Just as he started toward the stairs, one of the longtime regulars stopped him. She smiled up at him, all sleek blonde hair and businesslike suit. “Hi, Satan.”
Just what he needed. Melanie was always a good partner. And a quick scene with her, if that was what she had in mind, would be—not an antidote to his growing feelings for Hecate, because he didn’t do feelings. It would be—work. His job. “Good evening, Melanie.”
“Maybe. If you have time to give me a quick tune-up, the evening would get a lot better.”
A quick tune-up for Melanie meant a brief, hard flogging followed by a back massage with lavender or tea tree oil. “Sure. Happy to.” He took her arm and led the way downstairs. A nice, no-nonsense flogging would go a long way to improving his mood tonight, and Melanie was a good sub. “Which flogger would you like?”
“Oh, buffalo, please, sir. It’s been an awful day.” Her wide smile told him how pleased she was to have been consulted.
By the time he returned with the buffalo hide flogger, she’d removed her clothes and fluffed her hair into a schoolgirl halo. She stood with hands clasped and head bent.
He shook the flogger menacingly. The tails swished with an evil hiss. “Up against the frame. Now.” When she complied, he fastened her wrists in place and stepped back.
“You’ve been a naughty girl,” he said, shaking the flogger so the tails danced against her butt. “Very naughty. You have to pay for that.”
“Yes, Satan,” she whimpered.
“Fifty lashes, I think.” No way would he try to give her that many. He’d seen strong, acclimatized men who couldn’t take more than twenty or even ten with a flogger like this. Not to mention the weight of this puppy might make fifty lashes a little hard on his arm.
She gulped. “Whatever you say, sir.”
“Exactly. And I’ll tell you when you’ve had enough.” He made his voice harsh. “No whimpering now. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir. I understand.”
He flicked the lashes across her butt and back up to her shoulders.
She didn’t move, didn’t make a sound.
When he hefted the flogger and thwacked across her butt, she yelped. “That will get you two extras. Quiet.” Being ordered to silence was one of the parts of the scene she enjoyed the most, he knew.
Playing this scene with Melanie could almost be done in his sleep. After ten good lashes, he unfastened her from the frame and led her to the massage table Luke had set up without being asked. Melanie had cried some real tears with the last few blows, so he made himself hug her and murmur some soothing words before helping her up on the table.
She relaxed into the soft foam of the sheet-covered table, and he dried her tears before picking up the lavender lotion. Not his favorite scent, and probably not necessary since he hadn’t damaged her skin with the flogging, but part of the scene.
He poured some into his hand and warmed it against his skin before smoothing some on her back. Long, slow strokes from shoulders down across her reddened butt. Soft, swirling strokes over her shoulder blades. Delicate tracing down the valley of her spine, and firm kneading of the muscles of her shoulders and back.
If only this were Hecate, he’d be happy to keep up the massage all night, but when Melanie relaxed, he stopped. “Okay, Mel. Feeling better?”
She rolled over and inched her way to a sitting position. “Miles better. Thank you, Satan. You always know just how to do that.” She used her normal voice, not the submissive tone that took over during a scene, so he knew she’d gotten over whatever the travails of the day had been. Judge Melanie Cartwright sometimes had pretty trying days. He snickered silently at his inadvertent pun.
After Melanie gathered up her clothes and headed for the showers, Satan tidied up the table. As soon as she’d had time to dress and leave, he’d go back up to Purgatory and find someone who wanted a good fucking. That should take the edge off the inconvenient, recurring erection problem that plagued him tonight. He whistled while he stuffed the sheet in the laundry bin.
He’d forced himself to keep his attention on the scene, not looking around to see if Hecate watched. He couldn’t stand it any longer. He looked.
She wasn’t there.
* * * *
Hecate fidgeted around Purgatory. How the hell long was Satan going to spend thrashing that silly, squalling, blonde bimbo? Not that she had anything against blondes. Or Melanie, who was a nice lady, really. She caught sight of her scowl in a mirror and quickly replaced it with something that approximated a smile.
Someone caught her arm. “Whoa, there babe. What’s the problem?”
Work time. Better smile.
When she saw who it was, she relaxed. Slightly. “Hey, Reece.”
“You look like you’re about to take a chunk out of someone’s hide. Where’s Satan?”
Great. The one question she didn’t want. “Last I saw, downstairs with Melanie.”
Reece lifted one eyebrow. Before he said anything to make things worse, Bex bounced up to him.
“Hey, stud,” she said, looping one arm through Reece’s. “They’ve got a cool new waterboarding room downstairs. Let’s go check it out.” She winked at Hecate.
“Really? Are you sure you’re the same girl I introduced to the club scene?” He waved at Hecate as Bex towed him toward the stairs.
“Of course I am. The new, improved version. I told you after I did that broadcast how great this place is, and I wanted Reece to see it.”
Hecate’s artificial smile melted into a real one. Seeing satisfied club members couldn’t help but make her happy. And Bex was always a treat. Her TV segment on the Devil’s Den had just about doubled the club’s membership. Seeing Bex, all bright red hair and outrageously gorgeous clothes and extravagant energy, was enough to spark up any evening.
