Judith struggled desperately atop the bench to which they had bound her with Velcro-equipped webbing straps so strong they might as well have been iron. She tossed her head, hoping at least to dislodge the blindfold enough to see a face out of its corner, or even get a rough idea of how many of them were standing around her, looking at her nearly naked body. They had left her lingerie on, so far, but the skimpiness that had seemed so promising in the afternoon, so likely to turn on the guy in whose bungalow she had spent the beginning of this terrible night, now exposed her to their eyes and their hands so completely that Judith might as well be wearing nothing at all.
“We hear you did a bad thing, Judith,” said the leader’s deep voice, from her left side, maybe three feet away. “We’re happy to help teach you your lesson.”
“What?” Judith cried. “How… how do you know about that?”
In the background the roar of the waves seemed to promise that someone must come along the beach and see what was happening, but nothing that had occurred at the Hotel Excelsior so far made Judith think she could hope for safety, even here in the open air.
“Take the panties down,” the voice said.
Instantly, she felt big, masculine hands at her hips, the fingers inside the elastic waistband of the lace thong, tugging it down.
“Oh, no,” Judith whispered. No: they would see, with her knees parted over the bench.
Then she cried out, because a hand, whether one of those that had bared her pussy or a new one, took hold of her down there. Her face blazed, for she knew they wouldn’t only see—they would feel, too.
“Wet as the ocean,” the leader’s voice said, much closer, right where the man who had just give her the rough, lewd caress must be standing. “You’re the kind of girl who needs this sort of lesson most of all.”
“Nora,” Judith Grant said, using the exasperated tone she used with her best friend of six months when Nora decided to withhold vital information, “tell me where we’re going. You know I don’t like surprises.”
Nora rolled her brown eyes. “I know you do like surprises, when the surprise is something you like, and I really think this trip is going to fall into that category.”
Judith hovered in her mind between real frustration and feigned frustration. She wasn’t wrong: when Nora had surprised Judith with a trip to New York and a Broadway show after they had known each other for only two months, she had definitely liked it.
On the other hand, when Nora had told Judith to dress comfortably on a Saturday three weeks ago, and taken her for a long, beautiful hike along the Pacific coast, Judith had felt much less sure. She still could hardly believe she had made the kind of friend who would do that, but her introverted nature meant that staying at home and hanging out would always appeal more than venturing forth into the sunrise, however beautiful.
And the swing dancing, two weeks ago, had been nightmarish. Nora could tell Judith all she wanted that Judith would never find a boyfriend—something Judith fervently wished she had never confessed to wanting—if she didn’t go out to do stuff, even in the era of internet dating.
“You need stuff to say you like to do. You need to like to do stuff. You know what happens if you put on your profile that you like to stay in.”
“Yes,” Judith had replied in the car on the way to the unknown place that turned out to be a function room at the community center with a DJ playing Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington. “You find another introvert.”
Nora had laughed. “Fine, but even if we leave aside the very strong possibility of attracting fuck boys, I don’t think you want an introvert.”
Judith had succumbed to her friend’s logic—perhaps above all to the way she emphasized words like want. She definitely liked having an extrovert for a friend: a person who took charge and sprang surprises on a highly successful, socially awkward software engineer who knew she was geekily pretty but didn’t know what to do about it.
Now, in San Francisco International airport, riding the long moving walkway toward a flight that would presumably take them somewhere that answered to Nora’s definition of fun, she’d at least had her friend’s instruction to pack resort wear. Judith didn’t know how to feel about that: her last tropical vacation had occurred when she had been an even more awkward teenager in a navy blue one-piece bathing suit, trying to conceal her changing body under a beach towel. On the other hand, since meeting brown-haired Nora at a Mountain View coffee bar six months ago, she had felt herself starting to become the kind of girl who might actually enjoy being twenty-three, in a bikini on a beach. Guys didn’t have to find out in the first fifteen minutes or even the first three days of knowing you that you made more money than they did and had gone to a much better school, with a full ride. What was wrong with a fuck boy, really? It wasn’t like Judith needed more than semi-regular sex, to reassure herself that she could get it if she wanted it.
