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Mara’s so angry now that she’s literally trembling as she pushes her chair out and stands.

“I found out because my manager at City Girls, Clarissa, spilled the beans. She said you’ve been stealing City Girls escorts to work as prostitutes for you. And the worst thing is that she’s right. You recently asked me to hostess at an upcoming Club Z event. That’s all I am to you, isn’t it? Property to generate money for your coffers.”

That’s not true at all. Well, some of it is true because at first, we were intent on recruiting Mara, but not anymore. We adore the curvy girl, and want to keep her for ourselves, but somehow, things got out of hand.

“Look, honey—” I begin, but Mara cuts me off.

“No, you look!” she screams. “You’ve been pushing my limits from the start and now I know why. We met in a private room. You brought your own champagne. And then you fucked me in the ass with your own dildo on our first date!” she shrieks. “Who does that? You’ve violated every rule that governs escorts, and you yourself run a sex club! Don’t you know how despicable that is?”

I bite my tongue.

“It is, honey. It is,” Clay says in a low raspy voice. “And we’re so sorry.”

But Mara cuts him off.

“Sorry doesn’t cut it!” she screams. “It was all to get me to this place, right? So that at the next Club Z event, I’d be nude and ready to fuck one of your clients for money. You’d get paid the big bucks while watching me get drilled by another man.”

Now that’s going too far.

“No, we weren’t thinking that,” I immediately state. “We weren’t going to share you with anyone.”

“Then what does being a hostess entail?” she wails. “You’re lying! I hate you both!”

Then, Mara turns and runs from the dining room, grabbing her purse on the way out. The front door slams as she exits, and my brother and I are left with the remains of our steaming spaghetti dinner.

“Should we follow her?” my brother asks into the silence.

I shake my head, cursing our actions. “No. She needs time and space.”

“We can’t lose her,” he replies in a low voice.

I nod, unable to say anything more because I don’t want to lose Mara, either. But how do we explain what happened? After all, in the beginning, yes, we were intent on recruiting her to join our stable of girls. But now, we’ve lost something much more precious: the woman we love.



* * *

It’s been a miserable week, and I turn over in bed, my eyelids glued shut from dried tears. I can’t believe that just seven days ago, I was living in a dreamland while sleeping with the twins every night. I literally thought I was in a relationship with Casper and Clay when the whole time, they were playing me. They were grooming me to work for them, with the added caveat that I’d have sex with other men. The thought makes me nauseous and I lean over and vomit in the trash can next to my small bed.

It stinks in my apartment from the puke, but it doesn’t matter. No one’s going to visit, and I haven’t left my place since I got back after that failed dinner. The memory makes me nauseous again, and sure enough, another stream of bile shoots out, hitting the metal garbage can with a disgusting splatter.

I heave a big breath. Why is this happening? But it’s all too clear because my hand falls to the tiny bump my stomach. I’m still expecting the twins’ baby, even if they betrayed me. A child is growing inside me and suddenly tears spring to my eyes as I say a mental hello. Even if its parents are totally screwed up, I still want him or her to be okay.

Slowly, I heave myself out of bed. I need to take care of my son or daughter, and that means getting some food into my stomach. Stumbling, I make my way to the closet and slip into a long jacket that hopefully hides the stains on my sweats. Then, I shuffle down the stairs of my apartment building before stepping outside.

Bright sunlight makes me squint and shade my eyes, but oddly, New York still seems the same. People still speed walk down the sidewalks, as dogs do their business on the lone tree at the corner. Someone honks their horn angrily, only to be greeted with curses. Oh yes, New York City is the same.

The bell on the door of Sixth Avenue Espresso dings when I push it open, and thankfully, it’s empty. There’s just a single barista dressed in a black apron leaning against the counter while playing on her phone. She looks up as I approach and hastily puts the phone down. Hmm, do I know her from somewhere? Her soft features seem somewhat familiar.

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