Do you want this?
So this is it? This is the place where women are the sexual predators?
The exclusive atmosphere wrapped itself around Sofie as she entered the infamous Club Elandra. An establishment so elite that hundreds of women from around the world were on the waiting list. Each of them rich and influential, each able to afford anything, perhaps anyone, yet they choose to take their pleasures with the high-class companions from Club Elandra.
Sofie wasn’t a club member, and she would never be. She was an investigative journalist, who could only dream of the level of luxury the club was famous for. She was here tonight as the guest of Mrs Gartner, one of the lucky few with access to this secretive erotic society.
Sofie looked around the stylish lobby. There was nothing that gave away that deep desires and dark fantasies were fulfilled behind those tapestry walls. Nothing indicated that spending a night here would cost a fortune and was highly addictive. The only hint was the boutique fragrance floating through the lobby that whispered ‘you’ll come visit us again’.
“Mrs Gartner, how very wonderful to see you this evening. I’ll let your companion know you are here,” the prim receptionist beamed, utterly misjudging the mood Sofie’s host was in.
Peering through an elaborate arrangement of lilies and lotus leaves the receptionist was reaching for the phone when she finally spotted Sofie. Her expression froze.
“Oh you brought a guest. How … unusual. Does your companion know?”
“No he doesn’t.” Mrs Gartner’s voice was clipped and sour. “Put the phone down. I need to do something first. I... have to cancel my subscription.”
Mrs Gartner was an assertive woman, but tonight her instructions were hesitant. She did not want to do any of this. 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. She utterly looked conflicted when she added, “I also have to transfer my remaining visits to this … young lady.”
Sofie suppressed a smile. ‘Young lady’ is it? Seeing one of society’s most scrupulous harpies rake her brain for how to describe her was delectable. Why not ‘Blackmailer’? Too embarrassing?
Sweet triumph flooded Sofie. Her plan had worked. Over the last weeks she’d collected evidence of Mrs Gartner’s infidelity. Evidence that her husband would not take kindly to. He would have no qualms divorcing his gold-digging wife and putting an end to her lavish lifestyle. It was enough of a threat for Mrs Gartner to hand over her Club Membership.
Sofie had never before stooped so low. But when she ignored the sickening feeling in her stomach, blackmail had proved to be an exceptionally effective tool for getting what she wanted: access to her next informant, Philip, Mrs Gartner’s companion and the club’s most sought after escort.
“Mrs Gartner, you know this is not possible. We are happy to reimburse your remaining three visits but they cannot be transferred to another person. We have a waiting list.”
“Just do it, missy, will you?”
Mrs Gartner tapped her fingers on the counter in frustration. She clearly was not used to losing something, let alone having to deal with problems in the process.
“Mrs Gartner, please. Even if we transferred the visits, we cannot do this on such short notice.” Lowering her voice the receptionist added, “You know we require certain medical information to ensure the safety of our companions.”
Mrs Gartner snapped her fingers and waved for Sofie to hand over the blood tests and physical examination she had endured earlier today. For Sofie, the humiliation was a small sacrifice for finally getting hold of Philip and the secrets about a certain high-profile client of his.
Sofie leaned over the counter to read the receptionist’s name tag.
“Melanie,” she said softly, “I know this is very irregular. But Mrs Gartner is not one to say ‘No’ to without consequences. She can make this difficult for all of us. So what do you think we can do to resolve this?”
“Well, I suppose, it is ultimately up to Philip to decide.”
Melanie took a measuring look at Mrs Gartner before picking up the phone again.
“I’m sorry Philip, there is a bit of a situation down here. Normally, I would not bother you with this but … it’s Mrs Gartner.”
A frightened expression whisked over Melanie’s face and Sofie almost felt sorry for having dragged an innocent bystander into her battle. But bringing down a corrupt member of parliament, justified some collateral along the way. The high-profile client Sofie was after had blood on her hands. She needed to be stopped before she would become UK’s next prime minister and poison one of the world’s most powerful countries with her scrupulous and illegal schemes.
“Mrs Gartner wants to transfer the remaining three visits to a friend.” The receptionist whispered. The silence on the other end of the line made her hand tremble. “Philip?”
After another anxious pause she put down the phone. “Philip will come downstairs to resolve the issue.”
Melanie tried hard to keep it together but she was close to tears. What kind of illuminati society is this? How can bending a small rule cause such palpable tension?
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. He deliberately and slowly took each step, 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 demeanor indicated how off limits he was to her. But the casually unbuttoned top of his white shirt made Sofie want to trespass. She never liked playing by the rules and enjoyed catching the forbidden glimpses of his muscular chest a little too much to be kept in place. As 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 had just returned from a photo-shoot for a magazine cover.
Sofie realized that all three of them had been holding their breath, staring at the man whose skill and allure has put Club Elandra on the world map. He was the club’s most prized asset. Their crown jewel. 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 wears many times before. Gone was the deceitful harpy and replaced by a doting lamb.
In total bewilderment Sofie studied the interaction between Mrs Gartner and Philip. She was besotted with him. Following her heart she would have risked the consequences of Sofie’s blackmail. She would have given up her position, her wealth, just to stay with this man. Who is worth that much?
But even blinded by love she knew that their relationship was a transaction, predictable and immutable. She knew fully well 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 hitching 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, which both knew would never come. Taking a deep breath she continued, “I want to transfer my remaining three visits to… her.” A tortured expression played around her mouth as she spat out the last word.
“I see. How very... rare.” he said.
His chocolate brown eyes fixed on Sofie; undeterred by her squirming 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 this what you want?” he asked, addressing Sofie for the first time.
Sofie’s voice was firm as she held his gaze. There were flecks of green in his dark eyes and she felt drawn into the black pool of floating emeralds.
“Very well then. I am 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. Very well, two can play this game.
“Thank you Mrs Gartner. I’ll leave you with Melanie for the cessation procedure.” He briefly nodded politely 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 her to be allowed entry into the land of senses.
Philip took Sofie’s arm to guide her up the stairs. He smiled at her and the world stopped for just a second.