She grimaced at that train of thought: she didn’t enjoy lying to herself. Her heart had leapt at the words resort wear in Nora’s text. Resort: romance. Resort: love for ever and ever. A hot physicist with six-pack abs rising out of the ocean, not just to fuck but to love.
“This is the gate,” Nora said, right after they had stepped off the walkway. Judith frowned: it wasn’t like Nora to reveal a surprise so casually, especially after making such a show of concealing Judith’s boarding pass from her, only giving it to her for a moment in order to get through security and then grabbing it away before Judith had a chance to look.
“Atlanta?” Judith asked, feeling her heart sink. Then she remembered that the machine had printed two boarding passes for each of them. “Oh. Connecting flight.”
But when she lowered her eyes she saw that Nora had used Judith’s momentary confusion to bring out a piece of paper color-printed with a screenshot of dazzling white beaches and sultry nightspots sheltered by palm trees, which she held up to Judith’s eyes triumphantly.
Hotel Excelsior, Saint-Stephane, Judith read. Her heart rose. Five stars, the screenshot said, according to the internet. You couldn’t trust pictures, obviously, but if the beach were half as beautiful as what the photo depicted, Judith could happily spend hours reading there, fuck boys and physicists or not.
“Okay, fine,” she told Nora in mock exasperation.
Nora laughed. “Look it up on your phone while we wait to board. And don’t worry, I packed plenty of condoms.”
Judith felt her face go red. It wasn’t like she had any trouble admitting to finding sex a pleasurable, fundamental part of life. Still less did she find anything appealing in the New Modesty that the government seemed intent on signing everyone up for, young women in particular. There was a difference, though, in thinking and even talking privately about fuck boys and having your best friend announce in a loud voice at the airport that she had packed enough condoms for both of them to have lots of fucking in the Caribbean.
Nora gave her a sympathetic look that made Judith feel even more embarrassed, and led the way to a pair of seats near the gate.
“Just look at the place, and I bet you’ll be asking for a few rubbers before we even get there, just in case.”
Judith giggled, and tried to recover her composure with an airy response, “I have my own, thanks.”
“You mean the one in your purse?” Nora asked. “I checked. It’s seven months old.”
Yes, fine. I haven’t slept with anyone since… well, since I’ve known you.
She hadn’t really felt lonely? No, that wasn’t it. It was more like knowing Nora had opened an idea of herself that made the hook-ups she’d had, even with nice fellow nerds, seem not worth the effort. It was so easy in college, and so hard in the real world, if Silicon Valley could be called the real world.
Bold as brass, Nora removed not one, not two, but three condoms from her own purse.
“Put them away now so that no one sees,” the brown-haired girl said in a stage whisper that ended in a giggle.
Cheeks burning even hotter, Judith complied, shoving the prophylactics into her blue bag as unobtrusively as she could. Three? She hadn’t ever needed two. When guys had come twice, the second time had been with her hand, spurting on their own bellies. Judith kind of liked that, feeling like she had given them pleasure, but… well, she had never had one in her mouth, had she? She’d always chickened out of that.
She turned her thoughts away from both the good and the bad of sucking a penis, because the mystery of the bad—the missing thing she couldn’t name—yawned in front of her. Plus, having the memories of the few times she’d almost given head floating in front of her eyes just made the blush worse. She glanced furtively over at Nora, who had scrupulously started to check her text messages though Judith felt sure her friend must know exactly what the condoms had made her think about.
Judith took out her own phone, intending to look at the Hotel Excelsior site, but a work email distracted her. The stupid workaround she had come up with for the Confidelia protocol needed updating, yes, but did her boss really have to keep her in the loop when Judith was on vacation?
