I met him at a non-profit fundraising event. I guess that shouldn’t have been too surprising, because I did consulting work for non-profits and he was someone with deep pockets. Ordinarily, though, I didn’t go to these things. Not that I had any problem with separating wealthy people from their cash for a good cause, and I could be choosy enough to only work for organizations with good causes. I just didn’t like being the one begging for the money. Mind you, I do a lot of things well. Begging for money is not one of them. Give me the money and I’ll tell you how you can and can’t spend it, and how to make it go as far as possible. But this particular group was one of my best clients, and they were desperate to get a banker on their board. They’d invited a bunch and wanted my opinion. They wanted something a little more insightful than my immediate answer, which was ‘pick whoever donates the most.’
So there I was, wandering about the fringes of the room with a glass of cheap champagne, looking at displays of auction items. The items all basically fell into two groups. Those I had no interest in whatsoever, and those I couldn’t begin to afford. Actually, I couldn’t afford most of the ‘no interest’ items either, and I was entertaining the idea of sneaking off during the auction, until I looked at the program in my hand and realized that the auctioneering was taking place in between the salad and entre and again between the entre and desert. Since desert was usually the only edible part of these banquets, I had prepared to settle in for the duration.
At some point in my wandering, I became aware of a well-dressed – and by well-dressed I mean not just expensive suiting but well-tailored on an equally well-crafted body – gentleman who seemed to be looking my way several times. I had to smile at my flight of fancy. I had a mirror back home, but I didn’t need it to know that I was no Angelina or Beyonce. I was as plain as Janes came; even my name was Jane. I had dug out my one and only little black dress for the night, and managed to pull on a pair of thigh-highs without putting a fingernail through them. I was wobbling on two inch heels and staring unabashedly at the women gracefully cat-walking in four- and five-inchers. Beyond that, I was wearing my mother’s beloved ruby ring, and a necklace I’d made of ruby glass. My hair was down, long and wavy, but not in any intentional way, and my makeup was the very definition of minimal, because anything beyond minimal made my ghostly pale face look like a painted doll.
When someone began playing around with the mike, I figured it was time to find my table full of bankers and investment advisors. They’d given me a cheat sheet of who was supposed to be there and I done some brief bio work. I’d already ruled out the investment guy. I knew of him and he’d screwed up enough deals that I wouldn’t trust him with my piggy bank. Of the bankers, one was a junior officer, so probably didn’t pull much weight, but might be bright enough with advice and guidance to be considered. The other three had been around a while, sat on other boards because it was what bankers were supposed to do, so if I was going to consider any of them, it would probably be more for how flexible their lending, line of credit, etc., policies were than what they had to offer as a board member. As was not unusual, all of the targets were male, most were bringing wives. I groaned inwardly. Twenty-first century or not, I was going to once again have to scale that I’m-not-just-the-little-woman mountain. That meant involving the wives in conversation about what they did for a living, moving that over to what I did for a living, and finally getting the men to acknowledge that I had some commonality with them and their careers.
After some searching, I found the table and sank into a free chair. There were nods all around and hurried introductions as whoever was playing with the mike started to get more serious. One of the older bankers and his wife hadn’t shown up, leaving two empty chairs. I explained my connection to the non-profit. I liked to get that out of the way, since I wasn’t wearing a name badge. Save them the embarrassment of making an unfavorable off-hand comment. The Executive Director finally took the stage, made a few introductions, then introduced a brief video about the organization. During the video, my well-dressed gentleman joined us at the table. I looked up in surprise. He definitely wasn’t the sixty-year-old banker I had bioed in advance. He nodded politely at me and some of the others who had looked over, then turned his attention to the video. I studied the back of his head. It was more interesting than the video, which the overly enthusiastic development department had already made me watch. Several times. Even after I warned them about using music they didn’t have the rights to in the video.
