Dressed in a long, black sequined gown and black stiletto heels, Kira stepped from the limousine and into the back entrance of The Candy Shop. Ian was there to escort her to meet Lucas.
“So nice to see you again, Daisy,” Ian smirked. “I had a feeling you’d be coming back.”
Shelby flitted down the hall toward them, her blonde ponytail bouncing behind her. “Kira!” She exclaimed excitedly and threw her arms around Kira’s neck as if they were long lost friends. “I’m glad you’re back. It was like everyone just disappeared all at once.”
Ian gave her a scowl and a sideways flip of his head, directing her to leave. Shelby took the hint, shutting up and scurrying past them.
“What did she mean everyone disappeared?” Kira asked, but Ian kept his eyes forward and shrugged.
“Take your questions up with Mr. Coronado,” Ian said, pulling open the large, medieval looking door and ushering her into the living room. “He’ll be with you shortly.”
Kira remembered this room all too well. It was where she and Audrey had first met with Lucas. It was also where Lucas gave her the name Daisy and where she was bandaged and changed after Miranda had attacked her. The red velvet couches, the candles on the coffee table, the large stained glass windows overlooking the stage and the bar that sat in the corner. More than anything she wished she had never stepped foot in this room.
“Welcome back,” Lucas strode through the door and headed straight to the bar and began mixing a martini that Kira suspected was for her.
“Are you going to drug me again?” She blurted sarcastically, letting her eyes drift from the glass to his face.
He smiled. “Yes.”
“Then I won’t drink it.” Kira crossed her arms.
“I can have you injected, but that’s unnecessarily painful,” he said, still shaking the martini.
Kira sank into one of the bar stools. “Why do you need me here?” Her tone was desperate, but she didn’t care. She needed to understand what was happening and her involvement in the bigger picture. “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to do this. Why are you forcing me to stay? Why are you threatening me and my marriage and my family? Why have you made me a prisoner?”
Lucas paused and stared at Kira as if she were speaking another language. Then he filled her martini glass and placed it in front of her. “Drink and then we will talk.”
Tears burned Kira’s eyes as she lifted the glass to her lips and sipped it. She felt the cool chill run all the way down her throat. It felt good. A few more sips and Kira began to feel her muscles relax and the worry and fear that had been all-consuming slowly melt away. The drug was working.
Sitting on the stool next to her, Lucas wiped a tear from her cheek and spun her chair so she was facing him. He then placed his knees on the outside of her knees and raised her chin so their eyes met. “You’re not a prisoner. You are one of many beautiful flowers that make up my garden.” Lucas lifted his hand and brushed her hair back from her face. “I protect my flowers.”
“I don’t want to be a flower,” Kira slurred. “I want to go home.”
“I am a business man. I give people what they want and I do it with such exclusivity that the danger of exposure to anyone is miniscule.” He stood up and walked behind the bar. Kira followed him with her eyes, trying to force herself to focus. “No one knows this place exists except those that I allow to know.”
“But Audrey knew it existed…” Kira slurred.
“Because I allowed Audrey to hear of it and I allowed Audrey to bring you along.” Lucas began mixing another martini. “Women don’t come to me for employment. I seek out whom it is I shall employ and make certain they come.”
“So, you wanted me and Audrey here? You lured us here?” Kira felt like her eyes were beginning to cross.
“I gave permission for Audrey to learn about The Candy Shop and I granted permission for her to bring you along.”
“But why?” Kira slurred.
“Because it is my business,” he said poignantly, “and this conversation has come full circle.”
“Is Audrey working tonight?” Kira blurted.
“No. Audrey has not shown up.”
He raised the glass to her lips and Kira took a long sip. “It’s so unlike her. She must be really pissed at me.”
“Don’t worry about Audrey,” Lucas said. “I am sure that such a fiery woman can take care of herself.”
Kira felt high now. She felt like she was floating above the bar. “I don’t understand,” she said wearily, as Lucas fed her another sip.
“What don’t you understand?”
“What you do, or maybe why you do it,” she slurred.
“I rescue people,” Lucas answered flatly. “I save them from the dormancy of an unfulfilling existence. I save them from the sadness of an empty nest, from the heartache of a dying marriage, from the despair of fading youth.” The way he described it, it sounded almost poetic.
Kira snorted. “And here I thought you just ran a fancy whorehouse.”
Lucas grinned. “Have I touched you or asked you to touch anyone?” Kira shook her head. “Have I told you that I expect you to sexually pleasure anyone?” Kira shook her head again. “How then, can I be running a whorehouse if I am not promoting sex?”
It was a good question and had she not been stoned, she might have been able to comeback with a reasonable response, but her brain was struggling to merely string two words together. Lucas raised the martini glass toward Kira’s lips again and she sipped. “I provide a safe environment where men and women can relax without the scrutinizing eyes of the outside world. I take care of my girls and I take care of my clients. You are not a prisoner here. That being said, I will take whatever action is necessary to ensure the privacy and protection of all who belong to me.” He raised the glass to her lips and Kira sipped again. “If my girls and my clients decide to engage in a form of sexual interaction, that is a private matter between them as consenting adults. I neither discourage nor encourage the goings-on. I am simply paid to arrange the meeting.”
Kira could barely focus her eyes now and she couldn’t wipe the smile from her face.
“How are you feeling?” Lucas asked, a grin tempting the corners of his mouth.
“Wonderful,” Kira slurred.
“Are you ready to meet with your client?”
“Yesssssss,” Kira said, her ess trailing off. “I am ready to meet Mr. Green,” she mumbled.
“Mr. Green?” Lucas looked surprised. “Is that the nickname you’ve given him?” He seemed thoroughly amused. “It sounds mysterious, like something from the game of Clue.”