Equal Shares Ch. 48bysteveh11©
Stan watched as the two women started away from each other. Anne looked guilty, Denise surprised. "Okay, what are you two hatching?" he asked.
Anne recovered first. She looked back to Denise and then returned her gaze back to Stan.
"We were talking about love, and commitment. We -- well, I, was checking up about property, nearer to the office."
"Thinking of moving, Anne?" he asked, then, as the implication hit him, he added, "Moving away from us, Anne?"
Anne threw her hands palms upward, looking heavenwards in evident disgust. "Why do these two think I would do that?" she asked. Evidently displeased, she returned her gaze to Stan, only this time it wasn't calm. Anne was angry.
"No I damn well wasn't looking to move away from you!" she cried, but then innate honesty compelled her to add, "Well. Actually, I did start off looking for a place I could buy myself, but I quashed that idea quickly."
Anne looked from her lover to her co-lover and back. "Look, it makes sense this way. You'll soon find out that spending hours travelling to and from work is not fun, especially when you add it to the workload you'll be under. If we can get a place inside the M25 we'll greatly reduce that. It'll also have another effect, it'll bind us together. It'll be a show of commitment to each other, almost like a marriage."
"I think it's a great idea, Stan," added Denise. "Come and look at what Anne's been looking at."
Stan duly went and looked. His expression was wooden, his body language closed. "It's a nice house. When, exactly, were you going to tell me about this decision?"
His voice was cold. Denise looked anxiously at Anne. This had begun badly.
Anne stood her ground. "Stan, we hadn't actually done anything yet. We're looking --"
"Huh! Just looking! It sounded like you'd decided, to me when I walked in!"
Anne bit a bitter retort back behind her teeth. She had indeed made a decision, but Stan had intruded…
Stan misinterpreted her hesitation and ploughed on, though.
"Well I don't know that I want to move. I'm comfortable in my own home, the home I built together with my wife -- you remember her?"
"Oh, that's so unfair Stan! Of course I remember your wife!"
Denise decided it was time she took a hand.
"Stan, love, please calm down and think for a minute? Please?"
"Yes, Stan, we all need to take a breather here," Denise told him. She rounded on Anne and told her "You too, Anne! We need a time out before someone says or does something we'll all regret!"
Denise drew a deep breath. "Look Stan, my love, calm down and think about things for a moment. It's all very simple. We all want to be together, don't we? Aren't there mornings when you wake up and wish we were all here with you?"
She then looked at Anne. "You, on the other hand, think too quickly, and don't consider other people enough. This was typical Anne 'take charge', wasn't it, really?" Her tone softened. "But then, I agreed with you. I still agree with you."
Facing Stan again, who glowered back at her, Denise went on, "We, Anne and I, felt that buying a house together would represent a commitment -- one from each to the others, that we'll be in this relationship for the long haul. That's what we were talking about when you came in. Stan, don't you see that we can buy a really nice house together, that we can all live together -- and that way we can demonstrate our love and commitment to each other in a really concrete way?"
Stan felt Denise's words like cooling rain on the fiery temper he'd been in. The two ladies watched anxiously as his expression slowly cleared.
"All right. I concede that it would be a good idea, in theory. I'll think about it, all right?"
- - - - - - - - - -
His two lovers were right about one thing, Stan couldn't hold out against both of them together. He went and looked at the details of the property as displayed on the screen again, and was appropriately impressed. It was a nice house, in a pretty sought-after area. It would save a lot of time and stress to live closer in to the office. While he and Denise hadn't been commuting to the office day in, day out like Anne, they both knew it wouldn't be good.
Denise, for her part, was happy that her fears about Stan's dedication to his own house were unfounded.
Anne was, however, both pleased and frustrated. Pleased by Stan's reaction, but oh my goodness his timing had been poor! 'If only he'd waited a couple of minutes, I'd have done it,' she thought, 'and then it would have been all out in the open. Now I have to start again, and I'm scared.'
That realization, that it was fear she was feeling, stayed with her through the next few days. She knew she should say something as Denise and Stan started their work at Boundless Waves. But she found herself as tongue-tied as a teenager, unable to actually say anything. Of course, she made excuses to herself. 'I can't say anything at work, in case I'm overheard,' she thought, and again later, 'I can't say anything while Stan's around. It would be too embarrassing.'
