Sex stories

Short sex stories




Music Man Pt. 01

The protagonist does have a hard time, sometimes his own fault, but he also gets some consolation along the way. There is some sex here and there where the story demands it. Eight parts, all complete.

It's all fiction: if anyone thinks they appear in this story, it's not about you!

Clarifications:

GCSE: 'General Certificate of Secondary Education' usually taken at age sixteen in a number of subjects. Bright kids take as many as ten subjects. Grades A*-F (F=Fail)

DipABRSM: Diploma of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (Almost degree level).

Some High Schools in Britain take students from age eleven to eighteen, others to sixteen followed by two years at Sixth Form College. The schools referred to in the whole of this tale are of the former persuasion, eleven to eighteen.

All characters depicted having sex are over eighteen.


*****

Chapter One

Gerald Smith had no brothers or sisters, and having to amuse himself, had always been into music. His mother told him he used to 'sing' to tunes on the radio before he could talk. When he was four, he wanted to play the piano and his long-suffering father bought him one. He tried to play but became frustrated, so his parents sent him for piano lessons. He learned quickly, and by the time he was fourteen, he had passed his Grade Eight piano, and at sixteen his DipABRSM (performance).

At the age of eleven he had asked for an electronic keyboard for his Christmas present. It opened up a whole new set of possibilities - sound effects. With his avid thirst for knowledge he learned about the inner workings of amplifiers, and bought a broken Marshall Amplifier with his own money, which he took to pieces, learned the function of each component and rebuilt it. He saved up and bought a synthesiser and this took him further creatively.

As a teenager he joined and formed bands in school. His ability to sight-read music made him popular, and he also began to find that girls found him attractive. With the typical insecurity of his age, he thought it was his musicianship that fascinated them. That was true, but he was also a good-looking boy. However, many of the other lads disliked him. He was a geek, and 'their' girls were far too interested in him.

It was at this time that he began to write songs, setting his own poetry to music. Most of his songs he kept to himself. Those he considered the best were only played by the school bands to which he belonged, and did not make an impression anywhere else.

It was his mother, a hospital nurse, who sat him down 'for a chat'. He was fourteen, about to enter the final two years before GCSE, and he immediately began to resent her intervention in his life. Her 'chats' usually comprised her telling him what he should do. He folded his arms across his chest, a gesture not lost on her.

"Don't be like that," she said with a smile.

"Like what?" Surly. Well, he was a teenager and had a stereotype to live down to.

"You know - the folded arms." She continued to smile with all the confidence of a mother who knows her son loves her to bits.

"What do you want mother?" he asked peevishly, but uncrossed his arms and couldn't help a half grin escaping from his lips.

"I want to know what direction your school work is going to take for these next two years, and then for 'A' levels. I mean you've practically got your ABRSM. Were you thinking of music or branching out a bit? It's just better to have more strings to your bow."

"Are you going-"

"No, neither I nor your father is going to tell you what to do," she said, reading his thought, "or even advise you, unless you ask for advice. We're interested in knowing whether you've thought about it."

Now he smiled at her. "You're right Mum, I hadn't thought. Science rather than languages definitely, but I like geography and history as well. I can do all that up to GCSE, but after that it would have to be science - especially physics and electronics. I never thought of music - I can get my Diploma in two years with Miss Turner privately."

Miss Turner was the woman to whom he went for piano lessons.

Eleanor Smith sighed in relief. "See, that wasn't so difficult, was it? You've a good head on your shoulders, Ged. You know that whatever you do, we will support you. I'll bet the electronics is for your music though?"

"It's good to have a clairvoyant mother, mother," he said with an affectionate laugh. "You're right of course."

He did gravitate to Sciences for his last years at high school, and his music took a back seat apart from getting his DipABRSM, as he devoted himself to his school studies. His top grades got him into university where again he concentrated on Physics. He also took courses in computing and electronics.

He dabbled in music with friends at university, but his first love was writing poetry and setting it to music. Unlike some bands who put words to music, his songs were composed the other way round, and as a result were thought provoking and deeply evocative. It was, however, for his own enjoyment and satisfaction, so he still kept his songs to himself, and no one else knew of them.

As far as relationships were concerned, he had lost his virginity towards the end of High School to a pretty girl who had lost hers a couple of boys before him, and had dumped her current boyfriend for him. Sexually, she seemed as clueless as he was, and so he assiduously researched the whole subject of sex and experimented with his new and enthusiastic girlfriend.

Looking back, the relationship seemed a little calculated to him, but eventually, deciding mutually they had learnt enough from each other and there was nowhere the relationship was going, they split up.

She went back to her previous boyfriend, Lee Preston, who had taken up keyboards as a way of impressing her and getting her back from the geek. When Lee bedded her again he found she had now a wealth of sexual experience she had not had before, and realising whence this knowledge had come, hated Ged all the more.

There followed a series of one, two, or three night stands. He learned that every girl was different, which intrigued him, but sex was sex whomever one was with and he loved sex as any hormonal teenager would; it seemed the girls loved his technique, but also his kindness and gentleness.

At university he had already tired of trivial one night stands. He concentrated on friendships, and if those friendships gained added 'benefits' so much the better! In any case, he was single-minded in his pursuit of a first class degree even from his first year.

Half way through second year, he fell in with a girl, and this time it was lust at first sight; they simply could not get enough of each other's bodies, and they rutted together day after day and night after night. She moved in with him and most of their free time together was spent in bed. He loved the carnal selfishness of their life. However, they expressed a certain commitment at the outset.

"I'll only fuck you," she said with considerable candour. "There'll be no one else until we split." Neither of them had any illusions that the relationship would lead anywhere long term. He promised the same.

He agreed, and he was faithful to his promise. She was not, but it took him three months to find out. He had gone home to see his parents and came back a day early. He went to their favourite club to find her, and was unfortunately successful.

As he entered the back street leading to the club door, he heard a noise down an ally, and looking, saw his girlfriend with her jeans and knickers round her ankles, her knees wide and her bare behind on view, being roundly tupped by a man he didn't know.

He approached them. She became aware of his presence and gave a little scream. There followed a predictable sequence of communication.

"You some sort of pervert?" the man asked aggressively.

"Ged, it's not what you think," she squeaked, oblivious to the cliché.

"You know him?" the man asked, having paused from his endeavours, though remaining embedded.

"He's my boyfriend."

"Was her boyfriend." Ged spat.

"Please, Ged!"

"You'd have been more convincing if you'd got your cheating cunt off his prick," Ged snarled, reduced to profanity in his outrage, which was unusual for him, given his gift for language.

"Get lost! She's mine now." The man was still buried in her and was thus in no position to make any aggressive move towards Ged, but began instead to resume pumping in and out of her, causing her to groan.

"You're welcome to her," Ged replied, and then to her: "Your stuff will be in the hall, Tiffany. Leave your keys on the kitchen table; we're finished."

Gerald had learned something, and it went into a heartfelt song of betrayal. The song wondered about the faithfulness of a sexually greedy woman and the hurt she inflicted. He had himself tested for STDs, which precaution found its way into one of the more withering verses. He was clean.

He had enjoyed a lust-driven relationship which in its sexual expression was deeply selfish. For the remainder of the second year he remained celibate.

He went back to his girl friends, and on occasion one of them would sleep with him as they had before, but it would usually be a hug, a cuddle and real sleep rather than full sex. The girls said it was a refreshing change, and Ged felt their love and affection and valued it greatly.

It was two weeks into his third year that he met Cassie. It was a life-changing meeting, and all because he sang the betrayal song in a pub with some friends with whom he had formed a folk group.

He was sitting in the bar of the Student Union early one Monday evening in October, sketching ideas for a song about loneliness. The Union was sufficiently far from his flat to make the journey back there tiresome, and since the bar was practically empty at that time of the day and week, he was less likely to meet any of this friends. The song idea had come to him the night before, and it was pestering him but he couldn't seem to get the hang of it.

"Gerald Smith?" came a female voice.

"Ged," he said without looking up, still intent on being dissatisfied with the words he had written. "The only person to call me Gerald is my mother when she's pissed at me."

The owner of the female voice gave a little chirping laugh and sat down opposite him. He looked up. If he had wanted to finish the song, looking up was a big mistake.

They say that men are turned on by sight, and women by touch. Whoever 'they' are, they have vastly oversimplified the process of sexual attraction and arousal between the sexes, but in this case the idea was devastatingly accurate for Ged.

Different men find different types of women mesmerisingly beautiful. There are women who are generally agreed by all to be beautiful, but there is a form of beauty which burns itself into a particular man's being and which is unique to an individual man's vision.

Ged's ideal woman in every physical aspect had just seated herself in front of him at the table, and the shock was at once deeply shattering and at the same time all embracing and complete.

The goddess in front of him had a face that Ged could have gazed on for all eternity. She had the face that was for him the epitome of beauty, and of visceral attraction.

Her hair was auburn, almost red. Her eyes were luminous green, her nose small and her mouth wide; her neck was long and slender, and he instantly ached to touch it. Everything about her face was delicate and her skin was firm and clear and begged to be kissed all over.

He did not notice the rest of her, in any case she was sitting down across the table from him dressed in a thick sweater and jeans, most of which the table hid from his eyes. In any case her face was riveting enough. He stared, and stared, and stared.

She began to look uncomfortable, taking his stare as aggression and dislike.

"Is there a problem?" she asked, her brow furrowing, as she became nervous. She knew she was pretty, and that she turned heads, but she had never before had this reaction from a man and could not interpret it.

Her furrowed brow made her if anything even more attractive.

"Er, no!" he hastened to assure her, coming back to reality. "It's just... er... what can I do for you?"

"You were singing in 'The Crown' last week?" she asked as her face relaxed.

"Y-yes?" He forced the word, and it came out as a strangled gasp.

"Ben, I think it was, told me you wrote that song - the one about the cheating girl?"

"Yes." Again a strangled response.

"She was real, wasn't she? I mean, it really happened to you?" Her eyes glistened with gentleness and admiration, perhaps a tear, and it was turning him on.

"Yes." Hardly audible, but she heard, and her eyes softened even further.

"It made me cry," she offered. "I was dumped by someone I loved very much. He had said he wanted me for ever, but he didn't love me at all!"

"It happens. It's common. It's life, but it still hurts," said Ged, who was by now hardly torn at all between his writing and the magnetism he felt for this girl. She was so excruciatingly beautiful, so perfect in every way, his writing had no chance.

"I'm Cassie," she said. "Have you written much else?"

"Quite a bit," he replied, still tongue tied.

"Show me?" she asked.

"They're back at my flat," he said, thinking, Oh God she'll think I don't care.

"Want to take me?" she said with a mischievous grin, clearly aware of the double entendre.

"OK," he said, and put his stuff away. Take you? he thought. If only. Please!

It was a half-hour walk. He held his briefcase in the hand furthest from her, dying to take her hand in the free one. He dangled it, available, hoping she would take it but she didn't.

They talked all the way and at last he relaxed. It was mainly because they were walking side by side and he was no longer gazing on her captivating face.

They talked about their courses. She was studying English Language and Literature. Her parents lived in the south of the country. They were typical working class, she said. She had a trouble-free upbringing, full of love, but very little money. He told her of his parents' interest in his music and their generosity supporting him. They were northern folk and had some money, but he suspected they had to be careful. They talked of their courses and student union politics.

Before he realised it, they were at the front door of the house he shared with two other lads. Each had a large bedroom and they shared the kitchen, bathroom and living room in which there was a television. He showed her round without going into the bedrooms. His housemates were not at home.

The kitchen was clean and she showed her surprise. He offered her a drink, and she opted for tea. As he made it, she asked about his housemates, and how they got on together. Did they have parties, girlfriends?

She casually asked if he had a girlfriend, and he explained his celibacy. She smiled warmly at that, and he wondered if she was interested in him, dismissing the idea. She was far too beautiful to be bothered with him in that way.

He forbore to ask about her love life, but she told him without his inquiry that she had caught her last boyfriend with another girl and he was unrepentant, telling her his new girl was better in bed than she was, so she dumped him. She was still hurting, feeling betrayed and belittled and her lovely face showed her pain.

"There's something in me," she said, "that if someone lies to me, or cheats on me, that's the end for me - no going back ever. No matter how much I loved him."

He thought she probably still loved the lout. He sympathised, and they exchanged meaningful looks.

Then she arched her eyebrows in that inviting way of hers, and asked, "You going to take me to your bed - room?"

He coloured up and she laughed that delightful chirping laugh of hers he had heard on the way. He smiled back. "I've been wanting to do that since I met you," he returned, and immediately panicked, thinking he had gone too far. She frowned, confirming his fear.

"Sorry," he said hastily, "not really funny."

"No," she answered, her eyes shining. "You just took me by surprise - I just thought you were hitting on me - silly."

I was, he thought, but out loud: "Cassie, come on, let's go."

His room was tidy, and she commented on it. It was full of his electronic music-making equipment.

On her comment about its tidiness he grinned, "You never know when a beautiful girl might just drop by," he said, openly flirting now he felt so much more at ease with her.

"If one comes," she reposted, "I'll get out of the way."

