Archives for October 2015
The saying goes that, when the student is ready, the teacher comes along. But when are you ready for the lesson? The answer is: when understanding reaches your heart and gets in sync with your mind.
There are two stages to true understanding. They are key on the path to self-awareness that brings closure to emotional problems. The first stage is when, after reflecting on a given issue (it could be insecurity, jealousy, anger), you understand its emotional roots from a rational standpoint. You analyze it and comprehend the internal dynamics that lead you to that particular irrational response—now you know how to solve the problem. It’s the first step to healing.
The second stage is when, after dealing consciously with the problem, the solution finally touches your heart. You see, the problem originated in your heart—your emotion—and a solution will never be validated until it reaches it. When that happens, it feels like a moment of true revelation, and the problem dissolves.
Another crucial aspect for healing is self-acceptance. We are told we should always be positive: negative emotions such as fear or anger should not be displayed at the risk of tarring our image. As a result, we tend to ignore or reject our negative feelings. We then develop two sides: the smiley face we show to the world, and the scarecrow we hide in the basement.
Take a good look at him, though. That scarecrow is a part of you. Accept him, establish communication, come to terms with him. You two can certainly work things out. Pat your scarecrow on the head, explain to him it’s OK to feel that way but it’s not productive, so what could the two of you do to dissolve the negative feelings?
Don’t hate or despise your scarecrow. Don’t turn your back to him. He’s fragile, he’s lost, he suffers. Reach out to him instead. Love him.
Wouldn’t you do that for a friend or another being? Then why do you deny it to your own self?
You’ll never be whole if you reject that part of yourself. You will never be truly happy and in peace. The greatest trigger for fear is avoidance. The more you avoid an inner demon, the more you fantasize about how ugly it is, and the scarier it becomes.
Don’t beat yourself up for having negative feelings. Embrace them as part of you and your human nature.
Then talk to your scarecrow in a loving way.
I promise he will understand.
Mr. Million Meets His Match was my entry for a Cosmo/Wattpad short story contest. Since readers loved it and kept asking for updates, I’ve decided to team up with my publisher SOOP for making it into an ebook with a bonus chapter. It hasn’t been released yet, and once I finish writing RED 2: Mirrors, I may expand Mr. Million to a full novel. We’ll see…
Here you can enjoy a taste of Mr. Million—you’ll have fun, I promise!
1. A Mysterious Date
I PEER NERVOUSLY outside the window and follow the fall of a solitary leaf. It twirls and dances and somersaults in the cool breeze, until it lands on the hood of a black Bentley three stories below. It’s his car. It’s here for me. I’m on the verge of plunging into the unknown. Should I go ahead and do it? I shiver. It’s autumn in Paris, and as the temperature drops, a veil of mist gleams in the light. Down on the street, the shiny Bentley stretches a long shadow under the diffuse light of a lamppost.
I’m not used to having impromptu rendezvous with virtual strangers, and I barely know this man. He attracts me like a magnet but also unsettles me like no one else. He mentioned a mysterious contract, which filled my head with a parade of flouncing red flags. I’m a bit paranoid. Just a tiny itsy-bitsy. If I’m meeting the guy, I’d rather be prepared.
I’ll take the knife.
As I move away from the window, I try to make sense of what just happened today.
I was at a vintage bookstore in Le Marais earlier this afternoon. Surrounded by the soothing smell of chestnut wood and old paper, I was leafing through Les Misérables when I raised my head from the yellowed pages.
I found myself before the most mesmerizing pair of eyes. Cool blue. Like a glacier reflecting the skies. Their intensity scorched me with unexpected heat.
“I take it you enjoy the classics,” the owner of those perfect eyes said in perfect French.
“I… oui.” I muttered, unable to suppress a quiver.
“I’m looking for a good novel. Maybe you could help me choose an antique edition.” He paused. “I like leather bound.”
Such a simple, short sentence—and yet it felt as if he wasn’t talking of books at all. I nodded and caught myself gaping as he closed the distance between us.
I could tell he had a lean build under his gray coat, and at such close range he appeared even taller. It was hard to concentrate on anything besides his blue eyes and Adonis face framed by dark brown hair.
I made an effort and asked: “What are you looking for?”
One rare copy of The Brothers Karamazov later, he invited me for coffee in a small cafe around the corner. We switched to English and talked for about a half hour, until he excused himself to attend a business meeting. He wanted, however, to discuss a contract with me this evening. He didn’t provide any details, only a spellbinding smirk. As I gave him my address so his driver could pick me up, I wondered what had possessed me to agree to that.
Adrian Million is his name, which is kind of interesting—he appears to be quite wealthy, judging by his impeccable attire and platinum watch that flickers at each millimetric gesture. He’s an American entrepreneur with some French blood from a distant past, hence his French surname. Thirty-something, divorced, likes classic books and strong coffee. And his scent, masculine and fresh, reminds me of spring water streaming in the forest.
