Muse – The Proposal 2 – BDSM


MUSE – The Proposition 2

This is part 2 of the story. It makes little sense to begin here, and you can discover the first part here:

https://www.Storyva.com/s/muse-18

English not being my native tongue. I’m translating chapters and will publish them over a couple of weeks. Be patient. There will be kinky stuff, but it takes a while to reach it. The characters, setting and plot should interest you in their own right. Suggestions and reactions are welcome, given that it is my first novel. Enjoy!

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Pyrmont, July 12

Milena arrived at my estate late in the afternoon, a few days before the visit of her husband and his party. Alfred, my secretary, courteously welcomed her. After she moved into her accommodation, a small house on a secluded spot of the estate, Alfred invited her to join me for dinner.

She entered the dining room and greeted me, polite but ill at ease, as if she was visiting the doctor with an embarrassing ailment. The sober, neat dress she wore suited the occasion. Thanks to Alfred, I was aware of her outfit and I had chosen a simple suit in the same style. I served out dinner myself; I had given instructions to leave us alone, so that we had the spacious dining room to ourselves.

“Don’t you like it?” I asked. She ate the first course with little enthusiasm.

“The food is delicious, but forgive me if I’m tense. I have no idea what your intentions are over the next month.”

“You are my guest, and my guests are king,” I said.

“But you are the boss.”

“You haven’t agreed with my proposal yet. “

Her eyes narrowed. “If I go by your reputation, I should never have come here.”

“Oh,” I said, faking surprise. “Really?”

“If you ask in the right places, yes,” she said. No doubt the capital grapevine had done its job after the auction and her visit to my suite. I chuckled and settled for the results. “Tell me, what’s the damage.”

She counted off on her fingers. “Let’s see. Blasphemer, hedonist, occultist, socialist, organiser of bacchanalia, lunatic, war criminal, blackmailer, profiteer, pimp, manipulator, rapist, murderer… that’s about it, I think.”

I remained silent, washing down the last bite of the appetiser with the appropriate wine. “You didn’t strike me as someone who goes to places where they know me so well. My compliments,” I said, praising her efforts.

“Is it true?” She was serious now.

My turn to count off. “Let’s see,” I said. “Blasphemer and hedonist are correct. I don’t believe in religion, so I’m not an occultist. I’m not a socialist, but some of my friends think they are, so I’m guilty by association. Bacchanalia are important for my reputation. I am not insane, but so say all in society’s asylum. I think war is the crime. Blackmailer is true, sometimes you can’t win on points alone and blackmail renders all arguments superfluous. Being a member of the nobility, I do profit from hard working ordinary citizens. I run a brothel, which you already knew. I definitely manipulate people, so I don’t need to rape them. And yes, I have killed people, like most soldiers who survived the battlefield.”

She took her time to digest my answer. “So you’re not a zealot who wants to rape me. Great, that’s reassuring.”

“And not a liar.” I sighed. My reputation usually served as a sanctuary, but now it was a prison. “Let me promise you this: during your visit nothing will happen that you yourself did not ask for, or consent to.”

“Not exactly reassuring, coming from a manipulator, don’t you agree?” Still, she calmed down, aided by a hefty sip of wine. “And wine connoisseur, apparently,” she said, whisking the glass.

“Hardly. My sommelier told me which bottle to serve with each dish.” Now it was my turn to be serious. If I wanted to win her trust, I would have to confide in her. “If I rely on gossip, then you’re a descendant of respectable noble lineage with more than a few coins to rub together. You are pleasing to the eyes, kind to friends and family, happy with the children you were able to give your husband and good at running a household. You engage in charity and your painting is quite adequate for a woman.”

Before she could protest, I continued, raising my hand to soothe her. “I hold you in much higher regard. Yes, you are beautiful and attractive. But also a bright and a gifted artist when you get the chance. You have guts and a sense of humour, qualities I appreciate. All I ask of you is to form your own opinion of me. I sincerely hope we get to know each other and part as good friends. For the time being, I offer you to stay without obligations and you may leave whenever you wish. Only when you allow me to dress you with the collar, you will accept my proposal, and I will honour it as I’ve promised you.” I picked up my glass and toasted in her direction. “And you’re a wine connoisseur for real, apparently.”

