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Archive for the 'Season 1' Category

Season 1: Episode 13

February 22, 2011

Ana hummed to herself as she kneaded the pasta dough. Since she’d quit her job (and her lover) a week earlier, she had transformed herself into a domestic goddess, whipping up delicious meals for her housemates to come home to. Each night she sat with them while they ate and asked them about their lives and loves, genuinely interested for the first time in what felt like years. At first Willow and Mia had responded with raised eyebrows and sidelong glances, but as the week wore on they realised this change in their friend seemed to be permanent and that Ana was happier than ever.

Tonight, however, was different. Tonight, Ana had asked that they make themselves scarce. Tonight, Tom got home from Sydney.

Ana was nervous with excitement. Apart from the odd text message here and there, they hadn’t spoken to each other in a week. Ana’s brow furrowed as she thought about this again. She’d tried not to obsess over it – after all, he was busy with work – but she did think it was odd that he hadn’t once tried to call her, just texts saying that he was flat out and they’d talk when he got home. She reasoned that their relationship was still in its embryonic stage and that it was unrealistic of her to expect constant contact. She didn’t want to be one of those girlfriends, anyway.

She had felt slightly uneasy at having not yet told Tom that she’d quit her job, but she really wanted to speak to him in person and explain everything.

Well, not everything exactly.

Although Ana had fully intended to tell Tom about Marc, as the week progressed her resolve had lessened, and she now thought it much simpler to keep out the minor detail that she had been having an affair for the entirety of their relationship. She felt horrible that she’d lied to this wonderful, brilliant man, however she thought the truth would hurt him too much. Much better to focus on the future, she convinced herself.

She turned her attention to the ravioli: walnut and sage with garlic and ricotta. Taking a sharp knife and slicing carefully through bulbs of garlic, she pushed all uncertainty out of her mind and concentrated, instead, on all the wonderful things about their relationship: the way Tom’s eyes sparkled when he looked at her; how she felt like anything was possible when he was around; the luxurious lovemaking sessions that they enjoyed together. She sighed in contentment. She couldn’t wait until he got home.

***

Pacing up and down the hallway, Ana checked her watch for the sixth time.

7:45pm.

He was late. She had looked up his flight on the Qantas website; his plane had landed on time. Picking up her iPhone she made sure that he had received her text – “Welcome home! Come straight over from the airport. I’ve missed you.” His reply had been a simple “OK”. Christ, she thought, I know you’re busy but how hard is it to add: “I’ve missed you, too”?

Wandering back into the kitchen she checked, again, that everything was perfect. A large pot of lightly salted water was ready to be put on as soon as he walked through the door. The plump parcels of ravioli sat on the counter, covered in a damp tea towel. A bottle of Petit Chablis was cooling in the fridge along with a large green salad of radicchio and witlof, which just needed to be tossed with some olive oil.

The doorbell rang. Startled, Ana smoothed her perfect blonde hair as she walked to answer it. The sound of her heeled sandals echoed through the empty house. “I’m so nervous anyone would think this was a first date,” she muttered to herself.

Opening the door she drew breath sharply. Tom looked awful – he’d lost weight and looked as though he hadn’t slept the entire week. As she leaned in to kiss him she could smell alcohol on his breath.

“Rough week?” she enquired, jokingly.

“You don’t know the half of it.” Tom walked inside and dumped his case by the door.

Ana smiled at him brightly, feeling suddenly very uneasy. “Well, I’ve got a lovely cold bottle of white and food, if you’re hungry.”

Taking his hand, and noting how limp it was in her own, she led Tom to the kitchen.

“Drink?”

Tom nodded in agreement. Her hands were shaking slightly as she took two glasses from the shelf. Pouring the wine, she handed a glass to him. Tom drained his before she had savoured her first sip.

“What’s going on?” she asked softly, stroking his shoulder. She could feel his muscles tense up under her touch.

He looked her straight in the eye. “Why don’t you tell me?”

Moving over to the stove, Ana busied herself with dinner preparations. Laughing lightly, she said, “Well, quite a lot is going on with me, actually.”

Tom’s eyes narrowed. “You mean at work?”

Ana nodded. “I decided I want to start my own agency, so I quit my job!” She turned around with a flourish – her smile didn’t quite carry to her eyes.

Tom slowly refilled his glass. “It had nothing to do with your boss?” His voice was like steel. “Marc, isn’t it?”

Ana dropped the pan she was holding. It clattered loudly to the floor and made her jump.

She answered warily. “Why would you think that?”

“Because I saw the two of you kissing.”

Ana couldn’t believe how calm he sounded as he said it. That explains why he didn’t call, she thought to herself.

“Do you deny it?”

Ana lowered her head. “No” she said softly. “But it wasn’t how it looked!”

Tom held up a halting hand and sat down heavily on a chair. “I don’t even think I want the answer to this. But I need to know. It’s been killing me all week.” He ran his hands through his hair. “Are you having an affair with him?”

Ana paused before answering. She could lie, and pretend that Marc had just grabbed her? No. She had lied to Tom for long enough. She owed him the truth.

“I was having an affair with him.” Her voice was so quiet it was almost inaudible.

Tom was silent. It seemed like an eternity. When he finally spoke, she wished he hadn’t. “How long?”

It was Ana’s turn to take a long drink. “About a year.”

Tom looked at her, incredulous. “A year? So, you were with him before we even got together?”

“If you just let me explain…”

He cut her off. “Explain what? That I was your second choice? That the whole time we’ve been together it’s him you’ve wanted?”

Ana’s mind raced – how could she make him understand that it was over? That being with Marc had only made her realise how amazing Tom was and how lucky she was to have found him?

But it was too late. Tom had read her silence as confirmation of his worst fears.

Tears streaming down his face, Tom whispered, “I loved you! I thought you were the one, Ana,” before walking purposefully out of the house.

Her hand shaking uncontrollably, Ana picked up her wine glass not even managing to take a sip before bursting into tears.

***

When Mia and Willow arrived home hours later they found her sitting on the floor against a cupboard, a full glass of now warm wine next to her, crying silently.

Season 1: Episode 12

February 15, 2011

Johnny yawned as he unlocked his front door. It had been another long and busy night at Medina, and it wasn’t the first time he had started to think he was getting too old for it all.

He’d spent a disproportionately large period of the evening fending off the advances of numerous young women; most, if not all, a decade or so younger than him. Ordinarily he would have relished the attention – hell, he’d probably even have taken one of them home – but his heart just wasn’t in it and, perhaps for the first time, he’d found it annoying.

“You’re definitely over the hill, old man,” he said to his reflection in the bathroom mirror.

Checking his watch, he noted it was 6am. He was tired but didn’t think he’d sleep. Wandering into the open plan kitchen he ground coffee beans and put on the stovetop espresso machine. The rich, warm aroma filtered through his large loft apartment. He surveyed the chaos of clothes, books and shoes that were scattered around and realised that he’d have to clean them up at some point, and soon. He had offered up his humble abode tonight for a dinner party with his best friends. He’d been so busy lately that he hadn’t seen any of the girls for about a month.

