“I like you Paolo, I like you a lot.”
Paolo was taken aback by what Livia had said. He’d just called round to her house to collect her car to take it for a service. Not knowing what to say, he said nothing. This might be an awful trap.
“I think you like me too... I mean I think you like me a lot!”
“Who wouldn’t?” he managed. “But...”
“But there’s my husband!”
“One of the bosses.”
“That may not be the case for ever...”
“Which? Husband or boss?”
“Either, both, whatever!”
Suddenly, Livia kissed him, and Paolo kissed back.
Knowing Paolo was sweet on her, Livia encouraged him while simultaneously keeping him at bay. She was merciless. He knew that to consider a move on her was impossible. But she would tantalise him, with physical closeness, casual touches, furtive eye contact and more. He ought to have kept his distance, but he was a man and the growing intensity of his feelings, together with the dangerous thrill of forbidden and poisonous fruit was overwhelming. He wanted her so badly that reason was in jeopardy.
But he was smart. His time might come one day.
Indeed! But on Livia’s terms.
Next to Terry, Paolo was Tony’s most trusted ‘associate’. Paolo was about 10 years younger than the rest, late 20s, enthusiastic and bright. It was to Paolo that the twins turned when they needed something technical.
Paolo was a quick learner, but tended to keep that under wraps as he was aware that Tony, in particular, had a problem with people who got too smart.
But Paolo had a secret. A secret passion. A secret painful passion for the very pretty and utterly bewitching Livia, the wife of one of his bosses.
But Livia knew that... and would exploit it.
Livia left from Southampton. She was delighted, without showing it as she said a long, lingering goodbye to Terry, as if it was the last. Terry had insisted upon driving her to the port, along with an enormous amount of luggage. She was on her own. Free! No Terry and his neediness.
Livia had known that in the end Terry would acquiesce to Tony’s demands, and indeed, if he hadn’t, then she would have had to revert to Plan B.
But Plan A it was. And tonight she was free to enjoy herself, with, or without, whomsoever she might choose.
Livia lost no time in doing her research. Terry meanwhile was getting increasingly anxious about Tony’s reaction. Livia, worrying that Terry might back out, booked a first class cabin on a 23 day cruise of the entire Caribbean and presented him with a fait accompli. Terry was angry, but he sublimated it, given that things were going so well with Livia. He would need to get Tony’s OK first. Tony wasn’t happy.
Livia knew how it would be and offered Terry a compromise. Her compromise was to allow Terry to fly to join her in Barbados after a week.
“Not around. What do you mean by that?” asked Terry, suspiciously.
“Well how about we take a holiday? A long holiday. A holiday of a lifetime. A cruise maybe? Tony will pretty soon realise how much he needs you... and then when you return, you can adjust the balance of power.”
This could be an endurance test, but Livia might get to places she’d never been, because Tony didn’t encourage Terry to go anywhere for too long.
Terry thought about Livia’s suggestion. He could easily afford it. Luka would be away at boarding school. But...
“Tony won’t like it!”
“Get even? What do you mean by that?”
Terry’s question suggested he might be tacitly interested in redressing the balance, but if that meant turning on his twin, well that would be something else. But Livia knew just how far she could push Terry.
“Look Terry, I don’t mean you should beat him up or bump him off, no way! But if his bullying you is bugging you, then you might consider doing something about it. You’ve told me how much you do for him and never get the credit, well maybe see how he copes when you’re not around.”
Sex is such a powerful tool, in the right hands. And Livia knew her sexcraft and could use it. Over a period of just a few weeks, she had slowly and subtly built up Terry’s resentment of his brother. She’d made no personal attacks on Tony, but merely asked questions, the answers to which prompted increasing dissatisfaction with his lot, as Terry processed things.
Livia marvelled at how easy a subject he’d been.
“I’ve been thinking, Liv, Tony treats me like second class. I’m gonna have it out with him!”
“Don’t get mad Terry, get even!” she suggested.
“Why did Tony end up boss?... and not both of you...or you?” Livia asked, climbing off her husband, after an experience he wouldn’t soon forget. This was a time when she could ask anything, when he was hers alone.
“I often wonder that myself.” Terry replied ruefully, gazing up at his beautiful wife. “We’re supposed to be identical after all.”
“I think he’s just bullied his way there, whilst you’re more of a nice guy.”
“Bullied? Who’s he bullied?” Terry asked naively.
Livia said no more then. He could process things slowly. She would programme him in stages.
Being the ‘right twin’ clearly delighted Terry. Having earlier been compared unfavourably to Tony by Livia, here she was with a change of heart, and a heart that seemed to be warming to him. Whilst he kept this to himself, he had always felt undervalued as the minor twin. Tony always seemed to look out for Terry and maybe was oblivious to the inner feelings of his brother, but Terry’s resentment of his twin ran high. A smart woman, Livia realised this... and would use it.
