Tight Knit - Volume 1: Part 8

TKtitle.jpg
Jesse is separated from Tory and Leann.
She is taken away to be prepared for
her audience with Aphrodite.

Tight Knit

Volume 1

Part 8

By Taylor Ryan
Copyright© 2017 Taylor Ryan
All Rights Reserved.

Volume 1: Part 8

"Have you thought of a new plan?" I asked, eyeing Leann across the cell.

"I have," Tory said. "We sit here until someone lets us out."

Leann sighed. She rolled her head around to give Tory a look of disdain. "It's not so much a plan," she said. "We simply need to appeal to Aphrodite's senses."

"That would be great," Tory said, excitedly. "Except you said she was crazy!"

"Well even crazy people have something they want," Leann said. "We simply have to find out --"

"You keep saying that word," Tory said. "Simply." She tossed a dirt clod across the cell floor. "There is nothing simple about this."

"She's right," I said. "It's hard to be diplomatic when you have nothing to offer."

"Maybe we do," Leann said, sitting up straighter. "Maybe I can convince her I know where to find the amulet."

"Do you?" I asked.

Leann sighed. "I told you, it doesn't exist."

"Well she seems to think it does," Tory said.

"That's the point," Leann said. "I bargain with her, to at least get you two out of here."

"That solves nothing," I said. "We came here for your sister. Now she'll have both of you."

"It would be worth it," Leann said. "To make sure you two are alright."

"You can't keep playing the savior forever," Tory said.

"It used to be my sister's job," Leann said. "I guess I just took on all of her responsibilities."

"You know," I said. "It never occurred to even ask… but what's your sister's name?"

Leann started to open her mouth. Suddenly the cell was filled with the sound of metal hitting metal. I looked up to see a guard unlocking our door. There were three of them total; all equally as brutish as the one I had encountered earlier in the day. Two stepped into the cell, while the one with the keys stood outside. From behind him, a smaller frame stepped forward.

"The exquisite Goddess, Aphrodite, has requested an audience with the new girl," Sophia said.

"Her name is Jesse," Leann said.

"I don't care," Sophia said, as she seemed to be dusting dirt from her sleeve. "Please step from the cell."

I looked to Leann and Tory. Leann simply nodded. As I rose to my feet, Tory gave me a brief glance of concern. One of the guards stepped closer to her, and caused her to quickly look at the ground. I could tell the other two girls were defeated. Calmly I strolled to the cell door, letting one of the guards wrap his meaty paw around my arm. The cell door clanged shut behind me as we walked through the larger center room.

As we progressed through the mansion, I expected to be led to some archaic dungeon throne room. Instead, the guards escorted me upstairs to the main entrance. We proceeded up a flight of stairs. Then we went up another flight. Sophia took the lead the entire time. She sashayed up the stairs; her tight skirt accentuating her firm butt. With a few glances at the guards, I knew I wasn't the only one impressed with her cheeks thrusting up and down like pistons.

Sophia stopped suddenly. She spun on the balls of her feet. "Wait here," she said, to the guards. She lowered her chin to gaze at me with the tops of her eyes. "Promise you won't run off?"

I nodded reluctantly.

Sophia lifted her head, turning her eyes to the guard holding my arm. She had this raw sense of confidence about her. Instantly the guard dropped his hand, setting me free from his grip. As I reached up to rub the area, Sophia reached up to knock on the large wooden door to her left. The two guards took a step back, but I could definitely feel their presence too close for comfort.

After a moment, a loud click sounded from the door. Slowly it began to open; filling the empty hallway with a terrible creaking sound. A soft warm glow beamed from the crack, and slowly engulfed both Sophia and me. Another woman greeted us on the other side, while I could hear at least two more girls giggling behind the door. I felt a hand gently touch my back, and turned to face the culprit.

"This is Cassandra," Sophia said, as she pushed me toward the door. "She will help make you presentable."

"Presentable?" I asked, puzzled.

Sophia kept prodding me into the doorway. "We simply can't have you meet the Goddess looking like this," she said, gesturing at my body.

"Don't worry," Cassandra said, taking my wrist. "You're safe with us."

Cassandra took over where Sophia left off. She pulled me the rest of the way into the room. The door creaked shut behind me. Three other girls jumped toward me, circling me, all with bright smiles. They giggled as they pulled at my clothing and lifted my hair. As Cassandra pulled me further into the room, the other girls followed.

"Girls… please," Cassandra said, lifting her hand to shoo them away.

The girls retreated, still giggling. I started to wonder what was wrong with them. Cassandra eventually let my wrist drop from her grasp. She walked away, giving me a moment to take in the room. It had a rather heavy feminine atmosphere. A massive four poster bed took center stage; draped with sheer white material that cascaded from the rods overhead. Pink satin sheets covered the bed top, along with too many pillows to count.

To my left was a sitting area, with a rather plush white loveseat. A very elegant coffee table sat before it, with an intricate ivy design beneath a glass top. There was actually a bucket of ice with champagne in the middle, with several glass flutes set around it. On my right were shelves filled with any kind of shoe one could imagine. Behind it stood an open wardrobe with several dresses pulled out and on display.

I turned my head a little further to the right, and saw two of the other girls. They were smiling at me. Their eyes trailed up and down my body. Perhaps one of them was Aphrodite. It would explain their crazy behavior, if she was truly crazy. Still, it puzzled me as to why Aphrodite would want to meet in a room like this. Did she like to be intimate with new people? Is that what made her crazy in the eyes of Leann?

"When will Aphrodite get here?" I asked, trying to deduce the company I was with.

The girls giggled.

"Don't be silly," Cassandra said, returning to my side. "The Goddess never comes to this end of the house."

"Then why are we --" I watched Cassandra reach for the waistband of my skirt. I jumped away from her. "What are you doing?!"

Cassandra looked at me with alarm. "Forgive me," she said. "I should have given you more warning, but we are pressed for time." She stepped forward, and again reached for my skirt's waistband.

"Seriously," I said, slapping her hand away. "What are you doing?"

"It is customary to assist maidens in their preparation," Cassandra said. She smiled, then hesitantly reached out for my skirt once more.

"Okay," I said, stepping back. "I don't know where you all are from… but this is making me very uncomfortable right now."

"Do not be ashamed," Cassandra said. "We are only here to serve."

"Yes," one of the other girls said. "We only wish to serve."

The girls giggled behind me, causing Cassandra to give them a stern glare. They instantly quieted themselves. Their heads lowered, like scolded school girls. Cassandra studied me for a moment. Then she took a deep breath. Slowly she raised her hands toward an open door in the back of the room. I moved cautiously over to the door, avoiding contact with her.

"Are you shy?" she asked, following me into the adjacent room.

"Not really," I said, turning to face her.

"Then why do you resist my helping you?"

"Helping me?"

Cassandra seemed lost in thought for a moment. "You are to go before Aphrodite, yes?" she finally asked.

"Yes," I said. "At least that's what they told me. I don't see how you undressing me helps with that though."

Cassandra took a step back, seemingly baffled by my statement. "You wish to bathe in your clothing?"

"Bathe?"

"Of course," Cassandra said.

