.
That pale golden light illuminates Zayed's apartment, which is done in classic Plaza style: everything in deep blue and cream damask, heavy gold braid, ornate King Louis pieces everywhere, crystal chandeliers suspended over the enormous, high-ceilinged rooms. The drapes look as though they weigh a ton, the fabric is so heavy and lush. The room is perfectly silent, nothing but the whisper of the brass luggage carts rolling over the plush carpet behind us.
The room steward asks, “Shall we run a bath for any of you?”
“Yes, please,” Rosalyn says, and I nod agreement.
“Not for me, thank you.” Regan flops down on a creamy sofa perched on delicate, carved legs. “I'm starving, though. Send up a pot of black tea and some of those currant scones, if they're fresh.”
“Right away, miss.”
The white-jacketed steward nods sharply, and one of his team goes off to run our baths, while the third makes a note; the food order, I imagine.
“May I get you anything else, ladies?”
“Tea for me, as well,” I tell him. “Thank you.”
There is nothing more luxurious than a pot of tea at the Plaza. I don't know why. It's English, rich and delicate all at the same time. It's a favorite indulgence of ours.
Since Zayed owns a suite here, there is no need to tip the bellmen; everything is taken care of. They finish their business and leave.
I pull a few items from my cosmetics case, including my favorite lilac bath salts, a special brand I get from France.
Mostly I adore it for the beautiful packaging, but it does smell lovely, and it makes my skin soft. In the white marble bathroom I strip off my plane-weary clothes, pour a handful of the salts into the tub, and slip down into the steaming water.
The bathrooms at the Plaza are truly spectacular, everything done in slabs of snow-white marble, the fixtures covered in fourteen-carat gold. Even the deep, enormous tub is trimmed in golden scrollwork, like something you'd see at Versailles.
I love this kind of luxury. My life has accustomed me to it. On the inside, though, there is still a part of me that sometimes can't believe I'm here. Maybe that makes me appreciate it more?
Maybe. When I'm not busy questioning how someone like me could possibly deserve it, which I do all too often.
But today I don't want to linger on that thought pattern. The warm, scented water feels too good. And these next days will be pure decadence. No, the thing to do is to immerse myself in the experience. This is the good part of my life: the luxury, the sex. Why shouldn't I enjoy it as much as possible?
I take a sponge, squeeze some liquid soap onto it, and run it over my skin. The soap is like satin, all cool and slippery. Lovely. And as I lean my head against a rolled-up towel thoughtfully arranged by the room steward, I can't help but see Joshua's face, his dark, gleaming eyes, his lush mouth.
I'm getting turned on simply imagining his face; that and the silky sponge gliding over my skin, the heat of the water. And in my mind he is there with me, naked, wet.
He reaches out and strokes the curve of my shoulder, then lower, over the swell of one breast, and my nipples tighten.
I slide the sponge over my breasts, my nipples hardening quickly. There is an insistent ache between my thighs, a craving which grows sharper and sharper. Moving the sponge down between my legs, I stroke my swelling sex with it. And it's too good: the gentle touch of the sponge, his face in my mind. I need to come, so badly it's like a knife blade pressing against the throbbing lips of my sex.
I rub harder, pressing the sponge onto my clit, moan softly.
The door swings open and Regan is there, a cup of tea in her hand.
“Here, I thought you might want your tea. Just a little sugar, right?”
“Oh, right. Thanks.”
I sit up, dropping the sponge into the water. Regan's green eyes take in my hardened nipples, but she doesn't say anything. Not that I care; it's nothing she hasn't seen before.
She sets the cup on a small vanity stool next to the tub. “I'm going to take a quick nap. See you later, okay?”
“I have a feeling this is going to be a busy night. You know how Zayed is. You should be … rested, Val.” She grins at me, and I understand she knows exactly what was going on in here before she came in.
She's right. Zayed will keep us working for hours, and I'd better have that keen sexual edge to feed on. I pick up my tea instead of the sponge, which is what I'd really like to do. Yes, slide that sponge over my still-aching mound, bring myself to orgasm with Joshua's beautiful face, his voice, in my mind.
But I'm a professional. That means something in this business, regardless of what most of the world might think. I refuse to disappoint.
I sigh softly, sip my tea. It's perfect, as always. As I should be. As I
, for Zayecl tonight.
I push thoughts of Joshua to the back of my mind. I try to, anyway. But the warm water is too much like silk against my skin. I swear I can feel it moving between my thighs like some lovely, ghostly tongue.
I stand, get out of the bath, and dry myself off.
Joshua Spencer has ruined everything for me. But I'm not angry. I'm simply yearning, in a way I never have in my entire life. I am helpless against it, this yearning. And I don't like it one bit.
AT EIGHT O'CLOCK THAT
night we are all three lined up in the living room of the suite, ready for Zayed to come through the door. He's been in his room freshening up, having used a private entrance, and we have been instructed to wait here for him. A lavish meal sits on a table behind us. We are all dressed in Zayed's favorite lingerie, all jewel-toned silk trimmed in lace, our hair up, exactly as he likes it. We are his perfect little harem.
I am trembling already, my body humming with pent-up lust ever since my bath. I can smell Regan's perfume, Rosalyn's shampoo, as they stand next to me, clean and beautiful, and lush, female curves.
I wonder which one of them will use her mouth on me tonight?
Zayed comes into the room, smiling. His face was handsome once; now it is a bit weathered, but his teeth are still a glorious flash of white against his brown skin, and his eyes, so dark they are nearly black, sparkle with intelligence. He is not a large man, but he radiates power, something I always find
attractive. He is in his early sixties, I would guess. Elegant, as most of my clients are. He carries himself like royalty, which apparently he is, in his country. He wears American suits, always dark, formal, with a bright silk tie, but he's removed it now in order to relax and enjoy his meal with his private
His head is uncovered, which happens only in privacy.