A/N: I do not own Twilight.

Chapter 1 - Poetry

"Yes, I understand Mr. Spielberg is an important man, but you're not listening; his office called Ms. Brandon's office. As Ms. Brandon's personal assistant, I'm simply returning the call."

Bella Swan thought – not for the first time - that she'd never be comfortable here in Hollywood. She hated the hierarchies of contact, the posturing, the false claims of help; that was just the assistants! It got worse the higher up the chain you went: from the agents, to the casting directors, to the directors and all the way through to stars like her boss, Alice Brandon.

In all of her small, perky glory, Alice piped up from the desk facing Bella's in their shared office while the woman on the other end of the phone droned on. "Shelly Cope will tell me what's going on; see if you can talk to her." Bella nodded as she continued twisting her long brown hair around a pencil—her way of directing her anger anywhere but through the phone. She didn't want to let her irritation show, but if this lady wouldn't shut up about how she hadn't followed the proper procedure for contacting Mr. Spielberg…

"Okay, look, Michelle, was it? If this isn't the correct circle of hell, you just tell me which circle of hell I should be talking to so I can hash this out with them. Better yet, walk around your office until you find Shelly Cope and put her on the phone instead. I'll wait."

Alice's eyes bulged as she held in her laughter. She loved it when Bella stopped playing the Hollywood game and just cut to the chase. Little did Alice know what it cost Bella emotionally to have to fight for every minor thing. Bella reflected that there must be way to make things go more smoothly; she had seen other assistants have less trouble navigating these same pathways. Bella had managed her entire household from the age of 10 for her loveable yet flighty mother, but couldn't seem to get an appointment with a director who had already asked for a meeting!

"Shelly, hey, Bella Swan here. How's the most connected person in Hollywood? Great! Look, I'm returning Mr. Spielberg's call. Ms. Brandon is leaving town for vacation today and won't be available until the 23rd. Her office will be closed until then. Did you want to get something on the books now? She has a press junket immediately on her return, and she starts a new film the first of May." After a moment, she quickly typed into her calendaring program and replied, "Yeah, that works."

Bella paused, and then asked, "Do you know which project he was calling about so that Alice can be prepared going into the meeting? You've got nothing? Hush-hush, huh? You didn't listen at the door with a glass? " She faked a laugh at the response given. "I don't buy it, Shelly. You know everything. Nothing? Okay. Talk to you soon." Turning to the Alice, Bella raised her eyebrows and sighed. "Shelly says she doesn't know."

"What a crock!" Alice beamed at her. "And I don't want to hear you say ever again that you can't act! 'Michelle, if that's what your name is' - brilliant!" Grinning as Bella rolled her eyes, Alice continued. "Are you sure you don't wanna come with me?"

"God, no, Al. You've got six months of craziness following these two weeks—go be with your parents and have some family time."

Alice Brandon started out as a normal college roommate, and to Bella, coming from the relaxed sunny atmosphere of Phoenix, Arizona, with her nearly-hippie friend-instead-of-mother and then the relaxed, rainy atmosphere of Forks, Washington, with her no-nonsense, taciturn father, Alice seemed especially typical of high-energy L.A. She was pert, beautiful, skinny as a rail, had both parents wrapped around her finger, and had chased her dreams and caught them, playing bit parts in extremely low-budget indie films. Bella found her high-octane personality and lack of guilt-ridden responsibility to be overwhelming and entrancing, all at once.

During their first semester together, a small indie film Alice had made a year previously was released and received massive critical acclaim, which led to commercial success. As Alice's star rose, guys on campus started to notice, which led to Alice finding herself in less than comfortable situations. This caused Bella's 'momma bear' instincts to rise to the fore. Once, a male co-ed didn't take Alice's "no" for an answer and took less than five seconds to trap Alice against a campus building with no way to move, much less fight back. Bella, being the daughter of a cop, had police-grade pepper spray with her, and after she utilized it, Alice and Bella's fledgling friendship solidified into something more firm.

That was the day Bella started doing for Alice what she'd done for her parents since they had divorced, putting the needs of others above her desires. For her mother, she'd been the adult, doing everything except earning the money that kept them housed, fed, and clothed. For her father, she'd been the housekeeper and cook. For Alice, she didn't have to do those things because Alice had an accountant and a cleaning service, and she barely ate. But Bella kept her calendar, made sure Alice was where she was supposed to be when she was supposed to be there, and in general made Alice's life smoother. It was an old, familiar pattern, and Bella recognized pretty quickly that she'd fallen into her usual rut when she started running interference for Alice. She just didn't seem to be able to stop as Alice's career skyrocketed. Alice kept asking for Bella's help, and Bella never felt comfortable saying no to her. In reality, Bella was a bit afraid that if she ever said no, she'd lose Alice's friendship.

