She’d been down to this end of town before. She’d been drunk and her girlfriends had challenged her to finally get that tattoo she’d always said she wanted. Kee-rist, she was 25 and not tied up with anyone, and why the hell not, right? Too old for parental disapproval to matter much, not that dear old Mom and Dad would see this tattoo.
She remembered lifting her shirt and proclaiming that she wanted a titty tattoo, and the verrrry professional artist who did nothing more than hone down the location and style she wanted, before setting to work, despite her attempts to entice him.
Later, when she was pain-sobered, he said that she had nice tits, but he preferred a bit more class in his sluts.
She’d gotten pretty huffy about it, but he’d just laughed and taken her money. She said she’d never come back, but five years later, here she was, trying to find the fucking place, so she could get a matching tat on her other tit.
And this time she was stone cold sober.
She parked in front of where she thought she remembered the parlor being. A small sign proclaimed this to be
specialty wear for special girls
She wondered if the tat place had moved. Seeing a light on inside, she opened the door. Overhead a brass bell jingled.
There were beautiful outfits here. Some were “glam” dresses, much like Bob Maki used to design for all those Hollywood girls. Others were more slutty. Classy, but with cutouts in strategic places. Or hemlines up to unmentionable places. Or the one dress that when she looked at the “skirt” saw that it was nothing more than quarter-inch strips of fabric…talk about “easy access!”
She touched a robe that was sheer but for a thick trim of maribou that ran around the entire outer hem. It was black, and immodest, and screamed sex.
“That would look divine on you, with your coloring.”
She whirled and looked at the effeminate man. He plucked the hanger from the rack and held it under her chin.
“The black makes your gorgeous red hair just glow. And with that pearly skin? Fabulous.”
“I didn’t come in here to shop,” she began.
“Oh sweetie, so few do. They come looking for an old tattoo parlor that used to be here, and instead they find me!” He leaned back and offered a little giggle.
His smile was sweet. His laugh was infectious. She found herself smiling back. He waved his hand around the shop floor. While it wasn’t overly large, it was intimate, and well planned to showcase some lovely clothing.
“Please, look around. There is plenty to try on, and with your body, I have just the thing for you to be a total bomb in. Be right back. Browse, browse!”
Fluttering his hand toward the racks, he hurried off to the back room.
Well. She hadn’t come to shop. But there were some interesting pieces over against the far wall that had a vintage look. She started going through the rack, and found a gorgeous cream silk organza blouse, and a long velvet skirt the color of chocolate that would be a lovely combination for a formal occasion.
She heard him bustling back, and turned with her finds in her hand. Yet what he carried captured her full attention.
It was stunning. A long, flowing confection of black lace and black silk. Stitched in alternating panels, she knew that the lace would reveal teasing views of skin, that would be quickly hidden by the silk panel that bordered it. Floor length with a tulip hem, a princess neckline and pencil-thin straps over the shoulders and crisscrossing the back, she could hardly wait to try it on.
“May I?” She asked, breathless.
“Of course you may! This dress is rumored to have been made for a special woman. She was a slave, but her Master was charmed by her. He never did set her free, but they remained a couple for their entire lives. It’s come down through several generations, lovingly cared for until *I* found it at an estate auction. There is supposed to be a spell on the dress.”
“A …spell.” She spoke dryly.
“At least, that’s what the paper said when I bought it at auction. The dress was commissioned in France in the late 1800’s. ”
She blinked at him.
“That would make this dress hundreds of years old, and the fabric looks as new as if it were made on 7th Avenue last week.”
“True, and perhaps that is the real magic of the garment, hmmm?”
She smiled. No fucking way was she buying into that superstitious crappola, but the dress was certainly gorgeous. She’d never seen lace that gorgeous, silk that thick. She wouldn’t even ask how much it cost. She would just try it on.
It might look terrible on her, for crying out loud.
Though, she doubted it. It seemed like the gown would cling in all the right places. More than any other garment here, this dress called to her, made her yearn to try it on.
“Where is your dressing room?” she asked.
He pointed the way, and she hurried through the store, eager to find out if the dress looked as magical as it was purported to be.
“You’re hiding again, ma petite salope…and I will find you…”
She jolted, looking at herself in the full-length mirror. She peered through the curtain that covered the dressing room at Felicitations. No one was there.
Yet she swore she’d heard a man’s voice. She shook her head. Lost in fanciful dreams again, she supposed. Yet in her head was a picture of a man, tall with jet-black hair and snapping eyes. Likely someone she’d seen at the club when she was there with William. But she hadn’t been to the club since the break up.
Actually, he kind of looked like the guy who was modeling those new jeans, now that she thought about it. She’d oogled that page in the magazine when she was getting her monthly pedicure. He was smokin’ hot, whoever he was.
Once more she brought her attention back to the mirror. She could hardly believe it was her standing there. Her dark red hair spilled over pale shoulders that were framed with gossamer strands of black silk cording. The bodice clung to her breasts like a lovers hand. The panels of lace and silk teased with enticing glimpses of pale flesh. She’d always had a good body but in this, she was stunning.
She turned and looked at her butt over her shoulder. OH, and didn’t she just look the coquette? She swore it looked as though she had crimson lipstick on her lips. Her hair waved like she’d spent hours working on it, and there was blush on her cheeks.
She blinked, and once more she saw her ass, cupped and presented charmingly in the mirror. She glanced at her face peering over her shoulder once more, but all she saw was her own smoke-gray eyes, her own coral lips.
One hella illusion this lighting gave, she thought.
“You always looked fetching in that, ma petite putain.”
She whipped around, but as before there was no one there. She stepped out into the shop.
“Anthony? Excuse me?”
A rustle and bustle from the back curtain caught her attention.
“Oh darling, don’t you look divine in that? Why, it looks like it was just made for you!”
She knew flattery sold more products at the end of the day, but she felt that he was being sincere. And she felt divine in it.
“It’s gorgeous. I…I’m afraid to know how much it is. But I don’t think I want to leave here without it.”
He smiled that winning smile.
“I’m certain I have a bit of leeway. You know, there is no fun in owning a place like this if one doesn’t allow for a bit of creative cost juggling, sweetie!”
She smiled. He really was a dear little man.
He circled around her slowly, taking in every inch.
“I swear, if I wasn’t totally committed to Francois, I’d be drooling over you myself! And speaking as a gay man, let me just say…I still have a soft spot for titties, and yours, in that? A knockout. Yes,” he said, almost to himself, as he crossed over to the counter, lifted a bejeweled pen and began writing furiously. He muttered under his breath about costs and overhead, delivery, and other manner of incomprehensible things, before triumphantly ripping the page from the pad and whirling back to her.
“For the exclusive price of $50, it will be yours.”
She couldn’t believe it. Fifty dollars for this? That was so much less than the cost for an outfit at that trendy store in the mall…and nothing in the mall could compare to this. It really did fit like it was made for her.
For a moment, she thought she felt hands touching, stroking down her arms. She felt the heat of them, the brush of skin on hers, the scratch, even, from a fingernail across the back of her hand.
But there was no one there, and once more she was left standing in a duskily lit room with a little gay man looking at her expectantly.
“You felt it, didn’t you. OH, don’t deny it. That is what the prior owner of the garment said. That the one the gown was made for would feel …something. It’s all over your face. For a moment it was like you were…”
She blushed. She did not want this little fantasy going any further.
“No, really, I was just thinking if I could take this from you for so little money. It…it seems unfair.”
He nodded, but wisely let her demur pass.
“My store, my rules. Besides, another customer will come in at some point, and I’m certain she’ll more than make up for my slim profit on this one item.”
Slim profit, her ass. The guy had to be losing his shirt on this one. But. She wasn’t going to say no.
“I’ll take it.”
With a final twirl, she headed back to the dressing room to change back into her own clothing. If she imagined she felt hands caressing her ass and between her thighs, it was only her overactive horny imagination at work.
She needed to get out of here, and she needed to get laid.
She hung the gown carefully on a lace covered hanger on the inner door of her closet. She had no idea where she would ever wear it to, certainly it would be appropriate for something at the Club, the local D/s hangout, but other than that?
So why had she bought it? She discounted the feeling of being caressed while she’d tried it on. She discounted the rumor that the gown was a hundred years old. She went with the idea that a bargain of $50 for such a lovely gown was the steal of the century.
As she was pondering the gown, her phone buzzed. An hour later, her battery worn to a nubbin, she set it to charge and caressed the gown.
“Perhaps you have magic after all,” she mused. She wandered into the shower, smiling. Funny that the Club would have a Valentines Dance. So many people didn’t get that there was a great deal of romance to be had within the D/s community. Sure it was about pleasure and pain, Domination and submission. But there was also a great deal of commitment and caring within the community as well. She’d been cajoled by Deb to come to the event, even if it was just to show off her new gown. It wasn’t very typical garb for that sort of event, other than it showed her body to great advantage. She was fine with that.
After her shower, she curled up in her bed to read, but fell asleep quickly, and dreamt of a man with flowing dark hair and wicked eyes. When she awoke, sunlight was streaming through the room, and it was just time to be up and headed off to work.
