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Authors: Helena Harker

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BOOK: CarnalDevices
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The room itself is a wonder. Several types of model airships
hang from the ceiling. Although I regularly see them over the city, I cannot
identify them by name. On the walls are various diagrams of mechanical
inventions. Steam engines. Trains. Electrical devices of all sorts. Oh my! What
a surprise! Over the shoulder of the dark-haired man, I glimpse a sketch of
Phineas’ fornication facilitators with the words
Carnal Devices
across
the top. Many finely upholstered leather chairs are arranged about the room,
mostly in groups of four, offering the members the opportunity to engage in
more private conversations.

A member of the geriatric group shuffles toward me, wrinkled
and hunched, using a cane to steady himself. When did he last engage in sexual
intercourse? Twenty years earlier? More? His face is covered in long gray
whiskers, painstakingly combed into place, a fashion which went out of style
long ago.

“Leave the premises,” he orders without bothering to
introduce himself. From the stern set of his jaw, and the deep creases between
his brows, I can tell that my entry has caused consternation. And perhaps
imminent heart failure.

Another lesson from finishing school comes to mind. In
conversation, one must be able to disagree without being disagreeable. “I would
like to request your permission to stay a while longer, sir.”

The old man rocks back on his feet. He probably expected me
to be demanding and insolent instead of polite and respectful.

“No. I own this establishment. It is a
private
club,”
he says gruffly. “Women are not welcome here, especially women of your ilk.
Leave.” His trembling finger points at the door.

He must be a powerful man if he owns this establishment, so
it is not in my best interest to antagonize him. “Look around you, sir. It
seems many of your members welcome my presence.” In truth, I am a breath of
fresh spring air in this environment.

I can almost hear his teeth grinding together. He is
maddened by my response.

“I will have you forcibly removed.” His grip on his cane
tightens.

“Surely you do not want a scandal. Tomorrow morning everyone
will be gossiping about how a lady was removed from your club by force,
screaming and flailing all the way down the stairs and into the street.” I
trail my fingers through my hair. The movement catches his attention, and his
eyes follow my hand past my shoulder, down to the swell of my breasts.

“You are no lady.” But his conviction falters.

No one in his position would want gossip to tarnish the name
of his club. “Since you are a well-bred gentleman, I doubt you will ask your
manservants to drag me outside.” Slowly I twist a strand of hair around my
finger.

The old man stares. What is going on inside his head? What
does he truly think of me and women like me? At the moment he is asserting his
authority and doing what is deemed socially acceptable in front of the other
members of the Steam Society. Very often a man behaves one way in front of his
peers, but when he is alone he will conduct himself in a completely different
manner.

On Silverton Square I quickly learned to assess the men who
offered me money in exchange for my body. Some wished to use me in the most
appalling manner, others wanted my services and planned to walk away without
paying, and still more were twisted and dangerous. I became an excellent judge
of character in a very short time.

What kind of person is this man before me? What are his
weaknesses? His gaze continues to move downward, to my waist and between my
thighs. I recognize his suppressed hunger. He is the kind of man who acts in
accordance with society’s rules. His reputation is of utmost importance, but in
private, he yearns to act out hidden desires.

“This is a highly respectable establishment,” I whisper.
“However, do you not grow tired of propriety? Of restrictions? Of abiding by
everyone’s expectations? Isn’t there a part of you that longs for what is
forbidden?”

He listens intently. So I have struck a chord. Very good.

“You are trying to shock me.” His voice is no longer rife
with anger. “You are the embodiment of sin.”

“If that is what you wish me to be. I can fulfill every
fantasy,” I whisper so no one else can hear, for I am aware that everyone in
the room is raptly waiting to see how this conversation ends. Will I be forced
to leave the club in shame, or will I remain? “Do you wish to be shocked? To be
a sinner? I can accommodate your every need. I can strip you naked and bed you.
Here. On the floor. In front of all these men.”

He is struck dumb. But the earlier consternation disappears,
replaced by a burning desire. “What other hidden fantasies would you enact with
me?” he asks.

