Page 51 of The Protege

“Can I tell you a secret?” she whispers, her eyes searching mine.

“What’s that, baby?” The words slip from my mouth as if I’m the one who’s been put in a trance. I think maybe I have, by Isabeau and her deep green eyes and her plush kisses. I know only my hands on her waist, her breasts pressing against my chest.

She goes on in that soft tone of voice, pressing kisses to my lips between words. “You pretend you’re so disinterested all the time. So in control of yourself. But you’re not, are you? You try to hide so much from me but I see things in your eyes. I hear them in your voice, because I’m older now. I’ve learned things.”

I can only stare at her, my heart starting to pound. How much does she know? Isabeau’s never talked to me like this before and I don’t know what to do. She’s still close enough that she doesn’t need to speak above a whisper. I notice every little detail about her. The tendrils of hair sticking to her damp neck. The swell of her breasts in her thin shirt. She lets go of me and steps away, her chin raised and her eyes challenging. Focused. She’s come back into herself and I’m the one who’s adrift.

“I adored you when I was eight. I wanted to be yours when I was twelve. I thought about you touching me when I was fourteen. I touched myself thinking about you when I was fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Only ever about you, Laszlo. I kept it to myself until I was eighteen because you’re a good man who couldn’t touch me, would never, when it wasn’t right. I was so very patient.”

Isabeau slinks close to me again and tilts her mouth up to mine as if she’s going to kiss me, but doesn’t quite. “And I’m still waiting. I feel you hard against me as I lay across your lap. When I go back to my room I make myself come, over and over, thinking about you fucking me. You want me, too. You make yourself come thinking about me. Don’t you, daddy?”

She kisses along my jaw until her mouth is very close to my ear. I can only listen to her, paralyzed by her closeness and the things she’s saying. All those years she thought about me in that way. Only ever about you, Laszlo.

Isabeau keeps whispering in my ear. “You’re not a closed book to me anymore. You’re a piece of music I can read as easily as a symphony. I’ve realized that there are two Laszlo Valmarys. The Laszlo Valmary who took a sad little girl off the street and gave her a life of music she’d only ever dreamed of. Kind, clever and patient Laszlo. Generous and sweet Laszlo.

“But there’s another Laszlo Valmary and you try to hide him from me. He’s the Laszlo who told me I was a good girl as I rubbed so sweetly against his lap on the night of my eighteenth birthday. The Laszlo who looks at me like he’s never heard anything so delicious as when I say yes, sir in my best, most obedient little girl voice. The Laszlo who looks like a starving wolf when I ask him to tie me up. I want to get to know this Laszlo Valmary. I want him very much. Did you want me then, too, daddy? Is that why you’re so conflicted, because you wanted me when I was only seventeen?”

I feel myself nod stiffly.

She doesn’t seem shocked by this admission. “I used to make myself come thinking about you taking my virginity. I wanted that so badly. Did you do the same?”

“It was just once.” I hear the defensiveness in my own voice. Once is too many times when she was a teenage girl.

Isabeau puts her hands on my chest and then slides them up around my neck, slinking closer. “Did you make yourself come thinking about me, daddy? What did you imagine?”

“I don’t remember.”

She rubs a forefinger over the bristles on my chin and my eyes close briefly. I can’t do anything, say anything but drink in the sensation of being so close to her. “I hear you, Laszlo. I hear all the things that you try to hide from me because you think it means you’re not a good person because you wanted a seventeen-year-old girl. I can still see that fear in your eyes but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter anymore. You never laid a finger on me. You never did one thing that you should feel remorse for. If you still want me, I’m yours.” She presses her lips against my ears and breathes, “And I’ll let you do whatever you want, daddy.”

Isabeau plants a slow, tender kiss on my cheek, achingly sweet and innocent in a way that belies her seductive tone.