Goddess Marquesa examined the enormous oaken door before her. It was stained a deep, lustrous auburn and carved with interlocking geometric designs. There was no doorbell, only a huge knocker in the shape of Heracles receiving the girdle of Hippolyta, with Heracles’s club serving as the mallet. This portal, as far as Goddess Marquesa could see, fit perfectly with the facade and vast grounds of the mansion to which it gave entry. It was as eccentric as the invitation that brought her here to Las Vegas.

The envelope had arrived the day before. It contained a small folded card of fine bone-white stationary stock, stamped on the outside with the monogram “JFW3” in elaborate cursive letters. Inside was a brief note scrawled in a careless hand: “Come to this address tomorrow at 8 PM. The rewards may be great.” At the bottom of the card had been printed “JFW3” again, followed by the street and number of the hulking manor before which Goddess Marquesa now stood. There was a phone number as well. Along with the card the envelope had contained a plane ticket and a voucher for a private limo that had met her at the airport.

The crisp white stationary, the limo, the massive gardens and walls, the finely polished door- they were all rather transparent mechanisms of intimidation. As a practiced manipulatrix Goddess Marquesa could read all the signs. Smiling to herself, she reached up and worked the knocker.

A butler wearing traditional livery answered the door. “Goddess Marquesa?” he asked in a polite monotone.

“Yes,” she replied.

“You are expected. Please come in.”

The doorway entered into a surprisingly small foyer lined with mahogany and black marble. A mirror and a half-scale replica of the Venus de Milo were its only decor. After taking the Goddess’s jacket, the butler led her wordlessly down a long corridor, passing many doors and dimly lit rooms. Finally they passed through an oak door into a brightly lit study. Book-lined shelves covered the walls, richly upholstered leather couches and reading lamps were situated strategically about the room. In one corner the shelves were interrupted by a small buffet cabinet on which was arrayed a selection of liquors and cut-crystal glasses. A door to the right opened onto a small room in which a double bed was plainly visible.

“May I offer you something to drink?” asked the butler in his same detached tone.

“No, thank you.”

“Please make yourself at home, then. The Master will be in directly.” With a short bow, he withdrew, closing the door behind him.

Left alone in the room, Goddess Marquesa began to peruse its contents. The books on the shelves reflected a person of education and reasonably good, if somewhat conventional tastes. A few selections deviated intriguingly from the norm, however. Leather-bound editions of Anaïs Nin and Justine caught the Goddess’s eye. An image hung over the buffet cabinet likewise spoke of her host’s more exotic inclinations: a brightly painted mandala of Hevajra coupling with his consort Nairātmyā.

“I see you appreciate tantric art.”

The Goddess had not heard the man enter, but she turned to meet his gaze serenely despite being taken unawares. He was tall and good-looking, in his late thirties or early forties, with a full head of brown hair touched at the sides with gray and a pencil-thin mustache. He was dressed in a long, red silk smoking jacket and slippers. In his hand was a snifter filled with amber liquid.

“Please forgive my stealthy entrance,” the man said, extending his hand, “My name is John Fitzroy Wainright III.”

“There is nothing to forgive, Mr. Wainright,” replied Goddess Marquesa. As she took the offered hand she noticed a heavy gold ring engraved with the same JFW3 monogram that had embossed her invitation. “A man of your means can come and go as he pleases.”

“You know who I am?”

“Did you think I would come to a strange house in Nevada in the middle of the night without making some inquiries?”

“Why, no…yes…I mean…most call the number on the invitation…” Wainright grimaced, embarrassed by his unintended candor. “That is to say…”

“No need to explain,” Marquesa said with a breezy laugh, “I was under no illusion that I was the first recipient of such an invitation.” Turning from her host and walking around his tastefully appointed library, she continued, “John Fitzroy Wainright III. Harvard B.A., Wharton MBA. You inherited a large fortune from your father and grandfather, who made their money in aluminum. You served briefly as CEO of the family business after your father’s retirement in 2001, but you grew bored and sold out to a large international conglomerate. Now you are what would traditionally be called a playboy.” Finishing her dissertation, the Goddess turned to face her host again; her face cheerful. “Google does wonders for those enterprising enough to tap a few keys.”

