Anything for You Ch. 10byevanslily©
Yes, it's an epilogue to 'Anything for You', eighteen months after I submitted what I thought was the final chapter. :) But having re-read this story for myself recently, it became blindingly obvious that many of you were right to tell me it needed an epilogue! Plus - and I'll hope you'll forgive the self-indulgence of it all - I'm hoping writing this will provide a bit of a springboard for me to get back to writing more regularly. I've let real life get far too much in the way just recently. If it's been a while since you read the preceding 9 chapters of this, I wholeheartedly apologise. I left Drew and Sam in a hotel room in Italy, together with a length of purple tinsel and a magazine article entitled '99 Ways To Please Your Lover Tonight'. I'll leave it to your imagination as to whether they tried all 99 ways...
Hope this provides a rather more satisfying ending. It's certainly been a lot of fun to write. My huge thanks to those of you who've sent me emails of encouragement - I'll do my very best to be back soon with a brand new story!
"Well, good morning to you, Samantha. Or should I say afternoon?" Alice jerked her head towards the clock on the wall behind the counter as the shop door tinkled shut behind me. "Yes! Afternoon!"
I smiled at the faux outrage in Alice's tone. "Don't tell the boss," I said, weaving through the rails of clothes towards her. "I've heard she can be a right bitch if you're late." She gave a grunt of amusement as I kissed her on the cheek. "Sorry. I really didn't think I'd be so long."
"Busy at the dentist, was it?"
"Very," I agreed, grateful that she'd already turned away to fold up some maternity jeans and hadn't taken the opportunity to read my expression. I was never going to get any better at lying. "I think there must've been an emergency or something. I had to wait ages."
"Oh well." Alice was brisk. "At least it's all over for another six months. No fillings needed this time?"
"No, everything's fine." Though come to think of it, I probably ought to make an appointment to make sure that was true. Another thing to add my ever-burgeoning to-do list. I bent to put my bag behind the counter, staying down for just a little longer than necessary to make a play of searching for my mobile phone while my heated face cooled down. "Have we—erm...?" Actually, where was my phone? "Have we been busy this morning?"
"There was a bit of a flurry around eleven. Sold a couple of dresses, one of those short red tartan skirts and a nursing bra. Nothing I couldn't handle."
"Oh, I'm sure it wasn't." I frowned, rummaging through the pockets now. It wasn't there. Where had I left it? "So, do you want to take a break now I'm back? I don't mind if you want to have your lunch. I'm quite happy to—"
"Good Lord, no. I'm fine," she cut in. "Though you could put the kettle on. I could certainly use a cup of tea." She shot me a hard stare as I straightened up. "And by the look of things, so could you. Is it warm outside or something? You're all flushed."
"Can't find my mobile," I said hastily, falling upon the easy excuse. "I'll give Drew a call from the office in a minute and ask if he's seen it."
"That husband of yours working from home today then?" Alice's voice wafted after me into the kitchen.
Husband. I smiled at the warped reflection of myself in the chrome kettle as I flipped the lid and filled it from the tap. I wasn't used to that word, even three months after our wedding. It still gave me a warm fuzzy glow inside. "Yes, working from home."
Or at least, he would be, once he'd driven back to Knottswood Avenue after dropping me off at the shop. We'd moved into our brand new house five months ago. It had been a frantic but exhilarating time, organising all the wedding preparations as well as selling my house and Drew's flats in Montague Street.
And all the hard work had definitely been worth it, everything falling into place just in time for what everyone later told me was a wonderful wedding, a small but perfectly formed affair. Just fifty members of our close family and friends helped us celebrate, with Drew, his best man Iain, his father and my father wearing grey morning suits. Marco had insisted on designing and making my dress, a beautiful strapless A-line ivory gown glistening with Swarovski crystals hand-sewn by Roxy. A gown that was somehow made all the more beautiful because my mother had been there to help me step into it, to fasten the corset, adjust my veil and tell me, with tears in her eyes, just how very proud she was of me. Time had finally delivered the healing everyone promised it would.
Funny though, I ruminated, drumming my fingers lightly on the counter top as I waited for the kettle to boil, how the day itself had already condensed into a series of images set amidst a whirl of smiles and laughter. Dad and I getting in the wedding car. Arriving at the church. The look of utter adoration in Drew's eyes as he watched me walk down the aisle...
