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Martine thrust a bite of scalloped veal into her mouth, chewed and swallowed quickly, then pointed her fork at Helen’s lunch. “Aren’t you going to eat any more of that?”
Helen smiled wistfully down at her Caesar salad and shook her head. “I can’t afford to have more than a morsel or two at lunch, dear. I can’t burn it off the way you younger gals do.”
Martine’s face colored. At fifty, Helen was the picture of glowing good health, with classically voluptuous proportions that called to men of all ages. She wore form-fitting silk blouses, leather miniskirts, and stiletto heels that would have looked foolish and vain on nearly any other woman her age. Her sensual appeal was as obvious as any beauty queen’s, and as unaffected as the gait of a cat. Martine, who would have sworn she was absolutely heterosexual, could hardly look at Helen without wanting to touch her.
Nine out of ten younger women would have killed to have Helen’s figure. Martine was one of the nine. At twenty-five, her lifelong chubbiness had started to edge toward genuine overweight, and she felt powerless to arrest it.
“It seems like a lot to give up,” Martine said, “just to have a fashionable figure.”
Helen’s face went blank. She leaned forward and steepled her fingers against her lips. “What makes you think that’s the only reward, dear?”
Martine put down her fork. “Well…”
“Have you ever heard the saying, ‘hunger is the best sauce’?”
“But it is.” Helen’s smile returned. “Desire is what gives any satisfaction its intensity. The more desire, the more satisfaction. The less you eat, the more pleasure you take from your meals. Are you enjoying your veal?”
Martine was momentarily nonplussed. She looked quickly about the little restaurant, inexplicably anxious that someone might be eavesdropping on them. “It’s all right, I guess. Why did you ask?”
“I’ve had it here,” Helen murmured. “They do it exceptionally well. But you were gulping it down as if you could hardly taste it.”
Martine’s mouth dropped open. She looked down at her nearly empty plate, and realized that what Helen had said was true. She put her fingertips to the edge of the plate and pushed it gently away. It took more effort than she expected.
“One of the less obvious things about pleasure of any kind,” Helen said, “is how a certain amount of self-denial can make it so much better. Enough to sharpen your nerves and bring you up onto your toes for it.”
“I would never have expected,” Martine said slowly, “to hear an exotic lingerie and sex toy retailer advocate self-restraint. I thought the whole point of what you do is to encourage people to enjoy themselves.”
Helen nodded. “It is. What’s the point of what you do, dear?”
“Huh? I write Web applications, you know that.”
“For their own sake? The more code, the better?”
“Of course not! My clients have specific needs. Once I know what those are, I craft Web sites to meet them.”
Helen merely sat silently.
Martine chewed her lip. Her last romance had fizzled out from mutual indifference. Neither she nor Ted had wanted to continue it. They’d begun making elaborate excuses not to get together. Yet there was nothing wrong with him. In fact, she’d thought of him as a considerable catch. She still did, when she viewed his assets objectively.
There wasn’t much wrong with her, either. She was bright, pretty, well to do, still on the sunny side of thirty, and at ease in any social setting. She had no faults the loss of twenty pounds couldn’t cure.
Without preliminary, she rose, fished a twenty-dollar bill out of her purse, and slapped it on the table. “Let’s go back to your shop, Helen.”
The older woman cocked an eyebrow. “Was there something you wanted there, dear?”
Martine flipped a hand. “Maybe. I’m counting on you to find it for me.”
The corners of Helen’s mouth canted upward. “Ah. I see. Yes, let’s be off.”
As they entered Naughty But Nice, Helen’s exotica shop, the older woman turned toward Martine and spread her arms as if to invite her guest to peruse the wares. She stood that way, unspeaking, as Martine collected her thoughts.
I’ve been here a lot of times, but maybe I’ve never seen what Helen sees, or what her other customers see.
“What does any of this,” Martine said, “have to do with self-restraint?”
Helen’s eyes glinted with humor. “What you see here provides a challenge. Silky underthings, for instance, titillate without providing release. If you can withstand the teasing, you can build up a nice head of desire for whoever will be coming to visit…or coming home at the end of the day. The vibrators and such are for people with other problems. And I have other goods as well. Would you care to see them?”
Martine nodded. Helen turned and, with a delicate flip of the fingers, beckoned her to follow.
