Chapter 5. "Consequences"
"Well, well, well. Lookie what we have here, will you?" Kenzie wore a pair of gray yoga shorts and a matching crop-top with long sleeves that ended at her midriff. A waterfall of thick, obsidian-black tresses plummeted across her shoulders and down her back. She lowered her big, round sunglasses and regarded Lindsay as the teenager meandered onto the back porch. "You're up early, girl."
It may have been 10:30 am, but the temperature was already 94 degrees and the forecast called for it to reach 109 by the afternoon. Prepared, Kenzie sipped an ice-cold bottled water and nibbled on a protein bar.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Lindsay huffed. "Tell me about it."
Lindsay woke up at 9:45 and had already taken care of her hair and make-up. If a customer stopped by and requested a lineup, all she'd have to do is change into her hooker garb (her term) and wait by the kitchen for Allan to give the cue to proceed. Lindsay could switch outfits in less than three minutes -- she'd been practicing -- and wouldn't be late for the lineup.
"That guy was a real jerk last night," she sniped.
Kenzie motioned toward the chair across the way. "Sit down, hon. I agree, he was. Want to talk about it?" The 26-year-old adjusted her shades to combat the intense morning glare. "I felt sorry for having to leave you with him."
Emotions thickening her chest, Lindsay plopped down with an audible thud. She wished every client could be as exciting and as fun to be with as Sammy, but learned a cold, harsh lesson last evening: they weren't. "Eric wasn't in a good mood from the outset, and it never improved." Her leg bounced with too much nervous energy to calm.
"He was an asshole." Kenzie shrugged it off like it was no big deal. She'd dealt with her share of pricks over the years both in and out of the house. Comes with the territory here. "Don't let it affect you, okay?" She reached across the table and squeezed Lindsay's hand. "It's over. My God, Kayleigh. You let everything get to you here. You got paid for your time. Let it go and move on."
"$510." Tears threatened to burn Lindsay's eyes. I hope every customer from here on out isn't like Eric. Perhaps the party with Sammy was an anomaly? God, I hope not. Her insides tingled at the memories. "I was hoping for more like $600 or $700."
"Fuck that asshole!" Kenzie slipped off her sunglasses. "Fuck him! Worrying like this isn't worth your time."
Lindsay sighed and rubbed her temples. "What if he leaves me a horrible review on the website?" The thread Sammy started yesterday was up to 27 responses and everything about it was positive. Six people posted that they wanted to meet and party with Lindsay because of his praise. But if the customer from last night -- Eric -- left a horrible review, would it offset all the good?
"You don't need to worry about receiving a horrible review and others seeing it. Jeremy or Allan would take it down immediately. If they miss it or are busy, Jeremy has a webmaster who monitors the site day and night, and he removes anything negative. You'll never read a negative review of any girl on the site."
"That's good to know, I guess." Lindsay glanced down and fidgeted her thumbs. I guess that's why there's nothing negative about any of the girls on the board. "But what if the customer went to Allan afterward and bitched about me during the exit interview? I know he did; he had to."
Kenzie laughed. "Kayleigh, honey, don't worry. Allan listened in during your party and knows things got off to a rocky start because of the negotiations. Allan knows what an inconsiderate prick that guy was for the entire hour, too. Stop worrying! Jeremy will listen to it today once he and Bella return from their time away, I'm sure. Everything gets recorded, you know, right? They will not hold it against you if the guy showed up in a horrible mood and left in a horrible mood. It's not your fault. Nothing you could've done would've made him happy."
"But . . ."
"Were you nice to him? Did you do everything he asked during the party? Were you attentive and gracious? Did you thank him afterward and ask him to please come visit the ranch again?" Kenzie snatched Lindsay's hand and swept her thumb over the back of it. "That's all you can do. I talked to Allan last night after the fact and he told me nothing you said or did was wrong. Everything you said was right and by-the-book. You. Can't. Please. Everyone!"
Eyes clenched tight, Lindsay had to remind herself to breathe. "I felt like a failure."
"You are not a failure. You're a good girl, Kayleigh, with drive, ambition, goals, and a good heart." Kenzie took another sip of water. "You want to work hard, please others, and be successful at your job. And best of all, you're sweet as candy -- a little cutie pie. You'll go a long way in this business." She tilted her head with a sympathetic gaze. "Stop being so sad."
