#BlogTour #Extract ~ Molly Fish by Jack Masters @gilbster1000 @authorightUKPR @authoright

When retired architect Arthur Howard receives an unexpected invitation from the elegant businesswoman he has just met, her promise of two weeks of incredible sex is enough to persuade him to forget his stale marriage and follow her to India. Leaving thoughts of his younger wife Ester far behind, Rani leads Arthur into paradise; her home lies in a beautiful valley filled with quiet villages, tranquil lakes, tea plantations and crocus fields, a place where his every need is catered for and his attention sought wherever he goes.
But danger lies hidden here. Arthur discovers that Rani and the other villagers he meets in this rural Indian idyll are the descendents of an ancient civilization, thought to be merely mythical. From his contact with them, he succumbs to a mysterious illness that keeps him bedridden for a long period in a darkened room. Confused and stricken, Arthur’s days and nights are haunted by wild dreams; when he is unable to sleep, he reminisces about early love affairs and fears for his failing relationship with Ester until he is unable to distinguish dreams from reality.

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About the Author
After growing up on a farm in northeast Missouri, McMasters joined the United States Air Force after attending the University of Missouri where he was sent to High Wycombe, England. He currently resides in Norfolk with his wife. While researching Molly Fish, McMasters travelled to India where he competed in the Karma Enduro, a 2,000 kilometer trek through the Western Ghats. He has previously published two short story collections, Iron(ing) Man and The Cucumber Murders and been featured by Škoda Magazine and the Eastern Daily Press.

Molly Fish

Extract 1 

Rani, an obviously successful business woman, after what appears to have been a chance encounter has, with the half-joking promise of two weeks of incredible sex, invited Arthur, a man of retirement age, to accompany her to her home in India. She lives in a very remote valley and the journey there is arduous. Rani is busy with the work she has acquired on her journey so Arthur is, on his first day there, entertained by a young woman that bares an amazing resemblance to Rani. She shows him the village in which they live, the local countryside, and they walk by the river before having a picnic on its banks. All the while she teases him about Azli, the teenage helper in their household, and the inadequacy of the English language, but Rani has instructed her to make sure that Arthur rests.

‘Then there’s “k” and “c”. I can give you similar examples. Why don’t you give just one sound to each letter? Or make some sensible rules, or something?’

‘Actually, I didn’t invent the language. Please don’t blame me.’ He couldn’t resist smiling at her sober, wide eyes.

‘Oh, I am going to blame you.’ She dug a knuckle into his ribs, hard enough to make him wince, and laughed back at him. ‘I think it’s all your fault. You should be ashamed of such a system.’

‘I’ll try to change it to your satisfaction,’ he gasped, when he had recovered from laughing, ‘first thing in the morning.’

‘Try to sort out some of your words, while you’re at it. Fancy, for instance.’

‘Why is that confusing?’

‘Well, it means intricate or excessively adorned and it means to imagine, doesn’t it? So why does it also mean sexual desire?’

‘I think that’s a legitimate usage. If I remember correctly, it used to confuse Americans when I lived there, but I suppose that it meant at one time,’ he stopped, worrying where his explanation was heading, ‘that one imagined oneself making love to someone. You see, I might say that I fancied making love to someone. Then it just got shortened to where fancy meant wanting to make love to them.’

‘So, when you said you didn’t fancy Aszli, you really meant you wouldn’t want to make love to her?’

‘I think I probably meant that I knew I shouldn’t want to. Does that sound confusing? In the back of my mind, if I’m honest, I probably do.’ His explanation was sounding decidedly woolly and evasive, even to his own ears. ‘If I was seventeen again, I would find her captivating, but I’m an old man and I mustn’t let myself even think about someone so young.’

‘So, does that mean you don’t fancy me?’ Her earnestness was endearing; she was looking directly into his soul.

He would not, could not, lie or be evasive to anyone so trusting.

‘Yes, rightly or wrongly, if I’m honest. Of course, I fancy you.’

Ashri seemed pleased by his answer, laid her head back on his chest and hugged him. They lay together like that until her slow rhythmic breathing told him she had fallen asleep. He was not far behind.

Chapter Four

Arthur was dreaming. Ester needed his help to open a tin, despite the new electric tin opener sitting prominently on the worktop. He had just sat down to watch the six o’clock news and she had volunteered to prepare the tea for a change, but the news didn’t make any sense. This was the fourth interruption he had had in approximately the same amount of minutes.

‘Arthur, wake up!’

He opened his eyes, unable to think where he was for a few moments. Ashri was kneeling over him, shaking him by the shoulder.

‘I didn’t mean to sleep so long. It’s time we started back. I’m really sorry.’

Arthur stretched, feeling wonderfully refreshed as he slowly recalled their morning together. The sun was lower in the sky and the heat had gone from the day, leaving a still warm, but pleasant temperature.

‘Ummh, that’s okay,’ he yawned, stretching again, ‘I’ve had a really nice sleep.’

‘So did I, Rani told me to let you have a nap, as you were probably still tired from yesterday,’ she was folding up the rug and shoving it determinedly into her bag, ‘but I wanted to show you the crocus fields.’

‘I’m going to be here for a couple of weeks. I don’t have to do everything the first day,’ he said, patiently, ‘there’ll be time to see them later.’

‘You don’t understand, it’s not that simple. We’ll have to go straight back now or it will be too dark by the time we get to the village.’

‘I don’t mind. I think I can make it in one go. Let me carry your bag.’

‘Oh, now that it’s empty, you’re offering to carry it for me. You’re such a gentleman.’

