Sneak Peak of Sweet Temptations – Extended Edition.

Hi Everyone

Sorry i’ve been away for awhile. As many of you will be aware, Sweet Temptations is being released through eXcessica on Friday, only on the 26th of October i had a message from them asking me to make a few alterations. Nothing major, right? Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Wrong, because i’m me and as i’m doing that i get an idea to improve a scene with a few lines of dialogue. However, a few lines turn into  page after page. Well i finished it yesterday, it kept me up to five in the morning but i got it done. Well now that’s done it’s time to get back to arranging the promotional events, four days, hundreds of pages to contact, wish me luck.

Oh, and if you’re reading this then you’ve obviously been with me a long time. For that loyalty, here is the extended scene and opening chapter 🙂

 

 

 

 

Richard Martin always hated Holmes & Raine’s Christmas parties. The décor reminded him of a cheap Hammer Horror set. The atmosphere was reminiscent of a funeral. And worst of all, they were organised in August and hosted in early November.

Each year the bosses would present a laundry list of reasons for the premature celebration, but everyone knew those were merely a smoke screen, devised to mask the fact that it cost considerably less to hold a Christmas party before December. Frankly, Richard wondered why they bothered even holding a party, or, for that matter, made attendance mandatory.

Subtly pushing up his left sleeve cuff, he checked his watch for what felt like the hundredth time. To his utter disgust, the digital display indicated that it was just 10:03pm. The party would go on for at least another hour, maybe even two, God forbid!

The dining hall of the Cheltenham Premier Inn was a hive of colour and light as the value disco ball fitted to the ceiling pelted the chamber with light beams and the speakers blared out a stream of Christmas hits from the 90’s. The walls were decorated in red and white, mistletoe hung on strands of crimson silk, and an artificial Christmas tree stood in the centre of the room beside a folding table heavily laden with snacks and refreshments. The guests appeared jubilant and festive as they revelled in small groups evenly spaced around the cavernous chamber, mirroring the groups that clung together around the office’s coffee and tea machines. They were garbed elegantly in suits and dresses, a façade of wealth and importance that was as phoney as their smiling faces. God, he needed a drink.

Resisting the urge to check his watch, Richard got up from his assigned seat and moved into the crowd, the wooden soles of his shoes clapping loudly on the tiles as he weaved a path between the mingling bodies, nodding politely at anyone who noticed him, towards the overloaded folding table. There were ample snacks and refreshments, Asda’s finest. Diced sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, crisps, biscuits, fruit and cheese on cocktail sticks, mini-pizzas, and even some slices of chocolate sponge, all laid out in white china bowls and saucers around two large bottles of Jacob’s Creek and Honeyed Jack Daniel’s, as well as a jug of iced orange squash. Two high towers of Styrofoam cups had been erected between the bottles.

Taking the cup on the top of the tower, he contemplated the wine for a moment, tempted to pour a drink, but then thought better of it.  Alice would kill him if she found out. Grumbling inwardly, he mournfully poured himself a squash. The wine was probably vinegar anyway, he reasoned before twisting to take another look around the room while sipping the fruity beverage.

He glimpsed Stacy Stevens, a pretty part-timer in the firm’s mail room with long raven black hair and milky skin, nervously edging through the crowd in her black lacy dress and flat bottomed shoes; somehow seeming even more uncomfortable than him amongst the revellers. Nearby, he saw Mark McClaine, his office colleague and friend, and his wife Rachael deep in conversation with another couple he didn’t recognise. And deepest amidst the denizens, the firm’s MD, Derik Holmes, was conversing with the heads of departments and grinning broadly as he took long swigs from a monogrammed silver and crocodile-leather hip flask. Silver-haired, rosy-faced, and with the frame of a barrel wrapped in Armani, Derik was the very embodiment of opulent living and Richard could only hope the man didn’t notice him for he was awfully fond of mocking and belittling anyone whom he considered beneath him. Fortunately, the four department heads seemed to be commanding the full wrath of the Director’s humour and he failed to notice the lowly bookkeeper standing beside the refreshments. Alas, there was no sign of Alice amidst the sea of faces, but neither, thankfully, could he see…

“Well, well, well, look who we have here?” An all too familiar voice said silkily.

