A lifelong collector of goods and objects from far and wide has passed and left the entire collection and the business built around them to the only remaining relative, a niece on a career path of her own. Vikki has taken on the task of administering the estate and liquidating the business and collection. However, she has come to find out that many of the goods have been cursed or enchanted with amorous powers that affect those who encounter them. These are the stories of some of those encounters with objects found at Amorous Goods.
Nikki Feingold peered over her menu, its calfskin folder soft and supple in her hands, the offerings transcribed in an elegant Garamond font.
“Dessert?” Her dark eyebrows arched.
Leonard Reminger leaned back, aware of the tightness of his belt against his waist.
“I’m not sure Nikki, the temptation is huge, and we don’t get to do this very often, but I am quite frankly stuffed. Filled to the gunwales. Popping at the seams.”
“In a good way,” he added, seeing the hint of disappointment in her face.
“Often? This is only our first time here. But yes,” Nikki’s expression recovering, “I know what you mean.”
Alo’s atmosphere was exactly what Leonard had hoped it would be, one of the finest restaurants in Toronto. Expensive, far above their normal night out, candlelight not so low that you couldn’t read the menu, but soft enough to set a mood. And quiet, a lovely quiet hum of the other diners’ voices that didn’t intrude, it was possible to have a whispered conversation with your paramour and still hear each other.
Paramour, Leonard rolled that word around in his head. Yes, that was precisely the right term. And on this, their fourth wedding anniversary, that characterization was still accurate, redolent, meaningful.
Nikki’s eyes went back to her menu.
“Why don’t we split something, maybe on the lighter side? The baked apple slices in cognac with clotted cream perhaps?” suggested Leonard.
Nikki smiled back. Leonard had hit the perfect note.
“Yes, that sounds wonderful.”
She was pleased he would meet her halfway, even though she knew she might end up with three-quarters of the dessert herself. One of Leonard’s many appealing aspects was his willingness to compromise, even indulge.
She gave a little shiver, she had been so lucky to have met him back at university, that first time that she saw him at Angela’s party, so well dressed compared to the other students at the gathering, understated and not flashy.
With those hazel eyes that fastened on you, the shoulders squared, no academic question that came up that night to cause the slightest fluster, his answers thoughtful, thorough, in fact, she had noted even then, unlawerly. That was it, he was the most civil, least rapacious of all the other law students she had met at university, all of them courtesy of her then roommate, Angela, a law student herself, who had introduced her to Leonard that fateful night.
But now, of course, during the day those hazel eyes scanned corporate contracts, torts case briefs, and other impossibly mundane, although lucrative, documents. She was glad her own work involved teaching Renaissance architecture at the city’s second university, York, and not in a corporate office.
When they were done, Leonard beckoned their waiter.
“If I may, I have a large favor to ask.” He held the menu in his hands, Nikki couldn’t help looking at his long elegant fingers, ones capable of so many duties, intimate or purely functional.
The young waiter, perhaps early twenties, bowed his head respectfully, and Nikki noted for the hundredth time how easily Leonard wielded his charm, all the more effectively for being completely authentic.
“Tonight is our wedding anniversary. The dinner was outstanding, many thanks. Might we be able to take tonight’s menu home? I’d be pleased to reimburse you for your consideration. But it would be most special to us.”
He gazed at Nikki, who smiled shyly.
The waiter bowed his head. “Please allow me to check, I will be right back.”
“Leonard, such a sweet thought!” Nikki beamed. “It never would have occurred to me to ask. October fourth, four years ago for us! How symmetrical, how Jungian!”
The waiter returned with the bill. “Please accept the menu with our compliments and wishes for many more years of marriage. We are honored you chose us for your destination tonight.”
“Shall we walk home?” asked Leonard, when they had made their way to the street.
“I know we were going to Lyft it, but it’s probably only a thirty or forty minute stroll. And I’d love to settle the food a little, before sleep.”
Nikki smiled up at him. “Yes, of course. I’d love to have you settled a bit, for later,” giving Leonard a slightly wanton look. “We cannot have an anniversary without some other celebrating.”
