Freya Mullin, an authority on ancient buildings, is to survey Daubeney Manor, which has recently been purchased by Maxwell Sinclair, an authority on cults and temples and old religions.
Baffled by Maxwell's arrogant refusal to take her into the subterranean passages, she goes there secretly, accompanied by a long-time friend. To their surprise they find an ancient, orgiastic temple that appears to have been occupied recently.
Maxwell does not want to share the temple with anyone, intending to use it for his own Hell Fire Club, and Freya has no idea of the twists and turns of fate that will now involve her as she becomes ever more entangled in his ambitions.
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|Age Range:||18 Years|
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He sat back in a deep armchair opposite her, and she was thrown by the keen scrutiny of his tiger eyes. He was not wearing glasses, and looked more than ever like a matinee idol. There was something so elegant and graceful about him. She found herself tongue-tied when she most wanted to be bright and intelligent and entertaining. He passed the plate of wafer thin cucumber sandwiches.
'British Heritage is being long-winded. As you will understand, I'm keen to get everything settled and alterations made so that I can begin entertaining.'
Ah, is this why he invited me? she wondered, while replying, 'Sorry.
There's nothing I can do to hurry them up.'
'I wasn't expecting you to. I wanted to see you. In fact, I've a feeling we could have a lot in common.' He oozed charm and, despite herself, she was falling under his spell again.
'I was impressed by your playing. I love music.'
'So do I.' He proffered the cake-stand. 'At one time it was a toss between going into archaeology or attending the Royal Academy and studying the piano seriously.'
'Do you regret not doing so?' This was better. Freya was losing some of her shyness.
A shadow passed over his face. 'It was my father's wish that I made something of myself in this field, not fritter away my time on a musical career.'
'He was ambitious for you?'
'Very much so.' The bitterness in his tone gave her a glimpse into his past. She found herself thinking that those who have been wounded are dangerous, for they know how to survive.
'You have a great gift.'
He shrugged this off. 'I don't practice enough.'
'That's a shame. I'd like to hear you play again.'
'Later, perhaps. We have business to discuss first.'
He smiled again, that slightly cynical smile. 'Not entirely business. I prefer to call it pleasure. Can I trust you?'
'I hope so.' She was becoming even more confused. 'Unless it contravenes the ethics of my contract.'
'Supposing I was offering to share a truly remarkable find with you, one that I wished to keep a secret for the time being? Would your job come first?'
She wished so much that he wouldn't look at her in that way. His eyes were mesmerising, her body answering his male attraction, and she desired nothing more than to promise him anything under the sun.
'You should know perfectly well that I can't betray my employers.
Besides, there is my reputation to consider. I want to gain more qualifications and rise in my chosen field.' The words came out in a rush, and she feared she was expressing herself badly.
To make matters worse, he reached over and took her hand in his. His fingers were strong and warm, making her want to have them exploring the most intimate places of her body. 'Don't worry, Freya. This will enhance your reputation, when I decide to make it public.'
'What exactly is this mysterious something?' She tried to reply normally, while wishing she hadn't accepted his invitation to tea.
He answered her question with another, letting her hand drop. 'How much do you know about ancient religions?'
'Some, but buildings are my real interest.' She missed the warmth of his touch.
He proffered the cake-stand, saying, 'Jennie makes them.'
She waved it away. 'They look delicious, but no thanks.' How long was he going to keep up this game? The tension was mounting between them.
'I should be going.' All this trivia when she wanted to ask him, were you in my bedroom the night I stayed here?
He looked her in the eyes, as if reading this thought. 'Not yet, surely?
I want to show you the folly.'
'I wasn't aware of one.'
'None of your people know about it. They haven't explored the outside yet. For the time being, this shall be our secret. Yes?'
Curiosity killed the cat, she mused, but was unable to refuse him. The sun was setting and the manor resplendent in the golden glow of early
evening: Maxwell offered her his arm and they strolled across the lawn to where trees hid a ruined building. At a glance Freya was able to date it as a Georgian mock temple, used by the aristocratic owners as a place of entertainment, wherein to hold picnics and evening parties. One of the noblemen must have visited Europe and come back from Italy with ideas of architecture that he resolved to reproduce in his garden.
'It's lovely,' she said, walking between columns that would have once upheld the domed roof. 'Are you going to have it restored?'
'I rather like it as it is. There's a kind of decadence about it, don't you agree? I'll bet there were some goings-on in the old days... young bucks betting and seducing, drinking and wenching. I sometimes regret not having been born then.'
'You'd have fitted in perfectly. The costume of the day would have suited you.'
'I'm thinking of holding a fancy-dress party when the work on the manor is near completion. Will you come, Freya, be the innocent maiden falling for the blandishments of the lord?'
The light was fading and she was all too aware of the over-the-top romantic atmosphere. Birds were settling to roost and bats skittered and squeaked as they circled the rooftop. The air was perfumed and she felt intoxicated by the presence of this man.
'I shall accept your invitation, if I'm still around.' She moved a little further away from him.
'Are you thinking of leaving?'
'I shall go where my work takes me.' And where fate leads me, her mind ran on. Would Andrew be a part of her future?
He seemed very remote as she stood there with Maxwell, whose personality was so powerful that he eclipsed other men. And yet she had a perfectly nice guy who would come rushing over if she picked up the phone. She wondered why women go for the bad boys - the wasters, alcoholics, drug addicts and womanisers. Hadn't she fallen for Carl and wasn't he of this ilk? Women felt challenged to reform the rake but, when they did so and he became a domesticated pussy-cat, they lost interest.
'Would you like to see more?' He indicated a slab, hidden by bushes.
'What else is there?'
