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Max Cadogan is the worldly-wise pilot assigned to the trip. Their personalities are bound to clash, leading to an inevitable, but life-changing, spanking. Although Max is concealing a tragedy in his life, the adventures he and Lizzie share along the route to Bombay bring them ever closer, even though Lizzie's bottom suffers several mishaps along the way.
This steamy romance is book one of a set.
A white scarf, trailing
The blue and scarlet biplane taxied across the grass towards the marker boards that outlined the runway. Two people were huddled in the open cockpits, one behind the other. From the leather helmet of the person in the rear seat a white silk scarf flew like a pennant in the slipstream. With a roar, the pilot opened the throttle and the machine picked up speed, the tail rising to the horizontal before the pilot eased back on the joystick and the machine climbed away from the ground, disappearing over a clump of trees at the boundary of the airfield. A minute or so later it reappeared, flying fast, skimming the meadow in front of the eager crowd.� The little aeroplane pulled up, climbing vertically, twirling like the ribbons of a maypole. Then it rolled level and began to pick up speed. In a few moments, the nose rose and it started to climb as though it were following the circumference of some huge, invisible wheel. As it passed, inverted, through the horizontal, someone shouted "They're going to loop-the-loop!"
"Hurrah!" exclaimed others, the men waving their hats.
As the biplane came out of the loop, it immediately twisted upwards again, corkscrewing through the sky in a barrel roll. The crowd, delighted by the stunts, craned their necks as the aeroplane swung through the sky. The billowing white scarf from the rear seat added a fine dash to the spectacle.
Again the pilot looped, the sun flashing off the wings as the craft plunged earthwards. Then up again, soaring back into the cloudless sky. This time, at the top of the manoeuvre, the aeroplane paused, hanging in the air. Later, some people claimed that they heard a loud 'crack!' above the noise of the engine. What none could miss was that the lower wing on the right of the aeroplane began folding slowly towards the upper wing.
For a moment, the crowd went silent. A lone voice said, "Oh my God!"
The aeroplane rolled to the right. The lower wing now became detached and fluttered away from the main body of the aircraft, trailing wires and shedding debris, before finally pulling free.
A woman screamed.
The nose of the wounded machine dropped until it was pointing almost vertically down.
"No! No!" a man cried.
The twisting, falling machine was heading for the earth behind a belt of trees at the far side of the aerodrome. With just a few hundred feet to go, it pulled out of the spiral dive and appeared to hesitate.
"My God! He's managing to control it!" someone murmured, but even as he spoke, the nose swung violently into the start of a flat spin. Afterwards, many of the onlookers recalled seeing a final glimpse of the white scarf, streaming gaily along the side of the fuselage as the aircraft dipped again and disappeared behind the copse. Men were already running towards the site, while several cars bounced in the same direction over the rough turf.
A woman holding a white parasol turned to her friend, wide-eyed. "Do you think they made it?"
Before he could answer, a mushroom of oily black smoke, flecked with licking tongues of vivid orange, billowed sickeningly upwards from where the plane had disappeared. There was a muffled 'wumpf!', a moment of deathly silence, and then the screams of a score of voices.
* * * * *
Lizzie helped Julian lurch into the lift of his Belgravia apartment. He slumped against the mahogany-panelled side-wall while Lizzie struggled to close the barred metal gates. She pushed the black button for the third floor.
"One for the road?" Julian slurred, taking a swig from the champagne bottle he was clutching and then offering it to the girl.
"No, thanks, I think I've had enough." She hiccupped as though to confirm the fact. "Now, where are your keys, darling?"
"I suppose I'll have to." She reached into the pocket of Julian's dinner jacket, but it was empty save for a silver case of cigarettes.
"Come on, Jules, where they?"
"Try my trousers."
Lizzie tried his right hand pocket: just a silk handkerchief there.
"Other side, Dizzy."
She slipped her hand into the other pocket and felt metal. Julian, wobbling slightly, threw his arms around her waist.
