“Oh don’t worry Alex, our secret is safe. And I’ve kept the afternoon free especially for you. I thought you might want to see how the show house is progressing, if you know what I mean!” He picked up her hand again and nibbled her fingers, making her giggle. He waggled his eyebrows at her and spoke in a low voice. “I can see you are considering my proposal!”
She squeezed his hand. “Nick darling, I couldn’t possibly be unfaithful this afternoon – well, only with you. Nobody else, I promise.” She pouted a kiss at him and he laughed with satisfaction, then turned his attention to his main course of meaty venison sausages with creamy mashed potatoes.
Alex regarded him fondly. She thought how enjoyable it would be to tumble into bed this afternoon with this amusing man, who although he was large, was well proportioned and had a mop of thick grey hair. He flirted with all the women, but she believed she had a special place in his little black book. He was an enthusiastic and appreciative lover, as indicated by his wet, fleshy kisses. And it was true that she would not be unfaithful to Charles with anyone else. She would not be so stupid as to risk her comfortable life with Charles and she knew that someone like Nick was able to accept an affair between friends for just that. But she still wondered about his interest in other women and felt unsettled about the ease with which he distributed his favours.
“Getting back to the auction,” she said, “and I’m serious now, are you really thinking of going to it?”
“Well it’s not the best day for me, there’s a lot on then, but I think I’m going to try. I might set up a bid anyway, just in case.”
“For that picture? You’re definitely going for it?”
“Yeah, I think I will. It’s not the best way of doing it though. I’d rather be there in person or on the phone, but I might not have a choice. I’m with the architect and the planners that day so I can’t actually handle it with a phone bid. But if we finish early and the sale is running late I might still get along though.”
“What do you think it will go for?”
He sat back, swirling his red wine around in the glass. “Twenty five grand might cover it. I’m prepare to gamble that on it.”
Alex was impressed. It was not the size of the sum involved that interested her, after all, it was only the equivalent of a new car or a few handbags, but she liked the way he could be so nonchalant about leaving a bid for something he so clearly wanted.
“Well then I hope you get it darling.” She raised her glass. “Good luck and here’s to success! Hope you get the grotty Grozny!”
They clinked glasses and Nick said, “You didn’t see anything you liked then?”
“No, not my sort of thing. However, although you said earlier that I don’t usually go to art exhibitions, I am in fact going to one next week. Helen sent me an invitation. She and her arty friends are having a show in the New End Gallery and I thought I might go along. Maybe I’ll see something I like there. I’m quite fond of Helen’s work.”
Nick offered his glass again. “Well here’s to you with Helen and the gallery, and me with the Grozny portrait then!”
to be continued March 14