Except for Mia.

Groaning, he put his head in his hands, trying to erase the embarrassing memory. No matter how hard he tried he hadn’t been able to forget the disapproving – no, not even disapproving: dismissive – look in her eyes after she’d seen him with another of his one-night-stands. Johnny just couldn’t stop thinking about it. And that had him perplexed.

It’s ridiculous, he thought. It’s only Mia!

She had laughed at what had obviously been a trivial encounter.

“So, why the fuck do I feel like a total sleaze?” Johnny said out loud. He kicked a dirty jumper across the floor, suddenly feeling claustrophobic.

He had planned a trip down to the Mornington Peninsula later that day to pick up some food and wine for the dinner party. Might as well get a head start and beat the Saturday traffic, he thought.

Johnny liked any excuse to get out of the city, but today his need for the cleansing sea air was more urgent than it had been for a long time. There were a few places down on the Peninsula where he regularly bought fresh produce. And there were also a couple of fantastic wineries whose Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio he stocked in the restaurant. Grabbing a light jumper and car keys, Johnny downed his short black coffee and left the house once again.

* * *

The further he got out of Melbourne the more awake he felt. Winding down his window and letting the cool summer air rush in, he gulped in lungsful of the Peninsula’s finest. Passing through the small town of Flinders, Johnny decided to see if his friend Claude was home. Claude owned a tiny but exquisite vineyard nestled between two hills that looked as though they might topple over at any second and envelope the small property. The boutique winery had been operating for about ten years, since Claude had moved from France and made this peaceful coastal community his home. Rich with notes of blackberry, truffle and vanilla, Claude’s Pinot Noir was among the finest Johnny had tasted.

* * *

Johnny was surprised to be greeted at Claude’s front door by a large pair of velvety brown eyes, heavy with long black lashes. Chestnut hair framed her face and fell to just below her shoulders. The strategically chosen shorts and singlet highlighted her undulating curves and legs that went on forever.

Christ, is there no escape, thought Johnny as the woman slowly appraised his body.

“Is Claude in? I’m just down from the city…. thought I’d stop past and say hi.” He was feeling increasingly uncomfortable under her appreciative gaze.

“He’ll be back soon. Come in,” she said. Sashaying to one side, she held the door open just enough so that Johnny had to brush past her in order to walk in.

Johnny stepped inside and followed the exaggerated swing of her hips as her bare feet padded down the hallway into the light-filled kitchen.

“I was just making some breakfast. Want some?”

The air was heavy with the intermingling scents of baking pastries and freshly ground coffee. Johnny shrugged. “Umm, sure. Can I help?”

She nodded towards the stainless steel fridge. “You could make a fruit salad. There are some strawberries, peaches, nectarines…and these.” She held up two ripe, plump mangoes. Bringing them to her nose she closed her eyes and breathed in the sweet, lusty scent. “Perfect”, she murmured, her eyes fluttering open to look at him. She held his gaze without blinking.

Blushing, Johnny was the first to turn away.

***

Slicing through the moist flesh of the fruit, Johnny tried not to look at her. He could feel that her eyes kept darting towards him.

“You live in Melbourne?” she asked.

Johnny nodded.

“I’ve just moved over – I’m studying at Melbourne Uni. I live in Parkville.”

“Great area,” Johnny replied.

“Perhaps you could show me around sometime? I don’t feel like I’ve got a full appreciation of it yet.” She wandered over to where Johnny was standing and took the larger segment of mango from his hand. Squeezing it ever so lightly, she held it under his nose, her face only inches from his own. “Close your eyes.”

Johnny closed his eyes and inhaled the cornucopia of smells. Sweet ripe fruit and delicate hand lotion. Expensive perfume. And her own unique scent – warm and spicy – which reminded him of hot nights in far-off locations. He opened his eyes. A smile was playing around the corners of her mouth. She gently removed a long, sharp chef’s knife from the nearby block and skilfully sliced around the mango stone, removing as much of the fruit’s flesh as she could. Cocking her head to one side she held up her prize.

“May I?”

Without waiting for a reply, her bee-stung lips curled around the edges of the mango stone, sucking and cajoling the sweet flesh into her mouth. She slid it slowly in and out, each time slightly further to make sure she didn’t miss any of the ripe fruit. Johnny’s mouth hung slightly agape as he watched the provocative display.

“Johnny!”

He dropped the knife he was holding, which landed with an abrupt clatter on the stone tiled floor. Claude came up and kissed him on both cheeks, delighted to see his friend. “Bonjour, mon ami!” He added,  “You’ve met Cecelia?”

Cecelia. So that was her name.

Claude kissed her on the head in a fatherly fashion. “I’m so happy that my favourite niece decided to come over east to attend university.” He added wistfully, “They just grow up so fast!”

Boy, do they, thought Johnny.

Cecelia rinsed her hands under the kitchen tap and smiled at them both. Gone was the sex temptress, replaced by a doting niece. “Johnny’s going to show me around Melbourne, Uncle Claude.”

Even Johnny was almost convinced by the innocent voice she put on that all she wanted was a tour guide.

Claude clasped his hands together in delight. “Wonderful. Now come, I know it’s early but you’ve got the try this 2002 Pinot that I’ve just got out of the cellar. I think it’s one of the best yet!”

* * *

Back in his own kitchen Johnny opened a bottle of the Pinot to breathe as he started to plan the menu for the dinner party. As he surveyed the ingredients that were laid out on the kitchen table, his mind flashed back to that morning. He had managed to avoid giving Cecelia his number or any information about himself. Not that he was in any doubt that she was fully capable of tracking him down should she set her mind to it. He just hoped that she’d find someone else to distract her before she returned to the city, because all he could do was imagine how Mia would react if she saw them together.

Season 1: Episode 11

February 8, 2011

Ana took a deep breath as she stood outside Marc’s door. She had been successfully avoiding him for weeks now – ever since she’d decided to get serious with Tom. Well, apart from the run-in by the elevator, of course. Replaying what he’d said later in her head, Marc’s words still hit a nerve a week later.

“What do you see in him?” he’d snarled. “He’s a boy scout. You need a real man, Ana. We both know he’s not right for you.”

This past week Marc had been attentive – too attentive – inviting her for lunch, sending her flowers to the office and to her home, and texting and calling at all hours of the day and night.

“We’ve got a really important job on,” she’d explained to Tom, barely able to contain her anger that she’d been forced to lie to him while Marc repeatedly phoned during a romantic dinner.

It’s ridiculous, Ana thought to herself as she stood outside Marc’s office, that I have to break-up with my married boss to be with my boyfriend.

She knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

Ana walked into the familiar office. She knew every inch of it.

