• Kelly Collins

A peek into Honor Roll



Chapter One

When I stepped off the bus on 6th Avenue, I felt tired, I’d been fucking for dollars all week and my twenty-six year old body couldn’t keep up. With thirty minutes to class, I hit the student union to get caffeinated. The funky little cafe had been the landing place for Jade, River, and me when we started work at Concierge Services. The coffee was hot, and as it cooled, I looked around campus and watched the couples walking hand in hand. Happy. Content. In love. They flirted and giggled while I stared in envy. I’d never had that. Hell bent on getting my degree, I’d given up relationships. When I started escorting, it wasn’t possible. River became my friend and a surrogate girlfriend until she fell in love with one of her clients. Jade was pregnant with her second child and still living with her two men. River married Jonathan and was busy caring for their little boy. I was still whipping out my dick for dollars. The bitterness of the coffee tamed the bitterness of my mood. Twelve more weeks and I'd never have to sell myself again. The weight of my emotions or maybe my backpack slowed my pace to a crawl across campus. Professor Thieland was my favorite instructor and my graduate advisor. Twice a week I attended his commodities class. The Monday and Friday classes were the highlights of my week, but even the prospect of attending one of his lectures couldn’t diminish the cloud hanging over my head. The auditorium hummed with the quiet voices of at least fifty students. At the podium, a ZZ Top look-alike tapped at the microphone. In the fourth row, I sat in my Hugo Boss suit and waited. Did we have a guest speaker? The screech of audio feedback silenced the room. “Good morning.” The high-pitched voice of the man at the mike didn’t mesh with the man in the Grateful Dead T-shirt and ratty jeans. “I’m Professor Saunders, and you’ve got me for the rest of the semester.” Groans echoed through the room. “Jack Thieland had a family emergency and will be taking a sabbatical until next year. Keep him in your thoughts. This is Commodities in the Twenty-First Century, and I’ll be using the synopsis and following the same curriculum of the class.” What else could go wrong? The last thing I needed at the eleventh hour was change. I pulled a paper out of my notebook and wrote the word fuck over and over again. I wanted to scream it, but writing it in big bold letters with exclamation points seemed my best option. I crumbled the paper up and set the balled up page in the cup holder beside me. A slim and sexy little brunette stood beside Professor Saunders. She was definitely good-looking, curved in all the right places with long, shiny dark hair and eyes the color of sapphires. She handed him a few notes and stepped away. I watched her walk from the stage and take a seat at a makeshift desk set up to his right. She puckered her lips and blew at the hair that had fallen across her face. She appeared as happy as I felt. “Twelve of you are graduate students and owe me a graduate project. Be patient as we try to squeeze you into my schedule. My assistant Mim will be here after class to talk to those of you who have already scheduled their presentations.” He picked up a remote control and turned on the overhead projector for his lecture. “This is not an ideal situation for any of us, but, like the stock market, there are highs and lows, and those that fare the best know how to ride the wave.” The rest of class slipped by in a haze. I was preoccupied with thoughts of work and mesmerized by Mim. Something about her drew me in. I didn’t know if it was the way her hair flowed over her shoulders and curled on top of her breasts, or if it was the way the light bounced off her blue eyes. I’d been a point A to point B guy for so long, I’d never noticed anything else along the journey. The world kept spinning while I walked through it blindly. Class dismissed, I made my way to the table. “Name?” she asked without looking up. “Hi.” One word was all I spoke. I wanted her to look up at me so I could lose myself in her eyes. “Name?” she said again, with more than a hint of impatience. “Hi,” I repeated. “I know you’re busy, but there’s no need for bad manners. Mim, is it?” She lifted her eyes from the paper and placed her pen to the side. “I’m sorry. This…” She spread her hands on the table, “was not what I had planned today. Yes, it’s Mim, like Mom with an I.” Her English accent took me by surprise. “Well, Mom with an I, life has a way of throwing you curve balls at the least opportune times. I’m Luca Gregorio by the way.” I held out my hand, and she gently