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First pages

Chapter One

For someone like Marley Williams, optimism was dangerous. Life was rough, happiness fleeting. Yet the closer she came to accomplishing her goal, the more hopeful she became.

It was in that spirit she met Sara.

Beautiful, sexy, fucked-upped Sara.

She was brought to the psych ward where Marley was completing the final rotation of her medical residency. Marley was assigned to the case and couldn’t help but be excited. Sara was her first suicide patient.

If Marley thought her life was tough, Sara’s was hell. She was a product of the foster care system, orphaned at age six after her abusive father killed her mother and then himself. Every mental health professional knew the system sucked, at its best providing the necessities, at its worst throwing kids into a dark abyss.

At first Sara was lucky. She was safe and treated well in her new home. Years passed. She made friends and was developing into a beautiful, intelligent girl. Life was looking up for her until a new foster kid was placed there.

Kyle.

They were close in age, Sara fifteen and Kyle sixteen. Both had been in the system a long time. But while she had few memories of her early trauma and had adjusted, Kyle was jaded by years of physical and sexual abuse. He kept to himself. No one knew how sick Kyle was until he raped Sara.

It happened the night their foster dad had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. Their foster mom went with him in the ambulance, leaving Sara and Kyle alone in the house for the first time.

It had been easy for him to prey on her.

“There’s a stray kitten in the garage,” he said. “I think it’s hungry.”

Sara loved animals. She scurried to the kitchen, prepared a bowl of milk and cut up a slice of processed turkey. She had compassion back then, before the black curtain descended on her life.

“He said the kitty was hiding in the corner behind the lawn mower.” Sara’s voice was flat and emotionless. “I set the milk and turkey nearby and crawled on the floor looking for it. Then he kicked me in the stomach and shoved me forward. My head hit the cement wall. Hard.

“At first I was dazed. I didn’t know what was happening. He started taking off my jeans. I kicked and screamed, but he was too strong. ‘Shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up’ he kept saying, and he got on top of me and pinned me down and stuffed a rag into my mouth.

“It was a paint rag and tasted like gasoline. I started gagging and couldn’t breathe. Then he was inside me and I almost passed out. But I didn’t, because he finished and removed the rag.”

Marley’s heart wrenched. She wasn’t supposed to get emotionally involved, taught from day one of medical school to remain detached in order to maintain objectivity. But she couldn’t help it. Nor did she care. She wasn’t going to be one of those aloof doctors. She could be empathetic and still make accurate clinical decisions. No one needed to know her true feelings anyway.

Sara never reported the crime. At sixteen, Kyle was already a dangerous predator. He manipulated her into believing he’d kill her foster parents. She’d be taken away from the only home she’d ever known since she was six. And while her foster dad was in the hospital recovering, the boy viciously assaulted Sara every chance he got.

He might have killed her, too, if it wasn’t for a friendly neighbor who stopped by with pizza one night. The shocked woman stumbled upon Kyle raping Sara again, and just as Kyle had threatened, Sara was sent to live with another family.

Battered and traumatized, she’d spiraled into a deep depression. Marley couldn’t blame her. Everything about Sara’s story saddened and pissed Marley off. One unlucky break had set her on a new course. It happened all the time. It was only the telling of it by an actual victim that was difficult to digest, a first in Marley’s new career and certainly not the last. There were a lot of sick and cruel people in the world and she better get used to it. Psychiatry was her specialty.

Sara eventually dropped out of school and got a job. Now twenty-one, she was a stripper at the hottest club in Denver.

Four months ago she’d slit her wrists.

Marley had yet to discover what suddenly triggered Sara’s suicide attempt, but when Sara showed up for her thirteenth session, she was animated and smiling. Marley was thrilled, thinking they were making progress. It was then Sara brought up Cockaigne.

“I bought a condo!” she announced excitedly. “I close in two weeks. It’s brand new, a one bedroom, and it’s in a new development in Littleton near Belleview and Lowell. Surprised?”

Marley was indeed surprised and a little jealous. Sara was seven years younger, a dropout and stripper, yet she was already a step ahead of Marley.

