Elena's Pearl by Anne WellerThe goal: To find your brother and the man you love, and rescue them from a wealthy, vengeful kidnapper. The proposal: The price of their ransom has been set. To free them, you must agree to act as audience and participant in a single night of elaborately...
The proposal: The price of their ransom has been set. To free them, you must agree to act as audience and participant in a single night of elaborately staged sexual-fantasy scenarios.
The dilemma: Will dawn bring the promised freedom? And, if it does, can the three of you deal with the revelations and exploded boundaries of that one wild night?
Publisher's note: "Elana's Pearl" is a re-release of Anne Weller's book, "The Enhancement", originally published with Blushing Books in July of 2004.
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Elena's Pearl (Sample Chapter)
© Anne Weller and Blushing Books, 2014
Benedict woke with a groan. His mouth tasted foul and his cock, desperate for attention, throbbed beneath the threadbare sheet.
He and his photographer, Tano Ikaika, had been captives for more than a month. They’d spent week after week in these stinking cells, neglected and tormented by turns, and he still only knew his captors as ‘they.’
Some investigative reporter he was turning out to be.
Oh, in his gut he was convinced he already knew who was responsible: Constantine Zarakis. But he had no way to prove it, and he’d been around the rich and famous of the world long enough to know that a tycoon like Zarakis would be untouchable without rock-hard evidence.
Right now, however, the only thing rock-hard was his erection, and that was strictly off-limits. His cell had eyes and ears, and punishment was doled out promptly to those who tried to relieve their own sexual itch. Abstinence was the unbendable rule – abstinence, except for that one night a week when all rules were made to be broken.
Benedict shivered, unsure whether the ripple of reaction that raced through him was born of anticipation or dread. Five times, now, he and Tano had been co-opted for a night of elaborate sexual fantasies, coerced into taking part in whatever scenario struck their captor’s fancy, swept along on a raging tide of adrenaline and testosterone.
Was it already time for such a night again? Had another entire week passed without a single chance at escape?
Elena must be crazy with worry. He never let more than a few days go by without talking to his younger sister on the phone, wherever in the world his assignments might take him. Growing up together in a series of wretched foster homes, they had bonded more closely than most siblings. She would know that his unprecedented silence was a dangerous sign. And Elena wasn’t the kind to stand by and wring her hands, doing nothing.
So what had she done? Called the police? Hired a private detective? Or had she taken matters into her own hands and flown to Tampa to search his apartment? Officially, he and Tano were between jobs. But his research notes on Zarakis were stored on his computer.
His personal computer.
To which Elena had the password.
Benedict felt queasy at the thought of what might befall his pretty sister if she was foolhardy enough to cross swords—or even paths—with a rich and powerful man like Constantine Zarakis.
Down the hallway, metal clanged on metal. Alarmed, Benedict sat up and looked across the corridor to Tano’s cell.
His friend was asleep, sprawled with boneless abandon across his cot. Golden skin, ebony hair, proud cheekbones: Tano’s Hawaiian ancestry was unmistakable. At a bar, it was always Tano that the girls singled out for their flirtations. When you traveled with Tano, as Benedict did, you always finished second with the ladies. He’d long since resigned himself to that.
What he hadn’t bargained for was the way Elena lit up whenever Tano was around.
Benedict wasn’t blind, and he wasn’t stupid. If Elena hadn’t yet surrendered her virginity to Tano, it was only for lack of opportunity, not lack of willingness on his sister’s part. And Benedict was having trouble – a lot of trouble – deciding how he felt about that.
Footsteps echoed suddenly in the corridor, a crowd of them.
Were they coming to prepare him?
Benedict’s cock pulsed greedily at the thought of what might await him. The rest of him, sadder but wiser, was less enthused.
The guards came into view. As always, there were four of them: three male, one female, dressed alike in khaki shorts and shirts. One of the men carried a pair of handcuffs. The woman carried a taser.
Benedict eyed the stun gun with loathing. “Not necessary,” he assured them, rising from his bunk. “I’ll behave.”
But it hadn’t always been true. After the first three weeks, he’d gotten desperate and tried to overpower his guards when they came to escort him to the baths. He’d blackened the eye of one and broken the wrist of another before they finally knocked him flat and got him under control.
