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Dr. Edward (Dreg) Gresham looked up from his newspaper as the sound of a key in the Yale lock heralded the arrival of one of the friends with whom he shared a very comfortable and spacious detached house in a leafy street in West London, belonging to Sir Henry and Lady Antonia Gresham. He could visualise the scene all to easily, without the need to stir himself from his comfortable position, stretched out on the leather sofa in the sun-filled lounge, surrounded by decor that was soft and pleasing on the eye and furnishings that achieved both elegance and functionality. He heard the shoulder-bag hit the parquet floor with a dull thud and the sound of a coat being hung up on the rack. He could see the exhausted expression on the face of Tamsin Tierney, a 28-year old girl who was gradually being worn to a frazzle playing her part in keeping aircraft apart in the skies over the Home Counties.

Tamsin had made a powerful impression upon taking up residence by announcing that she would personally re-structure the delicate anatomy of anyone with notions of using any nickname suggesting the remotest link to motorcycle races in the Isle of Man or Country and Western singers from Tennessee, and this without the comfort of anæsthesia for the victim! A suitable compromise had been reached when Edward had threatened to take over the running of West Drayton Air Traffic Control Centre for a shift unless she conceded on the anæsthetic. Reluctantly, and extremely uncustomarily, Tamsin had yielded and was known, thereafter, to her housemates as Miss Sin, or just plain Sin.

She had been living in the Greshams’ London property for nearly two years, in the company of Henrietta (Harry) Carpenter and Stephen (Sprog) Warner, both of whom held seriously classified positions at the Ministry of Defence and were currently battling the elements and midges on the Knoydart Estate, in Western Scotland. The relationship between the four residents had been very comfortable and even the personal storms that had followed major social upheavals in Edward’s and Tamsin’s lives at almost exactly the same time, approximately 8 months previously, had been weathered without any repercussions amongst them. Thus it was that Edward, a 36-year old Senior Registrar in Orthopædics, found himself waiting to hear the latest horror stories from the 21st century Battle of Britain taking place daily above the safe Tory seats of the Home Counties.

Tamsin drifted through the lounge door and headed straight for a very comfortable armchair that was bathed in late afternoon sunshine.

“Hi, Sin, another good day at the Flying Circus?”

Tamsin rolled her eyes upwards and sighed deeply…

“Don’t ask, Dreg!”

“That good, eh?” Edward retorted quizzically.

“Yep, how’s life down at the Bone Factory?”

“It was fine,” replied Edward, “until the pile-up on the M40.”

“Oh, I saw something about that at a news-stand by the Tube station. Looked nasty.”

Edward put his paper down and looked across towards Tamsin, one arm of his spectacles resting in a position at the angle of his mouth that suggested that he was deep in thought.

“You remember those puzzles you used to get in your better class of Christmas cracker.”

Tamsin smiled and interjected with a hint of sarcasm.

“Sorry, Dreg, you may have seen them at Gledholme Manor, but we didn’t see many of them in the back-to-backs in Gateshead!”

She smiled again and looked almost as if she was about to apologise for interrupting, but Edward wisely dismissed the idea of waiting for this to happen, as they both had lives to lead.

Edward feigned injury to his honour, before reciprocating the smile and taking up where he had left off.

“…anyway, as I was saying, they used to put those odd-shaped sets of pieces in a little plastic bag and you had to see how they all fitted together.”

“Sorry, Dreg, all we had was plastic porpoises and corny jokes about chickens and roads.”

Tamsin smiled again.

“Oh dear, Dreg, I didn’t mean to interrupt, honestly.”

Edward overlooked the two glaring falsehoods and continued…

“Well, I’ve spent most of the day with no lesser a person than god himself.”

“Wow…” interjected Tamsin,” …not Prof. McMahon, surely?”

“The very same, Sin. I spent most of the day with god, trying to work out how different pieces of leg bones fit together and then trussing the poor guy up in steelwork that would have made even I.K. Brunel proud. The chap’s legs now look like the centre span of the Forth Railway Bridge.”

Tamsin made a huge effort and started to lift herself out of the chair.

“Well, Dreg, I can’t sit here talking bone, blood and sinew with you all evening. I’m starving and I need a shower.”

“OK, Sin, what do you fancy? I was thinking of one of my pasta concoctions and a bottle of Chianti.”