She smirked. “That goes along with a title and running a household, doesn’t it, Duke?” She clinked her glass against mine and sipped some more Dutch courage. “Well, you have a point,” she said. “Why the collar? What is so important about it? Surely it’s nothing more than a pretty choker?”

With my finger, I touched the one I wore myself, stroking the white gold embellishments attached to the supple black leather. The strap itself was simple and functional, with a white gold clasp at the back of my neck. “Yours will symbolise you accepted our agreement. This one is a memento of events I must never forget.” I took it off and handed it to her.

“What events? What do those signs stand for?” she said as she looked at it from all sides. The seventeen white gold symbols gleamed out of focus in the candlelight.

“Each symbol represents someone I trusted with my life, who died in an otherwise useless war.”

She returned the collar as if she was afraid to break it. “The Franco-German war? You fought in that? I never saw you wearing any medals.”

“I have always refused them,” I said, trying to fend off bitter memories and buckled the strap again. “Being honoured for that senseless slaughter disgusted me. My main merit was that most of the bullets missed me, hitting those standing by my side.” The war and it’s shadow was not a subject I wanted to broach tonight, although I had to, before she could decide. “Can we leave this subject for now? You may ask me anything, but some answers I prefer to give in due course.”

“No, of course, sorry.” She blushed and immersed herself in the last remains of the appetiser.

“Main course?” I suggested, “Staring at the appetiser doesn’t improve it.”

“Yes, please.” She laughed, relieved I gave our talk a turn to dispel the gloomy mood.

We talked and dined on, with wines fitting the dishes. She didn’t drink too much, but enough to reduce her inhibitions. The resulting conversation mainly concerned her; her dreams, ideals, and desires within the bounds of propriety. I didn’t mind. I interposed with the right questions and showed interest, which came easy to me. She was good business, and her allure grew. It was a pleasure to see her blossom when she could talk free of the restraints society imposed. The door to her golden cage was ajar.

When I retire after the welcoming dinner at your estate, you know more about me than I learned about you. It is a pleasure to converse with you because you really listen. I cannot remember when someone was interested in who I am, not what I am. Who appreciates my talents and ambitions, even if they have no bearing on my role as a mother and spouse. Our conversation is unrestrained. You are both duke and pimp, both too high and too low in standing to worry about the consequences of my words.

I decide to drink a little less tomorrow and let you do the talking. I can only guess at your motives for our agreement. You consider me appealing, yet you keep me at arm’s length and only seem interested in being my patron saint. It should be a comforting wondered. But if I am honest, I hope I’m wrong.

Pyrmont, 13 July

The next day I have enough time to sort out my thoughts; I won’t see you until dinner again. If you want me to work on paintings for a month, it’s hardly a punishment. Although I cannot deny that I fantasise about sharing your bed, even if it would cause a complicated situation, the consequences of which I cannot foresee. The weather is pleasant and at noon I go outside to sketch.

I stay away from the main buildings, afraid of running into someone I know, and arrive at some abandoned battlements. I walk across a former bastion that offers a pleasant view of the park across the wide moat. The original builders of the fortress shaped the gigantic buttress like a small peninsula. The large skylight at its centre is new. It offers a view of the basement I will get to know so well later: my prison cell. At that moment, I pay it no further attention and draw a sketch, until I hear dull thuds coming from the cellar. It’s you, naked and bathing in sweat, fighting with your indefatigable opponent: a big heavy bag of sand, suspended from a beam. You are a pugilist; it shows and is disturbingly pleasant. But the fanaticism with which you train is alarming and I wonder who you imagine when fighting the bag. I tear myself away from the spectacle and begin a new sketch. It won’t be my best work, distracted as I am by the rhythm of your blows.

I left Milena free to explore the estate and the quiet spa resort on her own, while I tended to my affairs. The Reichstag would soon meet to approve the government’s financial decisions. Most agreements were rubber stamped, the result of extensive correspondence beforehand.

