Ten ~ Opal
“Hold still,” Garnet said as he worked to plait my hair.
“Stop fidgeting,” Onyx whispered, his enchanting Baton Rouge accent calming to my ragged nerves. “You look delicious. Your date will not be able to take his eyes from you.” He kissed my cheek then fixed the stiff collar of my dress shirt one final time. “I bet he carts you off from this life of ill repute. After all, chère, he has been here every night in a row for over three weeks. I think he’s smitten.”
“It’s not a date. It’s an escort job,” I meekly argued. I let Amber slide the funky suit jacket I’d borrowed from Citrine up over my arms. It was more a duster than a suit jacket, but it was sleek and black, billowy and chic. Paired with gray slacks, a midi-shirt that showed my abs and a see-through cover-up that covered nothing and black boots with a nice heel, I was ready. Or should be.
“Slip these on,” Onyx said, moving around my suite in his slinky red corset and fishnets. The dude had legs to die for. He handed me silver bangles encrusted with red gems. My eyes flared. “Oh, no, they’re not real, baby, but they look it.” He squeezed my hand then flounced off.
“It’s almost six.” That was Diamond, lounging in the corner of my suite, in his uniform for the night. Tight leather pants, shit kicker boots, and a harness that hugged his barrel chest. No jewelry, no makeup, no silks or satins, costumes or corsets. His bidders weren’t into such frippery, he liked to say. “You all get downstairs.”
The others scurried out, chattering to each other about how lucky I was. I didn’t feel lucky. I felt nervous. Whoever that was in the mirror, it wasn’t me. It was someone who dated and not someone who fucked for cash.
“Take this.” Diamond placed a burner phone in my hand. “I know the others are starry-eyed over this guy, but you need to be alert. He may seem nice in here where he knows someone will pound him into paste if he hurts you, but out there? You don’t have bouncers to come running if you scream. You take this, keep it safe. And if you need help, call me. No matter what the time, I’ll come and get you.”
“What if you’re with a bidder?” I slipped the small amount of bills and the cheap cell into my jacket pocket.
“Then I’ll make them sit there with a dildo in their ass until I come back. Trust me, the fuckers love to be left waiting for hours on end.” He bent down to kiss me on the cheek, a soft, friendly peck. “Be safe. Life isn’t some fucking romance novel like those boys think it is. First sign of trouble, call.”
“I will.” I leaned into him for a second. I was sick with nerves.
“You’re going to be late for the perusal period,” a deep voice called from the doorway.
I looked around Diamond to find a massive white guy, Gems t-shirt stretched across his thick chest, glaring at Diamond.
“Blow me,” Diamond replied, gave me a chuck under the chin, and stalked off. I swallowed and stared at myself for another minute. My make-up was on point, subdued liner and color, light on the mascara, and a touch of pink and yellow to my cheeks. Earrings, rings, bangles, makeup, borrowed clothes. I wasn’t me at all. Was it? I’d grown so accustomed to seeing myself in robes or lounge clothes…
“Let’s go, kid.”
I fell in behind Ricky or Rocky or whatever his name was. I’ve given up trying to learn all their names. They rotated too frequently and quit too regularly. Most got grabby and tried to sneak favors off of us in return for overlooking rules. Kennedy shut that shit down as soon as he got wind of it. No one fucked one of his gems for free. So they came and went for a multitude of reasons, trying to get free head just one of many infractions.
We went out the back door. The front was reserved for bidders. The night was crisp and cold, my breath fogging in front of me. Ricky/Rocky gave me a small push and reentered the building. I stumbled a bit on my new boots, and there was Ian, catching me before I face planted in the greasy puddles.
“Easy now.” His voice ramped up my nerves exponentially but his beautiful blue eyes calmed me. I was having a major sort of freak out as I clung to his arm. Then he kissed my brow. The anxiety melted away. “You look incredible.”
I drew back to check him out. Nice. So very nice. Slim cut black suit, blue shirt, silver tie, and that red hair of his cut short and neat. I wanted to climb over him like a monkey.
He tucked my hand into the fold of his arm and led me to the waiting limo. I climbed in, sat down, tucked the long flaps of my coat up around my legs, and stared at the luxury. Champagne was chilling in an ice bucket; some sort of jazzy music filled the rear. The driver was discreetly hidden behind a tinted window. Ian folded himself into the back, closed the door, and rapped on the glass. The car rolled off and I threw myself at him. My mouth closed over his. I licked at his upper lip then his lower before he opened and sucked my tongue into his mouth. His shock was mild compared to mine, yet I kissed him with abandon, breaking one of my firmest rules. For this man. Only for this man…
“You taste like champagne,” I told him when we came up for air.
“It’s quite good. Let me pour you some.” He leaned around me. I wiggled about on his lap until I was sidesaddle, my arm resting on his shoulder, my lips moving up and down his thick neck.
“Where’s Butch? In the trunk?” I asked beside his ear.
He chuckled as he popped the cork with a twist of his wrist. “He’s in Maryland tending to a family situation. It’s been five whole hours and miraculously, I’m not dead yet.” He was so dry, so funny, so kind. I liked him so damn much. He handed me a flute of pink bubbly, then poured one for himself. “To us. To the first of many nights on the town for Ian and Opal.”
