The Billionaire Who Bought Me
Ch. 1. Just a sleazy fake girlfriend for sale over here
Of course I didn’t want to, but did I have any choice?
I glanced at the text from my friend Jenna that read, “Zoe, are you sure you want to do this?”
She knew I needed a LOT of money to save my sister’s life and get my family out of financial trouble. Jenna was even the one who told me about this site in the first place. It was called Pay to Play and it allowed men to buy video time with women.
At first I was shocked she’d do something like that, but we had both struggled the last couple of years, and Jenna had two small kiddos to think about. She video chatted with men at night after her kids went to bed. She had a waitressing job in the mornings, but it wasn’t cutting it.
I had tried not to judge her. Actually, I was more worried than anything else. Then my little sister got sick. My parents put all their earthy assets into getting her the best care, trying to keep her alive until she could get a heart transplant. She was only fourteen. The stress got to my dad, and ironically, he had a heart attack. Then my grandfather died. We were drowning.
So, yeah, I asked her about the site.
I needed a way to make money while still having time to be with my family and help them. She showed me the ins and outs of the site, how to avoid things I wouldn’t want to do, and then we noticed the ad.
It was listed under “In person, extended projects” so I shouldn’t have been looking there in the first place. The title read, “Fake GF for a few weeks.”
That didn’t sound that bad. The ad read:
“Looking for female companion, someone with little or no online presence or a high profile job. Not what you think but it pays very well. Six figures. Must be willing to travel, sign NDA, and take on assigned persona. Reply with your photo and current job. ”
I just had to go on a trip with this man? Pretty easy for one hundred thousand dollars. Not what you think. It could be a really old guy who wanted a nurse or a pretty lady by his side. I could be changing diapers or living it up like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Who knew why he was doing this. I didn’t care. And I wouldn’t want to get to know him ‘for reals’—just for the job.
And besides, I could keep Jenna updated on my whereabouts to stay safe, if I actually secured a job like this. Maybe I could also download an app that would track my location and report it to Jenna and my family.
I clicked a link to see more about the man behind the ad. His level said Billionaire, but I wasn’t sure it they had to prove their income level. However, I knew he had enough extra money to pay for this project. That wasn’t a small chunk of change to just hand over.
He hadn’t included a photo or any personal information in the bio section, just a sentence: You won’t need to get to know me, just the character sheets for myself and you.
Hmm. Maybe he liked mystery and the power it gave him. This could be about a power rush, something outrageous that he could do simply because he had the money. Would he be mean?
I sent a text back to Jenna: It’s not always about what we want, is it?
Then I sent another text promising to put safeguards in place. My fingers shook, but I hit ‘reply’ to the ad and wrote:
“My name is Zoe Montgomery and I’m a home health nurse, although I also work a few hours in my family’s bookstore when I can. My last client recently died so I’m awaiting a new assignment. Attached please find my photo. I just joined this site so I’m learning how it all works still. Thank you for your consideration.”
Seriously? It sounded like I was applying for a librarian job, not some fake girlfriend ad.
“It’s just an application, Zoe,” I told myself, questioning if I had the looks and body for a job like this. I was a nurse who liked helping other people, and a bookworm who collected old fairytales. This billionaire would read my response and laugh, unless he wanted a naughty librarian?
But I had to look into every way possible to make money to keep Belina alive.
Every time I doubted if I could do this, a memory flashed in my mind in a series of images. It was almost a year ago now. At first I would see Bel smiling at me, tall oaks behind her with loads of green leaves shading the park.
Belina looks so much like me, just as I look like our mother: the same long dark hair, same long body, same long legs. We all share a wide smile and dark eyes that get shiny with happiness or anger.
A flash, and the picture changed. Her smile fell. Her face went blank.
Another flash. She looked at me, her expression both blank and full of dread. I could see something was very wrong.
Another flash, her eyes rolled back, showing white.
And then she fell.
I raced to her, checking for breathing and a pulse. I’d been trained in CPR when I worked at the pool as a teenager, and then again in nursing school. Half of me screamed in panic, but that half was inside. On the outside, I went into action with chest compressions and breaths.
An ambulance came with squad cars and the fire truck, a normal response I guess.
Belina’s heart stopped three times that we know of. The doctor at the hospital said I’d saved her life but it wasn’t over. I just helped her fight for another day. We didn’t know that at the time, of course. But now I had a real chance to do something that would matter, that would make a real difference.
I shook myself from the memory, and shook off the acidic fear it always brought. When it happened, I took action. But when the memory comes, it stops me cold.
My hand hovered over the keyboard. Then, I closed my eyes and tapped a fingernail on the enter key. Message Sent.