Seraglio Ch. 02bymizlizzy©
(Synopsis: Russet Thompson is an architect and designer sent to spend several days touring the Harem of a eastern Pasha to get ideas for a new attraction at Ultima Resorts. Sir Adrian Calendar, the Prince's personal secretary, shows her around, including the Playroom, where one of the odalisques (harem girls) is being disciplined. Russet finds it both uncomfortable and exciting. The next day…)
I slept much better than I expected. The bed was superb and I didn't stir until a maid tapped on my door in the morning. I was still trying to mumble an answer when she opened the door and sidled in with a heavy tray.
She was the female version of the dark-eyed boys, complete to the shy smile, though she was modestly gowned in an embroidered caftan. She helped me sit up, arranging pillows behind me and tenderly deposited a tray over my knees. The coffee was excellent, strong and thick with cream and sugar. The rest of the meal was up to the same standard, though strange to my western sensibilities; rolls still warm from the oven, dates, pungent goat cheese, and quartered oranges so ripe they were practically bursting from their skins. It was delicious.
I showered and did my hair in a French twist, striving for a buttoned up, professional image to offset my indiscretions of the night before. I winced away from remembering what I'd said and done. It would be nice to think that Adrian had slipped something into my wine, but it was probably just the effects of jetlag and too much champagne coming after a prolonged period of abstinence.
I emerged from the bath to discover breakfast cleared, the bed made, and my clothing from the day before missing, spirited away by elves, or at least the Turkish version thereof.
I dressed in tailored trousers, a long sleeved silk shirt, and my flats, and was wondering what to do next when the same maid scratched at the door and ushered me out. She didn't seem to understand English, but led me to a pair of tall double doors, where she once again knocked deferentially before waving me through.
The room was a library or perhaps an office of sorts; all dark wood, leather-bound books, and gorgeous Persian carpets dominated by a large desk. Two very tall, pointed windows filled in with elegant tracery threw long pools of light across the dark tiles and brilliantly patterned rugs.
Adrian sat at the desk surrounded by heaps of papers and more than one empty coffee cup. When he rose to his feet and came towards me smiling, I saw that he still wore the remains of his dress suit. He'd abandoned the dinner jacket and tie, his crumpled white shirt was open at the throat and rolled to the elbow, exposing sinewy tan forearms, and his narrow feet were bare.
"Didn't you go to bed all?" I asked, staring.
"No, I napped for a bit but it took most of the night to assemble all this clobber," he said, taking my hands in his and pulling me forward for a kiss. So much for my resolution to go back to a formal footing.
"But what is all this?"
"My end of the bargain. I don't make promises often but when I do, I keep them. This stack is a list of all the things we use—spices, oils, incense, recipes, and the names and address of the firms who supply them. Also our rug merchant, our chandler, and our iron-monger, the clever laddie who makes our sconces, grills, gates, and also various ingenious devices of a sexual nature."
My eyes opened wide. Even if importing supplies was prohibitively expensive, having the recipes and being able to purchase originals for copy at home would be a treasure trove.
"This pile," Adrian said, putting his hand on a stack that looked to consist of taped together pages of varying size, some of them enormous, "is photocopies of the original plans of the palace, dating back to the 17th century, and the blueprints of the remodel done by His Highness' esteemed father. There's also information about the hammam. It was updated then, and again about ten years ago, so there's all the business about the pools that you wanted.
"And this final tidbit," (a mere slip of paper) "permission from Prince Mustapha to photograph anything you want—buildings and rooms, of course, not people—and to publish the photos, if you wish."
"My God, it's like Christmas! You've done all my work for me. How can I ever thank you?" I knew how rare it was to have permission to photograph the inside of an occupied palace was, let alone an actual harem.
Adrian turned and hitched his hip up on the edge of the desk, putting himself between me and all that loot. "But I don't want thanked, sweet Russet, I want paid."
My heart sank. "I'll have to discuss it with Darius, of course. I don't know what he has budgeted for this." Inwardly I was seething. What of all his fine talk about the Prince being his friend? Now he wanted a kickback on it? And was the money going to Mustapha or was it going to him?
"Not money, darling. I told you I'd have a proposition for you that you couldn't refuse." He grinned at me, his mussed hair and general dishabille making him look boyish. "A barter."