She seized upon post-coital opportunities to fan the flames and heighten Terry’s resentment.
From having had a rather cool relationship with Terry, Livia decided she should get much closer to him. Terry still adored her and had accepted that great beauty might be accompanied by distance in a relationship and indeed that it might be part of its attraction. Over a relatively short period of time, Livia became much more affectionate to him. He was delighted with this, but couldn’t help himself commenting on it.
“You’re unusually friendly these days Liv... should I be suspicious?”
“Not really, I just started to realise how lucky I am. After all, I chose the right twin.”
The three women met regularly, without Tony’s knowledge as Sofia’s alternative phone strategy for Marcia seemed to be working. Whilst on the face of it, the simple tasks of first killing Terry and then Tony seemed straightforward, organising and getting away with it maybe wasn’t.
“Leave Terry to me” said Livia mysteriously at one meeting. “Best you don’t know.... for your own protection.” she added, when the other two quizzed her on what she had planned. “Let’s say, I know a man... and that’s all I’ll say.”
The other two thought that if Livia was prepared to take the risk...
Livia saw Sofia as an interloper who had breezed into Tony’s household, full of confidence and, although she had no inkling of the reality, a potential sexual distraction for him. Livia was jealous of her in that respect but also that Sofia didn’t have the limitations that marriage, motherhood and the particular burden that marriage to one of the twins brought.
On the other hand, in Sofia there seemed to be someone wanting to bring the twins down, someone looking for allies in her venture, someone seeking power herself. Sofia was someone she needed to be close to. For now.
Tony reflected later that night that he'd been getting a bit paranoid, worrying what the women were up to. So although he'd planned to interrogate Livia too, he didn't go and confront her, but let it ride for now. Given the history between him and Livia, he felt he needed to watch his step so as not to arouse Terry's suspicions.
That may have been a mistake, because, despite the beating he'd given her, Livia was still attracted to him and might have given something away which would keep him vigilant.
And Livia disliked Sofia, and had her own plans.
The next day, Sofia went shopping for a new smartphone for Marcia. She explained.
"Tony's keeping track of where you and your phone goes. He's got one of those phone tracking app things. You're not to challenge him on it but use this phone whenever you want to go somewhere you don't want him to know about. Leave your other phone at home; you know how we women seem to lose track of things! If for some reason he tries to call you on your old phone, always call him back on it later to avoid suspicion."
"Neat!" exclaimed Marcia.
After that, Sofia worked on Tony, getting him in the mood. She relaxed while he did what he wanted with her, whilst quietly planning her next move. Information was power and, without realising it, Tony had given one of his games away. In a strange way, Sofia almost enjoyed this evening's encounter with him for that reason, despite his clumsy self-interested use of her.
'Keeping your enemy close certainly works', she thought, pleased with how she'd managed to control his jealousy, which she also realised was one of Tony's Achilles heels.
She now needed to get Marcia sorted out.
Having thrown Tony off the scent with her convincing explanation, one that he wanted to believe, Sofia asked him.
"How come you knew Marcia and Livia had come up to town for lunch with me? Have you got snoops everywhere Tony?"
Tony, emboldened, let his guard down just a touch when he replied.
"I ain't got no snoops, I just always know where Marcia is, all the time." He was part bragging, part threatening, which might have silenced any other woman, but Sofia continued.
"You sound like you've got supernatural powers, Tony"
"Something like that." he replied.
Then Sofia twigged.
"And why's that? Why does she think you're screwing a black man?" asked Tony, now measuring his mood.
"Because she felt sure I was seeing someone for some reason, sisterly instinct maybe. And she was right, but the someone I'm screwing is this someone." Sofia pointed at Tony. "Marcia and Livia came and met me for lunch and were pumping me so hard that I spun them a line, and hinted that my new man might not be white. I think it’s completely thrown her off the scent."
Sofia's fearless explanation seemed to convince Tony. Boy, she had some guts.
Sofia's comment took Tony totally by surprise, for its accuracy and for her nerve. Was she saying she was sleeping with a black man like Marcia suggested? It was rare that Tony was caught off-guard, but her calmness threw him. He had to say something.
"I never said nothing about no black man!"
"I know you didn't, but that was what you were thinking." was Sofia's reply, "and that's because Marcia must have told you I was screwing a black man."
"Well are you?" Tony demanded, his anger starting to rise.
"Of course not, but Marcia thinks I am."
Not one for small talk or any other kind of preamble, it was unusual that Tony seemed to want to chat first. But Sofia half expected that and started babbling on about little Giovanna. Then Tony asked about her work as a retail property agent in the West End. He moved on to the fact that she had a lot of freedom, gathering from the long lunch hours.
Tony was being subtle, slowly bringing the conversation round, but in Sofia he had met his match.
“Don’t beat about the bush, Tony, you just want to know about my black man!”