Smoking Hot Ch. 01

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Welcome to this first chapter of a completed story, which will be about 13 chapters in all. A new chapter will be posted every few days.

It’ll mostly appear in Gay Male, but there are some heterosexual interludes for reasons which will become clear if you read this chapter.

Contains British and Irish English, bisexuals, and lots of booze.

I was inspired to start this thanks to a certain popular virus – my symptoms including a burning throat and chest like I’d smoked half a dozen cheap cigars and downed many shots of whisky. Please alert me politely to remaining factual and continuity errors, but note political comments are likely to be deleted.

Hope you enjoy. Please leave a comment.


“So, what have you been doing recently, Gareth?” Having moved round the long dining table before dessert – fourth of five courses, not counting the lemon sorbet palette-cleanser – I asked my new left-hand neighbour the obligatory question. “Can’t believe it’s been twenty years.”

At least this university dinner was a specific reunion for my subject. I hadn’t bothered with the general uni or college reunions, having no desire to see people I’d cared little for at the time, but my course-mates and I had been a tight-knit group. Only forty of us, plus a few more who’d joined some of our modules and been assimilated; after three years of lectures and tutorials, not to mention the group assignments and wild parties, we’d become bonded for life.

Legally, in some cases. Our gang were up to three weddings – four, if you included Melanie getting hitched to the young grad who’d tutored us in second year. About half of us had stayed close, some living together after graduation as their jobs took them to the same city, more of us in touch on Facebook and coming down for the odd party.

“Oh, hi Laura. Y’know. Lots of patent law, too much work, still single. Much like when you asked me last time.”

I hadn’t seen Gareth since Easter. It was now a warm evening for November. He looked great in his dinner-jacket and black bow-tie.

“And the band?” He was the singer and joint front man for a covers band that actually made some money on the small-club circuit.

“Taking a break. Mike-the-guitar had a baby. Hoping to do more gigs in the New Year, with a bit of luck. I’m practising a few new songs – figured people who like INXS should like Duran Duran and Pet Shop Boys – what d’you reckon?”

“More classics from a suave enigmatic singer the fans will drool over, you mean?”

“Flattery will get you everywhere, darling!” He looked me up and down, lecherously.

We both knew it wouldn’t. Gareth was as irredeemably gay as it’s possible to be. Not that it had ever stopped rumours about me and him. One peril of being one of six women on the Materials Science course was the assumption that I’d shagged most of the guys, particularly as I was still close friends with several of them. True, I’d often ended up in their rooms late into the night, but invariably it was me listening to gossip and their woes, not us bonking each other’s brains out.

Well, nearly invariably. I’d gone out with one guy for a while, and had a drunken shag with Will, once. Which no-one would let me forget! Then, one night, Gareth had gotten maudlin about being gay while all the homosexual men were dying off, and wishing he could be straight – if nothing else, to be less of a disappointment to his parents. We’d both been trashed and it had seemed a good idea for us to try it on. He’d looked even more like Michael Hutchence, then.

Neither of us had told anyone about that experiment.

The group of us hung out on the lawns afterwards, on the way to our rooms provided in the hall of residence, available to alumni outside term-time.

I moved round to catch up with another good friend. Sandy-haired Adrian looked his age of nearing forty, but was wearing it well. No receding hairline as yet – the lighter shade suiting him better than his previous light brown – good haircut, side parting and enough length to sweep backwards. Rik Mayall had gone for a similar style, recently, along with similar stunning cheekbones and same curmudgeonly fuck-off demeanour. Ade had found a good classic penguin suit, too, showing off his figure.

“Aye, same job with the fire safety crew; no, still not seeing anyone.” He was, at least, looking around him. “Traditional for people to get together at these things, so it is,” Adrian claimed, looking round for potential gossip.

I reminded him I was happily married, as were the other four women who were with us along with their husbands. Even if Dave and I might both indulge in the odd friend-with-benefits, no way would I consider a mate with two decades of baggage while surrounded by a gaggle of rumour-mongering witnesses!

Ade and I had always enjoyed winding each other up, so I continued, “Of course, nothing stopping the men getting together with each other…”

“Yeah, right.” He snorted. I indicated Gareth with my eyes, then returned my attention to Adrian, who blushed.

“Nah, travesti porno not again. Billy big-lawyer, styling his hair for an hour every morning after his healthy wee jog? I think not.” Adrian blew a smoke ring from his ever-present cigarette, failing to sound nonchalant. He’d shagged Gareth once, in second year – an embarrassing incident he’d wanted to keep quiet.

