Salai knew there were two versions of the portrait. He would create a third, ten years after Leonardo finished the second one, posing himself in a mirror with bared arms, fanciful bosom, and an impish grin. Leonardo saw no humor in Salai's mockery.

At 48 years of age, Leonardo ought not to have found himself jobless and moneyless, as indeed he was when an old friend, Francesco Giocondo, sought him out to commission a portrait of his young wife to celebrate their new home, a modest gentrified farmer's house in the lush Tuscan countryside. If given a preference, Leonardo would sooner go hungry than paint a fawning likeness of a wealthy wench for a few coins. However, faced with the prospect of closing his studio and cutting loose Salai and their apprentices, Leonardo took the job.

Leonardo arrived at Francesco's estate midday, wearing a green frock, white blouse, and bright blue pantaloons. Only his brown cowhide boots reflected any semblance of practicality. The master artisan was greeted by Francesco and his gaggle of four children; two were boys and two were girls, as Leonardo surmised. Francesco kissed Leonardo's cheeks by pursing his lips and blowing into the air, whereas Leonardo firmly pressed wet lips to his friend-come-patron's blushing flesh.

After a moment, Madonna Gioconda stepped from her threshold and approached them. Lisa Ghirardelli del Gioconda was dark-haired, plain of face, and somewhat slight of frame, but still young for one who had birthed four pups such as those now curiously eyeing and touching the visiting fellow, attentions which he accepted good-naturedly.

"Signore da Vinci, bona sera!" Lisa spoke in a fully melodic voice, but her smile barely parted her lips. She extended her right hand, which Leonardo took to his lips to kiss. She watched him with a bewitching interest, letting her eyelids shutter at the point of contact. A surge of blood coursed Leonardo's veins, causing both the lady and gentleman to blush, as if a bond had formed. Francesco seemed not to notice. The artist's soul was drawn to Lisa's hands, long-fingered and as large as a man's, so out of place for a gentlewoman of her stature, yet quite intriguing to Leonardo.

At the noon meal, Lisa prepared steamed ostrich eggs, chick peas, basil leaf, and pears. She promised grilled fish on the morrow, should Leonardo be staying with them. Indeed, he would. He expected to make sketches, pose his model in a variety of aspects, and grind a palate of colors from oil and gem stones. Thus, the portrait of Madonna Lisa would be a labor of days, perhaps weeks till completion.

The young matron, hardly more than a maiden herself, was anxious to get started, but Leonardo demurred. "Domani matina!" he said, sitting on a wooden footstool to pull off one leather boot, then the other. "I've taken a long journey afoot from Florence."

"I would think one so acclaimed as you should travel by horse if not carriage," Lisa pronounced in her cantata voice and slightly turned smile, neither tone nor grin disguising her rebuke of Leonardo's circumstances. Oddly, da Vinci felt a pang of insult.

At sunset, the lady of the house bid her husband and his friend good-eventide and led her four saplings up the wooden stairwell to the loft and put them abed. Francesco and Leonardo sat beside each other to urinate in a ceramic chamber pot and sat at table with a carafe of reddish brown wine. They discussed the politics of the Florentine Republic, the vicissitudes of the Medici and their partisans, and the horrific fanaticism of the crazed monk, Savonarola, who sought to sanctify the vanities of the world in flames just a few short years ago.

"Thankfully, Fra Girolamo was hanged and burned," spoke Francesco, an elected member of the Signori, the city's legislative body.

"My young friend, Rafael Santi, rather admired him," Leonardo told Francesco, who simply nodded.

Francesco Giocondo swilled the last cupful of wine and belched loudly. "Shall I decant another?" he asked his longtime friend. They had spent many a playful day and wine besotted night together in their younger ages.

"I rather crave sweet fruit," said Leonardo, "but not of the vine." Thence, he placed his hands firmly on Francesco's shoulders and pressed his lips to the elder man's gray-stubbled chin. Leonardo gave his nose, cheeks, and chin a series of soft kisses, followed by touches to his brow, eyelids, forehead, and earlobes. Francesco heaved a great sigh and embraced Leonardo, breathlessly kissing him upon the mouth, and coaxing him to lay upon the wicker floor matt by caressing his buttocks with a swirling motion of his slender-fingered hands.

Leonardo was still beautiful of face, as Francesco's wife was silently contemplating in her solitary dreams, as she had lain awakened above their heads, fancifully touching her vitals as if he were upon her. Unbeknownst to the faithful wife, Leonardo was lifting Francesco's tunic, and seizing upon his ample manhood.

