City of Light

heidi michelle Copyright ©2004 /hmh

La Maîtresse…as one of the largest private BDSM events held in Europe, it is an annual event of three-day duration, coinciding with the autumnal equinox and held in the heart of the environs of Versailles. Its hosts, André and Adriana de Lion are well known and well thought of in the international alternative community, their collar respected and sought after with fervor. In a moment of symbolic humor the event’s name references Barbet Schroeder’s work, which examines the line between fantasy and reality, decadence and deprivation, and the distance one will go for love.

Twenty-five minutes from the heart of Paris the de Lions and hundreds of their friends and acquaintances have been doing just that for over fifteen years.

‘Paris, City of Light’, Cyn muses, her distracted eyes seeing nothing beyond the window of the taxi. A frisson of pleasure and dread churns in her belly. This city, of them all, affects her thus.

For her, Paris is the city of night. Despite the frequency of their travel here, it’s been years since she’s taken simple pleasure in this city, its architecture, its history, or even seen the city by daylight. It has, in fact, been years since Paris held any simple pleasure for her at all. For her, Paris is a city of perverse and excruciating passions and pleasures, of driven hungers and dark minds, of exquisite perversions and sheer sensuality, drawing her like a moth to flame.

"Cyn?" His deep, male voice purrs at her ear, heated breath stroking every sense to life. "What are you thinking?" She turns, startled from her reverie, gazing at his dark, charismatic face, feeling the pull of his personality in the silver gleam of his eyes, chameleon eyes, from mist to midnight in a moment, perfect harbingers of his mood.

"I was thinking of the first time we attended La Maîtresse and all that’s happened since, Ruan, my love, " the earthy yearning in her voice makes him smile even as his eyes harden at the reference. "I still feel the heat, the flames of fear and feral hunger, this city fans in my belly, beloved. Of all the cities, and all the venues, Paris is the only one that haunts my sleep." She sighs softly, leaning into his tall frame, seeking solace from his strength against the dark haunting memories of their first attendance together.

" is this city that pulled you, whimpering, from my arms last night? That had you shrinking from my touch in your sleep and writhing in your dreams?" Her fingers brush lightly against his cheek, caressing away the frown lines that mar his features.

"You know better… as do I, Ruan." Her gaze, pinned to his, is unwavering in her earnestness. "Paris…her people…there is an edge to her, a cruel passion that is much more prevalent than any other city we attend. She beckons me, Ruan. London, Lisbon, Berlin…Naples, Sydney…none of them have this edge, this intensity."

One strong arm, fingers tensed, grips her elbow; his eyes search hers for the answer. She shakes her head.

Her mind wanders backwards three years to her first time attending La Maîtresse, their first time together in Paris. It was a miscommunication, pure and simple, that had left her alone at the chateau, showing up several hours before he would arrive.

It was her own naïveté, however, that drew the jaded of the French elite, wolves, circling her like prey. Her heady sense of invincibility, their warm looks and narrow eyed interest stroking her ego. In the end, it was her own curiosity that inevitably became her downfall.


Three years earlier, environs of Versailles, the fear

She’d hopped out of the warmth of the Citröen and hesitantly approached the massive, iron bound door, watching the car and driver as they’d slowly moved away. The door had opened before she’d been able to raise her hand, the houseman, formally clad in black and white, had bowed her in with all the charm of Europe itself.

Gawking at the breathtaking size and ambience of the entryway, the houseman had gestured for her wrap, patiently pulling it from her shoulders with practiced ease. The chill air within the immense stone portal had left a trail of goosebumps to run amok over the décolletage of her gown.

Magnificently framed, a mirror on the wall before her had reflected her image; the long black dress that had clung intimately to lithe curves and taunting hollows, that had contrasted sharply with her fair, blonde beauty. Two men chatting amicably to her left had turned their glances in her direction. Their conversation had stopped. Their eyes had gleamed back at her.

