Somewhere between slumber and sleep Johanna found herself struggling to adjust to her new surroundings. The mattress was soft and thick, but she was used to the small confinements of a folding cot. She had spent the better part of fifteen years in one and having this much room all at once was difficult to adjust to. Without the illumination of the security lights left on to protect and guard their campsite, Johanna had no idea which way she was facing. It wasn’t until she felt herself falling off the side of the bed that she realized she had misjudged her position.
Cursing verbally, she pulled herself up to a sitting position on the carpet and slapped her hands on the floor. This living in a palace was never going to become natural to her. She was a child of the wild, as her grandfather called her, and she preferred the great outdoors to four walls - regardless of how far apart they were spaced or elegantly decorated.
Standing, Johanna pulled the covers back on the bed and climbed beneath them again. She was tired, more so than she had ever been before, yet she couldn’t calm her thoughts long enough to relax. After eating supper in the complete solitude of the formal dining room, she moved on to the investigation of the palace. She found an office on the second floor that she chose for her own and proceeded to get it ready to be used. With the help of Mary, she ordered two new computers, a printer, a shredder, a number of pens, paper, and file folders, then began cleaning out the massive oak desk.
Much to Johanna’s surprise, this room seemed to have been a favorite of Reginald’s. The drawers were filled with notes of polo matches, phone numbers, dates and events, as well as what appeared to be accounting figures scrawled in pen and tossed carelessly aside. There were a number of pictures of horses with their statistics on the back, and photos of him from the newspapers. Three ledgers lay in the middle drawer. Each one a different color and each appeared to be a duplicate to the next, with the exception of a few missing or corrected entries. Johanna made a mental note to investigate these at a later time, before she moved on to the filing cabinet.
Reginald seemed to have had a distinct disliking for computers, since everything was in paper form. He had a dossier on each employee of the palace, along with a photo. He had seven files in red folders at the front of the stack, each one of a young maid, and each with a nude photo of them instead of the headshot the others had. The files were unlike the rest of the staff’s, with personal information highlighted and inventory numbers recorded in the margins. There were notes of styles and toys listed, along with days and times, each one different from the first. He had paid particular attention to these seven, detailing specifically and rather vulgarly, what he preferred with each one. With a disgusted grunt, she placed these files in the back of the others and continued her investigation.
There were files on each of the Elders as well as the many Regional Leaders. He had collected and kept letters from her and Alissa, along with photographs they sent him. On the shelf behind his desk were framed photos of her through various stages of her life. If she had to guess, she would say he was proud of her, though after reading his red files, she doubted that was the case.
The bottom drawer held a notebook with the initials E/J inscribed on the front, but it was sealed with a tiny lock without a key. There was a ledger with treasury notes and passwords, this one though, seemed to have a computer file attached to it. There were dates and percentages listed in the ledger’s sidebar. Deciphering this would be her first task.
Among the rest of the files was a specific section for the Bordellos of Westerly. Each one had a list of the women who worked there, including their physical characteristics, and their normal work schedule. The personal phone numbers of several of the girls had been circled and Johanna could only assume that they were there for his needs.
She found a single piece of paper of security codes tucked at the back of his bottom desk drawer, along with a small metal key on a red satin ribbon. There was no mention of what the key was for, or were the codes were to be used, and this made Johanna feel more anxious than she had earlier that day. It was like finding Pandora’s Box and not knowing what it was.
King Edward’s personal diaries of his twenty years of researching for the perfect sexual encounter, were hidden in the back of the top drawer and Johanna couldn’t help but wonder why. She removed them carefully and flipped through the pages. There was a small journal that described the details that were to become routine in every encounter at the Bordellos, along with drawings of sexual encounters and positions. Of all the journals and diaries, she had read over the years, these were the least important to her, yet they were likely the most important of all of them. They were the ones that turned Westerly from an island filled with debauchery and crime, to the peaceful country controlled by sex.
Johanna pushed the blankets off her legs and walked to the desk, tripping over the edge of the platform. She cursed openly as she stubbed her toe on the bed’s stepstool then hopped to the chair in front of the desk. She opened the top drawer and pulled out the four journals, then hobbled back to bed and turned on the lamp. It was ten minutes after two - far too early to get up, yet she wasn’t tired enough to sleep. After spending twelve hours traveling to get to the island, she found sleep far less welcoming than the people had been.
Stacking the many pillows behind her back, Johanna leaned against them and raised her knees. She propped the first book up against her legs, using them as a makeshift table, then opened the cover of the first one. Even though she would openly deny it, she was very curious about how and why the Bordellos were created and was more interested in what happened in them. Martin’s daughters, Sarah and Angela, would talk about their many sexual escapades whenever they came to visit their father, but Johanna pretended not to listen. She had hidden herself from the seedy side of life, to the point of refusing to learn about reproduction from her tutors. It was the only course she had ever failed.
For years, her aunt refused to discuss the homes with her, despite Martin’s insistence that one day she would have to embrace their history. Alissa’s strict British ideals and strong religious beliefs were embedded within her. She could never find the courage to discuss them or the ability to wrap her head around the practices that took place between the walls of the old homes. She had overheard Martin telling her how much he wanted to try them, but Alissa would flatly deny him access to the homes whenever they visited. Johanna felt that this was the real reason they rarely came to Westerly to visit Reginald.
