CHAPTER ONE - GETTING IN
“Pete, you should be asleep. It’s already eleven and a school night,” Alex Bryant said to his little brother on his cell phone. He plugged one of his fingers in his open ear to try and block out the thumping bass drifting out of Sanctuary, the hottest new club on the East Coast. It was rather a lost cause, because the sound thudded up through the soles of his boots and vibrated up his bones into this head. He wondered how loud it would be inside considering he and Darin were still in line on the walk up to the club’s front doors.
“I can hardly hear you, Alex. The music’s so loud and you’re talking so soft,” his twelve-year old brother whined.
Alex grimaced. The front doors kept swinging open and blasting him with sound. He was also trying to make the call on the down low. How cool would he seem to his new friend Darin Lane if he was calling to check on his little brother from Sanctuary of all places? But with their father dead and their mother more interested in her next boyfriend, he and Peter had only each other to count on.
“Sorry, I don’t think you’ll hear me better if I shout.” He did raise his voice a little while he moved towards the edge of the walk, nearly onto the verdant green grass that lined the path. He hesitated to step onto it, glancing around for don’t walk on grass signs. He shook his head. Sanctuary was known for being no holds barred. Who the hell would care if he stepped on the grass? Feeling bold, he put one booted foot down on it.
“Hey, don’t go too far!” Darin hissed. “You’ll lose your spot and we need you and your blond hotness to get in.”
Alex cupped his hand over the phone’s mouthpiece. “Blond hotness?”
“It’s what you are -- or have -- or whatever. Hey, use what you got! That’s what I always say.” Darin with his flaming red hair and freckled face was definitely not the type that seemed to catch the bouncers’ eyes even though he was wearing an outfit that looked painted onto his lean body.
Alex shook his head and waved him off. He wasn’t going far. Just a step or two away. He wanted to make sure that everything was okay with Peter. He’d had this bad feeling all night. He couldn’t isolate what it was yet it wouldn’t go away.
“Are Mom and Greg back yet from the party?” he asked.
“Nah, not yet,” Peter didn’t sound terrible enthused about their returning.
Not that Alex could blame him. Greg was their new stepfather. Stepfather number three to be exact. He was a police officer in the small city of Notting that they’d moved to just a month ago, right before Alex’s senior year of high school. Greg had small, beady black eyes and a personality to match. He was warm only to Peter yet there was something off in his behavior that Alex couldn’t quite figure out. Maybe it was the way he drank and never seemed drunk. And how after he drank he would watch Peter with a slight smile on his lips that he never ever turned on their mother.
“Katie told me that they wouldn’t be back until after midnight,” Peter added.
Katie was the proverbial girl next door who had taken to babysitting his little brother when Alex couldn’t. She was fifteen, a member of the chess club, and he swore that she had a baby sitter’s handbook.
“Speaking of Katie, I’m surprised that she doesn’t have you in bed already with a plate of warm cookies and a glass of cold milk,” Alex muttered.
“She does actually. Chocolate chip. I’m talking to you from under the covers and trying not to smear chocolate everywhere. Oh, and everybody still believes that you’re spending the night studying at Darin’s so that’s okay then,” Peter laughed.
“Good.” Alex scrubbed one hand through his short blond hair.
“Is Sanctuary really that cool?” Peter asked.
Alex glanced around him. Hard to believe this club was set up just one town over from theirs instead of New York or LA. But it didn’t seem to matter that it was situated in staid and strange Arkham. Arkham was a city that looked like it was taken out of a dusty, sepia-colored book where gargoyles adorned buildings and ancient, dusty shops offered tinctures to cure all your ills.
Weird that Arkham would let a club like this be here in the first place. But the house is pretty isolated. No neighbors to complain of the noise at the end of this winding lane.
Despite being in shadow-haunted Arkham, Sanctuary was packed on a Thursday night and not with locals either. People from New York and Boston. People from London, Paris and Moscow even. The internet sites said that people flew to the States just to come here. And its location wasn’t the only different thing about the club.
Sanctuary was housed in an old Victorian home. The juxtaposition of high ceilings with crown moldings mixed with leather, spikes and electronica that wanted to send people out of their heads was decadent in a way an urban warehouse would not have been.
