|Ian Anthony Dale as Nico Devinci|
The club on the first floor was in its usual state: overflowing with customers with a line waiting outside. But the invites sent to Nico Devinci and his crew of nine gave them VIP entry, and two attendants directed them to the back of the club, down a short flight of stairs and through a nondescript door. There was a narrow hallway and two elevators. Nico and his friends spread out and got into both elevators, where the attendants escorted them to the first floor of the pleasure house. When they stepped out of the elevators, the attendants led them through the parlor and off to one side, where the dining room was. Servers were there ready to attend to them.
“Well well well,” Nico said, looking around. “Didn’t know this club had a restaurant, much less a second floor!”
Tazra Aiol, Nico’s second, nodded. “Me either. You sure this is legit, boss?”
“The invitation was hand-delivered, Taz. Apparently those bums at the 15th have figured out we’re playing this game by Devinci rules now. Captain of the precinct brought it himself. He’s a prick, but he’s no dummy.”
The lead server encouraged them to take their seats. “Good evening, lady and gentlemen. We have prepared a buffet-style dinner on your behalf. There is a menu in front of you. Soon, the meal will be brought out and placed on these sideboards.” She gestured around the room. “You will state your preference and your server will attend you.”
One of Nico’s guys said, “Oh boss, I’m likin’ this already. Personal service? An’ she’s a cutie.” He pinched his server’s ass.
She moved away. “Please, don’t do that.”
“Rock, leave the girl alone,” Taz said. “Act like you got some damn sense.”
The goon looked at his server. “Later then.”
Nico looked at the head server. “Who’s hosting this dinner, lady?”
“They will arrive shortly to greet you and introduce themselves. Right now, they wish for you to enjoy your meal.”
The servers began bringing out trays and trays of wondrous-smelling food. Rock closed his eyes and said, “I smell steak…”
Right before dessert was served, Cayo entered the dining room. Nico, sipping on a glass of a wonderful red wine he couldn’t place, leaned back in his chair and stared at the young man.
“You our host?”
“Not exactly, Mr. Devinci. You’ll meet them after you finish your meal.”
“What’s with all the secrecy?” Taz asked.
“There’s no secrecy,” Cayo said. “This is just the way things are done here. You gentlemen, and lady, are our honored guests.”
“Is this part of the club?” Nico said.
“Why isn’t it advertised then?”
“This part of the Zodiac is for members only. By invitation.”
“Izzat right?” Rock said, looking around. “Members and shit?”
“Your benefactors are considering extending you an invite to join the Zodiac. Tonight is for your benefit; to see if you would be interested in joining our elite clientele.”
Nico was wary. “What do you do here?”
Cayo extended his arms. “Please finish your meal and your hosts will be glad to explain everything to you. It is best that you hear it from them.”
Nico looked at Tazra, and then back at Cayo. “I hear that the Zhous own the Zodiac Club. Is that true?”
“Are they our hosts?”
Nico’s smile was sinister. “I also hear that Mrs. Zhou is fine as fucking hell.”
“She is.” Cayo didn’t bat an eye, but felt it was best to clarify. “People say the same of Mr. Zhou.”
“Also heard that they have an open marriage,” Nico said, looking at Cayo carefully. “That true too?”
Cayo didn’t so much as twitch. “Mr. & Mrs. Zhou are very happily married, and that is all I can truthfully say, Mr. Devinci. I know little more beyond that. But you may ask them anything you like when they arrive. Please, for now, finish your meal. I will come for you and your friends in fifteen minutes.”
“Bet,” Nico said. “Bring on dessert.”
Twenty-five minutes later, Nico and his goons were comfortably splayed in the parlor, admiring the opulence and decadence of the room as servers brought them more wine to drink. Cayo stood off to one side, watching and waiting.
Nico looked at him, raising a glass. “This is the best wine I've had in years. You there. What’s your name?”
“Cayo Reyes, Mr. Devinci.”
“Mr. Reyes—can I call you Cayo?”
“What kind of place is this? And why is it members only?”
