I looked at the embossed envelope he extended, my fingers reaching out and taking it before my mind had a chance to process the situation. “Thank you,” I said, smiling at him.
“Certainly.” He gave a small bow and smiled, turning and leaving the room.
I sat back down, leaning the envelope against my computer monitor and staring at it for a brief moment. Being Brad’s girlfriend was turning into a full-time job.
I ignored the envelope and returned to the depositions, reading line after line of transcripts until my contacts started to dry out and I leaned back to take a break. The envelope stared at me, beautiful calligraphy dancing beneath exhausted eyes. I reached for my phone and called Brad’s cell.
* * *
BRAD PARKED HIS cart, tipping the bag-drop boy and stepping up the wide steps of the hundred-year-old clubhouse. It had been built at a time when opulence and masculinity ruled the design world, and every ounce of the building reeked of old money and tradition. He walked through the wide hall, oil paintings and trophy cases, seeing his group of friends at the entrance to the cigar bar. His phone rang and he paused, glancing down and seeing Julia’s name. That took longer than expected. He smiled, holding up a finger to the men and stepped aside, leaning against the wall and answering the call.
“Hey. You got something.”
“And...did you open it?” He raised his eyebrows, waiting for her response.
“No,” she said indignantly. “It has your name on it.”
“Well, I had the courier bring it to you for a reason. It’s an invitation to a party.”
God, the woman was feisty. “And I’d like you to come with me.”
She sighed into the phone. “As your secret girlfriend, I think I’m exempt from any of the boring social events you old people go to.”
Brad smiled at her words, moving off the wall and stepping forward. “It’s an orgy.”
Her breath caught, and he wished he were having this conversation in person. “Oh.”
“But...if that’s too dull and old-mannish for you, I can invite someone else.”
She hissed into the phone, “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Oh, I most definitely would.”
There was silence for a minute and Brad stopped walking and waited.
“Where’s the party?”
“Does it matter?”
“I’m assuming it’s at the hosts’ home. In Irongate.”
“Oooh...fancy. Do you know anyone who will be there?”
“I know the hosts. They typically throw a relatively small party, fifteen or twenty couples, a few singles. There will be group play and private rooms. If you feel up to it, we could just observe, maybe hook up with a single or a couple in a private room if you want. Or we can just stop in, let you see how it works and leave.”
There was a pause, rustled papers, then an abrupt response. “Okay.”
Her agreement came quicker than he expected, and he grinned into the phone.
“Okay. You officially have a date. Read the invitation. We’ll talk later.” He smiled into the phone, then looked up as one of his friends walked by, slapping him on the shoulder. “I have to go.”
“Okay. Wait!” The urgency in her voice made him pause.
“It’s this week, which doesn’t exactly give me time to shop. What’s the dress code?”
“Something sexy. No panties.” He hung up the phone and walked forward, sliding it into his pocket.
* * *
I MURMURED SOME form of parting and hung up the phone, flipping the envelope over and running my fingers over the wax seal. I grabbed a letter opener and worked it gently under the flap, careful not to rip the paper as I opened it. I slid out a card, stiff and folded, Brad De Luca printed in perfect calligraphy on the front. Dropping the envelope, I opened the card, almost afraid of what was inside.
Big surprise, an invitation. I pushed away from my desk, spinning the chair in a small circle as I read it.
Well, this is convenient. Twenty-four hours after Brad mentions a sex party, a hot man shows up in my office, envelope in hand. I tapped the invitation against my desk and thought. I had shot out a response to Brad, not really thinking through the implications of what I was signing up for. I wasn’t ready for this. A threesome was one thing. A masked orgy was something entirely different. I had to remember what Brad had said. We could just stop in, see how it works and leave. I could handle that. Piece of cake.
Broward kept me at the office until ten that night, and every night that week, promising me a short day on Friday. Friday, the night of the party. It loomed, mysterious and expectant before me, and I was filled with equal parts anticipation and nerves. By the end of the week I was exhausted, having stumbled inside my house each night, ignoring the crowds that sometimes filled my living room, even the sounds of Zach’s thumping bass failing to delay my immediate slumber. I’d spoken to Brad sporadically, quick conversations squeezed in between Broward’s incessant orders, and Brad kept me fed and hydrated, sending in catered meals every night. The evening deliveries raised more than a few eyebrows, but as soon as everyone realized there was enough to share, the brows dropped and chewing began.
I was able to sneak out for a doctor’s visit on Wednesday, a nerve-racking thirty minutes in which my most private areas were explored and a vial of blood was drawn, with results promised in twenty-four hours. I returned unnoticed, the never-ending pile of work marginally bigger. Broward was abnormally irritable, working with his door closed, moving files out of my line of sight when I would enter his office. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out which case was the source of his angst. From my side, everything seemed to be moving smoothly. He didn’t mention my job future once, a fact I was grateful for, since I hadn’t had time to come to a decision. Thursday, the doctor’s office called, giving me a clean and unencumbered bill of health. And, before I knew it, it was Friday at 6:00 p.m. and I was stepping outside, the dusk light unfamiliar, Broward’s promise of an early day fulfilled. I walked through the garage, glancing toward Brad’s spot, bare pavement meeting my quick-to-roll eyes. Shocker.
A glance at my watch got my mind off Brad’s absence and focused on the night ahead. Brad had texted me that he would pick me up at nine-thirty. Three and a half hours didn’t seem like nearly enough time to physically and mentally prepare for the evening’s activities. I increased my pace, headed for my Camry, a small quiver of excitement running recklessly through my body.