Chapter 1



THE hallway was familiar. Too familiar. Remy wondered how many times he’d stepped out of that mirrored elevator into the carefully perfumed air of this hall, or one just like it. Well, no, not just like it, and Remy would do well to remember that. This was the luxury floor, the level reserved for the wealthiest clients of the hotel. The walls were the same subtle shades of gold, the carpet the same rich red as the other floors, but the doors were spread further apart, spaced for entrances to luxury suites, not just rooms. The biggest difference in this hallway, though, was the absence of security cameras. They were still there, Remy was sure, but they were hidden better than they were everywhere else. The people behind these doors thought of themselves as the observers, not the observed.

Remy gave himself a quick once-over in a gilded hallway mirror, straightened his tie, and followed the white-uniformed room service waiters as they guided their cart on its silent wheels. They probably didn’t know exactly why he was accompanying them, but they knew better than to ask.

A quick, deep breath when the procession reached the doorway, to steady his nerves. He’d already taken his pill, down in the kitchen, when the call came in. Ten minutes later, he could feel its effects. He’d be ready when the time came. The tip of his tongue played over the small ampule wedged behind his back molar; it was a routine check that had turned into a ritual. Another deep breath and he nodded to the head waiter. “Okay, let’s go.”

The waiter knocked on the door, an old-fashioned gesture that the hotel insisted on. Then he pressed the comm screen button and quietly said, “Room service, Mr. Challoner.”

“Enter” came the reply, and the door slid open. Challoner wasn’t in sight, but the door would have been calibrated to his voice when he’d checked in, and it responded to the command. “Set it up in there, please.” The words came through the half-open bedroom door, not over the comm, but the waiters reacted with the same obedience as the outer door had displayed. Remy stood aside as they efficiently draped a white cloth on the polished wood dining table, lit candles, laid a single place setting, and artfully arranged several silver dishes within easy reach. The dishes were covered with ornate lids, but subtle aromas escaped to tantalize Remy’s nose. He tried to ignore them, focusing on the suite instead.

There weren’t many clues. The bottle of wine that the waiters opened and poured was a good sign; Challoner wasn’t completely pure, not totally without appreciation for the finer things. There was a comm tablet on the coffee table, but that was standard at this level. The people who stayed in these rooms only needed to send their wishes into the world in order to see them come true, and the comms were the primary means of letting people know what was needed. They also carried information to their holders, of course, and information was power.

There was nothing else in the room that didn’t belong there, nothing that Remy hadn’t seen before. He’d hoped to find something that would give him an idea about what sort of man Challoner was, and what sort of strategy might be effective. Another deep breath as the waiters finished up and wheeled the cart toward the door. They ignored Remy. The head waiter made a quick inspection of their work, nodded in satisfaction, and followed the others out. The door shut behind them, and Remy heard a subtle, musical tone in the other room. The suite comm, letting Challoner know that the meal was ready and the servers were gone. Remy found a seat at the table, arranged himself in a flattering posture, and waited.

It was only a few moments before Challoner stepped into the room. Into the trap, hopefully. He was wearing dress pants and a tailored shirt, but it was open at the neck, exposing a triangle of pale skin and just a hint of dark chest hair. The man was a good size, about the same height as Remy but thicker, solid without looking fat. He was probably in his forties, but fit and obviously wealthy enough to take care of himself. He stopped short when he saw Remy, and looked almost alarmed, but his voice was level and calm as he said, “I thought you all left. Was there something more you needed?”

Showtime. Remy gave his best slow, seductive smile. “Nothing I need, no. But Mr. Baryman thought there might be something you need, or at least want. He thought maybe I could help you with that.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Challoner said. It really wasn’t the reaction Remy had been hoping for. “Does he honestly never give up? I think I’ve made my feelings pretty clear in the past. This isn’t being friendly, and it isn’t customer service, or whatever the fuck he’s calling it. It’s harassment, and I’m getting tired of it.”

