Tales of food, sex and friendship




Archive for February, 2011

Walnut and Sage Ravioli with Orange

February 24, 2011

Since Ana quit her job (and her lover!) she has had more time to cook and has been experimenting with new flavours and ingredients. She was given this recipe by the wonderful Chloe Rose, who owns a divine gourmet delicatessen around the corner from the girls’ house. This dish is sure to impress.

Serve with a fresh green salad and a cold bottle of your favourite white wine. Serves 4-6.


400g Plain White Flour

1 tsp Salt

5 Eggs

1 tbsp Olive Oil

250gms Ricotta

¼ cup Walnuts

½ cup Sage

1 clove Garlic

2 Oranges

¼ cup Caster Sugar

To make the Pasta

Finely chop the sage and mix with the flour and a teaspoon of salt. In a separate bowl whisk together 4 eggs and a tablespoon of olive oil. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in egg mixture. Mix together with a wooden spoon. When the mixture becomes crumbly start kneading with hands until the dough is smooth. Pat into a ball and leave to rest at room temperature, covered with an upturned bowl, for about an hour.

 

To make the filling

Finely chop walnuts and garlic. Mix the walnuts and garlic into ricotta with 1 egg. Add salt to taste.

Roll the pasta out into sheets using a pasta maker (you will need to do this in batches).  If you don’t have a pasta maker, you can do this with a rolling pin. Place a sheet of pasta on a flat, floured surface. Using a teaspoon dot the pasta sheet with mounds of filling in rows about 3cm apart. Damp the pasta with some water in a circle around each mound of filling. You can use your finger or a pastry brush to do this. Cover filling with a second sheet of pasta. With your fingers press down firmly around each mound of filling to force out any air pockets. Cut around each mound using a ravioli cutter or a knife.

Juice 2 oranges into a small saucepan. Add ¼ of a cup of Caster sugar. Simmer while stirring until the sauce becomes syrupy. Grate in the rind of one orange. To make more syrup, simply double the mixture.

Bring a large, deep saucepan of water to the boil. Gently drop in ravioli. Once the ravioli rises to the surface of the water it is ready.

Drizzle with orange syrup and serve.

* Whole sage leaves quickly submerged in hot, salted grapeseed oil make a lovely crisp garnish for this dish.

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.

Fruit Salad with Rosewater and Mint

February 17, 2011


This is a perfect, light dessert to serve for a dinner party. The rosewater and mint make it taste exotic and complex, even thought it’s so easy to make! Feel free to chop and change the fruit so you can serve this in any season. Serve on its own or with mascarpone, ice-cream or natural yoghurt. Serves 6.

1 punnet of strawberries

3 peaches

3 nectarines

2 mangoes

1 cantaloupe or honeydew melon

Handful of fresh mint, finely chopped

2 tbs rosewater essence

Chop fruit into bite size pieces. Combine fruit, rosewater and mint. Either serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours to allow flavours to combine.

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.

Roast Pumpkin Risotto

February 10, 2011


Risotto is so easy to make, if you have patience. This recipe normally makes Ana swoon but at a recent lunch with Marc, her heart just wasn’t in it. So make sure that when you tackle this you give it your all – and serve it up to someone you love!

One half Jap or Kent pumpkin (or about 500gms of any other pumpkin you like to roast)

2 cups Calasparra or Abrorio rice

2 shallots

2 cloves garlic

1 litre vegetable or chicken stock

75 gms butter

Olive oil

Pine nuts

Parmesan

Parsley

Cut the pumpkin into cubes, toss in olive oil and roast for about 25 minutes or until crisping at the edges. Make sure the pumpkin is soft all the way through – this is important for flavouring the risotto.

Melt the butter, adding a splash of olive oil so that it doesn’t burn. Finely dice the shallots and sautee in the butter, about 5-10 minutes or until softened. Add crushed garlic cloves and briefly stir through onion mix. Add the rice, ensuring all the grains are coated in the butter and oil and have started to become translucent. Pour about one cup of the stock over the rice mixture and turn to low heat. You don’t want the rice swimming in stock; you want it to gradually soak up the liquid.

Keep returning to the rice and adding more stock until it is almost cooked through. A good way to test is take a single grain and flatten it against a countertop with the back of a knife. It should break apart in a star if cooked properly.

While the rice is cooking, separate about half the roasted pumpkin. Start another pan on low heat, add some olive oil and cook a handful of pine nuts slowly for about 2 minutes or until toasted. Set aside.

When the rice is almost finished, throw in half the pumpkin and stir through, mashing it a little so it colours and flavours the rice. Add the toasted pine nuts, parsley, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. For an extra bit of richness, stir through another 50 grams of butter or finish off with a dash of cream.

Serves two.

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?

 

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad

February 3, 2011


This salad is truly perfect for a picnic on a hot summer’s day. The refreshing watermelon, creamy feta and zesty mint make a delectable combination – and it’s so easy to make!

Serve with crusty bread and a selection of antipasto for a light meal. Serves 2.

1kg wedge of seedless watermelon, cubed

100g danish feta

Handful mint leaves, washed and torn to desired size

Dash of balsamic vinegar

Sea salt, to taste

In a salad bowl, place the cubed watermelon with the torn mint leaves. Pull apart chunks of the danish feta and add, being careful not to mix through too much. Just prior to serving, splash some balsamic and a pinch of sea salt (optional).

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.