He didn’t have to look at her; from the tone of her voice he knew that she was teasing him once again. It was reassuring that she was so consistent.

‘I am so sorry. I had no idea that you had so much stuff in it. It must have weighed a ton.’ He took the bag from her, ‘actually, it’s still pretty heavy. Can I change my mind?’

He half expected another knuckle in the ribs, but Ashri only laughed, grabbed his hand and started walking quickly in the direction they had come from earlier. They walked silently hand-in-hand until the pathway became too narrow. Ashri relinquished her hold on his hand and took up the lead in front of him. She had folded her shawl and draped it over the bag he was carrying, leaving the smooth, golden brown expanse of her waist exposed.

Extract 2

After a night of unbelievable passion with Ashri, Arthur expects Rani to be angry with him. He is told that it had been meticulously planned and he is to spend the next day (and night) with Zanli, another incredibly beautiful young woman Ashri had introduced to him. She is quiet, an obviously talented engineer, and they are both interested in the same things, but their day together is a slight disappointment to both. Their evening is to be in the style of ‘thirties films’.

Chapter Thirteen

Arthur wandered around the colourfully decorated rooms, noting the effect with admiration and looking, without result, for the source of the music. He at last settled on one of the couches in the study and was toying with opening the wine, torn between good manners and the desire for something alcoholic to quiet his uneasiness. He was on the verge of reaching for the bottle when a sound to one side made him turn. Zanli stood in the doorway watching him.

Any questions of how she had entered so silently were banished by the impact her appearance had on him. She stood for a few seconds like a model at the end of the catwalk, before twirling gracefully on the ball of one foot to show off the complete effect. Her long hair was parted on one side and fell to her shoulders as before, but had tiny ribbons, woven into it on both sides, that held it away from her face. The long neckline of the navy blue dress extended almost to her waist, but the hemline had given up long before it reached her knees. Over the dress she was wearing a cream-coloured jacket in a

style Arthur thought had once been called bolero. It was just long enough to match her neckline and failed to meet at the front by quite a few inches, offering he thought, very little protection from the elements. The matching navy shoes had tiny cream bows and four-inch heels, making her already impressive height, even more intimidating. As a finishing touch, she wore gloves that matched the jacket, and accentuated the graceful movements of her hands.

Zanli finished her twirl and stood with her back to Arthur, swaying for a few minutes in time to the music. She raised her hands to her shoulders and very slowly let the top slide off. To Arthur the implication was obvious and as he leapt to his feet to assist with the task, he realized his lightheaded feeling was only partly because he had not been breathing since she entered the room.

As she tried to slip out of the jacket, Zanli’s gloves kept snagging on the snugly fitting sleeves and they both laughed as the jacket bunched up at her back, effectively trapping her arms behind her. It became obvious they were attempting things in the wrong order. She tried removing the offending gloves behind her back, but there were small buttons at the wrist of each, which she found difficult to unfasten.

‘Oh, I did want this to look seductive,’ she laughed, ‘and I’ve made such a mess of things.’

‘No you haven’t,’ he replied, ‘you look wonderful.’

Arthur patiently held her jacket so that she could move her hands in front of her and remove the gloves where she could see what she was doing. When she had finally rid herself of them, he let the top slip down her arms and again caught his breath. The dress was halter style, revealing bare shoulders and a flawless back nearly to her waist.

He made no attempt to resist the temptation and leaning forward, slipped his arms around her waist and lightly kissed the back of her neck. She leaned back into him and together they began swaying in time to the music again.

‘Do you approve?’ she whispered, turning her head enough so that he could just hear.

‘Oh yes, I approve,’ he replied huskily. There was something definitely wrong with his breathing; maybe he needed to sit down. ‘Would you like some wine?’

‘Mmm, that would be nice,’ she said.

As one, they stopped their swaying; she turned to face him and took one of his hands, allowing him to lead her to the couch where he had been sitting. He carefully opened the wine, covering the cork with the corner of the tea towel that had been wrapped around the ice bucket, and cautiously filled two glasses, trying not to let the foaming liquid overflow.

As they sipped the wine, another silence crept in, but there was nothing awkward about it this time. Arthur was fully aware he was staring and just as aware that Zanli was returning his stare over the rim of her glass. Finally, she broke the silence.

‘I think we are too much alike, you and I.’

Arthur could see very little similarity between them. She was young and beautiful. He was, well older, and certainly not beautiful: although he did try, of course. She was single, he was married, by law if not completely in spirit. She had her complete future in front of her; he was clinging to perhaps, his last chance to enjoy himself before he was too old for adventure.

‘How do you mean?’

‘I am always being told I am too interested in things, in machines, in systems, in how things work, and how they function. That I am not interested enough in people. Watching you today, I think you probably suffer from the same complaint.’

‘Oh?’ was all Arthur could say; it sounded very familiar.

‘I do not necessarily agree that they are right. Yes, mechanical or electrical things interest me. I love being able to fathom out a system or make something work that did not before, but I think I like my friends and my family and I am interested in what affects them. I just find it difficult to talk about personal things or how I feel about people. I do not think I can change that much, or even want to. Perhaps having a daughter will change me and I will be able to show my feelings in a better way. That is why I am sometimes a little brash or loud. I hope you will forgive me if I was like that yesterday.’

Arthur felt tears welling up in his eyes and could not think what to say. He put his arm around her and pulled her close. When he could speak, his voice was husky.

‘You don’t have anything to be forgiven for. I thought you were wonderful yesterday. I couldn’t stop thinking about you. And you are right though, we are quite alike in some ways.’

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