The train stood like a sleeping serpent up to its belly on Platform 7; the trail of humans disgorging steadily from its stomach only to be replaced almost as quickly. The Shinashoa express was a gateway for commuters from the backwater farmland of the western delta into the surrounding cities and beyond, where money could be made and families fed.
Rebecca checked her ticket. The Chinese were delightful in their efficiency in regards to their signposting of the public transport system as the digits on the trackside billboard flicked through in a flurry of black and white to come to rest at 1092. She double checked her ticket, knowing full well that the numbers corresponded. She towed her large port manteau to the nearest cabin door and with the aid of an eager porter found her way into one of the first class apartments. The perks of being on a business trip and doing a job that her immediate boss avoided like the plague was that he would sign off on almost anything if it meant he could forego the endless meetings with the Chinese council of commerce.
After a rather heated discussion which she was sure she had only half understood, Rebecca was led to a male only section of the carriage and if her translation was correct, was told that there had been a mistake with the set out of the train and that the female carriage was currently on the express to Beijing. The porter, between multiple bows, assured her that he would reassign her compartment to female only as soon as he could find a technician. The compartment was dark, with the overhead lighting obviously undergoing maintenance, a caution sign hung over some suspended exposed wiring overhead, and Rebecca sat with a scowl wondering how she was going to read the latest market report, although her thoughts brightened when she considered doing the research over a light early dinner and a glass of that delicious rice wine she had recently discovered. There would be plenty of time to pull down the sleeper from the roof compartment and get a good night's sleep so she could be fully ready for the torturous day ahead.
The diner would only open after they had exited the city and were underway, so for now she settled into her seat and began to people watch as the industry swept back and forth across the waiting platforms. Several times the carriage door opened but the Chinese face peering in to the darkness looked a little horrified on seeing her and retreated just as quickly. It was only a couple of minutes before the trains departure, punctuality being a matter of pride amongst the corporation and the main doors were already clanging closed and the bolts shot home with a solid clunk, that the carriage door slid open and she realised with a hint of chagrin that perhaps she wouldn't have the cubicle to herself after all.
He looked like he had just run all the way across town and his linen shirt stuck to his torso as he pushed his way in through the door. He stopped on seeing her and his eyebrow raised a little.
"Forgive me for the impertinence, but I think you may be female?" he looked slightly abashed.
The darkened carriage meant that he was spared the withering look shot in his direction but there was no mistaking her sarcasm,
"No! I am so glad that someone on this train is able to distinguish genders, otherwise I would have spent the whole journey slightly confused".
To her dismay this only made a smile flash across his eyes and he sat down immediately opposite her and seemed to be making preparations to stay in situ.
"I am sorry, but what do you think you are doing?"
This time the sarcasm was returned, gentle and mocking. "Well I think I may be going on a train journey overnight to Shenzhen? - and you? "
"...but you cant stay here!"
""Why ever not? This is a first class carriage is it not? for which I have a ticket - and it is a male compartment and I am undeniably a male!" To which he flicked out his newspaper and took on the appearance of deep concentration. Perusing the news within, whilst he actually ran his eyes up the legs of the ravishing woman who was busily going puce opposite him.
Thirty minutes later and after her voice had risen at least two octaves Rebecca finally admitted defeat. The porter was more than apologetic and had conceded a free dinner for two and a bottle of champagne for the inconvenience of his two passengers, if they could possibly accept the current state of affairs. Unfortunately, all the other first class bunks had been taken and there was only a few spaces in the economy berths which he advised would not be at all to their liking. Her co- companion, who had finally introduced himself as Charles, during her overly loud argument with the senior Purser, the porter beating a hasty retreat to organise the champagne, smiled throughout with a satisfaction that made steam almost erupt from Rebecca's ears. "Are you not going to help at all?" she glared at him and his grin.
"Not at all. I think you are doing admirably well. Apart from the point when you told him you wanted 'a room with a pink pig', I think you put across your point with alacrity". The Porter's arrival with a bottle of Moet spared him the withering retort and she stewed gently as she tried to calm down. He quickly thanked the Porter who was all smiles at the complimentary manner with which he was addressed and Charles begged of him several things whose translation eluded Rebecca completely. There was no doubt that his Chinese was far superior to hers and she felt a little uncomfortable having to concede to a small amount of admiration at his fluency.
"Ok" she finally opened having had two large slugs of the fizzing liquid, "You are to leave this compartment when I wish to get changed; to give me 1 hour to prepare myself for bed and to hopefully be well on my way to sleep before your return. You are to keep all your belongings and yourself to your side of the compartment and most importantly ...your hands to yourself".
