'~Oh, yes,' replied Melanie. 'I married a real Southern gentleman with all the right credentials!

'Many congratulations,' said Abel.

'I divorced him last year ... with a large settlement.'

'ON I'm sorry,' said Abel, sounding pleased. 'More champagne?'

'Are you by any chance trying to seduce me, Abel?'

'Not before you've finished your soup, Melanie. Even first - gener - ation Polish immigrants have some standards, al - though I must admit it's my turn to do the seducing.'

'Then I must wam you, Abel, I haven't slept with another man since my divorce came through. No lack of offers, but no one's been quite right. Too many groping hands and not enough affection!

After smoked salmon, young lamb, cr~me brulee and a pre - war Mouton Rothschild, they had both thoroughly reviewed their lives since their last meeting, 'Coffee in the penthouse, Melanie?'

'Do I have any choice, after such an excellent mealF she enquired.

Abel laughed and escorted her out of the dining room and into the lift. She was teetering very slightly on her high heels as she entered. Abel touched the button marked 'fortytwo'. Melanie looked up at the numbers as they ticked by.

Why no twelfth floor?' she asked innocently. Abel could not find the worx1s to reply.

'The last time I had coffee in your roomMelanie tried again.

'Don't remind me,' said Abel, remembering his own vulnerability. As they stepped out of the lift on the forty - sec, ond floor, the bellhop opened the door of his suite.

'Good God,' said Melanie, as her eyes swept round the inside of the penthouse for the first time. 'I must say, Abel, you've learned how to adjust to the style of a multi - millionaire. I've never seen anything more extravagant in my life.'

A knock at the door stopped Abel as he was about to reach out for her. A young waiter appeared with a pot of coffee and a bottle of R&ny Martin.

'Fhank you Mike,' said Abel. 'That will be all for tonight!

'Will it?' She smiled.

The waiter would have turned red if he hadn't been black and left quickly.

Abel poured her coffee and brandy. She sipped slowly, sitting cross - legged on the floor. Abel would have sat crosslegged as well, but he couldn't quite manage the position, so instead he lay down beside her. She strokedhis hair, and tentatively he began to move his hand up her leg. God, how A21 wr11 he remembered those legs. As they kissed for the first time, Melanie kicked a shoe off and knocked her coffee all over the Persian carpet.

'Oh, hell,' she said. 'I've ruined your beautiful carpet!

Torget it,' said Abel, as he pulled her back into his arms and started to unzip her dress. Melanie unbuttoned his shirt, and Abel tried to get it off while he was still kissing hqr, but his cufflinks stopped him, so he helped her out of her dress instead. Her figure had lost none of its beauty and was exactly as he remembered it, except that it was enticingly fuller. Those firm breasts and long graceful legs. He gave up the one - handed battle with the cufflinks and released her from his grasp to undress himself, aware what an abrupt physical contrast he must have appeared compared to her beautiful body. He hoped all he had read about women being fascinated by powerful men was true. She didn't seem to grimace as she once had at the sight of him. Gently, he caressed her breasts and began to part her legs. The Persian 'carpet was proving better than any bed. It was her turn to try to undress completely while they were kissing. She too gave up and finally took off everything except for - at Abel's request - her garter belt and nylon stockings.

When he heard her moan, he was aware how long it had been since he had experienced such ecstasy - and then - how quickly the sensation was past.

Neither of them spoke for several moments, both breathing heavily, Then Abel chuckled. .

'What are you laughing at?' Melanie enquired.

'Nothing,' said Abel, recalling Dr. Johnson's observation about the position being ridiculous and the pleasure momentary.

Abel rolled over, and Melania rested her head on his shoulder. Abel was surprised to find that he no longer wanted to be near Melanie, and as he lay there wondering how to get rid of her without actually being rude, she said, 'I'm afraid I can't stay all night, Abel, I have an early appointment tomorrow and I must get some sleep. I don't want to look as if I spent the night on your Persian carpet.'

'Must you go?' said Abel, sounding desperate, but not too desperate.

'I'm sorry, darling, yes.' She stood up and walked to - the bathroom.

Abel watched her dress, and helped her with her zipper. How much easier the garment was to fasten at leisure than it had been to unfasten in haste. He kissed her gallantly on the hand as she left.