Intimate Nurse by Kimberly Kemp (Midwood Books) – Full Text

Kemp - Nurse

FRIEDA slept. Naked. Moaning gently in her slumber as one arm fell restlessly across the deep cushion of her breasts, her nostrils twitching daintily at the perfumed air rising from the amber-tinged skin of her own body.

Frieda slept…

Downstairs and throughout the rest of the enormous house there was no scent of perfume. Other odors—less fragrant—permeated the sterile halls of the Raymond Nursing Home. Odors of rubbing alcohol and formaldehyde. Hospital smells. Even the fresh-cut flowers seemed to wither in their vases and stop breathing under the vigilant eye of Agatha Raymond as she made her supervisory rounds. Stiff-starched and immaculate in her white uniform, Agatha herself gave off no whiff of femininity—three showers a day left her with only the unpleasant but appropriate aroma of carbolic and naphtha. The Raymond Nursing Home was definitely no place for perfumes and such. At least not for the resident staff.

Nevertheless, in her tiny room in the nurses’ quarters, Frieda Helm lay drenched in sweet scent. And there was a lot of territory to drench—Frieda’s tawny-fleshed form spanned almost a full six feet and was lushly proportioned to match its length. The skin was sleek with unguents and ointments that even in the dim glow of the night lamp gave it the patina of perfection. Fingernails and toenails—lacquered scarlet despite Agatha’s prohibitive ruling —glistened like precious jewels as superbly contoured limbs moved about languorously in the night breeze from the screened window. Golden hair, long and silky, tumbled in provocative profusion, a few locks falling over the great breasts that even in repose appeared to be tense and rising with each breath in some strange kind of sensual expectancy.

Rut the expectancy was not so strange…

A tiny noise sounded from the door, more a hushed scratching than a knock. And then a whisper—“Frieda?”

“Hmm?” The big body stirred.

Again the voice. “Frieda?” Soft and just a bit querulous, but unmistakably feminine. Its me— Shirley…”

The big body on the bed came to life in anticipation, every mound and hollow gladly shedding the luxury of sleep. “Come in, honey. The door’s open.”

Shirley Curtis entered and stood stock still. Even the stiffness of her nurse’s garb could not quite conceal the bursting bloom of her youthful figure. “You’re—you’re naked,” she gasped.

“Uh-huh. So I am.”

Shirley sniffed. “Golly, the place reeks of perfume. But it’s nice, though.” She fidgeted, unable to tear her gaze away from the languidly sprawled nude flesh. “Anyway, I came to wake you. You’re due to go on duty soon.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Frieda’s eyes drifted to the bedside clock. “Hey, isn’t this a little early?. About three-quarters of an hour early, I should say.”

“Well, I…” Shirley looked embarrassed. “I thought I’d just hang around and chat while you got ready.”

“Chat, huh?”

“Yes, of course. But if you don’t want…”

“Come here, kid.”

“Frieda, what—”

“Come here!” Frieda shot an arm out. The girl’s body, paralyzed by the suddenness of the gesture, fell to the bed. “Don’t act coy with me, Shirley. I know what you came here for.”

“Please… I…”

The nurse’s cap dropped to the floor. Frieda’s fingers pushed the protesting lips close to her bosom.

“Getting tired of old Agatha—right, kid? Hell, I don’t blame you—I’ll bet it’s a lousy kind of loving that dried-up old bag gives you. Here, take them— kiss, kiss! Yes, that’s good. Better than old Aggie, isn’t it?”

“I—I don’t know. She never lets me kiss her or touch her. It’s always the other way around. She does it to me.”

“Why, you poor kid. You mean you’ve never really—” Frieda snorted. “No wonder you came knocking at my door early tonight. And no wonder I was naked and perfumed and ready for you. You knew, didn’t you, Shirley? You knew I wanted you…”

“Yes… I knew.”

“Here, then. We don’t have much time.”

“But my—my uniform. Don’t you want…”

“Forget it, kid. It’s the other way around tonight. Not like old Aggie. I’m naked—what more do you need? Naked and perfumed. You like my perfume, baby?”

“Yes… oh yes…”

“Smell it. Here. Uh-huh, between my breasts. Relax, honey, relax. You know how—it’s what you’ve been thinking of every time we looked at each other. And every time you went to bed with old Agatha. This. Isn’t this what you thought of?”

“Frieda… Frieda…”

“No, don’t talk. I just want to feel you. That nice warm mouth. Oooh, you do know how. Yes, you darling… uh-huh—oh yes, I put perfume there too. Waiting for you. Waiting for you to tap on my door like a pretty little white mouse and…”

But there was no tap. And no pretty little white mouse. Only Agatha Raymond, dark and foreboding, bursting through the door at the world’s most inopportune moment. “Aha! So this is what goes on behind my back!” Shirley hid her face in her hands. She moved away from Frieda and cowered at the foot of the bed, shuddering in stark panic at the supervisor’s wrath. Arrogant, even in this instant of crisis, Frieda made no attempt to cover her nudity. Deliberately, in a motion that was almost insolent, she placed her hands behind her head in supine indolence and leaned back. The posture threw her massive breasts into bold relief, the still-aroused peaks jutting out like small magnets for Agatha Raymond’s eyes.

“All is discovered,” Frieda murmured sarcastically.

“Miss Helm, have the decency to cover yourself up.” Agatha licked her lips nervously. “And as for you, young lady,”—she turned her ire upon the quailing Shirley—“I’ll take care of you later. Go to my room and wait for me there.”

“Yes, Agatha.” Head bowed, the young nurse rose from the bed and slunk out the door.

Frieda chuckled. “Poor kid. She sure needs taking care of. You barged in at the wrong time.”

“There’s no use trying to brazen it out. You’re through here, Miss Helm. As of this moment. I’ll expect you to be out of this place by tomorrow, bag and baggage.

“Okay. Don’t make such a production out of it, Aggie. You can still have your cake and eat it. All I did was nibble off some of the frosting.”

“Shut up, you—you…”

“Bitch?’ Frieda drawled. “Now there’s a nice name for me. Because that’s exactly what I am, you know. Bitch enough to get what I want. And before I leave I’m going to want a nice fat letter of recommendation. Any objections?”

“You… you…” Agatha sputtered like a fuse about to detonate a lethal bomb.

“Take it easy—you’ll live longer. I know what I am—you don’t have to think up any new names. More to the point, though, I know what you are.” Frieda’s tone was abruptly harsh. “And I’m sure you wouldn’t care to have it advertised.”

“Are you threatening me, Miss Helm?”

“Oh, come off it, you old bag. Damn right I’m threatening you. You want to fire me—okay. But unless you’re looking for trouble, we’ll do it my way. A letter of recommendation. You wouldn’t want the world to find out what a lady-loving old butch you really are, would you?”

Agatha Raymond’s bony frame stiffened and then seemed to crumple. “All right,” she said at last. “You win. I’ll write your letter. But I still want you out of here by tomorrow.”

“With pleasure. This cruddy joint of yours was beginning to bore me, anyway. You can have your little Shirley back again—uncontaminated. Personally, I’ve got other fish to fry. There’s a job open in Enderbury that sounds good to me.”

“Enderbury? Near Central City?”

“Yeah. My home town, you know. Don’t worry— it’s over a hundred miles away. I won’t be around to cut in on your lovelife. The kid is all yours—to have and to hold. You’ve got my blessings. All I want is that letter to Enderbury.”

“But there’s no hospital or nursing home in—”

“It’s a private-type job. Family named Grover— they’re the people who own the Enderbury Mills— real big wheels. It’s just the kind of set-up I’ve been looking for. I’ll want two copies of that letter. One to the Grovers and one to their family doctor. I’ll give you the addresses tomorrow. Okay?”

Agatha Raymond shrugged. “You’ll have your letters. And then I never want to hear—”

“Oh, cut it, will you? If you want to sound off do it to Shirley, not me. As long as I’m not working tonight, I may as well catch up on my shut-eye. Close the door on your way out.”

Cords of anger distended the supervisor’s throat.

Calmly, Frieda let her eyelids droop and heard the door slam as Agatha Raymond huffed away. Then, as if nothing had occurred to cause this major upheaval in her existence, she rolled into a comfortable position and dropped off to sleep. But the expectancy was still there, the same sensual expectancy she had known before. In her last moment of consciousness she was positive, somehow, that her night’s slumber would again be disturbed. Pleasantly so…

Hours passed. Patients wheezed and complained. Annoyed attendants did as little as they could to keep the house peaceful. Flowers wilted in the hygienic atmosphere. Garbage cans rattled as the handyman did his nightly disposal-chores.

While in the sweet-scented room Frieda Helm dozed contentedly, a smile of anticipation curving her voluptuous mouth. Until—somewhere about four o’clock in the morning—the door opened silently and the little white mouse crept in once again.

Frieda awoke with a start. “Hmm? Oh, it’s you.”

“I—I had to come back.”

“Sure, kid. I figured you would. How’s old Aggie doing? Did you get her calmed down all right?”

“Uh-huh. She’s exhausted. Out like a light.”

Frieda grinned. “I’ll bet.”

“Well, you know how it is…” A blush tinged Shirley’s cheeks. “She raved and ranted for a while. Told me you were leaving tomorrow for some kind of job in Enderbury. You should have seen her— she was so jealous she was practically frothing at the mouth. But I cried a little and after that, well…”

“Spare me the details, baby. Somehow I just don’t find the thought of Aggie Raymond making love very appealing.”

“Oh, she’s really not bad, Frieda. All in all, she’s been pretty good to me—especially about money. I’m just out of training, you know, and this nursing-home deal is a nice break for me.”

“I understand, kid. You don’t have to explain it to me. Hell, when I was your age I did the same thing myself. Or practically the same, anyway. There was this old devil of a doctor with a beard like the Smith Brothers and he—” Frieda erupted in a chuckle brought on by the memory. “But what the hell, Shirley, you didn’t wear Aggie out and sneak back here just to hear me tell stories. What did you come for?”

“I—I wanted to say good-by…”

“Good-by? Is that all?” Frieda looped an arm around Shirley’s neck. “Here, honey. I’m still naked.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And perfumed.”

“Yes. Oh yes…”

“Let’s see now. What were you doing when we were so rudely interrupted. Remember?” The big body contorted and then after a moment went limp again. A rapture-laden sigh sounded. “Ah yes, you do remember…”

WHEN Frieda Helm was nine years old she was introduced to the mysterious vagaries of sex by the elderly gentleman who operated the corner grocery store. His name was Andy—she had never heard him called anything else—and his shop was reputed to have the best candy showcase in that part of town. This was no criterion, of course, considering the fact that the Helms resided in the most poverty-stricken section of Enderbury—but for Frieda it was plenty. Penny candy and bubble gum are great luxuries in the lives of little girls who have no pennies to spend. And in those days, in the aftermath of something known vaguely as “the depression,” the huge cylindrical stacks of the Enderbury Mills had not yet returned to belching smoke and gladdening the hearts of its laborers with the fine redolence of dollar bills.

Frieda was poor. And in her juvenile mind the showcase of Andy’s store was wondrous to behold. Lollipops and licorice sticks abounded; Mary Janes and Baby Ruths and Milky Ways gleamed bright and fresh in their multicolored wrappers—all alluringly visible but alas, sadly unattainable behind the thick wall of plate glass. Papa Helm was hard put to foot the bill for bread and milk, much less the toothsome delicacies that drew Frieda’s wistful gaze every time she was sent to the grocery. Such temptations were not for the likes of children whose parents were still among the ranks of the depression-damned unemployed.

Until Andy took notice of her.

Why he took notice is of no consequence. In this modern age of the analyst’s couch, pudgy Andy with the red face and sweaty palms would be fairly easy to categorize. But in those times Freud had not yet become a household word in Enderbury. Suffice to say that Andy did take notice…

“Yes, dearie?” Andy called all little girls “dearie” —but on this day it seemed to have special significance.

“A quart of milk, please. And mama says is it all right if she pays you later?”

“Well, now…” But Andy was already taking notice and the sweat glands were acting up. The bottle of milk almost slipped out of his moist hand. “And what else, dearie?”

“That’s all, thank you.”

The childish eyes, big and gray and wide-set, were fixed longingly upon the glass-enclosed treasures. And Andy, for unknown reasons, could not stem his generosity.

“Want some candy, dearie?”

Frieda grew wary. Not of Andy’s perspiring palms, of course—she had no knowledge of such things. No, it was obvious to her untutored but shrewd mind that the storekeeper was trying to make a sale. And mama would blister her backside if the bill for the milk were to swell out of proportion.

“Candy? No, thank you, Andy.”

“Sure you do, dearie. And it’s free.”

“Free?” No, it couldn’t be. Such an event had never cropped up in the threadbare existence of nine-year-old Frieda Helm. But the possibility was worth further exploration. “You mean you’re going to give me some candy?”

“That’s right. One piece.” Andy glanced toward the front window. A light mist was in the air, and business—luckily—was bad. Frieda had been his only customer in more than a half hour. “Come on back here and reach in and pick it out yourself. Only it’s a secret—just between you and me. Don’t tell your mother. Understand?”

Frieda did not quite understand. But mama was usually too busy fighting with papa, anyway. Besides, secrets were fun. Especially if they led to candy.

She scampered around behind the counter as Andy slid the back of the showcase open.

“Take your time, dearie.” Andy moved up close behind her, squeezing into the narrow space. He reached over her shoulder to make a sweeping gesture toward his wares. “You can only have one, so be sure it’s something you like.”

Frieda peered back up at him for a moment. He sounded so funny—kind of like he was choking. And his face was even redder than before. But it did not matter, not with this great treasure-house of goodies to choose from.

But now she felt funny. Nice—but in kind of a funny way. Andy was leaning over her and rubbing against her. And his hand wasn’t pointing to the candy any more. It kept moving around and touching her here and there—almost as if he couldn’t keep it still. But it wasn’t really hurting her, of course. And after all, she was getting a free candy bar, wasn’t she?

Yes, in a way, it was kind of nice…

But mama was waiting for the milk and if she didn’t get home right away it would get warm and turn sour, maybe, and then mama would want to know why she had taken so long and who she had stopped to play with on the way home.

“I’ll take this one.”

“Uh-huh. You sure now?” The hand just kept on moving and moving. “Maybe you’d rather have…”

“Please, Andy, this one. I have to go now.”

“Uh-huh.” Reluctantly. “Okay, go ahead. But it’s a secret, remember? Our secret. Don’t tell anybody about it and the next time you come in, you can have more. A real secret—remember?”

Frieda remembered…

And after that, whenever she was sent to the grocery the result was the same. No, not exactly the same—as Andy’s hands grew more inquisitive, Frieda’s tastes grew more acquisitive. Two pieces of candy was her demand now. But the fat fingers had worked their way under her panties, and had she asked for a dozen Andy would have willingly given in.

Frieda learned. Her body was a useful object. And as it developed it became even more so, especially since its development was a thing nothing short of miraculous. Frieda Helm’s breasts were the biggest in Enderbury High School. And although her legs were still a bit gawky and coltish at the time, they too showed promise of extreme shapeliness.

The grocery trips, of course, fell by the wayside. But Frieda’s education at the sweaty hands of the enthralled Andy stood her in good stead. Her body was desirable—it gave her the power to sway those who looked upon it with lust. And the power itself was a delightful thing to Frieda. Without quite understanding why or how, it became the dominant factor in her life. Sex in itself was nice, but it was nothing compared to the joy she received from imposing her will upon others. To conquer and subjugate was a thrill beyond all comparison.

True, she had little opportunity for a true test of her capabilities during those high-school days. The sons of clerks and laborers were scarcely a match for her. And the wealthy families of Enderbury—the Grovers and the Allisons and the Duncans—sent their offspring to private academies. Nevertheless, taking what material she had to work with, Frieda did well—and in so doing, accumulated a veritable storehouse of sensual lore. Candy-donor Andy, with his penchant for little girls, was only the first in a long line of males who fell victim to the sorcery of the blonde and buxom enchantress.

Later, however, there were females in that line, too. Since sexual fulfillment was secondary to conquest, Frieda saw no reason why she should not broaden her scope to include those of her own gender. Indeed, after high school, when she took her nurse’s training in the Central City Hospital, women became even more important to her than men. Dozens of young and pretty probationers, overworked and away from home for the first time, made up a fine mine of riches for someone with Frieda’s rather distinctive tastes. And it was a remarkably simple trick to soothe the qualms of some lonely youngster and bind the poor kid to her bosom. Especially since that bosom had such excellent binding qualities.

Then, too, there had been Head Nurse Edna Schroeder. Without protest, she fell prey to Frieda’s charm, easing the path to graduation with the least amount of work and study. Before her nurse’s training was over, Frieda had the no-longer-austere Edna virtually crawling at her feet. And begging for the chance to remain in that humble position for the rest of her life.

But Frieda had had other ideas. Her apprenticeship over, she went out into the world again. Bored by the sterile efficiency of hospitals, she took employment among private doctors. And in the ensuing years she learned a great deal about medicine and even more about the men who administered it. Until at last, involved with a bearded physician named Murchison, she was unfortunately nailed red-handed by the old gentleman’s wife. Doctor Murchison, a diagnostician of rank, was avidly engaged in making a non-professional after-hours diagnosis when his irate spouse walked in. And Frieda, to her great dismay, was literally “caught with her pants down.”

Thus ended her years in private practice. Known now as a homewrecker—and publicized as such by the good doctor’s indignant wife—Frieda drifted back into institutionalized medicine and wound up at the Raymond Nursing Home.

But in all her travels Frieda had never forgotten her native Enderbury. True, she had no actual ties there—papa and mama, fighting as usual, had long since passed on. And dear old Andy of the sweaty palms and sweet confections was no longer among the living. Yet Enderbury was her home and she had always dreamed of taking permanent roots there. On the right side of the tracks, of course.

Consequently—fortified by her regular perusal of the Enderbury newspaper—Frieda wasted no time making her decision about where to go when Agatha Raymond blew the whistle on her. Isabel Grover—nee Allison—needed a private nurse to take the place of the one who had just given up medicine in favor of matrimony. And her husband Earl Grover, head man at the Enderbury Mills, had advertised in the local journal to that effect. For Frieda Helm, what better opportunity could there be?

So it was that after all these years the little girl who had undergone her baptism of fire behind the candy showcase in Andy’s grocery store was on her way home again. But she was no longer a little girl, not in any sense of the expression. In high heels she topped the six-foot mark, and the rest of her magnificently proportioned body had kept pace with its height. Her breasts, miraculous in her schooldays, were more superb than ever. The legs which had once been coltishly awkward were no longer so— they were smooth and tawny pillars of flesh that were graceful with the ripeness of maturity. Her long blonde hair gleamed in golden loveliness—and if her mouth was a trifle large and her lips overly full it was a defect that only added to the aura of sensuality that surrounded her.

And in knowledge and experience she had grown, too. Enough to conquer the world—or at least the small part of it which had spawned her. Enough to get what she wanted out of life. Out of men. Out of women. Out of the town which had once looked upon her only as a poor laborer’s daughter from the wrong side of the tracks.

Yes, Frieda Helm was a big woman. In every way…

AT the main office of the Enderbury Mills, Frieda got out of the taxi and started climbing the broad stone steps up to the glass entrance doors. The factory had prospered since her departure and so, evidently, had the town itself. It had struck her during the long cab-ride from the railroad station—the old mansions were still there, but many new ones had sprung up. Enderbury looked like money. And it was a nice look.

In the office, ranks of secretaries stopped her at their separate desks. But each halt was only momentary—the letters of recommendation and a phone call for an appointment had paved her way. Mr. Earl Grover, it seemed, was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new nurse for his ailing wife.

True, she was not the new nurse yet, Frieda realized—she was merely an applicant for the job. But there was no doubt in her own mind, and she was positive that any possible doubts in Earl Grover’s mind would soon be erased. Unless the top man of the Enderbury Mills turned out to be an old creep who abhorred women. In that case, she was a dead duck and she knew it.

