Carla Westmoreland considered it another successful day as she shut down her computer and headed home. She loved the satisfaction of doing well and making people happy in the process.
As she shut down the computer, the phone rang. She glanced at it, debated, and then figured she might as well answer it instead of listening to the message in the morning.
“Perfect Pairing, Carla speaking,” she said, picking up a pen to toy with, as she doubted she’d actually need to write anything down. About half the calls were “wrong numbers” from people who were nervous about using a matchmaking service.
“Miss Westmoreland, if she is available,” a masculine voice replied.
“I’m Miss Westmoreland,” she answered. “How can I assist you this evening?”
“Miss Westmoreland, I have a special request for your service. Are you available this evening to meet and discuss what we require?”
“Certainly,” Carla replied. This wasn’t unusual, for a prospective client to want to meet somewhere other than her office. Many people seemed to think using a matchmaking service meant they were somehow failing at life. An initial meeting at a neutral location helped them get over the nervousness and self-doubt. She had become adept at explaining that it was no failure to be too busy for dating.
She noted down the address and time, assuring the caller she would be there promptly. Hanging up the phone, Carla opened her planner and wrote in the appointment as a record for later. Being attentive to detail was just one reason her matchmaking service had become so successful.
She checked the address online. To her surprise, it was an office building close to downtown. Usually nervous clients wanted to meet in neutral places, such as restaurants, bars, or clubs. However, some busy professionals did ask her to come to their offices after other staff went home. It helped them feel more at ease, she figured, to be in the place where they had control, even if that same place was why they had little time for traditional dating.
Carla closed up her office and headed out. The evening was pleasant, and it was easier than usual to get a cab. She arrived at the building with time to spare, and when she went into the lobby, she was greeted by a uniformed guard at the high desk.
“I have an appointment with a gentleman on the fourth floor,” she told the guard. He nodded, clearly expecting her, and after she signed a logbook, he handed her a visitor’s badge. As she clipped it to her jacket lapel, the guard directed her to the elevators. They were locked, but he keyed in her floor.
She had hoped to check out the company listings on the lobby directory but didn’t see one in the lobby. The occupants of the building obviously didn’t receive many visitors, or they preferred to reveal knowledge of their presence only to those who needed to know. The guards probably had access to a directory.
In the elevator, Carla took her compact out of her purse and checked her makeup and hair. She nodded her approval. Presentation was important, especially with nervous prospects. Showing up neat and well-dressed helped ease the tension. Her suit was tailored to flatter her full curves, and the dark blue helped people see her as sincere and capable.
When the doors opened on the fourth floor elevator lobby, Carla blinked in surprise. It seemed the whole floor was controlled by the same business. The décor was Middle Eastern in style, with bold reds and greens accenting the wealth of marble. Almost all of the interior walls were glass, giving an impression of wide, open space.
Perhaps an importer, she thought, as she walked toward the empty reception desk. Small fountains were scattered about, and silk hangings stirred in breezes she didn’t feel. The overall effect was like a desert oasis, opulent yet uncluttered. She was just starting to wonder if she should sit down to wait or perhaps call out her arrival when a door opened.
The man who stepped through was wearing an expensive suit and carried himself with the air of a prince. He regarded her a moment as if taking her measure, then gestured to the left with the leather folder he held.
She wandered into a conference room with a long, high table in the middle. The room had no other furniture except for the chairs around the table. At the far end of the table, a tray with a water carafe of cut crystal sat waiting, along with a phone. She took a seat at that end of the table.
She was keenly aware that the man was scrutinizing her closely. She put her planner down before seating herself, and then set her briefcase on the floor and hung her purse on the back of the soft leather chair.
He watched her until she was seated and then took the chair at the head of the table. He set the folder down to gesture at the tray. “May I offer you some water or other refreshment?” he asked in his cultured, accent-less voice.
“Water is fine,” she answered. He poured the water from the carafe into a stemmed goblet with slow, steady movements. When he lifted the goblet to offer it to her, he used both hands, supporting the foot on his palm and gripping the stem with his other hand. Carla took the goblet awkwardly, uncertain if she should attempt to take hold of the stem, brushing his fingers in the process. She opted to cradle the glass in both hands, and as he released it, it seemed she had made the right choice.
He did not pour himself any water, and after a polite sip, she set the goblet down. The whole encounter seemed formal and orchestrated to her. She felt a twinge of nervousness, but she brushed it aside and folded her hands on her planner.
“So how can I assist you?” she prompted when he seemed content to sit in silence.
