The Girlfriend Experience

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Chapter 03 | Gardenia

Alex

The ceremony was long over as I spotted Valerie stepping out into the crowd. Where had she been? What’s the point in posing as my girlfriend if she’s gone for half the event?

I felt my nostrils flare and my neck grow warm as I started to march over to her, but halted as I felt a tug on my arm.

“Alex, would you tell Valerie thank you for me,” Sara whispered into my ear. Turning to give her a puzzled look, I saw the sheepish smile on her face.

“Why? What happened?”

“I had this huge freak out before the ceremony and she got me through it. She even offered to clean up because I told her I didn’t want anyone else to know that I had cold feet.”

“So that’s where she’s been?” I turned to look at Valerie, who in the midst of a bunch of strangers, had a very polite and yet uncomfortable expression on her face. Even from here, I could see the features of her face clearly, leaving me as breathless as I was when I first met her. Men must fall for her often; I’m no different.

She wore a long dress with no straps, flowing down to her feet with gold specks here and there on the skirt. The neckline resembled a heart and the blackness of the fabric somehow only brought more attention to her.

It took a bundle of patience for me to reach her across the party, with people stopping me every few steps to try to spark conversation that I couldn’t care less about right now. As I finally had a few steps left, she smiled at me, watching me approach her.

“Could we talk,” I asked her and smiled when she nodded, pointing to the little garden on the east side of the venue.

There were flowers everywhere, in all shapes and colors. We walked until we stood under two trees that towered over the path, creating an arch with blooming magnolias.

“I’m sorry, I missed the ceremony, Al-”

“That’s alright,” I gave her a knowing smile and watched as relief washed her expression. There was something in the way her dark brown curls framed her face, or maybe it’s the creamy skin on her cheeks, kissed with a rosy glow, that I can’t keep my eyes off. “Sara told me what you did for her. Thank you.”

“So how was the ceremony?” A gust of wind blew her hair in her face and I reached up to tug it behind her ear.

“Beautiful,” I started, wondering if I was still talking about the ceremony, “I even teared up a little.”

“Oh really?” A smile spread across her full lips. “Didn’t peg you for a crier.”

“What can I say? I can be a real softy.”

She let out a light chuckle, sending jolts of glee down to my guts. I was shaking inside, excited that she’s smiling just from my words.

“So, are you ready to get back in there?” She turned to look at the reception, where people were packed into their tables and engaging in smalltalk like there’s no tomorrow.

I pulled on my collar, dreading the idea. “I don’t know. Relatives mean smalltalk and I’m not in the mood to tell people that you and I are taking it slow.”

“So don’t,” she simply said, and I turned to look at her face. Her lips were relaxed, but the corners were lifted, and I silently hoped to see her smile more often. What an idiot, I thought to myself, I won’t be seeing her again after this weekend.

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s take a walk around the property. The food will be out in around half an hour and if we get back by then, they’ll be too busy chewing to interrogate,” she winked and grabbed my hand, leading me along the path. I only felt her fingers, but her palm was hovering right next to the back of my hand, and for a brief moment, I let it radiate its warmth into my body.

Spotting a swinging bench on the side of the garden under a small gazebo, I pointed and said, “Let’s just hang out there for a bit.”

As we sat, she let go of my hand and I tried to fight the slight disappointment that washed over me. It was becoming increasingly clear that I was attracted to her. Who wouldn’t? But I knew that I was just another client to her.

“So what do you want to talk about,” she asked casually, reaching down on her side to pick a gardenia flower. Her slender fingers slowly felt the petals, stroking them as her eyes stared at them in wonder.

“I’m not sure if my question would come off as rude…”

“Don’t be silly. Just ask away,” she smiled, kindness reaching her eyes.

“Does your family know about your profession?” I swallowed hard, hoping she wasn’t offended. She shook her head.

“I don’t have any family,” she said slowly, and when she saw that I was waiting for more, she continued, “My adoptive parents passed away when I was in junior high. I was in the foster system until I was an adult.”

“Your adoptive parents?”

“Yes, I don’t actually know who my biological parents are,” her eyes lowered onto the flower in her hands. Her tone didn’t show much emotion, but I knew how much something like that could take from her. She could only sound so normal stating that fact if she had grown to accept it, no matter how devastating it is.

