INDIGO LOUNGE BOX SET
COMPRISING BOOKS 1-4
“HIGH”, “HIGHER”,“SPIRAL” AND “SOAR”
by Zara Cox
About Zara Cox
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The first thing Bethany Green saw when she opened her mailbox on Friday evening was the indigo-colored envelope. Against the rest of the junkmail and bills, it stood out like an exotic jewel in the dust.
Even as she cautioned herself against excitement, her heart skipped several beats. Fingers trembling, she reached for the rectangular envelope and felt it, real and heavy in her hand.
"Omigod, it came. It actually came." Realizing she was talking to herself, albeit in the empty foyer of her apartment building, she quickly stuffed the mail in her oversized handbag and hurried to the elevator.
She'd barely stabbed the button for the fourth floor when she pulled the envelope out again. The words written on the front in raised gold embossed lettering were simple—Your Invitation. She turned it over. No return address. No surprise there. Because, seriously, only a crazy person would turn down this invitation.
Ten minutes later, Bethany, despite being fortified with half a glass of Rioja, still hadn't gathered the courage to open it. The harsh buzz of her cellphone made her jump. Unable to tear her gaze from the envelope, which now rested on her coffee table, she fumbled on the sofa for a few seconds before her fingers closed over her phone.
"We still on for tapas in an hour, right?" Keely Benson, her best friend, snapped in her no-nonsense Brooklyn twang.
Keely was pure New Yorker, not an up-stater like Bethany. Many times during their long friendship, Bethany had thanked God for having Keely in her life. She'd been there for her when Bethany had been hit with the worst news of her life.
"Umm…yeah…I guess," Bethany replied, her attention still absorbed by the envelope."You…guess? How many times over the last week have I told you how important tonight is to me? Fuck, Bethany, if you chicken out on me, I'll never forgive you. You know Clark will never go all the way if I come on too strong. I need you to pull me back. Once I get him to my place, I'll be fine, but I can't have him wimping out on me at dinner, and for that to happen, I need you there!"
"Jesus, Keel, I've never understood your insane addiction to nerds."
Her friend gave a rich laugh that started off as a schoolgirl giggle and ended in a dominatrix's growl. Bethany had seen grown men drool like little boys when Keely laughed.
"You don't need to understand, baby girl. All you need to do is to turn up and help a friend out."
"I…okay, sure, I'll be there."
Keely huffed with impatience. "Ok, tell me what's going on. You haven't had another run-in with She-male, have you?"
Bethany smirked at the nickname they'd coined for her balls-shriveling boss. "No, she's out of town till Tuesday."
"Then what the hell's the problem?"
"It came," Bethany blurted out, incapable of keeping the news to herself any longer."It? What it?"
"An invitation. To The Indigo Lounge."
Silence. For as long as Bethany had known her, Keely had never been at a loss for words. For her to be silent now made Beth's heart hammer. Her friend knew, just as she did, the gravity of the moment.
"You're. Shitting. Me!" she finally whispered.
"I am not." A sound bubbled up from Bethany's throat—half incredulous, half terrified. Because she still couldn't believe what her eyes were telling her.
"Have you opened it? What does it say? When do you leave? How long for? Are you allowed to bring a guest? Fuck it, girl, spill!"
"I…haven't opened it yet. And, seriously, Keely, I don't think I want to.""You don't think you want to open it or you don't think you want to accept the invitation?"
"Umm…both? I mean there's no way I can get away on such short notice. Besides, I have too much work to do at the moment. June is our busiest month because it's right before everyone disappears for the summer…it's just not practical—"
"Bethany!" Keely's steely voice cut across hers.
"How much wine do you have at your place?"
Bethany finally managed to blink and focus on something other than the indigo envelope. Glancing over at the alcove set into the short hallway leading to her kitchen, she counted. "Three reds, one white, one rosé. Why?"
"I'll be over in twenty minutes. I'll bring take out."
"What about Clark?"
Keely sighed. "As much as it kills me to deny myself some super-hot nerd cock, Clark can wait. This is way too important to let you do what I know you're thinking about doing."
"Twenty minutes." She hung up.
Bethany forced herself to breathe. Willed her hands to stop shaking. Taking another sip of wine, she picked up the invitation.
The Indigo Lounge—owned by thirty-one-year-old billionaire Zachary Savage, the fifth-richest man in America.
