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Excerpt – Ethan’s Story

A peek at Ethan's story

As you all know, Ethan’s story has been difficult for me to write. I believe I am on the right track now. There may still be some minor changes as I move forward, but the beginning is pretty much in place.

Here’s a sneak peek at his story. I’d love to hear what you think!

CHAPTER 1: Ethan

Ethan flipped on the lights as he walked into his office, the scent of lemon and bleach seeping in from the hallway. The cleaning crew was busy sanitizing La Petite Mort Club from top to bottom, just like every day. Sex clubs got pretty nasty, especially busy ones like his.

He grabbed a water bottle from the fridge and rested it against his forehead. It felt like he’d just left this place. He glanced at his watch. He pretty much had. He’d gotten home around three and it was barely nine. This was his business, his life. He’d busted his ass to get here, but sometimes it got old.

He walked into the back office and sat at his desk, opening his laptop, and staring at the screen. He had a shit-ton of work to do but his gaze drifted to his desk drawer.

Fuck it. This was work too. He pulled out Olivia Campbell’s file and dropped it on his desk. He flipped the manilla folder open and stared at Liv’s picture.

He hadn’t taken any time off in a long time. The quick trips for Angel’s wedding and Smitty’s funeral didn’t count. He should do something for himself, like take a vacation, or maybe buy himself a birthday present. He’d been a good boy lately. His finger traced Liv’s face. Too good. He deserved to treat himself.

Someone knocked on the door.

“Ethan, we need to talk.” Hunter didn’t wait for an answer before he strode into the room.

Ethan started to hide the folder like a schoolboy caught with his first girlie magazine but then stopped. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He reviewed the files for all potential clients. Hunter didn’t know that he had this one memorized.

“What have you decided about Olivia Campbell?” Hunter plopped his large frame onto the chair. “Is that her file?”

“Yeah.” He opened it again and Liv stared up at him. He wanted to study her, learn everything about her, but he kept his gaze on Hunter. “Did you find out something else? Is she not a virgin?” The fact that she was still a virgin at twenty-six made this transaction worse in his mind. She’d waited this long. She should give her virginity to someone special, not sell it like an action figure still in its box to some drooling idiot. However, if she wasn’t that innocent then it’d be a clear path to paradise for him—no guilt, just some much needed fucking.

“Your doctor checked her.” Hunter gave him an odd look.

“Right. I didn’t mean technically a virgin.” Fuck. He’d forgotten about that important piece of information. “She could be taking it in the ass or sucking every dick in the state.” Which would still leave her as fair game for him.

“She’s not like that. She’s exactly what I told you she is—a good person who’s in a shit situation.”

“Oh.” Damn it. “Then why are you here?”

“Because I know you haven’t made a decision about her—”

“How do you know that?”

“Patrick.” Hunter gave him another strange look. “He said you called and wanted to know if he had anything else on her—pictures, hobbies, etc. that he hadn’t turned over to you.”

“Right. I forgot about that.” He definitely wasn’t thinking clearly because he should’ve realized his friend would check with Hunter about the additional files. Hunter was Patrick’s top PI.

“You need to make a decision. She has a deadline. She needs that money.”

“I know, and I’m working on it. Trust me; I heard all about it from Julie yesterday. I really don’t need to hear it from you too.”

Julie, who helped him run this place, had completely opposite ideas about this contract. She wanted him to accept Liv’s contract and sell her virginity to the highest bidder. It’d thrill his clientele to get a shot at a twenty-six-year-old, gorgeous virgin, and that would make him and Julie a fortune.

“Don’t listen to her. She’s only thinking about her bonus from the auction.”

“Her argument has merit. Liv did come to us. We didn’t seek her out.” He’d repeated that in his head a thousand times, trying to convince himself that there was nothing wrong with taking her contract.

“And you think that means she wants to sell her virginity to some stranger?”

“Maybe.” He shrugged. “It’s not like she has a boyfriend she’s saving it for, and as you said, she needs the money.” Hunter and Julie were like the two sides of his conscience, ripping him apart—She’s a good person. Let her go. Give her the money. No, she chose to do this. Sell her to the highest bidder and rake in the cash. He didn’t want to do either of those things. He wanted her for himself.

“Look, I understand that she’ll be safer doing this with you,” said Hunter.

“Me?” Ethan pointed at himself. Hunter was a damn good investigator. Could the other man see the interest on his face? He looked down, flipping the page. Another portrait. This one from afar but his eyes landed on her ass and his cock hardened. Fuck interest. This was a full-blown need to possess this woman.

