Beautiful Illusions Duet Bundle: Eighty-One Nights and Beautiful Ever After, Page 2Georgia Cates
That’s a frightening thought.
“You aren’t at all concerned that your clients won’t like me?”
“You’re going to be a polished gem when I finish with you. No part of you will be unlikable.”
I’m pretty sure that she’s wrong about that.
“Not everyone loves Americans.” I’ve lived in Scotland for six years, but I still consider myself American—my first sixteen years were spent there.
“Inamorata clients are going to love that about you. You’re a different flavor from my other girls.”
I hear what she’s saying, but I look at myself in the mirror and can’t imagine any high-class Scotsman who would be willing to pay big bucks for my company. I’m nobody.
“What’s wrong, Caitriona?”
“Don’t be. I do background checks on every man before accepting him as a client. I reject anyone with even a hint of a questionable past.”
“That’s not the kind of afraid that I’m talking about.”
“Well, I need you to explain what that means before we go any further.”
It’s embarrassing to admit my fears. “What if they don’t think I’m pretty enough? Or smart enough? Or interesting enough?”
Cora claps her palms together twice, making a high-pitched slapping sound. “Everyone out. Now.”
Her three assistants scramble to get through the door, nearly running each other down. I truly believe that if Cora told them to jump, they would ask how high.
She comes up on the platform, standing behind me. She grasps my upper arms and looks over my shoulder at my reflection in the mirror. “Look at the woman staring back at you. Who is she?”
“You’re stating the obvious and it’s a waste of my time. Look deep inside of the woman in front of you, and find the wee lass beneath her surface.”
Find the wee lass beneath my surface? No way. That’s stupid.
I shake my head. “I don’t want to do that.”
“I don’t care if you want to do it or not. You’re going to if you want to work for me. The choice is yours.”
I contemplate walking out. I want to so badly, but I can’t. I need money.
“What do you want from me?”
“Start by taking a long hard look at yourself in the mirror and think about what you see.”
Long brown hair, thick and often unruly. Hazel eyes, more green than brown after I’ve had a good cry. Fair skin, a few scattered freckles across my nose and cheeks. Short and small-framed.
“Are you pretty?” Cora asks.
“According to others, I am. But I never was in my mother’s eyes.”
“What did your mother say to you about the way you look?”
God, you look just like that Scottish bastard. I heard that from her so many times that it became as much a part of my DNA as the X chromosome that he gave me. “She said that I looked like my father.”
“Did she hate him?”
“She did eventually.” His marriage to Heidi changed everything. My mother couldn’t take his being happy with another woman.
“She saw him when she looked at you?”
“We grow up and become women, but no matter how old we get, we always have a wee lass living inside of us.”
I’ve never heard anyone say anything like that, but I suppose it’s true at least to some degree.
“Tell me about the wee lass inside of you.”
Little Caity Louden. She’s not someone that I like to think about. Her story isn’t a happily-ever-after fairy tale. “Her father abandoned her before she was born. She was raised by a single mom in the trashiest part of New Orleans. Her mother worked at a bar on Bourbon Street, but she drank more cocktails than she served.”
“She learned at a very early age how to fend for herself because no one took care of her.” No one loved her. It’s hard to admit, even to myself only in my head, that the one person in this world who was supposed to love me unconditionally didn’t.
“And?” Cora says.
“Her tears ran dry and her delicate, soft heart hardened. It turned to stone.”
Cora nods. “Stone is strong and resilient.”
My eyes move to hers. “Stone is cold and resistant to penetration without being broken.”
I look back at myself. “I’m damaged. Something’s missing inside of me. A piece of me is not here.”
Cora walks around and stands in front of me so that we’re face-to-face. “Strong people don’t have easy pasts, and the scars they carry prove that they are stronger than whatever tried to hurt them. You’re a warrior and a beautiful young woman who is deserving of good things and happiness. You’re special, Caitriona, whether you realize it or not. Our pasts aren’t all that different; I understand you far better than you can ever imagine.”
Cora’s words are… empowering and soothing at the same time.
She crouches, unnecessarily repositioning the shoes in front of me, and I see the act for what it truly is. She’s lowering herself and elevating me. “Toes go in first, beautiful warrior.”
I grow three inches when I step into the shoes. She stands upright, and it feels good to look this powerful, independent woman in the eyes. She makes me want to be stronger.
“Diamonds are beautiful. And they’re also flawed. They don’t crack but they do cut.” Cora places a finger beneath my chin, lifting it slightly, and looks directly into my eyes. “Be a diamond, Caitriona.”
I’m sitting in the dark corner, scanning the sea of women. Blondes, brunettes, redheads. Tall, average, short. Slim, fit, curvy. The choices are endless.
The men at this gala are swarming around the women like bees to honey. Or dicks to pussy. Aye, definitely dicks to pussy. Every man here is hoping to take a bonnie lass into his bed tonight. And they will for the right price.