So that was how Bella became the personal assistant and gatekeeper for Alice Brandon, the new inheritor of the 'America's Sweetheart' crown. Alice was such a large star now that the Alice Brandon Nebula was located somewhere in the pantheon of stars just beneath the Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan Galaxies and somewhere in the vicinity of the Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon Supernovas.

"Wonder if Sal would know what new project Dreamworks has in the pipeline?"

"Al, you're leaving just as soon as the car gets here or you'll be late for your plane – no excuses. Let it go." Answering her ringing cell phone, Bella continued. "Alice Brandon's office. Lauren, hi!"

Alice blanched at the name of the publicist for her latest movie. Bella held out her hand to Alice, calming her non-verbally. "You want to add another few press dates on to the beginning of the tour? Look, Lauren, I'm afraid Ms. Brandon is not taking any appointments of any kind for the next two weeks. She's already cleared it with the studio." Bella crossed her eyes as she waited for the whining to finish. "Yes, I know you're doing your job, but that doesn't change the answer. She's going on vacation so she can recharge and be ready for the amazing junket you have scheduled. She wants to be camera-ready. That takes time."

Hearing a click on the other end of the line, Bella muttered, "No need to be bitchy," then turned off her phone and threw it into her small suitcase-sized purse next to her. It carried two iPhones; one for people to reach Alice, and another one for Alice to reach her. That phone was filled to capacity with Alice's calendar and favorite music and measurements and clothing inventory and clips of Alice's best performances and her CV and her favorite timewasters. Bella's purse always included two bottles of water, nasty meal replacement powder packets, ridiculous weight control bars, an Hermes scarf in case Alice dropped food on her clothes or she needed the perfect accessory, a small sewing kit in case of emergencies, an extra set of set of ballet flats just in case something were to happen to Alice's shoes, lip gloss in three of Alice's favorite shades, blotting paper, an aerosol mister for Alice's skin, sunscreen, a wallet with money for unexpected tips and copies of Alice's credit cards and ID, copies of all of Alice's keys (for her homes, cars, and storage units), and everything else she needed to do her job as Personal Assistant to her best friend, movie star Alice Brandon. Bella's purse weighed more than Alice did, and Bella saw it more than she saw Alice these days.

"Lauren may give you some grief the next time you see her."

"Let her. She's planned 10 cities in 14 days, including Sydney. I'll be lucky not to look like death warmed over by the time we're done with all that."

At the sound of Alice's gate buzzing, Bella perked up. Grabbing the Alice-centric phone out of her purse and shoving it into Alice's hands, Bella scooted Alice downstairs as she saw her off. "Okay, that's it then, Alice. You're officially on vacation. Get out of here and I'll see you in two weeks."

"God, Bell, what would I do without you?"

"Cry. Lots and lots of tears."

Alice raised her eyebrows. "You know that's not true. They cause wrinkles."

Laughing, Bella pushed her out the door. "See you in two weeks."

As soon as the car door had closed on Alice's waving arm, Bella allowed herself to collapse on the foyer stairs. She'd barely made it through the draconian season of awards hell—five awards shows from mid-January through late February, starting with Golden Globes and ending with Oscars—on top of the seasonal holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, and now she desperately needed to wind down. That much interaction with the media and agents and directors caused her too much stress; they did not react to her the way they reacted to Alice. Unlike Alice's sunny smile that melted the hardest hearts, Bella had to be hard and cold to get something—anything—done. She felt like she was aging before her time.

Bella and Alice had achieved a close friendship forged from shared captivity, but Bella often wished they'd had more time in college to just be friends. They'd both been ripped from the 'try anything' and 'discover yourself' mode of college and thrust into the 'trust no one' world of moviemaking, which was powered by extreme wealth, tabloid journalism, and paparazzi. It was fine for Alice, as she was getting what she wanted out of her fame, but Bella was just… not. She felt no sense of accomplishment, had no clear-cut career path, and certainly had no prospects for male companionship on the horizon. It was difficult to get a man to notice her when all the beautiful people in Hollywood surrounded her. After all, what man goes for the assistant when the movie star seemed just as accessible? That was why Bella needed time to contemplate leaving her job with Alice – Hollywood was Alice's dream, not hers. The problem was, she wasn't sure what her dream was. She'd spent so much time taking care of others that she'd never had the time to dream for herself and decide what was uniquely 'her'.

