Daley’s Eight 16

“No,” Rowan said defiantly, “I won’t.”

Ms. Daley didn’t immediately respond to him. She was studying him, deciding, strategizing.

“Fine, I’ll teach you,” she conceded. “And you better not refuse that, or your out of this house in a moment. Do you understand me?” She grabbed his chin with her hand, and she pointed his face directly at hers as she spoke.

Rowan nodded, and she let go of him. She smiled and licked her lips after this as a thought crossed her mind. “Now take off your clothes,” she said.

Rowan did not promptly comply. But he was unable to refuse, and he began by taking off his shirt and then stripping fully naked in front of her.

Their interlude on the floor did not end until Ms. Daley decided she was sufficiently satisfied and Rowan had learned enough of his lessons for the day. They dressed, and she continued on the tour, making no mention of their brief interruption, though Ms. Daley seemed to be traipsing on the air as she walked. She smiled broadly, and her face shone. All of that imperiousness was gone as she took him to the tennis court and through the gardens and walked him on some of the paths in the woods in front of the house. She was kind, deferential, even a little bit flirtatious. She had transformed from the overbearing mistress to a young school girl trying desperately to be charming to boy she had a crush on. This Ms. Daley Rowan liked.

When they came around to the back of the house. Rowan wanted her to take him through the woods back there, and he asked her, “Can you show me what’s back here? I saw a pond with a boathouse and a well.”

There was something of a shocked look on her face. Her air of imperiousness returned in an instant, and she said, “You are not to go into these woods. They are off limits. The others should’ve told you.”

“Why?” Rowan asked, somewhat cowed.

Realizing she’d reacted too strongly, Ms. Daley tempered her response and said, “They don’t belong to me, at least no further than about 50 feet from the house. They belong to a neighbor of mine, and he doesn’t like college students tramping around through them. You see he likes to go out hunting, and there was an incident several years ago when a pair of Scholars got drunk and went out there one afternoon, and he almost shot them. He was extremely irate. So, you see, it’s in consideration of your safety that I say this. And there’s nothing of interest out there anyways. Besides the lake and the well, it’s just trees. The well is all dried up, and that tiny lake is artificial. My neighbor uses it for fishing. There, you know everything you need to know. Come now, let’s head inside for lunch.”

In the early evening, Sophie was called away from the house to pick someone else up. She left alone, without Ms. Daley, and didn’t return for several hours. When she came back into the house with her charge, there stood Timothy, sharply dressed and smiling. He looked around the house, smelled deeply of the air, and announced, “Man, it’s good to be home.”

The Daley Scholars had been lined up in the entryway to greet him, the four men on one side and the four women along the other. He shook each of their hands and was introduced to all of them in turn. He was practiced at being introduced to and meeting new people. Each time a new name was given, the engines in his brain started to life, crafting some mnemonic to permanently stamp the name upon the brain, such that by the end, he had memorized, the names, class years, and majors of all eight of the Daley Scholars.

Only then did his mother appear, walking slowly down the stairs and examining him from a distance. He smiled to his mother, to all appearances pleased to see her. She said to him, “You have grown even more handsome. I see you’ve taken care of yourself. I am glad to see you healthy. I understand you received a clean bill of health, so that is a comforting thought.”

“Good to see you too mother,” he said with a warm smile. He reached out his hands, inviting her to a hug, and she accepted.

Rowan saw her face while she hugged him, and she seemed scared and a little sad. She squeezed her face tight for a moment while she embraced and her face was invisible to him. But she had a matronly smile on her face when they let go of each other, and she told him, “Welcome back. This calls for a feast.”

Daley’s Eight 15

After breakfast, Rowan was once again summoned by Ms. Daley. As Sophie led him through the halls to her bedroom, his chest was heavy with anticipation.

She was seated on a balcony just outside her bedroom, casually attired and reading a novel. It appeared, by its cover, to be a romance novel of the bodice-ripper variety set in Victorian times. She sat in the sunshine while she read, but a large-brimmed hat kept her face in the shadows.

When she heard Sophie and Rowan entering, she turned and looked, standing from her seat and approaching. Sophie silently disappeared from the room, and when Rowan noticed that he was alone, he became even more nervous.

However, Ms. Daley simply extended a hand and said, “We weren’t properly introduced last night. I am Ms. Sara Daley, née Aglio. And you are Mr. Rowan Harding, if I am not mistaken. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

She extended her hand as if it were to be kissed, and Rowan complied, bending down and kissing the top of it.

