The Discovery Club Ch. 01byHikergirl©
This is the first Chapter of what I hope will evolve into a series. As such, this Chapter spends some time setting the stage and is a bit of a tease, but I'd like to think there is enough "excitement" in this Chapter to please most people. Be warned, however, that it may leave you hanging. Thanks for reading! ~ ~ ~ Hikergirl
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"Damn it!" Kate swore under her breath as she smacked the side of the photocopier, which was flashing the message "Clear Paper Jam in Duplexing Tray." Normally she would have had her secretary handle this sort of thing, but Doreen had already left for the day and Kate wanted to see the job finished before the weekend.
It was 5:30 on the Friday of a long, difficult week, and all she wanted to do was escape the office and..."And do what, exactly?" she asked herself. "Who are you kidding?"
She sighed in frustration, knowing that her empty apartment awaited her. "I don't know why I'm in such a hurry," she grumbled to herself. "It's not like I have an exciting weekend planned."
In fact, Kate hadn't had an exciting weekend in over two months, since her friend Jack had moved to Detroit. She didn't kid herself; she and Jack had never had a real romantic attachment. Although she was fond of him, and he of her, it wasn't as if she was pining for a lost soul mate now that he had moved. No, what she missed more than anything was the wild, uninhibited sex between them; they had been, for the lack of a better term, well-matched friends-with-benefits. That arrangement had suited Kate just fine for the time being, because at age 30, she was still more focused on building her career than finding a husband or starting a family. Her enthusiastic weekend romps with Jack were a great way to relieve stress and have fun without any real strings.
She opened the back hatch of the photocopier and pulled a crumpled piece of paper from between the rollers. When she restarted the machine, she was relieved to see the error message disappear. After compiling her documents, she walked over to Doreen's desk, intending to leave them in her in-basket. Once again, Doreen had forgotten to turn off her radio, and Kate was just about to flick the switch when the host announced that there were still limited tickets available for a comedy performance at the local theatre that very evening.
"I could use a good laugh about now." On the spur of the moment, she turned towards Sandra's office, hoping to find her friend and convince her to go to the show with her. She caught Sandra just as she was shrugging on her coat, clearly on her way home.
"Oh, I'm so glad I caught you!" Kate exclaimed, reaching out and squeezing her friend's shoulder.
Sandra looked up somewhat apprehensively, clearly anxious to leave. "What's up, Kate? Don't tell me that Dave dropped a last minute report request on your lap!" Dave was their mutual boss and CEO of the company where they both worked, and he was infamous for asking his employees to stay late on Friday nights to do extra work.
Laughing, Kate reassured her friend. "Nothing like that. In fact, this is something fun. How'd you like to go to the Comedy Festival with me tonight? My treat!"
Kate's eyes were so bright and hopeful that Sandra felt a guilty pang of regret before answering. She suspected that part of Kate's grumpiness as of late was because she had been lonely after Jack left. "That sounds like it would have been a lot of fun, Kate, but I have plans this weekend," she said apologetically. "In fact, I'm running late as it is!"
"Plans? Oh darn," Kate pouted. "Something fun, I hope?"
"Fun enough, I guess. Mike and I are getting away for the weekend with some friends." Sandra tried to avoid Kate's crestfallen expression. "Next weekend, OK?"
"It seems like you and Mike are always 'getting away' together! Where do you get away to, exactly?" Kate asked testily.
"Oh, a group of us get together about one weekend a month," Sandra answered. When she saw the questioning look on Sandra's face, she elaborated vaguely, "You know, kind of a couple's retreat; relationship building and stuff."
"Hmmpppffff!" Kate snorted. "From what I've seen, you and Mike have already built a great relationship, if your behavior at the Christmas party was any indication!" Kate vividly remembered stumbling upon Mike and Sandra kissing passionately in the deserted cloakroom, his hand high up under her skirt, her blouse half-unbuttoned, and her breasts spilling forth. When they saw her, they laughed and blushed furiously, but rather than parting, Mike winked at Kate, and then dragged Sandra into a closet, slamming the door behind them.
Sandra's face reddened and she stammered, "Well...true...what can I say? We work at it!" She grinned at Kate and then moved towards the door. "I'm sorry, Kate, really I am. Next weekend, OK? I promise!" She blew Kate a kiss as she almost ran out of her office door.
