Quarter, New Orleans
is a brothel?â€ť
Kittredge could not believe she'd let her friend
Laura talk her
into this . . . this . . . insane idea.
bachelorette party at a brothel.
brothel,â€ť Laura--the bride--corrected her choice of
a mischievous wink. â€śMaison.â€ť
excuse me. Maison. Like there was a difference?
Not only was the party to be held at an actual house of ill
upscale--but the bride had actually arranged for her
become part of the evening's merchandise.
Tessa weren't so appalled, she'd have to admit
there was a certain cosmic
humor to the situation. After all, what was marriage but an
lifelong contract for sex? Well. At least until one of the
got tired of the other.
that she was cynical or anything.
tugged at the short skirt of the slinky blue, strapless
had provided for her to wear, and glanced nervously around
floor of the maison Chez
Duchesne. Once you got through the strict security check
signing at the front door, the bar and reception area
normal, like those of any other luxurious boutique hotel.
the part where some of the guests were walking around
but sexy underwear--and some not even that much.
Along with the
golden masks most of the women and some of the men wore to
meant they were available. Available.
had been stunned when the other two bridesmaids donned
their masks with
alacrity and disappeared within seconds of the guard
letting them inside.
is crazy. Even for you,â€ť Tessa murmured to Laura.
friend looped arms with her and urged her further into the
appointed room. Music pulsed in the background, punctuated
of coy laughter and the tinkle of crystal glasses. The
of jasmine filled the air. â€śDarling, every woman
about being a whore at one time or another in her life,â€ť
â€śDon't tell me you never have.â€ť
are one thing,â€ť Tessa pointed out, her cheeks warming at
insight. â€śThat doesn't mean I'd actually do it in
smiled knowingly. â€śTell me, how many one-night stands have
in the past ten years?â€ť
was no use lying. They'd been college roommates. â€śOne
or two,â€ť Tessa
grudgingly admitted. â€śBut that was different.â€ť
Tonight you'll walk away with a nice, fat paycheck.â€ť
thousand dollars for an hour, five grand for the night.
men were willing to pay for no strings. Not that she was
Bitter? Hell, not her. It was actually better this way.
don't need the money,â€ť she said firmly. She had a great
job as a graphic
designer. Admittedly, not for a thousand dollars an hour.
that last nasty breakup, you could use a little fun,â€ť Laura
out, steering her toward the bar. â€śA night of unreserved
Trust me, it'll be amazing.â€ť
for her to say. Laura had always been the impetuous,
wild-child friend. The one that careful, orderly, good-girl
always envied just a little. Okay, a lot. But she had
the groom among the guests, so she knew very well what
were playing at tonight. She, however, had no one waiting
in the wings.
Not here. Not back home. Not ever again, if she had
anything to say
know I'm not into sex with strangers,â€ť she said over
the pulsing throb
of the music. â€śI'm not eighteen any more.â€ť
were turning to stare at them, openly interested. The heat
in her cheeks
intensified. It made her feel . . . exposed. On display.
a little excited. She couldn't deny the fantasy was a
don't have to go with a man,â€ť Laura assured her, her
coyly with one of the lookers. â€śNot unless you want to. No
no requirements, other than to have a good time.â€ť
already been through all of this. Outside, in that eerie,
courtyard next door, where Tessa, Laura, and the other two
had stopped to make a wish at an unnervingly evocative
The fountain, called the Jaillissement de Plaisir--a
suggestive name, if her high school French served her-- was
to bring immense sexual pleasure and everlasting love to
all who made
an offering to it. After giggling through their wishes and
coins--which Tessa had palmed rather than let it fly into
sat down on the ancient, crumbling fountain wall where
Laura had revealed
the shocking details of the bachelorette party.
to be honest, Tessa hadn't been able to concentrate on
Chills had kept running up and down her spine. That
had seemed so strangely, spookily, familiar. Like she'd
been there before.
And the three half-nude muses holding up the fountain all
be dancing just for her, gazing at her with alluring eyes,
her to join them in their wantonry. Not to mention the
that someone else had been watching her the whole time.
day she'd been feeling restless, like she was waiting
to happen. Something that would change her life forever.
this be it?
on,â€ť Laura said, leading her deeper into the
decadence. â€śLet yourself
go. If you don't want to have sex with anyone,
don't. Just indulge yourself
and enjoy the possibilities. You decide how far
don't know if I can do this,â€ť she murmured. Torn
between the temptation
of the fantasy and the terror of the reality.
handed her a golden mask. â€śOf course you can. Darling, for
give yourself permission to become whoever you want, to do
you wish.â€ť She smiled mysteriously. â€śWho knows what erotic,
spell the Jaillissement de Plaisir has already cast
You might just find you like it.â€ť