Glasses off, head in his hands, Giles stared at the two letters he'd placed on his desk.
The right one, from his bank manager in England, was so deceptively polite. Dear Mr Giles, We regret that this accounting error requires thorough investigation, but we assure you that your accounts will be unfrozen as soon as the audit ends....
Fucking Council. Fucking Quentin Travers. Fucking Council again. They'd bollixed up the severance pay, then the bank had lost the requisite paperwork, and then....Fuck.
He had a goodly chunk of his inheritance in a certificate of deposit back home, but the term still had two months to run. Ordinarily he'd have just taken the penalty and withdrawn the funds, but...
The letter on the left glowed a hideous poisonous white, white as that bloody Ethan's smile, and the letters were dark as that git's soul.
Rupert my boy, Don't have the cash right now to buy the grimoire you offer, and... one friend to another... you know very well that you'd only offer me something with spells that didn't work, as you trust me about as far as you could throw me. (Perhaps less than that, darling, as you used to throw me a good distance during our little spats.) The answer's no.
Perhaps you should try selling your body? I dare you! Love, Ethan
“I have never hated anyone so much in my entire life,” Giles muttered. With a sudden frustrated twist, he tore Ethan's missive in half.
Unfortunately the I dare you was still intact.
Yes, Rupert Giles, former Watcher and librarian, had once appeared respectable from his school tie down to the end of his brogues. But he'd put away the ties and brogues when he'd given away his bloody tweed suits, and the man now staring at his desk was wearing the Doc Martens he'd kept from an old life.
An old life where Ethan Rayne's taunts had often led him to do truly, truly stupid things, where I dare you was a thrown gauntlet he'd never let lie.
Irritated, he pulled his wallet out of the back pocket of his jeans. He'd put a card there yesterday, one he'd seen on the local mega-bookshop's community board and then surreptitiously palmed.
Madame Parker's Escort Service – When a Lady Needs That Special Friend.
Situations Vacant. We're Looking for the Right Men. Please call.
“I'm an idiot,” he said, “a total sodding idiot,” and then reached for the phone.
Anya poured herself another glass of Sauvignon Blanc before she looked at the card again, the one she'd been given.
Madame Parker's Escort Service – When a Lady Needs That Special Friend.
She'd been so lonely for so long. A thousand-year-old demon-turned-woman did not find it particularly easy to make friends, especially when she was also rather busy forging identity papers, finding a job at the local Thousands of Books, and organizing her apartment. (She'd made this new Anya 21, so there weren't any tricky questions like “Where are your parents?” or unpleasant rejections like “No, you can't buy alcohol.” She'd figured that she was at least 21 in terms of experience.)
Working at the bookshop was actually quite stimulating-- she'd learned that she really liked retail, even though the pay was crap. But she read The Wall Street Journal from the newsstand section every day, and she'd parleyed a few tips she'd gleaned therein and her first month's salary into a pretty nice start at a stock portfolio. She also had some extra cash on hand, ready for a substantial purchase.
Of course it wasn't like she hadn't tried to find a man the old-fashioned way. First she'd gone to the local demon bar, but... she wasn't a demon any more, and the grunting and bloodlust in the male patrons no longer attracted her at all. Then she'd initiated that sexual encounter with young Xander Harris, who was well-endowed and not without potential for learning the positions and approaches she liked – but the morning after had shown her that he was still much, much too young for her. She had given him the standard line, “I'm over you,” which every man should know was a cue to change her mind, but he'd just gaped at her. This was as unattractive as a demon's grunts, to be honest, almost as unattractive as that stupid basement Xander lived in, and the standard line had become the truth moments later. Yes, that road was closed.
Anyway, she didn't need a boy, no matter how pleasingly firm his body or how enthusiastic (if occasionally mis-aimed) his thrusts. She needed a man. Conversation and substance were important, too.
And she knew (Madame) Polly Parker. They'd chatted in the bookshop's cafe several times – Anya respected the woman's business acumen and trusted her instincts in regards to staffing.
Anya tapped the card with one pale pink fingernail, pondering, and then collected a notepad and a pen before taking one more fortifying sip of wine.
It was important to be very clear about her requirements. Less chance of disappointment, and she was tired of being disappointed.
Two days later, Giles stood in front of the door of a modest flat and cursed (silently) Ethan Rayne, Quentin Travers, and himself, in that order.
For here he was, about to knock on the door of his first client, and... dear God, what was he doing?
