Romance to make you blush set in a glitzy, sensual world of powerful people and the courtesans they’ll pay anything to have.
An exclusive and secret agency, for over two hundred years Courtesans has specialized in providing entertainment of a sexual nature. Its clients are rich, powerful, and influential men and women, and one only meets a courtesan through referral from trusted sources. Courtesans facilitates bringing together men and women to satisfy any sexual need imaginable, matching the perfect courtesan with just the right client. The agency prides itself on training its courtesans, male and female, to interpret and fulfill its client’s greatest fantasies, even the secret ones no one dares to say aloud. The price is high, but everyone who’s ever had the pleasure of a date with a courtesan will agree, the fantasy is worth every penny. And sometimes it changes your life.
To Marianna, money is the measure of a person’s worth. Even as a child, she learned that from her father, a self-made man. When an old college friend tells her about life as a courtesan, the fabulous dates, opulent trips, valuable trinkets, and how much a man is willing pay to have a beautiful woman on his arm, Marianna wants it all. Thrust into a world of powerful men, suddenly she holds all the power. And all the worth.
Until she finds herself falling for her “date.”
A widower, Chase has sought to ease his guilt and pain in relationships without commitment or expectation. And especially not love. Until he discovers Marianna and begins to treat her like his girlfriend rather than a paid courtesan.
Now Marianna stands to learn the biggest lesson of all, that money doesn’t buy self-worth. It certainly can’t buy love. And money becomes the reason she’ll lose Chase, the very man who is worth everything.
“Their sensual erotic encounters are mouthwatering…” Romantic Times Top Pick! 4 ½ stars
“An electrically charged story.” Coffee Time Romance
What Readers Are Saying:
The Girlfriend Experience
© 2016 Jasmine Haynes
“I am not bailing you out again.”
“I’m not asking for a bailout, Dad. I’m asking for a small loan.” Marianna had paid back every loan he’d ever given her. With interest, both monetary and emotional.
Asa Whitney rocked heel to toe in front of the picture window overlooking San Francisco Bay, hands clasped behind him like Captain Ahab searching for a whale to harpoon. She was pretty sure he wasn’t admiring the water sparkling in the bright sunshine. January in the Bay Area could be short-sleeve weather, a respite before the rains of February.
Marianna wasn’t in a position to enjoy either the view or the weather.
“You’re thirty-five, Marianna. At some point, you have to start taking care of yourself.”
As usual, he’d made her feel like she was fifteen. “I take care of myself. I just had some extraordinary expenses this month—”
Her father cut her off with a slash of his hand. “Enough.” He turned toward her, gray eyes glittering, hard and cold as the bay. Tall, with a full head of steel-colored hair, at sixty-two he was imposing, autocratic, and omnipotent, with the ability to slice her to ribbons. “That’s where the old cliché about saving money for a rainy day comes from.”
She bit down on a curse. It wouldn’t help. “The Bay Area is a very expensive place to live, Dad, and you and Mom didn’t want me to move to Nevada last year when I had that job offer.” Marianna knew that was a cheap shot, but she didn’t take it back. She would have despised Las Vegas. She hated hot places.
“Your mother didn’t tell you to buy those choo-choo shoes.” He pointed at her blue suede Jimmy Choos, which, by the way, were over a year old. She’d gotten them at Nordstrom’s half-yearly sale for a steal at 75 percent off.
“I’m in sales, Dad, I have to dress for success.” How did he even know they were Jimmy Choos? Oh yeah, Mom loved her Choos as much as Marianna did.
“Dressing for success obviously hasn’t helped you.”
He always managed to push the right button, making her feel worthless. A failure. A total fuckup. In the world according to Asa Whitney, she should be married, driving the kids to soccer practice in a Porsche SUV, and living in Atherton. Or better yet, in Pacific Heights, in the same building as her parents.
“Why can’t you be more like your sister?”
She knew he was going to say that. Everything was about money and the lifestyle one could afford. Marianna, however, had graduated from college with a degree in library science, and she’d gotten a job right away. She loved books; she loved reading them, touching them, talking about them. She especially loved the kids’ reading groups, where she’d gotten the little ones to fall in love with books. She’d adored her job. Except that in the Bay Area, you couldn’t live on a librarian’s salary. In San Francisco, you couldn’t even afford a studio, let alone a room in someone else’s house. Unless you liked bed lice in the Tenderloin district.
So she’d run into a money problem. Her dad helped her out. On the condition that she find a career with a better pay scale.
