Leaning against the bar, I smiled at the bartender for the night. “I’ll take a threesome, please,” I said.
The bartender eyed me carefully before coughing out the obvious question, “Why stop at three when you can have four?”
Well, I sure didn’t have the answer to that. Why stop at four? Or five? Five seemed like too much. There’s not enough open spaces for five. Laughing, I dropped a twenty-dollar bill on the table. “You’re right. Better make it four.”
After he poured the drink, I made my way through the main room of the elaborately decorated and notorious Leather and Lace Men’s Club. My club. Cautiously sipping my drink, I looked for the right man to sweep me off my feet. Scratch that. There was no right man for the job, but maybe there was someone who could show me a good time. It never hurt to keep my options open.
The drink was strong and exactly what I needed. More than anything, I was nervous. Tonight was for rejoicing, but I couldn’t celebrate the club’s history. There was too much on my mind.
I held the folded letter between my fingers inside my pocket. “One month.” The date had been looming over my head for a while now. If I didn’t pay the last three months rent by the third of next month, I was shit out of luck. The Leather and Lace Men’s Club would have to shut down for good.
Friends, family, and guests of all kinks. I thank you for coming out tonight to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Leather and Lace Men’s Club. Unfortunately, I have some terrible news to tell you. The Leather and Lace will be no more, starting in January…
“Hank!” Hayden’s excited voice startled me.
I turned around and smiled warmly at my friend. “Hayden!” I tried my hardest to keep my enthusiasm realistic. My best friend Leo was behind him, dressed in a black wool coat, and he looked excited to see me. I didn’t want to have tell them the new. Waving to both of them, I bit my tongue and held my breath. It’s going to be okay, I thought. It’s just a club…
“Hey, man,” Leo said as he finally pushed his way through the crowd. “Great party. I’ve never seen the club lit up like this before. It actually looks decent for once.”
“Thanks. Took a lot of scrubbing,” I joked.
Hayden rolled his eyes, but a quirky smile remained on his face. “Gross. I don’t want to think about how much alpha spunk is stuck on those walls for good.”
“Hey, a lot of that was from me,” Leo said, laughing.
“I’m with Hayden. You’re grossing me out,” I said.
The twentieth anniversary of the Leather and Lace had finally come, and everyone in the BDSM and leather scene was here to celebrate and remember the good times they had here.
Velvet red curtains lined the walls. Chandeliers hung high from the decorated cement ceilings. It took me ages, but I wanted to make this party memorable because, at the end of the night, I was going to lay it on everyone. The dream was finally coming to an end. All of the kinky men in the city would have to find another club to meet at.
Now, I know all of you share the same fond memories as I do. People on the outside won’t understand. They’ll tell you that this place was just another sex club for alphas and omegas to get off. However, we know better. It was a place to feel free and without care. It was a place to be yourself…
A server in a tuxedo walked by. He was wearing a Venetian Masquerade mask and holding a tray of champagne. “Refreshments?” he asked.
“Thank fuck,” I said under my breath. I needed to drink all of the alcohol I could get my hands on. “I’ll take two, please.” I washed back one of the glasses and began sipping on the other.
“Remember when we first built this place? Everyone thought we were crazy. Protesters lined the streets,” Leo said.
“They tried to shut us down for good,” I said.
I couldn’t let myself fall into nostalgia tonight. If I did, I’d break down. I had been practicing this fucking speech for hours, going over every single line in my head. I wanted it to be the perfect send-off, but the more I recited it in my head, the more the realization set in. Our past was over. Time to move on.
Acting like I didn’t care, I shrugged and forced a smile. “It was just another degenerate sex club,” I said.
Leo smiled while fondly remembering the past. “No way. It was more than that, and you know it.”
“You’re telling me I didn’t witness three different guys get it on in the ‘dark room’ last night?” I asked him.
Leo and Hayden both laughed, but Leo looked a little shaken up. “Okay, time to get a drink. I’ll be right back.” Hayden gave a soft smile to Leo before he left.
I understood what Leo was trying to say. He was passionate about this place. After all, he helped me open it years ago. For a long time, the leather community was our life. Still was, really. But at the ripe age of thirty-eight, I wasn’t sure it held the same meaning anymore. Plus, I never found any long lasting relationships through this place like Leo did.