Judith, just a heads-up that your team isn’t clearing commits as quickly as I’d like. FC…
FC was what Judith had named the actually not stupid but truly fucking brilliant bypass of the Confidelia nano-sec handshake that had already made her own company, Relicorp, a billion dollars or so. Officially, it stood for ‘Free Connection,’ but to Judith it would always mean ‘Fuck Confidelia.’
…can’t be allowed to get out of date. I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but even though I don’t want to bother you on vacation…
…I need this to stay on your radar screen.
“Trouble in the office?” Nora said sympathetically, but with the slight edge of mockery she always used when making reference to coder woes. Four years older than Judith, Nora had more or less retired on a well-invested fortune made when the hardware company where she had served as an accountant went public. As far as Judith could tell, Nora spent most of her time riding her bike, when she wasn’t springing vacations on overworked friends.
Judith made a sour face. “Nothing new.”
“The hush-hush?” Nora asked, comically zipping her lip with thumb and forefinger after she had spoken.
Judith felt her face get hot again, to her annoyance, though for a completely different reason. She had told Nora after two glasses of wine that she had risen at Relicorp by designing something secret. FC wasn’t actually secret—Relicorp marketed it openly as a solution to Confidelia’s punishing monopoly on nano-security. The way Judith had designed it, and what she had done to solve the central design problem involved, had some details, though, that even Judith’s bosses didn’t know.
The worst part of knowing she had told Nora about the hidden elements of FC’s code was that Judith couldn’t remember how much she had revealed. Nora didn’t make reference to the hush-hush often, but every time she did, a thrill of fear and embarrassment went through Judith’s whole body.
“Eh,” she said, to cover it over, looking back down at her phone. “Pretty much.”
“Okay,” Nora said brightly. “Just remember you’re on vacation, honey. Look at the hotel!”
When they finally arrived, after one long, boring flight over middle America, heartland of the New Modesty, and another short, beautiful one over the brilliant blue of the Caribbean, and the hotel shuttle had deposited them at the entrance to the soaring open-air lobby, Judith connected to the hotel Wi-Fi, saw that her boss had not mailed again, and let herself look around in wonder.
The beach, with its blue-and-white-covered cabanas, couldn’t be more than a hundred yards away, past the horizon pool. Between them stood one of the hotel’s three bars—the one where Judith thought she would probably get most of the piña coladas she would drink down by the water. Hotel Excelsior, she had learned on their way, was the only hotel on Saint-Stephane, catering to the overflow guests of the wealthy financiers and industrialists whose vacation homes occupied the rest of the tiny island’s property.
Nora had assured her that she had gotten an amazing deal on the room through a friend of a friend, but Judith felt sure it must still have been outrageously expensive. She wanted to say, “You shouldn’t have,” but instead she simply said, “Thanks, Nora. Whether we need the… things in my purse… or not, this is still going to be a spectacular few days away.”
“So you like surprises, now?” Nora teased.
“When I like them,” Judith answered, smiling.
A quick look at their spectacular sea-view room, a quick change into the relatively sexy white one-piece (she didn’t feel bikini-ready yet), and Judith, feeling a bit naughty for not putting on the sunblock, could plunge into the perfectly cool, brilliant blue water on her own at Nora’s suggestion. She thought of her micro-fantasy of the physicist with the six-pack, and laughed as she splashed out from the beach, swam a few strokes of crawl, and turned around to look at the hotel front from the water.
The dark-haired guy sitting on the chaise, looking right at her, had a book in his lap. Judith couldn’t read the cover of the book, and she couldn’t see his abs because the book blocked her vision. So she couldn’t verify either the physicist part or the six-pack part, but his bare, tanned shoulders…
She sucked her lips between her teeth and looked down at the water. He couldn’t see her blushing at this distance, at least.
Sunblock. She had to think about that, right? This was just a quick dip to say hello to the sea, and Nora was waiting for her, putting away her own clothes. She needed to get back to the room.
