Standing in the bay window exposed to the penetrating morning sunlight, was a female form as divine as Aphrodite. The sunlight filtered through the jardinière net curtain onto her raven black hair tingeing the outer edges with an iridescent halo of blue. Henley noted the way her nightdress hung from her breasts in a way that modesty had forsaken. The opaque satin material may as well have been the sheerest of chiffons in Henley's mind's eye, which refocused his imagination to display the contours of her body in sharp silhouette. Her robe was casually draped over the back of a chair. A lone woman in the dining room of a small bed and breakfast could not have appeared more vulnerable and yet, here she was standing proud and magnificent. When she heard Henley's ungainly entrance with his cumbersome trolley crashing against the door, she was not startled. She turned her head slowly to face him.
Messages scrolled through Henley's mind in milliseconds, like a Twitter app on ecstasy. Don't look...yes do look...no I'm not a pervert...god she's beautiful...turn your head...she hasn't let herself go like Gloria...
"Good Morning" she said. Henley's lips moved soundlessly until his voice emerged in a sort of semi-squeak "Good morning." His head lowered respectfully but his eyes remained locked into position like twin bubbles in a spirit level. He shook his head from side to side to set himself free from the trance she held him in and said "I'm sorry breakfast isn't until eight-thirty." She seemed to be amused by his discomfort and made no effort to conceal her smirk, or indeed her modesty.
"If you like," he said awkwardly, "I'll come back in five minutes if you like."
"Like what?" she said with a disarming smile.
"Well you know."
"I don't know."
"I know, you've said that" she said as she turned to face him.
Henley looked behind him through the open door, "I'll just go and get-"
"You'll do no such thing. I'm sorry, you need to set the tables and I'm in your way." She stepped forward and picked up the robe.
"Not at all, you're welcome to stay. I'll even make you a coffee if you like."
She pulled her robe around her and tightened the belt. "I had to take this off. It's so hot in here."
"I have to have heating on almost all the year round. A lot of my clientèle are getting on in years. You can keep it off if..."
She raised one eyebrow with one hand on her hip. She presented herself as a powerful woman needing only to display a glimpse of her armoury to get what she wanted. In this case a raised eyebrow was sufficient. A warning shot across the bows.
"Perhaps not," he said, correcting himself a little too quickly.
Her face was no longer softened by the morning light, now that she had stepped away from the window. Henley estimated she may be a good ten years older than Gloria, but nevertheless, she was a very attractive woman.
"Tea or coffee?" he asked pointing out the drinks dispensers that were set up on the trolley.
"Coffee please, black without... and not too strong."
"Coffee it is Mrs-"
"Fanelli... Mrs Fanelli."
"Yes of course Mrs Fanelli. I didn’t recognise you without your-"
"Clothes on? I’m sorry I’m inappropriately dressed for your dining room."
Henley looked away again and said "Oh no, feel free... Don't get me wrong, I like my guests to feel they’re at home..."
Mrs Fanelli raised an eyebrow, "I'll bet you do-"
"No no, I didn’t mean it like that... good grief no... I mean I’ve got better things to... I mean my Gloria doesn’t get dressed until about midday... you should see me on a hot day when I start the breakfast..."
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