Her taffy-colored hair was done up in a chignon, and Leonard thought her pale rose-colored evening dress, tight about her waist, could have charmed the venom out of a cobra. Her soft inviting neck, uncovered by her hair, could still produce a frisson of excitement that ran up and down his spine, even now, six years after first meeting her.
That the dimple on her left cheek appeared so easily when she smiled was a distinct bonus.
They chose a slightly more roundabout route than they might have picked otherwise, the October evening air possessed of that last bit of summer warmth before Toronto’s often abrupt shift to much colder weather.
On a leafy street paralleling Spadina Avenue, one of the main arteries of the city, quieter and residential with businesses only at the corners, Nikki spotted an unusual dwelling.
“Len, look at that! What a stately place, in the middle of the block.”
This was an older part of town, many of the buildings of Victorian era with expansive and well tended yards, nothing built later than perhaps 1920.
But the object of Nikki’s attention would have stood out regardless.
Unlike the other houses on the block, all two stories in height, with lawns sloping down to the street and manicured shrubbery, this place loomed. Dark gray, an almost black exterior, with a slate mansard roof, it sat forbiddingly in a tangle of trees, which shaded every corner. A spiked fence surrounded the front section, and as they crossed the street and approached, Leonard pointed out a sign near the granite steps up to it from the street.
“Amorous Goods — Most Curious Items for Sale,” he read. “Hours 12-8 except Sundays.”
What an odd formulation thought Nikki, wrinkling her nose. She looked in the windows, struck by the intriguing light that came from within.
“Len, let’s take a look.”
Indeed the front door was cast wide, the light spilling from the threshold inviting one in from the street.
“Good evening,” intoned a voice as they passed through the door into a foyer. Leonard looked about, startled, and was greeted by the slightest bow from a tall man in a dark suit. “Please have a look around. We are open until the top of the hour.”
The man’s face was guileless and open, in that middle-of-the-country way that contrasted with bustling Montreal or cosmopolitan Vancouver. His movements were careful but informal. “Welcome to Amorous Goods, I’m Dylan,” he said by way of introduction, “please let me know if you have any questions.”
Leonard nodded and they passed from room to room, each one seemingly arranged in a theme. The first, to their right as they entered, could have been the drawing room from an English townhouse in the early part of the twentieth century. The bricked mantle shelf held knickknacks of every description, Montgomery mugs, silver candlesticks, wooden birds and small animals, a taxidermy owl, sitting proudly at one edge.
Nikki admired a small secretary’s desk, dark wood with fine inlay, little cubby holes for envelopes, documents.
Another room seemed to be Oriental, in the old British sense of the East, with carvings of snakes, intricate carpets, exotic animal heads attached to the wall, fangs and antlers on display.
They passed from room to room, finding one towards the back of the house of remarkable interest.
Leonard examined a balance scale, perhaps a foot wide, with small brass weights on each balance plate. They were metric units, and the label attached to the piece indicated it was early nineteenth century, from Nuremberg.
“Look a this!” Nikki pointed to a narrow grandfather’s clock, the hands of polished brass, its woodwork striking in both intricacy and color.
Leonard was drawn to a large table, the sort found in old libraries, with a smooth dark wooden surface. A place was set for a writer to work, a typewriter, blotter, and a fountain pen of dark, tropical polished wood.
Leonard held the pen in his hand, its weight pleasing, with a substantial, easy-to-grasp thickness to it. Removing the top revealed an gleaming golden nib, and the name of the manufacturer, Faustographia, Leipzig, engraved in a small, tidy script.
“Mid-nineteenth century,” said the male voice that had greeted them on entering. Leonard started, so engrossed with the pen he had been unaware Dylan had followed them into the room.
“We are unsure of its original provenance, but it was last owned by the Earl of Northumberland. Would you like to try it out?”
Leonard was tempted but shook his head.
“We’re just looking at the moment, we noticed your place quite by accident while passing.”
Leonard was not sure why he declined the offer, as the urge to write with the pen, while he held it in his hand, had been strong.
“But we still would like to poke around a few minutes more, before home beckons.”
Dylan inclined his head. “Of course.”
They admired some paintings, a fin de siècle lamp, and reluctantly left for home.
Nikki’s eyes were shining. “What a striking shop! I would never have expected to find it there.”
