tagNovels and NovellasEqual Shares Ch. 22

Equal Shares Ch. 22

bysteveh11©

Chapter 22

Denise and Elizabeth were out shopping.

Elizabeth was enjoying herself. She could no longer wear the provocative outfits that she'd enjoyed as a young woman, but that didn't mean that she couldn't get a vicarious thrill out of persuading others to do so. She'd had to rein her daughter Kelly back, she'd willingly have gone too outrageous even for Elizabeth, but Denise was inclined to baulk.

So Elizabeth was cajoling, encouraging, persuading Denise to try some flimsier, sexier tops and shorter, more revealing skirts. Denise had made the mistake of showing some holiday snaps, and Elizabeth used the ammunition well.

"Come on, Denise, go for it! That's a really nice short crop-top; you'll look sexy in that. You'll get the guys' tongues hanging out in that!"

"I'm not sure I want to make the guys' tongues hang out, Elizabeth!" retorted Denise with a chuckle, putting the top back on its hanger.

"You certainly didn't feel that way in San Antonio! Come on, try this one," the older woman coaxed, handing her a low-cut denim top. Denise actually liked that one, and put it in her basket.

- - - - - - - - - -

Shopping continued like that for the two ladies. Elizabeth bought herself a new top and some slacks, while Denise splashed out on several tops and a couple of new skirts. Both were daringly short, just long enough for her to feel comfortable but bold. A couple of belts and a handbag later, and the two were just about finished.

Denise had blushed at one point, when she'd been trying on a very short skirt and had dropped her purse. She'd bent to pick it up, and Elizabeth had called "Ahem!"

Denise had looked up, seen Elizabeth's eyes, and where she was looking and had straightened up in a hurry.

The next few minutes had been spent with Elizabeth teaching Denise how to bend, or rather crouch, while wearing a miniskirt. "It's a while since I've had to do it, Denise, but you don't easily forget!"

Then a pair of boots caught Elizabeth's eye. She nudged Denise.

"You could wear those, you know."

Denise looked. Black suede boots, with a smallish heel but a heel nevertheless, that went up, and up... all the way to the knee. What's more, they were on offer!

Denise imagined herself in her new green top with its plunging neckline, with a matching miniskirt and those boots. Could she pull that off?

"Do you really think I could do that, Elizabeth?" she asked. In truth, she wanted to hear the answer "Yes!"

"Certainly, Denise. You've got the legs for it, I wish I had thighs like yours! Don't you think they're fabulous?"

Denise did, and very soon thereafter the boots were safely purchased.

"Right, Elizabeth, now I need a dress I can wear dancing on Monday. Where shall we go?"

Elizabeth had prepared. She knew just the place.

Around a corner, off of the High Street, was Leonora's. This shop sold nice, wonderful dresses at reasonable prices -- well, they were higher than the big chains, but not too much. The clothes were wonderful.

The shopkeeper was a fussy, busy little old lady, herself dressed elegantly in a smart off-white trouser suit. She greeted Elizabeth by name and Elizabeth replied "Hello, Leonora. How are you?"

Greetings were exchanged and Denise was introduced to Leonora.

"Er, Leonora? I need a practice dress for ballroom dancing. Monday night, so I can't wait, I'll have to get something straight away. Do you have anything you can recommend?" asked Denise.

"Stand up straight a moment, dear, and let me look at you."

Denise did as she was told.

"C cup, I think?" the lady asked Denise, who nodded. "I have just the thing," Leonora announced.

The dress was gorgeous. Made of a light material that was slightly translucent, the deep red colour went beautifully with Denise's hair. It had a drop-waist, a flattering ruched bodice and showed Denise's bust with a halter deep-V neckline. Accented with stunning embroidery and bugle beads it was finished with an asymmetrical hem that showed most of Denise's impressive legs. One look was all that Denise needed, but for form's sake she tried it on. Leonora and Elizabeth both approved, and the dress became Denise's property.

As they left the shop, Elizabeth turned to Denise, and asked in an odd voice, "Have you got time for a coffee, Denise?"

"Of course, Elizabeth. For you I'd make time, after the help you've given me -- for this dress alone, it's been worth it."

Just around the corner there was a small café. Elizabeth went straight in and looked around, then obviously spotted someone. She walked to a table where an elderly gentleman sat, drinking tea.

"Hello, James. Good of you to come," she said, placing her hand on his for a moment before gesturing for Denise to sit in another chair at the table.