Since his sex organ is undoubtedly permanently shriveled, I
decide to focus on other methods of stimulation. “As you lie there on the
floor, and everyone gathers around us to watch, I will stand over you, one foot
on either side of your head. Then I will unwrap my sari one yard at a time, my
hips swaying, until I am naked, and you can see my cunny above you, moist with
my honey. I will squat down over your face and make you lick my slit and suck
on my pearl until I scream in pleasure.”

He sways and then steadies himself with the cane. His
knuckles are white. His true lecherous nature has surfaced. Underneath his prim
and proper exterior dwells a man who wants a woman to initiate him to the taboo
pleasures of the flesh.

“How did you know these are the types of acts I wish for?”

“As a courtesan, it is in my nature to recognize a man’s
deepest desires even if he deems those desires unacceptable,” I say simply.
“May I stay? For a short time?”

“Yes.” His voice is hoarse.

“Thank you, sir. You are very kind.” I fear he might fall
unconscious from the stress I have placed on his heart. It must be galloping as
it has not galloped in a very long time, like a thoroughbred’s while racing to
the finish line.

I glance about the room, briefly meeting the eyes of the men
who welcome my presence. Many of them are single. Others are married—I can see
their wedding bands—but nevertheless, they gaze upon me with carnal desire. For
them, I suspect marital bliss vanished years ago.

I can fill my nights with these men, build a list of regular
clients who pay me well. I do not have to settle for any man who chooses me.

I will choose them.

Which one do I wish to speak to?

The dark-haired man continues his conversation with his
friend, and I am close enough to overhear.

“My work is almost done. I have spent several weeks upon the
scaffolding on the dome. The stained glass is being installed as we speak.
Nothing is as exquisite as stained glass.” He turns to me and mouths,
Except
you.

Here is a man who appreciates beauty. I slowly glide over to
him and offer my hand. “I am India of Rajasthan. Pleased to make your acquaintance,
sir.”

He takes it, and for a moment he appears unsure of his
actions, so I lift my hand to his lips, and he kisses it. The touch of his lips
is delightful. This is how a gentleman greets a fine lady. I am so unaccustomed
to this gesture and so pleased by it that I must stifle a burst of girlish
laughter.

“My name is Ambrose Pierce. I am an architect. Pleased to
meet you, India. This is one of my esteemed colleagues, William Lancing.”

I offer my hand to the stocky, broad-shouldered William, and
he too raises it to his lips. I enjoy his touch, but it doesn’t warm me like
Ambrose’s. William is handsome but unexceptional with rounded cheeks, trimmed
sideburns and hazel eyes. His fingers reach out to touch my sari, but I step
away. It is best not to seem overly familiar at first. A courtesan does not
allow men to fondle her in public.

There is something about Ambrose that awakens my nubbin and
causes my nipples to peak against the silk of my sari. He is young, virile,
accomplished and very attractive. He is hale and hearty and it is obvious from
the fit of his jacket that there is a fair amount of muscle underneath.

“You are rebuilding St. Paul’s?” I ask Ambrose.

Several years ago, the cathedral was set aflame by a group
of rebellious Darwinists who objected to the church’s iron grip on society. At
the time, I was walking by the Thames with my mother and I remember smoke
spiraling into the sky. We did not think anything of it, because factories
constantly spewed soot into the aether.

“It was always my dream to build a cathedral. It is
regrettable, however, that St. Paul’s had to be incinerated by arsonists in
order for my dream to become a reality.”

William cuts in. “I am working on the interior finishing and
will improve on the original English Baroque design.”

“William is my principal assistant.” Ambrose looks down his
nose at his colleague. “I am responsible for the structure of the cathedral.
The domes, the twin spires, the nave, the clock tower on the west end.”

“A woman appreciates design more than structure,” William
argues.

They are squabbling with each other, competing for me! What
a difference from the street, where men use their fists to vie for a girl’s
attention.

At this moment, Phineas joins us. He has been lurking in the
background this entire time.

“Good evening, gentlemen.” He nods at me. “India, will you
introduce me?”