I like to think of myself and my circumstances as different from the other men at this event, but I’m kidding myself. I’m going to pay for a woman just like all of them.
“I’m glad you came tonight. This is exactly what you need.”
“Well, I have you to blame if it’s not.”
Brady, my best mate, is the one who is introducing me into the Inamorata world. He began using their services right after his divorce and has continued to be a regular client. There is a rigorous selection process for clients and he’s my foot in the door.
“The redhead in the black dress is hot.”
“Aye, she is.” But I don’t want a redhead. I’m afraid that she would remind me of Mina.
“You don’t sound enthused. What do you think of the blonde in the green dress?”
That would also be a no. “I think that her plastic surgeon did her a disservice with those implants.”
“Really? I think that her diddies look great.”
He would. Brady is a diddies man. Always has been.
“I like a more natural look.” Ones that almost fit inside my hands. And won’t smother me to death.
A lovely brunette approaches our table. White blouse. Black pants. Obviously, a server for the event and not one of the Inamorata women. “Good evening, gentlemen. May I bring you something to drink?”
“I’ll have a Tomatin,” Brady says.
“Same for me.”
“Coming right up.”
Brady watches the server’s arse as she walks away. “Tell me what kind of lass that you’re looking for and maybe I can help you find her.”
“I don’t have any particular physical characteristics in mind. I just want to look at her and… feel something.”
“Feel what? A stauner?” Brady can be such a dobber sometimes.
“I can get a hard-on by myself. I’m talking about a connection. I want to be drawn to her.”
“Answer this for me, Max. Do you want to hold her ha
nd or fuck her?”
“I’d like to do both actually.”
Brady twists in his chair. “There are two kinds of Inamorata women—those who fuck and those who don’t. Look around. Some of the women have a pink rosebud pinned to their left shoulder. It’s a symbol meaning that they are willing to fuck and don’t mind being asked to do so. No pink rosebud, no pussy.”
I hadn’t considered that possibility. I guess that I thought they’d all be willing to have sex for money.
“You might want to keep an eye out for a rosebud while you’re looking for this lass that you want to connect with. Because your cock won’t be making any kind of connection with her if she’s not wearing a rosebud.”
I believe that my choices were just narrowed down significantly; many of these women are missing a rosebud.
“Two Tomatins,” the server says as she places our drinks on the table. “Can I bring you anything else?”
“That’s all for now. Thank you.”
Brady holds up his glass. “Here’s to you finally getting out again. And getting shagged.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
We toss back our whiskies and I look around, searching for that special woman who catches my eye. I quickly realize that I’ll never find what I’m looking for by sitting in the dark corner all night. “Come on, let’s do this.”
Brady and I talk to many women over the next two hours and I become discouraged. This gala is my only chance at finding a woman who will be agreeable to my terms, but no one stands out as a contender.
With each passing minute, tonight’s search is looking more and more like a failure. What a fucking disappointment. I was so sure that I was going to find what I was looking for.
“Now here is the woman that you must meet.” Brady takes her hand, kissing the top. “You’re looking lovely as always.”
The woman looks at me and smiles. “Always such a charmer.”
“Max, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Cora, the beauty and brains behind Inamorata.”
Long blond hair. Brown eyes. Flawless teeth and smile. Perfect cosmetics. She looks midforties, but I’d bet that she’s older and does a great job of pulling off the look of a much younger woman.
“This is my best mate, Maxwell Hutcheson.”
She holds out her hand and I choose to go with a simple handshake, leaving off the kiss. “It’s a pleasure.”
“How very nice it is to meet you, Mr. Hutcheson. I hope that you’re finding everything to your liking this evening.”
“I’m enjoying the gala very much. Thank you for extending an invitation for me through Brady.”
“It was my pleasure, but your arm is empty, Mr. Hutcheson. Have you not found an inamorata to suit your taste?”
I should choose my words wisely; I don’t want to insult this woman. “Brady and I have spoken to many beautiful and interesting women tonight. I’ve found it difficult to choose one.”
“I’d like the opportunity to change that. Would you be willing to tell me what you’re interested in? I’m certain that I can assist you in finding the perfect inamorata for your needs.”
I don’t see the point. Not a single woman in this room stands out to me but if she wants to try, then let her. “I’m looking for a three-month arrangement with a woman who is willing to remain completely innominate to everyone within my world except me.”
“Obscurity is my specialty, Mr. Hutcheson. I have someone in mind, but she’s fresh out of training. Is that something that you’d be open to trying?”
“Actually, inexperienced is preferable.” I want a true girlfriend experience with this woman. It would be a turnoff if her actions were robotic, as though she’s simply going through the motions like so many times before.
“I have the perfect inamorata for you. She’s brand new so you’d be her first client. The girl is beautiful, intelligent, interesting—the whole package. How does that sound to you?”
Sounds like a definite contender if she lives up to what Cora promises. “I’d like to meet her.”
Cora gestures to the back of the room. “Right this way.”
