Friday, December 08, 2006

Chapter Eight (Complete)

Danny woke up on Monday morning happier than he'd ever been in his life. He was sated with sex and with sleep, wallowing in creature-comforts, and luxuriating in the ecstasy of being in love.

Being in love was everything he'd always hoped, fervent and joyous and just a little bit scary; and he discovered that making love to his beloved was so much more supremely satisfying than just having sex — it was a difference of intensity, the difference between surfing a twelve-foot breaker and splashing about in a swimming-pool; the latter was a lot of fun, but the former was ravishing.

Raising himself up on one elbow, Danny looked down into his beloved's face and experienced another all-consuming rush of emotion; he wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh idiotically or burst into tears, to start singing or screaming or hyperventilating. Instead, he kissed Marquesa lightly on the arm and got out of bed gently, careful not to wake him.

Slipping into the feather-light aubergine silk dressing-gown that Saks had sent up for him, Danny moved silently into the sitting room, pulling the door to behind him... Marquesa had been awake much later than Danny had, still on his own internal clock while Danny had gone completely off-schedule from the many upheavals he'd experienced over the weekend, sleeping profoundly but in short snatches and waking up at odd hours.

He called room-service and ordered some coffee, as well as croissants and jam for himself and a platter of fruit and breakfast cheeses for Marquesa (who he now knew was on a low-starch diet and wouldn't eat bread at all), then sat down at the desk and turned on his recharged PDA so that he could check his email and phone messages.

Danny was deeply disappointed that so few people had tried to contact him over the weekend. Perhaps they knew he wasn't home, since the reporters camped outside his house would have reported as much; but that was a fairly weak excuse, since he always gave out his wireless number and email address as well as his landline. It seemed that people were simply distancing themselves from him until the dust settled and they knew what to believe; it was this lack of immediate loyalty that hurt Danny the most. When a person has more than two hundred contacts in his address book, more than half of whom he counts as personal friends, a paltry collection of messages that could be tallied on one's fingers was sorely disappointing.

The Aunt Ems had called, however, shouting pathetically into the device with worried well-wishes, and the family lawyer made a perfunctory-sounding offer of legal advice if needed; the rest of the Vandervere clan and retainers apparently couldn't be bothered... no less than he expected, though it gave him a small pang of pain to be reminded of how little his family regarded him.

Danny wrote a note to the Aunt Ems on hotel stationery rather than attempt a return phone call... they were both a little hard of hearing and had a certain mistrust of machines, so telephone communications with them were always unsatisfactory; notes on nice stationery, though, were cherished by the old ladies, tied with satin ribbons and stashed in tiny escritoire drawers with a sprig of lavender from the garden. Then he called the family lawyer and left a message that his defense was well in hand but the consideration was appreciated. He also sent off a few emails from his PDA, laboriously doodling the letters on the little screen, in response to the few calls and emails he'd received over the weekend.

He handed his letter over to the waiter who brought breakfast, along with his last four oily dollars. As soon as the waiter was gone and the suite returned to silence, Danny turned his attention back to Marquesa, taking his coffee and sliding the bedroom door open, moving an armchair around so that he could sit and gaze at the beloved while he sipped.

The sleeping Marquesa was yet another side of the man that Danny was coming to understand: the pure physical beauty without the dazzling personality driving it was something wonderful to look at, the chiseled body lying loose, the powerful hands palm-up with the long manicured fingers curled negligently, the glittering aggressive eyes closed and tender, the glorious auburn hair spilling untidily over the pillow, the precise mouth slack and snoring quietly. It is a cliché to compare sleepers to innocent angels; but Marquesa looked exactly like an angel fallen to earth, a little disheveled and no longer innocent, yet ready to resume his wings and return to his place on an Italian altarpiece at any moment.

This Sleeping Angel Marquesa was one of numerous different facets that Danny had discovered in his beloved over the last two days; these personalities were so different from each-other, or at least so unexpected in relation to each-other, that Danny had been forced to revise his Marquesa/Marc-Antony paradigm and start coming up with new names for each. And what amazed him the most was that each of these were somehow contained within the others, that the Sleeping Angel Marquesa laying there had all of those other Marquesas lurking inside of him, ready to delight or unsettle but never bore.

What made the whole thing so unnerving was that there were facets within facets: for example, the Glamour-Queen Marquesa, already well-known to Danny, had a sub-persona that he'd dubbed Glamour-Artist Marquesa, the exceedingly focused and rather peremptory craftsman who created that glamour. Danny had encountered this personality on Saturday afternoon, when Marquesa's manservant, Danvers, arrived to assist in the creation of Glamour-Queen Marquesa for the evening.