"I don't want to get into trouble and for Jeremy or Bella to have any bad thoughts about me." Lindsay's nightshirt with the cookie monster designs on its front was a size or two small and stretched tight across her breasts. "You know I'm still the new girl here. I mean, I need this job."
"Fuck that guy, baby! Forget him! Jeremy, Allan, or Bella won't be upset. Trust me, I've been here for years. I know how they think."
"And what happens if Eric ever comes back and, God forbid, wants to party with me again?"
"Decline his ass! Turn him down, tell him no." And after his act last night, Kenzie doubted Jeremy or Allan would let him through the front door again. They'd turn him away before he had the chance to ask for another party with Lindsay or anyone else.
For as wonderful of a time she'd had with Sammy on Tuesday evening, last night was the polar opposite for Lindsay. Bella was away at the hotel in Ambridge, so there went yet another opportunity for Lindsay to lose her lesbian cherry. On top of that, she wasn't picked for the first four lineups of the day -- a real bummer -- but was finally chosen during the fifth. That should've ended the night on a high note, but Eric had a sour attitude from the beginning.
With Kenzie chaperoning the conversation at the bar as Lindsay's fill-in Big Sister, Eric admitted to having a shitty day and was looking to blow off some steam. He was obnoxious and not pleasant to talk to, but Lindsay was intent on making money and agreed to escort him back to her bedroom to discuss pricing.
Things went downhill in a hurry.
Kenzie took care of the negotiations and Eric flat-out laughed when she mentioned Lindsay's prices were $700 an hour for a GFE. It was a high quote, yes, but also fully negotiable. Kenzie said $700 because she wanted to maximize the profit for both Lindsay and the house. Personally, she refused to sell herself for anything less than $600 for a one-hour GFE. Kenzie had her standards, lofty as they might be.
Eric shot back that it was a rip-off and refused to go any higher than $400. "Ain't no piece of pussy worth $700! I could go up north and pay $400 for the same Goddamn thing! Hell, for $700 I should get to fuck her in the ass, too, and make her clean my dick off with her mouth!"
"Anal sex is prohibited here, sir," Kenzie responded in a calm, businesslike tone, though she was seething with rage inside, "and if you'd like to drive three-and-a-half or four hours north in the middle of the night to pay a lesser price, by all means, be our guest." You're a fucking asshole and I prefer that you leave. "We don't want you to do that, but you're more than welcome to. It's your decision."
"We can go lower than $700, baby." Lindsay should've already declined the party but was determined to have one before it was bedtime. All the other girls had at least one party throughout the day. "I'd like to show you a good time and put a smile on your face." Lindsay asked Kenzie to continue the negotiations. She agreed, but also motioned for Lindsay to zip her mouth and let her do all the talking.
In the end -- after a contentious back and forth -- Eric agreed to $510 for one hour. It was $10 above the house minimum and Kenzie equated the negotiations to trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip. The issue wasn't that he was looking for the lowest price and wanted to save money -- Kenzie never blamed a customer for that -- it was the way he went about it. Eric was rude and disrespectful -- one of the worst clients she'd ever dealt with -- and it stunned Kenzie that Lindsay agreed to party with him at all.
And because they couldn't agree on at least $600, Lindsay's room and board for the day ($30) didn't get waived. It would be deducted from her paycheck at the end of her three-week tour. That sucks, but at least I'll make some money tonight, was her train of thought. It's better than nothing at all.
After the dick check, payment, and shower (another thing he complained about), Eric reentered the bedroom and found a joyful, smiling Lindsay on the edge of the bed waiting for him. She had on a frilly little bodice, stockings, and high heels, and looked like an angel on a mercy mission from Suck City. "Hi, baby. What would you like me to do first?"
"How about you shut your fucking mouth -- I'm not paying you to talk -- get down on your knees and do your job? Blow me, you overpriced whore."
Although she'd become more accepting of that word in recent times, Lindsay flashed back to when Allan took her to the sheriff's station and the lady behind the desk called her a whore. She came close to having an outward reaction again, but dropped to her knees, rolled a condom onto Eric's cock, and sucked him off for 15 minutes.
But she was crying inside and felt no pleasure at all.
