London, United Kingdom
Zain Bassong didn’t get to his station in life by giving in to whims.
He excelled as an academic because he prepared, researched, analysed, wrote papers and never stopped exploring and expanding his knowledge. As a lawyer, he was personable, persuasive and persistent. He had empathy for others and could read people.
He was principled—didn’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or take drugs. He obeyed the laws and paid his taxes. He loved his family and cared for his community.
Still, he had desires that some would judge as depraved and immoral. Yearnings that had become complicated since the start of this school year. Since a certain young lady became his student.
He killed the engine of his car once he’d pulled into a parking spot. He climbed out and strode the fifty or so yards out of the underground lot, down a short street to the nondescript grey metal door with the embossed Bar Atlantic logo.
A uniformed doorman greeted him as he tapped his membership card on the electronic scanner. As a VIP, he could visit the establishment and avoid the crowds at the main entrance while ensuring his relative anonymity.
Blue lights gave the dark-hued walls of the foyer an electric look while the thumping baseline from the House music coming from the ground floor vibrated beneath the soles of his black Italian brogues.
He took the stairs to the upper level where another hefty uniformed guard let him into the VIP lounge with a smile and a nod. As soon as the door shut behind him, it seemed he had stepped into a different place.
R-n-B music played low from the speakers, Missy Elliot rapping in her latest release Ching-A-Ling. The coloured lighting continued in here but didn’t flicker like downstairs, adding to the ambience. A bar counter with a colourful display of bottles, glass and shelving stood at one end while a small dance floor occupied the other end. In the middle, there were sofas for comfort and booths for privacy, allowing for guests to sit and chat.
A glass wall gave a view of the crowded nightclub below.
Zain made an effort not to look at the glass wall as he made his way across the hard grey floor.
It had been about four weeks since he was last in here. Four weeks since he’d discovered that Ruby Bagumi worked here after he’d spied her through the glass wall.
In class, he could maintain the professional distance, although seeing her during the International Law and Order seminars had become the main feature of his work week.
Ruby was smart and beautiful and easily one of the most tuned-in students he’d taught. She asked probing questions that challenged his world view as well as gave well-reasoned answers that showed she prepared for each class as much as any student should.
Unlike some other students who sought one-on-one attention from him after the lectures, she had never requested alone time with him.
And he had never sought her out.
Until that night a month ago when he’d seen her through the two-way glass of the VIP lounge as he watched the revellers below. She had been in the staff uniform, serving drinks to the partygoers. He’d had to ask the bar manager what time her shift would end. Afterwards, he’d waited in his car hoping he would catch her.
Luckily for him, the great British weather had worked in his favour, and she’d had little choice but to get in his car when he’d offered to drive her home.
Sitting in that car, he’d pictured himself taking her wet clothes off and warming her up with his body heat.
Such were inappropriate thoughts he shouldn’t entertain, and he had kept his hands to himself even after she’d told him he was ‘young and sexy and attractive’ or when she’d invited him into her home for coffee. The invitation to coffee seemed to be an invitation to more, especially at that hour of the night. Still, some lines shouldn’t be crossed.
Ms Bagumi was a temptation he had to avoid.
Bar Atlantic had provided a refuge, a diversion from his true desires, the fulfilment of pleasure.
Before he’d discovered her employment as a waitress here, he’d been able to choose other willing sexual partners as her replacement. Perverse as that might seem, the fantasy had worked.
However, last few weekends, he hadn’t been able to come back here knowing she would only be metres away and within reach. Knowing he could invite her to his table. Knowing they could chat. Knowing her company would set fire to his veins.
But he couldn’t keep away forever.
He wasn’t a saint.
And he didn’t want to risk a situation where he sought her out beyond the classroom like he’d done the last time.
Now, he had to refocus on finding the person who would assuage his desires for the night.
He chose a leather armchair in a dark corner that had another chair adjacent that could come in handy if he decided he wanted company. For now, it was enough to browse.
Guests already made use of the facilities, the right mix of men and women.