Danvers was rather a surprise in himself: Danny had envisioned the usual bland functionary, a featureless Jeeves type specially designed to melt into the background; but Danvers was shockingly attractive, tall and burly and ruggedly handsome; and though he was as stoic and correct as anyone could wish in a well-trained English servant, predictably dressed in a flat black nothing suit, there was an impossible-to-ignore smoldering in his steel-blue eyes and a dangerous little smirk barely suppressed on his muscular mouth; the drab black suit was boxy and loose but could not disguise the truly impressive physique beneath, more expected in a marble-quarry than a transvestite's boudoir.

He arrived promptly at six, carrying a large leather makeup case and a slightly smaller jewel-case in his white-gloved hands, leading two bellboys with three large garment-bags and two smaller suitcases — enough luggage for most people to take on a long cruise rather than a short weekend. He greeted Danny with a militaresque little bow and a slightly disdainful flash of his piercing eyes, narrowing on the bath-towel loosely knotted low on Danny's hips, then started setting up shop at the large dressing-table in the bedroom. Marquesa instructed Danny to go out into the sitting-room, order some afternoon tea, then stay there.

Danny had obeyed, though he was curious to watch Marquesa getting dressed, making himself comfortable at the desk in order to check messages and call his tenants about the noise in front of the apartment building, then moving over to the couch to watch television. He dozed for a few minutes, waking with a start when the bellboys returned with a large tea-trolley crowded with silver and crystal and pastel cakes, as well as several shopping bags and a suit-bag from Saks.

Andrew at Saks had completely outdone himself, inspired no doubt by the legendary depth of Marquesa's pockets, sending up more clothes than Danny could wear in a week packed with social engagements, much less holed up anonymously in a hotel. All of the pieces were the highest quality and most expensive items available, several of which Danny had been eyeing for some weeks and which Andrew had remembered he wanted. The dinner-suit in particular was absolutely gorgeous, silk and cashmere sharply tailored to hug his hips and accentuate his shoulders, accompanied by several different types of shirts and five sets of ties and waistcoats (Danny had never cared for cummerbunds, which he imagined made him look fat).

Some little time after the bellboys left, no doubt dismayed by the paltry tip Danny managed from the little bit of cash he had in his County Jail property envelope, Danvers reappeared from the bedroom. Danny, no stranger to public nudity, felt uncomfortably naked under the penetrating gaze of the man, and held the hanging dinner-suit in front of himself defensively.

"Do you require any assistance dressing, sir?" it was so nearly a sneer, with a wry arch to his left eyebrow and a small quiver of his right nostril, that Danny felt like a little boy tracking mud on the carpet.

"No, thank you," Danny got out with some effort, trying very hard not to hang his head and shuffle his feet.

"Very good, sir," Danvers made up a tray with a cup of coffee and a glass of sherry for Marquesa, then returned to the bedroom, leaving Danny to sigh with relief.

After lingering over his tea and nibbling dainty pink cakes while gazing out the window at the people walking on the roof-garden across the way, Danny decided he'd better start getting dressed; he laid out his suit, choosing a tie and waistcoat of heavy chocolate satin embroidered with sky-blue chrysanthemums, a stiff white shirt without pleats or ruffles, a set of heavy topaz links and studs set in dark gold, and black eel-skin opera-pumps with embroidered black socks.

He wondered if he could settle for getting dressed in the sitting-room, but decided his face felt a little stale despite his recent bath, and that his hair was a trifle frizzed and needed wetting; gathering up all the garments he planned to wear and the rather large ostrich-skin dop kit (Andrew knew him well enough to not pack shaving things, though he included a few essential cosmetics that aren't normally found in gentlemen's toiletries), Danny went to the bedroom door and knocked gently.

"What," came Marquesa's voice, an impatiently brusque demand rather than a question.

"I need the bathroom, I want to wash up a little before I get dressed," Danny pushed the door open a crack to peek in. Marquesa was seated at the dressing table, wearing a voluminous off-the-shoulder black taffeta smock that pooled in baroque folds all over the floor around him, dabbing some invisible something on his left eyelid with a long-handled sable brush; Danvers stood behind him, carefully removing long silver curlers from Marquesa's hair and letting the tamed locks dangle and bounce.

"Uh-huh," Marquesa more-or-less grunted, not taking his eyes off the task in the mirror; Danvers spared him a scathing how-dare-you-importune-the-divinity kind of glance as he dropped a handful of silver pins into the open makeup case.

Surprised and a little hurt by this unexpected coldness, Danny retreated into the bathroom and reinforced his dented ego with a thorough inventory of his own beauty, turning this way and that in the mirror; he reminded himself that he was something extremely special, and repeated it until his reflection smiled agreement. Thus reassured, he focused instead on the business of making himself even more beautiful.