Later, Eric took all his anger and frustration out on Lindsay, bending her over the bed and fucking her as hard as he could. Again, there was no pleasure, no satisfaction. She was told to keep her mouth shut several times. "You're a whore and I could give a flying fuck about whatever you have to say, so zip it." Facing away from him, Lindsay lay there looking like a zombie because the man did nothing but degrade and belittle her the entire hour. She kept busy counting down the minutes until it was mercifully over.
"Allan was outside your room last night with his hand on the doorknob for at least half the party, if not three-quarters of it," Kenzie informed her. "He was waiting for you to object to anything that guy did, tell him no, and he was going to burst in and toss his ass out of the house if he didn't listen to you. It blew Allan away that you never objected to anything Eric said or how he treated you."
"Jeremy says the customer is always right and I must please him or her at all costs."
"Not customers like him." Someone who didn't know Kenzie might think she was a pushover because of her sweet, good-natured personality, but Lindsay knew better. Kenzie was straightforward and not afraid to stand up for herself, which Lindsay admired. "I still cannot believe you wanted to party with him. With the attitude he had during negotiations, I would've told him no. So would every other girl here, Bella included. But you were hellbent on fucking him, so I kept negotiating. Money, money, I know . . . you want it. We all do."
Lindsay lowered her gaze, the shame and humiliation of last night digging into her like sharp claws. "I'll remember that for next time, I guess."
Kenzie leaned back in the rocking chair and got more comfortable. "That guy is a prime example of why Allan, Jeremy, the bartenders at night . . . someone is always listening in during our negotiations and usually the party itself via surveillance. Allan was on red alert the moment Eric walked through the front door. He said he almost asked him to leave a few minutes after he showed up."
"I wish he did," Lindsay mumbled.
"The alternative to working in a brothel is street hooking. Meeting some random guy in a casino, for example, going up to his hotel room, and him fucking you up something fierce if things don't go right. There's no Allan, no Jeremy to protect you, and maybe you wind up in the hospital. Or worse." Lindsay seemed frightened, so Kenzie reminded her, "You're safe here. No one is going to harm you. There are usually eight to ten employees in the house at all times and we all look out for one another."
A wave of apprehension rushed through Lindsay, but she pushed through it. Kenzie has been here for three years and, like Bella, knows what she's talking about. Eric was a dick, but he didn't physically assault me, at least.
"I'll never turn tricks outside the house. Not in a million years," Kenzie offered. "Lots of girls do -- even ones working here now -- but I enjoy the feeling of safety the brothel provides and, more importantly, I enjoy my freedom. I don't want to get arrested and go to jail."
"Does Bella . . . turn tricks? Illegally?" I'm fascinated by Bella and want to learn everything I can about her.
"Bella? Turning tricks? Bella McCarron? No way." Kenzie found humor at the absurd thought. "She owns the brothel along with Jeremy; an arrest for solicitation would not only put an end to her career, it would be the death knell for the brothel as well. City council wouldn't hesitate to revoke its license; Jeremy and Bella, they'd be out of business forever."
Lindsay nodded. Bella seems too laid-back, too sensible to do anything that would jeopardize herself or her husband. Similar to the CBD oil thing, I guess. Everything she does is safe and legal.
"Get that guy out of your mind. You'll never see him again. Just call it a learning experience, okay?"
"I don't want to talk about him anymore."
"Good. Don't. Move on."
"I don't know if Shannel likes me or not." Lindsay had a confused expression and pointed way out yonder toward Shannel -- an African American stunner -- who was doing Pilates in the far corner of the yard. A fitness enthusiast if there ever was one, the 28-year-old could be found exercising every morning (and every evening) in the backyard unless she was with a customer. Shannel would prefer to do her fitness regime at the local health club or go for a nice jog around the block but didn't want to take the chance with Sheriff Spaeth and his pack of deputy watchdogs lurking at every corner.
"I don't know what I did wrong to her. Shannel, I mean." Frustrated, Lindsay had no idea how to deal with conflict. "I said hello to her this morning, and she gave me the meanest, nastiest look. I was like, what the hell? Do you know if she's mad at me? And if so, for what?"
"No idea," Kenzie lied.
The truth was Shannel bitched and threw a temper tantrum in front of Payton, Kimmy, Sydney, and Abigail last evening after Eric chose Lindsay during the lineup. Kenzie heard about it afterward and knew that word would soon trickle down to Jeremy and Bella (if it hadn't already.) Allan was well aware of the situation, too.
