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Authors: Eden Bradley

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BOOK: A 21st Century Courtesan
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“Actually, I prefer the surrealists. Hockney. Dalí.”

I nod my head. I love a man who knows art; it really makes me swoon. Or maybe it's just him?

“So, what do you do for work, Valentine?”

I freeze for a moment. I have a few standard answers I use in order to sidestep this question. But suddenly my mind is a blank. The lies won't leave my mouth. I lift my drink, take a long swallow, letting the gin go to work, loosening my insides. I still have no idea what to say.

The house lights flash.

“Time to go back in,” he says. “Let me get rid of these glasses.”

He takes mine, holding it between his fingers along with his, brings them to the rapidly emptying bar while I stand there, feeling a bit lost. Then he's back at my side, his hand going to the small of my back as he guides me through the theater doors.

His palm is warm through the thin silk of my dress. And my sex is going so damp from this nearly innocent touch, I'm almost afraid to sit down. To try to hold still for another hour or more, next to him in the dark.

I manage to do it. But the entire time I am more aware than ever of his tall, muscular body next to mine. I don't dare to look at him. I don't have to. I can feel him. And I'm soaked the entire time.

Torture.

When the show is over we stand and I feel awkward again. Do I simply leave and say good-bye?

“Did you drive?” he asks.

“I took a cab.”

“Let me find one for you.”

His hand at my waist again as we walk out of the theater. I can hardly stand for him to touch me. To touch me but not
touch
me.

At the curb he waves a taxi down.

“I won't be so rude as to ask for your address, so you'll have to tell the driver where you're going. But I hope you'll call me.”

He pulls a business card from his pocket and slips it into my hand, grasping it with his fingers for a moment. He's looking into my eyes, and even in the dark I swear I can see a dim green and gold glow in his. He is too beautiful, this man.

I want him to kiss me. I want to pull him into the cab with me. I want to take him home and fuck him. But I do none of this.

“Thank you for the drink. And for the conversation.”

He gives my fingers a final squeeze. “It was my pleasure. Call me, Valentine.”

I smile, nod, and he hands me into the cab. He shuts the door, and I give one last shiver.

The cab pulls into the night, and we are immediately stuck in traffic. I don't dare look behind me to see if he is standing there.

Joshua.

I clear my throat, smooth a hand over my hair. His card is in the other hand. I should tear it up. Toss it out the window. But instead I slip it into my bag. I can throw it away later. That's exactly what I should do. Anything else would be ridiculous. Unrealistic. And life has taught me to be realistic. I am the poster child for accepting reality, no matter how ugly. It's this beautiful, nice man who's thrown me off balance.

I know what I should do. But I close my purse, my fingers tightening on the metal clasp, as though I am still holding the card in my hand. As though I really can call him tomorrow, go on a date. One in which I don't get paid.

I'm not the sort of woman who can afford to indulge in this kind of fantasy. I will toss the card the moment I get home.

Won't I?

Chapter Two

I
LET MYSELF INTO
my house, the heavy wood door swinging shut behind me. The moment my feet hit the small rug in the entry hall I step out of my gold stiletto heels, curling my toes, enjoying the warm flow of blood. I love the way my legs look in a good stiletto, but they hurt like hell.

I flip on lights as I make my way down the short hall and into the living room, flopping onto the long dark-brown leather sofa and lying back against the Indian and Moroccan pillows piled there.

I love this house. It's a big Spanish style with an open floor plan that makes me feel like I can breathe. So different from the oppressive environment I grew up in. But I don't want to think about that now. No, now I just want to enjoy my house.

I've been decorating for the last four years, ever since I bought the place. It's my favorite thing to do. Besides sex. I love picking out individual pieces. Exotic imports are my favorite; I have a lot of heavy, carved pieces from India, Spain, Southeast Asia. My artwork is a mix of those same ethnic
cultures and a few pieces from Japan. I love the stark esthetics of modern Japanese art; it's soothing. And all the dark, rich colors put together feel homey to me. I adore the exotic fabrics of these countries: the embroidery and damask, the dark, earthy tones mixed with bolder accents. And then there's my collection of orchids.