“Not you. Your company.” Hunter’s tone was disgusted. “You know what I meant.”

“Right. Just fucking with you.” He grabbed the stack of photos and flipped them over. Now only a white piece of paper with writing on it stared back at him.

“Well, stop. I’m not in the mood.”

“Hunter, none of this is your business anymore. You did your job. Now, I decide what happens next.”

“She shouldn’t have to stand up there and be sold to the highest bidder.” His friend pulled a folder from his jacket. “After Patrick called, I went back and watched her some more to see if I missed something.” He leaned forward and dropped it on the desk, flipping through the photos. “I thought you might want to see these.”

Ethan couldn’t pull his eyes away from the pictures. Liv walking into the school. Liv carrying her groceries—her hands small and perfect. Hell, she even used her own reusable bags. She was so good. His stomach twisted a bit. He’d change that. He did it to everyone he let into his life. He took the good and tarnished it, making it rough and dirty.

“See this.” Hunter pointed to the picture of her leaving a thrift store, bags stuffed full and carrying two jean jackets.

“Yeah. She’s poor. That’s why she needs me.” He was surprised when Hunter didn’t question his phrasing but that was exactly what he meant. Eventually, she’d get tarnished by someone. She needed money, and she had only one commodity worth anything. There was nothing wrong with helping her out. He’d be generous with the money and in bed.

“That’s not the point. Yes, she’s poor, but she goes to the thrift store and buys things for her students. The ones who are even poorer or have shitty parents.”

“I’ve found the two often go hand in hand.”

Hunter flipped a few more pictures before stopping on one where Liv was talking to a young boy outside of the school. No cars were around, and neither were any other students. The only other person was a man by the doors several yards away from them. The boy was putting on one of the jean jackets. Hunter pulled out another photo. She was handing the boy another bag. This one was filled with food. The boy’s brown hair was too long and dirty, his clothes too big for his thin frame.

The past Ethan tried so hard to keep locked away and forgotten broke free. He’d been that boy. Lonely. Abused. Hungry. No teacher had ever helped him, not like this. Of course, his father would’ve never allowed it. No charity for the St. Johns. His dad would’ve rather they’d all starved than to bring shame on their family by admitting they were poor. Ethan’s salvation had come from Victor Argotos and his family. They’d taken him in when he was thirteen. Vic’s dad had been the first person Ethan had ever met who hadn’t been afraid of his father.

“She’s a good person.” Hunter shoved the picture closer.

The adoration in the boy’s eyes as he stared up at Liv made his gut twist. The rest of his siblings hadn’t been as lucky as he’d been. They hadn’t found a way out. They’d all become cheats, liars, and thieves. Would they be different if they’d had someone like Olivia Campbell to help them, to show them that someone cared? His eyes drifted to her face. The look of sadness in her gaze made his fist clench. This woman should know only happiness. She deserved nothing less.

“Let her go.” Hunter’s voice was low and persuasive. “It’s the right thing to do and you know it.”

He did and no matter how much he didn’t want to do it, he would. “You’re right.”

“You’re actually listening to me?” Hunter sounded more than surprised.

“Yeah.” He frowned at the picture, knowing he was letting the only thing he’d wanted in a long time slip away. He glanced up at his friend. “I don’t like it, but you’re right.”

“I am. I just didn’t expect…” Hunter’s brown eyes narrowed. “You’re going to give her the money that she needs, right?”

“Yes.” Now, he was offended.

“Write the check.” Hunter leaned back in the chair, waiting.

“You don’t trust me?”

“Nope.” Hunter shook his head. “Write the check and call her.”

“Fine.” He pulled out his checkbook. “I don’t have to show you anything. You know that, right?” He scribbled down an exorbitant amount of money to give to someone for nothing.

“And yet, you are.” Hunter watched him sign the check.

“See.” He tore it from the checkbook. “All done.”

“Call her.”

“You’re unfucking believable.” He should tell his friend to get the fuck out, but Hunter’s presence was the only thing keeping him from changing his mind. Every cell in his body wanted to claim that woman in the pictures and make her his in every way imaginable.

“Call her.” Hunter stared at him, a challenge in his gaze.

“Fine.” He opened the folder and flipped through the pages. He didn’t want his friend to know that he knew her number by heart. He grabbed his cell phone, dialed her number, and waited.

“Hello?” She sounded wary. She should be because what he wanted wasn’t innocent.

“Olivia Campbell?” He glanced at Hunter who watched him closely.