"For sex?" I asked, blushing again.
"Not at all," he said, his face falling into sterner lines. "I don't buy sex, and besides you were willing to sleep with me last night just for a giggle. When we make love—and I certainly plan that we shall—we'll do it for joy, for mutual pleasure. No, I have something else in mind. "
"Well, then what?"
"We'll take that step by step, but the first," he patted the first stack, "won't be too arduous. I want you to have the Seraglio experience, under my direction. For these, the lists of materials and suppliers, all you have to do is allow yourself to be pampered as though you were a concubine in the Sultan's harem."
There had to be a catch. I set my heels and stuck my chin out. "And just exactly what will that entail?"
"A morning at the spa, eastern-style. Manicure, pedicure, massage, perhaps a henna rinse. Women pay a small fortune for the same services at home. Think about it, you could design a spa at the resort, using the same facilities that your clients will be romping through in the evening."
I felt an awful lot like Eve, when the serpent said, 'Hey, taste this," but he was right. It would be a tremendous draw. I could envision the ad copy now: 'Be Pampered Like A Sultan's Favorite.' I could do it anyway—fake it—just basing it on a traditional day-spa, with costumes. But what if it really was different? And think of the article I could write for our trade publication, about a real day in the Seraglio.
"What's in it for you? I asked bluntly.
"Seduction?" he suggested. "Control? A chance to expose you to something new and different. Why not expand your horizons?"
I thought about consulting Darius, but I knew he'd think I should be willing to sacrifice life, limb and sacred honor for the cause, let alone my dubious virtue. I preferred not to give him a chance to tell me so.
"Is that the kind of deal would you cut Russell?"
"If I'd been male, as expected. Would you have wanted to expand his horizons, too?"
"Poor Russell would have gotten the ten-penny tour and turfed out as soon as I could manage it, darling."
So I had a chance to get more information than one of the male partners would, or at least that was what Adrian, the crafty devil, wanted me to think. Still, it sounded harmless enough. I settled down to serious negotiations.
"Tell me exactly what will happen."
"For that we'll need to do a fashion consult," Adrian said, abandoning his post in front of the heaps of documents. He went over to sit in the window seat with the morning sun behind him. "Will you take down your hair?
I'd put my hair up in a chignon as part of my 'business' persona. Now I reluctantly fished hairpins from it by feel. When I'd gotten most of them out, I shook my head sending it tumbling to slightly below my shoulders.
"I don't want to dye it," I warned. I really am a redhead, and I'm a little vain of my hair.
"Henna isn't a chemical process—not like American hair dye, anyway. It coats the hair and gives texture and sheen. And it washes back out over time. The amahs are artists. Will you consider a rinse?"
"Well, I guess so."
"Excellent. Any problems with a manicure and pedicure?"
"For free? You must be joking."
Adrian gave me a brilliant smile at that. "Ah, a way to your heart at last! Now, please take off your clothes."
"I beg your pardon!"
His eyebrow soared. "You'll have to do it eventually. I want to look at you to prescribe the rest of the treatment. I have a robe right here."
He did, too—a thick, plushy one, and I remembered suddenly that the Turks were responsible for the phrase 'Turkish towels.' And lots of other nice things, but…
"Last night you were willing to go to bed with me," Adrian reminded. "Now all I'm asking you to do is take your clothes off. Don't be Sabine about it, darling."
I cast a covetous look at the piles of materials and my hand crept to the neck of my shirt. Maybe offering him money would be better after all!
"I had considered asking you to disrobe in the garden," he said, provocatively. "I'd adore seeing you out in the sun, but I thought you would prefer this."
I blinked at the thought of stripping off in the garden, but started to take my shirt off. Adrian leaned back and lit a cigarette, the smoke rising in thin wisps against the light streaming in from the window. When I pulled the shirt free of my trousers, I looked around for a place to put it. He held out a peremptory hand and I gave it to him.
"Does the Prince know you're doing this?" I asked, stalling for time. Take off my bra next or my slacks?
"Not in so many words, no. A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell, and fortunately, neither do I. He's given me full discretion over how much of this information you get—things like this rather bore him, anyway—so our deal is strictly between us. Unless you tell, no one else need ever know."