She gestured to something behind me. I slowly turned to look through yet another open door. Beyond which I could see a large sunk-in bathtub. Candle light danced and glistened; casually rippling across the surface of the water. I also noticed the room we stood in was some kind of area to apply makeup and fix hair. Thinking back on history classes, the term "powder room" seemed to fit the bill.

"So…" I continued to look around. "You want me to take a bath?"

"The Goddess has asked us to make you presentable," Cassandra said, as she lowered her head. "It is customary to assist maidens in preparation," she repeated from earlier. "If you wish to prepare yourself without assistance, I shall remove myself. Though it would be of great insult to your hostess."

"My hostess…" I said, dragging the word out. "You mean Aphrodite?"

Cassandra nodded. "The Goddess herself."

"Well…" I stood there thinking about the plight of the others down in that cell. "The last thing I would want to do is insult her," I finally said. "I'm just not… accustomed… to needing… assistance."

Cassandra lifted her head. From the corner of her eye, she looked in on the other three girls. Then she slowly walked over and closed the door leading to the bedroom. After turning around, she studied me for a lingering moment. Right as I was starting to feel awkward about the scene, Cassandra walked back over to me. She stood very close.

"May I?" she asked, gesturing toward me.

I swallowed hard. Then quietly nodded.

Cassandra hesitantly brought her hands up to my chest. She looked at me, as if to check once more if she may proceed. Her hands grew closer. I had no idea what to do, or where to look. So I stood there with my arms at my side, staring at her golden hair. While this wouldn't be the first time I would appear nude to another woman, this was definitely the first time I let one undress me. I felt the top button give way on my top. The second button followed shortly behind the first.

I couldn't help but tremble. Cassandra wasn't even trying to make the situation feel sexy, but perhaps that's why it did. She seemed so methodical at doing this. I'm sure she had probably been assisting other women for centuries, if I had to wager a bet. So while she was used to undressing other women, I wasn't even used to undressing for gym class in front of other guys. Suddenly I began to wonder if her demeanor would change any, if she knew I used to be male.

"You seem nervous," Cassandra said. She smiled at me. "Trust me," she said. "You're not alone." She continued to unbutton my top. "The Goddess has an admiration for the old ways. Most girls today are not used to the idea of a handmaid." My silence prompted her to look up at me. "Relax," she said, running her hands up and down my arms.

"I'm just not sure what to do," I said.

"You don't have to do anything," she said. "Ease your mind, and allow us to cater to your needs." She tilted her head. "Consider this a safe space."

At this point she slid her hands beneath the shoulders of my top. Then she ran her hands down my arms. My top gently slid down my arms with her movements. I began to realize how easy it must be for guys to fall victim to the charms of the Nymphs. In fact, I wasn't even sure if Cassandra was a Nymph. She could have been one of their slaves. As those thoughts danced around in my head, I felt her hands at my waistband once more. This time I didn't stop her.

Cassandra gently unfastened the two buttons holding my skirt closed. She slowly lowered to her knees, bringing the black skirt down with her. Lifting her hands up to lightly take mine, she brought them to her shoulders. Somehow I picked up on what she intended for me to do. Using her shoulders as support, I could take weight off of my feet to step out of the skirt. After doing so, she helped me slip my shoes off as well.

"You're a natural at this," Cassandra said. "Are you sure you didn't have a servant in a past life?"

I chuckled at the thought. "Not that I'm aware of," I said.

I felt her fingers hook inside the waistband of my tights. Following the same routine as the skirt, she slid them to my ankles. Then she had me use her as support as she slipped them from my feet. Those poor navy blue tights were brand new, and had not even made it through the morning. Suddenly I felt naked, despite not being completely nude. I knew it was because of the tights being removed.

"I'll need to replace those with something," I blurted out.

Cassandra looked up at me. "I'm sure we can find something that will appeal to your tastes," she said. "However, the Goddess does have certain… inclinations." Her hands came to rest on my hips. "With your permission?"

"Just get it over with," I thought, as I nodded to her.

As if reading my mind, Cassandra slid the panties down my legs unceremoniously. She helped me step out of them. Then she rose to her feet. While Cassandra strolled around behind me, I noticed the room had taken on a very drastic change in appearance. Where there was once a large window, with heavy velvet curtains drawn, now stood an immense chamber before me. Large columns reached to a sparsely lit ceiling, while candle-lit chandeliers hung off to the sides.

Along the walls sat stone benches, topped with lush pillows. Flowered pots were scattered between them, filling in the empty spaces. A few statues peeked out from the shadows of the columns, but I couldn't recognize them. Young women graced the floors and benches. Some of them reading what looked to be ancient texts. While others lounged, and discussed topics that escaped my ears. In the distance, a young girl came running up to me; her look ecstatic, as she screamed at me in delight.

"Milady," Cassandra said, shaking my shoulders gently. "Your bath awaits."

It took me awhile to shake the image from my head. We were nearly to the bath before I realized Cassandra had finished undressing me. Before letting me step in, she dropped to one knee and tested the water temperature. Seemingly happy with the result, she held her hand up to me, and helped me walk down into the water. The water felt so warm and relaxing. Yet, I felt so weird being nude in front of a complete stranger.

That feeling would persist, as Cassandra wouldn't leave my side for more than a minute. In fact, the only time she left was to tell the other girls to gather my discarded attire. When she returned to the bathtub, it grew even more awkward. After she had added fragrant oils, and other various things to the bath, she actually started helping me bathe. She ran a large sponge over my shoulders, arms and back. Then she moved down to my legs and feet.

"Doesn't look like you'll need a shave," Cassandra said, running her hand over my right leg. She took my foot in her hand. "We'll want to do your nails done though."

I simply nodded, tuning her out for the most part. The water appeared slightly milky. It had this light white film to it, obfuscating what lay beneath the surface. So I had at least some form of modesty, despite Cassandra lifting parts of my body from the bath. My eyes closed, and I took a deep breath. The soft, sensual scent of jasmine filled my nostrils; mingled with a touch of sweet lavender. Beneath it, I could detect the warm undertone of sandalwood.

I didn't question why these scents seemed familiar. Nor did I question why the sound of water trickling in a bath brought back memories. Instead, I floated away from time and space; lost in my mind. Images of lightly clothed maidens filled my head. They hovered over me; drawing water from the milky bath water surrounding me. As one of them lifted a pitcher over my head, I found water pouring over me in the present.

My eyes shot open the instant the water stopped flowing over them. Hair now clung to my face, making it hard to see. I found myself back within the soft tones of the bathroom. These images of other places were starting to become more frequent. With each one, I found myself startled at returning to the present. Like the here and now seemed to be the dream world.

Cassandra's fingers were suddenly on my scalp. She vigorously, but gently massaged a sweet smelling shampoo into my hair. My eyes shut once more, but I was not greeted with another image. Nothing but candlelight danced beyond my closed eyelids. For a moment, Cassandra hummed a song softly beneath her breath. I didn't recognize the melody, but it was soothing nonetheless.

After a few moments, she poured another pitcher of water over my head. I could feel her hand resting against my forehead; shielding my eyes from the shampoo. Another pitcher full of water followed, and then another. When I opened my eyes, I could see that another one of the girls had joined us. She stood to the side, holding a white garment in her hands.