Kate sighed as she watched Sandra retreat, and slumped in her friend's chair. She couldn't help but feel a little jealous of Sandra's good fortune, and a more than a little sorry for herself. She resigned herself to picking up a couple of videos on the way home, and curling up with her cat for the evening. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
On Monday, Kate was already in the boardroom with all the other managers when Sandra scurried in the door at 9:05 and hastily took a seat beside her.
"You're lucky, girl, Dave got caught up on a phone call!" Their boss, Dave, was notorious for centering out anyone who was late for the company's mandatory Monday management meeting. Dave loved nothing more than numbers and charts. Every Monday morning he presented statistics of their group's performance from the previous week, and their targets for the next few weeks.
"Don't I know it! Somehow I slept right through my alarm," Sandra explained, taking a big gulp of her extra large coffee and shaking her head as if trying to clear her mind. Kate was about to ask if she was all right when Dave waltzed into the room and called the meeting to order, and everyone swiveled their chairs to face him.
Kate appeared to give Dave her undivided attention, but whenever he turned his back to point out something on the sales charts projected on the screen at the front of the room, she would sneak a glance over at Sandra. Her friend was struggling to remain focused on the meeting, but as Dave droned on, she doodled on her notepad. The dreamy expression on her face suggested that her mind was far away from the boardroom.
"Sandra, do you need any help with that meeting?" Dave asked, with his back still to the room as admired his graphs.
Sandra raised her head from her doodling, panicking when she realized that she had absolutely no idea which meeting Dave was talking about. Kate gripped Sandra's knee under the table to get her attention, shook her head and mouthed "NO" while pointing back and forth between herself and Sandra.
"Ah! No Dave, that's OK. Kate and I have it under control; she's offered to handle it with me." Sandra tried to inject competent enthusiasm in her voice, and it seemed to work. Dave turned around and beamed at the two of them.
"Excellent, ladies! I've been impressed with the teamwork you've shown the last couple of months. Keep it up!"
Sandra sighed inwardly in relief and squeezed Kate's knee in silent thanks.
"OK folks, that's all for today. Make it a great week!" With that, Dave dismissed the meeting and quickly slipped out of the room.
Sandra melted back against her chair, letting her exhaustion show. "Thanks Kate, you really saved my ass that time."
"No problem, Sandra, that's what friends are for! Now, how about we go grab a fresh cup of coffee and you can tell me where your mind was this morning? You're buying!"
"It's nothing, really!" Sandra protested, but she could see that Kate wouldn't give up so easily. "But I do owe you for covering for me, so coffee it is. Give me a few minutes to dump this on my desk and check my voicemail. Meet me in the lobby in ten minutes, and we can go to Lysander's across the road?"
Kate nodded her agreement and headed off to her own office.
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Kate reached the reception area before Sandra, and she sank into one of the plush chairs, suspecting that Sandra had decided to return a few calls before sneaking away. Kate had purposely chosen a chair that was hidden from the view of the interior offices; she didn't want to appear to be goofing off too much.
Her seat also gave her an excellent view of the entrance and the reception desk, and her interest piqued when an unfamiliar man came through the revolving doors. Kate let her eyes wander over his fine physique, taking in his ruddy tan, sandy hair and blue eyes.
He was carrying a long garment bag by its hanger. Despite his height, which Kate pegged at 6'2", he had to hold the hanger at shoulder height to keep the bag from trailing on the ground. A long evening gown, perhaps? But why the office delivery? Kate mused to herself, letting her mind wander. He didn't look like a deliveryman; he was well dressed in casual business attire, and he had an unhurried air about him.
The stranger approached the front desk, probably hoping to drop the package off or ask the receptionist to summon the recipient, but Sally appeared to be off on her break. Kate thought about to get up to help him, using it as an excuse to introduce herself in the process.
"Oh my God," she thought, "am I that desperate, to be hitting on strange delivery men?" Just then, he turned towards the office and his face brightened with a huge grin as he recognized someone. As he turned, Kate saw his wedding ring. "Darn," she thought, "he's probably meeting his wife or girlfriend," and she slid back down in her chair in despair.
"Richard! What are you doing here?" Kate's head shot back up when she heard the voice that greeted the stranger with barely restrained excitement. Sandra? The handsome hunk was here to see Sandra!
Kate ducked a bit lower in her chair, hoping Sandra hadn't seen her around the potted plants.