"She's already here," he said, suddenly quite serious. She looked surprised, then she coloured in her turn but did not look annoyed.

"Is this where you write your stuff?" she asked, moving to a safer topic.

"Sometimes," he said. "I write the music here - keyboard," and he gestured towards the instrument, "but I write the words anywhere - as soon as the idea comes to me."

"Will you sing me some of your songs?" she asked, climbing onto his bed and resting against the headboard.

"Better than that," he smiled, and put a CD into the player. Then he joined her on his bed. On the CD, he was singing some songs by himself, others with the group she had heard at the pub, and still others with another group she did not recognise.

She rested against the headboard, her eyes closed. At some of the songs a tear made its way down her cheek, at others she looked serene. He was able to gaze at her and he ached to touch her, take her in his arms.

When the CD finished, she sighed.

"Ged, you are something special," she said looking sideways at him. "You can touch hearts," and she leaned over and kissed his cheek.

The kiss hit him like a lightning strike. He gasped, and she laughed, thinking he was joking, until she saw the shocked expression on his face.

"You OK?" she asked, worried. "Was that all right?"

"Oh, yes," he said sighing, "more than all right."

She giggled, and he looked over at her pretty face made all the more beautiful by her smile.

"I'd better be going," she said. "Work to do; essays to write."

"I'll walk you home," he offered. "It's getting dark."

"Ged," she said firmly, "I'm a big girl, I can make my own way - you were writing a song when I interrupted you. Stay and finish it."

He shrugged. She obviously did not want more than friendship, and anyway she was far too good-looking to want him. Then a touch of obstinacy took hold.

"Cassie?" he said, as she got off the bed. He hesitated. "Would-?"

"Yes, I'd love to go out with you!" she laughed, and her face lit up.

"Pardon?" he gasped as he climbed off the bed to stand before her.

"That's what you were going to ask, wasn't it?"

"Well, yes," he stuttered, "but you're so... Why are you interested in me?"

"You are a writer, a poet, a musician," she told him. "You are sensitive, creative and talented. And..." She paused and looked at him with mischief in her sparkling eyes.

"And?"

"You are fit, healthy, courteous, respectful and..." again the mischievous smile.

"Cassie!" he groaned.

"And you are a very good looking, sexy guy."

Ged flushed with embarrassment. "I can't believe you want me," he said and now his eyes were shining. "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met - I can't stop looking at you."

"I noticed!" she laughed.

"And you're fun, and highly intelligent, and direct and, well-."

"OK," she said, cutting him off. "Enough of the mutual admiration. Anything you'd like to do before I leave?" There was that cheeky half smile again.

"Oh, yes," he said quietly and firmly. "Definitely."

He reached for her arms and pulled her to him. His arms slid round her body and he brought his lips to hers. They kissed, their bodies pressed together.
It was a long and steamy kiss, and she showed no sign of ending it. The feel of her body, and the pressure of her modest breasts brought its inevitable result. He hardened fast, and she felt it, but she did not push him away; her arms were round his neck.

It was he who ended the kiss. They looked into each other's eyes. Hers really were the most arresting green.

"Time for you to go," he said gently. "Otherwise..."

I don't mind, she thought, stroking his back.

"Cassie," he said softly, "not like this, it's too quick. Let's get to know each other a little more."

"Yes," she said, giving a little shake and feeling and looking relieved. "You're right. You must understand I've never thrown myself at anyone like this before, and I don't think I'm ready for a full relationship yet either."

"You understand it's not because I don't want to?" he added.

"I can feel that," and she laughed a dirty laugh, which was new, and he loved her even more.

They kissed again, more softly this time, exchanged mobile numbers, and she left.

--

Chapter Two

Cassie Fenton was very pretty, very clever, very sensuous, very passionate and rather impetuous. In spite of that, she had been in few relationships of any depth since she began to fill out as a young adolescent. She lost her virginity to a classmate in her last year at school, but he let her down very badly which shook her trust in boys, so she was more choosy from then on.

She did go out with boys in that last school year, but would not agree to have any sexual contact beyond kissing and a fumble over her clothes. She relented and had one dalliance with a boy she fancied, who went out with her for three weeks professing undying love, took her to the school leavers' prom, after which he selfishly used her in the living room of his parents' house, she insisting he used a condom which he didn't like at all. Then a week into the summer holidays she saw him deep in the arms of another girl outside a club. She severed her relationship from him completely. Again she was heart-broken and her trust in boys was shattered.

She went on the pill when she started university and had a brief relationship, again trusting a plausible 3rd year student, allowing him to have sex at a party after they had been going together for a month, but he clearly lost interest over the following weeks, after he got what he wanted. It further shook her confidence.

So she had decided, as had Ged, to restrict her self-giving to someone who would be faithful and make a real relationship with her. She decided to concentrate on making real friends rather than looking for a lover.

She made many friends of both sexes, and for the whole of the first year she resisted all attempts to woo her. At the root of things there was a deep fear of being betrayed again. However, at the beginning of her second year things changed greatly. She fell in love. This time it felt completely different.

Her best female friend Cheryl had been close with her since they met the year before, at Freshers' Week. That first term of first year, Cheryl met and fell in love with Brian who was a year older. Cassie could see why. He was steady and totally besotted with her, and she had completely fallen for him.

Brian's parents had money and had bought him a terraced house for his second year. The pair had moved in together after Christmas and at the end of Cheryl's first year they had invited Cassie to join them for the following academic year. The house was old but clean and sound, and they loved it.

At the beginning of Cheryl's and Cassie's second year, they threw a 'start the year party', which doubled as Cassie's twentieth birthday party. Cassie knew most of the guests and moved around chatting to them. Then she became aware of a pair of eyes staring at her.

The eyes belonged to a very handsome guy. He was tall and lanky with a shaggy mane of jet black hair that fell to his shoulders. His eyes, were a startling very dark brown, almost black, below which was a large nose and a wide mouth. She returned his gaze and her heart began to flutter. As hostess, she went to him.

She swallowed, and held out her hand. "Hi!" she said brightly. "I'm Cassie - I live with Cheryl and Brian."

"I know." He smiled at her and she felt weak. "I'm Zak, short for Zachary. Never call me Zachary: I hate the name." He smiled more broadly and she knew she wanted him intensely. It bordered on compulsion.

"Zak," she repeated when she got her breath, "I like it."

She had fallen in love, and despite her understandable misgivings she could not resist. He obviously fancied her as well, and they made a date for the following week. Within two weeks they were in bed together. They had been for a drink and he had introduced three of his friends to her. They were members of a struggling rock band called Furtive Glance. They had had little success nationally but got regular gigs around the city.

Zak took her to his flat. It was dirty and untidy with much unwashed crockery piled in the sink. She did not notice, as she fell into his arms. His kisses were strong and powerful, and she could feel him hard against her thigh. His chest felt firm and defined and his arms sinuous. Her lust took her: it had been so long since she had had a man, though her last 'man' had been no more than a boy.

His hands wandered over her body as he kissed her, over her back, the cheeks of her bottom, then to her breasts. He cupped them over her tee shirt and she moaned at the touch. She broke the kiss, stood a pace back and pulled the tee shirt over her head. She reached behind her and unclipped her bra. Then she slowly unfastened and unzipped her jeans, and pushed them down. She was on fire from the way his eyes fastened on her thin boy-shorts. She loved his lustful gaze, how his eyes raked her body. She had almost forgotten the feeling. She was wanted, desired and it felt so good.

She could see how aroused he was. "Come on Zak. Get those things off," she growled.

He started, awakened from his mesmerised stare hastened to tear off his shirt, then his jeans and boxers. There he was for her, naked. There was not an ounce of fat on him. His chest was muscular, his abs well defined, his waist and hips tapered, and needless to say he was hard. She moved to him and again they kissed. Then they were in bed.

She discovered he was a good lover. He caressed, kissed, licked her all over, and then brought her to a first climax with his tongue, whereupon he covered her and she felt him pushing into her moistness. It was heavenly, that feeling of him filling her and pushing in and out. He went slowly at first until she began to moan again, when he speeded up and brought her off a second time before emptying himself into her.

Later in the dark, she wondered, too late, about STDs. At least this time she did not have to worry about getting pregnant, she thought.

They became an item. She loved him more and more deeply. He was a simple man, in a dead-end job, but she didn't mind. After her university courses she would earn enough for both, and he would be able to enjoy his time with the band. Who knows? she thought, They might even make the big time.

For all that, she did not move into his flat; her previous betrayals had been so painful for her that she could not go so far as to depend totally on him, but she cleaned his place up and made it a home.

She was so besotted that she did not mind that he did no housework, or washing up, or cooking, or washing or ironing. He needed the time to rehearse and play with the band.

He made up for it in his bed with his wonderful loving. While he was out at gigs, work or at rehearsals she was able to get her university work done.

She stayed over with him often, but went back to Cheryl and Brian's when the pressure of her work got too strong, sometimes for weeks at a time. Zak didn't seem to mind. It did niggle her a little that he did not seem to miss her at all, but she brushed away any concern she had.

What did concern her was that Cheryl and Brian were cool towards Zak. They didn't try to put her off him, but it was clear they were not happy. There was only one occasion when Cheryl broached the subject.

"You do know what that band's like, Cassie, don't you?" she ventured. "They're pretty free with the women who follow them to gigs - and we remember Zak being as free with them as the others."

"Don't worry," said Cassie, a little miffed at Cheryl's intervention. "He's changed - he loves me now. I give him all he needs."

Well, thought Cheryl, I tried.

Cassie was completely certain of him and of their future. She was totally committed to him and her love for him was deepening al the time.

It was just after exams at the end of second year, early May, when her world fell apart.

Zak had a gig in the city centre, and this was to be followed by a party at the lead guitarist and singer's house. Cassie had an end of exams party, if that was what it could be called. In fact it was a session at her favourite pub, who had laid on sandwiches and pies. She left early with the thought that Zak's party would be a lot more fun.

She wandered in through the open door. There were plenty of people chatting and laughing, and there was music and dancing in the basement. She ranged around, nodding at people she recognised. Zak was nowhere to be found.

"Upstairs if you want to join in the fun!" laughed a young woman she did not know, but had seen her search. So she went up.

It was inevitable. She opened the door to the bedroom. There was a naked Zak assiduously pushing himself over and into an equally naked blonde girl. Cassie felt what thousands of betrayed partners have felt and continue to feel - that punch to the stomach, and the destruction of their hopes and dreams - but she was more devastated than most.

He had betrayed her. Lied. How often had he done this while she stayed at his flat studying? She knew Cheryl had been right, he was unable to be faithful, he wanted variety and those worshipping groupies in this bed.

Zak looked round and saw her. "Hi, Cassie!" he said, rather out of breath from his exertions, but he did not stop pumping into the blonde.

"Sod off, Zak." Cassie snarled. "We're finished. Don't ever come near me again."

Now unfortunately Zak was high on a mixture of cocaine and beer. "No loss!' he laughed. "July's better than you in the sack - with Zak!" and he laughed loudly at his simple rhyme, repeating it over and over. "Ha, ha! In the sack with Zak!"

The girl laughed as well, "Get lost darling!" she crowed. "Zak has a job to finish!"

Cassie rushed from the house in tears. She had given herself to him, loved him, looked after him. He had said he loved her, wanted only her and he had lied. She went back to Cheryl, and fell in the door, sobbing.

Cheryl emerged from the kitchen, assessed the situation and did what girlfriends do in such circumstances. Brian did not see either of the girls again that night and sensitively slept alone in Cassie's bed, while she shared with Cheryl in theirs.

There followed a fortnight of stress and depression. Zak tried to contact her, but she ranted at him long enough for him to realise that he had lost the woman he really did love.

He berated himself for his stupidity. True he had slept with a number of girls while Cassie and he were an item, true he had left her open to STDs, but he had thought they would make it together. Too late. He had underestimated her reaction to his lies and cheating, a reaction which he thought excessive. He was used to girls forgiving him, so certain was he of his magnetism and good looks.

Cassie spent the vacation partly back at the parental home down south, and partly buried in preparation for the following year's courses at Cheryl's and Brian's house. Brian had graduated, taken a good job in the centre of Manchester and was out all day during the week, giving Cheryl a chance to talk it through with Cassie.

Cassie appreciated her efforts but nevertheless felt emptiness and sadness most of the time until, at the beginning of the Autumn term, Shona, a friend from her undergraduate course, told her she should go to the Crown Inn on Wednesdays where there was some live music. It might cheer her up. She went to the pub which turned out to be Cheryl's local, alone.

There was a group playing. Not loud, more in the background, but people were listening. She got her drink and sat to listen along with them.

Then a guy took a keyboard and began to sing. It was song of betrayal after commitment, and it spoke to her of her own experience, but it had a conclusion of hope and refusal to compromise on being open to another love.

She ended with tears running down her cheeks, The singer was just an ordinary guy, handsome though, with a really good voice, but he had moved her deeply. She knew at that moment that she wanted to know him better and to ask him about the author of the song.

After the set was over she noted the singer had gone, so she approached one of the group's members.

