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Unfurl: Chapter 19

BELLE

This time, I don’t wear a long, tasteful slip dress to Alchemy.

This time, I borrow a silver mini-dress from Maddy that practically shows off my underwear.

Yes. I’m wearing underwear tonight.

For now.

The dress is armour. Whatever goes down in this little scene, however chaste the persona I’m about to adopt in that room for Rafe and whoever else he brings along, I want him to be clear if he sees me at the bar that I’m a sexual being, I’m sick of messing around, and I mean business.

I want to hold my own here. No pitying looks or sanitised conversation for me.

I hang at the bar with Maddy, who looks spectacular. She’s in a fine white cotton shirt whose sleeves are rolled up and whose buttons are undone almost to her navel—no bra—and an emerald-green satin miniskirt that showcases her gorgeous eyes. She’s a knockout, and she’ll have several hands up that skirt as soon as she crosses through into the Playroom, I’ll warrant. I eye the door to the hub of this place warily.

Maddy’s counting on her fingers how many people in this room she’d sleep with when Rafe rocks up with a couple of buddies. He looks devastating, as usual. He’s in a black shirt, a couple of whose buttons are undone, and slim-fitting black trousers. It’s like he’s fronting a Tom Ford campaign, or channeling Mr Ford himself.

His eyes slide down my body in a highly gratifying way, but it’s his friend who smirks at me. His friend who is dressed almost identically to him, though he doesn’t wear the all-black ensemble as well. Who’s stockier than Rafe, a more traditional rugby-player build than Rafe’s broad shoulders and tapered waist, but who is still undeniably attractive. Who’s grinning at me like he knows me, like we share some dirty secret—

Oh shit.

‘Hello, Belle,’ the guy says, and Rafe elbows him.

Yep.

I know that voice.

This is excruciating.

‘Callum,’ I guess, trying not to groan.

‘You’re even hotter with the mask off,’ he says, and I stiffen.

‘Cal,’ Rafe says in a warning tone before stepping forward to kiss me on both cheeks. He touches my forearms lightly as he does so, and I want to melt against that crisp shirt and hard chest.

‘Sorry,’ Callum says with an attempt at contrition on his handsome face. He sticks out a hand once Rafe’s released me. ‘Let’s start again. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Belle, I’m Cal. How do you do?’

We shake. ‘How do you do?’ I mutter, because he’s irksomely charming.

Maddy’s computing too quickly for my liking. She waves a finger from Rafe to Callum. ‘You two?’ she asks. ‘The other night? With Belle?’

We may be in a sex club, but that doesn’t mean I’m remotely comfortable with my sexual exploits being discussed so openly.

‘Shut up,’ I hiss.

‘Yes, Ma’am,’ Callum says, looking her up and down so appreciatively that I relax a little. So he’s like this with everyone. Fine. I can handle that. In fact, it’s kind of easier to deal with a guy like this, who’s openly flirtatious, than one like Rafe, who’s all repressed and grim and growly until he drops total bombshells like I found a girl who looked vaguely like you and bent her over the back of a sofa. I suspect Callum doesn’t do mixed messages.

Unlike other people I could name.

‘Lucky bitch,’ Maddy mutters.

Callum’s grin widens. ‘Come find me next door in about an hour and then we’ll see who’s the lucky bitch.’

‘I’ll see you there if I haven’t had any better offers,’ she counters.

It’s just not Callum giving Maddy the once-over. The third guy in their little trio is staring at her through his cool, black-framed glasses like she’s just descended from heaven, right through the ornate ceiling of Alchemy’s bar.

‘Cal, meet Belle’s friend Maddy,’ Rafe says tersely. ‘And ladies, this is Zach, our other business partner.’

He slaps the other guy on the shoulder, and it appears to jolt him out of his Maddy-induced stupor. He rakes a hand through his hair, which is almost black and longer and floppier than Rafe’s.

‘How do you do?’ he enquires politely. He does not look like a guy who’s about to go and get laid. He looks deeply uncomfortable, if anything.