"James, this is Denise. Denise, James, a friend of mine."

Elizabeth's gentleman friend was a distinguished looking man in his late fifties, with thick silver hair and a long face currently curled into a smile. He stood for a moment as the ladies both sat, and Denise saw that he was of average height, well dressed -- actually 'well-to-do' was probably the best description she could come up with.

James and Elizabeth had tea, while Denise had some coffee, and watched the older pair. It was obvious that they were close, and Denise almost felt like a voyeur watching and listening to them, but they pulled her into their conversation and the feeling passed. Before they parted after their drinks, Denise felt as if she'd known James for a long time.

- - - - - - - - - -

Denise also bought some new work clothes, especially some new tops with a décolletage that presented her bustline without being too revealing. She really had to wear trousers at work, crawling under desks and climbing up half into the ceiling space precluded skirts!

So, on Monday, Denise arrived at work in one of her new outfits -- A burgundy coloured top and trouser suit set. This one didn't show a whole lot of skin, but it certainly hugged her figure as far as her waist, where it was looser, flattering her figure. The trousers were smart, functional yet flattering. Denise wore her hair in a French Braid, and had a touch more makeup on than usual.

She walked into reception and Elaine looked up, smiled and called out, "Denny! You look great!"

"Thanks, Laney!" she answered. The two exchanged gossip about the weekend. Elaine, for her part, wanted to know more about Denise's dance dress.

"I'll show you another time, Laney. It's at home."

Elaine pouted.

"Okay, I'll go home and fetch it at lunchtime!" laughed Denise, then saying, "I've got to get in and get on with work, Laney. See you later!"

- - - - - - - - - -

Later that morning, Stan went to find Denise to ask a question about their project. He was directed to the Sales department, where Denise was currently sorting out a problem.

He found Denise under Ewan's desk. At least, he assumed it was her rear end he could see sticking out from there. He noted that Ewan was obviously enjoying the sight.

"Denise?" he asked.

"Minute!" Denise's voice came from under the desk, slightly muffled.

Stan was a little amused, and also rather attracted, by the sight of Denise's rear end wriggling as she worked away at something under there. Finally she backed up and stood, slightly flushed.

"I couldn't get that darn thing in, I had to push hard to get it to fit," she told Ewan. Ewan held still for a moment, then couldn't stop himself and sniggered.

Realising what she'd said, Denise flushed a dark red. Stan broke in to defuse things, asking "Denise, have you got a moment? I've found something in your program."

He pulled away slightly, and Denise followed. They walked off toward the IT office. "Trust that Ewan to find some sort of innuendo in what I said!" she complained, but then she saw Stan's face, and the barely held smile there. Suddenly she couldn't stop her own grin. "Did I really say that?" she asked in a sort of quiet squeak.

"I'm afraid you did!" answered Stan, barely holding his own mirth in check. It's not so much that it was funny in itself, as that it was Ewan, universally regarded in The Firm as a bit sleazy. There was nothing anyone could pin down, he just seemed to inspire that feeling in the ladies at The Firm. Saying what Denise had, to him, practically guaranteed a reaction.

Denise punched Stan on the arm, not too lightly. None the less she was grinning at him as they reached her desk.

"What can I do for you, anyway, Stan?" she asked.

Stan described the minor bug he'd found, and the two of them tried, and succeeded, in reproducing it. Meanwhile, Stan was noting the changes in his friend, not only the style of dress she'd adopted today, but she was, at least outwardly, almost back to the good friend he'd known before her trip to Ibiza and his relationship with Anne. Stan was pleased. He didn't like to lose her friendship.

The bug was soon found and corrected. "A typo in the code, silly really!" declared Denise.

- - - - - - - - - -

That lunchtime Denise ate with Elizabeth quickly, then dashed home to pick up her new dance dress. She showed it to Elaine who gushed "Oh, that's lovely Denise, and dead sexy, too!" When Denise explained that it was only a practice dress, Elaine asked if she was serious about dancing, perhaps in competition.

"Oh, no, Laney. Well, not yet anyway! I never got further than the beginners' classes. But those who compete generally have some quite beautiful, often outrageous outfits. This one's comparatively tame, but yes, it is gorgeous, isn't it!"

