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Fatal Allure

by Robert Leslie Bellem

VIVIENNE LENGLET'S hand fluttered to the delectable region of her heart. Shocked reproach stole into her voice. "Mais—but Hectoire—surely you wouldn't ask me, your own wife, to...disrobe...before a strange man?"

"And why not?" her husband, Hectoire Lenglet, proprietor of the Lenglet private detective agency, rasped through his bushy black beard. His piggish little eyes glittered balefully. "Besides, it will not be a strange man who will view you au naturel. It will be Fernand Falois."

He waited for the effect of his words. Vivienne took a backward step. "Fernand Falois...?" she whispered. Hot color flooded her cheeks to a roseate flush, from the roots of her soft auburn hair to the low neckline of her simple frock.

"Precisement. Fernand Falois, the artist— the man with whom you once were in love before your parents arranged for you to marry me," Hectoire grinned as if enjoying her discomfiture.

Vivienne trembled all over. Her gloriously dimpled knees grew weak. She drew a sharp breath that caused her nubile breasts to stab outward through the fabric of her dress. "I—I refuse!" she panted desperately. "I will not do it!"

Roughly, Hectoire grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. "Non? I think otherwise, my little cabbage. This affair means five thousand francs to me. And if you disobey my orders, I shall take my razor-strop to you!"

"You—you would not dare!"

"Would I not?" he laughed brutally. "Try me and see!"

VIVIENNE CRINGED AWAY from him. Ever since she had become Hectoire's bride, two years ago she had lived in constant physical fear of him. And now he was actually threatening to inflict corporal punishment on her! Tears dimmed her hazel eyes. What a mockery her marriage had been! Instead of the love that Fernand Falois, her childhood sweetheart, might have given her, she had been forced into an unwilling wedding with Hectoire Lenglet—whom she despised. And now Hectoire was planning some deviltry against Fernand— and forcing her into the scheme by brutal threats!

She had not met Fernand since her marriage to Lenglet. But she had followed his career; and she knew that in the past two years Fernand had attained success with his paintings. He was wealthy, now. He was riding the crest. His nudes hung in the Salon; rich women fought for the privilege of sitting for portraits from his expert brush. He had remained a bachelor; he devoted all his hours to his art. In her secret, yearning dreams, Vivienne liked to believe that he had never married because he still loved her—even though he had lost her to Hectoire Lenglet.

She looked dismally at Hectoire. "Mais— but why do you wish me to model for Fernand? What is behind it?"

"Five thousand francs," Hectoire responded shortly.

"I—I do not comprehend."

"It is quite simple. A certain foolish young heiress named Yvette Beaucaire has fallen madly in love with this Falois fellow. She wants to marry him. And I rather imagine he would jump at the chance to wed so much money. But her father strongly objects. He wishes to disgust his daughter with the artist."


"And so Monsieur Beaucaire came to me for aid. He has offered me five thousand francs if I can persuade his daughter that Fernand Falois is a woman chaser."

Vivienne made an indignant exclamation. "Fernand is nothing of the sort!" she stormed. "He is not that type at all!"

HECTOIRE SHRUGGED GALLICALLY. "It does not matter. When we get through with him, this Mademoiselle Yvette Beaucaire will think so. And that is what counts. Now see here. You are to go to Fernand's studio this very afternoon. You are to plead poverty. You are to wheedle him into allowing you to pose for him—au naturel. I am quite sure what will happen after that."

"Wh-what do you think will happen?"

"Can you not guess? He has always loved you. Perhaps he still does. In any event, when he sees you au naturel, it is logical that he will make some attempt to kiss you. If he does not... well, you are to lure him into it! Comprenez-vous?"

"Hectoire!" Vivienne gasped.

He laughed. "You need not worry about the affaire going too far. At the psychological moment, I shall arrive with Mademoiselle Beaucaire. She will discover you in Fernand's arms. She will be through with him. Then I will take you away from the studio, after which I shall collect my five thousand francs from Mademoiselle Beaucaire's father. It is quite simple."

