Chapter 1: Persuasion
“ROXANNA PLEASE, YOU know I can’t just take two weeks off at a moment’s notice.” Henrik pushed the brochure back over his desk.
“I’m not asking you to drop everything. I’m saying you should consider it. Henrik, you’re running on empty. If you don’t have a real break soon, you’re going to burn out. Even now you’re making silly mistakes…”
“Sending Mr. Pratt down for a CT scan when he was in for a ruptured appendix yesterday?”
“I was being thorough,” Henrik muttered.
“What about putting Reverend Doyle’s notes in Mrs. Boyle’s folder? He was nearly given a proctoscopy by mistake. Good job Sacha picked that one up.”
“You heard about that?”
She sighed deeply. “Everyone heard about that, apart from the patient, thank goodness. And that’s even before I mention how ghastly you’ve been at home. I feel as if I’m walking on eggshells most of the time. Your temper…”
“There’s nothing wrong with my temper!”
Roxanna didn’t reply. She didn’t have to. He had proved her point right then.
“Look, I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you. Somehow. I don’t …” He looked up, but she had left the room.
“IS EVERYTHING ALL right?” Ric asked later. Henrik was in the staff room, making himself a cup of tea as Ric grabbed lunch. Roxanna had come in, wordlessly taken her salad out of the fridge, slammed the fridge door with unnecessary force and walked out again, leaving Henrik watching after her stiff back.
“Not really. I’m new to this romance game. Seems I keep putting my foot in it.” Henrik sat at the table and opened his lunchbox. Inside, Roxanna had left a note that morning, saying I LOVE YOU X. He hastily whipped out the note and shoved it in his pocket before Ric could see.
“I’m not sure I’m the best person to advise you,” Ric said, smiling wryly.
“She wants us to go away. Says I need a break.”
“Well, I don’t think you’ve had any time off since Frederik…”
“No. I’ve always thought keeping busy was the best thing.” Henrik picked up his chopsticks and began to eat the carefully prepared sushi.
“What about spending time with Roxanna? Have you two been away together yet?”
Henrik shifted a glance at him. “Not yet.”
“Maybe you should.”
“She wants to go away for two weeks. South Africa.”
Ric cleared away the remains of his lunch. “Think yourself lucky. I’m not sure any woman has actively wanted to spend two solid weeks in my company.”
“She should have consulted me at least.”
“Consulted you?” Ric laughed. “Henrik, Roxanna is a highly intelligent and determined woman. If she says you need some time out, I would listen to her, believe me.”
“I thought you’d be on my side.”
“It isn’t about sides, man! She deals with people burning out every week! If you don’t want to listen to her as your lover, at least listen to her as a doctor. And there’s one more thing. It’s something I’ve learned to my cost in my chequered love life.”
Henrik glared at him. “And what is that?”
“Once a woman makes up her mind, any resistance is futile. You’re never going to win this, Henrik, so I’d give in now.” He flashed another grin before leaving the room.
Henrik thought about what Ric had said as he took his tea back to his office. The brochure was still there on his desk.
He opened it and looked through the pictures of savannah plains, vivid blue skies, exotic animals. The trip would include a luxurious train ride from Pretoria to Victoria Falls, before flying back to Durban and going on a four day safari near the Drakensberg. It all looked wonderful, and spending time with Roxanna would be a dream come true.
As he turned the next page, a piece of paper fell out. The writing was Roxanna’s.
I’ve already booked this. If you don’t want to come, I know I can find someone else who will.
There were no prizes for guessing who. John had been extremely put out when Henrik said he was officially seeing Roxanna. He would take his place in a heartbeat, given half a chance.
Glancing up, he saw the calendar marked with thick red pen. It said SOUTH AFRICA in capital letters. A wave of anger swept over him. It was time to give Roxanna a piece of his mind. He would NOT be bullied into doing something way out of his comfort zone.
“YOU COULD HAVE at least asked me first!” He was a hairs breadth away from losing his temper completely, his voice rising in Roxanna’s small kitchen.
“I did! Several times. I need a break even if you don’t. All I’ve done is work since David’s death and I’ve had enough! Henrik, I want to spend time with you but if you don’t feel the same then maybe we aren’t as compatable as I thought.”
“What does that mean?”
“You know what that means! I love you, Henrik, I really do, but you insist on keeping me at arms length. This is our chance to get to know each other more, to have some real quality time together without work getting in the way. And you need it. You need to switch off because I can’t bear to see you struggling under a mountain of work…
“I’m not struggling, Roxanna. I believe I’m coping very well.”
"The proctoscopy?" She reminded him.
"I'm not superhuman! It was hardly a certifiable offence."
"The Reverend would probably think differently if it had gone ahead. All right, put this another way. I want your attention. Undivided. I want us to spend time doing nice things, not looking at brains or going to the bloody garden centre at weekends! I know this is all new to you but this is what couples do, Henrik. They go away, and do things together. Walking, travelling, eating out. We’re just too immersed in our jobs to do anything else. What's the point of earning good salaries if we don't ever get to spend it!”
He could see the sense in what she was saying, but the fact she had booked the holiday without telling him rankled deeply.
“Did you mean what you said, about someone else going with you?”
She took a deep breath. “Yes.”
“And that person would be John, I presume?”
She flushed and didn’t answer.
“I resent the fact you are trying to blackmail me, Roxanna. This is totally out of order.”
“God, Henrik, I want to go on holiday, not steal the Crown Jewels! You need shaking up but if you insist on staying behind, that’s fine. At least I know where I stand. You don’t want to spend time with me so why are you even here?” She sobbed the last word out. “I hate it when you make me feel like this!” She grabbed the kitchen roll and tore off a square, dabbing her eyes.
Henrik was truly alarmed. Roxanna never cried. Not since David died had she shed any tears. Yes, she had been grieving, unhappy at times, her pain at losing her husband plain to see, but tears? No.
Now she was crying openly, and it was his fault.
He felt like the worst man in the world.
“Roxanna, please don’t cry.” He gathered her up in his arms. As he held her, she sobbed harder.
“I’m sorry, I really thought you’d want to go,” she wailed. “I feel like a fool, forcing your hand like that.” She grabbed another sheet of kitchen roll and blew her nose. “I’m not the sort of woman who turns on the tears to manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do, but I care about you, Henrik! I can see how close to the edge you are and it worries the hell out of me.”
Henrik kissed the top of her neat blonde head. “I feel a complete fool, as I’m the luckiest man on the planet and keep forgetting it.” He held her tightly. Everything she had said to him was true. He was working too hard. He needed a break, and it would be good to be together without real life intruding.
As for John, he wouldn’t like it, but that was too bad. You lose, he thought, with some satisfaction.
But only some. A small, confusing part of him wished John was going to be there as well. He didn’t understand it, but right then was not the time to dwell on complicated feelings. He held Roxanna away and smiled down at her.
“We’re going, and we’ll have a wonderful time.”
She looked up at him, her eyes wet. “Are you sure?”
He stroked the tears away from her cheek. “Yes, my love. I’m rather glad you’ve taken control. In fact, I could get used to it.”
She sniffed and laughed. “Make sure your passport is up to date. We’re leaving in four weeks and nothing is going to stop us.”
Chapter 2: An Uninvited Guest?
A bit of a filler chapter, as I didn't want them to suddenly just be on the trip. There had to be some set up first. Hope you enjoy it!
ROXANNA FELT SLY fingers tickle her hips, followed by a lewd wiggle against her bottom. A kiss landed on the top of her head.
She stepped away. “John, you know that isn’t appropriate, especially at work.”
He perched on the counter and smiled at her. “I guess you’re irresistible, especially in that silk blue blouse and those cute little skirts. I chose that blouse for you, remember?”
"You were with me when I bought it. Not quite the same thing." She tried not to smile. He was looking particularly suave in a black Armani suit and shirt, no tie. It was hard not to give him frank admiration and her cheeks flushed with the effort.
“I’ve still got it then,” he said smugly.
“Shut up!” She nudged him playfully. “You’re not playing fair. You know how easy it is to upset Henrik. It's time you accepted I’m with him now. Either talk about work or leave me to get on.”
John sighed, putting as much drama into it as he could. “If you insist. I thought I’d join you in theatre today, if you need some back-up.”
“I can’t promise how long it will take. The tumour looks straight forward but they rarely are.”
“It means we spend more time together. Up to our elbows in blood, but still..."
“John, don’t. I know you’re hurting, but I’ve made my decision. Henrik and I have always been close. We’re just not … you’re too much for one person. I’m not even sure what I mean by that, but …”
“I think I do,” John said softly. He pressed a tender kiss to her forehead.
“We’re going away,” Roxanna said, moving away again.
John looked alarmed. “Where?”
“It doesn’t matter. We’re taking a well-earned vacation. Quality time, John, away from here. Away from you and … this.”
She smiled gently. “You being you, John. I need to be with Henrik and give him my full attention. It’s almost impossible to do that here.”
He nodded. “I see your reasoning. Where did you say you were going again?”
“I didn’t. I’ll see you in theatre this afternoon.”
“Of course.” He went away whistling.
“I THINK IT’S sweet,” Essie said, watching Henrik and Rox talking together in his office.
“That’s one word for it,” Dom replied.
“What word would you choose?”
“Complicated. Especially with the Professor still around. In fact, I’d call it a car crash in slow motion.”
“In what way?”
Dom considered the question. “Well, she loves Hanssen, and Hanssen loves her, but she also has feelings for the Professor, and I would bet my gay arse Mr. Hanssen does as well. As for the Professor, I can’t imagine him settling for one if he could have two for the same price.”
“Wait, so Professor Gaskell…” Essie scratched her head. “No. He just doesn’t like losing face, that’s all.”
“And I don’t appreciate being the subject of idle gossip either, Nurse De Lucca.” John stood behind them, scowling.
Essie snatched a patient file off her desk and scurried away. John looked past Dom’s shoulder to where Roxanna and Henrik were talking.
“What’s happening in there?”
“Don’t ask me. God forbid I would ever indulge in idle gossip." Dom beat a hasty retreat.
John watched Henrik and Rox for a moment. Rox was animated. She looked happy, excited even. Henrik had something in his hands, a folder of sorts. When he looked up, he caught John’s eye. Hastily, he put the folder in his desk drawer.
At the top. Right hand side.
After a moment, the two of them left his office and headed down the corridor. As soon as they were out of sight, John slipped into the office and opened the drawer.
Then he spied the calendar on the wall, and he smiled.
“I HEARD YOU and Rox were going away.” John kept his attention on the pipette he was holding, depositing tiny droplets onto a slide.
“Who told you that?”
“It’s on the calendar in your office. South Africa, I believe?”
“Yes, that’s right.” Henrik stayed in the doorway, watching him.
“I’m thinking of going away soon.” John glanced up at Henrik with a smile. “Somewhere hot. Sunny. See some wildlife.”
Henrik shifted, immediately wary. “She’s made her choice, John. I thought that was clear.”
John stood up. “Yes, but have you?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I mean … maybe Rox isn’t quite enough?”
“In what way?”
A light laugh. “Don’t make me spell it out.”
“Well…” Henrik took a step back towards the safety of the corridor. “We’ll find out when we’re away. I think that’s the main purpose of this trip, to see whether we really are suited or we’re hanging on to some ancient fantasy. I know I love her, and I believe she loves me, but that isn’t the same as enjoying each other’s company.”
“It’s a risky move,” John said warningly. “Three solid days on a train, followed by four days stuck on a game reserve.”
“You seem to know a lot about it.” Henrik hoped Rox hadn’t been talking too much. She did get rather voluble when excited about something.
“Don’t worry, it didn’t come from Rox. You left the brochure in your desk, where you knew I would find it.”
John had the unnerving ability to read his mind. Henrik folded his arms defensively across his chest. “I think we need some time away from the realities of everyday life, to really understand what we want from each other.”
John’s smile widened. “I couldn’t agree more.”
Henrik was silent for a while, watching John work.
“Do you really love her?” He asked finally.
John sat back on his stool, considering the question. “Rox is … special to me. As for love, I don’t know. Define it for me. What is love, Henrik? What does it mean to you?”
Henrik considered the question. “Feeling light when they are around. Feeling safe. Missing them whenever you’re away from them, even when it’s at the other end of the corridor. Wanting them to be the first person you talk to when things are troubling you, or if news is good.”
John nodded. “Yes, that feeling of a part of you being missing. The completeness of one’s being when they are by your side. I know. I feel that. Every day I feel that. With Rox, with you…”
“How can that be?”
“I don’t know, Henrik. It’s just the way it is. And I believe you feel the same, but you have to reach that conclusion by yourself. Neither Rox or I can help you.”
The beep of a pager made Henrik start. It was John’s, calling him up to Keller ward.
“I'm joining Rox in theatre. Think about what I said.” John rested his hand lightly on Henrik’s chest for a brief moment, vivid blue eyes smiling up at him, before walking down the corridor.
“FIRST CLASS? ARE you mad?” Henrik was shocked as they checked in their luggage. Roxanna tutted at him.
“Henrik, it’s my money, so I can spend it how I like, and I don’t want you complaining for the whole flight that you can’t stretch your legs out. Flying economy would be like taking a giraffe on the London Underground. Uncomfortable and awkward for everybody.” She smiled at the girl behind the desk as their cases were whisked away on the conveyor belt. “Come on, I need some champagne to help me sleep. You’re going to have a single malt and I won’t hear another word.”
Henrik trailed after her as they went through security and into the First Class Lounge, remembering what Ric had told him. Tucked safely in his suitcase was an original Panama hat and Factor 50 sun cream, as well as some new linen shirts. He had refused point-blank to wear shorts of any kind.
Also, his dinner jacket had been packed. It was mystery as to why he needed it, but no doubt all would become clear once they reached Johannesburg.
His grumbles were only token, to wind her up. He enjoyed watching her organise, take control. It was a relief, if he were honest. Booking overseas trips had been limited to a long weekend in Sweden a few months before, and he was too wrapped up in his work to really put his mind to anything more complicated. Even though her home was chaotic, Rox really did know how to get things done, and seeing how happy she was lightened his heart.
Now, heading towards the plane, he felt a lighter than he had for months. Years even. They were escaping to a foreign land. He was with the woman he loved. Nothing would make it any better.
As they handed in their booking cards, he looked around yet again.
“What do you keep looking for?” Roxanna asked in the end.
“No-one.” Henrik smiled down at her. Half of him with relieved, and half disappointed.
Perhaps it was for the best.
FORTY-EIGHT HOURS later, they were standing outside a private railway station just outside the city. The previous day had been relaxing, getting over the journey and catching up on the sleep he had missed on the plane. First Class didn’t guarantee a first-class sleep, although the food was acceptable.
Rox hadn’t stopped smiling since being informed they had been upgraded to the Royal Suite.
“Imagine! A bath on a train. I can’t wait.” She nibbled at the delicacies provided for them in the luxurious waiting room and looked around at the gathering passengers. There would be seventy in all, from all over the world. They exchanged nods and smiles, everyone knowing they would be spending the next three days together and already deciding who to talk to first.
Henrik also assessed each passenger as they were checked in, but he and Roxanna were called to the train before being able to register who exactly was on board.
The train had been fitted out in old-fashioned oak panelling and chintz, with a feeling of 1920’s chic about it. Although Henrik had to stoop slightly in the suite, the bed was enormous and looked incredibly comfortable. They were taken through how everything worked by their call manager, who told them about the facilities on the train. Rox handed over Henrik’s dinner jacket, somewhat crumpled by the journey, and was assured it would be back before dinner that night, fully pressed.
On the chunky oak writing desk was a domed platter of tropical fruit, ready prepared, and neat boxes of biscuits and tea. Everything was provided, including a bottle of champagne and two bottles of water, and everything for making tea. Roxanna went through it all, exclaiming in pleasure. She sniffed at the bath gels and felt the dressing gowns.
“They’ve thought of everything,” she said. “This is going to be so wonderful, Henrik!”
Henrik had opened the brochure and the first thing to fall out was a list of the other passenger names. One jumped out at him at the very same moment he heard his own name being said. He hastily tucked the list away and smiled at Roxanna.
“Yes, this is going to be a most fascinating trip.” For the first time, he really meant it.
Chapter 3: A Busy Afternoon For Henrik
This is basically filth.
Henrik and Rox are on the train, but Henrik knows there is another person waiting in the wings. Rox doesn't know yet, and he isn't sure how she is going to react when she does.
Meanwhile, Rox has been hitting the free bar and now wants some sexy times.
But she isn't the only one...
THE DAY PASSED in a gaze of excellent food and pink gin, as the train trundled through the African countryside. For a while Roxanna and Henrik sat in the observation car and savoured the warmth of the sun, whilst being protected from it by the roof overhead. They chatted to other guests, or rather, Roxanna did. She was more talkative than usual, fuelled by two large glasses of pink gin.
He was just wondering whether to suggest they go back to their suite when Roxanna stood up, rather unsteadily.
“I feel rather tiddly,” she announced to their amused company. “Henrik, could you walk me back to our room?”
“Of course.” Henrik was only too happy to have a bit of privacy. He wasn’t used to small talk and there was one American woman insisting on commanding his attention to talk about her gall stones. He had made the fatal mistake of mentioning he was a doctor, a rookie error he should have learned not to do years ago.
“He’s taking me to bed,” Roxanna giggled as he steered her out of the compartment. They weaved their way down through the carriages, the rocking train not helping their progress, and finally arrived at their suite. Henrik slid the door open and just managed to catch her as she fell inside.
“Steady on.” He got her to the bed and she collapsed on it on her back.
“My head is spinning. That’s the last time I drink at lunchtime,” she said, then smiled up at him. “Come on, Henrik, I want you to make love to me.”
She wasn’t usually so frank about it. It startled him but at the same time, was a sweet surprise. He sat on the bed and looked affectionately down at her.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have a snooze?”
She pouted, another first for her. “Henrik, we’re on the most romantic train in the world. Where’s you sense of adventure?” She reached up to stroke his face, then drew him down for a kiss.
As the kiss deepened, he felt her slyly untucking his shirt. Her body was warm and mallable, irresistible in fact.
“Hold on.” He found the Do Not Disturb tag and hung it outside their door. “We don’t want any interruptions.”
She eased down her dress as he peeled away his shirt. He was already kissing her as they fell back on the bed, kissing a trail down her body, stripping away her underwear and nuzzling her where she liked it best. She opened up for him, allowing him to drink from her sweet centre. Her fingers tightened in his hair and she whispered his name.
Her cries became hoarse as he pleasured her. She squirmed and shuddered, stretching out as her climax rippled through her body. After a moment, he did it again, and this time the climax was stronger. He could feel her inner muscles contracting as her body was racked with ecstasy. Listening to her mewls of satisfaction, he couldn’t wait any longer. As she was still peaking, he slid into her, sharing her juices with a deep kiss. Her eyes widened at the feel of him inside her and she kissed him back, their lips never parting as he lost control.
“Roxanna, my love,” he whispered when he could speak. The emotions coursing through his body threatened to overwhelm him. He loved her more than life itself but he had to tell her what he had done. It couldn’t be kept from her much longer.
Not now, though. Now she was smiling at him, saying she loved him, saying he was a wonderful lover. He kissed her again and drew away to get a warm cloth to clean them both with. She was stretching again, supremely satisfied, like a cat.
He went to the bathroom, cleaned himself and rinsed a flannel with warm water, taking back out to her.
She was asleep. Out for the count in fact, a slight smile on her face. Tenderly he wiped the residue away but all she did was mumble and curl up on her side. He covered her with one of the dressing gowns, then quickly dressed again.
This had worked out better than he expected, but he still felt trepidation. Maybe after she found out what he had done, she wouldn’t be smiling.
God, he had taken such a risk! What was he thinking?
But then he remembered what he had said to John. This was a trip to find out what it was they really wanted, and the only they would do that is to face the situation the three of them had been skirting around for a while now.
He adjusted the air conditioning so it wasn’t too cold and left the room. Instead of turning right towards the dining and bar carriages, he turned left, where there was nothing but suites for other guests. He found the one he was looking for and knocked softly on the door.
JOHN GASKELL HEARD the knock. He hoped it was the one he had been waiting for.
“Who is it?”
“Henrik. Open the damned door.”
John smiled to himself. He whipped off his tee-shirt and mussed up his hair, then slid the door open to see Henrik, looking anxious.
“What’s the matter? Have you told her?”
“Not yet. She’s asleep.”
A stab of annoyance darted through him. “Fine, but we need to tell her. I’m not going to spend another meal in this room like I’m some dirty little secret or something.” He felt cranky. Henrik’s specific instructions had been to stay out of sight, so he had, but enough was enough.
Henrik looked at the papers strewn over his desk. “Working even now?”
“What else am I supposed to do? I’m not allowed to socialise, am I?”
“We’ll tell her when she wakes up. I’ll tell her,” Henrik corrected. “If it comes from you…”
“She’ll be scared off? I think you’re underestimating her.” John risked touching the material of Henrik’s navy-blue polo shirt. “I’m not used to seeing you dressed like this. I like it though.”
Henrik didn’t move. He still seemed ill-at-ease. “Thank you.” His gaze took in John’s half-naked body.
John saw his advantage. “So… how long will she be asleep for?”
“I have no idea. She would freely admit she over-indulged in the free bar at lunchtime.”
John laughed. “That’s just like Rox. I trust you weren’t quite as rash? Would you like something now? I have some champagne in the fridge.”
Henrik hovered, obviously tempted. “Why not?”
“Sit.” John motioned to the bed. Henrik gave him a look, the one that told him he knew what he was up to, but he went to sit on the huge bed and watched as John procured two glasses and the bottle of fizz from the under-desk fridge. He poured and handed Henrik one of the glasses. “Cheers. Here’s to the three of us.”
“I hope Roxanna feels the same.” Henrik took a swig and coughed.
“Relax, Henrik. Everything is going to be fine.” John put his glass down and went to him. He nudged Henrik’s knees apart and stood between them, stroking his hair.
A familiar perfume drifted towards him. He leaned down to sniff, then tilted Henrik’s face up to his.
“I think someone has been indulging after all.”
Henrik’s pale face flushed. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“You smell of her. And that’s okay,” he added quickly as Henrik began to stammer. “That’s as it should be, Henrik. Don’t you see? If we’re all together, that’s a beautiful thing.” He stroked Henrik’s face, the sharp cheekbones, the firm jaw. He took off his glasses and placed them on the desk, then kissed the top of his head, breathing in the scent of Roxanna, coupled with Henrik’s own sandalwood shaving balm. As he did, he felt Henrik’s hands come up to stroke his bare back. Henrik’s lips were on his stomach, on his chest, gently grazing his skin. John gasped as he felt a gentle tugging on his nipple, first the right, then the left. He closed his eyes and savoured the moment, picturing Henrik behind his desk at work, stern, forbidding, dressed in so many damned clothes and yet he was here, worshiping John’s body, the movement of the train making them sway together.
He held Henrik close to him for a long moment, overcome with tenderness, wanting to give him strength, but that feeling changed when he felt the long fingers gently seek out the tell-tale bulge in John’s shorts.
John peeled off Henrik’s shirt and pushed him across the bed, lying by his side. He let his fingers drift over his skin, slipping lower, watching Henrik’s stomach muscles contract as he unzipped his shorts and unfastened the button. Henrik gulped as his fingers worked along the length of his erection, restrained in cotton boxer shorts. He whimpered as John palpated thatspot, making him even harder, if that were possible.
“God, you’re beautiful,” John murmured, kissing his lips.
The next few moments were lost in a tangle of limbs. By the end they were both naked, face to face, legs entwined.
“How did we get here?” Henrik asked.
John laughed softly. “Does it matter? The only thing that would make this absolutely perfect is Rox. We all know that.” He manoeuvred Henrik onto his back and kissed down his body, before taking him in his mouth. His own erection solidified again as he recognised Rox’s scent. The thought of Henrik fucking her just before visiting him was unbearably stimulating.
“Christ alive,” Henrik whispered, his voice hoarse. He clutched the pillows above him, his lower body in thrall to John’s talented tongue. John guessed it was something Rox hadn’t done yet, and from the sounds Henrik was making, he was loving every second of it. Too soon, salt and musk flooded his tongue. He waited until the pulses eased, then went up to kiss Henrik on the lips, sharing his release. From his body language, Henrik wasn’t sure, but still dazed from his orgasm, he hungrily returned the kiss, tasting himself, loving the fact they were sharing such an intimate moment. His eyes were wide, feverish, as if he needed more.
John knew that feeling. It was easy to get greedy in the first moments after a satisfying climax. Henrik was still in that sub-space, wanting everything, his chest rising and falling, his breath shallow. Watching him, John finished himself off, moaning as his semen shot across Henrik’s chest. When finally drained, he collapsed across Henrik’s body, breathing heavily.
They were still in that position when the door slid open. Neither of them had heard a knock.
As John looked up, he knew there was nothing he could say or do to explain himself out of this one.
Roxanna stood there, her eyes wide, mouth dropped open.
Chapter 4: Diamonds In The Sky
After her shock, Roxanna has a big decision to make, but first she needs some time to think. Luckily, there is a handsome South African diamond trader willing to distract her...
I rewrote this several times, because I had no idea how someone would react in that situation. In fact, this whole thing is a complete punt, to be honest!
“I CAN’T BELIEVE you didn’t think of locking the bloody door!”
“Neither did you!”
John and Henrik frantically scrabbled for their clothes and yanked them on.
“This is exactly how I didn’t want her to find out! Christ, John, what were we thinking?”
“It will be okay. We just need to go talk to her.” John seemed unflappable as usual.
“We? No, I’ll do it.”
“Maybe I should. It’ll sound better coming from me.”
“I doubt that very much.” Henrik went to the bathroom to splash cold water on his face.
“What is that supposed to mean?” John looked angry.
“John… she trusts me.”
“And she doesn’t trust me?”
Henrik took a deep breath. “She knows how good you are at getting your own way. If I talk to her it will sound better, believe me.”
He flung open the door and ran down the corridor, waiting impatiently for two people to pass him by. They looked down at his bare feet and seemed to find it amusing, but he could barely find the words to be polite at that moment.
Night had fallen and it wasn’t long until dinner, but the thought of putting on a jacket and tie and facing Rox across a crowded dining car was horrific. She wouldn’t make a scene, but he would feel her hurt and outrage, turning any food he ate to ashes. He cursed John with a passion for coming up with such a crazy plan.
Actually no. It was his plan, wasn’t it? What had he been thinking?
In their suite, Rox sat on the bed, sobbing quietly. A damp tissue was twisted in her fingers.
“Roxanna.” He knelt before her. “My love, I’m so sorry.” For a while he held her while she wept.
When she finally looked at him, her eyes were red and wet.
“Why didn’t you tell me how you felt about John? I would have understood. I…”
“Please listen to me. I love you more than life. I would never do anything to hurt you…”
“Except sleep with another man.” She took a deep breath. “Henrik, you should have told me earlier. I feel a complete fool…”
“No, Rox, you’re not! You don’t understand…” He took her hands again, feeling out of his depth. John had been right. He would have found the right words, instead of messing everything up. “John loves you just as much as I do. He’s …”
"Have you been cheating on me, Henrik? I want the truth."
He was appalled and hoped it showed on his face. "Roxanna, no! I would never..."
"So what was that? What I just saw. You and John, naked ..."
"That was... that... I don't know what that was! If I'm honest, I'm as confused as you are. I don't want to lose you, Roxanna."
They clung to each other as if trying to save each other from drowning.
"What's happening to us, Henrik? I love you but I still have feelings for John. I know you love me but you still have feelings for him too. What does he have that makes us so confused and crazy?" She pulled him into her arms and rested her head on his shoulder. "I don't know what to do."
“Rox, are you okay?” John came into the room. He sat by her side and held her hand. “I know you’re hurting and I'm sorry."
"Stop saying that wretched word! Both of you, please, say something constructive!"
They were frozen in that tableaux for long moments, no one really knowing what to say.
"Tell me something. Why did you leave me?" John asked eventually.
“Why are you asking that now?”
“It’s important. Please, just tell me.”
“I already did. You were … too much. Too intense. I wasn’t enough for you.” She looked at Henrik finally understanding, her eyes wide. "He needed you, Henrik. He's always needed you."
“Yes, I do, but you must understand, we both love you,” John said. “Look at me, Rox.” He gently turned her head so she could look into his eyes. “Not like a sister, or a friend, you understand? The way I’ve always loved you, and Henrik has always loved you. And we also… well, you know how I’ve felt about Henrik for years. Seems the feelings are reciprocated. And yes, it’s complicated. How does one tell someone they are in love with two people at once?”
“I don’t know,” Roxanna whispered. “I could never find the words." She massaged her temples as if trying to manipulate her thoughts into some kind of order. "Why couldn't we have talked about it before? We're all grown-ups God, what a mess!"
"I'm sorry you had to find out this way. Rox, I can’t bear to see you hurting like this." John rubbed her back, trying to soothe her.
Roxanna sat up suddenly, her face showing customary determination.
“Okay,” she said, taking a deep breath and letting it slowly out. “Okay, let’s think about this. I’m not … angry. Not now you’ve told me the truth.” She looked at each man in turn. “This is … unconventional. I think … I need a drink.”
“I think we all do,” Henrik said. He had never needed to find solace in hard liquor more than he did right then.
“I’m sure, but you both need to give me some space. Henrik, share with John tonight. I need to be on my own for a time so I can think things through. I need ... to process this.”
“She’s right,” John said. “Absolutely.”
"You would say that, wouldn't you?" He was furious that John was so calm, when he felt as if his world was falling apart.
"Stop it, Henrik. We all need to be reasonable and get ready for dinner. It will be very odd if we don't show up."
He knew she was right. “Are we sitting together?”
“And talk about our complicated love lives with everyone surrounding us? I’ll go in the far dining carriage. You two can go in this one.”
“I don’t think…”
“Please, Henrik!” Her voice cracked. “Don’t be difficult. I’m trying to make this easy for all of us.”
“That isn’t your responsibility. It’s ours,” John said.
“I know, but you’ve been doing a frankly piss-poor job of it so far.” She brushed them aside and went to the closet, taking out Henrik’s dinner suit. “There you go. Please respect my wishes and just leave me alone for tonight. If you can do that, we can have breakfast together tomorrow morning, and after that, we’ll talk.” Her face softened as she looked at their stricken expressions. “I can’t say how I’ll feel in the morning, but at the moment I’m open to possibilities. I may feel differently in a few hours and you have to respect that.”
“Of course. We love you too much not to,” John said.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Henrik added with a sad smile. It wasn't as if they had any other choice anyway.
ROXANNA DRESSED CAREFULLY, putting on the bead-embellished 1920’s dress she had chosen with such care, the black patent t-bar high-heeled shoes, and a dainty headpiece with jet and white glass flowers. She made her make-up dramatic, emphasising her eyes with smoky grey eyeshadow and drawing a perfect cupid’s bow on her lips. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she was pleased with what she saw. The cut of the dress gave her curves she didn’t usually possess, and the beaded hem swung with every movement.
It was a pity Henrik or John wouldn’t be there to appreciate it.
Actually, that wasn’t true. If they meant what they said, she could go back to them right then and say, “okay, let’s see if we can make this threesome work.”
She wasn’t convinced though, and that’s why she needed time to think. How had they ended up in this situation? She had been fighting with her feelings for both men for a while, and she had always known Henrik and John had a special bond. Most of the time it was easier not to think about it.
Taking such care over her outfit was a distraction technique. She had said she wasn’t angry but in fact she was. The men should have been honest with her from the start, not springing the whole thing on her when they were trapped on a train in the middle of Africa.
Still, this was the situation and she had to paste a smile on her face for her fellow guests and pretend everything was hunky dory. To do that successfully, she needed a good glass of Chardonnay.
She settled herself at one of the smaller tables and looked around. Everyone was in a jovial mood, fuelled by copious quantities of alcohol.
“Excuse me? Are you dining alone tonight?”
She looked up to see a gentleman she had talked to briefly in the observation car earlier. They hadn’t got as far as exchanging names.
Not waiting for an invitation, the newcomer settled himself opposite her.
“We didn’t introduce ourselves earlier. I’m Eric van Kloof.” The man was South African and as tall as Henrik but much more powerfully built. An ex-rugby player, Roxanna guessed.
“Roxanna Macmillan.” They shook hands over the table.
“That’s a pretty name for a pretty lady. Foxy Roxy.” The man grinned so engagingly that Roxanna couldn’t help smiling back.
“Well, not really but thank you. And what do when you’re not on vacation, Mr. van Kloof?”
“Call me Eric, please. I’m in the diamond industry. Export, mainly. And you?”
She could tell he was trying to impress her. She smiled sweetly. “I’m a neurosurgeon.”
The man laughed outright. “That’s a good one!”
His smile died. “For real? You don’t look like one.”
She didn’t want to ask what he thought she did look like. “I’m usually up to my wrists in brain cells and blood.”
He looked at her with new respect. “Then I think we should propose a toast. To not judging a book by its cover.”
He motioned to the wine waiter, to came over to fill their glasses. They toasted, and Roxanna relaxed. Having thought the man was a bit of a pig, she decided he was just a bit outdated in his views.
They spent the meal talking, mostly about his job as she didn’t want to dwell too much on hers, and about his life in Africa. Although he enjoyed talking about himself, he was interesting to listen to. John walked through the dining car at one point, probably to check up on her, and frowned when he saw her enjoying herself. Predictably, Henrik came through not long after and asked her if she was alright before going back to his table.
Eric looked puzzled. “Wasn’t that guy with you this morning?”
“Oh yes, but he’s spending some time with another friend of ours. I was giving them some space. It’s… complicated,” she said.
“Right. I don’t suppose you’d join me in the observation bar for a cocktail afterwards? The stars are definitely worth seeing.”
“Well …” She wasn’t sure but it was only a drink after all.
"THIS IS INTOLERABLE!" Henrik threw down the bowtie he was fighting with. "I'll go without."
"No you won't." John retrieved the limp garment and reached up to tuck it into Henrik's collar again. He tied it swiftly into a neat bow and stood back to look. "There. You look very James Bond."
"And you look like his nemesis," Henrik grumbled, reluctantly admiring John's Armani black suit and navy blue silk shirt. He wore a slim black tie to finish off the ensemble, as well as highly polished black shoes with knife-like points.
John always had a sense of style that Henrik lacked. He played safe, going for classic cuts and nothing too colourful. John was a bit of a peacock at times, but he had to admit, it made him very arresting to look at.
"Ready?" John proffered his arm.
"That's hardly going to work in a train corridor, is it?" Henrik went out before him and they made their way to the dining car. When they arrived, most people had already sat down. Roxanna was not in the first carriage, and the view wasn't clear enough to see whether she was in the second.
Halfway through their meal, John got up. "Just checking on Rox." He disappeared down the train. Within a few moments, he was back.
"You're not going to believe this. She's bagged herself a handsome blond Africaaner, and he's twice as big as you."
Henrik's felt his jaw tighten. "What is she playing at?"
"Henrik, you're getting that look. I'm just saying she's fine. She's laughing, having a nice time." Subtly, he left his little finger stroke Henrik's as they toyed with their wine glasses.
"She should be doing that with us!" Henrik hissed.
"Shh, her instructions were very clear. She needs space and we must respect that. It also means we can have some fun of our own."
Henrik felt John's foot brush against his leg. He looked severely at him over his narrow-framed spectacles. "I'm not in the mood."
John refilled his wine glass. "We'll take a rain check. For now."
WHAT WAS SHE doing? She didn’t know. Or rather, she did. She wanted to make Henrik and John jealous. It was childish, but the irritated looks on their faces when they saw her talking to another man were gratifying in the extreme.
As they opened the door to the observation car, the smell of Africa hit them. Warm earth, wood, a hint of musk, acacia flowers, an definable scent that she could have recognised blindfold. The night was cooling off and the sky was crystal clear, the Milky Way stunningly defined like a diamond blanket across the velvet night.
Eric pointed out the Southern Cross and other constellations. He stood very close to her as they leaned on the railings. She noted his spicy aftershave was not dissimilar to one David used to wear. Was David up there now, smiling down at her?
You've got them falling at your feet, baby!
She could hear his voice so clearly, it was almost as if he was standing next to her. A smile came to her lips as she recalled his face, wide smile and warm chocolate eyes. He loved her, and he trusted her to always do the right thing.
You've got this, he said in her head.
And she knew he was right.
“Where are we?” She asked Eric.
“Somewhere in the middle of the bush. We’ll be stopping overnight. In a couple of hours, I’d imagine.”
Roxanna yawned. The thought of going to bed whilst the train was still moving was very tempting, and a wave of tiredness had washed over her. The day had been so stimulating, busy and emotional, all she wanted to do was sleep.
“Eric, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to go to bed.”
“Want some company?”
She was about to speak when the door opened again. Henrik and John came through it. They both looked very handsome in their dinner jackets and it was hard for her not to smile at them. They nodded curtly at Eric and sat down.
"I'm guessing that's a no," Eric said with a sigh.
Quickly, Roxanna gathered her thoughts. “That’s very sweet, but no. Like I said, it’s complicated. Thank you for a lovely evening.” She smiled, touched his arm briefly and quickly left. As she did so, more guests came into the open carriage to admire the stars. To her relief, no one tried to follow her. Right then she really needed to be alone.
Back in the suite, she noticed Henrik had removed his washbag and a few of his clothes, but not all of them. For some reason she found comfort in that.
“God, what a day,” she muttered, stripping off her finery.
The cool sheets were inviting as she slipped between them. In the dark, she imagined two bodies lying next to her. John, curled up with her spooned round him, and Henrik’s body curved around hers, his long arm slung over her waist, possibly stroking John’s stomach. Or lower…
Then turning over, moving as one. John was always hard in the mornings, not demanding attention but very happy to receive it. How would it feel, watching him and Henrik together? How would Henrik feel, watching her and John?
Oh God, how would it feel, having both of them wanting to lavish attention on her? Feeling their lips on her skin…
Henrik would never do it. He was too private, too buttoned-up. Even in their most vigorous love-making, he never went completely wild. Not like John, who could be extremely noisy at times. Would he be that way with Henrik? How in fact would they...?
She sat up suddenly. Why was she even thinking about that? She was still upset and angry, wasn't she?
She lay back down again, letting her mind drift.
The whole thing was a bad idea.
No, not bad. Utterly disastrous. Oh God, the gossip! They would be the subject of speculation for months, even years.
It could never, ever work.
But still, the bed seemed very empty, and she was a woman with needs after all. After David's death, she felt as if she would never have the capacity to love again, but now she knew her capacity was infinite, like the universe above them She just needed the stars to show her the way.
Chapter 5: No Regrets
Time for a bit more angst, then some snuggly fluff. I'm writing this whilst fighting a cold and I really needed some snuggly fluff by the end!
HENRIK DIDN’T THINK he would be able to sleep at all, but the soothing motion of the train eventually lulled him to a shallow slumber. As soon as the train squealed to a halt though, he was awake again and nothing could have made him sleep after that. He had too much on his mind. The night had passed slowly, agonisingly, as he went through every possible scenario of what Roxanna would say and how she would say it. None of it was good.
Eventually exhaustion had set in because he woke at around six, thirsty and confused. The arm draped across his stomach didn’t feel quite like Roxanna’s.
Then he remembered. He and John and awkwardly climbed into bed and kept to their own sides, barely exchanging more than a few words, each preoccupied with what Roxanna would say to them the following morning.
Now he was awake again, he felt sick with nerves. Carefully, he removed John’s arm and shuffled out of the large bed, perching for a moment on the end. John didn’t wake. Once gone, he seemed to be able to sleep like the dead. A brass band could march through the room and he probably wouldn’t even stir.
Henrik found his spectacles, then went to the bathroom. Once freshened up, he dressed in a fresh pair of chinos and a pale blue button-down Oxford shirt, and took out his book. He was enjoying Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment far more than he expected to, but the harsh reality of life for St. Peterburg's underclass wasn't enough to distract him. He desperately wanted to go to Roxanna, to see if she was all right, but that was a bad idea. No doubt she would be angry with him. He had no choice but to wait.
ROXANNA WOKE EARLY, jolted to consciousness by the train pulling away from its standing point. It seemed strange to be in such a wide bed alone, but right then she was happy to be by herself.
The time was just past six o’clock. The darkened room gave no hint of what the weather was like outside. She pushed the blind on one window down and gasped in delight.
Already, the sun was fully up in an endlessly blue, cloudless sky. School children in neat uniform walked in groups alongside the train, looking up at the gleaming carriages. Some of them saw her and began smiling and waving. She waved back, enchanted by the scene. A group of brightly clothed women sat under the spreading branches of a massive baobob tree. It felt unreal, rather like the situation she was in.
How strange life can be, she mused as she tugged on panties and a strappy sundress. She pulled the remainder of the blinds down and opened two of the windows, letting in the warm morning air, then made herself a cup of roobois tea. It seemed very indulgent, watching the scenery go by whilst drinking tea and eating florentines so early in the morning, but she was on holiday, and she was going to enjoy every moment.
As for John and Henrik, she had made up her mind about them as well.
WHEN HENRIK HEARD the soft knock at the door, his heart practically flipped. He knew it wouldn’t be Roxanna, but he hoped with everything he had that it was.
And for once, his wishes had come true. She looked fresh and beautiful in a skimpy dress he hadn’t seen before, which showed off her lovely figure and shapely legs.
“Roxanna, are you all right?”
She reached up to stroke his face. “I’m fine. Can I come in?”
“John’s asleep.” He stood aside to let her in.
“You can come back to mine. I mean ours.” She flushed slightly at the slip-up.
Henrik looked back at John, sprawled across the bed on his front. He looked oddly vulnerable when he wasn’t awake and wearing his armour of urbane competence.
“I don’t want him to wake up alone. He’ll be …” He didn’t know. Scared? Maybe that was too strong but he would feel isolated, and Henrik knew that feeling too well.
“It’s okay. I understand.”
They spoke in whispers. Henrik poured two glasses of water and handed one to her.
“You should pull the blinds. It’s a beautiful day.” She looked … normal. Not upset, or anxious, or fretful. Just calm, resolute. He felt sick with the anticipation of what she had decided.
“Everything is going to be fine,” she said, covering his hand with hers.
“Is it really?” He couldn’t believe that. He had lain awake for a long time thinking of ways their situation would work, but instead was bogged down with all the pitfalls that lay ahead.
“Yes, it will.” She seemed confident. Her smile was soft as she looked over at John, who was slowly waking up. His hand was feeling the mattress, obviously realising the bed was empty apart from him.
“Henrik?” He sat up suddenly, hair all over the place, panic flitting across his face.
Roxanna went to him, wrapping her arms around his upper body.
“We’re both here. It’s okay.”
“Rox?” Sunshine seemed to light up his face. He held her tightly as Henrik slid the blinds down to let in the African morning. He busied himself with pouring water for John and boiling the kettle for tea.
“God, put that away,” Roxanna laughed.
He turned to see John stretching out on the bed, yawning widely, a prodigious erection tenting his boxers. He looked unapologetic.
“You’ll have to get used to it.” He sprang off the bed and went to the bathroom, slapping Henrik on the backside as he did so. He appeared to know something Henrik didn’t, as he seemed in such a good mood.
“There’s more room in the Royal suite,” Roxanna said when he came out again. Even in the deluxe rooms, it was cosy for three people.
“What are you saying?” Henrik couldn’t wait any longer. He had to know where he stood.
“I’ve made my decision,” Roxanna began.
“It could wait until after breakfast.” John ran his fingers through his hair and yawned again.
“No, it can’t. I for one want to get on with enjoying this wonderful trip, and I can’t do that with this frankly ludicrous dilemma hanging over us.” Henrik sat down in one of the chairs and put down his tea cup. He wanted to brace himself for what she had to say.
She waited until she had their full attention.