He spritzed his dampened hair with a heavy mink-oil conditioner and worked the fluff of curls down into a wavy helmet with a fine-tooth comb, then dabbed royal jelly around his eyes and slapped a thick mask of avocado and clay onto his face. He brushed and flossed his teeth to glittering perfection, slathered his body with sandalwood-infused shea butter, went over his fingernails and toenails with a chamois buffer, washed the mask off with an astringent toner, and brushed the oil out of his hair with a fine boar brush until it gleamed like polished walnut and curled softly down the nape of his neck. A dusting of darkly golden powder around his eyes to make them smolder, a slick of clear gloss on his mouth to make it wet, just the barest whisper of golden mascara to soften the nearly solid line of his lashes, and he pronounced his face complete.

Not willing to put his head back into the lion's mouth quite so soon, Danny took his time getting dressed, waiting until his skin was entirely dry first, then applying pats of talc and dabs of white-linden cologne to various corners of his body as he waited; sliding slowly into the underwear and shirt, he tied his tie seven different times, trying various effects, deciding finally on a softly mussed arrangement that looked a little like a flower. Unfortunately, even the slowest dresser gets into a waistcoat, dinner suit, and shoes with very little time consumed, and there are only so many ways one can only fold a handkerchief; to kill a little more time, Danny sat down on the little stool and went over his fingernails again, filing the edges and pushing back the cuticles before buffing them to a glassy sheen.

"Good God, darling, aren't you dressed yet?" Marquesa called cheerfully from the bedroom.

"Just finishing up," Danny called back, hastily putting away the manicure set and getting to his feet.

Danny stopped short in the door, stunned by the impact of Marquesa's goddess-like magnificence. He was regally robed in a Grecian gown of cornflower-blue chiffon, his waist bound tight by a corset of crisscrossed satin ribbons that gathered into an elaborate bow before trailing off into the voluminous folds of the skirt. His hair was piled high in the Edwardian manner, a fancifully curled and braided chignon studded with diamond stars set on springs to tremble and glint with his every movement; an enormous cabochon sapphire hung from a dainty diamond lavaliere around his throat, with long sapphire pendant earrings winking at his ears and a diamond starburst brooch glittering on his shoulder, his wrists heavily shackled in several wide diamond bracelets.

"Ah, gaping silence, my favorite reaction to a new dress," Marquesa laughed lightly, swinging the fabric of his skirts as if he were about to start waltzing.

"Would it be pointless to say you look fabulous?" Danny finally stuttered out.

"Compliments are never pointless," Marquesa tilted his head forward as Danvers dropped an evening cape over his shoulders, a stiff white satin casing of rather ecclesiastic shape with a standing collar of white coq feathers. He waited for Danvers to hand him his handbag, a crystal-paved Judith Lieber in the shape of an apple, "And you look quite delicious, yourself, so sleekly elegant; and I love you in that waistcoat. Are you ready to go? Thank you, Danvers; that will be all."

With that, Marquesa swept out of the suite, Danny following in his wake like the tail of a comet, down the hall and into an elevator whose operator seemed to be waiting for them; they hadn't even paused in the foyer of the restaurant before the maître-d' appeared to escort them to a perfectly-situated table beside one of the tall French windows with enviable views of both the city and their fellow diners. Danny marveled at the deference that was shown his companion in this hotel, concierges and maîtres-d' falling all over themselves, bellboys and elevator-men rushing to his service without needing to be summoned. Such subtle demonstrations of Marquesa's power were a heady aphrodisiac to Danny.

L'Aurente at dinner was a very different place from L'Aurente at lunch... though the pastoral theme was inescapable, it seemed as if the garden's day had progressed to early evening: the chandeliers were dimmed to give off no more light than a flurry of fireflies, and dark purple spots concealed behind the cornice turned the painted ceiling a twilight violet and rendered the yellow silk wall-panels a deep viney green; the tables and chairs were draped and slip-covered with deep wine damask, and the centerpieces were dark old silver epergnes filled with purplish roses, near-black orchids, miniature eggplants, glossy green laurel, and a half-dozen white candles flickering romantically on each side.

With his gown achieved and appreciated on all sides (there had been an audible gasp when he'd entered the dining-room), Marquesa settled down to be charming and talkative, showing Danny his Society-Hostess persona, a blithe creature of light conversation and almost musical small-talk. Though his beauty remained intoxicating, framed in dark flowers and glimmering candlelight, his gaze was friendly and his expressions flirtatious, his topics limited to clothes, food, and the arts, his questions easily answered and his statements entertaining but unrevealing, putting Danny completely at his ease as they worked their way slowly through a seven-course banquet.

