The Hotel

By: Lola Darling

Chapter One

“I look like a slut.” I stare at my reflection in horror – and a little awe.

“You’re the prettiest slut I’ve ever seen.” My cousin Callie gives a wink in the mirror, working a flat iron through my hair.

“I don’t know…” My stomach is already in knots thinking about the night ahead of me.

Callie squirts hair shine on her hands and rubs it between her palms. It smells like coconut and expensive salon. “Just trust me, Juliet,” she says, then coughs with enough force to produce a loud wheeze.

“Go lie down,” I order her, then give her a gentle nudge towards her bed. Our other roommate, Emily, enters with a steaming mug of something.

“Drink this,” she adds, handing Callie the mug.

Callie sniffs and wrinkles her nose. “What is it?”

“My grandmother’s recipe. It’ll make you feel better, I promise.”

Callie collapses with a groan – which quickly turns into another round of hacking coughs. Emily pulls me back, worried.

“Don’t get Juliet sick! She starts her internship tomorrow.”

Just the mention of it makes me even more nervous. How I landed an internship placement at the most prestigious historic hotel in Chicago is still surreal. I start tomorrow…

After I go play hooker tonight.

Not hooker, I correct myself quickly. Bait.

Nerves start a dance inside my stomach. My face must betray something because Emily claps her hands together. “You have nothing to worry about. You look amazing. Your hair… It’s so shiny!”

I touch it again, smoothing my fingers down the long strands and my mouth hangs open a little bit. Because, damn. My hair is never straight, or smooth, or anything but a hot mess. I blame my Irish ancestors. The women in my lineage weren’t the sleek, dark and sexy Celts you always see in movies, but rather, the ‘carry water and build stone walls’ kind that gifted me with a head of coarse, thick and unruly auburn hair. Usually, I couldn't care less: I just pull it back in a braid or ponytail and forget about it.

But not tonight. Tonight, I’m full on shampoo-model, because-I’m-worth-it hot.

And I need to be, thanks to Miss Sick Day currently hacking her lungs up in bed. Callie works as a decoy for a private investigator. She gets people to talk, incriminate themselves or otherwise display some kind of asshole behavior that can be caught on tape and used in court. She loves the excitement of it, and she’s cut out for it with a svelte body and the sleek beauty that promises seduction. Small talk and flirting come naturally to her. And while she’s working her magic, a hidden photographer takes pictures or video of the whole thing.

I’m the woman who’s been so invested in earning her hospitality management degree, she forgets to put on deodorant some days. But with Callie laid up in bed, she needs someone to fill in on a job tonight. And since she’s been letting me stay here on a way reduced rent while I work my way through school, I couldn’t really turn her down.

I check my reflection again, nervous. Callie has turned me into a pretty slut, just like she said. Smoky makeup sets off the green in my hazel eyes, the shimmer pink on my cheeks accentuating my heart shaped face. My lips are glossy red and look plumper than usual.

“Now put on the dress,” Callie orders, still bossy even from bed.

“I told you, blue isn’t my color…” I hesitate.

“And I told you, it’s peacock, not blue.”

“Big difference.”

“Here.” Emily holds it up eagerly. “I picked out shoes and jewelry too.”

I take them with a sigh. “I don’t know why you couldn’t do this instead of me.”

Emily’s eyes widen in horror. “Go flirt with some strange guy in a bar? No way!” She shudders. “Besides, they would never hit on me in the first place.”

“That’s a lie and you know it,” I tell her, but Emily shakes her head stubbornly. She’s the sweetest girl in the world, but not exactly giving Kanye a run for his money in the confidence game. She prefers to spend her nights working late at her jewelry studio, creating amazing designs.

But Emily isn’t the only one worried about attracting men tonight. I’ve got serious doubts about my ability as bait. I’m not anti-social. I’m just not good at flirting. Or handling myself around sleazy men without biting their heads off. In my mind, the guy I’m targeting tonight is just another grease ball, out to find the first hot, willing chick he can get his dick into. In order for the gig to work, that chick has to be me.

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