“Hear me out and no interruptions please.” She gave each man a stern look. “This is crazy. It shouldn’t work. We are professional doctors with very busy work schedules so to embark on something this ambitious, when we all actually work in the same building, is asking for trouble.” She paused.
Henrik and John exchanged looks but didn’t speak.
“Good. But it seems we have an opportunity. For the next ten days we are away from everyone we know, our commitments, our work pressures, our families…”
“We don’t have any,” John reminded her.
“Right, but Holby is our home and our work colleagues are in effect our families…”
“Not mine. Everyone hates me,” John grumbled.
Henrik put his hand on John’s arm. “Not everyone.”
“You know what I mean,” Roxanna said. “We are here, in this incredible country, on this glorious train, experiencing things we’ve never done or seen before! We must celebrate that and celebrate the fact that we all feel so strongly about each other. So I say we try it, try being this threesome and see if it works. And if it works here, then maybe it will work back home. But the important thing is we talk to each other, tell each other how we’re feeling, what our concerns are, but most of all, we enjoy it. Enjoy each other. No regrets,” she finished firmly.
Silence. It stretched out between them. Henrik couldn’t have said anything even if he wanted to. He just stared up at her, processing her words.
“So… you’re telling us we can… with you… with each other…” John looked at Henrik and back at Roxanna.
She smiled at him. “Yes, John, that’s exactly what I’m saying. As of now, we are in a polyamorous situation.”
“Just like that?” Henrik was astounded. Hearing her say the words had finally made it real.
“Yes Henrik. Just like that. I can’t bear to lose either of you, and I can’t choose between you. Frankly, you’ve given me a gift I never imagined I would have. After David, I never thought I would love again. Now I have two men wanting to love and cherish me as well as each other. Right now, I believe I’m the luckiest woman in Africa.”
No one moved for a second. Then Henrik sank down on the bed, totally enervated by the relief coursing through his body. He winced as he massaged the tension from his neck.
“Christ, I’m tired,” he said. It was barely six thirty and breakfast was a long way off.
Roxanna looked upset. “Henrik, if this is wrong for you…”
“It isn’t that. I’ve barely had two hours’ sleep worrying about all of this! You have no idea...” His voice broke. He felt strangely close to weeping.
“Come on. Get yourself comfortable.” John pushed him back on the bed. “I don’t suppose Rox has slept much either.”
“Well…” Roxanna grimaced. “I didn’t have too much of a problem, if I'm completely honest.”
“Henrik needs us.” John motioned to her. “And we might as well have a trial run.”
“Of what, exactly?” Henrik asked. Damn John and his rampant libido. The wretched man seemed unstoppable.
“Sleeping together. And I mean just sleeping. For now.” John lay alongside him, and Roxanna lay on the other side. There was a bit of wriggling to get comfortable. Henrik curled around Roxanna, and John spooned around him. Henrik could feel his warmth through the thin linen shirt, the planes and angles of his body and the delicious soft curves of Roxanna pressed against his stomach and chest. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, allowing his body to relax. He counted back from ten, wondering if it would help him fall asleep.
Roxanna giggled softly. "This feels so good," she whispered. She laced her fingers together with John's across Henrik's waist, making him feel safe. Roxanna always knew how to make him feel safe. Did she make John feel the same way? John was about pushing boundaries, danger, taking risks. Henrik was his moral compass. They both knew it. And Roxanna was the peace maker. They complimented each other beautifully. Not so much yin and yang, but a kaleidoscope of rainbow colours.
Henrik smiled at the thought, and they drowsed until the gong sounded for breakfast.
Chapter 6: Body Heat
A bit of a filler chapter, but with some smut because I felt like it. :D
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
THAT DAY, THE train made two stops. The first was in a small village, where the children waited with much excitement. There were stallholders selling crafts and food, and chickens and goats roamed everywhere. An air of friendly chaos buzzed around the whole place.
It wasn’t a long stop, and some of the guests opted to stay on the train, but John, Roxanna and Henrik ventured forth into the melee. Before that though, John and Roxanna headed off a potentially disastrous fashion faux pas.
“Henrik, what in God’s name are you wearing on your feet?”
John was appalled, and when she saw, so was Roxanna. “No, no, absolutely not. Take those socks off right now, Henrik. We cannot and will not let you leave the train looking like that!”
They shuffled him back to the room where he grumbled but did as they asked.
“What about scorpions?”
“You’d have to be extremely unlucky to be bitten by one.” John turned up his chino legs and put his sandals back on. “They’re not great but they’ll have to do.” He unfastened the first three buttons on Henrik’s shirt and pulled it out of his trousers to hang loose.
Roxanna nodded approvingly. “Much better. Crisis averted. Much less ‘Brit Abroad.’”
“Or ‘Swede Abroad,’” John corrected.
Henrik doubtfully looked at himself in the mirror. “Well, if you’re sure…”
“Positive.” They steered him out of the door before he could protest.
At the market place, Roxanna bought a pair of beaded flipflops and a hand-painted silk scarf. Henrik soon had his hands full of small carved animals.
“For Oskar,” he explained.
He was soon surrounded by children, all intrigued by his paleness and great height. As he perched on a log and began talking to them, John led Roxanna away.
“Come on. Let’s stretch our legs for a while.”
“I don’t think Henrik has much to fear from a bunch of cheeky schoolkids. And the guards are there.” He nodded to the armed police hovering round each doorway of the train. They toted semi-automatic rifles and didn’t look too friendly.
“Is all that necessary?” Roxanna asked worriedly. “Maybe we should stay here.”
“We’ll be fine, Rox. It’s just a precaution, that’s all. A train full of wealthy people could be a bit of a target.”
“Right.” She frowned. “That’s a bit of a wake-up call.”
“Just a reality of being in some parts of Africa.” They walked up to the main street, past shops selling old tractor tyres, watermelons and huge sacks of maize. The streets were wide without many cars. There was no electricity at that time, due to nationwide power cuts, but people seemed to be just getting on with it. They were friendly, smiling at John and Roxanna, one young woman shyly complimenting Roxanna on her sandals. There were stares, but of curiosity, not hostility. John sensed her beginning to relax. She put her hand in his and he felt his heart leap. This was something new.
“I’ve missed you, Rox,” he murmured. “When you left me for Henrik I was devastated. I hope...” he squeezed her hand, “I hope this works. I really do. I don’t want to go through that again.”
She looked curiously at him. “Really? You seemed so together, so calm. Almost as if it were a relief.”
‘That was the strange thing. I thought it would be, as it was obvious I couldn’t give you everything you needed. That emotional connection, the gentleness Henrik is so good at.”
She turned to him and took his other hand. “John, you don’t need to worry. I know you, remember? I know your foibles and insecurities and …”
“The fact I’m a control freak with an over-inflated ego and a one-track mind?”
She gave him a terse look. “That too, yet I’m here with you and Henrik, right now. Enjoy it. Don’t overthink things. That’s my department, remember?”
He laughed, reassured. “Never a truer word said.” He slung his arm over her shoulder and they walked back to the train.
Henrik had extricated himself from the children and was in the observation car, talking to some of the other guests. His face was unreadable when he saw John and Roxanna had joined them. Roxanna put her hand on his thigh, and he covered it with his own, holding it tightly.
John felt a stab of envy that he couldn’t just do that. Henrik didn’t seem to want any public displays of affection from him, yet he was happy to receive them from Roxanna.
It was something to they needed to talk about.
THE SECOND STOP came in the afternoon at an abandoned station. The station had a long platform which enabled the staff to move around the train with ease, loading more supplies from waiting trucks.
This time there were three hours to kill. Frustrated by being unable to talk to Henrik about the thing troubling him, John put on a singlet and running shorts, and went for a jog.
The heat was blistering, the sun beating down out of a sky studded with puffy white clouds. John ran down the gravelled path away from the train, feeling his muscles protest. It seemed a while since he last had a workout, although in reality it was only a few days.
There was no shade anywhere, and although the heat was dry, sweat soon began to stain the back of his vest. He could feel trickles of it working their way down his neck and back, and the UV rays were beginning to burn his shoulders. Heat also radiated from the ground, perfumed by stunted acacia bushes. All around, dead brown shongololo centipedes curled up in the brutal heat.
Soon the train seemed a long way behind him. He began to jog back, then stopped in the paltry shade provided by an acacia bush to some push-ups. When he had done two hundred, he collapsed on his hands and knees, breathing heavily.
“Are you totally and utterly mad?”
He looked up, still panting. Henrik blocked out the sun, glaring down at him.
“What are you trying to do? Give yourself heat exhaustion?”
John reached up his hand so Henrik could pull him to his feet. “I’m working off some pent-up energy, that’s all. Why aren’t you with Rox?”
“We’re not glued to each other’s hips, you know. She’s talking to some ladies from the Smithsonian Institute.”
John nodded, still out of breath. Henrik’s piercing gaze raked his body.
John glanced down at himself. His singlet was stained with sweat, down the front, the sides, the back, but he knew he looked good. He kept himself in shape and had excellent muscle definition. It was frustrating how Henrik had never told him he was attractive. It was hard to tell what the man thought at all.
He peeled the singlet away and wiped his neck and under his arms. “I’ll go and shower.”
“No.” The word was as hard as the gravel they stood upon. John looked up and saw an unfamiliar look in Henrik’s eyes, shaded by the Panama hat. His stare was fixed on John’s body. John could sense the unspoken words just hovering below the surface, desperate to escape. Whatever he had been unable to say in words was plain to read in the hunger in his eyes.
“Say it, Henrik. Say what you want.”
Time seemed to stop. Even the weaver birds had ceased their incessant chattering. Henrik was staring at him, his breath shallow, lips half-open. John decided to make it easy for him.
“I’m going back. Come or don’t. It’s up to you.” He turned away.
Before he had taken one step, Henrik put his hand on his shoulder, stopping him. He bit his lip to stop a moan escaping as he felt the warm tongue lick a long, lascivious line up his spine. Henrik’s hand was on his throat, holding him still whilst he kissed the sweat from his shoulders and neck. Instantly, John was rigid with lust. There was no way he could have walked back to the train even if he wanted to.
“Bastard,” he hissed, taking Henrik’s hand and placing it on the hard result of his actions. He almost yelped when Henrik’s hand closed around it, squeezing him tightly.
“Get back to your room and wait for me. Now.”
“I can’t. Not with this fucking great hard-on you’ve given me.”
He jolted as Henrik slapped his arse. “Language, John. You know I don’t like it.”
Just like that, the dynamic had changed. John always thought he would be the one in control, but not right then. Henrik thrust the singlet at John and tossed his head towards the train.
“Go. You’re getting sunburn.”
John held the singlet close to his body, hiding his predicament as he entered the train. The place where Henrik had licked him was searingly hot, almost as if he had been branded.
He stepped into the shower and let the cool water play over his skin. Usually it would be enough to dampen his libido but not right then. He took the soap and lathered up his hands, then stroked himself as the water washed the sweat away from his body. With moments he was moaning, sagged against the side of the shower, letting the waves of pleasure sweep over his body.
When he opened his eyes, Henrik was there, watching him. He leaned against the basin, long legs crossed at the ankle, his arms crossed in front of him, a neutral look on his face.
“You couldn’t wait, could you?”
John smirked at him. “What do you expect? That was your fault, not mine.”
Henrik’s gaze raked his damp, naked body. Under the intense scrutiny, he began to feel hot again.
“I’ve put the sign on the door,” Henrik said.
John smiled slightly. “Which one. Service required?”
Henrik smiled back. “Do not disturb.”
John kicked Henrik’s feet apart and stood between them. He unfastened the buttons on the man’s shirt, kissing down the flat, smooth skin to his taut belly. Above him, Henrik’s breath caught. John’s practised eye could see the ridge of his erection through the chinos. He palpated it gently, feeling Henrik shudder with delight.
“What is it you want?” He whispered.
“You,” Henrik ground out. “You, Roxanna… I want… everything.”
John wound his arms around Henrik’s neck and pushed his body against him, feeling him respond in kind. “And you’ll get it, but for now you just have me. Is that good enough?”
Henrik tugged at his hair to expose his throat again, giving him a hard, biting kiss. It was all the answer John needed. Together, they staggered out of the bathroom and onto the bed.
JUST BEFORE DINNER, the guests gathered in the cocktail lounge. All dressed in their dinner jackets and vintage dresses, it was a colourful group. Henrik couldn't take his eyes off Roxanna, who wore a pale blue and silver beaded dress with a delicate floral headband around her platinum blonde hair. She smiled when she saw him looking at her with admiration.
"I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to getting our new toy into bed," John murmured.
"She's not a plaything, John. Don't talk about her like that."
John looked at him in surprise. "I didn't mean... I was being affectionate."
Henrik bestowed a patient look on him. "Then you have a lot to learn. Affection doesn't include thinking of women as chattels for your amusement."
"I know that." John kept his voice even. "You don't have to be so damned protective of her. I adore her just as much as you do."
They were listening to the train manager explaining about crossing into Zimbabwe. "It usually takes a couple of hours to get through customs. On rare occasions the officials will want to check each passport with each face. If this does happen, we just have to let them do it. I would ask you all to be patient as this is something out of our control."
"So we might have customs officers coming into our room at some godforsaken hour. That could be exciting," John murmured.
"I doubt it. She said 'on rare occasions,'" Roxanna said.
While they listened to the itinerary for the following day, John slipped his hand between Henrik's thighs and gently stroked him, gratified when he didn't move away. He was thawing out, gradually accepting the needs of his body.
He placed his other hand around Roxanna's waist and held her close. Her soft body conjured up all kinds of x-rated scenarios in his mind.
You've a mind like a fucking sewer, John Gaskell, he thought to himself, and smiled.
The next chapter deals with Henrik, Roxanna and John's first night together....
Chapter 7: Greed Is Good
So not quite the actual smut yet. More pre-smut, because foreplay is half the fun.
Yes, the other bit is just about to come (no pun intended.)
ROXANNA TOOK HER time preparing for that evening. She really didn’t know what was going to happen once dinner was over. She knew exactly what she wanted to happen, but realistically it probably wouldn’t. Henrik was too correct and too mindful of his position as CEO. Both she and John were technically his employees.
Still, she sat in the Victorian porcelain bath, surrounded by fragrant foam, exfoliating her skin to make it extra soft as the light died in the evening sky. She hummed to herself, rising from the water to pat herself dry and moisturise, taking almost ritualistic care in doing so. A cup of calming camomile tea was cooling on the desk, so she could drink it how she liked it, lukewarm to enjoy the floral taste at its fullest.
Her dress was hanging up, ready to be put on. It had come from Ebay, a very good reproduction of a 1920’s flapper dress with exquisite silver beading over pale blue silk. It had no sleeves, and a zig-zag hem that stopped above her knees. Neither of the men had seen it yet, but she had no doubt it would meet with their approval.
Not that it mattered. She dressed for herself, but tonight she was going to be the temptress, and to do that she wanted to be irresistible.
Stockings or no? Still naked, she considered the question. The blistering heat of the day had waned, leaving a pleasant twenty-seven degrees outside, but the air-conditioning kept the temperature down to about twenty-two inside the train.
John did love her in stockings…. As for Henrik, she hadn’t had a chance to find out yet.
The delicate silk garments slithered through her hands as she opened the packet. Her underwear was already laid out, a feather-light grey ensemble from Rigby & Peller. No expense had been spared in preparation for this trip.
This is for me, she thought as she dressed. Even if the men don’t appreciate it, I damned well do.
Her stomach felt slightly wobbly as she glanced over at the bed, imagining what could be happening there later.
For a moment, the thought was overwhelming. She sat down, breathing deeply. Her reflection had shown an ordinary person, a brilliant surgeon, an efficient operator, a compassionate doctor, but a sexual being? Really?
Looking after David meant their intimate life had ended almost as soon as his illness was diagnosed. She had rediscovered her hunger and desire with John, had wanted a gentler approach with Henrik, and was now contemplating a sensual adventure way beyond anything she had ever fantasised about before, even in her youth.
She was hardly cougar material, unlike Serena Campbell. God, how she envied that woman’s courage. She oozed confidence and sex. It seemed to come naturally to her, even after the knockback she had had with losing Eleanor. Serena had not been afraid to explore her sexuality so why was it so hard for her?
The gong for dinner sounded again. She closed her eyes and took another deep breath, remembering what she had told the men.
Celebrate who we are.
Her reflection still looked too timid, like a frightened rabbit.
Don’t be so ridiculous.
Hurriedly, she ruffled her hair, then rummaged in her makeup bag. After applying kiss-proof scarlet lipstick and a dash more eyeliner, she spritzed Ghost perfume over her body and slipped the dress from the hanger. It felt pleasingly heavy.
Flapper girls didn’t have tits, she thought, rearranging her boobs in the snug dress. It was cut low enough to show a hint of cleavage and clung to her hips, making the most of her curvy shape. Nodding in satisfaction, she sat on the bed and put on her silver t-bar high heels. They were really for dancing, but there was no chance of that for another couple of days. Even then, Henrik had rolled his eyes at the prospect of a vintage Ball at the Victoria Falls Hotel. The thought of him dancing to anything was inconceivable.
John, on the other hand, could turn a very wicked tango…
A knock at the door made her jump. Impatiently, she opened it. “Henrik, I thought I told you not… Oh, Mr. van Kloof!”
The big man filled the doorway, resplendent in his white dinner jacket and red bowtie. He executed a brief bow.
“Miss Macmillan. You look… wow.”
She couldn’t help smiling. It was just the reaction she needed right then. “Thank you.”
I was hoping you would join me for dinner tonight.”
“I’m dining with Henrik and John tonight. It’s ….” She thought fast. “Henrik’s birthday.”
“Ah, that’s a pity.” van Kloof grimaced slightly. “Look, I know it’s none of my business but if you have the impression your friends are interested in more than friendship with you, you should know I saw them… I mean, I’m a liberal guy but …”
Roxanna waited as he struggled for the words, her expression deliberately benign.
“You’re a damned fine-looking woman and you deserve…”
She decided to rescue him. “Mr. van Kloof, I appreciate your concern, but as I said before, it’s complicated.”
“Hush.” She put her finger to her lips. “I suggest you find that lovely brunette you were chatting to earlier. I’m not on the market.”
“But they’re p…” His eyes widened. Roxanna watched in dismay as he was thrown against the closet door, his face pushed into the wood.
“If you value the luxury of eating solid food, I suggest you leave her alone.” A thud as his head connected with the wood again. “I’m a doctor, and I know just where to squeeze.”
“John!” Roxanna was horrified. “Mr. van Kloof was just leaving. Let him go!”
Another shove, and John stepped back, straightening his tuxedo.
“I’m so sorry. John is from Liverpool.” The words tumbled out. If the big man decided to retaliate, the royal suite wasn’t big enough for a brawl.
To her relief, van Kloof nodded curtly at her. “Miss Macmillan, have a good evening.” He rapidly disappeared.
“Never, ever do that again!” She wagged her finger at John as if he were a small child. “He was three times bigger than you!”
“What’s going on?” Henrik had appeared at the doorway. He ducked to get through it and looked at John and Roxanna.
“Nothing. John just has to remember he doesn’t have to solve everything like a Neanderthal.”
“That’s hardly fair,” John protested.
“Just… go and pick us a table. I’ll only be a few minutes.” She shooed them out and firmly closed the door, then lay back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling.
Well, that was a first. She had never experienced men fighting over her before.
Childish it had been, but damn it was just the lift she needed. She was desirable. Men were prepared to throw punches over her….
John looked so suave in his evening jacket teamed with an aubergine shirt. Henrik made anything look good, especially a superbly-cut dinner suit.
They both wanted her, as well as each other.
She stretched out luxuriously, then sat up, checking her stocking tops were evenly lined up. In the mirror, her reflection smiled back, no longer unsure.
Not a neurosurgeon. Not a widow. Not a professional carer.
A woman, and a damned hot one at that.
She grabbed her bag and left the room, her dress swishing playfully around her legs.
Henrik rose from his chair as she approached the table, a courtly gesture she appreciated. He was sitting next to John, which seemed odd until they smiled at her.
“We wanted to look at you properly,” John said. “You look stunning.”
She gave him a confident smile. “Thank you, Professor Gaskell. You both look very dashing. I feel rather greedy.”
John poured wine into her glass, then Henrik’s. “Embrace it, Roxanna. We have.”
Henrik shifted in his seat, looking embarrassed. He hadn’t spoken yet.
“So what have you been doing all afternoon? I’ve hardly seen you.” She could lay money down on what they had been doing, but it would be interesting to hear their answer.
John smiled behind his wine glass. “We may have engaged in some earthly pleasures.”
Her eyes widened in shock, but she masked it with mock disapproval. “Without me? Now who’s being greedy?”
Henrik drained his wine glass and poured more into it. It seemed as if he had been stunned into silence. There was no doubt John hadn’t been exaggerating. All kinds of scenarios played before her, and she didn’t really know how to feel about that.
“I think we can all agree that in certain circumstances, greed is good,” John said.
Henrik’s flush deepened. “I slept for a while,” he muttered.
“I hope it was afterwards. It would have been very unfortunate if it were during.” She looked at Henrik for his reaction, but he couldn’t meet her eye.
Good. It served him right for snacking before dinner.
“I think I exhausted him,” John replied.
She wondered whether they were pushing Henrik too far. An almost angry energy radiated from him.
“Can we please just…” He was interrupted by the waiter putting down the first course on each place setting. “I can’t listen to you both engaging in verbal intercourse throughout the whole damned meal!” He kept his voice low, but his discomfort was clear. “This is hard…” He swallowed. “I’m not good at this.”
“You don’t have to be good at anything, Henrik. This isn’t a competition. It’s three people muddling their way through something new.”
“And to be fair, this isn’t intercourse, it’s foreplay,” John added, between bits of springbok carpaccio. “It’s a bit of fun before we retire for the night. Whatever happens, will happen. No pressure. We’re not performing seals.”
“What a shame,” Roxanna murmured. She was rather enjoying this new role of sultry temptress.
John held up his glass. Here’s to uncharted territory.”
Henrik seemed to be waiting for Roxanna, so she picked up her glass and nodded for him to do the same. “Uncharted territory, and the joy of exploration.”
After they all toasted, Roxanna felt as if the evening had really begun.
As they were finishing the main course, she slipped off her shoe and stroked the inside of Henrik’s leg. They had moved onto red wine to go with the kudu medallions, and his hand shook, almost spilling his wine over his food. He gave her a look which sent a tingle down her whole body.
Holding his gaze, she worked her foot up between his legs, safely covered by the long linen tablecloth. John seemed blithely unaware, talking about medical advancements made by South African scientists, as Henrik caught her foot just before it reached his groin. He smiled slightly, giving her another delightful frisson of pleasure, before, pressing her foot against his groin. She fondled him with her toes, massaging him into hardness, her gaze locked onto his.
“And I’ve been talking to myself for the past ten minutes,” John said, pulling her attention back to him. “Is there something I should be aware of?”
Roxanna wriggled her foot out of Henrik’s hold and moved it over to John’s lap. His lips twitched as he realised the game.
“I see.” He stroked her foot, then plucked at the delicate material. “These had better be stockings.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Henrik swallowed hard. He concentrated on his food as Roxanna teased John in the same way. John smiled slightly.
“Don’t expect me to be merciful with you tonight.”
“Who are you talking to? Henrik or me?”
John laughed outright. “Both of you.”
ROXANNA SUGGESTED THEY go to the cocktail bar after dinner, to look at the stars and just wind down after the meal. Henrik was still tense, despite the amount of wine he had imbibed. She sensed he was nervous, rather like a bridegroom on his wedding night. Privately, she told John to go easy on him. He seemed the only one totally at ease with their new situation. Now the meal was over, she too was getting slightly jittery.
They ordered Cosmopolitans and went out to the observation car. Eric van Kloof was there with his brunette and they seemed very happy together. He nodded to Roxanna and soon left, leaving the three of them alone.
Roxanna leaned on the back railings, looking up at the Milky Way. John stood close to her on one side, and Henrik on the other, all sharing each other’s warmth. She felt Henrik kiss the top of her head, and John rest his on her shoulder.
“I wonder what that cloud is?” Henrik mused. “I’m sure that was there yesterday evening.” He pointed to a faint dusting of clouds set just apart from the Milky Way.
“The Clouds of Magellan,” Roxanna said. “It’s a dwarf galaxy. You can only see it in the Southern Hemisphere.”
At that moment, a meteorite shot across the sky. Roxanna thought of David and hoped he smiling at her, glad she was loved by his two closest friends.
Noise from the bar indicated a group of eight guests had arrived. Slowly they began making their way towards them.
“Time we went,” Henrik murmured, before the group got to the door.
Chapter 8: Three Become One
Explicit smut. And snuggles. And some tears, but don't worry. All is good.
THE BED HAD been turned down for the night, with a chocolate morsel on each pillow. Roxanna turned the lights down low while Henrik rummaged in the fridge for the champagne and glasses.
“Typically, there is only two,” he said.
“We’ll share,” John replied. He took off his jacket and bowtie, and kicked off his shoes and socks, stowing them away.
“Good idea.” Henrik hung his own jacket up. When he began wrestling with his bowtie, John brushed his fingers away and did it for him, unpicking the knot he had made.
“Next time, get one on elastic, for fuck’s sake.”
Roxanna watched as Henrik removed his shoes and socks as well. The dynamic between him and John was interesting, almost as if they were a couple already.
She hoped the next few moments weren’t going to be painfully awkward. How on earth did they start something like this? And what was “this” going to entail, exactly?
“Now it’s your turn,” John said to her. “Take off your dress.”
She blinked. “Just … like that?”
“Why not? We both want to see what you’re wearing underneath it.”
Roxanna looked at Henrik to see his reaction. He gave her a cool stare.
“Remove your dress, Roxanna.”
He used that low, menacing tone she sometimes heard in the Boardroom. It lit a fire in the pit of her stomach.
“You’ll have to unzip me first,” she said. “Or I could take my shoes off…” She bent to do just that.
“No. Just take off your damned dress.” Henrik’s voice made her freeze. She stood up again and glared at him, but inside she was beginning to enjoy seeing this side of him. It was something they hadn’t explored in the bedroom yet.
John’s fingers were cool on her back as he smoothly unzipped her. He paused for dramatic effect before pushing the dress off her shoulders, allowing it to fall in a pool of silk and silver around her feet. He went round to the front to admire his handiwork.
She looked from one man to the other. They stared back, looking stunned.
“What?” She stood there in her lingerie, stockings and heels, feeling slightly warm under their appreciative gaze.
John moved first. He caught her around the waist and pulled her to him, kissing her neck.
“Holy shit, Roxanna. You look good enough to eat.” He ran his hands down her back and cupped her buttocks, then lifted one of her legs so it curled around his. “Christ, those stockings…” The hard ridge in his trousers told her she had made the right choice. She rubbed herself against it, feeling the catch in his breath.
Movement from behind, and Henrik had moved close behind her, his hand running up her leg. As she kissed John, he feathered his lips across her neck. His hands were warm on her waist, moving up to cover her breasts. John whimpered against Roxanna’s lips, and she realised that Henrik was fondling his nipples as well.
John’s nipples were super-sensitive, she remembered from their time together. She could drive him wild just with that contact alone and now Henrik was doing the same. John leaned back against the oak panelling, taking Roxanna with him, and closed his eyes. Roxanna unfastened his shirt and tugged it from his trousers, opening it so she could kiss and suck the distended tips. His chest and stomach were smooth, the muscles solid and well-defined as she sank to her knees and ran her tongue around them. When she reached for his trouser button, Henrik stopped her.
“He’s having too much fun. I want to concentrate on you.” He drew her to her feet and into his arms, her back pressed against his chest. She arched her back as he cupped her breasts and stroked the nipples into hardness, slipping the straps off her shoulders.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion. Henrik’s large hands covering her tits and pushing them together; John peeling himself from the wall, frustrated and hungry, plunging his face into the deep valley of flesh and leaving marks from biting kisses; Henrik’s soft voice uttering words of Latin she didn’t understand, but they sounded hotter than hell itself. John peeled off her panties, just leaving her in shoes and stockings. She couldn’t remember when her bra had gone.
“So beautiful,” John whispered against her skin. He kissed a line from shoulder to shoulder, his hands sliding over her body. She leaned back against him again, biting her lip as he worked one finger under the gauzy panties and stroked her so gently, so intimately, she immediately felt hot and damp. His excitement nudged against her lower back. She slowly rubbed against him, feeling a tell-tale throb. All she was aware of, were the men’s hands, lips and tongues over her body. Already she was a trembling, soaking mess and they had barely started.
“You certainly have the magic touch,” Henrik murmured, standing before her. He stroked her face and gazed lovingly into her eyes.
Behind her, John cupped her breasts and stroked her nipples, kissing her neck. He was rigid with arousal. She could feel the muscles of his torso shifting against her back. He was solid muscle due to his workouts, and she liked the fact he could throw her over his shoulder if he really wanted to.
When she felt Henrik's tongue curl around her nipple she moaned loudly, widening her stance, grateful for John’s arm around her keeping her supported.
“She likes being kissed there.” John’s voice was husky.
“I know what she likes,” Henrik countered, taking off his glasses and putting them on the desk. He got to his knees and kissed the skin where her stocking tops ended. Her legs almost gave way as he slipped his finger inside her, at the same time dipping his head to very gently suck on her clitoris.
“Oh! Oh God, please…” She was panting, overwhelmed by the suddenness of her abandonment, her body flushed with pleasure.
“How does her cunt taste, Henrik?” The harsh word and soft breath feathering her ear sent a shudder through her.
“Exquisite.” Warm breath whispering over her thighs, then Henrik’s velvet tongue seeking out her clit, exploring her folds. Luckily John was supporting her otherwise she would have collapsed in a boneless heap. Henrik spread her legs and drank from her, her soft cries muffled by John’s hand over her mouth.
Too soon, he stood again. He leaned towards John, kissing him to share her musky juices. It was the first time she had seen them kiss and she felt strangely moved by it. Then Henrik broke away and kissed her as well, gently guiding her to the bed.
For a moment he just stood over her, his serious expression in place. John joined him.
“What’s your plan?” He asked. It wasn’t clear who the question was for.
She smiled up at them.
“You both have too many clothes on, for starters.”
“Fair enough.” John began to strip whilst Henrik removed Roxanna’s shoes. He raised one leg, kissed the toes, and carefully rolled down her stocking, taking as much care as he would if performing intricate surgery.
With her other foot, Roxanna fondled him. She just had time to seek out the bulge in his groin when he caught the errant toes and moved them away.
“Behave,” he said severely.
She laughed. “You’re the naughty one, Mr. Hanssen. What exactly were you both up to this afternoon?”
“I’m happy to do an encore for our audience,” John said, coming up behind Henrik and putting his arms around his waist. One hand slowly worked downwards, expertly seeking out and covering Henrik’s erection.
Roxanna watched Henrik’s expression cloud over, but his jaw tightened and he peeled John’s hands away.
“Get on the bed. You’re not allowed to touch me until I say so.”
“Spoilsport.” John looked sulky but didn’t seem bothered by the harsh tone of Henrik’s voice. He lay by Roxanna’s side instead and stroked her stomach. “Such soft skin.”
She held her breath as he positioned himself so he could properly lavish attention upon her. Henrik removed her other stocking, then lay alongside her on the opposite side to John, still fully dressed.
“Turn over,” he instructed.
Roxanna knew what was coming next. She lay on her front and stretched out. Henrik loved to give her a massage. It relaxed and comforted them both before he flipped her over and pleasured her with his tongue.
And he was very good at head, she thought. Better than John, if she were honest, but then, one couldn't be good at everything. Even so, with John next to her, his erection brushing against her thigh, this massage would be extra-special. Henrik squirted a small amount of lightly scented oil onto her back, then began to massage it into her skin. She mumbled in pleasure, practically melting into the bedcover.
“I’d like you to do that to me,” John said. His hands joined Henrik’s, running over Roxanna’s body.
“In good time.” Henrik’s hands were delightfully warm as they roved over her skin. She mumbled as he massaged her neck and back, then moved down to her calves. After a few moments, his knowing fingers moved back to her thighs, opening them slightly. When she felt two long fingers slip inside her, she gasped in delight.
“The thing you need to understand,” Henrik said to John, “is that women need time to warm up and relax.” Three fingers slipped deep inside her, filling her up. She spread herself wider, tilting her bottom so he could gain easier access. His thumb grazed her clitoris, continuing the massage, making it swell with the attention he was lavishing upon it.
“Turn over, please Roxanna.”
Obediently, she did as she was told. He continued the massage over her body, her breasts, stomach and legs, before pushing his fingers inside her again. The intrusion exposed her clit, which had swollen to the size of a grape. Tenderly, he bent his head and flickered his tongue against it.
Delicious waves of pleasure radiated through her body, but frustratingly, he withdrew his hand and pressed his finger against John’s lips. John grasped his wrist and gave Henrik’s hand a long lick from the wrist to the top of his middle finger, sucking the tip into his mouth to taste her essence. Henrik’s eyes were dark, his lips parted as he watched John slavishly lick his hand. Roxanna almost forgot her own need just watching that intimate moment between them.
The men turned their attention back to her, John kissing her lips and moving down to curl his tongue around her nipple. Her back arched towards his mouth, and at the same time Henrik slid down to worship her cunt with his tongue and fingers. She felt like a goddess, having these two glorious men slavering over her body.
It was too much. The ecstasy she was experiencing was too strong to be held back. When she peaked, John held his hand over her mouth to stop her hoarse cries from being too loud. She squirmed and bucked, totally in thrall to Henrik’s tongue, until the sensation became too great and she had to push him away.
He paused for a moment. “Just say when.”
John looked questioningly at him.
When she judged her body could take more of his ministrations, she nodded. “Now.”
He dipped his head again, and this time the sensation was even stronger, John watching in fascination as she peaked again, leaving juices on the bedclothes and Henrik’s face. He leaned over to kiss John, who licked his lips and shared a deep kiss.
“More,” Roxanna sighed. “Just one more.” She wasn’t ready to quit yet. Her body was demanding more than it ever had before. The added stimulation of having John there, of the passion he obviously shared with Henrik, it was too much. She was still hovering on the peak and needed …. something. She didn’t know what. Just something to satisfy that continuing hunger.
“If she wants more, she can have it.” John leaned over to whisper in Henrik’s ear. Roxanna couldn’t hear what he said, but Henrik hesitated, then nodded.
John rolled onto his back. “Come here, Rox. Lie on me.”
She didn’t understand at first, but then remembered. They had tried this position once before. Then she had fallen off, laughter had ensued, and he had fucked her doggy-style instead.
Now his hands were vice-like on her hips as she guided him inside herself. He wasn’t as long as Henrik but by God he was thick, stretching her insides like no one else she had experienced before. His hands on her hips steadied her, making sure he stayed deeply buried. He rested one leg on the bed to brace himself and keep her from falling away.
She felt incredibly exposed, lying on her back on his chest, stuffed with his cock, spread out like a smorgasbord before Henrik, who was watching with a speculative look on his face. It made her slightly self-conscious, but John felt very good inside her, even though she felt like meat on a skewer.
She finally understood when Henrik sank to his knees before them.
God he wasn’t going to… oh yes, he really was....
He bent his head. At the feel of his tongue, her muscles instinctively contracted around John.
“Oh Jesus,” John muttered, hardening even more. He shifted, pushing deeper inside her.
She felt a trickle of cool liquid. Henrik had poured champagne over her tender clit. Almost immediately he licked it up, the heat of his mouth in stunning contrast. Behind her, John hissed with pleasure, ramming further into her with an impromptu thrust.
Henrik seemed to delight in tormenting them. John was fucking her because he couldn’t help it, as he responded to the wicked ministrations of Henrik’s tongue. Roxanna had no idea what Henrik was actually doing, but it was producing waves of delicious muscular contractions that were building by the second. She squirmed, impaling herself on John, adding to his desperation.
God this is dirty, she thought, stretching out her arms and abandoning herself to the ever-spreading joy. She felt like a porn star, one who loved her job, who wanted as much cock as she could possibly get, who could fuck and get fucked by two men, three, four. One in her mouth. No, two! Let herself be drenched in semen and rub it all over her body so John and Henrik could lick it off….
Her orgasm hit when she wasn’t expecting it, eliciting a scream which bounced around the suite, her body convulsing and triggering an answering climax from John, his raw cries rasping in her ear, dirty words and kisses hot and wet in her neck. Time spun out as Henrik wrung every ounce of ecstasy from them, the searing heat of John pulsating inside her, continuing the orgasm until they both flopped, breathing heavily. After a few moments, John softened enough to fall out of her.
“Fuck yeah,” he whispered. “Jesus, Rox, I never knew you were that wild.”
“I didn’t either,” she said, panting. “Gosh.”
For a few minutes they couldn’t say any more than that. He curled round her and held her close. She felt comforted by his warmth and closeness.
“Thank you,” she breathed.
“Thank Henrik. I think he deserves some attention now. I’ll get some paper.” John kissed her temple and eased off the bed. He staggered away to the bathroom, obviously drained.
Roxanna sat up, feeling slightly bashful. Henrik was slumped in the chair, his head back, eyes closed. He was still dressed in shirt and trousers but she wasn’t surprised. He was self-conscious about his long, thin body.
He didn't even realise how beautiful he was, she thought. He had given everything and received nothing so far. It was time to redress the balance.
John came back with a warm cloth. As she wiped herself he knelt on the floor in front of Henrik, placing his hands on his knees. Roughly, he spread them apart.
“John…” Henrik started and sat up a bit, looking uncomfortable. “Maybe Roxanna doesn’t want to see this.”
“Oh, but I do,” Roxanna said, smiling. “I definitely do.”
He looked at her with something akin to panic. As John covered Henrik’s crotch with his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Henrik gulped and squirmed in the chair. Now he was the centre of attention, he had lost the self-assured confidence he had displayed moments before.
Keeping his hand over Henrik’s groin, John moved up to graze a kiss on his lips. “I’m going to blow your mind,” he whispered. He unfastened the buttons on Henrik's shirt, kissing each area of exposed skin as he worked his way down. As he moved closer to his trouser button, Henrik tried to move.
“No, no. That isn’t happening.” John flicked the button out of the hole and unzipped him. When he stroked the long ridge in his boxers, Henrik’s face showed a mixture of panic and lust.
“It’s all right. You know how good I am at this.” John walked his fingers up the ridge until it lifted, almost forcing its way above the elastic. Henrik’s chest rose and fell rapidly, his cheeks stained red. He licked his lips and couldn’t take his eyes off John as he teased him.
Roxanna watched avidly, enjoying the flitting of emotions over Henrik’s face. As John peeled back his underwear, Henrik’s head fell back against the chair. He gritted his teeth, then gave up, gasping, when John finally took him into his mouth.
Roxanna couldn’t see exactly but it was obvious Henrik was enjoying what John was doing to him. His reactions were making her feel hot again, the way his lips dropped open, the wild panic in his eyes, the salacious acceptance.
It was clear John was an expert. Henrik grasped the chair arms, his knuckles white, his backside almost lifting off the seat at one point.
“I’ve been sucking cock since I was sixteen,” John said to Roxanna. “I know exactly how to…” He concentrated for a moment. It seemed as if Henrik was going to lose control completely, but John was able to pull back at the last moment, frustrating and delighting him. “I know exactly how to make this last.”
“Have you ever done it at work?” Roxanna wanted to know.
Henrik desperately shook his head. “No…”
“Do you remember the medical conference in Berlin?” John reached for the massage oil. Roxanna handed it to him and he put a tiny drop on his fingers, then massaged it into Henrik’s rigid flesh. Henrik rolled his eyes at the sensation. He seemed to have lost the power of speech.
“That was an all-nighter.” John dipped his head again. “I’ll give you all the gory details if you want. He really was insatiable back then.”
Henrik threaded his fingers through John’s hair and pushed him back down. “No. More. Talk,” he ground out, tightening his grip. John coughed and spluttered but didn’t draw back. He couldn’t, with Henrik holding him down, forcing him to swallow more than was safe or comfortable.
“You’re choking him,” Roxanna said. “Henrik…”
“He loves it.” Henrik’s voice was rougher than she had heard before.
“He can’t breathe!”
“That’s the whole point…” He could no longer speak. A grunt of pure pleasure ripped from his throat. His body jolted, the sounds he was making unlike anything Roxanna had heard before. His release seemed to last a long time, until he finally relinquished his grip on John’s skull and collapsed, gasping.
John fell to the floor, gasping for breath. His face was dripping with saliva and semen, which he wiped away.
He looked at her, eyes sparkling with mad joy. “Welcome to our world,” he whispered, kissing her. His lips tasted of Henrik's essence.
When the kiss ended, she pressed her forehead against his, enjoying the closeness. John had never been one for displays of affection, but he seemed softer somehow. It enabled her to trust him far more than she ever had previously.
There was movement behind him. She looked up to see Henrik doubled over, his head in his hands, his body shaking. Immediately, she was alarmed again.
“Henrik!” She wrapped her arms around him and pressed her face close to his. His eyes were wet with tears. “What’s wrong? John, what's the matter with him?”
John had put on one of the white dressing gowns. He covered her shoulders with the other and knelt down beside Henrik.
"Hey, it's okay." He rubbed Henrik's back and dropped a kiss on the top of his head.
“I’m sorry.” Henrik wiped the tears away and sniffed. “I don’t even know why…” He gestured helplessly.
“It’s all right,” John said calmly. “You’re just experiencing the downer after an endorphin high. It’ll pass. Come to the bed. Come on.” He took his hands and pulled him to his feet. Together, he and Roxanna undressed him and guided him between the cool cotton sheets.
Roxanna went to the bathroom, did what she needed to prepare for the night and came back out, grateful for the dressing gown John had given to her. The two men were already in bed, Henrik in the middle. John was curled around his body, his leg draped over Henrik’s thighs. Roxanna took her place on the other side of Henrik and turned out the light.
Henrik kissed John's head, and then Roxanna's. “Thank you,” he said in the dark. “Both of you. That was … unforgettable.”
"It certainly was." Roxanna kissed his chest, which was the nearest thing to her lips right then. She was glad he was back to normal. Henrik weeping after sex was a new experience, and it had unnerved her.
“Don’t expect that kind of performance every night,” John said. “I’m fucking exhausted now.”
Roxanna snorted with laughter. “You have no idea what a relief that is.”
Henrik cleared his throat. "I hope you don't snore, John."
"Roxanna does," John replied. "She farts too."
She reached over to thump him in the balls, making him yelp.
"Stop it, you two." Henrik stretched his long arms out to hold them both close. "I need to sleep. We're going on our first game drive tomorrow and I want to enjoy it without you two behaving like schoolchildren."
"Yes, boss," John murmured.
Roxanna sighed happily and closed her eyes. The movement of the train was soothing. In the excitement of the previous hour she hadn't even noticed it, but now it was like a cradle, rocking her and her companions to a deep, dreamless sleep.
Chapter 9: The Morning After
Henrik was never going to just accept the new dynamic, especially after a rude interruption in the middle of the night.
And he has the hangover from hell...
WHEN HENRIK WOKE, he assumed it was the headache which had disturbed him. He was pressed against the wooden panelling, Roxanna's bottom thrust out against his side. She had given him no room at all, and John was no better, sprawled on his front on Roxanna's other side, taking up half the bed.
Henrik was sure the room was spinning. He didn't want to dwell on how much alcohol he had imbibed the night before. At the time it seemed a good idea, to give him a bit of courage to get through the night.
Now he realised it hadn't been. His head was throbbing and his throat felt parched as if he had walked across Africa, not been transported in luxury whilst being force-fed springbok medallions.
The thought of food made his stomach heave. He staggered to the bathroom, reaching it just in time. There was no room for his long body to fold itself onto the floor but somehow, he managed it, hugging the toilet bowl whilst his body attempted to rid itself of the alcohol left in his system.