“You must think me a terrible host. My behavior last night was unconscionable. I was so tired that I, unfortunately, did not pay proper heed to the niceties and formalities of hospitality. It is customary for new guests to be shown around the estate, and I will do that promptly. Do you have any objections?”

“No, ma’am,” Rowan said.

“You’re not a man of many words,” she said, chuckling slightly to herself. “Follow me. And yes, that is an order.”

She began with the various rooms of the upper story, the guest rooms and bedrooms, and then took him down to the main level, to the dining room and family room and library and solarium. And all the while, she talked and asked questions.

When she asked where he was from, Rowan explained, “I’m from Virginia.” She was surprised by his lack of accent, and he said, “I’m really from DC. My mom lives in Lorton, which is a suburb. There’s a world of difference between there and Richmond.” She asked about his mother, and he said, “She works for the Feds in the HHS as some mid-level bureaucrat in the Global Affairs office. My dad lives in Charlottesville and works at UVA. I don’t see him much.”

“Is your father a professor?” she asked.

“No, maintenance,” he said. He said it with a smile as if it were amusing, and Ms. Daley laughed with him.

“A respectable profession,” she said. “My father had a similar role. He was superintendent at an apartment building. A large and rather upscale one. It gave us a place to stay and a respectable address. It was also a great place to study the wealthy, to see how they acted, dressed, talked, moved. I don’t think I’d be where I am today, if it weren’t for my father’s job. But here I am monopolizing the conversation.”

They just then arrived at the basement, and she said, “Here’s swimming pool and gym, both of which you’re more than welcome to use.”

It was a large room single room with a moderate-sized pool in the center and several pieces of heavy equipment, including a complex home gym, some free weights, a stationary bike, a treadmill a rowing machine, and more.

“Wow, this is perfect,” he said. “Can I use this in the morning?” She nodded, and he added, “Early in the morning? Like 5:30?”

“You deprive me of the opportunity of watching you exercise,” she said. “That is to say, I exercise too, and it’s nice to have company. But of course, you can use it whenever. I may even drag myself out of bed to join at that ungodly hour.”

Rowan actually didn’t like what she said, and in a moment of boldness, he told her, “I like my privacy.” After he said it, he second-guessed himself and thought he shouldn’t be making demands concerning the use of her equipment.

She deliberately misunderstood his questions and said, “I can make sure that you I do have some privacy when we’re down here.” She reached out and touched his cheek while she said this, staring into his eyes. Rowan did not reciprocate, lowering his eyes and only sporadically looking back at her. Her actions made him uncomfortable. She then added, “That reminds me. There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. You’re a terrible lover. It’s excusable due to your inexperience, but you’ll need practice. Tell Sophie to take care of you. She’s the best of them.”

She said this all rather nonchalantly, but Rowan was quite appalled. “I can’t do that!”

Ms. Daley looked at him severely and imperiously. “You can and you will,” she ordered.

Daley’s Eight 14

The other members of the dormitory all woke at about the same time, between 8:00 and 8:30. The girls poured into the bathroom after 8:30 and had it fully occupied until close to 9:00, when the curtain separating their side from the rest of the room was pulled aside and the room was open again.

Rowan sat on his bed throughout the morning, reading for class. He would occasionally look up from his textbook to watch the activity. He noticed that the others seemed to be looking at him, examining him. Everybody knew what had happened to him the night before – that is, what had been done to him – and they expected to see something of it written on his face. But Rowan was not that type of person, and so far as they could see, he was calm and emotionless.

Kaitlin was the only one to approach him, and she did so tentatively. She walked up beside bed, getting close to him and kneeling down on ground so that she was looking up at him while he leaned back against the wall, the textbook resting on his legs.

“It’s Kaitlin, right?” he said. She nodded. “How are you this morning?”

She smiled but didn’t say anything. She was wanting to speak but hesitated. She finally said, “Rowan, I wanted to ask you something.”

“Go ahead.”

“Were you a… virgin last night?” she asked quietly.

Rowan closed his book and put it aside, sitting up in his bed while he stared at her with wide eyes. “How do you know about that?” he asked.