What bugs me is he seems too good to be true. Gorgeous, intelligent, successful… So what’s the catch? I sense something else behind his irreproachable façade. He intrigues me. I should have googled him, but between errands and getting ready I didn’t have time. Not that Wikipedia’s gonna tell me if he is a pervert or serial killer.
I hope Adrian Million doesn’t turn out to be a psychopath. I’m an editor specializing in crime novels and I read a lot about the subject. Psychopaths weave their web of illusion to charm you and then attack. Some even win dating contests on TV, like Rodney Alcala. Others may rule companies or have you for dinner—or both. Reality can be stranger than fiction, and fictional characters carry traits of reality in them. I think of Dexter. He only punishes the bad guys. Hannibal, on the other hand…
What if the elusive Mr. Million enjoys dead girls for dessert?
That would present a terrible conflict of interests.
So before leaving for my cryptic date, I swing by the kitchen to grab a respectable-sized stainless steel knife I’ve sharpened earlier at lunchtime. I slip it into my purse and head for the coat rack. I wrap myself in a burgundy velvet cape and let my hair hang free—a brown mane with slippery tendencies that could use some styling, but I’ve given up trying to teach new tricks to an old dog. When I check my reflection in the mirror, my dark eyes stare back at me suspiciously with a last thread of doubt. I cut it loose and depart.
I live in an old four-story building in the 9ème Arrondissement, which carries a smell of nostalgia and no elevator. The wooden stairs creak as I begin a slow descent, cautious not to trip with my stiletto boots. While gripping the banister, I reason the health hazard they pose is more than compensated by their fabulous, dramatic black gloss. This evening, however, their clic-clac sounds ominous.
Once I step onto the sidewalk, Mr. Million’s driver rushes to open the Bentley door for me. Under his cap I see a pair of Arabian eyes. Dark and tall, dressed in a black uniform, he doesn’t utter a word and limits his communication to a curt nod as I take the back seat. In a minute, the car is rolling swiftly along the streets, passing by monuments and parks and fountains, pausing at traffic lights that hover above closed stores and old-fashioned restaurants.
Then we leave the city.
At one junction we steer away from the main road, winding down a narrow path escorted by the silhouettes of pine trees against a gloomy sky. No moon or stars, just the car headlights sweeping the pavement. I’m growing really nervous and butterflies swarm in my stomach. I double-check my purse and touch the knife for reassurance.
Mon Dieu. I don’t feel reassured at all. Here I am with this sinister driver in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by darkness like in some horror film. But it’s too late to turn back. A security guard is already opening tall iron gates to the manicured landscape ahead.
At the end of a tunnel of oak trees, I see it. My destination.
It’s an 18th-century mansion featuring two stories, pale walls and flame-shaped windows panned with stained glass. It looms in the distance sprinkling stardust of glowing colors into the night. The silent driver follows the tree-lined path, skirts a circular hedge in front of the mansion and pulls up to the curb. He opens the door for me and offers another nod while gesturing toward the building. Then he drives away.
Now I’m alone with the vanishing sound of wheels and the icy hum of wind in the trees.
If I scream in this desolate place, no one will hear me.
I think seductive strangers with pieces of cloth and chloroform. I think drugs in cups of coffee. Sex slaves locked up in basements. Corpses in bathtubs, suitcases and freezers. Women in white gowns strangled in the woods. Ravens croaking nevermore, nevermore, nevermore.
Mon Dieu. I’m so doomed.
2. Ravel’s Bolero
Me and my butterflies. They’re my only company and keep proliferating by the minute.
I stand indecisive at the entrance and for the tenth time glance over my shoulder at the moving shadows behind me. My heart pounds in my ears. Swallowing hard, I raise my hand to the brass lion knocker. Before I even touch it, the door opens to reveal a warm stream of light.
First I startle. Then all the horrific images haunting me are dispelled.
“Good evening, Miss Genet.”
“Bonsoir, Mr. Million.”
His eyes linger on mine and mesmerize me again… I have a weakness for barefoot men in ripped jeans and a white shirt. Well, I actually don’t. At least, not until now. But this… but him. Mr. Million, stripped of his businesslike appearance, boasts an irresistible casualness. The jeans hang low around his narrow hips, and the shirt has only the three middle buttons done, hinting at his muscular torso.
“I thought I heard the car a while ago and began to worry about you.”
“I was admiring the garden,” I reply quickly.
His forehead creases for a moment as he glimpses at the darkness outside before closing the door.
“I’m glad you came. Welcome to my pied-à-terre in France.”
A disconcerting smirk buds on his lips as he envelops my hand in the warmth of his for one second too long. The touch is subtle yet leaves me instantly shaky.