- - - - - - - - - -
The next week would see birthdays for first Stan and then Denise.
Stan was surprised to get a card from Elaine and Susan, and happy to get one from Elizabeth too. He really wasn't expecting one from Bob and his wife, but the truly unexpected one was from Ken, Sid and all three ladies at Boundless Waves.
Of course, he had individual cards from Anne and Denise. Denise's was typical of her, a funny card but with a handwritten haiku poem at the bottom, expressing her love for him:
"To Stan, who
Brings Love to my Heart,
Brings Happiness to my Days,
Brings Joy to my Soul."
Anne sent him a simple card, Plain white with a simple pencil-style drawing of a traditional Valentine's heart with an arrow through it, and inside it simply said, "To my lover. Happy Birthday." For presents he got clothes, as both of his ladies seemed certain he needed a wider wardrobe.
"I'm going to call you two Trinny and Susannah," he grumbled, naming the two fashion queens of British television.
"Good idea, Stan," Denise told him, "You need a good makeover!" Stan looked appealingly at Anne, who stood, arms folded, by Denise's side.
"Hmm. What do think he'd look like in leather trousers?" Anne asked Denise.
"Devastating!" Denise replied, but then she couldn't keep a straight face at Stan's expression. Leather trousers!?
- - - - - - - - - -
That Tuesday evening he spent cuddled up with both of his princesses. There was no sex, just a lot of cuddles and kisses, and the sheer enjoyment of cuddling up together. They watched "The Fellowship of the Ring" on DVD, enjoyed a couple of good bottles of Chablis that Anne had found, and they talked.
The conversation came around to the house that Anne had located on the internet. A slightly tipsy Anne pulled Stan to his feet and insisted that they all go and look at it again to make sure it hadn't been sold. Denise, with a Cheshire-cat smile, came with Anne and helped her to pull Stan up the stairs. The listing was still there; none of the details had changed. For a moment Stan was afraid that Anne would pick up the phone and try to put in an offer then and there, but, thankfully, her innate caution overcame the alcohol.
- - - - - - - - - -
That first week at Boundless Waves created some new work experiences for Stan. He dived into his new project with enthusiasm. Now that he didn't have Bob to lean on, he found that when he had to, he could be just as good a 'people person' on the telephone as his former boss. Before the first week was through he'd secured some very useful information for Anne from Shucor, which delighted Sid.
Of course, Friday was Denise's birthday, and much the same happened as on Stan's. This time they all watched a film of her choice, "Dirty Dancing", which Anne said sounded right up Denise's alley! She bought Denise a red and gold Chinese-style silk dress, while Stan gave her some Chanel perfume.
"Stick to the classics, Stan, you can't go too far wrong with those," Anne had told him when he sought advice.
"I don't want to seem too old fashioned," he'd objected.
"Don't be silly. Besides, you could buy her an abacus and she'd love it." Anne had replied.
So, of course, he'd done 'just that' -- Anne's suggestion starting out as a joke present, but then turning into an even better idea. Denise really did love the miniature gold abacus on a fine gold chain necklace, and when he gave her the perfume her eyes softened, showing that she loved him even more.
That night, Anne went up to bed soon after the film finished, and not long afterwards Denise dragged Stan upstairs to show him just how much she appreciated his thoughtfulness. Stan wasn't at all reluctant…
- - - - - - - - - -
At work, Ken was watching Denise. Well, she was, of course, well worth watching. But it didn't need someone as astute as he to tell that she, Stan and Anne all shared a common bond, even if Anne hadn't already told both Sid and himself.
What really drew his attention was the competence and growing confidence she showed in quietly, without fuss or fanfare, setting about the task of rebuilding Boundless Waves' computer set up. Cables were laid, a new server bought (cheaply but well, he was pleased to note), and software installed. She dealt with the questions that he came up with quickly and easily, without apparent annoyance. She also began contributing to Anne's test and debug work.