I tapped my glass to his, took a sip, sneezed, and stared into his eyes. “Shin.” He arched a tidy red eyebrow. “My name is Shin Kuhn. Let’s drink to nights on the town for Ian and Shin.”
“Yes, I love that sentiment. Your name is as beautiful as you are. Thank you for sharing it with me.” We petted, and drank champagne, and petted some more. I was floating on the dream of this magical night when we arrived at The Teal Peacock.
Some of the looks from the uptown diners deflated me a bit, but with Ian’s hand on my back, I walked to my chair with my head high. The tablecloth was teal and white, the walls white and gold, and the servers wore teal and black. There was a blue and silver floral arrangement on the table and a string quartet in the far corner. He fed me clams with fennel, lobster poached with mushroom butter, and smoked sturgeon cheesecake. There was wine with dinner and rich Turkish coffee served with dessert. People stopped by to chat to him. I smiled and made small talk, Ian’s hand always resting on mine atop the table.
After the meal, there were nightclubs, both gay and straight, but mostly gay. We drank. A lot. We danced. A lot. By three a.m. we both tumbled into the limo, plastered and winded. I didn’t recall much but a long drive, an elevator, a hallway, and a massive bed.
Many hours later someone shook me awake and it wasn’t Ian. I blinked gummy eyes at Butch, then threw up all over the bedding. The bedroom was dark, the vertical blinds closed tightly, thank God. The man who hoisted me from his boss’s bed and into the roomy shower built for two was not impressed.
“Where’s Ian?” I croaked, but speaking those two words made my headache explode into brilliant shards of agony. Butch stood outside the shower, silent as a statute, until I asked for the tenth time.
“Work, he’s at work. There was a board meeting today and he had to be there. He’s tasked me to get you back to Gems, so wash faster. I do have a job outside of delivering hookers back to the whorehouse.”
God, he hated me. I guess I could see why. Ian was so far above me, he lived in a different solar system. When I was dried and dressed in my clothes from last night, Butch handed me a small bottle of orange juice, and two pills.
“Aspirin. Take them and come on,” he said, then waited for me to swallow down the little white tablets. Conversation was thin but that was okay. Talking made my teeth ache.
“Do you have my phone?” I asked, patting myself as we rode down a private elevator. He handed me the burner phone and my wallet.
“It was almost dead when I found it by the bed. I went through the images and deleted anything with you and Ian in it. There were over a hundred. Do not take any pictures of yourself with him again. He’s got a reputation to protect and a multi-billion dollar company to run. One drunken snapshot of him and a rent boy would blow his world apart.”
I nodded sullenly, the pain of his words slicing deep. Everything he said was true, though, and I knew better than to act so stupidly. None of our bidders ever wanted to be associated with us in the light of day. We were dirty secrets that they enjoyed in the dark of night. When I checked the time on the burner phone, I wanted to throw up again. It was past noon. Holy fuck. Kennedy was going to kill me.
Butch dropped me off by the back entrance of Gems. He pulled away, the beefy tires of his Land Rover spewing filthy water all over my boots. I didn’t care. Dirty boots were the least of my worries. I tucked my tail and snuck into Gems. Why I thought I’d be able to get away with being six hours past curfew, I didn’t know. There were cameras everywhere. Within fifteen seconds, the on-duty security duo had me by the arms and were dragging me to Kennedy’s office. All the other guys were there, standing quietly along the far wall, eyes lowered, lips flat.
“Well, well, look who deigns to return to the fold.” Kennedy rose from his seat behind his desk, wearing casual trousers and a soft cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbow. He grabbed a pair of shears from a sterling silver pen cup as he rounded the desk. I began to fight then, but there was no breaking free from Jerk and Off.
“Kennedy,” Diamond said in warning.
“Shut up.” Kennedy shook the shears at him. “This is why you boys are so rarely given passes to do fun things. You can thank Opal the next time someone asks to hire you as escorts and I say no. You can thank Opal the next time you ask for a day off because your crack whore mother died or your drunk daddy was arrested and I say no. You can thank Opal the next time your trampy sister pops out a new welfare brat and I say no, you can’t go see the meth-addicted little shitter!”
He moved around me, grabbed my rather ratty braid, and jerked it down, hard. My eyes watered. I knew I was going to die.
“He made a mistake,” Diamond argued, keeping his place by the wall. My brotherly love for him grew even more for his defense of me.
“Yes, he did, and now he’s going to be taught a lesson.” With that he began cutting through the plait fisted in his left hand. I cried openly and pleaded for him to stop. Ian loved my hair. When the braid hit the floor, he came around in front of me and slapped me as hard as he could, the backhanded strike cracking loudly, the ring on his middle finger tearing open the skin on my cheek.
“You’re to be on the floor at ten p.m., and you will look like the gem that you’re named after, or so help me God, the next time we talk I’ll be carving out those pretty slanted eyes of yours. Get out of my face, all of you. Fucking ungrateful little sluts. Go!” Kennedy raged.
I was flung at Diamond, who helped me from Kennedy’s office, an arm around my waist, while the others swarmed around us, whispering encouragements, and touching me in comforting ways. My friends tended to me, washing the cut on my face, patting it dry, putting a salve on it. They helped me change into sleeping pants and they fluffed the short, wretched looking mess that was my hair. They even tucked me into bed, Diamond holding me as I cried myself to sleep.