I’m good at my job. That’s what got me into trouble.
The New York State Library found a partial copy of William Blake’s First Book of Urizen, and they called a team of experts to authenticate it. I was one of those experts and I was the only one to identify it as a clever fake. It turns out, I was right. That’s what made me famous in the world of rare book antiquities.
Six months later, my supervisor at the Boston Public Library, Mr. Matthews, told me that a well-preserved copy of the 1455 Gutenberg Bible may have been discovered. The collector requested for me to come to L.A. and authenticate it.
There are only forty-nine Gutenberg Bibles and just sixteen are complete. I was so excited, I agreed before I knew the name of the collector.
Michael Baptiste. Son of a bitch.
I couldn’t back out. I mean, I could, but I wasn’t going to give someone else the Gutenberg. And if anyone had one, Michael Baptiste did.
So, I flew to L.A. and took a cab from LAX to Brentwood. It was a lesson in multi-million-dollar real estate. The cab let me out on a circular drive in front of a mansion. A maid answered the door and led me to a magnificent library. The view was amazing, but the books were better.
I noted at least five early edition Shakespeare volumes. One couldn’t have been produced any later than 1632. There was an edition of the Malleus Maleficarume under glass and I was reasonably sure, without inspection, that it was authentic from 1588. Emily Dickenson poems with the original binding from 1890 and Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde.
I didn’t hear anyone enter. Like always, Michael Baptiste took me off guard.
“Hello, Prudence,” he said. I jumped and turned.
He was almost the same as I remembered. The tousled curls. The scruffy stubble on his face. The sharp, blue eyes that seem to look right through me.
“Hi,” I answered, hoping to keep the atmosphere light. “Small world, isn’t it?”
He took a couple of steps closer to me. “Indeed. Yet, somehow it took me eight years to find you.”
My stomach flipped. He had been looking for me.
“So, about this Bible….”
“Ah, yes. The holiest of holies.”
He led me to a door and punched a code into the lock. The room was a vault, no larger than a walk-in closet. It held one glass case. I put on my cotton gloves while Michael opened the cover.
It was the most beautiful book I had ever seen. Two volumes, the binding intricate. A gold shine along the edges of the pages. Carefully, I opened the cover and inhaled the musty, bookish scent. “It’s cotton paper,” I said softly. “The print is offset.” I estimated the proportions of the page and counted the lines of text. My heart pounded. I inspected the print; it had a sheen. “Ink with a high metal content.” With my lightest fingers, I turned the pages. “I can see the watermark,” I whispered. “Where did you get this?”
“A dealer in Russia.”
I studied the illuminations. Every leaf would need to be inspected.
I stood and turned. Michael hovered well inside of my personal space. “I would need to make a full examination,” I said softly, “but at first assessment, this is a highly promising find.”
“Worth five million, then?”
“You paid five million without knowing if this is authentic?”
“I don’t like to let opportunities slip away,” he said insinuatingly. The heat came into my face.
“Well, if it’s actually complete and none of the leaves are forged, it was a sound investment. I would recommend that you allow me to take this back to Boston–“
“No.” He eased himself even closer to me. “It stays here. If you would like to authenticate it, so do you.”
It would take days. I looked at him a moment to see if he was serious. Clearly, he was.
“I… I’d have to call the library. They only authorized an overnight trip.”
He stepped aside.
“If it helps,” he said as I squeezed past him, “let them know that the collector might be willing to part with it.”
I froze. My lips parted. “Are you?”
He brushed a lock of my hair out of my face. “Maybe.”
I hesitated, but not for long. Then, I backed out of the vault.
“I’m going to go make that call.”
I met Michael Baptiste eleven years earlier, at Brown University, when he started dating my roommate, Marcia. He talked to me while she got ready to go out, teasing me for studying antiquities. I was too shy to hold my own.
Marcia had no filter and no need for privacy.
“I’m sore,” she said one morning, sitting down with a wince. I handed her a cup of coffee. “Michael’s such a gentleman. You’d never know he was so freaky in bed.”
I blushed. “Is he?”
“Girl, you have no idea. And look what he gave me.” She held out her arm so I could see the gold bracelet around her wrist.
“That’s gorgeous but you’ve only been together–” I turned her wrist and noticed red marks. “What happened to you?”
She smiled. “Handcuffs….”
My body clenched with want and shivered with fear. I knew right then that I needed to stay away from Michael. Whenever he came for Marcia, I went to my room. He started calling me a rabbit.
Their relationship only lasted a month more. Marcia was crushed. I was relieved.
Then, one evening, about a year later, when I was studying at the University library, Michael Baptiste sought me out.
“Hello, Prudence,” he said in a hushed tone.
I looked up. “Michael.”
“I know. I had to downsize.”
He sat down beside me. “I’ve been looking for you.”
He gave me a long appraisal, then shook his head.