The touch of the houseman’s hand at her elbow and the low murmur of melodic French that had pulled her green eyes away, a soft blush suffusing her cheeks with a different kind of warmth that had teased her senses.

"I’m sorry, I don’t speak French," her voice, hesitant and whispery, had echoed throughout the entrance.

"My pardon, Miss. Are you here with an escort?" Something like paternal concern had colored his tone as he’d glanced at the two men in the hall.

"No. Well, I mean, yes of course. I’m to meet him here." She’d faltered at the open disapproval in his eyes, startled violently by the warm touch of a man’s hand on her shoulder

"It is fine, Jacques. We will introduce her…around." The low, resonant voice had belonged to one of the two men, the rolling r’s of his speech, the cadence, magnificently French. She’d glanced around taking in the aesthetic features framed by dark hair, high, prominent cheekbones, cold blue eyes, thin, sensual lips, and the lithe, tense body.

"Whom are you here to meet, Miss?" Jacques had questioned, ignoring the darkly handsome gentleman.

‘Ruan...Ruan Morgan…although I don’t suppose you know him…or where I might find him?" The name had brought the second man over, his eyes flashing recognition in their pale depths.

"A friend of Ruan’s is a friend of ours, mademoiselle, but I do not believe he is here yet. Allow us to escort you in until he arrives?" The broad smile had been friendly, his touch warm, sensual on her other shoulder, had drawn her away from Jacques.

"André Raffarin, mademoiselle, and my friend, Michel Chevenement. An honor." With a flamboyant gesture, he’d bent over her hand, lips descending to bring a soft gasp, flipping it to place a gentle, subtly erotic caress against her palm. "And what, cherie, do you call yourself?"

His blatant sensuality and the obvious interest from his companion had made her bold, an impish grin framing her full lips, her eyes lighting with mischief. "Some, monsieur, call me Original Cyn."

"Yes…and are you suited to it, bella?" She’d been surprised that he’d caught the joke between languages and their soft banter had continued as they walked further into the depths of the chateau. A magnificent flight of marble stairs had led down into a room so immense it made her gasp, its floor, a dance floor, flooded with people. Her soft gasp at its splendor, and the splendor of its inhabitants, men dazzling in black and white formality, women brilliant in rainbow colors, brought a soft, derisive chuckle from Michel.

"Here. For your confidence." Coming back to her side with a glass of champagne, the look in his eyes had been unreadable to her, making her uneasy until the charismatic grin wiped the emotion away. She had taken a sip, then another, its full, sweet body ruined slightly by the sharp tang of an after bite.

She should have known, should have realized. It had been in their smiles and glances, a cruel edge like cat and mouse game with their eyes. The champagne spiked with a drug that left her bleary, yet blatantly provocative, arousal like fire through her veins as she’d clung to her escorts thirty minutes later. Their party had grown by several other men and three women; with each addition the group’s jaded decadence grew exponentially.

Later, led off the dance floor through a maze of hallways and rooms, the nuances of their conversation had begun to filter through her haze and she’d hesitated, glancing backward, their eager voices cajoling her forward. Strong hands had clutched at each of her arms, teasing voices light and playful when they’d passed other partygoers, to become darkly intense when alone.

"There. Put her there." She remembers that voice clearly, even today, its chill going to the heart of her. François Martine, his name had floated within reach from a conversation earlier. He’d approached her, his height intimidating, the lean handsome features devoid of any warmth, cruel intent clear in the depths of those black eyes. He’d waved a glass vial under her nose, her breath catching, expanding to leave her coughing, and fighting for air, clear headed except for the slow wave of arousal that had drowned every reasonable thought.

"Oh God!" she’d cried, nipples hard, hard, hard, cunt swelling and throbbing in response.

