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The Best of 2013
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Cesare Soutina approached sixty like a wary old dog unsure if the food bowl contained poison or merely something difficult to chew. The still dense patch of hair on his head was speckled—or streaked—with silver, like rust on grape leaves; his wide nostrils arched over a trimmed moustache more gray than dark brown, and his words whistled and growled from a throat made hoarse from shouting at himself in private.
Outwardly, he still appeared robust and graceful, but often had to lie flat with feet elevated to ease the pain at the base of his spine and he napped for an hour in the afternoon or else found himself drowsy by ten every evening.
In his old glory days he had been leaner, considered handsome, and his eyes—greenish-brown with gilded flakes—still turned the head of pretty women, though like him they had grown older and their allure seemed more of certain lust than the promise of innocent and naïve desire. Byronic and Romantic in his youth, life had worn him down into kind of weather-beaten granite cliff that stood waiting atop the windswept path into tomorrow.
He lived in the small old family house alone, the oldest surviving member—carrying the empty title of pater familias because all other males had died off—of a long, diverse, and noble line that stretched back, like most Europeans, to Charlemagne of the Franks. His sisters had moved on and gone on with their little flocks of children and grandchildren. Though there had been, and still were, opportunities for him to marry, the truth was that he had no urges in that direction. He had felt tainted from his teen years, after a failed interlude, about fidelity and the alleged sanctity of legal and ecclesiastically blessed unions. The truth was, he carried torches for every woman he had ever loved and lost. His liaisons—and there had been at least one for every year of his life now—had ranged from live-ins for a few years to a few hours spent in passionate abandon. But lately, there had been no one to spark enough hunger in him to seek even those moments of physical possession and surrender he could muster.
By his nature, however, there were flirtations and dalliances. The dance of covetous eyes, the pose of the charming cavalier, the courtesies that passed these days for little seductions; these all played along in his daily life never growing into full-fledged pursuits. He mostly buried in his mind in blank hours working on all fours in the field of flowers which supported his expenses or seated in an old wooden armchair in the afternoon sun and cleaning and repairing the meager family keepsakes that remained. They represented the old things and old times, useless knickknacks and old pass-me-downs, but they had meaning for him. The touch of a chipped statue of porcelain that had belong to a long dead aunt brought her memory back.
The polished wood of a jewelry box, empty now, reminded him of his mother’s fondness for sparkling bits of glass and paste. He shuffled his feet in agitation. No one left heirlooms any more. When someone died everything of value was bundled up and given to the second hand stores or thrown out like rubbish. That was how life went now.
From time to time, Cesare marched down into the village square to again sit on another wooden chair, sip strong, sweetened black coffee and watch the passing parade of tourists and village folk.
It was on such a day, at such a time, that the creaky yellow public bus wheezed to a stop and disgorged another passel of dusty, weary travelers except for one. Of medium height, dressed in a softened lavender skirt and coat, a creamy blouse with a thin black ribbon around her neck, the woman was mocha colored, Cesare decided. He smiled at the sharp, pert, birdlike movements of her head and body as she moved away from the bus crowd. Her shoulders bowed slightly from lugging a large tan leather, much tattered suitcase. She seemed to tug and drag it rather than carry as she made her way directly to the Quisaites hotel.
Cesare glanced further down the street at the more modern bed-and-breakfasts and quaintly attired hotels the tourists patronized, then back at the shabby much-plastered and more-painted front of the Quisaites. He shook his head.
There was no accounting, he knew already, for the taste of tourists. He’d seen them before grabbing up little pieces of terrible pottery or poorly daubed souvenirs for ridiculous prices at the street booths while the shops held genuinely handcrafted items of inexpensive value. Or they would stuff their gaping mouths with overpriced tasteless and vile “snacks” when a few steps would have brought them to Mim’s or Madame Roule’s café where the food was wholesome and delicious. To Cesare, these tourists were like ignorant parasites skimming off, in hordes, the drek and detritus and leaving behind Eurodollars and credit card receipts in tidy piles like so much manure to make the village prosperous and bourgeois. The afternoon sun, the drone of the village voices, the hum-drum of it all made him drowsy. He must have even dozed off, for he suddenly found his arm being touched and gently shaken. He blinked and turned his head to see her standing beside him: the mocha woman in the lavender suit. It startled him.
“Excuse me,” she said in perfectly accented Italian. “I am very sorry to disturb you, but they told me at the hotel you were Cesare Soutina.”
Cesare blinked again, coughing slightly and clearing his throat. He rubbed at his nose.
