Mistresses: In His Bed: The Billionaire's Trophy / Strictly Temporary / Whose Bed Is It Anyway?. Robyn Grady
The girls on my books are educated middle-class young women, who want to make a decent income. Some of them are paying their way through college…’
‘I’m not condemning their choices, I’m only saying that it’s not a choice I would make,’ Emmie declared, lifting her head high and wondering why she was feeling so guilty and ungrateful. ‘Will you take down that photo right now, please?’
‘You’re making such a fuss about nothing,’ Odette complained. ‘You wouldn’t think twice about posting that photo on one of those social networking sites you use—’
‘That’s different. You must take that photo down and remove any mention of me from the site,’ Emmie reiterated. ‘Whether you accept it or not, being associated with an escort site is damaging to my reputation, and have you even thought about what it could do to Saffy’s reputation? The embarrassment this could cause her?’
‘What the heck has Saffy got to do with this?’ her mother demanded tartly.
‘My face is her face, or have you forgotten that we’re identical twins?’ Emmie retorted impatiently, wishing the older woman would stop trying to play dumb when she was as wily as a box of ferrets. ‘Saffy would go spare about this if she found out—’
Odette was unmoved. ‘And why should that bother you? She’s already made a fortune out of her face and body. She’s got a lot more wit than you have but, let’s face it, according to what Topsy has told me, you and your twin are not exactly close.’
Emmie stiffened at that reference to her youngest sister, who had taken to occasionally visiting their mother and had no doubt innocently let slip personal details that Odette would happily use against her daughters if it suited her to do so. ‘Saffy and I may not be close but I wouldn’t do anything to harm her or her career,’ she proffered tautly. ‘And I certainly wouldn’t want to embarrass her the way I was embarrassed when someone showed me my photo on your website today. I’m really upset about this—please tell me you’ll take the photo down now…’
Odette expelled her breath on an irritable hiss, her annoyance palpable. ‘I will—if it really means that much to you—’
‘It does. Thank you,’ Emmie pronounced stiltedly, realising in frustration that she had said nothing that she intended to say and that once again Odette had contrived to talk her down and act as the victim rather than the perpetrator. Her mother had not even apologised for stealing that photo and using it on her website, she reflected in frustration as she walked towards her bedroom to get changed for her shift at the café where she worked weeknights. But then, another voice reminded her grimly, she could not really afford to have a no-holds-barred row with her mother while Odette was allowing her to occupy her spare room. Accepting favours always came with a price.
‘Unfortunately, it’s no longer quite as simple as that,’ Odette remarked softly.
Emmie spun round in confusion. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘I’ve already taken a booking for you—’
Emmie was stunned into momentary silence. ‘How can you have taken a booking for me when I don’t work as an escort for you?’ she asked drily.
‘The client offered me so much money, I agreed,’ her mother admitted without shame or embarrassment. ‘I need the money and, let’s be frank, so do you.’
‘Well, you’re just going to have to give the money right back again!’ Emmie shot back at her mother in angry disbelief. ‘I’m not for hire!’
‘He’s a businessman. He sent a contract over by courier and I signed it on your behalf—’
‘But that can’t be legally binding when I don’t work for you!’ Emmie protested.
‘How are you going to prove that you don’t work for me when your profile is on the website?’ Odette enquired dulcetly.
At that suggestion of outright blackmail, Emmie went rigid. ‘It’s nothing to do with me. Return his money—’
Odette pushed her laptop aside and stood up. ‘It’s not that simple. I had outstanding bills and I’ve paid them. There’s still a healthy cut of that money set aside for you—’
‘I don’t want it!’ Emmie flung back at her furiously. ‘I’m not going to be forced into acting as an escort so that you can make money out of me…It’s not going to happen!’
‘But I have no way of paying the money back,’ her mother declared.
‘That’s not my problem,’ Emmie stated curtly. ‘Although I had no idea you had financial problems—’
‘It’s a tough world out there and an escort is a luxury. This guy’s young, rich and handsome, so you can’t complain on that score,’ Odette told her with derision.
‘I don’t care…I’m not doing it, not for you, not for anyone!’
‘Let me tell you just how much he was willing to pay to take you abroad for a weekend,’ Odette urged thinly and she mentioned a figure of thousands of pounds that shocked Emmie rigid, for there was a much greater sum of money involved than she could ever have imagined.
‘Odette…’ Emmie said shakily. ‘It doesn’t matter what he paid you or what you signed. You can’t sell me or my time like a product. I’m not for sale, and after the number of arguments we’ve had on this subject, I can’t believe that you went ahead and accepted a booking for me knowing how I felt about the idea.’
The older woman settled icy blue eyes on her defiant daughter. ‘You owe me, Emmie, and I intend to collect.’
‘How do I owe you?’ Emmie prompted painfully. ‘You never bothered with me from the age of twelve. You never visited or wrote or phoned or even paid towards my upkeep—’
‘I had a hard time surviving. And you were all quite happy living with your sister, Kat,’ Odette argued tautly. ‘But when it really mattered, I was still there for you—’
Emmie’s facial muscles were locked tight with self-discipline. ‘And when was that?’
‘When you needed surgery for your damaged leg. When you were desperate to walk again, I came through for you,’ her mother declared impressively.
Emmie was knocked sideways by that announcement. ‘You’re saying that you paid for the surgery I had on my leg?’ She gasped in shock.
‘Where did you think Kat got the money from?’ her mother enquired drily.
Emmie was too distraught at what she had been told to continue reasoning with her unrepentant parent. She changed for her shift at the café and went to work in a daze. Was it true that Odette had paid for her surgery? It was a supreme irony that as a teenager it had not even occurred to Emmie to wonder where her oldest sister, Kat, had got the cash to pay for Emmie’s private surgery abroad. Even though Emmie was now in her twenties it had never occurred to her to ask, an oversight that now struck her as unforgivably obtuse and selfish. Emmie knew how much that surgery had meant to her at the time, how desperately she had craved the normality and the independence of no longer needing assistance in almost everything she did. She was dumbfounded by the assurance that her mother had paid to make her deepest wish come true.
While she served meals and drinks that evening, her mind was lost on another plane. Her sister, Saffy, had never overcome her guilt that she had not been injured in that same crash and she had been fiercely protective of her injured twin in the aftermath. Saffy had never understood that the continual presence of her physical perfection and glowing health had only made Emmie all the more aware of what she had lost. Emmie’s teenaged experience of infirmity had been wretched and she had often been depressed. People had continually looked away from the awkward gait caused by her disability, embarrassed by her, embarrassed for her, pitying, avoiding her as if her brain might be as damaged as her body. At the same time Saffy, blonde, beautiful, sporty and gregarious, had been the most popular