"Naughty! Naughty! Keep your hands away from my crown jewels!"
"Julian, dearest, if we're going to make them sparkle tonight, we have to get into your flat. We're not doing it here!"
"Why not? It would be rather jolly."
She pulled out the small bunch of keys and placed one into the Yale lock. The heavy door swung open, revealing a luxurious but messy apartment.
"My God, look at the state of the place! You need a good woman to look after you."
"Right now, what I need is a great big bed and a slinky girl between the sheets. Know anyone who could help?"
"Leave that bottle here and get on with you." She pushed him towards his bedroom. It was a large room, but much of the space was taken up with a rumpled, king-sized bed.
"And who's been in this bed, then?" Lizzie asked archly.
"I think her name was Goldilocks. Come on Dizzy, help a man get undressed."
Lizzie slipped the dinner jacket from his shoulders and undid the studs on the stiff white shirt, a task made less easy by Julian's rocking to and fro.
"You can get your own trousers off, can't you?"
"I'll undo your zip if you attend to my fly-buttons."
"Well, take your shoes off first, you prune, otherwise we'll never get you free of those trousers."
Lizzie had unbuttoned the front of Julian trousers and pushed him down on to the bed, while she undid the laces of her patent leather shoes. With Julian struggling ineffectively to get out of his braces, Lizzie slipped them off his shoulders and neatly and efficiently de-bagged him.
"Shirt, pants and we're there."
"What about my socks?"
"Those, too: a lady never makes love to a man in stockings."
With much lurching, Julian finally managed to divest himself of everything except his birthday suit. He swayed and tried to focus on Lizzie. She noticed that he was uninspiringly flaccid.
"Not sure if I can manage the zip, old thing."
"Oh, for goodness' sake! All right, I'll do it. But close your eyes to preserve my modesty."
"What modesty, Dizzy? I've probably seen you naked more often than clothed."
"Don't be so crude. A gentleman would never make such a remark, even if there's some truth in it."
She took off her narrow, glittering headband with its coquettish feather, and then reached back to unzip the short black dress. It had cost a fortune, but it was all the rage. It terminated in a fringe that ended well above the knee. It hugged her figure, emphasising her small breasts, elegant legs, and especially her neat, rounded derri�re. When she shook her hips wildly as she danced the Charleston or Black Bottom, there wasn't a man in the room whose eyes were not glued yearningly to the view. She wiggled her way out of it and then shed her sexy black satin slip. She wasn't wearing any knickers. She kicked her shoes off, undid her garter belt and rolled down the silk stockings it supported.
"Like what you see?" She pirouetted in front of him.
"Faut de mieux, I suppose it will have to do."
She grabbed a pillow and threw it at him. They fell into a laughing, struggling heap. Lizzie straddled him and pulled the ivory satin sheet over them; then she reached up and switched out the light.
That was the last romantic element of the proceedings. From there on, things went downhill. Although Lizzie was literally hot with desire, and very wet between the legs to prove it, she was getting no joy from Julian's reluctant manhood. For twenty minutes she tried every trick she knew, using her body, hands, and tongue, but nothing would rouse the lifeless member nestling in Julian's crotch.
Finally, Julian looked up at her silhouette against the faint light filtering through the windows from the gas-lamps in the street outside.
"Sorry, old trout, touch of the 'brewer's droop' tonight. I don't think Percy's going to perform. Let's try again in the morning." With that he rolled over and almost immediately began snoring.
Lizzie gave him a disparaging look and wormed her way to her side of the bed. She uttered a quiet sigh of resignation and sent two fingers south to complete the task she had hoped that Julian would have risen to.
* * * * *
They woke late, their mouths rancid with stale bubbles. Julian eyed the girl beside him.
"You were super last night, the best ever."
She frowned at him. "Have you forgotten? You couldn't even get it up, you prat!"
"Oh, yes, I remember now. Well, I'm feeling friskier this morning. Come here, gorgeous!"
"Push off! You missed your chance. I had to settle for do-it-yourself."
