So, the experiment is over. Soon, I’ll release the full novella, ‘Paid Companion’. I can’t lie– it was stressful. I may have some strengths, but discipline is sadly not among them, so it was a struggle writing on a weekly schedule. I considered writing all ten chapters at once but that seemed like cheating, so I only wrote this story when it was speaking to me, and that meant there were a couple of weeks when chapters weren’t posted . But here it is … the last installment I will post before the novella is released. I hope you enjoy. And if this is the first time you’re hearing of this, jump on over to Wattpad to check out the other 9 chapters.
Miami, FL, 6:16 p.m.
Kevin watched as Lia browsed the aisles of the souvenir shop, pausing occasionally to look at one of the tchotchkes, or brightly-colored t-shirts, the assorted landscapes with poor attempts at depicting the Biscayne Bay sunset. After dashing from the bar to Blake’s SUV which was parked at the dock, they sat in the muggy confines of the vehicle, both of them silent for a moment until Lia finally looked at him.
The way she asked the question made Kevin’s dick twitch. Something between them had been stripped away since their conversation over alligator nuggets and beer. Now there was no longer any pretense that they had any business being back on the mainland, except that Kevin wanted to spend some time with her. That knowledge hummed and buzzed between them as they sat there in the warm, stuffiness of Blake’s luxury vehicle.
Want to see a little bit of Miami? Kevin asked her.
Yeah, Lia said. And maybe get some cool stuff for a couple of my friends.
So he took her to the first souvenir shop he spotted, one of those brightly-lit, garishly decorated places that featured garments in every pastel shade known to mankind, sunglasses, flip-flops and knick-knacks so cheap that once packed, they sometimes didn’t even make it home without damage or destruction. But Lia seemed to be loving it. The cornier the item, the longer she lingered in front of it. So far she had a figurine of a frog sunning himself under an umbrella, an alligator grinning either mischievously (or menacingly; Kevin couldn’t decide) and two hollow yellow cans that purported to contain “pure, unpasteurized Florida sunshine”.
Pausing in front of a row of pink tank tops with cartoonish pictures of coconuts strategically placed over the breast area, Lia grabbed one and showed it to him, grinning.
“This is just the kitschiest thing ever,” she said. And then after a moment’s hesitation, she dropped that into her basket as well.
“You do realize you’re wasting your money, right?”
“I do,” she answered evenly.
“Okay.” He shook his head in amusement.
“You know how they say, ‘it’s the thought that counts’?” Lia asked, resuming her stroll along the aisle. “It’s true. No one’s going to care about this stuff. I know that. But they’ll care that while I was away, I thought of them.”
“Yeah, I get it. It’s just …” He broke off, deciding not to speculate on her financial situation. But it was just that he’d gotten the impression that the money for this gig wasn’t inconsequential for her.
“It’s worth it, believe me,” she said, as though she’d read his mind. “Most of this junk is for my best friend Steph. She’s two lampshades away from being a hoarder and if I go anyplace and come back without a whole bunch of crap to feed her habit, she’ll never speak to me again.”
Kevin smiled again, but didn’t comment, contenting himself with hanging back and watching the rhythmic sway of her walk. She was a tiny, little thing, with a backside he would describe as ‘pert’. On the boat earlier that afternoon, he’d made a point of not looking at it too often, of not looking at her too often. His cousins Kim and Tanya were hawk-eyed about stuff like that and if he’d so much as glanced in Lia’s direction one time too many, they wouldn’t have been too shy about calling him out on it.
And that’s why he’d made this little deal with Blake who had his own reasons for wanting to sneak back to the mainland for at least one day during their little family vacation.
A’ight, Blake said when he asked for the favor. You got first, but on Wednesday you’re helping me cook up a reason to take off on my own.
On his own was not strictly accurate. Blake had an agenda and it most definitely did not include being ‘on his own’. It was only a matter of time before that whole situation blew up in all of their faces but that was Blake’s concern. Kevin’s only concern at the moment was about five-foot three and walking a few paces ahead of him.
Finally, after another aimless few minutes, Lia was done, and Kevin trailed her to the cashier and waited while she dumped all her selections onto the conveyor belt. When it was all said and done, she had racked up just over sixty dollars’ worth of nonsense. Just as she was about to dig into her purse, Kevin reached over her and handed the cashier his credit card. Lia didn’t do that thing that most other chicks would have done and pretended to resist; instead she tilted her head back and grinned at him like a kid who had just been handed an ice cream cone.
