My name is Tyler Simpston. I was introduced to the darkness and sex at a very young age. Those are two things I know quite well. They are my constant companions. I’m used to the inky tar squeezing the life from my soul, the joy from my spirit, and the light from my life but I know that I have no one to blame but myself. It is all a result of my job as a paid… “companion.” And no, I don’t need to be “redeemed” from my profession. I like my job, love it actually. It’s my past I need to be saved from. My past and a man named KuJoe who is hell-bent on blackmailing me.
When my benefactor passed away I had to find someone new. Someone who would take care of me and keep me in the life to which I’d grown accustomed, so I set my sights on Dodger Vanderbrook, the wealthiest and most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen in my life. But there’s something different about Dodger. Not only is he interested in more than just my body, but he makes me long for something more as well. Something more than just trips to foreign lands, fancy clothes, and checks with lots of zeroes written on them. It wasn’t long before Dodger had me wanting to be with him without money even being a part of our interactions. We weren’t having “appointments” we were having “dates,” and Dodger wasn’t a “client” he was more like a… “boyfriend.” But here’s the thing, I still have to take care of KuJoe because not only is KuJoe threatening to reveal my deepest darkest secret but he’s threatening to pull the most important person in my life into the world of prostitution: my little girl, my daughter, Stella.
I will do anything to prevent that from happening. Even turning my back on what could possibly be the greatest love of my life, my only chance at happiness, and returning to pay-by-the-hour prostitution. But in the end will I just let Dodger let go or will I finally fight back and stop being a Daddy’s Boy?
The sound of the multi-colored Venetian vase colliding with my white tiled floor caused every nerve in my body to jump. My heart leapt into my throat, and I raced forward into my living room. I fell to my knees, my hands reaching out desperately to grasp the sharp, jagged pieces of the priceless item. I ignored the pain as the broken shards cut into my skin because I cared only for saving the remnants of this souvenir that reminded me so much of Jack.
Jack. My breath caught in my throat, my eyes burned with unshed tears, and I inhaled shakily. What the hell was I going to do without Jack? I needed him. More than I needed my next breath. More than I needed to sleep or eat or do anything, I needed Jack. I lowered my head, forcing back the tears, biting down hard on the inside of my cheek, the coppery taste of my own blood having no effect on my current state of mind. I had to get up. I had to get moving. I absolutely had to go to this party tonight. It wasn’t optional for me. It wasn’t a suggestion. It was a fucking requirement. A need. It was a goddamn law, as far as I was concerned. Jack had left me nothing. My life ended the day I found out he wouldn’t return to me again. I had to go to this party and keep my life moving. I had to keep my head above water somehow. Jack wasn’t there to keep me lifted, so I had to lift my own damn head above this raging tide of bullshit.
With a sigh of frustration, I sat back on my heels before rising gracefully to my feet. I couldn’t even take pleasure in the knowledge that my dance and stripper classes had paid off so well. I couldn’t care less about those things. I had to get ready. I had to make myself beautiful. I didn’t have much time. I had to go, and I had to go now.
I turned toward my kitchen, passing by all of the remaining knickknacks, treasures, and expensive pieces of pure-white furniture that lay professionally and artistically sprawled about my loft apartment. I cared not about the rare paintings by Van Gogh or the priceless editions of works by Shakespeare or Chaucer. These things were precious, yes. I was well aware of their monetary value. I had catalogued each piece when Jack was still with me, but now? Now they were only harsh memories and glaring reminders of what I was no longer had in my possession. They were priceless for a totally different reason now, and I had to make sure they were well-cared for because if tonight didn’t go well… I gave myself a firm mental shake. I wouldn’t even allow myself to go there. Failure wasn’t an option for me. I would be successful tonight. I didn’t have a choice.
Having thrown away and cleaned up the broken pieces of the $2.5 million vase—the cost of that one item punching me in the stomach like a hard fist, something I was extremely familiar with—I made my way upstairs to my master bathroom. My feet were silent as I walked across the soft, white carpet. Usually I would be curling my toes into the thick carpet, a huge grin of delight on my face and happiness filling my being as I gloried in the sensation of the fiber beneath my feet, but there was no smile this evening. Ice flowed through my veins. My hands shook as I lifted my black eyeliner to the lid of my right eye and attempted to draw a straight line.
I was nervous, and I hadn’t been nervous in years. I was scared, and fear was an emotion I had long since choked off and cast out of my entire existence. The presence of these two emotions was daunting, unnerving, and made me even more determined to make sure that tonight was a success. I straightened my shoulders and exhaled, my eyes closing briefly as I centered myself. Reigning in my runaway emotions and capturing every fucking butterfly that flapped its disgusting wings in my belly, I silently began chanting my mantra, as I finished putting on my eyeliner and lip gloss, before returning to my bedroom to change.
