Charles Hargreaves was renowned for having the very best of everything, his entitlements procured through tireless hours of toil and dedication to his work. At fifty-four, he was the most successful antiquities dealer in Essex, with eight outlets scattered around the county, and plans for a further two stores in the challenging market of London well-advanced. The portly, balding man was also a known drinker and gambler, but his frequent losses on the horses were well covered by the business of antiques; Charles was the undisputed expert at sourcing a rarity, purchasing it at the market bottom then re-selling it at the top. His business acumen and revered deal closing abilities made him the envy of the antiques world- by other traders at least; customers were ignorant to just how much extra out of pocket they were when they left a Hargreaves store.
Though no-one but Charles was counting, his fortune included a twenty room mansion near Walton-on-the-Maze, two holiday villas (one in the south of France and another in a secluded Italian valley), and a collection of priceless watercolours by several distinguished artists. He also owned a substantial portfolio of land throughout Europe and the Americas which he held for no other reason than to sell when the market peaked. But Charles’ Pièce de résistance was his new wife Anne, a twenty-two year old blonde whom he met following the finalisation of his divorce.
Charles had suffered financially with the split from his first wife, despite the wedlock producing no children. He made a solemn promise to himself on the day the divorce papers were signed that he would never again be put in such a position. So during his brief courtship with Anne, he asked his lawyers to arrange a series of intricate prenuptial clauses that would leave her with practically nothing in the event their marriage dissolved or he might die.
But it did not end there. The convoluted legal wording also stipulated that there were to be restrictions on Anne’s finances whilst they remained married. She was prevented from accessing any of Charles’ bank accounts, under no circumstance was she expected to seek a paid vocation, and a fixed allowance of just two pounds and four shillings a week over and above household expenses (which naturally had to be itemised and accounted for) would be indexed once a year for inflation.
Anne had a relatively stable upbringing and came from good stock despite her father being an alcoholic and abandoning the family while she was a child. This left quite a gap in the family photo album, not to mention the family finances, so in an effort to keep up appearances, Anne’s well-to-do mother sold the occasional piece of silverware to get by. She was also keen to ensure her daughter received the very best education on offer, but such scholastic services do not come cheaply (silverware notwithstanding), so it was left to participation in the world’s oldest profession to supplement the shortfall in fees.
But by no means did her mother need to walk the streets of London’s East End, for the regular clientele were distinguished gentlemen. Servicing such men from the upper echelons of society was a very financially rewarding experience indeed, and though Anne never quite knew the specifics of what activities went on behind her mother’s closed bedroom doors, she knew enough to work out that two hours of services equated to a week’s school fees. With plenty left in reserve for lunch money.
Anne developed her own reputation thereafter. Up until she became aware of her mother’s activities, Anne was rather prudish when it came to boys, but taking the old adage of what was good for the goose was good for the gander to heart, she decided to put her long blonde hair and sizeable frontal assets to good use. It started with trading alcoholic drinks for a ten minute session in the local woods (five was generally all that was required) before progressing to money, cigarettes, then more money but of greater denomination. And with plenty of local lads and favourable word of mouth (granted, not the ideal choice of language), Anne was never short on offers. And on very few she declined.
Despite all of this, Anne remained on the look-out for Mr Right, that one man who would sweep her off her feet and provide a fairytale life. And Anne thought she had found him after meeting Charles one night at The Fox and Hound; though he spoilt her with copious alcoholic drinks and she had reciprocated with the mandatory sex, he insisted on seeing her again which was so unlike all the other men she had (briefly) known.
Smitten with Charles’ affluent lifestyle, Anne was prepared to overlook the finer details of her suitor- namely his physical appearance- in return for life within the walls of Mayfair Manor, which came complete with a cook, gardener and chamber-maid. And she barely batted an eyelid when presented with a twelve page legal concoction a day after their engagement, Charles waving the prenuptial agreement off as nothing more than a ‘mere formality of undying love.’
