“I was ready to get out of the business. But I didn’t have any qualifications. I was good at fucking and nothing else. Then, as fate had it, I got a new client. She was a first-timer. Her husband had been having an affair with a younger woman, and he’d left her. Her friends had told her she needed to get back on the horse. One of her friends was a client of mine and had said she should get in touch.
“So, we arranged to meet in a hotel room. When I got there, I could tell off the bat that she wasn’t ready. So, we talked instead. And I found myself opening up to her. Told her I was tired of doing what I was doing. I told her about Tate. How I needed the money for him. She had a kid the same age. Then, she told me that she was a producer for a network. They had a part on a show they were auditioning for, and she said I had the exact right look for the character. Asked if I had any acting experience, which I didn’t. She gave me the name and number of an acting coach. Told me to get some lessons and that she’d set me up with an audition for the show.
“And she was good on her word. Called me up the following week with a date and time for an audition. So, I went to the audition. I’d never been so fucking nervous in my life. I threw up in the restroom beforehand. And then I went in and auditioned.
“The next day, I got a call. I’d gotten the part. I couldn’t fucking believe it. It wasn’t big money, less than I earned hooking, but it was a regular part on a fucking television show. So, I called up my clients and told them I was out of the game. The hit on the money was hard for a while, but then I auditioned for some film roles, did some small parts, and then landed a lead role in my first movie. And that was it.” He gestures his hands around his apartment.
“When I first hit the big time and my popularity was rising, I was nervous that maybe the escort agency would come out and say something to the press or one of the women I used to sleep with might, but then I figured the agency wouldn’t want the press, and those women wouldn’t want to admit to paying for sex. They definitely wouldn’t want it to be public knowledge. Some of these women were married. And the others had high-powered jobs. None of them would want it getting out. They all had as much to lose as I did. So, I knew I was safe.
“And, when it came to my parents, I definitely didn’t want that getting out, so I had my lawyer take them NDAs to sign, saying they’d never talk about me and Tate to the press. I couldn’t have the fact that my parents were in prison for racketeering and murder in the papers. And I didn’t want it fucking up Tate’s life either. They’d screwed things up enough for the both of us already. I had us back on track, and I wasn’t going to risk them fucking it up when they saw my face on TV.”
“Did they sign the NDAs?”
He rubs his hand over his jaw, sadness filling his eyes. “Surprisingly, yes. Maybe they thought they owed us for fucking up our lives. I don’t know. I’m just glad they did.”
“God, Gabe. I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t worry. I just dropped a mother lode in your lap. And it’s not a story you hear every day. You probably need some time to digest it.” He gets up. “You want a drink? Brandy’s always good for shock.”
I stare up at him. “I’m not in shock, Gabe.”
I reach up and take hold of his hand, and he lets me.
“Yes, it’s a lot to digest. But I’m just so sorry that things were so hard for you back then.”
His eyes narrow at me, hard and black. “I don’t want your fucking pity, Ava.”
I get to my feet, standing in front of him. “You don’t have it. I don’t pity you. But I am allowed to feel sorry for what you went through with your parents. And, honestly, I don’t think prostitution is a great way to earn money, but I don’t think it’s horrific if done in the right circumstances and for the right reasons. And yours was. How could anyone think that what you did to keep you and your brother together was a terrible thing? If they did, then they’d be fucking idiots. I’m just sorry that it made you feel bad toward the end, and I’m so glad that lady gave you an opportunity to get out and change your life.”
He’s staring at me. There’s a multitude of emotions in his eyes. But I’m not sure where his head is.
“It doesn’t change how you see me?” His words are almost a whisper.
“Only that I see all of you now. And it makes you even more amazing in my eyes.”
He looks confused. Like he can’t make sense of the words I said. “And you still want to be with me, even after knowing that I used to fuck women for money?”
“Can’t say I like to hear about you fucking other women in general, so let’s not say that anymore.” I step closer to him. “But, yes, Gabe, I still want to be with you. Nothing in this world could make me not want to be with you. Apart from if you cheated on me. Because then I would have to chop your dick off, and that wouldn’t be good ’cause I’d have to go to jail. Or you stole money from me, which would be weird ’cause it’s not exactly like you need it. Or if you—”
“Stop rambling, I know. I don’t mean to. I just—”
“I love you.”
He steps into my body and takes my face in his hands. “I love you. I’m in love with you or what-the-fuck-ever you want to call it. I’m in it with you.”
He loves me.
Tears well in my eyes. And my heart is going crazy in my chest right now. “I love you, too. You know that, right?”
A smile edges his lips. “I do now.”
Then, he kisses me so hard and passionately that it knocks the breath from my lungs.
He presses his forehead to mine. “How did I get so lucky to find you?”
“I ran you over with my car.”
“And being with you is worth the broken foot, Speedy.”
“I think that’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
He tips his head back, staring into my eyes. “And me just telling you that I’m in love with you wasn’t?”
“Of course it was. I meant, that’s the second sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
He pulls me into his arms. “Nice save.”
“I thought so.”
He chuckles softly and holds me even tighter. And I don’t ever want him to let go.
It’s eight thirty a.m., and I’ve just climbed back into Gabe’s bed after letting Gucci out onto the terrace to do her morning business. I’m snuggled into his warm body when the intercom starts to ring.
“It’s probably the cleaners.” Gabe sighs. “I’ll go let them in.”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll go. I move faster than you do anyway.”
“Not for much longer.” He swats my ass as I get out of bed.
I speed walk out of his bedroom, jog over to the intercom, and pick the receiver up. “Good morning, Harry.”
“Good morning, Miss Ava. The cleaners are here.”
“Let them up, please.”
I hang up the receiver and go back into the bedroom.
“It is the cleaners,” I say, but I’m talking to myself, as the bed’s empty. I hear water running in the bathroom.
When I go in the bathroom, he’s at the sink, brushing his teeth, with the faucet going.
“Is it the cleaners?” he asks in between brushing.
“Cool. Well, get your ass ready because I’m taking you out.”
He spits and rinses his brush under the faucet. “Yep. We’re going out for breakfast.”
“Like a date?”
“Yes, Speedy, like a date.”
“You’ve never taken me on a date before.”
He comes close and slides his arms around my waist. I press my hands to his bare chest and gaze up at him.
“I’m well aware of that fact. Hence, I’m taking you out for our first date today. To rectify me being a bad boyfriend.”
“You’re not a bad boyfriend.”
“I am. But I’m working on being a better one for you.”