I love the name “Musc Ravageur.” It sounds like something Tarzan might wear. This unisex fragrance was created in 2000 by Frederic Malle. It drew an immediate love/hate reaction with its strong sexy hit of lavender, clove and civet that dries down to quite a different aura. One satisfied customer wrote of the afterglow: “The end of this is a masculine Vanilla. It’s very fatherly without being creepy. Just smells like someone you feel safe with. Comfy. A masterpiece.”
My anti-hero Peter Noel is definitely a musc ravageur, but although he is a parfumeur, he himself doesn’t wear a fragrance. He doesn’t need to.
3. Musc Ravageur
“Hello, mon serpent,” said Peter, pulling out her chair at their table. It was a good Italian place near Rittenhouse Square. He inhaled as he settled her in the seat and said, “CK One?”
“Are you certain?” she said, testing him.
He nodded. “Yes. You know I enjoy a chypre perfume on you, but the citric topnotes in that one are almost too intense. You must have applied it only a few minutes ago. Besides,” he added, giving her his grand séducteur look, “the best scent of all is bare skin.”
“If that were true, you’d be out of business,” she replied.
“Ah. Well, not everyone has my nose. The masses respond to less subtle enticements.”
“Why do you never wear a fragrance, Peter? I’ve always wondered.”
“It might keep me from fully appreciating the delicious aromas that surround me. Like yours, just a moment ago.” He allowed his eyelids to close slightly as he gazed at her, like a cat expressing its pleasure.
After they ordered, they talked of books they were reading, and of the James Bond film festival being promoted by a local independent theater. Leslie approved of Daniel Craig’s tight suits; Peter did not. “No self-respecting tailor would cut a suit that way,” he said dismissively. “The fabric doesn’t hang properly.”
She glanced at his charcoal suit with its black shirt and Hermès tie of darkest burgundy. He had a cream-colored handkerchief in his breast pocket, and a matching rosebud in his lapel. A typical work outfit. Peter dressed to the nines on the job, used French expressions, practiced the baisemain. He was a master of la séduction. And he always closed the sale.
“I don’t know,” she said doubtfully. “The body must be perfect in order to carry off a Tom Ford suit. Are you perhaps skipping too many days at the gym?”
He leaned forward, smiling. “Are you curious? It’s been months, after all.” His eyes drifted to her décolletage, and then he placed a hand next to hers on the table. He ran an index finger very lightly over the skin on the back of her hand, between her thumb and wrist. It was like the touch of a down feather and she shivered, in spite of herself.
She was tempted, but now she remembered the reason for her displeasure with Peter and his temporary banishment from her bed. Upon discovering that Mrs. Leila Schwartz, a prominent Philadelphia entrepreneuse, was one of Peter’s newest clients, she’d asked him to tell her what perfume the woman had selected. He had refused, politely but implacably, to do so. It would have given her such pleasure to know the secret, and besides, Leila had deliberately left Leslie off the guest list of a recent dinner party she particularly wanted to attend. The next time she ran into Leila, she had planned to mention, with an innocent laugh, how the favored perfume was all the rage among the city’s higher class prostitutes.
She removed her hand from Peter’s to take up her wine glass, not answering him.
“Then I’m still in the doghouse,” he said, shrugging slightly and not allowing his smile to fade completely. Even now, he had no intention of telling her.
“Perhaps there is a way for you to make it up to me,” she said in a low voice. He held her gaze and waited.
“Are your powers of seduction still as… robust now that you’re approaching forty-five?” she asked him.
“I don’t see why not,” he answered lightly.
“And yet I hear nothing recently of a success.”
“Are you planning to set me a challenge?” Their food arrived and they waited until the server was gone before continuing the conversation. Leslie took a bite of her carpaccio —she was fond of raw flesh— and answered as though it had only just occurred to her, “What a clever idea, Peter. Now let me think. Yes, I know someone who may just be impervious to your charms. Cynthia Gooden, have you heard of her?”
Peter shook his head. His mouth was full of spicy spaghetti alla puttanesca.
“She’s a curator at the Institute of Fine Arts,” continued Leslie. “I stay in touch with her, and in the eight years I’ve known Cynthia, she’s never had a committed relationship.”
“Because she’s unattractive?” asked Peter.
“Well, she is rather plump,” said Leslie judiciously. “But that’s no impediment to American men. All the women here are fat,” she added, pleasantly conscious of her own slender figure. “No, that can’t explain it, because she’s not downright ugly.”
“This is supposed to whet my appetite?” said Peter, looking amused.
She quickly changed tactics. “That’s only my feminine reluctance to admit the beauty of another woman, Peter. You’ll find her appealing enough. Her complexion is lovely, and she’s a natural blonde. I suspect that she turns men away for some reason she has never shared with me. She’s an ice princess. Therefore she presents a challenge.”
“Turns men away? Then Cynthia’s a good name for her. It’s one of the titles of Diana, the virgin goddess. But perhaps she prefers women?” he asked.
“If she does, she’s hidden it well,” said Leslie. “I’ve never heard a whisper of that.” She poured herself a glass of Montepulciano. “In any case, I challenge you to make her yours. And I expect to hear the details of your progress. If you impress me, I’ll reward you.”
“In a way of my choosing?” said Peter. He was grinning, enjoying the negotiation. She sighed. Peter liked to tie women up, and he loved oral sex, especially when he was the recipient. He was all too predictable these days. “Yes, yes,” she answered irritably. “But first let me see some results.”
“How do I find her?”
“There’s a picture of her on the Institute website. I’ll make it easy for you. She has lunch most days in the Frommer Gallery, the one where they allow food.”
She changed the subject, satisfied that Peter would pursue Cynthia Gooden. To arouse Peter’s interest, she’d slightly exaggerated her description of Cynthia as a remote, forbidding ice queen. Though it was true that Cynthia never had men around, Leslie assumed it was mainly because of Cynthia’s weight and her general ineptitude in matters of romance. Cynthia was an old maid, une vieille fille. Peter would have no trouble whatsoever in sweeping her off her feet— and breaking her heart. And Leslie would hear every luscious detail. What she didn’t tell Peter was that eight years ago, she and Cynthia had been up for the same job at the Institute. Now Cynthia was Senior Curator of Roman Art, hobnobbing regularly with the cream of Philadelphia, and Leslie was still in her boring job at Parnell State University, teaching Art History 101 to cretinous freshmen. All these years, she’d waited for an opportunity to teach Cynthia a lesson. Yes, she would enjoy this.
Copyright 2014 by Linnet Moss