"Hello," she said to a curvy blonde who was putting her guitar away. "The guy who sang that song-"

"Hey!" grinned the girl. "You know? Everyone knows what people are talking about when you say 'that song'. It gets people every time. My name's Vivienne, and he's Ged, short for Gerald Smith. He wrote the words and the tune, and yes, it did happen to him."

"I'm Cassie," smiled Cassie. "I'd like to talk with him. D'you think he'd mind?"

"Tell you what," Ben, another of the group, said, "He often goes to the Union bar on Mondays - early while the place is empty. Does some writing there. Try that, or come back here same time next week. I'll introduce you."

Cassie said her thanks and the following Monday found her entering the Union bar. There he was, with a half finished pint, completely immersed in what he was writing. She heard him curse and saw him begin a new page, annoyance showing on his face. She stood awhile and studied him.

She had not paid much attention to him physically in the pub, but now she did. He was a very fit, good looking guy. His sandy hair was quite long and thick. His face was quite long and his chin was strong. The cheekbones were high, forehead wide and his nose in perfect proportion. His hands were quite delicate and his fingers were long.

She felt a tremor in her loins as she gazed at him. Here was a writer, a writer of poetry and a composer. He was sensitive to the range of emotions besetting the human condition. As a student of English Literature and Language she appreciated that deeply.

She knew then that she wanted him; he was the man her life had been waiting for. She was going to try her utmost to get him, and she had not exchanged a single word with him yet! As has been pointed out, she was impetuous, some would say foolhardy.

However, after Zak she promised herself she was going to be very careful. She would not let him into her life quickly, but she would hope he could be her friend - at least at first. She would go slow. She would control the situation.

When she spoke to him and he looked up she saw surprise and amazement in his soft brown eyes. He just stared at her. She felt uncomfortable, uncertain.

When he stammered his response as he gazed in awe at her, she knew then that he fancied her and it gave her real confidence and a deep buzz. She felt a sense of high elation and was therefore emboldened while being amazed at her dominance of the situation. She as much as told him to take her home - his home, and her cup overflowed when he agreed! Overflowed? Well, she did get at little damp down below!

She had almost told him to go out with her as well, and he had shown enthusiasm for the idea. Then the kiss. That was the moment she really knew; their future was together. He was so gentle and seemed to be able to put his whole soul into the kiss. Perhaps the song was right, it was 'in his kiss'!

Even so, had he tried to take her to bed at that moment, she told herself she would have stopped him. She was relieved that he wanted to take things slowly, that he wanted more than a trivial lustful encounter.

By the time she really had to go, she knew she was in love, and suspected he had fallen for her in his turn. All the more strange, she thought as she went home, as I don't believe in love at first sight!

However, there was again that hollow feeling of fear about another broken relationship and another betrayal. Was this merely a rebound?

--

Chapter Three

After she went, Ged could not settle. He could not get over her beauty, and her obvious attraction to him which he could not for the life of him understand. He felt supremely happy - happy as he had not felt for many months.

This girl was different from all the others, and so devastatingly beautiful! There was an instant rapport between them, and that kiss! He gave up any attempt to write, and sat in his room with a silly grin on his face. After all, she was... beautiful.

He made himself a makeshift meal and then could not stop himself from phoning her mobile.

"Hello," she said, picking up.

"Hi!" he said. "I thought I'd phone." He stopped unsure what he was phoning for.

"That's nice," she said. "I got home safely."

"Oh, good!" he said, glad she had found a reason for him to phone.

"I'm glad we met," she said, sounding almost shy.

"Me too!" he averred, rather too enthusiastically.

From then the call meandered around how nice it was they'd met. He invited her to eat with him the next day, and then go for a drink and she happily agreed. He ensured she was not vegetarian, or had any particular dislikes, and she was impressed with his thoughtfulness, and said so.

So their first date was a meal he cooked at his house. He did a spaghetti dish with bacon, egg, cheese and herbs, and followed it with a microwaved treacle pudding with custard. Again she was impressed that not only could he cook, but that he was a very good cook, and again said so. After the meal they washed up together and then wandered gently hand in hand to his local pub for a couple of hours.

Then it was time to leave.

"Where to?" he asked.

"I'd love a coffee," she said, smiling into his eyes.

Thus they made their leisurely way back to his place. She slipped her arm round his waist and he laid his across her shoulder.

When they reached the gate to his house, She couldn't stop herself: she pulled him to her and lifted her face very obviously for a kiss. It was long and intense, that kiss, and she was gratified to feel him pulling her strongly to him, reacting against her groin, as his hands fervently stroked her back.

He couldn't believe how passionate she was. Her arms were round his neck, then raking through his hair, pushing her breasts hard against his chest and opening her body to him. He felt he was losing control of himself his desire consumed him totally.

Neither could she stop herself - she desperately needed him and his body. She wanted to melt into him. At that moment, her fears and reservations were gone: she wanted and yearned for no one else. So much for taking it slowly! flew across her mind and she giggled inwardly.

At last they broke and moved rapidly and with some purpose into the house and directly into his room. The door being shut, they faced each other. There were no words. Everything stopped as they stood face to face and stared.

Ged raised his eyebrows, and Cassie nodded. Wordlessly they had agreed that the long gradual development of their relationship was cancelled, replaced gladly by headlong lust.

With a fluttering heart, Cassie took the hem of her shirt and lifted it over her head. Her bra was light yellow, translucent and pushed her breasts together, giving her an enticing cleavage. Now she realised why she had chosen it. She saw his gaze and knew he liked it. With a smile she nodded at his shirt and eagerly he followed her lead, leaving him naked to the waist. She took in his pretty pecs, six-pack and flat stomach, tight and well defined.
She wanted to show him, let him see her, want her body. She unfastened her skirt and pushed the zip down, freeing the garment to fall to her feet, when she daintily stepped out of it. The thong she wore was a match for the bra, and as he gazed at the junction of her thighs she knew he could see through the translucent fabric the thin landing strip almost visible as a shadow. She shivered with desire for him.

She nodded at his jeans, and again he followed her action with her skirt, unfastening and unzipping, pushing them down to his feet. He too stepped out of them. Exulting in her wide open eyes and the heedless passage of her tongue over her lips. This goddess wanted him! How could he be so lucky?

Meanwhile she stared at his legs. Oh, his legs! Those strong thick thighs, smooth knees and elegantly curved and muscular calves, and the tent in his boxers. Reassuring and enticing. He was ripped! What a specimen and he wanted her!

She lost any remnant of self-control and moved into his arms and kissed and nibbled his neck, running her fingers through his hair, and kissing down his chest, biting gently on his nipples so that he gasped. Then she turned her back and waited. He realised she what she wanted him to do. He flicked the bra strap loose expertly. He'd show her that this was no novice at this! He pushed the straps forward down her arms and she angled them so the bra fell to the floor.

Brazenly she raised her arms and clasped them behind her head, arching her back, knowing he could see her perfect, solid, medium breasts in the wardrobe mirror, and the stretch defined them tightly. She exulted in her sensual beauty.

A small sound escaped his lips as he now pressed his bare chest against her back and reached round her with both hands to fondle her, cupping the fulness and running his thumbs over her nipples as they stiffened and lengthened.

She sucked in a breath, the muted sound coming from her as he kissed the back and side of her neck, under and over her ears while she shivered and squirmed with the intensity of what it was doing to her.

Her hands dropped and reached behind her to find his waist, pulling his length into the cleft of her behind. Suddenly she could not wait any longer. She spun round and rapidly pulled his boxers over his penis and pushed them down his legs, kneeling to remove them from his feet. His cock was at her mouth and she kissed him there, planting her affection along its length, and cupping his balls in her hand, fondling the rough elephant-skin and tracing over his perineum, as she sucked his length into her mouth.

He gasped, the intensity overcoming him, as transiently he forgot who he was and where he was. Her worship of him filled him with desire to show her his adoration.

His hands went to her waist of their own accord, lifting her, feeling the coldness of the air on his cock as her mouth left him, hooking his thumbs over the sides of the wispy thong, pulling it out of the crease of her bottom and rapidly down to her knees, stroking her thighs as he went. She stood straight so that it fell away down her long slender legs. It flashed through his mind that he had never seen her legs before and how beautiful they were, encased as they were in sheer black thigh high stockings. Stockings! His hands grazed over her naked buttocks, exulting in their perfect solid rotundity. How silky soft they were! He couldn't get enough of the sensation of their velvet feel.

She knew now she was half expecting this when she dressed to come to him. She loved his lustful eyes on her as again she pulled away, walked with an exaggerated sway to the bed, sat down on the side as he watched, and slowly lifted each leg high as she rolled the stockings off one at a time. She smiled at him, sultry and seductive, exulting in her sensuality.

She backed herself onto the bed and he went to her, climbing onto it on all fours. She turned to him and pulled him down, pressing every part of her body against his, exulting in his weight upon her, the hairs on his legs tickling her smooth skin..

Her hand stroked his buns and she made a little noise in her throat as he flexed in response. He lifted off her, by her side, resting on one elbow, he went to cupped her sex firmly, his finger raking over her rosebud and traversing upwards along her crease and very firmly across her button causing her to tremble and twitch.

She needed him then and rolling onto her back and spreading her legs wide, knees bent pulled him over her. She gently took hold of his cock and tightening her grip on him. She knew she was wet with anticipation, and she gazed at him, her eyes opened wide and her intense stare into his eyes told him to take her. She wanted him deep within her, wanted to be one with him.

He could not have stopped now even if he had wanted to. He wanted to be buried deep inside her. He raised himself over her, resting on straight arms and, still grasping his cock, she led him to her.

He pushed so slowly into her tightness, feeling her accepting and accommodating him, slick and hot as her hands went to his hips, holding him. They both exhaled audibly as slow progress was made into her silken depths. He felt so hard to her, so deep, so strong.

She pulled him down onto her, wanting to feel his weight again and his chest flattening her breasts, and since their faces were now close, they kissed long and softly, tongues duelling, lips playing with each other, nipping chins and necks and grinning at each other. He was motionless, fully inside, stretching her, tight, so soft, so warm.

Her hands went to his bottom, and she was turned on further by the muscular hardness and turning her head, the sight of his perfect globes that she could see in the wardrobe mirror. She could not keep still any longer and made the slightest circular movement of her own hips beneath him. She wanted him to take her, to validate her as a woman, and to show he was hers, that he would always want her.

He read the movement and excruciatingly slowly began to pull until nearly out of her, before pushing in once more. She moaned, feeling and seeing the muscles of his buttocks tense and slacken, while he looked down past her delightful navel to see his cock disappearing once more into her. He did it again and looked. She gasped and looked.

Very gradually he began to speed up his thrusts, and she encouraged him with upward movements of her hips. Soon he was making the bed shake, and she was answering his increasing violence with her own. They were not looking any more, except into each other's eyes.

Then he began to pant and guttural sounds came from her throat in time with his pounding, then her moans rose in pitch until she yelped as she trembled all over and pitched under him, totally lost in the sucking spasms of her resolution, her eyes rolling up into her head, darkness surrounding her and seeing stars.

He continued further while she gasped and moaned and twitched until she began to feel she could take no more, when with eyes tightly clenched and a wordless shout he came, grunting with each spasm, and losing his rhythm completely, until with a final deep thrust he collapsed onto her. Both were out of breath, gasping for air, and wet with sweat.

Then they began to laugh quietly together. It was a laugh of success, if such a thing exists; it was also a laugh of love, a laugh of self-giving, of showing how their coupling committed each to the other. They had possessed each other, and been delighted to be possessed.

When they had calmed down, and he had slipped to her side, Cassie spoke. They were the first words spoken since they had kissed at the gate.

"You know what this means?"

"We fit?" Ged offered.

"You stretched me a little," she reposted with a sultry grin, gazing up into his eyes from beneath her eye-lashes. He felt proud.

"I mean we fit all over - in every way," he explained. "I'm sure we're made for each other."

"I won't argue with that." she said. They lapsed into silence, and idly played with each other's bodies. Both realised that they had agreed wordlessly to make love, and had agreed wordlessly to let their actions do the talking.

"We worshipped each other," he said at length.

"So I don't need to ask," she said.

"I hope I told you 'I love you more than anyone or anything.' " He averred.

"I don't know how it's possible, since we hardly know each other," she responded, "but I just know I want to be with you always. I didn't believe this could happen."

"We still need to get to know each other," he reflected.

"Yes," and she snuggled up to him.

"You staying tonight?"

"I've got a lecture at nine thirty," she said. "Can we get up early enough for me to go home and change?"

"So have I," he said, "and yes we can."

A frown crossed her face. "But Ged," she said earnestly, with a touch of fear, "Please don't let me down. I couldn't bear it if you left me; it would tear me apart."

"Believe me Cassie, my darling," he was just as earnest. "I will never leave you. There will never be anyone else - unless you leave me first."

She smiled her relief and so saying they rose and did the usual going to bed chores, and had returned to their bed before his housemates returned.

Next morning they were out of the house before the others rose.