A few yards away, Gareth glanced at me, then Adrian, then shook his head vigorously. He mimed drinking multiple drinks, smoking, and falling over.

I could see both their points. I let Adrian’s gorgeous somewhere-near-Belfast voice wash over me as he told me about the new flat he’d bought a year ago, in a building he’d worked on the plans for, gave an update on his mother and sister, and got me into an argument about recent films.

The following morning, when we all went our separate ways, I was fairly certain no illicit encounters had occurred, despite Gareth’s best attempts to start rumours of wife-swapping. He’d always been a right gossip, both in person and via electronic messaging. Adrian and I had often been subjects of said stories. About half of them were true, though I denied much more than half. Adrian usually refused to comment either way.

Two months after the twenty-year reunion, a few of us met for lunch near London Bridge, in a small upmarket steakhouse Adrian had recommended. The food had been excellent.

A few people ordered coffees after. I considered the time – five pm already – and the effect of caffeine; decided against. Then I noticed the long list of whiskies on the menu, covering every price point up to fifty quid a measure. No wonder Adrian liked the place.

“A glass of your 15-year-old Glenmorangie, please.”

The waiter nodded. It was ten pounds a shot, but I’d heard it had been discontinued and was particularly sought after.

I’d been chatting to the guys on my left – Lindsey, like me, was an honorary guy. Diagonally opposite on my right, Adrian’s ears pricked up. He slid into the empty seat facing me, and raised his wine glass in salute.

“Gotta love a girl who can pronounce Glenmorangie,” he drawled.

“I don’t know… it probably means she has expensive drinking habits!” I rather like how it rhymed with ‘orangey’, whilst the word ‘orange’ has no rhymes at all.

“If you stayed here, aye. Come by my place after – it’s just down the road a wee way – I’ve got all the ones they have here, then treble that.”

I let my gaze trail down to the expensive bottom of the menu page, caught his eye, and nodded. “You’re on.”

His pleased grin, lighting up his whole face, clouded over when Lindsey called out, “Come up and see my whisky collection? That’s the worst chat-up line I’ve ever heard!”

I wanted to shut her up, fast. “Clearly effective, though. For getting company. Nothing more!” My clincher: “If I wanted Adrian, I’d have had him twenty years ago!”

Truth was, I could have done, more because I was there and female, than him lusting after me in particular. And I had been attracted to him, especially to that voice. Adrian came from a rural part of Northern Ireland. Any Irish accent is fairly sexy, but the NI version – not calling it ‘Ulster’ nor ‘the Province’; I had tact even before Adrian and Will schooled us all – is distinctive: broad rolled Rs, the wavy vowel of ‘mouth’, the blunt rhyme of ‘good food’, the sing-song intonation.

I could explain it in phonetic terms, of IPA and monophthongs, but for me, there was a much easier way to tell: the Northern Irish accents made my cunt moist, in a way Dublin- or Cork-influenced ones never did. Add years of conditioning from Will’s deep rolling East Belfast tones, and Adrian’s gravelly surprising bass, and it had become a nervous reflex.

Which I prayed neither of them had ever noticed.

I’d had to explain this to a Coleraine girl I’d ended up in bed with once, who couldn’t believe an English lass had identified her origin so closely.

“So, every time you hear Gerry Adams on the news…?” She squealed with laughter.

“Him, not so much! OK, just the teensiest bit if I’m not listening to his words… Looks and personality are crucial too, present company included, I’m not that shallow! Neither one of his voices do it for me!”

I did admit the ‘voice’ of Adams that I’d grown up with had been much sexier, back when Sinn Fein’s convicted leader was banned from being broadcast on British radio, so they’d simply arrange for a different Northern Irish bloke to read out his words.

“Fair point. That guy did have a nice voice, didn’t he?”

“Probably why he was chosen for the job. Propaganda in action!”

I’d had sex with Will once, during first year, but happily yielded to let Lindsey go out with him. Nice enough guy, really, but sports-mad and a tendency to being a bit of an arrogant self-centred prick if not squashed regularly. Thinks his opinion on everything is worth listening to, well-informed or not. Lindsey has acquired “really, dear?” as a reflex, along with liberal güzel porno use of phrases such as “Will, my dearest, dearest darling, shut the fuck up!”

