(Or the anatomy of a seduction from the husband’s point of view)
Wood: It’s a simple four letter word for such a complex gift mother earth has given us. I’ve been in love with it for as long as I can remember. Wood is alive to the touch, and no two pieces are the same. It warms to the touch, and the very smell of freshly sawn timber is so sensual and evocative. It can be rough or smooth, a symphony of shades and textures.
My grandfather, a jobbing carpenter, gave me my first carved piece when I was four. I still have it sitting on my desk, a rough, quickly carved oak horse. He taught me all he knew, which I absorbed like a sponge. When I’d drained him of his skills, he took me to his masters of forming wood. I sat at their feet and learnt my trade.
I work with wood, and I love what I can do with it almost as much as I love my wife. There can come a time to all men when enough is enough, and I had finally reached that point.
What could I be blathering on about? Well, it’s simple, well, simple to me. After ten years of what I thought was a happy marriage, my wife had just dropped the proverbial bombshell.
Okay, let’s back up a moment get up to speed with the events that are unfolding about my hapless head. A bit of background would help, as well, I guess.
I’m Dave Peters, and I’m married to Zoe. We met at Art College in the south of England twelve years ago. I was attending college to put an academic stamp to the woodworking skills I’d acquired during my teenage years. It had been a compromise on which my parents had insisted. They would support the direction I wanted to travel so long as I had a degree on which to fall back. At the end of a pleasant three years, I graduated with a degree in fine arts.
Zoe’s a painter who’s has been steadily gaining a reputation as a portrait artist. Two years ago, she exhibited several nude and semi-nude studies in a small gallery in Brighton. After that, her canvases were beginning to sell nationally. On top of that, she’d been getting more and more commissions.
One of our friends once described us as an average couple. I suppose in a way she was right. I’m thirty-two, and I’m average height, five foot ten. I’m reasonably muscular, a benefit of working with my hands, I guess. Dark brown hair and steel blue eyes set in an angular face. Personally, I’ve never thought of myself as average.
Zoe will always be beautiful to me; she’s a year younger. She has a cute but not classically beautiful face, long light brown hair that always seems to be flecked with paint, blue eyes, and a cute little button nose. She’s five foot six and has a slim build; I’m madly in love with her, and she with me. If she has one fault, it’s that she’s too trusting of people. More than once I’ve had to extricate her from a situation that had gotten away from her.
The one thing about us that I would never describe as average was our love for each other. You see those trashy magazines descriptions of ‘soul mates’, well, that’s us. From that first time we met, neither of us has ever considered a life apart. Our love life is extensive, inventive and still as vibrant as the first time. We have a five-year-old daughter, Siobhan, who is the apple of our eyes.
At heart, I’m a simple man who loves making beautiful objects from wood. I’ve translated that love into a small business making commissioned pieces of furniture from exotic woods. I can make about twenty pieces a year, but I sell each of them for a ridiculous amount. My order book is full for the next two years. How much do I make a year, I’m not sure. My furniture sells for between £20,000 and £50,000, depending on the size and complexity of the piece. You do the math.
Of course, the furniture pays the bills, but my true passion is carving. The ultimate passion is the small wooden sculptures I fashion in my spare time. I own a piece by an artist called John Fox; it’s a stylised cat sleeping on a pillow. It’s a beautiful, simple piece that’s also a functional little box, the curled up cat, the lid.
Over the years I created a few pieces that, hopefully, have given others as much satisfaction as the cat box still gives me. I don’t sell them; I wait until I find the right person and give it to them. I recall one night drinking in the local pub with Zoe. In my pocket was a small carved mouse that had been sitting on my bench for several months since I finished it. I’m not sure why I’d put it in my pocket that evening, but I had. A woman in her forties walked in with a younger copy of her and sat down at a table near us. I swore that the mouse moved, It felt like it was fighting to get out of my pocket. I walked over to her and placed it in front of her.
“This wants to belong to you,” I said.