“We have a special need,” he answered. “We require the best, always the best, and according to our research you are the best at what you do.”
“I try,” Carla replied modestly. “I have been fortunate to work with wonderful clients.”
The man nodded slightly. “All of your previous matches speak highly of you and the services you have provided. You have, it seems, an innate talent for finding the perfect companion even in the most demanding circumstances.”
She felt a warmth flood through her cheeks. Of course he’d checked up on her, but some prospective clients dug deeper than others. How exhaustive had his research been?
Did he know that she’d started the company because she herself had such a hard time meeting a guy worth dating? After a year of success after success for other people, she still hadn’t found anyone.
He clasped his hands on the leather folder much as she had hers. “The companion we seek must be perfect. She will be retained for six months and must be willing to sign a contract, as well as maintain confidentiality.”
Carla cleared her throat softly. “Six months… I’m not sure you understand the nature of my services, Mr., uh…” She trailed off awkwardly, realizing he hadn’t given his name.
“Sands,” he supplied. “We are quite aware of your typical services, Miss Westmoreland. This is a special request, as I indicated on the telephone.” Carla detected a mild rebuke in his tone.
“Yes, you did say that,” she replied, willing to accept a chiding but unwilling to let him bully her into providing something that seemed wrong. “But, Mr. Sands, I can’t very well ask the women who trust me to find them a long-term relationship to sign up for a six-month fling.”
“It is not a fling,” Mr. Sands corrected, seeming unperturbed. “The companion we seek will live much like a pampered princess for those six months. The dream of many a young woman, is it not?”
“Perhaps,” Carla agreed. “What exactly are you looking for?”
“A companion,” he reiterated. “Miss Westmoreland, let me explain that this woman is not for me. I represent a man who does not attend these matters himself. It is my responsibility to find a woman that will please my employer.”
“I see,” Carla said, feeling a bit of a thrill. It was clear to her that he wasn’t lying. Being a good judge of character was just one of the reasons her matchmaking service was the best in the city.
“My employer will be paying four times your usual commission for your assistance,” Mr. Sands continued. “We understand the situation will require more from you than your previous clients, and my employer will compensate you fairly.”
“I appreciate that,” she responded. “Honestly, I don’t know how much I can help, but I will do what I can.”
“Very good,” he said. “In that case, we shall ask that you sign a nondisclosure agreement. Then you will receive a quarter of your payment as a consulting fee regardless of your ability to deliver a companion in time.”
Carla took a sharp breath. Mr. Sands opened the folder and withdrew a sheet of heavy stationery to hand to her. Her gaze lingered long on the thickly gilded letterhead. She dragged her eyes to the bottom, passing over the text, to fix on what could only be a royal seal.
“Your employer is a sheik?” She looked up at Mr. Sands after a moment when he didn’t answer. He was holding a fountain pen out to her, wordless and patient.
All she had to do was sign. She could satisfy her curiosity and earn a “consulting fee” even if she wasn’t able to help. Carla took the pen and signed her name quickly and waited while he replaced the document and laid the pen neatly down.
“You will not speak of my employer’s titles, nor will you include any reference to him in your records. For your official needs, I am your client. You will not be interacting with my employer in any way.”
“I understand,” she replied.
“Very good. My employer’s titles and position will not be mentioned to your prospective matches. Simply describe him as a wealthy and powerful individual.”
“I can start with that,” she agreed. “But any prospective match, as you say, is going to want to know more about him. Specifically, what he’s like, what sort of personality he has, those sorts of things.”
“Of course,” Mr. Sands nodded. He described an outgoing, charismatic man who nevertheless felt pressured by his responsibilities. Because of his position, he preferred this arrangement for fulfilling his companionship needs.
“Okay,” Carla said. “And what exactly are his companionship needs?”
“The preferred companion will be young but emotionally mature. She must be able to comport herself properly during both private times with my employer and public appearances at receptions, where there will be powerful people in attendance.” Mr. Sands leaned forward slightly in his chair. “She should be educated well enough to be able to provide conversation as required. However, her primary companionship duties will be conducted in private and so conversation and public appearances will be the exception rather than the rule.”
“Conducted in private,” she echoed. “Mr. Sands, I do hope you understand I am not running an escort service. The women who retain my services aren’t looking for a pimp.”
“I understand,” he replied, unperturbed about her assumption. “We know you are not. While my employer could certainly retain a professional escort, he does not wish to do so. He wants the companionship of a real American girl that will be dedicated to him alone for six months.”
