Mickey's stories are always full of tension.
The course of true love seldom runs smoothly.
As in this example, the young people get off to a bad start.....
The Secretary seemed marginally more knowledgeable than the Receptionist, but even she was less than helpful.
"I definitely have an appointment," Lonxa told her. "I was sent for. I'm the Mobile Massage service."
"Mr Dernier is a very busy man," the Secretary said doubtfully, twisting her impossibly brown curls around one little finger. She consulted the big desk diary in front of her. "There's nothing in here," she said firmly.
"Exactly," Lonxa told her, lowering her voice. "Don't you think that's odd? Mr Dernier is a busy man, as you say. So why has he left this hour free?"
"He wants to consult me, but he doesn't want the whole world to know."
The Secretary nodded, as if admitting the possibility. She knew her boss, so maybe she was beginning to understand at last. She'd made up her mind. She came out from behind the big reception desk and led Lonxa towards the inner doors. Then she stopped, one last time.
"I'm still not 100% sure," she muttered.
"Sure," Lonxa said, reassuring. "I get this all the time." She put down her sports bag and pulled the zip open. She took out a thin ring binder and opened it, turning over the pages discreetly.
"My qualifications," she said. "I've been studying massage for over five years. I'm perfectly respectable, if that's what you're worried about."
The Secretary didn't smile. She was doing a thorough job: she read all the certificates carefully. "You'll have to forgive me," she said quietly. "Mr Dernier has been caused a lot of trouble in the past. Dubious women have tried to trap him into situations and then blackmail him afterwards."
"This happens a lot?" Lonxa asked sceptically.
"Four times in the last two and a half years. Mr Dernier is a very attractive bachelor."
The poor woman didn't need to say anymore. Lonxa could tell from the whimsical tone in her voice, that this Secretary was not only very admiring of her boss; also very protective; but even a wee bit in love.
It was sad, but it happened.
Lonxa looked at her critically: this Secretary wasn't such a bad looking woman, either. Painfully scraped back deep-died hair and a fierce expression, but she was tall, imposing and fitted her carefully tailored suit impressively. With more makeup and a suitably low-cut evening dress, she would make a desirable dinner companion, in some dimly lit and expensive restaurant. The sort that Mr Dernier could well afford.
She wondered how painful it must be for this devoted employee to be reading about her boss in the gossip columns of the national newspapers. And how awful to see photos of him with some of the most beautiful women in the country draped over his arm at charity events.
"I didn't know he was a bachelor," Lonxa said. "I thought he was married. Maybe separated?"
"He's a widower," the Secretary told her shortly, then snapped the binder shut and handed it back. Apparently satisfied - with the qualifications at least - she led the way into her boss's huge office.
Lonxa stepped forward nervously onto the deep white rug in front of the most enormous desk she had ever seen. She was momentarily confused: the room was empty. The Secretary pulled the double doors closed behind them and seemed to be waiting. Sure enough, they could soon hear the sound of a voice, and the next moment, Mr Bronston Dernier, property magnate, came bustling into the room from some kind of dressing room or bathroom off to the right. He saw them and moved forward, but didn't pause with the conversation he was having into the phone clasped to his ear. Lonxa thought at first it was a mobile, but she soon saw that it was a cordless, taken from the expensive looking system on one side of the desk. Mr Dernier didn't seem to be bothered with sitting there, though, he headed for a sofa off to the right, beside the main door and perched on its edge.
The Secretary announced: "Miss Lonxa Kamen, the massage lady." Her boss waved them both nearer but didn't stop talking.
Lonxa put her bag on the rug and moved forward determinedly, then stopped. She realised at once she wouldn't be able to examine the man where he was sitting now. She looked around. Nearer the other door was a chaise lounge, padded leather and open at one end.
She went up to it, turned and said: "Sit here."
The businessman looked surprised. Perhaps he wasn't used to receiving orders, rather than giving them. Still, he acquiesced graciously, changing position, moving across and sitting on the edge of the unit where Lonxa was pointing, but still talking.
"Where does it hurt?" Lonxa demanded.
He pointed at his lower back, on the right hand side. She grabbed his knee and moved it round, so that she could sit beside him and have access to the affected area. The problem was that he was wearing a suit. Normally Lonxa would have insisted that her client take off their shirt and lie down. It was clear Mr Dernier wasn't intending to.
As the Secretary hovered, still looking uncertain and concerned, Lonxa began edging the man's jacket up and out of the way. She place one hand on the small of his back and he practically jumped up in the air. The Secretary gasped.
"Hold this," Lonxa said firmly, and put one of the woman's hands on the edge of the man's coat.
"So," she said quietly, talking to her client, "it's sore, is it? This been going on long?"
The man shook his head, in between talking.
Lonxa wasn't planning to take any more of this nonsense. She could sense that the man's back had all the makings of a serious injury, and wasn't about to let his business get in the way of her treating him.
She took hold of a fistful of silk shirt and gradually eased it up. The Secretary's eyes began to bulge out of her head. Lonxa looked at the pale skin with a skilled eye. Placing a hand gingerly on the area just above his belt, she could feel the muscle tension.
Mr Dernier gasped and made an instant decision. "I'll call you back," he shouted into the phone. Suddenly, he was giving Lonxa his full attention.
"It is bad?" he asked her directly.
She made soothing noises as she ran the palms of her hands over the skin. She could feel the heat coming off the straining muscles.
"It's bad," she told him. "You play squash?"
"I do. But I didn't get this on court."
Lonxa started to notice that the Secretary was going crimson with embarrassment. She decided to let the woman off the hook.
"Go and get a glass of water," she told her, then turned to her client: "You, take off that jacket and shirt and lie flat on your stomach."