She picked it up and looked at it for a long time as it sat on her upturned palm. I swear I saw it twitch and then settle down. She looked up and smiled at me with tears in her eyes. “Thank you; today would have been our 20th anniversary, and my husband’s pet name for me was ‘Mouse’.
I could stand and watch Zoe work for hours when she’s concentrating on a model and the creation of an image on the canvas in front of her. I love the way she chews on the end of her brush as she concentrates. The way she flicks the hair back behind her ear sings to my heart. She loses herself to the passion of her art. The model would be posed, and then Zoe would move to a separate plane. More than once I’ve had to take the brush from her tightly bent fingers and release the poor model at the end of a long all-day session.
Not that I’m the only one to watch the other. I would catch glimpses of her sneaking glances at me while I’m crafting my wood, smiling to herself as she did so, sketching away. I found her notebook on her bench one afternoon. It was full of charcoal sketches of me. In our bedroom hangs the only full-size painting of me she’s completed. I’m bent over my bench concentrating on the piece in front of me. It’s one of the few she’s finished of me. She tells me that I’m her hardest subject. She’s never satisfied that any of her paintings or sketches of me are good enough. She never feels that she can capture the essence of me in paint. That one she tells me is the closest she’s ever come to showing the depth of my love for the wood I’m working on.
There are a few special pieces I’ve been keeping hidden from her. Every now and again I would come across a piece of wood that would cry out that there was a figure hidden deep within its heart. I would work to release its soul. In the early days I found figures of Zoe, but after our daughter was born, mother and child appeared. I poured my soul and the love I have for the subjects into each of the pieces. I’ve never shown them to anyone, not even Zoe. They sit hidden at the back of a locked cupboard, all twelve of them.
We first met one sunny afternoon in May, during my final year at college. She was an art student in her second year. At the time, I was living in Brighton with a couple of other art students. The house had been part of that year’s Brighton Artist’s open house scheme. If you’ve never heard of this, then you are missing an amazing opportunity to meet artists and view their work in their own homes. It runs for a couple of months every year. Many impressive local artists kindly open their homes to the general public. One of my housemates had gained a reputation as an outstanding sculptor, and our place had become a popular stop on the tour. He, in turn, was happy for the rest of his housemates to show a few of their pieces alongside his. I took advantage of his generosity and displayed a few of my smaller carvings and at least one piece of furniture.
The pieces I create are very tactile, they beg you to pick them up and feel their sinuous curves. For the last two years, I’d place the same piece in the middle of the table. I told anyone who looked at it if they could work out what it was and it represented they could keep it. Mostly my pieces are of animals, but this one was very different, it had been born out of a family tragedy. In those two years, a lot of people had offered their opinions, but none had been right. A few had understood that it was a stylised woman, but none could see the emotion it portrayed.
On the Saturday of last weekend of the years’ open days, I saw a young woman pick the piece up. She held it reverently as she slowly turned it over and over in her hands and I saw tears forming in the corner of her eyes.
I walked over to her, “What do you see?” I asked.
She looked up at me from the piece in her hands. “A beautiful woman,” she said. Looking back down she added, “A beautiful woman twisted in grief for the loss of a loved one.”
Again she looked at me, “This is your work.” It wasn’t a question. “You knew the subject.” Again it was not a question.
I nodded, “It’s my cousin, she’d just lost her six-month-old daughter in one of those out of the blue cot deaths.”
I had poured all of my own grief into that piece. I’d offered it to Gina and her husband, but she couldn’t take it. ‘It’s too powerful a piece,” she told me. ‘The emotions are too raw, I’d cry every time I saw it.” It sat on my table, waiting to find the person who deserved to own it.
And that was the first time I met Zoe. I tried to give her the carving, but she wouldn’t take it.
“It’s part of you, you should never give it up.” I knew she was right, the piece had found its owner, only I’d been too close to it to know that it had been me all along.
Instead of the promised prize, I offered to take her out to dinner. She’d accepted with a gracious smile. Over dinner later that evening we’d exchanged our life stories, and by the end of the meal, I knew I was in love with the woman sitting opposite me. Our first tentative kiss as I walked her home sent shockwaves coursing through my body. Zoe gasped and pushed herself against me, her lips seeking mine for a second longer deeper kiss.
