Excerpt for Billionaire Devils Club-Palm Beach Pact by , available in its entirety at Smashwords









The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or any super-natural entities, is coincidental and not intended by the author. All rights reserved, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for websites or their contents that are not owned by the publisher.








© Copyright 2018

ISBN 13: 9780463528884



For All My Angels


       All Those Palm Beach Devils…
















15  A.K.A.  “TONY”












 And on the eighth day God created Palm Beach…


     Palm Beach was bustling with activity as the global elite toasted another new year and migrated back to its gilded shores via yacht and private jet. The shop windows reflected their polymer and spray-tanned faces, as they strolled down Worth Avenue on their way to Bice, Ta-boo, and the other exclusive restaurants. Their flawless diamonds sparkled under the quaint streetlights.

     The town was open to all, but only the hand-picked few were truly allowed to enter and embrace the dream. They were deeded access to the private collections, reserved tables, and the invitation-only galas that were held inside the magnificent turreted estates. 

     Their net worth, secrets, and lies, remained securely locked behind those grand doors. It was surprising that the tiny island didn’t sink into the ocean, with the sudden shift of weight from the sizable egos that returned each winter to walk its pristine paths.

The "Season" had begun!

     Everyone knew about the philanthropic side to Palm Beach and the generous charities, but very few were aware of its nefarious underworld, and the island’s covert societies.

     Many of their affairs took place at the far north end of the island, inside the Whitestone Country Club. Even in the off-season, the members faithfully convened to attend these darker soirées.

     Though no one was privy to the club’s register, it boasted the names of prominent men throughout the world. They were the leaders, the scholars, and the kings of business. They devoutly swore to uphold the club rules, and above all, they always knew when to give the Devil his due.

     Only the island insiders were aware of what really went on at the Whitestone. And, deep within the club’s ranks, only a few of the regular members had ever heard about their founder’s top echelon, known as the Black Veil Society.

     It was a rare treat to be invited to a Whitestone party, and the decadent frivolity could go on for days. An invitation to a Black Veil 33 ceremony was quite the opposite, and it was never a privilege to be the Guest of Honor.

     One could only speculate what type of “sacrifices” these Illuminati made to attain their special powers. It seemed that nothing could hold them back in their quests.

     It was a tight group, self-serving in nature, and Palm Beach was the perfect place to fine-tune their hidden agenda.

     They dined only with the finest of company, while secretly sharing their own slant on the New World Order. And, with every move they made to influence the world’s decision-makers, it was all according to the Founder’s master plan.


     Kristen Stratford was the quintessential Palm Beach girl. Her mother was blue-blood WASP all the way, and never failed to let everyone know it. Arthur Stratford was the CEO of a major aerospace company, belonged to all the right groups, and was very active in politics.

     Of course, according to Mrs. Stratford, since Kristen had won the baby lotto, it meant that she would be living the American dream with the perfect husband, Mercedes, and the majestic house in Chicago’s affluent suburbs on the north shore of Lake Michigan. It was also socially mandated that she wintered in Palm Beach in an equally luxurious ocean-front mansion.

        Kristen had always been quite the romantic. She didn’t need a rich man or money to keep her happy and was only out to find true love.

     Instead of trying to impress people, she cared more about helping them. It was obvious to her from an early age that High Society was an evil entity and it was difficult not to be sucked into its game.       

      But, as she grew older and began her ascent to the next tier, she became less sure of her footing. The men that she now encountered had more acquired tastes and a higher threshold for excitement. She either needed to conform to meet their demands or present a challenge in order to hold their interest. She hoped she would never become jaded.


And along the way, it was inevitable that she would eventually meet up with the Whitestone clan.



had her

in their sights…


     Cabaret was dimly lit with red lights that reflected off the crushed velvet on its walls. It gave off the essence of a bordello, with a hint of sophistication, and surprisingly enough, it was one of the classiest restaurants in Chicago. It was well known for the executives and tourists that trickled in and congregated around its piano bar.     

     Kristen was looking forward to attending a formal gala tonight. William, her boyfriend for the last 3 months, had not revealed where it was, and he was very late meeting her.

     He was “The” William Bensinger who played golf with U.S. Presidents, was the benefactor of many, and was always in the papers. Kristen learned right away that she was last on his list of priorities, and lately she was starting to just feel like arm candy. She now wondered if he would even show up.

     In addition to being a Fortune 100 executive, William kept the Cabaret going for a hobby, and as a place for his married friends to hide out in the secluded backrooms.

    Kristen was sitting at a table and was being extra careful not to crease her sequined evening gown. Her long blonde hair was styled in a low chignon, and tonight, she looked quite dignified and much older than her 21 years. She knew that William would like this new look. 

     She straightened up as she saw William walk in the front door. After stopping to kiss the door hostess and a few of his waitresses, he finally came up to her.

   “You look marvelous! Are you ready to go?”

      Kristen grinned, “Of course, I am ready. I’ve been waiting for a while.”

       He replied coldly, “Sorry. I am having business problems. Let’s vamoose!”

      Kristen perked up, “Well, don’t you look handsome in your tuxedo. This must be some special place we are going to.”

     She took William’s arm, and they went outside to his waiting limousine. “So, come on! Where are we going? What’s the big mystery?”

     William chuckled at her, “My princess, you are going to meet royalty tonight!”