I smile back, and my heart’s speed-dial goes up a notch. Sternly I remind myself I’m here to address work. Or whatever it is we’ll be discussing.
We cross the foyer adorned with antique furniture and Persian rugs, pass by a curved stairway and enter a study filled with the mellow notes of Ravel’s La Valse. The setting makes me feel in an old movie: French doors draped in heavy green curtains, a vast bookcase, a black-lacquered piano and a fireplace. Above the mantel, the rectangular mirror reflects twin crystal chandeliers and abstract paintings. The coffee table faces a crackling fire, surrounded by a cream leather sofa and two rococo chaise lounges. It bears an impressive bronze statuette of a faun and a bottle of wine sided by a pair of glasses, an elaborate corkscrew and two black linen napkins. The Brothers Karamazov lies on it next to a manila folder.
“I figured we would be warmer here than in the living area. I dismissed the servants to ensure our privacy,” Million clarifies. “Allow me…”
He moves behind me and rests his hands on my shoulders to take my cape. His fingers become a whisper of silk on my bare skin. Then he’s standing in front of me. His gaze covers the distance from the narrow straps of my black dress to the hemline below my knees. Following the route of his crystalline eyes, a long shiver trails my body.
I didn’t want to show up overdressed, so I went for sparse makeup and a simple, light wool pencil dress, matching it with ruby stud earrings and nothing else—a nonchalant effect that cost me one hour of indecision and a Mount Everest of discarded clothes. Now I wish I had gone for baggy pants and an oversized sweater.
I feel so exposed under his scrutiny. Servants dismissed. Oh dear. All alarms go off in my head and I clutch the handle of my purse. Mr. Million gently lifts my fingers one by one, taking it from me. I moisten my dried-out lips when he steps away to leave my belongings on the chaise lounge next to the fireplace.
“Are you thirsty, Miss Genet? Would you care for some wine?”
“Yes, please.” I fake confidence and spill out before I can deter my big mouth: “And you can call me Annabelle.”
“Annabelle.” He savors each syllable, lost in thought. “Interesting name.”
“So why exactly am I here, Mr. Million?”
“You mentioned a contract… Adrian.”
“Two, in fact.”
He leads me to the sofa and we sit side by side facing the fire.
“You said earlier you like challenges. I happen to have just acquired a publishing house in Seattle and need a competent editor to head the business. I’m prepared to compensate you generously for your expertise and the trouble of relocating to the US.”
“What makes you think I’m the right person for the job? You barely know me.”
“Oh, I do know you.” His smile comes charged with subtext. “I saw the passion for books on your face while we were at the bookstore. And I’ve researched your qualifications. A Sorbonne master degree in literature and five years of experience in a leading French publisher. Quite impressive for a twenty-six-year-old woman.”
I stare at him, disarmed by his assertiveness.
“And the second contract?” I venture without dissimulating my curiosity.
Adrian doesn’t respond immediately. He takes his time uncorking the wine. It’s a Romanée-Conti, probably worth a few thousand dollars. He pours an inch into a glass, swirls and sniffs it with a satisfied expression before sipping. He fills the other glass for me and helps himself to some more of the ruby liquid.
“To fascinating encounters in Paris,” he toasts.
“To peace on earth,” I counter vaguely to avoid getting too personal. “So you were going to explain the second contract to me?”
“Taste the wine. It’s one of the best. Did you notice there’s a feminine personality to it? I thought it would sit well with you.”
“Very nice, thanks.”
For its price tag, this wine can be anything. Feminine, masculine, hermaphrodite. It’s elegant for sure. Velvety and intricate, with a note of flowers, fruit and wood.
“The second contract?” I insist.
“We’ll get to that once you make yourself comfortable.”
He rests his glass on the table and kneels before me. His long fingers find the hemline of my wool dress and lift it. The beginning of Ravel’s Bolero floats around the room, its gradual and suspenseful cadence setting the tone to my body’s reactions. With wide eyes, I stiffen and seek my purse. Of course, it’s happily sitting out of reach on the far end of that stupid rococo chair. I grip the embroidered cushion by my side, ready to throw it for diversion if necessary.
In an endless maneuver that brings me chills, Adrian removes my long boots, first one, then the other. He proceeds to glide his hands on my legs until he reaches my knees. He lingers there in a caress for an almost imperceptible moment. In no hurry, he moves up to my thighs. Under the wool.
He keeps moving. My heart falters…
My breathing stills.
I clutch the cushion…
I’m ready to throw it.
He stops. I breathe in relief.
But not for long.
