The Curse of Saint ValentinebyTamLin01©
"He that falls into sin is a man; that grieves at it, is a saint; that boasteth of it, is a devil."
"It's a heart."
Kennan turned the Valentine card over in his hand. "It doesn't look anything like a heart," he said.
"No one would want to buy it if it looked like a real heart," said Brigid, stretching out on the seat; her long legs took up most of one side of the limo. Kennan sat opposite her, holding the valentine with the tips of two fingers like a used tissue, while Ailbe sat in the other corner, looking out the window and saying nothing. Outside was Rome.
"I got it in St. Bathans," Brigid said. "You could say thank you, since I bought it just for you, because it's Valentine's Day tomorrow. It means I think you're special. You can tell because it says 'You're Special.' Right there in the heart."
Kennan looked at Ailbe. "How far to the hotel?"
"It's on the Via Babuino," said Ailbe. He was still looking out the window.
"Is this champagne? Kennan, there's champagne!" Brigid held up the bottle.
"I see that," Kennan said and turned back to Ailbe. "So who is this friend we're meeting?"
"His name's Inus," Ailbe said. "He's some kind of promoter. We only met once."
"You only met him once but he paid for the limo to pick us up from the airport?" said Brigid. "That was nice of him. Kennan, don't you think that was nice of him?"
"He got interested after I told him about our family's problem—"
"You told him?!" Kennan said, choking, and even Brigid went pale.
"Not the whole thing," Ailbe rushed to add. "Not, you know, what it actually is. But I told him the bit about Valentine's Day. In general terms."
"How general?" said Kennan.
"You shouldn't have told him anything at all," said Kennan.
"I know that," said Ailbe. "It was an...awkward situation. I don't really want to talk about it." Brigid peered very closely; was Ailbe blushing? "The point is he can get us to the saint. We're meeting for dinner tonight."
Then the champagne cork popped and wine fountained onto the leather seats and Brigid laughed. "Don't open that!" Ailbe said. Brigid giggled. The bottle was still in her hands the bubbles tickling her fingers. Ailbe sighed. "You shouldn't have done that," he said.
"Why not?" said Brigid. "They must have expected we'd drink it if they put it in here. Are there glasses?"
"Here," Kennan said. Ailbe gave him a dirty look but he shrugged. "Well we can't un-open it now," Kennan said. He let Brigid fill his glass halfway, but Ailbe refused his. Brigid pouted.
"Don't be a beast," she said. "We're family and we haven't seen each other in ages. And we're in Rome—Rome! Have some fun already."
"We're not here for fun," Ailbe said.
"Family business can be still fun," Brigid said. Kennan passed her a glass but she took a drink out of the bottle instead. It fizzled on her tongue. "Besides, I had a birthday a week ago and you never even called me. Not that I'm mad; I don't expect you to remember. Nobody ever remembers."
"You don't remember ours," said Ailbe.
"Maura's is February 1st," Brigid said, "and she's 49. Ailbe yours is February 29th, and you'll be 42. Kennan yours is the 22nd, and you'll be 35. and of course I'm 28 now. See, I know the whole family, so that means you have to help me drink this, to console me for my brothers not calling me on my birthday, not that I expected them to and by the way I'm not even a little mad."
She handed Ailbe a glass and he took it, but didn't drink. Brigid stretched all the way out so that when she drank from the bottle it spilled a little; she liked the feeling of the bubbles fizzing on the sinews of her neck. "I wish Maura was here," she said.
"She has a family of her own to think about," said Aidan. "The twins are seven now. This'll be their first year."
"Poor little pups," said Brigid. Then she sat up. "But if the saint helps then maybe it won't be their first year. Maybe it won't happen at all this year, or ever again! And then we can be a real family who calls each other on their birthdays and visits on holidays and everything." She looked at Kennan. "Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
"Wonderful," Kennan said, drinking his entire glass all at once. "I still think this is a stupid idea."
Before Ailbe could reply the intercom buzzed and the driver informed them they'd arrived. Without waiting Brigid sprang from the limo and let the Mediterranean sun shine on her long, bare limbs. "Rome!" she said again, "It's Rome, we're here, we're here!"
"Yes," said Kennan, climbing out of the limo after her, "it's Rome." He shrugged. And Ailbe sighed.
