Soooo, right around the end of 2016, beginning of 2017, I started thinking about this project that I referred to amongst my friends as “Presidential Hoe Ish.”. But then, the state of politics had me so disgusted that I didn’t feel like it anymore, so I left it alone. But now I’m back. No, the hero is no longer gonna be the president. I’m putting the story in Vegas, which should give you some idea of the tone of this story, which I fully intend to just have fun with, because I want to.
Here’s how this thing will go –
- I’ll post a chapter when I finish a chapter, whether that’s every day, every few days, once a week, etc. Once I’m finished, it may stay up indefinitely, or I may take it all down and put it on Amazon.
- If you’re not into the serial thing, that’s totally okay! I appreciate your support, past/present/future, and won’t feel any type of way if you decide to skip over this. Please don’t feel the need to explain yourself about it.
- Not to sound rude, but I don’t care about moral objections to the content, so please don’t talk to me about it. No offense, but I’m not engaging it, so….. yeah.
- Enjoy! It’s fiction. Have fun. Don’t overthink it. I’m quite literally posting as I go, so the editing might be a lil loose – fair warning.
- Leave comments! I want to hear your thoughts, lets talk about it, what do you think is gonna happen, all that. Again, let’s have fun!
- Here we go:
Be a good sport, Rowan.
I repeated those words over in my head as I forced a smile to my face, blinking back tears as I offered my opponent their deserved applause. They’d put in work just like I had, had sacrificed time and energy to earn today’s prize.
It wasn’t fair, but it was.
I couldn’t be mad, but I was.
I should be happy for them, but I wasn’t.
As I watched the winners jump up from their table, hugging and shouting and crying over the results, I willed myself to find the good in defeat.
It wasn’t that I had anything against the Irving Initiative – they did great, necessary work toward rehabilitating former felons. Clearing records for non-violent crimes, restoring voting rights, career help, all sorts of things.
In a world where both charity dollars and public funding were limited, the fact that they had just been chosen as the recipients of the grant I’d busted my ass applying for made me sick to my stomach. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment I would have to swallow, since I had a young colleague beside me who needed me to set a good example.
After I’d clapped for an appropriate length, I turned to Mila. Her eyes were wet, because she knew the gravity of this decision – knew what it meant for us.
“You’d better not,” I whispered to her, looking her dead in the face as she sucked in a breath. “Not right now. Some of the kids came. Not in front of them.”
I hated to be harsh with her, but it was necessary. The kids sprinkled into the audience of this town-hall style meeting were just a few of the many served by the Cartwright Center. If they saw us looking defeated, that energy would spread quickly, and that was the last thing we needed. As much as I wanted to scream, cry, throw myself on the floor and beg, I knew how important it was to present a face of hope to those kids.
For many of them, it was the only positivity they saw.
The next hour passed in a blur of handshakes and maybe-next-times, and then I found myself locked in my too-small, too-hot, too-old office until well past the time the center closed, crunching numbers in an attempt to make them work. The thing about budgets though was that required money, and money was something we sorely lacked.
State funding had been cut to the bare minimum – so much that the only salary I took was just enough to pay my necessary bills. That was something I had in common with the center – only the absolute necessities. Every other penny, I made sure it was sowed into these kids.
But now… we were out of pennies too.
I drummed my fingers on the top of the rickety, rusty desk, not wanting to hit the “submit” button on my screen that would send the funds to pay the center’s electricity bill. Once I did it, we’d have a whopping twelve dollars and sixty-one cents in the account, and I… God I didn’t want to press that button, but I knew the bright red final notice envelope buried within the stack of bills in the tray was no idle threat.
They would really cut this shit off.
I bit back fresh tears as I submitted the bill and then flipped the lid of my laptop closed, ready to finally call it a night. As I packed my things away, I wondered if I could talk the vendors who were donating snacks for our upcoming softball game into giving just a little more… we could use the extra to feed hungry kids in the coming weeks before another check came in.
Making a mental note to practice my puppy-dog eyes and begging voice, I hung my bag over my shoulder and headed out, shutting everything down as I went. My eyes traveled over chipped and missing tiles, stained chairs, broken mirrors, shoddy air-conditioning, malfunctioning electronics – a whole, long list of flaws that, the day before, I’d had real hope of correcting. Because I had good people on board, we managed to keep the place clean, and safe – the least we could do to help give these kids a sanctuary. It cost us nothing except a little elbow grease.
New tiles, fresh upholstery, a contractor, renovated HVAC and an updated computer lab though… money.
It always came down to money.
I pulled the door closed behind me with a sigh, knowing I wasn’t going home to do anything that even resembled “rest”. I’d be digging through financial records, trying to find past donors who hadn’t slid anything our way in a while, hoping they’d appreciate a check-in – and show that appreciation with a check.