Eventually, voices outside roused him to his feet again. The train had stopped and someone was running, holding a torch. Their footsteps crunched loudly, the torchlight dazzling his eyes.
He remembered the painkillers he always kept in his washbag, and chugged three of those down with some mineral water from the fridge. People were moving about in the corridor outside their suite. Customs men, making far too much noise for four o'clock in the morning, but he couldn't make out any words in a language he understood.
He finished the water and climbed back into bed, shunting John out of the way so he could slide in beside him. John mumbled and turned towards him.
"Zimbabwe Customs. Go back to sleep." Henrik lay his sore head gratefully down on the pillow and closed his eyes. Gradually equilibrium returned, quelling the nauseous feeling to manageable levels.
Seconds later, a loud knock on their door set his head ringing again. It opened and the light went on.
“I apologise for the interruption,” the suite manager said, as they all sat up, blinking like moles. “Customs need to to check faces against passports. It's just routine." She took in the three people in the bed and her eyes widened in shock.
“What the fuck?” John covered his eyes. Roxanna gasped at the sight of four people in the room, two of them clutching semi-automatic weapons. She clutched the sheet closer around herself.
The lead official scowled at them. “There was concerned one of the passengers may be missing but..." He paused heavily, glaring at them. "It appears not. Your names?”
Henrik cleared his throat. “I’m Henrik Hanssen, and this is Roxanna Macmillan…”
“What about him?” The official pointed to John, huddled between them.
“Professor John Gaskell,” John said, and winced as a torch was shone unnecessarily in his face.
There was more consultation and the official took his time looking at each passport, glaring at each face and finally handing the passports back to the train manager.
“Professor,” John corrected him curtly.
“Professor Gaskell. I do not think you appreciate the inconvenience you have caused. Why are you not in your own room?”
“I …” John hesitated.
“Say something,” Henrik hissed at him.
John looked a little desperate. “I … had a bad dream.”
Roxanna was biting her lip, almost as if she were trying not to laugh. Henrik was annoyed with her. He didn't find their situation amusing at all.
The official’s scowl deepened, but then unexpectedly disappeared, replaced by a wide grin. He said something to his colleagues in his language, and they laughed knowingly.
“Don’t have nightmares, Professor,” he said, and they left. The train manager apologised, avoiding their eyes, and also left, gently shutting the door.
Roxanna let out the snort of laughter she had been trying to hold back. Henrik fell back onto the pillow, groaning.
“You had a bad dream? God in heavens, John, was that the best you could come up with? I thought you were the genius amongst us!”
“I was put on the spot!”
Roxanna laughed harder. “Oh! I have to pee.” She jumped out of bed and made her way to the bathroom.
John grinned down at him. "How are you feeling?"
"Terrible." Henrik massaged his forehead with the heels of his wrists. "God, how much did I drink last night?"
"That isn't the answer I was hoping for." John lay back down beside him.
"I just want to sleep." He was grateful when Roxanna turned out the light and climbed back into bed.
"Are you all right?"
He drew in a breath, biting back a snappy response. "Fine. Go to sleep."
In the dark, he lay awake for a long time. John's breathing eventually deepened, his body relaxing against Henrik's. It felt comforting to have his warmth there, but Henrik's thoughts were all over the place. The mocking grin on the Customs' official's face and the embarrassment of the train manager seemed to sum up all his concerns about their arrangement.
They were a joke. The amount of innuendo and sly smirks they would have to put up with in the future seemed intolerable right then.
But John felt so good lying next to him, and it was the 21st century, not the 1970's...
He fell into a deep, troubled sleep.
THE SECOND TIME he woke, it was with the breakfast gong. The arm around his waist was floppy and heavy, and for a moment he couldn't work out whose it was. Roxanna's or John's? He felt the fingers. Short and spatulate, with large palms.
He didn't want to be in bed any more. The headache was fading, replaced by an urgent pressing on his bladder. The amount of water he had drunk earlier that morning was making its presence felt.
The other two occupants of the bed snoozed on as he used the toilet and got dressed. He was still disturbed by what had happened earlier.
The room seemed stuffy. Desperate for fresh air, he pulled down the blind of the window nearest the bathroom, flooding the room with light. The train was moving slowly past an endless vista of short acacia bushes. They stretched for as far as his eye could see.
There was a lot of nothing in Africa, he thought. Nothing but wide open spaces, endless forests and bleak red desert, filled with scrubby, spiky plants, punctuated by clusters of low hills and isolated villages. He wondered how the people survived, what they did for medical care, how they managed to scratch a living from the red dust surrounding their rondels and mud huts. The answer was they probably didn't. Only in the larger towns were there schools and children with shoes on their feet. The land was so rich yet its people were so poor. It was such an alien place and the train was strangely claustrophobic, carrying pampered wealthy people through a land with so much suffering.
Gods, he needed a cigarette. Or a drink. Or something. Maybe he just needed to get off the train. They had been in Africa for nearly a week but he didn't feel as if he had experienced much of it yet. All he had done was eat, have sex and sleep, which was ironic when for the last two decades he had hardly experienced any of those things.
He was suffering from sensory overload. And how the hell could he face anyone else on the train now they all knew what he, Roxanna and John had been doing?
He groaned softly, closing his eyes against the bright sunlight. It was a mistake opening that damned blind. He just wanted to be in a dark, cool room. On his own.
"Henrik?" Roxanna was sitting up, looking concerned. "Are you all right? Don't say fine because I know you're not."
He gave her a dark look. "So why ask?"
"What's the matter?" She kept her voice low so as not to wake John. "Why don't we go for breakfast? John won't mind. We can talk in private then."
"In the dining car? I hardly think so."
His voice was cutting enough to rouse John, who sat up, scratching his head.
"Wha - what happened?" He came to his senses. "Henrik? Why are you dressed? Come back to bed."
"They've started to serve breakfast," Roxanna said.
"Forget breakfast!" Henrik snapped. "Doesn't it bother either of you what what happened earlier? We’re going to be the laughing stock of the whole damned train!”
Roxanna and John exchanged glances. John scratched his chest and yawned.
“I don’t see why,” he said. “It’s obvious we’re in a relationship…”
“Is it? Did you realise there’s a journalist on board? By the time we get back to England the whole hospital is going to know we… that we’re…”
“That woman works for African Country Life. I hardly think they’re going to publish a story about a three-in-a-bed sex romp,” John said helpfully.
“Christ!” Henrik jumped to his feet. “Is that all it was to you?"
"No, of course not but that's what you're worried about, isn't it? I'm saying you don't have to be."
"If the Board hear about this they’ll crucify me. God knows what they will say about you, Roxanna. Aren’t you concerned at all?”
“I think the Board have better things to worry about. Henrik…”
He picked up his phone. Maybe Sacha would be able to give him a clue what was happening...
Roxanna snatched it from his hand.
“Henrik, it’s two hours behind us in England. No one is going to thank you for calling them that early and frankly, what good would it do? You’re more likely to get people talking if you make a fuss. I doubt they even know about … anything and probably won’t. That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it?” She reminded him. “Last night we were all happy to explore possibilities. Why is it such a problem this morning?”
“Because everyone will know that a passenger was missing from the train, and they will draw their own conclusions as to where they spent the night. And the only people it could possibly be is us, because in your infinite wisdom, Roxanna, you told that obnoxious man van Kloof that our relationship was, and I quote ‘complicated.’” His tone had turned to pure acid.
“It isn’t Rox’s fault! Get a grip, man, for God’s sake.” John looked furious with him.
Roxanna was upset. Her eyes were moist but she took a deep breath and looked Henrik in the eye. “Maybe you should have expressed your concerns before we came back to the room last night. I would say Mr. van Kloof is far more of a gentleman than you are!”
“She has a point,” John said. “That was pretty unchivalrous of you.”
Henrik glared at him. “Since when have you known the definition of the word?” He stomped to the door. As he got there, the train lurched, flinging him into the wardrobe. The pain in his elbow made him curse. It was probably what he deserved but he had to get out of there.
He escaped to John's suite, where the room was dark and cool, the bed still turned down from the night before. He took more water from the fridge, drank some, then put the Do Not Disturb sign on the hook outside. Stripping naked, he slipped between the fresh cotton sheets and closed his eyes, relieved to be on his own.
Normal state of affairs resumed, he thought. For once, he was grateful.
ROXANNA WAS UPSET by Henrik's outburst, but she almost understood it. She and John agreed to let him have some space for a while, although her idea of "a while" was probably a little different from John's.
"My clothes are in my room," he protested, when she told him to leave Henrik alone.
"So go and get them then come back here right away. He needs space. You know what he's like."
To his credit, John did as he was told.
"He's asleep, or doing a pretty good impression of it," he remarked.
He showered whilst she took a bath, taking a photograph of the African scenery beyond her feet and the Victorian bath taps. She began to be aware of how she was feeling physically. A little sore inside. Tender around her private areas. The marks on her breasts and thighs were new as well. Who had made those? It was hard to remember. Things had become a little... wild the night before. It was no wonder they had forgotten about the Customs inspection. None of them had thought about the consequences of being caught. They were too wrapped up in their own private party.
In the time it had taken her to draw a bath, relax in it and get out again, John was still in the shower. She opened the door slightly and prodded him.
"Leave some water for everyone else."
"Yes boss." He turned off the controls and took the towel she held out to him. As she dried herself, she was aware of him watching her.
"Stop it. And put that away as well. I need breakfast." She motioned to his stiffening penis. "And don't say ... what you were about to say either. That wasn't the kind of breakfast I was thinking of." She pulled on a sundress, snatched the panties he was dangling from one finger and put those on as well.
It was peaceful in the suite without Henrik's shimmering repressed energy. She moisturised her skin whilst John dried himself and applied what she thought was sun cream to his legs, taking great care to massage it in. He seemed to take an inordinate amount of time doing it.
She looked closer at the bottle. "Is that ... tanning lotion?"
John snatched the bottle from her. "It's Factor 50."
"No it isn't! I recognise that smell anywhere."
"We're going on the game drive this afternoon and it's better than looking as if I have two pieces of white cotton hanging from my shorts. Don't judge. And stop laughing, Rox!" He disappeared into the bathroom to wash his hands.
As they left the suite, the train manager came up to them.
"I'd like to express my apologies for the incident this morning," she said formally. "And I want to reassure you we are used to dealing with unusual sleeping arrangements. You can be assured of the staff's absolute discretion."
Roxanna felt a huge rush of relief. "Thank you. We appreciate that."
"Also, as far as the other guests are concerned, the misunderstanding was due to an administrative error. I hope this can put your mind at rest. If there is anything else..."
"No, your apology is sufficient, thank you. Mr. Hanssen is resting in my suite but I'll convey your message. I know he'll appreciate it as well," John said.
"Thank you for being so gracious." The woman smiled professionally and left the room.
Roxanna let out a breath. "Good. Perhaps that will reassure Henrik somewhat."
"I'll go and tell him..."
She grabbed John's arm and pulled him in the opposite direction. "No, no you don't. Leave him in peace. He'll find us when he's ready."
HENRIK MISSED BREAKFAST, but he wasn't concerned about that. He had gone through the whole gamut of emotions, from guilt, mortification, anger, bleak introspection, though to panic, joy, sorrow, arousal and desperation. At times he gripped the sheets, unable to steady himself from the onslaught of feelings assaulting him.
Eventually though, his head stopped hurting. With the pain gone, he was able to collect his thoughts and attempt to them into neat boxes.
After a while, he realised that was impossible. Now he was tentatively testing the waters of his feelings for John and Roxanna, that was something not so easily boxed and justified.
An unconventional love...
But he wasn't conventional, was he? Roxanna was the straightest of all of them. She loved them both, enjoyed the sex and the companionship, and didn't see anything wrong in what they were doing.
She was his guiding light. John was the siren, leading him towards an uncertain future. He needed both, in order to feel that deep sense of fulfilment.
He lay his hands across his stomach, then moved them down. Instantly, he had a mental vision of Roxanna and John either side of him, pressing gentle kisses over his body, moving down as he tensed, waiting for that flicker of a knowing tongue...
Immediately, the need was urgent. As he stroked himself, various scenarios merged into one crystal clear vision. He needed them. He wanted them. Both of them. Everything they wanted to give, he wanted to take. Take it all...
A knock on the door interrupted his heated thoughts. As he opened his mouth to retort, Roxanna crept in.
"Henrik, sorry to disturb you..."
He sat up, pulling a pillow across his lap to hide his erection. "It's... fine."
She sat on the bed. "Are you feeling any better?"
He nodded. "I am, actually. What time is it?"
"That's what I came to tell you. Lunch will be served soon. I don't know if you want any but..."
Now she mentioned it, he realised he was hungry. "Thank you. I'll have a shower and join you. I'm ... sorry for being so self-indulgent, and for behaving in such an unseemly manner towards you. It was uncalled-for."
She squeezed his hand. "None of this is your fault. We all have to adjust in our own way."
As she said it, he felt a stab of guilt. If anyone was at fault, it was him. It was the thing that had been bothering him since they first left for Heathrow. "Roxanna... there's something I have to tell you. If I don't it will hang over all of us, though I fear you will be angry. And you have every right to be."
"What is it?" Her sweet face showed nothing but concern. He steeled himself against what he knew was coming.
"John being here, that was my doing. I instigated the whole thing. I had this vision of ... us. All three of us, and I figured the only way to find out would be to..." He looked at her face, but he couldn't tell what she was thinking. "When you asked me if I had cheated on you, I said no. That was a lie. I lied to you, Roxanna. Lied because I want ..."
She drew away from him. The slap across his face was hard and unexpected.
"That is for lying to me," she said, then kissed his lips, so tenderly he felt like weeping. "And that is for telling the truth. Finally! I already knew because John told me. I was just waiting for you to sort out whatever was going on in your head." She pulled him into her arms and they held each other tightly. "Three Musketeers," she whispered. "Never insult me by lying to me again, Henrik. That was your one free pass."
"I know." He held her like a drowning man to a life raft, feeling weak and trembly with relief.
"Join us for lunch. I want us all to be together." She removed herself from his embrace. "This is going to work, Henrik, but for now let's just enjoy ourselves. We're on holiday, remember?"
After she left, he felt calm. He presumed he felt at peace as well, although that was a state of mind normally unfamiliar to him. Looking in the mirror, he even looked slightly different. More relaxed, certainly.
And he hoped the others would approve of his wardrobe choice. Roxanna had bought him a casual white linen shirt and cream chinos after he refused to wear shorts, and he had to admit they felt comfortable. He had even rolled the trousers up slightly, and wore them with brown leather flip-flops. Although he would be in shoes for the game drive. He didn't care what either of them said. It would be foolhardy to risk being bitten by a scorpion for the sake of fashion.
He found them in the dining car, staring intently out of the window.
"Roxanna thinks she saw a lion," John said.
"I did see a lion," Roxanna said indignantly. "Just because you didn't see it you assume I was imagining it."
Henrik sat down, automatically straightening the cutlery on his place setting. John covered his hand with his own, stopping his obsessive fiddling.
"The manager has assured us of the staff's absolute discretion. The misunderstanding was due to an administrative error, if guests ask."
Henrik sighed in relief. "Good."
"As for wider implications, we'll deal with those, if they come up, when we get back home," John said firmly. "Are you feeling better?"
Another deep breath. "Yes. Much better." He smiled reassuringly at Roxanna. "I'm so hungry I could eat an elephant.”
THE TRAIN STOPPED in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed. Game viewers were lined up, waiting to take them deeper into the reserve, and the group were guarded by armed rangers, ready to ward off any predators lurking in the undergrowth.
Henrik stepped down from the train and stretched, enjoying being out in the open. Roxanna headed straight for the clusters of market traders who had gathered to take advantage of the arrival of the guests.
"I wonder who guards them?" John pondered.
"No one. They are used to dealing with large animals," a nearby member of train staff said. "The elephants sometimes go into the villages and cause havoc."
"What about lions?"
"Lions too," the man shrugged. "One killed a child two years ago. They walk in groups now."
"That's a bit different to dodging cars in Holby," John murmured.
Roxanna came back, swathed in a brightly-coloured wrap. "Have you two put sun screen and insect repellent on? In fact, that's directed at you, John. I know Henrik is sensible."
"Yes, mother." John saluted her.
"How come you're so brown already?" Henrik stared at John's legs.
John was saved from answering by the call to get on the game viewers.
"It came out of a bottle," Roxanna whispered in his ear as John clambered up into the vehicle.
Henrik couldn't help smiling, though he had to admit John looked every inch the intrepid explorer, wearing cargo shorts and a skimpy white tee-shirt that showed off his lithe body.
Roxanna nudged him, laughing. "Stop ogling, Henrik. His ego doesn't need to get any bigger."
Roxanna went in the middle, as she was the smallest. Henrik was grateful for the extra head height. He stretched a long arm across the back of the seat, resting his hand on John's shoulder.
John fossicked around in his rucksack, eventually producing the largest pair of binoculars Henrik had ever seen.
"Are you compensating for something?" Roxanna laughed.
"Size isn't everything," Henrik murmured.
"That's rich, coming from you," John retorted. "You're the size queen, Henrik, not me."
The woman in front of them stifled a giggle. Henrik felt his face burn. He wished John wouldn't say provocative things like that, especially in public.
"Behave yourself," he muttered, avoiding John's knowing smirk. It made him feel hot and cold with embarrassment and anticipation.
It was a relief when the ranger climbed into their vehicle and introduced himself. For the next two hours they would have something else to concentrate on.
Chapter 10: Arrival
cute fluff and a bit of angst, basically.
"Gods, not more food," Henrik grumbled as they arrived back in a large clearing. Three trestle tables had been set out, somewhat incongruously, with white tablecloths and huge domed platters. People were already thronged around them, holding glasses of wine and eating.
"We're having a four course dinner in two hours," he continued, looking at the array of food in dismay. "Am I the only one thinking this is just a bit obscene, given where we are?"
"Yes, but we've paid for it, and pretty handsomely," John said reasonably. He headed off towards the table with the booze and selected a cold beer. "One for you, Henrik? Rox?"
They took their drinks and stood away from the crowd. The clearing was sheltered by tall blue gum trees in the middle of swaying grass. They stood on the edge and watched the sun go down in a brilliant show of fiery hues.
"There could be a lion out there, watching us," Rox said. "Pity we didn't see any on the drive."
"We saw elephants, and every kind of antelope known to man," John replied. "It's luck, as the ranger said. We're not in a zoo."
"Well, we are, but we're the ones in cages," Henrik said. He motioned to the game viewers. "We're not allowed to roam freely, are we?"
John sadly shook his head. "It's like being on holiday with Nietzsche."
"I thought it was wonderful, never knowing what you're going to see. It's an adventure." Roxanna took photographs of the sunset. "Oh, that's perfect," she exclaimed. "Now I want one of you two before it gets too dark."
"If you insist." Henrik stood stiffly beside John.
"For Heaven's sake, relax, Henrik! You look like a Victorian patriarch."
Henrik sighed and draped his arm around John's back, his hand resting on his shoulder. "Is that better?"
The unexpected gesture delighted John. He put his arm around Henrik's waist and held him close. He sensed him tense slightly, then relax against him. Roxanna smiled and took the picture.
"Now let's try and do a selfie."
"I can take a photo if you want." Eric van Kloof had approached them. "The three of you together, right? Henrik, you go in the middle as you're the tall bastard."
They gathered together, Henrik's arms around their shoulders, Roxanna turned into Henrik's body to get a more flattering angle. John did the same on the other side.
Van Kloof took a couple of photos and handed the camera back to Roxanna. "There you go. Whatever you've got going on between you lot, good luck to you. Nice to see people so happy." He nodded briefly and left before they could comment.
Storm clouds were rolling in, obliterating the sun. John lifted his face to the sky and felt the first drops of rain on his skin. The heat had been extreme all day, triggering short, sharp showers throughout their drive, but the coolness was a blessed relief.
Henrik had wandered to the edge of the grass, also revelling in the feel of refreshing rain. He spread out his long arms as if to embrace the sky as the shower strengthened, soaking his white linen shirt so it was practically transparent.
All around them, people were rushing back to the game viewers, eager to get back to the train, but they stayed and watched Henrik in whatever private thoughts he was having right then.
"What's he doing?" Roxanna asked.
"Looking incredible." Watching him, John felt a rush of emotion. He was twenty-two again, fighting unbearable hunger for the boy he couldn't have. Somewhere along the line, that had changed and he still couldn't believe it. He felt a thickness in his throat as he swallowed down strange, unbidden tears.
"John?" Rox put her arm around him, her face showing concern. "What is it? What's wrong?"
He shook his head. "Nothing. Just..." He couldn't trust himself to speak. Instead he held Roxanna, drawing strength from her loving arms.
"He's very lucky, to have someone feel that way about him," she whispered. "I know David felt that way about me. He was the love of my life and always will be."
He understood what she was saying, and what she wasn't saying out loud. He kissed the top of her head and held her closer.
Henrik had completed his silent worship of the rain and was walking back towards them, as graceful as a lion, his wet shirt clinging to his skin. As John watched him, his thoughts turned heated again. He wanted to get him alone, to consummate their bond, to strip away his wet clothes and claim that man in a way he hadn't been able to so far.
It was time.
When Henrik noticed John watching him, he seemed to sense it as well. They nodded in mutual understanding. An electric thrill darted through John like lightning.
"Come on, we need to get back and dry off properly," Roxanna said, misinterpreting the shiver shooting through his body.
As they arrived back at the train, they noticed the tall electric pylons were festooned with baboons, seeking refuge from hungry predators overnight. Night seemed to come quickly, and by the time they were dressing for dinner, it was dark.
They were all looking forward to reaching their destination, but that last night was dedicated to overindulgence and debauchery, as John put it. They all toasted to the coming evening and all it had in store.
After the meal there were cocktails at the bar in the observation lounge. The sky was too cloudy for star spotting, but they heard an angry elephant trumpeting as the train went past, and it seemed they were heading deeper into the wilds of Africa.
"I'm stuffed," Roxanna sighed, as they finished their last Cosmopolitans. "Somewhat relieved that's the last four course meal we'll be having for a while."
"You didn't have to eat it." From Henrik.
"No, but it's our last night on the train and we did say this would be an evening of over-indulgence and debauchery," John pointed out.
"You said that. I didn't," Henrik countered.
"So why do you look like a python whose swallowed a warthog?" John reached over to pat Henrik's slightly protruding stomach. "And you, Roxanna..."
"Be careful. Your next words could be your last," she warned.
"You look like a lioness after a satisfying kill."
She shrugged. "I'll take that. I think I've put on ten pounds in the last four days."
"More curves for us to grab," John said. With his other hand he pinched her thigh. She swatted him away.
"You're just a smug little shit with a gallingly high metabolism," Henrik murmured.
Roxanna gasped. "Henrik swore! This is the effect you have on us, John."
"He always has that effect on me." Henrik smiled at him.
Roxanna noticed the dynamic between Henrik and John had become a lot warmer. Henrik was more demonstrative, and John responded to it like a cat having its head scratched.
"Time for one last cocktail, I think," John said. "Rox?"
Henrik drained his drink. "Not for me. I'll see you back in the room." He headed back through the bar.
Half an hour later they also left the bar, before Roxanna was too tired to think about debauchery of any kind. In the royal suite, Henrik had stripped down to his boxers and was lying across the bed on his front, fast asleep.
"So much for debauchery," John murmured. "The poor sod must be done in after today."
"I must admit, after that last cocktail I feel the same." Roxanna yawned widely, proving her point. "Are you sleeping here tonight?"
"Do you want me to?" John looked at her in that serious way he had when something was troubling him.
She took his hand. "Yes, of course. Why would you think otherwise?"
John glanced at Henrik. "He's struggling with this concept, I think."
"Adjusting," Roxanna said firmly. "It's to be expected. He's been on his own for so long. You're a different animal to him. You adapt far easier." She reached round to unzip her dress. The gentle movement of the train made them sway together. John caught and held her in his arms.
"You're a very special woman, Rox. David was lucky."
"We both were." She stepped away from his embrace so she could continue undressing. "I need to take my makeup off. See if you can get Henrik into bed without disturbing him."
When she came out of the bathroom, John had undressed, and had managed to shunt Henrik to one side, covering him with the sheets. As she watched, Henrik reached out his hand across the bed, still mostly asleep, and mumbled, "John..."
"I'm here." John took his hand, lying with him. Henrik shifted closer, wrapping his arm around his waist.
That confirmed to Roxanna everything she knew already. John beckoned to her and she lay beside him, turning out the light.
"David was the love of my life," she said quietly.
"I know, Rox. What's wrong?"
She hesitated before replying. "You're the love of Henrik's. He can't be without you. You can't be without each other. Do you really want me to be part of this?"
He kissed her shoulder, pulling her closer to him. "How can you say that? Don't you feel loved?"
"Oh God, yes!" She wriggled round to face him. Although they couldn't see each other in the dark, it was good to sense his lips close to hers. "I feel cherished. It's wonderful, really it is. But I'm a realist, John. I know what deep, profound love for another person feels like and this is lust and fun and friendship and love of a sorts, but not the love you and Henrik have. I don't want to get in the way..."
"Stop it." He kissed her. "Don't, Rox, please. I want to do as you first suggested and explore all the possibilities . It's too early to analyse what is happening to us. We need to just enjoy it."
"And I am, John. I really am. I just ... I'm still confused, and delighted and wary and all of those things."
"Of course. I understand." He pressed his lips against hers again. "Try to rest."
His words had reassured her somewhat. She felt much calmer as she drifted off to sleep.
THE NEXT MORNING, a sense of anticipation ran through the whole train as they neared the Falls. After a final leisurely breakfast, they packed up their belongings and went to the observation car. During the night, the locomotive had been moved to the front for the extra pull up the hill, curtailing their view somewhat. There were glimpses of forest but no tell-tale vapour or any other signs they might be getting close.
"I have to say I won't be sorry to leave this train," Henrik said. "It's been a delight but I desperately need some exercise."
"We'll need to have more sex then," John said, quietly so only they could hear him.
Eventually, plumes of vapour rising from behind the trees signalled their imminent arrival. They stood together, Henrik in the middle, John and Roxanna either side, their arms around him, as the train pulled into the station.
"What's that noise?" Roxanna asked.
"It's singing. Look." Henrik pointed out of the window.
A group of young men in traditional dress were singing to welcome them in. Their harmonies were so good, it sent a chill down Roxanna's spine.
"I wonder what they're singing about," she remarked.
"They're professional musicians welcoming us," one of the staff said. "They want us to buy their CD as well."
"It's all about the money in Zim," Eric Van Kloof said ironically.
"Of course it is. People don't have any here," his companion countered sharply.
The train squealed to a halt, and at once the porters began unloading the baggage. It was to be put in the foyer of the Victorian Falls Hotel, ready for their onward journey.
A red carpet ran between two picket fences, and led straight into the manicured forecourt of the old Colonial hotel. As Roxanna, Henrik and John alighted from the train, the heat and bright sun and African singing assaulted their senses. Porters lined the carpet to bid them farewell, and they were steered to the hotel's foyer to wait for their suitcases.
The heat was blistering. A Victorian thermometer showed the temperature to be 40 degrees.
"I don't think we'll be walking to the Falls this afternoon," Roxanna said. "You can count me out anyway. I'm heading for the pool."
"Sounds like a plan. I might join you once I've checked out the gym." John made a beeline for his suitcase as it arrived. The others soon followed, and together they checked into the hotel.
Earlier that week they had organised a suite with two rooms attached, to allow for their new situation. As they were escorted to their sleeping quarters they took in the grand old building, with the marble pillars and high ceilings. It looked more like a stately home than a hotel.
"The Victorians didn't do things by halves, did they?" John said as he looked around him.
The suite overlooked the gorge and the bridge spanning the Zambezi. Henrik exclaimed at the view, opening the doors onto the balcony.
"How much did this room cost again?"
"That doesn't matter, does it?" Roxanna replied crisply. "We're here and we're enjoying ourselves."
John paid the porter and the man left. He went through the door into his room.
"Plenty of space if we decide we hate each other," he called.
The beds in both rooms were at least seven feet across, the bathrooms equally enormous with a glass-enclosed double shower with two huge monsoon heads.
"Thank God, a decently sized shower." Henrik looked around him and nodded. "Very acceptable."
"Acceptable? I think our girl has done us proud." John pulled Roxanna against him and kissed her cheek. "Now what? Lunch?"
"You're not serious? We've just had breakfast!" Henrik wandered out onto the balcony again. "First thing I'm going to do is have a shower. A proper one."
Roxanna had found her bikini and sarong. Within two minutes she had changed into them. "I'm heading to the pool with my book. We can eat a bit later. You two amuse yourselves until then." She winked at them, put on her sunglasses and left the room.
Henrik and John looked at each other.
"I'm having a shower." Henrik looked slightly embarrassed.
"You just said that," John smiled.
"I don't suppose ... you want to join me?"
John's smile widened. "Absolutely."
Chapter 11: Slippery When Wet
I asked the question "should I write the shower scene," and was answered unequivocally. YES, YES, YES!!!
So here it is.
Gratuitous shower time filth coming up. This is an explicit M/M scene. If this isn't for you, don't worry, I've deliberately left out any plot development for people who would rather skip it.
And for anyone wondering when the next poly scene is coming up, it's in the next chapter!
I hope you enjoy it :D
“I’ll … get ready then.”
Henrik turned away, not understanding why he felt so awkward, especially after the last few days. He headed for the bathroom and instinctively shut the door. It was something he always did, not being one of those men who could be brazen about his bathroom habits.
He undressed, carefully folding his clothes and placing them on the large marble countertop, putting his glasses on top. He avoided his reflection in the mirror, unwilling to glimpse his tall, skinny body. He didn't like the way he looked and felt more comfortable with clothes on, especially after John's affectionate comment about his stomach.
Feeling a little trembly, he stepped into the shower, taking a moment to familiarise himself with the controls. When he turned the dial, a deluge of cold water fell on his head and he swore inwardly. The last thing he needed was a cold shower right then.
A little more fiddling and the temperature was pleasantly warm, the deluge reduced to a gentle rainfall. He squeezed out some Molton Brown shampoo and began to wash his hair, wondering if John would appear or decide to leave him to it. Right then, both options were terrifying.
The noise of the water meant he did not hear when John entered the room. The first indication was a lean, muscular arm curling around his waist, and a warm body pressed against his back. Henrik sighed deeply and relaxed.
Yes, this is right. I really do want this.
John moved to face him and pulled him into a close embrace. For a moment they just held each other close, letting the water and leftover bubbles from the shampoo sluice over them.
"You don't suppose Roxanna minds us... doing this?" Henrik asked tentatively.
John looked up at him. "You heard what she said. Not that we need it but she gave us her blessing. Her permission, if you want to look at it like that. It's exactly the same as one of us being with her."
Henrik moved against John's warm body, angled and hard where Roxanna's was curvy and soft. Each were equally as alluring.
"Not quite the same," he murmured, feeling John's firm glute muscles tense and relax against his touch.
"No. Not quite." John's hands were on his waist, sliding down to his hips, his thumbs stroking jutting bone. "Roxanna has an amazing body, and so do you."
"Well, I..." Henrik's denial was stalled by a firm kiss. He watched hungrily as John broke free of his arms and picked up the shampoo.
"Would you do the honours?"
"Of course." Henrik washed John's hair as the man moved his head like a cat in paroxysms of pleasure. When he was done, John's hair was dark and slicked straight back, emphasising his high cheekbones and sultry expression. He smiled at Henrik's frank appreciation and reached for the shower gel.
"Now continue." He squeezed some shower gel onto Henrik’s outstretched palm.
Henrik washed him carefully, starting with his shoulders and outstretched arms, then moving down to his chest and round to his back. He studiously avoided any other areas, unsure whether that would be too forward so early in proceedings. He felt like such a novice whilst John oozed self-confidence and experience.
His chest tightened as he watched foamy rivulets of water travel down John's back, pooling just above his buttocks before trickling between them. He swallowed, visually drinking him in when John turned, giving him an equally delicious view. His body was mostly smooth, his genital area devoid of hair. Henrik had a sudden urge to feel the supple heft of John's balls and test their weight. Hell, he wanted to bury his face in them. Possibly even taste them...
No. He wasn't ready for that. He felt a flush rising on his face at the very thought. Quickly he raised his gaze and saw John watching him.
"It's okay to look." That sexy smile was back. He squirted more gel onto Henrik’s hands and grasped his wrists, moving his hands over his body. "I’ll guide you.” His voice caught as Henrik’s slippery fingers grazed his small brown nipples. “God, yes, they’re really filthy.”
“You’re just filthy all over,” Henrik muttered. He knew how super-sensitive John's nipples were, and it was gratifying to hear his breath hitch and a faint flush raise on his high cheekbones. After a moment, John moved his hands slowly down his chest to his stomach, then further down to his groin.
“Touch me,” he whispered. "Feel me." He curved Henrik's hand around his balls and left it there. "See? I don't bite."
Henrik swallowed hard, gently palpating them, wondering at their silky texture and fullness, then moved up to his shaft, now solidly erect. He flexed his fingers and and delicately grasped him. This was something he hadn't really done before. Not skin to skin. It was shocking how hot the member felt, and how hard, pulsing with life. At first he was careful, almost as if giving him a medical examination.
"It won't break," John said, covering Henrik's hand and wrapping his fingers fully around the thick organ. "Touch me the same way you touch yourself. You do touch yourself, don't you, Henrik?"
"Sometimes." Henrik kept his voice steady with an effort. Having John moving against him, his eyes closed, lips parted in silent gasps of pleasure, was unbearably stimulating. He fondled him until his fingers became slick with pre-seminal fluid, then began gliding his hand slowly up and down, the way he did to himself sometimes when he was in bed at night, thinking of scenarios with John and Roxanna and no wretched inhibitions...
John practically purred, his head rolling back against Henrik's shoulder. He turned his face into his neck and gave him a gentle nip, then shivered and stepped back.
“That’s it. That’s… good.” He moved Henrik's hand away.
"Nothing. I was ... just about to lose it, that's all. Now it’s your turn.” As he spoke, he positioned Henrik by the glass shower wall and kicked his legs apart, placing his hands on the top of the shower enclosure, almost as if he were about to search and arrest him.
That action was enough to make Henrik weak with need. John knew how to make the simplest of actions full of suggestion and promise.
"You look incredible like that." He gave Henrik's backside a light slap. "Hold on."
Henrik felt very vulnerable as John applied more fragrant shower gel and trailed his fingers over his body, pattering against his skin. He gripped the top of the glass enclosure, biting his lip to stop himself moaning as John reached round and with a slippery hand began to gently squeeze him, subtle movements to keep the blood pumping into that engorged part of himself.
When had he become a slave to such a ridiculous organ, he thought wonderingly, as each throb threatened to bring him to his knees. Meanwhile, John's other hand was just as busy, working his fingers into intimate places he hadn’t explored since...
Oh gods, Berlin.* The bottle of Laphroaig, the stolen kisses, John pushing him on the bed and telling him he was going to give him something he would never forget.
Then that hot tongue, kissing and licking all the way down his spine, spreading him apart, feasting on him ... Christ, that feeling of just being at the mercy of someone stronger, harder, more capable, whispering like a siren as he explored every intimate part of Henrik's body, making him weep with joy. That feeling of coming home, of everything making sense, of his vision fading to grey as he surrendered every part of himself to a man he had wanted for years...
And then, the loss...
No, no, no, don't think of that. Think of the gain. Think of what you have now. Right now. John, Roxanna, a smorgasbord of pleasure just there for the taking....
He could smell menthol, faint but unmistakable, jolting him out of his memories.
"You didn't think I'd come here without lube, did you?" John's voice teased him.
"How can you...do that?" He stuttered, the practicalities immediately taking him out of his lascivious sub-space.
An indulgent laugh. "I know what you want, but that will have to wait. I do have other ways to fuck you."
"What ... oh!" Henrik's body sagged slightly as he felt two well-lubricated fingers working their way inside him. At the same time, John's other hand wrapped slickly round his shaft. He clung to the shower enclosure, his body weakening against the invasion. Escape was impossible, every movement either impaling him or pushing him hard against John's hand.
“Please,” he hissed, though he wasn’t sure what he was pleading for. He widened his stance, back arching towards the glass as John slowly and deeply fucked him with his fingers. As he grazed Henrik’s prostate, a sound between a gasp and a gargle escaped his lips. It was too much sensation. He gripped the shower enclosure as if he were hanging onto a precipice.
“Oh Christ,” He choked out. “John…”
“You want me to stop? You want me to continue? What do you want, Henrik? I’ll do anything. You know that. All you have to do is say.” His voice was silken, seducing him, making him hungry for something. Anything....
“I don’t …” Henrik's body rocked against the glass, his eyes hooded as John commenced his relentless invasion of his body. With his other hand he was equally merciless, slippery fingers against hot, swollen flesh, working in unison. The pad of John's thumb lightly grazed the underside, right where he was most sensitive, making him utter a sound midway between a cry and gulp.
He was too close, and he didn't want it to end just yet. He broke away and turned around, pulling John into his arms, the friction of their slicked-up bodies building as their lips met in a hot, deep kiss. After a moment he buried his fingers in John's hair and forced him to look at him.
"Get on your knees." He used his tight, angry Boardroom voice, the one he knew John would never disobey.
John's vivid blue eyes were luminous, his smile crooked. "Yes, sir."
He allowed himself to be forced down to the floor. Henrik leaned back against the glass, spreading his feet to brace himself as John applied a copious amount of lubricant to his fingers. He slipped the coated hand between his legs, seeing out his entrance, gently pressing against it whilst at the same time licking a sizzling trail around his balls, before taking him in his hot mouth and …
“Gods,” Henrik grunted, feeling John’s tongue work around his shaft. “Oh…!” His body rocked and he steadied himself against the glass. John knelt before him as if in worship, lavishing attention on his cock. Henrik tugged on John's hair, forcing him to look up at him. His eyes were misted and he smiled slightly before returning to his task, every sensuous lick playing havoc with Henrik's grip on reality.
He grabbed John's hair with both hands, forcing him to take more, and the resulting moan reverberated through him. John's throat relaxed, taking Henrik's cock up to the hilt, his silken tongue fluttering against his skin. The sly movement made Henrik thrust his hips forward. He felt John's fingers digging into his backside, pushing him harder against him, forcing himself to swallow as much as he could take without blacking out.
It was too much. Henrik's body jerked, totally in thrall to John's talented mouth. His moan was animalistic as he came, shooting deep down John's throat. He swallowed instinctively, the reflex actions prolonging Henrik's orgasm until he could no longer stand. He pushed John away and collapsed on the shower floor to his knees, chest heaving as the orgasmic waves subsided, leaving him a sobbing, trembling mess. John was beside him, coughing and gasping for breath. He rolled over onto his back, still hard, his eyes feverish.
Before Henrik could move, John stood up and approached him. When Henrik tried to stand, he pushed him back down.
"Stay there. Look at me." His voice was as cold as Henrik's had been minutes earlier, and hoarse from the punishment his throat had just received. He stood over him, wiping his mouth, his other hand lewdly stroking himself.
Still weak, Henrik knelt on the floor, watching as John leaned against the glass behind him, and continued his rhythmic stroking. Their eyes locked on each other, and within seconds an ecstatic expression came over John's face as he climaxed, sending hot gouts of semen over Henrik's face and hair. Henrik let himself be anointed, his gaze never leaving John's face as the last vestiges of his orgasm placed out. As he licked his lips, tasting warm salt, John shuddered and collapsed to his hands and knees.
"Fuck, that was hot," he breathed. He licked from Henrik's jaw to cheekbone, then kissed him deeply, sharing the taste of his release. "Holy shit!"
They caught their breath, sitting in the shower water as it drained away.
"That was almost as intense as actually fucking you," John said, after a few moments.
Henrik had recovered his composure somewhat. He turned off the shower and gave him a patient look. "Must you keep using that word?"
John laughed softly, resting his head against Henrik's shoulder. "You're an incredibly sweet man. What do you think we've just being doing?"
"I... making love?" No, that didn't seem right either, nor did any other ghastly euphemisms.
John shifted Henrik's legs and sat on them, straddling him. "Here's how it goes, for me anyway. Love-making is wine, a good meal, endless foreplay, peeling clothes away and finally consummating the evening to reenforce the bond we have to Roxanna and each other."
"That sounds reasonable. And ...the other?"
"Fucking? Try saying it. I think you might like it." His smile was teasing.
Henrik wasn't going to give in. "Yes... that."
Another slow kiss, so deep that Henrik felt himself stirring again. John moved on Henrik's lap, seeking out his growing erection.
"That was a taster of what I want to do to you when we have more time alone, because I know you want it. You're desperate for my cock inside you, aren't you, Henrik? Fingers are good. For some it's enough but not for you. I know I'm right because you're hard again barely five minutes after I made you blow the first time."
Henrik didn't reply. He didn't really have to. John knew what he liked, just as Roxanna knew. He gave a little shiver, imagining them in bed that night. All of them, touching, exploring. Roxanna's soft curves and hard, pink nipples in his mouth, John spreading him open and lavishly licking him with that wicked tongue...
"Oh, hello." John shifted, looking down to see Henrik's cock standing proud again. "Something's definitely woken up."
"I was thinking about tonight." Henrik went pink, cursing his hyperactive member.
John was still ogling it. "Well, tempting as it is, I think we've left Rox alone long enough. Time for a cold shower." He reached for the controls again but Henrik stopped him.
"We shouldn't waste water. There's a drought on."
"You're not serious? You have spunk in your hair."
Henrik flinched at the crude word. "Right. I hadn't thought of that."
John flipped the controls, dousing them with warm water again. His smile was supremely smug. "You'll get used to it."
FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER, they were dressed in swimming trunks and shirts, making their way down to the pool area. John had chosen to wear a sensible blue pair of loose shorts, but Henrik felt rather self-conscious in the snug black trunks Roxanna had bought for him.
"Stop fidgeting," John said, as he tugged on the legs to loosen them yet again. "You look fine. More than fine, actually. Only someone with your height and build would get away with them. You or Daniel Craig, anyway."
"That isn't helping." Henrik glanced down. To him it looked as if he had a hamster smuggled down there. He was glad of the long linen shirt that came just above his pale legs. It would be a relief to get to the pool and read his book.
"Oh fuck," John muttered under his breath. "Looks like Rox has company."
They saw Roxanna on a large round sunbed, which she had presumably chosen so the three of them could lie on it. And sitting next to her was one large Afrikaaner, who had made himself very comfortable.
Henrik assessed the situation and saw an even larger sunbed under a cool marble pavilion, unoccupied. Even better, it was in the shade.
He nudged John and motioned to the pavilion. "Roxanna is more than capable of looking after herself but I believe this is now the time for us to step in."
"I couldn't agree more."
"And if a certain diamond trader were to end up in the pool, that would be a bonus."
"I like your thinking," John replied.
As one, they set a determined pace towards the pool.
I haven't actually written this chapter yet (working on it.) In The Gaskell Diaries, John meets Henrik for the first time since their falling out in their final university year. They are both at a medical conference in Berlin and decide to have a meal together to clear the air. A bottle of single malt later, and Henrik decides to invite John to his hotel room. Just to continue their conversation, of course...
Chapter 12: Treading Water
Truths come out, and we say adios to Eric Van Kloof.
Roxanna felt liberated as she walked down to the pool, her sarong fluttering around her increasingly brown legs. She was on holiday! Looking and feeling good, the cares of Holby far behind her. She had checked her emails that morning and hadn't found anything that needed urgent attention, so she could afford to relax, have a cocktail and enjoy her book until Henrik and John joined her.
She was reading a dark romance. Losing herself in the murky world of the Zeta Cartel, with hot sex and violence on every page, was her guilty pleasure. No doubt a psychologist would have fun unpicking that.
Not that she cared. It was on her e-reader so no one could see what she was reading anyway.
