Caitlin returned to Paris from her trip to visit her father. She had spent a few days in New York and in that time established a rapport with Ariel that boded well for their future relationship. They had embarked on a shopping expedition together that had been fun but held bittersweet memories for Caitlin. It was obvious from the start that Ariel and her father were living together and that they were happy in each other’s company. Although Caitlin occasionally experienced pangs of what could only be described as jealousy, she was adult enough to recognise the symptoms and squash any tendency to petulance.
Once back in Paris she took a long hard look at her lifestyle and decided that she needed to move on. She had been seeing Sebastian, son of a minor French aristocrat, for some time and although he was potentially ‘suitable’ she knew that the affaire was going nowhere for her. Her problem was that she had no real notion of what she did want to do; only what she did not. She sometimes envied the certainty with which her friends had made their choices.
Her father had unwittingly thrown her another distraction in the form of the London house in Chelsea. It was this distraction that Caitlin now decided to pursue. She would move to London. It would be fun. She would see much more of Rebecca and Suzanne both based there. She also had many other contacts through her parents and from school.
Her father had put in train all the legal processes that they had discussed in New York. Within a month of her visit home Caitlin owned a Regency town house and had inherited sufficient funds to ensure that she would never want for anything. She was undecided about the Paris apartment so decided to keep it for the present.
Sebastian, she would have to let down gently. She called him to advise that she was back in Paris and arranged to have dinner with him at the Ritz; she loved it for the happy times she had spent there. Once Caitlin had broken the news that she was intending to move to London imminently the conversation was stilted between them. The possibility of one last coupling for old time’s sake receding to the impossible as Sebastian struggled to remain civil. No loss thought Caitlin to herself, as the sex had never been that great anyway.
As Caitlin locked up her apartment to leave for London the one thought that invaded her memory was of Jean-Pierre. She wondered briefly what he was doing now and pushed a thought away that he may be married. She took a car out to Charles de Gaulle and travelled first class to Heathrow where she was met and driven to Pelham Crescent. She stood outside for a few moments smiling at the white painted façade with the wrought iron railings and small balconies that she had always loved. She must have been about nine or ten when she had first been brought here she recollected fondly.
The house was just as she remembered it; she stepped into the black and white checkerboard tiled hall and admired the polished curve of the stair rail ascending to the first floor landing. Although the house had been unlived in for some time it had been aired and maintained regularly and appeared to Caitlin just as they had left it as she strolled around the house inspecting all the rooms.
The house had four bedrooms and a small room that the English call a box room. Her parents had completely renovated the house before they had moved in, adding the bathrooms that Americans always feel are necessary. There were now three upstairs plus a shower room and a cloakroom on the ground floor. Caitlin assessed the potential for her using the master suite, she couldn’t move in as it was; it would feel odd sleeping in her parent’s bedroom. She decided to sleep in her old room until she had refurbished and decorated everywhere.
Caitlin was daunted by embarking on the refurbishment project single handed so enlisted the help of an interior design business which had been recommended by a friend and was conveniently close for consultations in the King’s Road. She wanted to create a look somewhere between an English country house and a Long Island home. She briefed the company to produce designs that were fresh and light, would remind her of the sea and the garden and be simple, modern and comfortable. Caitlin was delighted with the results and decided to have a house warming party to show off her new abode.
The first of her friends to be invited were of course Rebecca, Suzanne and Penny, and with Penny, Charles must be invited. How about inviting that delectable friend of his that had the hots for Rebecca? Caitlin pondered. Then there were school friends from Hill House and others from St Hilda’s. She would also invite a few offspring of her father and mother’s; friends who she had met quite often in her teenage years. She organised caterers to do cocktails and canapés and to provide dinner for a select few afterwards. She sent out the invitations for a Saturday evening at the beginning of November, her best friends she invited to stay over.
Caitlin organised the guest rooms, for Penny and Charles a large double en-suite next to her own room, and Rebecca and Suzanne on the second floor. Rebecca could have Caitlin’s old room and Suzanne next door with a bathroom and shower room between them. She had flowers delivered for the drawing and dining rooms as well as delightful posies for each of the guest bedrooms.
The house looked beautiful and she couldn’t wait to see everyone again. Caitlin bathed and dressed carefully in a Halston jump suit that she’d picked out in New York when she’d been shopping with Ariel a few months before. In sapphire blue crepe de chine the halter neck backless top flowed into wide legged pants that draped beautifully around the hips and legs. Caitlin had thought that she would look short in the type of garment that had looked so stunning on Ariel’s model body but she had been delighted by the way it flattered her figure. The effect was enhanced by the illusion of height that the Manolo Blahnik stilettos afforded. She turned in front of her bedroom mirror admiring the effect anew as she completed her hair and make-up. A final squirt of Chanel 19 completed her toilette and she wafted downstairs to greet her guests.
The party was soon in full swing; drinks and canapés being circulated regularly by the catering staff. Caitlin moved through the crowded reception rooms of her house mingling with her guests chatting animatedly. Her friends she greeted with undisguised affection, others were greeted with air kisses and protestations of delight, and she flirted disarmingly with all the men.
Penny was radiating beauty in that inexplicable way that pregnant women do. She looked happy and chatted easily with friends old and new, as did Charles, though Caitlin observed that he never spent long away from Penny’s side, returning frequently to make sure she had everything that she needed and wasn’t too tired. They were a happy couple.
Rebecca looked cool and interesting in that inimitable style she projected. She was wearing a long, but somehow casual, chiffon dress awash with swirls and checks in a riot of colours which were softened by the sheerness of the fabric through which you could see the outline of her lithe figure. She had accessorised the Ossie Clarke dress with a bead and feather head band loosely tied around her dark hair and trailing to her shoulder; on her feet a pair of Indian made toe-peg sandals.
