By Laura Feltyberger
Michael was tired of hanging out with the guys. It had been a long time since he had gone out on a real date. Sure, he’d hung out with his friends, and there were women in his circle of friends, too. But since Julie had broken off their engagement a year and a half ago, Michael had avoided getting close to any single women.
This is how Michael Posner found himself in a darkly stylish nightclub in the East Village, sitting at the bar nursing a Jameson’s on the rocks and listening to a torch singer dressed in a black satin gown and rhinestone manacles. He shook his head as he watched the black and blue haired vocalist sitting in her golden cage and wondered what made him pick this place.
It was right around the corner from his apartment, and many nights he’d seen the line curving around the block with people trying to get in. Elegant Goth was what he called the style that the patrons affected: lots of black in satin, velvet and leather, with silver and steel accessories. They bordered on the fetish crowd, but the veneer was too polished here. The effect was powerful, classy, but with a touch of menace. I’m getting too old for this, he thought as a server, teetering in black hip boots, bumped his elbow as she passed. If she hadn’t bumped him, he never would have noticed the blonde sitting next to him.
She paid no attention to him; she was watching the singer. She looked relatively ordinary in the glamorous surroundings, but still as affluent as any of the poseurs in attendance. Her yellow hair flowed over her shoulders and the sheer black georgette of her dress. A delicate diamond filigree necklace accented the curve of her throat and echoed the embroidery on her dress. Michael noted the grace of her hands as she lifted her glass of red wine. Her silvery blue eyes followed a dark haired man as he kissed the hand of the singer then made his way toward the bar.
She finally noticed Michael. He hoped he didn’t look totally out of place in his black pants and jacket, black T-shirt slightly faded and looser than he would have liked. A lock of sable hair fell across his brow and he brushed it back as he smiled at her.
"Forgive me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the raven sit above the door and say
- Nevermore’? I’ve never heard of a raven singing in a gilded cage before."
It had to be the stupidest opening line he’d ever used, but it was all he could think of.
"I don’t think anyone ever specified which bird sang in a gilded cage, but it’s my understanding that a raven will,... crow from wherever it chooses." she said, smiling at him.
Michael chuckled at her pun, and he wasn’t sure whether it was from nervousness or that he actually found the joke funny. Leave it to him, though, to find a comedian in the funereal nightclub. Her sense of humor was something he hadn’t expected to find in these surroundings. Now he was interested.
Interest came too late. The dark-haired man had come up to the blonde and taken her away. Michael thought he saw the icy green glare of the man’s eyes focus on him as he led her away.
Why did he feel like he’d taken a sucker punch to the stomach? It was only one moment; granted, a moment shared with a beautiful, charming woman, but nothing special, or was it? Michael resolved to come back and find her.
Next time he’d have a better pick-up line.
Two weeks later Michael was staring down into his drink and listening absently to the singer at The Captive. He’d been here several times since he met the blonde, but hadn’t seen her after that one encounter. It was nearing one in the morning, and for a Wednesday night, the crowd was heavy.
He doubted he could have spotted her if he wandered among the tables. He paid his tab and was about to leave when a shudder ran up his spine. He turned and she was there behind him.
"You looked so sad I had to come over and find out what was so troubling." Her voice slid like silk over his jangled nerves. The blue eyes that had entranced him the other night shimmered and held on his face, searching. Her fingers stroked his temple, brushing back a dark burnished lock of hair.
A wave of relief washed over him. "I was a little disappointed, that’s all. I was hoping I’d see you tonight, and this place is so packed I’d never know if you’d been here or not." He hadn’t meant to be so blunt, but for some unknown reason, he wanted her to know he’d waited for her.
"I’m here. Now what are you going to do with me?" she teased. His hand rested on the bar and she trailed her steel colored nails across the back of it, raising goose bumps up his arm.
"To tell you the truth, I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet, but I’m open to suggestions." In that moment, had she asked him to go to Timbuktu with her, he’d have done it. A woman dressed in purple rubber leading a man on a leash bumped into him and reminded him where he was. "As long as it doesn’t involve whips or chains, or one or more of us being tied up. I hate to say it’s not my usual scene."
She laughed, like bells chiming. "I didn’t think it was. If you look around you’ll see that everyone in this room fits into one of two categories. They’re either Dominants or Submissives."
"Which category do I fit in?" Michael asked, a little nervous to hear her answer.
"Both." she stated simply. Her fingertips did a sensual dance on his sleeve. "And neither. I can see you giving in to someone else, but you’ll give as much as you get, maybe more. If you’re in control of anyone, it’s yourself."
He felt his self control begin to slip. "And where do you fit in?"
There was an invitation in her eyes. "You’ll have to find out."
Either of them might have leaned in the last few inches and kissed. A glass of red wine appeared at her elbow, placed there by the green-eyed man.
"A new friend, Martine?" he asked. His fingers rested on the base of the glass, offering it to her.
"Yes, Gavriel. I wish I could tell you his name, but I don’t know it."
