really going ahead with this, aren't you? " asked Margaret.
"Of course, " replied Lady Cynthia, "a bets a bet, foolish or otherwise".
"Who did you invite? " asked Margaret.
"Mr and Mrs Belvedere".
"But they are in their seventies".
"I know but they are like grandparents to me. If you can't be comfortable around your grandparents who can you be. Then there is Mr and Mrs Wilcox from my book club. I get on very well with them. Mr and Mrs Wilson, they are newly weds that I met on their honeymoon. We have become close friends. Sometimes I feel they have adopted me as their mother, they tell me everything. James Neal and Emma Marks. They are very good friends of Susan and I quite like them. They are just engaged and, of course you and William. "
"Oh I am sure William will enjoy himself immensely. " She said with some apprehension.
Lady Cynthia looked at her friend and smiled, "You are not going to be jealous now are you?"
"What, of you, don't be ridiculous. Anyway when is this thing starting?"
"Seven o clock sharp but could you be there ten minutes early. I would like you to greet the guests while I get ready"
"Certainly. Do they know what is about to happen? "
"No. I have kept it a secret. I don't want this thing to turn into a circus"
At seven pm Margaret announced to the guests that Lady Cynthia would join them shortly. When she walked in dressed only in her bath robe there was total silence.
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen it is so nice to see you all. As you no doubt are aware I entered the fruit cake competition again this year. I was so confident of winning that I bet Margaret that if she won again this year I would host a cocktail party for ten people in the nude, that's right, without a stitch of clothing. Well I lost so now it's time to pay the debt. Let the party begin" Lady Cynthia announced and dropped the bath robe and stood in all her forty two year old spender.
"Ah, Cynthia dear, this is Roy Drew who had just arrived in England from the States. I thought it would be nice to bring him to your cocktail party" said Mrs Belvedere. Cynthia's jaw dropped. She had worked so hard to invite only the people that were her closest friends and ones she felt she would be comfortable with and now a perfect stranger stood there staring straight at her. She felt herself slowly turn red from head to toe. Roy Drew took one look at her then immediately removed his jacket, tie and shirt. Surprised Mrs Belvedere said, "Mr Drew, dear, what are you doing?"
"It is terribly impolite to be dressed while your host is not" he answered then in less than a minute he was standing there as naked as Cynthia. Just then June Wilson muttered "What the hell" undid the straps of her evening gown and let it fall to the floor. She nudged her husband in the ribs and he began undressing. Very soon there was two more naked people in the room.
"Ooh isn't this just delightful," the Belvedere's said almost simultaneously and stripped off. The young couple and the Wilcox's quickly followed suit till the only clothed people were Margaret and William.
"I am feeling distinctly overdressed. " announced William and began to remove his clothes.
"William" Margaret shrieked, "what are you doing".
"Just being one of the crowd" smiled William and now the only clothed person left was Margaret. Looking back at the others she finally muttered, "I just knew this was going to backfire on me" and removed her clothes. When she finished she looked around and said,"What are you all looking at. Haven't you seen hair before".
"Not quite in that quantity" whispered James to Emma.
Lady Cynthia picked up a tray of food for the guests but before she went she said to Roy, "I cannot thank you enough, Mr Drew. You have turned an awkward and embarrassing evening into one I might actually enjoy."
"I think we are entitled to drop the formalities. Please call me Roy. "
"And please call me Cynthia. Now I have to attend to my guests but I look forward to having a nice chat with you later. "
Cynthia approach Dennis and June Wilson with the tray.
"I do appreciate you supporting me"
"Not at all" June replied, "it's much more fun this way. Isn't it Dennis? "
"Oh definitely, " Dennis replied.
"Well thank you again" Cynthia said and moved on but she heard June whisper to Dennis, "I am getting so hot I will explode in a minute." Taking her arm he said, "Let's go and find an empty room" Cynthia whispered over her shoulder, "top of stair, first on right" and headed for the Wilcox's. Just as she got there she heard Mrs Wilcox say to Mr Wilcox, "George, I haven’t seen you this hard since that night in the sand dunes two years ago" George guided his wife with a hand on her back towards the bay windows.