Adrian hooks his fingers in the silicone bands of my stockings and slowly rolls them to uncover my legs. His hands skim over my bristled skin as they adjust the dress hem. They trace a tingling path downward to encase my bare foot. Fingers press my toes with precision, palms stroke the rest with temptation. The fluid motions tantalize me in a way that sends shooting stars straight to… there. I’m in sheer turmoil. Mon Dieu. What’s going on?
His eyes never leave mine, holding me captive. He’s the predator. I’m the prey.
This is what’s going on.
I’m aware I probably sent him mixed signals. It’s his damn fault—I’m pretty sure I’ve read somewhere it should be illegal to be this good-looking.
“Maybe you should stop massaging my foot. It doesn’t seem quite… professional.”
“We’re no longer in professional territory, Annabelle. Are you comfortable?”
“I’m fine,” I blurt out. My body melts at his contact and I fight to resist. Leaning over, I push his hands away. Our faces are only inches apart. “Let’s cut to the chase. Why am I here? This editorial job is not for real, is it?”
“It actually is.” He doesn’t flinch. Sitting on the couch, he retrieves the manila folder from the table and passes it on to me. “The second offer is of a different nature, though. Here’s the contract for your evaluation.”
With that, he picks up The Brothers Karamazov to engage in his own reading session while I open the folder on my lap. It holds ten pages clipped together, and my eyes travel along the clauses with increasing astonishment. I was expecting anything but this. At one point, I raise my eyes to meet Adrian’s gaze on me, the book forgotten in his hands. I hold back a startle and blush, the strap of my dress slipping off my shoulder to make things worse. I straighten it at the speed of light and bury my burning face in the contract.
When I’m done with the last page, I have no idea what I’ve just read. I close the folder and return it to the table. Disparate clauses simmer in my brain: total obedience, rules for food and sleep, and something about not setting me on fire.
Adrian lays his book aside. He regards me intently. His irises darken.
“What do you think?”
I shake my head, in search of a reply. I’m at a loss.
“You must be kidding, right?” I chuckle at last, and grow ill at ease. “What’s with all the submissive stuff? That’s preposterous.”
For the first time this evening, Adrian is deadly serious. He arches one eyebrow and, despite my bravado, I’m intimidated.
“Any comments, Annabelle?”
“Look, Mr. Million—“
“Look, Adrian… I’m glad you don’t do children, animals or body waste,” it’s my feeble attempt at a joke.
His demeanor remains grave, which only serves to fuel my nervousness.
“Well,” I keep rambling, “the clause about your control over what I eat… For one thing, I like a buttery croissant first thing in the morning and there’s no way I’m giving up that.”
“So?” he asks unmoved.
His indifference stirs me, shaking off my discomfit and nervousness.
How dare he mess with them.
I’m mad at Adrian for dragging me over here to discuss such an outrageous proposition. I empty my glass in one go—flower, fruit and wood twirling in my mouth and delivering a thirteen percent alcoholic blast through my veins. I feel quite hot.
I level my eyes to his as I speak: “Welcome to the 21st century, Mr. Million. If you want control, find yourself a dog to train.” I’m beside myself and ready to leave. “And if you’re all for French, get a Poodle.”
Then I hiccup—which ruins the impact of my speech. He stares at me amused.
“What?” I snap as I start rising to my feet.
“I see the kitty has claws.”
“Oh please. Ça vas pas, eh? That’s beyond lame.”
“Is it?” He stands up too, dangerously close. “You know, I can provide you with far better things than croissants.”
We initiate a little dance to the Bolero’s crescendo.
I retreat one step.
“Like what, Mr. Million? You think money will buy you anything you want?”
He advances one step.
“I’m used to having things my way. And for the last time, call me Adrian.”
I move around the coffee table to reach my purse.
“I’m not for sale, Adrian.”
He follows me in hot pursuit.
“I’ve never implied that, Annabelle.”
I near the chaise lounge, but before I manage to snatch the purse, he corners me. I back off until the fireplace frame brings me to a stop and I’m flat against the brick surface. Adrian cages me between his arms and our lips almost touch. I shrink, feeling the blaze of the fire and the blaze of his eyes.
“Let me go.”
In response, he grabs my wrists, holding my arms above my head, pinning me to the wall with one iron hand. And with his free hand… Oh là là. What is he doing…?
Adrian’s envelops my thigh with his hand as he lifts my dress to arrive at the vertex of my legs. He unceremoniously pushes my silky panties aside and rubs his thumb on my clitoris in a circular caress. Now another finger explores the inside of me, sliding in an out, taunting sensitive spots no virtual stranger should ever taunt. Oh. Mon. Dieu. I close my eyes, unable to cope with the havoc of sensations he awakes in me. I hate myself for reacting so promptly to his offensive.
“Listen, Annabelle,” he whispers. “I usually don’t take no for an answer.”
“This is sexual harassment,” I manage to retort in a thread of voice.
