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To Sleep With Aphrodite by Iain Bard

EXTRACT FOR
To Sleep With Aphrodite 
(Iain Bard)


Chapter One
Aphrodite and Her Silent Touch

Before her, I was oblivious to who-or should I say what-I truly was. But who was I, really? My passport and diplomas smugly exposed my identity, a name and a picture does little to adequately define a body's soul. Aedhan Jean Dubois, the documents read - born in 1972 in Quebec City, the son of a French father and a Welsh mother. My traditional Gaelic given name, which my father grudgingly allowed my quietly assertive mother to select, clashed not only with my French middle and surnames, but also with the French culture that surrounded us everywhere in Vieux-Quebec. I'm certain this paradox contributed greatly to my lifelong identity crisis.
As an only child, I enjoyed a loving, yet disciplined, upbringing. My father, a Classics Professor at the University of Quebec, was stern yet nurturing. He had high hopes for his only son. From a young age, I enjoyed his tutelage and guidance in the rich academia that permeated my day-to-day life. It was my father's love for mythology which spawned my interest in the legends of ancient cultures, but when I pursued my own doctorate, it was a Literature rather than a Classics Degree that decorated my own office wall.
Having attended a prestigious American University, I became a U.S. citizen and settled on the east coast. Although I risked insulting my deceased mother-God rest her soul-I adopted the English version of my French middle name, becoming known as John to my friends and colleagues. Staying on as an Instructor at my Ivy League Alma Mater, I astonished everyone by gaining tenure after a few short years. Quickly securing a full Professor's title, the freedom of such early seniority gave me ample time to nurture a dormant creativity. Now, four novels later, I enjoyed unexpected commercial success; and on the surface, at least, I was happy.
Despite my achievements, a part of me felt empty. Romance, you ask? Yes, there were women-too many to count, to be quite honest. Strange, I could attract such beauties, yet find no spiritual pleasure in the intimacy which followed. They loved my body, my face, my name, my titles, and my success-a superficial attraction, if you will, that never went deeper than the facade of my mortal exterior. I searched and longed for the woman who could dive deep and shatter the ice of my human form to reveal and understand the essence of my cosmic soul.
Was this mysterious woman-this faceless enigma-my soul's goddess and my spirit's salvation? Perhaps she was; I hoped and prayed she was. Without the miracle of modern electronic communication, I'm certain our paths would have never crossed. After all, we were separated by the vastness of an ocean and the extreme difference of lifestyle and culture and without the internet, her search for me-nubile, exuberant, and fueled by the ancient secret that I imagined she harbored-would have unquestionably failed. We had the twenty-first century and its utterly incomprehensible, undeniably magical "web" of invisible clairvoyant energy to thank for our beautiful and fateful collision.
From her very first message, her uncanny insight invoked an obvious mythological comparison-apparent, at least, to me. I possessed a vivid writer's imagination, which was by necessity and habit influenced by an academician's obscure familiarity with the classics, literature, and ancient history. To me, she was a modern day Aphrodite from the moment her first speeding electronic bullet found its way across the globe into my inbox. If she told me in her first email that she, like the legendary and mystical Greek goddess, bypassed the innocent ignorance of childhood by being created directly from the elements into her adult form, I would have accepted this preposterous claim without question.
I'm the first to admit the unlikely story of our meeting. Coincidence? Perhaps. Yet the hand of fate gently tapped us both on an unsuspecting shoulder, as we stood back-to-back, totally oblivious to each other's existence until that very moment. And, in a flash, there you were; there I was; there we were, sweet darling-staring at each other with wide-eyed disbelief and unbelievable yet undeniable recognition.
