Hello lovely readers,
Yes, I know. I’m horrible about updating my blog. Bad Author!
I wanted to share my upcoming release with you. Club Ménage: Fifi releases on Tuesday as part of the Dirty Doms boxed set. Each story in the collection explores one particular kink/fetish. Mine’s pet play, but the story itself became so much more. There’s romantic suspense, there’s BDSM, there’s menage and so much more!
Read on for an extended preview…
I’d just returned to my office after lunch, an eminently satisfying meatball sandwich. Somehow, I’d even avoided spilling marinara sauce down my front, so it was with a double-dose of contentment that I strolled back to work.
Ana Sophia Morales, the woman who loosely functioned as the administrative assistant in my private investigator practice, looked up as I walked in. As usual, she was knitting. “Who’s pregnant?” I asked, noticing that she was beginning a new project. Mrs. Morales knitted baby sweaters, and judging from the number of times she cast on in the office, someone in her circle was about to give birth all the time.
Normally, Mrs. Morales would have used this as an excuse to launch into a long and entertaining story about her very large family, but today, she inclined her head toward my office. “There’s a client waiting for you. A man.”
I frowned. I wasn’t expecting anyone. I’d just wrapped up a case this morning, and I knew I had nothing to do all afternoon except try to work on some fresh marketing strategies for my struggling practice. “Okay,” I said. Business wasn’t good enough that I could be turning up my nose at walk-in clients.
I walked in, words of greeting already on my lips. “Welcome to the Clarke Agency.” Then I stopped to take him in.
The man seated in my office was very good-looking. Dark hair, shot with an occasional strand of grey, salt-and-pepper stubble, and eyes as black as coal. He was wearing a tailored suit that probably cost more than I paid in rent each month, and I would swear in a court of law that his leather shoes were handmade.
None of that made me freeze in my spot. No, what made me pause was the self-assurance rolling off him in palpable waves, a self-assurance that approached dominance. And as my history had demonstrated, dominant men were a no-no for me.
He rose to greet me. “Ms. Clarke,” he said with a courteous smile, extending his hand in greeting. “It’s good to meet you.”
I shook his hand briefly, still wary, prepared for my silly, traitorous body to tingle with lust that I could not control. Nothing. I breathed a little easier. If I wasn’t attracted to this man, then maybe I could actually focus on the reason he was in my office. “And you are?” I prompted, moving around the over-sized battered wooden desk to sit in my own chair.
He took his seat. “My name,” he said, “is Xavier Leforte.”
His voice was faintly accented. Each word was clearly enunciated, the result of some very expensive schooling, no doubt, but underneath, there was an accent that he couldn’t entirely conceal. European of some kind. The easy answer was French, to match his last name, but that wasn’t quite it. “What can I do for you, Mr. Leforte?”
“I run,” he said, “a private club in the city.”
“What kind of club?”
He hesitated, and I looked up. People spilled their secrets so often in my office that I sometimes forgot how difficult it must be to pour out your problems to a complete stranger. “I treat all our conversations as confidential,” I assured him.
“Of course.” He steepled his fingers and met my gaze squarely. “It is a club where consenting adults come to live out their sexual fantasies.” He paused to take in my reaction.
I had none – none that was visible to him, at least. Keeping a poker face was an elemental part of my profession.
Seeing no judgment, he continued. “Specifically, it is a BDSM club, but one that specializes in sexual activity between multiple partners. It is called Club Ménage.”
“Ah.” The name sent a faint stab of recognition through me. I waited for him to continue, though I had a fairly good idea what his problem was. If it was a sex club, then someone was blackmailing someone else with exposure, and Xavier Leforte wanted me to find out who. What I couldn’t understand was why he’d approached me. Sex clubs weren’t my area of expertise, especially after the traumatic events of two years ago.
“One of our new members had a photo mailed to her.” He opened a folder, took a large photo out and slid it across the table toward me.
I took a look. It showed a young blonde woman, tied to a Saint Andrew’s Cross, fully naked, her face blurred out. An uncomfortable tingle shot through me. Damn it, Fiona, not now.
“There are no phones or cameras allowed in your club?” I guessed aloud.
He nodded. “Members are searched when they enter and they leave. His gaze hardened. “I’d like to hire you to investigate this.”