Marquesa had ordered without even looking at the menu, though he appealed to Danny for agreement and wine advice at each course, eschewing sauces and breading of any kind; the food that came was delicious, savory and substantial, whimsically garnished but otherwise quite plain: oysters on the half-shell embedded in ice, clear onion soup with slivered vegetables and a quail's egg floating at the bottom, a duck-liver mousse shingled with truffles and chanterelles, sole braised in goat's-milk and fines herbes, a butter-lettuce salad dressed with fresh mint and lemon, a pork-roast in a nest of steamed rainbow chard studded with tiny onions that didn't seem to have any seasonings on it at all but nevertheless tasted divine, and a selection of light fruits and white cheeses with honeyed walnuts for dessert.

"Well, I'm stuffed," Marquesa admitted, setting down his coffee-cup with an air of finality and leaning back in his chair, "I'm glad the waist of this dress is reinforced, else I'd be sporting a maternity profile."

"I'm sleepy," Danny yawned behind his napkin, "too much protein and too many different wines."

"Shall we go dance, then?" Marquesa stood, placing a hand on his tiny waist as if soothing the ache of a full stomach, and picked up his handbag.

"Dance? Where?"

"There's a ballroom down on the first floor, didn't you know?" Marquesa allowed the maître-d' to drape him in his white cape, then led the way back across the restaurant to the elevators.

The ballroom was a magical place, with mirrors and crystal and pastel allegorical paintings set into gilded rococo plasterwork; a twenty-piece orchestra in a shell-like stage took up one end of the room while a mirror-image shell at the opposite end housed a glittering cocktail bar. The floor was an intricately-patterned parquet, bare in the middle and surrounded by linen-draped tables and little gilded chairs; tall French windows opened onto a rose-garden filled with dancing fountains and voluptuous statues, glowing with fairy-lights and paper lanterns.

The ballroom was sparsely populated, with only a few uninspiring couples staying at the hotel and a smattering of Social locals scattered around the dance-floor; nobody was dancing, though the band was playing a sprightly jazz standard.

"Could you ask the band to play some ballroom for me, Bertrand?" Marquesa discreetly slipped a folded packet of bills into the head-waiter's hand as they were seated at a little table in the first ring around the dance-floor.

"Bien-sûr, Mademoiselle Willard-Wilkes," the man bowed deeply and scurried off to the band-shell to give orders.

"You do know how to dance, don't you, darling? Ballroom, I mean?" Marquesa asked.

"Of course," Danny laughed, "It's still part of the WASP regimen, at least in our remote corner of the world. I'm not very imaginative with the tango, but I can manage most of the standards."

"Well, then, when they play a tango, I'll lead. Shall we?" he reached out his hand and hauled Danny to his feet, leading him into the very center of the floor as the band launched into a lusty rendition of Strauss' "Emperor Waltz."

This isn't just love, Danny exulted as they whirled around the dance-floor in the giddy rhythm of the opulent Viennese tune, this is romance! It was the kind of love one sees in old movies, full of glamour and excitement and beauty, perfectly chaste but with the promise of fantastic pleasures to come. He felt almost sick from a surfeit of happiness.

After the waltz, they danced a fox-trot, a beguine, a samba, a fairly tame jitterbug, and a perfectly spectacular tango (with Marquesa leading, as promised); breathless and laughing after their performance, they collapsed into their chairs and summoned a waiter while the band, equally exhausted, took a well-deserved break.

"Would you like liqueurs or champagne?" Marquesa asked, fanning himself with the little menu card from the table, "Or perhaps coffee?"

"Why choose?" Danny asked after some thought, "How about a coffee liqueur with a champagne chaser?".

"Trying to get me drunk, are you? I should warn you, I can outdrink any sailor. Two Sabrosos, Louis," Marquesa turned to the waiter, "and a bottle of... what? Veuve Clicquot, I suppose."

"No Domaine de Sequemont?" Danny asked, remembering Valerien's family winery.

"Oh, God no," Marquesa rolled his eyes and lounged into his chair, one elbow perched on the back with the other arm extended to the table, a pose that Danny was beginning to recognize, "I have to drink that swill whenever I'm with Val, I'll be damned if I'll drink it when I'm not."

"I'd hardly call it swill," Danny smiled, gently defending their mutual friend, "it's well-known as the finest California champagne."

"Yes, well, California champagne... I'm only kidding, of course. But I really do have to drink an awful lot of it, Valerien simply won't let anyone have anything else. On another topic," he stood abruptly and snapped up his handbag, "I'm dying for a cigarette; would you join me for a stroll in the garden while we wait for Louis to find a bottle of Sabroso?"