Wainright raised his glass. “Touché!” he exclaimed with an appreciative smile. Draining his brandy, he set the snifter on an end table. “We live in the information age, as you say. Still, I’m impressed with your acumen and initiative.”

“Thank you for your compliments,” remarked Marquesa drily, “but I would prefer that you draw back the veil on your cryptic invitation.”

Waintright laughed. “Yes- cut to the chase. Well, as my invitation suggests, I am interested in engaging your services tonight.”

“You may have mistaken my calling. I am not a ‘lady of the evening.’”

“No, of course not,” coughed Wainright apologetically. “That is not what I’m proposing…not exactly. You see, Ms. Marquesa…”

“I would prefer ‘Goddess Marquesa.’ ‘Mistress’ is also acceptable.”

“Mistress Marquesa, then,” conceded Wainright with an abashed grin. “You see, your research was basically right about me. I am a playboy, though I’ve been one for much longer than you suggested. I’ve indulged in the lifestyle of the idle rich since I first entered my teens, with predictable results. I’ve grown jaded, malaised. You used the word ‘bored,’ but my pathology goes beyond that. In recent years a deep, existential ennui has settled over me, and I find myself longing for some revitalizing fulfillment. I have had all sorts of romantic and sexual adventures, but I finally reached a point where nothing could excite or intrigue me any more.”

Here Wainright paused to gauge Goddess Marquesa’s reaction to his confession. She sensed that he was expecting some expression of surprise or disapproval, but she refused to play along, merely crossing her arms and favoring him with a tolerant smile. “Continue,” she suggested.

A bit flustered, Wainright spoke on. “I tried spiritual disciplines for a while. A Zen monastery in Kyoto. A Tibetan ashram in Nepal. But helpful as some of what I learned in those places was on a personal level, it was no real cure. I am a sensualist to the core. Abstinence was not going to work for me. That was when I conceived the idea for the game. A kind of contest, really. Eroticism no longer holds any appeal for me without an element of danger, competition. I yearn to be challenged. That is why I have begun offering a few select women a wager.”

At these words Marquesa couldn’t help registering some curiosity. Her eyebrow raised, she asked, “What sort of wager?”

Wainright pulled a small paging device from the pocket of his smoking jacket and pressed a button. Picking up his empty snifter, he went over to the liquor on the side buffet and poured himself another brandy. “You are sure I can’t offer you anything?” he asked.

“No,” replied Marquesa. “If there is to be a competition I will keep training rules.”

Wainright laughed. “Well said.”

The butler entered the room, holding two documents and a notary seal. Wainright took one of the papers and passed it to Goddess Marquesa. “You can read the terms of the wager here,” he explained. “You will have from the moment we execute this agreement until dawn the next day. If in that time you can cause me to orgasm I will pay you one million dollars. If not I will ask you to accept some nice farewell gifts and we will part friends.”

Goddess Marquesa scanned the page, reading the text with an experienced eye. “Can this be legal?” she asked.

“Incredible, I know…but that is the reason for building this house in Las Vegas. My attorneys assure me that in Nevada this type of wager is possible, given the proper licenses and permits, which I have of course procured. I promise you that this document is both legal and binding.”

“And even if I won this wager, what proof would there be to allow me to collect my winnings?”

Wainright looked at her with mounting respect. “Good question. As a gentleman I of course will honor any debt that should arise, but my word is vouchsafed by an independent and very discreet security service that records what transpires in the house over the course of our contest.” Wainright pointed to a subtly concealed camera mounted over the Tibetan mandala. “If, by some odd chance, you should wish to contest the outcome of our competition, you could subpoena their record of the event. The details of their services and their guarantees of our privacy are outlined in the wager contract.”

Goddess Marquesa handed the document back to the butler. “This is fascinating,” she said. “I have encountered every manner of sexual fetish, but I must hand it to you, Mr. Wainright, you demonstrate a level of imagination and ingenuity in the pursuit of your cravings that I have never seen.”

