Home > The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1)(3)

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1)(3)
Author: Helen Hoang

Condoms, keys, wallet. Out of habit, he reread the special comments section of tonight’s assignment on his phone.

Please don’t wear cologne.

That was easy. He didn’t like the stuff in the first place. He slipped his phone into his pocket along with everything else and left his apartment.

It wasn’t long before he parked in the underground lot of the Clement Hotel. As he strolled into the sleek, ultramodern lobby, he made sure the lapels of his coat were down and played his usual pre-meet-and-greet game where he imagined what his new client was like.

Under Client Age for tonight, it had said thirty. He sighed and corrected the age to fifty. Anything younger than forty was always a lie—unless it was a group thing, which he didn’t do. Bachelorette parties paid well, but the idea of destroying young love depressed the hell out of him. Maybe it was pathetic, but he wanted to live in a world where brides-to-be only had sex with their grooms-to-be and vice versa. Besides, large groups of horny women were terrifying. You couldn’t defend yourself against them, and their nails were sharp.

“Stella” could be a pampered fifty who indulged in sweets, spas, and froufrou canines, was therefore decadently rounded, and preferred to be worshipped in bed—something Michael had no problem with. She could also be a fit fifty who liked yoga, green juice, and marathon sex sessions that worked his abs better than weighted incline crunches. Or, his least favorite, she could be a hard-ass Asian gogetter who chose him because, with his mixed Vietnamese and Swedish heritage, he looked a lot like the K-drama star Daniel Henney. This last kind of woman inevitably reminded him of his mom, and after sleeping with them, he needed therapy with a punching bag.

Entering the hotel restaurant, he searched the dimly lit tables for a brown-haired, brown-eyed woman wearing glasses. Because he’d gotten through his mail without major incident earlier, he braced himself for the worst now. His gaze skipped over tables occupied by businessmen until he saw a solitary, middle-aged Asian woman micromanaging the waitress on how to make her salad. When she brushed manicured nails through her lightened brown hair, his stomach sank and he began walking toward her. It was going to be a long night.

No, this was the culmination of a semester’s worth of sexual tension. They both wanted this. He wanted this.

Before he could reach her, a reed-thin older man took the seat opposite her and covered her hand with his. Confused but relieved, Michael stepped back and surveyed the restaurant again. No one was sitting alone . . . but for a girl in the far corner.

Her dark hair was pulled back in a tight bun, and sexy librarian-type glasses were balanced on a cute little nose. In fact, from what he could see of her, everything looked like it had been chosen from a sexy librarian cosplay. She wore neat pointed pumps, a gray pencil skirt, and a fitted white oxford shirt buttoned clear up to her throat. It was possible she was thirty, but Michael put her at twenty-five. There was something young and wholesome about her, though her frown was rather fierce as she scrutinized the menu.

Michael glanced about the room, searching for a hidden camera team or his friends cracking up behind the potted plants. He found neither of those things.

He closed his hands around the back of the chair across from her. “Excuse me, are you Stella?”

Her eyes shot to his face, and Michael lost his train of thought. Those sexy librarian glasses showcased the most stunning pair of soft brown eyes. And her lips—they were just full enough to be tempting without detracting from her overall air of sweetness.

“I’m sorry. I must have the wrong person,” he said with a smile he hoped was more apologetic and less embarrassed. There was no way a girl like this had hired an escort.

She blinked and jostled the table as she flew to her feet. “No, that’s me. You’re Michael. I recognize you from your picture.” She stuck her hand out. “I’m Stella Lane. Nice to meet you.”

He stared at her open expression and proffered hand for a stunned fraction of a second. This wasn’t how clients greeted him. They usually waved him into a seat with a sly curl of their lips and a sparkle in their eyes—that sparkle that said they thought they were better than him but were looking forward to what he could offer anyway. She greeted him like he was . . . an equal.

Quickly recovering from his surprise, he wrapped her slender hand in his and shook it. “Michael Phan. Nice to meet you, too.”

When he released her, she motioned toward his chair awkwardly. “Please, have a seat.”

He sat and watched as she perched herself on the precarious edge of her seat, her back straight as a board. She searched his face, but when he arched an eyebrow at her, she switched her focus to the menu. She adjusted the position of her glasses with a wrinkle of her nose.

“Are you hungry? I am.” Her knuckles went white as she clung to the menu. “The salmon is good here, and the steak. My dad likes the lamb—” Her gaze jumped to his face, and, even in the dim light, he could see her cheeks go crimson. She cleared her throat. “Maybe not the lamb.”

Because he couldn’t resist, he asked, “Why not the lamb?”

“I think it tastes woolly, and if you . . . when we . . .” She stared up at the ceiling and took a deep breath. “All I’d be thinking about would be sheep and lambs and wool.”

“Understood,” he said with a grin.

When she stared at his mouth like she couldn’t remember what she was going to say, his grin widened. Women chose him because they liked the way he looked. Few of them responded to him like this, however. It was flattering even as it was funny.

“Are there any things you would prefer I not eat or drink?” she asked.

“No, I’m pretty easy.” He kept his voice light and tried to ignore the tightness in his chest. It had to be heartburn. Simple thoughtfulness wasn’t doing this to him.

After the waitress took their order and left, Stella sipped from her water glass and drew geometrical shapes in the condensation with delicate fingertips. When she noticed him watching her, she drew her hand back and sat on it, flushing like she’d been caught doing something she shouldn’t.

Something about that was kind of endearing. If she hadn’t already paid, he wouldn’t believe she actually wanted this. Why did she want this? She should have a boyfriend . . . or a husband. Against his better judgment—it was best when he didn’t know—he looked at her left hand resting on the table. No ring. No white line.

“I have a proposition for you,” she said suddenly, pinning him with a gaze that was surprisingly direct. “It would require a commitment of sorts—for the next couple months, I imagine. I would . . . prefer . . . to have sole access to you during that time. If you’re available.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Please tell me if you’re available first.”

“I only do Friday nights.” That was non-negotiable. Escorting once a week was bad enough. If he had to do it more than that, he’d lose his fucking mind, and he couldn’t afford for that to happen. Too many people depended on him.

He never scheduled repeat appointments with the same client, either. They tended to get attached, and he couldn’t stand that. But he wanted to hear what she was proposing before he declined.

“You have the next few months open, then?” she asked.

“It depends on what you’re proposing.”

She pushed her glasses up her nose and drew her shoulders back. “I’m awful at . . . what you do. But I want to get better. I think I can get better if someone would teach me. I’d like that person to be you.”

Understanding splashed over Michael in surreal waves. She thought she was bad. At sex. And wanted lessons to improve. She wanted him to tutor her.

How the hell did you teach sex?

“I think we should do a trial run before we set anything up,” Michael hedged. She couldn’t actually be bad at sex, and she’d already paid. At the very least, he had to give her tonight.

Frowning, she nodded. “You’re absolutely right. We should establish a baseline.”

A grin tugged at his lips again. “Are you a scientist, Stella?”

“Oh, no. I’m an economist. More precisely, I’m an econometrician.”

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