The garden was freezing, but they were so overheated from their dancing that the slap of chill against their skins was quite refreshing. They walked slowly and silently around the perimeter while Marquesa smoked a pungently fragrant black cigarette, interlacing their fingers and bumping shoulders occasionally, smiling into each-other's eyes and simply wallowing in the romance.

Returning to their table, they proceeded to get very silly and giggly over two bottles of Veuve Clicquot and five Sabrosos each, taking to the dance-floor whenever the band played something they both liked, singing to each-other when they knew the words, and generally overplaying the part of a courting couple with a good deal of zest.

The romance took an abrupt turn when they got back to the suite, whereupon Marquesa suddenly discarded the Society Hostess persona — along with the blue dress, the jewels, and the convoluted coiffure — revealing another facet of his personality: gone was the light conversation and subtle allure, to be replaced by a focused and fearsome intensity, a deliberate and merciless creature who ripped Danny's clothes off of him without ceremony, dragged him bodily onto the bed, and had his way with him. After the first three hours of being subdued, manipulated, and generally worked over in a most satisfying manner, Danny decided to call this personality "Power-Top Marquesa."

When Danny and Marquesa were together the first time, Valerien's presence had lightened and diffused Marquesa's intensity, making him fun and frolicsome; the second time his intensity had been limited by the narrowness of the bathtub. But alone and with a whole room in which to operate, the intensity was ferocious, coolly calculating but fiercely heated.

Marquesa was in complete control, not only of his own body but of Danny's as well, intent on eliciting specific responses from both of their bodies and on orchestrating their pleasures with mathematical precision. He didn't talk, or croon, or cuddle: he fucked, simply and completely, with all of his attention and resource; if he wanted Danny to move, he moved him, and if he wanted Danny to give something, he took it without asking. He was gentle but implacable, slow of movement but relentless in purpose.

And though it was a little frightening at times, having no control over what was happening, Danny absolutely loved being dominated in this way by this man. It was a domination that didn't have to rely on cheap tricks of bondage (though silk scarves and asphyxiation did come into play during the third and fourth rounds) to create a pretense of domination: it was the domination of a forceful will over a more pliable will, the domination of a strong body over a body of nearly equal strength... and though Danny submitted gladly, he couldn't quite escape the feeling that, if he hadn't, Marquesa would have done exactly as he pleased anyway.

In between these strenuous episodes, however, they shared the fragrant black cigarettes (which Marquesa imported from England, made-to-order from pipe-tobacco), snacked on lavish trays of food ordered down from l'Aurente, bathed together in deep hot bubble-baths, and dozed together loosely intertwined on the rumpled bed. In these quiet in-between periods, Marquesa relaxed his formidable facade, giving over to yet another personality: the Sensitive Boy.

Sated and dreamy, he talked about his childhood, of growing up alone in a cluttered, crumbling pink mansion that had been frozen in time since the 'Twenties, his only companions his eccentric elderly great-aunts and a couple of equally elderly servants. Aunts Eulalie and Eugenia had educated him, only allowing him outdoors to play alone in the back garden between lessons, and he never set foot through the front door of the house except on Sundays, when he and the Aunts bundled into an old Packard limousine in order to attend services at Grace Cathedral. The Aunts never went out, otherwise, and never imagined that the little orphan boy in their care would want to.

It wasn't until he was eleven years old that he was let out for a social education: a dashing German prince and his beautiful ten-year-old daughter moved into the little white marble palace across the street, causing a great deal of flutter in Social circles; the little Princess was considered a fit companion for the Last of the Willards (the Aunts actually called him that), so he was allowed to play with her and share her dancing and riding lessons, learning to swim and shoot at her country-club, and being introduced to her other carefully-chosen friends.

Then at fifteen, he was finally sent to school; the Aunts sold off a trio of townhouses from the two little blocks of Richmond District property that remained of their once-vast fortune, and used the proceeds to send him to the most exclusive private school in the city; there he was expected to receive the finishing touches of a gentleman's education with such pursuits as literature, history, politics, and fencing. It was there he met Valerien, who became his first lover and then his closest friend, the nearest thing to brotherhood that either of them had ever experienced.

Marquesa told Danny all these things with an air of having never told anyone before, his narrative full of pauses as he searched for the right word or untangled a skein of suppressed memories; Danny dozed off during the stories quite frequently, his dreams building themselves around the sound of Marquesa's voice, illustrating the words as if in a film: Danny could see the lonely little boy, a delicate sprite with flaming hair and glittering eyes, buried alive in a spooky old mansion with a pair of dusty Miss Havishams; he saw the little German princess, whom his imagination turned into Shirley Temple in Heidi, and the first taste of society and freedom at the country-club; he saw the teenaged Marquesa and the teenaged Valerien banding together in a mock-Gothic school filled with pedigreed boys, pedantic professors, and pederastic chaplains.

