No one entered into my club with a nefarious purpose. If they did, they faced my wrath.
And she’d made the mistake of doing just that.
Now I was going to punish her—severely.
Then I’d decide the rest of her fate.
As she’d slipped into the bowels of the club, I’d watched her, cognizant that she’d been sent here to spy on my world, to try to destroy everything that had been created.
That wasn’t going to happen.
The darkness she would face would teach her a lesson.
One way or the other.
I shifted through the crowd, catching a glimpse of her as she prepared to take the stage. I was darkness to her light. Soon, her bright shining star would fade. My mouth watered at the thought. I had zero tolerance for gameplayers. That alone had brought me significant power and I planned on keeping it.
Some would say the concept is built from hard work and sacrifice. In my world, success was built on secrets and lies. Everyone had them, some worse than others. However, usually those who kept the darkest, most vile secrets were also the ones who would pay handsomely in order to keep their proclivities padlocked.
Within the walls of this club, secrets had been revealed for decades, all of them captured in various forms of media. The majority of people believed the power within the city revolved around politicians, pompous assholes who truly believed the sins they committed hadn’t been documented.
Not only were they wrong, they also had no true understanding of the fact that my brothers and I were the most powerful men in DC.
Perhaps in the entire United States.
While we were considered the most eligible billionaire bachelors on the East Coast, our wealth wasn’t simply made from the inheritance provided by our parents’ substantial estate. We’d successfully taken the club to a significantly higher profit level as well as parlayed our fortunes by making solid investments.
I was also a purveyor of opportunities for the darkest of behaviors to be enjoyed, while still keeping both identities as well as skeletons intact.
Unless the assholes crossed me.
Very few had been that stupid, idiots who’d learned that crossing the line wasn’t in their best interests. I was the enforcer, the one who made certain our world remained exactly the way we wanted. Some called me dangerous, others merely ruthless. They had no idea how merciless I could be when necessary.
While eliminating the enemy was only done as a last resort, I’d been forced to admit there’d been times I’d enjoyed the process.
Perhaps it was in my blood, my family’s power and influence kept under the radar even though there were few up and down the East Coast who didn’t know of my father’s reputation. Given the secrets we kept, our power was limitless, our methods of eradicating our enemies brutal yet necessary. Now I was in charge of my father’s legacy, a corporation that had made him rich, allowing him access to the finer things in life. He’d died keeping certain secrets involving the upper echelon of Washington DC society, although the majority of my father’s ‘friends’ had no idea whether their dark and disgusting proclivities would surface at a later time. I snickered at the thought. Information equated to power and I reveled in utter domination.
Admittance was highly sought after, invitations to join few, and the secrets just as dark and dangerous as when my father had been alive. DC was a town ripe with treachery.
My two brothers and I had spared no expense to make the experiences for our clients memorable, the greatest joy allowed within certain confines of the law. However, the opportunity came at a hefty price, a concept that hundreds of powerful and influential people were willing to spend in order to achieve their particular thrill.
We weren’t merely a kink club. In fact, many of our guests never participated in acts of BDSM. Some believed this was the perfect club to entertain clients as well as obtain business. I’d heard of many a seven-figure deal made within our hallowed walls. Five floors—including private suites and conference rooms, several bars, the main floor holding one exquisite dance area and a floor of offices—were housed in a glorious renovated brownstone in the heart of DC.
Of course, we had our share of enemies because of my father’s business tactics.
And I had no problem dealing with them when necessary. Tonight was all about a single woman—an undercover agent.
“A huge crowd tonight,” my brother said quietly as he flanked my side. Michael was the business manager, a man who reveled in numbers, making certain our wealth continued to grow. His business degree from Harvard had certainly parlayed our subtle beginnings into multimillion dollars’ worth of security. He was also the most cautious of the trio, preferring not to enter into the darker side of sin.
Perhaps that’s because he was significantly older than either Christopher or me, even taking on the patriarch role while we were younger.
“Yes. I’m surprised to see the various senators here tonight.”
Michael patted me on the back, chuckling under his breath. He’d often told me I needed to pay more attention to the type of clients we’d acquired. “Congress is in session. After the daily bullshit of politics, they need a place to unwind. We have everything they need. The best music, the finest liquor, and the most beautiful women on the planet. Where else should they go?”
“You’re in a good mood tonight.” I huffed after issuing the words. My brother was usually the brooding type.
Grinning, he eased in front of me, rubbing his fingers together. “I see hefty profits for the end of the quarter. What’s not to like? You should relax more, brother. We are doing well.”
Shaking my head, I watched as he walked away before moving toward the bar, ordering my favorite scotch. Maybe he was right. I could celebrate our good fortune, even though a nagging series of ugly thoughts had remained in my gut for the last few days. Getting wind of a possible raid didn’t sit well on any level. We ran a clean operation, but our prosperity hinged on our reputation. Police storming into our establishment wouldn’t bode well for our clients or our bank accounts.