- - - - - - - - - -

Anne had been wondering whether to ask Stan to offer Denise a lift to the school for much of the day, and was still not fully decided. She knew that not making the decision was making the decision though, and called Stan to ask what he thought. Before she made the call, she made a bet with herself that he'd say "Yes".

"Yes, of course!" came Stan's voice down the receiver. "I thought you'd already offered, actually. Do you want me to call her, Anne, or would you like to make the offer yourself?"

'Gut check time,' thought Anne. 'This is my man, and I'm giving someone who believed she'd had a chance with him a golden opportunity. Bad move? Good move?'

('No, not yours like that,' an inner voice said, 'he doesn't belong to you!')

In the end, she realized, it was moot, because the main opportunity for Denise to do anything would be at the dance class anyway, and she'd agreed to that. Yes, she should be graceful about it.

"Yes, Stan, I'll call and set it up. Thanks for helping me to clear my mind up."

So, not much later, Anne phoned Denise.

"Denise, hi, it's Anne. Would you like a lift to the dance school tonight?"

Anne waited for a moment before Denise answered.

"Ummmm. Yes, Anne, thank you. That's very kind of you."

They arranged a time for pickup, and Denise hung up. 'Well,' Anne thought, 'I hope that was a good idea.'

- - - - - - - - - -

Anne dressed carefully, and specially, for that night.

She had a very dark purple dress, with a short, asymmetric hemline and a halter-style neck consisting of four straps, gathered at both front and back by silver rings. She'd not worn it since she'd bought it, in fact she'd wondered why she'd bought it. While Anne was proud of her legs, this really was short, possibly too short. Well, for normal wear, anyway, for her. But she'd remembered seeing shows on television where the dancers wore much more extreme costumes than this, and besides, now she felt the need.

To go with this, she had a pair of leopard-skin sandals that looked really, really good on her. She spent time on her makeup, wanting to be perfect, before finishing off with some lovely perfume she'd bought on a trip to Egypt.

Anne looked at the clock. There were still a few minutes to go before Stan was due to pick her up. She found that she was nervous and poured herself a drink. She settled onto her sofa, switched the TV on and turned it to something mindless, as she waited. Suddenly she thought of something, picked up the phone, and dialled.

- - - - - - - - - -

Stan was wearing the same suit and shoes as he'd worn each time he'd gone to the studio. He'd put on the blue tie again, with his regulation white shirt.

He was looking forward to the night. In the first place there was the prospect of dancing with Anne, something he'd found he enjoyed a lot. Then there was the added frisson caused by Denise being there, Stan didn't deny, deep inside, that he found the girl extremely attractive, although he couldn't, wouldn't say anything in front of Anne.

Of course, he was also looking forward to the dancing, and the instruction. Stan had found that he liked it, enjoyed it, for its own sake. He had started each lesson very unsure of himself, but by the second half was starting to find his rhythm on each occasion.

He was interrupted in his reverie by the telephone.

"Hello? Oh, hi, Anne! Tie? Purple? Yes, I think so... yes I have. Okay, I'll wear that then. See you in a few minutes."

- - - - - - - - - -

When Stan arrived at Anne's door a little later, he was very pleasantly surprised by the sight there. Anne was standing in the doorway, grinning from ear to ear at his reaction, weight on one hip, one leg in advance of the other and looking wonderful in her dress. Stan was, simply, stunned. That dress came up almost to her hip on one side, and only a little further the other. Anne had long legs to start with, now they looked as if they went on for miles.

"I take it you approve?" Anne asked him, doing a twirl to show the dress off.

"Anne, you look fantastic! But I take it you're not going commando tonight?"

Anne smiled even wider. She stepped back slightly, then lifted her dress to show the black full-backed panties she was wearing. "No free looks at my ass tonight, Stan!" She giggled as she lowered the hem again, "Ooh, I feel like a teenager again. It's all your fault, you know!"

Stan closed his eyes, and then reopened them, expecting the world to have changed back. It hadn't. Anne was still there, in the doorway, a vision in dark purple, light golden hair piled up and back on the top of her head. He shook his head, unable to find words, and instead stepped forward and reached for her hand.

Anne came willingly and he drew her into his arms. For a moment they shared a close embrace, then he turned and invited Anne to precede him to the car. As she passed, she turned to him and said, quietly, "You just want to get another chance to watch my ass!" -- and Stan cracked up, as that was precisely what he'd thought of, though not until after making the gesture!