Johanna knew Westerly was open to sex, more so than any other place on Earth. They had seven movie studios which produced a wide variety of learning and instructional videos for couples, as well as basic movies and television programs. Magazines and even books were produced in a wide variety of genres that provided further proof to those who came to the island, that they were relaxed and free with physical relationships. Watching pornography, or reading it, was common place within the home, or even at the taverns as patrons waited for their turn with the Ladies of the Bordellos. After seeing the stacks of books and magazines Reginald had in his office, as well as the albums of photos, she understood just how true this sentiment was.
Flipping through the first pages of the book, Johanna read the introduction written in the hand of Edward I four centuries ago, in 1669. Reading the man’s words, seeing his elegant script gave her the sense that the man was real. The knowledge that he lived and died fell across her conscience like a sledge-hammer, encompassing her in a very surreal feeling. His story wasn’t just a rumor - or a legend - he had really spent all those years, and all that money going from country to country in search of the perfect sexual experience. The following pages told the story of Ian Worthington, or Bloody John, the first man ever to be trained to control and dominate the women of the Bordellos.
Ian was the Captain of a pirate ship. Strong, young, and handsome and a favorite of the young wenches of the taverns, Edward wrote. He impressed me right away. Perhaps, because of the connection Black Jack had with Westerly and the Abbott family. He went by the name of Bloody John, and he was as feared as Black Jack had been many years before.
I had spent every night for over a week in the largest of four taverns the Portuguese port had to offer. I watched each man who entered and his interaction with the whores who worked there. I had to find the perfect candidate suited for the job I had in mind.
I had nearly given up when men from two recently docked vessels came in. Ian’s being one of them. That’s when I first saw him. He was in his early twenties, long blonde hair, tanned skin and a muscular build that promised the strength and physical magnetism I was looking for. But it was more than the fleshly appearance that had captured my attention. It was his specific requirements for the women he would take to bed.
I watched him the first night and was puzzled when he left the tavern two hours after arriving with some of his crew, without a single sexual encounter, even though there were plenty of opportunities. The next evening, he arrived earlier than most of the sailors. The tavern was nearly empty, save a few locals who had either been kicked out of their own beds or had none to go home to. He watched the women as they began to file in, replacing the ones who had been working all night. Without hesitation, he went to one young lass, a beautiful blonde approximately seventeen years of age. He teased and flirted with her a moment or two then told her to meet him in the bedroom upstairs. He then turned to two young, attractive brunettes sitting at the bar.
’You’re next,’ he told them with a wicked grin. ’I’ve already paid for you so make certain you remain here until I’m ready.’
Ian went upstairs with the blonde and was gone for forty minutes. From the sounds echoing through the tavern, the wench was quite pleased with the man’s performance. When they were finished, the blonde told the other two he was waiting for them and to bring a bottle of whiskey. An hour and fifteen minutes passed with giggles and moans filling the silent spaces.
His absence gave me the opportunity to speak with the blonde. She was very attractive, slightly timid and extremely satisfied with the man’s affections. She said he had a unique way of making a girl feel things no other man ever had. When Ian returned with the wenches, each flanked on either side of him, they appeared as satisfied as the blonde claimed to be. They wore the signs of being ridden hard. Purple marks from his love bites lay across their necks and collarbones, and they looked well satisfied. He purchased a second bottle of whiskey, slapped one of the brunettes on her rump then leaned in and kissed the blonde’s neck, leaving her with his deep purple brand. He smiled and ordered all three to return the next day. He assured them he planned on being their first customer every day until his ship left port.
Ian went to a table and sat down, waiting his crewmen. Women began to filter in with two more capturing his attention. He motioned for them to come to his table where he inspected each one in an action any other woman would consider obscene, then wrapped his arm around their shoulders, took his bottle of whiskey and disappeared back upstairs.
By the time he returned, men from the ships’ crews had made their way into the tavern, and he was finished. I watched him the rest of the evening until he left shortly before midnight. I returned the next day moments before he walked into the bar. He found the three wenches waiting for him and took all three up to the room with him. Nearly four hours passed by with moans, giggles, yelps, and screams of ecstasy filtering down the stairs. When he returned, the men were once again filling the tavern and he was finished.
After watching for days, I mustered enough courage to approach the man. I introduced myself and asked if I could buy him a bottle of whiskey. The man was cautious but agreed and kept his stance rigid for several long minutes.
With as much courage as I could collect, I quickly explained what I was looking for. I told him of my ideas of forming the Perfect University of Sex, in Westerly, and how I needed a man to help with the final leg of my research. Ian was interested, but cautious. I didn’t hesitate for a moment, giving the only copy of my book of instructions to him, and asked him to meet me the following morning.
He arrived on time and advised me he was intrigued. He had read every word of my book and was curious if such a thing was possible. He was equally concerned about the women and how they would feel about being punished for the sake of pleasure. After seeing how Ian reacted to the wenches the previous several days, I found two beautiful young ladies who agreed to participate in my experiment. One was a lovely redhead named Tracy O’Malley and the other was a brunette by the name of Teresa McCoy. I hired them at twice their normal rate and spent the rest of the day instructing them on how to behave once they were alone with Ian.
I knew the women I had to hire for the Bordello had to be young enough to whet the appetite of the man, beautiful enough to keep their interest, and physically desirable. I wanted the women I used for my training to fall within a certain guideline in order to attract Ian, and after seeing how he took to them, I knew he wouldn’t object to their participation.