She never woke without the alarm, and yet, today she had.
Rising, she stretched, noticing a faint sensation in her nipples..a bit of tenderness. Yet she hadn’t masturbated in several nights, and hadn’t used clamps when she did.
Rubbing her palms against them soothingly, she looked into her closet for her work clothes, letting the gown on the door caress her backside.
She was naked? She never went to bed naked. With a frown she crossed back to the bed. Her nightgown was neatly folded on the end of her bed. She never did that. Folded a nightgown? She usually hung it on the bathroom door.
She wished she could remember those dreams. Must’ve been some hawt stuff to make her strip !
Her finger caressed the gown as she grabbed her outfit, and headed for the bathroom. She thought she heard the echoes of deep male laughter. Boy was her imagination going wonky. Looking in the bathroom mirror, she noted the faint rosy tone of her cheeks, the hardness of nipples.
She really needed to get out more often. Thank goodness Valentines Day was only a week away. With any luck, she’d find someone fun to snuggle up to and get a good spanking session…and who knew what could come from that sort of encounter, and on Valentines Day?
With a laugh at her foolish thoughts, she slid into her clothes, and her day.
the dress fluttered, yet there was no wind
the dress fluttered, yet there was no one there to see
the dress fluttered, then went still.
Her closet door was open, flush against the wall. The hook for the gown was stripped of its finery. The cheval mirror across the room looked almost mockingly at the bare place on the door where the antique dress once hung in splendor.
She put the finishing touches on her make up. Her hair was in a simple coil on top of her head, held in place with a few large bobby pins. A tendril or two coiled down from the artfully tumbled mass, to curl against her cheek. Shorter wisps curled against her nape. Her eyes were smoky and mysterious, her lips a killer ruby.
Gently touching her lips to smooth the gloss, she turned her head coyly. Mmmm, she did look good enough to eat. With an exaggerated sway to her hips, she stepped out of the bathroom to twirl into view of her mirror.
She almost didn’t believe she was looking at herself. She looked stunning. Anthony had been right to sell her this dress. She hadn’t gotten her tattoo, but she had come away with a prize. She spent another minute primping in front of the mirror, before turning away to her closet. She needed shoes. Glancing at the clock on her nightstand, she saw that she was well ahead of schedule.
She found the perfect pair of shoes, needle-heeled stilettos with a delicate twining of black suede straps. Straightening, shoes in hand she smiled.
And found herself spun about until her back pressed against the open closet door. Stunned, she shook her head.
close your eyes, mon cher, and remember
Her eyes closed, even as she felt the tracing of her collarbone with a finger. Far from being the cold specter’s touch that she’d often heard about, there was heat here. A warm, sliding caress that moved from the base of her throat, down her chest to caress the swell of her breast.
Her eyes opened as she felt, (surely she felt it –she couldn’t be imagining this, could she?), his finger slide below that border, and tingle across her nipple. Glancing across the room into the mirror, she saw herself, pressed against the door, palms against the wood, shoes hanging from her left hand, seeing the fabric of her dress slip down to reveal that swollen bud. Her nipple was so hard, it ached. Eyes wide with shock, her lips parted. There was no one there, but her. Yet she felt.
She felt …him…pressing against her, the hard, warm, thickness of his erection meeting the vee between her thighs. Her pussy leapt to life under that invitation.
She felt ghostly fingers in her hair, across her breast. Hot, so hot.
She watched the onslaught of sex-need race across her face, the shocked expression, as if she stood outside herself. She felt disbelief, as the pins she’d placed in her hair moments before went sailing across the room to land on her bed. Her hair tumbled, a wild, silken mess, in a pool where her shoulders met the door, and into her face. She watched in fascination as it was pushed away by the hand that wasn’t there. And she felt, as his hand grabbed those tangled tresses, a raw and visceral hunger in her belly. She wanted him. Even more, she craved him.
She felt, as his lips assailed the exposed column of her throat, felt the hot wet heat of a tongue teasing her flesh, the sensation of teeth nipping none-to-gently along that same path, the blinding heat of those lips taking hers. She fell into that kiss, eyes lidded, hands clenched into fists, unable to move.
And then, without warning, it was over.
Her eyes fluttered open and she saw her dishabille in the mirror. Her shoulders were bare, her breasts free, nipples swollen. Along the line of her throat, small bruises were forming. Her lips, puffy with the force of his.
The hem of her dress fluttered, though she did not move. She heard him speak into her ear once more, before she was released from the spell that had fallen over her. She staggered to the bed, gasping. What the fuck had happened to her?
Why was that voice so familiar?
For a moment she considered not going to the Valentine Day Dance at the Club. But the compulsion to go was stronger than her nerves. She slid the shoes onto her feet, buckling the straps, and almost woodenly adjusted her dress. Grabbing a shawl from her closet, she flung it around herself as she made her way downstairs to wait for Geena to arrive. As she stood there, his words floated through her mind.
watch for me tonight, mon cherie
She wondered how the fuck one looked for a ghost in a room full of perverts.
She’d opted to not tell Geena about the dress, or about the encounter with the “ghost”. It sounded too freaking weird, as if she’d been smoking mushrooms. No, for now, it was best to just be mum on that subject.
She did preen a bit when her BFF told her she was ‘stunning’. She smiled victoriously when she told her of the “stunning” deal she’d made on it, too. She told the story of the lost tattoo parlor, and the finding of Felicitations.
“I’ve got to go see this place for myself.”
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” she warned her friend. “Not in the best part of town, and totally unexpected when you go in there. It’s neat, but still. . .” Her voice trailed off. Hard to picture Geena heading into that seedier side of town.
Then again, someone might think that of her, too.
Yet, she didn’t feel at all compelled to go with her. How odd was that? She couldn’t even get the words out to offer.
They pulled into the parking lot. Already there were a lot of cars here. As they made their way to the front doors, she waved at a few folks she knew. They stepped in, the door opening to a not-so-typical bar scene. There were all types of kink represented here. They nodded to the bouncer, Trace. Rumor had it that he wielded a mean whip, though she had yet to see it. Since whips scared the fuck out of her, she doubted she ever would. Spanking, now there was a kink she really enjoyed.
She had been accused, on several occasions, of enjoying “kink, lite”; but to her way of thinking, there was an entire spectrum of kinky styles, and she was quite comfortable with where she was at, thank you very much.
She’d quoted the “sticks n stones” verse at her accuser, a slut with so many piercings that she looked, at least in Cara’s opinion, like a spell-cast voodoo doll. The woman had rolled her eyes, called her juvenile, and stormed out of the bathroom.
William had been in the stall in the corner. When he’d sauntered out, zipping his fly, and smiled at her, she’d flushed with embarrassment. He had applauded her low-key approach, though he admitted that a slut-fight in the bathroom would have been equally appealing.
She’d laughed, and the rest was history. Now it was ancient history.
Her gaze flashed around the room. She didn’t know what she was looking for. Her eyes met Williams across the room. He looked at her implacably; she looked on. How did one ‘see’ a ghost, anyway. She felt the flutter of her skirt around her ankles.
Just the wind from the front door opening. She glanced over her shoulder. The door was closed. Damn fucking ghost, she muttered under her breath.
“Cara?” The high, breathless shriek warned her a moment before Moxie enveloped her in one of her hugs. The air was perfumed with wildflowers wherever she moved, making Cara’s nose twitch. She babbled on about who was here, Cara’s dress, how much her corset was pinching her, and …”
Cara tuned her out. She thought she’d heard something. A tone of voice, that had a familiar edge to it. Who was it? For a moment, Moxie’s voice drowned it out again. “….and of course, you can play and have fun, and i’m sure Master would love to have a chance to spank you! i know how much you like being spanked, and being masterless right now….”
She didn’t mean to rub it in, really, Cara knew. She was young and impetuous and often spoke without realizing how things came across. She was trying to be kind, and caring. Yet, it was still a tender spot for her. She and her Dom had not parted ways amicably. Oh, since then things had healed, that much was true. But being masterless was not something that she enjoyed. She wanted to be used, controlled, and owned once more.
Over Moxie’s monologue, she heard the voice again. She turned quickly. There, across the room, stood a man she had not met before, nor seen here. She took a step. And another. Without thought, she was suddenly standing beside him. He stopped, mid-sentence, and looked down at her; time stood still.
He took her arm when she wobbled, his touch sending licks of flame up her arm, racing through her body.
“Hot,” was all she could think. His touch made her so hot.
“Hello, cherie,” he said in that rich tone she knew so well, yet had never heard before. “Have we met?” His eyes slid down her throat, lingering over the line of bruises she’d managed to hide from her friend. How had he known they were there?
He knew her, of that one fact, she was certain. She, however, had no idea who he was. Because it just wasn’t possible that he was a ghost. He was hot, and breathing, and very, very alive. She studied his face.
Laugh lines crinkled around his eyes. His hair was thick, and a rich sable brown. It glinted with silver highlights with every breath, and each little movement he made. He was gorgeous. Stunning. Sexy. He exuded sex appeal. He watched her watching him, and as he waited for her response, His lips curled into a knowing smile.
