Summary: Jamie Memerson’s first job as an escort turns out to be way more than she bargained for. The client is posh actor Benegits Curdleray, famously cold and distant but absolutely gorgeous. Jamie’s one of millions of women who swoon over his roles on-screen, and now she’s alone with him, and ready to comply with his demands. But a night of unprotected sex in return for handfuls of cash isn’t exactly how she planned to lose her virginity…

curdlestock chronicles

Jamie clutched her green handbag and looked nervously up at the towering hotel. Of course she’d walked past The W before, many times, but this would be her first time stepping inside and also her first-ever client, and she felt sick with nervousness. What if the doorman refused to open the door to her? What if everyone inside guessed she was an escort and someone had a porter pitch her right out again? Or worse yet, security might whisk her to an office and call the police.

She didn’t even know who she was meeting; she’d just been given a room number.

But she was desperate for money, and rapidly losing hope of ever finding adequate employment, so she smoothed her hair down and climbed the steps. The doorman, barely looking at her, swung the door open, and no one paid her any attention when she crossed the lobby and entered an elevator. She’d honestly thought debauching herself would attract more notice.

All too soon she was outside room 1313, knocking timidly. This was it.

The door swung open immediately, and she felt herself grow pale. It was him: Benegits Curdleray, the A-list actor currently sizzling on stage, screen, and television, and burning up the secret charts of most women’s fantasies.

Including, though Jamie would rather have died than admit it, her own.

For a moment, looking at the impossibly perfect planes of his face, she almost turned and ran.

Except what was there to run to, exactly? A shabby apartment and a roommate she hated; an endless stack of job applications, none of which ever led anywhere; a looming student debt, a shitty part-time job, an unsympathetic therapist, and a family she was entirely estranged from.

Not to mention the nightmares: they’d been getting worse lately, probably because of all the stress she’d been under.

So, having nothing to lose anymore, she stuck out her hand and said, “Hi, I’m Jamie. You sent for me.” She silently congratulated herself on her entirely fake self-confidence. Maybe if she kept on faking it, it would eventually become real.

His gaze was so intent she could practically feel his eyes probing her. “Right, yes, of course,” he said, stepping back. “Come in.”

“You want me dressed or undressed?” she asked, not looking at him. He was wearing evening clothes, and she wondered what he’d been doing earlier that night: what event he’d graced with his patrician good looks, who had fawned over him. She wasn’t a big enough fan to keep track of his real-world engagements and appearances. She thought there was something faintly pitiable about women who did that–monitored the movements of stars they’d never actually meet.

It didn’t matter anyway what he’d been doing, she reminded herself. She was here to service him, not to talk to him. She didn’t want to know him.

“Undressed, please,” he said, clipped but polite.

She turned away, hiding a smile, and faced the bed as she undressed and neatly laid her clothes over the back of a chair. He’d sounded as matter-of-fact as if he’d been placing an order with wait staff. He must, she guessed, use a LOT of escorts.

When she was naked she turned back to him, and felt a flush of pride when she saw his pupils widen with involuntary appreciation. Screw her therapist: maybe turning tricks would be all she needed to restore her battered self-esteem. The look on Curdleray’s inhumanly handsome face was already making her feel better than she had in weeks–to say nothing of the bulge in his immaculately pressed trousers.

He unzipped the trousers while she was staring, and she took the hint and knelt before him. She didn’t bother repeating the price list: $200 for a blowjob, plus $150 just for showing up. It would have been $500 for penetrative sex, but perhaps she was lucky he hadn’t opted for that. She might have frozen with awkwardness if he’d asked for anything more than this or a handjob, to be honest.

He was tall, but at 5’8″ she was hardly unequal to the task: kneeling in front of him, she was so exactly at the right level she could almost have been made to suck him off.

His cock was long and elegant like the rest of him. Luckily she’d never had much of a gag reflex. She hesitated just a moment, overcome with the unreality of the situation. Was she really, truly going to suck the cock of this famously gorgeous man?

Her mother had always told her all men were alike, really. Jamie reminded herself of this now–though her mother had probably been talking about what they were like to live with once you married them, not what they were like to give blowjobs to once you’d decided to be a whore.