Fuck. Throwing his head back, Richard drained the cup in a single swig before placing it back on the table and turning, slowly, around to be confronted by the vision of his supervisor, Scarlet Holmes, standing before him. Strikingly beautiful with soft features and sun-kissed skin, her hair was long, wavy tresses of honey blonde that reached down to her shoulders. Clad in a dark blue pencil dress that went well with her almost unnaturally bright baby blue eyes and clung to her slender figure, the low cut V-neckline offering a tantalising glimpse of her ample cleavage, she would have seemed utterly radiant if he hadn’t known the beauty was only skin deep.

“Hi Scarlet,” he said nervously before flashing her a smile he was certain Stevie Wonder would have seen through; “enjoying the party?”

“Mmm…” she purred, watching him with a wicked amusement that Richard wasn’t sure he liked. Then again, he rarely knew how to feel around Scarlet Holmes. Though she’d only been twenty-three and barely out of University when she joined the firm, she was also the CEO’s daughter, and had leapt over the heads of a dozen more highly qualified employees to get the Accounting Supervisor’s position. What made it all the worse was, unlike the stereotypical cliché of a ditzy boss’s daughter, Scarlet actually knew her trade. Despite having an attitude that constantly swung from aggressive to flirtatious, she had a genuine business acumen as well as a knack for people and figures. She was ambitious and worked tirelessly to ensure that she and her people regularly went above and beyond. Thanks largely to her efforts, they were now the top performing team in the firm and rumour had it she was about to be promoted to the Head of the Accounts Department. However, there were also whispers. Rumour had it that she’d had numerous affairs with more than half the firm’s employees, many of whom were happily married. For his part, Richard preferred not to put stock in the storm of office gossip that followed where ever she went, but in one thing, at least, the rumours were true. She was a real tight arse. “Where’s your wife? I haven’t seen her, is everything alright between you two?”

“Oh…” His eyes flickered towards the door leading out of the hall to the building’s main foyer, hoping against hope to see his wife sashaying towards them. “Alice’s just stepped out for a minute. She had to take a call but couldn’t hear herself over the music.” His tongue darted out to moisten his dry lips. “She should be back any minute now.” And he hoped that was true. The words echoed hollow in his ears, sounding foreign and unfamiliar and he suddenly had the feeling of being trapped as he realised just how close they were, her curvaceous body all but pinning him against the table. “So-so how’s your father? He looks like he’s…enjoying himself.”

He gestured with a nod over her shoulder and Scarlet twisted to a look back across the hall to where her father was telling a very animated story. At the sight of a short and portly man with thinning red-grey hair Richard had seen around the office a few times but had never been introduced to, standing a few passes away, she made only a token effort to cover her laugh with a cough. With a face such a deep shade of red it was almost purple and watching the inside of his cup so intently, clearly determined to look anywhere but at his immediate superior, the tomfoolery could only have been at his expense.

“Well you know Daddy, always happy so long as there is a drink in his glass and minions to torment.” It was meant as a joke and Richard tried to match her gleeful chuckle but his heart just wasn’t in it and he could tell she saw through the façade. Suddenly, her playfulness evaporated.

When she turned back, the stern mask that so often watched him like a hawk whenever he handed in his reports suddenly glared up at him with eyes as cool and hard as diamonds. The shift was so abrupt it almost gave him vertigo. “He has his eye on you.”

“Me?” Swallowing the knot suddenly rising in his throat, he forced himself to hold her gaze, fighting the impulse to glance towards the Director. The urge was like burning fishing lures hooked into his eyes, tugging insistently, and he fully expected to spy the Managing Director shooting him a look the mirror image of his daughter’s. But why? What the hell would walrus face want with him?

“The Prometheus Account.” Scarlet supplied by way of explanation, arching one perfectly plucked eyebrow. Full pink lips pulled tight into an almost indefinable line.