But I am leaping forward, when I should embark on the task of explanation in the proper timeline and chronology. My savvy publicist, Gerry, arranged the speaking engagement in Athens. I would be the keynote speaker at the International Writer's conference, which would take place in Greece this year, and she was my Athenian point of contact. Her name was Kay, a consulting specialist employed by a top-notch Greek resource and scheduling outfit that would make all of my travel, accommodation, and leisure arrangements during my two-week stay in the Aegean. I knew nothing about her, except she was extraordinarily good at what she did-efficient, proficient, and a true pleasure to deal with. Her English, at least as it appeared on my computer screen, was perfect, much like my imagined fantasy of her physical appearance.
She was all business on the surface, yet my intuition sensed an inexplicable nostalgia and familiarity in her correspondence. Underneath the confirmations and scheduling logistics ran an underground river of mutuality that rushed ahead or behind with a timeless strength and energy.
Her emails, of course, only hinted at her true identity. Despite the anonymous flavor of her initial correspondence, her soul and her essence lingered in each sentence, word, and letter. Cronos & Associates, the message ID stated with bland professionalism, as our electronic banter became more and more friendly and comfortable. She remained playfully incognito, expertly obscured behind a translucent curtain that she fully intended to have me draw aside, but at the time of her choosing, not mine.
"That should do it, Aedhan." Her email flashed on my screen. She took to calling me John rather than Professor Dubois for days now, but her unexpected use of my true given name shocked me at first, since I had not been called Aedhan for years.
"You surprise me at every turn," I replied. "How did you know my name was actually Aedhan?" I knew full well a simple Google search would probably reveal this information.
"Your secrets aren't so very difficult to uncover." She typed. "Anyway, I knew from your first email that you were definitely not a John," she confided. "Quite simply, it didn't fit you-like a suit tailored for someone else, not you!"
I thought about her assertions for a minute, amazed she sensed such an inconsistency from a simple electronic message. As another email from her appeared in my inbox, I felt the power of our uncanny connection intensify.
"Anyway, I do hope you enjoy your upcoming trip to Greece. That should do it, I think," she said again, with a finality that threatened to abruptly end our friendly correspondence and burgeoning friendship.
"Not quite, I'm afraid." I typed desperately, hoping to lure her with the vagueness of my brevity and the slightest hint of dissatisfaction.
"Haven't I made satisfactory arrangements for your trip?" she asked, a hint of concern apparent in the fragment of her psyche hovered around her transmitted words.
"You've been remarkably accommodating," I assured. "However, there's one remaining and essential detail you have, surprisingly, overlooked."
"I'm eager to please you, Aedhan." I could almost hear her breathy whisper, which promised to fulfill my deepest physical and emotional desires. "Ask me anything, and I'll try to make it happen."
"Who are you?" I asked abruptly, hopeful a direct approach would attain the results, and the woman, I so desperately desired.
"I'm Kay, your friendly and efficient Accommodations Coordinator," she replied playfully, giving me no additional information in this useless reiteration of her initial introduction.
"Who are you, really?" I pleaded with her now, concerned she might ultimately refuse to reveal herself despite the undeniable magnetic pull of our electronic connection. "You know who I am, after all." I reasoned. "It seems only fair, at this point, for you to share with me your own personal identity."
There was silence on my screen, and I squirmed in my chair-impatient for her reaction to my reasonable arguments and apprehensive she might dash my hopes with a brutal denial. Her decision, I felt certain, would change my life forever.
Twenty minutes later, her message finally appeared on my screen. "I'll email you from my personal address, as soon as I get home," she said.
My heart pounded and I sighed with relief. Looking at my watch, I did the required mental calculation. Athens-in the Eastern European Time Zone-was seven hours ahead, which meant I would probably hear from her in about two hours.
It was mid-morning on an unusually cool summer day in late June, and I was in dire need of a distraction. I quickly changed, and a moment later I enjoyed a brisk run down the cobblestone street of my colonial city neighborhood.

***

When I returned, an email waited for me in my inbox. Clicking on my mail icon, I was startled to read the name.
