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Contents


Title Page

Copyright

Dedication


Prologue


Part One

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six


Part Two

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen


Part Three

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five


Acknowledgements

About Tim Bartholomew

Don’t Miss These Hot Titles from Deep Desires Press


Body Language


Slave to Beauty #1



Tim Bartholomew


Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bartholomew


All characters are age 18 and over.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblances to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Cover design copyright © 2018 by Story Perfect Dreamscape



Visit http://www.deepdesirespress.com for more scorching hot erotica and erotic romance.



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Dedicated to

the young man I wasn’t.



Prologue


2004


It had all started so swimmingly.

I was fabulously on heat, as excited and aroused as only a twenty-one-year-old naked in the early morning Caribbean can be. Gooey and doe-eyed, my heart bursting with love, I wallowed in the silken joy of warm water eddying between my legs, caressing me in ways equal only to the erotic skills of my lover.

With a gentle breast-stroke, I glided gingerly back across the reef towards the tiny secluded beach, wary of snagging anything important on a submerged rock, a frond of dead coral or, worst of all, a spikey sea urchin. Ahead, I saw Naomi tilt back her lovely face and close her eyes against the first rays of the tropical sun. A wave broke over me and, as I blinked away the salty water, I saw my queen lean backwards and stretch luxuriously, her strong thighs tensing around that fortunate yellow banana of our upturned plastic canoe. As a frisky graduate in French, fresh out of Cambridge, I adored everything about this girl: her supple and lithe body, her laughter, the confidence and stability she had inspired for three years at university, and above all, her immense positive energy and appetite for life. The attraction of opposites.

I flipped over onto my back, lifted my hips, and fingered my dick, encouraging it to rise to the occasion. Soon it was satisfactorily stiff in the warm breeze, sticking out of the water and creating a small wake behind me as I swam. My stomach muscles were trembling; I needed to make love with Naomi one last time, right there on the beach.

I smiled to myself as I recalled moments from our passionate and unruly night at the Blue Waters Inn. I was not much concerned about unseen neighbors repeatedly banging on the wall, but I would never dare own up to the hotel management about the broken bed leg. (To the sound of splintering wood, and laughing hysterically, we had found ourselves tipped onto the cold, tiled floor.) As a result of this accident, Naomi and I had risen before dawn, loaded the car, and fled over the hill to the picturesque fishing village of Charlotteville for a final trip round the headland to Lover’s Bay. Having upturned our leaking canoe, I had left my lover to watch the sunrise whilst I swam round a wooded lump of rock towering over the coral reef like a vast green fairy cake. “We locals call it Booby’s Island,” Naomi had insisted. “There’s no need to giggle, Andrew, it’s named after the seabirds which nest there, not your favorite parts of my anatomy.”

Treading water for a moment, I slipped my orange swimsuit from my right shoulder and with some difficulty squeezed myself into it again. Modesty restored, and splashing back through the shallows, I briefly fingered my groin — the ring was still safe in its tiny pouch.

“You and your proboscis, Andrew,” Naomi called, adjusting her lime-colored bikini strap. “When you came round the island, I mistook it for a submarine’s periscope.” She leaned up and kissed me, a finger trailing down my dripping body. “I’ve never known such a man for skinny dipping!”

“I deny nothing,” I said. “But it states in the rules that orange bathing trunks should always be shouldered when swimming off Tobago. To allow the healing waters to lap freely about the gonads.”

“Mad, whitey-pokey Englishman.” Her accent had thickened up again since leaving Cambridge. She handed me the suntan oil. “Time to cream up or you’ll be in agony on the plane home.”

“It’s all very well for you natives to mock,” I said, noting her salacious grin, “but you didn’t exactly relish our bracing English winters, did you?”

“That’s why I moved back home,” she said. I over-squeezed the bottle and a blob of white gloop spurted prematurely onto the sand. “Oh, give it to me!” she cried, flinging a shapely leg over the canoe.

Turning, I squatted between her legs, my arms draped over her thighs while strong hands slithered cool over my shoulders and back. I gazed out towards the forested crags enclosing Man-of-War Bay, myriad vivid greens against the perfect blue of the sky. The sea was glinting like a tray of diamonds.

“Why so quiet, lover boy?”

“Just fixing Paradise in my memory,” I said with a sudden gasp as Naomi’s fingers push southwards; things were beginning to stir again.

“Actually, I was just wondering…” I faltered, my stomach in knots. “Can I ask you something, as it’s my last day?”

“Of course.” Her toes were flexing in the pink sand, tiny red particles of desiccated coral trickling between them. “You wan’ ‘make baby’ with me again? Is that it, fellah?”

I clambered round to face her, my nose inches from her glorious cleavage. “Yes, obviously, but––”

“It’s illegal, you know, getting naked on a beach in Trinidad and Tobago. Anyway, you have a plane to catch.”

“I still have about six hours, Naomi.” I hooked a finger into her bikini top and pushed my tongue into the gap. Her dark, smooth flesh tasted salty and delicious. “Besides, there’s no one here to see us.”

She gave a little sigh and a shudder as my lips closed around a nipple. Disposing of both shoulder straps, I cupped her other breast, squeezing the engorged teat between the knuckles of my first and second fingers. “Oooh,” she groaned, grabbing my face and slipping her tongue briefly between my teeth. “You know just what to do, don’t you? I’m going to miss you so much.”

One of her hands, still slimy with sun block, began to slide up and down between my buttocks whilst the other pushed into the front of my bathing suit, grasping for my cock. It was my turn to cry out at her firm grip. “Let me get rid of this hateful garment,” I muttered.

“No, Andrew, it’s against the law!” With her fist firmly around me, she was squeezing and pulling, making me judder and tingle from head to toe. “I can’t afford to be reported by some fisherman, not if I want a job in government.”

“Right, Mrs I.T. Expert,” I smiled, “partially clothed it is.”

