The wait was finally over. It was hard to suppress her excitement as Una stepped off the bus and got her first real look at the new and improved Castle. The entrance, at least, didn’t show any visible differences since the remodeling—the impressive portcullis, the colorful koi in the moat, the enormous, bustling, medieval style courtyard. And the tables along one side at which guests had to register before entering.
Before the fun could commence.
Her fingers itched to reach into her bag and check her phone but she managed to stop herself at the last minute. This was the Castle. The moment you left the bus, you had to adhere to their strict rules, one of which was no modern technology outside of specifically designated areas.
It was one of the reasons why she loved it here. This was really the only place where she could unwind for a few days. She adored her job in a prestigious accounting firm so much that she liked to joke she was married to her work but even so, she had seen plenty of friends and colleagues burn out, and was aware of the importance of taking a break every once in a while.
Shifting her bag over her shoulder, she began to walk toward the registration area, inhaling the crisp, fall Ohio air.
Una had been attending the Castle for years, taking the time to get out there every few months as her—and Kurt’s—schedules permitted. When she’d heard the news that some lowlife had set off a bomb in the most legendary BDSM destination in the States, she’d been horrified, especially when she’d read about the extent of the damage online. Selfishly, her first thought had been despair that she would no longer have anywhere to go to escape from the office and clear her mind. But then she had thought about all the people who lived and worked here, some of whom she had gotten to know well, and she’d immediately felt ashamed.
Master Marshall was an incredible man to have weathered the crisis so stoically, she reflected. The Castle was his home, his baby, his life, and instead of beating his chest and throwing in the towel, he’d set right about building it back up.
“Name and pseudonym?” the clerk at one of the tables interrupted her thoughts.
“Una Greaves. I go by Nayla when I’m here.”
“First time here at the Castle?”
“Of course. Here.” Removing the file containing her signed accountability waiver and recent medical records from her bag, Una slid it across to the pretty, fair-haired woman.
“Are you here alone?”
“I’m meeting someone. Kurt Carlson. He should have arrived yesterday.”
“All right. What program did you sign up for?”
Just saying the word made Una’s heart speed up. It was her favorite place in the world, the only place where she could truly relax. “The Dungeon.”
“Good call.” The blonde winked. “Here’s your welcome packet and bracelet.”
Taking the black band from the woman, Una slid it over her wrist before shoving the forms into her bag.
“Don’t take it off.”
“I know.” Una grinned. “Um, as I’ve been here so many times before, do I still have to listen to the orientation talk?”
The blonde gave her a wry smile. “I’m afraid so.”
“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask.” Una indicated the massive building with a jerk of her head. “Congratulations on the re-opening. You must be so excited.”
“We really are. Everyone’s worked so hard.”
A man in the line behind Una gave a not-so-subtle cough. “Better not waste any more of your time,” she said hastily. “Thank you.”
“Enjoy your stay at the Castle!” the blonde called after her.
Oh, I intend to, Una thought as she made her way to the podium where Miss Hardwick always gave her signature orientation speech, and took a seat on a folding chair near the back.
Fingering the black bracelet around her wrist which signified the Dungeon program, she closed her eyes and forced herself to rein in her excitement.
Physically, Kurt wasn’t her type at all. Nor was she his, which suited them both just fine. She’d met him online, and as soon as they’d discovered how well their proclivities matched, they’d agreed to meet to get to know one another. The problem was, they lived on opposite sides of the country, so the Castle had seemed like a perfect compromise.
Often working fourteen-hour days as she did, Una had no time for a proper relationship. When at home, she wanted to be free to focus on her job. But every now and again, when the desire for pain and sexual release got too strong, she would contact Kurt and they’d agree to meet, sometimes for a weekend, sometimes for longer, depending on their schedules. He was a famous surgeon and an extremely private person. She had no idea about his love life, nor did she ever ask. Their relationship consisted solely of physical release. He was a sadist to the core, and she got off on pain.
A match made in heaven.
Her knee was jiggling so she forced herself to relax and make it still. Miss Hardwick was still talking but the woman’s voice was like white noise, washing over Una, providing the perfect backdrop to her fantasies. Soon, she would be naked and tied to the cross; Kurt would be behind her with the cane. The first stroke would crack through the air like a gunshot and then, a second later, the white-hot burn would slice across her ass and make her forget everything—her impossible boss, her hopeless clients, the piles of paperwork which never seemed to decrease—and the pain would build and build into a delicious crescendo until she was floating, calm, her arousal slick between her thighs…
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Castle!” Miss Hardwick’s ringing voice broke Una out of her reverie and she looked up to see the guests identifying as dominant already being led away.
This was where the unmatched submissives or new arrivals were split into their various programs and given a tour, but Una had been there often enough that she figured she could skip this part. In a hurry to find Kurt, not wanting to waste one more precious minute of her vacation time, she slipped away and entered the Castle proper.
The lobby was filled with people, guests and staff alike, some hurrying to wherever they had to be, others standing around and enjoying the scenery. Una looked around, hoping to spot Kurt. He liked to dress like a pirate whenever he was at the Castle—probably indulging some childhood fantasy, she thought fondly—but while she clocked Vikings, gladiators, people in Bugsy Malone style suits and fedoras, demons, and superheroes, she couldn’t see him.