“Congratulations.” Marley masked her frustration with a half-smile. It was the best she could do.

“You want to know how I can afford it, don’t you?”

Marley assumed the money came from stripping. Sara was gorgeous. She was built and sexy, her skin the most beautiful hazelnut color, her eyes an amazing golden brown. Of course men would love her. Marley envied that, too.

Sara eyed her expectantly, grinning like a Cheshire cat. Her eagerness was better than her usual stoicism and indifference, so Marley played along. “Yes, I’d love to know.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you, but…everything I say is confidential. Even this, right?”

Her question reminded Marley that Sara was a patient. She may be a homeowner and sinfully beautiful, but she still had a shitload of problems. Unresolved problems.

“Yes. Absolutely.”

Sara sat up straight and wriggled excitedly. “Okay, so about a month ago Gary calls me into his office.”

Gary owned the strip club. Sara had a love/hate relationship with him. He loved her. She loved and hated him. She was Gary’s best girl and he kept her on a tight leash, which she resented, but he’d also become sort of a father figure to her.

At least as much as a strip club owner could be. He encouraged her to get her GED and insisted she keep her appointments with Marley. He hand-picked which guys got a lap dance and which didn’t, and he never demanded free blow jobs or tried to fuck her.

“He hooked me up with this…party. I’m not sure what to call it. They call it Cockaigne.”

Kä-‘kān?

“Someone came to the club and offered Gary $10,000. Five for him and five for me if I’d go to a party at Cockaigne. Shit. Who does that?”

Marley shrugged. She didn’t know who, but she knew why. Somebody rich had a big hard on for Sara.

“Gary wouldn’t tell me who it was, only that the offer was legit and I could make some quick cash. Gary, too. The party was on a Saturday night and he said he’d give me the night off.”

“So you went,” Marley said impassively.

“Yeah, why not? Only here’s the thing. The guy left me a mask. A masquerade ball mask. It’s a black cat mask with crystal eyelashes and these elaborate metal ears decorated with gemstones. I thought the guy must have an ear fetish or something.”

Sara eyes gleamed eagerly. She removed the mask from inside her oversized purse and set it on the arm of the easy chair. Marley stared at it, her pulse quickening. She’d never seen Sara like this before, almost giddy, and Marley got a little excited, too. It had been a long time since she’d had sex.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Sara continued. “You know, like what to wear and whether this guy was going to send a limo. All I had was a business card with an address on it. Nobody called me about a limo, so I put on a black dress and drove myself.

“I thought Cockaigne was going to be a big mansion or a private club or something, but it’s just a house on a cul-de-sac. There weren’t any cars around and it didn’t look like anyone was home, so I thought about leaving. It had to be a joke, right? $5,000 for… I had no clue. Then a taxi pulled up and a hot girl got out wearing a red mask with feathers. She went into the house, I got curious, and I put on my mask and followed her.”

Her interest piqued, Marley prodded, “And?”

“And I rang the doorbell and this woman pulls me into the house. The entryway is small and dark, and the woman is wearing a gold mask with black feathers and this long, black hooded cloak, like the cloaks in the movie Eyes Wide Shut.”

Marley had never seen it. When she was growing up, her father couldn’t afford movie tickets or cable TV. She was always busy studying or reading anyway.

“She introduces herself as Marie Antoinette and eyes me up and down as if I’m there for an interview or an audition or something. It was crazy. I was so nervous I was shaking. I’d heard of Marie Antoinette before, but I couldn’t remember who she was. I looked her up after I got home. She was the Queen of France.”

“And beheaded,” Marley offered.

“Not really a person I’d choose for a fake name,” Sara chuckled. “She was also accused of being promiscuous, and considering what was going on…”

Sara grinned mischievously. She was obviously enjoying herself, and for a second Marley wondered if she was being toyed with.

“Then she asks me to show her the business card, the one Gary had given me. I left it in the car, so I had to go back and get it. I thought about leaving, because you gotta admit Eyes Wide Shut was a creepy movie. But I didn’t. I was curious and there was the five grand to think about.