She held back a smile. It seemed to Michael this was a game she had played before.
"I’m Michael, Michael Posner." he offered his hand to the darkly intimidating Gavriel, who hesitated a moment before he took it. He whispered something in her ear, then with one last glance at Martine – a warning? - he moved off down to the other end of the bar.
"What category does he fall into?" Michael asked pointedly. With very little to go on, Michael didn’t like Gavriel very much.
"He’s the one you have to watch out for. He’s a predator. And the owner of this club. There’s very little that escapes his notice."
"Hmmm,..." Michael had a hold of Martine’s hand. "In that case I’d rather continue this conversation away from his all-seeing-eyes. Would you like to go somewhere else?"
"Yes." she said, tugging on his hand, asking him to follow her.
"I’m starting to understand which group you belong to."
She took him to a little dive down the street. The place refused to serve alcohol after two, but stayed open until five. Michael didn’t care; they spent hours talking about everything, anything.
He knew that she worked from home on her computer. She had known Gavriel for years. She was a part owner in the club, along with Gavriel and another friend. Her mother had lived in England and in Germany before coming to the States. Martine was her only child.
Michael found himself telling her things he didn’t dare tell anyone else.
He told about the argument that caused Julie to break his or her engagement; she said he was too open with everyone, and she wanted to have something of him that no one else did. He told her about his job as a temp coordinator and how he was frustrated with it, how he felt that while he was placing others in new jobs everyday he wanted something more meaningful. Martine was his priest and he was in the confessional, telling how he played pranks on his fourth grade teacher because she was pretty.
They were ensconced in a booth in the back of the place. Quiet jazz played overhead. The rest of the world went about its sleepy business without Michael and Martine, that is until her beeper went off. She excused herself to make a phone call and returned within moments. "I’m sorry, but I have to go. I had a nice time, Michael."
"Meet me tomorrow?" Michael held her by both hands. He was afraid that she’d disappear forever if he let her go now.
"I have plans tomorrow night." she explained.
"The day after, then. Just tell me when I can see you again. I know I sound like a maniac, but I want to see you again." He felt desperate for no reason he could fathom.
Martine reached up and stroked his lips with her fingertips, quieting him.
"I can’t see you again until the weekend. Meet me Saturday night at The Captive. I hope you can wait that long?" She smiled, suggesting it wasn’t just her company he was waiting for.
"Saturday. I’ll see you then." He recaptured her hand, leaned forward, and kissed her. The contact was brief, but solid, and that blow he’d felt the first time he met her struck again. This felt very right.
He put her in a cab and walked back to his apartment whistling. He should have been tired. He went up to the roof of his building and watched the sunrise.
Michael could hardly wait for Saturday night. He had three whole days to use up all his nervous energy. He couldn’t pay attention to clients on the phone, he was distracted all the time, so much so that coworkers kept asking if something were wrong. He hemmed and hawed, putting them off the best he could. He couldn’t explain that he was as jittery as a teenager about to go on a date with the prom queen.
When Saturday finally arrived he hoped he looked relaxed and nonchalant.
He sat at the bar trying to avoid Gavriel. No matter what Martine had said about him, there was something dangerous about him that Michael didn’t like.
Gavriel made note of Michael’s presence and left him alone.
"I hope I didn’t keep you waiting long." She was out of breath and slightly flushed.
Michael looked at his watch. "What’s ten minutes next to the three days
I’ve been dying to see you." He stroked her cheek where the blush showed.
She sighed. "A lot of people have been dying to see me, not just you.
That’s why you had to wait three days."
Michael didn’t like to hear that. They’d just met, and he had no illusions about his tentative claims on her time. Still, he felt a bit jealous that others spent time with her while he waited anxiously. She must have sensed his disappointment because she placed her hands on his shoulders and kissed him gently, as a reassurance.
"I’m here now. What do you plan to do with me?" She’d asked the same question three days ago and he had just as little a notion now as he did then. Luckily, she took the decision from him. "Let’s take a walk."
Michael followed with his hand in hers. He caught a glimpse of Gavriel in the crowd. Gavriel had seen them leaving, and he didn’t look pleased. They walked toward the Union and Astor Place, stopping at the intersection to wonder which way to turn.
"You live nearby?" Martine asked. Michael nodded. "Show me."
They crossed 4th Ave. and around a corner to his building. Once Michael had closed the apartment door behind them Martine threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. Hard.
Fire ignited between them. It didn’t matter who tore at whose clothing; it was all lost between the door and the bed. Thought dissipated like steam. For an hour or two all that mattered was the hunger, heightening it, drawing it out, fulfilling it over and over.
It was almost dawn when Michael woke feeling
pleasantly exhausted. He was alone. A sheet of paper lay on the bed next
to him. A phone number was etched across the paper with a note, Leave a message,
Martine Darnay. He had a way to reach her; he didn’t have to go looking for
her at The Captive anymore, and could avoid Gavriel’s icy glare. He went back
to bed clutching the note, staring at her signature. Martine Darnay.
End of Chapter One
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