She chose a large round sunbed, half-covered with a canopy, figuring there would be enough room for Henrik and John as well. The canopy provided enough shade for Henrik, but allowed John to sprawl out and work on his tan whilst she could read in peace.
As she was settling herself, a waiter came over to ask if she would like a drink. She ordered a pina colada and sighed with contentment, wondering what the men would be up to right then.
She had a fairly good idea, having seen John's face when Henrik said he was going to shower. Full of naked hope and lust. The man was an open book in so many ways, especially when it came to sex. He needed it like a desert needed rain.
Her cocktail duly arrived, and for a while she immersed herself in the seedy underworld of drug-smuggling and hot sexual conquests. She shifted deeper under the canopy to stop herself warming up too much.
"Roxy!" The accent was a dead giveaway. The sun was blocked by a large figure, grinning down at her. "I didn't realise you were staying here. What a great coincidence!" Eric Van Kloof plumped himself down on the sunbed and put his hand on her knee.
"Please remove your hand, Mr. Van Kloof," she said sternly, glaring at him over the top of her sunglasses.
He snatched his hand away as if she had scalded it. "You're on your own." He looked around, and somewhat pointedly added, "again."
"I happen to like being on my own." She remembered what John had done to him before. "John's behaviour the other day..."
He dismissed her words with a wave. "Don't apologise. If someone was moving in on my woman I'd have something to say about it."
She started to say she wasn't anyone's woman, but he carried on.
"Yeah, we're pretty protective around our females. Just like lions," he added with a wink. "Rawwrrr."
It was hard not to smile. "With that in mind, why are you still talking to me?"
He settled himself back on the bed next to her, his large hairy stomach overhanging small red budgie-smugglers. "'Cos I'm a rival lion, claiming territory while the other lions are busy. Where are Stringfellow and Small Fry? They should be here, taking care of business."
"At it like rabbits, I should think. They'll be along soon." She noted with some satisfaction his mouth had dropped open. "Well, that's what you expected me to say, isn't it?"
"Well, I ... Jeez, I can't get you Brits at all."
"Henrik is Swedish." She said it as if that explained everything.
He nodded. "Okay."
"It's complicated," she added, then lowered her voice to a whisper. "And nothing to do with you, Mr. Van Kloof."
"Right." He nodded again. "But can I hang out here until they arrive, and pretend you're my girl?"
She laughed then. "I don't mind. Just don't take liberties."
He winced as he made himself more comfortable. "Heartburn. All this rich food." He popped an indigestion tablet in his mouth and ordered another cocktail. They sat, talking companionably. She sensed he was somewhat lonely, having two broken marriages and five children, three of which weren't talking to him.
"Can't keep my eye off the ladies," he said ruefully. "You're a sexy one, too."
"Stop it," she warned. "Behave yourself or I'll send you away."
Two shadows appeared, followed by Henrik and John. They didn't look very impressed to see the interloper.
"Mr. Van Kloof, what a pleasant surprise." From Henrik's clipped tones, it was clear he meant quite the opposite. "I trust you're not bothering Roxanna again?"
"I'm sure he was just leaving," John said, his piercing gaze fixed on Van Kloof.
Van Kloof took the hint. "Just entertaining your lady while you boys were ... doing whatever you were doing." He winked at them.
John took the thick book Henrik was holding, his fingers tensed in readiness. "Thank you. Now jog on. The bar's that way." He tossed his head towards the hotel.
"Jumped up little shit," Van Kloof muttered.
John gave him a hard shove with the book, right in the middle of his belly.
"Oooofff!" Van Kloof lost balance, arms windmilling. He stepped back, stumbling over Henrik's conveniently placed foot and toppled into the pool. The resulting splash splattered them with water.
"Whoops," Henrik murmured, allowing himself a small smile.
John took Roxanna's hand and pulled her to her feet. "I have somewhere better for us to sit. Come on."
Van Kloof began to carve lengths up and down the pool, trying to save face, his arms lifting and falling in a crawl, legs pushing powerfully through the water. It was a show of strength and prowess, but they weren't watching.
"Poor Eric. I think he's just a bit lonely," Roxanna said as John led them to an even larger bed under a marble pavilion. It was cool and dark, the bed covered in scatter cushions.
Henrik crawled onto the bed and stretched out. He took his book back from John and showed them the title. It was A Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela. "Rather appropriate, don't you think?"
"You're both horrible." Roxanna settled back against Henrik to carry on reading. He relaxed against her and opened his book.
John went over to the bar. When he was out of earshot, she nudged Henrik. "You okay?"
"Mmm hmm." Henrik turned over a page.
"Did you have a nice time earlier?"
"It was very agreeable." Henrik continued reading.
She bit back a giggle. "I can well imagine."
"So you don't mind?"
She snuggled closer. "Not at all. That is the point of an open relationship between the three of us." She walked her fingers up his leg and rested her hand on the bulge in his trunks, giving it a tiny squeeze. "You look very nice in these."
"They're a size too small."
"I know. I bet John likes them too." She felt him swell in her palm. He moved her hand away.
"That's the last thing I need right now."
"Why? No one can see us under here. It's dark and cool and everyone else is round the pool." She covered his lap with her sarong and slipped her hand underneath it.
"Roxanna..." His voice caught. She could feel his erection grow stronger. "This is most unfair of you."
"I know. It's fun, isn't it?"
She continued to fondle him as John came back.
"I've organised drinks and nibbles. When are we eating tonight? Didn't you say something about a ball?" He asked, throwing himself down next to Roxanna.
She removed her hand from Henrik's lap. "Actually, there's a change of plan. I've booked dinner at a boma. We're being taken there at 6.30. Then tomorrow, we have to be up early for a cruise on the Zambezi, so you're not allowed to drink too much tonight."
John grimaced. "How early?"
"Six o'clock. We'll see hippos and all kinds of bird life. You can use those humungous binoculars again."
"Sounds splendid," Henrik said, at the same time as John groaned, "oh god... six o'clock! Rox, you evil woman."
"We're here to see Africa," she said firmly. "Not rub shoulders with a lot of wealthy white people."
"There's nothing wrong with that," John protested.
"No, but I want to see hippos." Her tone brooked no protest.
"There's plenty of those sitting by the pool," John muttered, earning himself a slap round the head.
"Stop it. You don't have to come, but it seems stupid to travel all this way and not really see anything."
"She has a point," Henrik said. "And afterwards we will walk to the Falls. It isn't far at all."
"That's far too energetic for me. I didn't know you were such an early riser, Henrik."
"You are as well, John," Roxanna said. "Up and ready for anything, usually." She winked at him.
A waiter came over with a trolley. On the trunk at the end of the mattress he placed a large domed platter, as well as a tiered stand with biltong, dried fruit and cashews. He gave them each large round goblets of pink gin, garnished with rose petals and a pink sugar-encrusted rim.
"Fantastic. We're going to be pickled by this evening." Henrik took a sip. "It's rather good, though."
"Quite. So stop complaining." John crawled over the bed to lift the dome off the platter. There was an array of prepared fresh exotic fruit, cold meat and morsels of cheese. He rolled a piece of cheese in a circle of provolone and topped it with a melon slice, then crawled back to Roxanna. "Eat."
"If you insist." She let him feed her. As she ate, he put the food on the bed so they could all reach it, and lounged back amongst the pillows.
For a while they relaxed, Roxanna and Henrik reading, John checking his phone and answering emails. He huffed a laugh at one point, and showed Roxanna. It was a text from Lana.
Hey big brother. Did you get laid yet?
That would be telling, he texted back.
Moments later he received another text. That's a yes then. Glad you're having a great time. Love you xx
He texted back with emojis and kisses, then put the phone away.
"It must be lovely having her back in your life," Roxanna said. "Though having family again must feel strange."
"She doesn't feel like family yet. It's only been six months so I'm taking things slowly."
"She obviously cares about you," she ventured.
"She's very... effusive. I just hope she isn't clinging on to me to help her cope with her mother's death."
"She's all alone in the world, and so are you. Would it really be that bad to have someone who relies on you?"
John sighed, pocketing the phone. "I don't want to let her down. I just hope I don't disappoint her by being too distant."
"You won't. And she'll already understand how you feel, believe me."
"Thanks, Rox. You always know how to make me see things more clearly." He reached over for a slice of melon and placed it on the swell of her breast, before kissing her and eating the fruit at the same time. Then he picked up a grape and nudged her legs apart. She covered herself with the sarong, hiding his hand underneath the silk material. He pushed down the panties of her bikini and intimately stroked her with the cool fruit, making a delicious shiver run through her whole body.
"Don't lose that up there," she warned, as he coated the grape in her juices.
"Not a chance." He withdrew his hand and proffered the grape to Henrik, who allowed him to feed him before returning to his book.
Roxanna sank deeper into the cushions, no longer interested in her e-reader. What John was doing was far sexier than anything happening on the page. He chose a half of passion fruit, squeezing the seeds on her cleavage before licking them up, his lips drifting close to her nipple.
"Mmmmm." She bit her lip, arching her back. His sly fingers stroked her intimately with a slice of melon, the coolness striking against her heat. "This is so decadent."
"Fruit is good for you." John's voice was like velvet as he fed the melon slice to Henrik. "Isn't that right, Henrik?"
"It's definitely good for me," came the reply.
Roxanna shifted so she was resting on Henrik's thighs, the growing bulge brushing against her ear. If they were completely alone, it would be the perfect opportunity for the men to make love to her with exquisite slowness.
Later, she thought. These men are mine tonight.
As John was feeding her a strawberry, she heard another loud splash, followed by a sudden movement. Henrik practically thrust her off his lap and bolted from the bed. As she sat up, she saw him shallow dive into the pool.
"What the hell is he doing? He's terrified of water!" John immediately followed, leaving Roxanna to yank up her bikini bottoms and go after him.
Henrik was in trouble, trying to tread water and keep Van Kloof's head above it at the same time. John jumped in next to them and guided Henrik to the side of the pool. "Hang on."
Van Kloof sank under the water. Another guest had jumped in and between them they managed to get the big man to the steps and out onto the poolside. Henrik was still hanging on to the side of the pool, looking stricken.
"Help!" He called to Roxanna. "I can't ... swim."
As John ministered to Van Kloof, trying to get him breathing, Roxanna slipped into the water beside Henrik.
"Hold on to me. Can you touch the bottom?"
Henrik shook his head, eyes wide. Then ... "oh, yes I can." He looked embarrassed.
She sensed he was still nervous, and kept her arm around him as they walked to the steps.
John looked round at them. "Is he okay?"
"Fine." Roxanna smiled reassuringly but inside she was dismayed. He had never told her he was terrified of water. He was shivering despite the heat of the afternoon, but went to Van Kloof and assessed him.
"What happened?" Roxanna asked, kneeling next to Van Kloof's head.
"He was just walking next to the pool and collapsed like a stone. Did he say anything about having any health problems?"
Roxanna thought quickly. "He said he had indigestion. You're thinking heart?"
"Possibly." Henrik looked around. "Go to the Reception and alert their medical team. They must have one, given the amount of elderly people here. And see if you can get into his room and look for meds."
"On it." John leapt to his feet and ran off.
"Is he dead?" Someone asked. "He was doing this earlier." She massaged her chest.
"He said he had heartburn," Roxanna remembered. "Henrik..."
"He isn't breathing. See if there's a first aid kit and defib machine round here," he said to their wider audience. A couple of the other guests went off to look.
Together they worked on Van Kloof's prone body. Within a few moments the medical team had arrived.
"Stand back, sir. We can take it from here." The woman in charge sounded firm.
"I'm a doctor. We all are," Henrik said, motioning to Roxanna and John.
"Then we appreciate what you've done, but we'll take over now." She didn't look pleased that he was arguing with her.
"Come on. This isn't our place," John said, taking Henrik's arm.
Reluctantly, he allowed himself to be led away. The medical team swarmed around Van Kloof, shocking him and performing heart massage.
"He needs to be in hospital. Gather some of his things from his room," one of the team suggested.
"I'll go," John said. "You look after Henrik." He looked meaningfully at Roxanna. She nodded. Henrik looked pallid. Someone had given him a towel and he was huddled in it as if he had swum the English Channel.
"We have a pulse," the doctor in charge said. "We need to get him out of here." Together they lumped his sizeable bulk onto a stretcher and applied oxygen to help him breathe. Roxanna told them all she knew about him, which wasn't much.
Van Kloof's eyes fluttered open. He tried to sit up and remove the mask but the doctor hushed him, replacing the mask. Roxanna took his hand.
"You're going to be fine, Eric," she smiled. "You're on your way to hospital."
"Was it my ticker?" He whispered.
She nodded. "Henrik pulled you out of the water. Look after yourself."
"Thanks, Roxy." His voice was paper thin.
She pressed a kiss to his forehead. "Take care of yourself, Mr. Van Kloof."
"Okay, he's stable. There's a plane waiting to take him to Johannesburg. It's risky but while he's in a relatively stable condition..." The doctor pressed a phone to her ear and spoke rapidly in Xhosa. When she cut the call she looked relieved. "Good, that's sorted." She nodded to her team. "Come on. Quickly!"
As they left, Roxanna turned her attention back to Henrik. People patted his back as he sat there, telling him "well done," and "good man." He seemed to be in a state of shock.
"Are you all right?" She asked as she sat next to him.
"I ... don't know." His face was unreadable. "That was probably one of the most reckless things I've done for a long while."
"What, jumping in a pool to save a dying man and forgetting you couldn't swim? I'd call that an overriding protective instinct," she said, trying to inject some humour into her voice.
"It isn't funny, Roxanna. I hate ..." He looked at the pool and shuddered. "Ever since... It doesn't matter."
She stood up. "Come on, let's go back to the pavilion. You can tell me more there, if you want to."
For a moment he didn't move. Then he allowed her to pull him to his feet. As they were settling back on the huge bed, a member of staff came over to thank him for his efforts in saving Van Kloof, and to offer them a complimentary meal the following night. Their drinks would also be free for the remainder of their stay.
"In that case, I'll have an Old Fashioned," Henrik said. "Thank you."
The man smiled and went away. Within two minutes a waiter was back with a perfectly mixed Old Fashioned for Henrik and a pina colada for Roxanna. John arrived, clutching another pink gin.
"Did you know we're getting free booze for the rest of our stay?"
"We just found out." Roxanna toasted him with her cocktail.
"I'm just going to say this once," John said. "That was without doubt the stupidest thing you've ever done, Henrik. What were you thinking? You can't even fucking swim!"
Henrik looked wearily at him over his whisky tumbler. "I'm aware of that."
"It was very brave." From Roxanna.
"You made a promise never, ever to do that to me again." John's voice shook. "You can't do that, Henrik. Not for anyone, especially an oaf like Van Kloof. Someone would have got to him. It didn't have to be you!"
Roxanna realised John was genuinely upset. "What do you mean, he made a promise?" She looked from one man to the other. Henrik was glaring at John.
"Tell her," John said. "Tell her or I will. No secrets. Isn't that what we agreed on?"
"What's going on?" Roxanna was confused and scared. She thought she knew everything about her men but now they were implying she didn't?
John sat next to Henrik. "It's okay. Nothing to be ashamed of. We all have demons, Henrik. God knows I have plenty. Tell her. She needs to know."
Henrik's stare was fixed on the bedclothes, his breathing shallow. "You tell her. I can't." He leapt to his feet and grabbed his shirt. "I'm going for a walk."
"Whatever it is, you can't bottle it up," Roxanna said. "You know how unhealthy it is."
Henrik laughed sourly. "I've been doing that since I was sixteen years old. I'm really good at it."
John blocked his path. "No, you're shit at it. Sit down, Henrik. Tell her everything. You owe her that." He gave Henrik a slight push. "Do it. Don't walk away from us. Don't you dare."
For a long moment, nothing happened. Then Henrik sat back down, his face in his hands. After a while he began to speak.
"I hate the water because my mother drowned herself," he said flatly. "Then I tried to do the same thing at university. John pulled me out. Everything that happened with Fredrik, with Maja, it's all connected. I push people away because I don't want to hurt them. I don't deserve them, and I don't want to be rejected by them. Sometimes I think it's better if I'm not here at all. That part is ... easing, because of you, because of John, but you should know I'm destined to hurt both of you, because it's my nature to do that. That isn't an excuse, it's a warning. It will happen, and I can't stop it. And that terrifies me more than anything."
Roxanna wasn't surprised when he told her. It explained a lot. His reluctance to talk about his parents, the difficulties he had with women, the painful relationship he had with his son. All of it made sense.
"Thank you for telling me," she said, stroking his face. "I for one don't believe in destiny. If everything falls apart and we get hurt, then surely that's a price I'm willing to pay for what we have now. We don't know what is in the future. We can fear it, or we can live it. As for your nature, you always think of other people before yourself. You're one of the most selfless people I know. You'd rather hurt yourself than hurt others. Sometimes you're misguided and end up hurting people anyway, but that happens with all of us. We've all hurt people in the past. That's human nature, if you like, whether we want to or not. Sometimes we have to in order to look after ourselves, and that's okay, Henrik! It's okay to have some self-preservation. Don't punish yourself for it."
"Wise words," John said. "And I'll add that destiny is a bitch I won't have anything to do with. You can't live your life worrying about what could happen, or following what you think is a pre-ordained plan. We just don't know. What I do know is that we're family, and we support each other. Right?" He looked at Roxanna, who nodded.
"Right. Absolutely. Henrik?"
His eyes were moist as he looked back at them and nodded. "Right," he whispered. "Thank you."
Roxanna pulled him into her arms and held him tightly. John put his arms around both of them and they all clung to each other, each gaining comfort from their strengthening bond.
Chapter 13: Birth Of A Goddess
This was just going to be about the squad exploring the Falls and the Zambezi, but somehow it turned into hardcore smut.
Blame the heat.
THE BOMA MEAL had been far more of a success than they had been expecting. Both John and Henrik had grumbled, saying they had been duped into attending an undignified charade put on for tourists. They grudgingly agreed to wear the chitenge, or sarongs, and have their faces painted with ceremonial markings whilst Roxanna took photographs. Then she duped them both into eating mopani worms, which the local people had prepared in a huge dish. They offered them with wide smiles, daring them to try.
"it's just crunchy chicken," Roxanna said, feeding one to John and then Henrik, who looked speculatively at it and guessed correctly what it was. By this time John had swallowed his and was reaching for another one. His hand hovered over the bowl as Henrik told him, then rapidly withdrew. He called Roxanna an obscene name that had the man holding the bowl roaring with laughter.
The food was delicious and there was an eye-watering amount of it. Henrik kept an eye on his wine intake and did the same for John, surreptitiously moving his glass out of the way whenever the waiter tried to refill it. Roxanna stuck to her one cocktail, mindful of their early start in the morning. It didn't stop her dancing uninhibitedly when she was dragged to her feet, much to the delight of the musicians.
Soon, they were all on their feet. Henrik proved a real draw for the local women, who loved his height and shyness. He was persuaded to follow the steps they gave him, and after a while had found his sense of rhythm. Even John had to admit he was having a good time, as long as he didn't have to eat any more mopani worms.
Roxanna fell asleep on Henrik's shoulder as they were driven back to the hotel late that evening. The outside temperature was still warm and sticky, so John decided to sleep in the other room, rather than them all share a bed and get unnecessarily hot during the night. Henrik helped Roxanna undress, and by the time he had emerged from the bathroom she was already asleep again.
He turned out the light, then lay down next to her, tenderly kissing her shoulder. He felt strangely at peace after all the day's ups and downs. It wasn't a familiar feeling, but he hoped there would be many more times like it in the future. With Roxanna and John at his side, it seemed anything was possible.
THE WONDERFUL THING about Tiggers, are Tiggers are wonderful things....
John woke to that terrible sound. He blinked and looked around, but couldn't see where it was coming from.
Their bottoms are made out of rubber, their tails are made out of springs...
He saw his phone placed out of reach on the dressing table and knew at once Roxanna was responsible.
They're bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, boing boing boing BOING BOING!
He scrambled for it, turning off the wretched sound just as Roxanna breezed into the room.
"Oh good, you're awake. Get dressed. We're going on a river cruise."
He scratched his chest and yawned. "What time is it?"
"Quarter to six. Henrik is already in the shower. We need to get to the foyer for six fifteen. Come on, John, look lively." She threw the clothes she had put out for him the night before in his lap.
"For fuck's sake," he muttered, stumbling around, pulling on shorts and a tee-shirt, whilst Roxanna made him a mug of black coffee. She pulled the curtains back and threw open the patio doors.
"Baboons! John, there are baboons in the garden. Come and see."
She leaned on the balcony, breathing in the fresh morning air. The sun was yet to rise but in the dim light they could see the distinctive dark shapes of a baboon family, eating peaceably on the immaculate grass. Beyond, the iron bridge over the gorge was shrouded in morning mist, and plumes of vapour from the Falls towered into the sky. They could hear the ever-present roar of water, yet it didn't mask the singing of a lone hoopoe, hidden in the branches of a vibrant coral tree.
"This is just incredible," she said. "I feel so lucky right now."
Now he was up, and with a few mouthfuls of coffee inside him, John could share her enthusiasm. He grinned when Henrik joined them. Despite smelling fresh, his eyes were bleary with tiredness. It seemed he too was finding Roxanna's boundless energy exhausting.
Together they looked at the stunning view, munching on rusks and drinking coffee as the sky turned slowly pink, but all too soon, Roxanna herded them out of the door. It was time to make their way down to the foyer for their new adventure.
"IS THIS THING safe?" Henrik eyed the old wooden boat with some scepticism.
"Of course sir. I treat this boat like my own child." The young man, whose name was Joshua, was totally serious.
"Will you be okay?" Roxanna asked. "If you don't like water... I mean I didn't think..."
"There's a difference between being on it, and being in it." Henrik assessed the boat again. It looked sturdy enough, and hardly rocked when they stepped down into it. There were comfortable seats, and a canopy to protect them from the sun. The wooden structure had been polished and varnished until it shone. There was no doubt it was Joshua's pride and joy.
"Mind you, if the boat sinks we'll be in trouble," John said sadistically. "Unless you can swim faster than a crocodile."
"Don't say that!" Roxanna looked furiously at him. "It isn't funny, John. Why do you do that?"
"My boat will not sink," Joshua said firmly. He also seemed upset.
"Of course it won't. It's a fine craft. My friend has an unfortunate sense of humour," Henrik said, with a disapproving look at John. "Please accept my apologies."
The man relaxed and smiled. "They are not necessary, sir. I will ensure you have an unforgettable trip."
As they were out of season, there would only be the three of them, plus Joshua. He welcomed them on board and told them a bit about the boat, which was a model of a Victorian pleasure cruiser. He said he hoped to show them some hippos and crocodiles, but it was obvious his love was for birds. His English, though heavily accented, was exceptional, something that Henrik complimented him on.
"I am self-taught. I did not go to school as I needed to look after my mother and father in their old age," Joshua replied, with not one hint of resentment. There was pride in his voice as he added. "I am teaching my children too. That way they can get good work."
It was a totally different world, Henrik thought, as they ventured out into the middle of the river. He had a queasy moment as Joshua pointed out the One Way Channel, which led directly to the Falls and certain death if one were caught in the current, and was relieved when they headed in the opposite direction.
The Zambezi was stunning, still as a mill pond, the trees and clouds perfectly reflected. Joshua's eyesight was superb, as he managed to pick out birds hidden in the trees which they struggled to find using binoculars. A crocodile slithered into the water just ahead of them, and halfway up the river they heard the first distinctive grunts of hippopotamus calling to each other.
"This is magical," Roxanna whispered, too engrossed in watching to take many photographs. The shutters on John's camera whirred. He seemed subdued after Henrik shut him down and hadn't said much since.
"Go and talk to him," Roxanna sai, when he asked if John was alright. "He probably feels like the big bad wolf right now."
Henrik knew she was right, but he didn't feel inclined to make John feel better about himself. He had been unkind and needed to know he was in the wrong.
Joshua slowed the boat and put out some platters of cold meat and cheese, offering more drinks. As Henrik and Roxanna helped themselves, John stayed at the end of the boat, staring resolutely through his binoculars.
"Stop sulking," Roxanna hissed at him. "Just apologise to Henrik and enjoy the cruise."
"I don't have anything to apologise for."
"Now you're being childish. I didn't pay for this trip just for you to behave like a ten year old."
That stung him. He practically flinched as she scolded him but stayed where he was and didn't look Henrik's way.
Joshua was obviously confused about the dynamic between them but he seemed to take it all in his stride. He was happy to answer Henrik's questions about his life in Zimbabwe, and his concerns for the future of his children. Finally he plucked up the courage to ask the question he had been skirting round.
"Mme is ... your wife?" He motioned to Roxanna.
"Not quite. Well... sort of. Nothing official." Henrik looked over to where Roxanna and John were talking. John stroked Roxanna's cheek and Joshua looked even more puzzled.
"Brother?" He asked. "Forgive me. I should not ask so many questions."
"That's quite all right. We're both her ... husbands. In a way. Nothing official," Henrik added hastily. "It's an unusual situation."
Joshua smiled ruefully. "My wife needs a lot of attention. I think sometimes another man around would be a good thing. She has a sharp tongue. If they don't get what they want, the wife becomes the knife, right?"
They shared another conspiratorial smile, though privately, Henrik did not agree with regards to Roxanna. She was one of the gentlest people he knew, but he wasn't inclined to talk about either of his companions behind their backs.
"What's that?" John was pointing over the water.
Joshua went to have a look, and he smiled delightedly. "Elephant! They are crossing the water, see? Using trunks like..." He struggled for the word.
"Like snorkels!" Roxanna exclaimed. She clasped her hands in excitement. "Just look at them!"
Fifty yards away from them, three elephant trunks rose out of the water like mini Loch Ness monsters, followed by ripples as the elephants swum to the grassy bank on the other side of the river. Joshua stopped the boat engine and they watched in silence as one by one, the huge animals emerged from the water. Almost immediately, they began grazing, tearing off juicy hunks of grass and shoving it into their gaping mouths.
Henrik looked at Roxanna, who had tears in her eyes. He put his arm around her, understanding how overwhelmed she was feeling. Even John was entranced. He came to stand next to Henrik and slipped his arm around his waist.
Finally, Roxanna gathered her senses and began to take photographs. Despite their size, the elephants soon disappeared into the undergrowth, and all that was left of them was a rustling in the grass.
"I'm guessing crocodiles don't eat elephant," John said eventually.
Joshua shook his head. "The tiny babies maybe, if they are desperate, but not advisable to go for animals bigger than oneself."
"That never stopped you," Henrik murmured in John's ear. He rested his hand next to John's on the side of the boat, and gently stroked his little finger with his own. It was a tiny gesture, but they both knew it meant forgiveness.
THEY LEFT JOSHUA with some sadness, and a sizeable tip, after their successful trip up the Zambezi. The day progressed with a leisurely coffee on the hotel terrace, followed by a stroll down to the National Park entrance and an easy walk along the length of the Falls. There were plenty of viewing spots, giving them ample opportunity to see the wonder from every angle.
It was easy to run out of adjectives for the majestic site, as thousands of gallons of water thundered over the crevice into a steep-sided gorge almost a mile long. The vapour which rose up had created rainforest conditions, and also got them very wet. With the sun bright and the temperature brutal, the fine spray was a blessed relief, although Roxanna's linen tee-shirt soon turned transparent, giving the men, and everyone else, another attractive and unexpected sight. Fortunately, the path was relatively quiet, most people choosing to visit in the early morning or later evening, when the temperature was more comfortable.
"Oh well," she said, shrugging. "I'll dry off in a few minutes." She didn't care. It wasn't as if they would see anyone they met on the path ever again after that moment. It was all part of her new, liberated, sexually daring self. If people wanted to stare at her breasts, they could.
Henrik was looking equally as delicious, the wet cream shirt with rolled-up sleeves giving him Mr. Darcy vibes. John's white tee-shirt hugged his slim form and enhanced his physique. She felt her temperature level rise as she ogled her men, accompanied by a now familiar dampness between her legs.
"I wish we could just have sex right now," she announced, after checking no one else was around. They were at the furthest point, where the river turned sharply and went under the iron bridge. A rainbow lay below them, fading and reappearing with every new billowing cloud of water.
The shock on Henrik and John's faces was comical. They exchanged glances, then looked back at her.
"Are you feeling all right?" Henrik asked.
"You both look absolutely luscious. I can't help it if you make me feel rampant with lust."
John laughed out loud. "We're at one of the seven wonders of the world, and all you can think about is sex?"
Roxanna shoved her hands in her shorts back pockets, subtly pushing her breasts out towards him. "And if you say you're not, I'll know you're lying."
"I'm going to remind you of that later," John said, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her against him.
Henrik carefully stepped down to the edge and sat down on the rock. "Let's stay here for a while. I doubt we'll ever be back. It seems a shame not to make the most of it."
"You're right, of course." John sat next to him, and Roxanna took her place on his other side. Their silence was companionable as they took in the wondrous view, imprinting it on their memory.
"What time is our flight tomorrow?" Henrik asked.
"Midday," Roxanna replied. "We could always come back here in the morning. The park opens at 6.30."
"Good idea," John said, nodding. "Getting up early isn't so bad when the weather is this good. What's the itinerary after that? Where are we going when we get to Jo'berg?"
"We're picking up the hire car and driving to our next destination."
"Nambiti Plains. We're going back on safari." Roxanna hugged her knees in anticipation. "Four days and three nights in the wilderness, so I hope you've bought your Kindle, John. Game drives, sun-bathing, reading. Total relaxation for four days before we drive to the coast. Two nights there and it's back to reality, I'm afraid."
"Ugh, don't say that." John leaned back on his elbows and lifted his face to the sun. "I'm getting used to a life of unadulterated luxury."
"When are we going to talk about what happens after we get back home?" Henrik asked.
"Soon," Roxanna said, "but not while we're here. I just want to enjoy the next few days. Nambiti will be a test. We don't all enjoy the same things and you might be screaming to escape by day two."
"I doubt it." Henrik lay his hand on John's stomach and rubbed it gently.
"Lower," John mumbled, his eyes closed.
"Not yet. We're in public."
John opened his eyes. "Then let's go back to the hotel while I can actually walk. And blame Rox. She's a corrupting influence on all of us."
BY THE TIME they arrived back at the hotel, the temperature was pushing forty degrees, and they had not one ounce of energy left between them. Henrik went straight to the mini-bar to procure bottles of still water, which he handed to each of them. They drank gratefully, Henrik holding the cold bottle on his forehead.
"Talk about mad dogs and Englishmen. We should have taken the shuttle bus."
"Walking was your mad idea, remember?" John stripped naked and collapsed on his front across the bed, enjoying the breeze created by the ceiling fan above his head.
Henrik disappeared into the bathroom. They heard the sound of water running.
"Budge up." Roxanna nudged John.
"You're not allowed on here unless you're naked," he mumbled.
"If you insist." She shed her sweaty clothes and climbed on the bed next to him.
Henrik emerged from the bathroom with a damp flannel, which he wiped around his neck and face. He stopped when he saw his two companions, nude and sprawled on the bed.
"What did I miss?"
"Nothing. Just get your kecks off and join us," John said. "Though I'm having a nap before I even think about getting down and dirty."
"A siesta sounds very sensible." Henrik didn't undress, but picked up his book and joined them on the bed. Roxanna snuggled next to him, her head resting against his arm.
ROXANNA WOKE FIRST. She stretched out, knocking against John, who didn't stir. Henrik was also completely gone, his breathing deep and even, his book closed beside him. Carefully, she climbed off the bed, not wanting to disturb the two men, and turned off the ceiling fan. Without the cool breeze, the room instantly felt warmer.
A wave of affection washed over her at the sight of her men. At some point Henrik had removed his clothes and was now draped in one of the bedsheets, which he had untucked for the purpose. Poor Henrik. He was always so modest and so shy about the way he looked when he really didn't need to be. She wondered whether he would ever be happy in his own skin.
John rolled onto his back, drawing her attention. In general he was the complete opposite of Henrik, laughing about his own vanity at times, never seeming to worry about what people thought of him. He could be thoughtless and cruel, single-minded and ambitious, all qualities instilled in him by a tough upbringing and the need to be self-reliant. And yet he excited her in a way Henrik would never be able to do. Henrik was too ... nice at times, but both she and John were enjoying coaxing him out of the shell he had constructed around himself, encouraging him to explore sexual possibilities and be adventurous...
She looked back at John, who had somehow managed to fill the space she had just vacated. It was extraordinary how he did that, being smaller than Henrik. Well, most of him was smaller. As proportions went, Henrik was perfect, John was... lucky.
She bit back a laugh. Honestly! Who would have imagined she would be in a hotel bedroom, contemplating the penis sizes of her two favourite men in the world?
Lucky bitch, Roxanna.
That anticipatory feeling she'd had at the Falls had come back, and she had to admit it...
No, why do you have to admit anything? Embrace it! You're feeling, horny, Rox. Randy, sexy, turned-on, and who wouldn't be? Look at them both! How easy would it be to have them slavering over you? Click your fingers and they'd be on it, just like that. So don't admit anything. Demand it. Take it. You deserve it...
Yet she was still a little shy at times, and it was that reserve which made her draw the curtains, shrouding the room in darkness. With the lights down she had the confidence to do things she might not have the courage to do in broad daylight....
She crawled back on the bed and knelt between John's spread knees, then gave his balls a good long lick, before drawing his flaccid penis into her mouth and sucking it gently.
John usually took a long time to wake up once he was gone, but this time he shivered and began to harden, his erection growing to the extent she could no longer take him all in. His hips began to move as she teased him with her tongue, his breathing growing ragged. Finally she heard him whisper her name, and felt his hand on her hair.
She moved up to kiss him on the lips. "Hello," she whispered.
There was just enough light in the room to see him smile. "That was a lovely way to wake up."
She moved back down his body, tenderly sucking on his nipples until they were hard little nuts, down to his stomach, pausing to kiss the raised ridges of his branding mark. He tensed, then relaxed again. It was something he was learning not to be ashamed of. His erection had faltered slightly, but came back with a vengeance when he felt the warmth of her tongue massaging his shaft. His hands flexed against the bedclothes as she took as much as she could between her lips, then withdrew to concentrate on his balls, rolling the smooth globes around her tongue.
"Rox..." His soft voice made her move up to look at him again. "Fuck me," he whispered.
"If you insist." She straddled him and guided him into her. Even she was surprised at how wet she was. He gasped as she buried him up to the hilt, sitting back on him, putting his hands on her breasts and slowly grinding on him.
Beside them, Henrik slept on.
John gripped her hips. She positioned her feet so he was pinned to the bed, unable to thrust up into her. He was a slave to her rhythm, biting his lips to stop moaning as she flicked his nips with a pointed tongue. She sucked one of them hard, making it swell to double the size and become super-sensitive, then blew gently on it before doing the same to the other. He cursed but throbbed hard inside her. It was clear he wasn't going to last very long.
He felt delicious inside her. She loved that feeling of fullness, of being stretched, his fingers digging into the flesh of her bottom, holding her down onto him. She removed her feet so he could move properly.
“All we need is Henrik to wake up and fuck me too.” Her voice was petal-soft in his ear.
Gosh, wasn't she getting greedy?
The thought obviously sent John over the edge. He made a strangled sound as he gave in to a sudden orgasm, pulsing hard inside her. It wasn’t enough to make her come, but she didn’t care. She loved that intimacy, the bonding between them. Their bodies rocked together as the vestiges of his climax played out.
“You're wonderful, Rox,” he whispered, his voice crackling with the after-effects of his recent exertions. "Christ, I'm so lucky."
"A sentiment I wholeheartedly understand." Henrik's modulated tone surprised them both.
His face was serious in shadow. It was hard to say how long he had been awake for but Roxanna began to blush and she was grateful for the lack of light.
“I’ve prepared her for you,” John said. He nudged her off him and moved her onto her back, before reaching for Henrik's hand and drawing it between her legs.
She wasn't prepared for that, or for Henrik's sly fingers to move knowingly up inside her cunt, slicked by arousal and John’s release. She lay between them as John guided Henrik's hand back to his lips and sucked his fingers. Henrik shivered beside her, the hard evidence of his arousal brushing her leg. He removed his hand from John's grasp and touched her again, strumming her slippery clit until she felt waves of uncontrollable sensation radiating through her lower body. He was merciless, crushing her mouth with his own whilst she used his hand to give her a prolonged, satisfying orgasm which left her weak and trembling.
Whilst she was still in the throes, Henrik eased into her, the euphoria at feeling her hot wetness plain on his face.
"Roxanna..." Her name was a silken caress, but the assault on her body was hard and inexorable, slow at first, then building as the ecstasy rippled across his face. She held on, helpless to do anything else, her legs tight around his waist. Finally a deep, guttural groan emanated from his throat and he throbbed hard, jolting against her, Swedish curses dripping from his lips.
Afterwards he seemed to melt away from her, drained and slick with sweat. It gleamed on his chest and forehead, his pale skin stained with the flush of satisfying release.
“That was stunning,” John said. “Wow.”
Roxanna couldn’t say anything. Here she was, legs spread wide, the seed of two men slowly seeping out of her. It felt …
She was a fucking goddess. That’s how it felt.
She sat up suddenly, more shocked by the fact she had thought a bad word than the fact she had just had sex with two men in the space of five minutes.
“Golly,” she said out loud.
John snorted with laughter. “Is that your ringing endorsement of our performance, Ms. Macmillan?”
She shot him a terse look. “You don’t need me to stroke your ego, Professor Gaskell.”
His smile was smug. “No. I’d rather you stroked something else.”
Henrik propped himself up on his elbow and ran his hand down Roxanna's body. She sighed when he slid his hand down between her thighs and slipped two fingers inside her, stroking her gently.
"Is that all right? Would you like more?"
She rested back on the pillows. Her breath caught as the tip of his finger ever-so-gently grazed her clit and subtly circled it. Her thighs tightened around his hand.
"Oh yes, I'd love some more of that."
She had a flashback to the first time they had made love, and he had done that thing with his fingers. It wasn't something she had previously enjoyed. Too many men didn't really have the knack. They were too rough, or not confident enough. David had never used his fingers on her, preferring to use his tongue, and she honestly assumed no one would ever match the heights he had been able to bring her to.
But Henrik was a revelation. Maybe it was those delicate surgeon's fingers, or his silver tongue, so clever with words and equally as clever at giving her pleasure. He constantly surprised her with his skill, and now she moved sensuously against him as his long fingers expertly located her G spot. When he stroked it, she always wanted to fuck anything that moved, too turned on to think about anything else other than what he was doing to her. Her legs widened and she undulated against his hand.
“She loves that,” she heard Henrik said to John, moving his hand deeper inside her, making her groan with lust. "That spot just there. Of course, I doubt your fingers can reach."
"Fuck you, Henrik," John retorted.
"Oh, you'll get your chance soon enough."
The look that passed between the two men was white hot. Watching them, Roxanna felt new moisture adding to what was already there, soaking Henrik's hand.
"Watch and learn, Professor," Henrik said to John. "This is how the grown-ups do it."
Oh my God, where had he learned that line? He never ceased to surprise her and a line like that, coming from him especially, was incredibly hot.
"For that, your arse is mine, Hanssen," John growled, then qualified it with, "when you feel you can take it."
She felt rather than saw, Henrik smile, but the gentle pressure of his fingers never ceased, driving her slowly insane. She was a slave to her body, her head filled with fleeting exotic images, her and Henrik, her and John, Henrik and John, all of them, together, doing this. DOING THIS! Oh god, it was powerful, she was powerful, any fantasy, anything she wanted, they would give...
She was helpless to do anything other than grip the bedclothes, so focussed on the delicious feelings coursing through her body. John leaned down to flick his tongue around her nipples, making her wantonly arch her back against his mouth.
"Oh! Oh god..." Her voice dried up as he continued to lavish attention on her nipples. Henrik withdrew the hand soaked in all of their juices and held them against John's lips. John grasped Henrik's slim wrist and ran his tongue up the centre of his hand to the tip of his finger, sucking the finger into his mouth.
"Hmm, beautiful." She felt him dip his fingers inside her, not as delicately as Henrik, and thicker too. It felt more wicked somehow, almost as if she were being groped by a stranger. She clenched her inner muscles around John's fingers. When he withdrew his hand it was soaking wet.
"Tongue-fuck her," he ordered Henrik. His eyes were gleaming. It was obvious he had something in mind.
"Oh god, yes," she breathed as Henrik moved down the bed between her legs. His tongue found her clit and began working its magic. As she relaxed back to enjoy it, he faltered, whimpering. John was doing something to him at the same time. Something she couldn't see.
"Carry on pleasuring her, Henrik," he ordered softly. "Don't stop. You feel that? That's Rox's pussy juice, making it easy for me to do ... this."
Henrik looked up slightly, gasping. She thought he was going to tell John to stop whatever he was doing but he didn't. He slid his hands under Roxanna's buttocks and worked his tongue deep inside her.
"Henrik... god, that's good! What's happening?"
"I'm finger-fucking him," John replied. "He isn't ready to take any more just yet, are you, Henrik?"
We're travelling further down the rabbit hole, Roxanna thought as Henrik faltered, too overcome by the feel of John's invading fingers to concentrate fully on what he was doing.
"Get back to work," John said sternly, pushing his fingers deeper.
She heard Henrik whine, a sound she had never heard him make before. His tongue was driving her out of her mind, seeking out those tiny points of pleasure and mercilessly exploiting them, driving waves of joy throughout her whole being. Distantly she knew she was making too much noise, but it felt so damned good. She cried out again, her voice hoarse as her orgasm hit, once, twice, three times. As she was still reeling, Henrik loomed over her, burying himself deep in her cunt. Their eyes met just before he kissed her hard on the mouth. She barely recognised him, stripped bare of his reserve and refined manners to reveal the animal under the surface.
Just when she thought he lose control completely, Henrik pulled her on top of him.
"Sit up," he ordered. "Show yourself to me."
She loved this masterful side to him. How would she react if he used that voice in the Boardroom?
She would be squirming in her chair, worried the damp patch would seep through her panties onto the leather and everyone would know what they were both thinking. The heat between them, the chemistry, the almost visible force like magnets drawn to the other. Henrik trying to concentrate on what he was saying, preferring to sit because standing wasn't an option, not with an erection anyway. The evil look he would give her for teasing him, for causing his predicament, the look that said when they were alone he would punish her for her bad ways. God, maybe he would spank her! Lay her across the Boardroom table and, and ...
"Roxanna! Sit up. Do as you're told, woman."
She snapped out of her erotic daze and obeyed, sitting so he was buried deep, cupping her breasts and undulating on him. As his hands moved to grasp her buttocks, John brushed them away and held his wrists over his head so he couldn’t move.
“What are you doing?” Panic sparked in Henrik's hazel eyes.
“Letting you experience something new.” John leaned down to kiss him, his hands still holding Henrik’s in a vice-like grip.
Roxanna knew Henrik wouldn’t like it. He didn’t want them watching him whilst he lost control like that, and John knew it, a slight smile playing across his lips.
“Go on. Lose your mind,” he urged. "It's dark so we can't see you. Not really."
“I can’t… I….” His eyes rolled back as Roxanna moved sinuously against him. “Please..” His erection was still strong, and she could feel the conflict going on within him.
“The more you beg, the more I'll hold you down.” John’s voice was inexorable.
It was then Roxanna had a Bad Thought, one that made her mouth water and her heartbeat quicken even more.
But did she have the courage to do what she really wanted to do? To indulge a fantasy she had had ever since finding out both men wanted her? Was she really that wanton? That greedy? That sluttish?
The near-dark gave her the confidence she needed. She beckoned to John, pulling him down to kiss him so he could taste all of their essences on her lips. At the same time, she reached for his cock and gave it a squeeze. Instantly it was like stone, mirroring the hardness in his eyes. He smiled slightly, almost as if he knew what she was thinking.