It was as Caitlin was observing Rebecca that Dylan entered the room. She saw the momentary flush as she caught sight of him followed by an immediate swing of her head and renewed engagement in the conversation she had been having with a neighbour. I think she really likes him noted Caitlin with slightly mixed feelings as she thought he was rather tasty herself. She moved to greet him with a smile just as he attached himself to his old friend Charles and the noticeably pregnant Penny, who he now proceeded to greet and kiss with genuine pleasure exclaiming as he did,
‘Congratulations to you both for I see that the patter of a new pair of Donaldson clogs will not be far off!’ Dylan grinned and shock hands with Charles, patting him on the back. He then turned to greet Caitlin as she approached the group, holding out his hands to hers he stooped to kiss her on both cheeks, ‘Hey great to see you Caitlin, you look good enough to eat’ he flirted outrageously with her for a few seconds but she could tell he was scanning the room for someone else the while. Dylan found who he was looking for and took in her appearance with a frisson of desire. Sure that she was there he reasserted himself in conversation with his hostess and his oldest friend. Rebecca could wait till later.
Guests started to depart in dribs and drabs and then, as usually happen when the crowd starts to thin out, the remaining few said their farewells and departed. Caitlin was very pleased with her soiree, she had renewed contact with many old associates who were well connected and she had already received several verbal invitations to society events, which would be confirmed in writing. She had taken the precaution of inviting Dylan to dine with them under the guise of being some male company for Charles, in reality she thought the opportunity was too good to miss; she planned to set him up with Rebecca.
The caterers had provided a spread of cold cuts and salads and a host of delectable looking puddings. Suzanne laughed and pointed out that Caitlin sounded like the mother figure scolding everyone into eating up their main course before they were allowed any pudding. Caitlin smiling at herself agreed as she fended off marauders,
‘I think you’re quite right Annie, I do. However, I don’t want to eat rabbit food for a week so I expect co-operation in this matter!’ she asserted in mock censure. They all obediently filled their plates with the actually delicious poached salmon, coronation chicken, ham, coleslaw, potato salad and more. Settled at the kitchen table they ate contentedly discussing the party, the guests, what the women were wearing, and of course Caitlin’s newly decorated house and the mutual excitement that she was going to be living so near. A conducted tour of the house was demanded by the girls and Caitlin was more than happy to oblige, though with a severe finger wave at Charles and Dylan, she instructed, ‘No pudding until we return!’
‘No Miss!’ they responded in unison.
Each of the friends genuinely liked the decor that Caitlin had chosen so coos of appreciation marked each stop of the tour. They had all had a chance to admire the reception rooms during the party, the interconnecting rooms all cool and elegant in shades of white with accents of aqua and flower strewn curtains and cushions introducing shades of pink and green. The floors were of polished parquet covered with some expensive looking rugs.
The upstairs rooms were equally restrained, the floors covered with thick cream wool carpets and the heavy silk curtains all hung from giant wooden poles with rings bigger than an average bangle. The front bedrooms had French doors onto tiny wrought iron balconies looking over the crescent; the back rooms overlooked a tiny paved and terraced garden. The friends were all used to Caitlin’s lifestyle and there was no malice in the passing envy they felt for her budget or lack of it more like. The house was pronounced a huge success as they trooped back to join the men.
An hour later replete with chocolate gateau, trifle, ice cream and strawberries Charles took hold of his yawning wife’s hand and remarked that he must take her off to bed before she fell asleep at the table. All administered hugs and goodnight kisses and Penny was towed upstairs. Dylan then announced that he must be off and proceeded to thank his hostess profusely. Kissing her on both cheeks he declared,
‘Truly the best house warming party, best house, best hostess and best guests.’
‘Thank you kind Sir’ responded Caitlin smiling ‘now be gone as Annie and I are going to clear the decks. Becca will see you off the premises!’ she shooed him away laughing.
Rebecca obediently accompanied Dylan to the door appreciating the opportunity that Caitlin had created for them to have a private word. Dawdling by the front door the two exchanged hesitant farewells, Dylan took hold of her hand and lifted it to his lips as though to kiss it, then with a deft step he moved in and she found herself in his arms. He lowered his face and pressed his mouth against hers his tongue gently parting her lips and kissed her with intensity and passion, one hand slipped to the small of her back and pressed her body into his so that she could feel the bulge in his trousers pressing against her.
Rebecca responded with all the pent up frustration that she had felt all evening watching him and listening to his voice. Her heart was beating so fast that she felt sure that he could hear it and her body was melting into his, the feel of his hard cock against her was unbearably tantalising. He groaned softly as he eventually lifted his head from hers, he held her face in his hands and whispered huskily in her ear,
‘I must see you soon mon amour for I cannot bear to be without you.’ His hand brushed against her breast as he moved reluctantly to the door, ‘I must go, farewell!’ he smiled his faintly mocking smile at Rebecca and left.
Rebecca stood alone in the hallway collecting her thoughts before she returned to the others in the kitchen. She felt wildly giddy with passion but confused at the same time. He said he must see her but hadn’t made a date, not even asked her for her phone number. Again he had turned her world upside down and then walked away leaving her desperate for him. But he had called her his love. She shook her head and not able to face an enquiry poked her head around the kitchen door and announced she was so shattered that she had to go to bed. The girls exchanged fond goodnights.
Rebecca disappeared upstairs to spend a sleepless night her body on fire with desire.