Prometheus was a London based construction and land developments company that had several branches throughout the continent and, according to their books, also had contracts in parts of central America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  Though it was not exactly an uncommon practice for big organisations to outsource their accounts, indeed Holmes & Raine had more than a dozen such contracts, there was no question that the Prometheus Account was a big deal. Rumour had it that Derik Holmes had superseded two department heads to ensure his daughter received the account, with explicit instructions it was to be given top priority. Whether that was true or not, she, in turn, had called Richard into her office and instructed him to delegate his workload around the rest of the team. She wanted Prometheus to be his sole concern. Everything else was to go on the back burner. So he had.

She’d also told him to have it done ASAP. That had been three weeks ago, and the reports were still stashed on the flash drive he kept locked away in his desk draw.

“Ahhh…” He swallowed, the knot in his stomach leaping sickeningly into his throat. He should have known. Hell, he should have given her the damn USB last week. Withholding it had been stupid.

For all the weight laid on his shoulders, it hadn’t taken him long at all to sort and organise and check Prometheus’s accounts. It was such easy work; a trained chimp would have been up to the task. Their records were meticulous and immaculate. The numbers perfect. And, what with the pressure to finish the job, the importance of the contract to the company and the fact his performance review was upcoming; withholding the data was more trouble than his job‘s worth. Withholding it had been very stupid, but Richard couldn’t help himself. In his twelve years in accounting, he had never seen anything like it and that irked him. He couldn’t put his finger on what, they numbers were just…too perfect. Or, too perfect to be genuine.

Of course, it wasn’t any concern of his. He wasn’t an analyst. It wasn’t his job to sort out conundrums. He just kept the client’s books. When he was done, he sent reports to Scarlet with notes about his concerns and recommendations, if any; but in this, he couldn’t help himself.

It almost felt like there was a challenge hidden amidst the sheer mass of paper and data, of piles of receipts, invoices and spreadsheets. Something secret only he could see. Hidden, waiting, daring him to find it. So, he’d begun to dig, looking deeper, trying to solve a mystery that common sense screamed didn’t exist, but that the small voice in the back of his mind refused to let go, like some naughty schoolboy playing truant to go on a great adventure in the land of Narnia.

Sooner or later though, the boy needed to go back through the wardrobe, and if the Managing Director had his eye on Richard… So far, every money trail had turned up empty and by itself, mere professional curiosity wasn’t worth losing a job over. Or, worse still, becoming the next punchline in one of walrus face’s jokes.

Baleful blue eyes glared up at him, chunks of blue ice burning bright against a sea of soft beauty. Richard forced a small, reassuring smile. “I’ll have them on your desk Monday.

“Good” That single word was like a storm passing to unveil sunbursts. She beamed with the radiance, her golden skin lighting up with a warmth that chased any hint of chill away as those luscious pink lips curled into a smile. “See that you do, or else I might just have to give you a spanking.” She winked.

Richard gawped, not sure whether to believe his own ears. Had she really just said that?

To anyone who might have glanced their way the gesture would have appeared innocent. Yet her eyes lost none of their intensity as she watched him and her playful tone sent a warm, involuntary shiver coursing up his spine. What the fuck?

He remembered all the stories he’d heard people at work gossiping over, about the people who’d told them and the wide range of vague, outlandish details that seemed to grow more and more extraordinary with each retelling. It was all hearsay. Mostly just the petty vindictiveness of someone who’d been put out, or thought her job should have been theirs, or just the usual rambling talk that always seemed to blossom around a famous name. There had never been any proof, and until now Richard had barely given them much thought. But that look in her eyes, it made him ready to believe every word. He’d seen it on the cats he sometimes saw stalking city streets on his morning drive to work. There was the same confidence, the same purpose and… hunger.

She watched him the way a stalking cat would observe a bird pecking in the mud, utterly fixed in its own world and ripe for the plucking, and the thought had him instinctively averting his gaze. Whatever this game was, he didn’t want a part of it. However, knowing she was waiting for him to say something he opened his mouth to agree but the words that should have come caught in his throat and all he could do was nod in acknowledgement. Heat blossoming across his checks, he swallowed, his mouth so dry it felt like forcing down a lemon. Goddamnit, he needed a drink.

