Travel-weary Edie has just returned from yet another long-haul business trip to find her flat and garden neglected. Thinking it's about time she got to know her neighbour upstairs so they might come to a mutual arrangement for when she next goes away, Edie's in for quite a shock to find the elderly Mrs Brownslow has transformed into a hunk who has a way with words - particularly the dirty kind ... Will this twist of fate result in a happy ending?
The door opened and a man somewhere in his mid-30s appeared. He had a mop of dark, almost jet black straight hair, a sharp, angular face and the most penetrating blue eyes Edie had ever seen. His shirt was dishevelled and his jeans ripped. The sound of jazz oozed out of a set of speakers in the background, reminiscent of a humid New Orleans night, and he looked distracted, as if he’d been on the point of some great artistic discovery, and she’d just ruined the moment. She might still have been jetlagged, but Edie thought he was the most devastatingly handsome man she’d ever seen. He looked first at Edie, and then at the papers she was holding. ‘Sorry to disturb you, but these fell into my garden,’ she told him. ‘Are they yours?’ ‘Damn, yes. Thanks. I left the window open, and then forgot all about it. They must’ve got caught in a breeze. I’m sorry.’ He took them from her and gave them a quick but guilty glance. ‘That’s OK. Um, is Mrs–’ Suddenly she remembered ‘–Brownlow, is Mrs Brownlow still here?’ ‘She’s been taken ill, I’m afraid, so she’s staying at her sister’s. And that would be my mother, in case you were wondering.’ ‘Nothing serious, I hope?’ He frowned. ‘We’re afraid it is, actually. The doctors are doing everything they can, but it doesn’t look like she’ll be coming back.’ ‘I’m so sorry to hear that, how awful for you all,’ Edie said, trying not to think of all the tasks she’d lined up for his aunt. ‘And so you’re a writer I presume?’ ‘Yes, I am.’ He glanced at the papers guiltily. ‘I’m a music journalist, most of the time, but this is my first novel. A very early draft. Not ready for public consumption yet.’ With that, he threw her a sheepish half-smile that made his eyes light up and almost knocked her off her feet. ‘I see. My name’s Edie, by the way.’ ‘Edie? I’m Luke.’ They shook hands. ‘I was beginning to think no one lived downstairs; my aunt always says you travel a lot.’ ‘Long business trip. I just got back. In fact, that’s why I hardly know your aunt. I feel a little guilty about that ...’ ‘Oh, that’s OK, she always keeps herself to herself anyway. She kind of has issues about people, if you see what I mean. Well, thanks again, anyway.’ He began to withdraw; the conversation, apparently, was over. But Edie couldn’t leave it like that. Her job had taught her never to give up, and to make sure she had the last word in every negotiation. She was also used to dealing with men, and refused to be intimidated. ‘Look, can I just say something?’ He stopped, a look of dread on his face. ‘I’ve got to admit I was intrigued, so I read those pages,’ she went on. ‘I apologise for being nosy. And I have to say, I enjoyed them, I really did. You’ve got a lovely dry sense of humour and a wonderful way with words.’ Luke beamed with relief. ‘Thank you, that’s great to hear, it really is.’ ‘But your sex scene’s rubbish,’ she countered quickly, before he could feel too pleased with himself. ‘I mean, I’m sorry to be so blunt, but it’s just, I’m sick and tired of reading bad sex written by men who seem to think that all a man has to do is penetrate a woman and she’ll explode into some huge great orgasm. It’s just nonsense. Women need so much more than that. They need tenderness, and stroking, and nurturing. A woman’s like a temperamental plant in a greenhouse. You need to put in a lot of effort to make sure the conditions are right before, you know, she blooms.’ ‘Right.’ Luke nodded thoughtfully. Edie couldn’t work out whether he was embarrassed or hurt by the criticism. ‘That’s actually rather good,’ he said instead, taking her by surprise. ‘D’you mind if I write it down?’ Edie didn’t know what to make of this man. He wasn’t reacting as she’d expected him to – with the kind of scorn and resentment often shown by her colleagues – and she still hadn’t got over how hunky he was. ‘Tell you what, would you like a cup of tea or anything?’ Luke offered. ‘I’ll put the kettle on.’ ‘Sounds great,’ Edie agreed, following him inside the flat, which still reverberated to the sounds of jazz – a rhythm that made her want to move, to press her body up against another person’s and to feel the heat between them. ‘You know something?’ he asked, checking his watch. ‘It’s past six. How about a glass of wine?’