"Sam, you have remembered it's Tuesday, haven't you?"
"Oh, shit. Marco." I clapped my hand to my mouth and turned to Alice, now standing behind me, eyebrows raised. "Shit, shit, shit. How long have I got?"
"About three minutes, don't panic. But," she added as I hurried towards the stairs, "you might want to think about washing your mouth out, young lady."
I looked back over my shoulder to stick my tongue out at her. "Just for that, you can make the tea."
Although Marco and I had originally planned for me to stay in Italy for three months, I ended up staying for almost eight. Having rarely spent time away from home, let alone in a foreign country, it had been a mind-broadening experience, learning to cope with the difference in culture, the altered pace of life and the language. Okay, so I couldn't say I'd become fluent in Italian but I acquired enough vocabulary to hold my own in most situations and I understood far more than I could say. I could swear in Italian too, I reminded myself, making a mental note to do so next time I had cause to curse in Alice's earshot.
Mostly though, I'd spent the time learning as much as I could about design, about fabric, about what putting even the most basic garment together entailed. From day one, Marco insisted I be immersed in the entire process, from pattern-making to draping and cutting techniques, tech-pack creation, fittings, ordering samples and fabrics right through to approving pre-production and top of production samples. It had been an exhausting and ultimately satisfying experience but also one that left me in no doubt that being involved in all of that really wasn't something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Of course, it hadn't helped to be separated from Drew. After the first few weeks, I missed him so much it felt akin to physical pain, despite him coming out to Italy every other weekend—he spent a small fortune on air fares—and our lengthy Skype calls each evening. Not that I admitted I was pining away; that seemed ridiculous. I'd been given the opportunity of a lifetime to work for Maretti, and Drew was endlessly supportive, assuring me over and over he was happy I finally had a chance to show what I could do and that I should make the most of it. I figured I owed it to him, to myself and to Marco to put in as much effort as possible and worked increasingly long hours in order to get everything done.
But my nightly conversations with Drew were never enough. I yearned to be physically near him, for him to hold me, to sleep beside him and to wake up in his arms. It was only when Roxy arrived in July for her summer internship with Salvani that I discovered Drew had also been hiding his true feelings, not wanting to guilt me into coming home.
Within hours of setting foot on Italian soil, she'd set out in no uncertain terms how much she thought Drew was missing me, berated me for not asking for more time off, expressed horror at how skinny she thought I looked, and demanded I take Marco to task for inundating me with work. A contrite Marco immediately agreed I should take two weeks' leave and paid for my flight back to the UK two days later.
I smiled, recalling that pivotal moment. It had been during those two weeks that Marco and I first experimented with teleconferencing—I suspected Roxy might have had something to do with coming up with that idea too—and found it was possible for me to carry out a key part of what I'd been doing in Italy without me actually needing to be in the country. A month after going back to Treviso, I returned to Stow Newton for good and, when my house sold within days of it going on the market, moved into 22b Montague Street—and pre-marital bliss—with Drew. The last eight months had been, no contest, the happiest of my life.
Reaching the top of the stairs, I was disconcerted to find I was out of breath. That was a new development, I thought wryly, shooting a glance at the large monitor mounted on the wall of the newly-refurbished store room. Good, the screen was still black. With any luck, I still had a minute or two to regain my composure for the first of the twice-weekly calls I had with the Maretti design team. Though this was usually the shorter of the two calls and was often a fairly straightforward one-to-one chat with Marco during which he brought me up to speed with new orders and production status. The other call generally involved several of the designers, models and clothing samples.
At first, I worried what they'd make of the idea of me reviewing their efforts from a thousand miles away but to my surprise they carried on as though I was right there in the room with them. Somehow it worked, despite me not being able to feel fabrics and having to go largely on what the piece looked like, the colour and how it draped. The plan was that I'd go out to Italy twice a year in order to help finalise the winter and summer collections—although there was now a definite question mark over whether I'd be able to make a second visit this year...
Startled, I swung around with a shriek, Drew's soft chuckle at my reaction turning into a mock-indignant yowl as I slapped him hard on the rear. "You bastard! You know you can't creep up on me like that!"