She took that as a yes and continued, “I just wanted to ask because I remember when I lost my virginity. It was to a boy that, at the time, I was certain I was going to spend the rest of my life with. So, the next the morning I was just really excited and happy and felt so good. But the thing is that I really wanted to tell someone, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell my parents because they’d just punish me and never let me see the boy again. I couldn’t tell my brother because it was my brother. I couldn’t even tell my friends because I don’t think they really approved and I didn’t want to be judged. And there was no one else I could tell. So, it really dampened the mood. I would’ve been so much happier if I could tell someone. It’d be even better if I could tell everyone I knew, even strangers on the street, and have them all feel happy for me, but alas that’s not the world we live in. The point is, if you want to tell someone, you can tell me. In fact, all the girls know, and if you’re happy about it, they’ll be happy with you too. I know you don’t know us well, but really this isn’t something you have to keep bottled up. And no one’s going to judge you and be like, ‘Oh my God! He didn’t lose his virginity until eighteen!’ Because that’s perfectly fine. I was almost eighteen. The girls and I were just talking about it. Aimee was nineteen. Tanya and Sophie were both eighteen. I think eghteen is a good age to do that. So, I think it’s great. In fact, I think we should throw you a party for you. We should celebrate this day. You should mark it on your calendar for posterity: ‘Today, for the first time, I knew the body of a woman.’”

When Rowan didn’t respond, she continued speaking, eventually having orated at great length as Rowan continued to look at her without any clear response to her words.

“I’m not sure I am happy,” Rowan eventually responded.

“Why? Because it was with Ms. Daley? You shouldn’t be? She’s an amazing lover. A master of the art. I’m going to get her to teach me everything she knows. Anyways, you should be happy. Heck, I don’t even care if you aren’t happy. We’re all going to be happy for you.” Kaitlin then turned to the rest of the room, and she said, “Everyone, I have an announcement to make. Last night, Rowan lost his virginity.”

She made an “isn’t this exciting!” face and everyone said “congratulations.” Soon everyone was crowding around his bed, grabbing his hand for a shake, slapping him on the shoulder and saying things like, “What’s it like to be a man?” and “I remember my first time.”

And Rowan, at first a little embarrassed, started to beam, even to laugh with all these smiling faces around him. He didn’t have much to say, but he couldn’t deny that he liked the attention.

Daley’s Eight 13

Lutrosnjak was a tiny island, less than a half mile in diameter, really no more than a hill sticking out of the sea. It had no beaches, only a steep, rocky shore on all sides. The ground was covered in grass and shrubbery and had nothing taller than a few stunted trees.

Timothy had walked every square inch of the island numerous times. How could he not? He had spent four years on this rock, his own private St. Helena, only smaller – in proportion to his importance. His mother had built a grand villa, complete with all the amenities, including running water and electricity via generator. He had regular visitors, but he wasn’t allowed to leave.

The man approaching him was Dr. Gonzalez. He was a pudgy, bald man with dark hair and eyes and deeply tan skin that Timothy could only envy. He was well into his forties and moved with short, hasty steps, taking his hat within his hand as he walked due to the winds from the sea that blew hard across the bare island. Dr. Gonzalez had a comforting, agreeable manner, and he was well regarded for his ability to get even his most introverted and stubborn patients to open up to him. Timothy, however, had been an altogether different challenge for him.

Timothy was fair and slender, with a boyish face, narrow eyes, and a slight, haughty smile. His body was lightly bronzed and hairless, and he had the look of a swimmer, partly due to him spending many hours swimming circuits around the island every day.

Timothy waited until Dr. Gonzalez was within reach before he sprang to life. A full smile spread across his face, and he leaned towards the psychologist, staring at him eagerly and reaching out his hand for a shake.

“It’s so great to see you, Hector. I see your doing well. That diet looks like it’s really paying off,” Timothy said.

“That’s what my wife said. I’m liking it myself too,” Dr. Gonzalez said as he stepped onto the porch and out of the sun. It was sheltered from the wind, and he had a chance to smooth his thin but disordered hair.

“I’ll go put something on while you sit down,” Timothy said as he turned toward the front door of his house.

“No need, no need at all,” the psychologist said. “I’m not really here for a proper session. In fact, you already had your last session the day before yesterday, your last session with me that is.”

“Your not leaving me, doctor? No one could ever replace you. This connection you and I have and all the progress we’ve made, it’s transformed my life. You’ve been like a savior to me.”

“Well thank you,” Dr. Gonzalez said, “It’s been great working with you too. However, it’s you who’s leaving me.”

At this point, Dr. Gonzalez pulled Timothy’s passport and an envelope with cash and a plane ticket out of his pocket, and he handed it to him.