Since then, any time they removed him from his cell, they zapped him first, then walked him out in cuffs. He’d done everything he could think of to convince them that he was a reformed character, but so far it had done him no good at all.
Still, he had to try.
Spreading his arms wide, he held them well away from his body and turned in a slow circle. “Nothing up my sleeve,” he assured them. “In fact, no sleeves.” He tried not to think about how ridiculous he must look, a skinny American journalist, naked as the day he was born, his stubborn cock jutting out like a railroad spike.
“Lie back on the cot,” came the order.
“You don’t understand. The taser isn’t necessary.”
“Lie back on the cot.”
“Listen to me, will you? You can put away the stun gun. I’m not going to hurt anybody. I just want—”
They shot him anyway. The projectile struck him in the thigh and he tumbled to the floor, legs twitching, arms flailing.
As the current ebbed, they opened the cell door opened, cuffed him, hauled him to his feet, and supported him while he regained partial control of his rubbery legs. Then they dragged him forward, out of the cell.
Across the corridor, Tano groaned, just beginning to rouse.
“Hang loose, bro,” Benedict called to him. At least, that’s what he tried to say, but the aftereffects of the electrical shock left his tongue feeling thick, and the words came out in a slurred mumble.
Supported between two burly guards, he staggered down the hallway toward the baths. Sweating, filthy, his head muzzy, his stomach queasy, his cock still bobbing brazenly despite his misery, he was grateful, at least, that Elena wasn’t there to see the absolute mess he’d made of his life.
A warm ocean breeze ruffled my hair as I stood on the main balcony of my employer’s island estate, savoring the last glow of sunset. In the darkening sky, a single brilliant star began to gleam.
I wished on it, as I did every night: Please, please, help me find Tano and Benedict.
In the room behind me, the telephone shrilled, shattering the stillness. Hastily, I went inside and snatched up the receiver, like the obedient personal secretary I was purporting to be.
“Zarakis Enterprises,” I said into the phone.
There was a moment of silence. Then an accented male voiced whispered, “If you wish to find your brother and his friend, accompany Zarakis to this evening’s entertainment.”
And the line went dead.
For the past three weeks, I had fetched Constantine Zarakis’s coffee, run his errands, massaged his arthritic feet, and done everything else I could to make myself an indispensable part of his life, with no assurance that any of it was getting me a single inch closer to my objective. Now, in the space of a five-second phone call, I had received the perfect birthday present: a breath of hope. But the question remained: could I find a way to take advantage of it?
“Come here to me, Elena,” the familiar, autocratic voice called from the next room.
With a guilty start, I returned the receiver to its cradle. “Yes, sir,” I acknowledged, and hurried to join him.
Already dressed formally for the evening ahead, he sat enthroned in his wing chair, the ruler of all he surveyed. Looking at him, I couldn’t help acknowledging that age, cushioned by wealth, had dealt very kindly with Constantine Zarakis. At seventy-one, he was still a handsome and charismatic man, his abundant hair gleaming silver, his eyesight clear, his energy abundant. He was a firm taskmaster with the other staff members, but he treated me with the courtly sentimentality that older men sometimes conferred upon much younger women.
I had tried not to let it lull me. From the notes I had found on Benedict’s computer, I knew that Constantine was a ruthless businessman, and I had personally seen him indulge in flares of temper that were as savage as they were sudden. However charming I found his velvet glove, the iron fist was never far below the surface.
“Who was on the telephone?” he asked.
I gathered my scattered wits, determined to tell the truth whenever possible. “I don’t know, sir. The caller hung up without identifying himself.”
He made a dismissive gesture with his gnarled right hand. “No matter. You and I have more important matters to discuss.”
“Indeed.” He fixed me with a stern stare and held up a slip of paper. “I’ve just been handed an important piece of information about you, and I want to know why you didn’t come forward and tell the truth to me, yourself.”
My heart began to pound. Who could have betrayed my true purpose in coming here? How had the mystery caller known where and how to reach me? Worse yet, if Zarakis had discovered my connection to Tano and Benedict, what did he intend to do about it?
Playing for time, I clung to my bluff. “I…I don’t know what you mean, sir.”
“You most certainly do.” He smoothed the note on his thigh. “Or are you going to deny that today is your birthday?”
