CELESTINA is a series of historical erotic adventures set in the sixteenth century. The first two titles, Celestina And The Sultan, and Celestina, Warrior Queen are due for release summer 2014 by Harlequin-E.
From the harem to the palace, two exotic tales of sexual awakening by the talented Xandra King.
Celestina And The Sultan
In the palace harem, the beautiful Celestina eagerly awaits instruction in the erotic arts so she may learn to please the Sultan. Taught by one of the palace’s most gifted instructors, Celestina explores her insatiable appetite for pleasure. But with every lesson, Celestina’s hunger for her deliciously strict instructor grows stronger. And all too soon, she will lose him when she is summoned to the Sultan’s bed...
Celestina, Warrior Queen
With the Sultan at her side—and in her bed, and anywhere else he chooses to take his thorough pleasure of her—Celestina has learned that life offers delights and exquisite punishments. But she not only faces the erotic challenges made by her very potent Sultan, but those of being married to the land’s fiercest warrior. She will be tested—by her people, her enemies, and even herself. And Celestina will have to choose between accepting her destiny... or being destroyed by it.
The Journey to the Harem
The year of our Lord, 1527
The towering gates of the Sultan’s palace are crafted from solid gold, the old women tell me as they hurry me along the crowded streets of the dusty bazaar.
‘And what lies beyond those gates is a lifetime of happiness for you, Celestina.’ The chief crone cackles as her companions exchange knowing glances through the narrow slits in their black veils.
A lifetime of happiness? How can that be, when the Sultan’s palace is the most heavily fortified citadel in the known world, and though many young girls go in, few come out?
Casting a wistful look over my shoulder, I am already longing for the familiar routine of the convent, where the nuns are the only family I have ever known. Only one, Sister Anna, has always hated me for some reason, and it was she who gave me into the keeping of the ‘honest’ burgher and his wife when our beloved Abbess, Mother Grace, was taken to bed with colic.
‘Better you go away for a while,’ Sister Anna insisted as she manhandled me into the carriage without so much as a change of clothes.
Sister Anna’s excuse for my hasty removal from the convent was that my constant chatter would disturb Mother Grace and the sisters as they prayed for her recovery. I overheard her telling the other nuns that the couple had arrived at the convent claiming I was the long-lost child of Ali Rachman, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Kemal the Magnificent, with orders that I must be returned to the Golden city of Sarandopol immediately, and within the hour I was whisked away.
The foul-smelling burgher and his freakishly painted wife instantly drew down the blinds on their rattling carriage, shutting me off from my world and enclosing me in their hostile silence. They took me at speed from my convent home in a back alley into the heart of the bustling city, where spires and onion domes of mosques and palaces allow the Sultan and common men alike to strive for the heavens.
I think the burgher and his wife had anything but uplifting thoughts in mind when they handed me over to these crones who are now in charge of me.
‘Cover her,’ one of the crones exclaims, jerking me rudely back to the present.
Another pulls up the hood of my cloak, as I am attracting interest for no better reason than I am a woman, and my milk skin, smoky-blue eyes and light, red-gold hair is so prized here.
Before we go further, I should explain a simple rule that exists in this city at the crossroads between east and west. It concerns Outside and Inside. Outside is the domain of men, while Inside is the realm of women. Nuns may travel freely outside the convent with their faces unveiled, which is strange to see when some of them are quite beautiful. Also, their servants, like me, foundling children thrown upon the mercy of the convent, may venture a little way into the world, as our spindly figures cloaked in voluminous serge shifts might as well be invisible when we go to market to sell the nuns’ produce. To complete our attire, we wear clogs, serge hose and scarves tied across our heads and faces—to protect grown men from our mischief, presumably.
And to top this off, a battered straw hat is crammed down firmly on our heads.
‘The hat is to keep your skin pale, Celestina,’ Sister Anna would always caution me whenever I would contrive to lose it, and there was always another scratchy monstrosity in her closet.
‘Hurry,’ another crone chivvies me, taking my mind off these recollections. ‘There is no time to lose, Celestina. The Grand Vizier is waiting for you.’