Still laughing, he scooped me forwards and planted a loud kiss on my forehead. "It wasn't deliberate," he protested. "I tried to stamp my feet a bit coming up the stairs. You must've been miles away. Where were you, mmm?" His lips brushed briefly over my nose then settled for a longer, much sweeter moment over my mouth. "No, don't tell me. I can guess."
"What are you doing here?"
"You left this in the car." He brought something up from over my shoulder but before I could see what it was, it slipped through his fingers and straight into the top of my dress. "Oh." Drew's smile widened into a grin as we both peered at my mobile phone, now neatly wedged in my cleavage. "You know, now you've got all that extra room down there, that could be an excellent place to start keeping it—ow!" he finished with a groan as I swiped him again. "God, we've got to get you some help for that violent streak of yours."
"Okay, okay." With an air of relish, he slid a hand into my dress and slowly, with far more caressing of flesh than was strictly necessary, extracted the phone between finger and thumb. "Here. My guess is you didn't put it back in your bag after you called your Mum to tell her we're—"
"Ssh!" I put a finger to his mouth, taking a hasty peek behind me at the monitor. "I've got a conference starting any second!"
"Ah, Sam." Catching my hand, he tugged it away. "Come on, we're still playing the 'don't tell anyone' game?" He pulled a face. "Kiddo, I got it before, okay? I understood why you wanted to wait a while. Wait until...Well, you know," he finished resignedly as I gave him a glare. "But I really thought that after this morning, after we saw the..."
When I fired another anguished glance at him, he sighed and reached around me for the remote control on the desk behind us, just as I heard the crackle of static that signalled the monitor had burst into life. "This teleconference is controlled from the other side, right?" he asked. "It's on an automatic timer at Marco's end?"
I nodded, turning to see that as yet, no one appeared to be waiting for me at Maretti. Marco's chair was empty, the huge oval conference table devoid of papers. "I guess he's running late."
"Great." Pointing the remote at the monitor, Drew peered at the buttons then gave one a decisive stab, a small 'mute' symbol appearing in the top right hand corner of the screen. "There you go, sorted. When he comes, he'll be able to see us but won't be able to hear us. Okay?" But Drew's eyes were much softer than his words as he set the remote back down.
"You think I'm being silly," I said, burying my face into his shoulder as he pulled me close.
"Nope. Fucking insane." I could feel his smile against my hair. "You honestly think you're going to be able to keep this," his arms tightened around me, pulling me closer, "from folks around here for much longer? From Alice? Don't think so, gorgeous."
"But Mum says you can hardly tell," I protested feebly. "She says that I'm just like she was, that I'm not..." I broke off, aware Drew's attention had been diverted. "What?"
I did as I was bid, Drew comically waggling his eyebrows at me as a high-pitched and decidedly girlish giggle came from the tall speakers either side of the monitor. But when I twisted around in his embrace to look at the screen, the room still appeared empty. "Probably coming from the corridor outside," I said with a shrug. "The meeting room's not that far along from main reception. I expect it's just someone..." The words died on my lips as another round of breathless giggles met my ears, this time accompanied by fragments of excited Italian. "Or maybe not. Oh. Oh..."
"You understood that?" Drew's breath was warm against my ear. "Translate for me, woman!"
"Erm." I blinked hard, shocked. There was still no sign that anyone was in the room and Marco was due to arrive for our telephone conference any moment now. But if I'd really heard what I thought I'd just heard, he was about to come across a very interesting situation.
"Sam? What did...?" Drew left the question unfinished as we heard another voice, this time male. And this time, extremely familiar...
"Ti voglio da morire!"
"No way." I felt my eyes widen. "No way! That's—"
"Marco?" Drew exclaimed.
As if in answer, a dark-suited figure lurched on to the screen, sent sprawling backwards across the conference table by a propelling hand. "Voglio fare l'amore con te," a female voice said, her tone sultry. "Voglio sentirti fino in fondo dentro di me."
"Holy shit," I whispered.
Drew's fingers tightened on my arms. "What did she say?"
"She said 'I want to make love with you'. She said—well, I think the nearest translation is..." Fino in fondo dentro meant 'all the way inside' didn't it? My lips twitched as I looked back over my shoulder at him. "'I want you deep inside me'."
"Quite. You think maybe he's forgotten we're supposed to be having a teleconference?"