Their last steps up to their door were weary, welcome. Leonard arranged the menu on their dining room settee that held their silver. He could still conjure up the taste of the apple-cognac slices.
“Thanks for a wonderful meal, Leonard, that was sweet of you.” Nikki sidled up alongside him.
“My thanks to you. I could not possibly be as happy in my life without you at my side.” Their kiss was short, anticipatory.
After final bathroom ablutions, Leonard found Nikki spread out in bed, covers tucked to the side. Her legs were wide, she had taken the time to array her hair in a fan-shape on the pillows. Early on Leonard had said how ravishing she looked that way, her long hair loose, unruly and wanton.
“Just the way you like it,” Nikki whispered. “Hurry get your clothes off and bring me your erection.” She wiggled her hips.
Leonard complied, and knelt to her side. His penis had grown half stiff in anticipation while he removed shirt, trousers and drawers, and after dangling his penis for a few minutes in Nikki’s soft limpid mouth, he was fully hard.
He knelt at her notch, already damp, and fingered and licked her arousal to an almost unsustainable condition. He had learned early on this was always the best way to proceed before entering her.
Their copulation was swift, explosive, and exhausting. Leonard lay on top of her, thinking there was no contentment greater than when he could feel his penis softening inside his Nikki. They kissed, and she rubbed his back and bum, as he felt the soggy fluids surrounding his penis, within her, warm and comforting.
While the next day meant work for both of them, Nikki arranged to leave her office early after lunch and was back at Amorous Goods the next afternoon.
“We were in yesterday,” she explained breathlessly to Dylan, “my husband and I. I’ve come for the pen we admired.”
“Yes, I remember.”
Nikki could not quite decipher the clerk’s expression, perhaps amused, maybe conspiratorial, but more likely just pleased at a potentially successful transaction.
“You must take this ink as well,” insisted Dylan. “Comes along with the pen.”
He held a silver polished ink bottle with a handsome cap. “You know of course the nib is gold alloy, yet must only have non-acidic ink. This is a special formulation.”
Dylan demonstrated the proper way to fill the pen, spoke in general terms of its care and use.
“Thank you,” she said, as she handed over her bank card. Although none of the items in the shop had indication of monetary value, she had known the actual price of the pen would be dear, and she had winced at the final amount. But worth it, she couldn’t help thinking.
Dylan bowed as she left. “May your enjoyment be complete. You’ll be back.”
Such odd phrasings to use, Nikki thought.
She presented the pen to Leonard after dinner that night.
“An early birthday present, Len, I couldn’t wait until you properly turned thirty on the Thirtieth. Another symmetry! Your mother missed Halloween by one day, you came too early.”
“I have heard that before, my dear,” Leonard’s voice had a hint of petulance.
“That’s not what I meant, only about missing Halloween by a day. And besides what you’re thinking was only when we were young and had first met and we were so innocent. We’ve learned so much since then.”
She touched his shoulder.
“But here, regardless, for you.”
He opened the box and turned the pen over in his hands, admiring it from every angle.
“It’s beautiful Nik,” he murmured. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Oh course I should,” Nikki answered. “Here, let’s try it out.”
Nikki demonstrated how Dylan had said to fill the pen, relayed all she had learned and stood back while Leonard gave it a test run on a sheet of lined paper.
“It glides so smoothly! I will have to use it Friday, the Shawnessy contract is done and there will be much signing to do.”
His eyes beamed gratitude.
“Do your name then,” she urged.
“Leonard Christophe Reminger.” She squinted at the familiar signature, the black ink had intriguing, almost purple over-tones.
“Lovely.” Her groin grew suddenly moist.
“Might we call it an early night?” she asked. “I am still weary from last night, yet so want to be even more so tonight.”
In bed when Leonard slid in next to her for a kiss and a first gauging finger-fondle to her notch, his surprise was evident. “Nik, you’re so wet already.”
“Yes,” she said breathless. “Please be quick tonight, I cannot wait”.
For the second night in a row, they coupled, a less and less frequent occurrence in their increasingly busy work lives. Indeed it was a rapid affair, Nikki climaxing twice even though Leonard had barely been in her five minutes. Usually it took much longer for her to reach such arousal levels. It was marvelous.
Afterward, their discussion was languorous, whispered.
