Freedom Through Faith


"You already look like you're gonna burst," Amber commented, looking away again.

Scott glanced down as if he hadn't noticed his body's own reactions. "Oh, Jesus," he grumbled.

"At least you're not intimidated," Amber added, biting back a laugh. "I just don't know how you can walk without it flopping--"

"Grass sure is green today, isn't it?" he cut her off pointedly. Amber just grinned and squeezed his hand again.

There were several people who waved to them from both clusters of people as the group approached the house. Most had drinks in their hands, a few sported sunglasses. One woman stood out among the group on the deck, both by physically stepping forward and by virtue of being exceptionally beautiful. Her eyes, her smile and her shapely curves were soft and inviting yet all carried an easy, unshakable confidence. Dark hair hung past her shoulders. She wore nothing but silver earrings, a silver necklace and a similar silver chain on her ankle.

She was a longtime friend of his parents, probably as long as he could remember. He'd only met her a few times, but he knew that Dana and Justin thought the world of Julia. She'd been at their place for Thanksgiving once or twice. Helped plan Justin's 40th birthday barbecue. She was in the wedding pictures.

Naturally, Scott developed a horrible crush on her in his teen years, but given that he only saw her once or twice a year at most, it didn't amount to much. Standing there naked in front of her, looking at her without a stitch of clothing on her in turn, Scott momentarily felt speechless. He was glad he wasn't the center of attention.

Julia smiled as they came to the steps up to the deck. "I was hoping you'd have come in last night," the woman said, and stepped into Justin's arms. Scott blinked as his naked father hugged this exceptionally sexy naked woman close right in front of Dana, and blinked again as the woman gave him a soft, albeit very quick, kiss on the lips.

Then she turned and did the same to Dana, who was similarly welcoming. "Hi, Julia," Dana smiled back.

"It's nice to have you back here regularly again," Julia told them. Then she looked toward Scott and Amber. "Hi, Scott," she said with just enough of a grin and a laugh in her voice that she had to know how floored he was to see her like this. She didn't seem the least bit worried.

Julia stepped between his parents, offering her hand rather than a hug. Scott was much more relieved than disappointed, but he couldn't help feeling both reactions. He accepted her hand and shook it lightly. "It's wonderful to finally have you here."

"Um. You, too," Scott stammered. "I never really got to hear much about this place. Not much at all." He glanced accusingly at his father, who simply chuckled.

"Well, I couldn't blame them for waiting until you older," Julia shrugged. She, too, tossed his parents a wry look. "But if I can forgive them for holding out until they were sure you were ready for this, I imagine you can, too. And you must be Amber?"

"Hi," Amber smiled. She was just about to raise her hand up when Julia stepped close and gave her a brief hug. Amber's eyes went wide, looking at Scott over Julia's shoulder until the older woman stepped back again.

"I was warned that you are absolutely lovely," Julia beamed, "I'll try to remind the guys not to stare."

"Oh wow," Amber blushed. She glanced away, then took a subtle, nervous step closer to Scott.

"Don't worry. We don't bite. We'll get you all set up with rooms. Would anyone care for a drink?"

Scott and Amber shared a look, and a thought: do not get drunk with the naked people. "We're good," they said in unison.



The name hung over the large Jacuzzi for a moment, almost suspended in the air by the hint of a grin on Julia's lips. She reclined against the side of the Jacuzzi, her blue eyes staring out at the young couple across from her. To her right were Scott's parents. To her left were Craig, Steven and Linh, all of them in their late twenties and in good spirits. The heat was turned off, totally unnecessary as it was on such a warm summer's day, but the bubble jets still offered relaxation.

"Just Aphrodite?" Amber asked. "I know at least a few of the other statues around here are other gods and stuff." Her eyes were aglow with interest. She had been an eager listener during the quick tour around the house and the naked luncheon that followed, happy to find that everyone here spoke to her like a person and not just a piece of meat despite the outright nudity. Most of that had been dominated by small talk. The impact of all that was significant, though; the more she saw of how comfortable and cheerful everyone else was around one another, the more at ease she felt.

