I was sitting with my back to the bar, elbows propped on the rail, so I saw her when she walked in. So did many others, and whispers were exchanged and heads turned. A significant number of eyes followed her as she crossed the room and took a seat at the bar several seats away from me. She seemed casually self-contained, unaware of the stir she’d caused. It was a convincing act, but I felt certain that she was fully aware of it.
I spun my chair so that I could face the bar and study her in the back-bar mirror, trying to decide just what quality it was that made her so fascinating. She was undeniably beautiful, but she wasn’t the only beautiful woman in the room; she may not have been even the most beautiful woman in the room, but she’d caused a sensation like no other. Her body was spectacular and her lithe and graceful bearing was certainly attention-getting, but now, seeing only the above-bar portion of her in the mirror, I decided that it was her remarkable face and chestnut-brown hair, red highlights gleaming in the bar lighting, that had drawn so many pairs of eyes.
Her features were flawless and refined and her skin bore an ethereal radiance as if lighted from within; her hair was a glistening silken halo, and she had fine cheekbones and lips that begged to be bruised by passionate kisses, and she possessed a loveliness and innocence that made older people like me recall and yearn for our youth, and wonder if we’d ever been as earnest and unsullied and naïve as she appeared. My longer look revealed that my first impression had been wrong; she was not only by far the most beautiful woman in the room, but she may also have been the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.
At the same time that the bartender delivered her order – something amber over an ice cube in a rock's glass, a serious drink – a young man approached her from a nearby table where several of his friends sat watching. He was trying to affect a confident air, but the cracks in his bravado were apparent in his hesitant steps and the increasing tension in his shoulders. Understandable, given his high-value target.
Still, I admired his courage and determination as he leaned an elbow on the bar beside her and spoke to her, his back to me. Almost immediately, I could see that his approach had not been welcomed; although he mostly blocked my view of the girl I could see that she’d moved so that her face was inches from his and was speaking to him, low and urgent and angry, every bit as earnest as she’d appeared but not nearly as innocent or lovely.
The tension in his shoulders spread to the rest of his body and I watched a red flush of embarrassment climb his neck and set his ears ablaze, and when he turned away he was utterly destroyed, his body now rigid in defeat and humiliation, shoulders bowed, his steps slow and shuffling, looking for all the world like he was carrying his testicles in a basket in his hands rather than still dangling where they belonged.
I was shocked and embarrassed for him, but I watched him return to his table and saw that when his friends tried to engage in a little good-natured teasing he merely hung his head in humiliation and didn’t respond. To their credit, they quickly gave up and went back to their conversation, leaving him to suffer alone.
I felt bad for him but it was none of my business, so I went back to studying my drink as I wondered what could possibly have precipitated such a devastating rejection – and what she could have said to cut him so deeply. When I looked up, I again observed her in the mirror, but this time, it was with the knowledge that beneath that magnificent exterior must lay something hard and feral and considerably less lovely.
I turned and looked at the unfortunate young man for a moment and saw that he was still hurting badly, confused and dismayed that he’d said or done something to earn such a brutal response but utterly unable to fathom what it might have been. He had both hands wrapped around a long-neck Bud, his fingers interlaced behind it and his thumbs tracing slow lines in the condensation that had formed on the label, his head down as he stared at the tiny beads of water as if the answers might be reflected there.
When I looked back into the mirror, she was watching me, and our eyes met and held. Neither of us smiled, neither of us acknowledged the other in any way, we just looked, and then moved our gaze from the mirror to each other, looking directly into each other’s eyes over the length of bar between us. After what may have been half a minute, I just shook my head sadly and looked away, the golden image of her innocence and the loveliness that I thought I’d seen now badly tarnished. For some reason, I felt that I’d lost something of value.
I wasn’t terribly surprised when she brought her drink and slid onto the empty barstool alongside me, nor when she said, “Why are you looking at me?”