Cassandra held her hand out to me. I placed my hand in hers. She then helped me stand from the water. The other girl turned her head down and to the side, as to not look upon my naked body. Cassandra had me stand in the middle of the bath for a moment. She dipped a brass pitcher into the milky water, and carefully brought it up over my head. Slowly she poured the contents over me, letting it flow over my entire body. After setting the pitcher down, she reached up and gently squeezed the excess water from my hair.

"Milady," Cassandra said, offering her hand to me again.

I took her hand once again, and she helped me step from the bath. The other girl lifted the white garment up to my shoulder level. It seemed to be some sort of bathrobe, but didn't seem all that opaque. When it had finally been wrapped around my body, I realized I could see everything beneath the light material. It also didn't help that it clung to every wet spot upon my body.

Cassandra whisked me away before I could muster a complaint. She ushered me back into the powder room. Once there, she had me sit in a padded chair with armrests. The other girl quickly pulled over a peculiar looking bench. It had a place for her to sit, but also a slanted area that looked like a small worktable. As she lifted my feet onto the slanted part, I knew what she would be working on.

She examined my feet for a moment, before looking up at Cassandra. "What do you think?"

Cassandra looked down at my feet. "I think just a nice shine," she finally said.

"What color, milady?" the other girl asked of me, her voice soft and calming.

"Gold," Cassandra answered for me. "It might leave an impression."

The girl nodded. She pulled open a drawer beneath the table, and began to rattle through bottles of nail polish. I studied her for a moment. She seemed rather young compared to most of the girls I had been around the past few days. Leann had at least a century and a half of education behind her. Even Tory had about fifty years of living. This girl in front of me seemed to still be childlike, despite looking the same age as Cassandra. I began to wonder if some of them were purposefully kept uneducated.

The other two girls, from before, soon joined us in the powder room. Cassandra directed them to sit on either side of me. Each girl picked up one of my hands, and began inspecting it. While they pulled out files and nail polish, Cassandra walked over to the makeup table. She carried back over with her a hairbrush and hairdryer.

"I still remember the days before this contraption," Cassandra said, holding up the hairdryer. "Sometimes we wouldn't even have time to wash the lady's hair." After plugging it in, she leaned over my shoulder. "I guess it's only proper that I introduce the other girls," she said. "This is Emma." She pointed to the girl on my right. "The one on your left is Olivia. And the one at your feet is Ava."

The other girls shyly looked up at me when their names were mentioned.

"Do all the girls here have names that end with an a?" I asked.

Cassandra looked at me for a moment. Then she smiled. "Actually, I never thought about it," she finally said. "But to answer your question… No, not all of them."

The whirring of the hairdryer soon filled the room. All I could do was sit and watch the girls do my nails. They worked in a concerted effort, which seemed extremely efficient. By the time one had finished using a file, she had passed it off to the other girl. Meanwhile, the third girl handed over a bottle of base coat; which I knew of from my friend Erin. About the time Cassandra had finished drying my hair, Emma had started on the first coat of gold polish on my fingernails.

Cassandra pulled over a rolling cart. Upon it were several tools and apparatuses for fixing hair. I wasn't completely ignorant to what girls went through to make themselves pretty. However, I was completely ignorant as to having things done to myself. Cassandra thoughtfully picked out a rather large roller from her selection. The next thing I felt was her separating out a lock of hair, and rolling it up.

One lock at a time, Cassandra wound my hair up into various-sized rolls. The two girls to my sides continued to work on my fingernails, passing the bottle of polish back and forth. While the girl at my feet had her own bottle, and thoughtfully busied herself with making my toenails a glistening gold. Tory had mentioned nail polish, along with makeup, while we were out shopping. However, I felt events were moving too quickly then to bother with such things. I had to laugh at the irony of it all.

"What size shoe do you wear?" Cassandra asked, leaning over my shoulder again.

"Uh…" I nearly blurted out "eleven," before remembering that drastic change. "Six," I said.

Ava smiled at me. She had a pretty smile and a pretty face, which actually wasn't saying much. Every single girl around here had a pretty face. Part of the spell, assuming Ava was under it, was that every girl appeared desirable. Like no matter what they looked like before, the curse changed them into what could be termed as fair maidens. I returned the smile, and she stood; tucking a loose strand of dark brown hair behind her ear. Then she gave a slight bow, and left the room.

"She'll pick you out a nice selection," Cassandra said, as she finished putting one last roller in my hair.

She stepped away; back over to the makeup table. From the corner of my eye, I could see her gathering together makeup. This had to be the most bizarre evening of my life. The spell itself took awhile to get over, but eventually I accepted that it had happened. However, it was hard to accept being subject to a makeover to meet with Aphrodite, in some weird magical mansion; complete with a basement dungeon.

"Why didn't Leann go through all of this to meet with Aphrodite?" I asked, stating the question that had been burning in my mind.

"Because they've met before," Cassandra said, without looking over at me. "The Goddess likes first audiences to be more memorable."

"So it's all for show?" I asked.

The two girls at my sides looked at each other. Then quickly went back to their task of applying another coat of polish. Obviously the audacity of what I had said did not sit well with them. Cassandra turned and faced me. She had a large makeup brush in one hand. The look on her face was one of displeasure as well.

"I would suggest you mind your tongue a little more in her presence," Cassandra said. "It's rather unwise to make the Goddess cross with you."

"I'm sorry," I said. "It just seems like this is a lot of effort to just talk to someone."

"You need not apologize to me," Cassandra said. "I'm but a servant." She turned back to face the table. "Though my words still hold true. The Goddess will not suffer a stray tongue for very long."

"But why all of this?" I asked, looking down at myself.

"Truthfully?"

I nodded.

"The Goddess is vain," Cassandra said. "It is well known her beauty is unsurpassed. Especially by a mere mortal. Or even a pseudo-immortal." She strolled over to me. "Think of your first audience with her as a competition of beauty. You will look your best, and she will look hers."

"So it is a game," I said.

Cassandra placed her hands on my shoulders. "One you will never win," she said. "But it amuses the Goddess when we try."

"So that's all this is?" I asked. "Just something to amuse her?"

"What else would a Greek Goddess desire?" She looked down at Emma and Olivia. "None of this shall be spoken of again."

The two girls nodded, lowering their heads.

"Now then," Cassandra said, walking around me and sitting at my feet. "We'll apply a top coat to your nails. Then we'll let you rest for a moment while they dry."

That moment turned out to be close to half an hour. I was actually beginning to get tired by the time Cassandra came back into the room. After watching the girls literally slave over me, I was scared to move. I didn't want to mess up their hard work. Admittedly, I couldn't deny how feminine my hands and feet looked now. It only took a simple thing like nail polish to make them stand out.

Cassandra first walked to my feet. She reached out and gently touched a few of my toenails. Then she stepped to the side of my chair and did the same thing with my fingernails. Convinced they were dry, she helped me stand up. She walked me over to the makeup table, and had me sit in another padded chair. I'm sure if I wasn't thinking like a guy at that moment, this entire setup would have been a young girl's dream. What girl wouldn't want their own three room suite to get ready in?

Cassandra settled into her own chair. She pulled out a small tube, and squirted some flesh looking product onto her finger. Then she quickly set about rubbing it all over my face. I shut my eyes as she worked, and didn't open them until she stopped. When I did open them, I saw her holding containers up next to my face. She went back and forth on two of them, before finally picking one and opening it.