Her eyes flashed, victorious fire dancing over cool blue ice. Then, as if only just realising she was making him uncomfortable, her smile faltered for a moment and turned apologetic. “Awww don’t worry, Dick. I was only kidding.” she cooed like he was a small child or pet dog. “I think you better have another drink. If your face gets any redder, they might mistake you for Rudolph and hang you on the wall.” She giggled, the sound all girlish and mocking. “It’s already a rather striking likeness. Maybe with a pair of antlers-”

More relieved than embarrassed by her dismissal, Richard turned back to the refreshments before Scarlet had finished speaking. With the Styrofoam cup still in hand and grateful for some much-needed space between him and the teasing wench, he reached out for the jug of squash. To his horror, the hand was shaking. No! God, get a grip man. Don’t let her get to you.

As if she knew his thoughts, Scarlet stepped in close enough for him to inhale her perfume. Something sharp and expensive.

“Here, let me.” she offered. Brushing his hand aside, she seized the handle and, despite it being almost full, raised the jug one handed. With a slight pivot of her hips to face him, she filled his cup almost all the way to the top, her gaze unwavering, boring into his with that look of predatory glee, seeing through him, into him. It was unnervingly similar to the look Alice shot him whenever she suspected he was up to something. “There.” She put the jug down before finally breaking the contact to give the drink a quizzical look. “Just orange? You don’t want to mix it with something a little stronger?”

“N-no thanks. I’m driving” Barely able to get his tongue around the words, Richard had to fight the urge to immediately knock the drink back. Fuck, where the hell was Alice? What could Samantha have to say that couldn’t wait for tomorrow? He looked down at the orange in his cup, wished, though he’d never been much of a drinker, that it could be something fermented, and added under his breath without thinking “Alice would kick my arse if she found out I’d been drinking.” The moment he’d said them he regretted the words. Beaten, he surrendered and chucked the juice back in almost one big gulp. It was deliciously refreshing and eased the knots in his gut in a single rush of watered citrus.

“Ohhh…” Mirth lit up Scarlet’s eyes. “Well isn’t someone a slave driver. Come on, Dick, I promise I won’t tell…” she teased, playfully reaching for the Honeyed Jack Daniel’s. Richard struggled not to grin at the impish mischief on her face.

“No, it’s fine, I don’t really like mixing drinks anyway.”

She feigned a pout that had no doubt melted her daddy’s heart more than once. It had the effect of making her looking so serenely demure and girlish, he might have been convinced she was sincere if not for that wild glint in her eyes. It was a sinful look on her, the perfect melding of innocent and wicked. All that was missing was an Anne Summers costume, probably a nurse or cheerleader’s uniform.

A shiver coursed up at his spine at the thought of Scarlet in such a skimpy ensemble. Her long legs encased in knee socks and vanishing into a miniskirt that seemed to promise a glimpse of whatever she had on, or not, underneath with every movement. A tight-fitting crop top stretched tight over up her full breasts but cut just short enough to show off her flat stomach. Golden hair bouncing in pigtails as she played with a set of pom-poms…

Richard mentally shook himself, trying to clear the image. He wasn’t a horny teen anymore. Those sorts of thoughts were trouble. He was married. And she was his boss. Off limits didn’t even begin to cover it. However, his body apparently disagreed and to his horror, the image roused a very vital part of his anatomy into life. Registering the stirring, he instinctively glanced down to see an already visible bulge rising against his left trouser leg. He shifted, trying to cover his visibly straining erection before glancing back up, but Scarlet most have already noticed because the pouting girl was gone. Instead, she was grinning toothily, her eyes bright. Pink tongue darting out to slowly moisten her full kissable lips, she mouthed “busted”.

Time held its breath. Somewhere in the hall, a guffaw rang out. The timing was purely coincidental but even still the humiliation hit him like a bucket of ice water. Dammit, what the fuck was going on? He couldn’t believe this was happening, he needed to think, to get some air before this got any worse and his boss decided to whip out her phone to immortalise the moment.