     Kristen’s eyes grew wide, “Are you kidding? We’re going to that ball at the Field Museum?”

     “That’s right. Are you excited?”

     Kristen poked his shoulder, “Of course I am. That gala is one of the most happening events this year. Almost, better than the ones in Palm Beach. You are such a Schnook not to tell me.” She laughed “I would have worn a tiara.”

     “I’m hoping to get a private dance with one of the royals that should be there. I am one of the biggest contributors to the charity, and our table is right by the main one.”

     Kristen squeezed his hand, "This is going to be fantastic William! Thank you.”

     When William and Kristen arrived at the party, there was a long line of limos dropping off their expensive cargo. Without hesitation, William’s driver drove past the others and pulled right up to a roped-off area to let them out.

     The museum was all decked out for the occasion, and there were some very impressive evening gowns in attendance. Kristen looked over to where a crowd was standing, and she could see a few of the princesses who hailed from different countries. They all looked very lovely. William immediately dropped Kristen’s arm and headed right to them.

     “William?” she called after him. He seemed to not hear her.

     Deflated, Kristen walked into the ballroom by herself, and then stood shyly in a corner. A woman dressed in mint green chiffon soon came billowing up to her.

     “I saw you walk in. So, how did William find you? Yellow Pages?” Kristen shrunk backward.

     The aggressor continued, “I used to date William long ago. We almost got engaged, and with no warning, he dumped me. I still can’t figure out why?”

     Kristen just looked at her blankly and did not comment.  The woman was so abrupt and was acting a bit crazy. She started to speak again, when William walked up and took Kristen’s hand.  

     He looked unhappy, “I see you have met Mitzi, the Welcoming Committee.” He gave Mitzi a cold peck on the cheek, “I can only imagine what you two are discussing. Let’s go Kristen”, and he ushered her away.

     As soon as they reached a safe distance from Mitzi, William smiled at her. “Kristen, wait here for me. I have to go talk to some business associates. Are you enjoying yourself?”

     Kristen managed a slight smile. “Sure William, its wonderful here. Please hurry back so we can dance.”

     He gave her a pat on the arm, and now proceeded to the other side of the room to join a bevy of socialites.

     Kristen looked surprised that he did that to her again. It was all turning out so horribly, and this was not the type of setting that one should be left so obviously alone. She went to position herself next to the orchestra to sort out her feelings.

     A waiter came walking toward her carrying a tray of champagne, and Kristen stood ready to receive him. She leaned down to lay her silver clutch on the table, and when she turned back, her flute was being handed to her by a tall stranger.

     “What is an exquisite beauty doing here standing alone?” She was drawn in by the deep voice and looked up at him. His steel blue eyes met hers, and she stepped back as she felt overpowered and seduced by a strange coldness. An elegant creature was before her, and Kristen felt very small and insignificant in his presence.

     She softly thanked him, and his hand wrapped around hers as she took the glass. Instead of the anticipated fire, she was surprised when she felt her fingers ice up. She gave a small shudder, and the man reached out and gently pulled her evening wrap tighter around her.

   He moved in closer on Kristen and slowly isolated her further into a corner, “To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”

     Kristen was charmed by his British accent, “My name is Kristen Stratford”.

   He tilted his head to one side, “I am Karl. Are you the daughter of Arthur Stratford? We are both club members at the Whitestone in Palm Beach. He always says that he wants me to meet you. He told me you were special.”

     They conversed for a short while, and then Karl took her glass and walked her over to the orchestra leader. He put his hand on the man’s shoulder and made a request. The music quickly changed from an upbeat tempo to a slow and romantic pace.

     Karl led Kristen straight into the middle of the floor and held her at arm’s length, as they lightly waltzed. He didn’t say a word as he looked down at her. Kristen had a curious look planted on her face, as his remained indifferent, but his eyes never left hers.

     Mr. Important was across the room dancing with someone’s wife. He worriedly viewed Kristen and Karl and turned his partner so that he faced toward them. He impatiently continued dancing, and as the song ended, William quickly headed the couple off as they walked.

     Karl stiffened, and gave a brief smile as William reached for Kristen. He then extended his hand in a firm shake.   

     “Hello Bill. How are you this evening? I was just keeping your lovely granddaughter company. I hope you don’t mind.”

     William emitted a short laugh at the insult and quipped,

     “I thought you liked them even younger, and much more obedient Karl. This one is too much of a handful for your likes.”

     He leaned in, “So, Karl what brings you all the way here from the UK? Or, did you just have an easy flight from your other place in New York?”

     “Just in for the night to fork over my money like you. William, you must tell me. Just where did you find someone as lovely as Miss Stratford?”

     Kristen was enjoying being the center of attention and reached for her glass of champagne. She sipped it demurely as she watched them. The men continued to politely banter, but neither one cared for the other; nor were they interested in what was being said. Kristen took notice that Karl seemed to command the conversation.

     After more uncomfortable small talk, William was the first to back off, and made his way to the head table to seek out his allies. He firmly held Kristen’s arm, keeping her close behind him.

     He whispered in her ear “There is something off with that guy. I have never liked him.”

     Kristen was even more intrigued. She dragged her heels and felt herself pulling back to stay with Karl. Without turning to look, she could feel Karl’s eyes follow her.