"Cytherea Kypris," it said. I was stunned by the strange coincidence. My lifelong interest in the intriguing myth of Aphrodite resulted in years of research in preparation for my latest fiction project. A Reticent Adonis, my fourth novel, would be released next month, coinciding with my trip to Athens. Gerry called in some favors, I'm sure, when he arranged for me to give a plenary session address at the prestigious annual convention. What a perfect setting to launch a novel that drew heavily on the myths and legends of the ancient Greeks.
Cytherea and Kypris, both alternate names for Aphrodite or Venus: the Greek and Roman goddess of passion, love, sexuality, and desire. I shrugged, trying with limited success to convince myself that her name was just coincidence. I half-heartedly argued with myself as I tried to apply logic and reason to this utterly illogical circumstance. "After all, she is an Athenian native." I reasoned out loud. "The names might not be unusual in a country whose culture is so richly permeated with the old Greek legends." I muttered under my breath as I poised the mouse arrow over her message.
And the company she worked for: Cronos. Was this name coincidence as well? Anyone familiar with the myth of Aphrodite's birth knew Cronus castrated his father Ouranos, the primordial God of the sky, and used the powerful inseminating liquid from his severed genitals to create the beautiful and lusty Venus. My mind reeled with the unlikelihood of pure chance in this strange triad of mythological appellations.
I double clicked on her message and saw there was no content. Perplexed, I hit reply and typed out my response.
"Is this from you, Kay?" I asked and wondered if the blank email was some sort of random spam mailing rather than hers.
"Yes, Aedhan," she replied immediately with calm assurance.
"You have a very unusual name." I wrote, unsure if she was aware of the meaning. "What does Cytherea mean?" I asked my question, a not so subtle assessment of her familiarity with the myth in question.
"It's a variation of the name Aphrodite. In our legends, my namesake's goddess was born on the Greek island of Cytherea."
We chatted on Instant Messenger now. She went on. "Others say she was born off the shore of Cyprus, rather than Greece. Funny coincidence, don't you think that my first and last names both reference the goddess of sexual desire, physical ecstasy, and carnal release?"
Although she said nothing inappropriate, her straightforward reference to physical intimacy ignited my flame of hopefulness. Had her comment represented an innocent definition of her namesake or rather, an intentionally flirtatious reference to romantic intimacy? I had definitely been caught off-guard by the irrepressible stir of physical and emotional desire I felt for a faceless woman I never even met. Feeling slightly ill at ease, I decided to stall for a moment before testing the waters further. "Are they common names in your country?" I asked, swallowing hard.
I almost heard her laugh as she responded. "No, not very common at all, Aedhan. There are many Aphrodites in my wide circle of acquaintances, but they're all blatant imposters. You're speaking with the one and only goddess of Love, and when we meet, I'll expect you to bow and submit. LOL!"
Her sense of humor was rich and slightly self-deprecating, I erroneously concluded at the time. I never dreamt that she might be serious. In retrospect, I think I fell in love with her at that very moment.
"You should still call me Kay," she suggested. "All of my mortal friends do!"
I laughed, enthralled by her quick wit and entranced by her playful flirtation. "Well, I'm no mere mortal," I teased. "Does this mean I should call you Aphrodite?" I joked.
"Kay will do just fine...for now," she replied.
Kay, I thought, a little bit perplexed by the nickname. It seemed she read my mind, because her explanation flashed on my screen-a strangely perfect response to the question I quietly contemplated a split second before.
"The C is harsh, not soft," she said. "In English, the name would probably be spelled with a K. Also, my surname begins with a K. So, my newfound mortal companion, please call me Kay!"
The word swam in front of my eyes: companion. My heart, inflicted with an incurable strain of hopeless romance, leapt into my throat as I considered the myriad of possibilities that might arise from our blossoming online friendship.
Ridiculous, my rationale half-meekly chided, only to be ignored as usual by my obstinate emotion-driven alter ego. Her innocent words, which inadvertently caused Eros to notch his bow, ignited a familiar flame in my eternally passionate soul. You and she will be much more than friends, Cupid whispered in my ear with unjustified certainty as I typed my response to her offer of friendship.