“You’ll want to continue therapy when you return home, of course. Though you and I have found our way through the most difficult steps, therapy is a life-long process, and I think you will continue to benefit from weekly or even just biweekly sessions for the next few years. I can give you some references. I know a great therapist who teaches at Johns Hopkins, which isn’t too far from where you are. So, I’ll –”

The psychologist was cut off in the middle of his sentence when Timothy reached out and embraced him in a firm hug. Tears were streaming down his cheeks, and he’d been barely listening to the psychologist’s words.

As soon as he pulled away, Timothy said, “I’m sorry. That was too forward of me. We haven’t reached that level of intimacy, but I was just caught up in the moment.”

“No apologies necessary. We’ve been through a lot together. Right now, you should just go in and pack. I’ll give you a ride back to the mainland, and we can then arrange you a taxi to the airport.”

“Yes, thank you,” Timothy said, and he ran inside, walking up to the second floor where his bedroom was. He was quickly changed and packed. He only packed a small carry-on bag, since he knew that everything that belonged to him would be shipped back home for him or he would just buy something new to replace it (that was always the way it was whenever he travelled).

He walked down the stairs in a light shirt and slacks, wearing a hat just like the the doctor’s and rolling a small suitcase behind him.

“Lead the way, doctor,” Timothy said with a huge smile on his face, and they walked down to the dock.

Daley’s Eight 12

Rowan was the first to rise the next morning. It was time to exercise. He didn’t feel at his best as he rolled out of bed in the dim light of daybreak. The hangover from his previous night’s drinking ached in his head, and he was tired from too little sleep, but it wasn’t enough to prevent him from stepping into shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers and tiptoeing across the room. He stepped out into the cool air of morning, and in the absence of anywhere else to exercise, he ran.

He began by running towards the front of the mansion to find there some open space to stretch his legs. The house was surrounded on all sides by woods, but there was a clearing in the front of the house for the front yard, with a lawn of green grass and careful manicured bushes. He sprinted across this and entered the woods on the far side of the clearing. The ground beneath the trees was littered with dried leaves leaves and branches, but he did discover that there were a random scattering of paths that led through the woods. They appeared to be the type of paths to be formed by the haphazard traffic of many feet exploring the woods throughout the years. They led to some of the highlights of the estate that were hidden in the woods, including a few statues, a gazebo, and a shed.

But as he followed the path, it circled around behind the house, extending into the backyard woods, and he followed it. Just as with the front of the house, the paths led to the few manmade artifacts hidden in the woods. First, he was led to a tiny lake, with a small dock and boathouse.

The path then turned back towards the Daley mansion intersecting with an old covered well. Rowan slowed down to look at the well. A structure had been built around and over the well, with a peaked roof and brick pillars at each corner. The well was beneath this roof, with its own round wall and a cement floor around it. Suspended above the well was a hand crank to raise the bucket, but the original bucket was nowhere to be seen. His initial interest in the well was simply as a raised ledge to do some box jumps, and he first considered the edge of the well as ideal for this. However, when he looked down the well and saw how deep it was, he realized that the risk of slipping was simply too great.

Rowan picked up a stone from the ground to test the depth of the well and dropped it in. He counted the second until he heard the splash. But what he heard wasn’t a splash. The sound was like a hollow cracking, like the stone had struck some twigs or ceramics and snapped them. Rowan looked down the well, but the light did not reach very far, especially at this early hour.

He resolved to investigate later, deciding for now to retrace his steps on the path, back to the lake and around the house, finishing in the front yard. Even after finally returning to the dormitory, no one else was up, and he undressed and walked into the bathroom to take a shower, dripping with sweat.

Nearly on the other side of the world on the Croatian island of Lutrosnjak, Timothy Daley stepped out of the water. He’d been taking laps around the island. It was afternoon in the Adriatic, and he climbed up the narrow, rocky shore onto the grassy surface of the island. He walked over to the single building on the island, a grand house in Mediterranean style with its front pointing towards the faintly visible mainland. He stood in his swimsuit, taking in the warmth of the afternoon sun and dripping over the grass while he walked. He picked up a towel that was sitting on the porch in front of the house and looked down a boardwalk that led down the steep edge of the rocky island to a single dock, where a man was pulling in on a motorboat. The man, wearing a summer suit and a brimmed hat stepped out of the boat and saw Timothy. He waved his hand, while Timothy waved back, his eyes placid and without emotion.