“Thank you,” he said, without a trace of irony.

“That being said,” continued Marquesa, “I don’t feel right in accepting this wager. It would not be fair for me to take so much of your family’s hard-earned cash.”

Wainright laughed again. “Your confidence is very bracing, Mistress Marquesa! I must protest, however, that this contest is not so one-sided as you seem to think. I will actively resist any attempts to arouse or seduce me, and I am quite good at it. My tantric training has given me a great deal of control, which has been honed through long experience. I have executed this wager more than thirty times, and have never lost.”

Goddess Marquesa smiled enigmatically. “That is all very nice for you, Johnnie. But you don’t stand a chance of holding out against me.”

Wainright’s eyes widened. “Did I say confidence? Hubris more like. You are very alluring, Mistress. But, as reluctant as I am to say it, I have won this game facing women far younger and more beautiful than you.”

Goddess Marquesa threw her head back and laughed loudly. “Whatever models or actresses you have had here to your playpen don’t have a fraction of my power. They are like everything else in Las Vegas or Hollywood- shiny and appealing on the surface, but hollow at the core.”

“I’ll tell Beyonce and Scarlett you said so.”

Goddess Marquesa showed no amusement. “I’m trying to do the right thing, Mr. Wainright,” she said. “You are a little boy who wants to play with fire. Stop now before it is too late.”

Wainright laughed derisively. “At first it was charming, but your act has now become tiresome. If you insist on declining my offer I will bid you good night.” With this he set down his brandy and turned toward the door.

“Wait,” ordered the Goddess, compelling her host to turn and fixing him with a hard look from her emerald eyes. “Since you refuse to see reason, I will accept your wager,” she declared icily. “The stakes need to be higher, however. You say you feel jaded, you need risk. Why not put some real loss on the line? Make the wager ten million dollars and I will play your game.”

Wainright paused, his face showing both surprise and interest. “You are a novel experience, I will grant you that,” he replied. Lowering his head in thought, he finally said, “I am a wealthy man, it’s true, but ten million dollars would put a dent in my inheritance. If we are to raise the stakes so high, you must assume some risk as well. What are you willing to gamble?”

“Name your price,” she said.

Again Wainright registered surprise. Thinking for a moment, he responded, “If you lose the wager you agree to join my household staff as a maid of all work for one year, without salary. Are you game?”

Goddess Marquesa nodded without hesitation. “Agreed. Draw up the wager.”

Wainright clapped his hands together, grinning broadly. “This is going to be fun! You will look very fetching in a black maid’s uniform.”

Goddess Marquesa did not favor this with a reply, merely rolling her eyes and turning her back on Wainright as he and the butler made handwritten amendments to the wager contract. When the document was in order, she turned and took the pen offered by Wainright’s butler.

“We will each sign and date two copies of the contract, so that each of us may retain one. The surveillance video,” said Waingright, looking up at the camera over the mandala, “will serve as a further record of our agreement.”

The contestants signed and dated both copies of the contract, which were then signed and sealed by the butler as witness and notary. Once these formalities were done, the butler withdrew, leaving Goddess Marquesa and Wainright alone in the study. Wainright tapped the pocket of his smoking jacket in which rested his copy of the wager. “Before I sold the company I had thousands of employees, many of whom I hired myself,” he said, “but this is the by far the employment agreement I shall cherish most. I can’t wait until dawn so that I can see what you will look like in a black ruffled skirt with a lace apron and tiara.”

“How original,” intoned Marquesa sarcastically. “One would think your wealth and education would purchase a bit more imagination. So many men have fantasized about me that way that I find it rather cliché.”