"Well good morning, gorgeous! Wow, you look better than I feel!" Kate watched Richard's eyes move up and down Sandra's body in frank appraisal.
"Richard!" Sandra blushed, both pleased and embarrassed by his attention.
"Well, all I'm saying is that it was quite the exhausting weekend, hmmm? And yet you still look radiant. It must have agreed with you!"
Kate listened in amazement. Sandra and Richard were obviously flirting, and they seemed to have spent an exhausting weekend together. But Sandra was married! And so was this guy! Kate kept silent, bewildered, hoping to learn more.
"It did indeed. Mike and I quite enjoyed ourselves," Sandra almost whispered, her face flushing red again, adding to Kate's confusion. "And I trust you and Marnie had a good time?"
"Oh yes, one of the best. Whoever came up with that idea was brilliant. I think we all learned a few new things. I know I did!"
Sandra nodded, "My hat's off to Denise and Larry, they really put a lot of thought into that theme." Kate remained crouched in her chair, too busy trying to make sense of the conversation to feel guilty for eavesdropping.
"Well the next weekend's going to be pretty fantastic too," Richard enthused. "Speaking of which, these are for you and Mike. I think they should fit," he leered as his eyes wandered over her chest again, "at least, from what I remember of your measurements. And if you find it too revealing, blame Marnie, she picked it out!"
Sandra blushed again. "Knowing that wife of yours, I'm almost afraid to look!" She took the garment bag from him, and gave him a quick kiss. "Thank you for dropping them by, you really didn't have to. Mike or I could have driven over on the weekend."
"It was no problem, Sandra, really. And it gave me an excuse to see you again. Albeit, a little less of you that this past weekend, but I'm not complaining."
Sandra laughed, and hissed again in mock protest. "Richard, please! I work here!"
"Uh huh, I know. But nobody's around and I can't resist teasing you!" With that, he gave Sandra a very familiar hug, and watched as she walked back into the office with the garment bag, an exaggerated sway in her hips. When Richard turned to go back out the door, he saw Kate in her chair, trying very hard to look like she hadn't heard anything. Instead of looking embarrassed, he gave her a big smile and raised his eyebrows in amusement, causing Kate to blush, before he walked out the door.
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When Sandra came into the reception area the second time, Kate was standing by the door, waiting for her. She kept her conversation to small talk as they exited the building and crossed the road to Lysander's, their favorite café. Only once they were in their booth at the back of the café did Kate start to question her, starting innocently enough.
"So, Sandra, you seem kind of tired this morning," she commented.
"Mmmhhhmmm" Sandra mumbled as she sipped her latte, avoiding Kate's gaze. "Busy weekend."
"More than just busy, I think," Kate prodded. "You seemed pretty distracted this morning, too."
"Well, ahhhmm, these weekends always give us lots to think about" Sandra said vaguely. When she saw that this didn't appease Kate's curiosity, she added "You know; relationship stuff."
"Relationship stuff" Kate echoed. "Oh yes, a relationship building retreat, I think you called it."
Sandra just nodded.
"Building your relationship with Mike." Kate made this a statement. Again, Sandra nodded.
"The already-great relationship with Mike." Kate expanded, looking at Sandra pointedly.
"Uh huh. I told you! We work at it." Sandra looked around evasively.
"And what about Richard, do you work at that relationship, too?" Kate asked, looking at her friend with intensity.
Sandra's head shot up. "Ahh, umm, Richard...?" she trailed off, not sure what to say.
"Yes, Richard. As in the hunk who just dropped off the garment bag in the office." Kate kept staring, and Sandra's face reddened. "The one with the tan. And the killer blue eyes. And the friendly hug."
"Ah, yes, well, he's a friend of ours," Sandra mumbled.
"And his wife, Marnie, she's a friend, too? And Denise and, let's see, what was his name? Denise and Larry?" Kate asked pointedly.
"Yup, all friends. You know. People we met. At the retreat. For couples." Sandra stuttered, not sure how much to reveal.
"Come on Sandra, spill it! There was a lot more than friendship in those looks you and Richard were giving each other! And what's with the bag? And why is this guy's wife picking out clothes for you?"
Sandra could see that Kate wouldn't stop until she had answers. She looked around the café, making sure they couldn't be overheard. "OK, I'll tell you. But you have to PROMISE you won't tell anyone!" She looked at Kate pleadingly.