“It’s not harassment if it’s consensual.”
Adrian deepens his finger, eliciting a reluctant moan from me. Dammit. I’m not giving him any credit though. I still have at least a shred of dignity to tend.
“This could hardly be called consensual.”
“I would never touch you if you didn’t want me, Annabelle. Let me show you…”
He adjusts my panties with a tug upward for a final tease. I’m left throbbing as he recoils his hand, brings one glistening finger to his mouth and sucks it thoroughly. Then he runs his tongue between my parted lips to give me a sample of the salty and sweet flavor of my own arousal.
“This tastes fairly consensual to me. Now it’s my turn to say we cut to the chase. I have wanted you since I first saw you. I know you want me too.”
“You’re mistaken. This is merely a physical reaction. I respond the same way to my minishower,” I lie.
And he reads right through me.
“Somehow I doubt your minishower makes you feel like this,” he says in a husky voice as he crushes me with his chest and a massive erection.
Adrian rocks his hips against mine and seizes my breasts. He strokes the flesh smoothly and pinches it as if to punish me. And all the while his piercing eyes tell everything he intends to do to me, until I’m breathless and my knees are weak. He releases my wrists, pulls me into his arms and seeks my mouth. I spin in a paradoxical whirlwind of denial and attraction, hopelessly drawn to this man. I want to embrace him and surrender…
Then I remember: that last shred of dignity. I don’t go fooling around just like that. Not that I’m a prude, it’s rather a question of principle. I don’t enjoy being treated like an object. A pretty face. A lush pair of tits. A gropable ass. In other words, a hole. I have brains and a heart, thank you very much. So what. This is a powerful guy with (granted) incredible sex appeal, who’s used to having whatever he desires.
Too bad for him.
I rebuff Adrian with all my might and lunge for my purse, unzipping it and grasping the knife. I point it at him.
“Stay away from me. Let me out. Immediately.”
Adrian’s reaction makes my blood boil.
At almost leisurely pace, he approaches me. His body language, however, reveals acute alertness. It’s threatening.
“You don’t want to come near me. I’m a jujitsu pro,” I bluff, and clutch the knife with both hands.
I move one step to the side, rehearsing my escape. I move another step, slowly circling, and Adrian mirrors me. We are two animals in a forest of 18th-century furniture preparing for the ultimate confrontation. I detect a smile in his eyes and find myself enthralled by those smoky irises. Their silvery hue reflects the gold of the fire and I see flares in them. It’s like a sortilege conjuring irresistible danger in turbulent waters. I gape in fascination… and snap back to my senses. I know his tactics. He’s distracting me. He wants me off guard until…
He did manage to distract me. Before I can react, he leaps forward. I jump back but Adrian is right with me and snatches the knife in the blink of an eye, sliding it into his pocket. He lurches at me and immobilizes my wrists again. This is getting old. I try to kick him in the groin to no avail. I struggle and twist and hiss like a wildcat, only to end up with raised arms pinned to the brick wall.
Gee, this is getting old.
Something new is happening.
Oh mon Dieu.
[To be continued.]
This is the snippet of a VERY rough first draft for RED 2: Mirrors.
Warning: this is an orgy. I’ve been itching to write it, so it’s finally out of my system. 🙂 This is a one-timer in the book, so the prudish can sigh in relief and the wicked can punch the pillow in frustration…
Show me what the girl does to the boy
If you can get around to it
What it’s like when I am
Your new toy?
(Tracey Thorn + one mean saxophone)
They advanced to the back of the room. At that point, the hot tub lodged a couple that had already got rid of the inconvenience of clothes. Marisa observed when the woman held the erect penis of her partner and manipulated it under the water, her fair arm emerging and disappearing amid bluish bubbles. Noticing Marisa’s gaze, Marco squeezed her hand reassuringly.
The four approached the security guard who, without a word, opened the door to the adjoining lounge. Once again, Robert and Anabel went in first, followed by Marco and Marisa. The ambiance here evoked a trip to the East, with hypnotic music, the fragrance of musk and the faint light of Moroccan lanterns distributed on the floor in the corners. The lowered ceiling irradiated waves of red and purple fabric that converged to the center, with the ends hovering like a frozen stream of color over a round plush sofa, where two half-naked couples entangled. Further ahead, an erotic chair waited for the acrobatics of the next visitors.
Persian rugs lined the floors with their labyrinths of vines, flowers and desert sands. Along the walls, smoky gauze curtains formed a succession of transparent alcoves, with low beds covered in pillows and circular-patterned spreads. The niches accommodated up to four people and provided double curtains: one translucid for watching and being watched; and the other solid black for those who preferred privacy. At the moment, a few alcoves were completely blacked out. The attention of Marco and Marisa, Robert and Anabel darted across the room gathering and processing the details.