Dinner at il Sanlorenzo: shimmering crystal chandeliers, wine goblets so clear they were scarcely visible, and small portions of steaming shellfish so richly seasoned Brigid almost couldn't put them in her mouth. She ate flats of raw oysters, hot and sweet; Kennan cracked crab legs with his fingers and drew the meat out with his teeth, working his way down each segment and leaving the broken bits in a porcelain dish; Ailbe's scabbard fish still had its head on and stared up at him with one glum, yellow eye. He wasn't eating.
Inus was in his early 40s, with a high forehead and salt and pepper beard. He wore a tightly fitting suit with a dove-grey undershirt and silver cufflinks, and ate a plate of pasta garnished with raw sea urchins. "Most of the fish here is served raw," he explained, stabbing one with his fork.
"I like raw," said Brigid, dropping an oyster shell. Inus smiled at her.
"And we're actually sitting on the ruins of the Theater of Pompey right now," he added. His accent was not Italian
"Respectful," said Kennan. He cracked a crab claw. Inus smiled again.
"I'm not really one for taboos. I think I told Ailbe that when we met." Ailbe blushed again and tried to hide it in his wine glass. "How do you like the hotel?"
"Kennan's room is bigger than mine," Brigid said. She stuck her lower lip out for a second. "And his bed is springier. I tried to talk him into trading but he won't. Maybe we'll just have to share it."
Ailbe choked. Kennan said nothing. Inus chuckled. "So what do you do here?" Kennan said, brushing bits of crab shell off his sleeve.
"Imports, mostly," said Inus.
"Ailbe said you were a promoter. Which is it?"
"I'm sure he does both," Brigid said, before Inus had to answer. "I'm sure he does a lot of things. Oh, I'm out of wine and I'm out of oysters."
"We'll fix that," Inus said, signaling for a waiter. "And you're right, I do a lot of different things, including some promotions. But it's very special kinds of promotion: the quiet kind, for events that only want to attract certain kinds of people."
"Like this party tomorrow?" Brigid said.
"Yes, exactly. It's a small gathering I do every year at Valentine's Day for the benefit of certain charming and uninhibited individuals who ought to all get to know each other better in an illuminating atmosphere."
"Sounds like an orgy," Kennan said.
"It is," said Ailbe.
Without missing a beat Kennan said, "Guess I'll have to leave my wedding ring in the hotel."
"You'd probably have better luck if you kept it on," said Inus, and Brigid laughed very loud. "Anyway, you won't have to do anything you don't want to, but Ailbe said he thought you'd all be interested and I must say I was intrigued to meet his family."
"Will you be there?" Brigid said, leaning forward.
"I always attend."
"And will the saint be there?" Kennan said.
"I wouldn't leave out our guest of honor. Although I have never met anyone so interested."
"It's a family thing. How much is this costing us?" said Kennan.
"That's already taken care of," Ailbe said. The waiter was refilling all of their glasses.
"But you took care of it with the foundation's money, so I still want to know."
"Don't be such a pill, Kennan," Brigid said, balling up her napkin and tossing it at him. "If you and Ailbe are going to argue go do it outside and let me enjoy myself. Go on, shoo, both of you; I want time alone with our host." She dragged her chair around to Inus' side of the table and picked an urchin off his plate.
Inus watched the brothers leave, frowning. "I hope there's no trouble. I thought everyone understood the particulars?"
"No trouble at all, they're always like that. If they didn't have something to argue about they'd make something up. They'll both be there tomorrow and so will I. I love Valentine's Day. Everyone else in the family hates it, but I love it. You're out of urchins."
"You're out of oysters."
"I'm not hungry now. Do you live in Rome?"
"I live a lot of places, but this isn't one of them."
"So you have a hotel?"
"Is your room nicer than mine too?"
"Would you like to find out?"
"My hand is in your pocket."
"I'm looking for your room key."
"Have you found it?"
Brigid watched the champagne bubbles rise in her glass. "I think I'm drunk," she said.
"Is that so?" said Inus. The words were muffled, of course, since his face was buried in her crotch. She was naked on the bed of his penthouse suite except for her white stockings, and while Inus' beard scratched the inside of her thighs she sipped the champagne slowly, letting it run cool and easy down her throat.
"I had most of a bottle in the limo, and then three glasses of wine at dinner, and then..." She looked at the now-empty bottle lying on the bed, "However much of this. So yes. I think that does it."
Inus had, among other things, a rather versatile tongue and a nice-looking ass, and Brigid kept an eye on one while she enjoyed the other. The curtains were drawn but she could still imagine the great glistening panorama of Rome outside. It, more than the pleasing tickle of Inus' tongue up and down her cunt, gave her gooseflesh on her arms.