There was no reply - simply a nod of his head in her direction and to her annoyance yet again, she had to make do with just his grin and his unsatisfactory reply to her proposed ground rules.
The carriage door opened and a tray wheeled in followed by the beaming Porter.
"I am sorry", Charles indicated the arrival with a wave of his hand, "I took the liberty of getting dinner brought to us as the diner will be full to the gunnels at this time of the evening". He leant forward as the Porter lifted the lid off a steaming plate. "I do hope you like Salmon. They really do a remarkable baked salmon dish on this particular line." He thanked the Porter in his native Cantonese and got the polite reply "mh goi", and was handed a bottle of yellow liqueur about which the Porter chattered excitedly.
After the formalities of multiple 'thankyous' and enquiring whether the Porter had yet eaten, a Chinese courtesy that had always seemed a little affected to Rebecca, the porter extricated himself. Charles turned back to a disapproving look.
"What?" He shrugged dismissively. The tone might have been conciliatory but the smile never left Charles' eyes. "Salmon is for VIP's only so hence we need to be eating it here rather than in the diner car. People would begin to question us otherwise...and this...", he held the bottle up to the light from the window. "This is the best mixer for Champagne there is! It's an alcohol made from persimmons, and tastes quite delightful, and, i might add, is bloody expensive and incredibly difficult to get hold of," a sheepish grin. "The head concierge of Shinashoa has a nice sideline in homebrew and is a friend of sorts."
Five minutes later and Rebecca's disapproval had completely evaporated as the salmon melted on her tongue and the warm liqueur mixed with the champagne to give a heady luxury to the evening. She stole a glance in the direction of Charles as he watched the scenery flit by, his face stagelit by the reddening sky from the setting sun. The patchwork of fields still occupied with tiny figures as they brought in the days harvest in the last remnants of daylight; the oxen standing patiently on the raised paths, and bicycles, and rickshaws moving haphazardly along the dirt roads. His face was only half lit, and she took in the broken aquiline nose, the chin and the hazel green eyes beneath the thick blonde eyebrows. He was a good looking man, and almost looked distinguished except for the mess of blonde hair which ruined the effect. It needed a cut, was obviously rarely brushed and seemed to be having a difficult time deciding whether to be blonde or brown at this moment in time. It was the smile that held her gaze though. He always smiled, as though he found joy in everything that he looked at, a smile that dimpled his cheek, only one she had noted, creased his temples and played across his eyes like a flickering firelight. It was that smile that turned to meet her gaze and the corners of his mouth spread to a devilish grin.
Thirty minutes later and the outside world had become bathed with the glow of the harvest moon rising from the direction in which they were heading.
"I think you are enjoying the liqueur? Your eyes have gone hooded." He chortled at her and Rebecca found to her surprise that she really didn't care.
It was nice to feel like she didn't have to compete, or have to be permanently on guard, severe and strong. She found her whole body enjoying the serenity of just being her, and Charles seemed to be able to put her completely at ease. There was no menace within him; he had an easy charm that was so natural, so effortless that you couldn't help enjoying the trivia that he managed to spout about almost every subject under the sun. He was currently telling her the history of the province through which they were travelling and being that they were still only on the Han dynasty around 100AD she felt it was probably going to be a long monologue. She smiled despite herself. Usually she would have brushed off this type of conversation, one in which she had so little knowledge. One that could potentially expose her as less than superior, but she found herself intrigued by the story of the nascent China embroiled in the constant turmoil of war, courtly dispute, religious intrigue and the ferocious elements that formed this beautiful, desolate, ever changing country. Charles' voice was delivered with such a delightful variation of tone that the English accent sounded like some BBC documentary, and his obvious depth of knowledge and the little self mocking asides made the information riveting, even for Rebecca who usually sidestepped anything that involved history or religion.
He was just describing the wars with the northern frontier and she found herself imagining the massive armoured warhorses used in the Han's defence of its borders, 1400 years before the use of such weapons in the 100 years war in France, and the spectacle of the conscript army lined up against their enemy. He really could paint a picture so vividly that she could almost smell the morning dew on the plain and hear the snorts of the horses and the metallic ring of the mounted armour impatient to attack.
