Part of the Summer Fire anthology releasing May 26, 2015.
“Kari–I have a confession to make.” Jordon Marshall paused for a second,
delaying the moment of truth. Her sister wouldn’t judge her harshly, but she’d be ticked
off that Jordan hadn’t told her before.
“I hope it’s a good one,” Kari said. “You’ve been acting mysterious about this
whole weekend, and I’m dying to know why.”
Jordon propped her elbows on the wooden table, and glanced around at the other
patrons in the small, dark tavern. No one within hearing distance, but still she lowered her
voice. “I’ve slept with him.”
“Slept with who?”
“With him. You know. Bradley Langford. The guy who’s my date for the
“But how could you? You haven’t even met him!”
“Actually I have.”
“Okay, okay! Backtrack here.” Kari lowered her voice. “Exactly when did you
meet him and sleep with him, and all that good stuff? And why am I just hearing about
“Well, it wasn’t important before.” It had been an incredible night she’d kept close
to the chest. “But now it is. You don’t tell me about every guy you hook up with, do
“No, but you wouldn’t want to know. You, on the other hand, have had one
boyfriend in the past two years.”
“True. But, Kari, we weren’t even on a date!” Jordon felt her cheeks warm, just
saying the words. How could she ever have done such a thing? She wasn’t a party girl.
Her sister…but this was not about Kari. It was Jordan’s moment of truth. “I didn’t even
know him,” she said in a final rush, fanning her flushed face. She would be so happy to
get this conversation over with.
“Holy crap! That is so not you. You never go for cheap hook-ups. You’ve never
slept with someone that you weren’t in love with.” Kari laughed. “As your sister, I know
every guy you’ve had a crush on since you were nine years old!” She snorted. “Until
“The whole situation was really messed up. So was I.” She put one hand over her
chest and the remembered pain. “You know the day I found out about Tom getting
married? Well I went out with Cindy. Some new hot shot bar in mid-town where we met
after she got off work.”
“Cindy? The one you worked with at the PR office–before you made the biggest
mistake of your life and took the job at the winery?” Kari didn’t hide her dislike of all
things related to Tom, including the family business.
“Yeah, that Cindy. And it wasn’t the biggest mistake of my life. Sleeping with a
total stranger tops that by a mile. Anyway, let me finish.” Jordan sighed and took a sip of
the wine she’d ordered, hoping it might ease her nerves. What would he say when he saw
“Go on. I’m all ears.”
“Yeah, well, it was happy hour. Cindy and I were having martinis and I was
telling her the whole ugly story. She’d met Tom several times, and we’d gone out
together as couples. So, she couldn’t believe it when I told her he’d met someone in Italy,
and was bringing her home as his bride.” She inched the wine glass away before she
“I know, honey. I couldn’t believe it, either. Mom and Dad are still in shock. They
loved him. We all did. The two-faced jerk.”
Jordon’s throat closed, and she shut her eyes for a moment to hold back another
round of tears. She’d shed enough. Tom was not going to get one more drop out of her.
“Yes, well, I guess he just didn’t love me. I thought he did, but how could he leave for a
few months and fall in love with someone else so fast? After two years of dating he never
asked me to marry him.” She sniffed. “And after only a few months he decides he’s met
the person he wants to spend the rest of his life with?”
After a moment’s silence, Kari spoke gently. “Oh, Jordon, I’m sorry that this still
hurts, but you never seemed anxious to get married. Maybe he wanted that, and sensed
you were more focused on your career than starting a family.”
“That’s not true. Or fair. I loved him.” Jordan ran her finger through the
condensation on her wine glass, thinking about her relationship with Tom. They had
loved each other. Not like a romantic movie where people were crazy in love. She and
Tom were just really good together–compatible in every way. Sex between them hadn’t
set off any fireworks, but it was very satisfying. She’d rate it a B+, or maybe a good solid
B. Not like sex with Bradley Langford. That had been extraordinary. Off the charts.
Probably because she’d had too much to drink, or because it had been naughty when she
was usually nice.