Just then, the double doors opened and the Signs walked in. They formed a semi-circle at the front of the parlor. Each looked as beautiful and as handsome as possible, and they glowed with anticipation of the night’s events. Nico swallowed the lump in his throat; he could not believe the parade of utter beauty that walked in and stood before him and his crew. From the silence behind him, they couldn’t believe it either. There were thirteen men and women, each one extremely attractive. Nico was heterosexual, but he could not deny how appealing the men looked. It made him curious. Some members of his crew were going to be quite pleased with what they were seeing.
A few moments after the Gemini entered, the Zhous came in and stood in the middle of the semi-circle. Nico had successfully swallowed the lump, but then his mouth went dry when they walked in. He had to take in the majesty that was Macallan and Madalyne. They were clad in leather. He wore leather pants and a shirt made of some sheer material that did nothing to hide or diminish his physique. Nico had to give the man credit; he looked good. But his wife…well, she was something else entirely. The woman wore a corseted, chained leather dress so tight it had to be cut to fit her. She sported leather opera gloves, fishnets and fuck-me stilettos. Her hair was a pile of thick curls sitting atop her head and she wore a dark red smile that was both seductive and menacing. She carried a silk whip. Nico did not fail to notice that the couple wore collars with O-rings from which tiny locks hung. He couldn't help but be aroused by them; her especially.
Tazra, seated next to him, choked out an appropriate response. “Holy gods.”
Nico grabbed his handkerchief and wiped his mouth. “Goddamn,” he said.
Macallan spoke first. “Welcome to the Zodiac. This is my wife, Mistress Zhou, and you may refer to me as Master Zhou.”
“I ain’t never called any man master,” Nico said. “And I’m sure as shit not about to start now.”
Macallan merely glanced at him, in much the same manner as one would eye an insignificant lesser. “You are here by special invitation. You may know the Zodiac as a club, but it is also more. Much, much more.”
Madalyne continued, still smiling that angelic devilish smile. “Welcome to the Zodiac Pleasure Palace. Here, you can have anything you like with whatever you select from the menu. We have rooms solely dedicated to your unique hedonistic desires, and we will not stop until you are completely and totally satisfied. What’s your pleasure? My husband and I promise you’ll find it here.”
Tazra said, “Wait. You mean this is a brothel?”
“A hoe-house?” Rock nearly shouted.
Nico remained silent, his eyes on Madalyne. Macallan said, “We prefer the term ‘pleasure house.’ You can get far more here than you can at any brothel. And we don’t employ whores. What you see on the menu before you are the most gifted, most talented, most able-bodied employees that time-honored profession has ever seen. May I introduce you to the Signs of the Zodiac.”
One of Nico’s hoodlums choked out a soft, “Jesus,” before letting out a long breath.
Madalyne continued. “This is our menu.” She spread her arms wide, indicating the 13 people behind her. “Whatever you want, they’ll give it to you. Whatever you like, they’ll do it. Whatever you need, just ask. They don’t say no. There is a caveat, however. You may only choose one Sign.”
Nico’s goons began to stir, making noises similar to pigs. They were getting excited. He didn’t blame them, but he hadn’t survived as long as he had by jumping the gun. “Settle down," he snapped. Then he looked at the Zhous. "What’s the catch?”
Macallan explained. “Under normal circumstances, potential members must be referred by an existing member. However, four times a year, we send out invitations to those individuals who we believe may appreciate what we offer. My wife and I decide who gets the invites. Your name came up.”
“How much does the membership cost?”
“It depends on what level you are interested in. But those are details we can deal with later. Right now, it’s more important to decide if you like what you’ll experience here enough to want to become a member.”
Madalyne continued. “I would like to point out, Mr. Devinci, that you are the sole target for membership. We have included your entourage tonight as a nod to show our respect, but they are not eligible to become members.”
Tazra shook his head, unable to believe what they were hearing. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said. “But I have to ask…I have to know…how much is a standard membership?”
Madalyne smiled at him; that same dual grin that so captivated Nico. “Ten thousand.”
Taz looked like he was about to consider it when Madalyne added, “Per month.”
Rock said, “Shit fire an’ save matches…fuck no I ain’t becoming a member.”
Another goon said, “Just gon’ enjoy tonight’s freebie then…”
“That is wise,” Macallan said.