Her ego would have required it so her approach didn’t surprise me, but when I turned and met her eyes, I discovered that they alone might go a long way toward making a man forget what he was going to say and become a babbling idiot; they were a unique sage-green, something that had not been apparent at a greater distance, and with only a few inches between us, I could see tiny golden rays radiating out from her pupils across the pale green irises. That her eyes were as remarkable as the rest of her probably shouldn’t have surprised me either, but it did.
“Was I looking at you?”
“You know you were.”
“You must be used to it; you’re very beautiful.”
She snorted. “Jesus! Just another guy perving on me, huh?”
“Is that what I was doing?”
“You tell me; are you a pervert?”
“Possibly, yes, but I will point out that there’s nothing perverse about a man looking at a beautiful woman. It’s probably one of the most natural things there is, and while the standards of beauty have changed over the centuries, appreciation of it has been a constant.”
“That’s quite a speech. You do know you’re probably twice my age.”
“At least. More than, I’d guess.”
“I guess I’d hoped that a more, umm… mature man, like you, might be more interesting, but no; just another guy gawking because he’s got a hardon for me.”
“You assume too much. I said you must be used to people looking at you because you’re beautiful; I didn’t say that’s why I was looking at you.”
She pondered that for a moment, possibly thinking back to what I’d said. “So why, then?”
“About what that young man could possibly have said to you that provoked you to utterly shred him, and what you said that hurt him so badly.”
“Huh?” To her credit – or perhaps not - she seemed genuinely unaware of the destruction she’d left in her wake.
“It takes a certain amount of courage for a man to approach a woman. It’s a nervous time for most men, and the more beautiful the woman the tougher it gets, in my experience. That kid worked up his courage and came up to you, undoubtedly the most beautiful girl he’d ever laid eyes on, full of excitement and hope and optimism and you cut his legs out from under him.”
“Who are we talking about?”
“My god! You have no idea, do you?” I inclined my head toward the unfortunate young man, who was still sitting, head down, studying his beer bottle, where the answers he sought were still not forthcoming.
She turned and looked at him for a moment. “Oh. That’s the guy that came up to me at the bar a few minutes ago.” I nodded and she went on, “I was probably a little harsh on him.”
“You think? Look at him. Whatever you did to him, it’s gonna leave scars.”
“Jesus. I didn’t mean to hurt him, but do you have any idea how tiresome it gets, being hit on all the time?”
“I’m sure being incredibly beautiful must be a heavy burden, but look at me; do I look like I’d know how that feels?” She smiled, but I wasn’t going for humor. “Seriously, no, I don’t have any idea, but if you get it so much you must know a thousand ways to decline politely… gently. Did you really need to destroy the kid?”
“It just gets so old…”
“This may be tough for you to believe, but a lot of people go through life with a much heavier cross to bear than being gorgeous. Take him, for example. He came into tonight just a normal guy – maybe even a real nice guy, not that you gave him a chance to show you – but from now on he’s going to be much less able to be that guy, to let his guard down and approach a woman with anticipation and excitement instead of anxiety and fear of rejection. He feels thoroughly emasculated. You did that to him.”
She looked at him for a moment that stretched on and on, then at me and then back at him, her expression softening and sadness now in her beautiful eyes. “God. I truly hurt him, didn’t I? You must think I’m a terrible person.”
“I can’t make that judgment; I don’t know you. I think you fucked up.”
“It wasn’t even about him. I was pissed about other things; I just took it out on him.”
“Does that strike you as being at all unfair?” She sighed heavily as I looked at her. “What did he say that made you so angry?”
“Nothing. He just asked if he could buy me a drink. Banal, and right after I’d just gotten one, so bad timing but harmless.”
“And yet you ripped him apart.” I didn’t ask what she’d said; I didn’t want to know.
She winced under the criticism. “That was stupid and thoughtless and he’d done nothing to deserve it. It wasn’t his fault, it was me; I was just in a bad place. I took out my frustration on him. Now I feel like shit.”
“Don’t tell me. Tell him.”
She looked from him to me and back at him again. His position and demeanor remained unchanged. She used my words: “You think?”
I shrugged. “You’re the only one here that can say anything that will make him feel any better about himself.”
