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House of Borgia,book 2

House of Borgia,book 2


Marcus van Heller House of Borgia,book 2

CHAPTER 1

    Cesare Borgia sat still and straight on his horse smiling wryly. Across the green plains of Romagna which surrounded the river Po, the city of Imola was humped behind its great, protecting wall. A siege would have meant a long delay in his campaign, possibly into winter. But Imola, like all the other towns he had taken since Louis had gone back to France after the fall of Milan, was coming over to him without pressure of arms.
    He watched his lieutenant, Ramiro de Lorqua, in earnest conversation with the little delegation from the city. They had met to parley in a little group some several hundred yards in advance of Cesare's army which stretched in an ominously broad arc across the great valley. Away to the south the Etruscan Apennines shimmered and misted in the blue haze of summer. The weather was as satisfying as the campaign.
    It was with the psychological cunning which Machiavelli was to take as example for his book, II Principe, that the Duke of Valentinois had contrived to triumph so easily everywhere he went. Romagna was, in fact, noted for its tyrants and it was merely habit and tradition which had brought citizens loyally around their despotic leaders in times of crisis. With the capture of his first city, Cesare had pardoned all the citizens who had fought against him and had forbidden his men to indulge in the usual postcapture assuaging of their lusts. There had been no pillage, no killing, no rape, no disorder. This he had enforced with the severity for which, when occasion demanded it, he was notorious.
    The effect had been miraculous. Word had been allowed to spread of the good treatment received by the beaten populaces and, as if Cesare possessed some new and irresistible weapon, the common folk of all the cities in his path had denounced their tyrannical lords and flung open their fortresses to the Pope's son.
    In front of the great army, Ramiro de Lorqua and his subordinates reined round their horses and sped back across the intervening space toward their chief. The councillors of Imola remained in a motionless group?a helpless, hopeful band almost surrounded by the mass of Borgian troops.
    De Lorqua reined in beside the Duke. A grim smile of triumph flickered across his normally austere visage.
    “The gates are open, Sire,” he said quietly. “Imola is ours. They will lead us across the moat into the city.”
    “Good,” Cesare replied, briefly but with satisfaction.
    He spurred his mount forward and the great army came to slow life behind him, following patiently in his wake.
    “If it please God, no soldier of mine shall have to raise his right arm to fight again. He will be received like a visiting monarch and have to find his exercise in the brothels.”
    De Lorqua laughed, a quick, unbelieving laugh.
    “There is yet Forli to come,” he reminded.
    As the towers and campaniles beyond the tall buff walls of the city became clearer, Cesare reflected on his advance. If all went well he should, in time, succeed to the title of Duke, a pleasing thought. His campaign, which had begun as a war to recover the temporal power of the Holy See in these areas where the barons refused to pay their taxes, had developed into a personal triumph, which?intelligence had it?was being talked of throughout Italy and beyond. Already the subjugated people?if one could give that title to a people liberated by an alleged enemy from despotism?were demanding that Cesare be made their permanent master and that they enjoy his protection forevermore. His ambition was fired and seemed likely to be rewarded.
    But there was, of course, Forli, with that amazon of a Countess, who would doubtless defend it to the last, crying death to the enemy even as death shattered her heart?or, as was very likely?rapacious lust shattered another part of her anatomy.
    Crowds were thronging the streets and the squares to cheer the invading army; flags and kerchiefs fluttered in the air and women of doubtful character hung their half-naked bosoms from the windows of establishments of doubtful reputation in a surge of welcome.
    But the battle was not quite over. A councillor of the city joined the vanguard to warn that a captain of the guard with a body of troops had withdrawn to the almost impregnable citadel, swearing to surrender only when death claimed him.
    Even as the populace waved and the women flaunted their waiting breasts before the eager arrivals, a cannon boomed out from the citadel and sent the crowds screaming and scurrying for shelter.
    Cesare immediately trained a number of his cannons on the stark, scarred walls of the citadel and returned fire until the challenge had petered out for a while and he was able to direct the billeting of his troops and arrange a siege of the inner stronghold which still resisted him.

CHAPTER 2

    Cesare stretched himself at ease on the red plush couch which had been put at his disposal. Around him, his principal officers shared with their leader the privilege of being the guest of the Chief Councillor of the city. Outside, the cannon was quiet, the citadel comfortably besieged. Full-scale assault operations could wait until tomorrow. The army needed rest and a little entertainment.
    Throughout the city the brothels were doing fine, wine-flushed business. And any woman who showed herself willing was feeling the full pent-up strength following days of abstinence on the part of the visitors between her thighs. But, as usual, Cesare had forbidden violence. Any man reported stealing a citizen's unwilling wife or raping a reluctant maiden would be made an example of for all the town to see.
    Within the mansion of the Chief Councillor, gypsy music was playing. A band of well-dressed nomads were strumming their guitars and tambourines. There was controlled passion in the music and in the dark, gypsy faces. There was ill-controlled passion, too, in the loins of Cesare's officers. This man, their host, had promised them, later, the full benefits of the high-class brothel which was virtually his harem. They were anxious to relieve this ache of longing in their lower regions.
    Cesare toyed with his glass, sipping the rich, sweet wine with which his host had bolstered a magnificent meal. He was thinking of Lucrezia, wishing she were here, now, so that they could retire to a quiet nook and enjoy each other with the furious abandon of the days before he had left for the French Court. “How do you like my gypsy orchestra?” his host asked, leaning across from his neighboring couch.
    “Excellent, excellent, but they look a little domesticated.”
    “You mean they are well dressed, well fed? But of course. They have become quite famous these last few months. Everybody is paying big prices to have them play and dance. Their days of dirt and rags are over.”
    He swallowed a glass of wine in one long draught.
    “But if you talk of domestication, wait until you see Maria. Domestication! I'd like to see the man who could domesticate her. Violence, passion, sensuality! They ripple in her limbs when she dances, they reach to you from her breasts, they writhe in her buttocks. And yet she's not for sale. Oh, they've tried to rape her?many a man in torment. But she carries a stiletto and knows how to use it, they say. She's a proud one. I have to rush to my mistress in excitement after she's danced, and then I try to imagine she's the divine Maria who won't be bought.”
    Cesare listened, idly swishing the wine in his refilled glass and letting the music flow in him. The old dotard, he was thinking; the thought that he couldn't have her would make him pay groveling homage to the ugliest old whore.
    “Well, when does this proud creature deign to appear?” he asked.
    “Immediately if you so wish it.”
    The host clapped his hands and gave orders to a servant, who disappeared, gliding over the rich carpets which covered the tiled floor, into the other rooms which led off from a portico at the far end of the main dining hall.
    After a few minutes, he reappeared, gave a few whispered instructions to the leader of the gypsy orchestra and withdrew.
    The music changed suddenly to a wild, passionate flamenco in true Spanish style, the notes hurtling and gyrating one after the other in a loud, fiery torrent. There was a sudden strumming of chords and then a lowering of tempo and pitch. The guest officers glanced up from their conversation and wine. There was a foreboding in the music which immediately attracted all attention. While they stared, not knowing quite what to expect, but certain that something was going to happen, a figure danced slowly in from the shadows of the portico, a shadowy movement at first, growing into a flame of red and black, becoming a beautiful girl who swayed sensually in before the gypsy band which accompanied her.
    There was an instant tension in the assembly. Men who had been engaged in, at least, the semblance of war for more than a week or two, flushed over with the tightening of desire. Cesare put down the glass with which he had been describing circles in the air.
    “You hardly exaggerated,” he said quietly and in some surprise.
    “Almost worth a stiletto in the ribs if one could be certain of achieving one's fill before the death blow, eh?” chuckled his host.
    Cesare Borgia didn't reply. His thoughts were away on the hips that revolved gently, the breasts that were taut from her upstretched, slender brown arms. Her face seemed to spark and blaze with pride and a controlled sensuality; her dark hair swept back, dropping, long onto her shoulders; broad brow over dark, almond eyes, a straight nose which flared lightly at the nostrils, long, full lips which opened often in intense concentration as she danced, a good, clear chin which was round and smooth under her mouth; and then the neck, long and unexpectedly well-developed as she came forward into the light, full and with the slight ridge of a vein; below the black lace frill of the tight-bodiced red dress she wore, the breasts which forced out the yielding stuff in strong, taut lines, the slim waist which moved and writhed inside the dress, the skirt tight over her hips, enclosing her buttocks in a tight embrace and then flaring out loosely around her thighs to permit her freedom of movement.
    “Superb, superb,” Cesare murmured aloud and his host smiled with a pleasure that conflicted with his mask of almost miserable longing.
    The music gathered in crescendo and the girl made a full, twirling tour of the room, skimming the tables of the spectators with her flying skirt. She seemed to see nobody. At times her face was serene and ethereal, at others working with passion as if she were in the throes of sexual intercourse. The men seemed to come to life, out of the still, electric petrification her arrival had induced. They slithered forward on their couches the better to see. There were odd comments of coarse appreciation uttered without a withdrawal of the eyes watching her every movement, every crease and tension of every part of her body under the flaming silk dress.
    The Duke of Valentinois watched with the others. He felt his heart pounding and that empty sucking in his stomach. She was as beautiful as Lucrezia, this Maria, the gypsy; as beautiful at the other end of the scale, each of them perfection of their own kind.
    His eyes ran over her avidly. As she swayed toward his end of the room, slim arms flowering in the light of the candles around the walls, he watched her breasts, full and alive under the slender covering. They bulged and moved in unison with her movement. The points of her nipples jutted, large and voluptuous from the summits of the warm mounds of flesh behind them. He let his glance fall, taking in the slim waist, so slim that it moved all by itself inside the dress as if it wanted no part of these protecting clothes. And then the tight containment of those hips, the rounded belly, which could be cupped with a hand, the protrusion of hipbones, well-fleshed and bulging against the silk, the lines of the strong, sexual thighs and then the slim, lightly-muscled calves that twirled below the whirl of the skirts.
    “Beautiful, beautiful,” Cesare whispered.
    His host leaned toward him, hotly.
    “You must forgive me,” he muttered. “I can't bear to stay. It is a mistake for me to be here at all and I must take my leave in a few moments. If there is anything you or your officers require of me, you have only to ask my servants. They will show you to your quarters and to the source of your future enjoyment.”
    His breath had come with difficulty and when Cesare looked; at him he saw that his face was almost crimson and his eyes drawn in anguish.
    “My poor Chief Councillor,” he whispered sympathetically, “I understand your predicament. To have such a delight within your house and be unable to sip of the ecstasy she promises is hard indeed. But I crave one boon before you leave?that I may be permitted to try my gallantry with the lady.”
    There was a note of envy in the Chief Councillor's tone as he gazed into Cesare's handsome, commanding face.
    “By all means,” he said, “and I wish you success. Perhaps a conquest would soften her heart toward others who would give their souls to share her bed. I will see that she joins you alone after the entertainment and that you are not disturbed.”
    With that the Chief Councillor rose, not waiting even to hear his guest's thanks, and slipped from the banquet hall as if he were afraid he would in some way disgrace himself if he delayed his exit a single second.
    Grinning to himself, Cesare turned back to the spectacle. The music was throbbing, drugging the room with its heavy insistence. The girl had her back to him, arms high above her head, hips swaying, heels tapping on the marble floor. The outlines of her buttocks pressed and relaxed in firm ovals against the seat of the dress. Each seemed to move of its own accord, rounded and naked, inviting lustful attack. She whirled and flitted forward with flying, little steps, toward Cesare's table. Her eyes seemed to catch his for an instant. He held them and they bored back at him until slowly he dropped his gaze and stared meaningfully at the triangular crease of her dress between her thighs.
    When he glanced up again, her eyes were still on him, but flicked away immediately, her head bowing to the ground in concentration.
    A hot glow consumed Cesare, slowly, from his genitals. He had no thought of failure. The meeting of their eyes had established the beginning. He would, as always, win.
    For a moment, he took his eyes from the scene to witness its effect. His officers were hypnotized. Some faces were scarlet, others white with desire: a band of civilized men, suddenly naked and primitive in the face of elemental sexual passion. The difference between most of them and himself, Cesare knew, was the difference between himself and the Chief Councillor: that he would not give his soul to possess this woman. It was, also, this very aloof quality which communicated itself even in moments of intimacy, which gave him his extraordinary power of attracting and, if desired, maintaining the interest of the most difficult and independent of women. Cesare had learned from his sister, Lucrezia, the intricacies of intrigue and attitude that women were capable of; he had, perhaps, been fortunate in learning from her the necessity of keeping himself beyond the snares which they set, of keeping himself whole in mind and emotions, of being always the master.
    Now, catching again the eyes of the beautiful gypsy girl as she danced toward him, letting his eyes rove insolently over her breasts as if he were stroking them with his eyelashes, he felt certain that she was his. He could hardly wait to hold those buttocks naked in his hands and drive his strength and mastery between her naked thighs into the conquered lips that waited softly to receive him.

CHAPTER 3

    It was very warm in the banquet hall? as if all those who had left had jettisoned their heat before departure. Not all the candles still glowed smoothly into the gloom, only a few at odd points around the walls cast deep and slightly moving shadows. There were two red candles flickering on the table and they threw a warm, flattering light on the faces of Cesare and the gypsy girl.
    “A little wine,” Cesare was saying, as he filled her glass again.
    She took her long-stemmed glass and sipped, looking at him over its rim. Her eyes were warm, and so friendly that they would have turned over the Chief Councillor's heart had he been there.
    “They say that you will soon be lord of all Romagna?perhaps of all Italy,” she said softly.
    “Gossip,” Cesare said. “But it may be true.” He smiled. “My chances would be greater had I your power of reducing men to willing slavery.”
    “Gossip,” she retorted, “if we speak of men. I can think of many I would not put in that category.”
    “Our poor Chief Councillor is slowly dying of suffocation?suffocation of his desires.”
    “He is like a cow,” she said. “He chews his food and watches me with great, gawking eyes. When he desired me he had to send a servant to try to procure me so afraid was he that I might spit in his face.”
    Cesare took a long gulp of wine.
    “Are all as unlucky as he?”
    “Did he not tell you I'm not to be bought?”
    “I'm not talking of buying.”
    She raised an eyebrow at him over her glass and smiled. She gave no answer and Cesare put his hand on hers on the table, gently but firmly.
    “You remind me of my sister Lucrezia,” he said.
    “But isn't she blonde?”
    “I mean that you are perfect in your particular beauty as she is in hers. I am told, too, that she is perfect in bed. As for that, I would never be able to compare you.”
    He watched her closely. But she didn't take his words amiss. Clearly he was not in the same class as the Chief Councillor, nor had she removed her hand from his.
    “What happens when you want to give?and not be bought?” he asked.
    “These are very personal questions?I had heard you were very direct,” she said, still smiling.
    “It's the only way to know people,” he replied. “Hedging and social protocol are all very well in their place.”
    “Yes,” she said and she turned her hand in his and entwined their fingers gently. “I have given very rarely,'“ she went on. “I only give when I'm moved, otherwise it's not worth the pestering which would follow from all those who assume that because a woman gives she is free to all.”
    She had leaned forward slightly and Cesare could see deep down between the swellings of her breasts. The skin was a tawny flame-color and as smooth looking as parchment. He let his eyes run from her breasts up over her shoulders and that strong, voluptuous neck. When his eyes reached hers she was looking at him without the. smile. It had been replaced by a look he recognized?Lucrezia's look of desire. In those few seconds he thought with amazement that she must always have looked like this. That even in rags, running the streets of the slum quarters in her youth before she joined the gypsy band, she looked this same lovely, haughty, sensual woman who might, at that time, have given herself to anyone who was prepared to make her rich, to give her the life of a lady. He wondered that no rich merchant, straying on his horse through the poor quarter, had caught a glimpse of her?probably with half a breast naked through her rags and tatters, or a side view of a straining buttock. She could, by now, have been at the court of kings.
    “What are you thinking?” she asked softly, the desire still heavy in her eyes. “Why do you look at me like that?” He looked at the dark shadows below her high, smooth cheekbones, his glance lingered on those full lips which had hardly moved as she spoke.
    “I was thinking that you are, perhaps, more beautiful even than Lucrezia,” he said quietly.
    “She would not be flattered to hear you say that.”
    “She would probably retort by claiming that she was far superior in the boudoir.”
    “But even after tonight you would have no way of comparing us?you would never have slept with her.”
    Cesare stood up, slowly, not taking his eyes off the girl. Mingled with his unexpectedly easy triumph was a sly amusement at her peasant assumption. He was tempted to tell her, but the moment was not to be spoiled and, in any case, her tongue might wag.
    He walked around the table toward her and she stood up with her lips parted, waiting. When he reached her and caught her face in both his hands, her body swept in and wriggled against him. Sparks seemed to fly in his body. God, he thought, it's almost as if she divined and were determined to prove herself the better. The flesh, smoothly, glossily almost, covering the fine bones of her face was hot under his fingers. There was a delicate perfume of roses about her hair. Her lips were moist and gave like a sponge, opening under his. They seemed to swallow his mouth?and then her tongue, smooth as milk was panting into his mouth, exploring it, brushing against his own. Along his whole length he felt the warm slender solidity of her body pressing and moving slightly?the weight of her breasts protruding, the smooth roundness of her thighs brushing and clinging to his, her hips and that excruciating abdominal area which pressed against his confined genitals and slithered against them hotly. He pulled his mouth from hers and she let it go reluctantly. Audible little pantings breathed through her lips, now released, as he moved down her neck, sucking it, biting it, drawing a pattern of little red marks on the velvety skin. He reached her shoulders, the top halves, naked halves, of her breasts, which bulged and wanted to escape and soar forth for him in their entirety. As he bit her breasts gently, her abdomen, that triangular section between her strong thighs, squirmed furiously against the mound of his genitals which she conld feel in an erect hump beneath his clothes.
    “Let's go through to the private chambers,” he whispered.
    “No, now?here!” she said passionately.
    He pushed her gently back toward the divan from which he'd watched her dancing earlier in the evening. The Chief Councillor had promised they would be alone?and what did it matter if a servant did tumble onto them? Guilt and fear were for the weak and subordinate.
    She fell back onto the couch and he lowered himself down with her. She put her hand on the covered heat of his penis and he felt its trembling, demanding pressure with a wild surge of immediate desire. He began, quickly, to slip off her clothes and she helped him, breathing heavily, looking at him with deep, fire-filled eyes, concentrating on ridding herself of the garments that hid her body from him.
    In a matter of seconds she was stretched out on the couch, more naked than in the days of flimsy rags and Cesare's mouth was avidly sucking her large, erect nipples, as his hands flared over her body, exploring its firm, beautiful contours while his penis seemed to throb and hum like a hive of bees.
    Her breasts were taut and high in spite of their size. The nipples that he sucked crowned them in a dark, hard summit which seemed to epitomize her desire; the hard bosses yielded and flipped back in rubbering resilience and seemed to reach out to him in pleading desire for assuagement. Below her breasts her hard, narrow waist was the pivot for her writhing hips. No bones showed in her hips, the flesh was full and rounded, the little bulge of her abdomen heaving in and out with its crest of fine, dark hair. Her sensual, well-holding thighs pressed and slithered against each other, opening wide from time to time as Cesare's hands moved over her flesh. Between them, dark rose lips, moist and ready, were crushed with her movement.
    Cesare's penis felt wet inside his clothes and the throbbing was unbearable. When, without opening her eyes or stopping the convulsions of her lost body, the girl put her hand again on his penis and began to squeeze and caress it, he stood up quickly and began to tear off his clothes.
    She lay there, her breath exploding from between her parted lips, her thighs tight together as if to keep the sensation locked tightly in. She opened her eyes after a few seconds and watched Cesare baring his body. Her eyes were in anguish and her hands, which had moved up to the breasts on which the heat and fury of his lips remained, twitched gently.
    Feeling the warm air strike his suddenly naked flesh with a cooling draught, Cesare looked back at the girl's body as he stripped. She was beautiful as a Greek statue and burning with sexual life. He could worship a body like that?except that he didn't worship bodies. He had a sudden irreverent thought of the envy the Chief Councillor would feel when he knew. What that man would give to be here now in his shoes?or rather in his skin.
    Nude at last, with his penis soaring ruggedly out and up at an acute angle with his belly, Cesare moved toward the couch. She watched him come, her eyes flowing over his face and from it down over his lightly haired and muscular chest to the slim hips dominated by that great boom of penis with its narrowing, fiery tip. As he reached the divan she reached up and grasped it and icy darts shot through his belly and clashed in his genitals.
    He lay down beside her and she stroked and caressed his prick and smothered his lips with hers, flicking her tongue in what seemed an almost involuntary spasm of sensuality.
    Cesare pressed her dark head back onto the couch. The rose perfume was all around like an ethereal cushion and her dark hair brushed softly against his face as he sank into her lips and sucked them and her tongue into his mouth. Her flesh was hot and receptive, trembling against his as he slid his hand down over those firm, reaching breasts and the belly with its little indentation and then over the fine hair which was warm and soothing to his fingers, and so between those hot and slightly sweating thighs, right at their topmost point where they merged into the hot arch containing the point of desire.
    She gasped as his hand reached the lips of her cunt, gasped into his mouth and was unable to keep her lips against his with the sudden sensation. She dragged her head away and turned it so that her cheek lay along the divan, pressing into it as if she were resisting some torture.
    Through the loose, wet flesh, his fingers wandered and into the suddenly tight and opening hole which he found.
    “Oh, oh!” she gasped and bit her lips under his passionate, watching eyes as he lay with his cheek against hers. Her hand on his prick redoubled its activity and she began to stroke him gently, moving her fingers lightly on the hot, stiff flesh.
    He felt her thighs moving and then opening widely and her crotch rose up slightly toward him, facilitating and demanding the entry of his searching fingers into the moist channel at whose entrance they dawdled. He pressed in, wiping a finger around the elastic rim and plunging on into the depths of the cavern beyond.
    “Oh, oh, oh, oh!” Her face on the couch swung back at his and she released his prick and held him tightly with both arms as she kissed him wildly and rubbed her face all over and around his.
    Cesare could feel his prick, hot and waiting, pressing up against her hip, the cool, yielding flesh of her hip. He moved in against her, crushing it against that flesh, rubbing his loins against her, moving one of his thighs half over hers.
    His finger, now, had penetrated all the way and he could feel the smooth, viscid roof of the cavern. Her thighs alternately clamped his hand in the pressure of a vise and released it, sweeping apart in a wild, passionate gesture. She was panting continuously and punctuating the panting with little moans as he moved his fingertip gently against the roof of the cavern.
    Her lovely lips were trembling and her nostrils were slightly flared the way he'd noticed them as she concentrated on her dancing. She had closed her eyes and the long lashes made tremulous shadows on her cheeks. Her long, slim hands ran convulsively over his body, not seeming to be controlled by her at all.
    Cesare moved another finger into her vagina and she cringed away and then pushed back on the double prong which filled her. He allowed his fingers to roam all over and through the moist channel of her sex and then slowly withdrew them and searched for the tiny stub of her passion. He found it, hard and erect. It evaded him from time to time as he caressed it, slipping away into the fleshy folds of her lips.
    The touch of his fingers on her clitoris had sparked even greater depths of passion reaction from her. She had caught his penis again and squeezed it hard. She ran her fingertips over his balls as far down as she could reach. She brought up her head and bit his neck and lips. She was like a tigress.
    Caressing her, tantalizing her, bringing her to a pitch of excitement, with his own thunderous, growing passion as a controlled background, Cesare felt her thigh slipping and digging under his trying to get him to mount her. Her arms pulled his face onto her chest over against her breasts which strained up, digging him with erect, large nipples.
    “Now, now,” she murmured. “Do it now.”
    Overcome with a nervous excitement, now that the moment had come, as if afraid of the power of his own passion, Cesare hesitated, drawing his fingertips up her hard, little clitoris for a few seconds longer until she was groaning with ecstasy.
    “Please, please, now, now, now,” she begged, hardly able to utter the words, squeezing blindly on his rod of flesh.
    Cesare slithered over onto her. She made a superb, warm cushion for his body. Her thighs swung wide apart as she felt the knob of his penis tickling against the lips of her vagina. She gripped both his shoulders very tightly with her hands which quivered with emotion.
    Cesare wriggled on her, longing to plunge in but enjoying the sight and sound of her passion and desire.
    He felt her release a shoulder and then her hand came down under her thigh and felt for and found his penis. She held it gently, seeming to hold her breath, too, at the same time, and guided it at her wide-open cunt.
    Right, now, at last, Cesare thought in a sudden, fierce, violent joy. He thrust in with a long, excruciating grind, all the way in one long, agonizing movement. She drew up her thighs with his penetration and her hands bit into his shoulders.
    “Aaaaaah!” The ecstatic groan dragged out from between their lips at the same moment. With her it continued on a slightly lower key, a continuous, gentle, lost groaning. With Cesare it broke down into a shunting accompaniment of groans and pantings for breath as he drove in and in, crashing and plundering, right to the soft, giving wall of the cavern's roof.
    Her thighs which had opened, giving him wider access, and moved back toward her shoulders giving him depth, came down and clasped his hips, moving and slithering against them as he pistoned in and out. Her breasts flattened and rounded under his varying pressure and her eyes opened to look abandonedly into his as her groaning lips sought to touch, to bite, to kiss his face, any part of his face.
    His loins aflame, consumed in the ecstatic relief of her moist, claiming containment, Cesare felt her passage plucking sensation from his prick along its whole length. Her channel fitted him like a glove, smooth and with a gentle pressure which became stronger as the tip of his organ coursed right through to its end.
    Already he could feel pressure building up in his pulsating staff. All that preliminary titivating had prepared his prick for a quick release.
    Under him, squirming and mouthing noises, the gypsy girl, too, was building up to the intense final pressure. Her arms moved around him, over his shoulder, down his back, to his buttocks which she could just reach. She pressed on them exhorting him into her and her legs swung up suddenly and entwined his thighs and then up further and gripped his waist.
    Cesare slipped his hand under her full, soft buttocks which strained down firmly in his hands and then relaxed, soft again. He reached underneath, feeling her thighs from behind and she gasped anew as his fingers entered the long slit of her vagina, pulling the lips gently apart, brushing in with his hard length of penis.
    Her head began to move from side to side on the divan. Her legs released his waist and swung down, flattening into the couch and then gripped him again before falling away, almost at right angles to her body.
    Her crotch was running with moisture. Cesare's fingers slipped from it and ran up the crease between her buttocks. He pulled the buttocks apart and she gave a start of passion through her moaning. He plunged a finger against the tight, warm, puckering of her anus and felt it give and his fingertip break through to soft, tender flesh.
    “Oh, oh, oh!” she gasped again and again.
    She began to writhe as if in a paroxysm. It must be now, Cesare was able to think as he drummed into her, pulling back and then thrusting in his whole length in a slow, grinding crush.
    She opened her eyes and looked at him desperately. Her eyes seemed to be speaking to him, loving him, wanting him, abandoning herself to him. Her mouth opened and her tongue came out?a long, point-tipped, moist and perfectly smooth tongue. Cesare lowered his lips to hers and bit the tongue gently. He ground in with slow, strong strokes. He could feel his penis swelling in a hot tingling expansion. He couldn't keep his mouth on hers and drew up, his hands under her buttocks, pulling them up off the divan, against his loins.
    She wriggled furiously, her shoulders quivered, and her breasts under his eyes. She groaned and looked at his eyes in a last gleam of passion and then her mouth opened in a great circle, her head dropped back, her thighs clasped him and she emitted a loud, aching gasp and another and another, dwindling away into body-racking sighs.
    Still holding her buttocks in his hands, fired by the sight of her fulfillment, Cesare, himself, trembled on the brink of release. His penis was chafing against the flesh of her passage and his loins were screwed up in a turmoil of pre-explosion. Her beautiful body, heaving with passionate sighs, was in his hands. He looked down and saw her thighs hanging over his hands as he held her bottom, and saw his prick, inflamed and wet, disappearing into her red, loose lips. Her breasts swayed and heaved below him and that narrow waist was heaving too, above the hips that he held up slightly off the bed.
    He thrust savagely in and felt his knob growing and growing as if it would burst into a thousand pieces. He ground slowly, slowly, extracting every iota of sensation from the long, slow stroke. His breath was rising up from his chest, rising up through his throat at the same time that his knob was expanding in unbearable torture. He felt the quick fire dart in his loins and come racing through. His mouth opened wide as the breath finally, suddenly, reached it. He shattered his sperm up, up into her belly as the breath broke from his throat, twisting his mouth out into an agonized explosion. He felt the pressure of her thighs renewed, fleetingly, heard a faint gasp echoing a recognition of his orgasm.
    For several seconds he pumped into her, seeming to loose all the juices of his pent up body into that lovely, waiting receptacle. Then, slowly he collapsed on her warm, cushioning flesh and felt her arms encircle him gently and her lips, light and tender on his cheek.
    Later, nude still, she preceded him as they walked to the private chamber Cesare had been allotted off the banquet hall. Watching her buttocks swaying and rounding under the slim, taut waist, Cesare wondered if the Chief Councillor meant it when he said it would be worth getting a stiletto in one's ribs if one could be sure of fulfillment first. Looking at her thighs, slenderly moving under the rounded voluptuousness of the buttocks, he felt pretty sure he meant it.