Stan followed her to the car, opened the door for her and went around the car to get in himself. On the way to Denise's house, he glanced over and asked Anne, "Why the dressing up, Anne? Not that I mind, or have any say -- but you do look amazing, you know."

Anne answered quietly, "I just wanted you to have your eyes on me, Stan. No-one else."

They were nearly at Denise's house now, but Stan pulled sharply over and stopped. He turned and looked straight at Anne.

"I thought we'd discussed this, Anne. Who is it? Denise? You invited her, you know."

"Well, she asked. But yes, I said she could come. I suppose I'm just being silly."

"Well, if being silly makes you kook as good as that, I'll not complain overmuch. But yes, it's an odd reaction. Denise is a good friend, who I've never felt romantically attracted to."

Stan's conscience began to stir at that. 'Really? Not at all? You just told Anne a fib, didn't you!'

Nonetheless he continued, after a pause, "It's not a competition, Anne. Okay?"

Anne looked at him. He clearly didn't understand how she felt, but that wasn't too surprising since she wasn't sure, either.

"I'm okay, Stan. Let's go and pick Denise up, and we can go dancing."

- - - - - - - - - -

They arrived at Denise's house, and Stan got out to fetch her from the door. Before he got to her gate, Denise had fairly bounced out of the doorway, shut it and was almost skipping down her path towards him.

"You look happy tonight, Denise!" Stan said, as he opened the car door for her. "You also look fantastic! That dress looks wonderful on you." Stan caught Anne's expression and resolved to shut up. Unknowingly echoing Anne's thoughts from earlier, he wondered just how good an idea this had been.

Denise was answering, though. "I went shopping at the weekend with Elizabeth. We bought all kinds of stuff. She took me to this lovely shop in the town, Leonora's, and I bought this there."

Denise had her long red hair back in a ponytail, coming down to mid-back, and she, too, had spent time on her makeup. As Stan got back into the car and prepared to drive off, he reflected that if Anne really wanted to find something to explode over, Denise had provided the touch paper. It would be up to him to make sure the fuse didn't get lit.

The atmosphere in the car began as frosty, but had melted to merely cool by the time Stan parked near the old school. At least they were all talking to one another, he thought.

Arriving at the door, Stan saw that Belinda had the 'meet and greet' duty that night. She exclaimed with delight as she welcomed Denise back, giving her a quick squeeze and an air kiss. Stan caught a glimpse of Anne's expression, and he wondered again just how good this idea was. But Belinda then greeted Stan and Anne equally warmly, making a fuss of Anne, in particular. 'Just how perceptive is this woman?' Stan wondered.

Stan overheard Belinda asking how Denise had been, and all the normal questions people ask when they haven't seen one another for a while. Then the elegant older lady asked Denise if she remembered how to Waltz, as that's what they'd be doing this week.

"I only did Waltz for one week, Belinda, and that was a while ago. That's why I asked to come along to the beginners' classes again. I want to learn to dance properly, I finished too early."

"Well my dear, you're welcome along tonight, and we'll see how you remember. I don't imagine you'll have a problem at all with the steps tonight, I remember you as having talent."

Stan groaned, inwardly. Was he the only one who didn't find dance steps natural?

Belinda turned to Anne, standing next to him, and asked her, "You enjoyed yourself last time then Anne?"

Anne answered, "Yes, thank you Belinda. It was great fun, nothing like as intense and intimidating as my old ballet classes had been. I actually really liked it. I confess that having this lunk around didn't hurt, though..." she finished, looking sidelong at Stan.

"No accounting for taste!" Belinda sniffed, then grinned at Stan, warmly taking him by the hand and leading him into the main hall. "It's a good job you know I'm a rotten tease, isn't it?"

"Actually, I'm deeply offended!" said Stan, stiffly, but then he broke into a wide smile of his own. Belinda smiled back.

Stan was pleased to see that Pamela was there, also that Carol was in attendance again. Less agreeably, he saw that Tom was not only present but also alert. He'd already noticed Denise.

Well, he could warn her. "Denise, you see that guy over there?"

"Mmmm?"

"The one in the sharp suit, with the red tie? He's Tom, he's bad news. Likes to get his hands all over the place, if you know what I mean."

"Actually, he sounds interesting, Stan!" came the disconcerting reply, and Denise sashayed her way over to meet Tom. Stan was left floundering, wondering what to do. Anne touched his arm and told him, "She'll find out, Stan. It's not up to you to protect her. Come along."

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