“It was a place where likeminded, kinky people could meet. That may not sound like much, but people thanked us, man,” he said. “We opened a lot of people’s minds and changed their lives forever. Isn’t that something?”
I cautiously gulped down the rest of my champagne while rapidly surveying the room. “Yeah, I guess so,” I said, shrugging. “Anyway, there are more important things in life, right?”
Finally noticing that something was wrong, Leo took a step back and eyed me cautiously. “You’re nervous,” Leo said. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m not nervous,” I said, avoiding his gaze and question.
Leo grabbed my shoulder and looked into my eyes as if I had just suffered a minor concussion. “I’ve been your best friend for twenty-five years now. I know when something is up. What’s going on with you?”
I quietly pulled out the letter from my pocket. I didn’t dare unfold it, so Leo snagged it out of my hand. “…you have one month to respond. Otherwise, your account will be marked as delinquent…”
“Give me that,” I said, snatching back the letter. I crumpled it up inside of my pocket.
“Fuck, man. You’re that behind on rent?” Leo asked.
I nodded and looked away. I just wanted to enjoy this party. Why couldn’t I do that? “Yeah. I’m a little behind. So what?” I asked.
“Hank, please tell me you have the money to pay for this,” Leo said. I stayed silent. I couldn’t tell him that. It wouldn’t have been the truth. “You do have the money, right?”
“You know, I was having a better time here before you arrived,” I said.
Leo huffed and looked around to see if anyone was paying attention to us. A few guests seemed to notice that something was wrong, but they quickly looked away.
Leo lowered his voice and whispered, “I’m just trying to wrap my head around all of this. How could you do this to our club?”
“It’s not our club anymore. It’s my club, and I did this because I have zero fucking help,” I said. A jolt of anger flashed through me, and suddenly, my face turned hot to the touch.
“This is because I moved to the suburbs, isn’t it? You’re pissed because I started a family. You blame me for the fall of this place, don’t you? Just admit it,” Leo said.
I took a deep breath. It wasn’t Leo’s fault this place had lost its popularity. It was just the sign of the times. Sometimes, it felt like society was turning more and more conservative each and every day. When did that start to happen?
“Honestly, I don’t blame you for anything,” I said.
“Then, tell me. What is it?” Leo asked.
I looked at the gold and flickering sign that hung over the bar. Red balloons floated around the words, Twenty Years! It all seemed to hit me at once. “It’s over, Leo,” I said. “It’s been over for a long time now.”
“When are you going to tell everyone?” Leo asked. I swallowed hard, feeling my chest begin to tighten. “Oh, God. You’re not thinking about telling everyone tonight, are you?”
I shrugged. “Can you think of a better time?”
Leo threw his hands into the air, but he quickly gave up arguing. “I guess not,” he finally said.
Leo examined the room with nostalgic eyes. The old “dark room” was directly behind it. It was the place to get lost in and discover new pleasures. It was a total breeding ground for hot and sinful sex. I remembered when we first put it in. We used to laugh at the thought of straight people’s reactions to a dark room of men fucking to their heart’s content.
Maybe it was a weird thing to be proud of, but it was our weird thing. We were the first gay and kink-friendly club in the city. In a conservative district, that meant something.
Leo finally nodded and put his arm around me, pulling me in to reminisce. “We had a good run,” he said. “Lots of memories here.”
“Lots of cock.” We both laughed.
Our smiles quickly started to fade. “Something else will come for us,” he said. “Something transgressive and real. I have to admit, it can feel pretty great to move on.”
But something had caused me to stop listening. No, someone. In our line of vision was a younger alpha. He had to be in his mid-thirties with the most beautiful auburn hair I had ever laid eyes on. He was shirtless, like most of the guests here, but he stood out in the crowd.
“Okay, enough nostalgia. Look over there. Do you see what I see?” Leo asked.
“I see him, Mrs. Matchmaker. But I’m not sure I’m in the mood anymore,” I said.
“Come on. Look at him. He’s got that good-boy charm thing going for him,” Leo said.
“There’s no way that guy is good,” I said. “Look at his eyes. He’s playing a game.”