CHAPTER 4

    It was a very cheerful Cesare Borgia that directed his forces for the storming of the citadel the following day. He was to have the delight of Maria's company for the remainder of his nights at Imola. She had fallen for him and was his to do with as he wished. In his mind he was even turning over plans to establish her near him when he finally settled in a permanent headquarters after the campaign.
    So touched and pleased by his success had Cesare been that he'd even refused himself the satisfaction of giving the Chief Councillor an account of his conquest.
    “She is, indeed, a fiery one,” was the only comment he would make when discreetly pressed by his host.
    With a concentration equalling that of his lovemaking of the night before, Cesare set about the quelling of the citadel.
    His lieutenants had suggested a storming of the walls immediately a breach appeared. But the Duke, with some acute questioning, was able to establish that munitions in the citadel were not very plentiful and were likely to give out in a very few days.
    Content with his host and his companion of the nights, and ever sparing of the lives of his men who would have to cross a deep moat in order to reach a breach in the walls, he settled down to a siege, maintaining a steady bombardment, producing a breach from time to time, which, those inside, panic-stricken at the thought of a resultant assault, rushed rashly to repair, exposing themselves to a deadly fire from the Borgian troops.
    The Borgian army, after a week of women-less nights, were very happy, in turn, to remain in a town long enough to win over those maidens who were conserving of their reputation in the first encounters.
    For four days the siege continued. The last breaches in the walls were not repaired and it was doubtful whether Dionigio di Naldo, the rebellious captain of the guard, could risk losing any of his dwindling number of men to see to them.
    Those days of constant cannon fire from outside, dwindling ammunition and men inside, wore down the defenders with an inescapable psychological inevitability. They had little hope of relief from Forli which was too busy preparing its defense as the next on the Duke of Valentinois' list and they were surrounded by a vast sea of Borgian troops. There was no hope of victory and very little hope of holding out until Cesare tired and moved on leaving just a covering force which might afford some hope, at least, of escape.
    At the end of the four days of concentrated pressure, during which he was able to profit from no risks taken by his besiegers, di Naldo begged for a parley.
    Within a few hours he had made a formal surrender of the citadel, Cesare having, generously and not without political acumen, granted a safe conduct to his garrison.
    Joy at yet another triumph was tempered in the Borgian ranks with a reluctance to leave what had proved to be such a sexual haven. But lusty men will find lusty women no matter where and Forli was likely to prove as welcoming as Imola once the amazon Countess had been removed.

CHAPTER 5

    Countess Caterina Sforza-Riario was often described as a virago. She was certainly beautiful, severe and of a fiery independence. Life had hardened her. She had seen her father murdered by patriots in Milan Cathedral and her husband, Girolamo Riario, butchered by a mob in the very city she now defended. Her second husband, too, had been killed by a band of rebels. She had ordered a massacre of all who lived in the quarter from which the rebels came and had ridden, herself, at the head of her men-at-arms, to see that her orders were carried out.
    A third husband had died of natural causes. It would be true to say she had, in spite of her terrible revenge for her second husband's death, not been floored by the loss of any of them.
    Caterina Sforza-Riario was one of those unfortunate women unable to find her place. She didn't like to be alone, she wanted men, a husband, a lover. But she also wanted independence and was totally unable to make any compromise by which she surrendered any or part of it. She had finished by despising each of the three men she had married. Fascinated by that very independence, their devotion to her had grown in proportion to which hers for them had diminished. They had been unable to lead her as she really needed to be led and consequently she had found herself doing the leading?and that was the way the world saw her, as a severe, often cruel and totally unbending woman.
    Like most women in Italy, she had heard of Cesare Borgia. She had, in fact, wondered what manner of man it was who, finally, was coming to attack her city under orders from the Pope. Talk had it that he was handsome and of iron will. She thought of her poor, weak husbands and the thought made her sick. Who knew what Cesare Borgia really was? Certainly she would have little opportunity of discovering now as he ranged his enemy troops in preparation for the assault.
    The citadel in which she was ensconced, within the town, was well provisioned. She could and would resist this man of iron will, this “monster” as some preferred to call him. For weeks she had had outworks thrown up all around the city and built in nearly all the gates as a fortification. Now, with the Borgian troops a few hours' march away, she had another trouble: as in Imola, there were rumblings among the townsfolk to whom she had never been overly-generous, rebellious rumblings, which talked of handing over the city, her city, to Cesare Borgia, the upstart son of an upstart cardinal who had bargained his way into the papacy.
    Even now, the Countess' brother Alessandro had left the citadel with a strong body of men to exhort the council of the city to stand by their overlord.
    The Countess, standing with her guards on the ramparts of the citadel, shielded her eyes to gaze down into Forli. Her ample bosom was heaving slightly. She had heard of the turn of events at Imola and she was well aware of the heavy hand with which she had long ruled her people.
    Down in the city, lost in the mass of winding streets and the old, uneven buildings there was noise and shouting. It was impossible to tell whether this was simply excitement and fear at the imminent arrival of the enemy or whether harsh words were flying between her brother and the council.
    Below, under the shadow of the citadel's walls, the heavy drawbridge was still down across the moat.
    “What's happened to them,” she muttered fiercely.
    “There, Madam!” a captain of the guard called from a point some distance along the thick crenellated rampart.
    She squinted in the direction indicated and her blood boiled with anger. Her brother and his men, surrounding a couple of the leading citizens of Forli, were fighting a retreating action against a rabble of the townsfolk. While she watched, she saw a couple of her hard-pressed men fall under the sword and stave-blows of their attackers.
    “Turn the cannon on them,” she yelled. But it was impossible to scatter the townspeople without risking injury to her brother and she ordered a couple of shots to be sent among the houses in the rear of the mob and a body of soldiers to go to the aid of her guards. The portcullis was raised within seconds and a crowd of soldiers ran across it as the cannon crashed. Seeing the reinforcements and hearing the shot flying over their heads, threatening to cut off their retreat, the mob of townsfolk began to break off, to disappear in ragged, hurrying groups along the cobbled streets in all directions.
    Caterina Sforza-Riario climbed down from the ramparts to meet her hard-pressed troops. Her brother was wild-eyed and there was blood from a flesh-wound on his wrist.
    “They are handing over the city!” His voice was choked with venom and he motioned to the two city elders who stood, surrounded by his men in the center of the courtyard.
    The eyes of the Countess sparked with anger. She was not used to having her authority flouted. She walked up close to the two men. She knew them well, Ascanio Guicciardini and Galeazzo Ferrante.
    “Do you dare?” she spat. “Do you dare to assume authority for what is mine?”
    Galeazzo Ferrante did not flinch from her blazing eyes. He was known as a fearless man.
    “It is a time to see reason, Madam,” he said. “There is no hope of survival if we fight; if we lay down our arms the Duke of Valentinois will show the generosity he has shown elsewhere.”
    “You cur!” She moved closer to him. “Have you no loyalty? Would you thus defy the order of your rightful sovereign?”
    Galeazzo Ferrante hesitated for half a second and then in tones which rose loudly on the still air inside the citadel's courtyard, as if he were ringing his death knell, he said:
    “When, Madam, a sovereign has lost the confidence of the people and must rule them by oppression, she has forfeited her right to be obeyed by her subjects.”
    The Countess' hand slashed across his face and a dozen lances pricked at his body as he made an involuntary movement toward her.
    For several minutes she stared at him, eyes afire, hardly able to believe that this common vassal had spoken to her in that way.
    “When we have chased this brigand back to his churches in the south,” she said slowly, “you will know what right I have forfeited. Long before then you will wish you could have forfeited your life rather than face what is meant for traitors of your caliber.”
    Ferrante made no reply. So hard had been her blow that a ring she wore had cut his lip and blood oozed thickly down his chin.
    “Take them down and put them among the instruments,” she said after a short silence. “They can have time to consider what is in store for them.”

CHAPTER 6

    Later on the same day that the two elders of the city council had been taken to the dungeons beneath the citadel, Cesare Borgia rode into Forli at the head of his army, to the vast wave of cheering from the inhabitants which welcomed him as deliverer from the warlike Countess.
    He began immediately to make preparations to take her stronghold. This was the time to make an impression of invincibility, against this warrior lady whose reputation of fearlessness and martial ability represented the last hope of most of Italy against the threatening papal army. He wanted quick results to prove that his campaign was not won by diplomacy alone but could equally be carried on force of arms if the occasion arose.
    By early the following day his siege guns were in position, trained on the citadel above which the Countess' flag still ruffled bravely in the slight breeze. Her men could be seen from time to time moving along the ramparts, and she herself appeared occasionally as if to inspect the measures that were being taken toward her downfall.
    Cesare, well aware of her determination to fight, nonetheless made a cunning gesture to prove beyond all doubt to the people of Forli that he was a fair and generous man from whom they need fear nothing if they stood with him in the future. He rode out from his surrounding troops toward the broad moat of the citadel and offered to parley with the Countess on the terms of her surrender. He did not, he said, enjoy the thought of such a loss of life which her blind obstinacy could only assure.
    There was silence behind the ramparts at his offer and, smiling to himself, Cesare reined his horse away to be pulled up short by the shouted intimation that the Countess would descend from the ramparts to talk with him and that he, well covered by his men, should meet her on the broad drawbridge.
    There was nothing to be done. She had a nerve this Countess, but, decided Cesare, it would make his gesture all the more spectacular if he met her on her own drawbridge. He turned on his horse and waved to his men, at which a posse of some sixty men rode forward and ranged up a little behind him with swords ready.
    Slowly the drawbridge creaked down and the portcullis went up. At its far end Cesare saw, for the first time, the figure of the Countess with an immediate impression of an austere beauty which was there, although she did nothing to enhance it.
    She was on foot and Cesare got slowly down from his horse, felt for his sword hilt and walked with measured step to the drawbridge.
    He stepped forward, feeling the heavy wood under his feet and then, instinctively, hesitated. There was a sudden creaking of winches and with several times the speed with which it had been lowered, the drawbridge swept up as cannons boomed out from the ramparts.
    Cesare's hesitation gave him the seconds to fling himself clear; another step or two and he'd have been too far advanced on the bridge to do anything but be swept forward into the citadel's gate where the Countess and her men were waiting to receive him.
    He landed heavily on the side of the moat, grasping at strong plants to prevent himself from slipping into the deep, muddy water. His advance guard were with him immediately under the very walls of the stronghold to help him clear and, under the orders of his lieutenants, the Borgian cannons and falconets were replying, like thunder drowning the roar of a rapids.
    “Are you hurt, Sire?”
    He pulled himself up and, with heavy vengeance vowed in his heart, waved aside his men's concern.
    “She shall be paid for this treachery,” he said.
    For the rest of that day and well into the next, Cesare's cannons cracked and thundered and the citadel shook and lost pieces of its scarred old stone. The recruited citizens stood eagerly by with great cartloads of faggots, waiting for the order which inevitably grew nearer.
    They were firmly for Cesare Borgia, now. Talk had raced through the town of his offer to parley?an offer to parley when he had the strength to crush all resistance almost before it had begun. And hadn't she dealt with that generous offer in just the way one would expect from such a mean-hearted tyrant? And hadn't Cesare Borgia given out the usual order to his troops that no woman of Forli was to be molested under pain of death? And weren't their two most respected councillors languishing in the citadel, probably being tortured even now if they hadn't been killed already? There was hardly a man in Forli who would not have risked his life for Cesare and for revenge on the oppressor of his life's years.
    The Borgian cannons, concentrating on forming a breach, soon had dangerous cracks zigzagging down the walls of the citadel and the citizens stroked their bundles of faggots as if they were lovers, waiting and ready for the order.
    The obvious approach of the end seemed to fire Caterina Sforza-Riario with madness. As the walls began to crack under the furious onslaught of the attackers' cannons, she had both the elders of the council brought out and hanged from the ramparts before the eyes of their fellow citizens. Their bodies were left swinging over the breach which was rapidly forming in the walls, while cries of hatred and revenge burst from the lips of the townsfolk gathered in a vast mass behind the lines of Cesare's ready troops and the busy cannons.
    Cesare watched the gap in the walls with a grim smile. He saw the vain attempt of the defenders to fill it in with earth and stones, watched them scatter or be blown to pieces as his cannons continued a relentless punishment.
    “Tell the citizens to move forward with their faggots,” he ordered. “Another dead hit and the time is with us.”
    The carts, swaying and creaking, with the Borgian army advancing slowly just behind, moved slowly, ominously, toward the moat, while the cannons redoubled their fire to keep the defenders at bay.
    The bodies of the two hanged councillors had fallen and were lost somewhere under the debris.
    “They shall be well revenged,” Cesare muttered to one of his lieutenants. “This misguided woman shall learn that it is not for her to meddle in men's affairs and oppose the foremost army in Italy.”
    The gap in the wall had broadened and the defenders had given up attempts to seal it as more and more sections were swept away under the unceasing bombardment. They could be seen, beyond, forming a wall of falconets ready to hotly receive the invading forces. There was activity too on the ramparts, where the smaller, more wieldy guns were being swiveled in an effort to cover the impending attack.
    The citizen army moved like an exodus across the intervening space, slowly covering it, approaching like death, the grim defenders of Forli's suicidal stronghold.
    Soon they had reached the broad, murky expanse of the moat and although some carts had been overturned by the guns on the ramparts and some of the citizens floated facedown in the waters, they set quickly and determinedly to work, piling both carts and faggots into the depths.
    Cesare had ridden forward to be in the vanguard of his forces, just behind the first spearhead which would take the brunt of the defensive counterattack. The cannons, which had moved nearer, played over the heads of the bridge-builders, aiming with greater and greater accuracy, shot after shot through the gap in the wall beyond which the ranks of the defenders were trying not to break but to organize and reorganize as death took its toll of their lines.
    Steadily the rough bridge forged across the moat. The citizens, volunteers to a man, worked with vigor and courage. Cesare's men stood waiting for the word to storm over the light, rocky pathway which was being made and hurl themselves through the waning fire of the defense whose ranks and guns they could clearly see in some confusion through the broadening gap.
    Almost before the bridge was completed, Cesare gave the command for which his men had been waiting. The first lines of the attack had to jump the last four feet to the debris of the citadel's wall. They were met with a scattered fire from within and rocks and missiles from above, but forged on and in, pressed forward by those from behind until they were all over the courtyard and spouting up into the ramparts.
    The faggot bridge was finished. The army pounded over, the citizens seized the arms of the dead to fight against their Countess, Cesare crossed and joined in the hand-to-hand fighting in which the weight of his men's numbers was a crushing advantage.
    So quickly had the invasion of the citadel come that the defenders had had no time to withdraw across the smaller inner moat and into the tower where munitions and provisions were stored. Attack and defense together in a great, struggling mob, swept over that small moat, preceded by a few paces by the Countess and her personal guard.
    “The tower, the tower!” Cesare roared, seeing the danger. Locked in there they'd be able to hold out for a week or two.
    Behind him came his fresh body of men through the gap. Nobody to engage them. They swept in his wake over the inner moat, through the struggling dogfights and up into the tower.
    The fighting was short and bloodcurdling. One by one, giving their lives with a devotion which flamed an aura of death around them, the Countess' guard fell until only she was left, knocked to the stone floor, a point of steel at her throat and one of Cesare's Swiss mercenaries grinning with lustful delight over her prostrate body.

