I sat up, lit with an idea and wondering if I’d be mad to try this with her. At the same time, it struck me as the perfect solution. Sara clearly got off on the idea of being seen, on the idea of someone watching her orgasm. I wanted to show her that sex could be fun, and wild, and alive even in a relationship that grew into something deeper. And yet she wanted to remain anonymous, and I most certainly didn’t want to end up with my trousers down—literally—on the subway, or at the movies, or in a cab. Sara had been quick to brush off the photos this time; my nagging worry was that she wouldn’t be so forgiving if it happened again.
I looked at the clock and knew it wasn’t too early to call. If I knew him at all, Johnny French hadn’t even gone to bed yet.
The phone rang once before his gravel-and-smoke voice answered with a simple “Max.”
He let out a rumbling laugh. “Haven’t gone to bed yet. What can I do for you?”
I exhaled, relieved with the sudden realization that this might actually be the best solution. “I have a situation that I believe requires your help.”
When Sara answered the phone, I could hear the smile in her voice. “It’s a Wednesday,” she said. “And not even eight in the morning. I think I like these new rules.”
“I think we’re kidding ourselves if we believe this is a rule-driven arrangement anymore,” I said.
It was a long moment before she answered, but finally she murmured, “I suppose you’re right.”
“You’re still okay about the Post?”
“I thought about you all day yesterday.”
Again, she fell quiet and I wondered if I’d gone too far. And then she said, “That’s kind of been true for me for a while.”
Silence filled the line and I braced myself for the possibility that she would say no to this.
“Sara, I think we should be a little more careful about where we choose to be intimate. Until now, we’ve been careful but mostly we’ve been lucky. I care more now that this doesn’t become a scandal for us.”
“I don’t want to give it up, either.” She laughed.
“Of course. I’ve let you take me to a warehouse—”
“I mean really trust me, Sara. I’m planning on taking you somewhere very different.”
This time, there was no hesitation. “Yes.”
I figured a Wednesday was a good day to start. No doubt Johnny had customers every night of the week, but he warned me that Fridays and Saturdays might be overwhelming for both of us, and Wednesdays tended to be the quietest.
I’d texted that I’d pick her up at her apartment after she’d had a chance to change after work, and eat some dinner. Was I being a pu**y for not taking her out to eat, for fear she might balk at this plan if she had too much time to think it over?
A brunette emerged from Sara’s building, head down as she fumbled with something in her small bag. It’d been true for a while that I had eyes only for Sara, but even I was unable to look away. The woman wore a dark blouse, skirt, high heels. Her inky hair was glossy in the streetlight overhead, and cut short—just to her chin. She looked to the right, and I saw a long, delicate neck, smooth skin, and perfect breasts. I knew that neck, knew those curves.
“Sara?” I called. She turned and I felt my jaw drop. Holy shit.
She smiled when she saw me leaning against the car. I waved Scotty off when he emerged to open the door for her, and let her in myself.
She placed a shiny, red-tipped finger under my chin and closed my mouth. “I’m assuming you approve,” she said, grinning as she took her seat.
“That would be an understatement,” I said as I climbed in next to her and reached out, brushing a strand of dark hair away from her face. “You look f**king beautiful.”
“It’s great, right?” she asked, shaking her head a little. “Figured if we were going to be serious about this cloak-and-dagger stuff, I might as well have a little fun.” She slipped off her shoes and tucked her feet under her legs on the backseat. “So, are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
As soon as I’d recovered, I leaned in and kissed her red mouth. “We have a little bit of a drive. I’m going to tell you everything.”
She trained her patient eyes on me and I had to remind myself not to take her in the car. To work her up a little for this. Dark dance clubs were one thing, and she’d been drunk; this was something entirely different.
“One of my earlier clients was a man named Johnny French. I’m almost positive it’s an alias; he strikes me as the kind of guy who has a few different names, if you know what I mean. He came to me for help with opening a nightclub in a pretty run-down building. He’d done it before, successfully, but wanted to explore how it would work with a venture capitalist firm attached that had more legitimate connections in the marketing world.”
“Silver,” I told her. “It’s still open, and it does very well. In fact, we’ve made a good amount of money on the collaboration. Anyway, Johnny keeps his habits pretty tightly buttoned up, but in the process of our due diligence, he explained to us that he needed the larger successful business to support his smaller interests.”
Sara shifted a little in her seat, seeming to understand that I was getting to the point of the evening.
“Johnny owns a number of other venues. He owns a cabaret in Brooklyn that’s done very well.”
“Everyone’s heard of it. Dita Von Teese was there last month. We went with Julia.”
“Right. And Johnny also has some less-well-known venues. The place we’re going tonight is a very secretive and protected club called Red Moon.”
She shook her head. Even if Sara had been born a New York native I was fairly sure she wouldn’t recognize the name. I reached into my jacket and pulled out a small bag from the inner pocket. Her eyes were trained on my hands as I undid its cord and pulled out a feathered blue mask.
I leaned forward and placed it over her eyes, reaching around to tie it behind her head. And then I looked at her and almost lost my will to hold back from touching her. Her eyes were visible, but her face was covered from eyebrows to cheekbones, and her full red lips curved into a tiny smile under my scrutiny. Tiny rhinestones lined the eyes, and from behind the mask her brown eyes seemed to glow.
I groaned. “You look like something out of a very wet dream.” Her smile widened and I continued. “Red Moon is a sex club.”