As the crones’ capable hands tighten on my wrists, my heartbeat quickens. I’m sure Sister Anna has lied. The Grand Vizier cannot be my father, and this is an alarming thought, as it makes no sense that such a great man would demand to see me.
Why me in particular? Who am I but Celestina, a simple convent girl, who knows little about her past, but enough to understand that I have no one to protect me if things turn against me once I am locked inside the Sultan’s palace?
I shall just have to use my wits, which I’m always being told are overly sharp, and hope regular use has not blunted them.
How do I know the Grand Vizier cannot be my father?
The nuns have told me a little about my mother. She was taken as a girl from the cold, northern lands and sold into slavery here on the fringes of the Orient.
Mother Grace says I look a lot like my mother, and though I have only caught a brief glimpse of the Grand Vizier, and then only from a distance, I know him to be small and dark, nothing like a man who might have fathered me. This fact has not deterred Sister Anna, who is always quick to do the bidding of rich folk.
So what is my fate to be?
I tighten my fist around the medal, which is my only personal possession and goes everywhere with me. This small, etched disc was found clutched in my hand when my mother begged the nuns to take me in all those years ago. Sister Anna used this as further proof that I must be taken to the royal palace without delay, for only senior members of the Sultan’s court carry such a medal about their person.
But why did Sister Anna wait so long to reveal this, and how long am I to be trapped here?
Apprehension roils inside me as we come beneath the shadow of the palace walls. Freedom is stamped through me like jam through a stick of marchpane. Freedom to do what, I don’t have much idea as yet. I am ashamed to admit that freedom is a woolly concept to me. Like the marchpane sold in the market by Jordanian traders—which I scavenge from the ground whenever I can—freedom in all its full and splendid glory seems a long way out of my reach.
The other girls at the convent laugh at me for this, but whenever I see a pregnant woman in the marketplace, stroking her swollen belly beneath her cumbersome robe and sometimes even talking to her unborn child, I believe this is how my mother talked to me, and that it was she who instilled in me this yearning to rule my own fate—
Shaking me out of my thoughts, the crones drag me along. But now the sight of a child clinging to its mother’s hand stops me, and I hang back as the little girl turns her face up, and her heavily veiled mother bends down to give her a hug. I try to remember my mother hugging me and what that felt like, but however hard I try, I cannot bring the memory back.
One thing is certain. I haven’t been hugged since.
Beyond the fretted screen
The harem, 1529
The Sultan’s harem in the golden city of Sarandopol is known as the Golden Cage. There is nowhere more lavish where scholarship, physical skill and devotion to the erotic arts come together.
As I sink back on my silken cushions, I still find it hard to believe I am here or that my life could have turned around so completely in just two years. Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my being sold into slavery by Sister Anna, a wicked nun at the convent where I was abandoned as a child. It was my good luck that my unusual colouring attracted the attention of the crones who work for the Sultan’s harem, rather than the slave traders who supply the doxy houses. The crones transformed Sister Anna’s act of cruelty into a blessing, taking me from scratchy grey serge to billowing chiffon and more food than I could eat, all in a matter of hours. For a girl who had grown up with her stomach growling on many a day, that was quite a shock to my system, I can tell you. But best of all, my induction into the harem brought me to the attention of the man who was to become the love of my life.
Far more than my appearance has changed since my days at the convent, for I am evolving daily like a seed that has never seen the sun. My mind soaks up knowledge like a greedy sponge, while my body has never been more acutely aware of the pleasures available to it.
This radical improvement in my situation was the very last thing the nun had planned for me and it drove her half out of her mind to the point where she tried to kill me. My husband assures me that Sister Anna will never hurt me again. Personally, I doubt she will ever leave my life for good, but as my husband is the mighty Sultan Kemal the Magnificent, I can hardly disagree.
Incredible though it still seems, the mighty Sultan, whom I alone am permitted to call by his given name, Karim, noticed and picked me out for training, crafting from my rough clay the ultimate concubine. Karim was so pleased with his handiwork he made me his queen. He is not just my heart, my soul or even simply a Sultan, for Karim is the Sultan, the wealthiest and most powerful warrior king on the face of the earth.
