For years, one thing kept troubled young Christine Bexley on the right side of a life beyond salvation—the promise of a unique apprenticeship, as soon as she came of age, under childhood crush and world-renowned orchidologist, Richard Mitchell.
After three years of flirtation and shameless attempts to seduce her mentor, Christine now stands at the eve of her twenty-first birthday, a gifted orchidologist in her own right. But is she truly ready for the fabled Orchidarion? An exceptionally cruel test of skill and concentration, it can only be administered by those who have already mastered it. Success would place her among the absolute best in the world. But can Christine overcome this final obstacle to complete her ascendance, or has Richard’s opportunity just blossomed for a long and hard payback?
“Are you ready?” he asked with a disarming sincerity.
“Let’s find out,” I answered bravely enough, though I know he must have seen my knees wilt.
“Three rules.” His warm whisper tickled across my ear, even as the severity of his tone sent a chill rippling down the bare skin beneath my dress. “Misidentify two, and you fail. If you choose to quit, you fail. And if you fail to do precisely as you’re told, well…”
With the force of a threat left unfinished, the doors swung open. Only once inside could I embrace the true magnitude of the moment. Where my days in the nursery had been spent among relative commoners of the orchid kingdom, I now stood, half-naked, in the midst of botanical royalty—his prized private collection! As hard as it had become to concentrate with him standing behind me on an uneventful day, the difficulty now enhanced threefold through such an intimidating visual barrage and the wet, tropical air snaking up my bare legs.
We wandered without direction through the daunting collection until, seemingly at random, he would slice the riding crop through the heavy damp with a nerve-wracking crack, pointing out a new challenge at the end of its quivering tip. Despite the tension, the test began promisingly enough as I nailed the first four species without hesitation. But where I should have been encouraged by my strong start, I couldn’t help but wonder what lay ahead. Somehow, I knew he must have been building me up now just to watch me fall later.
The fifth specimen provided my first true dilemma. This time, the menacing black leather came to rest on a lower shelf before a small cluster of frilled flowers whose showy façades sat turned away out of sight.
“That’s not fair!” Almost angrily, I reached out to re-adjust the pot for a better view but the crop slapped my hand from the air with a resounding sting.
“I’m sorry, Honey Bee.” He comforted me with a smirk, softly kissing the welt of tortured flesh. “You observe only. If any flowers need be manipulated tonight, I will be the one to do so.”
My God, he was evil. And I was already dripping.
I did my best to balance on those impractical heels while he watched me bend and flex my body for a better view. The farther I leaned to get a glimpse from above, the larger the cascades of hair that fell from my shoulders and brushed dangerously close to the delicate petals. I froze in terror, unable to move for fear of my first violation, as the burn of his gaze seemed to linger forever.
“Here, let me help,” he finally offered, running his open palm up my spine to take the loose strands in his fingers and pulling back just firmly enough to clear my view and send my thoughts into a frenzy.
“It’s a Cattleya,” I said, as I put my trust in his hands and leaned in deeper. “Cattleya sch…”
Just then, the tickle of his crop brushed curiously up my inner thigh, changing every rule and shattering every boundary I had long since come to know. Through the straining rod, I could virtually feel his tension, pent up all those years, now licking freely along the flesh I had flaunted so cavalierly. I could barely think, let alone speak, as it rode slowly higher in my silence. Until that moment, I had been so bloody sure of my readiness to tackle this conquest. But suddenly, I could be sure of absolutely nothing.
While the sting of leather resonated, I gained my first glimpse into a dark game that I had certainly not prepared for. Suddenly, my mind reeled with conflicting sensations of hesitant exhilaration intertwined with genuine fear. The hand which once protected now unleashed a sadistic rush that would change my world forever.