Next Cassandra grabbed a little white sponge and dabbed it into the container. It was some kind of cream, close to the color of my skin. As she lifted the new substance to my face, I suddenly wished I had at least taken a crash course in makeup application. At least then I would know what to do, or how to react to different situations. The only thing I could think to do, was close my eyes again.

After a short while, Cassandra had stopped patting the sponge over my face. I opened my eyes, only to see Cassandra gesturing for me to close them again. That's when I felt a large brush flit all over my face. It left behind a light dusting of some powder; fragrant, but not too strong. A few moments later, she followed this with brushing something on my cheeks.

With my eyes open now, I could see her dipping yet another brush in some dark pink powder. I didn't close my eyes this time, and actually watched her apply this powder to my cheekbones. Then she barely touched my chin with the brush. After this, she pulled out a smaller brush. She ran this one through some rather dark powder, and lifted it up past my eyes. A few seconds later, I could feel her spreading it over my eyebrows.

Cassandra gestured for me to close my eyes. I followed her orders. For the next minute or so, I felt her brushing another powder over my eyelids. She used a smaller brush, and I could only assume she was applying eye shadow. It's one of the very few things I actually knew the name of when it came to makeup. There were others, but at the moment I kind of felt out of sorts.

Cassandra eventually finished with the eye shadow. When I opened my eyes again, I took a quick look in the mirror. Even with partial makeup on, I looked a lot older. My eyes were surrounded with a sultry, smoky gray. While my eyebrows looked more pronounced above them. My cheeks looked contoured, and had a hint of blush. I actually looked pretty sexy.

"You have a lot of color in your eyes," Cassandra said, turning my face back toward her. "They're such a deep hazel." She picked up a tube of liquid eyeliner. "I think we'll take advantage of that aspect. Perhaps with a little Greek flare."

She reached up her thumb and gently pulled my lower eyelid down. Then she set about applying a rather thick layer of eyeliner to the bottom rim. I couldn't stand to look at the applicator coming near my eyes, so I looked toward the ceiling. Cassandra made quick work of it, however, and had both of the bottom eyelids done in seconds. Afterwards, she started applying eyeliner on the top.

With the tops of my eyes, she did a type of curve. On the outside corners of my eyes, she curved the eyeliner up and slightly away from the eye. Then on the inside corners, she curved it down. She didn't go too far out, but it was enough to slightly touch the bridge of my nose. It looked really sexy when I saw it later in the mirror. She finished off my eyes with a quick couple of coats of mascara.

If I hadn't of known about Aphrodite's little game of beauty showdown, I definitely would have thought this was excessive. I still did, in a way. Who needed to apply makeup, and go to all of this trouble, only to talk with someone? I hadn't even applied anything to go out this morning. Though I did get offers from both Tory and Leann, I declined them. They dropped the issue, saying something about me going with a "tomboy natural" look.

I thought about the two of them, sitting there in that filthy dungeon cell. Meanwhile, I was upstairs being pampered and waited on by servants. It didn't seem right. As Cassandra started applying a lip liner, I wondered if the two of them were hungry, or thirsty. Then I realized we didn't even need to eat, or drink. At least that was one less thing to deprive them of.

Cassandra pulled out a tube of lipstick. It wasn't quite red, but had a darker pink tone to it. She set about applying it to my lips. Then she held up some tissue in front of them. This happened to be one thing I had seen numerous times. I leaned forward, and closed my lips around the tissue; rocking them gently back and forth. She tossed the tissue in the trash, and then applied a little more lipstick.

This is when the makeup really started to feel weird on me. I had never worn makeup before. Not for practical purposes, or for theater, or even as a joke. It felt like I had a mask on. That it wasn't really my face. And when I looked into the mirror beside me, I really got the feeling that it wasn't me looking back. It seemed like someone else behind a glass pane.

"One more thing," Cassandra said, drawing my focus. She brought up a small container with some gold powder, and a medium size brush. "This will give you that sort of Ancient Greece bronze look." She went about applying it gingerly to various spots upon my face. "There," she finally said, lowering the brush. "Close your eyes."

I followed her instructions. A few seconds later, I heard the sound of air leaving a can. Then I felt some mist hit my face. She had me keep my eyes shut, and hit me several times with it. When I was finally allowed to open my eyes, I found her already up and out of her chair.

"Give that a moment to set," she said. "I'll be right back to finish your hair."

"This is torture," I muttered, after she had left the room.

I spun around and stared at myself in the mirror. The woman staring back didn't even look recognizable. At least she didn't look like the face I had reluctantly gotten used to over the past few days. She even looked sad; angst-ridden perhaps. Whatever it was that afflicted her, it seemed to have nothing to do with the spell. She… I… had moved past that now. Things had changed so rapidly, that it had become a secondary issue. My focus was now on getting myself, along with the other girls, out of here in one piece.

"Here we go," Cassandra said, lightheartedly.

She came up behind me, and lightly touched my hair. Then she began putting gold pins in various places along the sides. She produced a strand of golden knots, mixed with blue jewels. It looked rather expensive, priceless perhaps, like an ancient heirloom. Cassandra draped it over the crown of my head, and fastened it near the base of my skull. Lastly, she set about removing the curlers from my hair.

When all was done, I had an explosion of curls erupting from the top back of my head. The strand of gold and blue held them out of my face. So my makeup remained flawlessly on display. It actually looked so beautiful, that I felt sad knowing it wouldn't last. I was sure the look could be replicated with some work. However, after tonight, I would probably go back to my boring no-makeup look. Or perhaps I could start wearing a little bit.

"We better get you dressed," Cassandra said, after teasing my black tresses for a moment.

Up to this point, I had completely forgotten about my attire. Here I was, sitting in a white gown that left very little to the imagination. My skin was clearly visible underneath. The darker areolas of my breasts were like flares in a moonless night. I tried my best to at least keep the gown from opening, as I followed Cassandra into the next room. Emma, Olivia, and Ava were awaiting us, and quickly snapped to attention when I entered.

"You look stunning, milady," Ava said, upon seeing me.

"Quite beautiful," Olivia offered.

"Most certainly," Emma chimed in.

"But not as beautiful as the illustrious Goddess," Sophia's voice came from the corner of the room.

"Perish the thought," the three girls said in unison.

"None is more beautiful than the Goddess," Cassandra said.

I looked over to see Sophia studying me. She seemed intent about it, as if she were sizing up the competition for Aphrodite. If they only knew how little I cared about her stupid little game. Cassandra casually walked up behind me. Without any warning, she whipped my gown from my upper body and let it fall in a puddle about my feet. Sophia's eyes moved over my naked form, as Ava quickly recovered the discarded garment.

"I must say," Sophia said, still looking me over. "You're one of the prettier ones in recent months."

"How many girls get caught in your little trap here?" I asked, trying to take my mind off of being nude in front of four fully clothed women.

Sophia's lip curled on one side. "I fear we got off on the wrong foot," she said. "It was never our intention to throw you into that cell."

"Yet you did," I said, trying to muster some sense of bravado.

"Only because you resisted," Sophia said.

"Well I'm not resisting now," I said. "Are you still holding the other two in a cell?"