My birthday! Was that all that this confrontation was about? Relief weakened my knees, and I managed an embarrassed laugh. “Have pity on me, Constantine. Don’t you know that a woman never admits she’s gotten a year older, regardless of her age?”
“Ah, but you must make an exception, for this is a very special birthday, Elena. Today you have turned twenty-one, an age universally acknowledged to represent full adulthood. We must celebrate your achievement.” He spread his hands. “What sort of present would please you most? Money? Jewelry?”
In that moment, I saw my opportunity spread before me like a magic carpet. With a deferential glance and a demure smile, I said, “I know what I would like. Could you possibly take me with you to the party, tonight?”
He didn’t answer immediately, and when he did, his voice was heavy with regret. “I wish I could grant your request, dear girl, but you truly do not know what you are asking. Tonight’s function is not precisely a ‘party.’ It is a small, private gathering of old cronies, a select group of successful businessmen who have known each other for decades. Like me, they are not so young as they once were. However, unlike me, they are unrepentantly Old World in their attitudes toward women.”
The thought of Constantine Zarakis representing the cutting edge of political correctness made me smile, but I had to grant that he had always been polite and respectful in his dealings with me.
“I see that you are amused,” he said gently, “but I assure you, Elena, these men have no respect for a woman’s intellect. If they tolerated your admittance to their company tonight, it would be solely on account of your physical beauty, as a mere sex object. Surely a modern young woman such as yourself would find such a situation degrading and offensive.”
He might dismiss tonight as just a ‘private gathering of old cronies,’ but I knew better, thanks to the mysterious phone message. Somehow, this meeting had to do with Benedict and Tano. Determined not to let the opportunity pass me by, I said gamely, “I promise you solemnly, Constantine, I won’t take offense. After all, tonight isn’t about business. It would simply be an opportunity to dress up and celebrate on my birthday.”
He peered up at me as if determined to test the sincerity of my words, and I returned his scrutiny as calmly as I could. At last, with a thoughtful air, he said, “It seems I must speak more bluntly. Even if I give my permission and take you with me, I cannot guarantee that you will be admitted. The presence of a woman at these gatherings of ours is rarely tolerated. In order to gain admittance, you would have to be adjudged by my compatriots to be a worthy enhancement.”
An enhancement? The odd term sent a shiver of apprehension through me.
“We are wealthy men,” Constantine stated. “Set in our ways. Very used to dictating our own terms. And on nights like these, the rare nights set aside strictly for our private and personal enjoyment, our terms are very strict indeed.” He glowered at me. “If you attend, you will not be permitted to speak. You will eat only what is fed to you by my own hand. You will drink only from my cup. You will go where I direct and stay precisely where I place you.” He spread his hands. “You see? Insultingly old-fashioned. Have I dissuaded you yet, or shall I go on?”
He sighed heavily. “Questions will be put to me by my associates. I will be required to offer them my personal assurance that I have approved every detail of your appearance. If you are found wanting in any way, I will be held personally accountable.” He lifted his chin, haughty as a sultan. “Therefore, I can only agree to take you if I do indeed have full knowledge that your appearance is above reproach. To do otherwise would expose me to potential embarrassment within my closest circle of friends, and I do not intend to be embarrassed in front of them, by you or anyone else.” He folded his hands. “Knowing all of that, do you still wish to attend?”
The ‘please’ appeared to surprise him.
“Very well, Elena.” Slowly, with visible difficulty, he rose from his chair. I stayed where I was, unsure what to expect. “In that case, we must begin as we mean to go on. You will stand where you are, and you will be silent, or I shall leave you behind without further debate. Is that understood?”
He walked toward me, coming close enough for me to smell a faint trace of peppermint on his breath, then closer still, until finally his face was so close that he would only have needed to tilt his head and lean in slightly in order to press his lips to mine.
Of course, he made no move to do so, but I couldn’t seem to force the image of that phantom kiss from my mind. In the weeks since Constantine hired me, he had behaved as a perfect gentleman should, making no inappropriate advances or suggestive comments. There had been no hint of a slap-and-tickle mentality in his manner, and yet I was suddenly acutely aware that he was still a virile, physically powerful man, despite his age, and the force of that realization stole my breath away.
Moving calmly, deliberately, he withdrew a few steps and circled behind me, silent on the thick carpeting.