So began their relationship. They were both highly motivated, and did not neglect their work, but met and slept together more than once a week. She learned that he was as dedicated to his music as he was to his physics, and she loved to listen when he sang with his friends, who were now her friends as well. He was in turn deeply impressed with her own poetry, which she had shyly shown him, and he set two of her poems to music.

They went to concerts and plays together, partly because they enjoyed them, but also because it was part of Cassie's life and her degree study. They went hiking, something new to Cassie, who took to it happily because Ged liked it, and she grew to love it herself.

Cassie nagged him to contract to an agent with his songs and this proved profitable. Catherine Styles, an American who had become internationally known, had been impressed with two of his songs, and he was commissioned to write more for her. A few groups picked up on other songs of his. He was becoming known by his pen name: Alex Murphy.

He had done as she said and had asked Gus Mettleson, an old school friend, to act as his agent.

At parties, she was surprised that Ged did not seem to mind other guys hitting on her. She danced with some of them, without becoming in any way intimate with her dance partners. It was not that Ged was a poor dancer, but usually he was deep in conversation with other musicians, or actually playing. She asked him about it and he said he trusted her totally.

She was not so impervious to the girls who made a play for Ged. She bristled when a girl placed her hand on his arm when flirting with him. However he showed no signs of succumbing to their charms, some of which were formidable and very nearly fully on display.

She made her only real mistake when he had got Vivienne out of a financial hole, and in her gratitude Viv found him at a party and hugged and kissed him and he held her as she wept with relief.

Cassie strode up and pulled Viv off him. "Get your own man," she snarled before realising who it was who had had her face buried in Ged's shoulder.

"Oh, I'm so sorry Viv," she begged, as she saw the girl's tears. "I didn't realise."

"No you didn't," snapped Ged. "You don't trust me. We need to talk."

Viv was more forgiving. "It's OK, Cassie. You're right to fight for him, he's worth it."

It was uncomfortable for Cassie, as Ged took her up to a bedroom and sat her down.

"Well?" he asked.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I get jealous, I'm afraid I'll lose you."

"Don't you trust me?" he asked.

"Of course I trust you!" she asserted.

"Funny way of showing it," he grumbled. "Listen. I make you a solemn promise. I will not have any dealings with any other woman until or unless we have already finished, which as far as I am concerned will be never.

"I will never cheat on you, as I trust you will never cheat on me. In return I want you to promise me solemnly always to talk to me before you decide to take any action concerning us and our relationship. Can you do that?"

"Yes," she was definite. "I can do that. I promise I'll always talk to you before reacting."

It was a defining moment and seemed to seal their relationship. Each felt that trust, and were relaxed about each other's faithfulness. For the first time in many years she really felt free of worry about the man in her life. He was intense and solid in his resolution.

So the academic year passed quickly and they were supremely happy together.

At Christmas they separated to go to their respective parents, but returned before New Year to spend it together.

At Easter, she invited him to meet her parents. Ged hit it off immediately with both parents, and was surprised when they put their daughter and him in the same room - indeed in the same bed (there being only one in the room).

He was not so surprised at the knowing smirk of Marie, Cassie's younger sister, who flirted unmercifully with him. Hugging him and sitting on his knee, telling her bristling older sister that she had a right to show her love for her 'brother-in-law'!

Then they stayed with his parents for a couple of days, who were impressed with the delightful and assertive young woman their son brought home, and were relieved to see how relaxed the young couple were with each other. His mother asked him how serious they were and on hearing his response, put them in the same room as well.

The month following found them both revising for finals, and after Cassie's last exam they went out to a restaurant to celebrate. There would be parties in both their departments and among their circle of friends, but they needed and wanted to re-connect after the intensity of the exam period.

Afterwards they went back to Ged's place, stripped off hurriedly and got into bed, or rather onto it, since the evening was warm and humid. It was good to make love again, to feel their bodies intertwined.

"God, your cock feels so good!" exclaimed Cassie as Ged moved in her at a measured pace, prolonging the sensations and delaying an orgasm to them both. She raised and lowered her hips beneath him, making his strokes longer and reaching deeper within her.

"Your pussy is so tight!" he responded. "You're milking me!"

They rolled over so Cassie could be on top, and she continued to rise and fall, his penetration even deeper as she sat up vertically and looked down on him with love, her breasts gently bouncing with her exertions.

Then, "Oh God!" she groaned, "I'm getting close!" She speeded up her action until she was heedlessly bouncing at speed, her breasts now shaking violently up and down, rubbing herself on his root.

The sight was a turn on for Ged, who approached his own climax as hers hit. It was good to hear the wordless grunts, squeals and cries forced from her, as she alternately screwed up her eyes and opened them wide to gaze on the man who was causing her such rapture. It was that look of wonder which provoked his own orgasm, and he emitted his own involuntary sounds forced by the intensity of it, feeling the semen pulsing out of the end of his cock.

She collapsed then, rolled off him and lay cuddled up to his side, her arm across his chest, both of them breathing heavily.

"After all our time together," gasped Ged, "I still can't believe how lucky I am to be in love with someone so beautiful."

"I'm lucky to have such a skilful and ardent lover," she breathed. "You're the best."

A silence followed, while their breathing returned to normal.

"You put in your application for your masters yet?" he asked, absently stroking a breast.

"Yes. I need a 2:1."

"That's easy for you," he said. It was not flattery, but the simple truth. "You'll walk a first."

A pause then, "You know that job I applied for?" he asked.

"Yeah?" she replied. "You heard!"

"Got it!" he crowed. "Subject to a 2:2, which I know I've got."

Cassie sat up and bounced with happiness. "Wonderful!" she cried. He thought the sight of her tits bouncing in time was equally wonderful.

"I know how you hate making love in this flat, with the other blokes in earshot, or listening to the lads banging their latest woman," he said, "and the same applies to your place. It doesn't help to hear the Cheryl giggling when we make a noise. I can afford a flat of my own easily on the money I'm going to get. Shall we move in together?"

"I think we're ready to make that move," she said. "I was rather hoping we'd do that. Yes, my darling. Let's give it a try. We can split the bills."

"Cassie, my love," he ventured, for he knew he was in for a fight, "I'll be earning a lot, and I'm getting more than I expected from the performing rights on the songs Gus has promoted. Why don't you concentrate on paying for your courses. I can cover all our costs."

There was indeed an argument.

"I'm sorry," Cassie asserted. "I don't want to be a kept woman. I want to pay my way."

"When you start earning," he reposted, "You can pay all you want then, but not now - you'll just get into horrific debt. Listen. If I got the flat on my own, I'd be paying all the bills, and all the food. So just let me do that."

She thought about it, then, "We go halves on food though."

"OK," he answered with some relief, feeling he had got away with it. "It's a deal."

--

Chapter Four

Cassie and Ged both graduated with First Class Honours Degrees and celebrated with their families and friends at their graduation.

Cassie's younger siblings, brother Mike and sister Marie came for the degree ceremony along with her parents. The family, with Ged included, celebrated afterwards with a meal at the hotel at which the family were staying.

Two days later, Cassie and Ged celebrated with his parents at his favourite restaurant in Chinatown. He was an only child and thus there was no one else.

Cheryl and Brian threw a party for them and for Cheryl who had graduated with a Second Class Upper Division, known as a 2:1. The house was packed with people, many of whom had also graduated.

The house had three bedrooms on the first floor and two attic rooms on the second, also had cellars which Brian had made into a pair of interconnecting rooms. The bedrooms were locked. The ground floor was full of people circulating and talking, and the cellars had music for dancing.

As usual Ged got into deep discussions with Vivienne, Fred, Ben and Hetty from his song group and Cassie smiled. He was so predictable; once turned to the subject of music, he was lost to her. She did not mind, for it was exactly this characteristic which led to his best songs. She could hear the music from below and loved to dance, so she descended in the hope of finding a partner.

She met Wendy, another of her English group, and the two took to the floor. It was after the third dance, all of them fast, that a slow song came on, and someone tapped Cassie on the shoulder, and asked to cut in. With a start, she recognised the voice. It was Zak. He took her in his arms and was pulling her closer, but she pushed him away.

They danced to the slow song at arm's length.

"I miss you," mumbled Zak plaintively. "Any chance...?"

"Sorry Zak," she said. "You blew it. She wasn't the only one, was she?"

He had the grace to look guilty.

"I've learned my lesson, Cassie," he said. "I don't do that sort of thing any more. Wouldn't you give me a chance to prove it?"

"You're too late," she said. "I'm with someone else now - have been for a year. We're moving in together this summer. So no."
"We were good together," he said.

"Not good enough," she said. "I think I'll go back upstairs. Goodbye, Zak."

"A kiss before I go?" he asked.

She was tempted, very tempted. He was a good kisser and a wonderful lover, though Ged was just as skilful and much more loving and considerate. Ged was already her soulmate as Zak had never been. She realised that she had spent her relationship with Zak desperately trying to keep his interest in her. With Ged, she was comfortable and relaxed. No comparison.

"No, Zak," she said. "Kisses are for friends, and that's something we'll never be now."

With that she broke from him and returned to Ged and the group, with whom she stayed for the rest of the night. She did not see Zak watching from the doorway to the room. He was angry and jealous, as she saw his ex-girl cuddling up to another man.

Later, much later, Cassie and Ged made their way from Cheryl's house to his shared house. She was preoccupied and it showed.

Notwithstanding Cassie's dismissal of Zak, she nevertheless couldn't help coming back to their dance in her mind. There was still that attraction. It was a basic, animal thing, a biological urge; Zak was a good mating partner, and she was physically strongly attracted to him even now. It was her body pushing her at a very primitive biological level to have children by him.

However, the hurt of what he had done and said when in that blonde's arms, and his infidelity had left a deep emotional scar, and it was at that level than she was able to repulse him. She would not let him hurt her again.

Then there was Ged, and she was by now so deeply in love with him, so much a part of him and he of her that there was never going to be any rival to him in her affections. He filled every one of her needs; he was sensitive, creative, thoughtful and always self-giving.

Ged broke into her thoughts.

"Cassie, darling," he said tenderly, "Is there a problem? You seem preoccupied. Something upset you?"

He was so perceptive and she felt fear. How could she tell him?

"Nothing really." she said, deciding to come clean. She must not hide anything from him. "I went down to dance - you were buried with the group as usual," she laughed briefly. "I was dancing when an ex-boyfriend cut in and danced with me. Wanted me to go back to him. I told him I was spoken for, and he pleaded with me. It unsettled me, that's all."

"You OK now?" he asked solicitously.

"Yeah," she said with as much conviction as she could muster. "It was the suddenness of it; took me by surprise. We were very close once and I felt bad putting him down."

"He the one who cheated on you?"

"Yeah. It broke me up at the time, but you came along and everything's so much better than ever it was with him. I'm a very lucky girl." She squeezed his hand, and he put his arm round her, hugging her close as they walked. It broke her mood and she once more felt at ease.

So the vacation began with flat hunting. Ged had started work, and so Cassie was the one to do the searching. She visited flat after flat, all fully furnished, but nothing took her fancy. Ged left it to her. She knew what they needed, and she discussed it with him each evening.

Then she saw a flat for sale in an estate agent's window. It looked good but was unfurnished and was not for rent, which was really what they were looking for. She made an appointment and viewed it. It was perfect. It was close enough for her to walk or cycle to university, and on a direct bus route to his work, which meant he could leave his recently acquired used car at home.

She took Ged to see it and he agreed it was exactly right. There followed a search for a mortgage. Thankfully he had saved all his royalties and they came to a quarter of the price of the flat, so he had a sizeable deposit. He was careful to make the deposit as small as he could, realising that the flat would need to be furnished.

Ged had to buy the flat in his name since Cassie was not earning, but Cassie saw no problem with that. Once they had possession, there were more weeks having fun furnishing the place as cheaply as possible, consistent with a certain aesthetic quality. By the middle of August the kingsize bed had been delivered and the flat was fully furnished. They moved in.

Ged set up current accounts. Into the first, in his name, he paid enough from his royalties to cover the mortgage and utilities with some left over, and the second, a joint account into which went his salary and Cassie's contribution for everyday expenses.

They Christened the flat by having sex in every room, how else? They did it with him standing in the kitchen as she sat back on the worktop with legs over his shoulders,. They did it with her lying flat on the dining room table and on the rug in the living room, on the bed, taking her from behind in the office-cum-music room, which they thought an apt name! Then they coupled in the shower and also the bath of the large bathroom, and finally leaning against the wall in the narrow hallway.

Then there was the flat-warming party. Numbers were limited because of its size, and it took the form of a ceilidh. The music group was there, and played one of Ged's latest love songs dedicated to Cassie. She read one of her own poems - to Ged of course. Others gave humorous monologues, or sang songs. The two of them had cleared a space so a little dancing could take place, but it was very cramped, causing a lot of merriment and inappropriate touching.

Cassie saw to it, without Ged's knowledge, that Zak did not attend, though she had heard he was asking about the party. Obtusely, Brian had invited Joshua, the leader of the band of which Zak was a member, called 'Furtive Glance', or 'furtive grope' as many called it, in view of the band's promiscuity.

