Gina smiled when he switched off the light. She turned from the lounge window and her smile broadened as Robert panther padded across the room. He was a well-built six-footer, but moved with the grace of a great cat.
“Why are we in the dark?” she asked.
He turned her to face the window and pulled her into his arms, nestled so tight she could feel the outline of his torso against her back. “We can see the stars so much better without the light,” he hushed.
“Yeah, sure. What are you really up to, Robert?”
“Just being a good friend.”
It was true. Ever since they’d met as students, they’d been best friends who were never slow to hug, always keen to demonstrate their mutual affection. Even so, Gina sensed there was something different.
“OK, my friend,” she sighed, as she lay her head back against his shoulder. “It’s wonderful to see you after so long.”
“Working late ... again. I’m sorry, but you should have warned us. I’m sure he would have been here if he’d known you were back in England.”
“Maybe I wanted you to myself.”
She ran her fingers up the inside of his shirtsleeve. “It is nice when we’re alone. Most times, I’m uncomfortable when Lennie’s with us. Even though he knows we’ve never been more than buddies, it’s almost as though he’s jealous.”
A shiver ran up her spine as Gina realised what was about to happen. She had no idea how she knew, even though there was no doubt. The thought filled her with a mix of trepidation and excitement – mostly the latter.
As she struggled to come to terms, he moved her charcoal hair from her shoulder as his mouth burrowed inside her polo necked sweater. When he located the crook of her neck, the shiver in her spine was replaced with a hot sensation that tingled as his lips trailed kisses upward toward her right ear. Her eyes closed as Robert bathed her neck with soft passion and, long before he made his next move, she knew what to expect.
His hands slipped down to her hips before they moved upwards under her sweater. Once inside, he began a slow exploration of her body. With languid determination, his finger tips moved higher, caressing her stomach, smoothing her midriff, causing every nerve to thrill with the tenderness of his touch ... until he stopped below her bosom. Gina knew she stop him, but the sensation was so wonderful and her hunger so strong, she could only revel in every move of his fingers.
“Darling Gina, I want you.”
Between deep breaths, her voice was soft. “We shouldn’t. Please don’t torture me.”
“Do you want me?”
“Yes, yes ... but I can’t.”
His hands followed her desire as they cupped her breasts. “If I must stop, take my hands away. You know I won’t fight you.”
Gina pulled up her sweater and anchored it with her chin. Her eyes lingered on the outline of her nipples, their tell tale firmness straining against her white bra. Her only thought was how she so desperately wanted him to take them.
Her hands rested on his and, from that moment, she was lost. Instead of removing his embrace, she raised his hands until they enveloped her. With a sigh, Gina rolled her hands over his, pushing them hard against herself.
She knew it was foolish, but she had no control. She abandoned her hold so she could slip her hands between their bodies to undo her bra. Through half closed eyes, she watched as he exposed her. With tender care, he released each breast before he tucked the bra under her sweater. She’d never seen her nipples so enlarged and a blush spread up her neck until her face was aflame.
Robert continued his seduction. He caressed her skin, a smooth embrace from the swell of her breasts, down through her valley, under and around her areolae, careful to avoid contact with her nipples. Gina’s body screamed for his touch, muscles tense in anticipation with a trickle of wetness down her thigh. Her breath surged out with a gasp when he finally captured them. As he rolled and pinched her into submission, the phone rang. She ignored it as Robert’s passion liberated her inhibitions, but as the seconds ticked by, it was as if her thoughts and the phone were screaming to be acknowledged.
The noise stopped, yet almost at once it rang again, its shrillness attacking her, demanding to be answered. Gina pulled away from his embrace, yanked her sweater down and tried to control herself before answering.
Robert stared at her as she gave out the number.
“Hello, Lennie.” She switched on the light. “You got my message then?”
She dared to look at Robert. He smiled at her in a way she’d never seen before, but in a way that did nothing to calm her. “Yes Lennie, he’s here now. You want to speak to him?”