‘Zach’s a rare sighting in here at this hour of the night,’ Rafe says. ‘He’s our numbers guy—we don’t usually let him away from the spreadsheets for long.’

‘I love a nerd,’ Maddy purrs, and Zach’s Adam’s apple jumps as he swallows hard.

‘I’m just heading home, actually,’ he says, shoving his specs up the bridge of his nose. I can’t help noticing how intensely blue his eyes are behind the lenses. He definitely has a Clark Kent vibe.

Maddy pouts.

Callum grins. ‘I’ll make sure you have a good time tonight, sweetheart.’

‘We’d better get going too,’ Rafe says, looking straight at me. ‘Got to get our dog-collars on. We didn’t fancy wearing them at the bar. See you in there.’ He winks.

Oh, sweet baby Jesus.

I’ve just worked out why they’re both wearing all black.

They’re in costume already.


The room is bigger than last time. This time, the green ORGASMS button sits next to a kingsize bed that’s made up very plainly with two pillows, white cotton sheets, and a cream woollen blanket. No manacles or whips or sex toys in here. It’s dimly lit. I wonder if this is one of their ‘virgin’ rooms or whether they have ways of adapting each room to the needs of the user. There’s a cabinet on the far side—it’s probably rammed full of dodgy stuff.

Never mind that, because the most pointed reminder of the depths of depravity to which I’m about to sink is the main light source, an enormous crucifix projected onto one of the walls in bright white light.

Oh, holy crap.

It should be a sign that redemption is possible, but right now it’s like a marker pointing the way to the gates of hell.

I wanted this.

I signed up for it.

I touched myself when the questionnaire proposed this exact scenario, and now Genevieve and her team are hell-bent on providing what turns me on.

Yes. Exactly this. Please.

I asked, and they’re giving it to me, and my stomach is a roiling mess of horror and terror and arousal and disbelief as I follow the instructions left for me in the adjoining changing room.

Gone is the slutty silver dress, the hem of which Rafe’s eyes were glued to in the bar. In its place is a plain muslin nightgown of high neck and Maria Von Trapp levels of modesty.

Nothing underneath, as instructed.

My hair hangs in a single loose plait over one shoulder.

I climb onto the bed and lie on one side, pulling the sheet and blanket over me. Then I reach out, squeeze my eyes closed, press my lips tightly together and hit that big green button.

As I lie there waiting, I allow myself to drift into the scenario Genevieve’s most recent briefing laid out. To shift from my own mindset to that of a young woman who, like me, has never had sex. Who, unlike me now, has never been touched by a man. And who, categorically unlike me, believes it’s a sin to even think about sex, let alone to touch herself while she fantasises about being touched by another person.

By other people.

The Belina I am tonight is a young postulant who takes the responsibility of having a virgin martyr namesake seriously and intends to make vows of poverty and chastity imminently. She’s someone who berates herself harshly for those tangled, vivid dreams of flesh against flesh as sleep becomes wakefulness in the early hours. Someone who feels deep shame that the subconscious she keeps tightly under wraps during the day has the power to infiltrate her unguarded sleep at night. To undo her.

She’s someone who seeks penance for those unintended sins through prayer. Work. Reflection.

Someone for whom shame and desire are sickeningly and impossibly interwoven. Who tonight will hand over her body and soul, not to God, but to two men who act in His name but do the work of the Devil himself.

Gosh. I’m already aroused. Aroused because no matter how wrong, how sinful I’ve been raised to believe this is, it’s a million times more sinful for the Belina I am tonight.

And, rather than shying away from that feeling, shoving it down, or worse, acting on it and denying myself as I have in the past, tonight I’m owning it. I’m taking every word those nuns fed me for fourteen years, every warning they issued about the sins of the flesh and the dangers of men’s lust for me and the importance of remaining chaste, and I’m gathering up armfuls of them and using them as kindling to stoke the flames of desire that I know will burn bright.

Because this scene will be my ultimate desire brought to life.

All for me. All for my pleasure.

Forget kindling.

I’ll throw petrol on those flames.

The door opens.


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