"So you are Ruan’s newest pet, his latest find. Andreas and Adriana have spoken highly of you, little Cynful." The names had drifted over her, surreal, Ruan’s friends. Surely they could not…

"How fortunate he has left you to our tender mercy, cherie. Not so tender, I assure you." His fingers stroking lightly down her arms to her heaving breasts had gripped her nipples and squeezed, pulling them downward, rolling them maliciously, finger nails to rake cruelly over the sensitive buttons, accelerating the tidal wave of heat in her belly.

Shaking her head, she’d tried to clear the unnatural rush of hunger clouding her mind only to find herself bent over the settee. Two of the women, one on each side, had reached around her, gently tugging the skirt of her gown from beneath her knees and sliding its material up over her hips, baring her bottom. She had heard Ruan’s voice in her ears, from earlier in the day, a soft, gentle whisper, "No panties, sweet slut," and then she’d felt cold air on her cheeks.

A large callused hand had caressed her flank and then the full curve of her bottom, spreading her cheeks, causing her belly to clench with need, her whimper of hunger had echoed about them. Brutally, he’d taken both her holes, hard fingers burying themselves in her depths, his other hand in her hair, pulling her head back, his mouth next to her ear.

"Ruan always did prefer his whores free of obstruction. Show me, you eager little bitch. Show me your nature." Her scream had reverberated, the white-hot pain of his entry barely able to suppress the liquid heat that had coalesced deep in her belly, clenching and contracting outwards with unimaginable fury.

"No…please…" She’d thrust backward against his immobile fingers, trying to free her hair, the remorseless plunge sending her forward, scrambling to get away, pain expanding her senses to a new height.

"Hold her," a powerful, focused growl, one of erotic power, ferocious in its intensity. The two women had gripped her shoulders and arms, while Michel and André had pinned her hips. François had removed his fingers, brutally leaving her cunt to clench behind them with an audible slurp, her soft, pleading cries of disbelief ignored completely.

"Jesu, " André’s voice husky, hungry, as he’d leaned against her, his arousal rampant against her hip and belly.

"Hand me the whip," François’ voice, quick, sharp like a razor, controlled, emotionless, his fingers had stroked the dripping lips of her pussy, to press lightly against the tight muscles that trembled in eager response.

"Cynful really is more appropriate, you little tramp." The thick, wet leather lines of the whip lying over hot flesh had made her shudder. "Pose for me. Like the bitch in heat you are. Do it!" Male hands had pulled her knees apart wide while female hands pushed her shoulders down, head thrown back, back arched, to leave her ass high in the air, as if begging.

"No. Please!" The thick leather handle, pressing firmly against dripping labia had brought her head around, his eyes pinning hers, burning with cold, unyielding malice. Slowly, he’d taunted her with both eyes and handle, sliding it against those sensitive folds, up underneath to stroke her swollen, throbbing clit and back down. Even as she shuddered, his expression had brought a frigid chill deep within, lips opened in a whimper. He’d reversed the whip, bringing its agonizing cords whistling down upon her thighs and cheeks with a ferocity that should have had her screaming in pain. Her screams had, however, rung only with animal pleasure. Fingers plunging back into her depths, she’d bucked helplessly backward, grunting for more. Whip, fingers, whip, fingers, it’d gone on and on, separating her mind from her body.

From somewhere else, another life perhaps, she’d heard one of the women crying out François’ name, felt the hands stop restraining her, and felt the whip stop for a moment. She’d moaned, achingly aware of its loss, her body begging for more. With a cruel laugh he’d continued.

From even farther away, she’d heard a new voice, a woman, deeply husky, and a name that somewhere in the back of her mind meant something.

"Ruan, I just don’t know. Jacques came and told me she’d gone off with François and that crowd, but we haven’t located them yet. They were seen on the dance floor an hour ago, but…I can’t imagine…Oh my God…"

"Leave her." Raw controlled and cold as ice, his voice had flashed hot across the room. She’d felt hands falling away, heard people stepping back in haste, the depth of the anger in his voice cutting through the air in the same way the last strokes of the whip had cut into her flesh. She’d collapsed onto the settee, sliding half off and onto the floor, his strong hands frighteningly delicate in their touch, his voice dropping into a gentle whisper that was just for her.

