If you need more to satisfy your excerpt fix, sign up for my monthly newsletter.
Florence redirected her gaze to several different shaped glass bowls lined up before Harold like soldiers waiting for orders. On his right stood two tubs of ice cream, one chocolate, one vanilla. On his left lay a strange device she’d never seen before.
She rubbed her arms. “Why is it cold in here?”
“So I can conduct my ice cream experiments,” he answered. “I’m no George Washington Carver, but you could call this my laboratory.” He gestured behind her. “Wrap up if it’s too cold for you.”
She turned and saw a wooden coat and hat rack. Several shawls and scarves lay across its upper hooks. A small circle of wood formed a shelf atop its four curved legs. A box with its lid off stood on the shelf. She peered inside then withdrew a pair of gloves that might fit her. The insides were lined with some soft fur that instantly banished the chill from her fingers. She pulled a shawl from the rack and wrapped it around her. Warmth melted down her flesh.
“Alright,” she said, facing him again. “Now what?”
She came beside him and pointed to the thing on the table. “What’s that?”
Harold picked it up in one of his leather-glove clad hands. “This is an ice cream mold and disher.” He held it up as if displaying a diamond. “I want to see if I can fill these bowls without making a mess.”
Her mouth gaped in surprise. She remembered the mess they made serving ice cream at that first soiree last month, despite how carefully they worked.
“Is that possible?” she asked.
“I aim to find out. Perhaps you’d assist me.”
Florence pouted. What could be naughty about filling bowls with ice cream?
The disbelief in her tone must have appeared on her face because Harold threw back his head and laughed a good long while. Finally, he swiped at his eyes and said, “Well not quite. I was also hoping to make a couple of sundaes.”
“Sundays? I don’t understand what you mean.”
“S-U-N-D-A-E-S,” he spelled out. “Ice cream and syrup concoctions with fruit and nuts and whipped cream.” He nodded toward some covered bowls within easy reach. “They’re to take the starch out of the ice cream soda criticisms being peddled by puritanical clergymen.”
The specter of Reverend Hamilton emerged unwelcome. Florence shook her head and banished him from her thoughts.
“I thought I’d try out some of my creations on you all tomorrow,” Harold continued.
“Were you expecting something else?” He arched an eyebrow. An impish mischief shone in his eyes.
Of course she was. Loathe to admit it, however, Florence sucked her teeth and turned her nose up in the air.
“Don’t be absurd.” She gave him her most imperious glare. “You’re a son of one of Summerville Shore’s finest families. It would never occur to you to take advantage of me. You’re too well brought up for that.”
Her mother’s rebuke toward Reverend Hamilton proved true. Was she relieved or disappointed?
Harold got off the chair and motioned her forward. “Please.”
She eyed the stool, its seat higher than her waist. Small wheels were attached to each of the stool’s feet. She held out her hand.
“You have to help me.” She turned her back to him and gathered her skirts out of the way to be seated. “I don’t think I can climb on unaided.”
He gripped her by the waist and hoisted her up. His grasp was firm, commanding. To her right the sweet smell of different syrups set her mouthwatering.
Her mouth and other parts of her anatomy lower down.
She found the seat wider than she expected. Her thighs spread apart as she wriggled her bottom onto the cushion, forcing her skirts up past her knees. She moved to pull her skirts down.
“Do you really want to do that?” he asked.
She paused. “Why wouldn’t I?”
He patted her thighs further apart. “My device may not be as efficient as the manufacturer claims. It’d be a pity to soil your nice white skirts with ice cream and syrup and fruit juices.”
She smiled, a sly thought uncoiling from the recesses of her libido.
“My drawers are just as nice and white as my skirt. How am I to keep the ice cream and the syrup and the fruit juices from your sundae creations off of them?”
She smoothed her gloved hand along the cotton covering her thighs. The thin fabric was barely thick enough to keep the flesh they covered from trembling.
“I guess I could remove them,” she offered, looking him straight in the eye. To her gratification, he blenched.
“In this cold?” he asked.
She shrugged. “Perhaps it’s not as cold as I thought.”
The Emergency Worker had been professional and kind. Peri sensed real sympathy from her and appreciated it more than the balm applied to her abrasions.