Tamsin addressed him with her negotiator’s look.

“Are you offering that garlic and herb tomato sauce with it?”

Edward paused for an unnecessary Dikmen Escort minute, since he had no idea how to prepare any other sauce apart from opening a tin, before closing the deal.

“Actually, I cheated. I made the sauce before I got called out this morning.”

Tamsin looked at him knowingly.

“I thought there was rather a hint of garlic in the air and I know you cleaned your teeth last night because I and half of the rest of the street heard you gargling afterwards.”

Tamsin’s exit from the room was just swift enough to take her out of range of the cushion that flew in her direction.

Edward stood up and walked across to the door as scampering footsteps disappeared up the stairs. He walked to the foot of the stairs and called up.

“Do you want a cup of tea?”

“Please…” came the distant reply, from amidst sounds of zips being undone, clothing being scattered on the floor and drawers being opened and closed.

“OK, I’ll leave one in your room while you’re in the shower.”

Edward walked slowly along the corridor and into the cool, modern kitchen. At a leisurely pace, he set about making a pot of tea, whilst footsteps upstairs and the sound of the shower pump motor gave notice of the stage Tamsin had reached.

A few minutes later, Edward headed up the stairs, carrying a large Donald Duck beaker full of tea. He walked across the landing and paused by the bathroom door.

“I’ll leave it on your bedside table, Sin, is that OK?”

At the second attempt at communication, his message found its way to the recipient through steam, running water and cascading bubbles of shampoo and Edward entered Tamsin’s room, where he placed the steaming mug on the bedside table. He stepped gingerly over strewn garments of various descriptions and was unable to prevent his gaze from lingering for a few moments on a beautiful plain white bra and a pair of brilliant white brushed cotton French knickers set out on the duvet, waiting for the wearer to return. Edward smiled to himself, took a deep breath and headed back downstairs. He collected his tea from the kitchen and went back to the lounge, where he made valiant efforts to displace soft, alluring female underwear from his mind with turgid columns of anglicised Greek and Latin medicospeak in an incredibly boring learned paper a colleague had asked him to read. Edward actually wondered if the aim was to see if the paper would send him to sleep as well!.

The battle was soon lost and Edward sipped his tea slowly, leaning back against the cushions and allowing his thoughts to surround Tamsin and many aspects of her life. He put the mug down, closed his eyes and drifted slowly into a reverie.

He was not sure how long he had been dozing, nor what it was that had awoken him from it, but he could clearly hear the sound of muffled sobs from upstairs. He frowned and then cast his mind back to the letter that had arrived that morning, written in a hand that he thought he recognised as that of Simon Dewry, a young ‘something in the City’ who had been a resident until 8 months previously and who had left, rather hurriedly, after it became apparent that Tamsin was not the only person in whose territorial waters he had been fishing.

Edward deliberated for a few moments before making up his mind as to what would be the best course of action. He and Tamsin had developed a close sense of trust, mutual respect and loyalty as friends, based not least upon a healthy rivalry in terms of their ability to think up outrageous jokes and puns.

After he had picked up his mug, Edward made his way quietly out of the room and up the stairs. He walked almost on tiptoes across the landing before knocking very gently on the half-open door to Tamsin’s room.

“Do you mind accommodating a visitor, Sin?”

The weeping young woman turned her head, brushed away the long auburn hair and looked straight at him through reddened eyes. She sniffled loudly and wiped tears away before blowing her nose in a manner one would not have associated readily with such a striking young woman, but sadness is no respecter of niceties.

Tamsin was sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed in a mid-thigh length light silk navy-blue dressing gown. The fact that the white undergarments he had seen earlier were no longer visible suggested to Edward that they had found their place. Tamsin smiled weakly at him before convulsing as tears racked her body once again. Edward sat in the high-backed cane chair and wrestled with the temptation to go to her side and enfold her in his arms to comfort her, but prudence won this round and he held his position.

“Am I right in thinking that the letter is from someone who used to live here, Sin?”

Tamsin looked down at the letter and nodded, her fine facial bone structure concealed behind a veil of auburn hair, and the tears continued to flow. Without turning her head, she held the letter out towards Edward, who rose from the chair and Eryaman Escort walked across to take it.

