Authors: Lisette Ashton
If Rhona Grafton was embarrassed by Megan’s words she kept her emotions contained. Her colour didn’t change and her expression remained poker-faced. Brushing the stray curl from her forehead again, smiling tightly as though she was pleased to be discussing the matter, she said, ‘I had no idea you were an eavesdropper. I think that aspect of your character makes you even more desirable.’ She placed the knife with the vegetables beside the sink and walked to her husband’s side.
‘Cock-up,’ Charlie said simply. He flexed a terse smile and handed the sheet of paper to his wife. ‘Your writing, Ronnie. My mistake. I delivered it to the wrong address.’ Glancing at Megan he said, ‘This was supposed to go to that fat lass. The one with all the kids and those fuck-awful pink tracksuits.’
‘The Maxwell girl,’ Rhona elaborated.
‘Tanya,’ Megan added, supplying her neighbour’s name. ‘Tanya Maxwell.’
Charlie nodded. ‘I must have shoved it through the wrong letterbox.’ Looking vaguely contrite, but only
, he flashed Megan another smile and said, ‘Sorry. I guess I wasn’t cut out to be a postman. I suppose it’s fortunate I made up my mind to work for a living.’
Uninvited, Megan took one of the captain’s chairs and sat down facing him. She pulled a pack of tobacco and some papers from inside her coat and began to roll a cigarette. The kitchen was a haven of cleanliness and perfection. One window stared out on to the Graftons’ rear garden, a modest stretch of neatly manicured lawn. Another window overlooked the driveway at the side of the house and Charlie’s BMW. The décor inside was spotless. The surfaces were polished and the fixtures and fittings were hidden behind discreet doors that looked like the other cupboards. Sprinkling curls of tobacco dust on the spotless linen cloth that covered the kitchen table, Megan ignored the room and the Graftons and glowered at the cigarette she was making.
‘Well,’ she murmured dryly. ‘That certainly puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it?’
Rhona took the letter from her husband and read it slowly. The pink paper looked as if it belonged in her slender, attractive hand. ‘I honestly don’t understand what the problem is,’ she said eventually. ‘Why would this letter make you call round here in such an angry mood? I can’t see anything in it that would be offensive.’
With her cigarette rolled, Megan snatched the sheet from Rhona’s hand. Charlie was watching her with the intensity of a hawk pursuing a fieldmouse. Not for the first time in her life Megan was thankful that she concealed her eyes with the impenetrable dark glasses. Max, her husband and master, exuded the strongest air of authority she had ever encountered in any man. He doled out discipline with a mastery that was breath-taking
delightful. But Charlie Grafton seemed to have a similar aura of power and control. As she snapped her cigarette lighter aflame, Megan glanced again at the letter.
Dear Ms M
We would be interested in employing your services for a couple of evenings each week. Please let us know if you are able to accommodate us and we can then get together and negotiate the terms and conditions most satisfying to all our mutual needs
Charles & Rhona Grafton
The misunderstanding was now so obvious she wondered how she had been so careless as to make the mistake. Because she had heard Rhona and Charlie discussing her – ‘
Charles, I simply have to have that McMurray girl
…’ – and knew the swinging couple shared a desire to get her into bed, she had assumed the letter was a bold offer proposing payment for sex.
The connection had seemed obvious when she read the letter. Now Megan was amazed that she could have been so self-centred and stupid as to make such an erroneous assumption. ‘I read it the wrong way,’ she mumbled. Raising her gaze to meet Charlie’s she added defiantly, ‘But it was your fault for delivering it to the wrong house.’
He held up his hands. His smile was genial, forgivable. ‘My bad,’ he admitted. ‘I’m sorry for causing you any upset. It was strictly unintentional and, even though I don’t know how I offended you, I’m genuinely sorry for doing it.’
He was on his feet a moment later, opening the fridge door and plucking out a bottle of white wine. Rhona had put three glasses down on the table before Megan realised the woman had moved. The couple
with the sort of close-knit choreography she knew she would never have with Max, regardless of how many times he striped her backside.
Before she had a chance to tell the couple she didn’t drink wine, Charlie was pouring a conciliatory measure into the glass nearest to her and then filling one for himself and another for Rhona.