"You're a bad girl, Rox." He kneeled up next to her. She gave his prodigious erection due admiration before lowering her head to taste it.
Beneath her, Henrik made a strangled sound, stunned by the shadowy sight of her fellating John. It was something she had never done to him, as he said he found it awkward, but now he swelled inside her, avidly watching her every move.
It was rather like patting one's head and rubbing one's stomach at the same time, she mused as she ran her tongue around the head of John's cock. Whilst doing that, she kept up her sensuous hip movements. Luckily, she had always been good at coordination, her muscles tight from horse-riding and pilates, and both men were benefitting from her skill. John steadied himself on her shoulder, the effort in staying on his knees evident in the way he dug his fingers into her skin.
God, this is hardcore, she thought gleefully, as Henrik lifted his arms above his head and gripped the bedhead. It was an act of submission, letting them both use him as they wanted.
"That's fucking hot," John stuttered as her tongue traced the prominent veins and tickled the underside of his cock before she drew him deep into her mouth.
It was too much for him. He groaned and convulsed without warning. Roxanna moved her mouth away just as he climaxed, guiding the spurts of semen across Henrik's stomach and chest. As it landed, she felt Henrik throb hard inside her. His cry was so harsh she clapped her hand over his mouth. Being unable to make a sound intensified and prolonged his orgasm. He pulsed and throbbed inside her, his last thrust practically throwing her off him.
They collapsed in a tangle of limbs, breathing heavily. She eased away from Henrik and lay on her back in the middle of the two men. Henrik stared up at the ceiling, thunderstruck. On her other side, John had a similar expression.
"Jesus, Rox, you're wringing us dry," he muttered.
She stretched luxuriously, her hands seeking out the genitals of both men and giving them a fondle. It was extremely gratifying when both of them showed signs of life even then.
"That's the role of a goddess," she said smugly. "You men need to learn to keep up."
Chapter 14: Drowning or Waving?
Henrik needs some time alone to gather his thoughts.
He also learns a new life skill.
In this chapter I also wanted to remind myself of where they are (Zimbabwe) otherwise it could be any glam hotel resort anywhere in the world. Africa is a land of contrasts, some of them not easy to digest. Henrik doesn't just want to ease his conscience, but to make a small difference to someone else's life. Because he's like that.
Henrik Hanssen had never watched porn, nor had he ever felt tempted to indulge in furtive perusing of grubby magazines. In fact, if he were honest, sex wasn't a priority for him. He wasn't all that interested.
Actually, that wasn't quite true, although his first real experience had ultimately resulted in disaster.
He and Maja were young, barely more than children really, doing what they assumed everyone else did. A bit of fumbling, some embarrassed giggles, a few moments of sweet delight and then .... that was it until she told him she was pregnant. From then on, he couldn't risk bringing another child into the world. Not with his genes, his mental instability, and the evil running through his family. Who in their right mind would give a child that kind of inheritance?
He shook the black thought away and went back to trying to figure out why he felt so drained and mentally exhausted. He didn't want to inflict his mood on the others so he took himself off for a walk. Isolation was his default setting, and it felt comfortable.
It was still the middle of the afternoon, blisteringly hot, but he walked out of the hotel up into the town, not really planning to go anywhere particular, but enjoying the sense of freedom that came with pleasing oneself. The air was humid, and bulky clouds were building up, promising desperately needed rain to clear the air. In the distance, thunder rumbled like an intermittent drum beat. It could have been his imagination though.
He tried to put a finger on what the problem was. It could have been the obscene luxury surrounding him when outside, people in rags were begging for a few dollars to feed their families. It could have been that he was missing his work, or it could have been the inescapable heat.
But he knew what the real reason was. Roxanna and John, embracing their new status as a threesome, easing into their roles with effortless grace whilst he floundered in their wake.
Roxanna was liberated, hungry, a woman not ashamed to take what she wanted. He couldn't equate that with the feminine, professional Roxanna, the caring, brilliant Roxanna. The Roxanna he had loved since they were at university. No, this was a woman he barely recognised, who could do .... THAT THING to John right in front of him, shamelessly, without hesitation.
And John, always a lord of misrule, a Priapic satyr luring him down a hot and dangerous path into a future unknown. With his sultry promises and sly touches, John was the wild card, a maelstrom of wicked thought and deed challenging Henrik's uptight attitudes and mocking him gently, making each harsh word a caress.
It seemed as if he and Roxanna were conspiring together, turning him into something he did not recognise, his mind dulled with sex, insatiable, making him forget why he had forsaken that side of himself for years. He had to be careful. They didn't know the damage he could cause by embracing his desires, letting people see the whole man, sensual and damaged, selfish, possessive, the man behind the mask....
A loud horn made him jump. A truck careered past him, splattering him with dust and stones.
As he brushed himself off, he tried to thrust unhelpful thoughts away and concentrate on his surroundings. The shops were mostly for the tourists, selling African art and experiences for thrill-seekers. He was rather glad John hadn't seen the Devil's Pool, where one could take a dip and look into the abyss of the Falls from close hand. It looked like just the sort of mad thing he would do, and exhort the others to join him.
The streets were unmade up, lumpy and red with dust. It was tatty and a little rundown, but spotlessly clean. He nodded to an upright figure in military uniform, who strode down the road as if he owned the place, which he probably did, and politely fended off several street-sellers trying to persuade him to buy old currency. In the end he bought several Zimbabwe dollars of varying amounts, mostly billion and trillion dollars, all with Mugabe's face on it. By the end of his trip he had a whole set, which gave him strange satisfaction. Probably because it would annoy John no end.
And to his delight he found a second-hand book shop in a side street. There wasn't a lot of choice, and most of the books had definitely seen better days. They were also eye-waveringly expensive, far beyond the means of local people. He remembered a conversation he had with Joshua on the boat. He had said books were too expensive to buy, and he hadn't been exaggerating.
Idly, he picked up a book of African folk tales. The book was beautifully illustrated, and he wondered if Oskar would enjoy such a thing. Probably he would, as he was becoming such a little bookworm, much to Henrik's delight. He kept it in his hand and continued browsing.
As he did so, another thought occurred to him. It was something Joshua had said, about teaching his children to read and write English. Coupled with the other information about books being beyond the means of a lot of hard-working people, it gave Henrik an idea.
He took his time choosing some more books, suitable for adults as well as children. The woman behind the counter watched him the whole time, scowling. She didn't return his smile as he went up to the counter to pay her.
"Who gives you these to sell?" He asked.
"Tourists. White people." It was said with a hint of disdain.
Undeterred, he gestured to the stock of books. "But surely only white people and tourists can afford all these books. Do local people buy from here?"
She shrugged. "I work here. Sell books. That's all."
"Do you sell many?"
She shrugged again. "No."
"How do Zimbabwe people afford books?"
"But you are fortunate. You're surrounded by books. You could read anything you wanted." He noted she didn't have a book in her hand.
"I can't read," she said stonily.
"That's a shame." He knew when to leave a subject alone. Instead he handed over the money, gave her another brief smile and left with his armful of books.
Back at the hotel room, Roxanna and John were nowhere to be seen. He guessed they were by the pool again, so he left them a note, added his two books to the pile and put them in a bag. At the last moment he remembered Oskar's book, tucking it in his suitcase before going back to the Reception area.
Outside, he saw the driver who had taken them to the river, polishing his mini-bus. He was a cousin of Joshua's, something else gleaned from his conversation with the river boat captain, and the name badge on his white shirt said his name was Blessing.
"I don't suppose you could take me to where Joshua is today?"
Blessing smiled widely. "Of course, sir. Twenty-five dollar to get to river and back. Okay?"
"And he'll be at the river, will he?"
"Indeed. He is preparing boat for tonight's trip." Blessing slid the door open for him. "Please."
As he drove, they talked about family, and about Blessing's life. He had no wife, and therefore no children. His job meant he did not have the opportunity to find a woman, but he was well-paid, so he was fortunate. He also had an interest in African history, and was knowledgeable about politics. They talked about Nelson Mandela and Mugabe, and Blessing's wish to move to South Africa when he had enough money saved to do so.
At length they arrived at the riverside. Joshua looked up when he saw Henrik treading carefully across the jetty.
"Mr. Hanssen, my friend! So good to see you again." They shook hands.
Henrik was impressed the man had remembered his name. Rather belatedly, he wondered if he was doing the right thing by giving the books, and hoped Joshua wouldn't be offended by the gesture. All his anxieties rushed to the surface, but it was too late to back away now. There was no one else around, so it was now or never.
"This is a brief visit, as I am leaving soon. I wanted to give you a gift for showing us such wonderful sights on the river, and making this trip unforgettable. I hope you don't mind, but this is something I thought you and your children might enjoy." Henrik gave him the bag.
"Mr. Hanssen, I..." Joshua looked shocked. He peered inside the bag and gasped. "Books!" He took each book out in turn and looked at them, delight on his face.
"They are pre-loved, I'm afraid. I couldn't find a shop selling new ones. I don't mean to insult you. They are a gift, to express my appreciation."
"These are wonderful, my friend. Thank you. My children and their cousins will cherish these."
"Perhaps not the Dostoevsky. That's more for you. It's rather dry, but it will provide you with a challenge, certainly. You may find Dickens somewhat lighter reading."
Joshua flipped through the pages of A Tale Of Two Cities. "'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,'" he read, pleasure obvious on his face. "I do not know what to say."
"There's an Oxford Dictionary in the bag as well, just in case you get stuck. It's rather battered, but ..."
"Thank you! Thank you so much, Mr. Hanssen."
Henrik stepped back before the man decided to hug him. His effusiveness was making him feel awkward. "Goodbye, Joshua. Stay well."
Joshua carefully put the books down and grasped Henrik's hands. "May God bless you and your companions, my friend. I hope you have a safe onward journey."
"Take care of yourself and your family. As we say in Sweden, see you on the ice."
As Henrik went back up to the car park, he felt almost euphoric. It was a small gesture, as much for himself as for Joshua and his children. Being surrounded by so much luxury when people were scratching a living just beyond the doorstep was one aspect of African travel he found hard to deal with. Sometimes tiny gestures were the beginning of something wonderful. The inspiration of a child as they grasp knowledge, perhaps becoming scientists or peacemakers or parents to their own inquisitive offspring, lighting that fire of possibilities. He didn't know and would never know. He was just the butterfly who flapped its wings, perhaps triggering a chain of events which further down the line, could make a real difference.
The journey back was filled with Blessing's questions about Sweden, and about how he managed to cope with such a lot of snow, then England, and what it was like working there. They could have talked for hours, yet all too soon they had arrived back at the hotel.
"A big storm is coming," Blessing said. "I hope God blesses us with rain."
Henrik paid him the money, plus another twenty-five dollars for Blessing himself. Then he reached under his seat for the book he had hidden there. He chose his words carefully, as he suspected Blessing was a different character to Joshua, and would resent anything that could be seen as charity.
"I don't know if this is of any interest? I've finished it and now the damned thing won't fit in my suitcase." He gave Blessing his copy of Long Walk To Freedom. The man's eyes lit up.
"Yes! I have long wanted to read this book."
"Do you have it at home?"
A short laugh. "Books are a luxury. I have very few, sadly."
"Well, if you could look after this for me, I'd be most grateful. I really don't have the room to take it home. I've bought too many carved animals."
Blessing gave a shout of laughter. "It is easy to do, my friend! Especially here." He clasped the book in both hands. "I shall take good care of this book."
"Well done. Good luck for the future, Blessing."
They shook hands and Henrik made his way back to the hotel room.
Roxanna had left him a note, saying she and John had gone back down to the Falls with a tour party. She hoped he wouldn't mind, but sensed he needed some time alone. She signed it with an R and a kiss.
Henrik didn't mind at all, but he had no desire to linger in the bedroom. The bed was rumpled from their earlier activities, and the room seemed a little stale. Instead he went to the Reception area to request a bed change, and from there made his way to the pool.
As he walked, it occurred to him with some irony he had probably undone all the good of his actions by asking for the bed to be remade. It just indicated how normalised the luxury had become for them all. He paused, feeling a long way from home, before taking a deep breath and continuing down the path. A mongoose family were playing around the trunk of of a huge tree, so he stopped to watch them for a moment, enchanted by the sight, before laughter spooked them and they ran into the undergrowth.
A group of guests were walking back up from the pool, talking loudly, and Henrik was glad they were going in the opposite direction to him. Because of the imminent storm, night was drawing in early. The path to the pool and the underwater lighting were already on, giving the water a sinister greenish glow. No rain as yet, but almost constant thunder, accompanied by an occasional lightning flash.
He went to the poolside and put his feet over the edge. The water was cooler than he remembered, but very pleasant against his overheated skin. A waiter approached him.
"Sir, it is not safe to swim. A storm is coming."
"I have no intention of swimming. I'm quite happy here."
The man seemed about to point out that Henrik's feet were in the water, but he obviously thought better of it. "May I get you a drink?"
Henrik thought for a moment. "Yes, please. A whisky. Single malt, the smokier the better."
"Of course, sir." The man went away.
Henrik slooshed his feet in the water, feeling the ripples lick up his legs.
Black and icy, freezing his bones.
Soft mud under his feet.
Velvet dark, and his mother's voice, calling him.
White dead hands, outstretched, luring him deeper.
The feeling of loss, of desperation, of panic, knowing he was responsible for a new life and with that knowledge, realising he would never be what the child deserved. Useless, cowardly Henrik, preferring to emulate his mother's death rather than face up to his responsibilities. Turning away from Maja, from Frederik, from ....
"Sir? I have your drink."
Reset to Normal.
His voice made Henrik flinch. The waiter looked concerned as he handed Henrik the tumbler. "Are you feeling well, sir?"
Well? No, he wasn't well. He had depression, and OCD, and anxiety issues, and an inability to communicate with others about his internal pain. Were should he start? With his Nazi grandfather, or his mother walking into a lake with the intention of never coming back up, or his attempted suicide, or his son killing innocent people because he wanted to get attention from his father?
"Thank you." Henrik took his whisky. "I'm quite well, thank you. Just tired. And I'd appreciate being left alone."
The man nodded and left him be.
Henrik sipped the whisky, feeling the fire warming all the way down to his stomach. Lightning flickered, followed soon after by deep rumbles of thunder. Still no rain. The water around Henrik's ankles seemed slightly warmer, and the deep green of the water was inviting.
Was it possible to teach oneself to swim? John was always offering to help him. He said it was a life skill, but there was no way Henrik would let him do that. Not at a municipal pool with the splashing and laughing of children, which sounded so much like screams of panic, or the genteel waters of a country club, where they probably had CCTV and would have a good laugh at the tall man struggling like a toddler in the shallow end.
And John wasn't the most patient of people. At one point he would no doubt get frustrated with him and say something hurtful in the spur of the moment.
No, this was something he had to do alone. He put down his whisky glass and took off his glasses, placing them next to it.
The pool suddenly looked double the size than it actually was. He reminded himself it wasn't deep. Not for him, anyway. If he could just walk along the length of it, surely that would be a start?
He checked he was entirely alone, before standing up and shucking off his trousers and shirt. The air was very warm as he stood in black boxer briefs, contemplating his next move.
Just get in the water, Henrik. Stop fucking around.
That was John's voice in his head, and Henrik knew he was right. He stepped down into the water, hyper-aware of the level rising first to his ankles, then knees, then thighs. When the water was up to his chest, he paused, clinging on to the pool side, before taking a tentative step forward. The tiles were smooth and a little slippery, something he had to keep in mind. Another few steps, and the water was brushing against his chin.
Surely it would become more shallow soon?
He looked back at the steps but they seemed so far away. He was in the middle of the pool, and he either had to go back or press on and try to swim.
He went back, but only so the water was up to his chest again. From there he could think more clearly. He remembered watching John, and how he pushed with both feet on the side of the pool to propel himself through the water. Forward motion, followed by kicking.
He took a deep breath, jumped, pushed and went forward, letting go of the pool.
Panic. floundering, splashing and coughing. He felt the water go up his nose and into his mouth. Desperately he tried to reach the side, his feet reaching for anything resembling a hard surface.
I'm drowning, and it feels highly unpleasant, was his thought as he fought to get to the side. He thought of Roxanna and John, devastated, travelling back to England with his body, and Oskar, clutching his wooden animals, tears running down his little face. When had he last updated his Will? He couldn't remember....
He gripped the edge of the pool, gasping for air, coughing and spluttering. When he had calmed down, he stood up.
Two things became immediately apparent. The water was only up to his waist, and he was on the other side of the pool from where he had started.
He looked furtively around, expecting to see a crowd of astonished onlookers taking in the sight of a middle-aged man in his underpants, floundering around like an excitable Labrador, but he was still alone. He could actually have died in there.
But he hadn't, had he?
His whisky glass was on the other side of the pool, by his clothes. If he wanted a celebratory drink, he'd have to go back and get it.
Then he remembered something. A patient of his had been a triathlete, in for a shoulder repair. In one of their conversations, he had told Henrik he learned to swim underwater before he ever managed to learn conventional techniques. He said he wasn't afraid of drowning because he was already underwater. That was something Henrik thought sounded slightly ludicrous at the time, although he could hardly argue with a man competing at national level, and now it seemed to make sense.
He took a deep breath and went back under the water, keeping his eyes open. It was a strange sensation, not entirely pleasant, but not unbearable either. The lights underwater meant he could see where he would be headed.
He could do this.
He came back up and took air into his lungs, trying to calculate the distance to the other side of the pool. It wasn't far, not for a man of his height. A few kicks with his legs, and he would be there...
Another deep breath, and he sank back under, then pushed hard with his feet off the side of the pool.
Within a few seconds, he was crashing into the wall on the other side. He came up for air, saw his whisky tumbler right in front of him and punched the air, triumphant.
A sip of whisky, another breath, under the water, over to the other side.
Then back. A huge clap of thunder made him jump, but there was no way he was getting out of the water right then. Rain began to fall, heavy drops that splashed water back up into his face, but he didn't care.
This time, he was going to try for a length. He figured he could get to the deepest part of the pool, and if he ran out of breath, he would be able to reach the shallow end.
And he did. As the storm rolled all around him, he played in the water, challenging himself, gradually figuring out the coordination needed to keep himself afloat. His eyes were sore, his fingers wrinkled, but the sense of achievement was huge. Now he could take Oskar to a swimming pool, and they could actually play rather than him hovering nervously on the side, longing for his grandson to get bored so he could take him home! Now he could swim with John and Roxanna, feel their bodies against his in the water, join in with their ridiculous games...
He swam to the bottom of the pool, touched the floor, and came back up again, noting with some satisfaction he was in the deepest part. Another breath, and back down...
As he emerged again, close to the poolside, he was aware of two feet in flip-flops, standing over him. He looked up, blinking, his eyes blurry and sore from the water.
John was standing there, looking unimpressed.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Henrik squeezed the water from his nose and shrugged. "Swimming."
Before John could reply, he pushed himself away from the water and did a backwards dive down, before coming back up and paddling to the side again.
"In the middle of a thunderstorm? Do you have a death wish or something?"
Henrik gave him a lopsided smile. "Don't make me answer that."
"That isn't funny!" John yelled as Henrik sank back under the water.
He swam back towards the steps and arrived just as John got there. He must have run to reach the steps at the same time. Another flash of lightning, but the gap between the flash and the rumbles was widening. The storm was gradually moving away.
Henrik hovered with just his head above the water as John kicked off his flip-flops and sat down on the edge. He beckoned to Henrik to come closer.
"Are you Aquaman now?"
"That is a slight exaggeration." Henrik pushed John's knees apart and stood between them, gazing up at him.
John brushed droplets of water from his face. "You want to talk about it?"
"No. Is Roxanna all right?"
"Rox is fine. I left her at the cocktail bar. What about you? Are you having second thoughts again?"
"About the three of us? No. It's just me, battling my demons as usual."
"You don't have to do it alone. We're here for you. You know that, right?" John placed his fingers under Henrik's chin and tilted his face so they could look into each others' eyes. "You're not alone," he repeated.
"I'm getting used to that," Henrik replied. "It will take some time."
"I know. I would join you in the pool but dinner is in half an hour."
"I'll get out then."
"First swim up to the other end and back. I want to lust after you just a little longer."
Henrik laughed briefly. "If you insist."
He slipped under the water and torpedoed through it, there and back, before emerging from the water, smoothing his hair back, black boxers clinging to his body. John obviously appreciated the sight, from the evidence in his swimming trunks, but he handed Henrik a towel and his clothes.
"You're in so much trouble as soon as I get the opportunity," he muttered.
"I'm counting on it." Henrik toasted him with his whisky tumbler.
The threesome will be moving on in the next chapter, discussing the complexities of car hire...
And John has one thing on his mind...
Chapter 15: The Next Destination
A sort of filler chapter, because I just wanted to write them travelling from one place to another, the car they drive, the music they listen to, Henrik being worried about scorpions (again,) John being annoying (and annoyed)
Just life, basically.
NB. Worth mentioning, Nambiti is a real place, but Leopard's Hollow lodge isn't, and none of the characters are based on real life people on the reserve.
"I HOPE WE didn't abandon you this afternoon," Roxanna said as Henrik sat down for dinner that night.
"On the contrary, I was quite content." Henrik straightened his cutlery until they were evenly spaced out. "I went for a walk, bought some books, and amused myself in the pool."
"That's good. We ..." Roxanna paused. "Sorry, did you say you were in the pool? Actually in it? In the middle of a thunderstorm?"
Henrik waited for the waiter to pour his wine. When the man went away, he replied. "Actually in it."
John had been sworn to silence, but he was almost bouncing in his chair. "Tell her, Henrik."
Now Roxanna looked concerned. "Tell me what?"
"You tell her," Henrik said.
John rolled his eyes. "He only taught himself how to swim."
Roxanna's mouth dropped open. "But... you hate the water!"
"I have a healthy respect for it. I must admit there were a few moments I saw my life flash before me but yes, I can swim. Only underwater though..." The breath was squeezed out of him as Roxanna hugged him tight. The movement was so rapid it knocked over his wine glass. A puddle of Pinot spread over the pristine tablecloth.
Roxanna had tears in her eyes. "Henrik, that's wonderful! I wish I could have been there."
"We may take a dip tomorrow morning."
There was a flurry of activity as waiters rushed to change their table linen and relay their place settings.
"We're going back to the Falls tomorrow morning," John reminded them. "Is there a pool at the next place?"
Roxanna drew out her phone. "I'll check." After a few moments prodding she nodded. "It's an infinity pool, which sounds divine."
"Good. I'm looking forward to getting him back in the water." John smirked at Henrik, who looked flustered.
"YOU'RE GOING TO be in so much trouble when I get the opportunity."
Henrik raises his glass, his smile crooked. "I'm counting on it."
Rising out of the water, the rivulets running down his body, dark hair on his chest as sleek as an otter's, the boxers clinging to his skin, leaving nothing to the imagination.
The way he smoothes his hair back from his face with finely-veined hands, the tufts of hair under his arms, legs that went on for days...
I'm counting on it...
The promise in his smile, permission, anticipation, the flicker of a glance to the large bed under the pavilion....
Oh, to have him right there, to finally claim his body and soul after years of wanting, hearing him sob like an unsullied virgin, gripping the bedclothes as pain turns to pleasure. The tightness, the heat, the abandonment...
John bit his lip to stop the grunt escaping, alerting the others of what was happening. It was the following morning and damn it he was still horny from that glorious sight the night before.
I'm counting on it.
He was beginning to think he had a real problem.
Doctor: So what is the issue, Professor Gaskell?
John: I can't stop thinking about sex.
Doctor: And that's a problem for you, is it?
John: Well, it is when the two people you want to have sex with are your work colleague and your boss. And no one wants to be treated by a man with a constant erection. It's unnerving.
Roxanna breezed in, saw what he was doing and turned smartly around, leaving again with a cheerful, "sorry!" He heard Henrik ask if he was okay, and her response that he was "busy."
"Hurry up. I want to use the toilet," Henrik said through the door.
"Use the other one!" But the moment was lost. John switched off the shower and grabbed his dressing gown, wrapping it around himself. "There are two bathrooms," he grumbled as Henrik passed him. The door was shut firmly in his face.
"God, this is like being back at university," Roxanna complained, picked up John's discarded clothes, tossing them at him. "We need to pack before we even think about breakfast."
Much earlier that morning they had walked back down to the Falls, had coffee in the cafe and walked the mile along the abyss, taking photographs. Already the heat was building, and by the time they arrived back at the hotel, it was already too intense to stay in the sun for long. They went back to the room to shower and pack their things, ready for the porters to take down to the foyer, and went on to a brunch consisting of fresh fruit and crepes in the shade of the terrace.
"I feel like I've been here for years, not three days," Roxanna sighed. "I'm going to miss this place."
"It's beautiful, but I'm ready to move on," Henrik replied. "I'm looking forward to seeing more of the place an travelling under our own steam."
"Talking of which, what car did you organise?" John asked. "Weren't you changing it yesterday?"
Roxanna nodded, dabbing her lips with her linen napkin. "I had originally organised a saloon car, but now there's three of us that isn't really practical, especially when one of us is as tall as the Shard." She smiled affectionately at Henrik. "And the other has more luggage than I do. We have a 4x4. Not sure which model. We'll find out when we get there."
"Better be a good one," John muttered. "Or at least have a USB port."
"That's a priority, is it?" Henrik asked, with a quirk of a dark brow.
"Of course. I've done a Sacha and compiled a playlist for our journey."
"Oh God," Roxanna groaned. "I hope you're not expected us to listen to thrash metal for the next few days. If so, I'll throw you to the lions."
"Don't worry, there's something for everyone." John picked up his phone. "Motorhead? No? How about Pearl Jam? Nirvana...."
Roxanna shook her head. "It's quite simple. As I'm driving it's my rules, my tunes. You're not the only one who has thought ahead."
"Great, so you're going to torture us with Taylor Swift?"
"Definitely not. You'll like it, I promise." She wouldn't be persuaded to tell them what she intended to make them listen to.
"As long as it isn't Wagner or Berlioz. There's enough of that blasting from your office, Henrik."
At length it was time for them to leave. They checked out of the hotel, said their goodbyes and Blessing drove them to Livingstone Airport. He wished them a safe onward journey, and left them at the front door.
"Gosh, it feels really strange, not having people running around after us," Roxanna commented. "We have to fend for ourselves now."
"We'll cope." Henrik picked up his one suitcase, plus Roxanna's red Samsonite, and headed for the automatic doors.
John had found a trolley and was pushing his two pieces of Louis Vuitton luggage in front of him. He looked worried as the cases were checked in and whisked away from sight. There was a lot of hanging around before their flight was called, necessitating another coffee and some browsing in the shops. Not that there were many, but somewhat incongruously, there was a secondhand book shop, which Henrik stayed in until they had to board.
"IS THAT IT?" John looked unimpressed. They were at the underground car park at Oliver Tambo Airport, Johannesburg. The flight had been quicker than expected, due to a stiff wind. They all felt slightly queasy from the turbulence, and glad to get on solid ground.
Now they were standing in front of some kind of Toyota, which didn't look as if it would fit all of them, plus their luggage.
"It's only a 1.5 engine. That thing wouldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding," John continued. "How the hell are we all going to get in that?"
"You do have a point," Roxanna said. Henrik had wandered off again, and was standing in front of a white Audi Q7. He motioned to the woman who worked for the car hire firm.
"How much for this?"
The woman's lips compressed. "It isn't on the paperwork."
"I know that, but as you can see..." He gestured to himself and gave a winning smile. "We would really appreciate it if you could check."
After a moment, the woman smiled back. "Come with me, sir." She swept past Roxanna and John, head held high.
"What am I, chopped liver?" Roxanna muttered to John. "I organised this!"
"He has her eating out of his hand, the suave bastard. I guess it's still a man's world here," John replied "Never mind, Rox. I'd kiss her grandmother if it means we get that Audi."
Roxanna had to sign the new paperwork, but the keys were still handed to Henrik. She whisked them out of his hand with an impatient look at the car hire official and marched off towards the Audi. After giving it a thorough inspection to make sure there were no marks the could be charged for at a later date, and taking a couple of photographs, she unlocked it and slid in the driving seat, leaving the men to load the cases and themselves in the car.
For a moment she familiarised herself with the controls, then plugged in her phone. When her music was set up, she keyed in the directions to Nambiti. By the time Henrik and John climbed in and buckled themselves up, she was ready to go.
Henrik sat in the front and adjusted his seat. John perched in the middle seat at the back.
"Seatbelt?" She asked him.
"Yes, boss." He saluted her. "Are you sure you can cope with a car this big, Rox?"
"Shut up." She started the engine.
When they were out on the freeway and she was confident as to where she was going, she turned the music on with her Africa playlist. Ladysmith Black Mambazo streamed through the speakers.
For once, John didn't have anything to say. He nodded approvingly and sat back in his seat to enjoy the ride.
The Audi had a state of the art sat nav system, which told them they were three hours away from Nambiti Plains.
"We need to arrive before it gets dark," she said. "I've been warned the potholes can be horrendous. We'll miss tonight's game drive but at least we can have a relaxing evening settling in the place."
Once they reached the N1, it was a straight run to Ladysmith, with Nambiti a few miles after that. As soon as they left the city, the driving was easy. On the way they stopped at a service station which had shaded tables outside a shop selling drinks and snacks.
"No more coffee," Henrik said, picking up several bottles of still water. "I feel as dehydrated as a raisin."
They stocked up on biltong, dried fruit and cashews, and sat for ten minutes at a table, watching people come and go. They had been on the go since leaving the Victoria Falls Hotel, and with the bumpy flight as well, everyone was feeling slightly jaded.
"So this is Kwa-Zulu Natal," John said, looking at the expanse of grassy fields. "For some reason I was expecting mountains."
"We're not in the Drakensberg yet. We'll be driving right through it to get to Durban later in the week. There are more hills later on." Roxanna looked at her watch. "Let's get going. We can't risk any delays." She put the rubbish in the can and steered them back to the car.
En route they saw small groups of men working in the punishing heat, or just sitting on their haunches by the side of the road, watching the world pass them by. In the distance they saw glimpses of rondels and mud huts, and the occasional ramshackle building with the sign Primary School, and children playing outside.
The first sign of real civilisation was Ladysmith. As they drove through the Main Street and stopped at the traffic lights, they were aware of people looking at the car with frank interest.
"I guess this isn't the most discreet way to drive through South Africa," John murmured.
"It's because I'm driving," Roxanna said. She waved away a street vendor who approached her window with bunches of bananas. She was relieved when the lights turned green. The sat nav told her to turn down another wide road lined with tin shacks. People were everywhere, trading, buying, colourful dresses swaying in the breeze, piles of fruit and vegetables, car parts, live chickens and goats. It was a bustling, noisy community and the three travellers felt very out of place.
Roxanna steered around a large pothole, waited to let two women balancing loads on their heads to cross the road, and avoided a solitary cow, before finally leaving the chaos behind.
"That was different," John remarked.
"No, I suspect that's normal for Africa," Henrik replied. He hadn't said much for the journey, too enthralled with taking it all in.
The verges had turned red with sparse vegetation. A few miles on they saw the turning for Nambiti Plains, and found themselves on a dirt track.
"Easy. I do want the use of my spine," Henrik grumbled as she sped along, almost propelling him into the roof of the car. Behind them a huge plume of dust rose into the air. It was obvious there hadn't been rain for a while.
Roxanna slowed down as she saw two tiny children by the side of the road, waving at them. She waved back and they ran behind the car, laughing. She tried not to cover them with dust as she left them behind.
"Where's their mother?" She asked, looking around. The youngest had only been about three or four, the oldest no more than six. They were dressed in rags with no shoes on their feet, but their smiles had been infectious.
"I'm guessing people don't worry about things like child safety to the same extent we do in the UK," John said, looking back out of the window. The children could no longer be seen in the dust and heat haze.
The fencing to the left of them had changed and become much higher, with barbed wire on the top and electric wires.
"This must be the reserve," Roxanna said excitedly. "Look!" She pointed at several tall shapes in the distance.
"Giraffe! Good heavens," Henrik exclaimed.
John patted him on the back. "Here to welcome one of their own," he said.
The entrance to the game reserve appeared soon afterwards. They went through and stopped at the checkpoint, where they all had to sign in, before being directed to the car park.
Henrik climbed from the car and stretched, easing out the kinks in his back. He looked around at the ground somewhat anxiously as the others did the same.
"What are you looking for?" John asked.
"Checking for scorpions."
"I expect any bug within a five mile radius ran like hell as soon as they sensed Rox thundering up here like Mad Maxine," John replied. "So much for our shiny white Audi."
The car was now mostly covered in orange dust, but before they had a chance to figure out what to do next, a game viewer thundered around the corner and stopped next to them. The young woman climbing out had long mahogany-coloured legs in short khaki shorts, a muscular physique in a Nambiti-emblazoned ranger shirt and battered leather hiking boots. Her dark hair was roughly cropped as if she had done it herself.
"Hi!" Her smile was welcoming, widening even more when she saw Roxanna. "Welcome to Nambiti. I'm Col." Her handshake was firm, her accent South African. "And you're Roxanna, right? Or Rox? Or Ms. McMillan?"
"Rox will be fine." Roxanna grinned back at her.
"Great! And you're ... Henrik Hanssen?" She was looking at John.
"I'm Henrik, and yes, you may call me that." Henrik shook her hand.
"Fantastic. So you have to be Mr. John Gaskell?"
"Professor John Gaskell," John corrected her.
"Oh, right! Professor." She gave the word the equal amount of inflection as he just had. "Professor John. PJ. Nice. Good to meet you, PJ." Another bone-crunching handshake, and she elbowed past him to begin lifting their luggage into the front of the vehicle.
"Let me..." Henrik began.
"Nope, Henrik. I can manage." She effortlessly lifted each case in, her arms all muscle and sinew. John grimaced as his expensive luggage was piled on top.
"Don't worry, PJ, I'll look after it like it's my own baby." She opened the door to the vehicle and watched as Roxanna climbed in first. "It's quite high. I do have a box if you need it," she said to John as he went next. He gave her a cold look and followed Roxanna, with Henrik bringing up the rear.
"She fucking better not call me PJ the whole time we're here," John muttered.
"Be glad your name isn't Benjamin," Roxanna whispered back.
Col climbed in behind the wheel and turned to them. "Okay, welcome to Nambiti, folks. I'm taking you to Leopard Hollow lodge and all I will say is we're in a game reserve, the animals are wild and dangerous, and outside the lodge fences it's their territory, so no one is allowed through the gates unless they are in a vehicle driven by a ranger. And the usual stuff about not feeding them, or touching them. Right now the lions haven't made the connection between the vehicles and food, and we really don't want that to happen. Otherwise, enjoy and ask as many questions as you like. As you can see, you have a giraffe welcome committee so if you want me to stop so you can take photos, please do. And have your binos ready at all times. You never know when and where you might spot something. Okay?"
"Okay," they said in unison.
It took a while to drive the half mile to the lodge, because the giraffes blocked their way, pondering over a puddle in the road before stepping carefully over it. They took pictures but mainly just watched, entranced by the graceful creatures. Finally they moved on so Col could drive through the entrance to the lodge, over a cattle grid and down a steep hill to the lodge itself.
She leapt out of the vehicle and opened the door for them. Henrik alighted first, then helped John down, his hands on his waist to steady him.
"Thank you, kind sir," John said with a mock simper. As he moved out the way, Col was there to help Roxanna.
"It's kind of steep because the ground falls away," she said. "Put your hands on my shoulders."
Roxanna did so, and found herself on the ground, face to face with the attractive ranger. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome." A flash of white teeth. "Follow the steps. Our Lodge Manager will be there to greet you. Are you game driving tomorrow morning?"
"Definitely," Roxanna said, not giving the others time to think about it.
"Good. I'm taking you out. We'll see you at this spot at five thirty."
"Five thirty?" John's jaw sagged.
"The animals have a snooze as the day gets warmer so we won't see as much, but don't worry, PJ. We have sun-uppers halfway round, including hot chocolate for those who need it. Go on down now and I'll see to your luggage." She gestured to the steps.
"Five thirty," John said under his breath as they trooped down the stairs.
At the lodge entrance they were greeted by two people, one bearing iced flannels to wipe the dust from their faces, and the other with colourful fruit cocktails to refresh them. The manager was a woman called Jade, who also greeted them in a friendly manner.
"Welcome to Leopard Hollow Lodge! Come inside and I'll give you the tour."
Chapter 16: There Maybe Trouble Ahead...
Introducing a character I was bouncing around with @bygone-age on Tumblr (under the tag #give Henrik a boyfriend)
In this instance, Jacob causes trouble between Henrik and John. Not intentionally (because he's a nice person) but I wanted to see what would happen if another man caught Henrik's eye...)
Oh yeah, and there's some angst.
Aaaand, then some smut.
"It'll be quiet here until everyone else gets back from the game drive," Jade said as she walked them to their rooms. "We're two guests down so I've managed to put you all together, if that's acceptable."
"Perfectly," John said, before anyone else could speak. They were led down a path through lush vegetation, up some wooden steps to a thatched building in the same style as the main lodge. The two bedrooms were in the same style, with white linen on enormous beds, and African art on the walls. The floors were cool smooth concrete with scatter rugs, and the bathrooms were in the same rustic style, with white porcelain and a modest shower.
Jade unlocked another door and led them back outside to a small area floored with stone.
"If you fancy a bush shower, go right ahead. The controls are self-explanatory."
"We won't be joined by any wildlife, will we?" Henrik looked doubtful.
"There's always a possibility, but that's half the fun. No predators though. The fences were put up recently after a buffalo came into the garden."
"I was more worried about snakes. Or scorpions."
"We've been here for 20 plus years, and none of our guests have been bitten by either yet. If you see something that concerns you, just let us know and we'll deal with it." Jade smiled reassuringly at him. "And we're all trained, just in case."
Henrik nodded. "That's good to know."
"I'll leave you to settle in. Dinner is at eight when the others get back. The bar is always open in the lodge. Just come over when you're ready and use the pool or just relax and see what's happening at the waterhole." She glanced down over the balcony. "There's some warthog at the moment. See?"
They all looked, John handing Roxanna his binoculars.
"One final thing. Are you happy to share a table with the other group? We usually do here but if you prefer to be on your own..."
"Oh no, we'll share. It'll be fun," Roxanna said, before either man could say anything to the contrary.
"Great! We'll see you later." Jade left them to it.
John immediately took out his phone and began checking his emails. "Sorry, I just need to call Portugal. I could be a while." He disappeared into the other room, taking a suitcase with him.
"It's fine. We can go to the pool, can't we, Henrik?"
"Can we?" Henrik was busy placing his clothes in neat piles on the open shelves, putting his shoes high up off the floor. "All right. Just let me finish this." He hung up his shirts on the provided hangers, with his trousers precisely folded underneath.
Roxanna put on her bikini and sarong and waited a few moments, but he was still fiddling round, getting the room to his liking, moving cushions and chairs.
"I'll go ahead. You can join me when you're ready."
"I'm ready now." He retrieved his book and followed her out of the room.
They paused at the balcony and looked out over the waterhole, the water reflecting the jacaranda blossom on the surrounding trees. In the far distance was a flat-topped mountain, and as far as they could see the countryside was covered with thick scrub. On the hillside they could see tall shapes of giraffe, making their stately way along one of their tracks.
"This is simply wonderful," Roxanna sighed, resting her head against Henrik's arm. "Are you enjoying yourself? You sometimes seem so quiet."
"I'm taking it all in," Henrik replied. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and they held each other for a moment. "And yes, I am enjoying myself, Roxanna. But you know me. Sometimes I wonder why I deserve such incredible luck."
"Because you do," Roxanna said simply. "And I do. And John does. We've found each other again, all of us. Through good times and bad, we are here for each other, and that feels good. It feels great! Right now, this is a good patch. Enjoy it. Soak it in. It will help us through the tough times."
"I know." He held her closer.
After a moment she pulled away. "Come on, let's try out the pool."
As she said it, Henrik's phone rang. It was one of the burdens of being CEO, the inability to really escape.
"It's fine. I'll see you down there," Roxanna said, and left him to it.
He saw Sacha's name on the screen, which was unusual. Up until then he had kept in contact with his staff via email. No one seemed keen to actually call him whilst he was away. He pressed the Incoming button.
"Henrik, so sorry to trouble you. It's about a Mr. Matthew Walton..."
Henrik sighed inwardly, knowing it was not going to be a short conversation.
SACHA AND JAC and Dom were in the Boardroom, together with the anaesthetist. Nicky had also been allowed in, and Serena was presiding over the meeting in Henrik's place. They were gathered around the speaker phone, listening to Henrik's advice on how to deal with the tricky patient, who had previously been treated at St. James's.
"I realise we have to tread very carefully, considering the litigious nature of the patient," Henrik was saying, "but if he is refusing treatment at St. James's there is very little we can do. Did he win his latest case?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Jac said drily. "Normally I would jump at the chance to perform valve replacement on a diseased aorta but the patient is overweight, he smokes despite being warned not to and frankly, I believe there are other more deserving recipients of my time and effort."
They clearly heard a sharp intake of breath over the speaker. "That may well be true, Ms. Naylor, but as you know, we don't discriminate. You cannot let personal feelings interfere with professional decision making," Henrik said firmly.
"Understood." Jac's voice was acid. She rolled her eyes and sipped at her coffee.
"There's also another problem," Sacha said. "His latest scan shows nodules on his lung. Without a biopsy we can't be sure, but given his history..."
"Does he know yet?"
The scan was done this morning," Dom said. "He actually came in with abdominal pains yesterday morning."
"Great," Jac said. "All he needs is a clot on the brain. Not that we have a neurosurgeon available as Gaskell has swanned off to God-only-knows where."
"I'm sure he'll turn up," Henrik said, with forced joviality.
Sacha and Jac exchanged glances, and Sacha shook his head before Jac could respond with a pithy remark.
"The Professor is a law unto himself," Serena said, leaning towards the speaker. "Anyway, I'm sorry, Henrik. We didn't want to go ahead with anything without keeping you in the loop."
"That's quite alright. My advice would be to inform the patient of the results of the scan, offer a biopsy, and fully appraise him of the operation on his aneurysm. Pay extra care to record everything he's agreed to, or not as the case may be, and make sure he understands exactly what the potential dangers are. I know I'm preaching to the choir but we can't afford any bad publicity at Holby, not after the Holly Cartwright case. If the patient is stable then wait until I'm back next week. If necessary I'll oversee the operation myself."
"Excellent," Sacha nodded. "Any more questions, anyone?"
The group shook their heads. The anaesthetist and the scrub nurses left the room.
"How is Africa, Henrik? You sound as if you're next door. The line is excellent."
"It's very hot and ..."
They heard a flurry of movement and another male voice, very familiar.
"Found you! I want to lick you all over, you big stud."
More indistinct sounds. Sacha grabbed the handset.
Jac mopped the coffee she had spat on the table. "I guess we now know where the Professor is," she said.
Nicky had her hand over her mouth, trying to hold back snorts of laughter. Her whole body was shaking with the effort.
Sacha waved frantically for her to be quiet. "No one heard that," he said into the receiver.
Jac shook her head, grinning. "Absolutely not," she whispered.
Henrik cleared his throat. "Well, I'll see you on Thursday morning, Mr. Levi."
The connection abruptly cut off.
"Say nothing," Serena said. "No one heard that. Absolutely none of us."
Immediately, Sacha looked at Dom.
"Why are you looking at me? I'm a paragon of discretion." Dom was indignant. "My lips are sealed." He gathered his files together and left the room.
"Excuse me whilst I go and stick pins in my eyes to get that mental picture out of my head," Jac said. "Foetus, come on. And stop smirking."
"Yes, Miss Naylor." Nicky ran after her.
When the door had shut, Sacha and Serena exchanged glances. Serena broke first, letting out an unladylike snort, setting Sacha off. For a moment they could do nothing but wheeze out giggles.
