Rupert pays the cab driver and we walk up a short flight of steps to a set of black doors. Rupert rings the bell and through the tall windows I get a glimpse of the kind of people that I have only seen in magazines: immaculately dressed and dripping in jewelry. I look down upon my cheap orange dress in dismay. I try to pull at the hem, but my efforts at modesty are counter-productive, as more of my cle**age falls into view.
‘Don’t worry,’ Rupert lies cheerfully. ‘You’ll do.’
A round man in an old-fashioned butler’s uniform opens the door. His manner suggests disdain. He can tell instantly we do not belong. Rupert haughtily informs him that we are guests of Blake Barrington. The man’s eyes register recognition and a glimmer of a smile surfaces. He nods politely and stands aside to allow us in. I fill my lungs with as much oxygen as I can and enter the grand hallway. Inside I stifle a gasp at my splendid surroundings.
From outside it had not appeared so large and spacious. Now I understand what Rupert meant by the smell of old money. I have never been anywhere so beautiful. The walls are covered with museum quality paintings. I gaze up with awe at the cherubs and Madonna-like women looking down at me. They are so beautiful that I want a closer look, but Rupert is guiding me firmly by the elbow towards a sort of anteroom where a young woman takes my coat in exchange for a ticket.
From two open doorways live classical music and voices emanate. A waiter carrying a tray of champagne stops in front of us. I hardly drunk at the restaurant in an effort to remain sober and level-headed, but now I know I must be drunk or I will never be able to go through my deal with the devil. A pasty white devil with dandruff.
I take a glass, and with a restraining hand on the surprised waiter’s arm, drain the tall flute. The bubbles hit me at the back of my throat and make my eyes water. I return the empty glass to the tray and snag another two.
‘Thanks,’ I say breathlessly, and the waiter, a young Mediterranean type, allows his dark, restless eyes to wander down to my chest.
Rupert watches me with feral, excited eyes. He wants me drunk. He has plans for me. By the small of my back he guides me into one of the rooms. Surreptitiously, I note the other women’s clothes. Classy, understated and expensive, very expensive.
I feel many pairs of eyes on me and it is impossible not to be aware that I stand out like a sore thumb. I turn resolutely away from their openly condescending gazes and look towards the string quartet only to find their eyes on me too. Damn that Barrington guy for inviting us here. Defiantly, I suck my champagne glass dry. Another waiter passes and I pull another glass from the tray.
‘Go easy,’ Rupert warns.
I turn towards him with a bright smile. ‘I thought you wanted me drunk and pliable.’
He takes my elbow and leads me deeper into the room close to a large palm plant. With his back to the party he says, ‘I don’t like f**king inert bodies.’
My eyes widen. Still the champagne must have already gone to my head for I feel inordinately courageous. I’m ready to talk terms with him. ‘Right, you don’t want inert bodies. What do you want, Rupert?’
From the camel’s lips came cold breath. ‘Have you read Fifty Shades Of Grey?’
Almost all the other girls at the agency have read the book and I have been present while they have raved about it, but I have been confused by its popularity. Did women really have a secret desire to be owned by a powerful man? Could it be love when a man wants to tie you up and flog you raw? When I mentioned it to my mother, she smiled and astutely remarked, ‘The Western woman sneered at the woman in the purdah and now she dons a dog collar and worships at the same altar.’
I look into Rupert’s pale eyes. ‘No, but isn’t it about a sick man who abuses his lover?’
‘Perhaps it is not a sickness, but a matter of taste.’
‘Is that what you want from me?’
‘Not quite. What I really like is taking a woman by force. A dangerous activity likely to end me behind bars, so I am willing to settle for consensual rape. You will meet me in parks and alleyways, or I will pick you up in my car from a street corner and you will pretend to resist while I overpower you and rape you. There will be a bit of pain and sometimes it will involve a little bleeding, but I will never mark your face or leave any permanent scars. And when I am finished I will leave you in the gutter to make your own way back. Would that be acceptable to you?’
Shocked to my core, I hear my own voice as if from far away ask, ‘How many times would you expect this…service from me?’
‘Let’s say five times?’ Rupert’s face freezes into a cold, calculating mask. A businessman to the end. Ten thousand must be the going price.
I feel as if I am a stick-figured bird precariously perched on a thin wire. Can I really agree to let someone rape me? Even with all the champagne sloshing inside me I find I am unable to speak. I nod.
‘Perhaps I should let you lick the brim to taste the poison,’ he murmurs, and moves closer to me. Instinctively, I take a step back on my tall shoes, and if not for the solid wall against my back, I would have fallen. With the trailing fronds of a palm tree and his big body hiding me from the party his hand comes up to pinch my right nipple. So hard I gasp in shock and pain.
He takes that opportunity to crash down on my parted mouth, bumps his teeth against my lips, and pokes a pointy, muscular tongue into my mouth. His tongue tastes coppery and bitter.
Copious amounts of saliva pour into my horrified mouth making me want to gag. The oysters I have not eaten but watched him eat flash into my mind. His tongue feels slimy and dirty. It makes me want to brush my teeth, rinse, spit, and rinse again with the extra-strong mouthwash that my father used to have in the bathroom cabinet. I truly, truly need to go somewhere and be sick, but pinned tightly to the wall by his strong ox-like body I am totally unable to move.
I feel his hand force itself between my thighs and slide up quickly. His rough, sausage-like fingers are already grasping the rim of my knickers and pushing the material aside. And there is not a single thing I can do about it. Helpless tears gather at the backs of my eyes and begin to roll down my face.
Suddenly he removes his smelly mouth and looks down at me. My face, I am certain, must be white with horror and I am gasping for breath. My distress seems to please him and my suffering appears to have brought him pleasure. Without knowing it I am playing the part perfectly. If I had enjoyed it, it would have spoilt it for him.
He brings up a hand and touches my face. ‘For most part the symptoms of excitement and fear are so similar most men cannot tell the difference. I can,’ he whispers close to my ear, the thick fingers of his other hand moving into the folds of my flesh. ‘I am going to finger-fuck you amongst all these high and mighty people and none of them will ever know.’