I lay her gently back onto the canoe and, my cock still being kneaded, knelt at her side and smoothed her midriff. With my right hand flowing lightly over her exposed breasts, I drew my left hand slowly from her knee to her thigh before slipping it into her bikini briefs. I lifted the fabric away just enough to allow my tongue room to reach through the dark hairs to her vagina. “Mm,” I said, pulling back for a second. “You’ve not been swimming, yet you’re already so wet.”

“Stop talking, man, and do your thing,” came the breathy instruction. I could see nothing of her face beyond the folds of bikini top and the splendid double peaks of her upturned breasts. Unconsciously, perhaps, she was rubbing a finger over the oily tip of my cock. I was in danger of coming too soon.

Still squeezing her nipples, I leaned forward a little more, my tongue encountering no resistance as I passed it up, down, and from side to side. Naomi always enjoyed my nose being pressed into her pelvic bone; I could hear her sighs over the sound of the sea behind me. Her whole body was undulating rhythmically on the canoe.

And then, suddenly, the muscles of her legs taut, her feet digging into the sand, she let out a cry. “Aaaah! Yes, Andrew! Oh God, yes!” Writhing, she came again and again, the canoe rocking and crunching against a pebble. I reached under her, seized the back of those green briefs and tugged them down. She was beyond protesting as I flung them high onto a rock. “I want you!” she shrieked, letting go of my throbbing cock. “Inside me! Now!”

Abandoning her breasts, I ripped off my own swimsuit, tossed it to join hers and threw myself over her, plunging deep into her warmth and throwing my head back in ecstasy. As I exploded, an extra large wave — with a perfect sense of occasion, I thought — foamed up the sand and crashed into us. Soaked, laughing, and panting, we held each other as, to my continuing thrusts, my lover gave in to two or three more orgasms. “I love you, Naomi, my darling!” I kissed salt water out of her eyes. “Will you marry me?”

“What, Andrew?” Her body went suddenly slack. “Marry you?”

“Yes,” I said, adrenalin pumping through me. She had turned away, looking out to sea. “I’m asking if you would do me the honor of becoming my wife.”

She did not reply, but held me so tightly on top of her that I was unable to reach for my discarded trunks and the concealed engagement ring. Over a sudden singing in my ears, I was dimly aware of water sluicing across the reef behind me, of the ferns, palms and mangoes clinging to the rocky cliff above, their tendrils and roots dangling over the sand. A gaggle of fat green parrots squawked and prattled overhead. Gently, I pulled back to search her face, but her eyes were closed.

“Naomi?”

With a harrowing sigh, she folded my head into her breasts and wept silently, tears rolling down her cheeks and plopping into the sand.


• • •


It would be convenient to think that it was purely the width of the Atlantic that finished us off. In fact, it was my lover’s unerring instincts about me as a long-term prospect that proved insurmountable. Naomi was nothing if not forthright with me, and her parting lecture at Crown Point Airport later that day stung like a contact lens dipped in hot pepper sauce. She took me in her arms after check-in and gave me The Look, her startling blue eyes piercing my very soul.

“Andrew,” she began, her exotic scent causing me to tremble with a heady mix of desire and despair. “You keep saying there’s no call for a French graduate like you in the Caribbean. This may be true, but what you term ‘an irrelevant degree’ from one of the planet’s top universities does not release you from making any real contribution to life. You’ve been bleating on for months about applying to the Foreign Office or the British Council — ‘using your languages’ — but you’ve done nothing!” Even in the shade, the afternoon heat outside the terminal was becoming oppressive. “Drive, compliance, ambition, and motivation are all missing from your lovely DNA, and even if you did get an interview, those ‘dreary civil servants’ — your phrase, not mine, Andrew — would see through your comfortable indolence immediately.”

“I know, but—”

“Shh, Andrew!” She held me still tighter, enfolding me in the sensual, soft roundness of her tummy. Out of habit, my hands slid down over her hips to pull her bottom (her “bamsie” in the local jargon) towards me. I was utterly aroused by her and she knew it. “The problem is, fellah, that you inherited an easy life. You’ve a lovely flat in London and a pile of cash most people can only dream of, and as a result you’re never going to make anything of yourself. You have a body to die for, Andrew, and you use it to best advantage, making love like a god, but I can’t have you hanging around me waiting for something to happen. I’m about to land a job in government security and I’m not in the market for a needy house-husband, however loving and kind.”

Naomi, you most beautiful and exotic creature, why are you doing this to me when my heart aches to lie once more in your powerful, consoling embrace? How I long to feel those dark thighs of yours squeeze my torso, to bury my face in those extraordinary breasts, to lose myself inside you. Surreptitiously, she reached down and pressed her fingers against the engorged lump in my shorts, the gentlest of admonishments even at this moment of heartbreak. Mute, I waited as she stood back and appraised me, her full lips slightly parted, her tongue, pink and sensuous, moving slowly behind her teeth. The color of burnt umber, her glorious bare shoulders and plummeting cleavage glowed with their own kissable energy and fragrance in the awful heat of this tropical afternoon. Her hair was tied back, golden highlights mirroring a pair of piratical earrings I’d bought her at the market in Store Bay.

Dejected and close to tears, I lowered my gaze, the archetypal sunburnt colonial in shorts, shirt, and Panama hat. “I still love you, Naomi, whatever you think of me.”

Seemingly so adult, my queen folded her arms and shook her head. “Listen, when you’ve come up with a life plan for yourself, give me a call and we might have something to discuss. I love you too, Andrew, but not in that way. Not any more.” She looked me in the eye and made that irritatingly derisive sucking noise with her mouth. It’s a Trini thing.

“Naomi!” I cried. “You dare to –– what’s your word? –– ‘steups’ at me? At a time like this?”

“I steups at you, Mr. Billingham, because you deserve it and I’m trying not to cry.” She was stroking my arm. “We had great times together, didn’t we? I’m that glad I nabbed you before that loopy professor did, whatever her name was.”

“Naomi, please!” I felt myself blushing under my tan. “That shabby little episode in my life is forever closed! Taboo topic — we agreed.”