CHAPTER 7

    A great wood fire had been made in the dungeons. Its red and sparkling heat was fighting to keep the chill of the thick, stone walls at bay. Along one wall a couch had been placed on which Cesare was lying eating the meat from a leg of chicken. On mats on the floor his four or five principal lieutenants were quaffing wine, filling their glasses from a barrel which had been brought from the stores, and themselves devouring pieces of fowl which they were roasting on spits over the fire.
    “When are we going to get up this beauty, Sire,” one of them asked with a slight slur to his speech as he rose and crossed the dungeon. Cesare followed him with his eyes and his glance took in the defenseless form of the proud Countess. She was naked, stripped of all her austere covering. She was stretched out on the great wheel of a rack to one side of the gloomy, shadowed room.
    “When I've finished with her,” he said, swigging a draught of wine and passing his glass to one of the men for a refill.
    “Seems such a pity to keep her waiting,” the man replied. “She obviously loves us.”
    A gust of laughter greeted his words.
    The eyes of the Countess were still able to give a feeble reflection of their earlier glitter although by now she was hurt and exhausted and thoroughly humiliated.
    Cesare looked at her as his strong teeth pulled at the chicken flesh. Would any of her subordinates have expected quite such a physical beauty? When she lashed them with her tongue would they have pictured those glossy, firm breasts, high and perky with their small impudent nipples? When she scowled and barked an order would they have thought of that tight waist with its rather sinewy, muscular stomach? When she ordered men to the dungeons and had them hanged from battlements would they have thought of those soft, feminine buttocks, that bottom which asked for caresses? When she rode through the town to order a massacre of reprisal, supervising its execution, would they have considered those warm thighs and those fleshy hips with the moss of pale hair and the heavy overlap of flesh between those white, tapering columns? She was really a beauty. She could have taken her place in an elegant court as one of its prime beauties at any time, except that her attitude had decided that lines of severity were to be drawn between her brows, that her mouth was to be hardened into grimness and her eyes, which could blaze and spark like any insulted courtesan's, should grow to contain the disgust for her fellow creatures which gleamed constantly in them.
    They had watched her writhe on the rack? and it had to be admitted she had borne her punishment like a martyr. They had humiliated her, her eyes wide with horror had revealed just how much, with their mauling of her breasts and the supple contours of her naked body. But Cesare had reserved her principal humiliation for himself. He had yet personally to repay her for the near loss of his life on the drawbridge and also he was impressed with her looks and hauteur.
    He grinned as his lieutenant took the leg of fowl he was munching and with a quick movement thrust it up between her straddled thighs into her cunt. The Countess gasped and swore. The lips of her vagina opened and then closed over the knobby, half-chewed meat.
    “You wouldn't think a chicken would have enough guts to do that to a Countess,” his lieutenant jested, and there were fresh guffaws from the spectators. The man moved the fleshy bone around in her for a few seconds and then, tiring of the game?or perhaps being made too hot by it?withdrew the leg and flung it across to a corner of the room.
    “Well seasoned,” called another. “Why didn't you eat it.”
    “By the look of her Ladyship it might have poisoned me.”
    Cesare swung himself off the couch and crossed to the rack. He stared at the inert body spread-eagled across it. The Countess glared back at him. All she wanted was a dagger, her eyes seemed to say, and he'd regret these humiliating tortures and liberties to which he'd subjected her.
    Cesare lowered his eyes over her body. He could see the small blue veins on her white breasts and on the taut flesh where her thighs ran into her hips. He reached out his hand and stroked it softly over her breast, gently savoring the butteriness of the firm skin beneath his fingers. He could feel his lust rising in confined warmth at his loins. His eyes glittered and he looked up at hers again and saw something like fear in them for the first time.
    “Leave us,” he commanded.
    His men ceased their jesting immediately and began to gather their belongings prior to departure.
    “Later, perhaps, we too may pay her out for her treachery to you, Sire,” murmured his principal lieutenant as they passed the rack on their way to the steep stone steps that led up the wall to the dungeon exit.
    “Did you not know it was an offense to have any kind of intercourse with a corpse?” Cesare asked.
    His lieutenant roared with laughter, laughter which was taken up by the others and followed them up the steps and beyond the citadel, leaving only a wan glinting echo of itself in Cesare's ears.
    “They tell me, Madam,” he said softly, “that you have had three husbands. I wonder were they afraid of you?such a woman as could hang from the battlements two of her most respected citizens in the face of a besieging army.”
    Her eyes blazed at him and she made no reply.
    “Difficult to think those husbands were ever permitted to mount you,” he mused on, “but I'm told you have some fine sons safely out of harm's way. Were you afraid I might take them and train them for my army?”
    Caterina Sforza-Riario moved her lips in a grimace of fury and loathing. Her voice was soft and a little strained and hoarse.
    “Your army,” she mocked. “Your rabble, a horde of barbarians like their leader, an upstart drunk with power.”
    Cesare almost raised his hand to strike her, but instead, with unerring instinct to humiliate her further, he stroked her breast instead and pinched her nipple between his thumb and forefinger.
    “Were those husbands of yours allowed to see the body they entered?” he went on. “Or were they allowed only shamefacedly to slip their pricks up under your skirts and do their best to produce children for their lord and mistress?”
    “They were weak and wretched?but each was a better man than you,” she spat.
    Cesare sighed and let his fingers slide down over her muscular belly to dabble in the hair around her crotch.
    “Madam, your desire to be brave seems to have injured your reasoning capacity.”
    “Take your hands off me you vile beast,” she flared.
    For answer Cesare bent and kissed a nipple and his fingers slipped into her crotch and penetrated her vagina which he tickled, grinning into her eyes.
    She turned her face away from him. He saw a light muscle twitching in her cheek.
    “And your body was so meant for spending days and nights in the throbbing heat of bed,” he went on, knowing that his words and attitude were making her desperate with fury and humiliation. “You have such a moist and ready cunt. I do believe you'd like to tryst with every man in my army.”
    “Beast… swine…”
    The words were faded echoes of her recent outburst. She was exhausted, physically and psychologically.
    Cesare gloated over her helpless body. Now, he felt just like it. But a mere fuck wouldn't be sufficiently humiliating for her. He could feel his penis, large, hot and pushing to escape. With an image of soft, juicy entry into her and the relief it would bring to his lusting loins, he began to unstrap her legs.
    She turned her face back to him, her eyes questioning.
    Her legs flapped freely in a few seconds. She seemed to have lost the use of them. He untied her wrists which were stretched out above her head and she slid down over the wheel and crumpled to the floor, her eyes open and alive, but her weakened body refusing to obey her.
    On the cold stone floor, she tried to move and stand up, but her ankles were stiff and dead, her arms numb, so she lay there where she'd slid, moving her hands weakly to restore the circulation.
    For a few minutes, Cesare allowed her a little respite. He wanted her to recover so that nothing was lost on her. Then, when she was able, rather stiffly, to move her limbs and sit up, he pulled her to her feet, letting her stand a moment to get used to the pressure. She leaned on him, helpless to pull herself away. He breathed heavily with the touch of her flesh along him and moved her over toward the rack again.
    She began to struggle weakly and with little gasps of pain as she realized that he was going to attach her once more to that instrument of torture, but, especially in her enfeebled state, she was no match for him and he pressed her face forward against the wheel while he tied her hands to it high above her head once again.
    Her body moved fleshily against him as she tried to escape and he felt the spongy warmth of her buttocks squeezing against his organ as he pressed into her to hold her fast.
    With her wrists firmly attached, he moved and caught one of her ankles, drawing it up around the side of the great wheel to attach it to the hub. She lost balance with the other foot and sagged down to the floor, held up only by her wrists as the wheel swung around with her weight.
    Dexterously, Cesare fastened one ankle to the hub and then moved around to the other side and fastened the other. Then he pulled the wheel back to its original position, fixed it with a prop of wood and stood back.
    The Countess was now in more or less a sitting position against and around the rack. Her body was held in against it, her legs spread wide and wrapped around the wheel at an angle of something more than 60 degrees with the floor. Her hanging behind was the lowest part of her.
    “Now we'll see what your husbands should have done to teach you a little obedience and your place as a woman, wife and mother,” Cesare said.
    Her eyes were closed, all the weight of her body on her fastened wrists. She was white and subdued and said nothing.
    Quickly, Cesare pulled off his clothes until he was standing naked on the cold floor. His prick was tingling and the foreskin had drawn back to reveal the ardent, almost purpling knob. A little seminal fluid was already moistening its hot expanse in anticipation. He held it with his hand for a moment and he could feel its throbbing desire. Its heat was like an aura of red-hot lust around his genitals.
    Around the fire, still blazing merrily, were the carpets and rugs on which his lieutenants had been reclining. He arranged them rapidly near the wheel under the Countess' behind which hovered a couple of feet above the ground. He knelt down on the thick rugs and ran his hands down the smooth lines of her back until they flared out over the soft cushion of her buttocks. The skin was smooth and sweating slightly with the strain she was undergoing. He ran his fingers between her buttocks where a few fine hairs straggled and the skin was suddenly softer, more tender feeling, like a raw steak. He dug his finger gently against her anus and felt it tight and denying like a pursed, puritanical mouth.
    For some minutes he played with her anus while she sagged, seeming almost lifeless, then he felt it give and she gave a repressed squeal as his finger penetrated the tiny hole and moved like an animal in the soft portals of her rectum. She gasped again as he dug farther in up to the first finger joint and then the second. He squeezed in another finger and she cried out and her head fell back from the rack and then swung forward against the wood again.
    Cesare moved his fingers around in her bottom, pressing out and up alternately, broadening, preparing the nether hole that was to receive the issue of his lust. The Countess wriggled her ankles against the hub of the wheel, but was unable to escape. Her widely spread legs and widely spread buttocks prevented her totally from escaping that foreign invasion of her private domain.
    Easier and yet more easily Cesare's finger slipped and explored in the softening, yielding depths of her anus. His two fingers had easy access now and he thrust them right in to their full extent. In front of him, his prick carved the air like a sword, hard and ready for action. His balls seemed to ache and in his loins there was a ferment of sharp, spiraling coils of sensation. A drop of seminal fluid had dripped to the floor and he felt he could wait no longer.
    Carefully he lay down under her and moved into position so that her dark, little hole would descend onto his rearing mast. Then, with his foot he deftly kicked aside the prop, reached up to catch her hips as she swung down toward him and pulled her down onto his prick.
    The trembling arm of flesh battered in at first thrust and he felt her buttocks tense and try to close the slit to him. She cried out in pain and struggled with her bonds, but could do nothing.
    Cesare pushed her upwards gently and the wheel swung back so that all the weight was on her wrists again. Then she fell slowly back with the turning wheel onto his prick once more.
    The breach was made and broadened. Cesare felt her tight, rasping back channel tearing at his penis as he surged into the squeezing depths. He gritted his teeth and flexed his hips upward, sighing with the excruciating sensation. He heard her moan and pushed up again with his hands. Her anus slid off his prick and she swung up a little and then wheeled back again, her bottom meeting his hands and the spread crack between the buttocks enclosing his penis once again.
    Her anus was becoming easier. He was already half buried in her and encountering no resistance with the exploring forepart of his rod. Only around the entrance, with the thickening dimension of his sex down to its root, was the pressure still enormous and every further tearing inch thrust into her drawing fresh groans from her open lips.
    The great squeezing pressure, the tight contraction of her unused back passage around his long arm of violation began to draw panting gasps from Cesare. He had never felt such overwhelming pressure before. He wriggled as his prick thrust in and pulled her right down so that she yelled out in exhausted pain.
    Now he didn't push her up very far each time, but allowed the rocking movement of the wheel to do it for him, simply guiding her gently with his hands.
    Every time she came down and her behind rested for a moment on his belly its elastic entrance crushed the base of his penis. His loins were in fiery turmoil and his knob seemed to itch with desire to rid itself of his load. He wanted to get farther and farther into her and he spread her buttocks wide with his hands and screwed in for all he was worth.
    The strain on the Countess' wrists when he pushed her up was so great that she was relieved each time she sagged back. She began to resist his efforts to push her up away from him and he let her rest on his loins while he wriggled his prick around inside her and she gasped and moaned and began to feel a strange, unanticipated tingling.
    The Countess hated herself for this unexpected reaction on her part, but she couldn't help herself. In her exhausted condition there was little resistance left and it was easier to let herself be carried away on a sexual tide, to allow this creeping in her loins to crawl forward and farther forward, tingling her inside and pulsating in her vagina. His great invasion of her backside no longer seemed so vile nor yet so painful. It was producing these sexual feelings in her which she more normally associated with ordinary sex. She could hardly believe that it could happen, but it was.
    She knew that he filled her behind like a spear, not sparing her at all, shagging her pitilessly, but she almost wanted more. It was such a relief on her wrists to be able to rest on his hairy stomach and to feel that fleshy wand digging into her.
    She felt his hands clasping the fleshy rotundities of her buttocks, clasping them so hard that his fingers dug into her deeply and must have made deep weals in the soft flesh. His action was becoming more and more rapid; he was virtually pummeling her with thrusts and she could feel his hard belly, rising up, straining up to meet her downward rush so that they met in a clashing embrace and his spear tore in making her shriek with the shattering advance of it.
    She heard him grunting and gasping, heavy masculine grunts with a certain savage brutality in them. With the growing desire in her belly she felt an outgoing to him, to Cesare Borgia, who had dared to submit her to this fantastic experience, who respected her not one jot and was not afraid to use her as he wished.
    She heard his gasping become a heavy whine of exploding breath, felt his body tense along her buttocks and press there.
    Then, with a sense of disappointment and the reality of her captive situation, she felt him relax on the floor under her and she rested, sagging on his stomach as he lay for a moment, motionless, breathing heavily.
    When he slipped from under her and got to his feet, she became aware of the ache at her anus. She felt sore all the way up inside her; her back passage seemed to be burning and around its portals she felt wet and open and exposed.
    She had slipped down to the rugs and hung there, trying to take the weight off her wrists, with her legs up in the air toward the hub of the rack. She opened her eyes and looked sideways at Cesare Borgia. He had climbed to his feet and was looking at her with a smile of satisfaction. Her eyes dropped to his long, limp, white prick which swung down between his hairy thighs.
    “How was that, my proud Countess?” he asked.
    She didn't answer. She looked away from him back to the wooden slats of the rack. The desire in her loins was still there, albeit ebbing. She could not remember having felt so sexy before. It was like confession under torture only this was sexiness under torture.
    She heard him pad away to a corner of the dungeon and she opened her eyes which she'd closed for a moment in an attempt to clear her head. She saw him, still nude, returning through the flame-stabbed gloom. He was carrying a short-handled whip with a dozen narrow thongs. Her eyes opened wider in fear and her throat felt constricted. She felt as if there was nothing of her left that was real; she was exposed and helpless in a way she'd never been before. She could only hope that this man would eventually spare her.
    Cesare replaced the wooden prop and she found herself again hanging in midair with the straps biting into her aching wrists, the muscles of her back aching under the strain. She could hardly move at all, only press her body into the wooden wheel as she prepared for the punishment he had designed for her.
    She heard the thongs swishing in the air, but nothing happened. He was tantalizing her. There was silence. She bit her lips and rested her head against the slats which were hard and unfriendly.
    Suddenly she cried out and flattened involuntarily into the wood as the first lash of the dozen-thonged whip wrapped around her body, stinging it and leaping away again to leave an unbearable stinging in its wake.
    Her chest and stomach cringed under the pain and then she flattened into the wood a second time as the lash flicked all over her back and buttocks. No sound would get past her lips but a deflated “Ouff.”
    The next lash was around her thighs, curling in a weal-tracing embrace with a pain that sickened and made her bite her tongue.
    Tears of pain forced their way from under her lashes, her belly felt like a void and down in her loins was a strange, frightened, tingling, tickling, sick, sexy reaction to the beating. The humiliation of being whipped like a slave was lost in a horror of the pain and her reaction to it. She began to sob softly as the lash rose and fell, stroking her back, buttocks and thighs in flesh-cutting caresses.
    When he'd stopped and she slowly became aware of the fact, she felt the individual strands of pain across her body and that unfinished symphony of aching in her loins which craved for fulfillment. In an unreal world of pain and longing and humility she was capable of strange reactions.
    “Well, Madam, now you see how it is to be a slave, to be a city councillor who can be tortured and hanged from the ramparts of your citadel.”
    “Fuck me,” she croaked.
    There was a brief silence and then Cesare broke into peals of astonished laughter.
    “A disguised pain-lover of the first order!” he exclaimed. “Such ardent wishes should never be spurned?even though the spurning would make the torture greater.”
    The act of flagellation had sparked off erotic feelings deep in his core and his penis had risen once again and was jutting out toward his prey. The proud Caterina was begging him to fuck her!
    He walked over to where she sagged with the thin pattern of weals across her back. She looked exhausted. It was difficult to believe she would have the energy to make love. He untied her hands and then her ankles and she fell back onto the rugs to roll over immediately onto her stomach away from the pain of the lashes.
    She lay there for some minutes with him standing over her, looking down on her pink-grooved flesh. She moved her hands and feet gently and groaned a couple of times. Then she raised her tear-washed face and looked at him. There was no hostility in her eyes, nothing but desire and her eyes dropped meaningfully to his ramrod of a prick.
    “So you desire a good length of male strength inside you, my proud Madam,” Cesare mocked.
    His taunting brought no reaction but a nod of almost desperate agreement. She climbed painfully to her knees. The ache of anticipation had shifted from her loins and seemed to flame all over her.
    Cesare helped her to her feet. If her citizens could see this, he thought, their proud, haughty tyrant begging to be upthrust by the enemy chief!
    She pressed hard against him and his prick ran up between them, crushing against the soft flesh of her hips and the sinewy mound of her belly. She joggled against him and he felt the prickling of reciprocation swimming about in his long length of rigidity.
    He began to lead her to the couch. Her eyes showed no reaction to him, no feeling, but that of an inturned yearning. It was as if she were drugged.
    As they stepped slowly toward the divan, she stroked his penis tenderly as if she adored every inch of it. He made way for her to lie down on the couch, but she intimated that he was to lie down himself. Her back was too sore.
    Cesare stretched out, tensed his buttocks and jutted his organ massively up toward the gloomy roof of the dungeon. The fire had begun to diminish and the glow was now a centralized one, surrounded by a half-pierced gloom.
    When he tensed his behind, a live desire moved like a solid thing along from his loins to the base of his reaching rod.
    For a moment the Countess looked at him. She ran her fingers softly up his hot tube of flesh and then swung herself painfully astride him, poising above his prick, arranging her vagina directly above it. She leaned forward, resting her hands on either side of his face while she positioned herself. Her knees brushed his ribs. And then with a long-drawn moan of deliverance, she sank down onto the prick that seared up into her belly like a jet of oil.
    Her head rolled on her neck and she felt giddy and out of control as it raced up inside her and she sank down, until her buttocks met his thighs. Her movement was mechanical, dictated only by the feeling brain in his loins. She rose up and sank again with a broken sob of relief. She began to squirm and skewer her buttocks on his thighs, feeling the point of his prick at its summit pressing and poking at her cervix. She rolled about on his body like a puppet, a puppet crazed with human desire for the orgasm which was so agonizingly slow in coming.
    Cesare brought his thighs up from the horizontal and contained her buttock and hips in them. He reached down with his tingling hands and grasped her thighs in which he could feel the light muscles flexing and unflexing with her movement.
    My God, he thought, this woman was made for one thing only and all her life by all accounts she's lived a lie.
    Her breasts swayed and jumped over her heaving belly and her mouth hung open, under flared nostrils and closed eyes. Her long, fair hair swung across her face each time she descended and with her uprise she shook her head so that it swung away.
    Cesare tensed his buttocks and felt sensation tremble and palpitate at the base of his prick. All the way up, his organ was alive with pinpricks and the knob almost hurt with the treatment, the ferocity she was subjecting it to. He knew he wasn't far off and he dug his fingers into her thighs so hard that he brought a murmur of shock from her puppet lips.
    As she bobbed on him, the Countess tensed her loins, aching for the sensation to flee. She couldn't stand it much longer, that yearning, bursting ball of flame inside her. She had to have release.
    She clasped his hips with her thighs and squirmed her bottom from side to side as she fell. She had forgotten the pain of her thrashing, all sensation was in that long, wet channel in which his prick was like a great, drumming barge-pole. His penis was spreading and battering her belly. It hurt, it was wonderful, it was hateful, it was necessary to be over or she would die.
    As if she were drowning, her past life seemed to mist into the sensation that racked her. This moment seemed to be what she had always lived for, this moment when thinking was painful and the only thing that mattered was the prick in her quim and the manflesh consuming her in its embrace. If there were only this moment it was all that she had ever desired, this acuteness of sensation, this beyond-reality that she had never truly experienced with her tired, frightened, fawning, subservient husbands of before.
    The name of the man who had subjected her fused with her gasps of pain and love: “Cesare, Borgia, Cesare Borgia…” It was inevitably this man that everybody had said was just the way he was? and she had thought to feel differently from everybody else.
    There were times when she'd wondered what it was that would tie her to a man so that she felt no longer free and strong. It was no physical beauty, it was not intellectual strength? both those had been embodied in various of her husbands. It was?what could one say??a je ne sais quois which was nothing more than an animal force in a man, an understanding in a man that he would lead, a lack of fright in a man, of doubt, of hesitation in his certainty that he would stand by his acts.
    These thoughts moved through her head like a phantom, not clear, felt rather. In a feeling connected like cause and result with the wide, scourging opening of her loins which was beginning to happen now, now, now. In a maze of wild, swimming confusion in head and loins, she heard, like a distant train, his breath growing under her, recognized his climax trembling. With a great giving thrust down in which she contracted her loins and concentrated them on the pole down which she slid, she felt the fire within her burst out into a great conflagration as she moaned in delirium and seemed to die and die and die again…
    She was aware after some seconds which were like darkness, that he had held her up with his strong arms and that his staccato gasping was flailing the cooling air of the dungeon as his prick jerked quickly into her in its fading heat.
    Her last thought before she flopped exhausted along the length of his hot, strong body was that she was his for as long as he wanted her.

CHAPTER 8

    It goes without mention that Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentinois, carried more than military glory back with him to Rome. Maria the gypsy was already established in Imola, well provisioned for his return in a few weeks or months, and in his train, strangely changed to anyone who knew her, the Countess Caterina Sforza-Riario dressed in stark black and white, sat her horse, impressive and emotionless but a willing captive.
    All those cities which had refused to pay their fiefs to the Holy See had been subdued and Cesare's fame?as much his personality as his achievements?had spread throughout the whole of Italy.
    Small wonder that on his return to Rome, the city was the scene of wild enthusiasm. There is nothing the crowd will take to its heart more than a strong man who has a reputation for magnanimity.
    Alexander, himself, overflowed with pride at his son's victories and the glory of his reputation. He dispatched a deputation, which included two cardinals and a number of dignitaries, to meet his son on the road beyond the gates of Rome. A huge reception was prepared for him within with prelates, ambassadors, generals and officials of the city waiting eagerly to receive him.
    When he made his entry through the northern gate, wave upon wave of thunderous cheering filled the air above the seven hills; people threw garments and flowers into the air; there was a salute of cannon fire.
    His train was splendid enough to inspire awe and devotion. In the van were the baggage carts, splendidly caparisoned, and immediately followed by several thousand foot soldiers in full campaign apparel preceded by trumpet-blasting heralds in the livery of the Duke and the King of France. The Duke, who followed next on horseback, was surrounded by a guard of fifty mounted men simply clad and with the Borgian bull emblazoned on their breasts.
    The Duke, plainly dressed in black velvet with a gold chain about his neck, was followed by several thousand cavalry with halberds and banners. A posse of trumpeters, blowing hard enough to reduce the walls of Jericho, brought up the rear in a fine flourish…
    With Cesare, within his protecting body of men-at-arms, rode the deputation which had met him, broad smiles on their faces, happy and proud to share in his glory for a brief moment.
    And not far behind him rode the Countess, unsmiling, severe, but hiding deep thoughts of unbelievable incidents.
    Around this vast cortege, the city was en fete. Guns continuously thundered salutes, banners floated from the Castle of St. Angelo.
    The Pope, tears of joy in his eyes, watched from the loggia above the portals of the Vatican as his son approached. He remembered that son of his, that athletic, gawky boy who had been initiated in the art of love by his young sister Lucrezia, he remembered that panting embrace, guilty and half-afraid beside the pool in the grounds of his mansion. And he thought: This is my son, Cesare Borgia, riding in triumph through the streets of Rome with the whole world as far as the French Court listening to tales of his exploits and success.
    It was only a couple of nights ago that Alexander had, himself, stuck his prick up his daughter's cunt and fucked and fucked her until they had both been paralyzed with inertia?and Cesare had, indirectly, shared in that. It was with him, under the Pope's guidance, that the young girl had lost her virginity and started on that path which made her such a bone-shaking joy to men.
    Alexander brought his thoughts back to the present with an effort. Later tonight, Cesare, if he had no other plans?and who could possibly have other plans?would be able to enjoy his sister in a nude-entwining embrace. This would be a fitting reward for his achievement and richly deserved.
    He watched as his son dismounted at the steps and his bright army ranged itself behind him. When Cesare began to climb the broad flights with the two cardinals and the ambassadors who accompanied him, the Pope, his heart overwhelmed with pleasure, descended to the comfortable chambers below and arranged himself on his throne.
    Cesare, his eyes alight with pleasure at the sight of his father, advanced through the marble-pillared chamber and fell upon his knees before the throne.
    As Alexander, tears in his eyes, placed his hands upon his son's head, prior to embracing him, he thought what a fine and imposing figure his son had become even in the months since he'd departed. Every tiniest period of time seemed to add to his stature. Lucrezia would be overjoyed; indeed, the juices would start to run between her legs at the very sight of her brother, whom she still adored.

CHAPTER 9

    With the departure of Cesare's army from Romagna, it was not long before the physical absence of troops began once again to cause rebellion. News filtered through that the town of Faenza, which had once enjoyed the protection of Venice, was arming itself to the teeth prior to proclaiming itself independent of the Holy See. Thither, after a period of recuperation, Cesare marched again at the head of his army. With winter fast approaching and the town much stronger than had been expected, he settled down to a blockade, cutting off all entry and exit. He had plenty of time.
    In fact, leaving his troops in charge of one of his lieutenants, he repaired with the others to Cesena with the idea of a little light relief.
    At this time of year, late autumn, there were many rustic sports held in the villages of the northern part of Italy where the village Hercules and Appolos were able to show off their prowess in such different arts as wrestling, running and archery. It was to one of these villages, dressed as peasants, incognito, that Cesare and his lieutenants laughingly made their way.
    Each of these sports days was the great local event of the year. The local dignitary, duke or count, with his ladies and retinue, would have the place of honor in a temporary stand at the edge of the sports field, from which he would present the awards when the day was done. The people, drinking and making merry all day, would explode into a carnival of conviviality as darkness fell. There would be dancing in the streets and fireworks, people would get lost, there would be necking and an occasional robbery or rape. Often, long-bored wives would choose this occasion to get caught up in the crowd away from their half-drunk husbands and join in a furious and desperate copulation with any stranger who caught hold of their long hair and planted a kiss on their longing lips. In the morning, their husbands, who, perhaps, had not been particularly virtuous either, would find their wives sleeping a sleep of the dead in a bed it appeared they'd never left dur ing the festivities. At this time, too, young maids, in sober times so careful of their virginity, would, under the influence of a glass or two of wine, allow themselves to go far enough in their lovemaking for there suddenly to be no return. They would find themselves, startled and helpless, tumbled on their backs in the corner of some field, with their skirts around their waists or perhaps on the nearby hedge and their thighs unbelievably wide as a masculine rigidity brought them pain and then relief from their days of fear and wondering. Many a bastard owed his birth to the abandon of carnival time in the villages, many a maiden found herself the following day, or in the days that followed, wondering which of the many men she passed in the streets had deflowered her while she lay in half-drunk ecstasy beneath him. If it were not that so many were in the same boat and everybody knew it, there would be great embarrassment. And, of course, some of the one-night affairs developed into liaisons of a more permanent nature so that many a wife on a shopping expedition, would take to wandering through the fields and woods on a sunny morning, to return, rather late, with crumpled dress and a guilty expression, to the family bosom.
    It was to join in such ribald and licentious gaiety that Cesare and his party left Cesena in high spirits one morning.

