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April 12, 2004
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Excerpt from The Courtship by Catherine Coulter
Just before midnight
LORD BEECHAM STOPPED dead in his tracks. He turned around so quickly that he nearly tripped over a huge potted palm.
He couldn't believe it. He had to be wrong. She couldn't have said that, could she He looked for the woman he had just heard speaking.
He parted two huge palm fronds and peered into the Sanderling's library, a long, narrow, shelf-lined room just off the ballroom. Where the library was filled with dark-bound tomes, cobwebs in gloomy corners, and just one small branch of candles casting shadows, the ballroom was overflowing with lit candles, plants, and at least two hundred guests, all of them laughing, dancing, and drinking too much of the potent champagne punch.
The woman he had heard before spoke again. He took a step closer to the dimly lit library. Her voice was rich, tantalizing, filled with laughter. "Really, Alexandra," she said, "doesn't just the simple thought of discipline, just hearing the word, saying it slowly to yourself and letting it caress your tongue as you say it, doesn't it conjure up all sorts of delicious scenes of dominance Can't you just see yourself You are completely at the mercy of another, that person is in total control, and there is nothing you can do about anything. You know something is going to happen, you're dreading it, your heart is pounding, you're afraid, so very afraid, yet it's a delicious sort of fear you feel. You know, deep down, that you are anticipating what is to come. You can't wait for it to come, but there is nothing you can do except imagine what will be done to you. Ah, yes, your skin is rippling with the excitement of it."
There was dead silence. Wait, was that heavy breathing he heard
Lord Beecham, whose very active imagination had conjured up a vision of himself standing over a beautiful woman, smiling down at her as he tied her hands over her head and her legs, spread, to the posts of his bed, knowing that in just a few minutes, he would remove her clothing, one lovely garment at a time, slowly, ever so slowly, and--
"Oh, goodness, Helen. I have to fan myself. I believe my bosom is palpitating. You are far too good at painting word pictures. What you describe -- it sounds terrifying and wonderful. It rather makes my mouth water. It also sounds like a grand production that requires a lot of planning."
"Oh, yes, but that is part of the ritual. It is very important that it be planned perfectly. You are part of the ritual, the most important part, if you are the one in control. It requires that you be constantly inventive, that you don't continue to rely on the same old disciplines. Remember, anticipation of something unknown is a very powerful thing. To be effective, discipline must constantly grow and change. In most cases, it is effective to have other people nearby to witness the discipline. This makes the recipient all the more frightened, his senses more heightened, his thoughts more focused. It is an amazing process. You will have to try it. Both sides of it."