“What’s his game?” Leo asked.
I squinted my eyes and tried to take a guess. “Maybe he’s a rich donor who will sweep me off my feet,” I said.
“Exactly. That’s why you need to talk to him. If not for yourself, do it for the club,” Leo said.
I shrugged. The alcohol had the opposite effect of what I expected. “Maybe later,” I said.
“Don’t be such a pussy. Remember when Hayden and I had Nathaniel? Remember what you said?” he asked me.
He knew that I remembered. I told him that I wanted a child of my own someday and a man who might take care of my needs like Leo did for Hayden. It was a stupid thing to say. I was too old to have a child now. Not to mention, to set in my ways to start dating.
“No, thanks,” I said. “I’ve got enough on my plate.”
“You’re selling the club. What do you possibly have on your plate?” Leo asked me.
I tried to think of something, but the only thing that came to mind was my nighttime Netflix ritual. Yes, that evidently took up a lot of my night, and I wasn’t going to let any man replace my TV time.
“He’s coming over here,” Leo chanted. “Look, he’s walking toward us. I’ll leave you two alone.”
The strawberry-haired man strutted toward our conversation. Oh, God. He was looking right at me too. Okay, he was definitely going to say something.
Leo turned around to leave me alone with Mr. Red Hot, but I quickly latched on to the edge of his jacket. “Don’t you dare do this,” I said.
As soon as I said those words, Hayden made his way back to Leo. “Sorry, Hank. I’m going to have to cut in here and grab my man for a dance,” Hayden said.
Great. “Oh. No worries.” The words fell from my mouth, pallid and insubstantial. I watched as my friends made their way to the thumping dance floor, no doubt a cheap ploy to get me to meet someone new.
Another server walked by slow enough for me to grab two more champagne glasses. If I drank fast enough, maybe I wouldn’t have to remember any of this. I closed my eyes and tried to focus.
I opened my eyes again. There he was. His green eyes stared back at me. I looked down at his sandy-colored skin. It was hard to look away at his muscular chest and the delightful ripples that ran across his stomach horizontally. Feeling my saliva catch in the center of my throat, I swallowed hard.
“Uh, yeah. For you,” I said, nearly stuttering on my words.
“Thanks,” he said. He removed the champagne glass from my hands. I was still too stunned to react, which was weird because I never got this way around guys.
“This is quite a club, right? I didn’t know these places still existed, to be honest. Oh, I’m Noah,” he said.
“Hey, Noah,” I said.
“I saw you staring, so I thought I’d introduce myself,” he said.
Dammit, Leo. “Well, I wasn’t exactly staring,” I said.
“Whatever you want to call it. Perusing might be a better word, but it sounds a bit old-fashioned for my taste,” he said. “I just have two questions for you: How old are you, and are you a top or bottom?”
I nearly spat out my champagne, but I managed to choke the stinging liquid down my esophagus. “I’m a…” I stuttered and failed to answer the question.
Noah seemed to love every second of my suffering. I set my half-empty glass on the counter. He smirked. “I’m just messing with you. Jeez, I thought this place was a sex club. Why is everyone so prude in here?”
“I’m the owner of the club,” I admitted. I
I owned the club, but I rarely perused the inside of the maze. I wasn’t a prude, but I wasn’t a power bottom either. No, I kept my kinks underneath the surface. If a guy wanted to know what I was into, he’d have to dig.
“Shit, no way. Am I really talking to the owner of Leather and Lace? You know how popular this party is right?” Noah was excited. Why on earth was he so excited?
I quickly looked around at all the guests. There were plenty of excited people, I’ll give him that. But it didn’t seem any more hyped than usual. I focused back on Noah. Handsome Noah. Noah, with the charming-as-fuck freckles.
“Hm. Why don’t you keep sipping on that drink, and tell me how popular this party is?” I asked.
“Well, for one, I’m pretty sure that guy over there is a famous photographer,” Noah said, head-nodding toward someone behind my back.
I cursorily turned around, but Noah quickly grabbed my shoulders. “Don’t look! It’ll make it too obvious. You have to be casual,” he said.
“He’s just a photographer,” I said. “How famous could he be?”