CHAPTER 10

    “Who is the lady next to the Duke of Alfaro?”
    Cesare voiced the question to Rossano Erfredi, one of his followers. His eyes gazed up to the nearby stand where the Duke, a pompous, condescending old fellow, was surrounded by his wife, a band of men and ladies-in-waiting and a very attractive, fair-haired girl with pale, blue eyes which sparkled occasionally like sun-flecks on a shallow, Mediterranean sea.
    “I've never seen her before, Sire?but I can find out in no time.”
    “She appears to be alone?she's a beauty, isn't she?”
    “Indeed, Sire, worthy of any gentleman's attention, grinned Erfredi.
    “I'm glad our views concur,” smiled Cesare. “Go and see what you can find out.”
    With Erfredi gone, Cesare turned back to where the village champion was in the act of eliminating yet another of his wrestling challengers. The man was stocky and over-muscular, probably the village blacksmith. So far he had won all his contests against his fellow villagers and foreign rustics by sheer brute strength. He was certainly dangerously strong, Cesare reflected, but he'd have to use more than brute strength if he wanted to keep his title this year.
    The crowd was excited, as much by its own effervescence as the spectacle and the cheering and encouragement was considerable. It had not escaped their attention that there was a stranger in the field this year who looked a force to be reckoned with, but their money was on their local celebrity.
    “A moronic mountain,” one of Cesare's lieutenants whispered at his elbow, “but one would have to be careful if one got in close with him.”
    “I have his measure? I trust.”
    “If he looks like breaking one of your bones I'll put an arrow through his arm.”
    “You want us to be lynched from the trees over yonder?no, I have his measure, I say,” Cesare replied.
    While his bulging adversary had been breaking bones and spirits in dealing with his challengers, Cesare had, himself, come gently through the earlier rounds, with well applied pressures, to a less spectacular but just as efficient entry into the final bout which he was destined to have with the champion.
    Already, the ladies had remarked his tall, slim-hipped figure with its supple muscular chest and arms which were in such contrast to the bulky power of the favorite. Many a feminine heart had already felt a twinge of desire and of curiosity as to who this handsome young man might be.
    “There should be fun tonight,” Cesare said to another of his lieutenants. “The whole place is swarming with pretty women and you can see their eyes gleaming with hope for a bit of freedom.”
    “Aye, Sire, I've made up my mind to have four in turn tonight?at least four.”
    “What a gourmand, Enrico, you'd better mind you don't break your neck in the races.”
    “It's something else I have to mind I don't break.”
    Cesare chuckled. “Well, Enrico, I'm a gourmet, and I've made my single choice already.”
    “Indeed, Sire?might one ask…?”
    “Over there in the stand. There's only one I could mean.”
    Enrico gazed discreetly towards the aristocrats' shelter.
    “Ah, yes,” he sighed. “I'd reluctantly put thoughts of that away. She's much too well chaperoned by the Duke and Duchess?might even be their daughter.”
    “The better she's chaperoned, the more determined she'll be to escape them once the idea's in her,” Cesare said, with a grin.
    “Well, good luck, Sire?perhaps the result of the wrestling will be an omen.”
    “Ah, Rossano, you must have intelligence in every village in the north to be so quick?who is she?”
    Rossano Erfredi was a little out of breath with hurrying to obey his chief's command. He spoke quickly, his words punctuated by little gasps which seemed, somehow, to enshroud the object of his inquiries in an exotic urgency.
    “Her name, Sire, is Dorotea Caracciolo. She is the wife of Gianbattista Caracciolo, a captain of foot with the Venetians. She's here as a friend of the Duke and Duchess of Alfaro.”
    “And her husband?where is he?”
    “In Venice, Sire?the lady is quite alone.”
    “Well done, Rossano?I'll save you a piece of the lady's garter for your pains.”
    There was a gust of laughter which died away as one of the sports officials came to say that the champion was ready for his final challenger. Across the greensward, his muscles more extended than usual from his limbering efforts with earlier adversaries, the champion strutted in an orgy of self-congratulation from which it was clear he saw no likelihood of losing his crown.
    “I wish you'd let me take him, Sire,” Rossano Erfredi said quietly. “He's an ugly looking brute and I could more easily afford to break a bone or two than you.”
    “You don't trust my strength, Rossano? Come, is that worthy from a lieutenant to his captain?”
    “Oh, Sire, forgive me, no!” Erfredi was covered with confusion. “It's simply that… if there were any risk?and I don't suppose for a moment there is?I'd sooner it were me than that you should risk a strain…” He was embarrassed now that he'd said anything which could be taken ambiguously when it had merely been an automatic statement of his devotion to the Duke of Valentinois.
    “Yes, Sire,” another lieutenant added. “I wish you'd let any of us take him. He's not worth your trouble.” Cesare laughed.
    “It's no trouble, Enrico, I assure you, and it's only reasonable that I should lead our spearhead into the sports. Rossano, I don't forget a man's concern for my skin. It's the highest tribute anyone could ask.”
    A slight hush, broken with odd shouts, guffaws and other noises of movement and early tipsiness, had clouded over the green. Few doubted that the champion would be champion yet again. But the stranger provided a little more interest than was usually taken in a foregone conclusion. The fact was, that Cesare's victories had been so easy that they had lacked the impressive cock-strutting dazzle of his opponent's.
    “Here's to the omen for the fair lady,” Cesare said, as he moved out, away from his little band of disguised officers, and walked alertly toward the approaching champion.
    Both were dressed in tights. Cesare in shoes and the champion in boots. The muscles in their torsos contained no shadows from the dying sun, but veins stood out on them like marks traced heavily around the highland on a map.
    They approached each other slowly, cunningly, surrounded at a distance by a crowd of several thousand villagers and countryfolk above whom the Duke of Alfaro's party looked on from the height of their perch.
    Both men reached a point just beyond each other's reach and circled for a moment, sizing each other up. Then the champion, a man of uncomplicated reactions, who wanted a quick and spectacular victory to make him the undisputed wrestler of all time in his village, rushed in. Cesare caught his fist as he came, ignoring the other arm which reached out triumphantly for his neck. As the champion's fingers, all in a second, grazed his skin, he gave a quick twist to the fist he held. With a gasp, the champion jerked over off his balance and landed with a breath-shattering thud on his back. It was not for nothing that Cesare had had a Turkish instructor during his student days.
    Quickly, Cesare was in with a full nelson on his opponent. The astonished referee counted according to the village rule, while the champion fumed and strained at the vise-like pressure on his neck, trying to jerk his shoulders from the ground. When Cesare released him at the end of the count, he got up slowly, easing his neck. The cheers of Cesare's lieutenants hailed over the green, followed, rather uncertainly, by cheering encouragement from the crowd.
    The champion was furious, his eyes were the sparking color of red-hot coal in his blacksmith's furnace. He had not yet realized his danger. This was an accident. Some insolent, quick-moving stranger had taken him off his guard. Perhaps he'd been just a little too confident. But now he knew what his opponent was up to he'd crush his insolence out of him?but quickly before he lost face in front of his countrymen.
    He came in again, caught Cesare's arms which came out to meet him and felt vague astonishment that his progress was completely checked. Those arms were as stiffly strong as the barrel of a cannon. For a second or two they stood there, leaning forward slightly, arms on each other's biceps and then the blacksmith swung Cesare and felt him going, sideways, apparently off-balance. He moved in to get his bear grip around the man's neck and suddenly, Cesare seemed to have righted himself. As the champion came to close quarters a sharp ankle blow knocked his legs together painfully and an even sharper jab under his chin sent him crashing on his back for the second time. There were fresh cheers and sounds of triumphant merriment from Cesare's little band of lieutenants. The rest of the crowd was hushed in something like awe.
    Cesare leapt onto the heaving, almost deflated chest of his opponent, bent over him, so that their faces were close together and slipped a stranglehold around his neck with both arms. The champion flailed for a moment, grabbed at Cesare's shoulders, arms and then his hair, but sudden, sharp tightenings of the asphyxiating grip on his neck made him release his hold each time with squeals of pain.
    “Lie still or I'll strangle the life from you,” Cesare gritted. Half-conscious only, with tears of strain in his eyes, the champion lay back, hardly knowing what had happened to him. The referee counted, slowly, it seemed, as if he could hardly credit the possibility of the title-holder being out for the second time in such a tiny space and with so little resistance.
    When Cesare sprang to his feet, lithe as a gymnast, his opponent lay where he had fallen for a moment. Then he rolled over on his side and looked dazedly at Cesare with something like real fear in his eyes. He didn't move and the crowd began to shout for him, a shouting which slowly turned into a barracking as he turned a white face around the field as if he'd like to run for it.
    “Had enough, my friend?” Cesare taunted. “Do you want to hand the title to me on a platter?”
    A momentary gleam of hatred chased the fear from the blacksmith's face. All his dominance, all his respect in the village was dissipating. He had held a sure place in the set-up in this part of the world. Everybody knew who he was, what he was, how strong he was, what he could do to a man who questioned his position. And now, this fellow, this devil incarnate had arrived from nowhere to make what should have been a splendid, strength-displaying sports day into a farce in which he couldn't even seem to get near his opponent.
    He struggled to his feet. He would make this effort. One more throw and hold and he was finished. The fellow was slippery, but he must be stronger. He must be stronger. Nobody could question that. If he could get the fellow before he had any chance to perform one of those dirty conjuring tricks, he'd have him crying out for mercy and then they'd see if they hadn't decided a little too early to flout his authority, to decide that if this fellow could beat him he wasn't so strong and wonderful after all.
    On his feet, he moved slowly, carefully. His neck hurt with a searing pain when he moved it, but his eyes had cleared and the breath had come back to fill his big body. This time he'd keep hyper-alert for a nuance of a movement, ready to counter it.
    Cesare knew, he knew what was going on in his opponent's mind and in his own the little warning that always came when things seemed to be going almost too much his way, spoke out. “Don't relax for a moment,” it said. “Don't assume that you've won just because if you keep your head it's a cakewalk. First you have to keep your head.”
    So Cesare, too, moved slowly, hyper-alert, rather than dulled into carelessness by his near-victory.
    Silence had come on the crowd again. They seemed to sense the desperate plight of the local champion, for whom no love was lost, certainly, but for whom there was a certain feeling of kinsmanship in that he was born and bred in the village in which they all lived and worked and made love.
    During several seconds they circled each other, hands taut and moving slightly, arms taut and waiting. The blacksmith was unwilling to rush in this time and waited for Cesare to make the first move.
    It came, suddenly. Cesare moved in, catching his opponent's fist again. But this time, the blacksmith flung himself in at the Duke's waist, not quick enough to avoid the knee which caught him a searing blow in the chest as he came in, but quick enough to get his great arms around his adversary's body so that, like a boa constrictor, he could slowly squeeze the life out of him.
    There was a gasping rustle of excitement in the crowd. Cesare's men fidgeted, hands on the daggers in their belts.
    Cesare was too late to resist. He felt the backbreaking grip around him and let himself go limp, suddenly, reaching behind at the same time with both hands. He found the little fingers as the breath began to heave and choke in his chest, and tugged at them sharply. The blacksmith gave a cry of pain and released his grip, his hands hanging limp as Cesare seized an arm, levered with his hips in the man's groin and threw him heavily again to the ground. There were gasps which resounded all over the field as if every member of the assembled multitude had had the breath knocked out of him by the fall.
    Although strained, the blacksmith's fingers had not been broken. Cesare had not applied all the pressure he might have done. After all this was not war to the death. But in the mind of the champion it might have been. Winded, his fingers smarting, he nonetheless managed to seize Cesare's foot as he came in and twisted him off his balance so that he in turn slipped onto his back. He was up in an instant, however, and the blacksmith, slow, cumbersome and opening his mouth to get his breath, was not able to follow tip his momentary advantage. The two men faced each other again, circling, chests heaving, muscles sliding in their arms and shoulders as they moved.
    Cesare knew he would be wise to exploit the other's temporary exhaustion and injury quickly, but, having felt the strength of those great tree-trunk arms around him, he was cautious. The champion's eyes were afire, but mingled with the fire was a recognition of defeat staring him in the face. When his gaze met the cool, unyielding look of his unknown adversary he felt that he was up against some strange presence against whom he could do little.
    Suddenly Cesare moved in and the blacksmith's arms went out in mingled defense and attack. But with a speed which took his still half-winded opponent completely by surprise, Cesare had ducked under his arms, seized his widespread legs with each hand and pulled upwards as he thrust up with his shoulders in the man's crotch. The blacksmith was bewildered by the lightning thrust and unable to do anything but flail his arms in the air as he found himself flung into the air and then crashing on his face. He had not time even to roll over before Cesare was on him from behind and gripping him in a leg hold which brought tears of pain to his eyes. He scratched at the ground with tensed hands and tried to unseat his opponent with his buttocks, but Cesare was unmoveable. He simply applied more pressure until the blacksmith was bellowing in pain and beating on the ground in surrender.
    A great roar of appreciation went up from the crowd. Their champion had been well beaten by a man who was immeasurably his superior. There were no hard feelings and it would take the cocky blacksmith down a peg or two.
    Among Cesare's officers nobody could understand how they'd ever even considered that he was running a risk in taking on this adversary. Their chief was invincible.

    “Who is that man?” Dorotea Caracciolo's pale blue eyes were sparkling in their depths with admiration.
    “Don't know,” said the Duke of Alfaro indifferently. “Some lout from one of the villages, I suppose.”
    “He doesn't look much like a lout, does he?”
    Dorotea had caught his tone and she knew what he was thinking. Since the beginning of her stay, the old man had been trying hard to seduce her, a fact that didn't cause her much concern. Except that last night in a flush of desperation he had come into her boudoir in his underclothes, while his wife slept. She had been bathing and had time only to cover herself with a towel before he had seized her and was begging her to yield to him or his life stood for nothing. In half earnest, half bravado he'd actually managed to lay hold of her and pull the towel from her breasts. She'd felt his hand on her buttocks, his panting breath on her neck and his fat body with its hot penis crushing against her before she'd managed to fight him off, threatening to tell his wife if he persisted. Really, such conduct wasn't to be tolerated and she'd informed her hosts that she thought she should leave in two days' time. Although she was more amused than offended. After all, all men were the same at heart and she recognized that he had a genuine heart-aching lust for her which was not unflattering. However it was too boring to have to be subjected to invasions of her boudoir and, who knew, he might take her unawares some time, get her at some disadvantage and actually screw her? rape her. That would disgust her. His hot, fat flesh. Now… if it were the young man on the field…
    “Looks a typical country bumpkin to me,” the Duke persisted in a disgruntled tone. “Eh, my dear,” he added a little more loudly for the benefit of his wife on his other side.
    “I think he's glorious?looks like a prodigal prince,” his wife said.
    Dorotea laughed to herself. Now he was going to be as jealous as hell if he thought she admired this young man.
    “How beautiful he is compared to that ogre of a man he's just beaten so soundly,” she went on. “I think he has one of the finest bodies imaginable.”
    “Well, you can guarantee he'll have no brain,” the Duke said, eyeing his guest with annoyance. “A beautiful carcass and nothing whatever in his head? probably can't even read or write.”
    “Oh, but I thought he used his brain very well during the match,” Dorotea teased, “and I'd sooner take a body like that than what passes for brains any day.”
    She pulled her hand away as the Duke tried to hold it on the bench on which they sat.
    “Any woman would be proud and happy to have a man like that,” she added, maliciously.
    Pangs of envy and frustrated fury skewered through the Duke's breast. He knew how she was tormenting him. But she couldn't be serious?give herself to a common rustic like that when she could have a man of quality. But tomorrow she was leaving. Oh those delicious little white breasts with their pert, pink-rimmed nipples, high, firm, cheeky almost. He had a picture of them ever before his eyes. And the feel of the smooth skin of her buttocks and the animal warmth of her body behind the towel against him. Oh heaven and hell! He would live his life in a dream of what might have been if she didn't yield to him before her departure. Tonight was the only chance. If only he could drug her with wine or something. It wouldn't matter not to feel her responses if it had to be that way. Just to enter in up that moist, warm creek would be salvation. His eyes glanced sideways at her lovely profile, that tremulous, sexy, jutting lower lip, that small nose and firm chin, that high forehead with the sweep of long fair hair back from it? and most of all those pale, mysterious eyes, sphinx-like half the time, dancing with animation the rest. Oh to have that face close to his as her body wriggled?or just lay dead? under his. Better to see those eyes dancing with passion, that jutting lip trembling with emotion and ecstasy as he drove her and himself to fulfillment. Oh, darling Dorotea! A country bumpkin with muscles and straw in his hair! How could she be so ridiculous?or so cruel!
    The sports continued, with their closing events. Cesare and his lieutenants had entered separately in only some of the events so as not to attract too much attention. They had won everything they'd undertaken and Cesare closed the day by walking off with the archery contest.
    “It was as well, Sire, that we didn't enter for everything or they'd have nothing to show in the village except a mass of long faces tomorrow,” Rossano Erfredi said.
    “Oh, they'd have had time to recover their good spirits in the dark corners tonight,” Cesare said with a laugh. “Nothing like a good orgasm or two for a relaxed view of life.”
    It was the Duke of Alfaro's privilege and duty to present the awards?hogsheads of wine, great hams and sides of bacon with little silver cups?and the successful competitors, donning jerkins, lined up in the last rays of the sun, with a cool night air beginning to freshen, at the foot of the stand.
    Cesare took his place in the queue, smiling at his role of prizewinner in a local fete. And when he looked for Dorotea Caracciolo, he found her eyes were on him.
    She was standing next to the Duke of Alfaro, helping him to present the trophies, but her glance had risen from the immediate presentation and traveled along the line of waiting men to Cesare. With a twinge of pleasurable excitement he met her gaze and smiled slowly at her. She pulled her eyes from him and he suddenly remembered that he was a simple rustic. Hardly the thing to be making advances to the wives of captains in the service of Venice. But maybe she liked country pleasures. He chuckled quietly.
    The line dwindled and Cesare found himself face to face with the aristocrat of the district and his lovely guest. Now that he saw her close up he felt a flush of eagerness to get on intimate terms with her, to get in intimate postures with her. Her figure, well draped in her dress, was nonetheless visibly exciting and her face was alive with a vivacious fire which sprang out of her eyes in twin points like mischievous children. What an excellent carnival companion she would make.
    Solemnly the Duke of Alfaro handed him two cups: one for the wrestling, one for the archery. At his side were a ham and a hogshead of wine, the supplementary, gastronomic prizes. The Duke had not meant to address this rustic. It seemed quite enough to him that the man had already given rise to some conversation?rather uncalled for. But when confronted by Cesare he was reluctantly impressed by the man's presence?and made hostile by it.
    “Tell me, my man?you don't belong to the village?” he asked.
    “No your Grace. I'm an infantryman with the Duke of Valentinois' troops?on leave at the moment, so please your Grace.”
    “You see?he speaks,” Dorotea cut in, laughing lightly and looking first at Cesare's muscular, uncovered forearm and then raising her eyes to his handsome, commanding face.
    “Did you think me to be a deaf mute, Madame?” he asked.
    The Duke of Alfaro began to expostulate, but Dorotea cut him short.
    “We were simply wondering whether such a splendid physique could really be crowned by any brain at all,” she said, with another little laugh.
    “It's not unknown for the two to go together,” Cesare said with a smile. “You, Madame, are, I'm sure, a fair example of such.”
    “Why you…” the Duke of Alfaro began to splutter, but Dorotea put a restraining hand on his arm while her eyes continued to smile at Cesare.
    “I thank you for a very nice compliment,” she said. “I have heard that the Duke of Valentinois is an iron-willed man of great physical strength. If he could out-wrestle and out-shoot you, it would be worth the seeing.”
    “Madame, I owe all I know to His Grace,” Cesare replied. “A finer man never lived.”
    “Yes, indeed, they say all his men would die for him. Are you visiting all the carnivals and sports you can reach on your leave?”
    “No, Madame, I have a feeling that this area has something really delightful to offer. I shall probably stay for a while if I and my friends can find a suitable inn.”
    “Well, I hope you are able fully to enjoy the delights of which you speak.”
    During their conversation, the Duke of Al-faro had not hidden his annoyance and his obvious irritation that Dorotea should talk so easily with a mere infantryman. But he had restrained his anger not to appear ridiculous in front of the villagers who had gathered in a great throng around the stand, and some of whom could hear the words which were being spoken. Also he didn't want to offend Dorotea, although he was certain she was doing this just to tease him. He still wanted to fuck Dorotea. Fuck Dorotea! Fuck Dorotea! He repeated the words to himself, fiercely and then blushed with desire at the images and sensations they brought forth in his mind.
    He refused to have anything further to say to the lout, however, and simply began to lift the hogshead.
    “Your Grace,” Cesare said, “if it would not displease you I'd like the village to have the hogshead and the ham?a gesture of friendship from strangers in their midst.”
    This sign of gentle manners somehow annoyed the Duke even more. There was something disturbing about this stranger. He actually felt a little afraid of the man although he wouldn't admit it to himself in such terms.
    “All right,” he said curtly, “as you wish.”
    “Come Benvenuto?a very fine gesture, too,” the Duchess chided from his side.
    The Duke of Alfaro was about to add a reluctant word in agreement when his voice was drowned out by a great gust of cheering which thundered out through the quietening night air. The word had been passed back that the carnival victuals of the village were to be reinforced through the generosity of this stranger who had fought so well.
    Cesare bowed slightly to the Duke and Duchess and then to Dorotea, whose eyes, glinting with what might have been a light amusement, or something else, continued to watch him as he withdrew.
    “What a charming fellow,” the Duchess whispered to her companions. “He hardly seemed like a peasant. Manners and speech are improving in the country.”
    “No, he didn't, did he?” Dorotea mused.
    “Well, I think he was damned insolent speaking that way to our guest.”
    “Oh come, Benvenuto, he was just paying a bold compliment. No lady really minds. Yes, he struck me as a bold man?quite strange.”
    A bold compliment? the Duke was thinking. What could have been bolder than my compliment? God! I nearly had her. Just a towel between us?and not even that between parts of us. His loins cringed at the thought of what had been so near and now seemed so far away.

CHAPTER 11

    Night had now fully fallen. The stars were on a high, dark, mellow ceiling and there was a reflection below from a huge fire which had been built in the center of the field. It cast a broad, bright glow over the faces of the nearest rank of the people who were gathered in a great, loose mob around it. It was hot, too, and those who had sat, cross-legged on the ground near it, had, several times, to get up and move back a little.
    Over the fire on an enormous spit an ox was slowly roasting. The deflated hogsheads of wine were lying in the small clearing formed by the crowd and illuminated by the fire. The wine was now either smoldering in lustful bellies or swishing in the water-bottles which the villagers had brought with them. Bread had been distributed and bits of it, broken and dusty, lay around the field. The hams, the sides of bacon had already been privately eaten or taken home to fill the larder for a few days. Now everyone was waiting for the distribution of the ox which the Duke of Alfaro ritually provided for this occasion.
    The Duke, himself, was basting the animal with ponderous, self-important deliberation, drawing back from the heat of the fire every so often when it became too much. For the moment, concentrating on his official task, he had allowed lustful thoughts of Dorotea to slip into the recesses of his mind. Which was just as well. For Dorotea, standing with the aristocrats' group, a little within and away from the main sprawling mob, was gazing at Cesare, who, from the front ranks of the crowd, was returning her look just as meaningfully.
    It was nearing Dorotea's time to conceive and she was feeling the lack of intercourse which her trip had deprived her of. She was full of honest, animal appetites. Her husband would have done, although in truth she was not in love with him. But this athletic rustic who didn't seem to be a rustic had captured her imagination and would do much better. He was the only man she could recall having come across since her arrival. What a pity he wasn't one of the Duke's entourage. It would be so much less complicated.
    She saw him smile at her and gave a sideways glance with the corners of her eyes before returning his smile quickly, briefly. He was so handsome and he had a sort of fire in him, a controlled fire that was quite obvious. She just knew that he hadn't been the slightest concerned about the Duke of Alfaro's ill-concealed anger. She believed that for two pins he could have snapped his fingers in the Duke's face. There was something very strange somewhere.
    “Done, done, I think,” the Duke called, red-faced and sweating beside the crackling, delicious-smelling ox.
    The distribution began?a hunk of ox for everybody and bread and wine flowing liberally. The power of the grape was, indeed, stalking in the crowds and with the fireworks and main carnival to come, some young couples were already so fired that they were creeping off for a quick, ecstatic embrace before the public displays. Before the night was out there were going to be some very exhausted, very satiated bodies in this corner of Italy.
    The Duke of Alfaro had rejoined his party and was now looking once more at the object of his desire as he munched a fat piece of meat. Cesare saw his look and understood. It was very understandable, after all. His own feelings were identical.
    Dorotea, unable to go where she felt inclined to, unwilling to put up with the Duke of Alfaro's verbally amorous advances, engaged one of the Duchess' waiting women in conversation. The Duke withdrew, hurt and cross, to watch her curvaceous movements from a slight distance. Cesare took a long swig of wine from a bottle passed by one of his men and settled down to wait.
    While the big fire was still blazing there was a fizz of color and noise from the direction of the village and a long-tailed rocket swooped into the air, scattering a confetti of varicolored sparks and stars through the dark sky and fizzled away into darkness and silence again.
    There was a short hush of surprise which was shattered almost immediately by whoops and roars of delight from the crowds. The sign for the festivities had been given. As the crowds began to stream away toward the village a whole cluster of rockets soared into the air with tails like birds of paradise and then exploded into a rainbow of colors which filtered into a disappearing rain of particles of color.
    The skeleton of the ox was left gently charring over the still blazing fire. The field, littered with pieces of discarded food, began to clear. Caught in the crowd, trying to remain dignified aloof from it, the Duke of Alfaro's party also made its way toward the lanes which led from the field to the village square.
    Cesare, with his officers, followed close in their wake.
    Outside the field in the narrow lanes with their crumble-walled cottages and houses and cobbled surfaces, the crush became severe. People pushed, some fell and struggled to their feet shrieking, women were felt by men they couldn't even turn to scold, many a pert buttock was pinched and held, many a masculine loin rubbed and ground impudently against feminine asses as the mob, like a single moving entity, hustled toward the square from which more and yet more rockets were being launched into the still air.
    Cesare, who had kept close to the local dignitaries' party, elbowed his way still closer as the mob became less and less controlled. There was a great din of cries and a great strife of falling and pushing and fighting and protesting. Every man for himself, and nobody was very concerned about what his neighbor was doing.
    The Duke of Valentinois was slowly separated from his lieutenants, who tried in vain to keep up with him. Shortly he had pushed through to the fringe of the Duke of Alfaro's party which was trying to maintain a semblance of decorum in the crush. Peasants flocking around were trying desperately and often vainly to stop those behind from shoving them into the ladies-in-waiting.
    Dorotea was in the midst of the party. Often she looked around until at last she was able to see Cesare. They both knew what they were up to, both accepted that they were working toward each other.
    Gradually Dorotea fell back, imperceptibly at first and then more boldly, until she was at the very fringe of her group, all occupied in keeping their own feet, and only a pace or two in front of Cesare. He battled and elbowed a fraction more and he was next to her and had taken her hand, his movement hidden in the crush of bodies. Her fingers clasped and interlaced with his immediately, although she didn't look at him any more.
    Gently, but as swiftly as possible, before her disappearance was discovered, he edged her through the crowd toward the side of the line. Nobody noticed them. Sauve qui pent.
    As they approached the main square, narrow, arched alleyways gave off from the lane, corridors between rows of large houses. It was into one of these that Cesare eased Dorotea and then quickly through another archway into the deserted gloom of a mansion courtyard. There he pulled her to him and kissed her fiercely on the lips, feeling her response, her lips which softly opened and her hands which moved and dug against his shoulders. He released her a little later and saw her pale face looking up at him in the gloom. “Who are you?” she whispered. “The champion wrestler and archer of the Duke of Alfaro's lands,” he replied with a chuckle.
    “You're no infantryman?you don't look like one, you don't speak like one.”
    The noise of the crowds, interpolated with the fizz and bang of the rockets and fireworks came to them from a little distance. Within the walls of the empty courtyard it was quiet as if in a glass house. At frequent intervals the flame of a rocket seared the sky, lightly dispersing the gloom surrounding them for a few seconds. Cesare stepped back from her a little and bowed, a vague shape in the darkness.
    “Allow me to present myself, Madame,” he said softly. “The Duke of Valentinois.”
    He heard her sudden intake of breath in the darkness. A short silence followed in which he heard her breathing heavily. Then she came in toward him and he felt her whole body fuse along his own as he put his arms around her. “One might have known,” she whispered. “They say he's the most handsome man in Italy.”
    He kissed her again, forcing her lips apart, edging them away from each other with his own. Her tongue darted into his mouth, smooth and slippery and enticing.
    “My disguise is not very good if you almost saw through me so easily,” he whispered.
    “No disguise would hide you,” she whispered back. “Even my pompous old host noticed. I think he was afraid of you and certainly envious.”
    “He obviously desires you.”
    “Yes?he's an old lecher.”
    “Then I am a younger lecher.”
    For answer she laughed softly and kissed him again, running her hands through his hair. Her breath came heavily and he could feel her breasts heaving crazily against his chest. She pulled away from him suddenly, a little wildly.
    “Not here,” she whispered. “Not now. They'll find I'm missing in no time and search the whole place to find me.”
    He ran his hands over her breasts, richly draped in her velvet dress, as he spoke. Her body shivered under his touch.
    “Where then?when?” he asked.
    “I leave tomorrow,” she said. “Must you stay here?”
    “No, I can take my titles with me.”
    “We could meet on the road?although it will be difficult to give my retinue the slip. They're sending an armed band of men-at-arms with my ladies-in-waiting.”
    “I'll kidnap you,” he whispered, stroking his hand over her velvet-covered bottom.
    “Such a scandal,” she chided, not taking him seriously.
    “It would be simpler,” he said. “Then no blame can be attached to you whatever. You were simply being held for ransom, but managed later to escape.”
    “But…”
    “Leave it to me.” He kissed her again and she twined her body passionately with his, her tongue searching and probing in a way that made him hot and desperate to have her. He kissed her neck, feeling with the direction of his genitals that perhaps they could take a chance now and find some spot in this courtyard where he could taste her treasure. She was breathing thickly and gasping softly, seeming to come to the same view, for her hand strayed over his body and pressed his buttocks into her loins, while her thighs opened and rubbed against him. But in the midst of their mounting passion there were cries and the sound of footsteps above the dull, distant rumble of the crowd, more incisive. Her name was being called.
    Swiftly they drew back into the deeper gloom of the courtyard and, against the lighter patch of gloom which was the arched entrance, saw a band of men with pikes and drawn swords run past.
    “They're looking for me. We have no time,” she whispered fiercely, as if furious that they had no time now to make love.
    He left her and crossed to the archway. Outside all was dark and deserted. The men had passed but they would be back and doubtless there were more. He called to her softly and in a moment she was at his side, her hand on his arm.
    “Until tomorrow then,” he said. “You can join the crowds quickly now.”
    “I wish it were now,” she said, with a sudden fierce streak of desire. She caught his hand and put it on her breast. And she kissed him once again, fiercely. He ran his lips over her face: the high, warm brow, the animated, pale blue eyes, the short, straight nose, and he bit at that sexy, jutting underlip which told such an accurate story-She broke away from him with a little cry. “Tomorrow,” she said and ran off into the gloom.
    He followed, slowly, watching her dim figure round the corner. By the time he had reached it, she was swallowed up amidst the stragglers making their way to the fringe of the crowds in the square.
    Cesare wandered down to the square where in a roped off space around the pump and an old statue, the fireworks were being exploded. Rockets were still scarring the sky and on the ground a trelliswork of Roman candles, Catherine wheels and other specialities were popping and whirring in profusion and hurtling sparks into the shrieking, joyful crowds. There was no sign of Dorotea, nor yet the Duke of Alfaro's party. Many people were drunk and there were several necking sessions being carried on openly in a way which would have shocked everybody to the core on a day which was more realistic than the present.
    Soon the crowds began to waver back to make room for the grotesquely masked figures, many several times life size which marched into the square, followed by great floats and carts with tableaux from which more fireworks were being hurtled into the flame-scratched sky.
    Men were swigging back wine from flasks and couples were dancing, alone and in groups. There was singing, shouting and, doubtless in some dark doorways, there was fucking too.
    Cesare began to get into the mood of the crowd. He was disappointed that he'd not managed to possess Dorotea that very night. It had left him hot and frustrated. She had an impish animation with her loveliness, and her obvious desire for. him increased his own for her. Now his penis was hot and unsatisfied and his face still flaming from the passion which remained unrequited in his loins. He held out his hand for a flask of wine which was readily passed to him by one of the merrymakers and took a long draught. He joined the group from which he'd received this beneficence and took stock of its members. Among them was an attractive and rather young girl whose cheeks were flushed and whose skirts swished in abandon as she danced and sang. She appeared for the moment to be with nobody and Cesare joined the dancing group next to her.
    “You're so beautiful,” he whispered to her as they swung around each other in the dance, and her laughing, tipsy eyes laughed up at him and she pouted her mouth as if she wanted to ' be kissed. A young bud ripe for the plucking, he said to himself as he kissed her lightly on her rosebud lips.
    The group raced toward the edge of the crowd for a better view as more floats and carts rumbled into the square. Cesare caught the girl, who was about to run with them and waltzed her into a dance. Laughing and leaning back from his arms, she allowed herself to be danced away from the crowd, until they were almost lost in the gloom at the edge of the square. There Cesare kissed her more ardently and she responded with a similar, but innocent ardor.
    “Let's go and salvage the remains of the ox,” he suggested.
    “But I'm not hungry.”
    “I am?we can dance all the way and be back in a moment.”
    She threw back her head and laughed at the thought of dancing through the streets and they moved off with one accord through the gloom of the lane which led to the field where the skeleton of the ox was sagging over the dying fire. On the way they were passed by a group of armed men, who stared at them closely as they passed. You'll find her when you join the throng, Cesare thought with a twinkle. His thoughts roamed for a moment over the face and body of Dorotea. He put his arm around the girl at his side, who was laughing and chattering. A good second best, he thought.
    When they reached the field, the fire was a small, flickering spot in a distant point. It was dark and he led her away from the fire. She didn't seem to notice and when, near a clump of small bushes he pulled her around and kissed her again, she closed her eyes and threw back her head. The soft lips on his enveloped him in flame. Her dark hair was lavender-scented. He caught her neck in his hands and crushed his body into her. He stroked her breasts over her dress and drew her down onto the grass in the gloomy shadow of the bushes. She did not resist while he roved over her breasts, but when his hand moved away and traveled up her leg, lifting the hem of her dress and moving up a soft bare thigh, she pulled her face from his.
    “No, no,” she said.
    He ignored her protest, held her tightly and moved his hand right up until he could feel the concave heat of her crotch and his fingertips brushed against a soft down.
    “No, no, no,” she said softly but desperately. She tried to pull away and closed her thighs over his hand. As she struggled he held her tighter and then his fingers were brushing the soft, hanging folds of her labia. When he dug inside she cried out and began to whimper. She was evidently a virgin. But tonight was revelry night, the night for deflowering, and Cesare was at boiling point from his earlier encounter. Holding her struggling body he pulled, tugged and tore off her undergarment and stretched her back on the grass. He slithered from his own undergarments and felt the cool night air on his rigid prick.
    “No, no, please, no…” the girl begged. But the caress of his fingers in her vagina which was moistening rapidly seemed to have subdued her. It was now herself she was fighting as much as him.
    Cesare wasted no time. He swung onto her and jabbed his prick at her hole. “No, no, no?Oooooooooh!” His penis had coursed into her wet flesh, in pain and excitement. Her mouth screwed up. This was it. This was the point of waiting finally reached on a dark carnival night in a cool field with a strange man. It hurt, but it was exciting and after a while it began to give pleasure. Cesare, thrusting deeper and deeper into her body which quivered like a frightened animal's imagined to himself that it was Dorotea, with whom he looked forward to emulating today's performance on the morrow.

