The ad popped up in the personals section of Craigslist on Tuesday.
Did you decide to fly down to Cabo St. Lucas and surprise your husband at the company retreat last weekend—but when you arrived, Tammi from the regional office answered the door to your husband’s room wrapped in a towel? Ease your pain at The Dark Side of the Moon. Call 1-800-BAD ANGEL.
And then, two days later, a bizarre email appeared in her in-box.
Does your man fall asleep in front of the TV every night, leaving you to climb into a cold, empty bed with a spoon, a carton of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, and a hot eBook on your Kindle? You’ll be worshipped at The Dark Side of the Moon. Call 1-800-BAD ANGEL.
She saw the next one late one night when she sneaked a look at the fetish section of Atlanta’s back page.
If you wrote your autobiography, would you have to call it 50 Shades of Dyed Brown? We’ll turn those naughty cheeks of yours red hot at The Dark Side of the Moon. Call 1-800-BAD ANGEL.
Those intriguing ads. Those compelling ads. It seemed like everywhere she turned, Claire saw another. Fingers shaking, exhausted from spending night after sleepless night alone and crying, she finally dialed the number. And now, here she was, blindfolded, in the back seat of a stretch limo with four other women, all strangers, and silently heading deep into the mountains with a chauffeur who wore the uniform like it was his costume when he moonlighted as a male stripper.
The mysterious Lady Gwen had one hell of a marketing plan. Put five keyed-up women in the back of a stretch limo, give them each a glass of champagne, add one hot young hunk at the wheel—then have him pull off the highway onto a deserted road, blindfold each of them, and remind them that their contract required that they maintain complete silence during the trip.
He introduced himself as Kyle when he greeted them, ushering each woman into the stretch limo that waited at their arranged meeting place in the Biltmore Village in Asheville.
“You may chat as we head out on the road, but please remember the rules. First names only,” Kyle reminded them as they took the seats he indicated. “Exchanging personal information is allowed as long as that information will not compromise your identity. Our journey will last approximately an hour and a half. Enjoy your champagne.”
He held up a hand as one of the women began to ask a question. “I’m here as your driver, to see to it that your trip is comfortable—and to make certain your destination remains confidential. I cannot give you any information or respond to any questions.”
He ushered each woman to a seat in the spacious rear of the black limo, then saluted sharply and closed the wide door with a firm thunk. They could see him taking his place behind the wheel, but there was a solid glass partition separating the driver from the passengers, making further contact impossible. The limo moved smoothly out of the parking lot, then turned onto the highway, heading west toward a ridge of mountains that covered the horizon.
She sipped her champagne, peeking over the rim of the glass at her traveling companions. Each woman sat alone, separated from the others. Claire was on the wide couch along one side of the limo. To her right were two captain’s chairs with their backs to the driver’s compartment. The woman in the chair nearest to her leaned forward and in a soft voice bravely introduced herself to everyone. “Hi, I’m Melody.”
Claire looked her over. Slender, short red hair, mid-30s, dressed in a black skirt and beige silk blouse. She could have worked at any cubicle in Claire’s office.
“We might as well get to know each other. Based on that questionnaire Lady Gwen sent us, I have a feeling we’re going to be sharing some pretty intimate moments over the next few days” Melody laughed nervously.
A blond in the rear seat reached over to shake hands with Melody. “Nice to meet you, Melody. I’m Shari.” She was young, tall, and thin, with long hair severely drawn back from her face, accentuating her beautiful bone structure and impeccably dressed in tailored black pants, black suede ankle boots, and a startling fuchsia shirt. Claire wondered if she was a model.
A dumpy-looking woman with lanky straight brown hair sitting next to Shari informed everyone her name was Marge and that she was from Alabama. Her brown polyester skirt and blue sweater looked like they had come off a rack at her local Walmart. Claire couldn’t help wondering how the woman was able to afford the exorbitant fee for this weekend jaunt.
“Isn’t this excitin’?” Marge gushed. “I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve never done anythin’ this daring before.”
The seat beside Melody was occupied by a young woman who was attractive, even without so much as a swipe of lipstick on. Her hair was tucked up under a baseball cap, and she was wearing jeans with the kind of strategic rips and tears that cost an extra hundred dollars. Claire thought she looked vaguely familiar. She listened to the women around her but said nothing.
She was still deciding whether to risk sharing her real name when the limo pulled into a rest area and slowed to a stop. Kyle opened the back door and slipped inside.
“Your erotic adventure is about to begin. I’m going to blindfold each of you to be certain that the route to our final destination remains a secret. Please be sure to pay strict attention to the rules of our establishment. You each received a copy of them along with your contract. As you may recall, the first rule is that whenever blindfolded, you will be completely silent.” He moved from one passenger to another. “The Dark Side of the Moon promises each guest an incredible sensual experience, with complete freedom to act on any whim or desire—as long as you abide by our simple guidelines.”