Joshua played a quiet song of his own, totally out of character as far as his band were concerned. Then he watched Ged carefully, noting his expertise and flair with the electronic equipment, and appreciating the strength of his poetry and his genius at composing. That appreciation was to change their lives.

Once the party was over, the lives of Ged and Cassie settled down. Both were deliriously happy with each other and their lives. Cassie needed to travel from time to time in furtherance of her master's degree, and Ged's little group made an album privately which had a good, if limited reception, though it was in a specialist grouping somewhere between folk and country, but with up-tempo songs as well.

Ged was commissioned to write more songs for Catherine Styles, and two of them made one of the top ten charts in the USA. Others of his songs were picked up by Gus who found them homes with various artists, and the royalties kept coming in, starting with a trickle and ending as a flow into a dedicated bank account, from which he fed the mortgage account by Standing Order.

They spent Christmas Day with Cassie's family. There was a piano in the living room and Ged played carols and other Christmas songs for the family to sing, something they had never done before and which they thoroughly enjoyed.

"Cassie, why don't you-?" Cassie's mother began to say, but Cassie violently shook her head.

"What?" asked Ged.

"Cassie plays the piano," said Cassie's mother proudly. "I wondered if-"

"No, mother," said Cassie. "Ged's the professional here. He can play really well. I'm out of practice and anyway I don't want to."

Ged cocked a eyebrow and mentally resolved to ask her about her playing some other time. The festivities intervened and he eventually forgot about it. To his knowledge she had never played on his keyboards at home, though in fact she often played when he was not at home; never when he was there.

For some reason she could not fathom, she felt embarrassed about it. She had reached Grade Eight, a high standard. She only played classical pieces.

The next day they travelled to Ged's parents, and spent a day walking in the hills and through the Macclesfield forest, before going back to a massive spread of meats and cheeses. Uncles and Aunts appeared and Ged's cousins, and after urgent requests from the assembled extended family, there was a repeat of the Christmas songs and carols.

New Year was seen in with Cheryl and Brian at their party. Cheryl was now pregnant and had that bloom of health. Cassie was worried that Zak might be at the party, but 'Furtive Glance' were on tour and her fears were groundless.

So Winter passed and Spring arrived, and with it a growing unease on Ged's part about his job. It paid very well indeed, but it demanded none of the creativity he was promised; the work turned out to be dull and quite repetitive. He stuck with it, though more and more it was his music that dominated his life.

Summer arrived in its turn, and with it the festival season. Ged had saved his holiday entitlement and organised his days off to coincide with a number of folk festivals.

Cassie was enthusiastic about their impending nomadic lifestyle. She had been confined to the flat for months writing her thesis, and wanted some fresh air. She was going to submit in the autumn. They hired a camper van and toured the festivals. Other members of Viv's little folk group joined them from time to time, and they performed at a number of venues.

It was the beginning of September, the Thursday after the August Bank holiday, and they had only returned home for the final time two days before, when the phone rang. Cassie was once again deep into final revision of her thesis or she might have answered the phone, and if she had, things might have turned out differently, but she didn't.

--

Chapter Five

After their summer touring the festivals, life for Cassie and Ged had been idyllic, until that day when Ged answered the phone.

"That Ged Smith?" came the voice.

"Yeah," he answered, "Who's speaking?"

"You might remember me," came the voice. "Joshua Gittins - I came to your house-warming."

"You sang 'Lost you,' if I remember," Ged replied.

"God, you've got a memory!" Joshua said, surprised. "Anyway, you know I lead this band - Furtive Glance?"

"Yeah," said Ged, admiringly. "You've really taken off since Christmas - never out of the news, TV, stuff played all the time on the radio - you're on tour at the moment aren't you?"

"That's what I'm calling about. Brian gave me your number. You got a fortnight to spare?"

"No, sorry. Just taken all my holiday entitlement touring the festivals. Back at work on Monday."

"Bugger!" Joshua swore. "We really need you. We're in Oldham."

"Oldham? It's not that bad surely. Now Wigan - I believe they eat their dead - in pies!"

"Ha ha!" came the sarcastic response. "We've lost a keyboard player."

"Careless!" quipped Ged.

"For God's sake Ged, this is serious!" Joshua sounded desperate. "The poor bugger got knocked over by a drunk driver. Mind you he wasn't exactly sober himself; the band took him out for a drink or two. He's in hospital, and we've got a gig tonight."

"I didn't know you had a keyboard player in the band?" queried Ged, interested,

"Ged, please!" Joshua pleaded. "When you played at the ceilidh I knew you were something special. I saw you on TV at the Knockchurch festival as well. I'm asking you to come and play for us tonight - rehearse this afternoon? There's another gig at the same place tomorrow. Can you do that for us? We're desperate!"

Ged thought. Cassie was buried in her books and was going to be that way for the next few days.

"OK," he said. "Where is it? I'll bring my own stuff."

Joshua gushed his thanks, gave directions and rang off, and Ged went to the study to tell Cassie and get his keyboards and synth. into the car.

"Got a gig," he said, as he collected the wiring and stowed it in his case. "Tonight and tomorrow night in Oldham. Filling in for some bloke who had a road accident."

"Fine," she said absently. "Take your keys."

He loaded up, then came back and kissed her. She kissed him back with her full attention, and then returned to her thesis.

--

Chapter Six

As previously mentioned, Furtive Glance was a band. It had four members plus a session keyboard player when required. Joshua was the singer and played rhythm guitar; Peter Thompson played guitar; Amos Sudbury was the drummer and Zak Copthorne was bass guitarist and could play keyboards when necessary, though not very well. They were thus a fairly conventional rock band. They played loud heavy rock, and pranced about the stage half-dressed a good deal, though recently they had added a few pieces which were more reflective, as bands tend to do as they become better known.

They had been a part-time band like many others, playing in pubs and clubs round the Manchester area. Manchester is a large city and there were plenty of venues in the Greater Manchester area to play in. Most groups never make the big time, but some are lucky and are in the right place with the right material at the right time.

It happened to Furtive Glance. They made a breakthrough. It was a more reflective piece written by Joshua, and it took the music world by storm. In fact the tune and its rhythm was one Joshua had heard Ged playing at the house-warming, though Ged had played it even more quietly and his own, different words.

Joshua wrote the words for the song some months later and did not remember where the tune came from, thinking he had made it up himself. It often happens that way; a tune comes into the head and it is because it has been heard before, rather than because it's an original inspiration.

What he didn't realise was that Ged had written it and had already copyrighted it, and when Ged arrived at the venue for the rehearsal, he recognised it. He let it go, for the time being.

He was introduced to the band by Joshua, who, in spite of knowing Cassie was Zak's ex-girlfriend, amazingly had not made the connection between Cassie and Ged at the flat warming party. In any case, Zak had not said anything about seeing her at the earlier party.

Thus Ged found the members of the band seemed to have different built-in attitudes to him. He seemed to get on with Peter immediately, but sensed acute hostility from Zak and to lesser extent from Amos.

"Don't see we need a keyboard player," Zak grumbled in Ged's presence. "I can do it."

"Don't be fucking stupid," retorted Peter. "Those four pieces need Bass Guitar and Keyboards. You can't do both at the same time."

"Well, leave the fucking keyboards out," Zak snarled.

"Don't be a wanker," Joshua intervened. "You know those pieces need the keyboard."

"We don't even know if he can play," said Amos, coming to Zak's aid. They had always been mates, had Zak and Amos.

"Oh, he can play," said Joshua. "Ged, get set up and we'll get started."

"He hasn't learned the pieces yet!" crowed Zak.

"Got the sheet music?" Ged asked, refusing to be intimidated. Amos shoved a pile of paper to him. There. How long till you can play them? Two hours? We might as well go to the pub."

"I'll sight-read," Ged said, and the two mates fell about laughing, until of course he began to play. They ran through the playlist and Ged played along. Amos and Zak were not laughing when they finished.

"Where d'you learn to do that?" asked Amos.

"I practised!" said Ged grimly. "Four hours a day for four years. I'm a qualified musician. Now I'd like to do all the pieces all over again."

The others groaned, but Joshua smiled. He thought he knew what was going on, and he was right. He knew what the band played was not Ged's style at all, but this man was a professional, and he was going to surprise them, which he did. It was not extravagant but he began embellish his part to better accommodate his playing to theirs and as a result it sounded much better; better in fact than it ever had been.

"Wish we had you when we did the album," said Peter. Amos and Zak said nothing. Joshua smiled.

The gig went well. Very well. Ged drove home. Cassie was asleep.

The next morning at breakfast, Cassie spoke. "Good gig?"

"Yeah, once I'd played through the list it was fine. Funny bunch of misfits though. Josh was the only sane one there. Oh, Peter was OK, but the other two - weird!"

Cassie looked up, there was a look of surprise on her face.

"Not Furtive Glance?" she asked.

"Yes," he said, surprised. "You remember, Joshua came to our housewarming?"

Cassie now felt real fear, though she did not know why. She had finished with Zak long since, hadn't she? However, she also knew the members of the band, and the stories that came back were not pleasant.

The band were self-obsessed and selfish to a degree. There were always rows, arguments, sometimes physical fights. They were in the business for money, fame and sex with enamoured young women who followed the group round.

She remembered watching from the hallway of Zak's place while they laughed and made snide comments as they watched the explicit videos they took of them having sex with young women who didn't realise they were being filmed.

Not that the women were unwilling. Most were already completely promiscuous and were passed around the band. To be fair to Zak, she thought, he gave that up when he was going with her - until the blonde, that is. However now she was beginning to wonder if he'd ever been faithful at all. She doubted it somehow.

She became aware of Ged calling her name.

"Cassie, darling, what's the matter? You look frightened to death."

"Ged," she said earnestly, "Please don't get involved with that bunch of slime balls. I know them, and they are the lowest of the low. Some of the things they do are illegal - drugs, booze and girls."

"It's only two nights," he temporised. "I'm just helping Joshua out. I just play keyboards, that's all. "

"I'm not happy," she asserted strongly. "I wish you'd cancel tonight."

"Come on Cassie," he cajoled. "I promised Josh tonight. I can't break it, they would really be in the shit. I promise I'll come straight home."

The rest of the day they were awkward with each other. He left after a perfunctory kiss from Cassie. Neither of them felt good after he went.

Cassie was wondering if Zak might say something to Ged; she suspected Zak knew Ged was her partner. Ged wondered why she reacted so violently. Was there something she was not telling him? It was the first minor fissure in their relationship.

The second gig went even better than the first, as Ged was able to develop his sensitivity to what the band were doing even further. The local press were there and the following week there was plenty about the new keyboard man. Ged finished playing and packed away his stuff. Joshua's manager, agent and lawyer Leo Bernstein, came to him and offered him a thousand pounds for the two gigs.

"You saved our lives," he said. "Any chance you could swing the next fortnight? I can make it worth your while."

"Sorry, Leo," Ged replied. "You couldn't pay me enough to allow me to throw away a permanent and very well paid job."

"You know this band's going to last? They're selling all over the world now - downloads, CDs, DVDs, all their gigs are sold out. Give it some thought - It's possible you could be permanent member of the band. There's a European tour in the offing - it'd bring in a pile of cash for you. Think about it?"

"OK," said Ged. "I don't think my girlfriend will like it, but I will think about it. Just to be clear, you're offering the possibility of joining the band? "

"Subject to the band agreeing."

"There's two members who don't want me for a start."

"I'll talk to them. They'd be fools to pass up someone of your calibre."

"OK," Ged concluded. "You talk to the band; I'll talk to my girlfriend."

Once again Ged drove straight back from Oldham, and arrived home shortly after midnight. Cassie was still working. She looked up as he entered the room.
"How did it go?" she asked.

Ged was happy that she had seemingly got over her annoyance, "Very well," he replied. "Better than last night. The manager gave me a thousand for doing it."

"A thousand!" she cried, with a huge smile. "For two nights' work? You ought to do it full time!"

"It looks like I could," he said quietly, fearing the reaction. He was right.

"What?" All the exhilaration had gone from her voice.

"Their manager offered me a permanent position with the band, subject to the band members agreeing."

"You're not going to do it, surely?" Her face had clouded with worry and a touch of anger. "You know how I feel about that bunch."

"Look, Cassie," he soothed. "It's too late to discuss it now. You're very tired and I'm dead beat as well. Saturday tomorrow. We'll have all day to think about it calmly. In any case, half the band don't like me, so it may never even be offered."

"Don't think you can talk me round on this one, Ged," she spat. "This idea is not going anywhere."

Ged was annoyed. "At least have the courtesy and consideration of seeing what the pros and cons are. I have an open mind about it, I thought you might have as well."

"Look, Ged," she said. "You don't know them as well as I do. They are no good; they have the morals of sewer rats."

"I'm going to bed," snapped Ged. "This discussion is over until tomorrow."

She did not come to bed after him, and he lay with their argument going round in his head. As he began to be drowsy, a half thought passed through his mind. How did she know the band so well? But he fell asleep immediately afterwards.

Ged awoke next morning to find the bed empty, though warm, so she had been to bed the night before. He rose, showered, dressed and went downstairs to the kitchen. Cassie was sitting at the kitchen table, fully dressed, with a mug of tea.