Anyway, his hair was dark, tinged with a steely grey, like the color of his suit. His shirt was white, no ulus escort flashy colors for him. His tie, I’d noted earlier, was an unpatterned silvery grey. Other than the classy tailoring, his clothing was unremarkable, not unlike mine. He wasn’t looking to stand out in the crowd. When he reached for his wine glass, I realized he had French cuffs; the cufflinks were some kind of marbled grey stone set in silver. I also noted he was actually watching the video, unlike the others at the table who were surreptitiously looking around at the crowd to see who they might recognize. All very curious.
As the video wound down, the ED was back on stage with the standard hanky story for the organization. It was actually a conglomeration of stories about the children and youth the non-profit supported. No one child’s story was ever told in whole because there were always ugly details somewhere in the story. Sometimes those ugly details became part of press reporting, or court testimony. One prime goal of the organization was to help the children and youth move beyond the ugly, create new stories for themselves, so they went out of their way to make sure a fundraising story couldn’t be tied back to headlines in the news a few years back. No way were they going to destroy some kid’s life all over again, just to raise a few bucks. That’s why I liked them. And why I was suffering through yet another banquet to help them.
Salads were not so quietly appearing on the tables as the crowd was encouraged to enjoy the evening. I picked at my greens as the newcomer introduced himself as Gary something or other. It turned out he was a developer. He lived on Bainbridge Island but worked around the greater Seattle metro area. He’d been able to make the banquet at the last minute and was given the seat freed up by the missing banker. Introductions were made around the table again. I was trying to come up with a conversation starter for the wives’ club, when he turned to me and asked what I did.
I was thrown off my game. I think I may have even stammered as I explained that I was a consultant for the non-profit. He immediately asked in what fields, and I got my feet back under me and launched into my song and dance, explaining that finance and administration were my strong suites. I helped non-profits streamline their admin not only to have more funds to devote to direct service, but also to better appeal to donors. The others at the table were drawn into the conversation and I marveled that the evening was turning into one of my more successful nights for promoting the mission of a non-profit. Keeping people’s attention from wandering at one of these events was always a challenge. He not only dominated the conversation around the table, even moving it away from his own interests and back to the non-profit’s, but he hinted at a personal interest in the mission, dropping just enough clues that I could tell the others were hooked like fish, hoping for more hints. And he kept throwing open doors for me to walk through with my memorized list of needs and wants and sponsorships that could be fulfilled for just pennies a day.
When the first auction started, he playfully dared others at the table to bid, then playfully bid against them. By the time the second auction rolled around, he was seriously bidding on the use of someone’s vacation home on Big Sur, and jousting good-naturedly with one of the bankers seeking to bid him up the way he had been doing earlier. I couldn’t imagine why someone who lived on an island surrounded by ocean would need to spend a week at a vacation home on the ocean, but who was I to argue?
As desert was being served, the ED was once more in ask-mode, pointing out the envelopes left on the tables and asking everyone to donate what they could before the rest of the evening was turned over to a live band and dancing.
I always made a point of filling in credit card information, a sign to others that I trusted the organization with the information. The intriguing developer, though, pulled out an elegant black leather checkbook and wrote out a check which seemed to have several zeros involved in the number. I smiled to myself as I finished my desert. All in all, a good night. I had a head full of notes about the bankers at the table, had managed to successfully duck the investment advisor’s undue interest in my bank account, and I’d been able to turn in a good table take. Add to that a few auction purchases, and I figured I’d earned my keep. Save it would probably only make them more insistent on my attendance the next time a banquet came up.
The crowd was beginning to mill, some heading for home and some for the dance floor. I stood and tried to spot the Executive Director so I could make a graceful exit when Gary appeared suddenly in front of me. “Dance with me,” he said, his voice soft as if he didn’t want anyone else to hear.
