Amanda Carruthers looked refined and elegant as she entered the restaurant. With her hair perfectly coiffed and colored in a loose, low bun, yet with delicate feathers across her forehead, she looked a decade older than she was.

Only her sleek, slender body, her smooth, fair, radiant complexion, and the graceful way she moved testified to just how young she actually was.

Certainly her clothing did not. She wore a crisp gray, designer dress which, while certainly doing little to hide the healthy curves beneath, would not have looked out of place in the board room of a conservative law firm.

Antonio Lamer rose and smiled warmly, almost instinctively bowing forward slightly as he greeted her.

“Mrs. Carruthers, a pleasure!” he said in delight.

Amanda's hand was clad in a silk glove, but she allowed him to clasp her fingers lightly before pulling back.

“Mister Lamer,” she said in a soft, southern accent.

The maitre'd was holding her chair, and as she sat, he pushed it into the table, whereupon Lamer sat also.

“A glass of wine, madam?” he asked, smiling beatifically.

“Yes, please, Jacques,” she said over her shoulder. “A Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino 2012, I think.”

“Of course, Madam. A wise choice,” he said in approval.

Amanda reflected that she had to watch her drinking. She was doing it too often of late and for too long. It wouldn't do to start getting a reputation as someone who liked her drink too much.

Her reputation was... all.

“Mister Lamer,” she said. “You have some ideas for me?”

“Preliminary, of course, Mrs. Carruthers,” the little man said.

“Sarah Moore said you were very good at melding traditional with modern styles,” she said as he opened his laptop.

“I've done my best, but taste is an individual thing, within limits, of course, which is why I have drawn up a number of different possibilities,” Lamer said.

Amanda examined the pictures one by one as the man chattered. She had been seeking to renovate and redecorate since she'd moved into the rambling old southern mansion last year. Persuading her husband had not been easy. He was extremely old fashioned, and disdained almost everything modern.

He was also twice her age. And sometimes she thought acted more like he was of his father's generation than his own. He was religious and conservative, which of course, was the norm for the upper classes in Texas. But he tended to take things to extremes.

Amanda was religious and conservative, as well, but she was more firmly anchored in the twenty first century, being only twenty-three herself. She had a masters degree in History from Cambridge University, and unlike her husband had seen something more of the world while studying in Europe.

She was careful not to mention this, of course. Rupert was pleased at her Cambridge degree mainly because it bespoke a certain sense of wealth, privilege and intelligence, and because it wasn't one of those 'Godless Yankee liberal' universities in the United States.

Cambridge, to him, spoke of conservative traditional learning, not the sort of anti-capitalist, anti-western progressive lunacy he thought infested most American universities today. Liberal notions were anathema to him.

He was a man who was proud of southern traditions of culture and behavior. A man was the head of a household, and a woman's place was to obey. As for ordinary people, he generally referred to by such words as 'plebes, rabble, herd, and sheep', he had little but contempt.

He was thus, in many respects, not a very nice man at all, though his exquisite manners hid much of this from casual view. And he was generally extremely well-mannered around Amanda, for he treated 'ladies' with respect, as a southern gentleman ought to, as long as they knew their place.

So Amanda knew that asking him, for example, to stop using pejorative terms for people, or racist language about minorities, would not go over well, for he would see that as her trying to tell him what to do. And that was not her place.

Her place was in the home.

And it was quite a home. The old southern mansion had been in his family for generations, but had grown over the years into a massive thing. The grounds had grown, too, as his family purchased the lands around it.

Rupert Carruthers was rich, very, very rich indeed. And it was the quiet, but not ostentatious display of such wealth and power which had so impressed her when they'd first met. Along with his beautiful and respectful manners. He wasn't an ugly man to look at either.

Amanda came from an old southern family, too, but one which had fallen on hard times, compared to his. One of her distant ancestors had been an important general in the Confederacy. Her grandfather had been governor of Texas.

But her father had bought a lot of oil leases just before the price of oil had collapsed, and borrowed a lot of money to do it. He had not quite gone bankrupt but it was a very near thing, and he was only saved by being able to sell some of those leases at a surprisingly generous price to an oil company owned in large part by Rupert Carruthers.

That was just after she had married him.

Of course, that wasn't WHY she had married him. She had been aghast at the dwindling finances of her family, and had faced the appalling likelihood of having to somehow find a job and make her way in life as, well, an ordinary person! And having grown up wealthy, and taken wealth for granted, she had not found the thought appealing.

She had recently graduated from Cambridge at the time, and met Carruthers at a party. He was big, charming, extremely wealthy, and very good looking. That he was twenty years older than her was certainly an issue, but not as much of one as it might have been.

She had enjoyed his southern, gentleman charm, and been flattered by his interest, given how wealthy and powerful he was. She wasn't about to sleep with him, of course, he being twice her age, but he didn't seem to mind that. She realized now that he simply saw it as the proper, demure behavior of a southern lady.

But seeing his home and the grounds, which were extensive, and included a private landing field for his private jet, as well as a helipad for his helicopter, well, it had certainly made an impression on her at the time, given she was in near panic about what was going to happen to the family.

And her.

The thought of being the lady of the place didn't seem quite so bad. The new lady of the place. He'd divorced his last wife, and now was looking for, she thought, someone younger and prettier, and someone to be a bauble on his arm. A trophy wife, in other words.

Rupert liked to have the best of everything. And he wasn't at all shy about flaunting it, if done with style. He didn't want some frumpy, overweight woman on his arm when he entered a room. He wanted a beauty. And that was what he got in Amanda.