Of course, it became quite clear just how deep that love extended in a financial sense when Anne received her first week’s allowance. And whilst the novelty of manor life with everything on beck and call had not dimmed in that first week, by the time their first year anniversary had arrived, Anne was wondering if she’d made the right choice after all. What point was there in marrying a rich man if she was allowed only to window shop?
Anne’s decision to finance a lifestyle her husband was unprepared to do was in the end an easy one. The only question was how to go about such a task. Terms within the prenuptial precluded Anne from working under any circumstance, and a divorce would leave her with nothing. There was no profit in killing Charles either, and besides, Anne hadn’t the foggiest idea about how to go about it without getting caught.
In the end a variation of her mother’s chosen career path was the best option. Leaving the manor for extended periods of time was out of the question; Charles was very dictatorial in knowing where she was and what she was doing at any given hour of the day. But there were always dinner guests over, and many of Charles’ friends and colleagues were as financially stable as he. The perfect source of money, as far as Anne was concerned. Some were even quite good looking.
The perfect opportunity arose when Charles announced Edward Blakemore would be dining with them the following Friday evening. Edward was the Assistant Manager at the head shop in Thaxted, and though he wasn’t quite in the same league as Charles- financially at least- Anne fancied him as quite the dishy sort. He was also single, which Anne hoped would make the undertaking all that much simpler. There was no authoritarian wife to bypass suspicions, no glamorous lady friend to compete against.
The week went slowly, but it gave Anne time to refine her plan. She knew exactly what to say to Edward almost verbatim, the only problem was in getting him alone long enough to say it. But Anne was sure an opportunity would present itself.
It was a little after 8pm when Charles suggested the trio adjourn to the formal lounge for a drink. The Peking Duck had gone down splendidly and with Edward failing to bring company- as Anne had hoped- it meant just that little bit more found its way onto Charles’ plate.
That fact was not lost on Anne, and it was she who reminded him of it as the whiskeys were poured.
‘You know dear, I’ve just realised poor Edward didn’t get any second helpings….thanks to you.’
Charles arched an eyebrow mockingly and patted his overbearing stomach. ‘But there’s just so much room here, Anne. You’d have had to put up with rumblings all night otherwise.’
Laughing, Edward followed with a similar gesture. ‘And there’s not much here to fill I’m afraid Anne, so Charles was more than welcome to the leftovers. As delicious as dinner was, I just couldn’t fit another thing in. And thank you again for inviting me. My homecooked meals just do not compete.’
Anne’s eyes sparkled as Edward ran his hands over his shirt. In contrast to Charles, Edward’s abdomen looked firm and taut, even if she couldn’t see underneath his clothes. Her mind wondered again, sizing him up for the umpteenth time that evening. She couldn’t decide which part of him she liked better; the square, set jaw, or the way he flicked back his blonde wavy hair.
Anne bit her lower lip tenderly. It didn’t really matter, she thought to herself. Every bit of him was as good as the other.
‘I thought you had hired help for that kind of thing,’ said Charles.
Edward shook his head. ‘Had to let her go a couple of weeks back. Costing me more in just wages. Cutlery as well, if you get my drift.’
‘That is a shame,’ Charles said, and passed a whiskey to his guest. He sat down next to Anne, rubbing her knee gently. Though accidental, his action pushed back Anne’s breezy summer dress and it slipped half-way up her thigh. Anne remained impassive as Edward struggled to overt his eyes from her exposed flesh. She made no effort to return the hem to the original position, instead accentuating the appeal by raising her knee slightly.
‘You know your problem? You need one of these,’ Charles continued, patting Anne. ‘A wife can do so much. This one even lets me have a flutter every now and then.’
‘I don’t think I could stop you even if I tried,’ Anne said, rolling her eyes.
‘Oh, come now. Every man’s allowed a vice, isn’t he? Even Edward makes the occasional bet and comes up trumps, and look how perfect he is.’
