It was no secret that I started my career as a prostitute and worked my way up the ladder, so to speak. I was young and Madame Vix took me under her wing when she found me eating scraps out of a dumpster in a back alley in Manhattan. I’ll admit, it wasn’t my best moment, but I was grateful.
I was seventeen years young at the time and had been kicked out of my parent’s house when they caught me with my pants down (literally) while the gardener had me bent over the patio table. I never knew what happened to poor Santiago, but I did know that I’d never forget him, because you never forget your first.
I was actually a little shocked that they kicked me out. I was never kicked out of anything before, especially since I would just smile, bat my lashes, and be on my way. It was a perk of being good looking along with having my last name. Obviously, it didn’t work on my parents. They were immune to my sweet talk and charm. Those jerks.
Anyway, more on my sordid past later. That night was about my accomplishment and I was ready to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I smoothed my red dress down my thighs after I slid out of the back of the limo to the waiting red carpet. I plastered my signature sultry smile on my face and gave the cameras a smoldering look. My red lips contrasted on my tanned skin and made my teeth look extra bright. My dirty blonde hair cascaded in thick waves over my shoulders and down my back. It was the opening night of my new club, the culmination of years of hard work; blood, sweat, and tears.
Voices vying for my attention shouted around me and flashes of light from the photographer’s cameras blinded my pale blue eyes, yet I kept the expression on my face schooled. After all, I was Madame Scarlet Darke; the beautiful and sexy, high society, seductress of the night.
“Scarlet! Scarlet! What kind of people are members of your elite club?!” A reporter shrieked from behind the red velvet ropes. I had been smiling and posing for the cameras, ignoring their intrusive words, but this question gave me pause.
Members of my club had to be vetted before they were allowed to enter, but no one outside the club would ever know who was a member. It was a special kind of club. A club that catered to the rich and the famous, although others may be granted access at my own discretion. It was a club that catered to all of their filthy, sordid desires and fetishes. All legal, of course. Everyone signed release forms and NDA’s. There were no prostitutes, just willing people who wanted to explore their deepest, darkest fantasies with others who craved the same, and who required, perhaps even fed off of, anonymity. And, most importantly, they were willing to pay the steep price for said secrecy.
I leveled the reporter with a stare. Everyone around us went silent, waiting for my response.
“The clientele who enter these doors are carefully vetted with extensive background checks and are sure to be of sound mental capacity.” I began with my commanding and yet, alluring voice. “Anyone can join this club, if they pass the requirements and pay the membership fee, that is.” I replied with my head cocked slightly to the side. I raised an eyebrow slightly.
The poor boy seemed to wet himself at my direct stare. I smiled inwardly but gazed at him more intensely. “In other words, Deegan, they are human, just like you and me.” His eyes widened at the use of his first name. How did I know his name when we had never met before, he wondered with his eyes.
My gaze challenged him a moment longer before everyone broke out into more shouts and camera clicks. I moved along, never hurried, but I didn’t want to entertain the masses any longer than necessary. Deegan would probably never know how or why he got the assignment for that night, and it would do his boss well to never let him find out.
Little did Deegan know, I had the entire city wrapped around my perfectly manicured middle finger.
Extravagant opulence and masked clients in various stages of dress greeted me as I entered the main ballroom and stage area. Red and black velvet and leather covered the walls and seating areas. The dark, almost black, oak bar-top glistened along the wall to my right and it glowed with red lighting from beneath. The glass shelves filled with high end liquor and wine glistened shiny and new.
Softly lit chandeliers dripped with crystals, casting sparkling light around the room. It was comfortable and sexy all at the same time. I glanced up at the balcony and VIP rooms which surrounded the stage in a U shape on the second and third floors. Several suits and dresses occupied each room and I couldn’t help but notice that there was a man in a black suit who had taken up residency in the suite that belonged to me, and only me.
I kept my frown within the confines of my mind while I smiled and nodded in greeting at everyone I passed on my way to the stage. The mystery man would be dealt with later.
When I had everyone’s attention; oh, who was I kidding? I had everyone’s attention as soon as I walked in the door.
