Read Three Hard Lessons Online

Authors: Nikki Sloane

Tags: #Romance, #Adult, #erotic romance

Three Hard Lessons

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chapter

ONE

Fuck this noise.

Traffic on Lake Shore Drive was the worst I’d ever seen. I should have known better than to try it on Black Friday. Even though I was nowhere near Michigan Avenue, it was a parking lot. I glared out over the lake and turned away from the blinding sun that was sinking in the sky to my left.

My phone chimed with a text and I glanced down at the screen. It was my best friend Evie.

Well, that’s just great.
I texted back that it wasn’t a big deal, but I was lying. I’d been looking forward to going out for drinks with them the whole week. Ever since Evie and Logan had gotten engaged, I’d been seeing less and less of my best friend. I was happy for her, though. Logan was a great guy. He was hot, hung, and head-over-heels in love with her.

I drummed my manicured nails on the steering wheel of my Jaguar, stared at the taillights in front of me, and considered my options. No way was I going to spend the night alone at my place.

Joseph answered my call immediately.

“Hey, honey, what’s up?” My manager’s voice was soft and pleasant. He was always so good at making me feel special and anything but another working girl.

“My plans fell through. Can you put me on the list tonight?”

“Of course.” There was a rustle of paper in the background. “Should I call Mr. Red and let him know you’re available?”

Ugh, no.
“Don’t do that.”

“Oh? Do we have an issue?”

“Someone else needs to take him on as a client. He’s getting attached.” Joseph knew I didn’t do attachments. Mr. Red had money, and I liked money, but there wasn’t enough in the world to allow me to get tied down. Well, figuratively. Money got me tied down at the BDSM club I worked at all the time.

“Mr. Red is particular, Payton,” Joseph said. “He’ll be difficult to persuade to try something new.” There was an unfamiliar weight to his voice. Was it fear? “He’s also a powerful man.”

That wasn’t surprising. I’d figured Mr. Red was a major player when he talked about owning half the city, and this was while I had my lips wrapped around his cock.

“He asks me to come home with him afterward. Every. Single. Time.”

“A beautiful woman like you probably hears that a lot.”

True, but still. “He says he’s in love with me. I’m telling you, he’s going to turn ugly when he doesn’t get his way. I need distance.” He sure the fuck wasn’t going to get what he wanted from me. I wasn’t capable of loving him. I was fairly certain I was incapable of loving anyone.

“Claudia’s a lot like you,” Joseph said. “Maybe I can give him some incentive to try her.”

“Thanks,” I said, sincere. I knew Joseph was in a tough spot. We’d had plenty of clingy clients before, but not one with serious clout.

“You don’t have to thank me, honey. I’m excited you’re coming in tonight. But fair warning, it’ll probably be slow.” This was his subtle way of telling me to take the offer when I got it, because there might not be another client interested.

“It’s not slow when I’m around,” I said, an evil grin twitching on my lips. Traffic was finally starting to ease and my foot found its home on the accelerator.

“No, Payton.” He laughed. “It certainly isn’t.”

Joseph had chosen Nina to be my sales assistant for this evening. Like Scarlett Johansson, Nina had a husky, deep voice that sharply contrasted her petite and undeniably feminine frame. She was a blonde like ScarJo sometimes is, too.

Pairing Nina with me made us an unstoppable force. Someone was going to blow a lot of money tonight, so at least my evening wouldn’t be a total bust.

The silk robe came off my shoulders and I caught it in a hand, then carried it to the hook on the back of the door. Room One looked just like all the others. Black textured fabric stretched across soundproof tiles that covered the walls and ceiling, and the absence of color always drew my eyes up to the elaborate crystal chandelier over the table in the center. The intriguing and reinforced fixture was the only light in the room and also pulled double duty. There were plenty of places to hook handcuffs or leather straps onto the iron arms buried beneath the clear prisms.

Nina waited beside the table for me to join her, a pleasant smile on her face as her gaze washed over me. “God, Payton, what I’d give for your tits.”

A soft laugh fell out of my mouth. “Please. I’ve seen you naked at least a dozen times. What I’d give to have that ass.”

“It’s easy. Pilates,” she said, “until you’re so sore you can’t move, and when you attempt to, you want to die.”

Like Nina, I was a total freak about staying in shape. Joseph had a light hand about our figures. One of his girls would have to lose quite a bit of tone for him to say something, but the truth was we all wanted to look our best. Someone you’d pay top dollar for. And of course, there was healthy competition between us. I’d like to think I had the best rack out of the group, and we were all natural. Maybe I had the best legs, too. I was slightly taller than average and the phrase “legs for days” had been thrown my way a few times.

As I sat down on the leather-cushioned tabletop, I tucked a lock of hair behind an ear. I contrasted nicely with Nina’s blonde as I was a brunette. My hair color was too dark to really call auburn, but subtle hints of red came out in sunlight, or now in the low, chandelier glow of the room.