“Be that as it may,” quipped Wainright, “you have until dawn to overcome me, or my fantasy will have you cleaning up my cat’s litter box…”

Before Wainright finished his jibe, the Goddess deftly closed the distance between them, invading his space with practiced speed. He was caught off guard as she pressed her body against his, sliding her silky thigh into the depression formed by his crotch and thrusting her magnificent breasts against his ribcage so that their bountiful flesh began to spill over the top of her low-cut dress. Before he was aware of what was happening he was looking down into her deep green eyes, his lips inches from hers. His gaze traveled involuntarily over the contours of her face- her full mouth, her teeth, the inviting slope of her jaw- flitting back repeatedly to drink deeply from the emerald pools of her eyes.

“What…” he began to protest.

“Sssshhh, darling…” she cooed, her voice so low that it was only audible in the narrow space between them, “Relax. Breathe. Everything’s all right. All right…”

He felt each word against his face. The aroma of her breath combined with her perfume filled his head. As he inhaled, she took his hands and placed them around her waist, drawing them more tightly together.

“There is an aura of power around me,” she whispered, her voice seeming to originate from inside his head, “that is not immediately visible to the naked eye, but you can feel it now.”

He could. Her hand reached up to stroke his face, slender fingers tracing a gentle line down his cheek and chin. He felt a dizzy sensation, a blurring almost like the image produced by a film that has begun to melt in the projector. Suddenly he was kissing her…or she him. Her tongue probed his mouth, which opened yieldingly. The taste of her was exquisite. It seemed to seep into his throat and permeate his body like some kind of enchanted elixir, warming and thrilling all at once.

Her free hand had somehow slid between her thigh and his groin, expertly bypassing his silk pajamas and boxers to take hold of his cock. As her fingers closed around his shaft he could feel its heft and distension, the veins and arteries so swollen and pulsating that they seemed bent to etch their pattern into the Goddess’s palm. He could not remember beginning to want her, but he yearned for her now with a longing he had not felt since high school. Every pore of his skin seemed to cry out for her, every corner of his mind craved her taste, her touch, her essence.

She pulled back from the kiss so that he could see her eyes alight with triumph. Both of them knew that he was at her mercy. Somehow she had effortlessly slipped past all of his defenses. A few slight pumps of her hand and he would explode. More than physical control, she had seized hold of his awareness and emotions. He had a dim sense that he should resist the inevitable, but could not summon the will to remember why. He opened his lips to form a “Yes” of surrender when she cut him off.

“Ten…million….dollars…,” she whispered gleefully.

The words triggered a cascade of awareness. The stakes were too high. A million in cash was easily dispensed with, but ten million…Assets would have to be liquidated, finances reassessed. Wainright stiffened, withdrawing from the Goddess’s embrace.

“I’m not feeling well…” he coughed, “we will have to do this another time.”

Goddess Marquesa laughed. Something strange had happened to the acoustics in the room. Again, though Wainright could see Goddess Marquesa’s mouth move (her mouth…so enticing…so delicious), her voice seemed to come from elsewhere- a point behind him or inside him. “There is no escape, Johnnie,” she declared.

The use of the diminutive made Wainright bridle. “I don’t have to stay here,” he mewled, turning heel and heading to the door of the study. Something was wrong there as well, however. Try as he might, he could not make the door work. The air in the room grew close, he had trouble breathing. Turning to face Marquesa, he cried, “What have you done?”

Goddess Marquesa laughed again, making Wainright’s cock throb and weep drops of pre-cum. She did not deign to answer his question, but merely pointed (that hand- so elegantly formed, so gently persuasive-oh to kiss it, to feel it against his face again, his cock…) at the ground. Without knowing why, Wainright obeyed. From down on his knees he stared open-mouthed as Goddess Marquesa circled him, her gorgeous limbs moving gracefully as she surveyed her prey.

“People have the wrong understanding of sex,” she explained, moving deliberately so that Wainright’s eyes could travel slowly over her exquisite form. “They imagine it is like hunger; a need that waxes and wanes as it is sated. But sex is as much spiritual as it is material,” she continued, her tone calm and pedantic, as if she were teaching a class of young college students. “Erotic desire is the energy that animates us, it flows into and through us from the cosmos the way light spills through a projector, bringing images to life. If you can control the flow of that energy through a man, you control him. That is my power,” she said, turning to look directly into Wainright’s eyes. “I am a prism that concentrates and focuses sexual energy. Once a man falls under my spell his life-force becomes oriented toward me. He feels most vital and fulfilled when worshipping me or being manipulated by me. I become the star of the movie emanating from his soul.”