As I make polite introductions, just as I learned at
Pennyworth’s School for Girls, I notice how Ambrose is appraising Phineas with
almost the same interest he has shown in me. Most unusual.

“Phineas Felter.” Ambrose eagerly clasps Phineas’ hand in
both of his. “The expert in sexology, the inventor of…” He halts and a blush
creeps into his cheeks.

Since he is too shy, I finish the phrase. “The finest
fornication facilitators.”

The overly warm handshake lingers. As if he suddenly
realizes he has held on for too long, Ambrose jerks his hands away. Phineas
locks eyes with him. Ambrose is indeed the portrait of male beauty, a finely
sculpted nose, strong bone structure and kind eyes the color of strong coffee.

I do believe Ambrose is attracted to Phineas. And to me.
There is no doubt in my mind that he wants me as well. It makes me wonder, all
these men together, deliberately isolating themselves from the fair sex, is it
because they lust after each other? Just last week, the court sentenced George
Quentin, an eminent author, to a year’s hard labor for openly admitting to a
relationship with his male secretary. The Steam Society might be the ideal
location for Uranians to meet and find someone to their liking.

Is it possible for someone to lust after men and women in
equal measure? If a woman who beds down with a woman is a Sapphist, and a man
who beds down with men is a Uranian, is there a name for a person who desires
both sexes? Phineas is the expert in these matters. Later I will ask his
opinion.

For the time being, I consider my options. Ambrose is most
appealing. William is obviously interested in me as well, but I do not feel a
deep attraction for him. And Phineas, well, I would definitely bed Phineas
again. And again. And again. Oh dear, what a conundrum. Whatever shall I do? I
am overwhelmed by possibilities.

William glances at Ambrose and Phineas, and it is as if he
grasps the situation. He excuses himself and withdraws from our circle. Since I
do not wish him to feel slighted—he is intelligent and might make an adequate
suitor at a later date—I walk after him.

“Another time, William.” I let the drape of my sari brush
his side and he clasps it between his fingers.

“I should prefer to touch your skin,” he says.

“You will. In due time.”

“I look forward to it. Goodbye for now, India.” Smiling, he
bows and then turns and walks away.

When the butler strides by, I catch his attention with a
snap of my fingers. “Sherry, please. And cognac for my two companions.”

A sour expression crosses his face and he mutters, “Yes,
madam.”

When I return to Ambrose’s side, he beams. “Tell me about
yourself, India.”

I remember the folktale about the sari. Now it is time to
weave the tale of my own upbringing. “I was born in Rajasthan. My father was
the rajah, a very powerful man, and my mother one of his favored concubines.”

“You are of royal blood?” Ambrose says in awe.

“Indeed.” The English have conquered most of India, but not
Rajasthan. Little is known about that area, except it has fierce warriors on
horseback capable of fending off English soldiers. It is the ideal location for
me to set my fairytale. I decide to alter the narrative I told Phineas earlier.
“He came to England when I was quite young, and brought my mother and me along.
Because of the tensions between our two countries, he posed as a merchant
instead of royalty. For many years, he traveled back and forth between the two
lands while I stayed here with my mother.”

“A visiting rajah would have received much attention, some
of it negative,” says Ambrose, drinking in every word. “Posing as a merchant
was an excellent ploy.”

“He hired a governess so I would receive proper English
schooling. I was surrounded by English-speaking servants and soon forgot my
mother tongue. My dear mother, bless her soul, passed away in the typhus
epidemic.”

“I am very sorry,” he sympathizes.

Phineas studies us, a ghost of a smile on his lips. He seems
happy with my wild imaginings.

“I also received schooling in my mother’s art, the
Kama
Sutra
,for I am destined to follow in her footsteps. When my father
asked me if I wished to return to India, I said England was my home and I
wished to remain. So I continued to learn the art of the
Kama Sutra
,the
positions, the many ways to please a man, how to teach him to surrender to his
desires.”

“India is quite accomplished,” says Phineas.

BOOK: CarnalDevices
4.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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