The National Liberal Party introduced a proposal that vied for my attention: changing the antigambling act. Institutional gambling was prohibited, hence those who wanted to throw their money away did so in Spa or Monte Carlo. Money the German Empire could earn with the instalment of government run casino’s. A member of the party asked me to support their proposal, and I would have, if it didn’t conflict with my own interests. But it did, so I arranged some favours with the conservatives in exchange for my abstention.

In addition, several fellow investors had to be reassured about the successful completion of numerous projects I had running. All the paperwork demanded my attention during the day until the vicious diplomatic chatter in ink wore me down and I let a heavy bag of sand pay for the slow and frustrating jousting on paper.

During the day, Milena had been a welcome distraction from tedious legal texts. How would she react to the private exhibition I had put together for her? Would she accept my proposal, and how would that agreement work out? It occupied my thoughts more than I initially expected. I was looking forward to our dinner, where she showed me how she spent her day off.

“It is well done,” I said as I studied her sketch. “The composition, the light from above. If you work it out, I’m sure it will be another beautiful painting.”

My reaction disappointed her. She stuck her tongue out at me. “Sure, but you don’t like it.”

“That’s not it,” I said and handed the drawing back. “There are too many details missing to say much about it. Duel in a cell? The title I mean.”

“Could be.” She glanced at her sketch. “What kind of work do you want? What do you really like?”

What did I consider worthwhile? For me, it wasn’t a certain style or aesthetic. Something either appealed to me or not. Or no, the artist did, speaking through the work. “Many paintings are nothing more than well-executed craft. The art I collect offers me more. I want to see the artist reflected in the work. His or her feelings, emotions, desires, fears … If you like, the soul of the artist.”

“Like the painting you bought.”

“Like that painting, yes. But you didn’t know yourself what you were stating, what message it conveyed. It was an unconscious process. Once you are aware of your feelings and use them as inspiration, you will be capable of outstanding work. It will require courage, the courage to face and accept your true nature.”

“You think I can?” She looked at her sketch with pity. It did little to convince her she could.

“I hope you will try. Maybe we’ll learn whether you can in the coming month.”

“Is this the reason for your proposal? To let me paint for a month and guide me in the process?” She sounded almost disappointed.

“It’s one reason, sure,” I said. “I’ll show you some works in my collection by artists who tried, with varying results.”

My first aim had been to get her away from her spouse. I’d planned to let Milena work on her art for a month, so her husband could carry out his mission unperturbed. With careful conversations, I’d introduce her to the possibility of sensual games he enjoyed, guiding her to acknowledge her own dark desires. But the shy way she looked down when we broached an intimate subject made me want to give a command or take control. She grew on me, with her wit, charm and determination. Not to mention her grace, which made me succumb to fantasies of having my way with her. The image of her naked on all fours, wet and trembling with arousal and need, became harder and harder to ignore. As did her voice. While we enjoyed polite conversation, at times all I heard was Milena begging me allowing her to come. I wasn’t the most attentive host during our dinner.

After our meal, I led her into a brightly lit, large salon. Curtains separate the works from each other, like victims of narrow-mindedness in their own hospital room, revealing themselves one by one. Paintings and a statue society deemed immoral or insulting, but I hoped nothing too disturbing. I did not intend to scare Milena back into her golden cage. With each work, I explained why it touched me and asked her what she wondered of it herself.

“I have heard of this painting, at least the lower part of it. And about the riot it caused during the exhibition.” Intrigued, she studied ‘l’Origine du Monde’, a realist work by Courbet. The body of a reclining woman, naked with her legs spread. The model was anonymous, her face outside the frame. Above it hung a smaller canvas: the portrait of a woman daydreaming while gazing at the ceiling.

“Do they belong together?” Milena asked.

I nodded. “Supposedly, it was one canvas. A commission issued by an Ottoman diplomat who collected erotic works of art. After the model refused public display, Courbet adjusted the work with a pair of scissors, which made it interesting to me. Do you think the painting shames her?”

Milena shook her head. “Not necessarily, but I do understand her. There’s a difference between exposing yourself to someone you trust and allowing audiences to gawk at you.”

