Still, there’s satisfaction in the accomplishment of keeping the doors open and I don’t have to answer to anyone.
At least I have that.
I grab a glass of champagne off a passing tray before walking around the perimeter of the ballroom. I’m here for Jorie, but I don’t know anyone other than her brother, Micah. He’s currently wrapped up in a discussion with several businessmen and while he’d welcome me into the conversation, it looks like a snooze fest to me.
Jorie’s attached to Walsh’s hip, where she should be, and he’s busy taking her all around the room and showing her off.
As he should.
But she’s my bestie and she’s worried about me. She glances around frequently to search for me, worried I’m not enjoying myself.
Which I’m not.
Not only do I not know anyone, but I’m also way out of my element. I can guarantee I’m the only hair stylist in this ballroom. Through my hard work and sheer determination, I consider myself middle class, yet I bet I’m the only middle-class person here. This ballroom holds the one-percenters. The people who have six-car garages to hold all their fancy foreign vehicles and jewels on their fingers that cost more than my yearly salary.
But I’m here for Jorie, as I remind myself for the third time tonight. I’ll finish this champagne, nosh on some chilled lobster, join in a celebratory piece of cake, and then I’m out of here. Jorie will understand.
“Don’t you even think about leaving early,” Jorie says as she approaches from behind, grabbing onto my arm. She steers me to the outer edge of the crowd, over to a small nook where there’s a stand with a linen-covered tray to collect empty plates and glasses. “I know that expression.”
“I don’t know anyone here,” I whine dramatically. “And you know fancy parties and rich people aren’t my thing.”
“You screw rich people at The Wicked Horse all the time,” she counters with a cocked eyebrow. “So don’t even go there.”
Which is true, but the only reason I have the luxury is because Jorie bought me a special membership to The Wicked Horse for my birthday last year. It allows me entry twice a month, normally a five-hundred-a-visit value. Prior to my gifted membership, I scraped and scrimped the fee, sometimes giving up a new handbag or pretty dress to get my rocks off a handful of times a year. It was way easier than dating.
Even though she’s rich as sin since she married Walsh, I tried to decline the membership because it had to be insanely expensive. But she assured me Jerico Jameson gave her a special deal on the price, and she’d be terribly offended if I didn’t take it.
Ultimately, what convinced me to accept her gift were the stars in Jorie’s eyes. Given she’d found love in The Wicked Horse, she didn’t see why I couldn’t do the same. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I wasn’t interested in it, so I was overly gracious and grateful when I assured her that I loved the gift.
And I did, and still do.
Especially after my encounter last weekend with a faceless man who made my body do things I hadn’t known it was capable of doing. How I wish I knew what he looked like. How I wish he would contact me again through the app, because I’d never make the move. To do so would imply I need something from him, and I’m never falling back into that trap again. Yes, my pride is keeping me at bay, but if he did reach out to me, I wouldn’t say no to another hookup with him.
I’d jump at the chance.
“You’re thinking about him, aren’t you?” she asks with a knowing expression. I flush hot—not because she knows me so well, but because the reminder of that amazing evening has me longing for it again.
At lunch Monday, I had filled Jorie in about our time together in the exclusive Apartments. While I didn’t give her a play-by-play description, I’d told her enough that she was fanning herself, taking long sips of her iced water, and muttering she and Walsh needed to make a return trip to the club soon.
“I’m not thinking about him,” I say out of the side of my mouth, eyes scanning the crowd I’m clearly never going to be a part of. But then I add, “Much.”
So many rich people. Beautiful women. Handsome men.
The men here are like everywhere and of no real interest to me. I’ve found economic status has nothing to do with male character. It might make them appear to have healthier egos, but I’ve found rich and poor men alike are equally adept at using me.
My gaze moves casually around, admiring the women’s dresses more than anything.
“Wow,” Jorie murmurs as she sidles in closer to me. “You’ve got someone’s attention.”