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Unfurl: Chapter 2

RAFE

If there’s a market to be made in something, I will make it.

Trust me.

Stocks. Commodities. Property. Bonds, obviously. FX. Derivatives on all the above. Exotic derivatives. Crypto. Wine. Art. NFTs on art.

Sex.

It’s not what you’re thinking.

Sex is the oldest market in the world. But I’m not talking about making a market with sex on one side of the transaction and money on the other.

No.

Sure, money plays a part in my world. Of course it does. But it’s not the primary currency in which I operate. Not when it comes to sex.

At its most elementary, the market that fascinates me is the coming together of two people who both want satisfaction.

But satisfaction is a base concept.

A transactional one.

I can do better than that.

The ultimate market-making skill is bringing together two people who each have a currency the other wants. A currency that can bring the other not mere satisfaction.

But transcendence.

Alchemy.

This perfect pairing of currencies is regularly on offer in my exclusive club.

The experience of one party.

And the innocence of the other.

There’s nothing an innocent craves more than the assurance of being in safe hands. Of being cosseted in the proficient cocoon of a veteran. A pro. Shown the ropes, as it were.

Figuratively or literally.

Similarly, in the jaded eyes of one who has seen and done it all, there’s nothing like having an innocent bestow upon you the greatest gift of all—his or her trust.

The trust that you will safeguard them. Protect them. All the while showing them what is possible. Teaching them to fly. To soar.

Giving them the gift of transcendence.

That’s why it’s one of the most symbiotic of all human dynamics. One that’s stood the test of time.

Pupil and teacher.

Mentee and mentor.

If one was of a religious inclination, one might even call it the innocent and the damned.

In case I’m not clear, in all scenarios at my club—which, incidentally but certainly not accidentally, hails by the name of Alchemy—I’m the damned. No matter where on the scale my partner—or partners, if I’m honest—may fall.

And it doesn’t take more than a second to size up the woman in front of me as decidedly innocent.

Well, well, well.

I wasn’t expecting this when I accepted Lauren’s invitation to drinks.

I’d love you to meet my daughter, she said.

I’ll feel better if she knows some of her neighbours when we’re away, she said.

She didn’t mention her precious daughter was every man’s darkest fantasies in human form.

I accepted because I’m not a total twat, and because Lauren and Benedict seem like decent people, even if they are the types of ardent church-goers and active Catholics I avoid like the fucking plague these days. I’ve only met them a couple of times in the hallway since I moved in, but they’ve already dropped God and His extended family into the conversation more times than I can count.

But I wasn’t expecting her to present me with a visual feast that conjures up vivid memories of the Bridget Hall posters on my bedroom wall in the Nineties.

Holy fuck.

I size her up even as I’m lowering my tumbler and transferring it to my left hand so I can extend my right.

This girl is fucking gorgeous.

A sleek, athletic figure showcased in classic Azzedine Alaïa. I’ve dated enough high-maintenance women to know Alaïa’s Bond Street flagship like the back of my hand. The dress says this girl’s comfortable in her own skin and has style but isn’t a crazed follower of fashion. Alaïa’s pieces are timeless.

Legs for days.

Limbs all honey-coloured and glossy. Just like her hair.

Wide-set hazel eyes and a little snub nose, with the perfect smattering of freckles over the bridge. She’s probably done a couple of mini-breaks in the Med already this summer. My brain immediately shuts down a visual of her stretched out in a skimpy bikini on a sun lounger in Cap d’Antibes or Positano before it can properly form.

A full bottom lip I’d kill to press my thumb against before I got her on her knees.

A mouth that’s made to take dick.

And yet, I’d put money on the fact that no guy has been that fucking lucky yet.

As my hand wraps around her cool, slim fingers and I utter my own name in a tone that sounds remarkably calm to my ears, I assess her likely sexual history in the way I do automatically with every woman I meet.

Yes, I’m a dick.

No, I can’t help myself.

