One: Day 00: Dexter.

After two years, I still forget why I do this. Then I look at what these assholes pay me for sex and companionship and I'm quickly reminded why.

My footsteps echo across the marbled flooring of Evans Advertising, Inc. as I cross the lobby, reaching the front desk to rest my elbows along the granite top. The brunette working the desk barely looks up from the phone attached to her ear and the notepad she's scribbling busily in. After a few long moments, she sets the phone back in its cradle and turns to stare frostily at me.

"Can I help you, sir?" She places too much emphasis on the last word, almost as if she's trying to make it an insult.

"I have an appointment with Mr. Evans at one-thirty." I rap my knuckles against the polished black of her desk gently and step back. My hands fall so that my palms brush across my thighs, somewhat drying the perspiration dampening my skin and giving me something to focus on. I run my palms back and forth across the expensive black jeans I'm wearing and rock back on my heels patiently.

She purses her lips. "Can I get your name?"

"Dexter Kane. I'm here on behalf of Ali Butler. The meeting might be under-"

"I'll let him know that you're here. Please have a seat."

As I'm walking away from her desk, I slip an Ativan between my teeth and swallow it down dry.

I sit down in one of the overstuffed chairs pushed against the far wall and stare out the glass face of the building. The Manhattan street is bustling with people in the midst of a lunch rush or just returning from a break. It's just started to snow; people are rushing back to work to avoid the predicted snowstorm creeping its way toward us.

There are magazines scattered effortlessly across a stainless steel and glass table. A shiny black vase houses fresh flowers; a flyer buried beneath the DIY magazines advertises a sexual assault prevention course offered by a woman named Grace Evans. I scoff at the irony and flip lazily through a Cosmopolitan while I wait.

Another receptionist slips in and takes a seat next to the haughty bitch working the phone. There's something passed between the two of them before the newer one stands back up and turns to face me.

"Mr. Kane, Mr. Evans is ready for you."

I stand and trail after her. A slow stream of nervous excitement bubbles through my chest at the aspect of a new customer after so long. There's a lot to be nervous about without taking my holiday from escorting into consideration. My new client is the twenty-seven-year-old baby of some huge advertising hotshot. He's currently running one of the most prestigious internship programs in the country, and he's planning on taking over his father's company upon the latter's retirement. His file read like a college application to Yale.

I've been doing this for two years, though. I've been with men and women a million times richer than this. I've skied in Aspen and spent weeks in Barbados with women who wanted nothing more than arm candy while they spent the week away from their husbands. If one stupid trust fund baby makes me tremble after everything, I shouldn't be in the escort business. If I thought for a second I couldn't handle coming back into escorting after everything that had happened four months ago, I should have pitched the profile in the trash the second it was given to me.

I kept it, so that has to mean something.

Giving others what they need most—be it companionship, sex, or even a taste of the life they gave up for marriage—is my job. I can fuck them. I can pretend to be completely in love with a client, if that's what they want. But I have never done real love, and I don't fuck—not anymore, not after my last client.

The receptionist takes me down the right hallway and twists through a maze of meeting rooms full of young interns, partners, and glassed-off cubicles. She stops in front of a heavy oak door, titters nervously under her breath, and smiles at me. "This is his office. Will you be needing anything else?"

I frown down at my shoes and shrug. "Don't think so, but thanks."

She whisks away, her heels clacking against the tiles and her hair bouncing in perfect waves. I crack my neck, raise a fist, and knock once, twice, three times.

The door glides open smoothly and he's standing there, my client, exuding an all-American charm with his blonde hair and blue eyes. He briefly flashes me a Colgate-perfect smile and steps aside, giving me room to walk in. He's nearly an entire head taller than I am; his broad shoulders fill out his suit nicely and taper down to a slender waist. It pains me to imagine what he must look like beneath the suit.

I return the smile, albeit a bit nervously, and pray my tanned skin makes my teeth look whiter than they actually are.

"Kyler Evans." He holds a hand out and I take it; his long fingers wrap around mine in a firm grip. We shake once, twice, and he drops my hand.

I flex my fingers in a poor attempt to wipe away any trace of his touch. "Dexter Kane. May I sit?"

"Please. Can I interest you in something to drink? I'm afraid I don't keep alcohol on hand here in the office, but I have water, coffee, and green tea."

I think briefly of the Ativan I'd just popped, probably stuck somewhere between my mouth and stomach, and nod. "Water would be fine, thank you."

I take a seat in one of the plush armchairs situated across from the position I assume he holds behind the desk as he busies himself with my water. I watch from the corner of my eye as he pulls two bottles of Dasani from a mini fridge tucked in the corner. He hands me a bottle on his way around the desk.

I twist the cap off the bottle and take a sip. The water is so cold it makes my throat ache as it goes down; I picture my little happy pill sliding down my throat and dropping into my stomach.

Kyler takes a seat in his chair and pulls a file from a drawer. He slides it across to me. "As I'm sure Ali has mentioned to you, I am interested in purchasing your company for a month. I previously discussed pay with her, but you can feel free to negotiate as you see fit. Money obviously isn't an issue, if you're worried about that. I have a few requirements. Is there anything you'd like to make clear before we begin signing the papers?"

I rest my elbows on the arms of the chair and steeple my fingers below my chin. He mirrors my actions with a wry smile. "I don't do BDSM, if that's what you're looking for."