She wanted to be coy. Or flippant. Yet before she could frame any sort of response, he stroked a hand over her hair, a touch that was as familiar now as it had been an hour ago in her bedroom.
“You look as though you have seen a ghost ma cherie!” He laughed, as did the other men standing around watching them.
Lips pursed against a sudden rush of annoyance -damn she hated being manipulated- she turned on her heel, only to be drawn up short as he easily caught and held her wrist.
“Oh, not so fast, cherie, eh?” He purred in her ear. “The night…she is only just begun, oui?”
She tried not to shiver as his tongue caressed the outer shell of her ear, as his breath tickled deep into that sensual spot just inside.
“Not. Fair.” She murmured, low, throwing a glare up at him.
“Ah, ma petite cherie, all is fair – in love and war- yes?”
Her chin raised a fraction higher, and she debated kicking him in the shin. Arrogant Bastard. Yet her heart beat thickly with the rising of heat between her thighs. She’d never been one to lie to herself. There was something here. Something…
“Perhaps that open mouth is for kissing, oui?”
“She’s got a bit of a temperament, that little slut,” warned one of his companions.
“Ah.” He nodded, looking down at her as she frowned up at him. It took less than a heartbeat for his lips to take hers.
“Lovely,” he murmured against her lips. “I’m not one to take liberties as a usual course of events, little one, but in your case? I think we both know that I will.” He drew her closer, whispering against her tumbled hair.
“Remember, mon amour….”
Flashes, images, and sensations whipped through her mind. It was like being in a room of mirrors and spinning around.
Nothing was clear, except for the giddy feeling of joy.
Hands touching her, so many hands, caressing and pinching. The pain was there, but there was a warm suckling between her thighs.
The heat was incredible.
As her orgasm swept through her, the images broke and fragmented, like that vision-mirror, shattered.
She swayed for a moment. He was holding her hand, that handsome stranger, and tugging her across the room. He passed swiftly through the throngs dressed in their Valentine’s event finery. Corsets and clamps, stockings and jock-locks. Leather and latex, velvet and fur, nothing was verboten. The crowd ebbed and flowed with the pulsing rhythm of the music, accompanied by the snap of crops, the begging moans of bottoms, the wicked laughter of Tops.
They passed a Mistress she knew, dressed in her cross-garter boots, thigh-high and polished to a sheen. Her corset lifted her ample bosom high, yet hid her nipples. Her arms were encased in mesh glovelets, and in her hand, the coil of a long whip. The end almost touched the floor, a scant inch from the bent knee of her slave. There was about her an implicit air of being “in charge”. It wasn’t the boots, the whip, nor the corset, but something inherent in her. She recognized that same je ne sais quoi…in him.
“You missed a spot.” The Mistress spoke gently, critically peering down at one gleaming boot. “Well, get to it, slut!” Her sub lowered his head, dipped his face down to her booted toe. Cara craned her head, watching, as his tongue flicked out.
“Come along, stop staring.” He slowed his pace for a moment, looking at her with that smile firmly in place. Yet she saw, and felt, the fire behind his calm expression.
“Where are you taking me?” Yet, she knew. She’d been here before. William had taken her to one of these back rooms during a scene.
“You know very well where I am taking you, cher amour.”
She stopped. Tried to stop. But his grip on her hand was firm, and he propelled her forward, pretending, or perhaps not even noticing that she was resisting.
“You must face your fear, mon cher.”
“I am not your dear.”
“No, ma salope douce, you are far more than just my dear, oui?”
She knew, though she wasn’t certain how she knew, that he had called her his sweet slut.
“I don’t know you.”
“Remember, cher? The night sky over the Seine, the warm breezes as you lay beneath me?”
She shook her head. No. She didn’t. Couldn’t. Yet the haunting image burst into her mind, her hand outflung on the chaise, opening and closing in rhythm to the stars. The cool touch of the night wind against her heated flesh, the tease of it against her breast, bringing her nipple to full, tingling firmness. The stars, so many of them against the velvet sky, then lost to her view as he rose above her, claiming her body with his….
Again, she stumbled, and again, he held her steady, his hands against her torso, almost cupping her breasts. Her back was to the wall, so cool through the thin silk of her gown. Heat poured from him. Her hand was on his shoulder, the firm reality of flesh under her fingers belying his status as a ghost.
“I don’t understand.”
How she wished her voice would hold steady. He leaned against her, his heat scalding her. If this was a repeat performance to what happened in her bedroom, she wanted none of it.
” Deny me if you can.”
He paused a moment, his body hot against hers. Her nipples rose to caress his chest, her breath caught in her throat.
“You want. I feel it. As you do, cher. You may pretend, but your body leads the way to truth. It yearns for me, for us, to be complete again.”
“I don’t believe in ghosts.”
A woman tittered nearby. It broke the spell he seemed to have woven around her. She pushed at his chest.
“Get. Off. Me.”
“I know you are angry, ma petit.”
She glared up at him. She was angry. Furious, even.
“I feel nothing. Nothing.”
She broke away and dashed back into the crowd.
She was startled to see the owner of Felicitations here.
“Well, and don’t you look like the cat’s meow?” His voice was rich, his laughter genuine.
Her cheeks were flushed from her encounter with Gabriel. No, they hadn’t been introduced. She did not know his name was Gabriel. She smiled at Anthony, but he read her quickly. Scooping her hand into the crook of his elbow, he guided her to the corner of the bar.
He patted her hand gently, ordered two glasses of Bordeaux, and sat her in the furthest corner.
“Sweetie, you look like you’ve seen a ghost, and believe you me, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to that woo hoo shit.”
She smiled tremulously as he handed her the wineglass.
“That’s some powerful vin-tage,” he said, tipping the lip of his glass to ring gently against hers. “Drink carefully, and tell me everything. Did you see him?”
“Oh, honey, don’t play coy with me. We both know a hung, ooops, i mean hunk of a man when we see one, don’t we? And if there was a chance I could divert him away from you, to me? Ha…Honey, I’d do it in a heartbeat! Not that I’m an alleycat, but that is one fine looking fellow.”
He rose up to tiptoes, and gestured wildly to someone behind her.
“Darling, here is the sweet little thing that I sold the vintage “House of Worth” gown to…. Sweet thing? This is my Francois…”
Dressed in a lime-green suit jacket, wearing a hat with a long white feather, Francois somehow just missed being a parody of a gay man. Perhaps it was the confidence he exuded as he strutted up to her, or perhaps it was his size. He was very tall, barrel chested, and made her feel positively tiny! He swept her into a bone-crunching hug.
“Ah, ma petit, so good to finally meet you!”
He released her, holding her at arms length, sweeping her with his intense gaze, before spinning her around and running a hand down the back of the gown and over her rump.
“Lovely. Perfection. Yes, I can see why Anthony had to sell this to you.”
He beamed an enormous smile towards his mate. There was a moment of non-verbal communication between them.
“Very well done, my darling boy.”
Anthony inclined his head, with a regal nod. They were quite a pair.
“She knows, Francois.”
“Really? So soon…?”
“aaaynd….He scared her.”
She interjected, wanting to lay that little fallacy by the wayside.
“He did not scare me.”
They ignored her, talking right over her head like she was invisible. How aggravating!
“How unfortunate. He’s waited a long time to find you, you know.”
Francois looked down at her with a worried expression.
“Frankly, it was getting difficult placating him. Ghosts can be so annoyingly persistent when they want something. And we just couldn’t find the something he wanted. Which of course was a someone. You.”
Francois took her hand, held it close to his heart. His large expressive eyes showed his concern. They’d never met but she felt instantly comfortable with him. There was something very soothing about this man. His other hand rose to cup her cheek, smoothing his thumb against her skin.
The tear leaked out unexpectedly.
“I wasn’t scared. I’m not scared.” She sniffled, even as Anthony proffered his kerchief to her. He dabbed at the tear as it pooled at the corner of her mouth.
“Ah, cherie,” His eyes welled up in sympathy. “I know exactly how you feel, truly. The first time I saw him, he scared the shit out of me.”
“No lie there…I’m the one who did the laundry that week,” quipped Francois.
She couldn’t help it; she laughed.
“Wait. Let’s get this straight…I. Was. Not. NOR AM I….Scared.”
They looked at her as she spoke firmly to them.
“Angry. I’m …..so fucking angry at him. And …I don’t even know why.”
Anthony clasped his hands together.
Cara and Francois spoke simultaneously.
“That won’t be necessary. You can just speak directly to the one involved.”
The three turned rapidly, to face a scowling Gabriel.
The tableau lasted for several seconds. She read the look on his face as frustration and not anger. He always had been even-tempered, she thought.
How the fuck had she known that? Just as those fragmented images had swirled through her mind, so too now did feelings. Love, lust, joy, sorrow. The anger was hers. And as suddenly as the feelings blew through her, that one flared.
She stalked over to him, and, surprising them both, pounded her fists on his chest.
“Why? Why? You fucking bastard!”
