Chapter 13: Sin Contrato
When Lorenzo left me, I laid alone and cried my eyes out until my body was exhausted enough to drift into a deep, coma-like sleep. The night Andreas and I argued, I was restless. All I did the entire night was toss and turn. I didn’t know how to explain to him what he couldn’t seem to understand! He had never been married before. He didn’t know what it was like to create such a bond with someone that it felt wrong to be without them, but what I couldn’t seem to understand was why it felt so right to be around Andreas.
It wasn’t right for him to put so much pressure on me! After all, I was not the pursuer in this situation; he came after me. He took the first step, made the first kiss … He practically begged me to sleep with him! And I could have said no. I probably should have said no. But the truth is: I didn’t want to, and I didn’t know why.
I cared about him. That much was obvious. He was very attractive, of course, but I never looked at his good looks as something for me; I looked at them as a profitable business trait. It’s important to have eye candy for the masses at the shop. It’s how I’ve survived the business! But after he pursued me, after he touched me, after he kissed me and moved with me so smoothly and gently like our bodies were made to accommodate each other, I saw him in another light.
He went from being kind, gentle, innocent, and cute to handsome and sexy and … Oh Lord Jesus in one night! And now, even though I didn’t expect anything to happen between us, I’m supposed to know what I want to do about us? If I even want there to be an us? He didn’t understand that it wasn’t just about us; his mother, who adored the hell out of her baby boy, was trying to ruin my friggin’ life! As much as I wanted to tell him the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I knew he wouldn’t want to hear about that, let alone believe me.
I couldn’t win for losing, and losing didn’t feel like winning. If I was being honest with myself, and with him, I would have said that he was asking for more than I could confidently give at the moment. As much as I hated to admit it, I guess he was right; I needed to sit back and figure out what I wanted before we continued to mess around. I needed to figure out a lot of things, but it wasn’t going to happen then and there. I knew that. So I closed my eyes, and kept reminding myself that the next day would change everything for the better.
Under the blinding stream of moonlight that shone through one of my bedroom windows, my body popped up with a vengeance at the sound of my phone buzzing loudly on the nightstand. One glance at the screen showed that it was freshly 5AM and there was a text from an unknown, private number.
Black Mountain Open Space Park – 9AM
My eyes filled with outrage. “That’s a three hour drive! You’ve got to be kidding me!”
I rushed to call all of my employees, except Chloe and Andreas. I wanted to save them for last. When I told the crew to meet me at the shop in one hour, they expressed the same level of fury I had, but much like me, they had no other choice. Chloe hurried me off of the phone after I gave her the pickup location so she could notify her boss.
“But uh, isn’t that going to defeat the purpose? Aren’t they supposed to be secret?”
“Yeah Haze, but by me telling them where the check point is, they can map out a location that’s close enough for us to still monitor what’s going on and follow you to the party. Or, at least, close enough to the venue. We got this. Don’t worry about it. I’ll see you at the shop.”
I shrugged her off with a shake of my head, and took a deep breath before allowing my fingers to dial Andreas’s number. It took him longer than usual to answer. Once I reminded myself of the time, I rolled my eyes at my initial desire to fly off the hinges, and told myself to calm down.
“Hazel?” he answered, gruff and groggy, yet full of concern. It made me smile. “What’s going on? Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I got the text you told me about … from the private number.”
“Oh. Oh, okay. What’s it say?”
“It says to meet up at Black Mountain Open Space Park …”
“What the f –? That’s a three hour drive!”
“And it says to be there at 9AM.”
He sighed. “You can’t be serious.”
“I’m having every one meet at the shop in an hour. Do you think that’s enough time?”
“Yeah. They’ll wait along for at least fifteen minutes before driving off to the party. My parents actually allow for that extra time. Let me get up and get dressed.”
“I just wanted to say … I’m sorry about earlier. I don’t mean to make you feel like I’m using you. I just don’t know how to tell you … how dreadfully scared I am to feel as deeply for someone as I think I can … for you.”
“Why would that scare you?”