Still. Probably true for this as well.

She could do this.

She swirled her tongue gently around the head, and was rewarded by the sound of him moaning. God, he was so RESPONSIVE. This was going to be easy.

She licked up and down the length of him, lapping at him until his cock glistened, and then started to slide him into her mouth. His hands gripped her hair, but she liked that he didn’t try to set the rhythm, or worse yet hold her head still while he fucked her face. Instead he let her pump him in and out of her mouth at her own speed, flexing his hips slightly to meet her movements.

Unexpectedly, she felt herself getting wet.

Well. It didn’t matter: he couldn’t see, or more humiliatingly still smell, the evidence of her arousal. It was weird, though. Stunning though he was on-screen–and, okay, also in person–she’d never have imagined sucking his cock would turn her on.

She was resting her hands flat against the top of his thighs and gently stroking his balls with her thumbs, so she felt them lift and tighten as he got closer to orgasm. It was happening quickly; her jaw hadn’t even gotten tired, which she’d read was a thing.

Without warning he shifted his hands from her hair, cupping her face on both sides and pushing her back.

“Sorry,” he said coolly, “But could you lie down on the bed now, do you think?”

Oh. So he was planning on penetrative sex after all.

Her heart thudded in her chest, but somehow in her nervousness she found it easier to do what he’d suggested than to say no. If suggested was even the right word; really, it had been a politely-phrased command.

She did manage to find her voice long enough to ask, “Do you have a condom? If not I have some in my bag.”

He paused, looking her over as she lay on the bed. She flushed, feeling more exposed than she’d ever imagined possible. He probably uses a different escort every week, she reminded herself. He’ll have forgotten all about me as soon as I leave. A few days from now he won’t even remember what I looked like.

“Your agency,” he remarked mildly, in that terribly posh accent, “assured me you were clean and up-to-date on all medical tests. The receptionist assured me you were safe and willing when it came to barebacking.” She stared at him, speechless with horror. The thought of people discussing her like an animal to be bred was abhorrent; she’d never considered that might be going on when clients made arrangements. Not to mention she’d never agreed to, or even been asked, any such thing.

“It’s true that I’m perfectly clean and healthy,” she began, willing herself to sound calm, and impressed that so far her voice wasn’t even shaking, “and the agency probably would arrange that sort of thing for you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean–”

Except by then he’d knelt on the bed, not even listening to her, and was reaching with both hands to spread her legs wide. She faltered, temporarily breathless.

In the next second he’d positioned himself between her thighs and lowered his head to trace his tongue along her dripping gash.

She gasped, shocked and incredibly aroused. Some tiny, irrational part of her mind wondered briefly how much she was supposed to charge him for this–it hadn’t been covered during her interview, possibly because it wasn’t expected to happen.

But all her thoughts dissolved beneath the onslaught of his tongue. He licked and teased her clit like a pro himself, circling the tight nub with demanding strokes, darting his tongue away whenever the sensation became unbearably intense. Jamie reached up, gripping the headboard with both hands and shutting her eyes so she could give herself over to the pleasure of his demanding mouth.

So close, so close…she panted and tensed as she felt herself on the brink of orgasm.

He must have known she was about to come for him: with one fluid movement he lifted himself so that he was on top of her, and Jamie was so far gone that she wrapped her legs around his waist, angling her hips upward in a desperate effort to rub herself against him as his cock slipped deep inside her. “You’re sure?” he asked her, his voice hoarse, and she could only moan “yes” and grip him even more tightly.

It worked. Meeting him on every thrust, the pressure of his sleek muscled body at the swollen lips of her sex was enough to plunge her over the edge, her whole body shuddering and clenching as she came.

He followed an obscenely short time later, a few entirely self-absorbed thrusts evidently all he needed to make to make him spurt inside her now that she’d surrendered to his will and been undone by his skills. At least, she told herself, she hadn’t done anything truly humiliating like calling out his name. His ego was probably more than sufficiently swollen without any additional tribute from her.

