Claimed for the Master's Pleasure

By: Jan Bowles

Chapter One

The irritating rap burst once more into her dream, rousing her from the best sleep she’d had in ages. Lia Constantine pulled the pillow over her head, trying to recapture the pleasant state she’d been in.

The noise invaded her senses again, setting her nerves on edge. “Go away,” she mumbled, fighting to return to the highly erotic dream she’d just been enjoying. A gorgeous guy, with the physique of a Greek god, was just about to make love to her. The unwanted interruption couldn’t have come at a more inappropriate moment.

A third annoying rap broke into her dream. This time, Lia recognized the sound. There was somebody at the front door.

“Okay, okay, I hear you, I hear you,” she shouted, stumbling from the bed and dragging on a robe. “Give me a minute, for Christ’s sake.”

An unenviable reflection greeted her as she walked into the hallway. The full-length mirror captured her image mercilessly. Through bleary eyes she saw the destructive effect of a night out with her best friend. Her thick blonde hair stuck up in great, long tufts. Makeup was still on her face from the night before, but totally rearranged. Were panda eyes fashionable? Still, she’d had a great night out, celebrating Monica’s twenty-fifth birthday. Last night was the first time she’d really enjoyed herself since the untimely death of her father one month ago.

Whoever was at the door would just have to take her as she was. After walking downstairs, she tentatively opened the door a few inches and wearily peered through the gap. A handsome young man with an infectious smile greeted her. He held a huge bouquet of lilies in his arms.

“Flower delivery for you, ma’am.”

It was the biggest bouquet of lilies Lia had ever seen, and she’d seen more than her fair share during the last year. “Are you sure they’re for me?”

“Well, unless you know of another Lia Constantine who lives at 43 Mount Drive? Perhaps you have a secret admirer, ma’am.”

“I doubt it,” she scoffed as they were thrust into her arms. As the young man walked away, Lia wondered whom they could be from.

Still half-asleep, she made her way to the kitchen and placed them on the table, then prepared herself a strong black coffee. It took enormous effort to keep her eyes open as she poured the hot beverage into her favorite mug. Once it was made, she sat at the table and cupped the steaming liquid in her hands, feeling like death warmed up.

“Never again,” she whispered to herself. “I’m going teetotal from now on.”

As Lia idly sipped her coffee, she noticed a small, pale pink envelope lying within the blooms. She fished it from the bouquet and tore it open. Inside was a card.

Ms. Constantine,

My deepest condolences on the death of your father.

I have arranged a meeting for 2:00 p.m. today at my place of work.

I strongly suggest you take the opportunity to attend.

Jake Benetti

Owner, Arabian Nights Casino, Las Vegas

Lia scratched her head in annoyance. “Jake Benetti? Who the hell is Jake Benetti? And who the hell does he think he is?” I strongly suggest you take the opportunity to attend? How dare he? She turned the card over looking for an explanation. “Damn.” There was nothing but a photograph of the casino itself—a tall building of some fifty floors or more, glittering like a tacky jewel in the Las Vegas night sky.

“What the hell does this Benetti guy want from me?” she mumbled into her coffee. Surely he had the wrong woman? She looked at the card again. How did he know her father was dead? Did he even know her father? She couldn’t imagine he’d have any connection with a seedy casino owner. She assumed it was a case of mistaken identity.

As someone who hated crass gambling clubs, she tossed the card dismissively away. Wild horses wouldn’t make her visit a casino. Her mother had always taught her that gambling and the pursuit of money was the root of all evil. Considering she lived within ten miles of the Strip, the nightlife of Las Vegas had been hard to ignore. The Nevada economy thrived on the gambling fever that constantly swept through the state. But her parents had not succumbed to its glitzy, tawdry lure, choosing instead to make their living from the clean, honest labor of running a simple grocery store, in one of the outlying Vegas communities. However, Lia was worldly enough to know that money from the casinos filtered through to them. The neighborhood was pretty poor, and many of the people they served in her parents’ store had taken jobs in the casinos in order to make ends meet. Just like the casinos themselves, it was something her mother chose to ignore.

Lia shook her head. As always her mind drifted to her family. In the last twelve months she’d lost her father, and her wonderful fiancé, Joe. It had been a tough year. One that she wished not to dwell on. She moved the bouquet into the sitting area, placing it next to the photograph of her dead parents. She picked up the framed photo of her fiancé, Joe, and gently kissed his image through the glass.

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