RINGMASTER

EnterCreativeName

Note: Not mine, just fun to play with. Don't sue.


CHAPTER 1 - MY NAME IS…

I had been at PPTH for two months as a janitor, watching doctors watching nurses watch us. The pay was okay, the work was lousy, but it gave me the chance to just live and take time to find whom I really was. I started on third shift, enjoying the peaceful serenity of the quiet night. Then, through some stroke of luck, one of the day shift people up and quit after filing a harassment suit against one of the doctors, and my hours changed. It made me happy at first, got me a raise, and even got me a little promotion as well. Then, I met someone.

Well, not really met. I was forced into that whirlwind of scandal. I was forced to clean his office. Forced to be a part of his world. I met - him.

Gregory House.

Well, it wasn't really that much of a shock; I've always loved to dramatize my life. I'm an actress, kind of. Well, I wanted to be, and then my parents forced me to go to Princeton University. Med school, eventually. I took the job first as a work-study position as I was already up to my eyeballs in debt with student loans. I should have saved up the money earlier. Sooner. But I couldn't.

And I couldn't keep up with the debt.

Did I say janitor up above? That's, um, just what I tell my parents. It's just a cover story.

About my job. It's an okay gig, really it is. I make good money, meet interesting people. You'd be surprised at whom I've met. Many professors at Princeton University call up looking for someone to "clean" their offices. No, nothing like that! Pervs. I'm just an escort, a woman called upon to distract men who need a distraction. I'm not a whore. I feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty. I keep the company of the lonely and hold the hand of those in pain.

I'm almost like a doctor.

In a way.

Maybe it's the closest I'll come to fulfilling my parents' dreams. Maybe I'm just in denial over the mess I've caused and the shame I've brought upon my family. But I've learned a lot about this one man in particular. I've learned a lot from "cleaning" what's needed to be cleaned.

Besides, I had already been cleaning his office for two months at that point. I did both. I was a janitor at PPTH. Yes, I took the job first as work-study and then continued after I quit college. Then, when I was hit with the loans, I joined the escort service as well. I was good at that, but I needed to keep a "real" job so my parents would never find out.

It all started one day when I got a call…


"Hello?" I answered to silent the phone that rang angrily on its hook. I was at my lowest point in my life, or so I thought. I had just started with the agency shortly after quitting school, and had just gotten back from a particularly bad evening with a sociology professor. My former professor. It wasn't a pretty night.

"Yes, we have a new client for you."

My body went cold as I heard those words. It had been a month since I started at the agency, and even though I was becoming used to it, it was still something that frightened me. The professor must have called in and complained. I didn't put out enough, I didn't occupy his mind, I didn't distract him. Or something. I was scared.

At our agency we have a rule that the escort has the final say in what our clients do, and I had gotten too involved with my previous, um, client/professor. He had promised me the world, and a full scholarship, if I did more.

I said no.

"The new guy. He's not bad, but a little weird."

Weird? I didn't like the way it sounded.

"What did the last client say?" I had to ask. Was this a demotion? Was I in trouble? I had heard stories shortly after I started of other women who had displeased their clients. They got the weird ones.

"He's not too pleased, but when he told us he knew you from his classes… Anyway, we have a new one for you. He's rich. Disabled though; you could improvise well with his cane. Don't be afraid of him, he's just lonely. He's smart too. With the college or hospital or something."

Great, a cripple. The last thing I needed.

"The address is 221 Baker St. Apartment B. He's expecting you, unless you want to continue with your former professor?"

There was a pause on the phone. I was in trouble with them, I displeased them. Somehow. And now, I'm paying the price. Some weird old guy I bet, just like the other weird old guys I've met in this business. I had to answer or it would only get worse. I told my boss on the other end of the line I would work the gig.

"Don't mess this one up tonight."

I was scared, shaking, crying. I wanted to run. If I displeased them, then I would for sure be in trouble, and I couldn't afford it. I should have told them before about the sociology professor, before this all happened tonight.

But I couldn't. It was too late now, and I had to pay the price for my mistake. I cleaned up my mascara, brushed my black hair, pushed up the twins, and left to go across town.


1838
Princeton Historical Preservation Society has deemed this house one of the Township of Princeton's historical landmarks. This building was built in 1776 and was the home of Derek R. Hill, the first mayor of Princeton New Jersey. …refuge for many travelers along the underground… beacon in the night for those…

I had found a parking spot, and after spotting the 221 sign, I noticed this plaque on the building. "Great, he likes old things" was my first and only thought about this guy. I didn't want to be there, but I knew I had to. The alternative was far worse.

I knocked on the door, and it opened. In front of me stood a thin, ragged looking man. My eyes took in the sight as I smiled a comforting smile and said, "I'm Paula."

"Hey Paula."