"Come on, "he said, "let's find a nice big bush to hide behind".
Cynthia watched them disappear into the night. 'I do hope the mosquitoes don't bite too much '
Cynthia continued on to the Belvideres. They stood there quite contentedly in all their ancient naked glory as Cynthia approached with the tray.
"Cynthia, my dear, you are looking quite ravishing tonight" said Mr Belvedere.
"Why thank you. You are looking very handsome yourself".
"Cynthia I am afraid we are going to have to confess to telling you a little white lie," said Mrs Belvedere.
"Oh!" said Cynthia curiously.
"Remember last year you asked us if we would like to join you at your seaside cabin for a week and we said that we couldn't because we were off to a missionary in South Africa. "
"Well we didn't. We went to a naturist resort in the south of France."
Cynthia nearly dropped the tray in surprise.
"It was so much fun, " Mr Belvedere said, "there was so much to see and do. I never had so much fun playing a game of golf"
"And the shopping was ecstatic" raved Mrs Belvedere," Why don't you come with us this year? " she asked.
"I need to check my diary. Why don't I get back to you? " and hurried off making a mental note to be engaged whenever that is brought up again.
She found the young couple behind the potted Palm in a tight embrace trying to get their tongues as far down each others throats as possible.
They broke apart and helped themselves to several pieces of food.
"This is a fabulous party, Lady Cynthia. It has given us a really good idea," said Emma.
"And what would that be, my dear."
"Well, we are getting married this year and we have decided to have it entirely in the nude. Of course I will still wear a veil and maybe a garter on my leg. I think they are so sexy."
"That will be quite unusual," said Cynthia.
"We would like you to be matron of honour". Cynthia desperately tried not to panic.
"Hum, " she said, "when is the wedding? "
"Early December." Emma replied.
"Is the reception hall and church heated?" Cynthia asked.
"Well, the reception hall is but I'm sure the church isn't" said James.
"We chose a little one in the country side. I loved the rustic feeling about it" Emma added.
"Won't your guests run the risk of getting frostbite on their sensitive bits?" asked Cynthia.
"Agh!" They both said in unison looking down at themselves.
"Really dears, Don't you think nice warm undies, clothes and coats would be a better idea? Anyway I bet you will look stunning in your wedding dress".
"You know Emma," James suggested, "it might be better if we stick to the original idea. "
"I think your right James. You will still be our matron of honour, won't you Lady Cynthia?"
"Of course dear" said Cynthia breathing a sigh of relief.
Cynthia moved to where Margaret, William and Roy were chatting happily to each other. As Cynthia joined the group William, somewhat foolishly, said, " By jove Cynthia you look stunning tonight. "
This elicited a swift vicious response from Margaret in the way of a savage kick to the shins but Margaret forgot that she wasn't wearing any shoes. Her poor toes cracked against Williams bony shin. She grabbed her toes and began hoping around and swearing in a most unladylike fashion.
William muttered, "I better go and make sure she doesn't injure herself or other guests" leaving Cynthia and Roy alone.
"Time for that chat now? " Roy asked helping himself to the food on the tray.
"I am, " said Cynthia, " and I would kill for a Martini".
"Your wish is my command," said Roy and returned with two Martinis.
"Tell me, at the risk of being rude, is the title real or merely a decoration?" asked Roy.
"Oh it's definitely real. A hereditary title handed down to me by my late father Lord Ashley of Ashley estate. Unfortunately the estate is now a suburb full of houses and the Manor a hotel. " Cynthia replied.