“Here you are, Mr. Dunmore.” The bartender slid the drink across the mahogany bar, her smile genuine. Kitty had worked here long enough to realize the benefits of becoming a top-level employee as well as keeping her mouth shut.
I lifted the glass in appreciation while turning my attention toward the floor. Another show was about to start. Not only did Club Darkness provide the most expensive and unique BDSM apparatuses, we also offered the finest erotic dancing on the East Coast. Our talent was incredible, the dancers trained by experts. Ballet. Ballroom. Country line dancing. Every type of dance had its place on our stage.
But all under the guise of seduction.
“We need to talk, Gregory.” In contrast to Michael, Christopher was high-strung, a relentless watchdog who trusted no one. He often rubbed the customers the wrong way, leaving me to smooth out the kinks.
“What is it this time, brother?” I asked as the first dancer moved onto the stage, the lights dimming. Some of our clients came here for the dancing alone and nothing else, although they still paid a hefty price for doing so. Even our questionnaires were harsh reminders that what we sold was akin to pure sin, filthy in every manner.
“Word is that we have a problem,” Christopher said quietly, his dark eyes darting in my direction.
I took a sip before addressing his comment. “Which problem would that be?” As if I didn’t know. Everything that happened within the club was within my purview.
“Don’t be flippant, Gregory. We expected there might be an undercover operative attempting to find information.”
“Expected? Maybe,” I said casually. One of Christopher’s informants had given a warning. While I often doubted the bullshit learned from the streets, this time, my hackles had been raised. I’d searched through the records, immediately weeding out the long-term employees, leaving three who’d recently come into the fold. The lovely blonde hired only days before had impeccable records, including work at an exclusive dance club in Reno. However, I had several contacts in clubs all over the country, including the one in Reno. Neither her name nor her recent photograph matched any of their past employees. Either that meant she’d never worked in a club a day in her life or she was the agent. Either way, she’d lied to me, a trait I loathed. “I doubt the CIA is interested in our club, unless they have dark proclivities. But I am very much aware of the possibility. Perhaps the local law enforcement is hungry for a piece of the pie.”
While I should boot her out of the club without question, my curiosity as to why the club had come under scrutiny required an answer. If someone was fucking with us, I needed to track down who. Besides, there was something about her that I craved. Maybe my hunger was clouding my judgment, but I’d made the determination to get closer.
However, it would be done my way. If she was a Fed or any other law enforcement officer, she would learn what crossing my line meant. Could I be wrong? It was possible, but that rarely happened.
Christopher snorted. “Always the pragmatic. You’re just as worried as I am that one day we’ll be shut down. With the type of clients on our roster, I wouldn’t doubt every law enforcement agency in the country—hell, the world—has visited at one time or another in some capacity undercover.”
“We aren’t certain who it might be, Christopher.”
“I’ve seen your eye on Valentina Foster. She’s new. Dancing for the first time tonight.”
I took a deep breath, remembering the first time I’d laid eyes on her. “Yes, but we also have others who have been here less than three weeks. We’ll need to look at all of them.”
“Agreed,” Christopher said casually, grinning as he glanced in my direction. “I’m going to assume that you will deal with Valentina personally.”
While I understood his comments, we vetted our clients and our employees thoroughly, requiring financial records, a background check, health screening, and other forms of identification. Hell, I even had certain connections that allowed me to see criminal records that had been expunged. We had our share of mafiosos, Russian operatives, corporate moguls, and princes, but given their activities within the club were above the law, I didn’t give a shit what else they did as long as they followed the rules within our walls.
As far as the employees, they went through a three-day training period before they were allowed to work on any floor. Up to this point, Valentina hadn’t been a problem to any of the trainers.
But interference in our day-to-day operations would never be tolerated.
“I have plans to make her suffer if necessary, if that’s what you’re asking,” I stated, scanning the room for any sign of trouble. I knew almost everyone as well as a portion of their backgrounds. That included our dancers and men and women hired as playtime submissives and trained dominants. I was observant and followed my instincts.
And I was never wrong.
He leaned closer. “I should have known you were aware. I’m worried as to why we’re being infiltrated at this point.”
“Your informant didn’t suggest a reason why?”
Christopher shook his head. “Just that a storm was brewing.”
A storm. The word was fascinating. If the girl was behind the breach in security, then she’d learn what happened to infiltrators. “Out of curiosity, what do you think they are attempting to find?”
“That I don’t know. However, my informant is never wrong.”
“He’s a basic drug dealer, Christopher. I don’t trust men who have no control.”
