Male model John Quinlan, looking very businesslike. Yes, there are tattoos under there...

Rhys wound her way through the cocktail party, smiling at neighbors and searching out her spouses.

Rupert and John were talking sports with some of the other men. Scarlet and Liz were getting a little loud, an unfortunate side effect of champagne.

Giovanni had just joined Rony in a group having a quiet discussion over on the other side of the room.

But there was no sign of Lorne.

Lorne, the quiet one. The conservative’s conservative. The man who’d never made a single move without carefully planning for every possible consequence.

Except once…

Rhys found him in the den, having a rather intensely subdued conversation with their local city council representative and a couple members of the board of directors for his firm. Rhys perched on the edge of the large chair her husband was sitting in, and put her hand on his upper arm.

She felt him tense, and it made her smile. The others didn’t need to know what was under his very business-like shirt and jacket. To them, he would always be Lorne Howe, stalwart pillar of the community.

Actually upstanding pillar was a term she loved to apply to other situations as well. In of the bedroom. Upstanding… against the wall of the foyer. Stalwart only began to describe Mr. Reliable.

Someone made a comment about how grateful they were that Lorne had come through for them in a pinch. “He certainly is reliable, isn’t he?” she answered, knowing that although it was a perfectly innocent comment, he would understand the subtext.

Later, when the party died down, he cornered her in the back hall. “Reliable?” His tone was low and menacing, but a smile was beginning to creep across his stalwart lips. She backed up against the wall, but found a low table hitting her just under the plumpest part of her bottom. He pressed her back anyway, using one knee to help her onto the table, pressing himself between her legs.

She gripped his arm, right over the tattoo he’d gotten on her last birthday, the one thing he’d ever done on the spur of the moment.

The hall was deserted, though far from private. And for only the second time in his life, Mr. Reliable indulged his wife without thinking about the consequences.

This vignette was written for the Write on Edge prompt “We wanted you to explore the many facets of tattoos: why someone would get them, what the meaning was, what the tattoo says about them. Word limit 300 words.” I thought this one would be so easy, as tattoos figure prominently in many of my stories. In Synaesthesia, my serial novella, both main characters have multiple tattoos. The chapter I’m writing now (it will be posted in a few weeks) features an aha moment when they see a certain tattoo on a secondary character.

But I couldn’t think of a good, tight focus that connected to that story. I waited until Friday, and read a few other people’s posts. The idea came to me about a man who was otherwise very conservative, but had a tattoo that he preferred to keep secret from his business associates. I started and stopped and erased several times before producing the above 400 words, and that’s after cutting back. I decided to set it in the main world of my novels, Kingdom Come, in which group marriage is the norm. It gave me the flavor I wanted, of showing the wife walking through the cocktail party, with normal people doing normal things. I hope you get the feel of upper-middle class, not necessarily upper class in the story. I could have rewritten it (and condensed down to 300 words) with a contemporary setting and a pair of spouses, but I’d started and stopped so many times I decided to just leave it as is. It’s eleven at night on link-up day, and most people start visiting each other’s posts on Friday morning.

So… concrit! Yes! This post is custom made to graciously receive constructive criticism! Please chime in on that “intensely subdued” line. Also, did you find yourself trying to remember the names of all eight spouses? Or was it apparent that this story would concentrate on the interaction between just two of them?

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