The women spent the previous night with me. Though I was not as satisfying as Ian, I was able to instruct them and play with them long enough for the two to get the jest of what I planned for the following day. I taught them how to perform and practiced what they were to do if, and when, Ian agreed. We spent seven hours reviewing the strict guidelines, so they could become aware of the punishment they would get if they disobeyed their Master, and even displayed a small portion of the punishment to curb their curiosity and fears. When Ian returned the following morning, we were ready.
The girls were waiting with me and I spent well over an hour answering all of his questions. To be completely honest, I was impressed he had so many. That meant he had actually read what I gave him. We arranged a time for all of us to meet later that afternoon. I was more than excited that I had found, what I believed, was the right man for the job.
Ian arrived at the house I had leased for my stay in Portugal and found the women already there and quite eager to play. I explained the importance of following the guidelines and the instructions I had created to the very letter, then introduced him to several objects that would be used for the pleasure and stimulation of the woman.
He was given two of everything; masks to cover the eyes and prevent the wenches from seeing what was happening around them, bindings to secure them to the bed and restrain them for a deeper satisfaction, wooden phalluses from France to act as a second penis, as well as Diletto Le Tremousoir from Italy.
Johanna paused for a moment as she took her phone off the small table beside the bed and searched the web for a translation. Though she spoke Italian and French fluently, she had no idea what the items were. She was surprised to learn that Diletto Le Tremousoir and a phallus were antique versions of a modern-day dildo. She read through several articles quickly and learned the sex toy had been around for thousands of years, dating as far back as the ancient Greeks. Setting her phone aside, she continued reading.
Ian was given mouth gags that were to be used to provide further control of the woman, along with a riding whip and a leather clad board made for striking the buttocks. He followed the instructions to the letter and prepared himself and the room for the afternoon’s event. When the women joined him some thirty minutes later, he was ready for a long session of sex.
I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of the experiment. So much so, that I immediately hired twenty whores from the town’s four taverns. I had already purchased a schooner, along with additional supplies to last for two months. I invited Ian and his crew to join me on my trip back home to Westerly. It was time to start transforming my island home into the paradise I had been dreaming of for twenty years. I offered the schooner to Ian as an addition to his fleet, and he agreed to sail along beside me. His crew were just as curious and intrigued by what he told them, as he had been when he read my books.
Johanna learned that Edward suffered from consumption - or tuberculosis - and died as soon as they made port, but not before seeing his daughter, Angelique, one last time. There was a final note in the journal from Ian, noting the date Edward died.
The next set of journals were from Ian, as he continued the narrative of the first weeks on Westerly, and the setting up of the very first bordello.
The trip back to Westerly was productive and beneficial for all concerned, Ian wrote. The women were placed through a very strenuous training for seven days before the crew was allowed to participate in Edward’s techniques. Needless to say, the men were never more satisfied than they were on that trip. The first bordello had been built by Angelique, per Edward’s instructions, despite her morals and reservations.
Word of the controlled sex made its way across the ocean and by the time our second home was built, thousands of sailors and pirates alike were visiting Westerly. Eventually, I returned to sea and hired an additional forty women who helped relieve the first group, who had been working twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week, for months.
The women had made a small fortune for their services and began a very lucrative partnership with the throne. Angelique took thirty percent of the proceeds for taxes and additional homes, while the remaining seventy percent was spent on supplies and food. The whores never received a salary, or even a portion of what they earned. Instead, they received mandatory tips, placed into their vaginas at the end of the session, and secured with gauze wrapping to keep them inside.
This was a unique and very intriguing part of the session, which even the sailors looked forward to. The wenches were rewarded handsomely for their service. They earned on an average of twenty dollars a week, while some of the women received tokens of affection as well as coins. The Pirates were the island’s most frequent visitors and would delight the wenches with jewels, rings, necklaces and chains placed inside their vaginas as a gratuity.
With the tips the women received, they found their lives on Westerly much more rewarding than anything they could have imagined in the taverns. Many of them were able to purchase their own land, while others married and settled down to raise families. The need for fresh meat, made the trips back to the many ports across the ocean a necessity. Tall Red took over the Iron-Fist and brought back another fifty to a hundred whores with each trip, all willing and wanting a better future than the lives they had left behind.
The wenches who came to Westerly to work had to fall within a specific list of requirements. They had to be free of commitments - which wasn’t that difficult considering many had been street urchins most of their lives. They could not be mothers or wives, and they had to be between the ages of sixteen and thirty. It didn’t matter their ethnic race, skin color, or build. Even the thinnest, boyish appearing wenches were able to perform their duties as ordered.
Since the idea of the lessons was beginning to catch on, the need for qualified Trainers and Instructors became absolute. Angelique helped me decide on the best wenches to become teachers and they were taught how to instruct the young men of the island. The men who were undergoing the training were forbidden from participating in any sexual activity with the other whores, or with any woman or girl outside of the Bordellos. Each home had four trainers, and it was the responsibility of these women to make certain the young men knew how to treat a woman in bed. It was decided that the lessons would begin with a young man of fourteen and continue until the age of eighteen.
Once the lessons were complete, the men were given one opportunity to prove they had passed their instructions. They were given an allotted time of three hours to show their Trainers they understood and knew how to satisfy a woman outside the Bordello. As with any session, the recent graduates were allowed to choose a wench - or wenches if they felt skilled enough to take on more than one. The Trainer would be a silent observer in the room while the man showed his skills. She would inspect his performance and his ability to control the woman. Once finished, he would get a passing grade or would be told he had to refresh a specific lesson.