CHAPTER 12

    Dorotea had rejoined the Duke of Alfaro's party, explained her absence due to being lost in the crowd and then wandering in curiosity, and had finally left the carnival early. Drunks were already lying around the streets and the Duke and his entourage, who returned to his chateau with her, saw some scenes which the Pope could not officially have approved of.
    The Duke, with lovesick, desire-jaundiced eyes seized every opportunity to catch her hand, to press against her, to look down the front of her dress. He seemed to her really like a child. But she could forgive him. If she hadn't come to stay at the chateau she would never have met the Duke of Valentinois, with whom her thoughts were overwhelmed. She wondered how he would execute the daring plan he had decided on for tomorrow. They said he stopped at nothing. That was what thrilled her?the thought of being in the arms of a man who stopped at nothing, to know that even as you felt his organ filling you he was a strange, iron-willed man who stopped at nothing, would take from you whatever he desired and there was nothing you could do about it.
    Back in the chateau, she retired to her own suite of rooms, undressed and stood by her window, staring out over the empty grounds to the distant glow of the village. She had been violently frustrated, but now she could wait until tomorrow. But if only he were here with her in this room, if only he could see her from the grounds and find a way in. She might have suggested it…
    But down in the grounds, hidden among the trees, another figure was watching her windows?the Duke of Alfaro. And when he saw her slim, tight, curvaceous form appear in its fleshly state at her window he nearly died from apoplexy. His gaze became transfixed, his eyes bulged, he hardly breathed during the several minutes that she stood gazing dreamily out over the hill and her body was there for him to see, vaguely, at a distance, but well silhouetted by the lights in her room.
    The Duke nearly fainted from desire. His prick felt as if it would burst and he took it out from the robe he was wearing and fondled it, while he watched her. He had to get in the bitch!

    Dorotea lay on her bed, naked and cool, thinking of her night's activity. She pressed her hands down her body. Tomorrow he would be doing that. Tomorrow her body would have no secrets from him. It would be his to do with as he wished. She smiled, her fingers touched her thigh near the lips of her vagina and she turned on her side and lost herself in a sleeping maze of thoughts and images.

    The Duke of Alfaro walked softly through corridors of his castle. He did not creep stealthily in case he met any of the servants, but he walked more quietly and quickly than was usual with him. He still wore his robe under which was nothing but his fat, shaggy body. He had waited outside for some time, hoping that his erection would deflate and not push out the robe in a great protuberance. But his turmoil of sexy thoughts somehow just refused to let it go down, so now he was walking quickly and quietly, hoping he wouldn't meet a soul.
    In the pocket of his robe, his clenched hand, against which he could feel the silk-covered, horizontal tower of his ramrod, rested against the cooling metal of a key?a skeleton key, a passe-partout, a gateway to heaven and perhaps hell, the key to the suite of rooms that his young, luscious guest was occupying.
    The corridors were dark, with an occasional candle at the dark corners. There were old, dusty pictures on the walls and old suits of armor stood, chill and austere, at respectable tilting distance from one another. His feet made no sound on the thick carpet; the slight swishing of his robe and the grating of his excited breath, which he tried to control, were the only sounds.
    He reached the door of her suite without seeing anybody, and fitted the key quietly. The first room was a salon. It was doubtful that she would be there. When he'd witnessed her nudity it had been at the large, balcony windows of her bedroom.
    The key turned in the lock of the heavy door and his heart thumped furiously and he felt as if the color had drained out of his face. It certainly hadn't drained out of his prick, for his pride stood up stark and stiff still?and tingling with hope eternal.
    Inside it was dark, but a vague, diffused light misted through the open archway which connected the salon with the boudoir.
    Softly, his heart in his mouth, the Duke closed the door behind him. Just as softly, he locked it and slipped the key back into the pocket of his robe.
    For a few seconds he leaned against the door, listening, hearing nothing but the beating of his heart, seeing nothing but the misty light from the next room and the mixed images of her that he carried in his head, the feel of her buttocks and the sight of her uncovered breasts from the torn-off towel, the outline of her firm body from the grounds below.
    He tiptoed carefully toward the arch, moving with a nervous skill between the tables, chairs and other objects which sprang up in the twilight to waylay him.
    He peered, on tenterhooks, around the edge of the archway. Candlelight was flickering around her huge, four-poster bed and what he saw turned him hot and cold and made his prick give a sudden throb.
    She was lying on her side and the vague outline of her showed that she was still utterly naked. He moved in, almost gliding on the carpet, until he stood a few feet from the edge of the bed. She was asleep. Her regular breathing came clearly to him in the still room. Her body was still and vulnerable. The slim shoulders?he was viewing her from behind?curved down into a tight slender waist and then rounded out into voluptuously proportioned hips and buttocks. The flesh was real, alive, would yield when he touched it.
    Softly he walked around the bed. His robe had fallen back from his prick and the great tower stood up and out now like a white cannon through an aperture in some battlements.
    From the other side he could see her face, with some of the long, fair hair falling over it. Her lips were slightly apart and the lower lip looked ready for eating. Her breasts were not large, but, as he remembered them from his briefest of glimpses before, well-shaped and firm with those pert, pink nipples that looked like lollipops ready for the sucking. Her hips were warmly-fleshed, her thighs, rounded and superb and the hair above her vagina formed a matching triangle with that which swept down to her shoulders.
    The Duke was trembling from head to foot. He moved unsteadily back to his former viewpoint, feeling, somehow, safer for the moment behind her. He took off his robe and stood, gross and naked, over her, gloating over her body with his eyes.
    Gently he began to fondle and massage his prick, gazing intently all the time at her ass. His gaze tried to see through her buttocks, to feel them through sight. His penis was hot and throbbed furiously in his fingers. He rubbed the skin back and forth, pressing his legs together, pushing sensation through his loins to the aching protuberance which reared over her sleeping form.
    His breathing was difficult and he opened his mouth, emitting a gasp into the room. She stirred and he froze?he hardly knew why as he had been willing for his presence to be discovered. She rolled over onto her back and raised one thigh in her sleep. It flopped outwards, revealing the fluff-shrouded mass of flesh around her vagina. Now her breasts stood out, straight and round above her ribs and the flesh of her hips seemed to reach out toward him. He shuffled nearer, with his hand still gently squeezing his knob.
    The knob had flamed red and he felt a boiling in his rod as he pulled the foreskin back and forth. His chest was heaving, his eyes roamed over her as if they were physically invading her body.
    He moved his other hand down past his massive boom and stroked his balls with his fingertips. He imagined she was stroking them and the tickling sensation in the twin sacs became all the more intense for his imaginings. I must have her now, he thought intensely. I must have her now?I could be in her with any luck before she realized what was happening.
    Strangely, he now felt nervous. His breath seemed to be stifling both his stomach and his chest and he found himself trying to hold his breath. But the turbulence in his loins, reaching up to its zenith in the reddening flower of his passion, was his only raison d'etre for the moment and he had to have his passion slaked in her body. Nothing less would do.
    He moved up still closer so that his knees and thighs touched the coverlet of the bed and he was looking directly down on her prostrate nudity, her sleeping face. That was the face which taunted him. The eyes, of course, were closed and he was deprived of their sudden fluctuation from sphinx to wildcat, but the other features remained to view, the same, voluptuously the same as usual. But she didn't know he was there. He was leaning over her studying those very same features which looked at him with scorn, every detail of which he knew?and she didn't know he was there. Now was the point of crisis. Before now was peace and the sleeping body and features. Beyond now was unknown wakefulness and fighting and… who knew? He felt the impulsive importance of this moment on the brink?and then, with a little intake of breath, he fell on her, knocking her other thigh away as he lay between her legs.

    Dorotea was lying in a huge bed with the Duke of Valentinois. He had pulled her close and was stroking her buttocks. She was bathed in a light dew which was the faint sweat of her passion breaking out like a rash all over her body. He was beautiful and warm and she desired him more than she had ever desired anyone or anything. She could feel the warmth of his great weapon of manhood against her hips and she wanted it inside her. But he only went on stroking her buttocks until she was quivering with excitement.
    She wanted to show him how much she desired him and she rolled over onto her back and opened her thighs ready for him, inviting him to mount her and fill her with his lust.
    But he seemed to hang back and transferred his stroking hand to her aching breast.
    When she moved her lips, slightly, and opened her lips to him he moved at last and kneeled over her ready to lower himself and ride her body like a stallion riding a mare, riding, riding in a euphoria of sexuality. His face came down to her and suddenly his body.
    But his body was heavier than expected and seemed to be scrabbling, there was confusion and unexpected sensation… she awoke with a start and a low scream. A face was over hers, its eyes dilated with lust?that of the Duke of Alfaro's and it was his heavy, fat body which covered hers.
    For several seconds she didn't know whether this was dream or reality. And in that moment or two in which she lay, petrified, wondering where and who she was, a great, fat prick had thrust roughly into her cunt, finding it moist from her dream, and torn up toward her cervix, while its owner gave a cry of ecstasy.
    She began to struggle. She beat him with her fists, lashing his fleshy face. She twisted her legs and writhed her body. She felt his penis drubbing up into her, wider and wider. He was gasping little gasps of pain at her blows, of agonized joy at the tight contraction of his penis in her Dorotea, of the teasing face, of the blue eyes, of the jutting lip, into her firm, slim body.
    For several seconds they struggled together. He thrust several strokes into her. But she was stronger than he was, in his fleshy decay. Her firm, athletic body was more capable of tension and thrust than his limp flabbiness and she realized that with a strong effort she could wriggle away from him.
    But the Duke's preface of rubbing over her body, his palpitating excitement of getting in her cunt at last, raced him to a record climax. Even as she gathered her strength, he gave a grating, grinding, heart-shaking groan of a gasp and came in the channel he was spearing. As she pushed him roughly off her, a stream of viscid liquid streamed after his knob out of her vagina and splayed across her thighs. “You beast, you beast!” she shouted. He lay back on the bed, slightly frightened, sorry in many ways that it had been so quick, feeling slightly cheated, feeling that he hadn't really enjoyed her, would remember only with regret the time when he'd snatched at her body only to lose need for it almost immediately. But she had seized a candelabrum and bashed it down across his chest. Her eyes were blazing and she looked dangerous.
    He rolled off the bed, grabbed his robe, dodged her, winced with the pain of a blow on his shoulder and rushed into the salon and out into the gloomy corridors.
    He spent a sleepless, regretful night, wondering if she would complain and wishing he could have had her long and languorously, with her cooperation.

CHAPTER 13

    It was on a road through the woods north of Cesena that Cesare waited for Dorotea Caracciolo and her retinue to come on their journey back to Venice.
    He waited on his horse in the shadow of a huge tree which blocked him from the view of anyone riding along the narrow road from a southern direction. Around, in the bushes, his half-dozen officers waited with swords drawn, hidden themselves by the trailing, autumn-leafed undergrowth.
    The road through the woods was deserted. In the half hour they'd been waiting, nobody had passed. It was unlikely that anyone would.
    Cesare felt welling in his breast the daring delight he experienced at being in dangerous action again. That his officers had entered enthusiastically in his plan was as much their sharing of his audacity as their devotion to him. Soon, soon he would be holding the naked body of that lovely, sphinx-eyed girl in his arms. He thought of her substitute of the night before, who had cried at first and then lain passive and groaning and then become animated at approaching orgasm. For a virgin, she'd really been quite a bundle of abandon eventually?and then she'd run off into the darkness after his limp prick had come out of her as if she was ashamed of what had happened and couldn't bear to look him in the face. It wouldn't be long before she took other lovers.
    “I hear them, Sire!”
    The voice of one of his lieutenants hissed through the light rustle of the breeze on the dry leaves. Cesare's mind became a straining ear to catch the slightest sound. He heard them too, some distance off?the steady thud, thud of approaching hoofs.
    “Everybody ready,” he called softly. Whispers echoed through the woods and an answering affirmation came back from his nearest lieutenant.
    “They have to think we're a score of men, at least.” “Aye, Sire.”
    Cesare's horse quivered under him lightly as they waited in a heavy silence, listening to the loudening thud of the hooves until the thud had split up into individual horse-sounds: snorts and jangling of bridles and rustling of dead leaves underfoot. There were voices, too, female voices and male commands to animals. Cesare waited. The sounds spread, seeming to stretch into the forest on either side of him in an eerie echoing. They must have passed the first of his officers. He let them come, judging the moment, holding his quivering horse into the shade of the tree. And then, of a sudden he spurred forward onto the road, arquebus in hand.
    There was a startled, astonished pile-up of the leading men-at-arms. Cesare had just a second in which he glimpsed the lady of his desires in the midst of her handmaidens before he shouted immediately:
    “Lay down your arms. You're surrounded.”
    As he shouted these words, there were rustlings in the trees and bushes around the road, everything half hidden in leaves and foliage. The front-quarters of horses eased into view, the extended arms of standing men, there was movement all around, seeming to come in mysterious volume from all sides.
    The men-at-arms stared around them fearfully, hands petrified halfway to swords and guns.
    “If you try to resist, you'll be shot down on your horses,” Cesare cried. “Lay down your arms and you'll not be harmed.”
    There was still a hesitation and Cesare fired his arquebus into the air: a sign for his men, half hidden in the surrounding bushes, to fire volleys over the heads of the ambushed cortege. Horses shied and nearly threw their riders. The men-at-arms began to throw down their weapons, which thudded softly into the leaf-mold which covered the road.
    “Dismount?and the ladies,” Cesare ordered.
    He watched them obey him, smiling to himself at Dorotea feigning terror with the rest of her women.
    “Three men to secure them,” he called. “The rest keep them covered.”
    Three of his lieutenants, still, like Cesare himself, dressed as peasants, but fully armed, stepped out from the bushes. It was the work of a few minutes to secure the handful of men-at-arms, an even shorter period to tie up the women?all except Dorotea who was left aside.
    When all was done, Cesare's men came out of the surrounding trees?all three of them, leading their horses who had served to indicate greater numbers.
    Cesare rode up to Dorotea and commanded her to mount, which she did with every show of reluctance. He cast a last look at the trussed men-at-arms and the ladies. It would be some time before they were discovered or managed to break free. He directed his arquebus at Dorotea, sitting woodenly on her horse beside him.
    “You will ride with us,” he said in a loud voice, “and if you don't attempt to escape, no harm will come to you.”
    She made no answer. Her eyes, when she looked at him, twinkled for the briefest of seconds.
    Cesare gave a sharp command and he and his band spurred their horses away up the road in the direction of Cesena from which the ambushed party had come. Once out of sight, Dorotea's face lit up and she reached across to clasp his hand at full gallop, Cesare grinned broadly and around them his men were chortling with mirth.
    For a mile they rode south and then wheeled abruptly into the forest. They pushed and battled their way for a mile or so and then turned again, toward the north. When, at last, they reached the road to Forli, the trussed party were still trying to shake free of their bonds prior to riding south in pursuit and to raise the alarm.
    Some distance from the city which Cesare had captured some time before, they dismounted in the forest. Dorotea retired to a discreet distance. Cesare and his officers changed into their own attire?and when Dorotea returned she, too, was dressed as a soldier, a young and very attractive soldier, but a soldier nonetheless with her long, blonde j hair hidden and her soft, woman's curves disguised.
    Thus they rode, a merry band of men, saluted by the guard at the gates of the city, into Forli.

CHAPTER 14

    When Cesare turned, having stripped off his clothes, Dorotea was naked. She came toward him with her eyes smoldering and her lips apart. He had time only to glimpse the firm, high breasts, the waist and hips devoid of an ounce of superfluous flesh, the way the thighs tensed as she walked bare-foot across the few feet of boudoir between them, and then she was in his arms, her naked flesh grazing warmly against his, clinging to his like rubber.
    His prick rode up between their warm bodies and he felt her hips moving against it, surrounding it hotly with the flesh of her hips and loins.
    But Cesare was kissing her neck, sucking up the flesh and his hands were roving down her spine, stroking her buttocks, caressing her shoulders, reaching under the buttocks, cupping them and pulling them up and in toward him. This was the man she'd dreamed about and now it was true. She tensed her thighs, sighed a deep sigh of passion and gave herself to their union.
    Cesare's fingers seemed to burn as they coursed gently over her flesh, tasting its firmness, its often softness, its roundness, its glossy texture, its warmth and responsive trembling. Her body rubbed and squirmed against his and he dug his fingers deep into her, seizing the flesh in a handful until she squealed and bit his neck.
    He lifted her and carried her to the bed. Light of a watery autumn sun streamed in through a large window which overlooked the rooftops of Forli. They were above and far from all eyes in the citadel where the Countess Sforza-Riario had submitted to him less willingly at first.
    Cesare lay her down on the bed and stood over her. He reached down and caught her breasts, easing them up toward him, elongating them with his hands. He knelt beside her and, bending, kissed her fiercely, invaded her sweet mouth with his tongue and bit that sexy lower lip, which in answer enveloped his mouth.
    He pulled his mouth suckingly from hers and caught her small, pink nipple between his teeth. He sucked at her breast, drawing as much of the solid, malleable flesh into his mouth as he could. Her nipples hardened in his mouth and she gave a gasp and, taking his hand, put it on the little raised mound of moss-covered flesh at her thigh junction.
    Still kneeling, he moved down the bed and raised her thighs, spreading them wide. Her pale, blue eyes watched him with a deep look of concentrated passion.
    “Kiss me!” she said.
    He looked down at where the raw, pink flesh of her cunt was open and then he slithered down and put his lips to it. She gave a little shriek as she felt his sucking pressure. He began to suck the moist, rain-tasting flesh. He poked his tongue as high as it would go and moved it around against the walls of her vagina. He licked the insides of her hot thighs and found and seized in his lips, the hard, little clitoris.
    Dorotea had flung her thighs wide and was wriggling and shrieking with tiny helpless explosions every second. Her hands clenched and unclenched beside her head on the bed and her face, drawn in harrowed passion, swung from side to side with jerky, involuntary movements. Her eyes were closed, her mouth wide open, gasping warm, suffocated breath into the room.
    Cesare buried his face between her thighs and put his hands under her buttocks, levering them up.
    “Oh, oh, oh, oooooh!”
    Her gasping moans assailed his ears, her moist, warm, slipperiness assailed his mouth, the sweet rain-taste lay on his tongue.
    His prick was a long, trembling mass of excited, jostling particles. It was heavy, too heavy, needed to throw off ballast, but when he drew his mouth away, she tried to catch at his head and pleaded desperately.
    “Oh, don't stop, please? not now!”
    He bent back to her and her loins leapt up to meet him. Her mouth was emitting a long, drawn-out and continuous whine. He could sense her whole body twisting and turning in ecstatic torment. He wanted to get in her, but the fury of her excitement was exciting him even more than if he'd rammed into her at this point.
    He heard her gasp, felt her scrabbling on the bed, churning up the covers and then she gave a short, low scream and a sticky heat surrounded him.
    She continued to writhe and moan for some time after her climax and he continued to kiss her gently, to bring her back to a tensity of passion.
    “Oh, God,” she exclaimed at last. “I thought I'd die.”
    He came away from her loins then, up her body, tracing its light bulges with his lips. He knelt up, astride her, and she reached down and took his rigid, pulsating penis which stuck out horizontally over her breasts.
    She put it between her breasts, which she pushed up into a ravine of cleavage and for several seconds he rubbed up and down in the ravine formed by the warm, firm flesh of her teats. He felt a tingling deep in his loins, deep, perhaps, in his bowels and moved forward on her again.
    She reached up, her eyes sparkling with depth, and took his organ in both hands. He leaned forward on his hands and she covered the flaming knob with her lips, enveloping it with that sexy lower jut. She took him into her warm, wet mouth and he felt, with streaks of fire, her tongue licking and nuzzling the passion-point of his knob.
    She began to suck as she licked, sucking on the rest of his rigidity, biting gently from time to time. Her eyes watched him, held his, matching his look of furious passion with her own. He held her face with his hands, guiding it, feeling her cheeks hollowing, rhythmically, around the long length of flesh which filled her mouth.
    “Harder,” he gritted.
    He felt her answering response? a greater pressure on his knob, a tighter embrace from her warm lips. He felt his culmination growing in hell-fire in his loins and he wanted to get in her, but couldn't resist the idea of coming into that lovely, sexy mouth, of watching her face hollowing, her eyes recognizing his orgasm even as he came.
    He began to rock slightly, flexing his loins forward as she sucked. She had released his prick with her hands and was stroking his buttocks with them. She was breathing heavily, passionately through her flared nostrils and he could feel her hips moving again under him.
    Her hands couldn't stay still on him and he felt them, suddenly, drawing lines of loin-convulsing sensation across and around his balls which hung down against her breasts.
    He gasped aloud at the new attack and shoved his prick into her mouth so hard that for a moment she fought for breath and nearly choked before reorientating her embrace.
    He gasped again, tensing his loins. He could feel himself starting to come, slowly at first in a sort of smoldering ember. The ember grew. He flexed his loins at her hard and held her face, looking into her eyes, which seemed to gasp into his in a strange visual voice.
    Inside him the ember burst into a flame and roared from the pit of its sensation along and along… he looked deep into her eyes, owning her, subduing her under him, wracked with passion. The fire raced through him, quivered in his penis, trembled at the knob and shattered out of him, as he cried out with the agonizing joy of it.