I stepped out of my flats. "The staff and the girls will know."
"But they don't know why you're here. I've taken care over that. They don't even know your full name. As far as they're concerned, you are a guest of mine, with His Highness' approval. And before you ask, I have his approval to entertain a friend here with the full run of the facilities."
"So you've done this before?" I paused awkwardly in the process of slipping out of my slacks. "No, I haven't, but it is one of the perks." He held his hand out again and I reluctantly surrendered my trousers.
I dithered again; bra or underpants? "You know, if you were a gentleman, you'd turn your back."
"If I were a gentleman, we wouldn't be having this discussion at all," he said with a lazy smile. "It's part of the deal, my darling. If you want the goodies, put up or shut up."
The problem was that I did want the goodies, and moreover I wanted very much to hold my own in this contest of wills. And I didn't feel that taking off my clothes was giving it, oddly enough. It was chickening out that would make me the loser in this little contest. I put my hand to the front closure on my bra and, since he wouldn't turn his back, I turned mine. Even so, I was conscious of my naked breasts bobbing as I bent to take off my panties. When I turned back to him, it took a real effort not to adopt the classic pose of nudity surprised, but I managed. Barely.
"Gorgeous," he said, beckoning me closer. The expression on his face made me catch my breath—delight, approval, and enough desire to reassure my female ego. I have a decent figure but no woman is ever really happy about her body. In an actual mirror, our eyes go first to the flaws, but sometimes in the mirror of a man's lust we can let go and feel truly beautiful.
I moved several steps closer, into the patch of sunlight that lit the deep tones of the Persian carpet to brilliant jewels. I could feel the fine hairs on my arms lift as the warmth of the light gilded my skin. Adrian reached out a single finger and delicately traced the upper slope of my breast down to the nipple, which instantly sprang to attention.
"And you are a natural redhead. How marvelous," he continued. "Left to myself, I wouldn't tamper with such a charming feature but I think for the purpose of our experiment, I want you bare."
"Plucked? I don't think so!" I did cover myself protectively at that. "I'm not into anything that kinky."
"You might surprise yourself," he said laughing. "I suspect you have kinks yet unplumbed—but, no, not plucked. Not unless you've been a bad girl. Solange wouldn't have gotten that treatment except that she's bone-idle. She didn't even have to do it herself, you know. You'll be shaved by an expert."
"And that would be you?" I asked skeptically.
"Not at all. I doubt I'd be able to keep my face out of your lap long enough to accomplish it."
I wasn't certain that having somebody else do it was any improvement. "Not one of your pseudo-eunuchs, either."
"The bath amahs are female. Have you never shaved before?" he asked with honest curiosity.
I shook my head. "Just trimmed for a swimsuit."
"Well, then you might find you like it. Lots of girls do."
I didn't think so, and I suppose it showed on my face.
Adrian brushed my hand aside and tugged gently on the red-blonde curls in my crotch. "It grows back, you know—rather quickly!"
I was curious, actually, but didn't want to admit it. I've known other women who do shave—I've seen them at my health club, and at the Resort, of course. "So this is a condition of the deal?"
"I could say yes, you know," Adrian leaned back against the glass of the tall window again. "But let's leave it at this: I'd like you to try it. To please me and to please yourself. Surrender. Take a chance. As far as walking on the wild side goes, it's more of a stroll."
"Are you speaking from personal experience?" I asked.
"Yes, actually. Why not? Think of it as research."
"Odalisque for a day?"
"Precisely," he said, getting to his feet and holding the robe for me with as much ceremony as if it were a mink coat. I felt a little safer swathed in fluffy towing. Safe enough to ask what was on my mind.
"What is this about? All this gamesmanship?"
"Well, there's the obvious. I fancy you, and I think you're not indifferent to me." He opened the door to the office and held it for me to precede him.
"But why me? You're surrounded by beautiful women and move in circles much more open to your sort of…amusements."
"Yes, but even if they weren't off limits, you've got something they don't."
"What, other than twenty pounds and at least five years?"
"That's an advantage, believe me," Adrian said, once again using a key to unlock an iron grill—yet another door into the harem. "What they lack that you have is brains. I believe the most important sexual organ is the mind. It's a hell of a lot more challenging to seduce an intelligent woman, as well as more satisfying. Only a very young man or a man of limited imagination would choose a stupid woman, however beautiful, over a woman like you."