“Yes? Who’s calling?”

“This is Ethan St. Johns. I’d like to speak with you about the contr—”

“Not now,” she almost hissed. “Let me call you back.”

“Okay.” He grinned and Hunter’s eyes narrowed.

“Give me a couple of minutes.”

The phone went dead.

“She hung up on me.” He held it out so his friend could see.

“Smart woman.” Hunter smirked.

“Yeah.” His grin deepened. And that made her even more attractive.

“She’s probably working.”

“Probably.” It was a little after eleven AM.

“You’re doing the right thing.”

“I know.” Doing the right thing was never easy, but this was killing him. His phone rang. “Hello.”

“Yes. Sorry. This is Liv…Olivia Campbell.”

“I’m quite aware of who you are.” More aware than she wanted to know. Her whispered tone was like a lick along his cock, making his pulse thud strong and insistent.

“Yes…well, did you make up your mind about the contract? I need to know. Today is the last day of school. I have to get something set up for my mom and—”

“Yes. I’ve decided—”

“Hold on,” she whispered. “Hello, Mr. Fetty.” By the sound she’d moved the phone away from her mouth. “I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to talk on the phone but…it’s about my mother.”

He wanted to laugh. Liv Campbell may look as innocent as an angel, but she was adept at skirting around a lie.

“Yes. Of course,” she said, still talking to the other man. “It’ll only take a moment.”

He waited.

Hunter mouthed. “What’s going on?”

He put the phone on mute. “I think her boss is there.”

“Oh. Shit.” Hunter frowned. “Don’t get her in trouble.”

“Me? You told me to call her.” He wasn’t taking the blame for this one.

“Yeah…well, whatever. Just—”

“Sorry. I’m back, Mrs. Diaz.” Liv was talking to him now.

He held up his hand to silence Hunter.

“I’ll come home for lunch, and we can talk about my mother then,” continued Liv.

“Are you coming here or am I meeting you at your place?” This was better than he’d expected. He may not get to fuck her, but he’d get to see her in person. He was an attractive, persuasive man. Maybe he could convince her to go on a date with him.

“Yes, I’ll be there in an hour.” Her voice lowered to a whisper. “I’ll come to your office.”

“Okay, I’ll…” The dial tone rang in his ear, and he stared at the phone.

“What happened?” asked Hunter. “Why didn’t you tell her you were going to help—”

“She hung up on me.” He frowned. No one…No female had hung up on him in a long, long time.

“Again?” Hunter sounded as surprised as he felt.

“Yeah.” He put down the phone. “She couldn’t talk. Her boss was there.” It was understandable, but it still annoyed him.

“You should’ve told her you’d give her the money.”

“She didn’t give me the chance.” He stood and walked to the refrigerator. “Do you want a drink?”

“No. I want you to let her go.”

“And I will.” He gave his friend a dirty look. “In an hour when I talk to her again.”

“An hour?”

“Yeah. Apparently, her boss doesn’t like her chatting on the phone during school hours.”

“Well, shit.” Hunter stood. “I can’t sit here for an hour. I’ve got work to do.”

“That’s up to you.” Good. He didn’t want Hunter breathing down his neck when he met with Liv. He’d give her the money but maybe he could salvage something from this meeting. Olivia Campbell may be a virgin, but she wasn’t as innocent as he’d thought. She’d had no problem dancing around the truth with her boss. He’d have to see which other sins she’d like to commit.

“You’re going to give her the money with no strings attached, right?” Hunter studied him.

“Yep.” He’d be her hero. Her knight in shining armor. There was no better way to get between a woman’s thighs than that.

“Your word. I want your word, Ethan.”

“I promise. You saw me write the check.” He held up his hand to stop his friend. “I’ll give it to her with no strings attached.”

CHAPTER 2: Ethan

Ethan jumped from his seat at the light tap on his door. He’d told Liv to call when she arrived but someone on the cleaning crew could’ve seen her and escorted her inside. He glanced at his watch. She was early. Maybe she was as eager as he was for this meeting.

He tried but he couldn’t stop smiling as he strode across the room. He opened the door, and his smile died a painful death. “Carissa.” Their last meeting had not gone well. Firing someone was never pleasant, but Carissa had been furious, filled with blame, accusations, and anger.

“I’m sorry about the other day. I was upset about getting fired.” Carissa slipped past him into his office.

