Coercion:Curio Vignettes 01(8)

By: Cara McKenna

“But I won’t go too far,” she tells me.

Good. I was not ready for the coercion to be done. There are walls yet to scale and locks to be picked, so much more fun than strolling invited through open gates.

“Come to my bed,” I say, letting my words caress her skin. Soon that steam will warm her elsewhere, and I’ll feel her own heat at my lips moments before I taste her sex. I will wait until I know I’ve coaxed a wealth of that honey between her thighs—and then I will feast.

“I shouldn’t.”

“But you should. I want your body in my sheets, so I can breathe you in after you’ve gone and remember everything we’ll do tonight.”

She’s stiff once more, so I graze my palm across her breast, gathering all her attention into the contact, into whatever pleasure she feels as her nipple draws tight.

“You won’t regret any of the things I’m dying to show you.” I drag my teeth softly along her throat then kiss the same spot. “My body will please you, I know it.”

I do know such a thing. I wasn’t born with an extraordinary voice, but my body and face make women shiver as they might while listening to some divine aria. I’ve seen proof of this since I was perhaps fourteen and first realized that people look at me differently, that I am wanted in people’s photographs and paintings and beds.

My caresses draw her out, and I feel her hand at the back of my head, fingers clutching my hair.

“Come to my bed, and I’ll ask no more than just this, what we’re doing now.”

“I don’t know.”

“Please.” I say it once more, then again, a kiss to punctuate between each word. “Just this, I swear.”

She doesn’t reply, but when I stand and take her hand, she rises from the couch willingly enough. I feel desire open inside me, uncoiling like a snake, tongue and tail flicking, a writhing mass of restless, predatory muscle.

Caroly’s hand in mine is smooth and cool, and I imagine it on my naked body. She used to be cautious, lately far less so. But tonight, who knows? I will have to see how far she takes this wicked tourism.

Chapter Two

I lead her to my room, lit only by what glow the city has slipped through the crack in the curtains.

“We need light.” I speak to both Caroly and the woman she plays. “I need to see you.”

I gesture and she sits on my bed as I fetch a metal card table from before the window, a dozen or more pillar candles fused to its top.

I light them one by one, the room enlarging with each dancing flame. Her gaze drinks me in, telling me things she’s uttered aloud, though only when a glass of wine too many has spurred her to. You’re so beautiful, it tells me. A look I know well, warm as sunshine and mischievous as twilight.

Beauty is a queer and unearthly power.

I was born of my father’s infidelity and my mother’s consumptive infatuation. I’m a bastard and a prostitute, crippled by agoraphobia…but I am beautiful. My deeper flaws seem to go unnoticed, all cracks in the stained glass, lost amid the dazzling colors of the whole.

I inherited my father’s dramatic Portuguese face, his strong nose and widow’s peak, his dark hair, his cowardice. Like his, my eyes are deep brown, but they are unmistakably my mother’s. She gave me her fine complexion, her romanticism and her fear of the unfamiliar. My parents’ affair lasted only a summer, but they must have been a sight to behold—exquisite young lovers set loose in Paris, giddy with forbidden lust. Or in my mother’s case, love. A love that stayed with her like a whispering ghost until the day she died.

Had I not been beautiful, who knows what would have become of me. I might be as I am now, shut away in some garret with my projects and my view and my wine, but no women would call on me, certainly none willing to pay for the luxury of sharing my bed. I might be forgotten, left in a cupboard to grow pale and soft and unmissed, unable to escape of my own volition. But I can never know, just as I may never know what it is like to not be beautiful.

Caroly, she is the opposite. I watch her pale gaze roam my bedroom in the multiplying light, pretending to regard all these familiar objects for the first time. She knows nothing of how it feels to be beautiful, though plenty of people might say she is. A beguiling, androgynous face worthy of a Dutch painting, high, rare cheekbones softened by those feminine curls. All of it even more enchanting in the candlelight.

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