My name is Ruby Rose. I lost my Johnny, the love of my life, at the start of the second great world war. Now I’m destitute, alone, and living in California far from the family that disinherited me when I eloped with Johnny.
By chance I meet a man who alters the course of my life and saves me from becoming homeless. I’m no longer just one of the many widows left behind in WWII America. I’m a well-paid courtesan who takes on special cases and Henry, the wealthy enigmatic man who brings me untold pleasure, is more than my financial salvation—he could be my greatest love.
But Henry has secrets. What he’s hiding could ruin me—or it could completely change my life.
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“Have a seat, Miss Ruby,” the gentleman at the window said, his voice low yet unusually soft for a man.
I did as I was told, perching at the edge of a chair across the wide expanse of his desk with my hands clasped demurely in my lap.
“You’re the piano teacher?” he asked.
“I’m told you handle special cases.” He gave the word special extra emphasis.
“I consider everyone to be special in his or her own way.”
“Do you?” He turned then and I couldn’t hide my reaction to him.
Pale blond hair framed a face that looked as though it had been fashioned by Gods on a particularly cheerful day in heaven. The pale blue of his eyes matched the sun-bleached sky behind him. He was tall and lean and even standing still he appeared graceful in an effortless way.
It took me a moment to find my voice. “Yes.”
“You find me attractive?”
“Hmm, most people do. Of course, I find that my money improves my looks greatly.”
“You’re handsome regardless of your finances.”
“And you’re wondering why I would seek out your services.”
“Well…yes. I suppose I am.”
“I have very—shall we say—unusual needs that are rarely met.” He drew a case from his inside jacket pocket, selected a cigarette, and lit it. His face, with its beautifully sculpted features, became wreathed in smoke. “I understand you can satisfy them.”
“Perhaps if I knew a little bit about what your needs are, I could better answer.”
“Take off your dress.”
“This won’t work if you can’t take direction. I’m paying handsomely for your time today, Miss Ruby. Do I need to repeat myself?”
“No.” I stood. “Can I at least know your name?”
Lifting my chin in a small act of defiance, I unbuttoned my dress. It was the same one that I’d worn that first time with Jack, with the buttons all the way down the front. As I’d been instructed to wear nothing underneath there was no way to hide my nudity.
Henry did nothing as a revealed myself to him. He stood still, watching and puffing on his cigarette as though he was bored. The full walls of windows bathed me in unforgiving sunlight. If this was the audition, I wasn’t likely to get the part. I didn’t have perfect skin or the perfect shape. My breasts, while pert, were small compared to my hips and thighs. I looked nothing like the starlets on the movie screens.
I’d never felt more inadequate.
My dress pooled at my feet, leaving me bare as the day I was born. It took everything in me not to fidget under his stare, which roamed my body as though he owned it. And for this half hour, he did. That’s what I’d agreed to.
He made a circling motion with his hand. “Turn.”
I did as I was told, spinning slowly so that he could see me from all sides.
He pointed behind me. “Lie down on the chaise.”
I reclined on the lavish velvet and attempted to look seductive in my pose.
He stubbed out his cigarette and came around the desk. “Spread your legs. I want to see what I’m getting.”
I didn’t care for his words or his tone, but I opened my legs anyway, keeping my gaze steady and unaffected on his. One hundred dollars was a chant in my head. I needed the money. Desperately.
“Wider,” he demanded.
I complied, resting my arms across the back of the chaise, opening myself to him as much as possible. Spread eagle and nude, I waited for what he’d do next.
He knelt next to me and leaned forward. Inhaling deeply, he sniffed me from my mouth and neck to my toes, taking longer in some places than others. My sex was of particular interest to him. He spent several minutes smelling me there. He paused to visually examine my folds, then he resumed his scenting of me, finally moving on after several minutes.
When he finished, he sat back on his heels and met my gaze. “You have excellent hygiene.”
“Have you even been with a woman? Sexually.”
“Would it repulse you?”
“I don’t know.” I’d heard of men’s proclivities for watching women have sexual relations. Is that what he wanted of me? Did he want to participate or just observe? I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Not repulsed as he’d suggested, but not particularly interested either. Curious. I supposed that was the best way to describe my feeling about the suggestion. “I am rather curious though. The mechanics in particular perplex me.”
He gave me a smile, the first one I’d gotten from him. “You’re honest. I appreciate that. We’ll get along well as long as you’re honest with me at all times.”