What Amanda got was security, wealth, and just about anything she wanted in life. If she wanted to travel then she could do so, provided she kept in mind certain gatherings where it was necessary for her to be with him. If she wanted a new car, jewelry, gowns, all was hers for the asking.

She had an enormous swimming pool – two actually, one inside, and one outside, a tennis court, a bowling alley, a private gym, sauna and spa, with personal trainer and masseuse on order. There was any sort of food she cared to eat, prepared by a top chef, a movie theater with just about any movie she cared to view, gardens and walkways to stroll, along babbling brooks, ponds and man-made lakes, and any sort of hobby or sport she cared to engage in.

The one area in which the marriage failed was in companionship. Rupert worked ten or more hours a day, and seldom seemed very interested in having her around him except for when he could introduce her to jealous men as 'my wife'.

They slept in separate beds, in separate rooms, and when he had time free of work he seemed to prefer to spend it with men his own age at the club, or in his den, smoking horrible cigars. As for sex, Rupert was a bull of a man, physically. At least in outer appearance. But he had a small penis and was given to premature ejaculation.

Nor did he make any effort to either prepare her beforehand or make up for his lack of staying power through other methods. Sex, for Rupert, was for his own pleasure. He certainly had no desire for any more children. His previous wife had already given him four, the oldest of which was Amanda's age, and cordially loathed her.

Fortunately, sex was not something he usually had a lot of interest in anyway.

She sipped her wine as Antonio delivered explanations of each of the changes he had designed for the Master wing of the house. Others might have a master bedroom, or perhaps even a master suite. Rupert had an entire wing of the house devoted to the master. That being him.

That included the two large, separate bedrooms, each with its own large, attached en-suite bathroom, and large, walk-in closet. There was a center room with grand views of the lake, an enormous fireplace, sofas, tables and chairs, bar and mini-kitchen, a large balcony overlooking the lake and grounds, and a circular stair up to a solar which had an even better view.

She had already redecorated her own room, bathroom and walk-in. And she hadn't the temerity to consider redoing Rupert's, but Antonio was hired to consider redecorating and redoing the central room.

It was a small job as far as Amanda was concerned, and probably wouldn't even cost more than a couple of hundred thousand or so.  But she wanted it done right, and done quickly and with as little inconvenience as possible.

“My husband is a busy man, Mister Lamer. He works long hours, and when he comes home he does not expect to pick his way through the ruins of a room, nor does he expect to be disturbed at his rest. Next month he is going on a business trip to New York and will be gone for almost a week. Do you think you can get this work done during that time period?”

Left unsaid was that he had better be able to or she would find someone who would.

“It will be difficult, but if it was simple you wouldn't come to us, Ma'am,” he said with a smile. “I will ensure it gets done.”

“Excellent. Now about this rug...”

They would not, of course, discuss cost. That would be in the contract he would send to the family attorneys for examination. That sort of thing was beneath her.

***

The chauffeur tipped his cap as he held the door, and Amanda nodded ever so slightly as she slipped into the rear seat of the stretch limousine. He hurried around the front and got in behind the wheel, then pulled smoothly out into traffic.

The glass divider between them was up. It was not proper for a lady to exchange casual chit-chat with the help. Even if the help was white.

And Rupert wouldn't hire any other kind.

Amanda considered detouring to go and visit Sarah, or perhaps Olivia, but one didn't do such things unannounced, which was one of the irritating things about being an 'adult' and having to play the societal game. In some ways, being Rupert's wife was like being the wife of a politician in that she always had to be careful about how people perceived her or might talk about her to others.

It was all rather... tiresome, and she had grown weary of it. She very much enjoyed being fabulously wealthy and loved the house, though she wished she could make more changes. But Rupert, she had come to understand, would never love her. He enjoyed having her as his wife in the same way he enjoyed his other possessions. All reflected well on him and his wealth and power. And those were what he really loved.

She couldn't think of a way out of it, however. She certainly couldn't divorce Rupert. That would be a social disaster! He had far too much power in this town. No one would dare speak to her again for fear of offending him.

He was also highly vindictive. He was easily capable of trying to destroy her family, and he had the very best lawyers draw up a very tight prenuptial agreement. Divorcing him would leave her with virtually nothing.

But she was quite young to be leading the life of a matron, however luxurious a life that was. She would have liked to do a lot of things which other young women did, like go dancing, get drunk and cavort on a beach, race around in sports car, and have mad, passionate love affairs.

Rupert was very romantic in that old southern gentleman way, but it was all a show. Nor was there the slightest sexual excitement in their marriage. That left her life rather barren.

The driver dropped her off at the house and she went up to her room and stripped, paused to admire her near-perfect body in the mirror, then put on athletic bra, tights and a high cut thong leotard before heading to the gym.

Bodies like hers didn't come easily. Breasts like hers didn't stay firm without work. Bottoms like hers weren't taut and perfect just through nature's bounty. She spent a good two hours working out, toning and firming. She had the time, after all. Afterwards, panting, she took a quick shower, then, still nude, a dip in the inside pool.

It wouldn't do to try that outside. Imagine if someone got pictures! Rupert would be furious at her for besmirching his name!

She put on a bikini and went to the outdoor pool, then lay back on one of the loungers relaxing. She had a lot of sunscreen on. Rupert didn't want his wife looking like 'a wetback'. He liked her skin milky white.

She made a few phone calls, poolside to chat with old friends, while the butler brought wine and other refreshments and snacks, then went inside as the sun sank beneath the horizon. The chef would soon be preparing dinner, and after that she would go to the theater and watch TV.

Alone.