Daley’s Eight 11

Ms. Daley realized that her reaction hadn’t been entirely appropriate, so she reached forward and touched Rowan’s shoulder to comfort him.

“I wasn’t laughing at you, just at the situation. It’s so ridiculous,” she said. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. All of us were virgins at some point. We were all born that way, and it has to end at some point. I never assumed so with a boy like you. I mean, look at you. You must have had about a hundred girls chasing after you all through high school. If you didn’t notice, then trust me, I can tell you what impure thoughts they were thinking. Surely, you had a girlfriend. I feel bad for your female classmates if you didn’t at least one of them have at you.”

“I had a girlfriend,” Rowan said, “Once. She wasn’t ready. I left when I went to college. She went to University of Virginia. I went here.”

“Well, she doesn’t know what she missed. If by some miracle of science she could see into an alternate past in which she had decided not to wait and had lost her cherry to you, I’m sure she would cry herself to sleep every night.”

Rowan didn’t appear to be assuaged. He stared off into the distance with tearless, unwavering eyes, but he heard her words.

She sighed. “I’m not good at these emotional things, and you men can be the most difficult of all when you’re down. So, though I’m going to regret this when I’m horny as hell in the morning, you can go back to your bed and bawl yourself to sleep because your cruel mistress made fun of you.”

Rowan made no objection and stepped out of bed, still facing away from her. He went into the bathroom and dressed. When he stepped out, he stopped to look at the elegant, naked woman sprawled across her smooth, white sheets, her hands behind her head as she relaxed, a large smile on her face as she watched Rowan with evident pleasure.

Rowan didn’t quite fully turn toward her. “You’re not as bad as they say, you know,” he said with a small glimmer of emotion.

Ms. Daley burst out into a gigantic laugh. “Clearly I’ve made the wrong first impression!” she said. “Don’t be quick to judge. What they tell you is true. Perhaps I just have a soft spot for you. But don’t think it’ll get you out of your duties this weekend. You’re our new gardener, and gardening you’ll do. Now, unless you’re going to come back and pleasure me, then get out of here so I can play with myself in privacy while I fantasize about you.”

She gestured with her hand and then turned away to reach for a drawer in her nightstand. Even after that whole cycle of emotion, Rowan was somewhat reluctant to leave. He did think of returning to her. In the end, he left, walking out of the room and down the hall.

He was able to find his way to the dormitory, and when he arrived, he opened the front door quietly. The dark room looked different now, and he couldn’t immediately figure out why. Then he realized it was because there was a huge, white curtain cutting through the room. The curtain surrounded all four of the girls’ beds, giving them something of a sheltered and private place.

Rowan tiptoed through the shadows to his bed, undressing and slipping into his covers. He could hear the sound of the other seven occupants breathing, some even slightly snoring.

For a time, as he lay on his back, he thought his emotions had subsided, but then they came flooding forward, he found himself crying. He could only ever cry alone, else he would done it before with Ms. Daley. For the first time since he’d left for college, he wanted to go home. He wanted to be taken care of by his mother and be back with his girlfriend and be back to the way it all was before.

But he hated himself from thinking this, and he slapped himself across the cheek for it, hard enough that it stung. Once wasn’t enough. He did it again, several slaps until he felt the warm burning of his cheeks. At that moment, it was like he’d woken back up to reality, had come back to his immediate sensations, that he was sitting alone in the dark surrounded by the cool air and sounds of night. He lay down then and settled himself into sleep.

Daley’s Eight 10

Ms. Daley finished undressing, her gorgeous, naked body standing in front of him, and Rowan kept his hands in place now to hide his erection. She was lean with small breasts and narrow hips. She looked like she worked hard to take care of her body and keep the erosion of age at bay, but it still showed in the texture of her skin, the lines, the cellulite, the stretch marks.

She wouldn’t let him remain there covered, and she grabbed him and pulled him into the shower, pushing him beneath the warm stream of water. She started lathering up some soap and covering his body, indulging in the feel of his body. She tried to grab his penis, which Rowan was still trying to cover, but he flinched and tried to move away.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be gentle,” she said. “I know how to handle it.”

When she revealed it and found that it was erect, she smiled. “It’s like being able to read your mind,” she said with a chuckle. “I know who’s thinking dirty thoughts,” she teased.

She finished soaping him and then went onto her knees. Without permission or prologue, she took Rowan’s penis into her mouth and began to suck it with expertise and technique. Rowan was not experienced enough to appreciate her skill, and he was too tense and uncomfortable to relax and enjoy it.