She sighed, ruffling my hair as if I was three. “That bashful little Harrison Ford half-smile will ensure that you won’t be alone for long.” She smoothed her yellow dress, shouldered her bag. My voice was no longer functioning. “We’re not students anymore, Andrew. This is real life now; time to grow up.”

Is she going to kiss me one last time? No.

Naomi wiped her eyes. “Thank you for everything,” she said. “And good luck.”

And with that, she turned and walked away, leaving me standing on the footpath numb with disbelief. At least she hadn’t offered to shake my hand. The sight of her slow, sexy gait brought tears of impotent rage and regret to my eyes. You’re not exactly putting up a fight to keep her, are you?

“Eh eh?” broke in a rasping Trini voice at my elbow. “What happenin’ wid you?”

I swung irritably to my left. A wiry little man in a green T-shirt and cut-off denims was grinning toothily up at me. “Nothing,” I managed, “I’m just angry.”

“You is angry? But you is in Paradise!”

“It’s a long story.”

Furrowing his shiny, dark brow, the man steupsed pointedly at me. I stepped away before he could utter further Caribbean platitudes. Squinting against the afternoon glare, I was in time to see Naomi’s sensual figure disappear behind Joe’s Rum Shop on the corner. “Get Drunk here” read the sign. Not a bad plan.


• • •


I spent the first part of that miserable flight home gazing out of the window at the towering blues, greens and oranges of the clouds which immortalized for me that last West Indian sunset. As darkness fell, I slid into a quagmire of defensive vitriol, railing at Naomi’s unfeeling lack of understanding and my own ridiculous failure to stand up for myself. Later, a doll-like hostess touched my shoulder and enquired whether I’d done with my tray of congealed slime. “I’m finished,” I murmured. And did I fantasize about whether she would take pity on me and offer to reduce my sense of worthlessness in the privacy of the staff sleeping area? I did.

Two inaudible movies and an hour’s broken sleep later, I had reached a jet-lagged decision to buy a sturdy backpack and another plane ticket somewhere. Naomi was right: there had to be something useful I could do.


Part One


2013


Chapter One


“Bryony, may I ask you a question?”

“Is it personal?” She leans her head on my shoulder and slides her fingers between my thighs.

“Reasonably so.”

“Good. I was hoping it would be.” She nudges my legs apart, her little finger exploring. “Well?” Her smile is bright and innocent. “What’s this question, man? Cat got your tongue?”

“You naughty, horny girl,” I gulp, adjusting myself in the cramped seat and burying my nose in her hair. I am aware of the small cuboid package in my pocket, digging into my hip, and I need a second or two to reconsider my plan. There hasn’t been a moment all day to put it into action and the top deck of a London bus is hardly conducive to what I have in mind. Besides, we both have even more pressing needs. “I was wondering––” I wrench her hand out of my lap “––whether you’ve ever visited the Albert Hall. If we stay put for another twenty minutes, this bus takes us right there. We could go in and have a look round.”

“For a lover you ask the strangest things. I thought we were heading back to Pimlico. Spend the morning at Camden Lock, you said, and then home for tea.”

“Ah, but I’ve changed my mind. Do you know the song ‘Isabelle made love in the Royal Albert Hall’? It’s by Jake Thackeray.”

“No, can’t say I do,” she replies, her hand insistent between my legs again. “Am I to take it that you’re intent upon following the example of this Isabelle’s sexually pioneering spirit?”

I am becoming breathless, my hips moving involuntarily. “Well, yes, I thought that in deference to her ground-breaking work, we might honor — whoa! — I really must ask you to desist, my darling, the man opposite is looking.”

“Let him.” She slips her silk-smooth tongue between my lips. “I couldn’t give a shit.”

The bus is slowing down. “Next stop St James’s, Piccadilly,” announces the tinny computerized voice. “Alight here for Waterstones and Hatchards bookshops, The Royal Academy, and Fortnum & Mason.”

Bryony is on her feet. “Come on, I’ve a better idea.” She grabs my hand, drags me down the stairs and off the bus. “There’ll be a quiet corner here somewhere.” She pushes through some double doors in eggshell blue. “It’s nearly tea time and Fortnum & Mason has a reputation for genteel hospitality.”

“You’re right,” I hiss, carelessly brushing her breast with the back of my hand. “I know just the place.”

The lift doors close. I punch the button, and am pushed back against the brass rail. No chaste peck on the cheek for me, but a passionate embrace involving exploration with tongues and a slim, cold hand down my trousers. “What if there are hidden cameras?” I say.

“It’ll be a bonus for the security men,” comes the reply as the doors ping open.

Dizzy with excitement, I straighten my clothes and enter the Aladdin’s cave that is Fortnum’s third floor. It is an emporium laden with gifts for the gentleman who has everything: ties, gloves and socks, silken scarves, silver hip-flasks and whisky decanters, canes with horse-head pommels, wallets, and briefcases. There are elephant-hide toiletry bags containing Marvis toothpaste (you certainly don’t see that at Tesco’s) and badger hair shaving brushes at three months’ salary apiece.

At the far end of this wood-paneled treasure-house there is an understated sign indicating a “W.C.” To the muffled soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings, I take Bryony’s hand and, dodging a twice life-sized stuffed leather Labrador, we dart down the short, carpeted corridor to our destination.

“Sorry I can’t run to a bedroom at The Ritz, my darling,” I pant, “but this is the nearest available love-nest on a chilly Sunday afternoon in spring.”

She seizes my jacket collar, pulls my face down, and kisses me again. “I’m not worried, Andrew.” She begins to unfasten the belt of her raincoat. “Go in and see if the coast’s clear.”

I push open the door and peer inside. High, frosted windows, an Art Deco tiled floor, urinals, and two cubicles; nobody in residence. “Come in quick,” I giggle. Bryony’s hands are flitting over her coat buttons. I lock the cubicle door behind us, my whole body tingling with anticipation. “This is very naughty,” I whisper, fumbling with my own belt.

“Take everything off,” she commands, wide-eyed. “I dare you!”