“He probably hates me. What if he rejects my apology, tells me to fuck off?”
“Then you’ve earned it, right?” When she didn’t reply, I went on. “You know damn well he won’t. Women who look like you know that their beauty buys a kind of latitude not allowed to average people.”
“You’re a little cruel yourself, you know that?”
“I suppose. Honesty can be brutal sometimes.”
“Is he a friend of yours or something?”
I shook my head. “No, I’ve never seen him before tonight, didn’t even notice him at all until he went up to you.”
“So why do you care? Why butt in?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know; it just seemed wrong. If a man had treated a woman the way you treated him, I’d have called him on it. Maybe I’m an equal opportunity buttinski.”
She smiled, and she was so lovely that I had to remind myself that she truly wasn’t. She looked again at him and then at me, blew out a cleansing breath, squared her shoulders, and said, “You’re right, I should apologize. Okay…”
She slid from her barstool and moved toward him, and, God help me, all I could think about was how incredible she looked from the rear, her long hair flowing over proud shoulders, slender waist above the feminine flare of her hips, and the soft challis of her dress flattering a perfect derriere as it flowed over her intimate contours. The skirt ended mid-thigh and the bare legs below it were shapely and flawless, and when she turned and looked at me over her shoulder in that way women have, from the corner of her eye, I knew that despite what I’d said to her I was one of those people I’d denigrated, a man that would likely allow her any degree of latitude required because she was physically so very special.
As she came alongside him, she touched his shoulder, and when he looked up he recoiled visibly, dismay written on his face. Demonstrating good instincts, she squatted at his side, sitting back on her heels to make herself his height as you might with a small child or a frightened dog, becoming smaller and less threatening.
She began speaking to him, and while at first, his face was stiff with pain and resentment, he soon began to relax, his expression softening and the tension going out of his body. When she tilted her head just so, speaking to him as he looked into those liquid green eyes, he smiled for the first time, then laughed softly. Her ability to heal appeared at least equal to her ability to wound; if she was being honest and taking the blame for her attack onto her own shoulders it seemed to be working, and his friends at the table had fallen silent as they watched the two of them.
When she smiled and laid a hand on his arm which he then covered with his own, I figured she’d managed to reverse most of the damage she’d caused. She leaned in and kissed his cheek before rising to her feet, then made a request of his friends, one of whom passed her a pen from his pocket. She wrote something on a cocktail napkin which the injured young man quickly tucked into his pocket as if it were a great treasure, then squeezed his shoulder and turned and walked back toward me.
She was smiling as she approached, something that only enhanced her beauty. I waited until she drew close. “Everything go okay?”
“It did. I think we both feel a little better about ourselves.”
“Well, good; I assumed it must have if you gave him your phone number – and since he accepted, of course. What did you tell him?”
“I told him to call me and we’d have lunch.”
“Good choice, more meaningful than meeting for a cup of coffee and a scone, but less laden with expectations than dinner or drinks.” I smiled. “But what I meant was what did you say to him about what happened earlier?”
“Oh. More or less what I said to you, I guess. I told him it was entirely my fault, nothing he’d done, and I apologized, groveled a little…”
“Didn’t seem to require a lot of that.”
She grinned. “No. He was a very nice guy like you said. Very gracious.”
“Good; and you feel better too?”
She nodded. “I do, thanks. Are you going to offer to buy me a drink?”
“You might understand where I’d feel a twinge of trepidation about that…”
She let out a peal of laughter. “Okay, I deserved that; don’t worry, though, I promise not to ‘emasculate’ you,” she smiled as she quoted my word, “but if I’m going to accept, I should probably at least know your name.”
“Fair enough. Brandt Williams.” I held out my hand. “Pleased to meet you, Miss…?”
“Dana. Dana Norris, and, yes, it’s good to meet you too. Now, about that drink…”
I signaled the bartender, who took her order for another of what she was having, which turned out to be a Macallan fifteen-year-old single malt; the girl had good but expensive tastes, her choice surprising in someone so young and so magnificently female. After that, we sat and talked, openly and easily. She was good at it and bright and seemed to bear me no ill feelings for calling her out earlier.
