Authors: Dominique Adair
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Erotica, #Contemporary
For anyone who ever had a crush on a teacher in high school.
“You’re holding out on me.”
Hearing Lily’s voice, Jane grabbed her silk robe mere seconds before her friend threw open the door to the walk-in closet. Silly her, she’d thought shutting her bedroom door was enough to convey her need for privacy. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to her that Lily might drop in or else she wouldn’t be standing in her closet half-naked waiting for fashion inspiration to strike.
“Earth to Lily, hello? I’m naked here.” She secured the robe with the matching belt. “Since when has knocking before entering a room become passé?”
“Oh, please.” Lily waved her hand. “I knew you didn’t mean me.”
Jane rolled her eyes. As much as she loved her best friend slash business partner, Lily Tyler could be a handful. The woman had enough personality for three people and she believed rules were meant for other people. In business, this made her a bit of a shark, which was good for Jane as she didn’t possess the killer instinct, but in friendship it made her a pain in the ass at times. She might only be five foot two but her huge personality put her well over six feet tall.
“I mean it’s not like you have anything I don’t have.”
“Yeah, except mine is a foot higher off the ground.” Jane grinned.
“Har, har. Is a closet really a room though?” Lily looked around the sumptuously appointed space with its rotating shoe racks, built-in jewelry drawers and watered silk wallpaper. “Strike that. Your dressing room is bigger than some third-world countries.”
“Oh, please. I’ve seen your closet, and it’s nothing to sneeze at.”
“My closet could fit in yours twice over,” her friend muttered.
“Of course it is. I’m sleeping with two men and you only have to satisfy one,” she laughed. “Twice the work, twice the closet space.”
“You’re just a barrel full of laughs today aren’t you?” Lily flopped down on the cream chaise in the center of the closet. “What happened? Did Macy’s increase your credit limit?”
“I should ask you the opposite question. Why are you such a grump?”
Jane frowned when she noticed what her friend was wearing. When was the last time she’d seen Lily in something as pedestrian as a pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt? With her face scrubbed clean and her brilliant red hair pulled back into a ponytail, she looked more like a high school student than a successful businesswoman.
Maybe Jean Jacques was rubbing off on her…in a good way of course.
“I’m not a grump.” Lily yawned. “I’m tired.”
“Jean Jacques keeping you up late?”
“How can he when he’s constantly traveling? He’s been in New York for three weeks, and I’m losing my mind.”
Her expression was so forlorn it tickled Jane to no end. Lily and Jean Jacques were the only ones oblivious to their sexual chemistry when they met. For two years they’d argued at every opportunity because they were too stubborn to admit their attraction to each other. It wasn’t until the Prentiss’s masquerade party last year that they finally put away their swords.
Well, not completely.
The past ten months had been a rollercoaster for Lily and Jean Jacques. He was French and stubborn to the core while Lily was a spirited and fun-loving American. Their passion, like their tempers, ran hot and plentiful with their time evenly divided between both.
Jane’s lover, Antonio, like to say, “if they weren’t fucking then they were fighting.”
“I forgot he went East a couple weeks earlier than my men.” Jane resumed her search for something to wear. In less than an hour she was having a business lunch with Monique Poirot, the heiress to the Belle Jolie cosmetic fortune. Her oldest daughter was turning eighteen in three months and Mommie Dearest was looking to spend a ridiculous amount of money to celebrate the day. “Why didn’t you go with him?”
“Because someone has to be at the office?” Lily waved her arm in the air. “I can’t just take off and jaunt across the country any time I want.”
“Why not? We have adequate office staff now and Megan is up to speed and assuming more responsibility every day.” She pulled out a yellow and white Chanel dress then immediately put it back. It was a little frivolous for a business lunch. “What’s the point of owning our own business when we can’t take time off when we want?”
“I guess,” she sighed.
Abandoning her search, Jane crossed the room to join Lily on the chaise. Her friend looked so miserable that she couldn’t help but be concerned. Most of the time she was a smart-mouthed, wisecracking dynamo but not she looked as if she might cry.