But duckwise she was alive and flying high—one glance at the man behind the executive’s desk convinced her of it. Earl Grover was close to fifty and his hair was turning gray, but he was definitely not an old creep. The admiration in the eyes that roamed her body told her all she needed to know.

“Sit down, please, Miss Helm.” He spoke in a deep baritone that was steeped in authority.

“Thank you.” She took the proffered chair and crossed her legs primly, smoothing her skirt down. Earl Grover was vulnerable, she was sure, but how vulnerable she could not tell as yet. At the moment, it would be smart to keep the scene dignified.

“Cigarette?”

“No, thank you, Mr. Grover.”

His brows lifted. “You don’t smoke?”

“I do—but not while I’m working. And since I’m applying for work, I’d rather not.”

“Hmm, quite a commendable attitude, I must say. But please feel free to light up if you care to. I won’t count it as a black mark against you. Perhaps it will relax you.”

Frieda’s lips curved in a slow smile. “Oh, I’m relaxed, sir. Are you sure it’s not you who needs relaxing?”

“Eh?” His face twitched sharply and then broke into a chuckle. “Hmm, maybe you’re right. I must admit I was somewhat startled by your appearance when you came through the door. You’re a big woman, Miss Helm—and a beautiful one, if I may say so.”

“Thank you.” Frieda breathed deeply at the compliment, jutting her breasts out another inch or two. “But I happen to be a nurse, Mr. Grover—a very good nurse, if I may say so.”

“I don’t doubt it. Not for an instant.” With noticeable reluctance, his eyes left her bosom and focused upon the paper on his desk. “This letter of recommendation from the nursing home is excellent. And my family doctor tells me he received a similar one. Miss Agatha Raymond thinks highly of you.”

Frieda suppressed a smirk. Oh sure—very highly. The dried-up old bag had practically shed red corpuscles writing those letters. But it was blood shed in a good cause. And an easy price for Aggie to pay for the privilege of having cute little Shirley Curtis all to herself.

“Yes, Miss Helm,” Grover went on, “I have a notion you’re going to suit the position quite nicely. Now, we have to find out whether the position is going to suit you.”

“Oh? I don’t exactly understand…”

“Well, it’s this way. My wife has been ill for a long time—heart trouble, you know. Frankly, she’s a dying woman and needs a great deal of attention.”

“Yes, sir, I’m aware of that. But such things aren’t out of the ordinary for a trained and experienced nurse. Sickness and death are tragic, but I’m used to them. I sympathize with you and with Mrs. Grover, but it’s all part of my job. I’ll do what I can to make things easy for her.”

“Of course. However, she may be difficult to get along with. The last nurse we had was certainly efficient, but my wife didn’t get along with her very well—if you know what I mean. Mrs. Grover is— well, difficult to say the least.”

“Difficult patients are a specialty of mine. As a matter of fact, the tougher the case the better I like it.”

Earl Grover nodded, obviously pleased. “Bravely spoken, Miss Helm. And I have a feeling you really mean it.”

“I do, sir. Try me and see. I’ll be glad to visit Mrs. Grover and let her judge for herself.”

He grinned. “My, such courage.”

“Courage? I don’t think so. Just experience, that’s all. I know how to make patients do things my way and let them feel that they’re getting theirs.”

“An admirable quality, Miss Helm—not only for a nurse but for everybody. Especially in my world —the business world, I mean. How to be a boss and make the hired help like it. Why, it’s practically the title of a musical comedy. Tell me, can you do that with people other than your patients?”

“If necessary—yes.”

“Good. Because it may become necessary.”

Frieda shook her head. “I’m afraid you lost me there. Would you explain, please?”

“I shall. With my fingers crossed, I’m afraid. Because this is one of the reasons why I’m worried about whether the job will suit you or not. And I do want it to suit you. You see, it’s not only my wife who needs you, it’s my entire household. I have to travel a good deal, so I’m not home often enough to keep things running smoothly myself. My wife is sick, the servants are a miserable lot—and worst of all my younger daughter is pretty wild. A juvenile delinquent, practically, if there is such a thing in my financial bracket. Now how do you feel about that?”

She shrugged. “I’m still here, Mr. Grover.”

“Yes.” His eyes licked at her breasts. “All here…”

Frieda let her body sag a bit from its upright posture. Her crossed legs were not nearly so prim now. “Tell me more about your daughter, Mr. Grover.”

He sighed and became businesslike again. “Well, Cindy is sixteen and she goes to Enderbury High. I wanted to send her away to a private school, but with my wife so ill I couldn’t do it. It seemed only fair that a mother should be close to her youngest child at a time like this. Especially with Louise— that’s our other daughter—away at college and unable to come home except for vacations. Only it hasn’t worked out as well as I had hoped. Cindy has gotten herself mixed up with a bunch of young scamps and there’s no holding her down. She needs discipline more than anything else. A firm hand to guide her—and that’s where you come in.”

“I have a firm hand, Mr. Grover.”

He pursed his lips, obviously impressed by the strength underlying her quiet tone. “Yes, I believe you might have, at that. But it won’t be easy keeping Cindy in line without making an enemy out of her. You’ve got to make her like you.”

“She’ll like me. What’s more, before long I may have her working hard to make me like her. But in the beginning I’ll need full authority over her, and that can only come from you. A willful child is like a horse that needs breaking-in. And without authority, I won’t have a chance.”

“Hmm, I’ve never thought of Cindy in those terms before. As a horse, I mean. She’s actually a rather dainty and pretty child. Too pretty, perhaps—it makes her that much more popular with the gang of hellions she’s running around with. But I can see your point, Miss Helm. Yes, you’ll have full authority—I’ll guarantee it. Over Cindy and over the servants too. How does that sound?”

“Fine. I’ll take the job—provided it’s all right with Mrs. Grover, naturally.”

Surprise mingled with relief in the man’s expression. “You’ll take it? But we haven’t even discussed salary yet.”

“Oh my, we haven’t, have we? You know, I was so interested in what you were telling me about your daughter that I just forgot about it. But before anything else, I think I would like that cigarette now. May I?”

“Please do. Here, have one of mine.” He pulled out a silver case and leaned across the desk, flipping it open.

“Thank you.” She took a cigarette and then foraged in her purse for a match.

“Here—let me.” Immediately he was out of his seat again, leaning over to offer his flaming lighter.

“Thanks again.” Frieda took a deep drag, slumped lower in her chair and recrossed her legs. A tiny sound of nylon hissing upon nylon was faintly audible.

The man’s gaze was riveted to her limbs. A small patch of amber hued thigh was visible where the skirt had slid up too high. He coughed and cleared his throat. “Now about salary, ah…”

“Please.” Frieda smiled and shook her head. “Talk of business makes my poor brain spin. Suppose we leave it up to you. See how things work out and then pay me what you think I’m worth. Somehow I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed.”

“Well, uh, if you say so…”

Frieda giggled inwardly. The guy was hooked and she knew it. But just to make sure she shifted her position and gave him a little more flash of thigh.

Earl Grover’s eyes glittered…

Hooked, she thought. All the way. Now all that remained was to win his wife over to her side. From what he had said, it would take some doing. But it would be worth it. Oh yes, well worth it—especially now that the delinquent daughter had been thrown in for good measure. Hell, she’d have young Cindy eating out of her hand in no time. And if the kid was as cute as she was cracked up to be, maybe it wouldn’t just be a matter of simple discipline. After all, sixteen wasn’t too young to start picking up a few of the more fanciful facts of life. All Cindy had to do was learn to appreciate what a great teacher she was getting.

But it was time to get moving now. An interview with Grover’s wife was next on the agenda. But it would come out all right—it would damn well have to. This job was too good to miss out on. Rich Earl Grover—already hooked. And pretty little Cindy waiting to be taken in hand—with full authority. A nice deal. Substitute wife and mother for a sick woman.

Yes, a nice deal, that was for sure. Better than nice. It was perfect. Right up her alley…

By the time Frieda said good-by to Earl Grover and passed the ranks of secretaries on her way out of his office, she was firmly convinced that getting nabbed in flagrante delicto by old Aggie was the best thing that could have happened to her.

FRIEDA’S first sight of Isabel Grover came as something of a shock. She had expected to see a worn and emaciated creature on the verge of total collapse, a cranky and querulous fugitive from a nursing home. And she immediately recognized that she had made an error in her judgment.

The woman was charming, both in appearance and deportment. In her early forties, dressed in a blouse and slacks, she did not look at all like a dying patient. True, she was a shade too slender for her medium height, and her slightly hollow cheeks and pale complexion did not give the appearance of robust health. But her short dark hair and deep blue eyes were quite lovely, and her air of poise was definitely appealing. It was evident that Isabel Allison Grover had once been a great beauty, and even now she seemed more like an aging college coed than an ailing matron.

With ladylike friendliness she greeted Frieda in the sitting-room of her private suite. “Please sit down, my dear. Mr. Grover phoned a few minutes ago and I must say he was favorably impressed. Now I can see why. You certainly don’t look like a nurse, at least not like the last one I had.”

“Thank you. It was kind of Mr. Grover. But I have to reciprocate, I’m afraid. You don’t look at all like a patient—at least not the sort of patient I was led to expect.”

“Oh?” The blue eyes twinkled. “You mean because I’m not flat on my back wearing a lace bed-jacket?”

“Well, something like, that…”

“Don’t let it bother you.” The woman’s expression turned somber. “I like moving around and I detest lying in bed all the time. But I am ill, Miss Helm. Gravely ill.”

“So I understand. I’m sorry.”

“You needn’t be. I’m going to die soon, but I’m pretty much reconciled to that fact. Oh, not completely, I’ll admit—sometimes I get depressed and irritable. And when that happens, it’s usually the nurse who has to bear the brunt of my bad temper. Do you think you’ll be able to put up with me?”

“Of course, Mrs. Grover. It’s my job. Frankly, I’m used to it. One of the occupational hazards of the nursing profession, you know. That’s what nurses are for.”

“You sound confident, Miss Helm. Uh, Frieda. May I call you by your first name?”

“Yes, if you like.”

“And you must call me Isabel. We’re going to be together so much—it would be silly to be formal with each other.” The woman smiled sweetly. “Don’t you agree, Frieda? After all, it’s not as if you were one of the servants, you know. Not only are you my nurse, but you’re also in complete charge of the house.”

“Mrs. Grover—Isabel—wait. Does this mean that I’m hired? I’m only here for an interview, really.”

“Oh, pooh! Of course you’re hired. If you want the job, that is. The minute you walked into the room I knew you were just the person I was looking for. I like good-looking people around me, and that last nurse I had was a wrinkled old prune if ever there was one. It gave me the shivers just to look at her. She looked more like a walking cadaver than I do.”

“Why, you look lovely, Isabel—just lovely.”

“Do I? Hmm, I’m glad to hear you say so. I guess I’m just vain enough to think of myself as a desirable female. And coming from you, that’s quite a compliment. You’re like one of those Norse goddesses I used to read about when I was a child. Golden-haired and strong—and so big. I’ll bet you’re over six feet tall.”

“Not quite.” Frieda stood up, displaying her body proudly. “I’m over six feet in high heels though.”

“Marvelous.” The woman’s head nodded in approval. “My, what I wouldn’t do to have a figure like that. Yes, my dear, you’re hired. The job is yours. From now on you’re the new boss of the Grover household. All right?”

“Fine. Thank you. But don’t you think we ought to call Mr. Grover and let him make the final decision?”

“Oh, it’s already made, Frieda. He has to go out of town on business right away—that’s why we both rushed you a little. He didn’t want to leave me without a nurse.”

“I see. Then the first thing I—”

“Oh, the first thing is to get you comfortably settled. Your room is over there.” Isabel pointed to a door. “Opposite mine. I know you’ll like it.”

“I’m sure I will. But first things first, Isabel. Are you really supposed to be out of bed at this minute? Come on now, if I’m your nurse, there should be no secrets between us.”

“Oh dear…” Isabel hung her head. “You’ve caught me. No, Dr. Maitland would have a fit if he knew. But I did want to meet you for the first time out of bed and looking like a human being. Vanity, I guess. Am I forgiven?”

“Well, just this once. But we’ve met now, and I’m the boss. So off to bed with you. That way?”

“Uh-huh.” Isabel’s face contorted as she started to rise. “Darn it, I always forget how sick I really am.

“Sick? Why, you’re just weak, that’s all. Just a weak little girl who needs some help. And I’m going to give it to you.” Frieda scooped Isabel’s slim body up in her arms and started toward the bedroom door. “There now,” she crooned softly. “See how easy it is? Frieda will take care of you.”

“Oh, Frieda… you are strong. Almost like an amazon. Yes, a glamorous amazon, that’s what you are.” The dark head nestled against the pillowing breasts.

Frieda chuckled, cradling the slender body close. The bedroom was huge—big as the sitting-room— and the great canopied bed was the most luxurious she had ever seen. But luxury, obviously, was something the Grovers were accustomed to. Even the carpeting on the floor was thicker and springier than a lawn of grass.

Gently, she set Isabel down on the bed. “Now off with those clothes. Do you wear a bed-gown or jacket?”

“Over there.”

“Uh-huh. No, don’t you move. I’ll do it. That’s right.” Frieda loosened the waistband of the slacks.

“But—”

“No buts. I’m your nurse. No secrets between us.” Deftly she stripped the garments away.

Isabel giggled.

“And there’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Frieda said. “Not with your body. Why, it’s like a twenty-year-old girl’s.”

It was a good body, Frieda realized. But had it not been, she would have complimented the woman anyway—it always made things easier to keep the patient happy. Nurses employed a bedside manner just as much as doctors. But in this case, the compliment was almost entirely sincere. Isabel Grover was no twenty-year-old, to be sure, but she carried her age remarkably well. Her extreme slenderness was a blessing in disguise—her breasts were small and girlishly firm, certainly not the breasts of a woman who had borne two children and seen them grow up. And her legs, slim and straight, were breathtakingly beautiful now that the pants had been removed. But it was her skin that was the most striking—it was waxy and pale white, so different from Frieda’s own tawny flesh.

“Frieda, what—”

“Hmm?”

“You’re—you’re staring. Please don’t. Help me on with my gown or I will be embarrassed.”

“No need to be. I wasn’t staring. Merely a nurse making a professional examination.”

“Oh…”

“And I’ve come to a conclusion. After all that exertion you need a massage. It’ll help you relax.”

“A massage? Oh…”

“That’s it. Over you go. Now I’ll show you what a good nurse I really am.” Frieda stood over the woman’s back, her legs widespread, her hands poised. And she was suddenly terribly aware of her own erratic breathing. The prone body, frail and ultra-feminine with its pallid skin, was truly delectable. It was hard to believe that this flesh had been lived in, slept in, and loved in for nearly half a century. Harder yet to believe that the heart which governed it would give out soon.

“We Scandinavians know more about giving massages than any people on earth.” Frieda’s tone was light, almost bantering, but as she placed her hands on the naked shoulders she felt a sudden tug of sensual longing in her vitals. The plasticity of the flesh was astonishing—it seemed to ripple in response as she began working her fingers in slow and easy motions. Under their touch Isabel Grover sighed contentedly and let her body go limp.

“Oh, that feels so good…”

Conscious of the quaver in the husky voice, Frieda sent her gliding palms down to the narrow waist and sloping hips. The flesh quivered beneath her kneading fingertips.

For a long time she remained at her task, massaging the spine, whipping the circulation up in the thighs and buttocks, while the woman, trembling, buried her face in her arms.

“Over, now.” Frieda slapped the curved bottom gently.

“Please… I…”

“Hush. Over, I say. I’m your nurse.”

With a bit of assistance, the pale form spiraled into a supine position. And at the very first touch, Frieda sensed the peaks of the small breasts stiffening-

“Tsk, tsk,” she clucked., “Such a passionate woman.”

I—I’m sorry…

“What’s to be sorry about? You should be aroused when I touch you there. All women are. And you are a passionate woman, aren’t you?”

“I—I guess I am. Frieda, I only wish my husband could understand that. He treats me as if I were a piece of fragile china about to break at any instant.”

“Ah well, you know how men are.” Frieda’s fingers continued their movements. “But let’s not discuss it—at least not now. I want you to relax. You need to sleep.”

“Yes… oh, that’s nice. I—” The pale flesh jerked spasmodically at the intimacy of the touch.

“Hurt you? Too rough?”

“N—no…” Isabel’s eyes closed. “I liked it…”

“Uh-huh. Well, don’t like it too much. Because that’s all you’re going to get for now.” Frieda straightened up.

“Oh. Please? Just a—-”

“I said no, Isabel. Now go to sleep. And don’t worry about me. I’ll find my room and get myself moved in all right. And as for any problems that crop up, I’ll take care of them. The servants or Cindy or anything like that. After all, I’m the boss now.”

“Yes…” It was a sleepy murmur. “You’re the boss…”

And as Frieda covered the nude figure and tiptoed out of the room, the whispered words kept reverberating in her ears as if they had been shouted in a canyon. Yes, she was the boss. Full authority. Frieda Helm from the wrong side of the tracks—in the finest house in all Enderbury.

FRIEDA took over the organization of the Grover mansion and in three days she had the place humming with industrious activity. Before Earl Grover went out of town he let it be known to the household staff that the new nurse was in complete charge— and Frieda did not hesitate to take advantage of it. She lit a fire of fear under the bottoms of the slothful servants, and resentful as they may have been, they knew better than to defy her orders. The big nurse was just too imposing a figure to be taken lightly—when she called for a general housecleaning she meant business, and woe betide the poor maid who did not comply. The servants were cowed by her commanding personality.

But the handling of Cindy Grover was another matter, and each day got Frieda more and more exasperated. The girl was indeed pretty—a sixteen-year-old carbon copy of her mother in looks—but she had been allowed a free rein too long. Headstrong and spoiled, Cindy was the only person in the place who refused to accept Frieda’s authority, and it soon became apparent that she would never do so unless drastic action were taken.

Frieda held herself in check. Tongue-lashing the servants into obedience was no problem, and neither was getting her way with the ailing Isabel. But she was hesitant about provoking a showdown with the delinquent daughter until she felt secure enough in her own position to do so. She was still new in the house, she reasoned, and the willful youngster would not be an easy conquest even in the best of circumstances.

Avoiding open conflict in the struggle for supremacy, Frieda tried to charm the girl. Honey, not vinegar, catches flies—but not this fly. To Cindy Grover, Frieda was only one of the hired help—a high-ranking one, certainly, but merely an employee who made her living by menial labor. All of Frieda’s blandishments did not succeed in denting the girl’s shell. And strangely enough, the more Frieda cajoled, the more Cindy showed her hostility. It was all too evident the big break had to come.

And soon…

On the third night of Frieda’s stint in the Grover home, Cindy stayed out long past a decent hour for a high-school girl. And at two o’clock in the morning the battle started.

“Well, young lady, do you know what time it is?”

“Huh?” Cindy peered into the dim corner of the living room where Frieda was waiting. “Oh, it’s you. What are you doing, sitting up for me?”

“Never mind what I’m doing. Answer my question—do you know what time it is?”

“Sure, I do. It’s two o’clock. So what?”

“Don’t be impertinent, Cindy. Come here!”

The girl seemed somewhat startled by Frieda’s sternness. “Okay, you don’t have to raise your voice. You know mother is asleep and shouldn’t be disturbed.”

“I’m well aware of that. But your staying out all hours of the night isn’t helping her any, either.”

“That’s silly, Frieda—she doesn’t even know about it. What are you going to do, squeal on me?”

“Why, you little—” Genuinely angry, Frieda fought to keep her temper. But it was obvious that the child needed a lesson. One that she would not forget. “Cindy, you and I had better talk this over. Now come here and sit down. Or would you rather I went over there and got you. I’m bigger than you are, you know.”

“Listen, I don’t have to take that kind of—”

“Come here.” Frieda stood up, her huge body a picture of menace in the shadowy gloom of the room.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming.” The girl came closer. “You don’t have to get into a sweat about it. But if you’ve got something to say, can’t it wait till tomorrow?”