Scott was getting there, but not as quickly. He wasn't worried about spontaneously orgasming or otherwise embarrassing himself anymore, and he didn't feel quite so vulnerable once people were talking about their jobs and sports and their home lives. But there was still a good deal here to adjust to, and the constant positive vibes made him worry about things seeming too good to be true. He wondered about the catch, because there just had to be one. It wasn't until now, though, that the conversation had finally turned to the circle's theology.

"We honor other gods, yes," Julia nodded with something of a slow, solemn blink. "I would like to tell you that John Lennon was right and that love really is all you need, but the fact is that love doesn't really solve everything. Sometimes love is entirely irrelevant. So yes, we honor Zeus and Hera and the rest. But we follow Aphrodite and direct ourselves toward her because it is her arms that we want around us."

"I've met some guys who have the Ares commune out in the mountains," Steven put in with a wry grimace. "Not exactly fun people."

"I suspect they aren't doing it right," Linh said with pursed lips.

"Well, what's it mean to do it right?" Scott asked thoughtfully. "I mean for you folks. Aphrodite's the goddess of love, right?"

"Erotic love," Julia corrected him. Her eyes were fixed upon his from across the water as she said it, holding the look for just the heartbeat it took to make him blink. Amber caught the moment and barely stifled a giggle as he blushed.

Julia pushed on. "Desire, beauty and pleasure. Procreation. We feel solace and joy when we get all that, and sorrow when we don't. One has to keep desire and passion in perspective. Aphrodite does this for her faithful. Like all the gods, Aphrodite is neither wholly benevolent nor thoroughly rotten. There are moments where we are left to our own devices, and there are moments when she tests us. And as I just said, there are many aspects of life in which Aphrodite has little or no direct sway. But the rewards she gives to her faithful are without comparison."

"Like what kind of rewards?" Amber ventured.

Julia nodded to Scott once more. "Like your boyfriend, Amber," she said. "Justin and Dana wanted a child--just one. They received a healthy, vibrant, intelligent boy. One could say that this was simply the work of good genes and healthy habits, and certainly those played a part, but either one believes in the influence of gods or one does not.

"But there are less subtle blessings," Julia added.

She glanced to Dana, who sat across Justin's lap with one arm draped around his neck. The sunglasses were still there. Dana caught Julia's look, turned to Justin and saw him shrug. Then she looked over to her son and Amber. "Your father and I have never used condoms. Ever. No birth control pills. One child. No more, no less. I don't even try to keep track of my period."

"Wow," Amber replied.

"You don't think that' don't think there's another explanation?" Scott wondered.

"Scott, if it was all just straight biology, you would've had brothers and sisters by now. Hell, we'd have had a whole football team. And cheerleaders."

His son blinked. "Oh, God. TMI, Dad."

Most of his companions in the large Jacuzzi laughed. "It really isn't, Scott," Julia said. "I can all but guarantee that your parents make love more often than any other couple you know, young or old. I'm something of an expert on these things," she grinned. "They haven't been able to get enough of one another even while living together for twenty-five years. Chances are they never will."

"And that's all Aphrodite?" Amber pressed. She hadn't turned off her own filter, but she couldn't remain entirely skeptical, either. "You don't think they had something to do with it themselves?"

"Certainly they did. They fell in love all on their own. But that continued passion is as much a matter of following her example and beseeching her blessings as it is anything else," Julia explained. "A man can treat his wife like chattel and sit around on his ass drinking beer and watching football, or he can pursue his love as intensely as the day of their first kiss. The goddess certainly has her preferences in this. What is a goddess if she is not a guide to those who follow?"

Amber slipped her hand into Scott's again. She smiled and leaned her head against his shoulder. "Preach it, sister," she grinned. It got more than a few laughs.

"Hey--" Scott spoke up.

Amber shushed him. "I'm not complaining. At all. I tell everyone you're awesome. I just like thinking that you'll stay that way."

"He'd better," Dana put in. "He's got a legacy to keep up."

"In all my time under Aphrodite, I have never seen a divorce among the faithful," Julia said, moving the conversation along. "Splits between lovers are also rare. Casual relationships come and go, but almost never end with acrimony or disrespect. Not among the faithful, at any rate. There are those who love non-believers, and by and large they remain blessed, but..." Julia shrugged. "As with anything, there are relationships that can withstand religious differences and those that can't. Aphrodite doesn't demand that her faithful love only the faithful, but naturally two followers have more blessings to share between one another than one has alone."

