Robin Danner, Pepper Espinoza, Lisa Marie
Rebecca eyed her bank statement with disgust. The low numbers made her stomach clench. She didn’t understand. Hadn’t she just deposited her paycheck three days before? Wasn’t she working two jobs? The balance hovered just above zero, mocking her and her efforts. Rebecca put in a full forty-hour week as a bank teller and another ten to twenty hours as a server for a high-end catering service, but she still hemorrhaged money.
“I’m going to have to ask for more gigs,” she muttered.
This was an option she had not exercised previously, and she wasn’t thrilled about being forced into it now. But if she wanted to make extra cash, the Christmas season was the time to do it. Everybody, from directors to movie stars to lowly assistants, was throwing lavish parties in downtown LA and Beverly Hills, and they all called on the catering services of her employer, Star Parties.
Rebecca flipped through her cell phone’s address book until she found Mike Sinclair’s phone number. She knew from experience he would be more than accommodating, but it still rankled. Wasn’t working fifty hours a week enough? Wasn’t she allowed to sleep and relax and have fun?
“Star Parties, Mike speaking.”
“Mike, hi, it’s Rebecca.”
“Rebecca! I was just about to call you. Or have Shelly call you, at least.”
“Oh?” Rebecca didn’t regret missing the chance to talk to Mike’s mousy assistant.
“How would you like guaranteed jobs for the remainder of the holiday season? I’m talking on a nightly basis here,” Mike said, his voice loud and buoyant.
“What’s the catch?” Rebecca asked, on her guard.
He laughed. “You know me too well, sweetheart. You know Jeff?”
“Jeff the bartender?” Rebecca had worked with him a few times. She didn’t know him personally, but she knew his type. Smarmy, arrogant, cocky, he was a spoiled kid with a pretty face from a wealthy family.
“The very one. It seems he went and got himself in a spot of trouble. His license has been suspended.”
Rebecca blinked. “Well, that’s awful for him, but I don’t know what it has to do with me.”
“Jeff is going to need help getting to gigs. You know he’s our most popular bartender. People request him specifically when they call Star Parties.”
It wasn’t hard to imagine why. Most of their clients were older women planning posh soirees and huge bashes to impress their husbands’ business associates and their fellow soccer moms. Jeff had a certain charm and he worked hard for his tips.
“Why doesn’t he just hire a limo or take a taxi or something?”
“We both agree that it would be best for business if he rode with one of the servers.”
“And I’m the lucky girl?”
“You’ve got the most reliable transportation and you live near him. I’m willing to pay for the extra work.”
“Um, what if I don’t want to be his personal driver?” Rebecca asked, not thrilled with the opportunity. Money was nice, but really, why couldn’t Jeff take a taxi?
“It might be more difficult to find jobs for you.”
Rebecca sighed, weighing her options. Work every night or don’t work at all. Put in the most basic terms, it was an easy decision. “When do I start?”
Well, she thought, it’s a good thing I don’t have any plans. Not that she ever had plans anymore.
“Get a pen, I’ll tell you his address and the time he’s expecting you.”
“Yes, sir,” she muttered.
Rebecca scrawled the address across the back of a grocery store receipt and punctuated it with a sad little frowning face.
“No later than six,” Mike told her.
“Hey, Rebecca, thanks. We really appreciate it.”
“You know me, I aim to please.” She hung up before he could rope her into some other distasteful job or errand.
Six? That barely gave her an hour to get ready. Rebecca hung her uniform in the bathroom to let the steam smooth the wrinkles, before turning the water as hot as it would go. She stripped, stepping under the punishing spray with a gasp. It shocked and burned and exhilarated her.
Rebecca pushed the hair out of her face, reveling in the scorching water. Her skin turned red, her back stung, her muscles tightened, and the water pounded like her heart around her. Caught up in the astonishing sensation, her skin and flesh stimulated and tight, she forgot about the night ahead, focusing instead on the thrill of pleasure that raced with her blood.
Her hand moved between her thighs, and her finger brushed against her clit, but she resisted the temptation. Not only did she not have the time to do it properly, she resented the fact that she didn’t have anybody to do it for her.
“I need a fuck buddy,” Rebecca announced to the walls. Her voice echoed off the tiles, amplified. “And the neighbors probably didn’t need to know that,” she added.