Carla nodded absently as she thought it over. Obviously, the Sheik would be expecting sex in addition to “companionship.” Could she convince any woman who had come to her for help to become a disposable “companion” for six months?
As her gaze drifted across the opulent office space, she remembered Mr. Sands’ voice saying “live much like a pampered princess.” It certainly seemed that claim would be delivered, if the office was any indication. But, she couldn’t just agree. Too much was uncertain, and she wasn’t going to risk her professional reputation on the chance to earn extra money.
“I wouldn’t be able to be of any assistance without meeting your employer myself,” Carla finally said, meeting Mr. Sands’ steady gaze. “I have to talk to him myself and see what kind of man he is before I can consider if I take this job or not. I need to know the situation I would be sending one of my clients into.”
“That is out of the question,” Mr. Sands replied. “As I explained –”
The sharp trill of the phone cut off his words. With uneasy surprise, she realized that although he was trying to hide it, his wide-eyed look at the phone was one of fear. After a moment, he lifted the receiver. He did not speak right away, and Carla heard a masculine voice. Mr. Sands listened tensely, then finally said, “Of course.” He lowered the handset back onto the cradle before folding his hands once more.
Carla watched as the man seemed to gather his thoughts. Then he gave her an address and, coming back to himself fully, he added, “He will be expecting you at ten. Do not be late.”
“I won’t be,” she assured him, although she wasn’t sure she wanted anything more to do with the sheik.
Always thorough, Carla learned her destination that night was an exclusive private club—even the local gossips could only speculate. She changed into an evening-out dress and heels but kept it conservative, just in case. She didn’t want to be underdressed for the club but didn’t want to make it seem like a date. Her presence was professional, not personal, which was reflected in her attire.
Carla expected to have to show some identification. However, the moment she approached the doors, they opened. Mr. Sands gestured for her to enter. She wanted to look all around the richly decorated interior, but the sheik’s employee ushered her into the restaurant.
A string quartet was playing softly, a flawless accompaniment to the conversations all around the dining room. In the sort of group, any potential companion would need to know how to act properly. People who were not just wealthy but also powerful and could exert wide influence. Even still, she had no trouble picking out the sheik’s table because it was the only table on a dais that raised it above the others.
The sheik’s back was to the entrance, but as Mr. Sands escorted her across to the dais, her real client stood and turned to greet her.
Carla had been maintaining a façade of polite disinterest as they passed tables so no one would see her tenseness. She thought she recognized a couple of local politicians. Imagine what it could do for her business if they noticed her consulting with the sheik, but seeing him pushed aside thoughts of work and her mask of polite indifference.
Mr. Sands had referred to his employer as “charismatic.” She thought a better word was “alluring” or maybe “compelling.” He was physically perfect, with dark eyes and hair, and exuded the confident sexuality of an experienced dominant male.
As she stepped up onto the dais, she wasn’t sure her knees were going to hold her. His gaze seemed to claim her in a negligently possessive way, a caress of his eyes taking a firm hold on her. Carla felt dizzy from the intensity of his gaze.
“Miss Westmoreland,” he said once she had both feet on the dais. “A pleasure.”
Mr. Sands held her chair for her, and once she was seated, he left the two of them alone on the dais.
Carla realized Mr. Sands had never told her his employer’s name. She had been so dazzled she hadn’t bothered to ask. She hoped desperately it didn’t become an issue.
Almost at once, the concern faded. The sheik began talking about what he had learned about her matches and how satisfied her clients were. His voice was unaccented but melodious, and he spoke with masterful ease. As he moved onto the topic of the kind of girl he wanted for companionship, Carla forced herself to pay attention to more than the sound of his voice (like butter melting on warm bread) and his gorgeous face.
As the sheik spoke, it became clear that he was as demanding as he was charming. He knew what he wanted and nothing else would satisfy him. Further, his tone conveyed that everyone should be delighted to provide him exactly what he wanted, when he wanted it, without hesitation or question. Noncompliance from those around him was a concept that clearly never existed in the world as he knew it.
He told her the same requirements Mr. Sands had about the ideal companion, but he wove the words in such a way that Carla felt enchanted. As he expounded, she found herself nodding, feeling, as he did, that only the best was good enough.
He carried the conversation himself, easily and masterfully, only now and then gesturing, allowing her to reply. Each time she was invited to speak, she felt both awed to be offered this chance and aware it was only his generosity that extended her the opportunity.