She was easy to look at, easy to talk to, and fascinating to listen to; an hour went by quickly, and then the better part of another. It was getting late when she laid her hand over mine and said, “Brandt, you remind me of my father.”
I winced – visibly, for effect. “Just so you know, as an older guy chatting up a beautiful young woman in a bar, that’s something he really doesn’t want to hear.”
She laughed. “Is that what you’re doing, chatting me up?”
“Not by any nefarious prior plan; it just worked out that way.”
“I meant it in a good way. My father is a remarkable man, kind and gentle and wise. I love him very much, but if he’d seen what I did to that poor guy he’d have been ashamed of me. You rescued me from realizing later what a bitch I’d been and you gave me a chance for redemption. It’s something he would have done.”
“Then I’m flattered by the comparison. Thank you.”
“Are you going to invite me to your place for a nightcap?”
“Hmm. That almost sounds incestuous, given the timing.”
She laughed. “Do you always have such witty responses available?”
“Only about fifty percent of the time, I’m afraid; you might say I’m half-witty.” She smiled, and I went on, “So, Dana, am I being picked up?”
“You sound surprised.”
“I am, a little – after all, you did point out that I’m twice your age.”
“And you said at least. So, just how old are you, Brandt?”
“You were right; I’m almost twenty-four.”
“Fuck. I have shoes older than you.”
She laughed. “But see, that’s why I find you so attractive. You’re easy to be with and you don’t have that insecurity-based arrogance so many young guys have; you’re self-assured and comfortable with who you are, and you’re funny in a very self-deprecating way – plus, you say things in a way I’ve never heard anyone speak before. That’s interesting. It also doesn’t hurt that you’re a very handsome man.”
“Hmm. Thanks. If I invite you over is it okay if I keep the lights turned down low, like here?”
“Stop; you’d be handsome in any light.”
“Alongside you, any man would pale to insignificance. I don’t say that to be self-deprecating; it’s merely a fact.”
“Very smooth, Brandt, and that’s what I mean about the way you speak. So…?
“So, Dana, would you like to come by my place for a nightcap?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
“I probably wouldn’t have, although I was very much thinking about it. Do you mind walking?”
“Just a few blocks over. It’s more hassle to find parking, plus the risk of getting pulled over leaving; easier to just walk.”
“These aren’t the best shoes for long hikes.”
She was right; they weren’t outrageous six-inch stiletto heels, but they were heels and they were designed for looks and what they did for a woman’s legs and ass, not for walking. Make no mistake, they did their assigned task well, but still… “We’ll take it slow. If it seems too far I’ll carry you; you can’t weigh enough to make that very difficult.”
She laughed. “Thanks, I think. I mean, I can do a few blocks, but in this neighborhood? It’s not safe, is it?”
I shrugged. “Safe enough, I walked here and do regularly. The area is gentrifying, if that term still means driving people out of their homes so landlords can make more money by fixing up old buildings and drawing top-dollar rents. It has a ways to go, but I’ve never had any problems.”
When I rose to my feet she looked at me and said, “Wow! No, I don’t suppose you would. I had no idea… I guess you probably could carry me! How big are you?”
“I’m six-foot-six and I weigh 255, but that wouldn’t stop a junkie with a gun. It just hasn’t been an issue.”
“Hmm, so you’re more than twice my age as well as more than twice my weight.”
“Sweet talker - I also remind you of your father, so it’s like I hit the trifecta.”
She laughed. “I’m not doing a great job of buttering you up, am I?”
“No matter. I have some butter in the fridge; we can try again. Shall we?” I held out my arm and she took it. I was easily a foot taller than her but I’m accustomed to that, and the light scent of her perfume along with that of whatever botanical shampoo she used was intoxicating.
