He laughs wickedly.
‘Give me one word.’
‘White, milk or dark.’
‘But I don’t like dark.’
‘You’re not the one who will be doing the eating.’
Laughter gurgles through Lana. ‘Oh! You predator.’
‘I can’t help it when I scent easy prey.’
‘Easy prey!’ Lana huffs. ‘I’ll get you for that later. Let’s go. People will start to think we are up to something.’
‘Let them. Stay with me another minute.’
There is laughter in her voice. ‘OK, but just a minute.’
‘What kind of underwear are you wearing?’
‘White as the driven snow, tiny, frothy and with ribbons trailing down my thighs. It made even my head reel to look at them.’
‘Let’s not add sticky to the list of adjectives, shall we?’
‘How about if I only use my teeth on the ribbons?’
‘How about if I put you over my knee and spank you?’
He throws his head back and roars with laughter, the sound masculine, rumbling from deep within. ‘That’ll be the day, Mrs. Barrington.’
When he stops she put her hands on either side of his face and kisses him lightly on the lips. ‘Oh, Blake. You’ve made today so special.’
He kisses her ear. ‘No, it is you who has made today special. Today, Mrs. Blake Law Barrington, I’ll even put up with that ear technique Billie taught you.’
‘Go ahead and laugh. I learned things in London. You’ll be gagging for my techniques.’
‘I’m already begging now.’ He bends his head to her neck and whatever it is he does makes her gasp. ‘Stop. You’re turning me on.’
‘How ’bout a quickie, hmmm? I’ve never had it off with a married woman before.’
Lana steps back and slaps his hands down. ‘Behave or I will have to tell my husband.’
‘And what will you tell him, Mrs. Barrington?’
‘I will tell him I met an irresistible man who tried to seduce me with promises of chocolate, but I didn’t succumb.’
‘I wish all these people would go home.’
‘Come on, let’s get back to the party.’
‘All right,’ he agrees reluctantly.
They are already at the door when Lana notices her journal.
‘Wait,’ she says, ‘I’d better lock this away. I wouldn’t want anybody accidentally reading about all the things we get up to.’
‘You’re going to need a new book halfway through our honeymoon,’ he teases as she puts it into the drawer, locks it and drops the key into his trouser pocket. They close the door and leave and I wait until their footsteps die away before I creep out of the cupboard.
Wow, wow, wow!
First off, I thought Billie was a lesbian. What’s she doing having one-night stands with muscular men? And Billie and Lana taking lessons in sexual techniques? Deep throat. Chocolate? And that strange diary that Lana is keeping. His God and her God… What could it all mean?
I wish I had had the chance to read more. I try the drawer, but it is definitely locked. I go to the bed and touch the white dress. The material is soft and smooth. I hold the dress up. It is so beautiful. I have never had anything so fine and probably never will. Again I suffer that old sharp, swift twist of envy. It is a demon that will not lie down and sleep or die.
I open the door, dart down the corridor, take the small staircase at the back, and cross over to the long corridor that leads to the vegetable gardens. From there I run along the high brick wall and, sprinting to the marquee, I slip in through the staff entrance. I walk to my table under the disapproving stare of India Jane and slip into my seat.
‘Where have you been?’ mutters Fat Mary.
‘I had an emergency.’
‘Nice one,’ Billie comments, as the music lowers and the Master of Ceremonies announces, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Mr. and Mrs. Blake Law Barrington.’
We all rise to our feet and clap to welcome the beautiful couple. After their entrance, not much worthy of note occurs until after the starters of tender lamb brochettes with honey roast shallot have been dispensed with.
Then the best man stands and begins his speech. ‘I’ll try to keep this short,’ he says lazily, ‘since I wouldn’t want to intrude in that cherished but brief period between ‘I do’ and ‘You’d better.’
The guests break out in laughter. But the thing about him is he really means it. After complimenting the bride and bridesmaids and thanking us he wraps up with the words. ‘I’d like to propose a toast: to Lana and Blake! May the rest of your lives be filled with joy, wonder, laughter and love.’
We all raise our glasses.
I notice her immediately. It could be because she has that same regal bearing and inbred disdain of all those fortunate women that grace the pages of Hello! An air that I immediately admire and gravitate towards. I see her snap her fingers at a waiter bearing a tray. When he veers to her, she picks up a glass of red wine from his tray and, without taking a sip from it, begins to walk towards me. It is only when she is maybe ten feet away from me that I realize: she is not striding purposefully towards me, but towards Lana.
I heard Blake excuse himself a few minutes earlier to go to the Men’s room and Lana is talking to a blonde woman who is congratulating her. The woman seems a little drunk. I hear the laughter in Lana’s voice as the woman leans into her. I turn back to look at the socialite bearing the glass of red wine. She is only a few feet away and the expression on her face chills me. There is so much hatred and loathing etched in it. And everything happens too quickly for me to comprehend.
I hear Lana gasp. There is fear in that sound. The socialite is already standing between her and the tipsy woman. In a flash I know exactly who she is. This is Cleopatra and the serpent all rolled into one; this is the ex who has been watching Lana from afar. Victoria!
True, I am envious of Lana and of all the things she has, but at that moment, through a process I do not understand, she becomes my friend. I know instinctively that she is in danger and my first thought is to protect her. I know I should do something, and I want to, but I am frozen to the spot. I don’t know how to be brave. I have never been in my life.
The socialite’s eyes glint dangerously. She is like a living switchblade. ‘You think you are so clever. But you have no idea what you’ve caught in your little net. He has done what they all have to do… Things that will make your skin crawl.’