William Anderson replaced the phone slowly and thoughtfully, then reclined in his big office chair. His large hands formed a steeple in front of his mouth as he ran over the ten-minute conversation repeatedly until he was on the brink of craziness. He didn’t know what to think, but he knew he needed a drink. A large one. He strode over to his drinks cabinet and lifted the old-fashioned globe-style lid. He didn’t stop to consider which malt he fancied; any alcohol would suffice right now. Pouring a tumbler to the brim with bourbon, he downed half and immediately topped it back up. He felt hot and sweaty. The usually composed man had been knocked for six by today’s revelations, and now all he could see were beautiful sapphire eyes. Everywhere he turned they were there, torturing him, reminding him of his failure. He yanked at his tie and unfastened the top button of his dress shirt, hoping the extra room at his neck would help him breathe. No such luck. His throat was closing up on him. The past had returned to haunt him. He’d tried so hard not to get attached, not to care. And now it was happening again.
In his world, decisions needed to be made with a clear head and objective mind – something he was usually an expert at. Usually. Things in William’s world happened for a reason, and that reason was typically because he said so – because people listened to him, respected him. Now he felt all sense of control slipping away, and he didn’t like it. Especially where she was concerned.
‘I’m too old for this shit,’ he grumbled, collapsing onto his chair. After taking another long, healthy glug of his bourbon, he rested his head back and stared up at the ceiling. She’d sent him into a tailspin before, and he was about to let her do it all over again.
He was a fool. But having Miller Hart added to the complicated equation left him little choice. And neither did his morals . . . or his love for that woman.
My destiny has been steered by someone else. All of my effort, my cautious approach, and the protective shields I worked hard to put in place were obliterated the day I met Miller Hart. It fast became obvious that I’d reached a point in my life where it was paramount I maintained my sensible life strategies, kept my calm façade, and stayed vigilant. Because that man was unquestionably going to test me. And he did. He still is. Trusting a man, confiding in a man, and giving myself to a man was the ultimate. I did it all, and now I wholeheartedly wish I hadn’t. Being frightened that he would leave me because of my history was wasted concern. That should have been the least of my fears.
Miller Hart is a high-class male prostitute. He said ‘escort’, but you can’t pretty it up by selecting a less taboo word.
Miller Hart sells his body.
Miller Hart lives a life of debasement.
Miller Hart is the male equivalent of my mother. I’m in love with a man I can’t have. He made me feel alive when I’d spent too long just existing, but he took away that invigorating feeling, replacing it with desolation. My spirit is more lifeless now than it ever was before my encounters with that man.
The humiliation of being proved wrong is being drowned out by the hurt. I can feel nothing but crippling hurt. It’s been the longest two weeks imaginable, and I have the rest of my life to soldier through. The thought is enough to make me want to close my eyes and never open them again.
That night at the hotel plays over and over in my mind – the feel of the belt Miller put on my wrists, the cold impassiveness of his face as he expertly made me come, the look of raw anguish when he realised the pain he’d caused. Of course I had to flee.
I just didn’t realise I’d be running right into an even bigger problem. William. I know it’s only a matter of time before he finds me again. I saw the surprise on his face when he registered me, and I saw the recognition when he spotted Miller. William Anderson and Miller Hart know each other, and William will want to know how I know Miller and, God forbid, what I was doing at that hotel. Not only have I spent two weeks in hell, but I’ve also spent two weeks looking over my shoulder, waiting for him to appear.
After dragging myself to the shower and pulling on anything I can lay my hands on, I plod down the stairs, finding Nan on her knees loading the washing machine. I slip silently onto a chair at the table, but Nan seems to have a radar on me these days and every movement, breath and tear is detected, no matter if she’s in the room with me or not. She’s caring but confused, sympathetic but encouraging. Trying to make me see the positive side of my encounters with Miller Hart has become her life goal, but I can see nothing but imminent misery and feel nothing but lingering pain. There can never be anyone else. No man will ever spark those feelings, make me feel protected, loved and safe.
It’s ironic, really. All my life I’ve despised that my mother abandoned me for a life of men, pleasure and gifts. And then Miller Hart turns out to be a male escort. He sells his body, takes money to bring women pleasure. For him, every time he took me in his thing, held me so tenderly in his arms, it was to erase the taint of an encounter with another woman. Of all the men in the world who could’ve captured me so completely, why him?
‘Would you like to come to Monday club with me?’ Nan asks casually while I try to choke down some cornflakes.
‘No, I’ll stay at home.’ I plunge my spoon into my bowl and take another mouthful. ‘Did you win at bingo last night?’
Huffing a few times, she slams the door of the washing machine, then proceeds to load the tray with laundry detergent. ‘Did I heck! Waste of bloody time.’
‘Why do you bother, then?’ I ask, stirring my breakfast slowly.