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Pagan Passions

By Randall Garrett&Laurence Mark Janifer All Rights Reserved ©

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Chapter 1

The girl came toward him across the silent room. She was young. She was beautiful. Her red hair curled like a flame round her eager, heart-shaped face. Her arms reached for him. Her hands touched him. Her eyes were alive with the light of pure love. I am yours, the eyes kept saying. Do with me as you will.

Forrester watched the eyes with a kind of fascination.

Now the girl's mouth opened, the lips parted slightly, and her husky voice murmured softly: "Take me. Take me."

Forrester blinked and stepped back.

"My God," he said. "This is ridiculous."

The girl pressed herself against him. The sensation was, Forrester thought with a kind of awe, undeniably pleasant. He tried to remember the girl's name, and couldn't. She wriggled slightly and her arms went up around him. Her hands clasped at the back of his neck and her mouth moved, close to his ear.

"Please," she whispered. "I want you… ."

Forrester felt his head swimming. He opened his mouth but nothing whatever came out. He shut his mouth and tried to think what to do with his hands. They were hanging foolishly at his sides. The girl came even closer, something Forrester would have thought impossible.

Time stopped. Forrester swam in a pink haze of sensations. Only one small corner of his brain refused to lose itself in the magnificence of the moment. In that corner, Forrester felt feverishly uncomfortable. He tried again to remember the girl's name, and failed again. Of course, there was really no reason why he should have known the name. It was, after all, only the first day of class.

"Please," he said valiantly. "Miss—"

He stopped.

"I'm Maya Wilson," the girl said in his ear. "I'm in your class, Mr. Forrester. Introductory World History." She bit his ear gently. Forrester jumped.

None of the textbooks of propriety he had ever seen seemed to cover the situation he found himself in. What did one do when assaulted (pleasantly, to be sure, but assault was assault) by a lovely girl who happened to be one of your freshman students? She had called him Mr. Forrester. That was right and proper, even if it was a little silly. But what should he call her? Miss Wilson?

That didn't sound right at all. But, for other reasons, Maya sounded even worse.

The girl said: "Please," and added to the force of the word with another little wriggle against Forrester. It solved his problems. There was now only one thing to do, and he did it.

He broke away, found himself on the other side of his desk, looking across at an eager, wet-lipped freshman student.

"Well," he said. There was a lone little bead of sweat trickling down his forehead, across his frontal ridge and down one cheek. He ignored it bravely, trying to think what to do next. "Well," he repeated at last, in what he hoped was a gentle and fatherly tone. "Well, well, well, well, well." It didn't seem to have any effect. Perhaps, he thought, an attempt to put things back on the teacher-student level might have better results. "You wanted me to see you?" he said in a grave, scholarly tone. Then, gulping briefly, he amended it in a voice that had suddenly grown an octave: "You wanted to see me? I mean, you—"

"Oh," Maya Wilson said. "Oh, my goodness, yes, Mr. Forrester!"

She made a sudden sensuous motion that looked to Forrester as if she had suddenly abolished bones. But it wasn't unpleasant. Far from it. Quite the contrary.

Forrester licked his lips, which were suddenly very dry. "Well," he said. "What about, Miss—uh—Miss Wilson?"

"Please call me Maya, Mr. Forrester. And I'll call you—" There was a second of hesitation. "Mr. Forrester," Maya said plaintively, "what is your first name?"

"First name?" Forrester tried to think of his first name. "You want to know my first name?"

"Well," Maya said, "I want to call you something. Because after all—" She looked as if she were going to leap over the desk.

"You may call me," Forrester said, grasping at his sanity, "Mr. Forrester."

Maya sidled around the desk quietly. "Mr. Forrester," she said, reaching for him, "I wanted to talk to you about the Introductory World History course."

Forrester shivered as if someone had thrown cold water on his rising aspirations.

"Oh," he said.

"That's right," Maya whispered. Her mouth was close to his ear again. Other parts of her were close to other parts of him once more. Forrester found it difficult to concentrate.

"I've got to pass the course, Mr. Forrester," Maya whispered. "I've just got to."

Somehow, Forrester retained just enough control of his faculties to remember the standard answer to protestations like that one. "Well, I'm sure you will," he said in what he hoped was a calm, hearty, hopeful voice. He was reasonably sure it wasn't any of those, and even surer that it wasn't all three. "You seem like a—like a fairly intelligent young lady," he finished lamely.

"Oh, no," she said. "I'm sure I won't be able to remember all those old-fashioned dates and things. Never. Never." Suddenly she pressed herself wildly against him, throwing him slightly off balance. Locked together, the couple reeled against the desk. Forrester felt it digging into the small of his back. "I'll do anything to pass the course, Mr. Forrester!" she vowed. "Anything!"

The insistent pressure of the desk top robbed the moment of some of its natural splendor. Forrester disengaged himself gently and slid a little out of the way. "Now, now," he said, moving rapidly across the room toward a blank wall. "This sort of thing isn't usually done, Maya. I mean, Miss Wilson. I mean—"

"But—"

"People just don't do such things," Forrester said sternly. He thought of escaping through the door, but the picture that arose immediately in his mind dissuaded him. He saw Maya pursuing him passionately through the halls while admiring students and faculty stared after them. "Anyhow," he added as an afterthought, "not at the beginning of the semester."

"Oh," Maya said. She was advancing on him slowly. "You mean, I ought to see if I can pass the course on my own first, and then—"

"Not at all," Forrester cut in.

Maya sniffed sadly. "Oh, you just don't understand," she said. "You're an Athenian, aren't you?"

"Athenan," Forrester said automatically. It was a correction he found himself called upon to make ten or twelve times a week. "An Athenian is a resident of Athens, while an Athenan is a worshipper of the Goddess Athena. We—"

"I understand," Maya said. "I suppose it's like us. We don't like to be called Aphrodisiacs, you know. We prefer Venerans."

She was leaning across the desk. Forrester, though he supposed some people might be fussy about it, could see no objection whatever to the term Aphrodisiacs. A wild thought dealing with Spheres of Influence strayed into his mind, and he suppressed it firmly.

The girl was a Veneran. A worshipper of Venus, Goddess of Love.

Her choice of religion, he thought, was unusually appropriate.

And as for his… .

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