She handed him the phone and, while the men exchanged pleasantries, poured a large whiskey. Her gaze fell to the bulge in his trousers. It fascinated her. When she managed to avert her eyes to look at his face, the wicked smile he’d given her earlier had returned.
Robert rang off and replaced the phone on the coffee table. “He can’t make it back home.” He winked. “At least, not for an hour or so.”
“You should go,” she whispered.
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Yes, of course.” She gulped a large sip. “Robert, please. If you care for me, you’ll leave now.”
“Do you still want me?”
“What do you think?”
He gazed into her dewy eyes and attempted a smile. “Thank you for that - if nothing else. OK, I’ll go then.”
In the hallway, there was an uncomfortable silence as he put on his overcoat. It seemed to Gina that he was anxious to say something. He was fidgeting and awkward, when he’d always been so relaxed with her.
“I don’t know when we’ll meet again,” he said. “Finally, we’ve found a property which we both like, although it needs a load of renovation work. Marcia arranged a lunch time meeting with the estate agent, so I have an early morning flight.”
Robert looked as though he wanted to say more, but she was scared she might invite him back to the lounge. She gave him a hug – a friendly hug – and a gentle push towards the door.
Outside, he stood on the welcome mat and shrugged. “I guess the secret to a successful seduction is the same as telling a joke. It’s all down to timing.”
She glared. “Goodbye, Robert.”
Gina closed the door, leant against it and trembled. It took a while before she was able to control herself and return to the lounge, where she extinguished the light. Back at the window, that time she noticed the stars. There was a frost, it was cloudless and a myriad of brilliant pinholes filled the sky. She saw Robert cross the street, turn and look up at the window, before walking away down the street.
With eyes closed, she leant back her head and raised her sweater. Her nipples were firm in readiness. She swirled her fingertips around them, pinched them before fondling away the pain, rolled and pulled on them until she was almost breathless.
She fantasised he was still with her as she cried out, “Oh, Robert.”
She undid the zip on her skirt and let it fall. Her panties were soaked with desire. Her mind directed his fingers inside and downwards until his tender touch covered her lips. Robert took her and held her in his hand. His caress was soft on her hairs, stroking them, loving them. When Gina could stand it no longer, his middle fingers sunk between her lips and she was lost once more.
His touch turned the trickle into a flood as ecstasy took over. With every gasp of passion, the climax intensified. Her legs failed and she collapsed to the floor while his fingers probed her entrance. She slipped her panties down, parted her thighs and raised her bottom from the floor as she offered herself. While one hand fondled her clitoris, his other fingers began to thrust in and out. With every stroke of his firmness, she lay helpless. Robert continued to pleasure her until, with one final scream, one last orgasm, her body was subdued.
Gina lay exhausted, fighting to slow the out of control beat of her heart. Her eyes opened and she was alone. The frustration was gone, but not the yearning.
Over the hubbub of the party, Gina heard the piano.
Damn! she thought. He’s here. I’d recognise his style anywhere.
She threaded her way through the guests with a succession of ‘Sorry’s’ and ‘Excuse me’s’ until she reached him.
Just when I presumed it was safe to come out of hiding.
She leant on the piano and watched his hands as they moved with graceful precision over the keyboard. It was fifteen months since she’d seen Robert, since she was entranced by his slender touch, as the embrace of her breasts began his sweet seduction. The seduction that never happened, except in her mind.
He was so annoyingly adept, playing Foolish Games with such confident ease, as though it was a mere practise of the scales. The pain of the lyrics cut through her. ‘In case you failed to notice, in case you failed to see, this is my heart bleeding before you. This is me down on my knees.’
She pushed back her hair, as she stood upright.
“Hi, Gina,” he said, offering his ‘good to see you’ smile.
Damn you. In the intervening months, he hadn’t changed. She wondered if men in their late twenties age more slowly. Once, they’d been so alike in appearance, often they’d been thought of as siblings. Both were dark haired, hers falling to her shoulders, his careless and too long to Gina’s taste. They had dark green eyes, pouting lips and smooth skin, although his had a fine tan from his time in France.
