‘It is beautiful,’ I breathe, raising my eyes to meet his.
‘Something for you to remember Venice by.’ He sets it around my neck. The red stones encircle my throat like ribbons of fire. He stands back and looks at me. There is a glint of possessive pride in his eyes. And I feel owned.
Then he opens the next box.
I tilt my head forward curiously. ‘What are they?’ I ask. I cannot make them out. On a bed of black material are some colorful gadgets made of plastic or silicon.
His answer is succinct. ‘Spread your legs.’
My body’s reaction is immediate. A wave of sexual arousal. Those things fit into my body. I obey. He bends and, lifting the long dress, inserts one of them into me, adjusts it so the cup-like end fits snugly around my clitoris, and pulls my knickers up over it. It feels strange and smooth inside me. From his trouser pocket he takes out a small device. It is no bigger than a remote control car key. He presses it and the thing inside me starts vibrating.
‘Oooo,’ I giggle. As he turns the dial the vibrations become more violent until I squeal, ‘Hey.’
He turns it right down.
‘Venetian music in its original setting and the latest vibrator,’ I tease, but I am fascinated with the idea of putting total control of my sensations into his hands.
‘It is the perfect touch,’ he says softly. ‘Music is passion. We are going to watch L’Incoranazione di Poppea. The coronation of Poppea is a Venetian opera of unbearable sensuousness, and the frissons you will experience on the outside will be reflected inside your body.’
The sun is bleeding into the lagoon as we go down the steps and climb into the gondola. It is a cool evening and his arm comes around me. I revel in his touch. I know Cronus is waiting for me in England, but this is my night, my adventure. He is not allowed here, in this sinking city.
The theater is very old and full of faded charm. There are no tourists present. The other patrons who have turned up are mostly elderly and dressed in fine clothes. They have a kind of grave dignity that reminds me of a time gone by. Everyone seems to know everyone else and one or two of them even nod gravely to Blake. It is almost as if it is a private showing. We take our place in one of the boxes.
‘This theater affords better acoustics than some of the more glamorous ones,’ Blake explains, before the curtain goes up, and the vibrator begins its almost constant throb. At first, I squirm awkwardly, judging it as an unwelcome distraction that is going to reduce my enjoyment of the experience of being at the opera, but then I begin to look for its rhythm.
It soars with the music.
The opera is sung in Italian, but I have Blake whisper in my ear each scene and even point out the significance of some arias. The coronation of Poppea charts the opulently atmospheric journey of Poppea, the mistress of the Roman emperor Nero, who in pursuit of her desire to be Empress of Rome forsook love for the power. As Blake warned, the story is erotic and decadent. Combined with the vibrator between my legs the experience is indescribable and has me not only incredibly aroused, but also emotionally drained, and perhaps confused too.
During the rapturous love duet when Nero holds Poppea in his arms while she caresses her jeweled crown, and the vibrator has been turned to full, I turn to look at Blake wondering why he has brought me to see an opera where the virtuous are punished or put to death and the greedy and unscrupulous rewarded. Is it an unsubtle hint to me? Am I the greedy woman of his world?
As if he has read my mind he says, ‘Glorious music goes beyond human frailties.’
It is true I feel excited and light-headed. The experience has been profound. I need to go the toilet and see what I look like. It feels as if I have been altered this evening. I touch his wrist lightly. ‘Going to the toilet. Meet me at the bottom of the stairs.’
He nods and stands. Between my legs I am throbbing. I don’t know if he can see the desire in my eyes. I don’t want to go to dinner. I just want to go home and have him inside me.
In the faded mirror I meet myself. My eyes are strange. I am changing right before my eyes. I touch the slightly protruding cup on my clitoris and think about taking it out, but in my heart that privilege belongs only to Blake. He put it in there and he is entitled to take it out when it suits him.
Coming down the curving marble stairs from the toilets, I witness him in conversation with one of the ushers. A raven-haired girl. His back is to me and he is speaking to her in Italian. I see her animated face and a strange unfamiliar fear clutches at my stomach. Immediately, I grasp the wrought iron and brass banister, unsteady suddenly, my heart knocking painfully against my ribs. Whatever he has said has made her laugh self-consciously, and, as I watch, her large, dark eyes kindle with fiery interest.
I lay my palm flat on my stomach almost in disbelief. I am jealous. I am unreasonably, insanely, uncontrollably jealous of a man whom I cannot even publicly lay claim on. But the thought of him with anyone else makes me feel sick to my stomach.
Will it always be so from now on?
The most innocent encounters ripe for worry and painful inner speculation while I play blind, deaf and dumb outwardly? Then he turns, his eyes searching, looking for me, and I step forward, a silent sigh escaping my lips, relieved to be back in the warm, wonderful light of his gaze. And everything is fine again; the fear slinks away, momentarily.
‘I didn’t know you spoke Italian?’
He grins. ‘Nope, but I studied Latin in school, so it’s not difficult to figure out how to ask for directions.’
With the dark water lapping at the steps of the Palazzo, I whisper, ‘Blake can we go upstairs first…before we eat.’
He shakes his head with a smile. ‘Not yet, Principessa.’ He puts his hand into his pocket and the little machine buzzes into life. But now the suction cup is licking me almost like a tongue.
‘Oh, Blake,’ I gasp. ‘I can’t take much more of this.’
‘Yes, you can,’ he says.
I swallow hard. How can I think of food while my pu**y is throbbing and a silicon tongue is licking my clit? The only thought on my mind is release. I am already very close to climax.
‘What if I have an orgasm at the dinner table?’
‘You won’t. I’m switching it off while you eat. Nothing comes between you and food.’
I gape at him.
‘Have I ever told you, Miss Bloom, you’re a sight to behold,’ he says cheekily, and pulls me up the steps.
He goes through the double doors of the salon and I go upstairs to check on Sorab. Mercifully the vibrator stops as I am walking up the stairs. Sorab is fast asleep. Gerry’s door is slightly ajar and light is coming through. I knock softly.