Presently they stood in a large, mirrored room. Its sole content was a single bursa escort upholstered chair that looked as if it belonged in a Victorian parlor. Martine looked about her in bafflement.
“Where are the goods you were talking about?”
Helen arched her brows, went to one of the mirrors and pressed its edge. It sprang open to reveal a capacious closet filled with leather garments. She riffled through them briefly and returned to Martine holding one festooned with laces, garters, and bits of bright chrome detail.
“Have you ever worn a waist cincher, dear?”
Helen spread the garment for Martine’s perusal. It looked impossibly small, far too small to wrap around her bulges.
“It looks as if it would be…tight on me.”
Helen nodded. “Yes, it would. Once laced, I expect it would take four or five inches off your tummy. It will be uncomfortable at first, but if you have the discipline to keep it on, it will restrict your eating to a much more moderate level. Over time, your hunger will diminish, your body will adapt and you’ll shrink to the dimensions it imposes on you. Then we can proceed to the next stage.”
“What would that involve.”
Helen lowered her brows to catch shadows in the hollows of her eyes. “You’ll learn about that when the time comes, not before. Are you willing to try this?”
“Don’t disappoint me, dear. You’re quite impressive in many ways. I’ve been hoping you would come around for a little…assistance.”
Martine swallowed. “Okay.”
Helen nodded. “Take off all your clothes.”
With the garment fully laced and tightened, Martine felt as if she could hardly breathe. Yet the sensation wasn’t wholly unpleasant. Her posture felt straighter and stronger by several degrees. She held her head an inch or so higher, and kept it there with little effort. Her reflection in the mirrors displayed assets she’d never before possessed.
She was definitely narrower by at least four inches. Her bosom thrust forward nicely, and her hips and legs were accentuated as well. She admired herself with undisguised delight.
“Lovely, isn’t she?” Helen said.
“Yes,” Martine breathed.
“And we’re not finished.” Helen went to another segment of mirror, opened yet another concealed closet, and withdrew a pair of round-toed pumps in gleaming black leather, with high straight heels. “Here, put these on.”
Martine stepped into them carefully. It took her a moment to stop tottering and establish her balance, but once she’d done so, the shoes felt almost as comfortable as her habitual ballet flats. Her reflection had become utterly stunning, and utterly alien.
Helen had moved to stand behind her.
“This is what a little discipline can earn you,” she murmured into Martine’s ear. “If you want this, I’ll help you to get it — to make it as natural for you as any life you’ve known to date. But I must warn you, dear: once we’ve begun, I will not let you turn back. Are you willing?”
Martine was hypnotized by her own appearance. She nodded at once.
“Excellent,” Helen murmured. She draped her arms around Martine’s body, hands moving to cup her breasts. Her thumbs brushed lightly over Martine’s nipples, once, twice, thrice. Martine gasped and sagged backward as a dull smoldering ignited at the base of her spine.
Helen’s hands traveled down Martine’s torso. Her fingers toyed briefly with the younger woman’s pubic hair before questing for the moist slit below.
Martine bucked backward against Helen. Her own hands went to press Helen’s more firmly into her mons.
Without warning, Helen pulled her fingers away. Before Martine could register the change, Helen had wrapped a thick band of leather tightly about her waist. Another, harder object rose between her legs. There were two quick metallic clacks, and Martine gasped again.
“What — what’s this?” Her hands scrabbled at the smooth surface of the thing that had captured her groin.
Helen smiled. “It’s a chastity belt, dear.”
Martine gaped. The belt was completely seamless. It enclosed her mons closely and perfectly. There was no way to get under it with anything wider than a needle. The mating parts were solid steel. As tightly as it clasped her above the hips, she knew it wouldn’t come off unless unlocked.
“But I thought you were going to…”
“Oh, no,” Helen said. “Weren’t we talking about self-restraint just before? Well, here’s your first course. You’re going to wear both these items until we’ve got your weight down to where it belongs. You’ll keep the shoes on, too; they’ll provide added incentive.”
Martine couldn’t tear her eyes away from the chastity belt. Beneath it, her loins pulsed with unslaked need.
