Love Spreads

byJohn Connors©

Disclaimer:

This story is a work of fantasy, fiction and satire. As such, no offence is meant to anyone who is mentioned within it. It is just a story to be read by those over 18. All characters mentioned within this text are 18 years of age or older and are therefore considered to be adults. All character are fictional. I make no money from this story, it is just for the readers pleasure. If piquantly described sex and harsh, colourful language offend you then really you shouldn't read on, should you? You've ALL been warned ūüėä

'Now it's closing time, the music's fading out
Last call for drinks, I'll have another stout
Well I turn around to look at you
You're nowhere to be found
I search the place for your lost face
Guess I'll have another round
And I think that I just fell in love with you.'

I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You -- Tom Waits

*

I

For the last month London had been cocooned in intense heat and the underground was even more unpleasant than usual. Particularly at rush hour where office workers combined with a swarm of tourists made even the shortest journey a trial. Chris Haskins had found himself sandwiched in between an animated and voluble group of Spanish students with nary an inch of space to move. Of course none of them thought of taking the bags off of their backs which meant as they moved around jabbering at each other, he was constantly buffeted by their large yellow backpacks. He was tempted to say something but decided to bite his tongue. He did not want to be seen as one of those Londoners even if he wasn't actually a native Londoner.

He looked around the carriage and observed that almost everyone there was as miserable as he was. Men stripped of their suit jackets suffered stoically in the heat. A number of women were fanning themselves with copies of the Evening Standard. His eyes were drawn to one of the women. A particularly attractive black girl who was sitting close to where he stood. A pillow lipped queen with long black hair, generous bust and chocolate brown eyes. Her skirt rode up her thigh showing her toned legs. She was gorgeous. A real knockout. When they did lock eyes she gave him a look of such disdain that he just chuckled to himself.

So sweating and mouldering in the heat, he had just closed his eyes and turned up the volume of his iPod, losing himself in the opening riffs of Rory Gallagher's Bad Penny. What a player he was! Legend had it that when Hendrix had been asked what it was like to be the best guitarist in the world the American had turned around and told the journalist to ask Rory Gallagher. Chris loved both so it was a moot point for him.

It was a relief for Chris to alight from the Tube at Southwark station. He stood back and allowed the gaggle of tourists pour out onto the platform before he followed. As he pushed his way through the throng, one hand holding on to his laptop bag the other his jacket, he looked at his watch. He was running very late.

"Shit. Lane is going to have my guts for garters." He thought to himself as he picked up the pace and headed for the escalator, ascending it swiftly on the left hand side. He weaved his way quickly though the crowds that were trying to exit the tube station and bolted up the stairs and onto Blackfriars Road just as the sound of John Squire's electrified slide guitar work replaced Rory's Gallagher's in his ears.

Even though it was 6.30pm, the humidity of the day still clung to the air and there was still heat in the sun. The windows on the Palestra building across the road from Southwark station glittered in the sunshine. Even though a lot of Londoners didn't like the building at all, he had to admit that he did. Alice used to kid him about that. She thought it looked like it was designed by a child. Looking at it now though, he admired the daring of the architectural design.

He took a left and headed down Blackfriars towards the Thames, passing underneath the bridge and past the various food and beverage vendors that had vans and stalls there. He felt a vibration in his pocket and before he even checked his phone knew who it was.

Lane.

He kept walking briskly, passing the Post-Office and the Ibis Hotel on his left as he fished his phone out of his jacket pocket and saw the message.

"Where the fuck are you?"

Grinning, he keyed in a response, narrowly avoiding crashing into a couple walking hand in hand as he typed. He apologised to but they looked at him in disgust and walked on. He finished the message and hit send.

"On Blackfriars. 5 minutes."

Putting the phone back into his pocket he picked up the pace again. He looked across the road at Prince Henry Pub envious of the lucky patrons on the terrace supping ice cold pints in the sun. He wiped the fresh sweat from his brow and licked his lips at the thought of a cool pint of Guinness. He would love to be sitting out in the sun nursing one right now instead of heading to the Mondrian for this charity event. But he had promised Lane he would be there.

