'No Kev about it, don't you think it's time we had a pretty face around here? I've nothing against Burly, but we need to move with the times, look at the bimbos they have next door, tits sell, Tom!'
'I agree with you, I'm all for looks in the office, but Helen's a scatterbrain, and how do you know she is available? Last I heard she was still at St Georges.'
Kevin shrugged his shoulders, 'Who fucking cares, she can type, she speaks English, which is more than can be said from previous applicants and, according to her husband, she's another victim of the NHS cutbacks.' He frowned, 'I just hope I don't need hospital treatment in the near future.' He grinned at me, 'Besides, I owe my uncle a favour.'
I studied my partner, 'You've already made the decision, haven't you?'
'You were in France all last week with your prick up Ricard's wife, someone has to make some decisions in this fucking place.'
I grinned back at him, 'Correction, soon to be ex-wife.'
Rebecca had decided that the most celebratory ending to her marriage should be a double king-sized bed in Montmartre, and we had both returned from an unseasonably warm Paris to a grey London looking suitably full of the joie de vivre.
'Whatever. Since when did that ever make any difference to you?'
My turn to shrug, 'I can't help it if frustrated women throw themselves at me. So, when does Helen start?'
'She already did, yesterday, she's at lunch.' He looked at his watch, 'I'll leave you to show her the ropes, I gotta go, I have to be in Weybridge by three.'
'Janet Wellman?' I cocked an eyebrow.
'What about her?'
'What is it, your fourth visit, just to design a bedroom extension? Is the bed part of the deal?'
He slammed the door behind him, the stained glass rattled in its ancient frame. Kevin had never really forgiven me for fucking his wife.
Same day 2:15 pm
I was going through some drawings with Beryl, our rotund office manager, when Kevin's new appointee appeared in the doorway.
We had met several times before, the latest occasion at her house, today I saw Helen Atkins in a new light, somehow she looked younger, and sexier, but maybe a little less vibrant than that stolen moment in her kitchen. She certainly didn't look thirty.
'Hi, Helen, welcome aboard, how long has it been, two years?'
'Be careful,' whispered Beryl in my ear, 'She's still married.'
'I know, and since when did that make a difference, Burly?' I grinned, echoing Kevin's words.
'Come and take a seat, Helen, I'm just finishing up here.'
I could feel her eyes on me as I folded up the drawings and passed them back to Beryl for filing. She would see a fairly average sort of guy, tall, pretty slim and fit, although I didn't subscribe to this gym fad of my generation, curly sandy hair and what I believe they call chiseled features. But apparently it was my eyes that were the panty droppers, a peculiar shade of blue-grey.
Those three years ago, and on being aware that Helen was experiencing serious matrimonial problems, I had hit on her at her husband's birthday party, and from her glances today, I don't think she had forgotten. Women tend not to forget, or even forgive, passes made by Thomas Graham Esquire, unless activities of a horizontal nature were agreed upon beforehand.
'So, how's Bill?'
Helen frowned, 'Working harder than ever now that I have lost my well paid job in the NHS, and not very happy about it, he's stuck in his office most nights these days, putting in overtime.'
In my mind an alarm bell rang. 'Overtime? Most nights?'
Helen didn't answer, we clearly shared the same suspicions.
Beryl returned with two cups of coffee and I studied the new recruit. Helen was distinctly attractive without being beautiful, unstartlingly sexy, and of average height. Apart from her long curly brown hair, today tied back in a severe ponytail, emphasising her swan-like neck, her outstanding feature was also the colour of her eyes, a piercing cobalt blue, and she had retained the brown freckles below them. Now, those very same eyes caught me looking at her breasts, she was childless so I suspected the generous swelling under the frilly white blouse was untouched by a surgeon's knife. A few inches of cleavage gained my interest, the top button carelessly left undone.
'I remember our last meeting,' I said, studying her slender legs as I pulled up a chair.
She smiled dreamily, she too clearly recalled that night when she could so easily have cheated on her husband. 'We didn't get off to a good start last time, did we, Tom?'
I smiled, 'Actually, I thought it was a very good start, it was the finish that was disappointing. And you did kiss me back.'
'No way, you kissed me!'
The two of us had been left alone in the kitchen, our eyes had locked, acknowledging the need in both of us. Helen had put down the cake knife, me a handful of dirty glasses, and we had seized the moment. But her close friend had interrupted us.