“I am Cesare Soutina,” he said with a waver in his voice. He repeated his name and nodded at her.
To his astonishment, she sat down across the table from him, beaming with a wide smile, her eyes flicking up once to his, then down to the tabletop.
She sighed heavily. Her voice came softly.
“I am sure you’re wondering who...what…I am. I have the letter here.” She withdrew a small envelope from her small purse and pushed it across the table.
Cesare looked at the paper then back at her. “Letter? From whom a letter?”
The woman licked her lower lip. “Monnari. Your nephew in Milano?”
Cesare grunted. “Monnari. I tell you, young woman, I have nothing to do with him. If he has...well...whatever you have to do with him, it has nothing to do with me.”
She simply sat silently for a long moment, looking down at the tabletop.
Cesare grunted again and finally snatched up the envelope and tore it open.
He unfolded the paper, peered at it, and looked closer as he read.
“What!?” his voice sputtered with spit and air. “This is absurd. Do you know what this says?”
She nodded and shifted uneasily in the chair.
“I have never seen such a thing,” Cesare growled low. “A puttana, I can understand if he calls you that, or a slut. But a slave? Ridiculous!”
The mocha colored woman remained silent, but took a bundled object from her purse and laid it on the table. She nudged it forward. Cesare’s eyes bulged dramatically. His brows met and seemed to attack each other over his eyes.
The woman nodded again.
One of Cesare’s hands grabbed at the air while the other rested over his heart.
“I...I do not know...this is…impossible.” He grumbled loudly and shook his head. “What does this mean ‘a slave’? How can you be a slave and what right has he to...to tell you these things?”
She bite her lower lip and raised her eyes to his. “It is my choice, Signore Soutina. Monnari…he was my Master, but—as you see—he has the cancers. He is dying. He may already be dead now. It took me awhile to get here.” She heaved a massive shoulder-rattling sigh and a tear coursed down her cheek. “I will be lost without...that is, unless you…”
Cesare scanned the letter again. “He says I am to be your new Master. I do not know what that means. I am no one’s Master.”
The woman seemed to draw her body inward tightly. Stiffly, she pushed the chain-and-leather leash closer to Cesare. “Please, Sir.”
Cesare’s eyes widened. He looked around him. No one seemed to be paying attention to them yet, but if things continued in this way…
He grabbed up the leash quickly and stood. He wavered on his legs a moment and then whispered.
“Come with me, then. We’ll deal with this in private.”
She rose and followed him, a few steps behind, up the path that led to his house. Once inside, Cesare stood a moment scratching his head, trying to think about this sudden interruption of his usual life. He started to reach for a bottle and glass on the table, but before he could take it up, the mocha-colored woman had swiftly and gracefully forestalled him. She uncorked the bottle, poured a measure into the glass and then knelt before him, offering the glass upward, her eyes focused on the carpet.
Cesare’s hand shook as he took the proffered glass. “Oh, er, thank you.”
She nodded silently.
Cesare drained the sharp tasting grappa and wiped fingers over his thick moustache. “You...you don’t have to kneel like that. This is not a church,” he grumbled. “What are you called anyway?”
The woman slowly raised her eyes to his. “Whatever it pleases you to call me, Sir.” She paused and licked her lips. “Or if I may be permitted...Master.”
Cesare’s head rocked back. No one in his life had ever referred to him as Master. It did not seem proper and fitting, and yet...the woman’s soft voice using the word...sent a small shiver down his through his body. He fought off the urge to touch her.
“What did he...what did Monnari call you?”
“He used many names. Dulcetta, umidita, schiava. You may name me as it pleases you. I am here to serve you.” After this, she lowered her eyes and head, and placed her hands behind her back in a submissive pose.
Cesare scratched at his jaw in thought. Dulcetta, sweetness. Umidita, wetness. Schiava, slave. There must be some trick to this. He had heard from his sisters that his nephew Monnari lived the high life in Milano until the cancer caught up with him. This...woman was one of his playthings apparently. A slave. Well, stranger things were known to happen. The younger generation had gone wild over sex, dabbling in what they called domination and sadism and their counterparts. Like the women of his own generation—the hippies and bohemians—this one had not been a whore exactly, just a free spirit who...what? Who wanted a man to...to serve and please. What was wrong in that? If she chose to do so, what business of it his was it to...deny.
“Look at me, schiava,” he suddenly said, leaning down. “You had sex...you fucked Monnari?”
She squirmed on her knees. “I did whatever he desired me to.”
Cesare grunted. “Don’t you have a family to go to now that he is...?”
