Do you want this?
So this is it? This is the place where women are the sexual predators?
Sofie stepped through the massive wooden double-doors into the secretive Club Elandra. Pan flutes played through the expensive speakers hidden beneath the extravagant foliage of the vertical gardens that lined the entrance. An artisan scent like a midsummer rain over a rose garden flowed through the dimly lit hallways. It was like stepping into an enchanted world. Spending the night here was indecently expensive yet everything about this place whispered ‘you’ll be back for more.’
Seeing Elandra’s allure first hand, Sofie understood why hundreds of women were on the waiting list. And not just ordinary women, they were fabulously rich and influential, each able to afford anything, perhaps anyone, yet they chose to take their pleasures with the high-class Companions from Club Elandra.
Sofie wasn’t a club member. She would never be. As an investigative journalist, she could only dream of the level of luxury the club was famous for. The only reason she was here at all was as the guest of Mrs. Gartner, one of the lucky few to hold a membership to this reclusive erotic society.
“Mrs. Gartner, how wonderful seeing you this evening. I’ll let your Companion know you’re here,” the receptionist chanted while reaching for the phone. She was sitting behind the opulent mahogany reception desk like the gatekeeper into a realm of deep desire and dark fantasies.
Mrs. Gartner only acknowledged her with a brief nod before throwing a sour look back at Sofie. She resented her being here and had no problem showing it.
“Now what?”, she hissed at Sofie.
Startled by the hostile tone, the receptionist looked up. Her expression froze as 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 was clipped. She was still staring at Sofie, waiting for her answer.
“You know what to do.”
“Fine.” Mrs. Gardner exhaled before pausing as if to summon strength, “I’ll have to... alter my subscription.”
Mrs. Gartner pressed the back of her hand over her mouth as if to fight back nausea, leaving a print of her screaming-orange lipstick on her skin. Noticing it, she hastily wiped it on her obscenely big fur coat. Her status and wealth usually enabled her to walk through life with the assertiveness of a drill sergeant; not listening or taking orders from anyone. But tonight, she wasn’t in control and her instructions were hesitant. No one could blame her. She was about to lose a very prized possession; the ticket to her satisfaction and an invaluable status symbol in her circles.
With another pained sigh she added, “I need to cancel my subscription and 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 divorcing his gold-digging wife and with a prenup in place, that would be the end of her lavish lifestyle.
As an investigative journalist, Sofie usually 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 needed was her cherished Club Membership. 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, very 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.” Lowering her voice the receptionist added, “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 wasn’t going to grant the request irrespective of what the test-results said. This cannot 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 softly, “I know 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 any consequences to her job.
“Think smart here!” Sofie continued. ”The easiest way to get the target off your back is to let Philip decide. 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 who Philip was would already bring her investigation a big step forward.
Melanie took a measured look 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 suddenly 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 real harm justified some collateral damage along the way. MP Kerry had blood on her hands already and as the leader of one of the world’s most powerful nations, her illegal schemes and deceitful conduct had the potential to escalate into an all-out war.
“The problem? Um… Mrs. Gartner wants to transfer visits to a friend.” The receptionist whispered into the phone and the following silence on the other end made her hand tremble. “Philip?”
After another anxious pause she put down the phone.
“Philip is coming,” she croaked while fighting back tears.
What kind of illuminati society is this? How can bending a small rule cause such palpable tension? Or was Philip the problem? Was he a monster too? He probably had to be one to hold MP Kerry’s interest!
Mrs. Gartner shot Sofie a dark look.
“You are playing with fire here, girl,” she growled under her breath.
Before Sofie could take in the full meaning of Mrs. Gartner’s statement, footsteps approached on the upper floor. A figure stepped out of the shadow at the top of the granite staircase. This must be Philip. He deliberately and slowly took each step, letting the echo fill the foyer. He certainly 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 demeanor 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 was one to play by the rules. She simply enjoyed catching the forbidden glimpses of his muscular chest a little too much to be kept in her place.
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 just returned from a photo-shoot.
Like the others, Sofie was holding her breath while staring at the man whose skill and allure has put Club Elandra on the world map. From her research, Sofie knew that 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 is 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. And 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 of -- 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 clearly 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 that she could not follow her heart. Their relationship was a transaction, predictable and immutable. She knew that without money or influence she would not be able to afford Philip’s company. Just like Sofie couldn’t.
“Philip,” Mrs. Gartner exhaled, her voice hitched ever so slightly, “I’ve decided to devote more time to charity. I’ll be cancelling my club membership.” She paused, waiting for an objection from him. Realizing there wouldn’t be one she took a deep breath. “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 felt herself squirm under his attention. He let his gaze slowly 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 asked, addressing Sofie for the first time.
Despite her hotly flushed cheeks, Sofie’s voice was firm as she held 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 could not tell why this matter-of-fact statement felt so flattering. But she was painfully aware that she needed to take a firm reign on her emotions with this man. She straightened herself.
“Thank you, Mrs. Gartner. I’ll leave you with Melanie for the cessation procedure.” He politely nodded at 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 just a second.