“What’s going on with you, girlfriend?” Jane laid her hand on Lily’s knee.
“I’m afraid that I’ll wake up and find that all of this is a dream.” She shrugged. “We worked so hard to build R.S.V.P. into a profitable business and now we’re reached the point where we are the go-to gals for party planning.”
Jane frowned. “Isn’t this what we wanted?”
“Yeah. No.” Her lips twisted. “I don’t know.”
“Lil, we’ve worked hard for our success. Remember when we first started out and we worked out of my kitchen in that dinky apartment I had?” Her nose wrinkled. “This is what we’ve always dreamed of. Owning our own business, building it up from nothing to where we could support ourselves in the style to which we easily became accustomed.”
Lily chuckled. “Amen to that.”
“There are no guarantees in life, Lily. You know this as well as I.” She took her friend’s hand. “But you can’t let your fears stand in the way of your happiness because it could go either way. We could lose it all tomorrow or Oprah could give us a ring and ask us to be on her show.”
“Now that would be a kick.” Her smile was wider and more genuine now. “And we’d look fantastic on camera.”
“Of course.” Jane gave her a firm hug then got up to grab something, anything to wear. “So you’re going to fly to New York and meet up with that sexy man of yours?”
“It is an idea,” she mused.
“Now that is the Lily Tyler I know and love.” Jane laughed. “Do you want me to call Megan for you?”
“No, no, I’ll do it.” She was sitting upright, and Jane knew she was already making lists of things she needed to do before leaving. Lily snapped her fingers. “Oh, almost forgot the reason I came by, your invitation to Marché d'Esclave.”
She turned to stare at her friend. Jane was constantly amazed by Lily’s ability to find out anything and everything at a moment’s notice. Who needed Twitter when she had Lily around? Paris Hilton had nothing on her.
“Did you think I wouldn’t hear about it?” Lily’s brow arched. “Why didn’t you call me? An invitation to New Orleans’s most decadent pleasure club is the Holy Grail of the bondage scene. How did you finagle this?”
“I didn’t.” Jane scanned the rack of jewel-toned dresses. No, something a little lighter would be better to show off her golden tan. “It was a complete surprise to me when it showed up last week.”
“So who sent it?” She rose from the chaise and walked toward Jane. “Where is it? I want to see it. Was there a note with it
“Hold your horses.” Laughing, Jane removed a simple rose silk sheath from its padded hangar then carried it behind the hand-carved dressing screen. A gift from Santos, the antique screen came from China where it had been owned by a sixteenth century concubine of a very wealthy man. She loved the significance of the gift.
“Can you hand me my gray Weitzman heels?”
“The plain ones or…oh my god these need to go home with me.” Lily squealed. “Damn it. Why do you have such huge feet?
She had to bite her tongue at Lily’s mangled French. A shame, indeed. “Have you ever stopped to think that if you didn’t have feet the size of a Smurf that we could borrow shoes?”
Smoothing the delicate silk over her hips, Jane stepped out from behind the screen. Lily was sitting on the chaise again, this time holding a pair of black suede Stuart Weitzman stilettos with a laced-up front. Cooing over the shoes, she stroked the butter-soft leather as if it were a child cradled in her arms rather than a stunning pair of footwear. Jane stepped over her friend’s sprawled legs to retrieve her pumps, which were still sitting untouched on the shelf.
“Thanks for getting my shoes for me.” She nudged Lily’s leg with the tip of her shoe. “Now quit drooling. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to remove spit marks from suede?”
Lily’s dreamy expression and heartfelt sigh mirrored how Jane felt when she’d bought them a few days ago. There really was nothing more magnificent than shoes that were not only beautiful but made her feel sexy. She frowned. Did Lily have tears in her eyes?
“Have you ever seen anything so glorious?” she purred.
“Well, yes. I am the one who bought them.”
“I swear, on the lives of my unborn children, that if I owned these shoes I’d be the happiest and most contented woman—”
“Until next season,” Jane teased. “Your obsession with shoes is second only to your appetite for Jean Jacques.”