That was why, after the Oscars were over, when Alice handed Bella her presenter's swag bag and said, "Take anything you want out of here and USE IT," Bella immediately snapped up the three-day certificate to Peaceful Canyon Retreat and Spa. It was conveniently located three hours northeast from Burbank/LA by car, but was only a quick thirty-minute helicopter ride back, in case the famous needed to return to being famous quickly. Just last week, the spa had arranged to send a nurse practitioner to Alice's guesthouse for a medical history and blood workup so they could tailor treatments to Bella's body chemistry. Man, only in LA, Bella had laughed at the time. Now she simply hoped the resort knew what it was doing; she needed someplace peaceful more than she ever had before.

Bella forced her mind to quiet down as she reached the sign for the resort. You deserve this break, Swan. Give yourself these three days to recharge. Let all the crap go. She parked to the side of the building, pulling a small purse and suitcase from the back seat of the car and heading inside to the check-in desk. As she entered the resort, the sound of waterfalls and the feel of gentle breezes began the process she hoped would continue for the three days she'd allowed herself to relax. Shuffling up to the desk, Bella was greeted by a sun-kissed blonde woman. Bella felt self-conscious about her own lack of sun as she took the woman in.

"Welcome to Peaceful Canyon Retreat and Spa. I'm Jessica. How can I help you?"

Smiling, she gave her name. "Bella Swan checking in."

"Certainly, Miss Swan. One moment please." Bella watched as the woman efficiently typed in her name, and then she tilted her head as the woman's faced blanched. "Is there a problem with the reservation? It may be listed under Isabella Swan."

The woman dragged her eyes from the screen and looked at Bella with a sense of… panic? "Our apologies, Miss Swan, we didn't have your arrival time on file or you would have been met at the door," Jessica quickly spoke. "Peaceful Canyon offers its sincerest apologies, Miss Swan. If you'll follow me, please."

Bella nodded and followed the woman down a long hall and through a doorway that led outside. Bella stumbled to a halt when she saw a helicopter in front of her, blades whirling. When Jessica passed off Bella's luggage, she realized her client was no longer beside her.

Walking back to Bella, the receptionist spoke loudly in order to be heard over the helicopter's wash. "Your VIP reservation is for our sister property; it's not far."

Nodding, Bella moved toward the helicopter, wondering how any place could be more relaxing than this resort but willing to do the due diligence to find out. After being belted in, Bella took in the beauty of the surrounding mountains and forests, amazed at the beauty that lay just outside the cesspool that was L.A. After being in the helicopter for 30 minutes and watching the sun fade into the horizon, she began to wonder just where the hell she was going. She asked the pilot.

"Hay-don-ay Ranch. Another half hour or so."

Bella smiled at the man with few words and waited to arrive.

How did these people expect her to sit in a room full of books and wait patiently? Bella decided there was no way they could expect that of her, and so she decided to check out the shelves. She ambled from shelf to shelf, touching some of her trusted friends on one wall, having her curiosity sparked by other walls. The subjects ran from non-fiction biographies to books on Zen, feminism, and several books on the Oneida Colony, which Bella had never heard of before.

Stepping behind a desk, Bella scanned the shelf of books and art that the owner of the room kept closest to them. She blushed heavily when she saw a copy of the Kama Sutra in the center of the shelf. It'd been too long since she'd done anything remotely connected to anything in that book. Turning to a framed quote, Bella read, "[She] had strong sexual desires and… it was degrading and immoral to pretend otherwise. – Mary Wollstonecraft." Trying to find something not sexually charged, Bella turned to a nearby ceramic plaque, and prayed she wouldn't upset the owner as she ran her hands over a Chinese character with the word "Harmony" written underneath. Next to it was a beautiful, red leather-bound book with gold-inlaid Asian writing on what would normally be considered the back. Bella could hardly help but lift it from its place on the shelf and run her fingers over the pictograms, trying to decipher what they were originally meant to depict.

"It's a beautiful book, isn't it?" a masculine voice spoke from the doorway. Bella turned guiltily toward the sound.

