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Authors: Nerika Parke

The Cost of Love

BOOK: The Cost of Love
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The Cost of Love


Nerika Parke



Copyright: Nerika Parke
Published: 2015

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this book in any format.








“Oh, sorry, I should have warned you about the coffee table.”

Charlotte wanted to lean down to rub her throbbing shin, but with Tiffany’s hands clamped securely over the scarf covering her eyes it was impossible. “Are we almost there?” 

She knew they had to be in one of the up market hotel’s bedrooms. From the lobby, where Tiffany had insisted she tie the scarf around her face to stop her seeing the surprise, they’d ridden up in a lift, walked about forty feet, and finally she’d heard the click of a lock and a door opening, at which point Tiffany had added her hands to the scarf. Charlotte could feel her at her back, almost bouncing with excitement as they stopped.

“Okay, we’re here,” Tiffany said.

Charlotte lifted her hands to remove the blindfold.

“No, no,” Tiffany said, not releasing her, “in a moment. Now, hasn’t your birthday been fun so far?”

“Yee-ss.” Charlotte drew the word out, not because she hadn’t had fun, but because her best friend was notoriously unpredictable and she was slightly worried about what was going to happen next.

“And I bet you’re wondering why we’re here, given that it’s ten o’clock and nearing your bedtime.”

“I’m not a nun, Tiff,” Charlotte said.

“You’re not far off. Which is why I have got you the best present ever.” She let go, whipped off the scarf blindfold and held out her arms with a grin. “Ta-daa! Am I the best friend you’ve ever had, or what?”

Charlotte looked around. They were standing in the centre of one of the Excelsior Hotel’s large, modern bedrooms. Sleek and stylish, it screamed taste, the polar opposite of Charlotte’s own bedroom.

There was a man standing by the huge double bed. He was also sleek and stylish. Probably Tiffany’s new boyfriend. He was just her friend’s type, although Charlotte couldn’t deny he was handsome, in a too perfect kind of way.

Charlotte smiled at him and continued her perusal of the room. “Um, what am I looking for?”

Tiffany deflated and dropped her arms. “Oh, Charlie, has it been so long you’ve forgotten what a man is?”

Charlotte whipped her head round to look at Tiffany. Then she looked at the man again.

“I... what?”

Tiffany gestured towards him. “Charlotte, this is Jason. He’s all yours for the night. Happy birthday!” She bounced a little.

Charlotte’s jaw dropped. For a few seconds, she couldn’t remember a single word of the English language. Her eyes flicked between the man, who was now wearing an expression of apologetic amusement, and her friend, who was grinning from ear to ear as if she’d just found the cure for the common cold.

“He’s... I don’t... what?”

Tiffany heaved a sigh, put her arm around Charlotte’s waist and steered her towards him. “Jason, meet Charlotte, my clueless but very nice friend. Charlotte, meet Jason, the male escort I hired for you.” She took hold of Charlotte’s right wrist and raised her hand towards him.

Jason took the limp appendage and shook it briefly. “It’s nice to meet you, Charlotte.” When he let go, her arm dropped to her side again.

“Well, that’s my cue to leave,” Tiffany said. She kissed Charlotte’s cheek and gave her an exaggerated wink. “Have fun!”

The slamming door startled Charlotte back to her senses. She looked around and panicked when she found herself alone in the room with Jason the male escort.

male escort.

She looked back at him. “I... I don’t... um...”

He pushed his hands into his pockets and smiled. “I’m guessing this is all a bit of a surprise.”

“You could say that.”

She suddenly felt the need to sit down. Her eyes went to the bed.

Definitely not.

There was a sofa by the window and she fled to it, dropping onto the plush cushion before she fell down. Tiffany had done some over the top things in the ten years Charlotte had known her, but this was far and away the wildest.

A male escort. What was her friend thinking?

Jason followed her to the sofa and sat on the far end. He handed her a glass. “You look like you could use this.”

When she’d ascertained it was just water, she took a long drink. “Thank you.”

She looked at him properly for the first time. She had to hand it to Tiffany, he really was handsome. His dark blond hair curled over his collar and his eyes were the most startling shade of dark blue. He was wearing a white shirt beneath a suit that matched his eyes. It looked expensive. Not that she was an expert in men’s clothing, but it certainly fitted him well.

Realising to her horror that she was staring, she looked away.

“I get the feeling you’d rather your friend had bought you a box of chocolates,” he said. “She didn’t tell me you wouldn’t know.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, “it isn’t you. I’m sure you’re a lovely person and very good at... well... your job.” She stopped and looked at her lap, well aware she was blushing. The sound of laughter made her look up again. “You’re laughing at me.”

“No, not at all,” he said, eyes sparkling with amusement. “It’s just, you look so uncomfortable while trying to be nice. It’s cute.” One side of his mouth hitched up. “Puppies and male escorts; two things you should never give as a gift without being sure the person wants one.”

Despite herself, Charlotte laughed, covering her mouth.

“Look,” he said, “your friend has paid for me to keep you company until eight tomorrow morning, but I can leave if you’d prefer. Or we can do whatever you want to, go out, stay in, talk, play video games, anything. Or we can have sex. Whatever you want. It’s your decision completely.”

Her blush returned with a vengeance at the mention of sex. “Um, I, well, not that last thing. Not that you’re not... I mean, if I was going to, you would be perfectly acceptable...” Her eyes widened. “Oh no, I didn’t mean just acceptable...”

Sighing, she gave up and closed her eyes in dismay. What was wrong with her? She must look like such an idiot right now. A touch on her arm made her open her eyes again.

