The Cinderella Arrangement

BOOK: The Cinderella Arrangement
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The Cinderella Arrangement
Vanessa Waltz
Cover art by
Kevin McGrath
Photography by
Sara Eirew
The Cinderella Arrangement

Published by Vanessa Waltz

Copyright 2016 Vanessa Waltz

[email protected]

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The Cinderella Arrangement
Author’s Note

P
lease note
that this book has been previously published as
Break
and
Crash
.
The Cinderella Arrangement
is a re-release of my first two novels! I’ve always wanted to do a complete re-edit of both books, and I finally found the time to do it. I’ve also changed some of the elements of both stories.
This book also contains the first chapter of my next romantic comedy
! You can
sign up for my newsletter
to find out when the rest comes out. If you’ve read my bad boy books,
The Cinderella Arrangement
I
and
II
are very different. These are sweeter romances. Both are modern fairy-tale, Cinderella romances. I really hope you enjoy them!

1

F
reezing
mist greeted me as I exited the train and made my way through the station to the street. I clutched the resume I spent the morning scrambling to finish in my folder as I climbed into the shuttle bus that would take me to the dreary gray college campus I thought I’d never see again.

Sickness riled my stomach as I wondered what I would say to Professor Lark.
Please help me find a job. I’m desperate.
There was no guarantee I’d get anything from this meeting.

After you get a Bachelor’s degree, you’re supposed to be qualified for an entry-level job, and yet every writing gig I applied to demanded at least five years of experience. Searching craigslist was an exercise in futility. None of us got jobs. Some of my friends switched to other careers while others went to grad school and retreated into the false security it provided.

I walked across the campus and opened the door to the English department. As I followed the hallway, I saw many professors I recognized at their desks, some in meetings with students.

God, it’s weird to be back here
.

I stopped behind Professor Lark’s door, my heart beating fast. Then I heaved a great sigh and raised my fist. I knocked three sharp raps.

“Come in.”

Professor Lark wheeled around in his chair and smiled as I entered the door. “Jessica, how are you?”

“Good,” I lied as I hitched up a grin. My grip tightened over my resume. “How are your classes?” I asked as I sat down across from his desk.

He was young for a college professor, with thick brown hair and an attractive face. Professor Lark was known for being easygoing and fair. Everyone liked him.

He waved his hand. “The furloughs have been frustrating, as you know. But otherwise, it’s been fine. How goes your internship?”

The burn of failure heated my chest. “They kept me for a year.”

“Ah.”

“They told me they didn’t have a paid position available. So I quit.”

He frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that. At least it will look good on your resume.”

A sting of anger punctured my anxiety. Didn’t anyone understand I couldn’t live on unpaid internships?

“That’s sort of why I’m here. I’ve been applying to editing jobs, even technical writing, and I’m having a hard time. It’s been a year since I left my internship and I still haven’t found anything.”

The panic crept into my voice. Professor Lark looked sympathetic, but I didn’t see anything on his face that gave me hope.

“Perhaps you should get a job while you continue searching. I’m sorry, Jessica. I don’t think I’ll be much help. Have you tried looking in the career center?”

I refused to accept that. “Don’t you have contacts in the industry? Anyone you could send my resume to? I already tried the career center.”

He took the resume from my hands, avoiding my eyes as he scanned it. “I’ve been out of touch with them for a few years. I’m really sorry you came all this way for this. The only thing I can suggest—”

My heart swelled with hope.

“—is to keep trying. Get a paying job anywhere, it doesn’t matter. On the side, get another internship or a volunteering gig at a big five publisher. Just keep at it. You need more experience.”

I felt hollow. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve heard, “Don’t give up” or “Keep trying.” One of these days, someone will see how dedicated you are. You’ll have a cushy job in the city and an apartment with an in-unit washer and dryer, and parking included, and everything will be perfect. Not messy, like everyone else’s lives.

I stood up, fighting to keep my face from crumbling. From the distraught look on his face, I was probably failing.

“Thanks, professor,” I said in a cheery voice. “Yeah, that makes sense.”

My words echoed in the small office. I looked around at the dank office, taking in the battered books and how tired he looked, as if his job prematurely aged him.

“Jessica, wait!”

“Bye professor!”

I pretended not to hear him as I dashed out of the office. Pressure built up behind my eyes and I gasped for breath. I thought of the Golden Gate Bridge and saw my body leaping off the red bars to be swallowed by the icy waters.

Everything will be fine
.

I would go to the library and research.

I’ll spend the whole damn day there if I have to
.

Once I entered the library, I breathed. It was my sanctuary. When I was young, I spent whole days away from home buried in books. It was easy to crack a book open and dive into the story for hours and escape. When it closed at five, only then would I return. I still remembered how my stomach would fill with dread when my feet brought me closer and closer to my foster parents.

Fuck that
.

I slid into a chair and logged onto the computer. Someone left a
Time
magazine on the desk and I pushed it aside. The monitor burned my eyes as I scoured every website I knew for editing jobs and found a few I overlooked before. I spent hours typing up cover letters and sent half a dozen emails. I also shot my resume to other non-editing jobs. Professor Lark was right; I couldn’t afford to keep waiting for my dream job.

I grabbed the mug of coffee I brought with me, which was now stone cold, and knocked over the magazine so the cover landed face-up. A title caught my eye.

How I Became a Millionaire’s Sugarbaby

Intrigued, I flipped the pages to the article and read one of the enlarged quotes:

“I make about $5000 a month, which doubles when I travel with him.”

Holy shit.

