I had been sitting outside the bar for quite a while and the attention I was getting was not what I had hoped for - or indeed wanted. She was about my age -- mid-twenties, with a dark, smouldering look that bordered on Goth but stayed - for me at least - just the right side of it. Every time I glanced in her direction, her slightly hooded eyes burned into mine and I felt distinctly uncomfortable under her unrelenting gaze. My friend Claire had told me the place was great for singles looking for a night of fun, but I was hoping for some hunky young man for an evening of blissful, meaningless bonking, not this dark-haired, tattooed femme-fatale.
I had certainly struck lucky the night before with a very hot Spanish guy called Rui and my little hotel bedroom had rocked all night as we had done all we could to strengthen Anglo-Spanish accord. I was beginning to wish I had taken his number for a repeat performance.
It was my third night in London and my venue of choice was a nice riverside bar with the Thames rolling lazily by in the early evening sun. It was certainly whetting my appetite for what was to come later in the year. I was starting a new job in London at the end of the summer. As my notice period was three months, they had only made me work one before putting me on gardening leave. That was just mighty fine by me; getting paid for nothing with two summer months to do as I pleased. I had come down to the capital for a couple of weeks to get the lie of the land and have a bit of fun at the same time.
As I cast my gaze about for a likely candidate, I was constantly aware of the other woman's gaze upon me and my discomfort was growing by the minute. There was something vaguely familiar about her, but I put that down to the fact that there were a lot of buxom, dark haired, tattooed women doing things on some of the internet pages I skimmed past in search of something that appealed more to my tastes.
I was just about to leave and try somewhere else when I noticed her lighting a cigarette. She blew out smoke and with a small smile on her pursed lips, inclined her head to the empty seat opposite her. I swallowed hard and tried to smile back. I shook my head and mouthed, "No thanks." Feeling myself going red, I averted my gaze. A minute later I was aware of a tall figure standing next to me. She put a hand on my bare shoulder and I shuddered at her touch.
"If the mountain won't come to Mohammed..."
Her voice was a husky, confident purr. Before I could react, she sat down opposite me and took a long pull on her cigarette. It was black and from the pungent smell, I took it to be French. She pushed the packet towards me and I shook my head once more.
I decided to get rid of her quickly. "Look, I'm not really looking for company, thanks. At least... well I am, but I'm sure you catch my drift. So, if you don't mind..."
Her reaction puzzled me. She closed her eyes for a moment as if she was assessing something. Finally, she spoke and the authoritative tone in her voice had gone. "Ok, worth a punt, pretty girl like you. At least let me buy you a drink."
I was about to refuse when she drained her glass and pointed to mine. "Same again?" Once more I didn't have time to respond before she picked up my almost empty glass and went inside the bar. I wanted to cut and run, but she had left her bag on her seat and I didn't want it to get stolen.
I stayed put. For a long time afterwards, I bitterly regretted that decision.
When she returned, we small-talked uncomfortably for a few minutes and that feeling of familiarity would not go away. Under her probing, I reluctantly told her about my little jaunt and she said she was waiting to see what, as she put it, 'floated by along the river'. I assured her it was not me and got a barked little laugh in return.
It was when I excused myself to go to the ladies that it all began to go wrong. I can recall getting back to my seat and taking a drink and that is about it. I was planning to buy her one back and leave for pastures new when my head began to spin. I vaguely remember concerned voices around me, then being helped from a taxi and a rough Cockney voice asking if I'd be ok. I heard a husky, amused voice as I went under once more. "We keep telling her, but she always overdoes it, silly girl! Thanks for the help, I've got it from here. Keep the change!"
When I woke up, I was in a different world.
My head was reeling and I felt sick. It was like all my worst hangovers rolled into one. As I blinked back into consciousness, I took in a huge, vaulted open-plan loft-type room with floor-to-ceiling windows. We were obviously a few floors up and I could see lights along the Thames as it wound into the distance beneath us. The bed I was lying on seemed to be in the middle of the room and, notwithstanding my feeling of nausea, something seemed very off with the situation.