“When I returned and showed her the card, a hidden door in the wall opened. Now I was really creeped out. It opened to a big dressing room. The side wall and roof were made of glass and I could see the house next door. Then Marie Antoinette orders me to strip. At first I was a little surprised, because if the neighbors were home, they could see me. Then I thought who cares? Shit, I’m a stripper. So I strip down to my undies. Headless Marie picks out a couple of cloaks from a clothes rack, and while I try them on, she orders me to take off my undies, too. And she keeps circling me, checking me out. I swear she licked her lips, as if she wanted to eat me. I think she did. Later…

The insinuation wasn’t lost on Marley. Despite Kyle repeatedly raping her or maybe because of it, Sara was hypersexual. Marley’s colleagues thought she should add sex addiction to Sara’s diagnosis, but Marley didn’t believe there was such a thing. Sex was natural. Some people enjoyed it more than others. If the need became destructive, it was stupid to blame it on sex. There was an underlying cause, similar to what Sara had gone through. She was probably seeking affirmation or maybe control. Marley hadn’t figured it out yet.

“The robe is black satin,” Sara continued. “Headless stores all my clothes except my shoes in a bin on the wall. There are probably a hundred bins on the wall. Half of them have stuff in them, so I’m thinking there are about fifty people at the party. Somewhere. All in crazy cloaks and totally naked underneath.”

Arousal tickled through Marley and she crossed her legs.

“I have to tell you, Dr. Williams, I was scared and excited. Then Headless fiddles with the mask and ties it tight. She tells me I should never remove it or reveal my real name while I’m there. Then she asks what they should call me.

“Even if I could’ve come up with a name, I wouldn’t have been able to say it. I couldn’t speak. ‘Let’s call you Coco’ she says, and another hidden door opens and I thought I would faint. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“The back of the house is a huge greenhouse, all glass like the dressing room. There are exotic trees and plants and flowers everywhere, a regular Garden of Eden, and there’s a chocolate fountain in the center of it. Seriously. Not one of those little ones you’d see in a restaurant, but a big fountain like you’d see in a park. And there’s real chocolate coming out it. People are dancing in it, and there’s one guy who’s covered in it and a couple of women are licking the chocolate off him while another one is giving him a blow job. He looked happy.” she giggled.

“The place is nothing like in Eyes Wide Shut. There was disco music playing in the background and everyone was loose and smiling and having fun. Then this guy comes up to me and Headless introduces him as Louie 14. I looked him up later, too. Louis XIV was the most powerful King of France, so there’s obviously this French theme going on. Marie Antoinette. Louis XIV.

“Anyway, he’s wearing a black leather devil mask and he bows and kisses my hand. Seriously. Then he shows me around. ‘Have you ever heard of Cockaigne’ he asks. Shit no, I say, and he laughs and explains it’s a mythical place where everyone gets whatever they want.

“No shit. Besides the chocolate fountain, there’s a bar and restaurant on one side of the room and people are hanging around in various stages of undress. Some are drinking and eating. Others are fucking on the bar and tables.

“Then a waitress approaches. She’s wearing a purple cloak but not a mask, which means she’s the help. She’s carrying a silver tray and there’s champagne on it and some blow and a dube and some pills. ‘We aim to please’ says 14, and he has this smirk on his lips, which is all I can see of his face because of the mask.

“The whole thing was overwhelming, the tray of party favors and people fucking all around me. It was hard to concentrate when three feet away there’s a guy sucking this chick’s tits and another guy is eating her pussy, and she’s moaning and whimpering like an excited dog.

“There’s also a dance floor and pool tables on the other side of the room. They’re separated by carnival mirrors, the kind that distort your reflection, and people are bumping and grinding and watching themselves. It was really crazy, and that’s not even half of it. 14 takes me outside next, and the backyard is the size of a football field! There are real water fountains and erotic statues. They’re scattered around this amazing garden with cobblestone walkways and these perfectly clipped hedges. There’s even a big maze and a pool. Shit, the pool. You wouldn’t believe it! It’s long and the far end of it is shaped like a mushroom cap. Maybe all the sex going on was getting to me, but I swear the pool is shaped like a cock and it points at a wooded area at the edge of the property, which I swear is landscaped to look like a pussy. Seriously.”