    Later, after a glass or two of wine, from which his passion flamed again to meet hers, already kindled, they stood at the foot of the bed, embracing fiercely, brokenly.
    They were both alive with the desire of at last joining as one. There was no necessity for preliminaries.
    Her thighs were open against him as she clung around his neck. Her warm flesh rubbed up on him, catching his penis between the tops of her thighs, so that it reached right through, rubbing against the lips of her vagina.
    Cesare caught her under her rump, holding a buttock in each hand, and lifted her off the floor. She put her arms firmly around his neck and brought her legs up on either side of him, hanging around him as he held her.
    He moved to a table in one of the corners of the room. He sat her on its edge, reached under her upraised thighs with his hand and guided himself toward her vagina. He needed to bend his knees a little to get down, and when he straightened, his penis rushed in up to its hilt in one long movement.
    “Oh-oh-oh-oh!” she cried out in a staccato chatter of gasps.
    His knob felt the softness of flesh up at her cervix. The walls of her channel were tight but moistly prepared against the huge expansion of his desire-bloated organ.
    Panting, he pulled her right onto the edge of the table and drove up into her with a pressure that came up from his toes and made his abdomen flop against her crotch. His hairs mingled wetly with hers.
    She clung, gaspingly, to his neck, her breasts brushing against his chest, her hair swaying across her face, touching his. She bit his neck and moved her trembling lips around his face to fasten them on his, with her searching tongue flopping out in willing surrender into his mouth, keeping her eyes open for a moment and then closing them as his penis crushed up into her so hard that it brought a spasm of pain into the joy.
    She groaned in an orgy of passion, her hanging, floating tongue in his mouth was a symbol of the way she gave herself for him to do as he wished, to hurt her, to give her pain, pleasure, ecstasy, to take her body, her life in his hands.
    He slid his hands under her buttocks, so that they rested and flowed around his hands. He lifted her in ecstatic fury off the table and walked away around the room, jogging into her, feeling her rise and fall on him, the two of them working together to produce that white-heat which would blaze out and smother them both in the end of everything.
    He flung her down on the bed, coming down heavily on top of her and she twisted in masochistic fury under him, swinging her legs up to her shoulders as if she wanted him to pierce her through, right up to her neck.
    He straightened up from her, leaning at an angle, pulling her behind off the bed so that her hips were the highest point of her body. He crashed in and in and up and up, tearing her moist flesh with his great rifling cannon. “Oh, oh, darling!”
    She gasped and the gasps became meaning, less words and then sometimes crude, filthy words which were pulled out of her in the effort to express what she felt and which couldn't be expressed.
    He flopped onto her and bit her neck so hard that she screamed and a little perforation of the white skin exploded and drops of blood oozed through.
    Her body was a live animal, active and straining. She opened her eyes one second, looking at him in a smoldering agony and then, closed them as if the upthrust of his great prick had forced her to do so from sheer weight of sensation.
    Cesare could feel his climax approaching again. It was that much more agonizing the second time. It would be relief to unload his store of sperm. A relief that he didn't want to come because he wanted this agony to go on forever.
    “Darling, darling,” she screamed. “Now, nearly, now, nearly…”
    He felt her thighs squirming and wriggling, enclosing his hips in their heat. He felt her little belly brushing hotly against his. She caught his face again and thrust her tongue into his mouth, pushing it out and out as if she wanted to transfer it totally from her own body to his.
    He bit it and felt her scream rather than heard it. His prick seemed loaded down with the weight of thunder. The thunder was preparing to burst. The relief was coming.
    “Now, yes!” he barked and heard her answering gasps.
    The thunder grew into a great, black cloud and suddenly burst so that the liquid, hot rain came thundering down and burst through and up into her belly as she screamed and jack-knifed her legs up and down several times.
    This was merely the beginning of their night of love.

CHAPTER 15

    The winter sun had watered away, black skies had held bruised dominion over the northern plains and spring had come again with a great flowering of oleanders. By the time young men's fancies had led them into woods and dales to suck the nectar of their loved and lust-ed-after ones, Cesare was sufficiently lord of the northern provinces to be able to declare himself Duke of Romagna and return again to Rome in even greater pomp and glory than before.
    But greater campaigns were afoot and it soon filtered to the Vatican, to be followed by official notification from the ambassadors, that by the Treaty of Granada, both France and Spain had come to agreement about the division of a long disputed territory? the Kingdom of Naples, to which both claimed the right of sovereignty through heritage.
    The two claimants, it was revealed, had agreed to undertake the conquest together, sharing the spoils between them. Puglia and Calabria would go to Spain, and Naples and the Abruzzi to Louis.
    Pope Alexander immediately declared Federigo of Naples deposed for disobedience to the Church, a charge which was not difficult to fabricate under a number of pretexts.
    Cesare, it was decided, should join the French troops, marching through Italy from the north, taking with him a fair proportion of his own troops.
    At the same time Gonzalo de Cordoba, the great Spanish soldier, landed a Spanish army in Calabria. Resistance was put up, strong in places, weak in others, but the territory was ravaged and stamped underfoot by the two mighty armies moving inexorably to meet. Within a few weeks they had met at Naples and the days of the House of Aragon were over. Nevertheless, Naples itself put up a stiff resistance and with well-directed cannon fire played such havoc with the lines of the Spaniards who, in enthusiasm to finish the campaign in record time, had permitted themselves to approach too close too soon, that Gonzalo de Cordoba swore a terrible vengeance when the city was taken.
    The inevitable breach was made and the waves of the invading armies stormed through. Carnage followed. No quarter was given. The defenders were driven back and back and if they lay down their arms or fled they were slaughtered. This would have been against Cesare's policy. But for once he commanded only a small section of the attack and commands could be issued over his head by the generals of the two main forces, French and Spanish.
    Every human being was butchered. The streets of Naples ran with blood as if an animal sacrifice of unheard-of magnitude had been offered for several days running.
    But it was with the women of Naples that the invader took the most sadistic vengeance. Women, fleeing, screaming, were seized and raped and massacred. While soldiers ran, searching for victims through the streets, they would pass prostrate huddles of women, their clothes ripped from them by the sword, screaming and weeping, while shaggy soldiers thrust their pricks brutally up into bodies whose thighs they held wide by force.
    Gonzalo de Cordoba had some of the most noble families of the city rounded up and saved from the slaughter. He had them taken to the center square of the city where the men were tied so that they couldn't move. He then had the women stripped, surrounded by soldiers wielding whips and forced to dance in front of their menfolk and his army of gawking soldiers, to the accompaniment of light lashes around their legs, which grew stronger and stronger and rose around their hips and breasts until many of them fainted and blood had welled out from under their tortured skins.
    Cesare, with the situation out of his hands, was indifferent to the suffering. He watched and felt a chill of sensuality course through him as he watched the women pathetically trying to dance, being savagely tickled as soon as they lagged by those stinging lashes. What a variety of breasts and buttocks. And as they fell one by one into a swooning helplessness under the agonized gaze of their helpless husbands and sweethearts, each was seized at the Commander's orders by a rude soldier who proceeded to bury his prick according to his taste, right there on the square in full view. Some of the women remained unconscious throughout the whole proceedings, unaware of the brutality with which they were being shagged or their menfolk's crying fury.

CHAPTER 16

    By the time Cesare returned to Rome, richer in money and in French favor, an event of some importance in the Borgia family had taken place: his widowed sister, Lucrezia, had become betrothed to Alfonse d'Este, young son of Duke Ercole of Ferrara. It was a marriage of convenience, although it is probable that the young Alfonse nursed an infatuation for the beautiful Lucrezia.
    Into the midst of celebrations, salvoes of artillery, and after dark illuminations, Cesare arrived, crowned with fresh glory from the war, fired still by memories of the spectacle in Naples, desiring the orgasm, coveting his sister.
    “Darling, Cesare,” she greeted him, when he went to her temporary rooms in the Vatican to invite her down to the supper which was being prepared by the Pope for intimates. “Darling, Cesare,” she said, “are you never going to make love to me again? I think you prefer fighting to fucking.”
    Cesare pulled her to him. He kissed her fiercely on the lips and felt her tongue slide like a snake into his mouth.
    “I want you tonight!” he snapped.
    “But, darling? I'm married. I have to offer what I have to my new husband. It's his right you know.”
    She laughed long and merrily and Cesare couldn't help but laugh with her.
    “You mean you'd prefer that stripling?”
    For answer she sank to her knees, seized his erection which was pushing hard through his clothing and bit it. She got quickly to her feet again and he forced her, panting, back into the room.
    “No, Cesare,” she said, “not now. I'll come to you tonight? you'll see.” a€? “Do you promise? How can you? Will you leave him on the wedding night to finger his own, unloved cock?”
    “He's very young, my sweet, and I think if he's fed a little wine he'll be in no fit state to benefit from the delight he might expect. After all, I don't want to get to bed with him and then find I've only a limp piece of rag trying to squeeze into my vagina.”
    Cesare laughed. He was delighted with his sister and she still excited him as of old? and he was always certain, absolutely certain of a skillful, satisfying, entrail-tearing fuck with her.
    He bent down quickly and lifted her skirt. She wore nothing underneath, which made her feel more natural.
    “One kiss until later,” he whispered.
    “Oh, no, Cesare? you're just trying to excite me!”
    But he'd already whipped up her skirt, thrust his head under, pushing aside her thighs and licked his tongue all along the powdered, perfumed folds which hid her sweet tunnel. He felt her thighs rub against his shoulders and pulled the folds aside with the tips of his thumbs. He kissed the moistening flesh hard and heard her gasp.
    She broke away from him with a stifled cry.
    “Oh, Cesare, stop!”
    Kneeling, he grinned.
    “I bet you'd love it now,” he said.
    As he escorted her down the stairway toward the banquet room where they were to dine, she said, softly, looking into his eyes with love: “You are a devil, Cesare, you've made me all wet.”
    As they descended, she added: “Perhaps he'll go silly with the first glass.”
    “One can always hope,” Cesare answered, smiling.

    But it took more than one glass to put young Alfonse in a stupor. As soon as his glass was half-empty, Lucrezia had it solicitously refilled. The meal progressed; there was music and talk and laughter among the dozen or so guests. There were toasts and good wishes and sly winks from the Pope at his daughter, as if wishing her fun in bed tonight.
    Throughout the evening, Cesare's eyes met those of his sister. Sometimes he would nod at her husband's glass to indicate it might be topped up just a shade. Over the dessert, with Lucrezia almost in despair, Alfonse became very talkative? he was usually rather silent? and the sign gave her hope.
    Servants carried away the debris of the meal and Alfonse suggested quietly that they retire, but not so quietly that some of the surrounding guests were not forced to suppress grins of amusement to say nothing of more embarrassing indications of envy.
    “Oh, but we haven't heard the other orchestra, yet,” Lucrezia insisted smoothly. “It's a beautiful orchestra. It will make a fitting goodnight.”
    Alfonse sat back, slightly disappointed, but prepared to wait for something that he knew was inevitably his.
    Lucrezia filled his glass again.
    “What excellent wine,” she said, and took a sip.
    The suggestion produced the desired effect. Alphonse automatically picked up his own glass, sipped it and then emptied it in three long gulps. It was quietly refilled.
    As the “other orchestra” began to play? in a manner which hardly justified her description? Alfonse seemed to grow silent. A little later he made a slight effort at conversation with his neighbor, but then his head sank down, he gave a little belch and his eyes glazed over slightly.
    Cesare smiled to himself. His clever sister. No difficulty at all.
    But Alfonse came drunkenly to. He caught hold of Lucrezia's arm and stood up, lurching a little.
    “Well… we… must… retire,” he said, slurring each word and waiting for long concentrated pauses.
    Those other guests who had heard stood up politely and Lucrezia, so as not to make a scene, found herself obliged to stand up, make her excuses and retire with her drunken husband who hadn't once released his hold on her arm. She was quite taken aback by the sudden reversal of her plan. One minute he'd looked as if he'd have to be carried to bed, the next he'd made a comeback like some punchdrunk fighter who won't go down.
    On Cesare the effect was even worse. He saw the image of his night's exhilaration slipping away. No other woman would do. He loved his sister, had more feeling for her than for any other woman, and he had to unite with her tonight.
    Thinking furiously, he waited for them to reach the doors of the banquet hall. None of the other guests seemed inclined to leave so early.
    Cesare stood up.
    “If you'll excuse me father…”
    “What, my son? we have some saucy dancing to follow. Why, it's not yet midnight.”
    “I'm sorry father, but I have a bad head. I got a knock in Naples, you know, and they've been recurring, these headaches, ever since.”
    “My poor boy. We'll have the physician in first thing tomorrow.. ”
    “Oh, it's nothing serious, father…”
    “And you'd better have one of the servants get you something.”
    The Pope called to an attractive female servant, who had ceased to be a virgin the moment he'd discovered that she was one.
    “Carlotta, the Duke needs a brew for his head.”
    The woman moved off to obey and Cesare took his leave of the guests and followed her. The plan had fallen into his lap if the drink had caught up on Alfonse as much as he thought it should have done by now.
    He caught the girl, walking through the corridors, and took her by the arm. She turned toward him, smiling. She was a well-known libertine and Cesare remembered that he'd yet to try her.
    He talked to her quietly for a few minutes, explaining that his sister did not want to sleep with her newlywed in his drunken state but could hardly refuse. He outlined a brief plan and slipped an emerald ring into her. hand. She held his fingers suggestively and he. whispered in her ear that he would like to see her the next day. That seemed to satisfy her more than the ring had, and she followed him as he walked quickly through the various chambers and up the broad steps to Lucrezia's temporary apartment.
    At the top of the stairs, Lucrezia was almost supporting Alfonse, whose eyes were half closed, but whose arms were mechanically mauling her while his face nuzzled at hers.
    Cesare slowed down and motioned to the servant, Carlotta, who grinned as she moved up. Lucrezia saw them coming and, at a sign from Cesare, pushed open the door to her apartment and moved in, rather awkwardly as Alfonse was trying to kiss her breasts and get his hand up her skirt at the same time.
    When Cesare and his companion reached the door, Lucrezia had already maneuvered her part-conscious husband into the bedroom. He had succeeded in getting his hand up her skirt and was rummaging between her thighs as they staggered toward the bed. He pulled her onto the bed as they reached it and her skirt fell up over her hips as she landed beside him. He began to kiss her passionately and she pulled away saying, loudly, to ensure that it got through to him:
    “Wait, darling. Let me undress.”
    He didn't seem to hear. His hand mauled between her legs, exposing all that was there to the eyes of the two watchers at the door. Lucrezia pulled away from him by main force and he rolled onto his side and lay there muttering to himself, reaching blindly toward her figure which he could probably only vaguely see.
    Cesare gave his companion a push and she slipped into the room, pulling off her clothes. As she moved in, Lucrezia moved out.
    Brother and sister waited long enough to see the unabashed servant stripped? and very comely, Cesare thought, reserving his true appreciation for the morrow? and settling down to undress Alfonse who slobbered over her naked body. She was hoping he was just conscious enough to get it stiff and stick it in her. She liked the idea of being rammed by young gentry and her hands skillfully teased his prick up to more than life size as she undressed him.
    Cesare and his sister made their way quickly to his own apartments. When he had locked the door behind them they both burst into helpless laughter which shook them for several minutes.
    “How brilliant, Cesare… brilliant!” Lucrezia gasped at last. “But supposing he sobers up?”
    “If he does he'll find himself in bed with a maid who'll tell him he dragged her there. He'll be so confused he won't even dare mention it to you. You can say you put him to bed and told the maid to look in later to see if he was all right.” He paused. “If he doesn't come to, you'll have time to join him before the morning, and he'll think that he had you before he passed out.”
    “Brilliant, brilliant? but I'd hate him to have had a servant girl and think that it was me? a poor level of performance.”
    “I'll let you know how you compare tomorrow,” he said.
    “Why you diablo, you've got her into your bed for tomorrow night? What about me?”
    “You'd better make peace with your Alfonse.”
    “Cold-hearted brute. You don't care for me one jot.”
    She came toward him, mock-pouting through her smile and he grabbed her and kissed her as if he wanted to push her mouth through to the back of her head. She opened her mouth under his pressure and, squirming at him, began to undo his doublet.
    “I can't wait, darling. God he got me all excited for you with his mauling!”
    Cesare stripped rapidly and Lucrezia tore off her astonishingly few garments.
    “You should have been a gypsy,” he said, and the thought reminded him of another liaison not yet exhausted. Doubtless he would be returning north before very long.
    She twisted around for him, moving her limbs in a wild pirouette, showing off the almost exaggerated curves of her highly voluptuous body.
    “Do you remember the day you chased me around the pool?” she asked breathlessly, falling into his arms and stroking his penis underneath from base to tip. “What did you think when you saw me running naked, for the first time, in front of you.”
    Cesare kissed her ear and quivered with the feel of her lovely nakedness against his.
    “I thought you had a bottom more beautiful than the moon,” he said.
    “Oh, darling, how poetic. Is it still?” She broke away from him and turned her back coquettishly.
    He looked down at the bottom. It was perfect, not too much flesh, slightly oval? shaped with the buttocks billowing out, smooth and shiny as a cannon from her tiny waist.
    He moved up behind her, so that his prick pressed up along the crack between the buttocks. He put his hand under her armpits and held a bulbous breast in each. She pushed her behind back at him and felt behind her for his prick as she rested her head back against his shoulder.
    “So beautiful I could possess that little crevice between them and imagine myself sailing around the moon on a magic carpet.” Lucrezia laughed breathlessly. “Why not?” she said. “If you do it'll make me so excited by the time you've finished that I'll cut off your penis with my scissors if you can't come up again within half a minute to satisfy me? that is, if I'm not satisfied already.”
    He pressed hard against her. That tight little posterior hole was just as delightful as the other. It didn't matter which he had first. He pushed her toward the bed and put her hands around behind his back, pushing his buttocks at her as if she were propelling them both along in their movement.
    From a table beside his bed she took some pomade with which, in times of peace and pomp, he treated his hair.
    “Use a little, of that,” she said. “It's a long time since I've felt an invasion in that quarter.”
    She climbed onto the bed and lay on her stomach, holding her thighs together, pressing them into the coverlet, grunting with expectation.
    Cesare knelt over her and pulled her buttocks apart as if he were separating the quarters of an orange. Between was that dark, puckered, very bald-looking crack, seeming so tiny that it was impossible to believe his battering-ram could possibly force its way in.
    He took the pomade and gently massaged the little hole with it, smearing it around the bald, puckered flesh, gently tickling her tender spot with his fingertips.
    Lucrezia wriggled under him so that her buttocks tensed around his fingers and held him in a light grip.
    “Oh hurry, darling,” she said, her voice coming up, muffled by the coverlet into which she was pressing her face to control her passion.
    Her anus was slippery with the pomade and he pushed his index finger at the clinging little hole. It gave without much difficulty and his finger slipped in and was held. His fingertip found soft, loose depths and he waggled his finger around a little and then pushed in another finger.
    Lucrezia pressed her hips into the bed, squealing.
    “Darling, darling, don't torment me!”
    Cesare looked at his prick. It was red and angry looking. He pulled his foreskin right back and smeared a little of the pomade on so that it glistened.
    “Spread your legs,” he ordered.
    Lucrezia, as if she too were hungry and opening her mouth for food, spread her legs in a large, obtuse-angled V, pressing her legs hard and quiveringly into the coverlet. She loosed her buttock-tension and lay there, her mouth open, heart and loins pounding for the stiff entry.
    Cesare leveled himself over her, caught his prick in one hand and aimed it as he stretched out on her, feeling at first the gentle brushing of their skins from chest to loins as he positioned himself and then the full, hot weight of flesh against flesh as he lay heavily on her body.
    “That's it!” she grated. “Go on darling. I can stand it!”
    Cesare pushed down harder, practically pivoting on his vertical stand.
    She groaned out a long exclamation which at first was formless and then managed to transform itself into a stifled “Daaarling!”
    His penis was pinched and contracted in her deep passage. It felt as if sparks were being squeezed out of it, as if it were being squeezed into little sections, each with its own burning light.
    Cesare moaned with the tight excruciating excitement of it and put his arms around and under her, grasping her breasts, slightly flattened against the bed, and began to squeeze and pull them.
    Lucrezia uttered a little scream and he felt her undulating under him, her buttocks rising and falling, wriggling and squirming against the hairy flesh of his loins.
    The relief he'd felt at shoving his penis at last into the soft receptacle of his sister's body began to fade and its place was taken by a gnawing pressure which was growing agony.
    He rose and fell on her with long deep strokes, pushing right up in a tearing invasion of her posterior passage.
    His mouth opened of its own accord and his breath barked out. Under him, muffled in the coverlet he heard Lucrezia's little screams of passion and he strengthened his grip on her breasts which seemed to expand and resist him. Up and down, in and out he sawed into her, feeling his organ rasp against the warm walls of her fleshy channel. He wanted still more of her and, without coming out of her, he struggled up onto his knees, pulling her up with him so that she was kneeling with her buttocks in an arc towards him, their bodies joined by the single erect bridge.
    Her body curved away from him, her head still resting on the coverlet. She arched her back like a stretching cat and rolled her buttocks in all directions in abandon. He caught her buttocks in each hand and pinched up the flesh, holding it in handfuls, squeezing it furiously as he drove in, wanting to hurt her, to communicate to her the ecstasy of pain and delight in which he was plunged.
    He rammed his penis in and then waggled his hips around against her stretched, naked buttocks, feeling the warmth of the friction spring up between them.
    To Lucrezia it seemed that there was nothing to her body but loins and buttocks. Her loins were afire and her behind was a gaping cavern into which all of Cesare seemed to have plunged. It seemed that all her entrails had been pushed aside to leave only a great empty, palpitating space in which he moved thickly and expanded with more and more fury.
    Ramming in, Cesare was caught on a rhythmic tide of movement in which there seemed to be no thought, no mind, only wild, orgiastic movement and loin-tearing sensation. His penis was chafed and burning and seemed to be still growing, thickening in its every particle, stiffening still when it had seemed utterly stiff before.
    His gasps came with rhythmic regularity. Every in-stroke pulled breath from his mouth.
    He leaned forward, grasping her tiny waist which seemed so fragile under the voluptuous hips that it looked as if it might snap. He held it on either side, gripping it fiercely, revelling in the feel of the tight flesh and the power that he felt in having her body completely at his command. He pressed her waist down against the bed, forcing it to yield. He drew back and rammed into her with shattering force so that her head grazed forward along the coverlet. He drew back again and shattered in again, tearing into her brutally, savagely, hearing her cry out, losing his whole rigid length in her with a single long thrust. As he drove in he pulled her waist toward him so that her round buttocks crushed back to meet his thrust and helped his searing entry.
    He varied his stroke, giving short, quick little thrusts in a quick series and then he reverted to long, slow strokes, bringing from her a fresh gasp or groan with every variation of pressure and movement.
    “Oh, oh, oh? I'm coming!”
    Her wailing moan came up to him and he gritted his teeth in the brutal ecstasy. His fury had produced her orgasm.
    He hurried himself, tensing his loins, grinding his inside, with mental and physical aid, feeling the knot of sensation tighten and complicate in his genitals.
    He heard her gasp several short, furious emissions of breath. She rammed back at him as if he couldn't penetrate her enough and then she gave out a long, wild wail which slowly choked and faded into a background of groaning whimpers.
    Now, now, now, he told himself as he heaved and bucked over her buttocks which still undulated around him.
    He gnashed his teeth, feeling the climax upon him. He pushed her waist flat down toward the bed, wanting to destroy her in the sadistic urge which his near orgasm sent quivering and tumulting through his whole body so that even his toes seemed to tingle with it.
    He wanted to split her right apart. He couldn't tell what he wanted. He wanted to go further to achieve some end to his thrusting which he had not yet achieved.
    Almost crying with the excruciation of sensation, he knew the end was coming up. It twirled and spun in his genitals, growing into a great, inexorable force. And with a great, hot, slippery outrush it spiralled through his depths, raced like a sharp pain along his pounding rod and broke out in a wild mob of scattering sperm which lashed up and around deep inside her.
    He collapsed over her and after a while they rolled over and lay exhausted in each other's arms.
    “Darling, I don't think dear Alphonse would have been quite capable, somehow,” Lucrezia said softly at last.
    Cesare smiled and began gently and expertly to caress her breasts.

