Mistress Arrangements

By: Helen Bianchin

Clive Mathorpe owned an exclusive harbourside residence in Rose Bay, and a slight frown creased her forehead as she attempted to recall a previous occasion when her employer had organised a social event in his home for the benefit of a client—even the directorial scion of a vast entrepreneurial empire.

Acquiring Consolidated Enterprises had been quite a coup, for Mathorpe and Partners bore neither the size nor standing of any one of the three instantly recognisable internationally affiliated accounting firms.

Carly’s speculation faded as she caught a glimpse of towering multi-level concrete and glass spires vying for supremacy in a city skyline, followed within minutes by an uninterrupted view of the unique architectural masterpiece of the Opera House.

It was a familiar scene she’d come to appreciate, for it was here in this city that she had developed a sense of self-achievement, together with an inner satisfaction at having strived hard against difficult odds and won. Not handsomely, she admitted a trifle wryly, aware of the leasing fee on her apartment and the loan on her car.

Negotiating inner-city evening traffic demanded total concentration, and Carly gave a silent sigh of relief when she reached Rose Bay.

Locating her employer’s address presented no problem, and she slid the car to a halt outside an imposing set of wrought-iron gates.

Minutes later she took a curving path towards the main entrance, and within seconds of pressing the doorbell she was greeted by name and ushered indoors.

It was crazy suddenly to be stricken with an attack of nerves; mad to consider herself a social alien among people she knew and worked with.

Soft muted music vied with the chatter of variously toned voices, and Carly cast the large lounge and its occupants an idle sweeping glance. Without exception the men all wore black dinner-suits, white silk shirts and black bow-ties, while the women had each chosen stylish gowns in a concerted effort to impress.

Within minutes she was offered a drink, and she managed a slight smile as Bradley Williamson moved to her side. He was a pleasant man in his early thirties and considered to be one of Mathorpe and Partners’ rising young executives.

His roving appraisal was brief, and his eyes assumed an appreciative sparkle as he met her steady gaze. ‘Carly, you look sensational.’

‘Bradley,’ she acknowledged, then queried idly, ‘Has Clive’s honoured guest arrived yet?’

His voice took on an unaccustomed dryness. ‘You’re hoping he’ll appear soon and let you off the figurative hook.’

It was a statement she didn’t refute. ‘Maybe he won’t come,’ she proffered absently, and caught Bradley’s negative shake of the head.

‘Doubtful. Mathorpe revealed that the director favours a personal touch in all his business dealings. “Involvement on every level” were his exact words.’

‘Which explains why the company has achieved such success.’

Bradley spared her a quizzical smile that broadened his pleasant features into moderate attractiveness. ‘Been doing your homework?’

Her answering response was without guile. ‘Of course.’ Figures, projections, past successes had been readily available. Yet mystery surrounded Consolidated Enterprises’ top man, inviting intense speculation with regard to his identity.

‘Such dedication,’ he teased. ‘The way you’re heading, you’ll be the first woman partner in the firm.’

‘I very much doubt it.’

His interest quickened. ‘You can’t possibly be considering resigning in favour of working elsewhere.’

‘No,’ Carly disclaimed. ‘I merely expressed the observation that Clive Mathorpe has tunnel vision, and, while an accountant of the feminine gender is quite acceptable in the workforce, taking one on as a partner is beyond his personal inclination.’ A faint smile tugged the corners of her generously moulded mouth. ‘Besides, I’m comfortable with things as they are.’

He absorbed her words and effected a philosophical shrug. ‘Can I get you another drink?’

‘Thank you. Something long, cool and mildly alcoholic.’ She smiled at his expression, then added teasingly, ‘Surprise me.’

Carly watched Bradley’s departing back with an odd feeling of restlessness, aware of a time when her slightest need had been anticipated with unerring accuracy, almost as if the man in her life possessed an ability to see beyond the windows of her mind right to the very depths of her soul. Those were the days of love and laughter, when life itself had seemed as exotic and ebullient as the bubbles set free in a flute of the finest champagne.

Entrapped by introspection, Carly fought against the emergence of a vision so vivid, so shockingly compelling, that it was almost as if the image had manifested itself into reality.

Seven years hadn’t dimmed her memory by the slightest degree. If anything the passage of those years had only served to magnify the qualities of a man she doubted she would ever be able to forget.

Their attraction had been instantaneous, a combustible force fired by electric fusion, and everything, everyone, from that moment on, had faded into insignificance. At twenty, she hadn’t stood a chance against his devastating sexual alchemy, and within weeks he’d slipped a brilliant diamond on to her finger, charmed her widowed mother into planning an early wedding, and succeeded in sweeping Carly into the depths of passionate oblivion.

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