'Get a room, you two!' she had grinned as we sprang apart.
'I don't want to spoil your ego, Tom, but that was the drink working.'
'Whatever, but you know the truth.'
She lifted my left hand, 'I see you still haven't remarried.'
'Nope, don't see the point, I get all the fun I need without signing a silly piece of paper.'
'If you are referring to sex, there is more to life than that, you know.'
'So I believe, I tried that part and was no good at it, although it obviously works for you.'
She nodded slowly, 'Some of the time, but you have to work at these things, Tom, like most couples. Bill and I have our bad moments, but we get through them. Most times,' she added with a glum expression.
'I am not a most couple type of person, I prefer to stick to the sex, I just happen to like women and they reciprocate.'
'Huh, fornicate, more like it.'
'You are married, and jealous, Helen.'
Her reply was heated and false, I could see it in her dark blue eyes, 'No I am not!'
I stood up, 'Come on, I'll show you the ropes.' And not the ones I would like to tie you to my bed with, I grinned to myself.
I followed her out of the door, she was wearing a politically correct knee-length skirt, just tight enough to reveal a small rounded ass. Kevin and I had long ago agreed not to engage in office romance, aka fucking, and there was only Beryl for fucks sake! Studying his cousin's shapely legs, I decided there and then it was time to relax that rule.
As we left privacy of my office, Helen grabbed my arm, her hand was warm on my bare skin, 'Tom, can I ask a big favour?'
I shook my head mock disbelief, 'But you just said you are happily married.'
'Piss off! All I wanted to ask you was that I would prefer not to work with Kevin, he's a bit of a perv.'
I grinned, 'He's your cousin, you should know.'
'But you already knew that didn't you?'
'If you call being a sadist a form of perversion, then yes. He used to knock his wife around.'
'That seems a feeble excuse for you to sleep with her, or any married woman that matter.'
'Look Helen, not that it's any of your bloody business, I grew up with Rachel, we were best friends almost from birth, if we hadn't been with other partners at the time we would have been an item a long time ago. When Kevin started abusing her she turned to me.'
She cocked an eyebrow, 'Turning meaning having sex with her in this office? And over that desk I believe?'
I looked up, startled, apart from Beryl and my sweetheart lover Carol, no one knew, 'Who told you that?'
Helen grinned, 'Rachel herself!'
It had been a rainy evening in November, and while waiting on a phone call from a potential client I was re-reading a raunchy email from Lisa Andrews, my then current lover and Virgin Airlines stewardess. The email, from Sydney, had contained a clip of Lisa totally naked and playing with herself. I was masturbating and, unknown to me at the time, Rachel was stood there in the dark watching me and, with skirt lifted and panties pulled to one side, doing exactly the same.
Discovering her, things had quickly developed from there, years of waiting for each other were, in a couple of hours, lustily resolved. Her errant husband Kevin was seeing another woman at the time and an agreement was quickly struck, for financial reasons he and Rachel couldn't divorce. He fucked his mistress, I fucked his wife, everyone was happy. Until Rachel got pregnant!
'She told you everything?'
Helen grinned, 'Yep! You dirty dog! And about your son.'
Stephen is our secret love-child, although Kevin still believes the two-year old is his, though where the logic is in that, I don't know, he hasn't slept with Rachel in three! Maths was never his forte!
I showed Helen to her desk where there were a zillion letters waiting to be typed, followed by the kitchen where her most important duties would be carried out.
She picked up a dirty cup and frowned in disgust, 'Kevin said I would also be doing site visits?'
'Yes, you can hold the end of my tape.' Idly, I wondered how good she would be holding the end of something else! Studying Helen's very pleasant ass once more gave me an idea.
'How much do you want to learn about this business?'
'Everything, Tom, I was out of work, remember? Just keep me away from Kevin.'
'No problem. Monday after next, there is a three-day architectural conference in Stratford, that's the Shakespeare place, not the East End one.'
She frowned, a combination of suspicion and eagerness in her expression, 'What about it?'
'Kev usually comes with me, but embarrasses me by falling asleep all the time. I think I can persuade him to let you come along instead, that's if you would like to.'