Brady takes a step to follow and Cora lifts her hand, placing it against his chest. “Only Mr. Hutcheson.”
“Come on, Cora. I’m one of your best clients. I want to meet her too, in case she’s not for Max.”
“All of this is new to her. She doesn’t need to be overwhelmed on her first night.”
Brady frowns and holds up his empty glass. “I guess that means that I’m getting another drink.”
I slap Brady on the back and chuckle. “Sorry, mate.”
“Aye, sure you are.”
I follow Cora through the crowd and eye the pair of women that we’re approaching. One is blond, the other brunette, and it’s the darker of the two who catches my attention. She’s an absolute beauty, and I somehow overlooked her when Brady and I were making our rounds.
Please be the one that Cora was telling me about.
She’s wearing a short black dress, and it fits her body like a glove. Her heels are tall, just the kind that I love. Her chestnut hair is in loose curls, but I can’t yet tell how long it is. I hope that it at least reaches midway down her back. I love long hair. Always have.
She looks up as we approach, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m so hard up, but I swear that her smile is the sweetest damn thing that I’ve ever seen.
“Doll, I’d like to introduce you to a new client. This is Mr. Maxwell Hutcheson.”
The brunette beauty offers her hand and the corners of her mouth curl upward, exposing a pair of dimples in her cheeks. “Hello. I’m Lou. It’s lovely to make your acquaintance.”
The woman is American. Or at least I think she is. Her accent sounds different—not like what I’ve heard in the past.
“The pleasure is all mine.”
Lou. I wonder if that’s her real name or an alias. I know that I would use an alias in this kind of business if I were her.
“Mr. Hutcheson was on his way out the door, and I couldn’t let him slip away without meeting you. Perhaps the two of you could have a drink together and talk about what he’s looking for.”
I’ve spent the entire evening looking for a woman who made me feel something, and now I’ve found her. “I would love to discuss that with you if you’re interested.”
Her arm loops through mine, and fuck me, just her simple touch sends a jolt to my cock, giving it life. “Lead the way, Mr. Hutcheson.”
He’s tall and fit. Very fit. And the suit that he’s wearing looks killer on him. He’s nothing like what I had pictured in my head when I imagined my first client. This is not what I was dreading.
Dark hair. Light eyes, pale blue I think, but it’s dark in here so I can’t tell for sure. What I do know is that he is one of the handsomest men that I’ve ever seen. And I don’t understand what he’s doing at an Inamorata gala.
I snap back into the present and realize that I’m sitting across from him, staring at his face. It’s as though I’ve forgotten all of my training.
I lower my eyes and face, hoping that he won’t see the heat in my cheeks. I should probably apologize for staring, but there’s no tactful way of telling him that I’m dumbfounded because he isn’t a troll or old enough to be my grandfather.
I don’t get it. Why in the world would this man need a paid companion? Surely women flock to him.
I recall the reasons why many of our clients use our services. They’re busy businessmen, often too engaged in their jobs to have time for dating. That must be it because there’s no way this man would have a hard time finding a woman who was interested in him.
“Cora tells me that you’re brand new. You’ve never had a client?”
His accent is heavily Scottish. You’d think that I would have gotten over hearing it after living in Edinburgh for six years, but the truth is that I still find it sexy as sin.
I look up and smile when my eyes meet his. Yes, I’ve decided that they are pale blue. And kind. I don’t see judgment in them as I am certain that he is analyzing me and my decision to be an inamorata.
I believe that you can see into the soul of a person through his or her eyes. Thoughts. Intent. Opinion. The simplicity in their expression tells a story. It says more than any words they could possibly speak.
The lines around the corners of his eyes. The creases around his mouth beneath his facial scruff. The furrows across his forehead. All of these distinct contours mean that he smiles often, and when he does, it spreads over his entire face.
“Tonight is my coming out, I guess you could say.”
“Then I’ve met you at the perfect time.”
“The perfect time for…?”
He hesitates and his uneasiness is a visible mask upon his face. “I want to be transparent with you about what has happened in my life. I need you to understand why I have specific… needs.”
I thought that I was going to be the uneasy one, but this man is stressed out. For some unknown reason he makes me want to bring calm to his storm. “I want to hear everything that you have to say, but please understand that I’m not owed any kind of explanation about your needs. Your desires are what they are, and that’s all that I must be told.”
“But I want to explain. It’ll make me feel better if I do.”
Oh, I get it now. He needs to clear his conscience. “I’m listening.”
“I’m a widower.”
Many of the Inamorata clients are. There’s nothing surprising about that.
“I’m sorry. How long has your wife been gone?”
Only three months and he’s out cruising for a woman? What a dick. It’s no wonder that he needs to clear his conscience.
“Was your wife ill?”
“No, she was killed in a car accident.”
“I’m sure that must have been very difficult losing your wife without any kind of warning. Do you have children?”
“I don’t have children, but my wife had a daughter.”