"OK," she said staring at him. "Talk."

"Good morning, Darling," he said sarcastically. "Did you sleep well Darling? Would you like a cup of tea Darling? Isn't it a beautiful morning Darling?" with which he sat down.

"OK, OK!" she said with the hint of a smile. "Sorry! Let me get you some tea," and she rose, poured him a mug and returned to the table to sit across from him.

"It's Saturday, Cassie," he reproached her gently. "We usually have a lie in together. We make love."

She coloured and dropped her eyes. "I've got to get on with my thesis; it's got to be at the binders by Friday."

"Well," he said, "Have you had any breakfast?"

"No," she said, glancing up at him.

"OK, you get to work and I'll toast you a bagel and bring you some coffee." He suggested it to put her on the spot and he succeeded.

"I waited to discuss this business of the Band."

"If you hadn't time for a kiss and a cuddle this morning, you haven't time for a discussion about our future. Go and do your work." Now he was pushing her.

"But-"

"Later," he said. "Get something done, and we'll talk when you need a break."

She shrugged and left the room. She was upset now. She awoke early in a foul mood, full of anger and recrimination against Ged and his news about the band. She knew it was cuddle day, but deliberately left the bed quietly, dressed and went down to think.

Her mood was no better when he arrived, but he took the wind out of her sails, and she had no answer for him. She had been remote from him and he had responded by being her loving boyfriend.

In the hallway, she stopped and then turned and went back.

He was still sitting at the table. She went to him and stood behind his chair, putting her arms round him and kissing his hair.

"I'm sorry!" she said, and this time there was genuine sorrow in her voice. "I was in a foul mood this morning, and I don't know why, except my period's due."

He pushed the chair back, and pulled her round to sit on his lap. "That's OK," he said. "We have the rest of our lives to make love. You take care of that thesis, and we'll talk at lunchtime."

She kissed him passionately on his lips. "I don't mind coming back to bed," she said breathlessly.

"No. We're both dressed now, go and get your work done. I'll make you a light breakfast." He was aware he sounded like a fussy parent.

She loved him for that. She was lucky to have him, she knew, though it did not take away her fears about Furtive Glance. She had the feeling that his involvement would lead to trouble, but she got up and did what she was told, and he brought her a boiled egg and toast cut into soldiers, with a cup of coffee, and ate his in the office with her.

She found it difficult to concentrate, and after a couple of chapters, she went in search of him. He was writing a song at the kitchen table.

"It's no use, Ged," she said. "I can't settle to my work with this hanging over us. Let's talk."

They went to the living room and sat together.

"Kiss me!" said Ged. "I need to know you love me before we start. I think we're going to disagree."

She kissed him voraciously, and he kissed her back with equal abandon. When they emerged, they smiled.

"Let me say something, my love," she opened. He nodded.

"Before I met you," she began hesitantly, "I dated one of the band."

Ged blinked and suddenly everything became clear. "Don't tell me, you went out with Zak Copthorne."

She looked surprised. "How did you know?"

"He hated my guts from the moment I walked in the room. No one hates that much on sight! Not when you're doing them a favour. So you knew the band through him?"

"Yeah. I watched them. Ged, they are animals. They're nasty to their fans, they picked up girls - in groups, for sex. It put me right off them as a band."

"But Zak must have been different."

"He assured me that after he knew me there were no other women. I believed him, fool that I was. I found him in bed with a blonde woman at a party at the end of second year. That finished me for him. He hasn't changed at all.

"I'm worried that if you get involved with that lot, you'll end up behaving like them. It's what sells the band. That's why I'm worried. OK? Now you."

"Cassie, my love," he spoke to her, looking into her eyes. "While you've been working this morning, I've been thinking. I think I've got my thoughts in order.

"I'm not happy with my job. They led me to think there would be creative work, something to stretch me. It's not like that. They lied. It's narrow, constricting and frankly utterly boring. The money is the only attraction."

She was surprised. She had no idea that he was dissatisfied.

"I am beginning to think that I want to devote my time to composing and writing music and lyrics. From the take-up on what I've written, I am writing stuff that means something, and that people want."

"That's true," she added. He grinned at her, and kissed her again.

"Well, there is not enough yet from my writing to keep us, or pay the mortgage or the bills. That's where Furtive Glance comes in. If they want me, I could join them.

"Gus and I know how to negotiate a deal. I could come away with a fifth of everything the band makes. I'm talking upwards of a million pounds. I've already improved their sound, and their manager definitely wants me."

Cassie was stony faced, but said nothing.

Ged went on, trying to convince her. "Look, all I have to do is go to their rehearsals and play at their gigs. I don't have to get involved with their activities apart from that. I've got you - I don't need their parties or their women, but I do need their money."

"So you mind is made up," she said angrily. "You're not considering me or my feelings or fears."

"Don't be silly, Cassie," he retorted, "of course I'm thinking of you. Look. Say you had all the money you would ever need for the rest of your life. What would you do? Stay in whatever job you had? Or write that novel you've been talking about. You could become a best-selling author. What about a book of your poetry? We have that possibility now."

"You realise you'll be away for weeks at a time?" she answered. "You know they say bands grow like each other, they adopt the same outlook. I'm worried that this is the end of us, Ged."

"So you want me to give up the chance of following my dream? OK. I'll do it. I love you too much. I'll carry on at my job. I'll carry on with my writing in my spare time. It's no problem and the more I write at home, the more money comes in. Eventually I'll be able to chuck the job in."

Silence. She knew perfectly well at that moment that he was gently blackmailing her, but in any case she couldn't do it. She couldn't let him pass up the chance of a lifetime. She knew clearly at that point that his future lay with music, one way or another. She wondered for a moment if his music came before her.

"No, my love," she said quietly. "You must take this chance. Only try to remember me when you're lost in your music. I'm afraid for us and our future, but you've got to do it."

"How could I forget you?" he answered. "Trust me, darling. I won't let you down. How could I? You're everything to me. And now, we missed our morning cuddle. Beat you to the bedroom!"

They raced for the bedroom, she pulling him out of the way, so she reached the bed first. They wrestled, and tickled, and eventually struggled out of their clothes.

--

Chapter Seven

On Monday morning, Ged saw his line manager at work and asked for unpaid leave for two more weeks. He cited an emergency, and the manager, who knew there was little work outstanding, granted his request.

Then he contacted Gus and told him of the developments during the previous week. Gus was interested and the two met for an hour before Gus phoned Leo and told him Ged was available for the last fortnight of the tour.

Leo was delighted, until Ged requested a meeting about the future, and asked him about the band's response to his joining the band. Leo knew there would be trouble, but agreed to the meeting.

After the Oldham gig, the band was taking a breather at their homes, and so it was easy to convene a meeting in a central city hotel. The band were surprised that Ged had his own agent, being unaware of his success as a writer.

"OK," Ged said, opening the meeting. "Josh phoned me and asked me if I had a fortnight free, because you lost your keyboard player. I'd already taken my holiday allowance from work, and so all I could manage was last weekend.

"After the two gigs, Leo asked me to consider, subject to the band agreeing, joining you for the next fortnight if I could get unpaid leave. It turns out that I can get unpaid leave of absence for the next fortnight.

"Now it's no skin off my nose if you decide you don't need or want me; I've got plenty to occupy my time, and I can go back to work and earn two weeks' salary, but if you do want me, you have to make up my lost earnings."

He sat back. The arguments began.

"Don't see why we need a keyboard, anyway," said Zak, gaining only half a nod from Amos, who had seen a big improvement in the band since Ged was playing, but wanted to be loyal to his best mate.

"Anyone with half an ear can hear the difference the keyboard makes, especially in the hands of Ged, and not just in those four pieces." asserted Joshua. "We've got more scope for a wider set of pieces. I want him in here."

"He's right Zak," added Peter. "It's a better sound. You know about this stuff, Leo, what d'you think?"

"I think Josh and Pete are right," the manager said with some diffidence, "but it's not my call - you have to live with each other. If it were me, I'd be looking to sign Ged up full time."

"Come on Amos," said Joshua, turning to Amos, who had been silent. "What do you think?"

"We could do without keyboards," he said judiciously, "but Josh is right about the sound - we do have more variety. And those four pieces - they don't sound right without the keyboard."

Zak shrugged and the others took that to be acquiescence.

"OK," said Leo, "How about we give you session money for the fortnight?"

"How about you cover my lost salary?" asked Ged.

"You have the figures?" asked Leo.

Ged passed him the sheet and a pay slip.

"Bloody Hell!," muttered Leo. "Is that what you earn?"

"That's right."

"I don't think we can match it," said Leo blandly.

"Fine," said Ged. "As I said, I don't need this. I'm quite happy at work." It was a lie, but this was negotiation.

Joshua looked at the figures. "Pay him," he said to Leo. "We'll take a cut."

"No we fucking won't!" Zak snapped. "I'm not giving up a penny. The rest of you can if you want."

"You fucking selfish cunt," shouted Peter. "You'll get ten times what he'll get for the next three gigs. We all share the cost. You just hate Ged. That's what it is! You bastard! You'd damage the band just to keep him out!"

"Shut the fuck up!" shouted Zak. "I'll go along with it this once, but after the two weeks, that's it! No more!"

Ged and Gus sat still, wondering if there would be a fight. As it cooled down, the contract was signed by all five and Ged was a temporary band member.

When he got home, he showed Cassie what the two week trip involved. There were two nights in Birmingham on Thursday and Friday, with practices Tuesday and Wednesday for an hour each time. Then overnight to Newcastle for a Gig on Saturday. Then a gap of three days before Norwich on Wednesday, and a final two gigs in south London Thursday and Friday.

"So you see," he pointed out, "I don't have to leave here until Thursday, and I'll be back here Saturday night - but late. Then I leave again on Wednesday early, and back again on Late Friday or Saturday morning. I take the car and that means I'm not tied to any foolishness on the band's part."

She was mollified by the itinerary, though she showed her misgivings about him being with the band.

The Wednesday practice was of necessity held at eight in the evening. It was the only time the practice room was available. It meant that it did not finish until after eleven, and while the rest went on to a club Ged drove straight home, arriving at eleven thirty, ready for bed and an early start.

He opened the front door of the flat to be greeted by a vision. Cassie was standing with one knee bent and the other straight facing the door. Her hair was in a ponytail and she wore a crop-top which plunged between her breasts and stopped immediately under them. It was quite flimsy and showed the dark blue bra she wore under it. Her lower half was a very short skirt in denim, it was slung low on her hips and hardly covered anything of her thighs. There were clearly no stockings or tights, and on her feet were a pair of three inch heels with open toe, allowing her bright red painted toenails to shine out. She had one finger in her mouth and was sucking it.

"Hi, Mr Smith!" she pouted. "Would you give me your autograph? I really think you're buff."

Ged was dumbstruck for a minute at the vision and the acting. Then he realised she was putting on a show because he was going the next morning, but she had never done the lusting young nymph fantasy before. Well, if that was what she wanted, he'd certainly play along. She looked gorgeous and all her assets were practically on show.

"OK, girl," he answered. "Where do you want me to sign?"

"Oh, silly me!" she simpered. "I've left my autograph book at home. Would you sign my knickers?"

"Of course," he grinned. "You going to take them off for me?"

"You can sign them on," she sighed, "and then you could take them off, if you wanted. My little pussy would be naked then."

She lifted her skirt to reveal a thong. Nowhere to sign on her bottom.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she giggled, "I forgot I'm wearing a thong. Come to the bedroom and I'll lie down so you can sign the front!"

She preceded him upstairs, swinging her hips and showing her practically bare bottom. Reaching the bedroom she lay on the bed and opened her legs.

"Sign here!" she giggled again, giving him a pen and pointing.

Ged entered into the spirit of the thing, and pressed the pen against her slit, making as if to sign while finding her clitoris and rubbing it with the point.

"Ooh, Mr Smith," she cooed, "You're really turning me on, why don't you lose your pants and take down my knickers. I've always fancied you, you're so moody when you're playing."

He stripped and his cock was at full mast. As he reached for her thong, she kicked out at him, her face a mask of anger.

"You were bloody turned on by a groupie!" she shouted at him. "I knew it! You'll be fucking them just like the others!"

"What?" he was startled and mystified by the sudden change in her and didn't understand.

"You have the same perverted fantasy as the others - groupies!" she shouted.

He suddenly grasped her plan and in his turn was incandescent with rage.

"You stupid cow!" he bellowed. "It was your fantasy not mine! I was going along with your fucking fantasy!"

"Pull the other one!" she snarled at him. "It was the sexy outfit that turned you on!"

"Don't be stupid," he retorted, "It was you that turned me on. You! I've had enough of this. This pervert will get out of your fucking way. Go play with yourself. I don't want to look at you any more in that tart's uniform."

He stormed out of the bedroom to the other bedroom and shut the door with a crash. Then he sat on the bed and realised he was breathing heavily. He sat and collected himself, then stripped off the remainder of his clothes, and climbed into bed. He lay awake for a while, wondering how to deal with her obsession.

