I awoke from a short three hour nap at around ten in the morning. The interview wasn't until the club 'opened,' (I don't know if you could ever call a private club 'open') at two, so I had some time to kill. Realizing that I was running low on food, I opted for a short shopping trip. Like many other things, I didn't need food, but eating regularly lessened my dependence on other things.
I liked the fact that the city was always some level of busy whether it was mid-morning or midnight. It was comforting to know that at any given time there was so much going on, so many other people simply living their lives.
And admittedly, I liked gawking at the other incubi and succubae that I saw. The wings were a dead giveaway, and at times it seemed absurd that the people around them didn't notice. It had made me wonder if there were other races, with more subtle differences that even I could not see. I could rattle off half a dozen that I'd found in browsing for information on myself, but the existence of each seemed more absurd than the last. Sometimes I felt like otherwise normal looking humans knew what I was, but I had always quickly dismissed the feeling as paranoia.
I fell into step behind a tall winged man, no more substantial in girth than myself, but at least a foot and a half taller. His wings seemed like they could block off the entire street if they unfolded and I had to again try and find the courage to engage him in conversation. How would I begin? What would I say? Was our common heritage enough, or would I be dismissed as though I were nothing?
After following him for a block and a half, I noticed something else, a collar around his neck that gave off the same visible, yet not visible vibe that his wings did. About an inch wide, and dark leather, it bore no identifying marks. I couldn't even tell how it was fastened around his neck, and the black material along with his tanned skin, and snowy gray hair produced an interesting mix of colors.
As we stopped to wait for the light at the next street, I pulled up next to him, trying to study his body without appearing to look. I was surprised, even though his lightly colored hair suggested at least a middle aged gentlemen, his smooth facial features suggested that he wasn't much older than me. Or perhaps he was, there were several accounts of how my kind does not physically age.
I was not nearly as subtle as I'd hoped to be, and he noticed my stares. I could feel his eyes tracing the outline of my wings before they came to settle on my neck. Looking for...what? "Morning," he said with a nod and a voice that was surprisingly soft and amicable. I don't know what I expected. Mythology said my kind was evil, but I didn't feel particularly so, and it made sense that I wouldn't be alone in that regard.
All I could do was smile like an idiot as the light changed and he started forward with the crowd. My destination was only a few feet off so I was forced to merely wonder and watch him fade into the distance.
Grocery shopping was as quick and easy as I expected it to be. I picked up a few basic things that I could eat out of the box, like cereal and chips, along with stuff that was easier to make into something a bit more substantial like eggs, cheese, bread, and cold cuts. Unfortunately the trek back to my studio apartment was neither quick, nor easy. I have many qualities that humans do not possess, but above average strength and endurance are not among them.
By the time I'd set the bags down and was keying my door, my arms throbbed with dull pain. Putting everything neatly in its place, I sat down with my laptop to hunt for some good porn and to prepare for the interview.
* * *
I looked up at the brown brick exterior to Freedom of Restraint. The letters were prominently displayed on the outside of a set of frosted glass doors with wooden borders that looked far too ornate for that part of the city. It seemed strange that such a private establishment would advertise so readily, but as I drew closer I realized the letters gave off the same sort of impression as my wings did, and the man's collar had earlier.
I took a deep breath as I stood for a moment on the sidewalk. Judging by the depth of the buildings, and the fact that there didn't seem to be much else around, the interior of the place could be massive. The fact that the entrance was ominously sunk a couple yards into the architecture didn't do much to soothe my nerves.
I walked into the shaded alcove and gave one of the large brass handles a tug...then a push. They didn't move. As I stepped back I saw that there were silhouettes of hands etched into the center of each door about head high. A pair of handcuffs sat around each wrist with a chain connecting them. Those hadn't been there before...right?
Intrigued, I walked up and fit both of my hands within those on the door. The glass warmed to the touch, causing me to jump back. As I watched, the chain disappeared link by link and I heard a soft click. Trying the doors once more I found that they easily swung outwards.
The interior was not what I expected, although it seems stupid to say so since I didn't really know what to expect. I guess I would not have been surprised if I had stepped into a scene straight out of some tawdry romance novel with some sort of faux medieval decorum, but the place looked much more modern.
The carpeting was a crisp grey, halfway between white and black and the walls were similarly dark with crimson trim. The muted style seemed to be more than a counter for the surprisingly clean lighting dimming the room to a romantic level without the yellowness that enveloped so many similar places. It was as though the designer had wanted to blend a modern level of cleanliness and precision with an ancient atmosphere, and more than succeeded.
The short but wide entry hall opened into a fairly large room on the left, and another set of double doors straight ahead. I wandered through the archway to the left into what appeared to be a waiting area. There was a large desk in the corner and a series of short metal chairs and padded benches tucked into a large alcove near the side of the building that faced the street.