I waited, increasingly unnerved as each moment passed. Then I felt him grasp the neckline of my dress and begin to draw the zipper slowly down.
If this was a test of my resolve, I was determined to pass it. I stood immobile as the metal tab descended past my shoulder blades, past the small of my back, down to the bottom of its long, straight track.
Constantine’s knuckles came to rest lightly at the base of my spine.
Seconds ticked past.
Phantom warmth touched my nape as Constantine’s breath flowed over my skin.
Moving with precision, he separated the two halves of my dress at the neckline and drew them apart and off my shoulders. When he let go, the dress slid to the floor, leaving me standing in my slip.
I told myself that he was trying to call my bluff, but I was no longer quite so sure that I believed it.
Lifting the thin straps of my slip, he pushed them down my upper arms. Unsupported, the bodice slithered to my waist, falling until the flare of my hips prevented it from going any farther.
Behind me, Constantine gripped a handful of the slippery material on either side and tried to tug it down.
“It won’t come off that way,” I said. “You’ll have to—”
He let go abruptly, and clapped his right hand over my mouth with rough force, stifling the rest of my reply.
Frightened, I tried to pull away, but the force of his grip pushed the back of my head awkwardly against his shoulder and held me there with surprising strength.
“Do you not understand the word ‘silent,’ Elena?” His voice was a hot growl in my ear, and the room wavered. “You are not a stupid young woman, but you are sometimes a willful one. There is no room in tonight’s plans for willfulness. Do you understand?” He took a step back, with my head still pinioned against his shoulder, tugging me even farther off-balance. “Such a careless lapse into speech would have serious consequences if it should occur in the midst of tonight’s festivities. I would be powerless to shield you from my friends’ displeasure, whatever form that displeasure might take.” He gave me a little shake. “Prove to me, in the time remaining to us here, that you appreciate the gravity of your situation. Otherwise, I will have no choice but to leave you behind tonight, if only for your own protection. Am I understood?”
He had forbidden me to talk, and I feared that a nod would overbalance me entirely, so I waited, hoping that he would read my passivity as a sign of agreement.
Slowly, he removed his hand from my mouth. “I must ensure that you will take my admonishments to heart.” He steadied me on my feet. “Raise your slip to your waist. Now.”
The commanding menace in his voice was utterly convincing. I gathered up the skirt of my slip, bunching the material against my damp palms as quickly as I could.
As soon as I’d accomplished that, Constantine grasped the waistband of my pantyhose and peeled them down to my knees. They clung there, hobbling me, while he jerked my lavender panties to mid-thigh.
My face burned. I longed to refuse, to cover myself, to be anywhere but in this pretty room with a man who suddenly scared me half to death.
Instead, determined to rescue Benedict and Tano, I bent at the waist and waited anxiously to see what would happen next.
“From this moment until we return here, later tonight, you will be silent,” Constantine said, and the flat of his palm struck my bare backside.
It was little more than a slap, but the mortification that raced through me left me shaking. The last time I’d been spanked was over a decade ago, in one of the worst foster homes I had endured. My brother had come to my rescue, that night, and had gotten his arm broken as a result.
If I could save him now by submitting to this humiliation, who was I to protest?
“You will be silent,” Constantine repeated, and spanked me again, this time more sharply.
A war of emotions boiled up inside me, but determination outweighed rebellion. I bit my lip and submitted.
A stinging blow to my left cheek.
A harsh slap to the right.
“Completely, utterly silent,” he said coldly, and his hand spanked my flesh repeatedly, the rhythm slow and deliberate, the force almost enough to jolt me forward.
When the barrage ended. Constantine’s palm rested lightly for a moment on my smarting buttocks, as if he were assessing the heat rising from my skin. Then he lifted his hand away.
“Stand up and cover yourself.”
Straightening, I uncramped my fingers. My slip slid free, the cool satin sliding over my simmering flesh in an eerie caress.
“Step out of your shoes.”
I did as he ordered, and was instantly two inches shorter. It shouldn’t have mattered to me, but those lost inches felt suddenly dangerous. To be small was to be vulnerable, and I was already feeling more defenseless than I had felt since the grim days of my childhood.
Constantine stepped in front of me again, his gaze bold, his mouth a thin, unrelenting line. Watching me closely, he reached down and grasped the fabric of my slip at each side, gathering a pinch of material with finicky care between the thumb and forefinger of either hand. Then, by degrees, he drew it upward.
