I ordered her a vodka gimlet and got a scotch for myself before leading her to a small table in the corner. I stared at her as she took it all in. She sipped her drink and took time to study everything around her. I wondered if she realized how much attention she’d attracted from the clientele.
In her neck, I could see her pulse thrum. I stared at the pale skin, wanting to lean over and suck a mark into her. Shifting in my seat to adjust my trousers, I imagined what it would be like to make her come with my hand while the entire room watched.
“What are you thinking?” I asked her.
She lifted her chin, indicating the dancers who kissed, moved away, and then joined back together again. “Are they going to have sex out here?”
“Most likely, of one form or another.”
“So why do they have the rooms, too?”
“Variety. If I remember correctly, the scenarios in the rooms tend to be wilder. And they’re smaller, more intimate.”
She nodded, lifting her drink and taking a sip, studying me. “No one here knows who I am, but still I’m the one wearing a wig and a mask.”
Smiling, I pointed out, “Historically you have been the one who wants to remain hidden.”
“You would do this for me? Let people watch us together?”
“I suspect I would do almost anything for you,” I admitted. And then, unable to see in the dark corner how my words affected her, I added, “The thought is probably just as much a rush for me as it seems to be for you.”
She slid her hand onto my thigh under the table. “But people here know you. They know your face.”
“There are people all over this room who are far more famous. That man in the corner is an American football player for some team Will is always going on about. And that woman?” I motioned subtly to a table near the bar. “Television.”
Sara’s eyes widened slightly as she recognized the Emmy Award–winning actress. “But they aren’t considering ha**g s*x in Room Six,” she noted.
“No, but they’re here watching. No one will judge me for being here with you. And more important, everyone knows you don’t f**k with Johnny French’s confidentiality requirement. He has dirt on everyone here, or can find it.”
“It stays in this room, S—” I began, but she pressed a finger to my lips.
“The first rule of fight club?” she asked, grinning.
“Exactly.” Lifting my drink to my lips, I took a sip, swallowed. “Tell me what else you’re thinking.”
She leaned in to kiss me but I pulled away.
I shook my head. “Unfortunately, that’s another rule. No sexual contact by anyone but the performers.”
“Damn.” She shifted in her seat, watching the dancers for a bit. They’d shed their clothes by now, and the man steadied a harness that had been lowered from the ceiling so his partner could step into it. Once inside, her legs were spread wide and an invisible pulley lifted her so her h*ps were level with her partner’s head. He began to spin her in time with the music, walking in wide circles as she whipped around, head thrown back.
“What time is it?” Sara asked after a few minutes, not looking away from where the man had abruptly stopped the woman from spinning, and pressed his open mouth between her legs.
She sighed, and I couldn’t tell if she was as antsy as I was. The torture of the club was knowing that if I wanted to touch her, I could do it only where others could see us. Use us for their need as much as we were using them for ours. I wanted more than anything to do to her what the man on the dance floor had begun doing to his partner: tasting, teasing, f**king her with his fingers.
As the man spun the woman away again, a waiter approached our table.
“Good evening, sir.” He poured water from a crystal pitcher, beginning near the glass then raising it above his head without altering the water’s flow even a little. “The owner has mentioned you’ve been here but your guest is new. Would you like me to tell you a bit about what you can expect?”
He turned to Sara. “The club changes the room décor every couple of weeks. Our goal is to keep things fresh for our clientele. You’ll find a variety of scenes going on as you walk down to the rooms.”
I glanced to Sara and wondered how, beneath the mask, the sweet midwestern girl was taking all of this in.
The host continued, “Shows begin at ten, and go until midnight. I’m told your room is Six. Given that this is your first event, you should feel welcome to watch the other exhibits for a bit before deciding whether you would like to participate.” He smiled. “I’m also told the owner would very much like to add something a bit more intimate and sincere to the regular rotation. We’ve never had an exhibiting couple who looks at each other the way you do.”
I felt my eyes go wide, and beside me Sara shifted closer. I could feel the warmth of her thigh against mine. I was truly on the verge of exploding with my need to feel her.
The waiter bowed slightly. “But please do not feel any pressure.”
At ten, the lights in the hallway illuminated a warm gold. Other patrons around the main room shifted, finished their drinks, stood slowly. But Sara grabbed my hand and jerked me out of my chair.
The hall was at least twenty feet wide, with seats and tables near the windows looking in on the rooms. In Room One, the first room on the left, a young, muscular man stood in the corner wearing jeans and no shirt. On the floor, on all fours, was another dark-haired man with a horse tail extending from an anal plug. The man standing in the corner lifted a whip and cracked it loudly in the air.
Sara’s hand flew to her mouth, as I pulled her farther down the hall, murmuring, “Pony play, darling. Not for everyone.”
Room Two had a beautiful woman, alone and na**d on the couch, just beginning to masturbate to pornography being projected across the expansive wall opposite her.
Room Three had an enormous, pale man in the tragic Melpomene mask, preparing to take a gagged woman from behind. Beside me, I could sense Sara grow more tense.
“This looks . . .” She gestured vaguely to the strangely fascinating scene.
“Adventurous?” I suggested. “You have to understand that people pay a lot of money to come here. They don’t want to see things they can see on the telly.”
I put my hand to the small of her back and reminded her, “Another thing you can’t see on the telly is real intimacy.”
