As Max finished speaking, the elegantly dressed man glanced over everyone’s heads, and nodded at Dominic who stood in the back. Then the man waved them through black leather-padded doors that were thrown open by two uniformed employees. And they entered a room with subdued lighting, posh decor, affluent patrons and spectacularly naked women.
A beautiful woman, nude except for a navel ring, beckoned an equally nude coat-check girl to take their coats. Then she escorted them to two large black velvet banquettes set against a mirrored wall. As everyone found seats, the hostess raised a manicured finger and signalled another equally dazzling, unclad woman.
After ordering several bottles of Cristal, Max exchanged a few words with their server. As the woman left, he sat back and gave a brief nod to Dominic.
Greta, Kate, Max, Dominic, Werner and his wife sat in one banquette, the other held the noisier half of the dinner party. Dominic and Max were the last to take their seats and whether by chance or design, Dominic sat beside Kate.
It was an intimate venue with an unobtrusive bar to one side, six banquettes lining the walls, and four marble-topped tables fronting a small stage. The clientele was well-dressed and cosmopolitan, the conversation hushed. Even the rowdy members of the Knight party had instinctively quieted.
A small stage, framed in gilded pilasters and rich azure silk draperies, reminded Kate of Marie Antoinette’s little theatre at Versailles. Sofia Coppola’s movie clearly had left its mark on her. The stage set represented a richly furnished Victorian sitting room: a table set for tea, a crimson brocade chaise, a spinet and a leather padded bench, sumptuous carpets and two lace-curtained windows stage right, draped in royal blue silk.
The black velvet banquette was soft as down, the atmosphere restful, the noise level muffled. If the servers weren’t nude and if a man and woman in period costume hadn’t walked onto the stage just then, Kate would have thought she was drinking champagne in someone’s living room.
But as the little play began to unfold, she realized she was about to witness an erotic Victorian tableau.
The couple began having tea, the man, as host, explaining to the young woman that his sister had sent her regrets at the last minute. ‘I sent a message to your home, but too late, I’m afraid.’
‘Oh, dear.’ The pretty blonde, dressed in white ruffled muslin, made a little O with her mouth. ‘I really shouldn’t stay.’
‘Come, Liza, we’ve been friends for years. Let me pour you a sip of sherry. It’s from Papa’s cellar.’
‘I shouldn’t.’ She flushed a rosy pink.
And so it went, the couple drinking more sherry than tea, the young lady becoming more comfortable and talkative, the man full of compliments and small courtesies. The acting was really quite good, enough so that Kate was drawn into the scene despite her reservations. She wasn’t alone in her interest. The audience was captivated.
‘I have to marry Lord Richmond, you know,’ the actress suddenly blurted out, her eyes welling up. ‘And I hate him. He’s old and ugly.’
She clapped her hands to her cheeks. ‘Oh, no, don’t say that! You can’t mean it?’
‘I wish it weren’t true,’ he grimly said. ‘But it is. Everyone knows.’
Her tears began to flow. ‘So I’m to be – sold off – for Richmond’s fortune,’ she sobbed. ‘Oh, Ned, what am I going to do?’ she wailed. ‘Help me!’
A theatrical silence fell. You could have heard a pin drop.
His expression solemn, he reached across the table and gave her his handkerchief. ‘You know what he’s paying for.’
She looked down. ‘I know.’
‘If you weren’t a virgin …’
‘He wouldn’t want me.’ She looked up, her eyes bright with hope. ‘How clever you are, Ned!’ Then her face fell. ‘But the contracts have all been signed. And Mama’s already counting her money.’
‘Then I’m not sure what he’ll do.’
She jumped from her chair and began pacing the room, her agitation plain. ‘The world is cruel when I can be sold off like so much chattel. It’s not fair!’ She suddenly spun around, her nostrils flaring. ‘I won’t go docilely like a lamb to the slaughter. I won’t! You hear!’ She brooded for a moment, then hotly declared, ‘Fie on Richmond and his grubby money! I shall give you my maidenhead, darling Ned.’
