"You've lost your mind!" Dahlia Dickerson exclaimed, reading over the application Macie signed.
"Did you fail to read the part about the one hundred thousand dollars?" Macie asked, entering her walk-in closet and wondering if the reason for her current financial predicament was due in part to her wardrobe indulgences.
"I saw the payment agreement, but did you pay attention to the fine print? All of it?"
No, that's precisely why she'd invited Dahlia over in the first place. Dahlia would ponder every word typed out in black and white, especially after she spotted Macie's name scribbled across the signature line.
Macie kept right on packing, tossing handfuls of clothing in three large suitcases. "Did you have a chance to look over the camp brochure yet?"
"Yes," Dahlia grumbled, unimpressed. "Macie, I've gotta be honest here. There isn't anything in that entire packet to suggest this is a legitimate operation."
"You mean other than the fact they've been in business for over fifty years?"
"How come no one from Johnson City has ever heard of this place?"
"And who have you asked exactly?" Macie fired right back.
"While you showered, I called around--a few radio stations, a couple of newspapers. No one has heard of The Adult Experience. Asheville is right over the mountain. It's not like you're traveling half-way across the world."
"They look legit to me," Macie said, holding two blouses high in the air while waiting for an opinion. "What do you think? Pink or royal blue?"
Dahlia bowed her head and studied Macie's application. "Blue," she replied, practically noncommittal. A beat later, she added, "I'm not sure why you're doing this."
"Look, the last thing I want to do is return to Carthage to live with my mom and her new husband. If I don't come up with some serious cash soon, my ass will have pavement scratches. Creditors will line up and drag me off to debtor's prison. In fact, without this opportunity, I'm flat broke in two to three months."
"So why not throw yourself to the wolves and hope they pay you after they pass you around the pack? Right, Macie, that's exactly the kind of thing all rational women do."
"If that's how you see it," Macie retorted, picking up the digital four-color camp brochure. She thumbed through the pages until she located the staff photographs and biographies. "Here, take a look at this. If these guys are wolves, I can't wait to meet the alpha."
"Camp owners Klark Lucard, Zander Dante, and Kemper Keetes welcome you to the experience of a lifetime," Dahlia read.
"The names alone suggest mystery and intrigue, right?"
"They sound phony if you ask me," Dahlia replied, frowning.
"Did you pay attention to the bios or are you still drooling over the pictures?" Macie asked, waggling her brows.
"You don't think these biographies are a little peculiar?"
"How?" Macie asked, starting to think Dahlia sounded jealous.
"Well for starters, it says here 'Klark Lucard has hot chocolate eyes. Proud of his multi-cultural background, Klark is an active member of Native Americans Opposing Casino Gambling on Reservations. He's also a founding member of African Americans in Politics. He's business-minded, successful, and has years of experience in training and management. Klark believes in multiple partner relationships and seeks like-minded individuals.'"
"He's also sexy as all hell. Whew! I could lock a few of those long, dark curls around this little finger of mine." Macie indicated her pinkie. "Go on. Remind me of what else I have to look forward to, girlfriend."
Dahlia arched a brow. "Macie, oh my God. Now, I know you barely skimmed over this stuff. You were too busy wiping the slobber off your chin. Listen to this, 'Zander Dante is a committed Dom in practice. He has a gentle approach with his submissive partners, and those he's trained in the past refer to him as the ultimate pleasure trainer. Zander has strawberry-blond hair and emerald eyes. He's six feet tall and weighs two hundred and twenty pounds' which means, by the way, he could crush you."
"Duly noted," Macie said, agitated. "Which shoes?" She held up a pair of open-toe sandals and white flats.
"Sandals," Dahlia replied, turning another page. "And let's read about Kemper. Maybe he's not as vain as the last one." She studied the page and then gave her assessment. "He's the catch of the three if you ask me. He looks like a pretty boy. Long blond hair, baby-blues, and girl, take a look at this body." She held up the brochure.
"I'm telling you. If you don't go with me, you're missing out."
"I said he's the catch of the three, but I didn't say I wanted to be on the moist end of his hook, which is what I'm afraid may happen to you." Dahlia rolled off the bed. "Hon, somebody has to stay behind in order to file a missing person's report."
"I'm not kidding."
"Goodness," Macie said, zipping her luggage. "Can't you be happy for me? When I come back, I'll have a hundred grand in my pocket, not to mention all sorts of knowledge."
"Yeah," Dahlia drawled. "It's the education you'll acquire that I'm worried about. The literature mentions training, self-improvement, awareness, learning to trust, and so forth, but it never really states what this camp is about. I used to frequent summer camps. Where's the list of recreational activities, hmm?"
Macie snickered. With men like those pictured in the prospect materials, she could only imagine the kind of play time a woman found at The Adult Experience.
"Why are you so skeptical? Didn't you pay attention to the camp photographs? They have a lake, so I'm sure they offer water sports. There's a barn on the property with an adjoining indoor arena; maybe I'll come back with equestrian skills. I saw a few classrooms, a couple of art studios, one of which had a large stage...so who knows? They may even offer classes in theater. If you ask me, the pictures depict a lakefront farm converted into a scenic summer camp."
"Looks can be deceiving."
"Where the camp owners are concerned? I sure hope not." Macie fired back, checking out her image in the full length mirror. She tilted her head to the side and tugged at her waist-length blouse, carefully aligning the hem below the belt loops of her white shorts.
"Macie, I'm concerned," Dahlia admitted, starting for the door. "I'm keeping this information. If you're not back here in a couple of months, as stated in this contract, those hunks claiming to run a legit camp will deal with me and the authorities."
"I wouldn't expect anything else."
"I love you, girl," Dahlia said, giving her a tight hug. "Knock 'em dead."