Home > The Gilded Cuff

The Gilded Cuff
Author: Lauren Smith

Chapter 1


—New York Times, June 10, 1990



Long Island, New York

This is absolutely the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

Sophie Ryder tugged the hem of her short skirt down over her legs a few more inches. It was still way too high. But she couldn’t have worn something modest, per her usual style. Not at an elite underground BDSM club on Long Island’s Gold Coast. Sophie had never been to any club before, let alone one like this. She’d had to borrow the black mini-skirt and the red lace-up corset from her friend Hayden Thorne, who was a member of the club and knew what she should wear.

The Gilded Cuff. It was the place for those who enjoyed their kink and could afford to pay.

Sophie sighed. A journalist’s salary wasn’t enough to afford anything like what the people around her wore, and she was definitely feeling less sexy in her practical black flats with a bit of sparkle on the tips. Sensuality rippled off every person in the room as they brushed against her in their Armani suits and Dior gowns, and she was wary of getting too close. Their cultured voices echoed off the craggy gray stone walls as they chatted and gossiped. Although she was uneasy with the frank way the people around her touched and teased each other with looks and light caresses, even while patiently waiting in line, a stirring of nervousness skittered through her chest and her abdomen. Half of it had to do with the sexual chemistry of her surroundings, and the rest of it had to do with the story that would make her career, if she could only find who she was looking for and save his life in time. Her editor at the Kansas newspaper she wrote for had given her one week to break the story. What she didn’t know was how long she had to save the life of a man who at this very moment was in the club somewhere. She swallowed hard and tried to focus her thoughts.

Following the crowd, she joined the line leading up to a single walnut wood desk with gilt edges. A woman in a tailored gray suit over a red silk blouse stood there checking names off a list with a feather pen. Sophie fought to restrain her frantic pulse and the flutter of rebellious butterflies in her stomach as she finally reached the desk.

“Name, please?” The woman peered over wide, black-rimmed glasses. She looked a cross between a sexy librarian and a no-nonsense lawyer.

A flicker of panic darted through Sophie. She hoped her inside source would come through. Not just anyone could get into the club. You had to be referred by an existing member as a guest.

“My name’s Sophie Ryder. I’m Hayden Thorne’s guest.” At the mention of her new friend’s name the other woman instantly smiled, warmth filling her gaze.

“Yes, of course. She called and mentioned you’d be coming. Welcome to the Gilded Cuff, Sophie.” She reached for a small glossy pamphlet and handed it over. “These are the club rules. Read over them carefully before you go inside. Come to me if you have any questions. You can also go to anyone wearing a red armband. They are our club monitors. If you get in too deep and you get panicked, say the word “red” and that will make the game or the scene stop. It’s the common safe word. Any doms inside should respect that. If they don’t, they face our monitors.”

“Okay,” Sophie sucked in a breath, trying not to think about what sort of scene would make her use a safe word. This really was the most stupid thing she’d ever done. Her heart drummed a staccato beat as a wave of dread swept through her. She should leave…No. She had to stay at least a few more minutes. A life could hang in the balance, a life she could save.

“There’s just one more thing. I need to know if you are a domme or a sub.” The woman trailed the feather tip end of her pen under the tip of her chin, considering Sophie, measuring her.

“A domme or sub?” Sophie knew the words. Dominant and submissive. Just another part of the BDSM world, a lifestyle she knew so little about. Sophie definitely wasn’t a domme. Dommes were the feminine dominants in a D/s relationship. She certainly had no urge to whip her bed partner.

She liked control, yes, but only when it came to her life and doing what she needed to do. In bed? Well…she’d always liked to think of an aggressive man as one who took what he wanted, gave her what she needed. Not that she’d ever had a man like that before. Until now, every bedroom encounter had been a stunning lesson in disappointment.

The woman suddenly smiled again, as though she’d been privy to Sophie’s inner thoughts. “You’re definitely not a domme.” Amusement twitched the corners of her mouth. “I sense you would enjoy an aggressive partner.”

How in the hell? Sophie quivered. The flash of a teasing image, a man pinning her to the mattress, ruthlessly pumping into her until she exploded with pleasure. Heat flooded her face.

“Ahh, there’s the sub. Here, take these.” The woman captured Sophie’s wrists and clamped a pair of supple leather cuffs around each wrist. Sewn into the leather, a red satin ribbon ran the length of each cuff. The woman at the desk didn’t secure Sophie’s wrists together, but merely ensured she had cuffs ready to be cinched together should she find a partner inside. The feel of the cuffs around her wrists sent a ripple of excitement through her. How was it possible to feel already bound and trapped? They constrained her, but didn’t cut off her circulation, like wearing a choker necklace. She wanted to tug at the cuffs the way she would a tight necklace, because she was unused to the restriction.

“These tell the doms inside that you’re a sub, but you’re unclaimed and new to the lifestyle. Other subs will be wearing cuffs; some won’t. It depends on if they are currently connected with a particular dom and whether that dom wishes to show an ownership. Since you’re not with anyone, the red ribbons tell everyone you’re new and learning the lifestyle. They’ll know to go easy on you and to ask permission before doing or trying anything with you. The monitors will keep a close eye on you.”

Relief coursed through Sophie. Thank heavens. She was only here to pursue a story. Part of the job was to get information however she could, do whatever it took. But she wasn’t sure she would be ready to do the things she guessed went on behind the heavy oak doors. Still, for the story, she would probably have to do something out of her comfort zone. It was the nature of writing about criminal stories. Of course, tonight wasn’t about a crime, but rather a victim—and this victim was the answer to everything she’d spent years hoping to learn. And she was positive he was in danger.

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