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Oh God! Put like that it did seem I was being stupid in the extreme. ‘I didn’t go looking for him, Jack. He found me. Besides it’s only for 42 days.’

‘42 days?’

‘He just wants me to finish my contract. There’s 42 days left of it. Well, forty-one now.’

‘Lana, I’m a man and I’m telling you no man wants a woman for just 42 days. It’s not going to end in 42 days. I can give that to you in blood right now. You’re going to be his mistress until the day comes when he is finally bored with your body. Is that what you want for yourself?’

That feels like a low blow and yet it is the truth. ‘I don’t know what I want anymore, Jack. All I know is at the moment I am with Blake for forty-one days. I’m playing it by ear.’

Jack sighs heavily. ‘All right, Lana, but promise me you will take care of yourself, though. The first smallest sign that something is not right you will call me.’

‘I promise. Jack?’

‘Yeah?’

‘Please don’t worry about me. I’m a big girl now. I can take care of myself.’

‘Just be careful, OK,’ he says gruffly, and then he is gone. I lean back, but I do not think of Jack and his warning. Something else is bothering me.

As soon as I get into the apartment I go to my computer. Into the browser I type in the word cunt.

And I am shocked to learn that the word cunt is the most offensive word in the English language with the highest power to shock, but that it only became obscene around the time of Shakespeare. Before that it was actually the root word for the words queen and cuneiform, the most ancient form of writing. The word itself derives from kunta meaning female genitalia in Sumerian.

So: when a man calls a woman a cunt he is actually calling her the queen who invented writing and numerals—one of the finest compliments a woman can be given. The Irish apparently even use it as an endearment!

I also learn that cunt is the only word in the English language that describes the whole of the female genitalia. Vagina refers only to the inner entrance and vulva to the clitoris, outer labia majora and minora. To talk about a woman’s entire incredible sexual orchestra in all its stupendous glory one needs the word cunt!

At that moment I claim the dreaded word for myself.

When Blake called me a cunt I had only pretended to be offended. The real truth is that years of avoiding the word, and despising others for allowing something so foul and disgusting to sit on their tongues, fled and all I felt was its raw sexual pull. Yes, I am a cunt and I want your rigid hot dick deep inside my cunt. I realize that no matter what Blake said his actions were teaching me that my body is my temple. That between my legs is an altar called cunt where he comes to worship.

And now I have a plan. A plan that involves my cunt.

Thirteen

Blake sends a text to say that he will be around at 8:00 pm.

By seven thirty I am showered and standing in my new black stockings and garters. Carefully, I slip into the black dress that Fleur sent for me to wear to the opera and fasten the row of black pearl buttons. I look at myself in the mirror and marvel at the intricate beauty of the dress. It must have cost a small fortune.

The chest and the entire back is made of black patterned lace and lightly sprinkled with rhinestones, but the lace is so delicate it appears like a tattoo on my skin. I adjust the material into place around my body and hips, and then turn back to see the effect of the plunging back. It looks really cool and perhaps even sexy. I fluff out my hair and sit down to do my make-up. When I am done I slip into black stilettos and walk into the living room, the dress swirling gently around my shoes.

I pour myself a triple vodka and swallow it neat in four gulps. Wow! That makes my veins sing. I pour another double, top it up with orange and walk onto the balcony. I am actually very nervous. Make that very, very nervous. Tonight I will see him without his mask. I will provoke him into holding nothing back from me. I look at the time. 7:59 pm. I turn to find him standing at the door. He is watching me silently. Trying to figure out the scene he has come upon.

I turn fully. ‘Hello.’

‘Are we going out or are you dressed like that just for me?’

‘We’re not going out.’

An eyebrow rises. A mocking smile. He comes towards me. ‘We’re not?’

I shake my head slowly. ‘I need a favor from you.’

‘Are you allowed to ask favors?’

‘You’ll like this one.’

‘You’ve got my attention.’

‘I want you to hurt me.’

He becomes very still. For a moment neither of us says anything. We simply look at each other. And then he says, ‘No.’

‘Why not? I thought you wanted revenge.’

‘I’ve tried rough sex and I didn’t like it.’

I am shocked by the intense flash of burning jealousy that rips through me. He has already done this with someone else. There is no new territory that I may claim for my own. ‘Maybe I do.’

His eyes narrow. They become like stones. Cold. Unreachable. They remind me of his father’s eyes. I shiver involuntarily. Feel afraid. What if I am wrong? What if he is capable of really hurting me? ‘What do you know about rough sex?’

‘Show me what there is to know.’

‘Is that what you really want?’ His voice is soft, dangerously soft.

‘Yes.’

His hands come up to my face. I cannot help it. I flinch and he smiles. A cold, knowing smile. Gently he brushes my cheeks with his hands. ‘You’re a baby. You don’t know what you want,’ he says, and he is about to turn away when I swing my arm with all my might and let my palm crash into the side of his face. I hit him so hard his head jerks away, and my hand is stinging painfully. The alcohol has made me strangely light-headed. I even feel removed from my own actions. I stare with dull fascination at his cheek, at the white imprint of my fingers. My eyes travel to meet his. They are stormy and furious.

‘Feeling better?’ he asks.

As an answer I swing my hand clumsily out again, but he is prepared this time and he catches my hand easily. I rush towards him and bite his neck. Hard. His growl is annoyed.

‘You inherited all this money so everybody treats you like some kind of god, but you’re just a little coward hiding behind a façade of superiority; a spoilt rich kid who has to do anything and everything Daddy tells him to do.’

He begins to laugh, really laugh, and suddenly I realize I have never seen him happy. Never seen his head thrown back and his throat open and vulnerable.

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