Remy let his eyes widen, and tried to remember what it felt like to be embarrassed. “I—I’m sorry,” he stuttered. “Mr. Baryman… he seemed to think you’d be… you know.” Remy looked down at the floor, waited a moment, then looked back up with a concerned, confused expression. “He seemed to think I’d be welcome.”

“He seemed to think that? He’s sent me whores every time I’ve come to town for the past eight months, and every time I’ve sent them away, and he seems to think that I like going through it all? Really?”

A moment to let the man realize he’d just called Remy a whore. Most of Remy’s clients wouldn’t worry about that; hell, most of them used the word like it was his name. But Remy had a feeling that Challoner might be a little different in that regard. “I don’t know about any of that,” he said, just a hint of wounded dignity coming through in his voice. “I just know that he said you were in town alone, and that I was your type. He… he acted as if this was a nice present.” Another confused look, with a touch of hurt feelings, and then Remy stood up. He was wearing a suit that would have been conservative if it had been cut just a little looser, but as it was… well, as it was, it showed off his assets. He ran his hand down over his fly, cupped his fingers around his drug-hardened cock, and pouted. “Don’t you like me?”

Challoner looked stumped. “It’s not that I don’t like you. It’s that I don’t know you.”

“I’m here all night. You can get to know me.”

“You’re not here all night. You’re on your way out.” Challoner headed for the door. “I have work to do, and even if I didn’t, I’m sorry, but I don’t do this.”

“You don’t have sex?” Remy was clearly expected to follow Challoner, but he couldn’t give up so easily. Mr. Baryman had made it clear that Remy was expected to make this happen, and it was not good to disappoint Mr. Baryman. So it was back to playing confused. “You don’t have sex at all? Or do you mean… no, Mr. Baryman does his research. He wouldn’t have sent me if he didn’t think I was the right type. The right sex.”

“I don’t have sex with… with prostitutes.” Challoner stepped a little closer, away from the door, and Remy was considering it a small victory until Challoner earnestly said, “It’s nothing personal. Well, it’s completely personal, for me. But it’s nothing against you. I’m sure you’re—I don’t know. Good at your job.”

“Mr. Baryman is going to be so angry,” Remy said quietly, as if to himself. “I’ve already—” But he stopped, and turned his wide eyes to Challoner. “Please, sir. I’ll do whatever you want. Be whatever you want. I need this job, and Mr. Baryman thinks I don’t try hard enough, and I need the money, sir. I have a family to support.” He took a few steps forward before falling to his knees. It was a good position for looking supplicant, but it also brought his mouth to the perfect level. He looked up, his lips just a little bit open, innocent and ready and desperate, and he knew just what came next. But then he saw the expression on Challoner’s face.

“You don’t try hard enough?” Challoner smiled sardonically. “You try pretty damn hard, kid. And you almost had me. But why the hell would he send someone who doesn’t make an effort? And you got further than anyone else ever has. The others, I turned away at the door, but you weaseled your way right inside. Okay, I didn’t let you in, but you showed some initiative. You gave me the spiel, the innocent act… it was really good, kid. An excellent effort. I mean, there was still no way we were going to have sex, but I might have let you stick around for a while, long enough so you could tell your boss that we did.” Challoner stepped back a little and let his gaze run down Remy’s body. “And he definitely got the type right. Damn.” His laugh was rough. “He’s playing for keeps, isn’t he?” He stepped back to the door and raised his eyebrows at Remy. “But now it’s time for you to go. Before I call security.”

