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“Listen, I know this is going to sound strange, but I was gone for a while and I’m a little… well, I live in apartment 9A. Did anyone used to come visit me? Maybe regularly. Like… a guy?” Well, didn’t I just sound like a stupid little slut? That thought hit a little close to home.

He glanced at the door. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m new here, so I couldn’t really say.”

“Ah. While I was, uh, gone, someone cleared out my fridge. I was wondering who might have done that? Or—” I waved my hand. “—had access?”

“Let me check with the building owner.” He got on a wall phone. “Yes, sir. Sorry to bother you. There’s a woman here asking about who had access to her place. Yeah, 9A. Okay, I’ll tell her, sir.”

He hung up and turned to me. “Tha

t was the building owner. He says if you can wait in your apartment, he’ll come up personally and answer any questions for you.”

That wasn’t supposed to sound threatening. I was being paranoid. The doorman’s attention had already wandered away, even as I stood in front of him.

No way in hell was I going back upstairs.

I hit the pavement, letting the cold weather and my vigorous pace steal my breath. Finally I looked around. I recognized this intersection; I was only a few blocks away from the club where Anya was. I didn’t know if she could help me, but I didn’t have anyone else to turn to, anywhere else to go.

My knowledge of the city was like a dream, the more I grasped for it, the farther it slipped away. Instead, I allowed myself to wander. I turned a corner and saw a crowd of people in front of a building with bold lettering: El Diablo. Recognition flashed, and I knew I had found it.

At the door, the bouncer looked at me, his expression impassive, and then let me in ahead of the line. Still edgy, I slipped inside among the throngs of people. Most of them wore regular club gear, black shirts and tight skirts. A few people wore more obvious bondage clothes, but here in the front there was only drinks and dancing. Play was downstairs, I remembered.

I skated the edge of the bar until I saw Anya’s blonde mane of hair in a smoky corner. She was chatting with a cute young guy, and judging from his hunched position and glazed eyes, she was practicing her Domme moves again. Her eyes widened in surprise as she saw me approach. “You decided to come!”

“I’m sorry to barge in like this, but I need to talk to you. Something’s happened.”

“Let’s talk later. Come on downstairs. There’s a guy who would be perfect for you.”

“Please, Anya.” My throat grew tight. “I’m scared.”

She stood and put her hand around my waist. “Oh, baby. You have nothing to worry about, a pretty girl like you.” She gave me a once-over, taking in the cream-colored business suit I still wore. She frowned. “I wish you would have changed before coming.” Then she brightened. “But he’ll have you out of that in no time.”

I felt like I was drowning. The bodies rocking me, air growing thin. “What’s happening?”

She leaned in close. “Trust me. He knows what you like.”

How would she know? Her insistence flayed open the fear I had kept so tightly under wraps these past two months. I had a premonition that if I went downstairs, I may never come back up.

“If you’re sure this guy is right for me,” I said, striving for casual, “maybe I’ll give him a try. Let me just freshen up.”

She looked like she wanted to come with me, and she’d have the perfect excuse. We used to go into the bathroom together and share dirt on the guys we were with. She always carried a flask in her purse, the hard stuff, and we’d take a shot of liquid courage before going back out.

“I just need a minute,” I said quickly. “I need to redo my make-up before I meet someone.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “Do your lipstick at least. And hurry back.”

In the restroom, I leaned on the sink, staring into my bloodshot eyes. I looked a mess. Anyone could see I wasn’t up for playing. I probably wouldn’t even pass the monitor’s inspection. Why did she want me to play with someone so badly?

The door opened and I tensed, thinking it was Anya come to check up on me. But instead a slim woman in a black sheath and high heels came in, laughing at something on her way inside.

My breath caught in my throat. I knew her from somewhere, from another lifetime. I didn’t know her name, but I knew she cried at the first touch of pain, and then grew quiet when she fell into subspace. I knew the thing she feared most was needles.

I gaped at her as she went into a stall, waited dumbly until she came back out. She noticed me as she washed her hands.

She smiled. “Hi.”

“Um, hi. I’m sorry, but you seem really… familiar.”

“Oh, I remember you. You’re talking again.” She looked radiant, and as unaffected as if we were swapping stories about a day spa.

Tags: Skye Warren Dark
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