The man once again followed orders. When she had him supine she was much better able to assess the damage. Her fingers brushed lightly against the tender skin.
"You've torn something here," she said quietly.
The Secretary returned, clutching the water and looking concerned. She obviously wasn't used to her boss undressed, and she didn't know where to look. Lonxa continued to work on her new client, trying to put the Secretary out of her mind as she made very effort to concentrate. The phone rang.
"Answer it," Lonxa snapped.
"Mr Dernier?" the Secretary pleaded.
Lonxa fixed her with a gaze. "Tell whoever it is, that Mr Dernierre is too busy to come to the phone right now. Do it!"
Her client was starting to whimper slightly under her skilled manipulation.
"I was told you were the best," he gasped.
"I can't work miracles," she told him firmly. "You need to start looking after yourself. The way you sit! You're not doing your muscles any favours."
"I'm feeling better already."
Lonxa was frustrated. It was clear that whatever accident had caused the difficulty had only been made worse by the businessman's hectic lifestyle and nervous energy. What he really needed right now was a week in bed resting, but she doubted he would be willing to take her advice. She was beginning to wonder how she was going to tell him.
"Mr Dernier, it's Oswald," the Secretary said.
"Bring it over," he commanded and waited impatiently while the Secretary carried the phone to him. He suddently jumped up, brushing Lonxa aside. "I've got to take this call," he told her. He began pacing backwards and forwards, the phone jammed to his ear. With the other hand, he began rubbing his bare back, feeling the improvements.
Lonxa was outraged.
She had never had such a thoughtless client before. Most of the men she treated took care of their bodies. They were sportsmen or professional athletes, cricketers, one or two footballers. Some big names. They depended on their fitness to make their income, and so took their health seriously. She didn't have any trouble giving them orders, and usually they were grateful for her expert advice.
This man was different. He was obviously used to a busy life, plenty of socialising, talking, wining, dining. He was tall and well muscled, but there was the start of flab around his midriff. Lonxa's experienced eye could tell her that he would lose his good shape in a decade if he continued to take it so much for granted. She had seen it before: men in their twenties with natural energy and quick reactions, by the time they were into their thirties, it all started to go wrong. Too much heavy eating and not enough exercise, bad foods, too rich and too highly processed, late nights and too much alcohol. It was a lethal combination. Often it led to early heart attacks, sometimes to lethargy, depression and obesity.
This man wouldn't make it, she decided. He abused his body and treated it with too much indifference. The evidence was the painful injury he had caused himself. If he didn't let up, he'd cause some serious muscle damage, maybe even paralysis. At the least there was the danger of muscle spasm and lower back pain into his old age.
It was a shame, Lonxa was thinking. He was certainly an attractive man - at the moment. The Secretary was right to be attracted to him. Apart from the mainly taut body, he had an interesting set to his face, good strong bones and a sexy curve to his lips. He had piercing dark eyes and a wide forehead, good thick black hair, cut well and away from his face, and a commanding voice. He was everything the Secretary implied he was. I'd hate to see him in ten years, Lonxa was thinking, then made up her mind: I won't, she decided.
She pulled the Secretary aside.
"I'm going," she told her firmly, and started to move.
Mr Dernier didn't stop talking for a moment, but seemed to read the situation. He began motioning frantically to his assistant. Lonxa ignored him. By the time she got to the door, the Secretary had caught her up.
"Mr Dernier wants me to pay you," the woman said.
"For what?" Lonxa whispered furiously. "I haven't helped him. He isn't listening to me. He won't get better. Whatever happened today is only temporary. He'll be cursing me in the morning."
"He always pays his debts," the Secretary said, shocked. "He values consultants enormously."
"He's not my client!" Lonxa hissed. "I don't want him. He ignores everything I say. He's treating me with contempt. I don't want to ever see him again."
She swung her bag onto her back and stalked up the corridor, not looking back. She could hear the Secretary hurrying along behind her, but tried to ignore her.
"Where can I reach you?" the woman wailed.
Lonxa rounded again. "Look, I've told you," she said. "Yes, you will need me again because that problem he's got isn't going to go away, not with the way he's treating it. But, no, I will not return. I only work for people who appreciate what I'm doing for them and value me as a person. Your boss does neither. I've never met anyone so rude, selfish, self-centred - "
Lonxa had to stop. She suddently saw the tears forming in the woman's eyes. It was pitiful. She realised, then, that the Secretary was agreeing with her about everything - she knew it was all true - but maybe that was why she loved the man. He was infuriating, but wonderful - to her.
Not to me, Lonxa thought fiercely to herself. He may look good, but it isn't going to last. His bad habits are going to ruin his life.
"I don't need this," Lonxa told the poor woman. "Look, I'm sorry. Look after him. Do what you can."
It won't be enough, she knew, but there was nothing she could do. There was that old saying about leading a horse to water and not being able to make him drink. Mr Dernier was some horse, maybe a highly-strung and beautiful thoroughbred, but he was acting like the worst kind of dimwit. He thought he knew everything about everything, but when it came to anatomy - well, Lonxa was the expert. It was too bad for him if he never came to realise that.
Feeling sorry for the Secretary, she took out a card and put it on the main desk.
"Look, if it makes you feel any better," she told her, "my mobile number is on that. I don't usually give it out. I usually reserve it for my clients. Mr Dernier is not my client. He doesn't have the sense to be, not at the moment. If he ever changes personality, you can give me a call. Meanwhile, like I say, do your best. That's all you can do."
As she walked out of the plush office and went over to the lift, Lonxa looked back briefly. The sight of that Secretary looking so anxious and forlorn, it haunted her for the rest of the day.
(To Be Continued)