Executives, professional athletes, and celebrities—people who needed the discretion and exclusivity but still wanted to enjoy the company of someone who shares the same tastes as they did for the night without strings attached.
A waitress approached with a smile and a cheerful voice. “Good evening, sir. Can I get you anything?”
“Hello, Amara—” He read her name tag pinned to the black vest. “Please get me a bottled coke and no ice in the glass.”
He was always specific about what he wanted. Otherwise, they assumed he wanted ice and or the drink from the tap.
“Of course.” She smiled as she scribbled on her notepad and hurried away.
He leaned back into his seat as a dark-skinned woman in a fitted plum sleeveless dress and stilettos walked over to him.
“Hello, Zain,” she said with a hint of a French accent.
“Kari, how are you?” he stood and kissed her on the cheeks.
“I’m good. May I join you?” Karidja, or Kari for short, Dembélé had been born in France to Senegalese parents. She worked for an Investment Bank in the City of London.
They’d met over a year ago when the club newly opened and had hit it off. They had overlapping tastes, so sometimes hooked up when they were in the venue at the same time.
Tonight he wasn’t in the mood to explain his requirements to a newbie so Kari would fit the bill.
“Sure. Take a seat.” He waved at the empty seat. “Would you like a drink?”
As a rule, he wouldn’t interact with a woman who was drunk or high. Strange, considering he sat in a nightclub where many people equated alcohol and drugs to fun times.
He had enough self-discipline to avoid substances that would cloud his judgement. And as a lawyer, what could seem like consent in a drunken state could be something different when one was clear-headed.
Ms Dembélé had only just arrived, and she appeared sober. But he wouldn’t take it any further if she ordered an alcoholic drink, a clear indication she only wanted to chat.
“Yes, please.” She sat in the armchair next to him.
He raised his hand to attract attention and froze.
A waitress carried a silver tray of drinks towards him.
Not Amara, the one who had taken his order.
This one with the black skirt that hugged her wide hips, black vest and a white shirt covering ample breasts, and brunette Afro hair pinned back in a bunch he would recognise anywhere. If he had any doubts, the name written on her tag confirmed his suspicion.
“Good evening, sir. Your drink.” Ruby Bagumi said in a calm voice as she placed the bottle of coke on the table along with the empty glass.
A flush of adrenaline tingled through his body at her proximity.
She stood close enough to touch, close enough to caress.
He hadn’t planned on seeing her tonight. Certainly not up here. Hadn’t she said that she only worked downstairs? Having her here brought complications. He was trying to forget about her, damn it. Why did she have to invade this sanctuary as well?
He took in a deep breath, and her scent invaded his nostrils.
Damn. She smelled of flowers and musk.
His fingers itched to reach out and tug her closer so he could bury himself in her seductive scent. Instead, he tightened his grip on the arm of his chair.
“Would that be all?” she asked, her chin tilted and jaw tight, her tone lacked the humility or cheerfulness displayed by other staff. Poised like a queen, she stared at a point above his head as if they were inconsequential citizens in her realm.
He’d seen similar responses from her in school. Whenever one of the other students tried to treat her with disdain in class, the fearless lioness would appear and take him down a peg or two.
Not understanding the reason for Ruby’s current disposition, he chose to ignore it. Moreover, he couldn’t ask her directly. He couldn’t show any familiarity with her.
He glanced at Kari and nodded, giving permission for the woman to order what she wanted.
“I’ll have the cola drink as well but with ice,” Kari said.
“Yes, madam.” Ruby turned and walked away.
His gaze followed her swaying hips across the lounge.
“That waitress has an attitude,” Kari’s harsh voice drew his attention.
“She’s probably new,” he said in Ruby’s defence.
The waitress had snubbed Kari by not greeting her, which was rude and not the kind of behaviour to be displayed in the venue unless she was begging to be disciplined.
Unbidden an image of Ruby spread across his lap filled his mind.
His fingers tingled, and he curled them into balls.
He wasn’t going there.
She was out of bounds. Forbidden. Illicit. Prohibited.