Laughing, he gave me a wry look. “You don’t trust anyone.”
“Which has served us well.”
I swirled my glass and for some reason, the fact he was sniffing the streets irritated me, although I should be thankful that he paid attention. “Do you know anything about the one in particular?” Our recent hires had been necessary given the uptake in the number of clients who’d joined in the last few months. I’d noticed the lovely women the very first day on the job, her various questions sparking not only interest but concern.
He shook his head. “I’ve been trying to figure out if she’s hiding her true identity, but her credentials check out to the letter.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “So, I take it that you won’t have an issue with how I deal with her. Correct?”
His gaze locked on mine, a single eyebrow lifting. “Well, you do enjoy the hunt as well as the catch. Do what is necessary, brother.”
Exhaling, I watched the current dancer on the stage. She’d been with us for over a month, a crowd pleaser. The two others who were recent hires were also good at what they did.
Valentina was in a class all her own.
Valentina. I said her name in my mind, evil desires swirling in the darkest regions. Handling this personally would be a sheer joy. I hated questioning the other dancers, but two of them could have infiltrated before Valentina set foot in the club. Not everyone was considered innocent at this point. “I have several skills, just like the two of you do.” Both my brothers were ruthless in their tactics. Only I had a penchant for blood.
“Then I suggest you use them. If there’s a single mention in the news or one cop entering through those doors, we will see a change in business operations.” He smirked before nodding toward the stage. “Besides, you have a fascinating way of pulling liars out into the open.”
I held the glass to my lips, licking a few drops off the rim. He was right. I enjoyed not only the hunt but the breaking down of a lying sack of shit. And right now, I was in the mood to orchestrate a game of cat and mouse. Only my way was far more intoxicating as well as painful. I was a brutal man, what some would call savage, capable of doing evil things.
All in a four-thousand-dollar suit and without breaking a sweat.
I headed closer to the stage, the location one where I could see the comings and goings of guests as well as the dancers. If my brother was right, I would make certain the woman paid dearly, her punishment severe.
There was excitement in the air, the crowd animated where they were often reserved, the alcohol flowing in greater volume. Yes, we had several senators, judges, and congressmen in the room, and they were all delighted with their surroundings. Tonight, we’d even attracted several Hollywood stars in town to make a movie. We didn’t allow trouble and from what I could tell, no one was in a fighting mood.
After thirty plus minutes of watching the performances, none of the dancers caught my attention. I’d grown bored as fuck, something that didn’t bode well for anyone.
“Gregory Dunmore. You run a fine establishment. I would dare say even more impressively than the way your father handled things.”
I darted a look at the husky voice, giving a nod of approval. “Thank you, Senator Busfield. It’s good to have you here with us tonight.” The amount of audience approval for the last dancer was somewhat out of the ordinary. If there was anything I hated, it was a room full of intoxicated men, as well as a few women. Tonight was going to get rowdy.
He swayed slightly as he lifted his glass toward the stage. “Such beautiful women. Every time I strike a check, I know I’ll get my money’s worth.” When he turned to face me, he had a grin on his face. “I’d love to spend some time with you discussing a business opportunity. I have several investors with me tonight, all eager to meet with you.”
A business opportunity. He was going to be sorely disappointed in my reaction. I almost laughed in his face and would have done so had I not noticed the beautiful and very vivid costume of the upcoming dancer. As blue lights flooded the stage, the seductive nature of the small set that went along with her act was evocative. There wasn’t a red-blooded male in the room who didn’t already have their tongues wagging.
“Unfortunately, Senator, I have my hands full with the club. Perhaps another time.” My words weren’t particularly harsh, but my tone made it apparent that the asshole needed to get the hell out of my face. I started to move away when he grabbed my arm.
“Be careful, Gregory. You need certain influencers in your corner. I’d keep that in mind,” the senator said before snorting.
I turned my head slowly, allowing him to fully understand my irritation.
His eyes opened wide, an actual quiver occurring in the corner of his mouth. After a few seconds, he released his hold, acting as if he wanted to rub his fingerprints off my suit jacket. I lifted my glass in appreciation, giving him my million-dollar smile.
I hated assholes who assumed.
When he moved away, I tossed back the rest of my drink, slamming the glass onto the nearest table before walking closer to the stage. During the next few minutes, I was completely pulled into the dancer’s performance, the woman capable of stirring a desire I rarely experienced. My cock ached, the intense throb painful. Even my breath was scattered, my desire yanking the ugly beast from its cocoon.
I found myself moving closer, the electricity soaring through my veins searing every nerve ending. Valentina was stunning with her striking platinum hair and voluptuous physique, her outfit alluring and seductive while being tasteful. Her skills equaled her beauty, although I could sense she was nervous as fuck.