I was not too proud to beg.
In fact, I was so worn down, so desperate, that the thought didn’t even make me ashamed – it was just something I would have to do. This was Vegas! No, it wasn’t all bright lights and casinos like the stereotype said, but there were enough people here with money that surely someone was feeling generous?
The night was cooler than I’d expected – too cool for me to be in just a thin button-up underneath my Cartwright Center tee shirt. I wrapped my arms around myself as I headed up the nearly-empty sidewalk, grateful that the busted streetlight had been fixed, so at least I wasn’t walking home alone in complete darkness.
I waved to a couple of older boys I knew. Boys who’d aged out of the center, but who we’d impacted enough that – even though they hadn’t gotten as far away from the streets as I’d hoped – they used whatever little clout they had to make sure the center was left alone. Nobody broke through the flimsy locks to steal the outdated computers, nobody was dealing anything on our playground or the sidewalk directly in front of us.
It was those small favors that added up.
As I turned the corner to my apartment complex, a chill that had nothing to do with the weather crept up my spine. A glance behind me showed two mean-looking women in black suits that were way too nice for around here, and a black SUV that was noticeably luxurious too, creeping down the street.
What the hell is going on?
I started moving a little faster, and slipped my hand into my bag for my phone. I put my finger on the power button, knowing if I tapped it fast enough, multiple times, the safety feature would trigger an emergency call. I had no idea what was happening, but I did know that I didn’t want to be around for it. I didn’t breathe easy until I was in my building, up the elevator, and locked securely behind my apartment door.
Leaving the lights off, I went to my window and peeked out, onto the street. The women and the SUV were still there, but it was parked now, and the women weren’t looking at my building.
Feeling a little better, I dropped my bag onto the couch and then moved to my refrigerator, pulling it open. Immediately, my nose wrinkled as I surveyed the contents, or lack thereof. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d ordered Chinese takeout and yet there it was, in greasy, soggy containers. A package of sliced cheese. A jar of… pickles? A shriveled orange. Two bottles of cold-brew coffee. And an already opened, screw-top bottle of Moscato, age unknown.
“Wine for dinner it is,” I muttered to myself, grabbing it and pushing the door closed before I headed back to the couch, not bothering to get a glass. I flipped the TV on and started up Netflix, my one indulgence, since paying for cable was out of the question.
With my computer in my lap and my wine in hand, I settled in to start figuring out who I could beg for money, knowing it would be a while before I hit the shower and then climbed into bed.
As soon as I got comfortable, my doorbell rang.
I definitely wasn’t expecting company, and anybody who knew me knew better than to show up at my door unannounced. Unless, of course, there was some emergency. And based on the fact that it was already ringing again – impatiently so – I suspected that was the case.
Pulling myself up, I moved my laptop and wine to the coffee table and headed for the door as the ringing bell switched to a firm, LVPD-style knock. That made me pause for a second, but then I continued on, pressing up on my toes to look through my peephole when I reached the door.
Who the hell is she?
I took a step back, trying to place the vaguely-familiar face of the woman on the other side of my door. Before I could though, that booming knock sounded again, so official that I worried something had happened with one of the kids.
That made me open the door.
“Can I help you?” I asked, peering through the few inches of space that the chain-latch allowed, once I’d unlocked and pulled the door open. The woman’s lips – painted a perfect peachy-nude brown, even at nearly ten at night – curved into a smirk.
“No. But I can help you. Let’s have a conversation.”
My eyebrows pulled together, confused. “I… excuse me? Are you sure you have the right apartment?”
“Are you Rowan Phillips, age thirty-two, Program Director for the Cartwright Center?” she asked, her perfectly blown-out bob swaying a little as she tipped her head to the side, waiting for me to answer.
“Uh… yeah. Who are you?”
“Desiree Byers. Unhook the latch, Rowan. You and I need to talk.”
I stood there looking stupid – or at least it felt that way – wondering what the hell a woman who looked, quite literally, like money, had to talk to me about. But it was that – the fact that she looked like money, which I needed – that made me do as she said.
I unlatched the door.
And immediately regretted it.
Before I could blink, there were people in my apartment – the two women in suits from before, barging past me to look in my bedroom, bathroom, and closets, and a man, in jeans and a hoodie, holding some device that he held up in the air as he walked through my space.
“Hey, what the hell is going on?!” I asked, making the mistake of stepping into the hoodie-wearer’s face. Instantly, one of the suits was on me, pulling my wrists behind my back to detain me, paying no mind to my demands to be let go until “Desiree” spoke up.
“Briana. Frankie. You’re dismissed,” she said, in a completely bored tone.