The impressions were dutifully registered and instantly multiplied, since everything there was plural.
Webs of golden light across the tapestry licking anonymous feet. Contours entangled in the dimness of alcoves, white skin on dark skin, furious hips, moans and glistening saliva rolling out the mouth. All secrets revealed behind that curtain ajar. Back, forth, back, forth. Now softly, now hard. Breasts sucked, scratched chest. A lone couple over here, two couples over there in a trembling conjunction of bodies with no owner. Oh, good job. Spectators cheering and an invisible mesh of scents in the air.
And now a trio enters the room. A woman: white mini dress with fine straps over a sinuous body, high-heeled sandals with strips scaling her legs, waves of blonde strands on the back, blue eyes. A tall and lean man: black shirt and slacks, short blond hair just like his beard. Another man, younger, shorter and more muscular: a pair of jeans and a white T-shirt, straight brown hair over the shoulders, green eyes. Escorted by both, the woman advances to the erotic chair, which no longer needs to wait. Acrobatics has arrived.
The woman is totally carefree: the mask preserves her identity and she can be whatever she wants. A sex goddess, a porn actress, the protagonist of an erotic novel, a frustrated housewife back to the thrills of life. She parades before the audience and the chair is her stage. This chair that features a flat, reclining surface with side handles and two frontal pads for the partner. This chair with red upholstery.
Lights, camera, action.
She lies down there and spreads her legs. The blond man positions himself at her feet. He unbuttons her dress down to the waist and fondles her naked breasts underneath. The brown-haired guy stands behind her. He cups her face with his hands and gives her an upside-down kiss in the mouth. Then he licks her ear and descends to the nipples while the other man lifts her dress and removes her white thong. The men recline the chair, and the woman has her hips projected upward on the edge of the seat. She flexes her legs to hook the heels of her sandals in the handles of the chair, offering a view of her sex behind a thin veil of shadows. The blond man kneels on a pad and covers her with his mouth and hands. His tongue surrounds and penetrates her, his fingers concentrate on the darker undulations of the clitoris and labia. The brown-haired man unzips his pants, takes his best friend out and places it in the woman’s mouth. She holds his penis with both hands so the fingers aid her mouth, following its motions, going down with a twist on the base, playing with the testicles. The penis grows larger in her hands, increasingly larger as it pulls in and out her mouth. Sticky sounds of suction. The brown-haired man grips her hair. The other partner is excited too; the spits on his palm and lubricates his own organ, which he rubs up and down on her. He enters with shallow and quick thrusts and keeps deepening until he deepens it all in a long push. He retreats slowly and advances once more. Again, again, again. And the woman. The woman rocks her hips to his rhythm, and her moans vibrate to the music. She lets the other man slip out from her mouth. A necklace of salty sweat beads across her chest, which he sweeps one by one onto the shell of his tongue. She rolls her eyes, upper body arched and head tossed back against the upholstery, dancing in a circle from side to side, hair strands sprawled like sunrays. Then the arch of her body inverts and the head jolts forward. The face contorts behind the mask, the minute crystals glimmer. Her eyes are closing. She digs her nails onto the chair, collapsing amid spasms and an acute heave.
She screams and gasps and laughs.
Her orgasm hit the two couples with the eloquence of a startle, making skin bristle and flesh throb. Suddenly uncomfortable, Marco and Marisa, Robert and Anabel averted their eyes. There was applause and someone whistled. The four of them barely registered it though, for what persisted in their ears was the strident release of the woman. Inarticulate, primal, reverberating in each fiber of them. Now they stared at one another without knowing how to proceed. They weren’t intimate enough to share an experience like that.
And yet there they stood.
“Do you guys want to be on your own?” Marco asked the other couple. He circled Marisa’s waist with one arm and pressed her closer to him with a protective attitude.
“No, please… Let’s wait just a little longer,” Anabel blurted out. In a nervous gesture, she smoothed her blonde hair with perfectly manicured hands. Her bracelets tinkled merrily.
“Chill out.” Robert gave an encouraging smile. “It’s gonna be fun.”
Meanwhile, other guests had arrived and now the vacant alcoves were waning. They found two side by side and rushed to take them. The black curtains were pulled out, and between the niches the folds of gauze raised a fragile barrier.
“Let’s have our private session after Robert and Anabel hook up with someone… or someones,” Marisa whispered in Marco’s ear when the two were alone. Her eyes were fixed on the trio, which now had changed its configuration: the blonde laying on her stomach and the men in inverted positions. “I was inspired by that girl’s enthusiasm.”
“Me too. And you know I always keep my promises. In a minute I’ll take care of you…”
He slid his index on Marisa’s lips. She retained his finger between her teeth for a moment before releasing it.
“And I’ll take care of you.”