"That's disgusting. It'll make you go blind, you know."
Lizzie propped herself up on one arm. "Julian, I want to ask you something."
Through the fuzz in his brain, Julian felt a frissonof concern. "Go ahead, old thing."
"Julian, you are going to marry me, aren't you?"
Julian tried to disguise his gulp. "Lizzie, you know I love you. I love you to bits."
"That's not what I asked. I want a straight answer: are you going to marry me?"
Julian tried to find a comfortable position from which to impart the news. "Well, er, actually...that is�er, no."
"Why not?" She sat upright, sounding alarmed.
Julian prevaricated for a moment, but realised that he could not escape the wide-eyed stare that he was getting.� "Because...because...well, I'm going to marry Henrietta."
"Henrietta? Henrietta Cholmondely? You can't be serious!"
"Absolutely serious, old girl. I asked her and she's accepted. We're engaged."
"My God! When did that happen?" She sat up, clutching the top sheet to her mouth.
"Last week. It'll be in the Times this weekend."
"I can't believe it! She looks like a whale. What on earth do you see in her, for God's sake?"
"Money? Is that all that matters to you? Well, I've got money. We've got a house in Beauchamp Place, haven't we?"
"Henrietta owns most of Belgravia, Lizzie, and what about the shooting estates? You know how I love potting away at things. She's got a pheasant shoot in Suffolk and a grouse moor in Scotland: a jolly good one at that. Where's your country estate?"
"You know perfectly well that we haven't got one: we're townies. But daddy's got oodles of dough. If you want somewhere to shoot, we'll buy a place."
"Your daddy hasn't got that much loot, Lizzie, and everyone knows it. It's why he's been sent to India."
"What do you mean?" Lizzie was becoming angry now. "He's been sent to India by his company on very important business. He's got a huge responsibility over there."
"The truth, my dear, is that he made such a balls-up in the City that they had to send him into exile before he destroyed the firm."
"That's nonsense, lies. How dare you?" she shouted. "He's very clever and Lloyd's think the world of him."
"Lloyd's wonder where in the world they can send him where he'll do the least damage."
Lizzie was flushed with rage.
"And what about sex then, if you marry Henrietta? It would be like making love to a pudding."
"We'll have enough sex to make a couple of children and then call it a day. After that, I'll get my oats with you, darling, just like I always have."
"Thanks but no thanks. Fuck you, Julian, fuck you! Marry your goddamn moneybags if you want, but you're not touching me ever again. In fact, how dare you bring me here last night? You're a rat, an absolute cad, and I've got a good mind to tell Henrietta."
"I wouldn't do that. Not if you want to be seen in London society ever again."
Lizzie scowled at him in fury. She flung herself out of the bed, grabbed her clothes from off the floor and flounced into the bathroom. Julian could hear water running intermittently for a few minutes.
'Strange creatures, women,' he thought to himself. 'Damn good offer and she goes and scorns it. Well, her loss, not mine. There are plenty of hot little totties who'll want to sleep with a lord when I come into the title."
Lizzie reappeared from the bathroom, dressed in the stunning little black number from the evening before. Julian had a pang of regret: he'd really have liked to screw that delectable little backside one more time. Oh well.
"Goodbye," Lizzie shouted, opening the front door, "and good luck�you'll need it!" She slammed the door hard.
Julian remembered there was a bottle of Moet & Chandon in the 'fridge. 'No time like the present for a spot of the hair of the dog that bit you,' he said to himself, almost tripping over his discarded trousers. Downstairs, he heard the honk of a taxi.
* * * * *
"Take me to 22 Beauchamp Place," Lizzie snapped at the driver, getting into the back of the cab. "And don't chatter�I'm not talking to men ever again." She snapped closed the glass partition between herself and the front.
'Never mind,' the driver smiled to himself, 'someone else will lay you again soon. I know your type: always at it like rabbits in the back of my cab. I just wish you wouldn't leave your bloody condoms lying around afterwards.'