However, Noah looked severe. “Two words. Adam Newton. Ever heard of him?”
I felt my heart float up into the top of my chest, daring to fly away forever. “Adam Newton? You’re joking, right? Everybody’s heard of him. He can’t be here. That would be impossible.”
“Why on earth would that be impossible? You think he hasn’t heard about this place?” he asked.
Everybody knew why. When Adam put out his last photography book, he publically called it quits. No one had seen him since. Why on earth would he break his vanishing streak to show up at my club?
“Nobody has seen him in years,” I said.
Noah’s soft hands slid from my shoulder down to my wrists. He carefully hung onto me. Part of me wanted him to keep holding, but once he turned me in a different direction, he let go.
“Okay. Look to your left, but don’t get too ahead of yourself with excitement. He’ll probably bail if he catches you gawking,” Noah said.
Noah’s sharp teeth bit the side of his lower lip. As I looked past his foxy grin, I saw him. Adam Newton was walking toward the stairway that overlooked the dark room. He seemed to be looking at the maze-like hallway with intense curiosity and desire.
“What do you think he’s doing here?” I asked Noah.
“I don’t know. Maybe he knows about you. You’re kind of famous, right? He’s been known to pick out random people for his shoots,” he said.
The man in question carefully put one foot in front of the other. He walked with intent as if it was a part of a character he studied. Was it really him, the photographer I had grown up obsessing over?
“He hasn’t published a photograph in years,” I said. “I read the last interview he gave, where he claims he gave it up for other things.”
Noah’s body shook as thick, bubbly laughter escaped his throat. “Can you imagine what those other things are?”
Thoughts began racing in my head. Maybe Adam was going to do another exhibit. Perhaps I could find a way to keep this place open. Fuck! Perhaps he wanted to have an exhibit here in the club!
Adam Newton was a household name. Okay, maybe household wasn’t the right word. During his formative years, Adam captured the BDSM and leather scene on film back when nobody knew anything about it. He was a transgressive art icon, and I couldn’t stop looking.
Noah snapped his fingers in front of my eyes. “I said, don’t get ahead of yourself, remember?” Noah’s eyes were only about half as excited as mine, and he knew how to keep that contained.
I was so far ahead of myself that I had already lost track of where I was standing. Adam wasn’t dressed up, nor was he shirtless. He wasn’t wearing a fancy pair of ass-less chaps either. His outfit was minimal and efficient, consisting of a tucked-in black undershirt, as well as an old black pair of jeans. His tattoos were showing on his arms – it was definitely him.
He was hot, but he was trouble. Everybody knew that. There wasn’t a paper in the world that didn’t report on his odd habits. One ex-boyfriend of his once said he needed another guy watching him while he fucked to get off. The whole thing sounded pretty hot to me, but very short-term.
“I saw him when he first walked inside the main room. He was in front of me at the coat check,” Noah said, proudly.
“You some kind of stalker or something?” I asked.
“Let’s just say I’ve got a knack for detail.” Noah winked. Straightaway, goose bumps formed across my arms and the back of my neck.
“I’m going to have a little talk with him.” I put one foot forward, but Noah’s hand clasped against the bottom of my shirt, causing me to stop in place.
“You can’t do that,” Noah said, face suddenly turning severe.
Noah let go of the bottom of my shirt. “You jealous?” He quickly took a step back and ran a shaky finger through the cowlick in the front of his red hair. Even his quirks were hot to me, but I was suddenly interested in the man of mystery, that sexy photographer at the top of the stairs.
“I don’t get jealous,” he said. “He has to talk to you. That’s the way this works.”
“You’re acting like you know him, like he’s a friend,” I said. I laughed, but the smile on my face quickly faded when he didn’t offer a response back.
Noah calmly reached into his front pocket and pulled out an eggshell-colored business card with his name, number, and address on it. The only information it was missing was the dimensions of his cock.
“You’re giving me your business card? Does that usually work out for you?” I asked him with a smile. I had to admit, it was the first time I had received a card from a guy before.
“Sometimes. I had a feeling it wouldn’t with you. You’re special,” Noah said.
Special. I liked the sound of that, but I never felt special. I always felt like I blended into my surroundings a bit too much. “Keep talking,” I said. “I like it when you compliment me.”