We left the bar and turned toward my building. It had rained while we were in there and the air smelled wet and fresh, of damp concrete, and the streetlights reflected in small puddles and from wet blacktop. There were few cars, and their tires created a low susurrus on the wet pavement each time one passed. For an hour, perhaps two, the city would smell and appear fresh and clean, but it wouldn’t last.
We both looked back at the bar before we’d moved too far away. It was a welcoming sight, golden light spilling from the windows, the sound of music and the muted babble of conversation escaping when the door was opened. Next-door was a two-story office building, now dark, and on the other side a four-story building undergoing renovation, surrounded by scaffolding and draped with tarps. The bar was an island of warmth, humanity, and social intercourse in an otherwise barren ocean.
As we turned the next corner and walked on, the redeveloping nature of the neighborhood became apparent. To our right, on the side we were on, were buildings that had undergone renovation, attractive and ostentatiously occupied with working exterior lights and clean facades, now maintained and graffiti-free. On the far side of the street, where developers had not yet reached, were a number of dark, derelict abandoned buildings among the few dank and depressing occupied structures.
The one directly across had eight or ten floors of gaping window openings above a boarded-up ground floor, most of the glass broken or missing entirely; in a couple of places, the walls above the openings were charred with soot where a structure fire had occurred or homeless people had burned trash in the hollowed-out apartments to keep warm. It was depressing and eerie, the black openings looking like the gateway to Hell. The ground floor plywood board-up sheets were covered with graffiti, as was a dented old dumpster and a stripped, derelict car resting on its brake drums at the curb.
I could see Dana taking in the stark difference, and I awaited her comment. She shook her head as she said, “Wow, big difference. It will be nice when progress moves on through here and cleans up that mess.”
I nodded. “It will. People are living in some of those that will get displaced, but they also have trouble with junkies and such, no matter how tightly they try to board them up. Police busted a meth lab in one a while back, and shooting galleries are common.”
“Heroin, other shit. Those places are littered with old syringes and needles, among worse things. They pull dead bodies out of these buildings on a regular basis.”
She stopped and stared at the building for a moment. “Oh. That’s very sad.”
“Sad, dangerous. Depressing. They’ll find some other place to die, I suppose. It makes you think, though.”
I shrugged. “A lot of things. Your own place in life, the ‘There but for the grace of God’ factor. About how sometimes the gap between wealth and poverty can be as narrow as a city street.”
She paused and pulled me to a stop, taking my hand in hers as she looked up at me. “Is that why you’re so quiet, you’re thinking about things like that?”
“Thinking about all kinds of things, I suppose. As you pointed out, I’m quite elderly, but I’m not yet so old that my brain squeaks and creaks and rattles when I think. It’s a quiet pastime.”
“I never said you were elderly!” When I smiled, she went on, “So, still waters run deep?”
“So far they still run. I don’t know how deep.” She smiled and squeezed my hand and we walked on.
There’s something about the company of a beautiful woman that can make even the surrounding squalor seem less foul, less squalid. I’m sure a part of it is ego or conceit, the fact that she’d accompanied me out of the bar rather than any of the other, mostly younger men who might have lusted after her, my own hubris somewhat blinding me to the decay around us. Still, I would have thought that the juxtaposition of her exceptional beauty amid the sordid surroundings would have emphasized the latter rather than diminishing it; I was never more happy to be wrong.
A little further on, shortly after we’d passed a solitary man in a hoodie who’d cast a predatory eye at us before moving on to easier targets, we crossed the open end of an alley and Dana stopped again. “Look.”
I looked. About forty feet into the alley, a man stood with his back against the wall and his pants around his ankles; a woman knelt in front of him, sucking his cock. When she backed away for a moment to wipe her mouth, his erection gleamed wetly in the dim light of a distant street lamp, standing out rigidly at a forty-five-degree angle from his groin. Soon she returned to her task, her head moving back and forth as her painted lips moved on his hard shaft.
Dana’s hand tightened on mine and I felt a small shiver run through her. “God. I’ve never seen anything like that before, not as a casual observer. I wonder if she enjoys doing that as much as I do.”