“No, it can’t. I’ve waited too long as it is. It’s time you and I thrashed this thing out.”

Cindy shrugged and sat down upon a leather hassock. With her impish frown of resignation, she looked more like a mischievous child than a real juvenile delinquent. And there was piquant appeal in her elfin beauty. Her budding breasts and slender legs were singularly lovely.

But Frieda was not fooled. This was no sample child who could be scolded and sent to bed, this was a young hellion who had far too much freedom for her own good. Cindy Grover needed a firm hand to keep her in line.

“First of all,” Frieda said, “I want to make my position clear to you. You’re not a child, so I’m going to talk to you as one adult to another. My job here is to keep the house running smoothly. Taking care of your mother comes first, of course—that’s why your father hired a trained nurse. But after that, well, according to your father, taking care of you comes next. And I mean to do just that. It’s my job—and I’m going to do it.”

“Okay, so who’s stopping you?” Frieda gripped the arms of her chair. “Don’t anger me, Cindy. You know exactly what I mean. This business of staying out until two o’clock has got to stop. Your father gave me full authority over you, and up until tonight I’ve been pretty nice about it. I’ve tried to be your friend, but you’ve cut me off every time.”

“Oh, stop it. Stop making with the big-sister act. I’ve got all the friends I want—what do I need you for?”

“Uh-huh.” Frieda nodded slowly. “All right, just as you say. No more big-sister act. And we don’t have to be friends. But you’re going to obey me—do you understand? Whether you like it or not, you’re going to obey me.”

“Oh sure. And if I don’t?”

“You’ll know about that when the time comes. Meanwhile, Cindy, I’m giving you fair warning. From this moment on, I’m demanding strict obedience from you. I’m laying down the law, and what’s more I’m going to enforce it.”

“I get it. War is declared, huh?”

“War? Hmm, maybe you can call it that. And you know all the ammunition is on my side.”

“You mean you’ll squeal to mother if you don’t get your way? Or to dad when he gets home?”

“No, Cindy, neither one. Your mother is a sick woman and I won’t disturb her with this particular problem. Nor your father either, for that matter. I won’t need their help. Frankly, I’ve got a hunch that you’re the one who’s going to do the complaining. Or the squealing, as you so dramatically call it.”

“Not me. I won’t squeal. I don’t need any help, either. I’ll fight you all the way—and I’ll do it alone. You’re big, but I don’t think you’re so tough. You’re going to get mighty tired sitting up and waiting for me night after night.”

“Perhaps. We’ll see.” Frieda felt good—the one big worry had been lifted from her mind. Cindy’s pride had been pricked, and now there was no danger that the girl would carry tales to her parents.

And there were sure going to be some tales worth carrying—tales that Frieda was glad to know would be kept secret. This way they would fight their war and it would be their own private business. And there were no doubts in her mind concerning its outcome. Before she was through she would have this cute little rascal suing for peace and begging for her favor.

Her favor—yes—and all that went with it…

“All right, Cindy, I think we understand each other. I just wanted to give you a final warning, and now I’ve done that. Go to bed—I’m going to sit up for a while longer.”

“Aw, crap. Don’t tell me what to do. You don’t own me. I’ll go to bed when I feel like it.”

Frieda’s anger flared anew. “Cindy, you’re asking for it. I’ve tried to talk to you as one woman to another, but if you prefer being treated like a child, that’s the treatment you’ll get.”

“Oh yeah?”

It was too much. Frieda leaned down and seized
the girl’s shoulders in a firm grip. “A child, that’s what
you are, Cindy. A naughty child who needs—”

“Take you dirty hands off me, you old bitch!”

Frieda’s muscles tensed, and in a flash, the delicate body was lifted from the hassock and tossed facedown over her knees. Her left hand weighed heavily on the youngster’s neck; her right leg looped over the flailing thighs. And then, with a quick movement to ruck up the short skirt, she had Cindy in the desired position.

“So I’m an old bitch, am I? Young lady, it’s about time you learned a little respect.”

“Don’t you dare! If you do, I’ll… I’ll…”

“What will you do? Scream? Wake the servants? Or worse yet, wake your poor mother? Oh no— you know better than that. You’ll take what’s coming to you.”

Frieda raised her right hand. And angrily—yet with a certain methodical precision—she began spanking the panty-clad bottom. Whack! Whack!— her palm thumped down upon the jiggling flesh.

Cindy whimpered. Cursed. Groaned. But she did not raise her voice to cry out for help.

And Frieda continued, her rage lessening and her enjoyment increasing with each blow. Until, abruptly, without consciously thinking about it, she stopped and yanked the panties down to let them dangle loosely from the girl’s knees.

There, that was more like it! The panties had been in the way. And now there was bare flesh under her hot palm, squirming flesh that was turning pink and quivering and flinching every time she brought her hand down upon it. This little girl was getting her first lesson in discipline—let it be a good one!

It was…

Sobbing softly, Cindy took it. Her cursing ceased, and when the restraining arm and leg slackened their holds she was too overcome to start it again. She stood up, panties at half-mast, eyes blazing through the tears of humiliation that gushed from them to roll down her cheeks.

“Pull up your pants, Cindy.”

The girl obeyed mutely.

“Now go to bed. Walk, don’t run. Quietly, so that you don’t wake up the whole house.”

Again, the girl obeyed. But the glare in her eyes told Frieda what she was feeling. Shame. Rage. And most of all—pure hatred. The malevolence in those tear-filled eyes was all too clear.

Sighing, Frieda watched her go. Yes, the first lesson was over and it had been a good one. One not easily to be forgotten. But from the look in those eyes, she knew there would be more lessons to come. Many more. Breaking in a high-spirited young filly was no simple task.

And in a way, she was glad of it. Somehow, spanking that bare flesh into submission had been exciting. Delightfully so. And she found herself looking forward to its next occurrence. It was bound to happen again; there would definitely be further infractions of the rules of behavior that would merit similar punishments. Yes, it would certainly happen again.

And soon, she hoped…

EARL GROVER was restless, annoyingly so, and he could not manage to shake the irritating feeling off. Usually he enjoyed his business trips out of town, and this one to New York should have been a happy mixture of business and pleasure. As head of the Enderbury Mills he was always wined and dined wherever he went, and in his opinion New York was a great city for it. Expense-account entertainment was at its most lavish in this credit-card town, and he had never failed to get a kick out of the red-carpet treatment he received here.

Yet—this time—there was something wrong…

He mulled it over, trying to pin it down in his mind. It certainly wasn’t business—thus far all the conferences had gone well and the planned merger was going to make a lot of money. The entertainment was just as good as ever—among these big outfits nothing was too good for the visiting president of a corporation such as Enderbury Mills. Dinners, theaters, nightclubs—there was no limit. Especially when it came to women.

True, it wasn’t exactly his idea of great fun to bed down with a girl who was being paid to take care of him. But it was all part of the general business procedure and he usually went along with the custom gladly. Now and then, of course, it still gave him a twinge of conscience—in his younger days he had taken his marriage vows much too seriously to play around. But since Isabel’s illness, it no longer bothered him very strongly. A man in the prime of life needed a bit of boudoir relaxation, and dear as his wife was to him she was not healthy enough for an honest romp on the mattress.

But on this trip, for some obscure reason, he just wasn’t having a ball—and he was almost anxious for the papers to be signed so that he could get back home again.

It was puzzling, he had to admit. Even now, sitting in this nightclub surrounded by laughing men and eager women—“living it up” the boys called it—he was feeling vaguely depressed. Something was missing, something he could not quite put his finger on. It wasn’t the company, he was sure—these were all nice guys with whom he had kicked the gong around on previous trips. And the dolls were just as beautiful as ever—more so, maybe—this redhead who was his date for the night was as ravishing a creature as he had ever come across. Jennifer, her name was, and it was evident that she had been paid a small fortune to keep him contented. She was sweet and soft-spoken and oh, so very willing to fulfill her end of the bargain. Yet, somehow, he was not anxiously looking forward to taking her back to his hotel room when the round of roistering was over.

And he couldn’t figure out why…

But what the hell, maybe he was just getting old. Maybe it was only a question of glands and hormones —something that a few vitamin shots might cure. When he got back to Enderbury he would have to drop in on old Doc Maitland for a checkup. After all, he wasn’t fifty yet and there were still a few good years left in him before he was ready to admit he was over the hill.

Anyway, why worry about it? The booze was showering heavier than the national average rainfall for the month of April, and everybody else around the table—including Jennifer—seemed to be having a wild time. The club was rocking like crazy and now that the comic had finished his act, the chorus line was strutting out onto the floor again. And it was quite a line—those babes certainly rated more than the cursory once-over he had given them during their first number. This place was famous for its showgirls.

They were gorgeous, every one of them. Absolute dolls. Even the ones at the far end of the floor where he couldn’t see very well without craning his neck. The blonde, for instance, the third one from the left. What a pair of bazooms! Hell, he hadn’t seen a set like that since—

Well, since when?

Holy smoke! he thought irrelevantly, was that the answer? Was that the reason why this trip to New York had been such a letdown? Was it possible?

Because he had seen a pair like that. Only better. Exactly four days ago…

And while the girls pranced about in little more than G-strings and pasties, and the leering onlookers lapped up the liquor and cheered them on, Earl Grover suddenly recognized the plain, unvarnished truth about Earl Grover. Terrific as she was, the third chick from the left—the big-bosomed blonde—served only one purpose. She jogged his subconscious and brought back a vivid vision.

The vision of Frieda Helm…

No wonder he had been itching to get back to Enderbury. No wonder the fleshpots of Gotham had done so little for him. No wonder the smooth fingers of Jennifer creeping up his thigh between every round of drinks hadn’t excited him.

His wife’s nurse—Frieda Helm…

Abruptly, the memory of her came back and smacked him. Right between the eyes. That huge pair of breasts jutting out so proudly as if they were daring him to touch them. To kiss them. Firm and solid and yet jiggling with every movement she made.

And those legs. Long and strong and shapely— with that patch of honey-colored thigh practically winking at him when her skirt slid up. Mmm, those legs—they could kill a man if they ever got a grip on him. But what a way to die.

The way she talked. Are you sure it’s not you who needs relaxing, Mr.: Grover? Cool and composed. Dammit, almost arrogant. As if she were telling him she was a real woman and what the hell was he going to do about it?

Well, what the hell was he going to do?

Nothing now, of course—there were too many miles between New York and Enderbury. Too much distance between his desires and that huge hunk of sensual womanflesh. But it wouldn’t be long; the deal was about completed and with a little push he could be on his way home in a day or two. Three, at most. And then, by golly, he’d show her what a man Earl Grover was. Or better still, maybe Frieda Helm would show him what a woman she was.

An exciting prospect…

“Why, Earl, darling…” It was Jennifer, running her fingers up his thigh again and whispering in his ear. As if she had suddenly struck uranium. “You do like me, don’t you?”

“Sure, baby. Sure, I like you.” Damn right he liked her—right now he liked all women. All he had to do was close his eyes and imagine that hot hand belonged to big blonde Frieda Helm. And the hell with that visit to Doc—he didn’t need a checkup now. There was plenty of good activity left in this old carcass.

“I’m so glad,” Jennifer was saying. “I was worried. I thought maybe you wouldn’t take me to your hotel later. And I’d just love to have a private party with you.”

A private party? Well, why not? The kid would collect her fee anyway, and she was only trying to earn it. Besides, she was really a good-looking broad, and on any other of his New York trips he would have been rushing to get her into bed. More than that, with the thought of Frieda Helm buzzing around in his brain he sure needed some kind of party.

“Sure, honey,” he said. “We’ll make it. In fact, I’m just about ready to move off right now. As soon as the floor show is over, what do you say?”

“Wonderful, Earl. I can hardly wait.”

He grinned. Yes, the kid was ready for action—no doubt there was a good-sized piece of change in it for her. She would probably be very efficient in the sack.

She was…

Oh, maybe Jennifer wasn’t the best whore in town, but she sure knew her way around. It hadn’t taken much more than five minutes in his room before she was out of her clothes. And now, lying on his back in the dark while she bent over him, it was easy to forget who or what she was. A woman, that was all. A woman was with him, and in her highly professional way she was making no demands that he didn’t care to fulfill. He could just close his eyes and drift with the tide and think of that great blonde bitch-goddess with the enormous breasts and powerful legs and not have to worry about helping Jennifer at all.

As a matter of fact, the kid didn’t need any help. She was telling him—without making a sound—what a wonderful guy he was. True, she was being paid for it, but just the same she seemed to be getting a real charge out of what she was doing. And she was communicating her own pleasure quite nicely, managing to do so without having to resort to mundane and prosaic words. Although—at the moment— words would have been impossible anyway. Her mouth, warm and moist, was too busy to bother about making speeches, at least speeches that could be heard. Nevertheless, in her own noiseless fashion, she was getting her point across as well as any golden-throated orator ever to debate an issue.

And she was making it so blissful for him. Restful and yet exhilarating at the same time. As if she actually knew that he couldn’t keep his mind on what was happening here in the dark hotel room in New York. As if she was perfectly willing to go on and on while the vision loomed out of the blackness, the vision of Frieda Helm taunting him with those incredibly magnificent breasts that were dangling in front of him like ripe fruit that he could almost reach out and pluck and squeeze and savor. Oh, how he wanted those breasts—he wanted them so badly he could taste them.

But he couldn’t, of course, he couldn’t taste them and he couldn’t reach them and he couldn’t touch them. And it was darn sweet of Jennifer to let him lie here and try. Not disturbing him, not interfering in any way—and best of all, not even uttering a sound that might derail his onrushing train of thought.

WHEN Frieda walked into the bedroom, Isabel Grover was propped up against her pillows reading a magazine. The woman greeted her with a smile that was tinged with petulance.

“Frieda, where have you been? I’ve missed you.” Isabel tossed the magazine aside. “You haven’t paid the least bit of attention to me all day.”

“My, my, so the patient is picking on the nurse, eh?” Frieda chuckled. “That’s usually a sign that the patient is feeling good. But I’ve missed you too, Isabel. Only I had to get the grocery list made out and the house in order.”

“Oh. You were working downstairs…”

“Of course. Personally I’d rather be up here with you all the time, but you know how it is. If I don’t tear into the servants at least once a day, nothing ever gets done around here. Between running the house and trying to get little Cindy straightened out, I stay pretty busy.”

“I suppose so, Frieda. I guess I shouldn’t complain. By the way, are you and Cindy getting along all right?”

“Not bad. No real progress yet, though. She’s quite a handful, isn’t she? A holy terror, you might say.”

Isabel shrugged. “She’s spoiled, that’s all. We’ve just lost control over her. But she’s always sweet to me. She was in for a little chat this afternoon.”

“Oh? What about?”

“Nothing in particular. Just being a dutiful daughter paying a call on her sick mother. She certainly didn’t mention you, if that’s what you’re asking about. In fact, she managed to sidestep the subject every time I brought it up.”

“Smart girl,” Frieda said. “She doesn’t want to bother you with her troubles—or what she thinks are her troubles. And in this case, I agree with her. Cindy and I are having a private little struggle and it’s nothing for you to worry your head about. So why don’t you just concentrate on staying healthy and happy—I’ll take care of everything else. Including Cindy.”

“You’re so capable. I know you’ll do it well. But I do get bored all by myself so much of the time.”

“I know, dear.” Frieda patted the pale cheek affectionately. “But I’m still new here, remember. Once I get the household running smoothly I’ll be able to spend all my hours with you. I promise. Won’t that be nice?”

“Mmm, yes.” Isabel caught the caressing fingers and gave them a tender squeeze. “Such a nice hand,” she murmured. “So soft—and yet so strong…”

Frieda smiled. “Oh, no, you don’t. I can see right through that little scheme of yours. You’re hoping to wheedle another one of those massages out of me. The truth now—aren’t you?”

“Well… I guess so…

“You like my massages?”

“You know I do.” Isabel’s eyes fell away as she released the hand. “They make me feel so good.”

“Uh-huh. But now I’ve got something that will make you feel even better. It’s time you had a bath— a real one, not just a quick scrub with a damp washcloth. A bubble-bath, nice and warm and full of perfume. Would you like that?”

“Oh, that sounds wonderful.” Isabel’s tone was almost wistful. “But do you think I should? Am I strong enough?”

“Ha! I’m strong enough for both of us. Just you wait and see.” Frieda moved off to the bathroom of the private suite. Deftly she adjusted the faucets, and soon the scented foam was rising high and suffusing the place with its spicy redolence.

“Mmm, that’s nice,” Isabel called. “I can smell it all the way out here.”

“You should. I gave it a double dose.” Frieda pushed the sleeves of her uniform back. “And now up you go. Off with that thing you’re wearing and into the tub with you.”

Gently but with definite firmness, Frieda stripped away Isabel’s bed-gown to reveal the white-skinned body in all its nudity.

Isabel raised her arms. “Carry me? Please?”

“Certainly I’ll carry you.” Frieda bent and slid her hands under the nude flesh, then straightened up as if the burden in her arms were weightless. “You didn’t think I’d let you walk, did you? Not when I’m strong enough for both of us.”

Isabel sighed in contentment.

In the steamy bathroom, Frieda lowered the slim body into the tub and the frothy bubbles swallowed it. “There, doesn’t that feel good? Not too hot, is it?”

“No, just right. It’s marvelous compared to those nasty bed-baths I’ve had to put up with. I could lie here and soak for hours. Oh, Frieda, how did I ever get along without you?”

“You know, sometimes I wonder about that myself.” Frieda’s bantering tone was underscored with a hint of firmness. “That’s why I like this job so much —because you need me.” Her voice was abruptly demanding. “You do need me, don’t you?”

“Yes… oh, very much…”

The tiny room, fragrant with feminine perfume, became charged with emotion, as if both women knew that mutual sensations of stimulation were being shared.

In silence, Frieda plunged her arms into the pyramid of foam to start spreading a film of soapy lather over the frail shoulders. Under her fingers, the yielding flesh quivered.

“You—you don’t have to do that, Frieda.”

“Hush now. Don’t waste your strength. It’s my job, and I happen to like a nice clean, sweet-smelling patient.”

“But it gets me all—” Isabel caught her breath.

“Yes?”

“All… all excited…”

“That again? False modesty, Isabel? Come now, we went over that once before. I’m your nurse and—” Frieda broke off suddenly as some of the bubbles splashed her uniform. “Stop wriggling like that—I’m getting soaked.”

“I—I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Isabel’s gaze was apologetic. “But you are getting wet.”

“Uh-huh.” Frieda stood up. “Well, I’ll soon fix that. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And if the Romans are naked…” With brisk motions she peeled her uniform off.

Isabel’s eyes widened.

Frieda was instantly conscious of the reaction. Her uniform was getting wet and her only thought had been to protect it. But now, suddenly, they had gone beyond that. The hungry yearning in Isabel Grover’s stare was only too apparent. That hot glance seemed to be penetrating the fabric of her bra and panties.

Quickly, with pulses throbbing in a weird rhythm, Frieda stripped herself bare. She posed for a short moment, letting Isabel’s eyes drink their fill of her tawny flesh. She could almost feel their fervent glow warming her.

“Frieda… you’re beautiful…” Isabel’s voice was a choked whisper. “I’ve never seen you like this…”

Frieda hid her elation. Yet it surged through her— that old familiar sensation of power. This woman desired her body. Isabel Grover actually wanted her. Not as a nurse or as a companion. No, from this moment on, Frieda knew that their relationship had changed. And it was such a thrill.

The thrill of conquest…

Feigning nonchalance, Frieda bent and continued bathing the slim figure beneath the mound of froth. But now her breasts were free of confinement and they hung like wicked temptations directly in front of the woman’s face.

And temptations they were. “I… I…” Breathing heavily, Isabel could not get the words out.

“Yes?”

“Frieda, I…”

Frieda’s fingers moved. But she kept her body still, letting her breasts dangle within scant inches of those damp lips. And then, slowly, as if nothing could halt the inexorable shrinkage of the distance, the inches melted away.