     For the rest of the evening, Kristen thought about Karl, and wondered if he came by himself. She had been so distracted by his glacial charm, that she hadn’t even looked at his hand to notice if he was married or not. William continued to dance with everyone but her. But, he did not let Kristen out of his sight.

      From a distance, Kristen strained to watch Karl and see who he was with. She wasn’t surprised that he had a never-ending stream of beautiful partners.

     There was an abundance of bubbly flowing that evening and poor William never got his dance with a princess, or even a countess. They were too busy being whirled about by the celebrities that showed up. The event was a success and a lot of money was made that night.

     Kristen was very tired after the gala, and William had an early flight in the morning to Houston. Her car was still parked at his restaurant. The limousine dropped her off in front, and the Cabaret valet retrieved her vehicle as soon as he saw them pulling up. 

     Kristen said, “Thank you for the evening William, but I am very disappointed with the lack of time that you spent with me. It was embarrassing.”

     “You are imagining things. I am not going to talk about this. I’ll see you in a few days and call you when I get back to Chicago. Good-night Kristen.”

  With this cold farewell from William, Kristen knew she was no longer in a comfortable place in her relationship with him. She could not understand what she did to make it sour, and it now felt like he had stamped an expiration date on her head when they first met.

    While William was out of town, Kristen decided to hang out at Cabaret and enjoy her freedom. It was a hot Wednesday night and the air-conditioning could barely keep up. She was posed at a table with a tropical drink, displaying a tiny umbrella, and an abundance of orange slices hanging off the sides. Since it was mid-week, there were mostly only small corporate gatherings and a few tourists present.

     The businessmen in the room went back and forth from their tables and gave Kristen a grin as they walked by her. They were down to their shirt sleeves and dancing themselves into a sweaty lather with the few girls that were in there. Kristen chose to remain cool and turned down a few offers to whoop it up. She twiddled the ice cubes around with her straw.

     A tall man with dark blonde hair strode past her, and Kristen gave him a smile. The man almost reached the table where his work companions sat, when he did a double-take and came back toward her.

     “Kristen? Kristen Stratford?”

     “Yes, I am. Do I know you?”

     He looked excited and sat next to her, “Sure, you do. It’s me. Michael Hansen, your childhood friend.” He laughingly groaned, “Are you having a senior moment? Come on, it hasn’t been that long.”

     Kristen said happily, “Of course it is you. I was being spacey, and I didn’t recognize you in a suit. Michael, you look great! How are you?” She looked him over with admiration.    

     “I’m doing very well. I am here with some of my company’s executives for dinner.” He pointed over at them. He then pushed her drink slightly out of his way and kissed her on the cheek.

     “Yum, Yum, you smell delicious. And you look gorgeous. Going out with your husband after this?”

     “I’m not married. I am just enjoying myself. My boyfriend, owns this place.”

   Michael looked confused, “William Bensinger is your boyfriend? Isn’t he kind of old for you? He looks like your father. Do you have some kind of Daddy complex going on?”

     “He’s not that old. He’s a wonderful man.” Kristen was very annoyed by his comment.

     She remarked sarcastically, “So, Michael, where’s your wife?”

     “Never married, still can’t find the right woman.” He gave Kristen a sad look, like she should understand what he meant.

     Kristen looked him over, “Well, you are quite a catch, and still young, shouldn’t be long.” 

     He looked into her eyes, “Kristen, there is something I need to ask you…”

     One of his dinner friends came up and interrupted him, “Mike. I’ve got Pittsburgh calling on my cell. You need to come over and talk to him.” Michael looked at him and nodded his head.

     “Kristen, I have to go, it’s an important call.” He leaned closer to her, “I really need to talk to you. I will be right back.”

     Kristen started to finish up her drink. She wondered what Michael had to say to her that was so important. He looked so handsome and very successful, and she wondered what business he was in.

     She curiously watched as the phone was handed to him by a lanky brunette, wearing a chartreuse Dior number. With his other hand, he lit her cigarette.

     Kristen speculated, “That’s probably his girlfriend. What’s he doing with a smoker? He is too much of a jock.” She was surprised that she felt jealous. She had a faraway look in her eyes, when William appeared out of nowhere.

     “Well, Kristen, I see you are keeping yourself out of trouble.”

     “William?” What are you doing back so soon? She uncomfortably looked in Michael’s direction. He had now left the room.

     “I just finished up my Texas business early. I am glad that you are here. Let’s get dinner somewhere.”

     Kristen felt a bit reluctant. She was not happy how he treated her at the ball and still needed time away from him.

She also did not want to leave Michael.

     “Just a minute William. I need to visit the ladies’ room before we go.” Kristen went into the lounge and leaned on the door as it closed. She felt giddy, and her breathing grew heavy as she fell deep into her memories.

     Ahh, Michael…he was her next-door neighbor, and her teen-age crush! He was two years older than her, and besides a few stolen kisses, he had always treated her like a little sister. Michael was very popular and was always busy dating the cheerleaders and prom queens. He seemed to have a special light about him that touched everyone that he was with. She constantly fantasized back then about how he would be the perfect loving husband, and how cute their kids would be. She always knew that he was “The One” for her!

    Seeing Michael tonight, still made her heart pound out of her chest, and she needed to resolve these unfinished feelings for him. She wanted to give him her phone number, but there was no easy way to do it with William there.

     When she re-emerged, William looked concerned.

     “What took you so long? Come on, my driver is waiting.” He grabbed her by the arm and rushed her out the door.