She walked around the room, picking up a glass of sparkling water at the bar, exchanging a word here and there until she’d completed the circuit. She leaned against the wall and watched people milling around the room. Melanie hustled by, freshly showered and looking about ten times happier than she had earlier. “’Night, Hecate. Got to get back to work.”
“Uh-uh. A bunch of cases to review before tomorrow morning. At least now I’m smoothed down enough to give them my attention. Thanks.” Melanie waved and darted through the curtain to the anteroom.
“Hey, Charon,” Hecate heard her call, followed by the splash of oars and then the outer door.
Time for some heart-to-heart with herself, Hecate figured. Like, What is wrong with you tonight?
Definitely not herself this evening. Jealous of Melanie? Come on, girl. You’re acting as though you and Satan are an item. That’s not the way it works here. And it’s not the reason he hired you. You’ve got a better job than you ever hoped for. It pays like gangbusters. It’s even fun. And if you screw it up with graduation almost within reach, I’ll never speak to you again.
Okay. Stiffening her spine, she cruised around Purgatory once more, strolled through the anteroom, back through Purgatory, and down the stairs. The place was busy tonight. Every station had at least two people engaged in play, and she was glad to see Bex had removed her glimmery sequined dress before she and Reece explored the wonders of waterboarding. Her hair hung in dripping red clumps, and Hecate had never seen the two of them look happier.
She stopped beside one of the St. Andrew’s crosses, where one of the newer club members worked at tying his sub. “Evening, Deck. Having a little trouble?” After a short conversation, she got him to substitute quick-release cuffs for the silk scarf he’d been using and coached him through the basics of using a long-handled shoehorn as a whip.
When she was sure Deck’s sub would survive the experience, she motioned to Luke to keep an eye on them and strolled across the room to the cages. Tonight was the busiest she could remember. Every one of the dog crates had an occupant, and one of the experienced members was stuffing his partner into the oubliette. She looked around to be sure the “dogwalkers” hadn’t forgotten their captives and sighed when she saw George—the guy she’d privately nicknamed Bluto—approach “his” cage carrying a serious choke chain. One with inside spikes.
She crossed her arms and blocked his way. “Hand it over, George. You know we don’t permit that kind of collar here.”
George stopped and scowled. “Come on, Hecate,” he whined. “The bitch is askin’ for it. And Satan ain’t nowhere around.”
Hecate smiled at Satan, who had just walked up behind George.
“I just need ta—” George wheeled to see what had made her smile, and choked when he found himself face-to-face with Satan.
somewhere around, George. Give the collar to Hecate,” Satan said, sounding far milder than the expression in his eyes. When Hecate had the collar in her hand, he went on, “Come on up to my office. We need to talk.”
“But what about Tina? I gotta—”
“Your concern for your sub is impressive.” Nobody could do sarcasm as well as Satan. “Hecate will take care of Tina. Come on.” He took George by the elbow and led/dragged/towed him toward the stairs.
Hecate suppressed a sigh and turned back to the cage. Tina, of course, would be all revved up for a scene, and it would be Hecate’s very own duty to provide it. Tina had backed, doglike, into a corner of the cage and snarled, again doglike, as Hecate approached.
She bent over the cage and asked, “Do you want to continue with the scene, Tina?”
Tina lunged toward her and snarled again, louder and more vicious than before.
Oh, just what I wanted tonight.
“No. Bad dog,” Hecate scolded and straightened. Tina didn’t react. So not a good idea to let Tina out until the mad-dog behavior had stopped. She moved back a step and squatted on her heels to inspect the girl.
Crazy eyes. You could drive a truck through the dilated pupils. And, like a mad dog, Tina slavered and drooled. Even without the express-train heart rate showing in the throb at the girl’s throat, Hecate could figure a hefty dose of coke.
For the love of all that was profane and holy, what was going on tonight? Drugs, alcohol, and idiot beginners were not the norm at the Den. She gestured to Luke. When he came to her side, she explained. “We need to get her to the hospital. Call an ambulance while I get a dolly. We’ll take her cage and all.”
Luke kept it cool, setting the cage and its manic occupant on the dolly and quietly moving to the elevator. Hecate pulled her phone from a hidden pocket in her dress and told Satan what was happening.
An ambulance pulled up a few minutes after Hecate and Luke arrived at the delivery entrance at the back of the club. Satan joined them and handed George over to the EMTs, along with Tina in her cage.
Hecate sighed in relief. Let the professionals deal with sobering up George and releasing his “dog.”
“Good job,” Satan said. “Let’s hope this doesn’t make the papers.”
“I don’t think anyone noticed,” Hecate told him. At least, not much.
“Glad that’s done,” Luke said. “I’ll get back downstairs and see what the next disaster will be.”
“The next disaster,” Hecate said. “Do you suppose tonight is jinxed or something?”
“This is hell, remember?” Satan replied. He gave her a grave, considering look. “Thank you for taking care of Tina. We make a good team, you know.”
Her heart leaped and began to pound. Did he mean—
But he only smiled and walked back toward his office.