CHAPTER 17

    When some days later Lucrezia Borgia rode north with her young husband it was as if the lucky star of the Borgia family had left with her. Ominous clouds were gathering to change the fortunes which never seemed to have been so high as at this moment with Cesare, Duke of Romagna and the Pope on good terms with Louis and Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.
    Cesare's dreams at this time were centered on the consolidation for himself of a kingdom which would comprise all of central Italy. Vaulting ambition was already beginning to o'erleap itself in his heart. He glimpsed in those dreams of his a conquest even further which would eventually drive both the Spanish and the French from Italy, leaving the whole peninsula in his hands. And then perhaps? Who could say that the glory of the Roman Empire was dead forever…?
    At first it seemed that his campaign might succeed. He accomplished what amounted to almost the total subjugation of the Camerino in the space of a very few weeks. But the very fact of his growing power was breeding him more and more enemies? and more and more powerful enemies. Tuscany, Venice and Florence were all worried by the enlarging weight of his mailed fist and agreements were come to between them in preparation for future action. Milan, too, joined the league and rumor had it that the only thing that kept Louis XII himself out of Italy and a containment of the Borgian realm, was that he still needed the Pope's favor in connection with Naples? where the spoils of war were being violently disputed, between the victorious contestants.
    Rebellions were provoked among Cesare's mercenaries, by his enemies, for offered reward. He found himself moving hither and yon over Italy crushing first one and then another, growing weary and uncertain in the process.
    Although he returned eventually to Rome with a semblance of order in his territories, he knew that powerful Venice was stayed from attacking him only by doubts as to which side the King of France would take in the event of war.
    A short time after his return to Rome both Cesare and the Pope fell ill of a mysterious fever which, it was thought, may have been the result of poisoning deliberately designed by their enemies.
    The beginnings of their sickness could be traced to a dinner given in the Vatican by the Pope for a number of his cardinals.
    So corrupted was the Church from earlier ideals that it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that one of his own ambitious and envious cardinals had contrived to slip some poison into the wine that was drunk and had intended Cesare to be affected also as his temporal power was sufficient to “arrange” the next papacy should his father die.
    Father and son both lay for a week between life and death in their rooms in the Vatican. The old man, being of less robust constitution, fought vainly against the inevitable.
    Late one evening, with Cesare still tortured by the fever in an adjacent apartment, Pope Alexander? the Cardinal Roderigo that was? feebly summoned his cardinals to his bedside. For a long time they stood in his presence watching his deathlike face, waiting for words which did not come.
    When his voice broke through lips which hardly moved, his words seemed to come from some other place than the room in which they stood.
    “For years,” he murmured? and they moved softly forward the better to hear? “I have bargained with the devil.” He raised his half-closed eyes with an effort to take in the faces of those around his bed and a trace of a smile flickered over his visage.
    “A full… and devilish… life and I'm not afraid to pay. The devil is not unkind to his disciples…”
    There was a deathly hush in the room. All were aghast, but none dared interrupt this voice coming from the verge of death. There was a flutter-like movement among them as, with a superhuman effort, the old man raised himself up and gazed beyond his bed, but the flutter died into petrification.
    “I am coming,” he breathed. “I am coming… it is just…”
    He lay back on his pillow. He was dead.
    Those present crossed themselves. Nobody said a word. Each was thinking of his own end, his own life, strayed from the paths of righteousness.
    It was only after they'd left the quiet room and were on the broad marble steps which led down, that one whispered to another: “Whom was he talking to? What was just?”
    “It was not God in the room with him,” the other replied.
    Within a few days, the body of Alexander, after exposure on a catafalque in full pontificals in St. Peter's, was removed to the Chapel of Santa Maria delle Febbre.
    It was a sweltering day and the poison in the Pope's body aided his obesity in the quick decomposition of his body so that his face had become almost black and looked like some macabre creature from the underworld.
    Those who gathered to watch the corpse pass saw in the blackened, grotesque features the entry of the devil himself into the body.
    “That's what happens when you fuck your daughter,” declared some peasant bystander, who'd heard the rumors which had sounded all over the kingdom and beyond.
    “Then you'd better have your carcass burned as soon as you go,” retorted his neighbor.
    There was a roar of laughter which seemed to infuriate the first speaker. It was true he had a reputation for initiating his 11-year-old daughter in the rites of love and he was touchy on the point. Rounding on his tormentor he dealt him a lusty blow on the jaw. This brought the intervention of another of the crowd and in no time a battle royal was being waged along the side of the road.
    The bearers of the body tried desperately to keep a straight and steady path, but as the crowd swarmed and fought around them, one of them lost his balance and the catafalque, body and bearers found themselves rolling in the dust amidst a mob of flailing legs and arms.
    It was the lot of Pope Alexander to be embroiled in violence right to the very coffin.

CHAPTER 18

    Cesare recovered slowly, becoming conscious and clear- in mind long before he'd regained sufficient physical strength to leave his sickbed.
    The northern allies took quick advantage of the absence of both a Pope and a general to lead the Holy Forces. Venice came out in her true colors, sallied across the border and helped to reinstate half the tyrants whom Cesare had driven from the Romagna.
    In Rome itself, the powerful Orsini, enemies of the Duke, proved so strong that he was forced to recall a thousand men from the northern provinces for his personal protection in the vulnerable Vatican.
    So many of his troops, under treaty obligation, were engaged with Louis of France in checking the Spaniards in Naples that Cesare could do nothing but chafe in his bed and wait for reverse after reverse of his forces, weakened as they were, in Romagna and Camerino.
    Meanwhile, in the Vatican, the Sacred College assembled to ask for Holy Inspiration in the election of a new Pope. Whatever divine guidance was expected, due regard was paid by the various factions to letters from Venice and France in which? through the medium of the ambassadors? the cardinals of each of those nationalities were ordered to vote for the favored of the particular power.
    Three candidates? any of which would have been hostile to Cesare? appeared, however, in almost equal strength and a compromise had temporarily to be made in the election of someone entirely different? weak and doddering Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini? while the factions canvassed and manipulated to improve their positions vis-a-vis one another.
    So a feeble, illness-tormented octogenarian became Pius III.
    The new Pope was with Cesare, not against him, indicated his displeasure to Venice and issued briefs to the reinstated tyrants commanding their obedience to the Holy See. The Venetians also received a command from France that they desist in their activities under pain of Louis' displeasure. It was the least he could do now that the Borgian power was broken and while he still needed Cesare's troops in Naples and clear passage through Rome.
    Cesare, at last able to rise from his bed and buckle on his sword, found Rome so dangerous, with emissaries from the tyrants and even from Venice hidden in the city with orders to kill him, that he had to pass from the Vatican to the Castle of San' Angelo by the way of a secret underground passage connecting them.
    There he summoned his captains, planned to withdraw some of his men from the banners of the King of France and prepared to attempt the arduous task of reestablishing his power and his dukedoms.
    Even while plans were under way, a further blow shattered the Duke's hopes. Pius III, for whom excitement of succeeding to high office had, perhaps, proved too much, died suddenly overnight. And with his death came a fresh wave of attacks in the north. It seemed that even the voice of France? tied up as the French were in Naples? had little weight in checking the violence which lost Cesare city after city of his old territories.

    The strongest candidate for the Papacy was a life-long enemy of the Borgias, Cardinal della Rovere. This was the man whom Roderigo Borgia had defeated in the Conclave of 1492 and kept out of the coveted throne for 12 years. This was the man who for a number of years had nursed his hatred under a mask of friendship and flattery toward the Pope and Cesare Borgia.
    Cardinal della Rovere's election was certain but for one thing, the possible non-support of the Spanish cardinals with whom Cesare wielded considerable influence. A bargain was struck: for the votes of these Spanish cardinals, della Rovere would confirm Cesare in his office of Gonfalonier and Captain-General and support and preserve his title to Romagna,
    Cesare felt the ground of his influence with the Spanish cardinals and then agreed to these terms. The election of the longest-standing enemy of the House of Borgia was ensured. For once, and fatally, Cesare's political brain had allowed him to go astray.
    Giuliano della Rovere took the name of Julius II at his election and a few days later issued briefs to the Romagna towns that Cesare was to be obeyed. But insurrection and invasion continued in the north and Cesare prepared to go himself into the Romagna and raise a fresh army from loyal subjects in the once liberated cities.
    The new Pope asked that Tuscany and the enemy city of Florence should grant Cesare a safe conduct through the territory he would have to cross, but intimated in private dispatches that he quite understood the disturbances in the north were against Cesare Borgia and not against the Church. With this indication of the turn of events were likely to take, no safe conduct was forthcoming.
    Out of patience, Cesare asked for the escort of the Pontifical navy by sea to Genoa from which point he would travel into the Romagna via Ferrara. The Pope acquiesced and Cesare set out.
    While Cesare was still at sea, news came that the Venetians had captured Faenza and were massing powerful armies in the Duke's lands. Pope Julius came out into the open at last and sent a message to Cesare suggesting that he surrendered the pontifical fiefs into the Pope's hands in an effort to bring law and order into the Romagna.
    Cesare, smelling a rat at last, refused and was immediately arrested by the captain of the navy on the Pope's orders.
    Julius broke his agreement blatantly and appointed a bishop as new governor of Cesare's old territories. As it was against Cesare that the enemy was moving, he speciously held the only way to bring peace was for the territories to come directly into his own hands under the Church.
    Cesare was brought back to Rome and virtually held a prisoner in the Vatican while the war in the north, in spite of the Pope's argument, continued.
    While, Cesare, stripped of his titles, property and power, was being treated with an outward show of friendliness in the Vatican, news came of the resounding victory of Gonzalo de Cordoba in Naples. French power was smashed south of Rome. Ferdinand and Isabella, became monarchs of Naples. Spanish influence with the Pope rose like a sudden heat wave.
    Not wishing to make a wrong move which could endanger his position, Julius allowed Cesare to depart by sea to the north where he was to enter France. It amounted virtually to deportation.
    But, not far out from Ostia, Cesare, with his few loyal men, had his ship turned about and made full sail for Naples to seek asylum in the Spanish camp where he was assured of a friendly welcome.
    There, he found other members of the Borgia family, rallying around Gonzalo de Cordoba in an attempt to escape the antagonism of the Pope, and he was made very welcome by the Great Captain with whose troops he had fought in the original quelling of Naples.
    Encouraged by the success in the south, Spain was, in fact, considering an invasion of Tuscany? which was allied to France? and then Milan. It was confidently hoped to drive all French power and influence out of the peninsula which for so long had been dominated by a Spanish-born Pope; Cesare was such an obvious choice to lead an expedition into country that he knew well and which bordered areas where he still had friends, that he was chosen a few days after his arrival to lead the Spanish troops north.
    This choice gave Cesare fresh hope for his dreams. With the peninsula subjugated to Spain he saw himself in the role of pro-consul, wielding a complete power, divorced from the distant Spanish Crown. But it was not to be.
    Nothing could go right for the Borgias after so many years of everything dropping into their laps.
    A few days before he was due to depart at the head of a sizeable army, Cesare was arrested by the order of Gonzalo de Cordoba himself.
    In the wings of action, diplomatic exchanges had been passing from Julius to the Spanish monarchs and back. The Pope in these exchanges had complained bitterly and with skill of Cesare's refusal to hand the Romagna to the Church in spite, he alleged, of the desires of the local populace, and of the Borgia's designs on an all-powerful state which he would try to expand against Spanish and French influence, coveting for himself the lordship of all territory south of the Alps.
    So successfully did he plead his cause? which, indeed, was not without a basis of fact in its latter hypotheses? that Ferdinand and Isabella took fright. They had heard distant echoes of the determination and ability to succeed with his projected plans of Cesare Borgia and they had no desire to risk a future colony by placing its formation in the hands of a ruthless man who would use their power for his own ends.
    Word was sent to Gonzalo de Cordoba and? reluctantly? he complied with the order from his monarchs. Cesare was held in close confinement.
    In vain did his friends and his sister Lucrezia write to the new Gonfalonier of the Church to exert his influence with the Pope in securing Cesare's release; the very ardor of their pleas seemed to frighten Julius into renewing his persecution of Cesare's name.
    All his former officers were rounded up? some of them fortifying towns they still held in his name and giving bitter resistance? and brought to Rome where they were tortured in an effort to make them sign statements as to the selfish aims of their former chief.
    In August of 1504, Cesare Borgia was once again on the high seas. But the bright Mediterranean sun and the loveliness of the azure sea afforded him little joy. He was bound for a Spanish dungeon in the fortress of Medina del Campo where his power would have no hope of revival and his dreams of glory fade into memories of what used to be.

CHAPTER 19

    Lucrezia was riding south on what, so she had assured her husband, was a sentimental journey to see her father's grave and visit the places of her youth. In fact, she had come to plead and use every means at her disposal to persuade the Pope to use his influence in securing her brother's release from the Spanish prison in which he was languishing, and from which an occasional letter arrived telling her of his boredom and depression although he was not treated unkindly.
    Lucrezia had little to offer. But one trump still remained with her? the undecaying beauty of her flesh. Delia Rovere was accounted just as much a libertine as his predecessors and Lucrezia in a moment of sarcastic humor had declared that to have been the source of gratification for three Popes should open the gates of heaven for her without fail.
    She traveled with a small retinue of ladies-in-waiting and a posse of men-at-arms. Her passing occasioned no apprehension in territories which once would have regarded her as a potential spy. Her brother was being forgotten. Some people were no longer sure whether he was dead or alive. Talk was centered rather on the possibility of Spanish invasion, which, since Cesare's departure, had come to nothing so far.
    Lucrezia and her party were received with mock cordiality by Julius and accommodated in the Vatican for a short stay. Delia Rovere could guess why the beautiful Borgia had come and he was interested to see what her pleading and encouragement would be.
    Over a luncheon which the two of them had alone in the Pope's private quarters, Lucrezia had broached the subject.
    “My dear lady,” the Pope said, thinking at the same time what an exquisite creature she was and wondering just how true were all the stories he'd heard, “your brother is a remarkable man, but remarkableness alone is not enough to allow a man pardon for misdeeds.”
    “But what did he do? Didn't he recapture for the Holy See lands that had long been lost?”
    “He dreamed himself another Caesar, dear lady, but Caesars depend not only on personal qualities. They depend upon propitious circumstances at the right time. The world has, perhaps, become more complicated than in the days of Republic and Empire. Too many powers are equal, so much more depends on compromise, alliance, knowing when to change allies and how to maneuver a man out of favor with his superiors.”
    “A cynical outlook.”
    “One that your brother practiced well enough in his day, but failed to maintain to the bitter end.”
    “But if he were permitted to return to Rome, Capua? anywhere? and undertook to take no part in political or military life. What would you say to that?”
    “I would say, my lady, that a man's word is a reed which will bend and bend and eventually snap.”
    “Do you think me beautiful?”
    The Pope was startled by this change of flow in the conversation. But he replied with a smile which contained a hint of lechery.
    “Your beauty is well-known, madam, and likewise your accomplishment.”
    He placed an impudent emphasis on the final word and his eyes moved down to her neck and the low bodice which revealed the rising swell of her breasts.
    Lucrezia's heart beat rapidly. This thought of giving herself to a lifelong enemy, of having his prick gouge her where her dear father's and beloved Cesare's had been before, was a bitter pill. But she had nothing else to offer.
    “My accomplishment is admirable,” she said brazenly, “but it demands that return be made.”
    “I see. If I don't mistake you, you are offering to be my mistress at the price of your brother's freedom? as far as my persuasion can achieve it.”
    Julius' penis had moved and staggered up at the thought. This would be sweet vengeance, indeed. The old man dead, the son in prison and now the daughter to lie under him while he made her a harlot, punishing her body with his bludgeon to push home the subservience of the Borgia family to his will in the most sadistically dominating manner. And why need he keep his word. She had no way of enforcing it. She was completely at his mercy. She had to take him at his word.
    “Your brother would be unable to resist trying to avenge your family's honor,” he hedged, feeling for how serious her proposal was.
    Her hand came under the table at which they sat and rested on his thigh, a warm, foreign pressure, harbinger of things to come.
    “He shall never know,” she said.
    His eyes moved over her. The whiteness of her soft skin at the half-bulge of her breasts was a spur. It was so little of that beautiful body to see and it made the hidden remainder superbly exciting.
    He leaned forward and kissed the white, soft patch and Lucrezia closed her eyes to hide her shame. She felt his lips glide over the revealed bulge and his fingers pull her dress away at its top so that he could look down the front. The man was a piggish brute.
    But while her thoughts were those of hatred, her actions belied them and her hand moved up his thigh and pulled at the hard core of flesh she could feel under his robes. The Pope drew back his head and looked at her. She opened her eyes and smiled, forcing her look to be one of invitation.
    Julius was suddenly hot with desire. To know that this famous beauty would be his, all naked in a bed, her whole body at his disposal. It was too much for a man like him to resist? particularly as he was not bound to make any return.
    “I agree to your terms,” he said.
    She took her hand off his erect penis and he felt naked and filled with passion.
    “How shall I know you will keep your word?”
    “I will draft out the letter and send it off immediately.”
    “Very well.”
    Lucrezia was well aware of the probability of trickery, but her bargain was a long shot. She had to take a chance if anything was to be done for her brother.
    Julius, now, could hardly keep his hands off her and as they stood up he took her in his arms and pulled her to him. He crushed his lips hungrily on hers and she fought down her anger and opened her lips so that she could flick her tongue into his mouth.
    She drew back as his hand began to fumble with her body.
    “Later,” she said.
    He laughed fiercely and rang a bell for his servants.
    Lucrezia watched while the letter was written. When it was powdered and signed, she took it in her hands and read it with a glow of hope. It explained that due to new information which had come to light, Cesare Borgia was, in fact, no longer considered guilty of the motives which had previously been ascribed to him. It asked, on behalf of the Pope, that he be returned to Rome as soon as possible as his services were needed.
    The letter was sealed, a courier summoned and then dispatched to Ostia that the document might leave on the next ship setting sail for Spain. He had hardly left the Vatican when he was intercepted and the letter taken from him to be burnt to ashes within minutes.
    Lucrezia, all unaware of the promptness of the treachery, feeling that there was a good chance of Cesare's rejoining her within the next month or so prepared to fulfill her side of the bargain.
    The Pope excused himself for a few minutes to give her time to undress. While she stripped herself of her few garments, bitter and almost tearful at preparing to be ignominiously used by the oldest enemy of her family, the Pope was inviting one of his nearest cardinals, Cardinal Rimini, to secrete himself in the papal rooms and witness all that followed. For so overjoyed and proud was the Pope that the beautiful, luscious daughter of his old enemy was to open her legs in subjection to him that he could not keep it to himself. Only by having a witness could he be sure that he would be believed if ever he told the story. The thought of a voyeur?and how that would further humiliate Lucrezia?added to his own lecherous expectation of enjoyment.
    So by the time Julius returned to his bedroom, where Lucrezia lay on the bed, naked, not looking at him, Cardinal Rimini had slipped into the papal apartment and was peering through the crack of an open door at the beautiful and unexpected sight.
    “So this is the luscious Lucrezia Borgia,” Julius said, with a slight break in his voice as he saw her curved nudity. He flicked his tongue over dry lips. Her buttocks and breasts were the most superb he'd seen in his life, full and juicy but with a firmness which indicated a power in the act and a luster which made them look as smooth as he was to find they felt. Her shoulders were slim, her waist tiny, which accentuated the voluptuous quality of her rotundities. Her thighs were soft and full, with muscles hidden under the surface which could work like a Trojan when her body was afire.
    “A bargain well made,” he added, with theatrical hypocrisy.
    Lucrezia turned her eyes toward him as he stripped off his robes. He had an ugly narrow body, with a rough, pockmarked skin. His prick which pointed out at her like a cannon seemed out of proportion to the rest of his body. It looked wicked and capable of producing pain and desecration.
    “How do you find that?” he asked, taking it in his hand and holding it toward her. Obviously he'd been told by other conquests that he had a prick second to none.
    “I have seen its equals,” Lucrezia lied with a haughty irritation.
    “Never its superior, however,” he chuckled.
    He came toward the bed and the sight of his prick almost frightened her. Belonging to a desired friend she would have regarded it with a trembling anticipation. It promised a brutal and therefore ecstatic penetration. But, belonging as it did to an enemy, she felt it had the power to humiliate and destroy her.
    The Pope stretched out on the bed beside her and his hands trembled as they began to feel her body. She shivered with repressed antipathy as she felt his hated hands foraging her breasts and buttocks, stroking her thighs. She hated him more than ever now that the moment had come and she saw in his eyes as he bent and ravaged her lips, a gleam of triumph mingled with his passion.
    She felt no answering passion. His body, his face, the whole hostile idea of his position repelled her. He was the master. She had sold herself to him. He was not lost and reveling in his passion, he was owning her?with passion?but cruelly, knowing that she could not escape him, had no option but to submit to what he demanded from her body.
    “Ah, I want you, I want you,” he whispered hoarsely, as if the very sound of the words increased the power he felt over her.
    “You're mine, mine. Lucrezia Borgia, you're mine!”
    She uttered a little cry at the wanton ring in his words and the cry was muffled in her groan as, with a quick movement he mounted her and thrust into her dry vagina.
    The dryness, unresponsiveness of her flesh tore at his prick, drawing a hoarse cry from his lips.
    “Oh, oh, you beauty?you slave!” he shouted, his voice broken with ecstatic fury.
    Lucrezia, pain shooting between her thighs, winced at his words. She had never been taken thus. She was virtually being raped. She hated the man who was joined in one flesh with her.
    Her passage was so dry that his penis scraped and drubbed it so that it seemed to her he must be drawing blood. She relaxed. It was too painful not to, and gradually her channel moistened a little and his progress became easier and with it her comfort greater.
    Julius was determined to be brutal. Watching the old man die and going to the devil, breaking Cesare's power and getting him imprisoned were not made of the same physical revenge as this?this flesh-to-flesh punishment and chastisement of the living body.
    He saw the disgust and self-hatred in her face and the hatred of himself and it increased his appetite for savagery so that he crashed his prick into her with all the force of his loins, so that their crotches met in a smack which was bruising and made her cry out.
    He pushed her thighs out and up so that they were waving at first out over the bed and then crushed back against her shoulders. She was doubled up under him, twisted and pain-racked, with her naked toes against the sides of his hips and the whole pressure of his upraised body meeting hers at the out-curved point of his loins, culminating in the stiff tree of organ that rammed into her with increasing force and vigor.
    Forgotten, out in the next room, with his fine view of the proceedings, Cardinal Rimini was beside himself. He had never in his wildest dreams hoped to see even the breast of such a woman as Lucrezia Borgia. And now to be seeing all?and to be seeing it in operation. It was too much for a man to bear.
    On the bed, Lucrezia felt as if she were suffocating under the narrow, bony body of her invader. His prick, digging to its full depth in her, seemed to be splitting her passage, to be tearing away layers of it in a painful, sickening, widening process.
    He was mouthing oaths and wild expressions of his power over her. He called her names, harlot names and spat words like “fuck” and “cunt” at her as if they would physically hurt her.
    Hurt and seared with pain, Lucrezia moved her head from side to side, biting her lips. His words humiliated her and in conjunction with having her legs cramped and defenseless as she lay naked on her back under him and felt his penis filling her loins with a persistent, drubbing, dominating rhythm, the humiliation was overwhelming.
    His hands pulled and twisted her breasts as he undulated on her. He made them into weird shapes and she cried out with protest at the pain and tried to wriggle free. But she seemed to be pinned to the bed as with a spear by his enormous fleshy weapon. Her body was being ransacked, torn and turned inside out for the savage pleasure of an old enemy who had her at his mercy.
    She opened her eyes and saw his eyes on her face, taking in her fear and horror. His eyes were mad with lust and triumph and his mouth twisted into an ugly gash of sadism from which burst roaring explosions of passion as he speared her.
    Lucrezia closed her eyes again to keep the sight of him away from her, but its image followed her eyes, creeping under the closed lids, making a picture in the darkness, which the physical touch of his rapacious taking of her body seemed to hold in position no matter how she tried to thrust it out.
    She heard him growing frantic with excitement and her crotch and lower buttocks were aching where his loins around that protruding sword rammed at them. There was pain and aching and hatred all contained in a melting pot which was her vagina.
    And suddenly there was something else. Her head had been caught by hot hands and, while Julius still drummed into her with frenzy, a hot, pliable-feeling penis was wormed into her mouth which opened in astonishment.
    The excitement of watching had become too much for Cardinal Rimini. The soothing touch of his own hand on his prick was not soothing enough. He needed something cooler, something more foreign, some part of the luscious fruit of a woman on the bed to coax his juices from him.
    For several minutes he had stood, trembling, fondling his organ in the doorway in full view of their unseeing eyes. He had gone through fear and desire in quick succession, alternately several times, until he could stand it no more. He would risk the Pope's displeasure. The woman was obviously in no position to resist.
    With a guilty, scuffling movement, he had rushed to the bedside, seized her face and thrust himself into her mouth.
    His eyes took in the Pope as he did so and the Pope nodded and he said through his gasps: “Take care of him Lucrezia, or I'll recall the letter.”
    Infamy, infamy. Lucrezia felt a tear roll from her eye. She was helpless and chastened. To be doing this against her will and with these men who had brought about her brother's downfall. The tears were rage and humiliation, with the rage suppressed of necessity.
    She began to work. The sooner it was over the better.
    On top of her still, the Pope had slipped his hands under her buttocks, raising them slightly off the bed and was- squeezing them so hard that it made her cry out. He was gasping and groaning in a wild excresence of sound and his loins were not only pummelling at her but undergoing contortions in every direction as well.
    The object in her mouth had bloated until she could hardly breathe. She bit it with-a sudden supreme fury at what was being forced on her and the bite brought a wild, wavering cry from the lips of Cardinal Rimini.
    Lucrezia, still struggling for breath, looked up at the Pope. Her pelvis was numb with its buffeting and her quim was a raging area of pain. She saw his head go back and then come forward sharply so that his eyes could look at her. The eyes dilated and he emitted a shrill gasp as he came into the pain that he'd caused her. There was savage conquest in his eyes and the thought that this man's sperm was a great lake in her belly was the final humiliation.