The young man looked startled. He wasn’t the callous seducer generally portrayed in Victorian tales. ‘You have to be sure,’ he quietly said.
‘Yes, yes, yes, yes! And darling,’ she gaily declared, ‘I’ve been wanting to kiss you for ever!’
He still looked grave. ‘This is more than kisses.’
She waltzed over to him, patently joyful, and held out her hands. ‘I know that. This will be my sweet revenge on them all.’
Rising from his chair, the handsome young man took her hands in his, raised them to his mouth, brushed her fingers with his lips and the sweetest of seductions commenced: both actors young and beautiful, their slow undressing – he helping her and she him – a languid, tantalizing production accomplished with deft show-manship. Once they were nude, he caressed her shapely form in all the ways meant to arouse, kissing her mouth, her neck, her showy breasts, her virgin cleft. When she was flushed all warm and pink, Ned eased her back onto the chaise, slid between her legs, and with an expertise admired at least by the females in the audience, brought little Liza to a rapturous orgasm.
It was clear that the actors had been cast in their roles for reasons over and above their acting skills. Ned was all magnificent male, handsome, virile and in terms of performance art, his erection was truly star quality. For her part, Lady Liza was stunning, voluptuous as Venus, and clearly of a passionate nature.
After the initial consummation, Ned was lying on the chaise, cradling Liza in his arms when, in lieu of the usual pillow talk, she casually said, ‘Abby tells me you have whips.’
He glanced down. ‘Does she now?’
Liza lifted her gaze to him and smiled. ‘She says she likes what you do with them.’
‘You’re not Abby Childers.’
Liza suddenly sat up, a little pout on her lips. ‘I might like it.’
‘That’s not very nice.’ A spoiled young lady acting spoiled.
‘Come, darling,’ he said with a sigh. ‘Abby Childers likes to be tortured.’
A wide-eyed look. ‘Tortured?’
‘There, you see, you don’t want that.’
She nibbled on her bottom lip for a moment. ‘You could just whip me a little.’
He softly sighed. ‘If I do, is this conversation over?’
‘Yes, yes, of course.’
‘Very well.’ He pointed. ‘In that drawer over there. Bring me one of the whips.’
She leaped up and a moment later was back. ‘Will this one do?’ She held out a red leather quirt from which hung three knotted strands of black braided silk.
‘That one’s fine. It won’t leave marks.’
She half turned and glanced back at the bureau.
‘Don’t even think about it,’ he muttered, ‘or I’ll send you home. It’s not a competition.’ Reaching out, he took the whip from her, rose from the chaise and helped her lean over the chaise so she was face down over the curved back. Then he tied her hands to the wooden legs, raising her pink bottom into a perfect target.
‘I intend to make this unpleasant.’ He lifted his arm. ‘I don’t want you to ask me to do this again. You’re not Abbey Childers.’ He brought the whip down with a crack.
A gasp went up in the crowd as the lash struck the lady’s plump flesh.
Another when she cried out. Then another and another as the young man wielded his whip and the lady shrieked and moaned. Ignoring her cries, he smacked her soft rump, the inside of her thighs, the pink pouty lips of her sex – those blows in particular eliciting little frenzied screams that soon morphed into frantic whimpers.
Was she really in pain? Kate wondered. Would he stop if she was?
Kate forced herself not to openly gasp but it was impossible to stem her feverish reaction to the lady’s punishment. She was wildly aroused, desire coiling deep in her core, spreading outwards in hard, forceful waves, spiking through her senses, making her edgy, making her skin tingle.
Her gaze on the actor’s huge, upthrust erection, she imagined it deep inside her, could almost feel it slide in and out, wanted it, needed it. Or perhaps someone else’s, the little voice inside her head whispered as Dominic Knight’s recognizable scent filled her nostrils. His physical presence beside her was like an irresistible force, like a hot brand on her consciousness. Primal male, oppressive, blatantly arousing.
Lord, she’d had too much champagne if she was fantasizing about sex with him even with people around. Stop! Stop! Stop!