‘More like I come up trumps occasionally, Charles,’ Edward corrected. ‘I seem to back all the wrong horses in case you hadn’t noticed.’
‘My point exactly then- a lovely wife is like a lucky charm.’
‘Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m in no rush right now. But thank you anyway for looking after my, er- vested interests.’
Charles laughed. ‘You know, it’s quite odd to hear you make so many compliments. Usually the shoe’s on the other foot. Did you know, dear, young Edward is one of my most respected employees? I’ve received so many letters of praise and admiration from customers about this man, I’ve lost count.’
Edward waved off the remark and smiled cheekily at Anne. ‘But what your husband doesn’t know is that they’re mostly from my dear aunt Matilda who is as desperate to see me get another pay rise as I am.’
Charles raised his glass in admiration. ‘Now you can see why I’m so keen to keep this young man. Wit as well as a devoted work ethic. You don’t find that too often nowadays you know.’
‘Charles talks about you all the time,’ Anne said. ‘I’m surprised he hasn’t invited you over more often.’
‘Oh but I have, dear,’ Charles replied. ‘Only Edward appears to be somewhat the Casanova and is far too busy to spend an evening or two with the likes of us. Always seems to have better things to do, don’t you Edward? Dinners, dances, social gatherings, that sort of thing. And always with a lady friend, though you never quite seem to settle into a relationship, which baffles me somewhat. That’s why we just must find you a wife.’
‘Sounds like you have a lady friend after all,’ said Anne.
Edward blushed. ‘The truth of the matter is, whilst I’m not getting any younger, I certainly don’t want to rush headfirst into marriage with the next woman I meet. And I’m trying to…well, er…experience life while I still can. Oh, do I hope that doesn’t come across as sounding like I’m too frivolous with women. That isn’t my intention at all. But…’ Edward seemed to stumble over his words before finding the right mix. ‘Well, I do like the company of women and I seem to think they rather like mine. And that suits me just fine at the moment.’
Anne sighed heavily. Old as Charles was, he certainly had very little to show in the way of experience with the fairer sex. His only conquests were the two women he had ever wed and Anne could easily testify to that little fact by the way he went about his business twice a week (always on Tuesdays and Saturdays) in that monotonous, almost detached manner of his. Only on special occasions- holy festivals and birthdays among them- did Charles appear to put the effort in, though being able to count on two hands instead of one the number of required thrusts before expelling himself for the night might hardly be considered a display of intimate affection.
By her own admission, Anne’s experience wasn’t much better. Granted, her number of sexual partners far exceeded the price tag on the Seth Thomas Regulator displayed in the Thaxted shop window, but quantity doesn’t always dictate quality. Male friendships may have been aplenty before marriage, but Anne never really spent enough time with any one companion (or was that the other way round?) to appreciate all a relationship had to offer.
Yet the man before her, this gleaming man of the world, was virtually exuding his sexual prowess by shrugging off those very triumphs in an embarrassed, uncomfortable fashion. Now this was a man worthy of bedding.
Charles raised his glass again. ‘Nothing wrong with that, Edward. Many a man in similar circumstance would do the same. In fact, had I not married Anne, I might very well be out with you tonight hunting such women down.’ Charles laughed and Edward again followed his lead, though he clearly seemed ill at ease in doing so.
Noticing Anne’s discomfort, Edward cleared his throat and tactfully changed the subject. ‘Well I know it’s rather rude to talk shop Charles, and forgive me please Anne, but I forgot to mention to you today about this young American chap who happened to pass through. Antique book collector he was, of all things.’
Charles nodded agreeably. Though his outlets stocked very little in the way of books, he himself was an avid collector of rare binderies and first editions.