Five career changes later, she was still looking for the magic combination that would please her while making her father proud of her at the same time. One of San Francisco’s elite, a pillar of the business and social communities, her father knew everyone who was anyone, and she was his embarrassing disappointment.
“Dad, I honestly can’t help it that the economy is in trouble and the real estate market has taken a nosedive.”
“I told you that you were getting into it three years too late. If you hadn’t taken so long to get your real estate license . . .” He let the sentence dangle.
If, if, if. If she’d remained a librarian and moved to Kansas, where she could afford a house. If she’d gotten away from her father so he didn’t micromanage every decision she made. If her Beemer hadn’t taken a rock to the windshield. If the tiny chip hadn’t become a fissure that snaked across the driver’s side. If this weekend she hadn’t gotten a fix-it ticket for it. She survived the cracked radiator by filling it up with water all the time. Not to mention the bald tires she shouldn’t be driving on. But if she told her dad about all the issues with the car, he would go into the whole lecture about how he’d told her to lease instead of buy in the first place.
“I promise this is the last time I’ll ask.”
“You’ll have to find another way.” He smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile. “You could sell some of the shoes in your closet.”
She tried not to take a deep breath, because he’d accuse her of sighing to try to make him feel guilty. But she knew Asa Whitney was not going to feel guilt. He’d made up his mind. She’d have to figure out another way to pay for the repairs.
Was it too late to move to Kansas?
* * *
That very same evening, Jewel Bishop stared into Marianna’s crammed closet. “You’re not going to get a damn thing for these,” she said. “Every pair is at least a year outdated.”
Most were several years out of fashion, not that it bothered Marianna. She bought on sale at the end of the season, she didn’t toss a pair until she wore them out, and most were over two years old. She loved shoes as much as she loved books, and her closet was as full as her bookshelves. “So it was a stupid idea.” Besides, selling her shoes on consignment wasn’t going to get her the money fast enough. Nickie, her car guy, wouldn’t buy the new windshield without cash up front.
“I can loan you some money.”
“No.” It came out a little too harshly, but she was not bumming off her friends. It was bad enough bumming off her dad. She was still reeling from this afternoon’s confrontation. “I mean, thanks, but I’ve got to solve my own problem this time.”
“You can pay me back,” Jewel continued. “With interest, if it makes you feel better.”
They’d gone to college together, and even though they were poles apart in everything, they’d become good friends. Jewel had dark hair, brown eyes, and was a petite five foot two, while Marianna was blond and hazel-eyed, and a full four inches taller. Looks weren’t the only thing differentiating them. Jewel had started her own accounting firm five years ago, and bought a house in San Mateo last year. That was the last sale Marianna had made. Jewel had helped her out that way, and Marianna couldn’t accept any more charity.
“Thanks, but no. I’ll figure something out.” Maybe her sister could help. God, what was she thinking? Her sister was the worst person to ask. Besides, Marianna knew she’d be in the same boat next month. She needed big cash. She needed to make a damn sale.
“You could always declare bankruptcy.”
Marianna snorted. “Right. My father would disown me.”
“Who gives a fuck what your father thinks?” That was Jewel, telling it like it is.
“I’m thirty-five years old. At some point I’ve got to grow up and start taking care of myself.” She parroted her father, a familiar lump in her throat. “I’m a loser,” she whispered.
Jewel grabbed her arm, squeezed. “You listen to me. You’re just in a slump.”
“I’ve been in a slump for thirteen years. I should have made better decisions, gone into something high-paying like accounting, the way you did.”
“It’s not everything you think it is.”
“You’ve got a house, your own accounting firm, all those galas up in the city that anyone who’s somebody goes to.”
Jewel was quiet a long moment, tension flitting across her face. “The business isn’t doing as well as I tell everyone.”
Marianna’s heart dropped to her toes. Jewel was her shining beacon, the example she tried to live up to. “But you could afford the house.”
“I needed some supplemental income to swing that.”
“You mean like a second job?”
“Sort of.” Jewel tipped her head, pushing her long, glossy black hair over her shoulder. “Do you really want a way to make some fast money and pay off your bills?”
“I’m desperate.” Tension rode her spine, floated up to her eyeballs, pounded in her head. She had to prove she wasn’t a failure, and for her father, money was the only yardstick.
“This requires a champagne cocktail while I explain.” Jewel tugged Marianna to the kitchen. Which didn’t take much tugging, since Marianna’s apartment was the size of a postage stamp.
“I’ve got the cheap stuff.” With a cocktail, you didn’t dare use good champagne. You simply added bitters and sugar. It had become one of her favorite drinks because it tasted decadent without being hell on her budget.