"Well, Monday is going to be interesting," Serena said when she could speak. "I can't wait."
"I DIDN'T KNOW!" John said for the third time. "I thought you were taking photographs, I'm sorry, Henrik, I didn't mean to embarrass you."
Henrik was fuming. He had a sneaking suspicion John knew exactly what he was doing.
"You think this is some kind of game? I want our arrangement to be discreet, not conducted for the endless amusement of my staff and colleagues!"
"You said Sacha told you the speakerphone was switched off."
"He was trying to save my embarrassment. I knew damned well it wasn't." Henrik paced the room, massaging his temples.
"You need to calm down." John stood in front of him. "Henrik, stop. It doesn't matter..."
"It matters to me!"
"Why? Who cares what we do and who with? The most you'll get is a few raised eyebrows and then everyone will forget it. Or did you think we were just going to pretend nothing was going on for eternity?" He grasped Henrik's hands. "I want us, to be just that. US. You, me, Roxanna. No explanations because none are necessary. We don't have to explain ourselves to anyone. Listen to me." He forced Henrik to look into his eyes. "I wouldn't do that to you on purpose. I wouldn't do that to anyone. To out someone just to make a joke? You really think that is the type of person I am? If so, why did you want me here? Why did you let me anywhere near Roxanna again?"
Henrik heaved a sigh and closed his eyes, letting John's soothing voice wash over him. Finally he said, "I'm sorry, John. You're right, of course. I just don't like... being the subject of ridicule. It weakens my position and ..."
"Hold the front page! The Great Henrik Hanssen is finally getting some! Yes, I can see that would make good copy, for about five minutes at least."
"Stop it. You know what I mean."
"Yes, and frankly it isn't making me feel good. It's that dirty little secret thing again. It isn't something I'm prepared to be."
"I understand that, but I gave the go ahead for you to set up your lab at Holby. We work alongside each other every day. It would be easy for people to surmise I have favoured you unfairly due to our ... arrangement."
"It's a relationship, Henrik, not an 'arrangement.' I'm not your fucking mistress and neither is Roxanna!" John's voice was biting.
"I'm well aware of that. I..." Henrik paused. "I'm not trying to just protect myself, but all of us."
"Then let's be upfront. If people ask, say 'yes, we're in a polyamorous relationship.' Where's the issue?"
"That's naive and you know it."
John led him to the swing seat and sat down with him, holding his hands. "You're overthinking this. Undoubtedly there will be a flurry of interest, and we may lose some support in the short term, but people know the hospital is world-class, and it won't take long for the doubters to see that that hasn't changed, just because you have an unconventional private life."
"And your stem cell research? That could be affected. You may find you have fewer willing participants."
John shrugged. "Again, maybe in the short term, but people are adaptable and science cannot lie. I know the idea of people speculating about your private life is abhorrent but it won't last. Why don't we talk to Roxanna about your concerns? She may be able to put your mind at rest even if I can't."
Henrik leaned forward, his face in his hands.
"Let's go to the pool and and talk to her. I'm useless at making anyone feel better." John hovered around him.
"That isn't true," Henrik mumbled through his fingers. He sat up and looked wearily up at him. "Is that all we are? Unconventional?"
John laughed slightly. "No one thinks you're normal for one moment. As for me, try being considered the Devil Incarnate. I think it's well-documented I'm not exactly a people person. As for Rox, everyone loves her. Did you ever think she would turn into this incredible, voracious goddess? I didn't. Her confidence will see both of us through hard times. Trust me, Henrik. You know it's true."
ROXANNA GAVE HENRIK a reassuring hug. "Don't worry on my account. You think I'm afraid of a bit of gossip, having stared death in the face? Our private lives won't matter as soon as we're needed to save someone on the operating table. And talking of which, I'm almost looking forward to getting back there. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm beginning to miss Holby." She picked up her glass. "We have five more nights, so let's make the most of them. We can face whatever needs to be faced when we get back next week."
As they clinked glasses, Henrik felt calm again. They were bound to come up against people not understanding, or having a prurient interest in their relationship, but the people who mattered most would be nothing but supportive. Everyone else was irrelevant.
As they enjoyed their drinks on the veranda, the other guests arrived back from their game drive. A flurry of activity by the entrance announced an elderly lady, escorted by a man who was presumably her son, and another couple, talking excitedly.
Henrik found he was appraising the man as he guided his frail companion to a seat. He was in his mid-forties, with straight, dark blond hair shot through with golden highlights, and his legs were slim and tanned under close-fitting safari shorts. He wore a cream linen shirt, neatly tucked in, with short sleeves showing brown, lithe arms.
The elderly woman said something and the man turned in Henrik's direction. He had an attractive face half-obscured by mirrored Aviators.
He took the sunglasses off, revealing high cheekbones....
A book landed in Henrik's lap, making him jump. He turned to John. "What was that for?"
"I don't mind you checking out other men. Trust me, I do it all the time, but not when I'm with you or Roxanna. Could you do me the courtesy of keeping your eyes to yourself?"
"I wasn't. I..." He noticed Roxanna was grinning,
"Yes, you were," she said. "I know for a fact you like blondes."
"Shit, he's coming over," John muttered. "Now look what you've done."
Henrik stood up as the newcomer approached them.
"Hey, how's it going?" He held out his hand to Henrik. "I'm Jacob Altman. Good to meet you." His accent was American, but Henrik couldn't place the region.
He introduced himself, and then Roxanna and John. He noticed John was watching Jacob carefully, sizing him up.
"This is my mother, Albertine," Jacob said as the old lady joined them.
"Call me Albie. Everyone does." She shook their hands with an equally firm grip. "Are you joining us for dinner? I hope so. The other lot were rather stuffy."
"Mother," Jacob warned. "Perhaps they want to eat in peace."
"Oh no, we'd be delighted." Henrik extricated his hand from Albie. He noticed her skin had the yellowish tinge of advanced cancer, and she was as delicate as a bird.
"Are you a doctor, Mr. Hanssen?" She asked. Her blue eyes were also tinged with yellow.
"How did you know?"
"You have that look. Sympathetic but not pitying. Don't get fond of me, Mr. Hanssen. I'll be dead within six months, but I suspect you've already realised that."
Jacob looked pained. "She's always wanted to see Africa."
"And to find my son a nice husband. Are you married, Mr. Hanssen?"
Henrik cleared his throat. "I've never had the opportunity. I am with ..." He gestured vaguely in the direction of John and Roxanna. Jacob and Albie looked confused. "Time to sit for dinner, I think," he said, rapidly changing the subject.
JACOB AND HIS mother were New Yorkers, both born and bred in Brooklyn. Jacob's accent was softer than his mothers, due to many years spent in the UK. It turned out they had a lot to talk about, especially after Jacob revealed he was a psychiatrist with clinics in Boston and Manhattan.
"This should be interesting," John murmured to Roxanna.
"Be nice," she whispered back.
The Altmanns' friends were an ebullient South African couple who had been to Nambiti before. They talked about what they had seen on the game drive, including a fleeting sighting of a cheetah's backside disappearing into the bush.
"You'll get a lot of rump shots," Peter laughed. "I could fill a whole album with animal backsides."
"Did you see lions? I would love to see them," Roxanna said.
Peter's wife, Julia, shook her head. "Not this time. When we've been before, they were walking right in front of the truck. It's just luck."
The wine flowed and no one seemed inclined to go to bed. In the end Albie announced she needed to rest, so Jacob took her back to their suite of rooms.
"He's coming back," Albie said. "Don't stop the fun on my account."
"Fabulous," John muttered. He seemed to have taken against the New Yorker and his questions had a sharp edge, increasing with the amount of wine consumed. Jacob parried them neatly, seeming to be aware of John's barely-concealed hostility and almost enjoying it.
They had moved to the comfortable chairs on the veranda, watching a distant lightning storm. Jacob promptly sat next to Henrik on the couch, whilst John sat opposite, watching them carefully. Albie seemed to find the whole thing highly amusing.
When Jacob rose to escort her to her room, John casually went over to the railing, looked over the edge, poured more wine for everyone and plonked himself back down next to Henrik. When Jacob returned, he put his hand possessively on Henrik's thigh. It was at that point, Roxanna announced they should have an early night if they were to be up before dawn the following day.
"Come on," she said to Henrik, pulling him to his feet. She did the same with John and they bade their goodnights.
"What was the hurry?" Henrik said as they made their way back to their rooms.
"John looked as if he were about to punch the psychiatrist. And you know it's true," she said, as John started to protest.
Their beds had been turned down for the night, the lights on low.
"Who's sharing with whom?" Henrik asked. "There isn't room for three of us."
"Or four of us." John scowled at Henrik. "That bloody man was making a play for you all night and you were lapping it up."
"Stop it," Roxanna said firmly. "Henrik, you share with John. Sort this out. I won't have petty jealousy spoiling our time here. This isn't high school." She snatched up her washbag and strode to the other room, firmly shutting the door.
"So did you find him attractive?" John asked, as soon as she had gone.
Henrik felt put on the spot. "I suppose... this is all new to me. I don't know how to feel, how to act. I'm sorry." He pulled John into his arms. "Help me. I need your guidance, John."
John rested his head against Henrik's chest. "It's simple. You can look, don't touch. Remember how you were with Sahira Shah?"
Henrik caught his breath. "That was... ill-advised."
John looked up at him. "That was you having a mid-life crisis. Don't be that person again. Feel free to share with me how you'd like Jacob Altmann to suck your cock. But don't give him that impression. I get jealous easily and believe me, it isn't pretty."
Henrik relaxed. "Understood."
"Good. Talking of which..." John began unfastening the buttons on Henrik's shirt. They shared a kiss as his fingers found Henrik's trouser zip, sliding it down, slipping his hand inside to fondle him. "You like that?"
"I like it very much." Henrik pulled away and began undressing. When he was naked, he turned out the light, plunging them both into velvet darkness. He felt John's warm, hard naked body press next to his.
"Actually, you're wrong," he whispered. "I wasn't thinking about him doing that to me."
"What were you thinking about?"
Henrik pushed John onto his back and sought out his nipples with his tongue. John stifled a moan.
"This." Henrik kissed a trail down John's body, stopping to briefly lick his navel, before unexpectedly encountering the top of his erect penis.
"Christ," John whispered as Henrik tentatively tasted him, then ran his tongue down the length of the shaft. This wasn't something he had ever done before, but he was surprised at how natural it felt. And the soft sounds John was making were gratifying as well. He spread out his arms and gripped the bedclothes, his hips lifting towards Henrik's mouth. It was clear what he wanted, but Henrik was happy to continue tasting him, licking him, idling his tongue around the sensitive underside.
"Please," John pleaded, "just suck me, please..."
"You'll make too much noise if I do." Henrik continued his teasing trail, up and down the length of John's cock.
"I won't, I promise. Please..." John was gasping for breath, his body yearning towards him as Henrik finally eased the head of John's cock between his lips for the very first time.
In the dark, anything was possible. He wasn't the man he was during the day, reserved, calm, respected. In the velvet dark he could be anyone. John could be anyone. They were just two people, drawing pleasure from the other. He had an image of Jacob Altmann spread across the bed, pleading for his touch, or Roxanna. He was a sexual being, this private side of him no one would ever see apart from his two lovers. Roxanna loved the way he pleasured her, and now John was in the same throes of exquisite pleasure, muffling his cries of ecstasy with a pillow, the lack of oxygen heightening his imminent orgasm. Henrik tasted sweetness, then musk.
"You don't have to sw... oh Jesus, you are. You beautiful man," John gasped, before coherent speech deserted him.
Henrik held him down, one hand on the pillow stifling John's moans as he sucked him dry. The taste was salty yet not unpleasant, and he was surprised at how much of it there was. When it was over, he removed the pillow, allowing John to fill his lungs again with sweet air.
"Fuck," John breathed. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
"Very eloquent," Henrik said drily. "Now you can return the compliment."
"Give me a minute."
Henrik could imagine John's chest rising and falling with his exertions, the slight sheen of sweat, his limp phallus lying across his stomach. He did that to him. The feeling was euphoric. he felt the blood pumping through his veins, concentrating on one area down south. He felt for his cock. It was like an iron bar.
"No," he ground out. "Do it now."
"How can I resist?" John rolled over onto his side, fumbling in the dark, finding Henrik's solid erection. "Jesus, Henrik, you're about ready to explode."
He was right. Henrik was shocked by the rush of hunger instigated by the feel of John's lips over the head of his cock. By the time he was fully enclosed, he was on the brink. He clenched his jaw against making a sound and put his hands on John's head, holding him down the way he liked it. When he felt the hot, silken tongue against his flesh he lost control, pulsing and throbbing, lifting his hips to force more of his cock into John's mouth. He almost cried out when John mumbled in protest, the vibration sending him soaring.
Finally he slumped, relaxing his hold on John's head. Immediately, John came up and kissed him roughly, forcing him to test himself.
"Bastard," he hissed. "You nearly fucking choked me."
Henrik laughed. "You love it really."
John rested his head on Henrik's chest and pulled the sheet up over them. He sighed, snuggling against Henrik's chest.
"Yeah, you're right. I do."
Chapter 17: To Sappho With Love
Ooh, I was torn about this. Originally I wrote Rox actually having a bit of girl/girl fun, but then realised if she did this, she would be CHEATING on Henrik and John, which is a big Nope.
Aaargh! Just see what you think. Sorry if I upset anyone. Roxanna is a lovely person. Please don't hate her for this.
THE OUTSIDE TEMPERATURE was surprisingly cold, and they stood around a foldout table near the game viewer, huddled in fleeces and hugging mugs of hot drinks. The savannah plain was spread before them, with a hill rising on the other side of the clearing. Col looked around to check for predators, and pronounced it safe. For now.
Albie opted to stay in the truck, as the descent was dauntingly high, but Jacob made sure she had a hot chocolate and a freshly made blueberry muffin in her hand. She watched as he sidled up to Henrik, barely reaching his shoulder.
"Have you been on safari before?" He asked.
"We had trip out on our way to Victoria Falls." Henrik began telling him about the train, and the ludicrous amount of food, as well as the excellent service.
"What a coincidence. We're doing that next, if she makes it." A shadow passed over Jacob's face. "She's frailer than she looks."
"But she's having the time of her life," Henrik said. "And you're giving that to her. It's wonderful to see."
Jacob smiled wistfully. "Are your parents still with you?"
Henrik hesitated. It wasn't the time to divulge details about his mother's suicide and his estrangement from his dead father. "No," he said. "Some offspring are luckier than others. I'll just leave it at that."
"I'm sorry." Jacob lay a gentle hand on his arm. "I'm so glad she was able to see such cool sights this morning. Those elephants! I admit my ass clenched when that big bull came strolling towards us."
"A colourful turn of phrase but I believe I felt something similar," Henrik replied. The bull elephant had decided not to stop, forcing Col to reverse the game viewer down a steep track and into the bush to let him pass. The look in the elephant's eyes had been clear. "I'm coming through and you better not get in my way."
For the first time, he noticed Jacob's hand was still on his arm, but it felt rather pleasant. The man was fairly slight in stature, with a finely boned face, determined chin and thin, shapely lips. He had a sudden desire to kiss him and see how that felt...
"Good lord," he muttered. What was wrong with him? He looked back and met John's gaze. At once, John moved towards him.
"Put him down and get your own," he said, firmly removing Jacob's hand from Henrik's arm.
"No harm meant." Jacob smiled easily, met Henrik's gaze for a second longer than necessary and wandered back to the table. "Any chance of another coffee?"
Col made another in Jacob's cup, then took her own mug and went to where Roxanna was standing, now on her own.
"Hey, you okay? Not too cold?"
"Oh no, this is wonderful." Roxanna hugged her blanket around her. "Delicious muffins too. Did you make them?"
"God, no! I can't cook to save my life. The kitchen staff make them overnight."
"You all work such long hours," Roxanna said. "When do you sleep?"
"I'm off-duty this afternoon. Not that I finish working, I'm studying for my Grade 3 Ranger exam."
"I didn't even know there was an exam."
"Sure there is. It's quite in-depth. Knowledge of the animals and birds, their breeding habits, their behaviours. There's a ton of stuff I need to learn before I take you out, mainly to keep you safe as well."
Roxanna nodded. "That makes sense. What do you do when off-duty? We're in the middle of nowhere."
"I share a villa with some of the others. This afternoon I'll light up the braai and have a couple of cold ones. Probably work out a little and then I'll get studying. Tomorrow I go back home for a week to really get some revision in."
"No rest for the wicked," Roxanna said. "Have you always been a Ranger?"
"God, no. I was in insurance in Jo'berg for fifteen years," Col laughed deprecatingly.
Roxanna looked at her with new interest. "How old are you?"
"I'll be forty in three months. Good genes, baby," she grinned, pointing to her face.
"Wow. I thought you were in your twenties!"
"This is a complete career change. I was on the anti-poaching team in Kruger for two years, then came here three years ago. I love it. I just need to get through my final exam. Then I can take guests out on walking expeditions."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"Yes, but I have firearms training. It's a necessary precaution."
"Gosh. Make my job sound a little dull. I'm a neurosurgeon."
It was Col's turn to look impressed. "Not dull at all. That's sexy as hell."
"Not when I'm up to my elbows in blood but yes, I do get a buzz out of it."
"Is your husband a surgeon as well?"
Roxanna laughed. "Well, neither of them are my husbands. We... it's hard to explain, but we're all in the medical profession, yes."
Col nodded. "Okay, I get it. Polyam?"
Roxanna was surprised. "Is it that obvious?"
"No, but it's nothing to be embarrassed about either."
Yes. I know some people won't understand that but it's strange. I always thought I would be terribly jealous of Henrik and John.... being together, but I'm not. It's..."
"Yes, absolutely. And neither of them are jealous of the other if they are with me. Gosh, listen to me. What was in that hot chocolate you gave me?"
"Amarula. It warms you up on a cold morning."
"And loosens the tongue. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. Have you talked to anyone else about all this?"
"Good lord, no, but you seem to understand."
"Well, look at me. I'm a butch lesbian so I'm used to being different. Being misunderstood. Goes with the territory."
"Here's to being different." Roxanna held up her coffee mug and Col touched it with hers. Their eyes met, and Roxanna felt a tingle in her lower regions.
"I've never been with a woman," she said, then pressed her fingers to her lips. "Oh dear."
Col laughed joyously. "It's underrated. You think your men would be jealous?"
"I don't know, if I'm honest."
"Uh, Col, there's a...." Peter and Julia were rushing towards them, wide-eyed.
Col looked to where they were pointing. A large male lion had appeared over the hillside and was watching them quizzically.
"Okay, nice and quiet, folks. Get back to the truck."
Everyone was already climbing back on board. The lion began to descend the hill towards them as Col fastened the doors and clambered behind the wheel.
"What about the food box?" Albie said.
"Oh, we've lost a few like this in the past. We just leave them to it. Let's keep nice and quiet, all limbs in the truck," Col said calmly.
As they watched, the huge male lion sauntered up to the table and sniffed it, then batted off the plastic box of leftover muffins. The lid popped open and the muffins rolled into the dirt.
John was filming the whole thing on his camera. They all stifled a laugh as the lion licked at a muffin, then began to eat it.
"That was my breakfast," Col sighed.
Bored with the muffins, the lion sniffed at the truck, mere inches from Jacob's leg. Then he turned and lifted his tail, displaying generously-proportioned balls, and sprayed the truck.
"Oh crap, that stinks," Jacob muttered, as urine spattered his legs.
"Divine retribution, I'd say," John whispered gleefully.
To their relief, the lion padded away to the drinks box and nosed it, grabbing the handle with enormous teeth. As they watched, he dragged it into the bush and disappeared from view.
They all drew breath. Col turned to them, looking pleased. "That's what you call a close encounter."
"Now I know what lion piss smells like," Jacob joked.
"Luckily I've lost my sense of smell." Albie looked delighted. She clapped her hands. "How wonderful! I feel blessed to have seen that."
Roxanna caught Col's smile in the side mirror and she smiled back. Then she realised why. She had swapped places with Henrik and now saw her short skirt had risen dangerously high, giving Col a great view right up to her panties. She clamped her knees together but it was difficult, with the game viewer bouncing around on the rough tracks.
In the end, she gave up. If Col could see her underwear that was fine. Just because she was lesbian, didn't mean she fancied Roxanna in any way. She was a woman. She understood the dilemma of wearing short skirts.
They were more than ready for breakfast when they returned to the lodge, having seen a wonderful array of wildlife and birds. Henrik and John alighted first, ready to help Albie whilst Jacob rushed off to clean himself of lion urine.
"Oh look, two princes coming to my aid!" The elderly lady allowed John to carry her down to the lodge and set her down on her favourite chair.
"Goodness me, what muscles," she said, feeling his arm. "It's rather fun having hidden strengths, isn't it?"
"Mrs. Altmann, are you flirting with me?" John asked playfully.
"Absolutely, dear. I'm incorrigible to the last." Albie sparkled at him. "Don't worry about Jacob stealing your man. Henrik is obviously smitten with you."
"And Roxanna, of course."
The others had arrived, followed by Col. They lingered around the breakfast buffet, contemplating what to have first.
"Good lord. Did you hear that, Jacob? You don't see or hear any bisexuals for months then three arrive at the same time."
"Mom!" Jacob looked stricken. "I'm sorry..."
"Don't be." Henrik waved his apology away. "I believe we thrashed out all our secrets last night."
"Though I'm actually straight. Sorry," Roxanna said apologetically.
"Oh, don't apologise, though I have my own views on whether anyone is actually truly straight," Albie replied, with an unsubtle sideways look at Col.
"I'm strictly ladies only," Col replied. "Not sorry." She grinned at Roxanna, who blushed furiously.
Breakfast passed very pleasantly. Afterwards, Henrik, John and Roxanna went back to the room to freshen up. They sat for a while, reading or catching up with messages before heading down to the pool.
Peter and Julia were there. Albie had gone to rest and Jacob was keeping an eye on her, they said. He was devoted to her and didn't like leaving her for very long.
It was a peaceful lazy morning. They forewent lunch, still full from breakfast, and opted instead to stay by the pool with their books.
Roxanna went in the pool to cool off, followed by Henrik, who dived under the water and grabbed Roxanna's legs, making her laugh as he rose up to appear nose to nose with her. He pulled her into his arms and gave her a wet kiss.
She splashed water in his face and laughed again as he scooped her up in his arms.
"I'm so glad you can use the pool now. Well done, Henrik. I can't imagine how much that took for you do conquer your fear."
"I nearly drowned," he said, deadpan.
"I can believe it." She kissed his nose.
John waded over to join them. "Can I join in?'
They pulled him into their embrace. He kissed first Roxanna and then Henrik.
"How is it possible to be so in love with two people at the same time?" Henrik asked.
Roxanna stroked his face. "I don't know. I really don't, but I'm glad we are." They looked out over the hillside. John pointed out the distinct shape of giraffe on the horizon.
Close by, Henrik's phone began to ring. He groaned in frustration. "Sorry, I need to take this. Bloody Mr. Walton again, giving Sacha grief."
"How do you know?"
"Because that's the only reason Sacha would call me." He waded over and dried his hands, picking up his phone. It was indeed Sacha, as they had arranged. "Bear with me. I'm going back to the room."
"I have to be boring as well, Rox. Duty calls." John kissed her cheek and hauled himself out of the pool. "It looks like I'll be getting a new assistant at the lab."
"It's fine. I feel guilty being the only one not working. But if you and Henrik want some alone time, you only have to say."
"Trust me, I would love some alone time with either or both of you, but not now. Work prevails." John slung his towel over his shoulder and walked off up the path.
Roxanna didn't mind being on her own. She went to the sunlounger, applied more Factor 50 and lay in the shade, reading a novel on her e-reader. It was escapist trash, punctuated by extended sex scenes, and she was loving every moment of it.
"Hey! Can I get you a drink?"
Roxanna sat up, shading her eyes. Col was standing there, looking lean and muscular in a khaki vest and short shorts.
"I'm about to leave but I wanted to say goodbye first. Can I can get you something? Water? A cold beer?"
"A gin and tonic would be nice. What about you? Do you want to join me before you get studying?"
Col's grin widened. "Sure!"
She left, and within a few minutes came back with a tray holding a large glass of gin and tonic and a beer bottle.
"Thank you." Roxanna took her gin. There was a lot of gin and not much tonic, by the taste of it.
"Gosh, that's strong."
"Is it okay?"
Roxanna smiled at her. "Perfect." She took another healthy swallow. Belatedly she remembered the two glasses of wine she had drunk with her almost non-existent lunch, and wondered if that was why she felt slightly inebriated.
It could have been the heat though.
Is it nice in the water?"
"Lovely." Another sip.The gin was going down a treat. She wondered why she was deliberately trying to get herself tipsy. Was she looking for Dutch courage and if so, what for?
Col kicked off her sandals and put her toes in, sighing with pleasure. "Have you been all the way in yet?"
"Sure." Roxanna put down her glass and slipped under the water, then swam to the other and and back before walking up the steps towards Col. It felt good to see the woman admiring her in her red bikini. Col handed over her glass and Roxanna toasted her.
The heat from the sun was intense. Even the birds had fallen silent. As they lay on the sun loungers, beads of sweat rose on Roxanna's skin, trickling down to pool between her breasts. She knew Col was ogling her and that made her nipples pucker and harden.
"It's ever so hot," she murmured, opening her eyes suddenly to see if her theory was correct.
It was. Col was looking at her with hunger. She licked her lips to moisten them.
Roxanna delved in her depleted gin glass for the one remaining ice cube. She held it in her hand and dripped the melted water over her breasts and then stroked her skin with it, down to her stomach, letting the ice cube rest in her navel.
"Damn, girl," Col muttered. "This is too much."
Roxanna looked at her. She knew it was a dangerous game, but right then it was one she was desperate to play. She had no idea how Henrik and John would react. If they ever found out.
Oh, she was being really bad. It was definitely her hormones.
"One of the rooms is free on the other side of the lodge. The decor is slightly different. Would you like to see it? I can give you a guided tour." Col's voice was husky. It was obvious she was fighting the same internal battle as Roxanna.
It was too much temptation. She would never get another chance to find out ... what? Roxanna didn't really know. A kiss? Or something more?
"I'd like that." She put on her sarong and flip-flops, and followed Col back to the lodge, where the woman put the beer bottles in the bin. Out through the other side of the lodge, they followed a gravelled path away from the main building.
At the very end, another thatched building contained one large room, luxuriously appointed room.
"This is the honeymoon suite," Col said, showing her inside. The bed was enormous, covered in scatter cushions, overlooking the hillside. In fact, this was the room she should have asked for, for herself, Henrik and John.
Her partners. What the hell was she doing here?
"And this is the bathroom." Col showed her inside. The bathroom was bigger than Roxanna's, with a circular hot tub bath and a great view of the surrounding countryside.
"Very sexy," Roxanna murmured.
She wandered back into the bedroom. It was very hot, due to the air conditioning not being on. Col flipped a switch and the ceiling fan began to rotate.
Roxanna lifted her face to the breeze. As the cool air caressed her skin, her nipples tightened.
"If you want to try kissing a girl, now's your chance," Col said softly behind her.
Roxanna didn't move. She couldn't. It seemed as if all the breath had left her body.
Col slipped her arms around her and peeled away the damp bikini top, stroking her nipples with her thumbs before gently pinching them to make them even more sensitive. She followed the shivers of sensation down Roxanna's body with a gentle hand, working her fingers underneath Roxanna's bikini bottoms and stroking her with the pad of her finger. Roxanna gasped with delight, widening her stance so Col could slip a finger easily inside her. She leaned back against Col's strong body and let herself be fondled until Col eased down her bikini bottoms, letting them drop to the floor.
Roxanna was so incredibly aroused, she couldn't speak. She stumbled to the bed as Col guided her, then lay back, watching Col kiss her way down to her breasts, suckle each one and gently tease out each nipple until it was as big and firm as raspberry. As Roxanna mewled softly with pleasure, Col tongued a trail down, around Roxanna's navel to her bud, almost too sensitive to be touched, before burying her tongue deep in in Roxanna's cunt.
Roxanna groaned, grinding herself on Col's tongue.
"More," she panted, spreading her legs wide. A tiny flicker almost made her scream. Then ... Col was gently sucking on her clit. It was all kinds of wonderful, that ever-so-gentle suckling, almost bringing her to the brink of a sweeping climax but not quite.
Col rose up to kiss her again, her lips soft on hers. The dampness between Roxanna's legs had turned to a steady oozing.
"God, you're so wet," Col whispered, then sucked on her soaked fingers, tasting Roxanna's essence before gently pushing them inside her again. Roxanna stretched out, abandoning herself to Col's exploration. The cool breeze from the ceiling fan hardened her nipples again. She rolled them between finger and thumb as Col had, then tugged them, making them long and super-sensitive. Col pushed three fingers deep inside her, and continued her adoration of Roxanna's clit. Roxanna moved against her fingers, soaking them, the sensual pleasure building deep inside her. The strumming of her clit became a steady vibration and she gave in to it, spread wide, her body a slave to Col's talented tongue.
Her first orgasm was relatively gentle, a wave of pleasure crashing over her. Col withdrew her fingers and stroked Roxanna's distended clit, licking round it then sucking it until she was quivering, the moisture flooding from her. She peaked, once then twice, greedily demanding Col to keep going. When it was too much she squirmed away, panting.
"One more," Col said, leaning down again.
"No, no, it's too sensitive. It's..." Roxanna held her breath as Col ever-so-gently stroked her with her tongue again, velvet soft. Incredibly, she wanted more, her muscles contracting and yearning for more of Col's touch.
"Oh yes," she whispered, giving in to it all, letting the joy wash over over, again and again and again.
Afterwards, she was as limp as wet lettuce. Col was looking at her with some amusement.
"Don't worry. I won't tell if you won't," she said.
Roxanna sat up, and the room tilted slightly. "No. Thank you."
"You're welcome." Col pulled her to her feet and help her dress in the damp bikini and sarong. "Go back to your men. Fuck them blind." She tenderly kissed Roxanna's cheek. "You're delicious."
"So were you."
Col tossed her head. "Go on. I need to straighten the room. We won't see each other again."
Roxanna nodded. "Good luck with your exams."
One final affectionate kiss and that was it. No fuss. No complications. Just sex. Great sex, Roxanna thought as she stumbled from the room. She didn't know whether her unsteadiness was because of the alcohol, or the experience, or what, but she knew one thing.
She wanted to get back to her men and do exactly as Col suggested. She didn't know why, but right then she wanted one of them, either of them, inside her.
I guess this means I've overtaken Serena in the cougar sweepstakes, she thought, smiling slightly.
John was in the room alone. She went up to him and kissed him hard, startling him at first.
"Where have you been, Rox? Henrik's gone looking for you."
"I'm here." She reached for his trouser button. Quickly he caught on, grabbing her buttocks and pulling her against him.
"You're hungry, is that it?"
"Yes. I've been reading this incredibly sexy book and now I feel..."
"You're lying." He pulled down her bikini bottoms and tossed her sarong away. Instead of grabbing her, he sat down on the bed and pulled her over his knee, his legs spread beneath her. She wriggled to try and escape.
SMACK! He had spanked her backside. "Why do you want to fuck me, Rox? Was our resident daughter of Sappho not enough for you?"
She twisted, trying to face him, and failed.
"How did you...?"
"Ow! Stop it, this isn't funny. Let me go!" she fought harder but his grip was like iron.
"I saw you go up to the room with her. Has your curiosity been satisfied?"
"Yes," she whispered, humiliated and dismayed.
A sharp sting, then a warm glow. John worked three fingers inside her. She squirmed again, this time in reluctant pleasure.
"Don't worry, I'm not mad. Not now you're back here like a bitch on heat." He brushed her off him and stood up, pulling her to her feet. She watched as he pulled off his clothes. He was rampantly hard and his eyes flashed. He gripped her arm, leading her to the bush shower. The water was cold, soothing her reddened, abused skin.
"Don't be sorry, Rox, but Henrik doesn't need to know. He doesn't think the same as I do." He pulled her into his arms and lifted her, leaning with her against the stone wall. She felt his cock seeking her out, wanting to be inside her. She wrapped her legs around his waist and he entered her, hard and fast. Their kissing was wet and frantic.
""God, you're so hot," he moaned. He sucked on her neck, leaving a mark. "There. Now she will know who you belong to."
"She has no claim on me. It was just sex."
He smiled crookedly. "A woman after my own heart."
"So why are you so upset about Jacob?"
"Because Henrik doesn't do 'just sex.' He will always have to attach emotion to it. Now do you want me to fuck you or not?"
Another thrust, reminding her of his presence deep in her cunt.
"Yes," she panted. "Do it."
He screwed her against the wall, the water drenching them. With her legs locked around his waist, their rutting was brutal. Within moments it was over, their breathing unsteady as they clung to each other.
Henrik's head appeared round the door. "Oh, you're here. We need to get ready for the next game drive."
"We'll be right out." Roxanna and John rested their heads against each other. He was still inside her, softening slowly.
"Don't be tempted to tell him," he whispered. "He won't understand."
She nodded, knowing he was right.
Chapter 18: The Struggle Is Real
Poor Henrik is slowly succumbing to Jacob's charms. Maybe a trip to the battlefields wasn't the best idea...
"YOU NEED TO calm down," Rox said firmly as John paced in front of her. They were back in the bedroom after dinner, and John was furious, his hands bunching into fists.
"That slimy shit is doing it on purpose," he retorted. "And what the hell was Henrik thinking, just agreeing to go with him like that? He didn't ask us!"
"Why should he? He's a grown man whose perfectly capable of making his own decisions! Your behaviour is verging on controlling and it isn't healthy, John. This jealousy is going to eat you up inside. Henrik knew I wanted to spend the day here, just relaxing, and he also knew you had work to do! You need to give him space, remember?"
John took a deep breath, visibly trying to calm himself. "I know that, Rox. I don't care if he wants to go and stare at a field for the day and listen to someone droning on about the Boer War. I would just feel a little better about if - if that irritating Yank didn't look so satisfied about it!"
At the dining table, they had been discussing visiting the battlefields the following day. It wasn't something that particularly interested Roxanna or John, but Henrik had perked up, expressing his desire to see Rorke's Drift.
It was then Jacob mentioned there was room for one more person on the trip, as Albie had decided to stay and rest at the lodge. Without any hesitation, Henrik had agreed to tag along. Jacob looked inordinately pleased, raising his glass to John almost as if to say, 'you lose.'
"I'm sure he didn't mean it like that. Anyway, it means we can spend the day together, and we haven't done that for a while."
Another deep breath. "No, that's very true."
Henrik emerged from the shower, his towel hung loosely around his waist. "I don't have to go if you don't want me to," he said. He looked anxious.
"Of course you're going. I was being idiotic." John forced a smile. "Just don't ..."
"John...." Roxanna warned.
"Just don't forget to have a good time," John finished smoothly. "We won't miss you at all, will we, Rox?"
HENRIK DIDN'T WAKE when John and Roxanna left for the game drive. He had breakfast with the Altmanns and their friends before travelling back to the car park to meet their tour guide. They piled into a white Land Rover Discovery, Jacob and Henrik in the back seats, Julia and Peter in the spare seats right at the back of the car. The front seat was taken up with their lunch in a large cool box, pushed right forward so Henrik had enough leg room.
"What car do you drive back home?" Jacob asked him.
"A Volvo. I think it's an X40. Anyway, it's a long one."
Jacob's face fell. "I wish I hadn't asked."
"What about you?"
"God, don't ask him that. He's a real petrolhead," Peter said, slapping Jacob on the back. "Better to ask what he hasn't got."
"I had my garage extended to fit them all. I won't bore you with listing them all as I can see your eyes glazing over already. The ones I drive most are my Jaguar XK8 and for the summer I have a really peachy soft-top T-Bird. Baby blue, fins, the lot."
Henrik nodded seriously. "Both incredibly practical in snow, I could imagine."
Jacob laughed, unsure whether he was joking or not. "No, they drive like shit, so I have a Defender, shipped over from the UK. It was one of the last ones they made."
Then followed a discussion about the weather in New England. Henrik learned that Jacob had an apartment on the Upper East Side, as well as a house in Connecticut and a small apartment in LA. It seemed mental health was a profitable business.
"That's why people have health insurance," Julia said, when Henrik said as much.
"And for those who don't?"
Jacob grimaced. "It's tough out there. We're privileged and we know it. So are you, with your NHS. Obama tried to do the same in the US and look how that turned out. Oh, and FYI, we're all Democrats, just so you know."
"You waited till now to land that one on me?" Henrik smiled to show he was joking. "I wouldn't be so bold as to opine on another nation's politics."
However, he was relieved to find he was amongst similar-thinking people. Their comment and his reaction seemed to have broken the ice, and they talked far more easily from than on.
As they travelled, their driver also added his voice to the conversation, telling them about the problems his country was facing. It was a fascinating discussion, and even though the journey took over an hour, it didn't seem long before they were surrounded by the foothills of the Drakensberg, rough, craggy mounds surrounded by tall grass. It was wild and beautiful, the sky a soft blue with a few puffy white clouds.
Henrik wasn't blind to the fact that Jacob stayed by his side, and his friends seemed to wander off on occasions. They listened to the stories and went into the museum. Henrik was in his element, spending a long time inside the buildings, soaking up the atmosphere of the place.
Afterwards, they ate lunch under the shade of a jacaranda tree, where a table had been set up. They took plates of cold chicken and salad, as well as ice cold beer. Jacob had picked up a picnic rug. He nudged Henrik.
"Come on." He led him to another tree, away from the other tourists, and laid out the rug. Peter and Julia were nowhere to be seen. After they ate the food, Jacob lay back on his elbows and grinned at Henrik, his eyes hidden by the mirrored Aviators.
"Doesn't it make you uncomfortable, listening to how your ancestors treated the natives? I mean, glass houses and all that. Our history isn't exactly bloodless, but... I don't know. Even I was squirming for you."
Henrik gave him a steely look. "I'm Swedish."
Jacob sat up and whipped off his sunglasses. "No shit. You look and sound...."
"Like a privileged, public-school educated Englishman. Yes, I know. Not all Swedish people are blond, you know." He affected a tolerant tone.
"Can you speak the language, though?"
"Of course." Henrik looked over to where Peter and Julia were sitting. They gave him a wave. It seemed almost too intimate to be sharing a rug with Jacob, even though it was the middle of the day, broad daylight and they were surrounded by people. He knew John wouldn't like it. Roxanna wouldn't see the harm.
"Say something." Jacob was watching him. "Anything. I want to hear you talk in your language."
The air seemed very still. "Why?"
"Because it's beautiful," Jacob said simply. "And I'm never going to see you again after tomorrow so I want something to remember you by. Something other than a photograph." Before Henrik could protest, Jacob took his picture.
Henrik looked into the middle distance. "We have this."
Jacob took another photograph, a side shot, and put his phone away. "Please. I want to hear you. Oh, and FYI, it might make me horny." He laughed, rolling onto his front and resting his head on his arm. "Just in case."
The old Henrik would have said "don't be ridiculous," and moved away from the situation. He would have poured more wine and changed the subject, polite but distant, not allowing anyone to get too close.
Under the African sun, he was no longer that person.
"Det finns alltid viss galenskap i kärlek." He smiled down at Jacob. "Men det finns även viss reson i galenskap.”
Jacob was smiling back. "Well, that sounded hot. What did you actually say?"
“'There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.'”
"You were quoting Nietzsche at me?" He fell on his back, hands behind his head. "I think I'm in love."
It was said playfully, but Henrik wondered whether he had given Jacob the wrong idea.
"Lie down with me," Jacob said. "Don't worry, I'm not going to seduce you. Your pretty professor will tear me a new one."
"Yes, I fear he might." But Henrik lay on his back, head resting on his hands. He gazed up into the tree and watched a weaver bird collecting nesting materials. The little yellow bird flew to a nearby branch where he was constructing a bower for a potential mate. The amount of work was staggering, but the bird seemed full of purpose, one thing on his mind.
As for himself, he felt as if he were standing on the edge of an abyss, gazing down, wondering whether or not to jump. It felt dangerous and exhilarating, and he knew he should step back to safer ground.
"The stars should be good tonight," Jacob was saying. "I've been going to the hot tub after midnight, just to sit in the water and watch them. I'll be doing it tonight as well. It's really quiet. No one around. Great for star-watching."
Henrik was silent. The thought of being in a hot tub with Jacob, alone, sent shivers down his spine and a tightness in his chest. Not only that, but a tugging in his groin as well.
"Stop it," he muttered.
"I'm just saying," Jacob murmured, "it's worth it for the stars alone."
Henrik turned his head to look at him. Jacob was watching him too. Only a few inches separated them.
"I'm not the sort of man to wantonly snatch another from someone else, but I am an opportunist," Jacob confessed. "You're new to this, aren't you?"
Henrik nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Further down, he felt Jacob's fingers link with his.
Sit up. Sit up right now and stop this.
A cough made him jump. He sat up, feeling monumentally guilty. Peter was grinning at them. "It's time to go."
ROXANNA AND JOHN had a surprisingly good day. After arriving back from the game drive in the morning, the lodge manager said there was a ranger available to take them on a trip to the far edge of the reserve to see the waterfall, which was still running fall.
John was persuaded to leave his phone in the room, and they went off with the ranger, whose name was Mitchell, together with a picnic lunch and plenty of water, as the heat was brutal. The 4x4 was smaller than the lumbering game viewers, and a lot faster, and it was exhilarating bouncing along the tracks at a far greater speed than they were used to.
Mitchell was a cheerful young man who spotted hyena and jackal, and told them local stories. He had been born and raised in Ladysmith, and his knowledge of the area was staggering. He and John got on very well, although he treated Roxanna with deference, as if she were his mother. She gave up telling him to call her Roxanna, as he insisted on calling her Mme. Macmillan. In the end, she just went with it.
The waterfall was staggering, although Mitchell said it wasn't as good as he had seen it the year before. Thousands of tons of water thundered down into the river below, whilst they sat and ate their lunch on a shady rock only a few feet away.
"This is quite something," Roxanna sighed. "I believe a piece of my heart will always be in Africa now."
John was looking through his binoculars. He called to Mitchell, sitting a respectful distance away. "What's that?"
The man looked towards where John was pointing. "That, my friend, is a male leopard." He stood up and looked again. "Yes! God be praised, a leopard!"
They all looked. How John had managed to spot it, Roxanna had no idea, but there it was, snoozing against the warm rock, barely visible in the dappled sunlight.
John picked up his camera and zoomed in on it. He took a few photos, then looked at them. "I've got it!"
"Well done. This is big news. Very big indeed. Some were sceptical, saying we have no leopards. Now we can prove we have!" Mitchell looked through the binoculars again.
Roxanna saw his eyes were moist. She put a comforting arm on his shoulder, feeling somewhat emotional herself. John slipped his arm around her waist, and together they just enjoyed the moment.
The leopard was oblivious to the excitement it had caused. John took a few more photos, capturing the moment it yawned, showing huge white teeth and a gaping red maw, then said he would go to the office and let them copy the photos off his camera.
They were all ecstatic as they drove back to the lodge. Mitchell was on the radio, saying where they had seen the leopard, letting the other lodges know there was one in the area.
When they arrived back at the lodge, John gave Mitchell a sizeable tip, telling him to keep it to himself. The young man nodded, smiling widely and thanking him. As he left, they went down to be given cool moist towels and fresh fruit juice to refresh them.
During the day, John was affectionate towards Roxanna in a way she wasn't used to. When they had been together before the trip, one of her bugbears had been his insistence on treating her more as a friend than a lover. Now he held her hand, and occasionally dropped a kiss on her head, asking if she was all right.
"Do you fancy a bush shower," he asked, running the back of his finger down her back.
She leaned into his touch. "That sounds an excellent idea."