She shook her head.
“But I am an old...I mean what am I to do with you?” He smiled in spite of his misgivings.
“Use me,” she murmured. “Please...” she lowered her voice to a hoarse whisper…”Master. Let me serve and give you pleasure.”
Cesare’s heart thudded sharply in his ribcage. She was a pretty woman.
Young, maybe mid-twenties. Her soft voice and humbleness seemed to vibrate outward from her and invade his body, stirring him.
“How did you pleasure...that is...how do you pleasure your Master?”
She smiled for the first time and it sparked deeper inside Cesare.
“May I show you, Master. Please?”
He nodded and then stood amazed as she raised herself upward and began slowly taking off her clothes. Naked, she was breathtaking. His eyes raked over her smooth, firm, bare skin. Her pudenda was clean and hairless and Cesare felt a pinch of nerves rattle down his spine as he looked at it.
Unbidden, his tongue snaked out and over his dry lips. It had been a long time since he had tasted...
...but now she was hovering around him. Unbuttoning his shirt and sliding it off his body, her fingers grazing over his stiffening nipples, tangling lightly in the curling gray hairs of his chest. He shivered and then again as she quickly unbuckled his belt and zipped down his pants. She knelt again, her hair brushing across his belly as she moved. She easily pulled his boxer shorts down and lifted first one foot then the other to remove his shoes, pants and shorts. When she stood again, their bodies almost but not quite touching, her fingers lightly grasped the head of his cock. She gazed up into his eyes.
“My Master’s cock is so beautiful,” she said in a husky voice.
She let her hand drift away to his fingers, bringing them to her lips and kissing the tips. Then she led him down a hallway until she found the bedroom. She gently urged him to lie down and put a finger to her lips.
She pattered back down the hall and returned shortly with a bottle of olive oil from the kitchen and a towel from the bathroom cupboard.
“Let me,” she said, leaning close, her breath scorching his ear. “Please.”
As Cesare watched, she straddled him. She poured a pool of oil into her palm and let it cascade from palm to palm as she warmed it. Then she drizzled it across his chest and belly as if he were a load of bread.
Cesare gasped as she then began kneading his flesh lightly, smearing the oil over him. Her fingers on the slickness had an incredible lightness and heat. She slid further down him and dragged her oily hands over the mound of his belly and down along his thighs.
Cesare’s cock squirmed upward as she rubbed the oil down his legs and then back up again. As her head approached it, she leaned down and breathed on the swollen knob. Her eyes flicked up to his.
“Please, Master. May I kiss it?”
The very question was so new, so unexpected to Cesare that he could do nothing but mutely nod.
Oh, god, he thought, feeling her lips gently kiss his cock. Is this what the young have been doing all this time? Having this kind of...bliss?
Cesare closed his eyes as her oiled fingers cupped his balls, pulling them a little, and rubbing her fingertips over the tightening sac. He thought his heart stopped when her slippery grasp circled his shaft and oh, so slowly, slid upward.
He barely heard her soft voice. “Do I please you, Master? I want to so much.”
“Yes,” he managed to stammer. “Yes, schiava. You please your...your new Master.”
The jolt of fire seemed to burn down from his head to his cock as he felt her mouth slide over the knob of his throbbing cock. Her thumb rubbed along the thick vein of his shaft as she sucked and licked just the head of him.
As her tongue slid around it and stabbed at the hole, she began moaning and the vibrations coursed between them like the thrumming of electric wires.
With a loud, wet pop, she pulled the head from between her tight lips.
“Please, Master,” her gentle voice pleaded. “May I taste your essence? May I feel your come in my mouth?”
Cesare knew then that this must be a dream or something more fatal. He had died somewhere before and this was a euphoric reverie before he was plunged down into Hell or wafted aloft on angel’s wings. But a few moments later, spurting into the warm, wetness of her sucking mouth, he realized it was all real. His hand shot out to her hair and he lifted her face. He nodded several times.
“Stay with me then. I take you, my schiava. I will be your Master.”
Her smile filled her face. Her tongue peeked out to take the last drop of milky whiteness, already dissolving on the very tip of his cock. “Thank you, Master.” She turned her head and glanced back at him slyly.
“Master? My two sister slaves arrive tomorrow.” She grinned. “Master Monnari was very generous.”
Cesare shifted his head from side to side. His glazed eyes swept the room and then feel back on hers. He shrugged his shoulders and pulled her body up along his until his lips brushed against hers.
“I suppose...I must be generous, too, then. It’s a family tradition to treasure our heirlooms.”
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