Ken liked to know about people. He drew Denise out, carefully, until she told him that she, Anne and Stan were thinking of buying a property together. Ken was already determined to ensure that these three were kept both happy and productive. Besides, if they owed him a favour, and he was able to steer some business in the direction of a friend of his, he considered it a good investment.
Ken popped his head out of his office door that Friday afternoon, just before he was due to leave.
"Denise? Anne? Stan? Do you all have a minute, please?"
There was some grumbling from Anne, but all three joined him a few moments later.
"What's this about, Ken? I'm still trying to sort out that stack you licensed. I might as well have written my own, you know," Anne said.
It was crowded in the office with all four of them there. Ken held up his hand and told them, "I shan't keep you a minute. I just wanted to give you these." He handed each of them an identical business card, and said, "He's a friend of mine, a top-notch barrister specialising in partnership law. You can meet him at Daley's wine bar, on the Strand, tonight around seven, and he'll run through what you must do, what you can do, what you can't do and what you really mustn't do when you're buying a property together. Tonight, it'll only cost you a round or two of drinks. Have fun, listen well and don't ignore him. Now, I'm off for the weekend, and I'll see you Monday."
With that, he had his briefcase in hand, grabbed his coat from behind Stan and was gone.
- - - - - - - - - -
Daley's was full. Everyone there seemed to have been outfitted at the same place with pinstriped suits, white shirts and wingtip shoes. The few ladies present wore dark jackets and skirts. It was a warm evening despite the fact that it was still early spring, but nevertheless the tables outside were mainly left empty except for one gentleman seated there. Anne put two and two together.
"Excuse me. Mr. Hart?"
"That's me," he answered, and stood. "Walter Hart, at your service."
Walter Hart was a tall, distinguished man of about fifty, with iron-grey hair at the temples shading to black as coal elsewhere. He looked really sharp, his suit was obviously expensive and hand tailored to fit his lean body. He indicated to Stan and the girls to sit, and as they did Stan noticed that the table was set with four glasses. The barrister picked up the bottle from the table and poured a small glass for each, after giving each in turn a chance to refuse.
Introductions were made, and everyone settled down. He put the bottle down and spoke in a precise, rich, quintessentially English voice, "Ken McKuan gave me a rough idea of what you were looking for, earlier. It seems simple enough, but all three of you need to be aware of what you're doing. This is not a carefree, simple step, this will be a legally binding commitment you'll be making. You each will have a share of the property to pay for, by one means or another. Have you considered how you will divide the responsibilities?"
"Each of us will take a third," Stan said. Anne and Denise both nodded their agreement.
"Fine." Walter Hart then proceeded to give the three lovers a short but simple class in buying property together. He used simple language, rather than trying to impress them with lawyerspeak -- and this impressed Anne a great deal. He didn't just lecture, he asked questions -- pointed ones - particularly about the financing, and made sure that each of the three knew what the other two would be putting in to the deal, and how. He finished up by saying, "Well. You all seem to have done your homework. You have realistic goals and have got your finance sorted. I wish you luck in your venture."
"Thanks," said Stan. "Thanks you for the useful advice, and for taking the time out to speak to us at all."
Walter waved a hand, dismissively. "No matter. You've a good friend in Mr. McKuan, I know because he's a good friend of mine. We've known each other for years." He stood, and all three followed him. "It's been good to talk to you. You have my number if you need any further assistance, but now I must bid you good night."
With that, he was quickly gone. Stan sat back down, followed by Anne and Denise.
"Notice something?" Anne asked. "Not once did he say or ask anything about our domestic arrangements."
"Well, for one, he's discreet by profession and also he may not know we share Stan between us," replied Denise.
Stan jumped in. "I'd think he must know. Didn't you notice how he kept banging on about being sure of the other two partners?"
"I think that was just him being professional, Stan," Anne replied. "He'd give that advice to anyone. I mean, even banks sometimes advise against joint accounts. That sort of thing."
"True. I remember being told that by my bank once, actually. I gave them a flea in their ear."
"Nobody got cold feet?" asked Denise, with a grin.
"No!" came a pair of answers.