The response was amazing. The Trainers were extremely disciplined with their pupils and spent a great deal of time and energy making certain they understood what they were being taught. The young men were also pleased with the new format of learning. The lessons were held twice a week with each one lasting two hours and there was a total of twenty lessons. Once he perfected one segment, he was advanced to the next, and so on.
Angelique and I married in December, and within a few months, a problem developed. Parents of young ladies were becoming concerned about their daughters who were experiencing the benefits of their young lovers’ lessons, regardless of the rule of not participating in sexual encounters outside of the Bordello. Many unwed girls were having babies before they were ready for them, which left a financial and emotional burden on the families. Westerly had never needed orphanages, yet we found ourselves being asked to take an unwanted child under our protection and find a suitable home for it.
Because of this one set back, a strict set of laws governing the men’s activity had to be passed. All boys who were attending lessons at the Bordellos were forbidden from practicing what they were being taught with everyone except an Instructor or Trainer. If they broke this rule they were to be subjected to five lashes of the cat-o-nines, in the Punishment Circle. This made the rule become an order they were not willing to break. An age of consent was established on Westerly and no boy or girl under the age of sixteen was allowed to marry or become sexually involved without their parents’ permission.
This last rule seemed harsh at first, and there was a considerable amount of discontent, but within a few months’ life began to fall back into a calmer, more structured state of acceptance. Unwanted pregnancies were no longer a concern, children were finishing their required schooling, and parents were once again in control of their homes.
Within five years, thirty Bordellos were built. Our subjects were, at last, living peacefully and contently. The girls of the Regions no longer had to fear assault or rape, even by their own relatives. Boys were being taught how to please women and were embracing marriage enthusiastically, and those married couples who struggled to enjoy physical pleasure at home were at last finding satisfaction. The Bordello idea was a success. At long last, Westerly was the paradise Edward had always dreamt it would be.
The clock began to buzz, and Johanna stirred awake, reaching over to hit the switch and shut off the alarm. She fell back to the mattress and groaned. She had fallen asleep after reading Ian’s journal, leaving her laptop and the book lying on the bed next to her. She had been asleep less than two hours, and she was exhausted, but the images of the day ahead of her began to play out behind her closed eyes. She had far too much to do, to lounge around in that giant, soft cloud. She tossed the blankets aside and forced herself out of bed. Whether she liked it or not, it was time to begin her morning, and time to attack her usual routine.
Regardless of where she was, she never forgot her strict regime, even for a single day. Even when she was in the jungles of Africa with her aunt, she insisted on keeping things organized and structured. Change was never a part of life Johanna would accept, and she would never relent on the steadfast rule of her morning ritual.
Softly, she padded her bare feet to the veranda door and pulled back the drapes. The sun was just rising over the edge of the ocean, baking the water in an array of beautiful yellow and gold. The sky was a stunning aquamarine with only a few fluffy clouds to obstruct the heavens.
Johanna opened the double doors wide then drug the rug from beneath the living room table to the veranda and knelt down. She crossed her legs and drew a deep breath, raising her hands above her head. Bringing her palms together she lowered her hands until they were in front of her breast, then closed her eyes and began her silent devotions. Prayer was very important to Johanna, and she never forgot the need to thank her Lord for her many blessings. It was how she started every day, and how she ended it.
Ten minutes passed by before she opened her eyes to look at the rising sun. Standing up again, she stretched then bent forward, placing her palms flat on the ground. The next forty minutes were spent in silence as she performed the many yoga moves that would strengthen and prepare her body for the upcoming day.
Master Chang had been Johanna’s martial arts instructor since she was five years old. He taught her every defensive move he knew. Judo, Kung Fu, Tae kwon do, Ju-Jitsu, and Aikido were all formed together to give her the full experience of the art of self-defense and self-discipline. By the time she was ten, Johanna had earned her first black belt, by the time she was fifteen she was knocking the stuffing out of the Chinese Master.
She had practiced yoga and self-meditation on a daily basis with Master Chang, as well as Reiki and Zen. Johanna was proud of the fact she was more in tune with her body and mind than anyone she had ever known. She practiced an hour every morning and an hour every evening, and constantly strived to improve her moves. She was quicker and more agile than most people, which made her a dangerous adversary during martial arts training and was more physically fit than anyone she’d ever met. But despite all she knew, she understood the danger of being overly confident. For everyone who thought they knew it all, there was always someone better waiting to prove them wrong.
Annette pushed the door open and quietly stepped into the room. She was expecting to see the princess asleep in the oversized king bed, not on the veranda bending in positions Annette wished she could get into. She stood and watched the woman for several long moments, amazed at the elegant, almost effortlessly way she moved. Johanna was dripping with sweat and her long dark hair was matted to her face and neck, regardless of the tight ponytail that held it back. She was a beautiful girl, and Annette admired her slender frame, larger than normal breasts and delicate features. All together, they were what was needed to keep the eye of the prospective eligible male interested long enough to help her create an heir.
Quietly, Annette turned and walked back out the door, allowing the future queen time to herself. Breakfast would be ready soon enough, and she would have to interrupt her then, but for now, she would give her space to adjust to her new surroundings, even if that meant bending her spine into a pretzel.