Realising a refusal would offend, and deciding she had already risked enough upset with the neighbours, Megan picked up the glass and took a tentative sip. The drink wasn’t as vinegar-like as most of the wines she had tried before but, although it had a pleasantly fruity flavour, she realised it was dangerously potent.
‘Why did it upset you so much?’ Rhona asked, sliding into the chair next to Megan’s and inching the seat closer. ‘Are you that much of a snob that cleaning is beneath you?’
‘I guess I must be,’ Megan agreed. ‘Why do you want someone cleaning house for you?’
‘Touché.’ Rhona grinned and gave Megan’s arm a lingering, if platonic, squeeze. ‘I’m a snob and cleaning is beneath me. I’ve been telling Charles that I’m not the only woman on this street who feels that way.’ She slipped her fingers away from Megan’s arm and sipped her wine. ‘I’m glad we’re of a like mind.’
The conversation developed easily. Although Megan knew the couple by sight and the occasional nod of curt greeting, she had never spoken to either Grafton for such an extended period. Sipping her wine, and not complaining when Charlie ‘filled her up’, she found the pair were engaging, witty and nowhere near as pompous as she had expected.
It was quickly obvious that Rhona Grafton was an out-and-out snob. She spoke with disdain about most of their neighbours, particularly Tanya Maxwell at number two and Tom at number one. But her bigotry
so constant and convicted that it came across as amusing rather than offensive.
‘I’m surprised no one’s reported him to the police,’ she said with a sniff as they talked about Tom. ‘I’ve seen him out there today, peering through his binoculars and rubbing at his lap. It’s absolutely obscene. His crotch must smell like a fisherman’s farts.’
Megan almost choked as she tried not to splutter a mouthful of wine across the table. She appreciated Rhona’s genuine apology and the comfort of the woman’s hand on her back as she caught her breath and resumed her composure.
Charlie didn’t voice the same superiority that dripped from his wife’s venomous tongue, but Megan soon understood he had a firm belief in his own authority. While he let his wife do the majority of the talking and appear to make decisions, Charlie was clearly the driving force behind the marriage.
‘You still haven’t explained why the letter caused you so much upset,’ Charlie said as he poured a third glass of wine.
Although she could feel her good judgement clouding over, Megan didn’t believe she was out of her depth. The couple were unexpectedly warm and interesting. Not what she’d expected. After the amusing anecdotes and confidences they had already shared with her, she felt it was right to explain the nature of the misunderstanding that had led her to their door.
‘I thought you were propositioning me,’ she admitted.
The couple were silent for an instant, then they began to laugh. ‘I told you I should have written that letter,’ Charlie declared.
‘You can’t write letters for shit,’ Rhona returned. ‘Your handwriting is appalling.’
‘I don’t write letters that sound like sexual propositions.’
‘Well, I didn’t think I did.’ Rhona clapped a hand over her mouth and stared at her husband. ‘My God! What if you’d had brains and delivered it to the right address? You don’t think we’d have Tanya Maxwell opposite us now, do you? Can you picture her, sitting there in one of her ghastly tracksuits and thinking we were up for a threeway?’
Megan heard herself laugh but she wasn’t sure whether it was with amusement or horror. The conversation was more explicit than she would have expected of her prim and proper neighbours, and skated way beyond decency and her own sympathetic appraisal of poor Tanya. Megan had always considered herself fairly unshockable, but she realised she simply wasn’t used to discussing acquaintances in such brutal and uncompromising terms.
Charlie considered his wife’s remark for an instant and then shuddered as he drained his glass. ‘A threeway with Tanya Maxwell? That’s the scariest suggestion I’ve heard in years.’
Rhona snorted. ‘Like you’re fussy about where you stick it.’
Megan managed to avoid another choking session in response to Rhona’s outrageous remark.
‘I draw a line at Tanya Maxwell,’ Charlie grunted. He glanced at Megan and said, ‘But if Rhona’s letter upset you so much, if you thought she was propositioning you, why did you bother to come round here? Why not just tear up the letter and glare at us menacingly each time we passed on the street? Wouldn’t that have been the more sensible thing to do? Wouldn’t that have been the
thing to do?’
She hesitated between the truth and an excuse. He had left her the ideal opportunity to say that she didn’t hold with petty bickering and childlike glaring contests on street corners. She could offer the lie and come out
the conversation sounding noble and proud. But Megan thought the unexpectedly likeable couple deserved more honesty than that.
