About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Yesterday, she was Virginia Hansen, three-time loser at love. Tomorrow, she’d be Mrs. Brett Branoff, wife to a handsome, intelligent man. But tonight, at The Sex Club, she was Regina, a sexy, desirable woman who could have her pick of men.
She knew she was desired by more than one man tonight. She could feel it. Beneath her tailored silk suit, her body spoke to her. One couldn’t wander The Sex Club without feeling the heat, without succumbing to its allure. The demure lines of her suit only enhanced the appeal, contrasting with the sexy lace garter and stockings under the sober facade.
Many eyes had touched her tonight. Many more would. Later. She’d come to The Sex Club tonight to shock and titillate herself. And she’d definitely done that so far. For now, though, Virginia and Stacy were taking a respite in one of the club’s bars.
Music drifted over them from the dance floor. Tables ringed the dance floor, love seats and chairs on the outside flanking the walls. Stools lined a mahogany bar outfitted with every libation imaginable. The music wasn’t loud enough to make conversation impossible, and candles burned on each table, scenting the air with a light cinnamon perfume.
“You know, it’s not like what I expected,” Virginia mused. Sure there was rampant sexual activity, and the scent of pheromones heating the air. “It’s sort of tame, in a way. I mean, the champagne, the mood lighting, and everyone’s dressed so--” she shrugged trying to find the right word “--nicely.” It was inadequate, but she’d seen ball gowns, cocktail dresses, tuxedos, suits. Even those attired less modestly, women in tight skirts or low-necked outfits, were nonetheless...neat. She leaned forward. “I mean, where are the nipple rings and black lipstick and spiked hair?”
Stacy rolled her eyes. “That is so stereotypical.”
“Maybe. But I really thought it would be more kinky, more crass and crude, you know, whips and chains, lots of leather, mesh, studs, risqué outfits, but this is classy.”
“That’s because of Jud McCord. He caters to more refined tastes, to an affluent community. It’s the contrast that turns on his clientele, the cocktail party surroundings, with the kink layered beneath.” Stacy smiled. “And believe me, there’s a lot of kink going on.”
Virginia had seen plenty of that, too. She and Stacy had observed in several rooms, including Orgy Galore and The Massage Parlor. The name of the game there was to find a unique way to employ a vibrator, by yourself or with a partner. There’d definitely been unique uses. Virginia wasn’t sure she was dexterous enough to try them all.
“People come here looking to let go of their inhibitions,” Stacy went on. “It’s about sensuality as much as it is about sex. I don’t want to feel as if I’m coming to some dirty back alley dungeon and playing with a bunch of creeps.”
“Well, I’m still not sure I like the idea of Debbie wandering around by herself.”
Stacy flapped a hand. “She’s fine. Don’t worry about her. Jud has rules, and all she has to do is call a passing waiter and any problems are nipped in the bud. Trust me, she’s a big girl, and she can handle herself.”
They were all big girls. Virginia had turned forty almost six months ago, and Stacy had just hit forty-five. Debbie was only a year younger than Virginia.
Debbie. She’d seemed a little downcast at their last couple of dinners, and tonight she’d disappeared into the crowd soon after they’d arrived. Something was up with that woman. “Is she okay? I’ve been worried about her.”
Stacy glanced at her champagne glass, twirled it by the stem. “I’m sure she’ll work out whatever’s bothering her.” She added nothing else.
That’s what Virginia liked the most about Stacy. The three of them, Stacy, Debbie, and Virginia, had known each other for years, having at one time worked for the same corporation. They kept in touch even as their lives moved on, and still got together regularly. But Stacy, privy to all their secrets laid bare over a good manicure, never revealed what was talked about. Virginia knew Debbie wasn’t happy, but Stacy never breathed a word of what Debbie was going through. Virginia was glad, since it meant her own secrets were safe with Stacy. She didn’t care for anyone else, not even Debbie, to know how debilitating it had been stumbling through divorce court three times.