An enigmatic gleam came to Vivienne's eyes, "Very well," she said with pretended meekness. "I—I will go through with it, Hectoire."

"Bien! Now get your coat on. It is high time you were starting."

BUT WHEN, A little later, Vivienne pressed the doorbell of Fernand's studio on the Left Bank, she had no intention of wrecking his romance with this Yvonne Beaucaire. To the contrary, she fully intended to warn him of the plot being hatched against him. Then she would hasten away. She realized that such a course would arouse her husband's ungovernable wrath. But it did not matter. For the sake of Fernand, who had once been her sweetheart, she felt that she could endure any abuses that Hectoire might heap upon her.

In answer to her ring, the door opened. Fernand Falois stared at Vivienne as if seeing a lovely, seductive apparition. For a moment his tongue was locked. Then he gasped: "Vivienne—cherie! What—how—"

As she stepped inside and closed the door, he made a hungry grab for her. His arms went about her lissome body, and he crushed her in an embrace of fiery, thrilling ecstasy. "Vivienne—my little Vivienne—! " he whispered again as he sought to kiss her crimson, tremulous lips.

She pushed herself free. Tingles and quivers and throbs were racing through her flesh. All the remembered enchantment of his caresses now swept back over her; and she had to fight to keep from melting against him, fusing herself to his masculine form....

"Non, Fernand!" she said unsteadily. "You must not do that!"

"Why not? I have not seen you in two years. You are more gloriously enchanting than ever. I have dreamed of you every night since you married that other man. And now— now that you are here with me again—you repulse me!"

"Oui. Because I am still a married woman, Fernand." Then, in a desperate torrent of words, she told him her mission. "Listen. My husband who runs a cheap detective agency, is plotting against your happiness. The father of that young Yvette Beaucaire is opposed to her marrying you. So he hired my husband to put a stop to the match. That is why I am here. Hectoire forced me to come. He told me to seek employment as your model. He figured that you would .... make love to me. He intends breaking in upon us, with Mademoiselle Beaucaire. When she finds me... in your arms... she will be disgusted with you."

FERNAND BLINKED. "Your husband would compel you to come her and pose— in the nude—before me?"

"Oui," she whispered unhappily.

"Hmmm. And instead, you are warning me. You refuse to go through with the deal. Is that it?"


"Why?" he demanded, gazing steadily into her misty eyes.

"Be-because I...still care for you, Fernand. Because I would not wish to do anything that might destroy your future happiness."

He paced the floor. "But what will your husband say when he discovers that you double crossed him?"

"He—he may b-beat me. But it does not matter."

"It does matter!" Fernand exploded. Then he grew calm. "Attendez-vous, cherie. I have a plan that will forestall this scheme—and yet leave you in the clear."

"A—a plan?"

"Oui. You shall pose for me, practically au naturel. I shall sketch you. And when your husband and Mademoiselle Beaucaire burst into the studio, they will find us thus innocently engaged. Thus, Hectoire's scheme will be foiled. Yet he will not be able to accuse you of wrecking his plot, because you will tell him that you did your best—only I refused to fall into the trap. See?"

Vivienne smiled wistfully. "Yes. I understand. And when Yvette Beaucaire beholds that you are not making love to me, she will still care for you and be willing to marry you."

Fernand nodded. "And now, we had better set our scene. You may go behind that screen and disrobe."

She blushed furiously. "You—you want me to take off everything?"

"All except your panties and brassiere."

"I—I do not wear a brassiere, Fernand." "Then I shall pose you so that your hands conceal your charms, cherie. Come; make haste."

SHE DARTED BEHIND the screen and divested herself of frock, shoes and sheer silk hose. Then, pinkly roseate and gorgeously desirable, she stepped into the center of the studio again.

Fernand's breathing grew perceptibly staccato when he viewed her revealed loveliness. "Mon Dieu!" he whispered. "You are so beautiful—so enchanting—!"