Through slitted eyes, Frieda watched. Now the lips were where they belonged. On her breasts. Kissing. Worshiping her naked flesh. And as exultation rose within her, she pulled back slightly to gloat in triumph as the lips strained to follow. As Isabel’s contorted face lifted in longing.

Again, deliberately, Frieda moved back a bit farther. And again, just as she had known it would, the motion brought an immediate response. A moan, almost a sob—and once more the seeking mouth. Isabel was raising herself halfway out of the tub trying to preserve the delicious contact.

Abruptly, Frieda stood up straight.

Isabel lowered her head in shame. “I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

“It’s all right, dear. Don’t apologize.”

“But I’ve never done that—”

“Hush, Isabel. Don’t say a word. I don’t know what you’ve ever done before—and I don’t really care. I only know what you’re going to do now.”

Hastily, without giving the woman a chance to protest, Frieda scooped the pale body out of the tub and in rapid strides covered the distance to the bed. Isabel was wet; they were both wet—and the bed-sheets soon became damp. But this was no time for hesitation, and stopping to dry off might have broken the spell.

“Here now…” Again Frieda leaned over. But this time she made no attempt to tease, and when the glistening lips opened she did not refuse their homage. “Kiss them. Yes, darling, kiss my breasts. You like them. You like all of me…”

“Ah… yes…”

“Then touch me. Your hands…” Frieda moved up over the supine form, looking down, resting her weight on her hands and knees. “Yes, like that. Touch me. All of me.”

Isabel whimpered.

“Your hands… yes… so good. And your mouth…”

Again the whimper sounded. And was immediately stifled as Frieda, still on all fours, shifted her body to press her advantage to the uttermost. Isabel’s white flesh trembled and twitched—and yet made no attempt to dislodge its yokelike burden.

SMOKING cigarettes in an endless chain, Frieda lay naked upon her bed and tried to marshal her thoughts. It was late and she should have been asleep; in the big boudoir on the other side of the sitting-room, Isabel Grover had been slumbering for hours.

But sleep was impossible for Frieda. It was close to midnight and she still had not heard young Cindy come in. Which meant only one thing—the girl was defying her orders. Coming home this late was a direct challenge to her authority. And she was determined to meet that challenge head-on.

Now more than ever she felt the need for brusque and forthright action. The session with Isabel—from bathtub to bed—had been a complete success; she had the woman in the palm of her hand. Isabel had gone without sexual satisfaction for too long, and now a bright new world had opened up for her. Frieda’s world. A world of perfumed sensuality and bizarre embraces—practically a paradise for someone who had been existing only as an invalid doomed to lie on a sickbed and wait for death to come. For the rest of her life, short as it might be, Isabel would be grateful for Frieda’s attentions. Isabel had something to live for now.

But success with Isabel only made failure with Cindy look that much blacker. Earl Grover would be arriving home in another day or two, and Frieda had her heart set on showing him an unblemished record. It was up to her to turn his wayward daughter into a docile and demure young lady. Even if it meant sitting up for the child and spanking her bottom night after night.

Spanking her bottom? Frieda ground her cigarette out angrily. Sure, it had been fun chastizing that bare flesh, and she would probably do it again soon. Tonight maybe. But it was obvious that the punishment hadn’t worked very well—Cindy Grover was just as ill-mannered as ever. And by staying out this late, the child was making it clear that she was bent on getting her own way. Earl Grover’s dainty daughter was still playing the delinquent bit to the hilt. And daring someone to stop her.

Frieda stretched. The room felt suddenly small. Cramped. Constricting. It was a nice room, to be sure, but it was still a place for hired help. And with the authority she had been given, Frieda did not feel at all like an employee. Especially since her one-sided bout of amorous wrestling with Isabel.

Acting on impulse, she rose from the bed, slipped her feet into high-heeled mules and draped a light robe around her body. Lying and waiting with only these four walls to stare at was getting on her nerves. She would go downstairs to the living room—or better yet, to Cindy’s bedroom. Yes, that would be a fine shock for the kid; she would come home to find the downstairs dark and think herself safe. While upstairs—well, guess what?—she would find Nurse Frieda all ready for her.

An excellent idea…

Cindy’s room was at the other end of the wing, but the halls were illuminated by nightlights and Frieda had no trouble finding her way. It was a lovely bedchamber, decorated with skill and yet catering to the tastes and whims of a schoolgirl.

Frieda flicked the clock-radio on and tuned into an all-night station. Noise was no problem here—the ceiling was soundproofed and the room itself was separated from the sick woman’s suite by Earl Grover’s now-unoccupied quarters.

But even here, waiting was pure aggravation. And of all things, she had forgotten her cigarettes. But perhaps that was no major issue, Frieda realized— after all, sixteen-year-old girls usually smoked on the sly, especially when they were both rich and undisciplined. No doubt Cindy would have an emergency pack stashed away somewhere.

With only a mild twinge of guilt, Frieda began ransacking the bureau drawers. And in a matter of moments, her search was rewarded. In the bottom drawer, comparatively well hidden, there was an open carton tucked behind a pile of sweaters. The wrong brand—but they would have to do. At that point she didn’t feel like traipsing back to her own room.

Frieda reached in for a pack. The carton slid to one side and then something white—and somehow out-of-place—struck her eye. The square corner of a small envelope.

A love letter, maybe? Hmm, now wouldn’t that be interesting. What kind of letters did teen-agers write these days?

But there was no letter in the envelope. Only pictures. Only pictures? Good heavens, such pictures!

There were four of them—all of Cindy. Naked. And in each one the girl was in a different erotic pose. A standing front view. A shot from the rear, with the kid peering back over her shoulder with a come-hither smile. In the other two she was on the bed, and in one of them she was caressing herself with her fingers. With limbs spread wide to afford the peeping camera-lens an unobstructed angle that made it a veritable vista of lewdness.

Frieda gulped. The photos were exciting. That half-child, half-woman body so brazenly displayed was extremely provocative. But how had the kid gotten herself mixed up in something like this? Was she enmeshed in some kind of pornographic picture racket? And if so, why? For money?—no, that didn’t seem logical, not with the fat allowance she got from her father. For thrills, then. Yes, the kid had probably done it for a kick.

Downstairs, a door opened and closed. Frieda grinned and tucked the envelope of pictures in the pocket of her robe. She lit a cigarette and sat down on the bed, leaning against the padded headboard. The dresser drawer remained open.

“Well!” Cindy stood in the doorway, scowling. “I thought this was my room. And I don’t remember inviting you in.”

“Don’t put on airs with me, young lady.” Lazily, Frieda flicked the ashes from the glowing cigarette. “Come in and close the door. And stop looking so indignant—it doesn’t become you.”

Cindy pushed the door shut behind her. And then her gaze fell upon the pulled-out drawer. “You— you…

“Stop sputtering. I took the liberty of borrowing a pack of your cigarettes. Lousy brand, I must say. If you have to smoke, why mess around with these crummy things? They taste like filtered cough syrup. Ugh!”

“Nobody asked you to smoke them.” Hastily, with a trace of panic on her features, the girl slammed the drawer into place. “Nobody asked you to snoop through my private property, either.”

“Too late,” Frieda murmured. “Closing the drawer, I mean. Like locking the barn door after the horse is stolen. Or is it the cow—I forget which. No, horse is right, I guess.”

“What—what are you talking about?”

“Don’t you know?”

Cindy paled. But she retained her air of bravado. “Oh—the cigarettes. Well, you’re welcome to them.”

“Thanks. I figured you’d see it my way. But I really wasn’t referring to the cigarettes—if you can call them that. I was thinking of these.” Frieda pulled the envelope from her pocket. “Come on, kid, you’ve got some explaining to do.”

Cindy’s fists clenched. “You—you stole them. How dare you! Give them back this instant!”

“No dice, young lady. They’re mine now. And I’m still waiting for that explanation. How the devil did you ever get yourself mixed up in this business?”

The girl’s bravado collapsed and she sank into a chair like a punctured balloon. “Frieda… please. Give them to me. Or just tear them up. I’m not mixed up in anything, really I’m not. A friend of mine took the snapshots. A girl who goes to school with me. It was just for fun.”

“Fun, eh? And where are the negatives?”

“Negatives? Frieda, there aren’t any. Just these, that’s all there are. Rosalie Stark—that’s my friend— got one of those Polaroid cameras for her birthday, and that’s what they were taken with. We were just fooling around, that’s all.”

Frieda’s expression did not change. But she felt a small surge of relief at the information. The girl was not involved in any kind of professional racket then, and the story seemed pretty reasonable. A couple of schoolkids experimenting with a new camera. A sudden urge to act grown-up and daring and sexy. And these—the four photographs—were the result.

“All right, Cindy. I believe you. But it was a rather foolish thing to do—don’t you agree?”

“I—I guess so. But it was only that one time, and I was going to tear them up. Please give them back to me and I promise I’ll never do anything like that again.”

“No. You’ve already proved that your promises don’t mean anything. You’re a disobedient child, Cindy—although from the looks of these pictures I’d say you were well on the way toward becoming a woman. A beautiful woman. And that’s all the more reason why you’re going to have to learn a little discipline. As for tearing up the things—no, I don’t think I will. I’m going to keep them as a little reminder of how naughty you are. Let’s just say I’ve confiscated them. After this, well, perhaps I’ll get a bit more respect from you. Because I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to show them to your parents.”

Cindy tensed in horror. And like an uncoiling clock-spring, she lunged for the envelope.

Frieda laughed and avoided the grasping fingers. She jammed the envelope back in her pocket, and with an ease that was almost indolent her hand seized the girl’s shoulder. Off balance, Cindy tumbled face down, thrashing about and moaning in frustrated anger that was mounting toward overt hysteria.

“Cindy,” Frieda hissed. “Don’t you know better than to fight me? I’m stronger than you are. When will you learn that?”

With rapid movements, she yanked the girl’s skirt up and hauled her panties down. And again, just as before, she whaled away at that bare bottom. The quivering flesh turned pink and hot under her flailing palm. But this time Cindy could not hold back her tears, and in a moment she was crying openly.

“That’s it,” Frieda said gleefully. “Cry. Cry it out. It’s time you found out who’s boss around here.” Her hand pounded the naked buttocks mercilessly.

“Please… Frieda, I’m sorry…” The girl’s piteous wail was heartrending. “I’ll be good—honest, I will…”

Touched, Frieda stopped the spanking. She lifted Cindy and pressed the tear-stained face to her bosom. “Cry it out, baby, that’s my sweet baby.” Her voice was a crooning murmur. “You’ve learned your lesson now.”

The neck of her robe loosened and the girl’s flushed face laid against her breasts. Frieda’s fingers soothed the bruised bottom, running over the warm skin in sweeping caresses. But it was too soon, she knew, too soon to take full advantage of her position. Her final seduction of this dainty, alluring darling would have to wait for a more propitious moment.

But it was not too soon to make a beginning…

“I want you to go to sleep now,” she said. “Get undressed and go to bed. But first I want a good-night kiss. From now on there will be only peace between us. The war is over.”

The girl looked up. “A kiss?”

“A kiss. And it will be our truce.”

Cindy looked puzzled. But she raised her lips dutifully. And then gasped as Frieda’s open mouth took possession.

Deliberately, totally conscious of what she was doing, Frieda gave the girl her first portent of what was to come. Her tongue boldly forced its way into that rosebud mouth. And a thrill of triumph heated her blood at the responsive shock it evoked.

Not yet, she thought. Not yet—but soon. And what a joy it would be to take this precious virginal body and bend it to her will. To make this lovely young creature her chattel.

But not yet…

It was hard to break the embrace. Her own body was beginning to betray her. But it had to be done. This was only the start—the rest would come later. Step by step. Planned out beforehand. Because this was a seduction that had to be perfect.

“Frieda…”

“Hush, dear. Go to sleep now. Good-night.” Drawing her robe around her, Frieda glided out of the room.

But her flesh was aroused now, and unless it was quieted there would be no sleep tonight. She almost regretted not plunging headlong into the affair—now that she had gone this far it was sheer torture not to continue. A woman’s body wasn’t designed to be stimulated and then cut off before its logical climax.

Abruptly, a thought struck her, a thought that was well-nigh astounding in its audacity. Isabel! The poor woman was sick—she needed her rest. But what the hell, she was going to die soon anyway, wasn’t she? Why, she might even get a thrill out of being awakened in the dead of night. What a lark it would be!

Frieda tossed her robe off and stepped out of her slippers. Naked, she padded across the sitting room and into the huge boudoir. On the canopied bed Isabel Grover was sleeping soundly.

Aflame with need, Frieda lay down beside her. “Isabel,” she whispered. “Wake up, Isabel…”

“Hmm? What?”

“It’s me. Frieda. I need you.”

“Huh? What’s the—”

“Shhh…”

Frieda moved peremptorily. And under her guiding hands she felt the woman come out of her dreamy languor to slip into a state of ecstatic half-wakefulness… without voicing the slightest protest.

Protest? Frieda’s strong fingers crisped the dark hair. No, there would be no protest. Not ever. It was too soon for the daughter, perhaps. But not for the mother…

EVERYTHING happened at once. Earl Grover got back from New York, and on the same day the elder daughter arrived home from college for the weekend. Overnight, the Grover mansion was teeming with townspeople dropping in to say hello.

For a while Frieda found it provident to relegate herself to the background. Dressed in white uniform and flat-heeled shoes, she remained content to be simply an employee—as far as the guests were concerned, she was merely Isabel Grover’s new nurse. Her striking appearance caused comment, of course, but to the socially conscious folk of Enderbury she was looked upon only as a recently hired member of the household staff.

Which, in truth, she was. Only Cindy and Isabel knew her to be anything else—and they, quite naturally, weren’t telling. The hapless child had Frieda’s possession of the nude photographs to contend with. And the enamored mother was like a newly reborn person, but the reason for the change was certainly not something that might have been made public.

Louise Grover, a senior at college, was quite charming. She had not inherited her mother’s beauty, but she made up for it by the graciousness of her personality. With her straight brown hair and slightly plump build she was indeed almost mousy in appearance, yet her ladylike demeanor made her an extremely popular girl among the upper-bracket residents of Enderbury. Even if she had not been rich, Louise was the kind of person who would have been liked by many and despised by none.

But she was the kind of person Frieda had never been able to understand. Life had always been a battle for Frieda, a “survival of the fittest” sort of thing. And ever since her indoctrination at the hands of Andy the storekeeper, she had used sex as a weapon. She had been born poor in a world controlled by wealth—who could blame her for equalizing the odds against her by a judicious opening of her bodice now and then? Goodness and badness did not exist for her—there was only pleasure and the constant craving for power. How then could she have understood the gracious nature of Louise Grover?

The girl was nice, almost too nice to be real. She treated Frieda as an employee, of course, but as a treasured and respected one. And on the final day of her weekend at home she took Frieda aside to express her gratitude.

“Frieda, before I leave I want to tell you how happy I am that you’re here. You’ve been wonderful to mother, and even Cindy seems to be toeing the mark now that you’re around.”

Frieda was perplexed. When people threw compliments, they usually wanted something in return. But it was obvious that this girl wanted nothing from her. The compliment had sounded entirely too sincere to be a pretext.

“Thank you, Louise,” she said warily. “It’s sweet of you to say so. But it’s only my job, you know.”

“Yes, I know. But you do it so well. I’ve heard nothing but good things about you ever since I got home.”

“Oh? That’s interesting…”

“It’s more than interesting, Frieda, it’s downright puzzling. Because I was worried, I’ve got to admit. You’re just too darn beautiful to be a nurse—or at least a good nurse. And yet you are a good nurse, the best mother has ever had.”

Frieda’s brows arched. Mention of her beauty was always a prelude to something else. An overture or an invitation. But it was evident that the girl had not meant it that way. In Louise’s frank gaze there was only friendliness.

“And you certainly are beautiful,” the girl went on. “You have no idea what I’d give to have a figure like yours. Every time you pass through a room, all eyes turn in your direction.”

“Oh? I hadn’t noticed.”

“Don’t kid me, Frieda, of course you have. And it’s only right that you should. What’s the sense in having such a body if you can’t be proud of it?”

Frieda gulped. It was hard to know what to say to this poised young lady. “Well, I suppose so…”

“Why, even my own fiance has been casting glances at you. Haven’t you noticed that?”

“Mr. Duncan, you mean?”

“Yes. Oh, I’m not jealous—I don’t really mind if Paul looks at you, so long as he only looks. I don’t think I’d want to marry a man who didn’t feel his blood stir at the sight of a beautiful woman. A man like that would probably make a poor husband —and definitely a miserable lover.”

“Oh, but Mr. Duncan is so much in love with you —if he looks at me, it doesn’t mean a thing.”

“I hope not. Paul and I are going to be married some time next year—after I finish school. It’s always been the fondest dream of both our families. The Duncans are big stockholders in Enderbury Mills, you know.”

Frieda didn’t know. But she nodded in agreement. “I’m sure you’ll both be very happy.”

“Thanks. But dear me, how did we ever get off on that subject? Paul and me, I mean. And all I wanted to say was how pleased I am that you’re here to take care of mother. She hasn’t very long to live, and we’ve all accepted that terrible fact—so I’m really glad to see how contented you’re keeping her. Believe me, Frieda, when the time comes that your services are no longer needed, you’ll find that the Grovers can be very generous.”

“Oh, there’s no need to talk about—”

“You’re right, Frieda. It’s not something we ought to talk about. Especially now, with mother looking more healthy every day. But just the same I want you to know how I feel about it. When that time does come, you’ll be well taken care of.”

“Thank you, Louise…”

It was not until some ten minutes later that the full import of the conversation struck home. And for a moment Frieda was utterly disgusted with herself for not having caught on sooner. Of all things! Charming and sincere as she was, Louise Grover had gotten over her point quite plainly. And yet at no time had she actually come out and said it.

Hands off Paul Duncan…

All the talk about how grateful she was—it hadn’t meant a damned thing. Oh, maybe it had, of course, maybe Louise Grover really liked the job she was doing with Isabel. But it still boiled down to the same bit of advice—keep your nose clean and you’ll get your reward some day.

Frieda shrugged. Reward—oh sure. When Isabel kicked the well-known bucket, the Grovers would be very generous. They’d probably slip her a few bucks—maybe even a few hundred.

Okay, so what? When that time came, where would she be? Out on her fanny, that’s where. A little richer, perhaps, but not a hell of a lot better off than before.

No, Louise’s advice had probably been well meant, but right then and there Frieda knew it wasn’t for her. She wasn’t going to be conned into a deal like that, not when there were so many other tempting propositions around.

Propositions like Earl Grover…

He was hooked—she was sure of it. Throughout the whole weekend he had been casting sheep’s-eyes at her. And fuming with impatience waiting for the friends and neighbors to thin out so he could get down to action. She could see it in his hungry glance; he, at least, was the kind of person she understood.

Fine, then. She had little Cindy by the scruff of the neck. She had Isabel by the—well, she had Isabel, that was for sure. And getting to Earl Grover would only be a matter of time.

Which left only Louise to contend with. And now —after such a smoothly polished conversation— Frieda knew that Louise Grover was going to be a formidable adversary. One who would not be enticed by fanciful sex or fazed by threatened blackmail.

But Louise had her weakness, too. And despite her air of ladylike poise, it was as devastating a weakness as anyone’s else’s’. Louise was in love with Paul Duncan. And very jealous of that love.

Well now, wasn’t that nice? Frieda hummed a little tune as she went about her chores for the day. True, she hadn’t been impressed by Paul Duncan— he was tall and thin, really pretty much of a sandy-haired stringbean with a shy personality. Of course she had seen the admiration in his eyes when he looked at her, but it hadn’t meant much—after all, she was used to that sort of thing.

