Caroly Evardt never expected to find herself patronizing a male prostitute. Then again, she never expected to be weeks from her thirtieth birthday and still a virgin.
When a friend mentions that a gorgeous male model in Paris sells his body as well as his image, Caroly's intrigued. Finally, a chance to sample the gifts of a beautiful man--no strings, no stakes, no fear of rejection.
But she soon discovers that Didier Pedra amounts to more than a striking face and talented body. He's a kind, charming, damaged man, and after a few evenings of pleasurable education, Caroly's interest blossoms into something far deeper than mere lust. Her simple arrangement is suddenly feeling downright dangerous...
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Curio by Cara McKenna
"Good evening," he said. "You're Carolyn?"
I managed to say, "I am." My name is, in fact, Caroly, a misspelling on my grandmother's prospective baby name list that my mother found exceedingly fetching. No sympathy for her daughter, doomed to be addressed as Carol or Carolyn for the rest of her days. And because of how "Caroline" is pronounced in France--Caroleen--nobody here ever gets my name right when I introduce myself. But that's fair, considering how badly I mangle their entire language every time I open my mouth.
"I'm Didier." He shook my hand and I marveled at the gesture, how he could manage to make it feel so casual yet confident. "Come in." His English is strong, though his accent heavy. Ania told me he speaks several languages, and that his father was from Spain.
He closed the door behind me as I stepped into his garret.
It's the single most sensual space I've ever been in. There's nothing fancy about it, yet sex seems to drip from every square inch. His furniture is all dark wood, a mix of mahogany and walnut. More estate sale than antique broker, but it works. It matches the stained beams of the sloped ceiling and sets off the walls, painted the deep red of a dying rose, two weeks past Valentine's Day. The lighting is perfectly inadequate, allowing the eye to take in only a handful of immediate details at one time. Very soothing, like blinders. The living room is long and narrow, and through the few windows not shrouded by gauzy curtains, you can see an enviable skyline view to the east. It smells nice, as well, something I couldn't place, the oddest mix of clean and musty.
I'm babbling about Didier's d?cor because I was afraid to look at him at first, and those were the minutiae I lost myself in. But eventually I turned to face him.
"You have a lovely flat."
"Thank you. Would you like a drink?"
"Sure." I'd never needed a drink so badly in my life.
"Have a seat." He waved toward the settee and armchair in the corner before heading for another room. "And you prefer English?"
"If you don't mind. Thank you." I set my umbrella and purse by the door and crossed the room to sit on the chair. Pigeons paced on the ledge outside the window, their little bird motors idling, purring and cooing their contentment. I envied their ease.
Didier's voice carried from the far room. "I see you did not escape the storm."
He reappeared with two glasses of red wine, handing me one as he took a seat on the couch.
I have avoided describing Didier, I know. That's because I worry I'll never be able to paint him properly, to do him justice. But here goes.
I'll start with his voice. It's deep and gentle, warm and relaxed. I'm terrible at guessing heights, but he's tall, over six feet. His image in those photos and sketches from the gallery binder are elegant, which he is in real life as well.
I can't find the right word for his build. Though he's quite trim, he has a large frame--wide shoulders, broad hands--that make him seem heavy and strong. In person, his muscular body was of course hidden, and it was maddening to know what he looked like nearly naked and to then have to suffer his sweater and slacks. He had on socks but no shoes, which for some reason I found reassuring.
We sipped our wine and I have no idea what we talked about. The rain, how this spring was stacking up to previous years, perhaps. I took in only what I was looking at.
I know you must want to know about his face, one worthy of so many artists' awe and my clumsy prose. It's a stern face, as you'd expect of a male model. A strong jaw, though not square. Cheekbones that bend light, of course. Expressive eyebrows, black in the dim room. His hair is a shade lighter than his brows, and not as unruly as mine--a wavy sort of curly, long enough to clutch but not to wrap around one's fingers. His eyes are deep brown with heavy lids that give him a slightly sinister, slightly sleepy expression. His nose is strong, not quite big, with the slightest hook to it. Like so many Parisian men, he has an air of caustic wisdom about him. Unlike many Parisian men, he does not have an aroma of cigarettes to accent the attitude.