There was no one around but as I approached the desk a tall thin woman in a dark grey blazer and knee length skirt came out of a door behind it. Her dark black hair, prim bun and thick horned glasses reminded me of a librarian, but the woman gave off an aura that said she was anything but prude and tidy behind closed doors.
"You must be Lena Marov, I'm Vivian Reed, you can call me Miss Reed." she said, shaking my hand. The voice was exactly what I expected, calm, authoritative, and with a subtle hint of friendliness. She was in charge, but at the moment, she was nice about it. "We're going to have to go for a little bit of a hike, the formal section of this place, that is the offices and conference rooms, are on the third floor. But at least you'll get a little tour on the way." She flashed me a smile that both calmed my nerves and seemed to undress me at the same time.
I followed her out of the waiting area and through the double doors that led deeper into the building. As the floor transitioned from the grey carpet to hardwood that was a similarly dull shade of brown, they opened into a large dining area with several tables scattered throughout the center and a long bar along the back wall. There was a succubus, stereotypical in appearance, tending bar lazily and a few scattered people whose races I could not place sitting at a few of the tables.
"This is our restaurant area," Miss Reed said, slowing her walk. "Over there are a few play-cubbies for those that like exhibitionism," she said gesturing to a few alcoves along the left wall. There were a myriad of hooks and handles attached to the walls and a few benches and St. Andrew's crosses in each corner. "I trust that you know enough about what we do here to not be embarrassed by such things?" Miss Reed asked.
"No, not at all," I answered trying to ignore the stares that were coming my way. The succubus in particular, seemed very interested in me.
"Good," Miss Reed said, continuing forwards. She led me to the back right corner of the dining area and up a wide staircase. The derriere of Miss Reed as we ascended was not an unpleasant sight. With the outfit, the hairstyle, and the glasses, she might have looked a bit mature for my tastes, but even shaded by so many layers, I could tell that her body was as perky as mine. And the dark hair didn't hurt. I was a sucker for dark hair, especially in women. Maybe that's a little vain considering it mirrors my own appearance, but fuck, dark hair is hot.
"This is our first floor of rooms," she said, pausing on the landing at the top of the steps. She gestured to the right where a walkway wrapped around the outer walls. I could see a series of numbered doors along the hallway, and look over an intricate crimson and gold railing into the dining area below. "Most of these are taken up by temporary residents, sort of like a hotel, though the actions that take place within are far from innocent. They're often taken out for extended play sessions that our private dungeons in the basement can't accommodate."
She stated up a second set of stairs directly ahead. "The third floor is similar to the first, with a few more rooms and our offices of course. We have a few that reside in this building permanently. We passed some of them on our way up." Finally we stepped out onto the third floor. I paused for a moment to look out onto the street through the window atop the stairs before following Miss Reed around the corner and down another hallway.
"Originally we wanted to keep the administration part separate, locked away," she said as we passed a series of cubicles on the right. But the employees only sign at the bottom of the third floor is enough to keep visitors away. Plus our screening process is extensive so we trust our full time residents." We stepped through an entry way into what had been a former hotel room, but now housed more desks and a few cubicle partitions. Along the back wall of the room there was a large wooden door in the center that looked like it was older than anything in the city. "I have to look at least a little intimidating if I'm going to own this place," she explained, pushing it open. She walked behind a desk that seemed too large for the room, setting herself down in a tall backed leather chair. Now things were starting to look a bit more stereotypical.
My seat was a relatively nice, but diminutive in comparison leather armchair in front of the Nimitz sized desk. "Should we hire you, you'll be spending most of your time up here, though you're more than welcome to enjoy the services of the establishment should you so choose." She said with such a knowing tone that I had to wonder what Tara had told her about me.
It seemed my question was to be answered as she spoke again, "Tara tells me you're into bondage, which helps you stand out." For the first time it registered that I had no idea how Tara had come across such a place. I knew she had dirty inclinations, but she didn't quite seem like the bondage club type. "We certainly want people who are at least okay with the lifestyle working with us...and if they're active participants, all the better." She flashed me a grin that seemed to dissect me before folding her arms over the desk and leaning forwards. "What do you consider yourself within the BDSM culture?"
"Uh, a switch I guess," I mumbled softly. This was not how I expected the interview to go.
"Mmm," she murmured softly before pausing for a long moment. "Well it's neither here nor there to me, but should you delve more into the community you might meet a few foes. Switches aren't very highly regarded within the community."
She smiled at me. God damnit, she knew how embarrassed I was. "I'm what we call a Power Domme," she said with that smile. "Can you tell?" I nodded meekly as she continued. "Well I suppose the real reason why you're here is the job opening we have. I was merely curious about your personal life...how you'll fit in here."