"Call that effective application of philosophy," Justin offered. "Call it divine guidance. Either way, it seems to work."

"Is that why everyone's so beautiful here, too?" Amber asked. "Is that a blessing? Or do you only recruit attractive people?"

At that, Julia frowned thoughtfully. "We get that question sometimes. The straight answer is no, we don't 'recruit' for good looks. "We 'recruit' among people who seem like they have an open enough mind to understand. Not all of them embrace Aphrodite, but we don't risk our openness and our ways among those who would likely reject them out of hand," Julia said.

"I don't want to lie to you or hide things from you. That's the opposite from why you were brought here. But if I were to show you what are more or less some before and after pictures of a few of the people here, you'd probably think I was outright lying and making things up."

She gestured out toward the open clearing around the house, where nude men and women strolled and talked together. As Amber had noted, they were generally all rather attractive. Every one of them had some manner of physical appeal, even if it was mere cuteness or simply being in good shape. "How many people do you know who'd come out here and parrot back whatever would appease us simply in the hopes of getting laid?"

Scott snorted. "Quite a few."

"Absolutely. And yes, you are correct. These are beautiful people. They follow a goddess of beauty. If she accepts a follower and that follower truly accepts her, then yes...there are visible rewards over time. It doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't fix everything, either. If you look closer, you will find flaws. You will find wrinkles and blemishes and scars. You are seeing the blessings of a goddess, but you are also seeing the benefits of an active lifestyle that truly mitigates stress, and a philosophy that grants far greater comfort than what most poor souls can find these days. You saw the cars in the driveway. Some of these people struggle to get by, but we all love one another. We do what we can for one another. There is earnest community here. None of us have any interest in letting one another drown."

They fell silent for a moment. "Huh," Scott finally grunted.

"What?" Julia asked.

"I just...I dunno. I guess I can see what you mean. I was starting to think you found all your people at a modeling agency, but now I feel like I should look closer."

"Don't be disappointed if you don't find any ugliness," Julia chuckled. "I'd be a terrible high priestess if I didn't hold that Aphrodite's people are beautiful because of her favor. That is exactly what I believe. She blesses her faithful."

Scott nodded. "Welcome to our cult, here's your free liposuction," he grinned.

At that, Julia laughed. Amber gave him a playful shove. "Don't be a jerk," she said.

"I'm not," Scott shrugged. "It's just all too good to be true, y'know?" He looked back to Julia. "I mean isn't there a catch somewhere? What do you have to do to be a good follower?"

Justin, Dana and the other faithful in the Jacuzzi glanced at one another, their faces all splitting into wide, knowing grins. Julia alone maintained a serene smile. She stood up in the Jacuzzi, water slipping from her shoulders, her breasts, her belly and legs all as if placed there just to punctuate her sensual figure. She held out her hands to each of them. "Come," she smiled.

Amber looked at Scott for a moment, who had to blink and look away to keep from staring at the soft black hair between Julia's legs. His eyes came to Amber's and saw an almost worrisome eagerness there. She was really getting into this. Scott shrugged, unable to deny his gorgeous girlfriend much of anything. They both rose and took one of Julia's hands.

It was warm and sunny enough that they didn't really need to towel off. Julia soon released their hands, letting them fall in behind her as she walked across the clearing with them toward the small white building surrounded by Greek columns. They passed other men and women, some of them nodding hello while others simply left them to their business.

"The first and foremost rule is of trust and respect," Julia said as they walked. Her words snapped both Amber and Scott out of the reverie of simply watching the nude woman take one step after another. "You must trust and respect Aphrodite, and your lover, and yourself. You must respect your own desires. Sometimes that means they must be controlled and even denied, but for the most part you have to learn how to follow them. Trust the goddess and be honest with her in this and she will show you the way."

"That sounds like it's meant to be simple but turns out really complicated in the end," Scott observed.

The priestess nodded. "You aren't wrong for considering that. It is more complicated, at least at first. Once one accepts Aphrodite's way, though, it truly becomes simple after all." She reached the doors to the white building and turned to face them.