“Because it leaves me vulnerable, and after Lorenzo, I don’t know if I would do so well with enduring that kind of pain again.”
“You don’t have to worry about my ability to cause you pain, Hazel, only my desire to, and there is none.”
“That sounds nice and all, Andreas, but how do I know that?”
“Time. It’s going to take time for me to prove it to you, and time for you to trust in that, and I have absolutely no problem taking that time with you. We can take this at whatever pace you want. Okay?”
A satisfying sigh left my lips. “Okay.”
“And thank you for telling me. I’ll see you at the shop.”
“See you soon.”
I arrived a few minutes early so the sight of my face could help ease my staff’s mind. I figured they would be pretty unnerved considering the severity of the situation we were all about to face. The pressure of withholding celebrity secrets was enough, but now to take part in exposing them in exchange for our freedom …
This was a whole other level of WTF.
My heart flew on wings of happiness when I saw Andreas approach the door first. The speed in our feet to get into each other’s arms perfectly complimented the force in our mutual embrace. We ran back to my office as not to get caught in a sweet and sultry make out session by anyone in case they walked in on us.
“I’m glad I got to see you before everyone got here,” he breathlessly confessed. I nodded in agreement. “I want you to be careful today, okay? I need you to be careful.”
“Where’s your …? Why aren’t you wearing one of those spy necklaces that Chloe got for everybody?”
“Because I didn’t ask her to get one for me, just the girls.”
“You’re about to put yourself in harm’s way and you didn’t think it was necessary for you to have spy gear on too?”
“I’m not going to be talking to anybody.”
“You don’t know who you’re going to be talking to! Baby, listen to me. Nobody is going to let you stand around at that party looking as beautiful as you look without talking to you.”
“That’s very sweet of you, but …”
“No, it’s not about being sweet; it’s a rule. No one is allowed to not be occupied at a Serpents & Sirens party. Why do you think I had a problem with you going in the first place?”
“I’m sorry, what? But I … I don’t want to have sex with anybody, Andreas!”
“Well, you better figure out a plan, baby, because I don’t know how you’re going to ease your way out of this one.”
“Haze! Haze, you here?” Chloe called from the front. When Andreas and I dashed out into her view, she stopped and stared in surprise before speaking again. “What the hell? You know what? Nevermind. The troops are rounding up in the parking lot, and we need to do this quickly.”
“Do what?” I wondered as she handed me an ear piece and a jeweled chain belt with golden coins dangling from it. “What is this?”
“The belt has a microphone in it so we can hear you. The ear piece is the only way you’ll be able to hear us.”
“Hear you? What are y’all going to need to say to me?”
“We’re going to be giving you directives, letting you know who to keep an eye out for, and we’re going to be keeping an eye on the team so that you know that they’re safe. Isn’t that the purpose of you going? Now, just … try to act as natural as possible with me talking in your ear.”
“Right, because that’s normal,” I said as everyone filed in. “All right, y’all. Take a seat. Take a seat. We only have a little bit of time to prep before we’re thrown into the lion’s den. First off, you guys all look awesome. Please remember to act the role that you are dressed to play.”
“And …,” Chloe jumped in, “act natural! Seriously. Y’all cannot be in there acting weird, but if any of you see that somebody is about to break cover, we came up with a code phrase for you to say to each other. Safety first is safety always.”
“Safety first is safety always?”
“It’s supposed to remind you that we are always watching you and we will be the first to know if something goes wrong. Now let’s load up and get out of here. It’s almost six.”
Saying that it was awkward to stand in the middle of a park with a bunch of horny adults dressed like they were headed to a Halfway To Halloween party … was an understatement. How any man or woman could get it on in a Pirate or Mystique costume was beyond me, but I was glad to see that no one repeated the outfits I had chosen for my team. Hearing Chloe’s voice warn me that her team saw limousines approaching the park granted me an odd sense of comfort and a lack there of.
The only thing that ran through my head was: This is going to be a long night.
Once the line of cars finally came into view for us, they circled around like piranha, closing the whole lot of us into one big cluster. I felt my girls grab onto to me, and I saw the boys protectively cover us. I was grateful for that.