As her pride seeped back, rousing her from her post-orgasmic stupor, her full awareness of the situation returned. Holy fuck: she’d lost her virginity to Benegits Curdleray.

And she was still lying under him, leaking warm fluid.

With a surge of panic she pushed him away, and he blinked, looking faintly astonished but obligingly moving off her. Too worried to even be embarrassed she dashed for the bathroom, grabbing her clothes as she went and collapsing against the door once she’d safely locked it.

OH GOD. The arrogant bastard hadn’t even used a condom.

She tried not to hear the internal voice that cruelly pointed out that she was getting turned on all over again just thinking about it.

There was blood on her thighs. Not much, just a trace, but she winced and hoped none had been left on the sheets. She didn’t want him to know this encounter had had any significance beyond “financial transaction.”

She cleaned up, hands shaking, and considered her options. He’d said something about a receptionist. Jamie went hot all over with fury as the truth sank in. Fucking Marilyn: she was the one who’d convinced Jamie to try sex work in the first place. “If you can’t meet expenses any other way,” she’d said coldly, “you should consider it. That, or go home to your parents.”

Easy for Marilyn to say. Only after the fact had Jamie learned her roommate didn’t see clients herself. she worked the phone lines, made appointments, scheduled clients; she didn’t actually drop her pants for cash.

But going back to her hometown to crash with her crazy drunken mother wasn’t an option, so Jamie had convinced herself she could do this.

A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts. “Are you all right in there?” He almost sounded concerned, though that upper-class accent made it difficult to be sure. How could “bored” be a component of an accent?

By now she was mopped up and dressed, so she opened the door. “I’m fine,” she said quietly, “except for the part where we hadn’t negotiated unprotected sex and I hadn’t had a chance to fully agree or disagree.”

He looked stricken. “I’m so, so sorry,” he said, and this time he sounded sincere. “I…I thought your agency had cleared it with you. The woman I spoke with said you’d act surprised for a fee.” He hesitated, and then went on carefully, looking away as if to keep from embarrassing her further, “No one told me you were actually a virgin. If anything, your receptionist led me to believe you were quite experienced.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, my God,” she said, more to herself than to him. “That bitch.” At his startled look she couldn’t help adding, “It isn’t your fault, it really isn’t. I was set up.”

He looked more at ease instantly. It must be simpler to forgive yourself, she thought enviously, when you aren’t used to being blamed for everything anyway. “So very sorry,” he said again, but now he couldn’t keep from sounding a bit relieved, and possibly eager to be rid of her. He reached for his wallet, and pushed way too much cash into her hands. She accepted numbly.

“Venus is looking lovely tonight,” he remarked, and it took her several seconds to realize that he’d opened the curtains while she was in the bathroom, and now he was looking out at the night sky.

Did people of his class really feel a need to make small talk with hookers? She shook her head, torn between amusement and annoyance. Wasn’t he at all aware of the absurdity of the situation?

“Actually, that’s Jupiter you’re looking at,” she corrected him as she turned away. “People make that mistake all the time.” Nice to know the Master’s degree in astrophysics was good for something other than bankrupting her and forcing her into prostitution, she thought as she left.

She was so far beyond rage and humiliation by this point that she almost laughed out loud on the walk home. Tonight had been an absolute trainwreck from beginning to end–but it had also brought her more money than she’d had her hands on in months. She’d turn over the minimum fee, not a penny more; no way was she even telling Marilyn what a hefty bonus her duplicity had resulted in. Let the agency think tonight had been no more complicated than a blowjob.

In fact, she vowed, no way was she ever going to admit to anyone just what a disaster her first time had been.

Two

Jamie woke, gasping, from her usual nightmare. The afterimage of the dead hands trying to drag her down into the cold was so vivid that it took her a moment to remember she was in her own bed, and to place the sound that had woken her. Someone was knocking on her bedroom door.

“I said, are you awake?” Marilyn, as always, sounded exasperated that Jamie existed at all, let alone in her apartment, but this time there was something new: a note of excitement, or maybe even fear. “Are you dead in there? Christ, Jamie, open the door. Someone’s here to see you.” She sounded half-hysterical.

