This story is fiction and none of the events and characters described refer to real events, people or Corporations. Any resemblance to real persons or events is purely coincidental.
" Simon mate, good to seeya. Come in, come in." The greeter shook Simon's hand warmly and spoke with salesman's enthusiasm while an overly madeup girl pinned a name tag to the new arrival's lapel. "Biggest product launch we've ever done. Everything laid on, free bar, great food, lovely ladies; know what I mean. I think this new product is going to suit some of your major clients down to the ground. You told me you have a big project kicking off, downsizing big city centre area offices, getting sales and support people to work mainly from home. Great, its the future and with us as business partners your organisation can be first to arrive. Go on in mate, get yourself a drink, get you nose in the trough and find a totty. They're here as hostesses by the way, anything beyond that will be a private arrangement. Still not too hard to get it on expenses eh? Catch you later." Dave Burns turned away to greet the next arrival, a nondescript corporate type in charcoal grey who was subjected to the account executives well prepared spiel. Simon moved into the room and observed the reaction. Most of the other executives attending knew or had heard of him. "Flash Git" was the phrase that leaped to several pairs of lips as men realised that the newcomer had become the focus of attention for the hired girls, not for his looks as was usual but this time for the expensive cut of his designer suit, the ambience created by a tie that had cost more than most people's entire outfits and an unshakeable self - assurance that screamed RICH RICH RICH.
Within a minute a girl was at Simon's elbow. "'ello, Iyam Yvette, shall we get a dreenk and somzing from ze table, Simon Bar-ton?" The French accent was atrocious but would seem sophisticated to most of the men in the room, at least one of whom, after the night was done, would regale colleagues with tales of the beautiful French girl he had knobbed at the "Office at Home" product launch. What did this little tart think she was doing. She had picked probably the best looking and easily the best and most expensively dressed man in the room and would soon be asking him to pay money in order to have sex with her. As if.
"I notice you 'av arrive alone. Per'aps you would like some companee maybe?"
"Merci madamoselle, mai non. J'attend seulment advancer l'affaires du Bar - Tec. Je suis le PDG et maintenant il faut preparer mon........ Apres-ce je departais seul." Simon said. His French was not perfect but good enough
The girl's mouth dropped open and she stood for a moment in stunned silence before saying. "I'll bet that's French innit? You sussed me out. We'll never mind, I'm still available. £200 to spend the night, anything you want."
"What I said was, thank you but no, I'm only here to do business, I am giving a speech on telecommuting technology after which I will leave alone." He knew what the hostesses were there for but had not expected quite such a blatant approach so early in the evening. He made a mental note to advise Dave to have a word the escort agency before moving on, glad - handing his way around the room meeting new contacts and schmoozing old ones.
"Still driving the Porsche Simon," somebody enquired.
"Still seeing that Indian tart from Coventry."
The two speakers grinned stupidly, thinking their questions would rattle the other man's composure.
"Wrote the Porsche off in Ireland four months ago. Sonal wrote me off on the same holiday. She's twenty - three and she told me I needed to grow up."
"Having a rough time then. We heard the business was struggling too."
"You heard wrong. I lost a contract. It happens. I drive a Mercedes Coupe now, last week I signed a deal to handle Internet strategy for AngloCan Bank and although there is a girlfriend vacancy I'm never alone unless I want to be."
The two men, Woolston and Shurmer grinned slightly less stupidly. They had had worked alongside Simon some years before and formed an alliance of mediocrity to undermine him, hoping to divide his role to their own advantage. The plan succeeded but neither had been up to the task of replacing him and now they were both middle managers in public sector organisations, compensating for their poor pay with self importance. Neither was particularly intelligent and making them look foolish and inadequate was too easy to be fun. He turned away, a glass of tonic water in hand, to look for more enjoyable conversation.
"It will all come unstuck one day Barton," one of the men called.
"Envy is a terrible weakness in a grown man." Simon countered. The pair merged into the crowd to spread poisonous rumours that would only make them look more ridiculous in a gathering among whom Simon was popular and respected.
A big, bombastic man with a red face and a shock of white curly hair shuffled into his path next. "Simon mate. How are you doing. Well, I hear. Our computer business is going from strength to strength since you knocked us into shape. We must catch up sometime, have a good drink up. You never came to my place on the coast did you?"
"I will one day Dickie, but you know how it is."
"Too right mate. Never enough time is there. Listen mate, these girls are pricey but there's one is a bit special. Your type too. Mature, about your age maybe, auburn hair, amber eyes. And legs, has she got legs."
A few more minutes catching up with his old friend and colleague and it was time for the presentation. As most of the businessmen filtered into the auditorium Simon saw the woman Dickie must have been referring to. She was special. Perhaps a little younger than him, late thirties, with an elegance in her bearing that set off the designer outfit perfectly, she stood a mile above the other, younger, equally good looking prostitutes.
The dreary business of the product presentation was raced through. Everybody had read the literature, heard the hype already, nobody had come for a technical talk or a discussion on business strategy. Simon gave his speech about the extended office of the future, talking of developments he was sure would never happen but that many people were determined to delude themselves about.
Speeches finished, the group split, some staying in the auditorium, some going into an ante-room to play with the new technology. Simon wandered into the main reception where a few clusters of people were making no secret of the fact that for them the serious business of the night was getting extremely drunk at somebody else's expense.
