Smoke, Fire and Desire [A Desires of the Lamp Tale]
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by Melinda Barron
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Scientist Rhylie Dawson works hard, but when it comes to play she's pretty reserved. Until her friends take her to The Cave of Pleasure in New York City. She's there to celebrate her birthday, and maybe, just maybe, get lucky. What Rhylie doesn't know is The Cave of Pleasure is run by Djinn, and they're eager to show her that there's more to life than just work. On stage in front of a bevy of male dancers, Rhylie is told to choose one for her special birthday dance. She picks the fireman, and quickly learns that where there's smoke, there's fire, and a great deal of desire.
eBook Publisher: Resplendence Publishing, LLC, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: February 2009
76 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [132 KB]
Reading time: 77-108 min.
Rhylie Dawson cupped her hands together, then blew hot air into a small opening between her thumbs, trying to warm up her frozen digits.
"It's colder than the North Pole here," her friend Cassidy said, jumping in place and running her hands up and down her arms. "But I've heard this club is worth the wait."
"Actually, if you're looking for the coldest place on Earth, it would be more applicable to say it's colder than Antarctica," Rhylie offered. "The coldest temperature reading ever recorded on Earth, -129 degrees Fahrenheit, was taken there."
"You're kidding me, right?" Cassidy's mouth hung open.
"No, I'm not. It was in 1983. Just a little bit of trivia."
Cassidy stared at her, then shook her head as their third friend, Elise, giggled. "I wasn't talking about the temperature, Rhylie, I'm talking about you. We're ready to enter the hottest club in New York City, and you're spouting trivia like you're on a game show."
"Sorry." Rhylie bit the corner of her lower lip. "I'm doing it again, aren't I?"
"Yes, you are," Elise answered, putting her arm around her and pulling her into a half-hug. "But we still love you, even if you do read encyclopedias for fun."
"That's the whole point," Cassidy said. "She needs to have more fun than reading encyclopedias. Rhylie, it's your thirtieth birthday for heaven's sake. Relax and enjoy yourself. Let's get you laid tonight. That's why we all have separate hotel rooms, so we can have sex with men we picked up from this very bar."
Rhylie's eyes strayed to the unobtrusive banner above the door: The Cave of Pleasure. "Right, sex with strangers. Do you know what the rate of STDs is in this country? Do you? It's--"
Cassidy held up her hand. "Don't. You. Dare. Now listen to me, I left a huge pack of condoms on your night table, and I expect to see at least one of them used by tomorrow morning. Make him double bag it if you're so nervous about disease. That way there will be two gone."
"You're so crude," Rhylie said, smiling despite herself. "I've never had sex with someone I just met."
"You've only had sex with one person," Cassidy leaned in to whisper the last words, "and that was four years ago."
"I can't believe you're throwing that in my face. I never should have told you." Rhylie looked at the people lined up around them, wondering who had overheard her friend.
"If you'd told me sooner than last night, we would have made this trip ASAP. Sweetie, please trust me on this. One good screw, and then I'll let you go back to learning useless trivia that you can bore people with when you're in a nursing home."
Cassidy's words slammed into Rhylie like a freight train. "It's not all useless. Some of it comes in handy, like right now talking about the weather. It kept the conversation going, didn't it?"
Cassidy's eye-roll hurt Rhylie's heart, taking residence right next to the idea that she'd spend her golden years repeating trivia to people who didn't give a damn about her, or her facts. Her heart pounded in her chest, and she fought for breath. Any second now she would hyperventilate, and someone would have to call the paramedics.
Rhylie pulled at her blouse in a useless effort to loosen it from her throat. Someone, or something, had taken hold of her windpipe and squeezed, hard.
Cassidy gave her a puppy dog look "Just promise me you won't spout off a bunch of statistics on popular dance moves to the first guy that asks you to dance."
"I promise," Rhylie wheezed out, trying to take a deep breath and tugging a little more on her blouse. Is this what she'd become? A scientist who didn't know how to relate to people without a spreadsheet in front of her? How had this happened? When had this happened? Why had this happened?
She opened her mouth and gasped for air. "Ack."
"Sweetie, you okay?" Elise patted her on the back. "It's not as bad as she makes it sound."
Yes, it is. That's why I spent eleven hours a day at work, then come home to take-out and the remote control and watch mindless TV. "Ack."
"Rhylie?" Cassidy put her hand on her arm. "Breathe, breathe, it's okay. I'm sorry if I upset you."
"Ack." A vision of herself in a nursing home, sitting and staring out the window, took shape in her mind. The woman next to her would be telling about how she'd slept with the prince of some foreign country or climbed the Great Pyramid despite the ban that was in place. She would turn to Rhylie and ask about her life.