She’s slept with one guy, I decide. One long-term boyfriend at uni. He was probably called Luke, or Carl. Something clean. Wholesome. He was most likely captain of the swim squad or the hockey team. An over-achiever who always gave his all.

Except in bed, where he was fucking useless. A massive under-achiever where showing this beautiful creature the capabilities of her own body was not a priority compared to having her on his arm at black tie events.

I bet he only fucked her missionary.

Come to think of it, I bet she’s never had an orgasm with another person in the room.

What a fucking waste. If I was with this woman, I’d fuck her every which way. I’d have her comatose from orgasms. Those eyes glazed. Those golden limbs draped over mine, spent from pleasure.

What?

I’m just stating facts here.

My throat tightens.

‘Please do excuse me, Rafe.’ Lauren’s voice snaps me out of my mental fuck-fest. Jesus Christ, I went from nought to sixty in no time at all there. ‘The McPartlins have arrived. I just need to make them feel welcome.’

‘Of course,’ I say smoothly. Thank you, universe. I can’t be all bad if the powers that be still deem it acceptable to work in my favour, can I?

‘I’m Belle.’ The beautiful honey-blonde creature shakes my hand with a surprisingly decent grip, although those incredible tiger eyes of hers are impossibly wide.

‘Belle.’ My mouth curves up into a smirk. ‘Appropriate.’

‘It’s short for Belina, actually,’ she says, flustered, as she extricates her hand from mine.

I frown. ‘Belina? I’ve never heard of that name. What is it—Italian?’

‘It’s French. I’m named after a twelfth-century French saint.’

‘Let me guess.’ I arch an eyebrow. ‘Virgin martyr.’

An angry red stains her jaw and her bare neck.

Fascinating.

I bet that crimson hue rips across her flesh when she comes.

‘Unfortunately for her, yes.’ She takes a hasty sip of her wine.

‘That’s a tough act to follow,’ I muse. Jesus. The shit women had to suffer hundreds of years ago. Although too many women of my acquaintance are still in a prison of society’s making and totally fucking oblivious to it. Like this one here, if my instincts are right.

‘It’s just a name. And I happen to think it’s pretty.’ There’s a droplet of white wine on her lower lip. It takes all my limited reserves of decency not to reach up and swipe at it. Her small pink tongue darts out to lick it, and I groan inwardly.

Jesus Christ.

On second thoughts, I retract that bet with myself.

There’s no way Luke, or whoever he was, didn’t push his dick past those lips. There’s no way anyone could resist that pink plushness around their cock.

‘It’s very pretty, Belina,’ I say with a coolness I don’t feel. And she’s right. It is. Screw the poor girl a millennium ago who died to preserve her virtue. It’s a great name.

And I really like the way it sounds on my tongue.

‘So when did you move in, Rafe?’ she asks, the politely bland tone she’s likely been bred to adopt at parties at odds with her face, which still looks discomfited.

I really like that I’m making her twitchy.

And I like my name on her lips even more.

Even if the emphasis she gives it suggests she’s taking the piss out of me for doing the same with her name.

‘Around Easter. Same time your parents moved back into this place.’ I look around admiringly. They’ve done a stunning job here. ‘Between us, I think we pissed all the neighbours off pretty royally with our renovations.’

That earns me a genuine giggle, and it’s fucking adorable.

‘I hope you’re ready to grovel this evening, then,’ she says. ‘Sounds like someone needs to get back in the good books. Otherwise the McPartlins might set their kids on you as punishment.’

She leans in as she whispers this last bit, and the intimacy of it gives me a jolt of pleasure.

‘I have no idea who the McPartlins are, or their kids,’ I tell her. ‘Should I be scared?’

She grins at me. Her eyes are shining with delight at whatever conspiracy she thinks we’re undertaking, when, really, I’m just watching that pink fuck-me mouth.