“Ma petit,” His hand was on the back of her head, pulling her into his chest. She could hear his heart beating just under her ear, while she cried softly.
“Why what, mon doux amour? Tell me.”
Her voice, when it came, was barely a whisper. “Why did you leave me?”
His lips compressed, the line of them hard. He lay his cheek against the soft dishabille of her hair, breathing in the scent of her. “Tell me more, petit.”
“I can’t. Don’t you get it? This is now, and …I don’t know you. I don’t remember you. I only know that I’m so angry that you…you left me.”
Anthony touched her shoulder. “We can find out. Francois and I can research the dress more thoroughly. We had just enough of the history to make an interesting sale, sweetie. But …we are history detectives.”
She couldn’t help but giggle a bit, as Anthony puffed out his chest, struck a pose with his hand on his hip, and wiggled his eyebrows. She would have pulled away from Gabriel, yet he continued to hold her, his large hand cupping her head, as his fingers played in her hair, across her cheek.
“Come with me, doux amour, let us have a bit of time. Let me touch you…”
She pulled away, struggling with the emotions. Anger, fear, and desire swam through her. Overcome, she stared at him.
He stood watching as she ran from him, again.
(you didn’t really think i’d leave you hanging? You *did* watch the video, oui?)
She struggled with the key, jabbing it at the lock. Her eyes were blinded by tears. The crying had started halfway home, nearly suffocating her with the ferocity. At last the key slid home, and she wrenched the lock open, flinging open her front door. She all but fell inside, before slamming the door behind her and re-locking it.
Her keys and purse fell to the floor, as she almost tore herself out of the dress. The heels were flung, one after the other, down the hallway to her kitchen, the stockings and panties and bra all scattered as she flung them away. Naked, she ran upstairs, shivering with the surfeit of emotions, and slid under her blankets to cry herself to sleep.
****** ******************************* ******
“I need…” He paused, a strange look crossing his face.
He was talking with Francois and Anthony. They had watched Cara run from him again, yet when Anthony would have gone after her, Gabriel had stopped him.
“Let her go, my friend.” His voice was rough with emotion.
“What can you tell us?” Francois, always the more sensible of the pair, turned to Gabriel.
“Only bits, pieces. I…” He blinked, and swayed a bit. “MERDE!”
One moment he was there, the next, he was gone. The lights were dim, the music loud, the crowd busy.
Francois looked at his lover. “Well, wasn’t that …” For once he was at a total loss for words. He felt gooseflesh pop out all over his body. He wondered if anyone else in the club had noticed the sudden departure.
Anthony shivered. “I’m never going to get used to that, and he’s done it to me several times already. You know….come to think of it, i’ve always seen him when someone has tried on the dress!”
He was on to something here, he was certain of it. “I’ll bet Cara just took off the gown!” He clasped his hands together gleefully. “That must be it, darling!” Throwing his arms wide, he embraced Francois, who rolled his eyes at his partners antics. “Boy, contain yourself. Are we done here? I believe we have some sleuthing to attend to.”
Arm in arm, they left the hubbub of noise and activity behind, and slid into their Beemer. With a smooth flick of the gears, they were off.
*** *** ***
She woke in the wee hours of the morning. Her eyes felt raw, her nose was stuffy, her pillow, damp. She didn’t remember arriving at home, only the driving need to get away. She lay on her back, rubbing between her breasts.
It hurt so fucking much. She’d never felt this way before. She was a logical person. All she’d wanted to do was go and get a tattoo on her other tit, forchrissakes. And suddenly she had a ghost of a lover. Or something. Whatever Gabe was to her. Gabe. It sounded funny to think of him in modern terms. Back in their past, she would never have dreamt of calling him anything but ‘m’lord’.
She closed her eyes.
No. More. Memories.
It had to stop, somewhere. This whole deal was freaking her out. Perhaps she should just take the gown back to Felicitations. Ball the fucking thing up, stuff it in a garbage bag and be done with it. She could almost feel it, down there at the bottom of the stairs, laying in a heap.
Really not the way one should treat an antique gown. She didn’t want to go down and get it. She closed her eyes, pulling the blankets up to her throat. It was warm and comfortable here. She wanted to just doze off.
She flung the covers off in a huff. Grabbing her robe, she stomped her way downstairs. She glared at the dress as she deliberately walked past it. She scooped up her panties, her bra, the stockings. Walking down the hall, she collected her shoes. She went back upstairs and put her shoes away in her closet, then the lingerie went into her bathroom sink. She turned the water on, barely warm, while squirting a bit of Tender Care detergent into the bowl, and filled it. She swirled the bits of lace, her stockings, with her finger.
Fucking dress could wait a few damn minutes. She popped a few bubbles, swirled her panties through the water. Fucking dress. Drying her hands, she growled as she went downstairs.
Once more she stepped over the pile of chiffon on the floor, and headed into the kitchen. She drew a glass of water, and sipped at it, glaring down the length of the hallway at the heap of black fluff by the front door.
A cool current of air swirled around her ankles, skittered up under her robe to tease at her knees, rose higher to tickle the triangle between her thighs.
She jumped back, water sloshing from her glass.
“STOP THAT!” she yelped. The tiny puddle of water on the floor began to move, separating into tiny letters.
A M O U R.
Love, she translated in her head.
She dumped the last of the water into the sink, jumped over the puddle and stalked down the hall. She stood, staring at the dress for a moment. Damn, she’d forgotten the trash bag. Turning she walked back to the kitchen. She glanced back over her shoulder, half-expecting the dress to rise up and follow her, yet it lay quiescently on the floor.
She glanced down at the puddle on the floor.
T O U J O UR S
Shaking her head, she grabbed a towel and mopped it up, ignoring the tingle that ran up her arm. She left the towel on the floor, and opened the drawer for the trash bag.
“Fucking bastard, keep trying.” She growled. She didn’t mean it as a challenge, but derisively. As if trying would accomplish anything. Slamming shut the drawer, she wheeled on her heel, and stormed down the hallway.
The dress was gone.
She stood, trash bag in her hands, knowing, knowing that it was once again hanging in her closet.
The party carried on behind the walled city of Saint-Malo, but Caraline was glad to be away from the bustle and noise. Her gown billowed around her as she walked from the imposing walls of the Chateau City to the edge of the sea.
The tide lay quiescent, the moon dancing in and out of the clouds. It painted the ocean waters deep pewter. The rich scent of salt and the less pleasant one of fish was a relief to her nose, after the cloying of scent upon scent within. Did those people never bathe? She smiled. Her Grammere would have rolled over in her grave. Such human stink. She may had been a virago, but she wise as well. She’d taught Caraline to think, and to be an independent spirit, and to bathe regularly!
Those lessons had stayed. At twenty, she was still, to the horror of her friends, unmarried. Perhaps if her parents had not died when she was young, and been raised from birth to be wedded and bedded by her mid-teens, her life would have been more predictable. Her Grammere had been a different sort of woman, labeled an “eccentric” by many. Yet as a respectable widow, she had many more freedoms than other woman of her age and era. It was she who had give Caraline the freedoms that so many of her peers had never imagined.
Boring. That’s what a “typical” life felt like to her. She, why, she was free as the gulls that hung in the sky at dawn and dusk. She wouldn’t settle, would not be a slave to any man’s whim.
She found her horse where she had left him tethered. Not for her the press of horseflesh found in the crowded stables of the Chateau, never knowing who would seek to “borrow” her impressive mount. Nimbly, she stepped up on the rock outcropping, and slid onto his chestnut back. He whinnied at her familiar touch, tossing his head. With a pat and rub of his silky neck, she trotted him down to the firm sand at the ocean’s edge and rode him towards home.
The small cove was the last one before she would turn inland to her own small house. Once she’d wanted to continue to live in the main Lodge, but it was far too costly to maintain; she was too frugal to maintain that kind of wasteful life. After her Grammere had passed, she’d taken the Dowager house as her own little home, and removed herself from most of the folly of playing with the ton. Still, even she felt the occasional need to mingle, thus her journey to the city for tonight’s fete. She was jarred from her thoughts as a group of men erupted from the edge of the forest, heading straight for her.
“Do not harm her, but bring her to me.” The voice carried on the wind, even as strong hands pulled her off of the horse. Her dancing slippers were too soft to do any damage, but on the ground she whirled, punching like a street fighter. Surprised cries came from the men as she attacked them ferociously. Savoy had taught her well. Two were down before the largest, their apparent leader, took her to the sand. He landed atop her, knocking breath from her, causing her breasts to nearly spill out of her low-cut top.
Though she pushed, kneed, and wriggled, he would not be budged. He lay nestled neatly between her spread thighs, pinning her with his weight, and her own stupid skirt. She kicked her feet helplessly, succeeding only at pressing him tighter against her. At long last, seeing the futility, she lay still, drawing rapid, ragged breaths. His teeth flashed in the darkness.
“Ma petit, you are certainly a bold wench. Stealing a fine pony, and then attacking men twice your size?”
“I did NOT steal him. . . he’s mine. Don’t you dare touch him.” She tried again to push him away. She felt the rise of his cock against her secret triangle as he lay straddling her, and instantly lay still.
