Home > The Tease (The Virgin Society #3)

The Tease (The Virgin Society #3)
Author: Lauren Blakely











My friend Scarlett is begging me to fill in for her tomorrow night, but really, she doesn’t have to ask twice. The second she called and asked, “Can you play piano at The Scene?” I was all in.

“Yes,” I say as calmly as I can while I hustle past the turnstiles on Fourteenth Street.

“Thanks. I forgot all about my shift at the bar,” Scarlett says, then hesitates. “And can you still play Gershwin? They’re big on ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’”

“My fingers remember all the jazz standards from my childhood,” I tell her as I rush down the crowded steps to the platform, dodging harried New Yorkers racing up. Showtime’s at eight for a critics’ screening for a new TV series I worked on. I can’t be late, but I don’t want to press pause on this call and take a chance Scarlett might ask someone else to sub.

I soothe her worries even as I enter the belly of the subway beast. “I can play a ton of masquerade songs.”

As an incoming train on the other platform rattles in, she’s unexpectedly silent before she says, “Oh. I didn’t think I said it was a masquerade?”

Shoot. Did I just give myself away? But I’ve kept my own secrets for years. I’ve had to keep them. “With a name like The Scene, I took a guess,” I say confidently.

Another pause, then she speaks. “Well, good one, babe. Anyway, the parties are kind of hush-hush with the whole masquerade thing, and they’re also kind of risqué. So I wanted to make sure you’re definitely free tomorrow night and…well, that you’re comfortable with it.”

Oh, sweetheart. You have no idea. “I’m great with masquerades,” I answer in the same tone I’d say I’m great with people at a job interview.

“Oh good. I thought you might be, since we’ve been clubbing,” she says with a naughty little lilt in her tone. “And every time I see you, you always look like someone different.”

Well, that’s kind of the point.

I check for my train, peering down the tunnel but not getting too close to the tracks. The phone connection will sputter out any second, and I don’t need to tell her the extent of my wardrobe and wigs to prove I’m the woman for the gig. She already knows my credentials. Knows, too, I helped pay for my own college by teaching piano. Still, I want this gig badly so I need to assuage all of her concerns. “The only thing on my schedule tomorrow night was putting on a sea-clay eye mask and listening to a playlist. So, I’m totally free to help out. I’ve got you,” I tell her, selling myself subtly.

I’m not about to disclose the real reason I am bursting inside and already counting down the hours.

“Thank god. I can’t believe I spaced. We’re already short-staffed here, so my boss was going to kill me. But let me know if I can help with anything,” she says, then hesitates. “Except, Jules…”

“Yes?” I ask tightly, hoping she’s not backing out of her offer now.

“It’s important you don’t use your name. The members like the privacy and figure if they don’t know yours, you don’t need to know theirs.”

“I’m a vault,” I say, and nothing in my life is more true than that.

“And the dress code is costume light for the musician, so it’s up to you if you want to wear one. But the mask is a strict requirement. Not the sea-clay variety though.”

“I’ll make sure I wash it off before I go,” I deadpan.

She laughs, then adds, “I know some websites with overnight delivery for masquerade masks.” Scarlett is in full-on helpful mode now. “And I can recommend some cheap costume shops too.”

My friend doesn’t have to recommend a thing. I’m a junior TV producer by day…whoever I want to be by night.

“I know where a few are too,” I add as the rattle of the downtown train grows louder.

“You’re a goddess,” Scarlett says with obvious relief, then adds that she’ll text me more details, like the theme and the secret password.

Bring that password to Mama.

As I hop onto the train, I mentally flick through my closet then rein in the grin of all grins when the magic words land on my phone.

The rest of the night, I fight like hell to focus on the screening—and not on The Scene.



After the longest and the shortest workday—I was nonstop from eight to six coordinating the upcoming location shoot for a hot new show the production company I work for developed—I stare at the Albrecht Mansion on the other side of this elegant Upper East Side block, freaking out that I’ll be exposed.

I’m supposed to be the confident one in my friend group. The bold one. That’s what they call me, though if they knew my sister I’m sure they’d call me shy. But now my mind whirs too fast for me to be bold.

Camden’s by my side. She walked here with me, and while she’s not attending, I can’t just head into a naughty masquerade without a good pep talk from my bestie. “What if they figure out I’m not just a piano player?” I ask in a whisper.

“Who’s they?”

I gesture subtly to the mansion. “You know. The…organizers. The people in charge,” I say quietly.

She arches a brow. “Fear of authority much?”

Just a little. “Well, you’ve met my dad.” He might have changed careers now, but once a cop, always a cop.

“First, you’re legit allowed to be here. Second, no one knows you’ve been dying for an invite for months,” she says as she tosses me a knowing smile.

She’s right on all counts. I’m seriously glad she walked over here with me. My overactive mind starts to settle. “You’re right. And I can’t believe I finally got one,” I say as I gaze up at the mansion, which is stunning, in a Vanderbilt kind of way. Ivy crawls up the burnished red bricks. A soft summer breeze rustles the trees hugging the staircase that leads to imposing double doors, the dark polished wood gleaming in the twilight. The doors are staffed by two big, burly men in black suits, muscles bulging. No one is getting past them without an invitation.

“I can’t believe I’ve walked by this mansion a million times,” I say as I soak in the secret society feel of this entire summer night. “And I had no idea what went on here just off Park Avenue.”

“That’s New York for you. City of Secrets.” Camden likes Manhattan’s mysteries too.

“It sure is,” I say to the one person who knows most of mine.

Camden was with me at Revel House in SoHo, a converted church turned into a nightclub, the night we danced till dawn and heard whispers about The Scene. Words like sophisticated and costume and never use your name intrigued me to no end.

Since then, I’ve searched for details, chased down clues, eager for an invite. Rumor has it these after-dark fêtes aren’t just masquerades. They’re elegant opportunities for people with the same desires to meet.

Everyone who walks past these doors wants the same things.

And tonight, everyone includes the piano player.

I draw a deep breath, clutching my shiny gold mask more tightly. It’s the price of admission, and I’m willing to pay.

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