Derrick didn’t set out to open a BDSM club—it was a labor of love. Despite his wife Marcia’s initial reluctance, Derrick’s dream of having a safe place for their friends to play and learn quickly came to fruition. What he didn’t realize was that Venture’s open doors would soon transform into a living legacy, a place where good friends and even better memories were made.
And along the way, sometimes, even families were formed.
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A fine patina of drywall dust covered the ten men sitting around the table. Since the club was closed for business, and they were there to work, it had been Derrick who’d brought several six-packs of beer and stashed them in the club’s fridge.
It was the least he could do for his friends in return for them volunteering to help. Later, they’d be eating pizzas, on him.
“Wow,” Seth said, staring at the large doorway now opening the dungeon play space to the unit next door. “That’s so weird seeing that there. Good-weird, but weird.”
Even weirder, seeing all the play equipment shoved against the back wall, covered with cheap, plastic drop cloths to protect as much as they could from the drywall dust and to make cleanup easier later on.
Kel nodded as he took a long pull on his bottle of beer. “Good thing the landlord isn’t a ballbuster about shit like this.”
Everyone else laughed.
Kel was the landlord.
They’d framed in the doorway, making sure the wall separating the units still maintained its structural integrity. Through it, illuminated by daylight let in by two large, opaque skylights in the roof, they could see the empty warehouse space next door, which was now directly accessible via the new doorway.
Derrick slowly shook his head. “I never in a million years dreamed we’d be doing this,” he said. “I just wanted to get the parties out of our houses so we could invite more people. So we could have larger classes. This…”
He took a swallow of his own beer to buy him some time. “I wish Kaden was here to see this,” he quietly said. “He was one of our biggest supporters when we first started. He was always in here, helping us get stuff ready before we opened. He even contributed some money that he wouldn’t let me refuse to help buy equipment. Discounting his fees on the incorporation paperwork and stuff. Everything he did. He would have loved this.”
“Yes,” Seth said. “He would have.”
Derrick held up his bottle. “To Kaden,” he quietly toasted.
Everyone reached in with their own bottles, or bottles of water, depending on what they were drinking, and clinked with him.
“To Kaden,” they echoed.
It was a melancholy moment. And they’d only been at it for a couple of hours this Monday just a little past noon. They had plans to work all day until late in the evening. Several others would be helping throughout the week as their work schedules allowed, to assist with painting and prepping the new space, but this had been one of the critical parts—joining the new unit to the existing club, giving them even more space, as well as another bathroom.
“Remember that night when we first started talking about this?” Derrick asked.
Most everyone there nodded, except for Seth. He hadn’t been there.
“We were sitting around Kaden and Leah’s pool,” Ross said.
Mac and Sully laughed. “Man. That was a wild night,” Sully said.
Seth wore a melancholy smile. “I heard about some of those nights,” he said. “From Kade and from Leah.”
Tony chuckled. “Wow. Feels like forever. Hard to believe it wasn’t even eleven years ago.”
“Whose crazy idea was it for me to open this dang place, anyway?” Derrick joked.
“Kaden’s,” they all responded.
Well, everyone but Seth, who looked particularly contemplative at the moment.
“Then a few months later,” Ed said, “he asked you about it again.”
“Yeah,” Derrick said. “I’d talked to a few people but hadn’t really done anything concrete yet. I’d even gone as far as to have Kaden go through the zoning laws and stuff. I talked to the sheriff’s office and the zoning board.”
Derrick snickered. “I didn’t tell Marcia any of that at the time, because I didn’t even think I was really going to do it. It was more out of curiosity than anything. I knew we were outgrowing the house parties and it was only a matter of time before something bad happened. Then I didn’t find any spots at first, and just kind of…let it drop.”
“And then Kaden stirred the pot again about six months after you all first talked about it,” Tony joked. “‘Hey, Derrick. You still thinking about opening a play space like we talked about? I think I know a perfect location.’”
“Oh, yeah.” Derrick sighed. “Then Kel had to say…what was it you said?”
Kel grinned. “Hey, yeah. That industrial complex I just bought has an empty double unit. I was thinking it’d be the perfect place to hold parties.”
Derrick pointed a finger at him. “Ah, yes. That. Then Kaden piled on that he’d looked into the zoning already, and it was golden. And then Mike Foster piled on about what a great idea it was, and what did I need to get things started.” He took another swallow of beer. “Rat bastard. Then they went and moved up to Crystal River not too long after that.”
Derrick grinned. “Man, that was a fun first party before we really got serious with it.” He pointed at Ed. “You, you killjoy. You had to go spoil it for us. Here I’d fooled myself that I’d gone overboard and didn’t need any paperwork. That Kaden was just being an overzealous and overprotective friend.”
Ed Payne laughed. “Sorry. I’m an attorney. When we had almost seventy people show up for that first party, I realized you were putting yourself under some serious liability.”
“Kaden didn’t bug me about it.”
“Yeah, and Kaden was up in Atlanta and missed that first party, remember? Had he been there, he would have been pulling you aside, just like I did.”