     Unknown to Kristen, Michael Hansen had merely stepped into another room so that he could hear better on the phone. He looked out the window and saw her entering the limousine. He abruptly hung up on his caller and then ran out after her but was too late!

     As traffic whizzed by him, Michael stood sadly in the middle of the busy street, watching as Bensinger’s car headed off towards the lake. Michael desperately wanted Kristen to know that he always had special feelings for her since they were young, and that he had always wanted to tell her that. Though he never let on, he liked her so much that he always felt incredibly shy around her, and the words just couldn’t come out.

      Now, he was afraid he lost his chance and wondered if there would ever be another opportunity. Michael knew he could find out her phone number if he wanted, but he was still not sure of how she felt about him. For now, sadly her dance card looked filled.

     Kristen did not enjoy being with William at the restaurant. All she could think about was Michael, and she wanted to sneak back to Cabaret to find him. After a few bites, she pushed aside her meal.

     “William, I am not feeling well. I am going to go home.”

     “Alright Kristen, I see some of my friends in here. The driver can take you back to your car.” He then walked over to them, instead of walking her out.    

      Kristen thought, “Wow, not even a kiss.” She was even more eager to see Michael.

     The driver dropped her at Cabaret, and promptly drove off. When she went back into the bar, Michael was gone. Once again, he had vanished from her life. Kristen sadly sighed, and she felt like crying. She would have loved to catch up on things with him.

   That night, Kristen couldn’t get to sleep, and she needed to calm herself. She went downstairs to sit in her recliner. As she closed her eyes, her mind drifted her back to Michael, and the summer days they spent on Lake Michigan…

     Michael had always worked at the local sailing beach during the school break. Through the years, Kristen would often find herself leaving the swim area to wander over to the boat shack to visit him. The two of them would then huddle together and tell each other their dreams. She always yearned for the day to come when he would realize what she truly meant to him.

     That day finally came! To celebrate her 16th birthday, the Hansen family took her on vacation with them to the Caribbean. Mr. Hansen had arranged to have a private yacht at their disposal, and one afternoon, Kristen and Michael had the vessel all to themselves.

     Michael announced, “Now is the time to teach you how to fish.”

    Kristen looked sad, “I don’t know Michael, I don’t like to kill things, not even bugs.”

     “Don’t be silly. It’s fun. Come on, I will show you.” He gave her a few instructions.

      She leaned over the railing, casting out her line while Michael kept his strong arm around her slight body, preventing the wind from carrying her off. She loved his scent of cocoa butter and musky cologne. He patiently coached her, until she hooked one.

     “Very good Stratford. I am impressed.” He gave her a smile as he removed the fish for her, and she proudly held it up, as he applauded.

     “OK, now let’s put it back in the water. I can’t stand to see it suffer. Please Michael?”

     “I don’t know if this is the sport for you.” Michael leaned way over the side, and gently released the fish. When he turned back, he softly said, “You are so sweet.”

     He then gave Kristen a long kiss. No one was there, except the ocean, and they couldn’t stop once they started. The magnetism was so strong.

     Kristen challenged him, “Michael, do you like me?”

     Michael gave her a cocky look, “Of course I like you Kristen. You’ve always been my buddy.”

     Kristen pressed on, “Not like that Michael. You know what I mean.”

     Michael stood back from her like a bee had just stung him. But, he didn’t have a chance to answer her.    

     Unexpectedly, his family arrived back early. They pulled up in a dinghy and boarded the yacht.

     His father laughed, “So, did you two have a good time together?”

     Michael just smiled at him and went below deck. Kristen told Mr. Hansen about her fish, as she lamented to herself at the loss of her opportunity to land Michael too.

     Two weeks later Michael went off to an Ivy League school out east, and she never saw him again...

     The phone rang, and Kristen was jarred from her thoughts.

     “So, can you forgive me? I know I acted a bit like a cad tonight by not saying good-bye.” William was now in full apologetic mode. He was also slurring his words, so she knew that he had been drinking.

     “I just don’t know where this is leading to William? In fact, it is like it never even got started.

     William arrogantly replied, “Well, don’t think about it too long. I don’t plan to jump through any hoops to convince you of anything. I am too busy for that teen nonsense.”

      He began to get angry,Ever since I took you to the gala, you have been acting differently. You are not the same girl that I met just a short time ago.”

     Kristen was confused. “Where was this coming from?”

     He continued, “Chicago is a very small pond. You belong with the other sharks in Palm Beach. You are always talking about it. Why don’t you go back down there and leave me alone? Even my wife knows not to act like that.”

     Kristen exclaimed, “Your wife? You’re married?”

     “Why the hell are you asking me that? You know I’m married, and you were well aware of what you were in this for.”

     “No, no I didn’t know. I would have never started up with you if I had.” Kristen felt totally deceived.

     It was a well-known fact, to at least everyone else in town, that William was quite the philanderer; he had been parading girls around for years.

     He kept his wife tucked safely away in the distant suburbs, while he stayed at his downtown “bachelor pad during the work week. And, as long as his wife had her luxury life, she did not care.


     William acted disgusted, “Oh, get real Kristen, you are so full of it. I can at least tell you honestly, that I have never gotten a divorce because it would scare the shareholders.   

     Seriously, my wife has no concerns, she knows the drill, and I have no plans to discuss this further. It is a non-issue. Understand?”

