It was an expensive hotel and the door to the room closed with a sigh and a click. Phil hadn’t bothered with goodbyes. Neil forced open his eyes and tried to forget the ache in his head and the taste in his mouth.
Vodka. Nothing got Paula going quite like vodka and the bottle was empty. Three glasses and a full ash-tray, he noticed. Oh, and a bedside clock showing 2.17am. Quite a night.
The three of them had gone back to the room after a long and boisterous dinner. Paula hadn’t eaten much – the churning in her stomach had made sure of that. But she’d drunk plenty. And after a few drinks, the thought of what they were going to do later didn’t seem so bad. Phil was attractive, with a streak of self-deprecation she found charming. And her husband Neil was always good fun once he’d had a drink.
Some time through the third bottle of Chardonnay she’d even started flirting with her two suitors. She knew she always blossomed when she was the centre of attention. She just couldn’t help it. As a girl she had loved nothing better than dressing up and showing off. Her prettiest dresses to her adoring father, her waist-length hair to her envious sisters. Her knickers to the boys in the school playground. She felt herself reddening at the memories and took a long pull at her drink. Oh well, twenty years on this wasn’t so very different. Just bigger boys and smaller knickers, that’s all.
And she didn’t have to go through with it. Just give it a try, Neil had pleaded. You can stop any time you feel like it, he’d told her time and time again. Richie and Julie love it. Just give it a try. Just for me Paula. Go on, just this once, please.
She looked closely at the man opposite. The fair-haired stranger she’d only just met. The man she’d agreed to have sex with. A quiet man with warm brown eyes, that’s how her friend Julie had described him. And lovely in bed, Paula! Just look at the pictures Richie took of us. Every position you can think of. And he lasts for ages, Paula. You’ve got to give him a go. It doesn’t bother me, honestly. And no, it won’t change things between you and Neil. Well, it will, actually. It’ll put new life in him! Richie’s been like a rabbit ever since. . . .
Paula flushed and the churning started up again. I’m going to do it, she kept thinking. I’m really going to do it with him. That’s why she’d insisted on a hotel. And Neil wants to watch, does he? Well if she knew her husband, he would chicken out before she did. It would serve him right, losing face like that. Try bragging about that to Julie and Richie, next time they came round for a drink, full of bright ideas.
The warm brown eyes were looking deep into hers and she felt herself responding. Yeah, she’d give him a try. Why not? She held out her glass and the stranger topped it up.
By the time the bar closed at midnight, they were pleasantly drunk and the flirting had turned into a noisy display of affection that had other drinkers exchanging looks. Eventually they staggered back to the room arm in arm, with Paula in the middle. And while Neil had fumbled with the key, she’d fumbled with Phil, kissing him passionately, deeply, and making a lot of noise. When the key turned at last, Neil practically dived into the room in embarrassment. Only to find that they were in no hurry to follow.
So he left them necking in the corridor and busied himself undoing the bottle of vodka they’d brought with them. When they finally walked in, Paula was glowing and her dress was unzipped down the back. Casually, she pushed it down and stepped out of it. Draping it over the bedside chair, she took the drink Neil offered her.