After which, I will have to get on with parts 9 and 10. : )
Adventures can be fun. Even more fun if there is some element of danger. Julia contemplated her life as it was at present. Her adventures to date had consisted of managing her relationships, and hadn't Valerie urged her to have other interests, to do something else, something for herself only?
Then there was the problem of Darren. At present he was waiting for her to return home at 8pm. If she didn't turn up, she couldn't have sex with him, in fact she wouldn't be able to have sex with him for 3 weeks if she took up this offer. How would he take it? He'd try to dissuade her. Maybe she'd lose him. But there were plenty more men. With some spare money she could get some new clothes and seduce someone nice.
"Is there anything else I should know before I agree?" asked the more rational part of herself, now that the irrational part had had its field day.
As was her habit, Vena DeMille did not give an answer, but what she did next amounted to one.
"Zero" she said, seemingly to thin air, "You may rejoin us."
He was in the room at once. He had changed out of his chauffeur's uniform and was wearing a black suit without a shirt.
"We are ready to begin, Zero. Remove my cloak."
Julia picked up her pad of paper and a pencil. She frowned, she had agreed to nothing so far, yet Vena wanted to begin the sitting. When she looked up again, Adrian was staring at her intently. He held Vena's cloak over his arm. She looked at Vena, who was staring as intently as Adrian.
"I would really like to accept your offer but first..." she stopped there. Vena DeMille's naked body was stunningly beautiful. Long legs, gently drooping breasts over a slender stomach, just enough curve, her neck was delicate but strong, the skin of her left shoulder glistening where it caught a ray of sunshine through the window. And she had no arms.
Julia screwed up her eyes and looked again, perhaps Vena had had her arms behind her back? No. The arms stopped just below the shoulder.
"But first?" asked Vena, now keenly paying attention to everything Julia was saying and doing. While Julia continued to gape, she continued. "You asked if there was anything else you needed to know. I think you have seen and heard everything there is to know, already. I am becoming slightly impatient with you. Here we all are, ready to begin. Tell me that you accept and you won't have been wasting my time or your own."
It was mad. It was crazy mad. But what a story she'd have to tell Valerie now!
"I accept." she said.
A silence followed. Julia wondered if Vena had heard her acceptance. She had, in fact, and she began to reassume her former haughtiness.
"You will begin to sketch me now," she ordered, "You may speak to Zero if there is anything you require." and she stood in the light of the window, gazing out of it as if in defiance.
Julia's hand shook a little as she took up her pencil. There were many questions she had to ask now, of Vena and Adrian and also of herself. But there was not time now to ask them; she was required to draw. She began the feat of portraying Vena's figure with flightily drawn lines up, down and around on her pad. Minutes passed, Julia studiously at work and neither Vena nor Adrian moving a millimetre, such seemed to be their self-control.
Out of habit, she began to draw arms on the figure, and when she came to erase them and draw what was there she realised that it would be difficult to accurately portray the stumps of arm without giving them a much closer inspection.
"Mr Zero," she said, almost jumping at the sound of her own voice as it disturbed the quiet.
"Miss Wassim?" he replied.
"I need to look more closely at Madame DeMille's er.. shoulders, um, so I can draw them properly. Do you think I could move closer?"
"Then you should go closer and look." he replied, almost amiably.
She rose cautiously and approached the catatonic Vena, feeling as though she were approaching a sleeping tiger. It was not only the fear of confronting the difference in Vena's body that disturbed her, it was also that Vena could be so snappy, she feared what would happen if she did anything to offend, and she had just agreed to stay with them for quite a long time.
The stumps of Vena's arms finished a hand's length down from her shoulders. The surface beneath was a slightly lumpy shape, but the skin was smooth. Julia was not quite sure what she had expected to see, and she gazed curiously, wondering if Vena had been born that way, or if she had suffered some accident. A birth defect would mean there would be a vestigial hand somewhere on each stump, a small flipper of a hand. Julia could see nothing like that.
She was jolted from her observation by Adrian suddenly stepping behind her and taking hold of her arms. She gasped at his strong grip and reeled round to protest. Vena made no move, no sign of disapproval or otherwise.
"You should get a feel for your subject, Miss Wassim." he smiled, his grip tightening even more as fought against her arms to raise them up towards Vena's stumps, "Don't bunch your fists so, extend your fingers and touch her skin."