Yehonala—a concubine called Yehonala. The idea is intriguing.

‘As was the custom, the odalisque was carried on the back of a eunuch, covered only by a red silk sheet. He laid the twenty-one-year-old virgin at the foot of the bed, and to symbolize her complete subjection to the will of the Lord of Ten Thousand Years, she had to crawl on all fours towards him. All the naked girl had to become the mistress of her own fate was that one night.’

Grandview pauses. I lean forward. When he speaks again his voice is soft.

‘One night with which to bewitch a dissipated god-king whose tastes were varied and, according to some, perverted. Beauty was of no use as every girl in the harem had been chosen for her good looks. Intelligence: he could find a hundred other scholars to discuss worldly affairs with. Humor: he had the Court’s professional comedians.’

In spite of myself I am utterly fascinated. I strain to catch his words, to enter the foreign world he was weaving.

‘No one knows what she did that first night, but whatever occurred was what the ambitious girl had learned during the five years that she had been languishing within the vermillion walls, virtually a prisoner, not a functioning man in sight, and while the Emperor was not even aware of her existence. She had tirelessly learned everything she could of the arts of love. Every closely guarded technique and all the secrets and practices of feminine allure became hers. That knowledge and sexual prowess made her irresistible to the pleasure-sated Emperor, and from that night on no one could usurp her place as the Imperial bed-partner. She let the Chinese poet Chang Heng speak again after two thousand years: “No joy shall be equal to the delights of this first night, these shall never be forgotten, however old we may grow.”

‘The Emperor became utterly besotted with her and remained so until his death. In that one night her skills set in motion the events that ultimately led to the collapse of the centuries-long Manchu reign and the rise of a woman to power. Yehonala claimed the throne and became China’s last and most famous Empress. She became known as the She Dragon of China.’

Vann stops speaking and looks at me. My eyes travel down to his hands. They too are sprinkled with golden hairs. Big. Squarish. Well shaped. Masculine. Nice. Very nice. My mind goes blank. What the hell am I doing? I sit back, turn my voice disbelieving. ‘How could a virgin with no previous sexual contact with a man do that?’

He smiles. ‘Perhaps sex is not what you think it is?’

I frown. I am sixteen again, sore, the ejaculation leaking out of me. I remember he had gone out of the room and told his friends, ‘Like f**king a pillow, man.’ They had laughed. I had wiped myself and gone out, and pretended that I was not dying inside. The memory brings acute pain. I bow my head. ‘Well, what is it then?’

‘Sex is in the head.’

I frown.

‘Here, let me demonstrate. Close your eyes and do not open them until I tell you to do so.’

I look at him carefully. He appears relaxed. He has not moved a fraction of an inch from his position on the sofa and does not appear inclined to do so. What harm can come from a little demonstration? I close my eyes.

‘Imagine a white lotus bud. Do you know what a lotus looks like?’

I open my eyes and look at him, one eyebrow raised. ‘I’m a florist.’

His lips lift upwards, his hand waves down. I close my eyes.

‘Imagine that this lotus bud is very special. It can enter you…’

I squirm internally, a little, at that thought.

‘I take the lotus by the stalk and I hold it against your forehead. Instantly your forehead opens to allow the tip and slowly the entire bud into it. I pull the lotus out and place it at the base of your throat. Once again your body opens and welcomes it in. I do the same to the middle of your chest. In and out. Slowly. Next your belly button. The lotus disappears into it and out again. Now it is poised over your pu**y. I gently insert it inside. First the tip and then, as your body learns to accommodate it, the whole bud, even the widest part. It feels tight, but you can take it. I pull it out and now it is hovering over your anal cavity.’

I swallow hard but I don’t allow my expression to change.

‘The tip enters your ass. Slowly, because you are not used to it, I bury it deeper and deeper, until the whole thing has been swallowed up by your body.’

I open my eyes and put on a bored expression. ‘And?’

‘You are sitting in a puddle.’

I flush horribly. It is true. His voice, the strange environment, being spoken to like that by a total stranger.

‘Sexual confidence is an allure that a man finds impossible to resist. Would you like to learn the arts of sex magick?’

I raise my head and look into his eyes. Lana and Billie have been learning to deep throat among other things. Above all else I want Jack. If Yehonala’s way will do the job then so be it. ‘Yes.’

‘Good,’ he says wolfishly. His name is very apt. Wolfe! I don’t know how I did not notice it before. He roots around his pocket and comes up with a pen.

‘I don’t normally carry one, but I was working on my best man’s speech.’ In another pocket he finds a folded piece of paper. ‘Best man’s speech,’ he says and tears a small corner off. He writes on it.

‘Twelve sessions, three times a week. Starting Monday at 7.00 p.m.,’ he says and holds it out to me.

I take it. Our fingers touch and my hand sparks and tingles with the contact from his. That jolt shocks me, sends currents into my viscera. I withdraw quickly. It must be the static electricity from the layers and layers of organza in my dress. Confused, I hurriedly bend towards the paper in my hand. An address: Bread Street in London.

‘How much will the…training cost?’ There is a pause. Head bent, I am hanging on his words.

‘My c**k in that sulky little mouth of yours.’

My eyes rush up to meet his expression. He grins. Totally and utterly confident in his own skin. I feel the heat rushing into my cheeks. I feel dirty and horrified, but I am also transfixed and hooked. He and I will be having sex. But of course.

‘Get a life,’ Billie would say.

I have never done anything so outrageous in my life. Now is the time to back out. And yet I don’t. I don’t want to. I am strangely excited and turned on by the prospect of sex with this lion-man. I’m not with Jack yet. Besides I’m doing this for Jack. It is not different from Lana and Billie taking lessons on how to deep throat. Maybe he will teach me that too.

Tags: Georgia Le Carre The Billionaire Banker Young Adult