The woman moved with feminine grace that few women could match. Every feature, sensuous and alluring from the curves of her buttocks and the lift of her breasts to her exotic almond eyes and long raven, black hair. She had a power over men that other women spoke of in hushed disapproving tones but secretly envied. She was the kind of creature that proper women often fantasized about being, wanting to be but never could because polite society had little tolerance for such. Only fear would make people accept what they usually wouldn’t and people feared Captain Jon Mason. The Asian girl, whose tongue licked Mason’s ear, cared little of other people’s prejudices, she had lived with such feelings for as long as she could remember and if people couldn’t accept her for what she was that was their problem. She had her man and that’s who she cared about. Mai-Ling was twenty-seven years old and had shared Jon Mason’s bed for the last eight years, ever since he removed her from Madame Wu’s brothel in San Francisco when she was nineteen, a time when she began to give up any hope of leaving the wretched old woman’s employ. Not that men hadn’t offered to take her away, there were always offers, but as far as she was concerned it would be just leaving one service for another, she didn’t see happiness. After she was auctioned off at seventeen, she learned quickly the ways in which to give pleasure to a man. Within a year, she was one of Madame Wu’s most popular young ladies in the establishment. She was young and beautiful, witty in conversation, most desirable to the men that surrounded her and wished nothing more than a romp in the sheets with her. Mai- Ling teased them and led them on, laughing at their jokes regardless of their stupidity. She learned to deal with the plain and uninteresting men, who thought their money made up for their lack of character. As time went on, she began to understand Madame Wu a little more than she thought she would. The old woman for her part could see the potential in the girl and treated her accordingly. The first time she saw Jon Mason, he was sitting at a faro table in one of Wu’s gambling rooms. He appeared to be doing well but was nonchalant about his winnings. He drank his whiskey neat, usually in doubles and tipped well. He was polite but never overly familiar with anyone, men or women. He wore nothing outlandish, he dressed like a gentleman. She caught his eye and he smiled. She asked who he was and wondered how long it would be before he requested her company, would it be that evening or the next? For four nights Mason frequented Madame Wu’s place of business, gambling and drinking. It was on the fifth night that he asked for her name and the pleasure of her company. The working rooms were on the second floor of the old woman’s building, each one identified by a number, contained a highly polished brass bed, ornate wash basin, long mirror, and lace curtains surrounded by walls of dark red velvet. What men expected when they frequented such an establishment. When she did enter room six, she saw a most unusual sight, Jon Mason pouring tea. “I took the liberty, I hope you don’t mind, Mai-Ling.” he said in Mandarin, not really caring if she did. She was not surprised that he used her name, she was well known. But his use of Chinese did surprise her. “Not at all,” she replied in the same language, “it is not often this worthless daughter is treated with such a simple kindness.” This man might prove interesting after all. She sat across from him and accepted the second bowl of tea that was offered, after the first one made, according to custom, was thrown out. As she sipped her tea with both hands, she noticed him looking at the bowls they were drinking from, admiring the work. “Do you like Chinese things, Mr. Mason?” He nodded, “Yes, particularly if they are both functional and beautiful,” he said. “And what about me?” she asked. He grinned, “You appear to be both.” It was an unusual evening, for unlike most men, he did not hurry her onto the mattress, grunting like a farm animal pushing to expel their seed. They talked. In fact, they talked all evening. At first Mai-Ling was reserved, she made it a habit not to revel to much about herself to any one man, but as the evening wore on she found herself more relaxed and enchanted by this strange man and began to open a bit of her life up to him. She told him of her parents, her childhood and the different people that she knew. She learned that he was the third mate on a small whaling brig called the TAURUS and that their usual runs were five or six months long. He could speak Cantonese as well as Mandarin, though he could not read Chinese and like her, he enjoyed reading though his collection of books was rather small. When morning came, he told her he would return that evening, excused himself and left. It was the most intimate