She couldn’t look at his mahogany desk without remembering the way Marc would bend her over it, lifting her skirt with one hand whilst firmly gripping her breast with the other and pushing into her from behind. She remembered the first time it had happened. They’d been working late on a project. The tension between them had been palpable and, well, one thing had led to another. She had been wearing her most ‘sensible’ underwear that day and was mortified when Marc had pulled them off her and held them up with a bemused expression.

“Ana. Always full of surprises, aren’t you.”

From that day on she had made sure it was nothing but lace everyday. She became the Imelda Marcos of lingerie. She had changed so much of herself for him.

Ana looked at the photo on his desk of his wife, Nancy, and – as always – felt a pang of guilt. Shaking her head in remorse, she directed her attention at him.

“I was hoping we could have lunch today, Marc.”

He laughed. “You’ve come to your senses, then, have you?” Checking his watch he added, “I’ve got an hour free now. Let’s go.”

Ana inhaled deeply to calm herself. What had she ever seen in him?

* * *

Tom had been pacing outside the jewellers on Little Collins Street for about 15 minutes. He had told Ana that he had to fly to Sydney that morning for a week of client meetings, but there was something he wanted to take care of first, something he didn’t want her to know about. Tom had made a decision. He knew that he was probably being rash and impulsive, but he loved Ana and wanted to marry her. More than anything he’d ever wanted, he wanted to marry her! He beamed in delight at the thought. Pushing open the door to the boutique jeweller, he stepped inside.

* * *

Ana and Marc sat in silence in the small Italian café, tucked just off Little Collins Street. Ana had wanted to go somewhere where they wouldn’t run into anyone she knew. She pushed her pumpkin risotto around the plate. Marc had ordered it for her – without consultation. Ordinarily, she would have loved it: the sharp tang of Parmesan cutting through the sweetness of the pumpkin.

Marc ate hungrily, putting large forkfuls of risotto into his mouth. “Not hungry?” he asked putting his hand on her thigh.

She brushed him off and forced herself to eat a mouthful.

Grow some balls, she chided herself angrily, just tell him it’s over!

* * *

It didn’t take Tom long to pick the perfect ring. As soon as he saw the 1.25 carat brilliant cut diamond nestled in the simple platinum band he knew it was the one.

“And may I ask the lucky young lady’s name, Sir?”

Tom smiled as he thought of her.

“Ana.”

***

Marc had finished eating and had ordered himself an espresso.

Ana was folding and re-folding her napkin. “Marc,” she began nervously. “I don’t think that we should see each other any more… romantically.”

Marc stared at her, as though she was speaking another language.

“It’s just… I don’t think it’s fair on your family…”. She stammered on for a few more seconds as Marc sat there in silence, watching her with steely eyes.

Suddenly, he exploded. “Fair?” he hissed. “Fair? Well, you thought it was pretty fair when you were seducing me at the office drinks with my wife in the next room. You thought it was fair when I left my family on Christmas Day so I could come and fuck you. What’s changed, huh? Why is it now suddenly unfair?”

Ana looked around her, mortified. Thankfully the lunch rush had died down and the waiter was in the kitchen.

“I’ve just been spending more time with Tom and, it’s not fair on him either…” she whispered.

Marc grabbed her wrist, his eyes narrowing. “What’s not fair, Ana, is selling yourself short for a guy like that.” He let out a cruel laugh. “Is this punishment for the Maldives? Come on, Ana. We both know that you are never going to leave me. You can’t. You don’t know how.”

Ana shook her hand loose and shakily walked towards the door of the café, gulping huge breaths of air as she plunged into the street, wiping away tears. Seconds later, Marc followed her out.

She didn’t see Tom standing on the other side of the street, obstructed by a group of school children. But he saw everything.

***

At first, Tom didn’t understand what was going on. Why was his Ana having a fight with this man? Then he saw the man grab Ana and pull her into a passionate embrace, kissing her neck. At that point, Tom turned around and stumbled down the street.

He’d seen enough.

***

Ana used all her force to push Marc off her. Wiping her mouth, she felt back in control.

“Don’t ever do that again,” she said in a dangerously low voice.

Marc tried to grab her around the waist. She fended him off.

“Ana. Babe. I know, I’ve been neglecting you, and this is you punishing me. I get it. Look, why don’t I take you away for the weekend. I can make it up to you just the way you like.”

Ana looked at Marc, not even trying to conceal the disgust in her eyes.

“It’s over. I don’t want you to call me and I don’t want to see you.” She felt remarkably calm as she added, “Oh, and I quit. Effective immediately.”

***

Ana dialled Tom’s number as she left her office, a box of personal belongings under one arm. She wanted to arrange a time to tell him everything face-to-face. About quitting her job, about the idea of starting her own agency, and about Marc. For the first time in her life, Ana wanted to be completely honest with the man she loved.

Tom’s phone went to voicemail. She sighed, left a quick “Call me back. I love you” and hung up.

Ana felt a pang of melancholy when she remembered he’d left for Sydney that morning. Well, she thought to herself, I guess it will just have to wait until next week.

***

Standing on Little Collins Street, the engagement ring in his pocket, Tom stared at his phone, a message telling him Ana had called.

How could he have been such an idiot?

 

Season 1: Episode 10

February 1, 2011

Ana rolled over and looked at the clock beside her bed. By her calculations she had exactly 2.5 minutes to get up if she wanted get into the office early enough to go over the material for her meeting that morning. For the past week she’d barely made it in on time most days. It was getting harder and harder to drag herself away in the mornings from the wonderful man in her bed.

Tom.

She didn’t know why she had pushed him away for so long; why she had tried to keep him out of her life. Well, she did, of course, but that was all behind her now. Not that she’d exactly told Marc, mind you. She was doing her best to avoid him and hoping that the emails and text messages would eventually stop coming without the need for the two of them to have some kind of confrontation. Everything about Marc was complicated.

But with Tom, everything was so… easy. There was no pretending, no sneaking around. It just felt so right.

She gently unwrapped herself from his arms, trying not to wake him. She had just managed to sit up on the edge of the bed before she felt a strong pair of hands around her waist.

“Good morning,” Tom said groggily, pulling her towards him and nuzzling her neck.

Ana turned around and smiled at him, kissing him gently on the nose.

“Come back to bed,” he pleaded. “It’s so early.”

Ana tried to wriggle out of his arms, laughing. “I can’t. I have to get to the office.”

Tom pulled her closer. “Call in sick,” he mumbled between kisses.

“I’ve got a meeting…” She clenched the crisp cotton sheet between her fingers as Tom started drawing circles in the small of her back with his tongue. Ana arched her back. God, that felt good!

He slowly ran his fingers up the inside of her thigh. “I suppose I don’t need to be there for an hour,” she sighed.

At the exact moment that Tom’s fingers started gently stroking between her legs, Ana’s mobile rang. It was Jennifer – Ana’s assistant.

“Ana?” She sounded panicked. “The clients have called and the flight was early. They’re going to be here in 30 minutes!”

Ana groaned. She turned to Tom sheepishly as she hung up. “Rain check?”

Tom smiled in understanding. “Only if you let me buy you lunch today.”