Adrian, I’d left untouched. Despite his self-effacing bluster, telling everyone to avoid getting close to him because he was a right bastard, I liked him. We’d done a few coursework projects together. He wasn’t any sort of alpha male, only five-ten, slender, chin-length light brown hair falling over his face in Nineties Madchester fashion, but his poker-faced dry humour appealed to me. Bluntly, the only reasons I hadn’t responded to his sex appeal and wide-open offers were his chain smoking and the fact that he had a real drink problem.

To be noticed as actually having a drinking problem, amongst a gang of British students, was quite an achievement. The fact that Ade would bring a square bottle of vodka, Tia Maria or Cointreau to a party was seen as a mere quirk; he claimed he wasn’t a fan of beer because, being a small guy, it made him need to piss too often. But that still meant downing a half-litre of spirits early in the evening, followed up by whatever was around, and blacking out around the time people were starting to fall asleep. It never seemed to do him any harm, and he never drove when under the influence, but I got the general impression he was hanging on to sanity by his fingernails during the week, and seeking oblivion as fast as possible come Friday nights.

By second year, he’d admitted that was precisely the case. He’d somehow focused on his degree enough to emerge from third year with a First and a scholarship to do a Masters, and then found himself a high-paying job in London. Whereupon he’d been introduced to more ways to get himself blotto.

It hadn’t gone well. As they say, cocaine is God’s way of saying you have too much money.

He’d managed to charm his way into other jobs, at less-prestigious firms, but there had been a few more sackings and sudden ‘resignations by mutual agreement’. I’d meet him every few months for dinner – he’d introduced me to the seductiveness of a good whisky, at the Scottish Whisky Society’s club in Farringdon, going through their lists in a bid to find one where I liked both the taste and the aftertaste, rather than gagging on one or the other. It was a woodsy, caramel-tasting Highland Park which had won me over. Since then, I’d used the same mellow malt to convert my husband and many others to the joys of the ‘water of life’.

One time, I thought Adrian had really cocked up. He’d never been remotely amenable to the idea of therapy, before, but one evening he announced to me he’d spaffed his savings and signed up for a fortnight at the Priory – the famous rehab clinic used by celebs needing to get clean. He lit an extra-long Silk Cut, and I awaited the explanation.

“Tell me. If ye were in a wee spot of bother, would you go for a solicitor or a barrister? For your defence?”

I’d never hired a lawyer in my life; only knew barristers were the ones whose living was based on defending people in the Crown Court, though some solicitors could also appear there, now. But if it was Crown, for serious offences, as opposed to the local magistrates court…

“What the fuck have you done, Ade?”

“Well, I like that! Assuming I’m guilty. It’s because I’m Irish, isn’t it?”

“Not, it’s because I’ve met you. OK. What are you being done for?”

“Got lifted for assaulting a police officer.” He exhaled smoke, almost succeeding in looking carefree.

“Ah. Did you do it?”

“The witnesses say so.”

“Who were the witnesses?”

“Four other police officers in the polis station.”

“Uh-huh. You’re fucked then, mate.”

“Aye. The only chance I’ve got is with a barrister, I reckon, but it’s a thousand quid.” A deep drag of the cigarette.


He nodded. “I’ve got the money, though, if I don’t go on another bender for a couple months.”

“Could be well spent, I guess?” Tact prevented me from retorting, ‘what’s the chances of that?’

“It could. Just, I wasn’t sure if a barrister might piss them off, pulling out big guns for a solicitor-level crime.” He accepted a cigar off a roving marketing girl, and picked out a smaller cigarillo for me. She ignited them for us. I liked it, but wouldn’t be making a habit of it. My husband would give me a sound spanking when he found out I’d been smoking anything. Not that that would put me off, you understand, but he’d look at me, with his sad-dog eyes.

“If you got found guilty, what’s the worst-case scenario?”

“Fine and a suspended sentence, most likely. I’m no’ worried about that. Just, my Chartered status requires being a respectable member of society. I have to sign each year to say I still meet the criteria – yeah, I know; it’s funny, shut the fuck up – I just did it again, last month – but if I’m convicted, anyone who finds out could have me lose my job. And sure there’s enough people out there I’ve pissed off…”

“What was the actual charge?”

“GBH.” I winced. “Grievous Bodily Harm,” he anal porno continued unnecessarily – I’d watched more than enough cop shows to understand. “I just went into the cop shop to ask for help in calling a taxi, because no-one was understanding me on the phone, waved my phone at this guy, but he fell over…”

“Hm. A good brief should be able to get that down to a simple assault, which could be a misunderstanding, surely? Enough for reasonable doubt, I’d think?”