“Coming,” Jamie mumbled, and instantly hated herself for being such a doormat. For a week now she’d barely been speaking to her roommate, refusing to give her the satisfaction of the “details” she’d kept asking for after last Friday night.

It had soothed Jamie’s pride a little when she’d worked out that Marilyn knew only that the client had sounded “rich and pushy–I bet he was into BDSM, wasn’t he, Jamie?” Marilyn’s head probably would have exploded with jealous rage if she’d known just who it was she’d tricked Jamie into unprotected sex with.

She ran her hands through her sweat-dampened brown curls, pulled a bathrobe on over her t-shirt, and finally opened the door. “Who’s here?” she growled at her roommate. At least she wasn’t intimidated by her anymore. Anger had a way of drowning out social anxiety.

Besides, Marilyn had done her worst and Jamie had survived it. And now she’d seen a client–had sex with someone for money–and she was sure her roommate would never have the nerve. So there was that.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Marilyn said, eyes wide, and giggled. She clutched at Jamie’s arm. Jamie shook her off impatiently and went to the door. She must have won the lottery or something, judging by how friendly Marilyn was acting. She usually only pulled that crap when she was about to ask for a favour.

Jamie swung the door open, and there he was: Curdleray, standing with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his long, dark overcoat. “We need to talk,” he informed her, and strode on in like he owned the place.

Marilyn was still hovering. “Come into my room,” Jamie said. “It’s a bit more private.” Also small, tacky, and cheaply furnished, but there was nothing she could do about that. “How did you find me?”

“I threatened your agency with a lawsuit.” He’d picked up one of the textbooks she’d left on the coffee table and was looking at it with interest. “I also had them fire their receptionist,” he remarked mildly. Jamie risked a glance over her shoulder just in time to catch Marilyn fleeing into the master bedroom and slamming the door. Sweet. No doubt she’d try to make Jamie pay later, but honestly, Jamie couldn’t bring herself to care.

She led her uninvited guest to the second, smaller bedroom. “You’re a student,” he said, when she’d shut and locked the door.

“Grad student,” she told him. “Why are you here?”

He stood with his back to her, hands back in his pockets, and then abruptly he started shedding his clothes, letting them just drop on the floor. “I needed to see you again. I needed to have you again. Take your clothes off, will you?”

For a moment she just stared. He really was exquisite.

She really did want him again, she admitted to herself.

Telling herself it was stupid to feel shy in front of a man she’d already had sex with–for money; it couldn’t get more straightforward than that, right?–she hung her bathrobe on the hook and pulled her t-shirt over her head. Before she could feel awkward he’d crossed the room, grabbing her and pushing her back against the wall and kissing her with rough, greedy skillfulness.

“Why?” she gasped, when he let her breathe.

He shook his head. “You look better than other women. You taste better. Hell, I don’t know. What am I supposed to say?” He lifted her so that she was sitting on her always-immaculate desk, and pushed himself between her thighs.

“Hang on,” she said, trying frantically not to go all speechless and submissive at the aristocratic perfection of his face. “So, you’re going to be a regular client?”

“No. You’re going to be my mistress,” he said firmly. “No clients. No one else but me. And no protection. That’s the deal.” And then his cock was inside her, and she had no desire to argue.

Already his long, elegant cock was familiar; already, the scent of him was a remembered thing, as was his rhythm, and the way he moaned softly, lost in his own pleasure. But not so lost he didn’t reach for her, rubbing her clit with that annoyingly perfect motion, bringing her so easily to orgasm that she felt equal parts inadequate and resentful–and then, to her shame, grateful; grateful for the waves of pleasure that made her feel like she was melting as she clenched around him, milking every drop of his seed as he pumped his way to his own climax.

Damn, but he was good at that. Strangely selfish, too, as if bringing her off was as much about demonstrating his easy competence as it was about her pleasure. Or as if it was a necessary step before her well-bred lover could do what he really wanted: use her as a means to his own gratification.

She hated, hated, hated returning to reality and having him still there, gorgeous and perfect and so out of her league. Having to tilt her head slightly and look up at hs impossible, perfect face hurt her; it made her want to curl into a little ball of plebian inadequacy and weep. He had his arms around her and held her close for a minute, as if he knew her, and cared about her.

