The woman did not seem interested in Selene’s story or tears. “Yes, well that is unfortunate,” she said quickly trying to change the subject. “Now you are aware of what your responsibilities would be here at the company, should you get the job.”
“Yes and I could sure use the money.”
“Yes, well our primary concern is the satisfaction of our customers.”
“I’ve heard that you…” Selene searched for the right word, “service some very important people.”
“We cater to an elite clientele of wealthy gentlemen. Which reminds me, travel may be required. You have a passport, correct?”
“Good, now,” the woman was interrupted by a phone ringing in the lobby. She sighed and said to herself, “Where is that girl?” turning to Selene she continued, “We’ve had a turnover in staff. We’re restructuring the company.”
‘Restructuring the company,’ Selene thought nearly laughing out loud. She’d read in the newspaper that there had been a raid at a party. Several Belle Amie girls had been arrested.
Selene guessed that whoever ran Belle Amie was quietly calling in favors from their client list. Rumor had it, the list included the names of some powerful men: politicians, judges, CEOs. Selene feared Ethan’s name was not only on the client list, but that he may be involved in running the prostitution ring.
The phone continued chirping and the woman stood. “If you’ll excuse me.”
Selene listened as she left the room, walked down the hall and picked up the phone.
She jumped up and began rifling through the desk drawers finding nothing of interest.
Getting on the computer, she began opening files, hoping to come across something tying Belle Amie to Ethan.
One file caught her attention: it was full of spreadsheets listing payments to several companies titled: Chalet One, Cane Hotel, and Alone Tech. Selene had never heard of any of these businesses.
The spreadsheet showed profits in the last month for each company in the millions. Why did the names look suspicious to her? The sound of footsteps down the hall made Selene jump. She closed the files she was looking at and ran back to her seat.
When the woman entered she eyed Selene carefully. The woman was no fool. If she knew Selene had been rifling through Belle Amie’s finances she didn’t know what they would do to her.
The woman looked around the room: everything was in order. She sat down across from Selene and smiled. “Shall we continue?”
The interview went smoothly in spite of Selene’s nervousness. The woman seemed to have warmed up to her a bit at the end, Selene believed.
She was given her first assignment: a mansion in the hills. It involved a party and a gathering of wealthy men. Selene wasn’t sure what the job entailed. It didn’t matter to her; she had no intention of keeping the appointment.
Selene parted ways with Belle Amie, for what she hoped, was forever.
After a quick Google search of the companies mentioned on the spreadsheet yielded no results, Selene decided to act on a hunch. She picked up the phone and dialed Ethan’s office. Ms. Miller answered on the first ring.
“Mr. Cole’s office, state your business.”
Selene wanted to laugh at the stern old woman’s blunt way of answering the phone, but quickly decided it was a bad idea to invoke her wrath.
“Yes, Ms. Miller, this is Selene…”
“Mr. Cole is in unavailable at the moment.”
“Well actually, I was hoping to talk to you.”
There was a pause and then a reluctant, “Yes?”
“Mr. Cole- Ethan, wants to meet me at the Cane Hotel. I wanted to show up early and surprise him with- well, best not to go into the dirty details of our arrangement. Anyway, it seems I’ve misplaced the address. Could you tell me where it’s located?”
Her question was met with silence. “Miss Selene, what are you playing at?” Ms. Miller’s voice was ice cold.
Selene strained to keep her voice friendly. “I just want the address, Ms. Miller.”
“We both know there is no Cane Hotel. Does Mr. Cole know you’re snooping into his personal affairs? What am I saying? Of course he doesn’t. Why don’t I pull him out of that meeting and we’ll-”
Selene hung up the phone. She had confirmation: Ethan was involved with Cane Hotel. If you could believe Ms. Miller, and Selene did, this hotel didn’t exist.
Selene stared at a blank pad in front of her. She picked up a pen and wrote Cane Hotel, then Alone Tech and Chalet One. She stared at the paper, willing an answer to present itself.
The letters began to shift, reforming in her mind: lane cote, noel hat c… suddenly the phone rang. Selene felt as if she’d been on the verge of something, but she didn’t know what. Frustrated, she picked up the phone.
“Selene.” It was Ethan. Selene’s arms broke out in goose bumps. The first time they met she had a similar reaction, except now it was from fear. “I’m just returning your call. Is everything alright?”
“I thought you were in a meeting?”
“I was, it’s over.”
“That was fast, I just hung up with Ms. Miller.”
Ethan ignored her suspicious tone. “Look, why don’t you come over to the house? I have a surprise.”
“Uh, I’m busy.”
“I’ll come to you. It can’t wait.”
Selene could feel her heart pounding in her chest. “I don’t think-”
“I’ll see you in ten minutes.”
The phone went dead. Ten minutes, she thought. She wondered if she should leave. No, I’ll confront him, she resolved.
She put the phone down and began to rise when the pad of paper caught her attention: The Cane Hotel, Alone Tech, Chalet One. The answer flashed through her mind. It had been right in front of her all along: Ethan Cole. The companies were anagrams for Ethan’s name.
What was he doing, she wondered. Curiosity conquered her fear; Selene paced the room eager for his arrival.
When she opened the door on Ethan’s smiling face, she couldn’t help smiling back.
Selene was instantly anger with herself. At best, he was a liar and manipulator, at worst…
she wasn’t sure, but what she imagined scared her.
In spite of this, she couldn’t suppress her attraction to him. There was a tenderness to his expression Selene found endearing. Jekyll and Hyde, flashed through her mind and the smile vanished from her face.
“What’s wrong?” Ethan asked.
Selene shook her head dismissively. “Nothing.” She forced a ‘happy to see you,’
expression on her face and said, “Come in.”
Ethan beamed at her. How can he be so happy she wondered. She knew Ms. Miller would tell him she was asking about his dummy corporations. If he knew, and he must, he didn’t seem concerned. Unless he was playing his own game.
Ethan walked inside and set a brown bag down on the dining room table. Selene eyed it suspiciously. She decided to wait for him to speak. Instead of explaining, he grabbed her around the waist, pulled her close and kissed her.
He moved so quickly it startled her. Her whole body stiffened in his arms. Ethan looked concerned.
“What?” he asked. “Is something wrong?”
Selene was struck by how genuinely worried he looked. Is this the real Ethan, she wondered.
She didn’t respond to his question. Instead, she pressed her body against his and kissed him coquettishly. She nibbled on his bottom lip, then kissed his neck.
“You’re very strange today,” Ethan said with an awkward laugh.
“You have no idea.”
Selene bit his ear. Grabbing his tie she pulled him to the table. She sat on the edge and wrapped her legs around him.
She acted impulsively. Selene had noticed how after sex Ethan acted subdued and
vulnerable to suggestion. She believed sleeping with him would calm him, leaving him open to her questions. She needed honest answers about his involvement with Belle Amie, and if she was being totally honest with herself: she wanted to fuck him.
When she was alone with her thoughts Ethan seemed like a villain, a shadowy figure whose goals and agenda remained elusive and vaguely sinister. But standing here in front of her, he was charming and handsome.
The danger she associated with his life felt alluring. There was a part of her that felt shame over her desire for him. He was like a drug.
The image of Ethan’s wife lurking around a dark attic shot through Selene’s mind. She wondered if his wife had felt the same way when she met Ethan. What if her fate was Selene’s as well?
Selene tried not to let her pessimistic imagination ruin the moment. She laid down on the table, pulling Ethan on top of her.
He reached between them and unbuttoned her pants. She laid still; she liked it when he undressed her. He pulled her pants off her body, then flipped them over his shoulder like a matador.