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The Earl, the Pauper, and the Peacock

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“Use your time wisely,” the Statue admonished and disappeared.

Tonight, he thought. He would die tonight. His blood ran cold at the thought of death. He needed to feel alive. “Stan, call her for me.”

Stan knew to whom he was referring.

He wasn’t her favorite client, but she was his favorite girl, and he always told her so as she gathered herself to leave his estate. And, she had to admit, he was a damn good shag. And devilishly handsome. A bit imaginative at times, which was fun. Played every bit the lovable rogue once they got down to the deed.

She wasn’t overly fond of the future Earl, though. He was pleasant with the girls, always good about business, never rough unless it was arranged for, but he was incredibly selfish and abusive to his companion, Stan. From what she gathered, Don refused to pay him. He was leeching every bit he could from the little man while he waited for his father to pass so he could inherit the family fortune.

But it wasn’t her place to judge. She was there for one purpose, and she was always professional with him.

This time, he was different.

He pulled her to stand between his legs as he sat on the edge of his bed. “You won’t be hearing from me again.” He worked on the buttons of her blouse.

She ran her fingers through his hair. “Why’s that?”

“I’m dying.”

Her eyes went wide and she stopped. “You’re what?”

“Tonight. I don’t know how, I don’t know where. But this is it for me.” He brushed his thumbs over the lace of her bra and looked up at her.

Dammit, she’d always been a sucker for those chocolate browns. “Should I call the police, or maybe a doctor? Are you sick?”

“No.” He laid back and pulled her on top of him.

He rolled onto his side, panting a bit. “There. A good fuck is worth dying over. Thank you. You’ve been exquisite.”

She shrugged. “That’s my job.”

He brushed her hair away from her face. “And you're the best. I really mean it. We’ve had fun, right? It’s been good for you?”

She smiled. “Yeah. You’re not too shabby yourself. The red briefs were a nice touch today.”

He laughed. “Good. Anyway, shower’s yours if you want.” He stood and pulled on his smoking jacket.

She toweled herself off. The door was open a crack, so she heard the conversation as she dressed.

“Oh, sure, Don. You’ll pay her, but you haven’t given me a cent? I’ve worked for you for years now.”

“Of course I’ll pay her. That’s how it works.”

“You wouldn't want it on your conscience, would you?”

“No, I'd hate to face extinction having failed to bung you your wedge.”

“Hate to nudge. Take ten seconds to do it now? You did promise.”

“Every second is precious. I need to sleep. I'll attend to it when I wake. Do try to rise above yourself.” He appeared in the doorway, but he turned to face Stan again. “This will be the first time I've slept alone...for as long as I can remember. I don't suppose… Never mind.” He fully turned into the room. He jumped when he saw her. “Oh, you're still here.” He opened his mouth to say something.

“My driver’s waiting.” She felt sad for him, but he’d made whatever bed he was lying in. She was fairly certain he’d made a few beds. Best to keep herself disentangled from him.

He nodded. “Right.” He inhaled sharply. “Thanks again.”

She stepped towards the door. “See you.”

He nodded again. “Yeah.”

Months earlier

Her favorite client turned out to be not a client at all in the end. He was also a damn good shag.

“Hello.”

She looked up from her table outside the cafe. She nearly mistook him for the Earl, and she almost panicked. He had the same facial structure, same chestnut brown hair, maybe a shade or two lighter from being out in the sun so much. Bit longer than his, but it still looked just as delicious to sink her fingers into.

But his eyes were startlingly blue. She found them to be equally as mesmerizing.

“May I join you?”

“Sure.”

She found him to be so charming, so easy to talk to that she stayed with him the whole day. They visited different sights and museums.

After dinner, they found themselves walking down the street, hand in hand. They came upon a street band and he whisked her into his arms and spun her around.

He looked deeply into her eyes and stopped. He gently pressed his lips to hers.

Her stomach flipped a few times.

“Can I take you back to my–” An innocent enough request.

She looked away. “I don’t do that.”

“Oh.” He sighed. “Well, it’s been a wonderful evening anyway. Thank you for giving me your time.”

She found his reaction to be so endearing and genuine. “Wait, Giac. Sorry. I’m an escort. I don't really do the personal stuff. Rule I made.”

“Oh.” He smiled. “I’m fine with that.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. No problem at all. Know a hotel just down the street. Very discreet. I’ve got a suite on tap.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Are you an escort yourself?”

“No, but I’m regular enough. Bit of a therapist myself, like you. Just not paid. I guess you could say it's my office.”

She giggled, appreciating his comparison and respect for her chosen profession.