She waited until she thought she’d endured his embrace long enough and then gently disengaged, turning her back on his shining perfection to get dressed.

“Why no protection?” she asked, still not looking at him. “Aren’t you afraid of…you know…consequences?” Pregnancy, she meant, though idiotically she couldn’t bring herself to actually say the word.

He didn’t answer immediately, and when she risked turning around to see if she’d made him angry he was half-dressed. He smiled, a sort of co-conspirators’ look, and she felt herself reluctantly warming to him. He’d treated her well; he’d come looking for her; he couldn’t help being beautiful and privileged and having an accent that made her knees go weak. It was childish to feel so resentful, and to let her own pride make her want to keep herself aloof.

But she was childish, and proud. She couldn’t help it.

“So now you know my secret,” he said, and kissed her forehead before he left. “I’ll drop by in a couple of days, once I’ve taken care of details. That all right?”

She nodded numbly, assuming the details had to be about how much he was paying her, and how often. But she was more interested in his secret, whatever that might be.

She was locking the front door behind him before it dawned on her.

He must be infertile.

* * * * * * *

Marilyn emerged almost immediately. “Did you seriously just fuck Benegits Curdleray up against that wall in your room?”

“Of course not,” Jamie lied, not even expecting to be believed.

“Oh, come on. I could hear you,” Marilyn said, and tried to sneer, though she still looked dazzled. “Didn’t take you long to get off, did it?”

Was that supposed to be an insult? Jamie didn’t try to hide her amusement. “How long would it take you to come,” she asked, feeling unaccustomed smugness, “if you were with him?” Marilyn didn’t answer, just looked angry and envious.

* * * * * * *

The next week she paced her room anxiously, wondering if he’d really show up. She suspected Marilyn was waiting, too; she was in her room with the door locked, supposedly online, but Jamie imagined she felt tense anticipation radiating under her door.

She’d debated with herself on dressing up, and in the end thrown on a dress she liked, but which wasn’t obviously dressy. It was slightly more effort than she would have put in for a night at home, but only slightly. She didn’t want it to be obvious she was trying to look good for him, and she really, really didn’t want to get done up elaborately and then be stood up.

She bolted for the door at the sound of a knock, only to find a complete stranger in uniform waiting there. A chauffeur, she guessed. He wordlessly held out a cellphone to her.

“Hello?” she asked hesitantly.

His voice and accent were unmistakable. “I thought it best not to show up in person, in case your roommate decided to ambush me by having friends round–or worse yet, reporters. Go with Jeeves; he’ll bring you to me.”

“His name’s not really Jeeves, is it?” she asked, delighted.

He laughed down the line, and her knees went weak. “No.”

* * * * * * *

He’d switched hotels. She couldn’t blame him; this one was equally posh, but more discreet, and more importantly it was unknown to the agency that had sent her to him. She tried not to take his sensible precautions personally; she couldn’t imagine being famous, but the loss of privacy must be awful.

She couldn’t blame him for not wanting to have his name linked with hers.

“Do you like it?” he asked, gesturing vaguely at the suite once Jeeves had shown her up and left.

“It’s lovely,” she said politely, looking around without interest. It was an ordinary set of rooms, not over-elaborate, but comfortably equipped. There was even a kitchen area.

“Good,” he said. “I’ve paid for the next six months.”

She boggled. “You’re staying here for six months?” she asked blankly. “Don’t you have to work? Film things? Whatever?”

“You’re staying here for six months,” he corrected her. “I’ll be here as often as I can, of course, but the rest of the time it’s all yours. Might as well pursue your graduate degree in comfort, after all.” He seemed slightly embarrassed, as if fending off her gratitude before she could express it.

She smiled, fighting to stay calm and not overreact. “It’s perfect, thank you,” she said, and he looked relieved to have that over with. And it was perfect: she couldn’t believe she had her own place for the rest of this term and the next. She could hardly wait to retrieve her stuff and settle down here, alone. Bliss.

It was worth any amount of sex.