"For the time being," Sophia said. "Call it incentive that you continue to play nice."

Emma walked over to me. She held up a dress over my front. It was emerald green, with spaghetti straps. The skirt seemed to be knee length, and flared out slightly from the waist. I was about to comment on it looking nice, when Emma turned to Sophia. After studying it for a moment, Sophia shook her head.

"Something with some blue in it," Sophia said.

"I'm surprised you're not dressing me in a toga," I said.

Sophia actually smiled at my remark. "Just because our organizations stem from Ancient Greece, doesn't mean we can't appreciate modern style," she said. "However, if you'd like us to pin a bed sheet on you…"

"No," I said. "I'll stick with this century."

Sophia raised her hand for the girls to continue. "How long have you been running with Leann's little alliance anyway?" she asked.

"A few days," I said.

"And they've already brought you in on a rescue mission?" Sophia raised her eyebrow. "Impressive." She waved another dress away, leaving me standing there in the nude.

"I wouldn't say it's a rescue mission," I said, feeling a little less confident without clothes. "More like… a diplomatic negotiation."

Sophia chuckled. "Did Leann fail to mention that we don't really appreciate uninvited guests?"

"She may have hinted at it," I said.

"It's really a shame she found you first," Sophia said. "She's probably filled your head with all kinds of lies, or half truths."

"Well it's not like she laid claim to me," I said. "There's no reason why I can't operate freely."

"Of course," Sophia said. She proceeded to wave yet another dress away. "Less black. Maybe more gold," she said to Emma. "What has she told you about Aphrodite?" she asked, turning her attention back to me.

"Not really much at all," I said. "She keeps saying she's crazy."

Olivia and Ava gasped.

"The Goddess is of sound mind," Emma said, a bit perturbed.

"Girls…" Sophia said, calming them down. "Others are allowed to have opinions. It was not meant as an insult, I'm sure." She smiled. "Our guest is merely stating what was said by another." She looked at me. "Are you not?"

I nodded. "I really don't know what to think," I said. "I haven't met her yet."

"That one," Sophia said, pointing at a blue dress. She turned her attention to me again. "Well, might I ask that you keep an open mind while talking with her?"

"Keeping an open mind has been my motto for the last few days," I said, as Emma brought over the dress to hold in front of me. "I'd like to avoid spending the night in a dungeon, if possible."

"I'm sure something more comfortable can be arranged," Sophia said. "That is if you end up staying a while." She tilted her head, studying the dress for a moment. "I like that one," she said to Emma. "A shame we're not allowed to parade you around in the nude." She winked at me. "But the night's still young…"

"Let's get you dressed then," Cassandra said.

Cassandra had been silent for the last several minutes; standing in the corner out of the way. There was a definite order to things around here. The three girls worked under Cassandra, and she in turn worked under Sophia. I had no idea how far up the ladder Sophia had climbed, but she almost seemed like a personal assistant to Aphrodite. It seemed like she ran the mansion, and handled the day-to-day stuff. She definitely commanded respect from the men around the house.

Cassandra held up some kind of garment before me. It had straps. It had holes. I wasn't quite sure at all what to make of it. Growing up in a house with no females, I wasn't exactly pressed to know these things. Needless to say, I really didn't have a lot of choice in what I was wearing tonight. At least, I didn't think I had a say. Clothing wasn't going to kill me, however, so I played along with the whole dress-up routine.

Sensing my hesitation, Cassandra went down to her knees. She held the garment at my feet. It obviously had two leg holes, so I stepped into them. Cassandra carefully pulled the garment up my legs. It settled neatly into place. Thankfully it covered my butt and my nether area; at least for the most part. She brought the rest of it up and over my shoulders.

A lacy floral pattern stretched from my groin up and over my breasts, in a sort of T shape. It had thin straps that stretched over my shoulders, and fastened in the back like a bra. It efficiently held my breasts in place, but didn't seem to have a ton of support. Fishnet material stretched down the sides from my breasts to my hips. It left little holes exposed everywhere. Four thin straps hung from the bottom; two in the front and two in the back.

"I'm not really liking the idea of stockings," Sophia said, as she saw Emma approaching me with a pair in her hands.

"Mistress…" Cassandra said. "With all due respect, this girl has a nylon affinity."

I looked puzzled at Cassandra. How did she pick up on that from one little thing I said earlier? I chalked it up to the simple knowledge of her job. She probably went through a lot of these situations. I shifted my body, trying to get used to this thing I was wearing. Now I really wished I had paid more attention to Tory in the lingerie store.

"I see," Sophia said, looking me over. "Very well. In the interest of being hospitable. Wouldn't want her to endure any unnecessary hardships."

"Thank you, Mistress," Cassandra said, giving her a bow. She proceeded to take the stockings from Emma.

"Pity really," Sophia said. "You have nice legs."

"Thanks," I said, as Cassandra had me sit on a stool.

Sophia watched for a moment, as the stockings were carefully rolled up my legs. "I guess it's not too bad," she said. "At the very least the stockings will accentuate them."

Cassandra finished bringing the second stocking up my leg. She fastened the front two suspenders to the tops, then had me stand. After fidgeting with them in the back, she eventually fastened the back suspenders as well. The lingerie seemed a little too sexy for the occasion, but at least I wasn't standing in the nude anymore. That was a small victory, I suppose.

Emma brought over the dress Sophia had chosen. For the most part, the dress was blue. It had a deep neckline, that showed off some of the lingerie when finally in place. The straps were just big enough to cover the straps of the lingerie. On the sides were panels with a lace design, over a lining of gold material beneath. The skirt was a little tighter than I had hoped for, and it barely covered the tops of the stockings. Cassandra pulled the gold laces in the back, making the dress snug around the midsection, before tying them off.

Olivia stepped forward, and put a gold necklace around my neck. Then she lifted my right hand and slipped a bangle onto my wrist. Ava came up behind her. She started comparing shoes to the dress, I assumed to match color. A pair of blue heels were cast to the side, as they simply didn't match at all. She seemed pleased with a pair of black heels, that were much lower.

"The gold ones," Sophia said.

Ava hurried over and grabbed a pair of gold heels. I cringed when I saw them. They had five inch heels, and very little support. While they covered the toe completely, they left a lot of the foot exposed. A little sliver of material covered the heel, but then came up into double ankle straps. Ava did not hesitate helping me step into them, and buckling me in.

"I'm not really used to heels," I admitted.

Sophia nodded. "It's more for presentation," she said. "You'll have an escort. They'll make sure you won't fall."

"That's reassuring," I said, offering a half smile.

Sophia stood, and walked over to me. "You know what I find the most disheartening about all of this dress up?" she asked rhetorically. "The girls can never keep any piercings." She reached up and gently rubbed my earlobe between her thumb and index finger. "The holes just heal right up." She flashed me a grin. "Still… it is fun to play with needles. As long as you get them out in time."

I swallowed hard. "I'll take your word for it," I said.

"Would you like some clip-ons?" Cassandra asked.

"It's not necessary," Sophia said. She turned to Cassandra. "Perfume," she said. "I'll go and gather the escort." She turned and walked to the door, pulling the latch to open it. "I should warn you," she said, looking over her shoulder. "Be respectful during your audience." With that, she walked out of the room.