Judith swam the distance back to the beach and tried to walk casually out of the waves, purposely refusing to think of Aphrodite and most of all refusing to look at the guy, whose longish wavy hair couldn’t really have been as perfect as it had looked at first sight. She grabbed her blue-striped beach towel from the chaise where she had tossed it, unfortunately only four chairs away, she saw now, from where the guy was sitting.
Her treasonous body forced her eyes to turn back to him, for an instant, to see if she could see what he was reading.
The book looked to be something about medieval history, and his gaze met hers an instant later, which made her eyes, already round from the discovery of his beach reading, go even wider in startlement before she could look away. Then, angry at herself, she looked back, to find his brown eyes still fixed on her face. Judith did her best to smile sheepishly.
His full eyebrows went up.
“You’re into the Wars of the Roses?” he asked with a smile of his own. She found his voice, deep and rich, very distracting. Everything she had meant to say about medieval history flew from her brain.
“Um,” Judith said. “Not so much?”
Fuck. You meant to say that you prefer the Norman Conquest.
“But…” She swallowed hard, and her brain betrayed her. “I, um, need to put on some sunblock.” Another synapse misfired. “But…”
He smiled with a self-confidence that made Judith feel like the sun had gone up a few gigawatts in energy.
“But you wouldn’t mind hearing about the Yorkists and the Lancastrians?” he asked. “I’ll probably have a drink at the beach bar in an hour or so, in case you decide you’re more of a historian than you thought. I’m Ned.”
“Judith,” she said. “I’ll… my friend and I will, I mean… we’ll see you there, maybe.”
The comm link came alive in Ned’s ear.
“Looks like you won’t have to do anything more right now. Nora can handle any jitters, and we can bring Tom in early if we have to.”
Ned felt the corner of his mouth quirk upward. Pretty Judith’s confusion could have told him things were going just fine—he didn’t need a voice in his ear to tell him that. He spent the next ten minutes reading about the Battle of Bosworth Field, then rose to take a shower and get dressed for the second meet with Judith. If the conversation did actually turn to the Wars of the Roses, Ned would need to have at least a thing or two new to say.
Edward Blackmun’s undergraduate degree had in fact been in medieval studies, and he could probably have talked for as long as Judith would listen about York and Lancaster. The girl, however, according to her file and from the few moments they had just spent together, had greater powers of observation than most, and a more piercing intelligence: everyone on the mission would have to do their homework almost literally. It lay well inside the realm of possibility that, if she became the slightest bit suspicious, Judith would find a way to check on the content of the medieval history book she had seen Ned reading.
That necessity would fade, to be sure, once Judith had come entirely into their power, and Ned’s seduction became the taking in hand of the girl first by one man and then by many. Here at the start, though, it would pay to exercise caution.
He found Tom and Nora in the beachfront bungalow he and Tom had occupied together for the past two days, preparing for Judith’s arrival. They had Tom’s laptop on the dining table with the camera feed from Judith and Nora’s room displayed. Judith stood before the mirror, in lacy white lingerie, looking at herself with what seemed a rather moody expression.
In the upper right of the image a large number five, with a question mark in front of it, displayed the assessment team’s best guess as to Judith’s current sexual arousal.
?5 became ?6 before Ned’s colleagues acknowledged his presence.
“Nice job, Ned,” Nora said, turning her pretty face back over her shoulder distractedly.
“Thanks,” he said, lifting his chin a little toward the screen. “She went with white? I thought you said in the file that she thinks of herself as experienced.”
?6 went back down to ?5.
Nora gave a little snort. “As you can see, she isn’t sure about it.”
In his ear, Heather, one of the two assessors lodged in a bungalow a little further down the beach, said, “I’m guessing it’s a fantasy brought on by the Wars of the Roses.” Ned could hear the smile in her voice. “Once you get the sensor between her legs we’ll have more to go on, but you could also, you know, just ask her.”