Her mind gave a "holy crow!" as she took in the handsome man standing in the doorway. He had ice-blond hair and deep blue eyes with beautiful laugh lines. Now she knew she was outside of LA; if she were there, he'd have had some work done to remove those wrinkles. His lips were generous, and he licked them, making her want to help him the next time. She took in his broad shoulders under a deep blue dress shirt and his slim waist behind grey dress pants, and then she snapped her eyes back to his. The picture he gave was of a confident, successful man. She felt a twinge of lust, but tamped it down immediately. He wouldn't be interested in a plain worker bee like her. Shit, I took too long to check him out, didn't I?

"It's exquisite." She didn't have to tell him she meant him and not the book. It would be her little secret.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Bella. I'm Carlisle. I own and manage Hedone Ranch."

Shivering mentally from hearing her name fall from his lips, Bella shook his well-manicured hand. "Pleased to meet you."

"Well, Bella," Carlisle's dark chocolate voice intoned as he sauntered to the side of his desk and leaned a hip on it. "You've caused quite a bit of confusion around here."

Damn, Bella thought. He just radiates masculinity. Leaning against the opposite side of the desk, she hung her head. "Nothing new, then. What's happened this time?"

"Your name is flagged in our system as a VIP. You may not be aware, but Ms. Brandon has been to our facility, and she used your name for privacy reasons."

Realizing her holiday was probably over, Bella sighed. "I asked her not to do that anymore. Sorry to cause so much extra work…"

"Oh, it's no extra work at all. Alice has been a guest here several times. The first time was probably before you asked her to stop using your name. I contacted her to see how she wanted to handle things. She asked me to treat you as I would her. She also said to tell you to enjoy your week."

Bella startled. "The gift certificate was only for three days… and it was for Peaceful Canyon. I should head back there. Where am I, anyway?"

"You're in Nevada, and you're quite welcome to stay here. There are only two other guests here. We pay detailed attention to the special needs of our guests and the desire each of them has for total secrecy while they are here. Plus, it would be difficult to leave since you don't have a car here."

"Just what 'special needs' do you cater to?"

"You caught that, did you? Well, because you didn't fill out our usual questionnaire, I don't know quite how to answer you. You're a bit of an enigma to me."

Bella bristled as a corner of his mouth turned up. "I'm pretty much an open book. Not much surprise here."

"I would beg to differ," Carlisle countered. "Every woman is an enigma." Bella heard the word 'beg' and lost her focus as she envisioned this man on his knees. "How do I explain Hedone Ranch to you?"

"Surely you've described your services before. Just give me the basics."

"Well, that's the problem. This isn't a basic sort of place. That's why it's so difficult to explain." His eyes widened, and Bella felt herself get a bit lost in them. "I wonder if you would identify with a discussion of energy fields and chakras?"

Bella's eyes turned to him and raised her eyebrows in disbelief. "That approach would be better saved for my mom. She's the New Age aficionado."

Smiling, he continued. "Yes, you seem a bit too practical for that kind of explanation. I could discuss our advocacy of the sacred feminine..." At Bella's nearly-impolite snort, he continued. "No? Not interested in religious symbolism, then?"

"Not really," Bella countered. "Try again."

"How about a straightforward approach?" Carlisle offered.

"I would prefer that, yes."

Bella watched as Carlisle pushed away from the desk and moved toward her, changing from a mild-mannered gentleman welcoming people to the ranch into a stalking, loose-hipped sexual predator, gunning straight for her. Her breath caught, and her focus narrowed from his movement to his eyes, trying to see if she could tell when he would pounce. Bella flinched as he took the book from her hands, and then relaxed as he turned his eyes to the book, flipping through it as he continued.

"This, my dear Bella, is a place to explore your sexuality. It is a sex-positive place; the attitude here is that all consensual sexual activities are fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, and we encourage sexual pleasure and experimentation by and between adults."

As Carlisle's eyes crashed back into hers, Bella could feel her breathing become shallow.

"There are some philosophical points of reference that you seem unconcerned with, so I won't bore you with our dedication to the sacred feminine, and the desire of the men who reside here to commune with it."

His dropping the open book to the desk caused Bella's heart rate to jump and her breathing to increase. His open hand rested on one half of the book, holding it open to a specific page. Looking into his eyes, she saw the fire and lust that had been barely visible before now burning brightly in his eyes, and she wanted to feel the heat he was radiating scorch her skin.

"Basically, to the outside world, this would be called a brothel; men available in utmost secrecy and with the assurance that they are absolutely disease free, purely for the sexual gratification of our guests."

Bella gasped.

After being stunned into silence for what seemed like hours, she recovered her wits enough to exclaim, "You're telling me Alice knows this… this… debauchery goes on here?"

