Lissa wanted to make history; she just didn’t want anyone to know her name. So she’d chosen this one when she’d moved away from home, long before her move to Washington, chosen it because it was as different from the name she’d been born with as it was possible to be.
She didn’t want anyone to know her real name for a couple of reasons. The first was because she loved her family and didn’t want them upset by her actions, which they definitely would be if they found out she was the number one madam in the nation’s capital. The second reason was that no one would be interested in a madam whose name was Maude Agnes Geltblum.
It hadn’t taken Lissa long to think of herself as Lissa rather than Maude; in fact, she’d never felt like a Maude, even in the small conservative town where she’d spent, quite happily, the first sixteen years of her life. She’d spent a lot of those sixteen years trying on new names, most of them from books because there was no television in her house, nor any movies in her town.
She’d left home on a Greyhound bus heading south but without a destination in mind, except for somewhere else, somewhere bigger and brighter. She had a suitcase holding a second pair of jeans, three t-shirts, a spare bra and panties, and nothing else. She wore her best pair of jeans, a white blouse (without ruffles, thank god), boots, and a spring jacket.
There were three hundred dollars in small, wrinkled bills in her wallet, which she’d saved from her babysitting money, and a combination of joy and sorrow in her heart. Sorrow because she knew she’d miss her family and probably wouldn’t see them for a long time, money being as tight as it was. Joy because she was taking the first step to becoming the woman she knew she was meant to be.
The fourteen years since she’d left Montana hadn’t been easy; in fact, some of them had been damn hard. But she’d kept her eye on the prize and the past two years had been everything she would have dreamed of if she’d known such things were possible.
Her new life began in Las Vegas—as had that of so many others. She knew she didn’t have the skills to be a dancer, but she could be a damn good waitress, and she was. She started work in a steak place miles off the Strip, then as she got older and could work in the casinos, she moved slowly toward the center of the action.
Lissa learned a lot in Las Vegas, and not all of it was about gambling. Or about sex. In fact, she mostly watched the sex part rather than getting involved in it, except for a few astonishing kisses and some not-so-astonishing heavy petting. In the end, at the end, the most important things she learned during the first ten years away from home were about power and influence.
It had taken almost ten years in Sin City for her to learn the things she needed to know, and it had taken that long because she’d needed to transform herself from small-town Maude to big-city Lissa.
The physical transformation was simple. New clothes, new confidence, new makeup and hair, a new way of moving that emphasized her assets. And she had them in spades.
Becoming Lissa meant learning to play up her body, hair, and face, all of which were striking rather than conventionally beautiful. She had terrific role models—dancers, strippers, singers, escorts—all of them knowledgeable about what men wanted and how to cultivate that desire.
Lissa took care of her assets—both physical and financial—and as she learned more, she had money to save and invest. She’d been lucky to meet Morrie early on and even luckier that he was smarter than almost every other financial adviser in the country. Her savings didn’t go into real estate or the stock market; it went into small business start-ups where Morrie had a say in the management.
Morrie had also taught her about older men, smart men, men with power.
And he taught her about sex.
Which, surprisingly, wasn’t about the physical but about the mental.
They’d negotiated her virginity for months. It hadn’t been her reticence—she would have jumped into bed with him almost immediately simply because of the things he’d taught her—but it was because of Morrie’s insistence that she get fair value that the exchange took so long.
What was the cost of virginity? Of her virginity? What was it worth? How did she figure out how to value it?
Morrie walked her through the negotiations, his patience a revelation. She always thought of those months with Morrie when she began a new relationship, one where she expected to receive something. She thought of Morrie’s advice—always know the value of what you’re giving—and be ready to walk away if you don’t get it.
Lissa had gone into the week-long tryst they’d agreed upon without any expectations other than a little pain and more than a little faking, which she would do well because she really liked Morrie. He was brilliant, but he was also sixty-two, she’d never actually seen him with another woman, and he was definitely not in the best of shape.
She’d been surprised on every front.
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