That made Ned smile as he thought about the possibilities. He might very well get the opportunity to ask Judith Grant why she had chosen to offer her young charms to him in white lace, rather than the black, red, or purple he knew she also had in her suitcase.
As the three agents of the Pretorian Guard watched, the lovely software engineer who had based her Free Connection code on a stolen build of Confidelia’s security protocol started to take her panties off.
Tom laughed. “What’s she doing?”
“My guess?” Heather replied over the comm link. “She’s going to change to red and see what she thinks. Not sure she’s going to…”
“Nope, she’s definitely not going to make it before she gets naughty,” Heather finished.
Ned chuckled, now, for as Judith bent over her suitcase on the luggage rack, the white lace thong in her left hand and her right rummaging in her rather extensive lingerie selection, her hips gave a little bounce, and then her pert bare bottom moved in a sweet, though quite lewd, way, the cheeks clenching almost as if Judith knew she would soon have her naughty backside soundly punished.
That cute butt is going to get everything it deserves, very soon, Judith Grant, Ned thought to himself.
“Tom, is the team in place in their bungalow?” he asked.
“Yup,” his leo replied. “Four nymphobi, ready to discipline and enjoy a naughty hacker.”
Judith dropped the white panties into the suitcase, and her left hand came up to give her breasts a little squeeze in the matching white lace bra. Her fingertips moved restlessly and shamelessly between the adorable B-cup swellings of her chest, pinching her nipples and making the girl’s breath catch in her throat.
Heart and respiration rates were something the right kind of cameras could easily measure, so at the bottom of the screen showing Judith’s self-pleasure, Ned could see that both had gone up remarkably.
The blonde girl’s right hand still sorted through the lingerie, while her left moved down from her breasts, across her flat tummy, down where she had so wantonly taken off her lacy panties just a few moments before. The right hand came out of the suitcase holding Judith’s red thong, its front panel even sheerer than the white’s; made almost entirely of mesh lace, it would show Ned the pout of the girl’s cunt as soon as he took down her shorts, despite the presence, currently, of the adorable golden pubic fleece through which she now ran her naughty fingers.
Ned would soon take those curls away from Judith’s young cunt—just as surely as he would remove her panties tonight and enjoy her there with the huge cock now swelling in his bathing trunks. If Judith decided to put on the red thong and wear it out to the bar to meet him, Ned knew just what he would say when he saw it for what the girl would think was the first time: Those panties are very naughty, Judith. Did you wear them for me?
Judith didn’t put the red thong on, though. She merely looked at it, in her right hand, while her left hand moved further down. Her brow creased, and she bit her lip. Over the excellent mic in the room, they head her emit a tiny, involuntary whimper as her wanton fingertips found her clit.
“I wish we had a humidistat there,” Heather said in Ned’s ear. “How wet she is right now would tell us a lot.”
“No harm in taking it slow, though,” Nora said, looking up into a corner of the bungalow as one tended to do when addressing a disembodied voice. “Ned will put the sensor between her thighs tonight when he fucks her. Let her have her fun right now.”
Ned’s dominant instincts took over then, though, and he exercised his prerogative as the mission’s senior operative. “Actually, Nora, I’d like you to go and walk in on her while she’s masturbating.”
Nora frowned a little at that. “The note I left said I’d be back in an hour.”
“Say you forgot something,” Heather put in over the comm link. “I agree with Ned. We want her needy and feeling ashamed of herself when she meets him.”
Nora nodded once, decisively, then looked at Tom. “See you in twenty minutes?”
Tom nodded back, with a mischievous smile on his face. “Wear something nice.”
She snorted. “I’m not the honeypot here.” Nora turned to Ned. “But I don’t intend to get shown up by the fuck boys, no matter how alpha they are.”
Ned growled, half-serious. “Careful, agna. There’s going to be plenty of time to whip your impudent backside, too.”