Contrary to being impeded, however, the realisation he’d been caught only had Richard’s cock stiffening to full mast against its confinement. To his enormous relief, no one else appeared to notice.

Scarlet’s eyes widened, her smile faltering to form a perfect ‘O’. “Ohh…my!”

Well-aware of what had caught her attention, Richard turned his eyes up to the hall’s plain white ceiling and ornamental brass chandelier-style lights draped with tinsel, desperate to look at something, anything but the woman eyeing his dick. To his enormous relief, no one else appeared to have noticed. He felt like a little Robin red breast that had spotted a cat stalking it in the grass and taken flight, rising high on a wing of elation and the adrenaline of escaping death. Only to be swatted from the sky and brought crashing back down, it’s last moment consumed by the image of the sleek feline body arching into the sky, hooked claws reaching out and fangs bared.  I tawt I taw a puddy tat, indeed.

“Have you heard anything about your promotion?” He asked without thinking, studying the interlaced webs of gold, red and green tinsel that enveloped the nearest light.

“Y-yes…” For all her customary swagger, the silky soft voice sounded breathless and the shaky timbre drew his gaze irresistibly back to her. Scarlet glared back at him, her eyes narrowed and cheeks tinged a faint shade of pink. She seemed to be musing whether to say more, searching for a trap behind the question, and the uncertainty reflected in those bright blue irises had him blowing out a slow breath that released all the tension from his body.

Scarlet obviously sensed, or noticed, the change in him however because the gleam of predatory amusement returned to her eyes. She’d play whatever game he had in mind, and she’d play to win. “Daddy says the job’s mine if I want it, but first I need to get my house in order. He’s starting to think we might have a loose cannon on deck.” She leant casually back against the refreshments table with her hands gripping the edges to distribute her weight and back curving just enough to emphasise her breasts. It was a pose that would have put many magazine centrefolds to shame. “But let’s not talk shop. This is a party, after all.  How is your son, Alex isn’t it? I saw the pictures on your desk. He must be nearly two now?”

Richard held her gaze, refusing to take the bait even as his eyes were instinctively drawn to the slopes of her breasts. “Almost sixteen months, yes.” He swallowed, a bitter taste rising in the back of his throat, not liking the way this conversation was turning. “And he’s fine, hasn’t quite got the hang of walking yet. Can’t quite find his feet so he’s always losing his balance mid-step. We’ve had a lot of scuffs and tears, but he keeps getting back up.” He couldn’t quite keep the pride from his voice. So many kids would burst into a fit of tears whenever they fell over and refuse to move until their parent’s picked them up, but Alex never stopped. Even in tears he would push himself up and keep crawling to where he wanted to go.

“And you and Alice are coping well?” she asked, cocking her to the side. A curl of locks fell out of place but Scarlet didn’t brush it aside, her eyes searching his. “I doubt it could have been easy starting a family so soon after losing your job. Your career taking such a huge step back and having to pack up your lives to move here. Not many marriages could weather the storm so well, maybe you two should write one of those self-help books. Money woes and job lows –  A couple’s survival guide.” She chuckled, the sound dry and mocking.

Forcing a small smile, Richard resisted the impulse to give her the finger. I prefer Don’t Let the Tarts Get You Down. “We’re Fine.” Of course, it was a half-truth. They fought, sometimes like cats and dogs over nothing at all, and other times they fought to avoid the very real issues looming over them. There had been many of those recently, but he wasn’t about to discuss that with Scarlet.

“I see.” With that, she pushed away from the table and fingered the stray lock of hair back behind her ear. “Tell me, Dick, would you consider it cheating to kiss me under the mistletoe?” She said it casually, as if it was as everyday as asking about the weather.

Already on edge and walking on eggshells, the broadside caught Richard completely by surprise and had him almost doubling over in a fit of dry, heaving coughs so violent it was a marvel he didn’t choke. “Ex-ex-excuse me?” he stammered, certain he must have misheard her.