***

Tom was waiting in the shade of the building with his back to the door. There were people milling around everywhere on their lunch break, but Tom seemed oblivious, instead looking intently upwards towards the tops of the buildings.

“Always the architect,” teased Ana, coming up behind him.

Tom grinned and held out his hand for hers. “I thought we could have a picnic in the park”, he said gesturing to a wicker hamper sitting on the ground.

***

They had chosen a secluded spot, directly beneath a large willow tree. The drooping branches allowed for dappled light to spill through, but made them feel as though they were separated from the rest of the world. The air was warm and heavy and Ana could feel a small trickle of sweat run down her back.

Tom laid out the picnic he had brought: Fresh sourdough, wafer thin prosciutto, hand-made dolmades, plump organic vine-grown tomatoes and a colourful salad of watermelon, feta and mint. Magically, he’d produced a chilled bottle of Piper-Heidsieck from his bag and popped the cork ceremoniously, toasting Ana’s success at that morning’s meeting.

Tom had some exciting news that day, too.  A design job that he’d pitched for in Sydney had been approved and he was flying over next week to go through the finer details with the client. “It’s such a brilliant project,” he said with excitement. He paused.

“But I’m really going to miss you, because….” He moistened his lips nervously, “because I’m completely in love with you.”

Ana, her eyes shining, leaned over and kissed him so tenderly, so deeply that he knew she loved him, too – before she whispered it back.

***

Slightly tipsy from the Champagne and filled with a giddy feeling that she could only describe as pure love, Ana leaned back against Tom and closed her eyes. She could hear his even breathing close to her ear and was acutely aware of his muscular body.

Tom ran his fingertips up Ana’s arm. Moving her hair gently to one side, he kissed her neck, lightly at first and then with more intensity as he felt Ana responding to him.

Her whole body felt electric. She closed her eyes tighter and pushed back closer into him, feeling him grow hard underneath the pressure of her body.

Tom slipped his hand inside her blouse, gently teasing her nipple as he continued to kiss her neck. Ana’s breath was shallow as she let out a small moan. “Don’t stop,” she gasped, her palms pressing hard onto his thighs.

Very slowly, his hand moved to her legs, gently but firmly pulling her thighs apart. Even if she had wanted to, Ana was powerless to resist. His hand slipped underneath her skirt and trailed over the front of her silk underwear.

“Now, where did we leave off this morning,” he murmured into her ear as his fingers slid down the front of her underwear and teased her with excruciatingly slow strokes. She inhaled sharply as his fingers entered her – stroking and probing. Not able to contain it any longer, Ana let herself go, convulsing against Tom’s body as he held her.

***

They walked hand-in-hand towards Ana’s office in a comfortable silence, sneaking sideways glances at each other; unable to wipe the grins off their faces.

“Ana?”

As she turned, Ana’s stomach lurched into her throat. It was Marc.

She hastily dropped Tom’s hand and regained her composure. “Hi Marc. This is Tom. Tom, my boss Marc.”

Tom held out his hand enthusiastically. “It’s great to meet you. Ana speaks very highly of you.” She hadn’t, of course, told Tom anything about Marc.

Ana hoped that Tom didn’t notice the slight raise of Marc’s right eyebrow.

“Likewise,” Marc said curtly. “Ana, if you’ve got time now I’d like to be briefed on this morning’s meeting.”

Ana dipped her head in acknowledgment and gave Tom a smile good bye. She walked into the lift with Marc and he pressed the button for the 14th floor. Tom waved as the doors closed.

“So, that’s why you’ve been avoiding me,” Marc said acidly.

Season 1: Episode 9

January 25, 2011

Ana felt two arms reach around her waist, a strong body pressing up against her.

“Well, that went ok,” Tom said, holding her tentatively as he gave her a kiss on the neck. “Are we friends again?”

Ana turned away from the sink where she’d begun to wash the dishes. She looked up into Tom’s smiling face, his clear blue eyes shining down at her. He was gorgeous. He was in his usual uniform of faded denim, plain T-shirt and trainers. At 29, he could pass for a first-year university student but Ana knew better. The jeans were EVISU, the shirt Dsquared2 and the trainers were Yohji Yamamoto for Adidas. Try as he might, Tom couldn’t mask the fact that he was an architect earning a six-figure salary.

And somehow, despite its beginnings, tonight’s dinner had been unexpectedly wonderful. Willow seemed to sense the tension in the air when she arrived but, typically, pushed right through it. And her good mood had rubbed off on everyone. She’d brought home some hand-pressed olive oil from an estate in Italy that only released 200 bottles a year. Who knew where she found such things? And Mia had baked a loaf of spelt bread, which – although it broke Ana’s rule about no more than one carb per meal –  had complemented Ana’s wild mushroom and goat’s cheese pasta beautifully. Mia’s secret? A splash of maple syrup to help the yeast activate and provide a subtle sweetness throughout the loaf. As always, Johnny had come through with terrific wine.

The girls seemed to love Tom and even Johnny was smitten – particularly when Tom discovered Johnny had played guitar in one of his favourite teenage rock bands. For the rest of the night Tom couldn’t stop raving about some set Johnny had “shredded” back in the 90s. Ana was thankful for Willow and Mia’s discretion. She knew they’d been watching her and Tom most of the night – how could they have forgotten the past two weeks of her behaving ridiculously because of Marc – but they’d been nothing but supportive. She felt lucky to have them in her life and couldn’t believe how irrational she’d been with Tom earlier.

Were she and Tom friends again? “Sure,” Ana said, smiling back at him.

At her response he touched her face, slowly rubbing the back of her neck. Leaning in to kiss her, he pulled her close and enveloped her in his arms. Ana was finding it difficult to resist him – and why should she? Marc had lied to her. He’d said he couldn’t spend New Year’s with her because he had to go to a dinner party, but then he’d phoned her from the airport. He needed more time for his family, he said, and was taking his wife on a two-week holiday to the Maldives. Marc was a fantasy, but Tom – he was real.

Tom reached under Ana’s blouse, all the while kissing her lips, her ears, her neck. She leaned back slightly as he cupped her breast. He unbuttoned her shirt; she could feel him hard through his jeans. She raised one leg around his hip and the other he grabbed, lifting her on to the wooden kitchen bench top.

“Are you sure?” he said, pulling away for a moment and resting his forehead on hers, breathing heavily. “What about Willow and Mia?” She responded by undoing his jeans and slipping her hand down his boxers. “They’re heavy sleepers,” she whispered, nibbling at his ear lobe. He didn’t need any more encouragement.

***

Ana woke to the smell of coffee. She opened her eyes and looked across the bed where she saw Tom laying a tray of croissants, jam and a plunger next to her. He saw she was awake and leaned in for a kiss.

“Good morning,” he said. “Hungry?”

She couldn’t believe how different it was waking up with him. Marc was like a motionless corpse most mornings (or afternoons) when she left,  but Tom brought her breakfast in bed. Ana sighed to herself. What had she been doing ’til now? And where did he get that amazing looking jam from?