I took one step from the room, out into the hallway. My feet wobbled beneath me. Surprisingly, I had not broken an ankle yet. The thought of that made me wonder if it would heal as quickly as my scrapes and bruises from earlier. As I pulled at the hem of my skirt, the two guards from earlier stepped toward me. Sophia stood behind them, as if she needed protection once more.

This entire place, along with the inhabitants, seemed rather odd. One minute they trusted you enough to be alone, and the next you were being grabbed by guards. Although, the one time I happened to be grateful for them was at that moment. I hardly had to walk on my own. The guards pretty much held me up, to the point where only the balls of my feet hit the floor at any given moment.

Sophia led us back downstairs. We ended up on the main level, and turned the opposite direction of the stairs to the dungeon. If I thought the place was weird before, it got about ten times stranger in the next room. Huge wooden doors creaked open. A dimly lit lounge area greeted us on the other side. Sophia kept her stride, leading us right through the middle of this room.

I managed to peak around the guards at certain moments. What I saw baffled me. Leann had hinted at the activities that went on here, but she really didn't prepare me to see them on full display. Scantily clad women paraded around; some not wearing anymore than panties. I thought for sure one of them, at least, was completely nude. While some of them glanced at us, or took some form of notice, most of them seemed completely absorbed in their activities.

The first sight that drew my attention, happened to be a middle-aged man sitting on a sofa. He seemed well off, like a politician, or lawyer. Two girls cuddled up in his arms. One methodically rubbed her hand up and down his exposed thigh, as he ran his hand through her platinum blonde hair. The other had her breasts exposed, and teased him provocatively by swaying them back and forth before his face. She kept a tight grip on his hair, as if to prevent him from moving his head forward to touch her.

I turned my head away, to the other side of the room. There I saw a lounging bed, with another male. This one a bit older and out of shape. A black-haired beauty, Asian by the look of it, knelt between the man's legs. She quickly stroked up and down on, what I quickly gathered, was the man's penis. He moaned in ecstasy, as she whipped her hair across his large belly.

Beside them, another girl teased a rather fit man with a slow dance. I noticed his wrists and ankles were taped to the chair he sat in. He struggled; desperate to touch her. When she stepped off to the side, my eyes instantly dropped to look at his erect penis. It twitched uncontrollably. A glistening string of pre-cum dribbled down to the chair seat, where it joined a rather considerable puddle.

I quickly turned my head away, feeling myself blush. I kept thinking the man must've been struggling for hours like this. In fact, everyone in this room seemed lost and unaware of time. They also seemed completely unaware of the other activities in the room. Unless, of course, they were watching. Which there were some groupings that were apparently letting that happen; either willingly, or unwillingly.

"Please," said a man, tearfully. "She's my girlfriend."

I looked until I found the source of the commotion. It came from a young man, perhaps mid-twenties, sitting in a chair. Actually he was handcuffed to the chair. He was completely naked, except for a strange little cage that appeared to be locked between his legs. His face wore an expression of horror, and he seemed to be crying as he watched the scene in front of him.

A rather commanding woman, fully clothed in black latex, stood over another docile female. This other woman was completely naked. She timidly remained on her knees, looking straight at another man's rather large exposed member. The woman in black coaxed the naked female to kiss it; much to the objection of the boyfriend. As we passed, I could clearly hear her order the woman to put it in her mouth.

I thought back on what Tory had told me. About how Gabby had forced her to perform sexual acts on strange men. While some of the people here seemed to be enjoying the activities, I wondered how many were being forced. Then I began to worry about my own safety. Would I suffer some fate like this if I pissed off Aphrodite? Is this why Sophia escorted me through this unending room of sexual depravity?

It wasn't all male and female either. There were girls caught up in the acts as well. One girl I passed, was being forced to lick and kiss another girl's boots. Still another was blindfolded with her wrists tied behind her back. Two girls teasingly rubbed ice over her exposed nipples, and laughed wickedly as she begged to be set free. The room went on like this, like some bizarre sex museum.

It made me really question the properties of Amara's curse. Leann was pretty scarce with the details. Did the victims of the curse suddenly come of age? Were they even all legal? Did anyone really care? I definitely saw some police mingled amongst the sea of sex. However, like the others, they seemed completely caught up in their own little worlds.

As we finally reached the doors on the other side of the room, I witnessed one final act. Two girls, and two young guys, had claimed a daybed at the end of the room. They seemed to be engaged in a game of sorts. Each time the girls could coax the guys into performing a sexual act on each other, the girls would return in kind. The odds didn't appear to be in the reluctant boys' favor, as the girls were still completely clothed. All they had to do was kiss each other, and it prompted the guys to do more.

"Care to join?" one of the girls asked of Sophia.

Sophia turned and smiled at them. "Perhaps later," she said.

The other girl looked me over. "Can she join too?"

"She has an audience with the Goddess," Sophia said, as one of the guards opened the door.

"Lucky you," the girl said to me. "Feel free to come back later." She looked back at the two guys. "Kiss his neck," she cooed to one of them.

Sophia reached out to gently take my elbow. "Avoid those two when they're together," she said. "Unless you want to be played like a fiddle." She tenderly encouraged me to walk through the open door. "They're even worse with board games."

"It's nice to know you all play games other than the sexual variety," I said.

"When did I ever imply the board games weren't sexual?"

Sophia winked at me. She escorted me through a small antechamber. The large door behind us closed shut, and the guards were nowhere to be seen. I felt nervous now, as the setting turned somewhat ominous. Only the sounds of our heels, clacking upon the marble floor, could be heard.

We walked toward doors that didn't seem to fit at all with the rest of the mansion. They were large, perhaps three times as tall as either me or Sophia. The vast majority of them had an ivory sheen. Gold inlay swirled through them, forming shapes of roses and swans. As we approached, an audible clunk echoed throughout the chamber. I watched as the massive doors swung open with ease, and presented the room inside.

"Time to shine," Sophia said, stopping at the door.

"You're not going in?" I asked, my stomach in knots.

"She didn't ask for me," Sophia said. "I'll be right outside to escort you." She dropped her hand from my arm. "Where I escort you to, depends on how well you're received by the Goddess."

"Wait!" I exclaimed. "What do I do in there? Do I kneel? Bow?"

Sophia thought about it for a moment. "She is quite fond of the curtsy," she finally said. "Very feminine."

"How do I do that?"

"Ugh," Sophia groaned. "Millennials…" She glared at me for a moment, before rolling her eyes. "Like this."

Sophia proceeded to demonstrate how to do a formal curtsy. She took into account my attire. I did my best to mimic it. She looked so refined with hers. I, on the other hand, had a little trouble in the heels. My balance wasn't quite together in this new body, and towering on five more inches didn't help matters.

"Good enough," Sophia said, prodding me forward. "Don't keep her waiting."

I proceeded past the open doors. Guards to either side closed the doors as I passed. They weren't as ugly as the other men around here, and could've probably had lucrative careers as models. Unlike the other guards, they didn't walk with me. My legs wobbled, as I walked. A few times I had to correct my steps, in fear of falling flat on my face. I figured blood on Aphrodite's marble floor wouldn't exactly be a good peace offering.

