Emma hung up the phone, her heart thudding against her chest. Five minutes. She had five minutes before she had to be downstairs. She took one last look at her reflection in the mirror, barely recognizing the woman she’d become in the last months. The silk of her dress felt cold against her skin and she shivered. It was a gift, the dress; at least Damien had called it that. It wasn’t exactly though; it was more like giftwrap. She was being readied to be presented to the others. She’d be sold to the highest bidder tonight. The thought just made her cold now, and numb. But she’d have to get over what accepting money for the use of her body made her.
She brushed one stray strand of hair from her face and checked the clock. Time to go. Damien’s words played in her mind for the hundredth time: five thousand dollars for one weekend; three nights and two days of sexual submission. That was all. And it wasn’t like she was being offered to just anyone. These men were the cream of the crop, as Damien called them. She grabbed her wrap and put a stop to all thoughts. Damien didn’t know the first thing about her and that was how she wanted to keep it. She had her own reasons for doing this and after the weekend, once those days were over, she could walk away, start clean. Again.
Luke Roark wrapped a soft, cashmere scarf around his neck and grabbed his car keys. Running a hand through his dark hair, he stepped out into the cool night. Fall settled over Aspen, bringing with it a chill to the air. It wouldn’t be long now before the first snowfall.
Climbing into his car, he programmed the directions of the remote location into his GPS and set off. It had been a long time since he’d attended one of these parties, but tonight, he needed a woman. A willing woman with no strings attached. It cost money, but it was worth it. Luke Roark didn’t do relationships.
Emma stepped through the doors of The Blue Bar, which was set on the first floor of the posh Aspen hotel. Damien had brought her here last night and they’d talked through the final details of their arrangement, just business as usual for him. She’d sat there listening but not hearing much, wondering how she could ever have been drawn to him. But she had been.
The bar was more crowded than she’d expected it to be, given the time of year, but she wouldn’t know anyone here. She searched the room for him, aware of all the eyes that followed her. Goose bumps covered her flesh and she pushed away the voice that told her to turn around and go back home before it was too late.
Damien stepped into her line of vision. He was watching her, probably had been from the moment she’d walked in. Just like him to do that. He’d been calculating everything from their first meeting and as much as she didn’t want to admit it, it hurt. He was making her into a whore.
No, that wasn’t quite true. She made her own choices.
She swallowed the word down and walked toward him, determined to keep her anxiety hidden. As she got closer, she watched him take her in from head to toe, obviously pleased with what he saw. Her long, dark hair was piled on top of her head, displaying her slender neck, as he’d requested. The halter-top dress was tied with one simple bow at the back of her neck, all the easier to strip her of it. It was cut so that her shoulders and the whole of her back were exposed, unblemished alabaster skin curving around her small frame. He took his time, taking in every inch of her and she felt bile rise to her throat as she realized how many others would be measuring her up tonight.
She knew she should drop her gaze to the ground when he stepped toward her, but pride wouldn’t allow it. He was her pimp tonight; that was all. At least it wasn’t him she’d have to submit to.
“Emma,” he greeted her, taking her hands in his and kissing both cheeks. “You look lovely,” he said, his gaze sweeping her body again. “The dress is a perfect fit.”
“Thank you,” she said, her voice calm and even. She’d gotten good at hiding her thoughts and emotions, and in moments like this, it came in handy.
He brought his mouth close to her ear so that only she would hear his whisper when he asked, “Thank you, what?”
She shivered, but she had a role to play.
She glanced up quickly and her face flushed pink. “Thank you, Sir,” she whispered back. She’d only called him Sir when they were alone, never in a public setting, much less surrounded by so many people. She knew he liked the sound of it, the look on her face when she blushed. In fact, she liked hearing herself say it, just not in reference to him.
“Good girl.” He placed a hand at her low back and it took all she had not to pull away while he led her through the crowd to the bar. “Let’s get you a drink.” Ordering two glasses of champagne, they found a secluded corner.