“Don’t be daft!” My heart is pounding. “What if somebody comes in?”

“We’ll just have to be perfectly still until they go again.” She untucks me and thrusts both hands inside my shirt. “Besides, a typical Fortnum’s customer will be too up his arse to notice! Strip or I’ll whistle for that leather dog!” She pushes my jacket off and tosses it into the corner while I slip kisses under her jaw. Her hand is suddenly back inside my boxers. I gasp as she squeezes me, fingers moving expertly and with exquisite sensitivity amongst my bits and pieces.

Breathless, hardly daring to move, I take her face in both hands. “Kiss me, Andrew,” she sighs, her brown eyes sparkling. “All over. And if you’re good, if you’re very good, I’ll take you­––”

“Oh, Bryony—”

“For a Fortnum’s cream tea.” I suppress a delicious bubble of laughter, breathe her in. My lips explore her cheeks, linger over her mouth and finally seek out that favorite spot of hers behind her left ear. She quivers a little, the scent of her short hair intoxicating me. Her lips find mine once more and, as we kiss, I undo her jeans and reach between her thighs, pressing my hand against the front of her knickers and tilting her hips against me. She is warm with anticipation.

Ignoring the rest of my shirt buttons, I rip the garment over my head while she undoes my trousers. My shoes kicked off, blue chinos dropped to the floor, she crouches at my feet, holding down the front of my boxers and deftly taking the end of my dick between her lips. Her head rocking gently backwards and forwards, she pulls down my underwear and — this is a surreal touch, but she is a girl with standards — helps me off with my socks, one by one. Opening her glorious mouth again, my lover leans back on her haunches and looks me up down, appraising my naked body.

“Mmm, not bad, Andrew. Not bad at all.”

“Why thank you, beautiful. I do my best to give satisfaction.” Oscar Wilde is deeply embedded in my psyche; I feel he would have approved of our passion in so public a place.

Supporting herself on the stiffest thing she can find to hand, she pulls off her own blouse. Extending her arms, she braces herself between the cubicle walls, her long legs bare, hips at a seductive angle, her enticing burgundy lingerie perfectly toning with her pale skin. Such sensuous, perfumed beauty leaves me spellbound, even in a gents’ lavatory at Fortnum’s. At my approach, her body heaves and undulates with excitement. Gently, I let my fingertips glide outwards across her creamy cleavage and under her arms, reaching behind her to release the bra. Free of all constraints, her perfect breasts fall into my hands, warm and heavy. I cup them together, making her sigh by rubbing my thumbs gently across the nipples. “Well, hello again, you two,” I grin. “It’s been too long.”

“It’s been five hours, Andrew.”

“I wasn’t talking to you.”

“Sorry. Should’ve known better than to interrupt such a happy reunion.”

“Quite.” I pass my tongue slowly across first one nipple then the other. “Excuse me while I assume the position.” There is just enough room for me to kneel in front of Bryony. I push my nose once more into her cleavage, submerging myself for a delicious moment in her softness, rolling my face from side to side, kissing and licking between her breasts. The magically smooth warmth of her skin sends tingles of longing down to my toes.

She leans back now against the door and groans faintly as I travel downwards across her abdomen, my tongue tracing a damp line towards her navel. It’s my turn to hook thumbs into knickers, and I pull them firmly down so that she can step out. We are both naked. As each leg lifts, I stroke under her thigh with both hands, molding and massaging as if to memorize this exquisite form, this moment, forever. Unable to resist any longer, I slide my hands slowly around her hips until my little fingers meet under her buttocks. Closing my eyes, I push forward between her legs, tease her with the tip of my tongue. I feel her arcing her back, pressing her pelvic bone into me.

“Stand up,” she whispers. “Let me look at you.” A sudden hint of sadness flickers momentarily behind her eyes. I pause for a second, a dull dread invading me.

“What is it, Bryony?”

“Later, my love,” she smiles, a little too chirpily. “It’ll keep.” She kisses me, her teeth lingering on my lower lip. “Now, what have we here?” With a sudden movement, she cups my balls in one hand and pushes me gently backwards towards the lavatory seat.

“Sit down, gorgeous. It’s time.”

I do as I’m told and, leaning back, I grasp her waist and pull her towards me. An invitingly erect nipple hovers for a second near my mouth. I am about to make a lunge when, with a deft movement of a long shapely leg, she straddles me.

“God, I want you, Bryony,” I manage to murmur. “I want you now.”

“And so you shall have me, lover mine,” she grins, reaching between our legs and guiding me inside her. This is the moment of which I dream. I close my eyes to relish the welcoming warmth, especially after the cool dank air of this unromantic location. We kiss again as, with tiny movements at first, she begins to move up and down upon me, her athletic thighs flexing and relaxing as she finds her rhythm. I tighten my hold on her waist, trying to lift her a little, take some of the strain; I know I won’t have long to wait. At twenty-seven, Bryony is nothing if not physically fit and in tune with her own delicious body.

“Squeeze my bum,” she says, her teeth clenched over her lower lip. “Hard!” Not one to disobey a woman in delicto, I oblige. “And that thing with my tits — do it now.” A hand grips the back of my head and suddenly my mouth is full. She loves it when I take a nipple between my lips and apply just a little dental pressure. I count ten lifts of her pelvis before swapping to the other breast, squeezing with my thumb and index finger as I disengage. With my face so close to her, I sense every subtle change in her body: the increasingly urgent thumping of her heart, her abdomen quivering as she slips up and down on me, faster and faster until suddenly, and with a suppressed cry, she stiffens and falls into me, her bottom and neck damp with a gentle sweat. Her pheromones are rampant and I’m about to lose control.