Sara paused to catch her breath. She eyed Marley expectantly again, waiting for a reaction, her pupils dilated with excitement. Marley was stunned, wondering if Sara was making it all up, the story fantastical. Yet she wanted to hear more, titillated, a familiar ache building between her legs. When Sara continued, Marley exhaled a soft, relieved breath.

“And guess what else?” Sara teased. “You know the other houses on the cul-de-sac, the ones next to Cockaigne? They’re part of it, too. The whole cul-de-sac is Cockaigne. Seriously.

“One–the red one–is set up exclusively for BDSMers, with bondage beds and benches and swings. All the furniture and equipment and paraphernalia you’d ever need for serious BDSM. From what I saw, there was some serious BDSM going on. There were at least ten people watching, too, or maybe they were there to learn. He called it the red house of pain.”

She paused again to giggle and then finished the story.

“The other house has a huge kitchen, and there are real chefs wearing chef hats instead of masks. They’re preparing all this amazing food, filet mignon, roasted duck, lobster thermidor, and some incredible desserts.

“And that’s it! That’s Cockaigne. Tour over and the fun begins. I dive in, so to speak. I think 14 is the guy who invited me and I give him one of my best blow jobs.”

So absorbed in the imagery, Marley forgot what she was doing. Her brows arched with undisguised interest.

Sara grinned conspiratorially. “I won’t bore you with all the details,” she smirked, “but then I partake in some hot sex with some seriously hot guys and a woman or two. Whatever I want. Then I break for a late dinner, which was delicious. Roasted duck with baby potatoes and French green beans. Plus this incredible apple tart. God, I’d go back just for the food.

“Then I hang around for a couple more hours until I’m exhausted. The only thing you can’t do at Cockaigne is spend the night. So I track down 14 and let him know I’m leaving. He grills me about my experience and I have nothing but good things to say. I mean, shit, it really is a place where everyone gets what they want.

“He’s happy I’m happy, and I thought I’d seen it all, but then he takes me to a hidden elevator, which goes down into an underground garage. It’s where all the cars are parked. Seriously. He tells me most guests arrive in limos or taxis, but if I drive there again, I need to park underground. The entrance is on the street behind the woods at the end of the property.

“Then he hands me a card key and $5,000. ‘We want you back, Coco’ he says, and he promises to give me another five grand for each visit. And he tells me to buy a different mask, one unique to me. The cat mask is only for first-timers.

“I’ve been back eleven times so far. It’s how I got the down payment for the condo, but I think I’d go back without the promise of money. There’s something about the place that’s... I don’t know… Do you want to see my ‘Coco’ mask?”

Without waiting for an answer, Sara removed a thin, rectangular box from her bag. A few of her personal items spilled out with it, a grocery receipt, lipstick tube and the like, and she hurriedly picked them up and tossed them back into the purse before opening the box.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she sighed.

Intricate and unique, the mask was decorated with gold leaf paint, ice crystal beads around the eyes and gold metal filigree butterfly pieces floating upward on one side. It looked custom-made and expensive. Marley wondered if Sara had become obsessed with Cockcane, but before she could delve further, the receptionist interrupted them. The hour was up. Marley’s next patient was waiting.

Sara quickly shoved the masks back into her bag. “You won’t tell anyone about Cockaigne, will you?” she asked nervously.

“No, Sara, you know everything we discuss here is confidential. Why do you–”

“Good, because it’s a secret. He’d kill me…”

And then she was gone.

Chapter Two

One interaction, a bizarre story, an hour in Marley’s life set her on a new path.

Sam Barnes was her last appointment of the day. She’d adjusted his medication two weeks before and he was there for a quick assessment. Nothing had changed with him. It would take six weeks to notice any difference anyway, so the session was simply about making sure he was better than before.

He was. Her mind drifted to Sara and chocolate fountains and black devil masks. Cockcane. It made Marley edgy. She didn’t know what to think. Was Sara making up stories, craving attention, or was Cockcane real?

Marley still hadn’t flushed out why Sara had tried to kill herself. She already suspected the woman was suffering from a borderline personality disorder. Unable to establish close relationships, afraid of being abandoned. Sara may have feared it so much she’d tried to commit suicide.

