As the serving girl’s naked belly brushed Ella’s lips, all at once something snapped inside her head, and she was jolted into remembering her place at the table. Bugger—the interview! What the hell had come over her?
Apparently nothing. Her fingers hadn’t yet made their way between the thighs of the woman pressed against her face. Ella glanced around with sheepish eyes, sensing the other bodies present, waiting for the shame and embarrassment to engulf her. And the sign for her to leave. None of those things happened. As her eyes, gleaming with trepidation and a strange thrill, found the end of the table. Henry was standing impassive and making eye contact with his Master’s sleeve. There was no jacket. The white cotton lay over the Master’s forearm in gentle folds, rippling down to his wrist, and contrasting with the shadow of dark there, which trailed over the top of his hand. He was gripping onto his wine cup, sending his knuckles into a miniscule replica of his shirt.
Instinctively, her eyes flicked over the torso which was visible to her above the table. His shirt caressed the muscles of a body which was taking in its breathing deeply and finding in its release the heavy movement of a well-formed chest. She followed the trail of his neck, where dark stubble shadowed the surface of the skin, to find his face. His jaw held itself set, his lips pressed together in an expression unreadable to her. But his eyes—oh, the onyx of his eyes caught up the reflection of the wine in his glass as the candlelight shone through it. The black depths that bore into her glowed a shimmering flame of red, kindling an ache that sparked in her epicentre and radiated out to the surface.
The Master’s words flowed like silk: “Mary, when this meal is over, I would like a word with you, please.”
Ella started violently. The enchantment of his eyes was lost as her head whirled round, recalling the state of disarray she had placed the woman in. Or that the woman had put herself in. She wasn’t sure what had happened, really. Confusion reigned, and shame finally chose its moment to attack, biting into her consciousness, and she began the slow, painful draw of self-analysis, like a dentist pulling teeth with no anaesthetic. What had possessed her? Had she really wanted to explore, to touch, in such a way? Put someone else in a position of such embarrassment. Their livelihood in jeopardy? Did the young woman say nothing because Ella was ‘Mistress’, if only for the week? But the woman—Mary—had wanted it. She’d seduced Ella’s eyes, lips, her mind, hadn’t she?
She felt herself building to a deep crimson at the audience she had had for her stupidity. She would be thrown out of the mansion now. Gone was her chance of ever taking charge of the place and escaping everything that was driving her into a workaholic depression and turning her into a serial abused sex toy. But when she looked round, there was Mary, her hand shaking over the wine glass, dress fastened impeccably; and her own hands were placed firmly in her lap, exactly where they had been when the meal had begun.
“Henry. Mary. You both may leave us. Go and enjoy your evening. You will only be required to clear. I shall serve the Mistress her dessert.” Baffled, relieved, her heart pounding, Ella watched as the eyes of both servants lit up, and how it morphed into surprise at the word “Mistress”. Henry had known the Master’s request in calling her by the name, and presumably the other people in the house, whoever they were, did, too. Maybe it was the sound of it on their Master’s lips that had thrown them. From across the room, Ella saw a wry smile appear on the Master’s lips. “Mary, don’t forget that word, later.”
Both servants made their respectful exits, and Ella caught sight of their linking fingers as their backs disappeared through the doorway. She glanced over at the Master, whose eyes were upon their every movement. Ella had a feeling that nothing escaped this man.
“Ella, part of this week involves you trying on the title for size. I want to know if the house feels you are ready to take on such a mantle. It will let me know before the week is out, I am sure of that. Besides, I would like to watch you get a—how should I put it? A “feel” for the word, and for the job that comes with the title.”
Ella flicked her eyes up towards his face. He was grinning at her! She felt the heat fill her entire body, as the two servants bowed and curtseyed, and made their way out of the room. Ella noticed just as they reached the door how Henry’s fingers curled up to find the end of Mary’s, and she decided to use this observation to her advantage now, at least until the heat in her face was under control.