“By all means, mon petit voleur, continue with your struggles. I am finding them rather…delightful.”
“I. Am. Not. A. Thief!” She growled at him. “Stop calling me that. I…” She decided at the last second to not divulge her identity. After all there were those that knew she was titled, that she was very wealthy, and that she was single. She had no protector to save her. She had only her wits to get out of this predicament.
“You? You what, petit? You liked the pretty horsey and snuck him away from your mistress while she was at a party? Or are you even now late for a rendez-vous with your lover? Some sad eyed poet perhaps? Or a stinking stable boy who let you ride the masters pride and joy in exchange for a tumble in the hay, eh?”
“Ohhhh you…..” she growled, and heedless of the size of the beast pressing against her intimate places, she twisted and growled. When he put his laughing face near hers, she reared up, clocking his forehead with hers, and grabbed his bottom lip in her tiny white teeth.
She bit hard, tasting the salty tang of his blood.
He grunted, then grabbed her tits, found her nipples and pinched. The unexpected pain made her shriek, releasing his lip. He scowled down at her, his fingers still holding her. The throb in his groin was matched by the throb in his swelling lip. The vixen! He was equally angered, and charmed by her brave daring. Still, with his crew watching, and he was sure they were watching this interesting turn of events, he needed to regain control of this situation.
“You have lovely tits, petit. Sweet round succulent buns. Perhaps I should call my men over and we will all have a sample of your wares, eh?” A single drop of blood fell from his lip to land, unnoticed in the darkness, upon her pale chest, directly over her heart.
She shook her head. Strange feelings swept through her. The pain was a dull ache, but so too was there an ache between her legs. What was he doing to her?
Their intimate tableau was broken by a lad of perhaps 15. He pointed over his shoulder where a small skiff was being held by the men who had taken her. One stood to the side, still holding her horse.
“It appears that my time here is over, ma petit. My cock is very unhappy with the idea of leaving you. Yet bringing you along would only cause dissent and envy with my lads. Ergo…I will ask you to remember me.”
Quickly he bent his head and kissed her deeply. His tongue slashed into her unsuspecting mouth, swirling and tasting her, leaving the copper taste of his own blood behind. For a moment he was tempted, deeply tempted to bring her with him. His cock knocked against his knickers, reminding him of how long he had gone without slipping between the silken folds of a woman. Roughly, he pulled her up with a fistful of hair, and dragged her along the beach. For a moment he paused by the boat. He turned with reluctance, to her horse, and lifted her to sit upon its back.
“Go back to your stable lad, petit. But dream of me.” He slapped the flank of the horse, sending it jolting forward. The reins dangled uselessly from the halter, and she fought to stay on his back. It was a desperate struggle to recapture the leads, and by the time she had the panicked horse back under control, and pulled him round, the boat was out into the harbor. In the faint moonlight, she could almost make out the shape of a ship.
He must be a privateer. The batard! As if she would remember him. Turning the horses head around, she dug her heels in and spurred him towards home.
She woke up, groggy and disoriented. She’d slept like crap, tossing and turning. She remembered a horse, and a party, but that was it. She rubbed at her eyes, yawning ferociously. Her jaw cracked, her eyes squeezed shut, and she stretched full-out.
She was kind of horny. She rose from the bed and noticed the closet door was open, with that fucking dress hanging in full view. Damned thing. She went into the bathroom, scrubbing at her scalp as she peed. She decided to have a quiet day, after the shock and surprises from her little Friday night foray into the land of “woo-woo” as Anthony called it.
Likely they’d all had a bit too much to drink is all. Washing her hands, she wouldn’t meet her own eyes in the mirror. It wasn’t denial. Not at all. There was just some crazy shit going on here, and she wasn’t at all certain she wanted any more of it.
Back in her bedroom, she dug through her nightstand for her favorite vibe. Laying back, she played it over her pussy, pressing it up against her clit. “Mmmmm, ” she murmured softly to herself, eyes closed, head thrown back.
She shimmied her hips, opened her legs a bit more, letting fingers and vibe play. The first tendril of cold air swirled around her foot. Her eyes flew open. The dress was billowing softly.
“oh no you don’t you perverted ghostly bastard!” Flinging her vibe to the side, she rolled off her bed and slammed shut the doors to her closet.
Pissed? Oh hellya….she was indeed. With fierce concentration, she applied the vibe to her pussy. In moments the feeling of cool air on her skin made her look up.
The closet door was open.
“BASTARD!” She yelled. Turned on, getting close, and being watched by an invisible man was making her horny as hell.
No. He wasn’t making her horny. He and that big, thick cock of his. No!
And yet. Her eyes closed as she played the vibe along her lower lips, pressing it just inside her pussy. She could almost feel the slide of his flesh against her, the hard muscles of his back playing under her hands as he stroked deeply into her. She could feel every ridge of his cock, the round thick head parting her folds as he speared into her; the salty, musky smell of their juices mingling filled her nose. His cock slid out of her, slipping up and down her slit to caress and tease her sensitive little bud, as her feet kicked at the pleasure and torment.
And the feelings, gods the feelings of him filling her. Pressing into her, on her, through her. So good. So good to have him back inside of her once more.
She came with a ferocity that startled her. Her roaring cry echoed in the room, the caress of cold against her breasts went unnoticed except for the tight crinkling of her nipples. Her back stiffened, toes curled, butt clenched as the vibe whirred its magic inside of her.
Did she feel him come? Did he fill her belly with his seeds? Her hand fell onto her belly, fingers spread. Was his seed even now sliding deeply inside of her dark warm womb?
It had been a long frazzling day at work, filled with appointments, phone calls, and near the end of the day, her boss hassling her for work that was suddenly “overdue”. After an hour of trying to recreate the report, he buzzed a text to her saying “oops! found it in the “in” box …sorry!”
“Sorry my fucking ass” Cara growled to herself as she pulled on her jacket, threw her cell phone into her purse, and locked her office door. Grumbling under her breath, she threw a wave in the general direction of her co-workers, then abjuring the wait for the elevator, she headed downstairs. Four flights wasn’t too difficult, and the exercise might calm her a bit.
At the bottom, she took a deep breath.
“Always leave work at work,” she rehearsed the mantra, again, in her head. Pulling open the door, she made her way to her car. As she unlocked the door, she noticed a fingermark tracing the dust on her window. She took a half-step back, cocking her head.
m u r
Kids mucking around with her car, dammit. She’d have to report that, couldn’t have. . . wait just a minute, she thought. Putting her face closer, she could barely make out a smudged ‘a’ preceeding the ‘m’.
She had that feeling in her chest, and a throb set up between her legs as she searched for the missing ‘o’ in the center of the word. It was there. Pressing her lips together, she blinked away a tear. Not today. She just didn’t have the fortitude for this today. She was tired, annoyed, worn to a nubbin. She slid into her car.
Maybe it was time for an exorcism?
Turning on her radio, the soothing sounds of Clair de Lune came through her speakers. Instead of heading down South Street to home, she turned north, then west, and found herself outside of Felicitations. She wondered if Anthony would be there. Only one way to find out.
Sliding from her car, she walked up the steps and rang the bell.
His body moved over hers, flowing like the tide upon the sand. Sweat slicked their flesh, the salty tang so delightful on her lips and tongue as her mouth sucked on his shoulder.
His hands were tangled in her long tresses, his mouth kissing her ear, her shoulders, and finally, her breast. He sucked that delicate orb into his mouth, squeezing the bulb of her nipple between his teeth and drawing a moan from her. He smiled against her tit. Pain and pleasure. He had much to teach her.
Cara woke with a start. She didn’t have to look to know that the closet door was open. Her heart thundered in her chest, and her pussy was moist and wet. She hovered at the edge of the orgasm she had dreamt of. Slicking her tongue around dry lips, she wanted to taste him, but there was only the dryness of her own mouth, and the bitter tang of loss.
She rose and paced around her bedroom, then headed downstairs to her laptop. She knew there would be no more sleep tonight.
“So, this fine house, this land is yours, eh Cara-mine?”
She nodded, popping a grape into her mouth. He was pacing around her room. He’d been back a full ten days this time, often down at the docks watching over the repairs to his ship. His repair crew worked fast, replacing damaged rigging, and patching the hole on the decking where a ball had struck. He didn’t speak of the loss of his first mate and cabin lad during that attack, but she knew it weighed on him.
She didn’t speak of her own fears, that someday it could be him taking that cannonball, and leaving her bereft. Yet, He took his commission seriously, and would not refuse service to his King.
As she shifted on the bed, the sheet fell, revealing one rosy nipple. It was flushed with the attention he’d given it, rubbing his whiskers upon it, making her squeal with the pleasure-pain he was causing.
“amour, there is much more to this dance than one little nipple and a tiny bit of teasing…if you are as brave a fille as you pretend to be, I will be enchanted to show you…”
The challenge hung in the air a moment.
“Are you calling me a coward?” She stared at him, more than a bit put out.