He’d just given me the perfect opening to ask a question that had bothered me from the moment he’d started talking. “Why me?” I leaned forward, pushing the photo back toward him. “This isn’t my area of expertise.”
His lips twisted into a smile that didn’t reach his eyes, and he dropped his bombshell. “Because I know who you are, Fiona Clarke,” he said. “For nine months, you were Raymond Downing’s submissive. You ended that relationship two years ago, and since then, you’ve eschewed your darker desires for more vanilla offerings.”
I kept my voice steady with effort. “I don’t see how my past has any bearing on this conversation.”
“I need to keep this investigation discreet.” Unlike me, he sounded perfectly relaxed. “Our membership dues are astronomical, in part because we take the privacy of our members very seriously. If you take this job, you’ll be given a cover story. You’ll pose as a new member, eager to explore every aspect of the club. Your past will help you fit in.”
He was right – my prior experience with BDSM would serve me in good stead. I spoke the language. I knew the protocols. I could blend in. And, as a new member, I would have a reason to talk to everyone.
But my Spidey senses were tingling, warning me that Xavier Leforte was hiding something.
I’d heard enough. It was time for Xavier Leforte to leave. I didn’t need Raymond’s face haunting my dreams again. It had taken too many months to feel safe again, and I wasn’t interested in regressing. “I’m not interested.”
He played his trump card. “I’ll pay a hundred thousand dollars for two weeks of your time.”
That stopped me dead in my tracks. I was halfway to the door, but his words caused me to turn back. “Your members are very rich,” I said slowly. “And this is a situation that could shut down your club. I understand that. What I don’t understand is why you can’t find someone else. I can’t be that unique.”
“I have my reasons.” His expression shuttered.
Damn it. I needed the money. A thin stream of people suspecting their exes of cheating wasn’t exactly paying the bills. It would be nice to be comfortable for a while.
Could I do it? Could I briefly dip my toe in a pool that I’d almost drowned in? I’d suppressed most memories of those nine months with Raymond. Would being in a BDSM club bring back all the trauma?
It was my fear that made my decision for me. I was the daughter of cops. I had a black belt in taekwondo. I refused to let Raymond haunt me forever.
“Okay.” My voice was loud in the quiet room. “I’ll do it.”
My partner Brody had been away in New York for a week, overseeing the security setup of one of our more high profile clients. He’d just returned and the two of us were catching up when my phone rang. The number looked vaguely familiar, and my assistant Nita was out for the afternoon, so I picked it up.
“Adrian, it’s Xavier Leforte.”
Now there was a voice from the past. After Sandy died, Xavier had, without fuss, put our memberships on hold after the funeral. Neither Brody nor I had been to Club Ménage for more than two years.
Our times at the club seemed so distant now. “What can I do for you, Xavier?”
Next to me, Brody’s eyes narrowed. Xavier? He mouthed, his expression curious. What does he want?
“I’ve a problem with my security system,” Xavier said. “I could use the kind of help you and Brody can provide.”
“Brody’s in my office. I’m going to put you on speaker.”
My partner was already on his feet, shutting the office door so we wouldn’t be overheard. I leaned back in my chair, my gaze distant. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about the club. Just last month, on a Saturday night, I’d contemplated dropping by, not to partake in the hedonistic activities, but to observe. In the end, I’d stayed at home. Even thinking about another woman had felt like a betrayal of our submissive’s memory.
Brody sat back in his seat. “Hello Xavier.”
“Brody, how’ve you been?”
“Same old,” Brody replied. “But you didn’t call us for small talk.”
That was uncharacteristically blunt. Of the pair of us, Brody was typically the tactful one, and I was the surly asshole.
“Like I said, I’m having problems with our security system. I need someone to do a thorough review of it. I think it might have been compromised.”
Brody lifted an eyebrow. “That’s not possible, Xavier.” Lockhart & Payne wasn’t responsible for Club Ménage’s current setup, but we knew the guys who were, and they were professionals. That system was unbreakable. If there was a flaw, it wasn’t in the technology.
“I’d like you to come here and verify it.”
“Fine.” Brody sounded bored. “We’ll send someone out.”