I looked down as the material ascended, feeling like a rabbit watching a snake slither ever closer. When my bunched pantyhose and crumpled panties came into view at mid-thigh, I had to resist the urge to flinch. The displaced clothing made me look tawdry and risque in this tasteful haven of the rich and powerful.
The slip rose, and pure panic shook me as I realized that the auburn curls at my groin would soon be revealed to Constantine’s gaze. The spanking had embarrassed me, but he had seen nothing but skin, however private that skin might have been. This, by contrast, seemed far more invasive. Those curls were the final shield between the outside world and my bodily privacy, my femininity, the parts of my body that belonged to me alone.
The slip crept to the tops of my thighs, lingered there for a thudding heartbeat, then rose to my waist in a single brash yank.
I froze, unable to breathe.
“Lovely,” Constantine murmured.
I hated him for that. Silence might have made the situation endurable. But his single word of appraisal shattered any illusion I might have harbored about his detachment. In spite of his white hair and the age spots on the backs of his hands, he was a man, and he viewed my body with a man’s devouring gaze.
“Raise your arms, Elena.”
My resentment simmered. I didn’t quite dare refuse, but I could choose how to comply. Deciding to carry out his instructions with style, I lifted my hands over my head with a defiant flourish.
He remained expressionless, but a ghost of color touched his pale cheeks. Then I lost the chance to watch him as he tugged the slip upward, where it covered my lips, my nose, my eyes.
Claustrophobia shook me as the fabric draped over my face, blocking my sight, clinging to my mouth, making it increasingly hard to breathe.
Dimly, over the pounding pulse in my ears, I heard him speak. “I see that your brassiere closes in the front.” His cool fingers invaded my cleavage, nudging the inner curves of my breasts as he explored the fastening.
My arms ached, and I wanted to lower them, but I didn’t dare. I stood like a statue, blinded by satin, trying not to gasp for breath.
“Ah,” he said at last. I felt a tug; then the ocean breeze puckered my nipples as he peeled away the left cup, followed slowly by the right.
My breasts hung free, unsupported.
I expected him to touch them, but he offered neither comment nor caress. Instead, I heard the unexpected sound of scissors blades opening. Cold steel touched the skin of each shoulder, and I trembled as my bra fell to the floor.
“The straps of this garment left marks on your shoulders,” Constantine said, his voice sharp with surprise and disapproval. “That is unacceptable. You will wear no such garment tonight.”
On one level, his words excited me: he was still willing to contemplate taking me with him. But I had needed the support of a substantial brassiere since I was fourteen, and it rattled me to think about appearing in public without one. Constantine’s edict made me newly aware of the warmth and weight of my breasts. What would it be like to feel them sway unfettered beneath my dress as I made my way through the dangerous night that lay ahead?
“Remove your slip altogether,” Constantine instructed.
I grasped the lingerie and pulled it off over my head.
“Drop it to the floor.”
I did, and let my arms fall to my sides, fingers tingling as the circulation returned.
Constantine returned to his chair and sat down. Planting his feet widely apart, he said, as he had said at the beginning of this strange interlude, “Come here to me, Elena.”
I was willing to obey, but the pantyhose still clung, just above my knees. I looked to Constantine in silent appeal.
“Yes,” he said calmly, “I am aware of your difficulty. Nevertheless, I tell you to come here to me. I wish to remove your hosiery myself.”
With small, clumsy steps, I came toward him.
I stopped just short of his parted knees.
Reaching out, he grasped my nylons and tugged them down, his hair tickling against my thighs as he bent over.
When he straightened slowly, his hot breath ruffled the curls at my groin.
I felt a keen rush of response, followed immediately by a stab of fear. How had I blundered into this perilous battle of wills? I must be crazy, exposing myself like this to Constantine in the faint hope that it might help me rescue Benedict and Tano.
But that was exactly what I had to do. Either of them would have done as much for me, and I wanted them back, safe and sound, at any price.
Steadied by that realization, I stood my ground.
Constantine sat up straight in his chair. “Time grows short. I must reach a final decision about tonight. Lie on your back, Elena, and place your feet in my lap.”
I obeyed, wincing as the carpet chafed my sensitized flesh. My bottom burned, tormented by the very rug that had felt so luxurious beneath my bare feet just moments before.