"So Rebecca, that is the breadth of my knowledge on Shenzhen." It was almost 11 o'clock and they had been talking for over five hours. Both the champagne and the liqueur bottle were upside down in the ice bucket and she could feel the warmth still spreading through her body as the alcohol worked its magic. She needed to go to bed, but she was loath to break the air of companionship that surrounded them both and she could feel a latent sadness at the thought that their conversation was nearing an end. "I will leave you. It is late and you no doubt will have meetings tomorrow". His hand had moved across the table to within inches of hers but he hesitated, the hand hovering above hers, and with a gentle sigh he began to withdraw his arm as he started to shuffle back to stand and leave.
"Charles?" Her voice was husky and the word only whispered. He paused at his name, and her hand slid upturned into his. The touch sensational, sending a shiver throughout her body, every extremity coming alive at the small token of intimacy. "Thank you. Thank you for a truly beautiful evening! I honestly cannot say I have enjoyed myself that much for a very long time." She smiled with sincerity that she rarely allowed herself and Charles felt his whole being sigh with pleasure at the sight of this beautiful woman who radiated charisma with every graceful movement she performed.
He smiled. "Rebecca, it was an absolute pleasure. I have enjoyed your company. It has been a pleasant surprise to be graced with such a wonderful travel companion". Impulsively he bent down over her and softly brushed his lips to her cheek, breathing in her perfume that almost threatened to intoxicate his senses. "Oh wow.' he thought as he allowed his senses to be temporarily overwhelmed. "She is so amazingly beautiful! Totally out of your league, Charles, but you can but dream", he allowed himself a grin as he enjoyed the moment.
Rebecca felt the heat rise from deep within and suddenly she was pulling him down to her and her lips had enveloped his. A million thoughts of censure raced through her brain, screaming caution, urging her to be sensible, to not give in to the moment, but she found to her delight that her whole body refused to allow itself to be mastered. Giving in instead to how right it felt to have his hands on her, her lips melding into his, her body searching for the touch of his fingertips. She moaned with pleasure as her whole being capitulated to the delicious feeling, her brain switching from the indignation of her usual self imposed strictures, to just simply enjoying every nuance of his kisses and his gentle caress.
"Are you sure?" he sounded in awe, like he had just won the lottery.
She looked into his eyes and found herself swimming in their desire. Her stomach clenched and she felt the moisture form between her legs. Her hand snaked up to curve over the nape of his neck and, just before she pulled him completely on top, her voice murmured thick with arousal, "Oh God! I am so sure!"
Charles marvelled at the beauty of her body. The soft long legs, silky smooth that moved sensuously beneath his touch, the soft skin of her belly that revealed itself when she pulled her white cotton shirt from her skirt. The full breasts that begged for his attention and pushed hardened nipples against the material of her shirt. He had debated whether he would dare to take one into his mouth, had decided that it would be wrong, only to have her pull him onto her and beg him to mouth the sensitive orbs through the flimsy cotton material.
"Rebecca! My God, you are truly amazing!" His heart was hammering in his chest. "You smell divine! You feel delicious and I could kiss you forever and all over your fantastic body."
She gave him a slight look of embarrassment and then grinned laughing, "Well don't just stand there, gibbering. Get those lips down here and show me".
She enveloped him in her arms. His lips sought her neck and then her shoulder and then parted the collar of her top. She found herself undoing the buttons of her shirt and unclipping her bra in a flurry of desperation, wanting the bliss to continue. Drawing his mouth to caress her full breasts, to have him mouth her and take in her areole deep against his suckling tongue and to feel his teeth sharp against her tender nipples, the wonderful combination of pleasure and pain as he bit, pulling against the soft flesh surrounding them. With every moan of her desire he drew more and more confident and began to seemingly guess with unerring accuracy what would lead her to higher and higher ecstasy.
She pressed her mons against his well-muscled thigh, her legs either side of his and began to grind against him loving the uncharacteristic feel of just enjoying the sexual stimulation without the usual guilt that accompanied such pleasure.
"Oh God" she moaned, as the first two buttons of her high waisted skirt gave beneath his dextrous fingers and a hand slid over her lower belly and followed the Brazilian trail towards her very wet centre. "You mustn't Charles!"
He leant back and smiled at her and she found her eyes falling into the hazel depths of his gaze.
"How?" she shook her head almost trying to shake the immense connection she felt for this man who she had known for barely six hours. "How do you do that?"
"Do what, Rebecca?" He cocked his head to one side but his eyes held the smile that she had begun to enjoy.
"How do you make me feel like I'm somehow back to being a little girl?"
The smile spread from just his eyes to a full grin. "Easy gorgeous. Because you are my little girl!" as he emphasised the "are" his hand ran a circuit over the material of her panties and her whole body shuddered with the touch. "Fuck!" Her eyes blazed with desire!