explained, wrapped around the vaginal cavity.
He said more, a long, rambling travelogue about a land Penny had never visited. A history lesson about the world contained inside her.
Maxwell explained how physicians from the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s had always been formally trained in how to bring their female patients to “paroxysm.” Using fingers and oil, it was standard practice for doctors and midwives to treat hysteria, insomnia, depression, and a host of conditions common to women.
it was called. Or “suffocationof the mother.” And even the great Galen recommended that the vagina must be vigorously manipulated until it readily expressed the accumulation of fluid.
Vibrators, he claimed, were among the first household appliances to be powered with electricity. In 1893, a man named Mortimer Granville built a huge fortune when he invented a battery-driven vibrator. A full range of such sex toys were commonly sold through national mass-circulation magazines and the Sears, Roebuck catalog. It wasn’t until they appeared in the crude pornographic films of the 1920s that vibrating dildos became shameful.
Galen. Hippocrates. Ambroise Paré. Penny couldn’t keep the names and dates straight in her mind. After the sixteenth century, she fell asleep. She dreamed of plummeting from the top of the Eiffel Tower. She was falling because Maxwell had pushed her.
When she woke, Maxwell’s side of the bed was empty. The bathroom door was closed, and from the far side of it came the sound of running water.
Was it Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem? Penny couldn’t remember, but she thought one of them had written about the “zipless fuck,” an ideal kind of physically satisfying sex that left no emotional obligations. Sex with Maxwell might very well be what the author had in mind. It left Penny weak, feeling as if she’d suffered the flu. That was only for a few minutes; beyond that she was ravenous. They ate and fucked and ate and fucked. Endlessly. Ziplessly.
It was official. Until now, Penny Harrigan had never experienced an actual orgasm. Not like the thrilling sensations that Maxwell coaxed from her eager body. For once, the descriptionsof fireworks and convulsions she’d read so often in
, they seemed like understatements instead of exaggerations.
Stroking her pubis, Maxwell said, “I would like to shave you. It would make the testing more accurate.” She’d acquiesced. No biggie. She’d been shaved before, and waxed, to be bikini-ready for spring break. “This time,” he warned her, “it will never grow back.” He used a special formula passed down through millennia of Uzbek tribesmen, a lotion of aloe vera and pureed pine nuts that would forever leave her as smooth as a child.
Penny looked forlornly at her shorn curls lying among the bedsheets. She told herself she’d never liked being bushy.
The aspect of sex that Maxwell seemed to enjoy most was finding ways to coerce her to greater satisfaction. That seemed his sole source of pleasure. Whenever Penny asked whether he wanted to come, he’d simply shrug and say, “Maybe next go-round.” Beyond their first encounter he never so much as removed his shirt. Soon he came to don a white lab coat to protect his clothing.
For a beauty like Alouette, a woman accustomed to driving men to fits of lust, Maxwell’s failure to come must’ve been maddening. Penny tried not to think of the French beauty who’d threatened her life, but that wasn’t easy. Alouette had enjoyed 136 days of intimacy with Maxwell. Gwendolyn had enjoyed 136 days. The
never lied. Unless she’d miscounted, Penny figured she had 103 days to go. If the sex kept up like this, she doubted whether she could live that long. But what a great way to die!
If she could just find the recording of her howling, find and erase it, Penny’s happiness would be complete. The bathroom door remained shut. Behind it the water continued to