The Hell-Fire ClubbyTamLin01©
"The strongest guard is placed at the gateway to nothing."
-F Scott Fitzgerald, "Tender Is the Night"
Rosemary recognized the woman as soon as she opened the door, but was too amazed to say anything.
And then she walked right into the campus café (half full on a Thursday afternoon) and up to Rosemary's table, slid her sunglasses down and said, "You're Rosemary Hoit, aren't you?"
Rosemary spilled her coffee. Not much--just a splash on the tabletop--but enough to be immediately embarrassed. She began blotting it up with napkins. "I'm sorry! Did I get any on you?"
"Not at all," the woman said, slipping into the seat next to hers. "Look, I can't stay here long, people will recognize me and I don't want that. I have a car waiting outside for both of us. We've only just met, but don't we go somewhere more private and talk?"
Rosemary stammered. "Um. Yes. Okay. Only--look, this isn't a joke, is it? You're..."
The woman put a finger to her lips. "Yes, but shhh, don't say it." And she winked.
As if in a dream, Rosemary floated up out of her seat and followed out to where a nondescript, steely black town car idled at the curb. An equally nondescript driver opened their doors, and once inside the vehicle felt like a tiny world all its own, cut off from the city outside. Rosemary realized she'd left her books behind, but suddenly it didn't seem to matter.
Once in the backseat the woman tapped the glass divider to let the driver know to go, then took off the sunglasses and scarf she'd wrapped around her head and let her black hair out.
"Well that was a relief," she said as the car hummed along. "No one is supposed to know we're in town, but I really wanted to come get you myself. I wasn't sure you'd come if I sent someone you wouldn't recognize."
"We?" Rosemary said, still dazed.
"Some friends and I. I'll introduce you when we get to where we're going. I guess you have a lot of questions?"
"I..." Rosemary looked into the older woman's hazel eyes and swooned for a second, but caught herself. "Well, you're Demetria Guynes, right?"
"You can call me Dee. All of my friends call me Dee."
"I'm...such a big fan!" Rosemary said, the words coming out all at once. "I've seen all of your movies. Well, not all of them, some of them came out before I was born. Oh, that sounds awful, doesn't it? All I'm saying is I love you, I really do!"
She put a hand over her mouth to keep from saying more, and realized she was blushing. Rosemary always blushed easily; Mom used to call her "my little lightning bug." It was an annoying tic for someone who wanted to be an actress.
But Dee simply smiled at the compliments and smoothed over Rosemary's embarrassment. She leaned over and uncovered a wet bar in the car's backseat console; the ice gleamed. "Would you like a drink?"
"Um, yes, sure. Whatever you're having."
Rosemary watched as Dee poured them both scotch on the rocks. She was wearing a creamy dress, simple but incredibly tasteful, not to mention how it flattered her legs. Rosemary was wearing a pair of jeans she owned since her junior year of high school; she hadn't even bothered to put on makeup that morning.
"I guess you're wondering how I found you?" Dee said.
"Yes, but mostly I'm wondering why, and where we're going? Is this a hidden camera show? Did I win a contest I don't remember entering?"
Dee sipped her scotch. "There are no cameras where we're going, it's a rule. But you certainly could say you're a winner. I had some friends ask, and they told me you usually study in that café after class. I was asking because I'm a big fan of yours, as of last week."
Rosemary blinked. Dee helped by adding: "I saw you in the play."
"The play? But I...you were there? Why?"
Rosemary had been the housekeeper in a community theater production of August: Osage County. She was actually the understudy, and only went on for two days.
"I was in town unexpectedly, and I always like to take in local theater. I've seen that show lots of times, but I've never seen anyone do it quite like you did."
"I...I wasn't that great--" Rosemary started to say, but Dee leaned in and put a finger to her lips. Rosemary froze as if she'd been shocked.
"Stop right there," the older woman said. "Never, ever say that you're not good. Plenty of people will try to say that about you for the rest of your life--the envious ones, the angry ones, the ones who'll never have your talent--but you should never say it. Don't give them an inch."
Dee waited until Rosemary had nodded her understanding and then sat back. Rosemary took a drink to steady her nerves and almost choked; the scotch was deep, hard, and strong, not like the cheap substitutes she was used to from parties.
"But of course, everyone feels the way you do when they get their first break," Dee continued. "I was exactly same way when I was your age. ...how old ARE you, exactly?"
