Ian piloted the rental car though evening traffic into the heart of the historic downtown district, the setting sun casting a blinding glare in our eyes, while I gave him directions to my hotel. Along the cobblestone streets we bumped, laughing over my shoddy navigation methods and moments we had shared throughout the day until we reached our destination. Ian pulled in under the canopied awning and the red-jacketed valet came trotting out to open my door.
“Welcome back Miss Green,” he said before dashing around the car to give Ian the claim ticket.
Together Ian and I strode up the old brick steps and through the open glass door into the expansive lobby. We walked under the massive crystal chandelier that gave off an array of shimmering light, past the magnificent curving staircase and to the iron gated elevator. A pianist softly trilled strains of Mozart on the mahogany baby grand. I pressed the pearl finished lift button and we waited. Out of the corner of my eye I watched Ian take in the opulent surroundings. This was the America I wanted him to see—one rich with the patina of aged elegance where the atmosphere was as gracious as the people.
Up we went, my heart rate getting faster and faster the closer we came to my room and then, we were there. Golden rays from the setting sun filled the yellow and blue room with an amber glow. Ian made himself comfortable on the stripped settee that was adjacent to the four-poster cherry bed while I gathered what I planned to wear, stepped into the bathroom, shut the door and locked it.
There wasn’t much time before our dinner reservation, so moments I might have spent staring questioningly at myself in the mirror wondering what on earth I was doing with a strange man in my hotel room were instead expended in the shower where my fingers massaged lavender scented shampoo through my blonde tresses. I lathered up the soft white cotton washcloth with French milled soap and quickly scoured my body, starting with my shoulders and working my way down to my pink polished toes. After rinsing, I shut off the water and stepped into the foggy, fragrant cloud that filled the small space.
With practiced efficiency I toweled off, detangled my locks, moisturized my face and went through my normal hair and makeup routine. Twenty minutes later loose, natural waves framed my face, eyes enhanced with black and violet smoky eye shadow blinked back at my reflection and my lips shown with a hint of peach gloss. I pulled on sheer black hose, slipped my clingy black dress over my head and stepped into the room.
With quick intake of breath, Ian stood when he saw me. I padded across the patterned carpet in my stocking feet to my suitcase, searching for my black heels and then joined Ian on the settee to slip them on. He finally spoke.
“You look amazing,” he whispered.
I felt a faint flush climb my cheeks as I looked up and, with my voice lower than usual, answered, “Thank you. So do you.”
The petite furniture didn’t allow for much space between us and, when our thighs brushed against each other, neither of us pulled away. Instead his large hand came down and rested on my knee, caressing it slowly. I was certain he could see my pulse fluttering at the base of my throat. Kiss me, I thought. Please just kiss me so I can stop thinking about it. Please end the torture of anticipation. But he didn’t. Instead he asked me questions about my job, showing a keen interest in botany—a subject most people I’ve met care little about—until it was time for us to leave for dinner.
Why hadn’t he kissed me, I wondered. Had I done something wrong? All day the vibrations I’d felt from him were as on key with mine as a tuning fork. Every invisible signal I picked up from him said he was attracted to me and wanted to, but he held himself back. In a state of confusion I rode the elevator down with this Adonis of a man by my side.
The maître d’ sat us at a cozy table-for-two close enough to the live band that we could enjoy the steady streams of jazz, but far enough away for us to talk comfortably. In my four-inch heels I was closer to Ian’s towering height and realized, as head after head turned to watch us progress through the restaurant, that we must make a striking couple after all. I glowed with pride that I was with this beautiful man who, with his every movement, seemed to center the universe around me.
After making our menu selections and with each of us sipping on a chilled glass of white wine Ian leaned back in his chair and looked at me, puzzled.
“How is it I’m here with you?” he asked with a slight frown.
“I don’t understand.” I said.
“When I got out of bed this morning,” he continued, “Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be sitting here, in the beautiful place, having a fantastic meal with a gorgeous woman. How did this happen?”
“You offered me a ride and I accepted,” I said smiling, but inside I was coming to terms with the unlikelihood of it all as well. Just a few short hours ago I had been reeling from a gin induced hangover!
“I think I came out ahead in the deal,” he chuckled.
“Oh, I don’t know about that.”
“I want to know all about you, how you came to be you.”
And so the meal progressed. Delectable courses paired with rare wines were over shadowed by the conversation as he began with basic first date questions such as favorite films, authors, places and time periods. But his inquiries became deeper and more intimate as the night went on until, as we waited for dessert, he reached out across the table, took both my hands in his, looked deep into my eyes and asked, “What is your most cherished memory?”
“What?” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.
He repeated the question, “What is your most cherished memory?”
I frowned and cocked my head, “Who are you? Who asks questions like that?”
“Marian,” he said, “I only have a short while with you. I feel like I have to do years of catching up in one evening. Our time together, it’s going too fast.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “Much too fast.”
I freed my fingers from his and took a sip of my wine before speaking.
“Ian, will you stay the night with me?”
His eyes warmed and a tender smile spread across his face.
“I’d be honored to stay.”
We let the words we’d just spoke, the pact we had just made, linger in the air, the electricity between us building. I then shared with him my most cherished memory, tears welling up as I opened my heart.
“Sweetheart,” he said, “You’re crying… why does it touch you so intensely?”
It wasn’t enough, I thought, for him to ask for the depths of my soul. He wanted to know why certain parts ran so deeply. And with wonder in my voice, I told him.
Dessert finished, we rose as a unit, joined hands without a word and walked out of the restaurant to the elevator. Up we rode, our fingers intertwining, but still refraining from anything other than the most chaste of touches. I fumbled for my key outside the door, while he laughed gently at my clumsiness, holding my handbag, while I dug for the errant plastic card. After what seemed like ages I found it and opened the door. It closed behind us with a musical click. I dropped my bag on the floor beside the bed and stood before Ian, waiting for his next move.
“Come to me,” he said in a raspy whisper.
He wrapped his long, muscled arms around me, drawing me to him so that I was completely encased in his embrace. I lifted my face for the kiss I knew was finally coming. His lips met mine tenderly, softly and parted as the merging of our mouths and tongues deepened. I was kissing him for the first time, again. I had come home.