Rebecca turned the hot water down, letting the cold water cool her skin and blood. No time for fuck buddies, no time for boyfriends, no time for relationships, no time to touch herself. Not anymore. “And probably not ever again,” she sighed, as she lathered her hair with shampoo.
Ten minutes later, she emerged from the steamy bathroom to dry herself, checking the clock obsessively as time marched forward. Twenty minutes after that, she pulled on her uniform, offering a silent prayer of thanks that it didn’t need to be dry-cleaned. Fifteen minutes later, she sat outside of Jeff’s apartment building, trying to brace herself for his winning personality.
Rebecca could understand Jeff’s appeal. He had a striking, memorable face and an easy-going smile. He charmed people with sly grins, twinkling green eyes and a flop of black hair that always fell over his left eye, no matter how many times he pushed it back. He wore nice clothes. He smelled good.
Not that she got close enough to smell him.
Sometimes, when they passed each other in a tight hallway or a small kitchen, she noticed that he smelled like gingersnaps and man. She didn’t know how else to describe it, and she didn’t like to ruminate on it. But she would have plenty of time to analyze his grooming habits as she chauffeured him all over the Greater Los Angeles area.
Rebecca watched him as he walked out of the building, scanning the area for her car. He knew his appeal, of course, and he took advantage of it. She witnessed him charm women out of more than just their money, and they always came back for more. She honked her horn to get his attention. He waved and trotted over.
“Hey,” he greeted, opening the door.
“Hey.” She waited until he buckled up to start the car. “Where are we going tonight?”
“Up Mulholland. I’ve been there before, I’ll tell you the way.” He smiled and turned on the radio. “It’ll be a nice party.”
Rebecca watched, annoyed, as he fidgeted with the dials. Biting her tongue, waiting until he settled on a station before commenting. Why did he think he had the right to fuck around with her radio? Wasn’t it the driver’s decision?
“There we go,” he said with satisfaction. She didn’t recognize the song, but it already irritated her. Loud and obnoxious, she didn’t need the extra distraction.
“Great.” She pushed in a CD with a smile. “That’s better.”
“Hey, I was listening to that.”
“So? You can’t just turn it off…”
“It’s my car, Jeff. I can do what I want.” Rebecca signaled and pulled onto the busy road, sliding her car smoothly into the traffic.
“Who is this, anyway?”
She looked sideways at him, watching as he opened her glove compartment and started rummaging through the contents. “Wilco. And close that.”
“Wilco? Never heard of them.”
“So? What’s your point?”
“I’m just saying is all. What kind of music do they play?”
“Alternative?” Jeff shook his head. “I don’t like most alternative stuff. Most of it is annoying and pretentious.”
“Well, thanks for sharing your opinion. I’m truly a better person for hearing it.”
“Hey, no problem.”
Sighing, Rebecca tapped on her brake. She’d known traffic wouldn’t be good, but this was worse than she expected. She stopped at a green light, unable to push into the crowded intersection.
“Why don’t you just go for it?” Jeff asked.
“Because there’s no room.”
“So there’s no room.”
“It doesn’t stop these other people.”
“And that’s how accidents happen. I don’t need to get broadsided today, thank you,” Rebecca snapped.
“People don’t like to sit at a green light,” he told her. To punctuate his point, the guy behind them laid on his horn. “See?”
“Tough shit,” Rebecca muttered. The light turned yellow, then red. “See? I would have been stuck in the middle of the intersection.”
“They would have waited until you got through.”
“Right, like they could even see my little car in those fucking SUVs.”
“This is going to take forever,” Jeff said, rolling down the window.
“Why don’t you drive if you have a problem?” Rebecca smirked. “Oh, wait…”
“Look, I’m not happy about this either. Do you think I like having my license suspended? I have a life, you know.”
“Oh, boo-fucking-hoo. Like I don’t have a life? Like I’ve got nothing to do except haul your ungrateful ass around?” Rebecca asked, as she gunned it through the intersection. “I didn’t ask for this you know. I didn’t call Mike and say, ‘Hey, got an obnoxious jerk I can chauffeur?’”
“You think I’m an obnoxious jerk?”
Rebecca regretted her outburst at his hurt question. She didn’t normally call obnoxious jerks ‘obnoxious jerks’ to their faces. But she didn’t appreciate his nagging, and there was an Expedition right on her ass, its headlights blinding her.