Only note it meant plenty…

The way to attack Louise Grover—if such an attack ever became necessary—was through Paul Duncan. It was a nice piece of information to hold in reserve. And even the man himself had jumped a notch in her estimation—a mighty big notch. Oh, she had always known the Duncans were rich; they were one of the town’s foremost families. But stockholders in Enderbury Mills?—well, that too was something to take into consideration.

For the future, of course…

Because some day—and Frieda was positive of it —the little girl who had lived on the wrong side of the tracks would also be a big stockholder in Enderbury Mills. And she would get that stock in much the same way that she had gotten candy from old Andy.

Sex was her weapon. All she had to do was choose the right target and zero in on it.

THE busy weekend was over and life in the Grover mansion should have settled back into a pattern of normalcy. But it was out of the question, of course— too many hot glances had passed between Frieda and Earl Grover, and it was apparent to both of them that something had to be done about it.

Earl took the first step…

“Miss Helm—-er, Frieda, I’ve just been talking to Cindy. She wants to spend the night with one of her girl friends. Something about studying for exams together. I told her she would have to get permission from you.”

“Oh? Shall I check with Mrs. Grover about it?” ‘Mmm, no, I don’t think so. No need to bother poor Isabel with such details. Just use your own judgment.”

“I see. Well, it’s all right with me, then. Cindy has been a pretty obedient girl lately. I thought she behaved remarkably well over the weekend.”

“So I noticed, Frieda. I must say, for such a short time you’ve done an excellent job with her. As a matter of fact, I’d like to discuss it further with you. But not now—I’m due for a conference over at the factory shortly.”

“Anytime you say, sir.”

“Um, yes. Tell you what, Frieda—why don’t we have a little chat tonight? I’m going to be working late, so I won’t be home for dinner. But after you’ve put Mrs. Grover to bed, well…”

“I understand, sir.”

“And there’s no sense keeping the servants up. Just come directly to my suite—any time after ten. Oh, by the way, do you enjoy good cognac?”

“Cognac, sir?”

“Uh-huh. I was gifted with an extra-special bottle by one of my business associates in New York. Supposed to date all the way back to Napoleon.”

“My, yes. After this hectic weekend, sir, a little relaxation with a bottle of cognac sounds just fine.”

“Good. I’ll expect you tonight…”

So formal. So genteel. But Frieda could hardly keep from laughing out loud. The poor guy was practically coming apart at the seams in his impatience to get at her. Such polite talk—and all the time his eyes were popping out of his skull whenever she so much as wiggled her bosom.

But she had to hand it to him—without committing himself in any way he had certainly let her know the score. Cindy away. His private suite. Napoleon brandy. His wife asleep. It sounded like one of those articles on how to stage a successful seduction, the kind that appeared regularly in the men’s girlie-type magazines. About the only thing he hadn’t told her was how to dress for the occasion.

But on that subject she had her own ideas…

Isabel was no problem that night. Frieda gave her a sleeping pill and a long drawn-out massage. With murmurs of delight the woman got what she craved most, and in no time at all rolled over in dreamy lassitude, eyelids already drooping.

“Sleep well, my dear,” Frieda whispered. “Tonight I promise I won’t disturb you.”

Isabel blushed. “I—I didn’t mind…”

“I know, dear. You were wonderful that other time. But I’m the one who’s tired tonight. I’ll sleep like a log.”

“Frieda…” Isabel caught her hand and kissed it. “Thanks. Thanks for everything. You’re so sweet…” And then there were no more words. Only a small sigh of contentment. And sleep.

Frieda tiptoed away. The stage was set. Cindy, overjoyed at her unexpected freedom, was safely bedded down in her friend’s house. Isabel was off to dreamland until morning. And Earl Grover was in his suite of rooms, waiting.

But Frieda was in no hurry. Let him stew awhile —it would sharpen his appetite that much more. Besides, she had to make herself presentable—or rather, alluring for his delectation. Meticulous as always in the art of feminine grooming, tonight she would be even more so. A well-cared-for body was an absolute necessity, but tonight it would have to be even better than usual. This body of hers was going to be put to good use, and not merely for her own pleasure. No, tonight her flesh was going to be more than merely tempting, it was going to be positively convincing.

Frieda lingered in her bath, letting her skin soak up the scented cleanliness of the frothy bubbles. And later, in her own room to make the final preparations, she augmented the fragrance with perfume, the best she had. A touch here and there was all that was required, just a few dabs with the glass stopper. But in the right places, of course, the places that men found exciting. At least most men, and she was sure that Earl Grover would be one of them.

Furry high-heeled mules went on her feet, and the sheer black negligee she wore looked as if it had been designed for her alone. Every curve and mound and valley of her flawless form was accentuated by its clinging softness, and the tawny-gold color of her skin peeped through its filmy fabric provocatively. Underwear she deemed unnecessary—and she was quite certain her gentleman-host would be in accord with her judgment. No, Earl Grover didn’t have to tell her how to dress for the occasion.

Especially this occasion…

She tapped on his door and an instant later congratulated herself at the expression that swept over his face. Had she taken twice the time to prepare for the rendezvous, the fervent glow in his eyes would have been ample repayment.

Dressed in a silk-lapeled lounging robe, he stood stock-still for a moment, drinking in the sight of her. His throat muscles worked, but he seemed unable to talk.

“Well?” she said. “May I come in?”

“Uh…” He ushered her to a seat. “Sorry,” he muttered after a few seconds. “I guess I was just stunned.”

“Oh? Did I wear the wrong thing? Too daring for you, perhaps? I’ll go back and change if you want—”

“No!” The word exploded from his lips. “No, of course not. You’re marvelous, Frieda, absolutely marvelous.”

“Thank you,”—and then, deliberately using his given name for the first time—“thank you… Earl…”

His gaze devoured her. “Uh, let’s see now—I promised you some of that fine cognac, didn’t I?”

“You did. And I believe you wanted to have a little chat. Something about Cindy, wasn’t it?”

“Cindy? Oh. Yes, I guess I—”

“But you really don’t want to talk about Cindy, do you, Earl? I have the feeling you’ve got something else on your mind.”

“I—I guess you’re right.” He poured the cognac into huge crystal inhalers and they went through the ritual of warming it in their hands. “Frieda, it’s you. You’re what’s on my mind.”

She smiled slowly. “I’m glad to hear that. Because I’ve been thinking about you, too.”

“Frieda, I don’t know what it is. All the time I was in New York—it was like an obsession. All I could think about was getting back to Enderbury.”

“To me?”

“Yes… to you…” He nodded gloomily. “And yet I know I have no right to be even—”

“Hush. No more talk, Earl.” She leaned over and offered him her mouth.

“Frieda… Frieda…” And then he could say no more as her lips parted and took possession.

Her hand took his and guided it inside her negligee. The contact of her smooth flesh seemed to paralyze him momentarily, and she urged his fingers to her breasts. He moaned and then slumped forward, burying his face into the valley of her bosom. His arms rose to encircle her in a tight grip.

“You like them?” she said. “You like my breasts?”

“Frieda… yes…”

She cupped their undercurves with her palms, lifting the firming peaks to his mouth. “Then you shall have them. My beautiful breasts. All for you, Earl. Love them well.”

“Ah, my darling…”

For a long time she accepted the caress of his lips. His avid tongue. His worshipful mouth. It was a good mouth, an expert one, and she knew that she had not misjudged Earl Grover as a man. Or as a lover. Ecstatic thrills shot through her at his touch, thrills that set her flesh quivering responsively.

And she realized after a while how much her breasts meant to him. He was losing himself in their pillowing softness as if they were the only things in the world for him. As if there were nothing else but those huge mounds that filled his mouth and rubbed his flaming cheeks and tickled his nostrils with their perfume.

Frieda sighed, utterly delighted. She knew now exactly what it was that had first attracted this man. And she knew how to bind him to her even more tightly. Tonight, now, Earl Grover would get more than he had bargained for.

“Earl…”

“Hmm?”

“My breasts—they like you too.”

“Ah… darling…”

With a sinuous little motion she eased out of his arms. He tensed, and then sobbed as she slipped to the floor in front of him. His fingers tightened and then loosened, as if the agony of their sudden emptiness was more than he could bear. Desperately he reached for her shoulders in an attempt to pull her back up to him.

“Don’t,” she whispered fiercely. “Let me…”

“What?”

“Relax.” Her knowing hands parted the folds of his robe. “Don’t move. I want to…”

He went rigid. And then, completely aware of the bizarreness of her action, she surrounded him with her breasts. With both hands she held them against him, enclosing him in a veritable prison of flesh that was firm and yet yielding at the same time. Her face was upturned and her eyes probed his.

“You see… I told you so, Earl. My breasts—they like you as much as you like them. You do like them, don’t you…

He nodded mutely.

“Say it, Earl. I want to hear you say it.”

“Your breasts. Wonderful. I love them. Ah…” And the words became monosyllabic sighs and moans that poured from his throat in increased frenzy as she engulfed his flesh between the breasts that meant so much to him.

Later, she knew, their love-making would take a more normal turn. But for now, well, she had discovered the man’s greatest desire. And giving it to him, freely and bountifully, would be like forging a strong link in the chain with which she was going to shackle him. After tonight, after this, Earl Grover would be hers to command.

IT began slowly. At first it was a kick, the same thrill of conquest that had always been Frieda’s joy. Subjugating Isabel to her whims, making the sick woman dance attendance upon her. Reversing their roles and twisting their relationship in weird fashion—it enhanced her sense of power. But now it was becoming more than a mere kick, it was almost a necessity. She was seeing Earl Grover regularly—and it was just as she had known it would be. The man was completely captivated. The mere sight of her breasts made him tremble with desire, and the touch of them drove him crazy.

Frieda wanted him. Not as a lover, but as her permanent man. As her husband. And all that stood in the way was Isabel. Isabel whose health showed signs of improving rather than deteriorating—only Isabel stood between Frieda and the prize she had set out to win. Her very presence was a thorn in Frieda’s flesh.

Isabel…

Frieda was beginning to hate her. And forcing the woman to comply with her wishes was becoming a burgeoning need within her. Hurting Isabel was a means of venting her frustration—and some day it would also be a means of——

Of what?

Yes, that too. A means of killing her. Because Frieda knew now that she would never attain her goal while Isabel Grover lived. And slowly, deliberately, she took to heaping abuse upon the sick woman’s bowed head.

It was strange, though, the way Isabel took it. The woman seemed to revel in her own submissiveness, and no caprice of Frieda’s was too monstrous for her to cope with. Indeed there were even times when she appeared to be actually provoking Frieda’s ire in hopes of proving her zealous devotion.

Throughout the rest of the household, peace reigned. The servants did their tasks, Cindy remained meek and obedient, Earl spent his days only waiting for the nights when he and Frieda could sneak a few minutes of privacy together. Louise, the college girl, was not present to cause any interference. Life in the Grover mansion ran smoothly, and Frieda oiled the bearings it ran on.

But upstairs in Isabel’s suite, life became sheer madness. Engrossed in her evil deeds, Frieda drove herself to further excesses, taking the suppliant woman along with her. She used the big boudoir as her own room now, living in it and dressing in it and demanding that Isabel wait on her hand and foot.

Oddly enough, the ailing woman thrived on the treatment. She seemed to be gaming strength by the hour now, and it was as if all the tortures she was put through helped her rather than harmed. Frieda was her goddess and could do no wrong. And kneeling at the feet of the beloved goddess was her greatest passion.

No longer did Frieda carry the frail body about. Indeed, had she so demanded, the woman would have gladly tried to carry her. And there were moments, wild and white-hot, when the wealthy matron crawled around on all fours like a devoted dog fetching and carrying for its mistress. No command was too much, no task was too great—Isabel’s slavishness was bottomless and endless. Her only fear was that some day she might lose this new joy she had found.

It was an unfounded fear, of course—Frieda had no intention of ever leaving the comforts of the mansion. But she used it as a threat to frighten the woman. Complaining of boredom every now and then, she made Isabel cringe at the very notion that their affair might suddenly come to an end.

Their existence together fell into an incredibly grotesque pattern. The big nurse—the glamorous amazon, as Isabel had once called her—became the despotic ruler of the private suite, and the patient— her employer—became her willing subject.

But there was a wall between them as far as Frieda was concerned, a wall that grew thicker and higher with each passing day. And as she went about her usual household duties, she could almost taste the bitterness of her own frustration. She, not Isabel, was the true mistress of the house—in every way but one. And that one, of course, was the most important.

She was still Frieda Helm… Not Mrs. Earl Grover.

Frieda the nurse, a hired employee who had no secure rank or position. It rankled in her breast until she felt as if she might explode from the stark injustice of it. Indeed, sometimes it irritated to the point where it made her downright cruel to the woman who held what she considered her rightful place. Vindictive-ness blinded her eyes and fogged her reason—she had to retaliate, she had to take out her rage upon someone. And Isabel—humble and subservient—was always available when the foul mood came on.

Like now, for instance…

Frieda strode into the big bedroom, muttering under her breath about something she had overheard from one of the servants. Something about “she acts like she owns the place.”

It was true, of course—she did act as if she owned the place. And what the servants didn’t know was that some day she would own it. Some day, but not now. And it was this aggravating reminder of her own precarious state that had her so upset.

“Frieda?”

“What the hell do you want?”

“Nothing. I’m sorry.” Isabel sat up in bed, that familiar look of fawning humility coming over her face. “Oh dear. You’re angry about something. Can I help?”

“No. Um, well, maybe you can. Maybe I’m just tired, that’s all. I think I’ll lie down for a while.”

It was not voiced as a demand, yet Isabel seemed to know what was desired of her. “Yes, dear, why don’t you? A nice nap will do you a world of good.” She got out of bed, eager to demonstrate her servility. “Let me undress you.”

“Uh-huh…”

And while Frieda stood there, arrogant, insolent, the sick woman crouched upon the floor and gently removed the white shoes from her feet. Isabel’s breathing was suddenly spasmodic, and a film of pure passion glazed her adoring eyes.

Frieda looked down at her. A liquid heat rose in her vitals; she felt the urge to degrade this female who possessed so much more material wealth than she did. And the woman’s very willingness only served to provoke her all the more—the conquest was already an accomplished fact and its concomitant thrill was a thing of the past. Its place had been usurped by still another need, one which Frieda herself had not realized she had. The need to hurt, to cause physical pain. And along with it, to humiliate and defile.

“Naked,” she said. “I want you naked.”

In hasty obedience, Isabel threw off her flowing bed-gown. Already the points of her small breasts were stiff with excitement. The tiny crests seemed to cry out from some kind of martyrdom.

Frieda reached out and pinched them cruelly.

Isabel flinched. But it was only a momentary involuntary response and she made no further move to back away. Even with the savage fingers upon her breasts, there was nothing but resigned submissive-ness in her expression.

“Now me.” Frieda’s tone was biting. “Quickly. Finish undressing me. I want to be naked, too.”

Eagerly, Isabel obeyed. But in this too she seemed to anticipate Frieda’s wishes. The process became long and drawn-out, almost ceremonious in its implications. As each garment was removed, kisses and caresses were lavished upon the flesh it revealed. It was a ritual they had performed before, and nothing was omitted or glossed over lightly. But the woman kept moving—it was not within her province to linger overly long at any single place that might particularly appeal to her fancy.

Until at last, at the very end, Frieda stood there nude, limbs spread and arms folded haughtily. And Isabel, concluding the prescribed ritual, humbled herself and kissed the bare toes.

After a moment, she glanced up. “A bath?” she murmured hesitantly. “Would you like me to run a tub for you?”

Frieda snorted in disdain. “A bath? Why? Do you think I need one? Am I dirty?”

“Darling… please. I didn’t mean—”

“Shut up. You talk too much.”

Isabel hung her head. And with trembling fingers, she stroked the regally posed body. Frieda’s abrupt refusal to let herself be bathed seemed to excite the obsequious woman. Her nostrils quivered and her eyes beseeched. As if she was begging for the privilege of satisfying the desire that was consuming her.

“Make love to me.” Frieda spat the words out. “That will give your mouth something to do other than talk. I’ve heard too much talk today—I don’t want to hear any more.”

Isabel glanced toward the bed.

“No,” Frieda snapped. “Not there. Right here.”

As if understanding had suddenly burst upon her, Isabel sobbed deep in her throat. Still on her knees, she complied with the bizarre command. Joyfully— and at the same time anxious to please. Anxious to demonstrate her deference.

Above her, majestic, arrogant, Frieda stood and accepted the homage as her rightful due. Soon she would move toward the bed and lie down to drift off into sweet sleep, lulled by a continuation of the soft caresses. But now she was content to stand there and receive the supplication of those busy lips and fingers —while her mind worked furiously to figure out how she might get rid of this ridiculously leechlike creature once and for all.

For Isabel Grover was in her way. Frieda had conquered the woman, she had stolen her husband and subdued her daughter. She had reduced the woman herself to a groveling slave. And yet Isabel Grover had everything while Frieda Helm had nothing— nothing but her immediate position and vague possibilities for the future.

It just wasn’t fair…

“Frieda… oh darling…” It was Isabel, nearly out of her head, lost in this strange, submissive lust that possessed her.

“Yes, dear. Come.”

She glided to the bed. And as the woman crawled after her, struggling avidly to keep up, Frieda sprawled languorously, loose-limbed and lax, and let the frantic creature have her way.

Yes, eventually Isabel Grover would have to be done away with. But until that time, it was better that she be kept happy and satisfied. And this, it seemed, was the means of keeping her like that.

Frieda stirred lazily. Oh, it wasn’t bad, not really. Isabel was now a highly proficient lover. But the whole business couldn’t go on like this, it just couldn’t go on. It had to end somewhere—and Frieda knew exactly where that somewhere was. Some day, somehow, she would be the true mistress of this house. That—and no other—was her rightful place. And she would get there.

Some day, somehow…

Even if she had to commit murder to do it.

EARL GROVER was gone again, off on one of his business trips. And Frieda found herself missing him far more than she had expected. Earl, in his own way, was quite a man—and she had grown increasingly fond of his hard, masculine brand of love-making. But now he was away and there was no one to take his place. Isabel’s femininity was cloying more often than not, and even in the excesses of their weird relationship Frieda was seldom carried away. The conquest was complete and now she was bored by what was merely dull repetition. Or jaded, perhaps. Whatever it was, she was glad that Isabel was safely tucked in for the night.

Only now she was alone—and lonesome…

Young Cindy was home and in bed, of course, but Frieda stifled whatever urge she had to do something about it. Ever since the night of their tussle over the photographs the child had not evidenced a single spark of rebelliousness. And Frieda planned to keep it that way—it was one of the things that pleased Earl Grover so much. True, she looked forward to the day when she would have a really free hand with the girl, but that time would come only in the future, when her own position was positively secure. And until then—as long as the youngster remained obedient—Frieda was quite content to let sleeping dogs lie.

No, not content, at least not exactly. The very thought of that lovely little body was tantalizing. It would be a joy to train it— her way. But postponing it would make it that much more joyous, and she knew better than to upset the present state of tranquillity merely to achieve a quick thrill.

Only now, dammit, the present state was too tranquil. A complete blank. A vacuum. She was all alone, and Earl Grover’s absence had her nerves ragged. Ragged enough so that if she didn’t do something about it, there’d be hell to pay.

Face it, Frieda, you need a man. Or a new woman. Or something. Otherwise…

The devil with it! There was no sense in hanging around alone to suffer the tortures of that “otherwise”—not when there was a whole town full of available companions. Companions who would be glad to be engineered into thinking they had picked her up. Yes, it was time to look over the erotic possibilities of Enderbury.

She dressed casually, aware that a Balenciaga gown—even if she had owned one—would not have been suitable for what she had in mind. Her appearance in either of the town’s two upper-bracket nightspots might cause unfortunate comment. Too many Enderbury socialites knew the big blonde nurse who worked for the Grovers.

Casual clothes, then—and some lowdown bar over in the factory district. Frieda Helm would not be known there. She had been away from her native territory too long.

She phoned for a taxi and met it out in front of the house. “Brook Street,” she told the driver. “Brook and Maple.”

