Feeling chastened, I spent most of the rest of the day mooching around Richard’s parents’ house. I did go to the chemist’s, where I half-heartedly flirted with a cute pharmacist named Colin, but considering what I was there to pick up, it didn’t go anywhere.
It could have, mind. If I’d really put my all into it, I could have had Colin, the married pharmacist, crawling into bed with me, less than 24 hours after I’d obviously been with another man… but I just wasn’t myself. And hot as I am, it’s really my personality that makes me irresistible: flirty, adventurous, cheekily demanding, and at times, downright lascivious. I just wasn’t in that headspace, that day; and I’m sure Colin’s wife, whomever she might be, would be glad if she knew… somehow, though, by the time I got back to the house, I was feeling less sure of myself.
“Richard?” I called through his bedroom door, as soon as Mummy and Daddy Ashbrooke had left (for the gym! So trendy, in their own way). I was just raising my hand to knock, when the door opened to reveal my best friend, chest gleaming, one towel around his waist, and another smoothly drying his hair. I thought about making a crack regarding the efficient, hairdresser-level skill of his movements; instead, I blurted out, “Would you sleep with me?”
One patrician eyebrow disappeared underneath a tousled sheath of damp hair. “Right this moment?” he asked, deadpan.
Now, I know he was joking, but that sounded almost like a challenge. I couldn’t resist; in one slinky movement I stepped forward, very much into his personal space, and set a crimson-nailed hand on his lightly tanned chest. “Why not?” I purred. “I’ve got an hour to spare, before I need to drive back.” Making a lazy claw of my fingers, I trailed them down his chest, over one nipple—I heard his breath catch, and I smirked up at him, as I continued sliding my hand lower.
He took a small step back. “What about Rilla?” he said, with just a hint of breathlessness in his voice.
I advanced, until I was pressed up against his (somewhat interested—get in!) front. “Napping,” I said, still keeping my eyes locked on his. “Like I said, I’ve got a good hour free. Help me fill it?” The last bit was hopeful, with just a touch of shyness; and I licked my lips, somewhere between sluttily and innocently, as I said it. To make my point a little more firmly, and to make his point a little more firm, I nudged him lightly with my body. Nothing like a little friction, to make a semi into a solid.
Gay or not, Richard’s a man, and I could tell he considered it, if only for a few seconds. Then, the eyebrow went up again, he stepped back again, and he gave a little laugh (still breathless, I was gratified to hear).
“You have more than your fair share of je ne sais quoi, Anais, I’ll grant you that,” he said, smiling at me quizzically. “But what on earth was that all about? Come in,” he said, opening the door all the way, “Tell Uncle Richard all about it.”
Uncle Richard? “UncleRichard?” I asked, still not ready to give in. “You’re not my uncle, and I can’t see why you’d refer to yourself as such; unless you’re trying to put some distance between us. Do you need distance from me, Richard?” I murmured, as I walked toward him, loosening the tie of my wraparound dress.
“Anais, stop it,” he said, with a hint of real irritation. Taking my hands off my dress, he re-tied it (again, the efficiency of his movements was amazing, for someone who doesn’t do that sort of thing very often) and then deposited me on his bed, before turning to his wardrobe and pulling on his £200 dressing gown with alacrity. I thought about the situation for a moment, and then, smiling playfully, I asked him if he wanted me to pick out his tie.
He rolled his eyes at me, but all he said was, “Sure, if you’d like to,” as he handed me his tie-rack. Then, before I could get the silver-flecked burgundy tie out, he’d managed to don a slim-fitting, pewter grey suit, thin black socks (cashmere, by the look of them) and a shirt in a blue so pale it was more like blue-ish white, than blue. It was to my extreme disappointment that I’d missed the boxers going on, and I said so; for a few seconds, Richard went very still, and when he turned around, there was no humour or lightness anywhere on his face. He sat down in front of me, and then, in one of the gravest tones I’ve ever heard him use, he said quietly, “Anais. Tell me what is going on.”
Chastened—for the second time in the same day!—I shrugged and said glumly, “Fine. But will you get me some water to take my Levonelle with?”
He got up to get me a glass, and I sat on his bed and thought about how to explain myself. When he came back, however, I jumped up, said quickly, “I don’t feel like discussing this with you, actually,” and hurried from the room. I stopped just long enough to grab my baby, our bags, and the Ashbrookes’ chauffeur, on the way out the door; and then, less than 10 minutes later, Rilla and I were riding back to the city.
Fuck Da. Fuck Colin. And fuck Richard. Rilla and I were fine, we didn’t need anyone else—and if I decided I wanted a shag, I’d just ring an old friend… but preferably, not one who was gay.