Joanne unlocked her front door and eased into the living room as quietly as she could. Terri’s door was closed, but she didn’t want to inadvertently wake her best friend at midnight. She sank into the soft cushion of chair closest to the door and put her purse on the floor.
The ankle boots she wore for work pinched after a long shift, but at least she only had two more days at the bar. The manager was irritated, primarily because she was the only regular waitress who showed up on time, but Tim couldn’t blame her for wanting more money.
And the gig at the club would be a definite raise.
Feet finally bare, she stretched her toes and wiggled them in the thick carpet. Her head dropped to the back of the chair while the tension left her shoulders, and her thoughts drifted to the man from the new club.
Not a man to fall in love with.
She barely knew him, just a name and persona and a wicked sensuality a woman needed at least once in her life.
But he wasn’t for her.
Getting her own life in order was her priority, and Master Derek had his own demons to tame. No idea what they were, but Joanne knew they were there, somewhere inside that strong, hard body. His eyes shone with a sense of pain she’d recognized from her own past, but she knew from her own experience that it would only heal when the time was right.
Not her job, anyway. She was an employee, a staff submissive in a bondage club, not a counselor.
Gathering her things, she double checked the front door’s lock and went to her room. Ordinarily, she’d shower and read or watch a little television before sleeping until noon, but she wanted to work at Private Delights for at least half a day before she went back to the bar at three. Her budget would thank her later for the double shifts and exhaustion would mean sleeping hard every night. The end result? No late night dreams about her teacher.
Setting the alarm for seven, she stripped and fell into bed, letting the cool sheets do their job.
Her eyes popped open at six fifteen and she’d showered and dressed before the alarm went off.
"Hello, stranger,” Terri said from the kitchen. “Coffee?”
“Yes, please.” Joanne slipped a bagel into the toaster and put her coffee cup on the oval dining table while she waited, cream cheese in hand.
“You’re up early.”
"I’m working at the new club this morning, then at the bar from three to eleven.”
“Ouch,” Terri said. “Whose idea was that?”
Joanne doctored her bagel and sat next to her friend. “Mine. I need the money and I’m in training at the club, so I might as well make the most of it.”
Terri chewed fast, her eyes wide, and Joanne gave serious thought to leaving before her roommate could empty her mouth.
“Training? Do tell, and don’t leave anything out.”
Sure, like that was going to happen. “One of the owners is teaching me about BDSM and how to be a proper submissive. I’m also learning about the workings of the club, the staffing, and helping with anything else that needs to be done.”
“Will you be the only paid submissive?”
“No, of course not. Well, actually, I don’t know. Mr. Harrison is still interviewing, and he’s hiring staff for several positions. Why? Want a new job?”
Terri took another bite and shook her head. “Not there,” she finally said.
Joanne laughed. “Chicken.”
“Yes, ma’am. I prefer to work with my clothes on.”
“It’s not a nudie bar. I’ll be dressed, most of the time.”
Terri laughed. “It’s the rest of the time that has me worried. Now, I’ve got to get on the road.”
Twenty minutes later, Joanne pulled into the parking lot of Private Delights, a rather large delivery truck turning in behind her. There weren’t many cars in the lot but the front doors were unlocked so she went straight in.
The new carpet made an amazing difference in the space, the green and gold scattered swirls in the dark purple mat visually doubled the large room. While the carpet looked great, the room itself was cavernous, empty and silent.
Upstairs, the main office door was open but Mildred wasn’t at her desk. Joanne knocked at Mark’s door and waited to be invited in. silent minutes passed before he pulled the door open. “Joanne?”
“Good morning, Mr. Harrison. I thought you should know, there’s a large delivery truck in the front drive.”
A devil-may-care smile lit up his face. “Every day’s like Christmas around here. Let’s go see what it is.”
He led the way, talking as they went. “Are you here full time now?”
“No. I have two more shifts at my other job, but I wanted to pitch in as much as I could here.”
“Please tell me you have some knowledge of interior design,” he said as they hit the bottom step. Two moving men were waiting for direction, a long sofa held between them and another pair of men right behind them.