“Because,” he said, cutting her off, “I didn’t request an annoying bitch.”
Rebecca slammed on her brakes, pulled hard to the right, cutting off another Expedition, and pulled into a Stater Bros parking lot.
“Hey, what are you…?”
“Did you just call me a bitch?”
Rebecca shut off the engine before turning to face him. “Did you just call me a bitch? Get the fuck out of my car.”
“Rebecca, look, you can’t kick me out.”
“Get the fuck out of my car. Right now.”
“We have to be at the party in less than an hour,” Jeff reminded her. “Mike will be pissed if we’re late.”
“Oh, I’m not going to be late. I’ll be right on time. Now get out of my car.”
“Fine, but who will get fired when I don’t show? Probably the person responsible for getting me there.”
“Take a fucking cab. Like a normal person. What? Are you too good for taxis? Then hire a limo. Not my problem.”
Jeff put his hands up in surrender. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I know. Look, I’ll level with you, OK?”
“The clock is ticking,” Rebecca said. “It’ll probably take at least twenty minutes to get a cab over here for you.”
“Rebecca … Mike and I decided it would be best if people, you know, didn’t know about this…”
“What do you mean?” Rebecca asked, curious despite herself.
“It won’t look good for me or for the company if people realize I don’t have my license … especially if they find out it’s because I have a DUI,” he admitted.
Rebecca gaped. “A DUI? What the fuck were you thinking?”
“I know. I know. It was stupid. I’m never going to do it again. But until this gets straightened out, I should keep as low a profile as possible. I need your help,” Jeff explained. He smiled, looking at her through his long lashes. “Please? You’re the only sober person I know.”
“Why should I help you? I mean yeah, I get some extra money, but come on… You hardly deserve it,” Rebecca said, undermining herself by turning the key in the ignition.
His smile widened. “I know I’m not worth it. I’m shit.”
“Just … don’t talk again, OK? Keep your mouth shut until I need the directions.”
“And especially keep your mouth shut about my driving.”
Rebecca sighed. “Why do I have the feeling I’m going to come to regret not kicking you out of the car when I had the chance?”
Jeff shrugged, keeping his mouth shut, his lips compressed.
“Hold on,” she said, as she pulled into traffic. “It might be a bumpy ride.”
* * * *
Rebecca lifted a tray of hors d'oeuvres, balancing it on the heel of her hand. Girls bustled around her, dropping off empty trays and picking up fresh ones. They laughed and called out to each other, but Rebecca was focused on her task. She had to concentrate, otherwise, her mind would drift to Jeff.
“I saw that you arrived with Jeff,” Nancy said from behind her.
Rebecca spun around, nearly dumping the expensive caviar onto the floor. “What?”
“You and Jeff. What’s up with that?” Her friend smirked. “I didn’t think he was your type.”
“Oh, really?” Rebecca asked the tall brunette. “What’s my type?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never actually seen you with a man. For all I know, you’re a dyke.”
Rebecca rolled her eyes. “I’ve got work to do.”
“Hey, don’t be snippy with me.” Nancy grabbed her own tray, but she didn’t step out of Rebecca’s way. “I just want to know if something’s going on between the two of you.”
“Me and Jeff? No. I just drove him as a favor. Come on, get out of the way.” Rebecca tried to side-step, but Nancy moved with her.
“Why are you in such a hurry? Those porkers can wait a few more minutes for more food. Now, I want to talk about Jeff.”
Rebecca lowered her tray to the table, defeated. “What about Jeff?”
Nancy smiled. “Is he any good?”
Rebecca shook her head. “What?”
“You know, is he any good? He looks like he might be dynamite in bed…”
Rebecca rubbed her eyes. “I told you, there’s nothing between us. I just did him a favor. It’s not a big deal.”
Nancy arched an eyebrow. “OK, fine. Maybe you haven’t, but don’t you want to?”
“Not even a little bit?”
“No!” Rebecca lowered her voice. “Did anybody else see us together?”
“Why do you care if nothing’s going on?” Nancy asked.
“That’s precisely why I care. I don’t want everybody here getting the wrong idea about us,” Rebecca explained.
“No, I don’t think anybody else saw.”
“Great, now come on before people start missing us. They might not need the appetizers, but they sure get grumpy when we’re slow.”