"Ah. How sweet it is." Dee patted her leg. "You're majoring in theater I suppose?"
"Small town girl?"
"First in your family to go to school, father gone, raised by your mother?"
"Hey, did you do a background check on me?"
"I just know people is all. Well, you've got a gift. I'd like to help you out a little. Introduce you to the right people."
Rosemary gulped the rest of her drink in one go. It was the only thing she could think of to keep from gushing again. "That's...that's incredible, really. I don't know what to say. But..."
"Is that really how it works? I mean, some amazing person just walks into your life one day, says you're talented, and boom? It's..."
"Hard to believe. Yes, it was for me too. But you'll learn soon that the world works very differently once you're one of us." She looked out the window at the swirling galaxy of headlights on the freeway. "Looks like we're almost there."
"Where are we going?"
"I told you: To introduce you to a few people."
"Now?" said Rosemary. "But I'm not ready. I mean, look at me."
"You look beautiful. I'd strangle my youngest to look as good as you do. Anyway, we're here already. Just relax and have fun: This is going to be the first best night of your entire life."
The car stopped, the door popped, and the night air rushed in, covering Rosemary in gooseflesh.
The sun had gone down during the ride, and now she saw that they were standing in a strange spot in the west end of town, near the inner harbor and in front of an tall, squarish house with a gabled roof that looked a bit like a gingerbread house. All of the windows were dark.
Dee told the driver to "Take it somewhere no one will see it," then smiled at Rosemary again and said, "Ready?"
Rosemary nodded. The butterflies in her stomach were fluttering at monsoon-wind speeds. Dee actually took her hand as she led her up to the walk and Rosemary went weak in the knees.
I can't believe this is happening, she thought. Who could she tell about this? Who would believe her? She imagined calling home: "Hey Mom, about those private acting classes I wanted? You can stop shopping around."
Or maybe Aunt Freda: "Hey, remember at Thanksgiving when you thought it was funny to tell me not to quit my day job? WELL GUESS FUCKING WHAT?"
For that matter, Rosemary realized she should call work and tell them she would need the rest of forever off...
When they got to the front door it opened before they knocked and a very tall woman in a suit greeted them. "Password?"
"Denmark," said Dee. "And she's with me."
The tall woman looked at Rosemary but didn't say anything. Rosemary let Dee pull her inside, and the house was very dark and very warm and very noisy, with lots of voices, soft music, and the sound of glasses.
"Is this a party?" Rosemary said, whispering as they passed through the foyer.
"It's always a party," said Dee. "Members only. This isn't as nice as the place back home, of course, but it's fine for out of town. Ah, here we are."
They stepped through a curtain. The enormous living room was furnished entirely in black and lit mostly by an old marble fireplace, which roared like a dragon and cast an orange haze over everything.
Twenty or so people were here, drinking and laughing. Most of them were either very young looking or very old looking, although Rosemary decided they all looked very rich in either case.
An extremely tall, extremely dark, extremely handsome man greeted Dee, kissing her on both cheeks. Then he turned to Rosemary and in a very deep voice said, "So you're the one. Dee has hardly stopped talking about you. I'm Mark Sinclair."
"Yes I know!" Rosemary said, and she knew she was gushing again but didn't care. "I love you. I mean, I love your movies. I've seen them all."
"Even the ones that came out before you were born?" Dee said, teasing in a tone that made Rosemary feel welcome instead of embarrassed.
They sat at a table and another tall woman brought them drinks. ("Whatever they're having," Rosemary said) She peered around as she sipped her cocktail; most of the people were talking amongst themselves, although an odd scene played out near the fire, where a woman danced on a bearskin rug and some other women and men gathered to watch. "This is something," she said.
"The one is new," said Dee. "A private place for private people."
"Why are you here? In town, I mean,"
"Business," said Mark.
"A little side venture," Dee added. "Nothing important. But it's lucky I came, isn't it?"
Rosemary realized she was getting quite drunk already. She wasn't used to the strong liquor, but it was making her feel extremely relaxed. "So you two are friends?" she continued. "That's funny."
"Why?" said Mark.
"I just mean, you've never done a movie together. And I never read about you in, oh, tabloids or anything."
Both of them laughed, a perfect, musical sound. "You'll find out soon that the tabloids don't know much about what really goes on," Mark said. "Dee and I are friends through the Club."
