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Deirdre Holloway was sunbathing in that minuscule bikini again. Gary could see her through the gaps in the fence as he pushed the mower slowly back and forth along the lawn. When he’d first gone through the tasks that needed doing in the overgrown garden, fixing the fence was high on the list – until he’d realised just how much time his fit, fortysomething neighbour spent working on her tan.
Still, that’s the luxury you have when your husband walks out on you for a younger model and you manage to sting him for a healthy divorce settlement, Gary thought enviously. Not like his own extra leisure hours, forced on him when the firm cut the days he worked to four a week to save money. Though on an afternoon as hot as this, who wanted to be cooped up in a stuffy, windowless cubicle when you could be out in the sun, admiring the smooth, glistening lines of Deidre’s oiled, honey-tanned back and the way the thong back of her bikini bottoms fitted so snugly into the crack of her –
‘Hello, Gary.’ Deidre’s voice cut into his reverie and he stumbled, stubbing his toe on the unforgiving metal of the lawnmower. He glanced up to see her peering over the fence at him. ‘Hot enough for you?’
‘Er, hi.’ He did his best to regain his composure, hoping she wouldn’t realise he’d been lusting over her.
She beckoned him close to the fence with a crooked finger. ‘I hoped I’d find you out here. I wanted to ask you a favour.’
‘Sure.’ Gary wiped his sweat-slick hands on his T-shirt. Perhaps she’d noticed the improvements he’d made to his garden over the past few weeks and wanted him to do something similar for her. She didn’t strike him as the type of woman who cut her own grass, after all.
‘I’m having the girls over tonight. We’re in a little book club. I thought it would be a good idea if I read a bit more. Improved myself, you know …’
Gary was polite enough not to point out that Deirdre had improved herself quite a lot already. He supposed her dramatic weight loss could be put down to the stress of her divorce, but the caramel highlights in her blonde hair were a recent addition, and she’d definitely had a little discreet surgical work done, smoothing her skin and plumping her lips. Not that he was complaining about the effect.
Aware his mind was wandering again, he dragged his attention back to what Deirdre was saying.
‘Anyway, we started off just discussing the book in question over a couple of glasses of fizz and a few nibbles, but over the last few weeks, the girls have been providing rather more in the way of entertainment. Julia hired a harpist, to sit in the corner and play while we talked. Kay got in a mixologist, to make us all some fancy cocktails. And Pauline treated us to a fish pedicure.’
‘You put your feet in a tank of little black fish, and they nibble all the dead skin off your toes. It’s surprisingly enjoyable. But I do feel there’s a little oneupmanship going on here. So I thought I’d have a waiter on hand for my evening.’
Gary wondered how a waiter could be classed as an improvement on what had gone before, but let Deirdre continue.
‘Unfortunately, I’ve just had a message to say the lad I’d hired is ill, and I know it’s really short notice but – would you be prepared to help me out? I’d only need you for a couple of hours, and I’d be able to pay you a hundred pounds.’
Even if he’d had plans for the evening, Gary would have cancelled them on hearing the fee. And if Deidre’s friends were even half as attractive as she was, this could be fun. He’d heard stories about cougars, women in their forties and beyond who were looking for sex with much younger men. Perhaps tonight it would be his turn to meet one. ‘OK, I’ll do it.’
‘Good, I’ll expect you at 7.30.’
With that, Deirdre went back to her sun lounger, leaving Gary to his half-mown lawn and his increasingly filthy thoughts of what might be to come.
Gary knocked confidently on Deidre’s door. She hadn’t told him what she expected him to wear, so he’d hunted through his wardrobe and found a white shirt, black trousers and a red waistcoat he’d worn as the best man at his friend Lee’s wedding. Smart but discreet. He’d shaved, moisturised and applied a splash of subtle, musky cologne. Hopefully, Deirdre and her guests would be pleased with the effect.
When Deirdre ushered him inside, he realised she was the most covered up he’d seen her in a long time. He’d grown used to her strolling around her garden in her skimpy swimwear, but tonight she was in an elegant black dress, sheer flesh-toned stockings and plain black leather pumps. From the flash of red sole as she led him through into the hall, the designer’s trademark, he knew those shoes had cost more than he earned in a week.
He noticed Deirdre looking at him quizzically and asked, ‘Do I look smart enough? I mean, I wasn’t sure what to wear, so I –’
A curious, almost predatory smile crossed her face. ‘Dear me, Gary, when we talked this afternoon I think I must have neglected to mention that I was hiring you to wait on us naked.’