- - - - - - - - - -
In the event Denise sold her small house first, and Anne received an offer for hers next. It was a couple of weeks before Stan heard anything for his house, and just over a month before he had an offer made. It was Sid's wife Maggie who provided the vital contact. One of her friends wanted to move away from London into a quieter area, and so, seven weeks after putting their houses on the market, they had all accepted offers for them.
Needless to say, the original property that Anne had found had been sold by then. But she'd found another, similar one, and now it was time for the three of them to pay a visit to look at it.
On Sunday, the third of June, Stan drove the three of them around to see the place.
As they approached the house, Anne looked up from the printout in her hand and said, "That fourth bedroom's really quite small, but it'll do for an office. The other rooms are all right, though."
"Given where it is, it's good value for the money. I hope it's as good as described," Denise answered.
"We'll find out now, I think. It's here," Stan commented as he turned right into the driveway.
They faced a white-painted house, with an integral garage set to the left as they saw it. The front door was in the middle, and a large picture window was in the right side on the ground floor. Above, there appeared to be rooms on each side, and a small window that was probably in a corridor. There was space for at least three cars on the hardstanding in front of the garage, and also a well-kept front garden.
Stan got out and opened the doors for Denise and Anne. They stood for a moment, savouring the quiet. "I think I like it already," he told the others.
The oak coloured front door opened, and a well-dressed middle aged woman appeared. "Mr Hinch?" she asked.
"That's me," he answered, "You'd be Mrs Brookman?"
Mrs Brookman showed them all around the house. It was well, if conservatively decorated, and the rooms were generally of a good size. Anne was amused to see that the fourth bedroom was, indeed, being used as an office. She was delighted by the relatively large garden in the rear of the property, while Denise pointed out the privacy it offered.
The redhead was also delighted by the kitchen, which was large, had all the appliances she could think of, and was clean and bright. After a short while and a short question-and-answer session with Mrs Brookman, they departed to find the nearby village centre and a cup of coffee.
"Well, what do you think?" asked Stan of his two partners.
"I loved it. Let's do it," replied Anne in a decisive tone.
Denise nodded enthusiastically. "The kitchen's lovely, it's got plenty of room, the garden's nice and large and not overlooked."
"I liked the garden too, plus the house is in a good state -- we wouldn't have to spend anything on it, bar some redecorating," Anne finished.
"Let's not be too hasty. How about the local facilities? Shops, parks, that kind've thing?" cautioned Stan.
"Schools, nurseries, libraries, restaurants, pubs… yes, there are a lot of things to look for," agreed Anne, "I've checked up on most of that. We'll have to actually look at them in person, of course, but this area seems to have most of the facilities we'll need."
"Schools, nurseries?" queried Stan, raising an eyebrow.
"It pays to look ahead, Stan," answered Anne. Denise looked at her, but Anne merely said, "Well, my clock's ticking, you know. Never say never!"
After very little more discussion, they agreed to go ahead and make an offer.
- - - - - - - - - -
One Saturday afternoon in the latter half of May, Stan heard a ring at his door. He wondered who it was likely to be, and hurried to look.
There, standing at his door, was Anne. She was wearing a short, plain white shift-style dress, high heels and… her choker.
Her eyes downcast, she told Stan, "I'm ready to play, if you'll have me, sir."
Stan gaped for a moment, then collected himself and ordered, "Step in!"
Anne walked into Stan's house, her demeanour quiet, subservient. Stan led the way to his front room. His mind was doing at least a thousand miles an hour, trying to process what was happening. Oh, he'd fantasised about having Anne as a little slave girl before, that's why he'd given her the collar. That, and what he'd thought had been a need in her. But now, the time was here, and he wasn't sure what to do.
What Stan was certain of was that he mustn't show hesitation to Anne. It would ruin the scene for her, and completely negate what she was offering him. But first, he had to be sure what exactly she was offering.
"Sit down, Anne," he commanded. Anne did as she was bid, still looking down.
"Anne, you may look at me and talk freely for the moment. You say you're ready to play. I need some idea of your limits and a safeword from you."
"No pain, or not much, sir. I'll do as you command, but I don't want to be exhibited, please, not yet anyway, perhaps another time. Just between us. And safeword: How about 'Mustard'? Is that all right, sir?"