"This is the Club," Dee said, gesturing at the room. "There are branches in almost every city. Everyone who is everyone is a member."
"And all members are friends," Mark added, clinking glasses with Dee. "It keeps things running smoothly: If everybody knows everybody and everybody gets along, everything is easy."
"So it's for movie stars?"
"Oh, the Club is much older than the movies," said Dee. "It's--when was the founding again?"
"Nobody knows," Mark said, shrugging. "Six hundred years at least. Anyway, it's not just actors: There are bankers, lawyers, artists, singers, CEOs. Anybody it might be useful to know."
"Not if we can help it," said Dee. "We have standards."
"The right people have always needed a way to meet the right people. You're lucky you're getting in early, Rosemary. You'd become a member sooner or later anyway, the way Dee talks about you. But the earlier you do it the easier things are."
"I'm not a member already, am I?"
"No, but I'll take care of that," Dee said. "Someone just has to sponsor you for a little bit. And after that you'll know where to go to find friends everywhere in the world."
"The right kind of friends," Mark added. "As long as you remember to keep it a secret. Everything we do here is secret. That's part of the tradition."
He smiled. Every time Rosemary heard his voice she crossed her legs.
Dee sat back in her chair and said, "I suppose you've wanted to act all your life?"
"Yes," Rosemary said immediately. "Since the first time my mother showed me a movie."
"Why?" Mark said.
"Everyone in the audience was feeling the same things while they watched," Rosemary said. "It was like magic. I want to do that to people."
"See?" said Dee. "I told you: She's one of us."
Rosemary beamed. Then, abruptly, Dee stood. "Let's show you around? It's a nice place here, and we're only in town a few days more."
Rosemary was a little off-balance when standing, but Mark caught her and led her with one hand on her waist. She allowed herself dawdle a little bit so that he pressed against her from behind. A few people looked at her as they went by, but no one said anything.
"Dee?" Rosemary said.
"Why is there a big empty chair in the middle of the room?" She pointed as they passed. It was a black thing almost as tall as Mark, with a deep red cushion.
"Another tradition," Dee said. "In the very old days the Club founders always left one seat empty at every party. That one was for the devil, in case he ever showed up."
"That's funny," Rosemary said, letting Mark lead her up the stairs, trailing her fingers over the curling banister. "Whose idea was that?"
"I have no idea now," said Dee, leading them down a hall. "Ah, here it is: the master bathroom."
She turned on the lights, although things remained extremely dim. The room was all blue and gold tiles. In the center, sunken into a dais, was a gleaming marble bathtub with crystal spats, almost as big as Rosemary's entire bedroom back in her apartment near Highland Hill.
"It looks big enough for all of us," Dee said, turning and looking Rosemary up and down. "Why don't we get more comfortable?"
"You're all right with that, aren't you Rosemary?" Mark said. One of his big hands was at the small of her back. "We all just want to be friends here. If you prefer to--"
Rosemary had to stand on tiptoe to reach his lips. He hadn't shaved, and his stubble felt rough. She looped her arms around his neck and literally hung off of him. "I love you..." she murmured.
"You love my movies, you mean," he said, smiling.
Dee was helping Rosemary out of her clothes. "You understand, of course? If you want to make the most of your opportunities, you have to be willing to do certain favors for people...."
"Makes sense," Rosemary said, slurring her words a bit. Dee unbuttoned her blouse for her and Rosemary shrugged out of it. The older woman's hands moved to the hooks of her bra.
"We love to meet new people," Dee continued. "And we like a little variety."
"I'm sure Rosemary understands," Mark said, cupping Rosemary's face in his hand. "She's a very intelligent girl."
"Uh huh," Rosemary said.
Dee stripped her old jeans off and tossed them away, leaving Rosemary perfectly naked in the soft light. Turning, Dee walked up the short steps to the giant bath and fingered the crystal spats, watching Rosemary over her shoulder as she bent over and turned the water on. Steam rose up almost instantly.
Rosemary was still unsteady on her feet, so she let Dee help her in. Rosemary reclined against the marble, which felt cool on her naked ass and back even as the hot water crept up around her. Dee lay on the dais at the side of the tub, tracing fingertips over Rosemary's bare shoulders and arms.
"Such beautiful skin," she said. "I remember being that young."
"You're always that young," Rosemary said in a dreamy murmur. "Put on one of those movies and poof, there you are, just the same. All made of light, like an angel..."