We both did something that night neither of us had done previously considered; we made love on a first date, and again on many more dates.
Within weeks, Zoe moved in with me for my last few months of college. A year later, just after she graduated, we got married.
We lived on outskirts of a small town in East Sussex in the south of England, not too far from Brighton. Soon after I’d graduated, I had inherited several acres of land, complete with a tumbled down farm cottage, with an old barn and stables from my favourite aunt. There was just enough money in the bequest to have the cottage demolished and the barn converted into a home for us. I spent six months making the stable block watertight and transformed into a studio for Zoe and a workshop for me; I knew what each of us wanted from our working space. I trusted no one else to do the work properly. The building had become my labour of love to the muses of our art. The studios were in a long block; each of us had space at opposite ends. Between them, I fashioned a small office and display area.
As I mentioned, we got married soon after Zoe graduated. It took us several years to get settled and established in our chosen careers, to build our confidence and find the clientele we needed to survive. In those early days, we’d be anxiously waiting for the post to deliver a cheque so we could afford to pay the outstanding bills and buy food for that week. We survived on cycles of feast and famine. Now, hopefully, that was all past us, we had established a healthy bank balance, and we could afford to send Siobhan to the kindergarten at the private school in the village.
We’d always enjoyed a full social life, most of which was centred on the local pub and our sports and golf club. The club catered for all, there was a full-sized pool, and we would take Siobhan swimming a couple of times a week. Both of us liked to cook and entertain, and least once a week our friends or we would have a dinner party.
Our years together hadn’t always been a perfect bed of roses. We’d had our little arguments and disagreements, but importantly, we never let them fester. We could always talk out our problems. In hindsight, I suppose that was my first hint that there was a snake in our garden of paradise.
I’m not a jealous person; I’d always trusted Zoe. I had to, considering the constant stream of attractive men and women vying for her attention in the studio, many of whom posed naked or semi-nude for their portraits. We had developed a rule that worked for us; she would never paint a naked man if I wasn’t around, and she would never take such a commission that required her to paint away from her studio. I’d seen her painting Adonis’s that even I, if I were that way inclined, could find attractive. She was always calm and collected. She would see me watching and she would grin and blow me a kiss before returning to her palette of colours.
A few months previously, I discovered that she had been offered a very lucrative commission from a business colleague of one of her girlfriends. We were sitting at the kitchen table. Zoe had just dropped our daughter off at the kindergarten, and on the way back had picked up a batch of freshly baked croissants from our local baker.
As we sat buttering the still warm croissants, she said, “I had a bit of an odd call yesterday from Linda. The new finance director at her office has seen the painting I did of Paul. She says that he wants a similar painting of himself.”
Linda had been Zoe’s flatmate when we met, and we had stayed close friends with her and her husband ever since. She had been, and still was, my source of information on all things Zoe.
I recalled the painting and was somewhat surprised that Paul had let the guy see the painting. It was a nude study of him. It was one of a pair that Zoe had painted as a gift for Linda and Paul’s tenth anniversary the previous year. The second was an equally naked study of Linda, and they both hung in their bedroom.
Both of them had separately asked Zoe for a painting of their partner. It had been fun keeping the presence of the other painting from each of them. It had been one of the rare occasions that Zoe had agreed to paint from photographs that each had provided of the other.
It had only been possible as she had said, “I know both of them so well that I can fill in the missing parts from my memory!”
This person wanted a painting of himself, and I guessed as Zoe had mentioned Paul’s painting, that he wanted it to be in a similar style.
“Oh,” I replied, “So it’s a nude study of himself he wants, is it?” I gave her a grin, “That’s a bit presumptuous of him, isn’t it?”
She smirked in agreement and nodded, “Apparently, he’s a bit full of himself. Linda says he seems to think the sun shines out of his ass, but she asked me to consider taking the commission as a favour to her.”