After a brief odd moment, a masked figure stepped out of one of the limousines. He was donned in a suit and tie. His presence was an eerie combination of mysteriousness and allure, and it commanded all in attendance to silently await his speech.
“Welcome. I see you all have come to play. Before we lead you to the promised land, you must learn the rules upon entry. First, there will be no talking during the transport. We don’t want you to get a head start on the fun before you arrive, now do we? Second, all cell phones will be collected … now. We will give you each a plastic ziploc bag where you will write the name of the character you are dressed as, and it will be returned to you when you are brought back here to your cars. If there is someone else wearing the same costume as you, you will be responsible for including your initials next to your character name. Third, the moment you enter the party, there are no rules … except … everything must be consensual. If there is any hint of anything otherwise, you will be immediately eliminated from the festivities and never allowed to return. We have disguised security on the premises for everyone’s protection. Now, there is only one question left to ask, only one question that really matters,” he began before taking a curiously dramatic pause. “Are you ready to go to Paradise?”
With no concept of time since they took our damn phones, and no talking allowed, the trip to Paradise felt long and boring as hell! But the closer we were to arriving, the more it slowly but surely seemed to be worth the trip.
It was the ultimate in seclusion, located at the top of a grassy mound and surrounded by miles of lush greenery. We spiraled up a lengthy road until reaching the massive garage area of the mansion. Standing in greeting were servers clothed in costumes fit for a Halloween office party that did not match the Serpents & Sirens theme – like Carmen Santiago, Janelle Monet, Audrey Hepburn, Doctor Who, Bob Dylan, and Pee Wee Herman – carrying trays of welcome cocktails. I wasn’t too proud to take one as they escorted us to a lavish living room with a sunken cream-colored seating area that blended with the plush carpet. Embroidered pillows decorated the couches so fashionably, I was scared to sit down! As I looked at the long indoor bar and the breathtaking view of gorgeous valleys below and an enormous outdoor pool, I was confused. The energy within the residence wasn’t frightening or edgy; it was warm and homey. I laughed at my initial worry.
“I feel like we should have come in bathing suits instead of these getups.”
“We don’t really care much for those around here,” a booming voice replied back. We all turned around to see a giant tower of man adorning a Jack Skellington outfit. Much like the head limo driver, his commanding presence sucked all the air out of the room, encouraging us to give him our full attention. “Soon, you won’t find a use for the outfits you’re currently in either, but we encourage them as to go along with the fantasy. On that note, allow me to introduce myself. For I … am … The Pumpkin King.”
Chloe snickered in my ear. I tried not to follow suit. “They really weren’t kidding about living up to your costume, were they?”
“And this … is … The Garden of Eden.”
“You’re kidding!” Chloe gaffed. “The Serpents & Sirens party theme is actually biblically influenced? What the hell is wrong with these people?”
“So please, savor the rich scenery of trees and abundance of water on the outside, and feel free to enjoy the buffet of tempting flesh and sinful pleasure within these walls,” he invited with a menacing chuckle.
“What about those delightful attendants that greeted us with drinks?” a man dressed as Jafar asked. “Are they fair game as well?”
“No. In fact, to keep anyone from thinking such, they were immediately sent home after you all made your way inside. However, every man and woman in here is fair game, but remember the rules you were given at the park. It must all be consensual. If it is not, if there is one unpleasant sound or complaint heard at this party, you will be found, and you will be disposed of. We also advise that you keep your costume on at all times, unless you don’t mind having your real identity exposed. Of course this does not apply to the exhibition of your forbidden fruit.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this. This is disgusting. Haze, I know you’re probably about to throw up in there.”
“Chloe, will you stop?” I heard Andreas say. “You’re probably distracting her. Doesn’t she need to focus?”
“Hey! Turn off the channel if the two of you are going to argue. Agent Ventura, you know the rules.”
Chloe’s annoyed sigh is all I heard before the bug in my ear went mute. I was glad to be relieved of the internal conversation that was in no way helpful to my mission. So much for not feeling weird.