Claire felt his arm brush against her breast as he leaned over to adjust the black leather blindfold over her eyes. “You’ve all signed a contract in order to be accepted into the program in which you agree to obey our guidelines for the next three days or to accept the consequences. I’d hate to have to stop this car because one of you is disobedient.” Just as she assured herself that his touch was accidental, he followed it with a deliberate pinch to her nipple after the blindfold was securely in place. He moved away, tending to the other women, leaving Claire to wonder if he’d repeat his arrogant move with each of them.
Before long, she heard the door thunk again and felt the car speeding along the highway.
A shiver of anxiety—or was it excitement?—went through Claire. Thinking back to the questionnaire she’d filled out for admission, bizarre sexual fantasies flooded her mind. Complete honesty, protected by total anonymity. Lady Gwen had stressed that it was the only way to achieve a peak experience. There were questions on that form asking about things she’d always secretly fantasized about—and some that she never even heard of. She’d had to go to a couple of porn sites on the internet to find out what those acts were before she answered yes or no to whether she was interested in experiencing them.
But for the money she was spending on this three-day jaunt, Claire decided she couldn’t afford to be anything but brutally honest. After all, what had hiding her occasional naughty little fantasies gotten her? A husband who announced after fourteen years of marriage that he needed time and space, that he needed to “find himself,” and that their sex life just wasn’t what it used to be.
“Time” and “space” turned out to be Nataylee, Jim’s new sales associate. Within two weeks of moving into his new apartment, Claire drove by and saw him heading out the door with his new assistant Nataylee at 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday. How appropriate. After all, wasn’t Wednesday known as “Hump Day” now?
When she was younger, marrying and having a family had been more important to Claire than laying the groundwork for a fulfilling career. After nearly ten years of trying, she’d given up on the “family” part of her dream life. Jim wasn’t visibly upset. In fact, he seemed relieved, retreating into his man-cave to watch endless sporting events when she was too depressed to go out anywhere. Grief and anger kept her from switching gears to try and find her life’s purpose and seeking out some Karma-laden career until it felt too late to bother. Working at a boring desk job, then hurrying home to fix him a nice meal, spending weekends making sure the house looked perfect, or puttering in her weedless garden… Claire tried to tell herself it was enough.
Now there was no him, no them. She felt like an astronaut who’d been working diligently outside the ship and taking care of routine tasks, when suddenly someone slashed the umbilical cord that anchored her to the craft. She was floating away into an endless black void, away from every bit of comfort and security she’d ever known.
And now here she was, with that mental image coming to life—sitting in complete darkness thanks to the blindfold—speeding toward an unknown place, away from everyone and everything she knew.
And for what? That was the part that sent a shiver of excitement through her. She wasn’t sure exactly what she had signed on for, with this notarized contract she’d put her name to. All she knew was that it promised to shake up her dull, boring life—at least for the next three days.
Claire was yanked from her reverie by the sudden stopping of the limo. The door to the passenger compartment flew open. “Ladies, please keep your eye coverings in place until you are given permission to remove them. One of you has broken a major rule. I’ve seen you in the rear view mirror lifting your blindfold to peek out the window. You were told that there would be consequences for ignoring the rules, and you agreed to accept those consequences.”
Claire felt him sit down near her on the long bench seat. His arm reached past her.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to punish you for your disobedience. Come here. Lay face down across my lap—and don’t move.”
Claire couldn’t tell which of the passengers he’d grabbed, but she felt the weight of another body on the seat. Kyle began talking, describing his actions for the other passengers as they each imagined themselves in the faceless woman’s position.
“With a major infraction like this, I’m required to immediately raise your skirt up to your waist, pull down these lace panties, and deliver a firm spanking to your bare bottom.”
Claire heard the swish of fabric, then a loud SMACK, followed by a gasp and a shriek. She could feel the woman squirm around on the seat next to her as three more harsh whacks of the chauffeur’s palm could be heard.
“You will remain in place over my lap without moving, or you’ll get another spanking, this time under restraints, when we arrive at our destination,” he announced, his voice stern. Half a dozen more sharp cracks followed in quick succession.
“No, please!” the woman cried out.
“Silence! You’ve just broken another rule by speaking… and doubled your punishment from me,” he declared. “And now, I’ll have to report your bad behavior to Mistress Jade when we arrive.” He began spanking again as he spoke. Claire’s stomach fluttered as she listened to the impact of his palm on the tender flesh of the woman’s naked ass. The blindfold allowed her imagination free rein, putting herself in that submissive position over the lap of the hot hunk next to her. Getting a real, over the knee, bare-ass spanking had been one of her top-ranked fantasies on that lengthy questionnaire. A flush of arousal made her grateful that the other women were sightless as well.
“I’m sure Mistress Jade will want to deliver her own punishment to you as well at the reception tonight… to demonstrate to our other guests how seriously we take it when a clause in the contract is broken.”