“Look who’s talking.” Lily nodded toward the array of shoes in every color imaginable. “How many pairs do you own, Imelda? Two hundred?”
“Ninety-four actually.” Jane retrieved the shoes from her friend then put them back on the shelf. “I think you have me confused someone else. Namely, yourself.” She turned out the lights then walked into the bedroom leaving Lily to follow. She’d have to make sure and frisk her before she left. It would be just like her to swipe the shoes then stuff the toes with paper just so she could wear them.
The bedroom was flooded with the morning sunshine from the row of windows overlooking the mountains. The French doors were open and the crisp breeze was sweetly scented with sage and honeysuckle.
Her writing desk was positioned in front of the windows and sitting on top next to her laptop was a Fed Ex envelope containing her invitation. Automatically her gaze went to the return address as if it had changed in the hour or so since she’d last seen it. Whoever sent the coveted invitation had used the street address of the club, which gave her no clue as to the sender’s identity. She’d wracked her brain trying to think of anyone who was a member of the club and would make such a magnanimous gesture. The only name she’d come up with was Dirk Prentiss, but he and his wife had been out of the country for seven weeks.
“Is this it?”
Lily reached around her to pick up envelope but Jane snatched it up first and held it over her head. “How bad do you want to see it?” she teased.
“Badly, now fork it over or I’ll stick you with the Cambern party.” Her eyes danced with laughter.
“Uncle.” Jane tossed her the envelope as if it burned her skin.
The Cambern’s had hired R.S.V.P. to arrange a birthday party for their son…who was two. There was nothing worse than dealing with a baby mama who insisted upon clowns and horses for a party when the kid would only be terrorized by all the strangers towering over him. It was a good thing they were rich because little Billy was going to need some serious therapy when he grew up to be a bed-wetter with a clown fetish.
“Just holding the envelope is enough to give me chills.” Lily had discarded the cardboard sleeve and now held the heavy burgundy linen envelope. “And you have no idea where it came from?”
“None.” Jane sank into her favorite armchair to put on the jewelry she’d picked out earlier. “I’ve been chewing on it ever since it arrived. Do we know anyone who is a member?”
She laughed. “How many multi-millionaires do we know? Dirk is the only one who comes to mind.”
“It’s not him.”
“‘Beauty, I hope you will grant me the honor of your company, signed, an admirer.’” Lily read. “That’s it?” She flipped over the engraved invitation hoping to find something on the back. “How anti-climactic.”
“You’re not telling me anything new.” Jane sighed. She’d become obsessed with finding out who sent it but she had nothing new to go on. How do you find someone who obviously doesn’t want to be found?
“Marché d'Esclave.” Lily perched on the arm of Jane’s chair. “What is that? Cheap…”
“Your French is atrocious.” She winked. “It means slave market. The building was owned by the pirate, Jean Lafitte, and it was a front for selling his stolen goods. Later it turned it into a gentleman’s club and there were Quadroon and Octoroon women who lived above stairs for the purpose of entertaining the patrons.”
“Fascinating, but get to the good stuff.” Lily’s green eyes were bright with interest.
“In the days of prohibition it was a speakeasy before it was transformed into a club for the deviants and perverts of the day—”
“Like you,” Lily snickered.
“Thank you for pointing that out.” Jane cleared her throat. “Now it is a very exclusive gentlemen’s club and whatever goes on behind closed doors is a tightly held secret. Only members and their guests are permitted to enter the building and their membership requirements are strict. The yearly fee is well over a hundred grand and the application fee is more than double that.”
“Holy cow,” Lily gasped. “I heard they host slave auctions. Is that true?”
Jane wasn’t about to admit she was very curious about the auctions herself. Basically a submissive, in agreement with her master, could be put on the auction block for other potential masters to bid upon for the purposes of further training. The money went to the submissive once the conditions of the negotiated contract were met. It wasn’t about sex because the sub wasn’t required to sleep with the master who’d purchased her time. Instead it was about the training and acquiring new skills to take back to their masters.