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Several Hours Later

Spying Tante in the rehearsal room mirror, Eden abandoned her position and stood. In truth, she was grateful for the interruption and an excuse to escape the pose. She'd intended it to present her breasts and labia to her potential lovers, but hadn't yet achieved the perfection she demanded of herself. Moreover, the blasted pose still hurt, which meant she needed hours more to improve her flexibility. Judging Tante's smile, Eden doubted she would have the time.

   ―They have come,‖ Tante announced. Her fingers rubbed together like a banker caressing gold credits. Her gray eyes darkened with greed.
   ―Not yet, I hope,‖ Eden countered with a sly grin, knowing Tante would appreciate the ribald remark.
   Tante laughed. ―Minx! You know I meant they have arrived. Forty men.
She waved both her hands, cooling her heated face
then tucked a strand of artfully streaked dark hair behind her ear.
   ―By the Goddess! I pray they all do not expect a sample of my skills before they bid.‖ Forty men would compete harder to outbid their rivals, which would make Tante very happy. But Eden wondered if Kaliq or Kamal could bid high enough to win
   ―Samples are not part of the contract, Eden. But you know that.‖
   Toweling her damp face, Eden nodded. ―How then will they decide who wants me?‖
   ―They all want you, Eden, otherwise they would not be here at all. However, although they are all wealthy men—wealthy beyond even my imagination—some will not bid above a certain price. They will settle, er, select other young women whose skills are somewhat less than yours and Azura's.‖
   Eden suppressed a sigh. Azura's virginity should have gone to auction two years ago, but Tante—shrewd and avaricious—had delayed. Competition between her two star pupils would gain Tante even greater wealth and add to her formidable reputation. Rising Moons was known throughout the galaxy for having the most accomplished courtesans and gigolos. To ensure a good turnout for the auction, Tante had sent invitations galaxy-wide along with vids of each of her courtesans.
   Eden had hoped Azura would be gone by now, leaving only Colette and Eden as the
crème de la
. Colette, Eden's dearest friend, was more insouciant about the situation—willing to go to someone who would treat her with kindness, uncaring what her
prix de virginité
might be. Eden cared about her own price. Very much.
   ―I expect,‖ Tante went on, ―the competition for you and Azura will reduce to ten or so men after the first round of bidding.‖
   ―Then what?‖ Eden knew, but needed Tante's reassurance, which Eden found odd about herself. She had devised the competitions herself. With Tante's support, she had trained long and hard for this weeklong event. Now that it—and forty men!—had arrived, she found herself as nervous
as a virgin bride on her wedding night.
   Would her lover be virile and handsome? Tante had assured her no man above forty could bid for her. But what if he was bidding on some ancient's behalf? What then? And what if he sought only his own pleasure, caring nothing for hers? What if— despite all the other skills she'd honed over the last five years—all he wanted of her was a good fuck?
   ―Where has The Consummate Courtesan gone?‖ Tante scolded, somehow reading Eden's fears. ―You have outdistanced Azura in every course I offer. You have set standards far above what I expect and have exceeded those set by masters in every category. What troubles you, Eden?‖
   ―I…lack Azura's fairy-like appearance,‖ Eden confessed. ―She is petite and seems in need of a protector. She can expect a certain tenderness from her lover. At least the first time.‖
   ―I doubt she will faint at the sight of a man's penis,‖ Tante said with some asperity. She shook her gray silk skirts, settling the fabric over her generous hips and buttocks.
   Eden knew Tante knew all about Azura's penchant for teasing male students to early ejaculation. ―Nor will I,‖ Eden muttered
then added full-voice, ―I hope whoever wins me is at least as tall as I am.‖
   ―When you are lying down, who will notice?‖
   Tante's smile—secretive and sly—failed to
reassure Eden. Clucking like a mother hen, Tante shooed her away. ―Besides you might be pleasantly surprised. Now go to your room, child. Try to get some rest. You'll need your strength for this evening's event.‖
   Which, Eden silently added, I created myself.
only I had thought about it longer!

