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Valentine for Hire

By:Aria Cole

Chapter One

Bryn

I tapped the fancy scalloped-edge invitation on the counter, feeling the familiar pit of dread burn in my stomach.

The wedding.

Would it be wrong to bail on the wedding of my only sister? My perfectly poised, irritatingly beautiful and elegant only sister.

I groaned, tossing the invite on the counter then picking up my phone.

I hadn’t seen my sister in months on purpose. She’d turned into the mother of all bridezillas. Thankfully she’d chosen her best girlfriend as her maid of honor so I didn’t have to cater to her every whim. Because she had a lot of them. Thankfully, I would be allowed to watch the spectacle from the audience, my sister standing with her five favorite sorority sisters from college. Yeah, she was that girl.

Brittany may have been my big sister, but she’d been the pain in my ass since the day I was born. Life was a competition, and if you weren’t competing in her relentless race to keep up with the Joneses, then you were a loser.

Enter me. The black sheep. The daughter who cared more for social injustice than social cotillions. I dreaded the idea of attending her stuffy wedding, cringed even more at the prospect of going alone.

I picked up my phone, desperate for a distraction and scrolling through my newsfeed absentmindedly. Cooking videos, movie trailers, ads, ads, ads, and more ads.

Until one caught my eye.

A man and a woman dressed up in elegant attire, going at it in a dark stairwell.

Life is short. Have a fling.

Despite my better judgement--or maybe out of some twisted sense of desperation--I clicked on it.

The Elite Fling website was clean, simple, and very elegant.

That surprised me.

The elegance of it.

Weren’t escort services catering to filthy, perverted wealthy people who liked getting their rocks off with strangers? The website looked so professional and modern, clearly aimed at a younger professional, that it actually had me rethinking my view on the entire industry.

Maybe Elite Fling catered to people like me.

People who needed a date to impress their stodgy, pretentious family. To keep the judgemental glances at bay as I walked in—single, post-grad career woman, and alone again.

My family much preferred things like heirs and lineage to discussions about independent woman who were driven by careers and wanted to change the world. A woman who spent her days studying instead of ordering the staff for important dinners was not worth a damn. Needless to say I stick out like a sore thumb during the holidays, so instead of being seen I try to disappear into the furniture so that no one even notices me. Last Christmas had been so horrendous, in fact, that I’d snuck out early and hadn’t been back. In eight months.

I’d accomplished a lot in those eight months, began a new research project, worked until my eyes were bleary on a few proposals based on new figures that’d come in. I loved it with my entire heart, but that hadn’t left me with much else.

Like, at all.

I hovered over the Special Requests button and found a local number pop-up.

Elite Fling was based right here in the city.

Prickles of fear seared my palms as I hovered over the call button, sucking a deep breath and doing it quickly before I could think any more.

I had an elite wedding to attend.

I could use an escort to accompany me.

Elite Fling felt like the perfect solution. I could get a date for a few hours, avoid the pity of my parents, second cousins and great aunts, and maybe even feel wanted, actually attractive for a while.

“Elite Fling, what’s your pleasure?” a saccharin sweet, incredibly young-sounding woman’s voice chirped.

“Uh…hi.” I fumbled. “I guess…well, I have a special request.”

“Yes, this is the special request line, honey,” she said.

“Right.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. “I have a wedding this weekend—”

“Not a problem at all, honey. Just let me check the schedule…” She paused, and I heard her fingers tapping on the keyboard. “Oh, usually we’re booked out a few weeks, but looks like we have some time tomorrow night. Can you be here around six?”

Anxiety shuttled through me as I thought about going to wherever here was to meet with an escort. “W-where?”

“Just off Monroe.” She paused. “In the financial district…” She stopped again, as if she was trying to work up the courage to ask me something. “We cater to a very high-end professional clientele…” Her voice softened a notch, like a best friend whispering conspiratorially, before she continued. “Do you know our hourly rate, hon?”

I swallowed, the thought of actually paying for a date to my sister’s wedding suddenly not sitting so well with me after all.

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