Smiling teasingly, she stepped closer so that as she looked up they were almost nose-to-nose. “It was a perfectly simple question.” A hand tipped by baby blue nails reached out, taking the cup from his grasp and placing it on the refreshment table before tracing her finger up along the lapel of his jacket and along the line of his jaw. “Would you consider kissing another woman under the mistletoe as being unfaithful to your wife?”

Her eyes flickered to the ceiling overhead and, pressing firmly on his chin, she tilted his head back. Too stunned to resist, he followed her gaze skyward to where three leaves of mistletoe were hanging off a scrap of crimson silk dangling above their heads.

Richard’s chest constricted. “I…I-”

“Cat got your tongue?”

Richard wheeled, the pit falling out his stomach as the all too familiar voice asked brought a frosty blast of reality. Alice Serena Martin stood not three steps away with her arms crossed and glaring at her husband. “Am I interrupting something?” she asked icily.

“Darling,” Richard tried to make the greeting sound reassuring, but the rush of fear and arousal the sight of her provoked in him at that moment made it hard to do anything.  Even after all the years they’d been married the sight of her could still leave him speechless. Pale as milk and utterly gorgeous, she wore only the smallest amount of makeup and a sultry, backless evening gown of black satin that moulded perfectly to her hourglass figure. A slit from thigh to hem flashed a glimpse of smooth, flawlessly toned legs that seemed to go forever as she walked. Though shorter than most, her tiny stature barely scraping five feet when propped up by the stilettos she’d worn for the party, his wife was a downright knockout with her sharp, pronounced bone structure, hair that ran down her back in a long wash of silken mahogany, and intense grey-blue eyes.

Yet now her beauty had been contorted into a twisted mask that gave her the hard face of a hawk. Eyes that had stared up at him with such love and devotion, now piercing with accusation. That look cut deeper than steel. He wanted to say something to reassure her, but, somehow, a line like ‘it’s not what it looks like’ just didn’t seem it.

“Ahh Alice!” Scarlet stepped around Richard, into the older woman’s sights. She beamed, her eyes alight with wicked delight. “There you are. We were just talking about you

Alice’s cool gaze shifted to the blonde, her lips pursing into a fine line “Indeed.”

“In fact, Dick was just telling me about your son. He’s such a handsome little boy, you must be very proud.

“Yes”

Scarlet gave Richard a slow, appraising look, then smiled knowingly. “He’s the spitting image of his father. Good luck keeping the girls away, you’ll have to beat them off with a big pole” Dread’s cold fingers crept down Richard’s spine at Scarlet’s added emphasis. Dammit, was she going to try and start a fight?

Though the woman had only met on a handful of occasions, exchanging barely more than a handful of words each time, for whatever instinctive, irrational reason, the atmosphere had crackled around them. He could feel it building, raising the hairs on the back of his neck, and knew that rather than finding salvation in his wife, he’d jumped straight out of the frying pan, into the fire.

“Well, I’ll manage,” Missing nothing, Alice’s gaze narrowed momentarily on her husband who couldn’t help shifting guiltily on the balls of his feet under the hawk-like stare, before returning to the younger woman. “But I’m sure you can give me a few pointers sometime. Dick tells me you’ve handled lots of woodwork around the firm.” She forced a wry smile. Richard, of course, had never said anything of the sort but he wasn’t about to contradict her.  “Your father must be very proud that you’re treating his staff so well after he gave you a job?”

For all of a moment, Scarlet’s eyes widened in surprise. Then she recovered her composure and her smile melted away into a small, derisive twist. “What can I say? I like to keep the men under me satisfied. Dick’s never has any complaints.” Alice’s nostrils flared and the fingers that had been creeping down Richard’s spine closed around his gut, but Scarlet appeared not to notice. She shrugged, her eyes trailing over Alice from head to toe, scrutinising her like she would a document that came across her desk. “That’s such a lovely dress, Alice. Is it new?”

Oh, fuck! Richard didn’t need to look at his wife to know that, if Scarlet was trying to pick a fight, then she’d just hit her mark. He knew he should step in, but Alice shot a look that warned him to stay out of it.  The corner of her lip rose just enough to reveal the glint of white teeth, something she only did when she meant business and had him glancing nervously around the room. Fortunately, no one seemed interested in taking advantage of the buffet or paying the confrontation any notice, yet.