Chapter Two

Kaliq and Kamal's Suite

―Then we are agreed?‖ Kaliq said, nodding at the vidscreen pictures of the auction's top two attractions—Azura and Eden.
   ―Aye.‖ Kamal pointed an index finger and the screen went dark. ―We will pool our funds and pick the one woman who will please us both.‖
   ―The Sednan appeals. I like dainty women.‖
   ―Because they remind you of your mother,‖ Kamal joked, slapping his brother's shoulder.
   ―While the brunette is tall, reminding you of your matriarch.‖ Kaliq jabbed Kamal's belly.
   Pointing his own index finger, Kaliq restored the vidscreen. The evening's program scrolled slowly, affording them time to read. ―It seems we have more than two women from which to choose.‖
   Kamal quirked a brow. ―I did not travel all the way from Sedna to bed a lesser woman.‖
   ―Nor did I. Still—if either's price exceeds our funds—I refuse to return to Andromeda without a woman. I'm suggesting we make alternative plans.‖
   ―Give worrying a rest, Kaliq. We can reassess later.‖ Kamal held up a hand, silencing his brother's protest. ―If necessary.‖ He refused to mention the connection they'd shared with Eden. He knew Kaliq had felt it, too, but his brother probably considered it a fluke or something in the atmosphere on Venus.
   As usual, unwilling to let Kamal have the last word, Kaliq said, ―I believe we should begin to decide which of the two we prefer.‖
   ―Based only on physical attributes?‖
   ―Since that is all we know about them, yes. It's as good a starting point as any other.‖
   Not yet willing to challenge Kaliq's obsession with Azura, Kamal said to the vidscreen, ―Project full-size holograms of Eden and Azura.‖ Like Kaliq, he could pretend they had yet to meet Eden. Had yet to feel that instantaneous lust that signified so much more—at least for them.
   As if awakened from their dreams, both naked holographic images blinked. Looking as if she could really see them, Azura stretched and shook her curly blue locks, arching her back to show off her breasts. Eden covered hers, half-turning to show one long leg and a rounded buttock. Her black, waist-length hair fluttered as if a gentle breeze had ruffled the thick strands.
   Stripping off towels, the men looked down at their shafts
then at each other. Their enlarging spears showed that each or both women could arouse them.
―Blatant or demure?‖ Kaliq asked.
―Either, although… Either.‖
―Ever the diplomat.‖
   Kamal shrugged. ―Our father liked both kinds of women.‖
   ―Our father loved a
ll k
inds of women.‖
   When their shared laughter faded, Kamal drew a circle in the air. The holograms slowly turned, their feminine attributes displayed to perfection.
   Azura's breasts were the size of half-round grapefruits, their areoles and nipples like dark blue raisins against her pale blue skin.
Will they
taste like raisins, as well?
Kaliq's thought flashed into Kamal's mind. He ignored it and continued his perusal. Pale blue curls covered her mons. For a short woman, her legs seemed long—the kind of legs a man could imagine wrapped around his ass.
   Eden's legs were spectacular enough to give any man wet dreams. Her buttocks were perfect handfuls as were her dusky-tipped breasts. Her nipples played hide-and-seek within her dark hair as she moved her head as if to keep both men in sight. Her slanted golden-brown eyes suggested she found them both attractive, but was too shy to admit it.
   Or maybe that was wishful thinking, each man thought-linked to the other.
   ―It seems we must await the outcome of tonight's activities,‖ Kaliq muttered, willing his
shaft to shrink.
   ―It may take the entire week before our spears decide.‖ Kamal's remained at the ready—as, he noted, did his brother's.
   ―Aye. Put the virgins to bed,‖ Kaliq commanded and the holograms vanished.
   At last their shafts subsided to their flaccid lengths, still longer and wider than most other men's.
   ―How many dancers will precede the favorites?‖ Kaliq asked, ennui lacing his voice.
   Kamal recognized his brother's pretense at boredom, but let it pass. ―Acrobats. Tonight's activity is to display the women's flexibility. Their muscle-tone as well.‖
   ―Ah. Then I suspect Azura will prove herself the better. Petite women excel at gymnastics.‖
   ―Don't take Eden too lightly,‖ Kamal advised.
   Kaliq chuckled. ―It seems each of us has already decided who he wants. Maybe we'll get lucky and not have to pool our funds.‖
   Kamal smiled at his brother, but thought to himself, Don't count on it. That powerful sensual connection to Eden made any other choice unthinkable. Kaliq simply refused to admit it.

Chapter Three

The First Competition

The lounge, normally filled with soft lighting and noisy patrons, felt different to Eden. Perhaps it was due to the quietness of tonight's audience, each man ensconced on a chaise capable of conforming to his body size and shape and desired comfort. Perhaps the stage around which they sat seemed foreign because it stood empty. On other nights, singers and dancers and bright lights occupied the large platform. Those lights always made Eden shield her eyes against the nearly blinding kaleidoscope of color and movement. Tonight only soft pinkish-blue light cast an intimate glow from above. Or perhaps her unease was caused by the subtle scent of musk— forty men anticipating titillation. She could almost taste their pending arousal on her tongue. Or, more likely, it was the thought of her future lover seeing her for the first time that caused her stomach to clench and whirl so frantically. She refused to allow thoughts of Kaliq and Kamal to sway her. She must go to the highest bidder, no matter how much her body lusted for another. She had worked long and hard to achieve her dreams. She would not let a handsome face and sculpted body detract her.

   A small, icy hand on hers startled Eden from her morose reverie. Turning, she smiled down at Colette—a vision of loveliness in purple and silver.
   Her violet eyes wide, the young woman murmured, ―I'm so frightened I may faint. And this ridiculously tight leotard makes me feel—and look, I'm sure—fat!‖
   ―You look beautiful. You
beautiful. Moreover, not even Azura can perform so perfectly as you. The ribbon wands are dancing fairies in your hands.‖
   Tugging the leotard over her generous breasts and down to cover her equally generous buttocks, Colette flashed her gamin smile. ―I am rather good with the wands. But I wish I weren't on first. By the time you perform, Eden, those men will have forgotten all about me.‖
   Before Eden could rebut her nervous friend, Tante's magnified voice boomed through the lounge.
messieurs, nous commencerons
* * * *

As Azura finished her performance with the

ribbon wands, Kaliq sighed
then muttered, ―An indifferent rendition. Lazy and imprecise, lacking enthusiasm. It makes me wonder how she'd be in bed.‖
   ―I'm sure she'll do better at other things,‖ Kamal soothed, his attention riveted on the empty stage. His mouth felt dry and his skin itched like a thousand Martian fire ants crawled over his entire body.
You have to endure two more performances,
Kaliq mind linked,
before Eden appears.
Two? So few as that?
   In Kamal's mind, Kaliq laughed.
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