A tiny kernel of unease lodged itself in her gut but she told herself he was probably waiting for her in their room. Digging the welcome packet out of her bag, she saw the room number—1111—and smiled. It was the one they always tried to reserve whenever they came to stay.
All she wanted to do was head straight there, but as an enchantingly pretty fairy skipped past, her wings reflecting the light like gossamer rainbows, Una suddenly felt decidedly dowdy in her street clothes and decided to head to the Wardrobe. It was time for corporate Una to become Nayla, a wanton Roman handmaiden…
Wardrobe was one of her favorite places in all the Castle. Staffed with several competent attendants, it contained every costume imaginable, as well as outfits which defied belief. Una smiled when she spotted Janice.
“You stayed, then?” she called out, picking her way around a pile of shoes.
Janice shot her a grin. “This is my home. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Waiting for the remodel to be done was its own special kind of torture!”
“I don’t doubt it.” Una enveloped the stunning brunette in a warm hug. “The usual, please, when you have a moment.”
Janice chuckled. “I’m run off my feet. Of course Marshall had to pick Halloween, of all times, for the grand reopening, so people’s requests are even more outlandish than usual, but I have to admit I did miss all this excitement.” She ran an appraising eye over Una’s tailored blouse, pencil skirt, and pumps. “Did you come straight from the office?”
Una felt warmth spread over her cheeks. “I happen to feel comfortable in these clothes,” she said defensively. “I wear them every day.”
Raising her palms, Janice apologized. “I didn’t mean anything bad by it. In fact, I have several secretary costumes which look almost exactly like what you’re wearing now. But you know the rules: nobody gets to wear their own clothes. So, are you going for the Roman slave girl again? Or are we trying something different?”
“Like I said, the usual,” Una said, slightly mollified.
“Well, you definitely have the figure for it.” Janice disappeared between two racks of clothing and emerged a few moments later, clutching the dress triumphantly. “You slip into that, and I’ll go and hunt down your shoes. Size seven, right?”
“With so many people coming and going every day, I’m amazed you can remember that!”
Janice flicked her thick braid back over her shoulder. “What can I say? It’s my job. Besides… you’re a regular.”
She vanished into an adjoining room while Una slipped out of her corporate attire and into the transparent sheath dress. Fastened at one shoulder to leave the other bare, the gauzy material skimmed over her curves and ended just below her groin to display the entire length of her legs. After only a moment’s hesitation, she slipped her panties to her ankles and stepped out of them. Won’t be needing those for a few days, she thought giddily.
“Here we go,” Janice exclaimed, brandishing a stunning pair of pale gold, high-heeled sandals with intricate straps which wove up Una’s lower legs to just below her knees.
Una gazed at herself in the full-length mirror, her heart pounding as she undid her usual bun and let her strawberry blonde hair cascade down past her shoulders.
“Welcome back to the Castle… Nayla,” Janice said.
“It’s so good to be back,” Una murmured.
After months of waiting, she had finally returned, and she now had a rare full week of leisure time. Seven whole days during which she could set aside Una, senior accountant, and become Nayla, sex goddess and painslut. The perfect foil to Kurt, the sadistic pirate.
“You’ve outdone yourself as usual, Janice. Kurt loves this outfit on me.”
The brunette’s chocolate-brown eyes widened. “Kurt? Is he here?”
“He arrived yesterday.” The niggling feeling in the pit of Nayla’s stomach returned with a vengeance. “Didn’t you see him? He must have come here to get changed.”
Janice shook her head. “I didn’t see him. But that doesn’t mean he’s not here,” she added hastily. “Like I said, we’ve been frantic. One of the other attendants could have dressed him.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Nayla said slowly. Shoving her street clothes into her bag and picking up her pumps, she forced herself to smile. “He’ll be waiting for me in our room.”
“Hello-oo? Is there anybody here to assist me?” a voice called.
“I’d better go. And you shouldn’t keep him waiting any longer,” Janice said. “Have fun, okay?”
Nayla barely heard her—she was already walking away. “I intend to,” she called over her shoulder.
She hastened to her room with a single-minded purpose, oblivious to her surroundings. She had been curious to see whether there were any visible changes to the Castle but now, all that mattered was getting to her room and seeing Kurt’s smiling face.
He wouldn’t have stood me up, she thought as she barreled past a couple of tittering women in schoolgirl outfits. If something happened and he had to cancel, he would have let me know. We might not be a real couple, but he would have enough respect for me not to let me arrive here and spend a week by myself.
Once outside the door to her room—their room, she corrected herself resolutely—she paused to catch her breath and smooth down the skirt of her dress. Then, deliberately slowly, she shook out the key from her welcome pack and unlocked the door.
The room was empty. The bed was still neatly made. With a sinking heart, Nayla glanced around, taking in the lack of any bags, shoes, clothing, any sign that someone was staying there. With a final burst of hope, she stalked over to the bathroom and flung open the door. The towels were neatly stacked, there was not a toothbrush or razor in sight. The toilet tissue was still folded into a sharp point.
“Fucking bastard!” she yelled, hurling her bag onto the bed.
The bed she would be sleeping in alone for the next week.
There was no more denying it, no more deluding herself.
Kurt had stood her up.