“Huh? You sure you want to—”

“I’m sure. Let’s go.

She winced as he ground his gears and roared off; there was no need to wake up the whole place, was there? But as the cab chugged away from the aristocratic section of town, she began to relax. And to look forward to her adventure.

The brook on Brook Street had long since been cemented over. And as far back as she could remember, there had never been a maple tree on Maple Street. Two scrubby oaks with soot-covered leaves, but not a single damn maple. On this particular side of the tracks, forestry was a lost art.

Nor was Andy’s grocery where it had once been. But no matter. There were three bars on the street and all of them were busy. Prosperity and union wages had wrought changes, and it looked as if every millhand in town was boozing it up.

She chose the noisiest bar and pushed her way through the door. A hundred eyes struck her, and for a moment she began to feel a few doubts about her enterprise. It was a rough-looking crowd, rougher than she had expected. Or perhaps she had been away from factory areas so long that she had forgotten what the people were like.

“Well…” A voice sounded in her ear, a polite male voice. “It’s Miss Helm, isn’t it?”

She swung around. He was tall and thin and even in the dim light, faintly recognizable. “Why, Mr. Duncan, what are you doing in a place like this?”

He grinned. “Same as you, Frieda. And my name is Paul—over here the Duncan name doesn’t quite sound right. Nobody cares much about our hitching a ride on the Mayflower. How about a drink? I’ve got influence with the bartender.”

“Thanks, yes. Scotch, please. On the rocks.”

“Can do. Here, lean against the wall and wait. We’re fresh out of tables and chairs.”

Frieda nodded. And her opinion of Paul Duncan climbed. At the house, Louise Grover’s fiance had been somewhat shy. But now, here in this ginmill, he spoke with confidence. And he moved with a manly grace that was almost a swagger.

Minutes later, he was back. “Drink up,” he said. “Best booze in the joint. And let’s get back to our original subject—what are we doing here?”

Frieda drank. “You first, Paul. Is this a hangout of yours?”

Frankly, no. But I know some of these fellows though. They work for me, you might say. As a matter of fact, I just dropped in for a short one. I was over at the bowling alleys halfway down the block. The Enderbury Mills League was in full swing tonight, and I’m the scorekeeper, referee, chief cook and bottle-washer. The bowling league was my idea originally, and I kind of keep an eye on how it’s going. Good labor relations, I think they call it.”

“Oh. I see…”

“Uh-huh. But I don’t see. What brings you here?”

Frieda shrugged. “I was restless.”

“Restless?”

“That’s what I said.”

“That’s what I thought you said.” He eyed her warily. “And are you still restless?”

“Not now. I found you.”

“Hey now, what—”

“Paul, all of a sudden I’m uncomfortable here. Not restless, just uncomfortable. Too many staring eyes, if you know what I mean. I can’t tell if it’s you or me they’re staring at, but they’re sure as hell staring.”

He glanced around and then nodded. “You’re so right. I’m too well-known and you’re too beautiful. If we stay here we’re liable to brew up a nice fat scandal.”

“Then let’s not stay.” Frieda tilted the glass to her lips and drained it in a single swallow. “There. Now let’s get out of this firetrap.”

“Great. My car is just around the corner.”

They ducked out the door and got into the parked auto. Paul switched the ignition on and started the engine. “Okay, we’re safe. Where to now?”

“Don’t you know?

“I—uh…” He seemed at a loss for words.

“Paul, that was my first drink tonight. And I want more. Isn’t there someplace we can go?”

He sighed ponderously. “No, dammit. Not unless we want to start those tongues wagging. You know how small towns are.”

Frieda shrugged. “Of course. But I came out because I was restless, and I’ll be darned if I want to go back home again. Or back to that den of wolves, either. Come on now, isn’t there some place where a poor wandering woman can get loaded without creating a mess of juicy gossip? Don’t you have an apartment or something?”

“Ouch! Baby, we’d never hear the end of it if I took you to my house. I live with my parents, you know. And after all, I’m officially engaged to Louise Grover. How would it look?”

“Bad. Okay, I give up. I’m restless again. Drop me off at another bar and I’ll be out of your hair. Only keep my secret, please. Don’t tell anyone you saw me, huh?”

“Frieda, it’s my secret, too. I’m just as guilty as you are—not that there’s anything to feel guilty about.”

“Ha! I only wish there were.”

“Oh. You’ve got a point there. You know something? I’ve got a damn good mind to—” He cut himself off abruptly, shaking his head. “No—no, I guess not. Might be dangerous.”

“Dangerous?” Frieda perked up. “Sounds intriguing.”

Well, we might go to the factory. To my private office. I’ve got a full liquor cabinet there.”

“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go.”

“Frieda, I—I don’t know if we should. I’m not really the playboy type, you know. And there’s Louise to consider. I don’t feel—”

“Conscience, Paul? Forget it. You only live once. Come on, let’s be daring.” She laid a hand upon his thigh. “Let’s live it up—and to hell with worrying about the consequences. Anyway, who’s to know?”

He hesitated. And then, as her fingers dug into his leg, he came to a decision. “You’re right, baby. Okay, we’ll go. You’ll have to drop down low when we pass the front gate, though. There’s a watchman on duty.”

“Just tell me when.”

Paul made a U-turn and stepped on the gas. “Now,” he said. “The main gate is down the street a little.”

“Okay, I’ll make like a submarine. So long, pal.” Frieda slid off the seat and dropped to the floorboard. After a moment the car slowed to a halt and she could hear Paul talking to the watchman on duty. Something about going in for some night work.

Night work. Frieda giggled silently. Deliberately daring, she leaned her head against Paul’s knee. It quivered at the contact and she reached up to fumble with the fastener of his trousers. Above her, paralleling the sound of the running motor, the watchman was still rattling away happily, obviously pleased to have the boss’s company.

Paul’s muscles tightened.

The zipper worked and Frieda squirmed between the long legs. Her head bent and a fire raced through her crouched body as her lips touched him. Oh, such a lark! Right there, practically under the nose of the watchman.

And with Louise Grover’s man…

Above her the conversation ended. The car began rolling again, slowly, slowly, as if the driver was having difficulty keeping it under control.

“Frieda…”

She paid no attention.

The vehicle made a few gentle swaying turns, and she guessed they had reached the parking lot. But she was too busy to look. And the rhythmic tremors of Paul’s body were too fascinating to lose contact with now.

The car stopped and he flicked the switch off.

Frieda continued her stealthy pastime, delighting in the moaning noises that reached her ears. Skillfully she manipulated his flesh with her fingers and mouth. Until she recognized the sure signs of his approaching frenzy.

Abruptly she raised her head and crawled back up on the seat again, smiling at his discomfiture.

“No,” he groaned. “Why did you stop?”

She giggled aloud. “Previews of coming attractions, Paul. You promised me a drink, remember?”

“But—

“Impatient boy. Come on. I only had one drink. Can you imagine how I’ll act after three or four?”

“Yeah. Come on. Hurry…”

They went into the dark building, Frieda smirking at his eagerness. Yes, this would be a wonderful night. And a useful one, too. Because in that private office she would bind this man close to her. She knew how. Close enough so that she would never have to fear Louise Grover again.

This—tonight—would be their little secret. Hers and Paul’s. An ace in the hole, practically. She hoped the time would never come, but if it did—well, she wouldn’t hesitate to turn that hidden ace face up on the table.

“In here,” he muttered.

“Uh-huh…” Frieda warmed with anticipation. Yes—a happy night. In more ways than one. And it was certainly nice not to feel restless any more…

FRIEDA was fuming. After all this time, Cindy Grover was up to her old tricks again. Evidently the kid realized that the photographs were not as incriminating as she had thought. And now with her father out of town she was taking chances once more.

Lounging on Cindy’s bed, Frieda smoked cigarette after cigarette—her own brand this time. The palms of her hands itched with impatience; tonight she was going to wallop that kid’s bottom until she begged for mercy. Cindy was too smart for her own good, recognizing the uselessness of the pictures. It was only too obvious that she had figured out that Frieda would never show them.

An annoying development, dammit. Frieda cursed under her breath as her anger mounted. Of course she would not use the nude photos—she had never had any intention of doing so. Showing them to Earl Grover would have caused a family quarrel that in the end would have done no good whatsoever, at least from her point of view. But holding on to them to blackmail the girl into good behavior—as long as it had worked—had been a fine idea. Only now it wasn’t working… Frieda glanced at Cindy’s clock-radio. After one o’clock—and the little scamp still wasn’t home. The youngster had gone to bed around ten—what time she had sneaked out Frieda did not know. Apparently, with Frieda spending less time checking up on her, Cindy had thought she could escape and return unnoticed.

Well, she had another think coming… It was too bad it had to happen now, just when everything was going so smoothly. Earl was still away, but Frieda’s restlessness was no longer troubling her. Not with Louise’s boyfriend around to take care of it.

For three nights straight she had seen Paul Duncan. Only now she didn’t have to phone for taxicabs to take her across the town. No, all she had to do was snap her fingers and there was Paul zooming around to pick her up in his car. That one taste of wild pleasure under the nose of the watchman had turned the trick. Now he was hungry for more, hungry for the crazy thrills she gave him on those clandestine get-togethers.

Oh, he was very much in love with his precious Louise, of course, and that was fine with Frieda. As long as she had this hold over him—and it was a hold—she approved of his romance and forthcoming marriage. After all, Paul Duncan was nice and he certainly helped while away the dull hours, but she had bigger game in mind. Paul wasn’t really much more than an overgrown boy, and he was definitely no Earl Grover. Neither in bed nor in bank balance.

Still, Paul was fun and she almost regretted having turned him down tonight. Another mad fling stretched out on that broad executive desk of his would have been welcome; she was becoming quite fond of that polished wood surface against her bare back. But three nights in a row were enough for a while—there was no sense overdoing it. And by now the old watchman was growing suspicious at Paul’s sudden penchant for night work. One of these days he was likely to peep through the car window and get himself an eyeful. Blonde hair shines even in the dark.

Besides, she already had Paul Duncan fitted into the overall picture. Let the engaged couple marry; afterward Paul would keep Louise out of her way. Then when the big moment with Earl Grover came— after Isabel, of course—there would be no impediments. Louise would not go against the counsel of her own husband.

But that was still in the future, considering the fact that Isabel was very much alive. And for the present, well, there was Cindy to take care of.

The immediate present…

Right now, for that matter. Because there was that familiar sound again. The opening and closing front door. And the sneaky footsteps on the stairs. Oh yes, the little hellcat was home. And it was only right that she be given a warm welcome. A blistering hot welcome—right where it would do the most good. The kid had it coming to her.

“Well, Cindy, it’s about time.”

“Oh, it’s you again…”

“Uh-huh. Me. Who did you expect?”

“Not you, Frieda.” The girl’s tone was almost impertinent, unaccountably so. “I’m not afraid of you any more.”

“My, my, such big talk for such a little child.”

“I’m no child. Not any more. And I’m not the least bit afraid of those pictures, either.”

“Oh?”

“You can show them around any time you want to, Frieda. It’s okay with me. But maybe you’d better talk it over with Paul Duncan first, huh?”

Frieda’s heart plummeted. “Paul Duncan?”

“Don’t act so innocent. I know Paul’s car when I see it. And I’ve been seeing it a lot lately.”

“Okay, kid, I get the message.” Frieda shrugged. “Now what? Are you going to spread the word?”

“No. Not any more than you’re going to use those pictures. You know darn well you’d think twice before you used them, anyway. You wouldn’t want to hurt Mother and Dad that much—I’ll give you credit for that. Well, I don’t want to hurt Louise, and that s what telling her about you and Paul would do.”

“You’re right, Cindy. I never would have used them.” Frieda peered at the girl thoughtfully, trying to figure her out. The kid was cocky, and rightly so —her knowledge of the Paul Duncan affair was fresh ammunition in this running battle they were going through. But she was not rubbing it in, and Frieda was puzzled. Somehow, there was a piece of the jigsaw missing.

“Besides, I’m no squealer,” Cindy said.

“Uh-huh. Looks like a stalemate then. Fair enough —I don’t show the photos and you don’t tell about Paul.”

“Stalemate? Oh. No, Frieda, it’s war again. Just like before.”

“I—I don’t get it, kid. What do you mean?”

“Well, here I am.” Cindy’s tone was saucy. “Out after one o’clock. What do you plan to do about it?”

Realization struck. Of course. The missing piece of the puzzle. The kid was daring her. Provoking her. Was it possible that she was actually looking for a spanking?

Damn right it was. Like mother, like daughter. Little Cindy enjoyed being pushed around—that was it. Maybe she didn’t even know it herself, but that was the way it was. The kid was itching for a scrap— even with the result a foregone conclusion.

“Cindy…” Frieda spoke softly. “You know what I’m going to do about it. That hasn’t changed. I’m still bigger than you are. And any night you want to sneak out, just go ahead. But I’ll be waiting for you when you get home.”

“Oh yeah?”

Childish bravado. Bluster. Braggadocio. And it convinced Frieda that her guess had been right. The past spankings must have done something for the youngster’s sex urges.

“I won’t be talked to in that tone of voice, Cindy. Keep it up and I’m going whomp your backside— but good.”

“Oh yeah? You and what army?”

Frieda stood up and shed her robe. “There— that’ll give me more room for a good swing.”

Cindy’s eyes widened.

Frieda smiled, aware of the impression she must have been making. Her big naked body was overpowering—it seemed to fill the room. And the girl’s gaze was fixed upon her jutting breasts.

“See, Cindy? Like I said, I’m bigger than you are.” Frieda cupped her breasts, feeling the delicious glow spread through her flesh as the peaks hardened. “Bigger in every way. Come here, kid. Don’t you wish you had breasts like these?”

Cindy licked her lips nervously. And as if she had been motivated by some outside force, she approached slowly.

Crack! Frieda’s hand lashed out across her cheek. “Take your clothes off, Cindy!”

“Don’t—don’t hit me…”

“Then do as I say.” Again she slapped the girl. “And hurry up about it!”

Cindy sobbed. But she moved into action, and two minutes later she was nude. Her clothes were strewn over the floor.

“Pick them up,” Frieda said imperiously. “Pick up your clothes and put them away.”

“No. I won’t. That’s the maid’s job. She’ll do it—”

But Cindy could say no more. Frieda grabbed the dainty body and carried it to the bed. Over her lap. And her hand whacked down on that bare bottom furiously. As if it would never stop. The flesh turned beet-red, quivering and jiggling with every slap.

Until, abruptly, the child burst into tears.

The spanking came to a halt. “Now,” Frieda said fiercely. “Go pick up your clothes.”

Whimpering, Cindy obeyed. And the moment the last garment was hung away, Frieda reached out and hauled her close, smothering the tear-ridden face in her bosom.

The sobs faded…

Frieda breathed deeply. The warm cheeks against her breasts. The damp mouth, like a tiny rosebud. The smooth little body cradled against her own.

It was wrong…

She shouldn’t. Cindy was just a child. But her own body was so hot, so impatient, so eager. It was too soon, she knew—she was playing with fire.

But she couldn’t help herself…

Frieda fell backward on the bed. “Naughty baby,” she murmured, crooning into the delicate little ear. “Naughty, naughty. Tell Frieda how sorry you are, you naughty girl.”

“I—I’m sorry…” The words were faint.

“You should be, you naughty girl. But you’ve been punished enough.” Frieda’s hands stroked. “Enough for tonight…”

“You’re—you’re not going?”

“Do you want me to?”

“No. Yes. Frieda, I—I don’t know…”

“Hush, dear. Don’t think about it. No, I’m not going—not for a while. Now come—kiss me.”

Frieda quivered. The little mouth was delicious. And in the middle of the sweet embrace, she reached over and hit the switch on the lamp.

Darkness…

Then “Frieda!”

“Shhh… naughty girl. No, not like that.”

“Oh…”

“There. Isn’t this nice?”

“Yes… oh yes…”

“See? Frieda knows. Frieda knows all about naughty girls. All about… ah…”

WITH her hair newly done and her face freshly made-up, Isabel Grover was entertaining her husband. Back from his trip out of town, Earl was paying a call on his wife.

But it was so strained, Isabel realized—an exchange of courtesies as if they were two casual friends. Or a married couple tolerating each other merely for the sake of the children. “You’re looking well, Isabel.”

“Thank you, Earl. How did the trip go?”

“Quite well, thank you. And how are you feeling?”

And so it went. Small talk. Meaningless. With both of them so obviously uncomfortable.

Isabel silently bemoaned the fate that had made them like this. It was her fault, of course—her illness had come between them to sever their union as surely as a knife cuts through a brick of soft cheese. Once they had lived in gaiety and laughter; once they had looked forward to each night as a time for sweet endearments and hot embraces; once they had truly been man and wife.

Alas, no longer…

Yet she could not blame Earl. A woman with a heart about to give out was no woman at all—at least not for a strong and healthy man whose sex drives still flourished. True, she would have welcomed his embrace; indeed, there had been times when she tried to cajole him into taking her into his arms. After, all, what good was life without love? She would have gladly taken the chance of premature death if only to keep their marriage a happy thing.

But not Earl. It was always between them—her sickness. And she knew that it could never be otherwise. Earl Grover was married to a cardiogram, not a woman. And being a man, he could not know how she felt about it.

But now the small talk was over and so was the fidgeting. Earl was getting up from his seat. Kissing her lightly.

“Sleep well, Isabel.”

“Good-night, Earl.”

Oh, she had once loved this man of hers. But now she wasn’t woman enough to have a man. She was a hothouse plant, a fragile flower, and in his eyes she would shrivel up and die if he so much as touched her frail body. He just didn’t understand.

But Frieda did…

Thank heavens for Frieda! Bless this wonderful woman who had come into the house to make life worth living again. Her glamourous amazon. Her goddess.

“Yes, Frieda understood…

And now, with Earl gone back to his own suite of rooms, Isabel waited with burgeoning anticipation for the hour to come. The sweet hour of rapture. The hot moment of ecstasy that the blonde giantess knew so well how to bestow.

Frieda was the beginning and the end. Come to me, my darling. Let me love you. Only hurry… hurry…

Isabel moaned as the thought of it warmed her blood, shooting tentacles of lustful heat into the hidden recesses of her flesh. Yes, Frieda knew that death was preferable to a loveless existence. Frieda was willing to take the chance that Earl was not. And Isabel prayed fervently that when her last heartbeat came she would die gloriously and in the throes of passion.

Loving Frieda…

Earl was no longer important. Even her children, much as she cared for them, did not seem to matter. There was only Frieda, the center of her life. There was only the unparalleled pleasure that she felt in submitting to her beloved goddess. Her mind and her body, her soul and her flesh—they belonged to Frieda. To cherish or to trample upon. To do with as she saw fit.

Oh, there were frightful moments, of course, moments when she wondered if Frieda was killing her. Or worse, forcing her to kill herself. But the moments always passed, and she discarded the memory of them as easily as she might dispose of a crumpled tissue. In the terror of Frieda’s dominance was pure joy. And in her own fear was utter ecstasy.

Frieda. Was there ever such a woman?

And she would be here soon. Any minute now. Isabel breathed deeply, tense with expectation. She shucked out of her bed-gown and tossed it aside. Naked, she would greet her goddess. Naked and unashamed, she would perform the rite of worship and prostrate herself at the feet of her—

“Is he gone?”

Isabel’s heart leaped. She was here. “Yes, darling, he’s gone. And oh, I’ve been wishing for you to come. All the time he was here I could think only of you. Nothing else.”

“Uh-huh.” Frieda seemed abrupt, almost preoccupied. “About ready to go to sleep now?”

“Ready for you, my darling…”

“Yeah. Funny thing—somehow, I’m not in the mood.”

Isabel shuddered. This was the greatest fear of all. Was she to be denied the only thing she lived for?

Frieda smiled slowly. “Don’t look so sad, sweetie. Even if I’m not in the mood, I can still make you happy.”

The fear vanished in a flood of relief. “Darling… shall I undress you? Do you want me to—”

“Um, no, I think not. I’ll do it. I’m tired, Isabel— let’s not make a long drawn-out production of it.”