Ashamed of where her thoughts had taken her, Jordon added in her defense, “We
had a good relationship. We were both so busy trying to put his family’s winery on the
map that romance took a back seat.”
“Maybe if you’d gone to Italy with him?”
“The Martello’s pay me handsomely, but they expect me to be “hands on”. I’m
their jack-of-all-trades business manager.”
“Well, by keeping you here, they lost you as a daughter-in-law,” she said hotly.
“They’ll be sorry, and so will Tom.” Kari, loyal to the bone added, “When he sees you
again, he’ll realize what an idiot he’s been. He probably just got lonely without you, and
this conniving bitch somehow figured a way to entice him. That’s all. One look at you
and he won’t marry her.”
“Too late. This weekend celebration is to introduce his new bride to their regular
customers and his extended family and friends.” Jordan sighed. “I told you that.”
“Why in the world are you going? I can’t believe his parents would put you
through that torture, no matter how well they pay.”
“My fault,” Jordan admitted. “I insisted it didn’t bother me. Then I said I’d met
someone and they seemed surprised, but delighted. So, I had to find someone fast, and
that’s what I did.”
“That’s why you slept with a stranger at a bar?” Her sister’s voice rose in mock
horror. “I’m almost proud of you. I’d high five you if I could.”
“It wasn’t like that. I didn’t go there with a plan in mind. Just happened. Cindy had
to leave early because her husband expected her for dinner, and I had just ordered another
martini. Anyway, I heard this guy talking on his cell outside the restrooms, and he
seemed even more upset than me. When he returned he took the bar seat next to me, and I
sent him over a drink. So I guess I picked him up, but we were both miserable, and I
didn’t want to go home. Misery loves company. It’s true.” Jordan shook her head at the
“So what was he like? Or do you even remember?” Kari teased.
“Of course I remember. He was nice. Tall, good looking with light, sandy-colored
hair. Bright blue eyes. Well dressed. Clean finger nails.” She closed her eyes as images
flashed in her mind. “We talked for hours. He ordered some food, we had another round
of drinks, then he insisted on seeing me home in a taxi. I planned to walk, but by then I
wasn’t walking so good.”
“Well, at least he behaved like a gentleman. So how did you wind up in bed
“He helped me to the door. I opened it, and turned around to thank him and say
good-bye. He gave me this really sweet, puppy dog smile, and without thinking I just
grabbed him by the tie and dragged him in.”
Kari laughed. “I like that part. So is he going through a divorce? Is that it?”
“He’s already divorced. Told me he was a lawyer and that his wife had kept the
Hampton home and now wanted to put their daughter in some fancy schmancy boarding
school. That’s what he was so angry about. He said if she wasn’t going to take care of her,
“Nice. I like him already.”
“Well, he seemed legit, but then when I needed a “make believe boyfriend” for
this weekend I went to an exclusive dating service. Imagine my surprise when I cruised
through photos and found his.”
“Oh, no! So he lied about his profession? What else did he lie about, I wonder?
Maybe the whole conversation was a hoax to make you feel sorry for him.”
“I don’t think so, but that’s why I selected him. I want to find out.” “As soon as
this weekend is over, you better call me. Okay? I am as curious as you are.”
“I will. Promise. Look. I’ve got to go. I think he just arrived. A sleek silver Jaguar
just pulled into the parking lot, and this is more of a pick-up truck kind of bar.” Her heart
raced at the thought of seeing him again.
“Have fun. And good luck.”
“Thanks, Kari. I’m going to need it.”
Bradley pushed the door of the tavern open and glanced around the semi-
darkness. He spotted a lone woman in a booth and headed her way. God, he hated this
job. Being an escort with a lonely hearts service was not something he’d ever aspired to,
but for now it was a means to an end. He had to pay five grand a month alimony to his ex
and make colossal payments on the four bedroom cottage in the Hamptons, which she’d
been awarded from the divorce. He was only a junior lawyer in a mid-size firm, not some
high-priced Wall Street type.