I laughed softly at her admission. “I think he’s definitely in it for the pleasure; for her, I suspect it’s about the money. She’s probably hoping desperately that he finishes soon and that it’s the last cock she’ll see tonight.”
She stared at me. “A hooker? You think?”
“Almost certainly. Even the horniest of lovers wouldn’t pick this spot, that filthy alley. Look how she’s dressed.”
She gazed at them for a moment. “That certainly paints it in a different light. Not nearly as arousing if it’s just cheap, tawdry paid sex.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Still…” She continued to watch.
I tugged her along. “Come on; let’s leave them to conclude their business in private, shall we?”
“She’s giving him a blowjob in an open, public alley. It’s hardly private; they don’t care if anyone sees.”
“Maybe, Dana, but I do. When people take something as wondrous and beautiful and intimate as the sexual act and turn it into a cheap, dirty scene in a stinking alley, a public spectacle, it diminishes us all.”
As we turned away, I heard the man utter a few animalistic grunts and swear, and knew he was coming. I wondered whether she’d backed off and jerked him until he spurted onto the ground, or if he’d paid her extra to take it in her mouth, in which case she’d soon spit it out. I came down on the latter, and when I heard her spit and then cough a moment later, I knew I was right.
Dana’s hand had tightened on mine when we heard his climax, and when the hooker spat she said, “She let him come in her mouth, but spit it out. I never spit it out.”
I laughed. “Good to know. If you were in her line of work and sucked maybe twenty dicks a night you would.”
“Ugh. Yeah, that would take a lot of the pleasure out of it. Interesting neighborhood you live in.”
“It’s ugly, but it’s home.” We walked on, reaching my building without further incident. As we approached, I said, “This is us.”
She looked up at the massive eight-story building, an impressive Depression-era Art Deco pile of white limestone, a rectangular layer-cake design with each floor stepped back from the one below like a giant stairway. The vertical design elements featured heavily fluted surfaces, with elaborate, colorful brickwork on the flat panels below each window and angular, geometric wrought iron on the corner balconies, as well as other recognizable Deco cues. “You live here? I know this building! It was designed by John Holabird. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s beautiful!”
I was surprised and impressed. “You know your architecture, Dana. Indeed it is, and that may have saved it from becoming quite as run down as so many other buildings around here. Still, it needed a lot of work but it’s been mostly restored. Shall we go in?”
The massive doors were of bronze and beveled glass, and I saw her eyes taking in every feature of the design of the face of the building; one concession to modernity was the card reader on the side of the door, where I scanned my card and the heavy locks clunked open. When there were events – a big party or dinner, weddings, meetings, anything with a lot of visitors – a doorman would be on duty. The rest of the time electronics, including badge readers, computers, and security cameras took his place.
The lobby was another exercise in the extravagance of Deco, with gleaming golden-cream marble floors and two massive and decorative brass-doored elevators with elaborate tile mosaics on the walls above. It was softly but evenly lit by enormous classic chandeliers of antiqued brass, with frosted amber glass shades matching those on the wall sconces flanking the elevators and the front entrance. It was impressive, it was elaborate, and Dana appeared enthralled with it.
The walls were of dark granite, and set into one was a bank of mailboxes, each with a number and sunburst rays of gleaming brass against a black field on its brass door. There was a large table below, of green-gold marble with heavy legs and a top four inches thick; it must have weighed over a ton, and its sole purpose in life was to give people a place to sort their mail so they could discard the junk in the provided receptacle and not carry it upstairs with them.
“Let me grab my mail and then we’ll head up.”
“Sure, no problem! I’m enjoying looking around.”
I did so, discarding a few pieces before collecting Dana, who was wandering around, carefully examining each feature. “Shall we head up?”
When she turned to me, her beautiful eyes were shining and her amazing face was suffused with pleasure. “This place is incredible, Brandt! It’s like a museum, an art museum. It must give you a lot of pleasure to walk in here off the street every day.”
“It does, yes. I love it, and I feel fortunate to live here. It impresses me every time I see it, it’s just…” I sighed. “No, never mind.”