As he moved closer to her, Carlisle dragged the book along the desk, the sound sending shivers through Bella's already overwhelmed nervous system. She wondered just how hot his eyes were going to get; they seemed to burn brighter each time she looked at them. "Bella, dear, debauchery was originally defined simply as 'indulgence in sensual pleasures.' And yes, Alice knows this goes on here."

Carlisle gave a small chuckle, and Bella thought it must be at the stunned expression she was sure to be displaying. "I'm sure you know that utmost secrecy is so important in her line of work. Visiting Hedone Ranch allows her a tabloid-clean love life for her Hollywood career and a sexually satisfying private life away from public judgment."

Bella's brain began to spin. That was how her friend never got caught in some horrific tabloid scandal? She'd always thought it had to do with airtight non-disclosure agreements shoved under the noses of every man who ever asked her on a date. She couldn't believe Alice had managed to keep this place a secret from her.

"You know, Alice isn't the only famous name that comes here, and none of them are listed by their real names in case billing records are compromised."

Bella crossed over to her purse and retrieved her phone. She quickly tapped out a message to Alice. WTF is this place? How long have you kept this from me? Stay a week? Are you serious?

She turned her attention back to Carlisle. "Why wouldn't Alice have told me of this place? Is it some sort of STI breeding ground? Oh God, did Alice catch a sexually transmitted disease from a male prostitute?"

Carlisle's eyes went from predatory to irritated in seconds. "Of course not. You allowed blood work to be taken for the Peaceful Canyon tailored diet and treatments. Since your name was flagged for Hedone Ranch, they also ran checks for STIs. Every worker at the ranch is checked monthly for STIs as well. It's more than the state of Nevada requires for brothels, in fact. We don't advertise as one simply because the state requires sex workers to submit a pap smear every six months; that would be complicated for us, to say the least."

Bella looked down as her phone chimed an incoming text message. Find out WTF. That's the idea. Don't worry about every little thing. Oh, and HAVE FUN! Bella dropped the phone into her purse with a heavy sigh.

The irritation faded from Carlisle's eyes. "Did Alice reassure you about the ranch?"

"Not the way I wanted her to."

Carlisle nodded. "Let me see if I can do a better job. Hedone Ranch is for fear- and worry-free hedonism. In its original definition, hedonism was defined as the quest for pleasure that would only have good consequences. Would you like a demonstration of what I mean by 'good consequences'?"

Bella stood frozen. Did this sex god just offer to demonstrate his sex skills to me? And if he did, am I going to LET him?

Although she didn't remember doing so, Bella must have nodded, because Carlisle picked up the red leather book from the desk and returned it to her hands, opened to pages that held short lines like a poem, but that she couldn't decipher, much like Carlisle. As his hands caressed the pages, Bella dragged her eyes down to them, noting the hair on his arms and wanting to feel it against her skin.

"This is a poem by Ikkyu Sojun, a 15th century Zen priest. He believed sex deepened the experience of enlightenment; that we're all of sex, and we should embrace it, not avoid it." Carlisle moved to stand behind her right shoulder, gently brushing her hair behind her ear as he moved even closer. "Let me translate it for you."

Placing his left hand on her hip, Carlisle ran the fingers of his right hand over the characters on the page, stroking them lovingly as he began to whisper the poem into her ear.

"Return to the origin

Enter naked

One sperm
One egg

One spirit
One sex"

Dazedly watching Carlisle's hand leave the book, then feeling both his hands running from her thighs up the outside of her dress, Bella's breath hitched.

"Revel in your body
Feel your surface"

I should stop him, she thought as she stared at the Asian characters on the page before her. But I don't want to stop him. She felt his hard body brush against her back as his hands brushed the side of her breasts. His hot breath scorched the back of her neck.

"Touch each other freely
Live your love
Follow your lust to the source"

He pressed against her firmly, his hand making a smooth and certain path down her chest and ending up between her legs. He caressed her there as he moved his mouth back to her ear to continue his whispered recitation. Bella closed her eyes and felt she really should stop this. She decided she would just as soon as his hands stopped transferring his heat to her, melting her from the inside out.