“I’m so sorry, that must have been difficult to overcome,” I wanted desperately to touch her and comfort her, but I restrained myself.

“And how about you? I talked to Sara. Who was this girl who made you so much of a workaholic that you needed to hire me?”

“She told you about that, huh,” I grimaced. Sara needed to stop worrying about my problems, no matter how true they were. I sighed, “I was with this girl, Amanda, for about five years. We had met in high school and got serious later on. At the time when she broke things off, my whole life outside of work was just her, so afterward, I just threw myself into what I had left.”

She stared at me for a while and as I raised a brow, she finally spoke, “Amanda’s lost a hell of a catch.”

“And by the way, I didn’t hire you. Lance did,” I clarified with a smile.

“Oh, really?” She threw her head back laughing, “You just wanted to make sure that he got the check.”

“Well, you should make sure you get paid well. You’ve been a wonderful girlfriend. I’m pretty sure my parents love you more than they love me.”

“I’m surprised,” she shook her head, “this is my second time doing something like this.”

So I’m not just one of many clients. I ignored the sense of relief that hit me like a calm wave.

“You’ve only done this once before? Why? You’re great at this.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she looked away for a moment, and I swore I saw sadness in her eyes, but it was only a flash before she was forcing herself to smile. “I had a bad experience the last time I did it. That’s why I was so hesitant when Lance asked me.”

“Why what hap-” My phone rang its text tone. Pulling it out of my pocket, I found a message from my dad, telling me to join the reception. “We should get back. They’re asking for me.”

She nodded, getting up and leaving the gardenia on her seat. I picked it up and fit it on top of the bun of hair in the back of her head. As she turned back to look at me, I held my breath, staring at her lips.

“You know if you want to kiss me, you could,” she simply suggested.

“I don’t want to kiss you as my escort. I want to kiss you as you’re you,” I explained, frustrated at myself for not putting it in better words.

“I mean, how many clues has a girl gotta leave? Both escort-me and me-me have been waiting for another kiss,” she told me truthfully, and then with a hard sigh, she turned on her heel to head back the pathway. Without another thought, I reached for her wrist and pulled her into my arms.

Everything felt natural as I stared into her beautiful brown eyes and forgot my own name. I couldn’t find the right words to say as I watched her bite her lower lip only to release it in the most irresistible manner. I just knew that I wanted her.

Our lips crashed against each other, letting my mind scramble and my heart pump red hot passion through my body. Nothing made sense as I kissed this girl I barely met yesterday, and I was enjoying every moment of it.

My hands cupped the sides of her face, slowly twisting my fingers through the loose curls that dangled around her ears. I felt her hands rest on my chest, balling fists of my shirt, letting me know that she was just as lost in our kiss as I was.

We found ourselves at the side of the gazebo, with her between me and the railing. She balanced herself on the railing, letting her legs wrap around my hips as I nibble along her neck. A moan escapes her lips as she ran her fingers through my hair in lustful bliss.

I rest a hand on her ass, keeping her safe from falling backward, while my other hand stayed tangled in her hair. I felt her grind against me, and a low grunt escaped my throat as I bit and tugged on her bottom lip.

Just then, my phone blared another text tone, snapping us out of our shameless session of PDA. I cleared my throat, pulling away from her. “That’s probably them again. We really should head back.”

She bit back a smile as she nodded. She’s adorable. There was an odd innocence to her, despite her line of business. She, herself, was more than what she did, and it only made me more curious.

We were quiet on the walk back and I found myself glancing over at her every few seconds, wondering what was on her mind. Did she like the kiss? Did she care that it was with me? Am I a bad kisser compared to her other clients? Was I still a client in that moment we shared?

And most importantly, why did I care?

“So my cousin is now Sara Winterton. It’s weird to think about.”

“Wait,” she halted in her tracks right as the wedding reception was in view. Standing onstage were the lovely couple singing a song together. People were out of their seats dancing to the tune. Her entire body froze as she stared with dead eyes at that general direction. “I-I’m so sorry, Alex. I have to go.”

“Go? Where?” I rested a hand on her arm. There was a sense of urgency in her expression, an uneasiness I couldn’t quite understand.

“I’ll just go back to our hotel room. Again, I’m so so sorry for bailing.”

Just like that, she pulled away from my hand and rushed off to other side of the venue.

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