“Rub this cream into the welts each morning. It’ll anesthetize the pain and act as a concealer. Your wounds will be gone within two to three days.”
Peri studied her wrists, marveling how the bright red of the welts had already yielded to a taupe closer to her skin color. Now if only the confusion and turmoil she felt would yield to clarity and peace. She stared at the bed, shaken that desire raged stronger than relief within her. What had happened here?
Peri looked up. A twenty-first century Amazon towered over her. She should have been astride a horse with bow and quiver strapped to her back. Peri imagined her vanquishing all foes with an expertly wielded labris. Tall and warrior-like, her face could have been chiseled on Mount Rushmore.
“I’m Supervisor Branca Fernao.” She stepped to the door, scanned the living room then came back and stood over Peri again. “I’m here to escort you to your room and take a statement.”
Peri stared, mesmerized by the samba-like fluidity of Fernao’s stride. A rhythm sensuous as that erotic dance rippled across the supervisor’s limbs. An aura powerful as the eddies of the Amazon radiated around the woman. The right side of her chest lay considerably flatter than the left. A small emerald colored pin sparkled there. Peri squinted to get a better look at it and recognized the shape of a cross labris. The miniature axe cleaved her psyche. Fear bled from the wound.
“I—I don’t want to make a statement, Supervisor.” She adjusted the strapless bodice of her dress, tugging it up as high as it would go. “I just want to forget all about this.”
“As you wish. I will, however, have to see you to your room.”
Peri nodded. She didn’t have the energy to argue. Tension throbbed at her temples and behind her ears. Rivulets of perspiration trickled down her spine and along the cleft of her breasts.
She stood and, keeping her right hand pressed between her breasts, walked ahead of Fernao. The room wavered for an instant. She paused and closed her eyes. When she opened them, Tau stood before her. A feral light gleamed in his eyes. He looked every bit a “lion.”
“Ms. Wilson, please let me apologize for this horrific intrusion.” He spread his arms in apology. “I didn’t think consensual sex was a matter for law enforcement. Had I known our coupling would bring detectors down on us–”
She held up her hand to stop him from speaking any further. His voice pricked pain in her ears. “No apology necessary.”
His smile broadened. “I’m so glad.”
He moved forward with his hand extended. She reached for it, but Fernao stepped between them before they could touch. Irritation welled up in the consul’s eyes. Peri shivered, but Fernao continued unaffected.
“If you still feel a formal apology is in order, I suggest you have one of your attachés contact Ms. Wilson in the morning.”
She gripped Peri’s upper arm and ushered her from the suite into the hotel corridor.
A flash of heat welled up beneath the palm pressed against her arm. Surprised, she pulled back and stared at the reddened flesh. Fernao stared at her hand with a look of equal surprise.
The heat from Fernao’s touch swept through Peri’s body like a rumor at church. She swayed forward and fell against the elevator doors. Fernao caught her and held her upright. A tingling she couldn’t stop surged up her arm to her shoulder, shot across her chest then down to her groin. Arousal warmed and swelled her labia. Her eyes widened with astonishment. She forced a hand over her mouth to smother her cry as orgasm jolted through her body.
“Make it stop.” Staccato breaths burst past Peri’s lips. “Oh God, make it stop.”
Fernao jumped back. Startled by the unbidden arousal zinging through her.
The elevator arrived. She shoved Peri inside. Heat flared against her fingers as if she’d handled red-hot coals. She blew against her palms and waved her hands back and forth in an attempt to cool them off.
“Damn.” She stared at the little blisters forming around the communicator embedded in her palm. “What the hell?”
She heard a groan. To her right Peri slumped against a corner, gasping. The red silk of her dress stretched across her sweat-drenched chest. Her face glowed. Its sheen reflected off the mirrored walls of the elevator, infusing the small space with an unearthly radiance. Her desperate wheezes filled the air. Her chest heaved upward and a cross dangling on a thin silver chain glinted into view. A peridot colored labris shimmered at the apex of the crosspieces.
Fernao recognized the symbol and let off a low whistle.