‘The half dozen books we had on offer didn’t really catch his fancy,’ Edward continued, ‘so he asked for directions to the nearest rare book shop. Turns out he’s after a couple of first edition Thomas Hardy prints- Wessex Tales and The Hand of-‘
‘Ethelberta,’ Charles finished, his eyes flickering. ‘Well, well. They’re each worth a pretty penny. I take it you mentioned my name?’
‘Indeed I did. And he seemed quite interested in meeting you. Well, your books at any rate. I told him you were a bit of an enthusiast and knew you had a few Thomas Hardy books in your personal collection, though I wasn’t sure if you could accommodate. Or willing to, for that matter.’
Charles dispensed the remainder of his drink in the one swig. ‘Well as it just so happens, I do have one of those books. And as for parting with it, well anything is possible…for the right price of course. Is he passing through again?’
Charles sat silently for a moment. Already he was calculating the sentimental loss of such a prized rare edition from his collection against the monetary profit of its sale. And rare book collector or not, the buyer was American. They always parted with just that little bit extra cash than was really necessary. Something to do with the exchange rate, or so Charles always believed.
‘Well I am intrigued,’ said Charles, rising from the couch. ‘So intrigued in fact that I might just go and find the book in question. Anne, be a dear will you and keep our guest entertained. Shan’t be more than five minutes.’
‘Now, Charles?’ Anne said. ‘Must you?’ Anne strained the questions so she sounded disappointed, but not that disappointed with his decision. Truth be told, she couldn’t have asked for a more perfect scenario.
‘Five minutes,’ Charles repeated. And with that, he was gone.
‘So typical of him,’ said Anne, not believing her good luck as she re-adjusted her hem with a slow and deliberate action. ‘Like a dog with a bone he is sometimes. Gets an idea into his head, and just won’t let it drop. I’m surprised he hasn’t decided to drive off and hunt this American down just to satisfy a whim. Oh I am sorry, Edward. He shouldn’t be long. Then you boys can continue your little chat about things.’
‘No trouble at all,’ Edward replied. ‘At least I get to have a chat to you instead. Unless you decide to pop off as well that is.’
‘Oh I’m quite happy to stay here with you Edward,’ Anne said, widening her eyes and making sure he noticed the gesture. She had spent many hours wondering how to broach the subject, but Charles’ little banter about the ladies had created the perfect opportunity.
Anne took a deep breath. ‘But I am still surprised you didn’t bring a date with you. It would have been quite nice for some extra company of the female kind. I don’t get to see many of my friends, you know.’
‘Charles doesn’t approve.’
‘Oh, that is unfortunate. I’m sorry to hear that, Anne.’
Anne shook her head soberly. ‘Matters not, I suppose. I have the staff to keep me occupied...’
‘And Charles,’ Edward added.
‘Well…’ Anne paused, ‘to tell you the truth, he’s rarely home. And when he is, he’s always cooped up in one of the rooms by himself, or entertaining visitors. His visitors, I should say. I rather think I’m quite low on his list of priorities. We’re like passing ships to be honest.’
‘Oh. I…I didn’t know you were experiencing marital problems like that. I am sorry.’ Edward stared into his drink, unsure of how to respond next.
‘That’s all right. I suppose I should be used to it by now. Much like the financial problems I have to endure really.’
This got Edward’s attention. He looked up quickly and arched a brow. ‘Oh? You mean Charles? He-‘
‘Oh good grief, no. Charles has plenty of money. I was talking about my financial circumstances. Charles doesn’t let me work, you see. What little possessions I own are from before we met. This dress, for instance…’ Anne ran her hands over the straps and down to her waist. ‘I’ve had this for years. It’s so out of vogue.’
Edward cleared his throat. ‘Doesn’t seem to be too bad.’
‘Oh but it is.’ Anne stood up. ‘Look how the hem only just passes my knees. This summer’s style is so much shorter.’ And to show evidence of how the current cosmopolitan look was doing the rounds, Anne hitched up her dress and pinned it tightly with her fingers against her thighs. That the particular length she’d accrued was in fact another two seasons away didn’t really seem to matter. The anticipated effect was overwhelming. Edward’s eyes were positively bulging out of their sockets.
