The Perfect Couple (18+)

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Awards Night, May 2006

"Lovely bloke, Lillian. Lovely, lovely, lovely..."

John didn't get drunk often, Lillian reflected. But when he did, it was spectacular. He opined. He repeated, and he swayed close to her, drink tipped perilously in the perfect place to spill onto her lap.

"I know," Lillian said, and turned her attention to the aforementioned bloke. "John likes you!" she whispered, her hand moving over his lap. Her fingertips brushed his genitals, and she giggled as his cock surged upwards.

So far, the night had worked out perfectly. Gareth had been batting them off at the stall, journalists desperate to feature her, other designers who wanted to collaborate and even fashion bloggers. "What are they?" Lillian asked. Gareth assured her they were good news—the influencers of the future.

Then, her guests chatted together, their conversations needing no prompting from her. John and Kippy subjected Richie to an intensive grilling, and he didn't object. Now, John—many martinis down—wholeheartedly endorsed Richie.

She told herself she didn't need their approval, but having her oldest friend tell her how much he liked Richie she couldn't help but bathe in the afterglow of approval.

The atmosphere in the room changed once more—its focus moving from attention confined to tables to the wider realisation to what was happening on the stage. At the far side of the table, one of Lillian's guest clapped her hands together.

"Ooh, it's the best online business!"

Best online business was a new category. Fashion had moved itself onto the world wide web fast, realising this was its natural home. But clothing companies still had to jump on board when it came to actual sales.

"...and the winner is Glitz!"

It wasn't a total surprise, seeing as the original invite told her she'd been shortlisted, but still. Lilian rose from her seat in a daze. Around her, the table occupants clapped and whistled, Richie blowing her kisses. She stumbled her way towards the centre stage, cursing the too-many martinis and the too few canapés.

Mick—the Rock 'n' Roll Chef—presented the prize, a tailor's mannequin with a yet to be engraved plaque at the bottom.

"Lillian, it's been an age," he trilled, air kissing her both sides. If she hadn't known better, she might have sworn the words genuine.

He pulled her into towards him as the event's official photographer called out for a pic. The arm thrown over her shoulder allowed his hand to fall too close to her nipple. Once the flash exploded, she shrugged him off.

"I'd no idea you were here tonight," she said, trying and failing again to remember the reason Kippy and Katrina, his cousin, hated this man so much. When she'd returned to Richie, John and Kippy earlier, the latter appeared to give off sparks.

"What the fuck's he doing here," he hissed, pointing in Mick's direction.

"I don't know," Lillian said. "Come on, let's go to my table. We can avoid him altogether."

"A favour," Mick said now, holding up a hand to dismiss the PR guy who'd made his way towards them. The guy backed off. "And I've a book to flog." At that, he smiled. Lillian had forgotten how devastating the Rock 'n' Roll chef was; the smile more dazzling than ever since he'd had teeth done.

As the 90s new breed of celebrity chef, he'd been everywhere. His TV show, despite airing on a Friday night, achieved record ratings. He featured in magazines and newspapers, endlessly telling female journalists he just wanted to meet a woman who understood him.

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