"Your boss made it very clear that you were a vanilla escort, and I made it clear in the profile I sent. I'm not looking for a sexual relationship, nor would I be interested in BDSM if that were the case. From what I understand, you had a bad experience with a customer who lied in a profile? You went on vacation for a few months to recuperate, correct?"

I nod curtly but don't elaborate further. The client's face flashes briefly in my head and I struggle to push away the black fogging the edges of my vision. I clear my throat before speaking in case my voice wavers from the nerves twisting painfully in the pit of my stomach.

"I have to say, this isn't standard protocol with my clients. May I ask why we were required to meet beforehand to sign contracts? Ali normally takes care of things on her own."

Kyler's jaw hardens at the mention of my boss. His face is well-structured, all high cheekbones and a strong jaw that most sculptors and plastic surgeons only ever dream of. "I'm well aware of that fact. Over the course of my business relationship with Alison Butler, I find that things go smoothest when she is as uninvolved as possible."

I briefly consider furthering my line of questioning on whatever beef he has with my boss and go with the most obvious. "If you dislike Ali so much, why pay into her business? Adonis Escorts offers quality, but we're certainly not the only male escort business in New York City."

Kyler shoots an impatient look at the paperwork lying unsigned in front of me. "I suppose you could say that I have a type, and no one else had what I was looking for."

I raise my eyebrows. I don't believe him. "Really? And Ali just so happened to have what your little heart was set on?"

He graces me with a slim smile. "She had exactly what I wanted, actually."

My stomach drops.

If he has a type and no one but Ali had it, then the reason I'm sitting in this chair is because I'm his type.

Shit, he's a fucking stalker.

I crack my neck again and let my eyes drift shut for half a second. I need a cigarette. I think about lighting one just to annoy him, but instead I begin trying to think of a way to get out of this job before I end up on the side of a milk carton. I barely made it out of my last job alive; I'd like to ensure that my life isn't at risk at the hands of a client a second time.

"I'm afraid things—circumstances—have changed," I begin, thinking quickly. "I'm not sure which of my profiles you've been given, but they are all probably out-of-date. Whatever preconceived notions you have of me are most likely incorrect after my last job. You could say it left me… a bit scarred."

That is, if you consider four scars spanning the length of my back "a bit" scarred.

He shifts forward, all business. "You're having second thoughts, aren't you?"

I exhale loudly. I imagine blowing out all of my stress and nerves into the air and away from my body, just like Dr. Kirchoff told me to. It doesn't help. "Did Ali make you aware of what happened with my last client, Kyler?"

His Adam's apple bobs as he swallows once, hard. He doesn't want to say it out loud. "Yes," he says, one word, spoken so quietly I'm not sure I hear him correctly.

"I'm sure you can understand why I would be having second thoughts with a normal client then. Add in the fact that you've successfully managed to insinuate that your particular tastes are me and me alone, and I am having third and fourth thoughts at this point. Please, tell me why I should even accept you as a client."

A blush heats his cheeks. "I apologize if I've made you uncomfortable," he murmurs. "I'm afraid I'm a bit out of practice with this."

I raise a brow. "With setting up escort services? So you've done this before?"

His tone is adamant. "No. With… with dating period, I mean."

I give him a small, bitter smile. "Purchasing escort services is a far cry from dating, Mr. Evans. If you're hoping to get some practice, I can guarantee that you are meeting with the wrong man." I begin to stand. "I'll have Ali send-"

"Thirty thousand dollars," he says.

I freeze. "What?"

Kyler's expression is panicked; he's lost any sense of business professionalism he had at the beginning of our meeting. "I will pay you thirty thousand dollars to spend the month with me. Your boss and I… we had originally agreed on a substantially smaller amount, all things considered, but I am offering you twice as much as you would have received otherwise."

I slowly sit back down. That much could pay nearly half a year's rent on the apartment. My best friend, Trevor, could take some time off from work, get his health back into order… Jason, Emmett, Trevor, and I could save. Get ahead.

"Under what conditions?"

Kyler gestures to the file in front of me. "It's all carefully detailed in your copies of the paperwork. During our time together, you will stay with me at my home. You will attend parties, charity events, and anything else that requires a partner or date. You will not escort other men while you are with me. As I am a busy man who often works long hours, I will not expect you to sit at home and wait for me. You can come and go as you please, but my apartment will be your home base. You will keep security detail with you at all times, and you will avoid the press at whatever cost necessary. There will be no drug abuse—prescription, illegal, or otherwise—once our month together begins.

"In return, I will keep you safe. I have one of the best security details in New York; I can keep at minimum two men with you at all times. I will provide you with the clothing you need for the various events you will be attending. I will do absolutely everything in my power to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible during your time with me, Dexter."

I am stuck on his I will keep you safe. How can a man who barely knows me, let alone my situation, hope to keep me safe?

"What exactly are these papers for?"

"At the end of the month, if you decide to discontinue your services, the press will come after you. This is simply an agreement that you will not leak our story."

He says our story as if we are anything but a lonely businessman and a fucked up escort pretending to love him for a wad of cash, as if he could ever hope that I would actually continue services once the money had been deposited into my account.

"Thirty thousand dollars, then." I pick up the pen; it hovers over the line marked with a big red X. "When will I start?" My handwriting is shaky, but I sign with my usual looping curves. I chance a look up at Kyler; he's staring at me like a predator with his prey in sight. He knows he has me. I swallow hard.


I am slowly going through and rewriting/editing the chapters. If things seem off with the storyline/continuity, you're not crazy and I am well-aware of the issues—I am slowly but surely working my way through the story. Thanks for the continued support!