As Goddess Marquesa spoke, Wainright felt his control slipping away. His back arched, his hands stretched stiff at his sides as if tied. His cock and nipples were sorely erect, every inch of his body tingled in mixed fear, delight, and anticipation. Something was snapping inside him, he felt on the verge of a change that could never be reversed. Still, some slight remnant of his former self clung on, hoping for escape. “Please…,” he whimpered, his voice barely audible, “have mercy….Please don’t do this…”

Goddess Marquesa ignored his begging. Raising her hand imperiously, she placed her forefinger against her thumb. “Come for me,” she commanded, and snapped her fingers.

Wainright had never felt anything like it. He bucked and spasmed, his eyes rolled back into his head as his entire body exploded in ecstasy. Every duct in his testicles seemed to open at once, semen erupted from his cock like water from a firehose. In his minds eye he could see what Goddess Marquesa had described- he was a conduit, a conductor of sexual energy. It did not grow within him, it flowed through him. Goddess Marquesa had opened up all of his sluice gates, and the energy was rushing through in a torrent- all toward her, all for Her….

The fluid seemed to flow for minutes…how long he could not tell. Finally he passed out in mid-stream, his last feeling one of overwhelming love…





Wallace Carleton Simmons, Jr. examined the enormous oaken door with its distinctive décor. Particularly remarkable was the large knocker, carved in the shape of the Goddess Artemis turning Actaeon into a stag.  The scene was caught in mid-transformation, with the bottom half of Actaeon already become the hind parts of a deer, but the terror yet visible in his still-human face. Simmons raised Actaeon’s hind leg and brought it down against the sounding-plate to announce his arrival.

A butler answered the door, and led Wallace down a long corridor to a book-lined study. A stunning blonde whom he recognized from her pictures was seated on a leather couch awaiting him. As he entered the study she rose and extended her hand in greeting.

“Welcome,” said Goddess Marquesa, “I’m so glad you were able to come, Mr. Simmons.”

Simmons shook the Goddess’s hand, giving a slight but courteous bow. “On reading your advertisement I could not resist, Mistress Marquesa: ‘The Cure for Affluenza. Do you feel restless? Unfulfilled? Have former pleasures lost their luster?’ Uncanny. I recognized myself in your description right away. Do you really think you can help?”

“Oh, I am very confident. But first let me offer you some refreshment. Would you like something to drink?”

“Yes, please. A scotch and soda.”

Goddess Marquesa picked up a small bell from a side table and rang it. At the sound a maid entered wearing traditional continental livery that showed off her long legs and trim figure to good effect. “Pour our guest a scotch and soda, please,” instructed Goddess Marquesa. The maid set to her task wordlessly.

“Are you always based in Las Vegas?” asked Simmons.

“No, I’m a California girl,” the Goddess replied. “I meet my special patients in this little pied-à-terre. I acquired it from a client who had run out of funds to pay my fees and offered me this house by way of barter.”

As she said this the maid handed Simmons his drink. Accepting it, Simmons noted the large size of the maid’s hands, and the rather masculine ring engraved JFW3 adorning her middle finger. Looking up, he realized that the maid’s face was covered in what could only be five-o’clock shadow. Before he could investigate further the “maid” got down on all fours and kissed Goddess Marquesa’s feet.

“That will be all, Johnnie,” said the Goddess to her prone servant. “We’ll call again if we need you.” As the “maid” withdrew a sudden feeling of unease overtook Simmons.

“I’m feeling a bit unwell…,” coughed Simmons through fresh beads of sweat, “I wonder if perhaps we might postpone this meeting…”

“Sssshhh, darling…” cooed Goddess Marquesa. “Relax. Breathe. Everything’s all right. All right…”