“You deserve to treat yourself.” Scarlet pushed on, her voice laced with a sympathetic tone that was all pity and mocking. “Was it hard to find one in your new? I now you must have worked hard to put off those last of your baby weight, but I guess somethings just can’t be helped.”

Alright, he needed to put an end to this. Whatever Scarlet’s game was, she had gone over the line.

Like so many women, Alice had always been overly self-conscious of her appearance. While no one could ever accuse his 110-pound wife, who could put away a whole pizza like Richard did a good 18oz steak, of being anorexic, she was borderline obsessive about her weight. One of her main requirements, when they’d been flat hunting, was that there had to be a nearby gym, and she visited it almost daily. After Alex was born, she’d worked hard to rid herself of the pregnancy pounds and even harder now to maintain her figure. She would give back as good as she got and believed in taking the bull by the horns.  If a child tried to fob off not doing their homework, she called them on it. When something went wrong at home and he wasn’t in, she dealt with it.

So, if Scarlet wanted a fight, Alice would damn well give her one. Even if that was exactly what the little strumpet was counting on.

Richard opened his mouth to intervene, not at all interested in finding out just what his wife might say, or do for that matter, with so many people around them. Only Scarlet rounded on him before he could get a word out, her eyes were bright with a mischief that made him want to run a hand through his hair.

“Anyway.” She cocked her head as if remembering an afterthought, her hair tumbling over one shoulder and exposing the long slope of her neck, as well as giving him a glimpse down the valley of her breasts. “I just so happened to notice that piece of mistletoe hanging up there. So I asked Dickie if he considers it being unfaithful to kiss me.” She slid forward a step. Heat bristled across the back of Richard’s neck, the fury in Alice’s stare  burning his skin as Scarlet pressed into him and touched a hand to his check before he could think to pull away. The closeness as intoxicating as the perfume suddenly fogging his thoughts and her eyes held his. “It’s such a small tradition I know, but they say it’s bad luck to ingot it.”

“Ohhh really?” Alice shouldered past the younger woman. Scarlet reeled, almost sprawling to the floor before catching her balance at the last moment. “Then allow me.” Her hands tangled in husband’s hair, fisting and dragging his head down so their lips crashed together in a fierce kiss.

The sudden embrace stole his breath away and he couldn’t help uttering a ragged moan as her tongue forced its way past his lips to meet his in a feverish dance. His hands rose up on their own accord to circle around her waist before trailing down her back to grasp her full buttocks, roughly pulling her against him and drawing a low moan from his wife. Then, just as quickly as she had begun, Alice broke the kiss and drew away from the embrace. Short of breath, Richard could only grin down at his wife’s satisfied smirk.

“Yea! Get in there Richard my son!” Mark called, followed by a sudden uproar of applause and catcalls as every face in the hall zeroed in on them. Breathing hard, Ricard forced a smile and raised a hand in thanks, only to be elbowed in the ribs by the equally embarrassed Alice.

“Geez, get a room.” Scarlet snarled, her smirk replaced by a scowl. “Maybe you should go before they start demanding an enchoir. See you on Monday, Dick.” Then, starting to worry her bottom lip, she turned on her heel. “Nice to see you again Alice.”

“Bitch,” Alice cursed under her breath, watching the younger woman’s retreating figure with a look of utter malice, before taking her husband’s hand in hers and dragging him through the mass of clapping hands and out of the two huge glass doors that opened out onto the Premier Inn’s rear garden. It was a cold night, even for mid-November, and the cloudless canopy above twinkled with stars that lit the ground just enough for them to make out the narrow cobbled path leading around the structure to the car park. A frigid wind whistled by and Richard hesitated, remembering that Alice hadn’t been wearing a jacket, but she dragged him along nonetheless. Though wearing five-inch heels, she traversed the tricky stones with ease while he was left almost tumbling over his own feet in an effort to keep up with her.