I gave a little chuckle, “Does he have a wife, is he looking for a pair of paintings?”
“I don’t know, I guess I’ll find out next week; he called later to make an appointment to discuss the project. He was a bit pissed off that I wouldn’t accept his commission over the phone. I told him that I always meet potential clients before I can consider accepting their commission.”
She popped the last of her croissant into her mouth and standing up, came around the table. She stood behind me and draped her arms across my chest. She nuzzled the back of my neck. She murmured, “One of these day I will do you justice, and I’ll replace the one in our bedroom with a perfect version.”
I turned in my chair and pulled her onto my lap. “Why would you want a painting of me when you can have the original?” I asked her with a broad grin.
She laughed, and our lips met, hers tasting of apricot jam, “Because, then I can have my cake and eat it, dummy.” She wriggled in my lap and smiled when she felt me respond.
“You are a wicked woman,” I said, “Don’t start something you’re not willing to follow through with.”
“Who says I’m not willing to follow through?” Zoe murmured as she wriggled again.
She turned to face me, sitting astride my lap, pulling the hem of her skirt up to the top of her thighs. The sheer fabric of her panties moulded itself to her slit, her pussy a dark shadow. She rolled her hips, pushing herself against the bulge in my jeans. She wrapped her arms around my neck, her lips urgently seeking mine in a crushing kiss. She grasped the bottom of my tee shirt, pulling it over my head and throwing it on the floor behind me. She bent her head forward and sucked one of my nipples into her mouth.
I picked her up, and she wrapped her legs around me grinding her pussy into me. I sat her down on the edge of the table. She reached down, fumbling with the belt of my jeans. I unbuttoned and pushed them and my boxers down, letting my cock spring free. I stepped out of them, and she grasped my shaft, stroking it. I hooked my fingers into the waistband of her panties and pulled them down her legs. She kicked one leg free, her panties dangling from the other, an ankle bracelet of lust.
She looked at me with lust and desire. No words were needed between us. She rubbed my purple crown along her slit. I just pushed forward, seating myself deep inside her with a guttural groan. She locked her heels behind me pulling me closer. I fumbled at the buttons of her blouse, frustration made me tear it apart, and I freed her breasts from their fabric constraint.
I thrust into her, my hands on her breasts, her nipples hard and her areolas puckered in desire.
“Harder,” she muttered as she rolled her hips. “Christ, fuck me as hard as you like.” She had her hands locked behind my neck holding on to me.
Fucked harder she got; the table rocked, and the legs scraped on the stone floor as I thrust harder and faster.
“Ohhh, God ... ohh god ... ohh god,” she kept moaning in time with my thrusts. She pulled me closer, and I moved my hands to grasp her arse cheeks. I was grunting with the effort, and she moaned, kissing any part of me she could reach.
The base of her neck flushed red, and her moans grew louder and her movements more urgent. Then with a scream, she came, her pussy clutching at my cock, dragging an orgasm from me. Hot cum splashed deep inside her eager passage as she flexed her muscles, milking me of every last drop.
I picked her up, my cock still hard and inside her. She locked her legs and arms around me, I carried her to the lounge, and we collapsed on the sofa. I looked at her flushed features. She’d lost her blouse, and her bra was around her neck. Her skirt looked like a belt around her waist, and she’d never looked more beautiful to me.
“Holy Christ, where did that come from, Dave?” She gasped.
“You inspired me; you always do.”
As her breath returned to normal, she whispered, “I love you.”
As I kissed her in reply; my cock softened and I slid out followed by a trickle of cum.
“Shit,” she said and grasped a handful of tissues from the side table and began wiping herself.
“Have you got time for a shower?” I asked.
She nodded, “Geraldine isn’t due for her sitting until eleven.”
I picked her up, carried her upstairs to our bathroom and stood her down. She removed her battered skirt and bra as I ran the water.
She held her skirt up for me to see. “I think it’s died a happy death; you owe me a new one, lover boy.”
I smiled and said, “A price well worth paying.” She laughed and pulled me into the shower.
