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I suppose I should have found the wording of the contract reassuring, because it certainly indicated that everything was completely above board and the dark fears circling the back of my mind like a flock of black crows were groundless. Instead, a sense of unreality swept through me as I read back over the long list of terms I was agreeing to, tying my nervous stomach into a harder knot.
Desperation, I thought, looking up at the man seated across from me, was a hard task master--and destitution the equivalent of hell on earth because the fear of it was enough to make an ordinarily rational person, like myself, consider making a deal with the devil.
He didn't look like the devil. He looked like a completely ordinary mortal.
"Is there a problem?"
I cleared my throat, which felt as if it had closed together. "It says if I fail to ... uh ... fail to perform according to expectations, I can be terminated immediately without compensation."
He gave me an impatient look. "I explained that to you when you applied for the position. Would you like to go over everything again?"
He had. I'd just been too addled to really take it in, because from the moment I'd realized exactly what I was being hired to do my mind had gone perfectly blank.
I felt my face redden. "It's just ... does that mean if he isn't satisfied with my performance? Or, by fail, does it mean if I refused to do anything I'd agreed to do? I did mention that I hadn't actually done much of this before? A lot of these things, I mean. The things on the list aren't ... aren't really familiar to me, experience wise, so I couldn't really claim to be good at this."
Helooked a little uncomfortable. "That clause goes to willingness to perform the various ... acts that have been described. A refusal to do so upon demand would be a breach of contract, which would make all terms null and void. The client is aware of your relative inexperience."
I nodded at the clarification, though I didn't feel terribly reassured. I felt like kicking myself. The money being offered was staggering considering it was only for a six week stint. I wasn't stupid. I had known going in to the first interview that it had to be something really radical for them to be offering so much. Lying to myself wasn't going to change a thing. I'd suspected, just from the wording of the ad, in spite of how carefully it had been composed, that this was, in effect, sex for hire. As shocked and horrified as I'd been once everything had been baldly laid out for me, though, I hadn't gotten up and walked out. I'd stayed and listened to the entire spiel, and I'd allowed them to interview me. The list of 'requirements' was part of the initial interview.
They'd been very cool and professionally impersonal about it, but I'd cringed inside and stumbled over every answer.
I suppose I'd never really believed that they would actually offer the position to me. I was hardly sex goddess material, and I was certain my prudishness must be glaringly obvious, which would also make it evident that my knowledge and experience of the subject under discussion was practically nil.
I'd known before I'd even arrived for the interview, though, that I couldn't afford to turn it down, whatever it entailed--short of murder. I needed the money way too badly to worry about silly old things like pride or morals or even doing things I might not especially like. People who weren't facing disaster and starvation could afford to have principles. I couldn't.
"Whatever sexual acts requested' though--why, I wondered, would they have any interest in me? I'd seen the competition. Most of the other women had been younger than me--college age young, pretty, well built. A lot of them had had that 'road weary' look that proclaimed a vast deal of sexual experience, and I'd been sure one of them would be chosen. Why would they choose a 'ripe' tomato like me, who was not the least bit girlish in any way? I'd had two children, and I had the 'womanly' body to prove it. Sure I'd tried really hard to battle nature, because my husband--ex husband--had brow beat me about 'letting myself go' until I was terrified gaining five pounds would earn me the boot, but no amount of dieting or exercise could undo what carrying a baby for nine months could do to a body, let alone going through it twice.
Maybe it was the 'submissive' thing?
I was certainly used to being submissive, and I supposed that showed. I hadn't been terribly assertive before my marriage and, having been a total idiot and bound myself to a tyrant with serious control issues, the little assertiveness I'd had before had been crushed under his heavy hand.
Regardless, I still wasn't certain I could carry this off.
My ex was going to get my children, though, if I didn't come up with a lot of money fast, I reminded myself.
For them, I could be a tigress. I would be--a submissive one, granted, but the will to take this on, that was mine.
Smiling weakly, I took up the pen.
"If you decide to terminate the agreement at any time, you have that option, but the full payment will not be due to you. It will be prorated according to time put in."
I looked at him blankly.
"For instance, half if you only stay three weeks instead of the full six."
I nodded, dragging in a shaky breath. I could do this. I needed all the money.
When I'd signed it, he notarized the contract and got up to run off a copy for me. He handed me a card with an address on it after he'd handed me a copy. "You're to report to this address tomorrow morning."
I stared at the card, feeling faint that everything seemed to be moving so fast. "He didn't want to meet me first?"
"They," he corrected. "It was a group that selected this fantasy holiday. They were present at the interview, observing from the room adjoining, and selected you from among the other applicants."
"Group?" I asked weakly, feeling more faint. I wasn't certain what startled me more, the discovery that they'd been watching me while I was interviewed or the 'group' part. Actually, I was certain. It hadn't occurred to me, at all, that it would be a group. And that unnerved me a lot more than the fact that I'd been watched without my knowledge.
He gave me an irritated look. "Is that a problem?"
I swallowed with an effort. Safety was assured. I'd had a thorough health exam before I was even allowed to interview and the same was required of 'guests'. No one, least of all the company, wanted to have to face the unpleasant repercussions of a lawsuit. Moreover, I would be allowed to call it off at any point and a company representative would be checking in every other day to make certain none of the rules had been violated. It had to be voluntary. That was part of his--their--fantasy. "No," I said weakly, realizing that it had probably taken a group to fork out the money the company was asking for this arrangement plus the money I was getting.
"The money has already been deposited in a holding account. You'll be given the access number once you've completed the job. And, of course, if you decide to terminate early, the amount unearned will be removed from the account before you're given the number."
Dismissed, I had nothing to do but leave, but it took a supreme effort to push myself up from the chair. Wobbly kneed, completely addled by the thoughts rattling my brain, I stuffed the card and my copy of the contract into my purse and let myself out.
I sat staring into space for a while once I'd gotten into my car.
I'd just signed away six weeks of my life to play submissive sex toy to a 'group' of men I'd never even set eyes on.
Think positive, I told myself. Six weeks wasn't a lot when it meant at the end of it my troubles with my ex would be over.
I can do this, I told myself.
My mother was never going to know. All she knew at this point was that she was babysitting for six weeks so I could take a job that would guarantee I had the money to win my case and get custody of my children.
If I didn't freak and do anything stupid, nobody was ever going to know.