"I studied global warming, but never found a solution." She would reply. "And, I can recite Scarlett's lines in Gone With the Wind, backwards. Want to hear?"
"Rhylie!" Cassidy shook her arms. "Does someone have a paper bag?"
Rhylie's eyes widened, staring into to the concerned faces of her two friends, and the three men standing in front of them. She fought back her panic, swallowing hard.
"No. I'm fine; it's all right. I'm just cold, and it got to me." She bit back a factoid about the effects of frigid weather on the body.
"Let's go back to the hotel," Elise said, moving toward the street and waving her arm for a taxi.
"No." The line was moving now, and Rhylie nudged her friends. "We've waited this long, and I bet we get in pretty soon. I want to do this. It is, after all, my birthday."
"Why yes it is," Cassidy said in a booming voice. She turned to the bouncer who was watching them intently, his eyes fixed on Rhylie. "It's my friend's thirtieth birthday, can we go in now so we can par-tay?"
Rhylie blushed as the crowd started to chant, "Let her in, let her in!"
The bouncer continued to watch her, then a woman appeared at his side, as if out of nowhere. Long, dark hair fell in waves around her face, and her penetrating eyes studied Rhylie intently. Nervous, Rhylie shifted her gaze away. When she looked back, the woman was motioning for them to come forward.
"Come on." Cassidy grabbed her arm as the crowd yelled, part of them in approval, part in protest.
When they reached the front, the woman stepped toward them. "Hi, I'm Anya. Who's the birthday girl?"
"She is." Cassidy hugged her close. "We're from a little town in Maine, and we came here to celebrate her big day. We hear this is the place to be."
"It is," Anya replied. She gently touched Rhylie's arm, and a zing of warmth spread through her. Rhylie frowned, then pulled her arm away. Was the woman some type of heat conductor who could pass warmth to others? That would be a phenomenon worth studying. But before she could say anything, the woman released Rhylie's arm and waved them in.
"In honor of Rhylie's birthday, everyone gets to go in now. Go, but stay orderly, please."
The crowd cheered as the ladies walked inside. As the three friends stepped over the threshold, Anya appeared in front of them. Rhylie blinked at her rapid movements, but the other two ladies didn't seem to notice.
"Around ten, make your way to the Pleasure Hall," Anya said, leaning closer as if to impart confidential information. "It's ladies' night."
"Strippers?" Cassidy wagged her tongue in appreciation.
Anya grinned. "You got it. Have fun, ladies."
Rhylie gave her coat to a woman that appeared at her side, and then turned back to talk to Anya, but the hostess had disappeared.
"She knew my name."
"What?" Elise handed over her coat and propelled her friend to the main entrance.
"She knew my name, without being told."
"Nonsense," Cassidy said. "I'm sure I said it outside."
"No, you said my friend." Rhylie didn't want to tell Cassidy that the many variables outside, including the wind and the dull roar of the crowd, would make it impossible for Anya to have heard Cassidy say her name from almost thirty feet away.
"Would you relax? Did you hear what she said? Strippers. You're going to choose one, proposition him and take him home with you. They'll be so hot after all those women have been fawning over them, they'll be ready for some action. Maybe you can take two for the price of one."
"They're probably gay. The odds of two of them not being gay, or taken, are probably six hundr..." Rhylie clamped her mouth shut when Cassidy held up a finger.
"I swear, if you spout another statistic tonight, I'm going to rush us to the nearest BDSM club and offer your butt for a whipping. I'll put a muzzle on you and tell them I'm your Mistress and it's all a game."
"Fine. I'll shut up then, Mistress."
"That's better." Cassidy beamed at her. "Behave yourself slave, or I'll follow through on my threat."
Inside the club they found a festive atmosphere, much like the way she'd pictured a Sultan's harem. Brightly colored swatches of cloth hung from the rafters, and braziers provided low lighting. Rhylie wanted to go and examine one, to determine its source of energy. Instead, she allowed Cassidy and Elise to lead her to a table where they ordered Cosmopolitans from a well-built waiter.
"Yummy," Elise said. "Bodes well for the ladies' night show, doesn't it. These men are gorgeous."
"So are the women. Maybe they're all already taken, with each other." Rhylie tired not to feel out of place, but her limited 'par-tay' experience, and her size sixteen body, currently stuffed into a brand-new "little black dress" that was much shorter than she was used to wearing, made it difficult to relax. They'd spent the day at the spa, though, so her nails and toes were freshly done, and her blond hair was perfectly coiffed.