"Stuff the teleconference. Who is this girl?" Drew waved at the monitor, his eyes narrowing as another slender hand appeared from the right of the screen, its owner just out of view. "You never said he was seeing anyone."
"That's because I didn't know he was. Drew..." I winced as the mystery girl pushed at Marco's shoulders once again, pressing him down to the table. "I er... I really don't think we should be—"
"Sono tutto tuo," Marco intoned before I could finish, his voice low and uncharacteristically husky. "Vieni qui e baciami."
"Subito," the girl teased. "Ma prima..."
"Oh no," I murmured, transfixed as those hands trailed sensuously down Marco's chest, sliding all the way down to his waistband. "Oh dear God, no."
There was a faint jingle as she undid his belt, followed by the unmistakeable rasp of a zipper.
I felt my husband stiffen behind me then finally stop breathing altogether as we watched her fingers slowly venture within.
"Mmm," the girl sighed approvingly, clearly having found her prize. "Magnifico!"
"Jesus." Drew's breath came out in a noisy rush. And making an odd whimpering noise when she pulled out both hand and prize, he promptly raised his arm to cover my eyes. "Okay, maybe it's time to—"
"Here we are." The sound of Alice's cheery greeting made us freeze once again. "Thought you could probably use a cup of tea, Drew, so I've brought one up for you too."
Wrestling Drew's arm aside, I turned to discover she was standing in the doorway with a tray. "A-alice," I stammered. "I—ah..."
"Oh, so sorry," she interrupted, obligingly lowering her voice to a murmur. "Has the call started already?" She squinted in the direction of the monitor and frowned. "Oh. What exactly are we looking at today?"
"Nothing." I felt my face go even hotter as I hopped from one foot to the other in a futile attempt to block her view. "Nothing! I mean, um... It's just, erm... Just..." What could I say? "Th-thanks for the tea. That's really—"
"Good Lord." Alice put the tray down on the cabinet just inside the door and marched forward to openly stare at the screen, brows furrowing further. "Isn't that...?"
"Think so," I admitted, my voice little more than a squeak.
"And is that...? Actually holding his...? Oh my!"
As one, we inhaled sharply as a dark head appeared and rapidly descended over Marco's unfastened trousers.
"Whoa," Drew said, sounding unsteady. "Not wasting any time, is she? I don't think I've ever seen anyone get going so—ooh!"
"Ooh," Alice and I agreed, flinching with him in unison. "That's... enthusiastic," she finished wonderingly. "Are you supposed to do—that—quite so quickly?"
"Oh my God!" Coming to my senses at last, I wrenched myself out of my husband's grasp and sprang to the edge of the desk. "Enough!" I wailed, turning my back to the monitor and flinging my arms out sideways. "We can't watch this, okay? This is... No, stop that!" I yelped as Alice and Drew tilted their heads in an attempt to peer at the uncovered part of the screen.
But now that I wasn't watching, I soon became aware that what I could hear through the state of the art speakers behind me sounded positively pornographic. Marco's groans of pleasure were growing ever louder and were now punctuated by the occasional obscene slurping sound.
"Is it wrong that this is turning me on?"
"Sam," he chided, laughter in his tone as he swept me away from the desk. "It's not like we can actually see anything. Look." He nudged up my chin. "See? Her hand's in the way—oh. Well, it was..."
I groaned, grabbing his hand to cover my eyes, and when the sound was unwittingly echoed by Marco's companion, amplified fourfold by the speakers, both Alice and Drew snorted with amusement.
"Oh Marco. Troppo grande," the girl murmured as I tried not to watch through Drew's fingers, before lowering her head and immediately proving that it couldn't be.
It was then that a jolt of recognition rippled through me. I knew that voice.
"Why don't they know we're here?" Alice asked, sounding puzzled. "Can't they see us? Hear us?"
"Oh, of course! We're on mute," Drew said with sudden comprehension. "They can't hear us. And as for seeing us..." He winked at me as I pulled his hand away from my face. "Too busy to notice, I think."
"Drew, I know who that is," I told him urgently, searching through my memory, trying to make the connection. "The girl, I mean. I know her voice." Could it be Marianna from Reception? She'd always had a crush on Marco. Or Luisa, the new designer? No, she wasn't a brunette... "I do. I just can't place it."