Emily pushes me out the door with a final good luck hug, and then I’m on my own. Luckily The Drake isn’t far, and double luck it’s one of my favorite hotels in the city.
My dad always had a thing for Chicago’s early architecture, and when I was younger we’d spend countless hours touring remnants of the city’s past. From the time I could first appreciate Chicago School style and pick out the neo-classic revival scattered throughout the city, he and I bonded while poring over old photos and documents showcasing early buildings. Now that he’s gone, visiting some of our favorite cornices and columns helps me feel like a part of him is still here, watching over me.
It’s no wonder I followed my heart into hospitality management. Stepping through the doors of a luxurious hotel is like stepping into another time, another place, where you can be anyone and nothing is out of reach. I always wanted to be a part of creating that fantasy, and tomorrow morning, I finally get my chance. After months of class work and papers, I’ll be starting an internship at one of the best hotels in the city. It’s a competitive course, and I beat out dozens of applicants to make the grade. I know my dad would be proud.
The cab pulls up to the hotel. A valet greets me immediately, forcing my trepidation away as I get out and wrap my fingers around my gold clutch, and pray, pray, pray that I don’t trip and fall on my face or something equally ridiculous. My phone beeps with a message from Rob to meet just inside the lobby. I’ve met him once before, and he seems like a decent guy considering his sole job is to hang around taking incriminating photos.
I step beneath The Drake’s famous illuminated banner canopy and through the gleaming glass doors. People mill about the marble lobby, and I take a second to breathe the opulence in. Goosebumps prickle my forearms. I can’t help it. The rich blue carpet beneath my feet sets the stage for a room glittering with elegance.
Someone touches my back. Rob smiles, his tanned skin highlighting the perfect white of his teeth. He leans close as if we’re well acquainted, part of the act, I suppose, and I follow along, leaning into him and putting a smile on my face.
“You look lovely. Just perfect. Here’s how we do this. The target is in Coq d’Or.” He leads me in the direction of the famous whiskey bar, and I’m so nervous I have to concentrate to hear Rob over the rush of my own pulse in my ears.
“Second stool to the last on the right. Gray Armani suit. Brown hair.” Rob continues, nodding across the room. “Get cozy. As cozy as you’re comfortable with. A kiss seals the deal, usually, so… Callie does her best to get him to attempt it, anyway.”
“A kiss?” I gulp. Callie never said anything about kissing.
“It never goes farther, hon,” Rob reassures me. “His hand on your knee, leaning in to whisper in your ear. Any of that. Look, just do your thing. I’ll text you as soon as I have what I need, and we’re out of here.”
I swallow and nod. Rob nudges me. “I’ve been hovering around that empty seat next to him, so hurry over there before some skank grabs it. I’ll be right back here.” He indicates an empty table in the back. It’s somewhat shadowed, perfect for him to snap his evidence.
Running a hand down my hair, I square my shoulders and take quick steps towards the bar. Nope, too quick. I’ll face plant at this rate, and that’s no way to make a first impression. With a breath, I slow my steps, focusing on the feel of the dress swirling around my bare legs, how my breasts bounce a little as I walk in the nude kitten heels. Sexy. Confident. It’s like playing a part, I decide. Acting in a play. I just have to pretend to be the kind of girl who picks up men in bars.