By the time he reached the hotel, he was caked in sweat and Lane was fuming. She met him in the lobby, arms crossed and a furious scowl across her face. A slim, androgynous Texas woman with short black quiffed hair and cheekbones that could cut glass. She was wearing a simple black strapless dress and he was so unused to seeing her in one that he did a double take. Her green eyes smouldered as she stared at him.

"Better late than never, right?" He quipped.

Her Southern drawl was punctuated with obvious irritation as she hissed at him.

"Don't even fucking start with me. You were meant to be here at 5.30pm."

"Got caught in work. I did text you. Did you not get it?"

"No."

"Well we had Helmut over from Head Office...you met him, right?"

She nodded.

"Really briefly just before I left."

"Well long story short is that he called all the managers in at the last minute today to discuss lay-offs. The bank are looking to move some of the functions back to Germany. Looking at a 20% reduction in the UK workforce over the next 18 months."

A concerned look softened her face.

"Oh shit. You guys going to be effected?"

"No, not yet but it is coming down the tracks. A matter of when not if. Anyway he kept droning on and on and on and I didn't think he was going to stop. Only that he had a flight to catch, we'd still be there. Then...you know...rush hour."

"But you're here now. C'mon, if you hurry up, we may be able to get you a starter before the main course is served." She linked arms with him ushering him towards the function room doors. A placard indicated that this was the room for the Animal House Shelter charity event.

"Lane. I need to freshen up. I've been sweating like a pig on the tube. And running here didn't help either. Give me another few minutes, huh? I'll be right in. Where are the bathrooms in this place?"

She sighed and scowled, pointing in their direction. He kissed her on the cheek and strode towards them.

*****************

Like most of London's hotels, the main function room in the Mondrian was tastefully if a little blandly decorated. Chris had been in enough conference rooms to know that there was little in the way to differentiate them. Spend enough time attending conferences on Financial Compliance and all function rooms start to look the same. At least in this case, the Shelter had tried to spruce the place up a bit with their own branding which now festooned the room.

The difference with the Mondrian was that the function room afforded a spectacular view of the River Thames through a huge bay window that wrapped its way around its circumference. There was even a balcony that allowed people to stand outside and smoke whilst looking out over the Thames. A pretty ingenious design.

Lane had not been exaggerating when she said that the event was a sell-out. The room was absolutely packed and the cacophony of noise being generated by the attendees indicated as such. He saw that there was a table plan of the room and scanned the list of names for his own. They were in alphabetical order with a table number assigned to each of them. He found the H's and traced his finger down the list until he found his own. Table 3. Right at the front of the room.

As he looked at the table plan and then around at the room plotting a route to his table, a female voice called out behind him.

"Chris! You made it!"

He recognised the voice and turned around, grinning.

"Maddie! Great to see you again!"

He hugged the attractive, petite middle-aged woman. Maddie Andrews was the Co-Founder and CFO of the Shelter. He'd met her a number of times over the last few years and they'd hit it off from the start. Lane had often joked that they were so perfect for each other that they should just elope. Had she been twenty years younger, he may have even considered it.

She looked good tonight too. Her off the shoulder red dress fit her slender form perfectly. Normally she wore her hair in a ponytail but tonight her brown hair cascaded in waves to her shoulders. She wore little makeup but she really didn't need to.

"Maddie, you look fantastic as always."

"And so do you Chris. Wow. You do look good in a suit. Almost good enough to eat." She appraised him approvingly.

Shaking his head, he scolded her mockingly.

"Now what would Tom say if he heard you talking like that."

"Tom is too busy drooling over one of our celebrity ambassadors to care where I am. Or what or whom I am doing. If I went up to him now and said I was leaving him to marry you, he'd probably just nod and say "Right so, Mads. See you later"." She laughed ruefully.

"Oh really? Well if that's the case, let's just slip away now while no-one can see us."

She shook her head slowly and crossed her arms.

"Not until you shave that beard of yours."

"Well I guess that means our wedding is off then...."

"It's such a shame. You'd look ten years younger without it." She sighed

"Yes Mum." He retorted

She frowned at him and then exclaimed.

"Well speak of the devil and he will appear! And quelle surprise, he's still glued to that poor young girl."

