He smoothly whipped into a reserved space. “Wait,” he said, sliding out of the car.
I didn’t wait. I needed to get out of there. Hiding my anxiety, I unclipped my seat belt and hopped out just as he reached my door.
He raised a reprimanding brow. “I told you to wait.”
“Did you now? Well, see, I can open my own door.”
“Can you now?” He took my hand and guided me across the garage to a black door. With a swipe of his card, it buzzed and there was a snick of sound. Blake pushed it open and ushered me into a long corridor that led to an elevator. Through the gray walls, I could hear music thumping, people hooting and singing, and the DJ shouting over the loudspeaker.
Taking possession of my hand once again, Blake led me to the elevator. I frowned, asking, “Are we going up to your office or something?”
“We’re not going up,” he told me, pressing the button for ‘down.’ And then I remembered what was rumored to happen in the basement. My stomach took a dive.
There was a loud ding just before the metal doors slid open. My feet took me forward, despite my reservations, and I frowned at the glare of the overhead lights of the elevator. He pushed the ‘B1’ button on the operation panel and, yep, my pulse went crazy.
Did I want to find out just how true the rumors were? Yes, I did, because I was a terribly curious creature—it had been my downfall many times. But he’d caught me off the back foot here, and I didn’t like surprises.
I’d be okay, I told myself. It was said that nothing hardcore happened down there. Even if some kinky shit went on, Blake wouldn’t try forcing me to do anything I didn’t want to do. I knew that instinctively.
“You’ve got yourself all knotted up.” He cupped my face. “Let it go. You’re safe. I just want to show you something, and I want you to keep an open mind. Can you do that?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
His face went lazy with approval. “Good.” He turned me to face the doors and stood behind me, massaging my shoulders; the feel of his breath on my nape almost made me shiver. Moments later, there was a soft chime, and then the shiny doors opened.
With Blake’s hand on my lower back, I stepped out of the elevator.
I was in what appeared to be a part-bar, part-restaurant. The dark walls, black marble floor, and dim lighting gave it a mysterious feel. The thumping music from the first floor could no longer be heard. Here, the background music was sensual and didn’t dominate the space, so I could also hear the clattering of dishware, the clinking of classes, and the soft chatter.
I might have concluded that the rumors weren’t true at all, but then I took a closer look at the smartly dressed people sitting at tables, lounging on sofas, or gathered near the bar. Noticed that some wore pretty diamond collars, others kneeled at the feet of their seated partners, and one woman was wearing what seemed to be a chastity belt. What’s more, I was pretty sure that the couple in the shadowed corner was getting up to something a little raunchy.
I recognized quite a few of the members as celebrities. Some were actors, models, sportsmen, and even a news presenter.
Blake cupped my elbow and guided me over to a half-moon, corner sofa. Our asses had barely hit the leather before a young waitress appeared and took our orders, smiling shyly at Blake. I was too busy nosing around to care that he’d ordered for me. And I was able to confirm that, yeah, the couple in the corner were totally indulging in a little foreplay.
I also noticed that some of the women were tossing knowing, sultry smiles Blake’s way. Huh. Couldn’t say I liked that much.
Blake gently tugged my hair. “Well?”
Still taking everything in, I didn’t look at him as I replied, “It’s not what I would have expected.”
“You mean because there aren’t people strutting around in PVC or leather?” There was a smile in his voice.
Much as he had in the cabana, Blake twisted slightly to face me. “There’s a company that likes to hire our function rooms to throw private fetish parties. That’s where you’ll find the leather-clad people. Here in the basement, you have people who are more … curious. They don’t want costumes, medieval-looking machines, or anything too hardcore. They just want to be in a safe place where they can have fun, experiment, and meet like-minded people. Some even treat it as a sort of hotspot for subs and Dominants to find each other. They may then move onto … darker pastures together. They may not. It all depends on what they like.”
A door on the far side of the large space swung open, and loud music briefly filtered through. “What’s through there?”
“A lot of things.” He traced the shell of my ear with his finger. “This, here, is the lounge. Most people come to have a drink or a meal as a start to their evening. Once done, they often go play.”
Play. The word sent a pleasant tingle down my spine. “And, what, you’re a Dominant?”
His brow creased. “No. I’m not interested in labels, safe words, props, or hearing anyone call me ‘Sir.’ I like control. I don’t want the illusion of it. I’m dominant in the bedroom, but I’m not a Dominant. I don’t want a sub.”
“BDSM doesn’t do it for you because subs have the true power, so it wouldn’t feel like being in control?”
“In a sense, yes.” He idly combed his fingers through my hair. “What I really like is having control over someone who doesn’t want to give it to me—not by me taking it, but by them grudgingly ceding it. That’s power. But it’s not a power I’d abuse. I don’t want it because I get a sick kick out of it. I don’t want to crush someone’s will or change them.”
“You like the struggle,” I understood. “The psychological battle. You like to win it.” And it made me wonder if someone had once stripped him of power to the extent that he’d always crave a fight to win it.
“Yes,” he said simply. He owned his sexuality and made no apologies or excuses for it. I liked that. Admired it.
“Okay. So why did you bring me here?”
He glanced around. “A lot of the people here only have a relationship within the confines of the club.” He tipped his chin at a cute couple who were snuggling on an armchair, laughing. “Take them, for example. Whenever they’re in the Vault, she’s his, and he’s hers. Neither of them stray while they’re here. Outside the Vault, they lead separate lives and they never mix them. They’re happy this way.”
My brows lifted. “Do they date other people when they’re not here?”
“Don’t know. Never asked. I doubt they do, though, because he’s very possessive.” Blake’s mouth twisted. “I think you see where I’m going with this.”
Yes, I did. This was the ‘middle’ he’d been talking about.
“You said you’d keep an open mind, Kensey. The arrangement that many of these couples have isn’t typical, no, but it’s not bad. Look at them. They don’t just come here and disappear into one of the private rooms. First, they have a drink, maybe even a meal, take some time to enjoy each other’s company. That’s more than most bed-buddies can expect, and it’s a far cry from a meaningless hook-up.”
He was right on that. To be honest, I found myself fascinated and curious about how it all worked. “They don’t mix their lives outside the Vault?”