She stopped and said, looking up into Rowan’s eyes from beneath, “You can come into my mouth, but don’t think you’ll be done if that happens. You’re done when I say you’re done.”

It was evident that she wasn’t doing this for Rowan’s pleasure. He did not display any pleasure at all. But he didn’t quite want her to stop – his physiology was against him. And she did go on, indulging in the pleasure of the stiffness inside her mouth and its texture and taste and the way it only grew harder the more she touched it.

Soon, she was toweling him dry and dragging him to her bed, where she threw him down onto his back. She leapt on top of him, taking him inside of her with a quick movement of her hips while her hands rested on his chest. Her body convulsed with pleasure when he first entered her, like a dead thing shocked back into life, her body now alive and writhing in the pleasure. To her, it felt like a shot of pure heroin injected directly into her veins, and she couldn’t help shouting with pleasure.

She lost herself so much in the moment that she didn’t notice Rowan, several minutes later, about to finish. In his inexperience, he didn’t know what to do, such that he ejaculated inside of her. She noticed it but kept on going, determined to take as much as possible out of his pleasure stick until it finally wilted, something, young as he was, it didn’t do quickly.

Ms. Daley soon screamed out with orgasm and rolled off of him, breathless and sweaty and staring up at the ceiling.

“God, I needed that after a day like today,” she admitted between heavy breaths. She turned to Rowan and added, “Don’t relax too much. I’m not done with you. I’m giving you a break. I’ll take my turn again at least once more tonight. Though please don’t come inside me again. I don’t want a baby at my age. One son’s enough for me. I know chances are slim for me, but until my baby-making factory calls it quits, I’m not going to push my luck.”

“I understand,” Rowan said. “I’m sorry.” He spoke in a meek and quiet voice.

“You don’t need to apologize,” she said. “I understand that young men are inexperienced. You’ll get the hang of it. You have a lot to learn. It’s obvious. But no one can blame you since the girls you were laying in high school were surely just as inexperienced as you – unless high school girls have gotten a whole lot sluttier since my days.”

“I’m actually… was actually,” Rowan began, still diffident, “That was my first time.” And after he spoke his embarrassed confession, he turned away from her onto his side and curled up.

Ms. Daley looked at him, at first unsure whether he was serious. Then, once she realized he was, she reacted in the the most spontaneous way: she burst out into laughter.

Daley’s Eight 9

After nearly two hours, just as Sophie had said, they heard the sound of the front door opening and the distant murmur of voices.

“Are you nervous?” Leo asked Rowan.

“No, should I be?” Rowan replied.

“Of course not. It’ll be great.”

After a minute, Sophie entered the kitchen. “Ms. Daley requests your presence in her bedroom.”

“Where’s that?” Rowan asked.

“I’ll take you,” Sophie said.

She reached out her hand and took his in hers and led him out the door.

“Remember the rules,” Leo said as his parting advice.

Rowan looked a little confused by Leo’s words, and as Sophie walked with him arm in arm through the hallways, she whispered very close to his ear in a way that was a sensual, flirtatious even, “You do whatever Ms. Daley tells you. You understand?” Her breath tickled his skin.

Sophie led him up the main stairs and down another hallway to the master bedroom at the end. She left him there, giving him a parting smile as she walked away and holding onto his hand until the last moment, as if she didn’t want to let go. He found her actions rather confusing and followed her with his eyes as she walked away.

Rowan was brought back to where he was when he heard the voice of a woman saying, “You can come in, Rowan.” The voice was a strong, harmonious contralto, smooth and clear.

He walked into the room and he saw Ms. Daley standing in front of a vanity looking at herself in the mirror while she removed a pair of earrings. She was a woman in her late forties. She wore a short, black dress tailored to her body. It was a firm, athletic body, with her strong legs exposed. She had a huge smile on her face as she looked at Rowan through the mirror, her dark eyes looking hungrily at him. Rowan saw the lines of age around her eyes and on her neck, but she still was beautiful, a woman that must have been irresistible when she was younger.

She took a necklace off her neck and placed it down on the vanity as she turned to him and said, “Pleased to finally really meet you. I’m Sara Daley. Can I tell you how handsome you look?”

“Thank you,” Rowan replied with a small blush.

“Did they prepare you?” she asked.

“For what?” Rowan asked.

Ms. Daley walked toward and leaned in to sniff at his neck so abruptly that it made Rowan flinch and almost move away. “No, you’ll have to shower first. Moving must have been quite an exertion.”