"Use your imagination
Wear what your lover likes
Play your favorite song
Go where the mood takes you
Show the mood in your eyes"

Carlisle removed the book from Bella's hands, placed it on the desk, and turned her to him. She kept her eyes closed, knowing that if she looked at him, she'd be immolated. He moved close enough to press one of his thighs tightly between hers, ran his fingers into her hair, and pulled gently to get her to open her eyes. When she did, she was paralyzed by the raw carnality in his. I've never had a man look at me this way before. There is no way in hell I'm going to stop him. Her hands grasped his waist as she gave herself over to the experience. Rubbing the soft material of the expensive shirt, her hands took in the solidly muscled body beneath her fingers.

"Open the door
To your bedroom
To what lies beyond"

Bella felt warmth around her wrists, changing their position. After resisting a moment before realizing it was Carlisle's hands, she relaxed into the motion. He slowly moved her hands to his back from his waist, down to his muscled ass, then down to the top of his thighs as he moved both feet inside of hers and rocked his hard length into her. Bella's mouth went dry. He'd just made her feel him up. She wanted to do it again. Immediately.

"Invite your lover in
Let yourself be taken"

Oh shit, Bella thought as he began to thrust against her. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Carlisle's hands tangled once again into her long hair, his thumbs stroking her neck and collarbones and into the hollow at the base of her throat. He bent down, whispering the next few lines into her neck.

"Relax in the tension
Put technique aside
Do not rush
Do not be afraid
Let love come"

Carlisle's hands moved slowly from her neck downward, and she could hear his labored breathing as he dragged the backs of his fingers over her rock-hard nipples. She grabbed for one of his arms, half-heartedly trying to stop him. The hair on Carlisle's arms distracted her and caused her to realize her previous sexual experience had been with college boys. She was here with Carlisle, and he definitely was a capital-M Man. He began rotating his hips, causing her breathing to come in harsh gasps.

"Be as a perfect mirror
Reflecting the light from within
Under the moon
Under the sun
Make the first move

Gaze into your lover's eyes
See yourself
A cloud
Filled with rain"

His mouth moved to her jaw, his breath hot on her flesh; she felt the heat coming from inside and out. She clenched his arms and could feel every movement of his hands, one pulling her hair lightly and the other on her breast, his thumb rubbing tight circles on her hardened nipple. She moaned in pleasure, causing Carlisle to quicken his movements. Bella knew she was burning, she just hoped she would survive the coming conflagration. His voice rasped out the next lines.

"Make love
One time, one meeting"

Bella rocked in time with Carlisle. His eyes scorched her as the intensity of his thrusts increased, and yet stayed in time with his recitation.

"Do it again
And again
And again"

Bella ignited, quietly but powerfully. Carlisle wrapped her in his arms as she burned, picking her up and moving her to the nearby couch as he whispered the last lines in her ear.

"Fall together in blissful sleep
Dream the dream of the dreamer dreaming

Today is your birth day


As Bella's awareness returned to her, she was sprawled across Carlisle's body, sensing him gently massaging her scalp, her back, her sides. She felt drugged and hypersensitive at the same time. She realized she was still fully clothed and Carlisle had never even kissed her, and yet she'd just experienced the most powerful sexual encounter she'd ever had. So that was the difference between boys and men, then. I think I'd like to stick with men in the future.

She moaned in embarrassment and tried to push off of his body. Carlisle held her fast and asked, "Would you like to stay with us for the week?"

Her mind boggled at the possibilities. She was surprised to find herself actually considering staying. "How many men are here?"

"There are ten currently medically approved for guest interaction."

"How does this work? Do I just place an order?"

He chuckled softly. "Well, you could do that, or I could help you plan a course of exploration. I usually recommend that to all our new guests. It ensures you get the most out of your time here."

She drew her eyebrows together. "I don't want to be pushed into anything..."

"Nothing happens here without your approval, Bella. I would base each new experience off of your comments regarding the previous experience. That way your encounters become progressively more adventurous. You only have to go as far as you wish. The attendants understand that we encourage sexual pleasure and experimentation by and between adults. Nothing is forced… unless you like that sort of thing."

She rested against him, thinking. She wanted to stay. She could think of this as a concentrated post-college experience, with men who knew what they were doing, not fumbling boys. She had missed out on most of the experimentation of college, and now she was at an age where men would expect her to have experience sexually, yet she had no other convenient avenue to discover the knowledge she needed. She wondered if she could find some of her feminine power and begin to use it, like Alice did, like lots of women do.

One thing she knew for sure. If this experience was any indication, it would be great stress relief.

She wanted to do it, purely because she wanted to, not because she felt guilted or badgered into doing it to keep someone's affection. Although it felt self-centered, she imagined it would be liberating. She made her decision.

"I think I'd like to stay."