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She’ll kneel before me, and she’ll crave more.

As the new owner of the Dahlia District, I will make the club more prosperous than ever before. But Iris has a different plan. She wants the club to stay female owned and operated, and she refuses to give up. 

She’s a professional dominatrix, but I see the truth behind her cruel stare. She hides her submissive tendencies to protect herself, and I know I’ll take pleasure in degrading her until those carnal needs are exposed.

So, we make a bet. If she can convince me of her submission, I’ll give her the club. But if she fails, she’ll leave the club forever.

In this game, I’ll devour Iris’s body, mind, and future. And when I win, there will be nothing left of her.

 

Author’s Note: This dark romance follows a dominant billionaire and a switch heroine. It contains disturbing content. Reader discretion is advised.

Content Warnings

Triggers & Content: sex work, age gap, drugs, murder, dubious consent

Kinks: boot worship, breath play, crawling, degradation, dubious consent, face sitting, financial domination, forced orgasms, sensory deprivation, spit play, toys, voyeurism

Interconnected Standalone: The couple gets their HEA, but the secret club concludes with this book.

Chapter 1
Iris

The nightclub was named Vanish, as if the owner wanted to brag that it was an escape from reality. The bathroom’s gray walls were streaked with faint white lines, and glowing lights circled each mirror over every sink. The music pulsed through the walls, dimming it like silicone earplugs, allowing me to think straight for a minute. My sanctuary within a supposed sanctuary; a place where I could vanish. 

 

In the mirror, my dark brown fish eyes stared back at me, naked without my black eyeliner. I ran a hand through my hair, then looked down at my palm. No traces of the spray-on brown hair dye hiding my inky hair. That was good. As long as he didn’t touch my hair, he wouldn’t know. A little black dress with thick sheer tights and a cardigan hid my tattooed arms and legs. My mask. In his eyes, I would be a normal woman, who simply wanted him because he was rich. 

 

My stomach lurched at the thought. I didn’t belong here with these beautiful people. But I could do this. You might not believe you belong here, I coached myself, and maybe, you don’t. But you are a goddess. You are exactly what the new owner of the Dahlia District is looking for. If only you own it.

 

The door to the bathroom opened, instantly flooding the room with generic top forty music, the lyrics screeching. Two women cluttered in, casual, yet glamorous, with barrel curls falling down their backs. Smokey eye makeup. The picture of perfection, if it weren’t for the fact that one of them had tears in her eyes, her mascara bleeding, and the other had her arm around her friend’s back, obviously concerned that she might fall. The door closed after them, sucking the sound along with it, the bass still thumping through the walls. 

 

I stared at the mirror, fixing my makeup, trying not to pay attention. The crying one rested her ass against the line of sinks, her head falling into her hands. She sniffled.

 

“Okay, babe, tell me,” the friend said. “What happened now?”

 

“He bought her a drink,” the crying one said.

 

“Who?”

 

“Casey. I told you. He literally bought her a drink as soon as she got here.”

 

“I told you he was eyeing her.”

 

I focused on my eyes. If Teagen, my best friend, had done my makeup, I wouldn’t have been hard on it. I would have thought it looked good, like I could be another friend consoling that woman. But because I was the one who had done it, I scrutinized every smudge. 

 

“But I was his date,” the crying friend was howling now. “I was supposed to meet his friends. He was supposed to meet you.”

 

“You two agreed to be friends with benefits.”

 

“But you don’t cuddle every night with a fuck buddy.”

 

“You already knew I didn’t like him.”

 

“You never liked him,” she scoffed. “Can you pretend to care for once?”

 

“Okay. I’m sorry. He’s a—” she paused, thinking it over, “—an interesting guy. But really. You don’t deserve his crap. You deserve someone who sees you for who you are.” 

 

The crying woman was silent then. After a moment, she added, “He sees her for who she is. Always pushing her tits out like she’s got back problems.”

 

“Hey. It’s not her fault that he’s screwing around on you.”

 

It was hard not to listen. The volume, for one, rivaled the music, and their words echoed in that long bathroom. And she was crying. Ugly crying.  It was weird to think about the problems people had outside of the walls of the Dahlia District. These women weren’t held as slaves, paying off enormous debts. They had sex for pleasure, not purely for profit.

 

Still, the practical side of me said that the woman’s problems would have been fixed if she had simply monetized it. No more emotions. Only income. Not that she would ever be willing to.

 

My heels clicked on the tile as I approached them. The crying woman glanced up at me, forcing a smile.