The topiary garden out back was set up as a dance floor. He’d already had a glimpse of fluttering black silk pavilions that held beds where people sprawled talking or fucking or doing both. It had been reported that the basement was supposed to be something extra special. It was pitch black down there with moans louder than the music that floated out. Darin was intent on being asked downstairs. Being asked was the only way you got down there.
We’re not even in the club yet alone in the VIP section. Bit much to aim for.
The upper floors were completely off limits. No one ever went up there, asked or not. The windows were blacked out, but one was open. He could see a bit of crimson curtain moving slightly in the night breeze. That was where the club’s owner, Demetrius Black, lived and apparently hardly ever came down from.
Doesn’t care to join his own parties. Wonder why he has clubs in the first place?
The notoriously reclusive club owner moved from place to place, opening up Sanctuary wherever he lived, closing it down when he moved. But no one saw him on the dance floor or leaning against the antique bar or lounging on a divan with a boy and girl on either side. He lived above the club itself, but was seemingly never in it. No pictures appeared of him anywhere. In this day of cell phone cameras, and with privacy a quaint idea, Demetrius Black managed to be a ghost.
The moving crimson curtain stilled. Alex blinked as he thought he saw a pale hand holding the edge of it. Drawing it back as someone looked down.
Is that Demetrius? Is he watching us? While we’re desperate to get inside is he desperate to keep us out?
The hand, if it had been a hand, was withdrawn. The curtain proceeded to flutter again. Alex shook his head as if to clear it. He felt so strange. The sounds had dimmed. He had lost sense of where he was or that anyone else was with him.
“Alex? Are you going to answer me or what?” Peter harrumphed.
“Ah, you’ll think its cool when you’re older,” Alex managed to get out. He pinched the top of his nose. His head still felt oddly fuzzy.
Peter made a disgusted snort. “So you really shouldn’t be there?”
“That’s what cool is: being where no one would approve,” Alex remarked dryly.
“Let’s hope that Greg doesn’t find out then. Don’t know what he’d do. Do you think he’s a hitter?” Peter asked.
Alex took in a deep breath. Their first stepfather, Charles Brucker, III, had been quick with his fists. “I -- I don’t think so.”
“Yeah, me neither. But he’s something though. Something,” Peter’s voice went soft.
“Just -- don’t be alone with him, okay? Until we figure out what it is. Don’t make him mad. Don’t draw attention,” Alex said. At that moment, part of him wondered if going to the club and leaving his little brother alone was such a hot idea. Until they sussed Greg out, he didn’t know if it was safe.
But Mom will be there. That wasn’t much comfort though. His mother wasn’t reliable when it came to her judgment with men and how they behaved around her sons.
“I won’t, Alex. I’m in my room. Door shut. Why would he come in here? To give me a kiss goodnight?” Peter laughed.
Alex shifted uncomfortably. His mother’s second husband, Gus, had tried to give him a goodnight kiss one time. He was sloppy drunk and it had happened only once, but it was enough for Alex to bar his door thereafter. That marriage had only lasted six months thankfully. He tightened his hand on the cell phone. “Look, if he does try that--”
“Eweh, gross!” Peter cried.
“Yeah, well, look if he does scream like hell and call me, okay?”
“Okay.” Peter’s voice sounded nonchalant.
“Promise me, Pete. I mean it,” Alex tried to put all the weight of his older brother persona into his tone.
“I promise. I promise,” his brother sighed.
Alex heard some loud moaning. His head jerked up towards the front of the house between two lilac bushes. A bald man, wearing only a leather vest had pinned a slender, black-haired boy against the porch’s railing. The boy has his legs wrapped around the bigger man’s waist. Their mouths were fused together and the wet sounds of kisses and the clacking of teeth met his ears. The big man wrestled a hand between their bodies and Alex realized from the movement that he was stroking the boy’s cock. Alex’s cheeks flushed. His own cock throbbed for a second.
“What time are you going to leave there?” Peter’s voice reminded him that he was on the phone with his little brother.
Blinking and quickly turning his back. “Uh, not sure. But I’ll see you after school tomorrow.”
“Okay, well, have fun. But not too much fun, Alex.” Peter was laughing again.
Alex grinned. “See you tomorrow.”
Alex hit the end key and slipped the phone into the back pocket of his skin tight black leather pants. He’d paired them with his nearly see-thru shirt with the Chinese dragon design that wound around his torso. Black boots, halfway unlaced, completed the picture. He turned back to Darin. The red-head was gesturing for him to come over desperately. The bouncers were about to do their sweep through the line and choose a lucky few to come inside.