"Of course not! Wait, I think I'm going to need some stronger coffee." Kate squeezed her friend's hand as she slipped out of the booth. She had a feeling her life was suddenly going to become much more interesting.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"OK." Sandra took a deep breath and stared into her coffee. "Here it is. Mike and I...umm...the club we belong to is...well...it is kind of like a couple's club. Well, mostly couples. A members-only club. Exclusive group. Whatever." She paused to look up at Kate, who smiled encouragingly, even as her own heart started to beat faster.
"We call it the Discovery Club. A bunch of us, I mean...we all, together...or some of us, it depends on who..." Sandra stumbled along and then took another deep breath, unsure of how her friend would take this. "We all own this property together, see, and about once a month, we all get together and do stuff together. Sex stuff. Together. Not all at once. Well, not usually all at once. But with different partners."
Now that she had blurted it out, Sandra couldn't stop. "Amazing, mind-blowing, wild, slow, fast, erotic, uninhibited sex stuff!" she exclaimed, her voice rising with each word. She stopped and took another deep breath, and searched Kate's face for a reaction.
"Oh. My. God!" Kate sat there with a dumbfound expression on her face.
Sandra cringed at Kate's words. "I know, it must sound so raunchy. But really, it's not as bad as it sounds. It's really just ..."
"Oh stop it!" Kate interrupted, and her face brightened with a huge smile. "It sounds fantastic, actually!"
Sandra smiled weakly, relieved. "Really? You aren't offended?"
Kate was almost bouncing in her seat with delight. "I can't believe you and Mike. I mean, I knew you two were good together, but you're MARRIED, for Pete's sake! And have been for years! It's not fair that you're having more fun than I am! Tell me more! Who are the members? How many? Can I join?"
Sandra had to laugh at Kate's enthusiasm. "Whoa, girl! It's not that easy!"
"First of all, like I said, it's members only. We allow a maximum of 18 people, and try not to have less than 14. Most of the members are couples, but we do have a few singles, balanced between men and women. As it happens, we are currently looking for a female, because Janice, one of our single members, just moved to Europe."
"Oh, oh, oh!" Kate exclaimed, waving her hand with a "pick me, pick me" look.
"Slow down, Kate! I know it all sounds exciting, and frankly, I suspect you have the sort of personality to make it work, but there are a LOT of rules. The members have a lot at stake, personally and professionally. We don't let just anyone join. Any new person must be sponsored by someone in the group. The group meets to discuss the application in private, and if everyone agrees unanimously, the applicant is invited to a trial weekend. If everyone is still comfortable after that weekend, the applicant is invited to join, pending financial approval."
"Financial approval? What do you mean?"
"Well obviously we can't carry out these sorts of activities just anywhere. Not everyone is as accepting as you are. And we all value our privacy. So, we all jointly own a rural estate about an hour north of the city. It's really pretty, about a hundred acres of rolling hills, lots of forest, trails, a couple of ponds. And this amazing renovated estate house, it's huge. Anyway, applicants need to buy an interest in the property. Currently I think it costs about $100,000 per couple or $50,000 per single, plus $500 per couple or $250 per single per month for maintenance and expenses. If anyone wants out, they have to sell their interest back to the Club. One of our members is a lawyer, and we have a legal agreement that sets all that stuff up. In fact, a couple of people have made a tidy profit when they've had to move on."
"Wow, it sounds pretty coordinated" Kate marveled.
"It is. Now, we meet as a group once a month, usually the first weekend of the month, from Friday evening until Sunday. This time is restricted to our special group activities."
When Kate tried to interrupt to get more details on these group activities, Sandra shushed her.
"I'll tell you more about that later. Let me finish with the business details. We only meet for our special weekends once a month, which means that the rest of the time, the property is available to the members on a weekly basis, like a vacation property. Four weeks a year for couples, two weeks a year for singles, and there is a system in place to make sure everyone some time in all different seasons."
"So, that's about it for the business side. I know it's a lot of money, but honestly, it's the best thing Mike and I have ever done for ourselves."
"Actually, it sounds pretty reasonable for the privacy and grounds and all that. And frankly, I don't have too much else to spend my money on these days!" Kate looked at Sandra hopefully.
"Oh, and then there is the health screening -- that can take a while -- and the health rules."