"O, Cyn…" the anguish in his voice had hurt her; she’d opened her eyes to his, her hand struggling to reach him.

"Master…" she’d whispered, barely loud enough to hear, before consciousness fled.


Present Day, Paris

"You, my love, are the only thing that haunts me…your pleasure, your satisfaction, your favor…it was never your fault, Ruan."

His nod accepts her statement, the pleasure glowing from his eyes taking her breath away as she basks in his arms.

After three months of distance, they’ve reunited in Paris, her flight from America coming in shortly after his from the U.K. Now, sitting in the taxi together, she realizes just how much Paris has come to mean to both of them.

Andreas de Lion, attached to the Italian embassy, and his wife, Adriana, a transplanted American are two of Ruan’s closest friends and peers. The bond of friendship between Ruan and the de Lions, always strong, had opened to include her as well, embracing her in a four-way rapport that was breathtaking in its strength, sensitivity and sensuality.

It had been Adriana that had walked down that hallway that evening with her Master. She had persuaded Ruan, with a determined delicacy that was an art to behold; that the fury of the beating he’d given François was enough vengeance for his fiery Scottish blood. And it had been Adriana who had insisted that they stay with them, so that, over the ensuing four weeks, Adriana and Cyn had formed a bond that was elemental.

Part of that bond would always be the vulnerable, lash ridden submissive that Adriana had nursed back to health. The other half was based on mutual respect, both intelligent, witty, strong individuals from two completely different spectrums of life.

In return, she can only admit she admires and adores the elegant Domme, four years older than her own thirty-two years, with a fervor that at times rouses disgruntled epithets from her mentor. With an impish grin, she’s always told him he should be glad Andreas didn’t have quite the same effect.

Due to work commitments and travel, she hadn’t met the male half of the de Lion duo until the following year; Andreas, the darkly handsome Italian who exuded a sense of power and control that were no less breathtaking than his wife’s.

Although the friendship between herself and Adriana had grown and blossomed to a glorious extent in twelve months, she’d been reluctant to attend the party, the blurred images and memories of the brutalities she’d submitted to still haunting her thoughts, her actions, even her dreams. A year later, she’d still shied away from any swift, unexpected movement or anything resembling the crack of a whip. In the end, she’d agreed to attend La Maîtresse a second time.

She should have realized that her gentle and determined mentor, concerned with her reactions and the dreams that left her whimpering in the night, would pursue a resolution. He had, in fact, tried already, several times. Taking her to local intimate gatherings, exposing her gently to consensual S/M groups. She’d gone, even participated once, not because she’d wanted to, but to please him. Her dreams that night had been frenzied and panicked. In the morning, he’d asked her why she’d participated and she’d admitted she’d done it for him, quailing under the icy smile, hard eyes and stern lecture he’d given her.

Unbeknownst to her, the three old friends had conspired in private, forming a plan that would inevitable free her from the ghosts that haunted her and had stalled her relationship with her mentor.




Two years earlier, environs of Versailles, the feral hunger

She felt her eyes widen like a child’s all over again as they entered the majestic old structure, its timeless elegance breathtaking at the very least. The immense mirror still hung in its place on the wall and a sense of déjà vu sent shimmers of unease that cascaded over her senses. Apprehension flooded her mind, color flooding her cheeks.

Even after Lady Adriana’s firm and continual reassurances, a part of her was unwilling to leave Ruan’s side, the memories so hatefully vivid. It was, in the end, Ruan’s tender remonstrations, pointing out Adriana’s distress that had pulled her to some semblance of order with a soft gaze of remorse, a gentle touch of apology to Adriana’s shoulder.