Sanctuary wasn’t first come, first serve. The people at the front of the line might never get in. The people at the back might get in after only a five minute wait. There had been three sweeps already where the bouncers with their black-tinted sunglasses had paused briefly in front of Alex, but had not yet asked him and Darin in yet. Alex hustled over, watching as the bouncers, wandered down the line.
“Jesus, finally off the fucking phone! I mean who is more important than getting into the club?” Darin asked.
Alex bit back a sigh. “Your mother.”
Darin cracked a smile.
“Are you sure this is going to work? That we’re going to get in at all instead of being lawn ornaments all night?” Alex asked.
“I’m sure. It’s early yet,” Darin said, his smile turning into a cocky grin.
He wished he could share Darin’s confidence. But Sanctuary was a place he believed he’d only ever read about, but never actually experience. Yet getting inside was the basis of his nascent friendship with the other eighteen-year-old. His fake ID felt like it was burning a hole in his wallet. He’d gotten into local bars before and he luckily looked like he could be a college student, but this was a sophisticated operation. They even had a black light pen that they swiped over the IDs.
“About the ID,” Alex began.
Darin shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. If they like what they see, they won’t even check if they think you’re underage.”
“They want underage kids in there? For what? Some young meat?”
Darin rolled his eyes as if Alex’s concerns were quaint. “Of course for that! You know how guys like teens. We provide. They allow. We’re over the age of consent.”
“Yeah, sounds great.”
“Turn that frown upside down,” Darin drawled. “If you don’t want a sugar daddy, you don’t have to have one. You like to dance, right?”
“And drink, right?”
Alex nodded again.
“They’ve got real Absinthe in there and plenty of places to move. You’re going to have a good time ... unless ...”
“Unless you don’t want to,” Darin said. “You do want to have a good time, right? I haven’t chosen someone who’d rather brood in a corner or write poetry in a black notebook, have I?”
“I fucking hate poetry.” Alex grinned. “But I brood pretty well.”
Darin slung an arm over his shoulder. “I knew I chose the right guy!”
Darin had been the one to approach him at school. Alex had been eating his bagged lunch alone at a table outside the school’s back doors when the other boy with flaming red hair, a splash of freckles across his nose and a wide smile had sauntered over to him. Darin had cockily sat on the table top, ass next to Alex’s sandwich and started to speak.
“You’re just what I’m looking for,” Darin had said, that grin widening. He’d leaned back on his hands and stared at Alex so long without blinking that Alex felt heat rising in his cheekbones.
“What are you looking for exactly?" he’d finally asked. Was this some sort of strange hazing ritual of the new kid?
“Innocence with a fuck me mouth,” Darin had giggled.
Alex had flushed angrily then stood up menacingly. He was already six feet tall and though lean was powerfully built. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but I don’t take shit from anyone.”
“Hey! Hey! It’s not what you think! I’m not trying to pick you up! I’m trying to get us picked up!” Darin had held his hands up as though in surrender.
“I’m somehow trying to imagine how that would work with you insulting me, but nothing is coming to me,” Alex had growled and leaned towards the other man
“I guess innocent only runs skin deep!” Darin had let out an uncomfortable laugh and tugged at the top of his shirt. “I’ve got a deal for you.”
“Yeah, ever heard of a club called Sanctuary?” Darin had given him that devil may care smile, which Alex immediately recognized as trouble.
“Sure. What about it?”
“I think together we can get in there. So you see, this the start of a beautiful friendship.”
And that’s how their friendship had begun that week. Everyone, even newbies to the area like Alex had heard about the club where everything and anything was supposedly possible. But it was like Wonderland, unreachable. But Darin explained that he had been scoping out the place every night since it had been open and he had seen a pattern: boys that looked like Alex got in. That’s what his comment had been about. Not a come on, but a bizarre compliment.
“It’s going to happen now,” Darin said sotto voce.
“Right. Sure.” Darin said that every time the bouncers moved, but this time even Alex felt a tingle run up and down his spine.