She snuck a look at Tom, who was now poring over her modest collection of books. His strong, tanned forearms – hard with muscle through years of rock climbing – were visible under his rolled-up sleeves and dark blonde hair hung across his stubbled face. Here was this good, loving man who only wanted to make her happy, and all she could do was lie to him. Ana knew Tom wanted to get serious. He’d been brought up in a traditional home where all his family members still talked to each other. Hell, his parents probably still loved each other. It was normal for him to get domestic and play house, but it wasn’t for Ana. No, what was normal for her was sneaking around with a married man and feeling bad about herself the whole time. What was normal for her was treating a great guy like rubbish because she was holding out for some arsehole who would never, ever leave his wife. She made up her mind.

“Hey,” she said softly, “about our fight last night.”

Tom sat on her side of the bed and played with her hair. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’m sorry if I’ve been wanting to spend too much time with you. I’ll step back a bit, I promise. I just love being around you, no matter how often. Just let me know what you need.”

“No,” she said, “that’s not it.” She leaned across his lap and picked her handbag off the floor. Reaching inside she pulled out her spare set of house keys and handed them to him. “Here. Seeing you last night with the girls and Johnny… they’re the most important people in my life. I want you to feel like you’re a part of that, a part of my home. I don’t want to see less of you, I want to see you more.”

Tom looked at her, then at the keys in his hand and squeezed them tight. Ana waited for him to say something. Instead, he pulled the covers over both of them and, working up her body, he showed Ana just how grateful he was.

 

Season 1: Episode 8

January 18, 2011

Tom looked at the shopping list in his hand and shook his head. He had no idea what half of this stuff was, let alone what it looked like. But, Ana needed it for dinner tonight and he wanted to make sure everything was perfect.

She had mentioned a stall that her friend Willow said he should go to…Lorenzo’s? Tom dived into the market, hurrying past deafening salesmen all trying to entice him with cut-price fruit and vegetables. He looked around him for a stall with wicker baskets hanging above it and spotted something up ahead. There, he thought, that looks like it.

Tom walked over to an old man wearing a leather apron. “Lorenzo?” he asked. “Willow sent me.”

The man’s eyes lit up and he ushered Tom to his stall. Even Tom could see this guy’s stuff was exceptional, way above the standard of the others at the market. As Lorenzo busied himself getting everything on the list, Tom couldn’t help but think of Ana. Tonight was a big night for him and he wanted it to go well. Ana was introducing him to her best friends for the first time and Tom was feeling like the new kid at school all over again. It had been a long time since he’d fallen hard for someone but he knew it was happening with her. He had never met anyone like her in his life. He couldn’t believe it had only been four months since they met. And now that he was going to be in Melbourne for a while – no more work trips or holidays (unless they were with Ana!) – he was excited about spending more time with her. Just thinking of her brought a smile to his face. Determined, passionate, beautiful… and the sex! The thought of her naked body writhing in those crisp, white Egyptian cotton bed sheets made him hard with desire. Maybe if they had time before dinner he could take her upstairs and…

“Mister? Here you go.” Lorenzo’s voice cut through his thoughts as he handed Tom two bulging plastic bags. Tom awkwardly held them over his rapidly bulging groin. Lorenzo then passed over a box of fruit: nectarines, plums, peaches and apricots. “For Willow,” Lorenzo explained with a smile, “you tell her we say hello. And tell her not to forget she has to come and meet Carlo.”

***

By the time Tom got to Ana’s house, he knew she’d be stressed. It had taken him way too long to find Lorenzo and then traffic had been a nightmare going through the city. But he didn’t know just how angry she could get.

“Where have you been?” Ana demanded as she snatched the shopping bags out of his hands. “They’re going to be here in an hour!”

Tom stammered through an apology, inwardly kicking himself for running so behind schedule. The box of fruit wobbled in his arms. “I’m sorry. I’ll chop, I’ll stir, whatever. Just let me help,” he pleaded.

Ana turned her back on him and walked into her large, immaculate kitchen. A red pasta machine was midway through a chunk of dough. “Don’t worry about it, it’s faster if I just do it myself,” she snapped. She set to work slicing the mushrooms; the razor sharp stainless steel of her chef’s knife glinting in the late afternoon sun that streamed through the window.

Even when she’s angry, she’s gorgeous, Tom thought.

But even after Tom had poured her a glass of wine, put on some music and laid the dining table, Ana still wasn’t talking to him. He didn’t get it. He knew he’d stuffed up but surely this was going overboard? Then he noticed a large bunch of roses sitting in a vase in the corner of the living room. A postcard showing tropical blue waters lay crumpled next to it. He turned it over:

You should try to get here sometime. You deserve a holiday!

Thanks for all your hard work,

M.

“Your boss sent you these flowers?” Tom called through to the kitchen.

Ana quickly looked up from the bench. “Oh, yeah,” she said, hurrying over to Tom. She picked up the postcard and crushed it in her hand. “We break our backs for weeks getting the campaign done and he gets to just jet off with his wife to the Maldives! Like it doesn’t matter!” Ana’s voice had become a little shrill. Tom looked at her quizzically.

“Does it matter?” he said. “I mean, wouldn’t we all like to go to the Maldives if we could?”

Ana glared at him and walked back to the pasta machine. “The flowers were late, anyway. He got back two weeks ago.”

Tom was worried. “Ana, what the hell is wrong? Why are you so mad at me? Is it because I was late?” He tried to take her hand but she pulled it away.

“No,” she said, “I’m just feeling a little…a little…suffocated at the moment. You’re just always in my space.”

Tom was shocked. He’d never even spent the night at her house! Not to mention the fact that he’d been away in South East Asia for the last few weeks, and had only seen her twice since he’d got back a fortnight ago.

Just then, Willow came bursting through the door.

“Where is he?” she demanded, a tight smile on her normally relaxed face. “Where is this man who’s stolen our Ana’s heart?”

 

Season 1: Episode 7

January 11, 2011

Running his hands through his dark, tousled hair, Johnny’s velvety brown eyes surveyed the interior of Medina. The tapas bar where he was sommelier and part-owner was empty.

In fact, the whole of Melbourne still seemed to be in that peaceful, post-holiday daze. Not that his business was suffering, mind you. Another brilliant write-up last week in one of the city’s best food guides had seen hordes of tourists and locals flocking in to sample Medina’s innovative Middle Eastern menu and spectacular wine list. Tonight, though, the rush had come early so, even though it had only just hit 11pm, the place didn’t have a soul in it.

Opening a beer, Johnny wandered through to the small kitchen to check in with his business partner and head chef, Franco. He’d already sent the staff home and when it was quiet like this Franco would usually cook a late dinner for the two of them – something that wasn’t on the menu – and they would sit for hours eating and drinking and reminiscing about their days sweating it out as kitchen hands and busboys all across Melbourne.