“Until I say otherwise,” Helen purred, “you’ll be eating all your meals with me. In fact, I think it would be best if you moved in here for a few weeks, so your sanitary needs will be easier to meet. You wouldn’t mind bursa escort bayan walking next door to your office each morning, instead of walking downstairs from your flat, would you?”
Martine turned to look directly at Helen. Her heels caught beneath her, and she started to tumble. Helen caught her under the arms and steadied her.
“No turning back, dear,” she said. “Six weeks from today, eight at most, you’ll have the best figure in Los Angeles.”
“How — how am I supposed to live like this?” Martine lowered her gaze to the floor.
Helen’s face became stern. She took Martine’s chin between finger and thumb and raised it until their eyes met again. “Under my supervision. But I promise you, once it’s over, you won’t regret a moment of it. Now get dressed. I’ll expect you for dinner at six. Bring what you’ll need for the morning.”
Helen was unrelenting. She allowed Martine one brief, supervised toilet each morning before sending her to her office, then one more at lunch, and one after dinner. After the first three days of the regimen, Martine stopped drinking coffee.
She ate all her meals with Helen as well. The older woman made all their choices and measured out all their portions. There were no second helpings of anything. To insure that she didn’t stray, Helen popped into her office without warning several times each day. She confiscated Martine’s bags of chips and nuts with a glare and a lecture that no snacking would be allowed.
At first Martine thought she might die of it. Her hunger was a worm in her belly with the teeth of a tiger, continuous and painfully sharp. All she could do for it was to concentrate on her work, and on the non-nutritious entertainments Helen allowed her in the evenings.
Yet Helen was right. The less she ate, the more she looked forward to her meals, and the more pleasure she took from them. She educated herself with each bite: how to portion the mouthful, how to chew it and savor it as it rolled over her tongue, and how to swallow with the back passages of her mouth properly opened, so that the gustatory experience formed an elongated whole of aroma, texture and taste.
After a week, the intensity of her hunger pangs had faded substantially. After two weeks, she thought about eating only immediately before meals. After three, there was a noticeable slack between her belly and the chastity belt.
Helen noticed it too. She cinched the belt tighter at once, to Martine’s disappointed groans.
Helen had her ways of reminding Martine what awaited her at the conclusion of her ordeal. Her breasts brushed across Martine’s back far too often for it to be accidental. When she talked, her hand would go to Martine’s waist in apparently casual fashion, then slide caressingly over the buttocks below. At the dinner table, their feet and legs often touched with the suggestion of an entwinement to come.
Side by side in their nightgowns on Helen’s couch, with the television glowing irrelevantly before them, the older woman would idly drape her arm across Martine’s shoulders or reach into her lap to take her hand. In the process, Helen’s hand would brush lightly over Martine’s breast or thigh, and the younger woman would shudder with reawakened lust. But there was no satisfaction to be had. The chastity belt stayed firmly locked around Martine’s waist, its brushed-steel crotchpiece denying all access to the urgently aroused flesh beneath.
Unlike her hunger, her need for release never slackened.
“Why?” Martine shuddered against Helen’s breast. “Why did you do this to me?”
Helen stroked her hair and murmured meaningless soothing sounds. Behind them, the talking head on the television nattered pointlessly into the gloom.
“I was arrow-straight only two months ago,” Martine said in a half sob. “Now all I can think about is touching you, holding you, loving you. You had to have done it for a reason, so why won’t you let me love you?”
The older woman didn’t reply at once. She pushed Martine back a little way and looked into her eyes. Her expression was warm and a little wry.
“Incentive, dear. You adapted to the diet very quickly. I haven’t heard a peep of complaint from you in six weeks or more. If I were to permit you this, what other reason would you have to stay the course with me?”
“But I have stayed the course!”
Helen shook her head slightly, and Martine’s eyes widened.
“You’ve lost your twenty pounds, yes. You look marvelous, even better than I’d hoped.” She ran her hands lightly down Martine’s shoulders and arms and held her by her beautifully tapered waist. “Your posture is excellent and your walk is grace itself.” She glanced down at the five-inch heels Martine had worn for eight weeks running. “Tell me, are the shoes comfortable?”
Martine nodded. “I don’t even notice them any more.”
“As I expected.” Helen smiled. “So you see, dear, you’re everything bursa merkez escort you wanted to be, just as I predicted. Would you agree?”