“Welcome, one and all.” My voice rang clear and sultry into the deepest darkest corners of the club. “It has been a dream of mine to create this space. A place where male, female, and everything in between, can come together.” I raised an eyebrow slightly at my pun and there was a smattering of laughter throughout the audience. “A place where we can explore our truest desires, our deepest darkest secrets, our basic needs, in a safe, sane, and consensual environment, without fear. Here, we are all the same. No one is better than anyone else. No one is beneath anyone,” I paused. “Unless they want to be.” Another bout of laughter circled the room and I was pleased. “But no one is above the Laws of Darke, which are posted around the club in varying places so they cannot be missed. You all received a copy of these that you signed, agreeing to adhere to them.” My Eyes scanned the crowd, daring anyone to argue with me. “Break any of the Laws of Darke and you will be dealt with immediately; banned for life with no option to return.”
I glanced around the club, my face showing my seriousness in my silence. I didn’t mess around when it came to safety and secrecy, and anyone who crossed me would be added to my own special list. No one knew about that list, but if they did, they wouldn’t want to be on it.
“That being said. Sit back, relax, and enjoy tonight’s show.”
I smiled demurely at the smattering of applause and made my way off the stage. I needed a damn drink. As happy as I was that my club was up and running, I hadn’t slept much the night before and I was damn tired. Not to mention the fact that I had to confront whoever the asshole was who was sitting in my space in the second floor owners suite. Whatever. He could wait.
I headed to the bar, making my way through the silenced crowd as the lights dimmed and the show began on the stage.
“Ms. Darke.” Joe, my trusted bartender nodded in my direction. “The usual?”
I smiled inwardly at his attentiveness. Joe was always dedicated and worked so hard. Not only was he my trusted bartender, but he was also the head of my security. No one knew, of course, because he was deeply entrenched as a good ol’ regular bartender. I had to hand it to him. If he didn’t work for me, I would have told him his talents were wasted with me and he should move to L.A. to make his living as an actor. His skills were that good.
I nodded my reply, allowing a hint of a smile. Joe’s muscles bunched from under the tight sleeves of his black t-shirt. His blonde hair glistened red from the lights amidst the bar. His green eyes pierced mine when he looked at me, and yet his eyes were focused on everyone else. He made my drink with ease and handed me a Tom Collins with a flourish.
Anyone else would have scoffed at my choice of drink, but he knew how delicious they tasted. It was almost a girly drink, despite its name. No wonder guys ordered it all the time and male bartenders gave women like me the side eye when we ordered it, like we knew a secret that we weren’t supposed to be privy to.
I was okay with it. Besides, I was the one woman who was privy to the secrets of some of the most powerful men and women in the city.
I sipped my drink through the tiny swizzle stick and then, with a thankful nod, I made my way to the stairs. It was time to take care of business.
I slipped down dark hallway to the left of the bar and swiped my watch over the electronic lock that opened my private elevator. Whoever was in my suite was not welcome. Since Joe and I were the only two with access to that room, I was immediately suspicious of our uninvited guest.
I slipped my fingers in between my breasts and felt the outline of my Derringer, always comforting against my skin. The dress didn’t allow for any of my larger pistols, but I was confident that I’d only need half the bullets encased within the one I carried. If I needed it at all.
The doors quietly whooshed open. The man sat in the shadows, near the window, which was cracked slightly. I could feel the warm breeze across my legs, fluttering my dress around my legs. I glanced to my right and down at the stage where the show was in full swing. I had been looking forward to watching the extravagant show I’d planned for the night. It was bound to be sexy and full of titillating and juicy acts of debauchery that were meant to turn on every single patron within the club. Afterward, everyone who booked one, would be led to their private play room.
“Who are you and what do you want?” I asked, not a quiver in my voice. I wasn’t scared of the unknown man sitting in my suite, making himself at home among my stuff.
He didn’t reply, but tilted his head slightly to the side, as if he was studying me and what he saw intrigued him.
I moved closer and heard a rumble of thunder roll its way into my ears from beneath the half-opened window. I could smell the fresh scent of rain that had yet to fall.
As I drew nearer, a flash of lightening illuminated my guest’s face and I froze.
TO BE CONTINUED…