“If the shoe fits, peu d’amour…”
She threw a grape at him, which he ducked, laughing.
“I”ll ‘little love’ you, you pirate!” She threw another grape at him, bouncing it off his forehead. She stared for a moment in shocked surprise, then, giggling madly pulled the covers over her head.
He leapt across the room, and scooped her, sheets and all, over his lap. He began paddling her round bottom through the coverings, making her shriek and squirm. She tried kicking and wriggling, but the sheets bound her effectively. Slap after slap landed on her ass, and she grew quieter, moaning softly. The blows hurt, but not horribly. She felt warm, then hot, then tingly. When his fingers dove through the fine linen, seeking her flesh, he found it wet.
In moments he had her squirming for a very different reason, as his fingers began slipping inside of her. It was slow and gently tender at first, but as she moaned and bucked against his hand, he roughened his thrusting, until he was all but pounding his four fingers into her juicy opening.
He felt the clenching against those probing digits moments before she arched, moaning her orgasm. Unfolding her from the confinement of the sheets, he kissed her tear-streaked, rosy face.
“Ah, petit amour, pleasure and pain are your forte, oui?”
She woke again, her bedding soaked beneath her. That was the most intense dream yet. She had heard his voice in her ear, felt his touch on her ass. She’d woken on her stomach -she never slept on her stomach- with the tremors from an orgasm still twanging between her thighs.
Rolling over she snapped on the light.
“You need to stop this. Just. Stop.” She had tried moving the dress to the closet downstairs behind the kitchen where she kept her housekeeping supplies. Yet that night when she got back home from work, the dress was once more in her closet, door open. He was sending her messages; she wasn’t sure she could avoid listening any longer.
Either that or she was going insane. She picked up the phone and called into work. She was feeling under the weather, was going to take today off. Yes she knew it was Friday, but she’d not been sleeping well all week and she needed the time. Yes, she’d be fine, and back to work on Monday.
Hanging up the phone, she shook her head. It was time, after all these decades, it was finally time to resolve this.
She stood on the stoop in front of Feliciations. The closed sign had been the last straw. She pushed the doorbell, feeling the weight of years on her soul.
By the time Anthony had opened the door, tears had begun to flow. He’d fussed over her, after observing her sorry state, scooping an arm around her, ushering her inside and into his private quarters upstairs.
She reclined upon a gorgeous fainting bench, a hot cup of cocoa in her hands, exhausted after spilling her guts to Anthony. Somehow she felt she could trust him, and frankly, who else would believe that she was being haunted by a ghost attached to a dress?
She’d told him of her strange dreams, of horses and pirates. It had become a recurrent theme over the last few days, she and the pirate interacting. Somehow she knew she was in love with him. The dreams had taken a turn for the X-rated just last night.
“Darlin’, I really, really wish you’d share all the gory details!” Anthony made her laugh as he moaned about the glossed-over facts.
“How much of a man was he? Big strong…….muscles?” He batted his eyelashes at her. His silly demeanor lightened her heart. “Really, darling, tell me every detail, no matter how…large it is …”
She could no more stop the laugh than she could the earlier tears. She poked his arm. “You are incorrigible.”
“No sweetie, I’m horny,” he replied with a grin that illuminated his face.
“Me too. Oops! That slipped out,” she said with a giggle and a fast blush.
She couldn’t hold it in any longer. “What am I going to do, Anthony? He’s …everywhere. And….. nowhere. I’m insanely attracted to him. It’s like…my body sings the song and he’s the harmony.”
“You know what you need to do. Talk to him. Understand what happened. And forgive him, if you can.”
She sighed. It sounded simple. Easy, even. How could she admit out loud that it was so difficult to face the past? How hard it was to face him? There were unasked questions, unknown facts.
The door to the little sitting room slapped open. Francois stood there with a sheaf of papers in his hand and a grin on his face.
“Well, how wonderful and convenient, cher!” He exclaimed, moving his large bulk across the antique-choked room as gracefully as a butterfly in a meadow of honeysuckle. He bent and kissed her cheek loudly.
“Now we won’t have to call you to come over and have the big talk!”
“Big talk?” Anthony and Cara spoke in unison.
“The BIG talk. I found you!” His voice rang like a trumpet.
“You didn’t find me, I’ve been here for an hour!”
“You found her?”
“I did. And not you,” Francois waved his hand at Cara, “you...” and he shook the papers at her.
Indeed the questions were all over her face. It only too a second for her to understand. He’d found….her ancestor? She leapt up from the chaise and grabbed his arm.
“You found the owner of the dress?!”
“Indeed I did, and it’s taken me three days to track it all down. Sit, sit and I’ll tell you a story.”
“Wait, my beloved. If we’re going to have a story, we should have our luncheon first. Cara has been far too upset to eat and, goodness gracious, she’ll faint dead away if we don’t give her sustenance. Let’s eat, and then you tell us the story.”
The need to know burned in Cara. She didn’t want to eat, dammit! Still, Anthony was right,she’d been off her feed this week, and she didn’t want to deny the men their meal. With an inward sigh, she followed them into their kitchen.
A warm bowl of soup, grilled cheese sandwiches cut into dainty triangles, and a plate of grapes and cheese filled the belly, and soothed the spirit.
“Nothing a grilled cheese can’t help!” Anthony spoke, daintily wiping his mouth with a cloth napkin. And it was true, she did feel better. Some of that could be laid to the food, but most, she knew, was the company. These were men who understood what was going on with her. More than confidants, their friendship had bloomed over the last few weeks.
Add a touch of the paranormal, and connections were bound to entwine them. There had been no talk of that which had brought them all together as they ate. Anthony and his husband kept her entertained, amused, even. Finishing the meal, they engaged in a bit of small talk, yet after a few minutes, they rose.
“I’ll clean up.” Anthony leaned across the table for her bowl.
“Please, let me? You fed me, took me in, and …” she sighed. Laying her hand on Anthony’s shoulder she rose to tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “You’re here. You understand.”
Working together, it took only a few minutes for the detritus from their lunch to be cleaned away. Francois guided her into their parlor, and took a sheaf of papers from the tabletop.
“Let’s get right to it, shall we?” At her nod of assent, he continued.
“Robert de Lasalle was a privateer commissioned by the King of France. He owned property along the coast of France, including a small château in wine country. But he most often made port in Saint Malo. That’s in Brittany, northern part of the Atlantic coast of France. He did well for himself, apparently, becoming quite wealthy, and hiding a lot of his assets. He never married, but several trunks of women’s garments were found on one of his ships, listed in the manifest when his ship was finally stopped, and plundered by a Spanish warship, the Santa Ana out of Cadiz.
“What of…him?” Her voice choked. She knew privateers were pirates to other countries…and pirates were hung, or made to walk the plank.
“He was being transported to Cadiz to be tried as a pirate, but he escaped, and jumped ship just off the coast of Brest, France.”
She couldn’t help herself. She laughed. Of course the pirate haunting her would escape at a place named “breast”.
“I know, it’s ironic isn’t it?” Francois smiled at her, patting her hand.
“So…did he ever make it to shore?”
“Apparently, he did, and with one certain dress in his possession.”
Their eyes met, held. She nodded. She had known, even as she had known that he had not drowned.
“It was ….”
“There was a young woman in the township who, it was rumored, had a liaison,” Francois rolled the word in full French dialect, “with a notable rogue. And it was also rumored, that when she heard of his capture, she ….”
“Don’t you dare tell me she killed herself. She wouldn’t. She loved him fiercely but she just wouldn’t…do that.” Her eyes glowed with a subtle fury.
“Cherie…. did you bring the dress with you?” Anthony placed a placating hand on her shoulder.
“Yes, I think we’ll get more answers that way. I can see, chere, that the idea of that frightens you. Tell me, why?”
She felt her heart racing.
It always did when she thought of seeing him, again.
She smoothed her hands down the length of the bodice. The dress fit like a glove, snug in all the right places, while lifting her breasts to glorious heights. It was almost too tight to breath.
Or was that just the nerves?
This was the first time she’d donned the dress since the disastrous meeting at the club. It hadn’t been easy, sliding the fabric over her body, each touch a caress. Despite the warmth of the apartment, she was chilled. Her nipples pressed hard against the fabric of the bodice, close to overspilling the low decolletege.
It must be fear that dampened her palms. She refused to acknowledge the growing dampness between her thighs.
Anthony fussed around her like a mother hen, his bright shirt a sharp contrast the deep ebony of her gown.
“Do stop fussing over the poor thing,” his husband admonished. Francois was a study in composure, sitting in the Queen Anne chair, his hand carelessly curled around a carved jade ball, which he tossed from hand to hand.
“Aren’t you worried that you’ll drop that and break it?”
Francois gave the ball a flick, and caught it again. His smile was quick, and lightning bright.
“It was meant to be played with, cherie. Much like you, in that dress.”
She blushed. Oh, she tried not to. But the flush bloomed up from her chest, and down across her tits. Francois obviously oogled her, embarrassing her further.
The voice, smooth and deep made her turn quickly, skirts whirling.
“Beautiful as always, my love.”