What he realised as he fell asleep was that he was in danger of losing the love of his life. He would do the fortnight and that would finish it, but she would not get off easily for this lack of trust.

Cassie, sat on the edge of the bed in tears. It had seemed so straightforward. She would pretend to be a groupie and seduce him. He would either repulse her showing he could be trusted, or he would go along with the seduction, and she would know that he could not.

Was it true what he said? He thought she was playing out a fantasy of her own, and played along? That it was she that he lusted after, not the young woman she portrayed? He was so angry; she had never seen him so angry. Was that defence or outrage?

With renewed sobbing she realised that she was no clearer about him and had actually made things worse by driving him away. She lay down and cried herself to sleep.

The next morning, Ged arose, crept into their bedroom and picked up his suitcase that he had packed the previous afternoon. He made himself a cup of tea and some toast, washed up and then left the flat without waking her.

Except that she had woken up as he made final preparations to leave. She sprang out of bed, forgetting she was still wearing the seductive outfit, and rushed out of the bedroom, only to see the door shut behind him. She opened it but he had already reached the bottom of the block's stairs and was gone.

The tears came again. She rushed to find her mobile, and found his short cut, but it went to voicemail - of course, he was driving and always shut his phone off. Then she realised what she was still wearing and was glad she had missed him, though the tears continued to flow because he was still so angry with her that for the first time since they had moved in together, he had gone without saying goodbye and kissing her as he always did.

That evening she knew he would be involved with the gig, and wondered if he would phone her after it finished. By one in the morning it was clear he was not going to phone, so she went to bed. The next morning at eight, she phoned him.

"Yes?" he barked.

"Ged, I'm sorry-"

"We'll talk when I get home." His words were clipped.

"How did the gig go?" she asked, wanting to connect with him somehow.
"OK."

"Well, I'm sorry."

"See you tomorrow," and he disconnected.

In fact the gig had been very successful, and they got a good revue in the local media, who were kind enough to say that the new keyboard contribution was a real asset to the band.

The second night was as good, and this time was sold out. Sales of CDs and DVDs trebled. All in all, Birmingham was a success.

The band tumbled out of the venue, leaving Ged to clear his stuff up and load his car, so it was nearly midnight when he got on the road for the ninety minute journey back home. Fortunately the motorway was relatively empty, the journey uneventful and peaceful. He arrived home at half past one, and found that Cassie had gone to bed and was asleep. He toyed with the idea of sleeping in the other bedroom, but dismissed the idea as petty, and he climbed into bed as stealthily as he could.

She stirred, half opened her eyes, smiled and was asleep again. Ged smiled in his turn and fell asleep.

He awoke with the sun streaming in through the bedroom window and the bed empty. He got up and used the bathroom, shaving and cleaning his teeth before returning to the bedroom, to find a mug of tea by the bed. He climbed back into bed and sat drinking his tea.

He noticed Cassie's tea on her side of the bed, but of her there was no sign. Then he heard her padding along the hallway and she came into the room, approached the bed and climbed in. Naked. Kneeling she face him.

"Ged, I-"

"Not now, love," he interrupted her. "Save it till later. Come here."

She came to his arms and they hugged hard, she lifting her face for a kiss and receiving one, which went on for some time.

"Welcome home," she whispered as they came up for air.

"Glad to be back," he replied. "It went well, the gig. Didn't get away until midnight - putting my own stuff away. Apparently I don't qualify for their roadie. The others went off to a club."

She snuggled down against his chest, and his arm went around her, stroking her back absently as he finished his tea.

They did not make love. Somehow they both silently agreed that until their altercation of three nights ago was settled, it was not fitting.

Each of them had come to a decision, and it was to cause another argument.

"Cassie, darling?"

"Yes?"

"After what happened before I left-"

"I want to talk to you about that-"

"Let me finish. It's clear you hurt when you think of me with that band, and you're right, they are all selfish, self-centred, venal and promiscuous bastards. I can't have you worried sick every time I go away. So I've decided to turn down any offers they make about the future. I'll carry out my obligations for this fortnight and then I finish with them for good."

"Ged, darling, please," she lifted herself from him so as to look into his eyes. "I don't want you to give up this chance. No, don't interrupt. It's true I have issues with the band, and that I have trust issues with you, but the issues are inside me; you have never given me the slightest sign that you are interested in anyone else. It's my insecurity that's been driving me."

"But you'll be worried all the time, I don't want that."

"No I won't. I've learned my lesson. I had that daft idea of trying to test you to see if you could resist one of those groupies. It never entered my head that you would see what I did as one of my fantasies! I was stupid.

"I've got to deal with these feelings myself, and I can't if you give up on the band. I have to learn to trust you. If they want you after this fortnight, I want you to agree. I can't let you allow this chance to pass by. Please, Ged, do this for me."

It was the last thing he expected Cassie to say. Personally, from his brief association with the band, he had come to the conclusion that Joshua and Peter were for him, but the other two disliked him, and none of them was the sort of person he would ever have as a friend. He knew Zak hated him, and he knew why.

"I doubt there'll be anything else after this," he said. "They don't like me, and I don't like them. Hell, Cassie, I don't think, apart from Amos and Zak being buddies, they actually like each other. Zak is dead against me, so I can't see it happening."

"But if they do want you," she persisted, "please take the chance."

"OK," he said, "but I want you to remember this morning if I end up joining the band. No more stunts, and always talk with me if you're worried or upset - promise me that?"

"Yes, of course." she said. "I promise."

"I want to be sure of this, Cassie," and he repeated his question, "I want your solemn promise you'll talk with me if you're worried about anything."

"She looked puzzled, but then agreed. "You have my solemn promise. I will talk to you, no matter what."

He pulled her to him and they made love. No urgent passion, just a gentle coupling to cement this step in their relationship.

At lunchtime he left for Newcastle.

Chapter Eight

The other gigs Ged had signed up for went well and were all sold out. It became clear that the band's reputation was spreading rapidly. There were downloads from all over the world as well as the UK. At the end of the tour Ged was paid off and Leo called a meeting.

"The record company wants Ged Smith to join the band." he stated and waited.

"No way!" said Zak.

"He's aroused a lot of interest, and that's unusual for a keyboard player," Leo persisted. "We've got the new album to record, and a single to put out two months from now. I think you all need to consider the record company's wishes. They know what sells, and we're selling a lot more since he joined. MTV want to give you an hour slot, and once again, they want Ged in the band."

"Can't we just use him for these things and then let him go?" asked Amos, anxious to back Zak up, while wanting to be more constructive.

"And what happens when the next tour comes along?" Leo asked. "How do you fill in the gap he'd leave then?"

"He's well professional," said Peter, making a contribution for once. "Comes in, plays his part, adds his bits of riffs and they come off."

"Fucking ponce!" muttered Zak.

"Zak, you moron!" spat Joshua whose patience with the bass player was wearing thin. "You thick or something? These blokes know what sells. If they all want him, I want him - he adds fucking good stuff to us."

"You lot have to decide," Leo said. "You just made the big time, you're famous. You want to throw it away?"

"I say get him in," said Joshua. "He's got a good job, earns a packet. He may not want us. Thought of that?"

"Peter?" Leo said asking for his vote.

"I say he joins," said Peter. "Definite."

"Amos?"

"Well," Amos temporised, conscious of Zak's hostility. "No harm in discussing it with him."

"No sodding way!" growled Zak. "He's not that good. Any wanker could do what he does. Bloody keyboards - the fucking keyboards do all the work. He'll blow us apart if he joins. And we all lose money, don't forget that! He'll have to get his share. No!"

"What you got against him?" asked Joshua. "You've hated him since he came. What's he done to you?"

"He's a stuck up little gayboy," said Zak aggressively. "He's not one of us. Doesn't join us after gigs - goes running off to his girlfriend. We're raw, ordinary - that's our band. Upper class bugger - with his fancy riffs - not our style. He's changed everything. We're not a fucking orchestra!"

"We have to decide," said Leo. "I've got a lot of people breathing down my neck wanting to know."

"We try to get him," asserted Joshua.

"Yeah," said Peter. "He's OK."

Amos felt loyalty to Zak but was intelligent enough to know that their future was in the balance. He nodded his agreement.

"If he joins," Zak shouted, "I fucking go!"

"Don't be a fool, Zak," said Leo. "With Ged in the band, you've got a future - a big one. We're talking big money here. You're just starting to get the goodies, you going to throw it all away?"

"I mean it. He's in? I'm sodding well out!" Zak had been bluffing at first, but now he was obstinate; he couldn't change without losing face.

The band looked at him, and for a moment he thought he had won. Then they shrugged collectively.

"We negotiate then?" asked Leo.

They nodded.

"That's it! I'm out. So long, suckers!" and he slammed his chair back and made for the door.

"Don't be so bloody fucking stupid!" shouted Amos after him, but Zak scowled at his friend and left.

--

"Leo phoned."

"Oh?"

"He wants to talk about me joining the band full time."

"Oh."

"You still OK with that?"

"Yep! I'm over my hissy fit."

"I can still refuse."

"No way, my love! You go ahead, it's going to open so many avenues for your work."

"It'll mean I have to resign from work. Burning bridges."

"Do it!"

--

If they had underestimated Ged's prowess as a musician, now they were to realise how much they were underestimating his skill as a negotiator. Gus had come with him, but left the donkey work to Ged.

It was the Monday after the tour ended. The band was assembled with Leo.

"Well?" Ged asked.

"We had a meeting," Leo replied, "and they've agreed they want you in the band."

"On what terms? Temporary or permanent?"

"Permanent."

"If I were to agree," Ged continued, "You realise I will be giving up a permanent, secure and very well paid job?"

"Come on Ged," said Joshua, becoming irritated. "You know we're about to hit the really big time."

"Where's Zak?" he asked in response.

"Zak's left the band," said Peter.

"That a problem?" asked Ged with a feeling of relief.

"We need a bass player, obviously." said Leo, wondering where all this was leading.

"What's in the offing for the band?" Ged asked.

"We do an album in the next four weeks," said Leo, "and a single from it for issue in about two months. I've been working on a European tour, it's practically sorted - four countries so far, as well as more in the UK. A few gigs more locally here and there in the meantime."

"Until you find a bass player, I can play bass guitar and I can replicate it on keyboards if necessary," Ged said. "If the European tour comes off though, we need a technically highly qualified road manager, someone with qualifications in instrument technology, who knows how to treat and if necessary repair our equipment. If they have some knowledge of computerisation and of the audio-visual stuff, so much the better. We won't have that company you're using at the moment when we're on tour. Now to the money."

Ged wanted a quarter of the takings after Leo had taken his percentage cut and all other expenses paid. He wanted it paid to Gus, who would take a cut of Ged's money in his turn. When they appointed a bass player the division would be five way.

Leo and Joshua wanted Ged to take a salary equal to what he had been earning, and be a probationer in the band for the first year. Ged said no to the idea of probation. There was an impasse.

Ged then brought up the matter of the copyright on the music for Joshua's hit song. They thought he was bluffing until he showed them the music and his own words, along with the date it was printed with copyright. He sat back.

Leo and Joshua immediately realised Ged could sue them for breach of copyright, and get back payment for a proportion of the performing rights and for all the records sold. It would be a good deal of money and would hit the band members hard where it mattered - in the bank balance.

Then Ged said he would waive his rights to the tune in exchange for a large payment, or instead he could get his proportion of the band's profits - an equal fourth share along with the remaining band members until a bass player joined them, when they would all take a fifth. There really was no choice if they wanted Ged - and if the band were ambivalent about his joining, everyone else with a vested interest did want him. They nodded their assent.

Leo as their agent and lawyer drew up a new contract. Gus, who was also a lawyer, checked it on Ged's behalf and agreed it was fair. Everyone signed. The band were not happy but there was nothing they could do. Suddenly Ged was about to become very wealthy.

Ged returned home at lunchtime. Cassie was finished with her thesis and awaiting final results, so she was waiting for him with an expectant expression.

"Well?" she asked, her eyes shining.

"Good news and bad news." he replied trying to look serious. Her face clouded.

"Go on!" she urged.

"I've joined the band, I get a quarter of all profits after Leo and Gus have taken their cuts."

"A quarter?" She was puzzled. "But there are five in the band now you've joined."

"Zak's left the band apparently. He hates my guts and we both know why. Talk about cutting off his nose to spite his face!"

"But I finished with him half a year before I met you," she said with some surprise.

"I don't think he's accepted that. I'm sure he still wants you."

Cassie felt a muted shock, and a strange feeling. Did she still also feel something for Zak? No, she assured herself. He cheated.

Ged continued, not noticing her change of expression. "We make an album during the next month, and cut a single for later release, then the album will be issued. There'll be a few isolated gigs. That's the good news."

"And the bad?"

"There's going to be a European tour. It'll last at least a month, perhaps two or three. I'll be away the whole time; no coming home between gigs."

Her face fell, but then she smiled bravely.

"It'll be worth it?" she hazarded.

"Certainly from the financial side, but I'll miss you terribly." He said earnestly.

"We'll get through it," she replied, sounding more confident than she really felt.