“I miss our talks,” he said. “And I wanted to show you this.” He pulled out a book and laid it in front of me. The cover was well worn and the title obscured; it was larger than a usual book. “I bought it at auction. Have a look.”
I opened it. It took me a moment to realize what I was looking at. An engraving. Four people, clearly in sixteenth century half-dress, pleasuring each other in the most lewd way. I flipped a few pages. There was another engraving of a monk bursting in on a ménage à trois at the height of its passion.
He put a hand on my knee; I closed the book quickly.
“It’s Mémoires de Saturnin,” I murmured. “Maybe a 1778 edition.”
“Would you like to hold on to it? You know… to study it?” His voice was smooth. His hand inched up and my legs parted a little. “We could get together at my place to talk about it Friday.”
I was breathless. My body pulsed. I thought of Marcia wincing as she sat.
I pushed the book back to him. “No.”
He took his hand away. “Are you sure?”
“Well then, thank you,” he said, standing.
I watched him go. My body scolded me.
The last time he spoke to me was after graduation. Most everyone had gone home. I didn’t have many visitors but the last person I expected was Michael Baptiste.
I don’t think I even said hello. My body went from calm to heated in record time.
“Invite me in?” he said. I stepped aside. He closed the door behind him. “Are you a lesbian?”
“Good,” he said walking towards me. “I thought that was why you were avoiding me.”
“I’m not avoid–“
“Yes, you are.” He stood close. I had to look up to see his face.
“Is there a reason you’re here, Michael?”
“Because I’m very attracted to you.”
“You knew that, though.” He leaned into me and I thought he intended to kiss me. I whirled with indecision about whether or not to let him. But, he bypassed my mouth and his lips stopped at my ear. “I can’t bring myself to be subtle with you,” he whispered. “I want to know what you sound like when you cum.”
His bluntness shocked me.
“I’m hard every time I look at you.”
His lips found my neck. It seemed like every nerve ending responded. He kissed where my pulse pounded. I made a sound somewhere between a moan and protest.
“Shh, little rabbit. Let me. I hate missed opportunities.”
Both hands went into my hair. He tilted my face back. For a moment, I accepted it. But, when he leaned in to kiss me, I thought of the marks on Marcia’s wrists.
“Enough. I mean it.” I pushed on his chest, forcing him back a step. “I’m not like that. Like this. I can’t just….”
“I know. You’re beautiful and rare. My favorite two things.”
He leaned in again. “No,” I said in a stronger voice.
He cocked his head. “Are you sure?” he asked, just like he had in the library two years before.
“That is a real pity.”
He backed away. Then he turned and left my apartment. The next time I heard his name was eight years later.
Of course, the library wanted me to stay to authenticate the Gutenberg. Of course, I agreed.
Michael left me alone three whole days. I counted the leaves of Bible and the lines of text on every leaf. I measured the offset punctuation and the margins. I photographed the illuminations. Finally, there was nothing left to inspect.
“Would you get Mr. Baptiste for me?” I asked one of the maids.
He came in and sat, indicating that I should sit, too.
“Tell me good news,” he said.
“Your Gutenberg Bible is authentic and complete.” He leaned forward. “It’s also in excellent condition,” I continued quickly. “I would call it a priceless find, but if you’re looking for something more tangible, eleven million is a reasonable appraisal if you work with an auction house.”
He whistled between his teeth. “Anything else?”
“Because it’s so well made, there’s a chance there’s a record of this specific book. I’d have to do more research, back at the library.”
“Very good,” I said, standing, starting for the door, and almost letting myself breathe a sigh of relief. “I have a flight at eight—”
“We have just one more thing to discuss,” he interrupted. The breath went out of my lungs. I turned. “I would be willing to offer the Bible to your library, on-loan indefinitely.”
My stomach sank but my heart pounded. It was a curious mix of dread and eagerness.
“If?” I asked.
“If you stay here tonight. With me.”
“You are unbelievable.”
“I am completely serious. One priceless book for your evening.”
My craving for him doubled. Then I thought of Marcia calling him a freak.
“I’m not into your kinky bullshit,” I told him.
“No?” he challenged.
He gathered my wrists and pinned them over my head to the wall behind me. It was a shock, but also a thrill.
“Look how aroused you are. I haven’t even done anything to you, yet.”
Then, he kissed me; it was everything I feared it would be: intense, forceful, and breathtaking. His teeth scraped mine, as if he couldn’t get enough of me. His tongue probed and I accepted it. He bit my lower lip and recaptured my mouth. His hands tightened on my wrists; it made the throbbing more intense.
He broke the kiss and smiled at my flush. “I waited eleven years for that.”
So had I, it turned out.
“Are you going to slap me if I let go of you?” he teased.
He released me. My hands fell to my side.
“Stay,” he urged without a touch of amusement.
I didn’t answer; hope bloomed behind his eyes.
