Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long.
No matter what I say or do I’ll still feel you here ’til the moment I’m gone.
You hold me without touch.
You keep me without chains.
I never wanted anything so much than to drown in your love and not feel your rain.
Set me free, leave me be. I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity.
Here I am and I stand so tall, just the way I’m supposed to be.
But you’re on to me and all over me.
You loved me ’cause I’m fragile.
When I thought that I was strong.
But you touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone.
Gravity – Sara Bareilles
My nerves are completely shot I am so on edge. Kate is backstage with Stella and the girls warming up for their first number. TJ brings over another drink order for me to fill which is a distraction from watching the doors. My eyes haven’t really left the main entrance since we opened at 9 o’clock. Of course, it is a little early yet for the main crowd and the girls won’t go on until at least 11pm. The chances are now slim that our guy is going to turn up. Not since Christian fired his ass for trying to get Ana to give him a blow job in the staff kitchen at SIP last night. Seems pretty unbelievable that our timing could have gone so wrong on this one. I’m just glad that Jason and Christian got there in time to deal with him and that Ana had the presence of mind to knee him in the balls. Jason sounded damn proud of her.
Business is understandably slow for the first hour but when customers start arriving we get busy. Being a fly on the wall at one of these events takes a strong stomach. There are all manner of people, leather to business suits and various states of undress in between. A woman walks past with a costume that is fundamentally made out of ropes wrapped firmly around her body. A very striking athletic looking guy who I think might actually be a Mariner is walking around on a lead wearing nothing but a leather g-string. His female domme is in a tight red cocktail dress with a split up to her thigh, her hair pulled back in a long black pony-tail with six inch stilettos. She doesn’t talk to the guy as she stops to greet another domme, he simply kneels at her side as she talks. After a while the other woman starts to inspect him with her riding crop, lifting his chin then slapping his ass. He doesn’t blink an eyelid and I feel a bit sick recalling the night I saw Christian like this.
The lights dim as the patrons are greeted by a dismembered voice through the house PA system, reminding them of the rules of their gathering. By now there are over a hundred people in the room and they all begin to settle down at tables for the show. The music starts and the first routine gets underway. The girls come out wearing an assortment of lacy corsets and my eyes are drawn to Kate who is at the back of the group. She looks so different in the wig but I would know the contours of her sexy body anywhere and I am glad for being able to hide my erection behind the bar. I would hate any of the dommes out there to get the wrong impression and think that I am on the market tonight. It was for this reason that I gave Kate a collar to wear. The last thing I need is for some over enthusiastic sadist wannabe to think he can approach her.
After the routine ends the lights come up and the first of the fetish displays begins. Although I have been to this event before I always find it a little disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, each to his or her own and all that. I am not one to judge but there are always those whose hard limits test the boundaries for everyone else and they are the ones that you want to avoid. I can’t get with the needle crowd and I certainly couldn’t imagine anything remotely sexy about wearing a gag. Suspension leaves me a bit cold unless we are talking about something like a swing where it is about the movement rather than the incapacitation. Some of these guys just look downright ridiculous in their skimpy leather or pvc outfits and a couple of them have me questioning where they get these costumes made.
Stella walks out through the stage door looking for all the world like the exotic performer that she is, even though I know she doesn’t dance much any more. She has worked her way up through the ranks here and now uses her considerable talents on choreography. Her partnership with Max seems to work really well as they produce shows in both the Burlesque and the All-male Review genres. As she is crossing the floor towards the bar she almost gets caught by someone swinging a short whip back in a fetish display.
“Safe, sane and consensual, Les.” She smiles as she pats the offender’s hand on the way past. He mumbles an apology and checks around him before he starts whipping the young woman who is tethered to a seat in front of him.
“Hey, Stells, what can I get you?” She shakes her head, no drinking on the job.
“Any sign of our boy?” The good part of this whole deal is that since Jason made the connection for us we have been able to get a picture of Jack Hyde. TJ still can’t definitively id him because he has never seen him out of the shadows but he is fairly convinced that he has the same build. The only problem is that Jack isn’t married according to the research from both Welch and Kate so we still have no idea who Elizabeth is.
