Jack Newman checked the house number against the address on the card. It was the third time he'd done it since climbing the small flight of steps that led up to the front door. He knew it was nerves. He'd never done this before; had never even considered it.
He reached up to push the doorbell and his finger stopped just before pressing the button.
He checked the address on the card again. Just to make sure.
He looked up and down the street. There was no one around. Bridgwater was a quiet residential area, a little way out from the centre of town. The row of immaculate town houses extended up the hill in an unbroken terrace. It was a nice neighbourhood. Jack had considered buying a house here for his daughter once she graduated from university.
He reached for the bell again. Once again his finger stopped just before the button.
Come on. This was ridiculous.
He jabbed his finger forward. He heard the far off chimes of a bell somewhere deep inside the house.
Now he'd done it. Too late to back out now.
"Don't you think you were a little harsh on Susan back there?" Kimberly Yeovil said as they walked along a corridor in the Houses of Parliament. "Her heart is in the right place."
"Her suggestion was impractical," Jack replied. "People don't need dreams and idealism; they need to be given the means to improve their own lives."
"I know, but you didn't have to cut her down so forcefully."
No he didn't, Jack thought. Susan was one of his junior assistants. She was young, eager and very intelligent. Jack just hated to see talent wasted in woolly pie-in-the-sky thinking. The smaller policies might not catch the headlines, but they stood a better chance of positively impacting people's lives.
"Could I have a quiet word?" Kimberly said once they reached his office.
"Of course," Jack replied.
He followed the Deputy Chief Whip into his office. Kimberly closed the door after him
"You're a good man and a fine MP Jack, but I worry about you," Kimberly said, sitting down behind his desk. "We all have needs whether we realise it or not. What happened was tragic and I can understand why you'd want to lose yourself in your work, but I've seen the results of too many good people denying their basic natures. They become irritable and isolated, or they take reckless risks and get found out and destroyed by the tabloids."
He reached over and handed Jack a small white card. Jack read it and looked up at Kimberly in surprise.
"Are you serious?" he asked. "Isn't this one of your reckless risks? What if the papers found out? They'd have a field day."
"They won't. She's very discreet."
Jack stared at Kimberly, looking for the slightest trace that this was a joke. There was none.
"She's special. Have fun."
Jack fidgeted nervously on the doorstep. This was a mistake. He shouldn't be here. What if someone saw and recognised him?
Jack was about to bolt when the door swung open in front of him. Revealed in the doorway was a strikingly beautiful girl. Her black hair was cut short in a stylish bob, framing an elegant, enigmatic face. She was very attractive, but also aloof, like she'd been carved from marble by a master artisan. She was wrapped in a white fur coat and inexplicably was wearing large black sunglasses even though it was night time. She reminded Jack of chic actresses from French movies.
"Nicole?" Jack asked.
"Yes, and you must be Mr Newman. Please come in."
Jack entered and Nicole closed the door behind him. As she took his coat she came close enough for Jack to smell her perfume. He hadn't encountered this fragrance before. It was exotic, yet subtle enough to tantalise rather than overpower him.
"Would you like a drink?" Nicole asked. Her voice held the faint trace of a foreign accent. Not French though, maybe Eastern European.
His mouth did feel a little dry. "I wouldn't say no to a glass of red wine, as long as it's not too much trouble."
"No trouble at all," Nicole said. She smiled and beckoned him to follow.
Jack was a little surprised at how ordinary her house looked. It was well-kept and not that much different from most other houses he'd visited. They entered a spacious, modern kitchen and Nicole poured him a glass of wine. He took the first gulp a little too fast and it felt like a hard pebble in his dry throat.
"You're not drinking?" he asked, noticing she hadn't poured herself a glass.
Nicole shook her head. "I don't drink wine," she said.
Jack took another swallow of wine, this time a sip. The wine was better than he expected. It was sweet and had a slightly fragrant bouquet that made him think of leaves falling in autumn.
"So what ... er ... happens now?" he said.
Nicole smiled. Her moist red lips parted slightly to reveal her white teeth.