 

“I don’t have any smokes,” she said. “Do you?”

 

“Someone at our table might,” her friend said.

 

I shook my head. “I don’t need a smoke. I couldn’t help but overhear though.”

 

“Sorry we were so loud,” the friend said.

 

I turned to the crying woman. “If you want him to regret flirting with that other woman,” I pressed my lips together, showing her the fake smile she should give, then said, “Smile as if he doesn’t exist.”

 

“Smile?”

 

“Fake it. Pretend like you don’t care what he’s doing. You just happen to be in the same place. Like you’re everything that he’s missing.”

 

“That’s easier said than done.”

 

And she was right. For years, I had pumped myself up before starting a shift at the Dahlia District, telling myself that I might have been flat-chested, short-haired, a gothic outcast, the opposite of what the billionaire club members were looking for, but that I was still a goddess. I could slip into black latex and transform into the woman I knew I was on the inside, shoving the spike of my heel into a man’s balls as he paid me for the privilege. Until finally, I wasn’t playing pretend anymore. I was that woman. 

 

But on nights like tonight, where I was completely out of my element, I still had to play pretend. Pump myself up. Remind myself that I might not have had my platform boots or my riding crop, but I was still that same goddess, just in a different skin.

 

“You might never truly feel that way,” I said, telling her the honest truth, “But if you can pretend—if you can show him what he’s missing, and smile like he’s always watching you, and always wanting you, then he’ll see what he’s missing.” I shifted my weight, nodding to her. “Make him work for it,” I winked. “Because girl,” I held her eyes, making sure we were staring at each other, “You are gorgeous. You are the goddess he could never have. It’s just you that needs to believe it.”

 

“Really?” she whimpered. “You think I’m pretty?”

 

“Oh, come on,” her friend said. “You’re gorgeous.”

 

“You’re my best friend. You legally have to say that.”

 

My heart dropped, missing my own best friend. “Yes,” I said. “You’re not just pretty. You are flawless. He should be paying you for the privilege to buy you a drink.”

 

She laughed, and a lightness filled me. I wasn’t great at being warm and fuzzy, but occasionally I could do it when it came to a fellow woman in need.

 

I tilted my head. “Really, though. Let him see what he’s missing. Who knows,” I paused, putting a finger to my lips, “You might find someone better.”

 

She smiled then, the tears nearly gone. “Thanks.”

 

I walked past the two women and out to the main floor of the nightclub, the purple-tinted pearl walls surrounding me, music thudding in my chest. If nothing else, I had done one good thing that night. But now, there were other matters to attend to.

 

Roland Price, the new owner of the Dahlia District, was finally in the area. The Dahlia District was an entertainment club for the wealthy elite, but there were rumors that Price wanted to make the Dahlia District into something new, probably something like Vanish, his nightclub line. As a long-time server of the Dahlia District, it was my job to convince him to leave our club exactly as it was. We might have been going through a rough patch, but all businesses had slow periods. With a little investment, the new owner could force the club into another golden age. Why change it if it was already successful?

 

I stared up at one of the nightclub’s many bars erected on a raised platform, glowing blue lights twinkling from behind the top shelves. Everything was in shades of blues, purples, and greens. The VIP section was marked off to the side, a red rope separating it from the rest of the club. A group of three blonds giggled at the security guard standing beside it. He unhooked the rope, letting them through, then locked it again.

 

I pulled off my sweater, tucking it under my arm. More skin to show. More tattoos to intimidate, the only piece of my usual getup that I couldn’t leave at the Dahlia District. People were less likely to start a conflict if they thought you were scary. And at work, I always attracted the right kind of clients. But that wasn’t my goal tonight. I had to be what Roland Price wanted. The image of mainstream perfection, like those women in the bathroom. I would never be that, but at least I could tone down the goth vibes and go undercover.

 

As I walked up the steps to that sectioned off area, the bouncer stood in front of the rope and crossed his arms.

 

“VIP only,” he barked.

 

“I’m here to see Roland Price,” I said. He didn’t move. “I’m here to make a business proposition.”

 

“Prostitution is illegal in—”

 

“Not that,” I said as sweetly as I could muster. “I’m a big fan of his. I was wondering if I could—” Be like Teagen, I thought, channeling my best friend. Sweet. Innocent. Like I had no ulterior motives. Like I would never hurt a fruit fly. I forced a grin. “I want to pick his brain on a few things. It’s for my internship.” I winked, but felt stupid. Channeling Teagen was not me at all. 

 

But being in this club wasn’t me either.