“No.” Xavier said instantly, his voice sharp. “I have to be careful about who I trust. I need the two of you personally.”
I rolled my eyes. “Xavier, we don’t have the time to spend a few days going over Club Ménage’s security with a fine toothcomb.”
“Brody.” Xavier’s tone hardened. “You remember that favor you owe me? I’m trading it in now. I need your help.”
What favor? I raised my eyebrow, but Brody just shrugged. Later, he mouthed. “Damn it, Xavier,” he snapped. “That’s below the belt.”
“Is that a no?”
Brody’s face wore an expression of frustration. “No, damn it, it isn’t. You know I’m not about to go back on my word, but I can’t speak for Adrian.”
I shot Brody a quelling look. “We’ll both be there,” I said into the phone. “But it’ll take us a couple of days to clear up our schedules. We’ll be there on Friday.”
“Excellent.” Xavier sounded satisfied. “It’ll be good to see you at the club again. The place hasn’t been the same without you.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat as I hung up. Sandy had loved the club. She’d loved performing in front of people, and she’d enjoyed watching as well. “So we’re going to the club again,” I said, looking up at Brody.
His expression sobered. “Are you okay with this?”
I took a deep breath. Sandy’s death was a horrible accident, but it had been two years. She would have wanted us to move on. “I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s time to get back out there. Maybe it’s time to let go of the past.”
“Me too.” Brody ran his hand through his hair. He voiced the thought in my mind. “Are we betraying Sandy by going back there?”
I snorted. “Are you kidding? She’d have kicked our butts if we didn’t.”
A smile crossed Brody’s face. “She would have,” he agreed. He gave me a sidelong look. “We haven’t really talked for a long time, have we?”
We saw each other almost every day, but I knew what he meant. When Sandy had died in a skiing accident, I’d blamed myself. I’d been the one that had suggested the fateful trip. I’d retreated into myself, and I refused to talk to Brody about it.
He mourned too, of course. He’d loved her as much as I had, but Brody was more of an extrovert than me. While I brooded, taking on dangerous assignments and chasing death, Brody had picked up the slack at the office. He was the one who had greeted mourners at the funeral. He’d arranged for the caterers. He’d ordered the church filled with the bright orange lilies that Sandy loved so much.
And he’d never uttered one word of reproach to me.
“I’m sorry.” An apology didn’t feel enough.
He shook his head. “There’s nothing to forgive. We deal with things our own way, Adrian.”
I remembered what I’d meant to ask him during the conversation. “What favor is Xavier calling in?”
He looked faintly uncomfortable. “Remember Fiona Clarke?” he asked me.
Another crash wave of memory swept over me.
Two and a half years ago, we’d met a guy called Raymond Downing at a poker game. Downing was a douchebag. His father was a senator who sat on the defense appropriations committee, and Raymond took full advantage of the senator’s influence. That kind of influence peddling wasn’t uncommon in DC. I didn’t approve, but that wasn’t the reason I couldn’t stand the sight of him.
No, the reason I hated Downing was because he treated his submissive like dirt. His submissive, Fiona Clarke.
Had he been physically abusive, we’d have intervened. Both Brody and I took our responsibility as dominants seriously, and posers like Downing just gave our lifestyle a bad reputation. Fiona kept denying that anything was the matter, but my intuition insisted that something was wrong. We kept going to that damn poker game week after week, putting up with Raymond’s bluster in the hope that Fiona would approach us for help if she needed it.
Then Sandra had died, and our world had ended. Buried in my own grief, I’d completely forgotten about her.
Brody hadn’t. “I asked Xavier to keep an eye on the situation,” he explained. “I told him that we suspected that Downing was ill-treating her.”
“That’s the favor he called in?” I was outraged. Brody had been trying to protect Fiona, and Xavier wanted something in return for doing the right thing?
Brody frowned. “It does seem uncharacteristic,” he agreed.
We lapsed into silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts. Finally, Brody cleared his throat and looked up, a concerned expression on his face. “Are you ready to play again at Club Ménage?”
He nodded slowly. “I think I am. I loved Sandy. A part of me will always love Sandy, but I’m ready to let go.”
Could I do the same? My guilt and self-loathing was a familiar garment that I’d worn every day for the last two years. Was I ready to move on, to meet other women?