He didn’t ask if she was hungry or what she might like. As he talked discreet waiters slipped up to the table with tray after tray of elegant foods, and her wineglass was kept full. Everything was perfect, the food, the wine, the attention of the sheik. Carla had to remind herself it was a work appointment and not a date. The way he held her gaze while speaking, his careless domination of every moment, made it hard to keep her focus on why she was there.
Finally, he lifted a hand, and the hovering waiters dispersed. “You wanted to know what my companion should expect,” he said, setting his wineglass down before raising his hand further. “As you have seen here already, she must be comfortable in the presence of people with power and influence. And when it comes to our time in private…”
In the corner of her vision, Carla noticed the impeccably dressed staff going around to the other tables. As they did, the other diners were all leaving without comment or complaint.
She tore her gaze from him long enough to verify her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her. With a negligent gesture of his hand, he had claimed the whole dining room as his own, and soon, they would be alone.
As she looked back at him, her heart had started beating faster, and she could feel tingling warmth in her cheeks. But the bigger distraction was the way her pussy warmed and tightened, as if anticipating something the rest of her hadn’t yet realized.
Within moments, they were alone except for the string quartet across the room. Carla barely dared breathe. He had power, certainly, almost a magic power. People wanted to please him, and it wasn’t just because of his position. His gaze, his self-possession, and confidence, all wove a spell that was impossible to ignore or resist. She didn’t just want to please him; she wanted him to be pleased with her.
As the quartet played the first few bars of ’One’ by U2, her favorite song, he stood and extended his hand to her. “We will dance,” he said, a politely phrased demand.
Carla had no thought of refusing, even though it blurred the line between the professional and the personal. Of course, he would know her favorite song and have the string quartet ready to play it. For his pampered princess companion, nothing was too small a detail to be overlooked.
As she rose to her feet, her only hesitation was the weakness in her knees again. His hand on the small of her back gave her strength, and the heat of his skin through her dress kindled a sudden, fierce longing within her. As he swept her onto the dance floor, she submitted to the dizzy delight he had cast upon her.
His arms were so strong, holding her possessively yet with infinite gentleness. His movements were just as smooth and carelessly assured as his speech. His scent was exotic, intoxicating her more than the wine had. And every moment he gazed steadily at her, his eyes scant inches from her own, making her feel like she was drowning in his masculinity.
When he lifted a hand to her chin and raised her face to kiss her, she would have thought a kiss was unnecessary by then. She already felt they had shared something far more intimate and arousing; what more could be needed?
Then he touched his lips to hers, the hand at the small of her back pressing her firmly up against him. For the first moment, as his mouth pressed firmly against hers, her inability to react didn’t seem to matter. Overwhelmed, Carla could only stand in his embrace.
His fingers shifted on her chin, and when it seemed he might pull away, his grip tightened instead. His lips parted insistently.
Carla’s eyes slipped shut as she responded, helpless in his spell. Her tongue met his eagerly, and as he pressed her tighter against him, she slipped her arms around his neck.
When he lifted her up, still kissing her deeply as he cradled her effortlessly to his chest, any remaining doubts melted away in the heat of his desire. From the moment she had met his gaze, she wanted more than to be in his arms. Everything about him said he had known it before she did. He had seen it in her eyes and heard it in her breathing, and his power came in part from his superb understanding.
He stepped over to the bar and laid her gently upon it, not breaking the kiss until she was certain she would either melt into jelly or spark into a blaze of sensual need. As she opened her eyes and saw his just above her, she could tell by his gaze that he had known as well as she did her state. He had masterfully brought her to the edge, and now, he would hold her there for as long as he wanted, for as long as it pleased him.
If he wanted her meek, she would be when he wanted it. If he wanted her to be driven by need for him, then that would happen instead, as soon as he desired it. She was an instrument of passion in his hands, and he was the master musician.
With tantalizing slowness, he began undressing her, caressing her skin as he exposed it a bit at a time, his gaze never leaving her face. When he claimed her dress, she moaned softly. When he stripped away her bra, her pussy heated wildly, and it was all she could do to obey his eyes and not reach for him.
The light touch of his fingertips as he slid her panties down, over her hips, along her thighs, was like fire on her skin. She quivered under his hands, her breath coming quicker and hotter with every moment.
He continued to caress her with one hand as he undressed himself with the other, toying with her erect nipples, stroking the soft skin of her belly, and then sliding between her legs as he let his pants fall and stepped out of them. Her hips rose to meet his hand of their own accord, and when his fingertips pressed firmly, knowingly, on her clit she couldn’t help but cry out in pleasure.