 

He held his thumb to his earpiece, listening to it with his eyes up towards the ceiling. 

 

“Up the stairs,” he said to me, motioning with his hand. He unhooked the rope barrier. 

 

“Thanks,” I said, trying to hold back the sarcasm. With each step, I nodded my head, keeping to the beat, trying to self-soothe my nerves. The new owner was a man, and I didn’t trust men, not since my foster-dad, but I could be reasonable and pretend to trust men when it counted. And right now, I needed to be strong for all the women who worked at the Dahlia District, women who depended on the club for their livelihood. Women like me.

 

I took the last step onto the spacious balcony. A clear guard rail lined the edges, with several sofas, covered with scantily clad women and suited men. A few tables. A mini-bar with the trio of blonds surrounding it. I focused on a man standing in front of one of the long, white tufted sofas, pouring vodka into several shot glasses.

 

Dark hair you could wrap your fingers in. Secretive brown eyes. Trimmed facial hair lining his jaw. Plump, biteable lips. A physique like a movie star. He might have been a man, and someone I instantly knew I didn’t like, but that didn’t mean I could ignore his appearance. I knew a good-looking man when I saw one. Roland Price was hot.

 

But that didn’t mean anything.

 

He glanced up, a half-smirk crossing his lips as he made eye contact with me. As if he knew me. He put the bottle back in the chiller and lifted one of the shot glasses, offering it in my direction. He was taller than I expected. I’m tall for a woman, even without my platform boots, so it throws me off when I have to look up to someone. I put on my best flirtatious smirk and took the shot. We clinked our drinks, then tossed them back. The vodka burned in my throat. I held back a cringe, pretending like I drank straight liquor all the time, then faced him. He held out a hand. 

 

“I’m Roland Price.”

 

His voice was deep and velvety, coursing over the music and sinking into my ear, dragging me down with it. I took his hand, surprised by how big it was. He took a seat, then patted the space next to him. I held back a sneer; I wasn’t a dog. 

 

But I had to pretend.

 

I sat down and grinned. “I know who you are,” I said. “You’re quite the name. Some might even call you—”

 

“A celebrity,” he said. I grit my teeth. Yes, you cocky bastard. A celebrity. 

 

“Exactly,” I said. 

 

“So what brings you to Vanish?” He leaned back on the seat. “You don’t seem like our usual type.”

 

Our usual type. Rage instantly flushed through me. I hated when people, especially men, talked about their ‘types.’

 

“Because I’m not a barbie doll?” I tilted my chin, trying to sound playful and not irritated.

 

“Because you’re not drunk,” he said. “Or high. You came here with a goal in mind, didn’t you?”

 

I raised a brow as he sipped from a glass of water. “But you’re trading liquor for water.”

 

“Hydration is key.”

 

I glanced around, looking at all the people. Everyone was so enamored with partying that none of them noticed us, or noticed me. Price had a habit of making people evaporate, as if they had never existed. News articles discussed theories about disagreements between his team members, and suddenly, those people would disappear from all records. While looking him up, I had seen it happen with my own eyes. An article with names here one second, and gone the next. I could disappear tonight, and no one would be the wiser.

 

But I wasn’t going to let that happen. I straightened my shoulders. “Why are you in the VIP section of your own club?” I asked.

 

“Because I can be.”

 

“Are you here every night?”

 

“I own nightclubs all over the world.”

 

Here, I mean,” the aggravation slipped through my words. I adjusted. Be nice, I thought, Be like Teagen. But I couldn’t help the urge to ask questions. “When you’re here, do you party here every night?”

 

“That depends.” He angled his body toward me. “Do you want me to be here every night?”

 

Was he trying to come on to me? He cocked a smile, then put his arm on the back of the sofa, his fingers brushing my shoulders. Surprised, I shivered at the touch.

 

“Are you working right now, or are you here for play?” I asked.

 

“It depends. Do you want to play?”

 

I swallowed a dry gulp. If I wanted to do this, I had to commit one hundred percent. I put my sweater on the couch, then straddled him, grinding my hips into his lap, his cock twitching on contact. He smelled fresh, a minty hint to his cologne with an edge of his sweat underneath it. I grabbed the tie around his neck, pulling him sharply towards me. 

 

“I want to play,” I breathed, “with your brain. With your mind. I want to know what your plans are. What you’re going to do with your next project.” I licked my lips. “Your mind turns me on.”

 

“You want to flip clubs like this?” 

 

“Yes,” I lied. “Tell me.”