“I understand.” He closed the door. “Please, have a seat.” He walked into the back office and motioned to the chair in front of his desk as he pulled his phone from his pocket, tapping the app that activated the cameras in his office. Usually, Julie sat in with him for these types of situations, but he always recorded them. Video let everyone be an eyewitness to an event in case there were unfounded accusations. “Have you changed your mind about rehab?”

“I don’t need rehab.” Her large blue eyes narrowed with anger.

“We can do another drug test if you want.” He walked to his desk.

“If someone’s going to watch me piss, they’re going to pay me for it.”

“Then why are you here? The rules are simple. You do drugs you’re out.” He sat, preparing himself for more lies. Drugs had a way of convincing people that every problem they had was someone else’s fault.

“I keep telling you. I’m not doing drugs.”

“Do you need me to pull out the lab report again?” He was so sick of this shit. It was the same thing every time. Very few accepted his offer to pay for their rehab. Most either claimed it was a one-time thing or denied they had a problem. Carissa was trying a different tactic. “And please don’t give me the bullshit about the lab results being faked. That’s the most reputable lab in the area.”

“Yeah, and you’re rich. You can bribe someone because you want to get rid of me.”

“I don’t have to go to the trouble of faking lab work. I can fire you for any reason. It’s in the contract you signed.”

“Well…” She paused, regrouping. “I don’t know about the lab, but I do know that I’m not doing drugs. Those results are wrong.”

“We can run them again.”

“Why bother? They’ll just fake them again.” She stared at him, not blinking. “I swear, Ethan. I’m not doing drugs. Let me come back to work.” She looked so sincere, so innocent, but it was all an act.

“Carissa, you’re full of shit. I don’t need the lab results to tell me you’re hooked on something. I can see it. Have you looked in the mirror lately? You’ve lost a lot of weight, and you look ten years older than you did when I hired you.”

“Oh, I get it now. You’re firing me because I look old.” Her lips twisted in a sneer. “The members can be as old as dirt, but they only want to fuck the fresh faces.”

“I’m not going to argue with you about this anymore. I wish you’d take me up on the offer and get some help. I really do, but if you won’t there’s nothing more for us to discuss.” He started to stand.

“I’m pregnant.”

“Okay.” He sat back down. She was probably lying. Almost every woman he fired made this claim, but no matter how many precautions he had the female Pleasure Associates take that was always a risk. He opened his laptop. “I’ll need a list of all your customers from the last few months, but first”—he looked up at her—“we’ll set up an appointment with the doctor.”

“I’ve already seen a doctor. That’s how I know for sure that I’m pregnant. I took an at-home test, but I wanted to be positive before I came to see you.”

“Good, but you still need to see my doctor.”

“Why?” she snapped.

“Because I’m sure you won’t believe this”—he tried to keep the sarcasm from his voice because she might actually be pregnant—“but many women lie about this.”

“I’m not lying.”

“Then I’ll set up the appointment.” He tapped the keyboard and opened the website for the doctor he used for Club business. “Once I have confirmation of your pregnancy you can give me a list of the customers you’ve been with the last few months.”

“There’s no reason for that. I’m not trying to get a payout from anyone.”

He was almost positive that was a lie. She seemed a little twitchy today. She was probably jonesing for her next hit. “It’s policy. Everyone knows the risks, but I need to give them all a little forewarning.” Most didn’t pay much attention to these risks. They were too interested in fucking, but it was in the contract that they sign yearly. “If you decide to have the child, we’ll perform a DNA test and go from there.”

“I’m not having this baby. I already look old, according to you. I don’t need to be fat too.”

“You don’t look old. You look like somebody who’s abusing drugs. There’s a difference. One is reversible.”

“I’m not doing drugs.” Her eyes got a little sly. “Okay. I tried it once, but I didn’t like it. That’s probably why the lab results came back positive, but mostly I’ve just been sick from being pregnant.

It was feasible, but he wasn’t buying it. “We’ll get an appointment set up. Sounds like you’ve already decided what you’re going to do, but until you do it, the choice, of course, is yours.”

“I don’t have time to go to another doctor’s appointment. I want this baby gone now. I’m tired of being sick.”

“I’m sure it’s not pleasant.” He waited. The real reason for her visit was coming.

“I know I don’t work here anymore, but I did get pregnant here. It’s in the contract that you’ll cover the cost of an abortion.”

“You’re right and I will.”

She could barely keep the smug expression from her face.

“As soon as my doctor confirms that you’re pregnant.”

“You think I’d lie about this?”

“Of course not.” That was exactly what he thought. “But people make mistakes…and it wouldn’t be the first time a mistake like this happened after I fired someone.”