“Nikki, what got into you tonight?”
“You, silly. That marvelous serpent of sex you have. Your python of pleasure.”
“No, no,” Leonard laughed. “I think you were the python, squeezing me lifeless. But I mean your desire. So ah, rampant.”
“I like being in love, like being with you.”
Anniversaries were wonderful things, thought Leonard. Reminders, reminders of beginnings, the early overpowering feelings of attraction, reminders of why they had fallen in love.
Their life since the enthusiasms of courtship and early marriage had followed a trajectory experienced by many others. Their first few years together had been punctuated by regular, and often irregular, couplings and erotic experimentation of multiple flavors and high intensity. They had been happy to have each other alone, with none of the constraints that pre-marriage life presented.
Nikki had a sweet nature and a charming body, a little less lithe each year, which Leonard minded less than the inevitable decrease in desire that their busy careers seemed to force on them. It wasn’t that they took each other for granted, rather that the almost imperceptible diminishment of libido had accumulated over time.
Leonard had agitated for occasional varieties in their erotic life, once even making the mistake of buying Nikki a handsome blue-satin bustier. Nikki had given him a look upon unwrapping it, however, that let Leonard know he had misjudged.
She wore it exactly once, and the outfit, which indeed pushed her relatively modest breasts up and together, gave her an absolutely lurid look. But the enthusiasm had been one-sided, and Leonard realized he had given her a present for his own enjoyment, not hers, which thus hardly qualified as a real gift, a thoughtful gift. He vowed never to make that mistake again, but still nourished thoughts of ways to enliven their erotic connection.
That night they drifted off to a satisfying slumber.
The next evening they talked at dinner.
“Have you shown the pen to the firm?” Nikki asked.
Leonard smiled with a bit of embarrassment. “No, afraid not. I forgot it this morning, you know how it is with a new possession, a new routine. Despite my excitement, I left it on my desk here. I’ll bring it tomorrow though, they will be impressed.”
Leonard did indeed show the pen around the next day at the Friday lunch mini-conference, optional for the seniors, but fairly de rigueur for junior partners like himself, if advancement was a hoped-for event.
“Sweet,” murmured Rupert Books, holding it up in the light and hefting its surprising weight. “Smooth wood, a gratifying feel in the hands.”
Even Jonah Gallup, the founding partner of Gallup and Gough, was impressed, not a frequent occurrence.
“You said it needs special ink?” he asked, craggy eyebrows arching. “Looks like a gold nib to me, shouldn’t really have trouble with any sort of ink.”
“That’s what the proprietor said, at least according to Nikki.” Leonard related the nature of the serendipitous discovery of the pen, and Nikki’s clandestine purchase and gifting.
Later that afternoon, while signing the Shawnessy contract, Leonard found it impossible to use the pen without thinking of Nikki.
It’s going to be one of those presents, he smiled. The best kind. I’ll think of her every time it’s in my hand.
And even better, it was Friday.
Nikki had claimed it was a Jewish unwritten bidding, that Friday night was lovemaking night. Leonard, who had little understanding of Jewish custom before meeting Nikki, was pleased to add this tradition to his life, a regular event unless travel or health or some other significant change interfered.
Leonard’s family had not initially been thrilled with Leonard’ s association with a “commoner,” a reference his Aunt Agnes made once.
“Please tell me how ‘Nikki’ is a Jewish name?” she muttered one night at a family dinner. “Sounds like a bid for assimilation, or even an attempt at deception.”
Leonard had to explain that Nikki was a nickname for “Nava,” her given name which meant “beautiful.” But since her very birth, her parents, and indeed everyone, had called her Nikki. His aunt remained unconvinced of her worth, even a bit hostile, although everyone else in the family had been won over.
So Leonard always found himself looking forward to Friday nights, a bonus well beyond just the end of the work-week, and the thought of running his fingers over Nikki’s chest, slightly more ample that when she was swimming regularly in college, but still smooth and firm to his touch, was exciting. His big hands could almost cover each breast, if he kept his palm centered on a nipple.
Kneading them was a distinct pleasure, each nipple growing marvelous hard with his attentions, Leonard thought, as he finished signing the last of the documents and put them in his out-basket.