When she eased onto a chair, opening her legs wide and allowing the gawking men to gather a glimpse of her lace panties, the crowd went wild. As the intense music reached a pinnacle, she leaned back, wrapping her hand around a cord dangling from the ceiling. As the last rumbling drumbeats pulsed throughout the club, she yanked on the chain.
Gallons of water rained down over her, the liquid splashing over her heated skin and for a few seconds, I could swear there was actual steam lifting toward the ceiling. While the crowd went ballistic, all I could hear was the rapid hammering of my heart, my hunger knowing no bounds.
As a rush of adrenaline flowed into my muscles, I realized the hunt had already ensued and she was my prey.
I would tease her.
Then I would destroy her.
After all, she’d made the mistake of entering my world. The undercover cop had no idea that she’d just unleashed a beast.
She would soon learn.
The hard deluge of sensations was a complete rush, keeping my heart racing and my entire mind spinning from what I’d just done on stage. I’d never danced in front of anyone before, let alone performing erotic seduction in close proximity to hundreds of hungry men. I was lightheaded, even giddy, although I had to remind myself that this was just an ugly game. As I walked off the platform and into the employee area behind the stage, I was surprised at the number of people behind the scenes.
I shuddered, rolling my hands through my wet hair. At least I’d adapted to the new persona, Valentina performing as the vixen hundreds of men hungered for. None of them had been able to ascertain how terrified I’d been on stage, pretending to be a talented performer.
Instead of a rather green undercover officer. I had to push my fears aside. This was a job and one I was determined to tackle. Club Darkness. I had to admit I was impressed with the operation as well as the influential clients. Various members were the who’s who of anyone important in the city.
I’d seen the tax returns of the corporation prior to my arrival, although I had to wonder how much money the club really made, likely the majority under the table. At least according to my captain. I’d been assigned to infiltrate the operation. The entire situation was one I thought I’d never find myself in. Within seconds, the high shifted into another round of anxiety, my stomach aching from embarrassment and shame.
This wasn’t me, the good girl who followed every rule, living a clean life.
Still, I had a job to do and nothing more. I wasn’t the woman who’d just bared more than her soul on stage. I was a professional who’d been tasked to bring the monsters into the light of day, ensnaring them so they could face consequences for their heinous acts. I grabbed a towel, pulling it around me. I was freezing cold, but it was all about the nerves that had finally settled in.
This entire situation was terrifying. I had no idea why I’d allowed myself to be talked into going undercover. Oh, God. What the hell was I doing here? I hated my fears, the ugly reservations that haunted me. I’d been eager at first, assuring my new captain I was right for the job. Now? Ugh.
Swallowing, I wasn’t certain I could do a second show, but if I wanted to gather any useful information tonight, I’d need to mingle with the clients. The club and all the wealthy people disgusted me. Was there anything normal in love and relationships any longer? As if I was some expert. Men weren’t my favorite topic.
I ran my hands through my wet hair for a second time, taking several deep breaths before entering into the main portion of the club. I was almost instantly paralyzed, my entire body swaying. I could feel leering eyes, men desperate to paw me. Terror gripped every nerve, ripping them apart. There were too many things that could go wrong.
Go. Go. Go.
“Fuck,” I whispered, my vision suddenly out of focus.
No, I couldn’t do this. I had no business being here. None. I was so far out of my element that I wouldn’t be able to keep up the charade. Sadly, I could hear my captain’s words in the back of my mind.
“You’re going to be made to do some uncomfortable things, possibly including aspects of BDSM. Do you think you can handle it?”
Of course, I’d assured him that I could. Being undercover meant stretching certain boundaries. My stomach lurched at the thought.
I rushed back into the employee area, heading straight for the lockers. My captain could find someone else to do this. I grabbed my purse and clothes, not bothering to change out of the ridiculous costume. Keeping my head low and holding my breath, I made my way around the stage and toward the rear exit.
The hard snag of my wrist was shocking, my yelp immediately suffocated by a large hand covering my mouth. I dropped my things, struggling against my attacker.
“I don’t think we need to cause a scene. Do you, Valentina?” His voice was husky, so seductive that the smooth velvety tones trickled along my arms and legs, wrapping around me like a heated blanket.
I shook my head, realizing exactly who he was. Oh, my God. I’d attracted the attention of one of the owners. I was in the dark and very much alone, unable to call out for help.
As if anyone would go against the ruthless Gregory Dunmore.
“I’m going to let you go. Then we’re going to have a chat, you and I. If you scream, I will resort to other methods of restraining you. If you attempt to run, trust me, you will be punished, and I don’t think you’ll enjoy what my firm hand will do to your unblemished skin. Now, my guess is that you can be a good little girl. If that’s impossible then I will have to resort to other methods of dealing with you.” The arrogant jerk did as he said, releasing his hold.