The piece she'd read about Savage in Time Magazine last year had expounded on his Midas-touch business savvy and hinted at his rags-to-riches background, but she'd known the report was largely rehashed from other articles. The very private Zach Savage had revealed almost nothing about his past to his interviewer.
The picture used in the piece had been an old one from his college years, but it didn't detract from the fact that at twenty-five, Zachary Savage had been magnetic and gorgeous, with eyes that captured and held a woman's attention and made her want to get to know the man behind the enigmatic, sexy smile.
Nowadays, all anyone knew about Zachary Savage was that he lived somewhere on the West Coast, probably San Francisco, owned several homes around the world, and had fingers in multiple entrepreneurial pies, the most renowned being The Indigo Lounge.Operating from ten super-jumbo private jets, the lounges offered prime, private adult entertainment. Rumors said they were flying sex palaces, but the specifics were an extremely well-kept secret that only the cream of A-listers were familiar with.
The events organizing company she worked for had made overtures for his business last year and been met with a flat refusal. Bethany, as part of the bidding team, had been tasked beforehand with finding out everything she could about Zachary Savage.
Coming up near-empty had more than pissed off her bosses and made her position at Neon Events, Inc. precarious. She'd had to work her ass off after that debacle to redeem herself in the eyes of her immediate supervisor, Sheena Malcolm.
The sound of her buzzer interrupted her thoughts. Springing to her feet, she buzzed Keely in and waited by her front door.
Her blonde, green-eyed friend exited the elevator with her usual brisk, sexy stride, carrying a takeout bag from their favorite Chinese place in one hand and two Louis Vuitton weekenders in another.
Bethany frowned as Keely walked past her into the apartment. "What are the bags for?"Keely dumped the luggage on the floor next to the nearest sofa and headed for the kitchen. "One is empty and is for you to use once I convince you you're going on this trip. The other is for if I've lost all my powers of persuasion and I don't succeed. In which case, you and I are taking off for the Hamptons for the weekend. The weather forecast says mid to high nineties. If I won't be sweating it out on my sheets with Clark, I might as well go sweat on a beach and top up my tan while we discuss the serious issue of how you live your life." She grabbed two plates and came back into the living room where she'd left the food on the small dining table tucked into a corner, and started dishing out Kung Pao chicken and noodles.
Bethany stemmed the fierce reaction to the word beach and tried to hide her fear-induced shudder. Keely saw it anyway.
Sympathy softened her gaze. "Crap. Scratch the beach idea. In fact scratch the whole contingency plan. You won't be needing it."
"Actually, about the invitation…"
Keely grimaced and pointed her chopsticks at her. "You've talked yourself out of going, haven't you?""I don't think I can take the time off work, Keel."
"Sure you can. Your Aunt Melanie has suffered her second heart attack in two months. All those donuts and greasy short ribs the doctors warned her about are finally taking their toll. They don't know if poor Aunt Mel will make it this time."
"Jesus, Keely, Aunt Mel is as healthy if not healthier than the horses she rides several times a day. I spoke to her on her birthday last week and she's as fit as a fiddle."
"Iron Balls Sheena doesn't know that. She's approved you taking all of the vacation time you've accrued in the last two years to visit your aunt's death bed in Montana. And…" Keely fished her cell phone out of a pocket and waved it at Bethany, "she just texted me back to say she's also happy for me to keep her updated so you don't need to check in every fucking day."
Bethany couldn't stop her mouth gaping. "You packed a bag, ordered food for us and texted my boss asking for time off all in what…twenty minutes? Just so I'll go on this trip?"
"And Sheena believed the excuse you made up?"
"Why wouldn't she? She still thinks I quit Neon last year because she drove me to a nervous breakdown and not because Rubio Events poached me. Bet she's scared spitless I might sue her ass." Keely grinned and handed over a steaming plate. "I love it when you get that look on your face."
"The one that says you don't know whether to kiss me for coming through for you or bitch-slap me for grinding your excuses into dust."
"Yeah, because I've learned to my grief that when you're this determined, one of us ends up doing something she'll regret. And most of the time, it's me."
Keely waved her away and went over to the sofa Bethany had vacated minutes earlier. She stared down at the envelope with the same awe Bethany had felt since opening her mailbox almost an hour ago. "Wow. I mean…fucking wow."
Bethany released a shaky breath and felt a little better that she hadn't blown the momentousness of the situation out of proportion. "I know, right?"
