You stare ahead like a confused idiot, unable to do much more than blink in shock for several seconds.

 

What in the hell of all hells is Mindy, of all people, doing at your apartment? And this early in the morning?

 

She’s wearing a black and silver ruffled dress that looks like it could buy this entire apartment complex and maybe even the entire street leading up to it. Her hair is in the same sleek bun from last night, but she looks as fresh as ever, as if she just got back from a full day at the spa.

 

Goodness, did she even sleep last night?

 

She walks in past you before you can say anything.

 

“Do you always wait a century before answering your door?” she scolds, taking off her coat and making herself comfortable on the armrest of your couch.

 

She looks around tentatively before her eyes settle on you.

 

“Nice place,” she says, but there’s nothing in her expression or tone that even hints that she’s remotely impressed by your apartment.

 

Great. A nice dose of sarcasm in the morning from someone you don’t particularly want to be conversing with right now. But seriously, why the hell is she here?

 

Oh God, maybe last night she thought you were coming on to Dexter inappropriately? You really need to clear that up so that there are no misunderstandings.

 

“Mindy, listen, about last night—”

 

“I’m not here for small talk, little bird,” she says sternly, cutting you off. “Sit,” she gestures over to the chair opposite her as if this is her place.

 

She seriously may be the bossiest person you’ve ever met. She scares you, but somewhere in the back of your mind, you can’t help but admire her confidence and, of course, her fashion sense.

 

“You didn’t text me when you got home last night,” she says. Her tone is casual and nonchalant, but even in the little time you’ve known her, Mindy does not strike you as the kind of person who would bring something up for no reason.

 

You really hope she doesn’t have the wrong idea about you and Frost. It’s even more obvious to you now that they definitely do have a past together, one that probably goes further back than either of them have led you to believe.

 

“Yeah, uh…I’m sorry about that. I forgot, I was just really tired when I got back,” you say. It’s the best you can offer. You really did forget, but it’s not like you thought she was being serious either way, so you definitely wouldn’t have texted her even if you did remember.

 

You randomly wonder if she knows his wife, if she’s ever met her. She must know he’s married. Suddenly, you realize you don’t ever want to meet his wife. Both the guilt and the physical manifestation of her existence would be way too much for you to deal with.

 

“Well, I’m gonna cut right to the chase,” she says, pulling out a folder from her eye-catching purse.

 

She hands it to you, and you accept it warily.

 

“What is this?” you ask.

 

“You’re not to open it until after I leave,” she simply says, removing a piece of imaginary flint from the ruffles of her shoulder pad with a perfectly manicured nail.

 

Jeez, this woman always looks like a million bucks. She’s even making your couch look better by just sitting on its damn edge.

 

Your gaze moves away from her and goes to the folder, and you look at it closely, trying to figure out what it is.

 

“I don’t understand,” you say. “Is…is this my official acceptance letter into the service?”

 

“Not exactly,” is her reply.

 

“Then what is it?” you press.

 

“Let’s just say someone made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” she says with a smile that you’re not entirely sure you’re comfortable with. “You seem to have made quite an impression on a few of the guests at the party last night. And one attendee in particular definitely took an interest in you. He seems…quite intrigued by what he saw, and he’d like to see more. A lot more.” She emphasizes the last part by giving you a blatant once over.

 

Suddenly, it hits you.

 

She’s talking about Mitch.

 

Oh God, you think you’re going to puke.

 

You feel all the pores on your skin go rigid at once, rising in ill-formed goosebumps as you remember the sickening feeling of his clammy hand on your hip.

 

Mindy continues to speak, but in the seconds that follow, you can barely register whatever else she’s saying. In truth, you don’t even want to hear it.

 

You just know it’s him she’s referring to. I mean, it has to be. Even though Mitch “Bitch” McGraw is probably the world’s greatest douche, he’s also pretty wealthy, and apparently, he’s also the cousin of the birthday boy, so he’s clearly got the kind of financial connections that Mindy would definitely be interested in.

 

Goddamn it…

 

You push your glasses up the bridge of your nose nervously. You try to phrase your next question as carefully as you can, hoping you don’t piss her off, but you have to ask it.

 

“Can I decline a client if I’m not comfortable with who it is?”

 

“Absolutely,” she says with no hesitation. “But you’ll have to find another escort service to work for, because you won’t be working for me if you do,” she adds with a hard look.

“Let me make this perfectly clear to you, Ramona. This is a professional service, not some after-school sports club where everyone gets to pick favorites and shit. The only people who get to pick who and what they want are those paying for it. The clients. Are you a paying client?”

 

“No,” you whisper, swallowing. You hate that you’re being scolded like this. You really don’t want to be hearing any of this right now. The last thing you need is to be put in a bad mood this early on a frickin’ Sunday morning.

 

She stands and points toward the folder. “I was asked to tell you to make sure to read everything in there carefully. Go over it several times if you need to. In fact, I recommend it.”

 

With that, she leaves soundly, without another word.

 

For several seconds, you just keep staring at the door, long after she’s gone.

 

This is all way too strange. You can’t believe she really was here just to deliver this. Mindy is no delivery girl, but she came all the way here this early in the morning to give this to you herself.  This is an important drop-off, and the sender is obviously a very important client of hers—perhaps an indispensable one. Still, none of this is really making any sense. Why would she just pop in when the sun is barely up and hand you a sealed folder without even disclosing who it’s from and without telling you very much about it at all?

 

Your eyes move back to the brown folder in your hands.

 

Guess there’s only one way to find out what’s inside.

 

You trace all four sides of it tentatively. For several seconds, you continue to examine the folder, running your index finger along the sharp edges until you feel your skin heat up from the friction, and the pressure of the thin cardboard inflames your finger temporarily.

 

The more you keep staring at the folder, the more panicked you become. You feel your palms starting to get sweaty. You really wish you weren’t so anxious about this, but you know it’s only going to get worse the longer you stare at it and continue to postpone opening it.

 

Just fucking open it already, your inner voice yells. You already know it’s Mitch, just get it over with. It’s not like opening the folder is going to magically change what it contains. The outcome will be the same.

 

You feel your heart picking up speed, beating rapidly and unevenly in your chest. Suddenly, just looking at the folder and what it represents makes you nauseous.

 

You feel bile threatening to rise in your throat. Your hands start quivering, and the folder vibrates with each tremble.

 

You have to brace yourself for a moment before you can finally open the damn thing.

 

You finally break the seal, hearing the distinct sound of paper tearing disrupt the quiet in the room as the binding gives.

 

As soon as your eyes hit the papers inside, you can’t breathe.

 

***

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THIS CHAPTER MAKES ME FEEL...
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

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