A Smile Worth a Million Dollars
By: James Corporon Chicago, IL. 2022
Seduction, as Amelia had been taught it, was worth everything.
“You got all in the bag? Everything he asked you to bring?” the guard asked her.
Amelia didn’t know why some rich guy needed her to bring him extra stuff. What was more important than that was what the rich guy had inside of his house.
Amelia hated the idea of heist; the word didn’t apply to her. It sounded fake, it sounded unreal. It sounded like a word that only applied to Ocean’s Eleven.
Amelia knew it was real, though, even if she wanted it to not be.
She wasn’t going in to steal from some guy’s safe — that wasn’t even really a way that most people even robbed anymore. No. She had a much better plan, one that had a better chance of actually working.
“Yeah,” Amelia said, and she wasn’t even looking in his direction.
He could try to act as tough as he wanted. He was some guy’s security guard, which meant that he couldn’t have been doing that well in life. Maybe he was. Maybe he was the happiest person that Amelia had ever met.
Amelia didn’t bet on it, though.
“Okay. Just go in. You know how to conduct yourself, I’m sure,” the man told her.
Amelia had done this so long that she didn’t need to look in the man’s direction to know he was staring at her body. If she wasn’t disgusted, she might have even appreciated the attention.
As it was, Amelia stepped through the iron gate and didn’t look back.
People this rich deserved to get jacked, Amelia thought, staring at the guy’s yard.
At a certain point, wealth was a dumb thing. Amelia hadn’t accumulated enough of it herself, or she wouldn’t have been there that night, but she was getting close. Just a bit more, and then: no more midnight meet-ups. No more weekend rendezvous, where the guy tried to act like he was cool and not cheating on his trophy wife.
No more of this. A few more major jobs, perhaps: and the first one was the one that she was pulling off tonight.
Amelia didn’t think it was a good idea that she had no idea who her employers were, but it was either this or work as a cam-girl or in retail, and neither of the others was particularly appealing.
In this job, however? She had, at least, a modicum of power.
Amelia took her time walking up the driveway. It had to at least be a quarter of a mile long, maybe a bit further. Usually, she’d park on the inside of the yard, past the gate, not outside it.
That was probably because the people that she usually worked for weren’t quite as bad as whoever this guy was.
She was supposed to immediately report to the man’s residence, and, then, well… Amelia knew what she had to do then.
Ironically, about six months into this job — six years in, now — she stopped hating that part quite as much. It still wasn’t what she was looking for. She could pretend at the moment, however.
They saw what she wanted them to see. That was how she knew she was doing it right.
It wasn’t like it was hard to get through his yard, or go up the driveway, either. He’d purchased her for the night: a hefty fee, for sure. Amelia wasn’t even sure what it was.
It had to have gone up at some point. They’d had too many successful jobs.
The whole way it worked out was sleazy but easy enough to understand: even for her, the person on the ground.
Every so often, they could get Amelia a job through various black-market escort services. A lot of this stuff mixed with sex trafficking, so Amelia was always really careful with herself, even if her handlers tried to protect her as best as they could.
“You the new girl that he wanted?” another guard asked her.
It was always the same tone, the same suspicious question: like there was some other extremely hot girl just wandering a rich guy’s house at night for no other reason.
Two steps from the door, too. And now she had to play this dumb game.
He’s in this room up ahead.
“Is that all?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.
Sometimes, it was just for fun.
The man babbled something, but Amelia was already walking away from him.
Everything in gold and silver and the carpets were fine and did she just see a fur jacket? Amelia knew she was in the lap of luxury. Maybe two or three other times she’d done this? If she got caught, her death was likely.
At least, she’d be getting roughed up, going to jail, and losing her job.
The only good thief was one that never got caught.
Her target was Brian Celterines, some trust-fund lush who had ridden his father’s riches past the grave. Maybe thirty years ago, he would’ve been attractive.
Thirty years before drugs, food, and life had gone through him.
He wasn’t quite as attractive now.
“I’m here for the night, sir. Just call me Amelia,” she said, letting herself in the door.
Though it wasn’t like high-class escorts were unused to any kind of abuse or danger, because that came with the job, someone who paid $50 for you versus $2000 would often treat you differently.
Amelia didn’t like the idea of anyone paying for any part of her, but she lost the right to that idea a long time ago. Maybe soon, she’d get to grab it back again.
“Good. I’m glad to see it. You’re not — well, you’re not late, but… well, it doesn’t matter! Just come sit down on the bed once you’re ready. There’s no rush,” Brian said. His voice was high and scratchy for a man, but he smelled nice and looked put together, even if he was a little old and fat.