      Kristen firmly replied, “I am sorry William, but if you are married, then we are through. I really have nothing else to say to you. I enjoyed your company, and I am sorry that it has to end this way. Good-bye. She hung up the phone with no regrets and was ready to move on.

     The next day, in another part of Chicago, not far away from where Kristen lived in the suburbs, Michael Hansen had just finished a rigorous work-out. He also had trouble sleeping the night before, because he could not get Kristen out of his mind. He then took his frustration out on the fitness center’s machines.

     As he was getting dressed in the locker room, he ran into an old friend from high school. Both sat down on a short bench, as they cooled off. They began reminiscing about mutual acquaintances. His friend started to tell him all about his new girlfriend.

      Michael got excited, “Hey, I know her. She lived about a block from me. In fact, she was a good friend of Kristen’s.”

     “Who? Kristen Stratford? My brother used to date one of her sisters. They were all babes.”

     “So, does your girlfriend still talk to Kristen?”

     “Sure, in fact we just saw her last week at a party. My girlfriend hangs out with her all the time.”

     “You don’t happen to have her number, do you?

     “You know it’s funny Mike. I actually do. My girlfriend used my cell to call her and she left it in the phone.” He handed it to him, “Here take it down.”

     Michael reached for his phone and put Kristen’s number into it. He then smiled and stuck it back in his pocket.

     “Thanks for this! Now maybe Kristen and I can do a double-date with you soon. I just ran into her last night and I really want to spend more time with her. I have always liked her.”

     His friend smiled, “Glad I could re-unite you old lovebirds. It will be fun to party with you both.”

     The old friends walked out together. Michael got in his car and instantly called Kristen. He had obviously forgotten about taking a passive stance.

     The phone rang once, then went dead. Michael felt upset. He dialed it again. This time the phone went straight to voicemail. He heard a message saying that the “box was full.” He then tried a text, but it bounced right back stating that the phone was not in service.

     Michael then went on the internet to link the number to her address, but nothing came up. He just shrugged and proceeded to drive home. He was not happy with how his day was starting, and he was not satisfied that he might have to wait years before running into her again. He wanted to see her now.

He felt it even stronger than ever…



     The last Sunday of the month was extra warm and sticky, and Kristen had nothing to do. It was too unbearable to go to the lake, so she turned up the air conditioning, and plopped down on the black leather lounger. She clicked through all the cable channels.    

     “What a rotten day, nothing is even on TV.” 

     She decided to challenge the elements and drove downtown to go shopping. She parked in a city garage, and then wandered from store to store along Michigan Avenue.

     After she could not find anything that interested her, she made her way over to sit at a patio café. She ordered a Pepsi and quietly watched the tourists as they came down the sidewalk.

     As she looked to the north, she saw a familiar male figure walking her way. He was dressed in black pants and a white shirt, with a dark silk tie. It was Karl from the ball! He had noticed Kristen too, and made his way over to her. He ducked his head under the table umbrella and sat down.

     He nodded politely, “Miss Stratford, I am surprised to run into you.” 

     Kristen gazed at his handsome, dark looks, and felt shy. She replied, “Hello Karl. Are you back in town for a while?”   

     Karl partially smiled, “I do business in Chicago very frequently.” He acted uncomfortable answering her question.

      He looked at her glass, “Is there alcohol in that?”

      “No, I am not one that enjoys drinking during the day. I am out to shop. I am on a mission.”

     He looked around, “I can see you have not completed it. Where are the bags?”

     “Guess, I can’t quite get in the mood. I was going to try again later,” Kristen shrugged,  

     “I would like to take you and find you some outfits. Let’s go.” It was apparent that he was telling her that she was to come with him, it was not an offer.

     Kristen gave him a curious look as she rose from the chair and reached down for her purse. Karl went over to her and held her elbow. He left a fifty on the table and walked Kristen down the street, and straight into Prada.

     He looked around and went toward the shoe displays. Without asking her what she liked, he picked out three pairs, all with very tall and spiky heels, and handed them to the clerk.

     “Please go to the back and find us these in a Size 8.”    

     Kristen didn’t say a word, as he again took her arm as they left.

     The shopping continued as Karl took her to more stores, and now picked out her outfits. It was uncanny that he knew her sizes, and he had remarkable taste when it came to style. He even picked out matching scarves and several articles of lingerie for her.

     Whenever Kristen tried to speak, he would give her a look, and she would instantly clam up. She seemed to be maturing even more by the minute, as she learned to restrain herself. There was nothing romantic between them, but strangely, Kristen felt like he owned her.

     Both of them had handfuls of bags, with no room for more. They sat on a bus shelter bench for a brief rest.

     Karl looked over Kristen, “I think you should have short hair. We are going to take care of that now.”

     Kristen blurted out, “What are you talking about? There is no way I am cutting my hair! I barely know you. This is too weird. I am going home.”

     Karl looked at her sternly, “You know that the only place you will be going is back with me to my hotel. I want to see how you look in your new wardrobe. We will pass on the hair for now.”

     Kristen gave him an incredulous look and was ready to protest again. But, she was so fascinated by him, that she longed to see what would happen next. She was afraid to disappoint him and feared he would lose interest if she did. He was so gorgeous, and she was dying to have him.