Chris turned around and saw the tall, hulking figure of Tom Andrews emerge from between the tables in rapt conversation with a young, blonde haired woman. He gesticulated wildly and enthusiastically with one hand, whilst his other was positioned near her back. He suddenly laughed uproariously startling the girl and causing those in the seats around him to stop talking and stare in his direction.

"Making a show of himself as usual. Will you excuse me, Chris? I think I need to rescue the crowd here from the spectacle of my husband embarrassing himself. Again."

"I think you'll also be doing his new paramour a big favour if you intervene now."

She laughed merrily at this and squeezed his arm as she brushed past him.

"See you later, handsome."

"I'm sure you will."

He watched her approach her errant husband and engage in a brief conversation. He saw the young woman stifle a laugh with her hand, her shoulders shaking a little. Maddie was obviously excoriating her husband in the playful way that only she could. Cutting but very funny if you witnessed it. Not so much if you were at the end of it. She touched the blonde girls arm and said something that made her laugh gaily. He saw Tom go beetroot red and start stammering before Maddie took hold of his arm and guided him back amongst the spiders web of tables. The blonde girl started towards the back of the room walking parallel to where he was standing.

And she was beautiful. Really beautiful. Like an angel.

She had such a pretty face with soft and enticing features. Long blonde hair fell to the shoulders of her short leopard print dress that ended half-way up her toned, tanned thighs. It was cut down to her cleavage in such a way as to enhance her curves and it certainly did that. It was incredibly sexy but demure. Perfect for an event like this. She wore very little jewellery, just a pair of large green earrings and held a clutch Givenchy bag in her hand.

Chris could not stop gawping at her as she walked by him and she sensed it, turning her head in his direction. Their eyes interlocked for a brief moment and Chris smiled at her. She smiled shyly at him and tucked her hair behind her ear before walking towards the bathrooms at the back of the room. She glanced back briefly at him and smiled again holding his stare for a moment before dropping her gaze again. He just stood there staring after her with his heart pounding in his chest. He was so captivated by her that he didn't even notice Lane stalk up to him.

"Oi Chris! What the fuck! What are you doing?"

He jumped a little.

"Um...nothing." Stammering he spun around to face her.

"Well if you've quite finished ogling that little blonde bunny there, could you come and sit down with me please?"

"I wasn't ogling her." He said defensively.

"Pfft...please. The waiting staff are going to need a mop to clean up all that drool off the floor."

"It's not THAT much drool." He grinned sheepishly.

She rolled her eyes.

"Whatever. Now pop your eyes back in your head, Looney Tunes, and let's go. I'm stuck at a table with a bunch of old farts who keep droning on and on and on about the fucking Brexit referendum. I'm either going to kill them or get steaming drunk. Or both. Probably."

"You know I only have eyes for you, Laney."

"Don't think you can sweet talk me that easily, asshole. I haven't forgotten how late you were." She snorted.

"I'll make it up to you on your wedding day."

"C'mon, dickhead." She said affectionately and took his hand, leading him to their table.

*****************

Lane had not been wrong about the other guests at the table. As they approached the table, he had whispered,

"How the fuck did you end up sitting in Jurassic Park?"

"It was that bitch Tara who put me sitting here. I'm going to murder her tomorrow. If I don't do it tonight. She said someone had to sit with them. And I drew the shit detail."

None of them were below sixty and whilst they seemed perfectly pleasant, they prattled on and on about banalities that were of no interest to Lane or himself. Three of the women went into great detail about their various ailments, people they knew that were dead and people they knew that were in hospital. Or dying. Loudly and almost continuously. The elderly men at the table were engrossed in conversations revolving around cricket and Brexit. Once they heard that Chris worked for a bank, they were quick to try rope him into their conversation. He was pleasant with them but found their constant prattling irritating.

They only stopped once their main course was served.

"Want me to wait for ya?" Lane asked

"No. You go ahead before it gets cold. It looks good." His stomach growled as he looked her plate.

"Mmmm...plaice...my favourite." She said as she squeezed a healthy drizzle of lemon over the fish.

"At least the hotel serves Guinness" He thought and once one of the waitresses came over to take his main course order, he ordered one.