Later, Ruan had gently, but firmly asked her to go in search of Adriana, a request that baffled and bemused her but one that she’d acquiesced too, none the less. Oblivious to the handsome man that trailed her, she wandered through room after room of events and participants, celebrants of the solstice, their only common denominator a focus on sensual abandon.


The long hallway before her looked promising, her steps lengthening in anticipation before coming to a shocked standstill at the entrance to one room. Her breath caught deep inside; stilled, motionless, standing in the shadows of the stone archway, her lower lip clenched between her teeth. Silent, unable to look away, shocked, terrified yet somehow mesmerized, she watched the descent of the slick cruel leather. Her eyes were drawn to the woman’s face as she kneeled on cold stone, arms manacled and spread wide from leather leads descending from the ceiling. The woman was a permanent denizen of the house de Lion, to judge by her collar.


Disbelief and terror clouded her mind, an undeniable frisson of fascination mixed with the horror, the harsh crack of the whip against pale, tender skin echoing loudly in her ears. The woman’s scream, reverberating with pleasure, sensual frenzy and pain, cascaded over her senses, tauntingly insidious.

Cyn’s fingers, shaking, stroked the curve of her full bottom lip, eyeing the tiny drop of blood her teeth spilled, brilliant against a pale fingertip. Her own muffled gasp of pain caught an observer’s attention and the sensation of being watched shivered over taut nerves. She raised her head, seeking. The man looked predatory, tall, lithe, and strong, with a sensual mouth and black eyes that pinned her to the spot. She stood, frozen, his look of speculation, appraisal and potent sexuality, a physical caress as it traveled over her body to leave her skin heated, aching, sensitive. Her breasts had tightened in response nipples hardening painfully. She could feel her body soften, swell, respond, her lips parting with a soft gasp of disbelief…and invitation.

The long, confident stride as he approached was hypnotizing in its seductive grace. Strong hands, capturing her wrists, pulled her fingers away from her sore swollen lip, never breaking the intensity of their gaze. She recognized him, of course, from the family portraits that lined the de Lion hallways, Andreas’ dark good looks handed down through the generations.

"It frightens you?" Beautifully accented English, the sensual roll of the "r" teased her ears. Cyn nodded, flinching from the sound of the leathers descent.

"It arouses you." The whisper, teasing, confident, was not a question, his hand lifting her fingertip to his mouth, licking the smear of blood, bathing her in a sensual shimmer. Moving lower, one finger brushed against a hardened nipple, causing her to shudder with a cascade of conflicting emotions; disbelief, arousal, shame, fear. Her own soft moan; of protest, of longing, of uncertain distress, brought a gleam to his eyes, his fingers gentling her, the curl of a satisfied smile to the corners of his mouth.

"Close your eyes, bella." The moment: surreal, her eyes slipping closed. Cringing at the sound of whistling leather, her body tensed against his in response.

"Feel her need." His warm breath caressed her ear, decisive fingers encircling each wrist possessively, stroking slowly, liquid heat coursing through her. Again she hears the crack of leather on flesh, the sudden thrust of his knee between her thighs pressing her intimately against him that left her crying out her pleasure softly.

"Yes, uccello piccolo, my little bird. Listen. Hear her pleasure." The woman’s cries echoed in her ears, screams of pleasure pain that wrapped themselves around the audience, teasing, stroking, inviting.

"Keep your eyes closed, little bird." His voice warmed with reassurance. Strong hands gently pushed her backward, pressing her against the cold stone of the arch. "Spread your wings for me, uccello piccolo…let her teach you how to fly." Large masculine fingers hot and firm against her pelvis stroking her to new heights, the timbre and cadence of his words urging her on. The repetition of the whistle, crack and cries was gaining momentum, urging her to wanton release, her body writhing in unrestrained abandon against the heat of his hand.