Hell, it would have been worth any amount of sex even with someone less attractive.

“Good, good,” he said brusquely, rubbing his hands together. “I’ve left you a cheque on the desk; if it’s satisfactory, I’ll pay you the same once a month. In six months we’ll…renegotiate.”

In six months, she figured, he’d be sick of her and ready to move on. She crossed the room silently, and opened the envelope to check out what he was paying her. He went to the window, distancing himself, and she resisted the temptation to thank him again. He clearly didn’t like talking about money. She put the cheque back in the envelope and laid it on the desk. More than adequate.

“So,” she said, moving to sit on the bed, “what next?”

He turned, relief written on his face. “Do you have any questions?”

She hesitated, but this was no time to be an idiot. “If we’re having unprotected sex, can you promise you’ll practice safe sex with anyone else you’re with? I don’t want to risk STDs.”

“I can go you one better,” he answered, expressionless. “I can promise I won’t be intimate with anyone else.”

She couldn’t keep the shock from her voice, and she knew she probably looked like she didn’t believe him. “What? You’re going to be faithful to me for six months?” It was an odd word to apply to their agreement: faithful. But she didn’t know how else to phrase it.

“Yes,” he said simply, coming to sit next to her. He brushed her long, dark curls back from her face and kissed her forehead. “Yes, that’s what I’ve decided.”

Without consulting her, she thought, amused. Obviously her opinion wasn’t relevant to him. But since she had no objections, she didn’t argue.

He pulled her down so they were lying across the bed, and began kissing her in earnest. Time to start earning her keep, she thought, and an unexpected jolt of excitement made her start to get wet at the idea.

His kisses were demanding but unhurried, as if now that he knew he’d purchased her he felt like taking his time. She shut her eyes automatically, but then as he trailed kisses along her neck and chest–almost tenderly, which was weird–she let herself open them and watch him. It took her breath away, partly just the still-new shock of seeing someone so famous and desirable in person, but mostly the sheer elegance of his face.

She’d always reassured herself that the pictures of celebrities were retouched, so their apparent physical perfection was just an illusion. Up close, she’d told herself, they were only ordinary humans–perhaps better looking than average, but not as impossibly lovely as the magazines made them seem.

This man exploded that comforting lie, utterly.

It was outrageous to see him kissing her, and feel faint all over at his beauty.

She shivered, and he smiled without raising his head.

He stood up, the movement as graceful as everything else he did. “Get undressed,” he told her. It wasn’t a suggestion.

Not that she wanted to refuse, exactly.

She stripped down to her bra and underwear–the best ones she owned, though they didn’t match. When she glanced over at him he’d paused midway through unbuttoning his shirt, and was watching her. He smiled slightly when their eyes met. “We’ll have to buy you some new things,” he said, averting his eyes as he carried on undressing.

Jamie’s face flamed. From his tone of voice he’d absolutely meant that as a kind gesture, and she’d have been willing to bet he was congratulating himself on his thoughtfulness–but she felt humiliated at the obvious implication that her wardrobe wasn’t up to his standards.

Which, to be fair, it wasn’t. Everything he owned looked like it had been made for him, constructed out of the finest fabrics available (and then, so far as she could judge, thrown on and forgotten; whatever else he was, he didn’t seem overly interested in clothes). Whereas her clothes were adequate-but-uninspiring. She liked nice things as much as the next person, but her wardrobe wasn’t exactly at the top of the list when she budgeted for expenses.

Hell, it wasn’t even on the list.

She struggled to accept the comment in the spirit in which it had undoubtedly been made. If he wanted to spend a little money on her to bring her up to the mark, that was his own business.

Funny, though, how it made her feel more class-conscious than the whole “paying for sex” part did.

When he was naked he walked over, breathtakingly at ease, and wrapped his arms around her waist to pull her in for a kiss. He was an amazingly tactile man; she’d have thought most men would skip the preliminaries with an escort, but he seemed to enjoy taking his time.

He took her by the hand and tugged her to the bed, and her sense of unreality flooded back. How could she be alone in a hotel with someone so famous, so talented, and so desirable? It wasn’t the sort of thing that happened in real life.