“You want me to shower?” Rowan asked. “Is that an order?”

Ms. Daley laughed a little. She said, pleased with the prospect of getting to order someone around, “Yes.”

She led the way to her bathroom. There was a large, deep bathtub in the corner with windows beside it looking out on the forests at night. And beside it was a shower enclosed by three glass walls.

“Here you are,” she said pointing to the shower. She reached inside and turned on the water to let it warm up.

Rowan thanked her and stood patiently. He was waiting for her to leave, but she remained.

“You can undress,” she said to him finally. “No, actually let me do it for you.”

Without permission she started to tug at his shirt, pulling it over his head. She smiled when she saw his chest and started undoing his belt. She pulled down his pants and noticing he had shoes, pulled those off too and promptly pulled off his underwear, taking all of his clothes and tossing them to the side.

Rowan was so embarrassed that he covered his crotch with both of his hands and partly turned away from her.

“Don’t be shy,” she laughed.

“Is that an order?” Rowan asked timidly.

Ms. Daley laughed even harder and said, “I suppose I can’t order you not to be shy. But I can order you to stop trying to hide yourself. How about this? I’m sure you’ll feel much more comfortable when I’m naked too.”

Ms. Daley pulled her dress up over her head to expose the black underwear she was wearing underneath, a lacy black bra and matching panties with a garter belt holding up a pair of black stockings. She slowly removed each piece of clothing, watching Rowan with a fixed and alluring stare as she did so.

Daley’s Eight 8

Rowan was led in through a separate back door, which led directly into the kitchen. It was a large kitchen, with long stretches of counter space wrapping around a central island, a gigantic fridge, and numerous appliances.

Rowan, still struggling to get his bearings, asked Leo, “Can you give me a tour of the house, so I’ll know my way around?”

“Ms. Daley gets the privilege of doing that,” Leo said. “Whenever she gets back, I’m sure she’ll show you around first thing.”

“You said she’ll be back tonight?” Rowan asked.

Sohpie was the one to respond to this question, “Probably,” she said. “She’s busy, and she might be a little late, but I’m sure you’ll get a chance to meet her tonight. Lucky you.”

Rowan wasn’t sure whether she was being sarcastic when she said those last words, but he guessed, based about what he’d heard about her, it was sarcasm.

When they entered the kitchen, Everyone sat down at a long dinner table except for Robert and Tanya, who both grabbed aprons and put their hair into ponytails. They then proceeded to pull out pans and foods from the fridge and fired up burners on the stove. No one else was making a move to help them, so Rowan stood up and made the magnanimous offer, “Do you want me to help?”

“No,” Robert said in an ungrateful tone.

“They’re the cooks,” Leo explained. “We all have our tasks. I do the downstairs cleaning. Sophie’s Ms. Daley’s personal assistant and driver. You’ll take over my gardening duties from last year. In a few years, if you’re a good worker, you may graduate to cook. Robert’s just starting this year as assistant cook” – and leaning into Rowan’s ear and saying in a whisper – “and he’s a bit too proud of that I must say.”

Robert had apparently overheard Leo, and he glared in his direction for a moment before returning to his work.

“Tanya’s a fine cook,” Leo continued. “After working here she could probably graduate to chef at some fine restaurant I imagine – If she wasn’t instead interested in working in education.”

“Educational administration,” Tanya corrected him while she handled a large frying pan filled with vegetables. “No sense in a Daley Scholar aiming low.”

The dinner was prepared and served to the group, who all sat down and dug into the food, still calmly chattering between bites. As the dinner neared an end, Sophie’s phone vibrated in her pocket. She pulled it out and looked at it. She typed in a quick reply and then stood from the table.

“Your wish has been granted,” she said to Rowan with a devilish smile and a wink. Then she announced to the whole table, “I should be back in under two hours. Make sure Rowan’s ready. I’m sure Ms. Daley will want to meet him.”

Sophie then turned around and left the room.

A look passed between Leo and Robert, and Robert gave a light nod of ascent. Then Leo arose and said, “This calls for a celebration.”

He walked over to a wine fridge and pulled out two bottles of wine, then grabbed seven glasses for the table and began to pour for everyone.

Rowan looked at the wine and said, “Leo, half of us are underage, including you. You can’t be serving us.”

“What? Don’t tell me me no fermented liquid has ever touched your lips. If it’s your first time, then that’s even more reason to celebrate – to celebrate being the ones to get you drunk for the first time.”

