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Copyright ©2013 Amanda Steiger
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Paul stood in line outside the club, his heart in his throat. He dried his sweat-dampened palms on his khakis and glanced down at his polo shirt, feeling tremendously out of place. Most of the people here seemed to be in leather.
You can do this. It's just one night.
The pep talk wasn't working. His knees still wobbled. But hell, he'd come all this way. It would be ridiculous to turn back now.
The club was a huge, windowless building, the cement outer walls painted black. It looked like an abandoned warehouse -- aside from the red awning over the door -- but the parking lot was packed with cars. Even from outside, he could hear the thump of a bass-beat. The door itself, set back beneath the awning, was painted black, the words RED VELVET spray-painted in crimson across the front. The letters dripped like blood.
Finally he reached the front of the line. A tall, muscular brunet stood near the door, arms crossed over his chest.
Paul took a step forward.
The brunet squinted down at him. He was handsome and clean-shaven, his hair cropped short, almost military style. He wore black, shiny pants and a white sleeveless tee. Both looked as though they'd been spray-painted on, and his package was clearly visible, outlined in that black, lacquered material.
A flush rose into Paul's cheeks. He adjusted his glasses and offered a nervous smile. "Hi."
The brunet lifted an eyebrow and looked Paul up and down. Paul felt his blush getting hotter. "You over twenty-one?"
Paul flashed an ID. The man's eyebrow climbed a little higher, and Paul shrugged. Because he was short and slight, he often got mistaken for someone younger; he'd just turned thirty-two, but he still got carded regularly.
The brunet looked him over again. "You've never been here before, have you?"
"No. Why do you ask?"
"Nothing." He chuckled, as if at a private joke, and opened the door. "Have fun."
Paul hesitated. His tongue crept out to moisten his dry lips.
You're fearless. You're a tiger on the prowl, ready for action.
The comparison was laughable. At the moment, he felt more like a mouse: a nervous, twitchy little rodent about to walk into a den full of hungry cats.
He walked in.
Warm air rolled over him. After the chill of the winter night, walking into the dark, hot club was like stepping into the mouth of some huge beast. His glasses fogged up immediately, and he had to take them off and wipe them on his sleeve. He slid them back into place and looked around, blinking.
The Red Velvet appeared even bigger from the inside. Rotating crimson lights shone down from the ceiling. The grind and thump of the music filled his ears and reverberated in his skull, in his bones. Ahead of him lay the dance floor, covered with gyrating, moving bodies -- a veritable sea of leather, fishnet, and gleaming, sweaty skin. There were people wearing bracelets that looked like handcuffs and necklaces resembling iron chains or dog collars. The air smelled like sex -- hot and musky. Huge loops of chain hung from the bare rafters on the ceiling, and the walls were decorated with lifelike mannequins, most of them naked and anatomically correct, chained in suggestive positions on pedestals or in cages.
Paul gulped. To say he was outside his comfort zone would be the understatement of the eon.
He made his way slowly along the wall, away from the crush of people in the center. The music was so loud, he could feel it vibrating in the floor beneath his feet, and the press of bodies around him made his chest tighten with claustrophobia.
God, this was nuts. What had made him think he could handle this? The occasional quiet dinner party was the most excitement he ever got.
He found the bar in the back of the club, ordered a beer, and sat nursing it, trying to ignore the way his heart was pounding.
This was his New Year's resolution: visit the Red Velvet. He'd always been curious about the BDSM-themed nightclub, but for years, he'd been too nervous to actually set foot inside. It seemed like good timing, since he was single again for the first time in over six years. Of course, he was now starting to question the wisdom of his plan.
He took off his glasses and started polishing them on his sleeve. They didn't really need it, but it was an old nervous habit. A laughing woman bumped into him, and the glasses slipped from his hand. She walked on, not noticing.
Shit! He dropped to his hands and knees, felt around on the floor. The world was a haze of lights and movements. He crawled through a forest of blurry legs and feet. His heart hammered. He couldn't see his glasses anywhere.
Oh God, what if someone stepped on them? How would he get home? He couldn't drive without his glasses. Shit, shit, shit... He splayed his fingers across the cement floor and patted it down.
Then someone was holding his glasses in front of his face. He blinked a few times.
"Looking for these?" a deep voice asked.