I looked at him some more. Poor guy. He looks like he's been through a lot. The file on him said he was in his mid forties, but he looked so much older. I looked him over again. Scruffy dirt-brown hair thinly covered his head, and a matching two-day old five o'clock shadow outlined his angular jaw. His clothes were frumpy and wrinkled; his cane was the only thing about him that was really sleek. I looked to his eyes and saw a bright icy blue that cut through my soul and shook me. I felt sorry for this man and wanted to keep looking at him, but I couldn't just keep staring. I had to say something, make conversation. "How you doing? You work over at the college? Or are you full-time over at the…"

"I'm looking for a distraction. You don't need to talk to do that, do you?"

He was abrupt. He cut me off. I didn't know if I liked that or not, but he turned me on. After the night I had been having, I wasn't sure if someone so curt would be good for me. And yet, he commanded me into his lair as he overtook me with the spell of his eyes. I was no longer in control of my own body, or actions. All I knew was he was leading me in, those icy blue eyes keeping me in his gaze.

"Brandy's over there. Get yourself one and bring another for me." He lowered himself into his brown leather couch as I got a second glass from his kitchen. As I came back I heard a rattle and saw him opening a small pill bottle that was almost empty. He saw me looking and I blushed. "Want one?"

I shook my head as I handed him the second glass.

"It's just a Vicodin, it'll take the edge off of your fear."

How did he know? I looked at him and he offered me a jagged white pill. Was he actually serious about this? First thing I learned in this business was never to trust anything as it truly was. I had to be careful to keep myself from getting into trouble, or worse, dead.

"Fine, if you don't want it…" he trailed off as he popped the little pill into his mouth and swallowed. I guess it wouldn't have hurt me if he took it.

"Come over here." He motioned me to sit on the couch next to him and I followed. The leather of the couch was warm, he must have been lying there shortly before I arrived. As I settled in more to the couch and took another sip of the brandy, I felt his bony, callused hand take mine and lead it to his shoulders.

"You can start here and work down."

I set down my glass. This man was fast, faster than what I was prepared for tonight. I knelt next to him on the couch, reached around his torso, and unbuttoned the few buttons of his shirt that were still fastened. He smelled like a man. As I knelt closer to his body my chest brushed his back and he tensed.

"Slow down." He was so commanding. I did.

I slid the overshirt off of his shoulders and he told motioned to me to take off mine as well. I did. I folded both shirts neatly, taking in the scent of his deodorant combined with his sweat; there was the slightest hint at another woman's perfume. Maybe she broke up with him today. Maybe she was mad at him. It wasn't my place to ask, but I knew I was needed by him.

"Your shoulders are so tight." I said, quickly remembering his one rule to me: You don't need to talk.

"If I wanted someone to talk to, I would have called my friend!" he stammered at me and I swallowed hard. He looked back into my eyes with his, taking me back in with his soul.

"I'm sorry," I said quietly as I moved closer to him to massage his shoulders. I could sense part of him argued to apologize to me, or maybe I just imagined it. Either way, his shoulders slumped slightly and he eased into the rhythm of my hands working out the knots. I leaned in further and kissed the left side of his neck, still taking in his scent.

"Here, this way." He took my hands, this time gently, and guided them to the hem of his t-shirt. His hands told so much about him. He was careful now, and didn't want to scare me off. He was experienced at this too, he knew what he liked. I slid his t-shirt off over his head and looked back into his eyes. I knew I should be smiling slightly, showing I was comfortable, but I was neither. Sensing this, he turned to me and slipped his arm around my torso and pulled me closer to him; the heat of his body warming in the cold night air. He looked at me again.

"Are you sure you don't want something to take the edge off?" he asked me again as I considered.

"I'm okay."

"Your loss." I saw him take another pill. That was two in thirty minutes, and I had suspected he took some before I had arrived. The last thing I needed was a client to overdose while I was there.

"No more of those while I'm here. Okay?"

He looked at me and was surprised. I knew he told me not to talk; the rule was firmly established early on, but I was concerned. I was no doctor, but I also figured that he shouldn't be taking those pills while drinking; the label on the bottle said so.

"You're smart, not something I really like, but it's your rule. I'll put these away while you're here then." I saw him take the bottle and set it on the table in front of us with his right arm as he held me closer with his left. "Speaking of rules, how far can we go?"

I had to think for a moment. He knew the rules, and he knew I had the final say in anything tonight. I wanted to go as far as he'd let me, and I wanted to be clear about it. In all my time at the agency, I had never gone as far as I had tonight, except with that professor.

"Well how much longer before I need someone else to help me with what's going on below my belt?"

He wanted to go all the way. I wanted to also, but I couldn't. I had to think, and quick. Finally I mustered a quick sentence, "That's fine, just don't tell them that at the agency." With one hand already wrapped around his torso, he took my other hand and brought me to him saying, "Don't talk, just follow my lead."


When I left his apartment several hours later, he handed me a note he had written while I lay on the couch just watching him write it. He told me not to open it until I had left. I took one step outside his door, waited for him to close it, and I then read the note:

Come by my office tomorrow. Don't say anything.

Greg