After a training session with Buffy the evening before, he'd met this Madame Parker at a hotel bar. She was a terrifyingly elegant woman in a sort of Josephine Baker mode – completely out of place in Sunnydale, he'd thought – with a charming Caribbean accent. As soon as he'd sat down at the bar, she'd sat down beside him. He'd never seen such an impersonal acquisitive gleam directed his way before: she'd surveyed him up and down, and then said, “Oh, yes. A specialised offering, certainly, but I think you'll be perfect for a new client of mine.”
She'd reiterated this sentiment after thirty minutes of perusing his curriculum vitae, prying into his likes and dislikes as if she were writing a bloody London Review of Books personal ad, and pinching his arse. “Oh yes,” Madame Parker had concluded, “my client requires intelligence, a love of history, a good sense of humour, a good face and body, and the services we've discussed. My dear Rupert, you'll be perfect.”
“Perfect,” he said now, quietly but emphatically. “Right. Perfect, and well paid.” According to the contract he'd be compensated for dinner and conversation regardless, and for anything else... well, the bank could take its own sodding sweet time.
Right, then. His knock was emphatic.
When the door swung open, however, he blinked at the vision in front of him. The woman was turned out in just the way he liked – her hair up in a complicated way, her red dress following her curves, her high heels just a bit tarty. But beyond the sophisticated exterior she was so young, and so familiar-- Oh God. Oh God oh God oh God.
“Hi! I don't think I knew your first name was Rupert,” Anya Jenkins said, beaming. And then that smile of hers was pressed against his, his arms went around hers instinctively, and-- oh dear God, she kissed like a fucking dream, warm and just riding the edge of aggression/submission, tasting of chocolate and Merlot, and.... Dear God.
When he pulled back, she looked a little dazed. He imagined he didn't look much better, because this was... “I'm, er, sorry,” he stammered. “Um, this is my first job, and perhaps--”
“Great, it's my first purchase, too,” she said. “If you don't count that time in Paris in 1797, and let's not.” In a flash she gathered a wrap and a little evening bag and then shut the door behind her. “We'll figure out this escort-thing over dinner, okay?”
“Okay,” he said faintly, and offered his arm.
Over dinner they'd learned that he preferred fish, she preferred steak. They both liked non-fiction, although she told him that some of the works he considered non-fiction were actually mere stories. She didn't know much about music, but she found his thoughts on the topic interesting. They were on opposite ends of the political spectrum. They both liked to argue.
And he was so ruggedly handsome, there in the candlelight of the only French restaurant in Sunnydale. She watched his mouth whenever he drank his wine. Watched his strong hands whenever he wielded his utensils. Took a deep breath of him whenever he leaned close to say something.
It was going to be worth every penny, she thought. She was definitely paying for the whole night.
But when they left the restaurant and began to walk back to her place, he went silent. This was appealing in its own way – she had no problem with stoic men; it was the liars and misleaders she wanted to strike down – but their conversation had been so pleasant that she felt she wanted to hear more.
So, she began, “Rupert--”
But he stopped them, pulled them into a convenient pool of shadows, and then put his hands around her face. Gods, the way his eyes gleamed even in the dimness.... “Anya,” he said, deep and soft, “I can't.”
She was confused. She stood close enough to feel that he was already half-aroused, so that couldn't be what he meant. “Um, can't what?”
His thumbs traced her cheekbones once, twice. Then, as if it were wrung out of him: “Ah, sod the bank and the fucking dare. I'm off the clock, all right?”
And before she could ask for further clarification, he crowded her against the wall. He was so tall that not even her four-inch heels were quite enough, and so with one arm he scooped her higher, closer, so that she had to wrap one leg around him for support.
“All right?” he said again.
“Hell, yes,” she said fervently, and then let him take over.
He almost didn't make it, so sweet she was there in the shadows, so willing under his hands, but he summoned enough discipline to get them to her place. Then he stripped her, all but those tarty heels, and took her against the door.
Once he was rested, they had a second round in her bed. How thoughtful of her to provide her own cuffs, he thought later. At the time, he was too busy arranging her just as he liked, making her flush under the touch of his mouth, using his fingers to push her over the edge, enjoying the way she cried his name at the end.
The next morning, over his last cup of breakfast tea, he called Madame Parker and resigned his position. But Anya, naked and glowing, took the phone out of his hand before he could hang up.
“Polly, I'm still paying for the dinner. Rupert's absolutely value for money,” she said, and then hung up the phone and then straddled him. She was so amazingly warm, so responsive and sweet, so unbelievably perfect... “All right, honey?”
“Hell, yes,” he said. And he didn't mean the cash.