"Whatever you wish," she said, "within reason."
Jack took another sip. He nervously dabbed his lips with his tongue. A host of different emotions and desires were charging back and forth across his body.
"We don't have to get started right away," Nicole said. "We can talk for a while if it would make you feel more comfortable. I don't believe in running a meter."
"Yes ... thanks..." Jack said. "I'm sorry. I haven't done this before."
"That's okay," Nicole smiled warmly. "It's the first time for a lot of my new clients. Think of this as harmless fun between consenting adults and those nerves will go away in no time."
"I wish I could," Jack said. "The guilt keeps getting in the way."
"A conscience, in a politician, I would have thought that was a liability."
"We're not all as bad as the papers try to make out," Jack said.
"So who's footing the bill for this evening's fun?" Nicole asked playfully.
"Me," Jack replied. "I don't use taxpayer's money for my own personal entertainment."
"An honest politician as well, I do appear to have come across a rare breed. What makes an honest man want to enter a career as disreputable as politics?"
"I wanted to do some good," Jack said. "I started my own business, got lucky and made my money. Now I feel like it's time to give something back."
Jack took another sip of wine and smiled. "Sounds corny doesn't it."
Nicole laughed. "No. It's sweet."
"I like it," Jack said. "I used to be a problem solver for things that didn't matter. Now I can use the same skills to actually help people's lives.
"What about you?" He asked. "How did you come to be in this..." He realised what he was saying. "No. Forget I asked. It's none of my business."
Nicole laughed even louder at his discomfort. "It's okay. I don't mind," she said. "I do it because I like sex and the money is good. Don't pay too much attention to what the moral crusaders say. We're not all victims."
It was good to hear that, but Jack did wonder if she was saying it for his benefit. Those sunglasses preyed on his mind a little. He did wonder what they might be hiding. He doubted her profession was a bed of roses, even at the top.
"So what brings an honourable servant of the people to my highly disreputable little house?" She rolled her tongue over 'disreputable' like it was an organ to be pleasured and Jack felt a little erotic shiver slither down his spine and nest in his balls.
It had been so long since he'd enjoyed the company of a woman.
"A friend recommended you. He knew I was lonely and he said you were very discreet."
"I imagine that was a hard sell," Nicole said.
"You could say that," Jack laughed. "It's not every day a respected colleague suggests engaging the services of a 'Professional Relaxation Therapist'."
"That's a nice title," Nicole said. "The old words have such a stigma attached to them."
"I think I know which words the tabloids would use if they found out," Jack said. "I've watched those rags tear apart too many lives over a minor moment of weakness."
"And yet you're still here," Nicole said.
"Yes," Jack said. "I don't know why."
He must be insane to take such a ludicrous risk with his career. There was an urge within him though, he tried to ignore it, but it nudged him nevertheless, nudged him all the way into the house of a ... he couldn't even bring himself to whisper the word in the confines of his own mind. This was not him.
"I do," Nicole replied. "It's an animal need. Your body needs it as much as it needs to eat or breathe and the body always overrules the brain."
She noticed Jack's discomfort.
"It's been a long time hasn't it?"
"Over five years," Jack admitted truthfully. "My wife died. Cancer," he added. "There's been no one since. I don't think anyone could ever replace her in my heart."
"Oh, I am so sorry to hear that," Nicole said.
An image of Geneviève entered his mind. It was the time they went sailing off the Isle of Wight. Her auburn hair was blowing in the wind as the sea sprayed behind her.
"I'm sorry," Jack said. "I don't think I should do this. I'll leave the money and go."
A warm hand touched his and electricity crackled with her touch.
"Please stay," she said, looking up at him. "You need this."
Jack's heart raced in his chest. It had been so long. He knew he should leave, but his feet didn't move.
"My friend said you were special," Jack said.
"Did your friend say anything else about me?" she asked.
"No," Jack said, a little puzzled. "Should he have?"
Nicole turned away and carefully took off her sunglasses. "Please excuse me Mr Newman. I'm afraid this will be quite a shock to you."
.... There is more of this story ...