“The estate was not a large one but it was quite profitable and had a solid cash inflow. Unfortunately the previous two or three heirs were more interested in gambling, alcohol and fornicating with the result the inflow became an outflow. It was a basket case when my father inherited it. The estate owed debts everywhere and the old Manor was totally run down. The stress of keeping it afloat eventually killed him. Mother took over the task. She brought in a team of accountants to go through the books. It turned out that the tenant farmers rent was a fraction of the market price and at the same time they were getting record prices for the produce. It was just after the war. Mother raised it to seventy-five percent of the market value but the majority of the farmers quit and left. The remaining paltry income plummeted and mother went bankrupt. She sold up everything we still owned. Some robber Baron bought the estate and built houses on it. Made an absolute fortune apparently."
"Luckily mum had some friends on the Council and they got us a nice little cottage on the Council estate and we lived there happily ever after but mum never forgot her aristocratic upbringing. She always held afternoon teas and dinner parties. To their credit her friends never deserted her and they would always accept the invitation and brave the dreaded estate. Just before she died she made me promise on her death bed to never give up the title and keep it alive which I have tried to do. "
"It must have been heartbreaking for you to leave the Manor?" Roy suggested.
"Me! Not at all. I was only five when we left. I hated the Manor. It was big, draughty, damp, dark and incredibly scary. I jumped with joy when we moved. I loved the council estate and still do. Its where I met my husband and my two children were born and bred there. Unfortunately my husband died two years ago of a congenital heart defect. Thankfully my children are both overseas at the moment. Hate to think what they would say if the could see me now. Probably have me committed but that's enough of me. What about you? "
"To begin with my father is the robber Baron who bought your mothers estate" "Really! My goodness. I'm so sorry. I hope I didn't insult him with my comment" "No. No. He would have loved to be referred to as a robber Baron".
"Yes. He has passed on now".
"I suppose you own the estate now".
He laughed, " Not at all. Dad's company owned the estate although I think all they own now is a couple of house and the Manor. When dad died he left all his shares to mum but mum didn't want them so she sold up. I didn't either so I sold mine"
"What do you do? "
"I am an architect. I'm going to start up in London. You know dad preserved a lot of the old estate. "
"He didn't turn the Manor into a complete hotel. He divided it into three. The east wing become an eight room exclusive hotel. You had to be very wealthy to afford one of the rooms. The West Wing became a country club for the people of the estate and the Middle part he turned into a museum housing all the exhibits about the estate that turned up. You know I think there might be a picture of you as naked then as you are now except you would be about eighteen months old".
"My goodness. I would like to see that".
"Tell you what. Why don't I take you out there. We could have lunch and a few drinks at the country club. "
"Oh but I'm not a member".
"I think they will make an exception for Lady Cynthia don't you?"
The date was set and Cynthia then went to mingle with her guests. The others had returned to the room looking quite happy and relaxed although Mr and Mrs Wilcox seemed to be scratching quite a bit.
The pace of the party began to pick up with lots of lively chatter, music, some dancing for the brave. They even played some party games although they all agreed that twister better be ruled out in the current circumstances and 'spin the bottle' was rather pointless so they settled on a nice game of charades.
Slowly the party came to an end and each of the guests retrieved their clothes and departed, all of them praising Cynthia for a wonderful time.
Cynthia invited Margaret to remain for a final drink together.
"Well alright, " said Margaret, "just let me put some panties on".
"Oh come now Margaret. We have known each other for thirty years surely we can be totally relaxed in each others company? "
"Oh alright but it's all very well for you. You had the chance to make yourself all neat and tidy. I am stuck with the wild and bushy look".
"I think the wild and bushy look is quite sexy actually."
Margaret just stared at her, open mouthed and before she could reply Cynthia asked, "What do you think of Roy". Margaret's mouth snapped shut then she said, "What do I think of Roy? What do I think of a six foot, bronzed naked man with rippling muscles less than an arms length away from my naked body. Quite a lot I would think. "
Just then a mobile phone rang under a heap of clothes on the armchair. Margaret dug the phone out and answered it.
"Yes dear, ok dear. I won't be long. That was William. He said he's getting lonely. " Then Margaret turned a bright red, grabbed all her clothes and ran out the back door without putting a thing back on.
Cynthia drained the last of her Martini and headed for bed. 'Yes' she thought, 'there is a lot to think about'