‘And I’d so dearly love to be able to afford one. Wouldn’t you?’
‘Well, I…I suppose I would. Well, I mean, I would like you to be able to afford such luxury. I’m rather sorry you’re…in such…an unfortunate situation.’
Anne smoothed back her blonde hair and curled it around her left shoulder, leaving the opposing neckline exposed. Her skin glistened in the light.
‘Of course, it need not be like this,’ she said. ‘Given the right kind of opportunity, I might be able to treat myself to a new dress or two…hypothetically speaking, of course.’ She let the words linger for a moment before sitting back down. Anne crossed her legs slowly and tapped her foot up and down. Edward followed the movement and unknowingly licked his lips. ‘I bet you’ve bought plenty of dresses for your lady friends, Edward. What price might you expect to pay for something like that?’
‘Well, I, er- well, I wouldn’t know to tell you the truth. Quite a lot, I’d fancy.’
‘You mean you’ve never once purchased one as a gift?’
‘Oh, shame on you, Edward. Any girl would adore you if you did. She’d probably be willing to do just about anything…’
Edward moved uncomfortably around in his seat and surreptitiously fiddled with his belt. Anne had a quick glance for any tell-tale signs of arousal and pouted her lips at the positive response. Things were moving quicker than she expected. And quite literally at that.
‘Take the situation I’m in as an example. I’ve a husband who refuses to satisfy my personal and material needs. Imagine what kind of things I’d be willing to do if an opportunity presented itself.’
‘And has it?’ Edward steadied the question with another gulp of his drink.
‘Not yet, no. But let’s assume it did. Completely pretend, of course.’
‘Several things would need to be thought through carefully. Four, to be exact.’
Edward tried to hide his interest. ‘Oh? And they would be?’
‘Well for one, the right person…the right man, would have to be involved. If I were to go behind my husband’s back, it would have to be with someone whom I trusted. Stable and of sound mind, that kind of thing. And they would certainly have to be mature about the whole thing. Oh, and of course, good looking. An older man in his late thirties might suit the bill for that, wouldn’t you think…?’
Edward responded with another shuffle of his belt and a clearing of his throat.
‘Secondly, there is the question of remuneration.’
‘Remuneration?’ said Edward.
‘Payment for services rendered, shall we say. Oh, I’m quite sure there are all kinds of stores that sell nice dresses. But I’m not the kind of girl to buy any old tatty thing. The latest chic look doesn’t come cheap you know. I’m certainly not a two bob hooker who would be satisfied with a bit of loose change.
‘There would also have to be certain arrangements with how…recompense is made,’ Anne said cryptically. ‘I’m an independent kind of girl and wouldn’t want someone to be holding my hand whilst choosing the right dress. For a start, you don’t even know my taste.’
Edward turned the corners of his lip up a little, smirking. The direct reference to him as a potential suitor hadn’t gone unnoticed. ‘In other words, you would be looking for a…cash payment,’ he said, matter of factly.
‘You might say that, yes,’ Anne replied, her eyes twinkling. ‘Whilst a gift is gratifying, it’s not exactly what I’m looking for. And as a respected salesman, I’m sure you understand the value of liquidity. Money in its most basic form is so empowering, wouldn’t you agree?’
Edward began to rock his head back and forth in agreement. Anne took this to be a good sign; a very good sign in fact.
‘And the final requirement?’ said Edward. He knew now exactly what it was, but decided to ask the question anyway. It was the same whether he was showing a potential customer the attributes of a Bonn vase or a Waltham watch; the price of the item offered for sale was always discussed last. It was just good manners.