“If you think it’s appropriate, then I’m happy to submit to your suggestion.” She blinked at her own words; how easy they had just rolled from her tongue. She had never submitted to anyone or anything in her life, now here she was, telling a comparative stranger that she would obey his commands. A burning knife seemed to stab through her, radiating its heat and pain outwards from her core into her bones, her veins, the capillaries that ran just under every part of her skin, leaving her sensitive to the merest of touches. What was this feeling? “Tell me about Henry and Mary. Would I be right in assuming that they have more than a passing interest in serving together in this house?”
Ella watched the Master put down his cutlery, and regard her with his head cocked to one side for a full half minute. He frowned, and beneath it, his eyes were black, brooding, and she couldn’t help but think it—captivating.
“The house has welcomed you in during a most interesting time, Ella. Henry and Mary are to marry at the end of the week, and there’s still a lot of preparatory work to be done, not to mention the event itself. I believe this house might test your capabilities to the full. If you manage to last the week. It’s no shame to find that this house is not for you, and you must say immediately if you’re unhappy with what’s being demanded of you, for you will go through a great deal of testing. Indeed, you may already have had a feeling that it has begun.” There was that word again. She blushed, but she refused to look away as he continued. “From my own point of view, I sincerely hope that you will stay. That you will push yourself to your limits. See how malleable, how permeable your boundaries are. Then the house will either want you for its mistress or, well, it will not.”
What had she let herself in for? She felt confused, unable to scratch the feeling of Mary’s naked skin from her fingertips. Her own skin felt more sensitised, more alive with every motion of her nails as they worked the ends of her fingers. Her understanding of reality and imagination had already been pushed at this table, and she was unable to tell which it was, only the feeling she had been left with. Her skin burned.
“You speak a lot of the house, almost as if it has a life of its own. Has it always been important to you?”
He smiled, and there was that feeling again, running right through her, as she saw his top lip curl into the expression, and how his teeth rested just on the inner part of his bottom lip, making his cheeks raise unexpectedly in attractive mounds above the two dimples that appeared either side of his mouth. For a moment, as she drank in the curve of his mouth, his cheeks, and she bit her lip, he seemed much younger.
“This house is very special. It’s been in my family for generations. I’m sure you’ve noticed its current – well, its dilapidated state. It has steadily disintegrated since my parents ceased to care for the needs of the house. It has always had a Master and a Mistress. That is what it needs. That’s why I advertised.”
But as she looked at his eyes, they remained dark, wrapped deep within his soul, not letting her see beyond. It was more than that, though; Ella was convinced there was something more to what he had said that disturbed him, pained him. She hated it. She barely knew the man, but a feeling enveloped her and she could not, didn’t want to, shake it off. She wanted to see beyond the wall in his eyes. She wanted to know the secret that he held there.
Suddenly, he got out of his seat. His eyes never left hers as he ran his fingers over the silver handle of the dessert stand.
“Ella – my Mistress for the week – I don’t believe you can have been properly satiated at this table. What else can I give you to fill you up?”
She swallowed hard. Was she allowed to say, “Your cock”? Her head drifted to a dream state in which she took the Master’s cock from his trousers, all soft and small, and drew it between her lips, taking it whole into her mouth and rolling her tongue around it. The softness strengthened, and she grew it against the roof of her mouth, sucking, devouring the sticky juice as it oozed from his tip. Her hand massaged his balls as her mouth worked him faster, moans of desire and concentration catching in her throat, the velvet of his flesh belying the hardness of his arousal. Sheer lust coursed through him. She felt it converging in her mouth, in his gasp, and then his long, throaty moan as…
“Cream on your dessert, Ella?”
All she could do was nod. Her dream head couldn’t talk with its mouth full.
The meal over, her head swimming in an ocean of confusion at the bizarre thoughts that had invaded her head during the meal, Ella bid the Master goodnight at the dining room door. He stood there, just staring down at her for ages, before reaching down and grasping her hand. The touch of his fingers on her palm, and his thumb, sliding across the top of her fingers until it rested on her fingernails, made her feel lightheaded. Maybe she was tired.
“Your things are all in your room, I trust?”