“I had a feeling about tonight!” exclaimed Franco as Johnny sauntered through the kitchen’s swinging doors. “I’ve been marinating this incredible piece of aged porterhouse for 12 hours. I got it on my last trip to Gippsland. I was going to put it on the menu, but I just had this feeling that we could enjoy it instead.”

Johnny laughed. It wasn’t the first time that Franco had saved the choicest morsels for them to enjoy. This was a man passionate about his food.

He wandered back into the bar area, taking another sip of beer. Crouching in front of one of the bar’s many wine racks, he started perusing the selection for a bottle of red to match the steak.

“Hello?” a voice called into the empty space. “Are you open? I didn’t see a sign on the door…”

Johnny looked up to see a woman standing in front of the bar. If a customer came in at the end of the night he would usually have turned them away, but there was something about this one. She was a little older than him – pushing 40, perhaps – and stylish, not a single dark blonde hair out of place. His eyes travelled slowly over her body as he stood up, taking in the straight, dark pencil skirt that hugged her round hips and the pink silk shirt that clung to her torso. Johnny liked older women.  Well, no. To be fair he liked all women – but he’d found that, like a good wine, more complex inner flavours were often brought to the surface with age.

She cocked her head to one side, a smile playing at the edges of her lips. “So, do I pass?”

Busted! Johnny grinned sheepishly. “What can I get you?”

She looked at the bottle in his hand. “A glass of that would be nice.” Crossing her legs elegantly as she sat on a bar stool she said, “I don’t suppose the kitchen is open? I’m ravenous!”

Johnny shrugged. Why not? This woman intrigued him.

***

Franco winked at Johnny when he came back into the kitchen. “Luckily I’ve got three pieces,” he said, gesturing to the porterhouse. “And I think I’ll have mine to go.” In truth, Franco – who was married, with his second daughter on the way – wanted nothing more than for Johnny to settle down and be as sublimely happy in domestic bliss as he was. And the woman at the bar was seriously beautiful. Not to mention mature. Unlike the usual young girls who stayed way past closing time hoping for the handsome, brown-eyed bar tender to notice them.

***

Johnny and the woman ate in silence, side-by-side, slowly slicing into the tender pieces of meat, the steak juices flowing onto their plates and mingling with the pepper brandy sauce. Johnny reached across the bar and refilled her glass. She leaned in to him as he did so.
They chatted – idle banter – he had seen enough of interest in the small tapas bar to never run out of anecdotal material. A few glasses later, he locked the front door and switched off the house lights. The woman made no move to leave. His heartbeat quickened a little as he picked up their half-finished bottle of red, took her hand and silently led her to the staircase.

They were halfway up the stairs when she suddenly grabbed him, pulling him towards her in a smooth embrace. They moved together as one mess of arms, hands and lips. As she fumbled with his belt, he stopped her by grasping her wrists firmly in his free hand.

“Not yet,” he whispered.

He pointed her up the stairs again, and gently pushed her towards the second floor.  She would soon understand why – one of the rooms was dimly lit, with an inviting set of couches. On the table was a very decent bottle of Pinot and a couple of glasses. Johnny almost laughed – Franco had obviously seen where this was heading.

Johnny pulled her towards him and kissed her deeply.  She moaned and leaned her head back as Johnny lifted her shirt, exposing a delicate lace bra.  Pushing him back onto the couch, she straddled him and unbuttoned her skirt, revealing matching underwear.
Then she got back to his belt.

For what seemed like hours – certainly for several bottles’ worth of time – the two alternated between tastes of the flesh and the grape.

***

Johnny slowly opened his eyes. Judging from the light coming through the windows, and the morning chorus of rubbish trucks and street sweepers, he guessed it was about 6:30am. He heard a tap running in the restaurant. Throwing on his jeans, he went downstairs.

Putting down her glass of water, the woman smiled. “Good morning,” she said. She looked a lot fresher than Johnny felt. “I didn’t want to wake you. I can show myself out.”

He wasn’t hurt, exactly, but he had to admit it was a weird feeling. He usually had to beat them off with a stick! Still, he wasn’t in any hurry for a relationship, intriguing as this woman was. Reaching into his pocket he produced his keys. “Ah, but you need these to open the door,” he said. “You can’t escape so easily!”

Sunlight hit him in the face as he pulled open the door. He held up his hands to shield his eyes and stepped outside.

A bemused voice cut through the glare. “Johnny?”

It took his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the light and see who had spoken.

Mia?

Johnny was suddenly very aware that all he was wearing was jeans.

“Mia, what are you doing here?”

His friend shrugged, “I’m on my way to work. I didn’t realise you slept at the restaurant sometimes. Must have been a busy night!”

Before he could answer, the woman from the bar stepped through the door and, blowing a kiss over her shoulder, walked away down the small cobbled laneway.

Mia’s eyebrows shot up. “A very busy night!” She’d heard stories about Johnny’s antics from the others, but had never actually caught him in the act, herself.

For the second time in 12 hours Johnny felt like he’d been busted doing something he shouldn’t have. “I can explain…”

Mia looked at the ground, flustered, before laughing awkwardly. “What you do is your business. You don’t have to explain yourself to me.” She turned and walked quickly away from the restaurant.

No I don’t, thought Johnny. So why do I feel like I want to?

 

Season 1: Episode 6

January 4, 2011

 

It had been more than a week since Marc had called to tell Ana he was taking his wife on a surprise trip to the Maldives.

“You don’t mind supervising the overseas account while I’m away, do you?” he’d asked.

Ana had taken the news calmly but, truthfully, she was furious. The problem was, she didn’t know who she was angrier at: Marc – for asking her to do his job so he could romance his wife in paradise, or herself – for falling in love with a married man?

“Shit!” she yelled out to her empty house.

She was sitting in her living room, alone, shoes kicked off and legs tucked up under her on the sofa. Her toes were absently tracing the stitching of the cushions. It was a Thursday afternoon and neither Willow nor Mia was home from work yet. It was rare for Ana to be back so early but today she’d just had enough.

Marc had swanned in to the office mid-morning looking tanned and relaxed. He had called her in straight away, immediately grabbing her around the waist and pulling her close as soon as the door clicked shut behind her.

“I’ve missed you,” he breathed into her hair. She closed her eyes and leaned against him for a moment, inhaling his distinctive aftershave. I’ve missed you, too, she thought. She could still smell the ocean in his hair.

Ana shook herself away from him. Their short time apart had given her some perspective. She was just the mistress and always would be; an easy, erotic escape from the demands of his real life. She had to get out soon or it would be too late. Already (probably) in love with him, she didn’t want to fall further under his spell.

Muttering something about an important appointment, Ana had escaped his office, picked up her handbag and told her PA to cancel the rest of her day.

She needed time to think.

***

The sound of the front door opening startled Ana out of her contemplative state. Mia entered the hallway and almost walked straight past her housemate as she flipped through the mail. Glancing into the living room, she did a double-take when she saw Ana huddled on the sofa in the corner.