“Your turn, you sexy beast,” she moans, giving a final shudder. “God, how you turn me on. How do you even do that?” She leans away from me, gripping my shoulders with both hands so that I can see nearly all of her, the graceful arch of her torso gleaming in the dim gray light from the windows. Holding her hips, I let my eyes linger, feasting on the curved and erotic shapes created by the shadows of her arms and breasts; seeing her thighs, powerful and smooth, beginning to flex around my waist, I imagine myself a sculptor whose masterpiece has come to life. Deep between us, amongst the damp, dark hair, I can make out where we are conjoined, our bodies as one, pressing and writhing together. About to explode now, my hands flit wildly over her face and body, sometimes pulling her towards me for further ravenous kisses, sometimes letting her go in order to gaze into her blue eyes.

Her second orgasm coincides precisely with mine. Unable to contain myself anymore, I come with an explosion of tiny lights which cascade about me as I press my face into her neck. I am nearly horizontal now, the back of my head pressed against the lavatory cistern.

“Well, well, Mister Man,” gasps Bryony as our mutual joy subsides. “That’s a first for me; twice on a porcelain pedestal. And in Fortnum’s. Thank you!”

“No, please!” I can hardly speak. ­“Thank you! You’re an absolute angel and––”

I never finish whatever platitude I am about to utter because at this point the gents’ door opens and someone comes bustling in, leather-soled shoes clattering on the tiled floor. Our door is rattled (as am I) before the visitor enters the adjacent cubicle. Coitus interruptus, we hear him slam over the bolt and unzip. A pause, and then the sounds of copious peeing. One shiny brown brogue visible under the partition; we shuffle our feet towards the wall.

“Thank God he’s not settling in for the long haul,” I mouth into Bryony’s slightly pointed, pixie-like ear. She is beginning to giggle, her body jiggling up and down with tiny movements.

“Keep still, you bad girl, or he’ll hear you!”

To my alarm, such concentration on our new neighbor is causing wilt. Although I am pushing myself into her as hard as I can, I take the precaution of pulling out some sheets of paper. My lover is now sniggering uncontrollably and, to cover any audible snorts, I cough twice and hum a snatch of “Oh, What a Wonderful World” which only makes matters worse. I am sweating with embarrassment. Our neighbor has finished peeing and is evidently involved with tucking the oldest member away again. “In your own time, old boy,” I mutter, glaring at the wall. “Off you fuck.”

“Be patient, my handsome,” whispers Bryony. “He’ll bugger off in a minute.” Her tongue slithers eagerly into my ear and begins to trace the internal contours. With a spare hand, she reaches down to fondle my balls again, making the curly black hairs in my loins tingle. A wet finger passes tantalizingly back and forth across my bottom and I feel myself starting to expand and tighten inside her again. “There’s a good boy.” She is smiling with satisfaction. “We didn’t want a disappointing mess, did we?”

We kiss again, half-listening to the man’s final preparations for departure. As his toilet flushes, we slip to the floor and there, crouched upon me, Bryony starts slowly, inexorably to move up and down again, digging her nails into my shoulders. Then, as the door adjacent to us bangs open, she comes in for a third orgasm, this time more vociferously. She is convulsed with laughter and I clap my hand over her mouth. “Bryony! Ssshhhh!”

There’s a sharp rap on the door. Our door. “Who’s in there?” demands an elderly, aristocratic voice. “What the devil’s going on?”

I have no suitable answer ready, but Bryony is undaunted: “Your turn next, old fruit,” she announces in a deep, camp voice. “Pop a pair of crisp fifties by the basin and then hop along outside and wait patiently like a good boy. I’ll be with you directly, just as soon as I’ve satisfied this most demanding of young customers.” She emphasizes her expertise by suddenly poking a finger into my bottom. I emit a yelp.

“Do you mind?” shouts our unseen guest. “You blasted perverts! I’ve a good mind to report you.” We hear him washing his hands and pulling out an extravagant sheaf of paper towels. (There was a time when Fortnum’s supplied neatly folded white flannels.) “Bloody pooftahs. Unbelievable! Should be horse-whipped, the both of you.” He utters a final growl of disapproval before banging the main door behind him. We both burst into snorts of laughter.

“Are we done here, mademoiselle?” I enquire eventually. “Or are you in the market for another couple?”

“Andrew, my handsomest of sex slaves, your work here is done. Except I need to use that loo. And then we might think about dressing again.”

I disentangle myself from her. “Besides, we don’t want to cause a scene. I bet the management takes a dim view of naturism.”

We are disturbed only once more, but this time we manage to be grown-up enough to remain silent until the intruder finishes his ablutions. One more tight embrace and we cautiously step back into the shop proper. There being no gentlemen in leather brogues anywhere to be seen, and given that ours will be looking for a male couple, Bryony and I are brazen enough to shimmer proprietorially down the red-carpeted staircase. Two staff members in morning coats glance appreciatively at us as we pass. “Good afternoon, madam, sir,” says one, bowing slightly.

Ten minutes later, we are ensconced at a corner table in the Mezzanine Restaurant, the promised cream teas on their way.


Chapter Two


With Bryony on my arm, I am accustomed never to have to ask for anything from any male member of the service industry. Her beauty, style and charm draw the very best performance from everybody, myself included, if what she is saying is true.

“Andrew, you are the best, most exciting and stimulating lover I could wish for.” She reaches past the silver teapot to squeeze my hand. “I’m still buzzing all over. You have fired endorphins down to the tips of my fingers and toes.” Her words causing immediate stirrings between my legs, I lean across the table and, despite sidelong glances from an elderly couple to my left, kiss her slowly on the lips. I allow my tongue to linger, relishing a remnant of strawberry jam. “In fact, I’ve changed my mind,” she adds, as I settle back into my chair. “I think I could manage another one or two.”

“What? Orgasms?”

“No! Scones, you bad man!” She passes the tip of her tongue over her upper teeth and looks knowingly into my eyes. There is further stiffening in my boxers and I squirm a little to rearrange matters. She raises an eyebrow. “Not comfortable, darling?” she enquires. “Need to stand up and get one thing straight?”

Gently, I flex my ankles in order to lift my side of the table a couple of inches with my thighs. “No, I’m fine. It’s just that something’s come up.”

