"I'm not going in there."
"Oh, hell yes, you are."
"I agreed to join you for a drink to toast your freakishly fast, impending nuptials, not to a night of God knows what in a place like this!" Vivian waved her arm in the general direction of the establishment they were now standing in front of. "Have you lost your mind, Carol?"
"Lighten up, Viv, it's an adult club. A very exclusive one I might add, not Sodom, or Gomorra for that matter, and you've been out of touch for almost forever, plenty of time for me to fall hopelessly in love with the man of my dreams."
"Does said dream man know where you are tonight?"
"Most definitely, he's the owner of Sensations."
Vivian's mouth dropped open in shock, and, for a moment, she thought she might pass out as she stared at her friend of almost twenty years. "I've been gone for barely six weeks, not six years! Last night, you announced to me you were getting married, and offered almost no details, which, I'm sorry, I'm still having a big problem dealing with. And now this, a strip club owner? Really?" Viv raked a hand through her wild, red curls. "Honey, let's go back to my place, we can talk this out. I'm thrilled you've met a man who apparently rings your bells, but marriage, so soon? If it's for real, what's the rush? Have you truly thought through all of the potential ramifications?" Vivian's mind raced. She loved Carol with all her heart, wished her every happiness, but obviously she wasn't thinking straight.
"I promise we'll chat once we get inside, as long as you promise not to be Debby Downer. Tonight, we're going to celebrate." Carol gave her a big hug before linking her arm through Viv's. "Come on, I can't wait for you to meet Colin."
Vivian scanned the crowd lined up at the door. "I wish you'd been a bit more specific as to the dress code." Most of the ladies, Carol included, were wearing cocktail dresses. There were lots of sparkles, stilettos, and cleavage. The men were in everything from business casual to tuxedos. "I stick out like a sore thumb."
"You look gorgeous as usual."
Vivian was surprised when Carol guided her past the people who waited, and walked straight to the door. Standing there with tree-trunk-sized arms crossed over his massive chest was the biggest, scariest looking man she'd ever seen. He had to be at least six five. All exposed arm and neck skin was covered with tattoos. He was bald, and multiple gold hoops decorated both ears. Carol stood on her tip toes and kissed his chin.
"Hey, Len, how's it hangin'?"
"Large and to the left, Miss Carol," he replied with a grin, displaying a gold front tooth.
"Good to know, big guy. This is Vivian Walcourt. She's on the list."
"Pleased to meet you, ma'am." She tried not to squirm as he studied her with obvious curiosity. "Enjoy your evening, ladies." He unhooked the velvet rope and motioned them inside.
Having never been to an adult club, Vivian had no point of reference, but the tastefully elegant decor, tables set with the finest china, and sultry jazz music wafting through the room sure as hell weren't what she expected. Where were the stripper poles, the cat walk? As they moved through the crowd, at least ten people greeted Carol by name. The bartender already had a drink ready for her when they walked up.
"How many times have you been here, for God's sake?"
"Almost every day since Colin hired me."
"W-what?" Vivian sputtered.
"Hold that thought for a sec, Viv. Thanks, Dan," Carol said to the bartender as she accepted the glass he offered. "Okay, Viv, pick your poison. They have a fantastic wine selection, or do you need something stronger?"
"Um, I'll be designated driver, so how about just a diet soda?"
"Vodka and tonic it is then, Dan, oh and a big wedge of lime, too." Dan nodded.
"Carol, my head is spinning enough. I don't think I need alcohol."
"No worries, Colin will make sure we both get home safe and sound." Viv opened her mouth to issue another stunned "what", then closed it when Carol laughed and patted her arm. "Hang in there, I'll explain once we're settled."
"Here you go, beautiful," Dan said as he handed Vivian her cocktail.
"Thank you," she replied with a shy smile.
"Colin's still behind closed doors, Carol, but I'll let him know you're here."
"Thanks, and tell him no hurry. We're early, and have lots of catching up to do."
Vivian followed her to a large round table on the far side of the room. Instead of having chairs, it was the only one with a semi-circle booth. As she slid onto the comfy leather seat, she noticed the curtained area slightly to her left. A stage, maybe? If so, Vivian was not at all certain she wanted to be sitting this close. She took a healthy swig of her beverage.
"Okay, I'm listening."
"Colin contacted me through my website. He and his partner are opening two more clubs and needed an interior designer. We met, he loved my work, hired me on the spot, made love to me on that very same spot, and we've been inseparable ever since. Wedding is next Saturday at two. Of course, you're my maid of honor. Can you take another few days off? We need to power shop for dresses."
"That's it? Interview, sex, wedding, shopping; end of story? I get the fact that you're way more of a free spirit than I am, Carol, but this seems pretty out there, even for you!"
"I know it sounds crazy, Viv, and nice look of horror by the way, but I'm happier than I've ever been. I never realized where I went wrong in the relationship department until I met Colin. He's exactly the type of man I need. He's shown me things about myself I had no idea I was missing, or wanted."
"Wow, you're being uncharacteristically vague. I want to hear about him, who is he, how is he different from other guys? At the risk of opening the flood gates of too much info, talk to me, Carol." Her ten-thousand-watt smile spoke volumes to Viv before she opened her mouth.
"Okay, let's do stats first. He's four years older than me, six feet something tall, weight proportionate to height."
"You are such a smart ass," Viv laughed, shaking her head.
"He's never been married, has no kids, lives in a mansion, drives a killer convertible, is college educated, and loves to garden." Carol made a production of using her fingers to count her points. "He's attentive, considerate, passionate, and, oh yeah, intense, and demanding in the most delicious ways imaginable. The first time he whipped out his..." Carol held up her hand and waved it in front of her friend.
"Filter, please! Intimate details are so not necessary, but are you sure what's going on between you two isn't, well, revolving around the physical? It's been quite a while since you dated."
"Not as long as it has been for you, sister," Carol reminded her with a smirk. "And yes, our relationship is based on far more than sex, although it is really, really hot sex." Vivian rolled her eyes and groaned at Carol's suggestive leer. "I have no doubt that he is the one I'll spend the rest of my life with. Won't you please try to withhold judgment until you get to know him?"
Vivian's heart melted at her friend's pleading tone. She took a good look at her. Something was definitely different. There was a confidence and a glow about her that she'd never had. "Of course I can, honey," she said.