--

Chapter Nine

Things settled down that autumn. Cassie gained her master's degree and obtained a position in a publishing house. It was work she loved, being immersed in assessing and editing the work of aspiring writers, and some more well-known authors.

Ged for his part resigned from his job, and was surprised when he was told that if he ever considered returning, to get in touch. Thanks to the recession the company were looking to let someone go, and Ged saved them from that unpleasant task. Though he had only been employed for a year, the company gave him two months salary in lieu of notice, and it tided the couple over the time before the money from the band would begin to roll in.

Since the album and the single were recorded in Manchester, he was able to return home each evening, and the same applied to the individual gigs they were offered. Rarely did he have to stay anywhere overnight.

Cassie was delighted. His membership of the band had turned out better than she could ever have hoped, and she was a happy woman with a job she loved and a boyfriend she adored and who was often at home doing his writing. Life was good for both. It helped that he seemed to adore her as well.

Christmas came and went, and the young couple visited both families as they did the previous year. Once again they celebrated the New Year with Cheryl and Brian, but there was no party, just a few friends, since there was now a three month old daughter, Sarah, in the house. Viccy and the group were there, and Ged joined them in some quiet music.

In February, Leo announced he had finalised the European tour. It would begin in August and take about four months. Cassie shrugged at the news; after all it had been expected. She did not like it, but Ged suggested that she join him at Christmas in Italy or Greece after the end of the tour, and she found that an attractive proposition.

Ged had been thinking, and realised that four months was a long time to be apart. At the beginning of March he bought a ring.

On the weekend of the ninth of March he took her by first class rail to a Michelin star restaurant in London, and after dessert, he went down on one knee in full view of the whole place and asked her to marry him.

She burst into tears and nodded vigorously, to the applause of the whole place. He took out the ring, a huge solitaire diamond, and slipped it onto her finger. Champagne followed for the whole restaurant.

When they returned to the hotel, she told him to have one drink in the bar and then join her in the room. When he arrived she was in the bathroom. There was a note on the bed telling him to strip naked and lie on the bed, which he was delighted to do. Then the bathroom door opened and Cassie emerged.

She was a vision in ivory. She had a long semi-transparent nightdress, with spaghetti straps and a deep V between her breasts, showing that she was wearing a sheer ivory bra to match beneath. She stood before him quite shyly, and he obligingly gasped and held out his hands to her, his already half-mast penis rising to attention to reinforce the effect she was having on him.

She shrugged off the straps to the dress, which fell to the ground, revealing her lacy bra and briefs set in the same ivory colour, set off with a pair of ivory thigh high stockings.

"Oh, God," he gasped. "You're so beautiful!!"

They made love gently and at some length.

Ged for his part felt he had died and gone to heaven. The vision of the woman he found excruciatingly beautiful, dressed in this demure and at the same time erotic underwear, with her eyes closed in ecstasy and a smile playing on her lips, was almost impossible to bear.

When the feelings receded they opened their eyes and gazed at each other. Then they began to laugh. It was soft laughter. It was triumphant. Like their first time.

They rose then, she shed her clothing and they showered together, washing each other down with gentleness and care. There was no attempt to excite each other; now was the time to be romantic and to cement their commitment. They dried each other and went back to bed, naked - and slept.

In the morning they gave each other oral pleasure, Cassie swallowing Ged's offering. Then they made gentle missionary love after Cassie revived Ged with her delicate lips and lively tongue. Each felt they had never been so close, so intimate, so sure of each other.

Then it was breakfast and the journey home.

The idyll did not last long. They had a party at the flat to celebrate. The band were invited and attended, and it was then that Amos realised why Zak was so antagonistic. Ged was engaged to Zak's ex-girlfriend. Zak had said that she dumped him for someone else, so he assumed that Ged had taken her from his friend.

He checked the next day, and Zak assured him that Cassie was perfectly happy with him, until she met Ged, and then she dumped Zak. The lie was enough for Amos. He would find a way to avenge his friend.

As for Cassie and Ged, they were happy as they had never been before - until Leo phoned in April. As always it was good and bed news, though Leo could only see good.

"Ged," he crowed, "It's good news - the best! You'll never look back after this!"

"What?"

"I've been getting more enquiries about the tour - further afield. It's not going to be a Euro tour any more - it's World!"

"You're saying that we have a world tour on our hands? How long for?"

"Ten or Eleven months?" Leo was almost apologetic. "South Africa, Australia, Japan, the Americas. They all want the band."

"That's a hell of a long time!" Ged offered.

"That's life. It'll be worth it in the long run. This band will never look back after this tour."

"The others? They happy with it?"

"Yes. They like the idea - travelling round the world. Of course, they haven't got ties like you have. I arranged a break of about three weeks in South Africa, around Christmas time. Perhaps Cassie could come over?"

Ged was not happy. He was absolutely sure that Leo had been working on the world tour all along: it was not possible to finalise a tour like that in such a short time. There were roadies and additional session musicians to organise in each country, hotel bookings, the set up at the various venues, transport etc, etc., but what could he do? The only consolation was the money.
Ged had to wait until Cassie got home. They kissed they hugged as always.

Then, "Cassie..."

"Something wrong?"

"Bad news, and I don't know how to tell you."

"Oh, God, Ged, It's not your Dad?"

"No. It's the tour."

"So? we've sorted that out, surely. I'm happy to wait for you."

"Cassie, my darling," he stammered a little. "Leo's extended the tour. It's a world tour now. Probably eleven months."

"No," she said flatly. "It can't be. Nearly a year?"

"Can you wait that long?" he asked, "I thought you could fly over to wherever we'll be in December - I think we'll be in South Africa. We take a break there according to Leo. You could stay for a fortnight or so, and I suspect there'll be other breaks later on when you could join us as well."

"But Ged, a year! How will we manage?"

"Keep thinking about the money. Once this tour's over, along with the sales of downloads and DVDs, Blueray etc, I'll not need to go on tour ever again. I'm already getting near break-even point with my song writing. I'll leave the band when we get back, but if you don't think you can take me being away for so long, I'll leave the band now."

She could see that he meant it. Once again she was caught between her love for him which desperately wanted him at home and in her bed with her, and wanting him to follow his star and establish himself. She knew what she had to do. If he could cope with being apart from her, she could cope as well. Then came the unguarded thought, could he cope? Would he?

"No," she said, with a heavy heart. "You go. I won't visit you in Europe and that'll give me enough holiday time to come to South Africa at Christmas."

Once they had agreed, life went back to normal. After all, there would be the festivals in June and July, and a few gigs, but generally Ged was able to spend most of his time at home, writing his songs and keeping in touch with Gus, who was placing the songs with internationally acclaimed singers.

As far as the press were concerned, there was the usual speculation whenever one of the band was seen with a woman. By and large, once it was clear that Ged was purely professional and had no liaisons, he was ignored which suited him fine. Ged and Cassie had always avoided Facebook and all other social media sites, and so there was little for the press to find out about him, unlike the band, who used social media sites extensively to promote themselves.

Joshua gave most of the interviews and appeared on chat shows. The band made some appearances on late chat shows to play their single or some pieces from their album.

Once the festivals started, Ged was away more, this time without Cassie who was working, and he began to notice that Cassie was becoming increasingly preoccupied. Eventually he broached the problem.

"I'm worried about the world tour," she said apologetically. "It's such a long time and I fear that you will find some woman to take away your loneliness. You know how I can't abide unfaithfulness and it would be the end of us; I just couldn't love you if you betrayed me. I'm sorry," she looked woebegone, "It's just the way I am. I'm terrified this will break us."

Ged was silenced. He had no intention of being unfaithful; Cassie was all he ever wanted in a woman, and he would wait faithfully until he came home for her.

"It works both ways, my love," he replied, though gently. "History is full of stories of soldiers who get 'Dear John' letters from their so-called faithful girlfriends or fiancées, but I have no worries about you, so why worry about me?"

"You're not the first man who let me down, you know. I've been hurt badly. I couldn't stand for it to happen again."

"Cassie," he said patiently. "We're engaged. You're wearing my ring, and it tells everyone you have committed yourself to me and I to you. Why don't you buy me a ring, and I'll wear it on my left hand. I love you so much, I just couldn't do that to you."

She was somewhat eased by his earnestness and his commitment, and she did buy him an engraved ring, which he solemnly put on his ring finger. They hugged and kissed and felt better for it.

--

Chapter Ten

Glastonbury was over. The band had been feted and now there was only a month before the tour began. Ged went to see Leo.

"Leo, who's the on site Tour Manager? I haven't heard anything about him."

"Problem there," said Leo with some embarrassment. "I had a good man lined up, Derek Stopworth, but he's had a heart attack and so I'm looking again.

"Also," added Ged, "We still haven't appointed a Road Manager, someone who will take care of the transport problems and look after the equipment failures that are bound to arise, even though I'm sure you've done a great job. But you're not coming with us, and we need someone on site. If you remember I made this a condition of agreeing to the Euro tour: this is bigger."

Ged was beginning to feel afraid that this was a half-baked tour, and wondered if Leo was up to organising it.

Leo contacted Joshua. Since the band had agreed in principle to employ a road manager, it only needed the three of them to appoint someone. Leo wondered if the road manager could double as the tour manager. This worried Ged even more.

Ged had essentially been their electronics expert since he joined the band. He had got them out of some sticky situations and had begun to take his tool box with him as well as his instruments, but this was too big for him. Ged looked at the other two expectantly.

"You need a Tour Manager, Leo, and you need a Road Manager. Both. I can't see you getting someone who can do both, it's unrealistic - it'd be too big a job for one."

Joshua nodded, and looked at Leo. "They'll need paying." said Leo, redundantly.

"Part of the normal expenses: you can't do without either." said Ged. Joshua agreed.

"And they'll need paying well," Ged went on. "They'll be away from home for the best part of a year. Not easy to find someone prepared to do that. They'll have to be fairly young and free to take a year out, I would have thought."

They agreed on a very generous package and to his surprise, Leo and Joshua asked him to find and appoint a road manager while Leo found a tour manager.

"After all," said Joshua, "You're the only one who can assess his electronic ability."

The search for a resident roadie was difficult, because Ged was very choosy about the qualities needed. His final choice was unexpected by everyone.

Annette Fenster had a degree in electronics and an MBA. She was also six feet tall, very pretty in a statuesque sort of way, and very strong. She had no trouble with the heavy equipment, and in any case, Ged had got the rest of the band to help with preparing for and clearing after every gig while in Britain. Leo assured him that there would be local roadies to do that, and that she would only have to manage them.

What was completely unexpected was her business qualification and that she had previous touring experience, so Ged could see she was capable of running the tour. However he kept very quiet about it, so that Leo eventually found an experienced manager who brought his own assistant: his wife!

Ged and Annette met Jon Cohen who was to be their tour manager and his assistant, and the four hit it off immediately.

The last piece of information Annette gave Ged was that she was a lesbian and was in a long-standing relationship. She asked him to keep the information to himself, since she didn't want the press getting hold of it, at least until towards the end of the tour. Her partner was in a job which could be compromised if the press began persecuting her before she had worked out her contract, which was for another six months.

Annette wanted her long term partner to join her in Australia for the duration of that part of the tour, since her contract would be finished by then, and for the three week break in Africa. Ged thought that Cassie would be able to use the following year's holiday allowance to join them in Australia, or the States, and Cassie cheered up on the prospect of some more world travel.

Ged was relieved by Annette's admission. The band would keep a safe distance once she had rebuffed them and that would save relationship problems would have added to the other arguments and fights in which the band seemed to delight.

Annette's arrival in the group caused a stir, even more so when she revealed that she could play bass. Ged had not known of that, and was secretly delighted. Was there no end to this woman's capabilities? Moreover, she was more than competent on the instrument.

Ged spoke quietly to each member of the band, explaining that she was in a relationship and was not interested in any advances, should they decide to make them and as their road manager could make life very uncomfortable for anyone who caused her trouble. They looked at her height and build and decided to leave her well alone.

Ged for his part scrupulously kept his word and told no one of Annette's sexual orientation, not even Cassie, but he did tell her that Annette was in a long term relationship, without mentioning the sex of the partner in accordance with Annette's wishes. He promised she could meet Annette and her partner in South Africa at Christmas time, and she thought she could get enough time on the following year's holiday allowance to join them in Australia as well.

The band was to meet in a London hotel which was near the storage facility where their kit was. The week before he left, Ged spent at home. Cassie took a few days holiday time and they spent a good deal of time in bed together. Then it was time for him to leave.

He gave her a final warning as he left. "Cassie, my darling," he said most seriously, "For God's sake don't believe everything you read in the press. They lie for a living. If they print anything that upsets you, let me know, and I'll tell you what really happened. Promise?"

She promised.

They agreed to use email while he was away as far as possible, with Skype or only a weekly phone call, since phoning from abroad seemed too expensive for Ged's liking, whereas Skype was free where they could access it.

They hugged and kissed for the last time and he left. She went back indoors, sat down and cried. When she was cried out, she left the flat and went to see Cheryl.

music   man  

Apr 1, 2018 in romance

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