“No, uh, I was just…” Then his arm was about my waist, yenimahalle escort pulling me snuggly against him and his other arm reached out, snagging my hand, then pointing the way to the dance floor. His dark brown eyes locked on mine and bound them not unlike the arm that had captured my waist. He didn’t look away for a moment, yet somehow he expertly maneuvered us through the scatter of tables and chairs to the dance floor. “Uhm…” I said, clinging to his shoulder to mitigate the wobble of my heeled ankles. Mind you, I liked to dance. Just barefoot. Alone. In my house. Where no one could see me. What made this worse, was that they had adopted a Dancing with the Stars sort of theme. It was definitely not your stand-in-one-place-and-wiggle-your-hips dancing. He lifted me to my toes for an enthusiastic waltz and I wondered if my skirt had hitched up to reveal the lacy tops of my thigh-highs. When he dipped me, I was sure it had.
From the waltz, the band swung into a Spanish flavored foxtrot and then launched into a tango without the slightest break. Most of the dancers were intimidated right off the floor. Not Gary, and he seemed to have no inclination whatsoever to release my waist or hand. So we tangoed, minus the rose between my teeth. And wonder of wonders, he made me feel graceful. I’d learned to dance properly, following the lead of a man who knew what he was doing. Like Gary. As opposed to most men, who, when faced with ballroom dancing, thought leading was the same as lugging. Like my ex. When I’d picked the music for our wedding dance, I picked the shortest one I could find, which turned out to be symbolic of our marriage.
When one of the band members came down from the stage to lead a conga line, Gary finally whirled me off the floor and I was gasping, trying to catch my breath. He just laughed softly and locked his fingers behind my back, preventing my escape. I placed my hands firmly against his chest. “You’ve worn me out,” I complained with a smile, though I must admit I wondered what that chest would feel like without material separating us.
“Oh, no. The band is just warming up,” he exclaimed. “And you are such a wonderful dancer.” I just looked at him with as skeptical an expression as I could muster. “Come,” he said, taking my hand and leading me back to the table. I foolishly thought he was conceding the dancing. Instead, once there, he removed his suit jacket and tie, undoing a couple of buttons on his shirt. “There, much better. Now I am ready for a salsa.”
I stared at him. “I think you need to find a more energetic partner,” I demurred, tugging at my chair to sit down, but then he pulled me close again, locking his fingers behind me, and I once more found my hands on his chest, this time with only his linen shirt barring flesh from flesh.
“I could dance with you all night, and I think I shall,” he murmured.
“Hmm?” I said, staring at my fingers and wondering what the chest underneath the shirt looked like. I shook myself. “I mean, I can’t. I have to work tomorrow.”
“But it is Saturday,” he protested.
“I promised to attend a board retreat. I’m sorry.” It never pays to disappoint a donor, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
“Then just one more dance,” he said, pulling me to the floor again as the band swung into a samba. After that dance, I was breathing hard and it wasn’t only from exertion. He pulled me back to the table, retrieved his suit jacket and tie, then was pulling me toward the foyer for the convention rooms. “Let’s fetch your coat,” he suggested, and I wondered about his, then realized the last ferry for Bainbridge had probably left already. I was in a daze of confusion as the sweet receptionist from the non-profit handed my coat to Gary and he slipped a twenty into the donation jar on the desk. I expected him to help me on with the coat, but he simply draped it over his arm along with his suit jacket and found one of my hands again, headed down a long side hall for the front of the hotel.
“Uhm, my car’s in a parking lot over that way,” I said, pointing behind us.
“It will still be there in the morning,” he said, not slowing in the least.
“Morning? What?” I managed to free my hand and stared at him. He stopped abruptly, turned, took one long step to stand directly in front of me and cupped my face in his hands. His thumbs traced ever so softly across my cheekbones.
“I need to feel every inch of your body just like this,” he said softly. Then he leaned down and kissed my lips with the lightest touch, lingering, leaving a tingling sensation behind. “I need to kiss every inch of your body just like this. I need to see how your skin glows in the morning light and the evening sunset. I need to see your eyes light with the fire of arousal and cloud with the dreamy haze of satiation. I need to be with you tonight.”