Johanna heard a noise behind her and straightened up to look through the open door. There was nobody there, but she had the distinct impression she wasn’t alone. Wiping the sweat from her forehead, she glanced up at the sun that had made its way above the horizon then grabbed hold of the rug and drug it back into the room. It was going to be a hot day, but nothing like what she was used to in Egypt’s desert. The thought of the hot sun and dry sand made her think of her aunt and Martin.
Last night they were going to close down camp. They would have packed their gear and returned to town by nightfall. There they would report their findings - if any - to the Minister of Antiquities, then stowed their gear in the small plane that would take them to Cairo. After dropping off their belongings at Professor Hansen’s home, they would get cleaned up and pack for the trip to Westerly.
If her calculations were correct, they would be ready to leave Cairo around seven o’clock Egyptian time. With a short stop in the Caribbean to refuel and grab something to eat, they would again be in the air. That meant they should be landing somewhere between noon and four o’clock. She would have to make a point of telling Roscoe to get the limo ready and be at the airport in time to meet their plane.
Johanna stripped out of her sweaty shorts and top she had worn to bed, then stepped into the tiled shower. It took a few seconds of investigation of the knobs, but soon she had the temperature set to a relaxing warm spray that would relieve her tension. A few more turns of knobs and the jets were adjusted to a gentle, stinging spray that made her skin tingle. This shower was long overdue. It had been months since she was able to relax under the heated spray of water, and this elaborately tiled masterpiece was meant to be enjoyed.
Biting her bottom lip, she squeezed her eyes shut and pushed the button on the control panel. She was expecting a jolt of electricity to pin her to the floor, not the sound of techno-music that came echoing out of the speakers. Finding a soothing instrumental style of music, Johanna sat down on the bench and reached for her razor. She was never much for the feminine-style of living like Martin’s twins were, but there were necessities she would participate in. One was shaving. She loved the feel of her legs and underarms after the hair had been removed.
Thinking back over the journals she had read a few hours ago, she glanced up to her naked image in the mirror at the end of the long stall. King Edward made it a specific order that all of the Ladies of the Bordellos - and Guests for that matter - have hair-free genitals. Biting her lip again, she glanced through the glass blocks then reached for the can of shaving cream. She had no idea what it would feel like to remove all the hair from her body, but her curiosity was greater than her modesty. It didn’t take long before she got a rhythm down and within a few minutes, the dark curls were gone.
Johanna felt a little embarrassed and wondered what her aunt, or even the twins, would say if they knew what she had done. She had to admit it though, she liked the feeling. She was amazed at how sensitive her skin felt as she ran her fingers gently across her body. It was no wonder so many women did this, she thought. She could feel the heat of embarrassment tint her tanned cheeks, as she watched herself in the mirror, but the sensation was so surreal she didn’t want to stop. The flesh that had been hidden for so long beneath a patch of soft curls seemed to react to her touch, and for the first time in her life, she actually felt a heat burning between her lips.
With a firm shake to her senses, Johanna rinsed off the soap and began lathering her long dark hair. She blamed her sudden urges and fascination on those bloody damn books she’d read. If it wasn’t for her ancestor’s descriptive narrations, she would never have considered performing such a…wanton act.
Twenty minutes later she felt clean and refreshed, and ready to face a day of…what? Royalty was a new experience for her, and one she wasn’t sure if she would ever feel comfortable with. She prided herself in being in complete control of every detail of her life. She made itineraries and followed them religiously. She knew what she was doing at nine o’clock as well as what she was doing at four. There were no surprises and no room for spontaneity. So, what was she supposed to do now? She had no idea where to begin her day, or what to fill into each line of her journal. The idea of moving through a single hour disorderly was frightening. She was in new territory. As much inside the palace as outside.
Johanna had just wrapped the large fluffy towel around her slender body when she heard the door to her bedroom open. Looking out through the open bathroom door, she saw Annette step into the room. In her hands she held a pile of fabric and a pair of cream colored high heels. She looked up to the princess and smiled.
“Good morning your Highness,” she said in a cheerful tone. “I hope you slept well.”
“No, actually I didn’t, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying. I’m just not used to sleeping in beds, and I was having a difficult time adjusting to the time change.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that. Perhaps this evening will be better.”
“I’m sure it will be. What do you have there?” Johanna asked as she leaned over the sink and began brushing her teeth.
“Your seamstress has sent over a few articles of clothes she has been working on, for you to try. She thought you might like something clean to wear today.”
“I assume that means my jeans and tee-shirts are out of the question?”
“I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it, your Highness,” Annette said with a soft pink rising to her dark cheeks.
“I was just kidding,” Johanna answered as she rinsed her mouth out then walked back into the main portion of the bed and retrieved her brush from the vanity. “I know I’ll have to relinquish my hold on my old life sooner or later, I’m just not quite there yet.”
“Your jeans are perfectly fine, if you wish to wear them.”
“Thank you,” she added as she sat down and began pulling the brush through her long dark strands. “Just set those down and I’ll try them on. What’s with the shoes?”
“Lars Christian is Westerly’s finest cordwainer. He has always made King Reginald’s shoes, and he will make yours as well…that is if you wish him to.”
“I don’t see any reason to have specially made shoes,” Johanna said with a sideways glance. “I can purchase mine from the store like everyone.”
“But you’re a princess…soon to be a queen,” Annette said with a frown. “Royalty never shops like the private citizen.”
“I’ll have to think about that. So, what has Mr. Christian made for me?”
“He sent these over for you to try on and see if they fit. He knows you’re not much on the formality of heels, but…it will be expected of you…from time to time. Especially during your coronation.”