“You seem strong-willed. It’s almost as if you have conviction,” he said.
Sipping on my champagne, I wondered what he was getting at with all of this. It couldn’t just be a hot date. There was something more going on with Noah, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. “You don’t know too many people with conviction?” I asked.
Before he could answer, Noah saw that my gaze was fixed between him and the Adam Newton. He smiled bashfully and clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, another anxious tick.
“I guess I’m not much to look at when Adam’s in the same room, but I promise that I offer some pretty unique services,” he said. “Adam can join in too if you’d like. I don’t mind bringing in a third if you don’t.”
“Shit. Sorry,” I groaned and took a step back. “I have a lot on mind right now.”
“Don’t be. It happens,” he said. “We are in a giant sex club, aren’t we?”
“I’m just a little ADD.” I hoped he’d buy that lame excuse. “I’d love to go out with you sometime. Really.”
He smelled good, vanilla with a hint of cinnamon. I stepped forward to try and get a better smell of his alpha scent. He was very hot, no denying that, but there was a feistiness to him that put me on edge.
“I’ll expect your call, then?” Noah reached out and took my hand. He squeezed it gently before letting it fall in front of me. I briefly closed my eyes and inhaled his creamy scent. “Nice meeting you…”
Noah had already turned to walk away. Just when he got to the door, I realized that I never told him my name. “Hank!” I yelled. “The name’s Hank.” My voice fell in volume.
Noah merely mouthed the words, “I already know.”
As soon as he left, I started to relax. Hayden and Leo were making their way toward me again. They were probably staring the whole time. Hayden smiled and gave me a thumbs-up.
A shiver ran through my body. I was thirty-eight, and somehow I was still getting flustered meeting new guys. When did adolescence end again?
I looked away from my far too supportive friends, and I tried to find the elusive photographer of my dreams, but he was gone too. Both of my prospects, gone. Well, at least I could call Noah.
Leo’s firm hand clasped around my shoulder and pulled me backward. “Man, you got a number!” I forcefully turned my head, straining my eyes to see.
“Where is he? Where the heck did he go?” I asked.
Curious, they followed my frantic eyes. “Where did who go? You look like you just saw a ghost,” Leo said. Hayden mimicked his response, adding, “He must have been a sexy ghost. Your forehead looks all clammy.”
“Adam,” I whispered, thinking out loud.
“Adam? Dude, are you losing it?” Leo asked.
“Adam Newton. The photographer. I saw him. He was on the stairs over there. He was…” I couldn’t finish my sentence. Adam Newton hadn’t been spotted in years. I came off as looking totally insane.
“You’re stressed,” Leo said. “I think I would have noticed him. He used to be my favorite photographer.”
Hayden agreed with him. “Leo would know. You’ve seen how many prints Leo owns,” he said.
I couldn’t stop looking. I walked a few feet to my left and peered to the right of the bar. “He was here. I promise you that. Anyway, he’s gone now,” I said.
“Stick with the cute alpha redhead,” Hayden said. “He’s bound to keep you happy.”
“Sure thing,” I mumbled.
Leo kissed the side of Hayden’s head. They were great together, and I couldn’t help but feel a shade of jealousy. “You want the hard truth?” Leo asked.
“Do I have a choice?” I asked.
Apparently, not. “Adam Newton is a sell-out, has-been. Even if he was here, would you really care?” Um, yes. It was the first time I felt excited about something in a long time. “I heard he was a real asshole, Hank. It’s probably best to stay away.”
Just as I was about to agree with them, I shifted my gaze toward the exit. My eyes locked with his. A thin smile escaped his lips. Adam!
In an instant, he was gone, but he didn’t leave with his coat, which meant that he’d be coming back to grab it. Most likely. I’d investigate later, but first, I had to make the dreaded speech.
With a clink on my fourth champagne glass, I got everyone’s attention. “Hello, everyone. I’d like to make a toast, and then, a big announcement…”
…and even though these walls won’t be left standing, the memories we shared are forever. The people we met here won’t forget the times we had. I urge you to pursue other endeavors to push the boundaries of society. Most importantly, I urge you to be yourself.