placed the tips of her fingers in my palm. I should have shaken her hand and dropped it, but being the suave Italian I was, I lifted her fingers to my lips and hovered over her knuckles. The roll of her eyes wasn’t what I was expecting, nor was the snap of her hand like I’d burned her with my touch. “Does that work for other girls?” She picked up her pen and scrolled down the names on her list. “Are You Getting What You Pay For? Commodities in the twenty-first century?” She recited my project title like it was an offering on the menu of a low-end diner. “Yep, it generally works, and yep, that’s me.” I squatted down, so we were at the same level. Eye level. When our gaze connected, I would have sworn I saw a glimmer of interest behind her impatience. “May ninth at two o’clock.” Her voice was direct. No room for negotiation. “What? No. That’s three weeks earlier than I planned.” Holy hell, how was I supposed to meet that deadline? “You heard the professor. Those who do the best are those who learn how to ride the wave.” “This isn’t a wave. It’s a fucking tsunami.” She wrote the date and time on a sticky note and handed it to me. With a tilt of her head and a smirk on her face, she said, “There’s no need to be rude.” She looked past me to the woman standing behind me. “Next.” Speechless, I stormed out of the auditorium and went directly to the gym. The only work I’d put into my project was picking out the title. Unless I dropped everything, getting it done was a long shot. I rolled my shoulders but the tension wouldn’t ease. The only way to get rid of my stress was to sweat it out. I had three hours until my next appointment. Two would be spent working myself into a state of exhaustion. The Athletic Club was a perk of working for Concierge Services I’d lose soon. Jack, my trainer, was by the weights when I arrived. “Luca, what are we doing today?” He was always in high spirits, and I wondered if he got off on torturing people. I worked out all the time. It was the only way to maintain the body my clients expected, and the added benefit was stress relief. “Work me hard,” I told him. “I’ve had a shit day.” I changed into shorts and a cotton tee and met Jack at the weights. Bench-pressing my max for three sets would help right things in my twisted world for the moment. One-press Two-press Three-press … After three sets, I rose from the bench and bent over to hold my knees. I was pumped to continue once I caught my breath. “Give me thirty minutes on the elliptical. I want it set to cardio, raise the resistance and the incline.” Jack pushed me toward the machines and walked away. The only machine available sat between a female with a sweet ass, and a fat dude with a visible plumbers crack. I climbed aboard and began. A glance to my left and I nearly fell off the elliptical. “Not so smooth now are you?” Mim pulled the handles and pressed the pedals like a pro. What could I say? My swag factor had hit a low. “I’ll get it together, don’t worry about me.” “I’m hardly worried, Luca.” She remembered my name. That had to be good, right? Not wanting to be outdone. I upped my speed, resistance, and incline to match hers. Game on. “Odd that we would meet here. There have to be hundreds of gyms in the city.” I huffed out the words. Cardio wasn’t my thing. I did it to gain endurance, but now that Claire was gone, I’d be able to cut back. “It’s the best, and I like quality.” Her eyes ran the length of my body. “Like what you see?” I tightened my hands on the grips so every muscle in my arms would bulge with definition. “I love muscle, it's a shame most of yours seems trapped in your head. Inflated ego much?” She stopped her machine and hopped off. “Hey, you’ve got me all wrong.” I stepped off my machine and followed her closely. “Prove me wrong, Luca. Coffee downstairs in ten minutes.” She disappeared into the women’s locker room before I could reply. Shit. I had the time, but what was the point? The point was I wanted a distraction from my life and she was hotter than hell. I raced to the locker room and showered. I was running in the direction of the coffee bar with my tie in my hand. Nine minutes had passed, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get to know the brown haired girl who had gemstones for eyes. Dressed in an off-the-shoulder white tunic, and black yoga pants—God, I loved yoga pants—she sat at the counter and impatiently tapped her fingers on the gold granite. I slid into the stool beside her. “What can I get you?” I waved the barista over and waited while Mim decided what she wanted. “Chai tea with honey, please.” She was all sweetness and sunshine to the tired-looking