It took me a few moments to compose myself and take in my surroundings but nothing seemed to make sense. I was sitting up with my arms raised above my head and when I tried to move, a cold chill went through me as I realised that I was not going anywhere. I looked up and saw I was wearing thick leather bands around my wrists and a short chain led from each to the headboard of the bed. There was a collar around my neck and I was otherwise naked. I was about to scream when I heard a soft voice from behind me.
"If you make so much as a sound, I will ball-gag you and whip your arse until you cannot sit down for a week. Do l make myself clear?"
In genuine fear, I nodded, the collar feeling thick and heavy around my neck. I heard a click of heels as she walked around the bed and stood in front of me. If my blood had run cold before, it now turned to ice as she was revealed to me. She was in thigh-length, lace up latex boots and a black latex cat suit. Her thick, dark hair was now up in a chignon and her eyes were highlighted with smoky make-up. There was a wicked looking braided switch in one red-gloved hand and the other held a cigarette. Smiling, she took a long pull on it and leaned towards me. She blew a thin stream of smoke in my face and I turned away, grimacing and coughing.
She laughed at my reaction. "So, Chloe. You don't smoke anymore then, eh?"
Despite my fear and discomfort, I did a double take. I was pretty sure I had never told her my name back at the bar. Had the bitch not only stripped me, but searched my bag as well? I tried to be brave. "Who the fuck are you? If you touched me while I was out, I'll fucking-"
I never got any further as a red latex-clad hand closed over my mouth. "I told you not to say a fucking word, didn't I?" She cracked the switch down onto the headboard above me and I shied away mewling as she played it across my naked thighs, a malign grin on her face. The feel of it was gentle, but I got the impression that if I did not do as she told me, things could get not-so-gentle very quickly.
She smiled down at me and sat, stroking my face. "No Chloe, I didn't do anything when you were out. Where would the fun be in that? I had to put your pretty little dress in the wash there was so much puke on it, so I took the liberty of removing the rest as well." She laughed. "Sorry about that, but I got my dosage a little wrong in all my excitement!" She grinned again. "Besides, I want you fully awake for what is about to happen to you. You said you were in town for another ten days, yes? That should be long enough!"
I wanted to scream, but as she took her hand from my mouth, it came out in a choked whisper. "Long enough for what?"
She stroked me again, the feel of the latex against my cheek revolting me. "Long enough to break you, Chloe. To torment and torture you." I almost fainted as her face came close to mine and she hissed in my ear. "Fucking revenge, Chloe Harper. Absolute fucking revenge. A dish best served cold, as they say. It's gonna get cold, Chloe -- very cold. It's gonna get hot. Maybe at the same time, who knows? Fucking revenge with the accent very much on 'fucking'." She became almost business-like. "Now - I am going to tell you a little story and trust you not to yell. It will do no good anyway as this place is soundproofed."
"Good girl. Now you can shut the fuck up and listen."
In the interests of retaining my sanity, I shut the fuck up and listened. She sounded breathless. "Bloody hell, Chloe - you've got some nice clothes. Bloody suitcase weighs a ton. Just checked you out of your hotel. Amazing how the receptionist never realised a strapping five-foot ten brunette wasn't the five-foot-nothing blonde midget that checked in eh? Never mind -- I've got your gear and I'm on my way back. Just think of the fortune I've saved you. Got you a nice little refund and for the next few days you'll be staying free-gratis at a lovely little Bree and B!"
There was a little giggle. "See what I did there? Bree and B? Not bad for an ex-teenage bitch, eh?" There was silence for a moment. "Oh well - I did tell her to be quiet, I suppose. Right, I'm heading down to the Circle Line so see you soon. It's only three stops then a few on the Docklands Light Railway. Be about twenty minutes then I'll be in for a little chat and tell you what I've got in store for you. Fucking hell, Chloe - fate dealt me a killer hand last night and believe me, girl - I am going all in!"