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Home > A Million Dirty Secrets (Million Dollar Duet #1)(3)

A Million Dirty Secrets (Million Dollar Duet #1)(3)
Author: C.L. Parker

“Ha! Not likely,” I scoffed, and managed to smile a little before backing out of her safe embrace. “I’ll be okay. You just make sure the jerk that ends up with me follows through on our deal. If he doesn’t, I expect you to send the FBI in here with guns a-blazin’.”

“Girl, you already know it. And you know the digits, so you better call me with status reports or I’m coming after you. I have to get back to the bar now, before I lose my job and the inside scoop on you. But remember that I sort of like you and shit.” Dez wasn’t one for the mush, but I knew that was code for I love you. She kissed my cheek and said, “Give ’em hell, babe,” before swatting me on the ass and turning to walk away. She wasn’t fooling me. I saw the way her shoulders curled in and she dabbed at her eyes with her fingertips when she thought I couldn’t see her.

“I sort of like you, too,” I said under my breath because she was already out of earshot.

I turned toward the door, psyching myself up before I lost my nerve and backed out. One thought of my mother, and I knew there was no turning back. So I opened the door and marched into that office to finalize the terms of my contract.

Scott’s office looked like something I might have expected for a Mafia kingpin. Plush carpet covered the floor, a beautiful chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling, lighted glass cases held various things I assumed cost a fortune, and fine art lined the walls. Classical music wafted from invisible speakers in an attempt to lure me into a false sense of security. The music and elegant décor lent the illusion of a refined establishment, which may have made the clientele feel more at home, but I knew better. You could put a suit and tie on a pig, but it didn’t change the fact that it was still a pig.

Scott was at his desk with a cigarette in one hand and a lowball of whiskey in the other. His feet were propped on the desk while he lounged back in his chair, his fingers directing an invisible orchestra like he hadn’t a care in the world.

He turned to look at me and grinned before sitting upright and butting his cigarette in a marble ashtray. “Ah, Ms. Talbot. I wondered if you’d grace us with an appearance tonight.”

Squaring my shoulders and setting my chin, I looked him in the eye. This was my deal, and I was in control until the money was exchanged. I wasn’t about to let Scott Christopher think he was anything other than the middleman he was. “I said I’d be here, and so I am.”

He stood and walked toward me, not even trying to hide the fact that he was checking me out from head to toe. “That’s a very good thing. I might have had to send out a search-and-rescue team to track you down if you hadn’t shown up. You’re going to make me a lot of money tonight.”

“Can we please just confirm the terms of my contract?” I said with a sigh. I didn’t trust him, and with good reason. He sold humans for a profit without an ounce of remorse. How could I trust anyone who did that for a living? If I’d had any other alternative, I certainly wouldn’t have been standing there at that moment.

“Right,” he said, going back to his desk and opening a manila folder with my name written in bold black letters across the top. “I can personally guarantee that the clientele for this evening will have no issue with discretion. In fact, it’s a prerequisite for all who visit my establishment. They’re the big ballers, the elite league of gentlemen … a real no-nonsense sort with more money than they know what to do with. Their reasons for being interested in the type of merchandise that I deal in are their own, and I don’t pry as long as they’re paying.”

The only solace I took in agreeing to this, other than the fact that I’d be saving my mother’s life, was that I knew someone with enough pull could guarantee the payout required to make sure my mom got the surgery she needed and keep his mouth shut about it in the process. No one with that much money wanted the world to know about his involvement in such an operation. And I most certainly didn’t want my parents to find out about it. That knowledge alone would be enough to send them to their graves, thereby totally negating what I was trying to do for them.

The other perk, or at least I hoped so, was that anyone who could afford to do this would also be refined enough not to make my life a total living hell. I wasn’t naïve; I knew there were some twisted people out there with some sick fetishes, but I held out hope nonetheless.

“I assume you’re still cool with my twenty percent cut?” he asked, shuffling the papers.

“Nice try. We agreed on ten percent,” I said, not one bit amused by his attempt to hustle me.

“Right, right. Ten percent. That’s what I meant.” He gave me a wink that made my skin crawl, then he pushed the contract across the desk and handed me a pen. “Just sign here … and here.”

I scrawled my messy signature above the lines he indicated, fully aware that I was signing away the next two years of my life. It was a small price to pay.

Shortly afterward, I was ushered into another room where I was told to strip down and put on the skimpiest bikini that I’d ever seen. It really left nothing at all to the imagination, which I gathered was probably the point. The men wanted to see the merchandise before they paid top dollar. I got that, but it didn’t make me feel any less exposed and vulnerable. From there, a hair and makeup stylist did her thing, making me look simply elegant and, surprisingly, not trashy.

After that, Scott secured lucky number sixty-nine to my stomach. I kept my head held high as I joined the other women in front of the two-way mirror. The worst part was that while God only knew who or what was on the other side of the mirror looking at me, I couldn’t see them. What I could see, though, was myself. I wasn’t conceited by any means, but I had to admit that I looked good compared to the other women.

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