She looked at him over the heads of the other audience members.Men and women were standing up after the show was over. They were gathering purses and beginning to walk out of the theater, passing between tables to greet friends, talking, laughing. Still in the back of the theater, he moved around a massive gilt column that somehow did nothing to overshadow him. He looked like Atlas after he has just casually put the earth back on its axis, and he had not turned his gaze away from her yet. She looked away, nervous, and when she looked back he was gone.
He recognized her immediately as she emerged with the crowd filing up the aisles of the theater and into the hallway. She seemed to talk with a man and woman who were also walking up the aisle, but he could not see more for the crowd ahead of her. He rubbed his jaw absently. How’s this going to work, he wondered, how’m I going to get near her. I’ll bust out in sweat if I get closer. The closer she got, he could see her luscious body was cloaked in a sleek black tuxedo suit. And as she turned he could see, triple hells, she wore nothing under the jacket. He was reminded of the top hat she played with on stage and peeked out from under as she’d slowly stripped and bared her body for the audience. Peeking from the narrow satin lapels was the half-moon cleavage of her breasts. No halfway about them, he thought. Portrait worthy. No jewelry marring the view, just her. He wanted to drag his finger along the jacket and pluck the button open. He imagined her motionless, waiting with a slight smile to see what he would do next. Waking from his daydream, he backed out of the reception area intent on finding a way to meet her.
Still warm and very relaxed after her performance, she moved down the aisle acknowledging a knowing smile from one or two people she passed. Did not give a flip who recognized her from the show and what they thought. I feel good, she thought on a deeply satisfying breath in. The hall before her was decorated for the holiday. The verdigris and deep gold ribbons of the pine garlands showed off the theater’s beautiful red plush carpets and gold columns. Wreaths and a palisade of 9-foot Christmas trees led the way to the vaulted hall and towering arched windows. A swing band above her, on Tier 2 of the balcony, was playing “Cool Yule.” People lined up at the temporary bar for drinks, fur coats snuggled up to tuxedos, shined black brogues next to Louboutins and a few sensible satin pumps. Mmmm, she mused about a particularly gorgeous pair of Louboutin stiletto heels with that trademark lacquer red sole, the heel so sculpted, high and thin–drop dead sexy. She accepted a flute of champagne and chatted with the woman who was wearing them.
Their conversation trailed off when a few people near began to dance. A handsome silver-haired man slowly led his companion to the middle of the floor, raised her hand and turned her in a slow spin. Other dancing couples began to swing and others were putting down their flutes of champagne. Woman-with-fabulous-shoes disappeared into the dancers with her own beau, and Melody raised her glass to her.
“Look at you making friends,” said a familiar voice. She turned to see Delphine, the event coordinator fairly twinkling in a diamonds and marcasite jewelry set.
“How could I miss?” she replied. “Everyone is having a wonderful time.” She stopped and frowned. “What?”
Delphine grinned. “Yeah, well…you’ve made a bunch of friends.”
Melody flushed and tried to hide it from her friend. “Ha! Getting naked tends to do that,” she laughed. “Makes people feel all friendly.”
“What? I’m not for sale or anything.” She suddenly could feel the silk lining of her suit sliding along her skin as if it were about to slide off her body right there in the midst of the crowd.
“No! God, Melody. You made an impression on a few someones, that’s all I’m saying.”
Melody raised an eyebrow and wondered. A little shudder went through her.
“You saw him, didn’t you?”
Melody didn’t answer as a glimmer of an erotic shudder began in her sex. Jesus what the fuck’s wrong with me.
“Don’t you want to know at least? Ok fine. The guy in the back? Right section? He was standing for a while back there…”
“There were plenty of guys in the back,” Melody said while thinking of a particular man leaning his broad-shouldered, tall frame in one of the side doors to the orchestra right section of the theater.
“You have to meet him. He’s still here. I know that because…Melody? You listening? He somehow tracked me down and gave me this,” Delphine said excitedly.
Melody looked down. In Delphine’s outstretched hand: a perfect peach. Dusted with pearl sugar, it sparkled like crystals of snow and ice. The colors of the peach, yellows fading into light orange. He must’ve picked it off one of the towering topiaries of fruit dusted like snow and ice had fallen on them.
She wondered if it was real and took it in her hand. She flattened her palm and balanced the fruit so she could see all of it. “Who?”
Delphine nodded, “I know, right? God he’s gorgeous. I hate you.” She looked around the room and said, “He’s watching you right now.”
Melody felt panic rise and her body freeze. No no. Calm down.
Delphine leaned in and took Melody’s elbow. “No not really. But I am going to let you figure it out yourself.” And Delphine left Melody’s side.
Panic changed to embarrassment, and Melody was vaguely relieved. At least she wasn’t going to pass right out on the lustrous marble floor below her like Sleeping Beauty. Just relax. This is totally normal. Men and women meet. It’s a lovely night. Relax like before. Now. Relax now dammit. She took a breath and could finally hear the band. They had inexplicably changed the season from Christmas to Valentines Day and were playing the love song Edith Piaf made famous, “La Vie En Rose.” But no one cared that it wasn’t a Christmas classic. More people joined the dancers in the middle of the grand reception hall. A jazz horn crooned the melody at a languid pace, and she remembered the words:
Hold me close, and hold me fast,
The magic that you cast,
This is la vie en rose.
Cal imagined he could see her chest flushing rosy and pink as he approached her. He cursed the tuxedo that hid her hips, her bottom full and pink. His cock swelled the closer he got to her, and all he could think was to put his hands around her waist. He would slide his arms low onto her thigh and tighten them on her hips and pull her generous bottom against him. Draw in her scent for the first time at the base of her neck. Thinking about the heat between her thighs. Fuck. Idiot. Try hello. Stick to hello.
“Hello,” Calum uttered deeply behind her and extended his hand around to the front of her. In it, the leaf from the peach he’d swiped from a display of fruit and dragged through sugar. Thank you Delphine, he thought.