How many more synonyms did he need to remind him of the futility of his desires?
“She won’t last long here if she continued with the insolent behaviour,” Kari sniped. “I have the mind to report her.”
His chest burned, and his stomach hardened.
The rules of the members’ lounge were different.
If Kari complained, Ruby would be punished. By someone else.
His protective instincts rolled with the flash of jealousy.
He would break his rules first before he’d let anyone else in this lounge touch her.
Damn it. She shouldn’t be up here.
“No, Kari. Don’t,” he ordered, turning to meet her gaze. “I’ll handle the waitress.”
“Sure.” She nodded.
Eager to take his mind away from the student, he poured some coke into the glass and lifted it. “So tell me. How are things going with you?”
She sighed. “Not so good. The City is crazy at the moment with all the banks collapsing. It’s as if every new day brings more bad news in the financial markets. So I really need to not think about work tonight.”
“Was there any specific things you were interested in?”
She was always good at laying out her needs, which made his job so much easier. This wasn’t the night for self-discovery.
“I want to feel out of control and to be made to submit. I want to be dominated and used hard. But most of all, I want to get out of my head.”
As he listened to her, lay out what she needed, his mind drifted to the waitress. How would Ruby feel about losing control, about being dominated by him?
“Does that work for you?” Kari reached out and stroked his arm.
He didn’t have time to respond before Ruby returned with Kari’s drink and dumped it on the table with a thud.
The final straw.
He jaw tightened. “Ruby, apologise to Ms Karidja immediately, or I’ll be forced to take you across my knees and spank you arse here and now.”
The leader in him couldn’t resist the call to duty, to correct an errant behaviour, especially in his ... student. She was his student. Full stop. He wouldn’t tolerate a bad attitude at the university. He wouldn’t accept it here.
Ruby was intelligent enough to understand and be cautious, considering their location.
Her eyes widened, and her mouth fell open. She took a step back.
“What? You can’t do that?” she said in a shaky, halting voice.
“Did you read and sign the regulations for the members’ lounge before you began working here?” he asked in the same stern voice he used in class.
Her throat bobbed as she swallowed. She shifted from one foot to the other. “Yes, I did.”
If they were in the lecture hall, he’d make her read aloud from the Student’s Code of Conduct as a reminder.
“What is rule number three?” he asked, hoping for her sake she remembered. Otherwise, he’d make her get a copy of the house regulations and read them out.
Her forehead creased. “Wait-staff will be courteous at all times.”
It seemed she’d memorised the list.
His chest swelled with pride as if she genuinely was his good girl.
“And what is rule number five?” he probed.
“Members can administer appropriate punishment to unruly wait-staff in the form of, and no more than ten hard spanks to the bottom.”
“Good. So you know naughty girls get punished. A spanking or an apology, which would it be, Ruby?” He rolled her name around his tongue, relishing the promise encased in the caution.
He didn’t create the house regulations. Still, he’d enforce them where she was concerned.
She swallowed again and glanced around the room as if expecting someone to come to her rescue.
No one would interfere unless she protested. Even then, she’d land into deeper water with her boss if Kari complained about her conduct.
With the round silver tray clutched to her chest as if it would protect her, she lowered her gaze to the floor and said. “I’m sorry, madam. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
She’d done the right thing. He should be relieved.
Still, as much as he shouldn’t touch her, he could not help the disappointment tightening his chest. He kept his hard gaze on her for a few more seconds before turning to the woman beside him, “Kari?”
“I accept your apology. But you better be on your best fucking—”
“Language,” he cut her off in warning.
“I’m sorry,” Kari muttered as she picked up her drink.
He nodded and turned back to Ruby. “That will be all.”
“Thank you, sir.” She said and scurried away.
If she had any sense, she would go back to working in the dance club and never come back to the VIP lounge.
He picked up his drink and downed it in one gulp, hoping to chase away the heat on his skin at the image playing over and over in his mind.
Of Ruby Bagumi bent over his lap. His to play. His to love.