“Thank you,” she said.
Heading back out to the car, parked at the curb, Lia at his side swinging the Pepto-Bismol pink plastic bag from the store, Kevin realized he didn’t have much of a plan. Getting her away from the family and alone—that had been his plan. Beyond that, he had nothing. And as far as “seeing” Miami? He couldn’t think of what to show her, and couldn’t be less in the mood for sightseeing.
Then he remembered—there was one place he definitely wanted her to see.
“This is yours?”
When they pulled up, the house seemed modest, quaint, even to him. It was a small bungalow, almost obscured by mangroves, painted a soft creamy, off-white, with a slate roof. A row of shuttered windows, Caribbean-style, lined the front, broken only by a single, red wooden door in the center.
“Yeah,” Kevin said, reveling in the look of wonder and pleasure on Lia’s face. “C’mon lemme show you inside.”
The entire house was comprised of only three rooms. The living area was wide and seemed expansive because of the lack of real furniture, except for a sectional that lined one wall, and the hammocks that hung from the wooden beams above. Colorful raffia rugs covered the tiled floor. An arched doorway to the left led to the kitchen, and one to the right led to the bathroom. But what had drawn Lia’s attention, as Kevin knew it would, was the rear wall of the house. Because it wasn’t a wall at all. It was a row of French doors, all of which he unlocked and flung open revealing the true secret of the house, which was that it was built on the beach, only steps away from the blue, blue water.
“You know,” Lia said finally, ‘This is wildly impractical.”
Kevin laughed out loud. He would have expected nothing less from her.
Then she turned to face him, shaking her head. “It’s also the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen,” she added.”
“I dreamt it,” Kevin confessed. “One night when I was in college, I dreamed about a house like this. And I promised myself I would build it one day.”
“You built this?”
“Well. Not me. Not literally. I had it built.”
Lia stood at one of the French doors, her hand resting on it as she stared out at the water, her expression dreamy.
“Took a while before I could find someone who would actually do it,” he continued, feeling like he was babbling to fill the silence. “Because, yeah, it is impractical. Even though we’re on the leeward side, if there’s hurricane, then …”
“There was a hurricane. There are always hurricanes. How does this house withstand all that?”
“It survives,” Kevin said nodding. “It takes on a little water, but … it still stands.”
While he talked, Lia slid off her sandals and headed out onto the sand. He watched her as she made her way closer to the water, scoring lines in the sand with her big toes as she went. From behind she looked even more diminutive. Suddenly, she turned and looked at him.
“Is this beach private?” she asked.
Kevin shrugged. “More or less.”
Lia turned to face the water again and began peeling off her clothes. Kevin watched, transfixed as each piece was removed, not even blinking. He waited until she was down to her bra and underwear before he could even swallow, and when he did, it felt like he had a golf ball in this throat.
He kept trying to talk himself out of his attraction for this woman, listing in his head all the ways she was different from the usual women he was drawn to—Afro-Cubans with long, thick, lustrous dark hair, curvy but slender bodies, formidable breasts. Lia had none of those things, and yet he was finding it more and more difficult to keep his eyes off her whenever she was around.
Bringing her here was even more out of character. This was his sanctuary; the home he had chosen to make for himself when the old man had doled out the resources for each of his kids to buy a home. Blake chose to buy himself the bachelor pad, Nicki had saved her money until she decided to settle in the DC area and bought a house in Chevy Chase, and he had chosen to build this little bungalow, a place few people had been privy to.
And yet he wanted to bring Lia, this woman he barely knew and had helped hire to be Blake’s woman. As if that whole situation wasn’t ridiculous enough, now he had spirited her away for … what he didn’t even quite know.
“You coming?” Lia looked over her shoulder again. “We probably don’t have much time before it starts raining again.”
She was right. The sky was still dark, and weather pattern moving through was not quite done with the Miami area. But Kevin stripped down anyway, until he was in his boxer briefs, and walked out onto the sand to join her. Lia turned to face him when he was next to her, and they looked at each other. As if by prior agreement, they closed the space between them and Lia’s head fell back so she could look at him.