'I'll show you, but keep it to yourself.' It was too tantalising to refuse and when she nodded, he shifted the slab, revealing an opening.
Memories of the dungeon rushed into her mind, and she hesitated as he held out his hand. 'Come along. It's quite safe. There are steps.'
She peered down as he took his lighter to candles that stood on ledges.
Now was the moment to retreat, but her sense of adventure urged her on. He had spoken the truth. The steps proved to be perfectly solid and, on reaching floor level, it was to find a large cavern, though hardly a natural structure. It had been designed and made by man. The folly hid this secret chamber where once, she guessed, the celebrations above had been repeated below, forming a grotto typical of the era when such entertainments had been the rage among the nobility. The walls glistened with semi-precious stones and paintings had been added, the subjects erotic. Gods and goddess fornicated in Grecian groves. Cupid was much in evidence, firing his arrows.
There were centaurs and satyrs, with naked nymphs riding their enormous phalli.
'My God! This is priceless!' Freya gasped as Maxwell lit even more candles.
'I don't want it made public. It's my private pleasure ground. I shall only bring those I can trust here. I intend to make use of it as the former owners did.'
'Surely you want to share it with the public?' She was sharply reminded of that first occasion when she had been alone with him underground, but this place was different, having an air of luxury and decadence.
'Not necessarily. That's why I'm asking you not to mention it to Andrew.
I know that I can trust you.' He ran a hand down the side of her face, as gentle as a whisper. Then, his voice deepening and very seductive, he asked, 'Would you like to act out some of the delights that those libertines once practiced?'
'I don't know.' She did, of course, but was trying to deny her desire.
He spread his hands, indicating the decor, the dimness and the antiquity.
'Do you like it?'
'It frightens me.'
He smiled. 'Surely not? Let me blindfold you, blanking out light, and then allow your feelings, instincts, hidden urges to manifest.'
He whipped off her scarf and covered her eyes. She stiffened and tried to remove it, but he captured her hands. Deprived of sight and restrained by his iron grip, it seemed as if her other senses had sharpened. She could smell the candles and his aftershave, along with the scent of his hair. He pushed up her T-shirt, and she heard and felt the zipper of her jeans running down. Then he bore her back and back until hard stone chilled her bare spine. He stretched her arms out on either side, and there was a click as cuffs were fastened to her wrists and then attached to chains. She couldn't move.
'What are you doing, Maxwell?'
For answer he pulled her jeans down further and then the tiny thong. The air was cold on her pubis. 'I'm creating a perfect, lewd picture. You look good enough to eat, and certainly to fuck. Your skin glows against the dark wall, and your hair shines in the dimness. I love the sight of your blind eyes and the anxiety of your mouth, but above all are your eager nipples, straining towards me, begging for caresses.' And his fingers were on them, pinching, stroking, making them harden even more.
'Let me go!' The conventional side of her protested, but the other, earthy part wanted him to go on.
He didn't answer. It was as if he knew the animal longings within her.
Now she felt his fingers on her clitoris, a rapid stroke that ran from the base to the tip, almost too hard, then diving into the wetness pooling at her vulva and spreading it up and over. She became unaware of the manacles chaffing her wrists and the ache in her arms. Her breathing was ragged. All she wanted was to have the burning between her legs satisfied. She could feel his erection pressing against her thigh and longed to have it within her, but he was deliberately denying her. He brought her close to orgasm, using his fingers and bending to caress her with his tongue, but each time she almost reached the peak, he withdrew, teasing and tormenting her.
'Not so fast, little one,' he chided, and slapped her across the tops of her bare legs. 'You have a lot to learn. The joys of pain and pleasure, for example. Like this,' and he struck her again, a forceful blow that made her cry out. He ignored her and subjected her to his hard palm again, once, twice, thrice.
'Stop it.' She was angry with him for hurting and frustrating her.
'You don't really mean that.' He moved to her breasts, sucking the nipples, while his hand cupped her mound, the middle finger tickling her clitoris. The burning in her thighs added to this sensation.
His penis was exposed, large and hard, nudging its way into her wet sex.
He thrust several times, while she strained against him, rejoicing in the feel of him inside her as she had wanted since first catching sight of him.
On the verge of climax by his caresses, the glorious feeling of his invasion tipped her over the edge. She yelped as she came and he speeded up, deep within her as he sought his pleasure. She felt him climax, the hot charge of semen flooding her, and was thankful that she was on the pill, though conception was not the only danger.
He withdrew and released her. She took off the blindfold and adjusted her clothing, unable to look at him. Then, 'Have you brought anyone else here?'
Her heart sank like a stone. 'I see. So I wasn't the first?'
'Does that make any difference?' he answered, with a quizzical lift if his eyebrows. 'What we did just now was entirely unique to us. Can't you see that?'
'And is this what you wanted to show me? The folly with its secret cave, that I mustn't mention to Andrew?'
'That's right.' He gripped her hand to help her mount the stairs, blowing out the candles as they went, then replacing the slab. It was full dark by now and he took her back to the house, then to the drawing-room. He pushed her into an armchair, poured her a brandy and one for himself. 'Sit there.
I'll play for you.'
Freya leaned her head back against the cushion, glass in hand, wondering if she had dreamed the whole episode, but the wetness between her thighs was real enough. She had had intercourse with Maxwell Sinclair. Now he was seated at the piano, those hands that had chastised her and brought her to bliss now touching the keys. The room was softly lit and he knew the piece by heart, absorbed in it as he started to play The Mephisto Waltz by Franz Liszt. It was seductive, devilish, conjuring visions of Satan playing the violin while his naked acolytes whirled in mad dance around him.
Maxwell was strange, and she was beginning to accept this, becoming absorbed in his lifestyle, though terrified that she might be falling under the spell of obsessive love.