Rudy screwed up on Thanksgiving by giving out the security code to Kinky Kritters to a couple of humans. He put the club and the shifters in it at risk, and he has to pay for that. Lady Leo is ready to forgive him, as long as he submits a public punishment to show everyone just how sorry he is.
Thomas is experienced in giving punishments. He used to work professionally for Critters on Call, but he’s left that life behind. When his old boss, Clyce, calls him for one last favor, Thomas agrees, but this is no simple task, and Rudy isn’t so easy to leave behind.
Thomas wasn't sure why his old boss wanted to meet with him. But turning down a coffee invitation from the head of the Vegas branch of Critters on Call would have been rude, to say the least. Any shifter who wanted to survive in Vegas needed to make nice with Critters on Call. Nearly everyone he knew was involved with them in some way, though mostly on the client side. How someone as small as Clyce had managed to become so powerful was beyond him. Thomas was a bear, tall and full of muscle. Sometimes Clyce looked barely old enough to be out of high school. Especially when he dressed down in a hoodie, skinny jeans, and a pair of flip-flops as he was now. But somehow everyone around him bent to his will.
"Thank you for meeting me," Clyce said as he joined Thomas at the restaurant.
"You did say it was important."
Clyce smiled. "It is. I'm sure you're familiar with Lady Leo and her club, Kinky Kritters?"
Thomas stiffened. The only person he knew of in Vegas who was more powerful than Clyce was that lioness. "By name only—I never took any clients there."
"I have a request from her that I think you'd be perfect for."
Thomas had gotten out of the escort business years before. The money was good, but he'd lost his taste for ridiculous clients early on. "I don't do that anymore."
Clyce didn't look put off. "What don't you do? Have sex, or do kink? I'm not asking you to have sex with someone for money. You made your position on that quite clear. I need something else from you."
Thomas had no idea what that might be, but Clyce’s money was always good, and Thomas could always use an extra buck. "Which is?"
"Over Thanksgiving, Lady Leo had a break-in. One of her employees got drunk and let a couple of humans into the club. He’s been through rehab, I'm told, but he still needs to be punished in order to send a message to anyone else who thinks about screwing up. She wants it done publicly, at the club. She wants him pushed to his limit, tortured but not beaten down. Nothing permanent, he just needs to be taught a lesson. Now I've got guys who can go in and whip him bloody until he screams for mercy, but that's not what I need here. This situation needs finesse and tact, and you were always the best for that."
The compliment aside, which he did appreciate, Thomas wasn't sure he'd even be interested in something of this nature. "Has he agreed to this?"
"He's agreed to be punished in whatever way Lady Leo sees fit. She called me to see if I had a Dom available who’d be up for the task, so I called you. He made a mistake, but from what she's told me, Rudy doesn't seem like a bad guy. He needs to know that what he did was wrong, but there's a fine line between the punishment fitting the crime and something disturbing enough to give him nightmares. I know you can handle that line. This is also supposed to send a major message to the public. Don’t mess with Lady Leo. She's already paid me to recruit someone. Are you interested in making a quick thousand for a few hours of work?"
Thomas needed the money, certainly, but whether he needed the complication or not was a different story entirely, and he wasn't sure of the answer yet. "I need to think about it."
"You've got a week. She wants this done on Christmas Eve."
That made no sense. He didn't even think the club would be open that night. "Why then?"
"He's a reindeer." Clyce shrugged.
Thomas snorted as the full irony of the situation hit him—he was all for using irony to make a point. He suddenly didn’t care to take time to think it over. "Sure. Whatever. Money's good, so why not?"
Clyce didn't seem at all impressed with his bravado. "Are you over the last one?"
Thomas definitely didn't want to go there with him. Not again. "I am. You know he dumped me, right?"
That was surprising. "How?"
Clyce met his gaze steadily. "He called and requested an appointment with someone."
That was typical. Thomas tried not to feel hurt that he'd been so replaceable, but that was impossible. "Who did you set him up with?" He had no idea why he even asked, or why he cared.
Clyce surprised him by laughing. "No one. I told him to fuck off and to treat my friends better in the future. He's blacklisted, and he'll never be able to book someone from Critters on Call again. In any city. You quit to be with him, and I'm not asking you to come back and work for me beyond this one night, but I definitely suggest protecting your heart better next time. Don't fall in love again. At least this guy’s straight. Or, he's supposed to be, according to Lady Leo. She might have just been saying that, though. You never can tell with her."
Thomas nodded. He knew better than to tangle with the lioness. "Is there anything I need to know about the reindeer? His limits? Anything like that?"
"The usual," Clyce said with a dismissive shrug. "Blood, excessive pain, guns, that sort of thing. He's not a reptile, so you can't cut off a toe or anything and expect it to come back. Just teach him a lesson and be done with it. If you like it, and want to hook up with him again afterward, that's on you."
"You don't sound that interested." Which was strange for Clyce. Normally he was absolutely invested in whatever happened when Critters on Call was involved.