Remy rose to his feet gracefully. Plan A hadn’t worked, but that didn’t mean he was giving up. Instead, he gave Challoner his own smirk, jaded enough to make Challoner look like the innocent one. “You have no idea what you’re turning down here.” He stretched his fingers out and ran his palm across his chest, his hard abs, and back down to his cock. “You’ve got a luxury suite, a luxury meal, and a luxury bottle of wine… why the hell wouldn’t you top that off with a luxury fuck?” Challoner didn’t answer, just stood at the door, waiting. Remy brought his hands to the front of his shirt. “You want to see the goods?” He gave just a little shimmy of his hips as he stepped forward and loosened his tie. Then he reached under the silk and undid one button of his shirt. “You’re so strong, so pure. I’m sure you wouldn’t be tempted by just a little skin, right?” He undid another button.

“It’s not about being pure,” Challoner said. His voice was strained, but he was keeping his gaze resolutely on Remy’s face. “Not me. But prostitution is demeaning. It turns human beings into commodities, and I don’t believe in that.”

Remy snorted a laugh. “It’s demeaning? Me doing what I want with a guy who wants the same thing—that’s demeaning?”

Challoner looked startled. “But you don’t want to do it. You’re doing it for money.”

“And you telling me what I do and don’t want, and telling me why I’m doing things… that’s respectful too. Of course.” Remy grinned, and he undid another button.

“You’re a prostitute. The whole point of that is that you have sex for money. That’s… that’s what it means.”

Whether it was the argument or the increasing amount of skin Remy was exposing, something seemed to be flustering Challoner, and Remy pushed his advantage. “I like sex. I like money. How is it more demeaning for me to do something I like for money than it would be to….” Remy cast his attention around the room, and then brought it to bear on Challoner’s chest. “… to work in the factory that made that shirt? That’s a DeBraust, right? That’s a nice shirt. I used to know a guy who worked in that factory. He told me that it would take him his wages for two months to actually buy one of the shirts that he spent his days making. And trust me, he didn’t enjoy his job.”

Remy went in for the kill. He undid the last button of his shirt and slipped it a little sideways so Challoner could see the label on the collar. “DeBraust,” he said softly. “I do something I like, and I get paid enough to enjoy the finer things. And you’re telling me that I’m being demeaned by that?” He ran his hand under the fabric of the shirt, then shifted it aside to let Challoner see his fingers as they played lightly over his pierced nipple. “I want you. I saw your picture in the file, and I asked for the job. Begged for it, practically.” He let his hand drift down to his waistband and dipped his fingers beneath the fabric to find the hot skin beneath. Challoner’s eyes followed the motion. “If you don’t want me, I guess that’s just something I have to accept. But don’t insult me by treating me like I’m too stupid to make my own decisions.” Remy slid the button of his pants open and brazenly shoved his hand further inside. “So go ahead. Call security, if you think that getting me kicked out of here is the way to keep me from being demeaned.”

He closed his eyes and let his head fall back. He felt vulnerable, exposed, and as much as he hated the sensation, he was pretty sure that it was just what a guy like Challoner wanted to see. This wasn’t a tawdry, rough affair, here; Remy was trusting Challoner, allowing himself to be weak in the face of Challoner’s strength. Remy was a spunky kid, cocky and bold, not being taken advantage of but naturally submitting to Challoner’s superiority. Whatever. This was the job, and Remy would damn well do it.

He wrapped his fingers tight around his cock and moaned softly as he found a slow, sensual rhythm. It would be a hell of a lot more efficient to open his pants completely and get some more space for it all, but this wasn’t about him getting off. It was about tantalizing Challoner, and that would go best with limited visuals.

It was a rare experience in Remy’s career, but he really wasn’t sure this was going to work. Wasn’t sure that the client wanted him. It was unnerving, and he was tempted to open his eyes to look for a reaction, but he forced himself to resist. Challoner wasn’t calling security, so that was something. And unless the guy moved really quietly, he hadn’t left, either. So he was still standing there, still watching. Remy licked his lips, making it look unplanned, and ran his free hand over his chest, down to the faint line of hair below his navel, and then he felt the back of his fingers brush against the silk of the tie that was still hanging from his neck. Yeah. That was another angle.