But it was happening, and almost without knowing how she got there she found herself lying on her back again, under him, as he parted her thighs and lay between her legs, inhaling. Her whole chest and neck felt on fire with embarrassment. She’d never been more self-conscious in her life. He was nuzzling at her sex with her nose, breathing her in as if she was intoxicating.

When he lifted himself up on his arms again she couldn’t resist glancing down the length of his body. Her face flushed when, trying to look away, she made eye contact again and knew he’d caught her peeking. Worse still, he looked pleased, doubtless having felt her involuntary shiver of pleasure at the sight of his jutting erection.

He lifted his body gracefully over hers, plunging into her without waiting for permission or encouragement–and why should he? She was his, for as long as their contract lasted.

She wished that wasn’t so fucking exciting. What was wrong with her?

But whatever it was that made her enjoy her own abasement, it was in control. Her body clutched his, her hips tilted so she could rub and hump herself against him like animal in heat while he rode her.

This time he didn’t even have to finger her. She came for him without his prompting or encouragement, without his seemingly even noticing.

But he had noticed; she could tell because he came moments afterward, driving himself into her roughly and quickly with short, strong thrusts once her orgasm was out of the way. She didn’t know how to feel about that. She supposed it was a kind of good manners, making sure she got off first, but there was something humiliating in having him know just how much he excited her.

She was relieved when he rolled casually off her, leaving her free to turn her face away and gather up her clothes so she could wash and dress in the bathroom.

She heard him leave before she’d returned, and she cried a little. But that was stupid, really, so she washed her face and went back to Marilyn’s apartment to pack, and lugged her stuff out to the cab, and then spent the whole night unpacking and trying to convince herself that this was what she wanted.

For now, anyway.

It was enough.

It went like that, for a while. He showed up every night, and for the first week she assumed it was because she was a new toy, a new purchase, and the novelty was pulling him to her. But then he showed up every night for a second week, and sometimes midday as well.

Partway through the third week he told her he’d have to be away for a while. “Not filming,” he murmured against the top of her head, having pulled her onto his lap to sit. “Just interviews and the like. I’ll be home again in ten days.”

Home? she thought, puzzled, but then he was pushing her onto her back and spreading her legs authoritatively, and she stopped thinking, the way she always stopped thinking when the sheer physical perfection of him overcame her.

It wasn’t fair, the way he could do that. It wasn’t fair that she knew she’d willingly fuck him for free, and had to argue with herself every day that she was earning her money, that it wasn’t wrong to accept his gifts.

It wasn’t fair that she arched up to meet his cock more eagerly every day, that she knelt for him at a gesture, that she would have begged if he’d ever kept her waiting.

It especially wasn’t fair that she missed him when he was away. Do not, she told herself sternly, let yourself feel anything for this man. Don’t, just don’t.

But she touched herself every night he was gone, and thought of him every single time, and despised herself for it.

At least she had enough willpower not to turn on the television and look for interviews with him, or check him out online. Although that was at least partly because she was afraid of what she’d hear or see. If he’d been seen dating someone–really with someone, not just doing whatever it was he was doing with her–Jamie didn’t want to know. She couldn’t bear the thought.

The night before he was supposed to return she was checking her calender, making absolutely sure that she wasn’t behind on anything, when she went numb with utter horror. She had to go and sit down, gasping for breath, like someone who’d witnessed an accident. Her legs shook beneath her when she stood up again, this time walking over to her desk where she kept the dayplanner that doubled as her diary. She didn’t use it to write down feelings. She used it for appointments, assignments, for recording the weather and books she read and movies she’d seen.

And to keep track of her period.

Her period should have been last week.

Holy fuck, how could this be happening? She’d literally never skipped a period since she was twelve.

She’d known Benegits Curdleray for all of four weeks, and now her cycle was screwing up.

Because that’s all it was. That’s all she’d let it be. Her cycle was messed up somehow.

She told herself that for half an hour, and then her nerve broke, and she went out in search of a drugstore that was still open, and bought three different pregnancy tests.

