We all have that one friend; you know the one you would call to help you bury the body at three am. Well, who do you call when it’s their body you plan to bury?
See she is the reason I’m in a mixer full of older men, and one of which just told me the real reason everyone is here, details said friend left out. But let’s start at the beginning.
“Ellie just go. It’s a night out and some free booze.” My best friend Mia says.
“I have the girls, they have homework and need dinner,” I say.
I’m a single mom to two amazing girls. Allie who is seven and Becca, who is five. Their dad, my ex-husband, was my high school sweetheart. Then one day he walked out when Becca was almost two. He disappeared for a year and then I received divorce papers.
Still, he gave me no reason and he saw the girls just once right before the divorce was final. He has every other weekend visitation, spring break, and two weeks in the summer but hasn’t used a day of it. Child support comes on time every month though, thank God for small favors.
Mia knows all this. She knows I’m working to cover all our bills and while we are paying everything on time, one mess up and we would be in trouble. I have three-hundred dollars in savings and survive on my job at the coffee shop bakery and child support.
I don’t go out, there is no money to do so. This is why Mia suggested the mixer so I could get out of the house. Apparently, this is where guys who aren’t looking for commitment are finding someone to have dates with and they pay for it all.
It sounds too good to be true or like there is a catch, but Mia swears there isn’t, and Mia is my person, so I trust her.
To be honest, I’m not sure how she convinced me to go, it’s all still a blur but I’m here. Mia is with the girls and I’m nursing a glass of wine standing off to the side taking it all in. There are guys sixty and older, there are some guys my age in their mid-twenties and everything between.
But the girls are what catch my eye. They are all the same. Super skinny, tan, perfectly done blond hair, manis and pedis. Most look younger than me and they are flirty, basically the version of a trophy wife.
The word gold digger crosses my mind.
They are the opposite of me.
I have a little weight to me, I’m a mom of two after all, that flat stomach disappeared seven years ago. I’m not pale white, but I’m not super tan either. I’m five feet five inches and while these girls are wearing dresses that leave little to the imagination, I’m in dressy dark jeans, my favorite dress top, and heels.
The girls here all have the blond hair from a bottle while my hair is my natural chestnut brown. They have makeup on and perfect contouring,; I have mascara and lip gloss. I don’t fit in here.
I decide I’m going to finish my drink because it was free and then bail. This is not my thing and not one person has even tried to talk to me. I finish off my wine and set it down. I gather my purse, but before I can turn to leave, a husky deep voice fills the air.
“You look like you are about to leave,” he says.
I turn to see a man over six-foot-tall and he looks to be in his mid-thirties judging by the laugh lines. He has dark hair and sparkling blue eyes. He’s huge, like muscles for days huge. He has money,I can tell with his perfectly tailored suit and the Rolex on his wrist.
I smile, “That’s because I am. A friend suggested I come here tonight, but I don’t know, this isn’t my kind of dating,” I say looking around.
“Dating…” he says, “Did your friend say what kind of group this was?”
“Just that the guys would be older, and I needed to get out of the house.” I roll my eyes and he laughs. A husky laugh that has my stomach clenching and shivers running across my skin.
“Can I get you a drink? I would love to talk to you, and I think your friend left out some details,” he says and extends his arm toward a table off to the side.
I hesitate. At the very least he does have my interest and he isn’t bad looking. Okay, that is an understatement, this man is sexy as hell when he laughs and smiles.
Plus, I need to know if Mia’s death will be quick or slow.
He must see my hesitation. “Just one drink and let me explain. Then you can leave, I won’t stop you.”
I take a deep breath and nod. We then sit at a table off to the side and out of the way, but still have a full view of the room. I study him and see him looking at me too.
“I’m Owen,” he says.
“Ellie,” I nod.
He takes a sip of his drink and then leans toward me resting his arms on the table. He points across the room.
“All these men have money and lots of it. What they don’t want, is a relationship. The commitment, the feelings, the sticky stuff. Many want company, dates to events, someone to enjoy a meal out with, maybe a movie. Some just want a beautiful woman on their arm,” he says.
“Like a trophy wife.”
He laughs. “Yeah kind of, but without the marriage and with no strings. If there is a connection, they’re willing to pay the girls for their time.”
Well, that catches my attention and I sit up straight.
“Like a hooker? Sorry, that is not me.” I can’t help the disgust in my voice.
He touches my hand gently. And sparks shoot up my arm and my hand feels like it’s on fire. I wonder if he feels it too.