“I swear, Ethan. I’m not lying.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I’m scared. I don’t want to have a baby on my own, and I don’t want to inconvenience anyone. I just want to not be pregnant.” Right now, she looked like the young woman he’d hired—beautiful and with a helpless damsel in distress quality that drove his alpha male members mad with lust.

“Let me make a call. I’m sure I can get you an appointment with the doctor today.” He pulled his phone from his pocket.

“I’m not going to the doctor again. I just need the fucking money.” Her face twisted with rage. “That’s the least you owe me after what you did to me.”

This wasn’t his fault, but he felt guilty. He’d introduced her to this place and this kind of money. Some people used the money they made here to give themselves a future, others ruined their lives with it. “Go to rehab, Carissa, and I’ll give you the money for the abortion.”

“I don’t need rehab. I just need money!” she screamed.

He hated these encounters, but unfortunately, they were part of his job. “You have two choices. Go see my doctor to confirm your pregnancy, and then I’ll pay for your abortion.”

“I’m not going to see your doctor. I hate her. She’s a judgmental old bitch.”

“Fine. The other choice is rehab. Now. You go right now.”

“Fuck you!” She stood. “This is your fault that I’m pregnant, and I don’t have a job. But you won’t do a fucking thing to help me. You pretend that you care; that you’re helping us, but you’re just a monster who uses and abuses women.” She stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind her.

He stood to follow her but stopped because he had no desire to continue this argument, but he also didn’t need her stealing or breaking anything. He turned on the TV monitors that were hooked to the cameras in the Club and watched as she made her way down the stairs, pushing past some of the cleaning crew.

As soon as she’d left the building he walked to the bar and poured himself a drink. Maybe she was right, and he was a monster. He tried to hire women and men who knew who they were and what they wanted. Most of them had plans and the job as a Pleasure Associate was a way to make a lot of cash to fund their dreams. Many were in college and quite a few found work with a company owned by one of the members.

Sex at a place like this was just another commodity, another type of business. The members understood that and had no problem hiring former Pleasure Associates into their companies once they finished school.

However, some of the people who worked in this position got lost. They started with big dreams and ambitions, but they let societal preaching or their own upbringing about sex get into their heads. Then they started to self-medicate with alcohol and then drugs.

He did his best to catch it early but unless they were stumbling drunk, it was hard to see who drank too much. The bartenders knew to report it to him, but those who wanted to abuse alcohol or drugs, like Carissa, were adept at hiding it, until it was too late for him to do much. He sat down at his desk and picked up the manilla envelope. He sighed. He couldn’t save Carissa, but he could save Olivia Campbell.

CHAPTER 3: Liv

Liv sat in her car, staring at La Petite Mort Club. The building looked solid and plain on the outside, but inside it was elegant and sensual. The décor was understated and classy—dark wood, reds, and golds. She’d been impressed the first time she’d come here, until she’d gone into the back offices.

Those hallways were bare…stark even. It reminded her of the story of Dorian Gray—the ugliness on the inside hidden by the beauty of the outside.

A maid walked out of the building, carrying two bags of trash and interrupted her musings. She glanced at her phone. She’d told Mr. St. Johns that she’d be here in an hour. She was early. There’d been little traffic at this time of day. Maybe she should wait. She didn’t want to surprise him, but delaying wouldn’t do any good. Like any unpleasant task, the best course of action was to just get it done.

She opened the door and stepped out of her car, but her feet didn’t move. This was stupid. She had no reason to be nervous. She wasn’t doing anything today. This was just a meeting. Yeah, a meeting to sell herself to a stranger. She took a deep breath. She could do this. Like her friend Shelby kept telling her, it was just sex.

A tinge of panic tightened in her chest as the secret from her past tried to claw its way out of the grave where she’d buried it. She hadn’t thought about that incident with Tyson Baggerly for years, and she didn’t have time to bother with it now. She was an adult, and she agreed to do this. She was in control. It’d be one night and then she’d have enough money to take care of her mother. She took one more deep breath and made her way toward the building. The maid had already gone back inside so she pulled her phone from her pocket.

“You don’t want to do this. Get back in your car and drive away,” said a man.

“Excuse me?” She jumped, her heels stuttering as she stopped midstride.

A guy leaned against a beat-up, blue truck. His gray T-shirt and worn jeans hung on his thin frame. Tattoos covered his arms and some of his neck. His head was shaved, and he had a short, patchy, brown beard.

“There’s got to be another job you can do.” His brown eyes were hard. “This will ruin your life.”