“Marcia nearly killed me when I told her we were turning it into a business.” Derrick snickered. “Then I couldn’t hide my plans from her any longer. Or the money I spent on it. Man, those were some fun times.”
“I don’t think you know what that word means,” Gilo teased. “I remember her looking perpetually pissed off for a few weeks after you told her you were incorporating and everything.”
“She got over it. Pretty quickly, actually. Someone had to do it. At the time, we were the only ones who could do it, if it was actually going to happen.”
Derrick looked around. “It’s so different now. It feels like home, but I can remember that first day when Kel and I were walking through here and figuring out how we could set it up to be a great party space. It was a blank canvas.”
“Well, I knew I had to rent the place out,” Kel said. “If we didn’t grab it then, I didn’t know when another unit might come up available for rental again. I didn’t want to lose it. I’m the landlord, but I can’t leave a unit just sitting vacant forever without anyone in it. Besides, the zoning was perfect, no churches or schools around, and the other businesses aren’t here on the weekend nights to see anything. It was like it was meant to be.”
Rusty McElroy nodded. “That’s because it was.” He looked from the new doorway to Derrick, who sat across the table from him. “Do you have any idea how many lives you’ve touched in a positive way because of this club? How many people have made changes for the better because of this place?”
He pointed at Tony and Kel. “Cases in point, right there.” Then to Gilo. “Him, too. Met the loves of their lives through being members here.” He indicated Seth. “We’re an adopted family and took him in when Kaden asked us to make sure to keep an eye on them after he…”
Rusty’s voice choked up and it took him a moment to speak again. “Those are only the people actually sitting here,” he eventually continued. “This place isn’t just about fun, it’s about finding yourself and where you belong. Your tribe. And I’m damn glad to say I’m proud to be a part of it.”
“Here, here,” the others echoed.
“I’m glad you all are here, too,” Derrick said. “We never could have done it without all of you.”
Marcia stared at her husband.
She’d been silently staring at him for well over a minute.
To be honest, it sort of had him a little concerned.
Um, okay, a lot concerned.
“Well, say something,” Derrick finally said to break the uncomfortable silence and tension more than anything.
“All right.” She cocked her head at him, her gaze narrowing. “Are you out of your goddamned mind?”
Finally. “No, it makes sense. You said yourself it’d be nice to have a play space here in the area, instead of having to hoof it all the way up to Tampa or Orlando to one of the clubs up there.”
She blinked, staring. Finally, “I didn’t mean you should open one.”
She not only arched an eyebrow at him, but she cocked her head in the other direction and planted her hands on her hips.
“We?” she asked after another long, tense, uncomfortable silence.
“Yes. We.” He pulled her into his arms. “We, because someone said they wanted to be my slave, and agreed to it when we got married.” He reached up and gently fisted her hair, tipping her head back so he could nibble along the base of her throat.
Playing dirty to get her close to subspace, yes, he’d admit it.
But if it got her to agree to this, he didn’t care.
“Otherwise,” he said, “we’ll just have to keep having house parties. And we won’t be able to hold classes like we’ve talked about. Or have the kinky community center that we’ve always dreamed about.”
She sighed. “Okay, fine.” She managed to look up at him. “That’s sooo not fair you playing the Master card and dropping me into subspace to get your way.”
He grinned. “Who said anything about me being fair?”
“Not me.” She rested her head against his chest. “So when is our first party?”
“A week from this coming Saturday.”
She stared up at him. “You’re shitting me, right?”
“No. We’ve got people who’ve already volunteered to bring play furniture. Everyone will bring their own folding chairs. The unit has working AC, and we’ve got someone bringing sound equipment we can borrow. It already has bathrooms. And a couple of people are going to bring some work lights so we don’t have to keep the house lights up. Kaden’s going to loan us some of his Christmas lights. We can tack them up on the walls for mood lighting.”
“This sounds like a permanent situation.”
“It is, sort of. We’ll hold two parties a month, for now. Nothing serious.” He made her look him in the eye. “Not a full-time job,” he assured her.
“Famous last words,” she muttered.
“The place has bathrooms, and no, it’s not pretty, but it’s functional. Hey, it means we don’t have to agonize over the guest lists anymore and leave people off. It also means no one’s home is in jeopardy, and it completely resolves the parking issues. It means we don’t need to try to find a hotel to start hosting these parties. And we can start inviting newbies to the parties without making them jump through as many hoops and go to a bunch of munches first.”
“What about the lease? Whose name is it going under?”
“Ed and Kaden will look into drawing up an LLC for me to put it in. And Kel’s the landlord. So it’s not like it’s going to be a problem with him. We’re going to call it something innocuous.”
“Thank god we own our own business,” she said. She wasn’t an accountant, but she managed the office for Derrick and the three CPAs and four accountants working under him. “I’d hate to think how the shit would hit the fan if you were still working for Dad and this got out.” She stared at him. “What if news of this does get out?”
He shrugged. “So?”
“You don’t think that could cause problems?”
“Anyone? Everyone? Our families?”