"Ah, there he is," the man of renown spoke to the swollen, quivering shaft of his compatriot' s penis. First, Leonardo pulled back the foreskin, exposing the helm. Next, he kissed it with a loud smacking sound. Then, he spit a globule of saliva on the tip. With Francesco hoarsely humming in pleasure, Leonardo lowered his head and welcomed the phallus into his mouth. Francesco lovingly stroked Leonardo's long golden brown hair, so much like a woman's, as his friend fellated him. Finally, Leonardo finished with flourishes, swallowing Giocondo's creamy issue with gusto.

Leonardo stood to blow out the candle on the table where the empty wine carafe and cups were strewn about. In the darkness, he undressed and rejoined Francesco on the matt, both male bodies in the nude. They caressed and kissed, savoring one another's masculine odors, until Leonardo nudged Francesco onto his side, placed a wetted finger inside his crack, spread his cheeks, and penetrated his anus like a bull mating a cow. Leonardo heartily fucked his well-to-do friend, who had been married twice before, hence buying 15-year-old Lisa with a generous dowry. Both of Francesco's former spouses had been banished to convents. The second Signora Gioconda, named Carmela, famously took four lusty gentleman to her bed of an evening, giving the local nunnery a more dubiously illustrious status than any brothel in Tuscany.

The two men slept in each other's arms as lovers and woke at daybreak, washed from a common basin, peed into the chamber pot, and dressed in daytime clothing before the young mother and her brood joined them in a morning repast of hard bread, salty lard, and sweet wine. After the morning meal, Francesco prepared for a weeklong trip to the wool market in Florence. He and his younger son and elder daughter loaded bales of shorn lamb's wool onto wagons, while his eldest son, a boy not of Lisa's womb, took charge of the two younger children and ushered them to the farmhouse of a grandmother, presumably Francesco's mother.

The family members' varied excursions were designed to leave Leonardo and Lisa alone to work on the portrait. Leonardo set up his poplar canvas on a wooden easel on the portico at the rear of the house and sharpened a piece of chalk to use for sketching. As Lisa discretely used the chamber pot out of Leonardo's purview, he drew several quick draughts of a full-figure view. Lisa walked outside and came within inches of Leonardo, leaning on his right shoulder to look at his chalk strokes, and she startled him. Clumsily, he used his hands to cover these initial studies, hardly more than shadowy profiles.

"Why, dear sir, do you prevent me from looking upon what you will make of me?" she asked in a haughty, but nonetheless appealing, manner.

"I've not begun anything at all," Leonardo protested. He took note of her shaved eyebrows, after the current fashion among young ladies of the elite class, subtly dimpled chin, slightly prominent nose, and less than plump breasts, more girlish than womanly. He also felt a twinge of excitation standing next to her, as he smelled her distinctly feminine odor. Leonardo experienced a brief bout of guilt for having enjoyed sex in Lisa's husband's ass over the previous night and wondered if she knew not or cared not.

A thought entered the mind's eye of the genius. "Lisa, I pray thee sit." With strong hands about her waist, she laughed with surprise, but still complied, seating herself cross-legged on a stone bench on the portico. She wore a dark frock as long as a dress with silken pantaloons cinched at the waist by a long ropelike belt.

"Shall I not stand for my portrait?"

Leonardo ignored her question. Instead, he furiously outlined a half-length view of Lisa's likeness.

Lisa continued to address Leonardo with questions to which he made no reply. The artist just kept sketching, all the lines of which would be covered over once the painting of the portrait commenced in earnest.

They paused for a noontide meal, grilled fish, as she had promised him. While Leonardo ate his fill and moderated his consumption of wine so as not to return to his work in a stupor, Lisa told him of her recent heartache, birthing a stillborn baby girl, thus explaining to Leonardo why she wore a black dress, when all the gentry of Florence, Venice, and Milan adorned themselves like peacocks. He also surmised that her grief stifled the full blossoming of a smile from her thin, tightly held lips.

Three full days followed of Leonardo sketching and Lisa sitting, interrupted by partaking of meals twice daily, and sleeping far away from one another through the night, but both of them feeling an intimacy that was impossible to describe, but nevertheless real.

On the fourth day, Leonardo finally put brush to palate and canvas. His only comment while painting her immortal features was to say, "You don't have to be nude for me to see all of you."

