Chapter Five: Under His Control
Damon was right. Debra’s nose was out of joint more than ever. I felt like a malicious minion taping my fingers together with childish glee. I released my hold on Damon after the photo was taken and began sipping on my red wine again with a sly smile. He went to object but then said nothing. He simply watched me calculatingly. I grabbed the attention of one of the sponsors with whom I was more familiar and then engaged them in conversation.
The music was lovely and it enveloped me in an atmosphere where I felt I could drop my shoulders slightly, that I could relax and enjoy myself. I partook in a lot of conversation as Damon made the rounds and greeted everyone. The plan was almost too perfect. We convinced so many people of how perfect we were as a couple. Often I would catch small groups smiling and nodding as Damon gestured toward me proudly.
Damon continued to call me pet names, much to my agitation, all with a mischievous smile. I went along with it, of course. Often when he called me by such names I would take another mouthful of my red wine, which would help me to bite my tongue and say nothing. He would smile sincerely and look at me adoringly as he reveled in his victory of our little game.
Debra had not approached me since, but I noticed that she would make a beeline for Damon as he mingled. He was dazzling the crowd with his dazzling self, and she was like a moth to a flame. I countered her every move by reaching his side every time just as she did. I would then smile at him and brush my hand over his arm to claim him as mine—the one thing she could never touch, even if she could make my life hell at work.
I moved to a nearby group of sponsors. I noticed their hesitation when I mentioned a few of our larger campaigns coming within the next year, so I left it, unsure as to whether they were unimpressed with the proposals or if we were no longer being considered. Gary joined in the circle, speaking with the same people as me whilst watching over his wife, who was lecturing one of the waiters. A few of the sponsors shuffled around, leaving Gary and me awkwardly sipping on our wines as the conversation stilled.
“You look stunning tonight,” Gary said conspiratorially, after finding where it was Damon was standing on the other side of the room. I felt slightly uncomfortable with his gaze. Usually when we spoke others were around. Perhaps I felt guilty for how Debra had looked at me earlier. I shook my head awkwardly with a light smile, trying to be polite whilst receiving the compliment. Gary was always nice to me, despite his devilish wife. “I am impressed with the organization of this as well. You have done really well.”
“Thank you, but I had a few people help me on this one, so I can hardly take the credit for it,” I said, finding that I was craving Damon’s company.
Fingers brushed lightly along the back of my neck, sending a shiver through me. I turned to see Damon, who was smiling sweetly. My surprised expression was exactly what he was after.
“Am I interrupting something?” Damon growled.
His tone took my breath away and forced Gary to step back shyly as if he had been the one to walk into something.
“No, we were just talking.” My tone was somewhat defensive, as if Damon had been accusing me of something. His dark-brown eyes steadily held mine and then met Gary’s.
“I feel like dancing,” he said, grabbing my hand. His surprisingly soft hand brushed over my fingertips.
“You what?” I asked. “Oh honey, you know I don’t dance.” I smiled at him but my eyes held a word of warning. My face conveyed the message, I cannot dance.
“Oh, but my little angel puff, you know how I like to make you try. You are just so cute, even when you barter,” Damon smiled wickedly.
I bit my tongue, understanding his message. This was his way of getting me back for my demand of a discount. He pulled on my hand and led me through the crowd to where a few people danced. I could tell from their stilted movement that they were not nearly drunk enough yet to enjoy it.
“What are you playing at?” I asked as we stood in front of the band. He looked at me earnestly, placing his hand around my waist and holding my other hand lightly. He began to sway and I tried doing the same. My awkwardness forced him to pull me in closer to control my hips. His chest touched mine. I tried to force out my forgotten breath so that I would not let him see that his sudden movement had affected me in such a way.
His hot breath rested on my ear for a moment before he spoke. “Check mate,” he taunted.
“Is this by chance a game to you?” I asked with a smile. My face had almost certainly gone red. My smile stretched wider as I looked over the clumps of people around us. “Do you patronize all your clients like this, or is there something you want to win?”
He suddenly pushed me away from him, and in perfect time with the music, he spun me under his arm before pulling me in fast and pressing my body against his. All in one fluid, controlled movement. I looked up at him, stunned, my breath once again lost. I couldn’t look away from his teasing dark-brown eyes. I felt lost in them; I hadn’t words to say. I couldn’t even remember what we were talking about.
“No, I don’t usually do this to my other clients. But most don’t challenge me the way that you do. And I do not take losing lightly,” he said with a cocky smile before slowly putting distance between us.