Christ. Peridot Wilson is a Deologist. And a powerful adherent at that. No wonder Gordon thought she was a Zeraph.
Only those who practiced Deology wore the cross-labris symbol. Like the fish symbol helped Roman Empire era Christians find sanctuary and allies, the cross-labris helped Deologists know whom they could trust.
“Ms. Wilson, can you hear me?”
Peri moaned. “What—what’s happening to me?”
“You know damn well what’s happening to you,” Fernao growled, annoyed at how her mouth watered with each lungful of Peri’s fragrant sweat and juices. “You’re on the verge of a stage one gem-induced orgasm.”
She turned to the control panel and pressed the stop button. Inserting a master key in a hidden slot, she disarmed the elevator’s alarm and surveillance cameras. Her authorization code would curtail any attempt by the hotel management to interrupt or inquire. She turned back to Peri, her skin luminous and growing brighter by the second.
Peri winced. Her body trembled. “But—but he didn’t penetrate me.”
“Bullshit. A peridot had to have entered you somewhere.”
Peri’s sharp edged wheeze sliced the air between them. “My mou--mouth. But—but it didn’t—I didn’t touch it. He—he wrapped it in a han—handkerchief.”
“Then you must have prayed to come.”
“I—I don’t re—remember praying. Hel—help me.”
Fernao shook her head. “I can’t touch you again. You’re going to have to bring yourself off.”
“Can—can’t move.” Each syllable hitched higher, squeezed through the spaces of her clenched teeth. “Too—too painful.”
Fernao’s own body pulsed with empathy. She too had experienced the heaviness of glory, the ecstasy of transfiguration.
“Find a way,” she ordered. “Your passion is burning you up. If you don’t come, you’ll spontaneously combust.” She’d never seen a Sarx combust, but had no reason to think they didn’t. Hedons did all the time.
Peri pulled her dress up and fumbled past her thong for her clit. The sweat coating her skin made her hands slip and miss their target.
Fernao bit her lip, unable to tear her gaze away from the little nub of flesh Peri couldn’t reach. She closed her eyes. A moan gurgled up her throat. She sucked air laden with the odor of her own arousal into her mouth and held it there before taking it into her lungs. Her thighs trembled and bowed in response to Peri’s moans. She hadn’t experienced anything this powerful since she left the Deologists five years ago. If her fingers weren’t so raw, she’d have them twisting and turning in her own channel right now. She grit her teeth in a fight for control and thanked God this wasn’t being recorded, more for her sake than Peri’s.
A sob from Peri forced Fernao’s eyes open.
“I—I can’t,” the younger woman cried.
“To hell with can’t. Do it.”
Tears flowed down Peri’s face. Her hands rested at her sides in defeat. “I—I’m going to die.”
Merda. Not on my watch.
Fernao dropped to her knees and prayed.
“Gracious God, Father and Mother of us all, you promised your Spirit would intercede for us. Intercede for Peri through me, Most High. Recall to my mind the words from the ancient texts to help my sister now.”
She pushed the pad of her thumb against Peri’s clit. The little nub of flesh pulsed in welcome. Heat flared along Fernao’s thumb then up her arm like a flame racing along a line of gasoline. She hissed against the burn. A different kind of heat flared in her mind and inflamed her ears with words from the prayer book. As if entranced, she spoke.
“‘How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
And the fragrance of your perfume than any spice. ’”
Ignoring the burn ignited in her own core, Fernao slipped two fingers into Peri’s cum-slick channel and continued:
“‘Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
Milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon.”
Peri’s moans hitched higher and higher. Each raspy tone thrummed across Fernao’s body as if she were being played by Segovia. Her stomach and thigh muscles tightened. Her own clit throbbed in sympathetic recognition of how close Peri was to coming.
She circled Peri’s clit two more times with the pad of her thumb and continued the recitation.
“‘You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
You are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.’
She gasped and wheezed out the conclusion of her prayer.
“Oh Originator, we are filled with your joy, with your power. Bring us into the ever-present, ever-creative erotic reality of your love.”
Peri’s body jerked upward to a sitting position. Her back bowed, held suspended in the grip of orgasm. She dropped her head back and screamed.
Fernao closed her eyes and screamed with her.