“No sex is involved unless both parties agree. If a relationship is agreed upon these girls get paid for each date the guy takes them on, they get a monthly spending allowance, gifts, vacations it all varies from person to person.”
“So, like a Sugar Daddy?”
“Pretty much,” he grins.
I look at him thinking that this is why he is here. I don’t get it. He is attractive and damn sexy so why would he need to pay for a date? What do I have to lose?
“Well, why are you here?” I ask him.
“Ahhh,” he says with a sparkle in his eye. He looks away over the crowd and takes another sip of his drink.
“Relationships are messy, feelings, breakups. I run a very successful company and need dates to events, charity functions, and also, I like to go out, try new places to eat, see movies, and it kind of sucks doing that alone. I found many women were just after my money when I was looking for something real.” He takes another sip of his drink. “After being emotionally drained, having both my work performance and my company suffer just for someone who only wanted money, I figured why not call a spade a spade. I have people who have families who depend on the success of the company, on me and I take that very seriously. So, I figured I can get the dates and company I want while being open about my motives and giving the women what they want. It’s been a pretty good deal before.”
“So how many ‘relationships’ have you had like this?” I ask.
“Three that lasted more than a month and one that went over a year.”
“Why end it if it was going so well?”
“Everyone including her expected an engagement. While I have no problem with the arrangement, when or if I do get married, I plan for it to be for love, not to someone who is in it for what it can do for her. Call me old- fashioned, but marriage is a sacred thing for me.”
I nod and sip my drink in silence looking at the crowd with new eyes.
“You’re different than the other girls here,” he says.
I laugh, “Why because I don’t dye my hair and my tits are real?”
He laughs so hard it causes people nearby to actually stop and stare, which causes my face to warm slightly.
“I wasn’t thinking along those lines, but that’s a good point. You are very real and blunt, and I can tell you aren’t into all this.”
“Yeah well, I don’t have time to sugar coat things and if I had known what this was, I never would have shown up. As it is, my friend will need a SWAT team to protect her when I get home.”
“Would an arrangement like this be so bad for you?”
I pause and then point to an older gentleman at another table well past his seventies with a walker next to him.
“What like him? He’s looking for a sexy nurse for sponge baths. So not interested.”
He gives me a soft smile never taking his eyes off me. Then his face goes serious.
“Well, what if it was me asking?”
I look him over and shake my head and start to stand up.
“You don’t want me, but I bet the blond at the bar would be more than willing though.” I know I need to leave before he goes and tries to pick her up cause watching that would suck. I grab my purse to leave.
“Will you please just hear me out?” he asks. “What harm can come from hearing what I have to say?”
I look at him wondering if I really want to hear it. I guess if nothing else this can be a funny story on the next horrible date I go on. I don’t answer right away, so he continues.
“What if I sweeten the deal and buy you dinner? No strings attached. We talk and worst case you get a nice meal out of it and head home to slaughter your friend with my lawyers’ card in your hand for when she goes missing.” He raises his eyebrow and I laugh.
When was the last time I found someone who can keep up with me?
“Okay dinner, but I’m driving my own car.”
“Okay,” he says. “There is a bistro less than five minutes from here that just opened a few weeks ago I’ve been wanting to try.”
I nod, “I’ll follow you there.”
We end up at a little bistro that has modern touches and is done up in creams with lime green accents. I’m actually surprised I like the decor.
Owen gets us a seat in the back while I’m looking around. The place is pretty packed, so I’m surprised when we get right in.
He places his hand on my lower back and guides me to the table. Normally this would make me uncomfortable on a date, but for some reason, it has the opposite effect with Owen.
Owen pulls out my chair for me and is the picture of a perfect gentleman which is very refreshing.
We pick up our menus and he says, “Order anything you like, drinks, appetizers, desserts, and don’t hold back”
Well, okay then. I order a glass of wine. I look around at the people at tables near us and at their plates of food.
I try to match up what they are eating with what’s on the menu and my eyes go wide. Seventy-five dollars for three skimpy slices of steak on a small scoop of mashed photos and some fancy sauce. This place is out of its mind.
I sigh, and he hears it.
“Nothing.” I keep looking at the menu.
“No come on, don’t hold your opinions back now.”
I lean in so I can lower my voice. “You really think a place like this is worth your money?”
“I haven’t eaten here yet, but everyone is saying good things and the chef is from Washington D.C. and has cooked for the president.”
“Yeah, I bet he didn’t rip him off,” I say
“What do you mean?” He asks.
I point to the plate of the woman next to us.
