The Encounter
by Alexandra York



She spotted him immediately in the lobby of the hotel. How could she not? Six-feet tall, broad shoulders, slim hips—the body of a swimmer. She walked toward him and, as he tucked some bills into a bellman’s hand, she heard the porter say, “Thank you, Mr. Bryant.” “Bryant.” Strong name. She liked it. It went with his chin.

Impulsively and surreptitiously, she followed him into the elevator. It was crowded, and she was sure he hadn’t noticed her yet. If he had, she would have noticed his noticing. Generally, male attention meant nothing to her. She was used to it, men noticing her. She had always assumed it was either her trim figure or the copper-red hair brushing her shoulders that drew their regard. But, in fact, it was neither. It was the purpose of her gait and, then, when closer, the directness of her eyes.

She got off on his floor behind him and followed him down a carpeted corridor to his room. Preoccupied, he still didn’t see her. When the door swung open, she swept past him into the suite before he even had time to withdraw his key from the lock. The hotel was old, elegant and venerable; card keys had evidently not found their way into its antiquated systems. Nor electric elevators either, it appeared; riveted on him though she was, she had still been aware of the gentle rock of hydraulics as the lift had stopped and started again at various floors on the ride up.

She stood in the center of the lavishly-appointed living room and scrutinized him as if he were desirable but dangerous prey, like a lioness ready to fight or flee. Startled but fully attentive to her tense presence, now, he stared back at her, his dark eyes flashing in response to her bold and irresistible dare. Indicating her decision by tossing her handbag carelessly in the direction of a couch, she approached him and unbuttoned his trench coat, then helped him out of it as casually as if she did this every day. Next, she removed her own fur jacket. One by one, wool scarf to silk, shirt to blouse, pants to skirt, loafers to heels, socks to hosiery, she undressed them both until they stood contemplating each other against an afternoon sun that dappled the plush Victorian furniture with a scattered confetti of light.

Seeing French doors flung open to the bedroom, she turned from him and, glancing imperiously out the tall windows at New York’s skyline, entered it. Still following her lead, he eased onto the bed next to her without uttering a word. She ran her fingers over him first, seeking the outline of his form as if tracing the roadways on a map, not yet having selected where she wanted to go. Then, urging him to turn over, she grazed his thigh with her lips and began to suck her way slowly into the soft and sensitive area behind one knee. Knowing it would be impossible to start with such a favorite but secret spot unless it was one’s own, he soon swung her around and returned the favor. The inside of his ankles were next, and then the arch of his foot. Repeating the one-for-one undressing sequence, but joining as an active participant in the game now, he gave her back in kind every motion she initiated. Unexpectedly, when she hovered over him, he turned his head away with a sudden jerk of aversion. She resolutely pulled his face back around and blew her garlic breath steadily into it.

How was I to imagine I would encounter you in the lobby just now? her eyes teased. Then her breathing began to break its even pattern, becoming ragged from the emotional impact that full contact with his body brought to her own. He guessed she had eaten a slice of pizza for lunch. And decided he liked that.

Grasping the nape of her neck, he pulled her head down and bruised both of their mouths with a kiss that sent them moving rhythmically together, as if they were swirling through heavy water, entwined and synchronized. With his other hand on the small of her back, he pressed the rest of her down to him until they were locked together and then rolled them both over neatly to watch the expression on her face as he locked eyes with her as well. “Bitch,” he swore silently, smelling the faint fragrance of jasmine as, loosing the battle of the gaze, he buried his face into her shoulder.

After many long moments of resting quietly together, she rose from the bed, walked willfully to the living room, and returned with something the size and shape of a small, transparent quartz-like stone dangling from a thin metal wire that she held by the tips of her long fingers; a glass prism of some sort, it glittered in the sunlight. Climbing onto the bed, she wound the wire attached to the chunk of cut glass around her ring finger and lifted her left hand high to admire her handiwork, an impromptu and humorous engagement ring. Then, next to him once more, she stretched her body—again like a cat!—the length of his for one luxurious instant before turning away to reach for the phone. “A bottle of Dom Perignon,” she ordered, throwing him a challenging smile.

He hesitated. It was her game with her rules. It was clear that he couldn’t do anything until she did it first. Now she had spoken. But not to him. Did that mean he could speak too? Or not? He hated to lose—He had already suffered points by failing the staring contest. She was lying lazily back again, her head on his chest, her eyes on the crystal chandelier hanging above the bed. The pear-shaped glass prism she had tied to her finger perfectly matched the hundreds of others making up the light fixture.

“No—” he murmured, letting his voice trail off to hedge his bet. It was an abstruse exclamation that might have been directed at her. But not necessarily; it could be interpreted simply as a commentary on the choice of champagne.

Slyly, she nodded, neither affirmatively or negatively, merely acknowledging his words.

Beautiful bitch!

He got up, followed her path to the living room, and returned with something of his own to match her lead. But, rather than show his hand openly as she had done, he concealed the object he carried within a closed fist. Back on the bed and keeping his secret hidden within the palm of one hand, he untied the glass bauble from her finger. Then he stood upright on the bed, and, threading the wire into an empty loop on the chandelier, fixed the prism into place.

You’re early,” she mused, watching him. “I’d planned to prepare the place.”

“Me too,” he said, flashing her a quick smile as enigmatic as her own had been. Then, grinning fully—triumphantly—he pretended to pick another crystal nugget from the sunburst of light and suspended it tantalizingly high above her.

Unable to suppress her curiosity, she sat up slowly, her eyes gradually widening into an expression of shocked disbelief.

Smiling a winning smile, he resumed his place beside her and slipped an enormous pear-shaped diamond solitaire onto her finger so it nestled against her simple gold wedding band. Their eyes met, remembering the night twenty years ago when they could afford nothing more than two plain rings and one night in this room, the night when her youthful spirit had spurred her to “borrow” an engagement stone from the chandelier.

Spontaneously and simultaneously, they broke into peals of laughter.

Incredulously, she flung herself back down against the pillow; she couldn’t stop laughing. He had beaten her. Yet she had won! He lay down beside her again, and, bringing her left hand to his lips, kissed it tenderly.

She raised her hand high, letting the dazzling diamond gather more light from its radiant inspiration, which still swung gently overhead in a graceful orbit caused by the action of replacing the missing prism. Her gesture was that of a salute.

Alexandra York is Founding President of ART. (See Bio in board section)

Copyright © Alexandra York, all rights reserved