I took several shallow breaths before turning around to face him, forced to return to the act I’d been assigned to. You can do this. You can. “Mr. Dunmore. I’m sorry. Did I do something wrong?” Seeing Gregory Dunmore standing in front of me, a wry grin on his face, his chiseled features and the damn dimple in his chin, pulled me into a dangerous web. Yet his eyes were cold and unforgiving, anger represented by the way he clenched his jaw. Fuck. Had I already blown my cover? There was no way that could happen. None.
Or so I’d been assured after two full weeks of preparation, learning enough about the industry to pass for an expert. I’d been disguised and taught, given additional dance lessons and days of basic protocol within the world of men’s entertainment. As if I could consider myself ready for such a dramatic change in my lifestyle. Who was I trying to fool?
“Wrong. The word has certain difficult connotations, Valentina. Would you agree?” he asked, his heated gaze dropping to the floor. Not only was he looking at my personal items, he’d was studying every inch of me.
I’d never felt so vulnerable or exposed. I knew the man’s reputation, was keenly aware of what he could do. He was a violent, nasty man, one who could snap a man’s neck with a simple twist of his hand. I knew in my gut I was in over my head; however, the assignment was important to the department, and I was about ready to fuck it up. I had to find the courage that dwelled somewhere deep inside. If I didn’t, our law enforcement agency would likely never get another chance. I’d also been offered more important assignments, possibly leading to a promotion. But only if I solved this case. I’d made a single mistake and it wasn’t going to happen again. “Wrongs usually mean that the behavior or incident can be corrected. Wouldn’t you also agree?”
Inhaling, he shifted his gaze back to my eyes, studying me intently. When he smiled, the electricity crackling between us grabbed my breath, yanking me into a vacuum and one that I’d been warned about. He was far too attractive, his square jaw and the slight dimple creating a playboy vibe. Even the way he wore the dark suit couldn’t hide his incredible physique, the man rock-hard solid.
“I don’t think you’re who you pretend to be, Valentina, and that pisses me off. I assure you that you wouldn’t like that kind of rage that exudes through every pore.”
I noticed he’d lifted his gaze toward the bouncer who was obviously checking on his boss. No. No. I couldn’t have this happen. I couldn’t fail. You can do this. You can. What if they were going to make me disappear? I’d heard rumors of that nature, bits of information suggesting that the Dunmore brothers had no issue eliminating anyone who went against them. I bit my lower lip to keep from crying out.
“I’m a woman just trying to make something of herself, Mr. Dunmore. I have lots of bills, which I would hope you can understand. This is a job to me and one I take seriously. I can’t afford to lose it. That’s not a game and the only pretending I’m doing is up on that stage. I apologize if you thought otherwise. Maybe I’m just a little nervous being in a new environment.” When he said nothing, the bouncer moving in our direction, I pushed the envelope as far as I could stand to. “It’s obvious I have to prove my worth to you. What can I do? There has to be something.”
Five seconds passed and I was still holding my breath.
Ten seconds and a bead of perspiration tried to slither down the side of my face. A cold shiver trickled down my spine as I studied his hard expression. I refused to blink or show any sign of weakness.
“Interesting that you were leaving,” he stated as he moved to collect my things. When he handed them to me, our fingers touched, and I was forced to suck in my breath.
“I was only required to dance one time tonight.”
He chuckled, shaking his head. “Even if that were true, you are required to ignite the audience further, enticing their every raging desire. Our clients have very specialized tastes, Valentina. You didn’t follow the rules.”
“I’m… sorry. I must have gotten confused.”
“Hhhmmm…” After waving off the burly man, Gregory inched closer, brushing a strand of wet hair from my face. I could smell the scotch he’d been drinking as well as the musky cologne, both scents filling my nostrils and fueling the embers hiding in the darkest pit of my body.
I shouldn’t be attracted to him, yet my body was screaming for him to touch me.
“Have a drink with me,” he whispered, but his words weren’t a request. They were a command.
“Of course.” I offered a slight smile when he eased back, the tips of his fingers trailing down the side of my face.
He walked ahead, nodding to several of the customers out of respect before heading to a larger table.
I sensed we were being watched and not only by the bouncers and other employees. While I hadn’t been in town long, I’d been a quick study in the major players, able to recognize a significant number of them. The room was filled with an astonishing number of the rich and famous.
And the notorious.
I’d already made mental note about several of them and I would finish my report later. For now, I would continue pretending I wasn’t an undercover officer with the Washington DC police department. I placed my things on the floor since there were only two chairs at the table.
Within seconds, two drinks were placed on the table, including a glass of red wine. My favorite. Nowhere on any of the multiple applications and pieces of papers that I’d been forced to sign before being hired had it asked about my taste in drinks. Even through Gregory continued scanning the perimeter, there was no doubt he was watching my every move.
