Phillip has asked Tracy to marry him, but is she willing to give up all the other delightful men in her life?
Phillip suggests a deal. He will take her across a boundary she has never crossed before. If she enjoys the experience, she’ll agree to give up all thoughts of other men.
Is Phillip worth the sacrifice, or has he gone too far this time?
The waiter placed a cup of coffee in front of Jasmine. Using her teaspoon, she proceeded to destroy the perfect, foamy heart the barista had gone to a lot of trouble to create.
“Tracy, you’re a fucking idiot,” Jasmine stated, glaring across the table. Her eyes were such a dark brown, they were almost black, but right now, they flashed fire. Jasmine’s ancestors had come to Britain from Jamaica and, before that, Africa. Her heritage showed in skin the color of polished mahogany and a face and body that belonged on the pages of Vogue.
“I know, I know, but...” Tracy concentrated on her own latte, unable to meet Jasmine’s gaze.
Jasmine pounced. “But what? I’m pretty sure you love him, and he sure as hell loves you. Why the fuck shouldn’t you marry him?”
“Look at me, Jas. I’m an overweight, forty-something cook-housekeeper, and I love men. Lots of men.” Tracy smiled. “And even some women.”
“I know, darling, believe me.” Jasmine smiled back at her, flashing her perfectly even, white teeth. “And you’re not overweight, just nicely rounded in all the right places. I have excellent memories of that night we shared, for sure, but I also know women aren’t usually your thing. Don’t you think Phillip knows everything you’re telling me and more?”
Tracy nodded and tipped another sachet of sugar into her own coffee. She’d asked Jasmine to meet her in a little cafe in Knightsbridge, an upper-class suburb not far from where Tracy lived with Phillip. Although she was his employee, on a ridiculously romantic tropical island last month in the Gulf of Thailand, he’d asked her to be his wife. While they’d had an excellent sex life since the day of her job interview, Tracy had doubts, many doubts, and she didn’t know what to do about his proposal.
“Why me?” wailed Tracy. “He’s rich. He’s gorgeous. He could have anyone he wanted!” She hunted around in her huge, black handbag for a tissue. “Everything was fine as it was. It still is. Why does he have to go and change things?”
“He wants you. He’s asked you.” Jasmine looked as though she wanted to reach across the tiny round table and give Tracy a good shake. “And you know how much things have changed for him. A few months ago, he was spending his days in a wheelchair, and that was pretty much all he had to look forward to for the rest of his life.”
Tracy smiled as her mind drifted. “I didn’t recognize him, Jas. When I first saw him after he’d regained the use of his legs, he was standing on the beach. He was fishing, his trouser legs rolled up to his thighs, the waves lapping around his calves. There was something about him, even though I couldn’t see his face from that distance. The way he cast the line out into the bay and reeled it in again was so controlled, so powerful. I knew I wanted that man, even before I knew he was Phillip. He was beautiful.”
She tipped yet another serving of sugar into her coffee, and sighed. “I love men, as you know so well, but I also know my limits. The man I saw on that beach in Thailand was way out of my league.” She looked up at her tablemate. “But take you, Jas. Close on six feet tall. Stunning to look at. If you weren’t a registered nurse, you could be a catwalk model, jetting around the world to exotic locations. Thailand, for example.”
Jasmine laughed. “How could I do what I do then? I want to make a difference, Tracy, in my own small way. Glamour doesn’t mean all that much to me.”
“You and Phillip could be together again that way.”
Jasmine threw back her head and laughed harder. “Oh, darling, there’s something I need to tell you. I’ve never had sex with Phillip.”
Tracy gasped. “What? But I saw you and him...”
“Phillip staged it. He knew about you and the gardener. He wanted to make a point, that’s all. So he made sure you walked in on him with me there in bed with him. I usually prefer the ladies, as you know, with one or two rare exceptions. Phillip is not one of those exceptions.”