She scowled. “I thought you were living in La Rochelle.”
He grinned that lopsided grin he always did when he teased her. “You look as though you want me to return there. Do you? I’ve only just arrived.”
She forced herself to smile. “I really don’t care either way. Besides, I’d heard you were too busy to come to the party.”
“That’s right. I changed my mind though.” He closed the piano lid and moved to face her. He took her hands and petted them. He’d lost the grin. “I’m sorry about you and Leonard.”
“What? That he was cheating on me?”
He frowned. “Well, yes of course ... although I was referring to the divorce.”
“Yeah ... seems everybody knew about his adultery, except me.’ Her voice raised. ‘Did you know?”
Nearby, a group of four stopped their chat and stared at them.
Robert glared back before he steered Gina to a quiet corner of the lounge. “I suppose I knew, even if it was only a rumour.”
“Did you know the evening you tried to screw me?”
Robert took a moment to recover. “Yes ... I guess that’s why I did it. I was...”
“You shit!” she growled. “I thought you were my friend.”
“I am, I was. Gina, it wasn’t like that. I’d hoped ... you know. It wasn’t meant to be a quickie. I wanted...”
“You wanted to take advantage. Perhaps you assumed I would be easy as I wasn’t getting it from Lennie.”
“No, not at all. That’s unfair.” It was obvious from her expression, he couldn’t hope to win. He let out a deep sigh. “I messed up, didn’t I?”
“You sure did. Damn Robert, I wished you’d told me at the time.”
“I’ve just explained that. I didn’t know if it was true.”
“So you tested the waters by making a pass at me – just in case I was aware he was having an affair.” She shook her head in frustration. “Men!”
“It wasn’t like that ... at the time it seemed the right thing to do. I had no intention of making love to you. I only wanted to hold you while we talked. Then, as you seemed to melt in my arms ... as I smelt your fragrance, I couldn’t stop.” He took a breath. “And you, you know you wanted it.” He took her hands. “Gina, I’m sorry. I screwed up and I have no excuse. You know I would never deliberately hurt you. I am so sorry.”
She studied him for a long time. “Robert, I’m so disappointed in you. I’ve always considered you my best friend.” She sighed. “A friend would have told me about Lennie, rumour or not. I had no idea what he was doing.”
“I almost did. I guess I didn’t want to be the one to hurt you.”
Gina shrugged and shook her head. “I don’t want to discuss it any more.”
He looked relieved. “OK, I understand.” He gestured at her empty glass. “Your usual white wine, was it? You want another?”
“No, I’m driving. I’m on my limit.”
“I’m not. Do you mind if I have one?”
“Not at all. I presume Marcia’s driving tonight.” She peered around the crowd in search of the blonde beauty. “Is she here?”
“No, she’s back in France. Someone has to keep an eye on the business; the hotel’s full in June.”
“Oh! I assume you’re getting a taxi then?”
“No. Our hostess is putting me up for the night. She even collected me from the airport this morning.”
“Good for Linda. She always did like you.”
He moved close and smiled into her eyes. “You did once upon a time,” he whispered.
“Yes, once.” She stepped back. “Maybe I’ve grown up ... at long last.”
“I’m sorry, Robert. Will you excuse me?”
Without waiting for a reply, she turned and strode from the lounge. It was fortunate everyone was too busy talking to see her tears.
Linda and husband Terry owned a rambling house with massive grounds, so it was over an hour before Gina saw Robert again. After the disaster of their meeting and a five minute cry in the loo, she was determined she would control the tears. Damn, I’m almost in my thirties. Far too old to behave like some kid with a schoolgirl crush. She’d already figured a way to afford the taxi fair and another couple of large Chablis had been a tremendous help to cheer her up.
Her determination to enjoy herself was hampered by the guy who had collared her ten minutes earlier. Despite his eyes being clamped to her black dress cleavage, Gina forced herself to be polite and concentrate as he struggled to explain what a heat exchanger was.