He looked up and saw the blonde girl walking towards her table, skilfully manoeuvring her way through the throng of chairs and waiting staff. She smiled apologetically as some diners had to move to let her through. She smoothed out her dress before she sat down at her table exchanging pleasantries with the elderly woman sitting beside her.

She was sandwiched between the elderly lady and Maddie. Chris grinned when he saw this. Sitting at the same table was Tom and Chris saw him sulking, periodically glancing over at the blonde and trying to converse with her. He guessed Tom had initially seated himself beside the girl but that Maddie had put the kibosh on that and rearranged the seating.

Throughout the meal he had glanced over at her and on several occasions their eyes had met. She would smile at him and he at her. Every time she did, a little shiver of pleasure had run up his spine. He'd not felt this way about a girl since he'd first met Alice.

Alice. The girl that had broken his heart.

"Her name's Melissa by the way." Lane said through a mouthful of dessert.

"I'm sorry. What?" He said

"The blonde chick you're making googly eyes at. Her name is Melissa."

"I'm not making googly eyes at her. I..."

It was one of the older gentlemen at the table that interrupted him;

"Oh yes you are old chum! You can't keep your eyes off her. Not that I blame you though. She's a fine looking filly."

Chris went bright red, looked around the table and then at Lane who just burst out laughing.

"Cecil. There's no need to embarrass the poor man." Hissed the old man's wife as she slapped her husband's arm lightly.

"I'm just making an observation, dear. The boy obviously likes her." He said pointing his spoon at Chris

"Cecil! Come here." Said Cecil's wife as she took his arm to lead him away from the table.

"But we haven't finished dessert yet....tapioca pudding." He whinged

"Cecil! Now!"

"Ah...alright...if you'll excuse me." Cecil addressed the table as he stood up.

Lane was still giggling when she rested her head on his shoulder;

"Oh Chris. I'm never going to let you forget this! I love the English. You're just so fucking eccentric."

"I'm glad you find it so fucking funny. And I'm sure you'll be telling EVERYONE else about it too." Grunting sourly, he raised his pint to his mouth and drained the remaining contents.

"What are friends for?" She cackled. "Oh now don't pout. Look, if it makes you feel any better she's been staring over at you all night too."

"Really?" He brightened

"Yes. She's been eyeing you up as much as you have her."

"Melissa?"

"Melissa Debbing or Devlin or something like that. She's been volunteering at the shelter for the last few months. I've met her a few times and she seems really nice."

"Maddie mentioned something about her being a celebrity ambassador. She an actress or something?"

"Think she's a model of some sort. F1 or glamour or something like that. Lots of the guys at work were going gaga over her when she started to show up. When Tom and Maddie learned that she had some fame, they asked her if she wanted to start fronting some of the donation campaigns."

He glanced over at her again and saw she was typing into her phone. The screen illuminated her face as her fingers danced over the virtual keyboard. He wondered who she was texting. Her boyfriend perhaps? He felt an irrational twinge of jealousy at this thought. He reached for his pint glass and saw that it was empty.

"I'm out. You want anything?" He asked Lane.

"Mmm...vodka tonic. On second thoughts, make it a large double vodka T. Tom will be making his speech soon."

He stood up and bowed;

"Your wish is my command."

*************************

Chris sighed when he saw the large queue for the bar. And just two barmen.

So it goes.

They never have enough staff at these things, he thought as he took his phone out of his pocket and checked the time. He fired off a text to Lane letting her know he would be a while. When he put his phone back into his pocket, he noticed that the girl was standing beside him. He felt his heart flutter and beat a little faster. He turned to her and smiled.

"Hi there. How are enjoying tonight?"

"Hi. Yeah. I'm enjoying it. It's been a nice night. I don't really know a lot of people here. But the people I've met have been really nice. You having a good night?" She returned his smile as she tucked her hair behind her ear.

"Goddamn she is gorgeous." He thought. "Those blue eyes. And that smile....."

"Yeah. It's been good so far. But Tom has to make his speech yet so that could all change. Very quickly."

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byJohn Connors© 7 comments/ 2427 views/ 14 favorites

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