Keely nodded. "We still need to open it, babe. We're not going to get the juicy details by staring at it all night." With a deep breath, she snatched it off the table and ripped it open.Bethany held her breath until the need for oxygen made her inhale greedily. "What does it say?"
"You're leaving on Sunday from Newark. First stop is Shanghai…you'll have your own personal guide, chef and a bodyguard throughout the experience…holy crap!"
"Bodyguard? Why would I need—"
Keely held up a hand. "Second stop is Bora Bora. Jesus, Bethany, I'd kill to go to Bora Bora! Third stop, the Aleutian Islands—where the fuck are they?"
When Bethany shrugged, she continued. "Fourth stop London, fifth stop is Monte Carlo." She stared into space and sighed. "This is fucking unbelievable, Bethany. Did you think you'd hit the jackpot like this when you researched The Indigo Lounge and found out they take a wild-card guest once a year free of charge?"
"Nope. We both thought it was a joke at the time, remember? I mean, what would a multi-billion dollar organization have to gain from offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this?"
"Maybe Zachary Savage doesn't want the world to think he's just a super-rich dick?"
"Why should a guy who doesn't give personal interviews and is practically a recluse care what the world thinks of him?" Bethany asked.
"Jeez, I don't know. But let's not stare this gift heifer in the mouth." She pointed the edge of the envelope at Bethany. "This invitation has fallen into your lap and you. Are. Going."
Bethany pressed her lips together to stop the torrent of objections rising inside her. On the one hand, she was thrilled—beyond thrilled. On the other, her self-confidence had taken a severe blow six months earlier when her long-term boyfriend had left her…for another man. Her shock at Chris's double betrayal still hadn't worn off. More and more lately, she was beginning to wonder if it would ever wear off.
"What else does it say?" she asked to distract both herself and Keely from the reasons why taking this step felt so very daunting.
Keely glanced down at the envelope. "The usual disclaimers—total, unwavering confidentiality or you lose both kidneys, no drugs on board the jets…no drugs on board the jets…no drugs on board the jets or you'll be prosecuted…jeez, they really hammer the ‘no drugs' things home."
"Maybe someone had a bad experience with drugs on board?"
"Hmm…they have twenty-four hour entertainment on board, but the private suites are private. Fuck, if you come back and tell me you never left your suite, I'll kill you." Keely glared at her.
"I haven't agreed I'm going yet, Keel."
Her best friend sighed and dropped the envelope. "Listen. I know why you don't want to go. Chris-the-A-hole did a real number on you with that I-prefer-men thing, I get that. Hell, it didn't even happen to me and I was fucking traumatized. But you need to move on, baby girl. You've worn out six vibrators in the last six months and God knows how many more dildos, and those are the ones you've told me about—"
"You'll break your goddamn clit if you don't stop using battery powered gadgets on it and believe me, you need your clit for when a real man comes along. Seriously, can you tell me you don't miss the real thing? A warm body against yours, a hard cock inside you?"
Heat suffused Bethany's face and she sagged onto the sofa. "Okay, fine I do but—"
"Yes, buts! For fuck's sake, Keely. The last hard cock I had inside me decided it preferred anal with other men. It is any wonder I have a goddamn complex?"
Keely's green eyes gentled in sympathy. "Of course not."
"Those are stories we read in trashy magazines and laugh ourselves hoarse. Do you know how it feels to know I'm suddenly that girl? The one who couldn't keep her man happy enough, so he jumped into bed with another man?" Even after all this time, just saying the words made her stomach turn over with pain, anger and disgust.
Slowly, Keely shook her head, but then she got the look in her eye. The look that said, I love you but... "No, I don't know how it feels, honey, but neither am I going to let you hide away forever because of what that asshole did. What better way to get over it than to open yourself to new experiences? You go, you have a sizzling, no-strings-attached hook up in the lap of pure luxury, and you come back and move on with your life.
Bethany, the Indigo Lounge couldn't be more perfect for you right now."
"It's not that easy…"
"Yes, it is. You need to get your ex out of your system, and a flying sex palace is just the way you're going to do it. You really should give up trying to fight me because I'm not letting you chicken out of this, B. It's time to step back into the real world." She picked up her dish and sat back, chopsticks poised. "Now eat up, you'll need your strength to keep up with the to-do list I've drawn up for you."