The only thing he still owned was the car outside and a studio loft in Hoboken.
Not that he gave a damn. Crystal could have the house, half his money, and drag his
name through the muck. What ate at him and left an acid hole in his gut was that he
missed his daughter terribly. Seeing her every second weekend wasn’t enough.
A buddy of his who’d been in a similar circumstance a few years back had told
him about this agency. He’d said it was a lark and that Bradley would easily make enough
money to pay his alimony and mortgage. Bradley had figured it was a nice payback to his
wife, who’d put him through hoops to get everything she could out of their twelve year
Okay. The divorce had been his fault. While his wife played in the Hamptons all
summer, he’d been alone in the city. A workplace flirtation turned into a dinner, and it
should have ended right there. He honestly had never planned it any other way. Heck,
Cindy was married too. After working late one night he suggested grabbing a bite to eat.
They’d just stepped out of the Soho restaurant when Cindy tripped on the sidewalk and
sprained her ankle.
He’d picked her up, flagged down a cab and taken her to his place so they could
ice it. God’s truth. That had been his only intention. She had lain on his couch, her ankle
wrapped up in ice and he’d poured them both a glass of wine. Big mistake. The next thing
he knew they were both naked and rolling off the couch. They both regretted that one
indiscretion and never mentioned it again. Truthfully, they avoided each other like the
plague. No more flirting around the water cooler or texting each other, or sharing smiles
as they past in the halls.
A couple of weeks passed, and he began to breathe easier. Cindy wasn’t going to
make trouble and his wife didn’t ever have to know. He would never, ever misbehave
again. He’d learned his lesson. Abstinence was a better bedfellow than guilt.
As luck would have it, his wife Crystal came to visit him midweek and found an
earring partially hidden in the sofa. He’d explained the unfortunate situation the best he
could, but she wouldn’t forgive him no matter how hard he begged. Instead she’d set out
to see that he paid, and paid, and paid.
Yes, it had been wrong. He had been bad. So here he was. Trapped in another
weekend of pretence.
He straightened his shoulders and marched toward the back booth where a young
woman sat. The walls inside were brick, the lights dim and he couldn’t see her very well.
As he drew near he caught sight of her long auburn hair, and the profile of her face. He
stopped dead in his tracks. She looked like a woman that he’d recently met, one he
Life was stranger than fiction, but he didn’t expect to get so lucky. Not twice with
the same woman.
She lifted her chin and looked him directly in the face.
“Hello, Bradley,” she said in her throaty voice.
“Jordon?” His heart pounded. During their amazing encounter, he’d never
mentioned moonlighting as a paid escort. It wasn’t something that he told many people,
since he wasn’t particularly proud of it. But she had paid highly for the pleasure of his
company this weekend. On purpose? “You’re my weekend date? How did you find me?”
“Why, the usual way, I suppose. I needed an escort, and you fit the bill. What a
pleasant surprise. A lawyer a month ago, and now an escort with No Strings Attached.
You do get around.”
The look in her eye made him cringe. He wasn’t used to feeling as low as a
cockroach, at least not since the mud-slinging divorce. Why should he apologize for not
divulging this information? Their hook-up had been an unexpected surprise, but he hadn’t
owed her his life story. Not then, and not now. After all, she was the one paying a man to
be her pretend lover, right? Nothing high and mighty about that.
“I suppose you want an explanation,” he finally said to ease the situation. No
point in getting off on the wrong foot. Besides, he liked her. A lot. She was beautiful,
sexy, intelligent, and a dynamo in bed. “Well, truth is I need the money. Everything else I
told you was real.”
“Everything?” She smiled, but her green eyes were accusing. “I thought we were
having a heart to heart that night in the bar. You left out an important part.”
“Not the way I see it.” He cocked his hip and met her gaze straight on. “I am what
I said I was, and this is just a sideline to ease the financial strain. It’ll end in a few years.