Part of me immediately wished I hadn't opened my big mouth. In Reception at the Swans Nest where the conference was usually held, there was a young Spanish girl called Anna who I fancied my chances with and to date she hadn't exactly said no. Last time around, there was a boyfriend in tow, but she had hinted that all was not well with their relationship, something about his ex.
The other part of me, lower down in my body, remembered the way Helen kissed me back those three years ago and eagerly rubbed herself against my erection, It was clear then that all was not well within her marriage to Bill Atkins either. "And he's now working late at the office." An excuse for infidelity and a recipe for marital disaster.
And anyway, she would be far better company than Kevin, who sleeps through meetings, drinks like a fish and slides off to Warwick every night to fuck some woman he's apparently known for years and is mother to a lovechild of his own. What a tangled web the cock doth weave!
'Okay, can I think about it?'
Assured of the answer, I asked Beryl to make the reservations.
Predictably, ten minutes later, Helen came back into the office, 'Yes, please, I'd like to come, it will be separate rooms won't it?'
Part of me, the part in my pants, half-hoped she would have suggested the alternative.
'Of course, but don't you think you'd better clear it with your husband first?'
'Oh, he'll be fine, I never see anything of him these days anyway, and he doesn't like my cousin either.'
'Good, that's settled then, but be prepared to be bored, one of the days is all about Building Regulations.'
She laughed, 'Nothing could be more boring than typing up hospital reports! Besides, and don't take this the wrong way, Tom, I think I will quite enjoy your company.'
'I know, I remember how well you kiss.'
'You won't let that go will you?'
'Had you forgotten it?'
'Helen blushed, 'No.'
'Well, there you are then!'
The next day I took the short trip to the West End, to my friendly Chinese purveyor of Herbal Viagra. I purchased twenty of the tiny blue pills, I had a sneaky feeling I would need some of them.
I was right!
TWO DAYS AGO
Swans Nest Hotel Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire. Monday 8th October, 11:40 a.m.
The conference room was full, the blinds drawn against the view over the River Avon, hiding the unmistakable edifice opposite that was the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Helen was restless beside me.
'What's wrong?' I said irritably, this part of the meeting, on business insurance, on the first day, was surprisingly interesting, no doubt for the sole purpose of keeping delegates awake for the remaining two days.
'That man doesn't fit in.'
'Don't look now, but the man at the end of our row, he doesn't look like an architect. And he keeps staring at me.'
'I don't blame him.'
Over breakfast I had complimented her on the business suit she had purchased for the occasion. It was a pale lilac affair displaying her curves without being tarty, just enough cleavage and tightness around her perfect ass to raise a few eyes and no doubt another part of the male anatomy.
'So what should an architect look like?'
'Tom, just trust me, I'm old enough to know something's wrong here, when I catch his eye he looks away.'
'He obviously fancies you, and he's shy.'
'Bollocks! Look now.'
I glanced in the direction she had indicated and, as if on cue, the man got up and left the room.
'See, I told you.'
'It's probably nothing, Helen. Now please pay attention, if you want to be part of this business you will do well to listen.'
The man didn't return and she settled back down. As she did so I suddenly found I was the one who was on edge, her skirt had ridden high above her knees, much too high, almost panty high, her thighs were nicely tanned. For a delicious moment, the voice from the platform faded as I visualised sliding my tongue into the warm moist flesh barely hidden between them.
'Stop it Thomas Graham,' said a little voice in my head, 'She's married.'
'When did that stop you?' said the stiffening one-eyed monster from lower down, 'You know for certain she's not getting any. Ask her for a fuck, you know she'll say yes.'
Helen caught me looking, grinned and pulled her skirt down. 'Sorry.'
'Don't apologise for having nice legs,' I said.
'Thank you, Tom.' She pulled the skirt down further.
Following the complimentary three-course dinner, we sat together with a bottle of Merlot at an outside table of the bar, enjoying the view over the river where people were queuing to enter the theatre.
'What's your favourite Shakespeare play, Tom?'
'Oh, I don't know, maybe The Taming of The Shrew.'
She laughed, 'I suppose that's because it has sex in it?'
'You read me like a book!' I grinned back at her.
'Rachel is very fond of you, Tom.'
'We are fond of each other.'
'But she says you don't sleep together anymore.'
'Did she tell you why?'
'No.' She leaned forward, 'But do tell.'