"I am sick and tired of that little brat!" Shannel complained to the others. "Eighteen and comes in here and thinks she runs the fucking joint! Thinks every customer should choose her during every lineup like she's somehow better than us. Bullshit! Goes off and pouts in the corner like a child when she gets passed over! Entitled, self-centered little cunt! Thinks everything is all about her. Her mommy and daddy probably spoon-fed her and gave her everything she ever wanted until the day she moved out. Well, guess what, girlfriend? Things aren't that way in the real world! Time to fucking grow up!"
"I don't think Kayleigh is that bad," Sydney offered. "You're blowing this way out of proportion."
"She's a kid, Shannel," Payton tried to remind her. "Only 18. Everything here is all new to her, so foreign to anything she's ever known, and I doubt Kayleigh realizes she's giving that impression. None of us enjoy being passed over in a lineup . . . you included. Give her time. Bella said she was going to talk to her about handling her emotions better and the way she presents herself."
"Kayleigh is exhibit A of why I fucking hate turnouts! Clueless bitches! They come here with the idea that all they gotta do is lie on their backs and count the money as it keeps pouring in. They think all the tricks they'll fuck are polite, older versions of the boys they fucked back home, they smell of breath mints and nice cologne, and everything is wonderful, it's peachy. But soon enough reality sets in and these fucking turnouts get put to the ultimate test.
"Look at the way Kayleigh stutters and blushes and stares at the carpet during lineups! And she goes off and cries when she isn't chosen. Kayleigh will not make it here! She needs to go back to wherever the hell it is she came from -- California, I guess -- ask her mommy and daddy for a diaper change and be put back into her crib! Permanently!"
"Wow. That's a little rough, isn't it?"
"No, it's not!" Shannel fired back at Payton.
"I don't think Kayleigh is going anywhere," Kimmy chimed in. "Bella is sweet on her. You know she controls Jeremy and his thoughts. He'd never send her packing unless Bella agreed to it first."
Abigail nodded. "Bella is in love with Kayleigh."
"Then fuck Bella, too!" Shannel had a hair-trigger temper that could go off at any time. She was an angry person and tended to go into a noisy, expletive-laden tirade over the simplest things.
Shannel led a tough life in recent years. When away from the brothel, she double dipped as a street hooker in New York City and had a long history of cocaine, rehab, chlamydia and trichomoniasis infections, prison sentences, and failed relationships. Those hardships had taken a toll, and she wasn't always the most pleasant person to deal with.
Still, Shannel was cordial and attentive toward her customers, and made the brothel good money. But a volatile pot of wrath was always brewing beneath her surface, and everyone was wary of it.
"I refuse to work at a house where some little 18-year-old newbie thinks she's better and more deserving than everyone else! Fucking Kayleigh! That little cunt couldn't walk a mile in my shoes! I've been doing this for close to a decade and never once have I thought I was entitled to anything! I've fucking worked for everything I've ever gotten in life and always treated all the other working girls -- especially the older ones when I was young myself -- with respect! That's how I've survived this long!"
"I'd leave Shannel alone for a couple of days," Kenzie advised Lindsay in the current time. "Don't talk to her; don't look at her. She goes into these moods and you gotta let them pass. Who knows? Shannel might've had a bad party herself last night. My suggestion is to be nice, be courteous and respectful, do your thing, and things will be fine in the end. Trust me, okay? Remember, we're all in this together. We working girls need to support one another as best we can."
Lindsay frowned. "Because no one else will."
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"Hmm, this was good. It hit the spot," Bella commented as she savored the final few bites of her vegan salad. "Are you going to order a slice of chocolate cake?"
Jeremy appeared crestfallen. "What? You mean I don't get to have your spicy, red-hot chalupa for dessert?"
"OhmiGod," Bella whispered in an intense giggling fit, glancing around the restaurant and praying no one heard what he'd just said. "Will. You. Stop."
"What?" Jeremy grinned and held both hands out innocently. "I love dining in at Taco Bella."
Bella laughed and swatted his arm. "Stop being silly!"
"The chocolate cake here is heavenly, but I think I'm going to pass on it this time." Jeremy reached across the table, squeezed Bella's wrist, and gazed into her eyes. His voice turned serious. "I love you, sweetheart, and I've enjoyed these 24 hours we've had away from the house."