Do you want this?
So this is it? A place designed for a new breed of women. One that objectifies men, takes their pleasures and leaves. One that behaves like men had done for centuries.
Sofie stepped through the wooden double-doors into the secretive Club Elandra. It was like entering an enchanted world. Vertical gardens lined the entrance and pan flutes played on hidden speakers beneath the extravagant foliage. Even the smells were different. An artisan scent flowed through the dimly lit hallways, like midsummer rain over a rose garden. Exquisite and rare. Spending the night here was indecently expensive. Yet everything about this place whispered ‘you’ll be back for more’.
Looking around, Sofie understood why hundreds of women were on the waiting list, pining for their chance to experience the club’s allure first hand. And these were not ordinary women. They were fabulously rich and influential. Each able to afford anything, perhaps anyone, yet they chose to satisfy their desires with the high-class Companions from Club Elandra.
Sofie wasn’t a member. She would never be. As an investigative journalist, she could only dream of the luxury the club was famous for. Instead, she was here as the guest of Mrs. Gartner; one of the lucky few to hold a membership in this elite erotic society.
“Mrs. Gartner, how wonderful to see you this evening. I’ll let your Companion know you’re here,” the receptionist chanted while reaching for the phone.
She sat behind an opulent mahogany desk like a gatekeeper to the realm of deep desires and dark fantasies.
Mrs. Gartner only acknowledged her with a brief nod before throwing a sour glance at Sofie. She resented her being here and had no problem showing it.
“Now what?” she hissed.
Startled by the hostile tone, the receptionist looked up. Her expression froze when she followed Mrs. Gartner’s glare.
“Oh, you brought a guest. How... unusual. Does your Companion know?”
“No, he doesn’t.”
Mrs. Gartner’s voice sounded clipped. She wasn’t up for a conversation, not without Sofie’s answer first.
“You know what to do.”
“Fine.” Mrs. Gardner exhaled and turned to the receptionist. “I have to... cancel... my subscription.”
She forced out the words and paused in between to summon conviction. Weakly, she leaned against the counter, pressing two fingers to her mouth. She was fighting back nausea. Her screaming-orange lipstick left an ugly smear on her hand and she wiped it carelessly on her oversized fur coat, like a spoiled child destroying her Sunday best.
Usually, Mrs Gardner’s status and wealth enabled her to walk through life with the assertiveness of a drill sergeant; not listening or taking orders from anyone, neither about fashion nor life choices. But tonight she wasn’t in control and she hated every second. No one could blame her. She was losing a very prized possession: the ticket to her satisfaction and an invaluable status symbol in her circles.
With another pained sigh, she continued, “I need to transfer my remaining visits to this... young lady.”
Sofie suppressed a smile. ‘Young lady’ is it? Seeing one of society’s most unscrupulous harpies rake her brain for how to address her was hilarious. Why not ‘Blackmailer’? Too embarrassing?
It doesn’t matter. What mattered was that her plan worked. Over the last weeks, she’d shadowed Mrs. Gartner to collect evidence of her infidelity. Evidence that her husband would not take kindly to. He would have no qualms about divorcing his gold-digging wife, and their prenup would put an end to her lavish lifestyle.
As an investigative journalist, Sofie applied her tactics to drug-lords and big-time criminals. Unleashing her skills on Mrs. Gardener left the poor woman rattled to the core. She would have handed over anything, but all Sofie took was her cherished club membership. Sure, Sofie could have chosen a gentler approach, but with little time to lose, steamrolling her into complete submission was the safest option. She needed to get access to Philip, Mrs. Gartner’s Companion and her next informant before it was too late. He was the club’s most sought after escort and with his identity a tightly kept secret, hard to get a hold off.
“Mrs. Gartner,” the receptionist replied. “You know we can’t do that. We’re happy to reimburse your remaining visits, but we cannot transfer them to another person. There’s a waiting list.”
Mrs. Gartner tapped her fingers on the counter. Her bright-red nails clicked on the surface, creating the beat to her growing frustration.
“Oh my god, just do it. I don’t want to hear your can’ts and won’ts.”
She wasn’t used to losing, let alone dealing with hurdles along the way.
“Mrs. Gartner, please. Even if we’d transfer visits, we can’t do it on such short notice.” She lowered her voice to add, “You know we require certain medical information. To protect our Companions.”
Mrs. Gartner waved at Sofie to hand over the blood tests and physical examination she endured earlier today. For Sofie, the humiliation of proving her health to a sex club was a small sacrifice for finally speaking to Philip. His information about another high-profile client of his, Mrs. Kerry, was crucial to bringing Sofie’s case forward.
The receptionist impassively flicked through Sofie’s medical papers. She wouldn’t grant the request irrespective of what the test-results said. This can’t be happening! Sofie was so close to her goal and a receptionist hung up on rules wasn’t going to stop her. Sofie nudged Mrs. Gartner to let her speak. She leaned over the counter to read the receptionist’s name tag.
“Melanie,” she said, “I realize this is very irregular. But Mrs. Gartner isn’t one to say ‘No’ to without consequences. What do you think a bad review from her and her friends will do to your career?”
