The flashing outline of the neon red motel sign bled through the curtained window, shedding an eerie glow into the darkened room and distracting Avery Pierce from glaring at the cell phone she’d tossed onto the bed beside her. Propped against the headboard, she tightened her clasped hands, trying not to panic over her current destitute circumstances, which had just worsened after her first attempt at this new job ended in such a failed, embarrassing fiasco. With a mental headshake, she wondered why she’d ever thought she could pull this off. Relax, would you? You’re so fucking uptight you’re as rigid as a fucking virgin. She could still recall Darren’s comments the first time they’d had sex, and how they’d made her feel inept and unappealing, the same as her first caller had just made her feel.
A phone sex operator. What the heck had she been thinking? Her lack of experience with both sex and men in general had been glaringly obvious to her ex as well as to the man who hung up on her after less than a minute. At that rate, the extraordinary high hourly pay she’d been promised would take weeks to earn instead of the day or two she’d been hoping for. Heck, she bemoaned on a sigh, if her next caller ended their conversation that fast, she might not get a third chance, and then how would she get out of Springfield and continue with putting as much distance as possible between herself and Darren?
Avery’s minimal college dating experiences had taught her most guys didn’t go for brainy geeks with mousy brown hair best left worn in a braid and wearing black-framed glasses, and those who did didn’t stick around. By the time she’d reached the age of twenty-nine, the only man she’d let herself trust after those depressing break-ups had been Detective Darren Lancaster, and her chest tightened against the instant up kick of her heartrate just thinking about him caused.
The phone pealed again and she jumped, her palm growing clammy as she picked it up. With less than a hundred dollars left of her meager savings and not knowing who she could trust, she needed enough cash to get out of Illinois altogether. Two weeks and the two hundred miles she’d put between her and Chicago and the corrupt cop who had played her for a fool wasn’t nearly enough. As sleazy as this job was, it was the only thing she’d found that would pay in cash and that she could do quickly without having to fill out traceable paperwork. Between being an avid connoisseur of suspense novels and working at the police department, she at least knew of a few things to do, and not to do, to stay hidden for as long as possible. She also knew nothing was failsafe or could last forever.
Taking a deep breath, Avery followed a tip Esmerelda passed on when she hired her and draped the thin scarf intended to disguise her voice as huskier than it really was over the phone given to her by the agency. Pressing the green button, she answered, praying she could do a better job keeping this person on the line longer than she had with her first attempt at seducing a stranger over the phone.
“Midnight Whispers. How can I pl… please you?” Avery winced at her stutter, those words tripping her up the same as with the first call. She chilled at the slight pause, but when the voice finally came through, the deep, amused rumble sent an unexpected wave of warmth through her.
“Excuse me, sugar. I must have dialed wrong.”
“Wait!” Panic and desperation turned her voice reed thin as she tried to stop him from hanging up. “Please, can you just… talk to me for a minute?” How stupid, she moaned, knocking her head against the headboard. At the price per minute they would charge him why would he stay on the line? He paused again and then asked her a question that threw her for a loop with his astuteness.
“You in some kind of trouble, sugar?”
“I… why do you ask that?” Was the man a mind reader?
“Let’s say I’m good at listening to women, hearing what they need without them saying so. It can help to talk, even to a stranger,” he offered, surprising her yet again.
Not in this case. If only she could. Confiding in someone, anyone would be such a relief. But telling anyone how Darren had used her and ensured she would fall under suspicion should his evidence stealing ever be discovered was not an option, at least not until she could find a way to keep her name clear.
“N… no, there’s nothing I need to… talk about.” She sighed in despondency. “I… I’m just desperate for money,” she admitted. Why not? At least that much was true, and at this point she had nothing to lose by revealing that personal tidbit to a stranger. Damn it, there he went with another pregnant pause, leaving her struggling to swallow past the lump of dread lodged in her throat as she waited for the buzz of a disconnected call to ring in her ear.
“And this was your only option?” Doubt colored the rich tenor of his voice before turning to one of regret. “I’m sorry. I’ll let you get back to work then.”
“Wait!” she gasped again, not believing she was about to do this. Given how nice he’d been so far, what could it hurt? It wasn’t like they would ever meet. And what other choice did she have? “Would you mind giving me… some pointers? You know, on what I could say that might…” Avery winced, gripped the phone tighter and rushed to say, “make you want to keep talking to me?”
Amusement crept back into his voice as he returned in a dry tone, “You really are desperate and out of your depth, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” she breathed. There was no point in denying the obvious.
“I’m much better at telling and showing women what they want, what turns them on. Let’s go with that and then you can turn it around for your next caller. Are you somewhere private?”
He wanted to turn her on? Good luck with that. Her responses to sex had always been lukewarm, at best, and ever since discovering Darren’s shocking betrayal, the thought of any kind of intimacy left her cold. But Avery was so thrilled with his willingness to stay on the line, she didn’t hesitate to go along with him. What he didn’t know about her couldn’t hurt either of them. “I’m alone, at my place.” She fudged the location but figured the motel room where she’d stayed holed up for the last twelve days was her place as long as she paid the rate.
“Good. One thing,” he cautioned with a hard edge to his voice that drew a shiver. “I insist on honesty. Deal?”
“Deal,” she readily agreed, deciding it wouldn’t be her fault if he failed to get anywhere with her. The closest she’d come to relaxing enough to let go with a pleasurable release were the times Darren’s frustration with her in the bedroom had brought out his take-charge attitude. His succinct ‘flip over’ or ‘ride me’ commands had enabled her to shove aside worries over whether she was pleasing him or doing something he didn’t like. Those few times always left her wondering if her orgasm would have been stronger if his focus hadn’t then switched to himself and his pleasure.
“Then we’ll start with something simple. Tell me what you’re wearing.”