"This party tomorrow," she said, setting the empty glass on the nightstand. "is it really going to be worth the trip? I've been thinking maybe I won't go."
"Your reservation is already paid for," Inus said. "It'll go to waste if you don't. And I think your brothers are counting on you being there."
"Kennan doesn't care where I am or what I'm doing, and Ailbe wants to see me at an orgy about as much as he wants to step on a light bulb." Her voice trembled a little as the tip of his tongue tickled the inside of her lips. "Do a circle like that again, please. Mmm. Good."
"They both seem to think it's very important that you're there. I still don't really understand why your brother is so interested. He doesn't seem the type."
"You're talking too much." She pushed on the back of his head and wrapped her legs around him, stretching out and twining her fingers through the lattice of the headboard. "It's because of Valentine's Day. There's a family superstition...we're not really supposed to talk about it, but bad things happen to us on Valentine's Day. They say it's a curse going all the way back to Old Rome. And do you know, it's really true?"
"Is that so?"
"No talking." He resumed his lapping and soon the room was filled with the scent of her wetness and the faint sound of his licking tongue. "Mmmph. Well yes, it's really true. I mean, I don't know about the exact story, so much, but it's true that bad things always happen to us on Valentine's Day. It's the hardest for poor Ailbe, for some reason."
"What about you?" Inus said. He rose from her, wiping his mouth on the back of his arm. Brigid crawled across the bed, taking his half-erect cock in her hands and squeezing the base of it.
"It's not as bad for me. Ailbe and I are...different sorts of animals. Under the skin." She licked up and down him. "Ailbe thinks the saint will help. I don't really know...but you're right, I should go along anyway. We're family. And I'm sure it'll be fun."
Inus chuckled. "What a mysterious lot you all are. And there are more like you? I think I'd like to meet the entire clan."
"All right, but you can't fuck Kennan, he doesn't go that way. Did you fuck Ailbe?" She teased one of his balls with her tongue, then the other, then licked up to the base of the shaft and around it. "He has a wife; her name's Natalia. But I always figured he didn't really like women that way. He never talks about it, though."
"If I had, I'm sure he wouldn't want me to talk about it either."
With practiced assurance Brigid popped the head of his cock into her mouth and slid down it while her tongue slithered along the sides. Wrapping her mouth as tight around him as she could she slurped all the way up and then down again, squeezing his shaft with the rippling cushion of her lips. While this happened she traced a line on the backs of his thighs with her fingernails, tickling the delicate hairs there and letting the pulse of his blood fill her mouth.
"What about you?" he said. "Is there anyone back home?"
She slid him out again, making a little popping sound when the head left her mouth. "I was going around New Zealand with Saint Cecilia's Bloody Heart. That's a band. The drummer's my boyfriend, mostly. We might be broken up now but I'm not really sure. Does it matter?"
Pleased with the way her spit made the tip of his cock gleam she licked it again, swirling her tongue around the tip and flicking the opening before flipping over onto all fours and wiggling her hips. She grabbed the headboard and grunted as he pushed into her from behind; he was not the most deft and refined of lovers when it came to the big finish. Still, the steady, reliable rhythm of his still-wet cock pumping in and out of her and the added force of his hands grabbing her shoulders and pulling her onto him sent a tight quiver through her insides, and when he came it was a hot squirt deep inside that made him flag only for a few seconds before picking up the pace again. By the end she was at least bruised in the right places.
The air in the room felt sticky, so they moved to the shower, Brigid stripping off her stockings and letting the hot water run over her while Inus' large hands soaped her body, taking particular time cupping and squeezing her breasts.
"Let's see, what else is there to say about us? Kennan is some kind of contractor out in San Luis Obispo; restores old buildings, I think. And you know Ailbe, he does investing with the family money, I think in St. Petersburg now. I'm not sure what else to tell you. None of us talk that much."
She turned, slipping her arms around his waste and squeezing his ass with both hands while she kissed him, tasting the wine on his breath. She caught a glimpse of herself in the rapidly fogging mirror and frowned. "Oh God, what time is it?"
"It must be just past midnight," he said, bending to kiss her neck.
"That means it's Valentine's Day." She watched her reflection fog over. "I think this is going to be one of those very bad years..."
"Can I take the blindfold off yet?" Brigid said.