There was an audible gasp from one of the seats across the limo, but the hapless passenger across Kyle’s lap didn’t risk any harsher consequences by protesting again. Only moans and muffled sobs accompanied the harsh sound of Kyle’s hand relentlessly whacking her over and over. One last loud crack brought another stifled cry, then silence.
Claire felt Kyle shift again, putting the woman firmly back in her seat. “Keep that skirt tucked up to your waist until we arrive,” he warned. “I want your bare bottom stinging on the leather seat as a reminder of what’s to come later.”
The remainder of the ride was made in total silence. This time, each woman was lost in whatever private fantasy the sounds of the very real spanking awoke. Claire’s mind whirled. Tempting images of submitting to the same fate under the hands of the hunky young driver set off unfamiliar sensations between her legs. She could feel her nipples harden, remembering the insolent way he’d fondled them through her thin silk blouse after he fastened her blindfold. Under the safety of the blindfold, she hesitantly reached up and fondled the tight nub his hand had pinched, wondering if he’d done the same thing to all the women.
Claire thought back to the first time she’d ever heard about The Dark Side of the Moon. When she called the 800 number late one miserable night a month ago, a soft voice answered and asked what had sparked her call. Claire mentioned the two ads and the odd email she’d received.
“A trip to The Dark Side of the Moon is an erotic voyage to a forbidden world. It’s a very exclusive private resort, catering to those who want to explore the hidden depths of their sexual needs and desires in a safe, non-judgmental environment,” the soft voice informed her. “But it’s not too safe—this is a place where you’ll be set free, free to indulge the naughtiest, most wicked fantasies you’ve ever secretly yearned to bring to life. Not everyone is accepted,” the soft voice explained. “There’s a lengthy questionnaire to fill out, then a phone conference with the creator of The Dark Side, Lady Gwen. She will discuss your hidden hungers and then determine whether they can be satisfied here.”
The next day while she was at work, an email from “The Dark” dinged its arrival into her private inbox. Claire didn’t dare sneak a peek at it while she was in the office. For the first time, she looked forward to going home to her empty house, where no prying eyes or disapproving comments would disturb her when she opened it.
Racing home, she stopped long enough to feed Yin and Yang, the cats who graciously allowed her to live with them. Jim was happy to leave the cats behind when he packed up and left. After grudgingly submitting to being petted and fussed over, they sauntered away, waiting till her back was turned to make a mad dash for their matching bowls.
Free at last, Claire sat down at her computer and opened the email. The intro repeated what she’d been told the night before—erotic voyage, forbidden world, indulge your wicked fantasies—but seeing the words in black and white made it so much more real. Her stomach knotted, and Claire almost deleted the email without opening the attachment.
Her finger poised over the “delete” button, Claire looked at it as though the hand it was attached to belonged to a stranger. Short nails for working in the garden neatly polished in subtle beige suitable for the office—dull, dull, dull. Claire had just turned forty-two on her last birthday, but right now, she felt old. A boring, lonely woman, living a life devoid of any thrills, any excitement. She could have been the butt of one of those spiteful, late-night comedian’s jokes. She even had the cats, for God’s sake! She took a deep breath, hit “download attachment,” and headed for the kitchen to pour a hefty glass of Chardonnay.
Back at the computer, Claire opened the questionnaire.
Hello, Claire. Welcome to the first day of your new life! A life of freedom—freedom to unleash the wild, savage hungers that lie deep in your soul. Freedom to indulge the powerful cravings you’ve denied all these years—or discover new, exotic thrills. Bondage, fantasy role playing, exhibitionism, spanking, age regression, ménage a trois—all these and more can be yours to experience and enjoy when you come to The Dark Side of The Moon.
Only one thing is required of you—complete honesty. We cannot satisfy your forbidden desires unless you share them with us. Treat this form like a diary—a diary that asks you intimate questions. Pour out your heart. Tell us your naughty secrets. Describe the kinky scenes you envision when you make yourself come all alone in the dark hours of the night. It’s sort of like a game of Truth or Dare. Only if you dare to answer with the truth will you win the chance to have an adventure beyond your wildest dreams.
Fortified with half a bottle of wine, Claire poured out her soul on the pages of the questionnaire. Two nights later, her phone rang.
“Claire, this is Lady Gwen,” a sultry voice announced. “I’ve just been going over your application, and I wanted to take a few moments to chat with you.”
Claire muttered something unintelligible, gripping the phone nervously.
“You say that you’ve always secretly fantasized about being submissive, of having someone take control and force you to do all the wicked things you secretly yearn to do. But you’ve never actually been in that position. Is that right?”
Claire nodded and then realized Gwen couldn’t see her. “Uh, yes,” she stammered.
Gwen laughed. “Well, my dear, we can certainly arrange to make that fantasy come true. In fact, it’s one we specialize in here at The Dark Side.”
Claire was jerked back to the present when the limo rolled to a stop again. “Ladies, please feel free to remove your blindfolds now,” came the deep voice from the intercom by the driver’s seat. “We have reached our destination. You are about to experience The Dark Side of the Moon.”