     Karl hailed a cab, and they arrived at the Ritz-Carlton a few minutes later. He kept her in his grasp as they walked in the large doors. Karl frowned at her when she smiled at the doorman and held her arm even tighter. He ushered her across the long lobby and into the elevator.

     As they ascended to the top level, Karl moved closer to Kristen. He looked at her for a brief moment, as if he wanted to kiss her. She readied herself to embrace him.

     He then straightened his body, “You are correct. You would look awful with short hair.”

     The bell sounded their floor, and Karl picked up most of the bags, and nudged her with them, “Down this way.” Kristen walked in front of him.

     Karl had a very luxurious suite. It was one of the nicest she had ever seen. He put the parcels he was carrying in a corner.

     He then reached for hers, “Please be seated Kristen.”

     She began to set herself down on the couch.

     “No. Over there.” He pointed to a large wing chair by the window.

     She slowly walked over to it, sat down, and gave him a sullen look. He made no comment and turned his back to her as he carefully pulled all of her clothes out of the bags. Kristen knew that he had spent a small fortune on her and wondered what he was now expecting in return. She wasn’t sure whether his attitude was just an act and was hoping for a quick warm up. She was ready.

     Karl held up a strapless white leather dress and reached for a pair of silver shoes with glass heels, “Please put these on. You may choose your undergarments.” He tilted one of the larger lingerie bags toward her, as he looked away. Kristen gave him an amused look and reached in to find the sexiest ones.

     She thought, “This should make him cave in. I will just come out wearing these.”

     Karl also knew what she was thinking and stated, “Please reappear in the entire ensemble. Then we will have you try on something else and go to dinner.”

     Kristen felt like his Barbie doll and walked off into his bedroom and closed the door. She put on the outfit and fixed her hair and make-up. She looked great but felt confused. She sat down on the bed wishing that he would join her.

     Karl knocked on the door. In his no-nonsense English accent, he said, “Come out of there please. I assume you are ready?” Kristen did not answer.

     Karl came in, and sat down closely next to her, “Kristen, what do you expect from me?”

     She didn’t know how to reply. Although, he remained reserved, she could feel his heat emanating around her. She was so sure he liked her, “Why wouldn’t he show it?”

     She considered making the first move and began to lean toward him.

     He abruptly stood up, “You are dressed. Now please go back out to your chair.” He proceeded to walk back to the couch, and she sat reluctantly.

     He walked quietly up to her, reached to her neck, and put a silver dog collar around it. He then clipped on a thin black leather leash, “On your knees, please.”

     Kristen looked at him in utter disbelief, “You have got to be kidding me.”

     Karl replied “No, I am quite serious. Please walk over to the hallway.” He lifted her from the couch to the floor and added, “You will be rewarded.”

     Kristen thought that maybe he would be the prize, so she obeyed.

     As Karl held onto one end of the long leash, she began to paw her way through the plush carpet. Karl watched with no emotion. She knew she looked cute, but she felt ridiculous, and rolled over on her side with her arms and legs sticking straight up like a dog.

     “This is so silly. I am not doing this.”

     “That is fine Miss Stratford. Please return to your chair.”

     Kristen just stayed on the floor and looked at him for a short time. Then, without another word from Karl, she knew to pull herself up and return to sit down.

      “I don’t think I am into this Karl. I am sorry.”

     Karl stood up, “No need to apologize. You are just afraid to like it. It goes against what you have learned through the years.”

     He then reached into one of the bags, “Hold out your hands please.”

     Kristen raised them, and he swiftly wrapped one of her new scarves around them. She could feel the softness of the silk as he pulled it taut. She looked into his blue eyes and fell into them. She felt a longing deep within and was starting to enjoy this!

     “There. That will keep your hands off of me.”   

     Kristen wondered if this was all some lame English joke, and she decided to appease him. 

     She tritely said, “What next Master? Where’s the whip?”

     Karl was not pleased, “You don’t know who you are addressing. Until you do, it is best to keep quiet. I will mix you a drink to calm you down.”

     Kristen whined, “Karl. Can’t we do something else? I really mean it. I am just not into this.”

     He frowned, “No, but you are into me, and I know you want to please me.”

   He stirred her to her greater depths and she was dying to make love with him. She softly asked, “How can I do that?”

     He answered, “By listening to me and not talking.”

     She retorted, “I am not a child.”

     Karl laughed “You know that you are, and you will be treated like one.”

   He then looked aggravated and said, “Kristen, you are boring me. Time for you to go. There will be no dinner.”

     Kristen pleaded, “Oh please Karl, I don’t want to go. I want to stay here with you!”

     He untied her hands and pointed to the door, “Please enjoy the items I bought you.”

   It was difficult for her to gather up all the bags, but she managed. She started to walk out the door and began telling him her phone number, “Karl, please write it down, I want you to call me.”

     Karl replied, “There is no need to be begging me. I am not interested in having it. This meeting is over. I have a limousine out front to return you to where we met.”

     Kristen kept repeating the number, until he finally shut the door loudly behind her.  

     When morning came, Kristen was a bit depressed because she knew she probably blew her chances with him. Now, she felt like something precious had been yanked away from her. She figured that Karl was serious when he said that he didn’t care if he had her number. He probably would never call. What was worse, she had wasted her time trying to give him her home phone, and not her cell number.

     For the entire week and into the next one, whenever she went out, she would always wonder if he had called her. She continuously dialed her answering machine, but to no avail.    

