Miss Davenport Presents: Chapter One
Miss Aurora Davenport took a deep breath and stepped through the curtains onto the stage. She paused to great effect and to savour the moment. Then she sashayed to the front of the stage, sequins dancing. With a seductive smile, she raised her arms to acknowledge their applause and to calm it. As the room felt silent, she leaned forward, putting her scarlet-painted lips to the phallus of the microphone.
‘Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen – and those who feel no obligation to choose…’
She paused for the laughter to die down, then continued, ‘Welcome to our very special opening night.’
She stepped back from the microphone, took four short steps to her right, curtseyed, kissed her gloved hand to the audience, took a similar number of steps to the left, and did the same. The crowd went wild, the roar making her ears ring. There was a thrill of electricity in the air that made her pulse race. She looked around at their faces, and thought, yes, all of it, all of it has been worthwhile.
She stepped back to the microphone and held up one hand this time for quiet. The audience, knowing for the most part what was expected of them, obligingly fell silent.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Aurora Davenport presents, for your entertainment tonight, here at the brand new Starlight Club, an evening of sophistication and romance.’
She allowed her voice to become husky and seductive on the word ‘romance’. The crowd let their applause rip through the venue, and the curtains rolled smoothly back as the performers to take their places onstage. The Lancaster Ladyboys began to strut their stuff – each clad in an elaborate plunging gown. There were feathers, ruffs, frills and many thousands of sequins.
The Ladyboys were gorgeous – skin flawless and stunningly made up in vivid shades of violet and crimson and fuchsia, bodies lithe and seductively curved, floor-sweeping gowns slashed to hip to reveal, tease and tantalise. Long, long legs any woman could rightly be proud of – except that these were not all women. Some had breasts, others had simply padded their costumes. Some of them had already had The Op, some might never want it or have it, and some were still saving up.
Aurora stepped back into the shadows. She surveyed the stage and nodded to herself in approval. Both lighting and sound were just right. The costumes, the performers’ moves were all perfect. She smiled. She had been right about that flooring too, smooth but not too slippy, plus it absorbed the sound of the occasionally less-than-dainty steps of the more athletically-built Ladyboys.
Aurora turned to survey her audience and again she was pleased. A packed room, doubtful any more people could be fitted in, all spending lavishly on food and booze. Exactly what she’d hoped and planned for.
It was her favourite time of the evening – the clientele had drunk enough to start to really relax and enjoy themselves, but had not yet reached the rowdy, obnoxious stage of the Completely Pissed.
The audience was made up of the usual mix of aficionados, gays, trannies, stag and hen parties, with a string of the just plain curious. Over at the bar, Aurora could pick out Graham and Neil standing together, drinks in hand, clearly talking about the show. And with them, someone else. Aurora caught her breath and held it for a second. Another man. He was watching—not the show—but her. Watching her with an intensity she could feel. Seeing her looking, he toasted her silently with a raise of his glass and took a drink, his eyes never leaving hers. Aurora reminded herself to take a breath and she turned towards the steps.
He was still watching her when Aurora finally reached the bar. He stood as she approached. Aurora felt breathless, flustered. But then she looked into his eyes and suddenly she wasn’t sure.
‘You’re not John.’ She hadn’t meant it to sound like an accusation.
He smiled. Shook his head.
‘I’m Steve. The missing link.’ He leaned in and kissed her cheek, lingering for two seconds longer than conventional. His breath was warm on her skin as he added, ‘many congratulations on your opening night.’
Anything else that he might have said was lost as Graham screamed in delight at seeing her.
‘Darling! Aurora, Darling! Words fail me! What an opening! Just stunning! Outrageous! Oh Darling, it’s just so—so…’ and as words finally did fail, his husband Neil spoke, his voice characteristically soft, his smile gentle.
‘We’re very pleased for you.’ Aurora had always adored Neil’s soft Highland accent. He kissed her cheek. Graham wasn’t finished. He continued to spout superlatives in a loud, high voice.
Aurora smiled as she thought for the zillionth time how strangely sweet it was that a quiet, straight-acting man like Neil should fall for an over-the-top, campest-of-camp Diva like Graham. But they had now been married for two years, together for three years before that and everyone knew they were ecstatically happy.
As Graham continued to enthuse, and Neil turned away to the bar for another round of drinks, Aurora began to feel hot under Steve’s unwavering gaze. She was having trouble concentrating on the show or even responding properly to Graham’s enthusiasm. Patting an imaginary strand of hair into place, Aurora ventured a look in Steve’s direction. He smiled. Sexy as hell. Aurora swallowed and had to look away.
Neil started handing out cocktails, and Aurora accepted hers with a hand that was not quite steady. The Lancaster Ladyboys moved into their next number, the lighting softening as the music changed to languid and sultry.
Neil distracted Graham with a question about someone they knew, and Steve slipped a hand inside Aurora’s arm, took her drink from her hand and set it down, then drew her onto the dance-floor, his arms coming around her as he held her close. His mouth was pressed to her ear as he spoke loudly to be heard above the music.