Martine nodded again. “But –“
“But why haven’t I let you out of the chastity belt? Because you aren’t yet everything that I want you to be.”
“What…” Martine’s voice cracked and sank near to a whisper. “What do you want me to be?”
Helen’s smile was delicate. “My underling.”
Martine’s mind filled with questions. “At the store?”
“Certainly at the store, dear, but not just there. Here, as well.”
Martine stood mute in her confusion, the implications of the words clanging within her.
After a moment’s silence, Helen dipped a finger into a tiny pocket in her miniskirt and pulled out a small key. It was the key to the chastity belt. She undid the latches and unbuckled the belt, tossed it onto the floor and stepped back. Martine, her loins unexpectedly freed, shivered briefly, put a hand tentatively to her mons, then let it fall to her side.
“You hunger as you once did for food,” Helen said, “but now it’s for something quite different. I’ve teased you while denying you release, as carefully and intensely as I know how, as another woman once teased and denied me. I know the storm that rages in your body. It rages just as wildly in mine.
“To have what you want — which I very much want to give you, dear, have no doubt of that! — you must give me what I want: yourself. You must agree to give yourself to me, body and mind, heart and soul. You must do exactly as I say, whatever it is, whenever I say it, with no reservations, qualifications, or words of complaint. You must abandon that silly Web business of yours and apprentice yourself to me in mine, so that there will be continuity of knowledge, skill, and desire from me to you, as there was from my mistress to me, many years ago…and, one day, when I live only in your memories, from you to your underling, whoever that might be.
“You see, dear, I’m not just a shopowner, or, for that matter, an advisor to young women dissatisfied with their figures and their love lives. I’m also a priestess. And the most sacred of all my duties is to insure that they’ll be seen to after my life is spent, by one trained to the worship of the power I serve.”
“What…what power is that?”
Helen’s all but undetectable smile quirked. “Desire itself.”
At those words, the wave of need that lashed Martine swelled to fill all her being. A Presence barely perceptible at the edge of her awareness, that she’d thought a mere artifact of her yearning for Helen, zoomed toward her at an immeasurable speed. She ceased to feel her own body, or to sense her own existence. Her soul became a single blinding flame of lust that exploded outward and took her consciousness with it.
All thought ceased as she slumped to the floor.
Martine awoke in Helen’s bed. Helen sat beside her, holding her hand and watching her face.
“The power touched you, didn’t it?”
Martine tried to speak, found her tongue unresponsive. She nodded.
“I’m glad,” Helen said. “That reassures me that it was meant to be.”
Martine tried to speak again, coughed twice, and shook her head. Helen waited in silence.
“What…what do I do now?”
The older woman’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “Nurture it.”
“In all ways.” Helen turned back the bedcovers to expose the sheets. She ran her fingers lightly over the fabric. Martine realized abruptly that she was swaddled in silk.
“You must encourage your desire in every possible way: with your clothes, with your walk, with your speech, with your surroundings, and above all with your restraint. You’ll wear that chastity belt until you’ve worn it out, and then another, and another, until your self-discipline is so firm that no tidal wave of lust can break your will. Your desire must build high, like a bonfire meant to warm the whole world, for that is what you will use it to do.”
“But why?” Martine struggled onto her elbows. “What good is desire you’re not allowed to satisfy?”
“Oh, you’ll be allowed to satisfy it.” Helen chuckled. “When the power is satisfied with you. And anyway, there’ll be other rewards for your devotion. How old am I, dear?”
Martine frowned. “Didn’t you tell me you were fifty?”
“No, dear. I let you believe I was about that old. But my age requires more than two digits. In fact, it will soon need more than three.”
“My body has not changed in any way since I was your age,” Helen said. “Your impression of my age comes from my expression and my carriage, not from any mark time has left upon my flesh. The reward of desire is the gift of life. Desire is life. The more intensely we yearn, the more intensely we live. When we lose our desire, we lose our lives as well.”
“And I will be…like you?”
Helen nodded. “If you commit yourself as I did, you will have what I have. Probably longer and stronger than I’ve had it. It’s in you to be a great priestess. I can smell it.”
Fully restored to consciousness, Martine felt the stirrings of lust renew themselves in her loins. She allowed herself to slump back onto the pillow.
“What will my duties be?”
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