When he finally stood in front of me, Johnny flashed me a knowing smile. “Heya, Max. How can I help you?”

“I think we’re ready to begin the festivities.”

Johnny nodded, slipping a hand into his pocket. “Chloe is in Neptune. Down the Blue Hallway, to the left of the stage.”

I nodded, waiting. Finally, when he hadn’t offered more information, I prompted, “And Sara?”

“She’s in the Green Room, down the Black Hallway. The one to the right of the stage,” Johnny said. He leaned in a little to add, “Positioned how she requested.”

I stopped short, slipping my hand into my pocket to hide the fist that had instinctively formed. “She asked you to position her?” What in the bloody hell did that even mean?

“Just a little ribbon here, a little ribbon there.” Johnny watched me, a small grin giving away how amused he was by my reaction.

I looked around the dark room, at the scattered clients sitting on black leather couches or leaning against the sleek charcoal granite bar. I could feel my pulse in my jaw from clenching my teeth together in what I knew was an uncharacteristic scowl.

I was conflicted: curious at this growth in their trust, but needing to know what he’d seen, and where he’d touched her. It was rare for Sara to be tied up at Red Moon, and each time, it had been my doing. “She let you touch her?”

Johnny looked at me, smiling wider as he rocked on his heels. “Yep.”

He didn’t shrink under my heated attention. He just let me ride over the hot flash of jealousy, knowing that more than anything I was filled with gratitude. Over the past nine months or so, Johnny had done so much for us, and even through my haze of anger, I knew it wasn’t a simple favor he was doing for me tonight, with both Chloe and Sara taking up valuable rooms in his busy club.

I looked over at him, smiled. “Right then. Thanks, mate.”

Johnny patted my shoulder, nodded at someone behind me, and murmured, “Have fun tonight, Max. You have an hour before the next show goes into the Green Room.” With that, he turned and returned to the Black Hallway, the one where I would also find Sara, in position, with ribbon.

I felt the frenetic longing grow in my chest. A tightening; the way I feel at the start of a rugby match . . . but deeper inside me, and everywhere. It spread from my thorax out to the end of every limb, pulsing hotly in each fingertip. I needed to get to her, give her what she’d begged to come to Vegas to do.

When I told Sara that the only weekend we could do Bennett’s bachelor party was Valentine’s weekend, her first reaction was to laugh and remind me that she hated Valentine’s Day. Her ex had always f**ked it up, she’d said, and I was secretly pleased she didn’t want to make a thing of it anyway. We celebrated our relationship almost every f**king night in my bed, and most definitely every Wednesday night in our room at Red Moon. Valentine’s Day was an insignificant blurb on the calendar compared to all that.

But Sara’s second, lingering reaction was to step closer, run her hands up my chest, and ask if she could come, too. “I promise I won’t crash the rest of the party,” she whispered, eyes wide and mysteriously combining uncertainty and lust. “The bachelor weekend can go on as planned; I just want to play at Black Heart one time.”

Before I could even find the single word to answer her, I’d bent to kiss her, and that kiss had transformed into her hands in my hair and my mouth on her tits. And that had moved on to hard and fast sex on my kitchen counter. Afterward, I’d collapsed onto her, panting against the damp skin of her neck: “Fuck yes, you can come to Vegas.”

Rearranging my features into something calmer, I sat back down and felt Bennett’s attention on my face as I picked up my drink.

“What was all that about?” he asked, watching Johnny disappear behind the black rope.

“That,” I answered, “was about the room that is being prepared for you.”

“For me?” Bennett pressed a hand to his chest, already resisting. “Again, Max, I’m going to pass.”

We argued a bit longer, until I could see him give in. His face grew determined and he hesitated, contemplating his vodka, and then downed it.

“Fuck it.” He put his glass down, shot up from his chair, and marched determined down the hall.

It was all I could do to not similarly bolt from my seat. Sara’s name echoed in my every heartbeat. I loved her so wildly, it was a wonder this wasn’t also my stag weekend. The number of times I’d almost proposed to her was bordering on absurd. And somehow, I knew she could see it in my face: that moment when I started to beg her to leave for the weekend with me, marry me, move in with me . . . and then thought better of it. Without fail, she asked what I had meant to say, and I told her she looked beautiful instead of releasing the words, “I’m not going to feel sorted until we’re married.”

I often had to remind myself it had been a mere six months—almost nine including our initial arrangement—and Sara was skittish about all things matrimonial. She’d kept her apartment, but honestly I don’t know why she bothered. For the first month or two after we reconciled, we’d split our time at the two places, but my home was larger, better furnished, and my bedroom had better lighting for the photographs I loved to take of her. Soon she was in my bed every night of the week. She would be mine forever, but—fuck—I had to remind myself we didn’t need to rush it.

After what felt like an appropriate amount of time since Bennett left, I put my own tumbler on the table and looked up at Will and Henry.

“Gentlemen,” I began, “I’m headed down the hall to have a fabulous Vegas bird dance on my lap.”

Both barely looked away from the dancers on the stage, and I was fairly confident I could leave and they wouldn’t think to look which hall I was headed down.

The hall to the left of the stage led to private rooms named after the planets. These rooms were for lap dances mainly, much like the one Bennett was currently getting. In my opinion, the only interesting thing in those rooms tonight was the fact that he was getting his dance from Chloe.

But the rooms to the right of the stage, labeled simply by color, were for an altogether different purpose. No one could enter those save for certain club employees and a very select group of clientele. The roped-off section was for the patrons who paid for the privilege of watching sex acts. Much like Red Moon in New York, Black Heart in Vegas catered in part to a population of the rich and passionately voyeuristic.

