Part 1. Part 2.
“I’m a prostitute,” Nicole said, absolutely straight-faced and without a hint of shame. “Men pay money to have sex with me.”
Her directness completely threw George off.
“Does that bother you?” Nicole asked in a voice that sounded as if it had been dipped in honey.
“No...um...I mean if you’re...um...happy...if it’s what...”
He held out his palms.
“I’m not judging,” he said.
Oh dear. George knew he was making a hash of it and tried to rally.
“I mean, if you look at it a certain way, I do the same thing with the people I go and visit,” he said. “We’re both giving people a bit of company. Only I don’t have to do the...uh...physical side of things...”
George ran aground.
“I’m trivialising it, aren’t I? It’s not the same at all. I’m not forced to...uh...do those...uh...other things...”
Dear oh dear. Keep on digging why don’t you, George.
Nicole didn’t seem to be taking any offence. She laughed at his discomfort. That was good, he supposed.
“It’s fine,” Nicole said. “I get paid well and I enjoy the work.”
Understanding suddenly dawned on George. There could be another reason why Miss Kitson had sent him here.
“Um...Miss Kitson, she didn’t give you any money to...”
“To do what?” Nicole asked, affecting an air of deceitful innocence.
“Oh, nothing,” George said.
It must be the wine, causing his tongue to flap like a flag in a gale.
“Nothing?” Nicole said. She raised a pencil-thin eyebrow.
Her sunglasses made it impossible to tell, but right then George fancied she was staring right through him with a piercing stare. She examined him, no trace of emotion on the flawless mask of her face.
“You’re a virgin, aren’t you,” she stated.
“What,” George protested. “Me? No...of course not. I mean...I’ve had my share...I know what it’s...” he blustered. “Yes,” he admitted. No point lying; she’d see right through it anyway.
“I thought as much,” Nicole smiled. “I saw how uncomfortable you looked whenever I stood close to you. You’re shy around women.”
“Yes,” George admitted. “Don’t make a big thing about it, okay.”
“I’m not judging,” Nicole said, smiling as she held out her palms.
George realised he’d used the same response when she’d told him she was a prostitute. He laughed.
“Another glass?” Nicole asked.
“What?” George looked down. He’d managed to empty the glass without realising it. “Oh, yes please.”
Nicole refilled his glass and walked back to her seat, leaving behind a swish of her musky scent. It really was rather fine, George thought as he started on a second glass. Fruity, bubbly...vital, somehow. Really moreish. He’d have to be careful he didn’t drink it too quickly, in case it went straight to his head.
He noticed Nicole still hadn’t touched her glass.
“You’re not drinking?” he asked.
“I don’t drink wine,” she answered. “I do love the aroma of a freshly popped bottle, though.” She picked up the glass and swirled it beneath her nose, savouring the aroma. “Especially a vintage brimming with such youthful vigour.”
George smiled and shook his head. Beautiful, delightful and very odd.
“How old?” Nicole asked.
George realised she’d gone back to the other topic. “Thirty-four,” he answered with a grimace.
Nicole’s supple red lips formed a perfect ‘o’. She sat back in her chair.
“Really?” she said.
“I always thought it would be one of those things that would just...you know...happen one day. And, well, it didn’t. Or rather it hasn’t.”
“I think it’s sweet,” Nicole said. “It’s admirable to wait so long for that certain special person.”
George’s expression became pained.
Nicole raised an eyebrow. “You’re not waiting for someone?” she said.
“I’m not against the idea of sex for a bit of fun,” George said. “It’s the deception I don’t like. You know how it is. Some blokes will say anything to get in a girl’s knickers. And then they’ll kick them out of bed the next morning without so much as a how-d’you-do. There’s the other stuff as well—getting them drunk, getting them vulnerable—”
“Paying for it,” Nicole interrupted.
“Paying for it,” George repeated. “Drugging the poor lasses if they’re desperate and ratbag enough. Raping them.” George shook his head. “I’m not going down that route,” he said. “I’d rather go without than resort to tricking or forcing the girl.”
Nicole made circular motions with her finger on the table. “So you’re not against the idea of casual sex, so long as the other participant is willing.”
“Oh no,” George said. “I’m not one of those no-sex-before-marriage types. Not that I’ve got anything against them,” he hastily added. “I’m fine with the idea of sex for fun, with the right precautions of course. It’s just I’m a bit...well...crap around girls as you noticed. And I’m not exactly a prime specimen of manhood. Let’s face it, there’re easily hundreds of blokes a girl at a nightclub would rather take home first before getting to me.”
George paused. Nicole didn’t appear to be paying attention. Hard to say with her sunglasses—why was she still wearing them?—but she looked like she was staring into space. George watched as she ran a moist pink tongue over her supple red lips. He caught a whiff of her musky perfume again. Stronger this time.
“Sorry,” Nicole said, snapping out of her sudden trance. “Daydreaming.”
Had her pale cheeks picked up a red tinge?
“Um, Miss Kitson, she didn’t...?”
“No, Inari has not given me any money,” Nicole said with a smile.
“That’s a relief,” George said. “She has some very strange ideas sometimes. About what she thinks people need.”
Nicole leaned forward towards George.
“Does it disappoint you Inari hasn’t given me any money to have sex with you?” she asked.
George recoiled. That directness again. He guessed it came with her profession, but it sure made him feel uncomfortable.
“No...um...I mean you’re...um...really beautiful and I’m sure you’re very...um...good at what you do...”
Good golly, could he dig himself any deeper?
George took a deep breath.
“I’m sure it would be very pleasant,” he said, “but it wouldn’t feel right. I’d always know you only did it because you were paid to. It would feel like cheating, like it didn’t count.”
Nicole smiled at his tongue-tied stammering.
“It’s fine. I understand perfectly,” she said.
“You do?” George said, letting out a sigh of relief. He looked down at his ratty old jumper. “Besides,” he said. “I must be way below your usual clientele. Who are they?” he asked. “Lawyers? Politicians? Football stars?”
Nicole regarded him with an enigmatic little smile.
“Is that the writer in you?” she said. “Digging for interesting stories.”
George blushed. “Sorry. Mustn’t pry.”
Nicole leaned right across the table. Conspiratorial.
“Would you like a little tour of my house of sin?” she whispered.
To be continued...