The nearest bouncer was only a couple away from them. He was six feet, five inches. He wore an outfit of simple black. Black pants, black shiny shoes, and a skin-tight black t-shirt tucked into the pants that revealed every inch of muscle. He was as wide across as two regular-sized people. Alex could clearly see the fancy ear bud he wore to communicate with people inside the club as his head was shaved. A tribal design tattoo curled over one ear. From the looks of him, Alex somehow expected he’d be one of those guys with a spray-on tan, but his skin was pale as milk.
He paused in front of the couple in front of them. It was two women. Both were too thin. Their dresses reminded him of Swiss cheese as there were large holes cut out strategically to show their bare bellies, their sides or an upper shoulder. They took out a few hundred dollar bills from their tiny clip purses. They flicked them towards the bouncer between two of their fingers.
A few hundred? I have about seventy-five bucks and that’s it. How the fuck are we getting into this club?
The women had gone from distant and unconcerned the first round to this ostentatious bid to get in. The bouncer didn’t even look at them. He walked on. The brunette’s lipsticked mouth drew back from her teeth in a disappointed groan. Alex was getting sick of standing in his boots. He couldn’t imagine how they felt tottering about on their stilettos.
Darin pushed Alex front and center, standing behind him as the bouncer stepped over to them. The bouncer’s sunglasses showed Alex’s reflection. Did he really look that wide-eyed with parted lips and a slight sheen of perspiration on his face? He did look dewy and innocent with a cupid’s bow mouth. Would that be enough to woo the bouncer into letting them in? Alex wanted to say something witty. To keep the bouncer’s attention. He didn’t bother trying to offer him a meager twenty bucks, which was all he really could afford if he had any chance of getting a drink inside, even water.
“You haven’t been here before,” the bouncer said. His voice was a husky growl.
“Ah, no, no, first time,” Alex said.
He felt Darin elbow him in the ribs. What was he supposed to do? Lie? The guy clearly knew he hadn’t been there! Trying to fake his knowledge of the club didn’t seem like a plan.
“But I’ve been in lots of clubs. You know. No stranger to one of them.” Alex winced. He just confirmed himself an idiot newbie by speaking.
The bouncer’s slow smile revealing very white, sharp teeth confirmed it even if Darin hadn’t audibly groaned behind him. The girls were tittering. If they couldn’t get in they sure as hell were going to take pleasure in him not making the cut.
“Really? Lots of clubs, huh?” the bouncer chuckled.
“Sure. Definitely. Travel around a lot and check things out wherever I am.” He shrugged in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner. The traveling around a lot was true. His mother had moved them every few months until she landed a man. A series of nondescript apartments, a few houses in the suburbs, no time to make any real lasting friends or even an impression. They were nomads. The club going? Not so much.
“Yeah, I bet those juice bars they let your teen ass in were quite the thing.” The bouncer snorted and moved on.
Alex’s shoulders sagged. The girls were outright laughing at him now.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Why did you open your mouth?” Darin groaned.
“What did you expect me to say? Nothing?” Alex hissed, even though he was feeling just as disappointed with himself as Darin was.
“Yes! Nothing would have been better! Just standing there with drool dripping out of your big mouth would have been better!” Darin scrubbed his hands over his face, smearing his eye liner. “We might as well just leave because there’s no way we’re getting in there. Like ever.”
Alex winced. Darin was right. He’d blown it. But maybe that was best. Maybe he should head home. That nagging feeling about Peter was growing. Maybe that was why he’d been such an idiot, because his heart wasn’t in it. But he felt guilty and he wanted to keep the one friend he had in town so he suggested, “We’re here. We might as well stay. Just in case--”
“In case of what? The end of the world when they let every shmo in?” Darin sulked, crossing his arms over his chest.
“You two,” the bouncer suddenly barked. He was touching the earpiece and listening as he gestured towards Darin and Alex.
“What’s up?” Alex asked. He received another elbow in the ribs from Darin. He shut his mouth and tried to just look appealing.
The bouncer strode down the line of people back to them. He nodded and said into his mike, “Yes, Mr. Black. Of course.”
Mr. Black? Alex glanced up at the open window. The curtain was still again.
The bouncer stared at Alex with a strange, almost shocked expression on his big bullish face. “You can go in.”
The girls stopped laughing. Everyone went silent. Alex’s eyes drifted up to the window again. Someone was standing there. A figure that he could barely make out. He knew that the reprieve had been granted by this man who was never seen. By Demetrius Black.