“Okay, no sex, understood. Most of my clients aren’t as beautiful as you, so it’s kind of disappointing for
, but...” He shrugged and smiled.

A frisson of excitement zipped through her stomach before she realised he probably had a whole range of compliments on tap to deliver to his clients.

Oh no, I’m a

“Please don’t do that,” she said.


“Give me fake compliments. I mean, I know you probably do that all the time, but I’d rather you didn’t. Then you can just be yourself and I don’t have to feel awkward.” Like
was going to happen.

He leaned back on the sofa, studying her. “Okay, I’ll make you a deal. I won’t say anything I don’t truthfully mean, but then you have to believe whatever I say. Deal?”

She gave it some thought. “Seems reasonable. Alright, deal.”

He smiled. “So what would you like to do, birthday girl?”

Was she really considering this? Spending the evening with a man her friend had bought for her? On a purely moral level it was iffy at best.

But she had no intention of sleeping with him. And it had been a long time since she’d been out with anyone, not that her social life had ever been a sparkling funfest of excitement. And he seemed nice. And he certainly wasn’t hard to look at. Would it be so bad, just this once?

“Well, Tiffany did take me to dinner earlier, but it was one of those uber-trendy places that charge thirty quid for two carrot sticks and a cubic inch of pork and I’m still hungry. So I’d quite like to eat something that takes me more than two bites. Does that make me sound really unclassy?”

Jason laughed and stood, offering his hand. It was warm and smooth and, above all,
. Charlotte performed an internal eye roll when he’d let go after she was standing. It was only a hand, for goodness’ sake.

“No,” he said as he followed her out the door, “it makes you sound like my kind of woman.”


Forty-five minutes later they were sitting on a bench on the seafront, eating fish and chips with plastic sporks from polystyrene trays wrapped in paper. The multicoloured lights illuminating the promenade sparkled on the waves lapping the beach in front of them.

“And that just about sums up my college experience.” Charlotte’s internal realist was holding its head in its hands, wondering why on earth she was boring Jason with the boring story of her boring life. He seemed to have a knack for making her comfortable enough to talk about herself.

His shoulders were shaking with repressed laughter. “Kippers?”

“I swear I didn’t know they were there. I think they were on the verge of calling the bomb squad before the smell was traced to my bag.”

He erupted into laughter, clutching the paper around his chips so they didn’t spill. “Did you get in trouble?”

“Not really, although the dean did give me a stern talking to before the class left. How about you? Did you go to university?”

He looked down at his food, spearing a chip. “Yeah. Graduated three years ago. No rotting kipper related incidents to tell.” He popped the chip into his mouth and chewed.

Charlotte nodded and looked at her own food. “I get it. I could be some crazy woman stalker. I imagine your profession can be risky sometimes.”

He leaned into her, putting one arm around her and speaking into her hair. “No, that’s not it at all. You’re only crazy in a good way.”

He let go and took a bite of fish. Charlotte willed her heart to stop doing its best impression of a jackhammer.

“And as far as my profession goes, sometimes the women are pleasant and just want the company, sometimes they only want one thing. And once in a while they turn out to be pretty and funny and sweet and it doesn’t feel like working at all because there’s nowhere I’d rather be.”

He looked at her and smiled. Charlotte blushed and focused on playing with her food.

“You’re good,” she said.

“Hey, you have to believe everything I say, remember?”

She looked back up at him. The way he was gazing at her, his expression serious, made her think he might actually be telling the truth.

She nodded, blushed some more, and returned to studying her meal.


They spent the next two hours eating, talking and going for a walk in the warm September night air. Being with Jason had Charlotte cycling between so many thrilling emotions it made her mind spin. If it had been a real date, she would have been doing mental cartwheels. She kept having to remind herself he was just with her for the evening.

One single night with someone who was very close to being the man of her dreams. It wasn’t enough, even if for him it was just business.

“I have an idea,” she said when they returned to the hotel room at close to midnight.

“Oh?” he said, the corners of his mouth twitching. “Have you changed your mind about the last thing I mentioned we could do?” He cleared his throat and waggled his eyebrows.

Charlotte laughed, feeling herself going red, yet again. “No. Well... no. Stop it.” She pushed his shoulder and he grinned.

“Okay, tell me your idea. I am all ears.”

“Well...” She looked down, feeling nervous. “It’s probably against the rules of something, or you won’t be able to, or you won’t like the idea, or...”

She stopped when Jason touched his index finger to her lips.

“Tell me your idea,” he said, smiling.

“Well, what I was thinking was, as Tiffany paid for ten hours and it’s only been two, that maybe we could split the time up? Like have two hours a night for the next four nights? Or whenever you’re free? But you’re probably booked up or you don’t want to, or...”

He placed his finger on her lips again. “I think that is an inspired idea.”

“You do?” she said against his finger. He removed it.

“I do.”

“You don’t have any other clients?”

He shook his head and smiled. “Nope. I am completely free.”

She smiled, relieved. “Okay.”

Grabbing a piece of the hotel’s notepaper, she scribbled down her address and handed it to him.

He pushed it into a pocket. “So I’ll see you around eight?”

She nodded.

For a moment, he didn’t move, then he leaned down, kissed her on the cheek, and whispered in her ear, “I liked being with you tonight.”

With a final heart-melting smile, he left.

Charlotte stood frozen in place for some time.

Then she dropped onto the bed, grabbed a pillow to bury her face in, and screamed.


_ _ _


“I thought you had an all-nighter today. And why are you smiling?”

Jason shrugged and dropped his keys into the blue ceramic bowl on the table by the front door. “I had a good time.”

BOOK: The Cost of Love
8.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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