“Pizza is sometimes better than sex,” I interject. Cole raises an eyebrow and I clear my throat. “I mean, not with you, but with some people.”
“I’m going to come up with games comparing sex to pizza now. You know that, right?”
I toast him with my wine glass. “Naturally. You were saying?”
“We went out and talked. And a lot of what we talked about was the party, how it hadn’t been handled well. How we hadn’t found any parties or clubs that seemed perfect. A lot of them were too specific, too much into one kink. The three of us are all different, but we wanted a place where we could all fit in and have what we wanted. So we just kind of hatched this idea of the perfect sex club, where anyone could come, no matter the kink. Within reason.
“It was a joke at the time, but we became friends. And when we all graduated, we decided that we were going to work towards that goal. We spent a couple of years looking at other clubs to see what worked and what didn’t before taking the plunge.”
“Vacationers,” he says. “We found that people are more likely to seek out something different when they’re on vacation, and Phoenix is a huge tourist destination. So we always have new faces along with the regulars.”
I nod. “Smart.”
“Those clients I served the first night. Who were they? I didn’t realize a club like this could have clients.”
Cole’s face darkens immediately, and I wonder if I stumbled on something that I shouldn’t have. “They were potential investors.” He sighs, his shoulders falling. “I guess my story wasn’t totally complete. There were four of us. But last year,” his jaw tightens. “Last year we found out our fourth partner had been embezzling from us. Making the books look like we were profitable, and actually taking all of the money.”
A pit forms in my stomach. “I’m so sorry.”
He shrugs like it’s nothing, but I can tell it hurts him more than he’s letting on. “He disappeared with the money. The club does well, and day-to-day we operate in the black, but he left us with some huge debts and holes in our safety net. Bringing in new investors would help, but those men you met, I don’t like them. Neither do the others. We won’t be inviting them to buy in.”
I nod, a little relived. I didn’t like the vibe that came from them either, and I’m not a fan of anyone who grabs women because they feel like they can.
“Anyway,” Cole says, smiling. “You owe me your story now.”
I wince. “Which one?”
“The story of how you came to look for a job in my club.”
“Oh,” I say. “That one. It’s not a fun story.”
He echoes my words. “I still want to know, though.”
The sigh that works its way out of me is all too familiar. It’s what happens whenever I think about my old job. I’ll keep it simple. “I worked in marketing. I had a job as an assistant at a company that I really loved. The person I was working for was one of the best—people all over the country love her work. Unfortunately, being great at your job and being a good boss aren’t the same.”
Cole grimaces like he can see where this is going.
“I tried. I really did. But it seemed like nothing that I did was ever good enough, or perfect enough. She was too controlling. In the end she fired me.” I reach for my glass of wine and take a large sip.
“I’m sorry,” Cole says softly.
I wave a hand. “It’s really fine. I was having panic attacks almost every day from the stress. I haven’t had one since I stopped working for her. Plus,” I wink at him, “I’m very happy in my new job.”
“Good to hear. I also hope that you think that the three of us are good bosses.”
“Don’t worry. You guys are great.” My smile is nothing but genuine.
While we eat, we fall back into that friendly banter that rules our interactions at the club, and I think we’re both glad to be on familiar territory. The food is delicious, and the only downside to this dress is that I can’t eat as much as I want to. “I don’t think I could eat another thing.”