“No, I am beginning to wonder if he isn’t going to stay away from tonight. After all he has just become unemployed and being able to front up and afford an evening like this would take some capitol.” Yes, the annual slave auction doesn’t come without a considerably hefty entry fee. Never mind if you actually wanted to bid. Given the financial resources behind the membership of this event you have to wonder about the sexual inclinations of our powerful elite here in Seattle. Scary stuff.
The doors open and a new wave of people arrive, amongst them is Elena who is dressed head to toe in black leather. She casts an eye around the room and I turn my body so that I am looking at her reflected in the mirror behind the bar rather than directly in her face. The last thing I need is for her to recognize me through this disguise. Once more my hair is darkened, this time slicked back by the gel. All the bar and wait staff are shirtless with bow ties, cuffs and bowler hats. I am also sporting a thin mustache. Hopefully at a distance no one will know.
“You better get yourself backstage to change for the aerial. I have kept everyone away from dressing room 6 so that you will need to help Kate with her costume. She has a quick change after the pole.” I already know all of this but Stella is ever the producer and her nerves require her to continually trouble shoot the evening.
“I’ll go in about 15 minutes.” Just then three newcomers move through the entrance and Stella visibly tenses up. It’s our boy, Jack, with, of all people, Linc Lincoln and another imposing figure that I don’t recognize. Shit, Jack and Linc, this can’t be good. Stella’s hand is gripping the bar and I reach out to place mine over it as TJ moves toward us. He has seen them too.
“Stella, turn around and look at me.” I force her to look into my eyes. Hers are wide with panic and she has turned white as a sheet. “Stells, breath, I just want you to breath. Keep your eyes on me.” If anyone looked right now it would seem that we were having a lover’s moment. Luckily the lights have gone dim indicating that the pole routine is about to start. TJ moves in from the side, travelling slowly so that Stella can see him coming. I am still holding her hand firmly but she is shaking like a leaf.
TJ gently puts an arm around her shoulder and turns her body towards his. “It’s okay Stell, I’ve got you. You’re going to be alright.” She slowly pulls her hand out of mine and TJ gives me a nod as he ushers her away. They move as quickly as they can back through the stage door and I watch carefully to make sure that she hasn’t attracted any undue attention. Our boys have already taken their seats near the stage so have missed the action back here at the bar. I breath a sigh of relief. The last thing we needed was for Stella to fall apart now. The guy who is taking my shift for the aerial moves behind the bar and I follow TJ and Stella as quickly as I can backstage.
Once there I head straight for the dressing room. When I walk in Stella is sitting in a chair with her head between her knees while TJ rubs her back. She doesn’t look good and TJ has his phone out dialing a number. He holds it up to her ear and she takes it from him with a deep breath.
“Hey babe. I just needed to hear your voice.” There are a few tears on her face but for the most part her color is coming back and her breathing is almost under control again. TJ and I move out of the room so that she can talk.
“Fuck, I mean I knew that there was a chance he would come tonight but to have them together. What sort of karmic shit is that?” TJ has a look of panic.
“Don’t you fucking fall apart on me too.” This whole thing has just ramped up another notch in the risk stakes and I am having my own issues holding things together. This is the connection that I feared the most. The one that would do the most fucking damage. If it had just been Elena then we could have dealt but with Linc in the picture we have just gone to a whole new realm of fucked-up-ness.
“How do you want to handle this?”
“Fuck I don’t know. We are out of our league here. No matter what we do we could all be screwed over by this little prick. How the hell is he connected with Linc?” It is not like I hadn’t thought about this scenario and I certainly downplayed it when Kate and I discussed it. Fucking naive or what Grey? I am about to slam my fist into a wall when Stella comes to the door and hands me the phone. We move back into the room and close the door.
“Elliot, hi. Look James is here. He wants a word.” I hear Will pass the phone to James.
“Dude, what the fuck is going on?” I explain a little about why we are here. My eyes seek out TJ, wondering if he has told James anything about his part in this. He gives an imperceptible nod which means it is okay to talk openly with James about the photos.
“Okay, we are getting on the first plane out of here and coming home.” James always has my back just as I would always have his.
“Man, you don’t have to do that. Tonight was just about information gathering if we could. We don’t have anything we could take to the cops and now with Linc undeniably in the picture that is out of the question. I need to just get the team out of here tonight in one piece.”
“Elliot, this is not up for discussion. If one of us goes down, we all go down. That is the way it has always been. We’re coming back, end of story. Now tell me what else you had planned for tonight.” I go into a brief explanation of the act, Ethan and the surveillance team.