She snorts with laughter as my cup slips across its saucer, knocking the tea-strainer onto the white table-cloth. “Do try and behave, Andrew.” She glances to her right. “Uh-oh — judgemental neighbor alert.”

I follow her gaze: a po-faced, middle-aged couple are pretending not to be watching us through a three-tiered cake stand. “They’re only jealous.”

“How so?”

“Well, firstly, they haven’t had sexual congress since 1954 and secondly, when they did, it was just the once, with pyjamas and nightie on, lights out, missionary position, and no orgasm for the young bride.” Bryony is attempting to stuff her napkin into her mouth. “And thirdly, they’re jealous because, unlike them, we are happy and in love.”

A waiter approaches, French or possibly Belgian. He makes much of straightening his gray waistcoat and smoothing back his hair. A stocky little man, running to fat already, he is but one of the four Fortnum’s waiters who have fallen over themselves to abandon their allocated tables in favor of serving Bryony this afternoon. Ostensibly, he wants to know whether we — or, more specifically she — would like anything more to eat or drink. He is virtually salivating over her, his eyes bulging as they roam over her neck and cleavage, thrilling to fruitless fantasies of fornicating à la française with her.

“We’re just deciding.” She favors him with a glance, just long enough to be polite, but cursory enough to put him in his place. “Can you give us five minutes?”

“Certainly, madame,” he simpers, his ego deflating like an old accordion on the Boulevard St. Germain. “À votre service.” He minces away, tight trousers doing his bottom no particular favors.

“Listen, Andrew, I do have something to tell you.” That look in her eyes again. “God, how I wish things could be different.”

A numbness begins to creep though me. “What are you saying, my darling? Tell me. What’s happening?” Don’t say you’re ill. Please.

She looks across at me with such sadness that I nearly burst into tears. “I can hardly bear to say it,” she murmurs, lowering her eyes, “but I’m going away. I didn’t want to tell you, not after such a fabulous weekend together, but work is sending me to … to Papua New Guinea.”

“What the—?” Nausea surges through me. “How long for?”

She signals for our bill. “Five months. Maybe six.”

For a moment I cannot speak, torn between unutterable longing to remain at my companion’s side and what I know she needs to do to further her career. “How will we manage?” I say at last. “I can’t not see you for that long.” I take her beautiful face in my hands. “Am I supposed to sit here and wait for the postcard announcing you’ve been married off to some hairy Christadelphian charity worker in sandals and cut-off jeans?”

“I shan’t marry anyone else, Andrew.”

“You promise? Because I’m not available to be godfather to any of the squadron of kids you plan to assimilate out there, not all of them adopted.”

“Let’s not talk about it in here. I need some air.”

The squat waiter looks askance at me as, two minutes later, I palm him a note and escort a tearful Bryony to the staircase. We scurry along Jermyn Street past Bates the Hatter and Floris. “I know a secluded bench in St James’s Square,” I say, putting my arm around my girl and steering her to the right. “Ideal for distraught lovers.”

A park-keeper spiking litter informs us that we have twenty-four minutes precisely before he’s legally obliged to close the gardens. I nod to him and lead Bryony to a free bench beside a mahonia bush from where we can look up at the plane trees. Beyond bright green new leaves, clouds scud menacingly.

“It’s bloody freezing,” shivers Bryony, nuzzling into me. I wrap my scarf round her neck and pull her towards me, kissing the top of her head and stroking my hand along her thigh. I can’t live without her; of this, I’m certain. “I’m so sorry, Andrew,” she says. “It’s been a nightmare at work this week. I’ve tried to duck out of the trip, but the boss is adamant. The money’s in place right now and the contract is too big to lose. They even threatened to demote me and hire in another specialist, but it’ll be someone they won’t know and certainly wouldn’t trust to see the job through. Besides, it’s my design.”

I hold her close. “In some ways, it’s an honor to be the chosen lover of Britain’s most up-and-coming bridge engineer. In others, it’s a complete bloody nightmare.” I lean my head against hers. “But, you know, I’m never going to stop you pursuing this fabulous career. You’ve worked so hard for it, but might there be room for a little one in your hand-luggage if I promise to behave?”

“I asked them that too, but husbands, partners, lovers, and domestic animals are strictly off-limits.”

“What about soulmates?”

“Definitely not.” She snuggles into me. “I did have an idea, though.”

“You did? It had better be a good one.”

“Well, it seemed all right last night when I was fretting about it.”

“I’m agog, but if it’s anything less than asking me to marry you, then the answer’s no.”

“Marry you?”

“Yes, marry me.”

“Are you asking?”

“I am, Bryony.” I assume the position. “And not just because you’re going into exile.” I clasp both her hands. “Would you do me the infinite honor of becoming my wife? I love you so. I always have and always will. I can love no one else.”

She pauses and looks down at me. Behind her, the park-keeper is poised near the gate, his hand on a full bin-bag. He is looking intently our way and seems also to be awaiting her answer.

“Before I give you my considered response, and before your knees get too damp, let’s just finish what we were saying.” She kisses my forehead. “I am going away; I love you and you love me.” I gaze into her eyes, but cannot guess what she is about to say. “Andrew, this is what I was thinking last night: I don’t mind what you get up to while I’m away, whom you sleep with, but—”

“I hope you don’t think I’m going to wave you off at Heathrow and then leap into bed with the first floozy I meet. I am yours, Bryony. I’m not planning to shag around.”

“Andrew, shush. Things happen when partners are separated, and it really doesn’t matter, not in the long term.” I am about to remonstrate again, but she puts a cool index finger to my lips. “I wouldn’t mind too much, even if I did find out about your dalliances or mistakes or needs or whatever you men call them. But losing you will break my heart. I mean if you fall in love with someone else; that I could not bear.” I squeeze her fingers, humbled by her love and generosity of spirit. “Do we have a deal?”

“Of course we do.” My voice sounds husky. “Provided the arrangement’s mutual. But am I allowed one condition of my own?”

“Certainly.”

“That you answer my earlier enquiry.”

“I will. I hadn’t forgotten.”

“And?”