He played absentmindedly with the fabric at first, as if his focus were elsewhere and the silk was just one more pleasant sensation for his body. Then he built it up, wrapping his fingers in the tie and pulling it forward against the strong muscles on the back of his neck, tension increasing, then relaxing. He tried to picture what Challoner was seeing. Lean muscles, dark hair and eyes, skin that was always too dark or too light to fit any of the current fashions, but smooth and unblemished and soft-looking. Challoner would be focused on one of Remy’s hands, either the one in his pants or the one wrapped around the tie, and maybe that meant Remy could cheat a little. He needed to know where to take this.

He kept his head back as he opened his eyes just enough to catch a glimpse. Challoner was watching, that was for sure. But he didn’t look as lust-besotted as Remy had hoped. Instead, he looked thoughtful. Remy tilted his head forward and opened his eyes enough to be noticed. Challoner said, “Why does he care so much? Baryman. I’ve got to assume he could be making a lot of money from having you doing something else tonight. So why is it so important to him that you be with me?”

It was a good question, and Remy wasn’t sure which answer would best serve his purpose, so he replied honestly, “You make him nervous. He doesn’t understand you, can’t figure you out. If you don’t like whores, then you’re not one of them. And if you’re not one of them, then what the hell are you?”

Challoner thought about that for a moment, then said, “I’d really prefer that I not make him nervous.”

Remy grinned. “Well, then… I have a good way to make everyone feel a bit more relaxed….” He stepped forward, slow but steady, and when he got close enough, he stretched the end of his tie out, offered it to Challoner. And just as slowly, reluctantly, Challoner reached out and wrapped his fingers around the silk. For a moment, they both stood frozen, but then Challoner tugged experimentally on the tie, and Remy responded. He wasn’t sure exactly what Challoner had meant, but he knew a good way to keep things moving in the proper direction. He sank gracefully to his knees and looked up. Challoner had loosened his grip on the tie to allow Remy's movement and was watching him with the same thoughtful, almost confused look he’d worn earlier. His face looked remote, as if he were thinking about a philosophical conundrum or something, but when Remy leaned in, he found a rock-hard cock to rest his cheek against. And then to rub along, like a cat claiming its favorite master.

Teasing was good, but Remy needed to make sure that Challoner didn’t get distracted, didn’t call himself back to his boring, prudish ways. At least not until Remy had earned his night’s pay. So another quick smile as Remy efficiently dealt with Challoner’s belt and fly, and then the trademark wide-eyes-of-amazement-and-lust at the first sight of Challoner’s cock. It was actually a pretty good specimen, just like the rest of the man, but Remy really didn’t care about any of that. This was his job, not his hobby. He eased Challoner’s pants down with one hand while he steadied the man’s cock with the other.

It was no time for subtlety, he decided, and he gave a few hard sucks to the head before sliding his lips right down the shaft. He’d done this thousands of times, and he knew all the tricks. Suction, pressure, tongue action, humming and moaning, using his hands on the client’s balls, his ass, occasionally running one up over his chest or down over his thighs for variety. If the corporations ever actually got around to building the sexbots they were always promising, they could hire Remy to program the blowjob function. But just like mechanization in the factories, there was no real need for robots in the bedroom, not when there was so much labor out there willing to do the work for cheap. Remy wondered how important it would be for a sexbot to look human; he bet some guys would get a kick out of fucking something that looked like a machine, as long as it felt right. Maybe there was a market for that… and then Challoner was pulling on his hair, on the tie, and Remy made himself moan in reluctance. Oh, no, sexy Mr. Challoner, please let me keep sucking your cock. But he was an obedient whore, so he released his prize and looked up with wide eyes.

“You’re here all night?” Challoner asked. His voice was different now, husky and strained instead of calm and controlled, and for once, Remy’s smile was genuine.

“Absolutely,” he purred. “So can I finish this?”

Challoner’s fingers were gentle as they traced over Remy’s cheekbones and down to his spit-slicked lips. He looked strange, maybe sad, but he said, “Yeah. Thanks.”