“And I’ve performed a few favors for the owner from time to time.”

“Oh.”

He laughed. “No, no! Not like that. Jack of all trades, me. Anyway, come on.”

He slipped her arms around his neck and rested his hands on her waist.

“What do you want? Sorry I'm not more prepared.”

“I want for you to lie back and tell me what you want.”

“Oh. You into that?”

“No. Well...no, that’s not what this is.”

“You're paying me to hold one of your sessions? Is that it?”

He winked.

Her smile fell and she stepped away from him. “Wait, did you see me at the table this morning and decide I was gonna be your next guest? Thought I looked lonely and wanted to bless me with your company, like I needed rescuing or something? Been seducing me all day?”

“No! No, it’s not like that. I just saw a beautiful woman and I wanted to spend time with her, I promise. If you’d’ve told me no this morning, I would have walked away. We're both good at reading people. Have you found me to be disingenuous at all?”

“I suppose not.”

He stepped closer. “Then enjoy yourself, yeah?”

He propped himself up on his elbow. “I won’t be calling you.”

“Oh.” She looked a little sad at that.

He chuckled. “Don’t get me wrong. You’re good. Very good, in fact.”

“Okay. What’s the ‘but’ here?”

“You call me.”

“What do you mean?”

“You take care of your clients. Very well, I’m sure. But who takes care of you?”

“I’m doing just fine. I’m not unsatisfied. I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t happy.”

“Men call you because they have needs and they want them fulfilled, whether it’s sex or other things. And you provide them with what they need.”

She raised an eyebrow. “And the occasional woman, too.”

He grinned lasciviously. “Even better. But do you ever get to shag for the hell of it? Just because you want to? Do you have someone who listens to you?”

“Been a while. My boyfriend broke up with me a while back. Couldn’t handle the lifestyle.”

“Right. I’m not offering to be your boyfriend. I won’t seek you out. I won’t even store your number in my phone. But you’re a gorgeous woman, and you’re intelligent, and you deserve to be taken care of, too. I’ll give you my number. Anytime you need, just call me. Even if it’s not for sex, if you need an ear. Anytime. I mean it. No strings attached.”

“I’ll think about it.”

She saw that face a third time. At the moment, on an advert in Vegas. She wasn't sure what it all meant. Maybe they were brothers and had failed to mention it to her. Either way, they were all gorgeous, and that face meant a good time, and she didn't question it further. And this one certainly didn't disappoint.

He was decked out in leather, a long black coat and the tightest pants she thought she’d ever seen. Long wig. But his eyes were just as captivating as the others, those intense brown pools beckoning her to dive in. And the thick eyeliner made him all the more tempting.

The show itself wasn’t anything special. Nice effects and costumes, but it was too campy for her taste. She would have left early, if not for the man’s eyes locked with hers for most of the show.

Later, she found a seat at the bar of the Hard Rock. It didn't surprise her at all to see him swagger up.

He’d ditched the wig and facial hair.

She stared for a moment. God, he was gorgeous.

“I saw you in the audience. Couldn’t tear my eyes away from you.”

“I noticed.”

He tapped on the bar, and the tender nodded and fetched the signature green liquor. He took the seat next to her. “What can I get for you?”

This is a bad idea, she thought. She was going to break her rule, she knew it.

Then Giac’s question rolled around in her mind. When was the last time you shagged for the hell of it?

She was only in Vegas on holiday. She’d never see him again. Why the hell shouldn't she indulge herself? She didn't need to give him her name; he didn't seem at all interested in asking for it anyway.

She smiled. “Cosmo.”

He grinned.

She returned the next night.

“Will I see you again?” he asked.

“I don't think so. I'm only here on holiday.”

“Next time you're in town, find me.”

“Might do.”

Three mornings after she left the Earl, she picked up a paper from the newsagent.

She sat outside her favorite cafe and unfurled the front page. She read the headline near the bottom.

Future Earl Found Dead in Soho With Multiple Stab Wounds

She felt sort of hollow on the inside, and her skin crawled.

This would be a mess. She’d have to give a statement to the police. As if she’d summoned it, her work mobile vibrated with a message from her boss.

She picked up her personal mobile and turned it a few times in her hand, debating about making a call.

An unstored number lit up the screen of his mobile. He wondered… “Hello?”

“Giac.” He recognized her voice immediately, but she sounded upset.

“Yes?”

“I need…”

“You wanna talk about it?”

“Not really. Maybe later. I just need to forget for a moment.”

“Hotel?”

“Yeah.”

“On my way.”