“You reckon so, too? Aye. You’re right, he’s probably worth it. Now, you have to try this Highland one…”

I don’t remember much else of that night, though more came back when I was reconciling my bank statement in horror, sure there must be a mistake, then finding multiple cash machine receipts confirming how much money I’d withdrawn. Still, it could have been much worse. I hadn’t ended up in bed with him.

Over the next two months I got a few text messages from the Priory rehab centre. He wasn’t supposed to have access to the phone.

‘Brief says me booking in here before he suggested it is a good sign.’

‘God, alcoholics are boring!’

‘I tell a lie. The smackheads are way more boring. And the coke fiends are truly a special brand of arsehole.’

I didn’t reply, ‘Serve you right!’

Later, ‘Freedom at last!’

And, a few weeks after that, ‘Common assault, bound over for six months!’

I responded, ‘You what?’, though I guessed it was good news.

‘Minimal offence. And sentence is spent in 6 months so doesnt need to be declared on my Charter renewal, though wouldnt particularly matter if I did.’

‘Congratulations. Now, don’t do it again!’

‘Spoilsport. Worry ye not, dont wanna get my hands dirty layin them on the filth…’

I worried anyway, but by some miracle he held down that job for another two years. During which he got together with Diane.

Somehow, she’d got through his layers of defences, and he was smitten. He’d brought her to a college meet-up, and Lindsey and I liked her immediately. A vivacious Edinburgh redhead, no-nonsense, wicked sense of humour. And she didn’t take any crap off him.

“I’ve told him, if he wants to get married, no more benders or blackouts. He has to talk to someone, doesn’t have to be me, can be the lovely wee therapist I found him, but I’m no’ getting hitched to a wastrel!”

He made a ‘what can you do?’ gesture, and snuggled up to her. I’d never seen him so open-looking, slow smiles spreading across his face whenever he looked at her. They’d insisted on a small wedding in London, to the disgust of both their families, and become a sedate, charming couple to the outside world. I suspected Diane had more than her charm to ‘keep him in order’ as he put it; his poker face wavered when I casually referenced fetish clubs, dominance and submission, and such. Of course, that did imply I too knew about such things, resulting in Adrian’s flirting with me escalating a few notches, both of us knowing it wouldn’t go anywhere.

Then Diane had got ill.

It was the first obvious sign of the strength of their relationship. She’d ordered him not to get blind drunk again, not while she needed him, nor afterwards. A few of us had watched over him in shifts, after she died, but after a couple bad weeks, he’d managed it. Mostly.

They’d had five years together, leaving Adrian a widower at thirty-four. He’d moved house, from their suburban semi to a tiny flat in regenerating inner-London Bermondsey, but otherwise seemed, now, to be taking it in his stride. As he confided in me, he’d done most of his grieving while she was in hospital and then the hospice.

“One thing about cancer, at least you get a wee bit of warning, and the people caring for her and me, they knew what they were doing, looking after the both of us.”

Another five years, a nicer apartment, a mellow Adrian, and he was as eligible a bachelor as ever one saw. Except for the replaced emotional walls, never letting anyone too close, he seemed genial, charming, laid-back company. I guessed no-one would live up to Diane.

He’d concluded, years ago, that I’d put him firmly into the friendship zone, i.e. not relationship material. Which was true enough. Except that, since my late teens, I’d embraced the idea of friends with benefits.

I wondered what his view of such things might be. I got the impression he hadn’t been completely chaste since Diane. Or even, possibly, with her. I knew he wasn’t entirely straight, thanks to a couple of the guys’ youthful dalliances and experiments, not just Gareth’s. I could see him dialling up a takeaway delivery followed by looking up a man on Gaydar to go with it.

Now that would be better watching than Saturday night telly!

Or him educating me on his body as well as good whisky – I’d take that as an entertainment option, too.

Thing was, though, I didn’t want yet more rumours about me circulating round the group. Aside from almost none of them being true, my husband Dave got annoyed when people felt sorry for him, thinking he was the unwilling cuckold being cheated on. The fact that he loved hearing what – who – I got up to never allayed anyone’s concerns. Besides, he had more other partners than I did! It just wasn’t something I wanted to share with others when he wasn’t there – people always asked such prurient questions.

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