“I know,” Johanna said with a small degree of disgust. “I’ll be expected to wear elegant gowns and gobs of jewels. I have never liked dresses and I don’t wear heels. I’m likely to break my bloody neck in them. Give me a pair of boots and a cold beer, and I’m happier than a lark at sunrise.”
“Yes, your Highness,” Annette said looking as if she were trying to hide her disapproval.
“I promise to try and conform,” Johanna said with a heavy sigh. “I just need time to get used to all of this. I still don’t know that I like the idea of heels.”
“They aren’t as difficult as one might think,” Annette smiled. “Would you like me to help you with your hair?”
“Help me do what with it?” Johanna asked with a frown.
“Part of my duties is to style your hair and apply your makeup. I am also a very efficient manicurist and masseuse.”
“Thank you, another time perhaps. I don’t like to do much more than pull it back or braid it, and brushing it is easy. I’ve been doing my own hair since I was three. I had to, to keep Lady Catherine from cutting it.”
“Have you never cut your hair, ma’am?”
“When I was two-years-old, I contracted scarlet fever and went into kidney failure. The doctors had me in isolation for two weeks in a sterile hospital room. Nobody was allowed in who wasn’t wearing gowns, masks, gloves and shoe coverings. Even their hair was covered. They insisted on shaving mine completely off to prevent the exposure to unnecessary germs. I was so upset that I lost my hair, that my grandfather shaved his head too. He assured me that both would grow back thicker and longer than before. Once it did start growing back in, I told my grandfather I was never going to cut it.”
Johanna chuckled as she remembered the event so long ago.
“He said we were going to have a contest to see who would surrender first. By the time he died a few years later, we both had long hair. His was much longer than socially acceptable. After he died, I decided I wasn’t going to cut my hair in honor of his memory. And I never have.”
“Well, it’s quite beautiful,” Annette said as she turned to leave. “If you would like me to braid it…”
“No thank you, Annette. Like my jeans, I’ll need time to conform.”
“Very well,” Annette smiled. “If you change your mind…”
“I’ll ask,” Johanna said, completing the woman’s sentence. “Annette,” she said a moment later before her maid had the chance to leave the room. “It’s not that I’m ungrateful for all you’ve done…it’s just…”
“You’re a simple girl with simple needs, yes ma’am, I understand. You’re definitely going to be a breath of fresh air around here. It’s a far cry from King Reginald.”
“Was he difficult to work for?”
“I don’t like to speak ill of the dead,” Annette said lowering her eyes briefly, “but yes ma’am. He was very difficult to work for. More for some of us than for others.”
“What do you mean?”
“King Reginald had a specific…requirement…for the maids who worked closely with him.”
“You mean he expected them to perform sexual acts.?”
The maid turned to face her princess and squared her shoulders.
“Yes ma’am,” Annette answered. “He would…suggest…that some of the staff visit him between specific times of the day or night. If they did not…perform efficiently…they were dismissed from the palace.”
“Did they agree to his requests?”
“Yes ma’am, but only for the continued employment.”
“Why would they do such a thing?”
“Life on Westerly is not as simple as it once was. Taxes are high and providing for one’s family is difficult. Having a job of any kind, is better than not having one at all.”
“With all the Bordellos Westerly prides itself on, why didn’t he relieve his needs in one of them?”
Annette looked at the ground for a moment then raised her eyes back to Johanna.
“He did…often, but occasionally he found his needs overwhelming, especially after one of his Polo matches. If the game was a good one, he would celebrate with his teammates at the Bordellos. If he lost…well…he would call one of the maids to his rooms…if she rejected his request…you could hear her screams through the house. He was a mean drunk and a very sore loser.”
“That’s barbaric,” Johanna said with a disgusted snarl on her face.
She sat her brush down with a hard thump then stood from her vanity and walked to her wardrobe. She picked up the stack of clothes and shoes but paused inside the doorway of the room. She turned to Annette who was walking to the bedroom door.
“Things are going to change around here,” she said, watching as her maid paused and turned around. “Acts like that will not continue under my authority. I will not have anyone working at the palace afraid to come to work.”
“A solid breath of fresh air,” Annette said with a wide smile before she turned and left the room, leaving the attractive young woman to watch her departure.
Johanna continued on her path into the wardrobe where she tossed the clothes on the bench before sitting down next to them. She could not believe her cousin was forcing his staff to be his personal whores. It was bad enough he was taxing the life and soul out of the people, but to threaten their jobs if they didn’t satisfy his needs was…. disgusting.
Picking up the light-yellow material that sat on the top of the stack, Johanna looked at it, but didn’t really see it. She couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a life these people were forced to live, under the guidance of a king who abused and molested the young women for his own pleasure. If he was treating women like this here, what was happening outside of the palace?
She stood and quickly pulled on the satin yellow blouse, buttoning the small pearl buttons that closed the front, before reaching for a pair of her comfortable old jeans. Black Jack had written the first laws of Westerly. Laws that were still obeyed to this day. He specifically made it a decree that prevented anyone but the throne to have authority over the people. King Edward had made explicit laws to protect the women of this island and established over two hundred whorehouses to keep them safe. All it took was thirty-five years as ruler, for Reginald to break all of the laws he was sworn to uphold.