“Yes, dear. Whatever you say.”

Quickly, nonchalantly, almost as if it were some kind of worrisome chore, Frieda took her clothes off. She lay down on the bed, her tawny flesh gleaming in the lamplight, golden hair tumbled loose, splaying itself like a silken fan about her head.

Isabel sat and waited, afire with yearning—waited while the big body posed itself indolently. Her tongue slipped out to dampen her dry lips. Those breasts, those huge breasts—in a moment she would be lost in her adoration of them.

In exaggerated slowness, Frieda placed her hands behind her head. “Come,” she murmured. “Love me…

Her eyes glittered.

Isabel sighed. The moment was now. And she fell forward to sink her face into those mounds of flesh. Ardent and open-mouthed, she caressed the smooth skin, tonguing the peaks into pink spires of loveliness.

Forever, she thought, I want to remain here forever…

But it was not to be. Sounds reached her ears, sharp sound that penetrated her consciousness with brusque immediacy. Frieda was telling her what to do. Where to move.

So soon?

Yes. Frieda was telling her. So soon. Too soon. And even as her conditioned body shifted to respond to the command, she felt cheated, somehow. Those great, wonderful breasts—why had Frieda sent her away from them? Frieda was not in the mood, true, and it would not be a long drawn-out affair, she had said. But was she in that much of a rush?

But Isabel could deny her goddess nothing. Her mouth glided downward in obedience, seeking and finding the hot, precious flesh toward which it had been directed. And soon, spurred by her own needful urgency, she lost all semblance of rational thought and succumbed to the raging holocaust within her blood…

Frieda stirred. “Go to sleep,” she murmured.

Eyes closed, Isabel heard her rise and tiptoe away. She lay there until the sounds faded. Sleep? No, she could not sleep. Her beloved was gone—and the treasured time they had spent together was over. Too soon—all too soon…

Why?

Isabel tossed and turned fitfully. An hour passed, perhaps two, she did not know. But sleep did not come.

Cheated. Yes, that was it—she felt cheated. The love-making that usually lasted for hours had taken only minutes. She would go to Frieda and tell her so. Beg her to come back. Kneel at her beautiful feet and plead with her. And Frieda would come. Of course she would. Frieda loved her.

Isabel got out of bed and wrapped a gown around her nervous body. The sitting room was empty—it was true then—Frieda had been tired enough to go right to sleep in her own little room. And it was so seldom that she used that room, too.

She peeped in. Strange—the bed was empty. Had Frieda gone downstairs, perhaps? Or to check on Cindy? Yes, that was it—more than likely she had gone to see if the child was tucked in for the night. Frieda was so conscientious.

Isabel padded out into the main hallway toward Cindy’s room. After all, she was the girl’s mother— shouldn’t she take a little glance, too? Besides, when she saw Frieda, maybe she could persuade her to— Wait! What was that? The noise. Voices. From Earl’s suite! Isabel turned sideways and put one ear to her husband’s door. For a long moment she stood there. Rigid. Frozen. And when at last she turned away —trembling, ashen-faced—and stumbled back to her own bed, she knew why it was that Frieda had been in such a hurry to leave her.

FRIEDA couldn’t figure it out. All through the day Isabel had been sullen, almost peevish. The change in her was so abrupt that it was shocking. From a humble acolyte grateful for any attention she had switched suddenly—in midstream, as it were—to become a caustic old shrew.

Was it mutiny of some sort?

Frieda pondered the issue. Last night, of course, she had been pretty mean to Isabel, cutting down the time of their love-making to the bare minimum. But it couldn’t have been helped, not with Earl pacing the floor of his suite impatiently on the first evening of his return from the business trip. At this stage of the game, pleasing the husband was far more important—with an eye to the future—than satisfying the wife. And certainly more appealing. Earl’s potent masculine embraces thrilled her to the core, while the sticky-sweet syrupy caresses of Isabel were saccharine to the point of being downright cloying. Was it any wonder that she had disposed of the woman hastily in order to get to the man?

But even the brevity of their session did not completely account for Isabel’s strange reversal. Not after all they had been through together. Not after so many nights of debauchery, nights filled with the woman’s declarations of burning passion. It just didn’t seem reasonable, this startling switch.

No, something else was bothering Isabel, something momentous. And with her customary boldness, Frieda determined to make a direct attack and find out what it was.

The opportunity presented itself at Isabel’s bedtime. Frieda, just out of the tub, was seated at the dressing table of the big boudoir perfuming her nude body. Her elbow struck a round powder box, knocking it to the floor. Without spilling, it rolled upon its circular edge across the carpet, coming to a stop near the bed.

“Damn!” she muttered. “Pick it up, will you?”

“No. I’m not your servant.” Isabel’s tone was defiant. She remained motionless, leaning against her propped-up pillows. “Pick it up yourself.”

Frieda tensed with rage. She leaped to her feet; three strides carried her to the bed and she seized the woman’s hair and glared down at her malevolently. “Listen, Isabel, I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but I don’t like it.”

The woman quailed. And a momentary flicker of timidity passed over her pallid features. “Frieda… please…”

Frieda released her grip. The old spark was still there, she realized—-underneath that exterior Isabel was still as meek as ever. And little properly applied pressure would soon bring her secret, whatever it was, out in the open.

“All right, Isabel, let’s have it. No, not the powder box—I don’t give a damn about that. You, I mean. Ever since last night you’ve been an absolute bitch. What’s it all about?”

Isabel bit her bloodless lips nervously. “You—you don’t know? You can’t guess?”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t ask. Come on, spit it out. What’s been eating you all day long?”

“Last night…”

“Uh-huh. What about last night?”

“I—I got up. After you left me. I couldn’t sleep, so I went looking for you.”

Frieda stifled a gasp. “So? What about it?”

“I—I—” The woman shook her head, seemingly unable to get the words out. “Frieda, I found you.”

“Oh…”

“You were with Earl. I listened. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t help it. I heard you with him.”

Frieda felt a twinge of panic. All was discovered and now there would be hell to pay. And yet, having spoken her piece, Isabel seemed strangely dispirited. As if—now that her woes were known—she was hoping that there might be some way of patching it up. An odd attitude for a deceived wife.

Slowly, Frieda went back to the dressing table and sat down. Forcing herself into deliberate, nonchalant movements, she continued perfuming herself. In the mirror she could see the woman watching her, the pale face contorted, apparently on the verge of tears—lips twitching, eyes misting.

Then, in a small voice, “Frieda?”

She did not reply. In her fingers, the glass rod of the perfume bottle fluttered against her heaving breasts. Glided down to dab the smooth-fleshed in-sides of her thighs.

Again, “Frieda?”

She swung around slightly, offering Isabel a better view of what she was doing with the perfume stopper, grazing herself intimately with its coolly moist fragrance. The motion of the little glass rod was almost lascivious—as if it was purposely putting on a show for those staring eyes.

And they were staring. Staring and taking on that familiar glaze of humility that Frieda had seen so often. A thrill of triumph shot through her. She had conquered. Isabel was too far gone to fight her. Isabel was too much in her power to resent even the-loss of her own husband.

“Frieda, won’t you even talk to me?”

“Yes, I’ll talk to you.” Her tone was curt. Demanding. “I’ll have plenty to say. But not until after you’ve done what I told you to do.”

Isabel blinked, evidently missing the significance of the remark. Then, as its meaning struck, her face cleared and she scrambled from the bed. Quickly, almost falling over her own feet in her eagerness, she picked up the powder box and carried it to Frieda. And like a slave making an offering, she sank to her knees and handed it to her. “Is—is this what you want?”

“Of course. Just set it down. And don’t get up. Stay there and listen to me. I’ve got something to say now. Understand?”

With Isabel’s face scant inches away from her naked body, Frieda started to talk. “All right, so you know about Earl and me. Don’t blame him—blame me if you want to. Or just blame chemistry. It had to happen. A man and a woman in the same house— it was in the cards, Isabel, and nothing could have stopped it. The question is—what are you going to do about it?”

“I—I don’t know…”

“Good. Because 7 do. You’re going to do nothing. Exactly nothing. You’re not to mention it to Earl— not ever. Isabel, you and I have come to mean a lot to each other, but we both know that it’s only temporary. You’re ill, my dear—have you ever given a thought to what’s going to happen to your family after you’re gone? To Earl and to poor little Cindy? The child, especially—she’s going to need someone after her mother is gone. Someone like me.”

The words hung in the air. Blunt and audacious, they seemed to echo and re-echo over and over again.

“Someone like me,” Frieda repeated softly. “Isabel, darling, do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?”

“I—I think I do…”

“Then I’m glad you know about last night. Because now I can speak freely to you. I’m your nurse. I work here. But this is more than just a job to me. I feel close to you—and close to your family, too. Oh, not Louise, of course—I hardly know her. But she’s old enough to take care of herself and besides, she’ll be getting married one of these days. Isabel, I want Cindy and I want Earl. Some day, I’d like to be the wife and mother in this house. And most of all, I want your approval.”

“My—my approval?”

“Yes. If I can’t have it, I’ll leave. I think too much of you to hurt you. If you don’t agree that what I feel is right, then I don’t want to stay here any longer. Just say the word, Isabel, and I’ll pack up and get out tonight. Right now.”

“No… Frieda… no…”

And then it came—just as she had known it would. A flood of tears. Frieda breathed deeply as the woman crumpled against her. The muscles in her thighs tensed and then yielded as the damp cheeks fell upon them, straining in an effort to merge with her flesh.

“Well, Isabel?”

“Oh Frieda… Frieda, don’t go. Don’t ever leave me. If you walk out now, I’ll die.”

“And Earl? That’s all right, too?”

“Yes… whatever you want. But don’t leave me —promise you won’t even think about it again.”

“Uh-huh. I promise, Isabel.” Frieda reached down and stroked the dark hair. “No more tears now.” She placed the perfume stopper back in the flacon.

“Frieda… let me…”

“Hmm? Oh. Yes, my darling. Of course…” Languidly, she let her body relax, leaning back upon the bench slightly. Her glance swung to the mirror, and the reflected scene was a tableau of sheer delight. Her big body, with those jutting breasts that she was so proud of. How they were moving now, rising and falling with each deeply drawn breath. And the dark head, bent, contrasting with the golden skin of her thighs. Lovely… so lovely…

Then the warm moisture against her skin. Tears? No, it couldn’t be tears. Isabel was no longer crying.

THE trouble with Paul Duncan was that he had a conscience. What the hell, everybody in the world had a conscience, he reasoned, but why did his have to bother him so much?

Somehow, he kept putting two and two together and just couldn’t manage to make it add up right. And with his mathematically precise turn of mind, it was becoming extremely painful. Agonizingly so, to say the least. Numbers worked smoothly until they got mixed up with human beings—then all of a sudden they stopped behaving like nice round integers and became ridiculous figures with ragged-edged fractions tagging after them. Nothing fit right; divisors went into dividends umpty-ump times and always left that lousy little remainder hanging around afterward.

Okay, so every pot had its lid. And every man had his woman—one woman. He chose her—or she chose him—and they settled down to spawn replicas of themselves. And, of course, according to the propaganda, to live happily ever after.

That was the way it was. That was the way it always had been. That was the way it always would be. That was the way he had always figured it to be.

Until Frieda…

Now two and two didn’t add up to the same thing twice in a row. No number equaled another number, not even itself. Figures just laughed at his puny efforts to organize them and spun around and around in front of his bleary eyes and taunted him—“Never mind us, Duncan, what the hell are you going to do about them?”

Yeah…

Well, what was he going to do? Louise Grover and Frieda Helm. Could a man love one woman and lust for another?

Damn right he could.

Only it would be simpler if he didn’t have a conscience…

Of course, the numbers were important, too. He had promised to have the report ready for Earl to look at the moment he got back from Chicago. Lucky Earl. New York one week. Then Buffalo. And now only a few weeks later, Chicago. Yeah, the boss always had it good—he didn’t have to sit chained to his desk and try to paste figures together to make them come out right.

Come on, boy, stop dawdling and get your mind on it. Fret about your conscience on your own time right now you belong to dear old Enderbury Mills…

Oh sure. Only how the hell could he do it? How could he buckle down and get his mind on his work when it was being ripped right down the middle?

Louise was coming in for the long weekend. Louise, his fiancee, the girl he loved. He should have been eager as a jackrabbit to spend every available minute with her. Only he wasn’t, dammit—much as he loved her, he wasn’t looking forward to her arrival.

Because he had a date with Frieda…

Funny thing, though—after those three wild nights together, Frieda had held him off. Which was okay, in a way—with Earl Grover around, using the office for hanky-panky might have been too dangerous. But now that Earl was out of town again, well, one phone call—that was all it had taken. Maybe Frieda was operating on the boss’s timetable in some way, too.

But this morning’s wire from Louise had caught him by surprise. He hadn’t expected her; the last time they had talked about it she was going to stay at school until the end of the semester. And now, after all that drought, he had two dates instead of one.

Sure, the solution was a snap. Just pick up the phone and tell Frieda to lay low. She would understand. The big, bosomy blonde was a mighty understanding gal.

Only he couldn’t do it. Every time he reached for the phone he could see her. Right here on his desk. With her skirt yanked up high and those long legs in filmy nylons pointing right at him. Beckoning him close, while those black garters chased up those bronze thighs to lose themselves in the mysterious shadows above. And then later—the stockings gone now and everything else too—and that crazy sliding, sticking noise her bare back was making against the polished surface of the desk. Such a big desk, too, and yet she sure as hell covered its entire top.

Or in the car—when he was talking to Tim the watchman. Only he couldn’t really see her then, he could only—

Damn!

If he kept on like this, his skull would split. Yeah—and maybe that would be all right, too. Half a skull for Louise and half for Frieda. But neither one of them would be satisfied. And the boss’s figures would never be ready on time. But at least a split skull couldn’t house a conscience, and he wouldn’t have to worry about how to act with Louise when his mind—hah! his mind?—was on that big blonde bitch who made him feel—

The intercom buzzed and he flicked the switch. “Yeah?”

“Mr. Duncan—phone call on three. Mrs. Engstrom.”

He turned the box off and grabbed the indicated telephone. Mrs. Engstrom. Speak of the devil. It was the code name Frieda used to get through his snoopy secretaries.

“Hello, Mr. Duncan. How are you?”

“Fine, thank you, Mrs. Engstrom.” Strictly cagy. Maybe the secretary wasn’t listening, but who could tell? Secretarial spread referred to gossip as well as fannies.

“Mr. Duncan, I’m afraid our plans will have to be changed. I’ve been called away for a while. You understand, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course. But—”

“As a matter of fact, Mr. Duncan, I don’t believe you’ll be hearing from me again. Not for a long, long time. And by then I believe you’ll have a grasp of all the pertinent details.”

“Hey, wait. Aren’t you going to tell me—”

“Sorry, I have to hang up now. Good-by.”

The final click sounded in his ear and he set the telephone down slowly. Mrs. Engstrom sounded screwy. It wasn’t like Frieda to make a date and then break it on such short notice. And that business about being called away—was it the McCoy or was it just something to let him know the score without benefit of secretarial eavesdropping.

Well, no matter. Now, at least, he had only one date for tonight and it was a legitimate one. Small consolation, considering the fact that Frieda had just brushed him off—and permanently, from the way it sounded. A long, long time. Probably forever.

Okay, the hell with Mrs. Engstrom. He had Louise and he was going to marry her. And that was fine with him—the mad fling with Frieda Helm was finished. Life was smooth again.

Except for that damn conscience of his…

And suddenly he knew what he would have to do. If he didn’t, it would trouble him for the rest of his days. Tonight, then—tonight he would get it over with, and fast. He would tell Louise about his affair with Frieda. And beg her forgiveness.

Whew! Wasn’t it amazing how a clear conscience could make a man feel human again? Now the numbers were falling into place with oil-slick ease and the boss would have his report ready for him the minute he returned from out of town.

Tonight he would talk to Louise. Spill his guts to the girl he really loved. Only it wouldn’t be easy.

As it turned out, it wasn’t easy…

It was damned tough. He took Louise to dinner and it was hours before he found the courage to start. But at last, parked in his car in front of the Grover house, he blurted it out.

Her reaction was pretty weird at first. “Frieda Helm? Mother’s nurse? You and Frieda—together?” Almost as if she didn’t believe what he was trying to tell her.

But she calmed down after a while and absorbed the story. That was one thing about Louise—she was always a damn level-headed kid. The kind of woman any guy would be glad to hitch up with. And it was a little odd, but he got the feeling that she wasn’t really bitter toward him, but toward Frieda.

“Louise, honey, please don’t make a fuss over it in front of your family. Don’t fight with Frieda.”

“I won’t, Paul. Anyway, right now I couldn’t— Frieda isn’t even here. She’s gone out of town somewhere.”

Paul shrugged. So Mrs. Engstrom hadn’t been kidding. “Where did she go?”

“How should I know? And what’s more, Paul Duncan, why should you want to know? That’s all finished, do you hear me? All done—do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Good. Now kiss me.”

“Honey… darling…”

“No, you lovable rat, really kiss me. Do I have to show you how? Hold me tight—I won’t break. I’m a woman, Paul—what do I have to do to prove it to you?”

He kissed her.

She moaned.

Then, “Louise!”

“Uh-huh. That’s better. Much better. Maybe now you’ll realize that I’m just, as much a woman as that Scandinavian slob with the bleach-blonde hair.”

“I—I don’t think it’s bleached.”

“Don’t tell me. If I say it’s bleached, it’s bleached. And don’t you ever dare get close enough to her to investigate. You’ve had all of that you’re going to get.

“Yes, dear.”

“Because you’re mine now, Paul.”

“All yours, darling.”

“Well, aren’t you going to do something about it?”

“Huh?”

“The hell with waiting, Paul. The hell with sitting around and letting some blonde slut give my man what he needs. The hell with everything but you and me. Understand?”

“Yes, dear.

“Uh-huh. Then do it now!

“Baby… baby doll… Louise…”

“Wait. Your hand. Uh-huh—like that.”

“Oh…”

“Help me. Oooh, yes. There. Isn’t that nice?” She squirmed impetuously. “Mmm, maybe we should have done this sooner.”

Paul grinned. Oh, she was a lulu, this wonderful woman of his. Absolutely terrific. And it was sure as hell great to have an untroubled conscience again.

NAKED. Asleep. Sleek flesh glowing in the shadow-dappled sunlight filtering through the window blinds. Silky strands of gold flowing from her head in softly disheveled ripples. Glistening fingernails and toenails—painted pink to match the pretty peaks of huge breasts, curved, swollen. Magnificent.

Frieda slept…

Far down below, the traffic on the busy Chicago street sent its noise up to wake her. Gently. As if it knew it was waking a queen. An empress. A goddess.

Slowly she glided into dreamy languor, half-asleep, half-awake. And all of her thrilling with delight at the conscious knowledge of where she was. And with whom.

Chicago. With Earl Grover…

Oh, what a night it had been! And what a hectic day, hearing from him so suddenly and canceling her date with Paul Duncan to fly out here. To the big, busy, sprawling city so far away from the prying eyes of Enderbury. To the place where they could create a little world of their own, even if only for a short time. To meet and eat and drink and kiss as lovers without fear.

And to be entertained. Ah yes, entertained. Earl Grover was no piker when it came to making the rounds of the nightspots. The food and the wine and the beautiful chorus girls dancing semi-nude in orgiastic frenzy. The handholding beneath the table, impatient and yet procrastinating just a tiny bit longer, postponing the inevitable rapture to make it that much sweeter.

Lovers without fear…

But that was last night. And now in the sunstreaks and shadows there were other things to be taken into consideration. Things like ailing wives in small factory towns. Things like bank accounts—their possession and their lack of possession.

Things like social status…

Last night had been all for pleasure. For the joy of being with each other and living and loving. But now it was time to get down to business. Time to put the pressure on. To force Earl Grover into declaring his hand.