His touch became more intimate, pushing her hemline up over the curve of her hips, a heated palm that slid over her belly, its path bringing her achingly close to erotic crescendo. "Wait, little pet. Raise your arms above you, grab the stones." Green eyes tightly closed as if in doing so she shut out the wanton reality of the moment. Lips parted, small rhythmic gasps spilling from them she moans for him. She raised her arms, fingers grasping the stones above her head, mimicking the pose of the other woman.

With her small whimper, a soft plea, his hand slipped lower, her hips thrusting her bare sex closer until the tips of his fingers rested teasingly against her wet, eager entrance, leaving her writhing in mindless hunger. When the heel of his hand brushed lightly against the swollen hungry nub of her clit, her whimper becomes a soft groan.


"Yes bella. Arch for me. Writhe for me. Show me." With bittersweet abandon she thrust her hips forward, to impale herself on his fingers, her slick, wet, needy flesh hungry for more.

"Thrust, thrust, thrust…yes cara, show me. Your heat, cara bella. Show me." Her back arched, head thrown back, the soft rhythm of his chant timed to each thrust of her hips. His free hand released the buttons of her blouse with practiced ease, the heat of his palm teasing, cupping the full swell of each breast. "Magnificent, cara. Open your eyes…look at her."

She’d done that, avoiding his avid gaze with a soft blush of disbelief and shame, quickly forgotten in the ecstasy so clearly painted on the bound woman’s face. Her cries had become a crescendo of pleading, urgent whimpers, head back, eyes closed, full lips pulled back in a grimace.

His fingers, releasing her breasts, pulled the coarse lacy rim of each cup roughly over each nipple, pinching at each, heightening her awareness. Cyn’s world turned to shades of hungry aching need, hips bucking furiously against his fingers, grunting each time the heel of his hand came down on her clit.

"Watch, bella." Reaching upward, his hand grasped her chin, directed, demanded, pinned her gaze to the bound woman. His mouth savaging each nipple had her crying out in response, the tidal pool of heat in her belly expanding in waves, forcefully.

The bound woman’s companion dropped to his knees behind her, the leather of his whip wrapped around her neck above the gleaming gold of her collar. He was rampantly aroused, releasing his rigid, throbbing member from leather pants with one impatient gesture. Her back, arched at an impossible angle, her face a snarl of primal greed. Cyn’s scream was without volition, echoing her own hunger as the man reached between his partner’s legs to spread her roughly, pulling back on the leather of the whip as he slid into her, hard, fast, savagely.

Cyn tensed, her body perched on the edge her fingers like claws against the rocks above her head, her hips and thighs thrusting with abandon, against Andreas’ fingers, the bound woman’s howl of climax reverberating around the room an elemental climax of aching release. Suddenly, those black eyes were directly in front of hers, she could feel the trail of bite marks he left, none of them gentle, like a ladder up her chest and neck.

"Now cara bella?" It was a question, his eyes intent on her response. She felt his gentle nod of acknowledgement, unprepared for the vicious descent of his mouth, his teeth bearing down on the swollen, battered flesh of her lower lip. Tears sprung to her eyes, the pain searing through her, sublimated to her belly, that strange alchemy between pain and pleasure leaving her gasping. Shaking, she felt her belly contract, the lapping, viscous waves of ecstasy tearing through her like a tidal force, his smile, of gentle satisfaction, the final sensual straw. She heard her own howl of release, as if from a distance, her senses completely overwhelmed. His arm was an iron band around her chest when her hands released, dropping her fully upon the hand between her legs. A final thrust of his fingers, deeply inside her pulsing, gripping cunt sent her into a different reality altogether, to lie draped, gasping, shuddering in his arms.

Slowly, so slowly, she came back to her senses, like swimming from the bottom of a pond. Andreas cradled her against his body, fingers and lips once so cruel, now achingly tender; gentling her like one would a frightened animal. Shuddering and limp, lying against him sobbing with sweet release…release of pleasure, release from fear, emerald eyes pooling with her tears, their soft trail over her cheeks dampening his shirt

"Cara bella…it is much, much better, yes?" Her shy nod had lit up his face with a smile.