“Of course I’ll marry you, my darling boy. Did you doubt it? Just as soon as I return from distant lands. An autumn wedding.”

I lift her hands to my lips, tears splashing onto her knuckles. “Thank you, Bryony. Thank you from my heart. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to ask. I’ve known ever since we met all these happy months ago.” I reach into my jacket pocket and shuffle forward on my knees, sensible to every ridge of each tiny stone on the path. “Here,” I smile at her, “I know it was presumptuous, but I brought something with me in case — in the hope that you’d say yes. I’ve been waiting all day.”

With an intake of breath, she opens the ring box and bursts into tears herself. “Oh, Andrew, it’s beautiful.” Swiftly, she kisses me and holds out her hand for me to slip the ring onto her finger. The sapphire and double diamond sparkle exquisitely against her skin. “It’s a perfect fit.”

“I borrowed one of your other rings.”

“I love you, my future husband. Kiss me.”

We lose ourselves in this blissful moment until a vigorous round of applause brings us down to Earth. The park-keeper has been orchestrating a group of Japanese tourists and, as we look round, the clicks and flashes of twenty phones and cameras make me feel like royalty.

“Time, please, lady and gentleman,” the man is grinning. “And may I be the first to congratulate you both?” He pulls off a glove and shakes our hands. “You’re St James’s first proposal of the season. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple. My wife’ll be tickled to death when I tell her.”


• • •

Two hours later, and after a somewhat forlorn meal at my flat in Pimlico, Bryony’s weekend visit to London is brought to its achingly untimely end. As usual, we spend our last precious moments hungrily canoodling like teenagers behind a pillar in a dark corner of Paddington Station. This evening’s farewells are particularly poignant because Bryony is due to fly out the following Saturday. I am hatching plots to see her one more time, but until I know her flight details, I am saying nothing.

With a sinking heart reminiscent of that awful Sunday evening “back to boarding school” feeling of my childhood, I watch the last train pull away from Platform 4 and disappear into the night.


Chapter Three


The reason for the weekly boarder status of our relationship is that Bryony forges her career in the post-industrial Wiltshire town of Swindon. Determined to bide her time as a newly qualified engineer, she endures these arrangements with commendable fortitude; a dingy maisonette overlooking former shunting yards may be all she can afford on her current salary, but we both know that these humble lodgings reflect neither her talent nor her future earning potential.

The company in which she has made herself so indispensable has built itself a vast steel and plate-glass edifice on fertile arable land near the M4 motorway. “It’s fine for dullard automatons like me who spend every waking hour there,” Bryony wrote to me once, “because the planners have really pushed the boat out to render the environment suitable for human habitation. No expense has been spared in their attempts to deaden the constant roar of traffic and disguise the rolling acres of gleaming parked cars. You should see the neat rows of dying silver birch trees and municipal shrubs. There’s a McDonald’s, Starbucks, even a Frankie and Benny’s. Not to mention the twenty-first century temple to testosterone, a throbbing gym. And all in tinted triple-glazing and purple brick cladding. You’d love it, Andrew.”

As yet, I am having to take her word for it because Bryony has forbidden me to visit, but when we are married, things will presumably change and I will no doubt be decamping to these bleak post-modernist wastelands in the diseased heart of the English countryside.

My own daytime pursuits, being neither remotely modern nor financially beneficial, can hardly be called a career. Unlike Bryony, who actually makes a contribution to the wellbeing of the race, my job entails running (or cycling) between my flat in Pimlico and a narrow, pedestrian side-street near Trafalgar Square called Cecil Court. For three days a week, when I am not teaching French, I lurk like a troglodyte amongst ornate and mostly late Victorian tomes in a tiny and irrelevant bookstore called Meakins Books. Specializing in antiquarian children’s literature, and boasting an eye-wateringly-priced collection of volumes aimed at the American market, Melissa Meakins pays me a regular pittance in exchange for my undertaking to be utterly charming to that all too rare an entity, the credulous customer. On a good day in summer, I might schmooze nine or ten such specimens who, enticed by my window display of illustrated first editions or framed Alice in Wonderland prints, wander in to ask the way to Leicester Square, the British Museum or, more often than not, Foyles Bookshop.

It was on my way home that I first bumped into the girl who is to become my wife. It had been a slightly less monotonous day than usual because I had managed to persuade a collector from Cincinnati that he would forever regret not snapping up a chance-in-a-lifetime copy of Treasure Island signed by the illustrator, Edmund Dulac. He paid a fortune for it and, when I rang my boss, she offered me (in slurred tones) not only undying love but also, if I wouldn’t mind popping along to her flat in Neal Street, an evening of sustained celebratory and libidinous merriment. Given that she is a) immensely repetitious, b) obese and c) an alcoholic, I decline her offer, saying that I have a prior engagement with a visiting aunt from, erm, New Zealand. At five thirty-one, then, having stuffed my work clothes into a small rucksack and pulled on my running shoes, shorts and a singlet, I lock up shop, put on my headphones and set off at a brisk trot for Pimlico.

My run is unexceptional for the first twenty minutes. The crowds flocking outside the National Gallery are irritating, the dawdlers round the back of the Canadian Embassy completely lacking in spatial awareness, and the tourists swanning up and down The Mall oblivious to a man on a mission to cleanse and revitalize his book-musty body. I put on a burst of speed once across the famous footbridge in St James’s Park, zip over the zebra crossing and up Cockpit Steps. At the top, I accelerate again, swing right into Queen Anne’s Gate, and meet my Destiny head-on, actually colliding with a tall, blonde someone in vivid pink and black jogging in the opposite direction.

I was lost in the strains of Berlioz’s March to the Scaffold at the time and have no excuse. Which is precisely what I attempt to splutter to the girl by way of apology as we roll about on the pavement together, a tangle of cool, sweaty limbs deliciously entwined.

“My God, I’m so sorry!” I lie, gazing spellbound into enormous blue eyes. I can hardly speak, breathless in part from running but mostly as a result of the girl’s astonishing beauty. “My fault entirely,” I persist, still on top of her. “Are you all right? What must you think of me?”