If I were to ask Karim what qualities he first saw in me, I think he would mention my spirit first and then my defiance. And of course I am a survivor and he likes that, too. I am also a young bride who cannot get enough of her husband. It goes without saying that my sexual appetite pleases Karim more than anything else. For my part, I can only say that if I were to live to be as old as Methuselah it would not be long enough for me to have my fill of Karim. He has made me insatiable and I rejoice in our mutual appetite.
When I am not perfecting my erotic skills under Karim’s expert supervision, I am filling my mind with knowledge from the tutors he sends me. These wise men teach me about the world outside the harem. One thing they have explained is why Karim must remain on guard. A kingdom so prosperous and at the forefront of learning will always attract the greedy attention of those who envy Karim.
Karim told me he grew up surrounded by rivals for his throne and dealt with them ruthlessly, displaying their heads on pikes along the city walls as a warning to anyone who might think of defying him. They called him Kemal the Merciless at the time, but I know what it cost Karim to make his throne secure. Executing childhood friends and relatives who betrayed him for the chance to take a tilt at his throne affected Karim deeply, and he is still suspicious, but I understand this and forgive him readily. My only wish is to help him in any way I can.
One of the ways I do this is by offering Karim sexual release in many inventive ways. Karim taught me well, and is still teaching me new techniques. Can you blame me for embracing these lessons with enthusiasm, when the most feared warrior in the civilised world is my insatiable lover, and I am so very keen to learn?
Since coming to live in the harem I have been exposed to a world of carnal excess that even the gossipmongers outside these palace walls could not begin to imagine. Far from being shocked, I have discovered a natural aptitude for the erotic arts. How could it be otherwise, when my husband, though a much older man than me, is a devastatingly attractive, black-hearted satyr with appetites that easily eclipse my own?
At this moment, I am waiting in our private room of pleasure, which is a gilded jewel in a palace of unimaginable opulence. My lord Sultan is training with his men and will come to me when he is ready for some alternative physical activity. Karim’s extreme level of fitness and strength has never been matched, though I worry for him, as there are casualties on the training ground every week, some of which are fatal. To distract me, Karim has arranged an entertainment today, and I am curious to know what this is.
My lord Sultan has warned me to make the most of these last hours of ease, as I am to leave the harem soon in order to train at Karim’s warrior school. This might seem an unlikely course for the Sultan’s beloved wife to undertake, but Karim’s priority has always been my safety. These are dangerous times, and Karim rides out frequently with his armies to defend our borders and wants to be sure that I can protect myself while he is away. To this end he has been training me in the art of war for some time now. We practice armed and unarmed combat, both mounted and on foot, but these sessions often end with us tangling in a very different way. Karim has decided I now must begin my training under his most celebrated general, the Amazonian slave princess, Vigia Complexus. Everyone has heard of this woman’s harsh training methods, but I intend to survive them and win her over. I’m certainly not frightened of her. I was always the optimist, and after my experiences of Sister Anna’s cruelty at the convent, what could possibly frighten me? I shall do well at warrior school to make my husband proud, or I will die in the attempt.
Karim loves my fiery nature, but he is known as a ferocious warrior, so we are hardly a feeble couple. Thankfully, when we are alone together I see a very different side of Karim, and it is a side of him that binds me to my husband as no amount of fear ever could. Karim can be tender and loving with me, but he has also shown me the benefit of pain when it is allied to pleasure, for he is an expert in all the body’s responses, especially mine. He tells me I am still a novice with much to learn. I think he does this because he knows it excites me, for I am his most willing pupil.
Karim delivers these demanding tutorials from his great age of twenty-six and from the towering heights of his matchless intellect, while my mind is still a work in progress and I have no way of knowing exactly how old I am. If the nuns had thought to ask my mother before she left me at the convent, I might have a clue, but I imagine Sister Anna was too busy counting the money she planned to make from a small, pale, blue-eyed child, with the blonde hair and willowy frame so beloved of the ruling class of men in this country.
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