Rebecca followed Nancy out of the kitchen to the party. She plastered a large smile to her face and began to circulate around the room. There were many familiar and famous faces. Faces that would make her heart stop and her palms sweaty under any other circumstances. The first thing she learned on the job was that celebrities didn’t like to be gawked at or reminded they are celebrities at parties. Especially by the staff.
Distracted by her own traitorous thoughts, and Nancy’s as well, she didn’t care who was eating caviar from her plate. Even if nobody else saw them arrive together, she knew Nancy couldn’t keep the fact to herself. Rebecca imagined that every server there had already heard that the two of them were having hot, wild monkey sex.
Which was completely unthinkable. Ridiculous, even.
As Rebecca passed the bar, Jeff caught her eye and smiled. It wasn’t a friendly how-are-you-smile, or a passing acknowledgement. The smile reached his eyes. It seemed like they were sharing a secret, or a joke. A joke that only two people on the planet would understand. She paused for a moment, caught off-guard, returning the smile despite herself.
The second passed and a woman with bright, white teeth caught his attention and ordered a champagne cocktail. Rebecca shook her head, moving again. He probably wasn’t even smiling at her anyway. She wouldn’t be surprised to discover that a leggy blonde had been standing behind her shoulder the entire time.
Rebecca’s forced grin widened and she pushed him out of her mind. It would be a long night even without Jeff serving as a constant distraction.
* * * *
Rebecca limped out of the kitchen, holding her shoes in one hand and her purse in the other, in search of Jeff. The final drunk guest had just staggered out the door. Rebecca had helped clean the kitchen and load the van, bitterly noting that Jeff was nowhere to be seen. She couldn’t help but hope that he had found his own way home, but, after everybody left, she could hear him outside of the kitchen, laughing.
He wasn’t at the bar like she expected. Annoyed, she followed the sound of his voice to the library. Rebecca found him sitting on the couch with a vaguely familiar blonde, laughing and joking, her hand on his leg, and his arm across her shoulders.
Rebecca leaned against the door jam, folding her arms. Neither one of them noticed her, too engrossed in each other. She checked her watch. Just shy of three in the morning, and it felt like it. Her feet and back ached, her head throbbed, and her gritty eyes longed for sleep.
The blonde’s giggle was like shards of glass piercing her brain.
“Jeff?” She said, as she stepped into the room. “Does this mean you don’t want to come home with me?”
Jeff looked up, startled. “Oh, Rebecca. I was just talking to…”
“Sindy. With an S,” the blonde said with a wide smile.
“Nice to meet you Sindy with an S.” Rebecca smiled sweetly. “Did you enjoy the party?”
“Oh, yes, it was wonderful. Did you see Martin Sheen was here?”
Rebecca nodded. “I did notice him.”
“Anyway, Jeff was just telling me about all the people he’s met. It’s so exciting! His life is so glamorous.”
“Oh, it is,” Rebecca agreed. “But you know what’s not so glamorous? Washing his dirty underwear.” She waved a hand in front of her nose. “Living with this man is just impossible.”
Sindy’s smile faltered and she turned to face Jeff. “I thought you said you were single!”
“What? I am. Rebecca is just a friend…”
Rebecca shook her head. “That’s what he tells all the pretty girls, sweetheart. But he always comes home with me at the end of the night.”
Jeff’s face turned a hectic shade of red. “Sin, she’s lying. Really.”
Sindy jumped to her feet and grabbed her drink from the end table. “I thought you were different. But you’re just like everybody else.”
Rebecca nodded. “He really is.”
“Cheating on your girlfriend and then lying about it? While she’s standing right here? You disgust me,” Sindy announced, as she poured her rum and Coke over his head. “To think I almost showed you my breasts.”
Rebecca waited until Sindy stomped out before erupting with laughter. Jeff wiped his face with a bar rag he pulled from his back pocket.
“I suppose you think you’re real cute,” he muttered.
She nodded, unable to speak. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she couldn’t catch her breath. Every time she tried to stop laughing, she heard Sindy’s dramatic exclamation, and the guffaws started again. To think that she had almost shown him her breasts!
“I can’t believe you did that.”
Rebecca shook her head, wiping her face. “I’m sorry … it’s just…”
“You’re not getting paid to ruin my life, you know.”
Rebecca nodded. “I know, I know. It’s just one of the perks.”