This seemed like a slightly sideways slap at his employer. It also seemed like it could easily be a con job.
"So you want me for my mind?" I said, trying for a light note.
"Yes," he said, apparently not trying for anything at all. "You're lovely and you're such a contradiction. You've worked for Darius for years and you're obviously familiar with the trappings and practices of elegant perversion. But you're a naïf as well as being a deeply sensual woman. It's delightful."
Though I tried to remind myself that flattery was probably this plausible rogue's stock in trade, I couldn't help feeling flattered. Whatever his designs on me, it was obvious he felt passionately about the joys of intellectual sex.
"So that's what turns you on?"
"Am I lecturing? Sorry, I get chatty when I'm tired, but, yes, that is what excites me," Adrian said. "If you tell a girl like Solange what to do, she simply does it. With you, I can see you thinking, imagining, and being shocked and tempted. It's much more exciting."
In the hammam, Adrian introduced me to the bath attendants, Rihana and Badra, both middle-aged women clad in plain white caftans with trousers under them. He spoke to them at length in Arabic, complete with gestures, and they nodded and smiled, shooting speculative looks at me. Badra, somewhat the younger of the two, had a trick of giggling behind her hand. When he finally finished, both ducked little bows.
"I'll see you in a few hours, darling," Adrian said. This surprised me more than a little. I hadn't realized he was going to desert me with two ladies who obviously spoke no English.
"And here I had you pegged as a voyeur," I joked. "Where will you be?"
"Oh, I am a voyeur, but I'll be sleeping. Much as it pains me to admit it, I'm knackered. That's the only reason I didn't throw you down on the rug in my office and have my wicked way with you."
I wondered at what point my blush-circuit would burn out, no time soon, apparently. Adrian grinned, flicked my cheek with a careless finger, and strode off.
I was soaked in a marble tub filled with very warm, opaque water made opalescent by swirling scented oils, while Rihana and Badra took pumice stones to my knees elbows and feet. Then Badra made a strong smelling green paste of powdered henna and worked it through my hair, piling it up and wrapping it in a linen cloth. Then I was lotioned up and shaved, not only my crotch and underarms, but everywhere else.
Rihana was very gentle and handled me so deftly and matter-of-factly that I was reminded that this was her profession. The two of them chatted softly across my prone body. Though I couldn't understand them, or they me, they made their wishes known, guiding me by little pushes and pats. It wasn't as embarrassing as I'd feared, though there was definitely a sensual component to the slow denuding of my nether lips. When Rihana finished, she smiled and leaned forward, blowing across the damp and newly exposed skin. When I shivered, she laughed delightedly—not at me, but inviting me to appreciate this new sensation.
Once suitably bare from the neck down, I was sluiced and painted all over with a substance that smelled like heaven but looked like a thin solution of white clay, and ushered into the steam room to bake on a marble bench. This was also rinsed off in the shower, along with the henna on my hair and I was shampooed and hot oil massaged into my hair. Another shampoo and a scalp massage that verged on painful left my head feeling violently alive.
My finger and toenails were trimmed, filed and buffed to a high gloss. Then I had a full body massage with yet more scented oil, this time smelling of apricots. Badra took off her head scarf and rolled the sleeves of her kameez up and used her hands, fingers, and even elbows. It was marvelous.
By then my hair had air dried, and Rihana brushed it out, stroke after hypnotic stroke, as Badra smudged kohl around my eyes. They argued amiably, apparently over rouge, but decided against it. At any rate it was put away unused.
They swathed me in a long, full burnoose of thin white silk. I wanted to make a bee-line to the tall mirrors on the far side of the hammam, but they prevented me with soft talk and softer laughter. Instead they steered me back through the halls and out to the grill, where one of the dark-eyed boys waited.
He unlocked the gate and escorted me back to the double doors of Adrian's office, tapping softly. When Adrian called, "Ahalan," the boy pushed me gently into the room and slipped the burnoose from my shoulders despite my clutching hands. He dropped the silk in a billowing could behind me and firmly shut the doors.
Adrian didn't lift his head immediately. He continued writing merely saying, "Na'am?"