In the other alcove, Robert and Anabel observed the couples on the opposite end and the guests circulating there, in and out the room, watching the action in the niches and sometimes sneaking past closed curtains. They leaned on the pillows, him with one arm around his wife’s shoulders, her coiling with folded legs.
“Do you think something is gonna happen over there? Anabel looks terrified,” Marisa said to Marco.
“Now that’s up to them. What about you? Do you feel like giving it a try?”
Marco scrutinized her with intensity. She reflected, her eyes rambling over the room. That was in a way exciting because it instigated the animal side and the appeal of transgression. Nothing else. With so many partners, the deepest mystery of intimacy was discarded along with the clothes. And rested forgotten on the floor.
“I don’t know. In principle, I don’t think so. Only if later I get really excited or crazy. You?”
“I wouldn’t like to see you with another man. No way.” It was Marco’s turn to pause. “A woman would be different.”
Marisa smiled but felt insecure. She poked his arm.
“Very convenient. It so happens that I wouldn’t like to see you with another woman either.”
“No one said I would be the one with her.”
They stared at each other. His eyes with a velvety suggestion. Hers with a flash.
“Oh, you want to watch me getting hot and heavy with a woman, is that what it is?”
“It’s not my place to want anything, you’re the one who should want it.”
Marco’s expression displayed that wickedness Marisa had already learned to recognize. And that always kindled her, making her legs weak. He sifted one hand through her hair in a caress that elicited that very familiar shiver in her.
“I’m just saying I wouldn’t mind to watch,” he clarified.
“It’s the first time you tell me that.”
“I thought about it now.”
“Hmmm… Who knows, maybe later I’ll get really excited or crazy…” She ran the tip of her tongue along Marco’s neck and went on around his ear. She breathed: “An early birthday present for you…”
Their conversation was interrupted when Robert called them:
“You guys like to have some champagne with us? I asked the security guard to call the waiter and the bottle just arrived.”
Marco and Marisa exchanged a look and nodded. He waved for them to come closer.
“Are you sure we’re not bothering you?” Marco looked at him indecisive, and Robert shrugged.
“Ana needs to unwind a bit and we’re not drinking it all. We’re among friends.”
The two then joined the other couple. Anabel moved to the edge of the bed, Robert and Marisa sat against the pillows and Marco on the other end.
“What are your impressions?” Anabel inquired as Robert filled the crystal tulips and passed them on.
“It’s more stimulating than an explicit sex show because people are not acting. The energy is raw, with no fluff,” said Marco.
“Maybe men are more uninhibited. I’m jealous of Bob’s calm.” She shook her head, silently reproaching herself.
“I also find it interesting, but I’m sort of embarrassed to participate,” Marisa offered. Then she frowned. “Speaking of which, what’s with that ‘love potion’? It didn’t do anything to me. Anyone feeling any different?”
All of them denied.
“What if it has expired? Or maybe it’s just weak,” she conjectured.
Robert checked his watch.
“It’s been an hour since we took it. If its active principle is MDMA, it takes thirty to sixty minutes to work in the body. The perception of the effect is sudden and alcohol potentizes symptoms such as a feeling of well-being and connection. Tact and hearing become quite enhanced.”
“In that case, the effect should be already manifesting,” Marco concluded. “And no one here is feeling any weird tingles or hearing celestial trumpets.”
“Maybe the substance will kick in soon? We’re still marginally within that period.” Anabel said, hopeful.
“We’d better not count on that and enjoy the champagne,” replied Marco.
They made a toast to the love potion and, once again, drank fast. The golden bubbles coursed in tickling their noses, throats and veins. They relaxed.
“Tell me more about Haiti, Robert,” asked Marisa. “You got me curious about life over there.”
He told her and, little by little, a crossed conversation was established. Anabel, who already knew the whole story, lost interest and made a comment about California to Marco on the other end. Port-au-Prince, San Francisco, Pétionville, South of Market, Cité Soleil, Alcatraz… The different locations collided in a cacophony, until Marco went to the other edge to sit next to Anabel. Marisa and Robert shifted to the side to make room for them.
They chatted as if they were in a bar, not in a room peopled with naked bodies in plain copulation. The atmosphere, however, grew increasingly charged as the evening progressed. It was impossible to ignore the silhouettes behind the transparence of the curtains. They could hear the hips bumping, sighs, whispers. Sometimes giggles.
“Would you like more champagne, Marisa?” Robert offered, picking up the bottle from the ice bucket. He raised it in the direction of Anabel and Marco, who made a negative sign. “Well, it’s almost finished anyway, so there’s more left for the two of us.
He winked and emptied the bottle in the tulips. Then he took the glass to his lips without averting eyes from Marisa. She stared him back, admiring the limpid irises that reminded her of crystal drops.