“Are there any other questions?” the host inquired to shaking heads. “Good. In that case, the bar is open, fully stocked, and well attended. Feel free to have sex any and everywhere. There’s eight bedrooms, one master suite with multiple rooms, eleven bathrooms, two big ass living rooms, a dining room, a game room, a movie theater, a kitchen, a wine cellar, the basement, the garage area you all came through, and eighteen acres of land, all of which is your personal playground for the evening. Have fun, and don’t do anything that will get you thrown out on your ass.”
It didn’t take much more than that for people to start pairing up and disappearing. Each member of my team looked to me before we all slowly huddled by the bar. We had to make ourselves look inconspicuous so no one would suspect us, but we also needed to come up with a plan to find the marks that Chloe and her co-workers had their eyes on.
“I can’t believe Judd showed up,” Chenoa scoffed. “After everything he’s done, you think he would try and keep a low profile.”
“Wait. How do you know it’s him? More than half of these people have masks on their faces.”
“And his ego won’t allow him to completely cover his,” she notified before nodding toward a man decked out in Bane attire, placing his natural – or as natural as steroids go – muscles on display. His muzzle-like mask may have concealed his nose and mouth, but Chenoa was still able to identify him from his eyes. “His lustful look, that he thinks is sexy, makes my skin crawl. Plus, he’s been gawking at me ever since we walked in.”
“Okay. Okay. Just take a breath. Remember to breathe. Try not to think about how much he makes your skin crawl. Better yet, I know what we’ll do. Take another girl with you so you don’t have to deal with him on your own. As a matter of a fact, let’s give him more than he can handle. Take two. Amy? Jade? Are you guys up for a little triple play?”
“I’m up for it.”
“I mean, isn’t that what we’re here for?”
“Good. Chenoa, you take the lead while these two distract him with some girl-on-girl action.”
“Good job, Haze.”
“Actually, it might be better to have Autumn and Thomas,” she suggested as our faces filled with confusion. “Judd’s a huge Batman fan, but he’s twisted, so to have a bi-sexual Joker soil a doe-eyed, dopey ass Poison Ivy – no offense, Autumn – would definitely keep him entertained long enough to get whatever we need out of him.”
“What the f –?” Chloe blurted in my ear.
“Well, you know him best. Don’t forget: today, you are a dominatrix. That means you are in control, not him. Dominate his ass,” I reminded as she smiled back.
There was no hesitation as she led her squad to the star of the evening, and I watched every second of it. I saw Chenoa get into character, seductively catering to his ego while putting her whip on display. Shortly after she introduced her party, they made their way into an abyss of the Heaven she was in charge of creating.
“She’s good, Haze,” Chloe informed as I nodded. “All three of them are. Now, start matching up the rest of them.”
“I should find Martin,” Jade said. “I mean, he is the one who requested me to be here.”
“Tell her negative on that one. We need y’all to migrate around a bit, so we know who’s here.”
“I don’t know if you’re going to be able to find him, Jade. You are covered head to toe in black leather, so I know he won’t recognize you. And unless he’s showing his face, you won’t catch him either. So, how about we move around, and see if we hear anything interesting? After all, we have a mission. Let’s get to it.”
I felt my body grow paralyzed with shock. The expressions on the rest of my staff’s faces said it all, even though I knew that voice. I knew it intimately, but I had no freaking idea why it would be at this sex party.
“Lorenzo. What the hell are you doing here?”
“Haze, try not to cause a scene, or you’ll get kicked out like Andreas said.”
“What am I doing here? What are you doing here? Who even told you about this party?”
“Uh, Mrs. Donato,” Ana eased. “Do you want us to start without you or …?”
“So you are still using my name?”
“Haze, send the crew off so you can take this idiot outside or something and give him the conversation he’s fishing for. We’ve got eyes on them.”
“You guys go ahead. We’ll meet back up soon. Remember: Safety first is safety always,” I prompted with a supportive nod before they walked off. “Y’all be careful.”
“I can’t believe you brought them here. What, are you campaigning for new clients?”
