“Just do me this favor. I swear I won’t ask you ever again.”

“Natalie we both know that’s a lie.”

“We’ll at least you could have acted like you believed me for a few seconds.”

Samantha, usually called Sam by her friends and family, sighed as she watched her best friend of over a decade try to pout. It came across more like a child’s version of a fake cry. Easily read through and yet somehow still effective. That was so unfair that Natalie could do that and still somehow look attractive. Sam would have looked like a cross-eyed fish out of water that was on its last gurgle. Sam sighed roughly. Not that it would even work on Natalie anyway. She was the queen of getting her way, not being persuaded by others.

When Natalie had called her over for a dire emergency Sam should’ve known better than to come running immediately without asking questions first. To Natalie a broken nail could be rationalized as an emergency given the time, place, and surrounding circumstances. Sam could remember being called over for that exact reason just two weeks before. Somehow that broken nail was the end of the world, a governmental conspiracy to stop Natalie from leaving her house that day and premonition that natural nails was going to be extinct in the near future. Natalie hadn’t seemed very concerned with the fact that the disaster had taken Samantha away from a very important meeting with a client that she had been able to luckily schedule for the next day. Sam hadn’t talked to Natalie for a week after that one. This, however, was low, even for Natalie.

“You want me to be your replacement tonight with some old smelly millionaire because your new boyfriend is starting to ask too many questions about your ‘night job’? Did I get that right?”

“In a nutshell. Please Sam. You know I’m in love with my boyfriend and I don’t want anything to mess this up.”

“Baby girl you fall in love every three weeks with every boyfriend you have. You just like falling in love. That’s not a good answer for me anymore. It stopped being after the first five times you used it.”

Okay so that wasn’t very nice but it was true. Natalie had an uncanny ability to fall in and out of love as quickly as it took her to change her clothing. It was the way she always had been. Sam wasn’t sure if the girl was shy about commitment, loved the ideal of falling in love, or just wasn’t sure what the real emotion was. Either way the use of that four letter word was a sore spot for Sam. She never seemed to do well with love. She rarely even got a chance to have a shot at it. She’d become accustom to the lack of it in her life, even if a part of her envied the ease with which her friend could gain, maintain, and then toss when she was done, male attention.

“I can’t help that I just love men. It’s not my fault that they get me going in a way that you so obviously can’t understand. But this one is different. It really is. I am in love with the man, truly, madly, deeply this time,” Natalie continued, bringing Sam out of her thoughts.

“The answer is still no.”

Natalie must have been losing her mind. There were a lot of things that she could have asked for and Sam would have done it without question but she couldn’t do this. Natalie had become one of the highest paid escorts for Madame Butterfly’s Beauties in the last four years she’d worked there. Every boyfriend had started and ended with that job lately and each time Sam had been there to wipe her friend’s tears, as temporary as they may be. Sam wasn’t about to get sucked into a plan that spelled disaster. She and Natalie may look pretty similar but that was where the likeness ended.

Yes they both boasted thick, coal black hair that fell just under their shoulder blades, creamy cocoa skin, warm chocolate eyes, and a wide bow mouth, but where Natalie was voluptuous vixen Sam chose instead to bury herself in books and culture consulting. It was an odd job but she was good at it. She spent her days teaching people about other cultures as a guide before their travels, or government classes on decorum and customs before their employees traversed the map. What she did not do was spend her evenings, and nights, entertaining men who would drool over her, lavish her with expensive gifts like the Mercedes Natalie got last year, and God knew what else could be going on. She didn’t ask and Natalie didn’t tell. She believed her friend when she said that all she did was teased these men or provide adequate arm jewelry when they needed it.

Either way Sam didn’t fit the bill.

“Look Sam, it’s just for one night. There is something different about Maddox. He makes me smile, really smile. My heart just stops every time he looks at me and I think I may just have to let all of this go. I want to talk to him about it tonight, but I have this commitment. I don’t want to leave it on a bad note.”

“Can’t you reschedule?”

“Not with Joel Anderson. No one reschedules him and the pay is ten thousand.”

“Did you just say ten thousand? As in dollars not cents?”

“Ten thousand dollars. You take the job you take the cash. Look Sam,” she continued when Sam opened her mouth to argue. “I really need you on this. I want this with Maddox. I really do.”

“You’re serious aren’t you?”

“As a heart attack. Scout’s honor.”

Sam had never seen quite that look on Natalie’s face before and felt her defenses starting to cave. She knew when Natalie was just trying to get her way and when something was really going on. Sam saw the seriousness now in her beloved friend’s face and wasn’t sure she could turn her down. At the same time, though, she wasn’t sure she could pull it off even if she wanted to. She wasn’t Natalie. Men didn’t gravitate to her. She never had that natural charisma that made people want to take notice of her. Sure she was attractive, she knew that. She also knew there was more to beauty than a pretty face. If you had a lackluster way about you people pretty much tended to ignore your looks after a while.

Sam knew that like the back of her hand.

“I can’t be you Natalie. I wish I could but can’t.”

“Oh don’t start that crap again. You are an amazing, beautiful woman whose smile lights up a room and who walk makes everyone look, you just choose to downplay it. All your little hang-ups are in your head. I keep telling you to let them go and everything will be much different for you.”

“I like myself just the way I am. I make a good living, have my own home, my own car, no credit issues, and I am progressing successfully to thirty with no meltdowns. I think I’ve done well.”

“Baby your life is as boring as hell. It would be Hell if I wasn’t in it so don’t give me that and don’t try to change the subject Samantha Marie.”

“Uh oh,” Sam grumbled hearing Natalie use what she had deemed was her mommy voice. Whenever she said Sam’s name like that it was trouble.

“I need your help and I thought that you innate love for me and the friendship that we have shared would be enough for you to help me out on this one but I see that I was obviously wrong on that not so let me see if I can go a different route on this one. If you don’t help me that amazing, wonderful, delectable picture I have of you from Roni’s bachelorette party is going to see every social media website that I am on, a copy will be sent to Mom, and I will get a poster size version just to plaster on your door. Do we have a deal?”

Samantha heard the scream of rage in her head but she bit the inside of her cheek to stop it from escaping. Said picture had been a gag to keep her friend laughing long after the flame of newly being wed had worn off and they were old betties talking about the good old days. It was not supposed to be used to blackmailing her into something she couldn’t, and didn’t want, to do. No woman, no matter the circumstances, wanted a picture of her holding a huge neon pink dildo in one hand to her buttocks and an equally large red dildo to her lips for a sexy little kiss sent to her mother or plastered on her door! She might be able to live down the social media as she wasn’t on it much and wouldn’t really come across any close friends who would see it but sending it to her mother and pinning it to her door wouldn’t be something she couldn’t avoid. She swallowed her ‘screw you and the horse you road in on’ comment and smiled, hopefully evilly, at her so loved friend.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Try me,” Natalie returned mutinously, waking up her phone and flicking over screens rapidly. After a few moments she turned it around so that Samantha could see the accursed picture ready for Natalie to click ‘post’.

“Photo Center is my next stop.”

“You have to make it to the door first.”

“Hey I took those Krav Maga classes with you remember? Last time I check I could whip you. Are you in or are you out?”

“This is not fair Nat and you know it.”

“All’s fair in love and war.”

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