barista. She was vinegar and hot sauce to me, but I liked flavor in my life. Mim intrigued me. “Double shot latte, please.” I pulled my tie over my head and proceeded to finish dressing. “That much caffeine will keep you up all night.” “Would seem that I’ll need it. I have a project to finish three weeks early.” I pulled a napkin from the dispenser and folded it in half. Her smile didn’t reach her eyes, but her lips twisted in a satisfied grin. “That’s a shame.” The barista placed our drinks on the counter in front of us. “Definitely.” “Will that cut into your social life?” She pulled the cup to her mouth and blew on the steaming liquid. I could smell the cinnamon of her tea waft through the air. “Are you asking out of interest?” What was her game? I was so out of the dating scene. I had no idea how women my age behaved. “Possibly.” “I thought my ego offended you.” I wasn’t used to people dismissing me as she had earlier, so her attention interested me. She was playing me well. “Your ego arouses my curiosity. I’d love to see what holds that up.” Arouse was an interesting word to use when talking about my self-esteem. “I’m told it’s my incredible traps.” I flexed my muscles to make a point. She tried to suppress her laugh but ended up bursting out loud. “No wonder you work out. It must take a lot of muscles to hold up your fat head.” “Now you’re just being mean, but I’ll forgive you if you have dinner with me.” What the hell was I doing? She pulled my folded napkin from under my cup, pulled a pen from her backpack and wrote her address on it. “Pick me up at seven next Thursday. I like Italian.” She checked me out again before she rose from her seat and walked away. I sat there dumbfounded. I had a Thursday date with a frustrating woman who apparently liked Italian. That was one area in which I could deliver. A slow smile spread across my face.

*~*

The Saturday night crazies were swarming Times Square by the time the cab dropped me off at the hotel. I was never late to an appointment, although I’d come close yesterday when an accident in the subway delayed me by an hour. Today I’d started out early. I picked up the key to Claire’s hotel room with plenty of time to spare. I'd let myself into the hotel room decorated in various shades of white. The purity of the color contrasted with the darkness of my soul. Life had become blurred. The only difference between a porn star and me was a porn star got paid to fuck on camera. I got paid to fuck. I didn't allow cameras, and public sex bothered me. After a glance around the suite, I knew Claire would want to be had on every surface in this room. The bed, the sofa, the tub, and the fucking granite counter of the bar. My damn dick would be on fire before the evening was over. The windows beckoned with the bright light of Times Square flashing before me. I yanked the curtains closed, shutting out the real world around me while I produced one client’s fantasy. After a call to room service, I set about earning my pay. Claire had specifics she liked ready when she arrived. The tub had to be filled with hot water and bubbles. The champagne chilled in a silver bucket by the bed. I started the bath, lit the candles, and prepared the items she’d had delivered. When I took the lid off the box, I wanted to scream. I hated this fucking fetish of hers. There were cuffs and a flogger, a handful of hundreds, and a brand new package of condoms. I knew how this would play out. I'd answer the door in my thousand-dollar suit, and she'd pretend she was the escort. She'd show up in a trench coat with little or nothing beneath it. I'd sweet-talk her into taking a bath where she would make me watch her masturbate. Priming herself was what she called it, but all it did was make the second orgasm much harder for her to reach. It lengthened the game I wanted to shorten. I'd pretend to pay her, and she would tie me up and have her way. In any other setting, it could be considered rape, but in this setting, it was prostitution. I would sell myself once again to reach my goals: success, financial freedom, and respect. When the knock came, I checked myself in the mirror. I ran my fingers through my hair, giving it what Claire would call a mussed up, sexy look. Making her wait was part of the game, so I straightened my tie and picked lint off my collar until the second knock sounded. It would annoy her to have to wait, but she got off on pent up frustration. I rubbed the exhaustion from my eyes and prepped for the long night ahead. I tucked my self-loathing away and put on my Ken doll smile. Showtime. I opened the door in a coat and dagger fashion, a sliver at a time. It added