‘I was considering the offer,’ she admitted.
She had intended to make the remark in a light-hearted tone that matched the mood of their conversation, but instead it came out sounding more serious than she meant, and a thick silence fell. The air in the kitchen hummed with taut sexual tension. If her words had been written for a soap opera, Megan thought, that would have been the final line before the scene cut to a commercial break.
8 Cedar View
A COMMERCIAL BREAK
played in the background from an unseen TV set outside the room, probably downstairs. But Jane Smith wasn’t listening. With Denise’s tongue pressed firmly against her sex, sliding against the labia and occasionally punching between the lips of her pussy, Jane told herself the only thing she was aware of was the pleasure.
But that wasn’t strictly true. She could hear the advertisements, cheerful, brash and louder than the regular TV programmes. Chocolate, dishwasher tablets and car insurance were briefly elevated to a euphoric status that her mere orgasms would never attain. Determinedly, she tried to shut the sounds out and concentrate only on the slurp of Denise’s mouth against her sex.
Above, in the newly installed mirrored ceiling over the bed, her reflection stared curiously down. Lying on the black satin sheets, with Denise’s bowed figure kneeling between her thighs, Jane thought that sight more than anything else should give her the thrill she needed to push John from her thoughts and bring her mind back to the more immediate pleasures of her arousal. She still wore her stockings, their cream bands cutting tight into her thighs and the sheer denier
her legs look slender and desirable. With the rest of her body bare she had to admit that her reflection looked sultry, glamorous and exciting. She could understand why Denise wanted her so badly, why she so urgently desired to inflict such a rigorous and thorough tongue-fucking. Yet, as much as Jane tried to lose herself in the pleasure of having Denise lap and lick at her sex, she couldn’t stop brooding over her argument with John.
‘He’s such a selfish bastard,’ she complained, spreading her legs a little and urging Denise to lick higher. ‘I hate that part of him. Why does it always have to be about him? Why can’t he ever be like the rest of us and think about others for a change?’ Her fingers caught a fistful of stray blonde curls and she tugged and guided her friend’s head until her tongue was probing Jane’s sex and striking sparks from her clitoris.
‘He just walked out?’ Denise glanced up from her homage to Jane’s pussy. Her mouth dripped with her own saliva and Jane’s musk. Her chin looked glossy, wet and kissable. ‘Where did he go?’
‘Fuck knows.’ Jane tried to say the words as though she didn’t care. ‘He said he was off to the pub again. But he never says which pub.’
‘Do you think he’s seeing someone else?’
‘John?’ Jane laughed at the idea. ‘He wouldn’t dare.’ A flicker of doubt crossed her mind. She glanced sharply at Denise. ‘You don’t think he’d dare, do you?’
Denise shrugged and lowered her head back to the gaping wetness of Jane’s pussy. She pressed a couple of gentle kisses on the bare flesh above the tops of Jane’s stockings and then ran her tongue up to the pouting labia. ‘He’s
husband, Janey,’ she murmured. ‘I wouldn’t know whether he’d dare or not.’ There was a long, sultry silence as Denise’s tongue pushed into Jane’s sex and struggled against the
muscles. Her upper lip pressed heavily against Jane’s clitoris.
‘Do you know something I don’t?’ Jane pulled her sex away from Denise’s mouth and sat upright on the bed. Panic clutched her chest like a large and powerful fist. ‘Have you heard something? Or has John been round here and –’
‘Jesus, Janey.’ Denise stared at her with disbelief. ‘You’re blowing this out of proportion. You and John have had a row. He’s probably back home now, sulking and wondering where the hell you are.’ She sighed and leered hungrily at the slit of Jane’s sex. She stretched out her fingers and touched the tip of one against Jane’s labia. The contact sent a velvet thrill of excitement through her.
‘John’s a dull and boring bloke,’ Denise continued. ‘He doesn’t fulfil your needs. You’ve told me that before. You’ve said he doesn’t even
to fulfil your needs. What would another woman want with him?’
Jane considered this solemnly. The words contained a grain of truth, but she wondered if Denise was missing something. She supposed that was unlikely. When it came to knowing about husbands who could be described as ‘dull and boring’, Denise was already an expert. Without thinking that the free association might cause offence, Jane asked, ‘Where’s Derek this evening?’