Ella nodded, her gaze once more falling into the depths of his black eyes. “Yes, thank you. It’s a very nice room. I’m sure I’ll sleep well. It’s been quite a tiring day, one way or another.”
The ghost of a smile flitted across his lips as the flickering light offered by the candles in the ancient holders on the walls played across his chin, which remained fixed firm. With every flicker of the candle, Ella noted the stubble, more obvious now she was closer. It hid in the dip of his chin; she followed it down his throat until it became bare flesh, and his collar bone revealed itself from beneath the edges of the open neck of his shirt. Just above his first button, she could detect the dark hair of his chest, and the shadow of it dallied with her senses in the candlelight beneath the white material. She had a sudden urge to rip open the buttons and run her fingers through it. The thought held her captive, as he replied.
“We will see, won’t we? You’ve been put in the Blue Room. To ease you in slowly.”
His words danced around in her head, and became overwhelmed by the thought of him easing himself into her, slowly. She couldn’t erase the idea, and instinctively she looked down at his trousers where, she was sure, even in the candlelight, the bulge present in all men’s trousers had grown substantially bigger. Her fingers began to twitch and it was all she could do to resist the temptation to lay her hand over it and grind the heel of her palm up against it. Maybe she was mistaken. The light wasn’t letting her see anything clearly.
“Ease me in?” Her word stuck in her throat as a fire burned at the top of her legs. She couldn’t understand what had come over her.
“Yes. Blue is an intellectual colour—a colour of the mind, if you like. One of calm; of passivity and reflection; one of trust.” His voice oozed into the space between them; it surrounded her head, leaving a layer of deliciousness. His eyes picked up the glimmer of the candle flame and she felt them driving into her, delving for all hidden parts of her soul, until her breath caught and she gasped. “Do you trust yourself, my Mistress on approval?”
“Yes, of course.” She felt it fly from her mouth just a little too quickly to be believable. “So, I’m on approval, am I? You can get rid of me if you don’t like me and I’m no good at it.” She laughed, or at least she tried, but the ageing stonework seemed to eat her sound, and it became vapid, then non-existent. With it went the candlelight from his eyes, and she stood once again, staring at the darkness that inhabited them.
“Oh, I assure you, Ella, I like you very much. Yes, it’s true that I don’t have to allow our job interview to continue, and that I could ask you to leave now, if you are unsuitable. But once you have slept in this house, once you have committed yourself to the week, then I must warn you that I will have no intention of casting you out.” The light fell completely away from him for a brief moment, and she detected the whispered sound of a sigh. “And I am, once again, obliged to remind you that you can cease the interview at any point, if you feel that what is being asked of you is too much. But I am also obliged to point out that there is a procedure if you reject the job of your own volition. But we’ll discuss that only if it becomes necessary.”
Leaving was the furthest thing from her mind; she had been given the opportunity to spend a week here. Even if she wasn’t a suitable candidate for the job after all that, she would know more about the place than anyone else did, and she would be able to put the kid in the shop straight on a few things, too. She was going to be suitable; she was going to be the one. She needed this. The Mistress of the House, with whatever that entailed.
“I assure you, Sir, that I’m a very determined woman. If I say I’ll do something, it would take an awful lot for me to back out.”
“An awful lot will be asked of you, Ella. And only you will know if you are ready for it. If you are prepared to give yourself to it, wholeheartedly and without question. Only you know whether you trust your instincts.”
He kissed her hand just then. It was unexpected, and made her close her eyes as she felt the heat of his lips touch her fingers. He kissed each one in turn, then the thumb. She expected him to let her hand go, but instead she felt his lips on her knuckle, nibbling down her thumb towards her nail, and joined by the flick of his tongue. His mouth encased the end of her extended digit, dipping the tip just between his lips as, bit by bit, he sucked her further into him. Like her daydream, but in reverse.
The spike of teeth bit down on the base of her devoured thumb and she let out a muffled squeak. Her eyes shot open, and there he was, his lips only barely scraping the surface of her hand in a perfect, gentlemanly kiss. Confusion riddled her face. He let her go, and stared at her. There was no smile, no frown; only those exquisitely deep, pained, eyes, watching.