He didn't think it was possible to love Marquesa more than he already did, but this revelation of the lonesome little boy who was the precursor to the awesome multifaceted divinity, this rare show of vulnerability, touched Danny's heart deeply.

Even more touching, Marquesa didn't dominate the conversation, he instead stopped his own stories to ask about Danny's life at the same ages; he listened closely while Danny shared everything about his own childhood, the lonely feeling of being different from the rest of his family, dark where they were fair, pretty where they were handsome, and sweet-natured where they were arrogant; he talked of the offhand brutality with which his brothers and cousins excluded him from their pastimes and ridiculed him for his peculiar ephebic beauty, the distant coldness of his disapproving parents, and the distrust of the townies for the entire Vandervere clan.

Danny also talked of his delight at being taken over by the Aunt Ems, the wonderful novelty of being loved and paid attention and taught deportment and grace; he spoke too of his unending quest to be loved by everyone he met, his efforts to charm the townies into liking him despite his name, his desperate need to enchant teachers and neighbors and tradesmen, even the family servants.

Most of Sunday passed in talking and eating and fucking and bathing, and Danny was still almost nauseated by the overwhelming bliss of being in love with such a remarkable creature, and more importantly of being loved by such a remarkable creature... for though they did not speak of love, Danny felt absolutely certain that this was, at long last, Love with a capital L...the thing he'd been dreaming of all his life.

Late on Sunday evening, Danny woke from a rather deep sleep, startled to find himself alone on one side of the bed... it was the first time in almost twenty-four hours that Marquesa hadn't been touching him somewhere.

He turned over the find his beloved, squinting against the light of the bedside lamp, and was a little bit shocked by the new persona Marquesa had adopted in the meantime: the Serious Businessman. He was wearing a white hotel bathrobe, his hair pulled back tight, sitting comfortably against the head of the bed with a pair of reading glasses perched on his nose, a yellow wooden pencil clutched in his teeth, and a blue-enameled pen in his hand. A large leather folio lay open on his lap, and a variety of important-looking papers were fanned out around him.

"You're wearing glasses," Danny blurted out a little stupidly.

"Farsighted," Marquesa admitted, looking at Danny fondly over the top of the tortoise-shell frames, "I need them to read. I'm surprised you didn't notice before, you're usually so observant."

"I noticed that you never read menus," Danny sat up and crossed his legs under him to peer over at Marquesa's papers, "but I didn't attribute it to eyesight, I thought you just didn't care. What are you doing?"

"Comparing estimates. The summer repair season is coming up, and most of my buildings need maintenance of one kind or another. These estimates are for roofing, and no two roofers ever write their estimates the same, so I have to go over them very carefully to get a complete picture of the relative costs."

"What kind of buildings?" Danny wanted to keep the conversation going, slightly chilled by Marquesa's withdrawal from him.

"Apartment buildings, mostly, and a few blocks of townhouses, a handful of large commercial properties, stuff like that. Rental property is just details, details, details. Every block is a series of houses, every house is a series of rooms, every room is a series of fixtures... and then you put people in all of them, and the details multiply exponentially. It never ends," he stated dispassionately, punching numbers into a calculator while making notes on several different papers.

"Why don't you have someone else do it?"

"Because then I wouldn't know where my money was going, nor where it was coming from," he said without looking up or stopping his note-making, "and I'd be bored silly. I leave my money assets to my accountants, but I like to keep my finger on the pulse of my real estate. It's really quite fascinating; it's in my blood, you know, the Willards have always been involved in land development. We built this hotel, even. I don't own it, it's one of the things we lost in the Crash, but there's a Roman 'W' carved into the cornerstone nonetheless."

"Well, now I know who to ask for advice on my own little properties," Danny lounged down onto the bed in what he hoped was a sufficiently provocative pose to tear Marquesa's attention away from his estimates.

"My advice would be to sell them to me at a very cheap price," Marquesa smirked, taking off the glasses and folding them into the folio with all the papers, "You must never ask advice from a competitor, darling. Now, let's see if we can find some better occupation for your mouth than idle chatter."

After a brisk thirty minutes of being fucked into the mattress with Marquesa's tongue shoved down his throat, Danny curled up against his beloved and went back to sleep; once he'd caught his breath, Marquesa drew his folio back into his lap and continued his business one-handed, his other hand stroking Danny's hair.

***

Danny was so enrapt with his memories that he didn't notice that Marquesa was awake and staring back at him.