“Do you know I’ve noticed you since that day at the pool? I saw you descending from the bridge with your friend. Then I felt like dancing with you.” He laughed. “I confess later you scared me a bit.”
“I was furious. Mad at you.”
“That doesn’t come as a surprise given the circumstances.” Robert brushed the back of his hand on Marisa’s arm. “But I liked you.”
“Really? You were drunk.”
“Still. I thought you were pretty.”
His palm turned down when it arrived at the slope of Marisa’s shoulder and ascended to cup her face. In the half light, Robert’s blue eyes gleamed. He traced her features with his fingers.
“Your skin is so soft,” Robert murmured, and now he investigated the tattoo on the nape of her neck.
Marisa copied him smiling. She trailed his face and was surprised at the smooth texture her hand found.
“Your skin is soft too. Amazing, isn’t it? So soft it gives me chill bumps.” He assented, and she added: “I have a confession…”
He leaned forward with obvious curiosity.
“What is it?”
“Oh, it’s silly…”
“It’s something. Tell me.”
“Do you know what they say about the first impression being the one that lasts?”
He acquiesced with a nod.
“With you it was the opposite. After I met you, that remained behind. It became the inside out of the first impression.” Marisa held his hand, drawing it close to her lips. She licked his palm slowly and reflected for an instant. “Your skin tastes like my truth.” She shrugged. “It doesn’t make sense, does it?”
Again that blue gaze suggesting the adventure of the sea and the sky. The traits lightened by Robert’s hair, blond like the sun. So different from Marco.
Marisa released his hand and lowered her face, perturbed. The attraction she felt for Robert, the attraction she had denied until that moment, broke free. She had a twinge of guilt, thinking of Marco, his smile, the first days they’ve had together and the turbulence encountered later. Robert represented the adventure of the unknown. A mirage of perfection in acute contrast with everything she knew. In contrast with Marco. Because knowing was equivalent to knowing flaws.
Robert held her chin and forced her to stare at him. He no longer smiled.
“You are beautiful.”
As he spoke, Robert touched her face with his lips. Marisa wanted to protest. The protest, however, died away at the gentleness of his touch. It was pleasant. Quite pleasant. Robert moved his lips softly against her skin, from side to side, parting them to draw a circle and allow his warm breath to complete the caress. Marisa closed her eyes. When Robert reached her lips, it triggered a delicious tingling in her. Stroking his hair, she felt the locks that were like silk in her fingers. She inhaled Robert’s aftershave lotion—a smell of forest, of iridescent dew, damp wood, flowers. She soared. Flying on a magic carpet from the Arabian nights. The lantern light turned into a brighter gold, and an amphora with musical notes cascaded harps, flutes and cymbals into her ears.
Marisa thought vaguely of Marco. She’d better stop. He would be furious… Which made her think that he should be already furious by now, yanking Robert off her to demand an explanation. Marco possessed remarkable self-control, but when he lost it… Why wasn’t he furious? Where was he? Marisa fluttered her eyelids open and looked for him from the corner of her eye. She was shocked when she saw Marco. Or rather when she saw him with Anabel. Their white clothes now composed one single form across the patterned spread. Both faces also together. Both mouths. Marisa was about to protest—and never uttered a single word, for in that moment Robert glided his tongue between her lips. With a quiver, she closed her eyes and abandoned herself. It was strange to feel the intimate contact of another man. She was no longer used to that. His advance was slow, as if he tried to guess what she liked. And, without Marisa realizing, the unknown became familiar. Their mouths moved now in synchrony, tongues meeting in no hurry, tasting each sensation—sparkling wine, satin, honey, and a tang of cinnamon…
Marisa’s sharpened hearing captured a muffled sound. She looked in its direction and saw that Marco and Anabel weren’t there anymore. Her gaze stretched to the neighboring niche where she had previously been with Marco. The black curtains were being shut.
Robert whispered something in her ear.
“What?” She forced her gaze away from the other alcove.
“I want to learn what gives you pleasure. I want you to touch yourself.”
Marisa stared once more at the alcove with its impenetrable black curtains. She wanted to open them, cause a stir, slap faces. She feared what she would find in there. With a mix of pain and anger, Marisa turned back to Robert. For a moment that whole scene, all those drifting bodies made her sick. And then it returned, a serpent of hot blood scorching and slithering in her body: desire. Sparkling wine, satin, honey. And again anger. Marisa pulled away from Robert and stood up. She bowed to grope under her dress and brought the small lacey piece down to her ankles. With a fierce motion, she got rid of and ran the heel of her sandal across Robert’s thigh. He watched with a smile that was also a serpent. She knelt on the bed, parting her legs, and touched herself.
Soon Robert’s fingers replaced her hand.
Robert’s fingers, mouth and body.