Agnes giggled. "We're not supposed to, but I already did."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
More giggling. "Because it was funnier this way."
Brigid tsked and took the blindfold off, but outside the car windows it was so dark she could hardly see anything anyway. "Is this a park?"
"It's a cemetery," said Agnes. "Well sort of. Just sit back and relax." She patted Brigid on the knee. They sat side by side in a town car with a mute driver ferrying them to whatever mysterious locale Inus had set up for the Valentine's Day party. Kennan and Ailbe were in a separate car, and Brigid had ended up in the leftover vehicle with Agnes, a chipper 20-something Greek girl also on the guest list. "Inus sets us up some place new every year."
"You've done this before?"
"Oh yes," Agnes nodded several times. "I go to lots of Inus' parties because he does work for my father and because he always picks the best spots for them. We had a Christmas party in the Basilica of St. Paul a few months ago. I sucked his cock in front of the Holy Door."
"How'd he arrange that?"
"He asked me to."
"I meant about the cathedral."
"Well, getting into these things costs so much because he has to pay off a lot of people, including the Vatican police. Inus says bribing people is much harder than you think: You have to be the kind of person people want to accept a bribe from. It's really amazing what he can do."
"I guess it is. I think I've decided I don't like him though,"
"I usually stop liking someone after I sleep with them. It's my nature." Brigid peered out the window. "It's getting so late..."
"You can't have a party like this during the day."
"I'm just worried about my brothers. This is a bad day for them."
"Are you all right, dear? You're looking a little flustered."
"Sometimes it's a bad day for me too."
They stopped and the driver helped them out. Another car had expelled three or four other people, including Ailbe and Kennan, and they all found themselves in a little green grove separated from the street by a stone wall, and there was a metal door set into what looked like the side of a grassy hill—but perhaps not a normal hill? It had an odd shape. Excusing herself from Agnes, Brigid made her way over to her brothers.
"Have you met Agnes?" she said. "Her father is some kind of broker in Santorini. I think—Oh my God, Kennan, are you all right?"
He was sweating and red-faced, and he seemed ready to double over in pain. As she watched he trembled like the last leaf on a tree and Ailbe patted him on the back over and over, telling him to breathe.
"Jesus, he's got it bad this time," Brigid said, dropping down to look him in the eyes. "Kennan, do you need us to take you away?"
"No," he managed to say.
"You just have to keep it together for another hour," Ailbe said. "Can you do that? We're all holding it back. It's just as bad for everyone."
Kenna nodded, but he didn't look confident. His eyes were jaundiced. Brigid pulled Ailbe to the side and whispered. "How are you holding up?"
" I can keep it off. We just have to make it through the dinner. Things will be fine then."
"Ailbe, I don't know if this is a good idea, especially not with how bad Kennan is. Inus is kind of a creep—"
"You didn't think so last night."
"I'm allowed to change my mind. How is this party really going to help us?"
"If we leave now we'll never get this close to the saint again. We've already come this far, and...I really think everything will be all right. I do. But I can't do this alone."
Brigid sighed, but she squeezed his hand back. "Then we'll do it together. I just hope it's worth it. There's going to be a lot of people around..."
The driver unlocked the door in the hill with an old, heavy key and indicated that they should all get in and out of sight as quickly as they could. Inside was a cave-like anteroom of limestone walls and uneven tiles in a clay floor. The roof was low and a draft came up from below. Each of them held a candle and in the flickering yellow light of it Brigid saw Agnes wink at her. They formed a procession down the earthen steps and the dark, narrow tunnels yawned open below them. Something like shelves were dug into the walls and Brigid's heart jumped up when she recognized the empty sockets of a skull staring out at her. It's a catacomb, she realized.
Kennan made a sound like a whimper. Come on big brother, keep it together, she thought. Agnes tittered at the ancient bones. "You'll find the basilica more comfortable than this," the driver said. "Just ahead."
A draft made the candles flutter out; Agnes screamed and then laughed and in the dark grabbed Brigid's hand and Brigid took her arm, leading her on. There was light up ahead and as they turned the corner and passed through the portico and into the nave the room did indeed broaden and the roof rose and the air grew artificially warm. Brigid saw that lights and heaters had been smuggled in, and expensive rugs laid on the floor, and incense burned to chase off the must of the crypt, and in the center of the tomb was a long table set with glassware and silver and a half dozen waiters standing by. Inus' white teeth almost glowed as he smiled.