I didn’t know who was who, but I was let go, and they disappeared while I was still rubbing my tender wrists.
“Eliot, are we good?” she asked the one of her minions who remained, the one in the hoodie. He nodded, but then I watched, outraged, as he picked up my laptop and phone, taking them with him as he headed out the door.
“Excuse me, what the fuck is this?!” I asked, trying uselessly to follow him – but Briana or Frankie stepped into the doorway, blocking me.
“Rowan, please,” Desiree said, in that same, overly-composed voice. “Your things will be returned to you as soon as we’ve talked. For now, come and sit down.”
“Like hell!” I shot back. “I’ll calmly come and sit when you tell me what you’re doing here.”
She smiled, then walked over to my threadbare sofa and gracefully draped her designer-suit clad body into a seat, clasping perfectly-manicured hands in her lap. “I plan to explain everything. When you come and sit down.”
Frustrated, I pushed out a breath, shooting a last dirty look at Frankie or Briana or whoever before I stomped over to the couch. The door was closed, and Desiree reached for my remote, pausing the TV before she turned it off, then waited.
I ran my tongue over my lips as I sat down, fists clenched, ready to swing on Desiree Byers if necessary.
“Thank you Rowan,” she said warmly, as if we were old friends, making it harder to shake the feeling that I knew who this woman was. “Let’s get to business, shall we?”
“How do I know you?” I asked, not caring if it came across as rude. “Do I know you?”
She smiled. “You’ve probably heard of me. I have a working relationship with a lot of very important people in this city.”
As soon as she said that, it clicked. “You’re… that fixer, or whatever?”
“Uh, this isn’t Scandal. I don’t call myself that.”
“Then what do you call yourself?”
“Desiree Byers. Nice to meet you, Rowan.”
I huffed. “I cannot say the same.”
“I think my proposal will change your mind,” Desiree said, with another of those arrogant smirks that made me want to slap something. Not her, just… something.
She nodded. “Yes.” Her hands went to a luxury bag that was probably worth more than everything I owned, combined, placing it on top of a coffee table that had seen better days. From it, she pulled a thick manila envelope, which she placed beside my wine bottle.
“The Cartwright Center needs money. My client has money. If you’re willing, I believe that the two of you can come together for a mutually beneficial arrangement.”
My eyes narrowed, top lip curled. “You can’t be serious. Is this why you don’t have a title, can’t think of a prettier name for a pimp?”
“I am not a pimp,” she shot back, with more bite than I expected. “Let’s make that very clear. I am only here as a favor to a client who is special to me – this is absolutely not an item on my usual list of services.”
“Who is the client?”
Desiree shook her head. “That is information that will remain undisclosed – he wishes to remain anonymous for the duration of the agreement.”
“Oh hell no,” I exclaimed, my head rearing back. “You think I’m crazy? I’m supposed to accept money to get chopped up and eaten by your stranger danger ass “special” client? That’s what you think is about to happen?”
“Well he certainly has no plans to chop you up,” Desiree laughed, like there was actually something funny here. “Eating you, however, is probably among his intentions, assuming of course that your full medical exam doesn’t raise any red flags.”
“Full medic—okay, you gotta go,” I said, standing up. “And you can tell whatever creepy ass old white man sent you here that I’m not on the black girl fetish menu, okay?”
She laughed again, and didn’t move. “Rowan, my client is neither old, nor white, and I wish that you would take a seat, and really give this some thought. You lost a huge grant today – a grant you deserved by the way, we looked at your application – and that center is on its last legs unless something big happens. Right?”
My nostrils flared as I shrugged. “And?”
“Hi,” she said, with a little wave. “You can call me something big.”
“I’m not a prostitute.”
Desiree raised an eyebrow. “No one said you were.”
“And yet here you are, on my couch, offering me money to have sex with some weirdo stranger who can’t get pussy for himself. It’s Vegas. Why can’t he just hire an escort like all the other rich men?”
“Because his situation is a bit more… delicate. He requires a certain level of discretion concerning his private life.”
I snorted. “Who the hell is this guy? The president, the Black Panther, what? And I’m supposed to what… wear a blindfold while he screws me, then leaves an envelope of cash on the dresser? And again – why me? There are women who do this… as a profession. Why me?”
“Because you’re the woman he chose. It’s as simple as that. He’s not the president, or the damn Black Panther, no, but he is a man of a certain standing in this city, that—”
“I will not help him cheat on his wife,” I hissed, only for my words to be met with a shake of her head.