Gently detaching herself, she clambers to her feet and leans back against some iron railings. Appraising me not unkindly, she begins to wind up her headphones, the sensual golden skin of her bare shoulders undulating alluringly as her muscles flex. “I will withhold my answer for the moment,” she says, sublime breasts still heaving, “but there’s no harm done. Nothing a coffee wouldn’t mend, in any case.”

“Well, that’d be lovely, if you’re sure.” My mouth is suddenly dry, my stomach trembling as I gape at her. The girl’s fair hair is cut short à la gamine and glitters like stardust in the late afternoon sunshine. Flushed with exertion, she pushes back her fringe to reveal smooth temples of utter kissability. My heart melts.

“Listen, I don’t want to hold you up,” I lie, given that I have no intention of ever letting her out of my sight again, “but there’s a decent little café round the corner by the tube station.”

“Well, lead on, kind sir,” she smiles, before looking down and zipping the headphones into her fanny-pack. She has the most exquisitely pointed pixie nose, elfin ears and — hold the phone! — no ring on the important finger.

“Here,” I say, “let me help you up.” Putting out my hands, I pull this divine creature to her feet. For a long moment, we stand before each other, still holding hands.

She is sublime.

Her face, figure, and long, long legs are utterly bewitching, and, at well over six foot tall, she is the epitome of elegance, poise and loveliness: a life-sized faerie queen. I look down into those great, blue eyes and am lost to her forever.

“Do you normally stare like this when you bump into people?” she enquires. “Or is it just that your mind is on other things?” Her voice, deep and rounded, only augments the quivering in the region of my diaphragm. I am battling an urgent desire to kiss her lips.

“I’m sorry,” I stammer, “I don’t know what came over me.” Not her; not yet. “You must think me a prize idiot.” She gives me a look which, in my confusion, I am quite unable to interpret.

“Take me to this fabled café,” she commands, releasing my hands. “I could massacre a Danish pastry.”


• • •


Unusually for this time of day, there is a free table outside the Caffé Bella Concordia in Tothill Street.

I pull back a chair for my companion. “Did I fall into a Mary Poppins pavement picture ten minutes ago, or is this really happening?”

She favors me with a dazzling smile. Perfect teeth. “We’ll know for sure only if we’re served by a gang of unruly penguins.” She unzips her fanny-pack again. “Wet-wipe?” She extracts one and dabs prettily at her upper lip.

“I thought we were having pastries.”

“I find these more effective than the average almond croissant for removing sweat and London grime. Look, here comes the waitress. Order me something long, large, and creamy.” Her face is expressionless. “And a regular cappuccino. I need to freshen up properly in the Ladies.” She is on her feet and radiating energy. “If you’re not here, though, when I come back, I’ll quite understand.” She brushes my shoulder with a finger as she passes, a jolt of her electricity shooting through me and leaving me virtually unable to give a single coherent answer to the waitress’s sullen enquiries.

Tingling with excitement, I wipe my face with a paper napkin. She’s right, this anonymous goddess: I am filthy.

“All done,” she exclaims, resuming her seat a minute or two later. “It’s getting chilly out here but I don’t want to sit inside. It reeks of bacon.”

I pull my blue work-shirt out of my rucksack. “Here, put this on — although it might be too big.”

“Why, how very gallant of you,” she says. “If you’re sure.” Of course I am. This lady would look stylish in a used refuse sack; with collar upturned and cuffs folded back, she looks absolutely adorable. Her next question comes out of nowhere. “Have you been trying to guess my name?”

“To be frank,” I say, enjoying the banter, “I’ve been musing on just this topic for weeks. It must be something that denotes extreme beauty. I’m going for classical.”

“Flirt.”

Qui? Moi?” I lean back and gaze at her beautiful face. “Let’s start at the top: Aphrodite?” She shakes her head but I can see she is glowing with pleasure. “What about Helen — as in ‘of Troy’? Maybe Cleopatra? Dido? Diana? Brünnhilde? Brenda? Bridget. I give up.”

“You’re uncannily close,” she smiles enigmatically. “It’s Bryony.” Her lips form the word as if she were blowing me a kiss. “Apparently I’m a flowering vine in Ancient Greece. Bryony Mowbray.”

“Bryony. Mowbray.” The words roll around in my mouth like a pair of peeled cumquats. “And where does your surname derive, I wonder?” Bryony narrows her eyes and a tiny alarm bell tinkles. I am in danger of falling into a bear-trap of my own making. “Am I right in thinking,” I breezily enquire, “that at this point, certain more disappointing members of society make oblique and witty references to that olde English staple, the pork pie?”

She arches a perfect eyebrow. “Nicely negotiated, O unnamed gentleman, and you are perfectly correct. One of the beery geeks at the office made the mistake of starting a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie whispering campaign at my expense during my first week.” She wrinkles her nose. “It’s not a mistake he’ll make again, I think. ‘People like you, Colin,’ I told him at a tribunal I’d accidentally set up in the canteen, ‘people who eat too many pies shouldn’t throw stones’. I make it a rule to eliminate from my life anyone who sinks to such crass attempts at repartee.” She grins at me. “Colin’s known as ‘Porcus Pius’ now. From the Latin.”

“So you’re a force to be reckoned with, Ms. Mowbray?”

“Not at all! I’m a pussy-cat really.” She leans forward and purrs at me, causing the waitress to sniff as she delivers our goodies. “And your name, Andrew Billingham?”

“A psychic too?”

“Not really. There’s a label on your nasty little backpack thing. ‘If found’,” she is beginning to giggle, “‘please return to 33, Leicester Street, Pimlico, London SW1’.”

“I admit it: A. Billingham Esquire, bachelor of this parish, antiquarian bookseller’s moll and occasional tutor in French.” We shake hands across the checkered plastic tablecloth. “Lovely to have bumped into you today.” I lift my coffee cup. “Here’s to all such accidents of Fate.”


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