     Kristen knew she wasn’t acting like herself. Normally she never let men affect her this way. She usually knew to maintain some distance to ensure that she would never get hurt.

     It was Wednesday night. And, Kristen had a big day of lunch with the girls, and shopping ahead of her, so she went to sleep at 10:30 PM. An hour later, the phone clanged against the vase next to her.

     “Oh, God, let me sleep.” She groaned, rolling away from the direction of the ring, and back-handed the phone, knocking it off the nightstand. Silence.

     The phone rang again. Kristen then remembered, “Karl! Maybe it’s him.” Frantic, she struggled to reach down to pull the phone back off the floor. She fell off the bed scraping her ankle against the frame and made a lot of noise.

     “Oww!” she yelped. She then steadied the phone, “Hello,” she said calmly.

     A low voice inquired, “What are you doing?”

     “Oh, nothing much.” Kristen replied, rubbing on her ankle and trying to straighten out her body, which now seemed locked in a pretzel.

     “What was all that commotion?” Karl sounded normal, and then quickly snapped back into his stern voice.

     “Did you expect me to call?”

     “I wasn’t sure if you would, and it didn’t really matter anyway.” Kristen replied.

     He was aggravated by her answer, and continued, “I have no time for game players that are not truthful. I am going to hang up.”  

     Kristen begged, “No, no, I was hoping you would call. Please talk to me.”

   Karl smugly said, “Very well, I assumed you would be glad.” He seemed pleased.

     “God, what arrogance. She loved it!”

     “I have been very busy.” Then he paused, “Excuse me. I need to call you back.”

     Now Kristen was feeling very nervous. She started propping herself up higher on her pillows and smoothing out her hair. She turned on her small lamp, and pulled the phone off of the table, and onto her lap.

     “Ring already!” she demanded. The phone just sat there. She waited another eight minutes without making a move. Now, she was just feeling stupid. She got out of bed pulling the phone cord behind her and stretching it out into the hallway as far as it would go. She then sat down on the stairs with the phone between her legs.

     She groaned, “Oh, no, not again! He’s not going to call. I can’t take this.”

   Just as she was about to pout, he called back. She scooped up the phone trying to remain cool and sophisticated.

     Karl said, “I think we should meet again. Do you have a fax at home?”

     “Yes, same number, but I will have to hang up.” He clicked off.

   The fax began to ring. Slowly a page emerged. She curiously watched as it came out. It was a grainy textured photo, very dark, and hard to make out. She tilted her head. It looked like a woman on a bed, with tubes coming out of her that were attached to a machine. A man in a mask was standing over her. More pictures followed, and they were almost completely obscured by blackness.

     Her cell phone now rang. Kristen was puzzled that he knew that number.

     “How do you like them?” he asked.

     “I like,” Kristen lied.  

   Karl began to speak about bondage and his perception of it, and Kristen listened intently. After an hour, she was more than curious, and told him she wanted to learn more. They spoke late into the night.

     Before they hung up, Karl asked, “Kristen. Are you planning on going to Palm Beach any time soon?”

     “Why do you ask?”

     “Oh, it's nothing, I was just wondering. I very much enjoyed talking to you. I am going to let you go now. Good night.”

     Kristen was now sure that she had Karl all lined up. But the problem was, he never set a date, or said when she would hear from him. She thought about the bondage scene again and realized there were people out there that followed BDSM like it was a religion. Obviously, some of them were warped to begin with. She figured Karl just did it for kicks, but she was not sure, and it scared her. Maybe he had a strict upbringing or a scary English governess.

     For herself, Kristen was only thinking about it as something different to do, to experiment with, and to test her limits. She felt a need to experience it, before she was ready to go back to how mundane things could be.

     She sensed an element of true danger to it, and she wanted to meet the real players. She knew that Karl was perfect for what she was looking for. She wanted in!


     She was also completely amazed that she was babbling like this. What the heck was going on? This was not her doing her own thinking…

     The next day, Kristen was anxious to start this new adventure, and she was very annoyed that Karl had chosen not to call her back again. She wasn’t sure if he was in New York, or Chicago.

     She thought about him for another week, and then one late morning, she felt extra impatient, and decided to go through her caller I.D. logs. Karl had blocked the first call that he had made to her home phone that night. But he didn’t when he re-dialed, and she easily spotted the New York City prefix.

     She felt very unnerved as she entered the number into her cell phone. It rang for a while and went to a generic voicemail. She lost her courage and did not leave a message.     

     She felt like she had made a big mistake trying to call him and went downstairs to make some lunch. After twenty minutes, she decided she was really craving to talk to him, so she tried it again.

   The phone did not even ring, and it was answered.

     Kristen said, “Is this you?”

     His strong voice replied, “You know it is. Why are you calling me?”

     She meekly spoke, “I don’t know why. I just feel like I should.”

     He said indifferently, “You know why, but you just don’t understand it yet. You should really know that it is not for you.” Kristen completely understood what he meant.

     “I know I should not see you again, but I am still stuck in town, and this place is not as exciting as New York, so I am bored. Some friends of mine are having a gathering tonight in the West Loop. Give me your e-mail. You need a pass to get in.” She relayed it to him and he hung up.

     Kristen looked at the message when it came in. Karl had typed the address, and when she clicked on the attachment, all it showed was a black square. She thought that was funny and wondered what type of event this was going to be.