Lizzie let herself in through the front door. No one, not even the servants, seemed to be around.
"Uncle," she shouted, "Uncle Horace! Are you here?" There was no reply. She made herself a cup of coffee and flung herself down on the sofa with the day's copy of the Times. She leafed through it distractedly, until she suddenly stopped, folded the page over, and examined an advertisement closely.
'Golly,' she murmured to herself after she'd read the box several times, 'Golly, golly, golly. I wonder...'
* * * * *
A fine drizzle fell from the clouds scudding low across a grey sky. The pilot had followed the railway line up from Dover, at times having to come down to less than a hundred feet where the mist shrouded the North Downs. He was cold, tired and stiff after a long day at the controls. Even the heavy leather flying jacket could do nothing to keep him warm. Besides, the top half was saturated from water droplets flying off the bracing wires between the upper and lower wings. He spotted the junction with the London to Brighton road and swung the craft left. Now he could find his way to Croydon aerodrome even if he was blindfolded. Ten minutes later he eased the tyres of the undercarriage onto the soaking grass, sending up a plume of spray.
As he weaved his way towards the apron, a clerk in a tiny office tapped on a stuttering Morse key:
'MAIL PLANE FROM BOMBAY LANDED 5:30 PM'
The pilot eased his lanky frame out of the cockpit, pleased to see one of the ground staff hurrying towards the small aircraft carrying a tonneau cover: at least that would help keep the pilot's seat dry before his colleague arrived for the night flight to Paris.
"Evenin' sir." The chirpy mechanic helped him down. "Even the birds ain't flyin' today."
"Sensible creatures, birds." The pilot smiled from under his leather helmet. "Ship's fine. Mag drop's okay now�they fixed it in Marseilles last night."
"Glad to hear it, sir. Now you 'ave a good rest."
"Thank you, Jones. Goodnight."
The ground staff, trying to keep the drizzle at bay with oilskins and sou'westers, had begun unloading the hessian mail-sacks.
* * * * *
Max was in his late twenties. He was tall, lean, with a face that was rapidly becoming prematurely weather-beaten. When he took off his flying helmet, his thick, dark hair was swept back and rather longer than fashion at the time dictated. A pencil moustache decorated his upper lip and somehow underlined the piercing blue of his eyes: 'sky eyes' as one of his lady-friends had dubbed them. He grunted as he looked in the mirror of his small flat: 'sky eyes' they might be, but now they were red with fatigue and ringed with grime outside the area protected by his goggles. He ran the hot tap until it coughed and wheezed and then delivered a flow of hot water. He rubbed a bar of soap into a lather and scoured the oily deposits from his skin.
Five years previously he had been dicing with death over the Flanders trenches in a variety of frail, unreliable machines flung into the air by the Royal Flying Corps and later that new branch of the armed services, the Royal Air Force. Very much against the odds, he'd survived when so many of his friends and colleagues had spiralled to a fiery death in the muddy landscape below. Instead of leaving the service after the war, when so few jobs were available, he'd stayed on, seeing overseas service in Iraq as the fledgling air force demonstrated its ability to project power effectively and economically.
But a year later he had decided to try his luck in civilian life. Peace after the World War had not ushered in a 'land fit for heroes.' Far from it. For those who flew�who simply had to fly because they could imagine no other way of life�times were very hard. He'd tried 'barnstorming', that curiously descriptive American term, but one night a herd of cows had got into the field where his aeroplane was parked and by morning they'd demolished it in a way that the 'Red Baron' could not have emulated. The insurance company, when they had finished laughing at his letter of claim, dismissed it�barely refraining from calling it an 'Act of Cud.' His entire capital had ended up producing a few pints of tainted milk.
For some desperate months he'd kicked around picking up intermittent commissions offering joy-rides in other people's aeroplanes, and then, when everything seemed hopeless, he'd had one of those strokes of fortune that occasionally�very occasionally�punctuate the lives of the fortunate few. He'd been at an agricultural show in Somerset, employed by a company with a bright idea but no funds to try to promote their interest in the concept of spraying crops from the air, when a jovial man had approached him.