Agna Nora—that is, fourth degree initiate of the Order of Ostia or, in the terms of any other intelligence service, senior field operative—composed her face into an almost contrite mask.
“Sorry, perses,” she said, using Ned’s own rank in the Pretorian Guard, one above hers and corresponding to what would be a station chief in another organization. Ned had disciplined junior agents in the field before—quite severely, when necessary. Nora, though she had never worked with him before, certainly knew that.
Like every other Ostia agent, she got aroused by the thought of such punishments, of course—but she also knew that her superiors in the Guard had the skill necessary to ensure a whipping she got as discipline would be discipline. Ned needed Nora walking comfortably and sporting unbruised bottom-cheeks in her bikini, for the next few days. After that, though, they both knew that any infractions the agna had committed would be repaid over one of the discipline horses that constituted a feature of Hotel Excelsior’s luxury not advertised on their website. The mission plan called for Nora and Judith to undergo punishment together, in fact: it wouldn’t make any difference whether Nora got, at that point, the kind of whipping that was only for show or the kind of whipping an agna got when she had made a serious mistake, or behaved disrespectfully to her commanding perses.
Ned watched Nora cast her eyes back to the laptop’s screen, which now showed Judith standing in front of the mirror. The blonde girl had put the white thong and the red thong on the dresser in front of her, and she was looking alternately at them and at her own image as with her right middle finger she gave herself the solitary pleasure Ned would very soon tell her she would no longer be allowed. Judith’s face had become a mask of submissive feminine need, her brow furrowed and her cheeks red at the naughty sight of the wanton girl in the mirror, openly masturbating in her hotel room and, worse, watching herself do the filthy thing.
“If the New Modesty has done anything,” Tom commented with a chuckle, “it’s made girls like Judith ashamed to play with themselves even though they know they shouldn’t be.”
“And even though they would never set foot in an NM community,” Nora added.
“Despite all the Internet searches they do,” put in Heather over the comm link.
Just like an assessor, Ned thought, always going to her dataset. The Institute’s New Modesty program, now officially recommended for families by the federal government and the law of the land in neighboring Adanac, had in fact produced a great many benefits for the Pretorian Guard’s efforts to save civilization by manipulating the world’s energy markets. One of the most important, at the level of day-to-day Guard and Ostia operations, lay in mildly repressed, submissive girls like Judith Grant performing countless internet searches for information about the New Modesty, never quite acknowledging to themselves, let alone anyone else, that they had an embarrassing fascination with the program’s emphasis on traditional gender roles and old-fashioned discipline for naughty young women.
“You’d better get over there, Nora,” Ned said. “Heather, how long do you think Judith will be masturbating?”
“Given her observed patterns,” the assessor said in Ned’s ear, all business now, “no more than ten minutes.”
Nora nodded and left the bungalow with a final smile at Ned and Tom. On the laptop screen Judith was humping the wicked fingers of her right hand now, while her left hand played with her pretty breasts in their lacy cups, smoothing the lace over the pink nipples for the feel of the slightly scratchy texture on the sensate pink areola and the erect point of the girlish nub itself. Ned’s hardness grew in his bathing suit as he watched, hardly able to wait to take those creamy mounds in his own hands and teach Judith what a skilled, dominant lover could do with fingers and teeth to teach her about her submissive needs.
Tom clicked on that window to shrink it to half the screen and brought up the CCTV system of the Excelsior, so that they could follow Nora’s progress through the hallways toward the door of Room 22, specially set up by the Guard for the mission though already highly sophisticated in its surveillance capabilities—like every other room in the hotel.
The small corporation that owned one hundred percent of Saint-Stephane, after all, had dedicated itself even before its takeover by Selecta, the Guard’s visible corporate arm, to the realization of wealthy dominants’ desires for lovely young submissives. They had built their exclusive resort hotel from the ground up as a place where girls like Judith Grant, whether they had committed civilization-threatening corporate espionage or not, might receive every lewd consequence of their naughty actions.