“You are.” He was fiercer, harder now. “You are my love. You know it. They know it. They have told you much about me. But of you, fille tetue, what have you learned of you? You need me to tell you of us. Yet, stubborn as ever…you push me away.”
She glared at him, and fought a battle within herself. Part of her yearned for him, for what he knew. To hear the fullness of the story, and not just the bits and pieces from what Anthony and Francois could glean, nor the barely remembered wisps of dreams.
They were surely only dreams.
“We…you…” she swallowed, looking at a ghost that was as substantial as the table next to her. He crossed the few feet that separated them, and took her into his hard arms. Wrapping her tightly, he pressed her head into the crook of his neck and crooned at her in French. She struggled. She tried to push him away.
He didn’t budge, and his words flowed around and through her. His large hand cradled her head, his fingertips stroking her silky hair. Until, at last, she stopped her struggles. Until she relaxed against him. Until tears wet his shirt, and she held him in return.
“Je t’aime, ma chérie douce,” he murmured again, and again as they held each other and swayed gently together.
“I don’t speak French” she murmured against him.
“You know, however, of what I speak.”
“Yes. You love me. I am your beloved.”
“Darling. You are my darling.” she felt his lips curve against her temple.
“bien-aimé” supplied Francois. She glanced over to where he sat, dabbing a tear.
To everyone’s surprise, Gabriel swept her up in his arms and carried her to the chaise. As if he were afraid to let her go, he sat, cradling her.
And he began, after a few quiet breaths, to speak.
“Wait.” She put her hand up, stopping him from speaking. She could feel the warmth coming from his body. How could a ghost be warm? It perplexed her. She looked over to where Anthony and Francois were sitting, looking at her and…her ghost.
“Is this…” and she waved her hand, “even real?”
“Is this real?”
He grabbed her around her neck, spinning her around. His lips landed on hers with a centuries-old hunger. It was not a gentle kiss, but a possession, and a taking. His teeth scraped her lower lip, while his tongue swirled into her open mouth, tasting her. The fist holding her against him tightened in her tresses, making her moan at the tug and pull of her hair.
The tug and pull on her heart was equally pain-and-joy-filled.
He was here. He was, undeniably, real. Her heart raced as his free hand outlined her breasts, her waist, until his arm came around her and hugged her against his body. She felt…
oh gods, how she felt.
An eon later, he released her, and stepped away.
“I needs must keep space from you, mon doux amour, or I will be tempted to strip away your gown…and we know what would happen then.”
She smiled. He would disappear, and leave her a welter of needs and wants is what would happen. “No,” she said. “We…you…cannot.”
His smile flashed out. Promise, threat, both, shimmered in his eyes.
“Petit, I could, indeed.”
She didn’t doubt him.
“sit.” He pushed her towards a lovely Queen Anne settee. Her knees trembled as she all but collapsed on the plush red velvet. Her fingers clasped together, clenching hard enough to whiten her knuckles. She wanted to hear what he had to say.
And she was terrified at what she would find out.
Would he disappear when the tale was fully revealed? The skirt of the gown pooled around her feet as she crossed her ankles, to still the tremors. As if he knew the swirl of emotions coursing through her, his hand cupped her chin; his eyes took in her face, from her teary eyes, to her kiss-swollen lips.
His finger traced along the puffy bottom lip, before he paced across the room to stand in front of the two men who were watching the scene unfolding before them.
“I owe you a debt of gratitude.” He bowed formally to them, before turning and looking over his shoulder to where she sat, unconsciously regal. The years had not dimmed her innate elegance. She was nervously pleating the skirt of the gown that had kept him looking for her.
“You wore that at Chateau par la Mer. I stood in the foyer, talking to Baron LeDuc when you came down the grand staircase.” He paused, shaking his head. “No, you didn’t merely “come” down the steps. You paused, smiling at those of us left gaping up at you. For a long breath, you stood there. I knew the moment you recognized me. For just that second, your brows furrowed. Your breath drew deep, and for a moment, I wondered if your glorious bosom would escape the confines of the gown you wore with such facility.” He smiled at the memory.
She could almost feel it. See it. Remember it.
Closing her eyes, she thought she could feel the satin smoothness of a mahogany railing under her hand.
“You glided down each step like a butterfly, pausing now and again to make certain that all noticed your descent. And then you turned your back to me, and took the hand of another, allowing the poor besotted fool to take you into the ballroom.”
He frowned at her. The memory of her cut-direct still stung.
Her eyes were still closed. She could see it all so clearly, with the word-picture he painted. Still, her hand tingled, as though she had placed it in the crook of an arm. And she shivered at the remembered feel of eyes boring into her spine. Her eyes flashed open; she caught his glare.
A tingle rose up her neck, and she half-smiled. All these years and years had rolled past, and still he was pissed about her turning her back on him, the smug bastard.
“You were rude to me. On the beach. You..” her voice dropped. “You touched me.”
“And you enjoyed it, ma petite.”
She frowned at him. She had. Even with the fear and uncertainty, there had been born a compelling lust for him. He was like none of the other men of her acquaintance. No foppery, just pure man. She remembered, dammit, the longing as he had pulled her to her feet, passed the reins of her horse to her, kissing her roughly. Without a backward glance, he strode away to the small knot of men gathered by a small dingy. She mounted, after a brief struggle. By the time she was horsed, the small boat was nearly hidden by the waves in the ocean. She saw the tall-masted ship, as she drew her mount up the rise of the beach.
“I watched you from the prow until you turned and rode away.”
How was it he knew her thoughts so well?
“You two are giving off sparks!” Anthony’s exclamation broke the dynamic tension in the room. Despite his size, he moved quickly through the room, which almost overflowed with antiques. He took one of Gabriel’s hands, and one of Cara’s pressing them to his lips in turn.
The interruption diffused the tension, but not the underlying lust that filled the parlor.
“Anthony, let them be,” chastened his husband. He resettled himself in the chair. It was obvious that what was unfolding here was making everyone edgy, not to mention how aroused they all were.
“I think it is time for Cara and her ghost to tell us the rest of their story…”
Outside the sounds of rain pattered against the window. Occasionally a car whooshed down the street. In the next room, the ticking of an ormalu clock seemed over-loud in the hushed tension.
“I..” she swallowed. “I think I need water. Or something.”
“Wine. I have a lovely Chateau Chival Blanc …” Anthony released their hands, and glided from the room. The rumble of wheels on the wood floors presaged his return a few minutes later. A tea-cart rolled into the parlor, set with beautiful vintage glasses, and a silver champagne bucket. He wheeled the entire assemblage over to Francois.
“Darling, if you would be so kind?”
Deftly Francois opened the bottle, and tipped it until each glass glowed ruby. Gabriel took a step, sweeping up two goblets. He offered one to Cara, tapping the rim of his against hers, then turning to tap with the two men.
“a votre sante!”
“To your health as well,” said Francois, with a wry grin. “or as healthy as a ghost gets!”
She sipped gently. The vintage was old; the wine was smooth and slid down her parched throat like a kiss. She took a breath, and another. Her head was swirling with memories. Sand under her back as he pressed her down into it, his hand on her bare breast; his shoulder trapping her on the bed by her tangled hair, as he tickled her; the feeling of being totally taken and filled with his cock as they loved one another during a sultry summer afternoon. And she recalled with perfect clarity, the feeling of sea-stained rope tying her wrists, and being spread over his lap as he spanked her bottom until it was red and rosy.
He sat beside her, hip to hip. He didn’t say anything, just lifted her hand and placed it on his hard-muscled thigh.
There was peace with him, after all. Yet she trembled.
“You left me.”
“I had orders, ma petit. One does not trifle with the Governor. I had a job to do-one that I enjoyed as much as I enjoyed you.”
“They say the sea is a hard Mistress” interjected Anthony. “Hard to take sometimes, and hard to get out of the blood.”
Gabriel flashed a smile at him, nodding. “Tis truth, my friend. She calls, you see. She lives in the blood, and demands obeisance. ”
Cara only half -listened. She was caught up in a memory loop, and clearly recalled the sight of a ship disappearing from view. She also clearly recalled the heart-wrenching pain as it sailed away with him. She took another sip of wine, and another.
“I would have ….gone with you.”
“My men would have devoured you. There is little that you would have found enjoyable on the ship. And the dangers were many.”
She shook her head. She remembered the giddy swirl of silks and satins and velvets. The gay laughter of thronging crowds.
“I came to you when I returned. I asked you to stay in your grandmothers home. To wait there for me. Do you remember, mon cher?” At her nod, he rose.
“Yet, you did not. You continued to play among the ton, play the games of lust and debauchery…”
She bolted to her feet. “I most certainly did not!”
He crossed his arms, staring her down.
“I went dancing, a few times. I was lonely. And I rode. I rode every day. I hoped and prayed every day that I would see your ship come back into the little cove, yet day after day it didn’t. The only place I could find out about the privateers was in town. There was word that there had been a battle…and ”
She stopped, her voice frozen in her throat.
“So you went to dance.” His eyes were steely.