“You certainly won’t, because he doesn’t have one of those. Yes, you would be required to have your eyes covered at all times, but there would certainly be no envelope on the dresser. His offer is to cover any and all personal debt you have, as well as any debt for the center – including the cost of your desperately needed remodeling. Further, you would receive a lump sum – based on your calculations – large enough to cover utilities and any other reoccurring bills at the center for a year. That money would go into a trust, with you receiving a monthly stipend. Also in that trust would be the money necessary to fund your summer nutrition program, as well as daily meals of your choosing for roughly a hundred kids. In addition to that, my client would use his connections to solidify ongoing funding to keep the Cartwright Center open and serving this community for years to come. See? Way too much to fit in an envelope.”
“Get. The. Hell. Out. Of. My. Apartment.” I spat, storming toward the door to fling it open. “I don’t know what the hell kind of game this is, or who sent you, but this shit isn’t funny to me, and it stops now. Go!”
“I can assure this isn’t a ga—”
“Go!” I screamed, not caring about Frankie or whoever was standing there glaring in the open door.
Eyebrows raised, Desiree rose from her seat just as gracefully as she’d sat down. The manila envelope went back into her bag, and she strode confidently past me on sky-high pumps, stopping just on the other side of the door.
“Rowan… don’t be foolish,” she insisted, as my phone and laptop were passed back to me. “You’re a bright young woman, and obviously passionate about your work with the children you serve at the center. This is an excellent opportunity, and I would hate to see you pass it up.”
I stepped right into her face, and she didn’t flinch, just stared, waiting for a response.
“You screw him then,” I told her, earning myself one last smirk before I shut the door in her face.
And then immediately freaked out.
What the hell was that?
Was that for real?
Was she for real?
Would he really give me all that money for the center?
Those questions ran through my head at hyper-speed, melding together in a big, confused pile. Legal or not, having sex for money was something I’d never even considered, but honestly speaking… these stakes were a little different.
A lot different.
This wasn’t… giving a stranger a blowjob behind a filthy dumpster for a twenty. This wasn’t even… a high-end call girl, getting paid by the hour. This was… changed lives. Too many for me to count. This was… something I could never say yes to.
But I shouldn’t say “no” without at least… thinking about it.
I snatched my front door open, hoping that I’d catch Desiree in the hall, waiting for the elevator. Instead, I found her right where I’d left her, eyebrow raised, with that cocky smirk still on her face as she held up that envelope.
Before I could say anything, she held it out to me, putting it in my hands.
“All the necessary details are here. You have twenty-four hours to think about it.”
One of her minions reached for the door handle, pulling it closed, leaving me alone with the contract, a head full of questions, and twenty-four hours to decide if I was willing to sell myself for the good of the Cartwright Center.
– & –
“Did she say yes?” I asked, not bothering with a proper greeting once I saw it was Des’ number that had lit my screen in the back of the darkened limo.
I wasn’t surprised when Des laughed. “Come on, Mr. President. What do you think she said?”
“Stop calling me that, please,” I grunted, shifting positions to drop my head back against the seat. “You know I hate that shit.”
“Don’t be such a stick in the mud, Reid,” she teased. “Consider it a compliment.”
“I consider it pressure – more pressure than I need right now, all things considered.”
Des sighed. “Ah, pressure. That’s what you need Ms. Phillips around to relieve, no?”
“Fine,” she said, clearing her throat. “Ms. Phillips reacted like most women who’ve never considered a career in sex work would react – unfavorably. She was offended, like I expected.”
“But… she’s desperate. Like I expected. She took the contract to look over. I gave her twenty-four hours. She’ll call at nine or so tomorrow night to say yes, after she’s reviewed the terms.”
I closed my eyes. “How can you be so sure?”
“Because I am,” she said, simply, and I believed her, because Des got shit done. She always got shit done. “I’ll go ahead and schedule the medical exams and all that jazz, and put together the paperwork she’ll want too. A week from now, you’ll have your private plaything, and still be the man your constituents elected in public. Rest easy tonight, my friend.”
“Thank you, Des.”
With my eyes still closed, I dropped the phone into my lap, letting the image of Rowan Phillips come to the forefront of my mind. I’d never seen her before today, but that was all it took to know she was someone I’d never forget.
She wasn’t… polished. For some reason, that stood out. She was pretty as hell – something that could’ve scored points in the shallow world of local politics she’d dipped her toe in by applying for that grant. But she hadn’t played it up. Her smooth, red-brown skin appeared makeup-free, thick hair pulled into a simple ponytail, curves hidden underneath ill-fitting pants and a tee shirt with the name of her organization across the front. Her only adornment had been simple hoop earrings, but still, she’d stood out. Something about the determination, then hope, then disappointment in those expressive brown eyes… I wanted her.
But for me, it wasn’t as simple as walking up and introducing myself – that was where Des came in.
I just hoped she was right, that Rowan would accept my offer, and get this ball rolling.
As far as I was concerned… waiting a whole week to have her was already too long.