‘You’re looking fabulous by the way. Don’t know if I mentioned that. Please tell me you’re not seeing anyone at the moment.’
‘I’m not,’ she yelled in his ear. She was sure he chuckled at that, so to take him down a peg or two, she asked,
‘Where’s your gorgeous brother, John?’
But if he was annoyed with her for mentioning John, he didn’t show it. He just shrugged his huge shoulders and yelled back, ‘Out of town at the moment, back in a few days.’ Then he nuzzled her neck. Aurora loved it, but was still irritated he was so confident.
‘I just adore John,’ she said, but Steve remained unriled.
‘It’s because he’s so straight,’ he told her. She looked into his face, quirked an eyebrow at him.
‘And you?’ she asked. He gave her another sexy grin, and bent his head to nibble her neck again, making her almost groan out loud.
‘Oh I adore him too.’
‘That’s not what I…’
‘I know. I’m straight too. Well, maybe not, you know, 100% straight, maybe more like, I don’t know, 75%, if you catch my drift.’ He had to shout to make himself heard, but he kept his tone light. The look he gave her was anything but light. Looking back, Aurora knew that was the moment she fell in love with Steven Reed.
‘Consider your drift well and truly caught,’ she told him and wrapping her arms around his neck, she snuggled in and closed her eyes, concentrating on the music and every movement of his body.
But the music ended, the Ladyboys reached the end of their act, and Aurora had to step away from Steve and go up on stage to introduce the next act. No sooner had she made the introduction than she was called backstage to deal with a number of petty annoyances, and all the time she was thinking of him, impatient to be by his side again, or even better, in his arms.
Someone’s mobile phone had been stolen from a jacket pocket, and one of the performers had experienced a nasty reaction to his earlier chest waxing. Clearly he’d have to take the rest of the night off, but they squabbled uselessly over the matter of whether or not he’d still get paid—not – he should have done it at least one if not two days before to allow for any rashes to settle down—and in the back of her mind, adding to the tension, the memory of Steve’s lips on her shoulder, her mouth, her ear, his hand on her hip, her arm, these memories making her acutely aware of each second wasted as time ticked relentlessly by and she was still back there trying to sort out these stupid problems instead of being out there with him, getting to know the man she instinctively knew was going to be a real rival to her heart’s long-held affection for his brother.
Aurora delivered yet another lecture on the importance of personal safety and reminded everyone not to bring anyone—not even family or lovers—backstage. Then she pointed out that anyone not putting valuables away in their lockers deserved to have their stuff stolen.
So it was almost half an hour before Aurora managed to get away.
The audience was noisier than before but Neil and the two-thirds of the Reed Triplets were still by the bar, sipping cocktails and watching the audience almost as much as the show.
‘I know it’s a cheek,’ Aurora began when she reached them, ‘but can you give me some time after we close? There’s something I need to talk to you about.’
She thought she had kept the apprehension out of her voice, but clearly she was wrong because all three of them looked at her, at one another and back at her, nodding as if to say ‘sounds important’. She already felt a sense of relief. Steve handed her a drink, then took her free hand and kissed it. She smiled and closed her eyes a moment. Courtly love. Don’t you just love it? Most men weren’t polite enough to treat her like a lady. She stood close to him and he slipped an arm around her.
‘So where do you come in the batting order, Steve?’ she asked, mainly to make conversation and take a moment to quieten her hormones.
‘I was born ten minutes after Graham, so twenty-five minutes after John.’
‘So you’re the baby of the family?’
‘I’m all grown up now,’ he growled in her ear. She made a play of looking him up and down.
‘A big boy,’ she smiled.
‘You’ll have to wait and see.’
She laughed, looked him up and down again. Nice. Straight-looking. Not straight-straight but not obvious like Graham. He was more of a Neil, she decided. But sexier. He was tall and blond and broad-shouldered as determined by the basic Reed-triplet template, but he was slimmer, muscular like John, not rounded and feminine like Graham. He wore a small silver bar through his left eyebrow, one small ring in each ear, but nothing around his nose or mouth and no stud glittered in his tongue when he spoke. His hair was short but gelled into soft points. He wore a little eyeliner and mascara, but no lip colour. His short nails were painted a silvery blue. He wore a plain gold signet ring on the little finger of his right hand, a nice but ordinary watch, and no other jewellery. His dark suit was smart but not ostentatious; his shirt hugged his pecs and abs beautifully and was obviously good quality and in a soft neutral colour. Tasteful. He wore proper black leather boots, well-polished.
‘Do I pass?’ he asked her. Graham and Neil were watching the exchange with fond smiles. Aurora leaned to speak into his ear.
‘Good enough to eat,’ she assured him. The look he gave her brought her out in goosebumps. Aloud, she said, ‘I feel like Goldilocks.’
He gave her another libido-wrenching look. ‘Does that mean I’m just right? Not too soft? Not too hard?’ He gave a suggestive leer. She repressed a giggle.
‘Actually I meant you must be Baby Bear.’
He leaned over and dropped a kiss on her neck. ‘You can call me whatever the hell you want,’ he said and drew her out onto the dance-floor once again.