“What I do with my company is no longer you’re concern. Why are you here?”
“I was invited. Why are you here?”
“I was invited,” I mimicked as he laughed heartily. “What’s so funny?”
“I knew finding somebody after me was going to be hard for you, but I never thought you’d resort to going to orgies.”
With a roll of the eyes, the only words I had left for him were Goodbye Lorenzo. Before I could take one foot in the opposite direction, I felt his snug grip on my arm.
“Since you’re here, what do you say to … one for the road?”
“We already had one for the road … the morning you left me in the Ritz-Carlton for your new sugar mama. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a ravishing garden … and you know how much I love a scenic view. Enjoy the rest of the party.”
Winston Churchill said it best: Tact is telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. And I was proud of myself. I told Lorenzo to get out of my face in a manner that made me want to go along with him … but something told me that I would appreciate my solo date a lot better … and that something was right.
I took it upon myself to walk around the perimeter of the house, and by God, was I glad I did. Freshly cut grass perfectly complimented a marathon pool filled with sapphire blue water that started from one end of the mansion, through the middle, before ending on the other side. From the mountain side of the house, a water slide carved of smooth rock looped down to an adorable stone pond encircled by dazzling violet wildflowers that brought a smile to my face. By the time I needed to head back into the house for another drink, my ears caught the rushing sounds of a waterfall. I felt my insides jump for joy, but suddenly I froze in place as my eyes gouged out of my head.
I know they told people that they could have sex anywhere …
But damn …
Is it necessary to do it on the friggin’ bar?
My eyes rolled, vexed by the immutable fact that the party was well underway, and there was nothing I could do about it except wait for it to be over.
“Your glass looks a little dry,” a roaring voice opened. I turned to see that it was none other than the party’s host. He walked behind the counter and took my champagne flute. “Let me be of some assistance.”
“A master of ceremonies and a bartender? Not a … predictable combination.”
“We all start from somewhere, now don’t we? Still managed to hold on to your welcome drink I see. It’s been hours.”
“Yeah well, it certainly packed a punch. What do you call that, uh … dangerous cocktail?”
“A Sweet Surrender. A lusty blend of flavored brandy, orange juice, and champagne with a sugary rim.”
“Sweet Surrender? Definitely a fit name for a drink at this event.”
“I thought so. To get the juices flowing, if you know what I mean. Let’s get you a glass that can hold a little more water.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“A larger glass … for a larger drink. I’m sure this won’t be the first time the bar will be otherwise occupied, so you might want something that’ll last a little longer.”
“Like Big Red Bubblegum!” I joked with glee.
“One Big Red Gum coming up.”
“Wait, that’s actually a drink?”
“A shot, actually, but I can super size it for you.”
And as he pulled a bottle of liquor that sparkled with flecks of gold, and mixed its contents with cranberry juice, I found myself mesmerized by an impressive display of showmanship. One taste of my Big Red Gum and I understood why they referred to this party as Paradise. I was in pure heaven. His previously creepy chuckle seemed … warmer to me after a couple of sips.
“It doesn’t take much to please you, does it?”
“I’ll admit, I’m a simple girl.”
“That is the beauty of paradise; whatever you desire, no matter how simple or complex, you can have it. All you have to do is ask,” he told as he walked to stand by my side. “Now that you have your drink, is there anything else you desire right now, Goddess?”
I tried to swallow the huge lump in my throat. His closing in on my personal space … was not helping. “Umm … to see the waterfall?”
As uneasy as I felt to be personally escorted to my desired destination by the party’s host, it did not hold a candle to hearing the embarrassing sounds of people having sex amongst the flowers and trees we were enclosed by. Moans and pants of ecstasy made me blush a bright pink, a display of humiliation my chaperon seemed to find amusing.
“You are quite bashful for a lady in this line of work.”
My head snapped in his direction as he continued to grin at me. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Yes, I know who you are, Hazel. You have no reason to feel alarmed. I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“May I ask who from?”