“My pleasure.” Another grin, and then back to work.

It didn’t take much longer. Challoner’s body tensed, his cock jerked in Remy’s mouth, and Remy swallowed and moaned as if he were tasting the sweetest ambrosia. He kept working until Challoner pulled himself away, then looked up at the client with a self-satisfied grin. It was a big treat to suck this guy’s cock, and Remy was sure lucky that he’d been given the privilege.

But Challoner’s expression, as usual, was not what Remy had expected. Instead of his own version of satisfaction, he was frowning as if back to his original thoughts. “You report back?” he asked seriously.

“Of course not.” Remy rose to his feet in a graceful motion. “This is just you and me.”

Challoner shook his head. “You report back. Do you tell him details, or just the general ideas?”

“For tonight, Mr. Challoner, I work for you. I’ll tell him whatever you want me to tell him.” Remy lowered his chin enough so he could look at Challoner through his long, dark lashes. “I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

“Yeah, okay. And suppose I say I want you to tell me the truth?” Challoner sounded like he couldn’t decide whether to be amused or disgusted.

“Of course, Mr. Challoner. I can tell you the truth.” And Remy knew he shouldn’t, but he raised his chin and looked the client in the eye, showing the lie behind the words. “I can tell you everything you want to hear.”

Challoner frowned, but nodded, then looked down at himself and tidied his clothes. “Go in the bedroom,” he said. “Please. You can sleep, or watch the holos, but keep the volume down, please.”

“And you’ll join me later?” Remy made his voice hopeful, but not demanding.

Challoner looked sad again. “Yeah. I will.”

“Can I do anything special for you? Get anything ready?” Remy raised an eyebrow and nodded to the comm panel on the wall. “I can have just about anything delivered in half an hour. Maybe an hour if you want something really fun.”

“No. Nothing special. Thank you.”

Remy was clearly dismissed, and this time he didn’t resist. Things were going… well, they were a bit strange, but they were progressing. Challoner certainly wasn’t one of Remy’s more enthusiastic clients, but Mr. Baryman’s instructions had been to “knock the fucker off his high horse and get him to stop being such a fucking prude.” It wasn’t Remy’s job to actually make the sour bastard enjoy himself. A blowjob probably wouldn’t be enough to satisfy Mr. Baryman’s orders, but it was a start. Remy headed for the bedroom, shedding his shirt as he went. He was tempted to drop it on the floor, like a breadcrumb path to the bed, but resisted the urge. Mr. Baryman provided Remy’s wardrobe, and he’d accept it if something was damaged by a client, but not if it was ruined by Remy’s carelessness. Remy assumed the room was at least bugged, but there might also be cameras, and he couldn’t take the chance. Not with Mr. Baryman. Just the thought made him wish he’d kept the shirt on to help smooth the goose bumps along his spine.

He carefully untied his shoes—genuine leather, and he did not want to think about how Baryman would respond if they were damaged—and draped his shirt and pants on one of the bedroom chairs. Socks off, and after a moment’s thought, underwear too. Challoner might miss the fun of unwrapping the present, but Remy couldn’t afford to have any extra obstacles, no matter how small, between his ass and Challoner’s cock.

It was too early, but Remy fished another arousal pill out of the envelope in the pocket of his pants. Challoner hadn’t shown any interest in getting Remy off, and that was nice, but he seemed like the sort who would at least want his whore hard. Remy dry-swallowed the orange pill and straightened his pants on the chair before pulling back the down comforter and arranging himself on the dark sheets. He leaned over to aim the light on the bedside table in a better direction, thinking about the way the shadows would play over his body. If he shifted like this, and raised his arm like that… yeah. That would look good. Hopefully Challoner would come in soon so Remy wouldn’t need to stay posed for too long, but even if he didn’t, Remy would stay strong. He would be the best whore he could be.