We were both hurrying across the courtyard to the studios when Geraldine arrived.
Geraldine’s an old family friend; she was a lawyer who had recently taken her silk and been appointed a Queen’s Counsel. Her chambers wanted a portrait, and Geraldine insisted that Zoe was the one to paint it.
I’d known Geraldine since I was young. Our parents were close friends, and for many years we holidayed together in Cornwall. She’s five years older than me, and she was my first crush as a twelve-year-old. I’d given her a dolphin I’d carved out of a piece of driftwood I’d found on our favorite beach; even now that dolphin by a besotted twelve-year-old had pride of place on her mantelpiece.
We greeted her with hugs and kisses, and she smiled as she gave our wet hair a knowing look. Zoe led her off to her studio, and I headed to my workshop. I was supposed to add the finishing touches to the sideboard that stood waiting for its last coat of polish, but that day, it held no attraction for me. Instead, I was drawn to a piece of zebra wood that had been sitting on a shelf for months. I’d known that there was something important hiding inside of it. I wasn’t sure what; just that it was important to me, but now I knew what it was.
Twice I had to cover it when Zoe came into my workroom. I’m not sure why I felt I needed to hide it from her, but I knew I should. It was mid-afternoon before I was satisfied with my handy work. On the bench in front of me lay a ten-inch long reclining nude. It was unmistakably (at least to me) of a pregnant Zoe in a post orgasmic state. Her head was stretched back, resting on a pillow, her hair cascading waves. One hand rose to touch her lover, the other resting protectively across her bulging abdomen. One leg was straight, the other had the knee slightly raised and falling to the side, open and welcoming. It glowed with an inner depth. The beeswax polish I was lovingly caressing into every curve and fold brought out the striking contrasts within the grain of the wood.
I straightened, my back creaking in protest, my fingers stiff. I picked it up turning it over and over, and then unlocking the cupboard, placed it on the shelf with the other pieces I had yet to share with anyone. They were a testimony of my love of the two people closest to me in the world, a gallery of love and devotion.
An hour later, I stroked the top of the sideboard I should have been working on all day. I’d hurried through its final coat of polish, and it was ready for the client. It was beautiful, a masterpiece of my craft, yet it was dull and lifeless compared to the gems hiding in the locked cupboard. Zoe’s studio was dark, I locked up the workshop and the rest of the building, setting the alarm as I left.
The kitchen was warm and welcoming, as were my two ladies sitting at the table. There were wonderful aromas coming from the Aga. I kissed Zoe and picked up my daughter. She laughed and wriggled in my arms as I pressed my face into her tummy and blew a raspberry.
“Isn’t Daddy silly?” Zoe said, happiness suffusing her voice.
My daughter giggled as she looked down at me as I held her out. “I’m a big girl,” she cried out.
“That you are, beautiful.” I held her close, she tucked her head on my shoulder, and I could smell the hint of cinnamon in her hair.
“Have you been helping mummy with the baking?” I asked.
She looked across to Zoe who nodded, “It’s a surprise for you, spidy ... spicy buns. Is that right mummy?”
“Oh, how did you guess they were my favourites?”
She whispered in my ear, “Mummy told me.”
Zoe came over and took Siobhan from me, “Daddy needs to have a wash and get changed while we check on the buns.”
I took the hint and took a quick shower and changed into clean clothes. As I stood on the landing looking down at Zoe and Siobhan, it had been, all things considered, a very pleasant day.
We met Marcus for the first time a week later. His arrival epitomised his character. A bright red Porsche sped up our drive, scattering gravel in its wake, ignoring the sign requesting visitors to drive slowly. He screeched to a halt in the courtyard. He unfolded himself from the interior of the car and stood, surveying his surroundings.
We came to the kitchen door and walked over to greet him. He was just over six foot tall, a smart looking man in a tailored suit. His face was thin, with brown eyes and a sharp nose, and capped with styled light brown hair. An elegant, handsome man, who I guessed was in his mid-thirties.
He stood watching us approach; I could sense him accessing the pair of us. He smiled at Zoe, dismissing me.