She looked up at me and then her attention dropped to my mouth. “Do you think we’re really intimate?”
She nodded. “When did that happen?”
“When has it been anything other than intimate? You just wanted to ignore it.”
She blinked away, but leaned into my side and we started walking again.
Room Four had three women, kissing and laughing as they undressed each other on a gigantic white bed.
Room Five had a man binding a woman up with rope, while a bound and gagged cuckolded man watched from the corner.
“We’re going to be boring,” she whispered, eyes wide.
She didn’t answer, because we’d arrived at Room Six, which stood empty. Without even looking to me, she slipped around the end of the hall to where we could enter the rooms from the rear.
The door handle to Six turned easily, and Sara stepped inside.
After a few moments, our eyes adjusted, and I could make out a bar in the corner and a huge leather couch with a low coffee table in front. Even in the darkness, the room felt very much like a corner of my own living room, and I suspected with a jolt that it was a replica of that space.
Without thinking to ask Sara first, I flipped on the light. I was right. Cream walls with deep walnut trim, a wide black couch, and the same plush area rug I had picked up in Dubai. Tiffany lamps decorated the two small end tables. The room was far smaller than my living room, which I used for large events, but the similarity was undeniable. The giant window through which people could observe us was framed by drapes, just like those at my flat, but from where we stood, it just looked like a window looking out upon a blank darkness.
Johnny had been to my house only once, but in a single afternoon he’d transformed a room in his club for me, no doubt assuming it would be familiar to us both, maybe put us at ease. He would have no idea that Sara had never actually been to my flat.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, walking closer and, realizing she could touch me in here, wrapping her arms around my waist.
“He’s made a replica of my living room for us.”
“What’s crazy is that this is the first time you’re seeing my house. From inside a sex club.”
The absurdity of it all seemed to hit us both at the same time and Sara dissolved into giggles, pressing her face into my chest. “This is the weirdest thing anyone has ever done. Ever.”
“No. This is the first place we’ll have sex where we’re supposed to,” she said, grinning. “You think I’m going to pass that up?”
Fuck. The woman could ask me to kneel and kiss her toes and I would do it.
I almost said it: I love you. The words got so close to escaping that I literally turned away from her, and walked over to the bar to fix myself a drink.
But she followed me. “And it’s probably late to be asking this, but what are we doing here?”
“I believe we’re trying to find a way to enjoy this aspect of our relationship without jeopardizing our careers or getting our faces plastered all over Perez Hilton.”
I lifted the bottle of scotch, silently offering. She shook her head, eyes wide beneath her mask as she watched me pour myself a drink.
“Three fingers,” she whispered, and I heard her smile in her voice.
She stepped close after I took a sip and stretched to kiss me, sucking on my tongue.
The feathers of her mask brushed against my cheek. “Three,” she insisted.
As she kissed down my neck and spread her hand over the front of my trousers, palming me, I looked over her shoulder at the dark window. Out there, customers might already be sitting and watching, curious about what would happen. Or maybe we were all alone here at the end of the hall. But the idea that we weren’t, the sheer possibility that others could see how she touched me . . . for the first time I understood how being out in plain sight with me had allowed Sara to be whoever she wanted to be. She could play. She could be wild and adventurous and take risks.
And so could I. Here, I could be the man who was desperately in love for the first time in my life.
“Do you really want to fool around here?” I asked, wincing internally at my own bluntness.
But she nodded. “I’m just nervous. Which is slightly insane considering our history.”
She laughed and reached out to lightly scratch my abdomen. Fuck. I’d never felt such a tormenting mix of protectiveness, worship, and a blinding need to completely own someone physically. She was so beautiful, so bloody trusting—all f**king mine.
I bent down, kissed her jaw, and slipped the top few buttons on her shirt free. “What do you imagine when you think we’re being watched?”
She hesitated, toying with the hem of my shirt. “I imagine someone seeing your face and how you look at me.”
“I imagine a woman who wants to be with you, seeing you with me. Seeing you wanting me.”
I hummed against her skin, pushing her shirt off her shoulders and reaching around to remove her bra. “More.”
When I kissed her neck, I could feel her swallow against my lips. Her voice came out quieter when she admitted, “I imagine some faceless person who saw Andy treat me badly. I imagine the woman he was caught with seeing how you look at me.”
There it is. “And?”
“And him. I imagine him seeing how happy I am now.” She shook her head, digging her fists into my shirt and pulling me close as if I’d pull away. “I don’t think I’ll always hold on to it, but I hate that I still feel so much anger.”
Leaning back, she looked up at me. “But you make me feel amazing, and wanted, and yes, part of me still wishes to rub that in his face.”
I couldn’t hold back my grin. I f**king loved the idea of that bastard seeing me f**k Sara senseless. Because the biggest mistake of his life—his infidelity—had given me the best part of mine.
“Me, too. I’d love him to see how you look when you’re coming. Since I bet he didn’t really manage to see that much.”
She laughed, licking up my throat. “No.”
And fuck, for the first time in my life, I wanted to be someone’s only.
I led her to the couch, then kneeled on the floor between her legs.
Her hands laced into my hair.
“What do you want me to do?” she whispered, looking down at me, always so willing to give me anything.
What do I want? I struggled to find the right answer, suddenly more than a little overwhelmed with the enormity of that question.
You over me.