We would have headed to Spank first, but we’d started with the shops in Hell’s Kitchen, close to the Black Light District. Since Spank was located on the Upper East Side, it got pushed down the priority list. And judging from the elegant hand-painted sign and the tasteful window displays, the place was by far the most upscale shop we’d been to thus far.

When we walked in, a tall female dressed in a severe black suit was refilling a display of mink-lined handcuffs with brisk efficiency. The conservative suit surprised me, but not the black fishnets and expensive stilettos on her feet. Her cherry-red hair hung in lush waves down her back. It might have been bottle dyed, but I doubted it. Besides the overpowering odor of latex in the air, the telltale copper-penny scent told me she was a vampire.

The vampinatrix paused, as if considering approaching us, but a group of WASPy human females approached her with questions. Instead of interrupting, Adam and I headed to the glass counter. To the naive eye, the strings of colorful beads inside might look like kitschy jewelry. They would have been mistaken.

The door behind the checkout was standard issue. But the black plastic tarp edging from beneath it was an ominous detail. What kind of activity required a waterproof drop cloth? In addition, the lemony-fresh scent of disinfectant hinted at some recent sanitizing. I’d bet cash money they weren’t doing some spring cleaning or having a picnic back there. Suddenly, my imagination filled with images of a room lined with large metal kennels filled with trussed-up and gagged businessmen in gimp masks.

“Red?” Adam whispered.

“Yeah?” I said, my eyes still on the door to what I was now convinced was a sex dungeon.

“What the hell is that thing?” I looked up and saw him pointing to a wall covered in sex toys of every shape, size, and color. The particular item he pointed out was called “The Fang Banger.” From what I could tell, and granted I refused to get any closer for a better look, it consisted of a metal cylinder topped with a lifelike rubber mouth. The lips gaped open to reveal a set of ceramic fangs for the “lifelike scraping you crave.”

I patted Adam’s arm. “Don’t ask.”

At my side, the cat poked his head out of the bag for a look around. “Holy shit, this place is awesome,” he whispered.

About that time, the saleslady finished up with the socialites who were buying gag gifts for a friend’s bachelorette party. The vampire waved to get our attention. She jerked her head toward the black door. “Wait in there.”

I frowned. “Um?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Get in there and strip or leave.” Instead of shouting the command, she lowered her voice. “I do not enjoy repeating myself.”

My hands flew to my hips. “And I do not enjoy kicking perfect strangers’ asses—” Giguhl snorted. I ignored him even though he had every right to question the accuracy of that statement. “But if you keep talking to me like that, you’re going to get a boot in yours.”

The corner of her lip quirked. “I believe that’s my job.”

“Sabina,” Adam whispered. “It’s probably not wise to antagonize a dominatrix.”

Hearing Adam despite his low tone, she frowned and moved forward, looking slightly abashed. “I’m sorry. I thought you were my next client.”

“Do you always threaten your clients?”

She smiled fully then. “Honey, I’m a domme. People pay me good money to do all sorts of mean things to them.”

My mouth pursed into an Oh. “Gotcha.”

“I have to admit I’m disappointed though.” She eyed Adam up and down. “Couples parties are always fun.”

The corner of Adam’s lips quirked up into a grin. But before any of us could respond, Giguhl’s head popped up from inside the bag. “What’s a domme?”

“Giguhl!” I scolded. “I told you to stay quiet.”

The chick reached out and scratched the demon cat under his naked chin. “Aren’t you precious?” She looked at Adam. “You must be a powerful mage if you can give your familiar the power to speak.”

Part of me realized correcting her assumption that Giguhl belonged to Adam was silly. What did it really matter? But the territorial part of me needed her to understand that both the mage and the demon belonged to me. “Actually, he’s not a familiar. He’s my minion.”

Her eyes crinkled with confusion.

Giguhl winked at her. “What she means is, I might look like a pu**y but I’m really a badass demon.”

She tossed back her long red velvet hair and laughed, a throaty sound not unlike that of a female pirate. She looked at me to join in her mirth but I merely raised my eyebrows. “Wait, he’s really a demon?”

I nodded. “Yep. I’d have him change forms but it’s a bit of a production. Especially in such a public place.”

She nodded sagely. “I understand completely.”

“Anyway,” Giguhl butted in, “what’s this domme thing all about?”

“Men pay her to beat the shit out of them for sexual gratification,” I explained.

She raised a hand. “Women too. And not everyone wants to be beaten. Sometimes they just want to be humiliated.”

The cat’s eyes widened. “No shit?”

“No shit,” she said, flashing the cat another smile. “I’d be happy to give you a demonstration sometime. In demon form, though. I don’t do bestiality.”

Nice to hear she had standards.

“Anyway, I’m Sabina and”—I pointed to the mancy—“this is Adam.” I raised the bag. “And Giguhl.”

“I’m Mistress Bianca.” She didn’t offer her hand. I got the impression this was a dominatrix trick of ensuring I didn’t consider us on equal footing.

“Listen, Slade Corbin sent us,” Adam said. “He believed you might be able to assist us with an investigation.”

The corner of her mouth lifted. “If Slade said it, it must be true.”

For the briefest of moments, I indulged a wayward curiosity about the nature of their acquaintance, but when I saw the same question in her eyes, I squashed it.

“Anyway,” I said, pulling out the bagged glove, “we’re looking for the owner of this.”

She pursed her lips and lifted the baggy. The light caught the metal spikes. She flipped the bag over and ran a finger across the tooled leather through the plastic. I caught a flicker of recognition in her gaze, but she shuttered it quickly. With a businesslike smile she said, “Why don’t you come back to my office?”

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