Only minutes later, ensconced on the couch—two steps from the kitchenette—champagne in hand, Marianna clinked Jewel’s glass. “Now spill.”
She was giddy with the thought of a way out.
“All those parties and galas you talked about? Well, I get paid to go.”
“Yes, I receive money to attend.”
Marianna tapped her finger to her chin. “You mean the organizers want to make sure they have enough women?” She had to admit she didn’t understand.
Jewel shook her head slowly. “No. The men I attend with pay me. They like a pretty woman on their arm.” Jewel was gorgeous, with flawless cheekbones, full red lips, and all the right curves.
“Uh-huh.” Marianna nodded even though she still wasn’t sure exactly what Jewel was saying. “And you make enough money to pay for a house?”
“I make a lot of money for an evening.” Jewel set her champagne on the table and linked her pinkie finger with Marianna’s. It was a childish thing they used to do right before a big test or a speech in college. A show of solidarity. “And after the party I have sex with them.”
A flush rode through Marianna’s body. Her face burned. The champagne bubbles made her head spin. “They pay you to have sex with them?”
Jewel held her gaze steady. “They pay me a lot.”
“That’s like being a . . .” Marianna couldn’t say the word.
“It’s being a courtesan,” Jewel finished for her. “I please men. They tip me well.”
Marianna’s heart beat wildly in her ears. “How much?”
“I attended a five-hundred-dollar-a-plate charity dinner last week and the man I went with gave me four thousand dollars.”
Marianna’s jaw dropped.
“You’re catching flies, Marianna.”
She didn’t know what to think or how to feel. “Was he gross?”
“No. He was quite decent-looking.”
“Was he ancient?”
Jewel shrugged. “About fifty.”
Fifty wasn’t bad at all. “Did he hurt you?”
“I don’t allow anyone to hurt me.”
“Did you have to do awful, disgusting things?”
“Define awful and disgusting.”
Marianna didn’t want to even imagine.
“It was standard sex,” Jewel supplied. “The basics. His wife doesn’t like giving oral. I love it. And quite frankly, with how good he is at giving that in return, he could be as old as Harrison Ford or look like Quasimodo.”
Marianna suppressed a shiver at the “oral” comment. She wasn’t a prude. She enjoyed sex. And Harrison Ford was still pretty darn hot even at his age. The shudder she experienced was purely sexual. “So he’s married.”
“Most of them are. Being with a courtesan is a safer route than having an affair. They’re not worried their mistress is going to start making demands on them, and they like the power of paying for what they want.”
A courtesan. What Jewel was talking about was more like a whore. A hooker. A call girl. A prostitute. But four thousand dollars? This was no street-corner shindig. It would pay for Marianna’s windshield, the radiator, the new tires, with money left over.
“I can’t even think about doing that,” she said aloud.
“It’s not so bad, Marianna. I like sex. I like men. And I love the money.”
“But what if you get stuck with someone totally disgusting?”
“You never have sex unless you want to. You never do anything you don’t want to do. And you always use protection.”
“But—” She stopped. She couldn’t use that word with Jewel. Not whore.
“You think I’m a terrible person, don’t you?”
“No, I just . . .” Honestly, Marianna didn’t know what to think. Four thousand dollars in one night. It was mind-boggling. But what about the morals of it? “Don’t you feel sort of . . .” She couldn’t define it. She loved Jewel, counted her as one of her best friends.
“Go ahead and say it.” Jewel sipped her champagne cocktail, her fingers tight on the glass stem.
Okay. “Doesn’t it make you feel sleazy and dirty?” Marianna was dying to know.
The smile was slow to grow on Jewel’s lips, but when it came, it was sexy, sultry, secretive. “Getting paid for it is the hottest thing I’ve ever done, and so damn sexy. This is better than a one-night stand, and you don’t have to worry about how to get rid of him in the morning. Oh my God”—Jewel rolled her eyes—“if a one-nighter is looking for a relationship. . .” She punctuated with finger quotes. “If I decide I don’t like a guy, I tell my consultant not to put his calls through.”
“You have a consultant?”
“That’s what we call them, the person who answers the calls for me and sets up the dates.” She laughed, her voice musically sweet. “Maybe we should call them matchmakers.”
Marianna couldn’t judge, especially when the thought of all that money set her pulse racing. “I’m still in shock.”
“I get paid for having sex with no complications.” Jewel touched Marianna’s knee, lowering her voice to a whisper. “What more could a girl ask for?