Constantine peeled off my pantyhose and panties, then explored my feet with his thin fingers, tracing my sensitive arches. Satisfied, he patted my ankles and looked down to where I lay stretched on the floor before him. “So far, I approve all that I have seen,” he told me with calm condescension. “There are only a few important matters left to be dealt with before I dress you for tonight’s event.”
With that, he tightened his grip and drew my ankles apart. Reflexively, I pressed my knees together, shamefully aware that I was now completely naked, without a scrap of covering to conceal me from his gaze.
He frowned. “Part your legs, Elena. Show yourself to me.”
Appalled, I hesitated, hoping he would relent.
Instead, he gripped my ankles tightly and dragged them onto the upholstered armrests, then over the padded edges, using the massive proportions of the chair to help enforce his will.
Ankles flared, knees still clenched in a stubbornness born of panic, I winced as my muscles protested the unnatural position.
“Spread your thighs,” Constantine ordered, implacable.
I dug my fingers into the rich pile of the carpet, hating my vulnerability, hating the simple mechanics that allowed Constantine’s elderly strength to triumph over mine, hating the knowledge that my concern for Tano and Benedict would force me to comply. In order to penetrate the next layer of secrecy and locate the two men I cared most about in all the world, I would have to obey Constantine, whatever he demanded of me.
Reluctantly, I relaxed my thighs an inch or two.
“Wider,” came the demand.
I permitted another grudging inch.
Unruffled, Constantine said, “Show yourself to me immediately, Elena. Open your thighs as widely as you can, or I shall come down there and widen them for myself.”
His threat seared through me. Admitting defeat, I splayed my legs.
Above me, he smiled, clearly pleased—perhaps by my capitulation, perhaps by my panic, perhaps by what he could now see of my body. Or perhaps by all three.
“Yes, that is much better. Listen to me now.” He squeezed my ankles with vicious strength, pressing until tears stung my eyes. “I am going to trust you to do as I say. When I release your feet, you are to place them on the carpet. You understand?”
His grip eased, and the pain ebbed.
When he lifted his hands away entirely, I lowered my legs on either side of his wide chair and rested my heels on the floor.
“Bend your knees. Place the soles of your feet flat on the floor.”
I did as he said.
“Now let your knees fall to the sides, as far as they will go.”
Sick chills coursed through me, but I obeyed.
The result was appalling, exposing me utterly. I thought my abasement could get no worse. But Constantine was still not content. He reached for the floor lamp that stood beside his chair. Pulling it forward, he switched its three bulbs to their brightest level of illumination.
I fancied I could feel the heat of those merciless lights on each inch of my private flesh.
He surveyed his handiwork and gave a nod of approval. “Understand,” he elaborated, his tone shockingly detached and clinical, “I have intensified the light because I must see very clearly for what is to follow.”
Hysteria bubbled up within me. For what was to follow? What more could he possibly demand of me?
I soon found out.
“Reach down to your curls. Grasp the outer lips and spread them for me.”
Aghast, I gaped at him, but Constantine didn’t care.
“Spread your outer lips, Elena. Do it now…unless, of course, you prefer that I do it.”
The thought of Constantine’s aged fingers delving between my thighs made me cringe. Bracing myself, I followed his directions, reaching down.
He wasn’t satisfied. “No. Pull the lips up and then apart, to free my view. Begin again.”
Gritting my teeth, I did it.
Constantine made a satisfied sound deep in his throat, a wordless, sensual, animal sound that caught me by the throat.
A tiny whimper of distress escaped me.
“Well done,” he soothed, all kindness now that I had obeyed. “And ever so gently part the inner lips, as well.” A pleased sigh issued from him as I obeyed. “Ah. Yes. Very nice. Very nice indeed.” He nodded in satisfaction. “There is just one thing more you must do, Elena. You must unhood your pearl.”
I blinked against the glaring light, unwilling to believe that I understood him.
“Your clitoris,” he clarified, pronouncing the word with clinical precision.
I blushed crimson.
Constantine chuckled dryly. “You wish me to be less direct? Well, then, the little nub that holds your pleasure wrapped within it. Need I show you where to locate it?”
I shook my head in vehement denial and made a hasty swipe with my finger, praying that it would satisfy him.
