"But you said on our first date that you wouldn't get married again."
"All of my beliefs about what makes a marriage work are based on my work experience and marriages I've seen that do work. A woman who can meet my needs sexually wouldn't fall into the same criteria that I would want in a wife. It's a catch 22." He shrugged his shoulders and tilted his head at me. "I like being a bachelor. I don't need or want a wife, and I'm happy alone. I get plenty of enjoyment out of life." He raised his almost empty glass to his lips and shot a side look at me. "Like now." He drained the glass and set it down, staring at me with hungry eyes. "You look breathtaking."
I laughed and leaned forward, shaking my finger at him. "Ah ah ah, you are not going all Rico Suave on me. We haven't finished this conversation."
"Fine. What else do you want to pick my enormous brain about?"
"God, you are cocky. Okay, last question."
"How many women have you slept with?"
"You heard me! If I'm even going to think about sleeping with you, I need to know what number I'm going to be."
His hand was back on my knee. The unexpected touch caused my breath to hitch. I swatted his hand away again, but slower this time. "So you are thinking about being with me?"
I looked at him through lowered lashes. "Kind of. You are very persuasive, though I don't want to know how many times you've given that "Sex is Society's Blessing" opening statement." He laughed and removed his hand, but lingered as he did so, grazing my inner thigh with his fingers. I waited for his response expectantly.
He rolled his eyes and laughed. "God, Julia - I don't really know."
"What? Of course you do! Don't guys notch it into their bedposts or something?"
"Oh please, don't pull that. Okay, rough estimate if you're too "gentlemanly" to give me an exact."
He thought for a while, pulling on his ear, his eyes getting hazy. He finally shrugged. "If I had to guess, probably in the 150 to 180 range."
I think my eyebrows hit a new high on my forehead. I had been expecting something high, but this took the cake. "Bullshit."
"I have no reason to brag to you. If I calculate about two a month, there were probably ten before I got married, I've been divorced five or six years… it's got to be in that range."
"You pig!" I sputtered.
"Why? Because I love sex and enjoy having it with beautiful women?"
"I don't know - it just seems wrong. Haven't you had any relationships in the last six years?"
"Of course I have, but they weren't monogamist, on either side."
"Then that's not a relationship."
He waved a hand at me, dismissing the subject. "I don't want to get into that with you now."
I stared at him in stony silence. That was way too many women. I didn't have any good reason why. The same reason I didn't have any good response to his argument that women should have carefree, emotion-free sex. He had bended my thinking on that, but I'd be damned if I was going to let him know that. I finally sighed and relaxed my angry shoulders. "I'm still hungry. Are we ordering dessert?"
He laughed and leaned forward, cupping my chin in his hand and kissing me. "Yes, we are, but not here." He waved a hand to our waiter, who had been waiting for a lull in our conversation. The waiter presented the check, which Brad quickly signed. "Come on, let's go." He stood up and held out a hand to me. I grabbed my purse and stood, smoothing down my dress. My hand clasped firmly in his, I followed him through the restaurant, past George Clooney (oh my god!) and outside, onto the balcony.
The balcony, where I had watched my first fountain show, now had several small round tables set up with tablecloths, silver, and candles. A tuxedoed man held out my chair, gold with red velvet cushions, and I smiled at him and sat down. Brad took the seat across from me, and nodded to our waiter, a new gentleman, older and short, with a thick white mustache.
"Monsieur? Madame?" the man greeted both of us and poured Voss water into both of our chilled glasses. While pouring, he described their dessert selections, a long lengthy speech that Brad cut off while he was still on the first dessert.
"How many choices do you have tonight?"
"We'll have one of each."
"And a bottle of Dom, 1996."
"Certainly sir." The man left, and I leaned forward and whispered to Brad. "You shouldn't have ordered champagne. I'm going to be drunk if I have any more."
He leaned forward also, our faces now only inches away, and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, "What is drunk Julia like?"
"Very horny and also very sleepy. It is a very narrow window."
"Are you horny right now?"
I wet my lips, our faces still very close. "No." YES!
"Then you should drink some more."
"What, don't think you can close the deal without me being inebriated?"
"Touché, Ms. Campbell." He waved, and the miniature tuxedo was instantly at his side.
"Yes, Mr. De Luca?"
"I think we will hold off of the champagne please."
"Certainly sir. I will let the wine room know immediately." He rushed off in a blur of coat tails.
Faint notes began, drifting across the water, and I turned to watch the now-still lake. Brad watched me, smiling at my rapt attention.
I rose and walked to the balcony's edge, leaning on the rail and staring. The notes were louder now, and the initial, delicate, fountains of water were beginning to grow, shooting higher into the sky. I wanted to stay here forever, in this spot. In this gorgeous gown, my skin glowing, a gentle breeze on my shoulders, watching lights and water dance on a lake to a man singing opera. I felt Brad's presence behind me and he leaned forward, resting his hands on the railing on either side of me, his face next to mine, watching the show. We stayed there, silent, spooned together against the railing, until the last note traveled across the water and the lake went dark.
"It's heartbreaking isn't it? Heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time."
"What is that song?"
"It's Andrea Bocelli. Time to say Goodnight."
"It is wonderful. Achingly beautiful."
"That is a good way to put it." He moved his hands from the railing to my arms, and grasped them. Pulling on one and pushing with the other, he spun my body until my back was on the railing, my face tilted up to his. I stared into his eyes, pools of so many complex things I didn't understand. I only knew one thing. I wanted him. So badly it hurt, ached inbetween my legs. I knew it wasn't right, I knew I was one of hundreds, but I didn't care. I wanted him more than I had ever wanted anything in my life. I leaned forward, closed my eyes, and kissed him with everything I had.