Simon was guided to a couch in the alcove where the directors of Avanti Technology and their special guests were gathered. A selection of food from the buffet was brought to him. Talk was of how Avanti and their guest speaker could help each other and dried up when somebody sat next to the principal of Bar - Tec. It was the auburn haired woman. "Like you to meet Roz Fisher, Roz, Simon Barton." Dave Burns said, before leaning down to whisper, "compliments of Dickie Price you lucky bastard."
Simon stood and took the woman's hand. "Enchanted. Roz. Rosemary?"
"Rosalind to friends or formal acquaintances. Some people find it a bit of a mouthful so I let them off with Roz but I like to be called Rosalind. Friends respect that."
" I hate formality so if you'll permit me to presume friendship at this stage we'll go for a friendly Rosalind."
"If we know each other more than an hour you'll get tired of it."
"I'm a Shakespeare fan."
"Well call me what you like then, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." She tilted her head to one side and smiled. A flinty hardness that went with the territory lay under the beauty but in the depths of her unusual eyes was something soft, warm and very inviting.
"Dig into the snacks if you're hungry. Putting my supper aside was a kind thought but I believe canapés are mostly made from pureed rat turds. Can I get you a drink?"
"Just a mineral water, I'm driving unless I get a better offer."
"I shouldn't think that would be a problem."
"Well three have put their markers down so far, let me see, Mr Potato - Head, the Screaming Skeleton and Jabba the Hutt. Oh and Crocodile Four - X overr there offered me some lessons in prodding the old clam or something. Sorry, I'm supposed to sit here and flatter you."
"Crocodile four? - oh yeah I know who you mean," he laughed, "he had a package holiday to Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef once and has been working on the accent and pretending he grew up in the outback ever since. Listen, forget the flattery you're doing fine." Simon could not hide his amusement at the situation.
"Why are you laughing at me then."
"Because unless you really are only here as a hostess, you're wasting your time."
"Really? I was told you are the hot stud in this business. Had more women than Rockefeller had oil wells."
"That's an outrageous lie. Well an exaggeration at least. If I'd had all the women people say I have I would have worn willie away by now."
"Half the room seemed obsessed with which of us you would target."
"So if I'm such a hot stud why would I target a - working girl?"
"So coy. Let's be honest darling. I'm a prostitute. That OK for you."
"Fine. I don't have a problem with what you do, you're beautiful and I'm enjoying your company. But I don't think I could ever get my ego around paying somebody to have sex with me."
"I've been paid. I'm all yours until morning."
"And what does that include."
"Anything you want darling."
"Why not start by kissing me then."
"Problem?" Simon's smile was sardonic, mocking.
"You're laughing at me again. Listen, if you like I'll go, give your friend his money back and see what else is available."
"No, don't go. You are a bit prickly aren't you? I suppose I am too, its an unfamiliar situation. Now don't take this the wrong way please, but I'm used to being with women who are there because they want to be with me. I know that's a horrible thing to say, but lets clear the air. Now if you have been paid to keep me company please stay. I am enjoying your company. As for the rest - well, I'm not going to tell if you don't."
"Do you know something," she wagged a finger sternly but smiled, "if this was a film I'd throw a drink over you or something."
"If this was a film I'd say something witty in my Jack Nicholson voice. Where were we? Kissing. Why not start by kissing me then?"
"Because...." Simon's stare blocked escape through evasion. "Because it's a bit too personal. Most men know better than to ask. Most of my clients are ugly and have bad breath or personal hygiene problems. They're just glad to be in the same room as me."
"And I'm different?"
"For God's sake, look round."
"You're right I can't see one man that I'd fancy."
"What about girls?"
"I don't mix business and pleasure. Where are you driving to?"
"About fifteen miles south of the city, in Cheshire. You."
"I'm booked in here courtesy of our hosts. But home is near Richmond in Yorkshire."
"Where you keep the wife and kids."
"Where I keep the sports car and other toys. There was a Mrs Barton for a while but although she enjoyed the millionaire lifestyle she wanted lots of attention and a husband at home too. Now it seems I'm paying somebody to give her that, but it's better than giving her half the business."
"Poor you. All alone at home and all alone tonight in a big hotel bed."
"Rosalind, I'm dealing you a good hand here, you can play it better than that. Let's work the room for a while and then if you like we'll sneak off to Chinatown and eat. What can you talk about."
"Fellatio, bondage and domination, gardening, frottage, immaculate body service, all professionally. For myself, interior design, art - the impressionists to surrealists, I'm hopeless on post modernism; literature,"
"Gardening? Is that a code word for something kinky."
"No, you would be surprised the number of men who get their clothes off and then tell me about their gardens. Or model aircraft they've built."
They moved among the gathered businessmen, there were few women apart from the hostesses. Simon was gallant in deflecting leery comments about his good fortune in getting to Roz first and she played the upper class escort to perfection until they could respectably leave in search of a more appetising menu.
"How about wine?" Simon asked. "I always prefer white with Chinese food." Roz reminded him she was driving home.
"I thought you were worried about me bring alone in that Hotel?"
"I though you did not sleep with prostitutes."
The man shook his head. "Don't recall saying that. I talked about not paying girls to have sex with me. I just don't feel like drinking alone." They ordered a Pinot Grigio.
At the product launch there was speculation about the couple, and the possibility of a bed crashing down through several floors into the function suite.
Skip to part 2 The Kiss
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