He stood up and pushed his wet hair out of his face. “She’s never going to talk to me again.”
“Oh, boo-hoo. I’m sure you can find a dozen just like her.” Rebecca hiccupped. “Come on, I’m ready to go.”
“Is that what this was about? You want to go home?” Jeff asked.
“I normally don’t leave until much later…”
“What’s your point? We’re on my schedule now.”
“Are you serious?”
Rebecca nodded, all traces of mirth gone. Now she only felt tired and irritated. “You really have a hard time accepting the fact my world doesn’t revolve around you, don’t you?”
“Fine, let me grab my stuff.”
“Hey, don’t put yourself out on my account,” Rebecca said. “Maybe you can convince Sindy with an S to give you a lift home.”
“Maybe you’re just jealous because nobody around here wants to take you home,” he sneered.
Rebecca laughed off the barb. “Why the hostility? Because you won’t get laid tonight? I promise, you’ll survive.”
“What if I really liked that girl?” Jeff asked. “What if I really wanted to get to know her better?”
“Would that be before or after she shows you her tits?” Rebecca asked, turning to the door. “I’m leaving now.”
“This is not going to work,” Jeff muttered. “I can’t live like this.”
“Welcome to Hell.”
“Maybe you need to get laid. It might make you a more pleasant person to be around.”
Rebecca spun around, the words flying out of her mouth. “And do you think you’re the man for the job?”
Jeff’s eyes widened. Her face flushed, the hot blood crawling up her neck and cheeks. They stared at each other for a long, silent minute. Rebecca couldn’t read his face at all. She hoped he couldn’t see the deep mortification reflected in her eyes, but she refused to be the first one to back down. She wasn’t going to let him shame her into averting her gaze.
“You know,” he said thoughtfully, “I might be just the man for the job.”
Rebecca snorted. “Yeah, right. Not in your wildest dreams.”
“Hey, you brought it up, not me.”
She turned her back on him and started walking. “I am done with this conversation.”
“What? Are you afraid?”
“I’m finished,” she stated, pulling the front door open. “Finished.”
“You are afraid. Mmmm, what does little Rebecca have to be afraid of?”
“Shut up, Jeff,” Rebecca warned, unnerved. What did she have to be afraid of, indeed.
“Don’t try to play all coy with me. You wouldn’t have brought it up if you didn’t want it,” he pointed out.
Rebecca spun around again and put her finger in his face. “You brought it up. Not me. You. And I’m not going to play your sick game.”
“What sick game? I’m not playing a game here, Rebecca. I’m serious.”
“Yeah, right. I’m sure you are.” She hurried down the walk towards her car. She wished it was a safe haven from Jeff, but it would only be a prison until she dropped him off. At least there would be no traffic. She could have him out the door, away from her, in less than fifteen minutes.
Rebecca unlocked the car and tore the door open.
“Hey,” he said again, from behind her.
“Get in the car,” she said through gritted teeth.
Jeff grabbed her arm, spinning her around to face him. “I told you, I’m serious.”
“I’m sure you are. Now let me go.” She struggled to pull her arm away, but his fingers didn’t loosen. He pushed her against the car, his other hand on her shoulder.
“Let me show you.”
“What are you…?” Her question was cut off by his lips.
Rebecca’s brain froze. her body stiffened. Every nerve seemed to misfire. Her flesh went numb and then blazed with heat. The familiar smell of gingersnaps filled her head and surrounded her, as she kissed him back without thought. Her mouth moved against his, until his tongue brushed against her lips. She opened them without hesitation. His body pressed against hers, solid and warm. His cock hardened against her thigh.
Rebecca knew she needed to break the kiss or he would overwhelm her. Every second they spent locked together, the closer she wanted to be. She wanted to crawl up his body, wrap her arms and legs around him, and never let him go. She wanted to strip his clothes off, push him against the car, and have her wicked way with him. Every repressed desire flared to life, demanding attention, validation.
She tore her mouth away, pushing on his chest. They both gasped for breath, and he looked at her expectantly. “Just…” She finally whispered. “Just get in the car.”
Jeff wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, nodding. “Fine.”
Rebecca closed her eyes and counted to ten. Even if she did want him, even if she needed to be kissed and touched like that again, it couldn’t happen. She learned a long time ago that you don’t get naked with co-workers, not for any reason. It never ended well.
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