As I’d expected, neither of my mates looked up as I stood, moved around the back of our group of plush leather chairs, and slid first to the back of the room before moving to the far side wall. Even if they weren’t looking, I still didn’t need to provoke their attention by making a beeline for the private hallway.

I moved along the wall to the front, where a man almost my height stood, wearing a black suit and an earpiece. With a nod, he unlatched the heavy silk rope and let me pass through the thick velvet curtain.

I had full access. None of my partners in crime were to be allowed back here, however, no matter how influential or smooth-talking the Ryan brothers were. I’d made Johnny promise they would not accidentally stumble upon me and Sara.

I’d been in Red Moon so many times with her now that I didn’t need to see inside any of the other rooms to know what I’d find there.

In the Red Room, a na**d woman being whipped by one man while another dripped hot candle wax over her breasts.

In the White Room, a man’s hand up to the wrist disappearing inside a woman lying spread eagle on a table.

In the Pink Room, I caught a glimpse of three women, all making love to the same man.

The carpet was thick, silencing my steps. Here, unlike at Red Moon, the one-way windows looking in on each room were smaller, though there were more of them. It gave the feeling of seeing a different show through each one, a different view of the same scene: standard voyeuristic fare. I’d learned in the past few months that the performers—while fetish-driven and daring—rarely portrayed anything beyond graphic, emotionless f**king. Which was fine; according to Johnny, most patrons wanted only to see the extreme sex acts, things they wouldn’t find on television or—in-deed—their own bedroom.

But there were the few, our unknown regulars at Red Moon, who came on Wednesdays specifically to watch me with Sara. Our nights there came above almost any other obligation, whether it was work or friends or family; Red Moon let us express something we both needed. In the past months, we had fully embraced our shared exhibitionist fetish, discussing it for hours afterward in her bed or mine.

There wasn’t anyone watching our room yet when I approached, so I could slip in unnoticed. As I knew it would be, the door to the Green Room was unlocked. No patron allowed back here other than me would dare try a stray doorknob in one of Johnny’s clubs.

It was a small room, like all the others, empty but for two props: a plain metal chair and table. The empty décor meant that every ounce of my attention—and the attention of anyone watching from the hallway—would be drawn to the na**d woman currently bent over the table.

She was blindfolded. The curve of her perfect ass lifted in the air. Her spine was straight and relaxed. When the door clicked shut behind me, she pulled her lower lip into her mouth, and I could see a shudder pass through her body.

She didn’t need me to say it. I could tell from her posture that she’d known who had come in, but I wanted to reassure her anyway. She looked completely relaxed, her head turned to the side, cheek resting on the table, and I took a moment to let my eyes move over her.

Each ankle was tied to a table leg with the ribbon Johnny had mentioned, spreading her wide enough for me to have my way with her however I liked. She was bent at the waist, her hands tied loosely behind her back. Her skin was smooth and flawless, her mouth wet and slightly open now. I scanned her body again and, as if she could sense where I directed my attention, she pushed her ass a little higher.

I moved to her, pressing my palm to the skin between her shoulder blades. She jumped a little, moaning in pleasure, as my hand slid down her spine and over the curve of her backside.

“Your hand is cold,” she whispered. “It feels so good.”

Indeed, her skin was hot. I imagined she was flushed from excitement and the anticipation of not knowing when I would show up, and not knowing who might see her before I did. I slid a finger down her ass and lower, dipping into the source of her wetness. She was already slick. My c**k grew rigid at the sight of her, the feel of her seduction on my fingers. When I slid two deep inside her, she jerked on the table, and I was relieved to notice Johnny hadn’t tied her up very tightly.

Sara had finally met Johnny by daylight soon after she’d come back to me, last August. Although they had been introduced briefly after our first scene at his club, Sara wanted to sit down with him away from that whole world; she said it would make her feel more comfortable about what we were doing if she could see the man behind it all. We joined him for coffee in a tiny coffee shop in Brooklyn. Johnny—like the rest of us—had been smitten the moment Sara had leaned into him and kissed his cheek, openly thanking him for everything he did for us.

They just clicked. He understood her from the moment he saw her, in a way I think only I had before. He was crazy for her, protective of her, and—as of this evening—was the only man other than me she would ever let touch her, and even then only to prepare her for this special occasion. The trust she gave him was a testament to her faith in me as well.

I took in her cream curves, the starkness of the red ribbon around her wrists and ankles, the strong, smooth line of her spine. My chest constricted with an ache so deep, when I tried to speak my voice came out a touch strangled. “How long have you been here?”

She gave a little shrug. “Johnny left maybe ten minutes ago. He said you would be here soon.”

I nodded, bending to kiss her shoulder. “And here I am.”

She licked her lips before answering, “No.”

“A few people are down at the next room,” I told her, kissing down her back. “I imagine they walked past this room and saw you alone in here, waiting.”

She shivered against me, exhaling a tight burst of air.

“I bet you knew that. I bet you bloody loved it.”

“You know how much I love you?”

Again, she nodded, and a blush spread from her neck down her back. More than anything, Sara craved the knowledge that someone was watching us make love. She wasn’t very often tied up for me; sometimes she was in charge, climbing on top and sliding down over me, or taking me in her mouth. In those times she liked to watch my face. Her eyes would take in every one of my fascinated reactions, as if it was still hard for her to believe how obliterated I was by her affection.

But sometimes—only a handful of nights at Johnny’s club—she wanted to be blindfolded, left to imagine how I looked when I saw her, and felt her, and f**ked her.

I reached up, untying the ribbon around her wrists, and felt a bit like I was unwrapping a gift. Sara flexed her hands and then slid her arms up, reaching to curl her fingers around the far edge of the table.

“Did you know I was going to suggest you do that?”

She smiled over her shoulder at my general direction, the blindfold keeping me from her sight. “I had an inkling.”