Looking for a mistake.
All I wanted to do was get out of the costume and hunker down in the shared dressing room until I was required to go back on stage. I had a feeling neither was going to happen.
“I don’t like liars, Valentina, above all things. I find them reprehensible,” he said in a perfunctory manner.
“I’m not lying to you, Mr. Dunmore. I’ve been trying to find another job, but DC certainly isn’t friendly to newcomers.”
He turned his head slowly to face me. “You’re forthright without bullshit, traits I find surprising and admirable. However, if I find out you are lying to me, you will face a level of punishment that you certainly won’t like. With that being said, you made a serious mistake, one that you are going to have to pay for.”
My heart shifted into my throat, my mouth suddenly dry. “I don’t understand.”
“I think that you do. In fact, I think you’re a woman who not only respects rules and regulations but requires them in her life. If you’re who you say you are, you will accept your punishment then we will move on.”
My God. The man wasn’t merely putting me on the spot. He was testing my resolve.
Gregory turned his attention toward the stage, a smirk riding his handsome face. I’d learned all about his merciless activities, his barbaric attitudes toward women in particular. I’d pushed it aside, but I was beginning to wonder whether I could tolerate his holier than thou bullshit. I had to fight the woman inside not to get up and race out of the club.
Although I had the distinct feeling that he’d follow me. Either him or one of his massive goons. I sat quickly, swirling the wine while I took several deep breaths. “I don’t know what you expect of me, Mr. Dunmore, but I’ve already apologized. If you need to dock my pay, I will certainly understand.”
“Money isn’t the reason you came to work for me, Valentina. You and I both know that. You need to experience the hidden side of you, the very darkness that has been eating at you for years. You’ve never been able to face the woman locked in a cage, the one begging to be freed. You simply go about your life playing a good girl while the woman inside slowly fades away, succumbing to the necessities of life. How very sad.”
I was shocked given his husky tone that I’d been able to hear his words, especially since he hadn’t bothered to look in my direction. But I’d heard every one of them, the sentiment slinking into all the very dark crevices he seemed to know existed. This was some kind of a cruel game to him. God, I hated him, and his bullshit already tested my resolve, yanking it back exactly where it needed to be in order to perform my job.
I refused to let the fucker hurt anyone else, including women who didn’t deserve to deal with nasty men who had to pay to keep themselves entertained.
“You know nothing about me, Mr. Dunmore. Not a single thing. I paid my way through college all on my own by taking night shifts then working my way up the ranks of a decent firm only to be tossed out. After accepting a decent position in this godforsaken town, the offer was rescinded. By that point it was too late. I was broke and living in a city that I didn’t know in hopes of making something of myself. I’m one week shy of being tossed out of my apartment, a shithole as it is anyway. Fine. This job is important to me. If I need to be punished in order to keep it, I have no problem with that. I made the mistake.”
I wasn’t certain what to expect or if he would even respond.
“I appreciate your candor, Valentina, as well as your acceptance of required punishment.” His usual dark tone held something else, a vibe that I couldn’t put my finger on. He was so calm, leaning back in the chair as he sipped what was likely a hundred-dollar glass of scotch. I loathed criminals like him, the ones who truly believed their shit didn’t stink. That’s the very reason I’d accepted the opportunity.
Nothing could have prepared me for his next move; the way he shoved the glasses away before dragging me to the edge of the table. When he shoved me onto the surface, forcing me to lie down then lifting my legs, I was shaken to the utter core, unable to respond. Finally, a gasp rolled up from my throat, shock, awe, and terror rendering my training fucking useless.
Inhaling in an exaggerated fashion, he rubbed his hands on the insides of my legs as he pushed my knees against the table. Even in the shimmer of LED lighting, I was able to see his expression. Carnal. Possessive.
A man prepared to take what he wanted without hesitation.
As he wrapped his finger around my panties, snapping his wrist, I was able to figure out what he was planning.
No. No. The man was going to lick me here in front of everyone. I still couldn’t react although I was aware of the people around me, hungry to watch my shame. My entire body was shaking as his fingertips danced across my heated skin. Waves of goosebumps washed up from my toes and as I stared at the neon-infused lights, I let my mind leave the moment, becoming Valentina, an adaptation that I’d snagged as my own.
The woman I’d become was tough, refusing to take crap from anyone yet doing whatever it took to survive. She was bold and courageous, capable of putting a man in his place. As the tingling sensations shifted into something more heated, I closed my eyes. I would not divulge my true identity. I could do this.
Breathe and float away. Think about what you’re doing.
Gregory’s hot breath only added fuel to the fire, my skin seared from his intimate touch. When he gripped my inner thighs, holding me in position, I stiffened, biting down on my lower lip.
