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Authors: E. L. Todd

Beautiful Entourage

BOOK: Beautiful Entourage
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Rhett

Spring was approaching, and New York City was beginning to thaw from the ice that gripped it by the throat. With every passing day, the patches of snow melted and became smaller. Eventually, they disappeared altogether. The only reason I noticed this was because I hated winter. The bite from the cold sunk into my bones and made me stiff. My hands became cramped because they were frozen, and playing basketball with my friends became impossible. We could use the court at the gym, but of course, it was always booked.

I checked my phone to see the time. It was half past five and Troy hadn’t arrived. I was sitting in a booth at our usual bar. My beer sat in front of me, untouched. The foam was heavy on top.

I hated foam.

Like I usually did when I had nothing to do, I checked my emails and text messages, wondering if I missed anything. Sitting around and doing nothing was difficult for me. I always had to be doing something. If I wasn’t productive, it was a waste of time. Some people said I had an astounding work ethic. But most people would say I didn’t have much of a life.

Troy finally walked inside then spotted me. He wore a long sleeve gray shirt with a thick black jacket on top. His dark jeans faded into his black boots. Once he walked inside, he ordered a beer from the bartender, who flashed him a smile of interest, and then he joined me in the booth. “Hey, man.”

I nodded to him. “How’s it going?”

He held up his finger to silence me while he downed half his beer in a single drink. He returned the glass to the table, even though a coaster was right next to it, and then released a satisfied smile. “I could live off beer. Seriously.”

“Nothing else?” I asked, humoring him. “Water is negligent?”

“Water is in beer, right?”

“True.”

“Then I could do it.”

“Food is pretty important,” I said. “It would be difficult to live without.”

“Then let me rephrase what I said.” He took another drink before he continued. “I could live off beer and forgo any other liquid.”

“You’d be drunk all the time.”

He shrugged. “I’m better company anyway.”

The corner of my lip upturned in a smile even though I wished it wouldn’t. “How’d it go the other night?”

He rubbed his palms against his face. “Ugh…”

“That bad?” I asked with a laugh.

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

I finally took a drink of my beer. “Spill it.”

“So, we get to the wedding and everything is going smooth. She introduces me as her boyfriend, and I keep my arm around her waist, doing my job. Her friends show their interest, and I hear some of them whisper to one another about how cute I am.”

“Sounds good so far…”

Troy held up a finger. “Wait for it.”

I drank my beer again.

“We get through the ceremony and dinner. I meet her parents and they like me. Everything was going great. But then we ran into her ex.”

“Isn’t he the reason she hired you as her escort?”

“Yeah,” Troy said. “Apparently, he cheated on her with her friend and she wanted to prove she was over him.”

“Did it work?”

“The guy came at me swinging.”

“What?” I asked incredulously. “He didn’t say a word? He just attacked you?”

“I don’t know, man.” He finished his beer then waved at the bartender for another. “I turned and he was barreling down on me.”

“What happened?”

“What do you think happened?” he snapped. “I beat the shit out of him.” He pointed to his face. “I can’t damage this. This is my livelihood right here. No guy is going to mess it up.”

I nodded in agreement. “And then?”

“People broke us apart but he was in bad shape. They called an ambulance because he had a concussion. My date attended to him with tears in her eyes. Long story short, they got back together.”

“Well, at least it had a happy ending,” I said with a laugh.

“I guess,” he agreed. “But once a cheater, always a cheater. She made a mistake.”

“That’s not always the case.”

A sarcastic laugh escaped his lips. “If a guy doesn’t have the balls to be upfront about his intentions, then he isn’t going to be upfront about any aspect of his life. He prefers to hide in the shadows and cover up his mistakes. Every behavior is connected to every other behavior. If someone is a liar, then they’ll lie about everything. If someone is a cheater, they won’t respect any partner they have. I’m telling you, I know.”

I suspected his philosophy had something to do with the bad break up he had a few years ago. “You’re right. I’m not disagreeing with that. But I think some people can change. It’s rare but it happens.”

“I’ve never seen it,” he said seriously.

“Maybe you need to look harder.”

The bartender brought his second beer. “The glass just came out of the freezer.” She gave him a playful smile, and I swear I saw her bat her eyelashes.

“Thanks, Brooke,” Troy said with a smile. “You always take care of me.”

She stood there for a moment, like she expected something to happen. “Well, let me know if you need anything else.”

“I will,” he said. “Thank you.”

When she was gone, I shifted my gaze back to him. “She’s into you.” I rested my arm on the back of the booth then looked out the window.

“I know.” He took a drink then rested his elbows on the table.

“Not interested?”

He shook his head. “Nah.” Troy was quiet about his personal life. If he were seeing someone, he probably wouldn’t tell me about it. It was ironic since we’d been best friends for years. After his last serious girlfriend, he hadn’t been hot on the dating scene. “What’s new with you?” he asked.

“Nothing, really.”

“Any escort dates gone haywire?” He drank half his beer in a single gulp.

I’d never been able to keep up with him. “No, I escorted this girl for a long time so her family would get off her back. Then that ended.”

