And work included Antony’s piercing question. Had I ever been with someone who made me feel spectacular?

“Yes, I have,” I answered.

He smiled. “Good. Everyone should know what it’s like to feel amazing. And that’s what I want to do for the women who are kind enough to hire me.”

Kind.

Such an unusual word to use in this field.

“Why do you want them to feel that way?” I asked.

His dark eyes were intense, passionate as he answered. “Because when they book me, they believe I can bring them what they want for a night. That I can deliver companionship, pleasure, friendship, a shoulder to lean on.”

“Admirable goals.” For a brief moment, I let myself linger on how that might feel. The past few months, I’d been so nose to the grindstone, so focused on my endgame, that I’d deliberately avoided intimate companionship and the friendship that could come with it. But hearing those words from this man, whose job was to deliver them, made me crave those things just a bit.

Companionship, pleasure, friendship.

That didn’t sound so bad at all.

Maybe someday.

“You might call them admirable, but those are basic human needs, as I see it. And when a woman requests me, I have the chance to give that to her. That’s an honor, and I don’t take it lightly. I want every woman to feel spectacular.”

I let that marinate for a moment as the espresso machines whirred behind us. “Every woman should feel spectacular,” I said, trying that on for size. It might work as a slogan.

His eyes twinkled. “Yes. Exactly. That’s my mantra. I want the women I’m with to feel like sexy angels.”

“Do you make them feel that way?”

He nodded. “I believe so.”

“Do they all want sex?”

He shook his head. “Less than half, actually. There was a client this week who simply wanted someone to talk to. That’s what I gave her. I listened, and she was worth it. She had a lot on her mind and heart.”

I wondered if that was Sidney, but it wasn’t my business to ask.

Antony and I spoke for a bit longer, and I thanked him when we finished and then watched as he left, admiring his frame, his physique, and his kindness.

Funny, how you didn’t think of kindness as a quality you’d look for in an escort, but it was vital, it turned out.

Maybe that was because it was vital in any relationship.

Kindness ought to be the foundation of anything. Of everything.

I noodled on that as I walked to my office. Along the way, my phone buzzed. I grabbed it, hoping Jake was awake.

Jake: Confession: I posed like that this morning just to get you to admit the truth.

Kate: Shameless. You are shameless.

Jake: Kidding. I was deep in the land of nod and just woke up finally. Good to know you enjoyed the view. I enjoyed all my views last night. But let’s talk about tonight, Ms. Williams. I’m taking you out to dinner. I made a reservation at Momofuku, your favorite. See you at seven thirty.

I stopped walking, my heart speeding up, my smile spreading before I caught myself.

What the hell?

What was this reaction? He was suggesting a restaurant. It was one evening out.

But, no, it was a little more than that. It was how he’d heard me when I said Momofuku was my favorite.

Perhaps he’d heard me, too, when I said I liked romance.

Except our arrangement wasn’t about romance. I reminded myself of that all day long as I worked. As I played with taglines and marketing slogans. As I prepped for my Sunday lunch with Trish.

Again and again, I told myself.

Even though tonight’s meetup with Jake bore all the hallmarks of romance, it was not.

I needed to recalibrate to sex-only.

In the early evening, with that in mind, I sent him a message.

Kate: What is the scenario tonight?

Jake: No scenario at dinner. But once I pay the check, we’re strangers who just met.

A burst of anticipation zipped through me as I read his text while walking into my kitchen. I stopped at the counter, setting a hand down and collecting myself.

But from what? From the idea of dinner or the thought of the games?

Or both?

I didn’t know. In one swift move, Jake had changed the rules.

We weren’t merely role-playing.

We weren’t experimenting for the sake of work research.

He was taking me on a date.

And he wasn’t taking no for an answer.

I didn’t want to say no either.

I wanted to say yes to both.

Dating hadn’t been on the weekend’s agenda, but it seemed like that had changed.

I had no idea what that meant.

The not-knowing thrilled the part of me that longed for romance, a side I’d denied for some time now.

But tonight, Romantic Kate would get a chance to play.

* * *

Standing in front of my clothes, I asked the age-old question that women have asked closets for generations. “What should I wear tonight?”


Tags: Lauren Blakely The Gift Erotic
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