But why would she cook up Cockcane, even going so far as to buy masquerade masks to substantiate her story? Marley wondered if Sara was also histrionic, making up an exaggerated story to get attention. Yet she didn’t think Sara had ever lied to her. Sara had professed many times she was desperate for help. It didn’t make sense.

Then the stars aligned. A perfect storm. Mind muddled, body still humming with sexual tension, Marley discovered it, the business card from Sara’s anonymous benefactor. It was beneath the easy chair, the silvery edge gleaming in the sunlight streaming through the office window. It must have spilled from Sara’s purse when she was showing Marley the gold butterfly mask. Marley picked it up.

~~~~~~†~~~~~~

Marley fingered the raised lettering on the business card, half-listening to her colleagues. The weekly assessment fell on the same day as Sara’s eyebrow-raising revelation. Usually Marley enjoyed the five-hour marathon meeting, a time when the doctors at Fort Logan discussed their patients, diagnoses and treatments. But today, she was anxious to get it over with. The only thing on her mind was Cockcane.

Printed in elaborate French script above an address on the shiny business card, the actual spelling of Cockcane was Cockaigne. It was an unusual word, French-looking, and as soon as Marley could, she googled it.

She didn’t expect to find anything, yet a page of links immediately popped up. Her heart fluttered. Cockaigne existed. It had its own Wikipedia page.

According to medieval European lore, Cockaigne was a mythical land much like heaven, but it was an alternative to the Christian heaven, which was seen as boring and dreary.

In Cockaigne, rivers of wine flowed through the land. Houses and streets were made of sugar and pastries. Roast geese wandered about, begging to be eaten, and promiscuity was blatant, nearly everyone engaging in some form of lascivious activity. No one needed to work either. It was a place where everyone got whatever they wanted, a medieval peasant’s dream.

Was it Sara’s dream, too? An X-rated paradise replete with chocolate fountains, penis-shaped pools and gourmet cuisine?

As crazy as it sounded, Marley had to know. Something invisible and voyeuristic prowled the meninges of her brain. She skipped the after-meeting happy hour with her colleagues and raced across town during rush hour, and there it was. Cockaigne on the cul-de-sac, just as Sara had described it, at least on the outside. Three houses, one painted a bright red, located on a quiet cul-de-sac. But the fact that the address on the business card matched a nondescript house on a cul-de-sac didn’t prove anything. It was just a house.

Feeling foolish, she left. She was certain Cockaigne was a figment of Sara’s imagination, an elaborate story concocted for attention. Sara had become histrionic and Marley would treat her accordingly. Yet as Sara’s next therapy session drew closer, Marley couldn’t shake the feeling she was missing something.

She told herself she couldn’t begin treatment until she knew for sure, and she went back to the house. It was Saturday night and she determinedly knocked on the front door, expecting to be greeted by an ordinary housewife with five kids.

Instead, she was met with silence. No one opened the door. Frustrated, she waited in her car for an hour, expecting a taxi or limo to show up. Again, nothing.

Feeling utterly ridiculous, Marley vowed to forget about Cockaigne. She’d been obsessed about it for days, ever since Sara’s dramatic exit. But it wasn’t easy, a defiant, stubborn and inexplicable need lodged deep in her gut. It was still there at Sara’s next appointment.

“Any more visits to Cockaigne?” Marley asked casually.

She planned to start treating Sara for a histrionic personality disorder using a standard technique. Follow a line of questioning and reasoning to a logical conclusion. It would give Sara the opportunity to examine her story and discover any unrealistic expectations and fears associated with it.

“No, Gary wouldn’t give me time off and I’ve been busy shopping for new furniture for the condo,” Sara replied.

“I see. So Gary wouldn’t give you Saturday off? Is Saturday the only night the place is open?”

“No,” Sara laughed. “The house is open every night and Sunday mornings. How do you think I earned enough for the down payment in only a month?”

“Makes sense.” Marley kept her tone supportive and respectful. “And you don’t know who these people are? You never see their faces?”

“Never. You’re supposed to show up wearing your mask and never take it off. It’s the rules. I told you that.”

Marley couldn’t believe she’d been so stupid. Excitement and a whisper of foreboding bubbled through her. She knew what she had to do, and she spent the next few days tracking down an exact replica of Sara’s black cat mask, driving fifty miles to an obscure specialty store in Fort Collins to buy it.