“Seventy-five dollars for three slices of steak? You can get a twenty-ounce steak cooked perfectly and melts in your mouth for less than that elsewhere.”
He shakes his head and smiles, “Let’s give it a fair shake, yeah? Don’t look at prices, let’s try the food and see if it measures up.”
“Okay,” I hesitantly agree.
We order an appetizer of crab cakes that aren’t actually too bad, but I have had better ones.
“So, let’s not beat around the bush,” I say. “Get to talking.”
“Upfront, are we?” he says.
“Yes, remember I speak my mind.”
There is a twinkle in his eye at that.
“I like you because you are different, you hold your own in a conversation, you can make me laugh, and you have opinions. I guess I like that this isn’t your thing, and you aren’t being what you think I want, you are just you.”
“Yes, well I’m not a bullshitter, never have been. I tend to be too blunt sometimes and put my foot in my mouth more than I’d like to admit. But I’m real, what you see is what you get. I don’t like games. Games hurt too much,” I say.
He looks at me seriously. “Yes, I agree, I don’t do games either.” He pauses and his tone softens, “Look, I’d like to do a trial run with you. One month.”
I laugh, “You’ll run screaming after a week, trust me.”
He just smiles. “One month, either of us can walk away, no questions asked. If after a month we agree it works, then we do a contract.”
I look at him and study him as he talks. “What does this all entail?”
“Well, I’d like dinner once a week with you just like this, maybe a better restaurant,” he pauses and smiles. “As I said, I like trying new places. That means drinks, dinner, maybe a movie, or an event downtown. Several hours of your time. I pay you three-hundred dollars a date and cover all expenses on said date. Say every Friday night. You are free to say no to any others during the week, but Friday night would be a must.”
I stare at him, thinking. Three-hundred dollars more than pays for a babysitter if Mia or my mom aren’t available and that’s an extra $1200 a month. The money could build up my savings account and give me some breathing room.
He continues, “Over the next month I have three functions on my schedule. These are longer nights and require socializing, proper etiquette, dress, hair, makeup, etc. I pay five-hundred dollars a night for these. I cover your dress, hair, makeup, and anything else needed for the event. At the moment everything is in town, but I have had out-of-town events mostly for a weekend where I’d need you to come along. We’ll negotiate that beforehand. You will also be given a one-thousand-dollar line of credit for clothes and a two- monthly allowance to be on call for last minutes dates.”
When he said that I almost choked on my wine. Did I just hear him right?
“Two-thousand dollars a month allowance?” I ask.
“Yes, to pay your bills, buy things you need. It’s an incentive to drop plans when I ask for last minute dates.”
“And what do you expect on the physical end from this?”
He smirks. “When we are out, it will be just like tonight. I’ll open the doors, pull out your chair, guide you with my hand on your back, or place your arm in mine and even hold your hand.” He pauses, letting me take it in.
“At the big social events there might be some kisses on the cheek and dancing, but you are not required to kiss me or sleep with me and if you’re ever uncomfortable, you say so. But you do have to make it look like you enjoy my company, and we are on a real date and have a real relationship,” he says.
I take another sip of my drink and think. Twelve-hundred dollars for one date a week to get out of the house, no kids. Fifteen-hundred dollars for three events and a two-thousand-dollar allowance is four-thousand dollars in one month. That’s more than I make in a month with child support. Plus, there is an option to make more with other dates.
I could take fewer hours at work this month, spend some time with the kids, chaperone Allie’s field trip, and write my book. Then when this is all over, sell the clothes and make a little more to put in the bank.
“And at any time, I can be done if this doesn’t work. Even mid-date?” I ask.
“Yes, and you can keep the full allowance amount and any money and clothing allowance for the month. If the month works and you agree to a contract, then things are a bit stricter, but we can negotiate all that when the time comes.”
It doesn’t sound like a bad deal, almost too good to be true.
“I don’t even know your full name,” I say.
I pull out my phone and type it in.
“Are you Googling me?” he asks and smiles, clearly amused.
“Umm yeah, I need to know my chances of this ending with me being butchered in your backyard.”
He grins again as our dinner shows up. He ordered scallops and I ordered the sliced steak.
“You aren’t on any of these trendy diets, are you?” I ask, eying his plate.
“Because I like burgers, fries, and steak, all things meat and carbs.”
“Good to know,” he says over his drink glass with a hint of amusement in his voice.
We talk a bit about the food, how small the portions are, and we even swap a bite off each other’s plate.
“So, chances of you being slaughtered and buried in my back yard?” he asks.
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