Edward read the neat handwriting, then read it again before folding the letter and walking over to place it on the bedside table. Tamsin sat with her head buried in her hands and her upper body shook with the sobs that pumped tears in a cascade down onto her dressing gown. Edward took a fistful of tissues and gently swapped them for the saturated pieces of ragged pulp in Tamsin’s hand. She accepted the kind gesture and looked up into Edward’s eyes. He was instantly overcome with the deepest pain inside as he looked at this normally bright and vivacious girl, brought to such a heartbroken state all through a moment’s drunken indiscretion by a former tenant with his employer’s youngest daughter. Now, Simon would have a lifetime to rue his intemperate actions as he watched the result of them grow up, whilst the woman he truly loved, but maybe not as much as the salary and bonuses that went with the job, was left to pick up the pieces.

Edward took a few more tissues and dabbed softly at the tears that were still cascading down that fresh young freckled face. Tamsin did a repeat imitation of the marine emergency warning signal before exchanging the tissues for another handful offered by Edward.

“You’re not bad for a bloke, Dreg! You sure you’re not one of us?”

Tamsin smiled weakly and Edward knelt in front of her, placing her clasped hands between his. Tamsin’s dressing gown had opened slightly, but Edward genuinely failed to notice her soft, possibly slightly under-proportioned womanly curves and the edge of the dazzling white fabric that supported her anatomy so comfortably and gently. Tamsin realised what had happened, carefully removed her hands from Edward’s clasp and discreetly pulled the sides of the silk garment together before reaching one hand out momentarily to fold to the shape of his cheek. Edward shivered very slightly at the fragrant scent of a young woman who left him slightly breathless even when dressed in a baggy track-suit and wearing an enormous woolly ski hat.

“I don’t know why I let him get to me in this way” she whispered, pausing to cough quietly,” I should have known he would end up in this situation.”

Edward regained temporary control over Tamsin’s hands and looked her straight in the eye, capturing her complete attention. His eyes had the ability to do that with people about whom he cared, but he never abused this gift.

“You were the totally innocent party in this, Sin, and there was absolutely nothing you could have done to prevent it, apart from shackling him to his bed.”

Tamsin laughed and then blushed as she realised what she had done. Edward looked at her, not knowing entirely what was going on in her mind. She stayed contentedly in Edward’s benign and soothing gaze and moved one hand to the outside of Edward’s left hand.

“I know, Dreg, but there is always that irrational thought. The ‘what-if’ syndrome.”

“Oi,” said Edward in a pseudo-mocking tone belied by the kindness of his expression. ” I’m off duty now so we’ll have no talk of syndromes, thank you.”

The two of them chatted quietly for several minutes before their conversation was interrupted by a deep abdominal rumbling that reminded both Tamsin and Edward, one of them with acute embarrassment, that she had not eaten in ages. Edward made a quick quip about the significance of the presence of healthy bowel sounds before escaping to the kitchen inches ahead of a flying pillow.

A young, fresh warm female voice pursued him down the stairs.

“Do you mind terribly if I don’t dress up for dinner, Dreg?”

Edward turned round and smiled from the foot of the stairs.

“Just make yourself comfortable, Sin. Come as you are if you like.”

Tamsin picked up the pillow and smiled.

“OK, gaffer!”

Edward sat in the armchair, holding a small glass of brandy, whilst Tamsin stretched out on the sofa, long, well-muscled light olive legs resting on the far arm-rest. She scanned the paper for details of television programmes but gave up in despair and threw it on the floor.

“There’s absolutely nothing worth watching on the box, Dreg. Do you fancy a video?”

Edward opened his eyes and peered vacantly at the television set.

“Not really, Sin. Why, what did you have in mind?”

“Hmmm. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, perhaps,” she replied.

“Naaah,” retorted Edward “I’ve seen enough training videos this week!”

The two of them laughed.

“Well, to be honest,” ventured Tamsin,” I can’t be arsed to do a thing this evening. Quite apart from that, after such a meal, I’m not sure I’d be capable anyway.”

Tamsin sipped a generous measure of whisky and closed her eyes. She paused for a few seconds and then sat up, swung her feet round and put her glass down.

“Tell you what, I’ll make some fresh filter coffee.”

