Maybe I was still a little drunk that morning, because I found myself rambling on and on to Stella all morning about wishing I had someone in my life. This wasn't normal for me. I tend to keep to myself, burying my emotions deep inside and focusing on solving others’ problems. It was part of what I did for a living—jumping from one fire to another, but never asking others for help in putting out my own.
I had Don and the Cortez brothers, but I wanted someone who was mine. I wanted to be treated the way Aaron and Justin treat Stella. Like I was somebody’s everything. The lengths they went to to have her might have seemed a little crazy, extreme and over the top, but to me it was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen. I wanted that so bad lately, I could almost taste it.
I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit part of this has been because of Charles. This newfound need to search for my ‘one’, as Aaron and Justin call it. When I first saw Charles, desire like nothing I’d ever felt before shot through my body. It felt like I was waking up for the first time, and maybe I was. He was male perfection in its roughest form. I never thought I had a type before him, but it seems I do now. He has this dark cloud around him, and I find myself wanting to see how close I can get to him. Then I found out who he was. His name wasn’t unknown, but somehow I’d never run into him before. Maybe I’d seen his face online before, but it hadn't caught my eye. Being in his presence, there was no missing him now. But all that desire fled my body when I realized this was the man who was holding something against Justin and Aaron. For some reason I had an inkling it had to do with Stella too, which only pissed me off further. I don’t have a lot of people in my life, and part of that is probably my own fault. I’m not the most social person in the world, but the people I do have in my life, I would do whatever was necessary to protect them. Charles was a threat to my little makeshift family, and in my eyes he became the enemy.
When that desire left my body, it was almost like an ache began. Now there’s this hole that’s wishing to be filled again. A hole he put there and that I have to fill or the ache will consume me. Maybe a little passion in my life would do that.
“It’s fine! I was so flipping scared when I did it, and look! It turned out perfectly,” Stella says dreamily, breaking into my thoughts. It’s like she’s part of a fairytale or something. Well, maybe she is, but definitely an R-rated version of one.
“Yeah, but yours was a set up. Who knows who will buy me?” I don’t have some guy out there who’s been pining for my attention, but the truth is that it doesn’t really matter at this point. I’m a twenty-five-year-old virgin. My romantic life is nonexistent. Maybe I’ll fall in love, or maybe I’ll just have a little fun. I’m going to spend the next thirty days playing catch up on my sex life.
“You know Samantha only has the best to offer.” She’s trying to comfort me, but it’s the final few minutes until go time, and I’m starting to have a small freak-out.
“I read the contract.”
“See? Then you know you’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, I know I won’t be stuck with some asshole, but I also read that part about keeping my mouth shut and not asking questions. And the part where they can take other lovers and that’s not my business.” I roll my eyes just thinking about it.
“Mandy. Calm down. We talked about this. Hell, you were the one who said you didn’t have to find love. You said that it might be nice if it works out, but that you just want to have a little fun. Wanting to step out of the neat little box you’re in isn’t a bad idea.”
Releasing a deep breath, I feel my body relax at her words. “You’re right. I’m going in circles here. I guess I’m just freaking out a little.” I don’t know why this is all flooding me right now. I’d been thinking on this for days while I holed myself up in a fancy spa that sits on the outskirts of Vegas—a spa I'd been dying to go to, but never let myself find the time. I soaked in the sun and enjoyed the nothingness. I’d gotten the contract the same day I talked to Samantha, and I went over it with a fine-tooth comb. I lounged by the pool and thought over everything, and I was actually okay with all of it. I told myself that maybe I’ll find a happily ever after, or maybe I’ll just discover a little more about myself. Either way, it was going to be fine; both involved taking my life in a different direction.
“See? All is going as planned.” I know she phrased her words that way on purpose. She’s trying to make me feel at ease, like everything I have set in place is going as intended, just as I like it. “Just don’t forget to snap me a pic! I wanna see what you get.”
“I’ll do my best.” With that we say our goodbyes, and I rest against the wall, taking in a few deep breaths. I’m trying to calm myself and just breathe.
I catch Samantha out of the corner of my eye, talking rather closely to a man I can’t make out from here. When she breaks away I can’t help but notice the smile on her face. I wonder what that’s about. Samantha only ever gives the all-business face I know too well. I’m great at that face too. Sometimes Samantha will toss in a knowing smirk, like she’s three steps ahead of the rest of us, and that’s the scariest one of all.
When she finally reaches me, she wastes no time snapping her fingers, making her red-haired assistant pop out of nowhere. Her girl is eager and ready to take orders from the calm, cool, and collected Samantha.