to her excitement. "Are you the girl?" I deepened my voice because she loved it. A baritone voice would earn me a sizable tip. "Yes, I'm what you wanted," her words breathy and soft. So unlike the powerhouse of a woman I knew her to be. She was a CEO at Evictus Financial Group, a large firm specializing in penny stocks. I always gave Claire what she wanted because she had what I needed—money and a foot in the door at her company. "You are indeed what I ordered." I ran my hand down her cheek. "Stunning." I pulled her into the room and peeked out the door as if someone could be watching. I had to play my part to perfection. I'd been fucking my way in the door of Evictus for eighteen months now. A year and a half was a long time to be with the same client. She was one of my first, and we had this date every Saturday night like clockwork. Different hotel. Same situation. I'd pound her flesh so she'd be sore until our next date. She'd pay me, and often press a generous tip in my pocket. In turn, I'd pay my rent, buy my groceries, and chip at my student loans. It was a living, but hardly a life. For a second, I thought of Mim and locked the thought away behind my smile. She wasn’t part of this world, and I wouldn’t dirty her by thinking about her while I was on the job. "Don't forget,” said Claire. “I get paid up front." Yep, she always did, and she'd turn around later and hand over the cash for a night well spent. I pulled out the bills I’d put in my wallet. Two circular divots marred the inside pocket. One came from the MBA coin my favorite professor gave me when I was struggling with my classes. "Keep your eye on the prize," he told me, and I've kept the talisman in my pocket ever since. The second circle used to contain my Saint Christopher, but now the space was empty. I had taken it out and put it in my drawer. I didn’t need a daily reminder of how far I’d fallen. I fanned the bills in front of her. "This should take care of it." I folded the wad of bills and placed them in her coat pocket. Let the games begin. With a firm tug, I pulled the belt of the coat loose and let it fall open. Hmm, black lingerie tonight. She must have had a terrible week. Anxiety slithered up my throat and threatened to choke me. If her mood was dark, she'd want it rough and hard, which meant she'd give my body no mercy. "What should I call you?" "Call me, Claire." The use of her real name was a surprise. She dropped the coat on the floor and pushed her body against me. For a woman in her forties, she had a rockin' body, but I was pretty sure it was because she devoured lesser men for sport. “Well, Claire, I’ve prepared a bath for you. Climb in it while I get you a drink.” She turned toward the bathroom and walked away, exaggerating the sway of her hips. I knew she’d turn around and expect me to be watching her. I stayed and stared, and she looked over her shoulder and smiled. She was pleased, and that would earn me another bonus. When I entered the bathroom, her dark brown hair was pulled up in a clip; she was tucked neck deep in the water. The light of the candles flickered across the bubbles creating a kaleidoscope of colors. “Champagne?” “No, you drink the bubbly. Tonight, I need something stronger. I’d prefer a scotch.” Her jade green eyes had turned the color of beached seaweed. Something was up. She was a creature of habit, and this wasn’t our usual routine. “Get me a real drink.” What the fuck was going on? If I asked her, the fantasy would be ruined. I couldn’t afford for that to happen. I needed tonight’s gig for my rent, so I buried my questions, and I did as I was asked. When I returned to the bathroom, she had her knees pulled up to her chest, and she was crying. “Tears?” The scotch sloshed back and forth from my unsteady hand. “What can I do?” I wasn’t prepped for this. I was hardwired to avoid emotion since the day I began this job. “Take off your clothes and get in the bath.” Her voice cracked ever so slightly. Whatever was happening, she was clutching the ledge with her fingertips causing the tips to turn white. Moisture had affected her mascara, making the black gel run into the fine lines on her face. Typically, so put together, Claire seemed a bit worn tonight, and that made her look vulnerable and soft. A side I’d never seen from this woman. We didn’t share love or affection, but we had a mutual respect for one another. I wanted to reach out and comfort her, and that scared me. “I don’t think so, I hired you.” It was important for me to get back on script. “I want you bathed, naked, and in bed in ten minutes.” Pivoting on my heels, I exited the bathroom. Her scream followed me to