Oh, he was bound to her now—irretrievably. She knew his strengths and his weaknesses and she knew what to do about them. Never again would he want to be without the particular brand of love-making that only she could give him. Earl was hers.

But the words—the all-important words—had yet to be said. After that the path would be clear. Any obstacles—no, the obstacle—would soon be removed. But the words had to be spoken.

She leaned over and stroked him.

“Hmm?” He came awake slowly, lingeringly… until recognition found its way. “Frieda… dearest…”

“Good-morning, lover. Or is it good-afternoon?”

“Who cares? Just so long as it’s good.”

She giggled. “It was good last night, wasn’t it?”

“Marvelous.” He tugged her close, cradling her gold-thatched head in the crook of his arm. “And it’s just as good now. Or even better.”

“No, Earl.”

“No?”

“I’m worried. I’ve been awake for a while thinking about it. About us. It’s wrong.”

“Wrong, Frieda? Never…”

“Yes. Oh, it’s not just that you’re a married man. I’m no kid. I knew what I was getting into when it all started. But I never dreamed it would be like this.”

Her voice fell to a faraway whisper. “Can’t you see, my darling? I’ve fallen in love with you.”

“And you think that’s wrong?”

“It is, it is. Terribly wrong. What kind of life can I have? Must I always sneak away from the world just to be with you? As if we were criminals? Thieves in the night?”

“Frieda, what are you saying?”

“Only this, Earl. I love you, but I can’t go on this way. It was different in the beginning; then we were only a man and a woman attracted to each other. It was a lark and I was sure it wouldn’t last very long. But soon it wasn’t a lark at all, and after last night, well, it could never be.”

“Oh…”

“So that’s why I have to tell you, my dearest. This is our last day together. Let’s make the most of it.”

“Frieda, no. Don’t ever say it.”

“But I must, I must. When I go back to Enderbury I’m going to give notice. I’ve got to get away, lover, far away. I’ve got to try to forget you.”

“Please, darling. I don’t want you to—”

“Earl, I’ve made up my mind. We’re from two different worlds, you and I. I work for you—I’m your employee. And the thought of spending the rest of my life being a back-street wife is more than I can take. Even coming out here and registering under a false name was painful to me.”

“I know, honey. But we have to be discreet.”

“Of course we do. And that’s just it.” She rolled away from him and sat up, conscious of his eyes glued to the sensuous swaying of her breasts. “Earl, I love you. But as long as we go on like this, hiding, I’ll feel shame. And some day I know you’ll be ashamed of me as I am of myself.”

“Never!”

“Never say never, dearest.” Frieda raised her arms, jutting her bosom out farther. Watching his concerned features from the corner of her eye. “Do you love me, Earl?”

“Yes. I love you. You know I do.”

“I’m glad. Because now it will be as hard for you as it will be for me. I won’t be a back-street wife.”

“Frieda…” He spoke slowly. “Even if it’s only for a little while?”

“A little while? What do you mean?”

“A back-street wife. Frieda, don’t leave me. Stay with me—stay with me forever. You know how sick Isabel is…”

“Earl, I don’t understand.” But she did understand, and all her maneuvering was successful. He was about to say the words, the words she had waited so long to hear.

“I—I want to marry you, darling. As soon as it’s possible, I want you to become my wife. I can’t ask Isabel for a divorce, you know that. But she hasn’t long to live.”

“Oh, dearest… Earl…”

“Will you wait for me?”

“Wait? Of course I’ll wait. As long as I know it’s for real and not just a passing fling that might end at any moment. Yes, my own dear lover, I’ll marry you.” Her voice was throaty, muting her triumph. And with a sinuous little motion, she slipped back into his embrace.

His free hand fondled her breasts. “Then—then this isn’t our last day together?”

“No, darling.”

“But it was a nice idea. Let’s spend it as if it were. Our last day, I mean. Let’s not get out of bed.”

“Oooh… so greedy…”

“Uh-huh.”

“Shall I—do you want me to…”

“Hmm?”

She giggled. “Like last night?”

His body quivered. “Yes… oh yes. Just like last night. You were so wonderful. Like that very first time.”

“Say please?”

“Please. Pretty please—with sugar on it.”

Oh yes, she knew what he wanted all right. Just like last night. His weakness was her strength. And she moved up over his supine form, dangling her breasts to touch him.

His mouth opened. “Mmm, yes, darling…” His lips were a circlet of fire upon her flesh.

“My beautiful breasts,” she murmured. “Love them…”

He spoke volumes—soundlessly. And gasped as she moved back and forth over him, playing no favorites. Alternating the taut crests of her desire, one after the other. Until it became time to glide away. Down his neck and across his chest. Lightly, lightly, touching him ever so lightly with the flesh that he loved.

And then less lightly…

He moaned.

And then not lightly at all, because she was where he wanted her to be, caressing him, holding him, molding him, enfolding the intense masculinity of him with the yielding and yet tenacious flesh of her own body.

“My breasts, lover. Don’t you love them?”

“Ah…”

But he could only groan, trapped in the agony of ecstasy she was forcing upon him. And she didn’t mind at all—because words were no longer necessary. Not these words.

And as for the others—ah, but he had already said them—she had certainly seen to that. Dear sweet Earl, waking up in a Chicago hotel room arid not knowing it was going to be the most important day in his entire life. The day of his marriage proposal.

The words that made all the difference…

His body trembled.

Willingly, she gave him his pleasure. To the utmost. He deserved it—dear boy. He had given her what she wanted. The words. The promise. Now all that remained was to get rid of that other thing.

The obstacle…

I’m a bitch, she thought, a wicked bitch to be doing this and thinking of that. To be here with her husband-to-be and making plans for his wife-that-was.

No. Not a bitch. Not wicked. Because she would be a good wife to Earl. A good mother to Cindy. Oh, maybe she had started out wrong with the kid, getting intimate with her like that. But she would soon straighten that out; once she and Earl were properly married she would make Cindy toe the mark.

She owed it to Isabel…

All right then, as soon as she became Earl’s wife she would turn over a new leaf. Be a good woman. A good mother. Not wicked. Not a bitch. But right now maybe it would be better not to change.

Damn right it would be better! Hell, was she losing her mind? Going soft? Considering the task that had yet to be done, she needed all the bitchiness she could lay her hands on. How else would she have the guts to do away with that damned obstacle?

Oh, she would have to move slowly, of course, let her make no mistake about that. Slowly enough so that no suspicion should fall on her. But it wouldn’t be too difficult, now that she had made up her mind to go ahead with it. After all, a woman with a weak heart—death could come at any time. And who would recognize it if that death was hastened a little by certain strenuous tasks—joyful but exhausting— imposed by a goddess upon her slave.

LOUISE GROVER stood under the shower, letting the hot water cascade down upon her. Thoroughly soaked, she stepped back out of range of the fierce droplets and put her mind to the job of soaping her skin. Each peak and curve came in for its full share of attention, and at last, lathered from head to toe, she moved back to let the steaming waterfall wash the soap away.

She giggled…

The soap was gone and she was clean. But there were marks on her body that weren’t going to be scrubbed and rinsed away so easily. Happy marks. Marks that she wouldn’t trade for all the tea in Communist China.

Marks of love… Oh, how stupid it had been to wait so long. To deny Paul what he should have had from her and thus throw him into the arms of that horrible blonde creature.

But it was over now. And the marks were her witness. Paul’s hands. His teeth. Wonderful marks that brought back a hot flood of reminiscences.

Not this one, dammit! The black-and-blue bruise didn’t come from Paul Duncan, not directly, at least. It was from the steering wheel. Oh well, it was worth it. And anyway, they wouldn’t have to go through the front-seat bit again. Oh no.

Next time it would be on a bed. With the roar of Niagara Falls outside to cheer their honeymooning hearts. Because they were going to get married, and the sooner the better. Imagine that big blonde hussy trying to steal her man!

Louise cut the shower off and stepped out, reaching for the fleecy towel that hung on the rack. Suddenly, in the vacuum of silence left by the turned-off water, a strange noise struck her ears.— Someone crying?

Yes. In Cindy’s room. Hurriedly, Louise patted herself dry and slipped into a robe. She found Cindy on her bed. Alone. And very definitely in tears.

“Kid, what’s the matter?”

Cindy glanced up. “Go away. I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to talk to anybody.”

Louise frowned. The poor kid was in a state, all right—practically bordering on hysteria. Something to do with school maybe? Had she flunked an exam or something like that? Knowing Cindy, anything was possible—the little scatterbrain was always getting herself into some scrape or other.

Still, she seldom cried about it…

Louise sat down on the bed and stroked the weeping girl’s shoulder soothingly. “Baby, what is it? You can tell me? If it’s something bad, I’ll stand by you. You know that.”

The flow of tears increased. Louise was shocked by the look of devastation on the pitiful face. No, it couldn’t be anything as simple as a school failure. It had to be serious—she had never seen the kid carry on like this.

But it had to be stopped. Louise lost her gentleness. Roughly, she caught the shaking shoulders in a firm grip. “Come now, that’s enough. Whatever it is, crying your heart out isn’t going to help. So cut it out and calm down. Come on, youngster—this is your big sister talking to you.”

The sobs diminished…

“That’s the girl,” Louise said. “All over now. Now what’s it all about? Are you in some kind of jam?”

“I—I—” But Cindy could not talk. She got up from the bed and went into the bathroom to wash her face.

Strange, Louise thought. The two of them had always been close to each other, close enough to share their problems despite their difference in age. Of course, her going away to college had separated them somewhat—but never like this. Never to the point where communication was cut off.

Cindy returned, her eyes red and puffy.

“Kid,” Louise said, “you’ve had your cry. Now let’s put our heads together and figure this thing out. Come on, honey, you’d better tell your big sis all about it.”

I—I can t…

Horror flashed across Louise’s mind. Had the little one gone and gotten herself pregnant? It seemed highly improbable—but certainly not impossible. Cindy was developing into a woman, a very beautiful woman.

“Baby, I’ve got to ask it. Are you in trouble?” The words were hard to say. “I mean, uh—well, are you pregnant?”

There. It was out. But she knew immediately from the expression on Cindy’s face that her guess had been wrong. And she felt almost guilty at the flood of relief which overwhelmed her. So stupid, this code of morals that they were forced to five by, especially in a town like Enderbury. A few minutes ago she was chastizing herself for not having sacrificed her precious virginity sooner. For having tossed her man into the arms of that blonde bitch. And now with her kid sister all upset by some hidden—

Louise gasped. Frieda! Frieda and Paul! Was that why Cindy was in such a state? Could the youngster have seen them together? It would have upset her, all right. And it was the one secret that she wouldn’t be able to come right out and tell. For fear of the pain she would cause her sister.

“Okay, Cindy, so you’re not pregnant. Frankly, I didn’t think you were.” Louise smiled. “Although I may be, one of these days. How would you like to be an aunt?”

“Huh?”

“You hear me. Paul and I are going to be married very soon. Much sooner than we originally planned.”

“Oh. I’m glad.”

Louise nodded. Perhaps she was on the right track. “And by the way, honey…” She spoke casually, hoping to disguise the blockbuster she was flipping out. “I happen to know a little something about Paul and Frieda. Paul mentioned that they had a few short dates while I was away. So if that’s what you’re worried about—”

“Louise. Oh Louise…” It started again. The dam broke; tears flowed and Cindy crumpled on the bed almost as if the casually thrown words had been a shaft that had struck a gusher.

Yes, she was definitely on the right track. But it wasn’t the end, Louise realized—she knew her sister well enough to classify the symptoms. There was more on that harried mind. And she was sure now that it had to do with Frieda Helm. But what could it be?

She found out. It took some ten minutes of probing, of shooting little pointed questions through that veil of tears. Of wheedling. Cajoling. Reasoning. Until at last—near hysteria—little Cindy blurted out her confession.

Louise listened, repressing her shudders. All those psych courses were of some use, at least—she mustn’t let the poor child know how utterly horrified she was. Now was the time to remain calm, or to try to remain calm, anyway.

But it wasn’t easy. Because that one thought kept pounding upon her brain, chewing into it with the force of a jackhammer ripping up a cement pavement. Frieda and Cindy. The filthy bitch was trying to make a Lesbian out of the poor kid…

But after a while, with the aid of all she could remember of professors and textbooks, Louise got the girl quieted down. Totally exhausted, Cindy dropped off to sleep. And she left the room, Louise was fairly certain that there would be no permanent scars left on that impressionable young mind.

But it wasn’t over, not by a long shot. The dirty creature who had caused all the trouble had to be sent packing. The whole house needed fumigating.

Filth, that was what she was…

In her own room, Louise took stock of the situation. There was no sense in going off half-cocked. For one thing, Frieda was still away. And for another, this problem was just too big for one small and somewhat inexperienced college girl to handle. She needed help from someone with the wisdom of age.

Who then? Her father was out of town on one of his business trips. Chicago, if she remembered rightly. And Paul—well, in this instance, he wouldn’t be much good. After all, he too had fallen under the spell of that foul creature.

Which left only one choice. Mother. Sick as she was mother would know what to do. It seemed a shame to have to upset her, but it was the only course open. Much as she dreaded the task, she would have to tell mother about it.

Anyway, Frieda was mother’s nurse. If any action was to be taken, it would have to be official. Mrs. Earl Grover was the patient, but for something like this she was still the only person who would know how to get her mixed-up household straightened out.

Squaring her shoulders resolutely, fighting down her nervous anxiety, Louise strode off to her mother’s suite.

SO weird. Coming to the end of her days. Isabel Allison Grover—to be faced with this. It wasn’t real; it was more like one of those radio soap-operas that Cook always used to turn on in the big kitchen of the old Allison house. With all the maids gathered around to cry over each day’s crisis.

Yes, a soap-opera. Mother Love versus Romantic Love…

Romantic—hah! There was nothing romantic about all she had been through with Frieda. But it was love, of a kind, and now she was faced with the problem of what to do about it.

Because Frieda had just come home…

And the problem is mine, Isabel thought. All mine. Louise was gone; immediately after hearing the incredibly vile story, Isabel had sent her off to Paul Duncan to get married as quickly as possible, and without any frills or fuss. Married, they would be safe from the cloud that hung over the house.

Taking care of Cindy, of course, had been something else again. But the youngster was temporarily out of harm’s way, at least—she was going to spend the next few days with one of her playmates. Not an admirable solution, true, but a necessary one.

Because Frieda was here…

Mother love. Yes, it was strong—those old-time serial writers knew what they were talking about. With comparatively few qualms she had given her husband to Frieda—consenting even to the rendezvous in Chicago that her beloved nurse had demanded. Oh, poor Earl hadn’t known of her part in it, of course, he was still under the impression that the affair was a secret. And just to make it look good, he wasn’t due to return until tomorrow.

But her daughter? Sweet little Cindy? Ah, that was another matter. Frieda had gone too far. Too far…

There was a light tap on the door.

Isabel frowned. Frieda? No, it couldn’t be. Frieda would never bother to knock. “Yes?” she called out.

“Ma’am?” It was the downstairs maid. “Miss Frieda said she’d be right up to see you. She just got home.”

“Thank you.” Isabel had heard the taxi; she knew Frieda had arrived. This, then, was Frieda’s way of telling her to be ready for her coming. The goddess wanted to be made welcome.

Isabel undressed. The drama was to be played out, then—all the way to the end. Naked, she would greet her beloved.

And even now, naked, waiting, she was terribly aware of the sensation of submission that was stealing over her body. It was so strange, this crazy effect the woman had upon her. Like an advance projection of that magnetic personality.

Then, abruptly, the projection became real.

Frieda…

“Isabel, I’ve missed you. Did you miss me?”

“Yes. Very much. Did you enjoy the trip?”

“Uh-huh. But let’s not talk about that. Mmm, you look so nice and comfy. Naked. Tell you what, run me a tub of water while I undress, will you?”

“Don’t you want me to help?”

“No.” Frieda was already flinging her garments off, letting them fall upon the floor. “You can pick my clothes up later. But right now I’m grimy from all that traveling. No bubbles—just hot water. And really hot, I mean. I could soak for an hour.”

Isabel obeyed. A few minutes later she returned, and the sight that met her eyes made her tense in her tracks. Frieda was beautiful. Magnificent. All that voluptuous nudity, tawny, gold, refracting light and catching shadows. It made her own smooth pale flesh seem drab in comparison.

Could she destroy this?

And like a handful of dust cast into the winds, all her resolution vanished. All her plans. She loved this woman. This goddess. Loved her more than her own child.

A tiny sob burst from her lips. Slowly, as if the weight of her own humility was more than she could bear, she sank to her knees. And gazed up in adoration.

Frieda smiled. “Well now…” She extended her hand.

Isabel kissed it.

“Mmm, now that’s a nice welcome.” Ripples of pleasure went through the great amber-hued body. “Maybe that bath can wait, after all. Go let it fill and then turn the water off.”

Isabel scrambled away. In the bathroom, the roar of the gushing tap drowned out the thunder in her own heart. And the pain that the thunder was causing. But it could not quell the agony of her own conscience. Was she to place the fate of her sweet child into the hand she had just kissed?

“Hurry!”

The imperious voice wiped away her doubts. Her conscience. Her pain. Everything. And left only the hot urge within her flesh, the urge that could not go unslaked.

She twisted the faucets and ran. On the bed, regally posed, one long leg drawn up, the other stretched out, Frieda was waiting for her. Waiting with the glint of mocking cruelty in her eyes that Isabel knew so well.

“Come…”

A spasm convulsed her, taking her breath away. And she fell forward upon that huge body, burying herself in its broad expanses, its curves and hollows, its gullies and gorges. It was a pitfall, that body, a deadly pitfall from which there was no escape. It meant more to her than her husband. More than her children.

More than life itself…

“Ah, yes, that’s my darling Isabel…” The soft voice was a gently prodding spur. “Show Frieda. Show your nice Frieda how much you missed her while she was away.”

Isabel showed her…

Time went by. Seconds. Minutes. And moments that could not have been measured in such terms as seconds and minutes. Time that drifted and raced and sometimes stood still.

No sounds. No commands, no orders, no dictatorial demands. But none were necessary, and each time that mammoth body shifted this way or that, Isabel knew what was desired of her.

And she gave it… gladly… willingly…

Because she could not help herself.

Frieda sighed, replete. “I’ll have that bath now.”

Dutifully, Isabel rose and followed her. Within her bosom she could feel her poor heart pounding. And even then—pounding in the same rhythm of those voluptuous hips and buttocks swaying in front of her eyes.

She watched the big body sink into the tub. And stared at it, wondering. Wondering about this mystical power that it had over her. Wondering if it would some day hold this same power over—

Over Cindy?

Her heart fluttered. God help me, she thought. Dear God, give me strength. Her eyes fell upon the chair, the small-backed steel stool that was kept in the bathroom. She picked it up.

God help me!

Frieda glanced up in time to see the motion. But not in time to do anything about it. And in the split-second before it splintered her skull, the look in her eyes was astonishing. Not fear. Only surprise. As if this ridiculous thing couldn’t be happening to her.

Isabel gasped for air. And in her last dying effort she pushed the battered head beneath the surface of the water. She wanted to pray. This was the end. But all she could think of was the sobbing of the maids gathered around Cook’s radio listening to the final triumph of Mother Love…

She struck the tile floor and knew no more. In the tub, the great body rolled face-down and came to the surface. Already the blood seeping through the spreading fan of golden hair was turning the water pink.

END

4 Responses to “Intimate Nurse by Kimberly Kemp (Midwood Books) – Full Text”

  1. […] flat, his characters two dimensional. I tried to read Intimate Nurse, which I have posted the full text here: you can see how bad Fox’s writing is. The Groovy Age of Horror, however, seemed to dig […]

  2. Thank you.

    Let me know if you do the text on any other Dallas Mayo’s or Kimberly
    Kemp. Or tell me a site to go to please. Any Ralph Brandon’s or
    Byron Woolfe’s?

  3. `1Tremendous writings and scenarios

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