Just as she located Robert on the patio, the guy abandoned his explanation of heat transfer and changed the subject. “So Gina, how is it that you know Terry and Linda?”
“Well Donald ... I’m sorry, you did say that’s your name, didn’t you?”
He nodded excitedly.
“We were at Uni. Not Terry, but Linda and I ... and others, including my ex. There was a group of us ... ten, from memory.”
“I see,” said Donald. “I’m an engineer. I work with Terry at...”
Determined though she was, Gina lost concentration as she watched Robert. Shit! He was with a blonde with an over endowed bosom and the slut was clambering over him. She accepted that ‘clambering’ may have been an exaggeration, but to Gina’s mind, she was still too damned close.
As Donald droned on, the temperature in the room began to soar. Gina lost control of her balance and, just as the lights exploded in a sunlit blaze, they went out. Blackness took her.
She was floating on a fluffy perfumed cloud. She could hear faint voices in the background, but most of all, she heard the deep voice that she’d loved for so long. She opened her eyes and it was he. Her knight was carrying her. She looked down for his horse. No horse! She feasted on Robert’s after-shave until she lost consciousness.
“How you feeling?”
“I’m ok.” She forced a smile. “How long was I out for?”
“Ten minutes, maybe a little longer.”
Gina attempted to sit upright on the bed, but Robert’s grip held onto her shoulders. She managed to resist rubbing her cheek against the back of his hand.
He was tut-tutting. “You know you can’t handle your booze. What were you doing?”
She could hardly tell him the truth. “I guess I was enjoying myself so much, I didn’t think.”
“Yeah,” he said, unconvinced. “Well, thanks to you, I’m sleeping on the couch tonight while you have my bed.”
“No. I’ll be alright in a while.”
“No arguments, Gina. It’s arranged with Linda. You stay the night and, if you’re still unwell in the morning, I’ll drive you home.”
She knew it was pointless to fight him, apart from which, the prospect of seeing him the next day was irresistible. After all, I may never see him again.
He sat on the edge of the bed and placed his hand on her forehead. “You’re feverish. Do you have a headache?”
She nodded. “If you don’t mind, a nap will sort me out.”
“Yes. Give me half an hour and I’ll be fine.” She stroked the back of his hand. “I love it when you take care of me. Thanks, Robert.”
Gina was certain he wanted to say something, but all he did was nod and smile.
She was asleep before he left the room.
A knock on the bedroom door woke her. It was dark, and from faraway, she could hear music. It was faint; obviously the party had finished apart from a few stragglers.
“Come in,” she called.
It was Robert. “You ok?”
“Lot better, thanks. What time is it?”
He sat on the bed beside her and switched on the lamp. “After one. I checked on you every hour. You had a skinful. Needed to sleep it off.”
“Thanks, Robert.” She swung her legs over the side of the bed. “You need your night things?”
“Can I borrow your toothbrush before you go? Mouth tastes like a sewer.”
He handed her his toilet bag, which she bundled under her arm as she entered the en-suite bathroom. As she brushed her teeth, she rummaged through the bag as though it was a treasure trove. Shaving kit, deodorant, a brush and comb were not the things to ever turn her on, but these were his.
When she returned, his overnight bag was by the door and he was sitting on the side of the bed.
She joined him. “I need another favour.”
There was a hint of a blush. “Something to wear.”
He chuckled. “Believe it or not, I wear neither a negligee, nor pyjamas.”
“OK then.” She gave him her prettiest smile. “How about your shirt?”
Robert retrieved his bag, pulled out a blue shirt and held it aloft. “I have this one. It’s for the flight home, but you’re welcome to it.”
She went for it, but he snatched it away.
“What?” she said with a playful growl.
“I think I should be rewarded. After all, I’ll need to iron it after you’ve creased it up, and I’m useless at ironing long sleeves.”
“What did you have in mind?”
Not only was she surprised, but uncertain how to react. Whatever happened, she must disguise her feelings. It was too late for them. Marcia had seen to that. Gina decided to make it a fun kiss.
“OK,” she laughed. “That seems fair.”