Once the doors closed, I grew very self-conscious about my loud footsteps. I tried to walk on the balls of my feet as much as possible. After walking a few meters in, I could hear a strange ethereal melody filling the room. It sounded like a choir singing from some lofty balcony above. While it was pleasant, it did seem rather haunting not being able to see the source. Massive columns stretched up to the high ceiling. Around the room, scallop-shaped sconces produced a soft light.

As I grew closer, I could make out a female form casually lounging upon a throne. The throne itself was ivory, with gold inlay. Roses seemed to be the main theme, yet behind her the throne back looked like two swans with their necks elegantly touching. It seemed so far away, like the room went on forever. I began to wonder how in the world all of this fit in what was perceived as a parking lot. Then I remembered magic.

After walking another few meters, I started to take notice of the statues lining the outer edges of the throne room. They were all made of exquisite gold, and stood atop marble pillars, or marble slabs depending on the size. Each of them represented a young maiden, or at times two to three, in some type of theme. The designs were so intricate and life-like, that they put even the most revered sculptors' works to shame.

The first to catch my attention was a young woman with a bow. She held it across her body and down to the side; her arrow ready, but not drawn. Her attire consisted of a simple loincloth, and a laurel in her hair. Barefoot, she stood on her toes; in a pose that suggested she was creeping through a forest. I imagined she was hunting for something, and trying to sneak up on her prey.

Across from the woman with the bow, was another woman holding a jug of water. Her arm muscles looked so realistic, as they strained to hold the jug on her shoulder. Like the first statue, this girl also wore a simple loincloth, but nothing else. She didn't look ashamed to be topless. In fact, the look on her face was one of determination; like she had a job to finish.

As I continued past the statues, I began to realize partial nudity was a common theme. One of the two girl scenes, I passed, featured a completely nude woman. The other woman sat at her feet, reaching up to cling to her legs. She looked up at the woman, her cheek resting against her hip. While the nude woman reached down, with her hand atop the sitting woman's head. She looked down upon her thoughtfully, or perhaps lovingly.

There were so many others. I passed one that held a pose like a ballerina. She stood on the ball of one foot. Her other foot rested on the side of her knee, with her leg bent and out to the side. With her hands stretched above her downcast head, she leaned gently off toward her bent leg. It kind of reminded me of the dance I had seen the night before. Of course, neither Sheila, nor Paige, were completely nude like this girl.

"Take your time," said a sweet voice from the direction of the throne. "It's not often one gets to take in the sights of my throne room."

"My apologies," I said, squinting at the woman. "Goddess," I quickly added. "They're just so… remarkable."

"No need to apologize," Aphrodite said. "I meant what I said."

I continued to examine the golden statues. There were too many to take in at one given time. They really needed to be in a museum, or some place where they could be viewed at leisure. Though Aphrodite had welcomed me to look at them, I felt I shouldn't waste too much of her time. It was all probably a test of her patience.

So I slowly proceeded toward the throne. Occasionally I would glance at a statue. She had a nice one of a young woman aiming her bow at the sky. Every single one of her muscles seemed tense, as if she were ready to let the arrow fly at any moment. Again, she wore nothing but a small loincloth. It made me wonder if they had any clothing at all, back when these were made.

"The artist is truly a gem," Aphrodite said. "Is she not?"

"She most certainly is," I said, trying my best to sound polite, if not diplomatic. "They're so lifelike."

"If she had only been born a man, perhaps she'd be famous today," Aphrodite said. "Instead, I took her in. Gave her a medium. Now she only creates works of art for me."

"How very kind of you," I said.

"Yes…" Aphrodite said. "How very kind, indeed."

My focus pulled away from the statues as I neared the throne. For once, I could finally see who I was speaking with. I had to admit, seeing her made me think everything said about her beauty was an understatement. Aphrodite was striking, and that was putting it mildly. She had the face you could only find on a photoshopped magazine. Flawless could not even begin to describe her features.

If I had to put her on a scale, up against the ten most beautiful women in the world, Aphrodite would tip the scales forever in her favor. Her face looked perfectly symmetrical. She had eyes that seemed to change color depending on the lighting. Her lips had just the right amount of pout to be inviting. While her long waves of strawberry blonde hair framed her face beautifully.

Maybe she had already put a spell on me, but it seemed she could wear anything and still be amazing. She wore a simple chiffon dress; white, and slit up both sides to reveal her bare legs. Her feet were bare, save for strands of gold looped around her ankles and middle toes. Wherever skin showed, it appeared smooth and without blemish. A rather intricate band of gold and precious jewels, crisscrossed between her breasts; separating them and holding the material of the dress against them.

"Do you like what you see?" Aphrodite asked, seductively.

I swallowed hard. How could anyone say "no" to that question? This woman was absolutely flawless. She could have worn a potato sack, and still put me to shame. That was actually saying something, as I found my new look significantly attractive. That was after four other women going all out on me. Yet, here this woman sat, with hardly anything to heighten her beauty. As I grew closer, I realized she wasn't even wearing makeup. She had natural tones to her face that made it appear she was, but she wasn't.

"You are absolutely breathtaking," I said, finding myself giving a curtsy. "Goddess."

"I must say…" Aphrodite looked me over. "After the tantrum you threw outside, I would have never figured you to be so civilized now."

"I'm sorry about my… outburst earlier," I said. "The past few days have put me on edge. But I've had time to think about the situation."

"Oh?" She seemed to be feigning interest now, leaning back on her throne.

"The girls here have been… kind," I said. I really wished at that moment I had cared more about vocabulary in school. How could I be diplomatic, if I didn't even know what to say?

"I'm sure the girls could be far more accommodating that you could ever wish for," Aphrodite said, with a grin.

"I've… seen," I said, thinking about the sex room.

"Are you bothered by displays of carnal lust?"

"It… was a little shocking," I admitted, swallowing hard.

Aphrodite smiled. "It's only natural." She casually cupped her breasts over the material of her dress. "Those like your leader are such prudes."

"I wouldn't exactly call Leann my leader," I said. "I just met her."

"It matters not," Aphrodite said. "Like all followers of Artemis, they believe in chastity and abstinence. Restraining from the very beauty that brought them into this world." She squeezed her breasts. "Sex is wonderful, and powerful. Such a natural thing should not be forsaken."

Aphrodite's fingers slipped beneath the sides of her dress. As she cupped her breasts even harder, she pushed the material of her dress into the middle. She casually pulled her hands away; gently trailing her fingers over her now exposed breasts. Her middle fingers flicked from her nipples. Then she nonchalantly rested her arms upon the armrests of her throne.

I swallowed hard yet again. "I've always thought it should be shared with someone special," I said, trying to maintain my composure.

"What's more special than someone who wants to give it freely?" Aphrodite asked. "Do you think those out there," she nodded toward the sex room, "are partaking against their will?"

"Some did appear to be… tied up," I said.

Aphrodite laughed. "All in good fun," she said. "It's their fetish. It's what they desire."

My brow furrowed. "So none of them are being forced to do anything out there?" I asked.

"Well that all depends on your point of view," she said. "Did it ever cross your mind that they asked to be forced?"

"Why would anyone…" I shook my head. "How old are they?"

"What's age?" Aphrodite asked, rhetorically. "Most of them are decades, if not hundreds of years old." She sighed. "But if you're concerned about local laws, then I can attest to their legality. You don't need to worry about partaking in the merriment."