‘Why, the most important part of the whole transaction, Edward- the monetary value of the good or service being sold. You of all people should know this.’ Anne spoke quickly, but even this condition was met with promise. Edward’s mind was well-guarded, but his face indicated a man prepared to part with his entire savings for the sake of ravishing the voluptuous blonde before him.
‘You detail an interesting arrangement,’ said Edward. ‘But what exactly is the offered item? I mean, what specific…attributes of yours would be utilised?’ Edward put the comment as delicately as he dared.
Anne put a finger to her lips and let it linger there for a moment before curling it around the edges in a hypnotic, circular motion. ‘You know, as a young girl, I quite enjoyed going to the local fair. The rides and games were quite enjoyable, but my favourite part of the whole day was when I got to choose a lucky dip from one of the side stalls. You never quite knew what it was you were going to get inside that brown paper bag, but it was always pleasant…and I always went home satisfied, no matter what it had cost me.’
Edward seemed to quite enjoy the imagery Anne had conjured up. ‘Then we would both have to agree to certain terms of this…proposition,’ Edward said, placing the empty glass on the table beside him. ‘But I don’t think that will be a problem. Do you?’
Anne tingled with excitement. ‘No. So what are these terms of yours? Price?’ she said bluntly.
‘That is the most important one, yes. Do you know what the…going rate is for such services?’
Anne sunk back into the couch. ‘I was thinking of along the lines of twelve pounds.’
‘Five,’ came the immediate counter offer.
‘Make it ten and we’re done.’
Edward thought carefully. ‘Very well, ten pounds it is. Now, to the other little condition. Or problem as it were. Where and when do you expect we could carry out this little…transaction? Evidently here is out of the question, and-‘
‘Don’t be so sure of that, Edward. The manor is quite large, and I’m sure we could manage to sneak you in one afternoon without any of the staff realising. You might wonder why I’d want to take that risk, but let’s just say I have my own reasons.’
‘Very well.’ Edward could guess what those reasons were. Anne came across as a woman who liked to be very much in control. Meeting in some cheap hotel and leaving with a purse full of money afterwards took away that control; it aligned her with common prostitutes that walked the city streets. But if Edward were to do the visiting, the roles might seem reversed. At least, they would seem reversed to Anne. ‘Well if you’re happy about the where, there is just the question of the when.’
As soon as possible, Anne stopped herself from saying. ‘I was thinking one evening next week. I know Charles has a prior dinner engagement to which I’m not invited. I’ll find out which evening it is and let you know-‘
At that moment, Charles re-entered, carefully holding a large book in his hands. His interest was more focused on this than Anne or Edward, who exuded a sense of naughty children caught with their hands in the biscuit tin.
‘Isn’t it just wonderful?’ Charles beamed, holding up the Hardy narrative for them both to see. Charles ran his fingertips over the binding. ‘You know, I think I’ve already made my decision. Sell it for the right price, is what I’ll do. The right price, mind you, not necessarily a fair one.’
‘And I’m sure you’ll get what you demand,’ said Edward.
‘Oh I think I will. What day did you say this American was coming back?’
‘Friday afternoon. At least, that’s what-‘
Charles held up his hand. ‘No matter. Friday it is. And you know what? I think we’ll close up early that day, Edward. No sense in tying up our American friend with other customers that might happen to wander in. Besides, I’m sure I can get make a much bigger margin on this lovely item than anything else we’ve got in Thaxted at the moment. This could be worthy of a week’s takings.’ Charles tapped the book satisfactorily. ‘So you might as well finish early yourself on Friday.’
‘Are you sure, Charles?’
‘Oh, absolutely. You’ve earned it. But if you do feel bad about taking the afternoon off, you’re more than welcome to put in a couple of extra hours early in the morning next week.’ Charles chuckled to himself and returned to his seat, squeezing Anne’s knee again as he sat down. As he heaved himself back into an upright position, Edward surreptitiously winked across at Anne.
The excitement that tingled through her body this time was far more intense than before. But she knew it was nothing compared to what Friday afternoon would bring.
