Risk Taker - Kelly Collins

Chapter One

“Kat, it’s just dinner. No one’s asking you to get naked. He needs a companion for the fundraiser tonight,” Emma says as she looks at me with puppy dog eyes. “I’ve gone to several of these events with him, and he’s always been a gentleman. The man keeps his professional life separated from his personal life. Hell, I’m not even sure he has a personal life.”

Falling to her knees in front of me, Em closes her eyes as if in prayer. “Damon is the type of male perfection you only find on the pages of magazines. He reminds me of Alexander Skarsgård, although Alexander’s eyes are a different color blue, and his hair is blond. The client is a tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed Viking. He’s harmless, Kat. In fact, I think he may be gay because he’s never dated anyone that I’m aware of.”

Em gets up from her knees and stands in front of me with her hands steepled in prayer. “Please, Kat,” she begs. “I need you to do this for me. I screwed up and overbooked tonight. I can’t be with two men at the same time. Besides, we’ll be at the same event, so if you feel uncomfortable, I’ll be close by.”

“Won’t your client care?” I ask.

“I asked Damon if he would mind the switch, and he assured me it wouldn’t be a problem.” She dropped to her knees again. “Please help me out. Pleeease.”

I look into her eyes as they silently plead her case. I know she would bail me out if I needed her, but this is extreme.

“I don’t think I can do it, Em. I mean … what am I supposed to do? I have no training as an escort.” I watch her face fall into a frown. “That’s your thing, not mine.” I shake my head. “I’ve always known someday you would get yourself into trouble, but I never thought it would involve me.”

With a roll of her eyes, she hops to her feet. “You act as if I’m asking you to prostitute yourself.” Her lips purse and then relax. “I run a legitimate escort service. I’m not a hooker. I don’t sleep with my clients.” She sighs, then continues. “Well, that’s not altogether true. I slept with Mark, but it was because I wanted to, not because he paid me.”

The thought of accompanying a complete stranger to a formal event terrifies me. My stomach feels like I’ve just crested the highest peak of a roller coaster, and I’m descending at record speed.

“Em, I want to help you, but I don’t have the foggiest idea how to behave in this situation.”

She stops and closes her eyes. I can only imagine how fast she is flipping through the Rolodex in her brain to come up with an example. Her head tilts toward the ceiling while her lips scrunch up—this is her thinking face. Within seconds, she lights up, and I know I’m in trouble. Emma has a way of coming up with the perfect scenario that will work in her best interest.

“Remember when we went with your parents to the ballet? We dressed up—you in the pink dress and me in the light-blue one.” She stares at me as if waiting for a light bulb to illuminate over my head. “Do you remember how we had to socialize with all your dad’s clients before and after the event?”

“Yes, and I also remember it was the most boring night of my life.”

Smiling, she says, “This will be just like that night, except you might like some of people you meet, and you’ll make three hundred dollars. All you have to do is look pretty and smile.” She fluffs her hair and shows off her pearly whites. “You’ll also get to wear one of my fabulous formal gowns. Just say yes!”

Emma is back on her knees in front of me, pleading. I have a soft spot for her, so despite my fear, I agree to help. “Okay! Just stand up and stop begging. I’ll help you out this one time, but I want to wear your red gown, and you have to do my hair. If the guy is a total creep, I’m leaving, and you’re paying for the taxi.”

Jumping up and down, Emma dances around me. “Oh, my God, I knew you wouldn’t let me down. He’ll be here to pick you up at seven o’clock. It’s a hospital fundraiser, and Damon is a benefactor. There will be live music and dancing afterward.” Emma wraps me