“Hi, you must be Zoe,” he said, “I’m Marcus.” He held his hand out to her.
She shook it, “Nice to meet you,” she replied. She gestured to me, “This is my husband, Dave.”
I offered my hand, and he took it briefly, “Oh right, you’re the woodworker.” Then he turned back to Zoe. I flashed her a surprised look, and she shrugged.
“Shall we go in and sort out the details?” Marcus said.
This time it was Zoe who gave me a surprised look. I unlocked the door into the studios and switched off the bleeping alarm. Zoe showed Marcus into our shared office, while I opened her studio and my workshop. It took me a couple of minutes to set my workshop to rights and then I joined them in the office.
Zoe was shaking her head as I entered. I could sense the tension in the air. I flipped the coffee maker on and took a seat on the battered old sofa that sat in the corner.
“I’m sorry, but it’s a rule we have.” She was saying. “After one difficult situation a few years ago I don’t do any type of sittings outside of my studio, and even here I only do male nudes if my husband is around.”
“Surely you can make an exception in my case,” he said. “I’m a busy man, and I have a flat near the office we could use. This place, as nice as it is, is over an hour’s drive each way.” His voice was soft and pleasant, yet there was a hint of strength in the background.
Zoe looked flustered, “I’m sorry, but honestly, I don’t need your commission. If you want me to paint you, then you need to accept that it will be here.” She glanced in my direction for support.
Marcus saw and turned to appeal to me, “You understand my position, don’t you?”
I shook my head, “I have to agree with Zoe; we made these rules for everyone’s safety.”
He argued for another ten minutes, but we didn’t change our position. He kept offering more money.
“Compensation for your extra time and effort,” he said as he tried to convince her.
Finally, he accepted that he wasn’t going to change her mind and that they would be using Zoe’s studio. They agreed that she would start in a few weeks’ time. She added his first sitting to her appointments diary and reminded him that he needed to organise a photographer to take several images of him reclining on his bed to use as references for the background.
As I heard his car race down the drive, I commented, “Seriously, he wants a painting of himself on his bed! What an egotistical arsehole; why would you agree to paint him for Christ sake?” And why, I wondered, did he want a nude of himself.
“Because he’s offering to pay me an obscene amount of money, that’s why. Mind you he’s intriguing, but definitely an arsehole.”
Over the next month, our life followed its usual pace, but there was something about Marcus that kept rankling with me. Zoe wasn’t concerned, but I kept wondering why Linda had suggested to Zoe that Marcus would be a suitable client.
Finally, curiosity got the better of me. On a day that Zoe was in Brighton delivering some canvases to a gallery, I gave Linda a call. When I mentioned Marcus’s name, she fell silent and then said that we needed to meet for lunch at the local pub.
She was already settled at a table in the corner when I arrived. She was sipping a glass of red wine and had ordered a couple of rounds of sandwiches for us to share. I ordered a pint of best bitter, took it over to her and sat down.
I gave her a kiss on her cheek and said hello. She looked deeply at me and then asked, “Has Zoe started painting Marcus yet?”
I shook my head and said no. “Not yet, she’s scheduled to start next week,” I told her. “The whole, wanting a painting of himself doesn’t feel right. Then there’s something about him as a person that makes me uneasy. You recommend him to Zoe, what’s going on?”
She gave me a guilty look. “Watch him Dave, don’t leave him alone with her,” she said. “He’s a charmer. He could charm a bird from the tree. I’ve learnt the hard way, believe you me. You don’t want to leave him alone with Zoe.”
I gave her a concerned look, “What do you mean?” I asked.
“He’s got a reputation as a womaniser. He’s had at least three affairs with women from our offices in the past six months, and he doesn’t seem to care if he gets caught. One is getting divorced; the others are hanging on to their marriages by their fingernails.”
I looked at her in surprise wondering why he still worked there and she replied to my unspoken question. “Because he’s the nephew of the chairman of the board, that’s why.”
“Okay, how the hell did he ever get to hear about Zoe in the first place?”