“Ana?” she asked, immediately concerned. “Why aren’t you at work? Is everything all right?”

Ana looked up, then burst into tears.

***

Mia and Willow had tried to be supportive. On hearing of Ana’s affair with her boss – and the subsequent holiday debacle – they had tried reasoning and sympathising with her, but Ana was incredibly stubborn and believed showing emotion was a sign of weakness. Instead, she had done what every heartbroken woman would do. She’d thrown herself into an unhealthy pattern of eating and sleeping too little, drinking too much and working as though her life depended on it – even though most other offices were still shut down for the Christmas break.

Mia and Willow felt helpless as they watched their friend suffer, and nothing they said seemed to help. All they could do was wait until Ana fell apart completely and be there to help put her back together again.

***

“Better?” Mia asked.

Ana had entered the kitchen. Freshly showered, her red-rimmed eyes were the only sign of her earlier hysterics. She nodded shyly.

Mia gave her a smile. She was in the process of tossing fresh rocket, watercress and radicchio in a salad bowl and had dressed it simply with olive oil, salt and pepper. She hesitated over the chopping board for a moment. Apples? Yes, she thought, and sliced some thin batons from the Pink Lady she’d been nibbling. Maybe some crushed walnuts, too.

The kitchen was filled with sun streaming in through the skylight. It danced across Mia’s olive skin and bounced off the stainless steel appliances; a riot of colours and shapes on every surface.

“The first thing we need to do is feed you a decent meal,” she said to Ana. “You’re wasting away.” Mia gestured to a cling film-covered china bowl, resting on the bench-top. “Fresh prawns with some butter, chilli, garlic, lime and palm sugar,” she said. “I thought it’s such a nice night we could barbecue them and sit outside.”

Their house had a small but very pretty outdoor courtyard. Ana didn’t spend a lot of time out there, but Willow and Mia had created a garden that was brimming with fresh parsley, thyme, chives, oregano and an array of other fragrant herbs. Climbing up the back fence was a spectacular jasmine plant that filled the warm summer evenings with its sweet scent.

Ana went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of ice-cold Tasmanian Pinot Gris. After pouring it into two wine glasses, she sipped thoughtfully at the cool liquid. Ana realised this was the first time she had actually managed to taste the beautiful wine rather than treating it as her own, personal anaesthetic. She looked at Mia who was working quickly and delicately behind the barbecue. Her friend was radiant in the afternoon sunlight, Ana thought. As Mia looked up at her, Ana raised her glass and simply said: “I’m sorry”.

***

Mia had set the outside table and its crisp white tablecloth struck a contrast with the dusty pink of the prawns and the verdant green of the salad; the colours intensified in the late sun.

Ana nibbled at a prawn and, suddenly, uncontrollably, felt her appetite come raging back. She reached for another, biting into the firm, creamy flesh. The juice ran down her fingers and stained her T-shirt, but she didn’t care. She was gripped by hunger.

She devoured one prawn after another, sucking the meat from the tails, using her tongue to find any last morsels hiding in the extremities. The palm sugar had caramelised the outer layer, while the lime and chilli had permeated deep into the flesh. Tiny slivers of garlic had encrusted themselves along the body and become so crisp from the barbecue it was as if the prawns had been dipped in a kind of fine, pungent tempura batter. Mia laughed with delight at the sight of Ana poring over her plate.

With each succulent mouthful Ana could feel her problems fading away.

When they had finished, Ana and Mia’s mouths glistened with butter and tingled with chilli. Ana ran her tongue slowly over her lips, savouring the high intensity of the spice. She placed her fingers into her mouth one at a time, lazily sucking off any remnants of the feast. She looked across at Mia, who had her eyes closed and was leaning back in her chair, face turned up to the sun.

“A golden goddess,” Ana murmured under her breath, looking at her housemate, as if for the first time.

But then, for the second time that day, she was wrenched out of her contemplation. Her phone was ringing. She looked at the number and frowned. It was local. It looked familiar…

“Shit.”

Mia’s eyes fluttered open and she looked at Ana inquisitively.

Ana held her gaze. “It’s Tom,” she said. “He’s back.”

The serenity of the afternoon evaporated as suddenly as it had arrived.

 

Season 1: Episode 5

December 28, 2010

 

Mia jammed the last bottle of sparkling white in the fridge and hurriedly closed the door just before her haphazard stacking came undone. She just had to remember not to open it again in a hurry. Although her salary didn’t afford ‘real’ Champagne, she had splashed out and bought several bottles of a beautiful vintage brut from Tasmania that she knew Willow liked.

It was hard to believe New Year’s Eve had arrived already. She and Willow had both decided to give the big New Year’s celebrations a miss this year. Mia had never been one to go in for a big party, preferring to stay home on her own. She’d never felt it before, but for the first time she had a pang of missing out on something. She was, once again, alone on the last night of the year.

Well, not totally alone. She had Willow. And food. So much food.

Willow was going through a pie phase, and Mia had noticed at least four different types of pie in the fridge that she had tried her best not to squash with the bottles. She had watched Willow with intrigue as she had baked these amazing creations. Not content with the standard meat or apple pies, Mia had seen Willow placing ingredients such as salmon, porcini mushrooms, goat’s cheese and passionfruit into different dishes, with toppings like polenta and sticky date crumble replacing the traditional pastry. Willow had even made Mia a special pumpkin pie, which she had assured her was (mostly) guilt-free and delicious.
“There is no better way to start the New Year than with a pie,” Willow had said when Mia questioned her on the pie frenzy. “From the outside it looks the same as all the other pies, but it’s not until you’re into the middle of it that you realise just how different it is!”

The unique philosophy of Willow. It made sense. Sort of.

***

Mia was surprised when Ana ambled into the kitchen at 4.30pm.

“You’re home already!” she exclaimed.

“Finished early,” Ana replied. She surveyed the cupboard to see what was available before she went for the fridge.

“Don’t open….!” shouted Mia, just as several bottles of sparkling came rolling out and across the tiled floor.

“We’ll just have to open one, now” Ana said, as she tried unsuccessfully to fit them all back in. She popped a bottle unceremoniously and emptied her glass before Mia had even taken a sip.

Ana was in a foul mood.  She’d just found out Marc was not going to be at the same New Year’s Eve ‘do’ she was going to. She had deliberately knocked back all other invitations under the assumption that Marc would be going to the exclusive party that one of their best clients held every year. She was positive he’d said he was going.
“My wife will come with me to the other party,” he’d said running a hand down Ana’s arm after one of their lusty afternoon lovemaking sessions, “but she always leaves early so we’ll still be able to see the New Year in together.”

She should have been turned off by him at that point, but she was smitten.

Ana had stopped on the way home to collect a gorgeous navy blue silk dress that she had bought during the week. It didn’t leave much to the imagination, clinging to every perfect curve and hanging dangerously low down her back. Marc knew her body better than anyone and Ana knew he would love the dress. Even more so crumpled on the floor – but she had planned to drive him wild before they reached that point.