There was an art to attraction, to seduction. Most never learned it, even women. Some girls liked to pretend they were masters of the game, but they’d never learned more than making pretty eyes at boys in school.
Even if that sometimes worked, it wouldn’t be enough for a man like Brian.
He might have been a trust-fund lush, but he’d also tested extremely high for intelligence at a young age. He had made tons of ruthless business decisions. Some thought he was involved in the mafia. Some thought he had foreign criminal connections.
What everyone agreed on was that Brian Celterines was a dangerous man, and to cross him was something that you did if you didn’t care how long you lived.
Amelia wondered how much she had to push it tonight.
She had pretty red hair, like a curtain of fire falling over her shoulders. Her lips were marked up with expensive red lipstick, and the black dress she was wearing barely covered anything, and what it did cover wasn’t hidden that well.
She knew what would work on a man like Brian.
It was a routine she’d had to play before.
He was too bright for Miss Femme Fatale. He was too experienced for the Virgin Schoolgirl, and he was too rich for a Normal Woman Trying to Get By. No. Someone like Brian Celterines needed something different.
Amelia knew just what role to play.
Someone like Brian Celterines — a rich man who would go out of his way to order a high-class escort — obviously had lusts to quench and urges to satisfy. No matter how he tried to disguise the interaction, no matter how he tried to change the balance of power so that he was on top, Amelia knew better.
Amelia knew how to play this game. It wouldn’t have even been a real exaggeration to say that she was born to play, it came to her so naturally. Amelia knew what to wear, how to walk, what to do, and what to say.
The rest was just letting the other person’s mind fill in the blanks. A man like Brian Celterines looked at a girl like Amelia and saw youth, sex, passion, drugs, beauty, fertility: he saw half a hundred concepts, all at once, and whatever part of her was most attractive was the one he’d connect to.
Amelia could push him this way or that, sure. There would be a part of her that would draw him in, however: like a helpless moth to a flame.
Brian would race towards her even if she would destroy him.
Amelia came out in something so depraved and dirty that she had no doubt her father would shed tears if he saw her dressed up as she was. Amelia didn’t care. All she cared about was the money.
The red, silky, lacy little thing she’d come out of was no girl and all woman. It was a far more sensual, sexual appearance than the one that she’d had before: even if the black dress already left very little to the imagination.
Amelia was smaller than him, and there was always a sense of dread when the men would move closer. Amelia had never gotten that out of her completely. She wasn’t sure where it came from, but it bothered her like hell.
“You’re looking sexy there, doll,” Brian said, and his fingers wrapped around one bow of the robe she was wearing. If he pulled it, she’d be entirely naked.
He knew it, too.
“You’re a bad man,” Amelia said, but she didn’t shy away from him. That didn’t play into the kind of role that she was in at the moment. Sometimes it was so much easier to be a domme. Men were so eager to give up everything to you, in that case.
This kind of man was a bit harder to deal with.
“Maybe,” Brian said. He tugged on the bow, just a bit. “I guess it depends on how you view things and from what point of view you view them.”
Amelia shuddered as he pulled the bow away — and, for the next few hours, the night went from uncomfortable to unpleasant.
The actual act of it wasn’t always horrible for her. There were certain things that could be enjoyed about it, of course. Some of it was intense, and sometimes, Amelia felt things that she knew she would’ve never felt in her normal life.
Amelia wondered if he was cheating or not. As far as Amelia knew, in her study of Brian, the man and romantic relationships didn’t mix very well. He’d never been married, he’d had very few long-term girlfriends, and he didn’t have a main squeeze right now. Amelia had made certain of that.
Whatever he was, though, he had the stamina for a man his age. Amelia figured it wasn’t just because he’d splurged to make love to a girl like her, though that had to be part of it.
Brian was a quiet man while he did his business, which Amelia appreciated. Sometimes the men wanted her to talk dirty, and while she was more than familiar with every little aspect of seduction that there was, sometimes there were parts that she preferred to not engage with if she could help it.
“You’re not a bad girl, you know,” Brian told her, after the first round of what Amelia assumed would be a long night. She doubted that he had the stamina to really do that, though. Most men didn’t. He was almost 60 — he wasn’t twenty years old, after all.
“Thanks,” Amelia said. For how much she cost, shying away from his touch wasn’t even an option. “You must bring all the pretty girls back to this room, huh? I’ve heard a few stories about you, you know. Interesting ones.”
This was a test. Was he a prideful man? Did he value discretion more than intelligence?