The first swirl of his tongue on my clit was numbing, the second forcing my heartbeat into overdrive. I concentrated on the thudding drumbeat of the music as he licked and nipped my tender tissue, taking my clit into his mouth and sucking. Within seconds, I was thrown into a cesspool of murky water, forced to realize I was actually enjoying the way he ravaged me. With every swipe of his tongue, every tease of his long fingers, I was thrown into another place, surreal and beautiful.
“You’re hot and wet, Valentina, and oh, so sweet.” His words filtered into my ears much like his exotic cologne embroiled my senses, becoming more intoxicating as the seconds passed. Stretching out my arms, I wrapped my fingers around the edge of the table, taking deep breaths.
There was nothing more embarrassing, a tumble of guilt clashing with the reason I was here. As he slipped one then two more fingers past my swollen folds, I couldn’t fight the whimpers threatening to give me away.
The horrible woman deep inside was actually enjoying this. The shock, the rush of adrenaline, and the excitement of being put on display were almost too much to bear. I was over-sensitized, my pussy leaking, trickles sliding along my thighs. All I could think about was leaving a pool on the table after I was gone.
After I ran away to hide.
I bit back a nervous laugh, an exaggerated breath escaping my lips. His guttural growls and savage noises only added to the humiliation, especially hearing the subtle yet powerful whispers provided by observers.
“That’s the way to handle a woman.”
“Makes me thirsty as hell.”
“It’s time to select a pet of my own for the night.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There were no words, no comeback that was worth facing another moment of Gregory’s wrath. I could only imagine what he did to those who truly crossed him.
“Boss, I hate to bother you but there is a guest who is asking to speak with you.”
The voice was foreign, holding no surprise at the sight in front of him.
Gregory growled again, lifting his head. “Tell them I’ll be there in a few minutes. If they can’t wait, ask them to leave.”
“Robert. Please bring me the strap from my office.”
“Of course, sir.”
Strap. Was he going to tie me down, to display me for hours?
This was crazy, the very moment when I’d lost my mind, yet the pleasure was building, pushing me into a frenzy. I took shallow breaths, opening my eyes to watch him. He was like an artist, his fingers bringing me close to an orgasm then backing off. His tongue driving me to the point of complete bliss then slowing down. I wanted to shut down my mind, to pretend as if this meant absolutely nothing and he would never have any effect on me.
But I’d be lying.
He buried his tongue deep inside, a perfect orchestration with his fingers as he drove me to a heightened level of pleasure.
When I was close to coming, I bit back a moan, clenching the table in an effort to keep from reacting. The music was almost tribal, the heavy beat matching the skipping of my heart. Everything was a blur, my mind reeling as the lights pulsed in circles all around me. No. No. I couldn’t let go. This wasn’t me. This wasn’t…
Gregory chuckled then rubbed his lips against my leg before standing. He leaned over, pulling one arm over my head then the other, clasping both wrists together in his massive hand. “Now, what you’re going to learn the longer you work for me is that I enjoy giving rewards to good girls who follow the rules. But the bad ones, they end up in my dungeon. The lesson I’m teaching you today is a mere taste of what you will receive. I suggest you keep that in mind.”
He flipped me over, his hand still firmly wrapped around my wrists. As he yanked the dress up to my waist, I finally realized what he was going to do.
“Here you are, sir.” The voice of the waiter registered in my mind. The strap.
He was going to spank me. Wait. Wait a fucking minute.
“What are you doing?” I demanded, instantly regretting even opening my mouth.
“That will cost you, Valentina. When you are disciplined, there is no more time to ask any questions. You accepted your fate. Now, you must follow through. Consequences are inevitable.” Gregory’s voice washed down over me, the warm husk from before now doing nothing to calm my nerves.
I pressed my face against the cool surface, trying to keep my composure. No one had ever spanked me in my life. This was horrific. I couldn’t imagine this kind of punishment still existed. I was aware the second he brought the strap down, the slight whooshing sound heard even over the music.
Or maybe I was imagining the entire thing.
Struggling, I felt no pain even as the thick leather connected with my bottom a second and third time. I knew I was whimpering like a bad little girl, blinking in order to keep the tears of frustration away.
I succeeded until several more were issued, the sting turning into a painful burn as it shot down the backs of my legs. I fought with his hold, a single tear finally slipping past my lashes until he dropped the strap by my face, fisting my hair.
Growling, he leaned over until his lips were centimeters from my ear. “While I understand this must be difficult for you to accept, I suggest you try. If not, I will have no issue making a further example out of you, including forcing you to perform naked in front of the entire audience. I don’t think you want that to happen. Am I wrong?”