“I can’t say I’ve never drank before, but –”

“Ha, don’t lie,” Leo cut him off. Then turning to Kaitlin he said, “I trust you’re not new to sharp sting of alcohol, Kaitlin.”

“I’m not, but go easy on my glass. I’m a bit of a lightweight,” she confessed.

Leo then led a toast of “to Rowan,” with everyone clinking glasses in the center. Leo encouraged Rowan to drink as much as possible, instantly filling his glass anytime it came close to being empty and even titling Rowan’s glass upward while he held it in his mouth to push the liquid down more quickly.

Rowan realized that Leo was deliberately trying to get him drunk, but he didn’t immediately realize that Leo was doing this for more than just the sake of the festivities.

Daley’s Eight 7

Rowan walked over to the bed that had been assigned to him, and he set down his duffel bags, noting to the others, “This isn’t what I expected.”

Three other women were in the room. They had been waiting for Rowan’s arrival. They were introduced as Aimee, Tanya, and Kaitlin. All three were beautiful. Kaitlin was the Freshman among them. She looked the most innocent and vulnerable. She had a long, lanky body and moved like a dancer, with fluid grace. Aimee was a sophomore. Brown, wavy hair was draped over her face, and she looked at Rowan with drooping, sleepy eyes that fixed on him while a small smile brightened up her face. And last of all was Tanya, the junior, fully made-up and smiling with lipsticked lips. Expensive earrings dangled from her ears and her strawberry-blonde hair looked like it had been freshly styled.

The first impression that Rowan had of these women, as well as the men, was that he liked them all immediately. They made a great first impression, but as he looked around the room, with everywhere so open, with nowhere to hide, he felt uncomfortable at the prospect of living with them.

He was shown the bathroom, a single bathroom much like the one he’d found back in the dorm, with multiple sinks and mirrors and separate toilet and shower stalls.

“This building, as you might guess, was built for us,” Leo told Rowan as he showed him around, “That is, for the first crop of Daley Scholars, like eight or ten years ago. It’s cozy and very congenial. But I hope you aren’t too attached to your privacy, since there is none. Be prepared to have no secrets from the rest of us.”

Off to the side of the main room there was also a small room with seats and desks that was referred to as the study room. It had windows that looked out onto the forest, and several notebook computers had been left in the room by the others.

Once Rowan was finished with this tour, he was told the rules by Sophie: “Lights out at 10pm. If you want to stay up any later, you go to the study room. Bathroom’s reserved every morning from 8:30 to 9:00 exclusive for the women. You need to use it in the morning, you do it before or you wait after. No exceptions. Breakfast is at 9:00, and I leave with the car at 9:30. You want to get to campus at any other time, you find your own way. It’s not too long a walk, so you can manage it if necessary. Lastly, no eating in the bedroom, and no sex anywhere in the dormitory building. Not even masturbating. Not even in the showers – we don’t want your man milk caking the walls of the showers we all use. You want to do anything like that, you find somewhere else. We catch you, you sleep outside for a week; I don’t care if it’s the middle of winter. In fact, we don’t even want two people sharing the same shower or toilet stall. And I don’t want to hear any complaints.”

“No ma’am,” Rowan said.

“Don’t call me ma’am,” Sophie said. “My name’s Sophie. And one more thing. Those are all the rules for the dormitory, but Ms. Daley has her own rule, which trumps all others: that is, you do whatever Ms. Daley says. Always. No matter what. People who don’t, don’t tend to last long. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Sophie,” Rowan replied.

Rowan was allowed some time to unpack, and afterwards they led him out of the dormitory to the house for dinner. As they were walking, Rowan stopped and looked out into the woods. It was growing dark, and the light was beautiful through the trees. The thought of exploring the woods passed through his mind.

However, Leo leaned over and, with perfect perceptiveness, as if he could read Rowan’s mind, he said, “The wood’s are off limits.” Rowan gave Leo a surprised and confused look. “They don’t belong to Ms. Daley. Her property ends something like 50 feet from the house, and the neighbor that owns them doesn’t like having college students tramping around through them. Apparently, there were some incidents in the past. Nothing of interest out there anyways. Just trees.”

Rowan, however, could not share Leo’s attitude towards the woods. The hidden depths were to his eyes something like indistinct whispers to his ears, sounds that would draw him closer to hear their content and import. He knew for certain that the woods bore secrets – even if of only trivial things – and it made him curious.