My breath came out staggered. I was embarrassed by my infatuation with him. It had been so long since I was with a man that even his slightest touch lingered on my skin. His taunting words sparked an excitement into me I hadn’t felt since...well, I couldn’t even remember.
A tapping of a microphone rang out as Debra’s voice echoed, “testing.” It brought reality back. I stepped away from him, dropping his hand. I smiled to the four band members, thanking them for their music as they fell into silence. Everyone began taking their seats at their tables.
I felt hot and flushed. “We should sit down,” I mouthed to Damon, before collecting another glass of red wine. I knocked it back, hoping to relieve myself of the heat that had built within my body. I sat down at our table, smiling at the few sponsors I was familiar with. Some were with partners, some with what may have been their own younger escorts.
When Damon took a seat beside me, I watched Drygo Biggs, who sat at a nearby table drinking brandy. He had a large household items business which did well in the city, so big that he regularly sponsored us in return for discounted advertising on our online and printed magazines. He looked to be in his fifties. Chubby, he looked like he preferred the leisurely life over a healthier lifestyle. Beside him was a thin young blonde girl. She looked like she had only just graduated from university. She played with her silver hoop earrings and adjusted her strapless purple dress when she thought no one was looking. She would shoot Mr. Biggs an inviting smile when he looked at her hungrily. I questioned then whether she was an escort also.
Was it obvious that Damon was one? He did look out of my league. The idea of it clouded what I thought to be a victorious night. And as much fun as I had when my heart raced around Damon, I had to remind myself it was just business, and that it was a lie. I looked around at other couples, wondering whether anyone else had suspected him to be an escort.
Debra clapped as Issobelle Sherain took the stage. Many speeches were to follow and I sighed audibly. Fun was over for now. Damon furrowed his eyebrows and mouthed, “Are you all right?” I smiled reassuringly at him.
I had to call an escort. Did that make me pathetic? My mind drifted to my work situation as Issobelle droned on in the background, speaking of her countless inspirations. All the fun and excitement around Damon quickly vanished as I found myself focusing on the workload I had to return to, the webpage I had no idea how to create. “Well it was fun whilst it lasted,” I sighed to myself.
Everyone clapped loudly at the end of the speeches. The electric atmosphere had been dampened and people began to take their leave, no doubt bound for the other glittering soirées of New York. Most lingered for a little longer. It was a prime opportunity to talk business and swap success stories. But I didn’t have time for either. When I stood from my chair, straightening my dress, my eyes met with Debra’s. She gave me a knowing smile. She knew what I had to look forward to at home. And it wasn’t Damon.
“We should go now,” I said to Damon, tightening my grip on my black clutch. We said goodbye to a few of the sponsors before walking out of the glass doors into the chilled night air. I should’ve considered bringing a jacket.
We walked down a block so I could flag down a taxi in a different location and write out a check to Damon without the fear of someone seeing me do so. We stood in front of a little café which was still open. Inside were some small black tables, steel chairs, and a few couples who still chattered to one another over coffee. New York—the city that never sleeps. Cars zoomed past. The city glowed with light and activity. We stepped into the opening of an alleyway. I pulled out my checkbook whilst Damon leaned against a wall. His face was covered by shadows.
“How much?” I asked, already writing down the details.
“Wow, you charge that much?” I asked, almost in hysterics. Despite the shadows I could see a playful smirk on his face. Before he could speak, I focused on my writing again. “Fine, but I am clearly working in the wrong industry.”
“You seem frazzled. Did you not have a good night?” Damon asked, leaning against the brick wall with his hands in his pockets.
“I did, it was fun, and thank you for helping me,” I said, tugging on the check.
But this was just business and the fun couldn’t last forever. I gave Damon the check with an awkward smile. We stepped out onto the sidewalk and I flagged down a taxi. It quickly pulled in for me.
“Thank you for tonight, really,” I said again. He opened the door for me, watching me as I sank into the leather seat.
“It was lovely meeting you, Clover,” he said with a genuine smile. It was so surreal to believe this was his work and that he did this for many women on a regular basis. Still my eyes couldn’t pull away from his dark-brown ones. He was stunning, but even more so when the night’s lights danced on his face, casting shadows under his masculine features.
“You too, Damon. Have a nice life,” I said, regretting it instantly. I smiled shyly again, embarrassed by the comment. I closed the door behind me.
“Who says have a nice life to an escort?” I demanded from myself.
I gave the cab driver my address and when we left, I dared to turn and have one more glimpse at my taunting, teasing, dazzling, cocky escort. He lifted his arm and stepped toward me. I too waved goodbye.