I am beauty. Beauty is me. None can resist beauty, and none can truly afford it. But beauty can be earned through persistence and courage and a nice, fat wallet. I chuckled silently as I remembered Jack’s expression of shock and then amusement the first time he’d heard me utter that mantra. He hadn’t asked me questions, but I knew I had to utter those words to myself from then on.
Jack. There it was again. That same sickening feeling of dread filling my stomach with butterflies and my throat with nausea, causing my head to swim and my hands to shake. I had to stop thinking of him, had to push Jack as far away from my mind as I possibly could if I planned on making tonight a success. I had to focus on the goal, the finish line, the reason I was going out five days after Jack’s funeral. A funeral I wasn’t even allowed to attend. This was a strategic move on my part. But then again, everything had been a strategic move on my part since the day I turned seventeen.
I put one hand against my front door and put the other hand to my mouth, not recalling how I’d come to be back downstairs, completely dressed in a black button-down shirt, white suit, slim white tie, and black Italian loafers trimmed in gold. Shoes Jack had bought me. The last thing he’d ever bought me. I inhaled deeply and forced back the nausea that threatened to overwhelm me and bring me to my knees. I blinked back the unshed tears and reached for my trusty emotional guard. I would need it this night.
With another deep inhale, I picked up my wallet, apartment keys, car keys, gate access card, elevator key, and most important, a few condoms. I had to make sure I was prepared. Prepared for any scenario, any play, any eventuality. I walked out of my apartment, making sure to lock the door behind me, and stepped toward the elevator. I bit my lower lip anxiously as my mind flashed with images of every possible occurrence, each one filling me with fear, hope, excitement, and worst of all… shame.
What the hell was that about?
Stepping out of the elevator as soon as the doors opened into the lobby, I walked slowly, seductively, and purposefully toward the front entrance. I nodded at those who said my name, hoping they didn’t notice the fluttering of the pulse in my neck or the light sheen of sweat on my forehead. When no one stopped me before I stepped out of the door, I knew then Jack had been right about something else… again.
Jack had told me about faking confidence in front of people, about having the right “face” on in order to keep a force field up with different people. Some needed the shield to keep them from prying in your life to gossip about you. Some needed the shield to keep them from using the information they gleaned against you. But it was the last group of people, those horrible people who had so fully filled both me and Jack with an inexplicable surge of fear. They were the people that you needed to have not only a shield against, but a moat, a drawbridge, and a fucking dragon, because they were the type of people who actually cared about you and what happened to you.
I didn’t need people like that in my life when Jack was still alive, and I certainly didn’t need that type of person in my life now. No, I had a plan. I had a goal, and nothing was going to stop me from meeting that goal. Nothing. It was how I got Jack, how I was so successful in every single one of my previous goals and why I knew my goal for tonight was going to go off without a hitch.
I smiled slightly at the doorman who watched me closely. David Rush had never liked me. He’d spent a fair amount of time telling me I didn’t deserve Jack, and I was really just a gold digger. The glares and condescending attitude were getting quite old, and though I’d deny the charge if it were ever stated, even under threat of torture, it was all starting to hurt some small part of my heart, probably the only part that still existed; and it was making me angry and feeling as if I wanted to cry. Like failing, crying was also not an option.
“And how are you this evening Mr. Simpston?” David asked, not expecting a response from me, though he knew I would give him one anyway, as he sent one of the valets to get my car, my keys waiting inside the valet booth as it always was. I should have stopped him, but that would have required me speaking to David. David may hate me, but I hated him just as much.
I just nodded in answer, noticing the sneer that came to David’s face moments before he responded again.
“It’s such a horrible thing that happened to Mr. Binzington, isn’t it? Have you decided yet if you’re going to stay here or move, Mr. Simpston?” the doorman said in a low voice. Seeing my taxicab was pulling around the corner, the cab I’d called for, I squared my shoulders and hid my trembling hands in my pants pockets. David would see my shaking hands as a sign of guilt, shame, and fear. He would only be a third correct. I was scared but not for the reason he was thinking. I was only fearful because of the unknown factors of the evening. It was something I would overcome. Eventually.
I fiddled with the money in my pocket. It was going to be $26.13 for me to take the cab to the home where the party was being held if I decided to give up pretenses and not drive the car given to me by Jack. The car that was close to being sold by me—if I decided to sell it. Giving a tip wasn’t necessary, and in my case, it wasn’t my best option, nor even worthy of consideration, so I wouldn’t be giving one. If I decided to take a cab.
I had to drive. Taking a cab was for the desperate. I wasn’t desperate. Yet.
Stepping toward my awaiting car driven by one of the building’s valets, I gave David a politely false smile and said, “I’m not going anywhere, David. I cared for Mr. Binzington, but I won’t have you trying to run me off because of it.” With those words stated in a huff, I climbed into my red Ferrari and headed off toward the party.
Toward my date with destiny.
Toward the night that would change my life forever.