Or was the chance to puff his bloated ego in front of a beautiful young woman too tempting to resist?
It was all a trick. It was all a game. Amelia was just the only one aware of the fact that she was playing.
“Not all the time,” he said. She caught a shimmer of silver and black around his chest and it felt like her heart was seizing up. There it was: her goal, her prize. The whole reason she was in this stupid mansion in the first place instead of chilling at home.
There was a myth about Brian Celterines: one that he had played around with and engaged with enough himself to the point that it may as well have been real. Brian was a known tech giant, but what most people didn’t know about him was the fact that he carried around an old USB drive with him — real ancient stuff, early to mid 2010s — that had a ton of important information on it.
It wasn’t enough to ruin his entire tech empire; no, far from it. Amelia wasn’t trying to do that. The people that she worked for, as far as she was aware, weren’t big shots that were quite that large. At least they weren’t yet, anyway.
No. The goal was simple: lift the old USB, and sell whatever data or incriminating information was on it for tons of cash.
She’d have to wait until he was sleeping to be able to snatch it. Either that or get him completely drunk and take it from him at that point. Amelia didn’t like her chances if she didn’t get him inebriated.
Alcohol hadn’t been a part of the evening, but at some point, Brian got up and got the two of them drinks from his private stash. Amelia couldn’t even imagine being so rich.
It was hard liquor, and strong. Amelia wasn’t one for a drink and she told the man as much, but he still insisted she had a bit. She sipped at it as daintily as she could get away with while still technically consuming the alcohol.
In the time it took her to have half a glass, he’d already downed three. To resist the urge to smile was difficult for Amelia, but she managed to do it.
The liquor was hitting him hard, and it was hitting him fast.
“You’re a pretty girl,” Brian said, and Amelia couldn’t pull away from his drunken mouth.
That shimmering black and silver blur around his chest, through the alcohol, was the only thing that Amelia was really focused on. She ignored everything. She ignored the way he touched her and the things that he did.
None of that mattered. Amelia played the game, and she played her part while she was acting, but it didn’t matter. She barely spent the required energy on it to make it seem real.
In a way, Amelia had already won.
The seductress, the person who was leading the game: their win condition was different than the mark. The mark had to resist the seduction the entire time, and never give in: for if they did, enraptured in the dance with the seductress as they were, they would fall for every charm and every attempt until they had long since already lost everything the seductress wanted to take.
It wasn’t a matter of if she’d be able to take the drive from him: it was a matter of when.
It was as if she was primed to strike, the longer the night went. The longer he went, the more he drank. The more he drank, the easier and easier he became to tire. He was a big man, and strong, too: much stronger than Amelia should physical violence have become an issue. She would not be able to beat him in a fight, especially without any training.
That wouldn’t be necessary, however, because by half-past midnight Amelia had Brian so exhausted and drunk that he was barely conscious, despite the fact that he still seemed like he was trying to resist.
“For the night you bought me, right? So I sleep with you?” Amelia asked.
Brian coughed and struggled to respond.
Amelia cradled him to her like so, in a gentle, soft, intimate way. He’d practically paid for the girlfriend experience anyway, as much as Amelia disliked performing it. Faking love was the thing that felt wrong to her, for some reason. Or faking what was an acting out or the physical expression of some kind of love, at least, she supposed.
“Rest. Rest for me,” Amelia said, laying him down, gently, like a drunken king. “Sleep for me now. Sleep, my love. And let me rest beside you,” Amelia said, snuggling in against him.
Brian seemed as if he was trying to resist it, but he was so inebriated he struggled to respond. Amelia knew that it must have felt treasonous or even poisonous: limbs as heavy as lead, fingers like moving boulders.
So quiet and tired and pumped full of drugs.
“Sleep, my love. Sleep,” Amelia said.
He was comfortable enough to lay against, but Amelia steeled her resolve and did not fall asleep, no matter how nice a nap seemed at the moment.
Two minutes turned to five, which turned to ten, and then fifteen. His snores were long, slow, and so quiet they were nearly silent, but they were there. He was fast asleep.
If she was going to do it, she knew, now was going to be the time.
Amelia raised her arms up, nice and slow. She slithered out of his grasp like an eel or a snake. That was something she’d had to practice, and it had taken many, many times to get it right. The more graceful and quick you were, the easier it was to shift your weight without alerting the other person.
Amelia wasn’t as much of a master at this as she was at other parts of the game, but she was good enough. She made sure that she was completely out of Brian’s grasp, and had him on his back, before she did anything else.