“No, sir,” I managed, biting back all the nasty things I wanted to say to him, the raunchy references I wanted to point out. Asshole. Bastard. Prick. Son of a bitch. And there were a hell of a lot more names where those came from.
“Excellent. Then I think you’re beginning to understand that I am in charge here.” Gregory let go of my hair, brushing his fingers down my back before grabbing the strap.
When it was brought down again, I kept my mouth shut, forced my body to shut down. The fucker wasn’t going to get a single additional reaction out of me. Fuck him. Fuck this job.
Fuck being undercover.
I lost count of how many strikes he delivered, but my bottom was sore and aching, red-hot heat crushing down on every cell and molecule in my body. I didn’t get paid enough for this shit.
He rubbed his hand from one side of my buttocks to the other, his touch surprisingly gentle. “You’ve had enough. I think you understand the corporate realm at Club Darkness well enough.”
I was lightheaded as he let go of my hands, even helping me into a standing position. When he pulled me against his muscular chest, I wanted to fight just to get away from him, but I remained exactly where I was standing.
Gregory ran his fingers down my arm, the action sensuous, a lover’s touch. Stiffening, I heard his exasperated sigh before he turned me to face him. His face held no expression, but his eyes held a hint of amusement.
If only I had my service weapon with me. I’d shoot out those dark and dangerous eyes in a dead-ass heartbeat.
“Valentina, I think you should go home and think about whether you want to work in this organization.”
“I already told you that I do,” I retorted, my voice barely audible. I felt like I was floating, unable to feel my legs.
A slight look of distaste crossed his face. I could tell he was mulling over his words. “Here’s the truth, Valentina, and you need to listen to me carefully. If you are who I believe you are, you’ll chalk this up to your organization making a rather ridiculous decision to send you here. While it’s obvious that you’re in over your head, you will still be able to tell them that nothing criminal is going on. Perhaps you’ll be more convincing with your superiors than you were with me.”
What a smug son of a bitch. I smoothed down my dress, giving him a confident look. “I will see you tomorrow night, Mr. Dunmore. I will be on time and prepared to handle the full aspects of the job as required by your… rules.” I waited only two seconds before pulling out of his clutches, grabbing my things as I willed myself to walk slowly toward the exit.
Suddenly, he was right behind me once again. I wanted my skin to crawl, for rage to yank away the sting of humiliation as well as the ugly desires I continued to feel.
But neither occurred, my body still humming like a live wire, almost desperate to feel more.
Everything about this man was breathtaking, his prowess enticing. I ached to have him take me, thrusting his cock deep inside my pussy and I loathed myself for thinking such horrible thoughts.
“If you are who you want me to believe, then be prepared for me to teach you many things, Valentina.”
I found it difficult to breathe, my heart racing as I anticipated what he was going to say.
“You will be required to learn submission, whether to your employer or to one of our clients. There will be things asked of you that you won’t enjoy, but you will be required to endure. Do you think you can do that, Valentina? Do you honestly think you can surrender the darkest part of you even though a trickle of fear remains furrowing inside of you?”
“Yes,” I said with more conviction in my voice than I would have thought possible. As he inched even closer, the cascade of his hot breath skipping along the back of my neck, I clenched my fists.
“Yes?” he asked, the tone huskier than before, creating another pool of wetness between my legs.
Blinking, I tried to shove away the tremor of anxiety dancing along every inch of skin, the way my stomach felt as butterflies filled the void. I knew what he wanted, what all men like him craved. Respect. I swallowed another round of pride, providing the words that he would never hear from me again. “Yes. Sir.”
I heard his deep inhale, as if drinking every ounce of my essence into his system, and bit the inside of my cheek to keep from moaning. He was completely unnerving, a man who refused to take no for an answer. And I remained enthralled.
“You can learn, which means you have the ability to be trained. A very good sign, Valentina.”
Even the dark rumble of his laugh vibrated through me, although I detected the same underlying threat as before.
“If you are a very good girl, I’ll teach you the art of pleasure and pain, of submitting not only to a man but to the woman trying desperately to break free of her prison. When that happens, you’ll understand the true depth of ecstasy. After that, you’ll be ready.”
“For?” The question slipped from my mouth before I could stop it.
“And if I’m bad?” I dared to ask, tilting my head slightly.
Gregory slowly wrapped his hand around the back of my neck, squeezing with enough pressure I almost lashed out. I knew this was another test, a challenge that must be passed.
I stood my ground, merely closing my eyes as if in awe of his authority. He would not get the better of me.
“I assure you that you won’t enjoy the experience, Valentina.” Leaning over, he pressed his lips against my cheek before releasing his hold.
Even over the thrumming beats of the music, I could hear his footsteps as he walked away.
In those few seconds where time seemed to stand still, my entire world began to crumble.