He unexpectedly reached down to my lower back and pulled me hard against him. I could feel his arousal pressing urgently against my belly. I hadn’t felt that sensation since my ex started finding his release in someone else’s bed. I also realized it paired with the unmistakable dampness between my legs, like fine wine and aged cheese demanding to be consumed. I suddenly remembered we were in the hall of a hotel and looked around, blushing furiously. He grasped my chin and pulled my eyes back to his. “I have a room here. Come upstairs with me. Please.” I was shaking my head, trying to form coherent words, but he rushed on, “Come up now and give me a chance to convince you to stay.”
When I still made no effort to move my feet, he huffed in exasperation, then reached into the tiny purse draped over my shoulder and pulled out my cell phone, putting it in my hand. “Call a friend. Ask them to call you in an hour, a half hour, whatever. If you don’t answer, tell them to call the police and send them to room…” He pulled out his key card, reading the envelope. “1213.” He showed me the envelope by way of confirmation.
“But…” I couldn’t think of an appropriate reason not to follow his instructions, still it seemed like I was supposed to have a reason. “I don’t do things like this,” I finally got out.
He took hold of my upper arms and pushed me out to arms’ length. “Like what? Visit a hotel room? Enjoy the company of a gentleman?”
When I fell into incoherence again, he gave me a slight shove as he released his grip and said, “Never mind. I mistook you for someone… different.” He turned on his heel and continued toward the front of the hotel.
“Wait.” I heard myself say it. I certainly didn’t remember thinking it. And yet, it must have been real, because he stopped and turned slowly, then simply held out his hand. When my feet remained frozen to the spot, he frowned.
“I am not a patient man, Jane.”
And there it was. My name, like a catalyst. I closed my mouth that had been hanging open and I walked toward him, taking his hand, like two old friends meeting up to see if the fire could be rekindled. He pulled me against him, slid his fingers through my hair to the back of my neck and leaned down to kiss me, chastely again, but followed by a cat-like smile as he was abruptly pulling me again toward the front of the hotel and the bank of elevators. He didn’t release my hand on the elevator, either, even when another couple followed us on. And the moment they disembarked on the fourth floor, he spun and pushed me back against the wall of the elevator, pressing his hardness against the softness of my belly, then plunging his tongue deep into my mouth as I gasped in surprise.
I reached up to his shoulders with the intent to push him back, but my hands weren’t on the same wave-length. They slid around to his back and were pulling him closer. I swear I almost came right there in the elevator. Tiny sounds were bubbling up in my throat, sounding for all the world like whiny, needy moans. And when he thrust his hips, and therefore his erection even harder against me, lightning flew from that point of contact to a place deep in my belly that had lain dormant for way too long. Had he not been pressed so unyieldingly against me, I’m sure my knees would have buckled.
His foot pushed one of my feet to the side and his hand dropped to the hem of my dress. His fingers drew it up slightly until they reached the lace of my thigh-highs and he hummed softly in appreciation. Then they traced higher, circling toward my inner thigh, inching their way toward the now-soaked crotch of my panties. I was both horrified that he would discover my desperate arousal and terrified that he would stop before he did. The elevator dinged before he got much past my stocking, but his cat smile was back and his arm was about my waist, supporting me as he led me from the elevator. I couldn’t blame my wobbles on the heels this time.
I ducked my head, wondering if anyone had seen us. My ex hadn’t even believed in holding hands in public. Kissing would have been anathema. Kissing someone you only met a couple of hours ago was probably grounds for stoning, but my lips were tingling from the loss of contact and the skin of my thigh, where his fingers had so lightly brushed, burned with longing for more. I was breathing hard, my heart was racing. My brain kept repeating the last phrase it could remember before the rest of my long-untouched body had taken over. “I don’t do things like this.” Except, apparently, I did.
He released me long enough to swipe his key card and open the door in one smooth move, then take my waist again before I could crumple to the floor. With that same economy of motion, he had laid my coat and his suit jacket on the table by the door, lifted the strap of my purse over my head, and pried my long forgotten cell phone from my fingers to join them. The table was my first clue that the room must be a suite, but that impression was all he allowed me, because I was up against inside of the door and his mouth was covering mine. My lips and tongue were once again in seventh heaven, completed by their conjoining with his. I threw my arms over his shoulders and pulled him as close as I could.