“Say yes, Little Rabbit,” he whispered.
My body was still on fire from the kiss. I wanted more.
“One. Little. Word,” he breathed.
“Yes,” I whispered. I jolted with adrenaline the moment the word left my lips.
Michael trapped one of my wrists in his large hand and led me out of the library, pulling me to a wide wooden door and drawing me inside. It was the biggest bedroom that I had ever seen.
“Kneel,” he ordered. Without even thinking, I fell to my knees on the soft, plush carpet. I wondered how many other women had responded to that command in exactly the same way.
He knelt in front of me and pulled my wrists behind me. Cool metal pressed against my skin. Before I could question it, I heard a click.
He backed away and watched me as I came to the realization that I was shackled to his footboard. For a moment, I struggled against the handcuffs, trying to slip out of them. I wondered if they were the same ones he used with Marcia.
He waited patiently until I was done.
Then, he stripped my clothes away as if he couldn’t wait to get them off. Blouse and bra hung on the shackle chain; slacks and purple bikinis came completely off. He pulled me forward until the hard metal bit my wrist.
I hadn’t ever felt so vulnerable.
He pulled nipple clamps from his pocket. I’d only seen them in photographs.
My nipples were already hard; he had no trouble placing the clamps. A dull throbbing ache heightened my arousal; when he pulled on the chain between them, I felt it in my sex. I didn’t mean to moan, but I did.
He stripped away his shirt. Then, he got on his knees in front of me.
“I like this,” he said, playing with the nipple-clamp chain. My breath came in shudders. He brought his mouth to my breast and teased my squeezed flesh with his tongue. “I like it so well,” he said, reaching again into his pocket before he took his pants off, “I think we’ll use some more.” He had plastic clothespins in his hand.
Nervousness overtook arousal. “Wait,” I whispered.
“We’ve waited long enough.”
Before I could mount another protest, Michael pinched the flesh between my legs together. He put three clothespins on the clamped flesh. I squirmed in pleasure at the sensation.
He went behind me and reached for my front, getting one moan out of me by pulling on the nipple clamps and a louder one by playing with the clothespins.
He whispered in my ear. “I’m going to make you suck my cock tonight. I’m going to fuck you senseless. But right now, I want this.”
His fingers probed my backside.
He delved; my ass yielded. It was unexpected, both the invasion and my ready acceptance of it. He wiggled his finger and tugged at the clothespins.
“You’re a fucking dream,” he whispered. “Beautiful, rare, sensitive.”
Something cold and slick drizzled on my backside. My heart started to hammer faster.
“Will it hurt?” I whispered.
“Yes.” His lips were behind my ear. “It’s the pounding you’ve been needing.”
His hand went down my torso. His wide organ pressed against me. He thrust. It wasn’t slow; it did hurt; I wanted more.
I pressed back against him. “Fuck,” he hissed.
He took my ass hard. I felt filthy: impaled, my hands helpless, my most tender parts squeezed and throbbing.
While he wrecked my ass, he tugged at the chains and clothespins, making me cry out. My orgasm was going to be monumental. He yanked off the nipple clamps and roughly massaged my breasts. I shot to my climax. He pulled off the clothespins and my orgasm doubled in intensity. I might have cried out a name; I might have just yelled.
He erupted into me. I undulated my hips against him. Hot fluid leaked down my leg. Only when he lost his rigidity, did he slip out.
The handcuffs clicked and opened. I fell forward. He fell beside me.
“Jesus, Woman,” he said, gasping and looking at me.
“Is that what it’s always like?” I asked.
“No,” he said, his eyes intense on me. “It’s rarely like that. And don’t get comfortable. I’m not done with you.”
He sure wasn’t. It was dawn before he fell asleep. I never did.
I left at 8:00 that next morning. Actually, 7:45. I didn’t want to deal with Michael and the morning-after. I didn’t want to know if I was just a conquest.
The cab took me to the airport and I managed to get on a 10:00 flight straight to Boston. After that, I turned off my phone, went home, and fell asleep. I didn’t turn my phone on until the following morning, after I left for work.
My co-workers greeted me with awe.
“Oh. My. God. Pru. A Gutenberg?”
“Who was he? The collector?”
Mr. Matthews came to see me after the initial excitement passed. “Congratulations, Prudence. The Gutenberg will get here tomorrow by Brinks.”
“You must have made quite an impression. He’s also given us an annual endowment of a half million.”
I looked up, guessing there was more.
“There’s a condition, though. He wants you on retainer for future finds.”
I flushed and my heart fluttered. “Does he?”
Mr. Matthews looked a little nervous. “I already said you would. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Good. Because he mentioned that he was pursuing a signed first edition of Rabbit, Run, by Updike. I told him you’d head back to L.A next week.”
I stifled a giggle and shook my head.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing. Tell him… it better be worth my time.”