She had sat completely still while a professional did her makeup, and the results were spectacular, if she did say so herself. But underneath it all she was still the same Rhylie, the woman who spent the majority of her time with other scientists, trying to figure out why temperatures were changing so rapidly, why weather patterns had altered, and what, if anything, could be done about it.
Her drink arrived, and she guzzled it down, fast. Cassidy's eyes widened, and she grabbed a passing waitress. "Another one, please. Heck, bring her two."
The waitress nodded, and when she'd finished the second drink, Rhylie felt no pain. She imagined herself in the nursing home, telling her roommate, "I got slammed on my thirtieth birthday and had sex with a stripper. Top that one."
Cassidy and Elise both rushed to the dance floor. Rhylie stayed at the table, and had just started on her third drink when warm sensations spread up her back. It was as if someone touched her, stroking her hip lightly. She turned to find nothing but empty space.
She took another sip of her drink before pushing it away. "Slow down, Rhylie. You're starting to hallucinate."
Still, she couldn't shake the feeling of someone, or something, standing beside her, studying her, probing her mind, body and soul. The shivers increased, pleasurable tremors that made her nipples tingle and wetness form between her thighs.
There were fingers on her, touching her lightly. She moaned once, and there was one final feel of them over her neck, tracing down to her breast, caressing her.
"Oh yeah," she whispered as the fingers moved just a little lower, then disappeared, leaving behind a trail of warmth and pure bliss. She glanced around and saw that she was still alone, except for the hundreds of people milling about, ignoring her. She didn't believe in supernatural things, didn't believe in mind reading, or instant connections, or déjà vu, or auras or any of that stuff. And she didn't believe in visits from ghosts or spirits. There was just no logical explanation for things like that.
"Too much alcohol," she said, pushing her glass away so she wouldn't be tempted to go back to it. She held up a finger, intent on asking the waitress for a soft drink.
"Here you go," she said, putting one in front of her.
"But I didn't ask for it yet."
"No, but I had an extra one, and you looked as though you needed it. Better grab your friends and hurry in for ladies' night. Tonight's theme is men in uniform. Yummy."
She flitted away and within seconds, Rhylie followed Cassidy and Elise into the Pleasure Hall, where the action had already started. Seductive music with loud beats blared from the speakers, and half-dressed men gyrated around tables, some of them standing on top of them. They were all beautiful, well-built specimens who looked as though they could stand in for Atlas.
Suddenly, the room went wild. A spotlight fell on Rhylie, and two sets of powerful hands came under her, forming a chair and picking her up in their arms.
The crowd started to chant 'birthday girl,' and embarrassment flooded her face, the heat feeling as if it would melt any ice formed outside the building. The two men trotted toward the stage, and she held on to their shoulders, praying she didn't fall off. They deposited her next to Anya, who spoke into a microphone.
"We have a special treat for the birthday girl," she yelled to the crowd. "One special dance from one special dancer. And who shall it be, hmm? It's your choice, Rhylie, so choose wisely."
Rhylie wheeled around to find a line of men standing behind her, dressed in everything from a policeman's uniform to a sailor suit. All the armed forces were represented, along with every manner of civil servant. She surveyed the group, wondering what she was supposed to do.
Every last one of them gave her a seductive look, winking and moistening their lips as if in anticipation of a kiss.
She turned back to Anya. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Go with your heart. One special dance, which one attracts you the most?"
"Um, I've never done anything like this."
Anya stepped behind her and gently touched her shoulder. "Close your eyes, and think of one of these men you'd like to see dance for you, and only you"
Rhylie followed her instructions. Images of the men danced before her eyes, their uniforms disappearing to reveal gorgeous, toned bodies. She ran through them once, then centered on one.
Fire. She worked with the elements, knew the elements. Fire. The fireman.
Before she could voice her choice, though, flames shot up on either side of the stage, seeming as if they would singe the ceiling. Smoke curled around her feet, and she was lifted up by two of the men and deposited in a throne at the center of the stage.
The fireman moved toward her slowly, his head down, his hips swaying to the beat of the music. Her heart pounded as he stepped in front of her, his gaze fastened on the floor. Then he lifted his head slowly, and as the music sped up she found herself staring into a pair of smooth, chocolate brown eyes.
"Welcome to my world, Rhylie. May I light your fire, and then use my hose to soothe your burns?" He cupped his crotch, and Rhylie's mouth fell open. Before she knew it, a soft yes escaped her lips, and he started to dance as the flames shot up again.
And her body felt as if it had caught fire, in the most delicious way possible.