They were in two minds whether to join the game drive that evening, having just been out for most of the day, and in the end they stayed in and around their suite to wait for Henrik. They made love in the shower, then in the room, before going down to the pool for a leisurely swim.
It wasn't lost on her that as the evening grew nearer, John kept looking at his watch.
"They'll be back soon. Definitely before dark, anyway," she said. "And try not to worry. Henrik isn't going to fall head over heels with a man he's only just met. If there is attraction it will be short-lived, believe me. He doesn't do 'just sex,' remember? That's what you said yesterday."
"True, but that Yank knows damned well what he's doing. I'm just worried Henrik is too polite to say no."
She laughed at that. "John, really! You know how reserved Henrik is. You're only thinking this way because you think so much of him. We both do. I'm not worried. Jacob is a very sweet man but he's leaving in the morning. I hardly think he can do much damage between now and then."
In the coming days, she was to remember those words, and wish she hadn't said them.
Chapter 19: Lord of Misrule
Lord of Misrule definition: (Tudor) One who presides over mischief-making (normally at Christmas but we'll make an exception in Jacob's case...)
Over dinner, the group had a lot to share, but first there had been a little bit of dancing around the table. John tried to steer Henrik into a seat next to himself, but Albie beckoned to him.
"Come, Henrik, sit next to me. I want to hear all about the battlefields."
Jacob slipped in next to Henrik before John could get there, so he took his place opposite, watching him like the proverbial hawk.
"Stop glaring at him," Roxanna whispered.
"We had a wonderful day," Henrik said. "It's a pity you weren't able to come. It was most fascinating."
"Absolutely. I even learned some Swedish," Jacob added. "Love quotes from Nietzsche. I definitely gained more than I was expecting." He looked at John as he said it.
John's fingers tightened around the stem of his wine glass. The feel of Roxanna's hand on his thigh calmed him a little. He knew Jacob was winding him up, but he didn't have to like it.
"Well, we saw a leopard," Roxanna announced. "We went on this incredible drive through the reserve and John actually spotted it! Excuse the pun. He's everyone's hero now they can categorically prove they're a Big Five reserve. People were starting to wonder."
"Oh how wonderful!" Albie clapped her hands. "Please tell me you have pictures."
"I certainly do. I'll show you on my iPad later." John smiled at Albie. Whatever he thought of her son, the elderly woman was charming.
"It would be wonderful to keep in touch," she continued. "I feel so sad we're leaving tomorrow."
"I'm sure we will," Jacob said, raising his glass.
"Not in this dimension," John muttered, but forced a smile as they raised a toast to a splendid vacation so far.
The meal was long and alcohol-fuelled. Roxanna began with gin and tonic and soon went on to white wine, followed by a small whisky that completely knocked her out. John half-carried, half-steered her back to the room, where she snuggled into the bed and promptly fell asleep.
Not willing to leave Henrik with Jacob for too long, John went back to the lodge. The night was sharp and cloudless, and the heat of the day had given way to the coolness of night.
He met Henrik coming back down the path. As they walked back to their room, he said he was tired and prefer to sleep alone that night, which wasn't unusual. Out of the three of them, Henrik was the only one who liked sleeping alone at times. They said their goodnights and John left him to it, yet he felt uneasy for some reason.
He slipped into bed next to Roxanna and curled his arm around her warm body. She took his hand and held him closer.
"Rox? Are you awake?"
"No," she mumbled. Then, "why?"
"Do you think Henrik is okay?"
'He's fine." She breathed in deeply and sank further into the pillows. "He drank a lot, thanks to you, but otherwise fine. Just give him some breathing space."
John knew he was being paranoid, but eventually he too fell asleep.
HENRIK STARED UP AT the ceiling, the dilemma bounding around in his head like an over-active dog.
It shouldn't even be a dilemma. It's a bad idea and if you weren't drunk, you wouldn't consider it.
Actually, he probably would. Not just consider it. He wanted it.
I just want to know how it feels to kiss someone else.
Not just someone else. Another man. And not just any man. Jacob, with his alluring smile and tanned limbs and...
He pulled back the covers and put on cotton pyjama bottoms. There was no way he would sleep now. He took a towel and pushed his feet into flip-flops, then quietly left the room.
He padded down to the pool area. No one was about, although the lodge was lit up all night for anyone to use. It wasn't until he reached the hot tup area he saw Jacob in the gently bubbling water.
"You said the stars were worth it."
Jacob nodded at the sky. "They are."
Henrik looked. The Milky Way was spread across the sky, a thick layer of star upon star, galaxy upon galaxy.
"You coming in?"
Henrik hesitated. He was doing fine until then. He could walk away and slip back to his room.
"Come on, I don't bite." Jacob picked up his wine glass and drank from it. "You want some?"
"I think I've had enough." Henrik kept his voice low.
"So get in. Don't worry if you're naked. I am."
"Right." Oh God, that wasn't helping. "Of course." Henrik hovered, on the edge of running back to safety. But something stopped him. That hunger again, the small devil whispering in his ear.
What harm can it do? You're only talking.
He dropped his pyjama bottoms and climbed in the hot tub, aware of Jacob's keen gaze. He sat opposite, resisting the temptation to cover his crotch with his hands. Their knees brushed together in the small space.
"Not very big, is it?"
"Excuse me?" Jacob raised his eyebrows.
"The hot tub."
"Oh! I thought you were commenting on the size of my dick."
The way he was, the way he talked, it was all exciting to Henrik. Even John wasn't quite as plain-speaking. It all added to the allure of the man opposite, who was now pouring wine into a second glass. It seemed he had thought ahead.
Of course he had. He had planned this the whole time, hadn't he?
"So Mr. Hanssen, isn't this fun?" Jacob handed him the wine glass. "Tell me about yourself. You're in an unusual situation, being part of a three. How did that happen?"
"Am I on your metaphorical couch now?"
"Hardly. We're just two guys shooting the breeze, that's all. Who just happen to be naked in a hot tub. I'm usually in an oak-lined office, wearing a suit."
The thought of Jacob in a bespoke suit made Henrik's mouth dry. He sipped at his wine.
"And I believe that is your usual attire as well. Very nice. I confess to a little light stalking. I had no idea you were so eminent. You're very modest."
"I don't have time for trumpet-blowing. I do my job, that's all."
Jacob settled back against the side of the hot tub. "So, how did it happen? The three of you?"
Henrik drew a breath. "Well, John and I had talked about it, just after he and Roxanna split up. He can be rather intense for one person. We had known each other at university, you see, and had a lot of shared history. I suppose we all get along, that's all."
"Hmmm." Jacob eyed him. "But there must have been a moment when you and the pretty one became .... more than friends, and that wasn't recently. I can tell by the way he thinks he has ownership over you. That can be quite dangerous, you know."
"I know how to handle John," Henrik said easily.
"I bet you do." Jacob gave him a sultry look over his glass. "Are you happy?"
"So why are you here in this tub, naked with another man?"
Well, that was a good question. Henrik considered it. "Curiosity?"
"Which can also be dangerous. I'm guessing you haven't long embraced your sexuality, is that right?"
Henrik didn't reply, thinking of Berlin, thinking of that time when John.... that had that been the time when everything changed.
"It's an ongoing situation," he replied smoothly.
Jacob laughed. "Anyone tell you you're a hot mess, Henrik Hanssen?"
"They wouldn't dare." Henrik smiled slightly at the thought.
"And Roxanna? Where does she fit in? You love her. That much is obvious. You would do anything not to hurt her. Does she know you're here with me?"
"She's asleep. And so is John."
Jacob returned his smile. "Good." He refilled their wine glasses. "So let me see. Forgive me a little light psychoanalysis, starting with Roxanna. Definitely in a second bloom of womanhood, confident, content. I suspect she had a long marriage before you two came along. What is she, gay divorcee?"
"A widow." Henrik was reluctant to give any more information.
"And very good at her job. Driven, ambitious, not terribly good with children and no desire to have any. I bet she's lousy at keeping house as well. Am I right?"
"You're very good."
Jacob inclined his head. "Thank you. Now Professor Gaskell. Hmmm, a psychopath. Would make a good CEO. Focussed on his job and wants to make a difference to the world, but for his own personal glory. I suspect that's because he had a rough childhood. A street fighter? A contract killer! Anyway, he's very exciting. Always trying to brush off his pretty boy image. I suspect there's abuse in his past..."
"Let's talk about something else, and that doesn't mean me. I've had enough psychoanalysis in my time."
Jacob nodded. "I know, thanks to Google. There was nothing about any romances though. No partners, long-time companions, one-night-stands..."
"My work comes first. This trip is a departure for me. I've learned rather a lot about myself. Not that I'm willing to share it with you. Why don't you tell me about yourself?
"There's nothing that isn't on Google. I'm an out, proudly gay man who has a successful practice in Connecticut, LA and New York. I've had several long term relationships, the last one finishing a few months ago. My father is dead. He never accepted my sexuality, and my mother is dying. She lives with me, rather than me living with her. A subtle difference. That's it. And I'm a voracious lover, which has contributed to the break-up of most of my relationships. I'm Jewish but not practicing, and .... that's about it. Now let's talk about you again. I take it this is your first experience of being in a hot tub with a sexy American who wants to fuck you blind?"
Henrik felt a delightful little shiver run down his body. "Ah, finally you state your case. I was wondering when you would get round to it."
"I'm not usually this reticent. I do have a nasty habit of dropping to my knees at the first opportunity if I really think a man is hot."
"Reticence can be very attractive."
"You're telling me." Jacob was looking at him like a cheetah contemplating an impala for his next meal.
After a moment, Henrik felt a sly foot working its way between his knees. Involuntarily, they parted, letting Jacob move his foot higher. He began to stiffen as the subtle touch stroked against his cock.
"You want me to stop?" Jacob asked softly.
Henrik dumbly shook his head. No, he wanted anything but. He had drunk enough to lose his inhibitions and now he spread his legs under the water and let Jacob fondle him.
"You could do the same to me." Jacob reached down and picked up Henrik's foot, pressing it to his groin. Already he was rock hard, Henrik's toes curling around the sturdy shaft.
Jacob sighed with pleasure, then shifted round to sit next to Henrik. He put his hand on Henrik's cheek and turned his head to face him. "Hey, beautiful," he said softly, and placed his lips gently on his.
The world stopped. The insects ceased their song. Henrik held his breath as Jacob's tongue brushed against his own, a flutter at first then more insistent. Further down, Jacob's hand walked up his thigh and felt for his erection.
"Hot damn." A sly squeeze as he wrapped his fingers around Henrik's shaft.
Blood rushed down south. Their tongues met and curled together in a deep kiss. Henrik reached for Jacob's hip to pull him closer, accidentally brushing against his cock. Instead he felt for it, hot and alive, throbbing as he gently fondled it. Jacob's breath was hot and sweet with wine, his teeth grazing Henrik's bottom lip. He nipped him gently, then kissed down to his throat. When he sucked the skin between his teeth, Henrik returned to his senses.
"No!" He tore away from him shifted to the other side of the tub. "I'm sorry, I ... can't."
He had to get away. He scrambled out of the hot tub and grabbed his pyjama bottoms, frantically tugging them on, and pushed his feet into his flip-flops.
"I'm sorry," he said again, unable to look Jacob in the eye. With nothing more to say, he went back to the room.
Fortunately, all was quiet. John and Roxanna were fast asleep. He rinsed his feet and dried the remainder of the water off his body, brushed his teeth and slipped in the bed next to John, curling his arm around his waist.
"Hey you," John said sleepily.
"I love you," Henrik whispered. He dropped a kiss on John's shoulder and closed his eyes.
It took a long time for sleep to come.
THE NEXT MORNING they left on the game drive before dawn. It was cold, so they took coats and wrapped up in the rugs. Even when they stopped for refreshments at the hippo pool, they kept huddled up, hugging cups of coffee and hot chocolate.
Jacob casually approached Henrik as John and Roxanna were at the coffee table.
"No hard feelings," he said. He put a card into Henrik's trouser pocket. "If you're ever across the pond, give me a call." He walked away again before Henrik could respond.
Looking back, Henrik could see John watching them. He shivered, thinking how close he had come to making a foolish mistake.
As they watched, three hippos rose out of the water, their calls echoing through the valley. For a while they watched them play. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye.
"Wouldn't it be incredible to come back some day?" Roxanna said wistfully. "I just feel as if I'm leaving a part of me here today."
Henrik nodded, drinking in the clear blue morning. South Africa was nothing like he expected it to be, and he felt as if something within him had changed as well. He put his arm around her and held her close, then reached for John, who came to stand with them, his arm around Henrik's waist.
Henrik felt bonded with his two companions. Solid and secure. He had had a near miss the night before, and he was glad he had pulled back when he had. A few moments' snatched excitement was nothing to having the people he loved more than anything close to him.
BY THE TIME they finished breakfast, the heat of the day was beginning to intensify. They said their goodbyes to the Altmanns, giving Albie gentle hugs and wishing her well. When it was Jacob's time to say goodbye, he shook hands with John and Roxanna, and drew Henrik into his arms, giving him a tight hug.
"You feel so nice," he whispered. "Don't forget to call me." Reluctantly, he drew away, and it was time for them to leave with the ranger.
"Saying goodbye is awful," Roxanna said. "I hate it."
"Strangely, I'm not that bothered this time." John led the way back to the room. They began packing up, reading for the next leg of their journey.
Henrik went to have a shower, coming out with a towel draped around his waist. Roxanna looked askance at him.
"What on earth is that on your neck? Have you been bitten?" As she said the words, her eyes widened. "Oh!"
"What?" Henrik looked in the mirror. There was a round mark rather like a bruise at the base of his throat. Behind him, John was also staring, his eyes wide.
"Bastard!" He spat. "You just couldn't resist it, could you?"
Finally, Henrik realised what had happened. He remembered Jacob kissing him, gently nibbling on his neck. There were no excuses, his guilt was plain to see.
"I..." He was in panic mode, unable to think, or move, or do anything. "I'm sorry, I ..."
"Get dressed," Roxanna said to him. "We not talking about this until we leave here. John?"
John was still glaring at Henrik. "Fine. But you can bet we are fucking talking about it, you desperate sonofabitch. What the hell is wrong with you?"
Henrik didn't answer. He began to search for his clothes.
"Christ alive.." John muttered. He went outside to the balcony and leaned on the railing, visibly trying to control his temper.
They completed their packing in silence, and were in somber mood as they were driven back to the car park.
Chapter 20: Collateral Damage
Collateral meaning Roxanna....
NO ONE HAD SPOKEN since leaving the game reserve. Henrik was painfully aware of John's gaze boring into the back of his head. Roxanna's knuckles were white on the steering wheel, her face grim. No one was taking any notice of the stunning scenery they were driving through.
Henrik felt sick. More than sick, as if he were about to vomit at any moment. The enormity of what he had done was beginning to sink in, and he had no way of making the situation any better than it was. What had been done, couldn't be undone.
They had been driving for about half an hour, down wide empty roads with grass verges. Presently they passed a sign for a picnic spot.
"Stop the car," John said.
Roxanna didn't argue. She signalled and they drew to a halt. As soon as they had stopped, John climbed out and yanked open Henrik's door.
For a moment, Henrik couldn't move. Were they really going to abandon him by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere?
"Out." John grabbed his shirt and pulled him. Henrik scrambled to unfasten his seatbelt and climbed out. Roxanna hastily followed suite. They both watched as John paced in front of them.
"What in the name of FUCK were you thinking, Henrik?"
Henrik was frozen, unable to speak. He had no idea what to say.
"I don't know," he said finally.
"We need to know the truth." From Roxanna.
"The real truth, not some overcooked bullshit you've been planning for the last half hour," John added bitterly.
Henrik cleared his throat. "Well, I ... went to have a drink with him in the hot tub last night. Things might have become a little... heated."
"How heated?" John stood in front of him, hands on hips. "Are we talking a quick grope or having his dick down your throat?"
"Do you have to be so crude about it?"
"Don't you dare lecture me! Who the hell do you think you are? I've just found out that you've been messing around with someone else behind my back! How would that make you feel, Henrik? Answer me!" He gave him a shove.
Henrik stumbled backwards, coming up against the side of the car. "It wasn't 'messing around.' It was one kiss." That lasted about five minutes, he thought, but John didn't need to know that. He was angry enough as it was.
"Don't make the fatal error of taking me for a fool. Don't you dare." John's voice was ominously calm.
Henrik cleared his throat, squirming under his friends' accusing stares. "There was some... fondling, but I stopped it because I knew it was madness. I made my apologies to him and came back to the room. That's all." He spoke falteringly, each word more agonising than the last.
"That's all? You wanted to sleep alone last night so you could sneak out and see him. That's the truth, isn't it?" John shimmered with anger.
"Which makes you a piece of shit. Fuck!" John strode to the end of the parking lot, his hands bunching into fists.
"You can hit me if you want," Henrik said when he came back.
"Believe me I want to, but unlike you I can resist temptation."
"Is that all it was? Kissing? Nothing else?" Roxanna's voice was unbearably gentle. He knew he didn't deserve that from her. She seemed to be taking his indiscretion rather too well, he thought.
"And a bit of .... touching. But that's all."
Roxanna nodded. "I know you're upset, John. I am as well but it hardly seemly like a hanging offence."
Henrik was eternally grateful to her. He didn't understand why, but she seemed to understand him better than he understood himself.
"Are you actually fucking serious?" John rounded on her.
"I just don't think we're in a position to be too judgemental," she replied.
"You're certainly not," John retorted.
Henrik felt an ice-cold hand close around his heart. "What do you mean?"
"Oh no, it's not up to me to explain. You can have your own cosy chat later. I want you to go through, step by step, exactly what happened. And I mean exactly. No omissions."
"Roxanna, what does he mean?" His voice rose with his panic. It couldn't be true. Not with that oafish South African in Victoria Falls. Surely she wouldn't... A wave of weakness crashed over him at the thought of her with a man other than him or John. "Roxanna, how could you?"
"No. You don't get to do this now. This..." John prodded Henrik in the chest. "... is your turn in the spotlight. Whatever you and Roxanna have to say to each other can wait. I want to know every detail of what you did with Altmann. Right now."
"Is that really necessary?" Henrik wanted to know what Roxanna was hiding. She looked stricken in the background, her fingers pressed to her lips.
"You've broken my trust so damned right it's necessary." John stood waiting, his arms folded.
Henrik felt the sun beating down, raising sweat on the back of his neck. He was mortified at the thought of telling them what he and Jacob did, which was exactly why John was doing it. He was determined to make him suffer.
"Jacob said he usually went to the hot tub around midnight to look at the stars. He suggested I join him, so I did."
John raised an eyebrow. "The stars. Nice."
"He was in the hot tub when I went down. We had a couple of glasses of wine and watched the skies for a while. We talked about work, and family, and ... we were talking, that's all. I didn't think anything of it."
"What was he wearing?"
Henrik hesitated. "He ... wasn't... wearing anything."
"So he was naked. And you?" That quirk of an eyebrow again.
"I really don't see..."
"Henrik, were you naked in the hot tub with Jacob Altmann?"
Henrik sighed. "Yes, but ...."
John held up his finger. "No buts, Henrik. A handsome man who has had the hots for you since first laying eyes on you, who has made sly little gestures and comments, engineered a day out with you and has already invited you to stay in touch with him, then invites you for a midnight drink in a hot tub 'to see the stars." He punctuated the phrase with his fingers. "And when you get there, he's wearing nothing but a smile. Can you honestly expect me to believe you got in that hot tub believing nothing else was on the agenda. Don't insult my fucking intelligence. Christ!" He stalked off again to the end of the lay-by and let out a primal scream of frustration.
Henrik was at a loss. He had no idea what to do. Seeing John in such pain tore something inside of him. Roxanna was watching as well, tears running down her face.
"Did you sleep with Van Kloof?"
She shook her head. "No, of course not."
"Then what was John talking about?"
But John came back before she could reply. "How do you define being unfaithful? I really want to know. Is it when you kiss someone, or when you sneak out in the middle of the night with the express intention of getting your dick sucked?"
"I... don't know," Henrik said miserably. "I managed to pull myself from the brink. I don't know how, but I did because I didn't want to jeopardise us and what we have."
"So we're supposed to feel grateful? How do you think it feels to know the great Henrik Hanssen has lost his fucking mind over the first ageing twink to bat his eyelashes at him? And for the record, what we have are three people who don't know each other any more! For fuck's sake, Henrik, you're better than this. Rox and I aren't saints. We know how it all works. Sex is sex and we can totally separate it from love but you're different. You were my true North but now..." His voice broke and his eyes were filled with tears. "I can't ... How can I trust you now I know you're just like me? And her!" He motioned angrily to Roxanna.
"John why are you doing this?" Roxanna also had tears in her eyes. "You said you didn't want him to know! You said..."
"I know what I said, Rox, but that was before I realised he had feet of clay as well. I'm hurting, and when I hurt I make sure everyone else is too. Don't you get that? You being like me is one thing. I can deal with it. But not him. He's better than us. Or he was."
Henrik felt the sick feeling returning tenfold. "Roxanna, what is he talking about. Tell me!"
She shook her head and looked at the ground.
John laughed savagely. "She let another woman fuck her. That's what she did."
Henrik wasn't sure whether to believe him. "Is it true?"
Roxanna nodded but didn't speak.
"Good. Now we all have our dirty little secrets on the table," John said. "And you know what's funny? You were the one who wanted me here, Henrik. How do you think I feel, being cheated on by both of you within two fucking days? I'm the one who has the bad rep, who continually needs to be guided on the straight and narrow. I relied on both of you and now you've pulled the rug from under me. Are you seeing Altmann again? Any trips to New York planned in the next two months?"
"I have no intention of seeing him again." Henrik was still staring at Roxanna. "Why did you do it?"
She took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders and looked straight at him. "Like you, I was curious, but frankly I don't think you can say too much. It takes more than a peck on the cheek to make that kind of mark on your neck."
Instinctively, Henrik's hand went to his throat. He knew she was right. They had both behaved badly, and he really didn't understand why. Was it the heat, or something more primal? Either way, he knew he shouldn't be angry with her, given how he had behaved as well.
As for Jacob, he was already a hazy memory, and not worth the pain they were in now. A kiss, a touch, both ephemeral things yet capable of causing so much damage. He would never have entertained such behaviour before, but now he barely recognised himself.
"It was a moment of madness which I bitterly regret. I apologise to you both," he said quietly.
"Great. That makes me feel so much better." John's sarcasm was biting. "What the hell are we going to do now?"
IN THE END they kept driving, as by midday the temperature was over a hundred degrees. The atmosphere in the car was poisonous. No one spoke, yet everyone had so much they wanted to say.
Roxanna headed towards Durban, on their way to an airfield just outside the city where a small plane would take them to their final destination. They were on the main highway with two hours to go. They hadn't stopped for lunch or water, and she was feeling dehydrated and weak. She guessed the others would be feeling the same.
"Is there some water I can have?" She asked no one in particular. John passed a bottle to her from the back and she drank some, feeling a little better.
"Take me to the airport," John said suddenly, making her jump.
"That's the other side of Durban," Roxanna protested. "It's another hour away."
"I don't care. Take me there, Rox. I can't do this."
Henrik turned to face him. "Please don't. It isn't necessary."
Roxanna put a hand on his leg. "It's alright. I'll take him." She glanced in his mirror. John was staring out of the side window, his face blank.
They arrived outside the King Shaka airport just over an hour later. John scrambled from the car as if he couldn't wait to leave.
"Stay here," Roxanna said to Henrik, and went out to help John with his baggage.
"YOU DON'T HAVE to do this. He's beside himself," she implored as he opened the boot of the car.
"Good." John shouldered his carry-on bag and hauled his two cases out of the car. "I'm sorry I threw you under the bus like that, Rox. I just can't stand secrets. Are you mad at me?"
She breathed in deeply, shocked at the unexpected apology. "Yes, but I think I understand. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know." He looked bleak. "I can't... be at Holby. Not now."
"It was a mistake," she said gently. "How long are you going to punish him for?"
"It's too early to say."
"He's angry with me too. Maybe we should all leave."
"No. You both need to decide what it is you really want."
"I want you to stay. I know Henrik does too."
"He doesn't deserve to get what he wants." He kissed the top of her head. "Bye, Rox."
"And me? It feels as if you're leaving me as well. Punishing me for what I did." She felt him slipping through her fingers like sand.
He smiled sadly. "Maybe I am a little. I just need time to process this. I definitely can't be with him right now. It's the best for all of us." He looked up at the Departures building. "I should get a flight back sometime today. We're out of season, after all."
"You don't have to," she said again.
"Yes I do." He kissed her on the lips. "I'll call you."
She watched him disappear inside the building, not believing how horribly things had gone awry. When it was obvious he wasn't going to reappear, she went back to the car. Henrik didn't speak as they drove away.
Chapter 21: Three Become Two
More angst for Henrik and Roxanna. I hope I haven't made this too sappy, but I thought they needed to suffer a bit longer.
They drove through the traffic, making their way back to the highway. On the way they came to a service station with a decent coffee shop. There, Roxanna filled with fuel and parked.
"I need some food. Are you joining me?"
He looked at her. "Can we talk?"
He sat at a shaded table and she bought coffees and blueberry muffins. She didn't really want the muffin but knew she needed it to keep her energy up. He was looking pale and drawn, exactly how she felt.
"Here." She put the tray on the table. He was on his mobile phone, checking messages.
"Anything from John?"
He shook his head and took the coffee, stirring it slowly with the plastic.
"Why did you do it?" He asked.
"Curiosity and alcohol. What about you?"
"The same." He sipped at the coffee, grimaced, and sipped again. "Do you have any desire to do it again?"
She thought for a moment. "If I were single, possibly, but I'm not, so no. Are you going to see Jacob again?"
He smiled crookedly. "If I were single, possibly, but I'm not, so no." He put his hand over hers. "What a pair we are, Roxanna Macmillan."
She buried her face in her hands, then looked at him again. "We hurt him so badly. I don't know how we can get back from this. The question is, what do we do now? Do we go home and try to sort out the mess, or stay and give him some time?"
"What do your instincts tell you?"
She huffed a laugh. "They've hardly been my friend recently, have they? I wonder what he meant by, 'now you're just like me?'
Henrik sipped his coffee. "John doesn't have a high opinion of himself. He's so used to fighting his way out of trouble. I think maybe he looked to us as an example of how to be a decent person, and now..."
"He is a decent person! Poor John. Oh god, Henrik, what have we done?"
He covered her hand with his. They stayed that way whilst they ate and drink. She went backwards and forwards in her mind, striving to figure out the right course of action.
"We'll go on," she said finally. "Finish this holiday and give him some time. We might as well. All we'll be doing is walking on eggshells back at Holby, plus people will be wondering why we're back early. It will look better all round if we stay here for another three nights. Less... intrusive inquiries. And we can use this time to talk. Really talk honestly to each other. Maybe we can work out what went wrong and try to fix it."
Henrik nodded. "You're right."
"Are you sure?" She frowned, unwilling to force him into any rash decisions.
"Definitely. Though I need to know what actually happened with you."
She sat back in her chair, hugging her coffee cup. "It's easy to make an excuse, but I was tipsy after lunch. You were reading and I knew he was working. I felt... sexy, but I didn't want to disturb you two. The last thing I want to be is a needy female."
"You could never be that, Roxanna."
"Col came down to say goodbye. We had a drink - another one - and we were flirting a bit. It was very ... exciting being attractive to the same sex. I suppose, like you, I just couldn't resist. Especially knowing she was leaving that day and we'd never see each other again. It was ..." She smiled sadly. "... an ideal opportunity, I suppose."
Henrik nodded ruefully. "Yes, I know about those now. The fruits of the gods are never quite what they seem to be."
"Indeed not. John said he saw me coming out of the room so I wasn't going to lie to him. He was definitely angry but also found it a turn on. He put me over his knee and spanked me, then .... well, you saw what we were doing in the shower."
"One rule for you, one rule for me, it seems," Henrik murmured.
"To be fair, he'd struggle to put you over his knee," she countered.
They looked at each other. The ludicrousness of the idea made them both smile nervously.
"But you're right," she continued. "I can separate sex and love, though I wouldn't do it again when in a relationship. Not in a million years. That was totally out of order. With you it's different because he's put you on a pedestal for years, held you up to be this paragon of virtue and goodness and generosity, but he's just learned you're a man like every other." She glanced at her watch. "Time is pressing on. We need to be at the airfield for four o'clock. Are we continuing, or going home?"
"Continuing." Henrik levered his long body to a standing position. "Though it won't be the same without him."
"No, but maybe that is something we have to get used to." She leaned into him as he put his arm around her shoulder, and they walked back to the car.
THREE HOURS LATER they alighted on a dusty airstrip surrounded by forest. The sea had been a stunning azure blue on the way over, with golden beaches miles long. It was the Wild Coast, skirted with thick forest and intermittent villages, the city of Durban way back in the distance.
An open-air 4x4 was waiting for them and the four other guests on the plane. It had been hard to make conversation and pretend they were happy holidaymakers, but somehow they managed it, Henrik talking more than Roxanna for a change. She sensed a desperation about him, an avid insistence on normality. She was glad when they arrived at the hotel and were shown to their suite.
They were staying in what the hotel called a "bungalow," a charming open-plan building with a thatched roof and their own decking. Each bungalow had been situated a little away from the others, offering privacy, and theirs was right at the end of the row, nearest the river-front. When the tide was out, it was a few short steps to the sand-dunes on the other side, and the wide open beach.
On the other side of the river, and all around them, was forest. The main hotel was a five minute walk up a private road, along the bank of the river. They they could catch a ferry if the tide was in.
"Storm's coming," the driver said, motioning to thick silver clouds approaching from seaward. "Will be windy tonight."
"Nothing like a good storm," Henrik said with false heartiness, then caught himself. They were in a maelstrom of their own making already, without bad weather to exacerbate the situation.
After they checked in, they were taken by golf buggy with their luggage down to their bungalow. From there they could hear the sea, but the windows kept out most of the wind.
The bed was enormous, just as Roxanna hoped, only now ... She pushed the thought away and looked around. The wooden floors and stucco walls were painted white, and the soft furnishings were restful in greens and blues. A partition separated the toilet, but otherwise the standalone, claw-footed bath and basin were on a slightly raised floor, separated from the bedroom by a long, low chest of drawers. A cupboard at the end of the property served as a wardrobe.
"Come down when you are ready for dinner," their porter said. "We serve from six o'clock." He accepted the tip Roxanna gave to him and left them.
Roxanna sank onto the bed. "This is stunning," she said. "I wish..."
Henrik took her hands. "I know. I want him here too but it's just us, Roxanna." He pulled her into his arms. "It's just us."
They settled into the bungalow, then went up to the hotel for a drink. Neither of them were in the mood to talk much but she felt close to him. He kept his hand on her shoulder or the small of her back. She felt his lips in her hair. He was giving as well as drawing comfort in those small touches, and it did make her feel better about being there.
A couple of cocktails, watching everyone else having fun, and the meal followed. The food was not as good as it had been previously on the trip, but neither of them cared. By eight o'clock they were both exhausted and emotionally drained, ready to call it a night.
The storm hit as they were eating dinner. First rain, lashing against the window, then the wind. It was the first time they had experienced wild weather in Africa, bar the occasional fierce desert rainstorm, and it sounded serious.
"We're going to get soaked going back," Henrik commented. "Do you want me to organise a lift?"
"No, we can walk." She didn't care about getting wet.
"All right." He took her hand. "Roxanna, I just want to say... I love you."
Her throat thickened. "Stop it. Henrik. I love you too."
He leaned over and wiped her tears away. "We'll get through this, my love. I don't know how, but we have to."
THEY WERE SOAKED to the skin by the time they reached the bungalow, The rain was so hard, it bounced off the gravel path by the river and soaked them twice, and Roxanna's legs were covered in mud and goosepimples by the time they arrived back.
Henrik locked the door against the weather and kicked off his shoes, then fetched two towels, wrapping Roxanna up in one of them and rubbing the warmth back into her bare arms. Then he began running water into the bath, scattering lavender bath salts into the bottom.
The smell of lavender filled the room. Roxanna remembered the last time she had actually had a bath, rather than a shower, and that had been on the train, getting ready for her first night with Henrik and John as a threesome. A wave of sadness washed over her. How had it all gone wrong so quickly?
"Come on. Get out of those wet clothes." Henrik was gently unfastening her blouse, peeling it from her body. She stepped out of her skirt and panties, and unhooked her bra as Henrik undressed as well.
The bath was steaming, the bubbles rising. Roxanna adjusted the temperature and tested it, then climbed in.
"Room for two?" Henrik stepped into the bath behind her and wrapped his long legs around her. The water rose to a couple of inches from the top, the bubbles tickling her nose. She leaned back against him and held his arms as they curved around her upper body.
It was close and comforting in the warm water, feeling Henrik's body tight against hers, breathing in his familiar scent of cedar wood and lemon balm, coupled with something more musky in the background. His lips pressed against her ear.
"Stop thinking," he whispered.
"I'm thinking that even after all that's happened, I'm grateful we're here together. But I miss him, Henrik. I started this holiday thinking it was just the two of us but when I realised what you had done, it was as if everything just fell into place. And now..."
"Roxanna, please don't." For the first time she heard his voice crack. She held him tighter, tears falling into the bathwater. Behind her, his breathing was unsteady, and she knew he was also weeping.
That's enough misery, methinks....
Chapter 22: The Better Man
I went round the houses with this one. Now the story is drawing to a close, I'm doing my usual trick of being undecided which ending to choose!
So I've gone with the original, because I've already set up the scene, and it seems a shame to waste it. And this isn't the final chapter - it isn't quite over yet!
The others I may post in the Out-takes if I think they're up to scratch.
THE STORM RAGED all night, and in a way it was comforting to listen to the wind battering the windows, knowing they were safe in their bed. Not that either of them slept particularly well, troubled by the events of the day before and keenly feeling the absence of John beside them.
Roxanna woke when it was still dark, roused by Henrik kissing her lips.
"Are you awake?" He whispered. His hand was on her stomach, gently stroking her.
"I am now." She could feel him, hard against her thigh. For a split second she was angry he had woken her for his own selfish needs, but almost immediately understood and felt the same. She turned to him, winding her arms around his neck, arching her body into his.
There was no need for words. Their kisses were deep and passionate, saying all they needed to say. He kissed a trail down her body, pausing at her breasts, teasing the sensitive points until she was desperate for him to continue his journey. When she felt his tongue curl around her clit she spread herself wide so he could feast on her.
"Henrik..." She abandoned herself to his touch, mewling with pleasure as he concentrated his attention on the most sensitive spot and played with it until she was screaming softly, wave upon wave of joy crashing over her.
Three times he brought her to ecstasy, until her body was quivering and she couldn't take any more. Then he gently but firmly pushed into her, filling her up. She squeezed him with her inner muscles, hearing the catch in his breath.
"Did you mind me waking you?" He asked, still buried deep.
She laughed softly and reached for his buttocks, giving them a squeeze. "How can I mind when you've just made me scream like that?" She gripped him tight, holding him deeper inside her. Slowly he began to make love to her, and it was as sweet and hot as it had been the first time, months before. His breath was warm on her neck as their bodies moved as one.
Finally he rolled her so he was beneath her. She sat up, placing his hands on her breasts, and ground onto him, relishing the feel of him stretching her. In the dim light she saw the spark of lust in his eyes, the flush of desire on his pale skin. She leaned down, letting her nipples graze his, hearing him moan softly at the sensation, his large hands gripping her bottom and forcing her down onto him.
"Roxanna..." His husky whisper told her he was close. She grabbed his hands and forced them over his head as she screwed him to the mattress, her cries mingling with his. His body jolted as he came, the shaking them to the core. She let go of his hands and collapsed on his chest, enjoying the last pulses as they faded away.
He stroked her back. She could feel him softening inside her but she didn't want to move, enjoying the comfort of his warm body under hers.
ROXANNA WOKE FIRST, an hour later. The morning light was soft, and as she looked through the gauzy curtains, she could see gentle blue sky and white sand. The storm had blown itself out.
Then she noticed something else. Something that didn't make sense.
A horse. A white horse standing on the beach on the opposite side of the narrow river. Unencumbered by bridle or saddle, it stood quite peacably on the sand, almost as if contemplating how it came to be there.
"Henrik." She gently shook him awake. "Look out the window." She ran to get her camera and went outside. The air was already warm, with a gentle sea breeze. The horse didn't move. She took photos as Henrik appeared next to her, putting on his glasses.
"It's a horse," he said, quite unnecessarily.
"It's beautiful." Roxanna felt slightly emotional, looking at the tranquil scene. It almost felt as they had been given a sign that everything was going to be all right.
Which was nonsense of course. A horse couldn't possibly be anything other than what it was, her practical side told her.
"What do you think it's doing there?" She asked.
"I have no idea. Why don't you ask it?"
"Very funny." She smiled up at him. "Come on, you need breakfast. You're always tetchy before your first coffee."
Everywhere looked washed clean and smelled fresh as they walked back down to the lodge. On the way, they went into the office to organise a couple of activities for each afternoon. The following day they would be joining a ranger for a walking trip through the forest to learn about the local plants and animals, but that afternoon, much to Henrik's horror, Roxanna insisted on booking a snorkelling trip at a large reef further up the coast. She had also booked them on a sunset river cruise that evening.
"We might as well, as we're here," she said briskly, sweeping away his protests.
The idea of snorkelling didn't appeal at all, but he was happy to do the trip and could see her point about keeping busy.
After breakfast, they took the small ferry across the river and walked over the sand dunes, down to the wide beach. It stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions and was largely deserted. The sand was flat and firm, with white sand and wide, shallow surf. Along the edge the forest stretched back, dense and impenetrable.
"It's glorious. Like paradise," Henrik said, but he sounded sad. Roxanna knew he was thinking about John again. He had tried to call him on numerous occasions but his phone had been turned off. He couldn't even leave an email.
Roxanna applied more suncream to his nose and ears, which had started to redden under the strong sun despite his wearing his Panama hat. He put cream on her back and neck and they continued walking.
"How far do you want to go?" She looked back and realised they were more than a mile from the bungalow. In the heat haze it had disappeared from view.
"We can turn back." He took her hand and led her to the gently lapping waves. The water was surprisingly warm. They waded slowly through it, kicking up sparkling drops as they went, splashing his rolled up trousers and her sarong, which clung to her body. The heat shimmered off the sand as they walked. In the distance, a tiny white plane was coming in to land at the airstrip. It seemed as out of place as the horse was earlier.
"What are we going to do once we get home?" He asked. "What happens if he's not at Holby? I don't know how I'm going to explain that to the Board."
"Whatever John feels about us, he won't leave us in the lurch. If he leaves suddenly it will look bad on him too," Roxanna said. "You had to fight to get him there. He won't have funding from anywhere else in a hurry if they think he's under some kind of cloud.
"This is true. And what about ... us?"
She looked up at him. "Us? You and I? We're together, aren't we? Or are you saying once we're home, it's the three or nothing?"
"No! God no, Roxanna..." He pulled her into his arms. "I don't want to lose you as well."
She held him tightly. "It sounded that way for a moment."
"No. I meant ... how long do we try to contact him for before we have to admit he doesn't want to be with us?"
She didn't have the answer to that. "I'm not ready to give up on him just yet."
They walked for a while, each lost in their own thoughts, before she stopped again.
"It's funny, I never thought I'd be in this position. Not with you, not with John, certainly not with you together. I've been so blessed. Why did I jeopardise that? And why did you? What was it that made both of us so reckless?"
Henrik laughed drily. "The heat? I don't know. I ask myself that question at least once an hour."
They took their time going back, Roxanna picking up the occasional shell and inspecting it. She was looking for whole ones, but after the storm, most had been smashed by the waves.
"Look." Henrik pointed. Indistinct shapes gradually revealed themselves as a herd of white horses, running along the sand towards them. Roxanna and Henrik quickly moved further up the beach to let them pass. On the back of one of them was a herdsman holding a long stick. He was riding bareback, holding on to his horse's mane. He waved at them as he passed. Roxanna took pictures and waved back.
"Maybe they're a good luck sign," she said absently.
"I don't believe in such things." Henrik's voice was brisk. "We make our own luck."
"Sadly, I think you're right." They continued walking. The bungalow still looked a long way off.
Other people had begun to explore the beach. They passed a group of four, sitting on a blanket under a parasol. A family with young children were playing in the surf.
And in the distance, one lone figure walking towards them. They were too far away to be recognisable, but Roxanna knew.
She began to run.
"Roxanna, where are you going?" Henrik shouted after her.
"It's him!" If she was wrong, she would look like the biggest fool ever.
The man was running too. Running towards her along the edge of the surf, the sea water soaking his rolled-up trousers. She screamed in delight as she wrapped her arms around him, feeling him squeeze her so hard her ribs creaked.
She cupped his face in her hands and kissed him. "John, oh god. Thank god!" His face was covered in stubble and he was still dressed in the same clothes from the morning before, but he was there, and that was all that mattered.
"It was worth me coming back then," he said gently, pressing a kiss on her forehead, then on her lips.
She couldn't reply, too overcome with emotion.
"Rox..." He wiped the tears away. "Please don't cry."
"I can't help it." She wept, the trauma of the past few hours flooding out of her. As he held her, Henrik jogged up to them.
"You found us," he said simply.
Looking up, Roxanna saw there was still an invisible wall between them. It would take more than a hug to break it down.
"Come on." She dashed her tears away and took John's hand, then Henrik's. "We can talk at the bungalow."
"I DECIDED TO be the better man," John said. "I could see the future quite clearly. Roxanna would run herself ragged trying to make amends. And you, Henrik, would think you knew best and just let me leave, because you didn't want to cause any more damage, thereby creating such a chasm, not one of us would ever be able to bridge it. I didn't want that. One misdemeanour isn't worth so much pain, but I was the only one who could bring us back together. Not you, or Roxanna. It had to be me."
"I don't understand," Henrik said. "Why you when it was my fault?"
"Don't you see, Henrik? I was behaving to type. As I had always done. Lashing out, hurting people, destroying everything in my path. Because of you and Roxanna, I was leaving that person behind. Without you I was reverting back and I don't want that. I need you. I need you both." He pulled Roxanna into his arms again. She returned his hug.
"We need you too," she said. "I don't think either of us had appreciated just how much until now." She frowned, stroking his hair. "What happened? Where have you been? You look terrible."
"You look like we feel," Henrik added wryly.
John laughed without humour, still holding on to Roxanna as if his life depended on it. "I spent a long time in the Departures lounge considering my options, then even longer in the bar. I think I passed out in the Gents at one point. I don't remember much, to be fair. As soon as it was light I took a cab to the airstrip and paid a lot of money for the plane to bring me here. He wasn't flying out until four o'clock but I didn't want to wait that long. The porter said he saw you going to the beach, so I hoped I would find you."
"Why didn't you call us? Call the hotel and ask them to leave us a message?"
He looked embarrassed. "My phone ran out of charge. I was too drunk to think properly anyway." He stretched and yawned. "Now I need a shower, a shave and a triple espresso. In that order."
WHILST JOHN WAS in the shower, Roxanna and Henrik sat outside, talking.
"How can I get back to him?" Henrik asked, voicing what Roxanna was thinking.
"You need to talk to him. Nothing is going to be resolved until you do. Why don't I go on the snorkelling trip and you stay here and sort this out."
"I'd rather go snorkelling," Henrik said unhappily.
"Don't be ridiculous. You'd hate it. I know how hard it is for you to open up but you owe it to him, Henrik. Just talk to him!" The last sentence was said in a hiss as she heard John padding through the bungalow. He was clean-shaven and smelled a lot fresher than he had previously.
"What a place," he said, leaning on the balcony. He was tanned and toned, wearing denim cut-offs and nothing else. Roxanna saw Henrik watching him like a hungry man contemplating a steak.