“No.” She shook her head. “I ran to the Comte’s château for news, but he was not at home. His mistress was having a party, and I was brought to her.”
They looked at each other. Anger vibrated in the air between them.
“I would remind you two that this happened long, long ago….” Their attention swiveled to Francois. His lips curved into a soft smile. “Ah, but the anger simmers between you, still. Go on then finish it.”
“She sent me into town. I didn’t know…I’d not been into town for weeks. The villa was self-sufficient. The man who drove me had a cough.”
Her gaze dropped.
“The comte was gracious enough to tell me that it was not the Sea Urchin that had gone down, that you would be home by summer’s end.”
She gazed off.
“I…don’t remember anymore.”
He tugged her to her feet, wrapping her in his arms. His cheek rested on the top of her head.
“You fell ill, petit. Influenza ran through the aristocracy like sands through an hour-glass. Not many who contracted it, survived. When I arrived at your grandmothers villa, there was only the stable boy, and your horse. He told me that you had…that the entire staff had…contracted the disease. One by one, each of you fell. You tried nursing them even though you were terribly ill yourself. ”
“Stop…hold on a minute!” She pushed away from him. “You’re telling me you came home and *I* was dead?”
He nodded. “Tis exactly that.”
“If I may interject?” They turned and looked at Francois.
“It seems that you died, Cara, before you could forgive Gabriel for leaving on his voyage. That explains why it has carried through your spirit for all these generations. It is likely that your despair and anger kept you apart until this time, when you could talk, and work it out.”
“And now, I would suggest, that Anthony and I leave you. Your story is compelling, but for now, you need time to finish your talking. Stay as long as you need, Cara. Anthony, love, show them to the guest quarters.”
He rose from his chair, and stepped quietly from the room.
They sat, holding hands, not moving for what felt like an eternity. So many thoughts were whirling in her mind, confusion and…guilt. Shock. She had left him, by defying His orders and going into town, where she had contracted influenza, which had taken her life. She had no memory of that, just of him.
How was it even possible that he was here? She shifted her feet, the organza of the dress she wore sighing as she moved.
“How is it that you knew me, here? How is it that YOU are a ghost and not me? I …” she broke off, biting her lip to hold back the tears.
“I’ve been watching for you through the years. Following your energy, holding onto the love that keeps us together.”
“But when I take off the dress, you disappear!” She was crying now. “I didn’t even know you were the missing thing in my life, and now I can only see you, touch you, when I wear this stupid thing.” She slapped her leg.
“Your tears, mon cheri, wound me. Remember as I remember. Smile for me, cheri. I remember touching your glorious body…I remember holding you, kissing you!” His hand cupped her cheek, glided over her hair, traced the edge of her decolletage above the lace at her breast.
His finger lifted her chin, smiling at her blush. His lips glided across her face, tasting her tears. And then he was gone.
She sat back, looking around frantically.
“Gabriel! Gabriel!” She shouted, “Oh, please don’t play with me this way.” She paused, but the only sound was the ticking of the clock from the other room. In moments, Anthony was back.
“What happened, sweet love?” He looked concerned.
“He…he is …gone…” her voice caught on a hiccup, as tears began to flow again. “Just like that, he was here, and then poof, he was gone. I…I can’t feel him, Anthony.”
He gathered her close and let her sob until she slept.
Another day, another sunrise. The alarm blared, and she grudgingly threw off the covers. She glanced at the dress hanging on her closet door, but it remained motionless, as it had every day for the last 7 weeks. The pain in her heart had ebbed a bit, but she thought it was a terrible ending. For a while she had thought she would die, again, from her broken heart. She kept the dress here, hoping. With a sudden flare of anger, she grabbed the dress and stalked into the guest room, stuffing it into the closet, shutting the door on it.
She wept as she showered and began getting ready for work.
The week dragged by. Things had gotten busy at work, with the opening of several new stores around the country, everyone had to step up their game in Corporate, and take on additional tasks. She found her hours steadily creeping upwards. She was so tired at night she had no time to think, or feel. The dress had remained in the guest room closet, and she had accepted that Gabriel was gone.
There was a knock on her door as she organized the files she needed for tomorrow.
“Hey girl, we’re going out to Mickey’s for some drinks, and try to shake off Hell Week, and my job was to get you to come along. Maybe we’ll meet some cute guys and get laid. I really need to get laid.”
Tammy was her vivacious work partner. Tall, ebony-skinned, and funny as all hell, perhaps an evening spent with the girls would be just what she needed to kick off the dust from her personal life. Such as it was.
“‘k, let me just…”
“NO. Put down the files…and we’ll all get out of here safely.” She pointed her finger at Cara, who gave a wide-eyed stare at that firm digit, and slowly placed the files on her desk. Then laughed.
“Okay, you, put away your weapon and I’ll come with you peacefully…”
Grabbing her purse and jacket, the two headed out of Cara’s office, gathering their “posse” as they moved through the office and outside. Mickey’s was a two-block walk from Downy, Finney & Carruthers, the parent company of an upscale department store. Located in a reclaimed neighborhood, there was a garden atrium, circled by the bar, two restaurants, and oddly, a shoe store. Or perhaps not so oddly, as a drunk woman maybe lost her inhibitions about shoe shopping? Shaking her head, Cara and her friends made their way into the dark moodily lit bar.
Two hours, three dancing partners, and a few rum & Cokes later, she decided to go home. No one was making her feel happy; in truth, she felt almost sadder. Rather than go home to her empty, sad house, she thought she might go visit Anthony and Francois. She hadn’t been back to see them since the night of the Event, and she was feeling bad about that. They’d been good friends to her throughout that entire ordeal, and she went and ditched them like yesterday’s bathwater, for gosh sakes.
A bit tipsy, she held onto a tree in the courtyard. OH. The shoe store. The allure of the shoe was much harder to overcome after a few drinks, and she understood their savvy marketing strategy after all. It wouldn’t hurt to look.
He watched her cross the courtyard. He’d seen her, surrounded by her girlfriends a few hours ago, but she was the only one he had been drawn to. Mesmerizing. An old-fashioned word, but apropos. He was surprised when she alone emerged from Mickey’s. And watched her, a bit concerned, as she wobbled over to a tree and held on for dear life. He thought about going to her, but thought she might not appreciate being accosted by a strange guy, who might take advantage of her drunken state. But then again, it was a question of safety, right? A guy didn’t let a vision like that, one who was obviously impaired, get behind the wheel. Why, it was a matter of public safety.
Yet, rather than veer towards the road, she came across, towards him. As the bell over his door rang, he stepped away from the window display he’d been ostensibly arranging, smoothing his face into a welcoming smile, and hoping the counter hid the tent forming in his chino’s.
“May I help you?”
She looked up, surprised to see a man behind the counter. And froze.
“Gabriel?” She felt dizzy. She took an unsteady step, and fainted.
“There you go, miss, take it easy now.” With a gentle touch, he rubbed the back of her neck. She was sitting on a padded bench, her head between her knees, supported by the comforting warmth of a man beside her. She remembered. Remembered.
“Gabriel?” Her head rose, and she made eye contact with the bluest eyes she had seen since the fateful day that she’d lost the man she’d been tied to for generations.
“How do you know my name?” he asked her, perplexed. He was sure they had never met.
“You don’t know me?” Shock, followed by anger. “How can you not know me, you bastard?” She shook her fist at the sky, all the buzz from the alcohol blown away by the fire of her fury. “Damn you! Damn you to hell!”
He hadn’t see too many furious women in his life, but there was something almost familiar in her rage. She stared up at him, her eyes almost exuding flames. She grabbed his cheeks in her hands, pulling him towards her.
“It’s ME!” She growled. “Look at ME. CARA. C-A-R-A…” She pelted him with her words, small licks of anger spat from her perfect mouth, hitting him. He shook his head. He didn’t….
Her mouth latched onto his, kissing him roughly. The tent in his pants hardened again, throbbing with an insistent need that was hard to be denied. Again there was that flash of something. A beach. Water, the soft moans of gulls. The sun against his arse as he lay atop a soft, welcoming body. For a moment he was two people…disoriented, he pulled away from her ravaging mouth.
“Yes! I see it. I see you. Now, see ME!”
Her voice rang in his ears as his world shifted. He felt for a moment as if the earth tipped. There was a snap, a sudden feeling of falling, that slick, sick fear boiling up his gut, and then as suddenly as it began, it was done.
“I …. remember. You. A beach. We were…”
“Yes, we were.” And she laughed.
“You own this place?” she asked waving her hand in the air.
“I do.” He continued to look at her, seeing her in her short modern skirt, and her in a heavily embroidered black dress.
“Take tonight off. I have a story to tell you, and there are some people you need to meet. Oh, Gabriel. I’m so glad I found you, again.” With a twirl of pure joy, she flung herself on him, hugging him hard. He rested his head on her soft hair, remembering the scent of roses on the night breeze, and the soft silk of her body. In moments, she’d taken him by the hand, and tugged him to the door. The adventure, it seemed, was begun.
*** *** ***
The End…but as you know, an ending is but a new beginning….