"I like your resume, and I like what Tara's told me about you," she said, shuffling a few papers. "So I don't really have a whole lot of questions for you. The job is fairly simple, but there is a lot that goes into it. We have cooks, bartenders, professional Doms and Dommes, security, myself, yourself, our receptionist and a few temporary employees from time to time. We have live shows in our basement arena, bondage demonstrations, concerts. There are food orders, equipment orders, time billed for appointments, rent checks and probably a whole host of things that I'm not even thinking about." She paused for a moment to look at me.
"Good, you're not overwhelmed," she said. "Rather you're thinking about how it all goes together." Damnit, how the hell did she know that, was she telepathic? "I'm good at reading people...and your facial expressions aren't very subtle." Fair enough.
"Well, we have a computer system to track most of the employee time. Everyone enters their information, clients, appointments, etcetera into our computer system and that all flows down to your position. You don't have to monitor things too closely, just look for big discrepancies. If an appointment runs long by ten minutes, fine. If a client cancels and the appointment still gets billed...that's a bit of an issue."
"All the tangible things are listed and inventoried, by the various departments, and that comes to you as well." she continued. "It's all billed weekly. All of this will come to you Friday afternoon, and you have to approve and submit it by Tuesday at four. Then I look at it, but if you don't have any comments, I'm just going to trust your eye and pass it on through," she said.
I took a deep breath that didn't go unnoticed by Miss Reed. "Like I said, it's not very difficult, but it's a lot. You'll be trained to use our accounting software, and once you've got the hang of it, it's all pretty easy. It's mostly checking things and making sure we don't go bankrupt," she said with a smile. "Not much worry there."
"I'll be up front and tell you that we intend to offer you the job. You get paid a salary of $35,000 a year for being our bookkeeper. We only require that you be around between four and eight PM Tuesday through Saturday. Some days the job will take more time, some days less. There aren't many around besides our residents on Sundays and Mondays so you won't have to be here for more than an odd handful every year. Once we get you set up with the software, you'll be able to access it from home so while we don't have a sick or vacation day policy, I don't mind doling them out generously. Most of what we do is appointment based, so when someone gets sick we just reschedule. Do you have any questions?"
I gulped and thought for a moment. I had expected a tougher trial. Questions, inquiries into my schooling. The meeting had been more like an orientation than an interview. I almost didn't register that she'd told me that I had the job if I wanted it. "Why me?" I blurted somewhat stupidly. Fuck. "I mean, I'm honored that you think so highly of me so soon...but Tara couldn't have given me that glowing of a testimonial."
Miss Reed laughed and smiled, making me feel naked for the umpteenth time. "While Miss Burnham was willing to go into great detail about your...skills," the fuck? "the main reason behind our faith in you is because you meet one of our very stringent policies for our employees. You aren't human."
Not human? My mind tripped over itself and landed flat on its face. When it had picked itself up, dusted off its pants and started to move once more, I was able to ask my question. "Not human, so you're..."
She moved a hand to her hair, pushing back the strands that had covered the tops of her ears. "Dark elf," she said with a hint of pride, revealing their pointy tips.
"Dark elf?" I asked incredulously. With her fair skin, Miss Reed was not a dark anything.
"The name given to those of us that have embraced some of the things the human world has to offer, such as technology...or erotic pleasures. The rest of us remain hidden, resigned to the rapidly shrinking unexplored, or rarely visited areas of the earth. We decided to embrace the modern world on our own terms. They will eventually be forced to join us whether they want to or not."
"Wha..er..." my mind was being pulled in at least six different directions. "Okay, I had no idea elves even existed."
Miss Reed chuckled, shaking loose a few rogue strands of hair. "Yes Miss Burnham said you were a bit sheltered. It's one of the things that makes me think I can trust you. We'll likely open your eyes to a world you never knew existed...but always held out hope for, is that right? Miss Burnham said she's seen your head snap around to wistfully watch others of your kind wander by. You must have so many questions..."
"Wait Tara...what is she?"
"I think Miss Burnham would prefer to tell you that on her own," she said with just a hint of a scold in her tone that I felt like a rebuked child.
"Okay, so how many different races are there?"
"Well, Incubi and Succubae of course, Elves, Vampires, Lycans, Elemental Nymphs, and Humans."
I put my head in my hands, trying to process what I'd just been told. So Tara was one of those six...I never knew, how was it possible? "I can see this is a lot to digest," Miss Reed said, chuckling again. "You have the offer, and you know where to find us. Go home, think about everything and come back when you're ready The doors know to let you in. Confront your friend, but be gentle, being afraid of revealing what we are is part of our nature."
With that she led me back through the building. She stopped to point out a few more things on the way out, but my mind was too fogged up to even register them. Before long I found myself outside once more, walking home.