“Why?” he asked. “Didn’t need you after the holidays?”

“No. She breached the contract.”

He shook his head slightly and gave me a knowing look. “If I had a nickel every time the contract was breached, I wouldn’t even need this job.”

I chuckled slightly. “You’re right about that.”

“So, what was it? Sex? Kissing?”

“Neither,” I said. “She told me she was in love with me.”

He sighed in an irritated way. “She hoped you felt the same way?”

“Unfortunately.”

“This is what I don’t get.” He started talking with his hands, his usual move when he was extremely passionate about something. “All women think we’re going to change our minds. That we make the rules in order to break them. It’s like it makes them want us
more
.”

“There are worse problems than having women wants us,” I said with a grin.

“But we’re running a business here,” he said. “It’s an exchange of goods. We act like perfect boyfriends or whatever they want us to be and they pay us. Then we go our separate ways. We’re an escort service, not a boyfriend service.”

I agreed with him completely and utterly. But I also understood emotions could be complicated. “I think they grow attached to us and want our services to continue indefinitely. That’s all.”

“Whatever the case may be, it’s annoying.” He finished his second beer. “Delicious.”

I was still on my first one. “If I didn’t know you so well, I’d say you had a drinking problem.”

“It’s only two beers.”

“Are you telling me you aren’t about to order a third one?” I challenged.

He narrowed his eyes at me, irritated I could predict his behavior so well. “No, I’m not.”

I laughed. “Damn liar.”

“Who cares how many beers I drink?”

“I do,” I said honestly. “I don’t want you to stumble into a gutter then get your skull run over by the city bus.”

“Like you wouldn’t rejoice if that happened.” He looked out the window.

“I admit the world would be a better place. But I would care—a little.”

He rolled his eyes. “Shut the hell up, Rhett. You’re nothing without me.”

That was true. Having someone to confide everything to without judgment was nice. He didn’t always reciprocate but I knew it wasn’t personal. Not everyone had friends they considered to be family. I was one of the lucky few. “I wouldn’t say that, but I would sorely miss you.”

“That’s better,” he mumbled. “Have you had that date yet?”

I met a girl through mutual friends and we were going out tomorrow. “Not yet.”

“She’s pretty cute. I hope you score.”

I shrugged, not really caring if I did or not.

“You don’t sound excited.”

“Every time I tell a date what I do for a living, they get weird about it.”

He clanked his empty glass against mine. “I hear ya.”

“I’m not a prostitute,” I argued. “There’s not even kissing involved. As soon as I say the word escort, jealousy and rage burns in their eyes. Then it goes nowhere.”

“Just lie,” he said. “Say you’re a…cab driver or something.”

“A cab driver?” I asked incredulously.

“Do you not know what a cab driver is?” he asked. “They drive around the city and—”

“I know what a cab driver is, Troy.”

“Good. Tell them you do that.”

“I’m sure girls love that…”

“Ooh!” He snapped his fingers. “CIA operative. Chicks are into that.”

I gave him a serious look. “Do I look like a CIA operative?”

He shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never seen one before.”

I finished my beer and let the comment go. “Hopefully I’ll at least get laid.”

“Dry spell?”

“Not really,” I said. “But anytime I go on a date, I hope that’s where it will lead.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

I shrugged. “If I like her, I’ll ask her out again. If not, that’s the end.”

“You know, we could just become a real escort service and charge women big bucks to make them come.”

“A glorified prostitute?” I asked.

“We don’t use real names so what does it matter?”

“Could you really do that for a living?” I asked. “Because I want to get married and have kids someday. I’d be pretty ashamed if that’s how I made my living. At least this is friendly more than anything else.”

He shrugged. “The money would be amazing…”

“I’ll pass.” I gave him a pointed look. “I know you would too.”

“Maybe…maybe not.” He eyed the bar then turned back to me. “So, how much are you going to judge me if I order another beer?”

“Not at all,” I said seriously. “Like always.”

He clanked his empty glass against mine again. “I knew you were my friend for a reason.”

***

I sat at the table near the window and waited for my date to arrive. I offered to pick her up but she insisted on meeting at the restaurant. I didn’t ask any questions. Whatever the lady wanted, the lady would get.

She finally entered through the main doors and searched for me in the crowded room. Silverware scratched against plates and quiet chatter created the backdrop for the evening. Low burning candles sat at every table, and chandeliers glowed dimly from the ceiling.

I stood up so she would see me. I wore slacks and a collared shirt, wanting to be formal but not overbearingly stiff. My hands were in my pockets and I waited for her to notice me.

When she did, she headed my way, a nice smile on her lips. “I apologize for being late.”

“No need for apology.” I greeted her with a hug then pulled out the chair for her. I knew every manner that ever existed, and I knew how to act like a gentleman since it was my job. Now it was second nature to me.

“Thank you.” She sat down then put her purse down on the chair beside her.

I sat across from her. “I ordered a bottle of wine. I hope you like red.”

“I like anything with alcohol,” she said immediately.

BOOK: Beautiful Entourage
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