I felt ridiculous, both of my hands closed around the chips. Like I was a Chinese doll ready to bow in respect. He didn’t seem pushy about coming in, my fears of wanton sluthood unnecessary given his proximity to my body. I shouldered my purse open and dumped the chips, fishing out my room key, then looked down at my feet. “Want the slippers? You could run back down. Do this whole bit again on a new victim of poor fashion decisions.”
“Nah.” He leaned one hand against the wall, the action bringing him a foot closer, still a safe distance away. “I’ll end the night while I’m up.” He pushed off the wall, held out his hand, that gorgeous mouth stretching into a smile. “Nice to meet you, Riley.”
“Back ‘atcha Brett.” I shook his hand, releasing it quickly. Either I was imagining it, and was in serious danger of embarrassing the hell outta myself, or we were one slip away from headboard-banging a hole through to the next room.
I inserted the key, pushed down the handle, and stepped in, giving him a small wave before gently shutting the door. It clicked, and I stared at the white wood. Somewhere, in the region between my legs, my sex drive sobbed in despair. Okay, this was fine. I made it safely to the room, was now alone. Alone. No hot hands ripping at my clothes, his mouth hungry on my neck, his cock pressing against my skin before pushing deep and hard where I was in desperate need of it. Fuck. Somewhere, my brain bumped around and tried to find the place of reason where my decision to not invite him in was a good one. Surely it was the right move. I had maintained my composure. I did not become that girl, the one who allowed horny desire to put her in harm’s way. Despite that man’s gasp-worthy looks, chivalrous actions, and mypantiesarestillwet kissing ability, I didn’t know him. He was a stranger. This was not Quincy, Florida. I did not know his parents, did not grow up sitting next to him on sticky bus seats. I couldn’t invite him in. Shouldn’t. Probably wouldn’t ever. I rose to my tiptoes and looked through the peephole.
He was still there. Staring at the floor, the back of his hand to his mouth. He ran a hand through his hair, slowly, then with rough aggression. Then, he was gone. I looked as far as I could, the peephole giving me a limited view of the world. I wanted to open the door, to peek outside and see him. To see whether he was striding confidently down the hall, or moving hesitantly on to the next part of his night. But I didn’t. I dropped my heels by the door, kicked off the slippers, and took four steps, falling onto the closest bed.
In college, I owned half a dorm, my roommate a South Floridian princess who chain-smoked Virginia Slims when not having angry, scream-at-each-other sex with her boyfriend. The room was tiny—a 10x10 space divided down the middle by hot pink duct tape. We’d put the tape down on the first day, our parents beaming and shaking hands, each so proud of ‘their girl,’ the mix of cultures tropical and exciting in the feminine space.
I now lived in a space the same size. I’d walked it off countless times, sometimes the scrape of chain accompanying my steps, other times unencumbered. It was twelve of my feet long, six of my feet wide. On the back side was a windowless concrete wall, painted a lifetime ago some shade of white that was now gray. On the front side, a line of metal pipes held in place by concrete. I’d tried to move them, jiggle them, scrape at their footers. They weren’t going anywhere.
My cramped space held a toilet, shower, and bed. He often brought in a chair, but he took it with him when he left. I would tell you how long I’d been here, but I didn’t know.
The next morning, I woke up thinking of Brett. The possessive grip of his fingers, the need in his mouth, the press of his body against me, the heat between our touch. The way my body had cried out and his had responded.
Circumstance brought me back to Earth, reminding me, with the cruel pairing of sunlight rays, that he’d left. Had the opportunity to escort me in, get my number, or, at the very least, rock my world with one more kiss. But instead he’d run. Or rather, walked. With a gentleman’s goodbye and nothing more.
I took a shower. Pathetic water pressure that alternated between hot and lukewarm. Squeezed out a mini bottle of shampoo with a British crest, yet made in Illinois. I dried off hard enough to realize that my back was sunburnt, the itch and scratch of the towel rough against my tender skin. Wrapping the white terrycloth around my body, I walked to the closet. Stared at my open suitcase, then at the clothes hanging. Nothing looked good enough.
I was too old to feel that way, the adolescent, breathless high. Nervous anticipation at the idea that I might walk downstairs and bump into his gaze. The tingling feeling that I might have met my soul mate, kissed his mouth, gazed up into his face and felt his smile touch my skin. Was I one of hundreds? Just another girl, just a brief experience that he would think nothing of? Did I imagine the spark, the connection? My leg was jiggling, jumping up and down underneath the desk as I applied mascara with a hand that was too shaky. The resort was huge. We were leaving in twenty-eight hours. I’d probably never see him again. I should have gotten his number.
“Shut the curtains, bitch.”
I ignored the words, examined my blue sundress, and wondered if the deodorant marks skipping along the front would rub out.
“Seriously. What time is it?”
“Nine-twenty.” I tossed the dress down, gave up on looking put-together, and grabbed a pair of shorts and a tank top. That was about as fashion forward as my town got. It would have to be good enough.
“Fuuuccccckk...” The word was muffled under ten pounds of hangover and one mascara-smeared pillow, but it was there. I had about five minutes before Tammy not-a-morning-person McGowan rolled her ass out of bed, and I didn’t plan to be in striking distance when that happened.
“Coffee’s brewed. We’re supposed to be at the spa at ten. I’m gonna run downstairs and grab breakfast.”
A grunt. Muffled curses. I grabbed my purse and room key, opened the door, and escaped.
The hotel’s prices would make a nun curse like Tammy. I ordered a bottled water, apple, and blueberry muffin from the coffee stand in the lobby and still racked up an eighteen-dollar bill, fifteen percent gratuity automatically added. And for that additional three bucks I didn’t even get a smile. I scribbled my last name and room number, signed the line, and snagged my tray of food, elbowing open the door and stepping onto the balcony, picking a table by the railing and settling in.
Wedge sandals kicked off, my chipped pink toes curled against the stone railing, brilliant blue water sparkled at me from behind one hundred acres of palm trees and resort pools. A pigeon missing the toes on his right foot landed on the railing three feet to my right and tilted his head at my feet as if he might give them a taste. I tossed him a piece of muffin, then kicked out my foot, leaning my head back once I was convinced that my still-blistered-from-last-night piggies were safe.