CHAPTER 20

    “Mate!” said Cesare, as he moved his knight, exposing the clear path between his castle and his opponent's king. Count Benavente sighed and then smiled.
    “I begin to understand why your enemies find you such a redoubtable opponent,” he said. “May I never be among them.”
    “Come, your mind wasn't on the play.”
    Count Benavente, who had been a frequent visitor to Cesare's confinement quarters these last few weeks, pushed back his chair from the table and stood up, looking not at Cesare but at the chessboard. He walked away after a second or two and stared out of the narrow window to the flat, green land a hundred or more feet below. Cesare watched him without speaking.
    “I was thinking,” the Count said, “of the matter we mentioned a few days ago.”
    Cesare glanced quickly at the door and then back at the Count.
    “It's too well guarded,” he said quietly. “You'd need an army.”
    “For once I believe I'm right and you're wrong,” the Count continued. “But of course I know the place and the people in a way you couldn't possibly.”
    Cesare didn't answer. It was clear the Count had been mulling over some plan. Best let him speak. He liked the Count, who was a good, upright man and one of the most powerful lords in this part of Spain. He was aware, too, that in some way he fascinated the man, who had lost no opportunity of visiting, talking to and playing chess with him once their acquaintanceship had been made.
    “I think, in fact…” At this point the Count, too, turned and glanced at the heavy wooden door which was closed. “I think you could be away from here within a few days.”
    Cesare quickened with interest. This sounded like something concrete. If he could get out of this fortress he'd start immediately to find ways and means of getting back to Italy for the re-conquest of his realms? and then death to anyone who tried to stop him. He had many accounts to settle.
    The Count played idly with a pawn, his brow creased in concentration. When he looked up at Cesare, his eyes were intent with purpose.
    “I have bribed the guard two nights from now,” he said softly, “and we have the help of one of the governor's servants. At two in the morning a rope will be lowered from the battlements. It will pass your window…”
    The Count took several quick steps across the room and studied the window.
    “Yes…” he said. “There's just room for you to squeeze through? but you must be careful. You will climb down the rope? preceded by the servant who will make sure that everything is safe? and my men will be waiting above the castle ditch.”
    Cesare got up slowly, his eyes shining. He moved over to the Count and took his hand, pressing it in both his own. The Count returned the pressure with a smile.
    “Some men were meant to be hermits,” he said, “but not you.”
    “But the risk to you…”
    “Little enough and worth the trouble. My men will escort you at all speed to Santander. I will provide you with money and you should be able to get a boat immediately to France.” He smiled wanly: “My only regret is that I shall be deprived of your play and your conversation?but we shall meet again.”
    “I hope I shall live to repay you,” Cesare said.
    “Oh, come, it's a small enough thing. Any man with blood would do such for another were it in his power. But…” he became practical again, “it must be done with no noise for only the two guards on the western battlements are in our pay.”
    He shook Cesare's hand again.
    “My dear Duke, I must take my leave. I'll come again on the day to assure you that everything is unchanged.”
    When the heavy door with its fastenings had grated shut and been bolted behind the Count, Cesare sat down at the chessboard. How long had he been here? He'd lost count of the months. He'd had odd contacts with the outside world beyond the Spanish frontier. His sister Lucrezia had written saying that she had pleaded with the Pope and that Julius had sent off a letter of reprieve. Whatever had happened, Cesare had not been released. He wondered what machinations had gone on to account for Lucrezia's certainty and then the lack of results. Certainly to get even with the Pope and then with Gonzalo de Cordoba would be two of his most desired objectives. He would offer himself to Louis. At the head of a French army, he'd soon have the whole peninsula falling over itself to make terms with him.
    Smiling, he lifted a knight from the board and with it, triumphantly took a bishop.

CHAPTER 21

    Through the narrow embrasure was the free, sleeping, peaceful world. The stars were out. It was a clear, moonlit night, which was a pity.
    Beside Cesare was the Governor's servant, a small man, with quick intelligent eyes who kept his gaze fixed on the oblong of light.
    “There!” he said suddenly.
    Cesare felt a needling in his stomach as he saw the thick rope snake down across the window, swing away out of sight for a second and then float back again to be grabbed by the man at his side.
    Quickly he helped his companion up onto the still of the embrasure. The man squeezed the top part of his body through and looked back.
    “Better wait until I'm off, Sire,” he whispered. “It would be wise not to put too much weight on the rope.”
    “Yes, yes. Off you go!” Cesare said quickly.
    He watched while the man took the strain on his arms and pulled himself through the opening. He swung out high over the ground and the rope swayed away from the sheer wall of the battlements and then back, grazing him along its stone surface.
    In what seemed like agonizingly slow time he began to go down the rope hand under hand, his feet twisted around it, helping to take the strain.
    Cesare climbed onto the sill and knelt precariously, peering out. Down below he could see the servant descending, growing smaller, just the top of his head a vague black mass. He looked down to the distant ground. He couldn't see Benavente's men but he had no doubt they'd be there, waiting in the shadows and that above the guards were watching, cursing at the time it took for the prisoner to escape, risking their skins a little more with every second that passed.
    He shifted his cramped position on the sill.
    Hurry man, hurry! He could see the black dot, but it was impossible to tell now whether it was going down or had stopped. At any rate the man was still on the rope, holding him back from launching himself in the void.
    Cesare strained his eyes into the moonlit darkness. It was gloomy in the shadow of the walls, which cut off the moon. What was the matter with the man? His head was still there, a tiny, indistinct point far down, surely not far from the ground. He seemed not to be moving.
    And then the point moved and even from his height Cesare heard the thud. A groan rose on the still air and vaguely he saw shadows moving in a flurry down in the deep, empty ditch.
    The fool, the idiot! What had he done?got tangled with the rope? There was another groan, sounding like thunder in the motionless night.
    Cesare caught the rope which swung in loosely towards him. He heard challenging shouts from somewhere down near the gates of the fortress and cursed. What a bungling farce! He could have spat with rage, but he kept his head, swinging out from the embrasure and back against the rough wall as he began to let hand under hand and slide his feet with the rope between them.
    He felt the chafing on his hands, but speed was essential, he had not time to lower himself in correct, comfortable fashion.
    Lights were flashing a way off on the ground and he slid faster. Up above there were shouts on the battlements too. The bribed guards could not pretend to be blind for so long without risking their necks.
    Down, down with a blank face of wall, a turmoil in his stomach, a long drop to the ditch and noise and light growing off on his right.
    “Hurry!” He heard the single, sharp shout from below and slid so rapidly that he could feel the skin being torn on his hands.
    And then another cry?of warning.
    “The rope is short?take care!”
    Cesare glanced down into the gloom which had cleared sufficiently to enable him to see several of Benavente's men, with the Count at the head of them, and to see the dangling end of the rope some fifteen feet short of the ground. Along in the ditch he saw some of the men trying to lift the servant, who was still groaning audibly.
    He swarmed down the last few feet of rope, measured the dangerous distance to the ground and jumped?just as the rope was cut from above. It came hurtling down on top of him, heavy and painful. But he landed with nothing more than a shaking and probably a bruised arm and knee as he fell sideways.
    With furious haste he was pulled from the ditch by Benavente's men as shouts from the castle barked out close by.
    From further along the ditch one of the men called.
    “He seems to have both legs broken?it's difficult to move him.”
    Cesare, slightly winded, his ears singing, was pulled onto a horse as cries of recognition sounded from the corner of the wall down which he had crawled. A small crowd of guards were racing toward the group. Behind them was commotion and sounds of horses clattering over the lowered drawbridge.
    The Count thrust a sword into Cesare's hand.
    “Take that my friend?you'll have to use it yet.”
    He called back to his men in the ditch.
    “Leave him!”
    There was no hope of escape with an injured man. And it was important that the Count was not recognized.
    They could see the light of the moon glinting on the pikes and swords of their pursuers as they wheeled and set their horses at a gallop away from the fortress. There was a crash of gunshot from the castle turrets and then they were outdistancing the guards who faded back into anonymous shadows, calling and shouting to the horsemen who were yelling for direction.
    Cesare's head cleared as they streamed through the night air, setting up a wind from their rapid motion through its stillness. He could feel the irritating pains in his arm and leg, but they were worth nothing compared with the exhilarating vigor he felt in freedom.
    They rode at all speed until there was neither sight nor sound of any pursuit.
    “A narrow success,” the Count called against the wind as he galloped beside Cesare.
    “A little spice to give it perfection,” Cesare called back, laughing into the wind.

CHAPTER 22

    “I tell you, you can name your price,” Cesare said.
    The ship's master with whom he spoke turned a steady searching gaze on him. There was no compromise in his hard eyes.
    “I tell you that my route is not to France? and I know of nobody else who has such a direction.”
    He stared hard at Cesare.
    “Besides, from what you sound there's danger in it?and I'll not risk my ship for any money.”
    “As you wish,” Cesare sighed. “The loss is yours.”
    He bade the captain goodnight and left the tavern.
    Throughout the small town, the Count's men were plying all and sundry with similar questions. Meeting at pre-determined times in an auberge down near the seashore they discussed their latest lack of success. All efforts so far had been in vain. Nobody was able or willing to take the risk of going off his route with a man who was obviously in some way an enemy of the State.
    The Count himself had taken his leave of the party earlier, to return to his domain, leaving several of his men to aid Cesare in Santander. He had not anticipated such difficulty as the party was now encountering.
    Meeting for the umpteenth time to quaff ale in the little inn within sound of the waves breaking on the shore, Cesare and the Count's men were glum with failure.
    “We'll have a last attempt,” Cesare said at last, downing his liquor and rising. “If it fails then there's one thing left?I'll have to cross the frontier into Navarre.”
    “You run more risk on land than on sea.” “I run more risk still stuck here without hope of escape.”
    They began, for the last time, to scour the bars and inns of the town, cutting it into sections, working methodically.
    It was in a little tavern where everyone seemed to be slightly the worse for drink, that Cesare got what sounded like a hopeful tip. He had sat himself in a corner to take stock of those in the place, which was alive with noise and the clatter of tankards.
    An old seadog, talkative with wine, flopped down on the bench beside him.
    “I say that we're the freest of 'em all,” he said fiercely, not looking at Cesare, but apparently speaking to him as there was nobody else very near.
    “If we don' like our wives we go on a long trip, if we do we go on a short 'un. We got fresh air and good pay an' all the world to see. What more?”
    He turned to Cesare, beetling his thick brows, as if he expected argument. His eyes within their crinkled, sunburned lids were bright blue and ringed with little red veins and the yellow wash of age and liquor. His tankard sagged in his hand and there was a beer stain on his old black neckerchief.
    “Quite right. Let me fill 'em up on it,” Cesare said, taking the tankard from his hand and calling to the skivvy who hopped around and tripped over sprawling feet.
    “You'm a stranger. New face around here.”
    It was a question and the man suddenly seemed soberer than first appearance would have suggested.
    “Yes, looking for a boat to take me to France.”
    “To France?”
    The old man gazed reflectively as their filled tankards were set down on the rough table in front of them. He raised his, glanced over Cesare's clothes which were well-to-do although a disguise.
    “Your health, sir.”
    “And yours?and to the free life.”
    “Aye. You'll get no boat going to France at this time.”
    “I can pay well. It would be a good bargain.” The old man looked at him again, with his eyes narrowed slightly.
    “You'm very anxious to get there.” “A matter of urgent business,” Cesare snapped. He was irritated at the man's irrelevant interest in his activities.
    “Could be done, I suppose… could be done…”
    “What can you tell me?” Cesare demanded. “It's very urgent.”
    The old man considered, glancing around the tavern with eyes that seemed to have awakened completely from the half-stupor of liquor.
    “Don't know as I ought,” he said. “Don't sound legal to me?what you're up to.”
    “I'll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself,” Cesare snapped. “I'll make it worth your while to give me any useful information.”
    “How worth.”
    Cesare opened a pouch on his belt and threw some gold pieces on the table. The man's eyes glistened and he stared, fascinated, at the money. He put out his hand to pick them up and Cesare's hand closed on his wrist with a force which made him start.
    “Not before you tell me what you have to say.”
    The man stared at him. He was beginning to wonder with whom he was dealing. There was an authority about the stranger which, even in this familiar seaman's bar where every strong arm would be with him, made his spirit yield. “All right. Take them off the table.” Cesare grinned and swept the pieces off the table and onto the wooden bench between them.
    “She's a ship-owner's widow,” the seaman explained. “Lives just on the outskirts o' the town. They say she likes a 'andsome man though she's nothin' to look at 'erself. There was some young duke came through here three year ago with a price on 'is head. 'E went and offered isself to her for work on one of 'er ships and she told him he could 'ave a job if he was nice to 'er.” The old man laughed coarsely. “Least thats 'ow the tale goes. Ain't nothin' can 'appen in a place like this without folks get to know about it afore long.”
    “Where can this woman be found?”
    But the old man had warmed to the lechery of his story.
    “They do say she's real frustrated?her husband been dead for six year and none as she thinks are suitable as'll have 'er. They do say
    …” he grinned lasciviously… “as she likes a little tickle with a rope afore she has 'er cranny stuffed.”
    He guffawed suddenly in a tone which made the nearest people turn towards him and then grin before resuming their own conversation.
    “But o' course if you was goin' to pay, anyway, you probably wouldn' 'ave to pander to 'er every whim.”
    “Where can this woman be found?enough of your prattle!”
    The seaman sobered down although his eyes were still alight with mirth at his humor. He picked up the golden pieces and slipped them quickly into a pocket as if he were afraid to be seen looking at them.
    “For another such, I'll show ye.”
    “Right, but quick about it.”
    They left the inn and ambled at a pace which exasperated Cesare, through the narrow streets near the seashore. At last the man pointed out a large house on the corner of a narrow street, with a porch and steps over which shone a lantern.
    “There?an' I hope you'm feelin fit and 'earty.”
    Cesare caught him by the arm and held it with a grip which made the old man wince.
    “Not a word about this to anyone,” he said, knowing that his words were probably useless. “I have men here and if you start shouting this around it'll be the worse for you.”
    There was real startled fear in the old man's eyes.
    “Aye, aye, sir,” he said. “I wouldn' want 'em to know as I'd got rich, anyway.”
    He ambled off into the darkness and Cesare knocked at the door of the big house. Shortly Cesare was being ushered by one of what seemed to be many servants into the presence of the mistress of the house.
    After he had explained his business, the woman relapsed into thought, toying with a cushion. He judged her to be about sixty or a little under. She had a commanding face and had probably once been quite beautiful. But now she had grown stout and flabby and the skin hung on her fingers like plain rings.
    After a while she looked up at him, lightly studying his face and figure.
    “It is a risky thing you're asking,” she said.
    “I'm offering a good price.”
    “But I'm not poor. I'm not in great need of money so your price isn't all that interesting to me.”
    So the town gossip was true. How impossible these small towns were. He decided to make things easy for her.
    “But what else can I offer, my dear madam?”
    She smiled and stood up. She began to move slowly around the lighted room as if thinking. She stopped in front of a painting, small painting above a grate where a log fire was burning low. He watched her, her stout bottom and belly rustling in her skirts.
    “This is a picture of my husband,” she said, staring at it.
    Cesare moved across the room and stood beside her and just a little behind.
    “A good-looking man.”
    “Yes, he had many virtues and I miss him? particularly in bed.”
    Cesare smiled. So she was going to brazen it. She didn't look at him. She had crossed the bounds of decorum and was waiting with bated breath to see how he reacted.
    “I'm sure the loss is more his.”
    “Ah, you mustn't say such blasphemy,” she said?but quite disarmed at his reply.
    She moved away again, leaving him standing beside the portrait. When she turned, her eyes dropped to his loins and then rose to meet his.
    “I long for people to take his place?just for a while,” she said in a tone which, Cesare was surprised to find, made him feel rather sorry for her.
    “Madam, there can be few could resist such an open-hearted admission from such a fine woman as yourself.”
    “Oh tush!” But she smiled again and moved toward him. “A beautiful person like yourself has no need of elderly women but…” she hesitated… “that is my price.”
    “My dear lady you overestimate me. You offer me delight and disparage yourself at the same time.”
    She was pleased with his gallantry even if she hardly believed it. She came toward him and put her hands on his shoulders, her head against his breast as he pressed her body into his.
    That it should come to this, Cesare thought with a sardonic humor. But bargainers can't be choosers.
    “My husband was so good because he knew my quirks,” she said softly, rubbing her loins gently against his, so that in spite of his reservations he found his prick responding.
    “Your quirks?you like to be excited in some?abnormal?manner?”
    Gallantly he helped her, saving her embarrassment. Besides he was in a hurry.
    “Yes?he used to whip me. But I no longer have the whip and, besides, now that I'm a little older, I prefer the more intimate touch of the hand and then perhaps a few strokes from a cane I keep in my boudoir.”
    Better get it going, Cesare decided. He pushed his hips back at hers and tried to get his hands around her big buttocks. She looked up at him with her mouth open and he lowered his face onto hers as if going into a dungeon. Her skin was rather dry under her powder but she had kept herself well and he was surprised at the keenness of passion with which she responded.
    “I'll send the servants to their quarters,” she whispered.
    She disappeared for several minutes and when she was once again in the doorway, he saw she was dressed in a silk gown which hid her stout flabbiness and gave a certain silken luster to her appearance.
    She beckoned and he followed. She led him up a flight of stairs and into a tasteful boudoir with a large bed to one side on which was a long, whippy cane.
    “Will you undress?” she pleaded.
    He began to slip out of his clothes and she watched as if she would eat his body. When he stood in front of her, naked and with his upstanding penis rearing toward her, he could hear the rustle of the gown where she was trembling. She stared at his body in admiration and desire.
    “So young?so strong,” she whispered.
    She came over to him, opened her gown and enclosed them both in it, crushing against him. He could feel the sag of her breasts, low down on his chest and the bush of hair around her cunt. The fat thighs were hot and met his like bastions.
    “Kiss me?and then beat me until I scream,” she said fiercely.
    He kissed her and she held his prick, squeezing it gently so that he felt the blood running into and expanding it. He was surprisingly excited. It occurred to him that she'd be the oldest woman he'd ever fucked.
    She dragged him to the bed, pushed him down, flung off her gown and threw herself face down, sinking into its soft depth. For a moment he gazed at the fat, flabby buttocks which quivered like jelly, so fleshy were they. He glimpsed her breasts, large and hanging down toward her waist. There were rolls of fat at her waist and lines across her thighs. He could see the fringe of a tuft of black hair protruding between her buttocks.
    Well, she should have her money's worth. He'd make fine play with that fat, soft body.
    He knelt beside her on the bed, holding her down in the small of the back with one hand. He brought his other sharply down across her buttocks, feeling it sink, stingingly into the flesh, leaving a red and white mark as he lifted it again. She winced and muffled her gasp in the bed. Her buttocks quivered with that jelly-like helplessness and she winced with her whole body.
    He raised his hand again and smacked it down in the wake of the first blow. Again she smothered her gasp in the sheets. Again and again he brought down his hand, until she was writhing and squirming and her buttocks were fiery red. Sometimes he stopped, thinking from her stifled scream that she'd had enough, but then she'd raised her smarting bottom up toward him to indicate that she needed yet more.
    When her rump was glowing in a single smoldering flush, he took hold of the cane, swished it once in the air and then brought it down with half-force across her backside. It made a single deeper weal across the blush of her puddings. She cried out, made as if to escape, and then pushed her loins hard into the bed, remaining where she was.
    Cesare held her firmly with his left hand and brought the cane down with all his force. This time she shrieked with pain and the weal came up immediately, bruised and angry-looking. Three more times, holding her fast as she squirmed and struggled and screamed with the pain, he lashed the flickering stick down across her fat behind and then she cried out in a loud voice.
    “Screw me now! Stuff me up, quickly?oh now!”
    He pulled her up onto her knees and slipped between them. His prick was stretching and in excitement, invigorated by the thrashing he'd subjected her to. He eased back, directed his organ and surged forward into her, pushing the walls of her vagina aside like earth under a pick.
    She quivered and screamed. And he caught those tender buttocks in his hands and began to punish her with his prick, ramming in and in with strong, rough thrusts which jerked her forward on her face every time he reached the extremity of her passage.
    She cried out again and again and at last she was laughing and sobbing with joy at the same time. He wondered through his teeth-gritting labor how long it was since she'd had a young man's prick up her cranny.
    Every time he jabbed it in a long, breath-sucking stroke, the friction of his loins against her fat pink behind set off her buttocks wobbling furiously. He separated them in rolls of fat and plunged his fingers between their great curves. He pulled on the tuft of black hair he found, making her shriek with ecstacy and skewer her unsupple body against him.
    He reached right under her with his other hand and felt through the sticky juices which were beginning to flow. Her clitoris was as hard as a nut, and big, too. He pinched it, hurting her and then held her fat wobbling belly in handfuls, feeling it heave and jump under the emotional and physical turmoil through which she was passing.
    “Oh, oh,” he heard her cry. “I can't… can't bear… it.”
    He slashed her buttocks with his hands, making them roll and squirm and drubbed her harder and harder, pulling his lips back from his teeth in the bone-splitting fury of it.
    He could hardly feel anything now, just a light slippery stroke as he thrust in and up. Only at the very end was there sharp sensation for him. But she was racing to a climax. A climax, it seemed, such as could hardly be imagined.
    He had difficulty in holding her upright on the bed. She seemed to have lost all control, was emitting lost, soul-rending cries, which made him realize why she'd dismissed the servants, and was swaying and pitching on the end of his penis like a wild young horse.
    Of a sudden she shrieked out:
    “Oh, love, love?uuuuuuuugh!”
    And her body seemed to petrify in a tense pushing orgasm and even Cesare could feel the added warmth surround his prick. Having controlled himself to some extent to the point where he was waiting for her to be satisfied, he now let himself go and within seconds was discharging his venom into her wide, vanquished quim and subsiding over her gross behind, which gradually lost its quiver as she calmed.

    On the way to the tavern with one of the woman's servants who carried a message from her to the master of one of her ships, Cesare was waylaid by one of the Count's men.
    “Quick, Sire, off the road.”
    The man took hold of him by the arm and dragged him into a doorway while the servant stood uncertainly, watching them in astonishment.
    “What's up?” Cesare demanded. “Quick man?I've got a boat.”
    “Too late, Sire. Someone's talked out and the King's men are scouring the town. They have the port under close surveillance. It would be impossible to get through.”
    Cesare cursed furiously. He could hardly believe in such shocking luck.
    “I'd like to get my hands on that old dog!” he snarled.
    “Sire, our horses have been brought to a stable a little way from here. The men are waiting. Your only chance is to ride for the frontier as you foresaw.”
    Cesare lost no further time with his fury. He dismissed the servant, telling him to say to his mistress that circumstances had arisen which made the passage unnecessary but that he considered himself, taking everything into account, not to be at such a great loss.
    He smiled grimly as they ran through the streets toward the stables. The experience had been more amusing than he'd expected and she'd practically abased herself before him on his departure, even offering him a permanent pension if he'd stay in the region and visit her no more than once a fortnight. He had been forced to explain the urgency of his leaving this part of the world.
    In the stables the horses were ready, champing at the bit, and they made no secret of their departure as they clattered full pelt through the streets toward the open country. For once it was more haste, more speed.

CHAPTER 23

    So it was to Navarre that Cesare managed at last to escape from Spain, to the court of his brother-in-law, King Jean. His arrival threw the kingdom into confusion and as far off as the Vatican, hearts were quaking at news of his escape.
    He was given asylum and every attention and wrote to the King of France offering his services in any capacity which would provide him with an army in the service of Louis.
    After some weeks he received the cool communication that as he had for a period joined the camp of Gonzalo de Cordoba he could no longer be considered a friend of France. Just that and no more. A bitter pill, which retarded, it seemed, indefinitely his hopes of reconquest of his former territories in Italy.
    Cesare champed and chafed and wrote to friends and his sister to seek intelligence of the situation in his homeland. He wanted action and instead he had to remain, tucked away in Navarre eating fruit and drinking wine all day long while he listened to interminable lute-playing.
    It was at this time that trouble grew in the teacup of Navarre, a small storm in which Cesare would have taken not the slightest interest had accident of circumstance not held him in the country at the time?a gratuitous, irrelevant involvement which, it seemed, by some prank of destiny, making a mockery of man's aims and ambitions, was to cost him all.
    The country was suddenly torn by opposite factions which had long been snarling at each other. The Beaumontes, principal of these factions, refused to be brought to heel and surrender to the King. Into Cesare's lap fell the offer of the Captain-Generalcy of Navarre with a force of 10,000 men. He was to lay siege to the main Beaumontese fortress of Viana and make the name of the King absolute throughout his realms.
    Seeing in this, the possibility of an ally and material assistance at some later date, Cesare agreed and led the army into its siege position.
    The fortress was strong, but its provisions were running low. It stood fair to be starved to surrender in a short time.
    But Beaumont, who gave his name to his faction, conceived the risky and daring plan of creeping through the enemy lines at night and getting supplies from a nearby, friendly town.
    The attempt?a complete surprise to the besiegers?would have been completely successful had not a party of reinforcements coming up to join Cesare's army bumped into the retreating Beaumontese with the first light of dawn preparing to break through.
    The alarm was given, and Cesare, who had been unable to sleep, was one of the first in pursuit, leaving his men to follow the obvious trail of the Beaumontese through the hillocks surrounding the fortress.
    He was full of fury at the trick. This would mean weeks more for the siege and he could not be involved in the petty disturbances of a petty kingdom for that long. Such troubles, as he rode in pursuit, unaware of his start on the men of his own army, blinded him to the risk one could run equally in petty kingdoms.
    At a turn in the track he was ambushed by a score of the Beaumontese who, seeing a lone rider well ahead of the main body of the pursuit and being so near safety themselves, had turned back for the sake of the kill.
    Cesare was surrounded, realized for the first time that the pursuit party of his army was not yet even in earshot and tried to break free from the encircling horses. But he was hemmed in and although he dispatched several of the enemy he was dragged from his horse at last and there on the road near the lonely fortress of Viana in Navarre in a cause which was not his own and of no real interest to him, Cesare Borgia was cut down under a rain of blows.
    The thunder of the hooves of the pursuit came into earshot as those of the retreat died away and Cesare lay dying beside the road, stood over by his horse.
    His army was dismayed and Navarre stricken by the gratuitous death of this man who had been such a fine leader in his day. There were few, even among his enemies, as the news raged over the border and into the surrounding countries, who did not feel a pang of regret that he should have met such a strange end.
    There were many who said that God had finally decided that this creature of his creation who had murdered and schemed and raped and dallied with incest, had done enough; that he had made him lose his reason just at the moment when there had been no cause for him to risk his life.
    Of Lucrezia no more was heard after her brother's death. It was rumored that she was so stricken with grief that she never again left the walls of her quarters in her husband's palace. Others again insisted that she was seen no more simply because she continued to indulge in practices for which she needed the secrecy of a screen from the public eyes.
    Centuries later, it was said, Italian mothers would occasionally use the names of Cesare and Lucrezia or Roderigo Borgia to frighten their naughty children and send them scurrying, subdued, to bed.
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