Present Day, Paris

"And now, aggravating slave? Where do you slip off to now, with that satisfied smile?" His teasing breath whispers against her ear as he buries his face in her hair.

"How did you do it, Ruan? How did you set it up?" She shivers as she watches him nod softly; his intuitive leap combined with his understanding of her brings him to the same place she had been with little effort.

"I was supposed to assure your safety, my love," his voice harsh with regret, "I did not. For a year you cringed from me, yet in your dreams you writhed and begged for more. I had to do something."

"We worked out a plan, Andreas, Adriana and I, to the finest detail and even then I despaired of it working. You were as skittish as a young horse, at the chateau that night, Cyn. Cringing against me the moment anyone approached. Do you remember?" Tilting her head up, meeting her eyes with a searching glance, he captures her lips in a breathtaking kiss with her nod.

"I didn’t think you were ever going to leave my side; not, sweet tramp, that I’m ever eager for that to happen. I waited for Andreas’s nod and sent you down that hall for a reason." She shakes her head, adoration glowing in her eyes.

"Andreas was behind you, keeping an eye on you until he slipped into the shadows of the room that captured and held your attention. He told me afterward, Cyn, that he nearly abandoned the plan himself. The look on your face, so frightened, so alone, made him want to take you in his arms and carry you back."

Again she shakes her head a wry smile, wistful, shaping her lips.

"Thank you, Master…for leading me to freedom. I do enjoy it, so very much." His laughter is deep, husky and full bodied with amusement.

"Yes Cyn, you do, such a treasure. Your proclivity for nearly any act is breathtaking, your curiosity relentless, you imagination magnificent. Your propensity for climax…exquisite. " His fingers drop lower, falling over her hardening nipples, cupping her breasts in his palms, his teasing bringing warm color to her face.

"Do you remember our third year, tramp of my dreams?"


One year ago, Concorde St. Lazare Hotel – Paris

She does, especially the hours before the beginning of the party, the luncheon with Adriana, the soft velvet bag that she’d been handed but not allowed to open, the feel of the heavy links lying beneath it’s lush fabric, the warmth in Adrianna’s eyes as she watches her reaction intently.

"Save it for later, Cyn," Adriana’s throaty chuckle, followed by the quick slap of her hand when she continues to play with the soft tassel of its closure.

God! She’s panting, her mind a chaos of whirling impressions. She doesn’t remember the short journey from the street into the lobby, its imposing décor leaving no impression on her dazzled senses. Out of the well-traveled path of its other patrons, she leans shakily against a towering marble column, her focus intent on the soft, thick velvet of the bag clutched between shaking hands. Her fingers, clumsy with shock, twist at the silken cords that secure it, hiding its contents from her gaze.

A soft shudder wracks Cyn’s body as the cords part, her hands cradling the splendor of the golden collar, revealed in all its magnificence against the rich, black background. Her eyes, mesmerized by its warm sheen, are two emerald pools of awe, apprehension and wonder. She remembers, clearly, her first experience, her initial exposure, to this golden promise, last year.

Shuddering and mindless, still, from the creative touch of his fingers, her eyes take in the exquisite golden object that encircles the kneeling, whip caressed woman, sprawled on the floor before her. With an uncanny ability to read her mind, his voice caresses her ears.

"The de Lion Collar, little bird, offered to those that not only possess the fire, but have the ability to make it burn for others." The soft stroke of his fingers against her wet, sated flesh makes his point for him. Her gaze takes in the treasure as his exotically accented English explains its bold golden symbols. Symbols recognized in the clubs, parlors, and of course, boudoirs, of both Europe’s and America’s hedonistic elite.