Then there was the added complication of Fiona Clarke, a woman who had managed to tug on my heartstrings even when I was in a happy, committed relationship.
Damn Xavier Leforte. I should have let that call go to voice mail.
So this was Club Ménage.
I’d heard about it before. The BDSM community in DC was fairly close-knit, and everyone gossiped about the ultra-discreet, ultra-luxurious private club. Even though I’d arrived at the landscaped grounds prepared to be impressed, the sheer understated opulence of the place blew me away. Club Ménage was an actual castle, complete with massive wooden doors, a huge foyer illuminated by a glittering chandelier, and a main room that had to be over five thousand square feet.
“How many members do you have?” I asked Xavier faintly, surveying the space. “You can’t possibly fill this room.”
“There are a lot of rich people in the world,” he replied. “Many of them consider a membership to Club Ménage a worthwhile investment. When we have one of our monthly galas, there can be as many as five hundred people here.” He took in my expression. “Don’t worry,” he reassured me. “The number of potential suspects is smaller. We just need to focus on the people that visited the club on the evenings that Maria was here. That’s seventy-five people.”
That was a much more manageable number. “I’ll need to know more about the victim,” I told him.
“As soon as you sign your contract and the non-disclosure agreement.” His hand gripped my elbow, and he steered me in the direction of a door set in the far corner of the ballroom. “Shall we?”
I had to fight to suppress my reflexive flinch when Xavier took my arm. If he noticed, he didn’t comment. We made our way to his office in silence.
Once I signed the iron-clad NDA, leaned back in his office chair. “Her name is Maria Dumonte,” he said. “Her father is Ben Dumonte. He’s a senator from New Orleans.”
I nodded, unsurprised. It made sense. Politicians, and by extension, their families, lived their life under a spotlight. If they didn’t want to become tabloid fodder, a private club was a necessary evil. “She’s new, you said.”
“She is. She’s also, as you can see from this photo, quite young.”
I studied the photo in front of me, this time with Maria’s face visible. Xavier was right. Maria Dumonte couldn’t have been a day over twenty-two. “What was her reaction when she received this photo?”
Xavier frowned. “On the surface, she seems pretty calm. Make no mistake, though, Ms. Clarke. This has the potential to be a powder keg. Ben Dumonte is strongly Catholic and very conservative. If his daughter’s sexual preferences were to be revealed, it would set off one heck of a shit storm.”
“Call me Fiona.” It was funny hearing Xavier Leforte say ‘shit storm’ in his faintly accented voice. “Who does Maria play with?”
“I’ll have a list printed off for you,” he promised. “As well as Maria’s social security number and a copy of her application. That’ll help you get your investigation off the ground. Now,” he looked at me, “you’ll be on the club floor tonight, yes?”
“Yes.” Butterflies danced in my stomach when I contemplated strolling in the sex-soaked halls of Club Ménage. I wanted to hurl – I was so nervous.
That reminded me – I knew nothing about club protocol. “What’s the dress code?” I asked Xavier. “And are there any club rules I should know about?”
“There isn’t really one,” Xavier replied. “Women typically wear cocktail dresses.” His eyes twinkled with amusement. “Some more revealing than others. Everyone’s fair game to be approached, unless they are wearing a collar, in which case, talk to their dominant first. Saying no is always an option, and if you are uncomfortable at any time, find a staff member. There’ll be plenty of them on the floor.”
Fairly typical stuff. “Are the play areas public?”
“Some are. There are private rooms in the back as well.” He handed me a key card. “We have guest rooms for people that wish to spend the night. I’ve arranged one for you.”
“Thank you,” I said.
He inclined his head in acknowledgment. “By the way,” he added casually, “there are a couple of people here that you might know.”
“Adrian Lockhart and Brody Payne. You used to play poker with them, no?”
I didn’t respond. At the mention of those names from the past, my voice ceased to work and my heart started pounding in my chest.
I’ve been Raymond Downing’s submissive for two months, and all I want to do is please my master.
Tonight, Raymond can barely contain his excitement. “I’ve been trying to meet these guys for a very long time.” He paces back-and-forth in front of the big picture window in his apartment. “If I land a job at Lockhart and Payne, then my father can’t give me grief about what I’m doing with my life.”