Henrik cleared his throat. "Indeed it is. John..."
"I'm leaving in a bit," Roxanna said, standing up. "You two can talk."
"Where are you going? I've only just got here!" John looked wounded. He put his arm around her waist and held her close.
"I booked a snorkelling trip. We could all go, but I know Henrik isn't keen and frankly, you have something important to sort out."
"Is that a suggestion or an order?" John said playfully.
"An order." She checked her bag for what she would need that afternoon.
John looked anxiously at her. "Are we good, Rox?"
She smiled softly at him. "We're good, but you and Henrik need to talk." She kissed him lightly on the lips.
"Can we ... later?"
She knew what he was referring to, and it touched her that he looked so anxious asking her.
"Let's see how you get on this afternoon." She kissed him briefly again. "Be gentle with him," she whispered.
AS SHE WALKED away, Roxanna hoped she was doing the right thing. If Henrik and John couldn't resolve their difficulties, then she faced a heart-rending choice. How would she be able to choose between them?
She was sure neither of them would be willing to share her, not if they were estranged. Why did life have to be so complicated?
She was glad of some time to herself, but aware of the possibility that their lives would be turned upside down again by the end of the day.
She just hoped they would manage to be civil to each other at least.....
This is a threesome after all :)
Chapter 23: Anger Management
Angry make-up sex. Not for the faint-hearted I guess.
It could get messy.
Henrik felt Roxanna's absence keenly as soon as she walked away. John's presence made him feel uncomfortable, though he wasn't sure if that was because he didn't know what to say, or the distracting sight of him half-naked, leaning against the balcony railing, tanned legs in the cut-off shorts crossed at the ankle. His thumbs were hooked in the pockets of his shorts, subtly drawing attention to what was hidden beneath them. The sight was unabashedly sensual and inviting.
God he wanted him, if only that were possible.
"Okay," John said when the silence became unbearable. "I'll start..."
"No, it's fine. I'm sorry, John. I have no excuse as I said before. It was a moment of madness. I know I'm repeating myself but I'm not sure what else I can say."
John sighed. "Henrik, from now on you're going to experience any number of hot twink guys coming on to you. You're like catnip to them. Shy, reserved, newly out of the closet. They will be lining up to take a shot at educating you, trust me. You'll be fighting them off. And it's tempting. I know only too well. Only in my case I have the daddy bears slugging it out."
"Daddy ... what?" Henrik had no idea what he was talking about.
"Men, Henrik. Big husky men, thinking I'm a bossy bottom and wanting to lick me into shape. Why do you think I'm so quick with my fists? I've been dealing with that shit since I was sixteen."
"Nothing you've just said to me makes sense."
"It will." John smiled crookedly. "The bottom line, and I mean no pun whatsoever, is this. You're with Roxanna and I. We're in an exclusive relationship. You do know the meaning of exclusive, Henrik?" His question was deliberately provocative.
"Well of course I ..." Henrik took a deep breath, quelling his irritation. "Yes."
"And you're happy with that?"
"Good." John pushed himself away from the railing. Henrik watched him, not knowing what to say.
"I'm sorry," he repeated.
To his shock, John rounded on him. "Stop saying that! I know how fucking sorry you are! You know what I want from you now? Passion. Not regret. Not sad eyes and sympathy. Passion and fire. I know you have it in you. You were thawing out, becoming something truly wonderful. Yes, you lost your way but we all do! It's time to stop flagellating yourself and get back to me. You managed it with Roxanna. Why not me? What's wrong with me?" His voice cracked.
"It isn't you ..."
"Shut up, Henrik. Change the narrative for fuck's sake. All I hear from you, over and over again, is how sorry you are. How it was a moment of madness. How much you deeply regret your actions. We're not in the boardroom now. This isn't a soundbite to appease the governors. This is us. Us, Henrik..."
"I'm well aware..."
"No, you're really not. There's a raging light in you, buried deep. I could see it. I can still... see it but .... I'm like a moth to your flame. I'm compelled to be near you all the time but every time I get close, I'm beaten back by this solid ice wall. And I know I'll come up against this wall time and time again..." He was pacing, his fist slapping against his palm. "And I know I'll continue to do that until I'm this pathetic, broken thing who can no longer fly. Don't you get that, Henrik? So show me some fucking emotion!" He slammed his fists against Henrik's chest, forcing him to step back.
"Stop that." Henrik could feel the anger building inside him. John was ranting, yet he made sense. Henrik did feel locked in and he was fighting to get out. He hated being faced with his own truth. "I can't be like you, John. You can't make me into a mirror image of yourself!"
"That isn't what I want, you dumb fuck. It's you! Authentic, complicated, frustrating, totally and utterly batshit crazy..."
"Don't call me that!"
"Hold the front page, Henrik! You are. I am. We both are. With brilliance comes madness. You know that. You're on the edge all the time and I love that insanity in you..."
Henrik snapped. He grabbed John by the throat and pushed him against the wall.
"Stop talking," he said through gritted teeth.
John's eyes were wide, his mouth open in a gasp. Henrik could feel his carotid artery pulsing against his fingers. John felt alive and warm, a fragile as a bird yet as strong as tensile steel. In his eyes was a spark of triumph.
He had goaded him, and it had worked.
The realisation swept any remorse away. His lips came down on John's in a brutal kiss. He tasted blood, unsure whose it was. Further down, his hand grasped John's crotch through the shorts. He was rock hard, moaning as Henrik cruelly squeezed him. When Henrik broke the kiss and looked down at him, John was smiling savagely.
"Now that's what I'm talking about." John grabbed his shirt and pulled him down for another kiss. Henrik heard cotton rip as his shirt was torn open, but he didn't care. Still with his mouth locked to John's, he shed the garment and began unfastening his trousers.
There was a lot of stumbling and fumbling with clothes as John steered them into the bedroom. Henrik's trousers landed on a chair, his underwear nowhere to be seen. John's shorts had been kicked somewhere under the bed. Even before they were naked the room looked as if a tornado had been through it as they fought to feel skin against skin. Henrik lifted John and slammed him against the wall, pinning him to it with his body, kissing the salacious smile off John's lips. He held John's hands in one of his own, forcing them above his head.
"'Do not go gently into the night,'" John whispered. "Kiss me again, you mad bastard." His lips were bruised, blood oozing from where Henrik had bitten him. He licked the blood away and tilted his head in invitation.
Henrik obliged. Their combined breath was hot and moist, their kisses hard and biting as he carried him over to the bed.
"Glasses," John urged, taking them off Henrik's face and reaching back to put them on the bedside table. Then they fell on the bed, Henrik on top of him, but John pushed him back and straddled his waist, crouching over him. He roughly pushed Henrik's chin up, exposing his throat, before sucking hard on the mark Jacob had left, his teeth sinking into his flesh.
"Now when you see that you'll think of me, not him."
Henrik found himself being flipped over like a sausage on a barbecue. Before he could react, his buttocks were being parted and a long wet tongue lavishly licked his backside. His cry was harsh as it happened again. He gripped the pillows, squirming against the mattress.
"Time for you to know who's boss."
John slapped him hard on his buttocks. He heard and felt John spit on his fingers then press them against his tight opening. He instinctively clenched but received a resounding smack. The sting distracted him and he relaxed against the intrusion, allowing John to slide one, then two fingers into him. A second later, he felt cool lubricant and the blunt tip of John's cock pressing against him.
"No? Are you sure?"
"I ...." Henrik couldn't speak. He could hardly think. He held onto the pillows as if he were on the edge of a precipice, his body wanting what his mind was telling he shouldn't have. "Please..."
"Mixed messages, Henrik. Either you want it or you don't." John sounded breathless, his voice teasing.
"I .... yes. Just be ... careful." He groaned as his outer muscles were breached.
"I had it all planned. A meal, candlelight, some good wine to get you relaxed, but no. You like it rough, don't you, Henrik? When Roxanna isn't here you just want ..." He pushed into him fully. "This."
"Oh god," Henrik didn't dare move. If he did, he was lost. The friction of the bed sheets against his tightly-stretched skin was almost too much. John withdrew and pushed into him again, deeper this time, finding his prostate. Henrik felt as if he had been struck by lightning yet his body was obviously in tune to what it wanted, spreading wider to receive his lover.
John caught Henrik's slender wrists, holding them tightly as he grasped the pillows by his head. He began to fuck him slowly and gracefully, forging deeper inside him.
"John..." It was a ragged whisper. Henrik was as hard as granite, trapped against the mattress. His squirming became a rhythmic thrusting against the bedclothes, moving with John to an unstoppable climax.
He came with a harsh cry, his knuckles white, his body slick with sweat. He felt John grip his hips and pull him to his knees as he was still in the throes, his fingers gripping Henrik's hip bones as he ground against him. As the mighty pulse of John's orgasm reverberated through his body, Henrik could hear his fractured breathing, short gasps falling from his lips.
"A pretty boy like Jacob couldn't handle you anyway," John muttered when he could speak.
"Stop saying his name," Henrik grunted. "I never want to hear that name again."
John moved up to lie on Henrik's back. His cock eased from Henrik's body, leaving him feeling strangely bereft, but the leg draped over his was comforting. They bathed in the afterglow for a while, John idly teasing the dark curls at the nape of Henrik's neck.
"I was going to give you the full works," he said. His voice was drowsy.
"It feels as if you have." Henrik's voice was equally soft. His body felt bruised but it was the sweetest ache. He rolled over onto his back and settled John beside him, their limbs entwined.
"That was only half of it," John laughed. He bent his head and gently lapped at Henrik's nipple. "I want to fuck you so hard you won't be able to sit for a week."
"That's actually medically ill-advised," Henrik said. "Someone the size you are could cause any amount of damage. The rectu..." He faltered as John moved to straddle his waist and lift his hands gently above his head. His face was close to Henrik's.
"Word of advice. Don't use medical words when fucking? It kills the mood." He pressed his mouth to Henrik's, gently nibbling his lower lip then tugging at it. His proximity was making Henrik's body respond again. John shifted, smiling knowingly. He moved slowly down Henrik's body, taking his time, kissing and sucking his nipples, his stomach, glossing over his sensitive flesh and sweeping his tongue over his balls instead.
Henrik made a strangled sound as he did it again, his body lifting towards John's mouth.
"Greedy." John shifted to his side so he could concentrate on him.
Henrik closed his eyes and was transported, his arms spreading wide as he abandoned himself to John's ministrations.
"I am definitely going to do this in your office," John said casually. "In fact I have several places lined up where we can have some extra-curricular fun."
Henrik didn't reply. The thought of doing ... that at Holby, the potential for getting caught, people knowing about them...
"Oh, someone likes that idea." John's tone was mocking, but as he got to work with lips and tongue, Henrik didn't care. His hands gripped John's skull, fingers tangling in his hair. He abandoned himself to ecstasy, knowing he was forgiven.
John finished himself off on Henrik's stomach and chest, Henrik whispering to him even as pearly drops landed on his lips.
"*Todo sobre ti me enciende." He licked the drops away, never losing eye contact with his lover. When it was over, John melted in his arms and collapsed over his body, purring with post-orgasmic pleasure. Henrik smirked to himself.
Damn, he was good at this.
"I'M STARVING," JOHN said a short while later.
"I thought you'd just eaten." Henrik felt drained but it was a good feeling. That feeling he sometimes had after too much whisky and before the inevitable hangover. Only with sex, there was no hangover. Only recovery, then more damned good sex. He felt his cock twitch but wasn't inclined to do anything about it. They wanted to save some energy for Roxanna.
John laughed at Henrik's joke. "As delicious as your spunk is, Henrik, it doesn't beat a good steak." He rolled off the bed and took Henrik's hand. "Shower time again. And just a shower. Don't hijack me into fucking you again."
"I wouldn't dream of it. I'm saving some energy for tonight. Roxanna needs our attention too."
"And she's going to get it, if we can resist temptation for a few more hours."
After showering, they wandered down to the lodge to find something to eat. The heat was intense as they wolfed down steak and chips under a large parasol, watching the the river.
"Just think, we could be face down in jellyfish-infested water," Henrik mused.
"Or watching Roxanna's backside in that red bikini. There's always an upside." John ate quickly and neatly.
Henrik rearranged his napkin over his lap and smoothed the material. "Now you put it like that..."
"There's always an upside," John said, waggling his fork at him. "You realise she won't be happy until we can prove categorically we've kissed and made up?"
Henrik fiddled with the stem of his wine glass, twisting it back and forth. "How do you propose we do that? We're hardly vestal virgins."
John lined up his knife and fork on his cleared plate and tossed back the remainder of his wine. "It's too hot out here. I propose we go back to the room for a while. At least until Roxanna returns. We can read, sleep, or..."
Henrik smiled faintly. "So much for resisting temptation."
ROXANNA WASN'T SURE what she would find when she arrived back at the room. When she left them that morning, it seemed the mood could swing either way.
The curtains were drawn and the bedroom was in darkness, which was either a good sign or a very bad one. She quietly opened the door and looked in, then grinned.
Clothes were strewn everywhere, and there was a tang of sex in the air. On the bed, her two lovers were naked and fast asleep, Henrik spooned around John, one long leg draped over John's thighs. His arm was tight around John's waist.
She felt such a wave of love for them, it almost hurt. Quickly she stripped off her damp bikini and eased onto the bed, snuggling into John's lap and pulling his arm around her waist. He woke just enough to kiss her shoulder and tighten his embrace, before they all drifted off again under the burning African sun.
Translation *everything about you turns me on
Chapter 24: Equilibrium Restored
The last day, but not quite the end yet.
IT WAS EVENING. They had taken a cruise along the river, admired the bird life and waved to local children gathered on the riverbank to watch the boat go past. It had been serene and peaceful, just what they needed after the stresses of the previous day.
Henrik wasn't eating much. He picked at his salad and yawned every five minutes.
"I'm so sorry. I have no idea what's come over me."
Opposite him, John spat out his red wine. "Sorry, what?"
"I'm tired, John. That is what I meant." Henrik sadly shook his head. "Really!"
"Stop it," Roxanna said as he yawned again. "At this rate we'll all be asleep by nine o'clock."
"So we'll get up early," John replied, shrugging. "It doesn't matter, does it?"
"Talking of which, we have one full day left in Africa," Roxanna said. "How are we going to spend it now we're all together again?"
Henrik looked at John. "Snorkelling?"
"You said you didn't fancy snorkelling," Roxanna said.
"Oh, there's always an upside." Henrik hid a smirk behind his coffee cup. Opposite him, John did the same.
Roxanna picked up there was a hidden meaning she wasn't getting. "Good. I'm glad you said that. There's a trip to the reef tomorrow, followed by a braai on the beach at sundown. I think that's perfect, don't you? Don't pull that face, Henrik. It was truly wonderful in the water this afternoon. You could just relax with a book if you're not keen on going in."
"I thought we were hiking in the hills?"
"My vote is for snorkelling," John chipped in. "Hiking in thirty plus degrees? Are you out of your mind? That isn't my idea of a good time."
"We know what that is," Henrik said, and coloured as Roxanna stared at him. "I meant ..."
"Snorkelling," John grinned.
"Tell me what I'm missing." The red spots on Roxanna's cheeks told them she was slightly annoyed.
Under the table, John placed his hand on her thigh. Opposite him, Henrik did the same.
"We'll go back to the room and fill you in." John whispered.
It was Henrik's turn to spill his wine.
HENRIK DREW ROXANNA'S bath, deep and warm the way she liked it, with plenty of bubbles. She sat in it with a sigh, and the men sat on either side, leaning on the rolled sides. John gently washed her back with a natural sponge, and Henrik massaged her toes.
"This is bliss," she sighed. She sipped the champagne Henrik had ordered, and for a while the three of them just sat, quietly enjoying each other's company.
She climbed out when she noticed her fingers getting a little pruney, and was wrapped in a large blue towel by Henrik and patted down. John turned out the lights as they lay on the bed side by side. She deliberately moved so John was in the middle, and lay on her side, facing him. Henrik was on John's other side in the same position. He lay his hand on John's stomach as she leaned down to kiss the nipple closest to her. John's breath caught at the sensation.
It was a slow and easy-going lovemaking, the synergy between them smooth and free-flowing. Roxanna led the dance of limbs and bodies, gently instructing Henrik and ensuring John didn't take over and change the energy to something more frantic.
"This is about reconnecting, not grasping pleasure," she whispered against his lips as he writhed against her. He felt Henrik behind him, kissing his neck, and sly fingers circling his cock. Roxanna opened up to welcome the hand probing between her legs. In the dark it was difficult to tell who was who, though she recognised Henrik's skill at teasing her bud, and the thickness of John's cock against her lips.
John revelled in the hands roaming over his body. His legs were entwined with Henrik's, their bodies pressed together. He could feel Henrik move down, kissing his back, then holding him close, his erection nudging between his legs. He heard the soft grunt as Roxanna gently took him in her mouth, fellating him as he rocked slowly against John's body. And he swore softly as she let her tongue rove upwards, teasing round his balls, up his shaft, before sucking him with infinite care.
Then John realised it was what she had planned all along, having him between them, showing him he was loved, cherished, desired and cared for. Henrik's fingers dug into his skin as he nipped his neck. The feel of his cock rubbing along the underside of John's balls was a delicious new sensation. It made him want to open up, for Henrik to go deeper, to really explore him with fingers, tongue and cock, to wash away all those bad memories and replace them with scorching new sensations.
Not yet. Now was not the time. But soon. Now he was enjoying the heat of Roxanna's mouth, the skill of her tongue. He reached down to stroke her hair but Henrik stopped him, grasping his wrist and holding it behind him. John knew why. It was hot as hell but also prevented him from forcing her onto him. Being unable to move very much meant the urgency and need grew. Just as he thought he couldn't hold on, she moved away. He didn't know where or why but then she was back, her bottom pressed against him, Henrik guiding him inside her. She was hot and wet and it felt incredible, being fully enclosed, Henrik's arm around her waist, holding them both together, his leg draped over theirs.
"Can you take us both?" John whispered.
"In your dreams," Roxanna muttered back.
"Greedy." Henrik bit the back of his neck and pushed him deeper into Roxanna.
"Oh fuck..." John lost it, control spinning away from him. It was so intense he felt like weeping, and lasted far longer than he was used to. His breath came in shuddering gasps against Roxanna's back as he jolted against her.
Understanding between them flowed like wine. Roxanna sprawled out and let the men explore her from top to toe, until she was shimmering with orgasmic pleasure. Henrik said he was drained from the afternoon's activities but didn't argue when John pushed him back amongst the pillows. He and Roxanna gave him the same attention she had just received, sharing a kiss at the same time. Henrik whimpered at the feel of their tongues, and fought against John as he held him down, allowing Roxanna to ride him to ecstasy.
Afterwards they lay in a sweaty, sticky heap, catching their breath, bathing in the afterglow.
"Can we please get some sleep now?" Henrik asked plaintively.
John nuzzled his shoulder. "I think we've all earned it."
Roxanna didn't reply. She was already asleep.
THE LAST DAY in South Africa was bittersweet. They were ready to go home, but where was home? They still hadn't talked about the practicalities. Roxanna had her old cottage, which Henrik had been practically living in, but there wasn't room for all of them in her four foot six bed and the low beams threatened to decapitate Henrik every time he went there.
Henrik's apartment was in the city, but it wasn't very homely, and John had bought an apartment on the river, but it was only big enough for one person, or possibly two for overnight visits.
It was too soon to think about pooling resources and buying somewhere the three of them could be in. The events of the past few days had taught them all they were still learning about each other and adjusting to the new dynamic. Holidays were one thing. Coming home after a full day and finding someone hadn't done the washing up was another.
They were discussing the knotty problem as they walked along the beach that last morning before breakfast.
"We could meet up at mine," Henrik suggested. "My room can accommodate everyone." He meant to say 'bed' but for some reason that sounded faintly ridiculous, as though they were trying to arrange a pyjama party.
"I guess the spontaneity will be rather lacking," Roxanna sighed. "At least in the short term. And I don't want there to be any jealousy. I can see insecurities setting in very quickly if we're not careful, especially if we're tired and overwrought."
"Yours is the easiest to get to from the hospital," John said to Henrik. "Maybe during the week..."
"I'd have to check the tenancy agreement. If it became a regular arrangement..."
"God, we're going round in circles," Roxanna said. "I just wish... things could be simpler."
"If wishes were horses," John sighed.
"They would be white ones. Look." Henrik pointed.
As they watched, the herd of white horses galloped along the sand towards them. They stepped out of the way to let them pass, the herdsman bringing up the rear.
"Well, I don't care what you say. I'm definitely taking that as a good sign," Roxanna said firmly.
"I wish I were that optimistic." John was watching the horses, his hand shading his eyes.
Roxanna took their hands and led them along the beach. "We'll work it out. We're grown ups. We've faced a lot worse problems than this."
THAT AFTERNOON, THEY were taken by dune buggy to the rock pools. Staff set up the braai and the bar whilst they went exploring. One of the rock pools was a lot deeper and wider than the others, constantly being refilled by the surf on the other side of the reef. Roxanna took off her kaftan and gathered together fins and snorkel mask.
The masks weren't meant to be flattering, and John laughed at her when she put hers on. "Wow, Rox, you look hot."
"Shut up." Her words were muffled by the mask. She stood in the water and put on her fins, then waddled deeper.
John and Henrik looked at each other. "Sexy, huh?" John grinned. "Time to get your gear on, Henrik. This I've got to see."
Once in the water, they swam to where Roxanna was and together they explored the rock pool. Henrik gave up on his snorkel mask after getting a nose full of water for the third time, and preferred to hold his breath, just using the mask to protect his eyes. It was like looking through a portal into a different world, with unfamiliar and colourful occupants, elegant jellyfish and vibrant flora. Never had he imagined he would be doing this, face down in water he couldn't see the bottom of, with fish brushing by his legs and sea grasses beckoning to him to go deeper.
John swam to him and touched his shoulder, looking concerned and giving a thumbs-up. Henrik nodded, "OK," and they swam to join Roxanna.
A while later Roxanna hauled herself up onto a rock and sat like a mermaid, watching the surf. The tide had turned and was coming in. Soon, the rock pool would be submerged with white water. It was time to leave.
She called to the men and said they needed to get out of the water. For a while they stood on the rock as the waves came in, arms linked around each other. They all wanted to savour that moment and not clutter it with words.
When the sea lapped against their ankles, they made their way up to the beach, where the braai was smoking. They were given cold beers, which they took to sit on the white sand, a little away from the other guests.
"I love you both," she said. "Thank you for a wonderful holiday. It's been incredible. Traumatic, hideous at times, and truly wonderful."
"Eye-opening, a journey of self-discovery," Henrik added.
"And a real adventure," John said. "But above all, there's never been a dull moment." He tipped his beer bottle and swallowed. "Jesus, this time on Monday I'll still be in the wet lab."
Henrik looked at his watch. "No, you'll be at home with us."
They both looked at him. "Where's home?" Roxanna asked.
"I don't know, but we'll work it out. We're all brilliant, after all." Henrik looked out to sea, smiling slightly.
"I'll drink to that." John held up his bottle for a toast, and they joined in with a clink of glass.
Darkness fell. The only light was from the dying embers of the braai. Their stomachs were full of shrimp and steak, but there was one last treat awaiting them.
"Did ..." Henrik stood up. "Did you see that?" He was looking intently out to sea.
The sea was breaking in rows of wavelets the further up the beach they came. As they watched, light seemed to emanate from the surf, turning it a luminous green.
"It's bio-luminescence," the guide said. "I've never seen it here before. Tourists pay good money to see that in some parts of the world."
Everyone was pointing and talking excitedly. As the waves rolled in, the light followed each crest as it broke, making the sea glow green in the dark.
"Now that's what I call a fucking sign," John said, pulling Henrik and Roxanna into his arms.
Chapter 25: Home Is Where The Heart Is
"WHAT HAVE YOU bought for Lana?" Roxanna asked as they packed their suitcases.
John looked blank. "Er... nothing. Do I need to?"
Roxanna looked shocked. "Of course you need to take her something. John, that's awful!"
John looked at Henrik for help. "Did you think of buying presents?"
"Well, yes. The wooden carvings for Oskar, and a book. Also a beaded lizard for June."
June was Henrik's PA. John looked non-comprehending. "Why?"
"She likes lizards. She has one at home, apparently. It sits on her shoulder. Its name is Gerald." Henrik did that head tilt thing he usually did when something faintly amused him.
"Right." John continued packing.
"You need to get something," Roxanna warned. "When we check out, we can stop at the shop. They had some lovely things."
"There were shops at the airport," John muttered.
All too soon, the golf buggy arrived to take their luggage to the small plane. They stopped off at the shop and under Roxanna's guidance, John bought two brightly striped kikoy sarongs and a beaded leopard made by local craftspeople.
"I still don't see why," he grumbled as he fought to zip up his case.
"Because that's what older brothers with younger sisters do. She idolises you. You're part of a family now, John, whether you can accept that or not."
"I do accept it."
"So don't be afraid to love her," Roxanna said gently.
It was with a sense of sadness they said goodbye to the hotel staff. The sky was leaden as they were flown back to the airfield outside Durban, which seemed to make their departure a little easier. The sea didn't look as inviting as it had the day before, yet the air temperature was still brutally hot. No one said much as they drove back to King Shaka International Airport.
John's flight was five hours earlier than theirs, but he was carrying straight on to Lisbon to check on his patients there before returning to Holby. They wouldn't see him until Monday morning. It felt strange leaving him at the airport for the second time, and Roxanna held him tightly, Henrik awkwardly rubbing his back.
"Can we come in with you? Have a coffee or...?" Henrik's voice trailed away.
"I need to go straight through. I'm cutting it fine as it is." John hovered, feeling just as awkward. Public displays of affection with Roxanna had become effortless, but there was a world of difference between that and kissing Henrik in public. In the end he took his hand and kissed it briefly, then pulled him into a hug. He felt Henrik freeze, then relax into it.
"See you on Monday," he said, with a final heartbreaking smile.
And he was gone.
"God, I hate goodbyes," Roxanna groaned. "It feels so odd, us all going our separate ways."
"It will be good for us. A time to reset, think and decide what we want without distractions." Henrik steered her back to the car.
"That's what this holiday was about, wasn't it?"
"Yes, but being at home will feel different. You might find you like having some time to yourself, and I'll be catching up on work before Monday morning, when I'm not sleeping."
"Did we exhaust you?" She smiled up at him. He gave her a terse look as he put his seatbelt on. She laughed aloud. "That's a yes, then."
They made their way to the beach and found a restaurant on the front. The food was unexpectedly good, with fresh line-caught tuna and salad, and a crisp white Pinot to go with it. Roxanna kept an eye on the time, but it was a fitting end to an unforgettable trip. The only element missing was John.
Henrik received a text from him just as he was boarding the plane. A second later, Roxanna received the same text. She smiled at it. "He's added a kiss. He's never done that before."
Henrik glanced down at his phone. "I have three."
"You do not!" She snatched the phone from him. One kiss. "That's very naughty, Henrik. I can see I'm going have to keep you in line."
"You can try." Henrik poured more wine into his glass.
"You've changed." She was looking seriously at him.
"Yes. You're... I don't know... bolder. You're losing that tentativeness. In fact, I'd say you're changing back into the man I knew ten years ago. All the pain and guilt, the sadness, it's still there but you're regaining your confidence. You're learning to love yourself again. Does that make sense?"
Henrik glanced down at the cutlery on his place setting, and fought the urge to straighten it. What Roxanna said did make sense, but he wasn't sure he was ready to apply that reasoning to himself.
"I've always had depression, Roxanna. And I believe I always will. This is a good phase, but it won't always be that way."
He felt her hand on his.
"I know, and it's all right. I'm not watching your every move and analysing everything you say. It's just an observation, that's all."
He nodded. "Thank you."
They were both ready to head back to the airport once lunch was over. The grey skies had thickened into storm clouds, and thunder rumbled almost continuously.
"The turbulence going to be entertaining," Henrik remarked as they drove into the underground car park.
For the next three hours they went through the rigmarole of checking in and going through security, wandering around the shops, watching the rain beat against the wide, tall windows. Neither of them wanted coffee but in the end they did, reading newspapers and waiting until their flight was called. Lightning flickered outside as they walked to the plane. It was as if South Africa was telling them they needed to go home.
The plane was a massive Airbus A380, more than capable of smoothly negotiating the thunder clouds. Despite the extra coffee and unnecessary chocolate muffins, Roxanna fell asleep as soon as the lights in the cabin were turned down.
Henrik took longer. He lay on the cabin bed at an awkward angle, his long legs bent up so he could fit in. He thought of all the reasons their polyam relationship with John might not work. He thought of the reaction of people he worked with, and the logistics of pleasing everyone at the same time. He thought of the misunderstandings, the bigotry, the obsession people seemed to have over his sexuality. And he worried about how that might overshadow his ability to do his job.
Other people manage it, he told himself. John and Roxanna had found the transition, not effortless but a lot less difficult than him.
Perhaps he should become a monk. It would be a lot easier.
He glanced over at Roxanna, snoozing in the next bed. Yes, but would that be living? And he would miss having John run his hand up his back and whisper lewd promises in his ear.
He felt an inappropriate twitch in his trousers, and smiled wryly to himself. No, being a monk was definitely not an option.
HOLBY WELCOMED THEM with bright morning sunshine. The taxi dropped Roxanna off first, waiting whilst Henrik carried her suitcases into the cottage.
"I'll call you later." He kissed her cheek and left her to it.
They had agreed to meet up on Monday, to "regroup" as John called it, but the weekend stretched ahead, long and empty.
"No. Keep busy," she said aloud. "You don't need men to entertain you every second of the day." She went to the kettle and filled it, then put it on the Aga. Her neighbour had been in the day before to turn up the oven and put milk and fruit in her fridge. She had also made a chocolate cake, with a Post-It note on the top of the tin saying, "Welcome Home."
Roxanna smiled at that. She knew the cake was actually for Henrik, as the elderly woman had a soft spot for him. The smell of chocolate wafted towards her as she lifted the lid. An old-fashioned sponge cake with butter icing, absolutely delicious.
She flipped through the post, of which three-quarters was junk mail, and put on a load of laundry, before making the tea, dunking a teabag into a mug and chucking it in the Belfast sink, then cutting a wedge of the cake. Sitting in the sunny window seat, she realised it was good to be home, although their time in South Africa already seemed a distant memory.
Hugging her mug for comfort, she considered her feelings about the place David and her had shared. Maybe it was time to move on. The garden was running away with her and it really was out in the countryside, away from Henrik and John.
Still, moving would mean leaving behind all her reminders of David and the life they had shared together, and she wasn't sure she was ready for that.
The cottage seemed very quiet. Was this what loneliness felt like? She was tempted to call in at the hospital, but really she needed to buy food and freshen the place up, de-holiday her life and prepare for a fresh start on Monday. John was right, and she certainly didn't intend to cave in and call either of them.
On impulse she grabbed her keys and went out to the car. She would go to Waitrose for food and flowers. Plenty of them.
HENRIK DIDN'T PUT the kettle on until his suitcases had been stored away in the spare bedroom and his apartment was orderly again. As he waited for his tea to brew in the pot, he sorted his washing and put one load on, then checked his fridge. Nothing, but he didn't drink milk with his tea so it wasn't a crisis. He checked his watch. The groceries he had ordered on-line would arrived in about an hour.
He poured himself a cup of tea and sat down to drink it. The place seemed too quiet and much darker than he remembered, especially after the vibrant places he had stayed in recently. Why had he chosen navy blue paint for the walls, for God's sake. Who did that?
Someone fighting depression, he thought. Someone afraid to be seen. It was what had drawn him to the place, he remembered. Now it felt like a black hole, sucking him in. This was no place for someone trying to fight their way into the light.
He sipped his tea, thinking.
He looked at the wireless radio, the old-fashioned vinyl deck and chronologically sorted records of classical music, the tall oak cupboards holding old books, the complete lack of clutter on the window sills or any other flat surface for that matter. It was almost as if he had wanted to erase his presence from the place, and just leave evidence that some nondescript person lived there. Someone who didn't hate their reflection in the mirror, who hadn't unwittingly caused so much damage to people he loved and respected, who....
He set down his teacup and went round each room, opening the blinds, letting sunlight pour in. As he did so, he began to see how he had been living for the past decade. The heavy dark oak furniture inherited from his father, the black and white photographs on the walls, the sombre wine Paisley print on the chairs in the sitting room. No wonder Roxanna always looked round with a faint sense of pity, and more than once John had asked how he could live in such Stygian gloom.
Dust motes curled in the shafts of sunlight, having been disturbed after two weeks of peace. He fought the urge to clean the place from top to bottom. That was another of his coping mechanisms, but it bordered on obsession.
He went into the bedroom and looked at the bed, oversized for the room and Scandinavian in design, low to the wooden floor. The walls were painted white and there was nothing on them. No art or photographs or anything to say what kind of man he was. Just that huge bed, as if he wanted to proudly state he had two and a damned good sex life.
A ghost of a smile tugged at his lips as he remembered the last time he had slept there. Roxanna had been with him. If he pressed his face against the pillow, he would be able to smell her perfume.
No, he needed to focus. He took his tea and sat at the large desk, opening his laptop. Predictably, there were a huge number of them. Methodically he began to work his way through them.
ROXANNA PUT AWAY the last of her groceries. She had slotted into the weekend routine effortlessly, grabbing a coffee, wandering round, choosing her flowers, filling the car with petrol. She saw her neighbour and gave her the gift she had carefully chosen for her, thanking her for the cake and taking care of her house. They had another coffee before she went back home.
Normal things. Everyday things.
The first lot of laundry had finished so she hauled it out and dealt with it before the next lot went in.It was the worst part of going away, coming back and tidying everything as if the last two weeks had never happened.
But it had happened, and she felt different. It was difficult to explain why, but she did. It occurred to her she might be pregnant.
The thought made her stop in her tracks. Pregnant? Really? If so, whose baby would it be? And how would she explain that to ante-natal classes?
No, it wasn't possible. She had gone through an early menopause years ago. Hadn't she? She brushed the thought away and turned the dial on the washing machine, setting it going. As she pressed the button, her phone rang.
It was Henrik.
"I can't do this," he said as soon as she answered. "I'm sitting here, hugging a pillow like a damned child, upset because I can no longer smell your perfume on it. That's ridiculous. I ..."
"Come round," she said. "Don't be there on your own. I..."
"No, I need you to come here. There's something I'd appreciate your help with. Please?"
She smiled at the phone. "I'll be there soon."
As she put the phone in her bag, a noise made her turn. A figure stood in the doorway.
"Aaaaahh!" Her heart leapt in her chest as she screamed.
John stood in the doorway, grinning at her.
Chapter 26: The Dream Team
It's the end! So hard to know how to finish this story. Of course, their story isn't really finished, it's only just starting, but thank you for reading and all your lovely comments and Kudos. It really has kept me going during the writing of this story.
"WHAT ARE YOU even doing here?" She asked, when her blood pressure had returned to normal.
"I talked to Dr. de la Cruz over Skype. He said there was no need to travel over just for twenty-four hours. There's nothing to report so far. So I'm going during the week."
She eyed him suspiciously. "Is that it?"
"And ... it felt odd, just picking up with you both on Monday morning. It felt ..."
"Strange. Yes, I know." She smiled briefly and touched his arm. She noticed they hadn't kissed yet. It was as if all the constraints of Holby had already settled on them like an invisible cloak.
"Come here." He pulled her to him, making her yelp in surprise. They were face to face, and she breathed in his spicy aftershave. They shared a kiss, John backing her up against the kitchen table. She could feel his need for her, and was relieved to know she felt the same. It hadn't just been because they were in unfamiliar surroundings.
"Henrik is waiting for us," she said, as he fumbled with the button on her jeans. Their kisses were frantic as though they had been apart for weeks, not days.
"Trust me, this won't take long."
THEY DECIDED TO surprise Henrik together. Roxanna shut up the cottage and packed the pepperoni pizza she had bought in her bag, plus a bottle of red wine.
"We could go out," John said, eyeing the pizza.
"We could, but I was actually looking forward to being on the sofa with a stupid movie. If you and Henrik want to go out I don't mind at all."
"No, I prefer your idea."
He drove them to Henrik's apartment. When they got there, a strange sight awaited them.
The apartment was in chaos. They met the Ocado delivery man going back down the stairs, and walked in to find bags of groceries in the kitchen. All the furniture in the main room had been pushed into the centre and covered with sheets. The blinds were off the walls. There was the sound of scraping coming from one corner.
"Henrik?" John went further into the room to find Henrik in improbable blue overalls that were too short for him, dust in his hair. He stood up and his face lit up.
"John!" He gave him a dusty hug and stood back, brushing the residue from John's jacket.
"He couldn't keep away either," Roxanna said, smiling. "Now what on God's earth is going on here?"
Roxanna blinked. "Wait... you were in bits an hour ago. Is this..."
"Some manic episode? No, I don't think so. I need your advice on colours. This place ..." He looked around. "It's enough to make anyone depressed. I'm so glad you're both here."
"You've just come off a twelve hour flight, man! Are you out of your mind?" John looked angry at him.
But Henrik smiled benignly. "Oh yes, probably. But you knew that already, didn't you, John?" He nudged him playfully.
"I might be pregnant," Roxanna blurted. "I don't know for sure, but I might be."
Both men stared at her, then each other, then back at her.
"She's bought a pizza," John said.
"Oh, well, that confirms it," Henrik replied. "Roxanna is definitely with child."
"Poor little bastard, having all of us as parents," John commented.
"Oh, I think we'll cope, whatever happens." Henrik kissed Roxanna gently on the top of her head. "What will be, will be. All for one and one for all, and all that."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Roxanna said hastily. "I'm going to wait a few more days before doing a test."
"Fair enough," John said. "Are we going to eat out tonight or what?"
She was comforted by John and Henrik's lack of alarm. Perhaps they didn't really believe it could happen. She couldn't believe it either. It was probably just her hormones playing tricks.
They decided to order take-out after going to the DIY store to get what Henrik needed to paint the living room. It was agreed they would go to John's for the night and see how successful sleeping in his bed would be. First though, they looked at the rows of paint pots whilst Henrik tried to make a decision.
"What do either of you think about Damp Mushroom for the walls?" He looked at Roxanna, then John.
"No," they said in unison.
MONDAY MORNING. HENRIK walked into the hospital alone. Roxanna would be starting her shift slightly later and John was already down in the wet lab, his eyes glued to his microscope.
Jac was paying for her coffee as he stopped to pick up his.
"Good morning," she greeted him. Then under her breath muttered, "stud."
He paused, caught off-guard for a moment, and caught up with her as the lift door opened. When the doors closed on them again, they stared to the front, the silence thick between them.
"Good holiday?" She asked as the lift began to move.
"Excellent, thank you." He ran his finger around his collar. Awkward didn't begin to cover how he felt right then. "Ms. Naylor, if you have something to say..."
The door opened on Darwin ward. "Don't worry, Henrik. At least we now know you're human." She walked out of the lift before he could respond.
June greeted him when he arrived at his office. He placed the lizard on her desk when she wasn't looking, and smiled to himself as she heard her exclamation of pleasure.
For most of the morning he was with Serena, being briefed on the last two weeks events. All seemed fairly calm. Mr. Staples' operation had gone well and he had been discharged the day before. Serena seemed to be skirting around on particular subject but in the end she asked him outright.
"Have you seen Professor Gaskell?"
Henrik gave her a level look. "He was with me in the shower this morning."
Serena's eyebrows shot up. "Oh! Well .... and Ms. McMillan?"
"There wasn't room for three of us. Now about Mr. Copeland. How is...?"
"So you're all..."
He sighed. "Serena, you've been a good friend to me over the years and I know I can confide in you. This is a delicate matter, not just for me but for Roxanna and John. Yes, we're in an exclusive relationship. The three of us. So if anyone asks, that's the answer you give. I would appreciate your help in quashing any salacious gossip should it arise."
"It's a bit late for that, Henrik. The hospital has been rife with it since that Skype call. But it will die down, just as it has over Bernie and I." She patted his hand. "I'm glad you've found happiness. It's about time."
"And you? Have you found happiness, Serena?"
She smiled wistfully. "We're still working on it."
ONE KNOCK ANNOUNCED John to his office that evening. Henrik sat back in his chair, enjoying the view. John looked good in his black suit and dark blue shirt, his hair smoothed back. It made him look slightly shady, but Henrik suspected that was on purpose. He had a characteristic swagger as he walked down the corridor, and he didn't care what anyone thought of him. It made for a potent combination.
John snapped his fingers, making Henrik jump.
"Undressing me with your eyes is hardly fair when we're still at work."
Henrik looked at his watch. "Although we're not, as of now." He clasped his hands together on the desk and assumed a professional stance. "How can I be of assistance, Professor Gaskell?"
"Ready to take me home?" The honeyed question held sensual promise.
Another knock, and Roxanna walked in, wearing her trench coat and holding her bag. "I'm done. How's your first day been, Henrik?"
"Surprisingly smooth." Henrik stepped into his military coat, held open by John. He buttoned it up and packed his laptop bag.
Together they walked out of the office, Henrik turning out the light as they went. They travelled down in the lift, stopping at Darwin ward. Jac stood there, also ready to leave for the day. She raised an eyebrow when she saw them.
"Look who it is. The dream team. I don't want to play gooseberry."
John pressed the door button, smirking at her. "So take the stairs, Ms. Naylor." The door closed again on her shocked face.
"Let's go home," Roxanna sighed. "I'm done in."
"Where is home?" From Henrik. "Mine is completely upside down at the moment."
"It doesn't matter, does it? It's wherever we are. Together," John replied. "Though I don't have any milk."
Roxanna rolled her eyes. "Then I guess it's back to mine. Don't worry, I'll cook."
Henrik and John exchanged grimaces.
"No," they said in unison.
BACK AT ROXANNA'S cottage, she sat in the bathroom, staring at the little stick in her hand. She hadn't wanted to do the test at the hospital, preferring to buy a kit and do it in private. She had got as far as taking the thing out of its box and staring at it for five minutes, summoning up the courage to actually use it.
"Roxanna, are you all right?" Henrik was outside the door.
"Fine." She didn't sound it. He peered round the door and looked at the stick. "What does it say?"
"I haven't done it." She felt a sense of panic mounting inside her. "What if it's positive? I hadn't... we hadn't.... I didn't even think I was fertile."
"The human body can be unpredictable. We just assumed..." Henrik smiled gently. "Never assume. Isn't that what we tell our young doctors? Not that it will change what the result is. Why don't you find out? Then we can deal with it."
"In what way deal with it?"
John came into the bathroom. "What does it say?"
"She hasn't don't it yet."
"Why not?" He shrugged as if it were no big deal.
But it was a massive deal, especially for her. And especially if it were positive. Already she was thinking of how she would react to motherhood. It had never been in her future. She and David had decided not to have children so they could concentrate on their careers. Now...
She looked up at both of them. "Because if it's positive, it will change everything. Look at us! We're so new into this relationship, feeling our way, making mistakes. Isn't it unfair to bring a child into it as well?"
John knelt on the floor beside her. "Rox, this relationship isn't new. We've been together on and off since university. We make mistakes but our love for each other is strong enough to get through them. If that test is positive, it's the next step. It's something we all take on board and have a responsibility for. If it isn't, then we carry on as we have been. Muddling through."
"And it's better to know early, isn't it?" Henrik added. "You're not going to think about anything else unless you do know one way or the other."
Roxanna took a deep breath. "Yes. All right." She rose to her feet and lifted the toilet lid, then turned to them. "Well, I'm not going to do it with you two standing there. Go wait outside."
"Right." They shuffled off.
Roxanna did the test. She wiped herself and the stick and held it in her hand, eyes closed.
Open them, Roxanna!
She took a deep breath, opened one eye, then the other. And smiled.