When she finally passed out from exhaustion she was wearing her rattiest, most comforting flannel pjs, and she’d left all four little plastic thingies lined up on her desk, the pink lines smirking up at her and threatening to destroy her entire life if she didn’t deal with this, fast. She thought she’d only shut her swollen eyes for a moment, just to think, just to figure out how to take care of this without letting him even know.

Because she couldn’t lose him, she’d admitted that much to herself when she’d been peeing on plastic sticks. She wasn’t ready to cause her fantastically skilled, improbably gorgeous lover to skip out on her.

But then she opened her eyes and it was morning, and he’d already let himself in.

He was sitting at her desk.

His slender fingers twirled one of the plastic sticks back and forth; he looked lost in thought.

When she sat up he turned to look at her. He was smiling, oddly. He looked…triumphant.

It occurred to Jamie that she didn’t know this man, not really, and she certainly didn’t understand him. Something about the look on his face made her heart pound faster. She felt like the cornered prey of some great loping cat, only probably no animal about to get eaten would feel arousal behind the fear.

Three

He walked to the bed slowly, his face solemn except for that odd little smile that kept tugging at the corners of his lips. When he sat down beside her he took her hands in his, both caressing and restraining her.

Her guilt and inadequacy crested and broke, leaving her on the brink of tears. But this wasn’t all her fault. He was the one who’d insisted on never using birth control. Every time he’d had her she’d been left creamy and dripping, filled with him, achingly aware that she’d been pumped full of his come.

But not, she’d believed, of his seed.

“I thought you were infertile,” she confessed, and his eyebrows rose in surprise.

He shook his head. “Of course not,” he said.

“Well, yes. Obviously.” She sniffed, and tried to pull herself together. “I’ll take care of this.”

“No, you won’t.” His voice wasn’t so much firm as perfectly calm, as though there was no possibility whatsoever of argument on this point, and she felt a familiar stab of envy at the upbringing it must take to sound like that–and a familiar tug of unwanted desire for the self-assured bastard. “I’ll take care of it.”

For a moment the words didn’t make any sense, and then she blinked, trying to sort out what he meant. “How?” she asked cautiously, and he waved one hand as if dismissing whatever concerns she wasn’t voicing.

“I’ll marry you, of course.”

She scoffed. “As if. I don’t want to be married by some man who thinks he has to, thanks.”

“But I want to,” he said, and spoiled it just a little by adding, “This was all I was waiting for. I wanted you to be bred by me almost from the moment we met. Your education clinched it, but honestly, I was almost convinced even before I checked up on that. I only needed to know that you were fertile. This is perfect, can’t you see that?”

She tilted her head, considering. “Just what are you offering?”

He nodded, looking pleased that she was responding sensibly. “We’ll get married and have children, obviously. I’d like several. We’ll move away from here as soon as possible; I want them properly educated, though if you can get your graduate degree completed before this baby that would be splendid.”

The absurdity of it all was making her want to giggle, but he was so perfectly serious she took a deep breath instead and asked, “What about us? What do you imagine going on there?”

He reached out and pushed her hair back from her face, almost tenderly. “I’ll be faithful to you, Jamie. I’m not an affectionate man, but I’m a loyal one. And the sex is outstanding, don’t you think?”

If she’d been in a cruel frame of mind she might have told him that from her perspective the sex was only good–okay, outstanding; no point in denying it–because everything else about him, his face and his voice and his accent and his privilege and his fame, somehow combined to get her so worked up that she was hair-trigger-explosive each and every time.

But then: that was him, wasn’t it? All those elements were part of him, they were who he was. It’s not as though he was separable from his own qualities.

So it wasn’t a lie at all when she smiled back, shyly, and agreed. “Yes. Absolutely stellar.” He looked so gratified she wanted to hug him.

Then she thought, to hell with holding back for no reason, and leaned forward to wrap her arms around him. Possessively, for the first time: but he’d offered himself to her, after all, and she was sick of being the kind of idiot who said no to things she wanted.

“It could work,” she said quietly, and his arms wrapped around her in response.

“It will work,” he said, fiercely, and then he was pushing her onto her back and almost tearing her clothes off in his eagerness to stake his claim on her changed body.