I shrugged. “So it’s the observer who turns her into an object of desire.”

“That is true, but it still damages the model’s reputation if people recognise her.” She had a point there, unfortunately.

“So she should be ashamed of other people’s fantasies,” I said and let my gaze wander over Milena’s body before meeting her eyes. “You are also the subject of fantasies, naked or not.”

Milena chuckled and answered my gaze with a graceful pose. “Perhaps, but as long as I don’t give any cause for it, I’m not to blame.” She taunted me, putting the charms of her sensual body to full use, ambling toward the next work. A parody on the coronation of the German emperor in Versailles, painted by Anton Von Werner. He was still wrestling with the public version. Political subjects and vanities of those involved didn’t lend themselves to artistic interpretation. It had taken Anton little effort to make a version that honoured the true nature of the protagonists, wisely refraining from signing the result.

“Why aren’t all the paintings signed?” she asked. “Even if they aren’t equally elevating, they are works to be proud of.”

“Mostly it concerns pieces that I have commissioned. I allow the artist to make a free work. The result is often personal, so some creators don’t want to be associated with their work when I show it to others. I don’t mind; what matters is the work, not the name underneath it.”

“That makes you less calculating than I expected,” she said. “Do you actually practise any of the fine arts yourself?”

“Not one that captures a subject in paint or stone. I dabble in reproductive art at best; I can tell a good story and play the cello reasonably well.”

“Writing is an art,” she said, “as is composing.”

“Yes, something I discovered by trial and error,” I said. “Fortunately, there were no tomatoes and eggs available at the buffet during the premiere.”

She laughed. “It couldn’t have been that bad. When was this unfortunate performance of your work?”

I smirked with a sigh. “Dear Countess, unlike you, I haven’t always been a recognised member of high nobility. The stories about my unjust claim to the title are not unfounded.”

“No, is it really?” she asked, not surprised at all, and continuing with a very hot potato in her mouth. “Yet your conduct and manners are impeccable, befitting one of noble birth. As does your taste in fine arts. Your collection wouldn’t be out of place embellishing a church.” She swallowed the potato with a wide grin. “A church where one practices a religion with particularly liberal views on morality and virtue, given the prevailing ethics.”

I ran my hand over the statue we arrived at. The artist had christened it ‘Passion’, which it was in every sense. The raw and intimate entwining of lovers who, without shame or pride, surrendered to each other, forever trapped in snow-white marble.

“I’ve experienced the moral elite up close and they are not superior to the rest of humanity. On the contrary.” I patted the image of the two petrified men. “I doubt they are capable of this.”

“They are. Some of them, at least.” The lovers’ timeless embrace captured her eyes. In silence, she gazed at the statue, as if in a trance. Then she turned to face me. “I can, with the right person.”

I didn’t know how to react to her obvious flirt. She hadn’t been this forward yet. Embarrassed by my silence, she reddened and averted her eyes. “That was impertinent, I apologise.” Her blush convinced me. You cannot fake a blush; she wanted me to be the right person. I wanted to be the right person, but I doubted her decision would survive the truth of my past.

“It’s what good art does to you,” I said with a mouth full of gravel. “It touches you, making you forget things of lesser importance, if only for a moment. Like the unnecessary frills of etiquette. Why should you apologise for showing your true feelings? Isn’t it being honest with me?”

She looked up at the statue. “It’s the fate of nobility. Although we’re merely human, we serve as an example to the people. For why else would they look up to us and accept our authority? Nobility obliges.”

“Unfortunately, there are few members of the peerage who share this belief,” I said. “Most prefer the role of oppressor and despot to that of teacher and example. And we all enjoy the accompanying tax exemption a title provides.”

“The ones you meet in the dungeons of your estate maybe,” she said, and eyed me appraisingly. “How do you see yourself? Are you a teacher or a despot?”

“I try to be the former, but sometimes resort to means of the latter to secure my position.” I shrugged. “Nothing noble is foreign to me.”

“At least you are trying. You should be proud of that,” she said. “Why do others doubt your title? Besides your deliberate failing to play the part, I mean.”

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