Lisa said, "Indeed?" Her propriety on the outside belied a moistening of her sexual core beneath her clothing.

A fifth, sixth, and seventh day of the artist at work followed. Most of the time, Lisa was free to do her domestic chores and read her beloved poetry manuscripts, only joining Leonardo to share meals and occasionally to let him look at her upon his request.

Finally, it was done. Leonardo denied the strangely otherworldly background was any kind of optical illusion or trick, but when Lisa looked into her eyes in the portrait, they seemed to return her gaze. The effect caused her to tremble. She turned to the genius and took his hands, raised them to her lips, and reversed the gentlemanly gesture, warmly kissing them.

Leonardo whispered, "Mona Lisa, cara mia."

Tears quickly spilled from her eyes. "Would that I was your love, caro mio."

Leonardo had only entered the ermine wings of Cecilia Gallerani, mistress to Ludovicio Sforza, and her alter ego, Beatrice d'Este, his wife, who seduced da Vinci as the rare man greater than the husband against whom she sought revenge for his infidelity. As Cecilia and Beatrice, whose golden female profiles he had put to canvas, the labor of recreating Lisa's character on canvas enflamed his passion. In a matter of seconds, the flame engulfed them both, as Lisa and Leonardo fell onto the stone floor kissing and squeezing each other with such animal ferocity it seemed as if they were wont to devour their lovers' flesh. Who was prey and who was predator? Surely, they both were.

"You are the most beautiful man walking beneath heaven," Lisa declared with full-throated passion, as she ripped apart the buttons of his sweaty and paint-stained blouse and rubbed her face in the swirling hair of his chest. Even as he took hold of her fabric and bared her smooth, downy buttocks, Lisa put her mouth on Leonardo's chest, found a small nipple, and suckled it like a babe on the teat.

"I fear I am not the most practiced fellow in the arts of womanly pleasures."

"Ah-ha," Lisa laughed heartily, "Let us see about that." She took his sheathed manhood in her large mannish hands, rubbed his testicles, and squeezed his crown. She spoke soft syllables to his cock's head as she caressed and rubbed it between her palms. Lisa cuddled and cooed with his pene as if it were a beloved child or pet. Then she kissed his stalk from tip to cockles and draped her tongue around it like a slithering serpent. When Lisa put his stylus between her lips, the warmth of her mouth and wetness of her lips caused Leonardo to swoon.

Before spending his shot too soon, Leonardo gently pried his stalk from the lady's attention and coaxed her to lift off her dress. The polymath stepped out of his boots and pantaloons as Madonna Gioconda reclined on a wicker mat in the nude. Lisa's areolas were like egg yolks and she yearned for Leonardo to touch them. Lisa's furry thatch covered her delta, her belly up to her stomach, and curled out to the edges of her hips. Leonardo buried his nose in the foliage beneath her arms and below her belly, breathing in her heady aroma. Leonardo kissed her garden flower and savored her soupy essence, tantalizing her inner and outer labia with his swift tongue. She quaked.

Ready to put prick to the bush, Leonardo reared his head and prepared to mount his friend's proud mare. Lisa bucked her hips with great force and, pinioning her legs, she poised her mound of Venus, open and straight up, for coupling with Leonardo's wand. His soft flesh proved incapable of penetrating her eagerly waiting pussy lips.

"I pray thee to forgive my failing," he said, lifting his chest from her sweat-dampened flesh.

"I shall present thou with the gift of fellatio," she spoke, showing yet again her subtle smile.

Lisa worshipped Leonardo's phallus till he stiffened and discharged his warm seed into her mouth and she hummed with delight as she tasted it and swallowed. She nestled in his embracing arms and enjoyed his touching and affectionate kisses upon her neck, shoulders, and breasts. Thence she bade him adieu and climbed the wooden stairwell to her bedchamber.

The next morning they shared a midday meal. They ate blood oranges, their fingers feeding each other's hungry mouths. Lisa told Leonardo of her plans to place both of her daughters in prestigious convents so that they could be educated and live fruitful lives.

"I've no desire to see them married to fools or mistresses to withered old ones," she said with a hint of bitterness. "Women are valued for their dowries and their vaginas."

"I see your immortal soul in your human face," Leonardo said, chewing the slice of blood orange and spilling some of its heady juice on his lips.

"I know this to be true," Mona Lisa smiled. "I see it in my portrait."