The kind of chain that the USB was on looked expensive, and Amelia wasn’t surprised when it wouldn’t just slip off of his neck real slow and easy. Of course things couldn’t be that simple.
She didn’t expect him to wake, and he didn’t. She’d given him so much of that good strong stuff that she was sure he would be out dead until the morning. Seven to eight hours, at least. Amelia was sure of it.
Which was why she needed to get that necklace and work on getting the hell out of dodge.
There was something almost like a little latch on the back of the necklace, and Amelia knew that was what was keeping it together. It didn’t matter if the thing was encrypted or what: they were willing to pay big just for the intact drive delivered to them.
Her nail caught on it, and against her better judgment, she tugged hard with all of her strength.
It had been a bad idea, because her nail got caught and the flesh under her thumb got nearly ripped up.
Amelia hissed and let go, slumping hard against the pillow.
Thank goodness Brian was unbelievably drunk. That had been a sloppy move, and if he was a lighter sleeper, Amelia had no doubt that it would’ve ended far worse for her when he woke up and realized she was trying to slip his necklace off and steal it.
It was a ridiculous task: sleep with a rich guy, steal his necklace, and run away with it in the night. Amelia didn’t know how her life had become dominated by these stupid robberies, but she’d been doing them for years and she wasn’t about to fail now. She would choose her retirement: not the other way around.
Amelia wrapped her fingers up in that necklace until she was able to pick at the mechanism with her nails from multiple angles. Even though it was tight on Brian’s neck, her movements were soft, slow, precise, and silent. She’d sit there for three hours if that was how long it took to get it off.
Thankfully, it didn’t take even near half that amount of time. After playing with it for about fifteen minutes, Amelia was confident she could slip it off in one smooth motion.
Slip it off she did. With much grace and little struggle, the latch slipped free and the USB, wrapped up in that fancy silver chain, just sat right in her hand.
Amelia had to admit, she was even impressed with herself.
Pride was a sin, yes, but even just the barest indulgence of it was sometimes impossible.
Coiling the USB up in her palm, Amelia dressed, slow and silent. She had no fear of Brian awakening because by the time he did and realized that the USB was far gone, she would be somewhere much, much different for a long while. These kinds of jobs were dangerous, but they also paid ludicrously well. The package of her being moved to another location for three months after this was just part of the deal.
Her bag, her dress, she had everything. There was nothing else that she needed.
Had this truly been so easy? There was part of it that felt wrong, or unholy: like some rule had been broken, even if nothing had actually gone awry.
Amelia saw no flaws in her plan, and she also saw nothing happening that was going to stop her from getting away.
Anxiety and paranoia could only rule her so much. She had what she needed. It was time to leave.
Amelia slipped on her shoes last, and let the clack-clack-clack of her heels on the wood floor be the last thing that Brian heard through the muddled, drunken slumber he was in. Amelia couldn’t imagine being so drunk. It must have felt horrible in the morning. The man was practically insensate.
Good enough for Amelia. All she had to do was walk out and she’d be scot-free.
As she did so, she heard him turn and grumble in his sleep, and Amelia froze up.
“Janice,” Brian moaned in his sleep, and Amelia let out a sigh.
She wandered back over to him, still as quiet as could be. She was about to rush out of the room, but Amelia just wanted to check on him one more time.
It wasn’t like he’d gotten so drunk that she had to worry about him choking to death in his sleep on his vomit or something. Even without that concern, though, Amelia was a little antsy.
If he woke up before she could get away, she could lose her life. At the very least, she’d be looking at the inside of a prison. That was assuming she didn’t get killed for trying to steal from someone who was clearly really rich and had a lot of connections.
No, it could not be. She knew that she had to leave right now.
Amelia didn’t waste any more time. She’d done the job, and it was time to get out. Leaving the residence itself was a hassle because the man had tons of security — and considering that he’d paid for her to stay with him overnight, it would be weird if she left early.
Did the security guards know that? Did he make his security aware of things like that?
Even if they weren’t, would she be able to lie her way past them? Would they ask her questions? Ones that she wouldn’t be able to answer?
Amelia picked her pace up. The heels were clicking and clacking fast, now, on that tiled floor, and she wanted to be out of there as fast as she possibly could be.
Amelia raced out of the residence. She was off of his property in a few minutes, though she controlled her pace and made it look like a fast walk instead of a run.
If she ran, they’d stop her and catch her. She couldn’t do that. No.
There was an art to looking important and looking like you were going somewhere and doing something, versus just escaping, and Amelia was doing the former.
