When Nicholas Webster meets Edmund Hawthorne, Mr. Hawthorne slips Nick a card. In silver, embossed lettering, it says Club Paradiso.
Intrigued, Nick visits only to discover it’s a private men’s nudist club. As the doors to Eden are thrown open, Nick’s breath is taken away. It’s taken away again when he meets Bruno, the extremely handsome barman.
They begin talking, and it seems Club Paradiso has something to offer Nick. In fact, when Bruno asks if they can meet again, Nick knows something wonderful is going to happen.
However, the club has a dark secret. What lies behind the waterfall? His attempts to find out are thwarted, which only piques his interest. When he does find out, he might wish he had never even heard of Club Paradiso.
“Thank you, Mister Webster.”
“Call me Nick.”
Nick reached across the desk and shook Mr Edmund Hawthorne’s hand, noting it was a firm, manly handshake and one that had, no doubt, closed many deals over the years.
“I’ll have my secretary email you the completed copies once I’ve finished with them. Now I have all the information I need, it won’t take me long to draw up the papers.”
Nick got up from his chair and buttoned his suit jacket.
“Ah, before you go Mr ... Nick, I didn’t notice a wedding band.”
Nick hoisted his briefcase off the chair next to him. “No.” He felt a slight frown materialise. “Why do you ask?”
Mr Hawthorne, dressed in Armani from his tanned neck to his Gucci shoes, walked to the other side of the desk, holding something in his hand.
“I want you to take this. I think you might find it ... amusing.” He passed Nick a small white card, embossed in silver lettering. “I must ask you not to disclose any information contained on the card to anyone, nor any details of the venue itself.”
His curiosity more than piqued, Nick took the card. He looked first at Mr Hawthorne and then at the card.
The Old Port Warehouses
“I don’t understand,” said Nick as he was escorted to the door of the impeccably decorated office.
“It’s a gentleman’s club,” explained Mr Hawthorne, placing his hand in the small of Nick’s back. “Of sorts. Very exclusive and therefore requiring the utmost discretion. I have a feeling you’ll fit in rather well.”
“I’m still not sure I understand,” said Nick, glancing once again at the card as if it would reveal more information a second time.
Mr Hawthorne smiled, and there was a glint in his eyes. “Go to that address this coming Friday. Be there promptly at eight. Don’t tell anyone where you’re going. Lie if necessary.”
“It doesn’t sound ...”
Mr Hawthorne gently guided Nick through the door and into the reception area.
“I’ll be expecting you.”
The door closed.
Nick stared ahead at an invisible point on the wall, trying to get his mind around what had just taken place. Was attending the ‘venue’ to be part of the business deal? Would the agreement they’d reached depend upon his attendance? And what if he refused to go? Would that mean the months of research, planning and negotiations had been wasted?
He was suddenly quite annoyed he’d been put in such a position. He had half a mind to turn around, march back into the office and ...
“Will that be all, Mr Webster?” asked the well-groomed, middle-aged receptionist.
Nick glanced at the closed door. “I think so. Yes.”
“Let me get the lift for you, then,” she said, emerging from behind her desk.
“Thank you,” Nick mumbled.
The receptionist pressed the button, smiled warmly and then returned to her seat.
When the metal doors slid open, Nick stepped into the lift and, after they had closed, he looked at the card he realised he was still holding. The light in the lift caught something he’d previously missed. As he examined the card more closely, he realised he could see a tiny figure pressed into the card beneath the address. The figure of a naked male torso.