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She should have expected a lot of paperwork, but somehow the number of times she was required to sign on dotted lines still came as a shock to Erin.
"And the non-disclosure agreement," said the lawyer smoothly, passing another sheaf of printed material across the desk.
She read it through, trying to take her time and be level-headed, but her vision skittered across the page, picking up legalese phrases here and there. The gist was that she was never to discuss what passed between her and the lawyerâ€™s client with any third partyâ€”most specifically she was never to publish any account of her experiences with him, nor ever mention his name in connection with hers.
Picking up the pen and signing, yet again, she let her eye fall on the printed-out copy of her original advertisement on MasterMe.com. That nervous moment of pressing the button and making her plea live to hundreds of thousands of fellow fetishists seemed a million years from today. She could barely read it without cringing now.
"Youâ€™ve all heard of the girl who auctioned off her virginity. Well, Iâ€™m no virgin, but I do need funding for my MA in Womenâ€™s Studies, and I can offer something that might well appeal to those dominant men among you.
Iâ€™m offering my submission.
Subject to agreement of limits etc. for a period of one calendar monthâ€”will probably have to be August owing to academic commitmentsâ€”I can obey your every command and satisfy your every whim.
Tempted? Please apply to email@example.com.
I look forward to hearing your orders."
A blizzard of interest had buffeted her inbox, most of it spurious, but in the end she had narrowed down the field of bidders to three.
The winning bid had taken her breath away.
One million pounds.
Enough to fund a lifetimeâ€™s research, let alone the tract she intended to write on the contrast between Victorian and medieval attitudes to female sexuality. She had almost vomited when she had seen the email with the offer.
Of course, it had to be a hoax. Nobody would offer that. Nobody in their right mind, surely.
But communication over the telephone with 'Mr Nobodyâ€™s' legal team had convinced her that it was serious, and now she was meeting his solicitor in his London office to finalise the arrangement.
It didnâ€™t help that a couple of journalists had seen her advertisement and posed as bidders themselves, hoping to get a story about what kind of woman might do such a thing. Erin had sniffed out their misogynistic agenda straight away and blocked them, but she was wary all the same.
And now she was really nervous. Her name stared up at her, in black and white, agreeing to do who knew what with who knew whom.
"Okay, so is that everything?" she asked, working hard to maintain a veneer of self-possession in the face of this dispassionate bespectacled suit.
"I believe so," he said with a chilly smile.
Her skin goose-pimpled. What on earth must he think of me?
But she had a stern word with her inner voice. It didnâ€™t matter what the lawyer thought. It didnâ€™t matter what anyone thought. She was using her resources to achieve a desired outcome. There was no more to it than that.