"There are sacrifices to be made to truly follow the goddess. There are emotions and habits that you have to cast aside in order to truly find the love and pleasure she offers, and for many that isn't easy. But there are many things which stay simple from the very start."

Julia reached to a small recess behind one column and produced a long match, which she struck along the column and then used to light a hanging lantern. Then she turned to open the door. Julia cupped one hand around the match flame to protect it as she moved. "Enter here in love," she smiled, turning to lead them inside.

Aside from a single door off to the left, open to reveal a humble bathroom, the white building was comprised of a single wide room. Several windows cut high up into the walls provided some light, which was enhanced as Julia moved along the walls lighting candles and lanterns. Much of the floor was taken up by a large, hand-crafted mattress. Pillows of every shape and size were strewn thoughtfully around the edges. Embedded in one wall was a hearth. Standing in an alcove of another wall was a white statue of a naked beauty, arms falling from her breasts as if to reveal them rather than to conceal.

Everything about the room lent itself to intimacy. Amber's heart beat heavily, her breath deepening as she looked around and found herself moving closer to Scott. He clearly felt it, too; she could hear it in his breath. Glancing down, she saw that he was as hard as he'd ever been with her. Perhaps more. His hand found hers and drew her close.

Julia glanced at them, smiling knowingly, and then knelt in front of the statue. "Take them into your arms," she said reverently. "Let them learn of you through one another."

Her prayer was simple and short. With that, she rose again and faced them.

"Remain as long as you like," Julia told them in a voice barely above a whisper. She gestured to one side of the room. "There are lotions, towels, blankets and water if you wish. Think nothing of time or place or the world outside. In this room there is only the goddess and those who embody her love. Obey your desires. They are all sacred here."

Neither Scott nor Amber could think of anything to say before Julia turned to the statue, knelt and bowed her head again, then rose to leave. She closed the door behind them.

"Wow," Scott managed.

Amber turned to him and slipped into his arms, sinking into the feeling of his bare skin against hers. "God, I've wanted to be alone with you ever since we got here."

Touching him in so many places at once gave him a rush. She felt incredible in his arms. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"I'm wonderful. I've felt great all day. I just..." Amber was only an inch shorter than Scott. She didn't have to tilt her head up much for her lips to meet his and kiss him with slow, hungry need. They held one another close, arms moving over one another's bodies as if this were their first time together.

Finally, Amber pulled back from the kiss to look her lover in the eyes. "I've never wanted or needed anything as bad as I want you right now," she whispered.

He felt entirely the same way. No matter how many smiling, naked beauties he had seen all day, what Scott wanted most was to drag Amber off into the woods alone. They had rules, though. Scott was all too conscious of the rules. He didn't want to lose her. "Yeah. Me, too. I just don't know if we're gonna find any condoms in here," he said ruefully.

Amber was already trailing kisses from his shoulder to his neck. "This once I really don't care."

Her groin put a constant pressure on Scott's. She knew perfectly well how the light scratch of her hair against his cock turned him on. The scent of her conditioner filled every shaking breath. "You're making it really hard to think...I just...I just want to take care of you. Us."

"I trust what they said," Amber murmured. "I trust your parents. I really think we're safe. If anything goes wrong, we'll deal with it. I want this, Scott. I want you."

There really wasn't any chance of denying her. Scott knew it, and could only hope with the small part of his brain still capable of thinking that they wouldn't regret this later. Yet even that quiet thought was colored by acceptance. They had to have one another, here and now.

Stepping backward onto the broad cushioned flooring, Scott took Amber's hands to lead her to a comfortable spot to stand. Then he sank to his knees, bringing his hands to her hips. He trailed kisses across her belly, over one hip and then the other, while his hands moved up and down her legs and her sides.

"Oh, baby, you don't have to start with thahh--!" Amber gasped as the first gentle flick of his tongue went across her lips. She winced at the pleasure of it, of having his head moving between her legs and his hands so lovingly roaming over her body. Her eyes fluttered open to see his looking up at her. Amber was already more than wet enough to simply accept him right then and there. They could, this once, skip all the foreplay and just go for it. He had to be dying to have her. She could feel it in his muscles and hear it in his breath. Yet there he was.

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