Meanwhile, it’s easy money and enjoyable most of the time.”
“Oh, I can only imagine,” she said, sticking her pretty nose in the air.
“No Strings Attached is very clear about their dating rules,” he reminded her. “No
sex allowed. So whatever you’re thinking that I do with these women, forget it. I stick to
that agreement a hundred percent of the time.”
“Really? Well, what if I want more than just a friendly date? After all, I paid a
“You’d have to take it up with management. Maybe Elizabeth Ward could find
you someone else more agreeable.”
“I don’t want anyone else. I want you.” She looked him up and down as he was
still standing. The gesture made him feel like a piece of meat.
“Do you mind if I sit?”
“Not if you plan to stay.” She scooted over, making room on the wooden bench
next to her.
Bradley slid into the booth, careful not to make contact. “So. I was told a weekend
long house party with hundreds of guests and some dancing. It must be for the guy you
told me about. The one who ditched you and married someone else.”
“He didn’t ditch me.” Jordan edged further into the corner, picked up her wine
glass and slugged it down. “He just married someone else.”
“In my books, that’s ditching. But let’s not get into semantics.” He felt sorry for
her, realizing that showing up at this party would be unbearably hard. “It’s going to be a
tough weekend for you. I’ll do what I can to make it as easy as possible. I will flatter you,
romance you, do all the right stuff. No one other than you and I will ever guess that we
aren’t a couple in love, and boinking our brains out every night.” He smiled. “I promise.”
“Maybe I want to do some boinking. It would serve Tom right.” Her chin lifted
and she studied his face. “Besides, we had a good time, didn’t we?”
His eyes held hers and he reached for her hand, gave it a squeeze. “We did, but
this weekend will be awkward enough. We don’t want to complicate things.”
“How can great sex complicate anything? It’s not that I care about you. Just don’t
want to feel discarded and unwanted. I hope when Tom looks at me he’ll see that ‘freshly
Bradley looked at her mouth and thought about the things he had done to her.
With her. It had been a wild night of pleasure. So much so, that he felt himself stir at the
heated memory. He attempted to cross his legs under the table but there wasn’t room.
“Look. I wish I could help you out here, but I can’t. It isn’t right. I only agreed to being an
escort, not to be used for sexual gratification. If I did that, I’d be nothing more than a
cheap hooker.” “Hardly cheap.” She rolled her eyes, and sighed. “And of course you’re
not a hooker. At least I don’t think you are. I never really thought about it at all. It’s just
that we did do it once. For free. So I figured you wouldn’t mind. Add some spice. Make
“How would you feel if it were the other way around? If I’d hired you to make my
ex-wife jealous? And…if I expected to make love to you because I’d paid good money.”
“I would be greatly insulted.” Her shoulders dropped. “Sorry.”
“Forget about it.” He waved to the waitress. “Bring us two glasses of whatever
“Yes, sir,” she blushed and gave him a flirtatious smile. “Right away.”
He waited a sec for the waitress to be out of earshot, then turned toward Jordon.
“There were plenty of escorts to choose from,” he said, trying not to get his hopes up.
“Why did you choose me?” Had she enjoyed his company too? Could it be the beginning
of something? More than just incredibly hot sex.
She licked her lips, and he wanted to taste them.
“Why? I’m not sure. We had a good time together. Amazing chemistry. And I
wanted to find out why you’d told me you were a lawyer, and yet your photo and bio
were on Elizabeth’s exclusive site. I found it odd.”
He ground his teeth together. He’d searched high and low for her, scouting out
bars, hoping to run into her again.
“Do you believe me now?” He looked directly into her eyes.
“Yes,” she whispered, a little breathless.
“You want chemistry? I think I can manage that.” He cupped her chin. Damn. He
wanted to kiss her right now. “How hot do you want it?”
Her cheeks grew warm and her green eyes glittered. “As hot as you’ve got.”