“Oh, Hazel darlin’, you don’t get to the level that I’m at in the industry without knowing what’s going on in it. You won’t hear any scandals about me. No, I prefer to keep myself out of trouble, but I like to watch and keep my ear to the ground so I’m always in the loop.”
“Is that the point of these parties? To keep you in the loop so you know what’s going on, or is it to keep you out of trouble because you won’t participate in what you can take charge of and watch?”
“It’s important that people get a chance to release their inhibitions. It keeps them from acting out. That’s the purpose of these parties. We do a few a year, once every season, just enough to satisfy an appetite, but not too much to get anyone addicted. That’s why we go to such lengths to keep it secret, and we only have it last for a day, or however long you need to stay to make sure that you beat the sun back home.”
“But why do you only have it for sex industry professionals? Do you think they are the only people who need to release their inhibitions like you say?”
“Hazel, darlin’, everybody here is not a sex industry professional. We’ve got people from all over the world, all walks of life, coming here for these parties. That’s why we insist that people wear costumes.”
“Unless they don’t mind exposing their identities, right?”
“Exactly, like yourself. Not many women can pull off an Aphrodite costume, but after seeing your interactions today, I understand why you wear it so well.”
“I’m sorry, what? How do you mean?”
“Aphrodite: the Greek Goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality. She loved everything beautiful and embodied the very essence of beauty. A woman who followed her own mind and paid attention to the attraction that binds people together. She loved flowers too, y’know, just like you. And also like you, she had a lover that her husband quickly found out about,” he revealed as my heartbeat sped up in my chest. “I think I have a better understanding of why you two are going through a divorce right now. That husband of yours is a frequent visitor here, and being that this is the first time I’m seeing you and all you’re doing is checking out the scenery, I’d say he wasn’t worthy of you.”
“Thank you for that.”
“Thank you … for being a woman of style and class. A woman who cares enough to be at a festivity surrounded by sex, only to keep a watchful eye over her flock. And you’re not tempted at all, are you?” he smirked as I shook my head in answer. “It’s very admirable.”
“I’d imagine you can relate. I mean, after all, you’re not doing anything either.”
“You’re absolutely right, but there aren’t many people like us in the world. I see why he adores you so much,” he complimented as I looked on in confusion. “Andreas, darlin’. I’ll be sure to tell my son that I approve. Enjoy the waterfall.”
As I let his parting words marinate in my brain, it finally dawned on me. He was so cool, calm, and collected. I never felt a tinge of nervousness or judgment; I forgot to connect the dots. The people in charge of this shindig were Andreas’s parents. That whole time, the whole damn time, I had been talking to Andreas’s father!
“Wait!” I yelled out, rushing to find him, but someone else got a hold of me before I could go very far. Once I turned to face them, I saw the very last person I wanted to see properly draped in a metallic snake print bodysuit, matching arm cape, fish net stockings, similarly hued heels, and a crown of slithering snakes like herself. “Sylvia, what the …?”
“Truer words have never been spoken.”
“We need to talk. Now, smart ass.”
“I didn’t come here to talk to you!”
“And you didn’t come here to get laid either, so the question remains, what are you doing here?”
“I came to keep an eye on my people.”
“Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I didn’t know about your little plan to get my Diamonds and their husbands whom you service all in the same space so you could have a repeat of Judd and Daisy?”
“No, I didn’t. I …”
“Come with me,” she demanded, pulling me along like a rag doll.
All the while, Chloe was barking in ear, asking if I was okay, and I was in panic mode wondering where on earth Sylvia was taking me. Finally, she brought me and herself to a halt in front of a closed door. When she cracked it open, there were two people, completely naked and uncovered, getting lucky on top of a made bed. It was obvious that the couple was turned on by the idea of someone watching them in the act, but I on the other hand, was extremely uncomfortable.
“If I wanted to be a voyeur, I would peruse the mansion on my own to peak in on everyone who’s hooking up right now. Why are you showing me this?”
“To keep you in line.”
No sooner than those words exited her mouth, the couple turned toward us to get a look at who they were putting on a show for, and my soul sunk into the floor.
I saw two faces I recognized …
Two faces I lovingly knew …
And I ran.