"Why do you stare at me so?" Marquesa wondered, not moving from his sleeping position.

"You're so beautiful and fascinating," Danny answered truthfully, a little surprised by the sloppy emotionalism audible in the statement.

"I guess that's a good reason," Marquesa sat up and smiled, patting the empty spot on the bed where Danny had recently been asleep, "But I'd rather you stared at me from here."

"Can't you see me better from a distance, Four-Eyes?" Danny teased.

"Of course, but as long as my cock is, I don't think you can reach it from all the way over there."

"You can reach it yourself, can't you?"

"So I can," Marquesa admitted, kicking aside the bedclothes and pulling gently at his immense cock, bloated but not hard, his eyes riveted to Danny, "Can you reach yours? Show me."

Danny and Marquesa sat and watched eachother masturbate for a few minutes, but neither of them got completely hard nor seemed particularly interested in the exercise.

"Well, I didn't think it was possible," Marquesa let go of his cock and let it drape heavily across his thigh, "But I think we're both completely fucked out. Another round might kill us both."

"But what a way to go," Danny replied, a little bit disappointed in his body for giving up like that, and crossed the room to lay down on top of Marquesa in hopes of reigniting the flame.

"Honestly, child, you're insatiable! Why don't you go take another shower?" Marquesa got out of bed and put on the white bathrobe, "You're the mos' showerin-est man I ever done met."

"Why don't you join me?" Danny sat up and wrapped his arms around Marquesa's waist, nuzzling his face into the folds of the robe.

"I need to make some phone calls," Marquesa replied, his voice returning to the dispassionate Businessman tone as he pulled Danny's arms away and stepped back, "Leave me alone for a few minutes, OK?"

"Okay," Danny grumbled, thrusting out his lower lip and making puppy-dog eyes.

"I'll join you in a minute," Marquesa relented, grabbing a fistful of Danny's hair and shaking his head around.

"Hooray!" Danny cried, bouncing out of bed and into the bathroom.

As he stood beside the tub adjusting the faucets, Danny could faintly hear Marquesa dragging the phone onto the bed and tapping the buttons with his long nails; and though he couldn't hear the words, there was a strangely soft tone in his voice that he'd not heard before, a tone that arrested Danny's attention and drew him back toward the door; he didn't intend to eavesdrop, but he was curious, trying to guess who Marquesa could be talking to in that sinuous voice.

"I don't care what people are going to think," Marquesa was saying... was he sulking or smiling? Danny couldn't tell, "What difference does it make? I'm helping him because I want to, and the rest is nobody else's business... yes, but I don't care... I know... Yes, I know... I told you, I like him, I like him a lot... of course not! You know I'd never... you know I love you, Richard. I like Danny a lot... yes, maybe I do love him a little... a little! That doesn't change how I feel about you."

Danny didn't really attend to the rest; he heard a promise to tell this Richard person "all about it" over lunch the next day, and he heard Marquesa sign off with a softly passionate "I love you, Richard" before hanging up and starting another phone-call; but it only barely registered against the clanging, shattering, obliviating disappointment Danny experienced as his dream of love fell to a million jagged pieces. He didn't know how long he stood there, turned to a pillar of salt, tears streaming silently down his face; but he was still standing there when Marquesa came in and found him in the doorway.

"Darling, what's wrong?" Marquesa asked in alarm, reaching out to touch the tears on Danny's face.

Danny wanted to sit down on the floor and wail, but he knew that Marquesa would try to comfort him, and he didn't think he could stand that.

"You have a lover," he finally croaked out, looking down at the floor instead of at Marquesa.

"Well, of course I have! I thought you knew," Marquesa took a step backward as the slow realization of Danny's confusion became clear to him, "Everybody knows about Richard and me. I'm sure I mentioned him to you."

"I guess you did," Danny turned away, remembering the three or four mentions of 'a lover,' which he'd tricked himself into believing was a generality rather than a specific person, "I guess I didn't want to hear it, so I didn't hear it."

"Oh, my poor darling," Marquesa finally understood that Danny had been dreaming of an exclusive relationship between them, that he'd thought this was the beginning of romantic love rather than of carnal friendship, "If I had any idea you didn't know, I would have said something before."

"Richard who?" Danny asked, stalling for time as he tried to regain his footing.

"Richard Allenwhite. You've probably met him around town."

"No. He's married, though, isn't he? With kids?"

"Yes," Marquesa sounded defensive, "I take it you disapprove?"

"No, I guess not," Danny shrugged. And thinking about it, he didn't have room to disapprove, he'd screwed his share of married fathers before and not thought much of it... aside from a vague pity for the wives and children who potentially had a nasty surprise in their future, "Does his wife know about it?"