I know, I hardly seem the type. But there's something special about orchids. They seem so fragile, but they're stronger than they look. I can't help but admire that. And they look like the darkest, loveliest part of a woman. I'm not the first person to make the comparison.

A small collection of orchids sit on the window seat built into the wall of windows facing west, into the hillside, so they don't get too much sun. I have a particular fondness for the white varieties, but I have some in shades of purple, from pale lilac to deep amethyst.

But enough about my flowers, my house. What I really want to think about is Joshua Spencer. I eye my satin bag, sitting on the table in the entry hall. My fingers itch to take that card out. To feel the papery smoothness between my fingers. To dream of the impossible.

Because being with a man like him, being with any man when it's not a business arrangement, is entirely out of the question. These things do not happen to girls in my industry. And I've been in it far too long to delude myself.

Almost ten years. Has it really been that long? I was barely twenty when Enzo found me, and thirty is on the horizon. I suppose I should retire someday. But not yet. No, retiring now would mean giving up the only sexual satisfaction I can attain. Why would I even consider doing that?

Because maybe then I could have a normal life, a small
voice tells me. But no, not me. I will never be normal, whatever that is.

I'm brooding now. I hate when I get like this.

I get up and pad across the cool floors into the kitchen. Pale red granite on the counters, brass pots shining on hooks over the sink, a few more of my precious orchids on the windowsill. It's a great kitchen. Too bad I work so often at night; I love to cook. I love to experiment with Thai dishes, delicate French sauces. But right now all I want is another drink.

I pull the gin out, a glass, some mixer. The ice cubes hit the side of the glass, the sound seeming to echo in my quiet house. I don't mind. I like the peace. I mix the drink, take a long sip, then another.

I don't like myself when I drink. It makes me feel pathetic. But I need it tonight. All these broody thoughts. All because of
him.

I am suddenly questioning myself. Just because I want a man. But it's more than mere want. No, it's not wanting in the usual way. It's this ridiculous yearning, craving, that won't let me go. My body is stirred with desire.

I take another gulp of the gin. No use in giving in to this kind of desire. Not even here by myself. It never works.

Damn it.

Throwing back the rest of the drink, I feel the alcohol buzz into my system, and head toward the bedroom.

Just get to bed. Forget about him.

I unzip my dress and wriggle out of it, hang it in the closet. Naked, I reach into my nightstand drawer and pull out a gummi bear from a plastic bag I keep there. Silly, I know, but this has been my bedtime comfort since I was a kid. I pop it into my mouth as I crawl into the big carved four-poster
bed from Indonesia, beneath the heavy silk duvet cover done in shades of pale blue and deep chocolate brown. Soothing colors. But as I lay there in the dark, I don't feel soothed. Even the gin hasn't done its job. And I'm not enough of a drinker to get up and have some more. Not after growing up with my mother.

Shit, I really do
not
want to think about her right now. No, better to think about Joshua Spencer. About what I can't have. Makes it all the more tempting, doesn't it?

He's tempting enough all on his own. Those eyes, like amber flecked with malachite and silver. He has long, dark lashes. Lashes any girl would love to have. It's the one thing about his face which looks completely innocent. The rest is all rugged bone structure, and that lush mouth that looks too purely sexual to be at all pure.

Just thinking about him is making me hot all over, my nipples going taut, my sex damp. I squeeze my legs together beneath the weight of the covers. It doesn't help.

What would his skin taste like beneath my tongue? What would his cock look like, feel like in my hand? In my mouth?

I take in a deep breath and imagine his scent on the air. And I'm absolutely drenched now, the naked lips of my sex swollen and needy when I brush my fingertips over them.

I really do need another drink.

Instead, I roll over and reach into the drawer of my night-stand, pull out the big, phallic vibrator my friends Regan and Rosalyn gave me for my last birthday. I rarely use it. It's of very little use to me. But I need something, need it badly enough to try.

I lie back on my pillows, switch it on, and lower it between my thighs. And in my mind is Joshua Spencer's face.

I can feel the buzz of the vibrator as I touch it to my aching
clit, and there is that lovely, momentary shock of pleasure. But as soon as I feel it, it's gone.