Raymond and his father have a very contentious relationship. His father pays for the apartment that Raymond lives in, but the two of them have screaming arguments about money at least once a week. Theodore Downing wants his son to take life seriously and follow in his footsteps. Raymond’s not interested in a career. He prefers to take advantage of his father’s connections and money to party in DC.
The two men Raymond is expecting, Adrian Lockhart and Brody Payne, run a very profitable security firm in DC. They are also active in the lifestyle, and because of that, I want to be at my best and most submissive behavior. I haven’t been the easiest submissive to train, but tonight, I want Raymond to be proud of me.
The corset I’m wearing digs into my flesh. My breasts spill out from the too-tight bodice, my pussy and ass barely covered by fabric. I feel like a cheap hooker, but Raymond picked this out, and my master knows best.
Raymond stops his pacing and pivots toward me. “Don’t fuck this up, Fiona,” he warns.
I’ve learned to fear that tone of warning. “Yes Sir,” I reply instantly, keeping my eyes fixed on the floor.
The doorbell rings. “Take your position,” Raymond snaps as he strides toward the door. I sink to my knees.
The men enter. My eyes are lowered, so I can’t see their faces, just their expensive hand-made shoes. They walk into the foyer, then stop dead as they notice me for the first time. “Who’s this?” one of the men asks, sounding as smooth and dangerous as silk flowing over a sharp knife.
“This is my submissive, Fiona.” Raymond sounds dismissive. “She’ll be waiting on us tonight.”
“Really?” This is the other man, an undertone of anger in his voice.
“Yes,” Raymond carries on, not hearing the danger in their voices. “She’s very well trained. Fiona, coats.”
I rise to my feet. “Please may I take your coats, Sirs?”
“No, thank you.” The man who speaks had dark hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He fixes Raymond with a glare. “Downing, why don’t you take them?”
“Using your submissive as a maid is such a waste of her gift,” the other man remarks. “Pretty unimaginative, don’t you think, Adrian?”
I wince. Why are these men questioning my master? He won’t like it.
Raymond keeps his cool, but only just. “Fair enough,” he bites out. “Fiona will be happy to serve in any way you want.”
The innuendo causes me to stiffen in panic. I want to please my master, but I can’t sleep with other men. I love Raymond. Tears pool in my eyes, and to keep silent, I bite my lip so hard I draw blood.
To my eternal gratitude, neither of them rushes to take Raymond up on his offer. “We do have business to discuss,” one of them mutters. “Shall we get to it?” Their voices fade away as they make their way to the study.
I’m in charge of serving dinner, so I head toward the kitchen. My head’s still bowed, and I’m not looking where I’m going.
I run into a broad, hard chest. It’s the dark haired man. Adrian Lockhart. “I’m so sorry, Sir,” I gasp out. Raymond warned me to be on my best behavior. “Please forgive my carelessness.”
“Call me Adrian,” he responds.
Why is he here? I can feel the weight of his stare on me. Finally, my nerves reach snapping point and I look up into his chocolate brown eyes. “May I help you, Sir?” I ask, only realizing after the words leave my mouth that he told me to call him Adrian. I bow my head in shame. Raymond is right. I’m hopeless.
If he’s irritated by my lapse, he doesn’t show it. “Talk to me for a minute,” he says, his gaze etched with concern. “How long have you been with Downing?”
“Two months.” At the last minute, I remember how he wants to be addressed, but I balk at saying his name aloud.
“And is he your first dominant?” His face wrinkles in distaste as he speaks.
Shit. He’s noticed. “Yes, Adrian.”
“Fiona.” He sounds troubled. “Submission is a precious gift, and there are men in the world that aren’t worthy of it. Downing is one of them.”
Dominant or not, I’ve heard enough. “I love my master,” I say stiffly.
“He doesn’t deserve your love,” Adrian replies bluntly. He pulls a business card out of his wallet. “This has my personal cell phone number on the back. If you ever want out of this relationship, please call me. I will make sure you’re safe.”
Even the act of taking the card from him feels like disloyalty toward Raymond, but those eyes are boring into me, insisting I comply. “Thank you.” I shuffle my feet. “I’ve got to set the table now.”