“You are so short,” he teased.
She smiled, and rose a little on her toes. “Better?”
“Nah,” he said. “Not yet.” And then he reached down, cupping her ass with both hands, and lifting her up.
Lia squealed, and on instinct, wrapped her legs around his hips and her arms up and around his neck. Now they were face to face. Kevin felt the rise and fall of her chest against his, and another rise, lower, at his groin.
“This is better,” he said before he kissed her.
But Lia was not one to passively ‘be kissed’. She was an active participant, her hands roaming his jaw, the back of his neck, the top of his head. She moaned and leaned into the kiss, her lips and tongue playing enthusiastically with his.
When their lips finally parted, Kevin’s dick was like a steel rod that was maddeningly close, but far away, from where it wanted to be.
“Y’know what?” Lia spoke against his neck, her lips soft and her breath warm but making him shiver. “I really like your whole family. But I’m pretty sure you’re my favorite.”
“You’re silly,” he said turning his head and kissing her again. “And you’re a liar. You don’t like my whole family.”
Lia pulled back. “Yes I do!” Then a smile crossed her full lips. “Okay, yeah, Kim and Tanya are pretty unbearable. But everyone else, I …”
He kissed her once more, his hands on her ass gripping tighter to prevent himself from grinding against her like a horny schoolboy. After a moment, he felt Lia’s legs slacken like she wanted to be let down, so he obliged, gradually releasing his hold on her ass so she could slide back down and onto her feet.
Once she was standing again, she looked up at him, that little sly smile of hers still on her face.
“We’re really good at that together, huh?”
Yeah. They were.
Lia lifted an eyebrow.
“Oh, I thought that was a rhetorical question,” he said, pulling her close against him again. “Yeah. We’re good at that together.”
But as he leaned in, Lia braced her palms against his chest. “Since we have to head back soon, I want to do something real quick before we go.”
“I don’t know if can promise it’ll be ‘real quick’,” Kevin joked.
Lia slapped him on the chest and rolled her eyes. “I don’t mean that. C’mon, lemme show you.”
She dragged him back toward the house and picked up her hobo-style purse from where she’d dropped it by the door, fishing out a Ziploc bag and a small sketchpad.
“The sun’s going to set soon,” she said. “I want to draw you. Sitting right there, by the doors, looking out at the sea.”
He didn’t know why, but the suggestion moved him. Kevin submitted when Lia led him by hand to the French doors, and directed him to sit on the steps that led out onto the beach. She arranged him so he was in semi-profile, one leg almost extended, foot resting on the steps, the other pulled up, knee almost to his chest, his arm resting along it. It was the way he might naturally have sat—and probably had in the past—if he was alone here and just contemplating life, looking out at the water.
He glanced back at Lia, who had perched herself in one of the hammocks, and had taken out a charcoal to begin working.
“Don’t look at me,” she instructed. “Look out there.”
“Yes ma’am. How long is this going to take? I can’t sit still for long.”
“You don’t have to sit completely still. Just don’t move from that pose.” Her voice already sounded distracted, and Kevin heard the vague scratching of charcoal against paper.
Outside, the rain began again. They hadn’t made it into the water, but he was still in his underwear and Lia in hers. Their clothes were on the beach, getting soaked through. He considered telling Lia that, but didn’t want to wreck her creative groove. And besides, they wouldn’t be any drier if he went to get them now.
“It feels weird just sitting here while you stare at me,” he admitted.
“I’m not ‘staring’, I’m studying. And you don’t need to just sit there, you can talk to me.”
“What would you like me to talk about?”
“Anything you want,” she said, her voice still dreamy.
“Yeah, but what do you want me to talk about?” he said, still teasing her.
“I want you to talk about why you have a different name from your siblings,” she said.
Kevin froze. He contemplated.
It wasn’t something they talked about outside the family. Hell, it wasn’t even talked about inside the family. Spilling it to a virtual stranger was risky, even if that stranger had signed a non-disclosure agreement. But the words ‘stranger’ and ‘Lia’ didn’t go together. She didn’t feel like a stranger, she felt like a ‘familiar’.
And even more curious, he wanted to tell her.
“Okay,” he said finally. “I can talk about that.”
Kevin took a deep breath, and began.