Reginald appointed Elders to oversee all of Westerly, which was illegal. Granted, King Edward had formed the first Elders Committee, but he did so to act in his absence, until Princess Angelique was old enough to assume her place. But Reginald appointed the committee, so he could continue to play with his horses like a little boy. He molested women who trusted him to protect them, though the law prohibited the use of women - employees or not - as sexual instruments outside of the Bordellos. He allowed the Elders to raise the taxes to an unbearable rate, until the people could hardly survive.
She knew in time she would have to set everything back in order, but she couldn’t help wondering what kind of a reception she would receive from the Elders. She was certain they were pleased with their position, and their stance in the community, so surrendering their control to her - a female - was going to prove an insult to their masculine Westerly ideals. She knew she was about to engage in a battle that could prove daring, but it was a battle she was determined to win.
Returning her empty plate to the silver tray, Johanna wiped her mouth on the cloth napkin. She had to make a mental note to tell Mrs. Reynolds to lighten up on her portions. She wasn’t used to eating this much in one day, much less at one sitting. The eggs, toast, ham, grilled pineapple and sautéed mushrooms had been delicious, but she didn’t think she’d be hungry again for a week. If she continued to eat like this, she’d never fit into the new clothes her seamstress was making her.
She returned her attention to the task of reviewing the treasury notes and accountings. She was amazed by how quickly the cost of living increased, with a raise in taxes shortly thereafter. She found at least two ways to reduce the burden on the taxpayers, both which could be implemented immediately. She knew that once she was able to eliminate the need for the Elders, there would be another major tax decrease that could be shared among the people.
A soft knock on the door echoed through the room, causing Johanna to jump slightly. She wasn’t used to so much silence, and she certainly wasn’t used to people knocking. Hell, where she had grown up, the only thing to knock on would be a tent flap, and that didn’t exactly make much noise.
“Enter,” she called out reaching for her coffee and sipping on the hot contents.
The door opened cautiously, and Russell stepped through. He bowed at the waist then snapped his fingers for the girl who followed him, silently instructing her to retrieve the tray of dishes. Once she was gone, he folded his hands in front of him and waited.
“Mrs. Crosby called,” he began in a stern voice. “She stated she had a personal appointment and would not be here today but would be available by phone if you need her.”
“Thank you,” Johanna answered feeling guilty for not remembering she had a personal assistant. “I’ll have to get used to having someone around to do my work for me. I did want to speak with you, if you have a few minutes,” she continued as Russell turned to leave.
She closed the lid to her laptop and picked up a file she had been reviewing earlier that morning.
“I’ve been going over the records of the palace employees. There’s one thing I’ve noticed that’s consistent with each one. It doesn’t look like anyone has received a raise since they were hired.”
“No ma’am,” Russell said, turning to face her, hands folded again in front of him.
“Why was their pay never increased? With the exception of a few maids, the staff has been here for more than ten years. Surely by now, you should be making at least five dollars more an hour than what you are.”
“King Reginald didn’t believe in offering raises to someone who was already being paid to perform a job.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Johanna snapped as she leaned back in the chair. “It’s common practice to reward the loyalty of those who remain in employment on a yearly basis. Sooner if the deed warrants it.”
“I would have to take your word at that, your Highness. I could not say, one way or the other.”
“Well, that’s going to be one of the first things that change once I’m on the throne. Since you’re my eyes and ears in the palace, I would appreciate your input into the matter. I don’t know who does their job, and who shirks it. Perhaps you could assemble a list of employees and make suggestions on what you believe would be a fair wage increase.”
“Yes…your Highness…” Russell said hesitantly.
“Is there something wrong?”
“I beg your pardon, Princess, but I don’t know if I’m qualified to do such a thing.”
“Who else is more qualified than the one person who works with each employee? You know their job performances and their loyalty. I don’t. If anyone is unqualified, it’s me.”
“Very well, your Highness. I will do my best.”
“I am going to rely on you a lot over the next few months, while I learn my place in this country,” Johanna said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Let’s consider this our first of many projects we’ll be working on.”
“Yes ma’am,” Russell said with a very slight, amused grin. “I will not disappoint you.”
“I know you won’t,” she smiled back then picked up the red folder from her desk.
“I would like to speak with you about something else,” Johanna began, waving a hand to a chair opposite the desk. “It’s a sensitive subject and I understand if you don’t wish to answer my inquiry, but I need to know the truth, and I promise, I will know if you are lying.”
“I do not believe in lying, Princess,” the man said as he took a seat.
He stayed on the front edge of the leather chair, his hands folded in his lap as he sat rigid and straight in front of her.
“Good, then we have an understanding, because I never lie either, and I will not accept anything but the truth from those who work with me.”
“Yes, your Highness,” Russell said in a straight, emotionless face.
“There were several files Reginald had set aside and earmarked for his personal use,” she continued handing the file across to him. “Do you know anything about these?”
Russell glanced through the papers, revealing no surprise that they had been set aside by his former employer.
“These young women were…special…to King Reginald.”
“He preferred a specific type of woman, and these women match his desires. He would call upon them to perform a special service to him when he felt the need.”
“What kind of service?” Johanna asked with an intent stare.
“One of a personal…private nature.”
“We’re never going to get anywhere if you’re not willing to be forthcoming with me,” Johanna said with a deep sigh as she leaned back in her seat again. “Let me help you. These women were Reginald’s palace sex slaves, weren’t they? He used them at will, and he would order them to his chambers whenever the urge struck him. How close am I to the truth?”
“Spot on, your Highness,” the man said stone faced.
“How could this sort of thing happen? This island has an overabundance of whores - skilled and willing to perform on command like a trained seal.”