“Of course.” He steps aside, and I almost run away from him, seeking the sanctuary of the kitchen. The card, I crumple up and throw in the trash. I love my master, and I want to please him.
“Fiona,” Xavier’s voice snapped me out of the past. “Are you alright?”
The room swayed around me, and had I not been sitting, I’d have fallen. “Yes,” I whispered. “I’m fine.”
But I was lying. I wasn’t fine at all.
After I left Raymond, I’d learned to compartmentalize. The mention of Adrian and Brody brought back old memories and old hurts, but I couldn’t dwell on those now. I was here to find out who was blackmailing Maria Dumonte, and I had to stay focused on the job. So I shoved all my unease and confusion into a box in my mind and went upstairs to the room that Xavier Leforte had earmarked for my use. I unpacked my small duffel bag, hanging up my black cocktail dress so that it wouldn’t crease any further.
Then, because I was only human, I took a nap.
When I woke up, it was dark outside. I glanced at the clock by the bed. Seven thirty. I’d overslept, my head was throbbing, and my stomach was rumbling with hunger. Shit. Shit. “Damn it, Fiona,” I said aloud, reaching over to the phone by the bed. I dialed Room Service and ordered some overpriced food, and then I jumped out of bed and headed to the bathroom to get ready for tonight.
An hour later, I’d eaten and showered. Standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirror in my black lace underwear, I put my make-up on carefully, smoothing foundation over my face to hide my freckles before adding bronzer and blush. Then, I slipped the black cocktail dress over my head, and surveyed my reflection.
Not bad. I was always cute, not beautiful, and nothing was going to change that. But the dress made me look sophisticated. At least I wouldn’t look out of place.
I lingered for another few minutes in my room, but eventually, I ran out of excuses to stall. Suck it up, buttercup, I told myself grimly. You’re here for a job. Focus on that, and you’ll be okay.
I was conflicted about running into Adrian and Brody. At one time, I had thought the two men were my friends, until one day, they’d disappeared from my life.
Enough, I snapped. The elevator arrived at my floor, and the doors parted in a whisper of sound. It was time to head downstairs.
It was a quarter to nine, and the club was starting to fill up. I looked around the room for Maria Dumonte, but she was nowhere in sight.
Xavier had been right about the dress code. Most men wore expensive suits, most women wore cocktail dresses. I saw one guy in leather pants leading his corset-clad submissive on a leash, but the two of them were definitely in the minority.
My goal today was to get the lay of the land and try to understand who wanted to blackmail Maria Dumonte. As a first step, I made my way to the bar. Bartenders were always good for a chat.
As I walked up, the bartender gave me a friendly smile. She was a curvy woman with short blonde hair, streaked with pink highlights, dressed in a black tank-top and a short black skirt. Her arms were covered with tattoos of dragons. “Hello,” she said cheerfully. “Welcome to Club Ménage.”
“Thanks.” I took a seat. “How’d you know I was new?”
She grinned. “Your eyes were darting around the room, taking it all in. And when you saw Hector and Melissa,” she nodded toward the couple in leather, “you looked a little shocked.” Her eyes twinkled in amusement. “The regulars don’t bat an eye.”
I laughed. “You’re very observant.”
“You have to be in this job. Can I get you a drink?”
“A glass of red wine, please.”
She nodded. While I waited for my drink, I looked around. The main area of the club was filled with groups of people, laughing and talking to each other, but the bar area was almost empty. When the bartender came back, I asked her about it. “Why is no one at the bar?”
“Everyone’s jockeying for a prime viewing spot,” she said. “There’s a rope demonstration tonight. The dominants who are doing it, Colin and Stuart, are very popular among the female members. The rumor is that they’re going to ask for volunteers from the audience, and no one wants to miss out.”
“Are there demonstrations every night?”
“Just Friday and Saturday,” she said. Someone drew up to the bar, and she turned. “Mr. Payne,” I heard her exclaim with pleasure. “It’s so good to see you, after such a long time.”
“Good to see you too, Keira,” a crisp, familiar voice responded. Chairs were drawn up on either side of me. “Hello, Fiona.”
Adrian Lockhart and Brody Payne. Of course I’d run into them on my first day.
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