     The address was for an art studio, and she was instructed to go in the back door at midnight. It felt like Halloween!

     She printed out the page and cut along the black square. She started thinking about asking one of her girlfriends to come, but she was afraid to call Karl again for permission. She feared that it would make him mad, and she would be uninvited.

    She looked in her closet for an outfit that would really fit in with the bondage scene and found one of her short skirts that she used to wear in her punkier teen days. It was black and lined with little strips of metal. She then threw on a black leather teddy, stilettos, and left to meet him.

     It was a pretty creepy section of town that he directed her to. The streetlights were not working on that block, and she looked up and down for the art gallery. She just saw houses. She could barely read the addresses on any of them. Most of them were abandoned and boarded up. 

    She saw lights on at one house, and thought it was the right one. There were no numbers on it, and she knocked. No one answered. She waited for a while, and then assumed they were partying and could not hear her. She turned the doorknob and walked in.

     The hall smelled like someone had been heavily cooking with spices. She walked around and saw beat up furniture in the living room, and toys on the floor.

     “Oops, I don’t think this is right!” She heard a commotion upstairs and rushed out. 

    She ran fast down the block. She couldn’t believe that she walked into someone’s house. She leaned over and tried to catch her breath.

     “What are you doing?” She heard Karl’s voice behind her. He was standing by the rear of another house. He blended into the shadows wearing a dark suit and black shirt with no tie. 

     She went over to him and started to explain. He just looked at her, and she knew to stop talking. He didn’t say another word. She produced her black square, and he didn’t even look. He walked. She followed.

   They went into the backyard and he opened a screen door. She peered in. It looked like steps leading to a basement. He had her walk in front of him now.

     Kristen tried to make it down the narrow wood stairs in her stilettos without stumbling. At the bottom, there was a light bulb in the ceiling that had black paint sprayed on the end of it, and it was difficult to see. She didn’t hear anyone making party noises and was afraid that she was alone with him.

     She didn’t know why, but Kristen began to worry that she didn’t even know his last name and had never checked him out on the internet. She only was aware that he was a prominent businessman. Even though William knew him, if Karl wanted to get freaky and hurt her, this was the perfect place for it.

     They went through a couple of doors and walked into a cold cement room that was painted black. In the corner, were iron poles that came out of the walls which had handcuffs hanging down. There was a small platform only a few inches off the ground.

 “Kind of seems like first date hell,” Karl said deadpan.

     Kristen’s throat grew tight and she was very frightened. She knew she had really made a big mistake, and now it was all over for her. It was too dark to see the expression on his face. She thought she should try to kick him and escape, but he was exceptionally strong, and she was absolutely paralyzed with fear.

     He walked slowly over to a wooden table and lit up a large candle. Kristen thought she saw three long curved knives laying on it. He pulled a black scarf from his coat pocket, turned her around suddenly, and tied it over her eyes.

     Kristen thought she was going to drop right down on the floor, every muscle in her body grew weak, and she slumped. He held her up around her waist and brought her to the structure.

     “No please,” she weakly cried out.

     “You will need to remain completely quiet. Raise your feet.” She lifted them one at a time and he removed her spiky heels.

     Kristen submissively let him raise her arms and place each hand into a cuff. She could feel the coldness of the metal against her veins. She could feel him place mittens on her hands that didn’t have thumbs.

     “Open your mouth.” He inserted a very small ball that tasted like dirty rubber and strapped it around her head. She could hear him step back from her and then she felt the platform move away from her feet. Her toes still touched the floor, but she was in a stretched position and uncomfortable. She could hear his shoes as he walked out and then the door closed. 

     He left her hanging for what was probably an hour.  

     “Karl?” She muttered with the ball in place. It was getting really cold in there, and she could feel her feet start to numb. She thought maybe she could work to loosen the poles with her weight and pull them out of the wall.

     She tried several times to reach up, and then bounce down. She felt the pole bend slightly, but it was still secured tightly, and made a loud clanging noise. 

     She heard heavy footsteps coming down the stairs, and she stopped her movement. The door opened, and she could hear more than one person walk in. She realized that maybe there were three of them, as she heard folding chairs being opened and placed in front of her. Kristen was terrified. She tried making noises with the ball in her mouth. She was met by only silence. 

     One of the chairs squeaked as it pushed back. She could hear footsteps, and then a sound that she thought was one of those knives being lifted off the table. She could sense someone was coming up to her, and she could feel the warm breath close against her face.

     “Uhh, Uhh,” Kristen tried to make grunting noises as she struggled and pushed back her body away from the stranger. She could smell cologne and she knew it was a man.

     “Karl, Karl?” she tried to get the words out.

     The ball went deeper into her mouth, and she was gagging on her own saliva. She could feel the sharp point of the knife being pushed slightly into her throat. It was then run down the length of her chest, barely touching it. 

 She started making choking noises, and she could feel hands on her face. The ball was then unstrapped, and a wad of cloth replaced it before she could scream out. It smelled like medicine and tasted like lemons.

     She could now hear another figure coming toward her. She felt the dull side of a blade being brought up along the inside of her leg and under her skirt. Kristen braced herself in pure terror. Then it stopped.

     The chairs were now being folded up and pulled along the floor. She could hear them being stacked against the wall. The door closed and all of them went back upstairs, and into a room above her. She was alone for several minutes.

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