The black leather squealed against my bare skin as I slid down to lie flat on my back. Even though the tables were identical in all six rooms, this twin mattress-sized table felt softer than the others. Nina passed me the black blindfold and I hurried to slip the two elastic straps over the back of my head. A tug brought the blindfold down over my eyes, and I descended into the familiar darkness.

My breath picked up. Not with excitement for whatever the person who came in was going to do to me, but with hope. Hope that the thrill of doing this would return. It’d been at least two months since I’d felt anything more than mild interest during a session. I’d been seeing Mr. Red almost exclusively. Maybe that was the cause.

Nina gently took one of my wrists in her hands and set about securing the satiny straps around it.

“Ready?” her smoky voice asked.

“Yeah.”

She took my other wrist by my side and wrapped the Velcro closed, securing me to the table. I tested the restraints, which only allowed a few inches of movement, and Nina must have been satisfied because she spoke into her earpiece.

“Room One is ready, you can send the client in.”

Her heels clicked across the floor as she went to the white wingback chair perched in the corner of the room. She probably wouldn’t be seated for long, unless one of the girls in another room had an appointment with a member. Joseph didn’t allow more than one client in the hall at a time for the client’s privacy.

Blindfolded and strapped down, I was left with nothing to do but think and wait.

I was kidding myself about my loss of interest being tied to Mr. Red. I didn’t want to admit what had happened when I asked Evie and Logan to share their bed with me two months ago. It had been fucking amazing, and insanely hot, but it had started a slow burn in me that I could
not
put out.

I had no regrets about what happened, and they didn’t seem to either, but . . . fuck. I wanted what they had. Their connection to each other. I wanted a bond to another person that was so strong, nothing could break it.

Even as Logan was with me, it had been all about her. I’d been the appetizer to her main course. I needed someone to look at me the way Logan looked at her. It dominated my thoughts when it should have been the men I was servicing.

So now all I could do was hope the man who walked through the door tonight would make me feel something again, and if not, that he’d distract from the powerful loneliness threatening to consume me.

The door creaked open and there was a sound as Nina rose to stand.

“Good evening, sir.” God, her voice was sexy. “Please, come in.”

Heavy yet hesitant footsteps approached, but stopped several feet away from the table, followed with a sharp intake of breath.

“This one,” Nina continued, “is our club’s finest.”

“Holy shit,” a deep, male voice rang out, filled with appreciation.

“Is this your first visit?”

His hurried breathing was nice to listen to. I liked the power I held, how the sight of my naked flesh had affected him.

“Yes,” he uttered on a breath.

“Don’t be shy. You’re more than welcome to look, and I’m sure she’s eager to meet you.”

Yes, mystery man with deep pockets. Come closer. Will you challenge me tonight?

One footstep. Another. The heavy breathing was nearby now, and I pictured him standing right beside the table, looming over me.

“How did you hear about this place?” she asked.

“Another customer . . .” He trailed off like he was having difficulty focusing.
Good.
Let him be distracted while we negotiated the purchase price.

“A referral? That’s great. Are you originally from Chicago?”

He paused. “Milwaukee.”

“Oh, no.” Her voice was heavy with fake dread. “Don’t tell me you’re a Packers fan.”

Shit. We had code speak, and talking about sports meant my potential client was attractive. Attractive men shelled out less money on average. Football also meant he was late twenties or early thirties. Wealthy, young, and attractive men didn’t need to come to the club. Not unless what they wanted was exceptionally taboo.

“I don’t get a chance to watch American football.”

His deep voice had a delicious roughness I liked, and for a moment I didn’t catch the implication.
American
football. Why would someone who grew up in Milwaukee refer to it that way? He sounded like a foreigner.

“That’s too bad. The Bears might make the playoffs this year.” The room fell quiet, and tension sprang up, winding tighter in the silence. I knew what she was going to say next. “Would you like a taste?” Nina purred.

“How much?” I couldn’t tell for certain, but he sounded nervous. Like someone who wasn’t willing to part with his hard-earned money easily.

“The taste is complimentary, sir.”

“No, I mean, how much for all of it? For her?”

He was going to skip over the sample and get right to it? I struggled to keep myself indifferent while I silently pleaded with Nina not to start too high. He’d freak and bolt. She hesitated. I’m sure she was trying to find the right balance.

It came out shaky and unsure. “Thirty thousand.”

Holy mother of god, Nina! Way too high.

I wasn’t supposed to speak, but she was going to blow this sale, so I ignored the house rule. “Wait, sir, she meant–”

“All right,” he said in his rough but calm voice. “Thirty grand it is.”

chapter

TWO

Stumbled footsteps in heels rang out, like his words had literally knocked Nina back.

I was grateful to be on the table, but I jolted against the straps in shock. He didn’t negotiate. Was he not aware this was like buying a car or jewelry? You don’t ever go with sticker price. Well, there was feeling in me now, all right. Terror. What the fuck was this guy going to do to me that he was comfortable dropping that kind of money?

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