“It’s just what?”
“Nothing, it’s not important. Sometimes my mind goes to dark places.”
She put her hand on my arm. “Tell me what you were going to say.”
“Okay; it’s just that when you transition from the world outside to this magnificent lobby the contrast couldn’t be more stark. Here – and the bar – it’s welcoming and light and there’s a sense of safety and prosperity and well-being. Out there, it’s burned-out buildings and junk cars covered with graffiti, stinking dumpsters, old men and junkies sleeping in doorways, and worn down hookers giving blowjobs in dark alleys. It’s two different worlds.”
She looked at me gravely. “It’s getting better, right?”
I shrugged. “It depends entirely on your point of view. A few blocks over, young men are dying in drug deals gone bad and drive-by shootings by gangs, innocent people getting gunned down in the middle of it all, while here it’s gleaming beauty and opulence and history being preserved. Or maybe rewritten. Yes, it’s all moving their way, improving slowly but inexorably, yet those people have nowhere else to go. It won’t benefit them.”
She looked thoughtful, beautiful even when frowning in concentration. “That is a difficult thing to contemplate. What can be done?”
“I don’t know; nobody seems to, and that’s what makes it so hard. Maybe it’s human nature, good and bad.” I stopped, but she was looking at me earnestly as if waiting for more. “That’s the difficult thing, it never changes. Think about Europe and all of the centuries of beauty in cathedrals, fountains, buildings… galleries, or art museums like the Louvre. Less than a day’s drive from those things – a couple of hours by air – you have monuments to the depths of men’s depravity and cruelty to their fellow man, like the Roman Coliseum, or Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. There are others…”
“Brandt. My god.”
“I know. It’s hard to believe that all of these things are perpetrated by the same species, isn’t it? No other creature on earth has our ability to soar to the heights or sink to the depths. I haven’t any idea how you change that and sometimes it feels like we’re a mere whisker away…” the agony in her beautiful eyes stopped me.
Her smile and excitement and the pleasure I’d seen on her face were gone now, replaced by sadness and pain and the dark thoughts I’d put in her head. “Dana, I’m sorry. I should have kept my thoughts to myself. I didn’t mean to throw a dark shroud over our evening.”
Her eyes, grey-green pools of light and shadow, met mine, and I could almost see her mentally shake herself, attempting to shrug off the darkness. “No, it’s okay. It’s fascinating and thought-provoking and you’re not wrong; not enough people even think about it in that way.”
I smiled sadly at her. “It’s how they maintain their sanity, no doubt.”
“Maybe if more people thought like that we’d find some answers.”
“Maybe.” I mustered another sad smile and put my hand on her shoulder. “But now that I’ve dumped those ugly thoughts into your beautiful head, you’re stuck with them too. I’m sorry, that was unfair.”
“Let’s go up to your place and I’ll let you apologize with a glass of wine – and really, we can talk about it more if you like.”
“No, I’ve done enough damage for one night. Thoughtless…” I sighed and shook my head, attempting to banish some of the darkness, shifting gears. “On a safer topic, what’s your pleasure wine-wise?”
“Mmm, let’s see; you have a selection?”
“I do, within reason. A couple hundred bottles, a good mix of variety and appellation but nothing crazy exotic.”
She laughed. “Lord. I was going to say something cold, fruity, and a little sweet. Not dry. That sounds a little simplistic now.”
I grinned. “Not at all, you nailed it down perfectly. And I happen to have a chilled bottle of a very good Chardonnay that fills the bill. It’s everything you said as well as buttery smooth; you’ll love it.”
In the elevator, she kissed me. One moment, we were holding hands and in the next, she flowed into my arms and stood on tiptoe and when I lowered my face to her she pressed her lips to mine and her tongue sought entrance to my mouth, a demand quickly granted.
Her lips were warm and soft and her tongue insistent, and her feminine scent was exhilarating and provocative. I pushed the dark thoughts to the back of my mind and focused on appreciating the incredible beauty and sensuality of the woman I held in my arms.
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