My eyes scanned it as if I was the first one to learn this secret. The article was about sugarbaby websites, where the world’s richest men would ‘hire’ young women to go on dates with them at the most exclusive restaurants, or as companions when they traveled for business. The woman claimed that she had never had sex with her clients. Women who became sugarbabies were usually college-age. They needed to pay for their college tuition, or their credit card debt, or whatever.

This can’t be real.

I clicked to one website they mentioned and gaped as I scrolled through the list of “gentlemen” and saw their profile pictures, their net worth, and their location. Apparently, they did background checks on their millionaires’ tax records to make sure that their income was legitimate.

Wow. Five thousand dollars a month. That’d pay for rent, easy.

The girls probably have sex with the millionaires, making them little more than prostitutes.

I imagined myself on the arm of a sixty-year-old man and my guts twisted. But really, who cared how old he was? I could go on a couple dates with him. It’s not like I was signing a contract to go
home
with him.

This is a stupid idea.

But I would choose whom I went out with. He didn’t have to be sixty.

I took the
Time
magazine with me, stuffing it into my bag. Like a zombie, I walked back to the shuttle and returned to the BART. I was so out of it I almost got off the wrong stop. A battle raged inside me as I took the BART home, wondering whether I should tell Natalie or not. I knew she would not approve.

Jessica, don’t be stupid. This is just an escort site disguised as something else. Are you really that desperate?

Yes. I needed a job. Retail didn’t pay enough. This seemed like such an easy thing. A couple dates a month for a fat paycheck. I could at least try it. If I was uncomfortable with the experience, I could just delete my profile and never do it again.

You’ve lost your damn mind.

I unlocked the door to my apartment and walked inside. It was a grimy, two-bedroom place in the East Bay I could barely afford. Though Natalie’s parents were well off, they had the opinion that once you turned eighteen, you were on your own. We scrimped and saved for every beaten up piece of furniture in our place. A moth-eaten sofa that might have once been beige laid in the living room, and a chipped, circular wooden table surrounded by fold-up chairs sat in the linoleum kitchen. That was it. We didn’t even have a coffee table.

Natalie was in the kitchen, eating leftovers. I couldn’t believe how late it was. Almost suppertime. How many hours did I spend in the library researching?

“Hey. How’d it go?”

“So well I’m considering prostituting myself.”

Not far from the truth.

She stuck out her tongue at me, assuming I was joking.

I was dying to tell her about what I read in the magazine. The secret was burning a hole in my bag where I stashed it.

Five thousand fucking dollars a month. That’s a shitload of money.

It was a terrible idea.
Forget it
.

I turned the TV on and left it on the Entertainment Tonight channel, not really caring about what I was watching. Natalie sat down next to me, a bottle of beer clutched in her hand.

“So did you run into anyone we know?”

“Not really. I applied to a bunch of jobs while I was at the library.”

“That’s good.”

There was a montage of a handsome, well-dressed man on the screen.

Natalie chuckled. “
God
, look at this guy.”

I snapped my attention to the program.


Billionaire playboy Luke Pardini was spotted partying in San Francisco last night.

The screen flashed a series of images of a young, twenty-something man stumbling out of nightclub with tall, gorgeous women hanging on each arm.

“The troubled billionaire left Ruby Skye with two employees at 3am and was seen entering a Pardini hotel in Union Square. Luke’s father, Giacomo Pardini, is the owner of the multi-billion dollar hotel industry. Last year, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The business magnate has had a reportedly strained relationship with his son, who is expected to take over Pardini Worldwide.”

“He’s like Bruce Wayne.” Natalie sniggered as she took a swig of her bottle.

Yes, he was just like him: rich, famous, handsome, and a playboy.

What’s it like being filthy rich
? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I went to a five-star Michelin restaurant. Hell, I wouldn’t be able to navigate through the spread of silverware. Still, it’s fun to fantasize about dining at the most fabulous restaurants in the world, staying at expensive hotels and paying ridiculous amounts of money for bottles of vodka at the VIP section in clubs.

I remembered the whole sugarbaby thing, and wondered if Luke was on one of those websites.

No way.
He’s too gorgeous.

I looked at Natalie’s face and wondered if she’d be receptive toward my idea, but she looked back at me with a rather serious look and I lost my nerve.

“Hey, listen. I don’t want to rush you, but I really need money for rent this month.”

“I’m working on it, I promise.”

There’s no way in hell I’ll have the money for her in time
.

Her quiet disappointment burrowed into my chest. I stood from the couch to head straight for my room. Natalie was the only family I had, and I hated myself for putting her in this difficult position. I sat in front of my computer and stared at the screen as my fingers typed in the website’s address. My mouse hovered over the registration button to make my sugarbaby profile.

Jesus. I’ve done nothing remotely resembling online dating
.
This is stupid. I should at least wait to see if anyone contacts me.

But there were only three weeks left in the month, and Natalie needed her half of the rent money. I looked around my room as my fingernails dug into my palms and tried to find something I could hawk. My closet consisted of clothes from the Salvation Army and some gifted from Natalie’s family. My old Super Nintendo system sat in the corner, but it would net me at the most a couple hundred dollars. The only real asset was my computer, and I couldn’t sell it. No one would bother buying my other possessions. Natalie usually gave me clothes she would no longer wear. It was lucky that we had the same body type. Everything I owned was frayed and unwanted.

I’m so fucking poor.
Helplessness suffocated my chest—I couldn’t deal with it.

Just wait a few days.

I clenched my fists as a tear rolled down my face. I bit my knuckles to keep myself from sobbing out loud. A voice screamed inside me, repeating the same question over and over—
What am I going to do?

I waited in the dark, hoping that a brilliant idea from the back corner of my mind would scream out something I never considered. But all I came up with was—
I don’t know.

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