"Not much interested in squirting chemicals from a flying machine," he'd said, "but I'm one of a group setting up a new aerial transport company. We think there's a future in moving mail by air, for a premium price of course. We know there are lots of pilots loafing around looking for jobs, but how do we pick the good ones?"
"I'm sure I could find a few for you, friends from the war days. Only the most competent survived that." Then he added, self-deprecatingly, "Of course, I'm the exception. I was just lucky."
"Don't believe you, my lad, but I rather like the cut of your jib. Come and see me in my office next week, and let's discuss it." He produced a card. "We're calling it 'Britannic Aerial Mails."
And that was how it had begun. Two months later, in the spring of 1924, BAM started carrying its first mail, initially within the United Kingdom, and then, with great daring, to the Continent. Max had collected half-a-dozen pilots, reputed for their skill in being able to get through in all except the very worst weather, and the company had prospered. So much so, in fact, that BAM had purchased a de Havilland 50, a conversion of a wartime bomber, which boasted no less than four seats in a rudimentary, enclosed cabin. The company wanted to hedge its bets and see whether there was any demand for passenger flying. If there wasn't, the space could be filled up with additional mail. Advance bookings had been poor: non-existent, in fact. Undeterred, BAM had boldly announced that it would start an airmail route to India, cutting weeks off the normal postal delivery time. This had caused much interest.
Max had pioneered the tortuous route to the sub-continent, later inducting the other pilots into the mysteries of trans-desert operations. It took nine or ten days of hard flying to reach Bombay, the route meandering across Europe and the Middle East, avoiding the highest mountains and most hostile territory. After some initial hiccups, the journey had become reliable, if not exactly routine. The enormous saving in time over the sea route had meant that Britannic could charge a substantial premium for the post it delivered and the aircraft bulged with Royal Mail sacks every time it took off.
Now Britannic had bought a second DH50, in order to increase the frequency on the route and perhaps expand it even further eastwards. Britannic's directors had become so enthusiastic about the company's pioneering spirit that the possibility of attracting passengers to this long-range route had been mooted. As the Finance Director had pointed out: one bum on a seat to India would bring in a lot more revenue than a mail-sack. An advertisement was prepared. The Times was considered the vehicle most likely to reach the appropriate socio-economic group.
* * * * *
Lizzie's telegram to her father was to the point:
'DEAR DADDY STOP BORED TO TEARS WITH LONDON SEASON STOP JULIAN MARRYING HENRIETTA CHOLMONDELY STOP CAN'T TAKE THIS ANY LONGER STOP HAVE FOUND CHANCE OF FLYING YES FLYING TO INDIA STOP SOUNDS RIPPING FUN STOP ONLY �500 STOP PLEASE SAY I CAN COME STOP LOTS OF LOVE LIZZIE'
A day later, over a very crackly and distorted line, her father called from India. He would be delighted to see his daughter of course, but was this flying lark safe? He'd never heard of anyone travelling so far by aeroplane before. Lizzie assured him that she was happy to take the risk and anyway BAM had been flying mail on the route for months.
"If it's safe enough for letters, I'm sure it's safe enough for me, Daddy darling. Oh please can I come? I'm absolutely fed up with London."
"I'd like to take a horsewhip to that bounder Julian," came her father's tinny voice from the sub-continent. "Anyway, darling, of course you can come. I'll wire the money today. Your mother and I will be delighted to see you. It'll take our minds off the heat. And you might like to meet the Maharajah of Tipor. Splendid chap: Eton and Oxford. Vast palace, elephants, everything. Very eligible. This all sounds most exciting: they won't believe it when I tell them in the club."
And so Lizzie spent the next few days running from store to store, buying everything she might need for the journey across Europe and the Middle East, and a stay in pre-monsoon Bombay. It all fitted neatly into two medium-sized trunks.