“Man, it sounds like you have done everything you can. I really think you need to go ahead with what you have planned. If you walk out now you are leaving too many holes and you know what Linc is like, he will smell a rat.”
“He’s going to know it’s me as soon as he sees the aerial man. I can’t let that happen.” There is a telling silence on the other end of the line. Stella and I are the only ones to have performed the aerial at any of the three clubs. Anyone who has been a long term member would know that. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before especially knowing the likelihood that both Linc and Elena might turn up tonight.
“Are you doing it masked?”
“Okay, so they won’t know for sure if it is you. They certainly won’t know if it is Stella. It should cast enough doubt in their minds that they might slip up and make their own mistakes here. I know it’s a calculated risk but maybe it is worth it to finish this thing once and for all.”
I think about it for a moment, my mind going a hundred miles per hour. Trying to think through all the risk involved is enough to bring anyone to their knees but maybe he is right. Maybe the doubt will be enough for Linc to make a mistake.
“Alright. We will go ahead as planned.” Just then Kate comes in fresh from the pole routine. She looks around at us all, Stella back on the chair looking green, TJ standing over her with a worried frown and me pacing like an agitated monkey talking on the phone. “I’ve gotta go, Kate’s here and we need to get changed.”
“Fine, can you put Stella on again.” I hand the phone over. Stella talks quietly while I move Kate behind the screen to help her change. We don’t speak and we can only just hear Stella talking, at first sounding agitated and then resigned. Then TJ has taken the phone.
“Yeah, I know man, yeah. I will. Sure. No problem. Will, she will be okay. I promise I will stay with her tonight. I won’t leave her alone. Yeah, take care man. See you tomorrow.”
Finally Kate and I emerge in our costumes and Stella sets about fixing Kate’s hair and mask so that she takes on a new persona for the aerial. I remove the mustache and put on my own mask, my hands shaking uncontrollably. I have to get a hold of myself or I am going to put Kate and the baby at risk. Fuck, when I agreed to this I never would have thought we would end up here. It is the thought of my little family that has me centering myself. One aim, one focus, keep them safe.
“Is anyone going to tell me what is going on here?” Kate is painting some lip gloss on and she smacks her lips together as she catches my eye in the mirror. Stella looks at me for a moment in a silent plea. Not yet. I register her look and then move to a seat and turn Kate to look at me.
“Kate I need you to trust me. Right now is not the time to have this discussion. We have a job to do and we need to get through this evening first. Soon, I promise you, Stella is going to tell you what you want to know. No more secrets. But we can’t do that now. What you do need to know is that Jack is here. So are Linc and Elena.” Her eyes go wide.
“Fuck. I guess this is what we wanted. I could do without the Lincolns.” She sits back in her seat and takes a deep breath. “Wow, so this is it?”
“Yeah, babe, this is it.”
“And you promise that this other thing is not going to come between us?” Kate looks at me directly. She needs a reassurance that I simply can’t give her. So I give her what I can.
“Babe, I promise you that I will love you until the day I die. Nothing will ever change that.” And it won’t but I can’t promise that after tomorrow she will still love me or that I will be around to deliver that love in person. She takes a moment to read my face. I know that she gets that I love her. I also know that she is working through all the things I am not saying in her head. There is a flicker in her eyes when I see that she has worked out to her satisfaction what I am saying, that little bit of shock and dismay behind the love. Yeah, babe, this is not about us. It is about how a person’s past can come back to bite you on the ass.
“Okay.” She turns away and takes a tissue supposedly to wipe away some stray makeup but I can see the tear. She is scared that she is going to lose me and right now I can’t blame her. We hold hands until the stage manager gives us our fifteen minute call and then we stand to go to the green room to warm up.
“Stella, I want you to stay here. Where you can feel safe.” My hand is on her face. She is scared but she trusts me. She nods and mouths an apology. I should never have agreed to the aerial. “TJ you need to get back on the floor. Find Ethan and let him know…just let him know that Jack is here. I need all eyes on that table, okay?”
“Sure man.” TJ moves aside and we walk through the door. This is it. This is a moment that I never thought I would ever repeat. It feels like fucking deja-vu and if Kate doesn’t throw up soon, I think I will.