“You can call off the wedding, you know.”
That’s what she liked the least. Stacy always knew when Virginia had a bad thought and zeroed right in on the cause.
“I have no intention of calling it off.” Brett was perfect for her fourth, and last, trip down the aisle. “He’s considerate and respectful.” With hair as dark as midnight and a strong, aristocratic face, Brett was handsome, but more importantly, he exuded the strong qualities she’d been searching for in a man. “And I like him, believe it or not.”
“You talk about him like he’s a warm coat you can take out of the closet when there’s a chill.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Everything. Let’s talk about your criteria for marrying him.”
“The most important was that I knew him before I jumped into the relationship.” Brett’s company had become a supplier of Virginia’s firm eighteen months ago. She’d worked with him for a year before they even started dating. She’d ferreted out the man he was instead of jumping in headfirst with her eyes closed. This time she was not letting lust impair her judgment. “He is the most ethical businessman I’ve ever encountered.”
Stacy snorted. “Observing how he directs his business affairs has nothing to do with how he’ll act in a marriage.”
“You’re wrong on that one, Stace. How a man conducts himself in a stressful business meeting shows exactly what kind of person he is.” Brett was commanding, his temper never rose, even when one of the VPs harangued him. He had all the answers, and the ability to bring calm to a heated exchange. If she were honest, his handling of volatile situations had actually turned her on.
“It’s one element, sure. But you approached the whole relationship like you were conducting a job interview.”
“Oh no, I’m not. Look at what you did.” Stacy raised a hand and started keeping count on her fingers. “Five dates at fancy restaurants, each discuss your previous marriages on the sixth date, sex after the seventh date, introduce him to your friends at the three-month mark, then get engaged. It’s like an old-fashioned arranged marriage except that you did the arranging.”
“I just don’t want any big surprises.”
“You can’t choose a husband based on a checklist.” Stacy mimicked writing on the table. “Must be stable, check, sensible, check, handsome, check, ambitious, check, civilized, check, a good companion, check, decent bank balance, check.”
“I never asked what his bank balance was, and it’s not his wealth I care about.” She wasn’t simply being materialistic.
“No, you want security. And I understand that completely.”
She wanted a partner, not a man who became a boy the moment life threw a few curves. In her experience, when the going got tough, the so-called tough started to whine. She wanted someone to share problems with, a helpmate, not a hanger-on who drained her energy reserves and her savings.
“But where’s all the emotional high in that little checklist of yours, Virginia?”
Virginia shook her head. “That’s what I don’t want.” She had the highs, only to have them snowed under by the lows.
“Look, I know you haven’t had the best luck in men.”
“The best luck?” She blew out a disgusted breath. “Thanks for putting it so diplomatically, but I freely admit I used bad judgment.” She’d jumped into marriage before she really knew the man she was marrying. Not just once, but three damn times.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” Stacy said sagely.
Virginia wasn’t about to go into the whole thing again. Stacy had seen her through two of the divorces. “The important thing is that Brett wants the same things I want.” Peace and companionship. He’d had an unpredictable marriage to a volatile wife, and that was putting it mildly.
“But you can’t give up fantastic sex because it wasn’t on your freaking checklist.”
The sex wasn’t bad. It might not be earth-shattering, but it was good enough. Brett made love the same way he entered a business meeting, civilized and controlled. She had to admit, in his bed she was a bit controlled herself. He wanted calm and serene, and that’s what she gave him. It was almost frightening to think of giving more. She might actually start expecting more, and that would make her vulnerable. In this marriage, she was not going to allow a speck of vulnerability.
But Stacy didn’t let the issue drop. “Six months, a year from now, you’re going to start wanting more. For God’s sake, Virginia, you chose to spend your last night of freedom at a sex club fulfilling your final fantasies. Don’t tell me you can live with boring, comfortable lovemaking for the rest of your life.”
Once Stacy started talking about her escapades at The S...