Didier is the type of man who, even if you can't stand seafood, makes you crave oysters. There is something raw and primal yet utterly refined about him that leaves you hungry for such a thing. He pairs with liver and black caviar and hundred-dollar champagne, this extraordinary delicacy of a man. A rare animal, worthy of hunting to extinction lest anyone else lay claim to the beauty of him.
"So tell me what exactly brings you here," he said.
Ah, a question I had no answer for. "I saw pictures of you at a gallery, and heard that you... You know."
"You've modeled a lot," I said.
"I did. Not so often anymore." The only imperfect thing about him is his teeth--white but a bit crooked, which I don't mind at all. Mine are just the same.
"Have you lived here long?" I asked, aiming my gaze all around his flat.
"Ages. Nearly ten years." Didier has a way of leaning forward, bracing his elbows on his knees and locking his eyes on yours even as he sips his wine. Though it sounds unnerving, it makes you feel you're the most fascinating woman on earth. Normally I shy from a stare as intense as his, strong as a floodlight, but all I felt then was blank.
"And you?" he asked. "How long have you been in Paris?"
"Two years, next month."
I shook my head. "Work. At a museum. Assistant curator."
He made an impressed face. "And so what brings you to me?"
My delusions of charisma faded. "Um... Do you have a confidentiality thing with your clients?"
A smile that melted my muscles. "We never met," he said simply.
"Right. Well. This is embarrassing..."
He let me trail off, no prompting, merely sipping his drink while I gathered my thoughts.
"I'm not very experienced with men."
Didier nodded, as though he were fluent in evasive English. "You're looking to change that?"
"Maybe. To be honest, I don't know what I'm looking for."
He leaned back against the couch cushions and crossed his legs. "Not to put too fine a point on it, but it is a flat rate." I pictured the check in my purse, ready to be dropped discreetly in his mailbox upon my departure. "You get me for the evening, and what we do is entirely your choice. Nothing is off-limits with me." He gestured with his free hand, presenting his body as a package.
"But that goes the other way as well. It's your time, and if all you want to do is talk and drink, then that's what we do."
I considered that. I wondered how often that was what women wanted from him--a date with no pressure, no fear of rejection. That's what I wanted, after all. I've even heard that plenty of men who patronize female prostitutes want simply that, companionship.
"That would be good, to start."
He nodded, stern face striking and sage. "Do you mind my asking, how inexperienced are you? Or what would you like to learn from me?"
"I've kissed men, but that's really all."
Let me pause here and explain how it felt to admit that. I'm sure plenty of girls lie about how many guys they've messed around with when they're younger, not wanting to seem too easy. Well, there's another stigma that comes later, as you edge closer to true adulthood, especially if you run with a liberal, artsy crowd. I always pray my friends assume I'm a real freak behind closed doors, just stingy with the details. I think you can get away with being a virgin until you're, say, twenty-three or so, and still pass it off as choosiness or cautiousness or plain old willfulness. But twenty-nine? That's when people start to wonder what's wrong with you. Including yourself.
Didier is the first person I've actually admitted the extent of my inexperience to, ever. I even lead my gynecologist on. When she asks, "Are you sexually active?" I always reply, "Not at the moment." If the truth is embarrassingly apparent, she's kind enough not to tell me so.
And it was in that moment in Didier's living room that I realized, maybe not tonight, but some day not too far off, I could leave this place with that weight lifted from me. I could walk down his street and be like everyone else. I could have a lover. This is Paris, after all. Having a lover is like having a pancreas. I was suddenly very ready to quit being a medical anomaly.
All Didier said to my pronouncement was, "That is very interesting." He paused and squinted in such a way that it seemed he were taking a drag off a psychic cigarette. I worried he was about to tell me he had a policy against deflowering his clients, but instead he went on. "It's very flattering that you've come to me."
"Yes. I would be very honored to corrupt you in whatever ways you like."