Annie peered through the shadows of the most magnificent penthouse she could ever have imagined. This had been her home for the last 3 months and, with barely a warning from her handler Jarvis, she was about to meet her benefactor for the first time.

Annie took time to consider her new position. Jarvis had described the job as being a companion. He described his employer as a wealthy man whose jet-setting didn’t allow for girlfriends. He did, however, enjoy the company of young women. Compensated with a stipend, a salary, and an extravagant place to live, the job required no sex and would last as long as both parties desired. Having called a few of the other girls under her benefactor’s employ, Annie could not dismiss the opportunity.

There was one thing that Annie did want before accepting the offer, however, she wanted to know ‘why her?’ Annie was not a sex symbol. She didn’t consider herself to be as beautiful or elegantly dressed as the other women in the restaurant where they had met. Annie thought of herself as ‘pretty enough’, but hardly a woman deserving of such attention.

Annie considered herself to be a smart girl having worked her way through college, as well as a hard working girl. The idea that she was unique enough to be paid to accompany a wealthy man to dinner, made her feel special in a way that nothing else ever had. It was that flattery that made her take the job. ‘Perhaps I’m being naïve again,’ she thought, ‘but what harm could possibly come from this?’

Annie was ill prepared for the effect that a 5 figure clothing allowance and a gourmet chef would have on her. Dancing and twirling in her new dresses, within the confines of her Victorian styled penthouse, ignited her fantasies. She found it easy to fall in love with a man that allowed her such pleasures, even if she knew nothing about him. Her life had been so hard up until the moment Jarvis approached her in the restaurant that her gratitude quickly transformed into more. Rounding the naked marble cherub guarding the black and white tiled living room, Annie held her breath wishing that her benefactor lived up to her fantasies.

Searching the dark corners of the dimly lit space, Annie found no one. She knew he was here, having heard him enter, but in trying to tame her rapidly beating heart, she had no idea where he could be.

All of her questions were answered when Annie looked in the one place she always avoided. Like no other place she had visited, her penthouse had a large balcony. Twenty five stories in the air, Annie nearly lost her breath when she realized that the balcony only had a waist high railing preventing her fall. Looking out on her first day she recognized how irrational the idea was, yet she couldn’t help but picture a large gust of wind picking her up and tossing her to her death. With nothing more than a low railing to stop her, stepping out to the large penthouse patio could mean her death.

Annie considered that with her luck the man she could so easily love would be standing on the balcony examining the view. She wanted to go to him, but the idea of venturing past the open sliding glass door made her heart ache.

Slowly, approaching the doorway, she gazed out at the man. Seeing only his back she found a sprinkling of grey hair amongst his thick, black mane. Examining the way his silk dress shirt draped over his back, she knew he was in good shape. He looked relaxed as he stood there, so she knew one more thing about him; he was confident. So as long as he wasn’t the ugliest man she had ever seen, she knew that her heart would be his.

Sensing how quickly she could fall for him, Annie quickly turned her attention to herself. She was wearing one of her new dresses, not one of her sexiest. It wasn’t her nature to dress sexy, but suddenly feeling like a child in her cheery sundress, she wondered if she had enough time to change. As he turned around and looked at her, she knew she hadn’t. Annie froze.

“You are Annie,” the rich resonant voice said in a slightly European accent. Annie couldn’t tell where he was from but found the accent seductive. “Please, come to me.”

Annie didn’t know what to do. She wanted to go to him. His rugged features and reflective light eyes drew her to him. The 15 feet she would have to cross to get to him made her weak in the knees. Wanting to step forward as much as she wanted to run back, she remained still. Desperately wanting to please the man who had given her the most wonderful experience of her life, her eyes pooled with tears.

“I’ve watched you,” the man continued. “You never come out onto the balcony. Does it make you afraid?”

‘You watch me?’ She repeated to herself. This brought her out of her struggle. “What do you mean?” Annie continued.

“The furthest you have ever gone has been the spot where you now stand. No further. Why is that?”

“We’re very high up. I’m afraid that there could be a strong wind that could…” she couldn’t finish.

“Tell me, are you afraid a lot?”

‘No,’ Annie thought. This was not the way she wanted her benefactor to think of her. The balcony was an irrational fear and she knew it. She could see that her benefactor’s hair didn’t even move in the breeze. She knew that she would be perfectly safe, yet she didn’t budge. “No I’m not,” she finally declared.

“That’s good, because I have no need for a scared companion.”

‘A companion,’ she thought. ‘Is that what I am? I can do that,’ she reassured herself. “I’m not afraid.”

“Then come to me. Show me how brave you are.”

Annie knew what she had to do. The stakes had just risen beyond her simple employment or this stranger’s love. It was about her. Would she allow her fear to limit the potential of her life? She would not. Focused as acutely as she could, Annie made her legs move. Feeling for the first time the rough stone under her bare feet, she felt a rush of excitement.

Annie’s mind floated as she crossed the patio. Keeping her gaze firmly on the man’s eyes, she found him comfortably staring back. He had a pleased look on his face and the merest hint of his approval made Annie’s body tingle.

Stopping in front of the tall man, she looked up at him. He was fit looking and smelled of citrus and the sea. He smelled good enough to eat.

“Good,” he said with a closed lip smile. “Now look out.”

The man moved out of the way revealing the illuminated nighttime city skyline. Not having looked in this direction before, Annie found it breathtaking. She had no idea how beautiful the city could be. Facing the harbor, the bridges that crossed it were lit as if lined with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights. It was awe inspiring.

 “Step forward,” he commanded.  Annie quickly obeyed.

Annie stepped towards the edge and leaned over to grab onto the railing. Breathing in the sights and the cool night air, she realized how foolish her fear had been. She was safe. If it wasn’t for her benefactor, she might not have experienced this either.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” His rich voice reverberated.