Dee pulled her into a kiss, their open mouths meeting as Dee cupped Rosemary's face in both hands. The older woman's black hair fell around Rosemary and enveloped her. Rosemary met Dee's probing tongue with small darts and touches of her own, until they melted together into a long embrace.
Dee slinked out of her clothes and slid down into the bath, the weight of her body on top of Rosemary's relieved by buoyancy in the steaming water. Both women's wet skin prickled with goosebumps every time they rose up, turning this way and that in the water with arms and legs wrapped around each other, their breasts pressed together.
Rosemary felt a flush that went all the way down, her blood burning hot. Her head lolled as Dee kissed the lines of her neck. Her mouth tasted like lip gloss and the dark, rich flavor of the expensive liquor they'd all been drinking.
"You're the angel," Dee said. She was fondling Rosemary under the water, her filed nails gracefully steering clear of cutting or scratching Rosemary's body while her fingers explored her curves, groping and squeezing and pinching to make Rosemary gasp or sigh of laugh.
"Soon we'll lift you up above all the others," she said in between kisses. "Make you more than human. To be a goddess, not to earth confined, ascending to heaven on merit..."
"Mmm. But I won't be as good as you, will I?" Rosemary said, putting her arms over her head and draping them outside of the tub. Water streamed from her bare skin and down the tile steps. She pictured the crystal-clear drops as diamonds, scattering them with a wave of her hand.
"If not equal, then equally free," Dee said, twining her limbs even tighter around Rosemary.
"That's pretty," Rosemary said. "Who said that?"
"The devil," said Mark, reappearing, his voice sounding like a heavy stone landing in a still pond. Rosemary started when she realized that he'd left without her noticing, but now had returned with more drinks, which he set by the side of the bath.
Rosemary rolled over and took one, drinking nearly half in one go. Then she sat up and slipped her arms around Mark's legs, not caring that she was soaking his clothes. Her face wavered right at the level of his crotch.
"I want to see it," she said (or made her best attempt; words were increasingly difficult). "I bet it's big..."
"There are no small parts, " said Mark. "Only small actors."
"Just the same, I bet it's big..." said Rosemary, cupping a hand against him and rubbing. Then she gasped when Dee's luscious mouth closed over one of her breasts and sucked tight and hard. "Ohhh," she said. "Not quite so hard..."
"You like it," Dee said, and did it again. Rosemary twisted and squirmed.
"Yes," she said, drawing out the S. "But I don't want you to leave a mark in case..."
"In case what?" said Mark, who was unbuttoning his shirt and revealing his famously smooth and muscular physique. Rosemary eyed him up and down.
"Nothing," she said after a moment. "Come in with us. There's lots of room..."
Dee snatched Mark's belt off almost in one single motion. He made a point of draping his clothes over the back of a chair in the corner and then ascended the steps. Both women sat up to greet him; Rosemary circled three fingers around his dangling prick, squeezing as if to test that it was real. Then, her mouth still smeared with Dee's lip gloss, she tried to take almost all of it in at once.
"You'll hurt yourself," Dee said, grabbing a handful of Rosemary's wet hair and tugging her back. She'd nearly choked. "Let me show you."
Mark sat on the edge with his legs in the water as Dee slid between them, sucking her way down the length of his cock with slow, easy, measured movements. He leaned back, and Rosemary put a wet hand on his chest so that she could watch the water trickle down the front of him.
His body wasn't as hard underneath her kiss as she'd imagined. His touch was soft when he stroked her hair and face, although the size of his hands and the musculature bulging in his arms made her think about how hard he could be if he wanted to. Under the water she gushed.
"Let me try again," Rosemary said, almost elbowing Dee out of the way until the other woman relented and allowed Rosemary to take Mark in both hand and slide the bulging tip of him past her lips, letting the thick and smooth bulk of his cock fill her mouth. She felt his pulse throb against her tongue.
She kept eye contact as long as she could but eventually broke off when her eyes rolled, and then she closed them and let herself go to sucking as hard as he could and floating in the steaming hot water.
"She's got a future," Dee said, pulling Rosemary's hair back out of her face. "You're a natural, aren't you?"
"Mmhmm," said Rosemary, which of course was all she could say now. When she finally pulled back it was to gasp in deep breaths, which she almost immediately lost as Dee kissed her hard and hot again, licking the taste of Mark's drippings off of her lips. "Sooo good..." Rosemary said.