Mistress ArrangementsBy: Helen Bianchin
- Passion’s Mistress
- Desert Mistress
- Mistress by Arrangement
IT WAS ONE of those beautiful southern hemispheric summer evenings with a soft balmy breeze drifting in from the sea.
An evening more suited to casual entertainment outdoors than a formal gathering, Carly mused as she stepped into a classically designed black gown and slid the zip in place. Beautifully cut, the style emphasised her slim curves and provided a perfect foil for her fine-textured skin.
A quick glance in the mirror revealed an attractive young woman of average height, whose natural attributes were enhanced by a glorious riot of auburn-streaked dark brown curls cascading halfway down her back.
The contrast was dramatic and far removed from the elegant chignon and classically tailored clothes she chose to wear to the office.
Indecision momentarily clouded her expression as she viewed her pale, delicately boned features. Too pale, she decided, and in a moment of utter recklessness she applied more blusher, then added another touch of eyeshadow to give extra emphasis to her eyes.
There, that would have to do, she decided as she viewed her image with critical appraisal, reflecting a trifle wryly that it was ages since she’d attended a social function—although tonight’s soirée was entirely business, arranged for the express purpose of affording a valuable new client introduction to key personnel, and only her employer’s insistence had been instrumental in persuading her to join other staff members at his house.
‘All done,’ she said lightly as she turned towards the small pyjama-clad girl sitting cross-legged on the bed: a beautiful child whose fragility tore at Carly’s maternal heartstrings and caused her to curse silently the implicit necessity to attend tonight’s party.
‘You look pretty.’ The voice held wistful admiration, and a wealth of unreserved love shone from wide, expressive dark eyes.
‘Thank you,’ Carly accepted gently as she leant forward and trailed slightly shaky fingers down the length of her daughter’s dark, silky curls.
Tomorrow the waiting would be over. In a way, it would be a relief to know the medical reason why Ann-Marie’s health had become so precarious in the past few months. The round of referrals from general practitioner to paediatrician, to one specialist and then another, the seemingly endless number of tests and X-rays had proven emotionally and financially draining.
If Ann-Marie required the skills of a surgeon and private hospital care…
Silent anguish gnawed at her stomach, then with a concentrated effort Carly dampened her anxiety and forced her wide, mobile mouth into a warm smile as she clasped Ann-Marie’s hand in her own.
‘Sarah has the telephone number if she needs to contact me,’ she relayed gently as she led the way towards the lounge.
Leaving Ann-Marie, even with someone as competent as Sarah, was a tremendous wrench. Especially tonight, when apprehension heightened her sense of guilt and warred violently with any need for divided loyalty. Yet her work was important, the money earned essential. Critical, she added silently.
Besides, Ann-Marie couldn’t be in better hands than with Sarah, who, as a nursing sister at the Royal Children’s Hospital, was well qualified to cope with any untoward eventuality.
‘The dress is perfect.’
Carly smiled in silent acknowledgement of the warmly voiced compliment. ‘It’s kind of you to lend it to me.’
The attractive blonde rose from the sofa with unselfconscious grace. ‘Your hair looks great. You should wear it like that more often.’
‘Yes,’ Ann-Marie agreed, and, tilting her head to one side, she viewed her mother with the solemn simplicity of the very young. ‘It makes you look different.’
‘Sophisticated,’ Sarah added with a teasing laugh as she collected a book from the coffee-table. It was a popular children’s story, with beautiful illustrations. ‘Ann-Marie and I have some serious reading to do.’
Carly blessed Sarah’s intuitive ability to distract Ann-Marie’s attention—and her own, if only momentarily.
Their friendship went back seven years to the day they’d moved into neighbouring apartments—each fleeing her own home town for differing reasons, and each desperate for a new beginning.
‘I won’t be away any longer than I have to,’ she assured quietly, then she gave Ann-Marie a hug, and quickly left.
In the lobby, Carly crossed to the lift and stabbed the call-button, hearing an answering electronic hum as the lift rose swiftly to the third floor, then just as swiftly transported her down to the basement.
The apartment block comprised three levels, and was one of several lining the northern suburban street, sharing a uniformity of pale brick, tiled roof, and basement car park, the only visual difference being a variation in the grassed verges and gardens, dependent on the generosity of any caring tenant who possessed both the time and inclination to beautify his or her immediate environment.
Carly unlocked her sedan, slid in behind the wheel and urged the aged Ford on to street level, taking the main arterial route leading into the city. It was almost seven-thirty, and unless there were any delays with traffic she should arrive at the requested time.