If the week leading up to the dinner dragged, the days preceding Friday positively dawdled. Anne was a mix of nerves, eager to be ravished by a man she hardly knew, and excited at the prospect of finding financial independence again. Friday just couldn’t arrive soon enough.
Upon waking, Anne rose quickly and saw Charles off to work ten minutes earlier than he would have normally left. But there was so much to do and so little time in which to do it. First, she treated herself to an hour long bath with a lot more soap and fragrance than was really necessary. Then another hour was spent choosing the right outfit to wear. Anne finally decided on a nice dress similar to the one she wore on Tuesday. Though it was slightly longer and didn’t reveal as much of her neck, her back was nearly fully exposed. And the most important items of clothing, the undergarments, were a matching set of fine black laces safely hidden from view. For now.
Following an early lunch (at Anne’s insistence), the cook was sent on a special errand which would take her the better part of the afternoon- if she was lucky; the chamber-maid was given the afternoon off for exceeding her duties the previous week (in fact she had under-performed, but Anne didn’t want to upset her good mood); and Mr Higgins the gardener was left to his own devices to potter about on the grounds. Of all the staff, he was the only one Anne could afford to keep around. Dismissing all of them for the afternoon would have looked highly suspicious, so she had decided to keep someone at the manor, and Mr Higgins was the obvious choice. He was nearing seventy, had awful hearing, and his eyesight had clapped out years ago. But best of all, he was only interested in his garden greeneries; the goings on between the walls of Mayfair Manor were of no concern to him.
At half-past one, Anne looked up from her magazine as the door chimed. She slipped into a pair of open high heels that accentuated her calves and sauntered down the hallway to the door.
‘Not too late, am I?’ a freshly shaven Edward Blakemore announced as Anne swung open the cedar door.
‘Not at all. Did you drive?’
‘Parked the car in a nearby allotment. Don’t worry, it’s completely out of sight from the main road.’ Edward leaned across and gently pecked Anne on the cheek. She turned a little to meet his lips, but he pulled away, teasing. ‘We might not be able to wait if we start now,’ he said.
‘Then you’d better come in and follow me upstairs,’ Anne replied, leading Edward by the hand. His was warm the touch, she noticed.
They walked silently up the stairs and turned right at the very top into the main bedroom. Edward glanced around quickly, half expecting Charles to jump out from behind a curtain. But of course, he was back in Thaxted doing his best to milk the American book collector for all he was worth.
Anne sat down, kicked her heels off and lay across the bed. Instinctively Edward came down to her, but she sat up quickly, halting his advance.
‘Business first,’ Anne said, gently tugging at his tie.
‘As you wish.’ It wasn’t an angry response, but Anne noted his tone had deepened, as if offended. ‘Ten pounds, wasn’t it?’
Anne didn’t reply, but watched carefully as Edward removed the required fee from his wallet. The money was hastily dropped onto the dresser, but it was all there.
‘Thank you. Shall we?’ Anne relaxed back onto the bed, pulling Edward’s tie down towards her.
‘We shall,’ he said, and proceeded forthwith to consume the services of Anne Hargreaves for the princely sum of ten pounds.
The engagement in physical relations lasted almost an hour, which was the longest session of intimacy Anne could ever recall. But what an hour it was. Anne tingled with pleasure with every one of Edward’s thrusts, and clawed at his back with passionate desire. It was pure wickedness, and Anne loved every moment of it.
When it was all over, Edward hastily dressed himself and left with a cursory round of thank-you’s and cheek kissing, but dispensing with an offer of tea and biscuits. An extensive session of copulation it might have been, but he clearly was not in the mood to tempt fate.
Anne was positively glowing. She saw Edward off and took a long hot shower to freshen up. It also served to remove Edward’s musky smell from her body, something she didn’t want lingering around when Charles came home. After changing the bed sheets to hide the last piece of incriminating evidence, it was time to return to the fashion magazine she’d been reading before Edward had arrived. And this time, the sophisticated wears splashed across every other page appeared just that little bit closer in reach.