A lot of people wouldn’t stop if you looked like you were walking somewhere with purpose, with importance. It was a seduction trick that she’d learned. Not the most important one, maybe, but one that had plenty of use all on its own.
By the time she’d made her way to the gate, Amelia wondered if she was really about to pull this off. The entire thing had been shady from the start and she’d gone in knowing that there was a small chance that there could actually be a risk to her life. Less than small, really. Considerable. Possible. Could happen.
It was less comfortable when you thought of it that way, Amelia found. It took away her invincibility from the situation. There was something strange about what had happened at the end. It had thrown off her confidence. It hadn’t been her name that Brian had called out for, but it made her feel weird all the same.
The guards hardly stopped her. Considering hours and hours had passed and she was walking out rather late at night, it was obvious that they assumed their employer was done with her for the night. They weren’t wrong, for what it was worth.
Amelia had more than earned her prize.
She sauntered right back through those gates like she owned them and walked right over to her car. Amelia wasted no time. She got in, started it, and drove away. Only once she was fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty minutes — an hour away, nearly, from the man’s house, did she finally release a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding the entire night.
A breath of relief, but at the same time, it carried the foul, poison touch of anxiety with it: he knew what she looked like. He knew what she’d done because there was no way that he would miss such an immediate, prized possession on himself.
There were other ways it could have been done, maybe. But they would’ve required that she had access to technology herself, or that she put the data on her phone — and while her phone could probably hold it, there was no way to be sure — and there were too many variables.
Copying the data would have been ideal. Physically stealing a hard drive, while a bit 1990’s or early 2000’s for her taste, worked just as well.
Just as long as she got that paycheck. That was all that mattered.
That was all that Amelia cared about.
The rest of the night was dark, fast-paced, and stressful. It took her hours and hours until she was far enough from the area that Brian had lived in that she felt safe. She found a cheap, sleazy motel that was out of the way and stayed there for the night.
The next morning, Amelia left the motel and drove for hours and hours more until she reached her contact.
He was waiting for, an older man with graying black hair waiting against a telephone pole. Amelia knew him. His name, though, was something she didn’t know. Even if he gave her one, Amelia didn’t know if it would be his real one.
That was the kind of person that she worked with.
“Did you get it?” he asked, as soon as she stepped out of the car.
“Of course,” she said, and she tossed him the drive. “I’m not some kind of amateur, you know. I’m a seductress, a thief, a real Natasha Romanov, you know?”
The man laughed and clapped the front of his pants. Amelia frowned.
“If you say so,” he said, humor in his voice. “We’ll have to crack this thing. Unless you know the password.”
Amelia, in her heart, already knew what it would be.
“Let me look something up,” Amelia said.
It had been bothering her the whole night, but this was her first chance to check it. Her first chance to — to know. Amelia whipped her phone out and searched Brian’s name online.
Her heart stopped.
There it was.
An older image: taken maybe twenty years ago, maybe even further than that. By that time in the twenty-first century, cameras were pretty good, so the image was clear and visible.
Amelia didn’t even have to imagine her name because she knew it. Janice. Janice Celterines.
She might as well have been Amelia’s clone.
Amelia traced her fingers over the smartphone screen.
“What is it?” the man asked.
“Try… Janice04151990,” Amelia said.
He already had a laptop out. The drive was in, and he typed away at the keyboard.
Amelia didn’t even look his way. She kept her eyes glued to the phone the entire time.
For some reason, she just knew that it would work.
Born 04/15/1990. Majored in law. Died in her early fifties from heart failure and a few other health issues.
There were online memoirs, images, and other pieces of information. Amelia closed her eyes, locked her phone, and put it back into her bag. It had happened years and years ago.
Twenty years, thirty? More? How long had she ensnared him? How badly had he wanted her, that decades later, he still searched for her? In some capacity, in any capacity.
Addicted to her touch, to her look, to her smell, to the way she carried herself.
The man had lost himself in it.
She’d been the stand-in for someone else before. She’d never been the stand-in without knowing it, though.
How had those who gathered the information — even herself — missed this? It wasn’t as if it was hard to find. But Janice Celterines had kept out of the spotlight, mostly, and as her health issues increased, she’d increasingly lived a private life.
She could never match a man’s wife. She knew this. Love and seduction, while intertwined, were different.
Amelia couldn’t believe it. She felt like… a novice.
“It worked! How the hell did you guess that? Maybe you’re better than I thought,” her contact said.
Amelia couldn’t help but laugh. It was impossible to hold it in.
“Call it a woman’s intuition,” Amelia said, staring up into the sky.
Written by: James Corporon. 2022
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