Madalyne then introduced each Sign, and then gave them a rundown of the amenities the place offered. She then said, “If you find you are unable to decide what you’d like, do not be afraid to voice your concerns to your Sign. They are able to pull out—and enact—your deepest, darkest fantasies. Anything you want. Whatever you desire.”
“When can we get started?” Nico asked.
“Now,” Madalyne said. “Lady, gentlemen…please. Enjoy yourselves.”
It took a microsecond for Nico’s crew to vacate their seats and head straight for the Signs. Macallan took his wife’s hand and walked off to one side, where they watched Nico's goons select the Sign of their choice. Taz looked at Nico. “Boss?”
Nico ignored him. He was looking at the Zhous; specifically Madalyne. “You said anything I want, whatever I desire, right?”
“Of course,” she said.
“Then I want you.”
“I’m not on the menu, Mr. Devinci. I’m sure that you can find pleasure with any of our other—”
“Tazra? Go on, buddy. Enjoy yourself. Don’t wait for me.” Nico crossed his legs. “Nothing on your menu appeals to me, Mrs. Zhou.”
“You haven’t even looked,” Macallan said.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” Nico said, not even sparing Macallan a glance. “I’m talking to your wife.”
“I must insist, Mr. Devinci. I will not be servicing you. I am a married woman. I only do...things...with my husband.”
Nico stood up and walked towards Madalyne. He couldn’t help it; the woman was smoking hot and his common sense was eroding by the moment. None of the pretty people on the so-called menu could hold a candle to the leather-bound siren standing before him. “Hubs can watch, then.” He glared at Macallan. “You don’t mind if I fuck your wife, do you Master?” The condescension in his voice was dripping. “You extend me an invitation to your…pleasure house…tell me I can have anything I want, but then you don’t back it up. What the fuck kind of business model is that?”
“Anything on the menu,” Macallan said. His voice did not change, but Madalyne saw the pulse flutter in his neck. “My wife is not on the menu. If you don’t wish to indulge, you may sit here and wait for your friends.”
Nico started to sit down, but Madalyne looked at her husband. They shared a glance and then Madalyne turned her attention back to Nico.
“Is this really what you want, Mr. Devinci?”
“Baby, I don’t need bells and whistles to get down. Just a willing woman. Are you willing?”
“Answer my question. Is this what you want?”
“Are you now saying you’re on the menu?”
“I am now saying that I’m a rare, restricted menu item. Do you want it?”
“Fuck yes, I want it.”
Madalyne lifted her leg and kicked Nico back into the chair. She pressed her stiletto against his chest and swatted him across the face with her whip. “Then you will do exactly as I say. Exactly. Are we clear on this?”
He had to admit; her behavior was exciting him in ways he never dreamed. He wanted her to slap him with the whip again. “Are you willing?”
Madalyne looked at her husband and he slipped a hand under her dress. They locked eyes and his fingers moved as her eyelids fluttered. Her breathing deepened and she bit her lip while staring into Macallan's eyes. As far as they were concerned, Nico wasn't even there. Then Macallan pulled back damp fingers and wiggled them in Nico's face. “That answer your question, asshole?”
Nico almost jizzed his pants upon watching what just transpired. By all the gods in heaven, he couldn't believe what he just witnessed. And he couldn't believe how good she smelled. “Yeah…yeah, it does.” He didn't give a shit about being called an asshole; all he wanted was what was on Macallan's fingers.
Macallan took his time sucking the juice off his fingertips. He glared at Nico. “Then shut the fuck up and do as she tells you. Whatever she tells you. Exactly as she tells you. If you deviate one iota from her orders, I'll skin you alive and feed you to my dogs.”
“Whatever man,” Nico said as Madalyne leaned forward, pressing her heel harder into his chest. “Just go somewhere and watch me fuck the shit out of your wife.” By Jove, he was going to do his absolute best.
Madalyne shared another look with Macallan. Then he leaned forward and kissed her lips. She stroked his cheek with the whip before he broke the kiss. Then he turned and walked away. She removed her foot and put her hands on her hips, giving Nico that serene, sinister smile. “Come with me then, Mr. Devinci.”