He began stroking and rubbing her clit, still watching her face as she gasped and moaned. He was going to make her cum right on the bar with his fingers. She knew it, and it was what she wanted, too. She would never have believed that a stranger would make her cum on a bar, but now that he wanted it from her, she had no need for belief.
As his hand slowed a moment, Carla was able to open her eyes and find his face again. He seemed to be waiting for that and slid his fingers into her tight, wet pussy, smiling for the first time as her back arched and she let out a quavering groan of ecstasy.
His fingers thrust deep and then pressed upward, expertly finding her G-spot and making her hips jerk in response as she groaned again. Her hands fisted against the bar as her back arched again, the orgasm begun but unable to break free while he pushed deeper and pressed harder.
Gasping, dizzy, nothing more than desire made flesh at his touch, Carla opened her eyes again and met his gaze. Pleading, needing, demanding as he was, he gazed back at her and seemed to understand.
As he withdrew his hand, he flicked fingertips slick with her juices across her clit, making her cry out again, and then nimbly moved up onto the bar between her legs. He put his mouth to hers as he pressed the swollen head of his thick cock against her pussy.
Carla knew she was to simply submit to his desire, but she could not obey. She lifted her arms and legs, embracing him, and as his cock filled her she held him tight. He had to feel the incredible effect he’d had on her, had to know how he had inspired in her a sensual demand that only he could satisfy.
He thrust deep, and then broke the kiss, and she opened her eyes to look up into his. What was in his gaze? Desire to match hers? Or just the charming demand like before, the world and everything in it being his, and she just another pleasure to be claimed?
As he began to stroke his heavy shaft in and out of her throbbing pussy, Carla could not help but dig her nails deep into his back. His eyes closed briefly as if the pain was what he wanted. When they opened again, the intensity of passion in his gaze was all it took to make her cum.
Gasping, shaking, she clung to him, and a moment later she felt his cock throb powerfully in her pussy as his cum pulsed out. His hot breath across her face, Carla blindly found his mouth again and kissed him wildly. He sank onto her, kissing her back with gentle ferocity, until the last bit of cum had left him. His mouth lingered on hers, and then he raised his head and lifted a hand to stroke her cheek before lifting himself slowly off her.
Feeling dazed but incredible, her hands slid strengthless from his back as he rose. Standing again, he bent over her to touch her cheek again, watching her face intently.
“You wanted to know what my companion should expect,” he said, stroking his fingertips across her cheek and then lightly over her mouth. “Now you know.”
Carla’s eyes closed as she shivered. His hand fell away and when she looked back at him he was dressing. She realized the string quartet was still playing, but she felt no shame or discomfort that they had been present. Everything was eclipsed by the burning intensity of his passion.
Once dressed, he touched her cheek again with the suggestion of a smile in his gaze, and then he left. Carla stayed on the bar some minutes after he had gone, listening to the music as it continued to play softly, reveling in the afterglow.
The next day Carla wasn’t sure it hadn’t been a dream, the most incredible dream she’d ever had, but only a dream just the same. The evidence was there, though, and she eagerly got to work, more concerned about pleasing him than earning her commission.
After going through her client files, she had half a dozen possibilities. One in particular she had confidence would be just what the sheik wanted. The kind of girl most men liked, really, but ideal for the sheik’s demands.
Laurie was young, blonde, petite, and as might be needed, educated enough to carry on an intelligent conversation: an all-American girl, just like he wanted. The only potential flaw (as far as the sheik might see it) was Laurie was something of an old-fashioned Southern belle, with her modest charm and seemingly unworldly disposition. Combined with her youth, her sweet nature could easily be mistaken for naïveté, and her easy manner might be considered by some to be uncouth.
Carla wasn’t going to start doubting herself now, though. Laurie was just what the sheik wanted, she was sure, but just to be certain everything went perfectly, she had a plan.
Laurie was the first call she made, but she would be the last she sent to meet the sheik. As Carla worked her way through the other five clients, she also gave Laurie lessons on upper society etiquette and coached her on the little things that would make her most appealing to the sheik.
Laurie was grateful for the coaching as well as the chance to be pampered for six months. Indeed, not a single girl had seemed even momentarily put off when Carla had suggested the arrangement. They all seemed eager for the chance to be the one the sheik would whisk away, even if sex with a stranger was part of the deal. Be a companion to a handsome, wealthy, powerful man for six months? Why didn’t she ask sooner?
The two weeks of Laurie’s training were stressful for Carla. Each of the other girls met with Mr. Sands and were one after the other found lacking in some way. The matchmaker was getting more anxious that they might decide she couldn’t fin ….