"I'm not asking for myself," I said, shaking my head again. "I think we're getting off topic."

Aphrodite gave me a puzzled look. "I don't believe we ever set a topic," she said.

"I was hoping we could talk more about you," I said. "And what you want with my friends?"

"You know exactly what I want," she said. "I'm not ignorant to what Leann has told you."

"But I don't understand," I said. "Leann doesn't have what you want."

"That is a point where I must disagree," she said. "Your friends concealed the amulet long ago, and they know to whom it belongs."

"What do you need the amulet for anyway?" I asked, getting annoyed with her condescending tone. "You have all of this." I gestured to the immense throne room.

"What consequence is it of yours?" Aphrodite asked. "It belongs to me. I want it back."

I sighed. "Holding us hostage over an amulet seems a little…" I searched for a word that wouldn't seem too offensive.

"Silly little girl," Aphrodite sneered. "Do you not know the past? Do you know nothing of me?"

"Greek civilization hasn't exactly come up at school yet," I jeered, completely fed up.

Aphrodite's lightheartedness faded; her demeanor becoming rigid. She actually looked more beautiful when obviously mad. "I am Aphrodite," she said. "Goddess of love, pleasure, beauty and procreation. Borne from the discarded manhood of Uranus. The nubile desire of men, who rose from the sea foam on a scallop shell." She took a deep breath. "I welcome all who come here with an open mind and open heart."

"It didn't seem so welcoming when I got here," I said.

Aphrodite glared at me in silence for a moment. "You may only push so far," she finally said. "You would have been welcome, had you not caused a scene. We do accommodate guests."

"Accommodate them how?" I asked, extending my arm back toward the last room. "By inducing a sex orgy?"

"Mind your tongue!" Aphrodite exclaimed, rising to her feet. "I will not suffer your disrespect much longer."

"Forgive me," I said, choking back some of my anger.

Aphrodite eased herself back onto the throne. "What do you know of procreation?" she asked. "A fresh virgin, only days from falling prey to Amara's enchantment."

"How did you --"

"Stupid, silly girl," Aphrodite said. "Perhaps you should have questioned a little more, those who found you. Or have you not been told the true history of Amara?" She sighed. "Only a virgin can be altered." Aphrodite leaned forward to study me. "No… You have yet to feel the embrace of a lover's arms."

My eyes dropped. It wasn't out of shame, as I had nothing to be ashamed about. I was a summer away from starting high school when this all happened. So I wasn't embarrassed about still being a virgin. Instead, I felt embarrassed about being put in my place; as a young, inexperienced… girl. Aphrodite was right. I didn't know anything about the world. How did I ever expect to negotiate diplomatic terms with her?

"Every six months he comes to me," Aphrodite said, leaning back. She seemed to be speaking to herself now. "Half a year we spend together." She reached up to gently brush her fingers over one of her exposed breasts. "Entwined…" Her chest lifted in an exaggerated breath. She seemed to be in a trance. "Together in the most passionate ways imaginable." Suddenly she stopped all motion, and looked down at me. "Sometimes beyond imagination."

I stood there silently and watched, as she reached down next to her, and brought a red rose to her chin. Aphrodite spun it gently upon her lips. She smiled behind it. Her eyes gazed at me intently. I watched her inhale a slow steady breath. She closed her eyes for a moment, and seemed to be in another world, or perhaps another time. When she opened her eyes again, she appeared to be calm.

"Prithee," she said, "do tell me what is going on in that pretty little head of yours." She lowered the rose to her lap. "I sense confusion."

"This is all confusing to me," I admitted. "And I'm thinking about my friends."

"Friends?!" Aphrodite tittered at the word. "Do you really think those girls are your friends?"

I thought about her question. Aphrodite made a valid point. While the girls had shown up at the most opportune moment, and took me into their strange magical theater, they were hardly life-long pals. Admittedly, I hardly knew any of them. Leann had lied to me from the start. Was she being honest now? Who knew if the others were being honest? I began to wonder why they had even shown up in the first place.

I shook my head quietly.

"You see?" Aphrodite asked. "They brought you here without knowing the whole truth."

"No!" I blurted out. "Leann said you would do this. She said you would try to get in my head."

"Honey," Aphrodite said, leaning forward. "I don't need to get into your head." She flashed me a sympathetic look. "You wear your heart on your sleeve. Everything about you is blatantly clear."

"You don't know anything about me," I said.

"Then stay awhile," she said, sitting back up. "Let me learn all about you." She smiled. "You'll be my guest."

"And get thrown in your dungeon again?" I retorted.

"If that's what turns you on," she purred, finishing it with a wink.

"Let my friends go," I said, attempting to sound as stern as possible.

Aphrodite dropped her pleasant demeanor once again. "What are they to you?" She rose from her throne. "Two silly little girls, who think they can save the world." One slow step after another, Aphrodite sauntered toward me. Her bare feet left little footprints of condensation on the cold marble floor.

"Three," I said.

Aphrodite paused in her stride. "Three?"

"Tory, Leann," I said, "and her sister."

"That is a tall order," she said, continuing to walk closer. "You're bold." Aphrodite reached me. She held her hand out and gently caressed my chin and right cheek. "I happen to appreciate boldness. When it's brought upon by courage, rather than stupidity." Suddenly her lips were within millimeters of my earlobe. "But what will you give me in return?" She asked with a whisper.

I tried to remain calm, but she definitely had a way of making others weak. "I'll stay," I managed, with stifled breath. "Without a fight."

"As a guest?" she asked, still at my ear. "Or something else?"

With all of my strength I turned my head to face her. "As a guest," I said, gazing right into her eyes. "I suppose."

Aphrodite bit the bottom corner of her lip. She gazed at me lustfully. "Shame." She reached up to tug at one of my curls. "We could have made your visit more enjoyable." Aphrodite smiled, letting out a slight moan behind it. "Very well," she said, spinning toward her throne. "You will stay," she said, as she sashayed over to her throne. "The others may go free."

"Just like that?!"

"Just like that," she said, waving her hand behind her.

"Thank you," I said.

Aphrodite reached her throne and spun to stand before it. "Oh, don't thank me, dear," she said. "You and I have much to talk about. Much of which will not be pleasant." She eased herself down on the throne. "And I wouldn't want you to leave this room thinking we're friends." A sly grin rose upon her face. "The hour of testing is upon you," she said, lifting her hands toward the rows of golden statues. "I do hope you succeed where others have failed."

Suddenly it dawned on me where the music was coming from. The sweet melodic tones that had graced my ears from the moment I had arrived, were not coming from some lofty place. They were coming from the statues. Only they weren't singing. No, in fact, they were screaming, or perhaps moaning in agony. As I looked upon each motionless face, in horror, I realized the price of losing Aphrodite's games. She played for keeps, and what she kept were the girls who failed; forever encased in a golden statue.

Aphrodite laughed at my discovery. I began to say something, but she simply waved me off. Two large hands grabbed my upper arms. The guards had come to take me away. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have yelled out my objections. I definitely shouldn't have called Aphrodite a twisted bitch. It may have offended her, and quite possibly made my stay here worse. Regardless, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, from Aphrodite's throne room; her guest, but now under protest.


 
 
To Be Continued...
 



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