So much for that plan.

Well, if he wasn’t going then she sure as hell didn’t want to go! Her forehead creased with pain as she tried to imagine what he might be doing instead.

“So, what are your plans tonight?” asked Mia, taking a sip from her glass. She could tell that Ana was in a mood.

“Big fat nothing. I’m going to be one of those losers who stays home on New Year’s.” She took another gulp of the sparkling. “You?”

Mia was a bit hurt. “Just staying in,” she said lightly. Ana wasn’t exactly the most tactful person at the best of times, but lately she had just been downright thoughtless and rude.
To her credit, Ana did look genuinely sheepish as she took another gulp of her drink.

Luckily, Willow arrived home before their silence became too awkward. “ Hello!” she sang, as she closed the front door. She waltzed into the kitchen humming a song and carrying a large bunch of red roses and a bottle of Moët.

“For you!” she said presenting them to Ana. “They were by the front door.”

Ana immediately knew whom they were from. There was no card and no delivery address, which meant that he had dropped them off himself.

It doesn’t make it OK that he’s deserting me, she thought to herself, but at least it shows he cares.

The Moët was already chilled and she wasted no time downing the rest of her glass and opening the new bottle. “Time to move onto the grown-up stuff, ladies.”

Willow caught the hurt expression on Mia’s face. “Don’t be such a snob, Ana!” Willow chided as she went to the fridge. “Yum! My favourite!” she said as she caught sight of the bottles that Mia had bought. “Thank you, Mia!”

Mia smiled tightly, hoping that Ana would get bored and go out with some other friends. She was in an aggressive mood that Mia didn’t fancy dealing with all night.

***

Willow was getting the pies out of the fridge when Ana’s phone rang. Ana looked at the screen and then quickly left the room.

When she returned ten minutes later, she looked as if she’d been crying. Her housemates were worried. Nothing ever rattled Ana.

“What’s happened?” Willow asked gently, putting a hand on her friend’s shoulder. Ana shook it off and turned to face them, her eyes fiery.

“He’s going to the fucking Maldives.”

Willow and Mia looked at each other. What was she talking about?

“He’s taking his family to the Maldives for two weeks instead of going to the party. Couldn’t even tell me to my face. What a coward.” Tears were streaming down her face again.

“Who?” asked Willow. “Tom?”

“Not Tom! Marc. It’s Marc!”

She turned and fled the room, so distraught she forgot her glass of Champagne.

“Who the hell is Marc?” asked Mia, bewildered.

Then she remembered the flowers in the hall – Ana. Thanks for this morning. M. – the late nights, having to work on Christmas Day… The penny dropped. “Oh my God. She’s having an affair with her boss!” exclaimed Mia.

Willow slowly nodded her head. “I think I need some pie.”

 

Season 1: Episode 4

December 21, 2010

Here she was again, face down in a mix of cushions and groaning in exquisite agony. He was teasing her, his face buried between her legs, licking and kissing from behind as she arched her back. Ana sighed with pleasure as he turned her over. She was addicted to this man; to his hands, his lips, to the way his thumb traced a line across her mouth as he ran his tongue over her stomach. Here he stopped, playing her again, nibbling and kissing and knowing that she was maddened with desire for him. His hand reached to the box of figs that he had given her. It was an unusual gift, but Ana could now see what he had in mind when he got them.

“Merry Christmas, Ana,” he’d said, presenting her with the gift box containing 24 plump, ripe figs, individually nestled in fine tissue paper. She’d looked at him questioningly, as he’d placed the box on the floor and gently pushed her down onto the couch.

He slowly ran one of the figs across her moist, parted lips. She tried to bite it but he moved it away too quickly. He offered it to her again, this time allowing her to suck the tip of it, the purple skin exploding and the wet, ripe fruit covering her mouth and chin.

He kissed her, the sticky seeds spilling from her mouth into his.

She groaned in his ear.

He smiled. She knew he loved seeing her like this, frenzied and on the brink of losing control in a way she never would when they were in the office. She hated him for that but, God, did she love how it made her feel.

Ana felt half-crazed as he leaned in again to kiss her. He tasted salty and sweet. Sometimes it was like this. Sometimes she felt as if she could never get enough of him, and he seemed to think so too; the two of them clawing at each other’s bodies until they would eventually lay gasping and motionless, too exhausted to say much at all.

She knew she shouldn’t be here, especially on Christmas Day. Marc was her boss and, more than that, he was married. He should have been at home with his family, opening presents or eating turkey or whatever it was that families like his did on days like this. But, instead, here they were after he’d sent her a text that morning.

The client needs an answer now. Meet me at the office.

She couldn’t help it. She was lost.

***

“Who goes to work on Christmas Day?” Willow had shouted after Ana as she rushed out the door of the house, leaving Willow up to her armpits in chicken and red wine. Ana had mumbled something about international clients and deadlines.

Before she’d even arrived at the office this was where she’d hoped they would end up. Ana had recognised the hunger in his eyes as soon as she’d walked through the door.
“Drink?” he asked after they had placated their overseas client on the phone. It was still Christmas Eve in Chicago.

In truth, Ana knew Marc didn’t need her here for work. This was something he could have done from his office at home.

“Yes,” she had said. “Yes, I think so.”

He led her into his private boardroom, where a bottle of Moët and the large box of figs were already waiting.

* * *

Ana looked at her watch and squeezed her eyes shut. “I’ve got to go!” she groaned.
Marc muttered something in reply, a muscular arm flung across her chest, his face muffled by a sofa cushion. Retrieving her clothes, Ana smoothed her blonde hair and reapplied her favourite MAC lipstick. She walked over to the sofa and gave Marc a lingering kiss on the shoulder. He didn’t stir.

***

Willow had left several messages on her phone and Ana knew she was pushing it to be home in time for Christmas dinner.

“Shit!” she exclaimed. Ana had forgotten that she had promised to make dessert for Christmas dinner with her friends. Grabbing the remnants of the box of figs she raced out of the office and hailed a taxi. She made a quick stop at a convenience store so she could pick up some mascarpone.

She was starving and snuck a fig out of the box, smiling secretly to herself as she sucked the moist fruit from its skin. She was hurriedly licking her lips as the taxi pulled up to the terrace house she owned but which they all shared. Her phone rang.

Tom.

“Hi sweetheart! Merry Christmas,” she answered, the headache that had been building in the cab suddenly intensifying. She touched her forehead.

Not a great believer in the festive season, her boyfriend Tom had been overseas for the past few weeks doing some volunteer work in Cambodia – or was it Laos?

“I know, I know, I’m sorry I missed your calls. Would you believe that I’ve been stuck at the office today?”

Cradling the phone on her shoulder, she unlocked the door to the house and stopped to breathe in the unmistakeable smells of melting butter, red wine, bay leaves and slow-cooked chicken.

“I’ve just got home so I should go and help Willow get dinner set up,” she said. “Merry Christmas, darling…can’t wait to see you, either.”