“Westerly is not the same peaceful community it used to be when King Arnold ruled. It has changed, and not for the better.”
“The Bordellos are as popular as they ever were, especially with island visitors, but their taxes have been raised to the point of needing to increase the price of their services. In the Northern Shores, the Bordellos have been closed and poverty is at an all-time high. Children are dropping out of school and families are taking to living in the streets. Vagrancy and murder is as common today in those areas, as it was during King Edward’s time. Taxes on Westerly has been out of control for many years, and a lot of people are unable to find a means of existence. Farms have been foreclosed upon because of high mortgage rates. Businesses are closing every day because of the cost of products and the lack of customers able to afford them. Several factories have closed because of the economy. Food is scarce, and crime has become a common occurrence.”
“That’s insane,” Johanna snapped as she stood and paced her way to the window. “Why was I never informed of this?”
“King Reginald did not expect to die, your Highness. Under his reign…life was difficult. I doubt there would have been much you could do to prevent the circumstances from occurring.”
The room was silent as Johanna thought about her next - or first order of business. Crime had to cease immediately, which meant enforcing a strict curfew and the taxes had to be lowered. But first she had to be officially crowned queen.
“I have to get control of this island,” she said under her breath.
“Unless you take control away from the Elders, you will never be able to change the way this island functions. It was their decision to increase taxes, and their decision to close down twenty Bordellos rather than repair them.”
“I plan on taking care of that problem immediately after my coronation,” Johanna assured him as she turned to face him. “I can’t do this alone, Russell. I’m going to need all the support I can get.”
“You have mine, your Highness,” Russell said with a raise of his chin. “I am here to serve you in every way I possibly can.”
“Thank you,” she smiled walking back to the desk and sitting down. “First, I need to know the types of crime being committed, and if possible, who is doing it. Is there a specific group or gang causing the problems, or just a random occurrence of whoever is around at the time? Besides the Northern Shores, are there any other Regions involved? And do you know what happens to the properties and farms once they have been foreclosed on?”
“Occasionally they are placed for auction, but only if the property is deemed a good investment. Otherwise, they are laid to waste and subject to vandalism.” Russell stood in preparation to leave when Johanna stopped him.
“It’s the throne’s responsibility to help the citizens who are struggling. When did all of this begin?” she asked certain she already knew the answer.
“Shortly after the Elders Committee was formed and appointed to act on behalf of the King.”
“That’s what I thought,” she said under her breath.
“Your Highness,” Russell said then paused for a moment to collect his thoughts. “What are your intentions for the women who…King Reginald…employed?”
“I’m not sure. Why?”
“I would like to make a plea on their behalves if my opinion means anything on the matter. They are hard working women and they only wish to do their jobs - the ones they were hired to do. They have been humiliated and embarrassed far greater than anyone should ever be.”
“Your opinion means a great deal to me, Russell. You have never done anything against me, even when I was a child and I snuck out of the palace to go to the stables.”
Johanna smiled at the thought of the man insisting she wear her raincoat the last time he caught her sneaking out after dark.
“If you are willing to stand up for those women, then that’s good enough for me. They will be responsible for their positions and nothing else.”
“Thank you, your Highness,” he said standing a bit taller and actually looking as if he had squared his already rigid shoulders. “I will prepare the lists you requested immediately. When would you like to have them?”
“Thursday after the funeral, if that’s not too soon,” she told him.
“Russell,” Johanna said stopping him from leaving the room again. “I need to speak with the Captain of my guard. I’m going to need as much help in restoring order to the island as I can get.”
“I will contact him and ask him to meet with you immediately.”
“Thank you,” she said and watched as the man left the room.
The idea of seeing Samuel Carrington again sent her heart racing and her palms began to sweat. There was something about that man that seemed to…well he just…she didn’t know exactly how to explain it. He gave her feelings she had never before had, and to be completely honest, she wasn’t all that eager to dismiss them. She liked the way he looked at her, and she especially liked the way her entire body tingled when he was near. If this was lust, as Sarah and Angela would call it, then she was eager to explore the depths of it further.
Johanna returned to the staff’s files, trying to focus her mind on her work, but all she could think of was her personal guard. She had never seen a man quite so handsome before, and she had seen a lot. She knew she was attractive. Only a liar would deny the physical attributes she was born with, and those that developed over the years, and she was not a liar. She also knew how men felt about her - or at least about her looks. Since she was sixteen, she had been admired by men all over the world. She had been given the hotel keys of men in Monaco, offered drinks by others in France, and propositioned in Spain.
Once, when she was seventeen, she was given a very expensive diamond and emerald necklace from a man old enough to be her grandfather. She and Alissa had gone to New York for an archeological conference and were out investigating the city when he stopped her on a corner. He had seen them admiring the necklace through the window of a jewelry store and bought it for her. The man handed it to Johanna, told her she was the loveliest creature to ever grace New York, then disappeared into the crowd. She never saw him again after that day but learned through the newspaper that he was a world-renowned actor, producer, and director in New York to film a new movie.
Though Alissa was rather disappointed she didn’t keep the necklace - which cost nearly a hundred thousand American dollars - Johanna returned it to the man, via hired messenger. She didn’t want him to assume she owed him anything if they ever met again.
Even with all of that behind her, she could never remember meeting anyone who caused her heart to flutter like her personal guard. There was definitely something alluring about that man. Something she would love to explore at a more private time.