Jonathon has found a new toy, and he believes he has a way to program it so that it will measure a woman's arousal. When he catches Erica ogling a group of male models across the street from where they are having dinner, he decides to bring her in on his little experiment. If she can control herself and her body's responses while sitting through a male underwear fashion show, she'll be free to spend the rest of her vacation exactly how she wants. Eager to please and a little tipsy, Jen boasts that the challenge will be easy, but Robert knows her too well. For each threshold you pass on the thermometer, he adds, you take off a piece of clothing right there and then. Erica agrees, secretly turned on by such high stakes, but she knows that if she isn't careful, arousal and humiliation will form a compounding feedback loop that will leave her the center of an impromptu exhibition more than sufficient to steal the show.
He fished in his pocket and produced a long and narrow object in a plastic case. "An interesting souvenir I found in the shops today," he said, holding it out for my inspection.
"A digital thermometer?" I asked in confusion.
"A little experiment," he said. "A challenge for you. A fun one."
"I don't understand."
"It's programmable," he explained, twisting it so that I could see several buttons at the end opposite the metal sensor. "I can set it to beep at preset temperatures, and it's sensitive to hundredths of a degree."
"So, that means it can be used to measure blood flow."
"I don't - " And then I understood what he was saying, and I realized the thought that had put that wicked smile on his handsome face.
I blushed furiously and crossed my legs under the table. The notion was so ... demeaning. But that was his favorite game, of course: putting my head and my body in conflict and confusion.
"So you want to put it ..." I said in trepidation.
I took a gulp of wine. It warmed my stomach and dulled my hesitations to the point that my desire to make Jonathon happy could overcome them. I could tell from the look on his face that he wanted this - wanted me to say yes. How could I say anything else when he looked at me that way?
"This is what we're going to do," he said. "When I found this in the shop, I decided to do a bit of reading, and I think I found some numbers we can put to good use. We'll set five thresholds. Each time you pass one of those thresholds, it'll beep. If you can stay at level 3 or lower, you don't have to come to the gallery with me tomorrow."
I swirled the wine in the glass. The idea was starting to grow on me. "You don't think I can do it, yeah?"
"Of course I do," he said. "That's what makes it fun. If I thought you couldn't win, then I'd just be taking advantage of you, wouldn't I?" He said it with a grin on his face that made it me doubt he believed what he was saying. The look was infectious, and I found myself grinning back at him and wanting to rise to the challenge.
"Men think women are always as horny as they are. I've got more self-control in my pinky," I said, waggling the finger at him.
"Really?" He said, delighted. "Then maybe we should make it more interesting."
"Make it as interesting as you want," I boasted, made courageous by the wine and by his obvious pleasure at my confidence. "I'm not losing this one."
"Alright. Then each time the thermometer beeps, you take off a piece of clothing."
"I - what?"
"Well why not? You said this would be easy."
I didn't know how to respond. He obviously wanted me to say yes, but ... taking my clothes off? Why couldn't the stakes be just a little bit lower? But of course I knew the answer, and if I had to be honest, in the very deepest parts of me, I found it a little exciting. Terrifying, yes, but exciting.