In the low light I could see a shiver pass through her. Remembering one of our first nights together, I assured her, “There are no shackles or spreader bars . . . at least, they aren’t the primary attraction. The club caters to a very high-end voyeuristic crowd. People who enjoy watching people have sex. I’ve only been there one time, during this due diligence process, and was sworn to absolute confidentiality. On the main floor, Johnny has some truly stunning dancers who are intimate in beautifully complicated, choreographed ways. The rest of the club has rooms where, through windows or mirrors, you can watch one thing or another.”
I cleared my throat and met her eyes. “Johnny has offered to let us play in a room tonight, if you want.”
To all outward appearances, it was a basic, run-down building housing assorted businesses, including an Italian restaurant, a hair salon, and a boarded-up Asian market. The only other time I’d visited, Johnny took me in through a back entrance. The door he’d told me to use tonight was apparently the main entrance, an unassuming battered steel door off the alley, and required the key he’d had messengered over to my office that afternoon.
“How many people have a key?” I’d asked him on the phone.
“Four,” he’d told me. “You’re five. It’s how we keep track of who comes in. Random Joes can’t get there. We have a list for each night. Guests phone Lisbeth at the desk and she sends security up to retrieve them.” He paused. “You’re lucky you’re my favorite, Max, or you’d be waiting months.”
“I appreciate it, John. And if it goes well tonight, I’m pretty sure you’ll want to let me bring this one back every Wednesday.”
Pulling out the key and faced with the reality of what we were doing, I started to grow more and more excited. I led Sara down the alley, her hand clammy in mine.
“We can leave anytime,” I reminded her for the tenth time in as many minutes.
“I’m excited-nervous,” she assured me. “I’m not scared.” Pulling my arm so that I would turn to her, she stretched up and slid her lips across mine, nipping and licking at me. “I’m so excited I almost feel drunk.”
I gave her one last kiss and pulled away before I found myself f**king her in the alley—something Johnny promised would get me blacklisted for the rest of my days—and pushed the key into the lock.
“That’s the other thing I meant to mention. Drinking. There is a two-drink maximum. They want everything safe, consensual, and calm.”
“I’m not sure I can promise the calm part. You have a way of making me a little insane.”
I gave her a grin. “I think he means between patrons. I’m pretty sure there are some things happening tonight between the performers that will not be calm.”
When the door made a soft click, I pulled it open and we stepped inside. Per Johnny’s instructions, we continued through a second door just ten feet beyond that, then down the long flight of stairs leading to a freight elevator. The doors slid open immediately when we hit the down button, and after I entered the code he gave me into a lit keypad, we descended two more floors, deep into the belly of New York.
I tried to explain to Sara what she would see—tables in a semicircle around an open floor, people socializing just as they do in any bar—but I knew that my explanation wouldn’t do it justice. To be honest, I’d been so fascinated with this place when I visited with Johnny that only my ethics as a partner in his other businesses had kept me from exploring it further. As much as I’d wanted to return, I never had.
But with Sara becoming an undeniable part of my life, the possibility of her needing something like this and my new, clawing desire to give her anything she wanted changed my mind about staying away.
The elevator doors parted and we stepped out into a small lobby area. Warm lighting filled the room, and a beautiful redhead sat behind a desk, working on a sleek black computer.
“Mr. Stella,” she said, standing to greet us. “Mr. French told me you would be here tonight. My name is Lisbeth.” I nodded in greeting, and she waved for us to follow. “Please follow me.”
She turned and led us down a short hall, never questioning Sara’s mask or asking for her name. At a heavy steel door, she inserted a long skeleton key, swung the door open, and motioned us through with a sweep of her arm. “Please remember, Mr. Stella, we allow two drinks maximum, do not use names, and have security just outside of the role-play rooms if you need any assistance.” As if to emphasize her point, a very large man stepped up behind her.
Lisbeth turned to Sara and finally addressed her. “Are you here by choice?”
Sara nodded but then said, “Absolutely,” when Lisbeth seemed to want her to respond verbally.
And then Lisbeth winked at us. “Have fun, you two. Johnny said on Wednesday nights Room Six is yours for as long as you want it.”
For as long as we want it?
I turned and led Sara into the club, my mind reeling. I’d only seen a couple of the rooms on my last visit. Most of the night I’d been here had been spent in the main bar, enjoying a whiskey and watching two women make love to music on the table next to me while Johnny walked around and greeted his customers. We had gone down the hall to see a couple of rooms, but I’d felt strange viewing those things with a male business client. I’d claimed to be tired, and later had regretted not seeing what every room had to offer.
“What is Room Six?” Sara asked, wrapping both hands around my upper arm as we walked into the bar.
“No idea,” I admitted. “But if I remember correctly, I’m guessing Johnny gave it to us because it’s at the end of the hall.”
The bar was a large, open room with beautifully simple décor: low, warm light, tables for two, or four, and sofas, ottomans, and chaises tastefully positioned throughout the room. Heavy velvet curtains were draped from the ceiling, and the walls were covered in rich, black wallpaper that exhibited a shimmering, barely perceptible pattern in the winking candlelight.
It was early; a few other patrons sat at tables, speaking in low voices and watching a woman and a man dance in the center of the room. As we walked to the bar, the man pulled her shirt over her head and used it to trap her arm and spin her across the floor. Jewels in her nipple rings glinted in the lights.
Sara watched the pair and then blinked away when I caught her looking. She tucked a lock of dark hair behind her ear in what I’d come to know as a nervous gesture, and I could imagine her blushing behind the mask.
“It’s okay to watch here,” I reminded her, my voice low. “When things get really interesting, you’ll see that no one will be able to look away.”