moment she’d ever spent with a man. When he returned that night, they enjoyed a late dinner and continued with their conversation. She asked him questions about the whaling trade and his ship, the oceans and the places he had been, he asked her about the books she had read, food that she liked and wine she enjoyed. Two nights later, with the permission of Madame Wu and after paying a large sum of money, he took Mai-Ling out to a dinner at one of San Francisco’s better restaurants and a show. The more she was around him the more free she felt and more wanted. He was interested in her and treated her like a lady. Over the next two weeks they saw each other whenever they could and would often arrange to meet “accidentally” enjoying a brief moments together. While she was shopping and he ashore on “ship’s business”, they would steal away to Mrs. Lam’s store where they would make hard passionate love in Mai-Ling’s old room, restraining primitive cries, every nerve tingling. The day finally came when he told her that his ship would be leaving and that he would have to go with it. She was more upset by the news than she thought she would be. She knew he would have to leave someday, but in their short time together, he had become such a normal part of her life that she felt somehow denied by the fact that he was leaving. Their last night together was quiet and gentle. The next morning he kissed her goodbye and swore he would be back. She told him it was unwise to fall in love with a whore he agreed and told her the woman he loved was not a whore. For the first time in a long time she felt the pain of separation. For five months he was away hunting whales, and every day she looked over the blue that reached the horizon and wondered if that was the day she would see the sails of his ship returning. She was careful to hide her feelings and carry on with her work. Even so, Madame Wu was not deceived and kept a careful eye on the young girl. Though she knew the time for women in the line of work they were engaged in was limited, it was not in her best interests to lose such a profitable individual as Mai-Ling quite yet. When he did return she could barely contain her excitement. Upon entering Madame Wu’s, he tossed her a roll of bills securing Mai-Ling’s company for three days and nights. Money was money and who was the old woman to argue with that? Over the next four months they continued to see each other when they could, between her schedule and his whaling ventures. The day came when Mason asked Mai-Ling to go away with him. “I’ve been offered a first mate’s position in the east,” he told her, “I want you to go with me.” Mai-Ling shook her head, her father’s debts the debts she had incurred on her mind. The laundry and lye soap never far from her thoughts. She didn’t want her problems to be his problems. “I can’t Jon, Madame Wu will never let me go, I owe her too much money.” Mason shook his head, “I’ll take care of it, don’t worry,” he said, “go pack your things.” “Jon, I’m telling you she won’t let me go! I owe her $2000.” “I’ll take care of it,” he said. The next night, Mason stood before the wrinkled old woman with Mai-Ling quietly standing near him. “And what do I owe this pleasure Mr. Mason? As if I already didn’t know,” said Wu, her voice crackling like autumn leaves, a thin stream of smoke leaving her pipe. “I’m taking Mai-Ling from here,” he said without preamble. The old woman gave a knowing grin, “She cannot leave,” she said. Mason walked to her desk and placed a satchel in front of the Chinese woman, “$2,500.What she owes you plus extra, her debt is paid,” he said. The old woman pushed the money aside. “She cannot leave,” she said again. Two of her large muscled Chinese bully boys stepped out of the darkness, mean with faces showing scars from prior confrontations. They were enough to intimidate most people. Jon Mason was not most people, as Wu was about to learn. “Come, come Mr. Mason, you didn’t think you were just going to waltz her away did you? I am well aware of what Mai-Ling owes me. It’s really all subject to negotiation isn’t it? I say she cannot leave.” The Chinese men continued to advance towards Mason, Mai-Ling clutched his arm in fear she trusted him and would stay with him no matter what happened. She just hoped he knew what he was doing. In an instant Mason pulled out a pistol and cocked it, pointing it at Wu’s head of thin white hair, causing her henchmen to stop in their tracks. “I beg to differ,” said the whaleman, “her debt is paid. She is free to go.” Wu began to laugh and signaled for one of the men to collect the money. “Oh Mason, I do like you, the luck of the dragon is yours! Take the girl by all means, but look at me Mason. She is young and pretty now but time is merciless. Her beauty will fade and wilt her hair will thin and grey. In the end everything becomes what I am now