'The day after we ... you know... in the office, an old girlfriend called Carol showed up and somehow we ended up in bed...'
Helen grinned, 'The way you do.'
'...and although we had a thing going only for a short while, Rachel never forgave me for that.'
'Don't blame her.' She waved away a goose that was showing interest in her shiny brown heels.
'So, what do you do now, for sex I mean?' Helen put her hand to her mouth, 'Sorry, I shouldn't have asked that, it must be the wine talking.'
I patted her hand, 'It's okay, it's organic, the wine I mean, not the sex...on the other hand...!
Helen giggled. Something in her voice told me that she had come away with me for more than just learning about architecture. As I had nobody lined up for these two nights, and there had to date been no sign of the young receptionist, I made up my mind to nourish that thought. Helen had a body built for sex, and it was quite obvious from her remarks about her husband, she wasn't getting any. I decided to let her know that I was available to fill that slot, to coin a phrase.
'I haven't seen the Rebecca you mentioned for some time now, she has been out of the country.' It seemed prudent not to mention the recent trip to Paris with her.
'From what I know about you from Beryl, some time sounds a long time.' She raised an amused eyebrow.
'Like the actors say, I'm resting. Last year I had a lot of sex, Helen.'
'So I heard. I would like to hear about it sometime, but not right now. Being married has....can we go for a walk?'
We knocked back the last of the wine and stepped across the road to the river bank to where a consortium of ducks and geese and even a couple of swans were waiting for post-dinner donations, the sun was setting behind Coriolanus, the current production over the river. We stared at the famous theatre, you could hardly avoid it.
'I forgive you, Tom.'
'For reading Shakespeare?'
'No, silly. For kissing me that time.'
I took her hand, 'In which case I forgive you for kissing me back.'
'I didn't, I told you I was drunk.' She grinned, 'And what if I did, everyone kisses at parties, don't they? It doesn't mean anything.'
'Not unless they rub themselves against the nearest hard-on, it doesn't.'
'Tom, I...' her face coloured up, she turned away and stared hard at the water.
'Rachel told you about my cock, didn't she?'
She turned back, 'What?' I couldn't read her expression.
'She told you it was the thickest she'd seen, and you thought that by coming away with me you might get a peek at it, right?'
'You're disgusting.' She turned to face me, her face reddened, 'To hell with the bloody conference, and to hell with you too, I'm going home.'
I grabbed her arm, I knew I'd struck a nerve, 'To what, Helen, a husband you don't like, or my pervy partner?'
'Who says I don't like Bill?'
'You haven't said a single good word about him since you picked me up from my flat, I wonder if he still exists, you haven't knocked him off, have you?'
'Don't be silly, I just don't see anything of him now, he's gone before I get up and I'm asleep when he gets home.'
'I believe that's what they call marriage?'
She sighed, 'Sometimes I think what's it all about, Helen, is he really working in his office while I'm sat at home in our pathetic bloody flat watching pathetic bloody Eastenders, or is he screwing some slut with long legs and big tits, and ten years younger? But I guess every woman has that thought about her husband. Sometimes I want to phone him to make sure, but that would betray my trust.'
Tears started to form and we found a seat, I put an arm around her shoulders, her hair, now hanging loose and disheveled from the westerly breeze, blew into my eyes, I tucked it behind her ear.
'I like you with your hair down, Helen, it's sexy.'
'Thank you, I should really have left it tied up. It's not that I don't like him, Tom, we are just strangers now, even when I do see him we don't talk, he seems so tired all the time.'
She looked up at me, her eyes shining, 'I don't really want to go home, Tom, I'm really enjoying this little break, and anyway, Bill probably doesn't even notice I'm not there.'
'But I do, I'm glad you came along, and I'm sorry I mentioned my umm...penis.'
Helen burst out laughing and glanced at my groin, 'Penis! I like that! Who says penis anymore?'
'Those other polite people out there, not sexists like me.'
'You're not a sexist, Tom. And for the record it wasn't Rachel who told me about your...your...you know...'
'My dick? How about dick?'
'Yes, dick sounds better, don't the Americans say that? Bill only has a little one...Shit! Why am I telling you all this?'
'Because we are away from home, and sharing our deepest thoughts, that's what two strangers do.'
'But we are not strangers, Tom, we are good friends, aren't we?'