She backed away; because the gleam in his eyes told of a surging desire to seize her and kiss her. But Fernand regained control of his emotions. "Have no fear, my sweet," he said tenderly. "I shall not do anything..."

She smiled back at him, trustingly. And yet, in the depths of her heart, she was almost sorry that he had not grabbed her and pressed his mouth to her lips. It would have been glorious, she thought. But it could not be. After all, he was in love with Yvette Beaucaire.

Shielding her nubile breasts with her arms and hands, she allowed Fernand to pose her on the dais. Her hips were sleekly perfect through the clinging satin of her step-ins. Her thighs and legs were snowy columns of charm. Her shoulders and body were superbly white, delicately contoured. And the thrusting promontories of her breasts could not be wholly concealed by her arms. Gorgeous, mollescent flesh gleamed beautifully....

Taking up his stance before an easel, Fernand rapidly began to make a charcoal sketch of her sylph-like outlines. His eyes caressed her body in a way that brought hot and cold thrills to her veins. His fingers seemed to tremble with emotion and yearning as he worked. And then—

They heard approaching footfalls in the corridor. That would be Hectoire Lenglet and Yvette coming to burst in on them. Vivienne stiffened herself for the ordeal—

A GASP ISSUED from her lips. Fernand had dropped his sketching pencil. He had leaped to her side. He had grabbed her in his arms. His charcoal smeared fingers were tracing smudgy patterns of passion over her shoulders and back. He was forcing his mouth against her lips, prying them apart....

"Fernand, mon coeur—this is madness!" she moaned. "Vite—release me before it is too late!"

"Non! Kiss me!" he commanded.

Almost without volition, her bare arms stole around his neck. He lifted her and carried her across to a divan.... And thus they were when the door burst open.

"So!" thundered Hectoire Lenglet.

"So!" squealed a dizzy looking blonde girl. That was Yvette Beaucaire, of course.

"So!" chuckled two strange men who entered at the same time. Vivienne recognized them as two operatives from her husband's detective agency.

Fernand Falois leaped to his feet. He looked frankly at the newcomers, "What is the meaning of this intrusion?" he demanded.

The blonde Yvette screamed: "You false cad! I never wish to see you again!" She turned and fled.

Fernand shrugged. "Messieurs, you see what you have done? You have spoiled my chances of ever marrying Mademoiselle Beaucaire. All because you caught me with this young lady here."

The bearded Hectoire grinned. "Bah! You have been tricked, my friend. That is my wife, and she allowed you to kiss her only to make a scene."

Fernand cocked a brow. "Kiss her, monsieur? But I assure you, there were more things than kisses."

HECTOIRE TURNED PURPLE. "What is this you are saying? Do you mean to insinuate that you and Vivienne...?"

"Mais oui, monsieur. It is regrettably true, Vivienne and I ... forgot ourselves..."

Hectoire roared with rage and shame. "Dieu de Dieu! I have lost face! I am mortified!" He turned glaring eyes on his two fellows, who were leering with amusement. "By the horns of le diable, I shall divorce this woman! You two shall be my witnesses! Come—I shall institute proceedings at once!" He and his henchmen thundered out.

Alone at last with Fernand, Vivienne struggled to her feet, "Mon cher—what have you done—?" she whimpered.

Fernand took her in his arms. "It was a set-up too perfect to be allowed to escape. Behold—I never cared a fig for that Beaucaire fille. She was constantly arrowing herself at me, trying to lure me into marriage. But I had vowed that I would never marry any girl, since I had lost you. And just now, I saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone."

"I—I do not understand."

"Well, I am rid of Yvette Beaucaire— forever. And because I shamed your husband in the presence of witnesses, he will divorce you. Then you will be free—to become my wife!"

"Ohhh...Fernand..!" she moaned. Her arms locked about him. He squeezed her ecstatically She quivered in his embrace.

"Vivienne, cherie!" he answered.

There was no more sketching that afternoon. They had more thrilling matters to occupy them...!