"All right, Kay," I typed. "I definitely prefer your given name, though. Cytherea-a remarkable name for a remarkably beautiful woman!" I said, cringing slightly at the blatant flirtation, but shrugging off any second thoughts with accustomed resignation. I impulsively hit "send" on my email screen, having enough self-insight to know that even the most strenuous protests from my rational side would never succeed in suppressing the restless urges of my desperately searching heart. As the wizardry of twenty-first century technology delivered my message with lightning speed across the Atlantic, I hoped my reckless spontaneity would not lead to another disappointment or heartbreak.
Hours passed with no answer from the mysterious woman who, I imagined, might be the antidote to my desperation. I worried that perhaps I offended her as I checked my inbox with a frequency which bordered on the obsessive. Still nothing and it was now well past midnight in Athens. I realized she probably went to sleep, which meant I'd have to wait until morning for her to log onto her computer again. I tried unsuccessfully to put my thoughts to rest and although I went to bed, I couldn't sleep.
It was 3 a.m., and I somehow mustered the willpower to stay away from my computer for almost two hours. My notoriously inaccurate sixth sense urged me to check my messages again, and I didn't have the strength to argue. I put down the book I read and made the brief journey to my computer, which rested in sleep mode on the cluttered desk in my study. Waking it with a gentle touch, the screen sprung to life and I nervously logged into my email account.
Cytherea Kypris, my inbox announced calmly, as my heart inexplicably started to pound in my chest. "Is this truly such a monumental moment?" I asked myself out loud. After all, she's a total stranger-so why should her reaction to my innocent email hold such importance?
Because she's not a stranger, Cupid answered with emphatic decisiveness. She's your destiny, and the sooner you realize this, the better!
I sighed. My disputably delusional inner voice insisted Kay was my soul's intended partner. I double-clicked on her name, and her message immediately greeted me on the screen.
"And how, may I ask, do you know I'm beautiful?" she wrote, picking up smoothly where we left off yesterday, as if the delay in answering had been ten minutes rather than ten hours. It was a simple enough inquiry, on the surface, but what was the underlying intention in her query? So many interpretations, I thought with panic. Had she been flattered by my compliment, and was her comment intended to encourage more of the same playful repartee? Or, was she irritated, suspicious, outraged, or even fearful?
Assuming the worst, I tried to explain. "I didn't intend to offend you," I frantically typed. "Please accept my apologies. I was simply stating what I know is true, somehow."
Her answer came back immediately. "Oh no, I wasn't offended! We've never met, and I know you've never seen a picture of me-that's all!"
I breathed a sigh of relief. "This may sound strange, but a very clear image of you has formed in my mind," I said. "I think you're stunning!"
I almost heard her laugh through the computer screen. "Describe my appearance, then," her words said, "as specifically as you can."
Her challenge accepted, I closed my eyes and brought the mental representation of her that materialized into sharp focus. "Your hair is dark-walnut with a most unusual hint of gold, and your eyes are a rich hazel with flecks of jade." I asserted without hesitation.
"True," the words on my screen spoke, her surprise at my accuracy evident although unsaid. "Go on, my new American friend."
"You have a petite nose, prominent cheekbones, and a somewhat fair yet evenly tanned complexion," I affirmed, inspecting my imagined visual prompt with growing confidence. "I see a few endearing freckles, and a smile that could mesmerize Zeus himself!"
My computer screen was silent for a few moments, but I waited patiently for her response. In my deepest heart and soul, I knew I was correct, and I was certain the delay reflected astonishment and disbelief rather than dismissal.
Finally, she answered. "Have you seen a picture of me somewhere?"
"No, I haven't!" I reasserted emphatically. "I can't explain how, and I know it sounds crazy, but I can actually see you in my mind's eye!"
"What more then, do you see?" she asked curiously. Her interest piqued by my accurate soothsaying.