Her heart raced as he spoke every fear she’d had since Shelby had suggested this as a solution to her money problems.

“You seem like a nice lady. I’m just trying to help.” His eyes glanced over her quickly. “This place ruined my friend.”

“Ruined her?” She may be a virgin, but this wasn’t the Victorian era. Sex didn’t ruin anyone—man or woman.

“Yeah. Carissa was a good kid until she started working here. Now, she’s pregnant by that bastard.”

“What bastard?” Her heart hurt for that poor girl.

“Ethan St. Johns. The boss.” The man’s lip curled. “She’s here today to tell him she’s pregnant. I told her not to bother. He ain’t gonna help her or his kid.”

“Oh, that’s horrible. Any man who refuses to take responsibility for his child is despicable.”

“Yeah.” He leaned to the side and spit. “The guy’s an asshole who thinks he can do whatever he wants just because he’s rich.”

“I know the type.” Panic began to tighten in her chest again. She had to calm down. This wasn’t the past. That was over. Done. Nothing was going to happen to her that she didn’t agree to in writing.

“And Carissa ain’t the first. There are a lot of girls that come to this place to get rich and end up hooked on drugs or pregnant.” He scratched his nose. “Then they get fired, and the boss and his friends move on to the next woman.”

She was going to puke. She was the next woman. No, this was different. She wasn’t going to work here. This was a one-time thing.

A young woman with curly blonde hair who was about Liv’s age burst through the doors. Her face was red from tears, but her eyes were furious as she glared at the man by the truck. “Who’s she?” Her angry gaze fell on Liv.

“I was just telling this nice lady to find another job.” He spoke calmly as if the situation could detonate at any minute.

“Oh.” Carissa’s face relaxed a bit. “He’s right. You should leave, unless you want to be fucked, forgotten, and hooked on drugs.”

“Ah…no. I don’t.” This place was even worse than she’d imagined.

“Then you’d better get out of here because—”

“You might get pregnant too,” he said.

“Yeah.” The woman glanced at him again. “Especially that. Ethan will fire you and not give you a penny if your belly gets round.”

“You could get a paternity test and make him pay.” She hated this man already.

“A paternity…I don’t have the money for that and how am I going to make a living when I get fat.” The young woman looked at her like she was an idiot.

“There are places that can help you find work and they can—”

“I need money for an abortion, not a lifetime commitment. The rich fucker won’t even give me that. Fuck Ethan and fuck this place.” The blonde stormed to the truck. “Let’s go.” She jerked the door open and got into the vehicle.

The guy looked at Liv. “You should find another job and tell your friends about how they treat women here.” He hopped into the passenger side of the truck.

She couldn’t do this. She could not sell herself to one of these men. She headed back to her car, forcing herself to walk when all she wanted to do was to run as fast and as far away from this place as she could get. Her hand shook as she opened the door and slid inside. She stared at her phone. She should call and cancel, but if she did that how would she get the money she needed?

She had no idea how many minutes she sat there trying to figure out some other way to get a lot of money, but even if she had more time it’d take her an entire lifetime to save enough to take care of her mother. Dad’s illness had depleted her parents’ savings. Mom had bartered the only thing she’d had to keep her daughter and her husband safe, and Liv was going to have to do the same thing.

Her eyes darted to her rearview mirror, and a stranger stared back at her. She’d let Shelby help her get ready. Her friend had sworn these clothes and makeup would give her confidence, but it wasn’t working. She may have to do this, but she didn’t have to lose herself in the process.

She cleaned her face as must as she could with only a tissue before pulling a scarf from her purse and wrapping it around her neck. Shelby would kill her. It didn’t even match her outfit, but it did cover her cleavage. Her friend had found an old push-up bra that Liv had bought years ago and then Shelby had removed two of the buttons from the shirt. The black suit jacket which Shelby had loaned her should’ve helped to conceal her breasts, but it was cut to accentuate them. Shelby had told her to take it off while she was negotiating, but that wasn’t going to happen. That jacket may draw attention to her chest but not nearly as much as no jacket would.

She repositioned the brown scarf to cover more of her skin, and then glanced in the mirror again. Her green eyes were huge in her pale face. She added a bit of lip gloss. She wasn’t trying to impress the man, but she didn’t want to scare him either. She needed the money too badly for that. She took a deep breath and got out of the car. She dialed Mr. St. John’s number as she stared at where the truck had been parked. Was it a sin to ignore a guardian angel? She didn’t think so, but even if it were, it wouldn’t be the worst one she was going to commit.

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