She didn’t answer immediately; she sat there twisting the corner of a paper napkin around her fingers. Finally, she drew a breath in and said, “Dave, it’s all my fault.” She wouldn’t meet my eyes. “Please, you need to promise me you’ll never breathe a word of what I’m about to tell you. You can’t tell Paul or even Zoe. It would destroy him and end my marriage!”
This sounded so unlike her that I sat back in my seat and carefully checked out her facial expression. I had known Linda for almost as long as I had Zoe and they were like sisters. I couldn’t recall any other time that she’d wanted to keep a secret from Zoe. I took a few moments and then reluctantly agreed. Reluctantly, because I needed to know, but promising her would tie my hands as I don’t break confidences. She looked sharply at me, “You promise?” I nodded.
She took a deep breath in and then let it out. “He knows about Zoe because he saw her paintings of us in our bedroom while he was fucking me. I was one of his three affairs.”
Of all the things she could have told me, this was the last I’d expected. I could see tears in the corner of her eyes.
“Dave, I know it sounds like a bad cheating wife story but I wasn’t able to resist him, he was like a drug. I love Paul; I’d never contemplated having an affair. It was like my mind was saying one thing and my body another.”
“But I don’t understand; how did it happen?” I asked.
She sighed, “About three months ago we had to entertain some American customers up in town. I knew it was going to be a late night, so Paul insisted I book a room. He didn’t want me to have to travel back here late at night. God, I wish I had now. Don’t ask me how but I ended up in bed with Marcus. I couldn’t get enough of him, and I don’t understand why because he’s only an average lover. Paul’s so much better.”
She spoke in a monotone; it was as if she was describing something that had happened to someone else. “I told him never again, and I meant it, but a week later he walked into my office as I was working late, and within a few moments he had me bent over my desk fucking me, and I loved it. He just had to touch me, and I was taking my panties off. We carried on like that for a torrid six weeks; I think half the office knew something was going on between us.”
I interrupted her monologue, “Linda, how is Zoe part of this?”
She held her hand up in a wait gesture, “I’m getting to that. Remember six weeks ago, Paul was up north on that golfing weekend?” I nodded; it had been his 30th birthday present from her. He’d gone with his brother Tony, a jolly boys trip organised by both wives. They’d tried to get me to go with them, but I couldn’t think of anything less appealing.
“Marcus turned up at the house; fortunately I was on my own, the children were over at my sister’s. He just walked in and made me suck him off in the hallway. He made me show him around, and he saw those photos of the all of us on holiday last year. He wanted to know who Zoe was, so I showed him the paintings. The next thing I remember we were fucking on our bed.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After we’d finished, I was lying on the bed, his cum oozing out of me and I got a reality check. I looked around the room, and all I could see were things that reminded me of Paul and our children. I couldn’t believe I’d been so stupid; it wasn’t even great sex. I felt used and sick to my stomach. I threw up all over the carpet, screaming at Marcus to fuck off.”
“I don’t understand, why in God’s name, after all that he did to you would you point him in Zoe direction?”
She looked at me with anguish written across her face, “I’m so sorry, Dave,” she whispered. “The only way I could get the arrogant bastard to leave me alone and not tell Paul about our affair was if I introduced him to her.”
She held her hands out to me, tears in her eyes and I took hold of them. “He says he only wants her to paint him,” she said. “I don’t believe him, he wants her Dave; I could see it in his eyes. He tried to convince me it’s the painting he’s interested in, but I don’t believe him. The painting is just a means to an end; he’ll pile on the charm. I know Zoe, I sorry but I don’t think she’ll be able to resist him.”
Fuck, this sounded serious. “She won’t be on her own with him, that I can promise you,” I said. I meant that; Zoe was just too trusting, she might not be aware of what he was doing until too late.
“I’ve got to get back,” she said. “I didn’t intend to give you all the gory details, but you needed to know how easily he can get to her.” She gestured to herself. “I’m the prime example of how charming he can be. I guess he’s already trying to get her on his own?”