~~~~~~†~~~~~~

“Wait for me.” She handed the taxi driver double the fare and boldly exited the car, the cat mask securely tied to her face, the silver business card in hand. She hoped she wasn’t wasting her money on folly. The patter of her cheap plastic sandals followed her to the door. She inhaled a deep, fortifying breath before knocking.

“Bonsoir, mademoiselle. Welcome to Cockaigne.” Marie Antoinette, or Headless as Sara had mockingly called her, grabbed Marley’s arm and pulled her into a dimly-lit foyer. “May I see the card, please?”

The deafening beat of Marley’s heart eclipsed the soft, seductive voice resonating next to her. Goose bumps crawled over her skin. Headless snatched the card from her fingertips and a hidden door popped opened. Time became elastic. Stretching and warping as she was dragged into the light and Headless circle her like a vulture, touching Marley’s hair and clasping the top button of her shirt, long, sharp fingernails skimming the flesh between her breasts.

“What…what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Marley stammered.

Below the gold mask with black feathers, lips painted dark plum curved into a patient, salacious smile. “I’m helping you undress,” Headless soothed.

Marley stilled. She’d doubted Sara’s sanity. She’d also harbored a twinge of hope the woman was telling the truth.

A place where everyone gets whatever they want.

An ancient heat smoldered through her. She’d never expected to end up in Headless’s seductive clutches, planning to verify Sara’s story and get the hell out of there. Yet there she was.

At a crossroads.

“Don’t be nervous, ma chérie,” Headless assured silkily. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want.”

Feeling backed into a corner, Marley went on the offensive like she always did. She shook off the woman and snapped, “I never do anything I don’t want.”

Which was total bullshit, everyone did crap they didn’t like. Except for Shane, her father. Marley had no idea why Shane suddenly popped into her head, except he was someone who would jump at the chance to fuck his brains out at Cockaigne and had nothing to lose. She did. Flushed and unsettled, her eyes darted around the room, scanning for the exit. An escape.

“It’s here.” Headless’s plum lips crooked into a smirk. The hidden door they’d come through slowly opened. “You can leave if you wish, but you can never return.”

An ultimatum.

Not only had Headless read her mind, she unleashed Marley’s ire. She hated ultimatums and sarcastically replied, “You’re obviously mistaking me for someone who gives a shit.”

Headless froze. An icy silence chilled the air. Marley couldn’t care less if she’d offended the woman. Once the smart-mouthed comment left her lips, she knew she’d made her decision.

Smiling, Marley softened her tone. “A little explanation would be nice, though. I know what the mythical Cockaigne is, but what’s going on here? Is it a sex club?”

“You don’t know?”

“Should I?”

Marley played dumb. Anonymity was the only way she’d ever cross the threshold into this new realm. Plus, she couldn’t afford to reveal she already knew about Cockaigne.

“You’re not a…a…?” Headless squirmed. Marley thought she was going to say stripper. A stripper like Sara. Instead, the woman eyed the silver card and declared, “Never mind. You’re welcome here.”

The business card was the key, the only credentials Marley needed. Hot excitement rushed through her and she forced herself to remain calm. “Thank you, but you haven’t answered my question.”

“Cockaigne is whatever you want it to be, ma chérie. If you’re inclined to have sex with the other members, it’s up to you.”

The answer was as good as any. An artful dodge by the formidable gatekeeper. Marley’s question was pure posturing anyway. She gave Headless a friendly nod.

The chill in the air immediately warmed. “You’re staying?”

Marley’s answer was to slowly take off her clothes, telling herself she’d take the tour and leave.

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want.

There was no harm in looking. Besides, maybe she’d learn something valuable she could use in her future practice, something to help her better understand human sexuality.