the bedroom. “Fuck the script! I need to be held and comforted. Earn your fucking money, Luca, and get your ass in here.” Rage surged through me. When I sold my cock, it came with a bit of my soul attached. I felt thin, stretched out, and so very cold. My teeth ground until my jaw hurt. It was the only way to hold in the anger. Since the Dom Perignon was mine alone, I pulled it from the bucket and guzzled straight from the bottle. Something told me things were about to change, and I’d need the 12.5% alcohol by volume to survive the night. Hell, I might need Claire’s scotch to make it through the next hour. I walked back into the bathroom tugging at the tie Claire had given me last month. The Windsor knot of the blue silk tie nearly choked me. Whoever said fake it until you make it must have worked on Wall Street. Every day I showed up to work, I prayed it would be my last, but the reality was, I knew I’d keep doing this until my goals were met. Claire’s eyes dimmed, and I suppressed the panic that inched up my throat and threatened to gag me. “Get in the tub, Luca.” She tipped the scotch glass back and emptied the tumbler. “Refill first.” The crystal glass screeched as she pushed it across the marble surround of the tub. This was my life. She called and I came. She demanded and I delivered. She paid and I performed. Rather than pour two fingers of scotch, I poured four to avoid another trip to the decanter. Despite wanting to drown myself in alcohol, I abstained. One of us had to be in control. I transferred the glass to her hand and began the slow process of removing my suit. She needed comfort, and I needed money. With sixty thousand dollars remaining on my student loan, I couldn’t take my eye off the goal. I slid into the hot bubbles and situated myself across from Claire. I left the foil condom wrapper in clear view so there was no doubt where me, naked, and in the bathtub, would lead. She cupped the amber liquid with both hands and watched me over the rim. Like a cat being stalked by a mouse, my internal protection mechanisms screamed for me to escape and evade, but I planted my ass and held my ground. For enough money, I’d ignore the warnings. “Do you want to talk?” My relationship with her was unique. She never shared personal information, which was probably why this arrangement had lasted so long. We weren’t friends. Once all the bells and whistles were removed, I was simply a dick for hire, and she was a checkbook and a reference letter. For fourteen hundred dollars a night, I’d suffer through it. “No.” She stretched her foot out and rubbed her toes between my legs. Habit required I make a sound of satisfaction. “Mmm,” came from my mouth without thought or feeling. It was amazing how much a body could do on autopilot. “Feel good?” “It always feels good.” Slow, steady, breaths helped me get my head in the game. I was like Pavlov’s dog. In the zone, I could perform without thinking. When thrown off my game, it took a lot of coaxing. Tonight I was out of my element. Below the bubbles, I massaged her foot with one hand and my dick with the other. Once hard, I pulled her body toward me and set her between my thighs. “What do you want, Claire?” The question was asked out of courtesy. This woman was a whip wielding, rough rider. She was a take no prisoners client. I imagined she operated much the same way in the boardroom. “I want to feel wanted.” Her usually demanding voice diminished with each word. “I want to feel valued.” Her shoulders rolled forward. “I want you to take charge.” Whoa. “What the hell is going on here? If you want to change the dynamics of our relationship, I need to know the new rules.” This dicking around was driving me crazy. “I was fired today.” Her body shook, and sobs escaped. “What the hell?” The air was sucked from my lungs. Although I was head and shoulders above the bubbles, I was drowning under the weight of what her statement meant. All my eggs were in her basket. I’d nourished this relationship, made it a priority because making her happy gave me what I needed. Now, after eighteen months of letting her use me and control me, I was no closer to getting what I wanted. Eighteen fucking months of whips and cuffs for nothing. Despair made me go limp. I threw my head back and stared at the ceiling. “I don’t want to talk about it. I want to forget about it.” She turned around and straddled me. She squeezed and pulled at my flesh, but there was no way my flaccid penis would rise to the occasion. My libido had sunk as low as my hope. After several minutes, she gave up and collapsed back into the water.

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