“There’s nothing to get out,” he said. “We aren’t going to allow alcohol, so there’s no risk of problems there. Kaden and Ed have a standard liability waiver for everyone to sign. And everyone will be over eighteen, obviously.”
“What if someone gets hurt?”
He laughed. “Isn’t that kind of the point?”
“The nonconsensual, unintended kind of hurt, doofus. The kind of hurt that could get the pants sued off of us and make the newspapers.”
“Liability insurance for space. It’s a rented space. It’s not like there are assets. Something happens, we simply close everything down. The only money we’ll keep in the bank account will be just enough for the insurance, rent, and utilities every month.”
“And we are not paying those out of our own pocket.”
“At first, we are, actually. We’ll ask people to donate. If someone doesn’t donate, they won’t get invited back. Easy-peasy.”
“Will Kaden and Ed pay our legal costs, or work for us pro bono, if we get sued?” she drawled.
“We’ll be fine. It’s just a playspace.”
“Uh-huh. Famous last words. You never do anything half-assed.”
He smiled. “No, I just like doing you bare-assed.” He waggled his eyebrows at her, earning him an eye roll and a groan.
“You’re damn lucky I’m not switchy. I should beat you for that comment.”
“Look, how long has everyone been saying we needed a space for the group to play in? Well, this is perfect. Tony can’t put his name on it, or he would have done it. Kaden and Ed need to watch their reps because they’re attorneys, so their names can’t be on it.”
“Why can’t Kel put his name on this?”
“He’s got enough on his plate as it is. He offered to be the front man for it, but that’s not fair to him to make him shoulder the entire burden like that. Hell, he owns the building. He’s got enough skin in the game. That’s too much additional liability for him. If they can show he knows what happens there, it opens him up. As the landlord, he’s limited.”
“Lucky him. What about Scrye, then?”
“June teaches kids’ gymnastics,” he said. “He can personally absorb a PR hit, but she can’t. And they’ve got two kids still in school. We don’t have any kids.”
“Wrong,” she said. “It looks like we do. Its name is…what the hell is its name, anyway?”
He shrugged. “We haven’t got that far yet. Doesn’t matter what we call the club itself, really.”
“Well, I suggest Venture.”
She poked him in the stomach. “Because it is a venture, dummy. Not exactly one I’d thought we’d be taking, but that’s exactly what it is. And it sounds innocuous. You call it ‘Club Spanking Asses’ or ‘Cock Torture Is Us,’ and it might draw unwanted attention.”
“Good point.” He pulled her close again. “Venture. I like that. The more I think about it, the more I like it.”
“Yeah? Then don’t ever accuse me of not helping or being supportive.”
He kissed her. “I wouldn’t do that, sweetheart.” He stared down at her. “Thank you. I know this is big.”
“Big is a massive understatement, Derrick. Are you sure we’re not biting off more than we can chew?”
“With everyone’s help and support, I believe it’s totally doable.”
“Don’t forget the 80/20 rule.”
“Eighty percent of the work is done by twenty percent of the people. We’re in that twenty percent. Our friends have lives of their own, you know.”
“We have a core group of friends who are all behind this. This means more of them will be able to attend and play. That means more people chipping in. I’m not looking to get rich with this, because honestly? We won’t. We’ll be lucky to make expenses after six months. But it’s worth it to take the burden off the shoulders of our friends. And we can have classes there. We can set up a permanent, safe, secure rope suspension rig. Think about it, about everything we can do that we’ve been wanting to do right here in our area.”
She stared up at him, doing exactly that for a moment. “That would be nice,” she finally said.
“I know, right? And we can have full nudity. No worrying about if a neighbor will call the cops because they heard someone moaning out an orgasm and thought they were being killed or something. It actually removes a lot of liability. And several people have already told me they’d be willing to chip in buying sodas and supplies and stuff like that, in addition to a donation for coming to the play parties.”
“Sounds like you have it all figured out.”
“Not all of it. But a good start.”
“So when are you going to fess up how long you’ve actually been working on this without telling me first?”
“Kel just bought that industrial park about a month or so ago. There weren’t any plans before that.”
She stared at him.
“There weren’t any serious plans before that,” he amended, seeing he was busted. “I’ll admit, Kaden and I—”
“That explains it,” she said. “I love that man, but he’s an instigator.”
“Kaden and I kind of looked into stuff several months ago, but nothing serious came of it. I didn’t really find any affordable properties that would have been worth investigating, that would suit our needs, and dropped it. Then Kel bought that industrial complex, and he has a vacant unit. It’s like it was meant to be.”
“I didn’t agree to be poly when we got married.”
That confused him. “Huh?”
She rolled her eyes. “When do I get to look at this new time and money suck we’re now freaking married to? And don’t tell me we’re not married to it, because we are.”
He grinned. “We’re meeting Kel over there tonight and then going out to dinner with him and the Fosters.”
“They’ve got money. Why aren’t they doing this?”
“She’s pregnant. With little kids underfoot, they can’t.”
“You just have an answer for everything, don’t you?”
“I try, sweetheart. I try.”