Concern flicked over the receptionist’s face. She hadn’t considered the consequences for her job.
“Think smart here!” Sofie continued. “Let Philip decide. It’s the easiest way to get the target off your back. Surely, Mrs. Gartner wouldn’t argue if he said ‘No’.”
“That’s right...” Melanie’s face lit up. “It’s ultimately up to him to decide.”
“Exactly, so ask him to come here to make his decision.”
Even if Sofie didn’t get into the club tonight, finding out Philip’s identity would already bring her investigation a big step forward.
Melanie peered at Mrs. Gartner before picking up the phone.
“I’m sorry Philip, there is a bit of a situation down here. Normally, I wouldn’t bother you... But we need your help to resolve this.”
A frightened expression whisked over Melanie’s face, and Sofie almost felt sorry for having dragged an innocent bystander into this battle. But bringing down a corrupt member of parliament before she could become England’s next Prime Minister and do actual harm justified some collateral damage along the way. MP Kerry had blood on her hands. As the leader of one of the world’s most powerful nations, her illegal schemes and deceitful conduct could escalate into an all-out war.
“The problem? Um... Mrs. Gartner wants to transfer visits to a friend,” the receptionist whispered into the receiver and the silence on the other end made her hand tremble. “Philip?”
She put down the phone after another anxious pause.
“Philip is coming,” she croaked while fighting back tears.
What Illuminati society is this? How can bending a small rule cause such palpable tension? Or was Philip the problem? Was he a monster? He had to be to hold MP Kerry’s interest!
Mrs. Gartner shot Sofie a dark stare.
“You are playing with fire here, girl,” she growled under her breath.
Footsteps approached on the upper floor, before Sofie could take in the full meaning of Mrs. Gartner’s statement. A figure stepped out of the shadow. This must be Philip. He stepped down the granite staircase, letting the echo fill the foyer. He was a man confident with commanding attention.
With every stride, the warm light of the foyer crept up his body, revealing his imposing figure. Philip oozed authority and his tailored navy blue suit made him look expensive. He was out of Sofie’s league, and his demeanour underlined how off limits he was to her. But the casually unfastened top button of his white shirt made Sofie want to trespass. She never played by the rules, and enjoyed the forbidden glimpses of his muscular chest a little too much to start with that now.
He reached the bottom of the stairs and stepped fully into the light. His classically handsome face and stylish haircut made him look like he’d just returned from a photo-shoot.
Like the others, Sofie was holding her breath while staring at the man whose skill and allure put Club Elandra on the world map. Sofie’s research showed he was the club’s most prized asset; their crown jewel, whose client list was as much a secret as his identity. How ridiculous. He’s just a man.
“Welcome to Club Elandra,” he said, smiling ever so slightly.
The deep vibrations in his voice sent little ripples of delight across Sofie’s body. She caught herself wondering what running her hands across his broad shoulders would feel like.
“Mrs. Gartner, I hear you have a surprise request for me tonight.”
Whatever effect he had on Sofie was nothing compared to what Mrs. Gartner must be feeling; despite — or maybe because — having sampled his wares many times before. Gone was the deceitful harpy and replaced by a doting lamb.
Sofie studied their interaction in total bewilderment. Mrs. Gartner was besotted with him and would have risked the consequences of Sofie’s blackmail. She would have given up her position, her power and wealth, just to stay with this man. Who is worth that much?
But even blinded by love, Mrs. Gartner knew she could not follow her heart. Their relationship was a transaction, predictable and immutable. She realized that without money or influence, she could not afford Philip’s company. Just like Sofie couldn’t.
“Philip,” Mrs. Gartner exhaled, her voice hitched, “I’ve decided to devote more time to charity. I’ll be cancelling my club membership.” She paused, waiting for an objection from him. She took a deep breath when she realised that none would come. “I want to transfer my remaining visits to... her.” A tortured expression played around her mouth as she spat out the last word.
“I see. How very... rare.”
His chocolate brown eyes fixed on Sofie, and she squirmed under his attention. He let his gaze slide over her face and down her body. It left a hot trail of stirred flesh in its wake.
“Is that what you want?”
He addressed Sofie for the first time and suddenly the lights around her glittered a little brighter; the music sounded a little sweeter, and the scents became more vivid, like a freshly cut bouquet of flowers.
Despite her hotly flushed cheeks, Sofie’s voice held firm under his gaze. There were flecks of green in his eyes, and she wanted to lose herself in this dark pool of floating emeralds.
“Very well then. I’m willing to make an exception.”
An enigmatic smile flitted across his face.
Sofie couldn’t tell why this matter-of-fact statement felt so flattering. But she was painfully aware that with this man she needed to take a firm reign on her emotions. She straightened herself as Philip focused his attention back on Mrs. Gartner and her surroundings became a little duller again.
“I’ll leave you with Melanie for the cessation procedure.”
He politely nodded ‘Goodbye’ to Mrs. Gartner before glancing at Melanie. She bobbed her head in reply to his silent question. It was a well rehearsed ritual, like stamping a passport for Sofie to enter the land of passion.
Philip hooked Sofie’s arm into his. He smiled at her and the world stopped for a second.