No.

Think of him. Joshua.

Imagine what he'd look like without his shirt on: strong pecs, arms heavily muscled from playing hockey. Washboard abs.

I lick my lips, try the vibrator again. And once more, that one delicious moment before it dissipates.

Concentrate.

His pants have to come next, revealing strong thighs. And in between them, his beautifully erect cock. Yes, now my mouth is watering. Smooth golden skin, the purple head glistening with pre-come. And I take him into my mouth, the swollen head hitting the back of my throat, the scent of him, of desire, filling my mind.

I run the vibrator over my clitoris once more, savor the thrill of sensation, the image of Joshua's cock going down my throat, sucking him, hearing him moan. But that's not where I need him most.

Moving the big vibrator farther down, I part my thighs as if for a lover. I'm so damn wet I don't need any lube. As wet as though there was a pile of cash on the night table, waiting for me. Oh, yes, my pussy gives a hard squeeze at the thought.

Joshua.

Yes, think of Joshua …

Think of him entering me, his cock slipping inside as I spread a little wider to take the tip of the vibrating shaft into me. A shiver of sensation, the low thrumming buzz of the pink, plastic machine. I angle to hit my G-spot, and another shock of pleasure shafts deep into my system.

Oh, yes …

Joshua …

His face, his fine hands. I'd looked at them at the opera. He has big hands, beautiful skin, yet a real man's hands. Strong looking.

Oh, yes, touch me … fuck me.

I plunge the plastic shaft deeper, and the vibration is really starting to get to me. I pump my hips, thrust it deeper, using the heel of my hand to press onto my hard clit.

And soon I sense that first raw edge. Pleasure ripples through me in long, undulating waves. Almost there.

Joshua …

Oh, yes, his cock driving into me, his mouth on mine. He tastes like good scotch: that smooth, that silky. His tongue in my mouth, his cock deep inside me, and I'm nearly coming now
… ah, yes
,

My hips arch into the vibrator, my sex clenches … and then, nothing.

No!

I bury the vibrator deeper, angle it harder, and my climax starts again, that heaviness weighing down on my belly, simmering, spreading. But once more it tapers off, disappears.

Fuck!

I almost want to cry. But I take a deep breath, picture his face again.

His mouth is one of the hottest things I've ever seen. Yes, imagine that mouth between my thighs, licking my damp slit, sucking on my clit, hard and steady, just the way I like it. And his big hands gripping my hips, holding me down.

Yes…

Warm and wet and sucking …

My body is shaking so damn hard with the need to come,
I can barely hold the vibrator. I grip harder, thrust it in and out, moving my hips in time. There is sweat on the back of my neck, between my breasts, between my thighs. If he were here with me, he'd be slippery with my sweat, his face buried in my soaking wet mound, loving my shaved pussy.

A long surge of pleasure running through me. My elusive orgasm builds once more, higher and higher. I squeeze my eyes shut tight, see his face, his tongue in my mouth and in my pussy at the same time, his cock plunging into me, his hands on my breasts, squeezing my nipples.

Oh, yes!

I reach for that peak, pleasure shivering through me, and poise on the edge.

Joshua!

I tremble, begin to come.

Ah, yes …

And it's gone, as if it never existed. And I am defeated once more.

God damn it!

I really do want to cry now. But I knew this is how it would end. It always does. I am always left panting and weak with unmet need.

Too bad I can't pick up the phone, call one of my clients. But we never, ever do that.

I want to throw the vibrator across the room. But I set it on the night table and throw the covers back instead, get out of bed and walk naked to the kitchen. I'm having that damn drink.

I pour the gin and take it back to bed with me, sitting up against the pillows, my body still shivering with need that will not be met tonight. And along with it, that sense of revulsion
I have on those rare occasions when I allow myself to drink like this: to comfort myself, to
use
the alcohol. But I'm drinking it anyway.

The moonlight is coming through the heavy paned windows, washing the room in silver. Everything looks surreal in the moonlight. Everything feels surreal to me: the aching desire in my body, the memory of the opera tonight. It's almost as though none of it ever happened. Maybe it didn't. I almost want to get up again and look for his card in my purse.

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