Images of chocolate-covered dicks and riding crops flashed through her mind as she nervously fumbled with the buttons on her shirt. She’d dressed simply, cotton blouse, jeans and sandals, planning to do the weekly grocery shopping for her and Shane after she’d proved Cockaigne was a hoax. Yet as if subconsciously drawn to the fire, hoping the mythical paradise really existed, she’d also showered and put on clean underwear before leaving the apartment.

Now her panties lay on the shiny hardwood floor along with the rest of her clothes. She was completely aware of her naked body in the bright light. Her spine tingled. Her nipples hardened. Her pussy throbbed.

“What should we call you?” Headless presented a cloak for Marley to try on. Unable to concentrate on anything but the anticipation, she watched Headless zip up the cloak and tighten the cat mask on her face. “Let’s call you Raven. You must never reveal your real name or remove your mask while you’re here. Understand?”

Marley nodded. Another hidden door magically swung open. Headless nudged her forward into a lush green wonderland. Marley had tried to imagine Cockaigne from Sara’s description, but there was nothing to compare it to.

Thick with exotic flora and stunted trees pinched against a glass ceiling, it was a jungle under a translucent dome. A steady disco beat pounded in the background, mixing with a cacophonous cadence of pleasurable growls and squeals. A distinct chocolaty aroma lingered in the muggy air. Wild, human creatures with alien faces, some wearing black capes and some wearing nothing at all, played under the canopy.

Mesmerized, Marley’s eyes landed on the bizarre centerpiece, a fountain gushing with rich creamy chocolate. In a strange way it complemented the landscape, similar to a mudslide or volcanic lava, except it was graced with nude people frolicking in it.

“Who’s the newbie?”

A smoky, masculine voice dragged Marley into its haze.

“This is Raven. Raven, meet Judas,” Headless introduced.

Judas smiled a sexy, disarming smile and offered an arm. “May I show you around?”

Tall, broad-shouldered and bald, his eyes twinkled emerald green through the slits in the mask, which was painted with black eyebrows point devilishly upward and topped with five, red-and-blue brocade points with tiny gold bells.

A joker’s mask.

The effect was wickedly merry. Temptation beckoned. Marley realized she’d been fooling herself, making an excuse to stick around as if witnessing Cockaigne firsthand was some kind of real-life tutorial. Because ever since she’d learned about it, she’d fantasized about a masked man’s hand on her flesh and a big, juicy cock inside her, desperate for one night of mindless, hedonistic, anonymous sex with no strings attached.

Like it had been with Ricky.

Ricardo Villanueva.

Her lover for years, her friend with benefits, no strings attached.

Ricky was cute, the ultimate bad boy. He was poor, like Marley, and they met during high school after they were paired as science partners in their senior year, his name Villanueva and hers Williams, their last names lining up alphabetically.

Even back then Marley didn’t have a life, always studying or working. Not Ricky. Unpredictable, elusive, challenging, he was always stirring things up. He had an entourage of hot female friends and he was fearless in his quest to fuck them. He’d wanted to fuck Marley, too.

“I gotta have you,” he’d teased.

“Your first time oughta be with a guy who knows what he’s doing,” he’d bragged.

“Loosen up, baby, you’re hot. Have some fun. You gotta try it,” he’d cajoled.

Marley had never considered she was hot until Ricky. Her hair was mass of long, unruly curls. Her lips were too big and her nose too small for her face. She was also skinny. Too skinny and not by choice.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Julia is the former director of a charitable foundation in Colorado. After a long career advocating for social causes, she joined the self-publishing revolution in 2013. She has traveled the world with her husband seeking an understanding of different cultures and gathering stories. She incorporates many of the places she’s visited and people she’s met along the way in her novels.

Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
I was researching something for another book and came across a mythical place called Cockaigne. It’s an “imaginary land of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts and pleasures are immediately at hand.” I couldn’t get it out of my mind and thought it would be fun to build a story around it.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I have all these stories and characters rumbling around in my head. Why not write them down and share them?
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I’m drawn to the romance genre because it’s thrilling. I get to spend a few hours living vicariously through the lives of interesting characters from all walks of life as they connect and fall in love. The sexier the story, the better for me. Plus, there are so many subgenres to choose from.

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