Into The Fire(2)

By: E. L. Todd

“Thanks.” He put his arm around my waist.

I let the touch slide because it stayed within the parameters of our arrangement even if there was no one around to put on an act for.

He escorted me to his limo and opened the back door for me. Once we were both inside, the car moved. I kept my legs crossed and held on to my clutch. The nice thing about escorting men was the fact they didn’t talk much. All I had to do was sit there and look pretty.

Roger was much older than my usual clients. He was close to forty and divorced. People were still talking about the brutal way his marriage fell apart, and he wanted to give them something else to talk about—me. “How are you?”

“Good,” I answered. “You?”

“I’m okay.”

“Is there anything I need to know for tonight?”

“No. Just stay close to me and smile. That’s your only job.”

Easiest money I ever made.

We arrived at the hotel then entered the banquet hall. People were dressed in their finest, and the women’s gowns were beautiful and elegant. Roger handed me a champagne flute and took one of his own.

“It’s nice,” I said as I took a sip.

“Yeah…” He took a long drink while he kept his arm around my waist. “I always feel lonely at these things. I’m in a crowded room but I feel like I’m standing alone.” His eyes had a distant look to them, like he was in a faraway place.

I didn’t know how to react so I took a long drink. Depressed people didn’t make me uncomfortable. I just wasn’t sure what to say to something like that.

Roger moved around the room and made small talk with people. He introduced me as his girlfriend, and people seemed impressed that Roger was back on his feet so quickly after the divorce, especially with a girl half his age.

There was a silent auction, and Roger bid on a trip for two to Hawaii. I just hoped he wasn’t planning on taking me if he won. Then we sat down to dinner and made small talk with his colleagues. Everyone brown-nosed him and treated him like he was the most interesting person in the room, but it was obvious how fake they were. The second he turned around, they would rip into him without any remorse.

I felt bad for him.

He was clearly a good boss for putting on a charity event and being so nice to his employees, but people didn’t like him for whatever reason. Perhaps the scandal of his divorce was still too fresh.

That wasn’t fair.

After dinner, Roger turned to me. “Would you like to dance?”

“Sure.” I gave him a smile to uplift his mood.

We moved to the dance floor and glided around slowly. Roger kept his hands in respectable places and guided me across the floor. It was clear he’d done this a hundred times.

“You’re a good dancer.” I tried to think of anything to cheer him up. The permanent frown on his face made me sad.

“Thanks…” He looked around at the other couples. “I’m sorry I’m such poor company. I usually come to these things with my wife…ex-wife.” He looked at anything but me.

“I’m sorry…” I wasn’t sure what happened in his marriage but I suspected she left him and ran him dry.

“There was someone else.” He spoke without preamble. “And she left. The worst part is she took the kids. Now they live in Long Island. I only see them every other weekend.”

His words were breaking my heart. “I’m sorry, Roger. But things will get better.”

“Do you believe there’s only one special person for everyone?”

I thought of Tony. “No. I think some people are more compatible with each other, but I don’t think we only have one chance of success. Relationships are what you make of it.”

He nodded slowly. “I hope you’re right.”

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