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She was beautiful, as far as whores went.
Skin luminescent beneath a layer of artfully applied rice powder. Lips of a shape that brought to mind carnal pleasures. Kohl-rimmed eyes that focused only on him.
He had paid for the best tonight and it seemed he had gotten it.
He closed his eyes as she kissed him. She tasted of brandy. Probably used it to rinse her mouth between appointments. Her perfume had been applied with a heavy hand, strong enough to make his stomach turn but not quite enough to cover the odor of feminine perspiration or the remnants of an earlier assignation. He tried to focus on the feel of her rather than the smell, waited for the rush of pleasure that such expert tangling of tongues was supposed to bring.
Pleasure, however, remained inconveniently out of reach.
The woman’s fingers plucked at his trousers and a cool rush of air signified her skilled hands had found their mark. Now. Now. This was where foreplay was supposed to turn to promise, where his body nodded its agreement with what was offered.
How many times had he done this? Dozens, certainly. Hundreds, probably. Lusty widows, a string of willing mistresses – these had made up the fabric of his romantic entanglements since he had turned sixteen. This, then, should be nothing new. He could do this with his hands tied behind his back.
Had done it that way. Several times, in fact.
But despite those memories his body refused to cooperate.
The prostitute drew back. The frown on her face struck him as being the first unpracticed emotion she had displayed this evening. “Is something amiss, Monsieur?” The false French accent hovered on the obscene, given that in the crimson-draped parlor downstairs the woman had shown a propensity to drop her h’s in true Cockney fashion.
“You tell me,” he said. “I paid for an expert.”
She gave him a sultry pout and set about proving why she was worth her exorbitant fee. For five endless minutes, she worked on him. Nipped. Prodded. Teased. Implored.
Still nothing. He remained as limp as a wet hemp rope.
Finally, irritation won out over hope. “Enough!” He pushed her gently away, wishing he was somewhere – anywhere – but here, proving himself less than a man.
The mattress sagged as the prostitute pushed herself to sitting. Her mouth creased to shadows. Christ. He had managed to upset her. Clearly, she was unused to patrons who did not respond to her attentions. It made him feel worse, if such a thing were even possible.
“It’s alright,” she offered. Her voice thickened, the French accent dissolving beneath the weight of her evident discomfit. “It ‘appens sometimes.”
But it didn’t. Not to him. Counting back to two months ago, it had never happened, not even once. He certainly couldn’t claim that anymore.