 

He grabbed my throat in one hand, pinching my mouth and chin together with the other. My chest tightened and my body rolled with heat. My thighs clenched. I was on top, still straddling him, looking down into his face, and yet in that position, I wasn’t in control. He was holding onto me. Controlling my air. My life.

 

“Tell me, Iris,” he said in a low voice, “Is seducing the new owner part of your job at the Dahlia District?”

 

I blinked my eyes, trying to wrap my head around his words. His eyes stretched, gazing at my mouth, then down to my breasts. He let go of me, letting his hands fall to the sides, resting on my calves.

 

“You know who I am?” I asked. He nodded. “You knew who I was this whole time?” 

 

“From the moment they checked your ID.”

 

My blood boiled. He knew, and he let me do all of that? 

 

“You knew I worked at the Dahlia District?”

 

“Dahlia told me about you,” he said. He massaged my calves as if this were nothing. As if I truly were one of the many gold-digging women at his disposal. I didn’t want to like the way he played with my calf muscles, but it felt good. Really good. I forced a scowl at him. “She said you were one of the best,” he said.

 

“Did she?”

 

“And she said you were not looking forward to the transition.”

 

His fingers kneaded my muscles deeper, and though it relaxed me and I didn’t want him to stop, I slid back into the empty seat beside him. There was no point in seduction if he knew my position. 

 

“What are you going to do to the Dahlia District?” I asked. 

 

“Simple,” he grinned. “Change it into a nightclub.”

 

I gestured around us. “Is that smart, with Vanish Sage City, this close?”

 

“It’ll be part of my new brand,” he said, a cocky smile on his lips. “Departure. A nightclub exclusively for the wealthy.” He tilted his head. “Sort of like the Dahlia District is now. But better.”

 

He had no idea how much money the club brought in when we were at our height. 

 

“It’s lucrative already,” I snapped.

 

“Not as much as it could be.” 

 

“The club is actually doing really well the way it is. You could even—” I thought hard, biting my lip before I said this, “You could even charge an initial fee for the use of the private rooms. By that alone, you’d make a killing.” I crossed my arms. “I’m telling you, the Dahlia District doesn’t need any changes.”

 

“That’s not the way I see it.” A seriousness crossed his face, shadowing it. “There’s a lot of potential in the Dahlia District. But I’m not interested in a sex club. It needs to be more. You want to attract more than the deviants, right? You want the mainstreamers too.” He nodded at me, assuming I agreed. “A nightclub exclusively for the wealthy is a good concept, and the Dahlia District will be my first experiment.”

 

I swallowed hard. Clenched my fists. Bobbed my head. Self-soothed. I didn’t need to get angry. This was a discussion. Only a discussion.

 

But I couldn’t help it. 

 

“You’re making a mistake,” I said.

 

“You’re invested in the club, right?” he said. He tilted his chin. “Dahlia mentioned you thought of it as your home.”

 

“Because I literally live there,” I said. He stared at me, all of that playfulness gone. Maybe he was finally considering how it affected my life. My livelihood. My home.

 

“I think you’ll come to see my point of view,” he said. He cocked a brow. “Hell, I can even build an apartment next door if that’s what you need. Let’s discuss it on Monday.” He stood, straightening his jacket. “Right now, I have a meeting to attend.”

 

It was an excuse; I wasn’t good enough for his time right then. 

 

But I wasn’t going to beg for his attention. 

 

I stomped down the stairs. The bouncer immediately opened the rope and I pushed past him. Getting to the door of this place was like going through a jungle, but instead of trees and insects and breathable air, it was all sweat and human and too close for comfort. I slid past some strangers, their sweat getting on my arm, and I cringed. A man opened the entrance doors for me, and I flooded past a long line of manufactured beauty waiting to get in. I looked up at the sky, finding a dark canvas. Sage City was too bright to see stars, and with the new moon, there was nothing there. It was bleak. Empty. Like me.

 

“Iris,” a male voice called. I turned around, my shoulders sinking when I saw it was him. Roland Price. The giant man with the cocky grin constantly plastered to his face. He lifted my black sweater. “Don’t catch a cold now.”

 

I swiped it from his hand. A charitable, yet condescending action from a billionaire. Gee whiz, mister. Thanks so much. 

 

“Thanks,” I said, forcing myself to be polite. I turned away and headed straight for Teagen’s car, not daring to look back. He might have been a billionaire, a handsome man, the new owner of the Dahlia District, but none of that meant anything to me. I didn’t trust many people, and I especially did not trust him. 

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