Edward smiled and closed his Esat Escort eyes again. He was totally unprepared for the way Tamsin’s hand brushed slowly over his head as she walked past, or for the lightest of kisses that followed the gesture. She stooped to whisper in his ear and her fragrance drifted enticingly into his nostrils. Edward took a deep breath.

“Thanks for being a real friend, Dreg. You’re the first guy who’s genuinely given without demanding. I told you you’re a rarity. Are you sure you’re not one of us? Maybe I should check sometime.”

Tamsin turned to wink as she sped out of the lounge and Edward made a vain gesture of attempting to stand up. It was not that he was drunk, far from it, he was just totally exhausted and utterly relaxed.

The rattle of coffee cups, spoons, other crockery and the cafetière on the tray roused Edward from his sleep, but it was not so much the noise as the fact that coffee was being served in cups and delivered on a tray that truly startled him.

“Don’t look like that, Dreg,” reproached Tamsin playfully,” I can be a lady when I choose to be.”

Edward muttered something about being absolutely sure of that and Tamsin rebuked him mildly for not having the courage of his convictions and speaking out loud. Edward retorted that it wasn’t the conviction that worried him, it was the sentence. The two of them laughed and gradually they unwound to a relaxed state that neither of them had enjoyed for a long time.

Once the coffee and spirits had been consumed, the conversation returned to previous relationships and, over the next couple of hours, the two of them shared a closeness previously unknown to them, as they opened up their feelings about broken relationships that had held such promise. This time, the tears did not follow and this surprised Tamsin somewhat, since she had expected such a topic to provoke yet another torrent.

Two further measures of spirit later, the conversation had really begun to unwind and Edward found himself listening in utter amazement to how it was that Tamsin had blushed when they had touched briefly, a few hours earlier, on the subject of shackles. Slowly and without any embellishment, she explained to Edward how she and Simon had discovered a startling new element in their lives, one that had proved powerfully catalytic at several levels, not least their love life.

“What really pisses me off” Tamsin almost spat the words out of her mouth “is the thought of that woman bare-arsed across his lap and getting the full treatment.”

Tamsin flushed for a while, but this time it was more than just anger or sadness that provoked the facial colouring.

Edward said very little for the remainder of the evening, but listened as Tamsin described in mouth-watering detail how she and Simon had explored a depth of passion few people knew about, mainly because of totally incorrect associations with abuse and violence.

The conversation lasted into the small hours of the morning, but eventually the Sandman had the better of both of them and they finally went their separate ways at the top of the stairs, Tamsin brushing a genuinely fond kiss on Edward’s cheek, to which he responded with an unpressured hug and a whisper into Tamsin’s ear that their conversation had proved far more fascinating than any lecture he had attended in his entire medical training.

Two bedroom doors finally closed almost simultaneously. Semi-darkness and quiet descended upon the spacious house, broken only by a shaft of moonlight penetrating through the skylight and shining directly onto Tamsin’s door, whilst a dustbin lid clattered a few houses further down the street as an urban fox went about collecting dinner for his growing family.

Tamsin awoke, turned over and attempted to re-direct her thoughts. It had been a difficult evening after the letter had arrived, but the odd thing about this was that it was not Simon, or thoughts of him, that had awoken her. It was what his removal from her life had meant that left her now, rolling restlessly from side to side, listening to the church bell chiming the quarter hours of the night away. Her mind kept drifting back to the conversation she had shared with Edward …. and her hand kept drifting back to a certain area of her body in a manner that was not making it any easier to get off to sleep. Time and again she found herself stroking the soft cotton encasing her shapely round buttocks. Her pulse would quicken and her mind would strive yet again to get away from this endless cycle. Eventually, just after 3.15 a.m., she sat up suddenly in bed, stretched her arms …. and accidentally sent the bedside lamp flying across the room. It came to rest, with the sound of disintegrating porcelain, on the wooden flooring. Tamsin muttered a curse to herself and gingerly set her foot down onto the floor. Sensing that there were no obstacles, she stood up and brought the other foot down straight onto the jagged edge of a piece of porcelain. She yelped and tried to hobble across to the light switch but caught her other foot in the rug and crashed to the floor just as a knock came and an anxious voice enquired as to what was happening.

An hour later, Tamsin was sitting at the edge of the bed, her foot protected by the perfectly-applied dry gauze and bandage dressing she had applied herself. She looked at Edward and smiled.

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