Home > Fall (VIP #3)(5)

Fall (VIP #3)(5)
Author: Kristen Callihan

“Doc, the other day some girl kissed me in a grocery store.” Ah, good times. The cute little mint thief’s saucy walk flashes through my mind before I blink it away.

She visibly fights a smile. “Why am I not surprised?”

Oddly, I still am. I get hit on all the time. But those propositions are a little more straightforward. Would I like to fuck? Yes, please, sure, great. The mint thief kissed me as a diversionary tactic. I still admire her for that.

“Thing is, I don’t know who she was. What if …” Oh hell, I cannot face Mint Thief and tell her to get an STD check. “Could I have given her …”

“No, Jax,” Dr. Stern cuts in. “You cannot spread chlamydia through kissing or even sharing drinks. Only sexual activities such as penetration or oral.”

My shoulders slump in relief. “Well, that’s good.”

Dr. Stern gives me another gentle pat. “I’ll give you a moment to change into a gown, and we’ll get started.”

Right, the exam. Awesome. Just fucking awesome.

Stella

* * *

Normally, when my phone rings and I’m sleeping, I don’t answer it. However, since my phone happens to be pressed under my cheek, and its shrill ring just scared the ever-loving stuffin’ out of me, I’m a bit more willing.

Scrambling to make the damn thing shut up, I end up hitting myself in the face before finding the answer button.

“Fuc—Hello?”

There’s a protracted silence, the kind that makes it clear someone is on the line but is deliberating whether they should speak.

Sighing, I roll over onto my back. “You heard me say fuck, didn’t you?”

Not good since this is my client line and some potentials are nervous enough as it is.

A throat clears and then a man with a voice like crisp sheets finally speaks. “Am I speaking with Ms. Grey?”

Well, hello, James Bond. I rub my cheek and sit up. “Yes, this is Ms. Grey. Most people call me Stella. What can I do you for?” Shit, that was classy. Way to talk like Dad and sound like a doof, Stells.

Bond guy clearly agrees. He makes a dubious noise. “My name is Mr. Scott. I received your contact information from Aaron Mullins.” The dubious tone is back and stronger now. “He said you were a reliable sort and might be interested in pet sitting.”

Oh, crap. The plum job. Last night, Aaron, an old client, had talked it up as an easy solution to my current problem of being homeless when my sublet expires in three weeks.

“Yes,” I blurt out. “Cat sitting, right? Aaron told me you were looking for someone to do a long-term thing? Two months, was it?”

“Four, actually. My client will be on an extended trip and he doesn’t want to board the animal.”

Dude is frosty, I’ll say that much. “Well, it would be much better for—I’m sorry, what is the cat’s name?”

Another pause, and then he clears his throat. “Stevens.”

“The cat’s name is Stevens?” Sounds like a butler’s name. Not surprising. Dude on the phone sounds like the type who would have a butler.

He also sounds disgruntled. “Yes.”

Something dances around the edges of my brain. And then I smile. “You mean like Cat Stevens? The singer-songwriter?” I bite back a snicker.

“I’m surprised you’ve heard of the man,” Mr. Scott says dryly. “I’d assume he was far past your age group.”

“I make it my business to know a lot of factoids, most of which are useless in today’s contemporary society.” Argh. Seriously, stop talking, Stells. You’re going to lose this guy.

“And what precisely is your business, Ms. Grey?”

“I’m a Jack—or Jill, rather—of all trades.” Some might say that made me an aimless layabout, but I’ve tried the nine-to-five life. It doesn’t work for me.

“That should be useful. A housekeeper comes by once a week, so you won’t be expected to clean. However, there is the matter of the goldfish.”

“Intriguing.” I slip out of bed and head to my bathroom to peer in the mirror. Good God, bedhead has reached epic proportions. “What’s its name?”

“Hawn,” he says.

“Like Han Solo?”

“Not Han. Hawn. As in H-A-W-N.”

I pause, hand in the middle of pushing my hair back from my face. “Goldie Hawn?”

Mr. Scott sighs, as I laugh.

“Holy hell,” I say though my laughter. “Who is your client?”

Mr. Scott’s voice is like ice now, and I actually feel a chill. “The essential requirement of this position is that my client’s privacy is to be guarded at all costs.”

“Er … okay. Then I’ll probably have to decline, Mr. Scott.” Which is depressing. Aaron had told me it included free room and board in a penthouse in Chelsea. Since I’m about to be without a home, it would have worked out nicely.

There is another pause, and I get the feeling he was expecting total compliance. “Let me understand this. You have a problem with respecting my client’s privacy?”

“No. I wouldn’t dream of invading it. But, as I said, I have a few side jobs. Sometimes, clients visit me.”

Silence rings between us.

“Clients?” The dubious tone is back.

“Nothing illegal or seedy.” I tell Mr. Scott about my work while the silence on the other end of the phone grows weightier, and I feel more and more like a fool for explaining myself to this virtual stranger. “So, you see,” I finish up, “while I love pets and am happy to watch them for your client, I can’t let my other jobs go.”

Mr. Scott hums, and then his voice is all starch and power once more. “Mr. Mullins is an old friend of my wife’s. He highly recommended you …”

As well he should. He was one of my first clients, and I did him a true solid. But I keep my mouth shut. After all, I guard my clients’ privacy just as much.

“My wife trusts his judgment, and I trust my wife’s. As long as you agree to keep your clients in the common rooms, I am willing to overlook visitors. In addition to room and board, financial compensation is included in the offer.” He states an amount that has me sinking to the cold bathroom floor.

With that amount, and not having to worry about rent for months, I could save up a huge nest egg. I could finally buy the car I need and not have to rely on the train to get out to Long Island, always having to ask Hank to pick me up at the station. I wouldn’t have to hustle for every job that comes my way. I could breathe a little easier.

Mr. Scott is still talking. “We’ll need you to take immediate occupancy as there is a storm coming and my client is already out of town.”

Ah, yes, the blizzard. It will be here tonight.

“I can do that. It won’t take me long to pack.” I can clean out my apartment next weekend.

“Very good. An instruction packet will be couriered to your residence within the next hour.”

Wow. Efficient has been taken to another level. “I’ll be waiting for it.”

“One last thing. The penthouse shares a wall with another unit. My company owns both. Should you have an … issue with your neighbor, I would appreciate it if you contact me directly before engaging with the occupant.”

Okay … that’s a whole lot of formal oddness.

“You make it sound like there will be issues, Mr. Scott. Is there something I should know about this new neighbor of mine?” Like is he or she a knife-wielding psycho? And, what the hell? Issues? What kind of issues? Starts fires when irritated? Watches porn on full volume? Who are these people?

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