"I know your body," I replied cautiously. "I don't want you to misinterpret this as lewd or disrespectful, but you are truly breath-taking. I have never seen such a perfect woman!" I sighed as I typed this irrefutable truth.
"Thank you, I think!" she said. "I'm flattered you think so."
Now is your opportunity, I thought to myself. "Will you have dinner with me next week, when I arrive in Athens for the conference? I'll need further input on my travel plans after the conference, of course-strictly business!"
I sensed her laughter as I read her reply. "I would love to have dinner with you, but only if business is not on the agenda!"

***

It was the night before my trip, and I was wide-awake. My bedside clock marked the passing of each sleepless minute and hour with mocking precision. I watched with the intense concentration of an insomniac as the digital timepiece a few feet away from my restlessness marked the passing of one day and the beginning of another. "23:59, 06/20/2009," it announced with indisputable military decisiveness. A second later, spring was just a memory. "00:00, 06/21/2009," my electronic sergeant at arms whispered, quietly marking the first millisecond of a new day, a new moment, and a new season.
The summer solstice: an ancient and legendary day of hope, celebration, and new beginnings. "Auspicious," I concluded out loud, mumbling into my pillow as wild visions of Helios in his blazing chariot swirled in my sleep-deprived brain. In just five hours, I would climb into the backseat of my airport limousine. In eight hours, I would embark on my flight to Athens via London. And in eighteen hours, I would settle into my Athenian hotel accommodations-one step closer to my admittedly romanticized face-to-face meeting with the sweet goddess of my predetermined destiny.
For the past week, I tried unsuccessfully to understand and explain the impossible yet undeniable pull she exerted with her absent presence. Somehow, she touched me silently with some mysterious magic-enthralling me with the pulse and surge of her soul and spirit through my network's digital server. Like a magnet to steel, my heart was drawn to hers with an attraction so strong it already felt like our minds and bodies were one entity. I couldn't imagine my life without her-which sounds ridiculous, I know- since we never even met. I felt as though I knew her intimately. Our imminent meeting would finally take place in four brief days.
My thoughts raced as I tossed and turned in my lonely bed. Odd, that the connection felt so strong and so deep, almost immediately. Also odd, to be quite honest, that she gently declined to send me pictures or chat on the phone. "We'll meet soon enough," she typed reassuringly. "It would ruin the surprise, after all. So be patient, my dear!"
She was in control-the goddess now, of my heart, soul and body. The power of her sensuality filled and consumed my entire being, burning through me like a wildfire raging through the underbrush of a dry and brittle forest. I couldn't resist the call and clamor of her primal and ancient sexuality which demanded immediate and comparable reciprocation.
My heart called out to her, while at the same time my rigid arousal attempted in vain to bridge the lonely gap between us. Closing my eyes, I grasped the straining and bulky symbol of my physical desire for her, stroking the seam of exquisite yearning on the undersurface of my aching cock. My hard and swollen need was a potent arrow, pointing in desperate urgency towards the strange and mysterious woman of my dreams. In a brief moment, I knew, my passion would surge from my aching core and propel itself across the void-finding its long awaited home in the figurative receptacle of her own immortal passion.
"Kay," I murmured. My back arched while, in my imagination, the touch of my hand on my penis became hers. "Yes, touch me there, darling. Please don't stop, my sweet Aphrodite!"
In my mind's eye, she was there-no longer a fantasy, but truly a dream come true. My liquid passion would be my gift to her-the proof of my love, and the product of her expert touch. My balls tightened, and my hefty organ filled with the warmth of my love for her.
"Oh, my sweet goddess," I sighed. My masculine desire flowed from its rock-hard well. "I will love you always." I felt her fingers smooth and spread the joy of my copious ejaculate over my flat and tense abdomen. The release was a welcome antidote to my insomnia. A few moments later, I was fast asleep-my dreams infused with thoughts and images of my beloved and cherished Aphrodite.