"Honey, everybody knows about it," except you he stopped himself from saying.

"She doesn't mind?" Danny glanced into the mirror at Marquesa standing behind him, trying to put himself into this other family's situation instead of feeling his own pain.

"I suppose Cornelia pretends to mind when people tell her the gossip, she certainly never lets on that she knows all about me and always has. We're actually friends, after a fashion... but we don't speak in public."

"How very cosmopolitan," Danny caught himself sneering and shook himself out of it, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. I'm just disappointed. I hoped for more. I wanted more."

"Well, if it's a relationship you want," Marquesa resumed his businesslike tone, but wrapped his arms around Danny from behind, "You should go out with Valerien. He's unattached, and very romantically-inclined. And I know he likes you a lot. I like you a lot, too."

"So I heard," Danny quipped bitterly, then immediately hated himself for it, "I'm sorry...again. Too many emotions the last few days, I'm falling apart a little bit."

"Maybe I should go, give you some space to pull yourself together," Marquesa picked up a brush and a handful of hairpins, deftly taming his jumbled hair into a smoothly braided coil at the back of his neck.

"That's a good idea," he said reluctantly after watching silently as Marquesa fixed his hair, "I need some time to process."

"You and I are going to be very good friends, aren't we?" Marquesa sounded slightly unsure of himself for a moment, catching Danny's eyes in the mirror.

"Of course," Danny threw his arms around Marquesa's waist and kissed his cheek. I can still be friends with him, it isn't all over, he told himself, and I can fall in love with Valerien instead, "I think I'll take my shower now."

"Good, darling; I'm going to go get dressed."

Danny stood under the water until it went tepid, crying quietly as he let the disappointment rip through him; he was hurt in exactly the same proportion as he'd been happy earlier, perhaps even a little moreso, and the feeling of heartbreak was as new to him as the feeling of love had been. He tried, as he had with the love, to encompass it with reason, to analyze the feelings as they rampaged about; but he couldn't wrap his mind around the enormity of it all. He eventually gave up, and since his crying had stopped and the hot water was all gone, he got out of the shower and returned to the bedroom.

"You look so yummy wet," Marquesa observed while clipping a large square amethyst to his earlobe. He was dressed in a rather equestrian suit of dark violet peau de soie trimmed in glossy black satin, his slender calves sheathed in tall black boots, and a soft black scarf around his throat fastened with an Art Deco amethyst brooch. An abbreviated black top-hat and veil lay on the bed alongside a pair of black gloves and a black handbag.

"And you look yummy in that suit," Danny smiled; no matter how hurt he was, he was still an admiring slave to the exquisite beauty that Marquesa created, "All you need is a riding crop, and you could be on horseback, chivvying a fox."

"The skirt's to narrow for riding," Marquesa laughed, glad that the gloominess in the bathroom had passed and they were back on happy terms, "And I've never hunted fox. Deer, rabbit, and pheasant, sometimes duck though I don't like hiding in a covert. Do you hunt?"

"I've been deer-hunting," Danny admitted, sitting on the bed and watching Marquesa put on the hat and gloves, "but I'm too squeamish about it. The sight of blood freaks me out, and I hate the sound of guns."

"Oh, deer-hunting with a gun is for pussies. You can't shoot a gun from horseback, anyway. I use arrows for game."

"Do you wear a Greek tunic and a crescent moon in your hair?" Danny giggled at the picture in his mind of Marquesa in the voluminous Classical evening gown of Saturday night, on horseback with a silver bow and arrow.

"I usually wear a simple blue habit," Marquesa replied distractedly, his attention devoted to arranging the net veil around his face, "velvet for cool weather and poplin in the summer."

"Sensible," was all Danny could think of to say.

"The deer don't see me coming, they're color blind, you know; but other hunters see the blue and don't shoot," he picked up the handbag, checking to make sure it contained everything he'd need, "You'll be OK by yourself won't you? You know you can stay as long as you like, you can call downstairs for anything at all you might need."

"I'll be fine," Danny got up and followed Marquesa into the sitting room.

"Don't be afraid to ask for whatever you want, I'll have no independent-minded reticence from you," Marquesa put his arms out and Danny melted into him automatically, "Danvers will be coming by later this afternoon to pick up my luggage. I'll instruct him to bring some suitcases for your use, as well. Do you want anything from your apartment?"

"No, thank you," Danny said into Marquesa's shoulder... Marquesa was now taller than him in the stiletto-heeled boots. Marquesa kissed him, intimately but without passion, and left. Danny stayed there leaning in the doorframe for a quite a while, until he realized he was standing naked in the hallway for a five-star hotel, and decided to go back to sleep.
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14 Pages ~ 7,178 Words