‘Let’s say there’s a reason why Mummy didn’t invite them here this evening. The flat’s no longer considered an appropriate place for them to, uh, play post renovation. They’re holy terrors.’ She mouths the last words, and I’m torn between watching her lips and marvelling at the fact that she still calls her mum Mummy. It serves as an uncomfortably hot reminder of just how young she is.

‘Jesus,’ I say. ‘Sounds like I need to earn some brownie points tonight, then.’

‘Definitely.’ Her eyes dance. ‘But you’re settling in well? Where were you before?’

‘I had a place in Chelsea, but my offices are in Mayfair, and I like being a bit further north—means I can walk through the park to work. And yes, I’m settling in fine, thanks.’

Especially now I know you’ll be spending the summer here. Right underneath me, as it were.

‘Is your flat similar to this?’ she asks, and I can tell she means it innocently. Her expression is guileless. Unfortunately, she’s not trying to get into my flat. Or my boxers.

I cast my eyes around the space. ‘The layout looks similar. My terrace is bigger, just because it’s the penthouse. My colour scheme’s far darker.’

‘Like, evil lair darker?’

I mock-frown. ‘I’m pretty sure the brief I gave the designer was opulently masculine. Intimate. But you’re welcome to come and look around sometime if you’re curious.’

I throw the invitation out lightly, but her brow creases.

‘Oh God—I wasn’t angling for an invitation. Sorry.’

‘I know you weren’t.’ I shrug easily and raise my tumbler to my mouth. ‘But the door’s open anytime, whether you need something or you want to drool over my art. That’s what tonight’s about, correct? So you have some friendly faces in the building while you’re staying here?’

‘I suppose so. But I wouldn’t want to impose.’

‘Never an imposition.’ You have no idea, sweetheart, how much I’d love to get you into my evil lair.

Her face brightens. ‘Tell me about your art.’

‘You like art?’

‘I’m in art.’

‘Really?’ My eyebrow raises again. ‘What area?’

‘Well…’ She looks prepared to backtrack. ‘I feel a bit pompous saying I’m in art when I’ve just started. I got a job at Liebermann’s.’

I purse my lips, impressed. ‘They’re the real deal.’

‘Thanks. I’m super junior, but it’s a dream come true.’

‘What are you doing for them?’

‘I’m a junior sales associate. I just started last month—I finished my Master’s early.’

Liebermann’s is one of the most prestigious contemporary art galleries in the world, with offices in London and New York. I’ve bought a couple of pieces from them, but clearly I need to frequent them more often.

‘Do they have you on commission yet?’

‘Yeah.’ She nods proudly. She’s adorable.

‘Hmm. I buy most of my stuff from Gagosian or White Cube,’ I tell her. ‘But maybe I should broaden my horizons.’ My dealer at Gagosian is also a member of Alchemy, and let’s say we’ve enjoyed each other’s company outside the walls of the gallery.

‘You could come in one day,’ she says shyly. ‘See what we’ve got to offer. I’d be happy to show you around.’

Again, she says it guilelessly. She’s not angling for commission or flirting with me. But my stupid cock can’t help but twitch. Clever bastards, snapping her up. I get a crystal-clear vision of her sashaying through the gallery in that white dress. She exudes class. What an asset she’ll be to them, especially if she knows her stuff.

A few questions from me tell me she really does know her stuff. This woman’s surprising me. I’d have her down for an Impressionist bore, or an Old Masters whore, but she really does know her Twombly from her Gormley. It’s a reminder to myself not to be such a patronising shit. Not to underestimate her.

‘I’ve been on a spree recently for the flat,’ I say now. ‘But I’ve got a couple of spaces left that need some special pieces. Maybe you can come and take a look once you’ve moved in. Let me know what you think would work.’

‘I’d love to,’ she says brightly, and I smile at her as I grip my tumbler more tightly.

You cannot fuck Lauren’s sweet little daughter.

You cannot fuck Lauren’s sweet little daughter.

You cannot fuck Lauren’s sweet little daughter.


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