We cut down a long hallway to our right and unease forms again as I get the feeling I am in a hotel; the fancy carpet stretching out beneath my feet as we pass door after door.
Chris stops at a doorway at the end of the hall and punches in a code on a wall panel. He knows this place and it knows him. That sense of foreboding returns with a hard jolt.
He pushes open the door, and waves me forward, but grabs my arm before I enter. His eyes are hard, his jaw harder. “Two things you need to know, Sara. We leave when you want to leave, and Mark owns this place.”
This is the source of their bad blood. It has to be. I swallow hard. “I understand.”
“You aren’t going to like what you find out.”
I’ve heard these words before from him, and hearing them now is my confirmation. This is the secret he’s been keeping and that knowledge fills me with courage. “I guess we’ll see soon.”
He stares at me, unmoving, his grip on my arm tight, unyielding. “You have to let me go if I’m going to go inside, Chris.” Slowly, he loosens his grip and I step inside.
Cool air washes over me as I enter a room where dimly lit spotlights color the interior in a seductive amber haze. Taking in what is before me, I’m in instant sensory overload and my hand goes to my throat.
To my right is a pedestal with a massive wooden bed sitting on top of it, and large silver cuffs attached to the headboard. On the wall beside it is a panel displaying whips, chains, and various items I’ve never seen in my life. To my left is another podium with some sort of arch and more cuffs.
Chris comes up behind me, his breath warm on my neck, but he doesn’t touch me. He motions to a couch in front of what looks like a full-sized movie screen.
“We’re observing today. Why don’t you take a seat?”
I walk to the back of the leather couch but I don’t round to the front. My fingers curl into the soft material, and I lean in to support my weak knees. ”I’ll stand.”
Chris steps to my side. “Have it your way. You’re about to witness a group playroom feeding live from another area of the mansion.” He lifts a remote he’s picked up somewhere and the screen comes to life.
I gasp at what I see. There is a masked, na**d woman tied to a pedestal in the middle of a stage, while an audience—all masked as well--sits in observation.
A man in leather pants is circling her, and I think he is holding a riding crop. It fits a description I remember from one of Rebecca’s journal entries, but I can’t be sure. He’s teasing her, flipping her ni**les with the leather end of the crop, back and forth. She is moaning and passion is etched on her face. Pleasure. She feels pleasure, and to my dismay I can feel my body responding, the warm heat spreading in my belly.
The crop moves lower, and I see that it is flat with some sort of leather strings. It caresses her belly and between her legs. He steps closer to her, rubbing the leather in the V of her thighs and tugging on one of her ni**les. I am suddenly wet and achy and embarrassed. The woman moans and the man stiffens and does not seem pleased. He steps back from her, no longer touching her with his hand or the crop.
He walks around her and stops behind her. And then to my dismay, he smacks her hard with the crop. I jump and gasp. He keeps hitting her, fast, and oh God, it seems so hard.
I turn to Chris. “He’s hurting her.”
“This is what she craves and he’s trained to know her limits. If it’s too much, she says her safe word and he stops.”
A chill goes down my spine at his intimate knowledge of what is happening.
“Watch, Sara.” It’s a command, low and tight, and unforgiving. “You need to understand that this is where Mark wants you.”
But this isn’t about Mark. It’s about Chris and it’s that knowledge that makes me turn back to the screen.
Another man is on stage now, and he’s holding some sort of cane. I suck in a breath as he hits the woman and her body bows forward. “Stop!” I yell and I whirl around and Chris’s arms close around me. “Enough. I’ve seen enough.” This was so much more, too much more, than the journals. “I want to leave. I want to leave now.”
Chris stares down at me, but he doesn’t turn off the feed. I can still hear the woman screaming. His expression is hard, his eyes cold in a way I’ve never seen them. “Now do you see why I wanted Mark to know you’re off limits? Why I said I was protecting you?”
I stare at him, tracing the lines of his handsome face, looking for the tender, laughing man I know, but I cannot find him. “It’s Mark’s club, but you’re a member.”
“Do you…beat women?”
“It’s not beating, Sara. It’s a form of pleasure. It’s helping someone get the high they need to be satisfied.”
My stomach knots. “And you know how to do that?”
“And you like to do it?”
“I understand the need.”
“What need? How can you need to feel pain?”
“It’s a drug. A way to feel nothing else.”
“Are you saying that you like to feel pain?”
“Need Sara, not like, and not like in the past.”
“What does that mean?”
“There was a time when it was all that got me to the next day.”
“Not as often.”
“You let a woman tie you up and do that to you in public.”