“He tried, but she shot him down. There were a couple of awkward instances in the early days. Now she won’t paint male models unless it’s in the studio and I’m close by.”
“Good, if she can keep him at arm’s length for long enough, he’ll get bored and look for easier prey. He’s got the attention span of an insect. Just let me know when he’s coming. I don’t want to be around in case he takes it in his mind to try and see me again.”
By now, I was seriously regretting agreeing to keep her secret. “Jesus, Linda, you can’t make me keep this from Zoe. She needs to know what an asshole he is!”
“Dave, you can’t, if you tell her, Paul will find out, I know he will. I’ll lose him, it’ll destroy our family. Please say you’ll keep quiet.” She waited for me to say something, anything.
Finally, I nodded, then stood as she rose to leave. She gave a sob as she hugged me and then left. I sat back down and finished my pint, trying to work out my options. In the end, I didn’t have many. It came down to three possibilities. Break the trust that Linda had with me, not a starter at the moment, or try to convince Zoe to drop the commission and if that didn’t work, watch him like a hawk.
I set about trying to convince her that evening, but I fell afoul of another of her traits that fortunately only very rarely raises its ugly head. She can be as stubborn as a mule on occasions, and of course, this was one of those times. She’d somehow convinced herself that she was doing this, partly as a favour for Linda, and partly because it was her most lucrative commission to date.
“We don’t need the money,” I said, “and in any case, I’ve been hearing some odd things about him.”
I gave her a much-edited version of Linda’s tale. I made it sound like it was one of Linda’s work colleagues that Marcus had been hitting on.
Zoe gave me a long studied look. Then she said, “I’ll be fine, just stay in earshot while he’s around.” She paused, “I’ll try to cut his sittings down to the bare minimum, I can probably get away with half a dozen, maybe only five if I’m very lucky.”
I nodded; that was probably the best I could hope for.
Of course, Marcus just laid the charm onto Zoe the next time we met him. I had hoped that I’d be able to limit her exposure to him to just the planned sittings in her studio, which I intended to be present for every one. Unfortunately, fate decided to rear its ugly head and decreed that wasn’t to be the case.
There was a dance and social event the following Saturday being held at the golf club. As usual, we’d gone with Linda and Paul. This was the first time I’d seen Linda since seeing her at the pub, and I sensed that she was nervous around me. Zoe was looking beautiful and wore a classic LBD; it was simple yet elegant, the hem falling to her mid thigh. Underneath it, she happily tantalised me by wearing my favourite French lingerie in dark blue with a matching garter belt. Seamed black silk stockings added the final touch.
We’d arrived at the golf club a bit after eight, having met up with Paul and Linda earlier at a local restaurant for a meal. We had talked about our plans for a combined vacation in the spring of the following year. Linda was quieter than usual. At the club, we found a comfortable table set back from the stage with a local band playing classic dance tunes.
I didn’t mind dancing, especially with Zoe, but neither Linda or I were in Zoe and Paul’s class. They were both excellent dancers, I was happy if I could make a circuit of the floor without stepping on my partner’s feet. There was usually a point in the most evenings when Linda and I would step back, giving our partners their heads and letting them demonstrate their skills, while we talked and watched. Zoe was in her element, floating gracefully across the floor.
It was about ten-thirty when I had my first inkling that something was wrong. Paul and Zoe were on the floor; Linda and I were relaxing, enjoying the skill being demonstrated before us. Linda was glancing around the room when she went as pale as a ghost and started shaking.
“Oh fuck no, no, he can’t be here.” She stared at the people standing by the bar to the left of us.
I glanced in the direction she was staring and saw, to my disquiet, that Marcus was standing at the bar with a blonde woman and another couple I vaguely knew from somewhere.
“What’s he doing here?” I asked.
“I’ve no idea,, “ she said anxiously. “He’s not a member, he must have come as a guest of the Peterson’s.”
That’s who the other couple were, I should have recognised them. Roger and Lydia Peterson, they had bought one of my very early pieces, a sideboard.
“Who’s the woman with him, is it his wife?”