Charles came home a little earlier than normal, but there was a skip and a bounce in his step as he entered the lounge- no small feat for a man of his size. He came over to Anne, kissed her on both cheeks and patted her on the shoulder.
‘I take it things went well then?’ Anne asked nonchalantly.
‘Oh, yes dear.’ Charles made no inquires as to how her day had gone, or what she had been up to. ‘Today was just marvellous,’ he continued. ‘Sales were peachy, we finally managed to sell that old trinket box I’d been carrying for the last year, and our American friend came through trumps.’
‘You got your asking price for the book?’
Charles rubbed his hands together. ‘And then some. The old man was positively beside himself. Of course, I think he also got a bit muddled with the exchange rate, but that’s not really my problem. He paid a fair and decent price as far as I’m concerned.’
‘Oh that is good.’
‘Ah, but I haven’t told you about the best part of the day, have I?’
‘No, dear,’ Anne replied with very little interest. Her mind had wandered back to the featured summer dresses in the magazine she’d been reading. Now what colour…?
‘Well you’ll be especially pleased to hear I had rather a nice win at the races this afternoon.’
‘Yes. Thirty to one odds on Nice Little Earner, a four year old filly with only a couple of fourth and fifth placing’s to her name…until now.’
‘That’s nice Charles,’ Anne said blandly. ‘You had a win for once.’
‘And not just any old win I’ll have you know. A thirty to one win. Now that doesn’t happen every day.’
‘No…no, it doesn’t.’
Charles helped himself to a drink, pouring just that little bit more Scotch than he otherwise normally allowed. ‘And that reminds me- did Edward call round?’
Anne’s mouth suddenly turned dry. ‘Edward, dear?’
‘Yes. Edward Blakemore. The chap who was here the other night. Please tell me he came round like he said he would Anne.’
There was a moment’s hesitation. ‘Yes,’ Anne said finally. ‘Yes, that’s right. He…he came around shortly after…two-ish, I think it was.’ Anne watched the back of her husband for a reaction. But there was no sudden movement and he turned around normally.
‘Rather silly thing for him to go and do, wasn’t it?’ Charles continued. ‘Still, at those long odds, he’ll no doubt thank me come Monday morning.’
‘Well if you say so dear, though…Edward didn’t really elaborate.’
This surprised Charles. ‘He didn’t tell you then?’
‘No.’ Anne peeped.
‘Probably too embarrassed.’ Charles settled onto the couch and sampled his Scotch. ‘Well it was quite a silly thing to do, but he left his wallet at home today you see. And being a bit of race goer like myself, I just couldn’t bear for him to mope around all day wondering what might have been, so I loaned him some money from the morning takings.’
‘You loaned him…’
‘Oh, it was only ten pounds or so, of no consequence really, but he was so beside himself and promised to drop it back off as soon as he’d gone home to find his wallet. Of course, I did tell him it could wait until Monday, but Edward was having none of it. He’s quite like that you see- doesn’t like having debts hang around.’
Anne’s face had turned quite pale. Her hands were clammy and beads of sweat had formed across her forehead.
‘I say dear, you don’t look all that good. Are you all right?’
‘Yes,’ Anne whimpered.
‘Might be best you take some tablets and have a lie down, eh. Anyway, Edward did drop off that money didn’t he? The ten pounds I was talking about?’
‘Yes…yes he did.’
‘Good, good.’ Charles began to relax and took another drink. ‘Who’d have thought- thirty to one odds. We did all right out of that little filly coming through, eh?’
But Anne wasn’t listening. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, the magazine slipping from her grasp in the process. And as Charles bounded about the room in his happy mood, Anne began to sob quietly to herself.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Jason Cosnett.
Published on e-Stories.org on 20.08.2009.