Shortly after noontide, Francesco and the Giacondo children returned. Leonardo made preparations to return to Florence in the morning. Francesco opened a jug of vino blanco and he shared it with Leonardo, who expected his host to lay with him as he had the first night. Instead, Francesco retired to his wife's bed after she settled her young ones. Leonardo's heart ached as he listened to the faint sounds of husband and wife coupling. Leonardo mused that he, rather than Francesco, felt like the cuckold.

The following daybreak, Francesco commanded his brood to the vineyards to harvest bushels of grapes.

After her family departed, Lisa turned to Leonardo and touched his cheek with her moist lips as she whispered in his ear.

"When I cleaved to my husband, I saw your face, tasted you, smelled you, and felt you inside my secret place."

Leonardo fell upon Lisa with fiery passion, unraveling her clothing on the stone floor, and planted his staff in her fertile cunt. She wrapped her legs around his hips and locked her feet behind his buttocks by folding one ankle over the other. Time and sensibility faded as they rolled about in intimate embrace. After they finished making love, Leonardo packed a knapsack and disassembled his easel.

"I respect my husband," she confessed throatily. "But I will never love him...Leonardo, mi amore."

"Madonna Lisa," Leonardo's voice cracked with emotion. "Bella bellisima."

"I am such a plain brown wrapper," Madonna Lisa Gioconda laughed mightily.

Leonardo held Lisa's dimpled chin between his thumb and forefinger. "I see only beauty in your face."

The famous artist didn't give Francesco the portrait. "It's not finished," he said, and the patron did not pay the craftsman for his labor. When Leonardo returned to Florence, he found that Salai had acquired several commissions to keep the apprentices at the studio working. Salai was not welcoming, however.

"You stink of that whore!" he railed at his master. Salai said the portrait of Mona Lisa was ugly. Leonardo and Salai didn't speak or sleep together for weeks.

Three years passed, and Leonardo returned to visit Francesco Giocondo and his wife and children at their country farmhouse. Leonardo had journeyed to the south of France as the guest of the king and he had given Lisa's portrait to the queen because she admired it greatly. Leonardo wanted Lisa to pose for another version of the painting. The maestro asked her to dress in the same clothing, including her shoes, even though they would never be depicted. It was to be an identical picture of the lady.

The polymath was ready with freshly ground paints and a clean poplar canvas. Leonardo had no need to sketch out any of her characteristics, nor any of the background details. He memorized the first original. This would not be a copy, but a second original. Lisa's face was only slightly puffier and now more deeply lined. Leonardo could not ignore the difference and aged Madonna Lisa's face. Her thick eyebrows had regrown and the artist added them at first, but then thought better of it and painted them over to make her as she had looked before. The second rendering of the portrait was finished before afternoon turned to dusk.

Lisa admired both the painting and the great man's skill in duplicated his own masterful work. She burned with ardor to taste his flesh once more, but Francesco and the children would return presently. Lisa contented herself with touching his hands and arms and basking in the odor of his sweat.

La familia Giocondo and their esteemed guest supped on a light meal of fresh bread dipped in a stew of lamb, onions, peppers, and artichokes. After eating, Lisa shepherded her brood to their nocturnal rest and Francesco decanted some new wine to share with his dear friend. Francesco covered Leonardo's bearded face with wine-soaked kisses and eagerly drank from the font of his cock. Leonardo returned his compatriot's affections, offering his backside to Francesco's furiously thrusting loins. Leonardo felt like a virgin bride after her maidenhead's piercing. The gentlemen went to sleep in one another's arms.

Lisa rose at dawn and found her husband and lover entwined on the floor mat. She felt neither embarrassed nor ashamed at their obvious indulgence in sodomy. Indeed she smiled at them in repose and simply retrieved the chamber pot they shared and used the contents to fertilize her flower garden. When the household arose, Lisa laid out a breakfast of bread, olives, and hard cheese. Then Francesco ordered his offspring to prepare for a day's work of shearing sheep and bundling their wool.

Yet again, Lisa watched da Vinci prepare to leave. This time, he accepted Francesco's offer of a horse and Leonardo bundled his knapsack, easel, and the new Mona Lisa rolled up like a scroll. She kept silent, but longed to cry out for him to stay. Finally, as he prepared to mount the horse, she fell to her knees at his feet.

"Beautiful one, I need to feel thee in my soul," she cried.

Leonardo took hold of her shoulders and lifted her while bending to kiss her thin brown lips.

He spoke to her, "Somehow, I feel you are as if you are wedded to me."

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