A tremor of disbelief engulfs her, gentle fingertips tracing the outline of the two rampant lions facing each other in the center of the collar, their sapphire eyes gleaming with decadent intentions, their bared, reaching claws framing the majestically detailed form of a young woman, nude and kneeling between them, the bound braid of her hair falling over one shoulder, head bowed, palms resting lightly on either thigh. Fleurs de lis, that mystical historical lily, parade around the collar, each a clear representation of the heart of feminine sensuality.

The tremor becomes a shiver, shaking her deeply, the collar’s symbolism unmistakable. It represents their commitment and her complete surrender, to the de Lion house, should they choose. All she need do is wear it tonight, to the party. It symbolizes an ecstasy of submission to every exquisite depravity those two intelligent, experienced and imaginative minds can conjure over the next year.

"Cyn, bella. You will wear it with the style that is uniquely yours. Yes?" The slow caress of his words at her ear brings the instant, earthy fire to her veins as it has from the beginning. His presence, taking her unaware, startles a soft exclamation from expressive lips, her body shying back abruptly against the chill stone of the column, fingers fumbling desperately at the golden object tumbling from her hand.

"Easy, uccello piccolo. Beautiful things should be handled firmly, with care and consideration, no?" Innuendo flares brightly from black eyes as he steps forward, strong masculine fingers covering hers, capturing the symbolic treasure between them, the heat of his body creating a sharp dissonance to the cold marble at her back. Her senses run riot, skin sensitizing painfully, her body softening, inviting, lips parting, breath quickening, like her pulse, to his presence.

Uccello piccolo, his little bird. She lowers her eyes, color staining her cheeks, hiding from his perceptive look, her bottom lip caught between her teeth.

"No, little bird, " reaching one strong had to cup her chin, his fingers freeing her lip from her teeth, "we both know where that leads, do we not? I do not suggest the lobby as…appropriate, no?" As always, his nimble, intuitive thoughts follow hers. His fingers trace the soft arc of each eyebrow, his gaze on her lips, his tongue insinuating itself between the warm flesh of her lips with exquisite slowness, his teeth clamping down lightly on her lower lip, leaving her to tremble with aching greed. "Do you remember?" The tension in his voice tells her he has felt her need, one muscular thigh slipping between hers pressing against her intimately against the column at her nod.

"Good. Now go, bella…before I follow you up and we both miss the party tonight."

She’d gone, back to her room to find Ruan sitting on her bed, his smile of pride and appreciation made her tremble that much more. He’d tugged the rich velvet out of her shaking fingers, dumping the golden links in a gleaming puddle on the duvet, his brilliant eyes deliciously black with arousal.

"There are women, little Cyn, that work for years for this honor. Even then, many are not offered what you’re being offered tonight."

She had shivered beneath his tone, dazzled by the rich sparkle of the collars gleam on the covers. Precious recognition of the qualities they sought, it was one of ten offered every year by the de Lions, an invitation to join their house to train and learn beneath the best dominants in the world. Ruan being one of the mentors of the House de Lions and both of them intimate friends of the family, the gesture was more symbolic than anything, but an honor nonetheless.

Together, hand in hand, they’d accepted, standing side by side in that immense majestic ballroom, as André and Adriana fasten the locking clasp around her neck, Adriana’s fingers teasing the pounding pulse that it rests on with a warm smile of welcome.

Present Day, Paris

"Beloved Master, magnificent hero of my heart," the amusement in his eyes warms her soul, "where do you suppose this year will lead us?" She basks, exquisitely in the heat and love and protection of his arms, her every sense tuned and expectant as they approach the chateau, their fourth year in attendance. She’d worn both collars, his and the de Lion talisman, with pride for a year.

"Does it matter, sweet tramp, slut of my most perverse dreams?" The low masculine croon shivers through her.

"No my love. Wherever we go, I am with you. It is all I have ever needed."

"What will you do for me, beloved tramp?" His eyes reflect the seriousness of his question.

"Anything," her breathless answer.

"What will you endure for me, my love?"

"Everything," simple satisfaction drips from each word, her surrender, complete in its totality.