I should have known better.
“No, no, and no,” Constantine said crossly. “You must be more delicate about it if you are to succeed. He is a shy fellow who must be coaxed out into the light. How can you know so little of yourself? Do you never feel the fever of desire in your blood? Do you never lie in your solitary bed at night and bring pleasure to this lovely body?”
I shook my head in denial, refusing to admit to Constantine that recently I had been doing precisely what he described, fantasizing about all the forms that Tano’s gratitude might take after I miraculously engineered his rescue—the kisses, the caresses, the sweet bonfire of passion….
Constantine’s voice intruded on my thoughts. “Foolish girl. Instead of blushing, you should slip a mirror between your thighs in order to marvel at how beautifully you are made. Well, ignorance can be remedied. Try again, my dear. Gently.”
Tears of shame and fury trickled from the corners of my eyes, because my body, lured to life by thoughts of Tano, was now responding to my touch and the sly onslaught of Constantine’s words. My traitorous nipples were gathered so tightly that they ached. Tremors shook my parted thighs. And between those thighs, disconcertingly, the moisture of my arousal gathered and seeped.
“Cry if you must,” Constantine admonished, “but know that I will not relent until I have seen your pearl revealed. Begin again, and this time use the middle finger of your right hand, if you please. Your labia are swollen now, so you must be more forceful in drawing them aside. And take care not to moisten your middle finger with your nectar as you do so. For our present task, friction will provide far better control.”
He frightened me by sliding suddenly to his knees between my parted legs. Removing a pristine linen handkerchief from his pocket, he pressed it firmly to my cleft despite my silent squirm of protest, then withdrew it.
“There. That should help, at least for a few moments. Begin again, just below the nub, and stroke upward. Now.”
His looming presence made me frantic. To forestall him from delving into me himself, I did my best to comply with his instruction.
“Slowly, my dove, slowly,” he coached in a hoarse whisper, and bent closer still, so close that I felt the puff of his words on my most secret places. “Be firm in your touch, sweeting. A strong, steady pressure. You will not break.”
My finger slid upward, and riotous sensations swept through me, electrifying my nerves with crude pulses of pleasure.
“Yes,” Constantine applauded, the pitch of his voice low and avid. “Yes. Now your fingertip rides atop the pearl itself. You feel it singing beneath your touch. But the completion of that song is not our present goal. What I require is to see your pearl clearly for myself. And so, to oblige me, you will go one tiny bit farther. You will move your fingertip the merest fraction of an inch more. Bear down, Elena. Bear down and draw your finger one heartbeat higher. Your pearl, so very precious, so very beautiful, is nearly revealed to my gaze….” He continued to murmur over me, hovering above me like a demon, like a lover, like the disembodied voice of my most frenzied and unspeakable desires.
A tortured gasp escaped me as the entire world centered itself, blazing, just below my fingertip—
“Yes,” Constantine crooned. “There. Exactly.”
—I felt as if I would burst into glorious flame in one more instant, just one—
Before that could happen, Constantine grabbed my wrist and snatched my hand away. The excitement within me retreated…subsided…vanished as if it had never been.
With a nod, Constantine released my hand. “Exquisite,” he said, and kissed his own upturned fingertips. “But the evening is young, as are you. It does not do to rush one’s pleasures when so much still lies ahead.”
Laboriously, he levered himself up and back until he was once again seated in his chair, his color high, his expression benevolent. “My dear Elena, I am altogether satisfied that you would indeed be a fine enhancement to our revels. If it is still your desire to attend, it will delight me to present you. Will you permit me that honor?”
His tone was grave and gracious, as if I were seated across from him in some elegant salon, not sprawled naked on the floor at his feet. Cautiously, I drew my legs together and, when that drew no objection, sat up.
Constantine extended his hand to me. “You have my permission to speak. What is your answer? Shall we make this birthday evening of yours a night to remember?”
A night to remember? I wanted to retreat to my bed and hide under the covers. I wanted to crawl off to the shower and scrub myself until I had removed the entire outer layer of skin that Constantine had defiled with his hungry eyes. I wanted—
If you wish to find your brother and his friend, accompany Zarakis to this evening’s entertainment.
With a private smile, I accepted his hand. “Thank you, Constantine. Yes. Accompanying you tonight is my fondest birthday wish.”