“Oh, my. How much furniture did you order?” she asked.
“Quite a bit,” he told her, and then turned to the men. “Gentlemen, this is my assistant. If you’ll wait just a minute, she’d tell you where to place the furniture.”
His eyes sought hers. “Follow.”
Well, hell. Another man who could change his voice from sweet and friendly to deep and dominant in the blink of an eye. Her life would never be the same.
“Mr. Harrison, I don’t know much about interior design,” she said when she caught up with him.
His quick turn surprised her, even more so when he touched her chin and raised her head to meet his expression. Cool, controlled, and collected. “You can do this, Joanne. My plan for this area is open seating arrangements, a place for members to socialize. Think hotel lobbies. Scatter the sofas, tables, and chairs in a way that will make people congregate in small groups to discuss their day or plan their playtime here at the club. You’re in charge.”
“But, Mr. Harrison—”
“When you’re here, I’m Master Mark. Don’t worry, Joanne, it’s just furniture, and easily moved around until we figure it out. Just do your best.”
He left her standing in the middle of the cavernous main room and she looked back at the sofas waiting for her decision. Holding up one finger to the first delivery man, she walked the length of the room and measured the space in her head.
She could do this.
It wasn’t that different from arranging office space.
She waved the first man toward her and directed the pair’s movement until the sofa sat at an angle to one side of the room but still facing the main entrance. The second sofa’s placement mirrored the first, a dark green instead of the gold of the first one. She left room for accent tables, hoping they’d been ordered.
A steady stream of furniture came through the room and when she was almost out of space, Master Mark reappeared.
“Well done, Joanne.” His hand brushed from her crown to her nape. “There should be another delivery soon, restaurant tables and chairs. Have you seen the layout of the first floor?”
“No, Master Mark. I haven’t been much farther than this room and your office.” With her head tipped down, she could barely see the smile he flashed her.
“Derek’s teaching you the basics?” he asked.
“Yes, Master Mark.”
“Walk with me and I’ll show you the layout. And don’t be afraid to watch where you’re walking. While I appreciate your submissive eyes, I’d hate for you to break a leg before the club opens.”
A laugh bubbled up and she lifted her head enough to see the bottom half of his face. “Thank you, Master Mark.”
They strode down the hall at a brisk pace and she was glad he’d given her permission to watch where they were going. The building was large and spread out, with evidence of recent construction in many areas. Master Mark stopped at a new wooden door.
“This is an access to the north side of the building where the public bar will be. It connects via a short hall and the door on the other side can only be opened with a keycard. All employees will have one, as will members.”
She nodded and gave him the requisite reply and they moved farther down the main hall while he talked about the bar and when the equipment would arrive. “We’re also looking for staff in that area, and if you know anyone trustworthy and hardworking, let me know. Or better yet, have them apply and mention your name.”
He stopped when they reached an intersection in the hallway. “Lost yet?”
“No, Master Mark,” she said with a smile. He might be a little different in lifestyle, but he appeared to be a decent sort of man and she found herself liking him a little more with every interaction.
Good. This hall runs down the backside of the building. There are rooms that open on both sides of the hall and it intersects the main room where you were arranging furniture.”
“Thank you for the tour, Master Mark.”
“If you look to the right, you can see the elevators. I believe Derek took you upstairs?”
Her face warmed but she tried to keep her tone smooth and calm. “Yes, Master.”
He crossed to a set of double doors propped wide open and she followed. “The vendor delivering the seating for this area will take care of installing all the booths and setting up the tables and chairs. All you need to do is direct them to this room when they arrive.”
She answered in the affirmative again and looked around the large space. The carpet she’d chosen looked lovely with the dark wood baseboards and crown molding. The back wall was half glass, the windows looking out on the former golf course, and she wondered what the man next to her had planned for that area. Something kinky, most likely.
“Show me what you’ve learned from Derek.”
It wasn’t a request. The voice was dark again. Commanding. Joanne went to her knees in silence and assumed the position of a submissive and awaited his instructions.