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Bad Boys of London

By:Georgia Le Carre


ONE





Layla


Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.

—Karl, Age 5


‘What are you standing there for? Go use the upstairs bathroom,’ Ria says when she spots me at the end of the queue for the downstairs bathroom.

She is right. The queue is long. ‘I’ll just use the portaloo outside,’ I reply.

‘Don’t be so silly. There’s a humongous queue there, too.’

I bite my lip. Ria is BJ Pilkington’s second cousin and we are in his house, Silver Lee, a cavernous mansion built in the art deco style with massive windows that wrapped all the way around the front and sides. BJ threw this party for my brother, Jake, and his new wife, Lily. And while I like and socialize with Ria, BJ and I share a stinging mutual dislike for each other.

In fact, I hadn’t even wanted to come, but my mother forced me to. ‘It’s in your brother’s honor,’ she said in that displeased tone I knew not to disobey. ‘It’d be ignorant not to, and God help me, I didn’t bring you up to be ignorant.’

‘Are you really sure it’ll be OK?’ I ask, looking doubtfully up the long, curving, dark wood staircase. Nobody else seemed to be going up it. It is understood that the party is restricted to the four reception rooms downstairs.

‘Of course,’ she insists confidently.

I give it one last attempt. ‘I don’t even know where it is, and I don’t really want to go wandering around by myself.’

‘Come on, I’ll show you,’ she says and, taking my hand, makes for the stairs.

‘Thanks, Ria,’ I concede, following her meekly. I do need the bathroom rather badly. At the top of the stairs I look down and see all the beautiful people dressed in their absolute finest. That’s the thing about us travelers. We love our color. Peacocks, all of us. There isn’t a plain black gown in sight. Ria takes me down a corridor and half-opens a door to a blue and white bathroom.

‘See you downstairs,’ she calls cheerfully and walks away.

I use the toilet, then wash my hands and stand in front of the mirror. My deep auburn hair comes down to the tips of my breasts. My eyebrows are straight and my eyes are dark blue. My nose is narrow, my lips are generous, and my jaw is well defined.

I am wearing a duck egg blue taffeta dress that I designed and sewed myself. It has a tight bodice and a wide bow at the base of my spine, the ends of which trail lower than the hem of my mid-thigh, Honey Boo Boo-style skirt. Underneath are layers upon layers of gathered electric blue tulle and lace petticoats. Crinolines, my grandma used to call them.

I fluff them up. I love petticoats. In my opinion, life is way too short not to wear petticoats that stick out from under your skirt. I reapply my lipstick, press my lips, and leave the bathroom.

The corridor outside is deserted. Faint sounds of the party downstairs float up. As I walk down the carpeted passage I am suddenly and very strangely overcome by an irresistible curiosity. I want to open a door, just one, and see how BJ lives. I don’t know why, since I think him an arrogant beast. But just for those seconds, I want to see more than what everyone downstairs will see.

Oh! What the hell, just a quick look.

I open a door. The interior is plain; it’s obviously just a spare bedroom. I close it and open another. It, too, has an unlived-in appearance. Again, very plain. I try another door. It is locked. Okay, one last door and I’m out of here. I stop before another door handle and turn it.

Whoa!

BJ!

I take a step forward, close the door behind me, and lean against it. And fuckin’ stare. Two rooms must have been merged into one to make such a massive space. The walls are black and the words ‘No Fear’ are painted in white using a large calligraphy font. They glow in the light from a real fire roaring in the fireplace. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen real logs.

A large chandelier hangs from an iron hook in the ceiling; it looks more like a meat hook than a decorative accent. The bed is a huge, wrought iron four-poster, obviously custom, with deep red fleur-de-lis patterned brocade curtains that have been gathered and held together by thick gold and black ties. On the bedside tables that flank it are elaborate candelabras with real candles that have dripped wax onto the gilt handles.

Wow! So this is what lies inside BJ. His cold, cold eyes hide the soul of a seventeenth-century lord. It is dark and dangerous but I am strangely drawn to it. With some shock I realize that there is something irresistibly seductive about my discovery. It’s like walking into BJ’s private world or looking into his soul.

I try to imagine the room with the candelabras lit. The candlelight dancing off the walls. My eyes move to the bed and I see me naked and crushed under BJ’s large, powerful body, the light making his muscles gleam. The image is so erotic; it is at once thrilling and disturbing. I feel a flutter in my tummy.

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