and there is no stopping it.” Mason and Mai-Ling backed to the door and left to the sound of the witch’s cackle. Within a week they were on a steamer bound for Charleston, South Carolina and a new life and though the law forbid them to marry, there was never any doubt as to whose woman she was. Their home, a seven room, two story house in Mattaponsett was warm and pleasant. The area was quiet which suited them both. The home was tastefully decorated with a mixture of Chinese and nautical decor. At the moment, none of that mattered as they lay in bed content with each other’s company in the soft light of a kerosene lamp. “I missed you,” she murmured, snuggling closer to him. He kissed the top of her head. “I missed you too,” he said. “Did you spend a lot of money while I was gone?” She kissed his nipple and giggled, “Yes!” “Good.” Mai-Ling extended her arm and stretched her fingers, curling it back, she laid it to rest on Mason’s chest. “Bess and I went to Boston while you and Aesop were away, I ordered some furniture and books, I think you’ll like what’s coming. I also bought something special for you, a surprise. It should all be delivered next week.” “I’ve never argued with your choices my dear, you have good taste.” “How was the whaling?” she asked. “Not bad. Three men deserted in Cape Town, but we were able to sign up two Americans down on their luck and a Canadian to replace ‘em. Lost two boats, one, six months into the voyage and the second just afore we came home, didn’t lose any men though, so that was good.” “Well, you’re home now and that’s all that matters,” she said adjusting her position slightly. “Jon, why do you have to go to New York? You just got home.” Mason shrugged his shoulders, “I have to talk to the owners, business you know, nothing that need concern you my love.” The owners, even though Mason owned half of the SHY LADY, he always referred to the three men in New York as the owners, until he could buy them out of their shares. “Will you be gone long?” asked Mai-Ling. He shook his head, “No, not long. I’ll be back in a few days.” She ran her finger over the red and green dragon tattoo on his left upper arm. She recognized the work as Chinese. She had seen similar ones in San Francisco but those could never match the exquisite, colorful work on her man’s arm. His was from the Middle Kingdom itself. In the west the dragon was considered an ugly fire breathing creature to be feared while in Asia, it had a body like a serpent with four legs a wide mouth and whiskers. It was the symbol for life and fertility, good fortune and protection. As far as she was concerned it was an appropriate mark for Mason. “What do you want from New York?” he asked. She kissed his chest. “Nothing, just come home, you’ve been gone far too long.” “I know,” he said holding her chin in his hand, “to many years, but maybe I can make it up to you.” “I don’t complain. All these years with you, I’ve never had reason to. I love you, I want for nothing, you’ve always provided.” “I know and I love you, but I wish I could give you more, I think you deserve better.” “Maybe you do,” she said, kissing him hard, thrusting her tongue deep into his mouth. Her hand reached for his erect manhood and slowly stroked and squeezed it. “That’s good,” he moaned, his hand over her breast, her nipple swelling against his calloused palm, his other hand reaching between her legs, rubbing her mound in a soft rhythmic manner, increasing in speed as he continued causing her to gasp with pleasure. His touch light and pleasant making her quiver with joyful anticipation, his fingers wet with her juices. She stiffened and relaxed twice before she moved her head to his groin and took him into her mouth, her tongue flicking back and forth and her head bobbing like a child’s toy. Mason twisted his body from the sensations his body was feeling as one of Mai-Ling’s hands rubbed his inner thigh while the other teasingly played with his testicles. So long at sea, it was hard for him to hold back. “Now,” he said with a rough dry voice, “I want you now!” She raised her head and slid her body up, his manhood wet with her saliva, leaving a glistening trail between her breasts and down her stomach. Crawling on top, she straddled him, her vagina enclosing his stiff member, her practiced muscles clenching. Mason grasped her buttocks and Mai-Ling arched her back, her breasts thrust forward gleaming in the lamp light, the shadows of their union playing against the wall as she moved her body up and down with increasing speed, his wet straining phallus pushing into the depths of her body. Her breathing came in short quick breathes, as her body reached its climax Mason’s body tensed and jerked as he came, shooting his warm seed inside of her. Sweating from exertion, she collapsed on top of him. “Catch your breath,” she whispered, “We’re just getting started.”