This is the 1st Chapter of JUST ONE NIGHT: THE STRANGER, an erotic fiction book that will be released on January 22nd.
The red Hervé Léger bandage dress I’m wearing is not mine. It belongs to my friend Simone. Yesterday I would have laughed off the very suggestion that I wear anything this overtly provocative. Tomorrow I’ll dismiss the idea out of hand. But tonight? Tonight is a night of exceptions.
I stand in the middle of the hotel room Simone and I are sharing at the Venetian and tug at the hem. Can I sit down in this dress?
“You look so sexy,” Simone coos as she slips up behind me and pulls my black, wavy hair behind my shoulders. The move feels a little too intimate and I feel a little too exposed. I step away from her and twist myself into a pretzel as I try to see the back of the dress in the mirror. “Am I really going out in this?”
“Are you kidding?” Simone shakes her head, confused. “If I looked half as hot as you do in that dress I’d wear it every day!”
I pull down on the hem again. I’m used to wearing suits. Not the kind of suits women wear in the movies, but the kind of suits women wear in real life when they work at a global consulting firm. The kind of suits that make you almost forget you’re a woman, let alone a sexual being. But this dress sings a Melody I haven’t sung before.
“I won’t be able to eat so much as a carrot stick while wearing this,” I complain as I stare down at the neckline. I’m not wearing a bra. The only thing I was able to fit under the dress was a delicate little thong. But the dress is designed to prop everything up…which I have mixed feelings about. What surprises me is that my feelings are mixed. I’m slightly embarrassed, that’s to be expected. I also feel a little sinful just putting this thing on and yet…Simone’s right. I look hot. I’ve never thought of myself in those terms. No one does. When people hear the name Kasie Fitzgerald they think responsible, reliable, steady.
Steady, steady Kasie.
That’s the reason Simone dragged me to Vegas for the weekend. She wanted me to be unsteady on my feet for just one night before I fully embrace a life of stability with the man I’m going marry, Dave Beasley. Dave is going to propose…or maybe he already has. “I think next weekend we should go ring shopping,” he had said as we finished up a quiet dinner at a Beverly Hills café. We’ve been dating for six years now and he has been talking about the possibility of marriage for five of them, examining the idea from every angle and putting our hypothetical marriage through hypothetical stress tests like a bank preparing for another financial crisis.
Dave is careful like that. It isn’t sexy but it’s comfortable. Once, after a few too many drinks, I told Simone that kissing Dave was like eating a baked potato. She gave me no end of grief for that. But what I meant was that a baked potato, while not the most exciting food in the world, was warm and soft and it was enough to stave off hunger. That was Dave. He was my comfort food, my baked potato.
You should sleep with a stranger.
That had been Simone’s advice. One last hurrah before I got married and before I turned thirty. I wouldn’t do it of course. I had bargained her down to flirting with a stranger and I was still trying to work up my nerve to do that.
When you’re old, do you really want to look back at your life and realize that you were never young?
Those had been Simone’s words too. But she didn’t understand. I didn’t know how to be young. I hadn’t even known how to be young when I was a child.
“She’s so much more serious than her sister!” my parents’ friends would say as I sat next to them, my head buried in a book. “Not a girly girl at all!”
Somehow it had been understood that femininity and studiousness were mutually exclusive states of being.
But here I was, a Harvard graduate working at one of the top global consulting firms in the country. And I looked hot.
“Blackjack,” Simone says, with confidence. “You sit down at the high roller blackjack table wearing that dress and all the guys at the table will forget how to add.”
I snort and then throw my hand over my mouth as Simone breaks out in giggles. Even Hervé Léger can’t make a snort sexy.
When we get to the casino, heads turn. I’m not used to this. Men are watching me move, their eyes are appraising, measuring up their chances, taking note of all the secrets my dress reveals…and it reveals plenty. The women are watching too. Some of the looks are judgmental, others envious. I blush as I realize that some of their stares are every bit as appraising as the men’s.
Part of me wants to hurry through the room but the dress keeps my gate slow and careful. I’ve heard stories of models falling on the runway during Hervé Léger shows and I can see how that could happen. With the shoes Simone insists need to be worn with this and the tightness of the dress itself each step presents its own challenge.
A man walks by me and runs his eyes up and down my body without even making a thin attempt to hide his desire. My blush deepens and I turn away. The way he looked at me…does he think I’m a hooker? I’d have to be a pretty successful one to afford this outfit. I glance over my shoulder and realize that he’s stopped to watch me as I move away from him. He looks slick and arrogant. I don’t want him…but I like that he wants me and even that small pleasure makes me feel a little shameful…and scandalous.
We stake out a blackjack table that has a $100 minimum. That doesn’t exactly make it for high rollers but it’s so much more than I would normally risk.
As I sit down my hem inches up and I’m reminded of the thin thong, the only undergarment I’m wearing.
What am I doing here?
I swallow hard and focus on the table. I’m not exactly an expert at the game but Simone proves to be much worse than I am. She places huge bets and then keeps trying for the twenty-one even though her attempts lead her to bust more than once. Eventually she gives up and tells me she’s going off to the craps table. I stay where I am. I can handle adding up cards but I have never mastered the art of rolling the dice.
“This looks like a good table.”
I turn just as a man wearing dark jeans and a brown t-shirt sits beside me. His sculpted arms are an odd contrast to the salt-and-pepper hair…but I like it. He looks over at me just as I’m taking him in and I quickly look away. It was an obvious dodge and I inwardly cringe at my awkwardness.
A woman with a clipboard walks over and smiles at the man now by my side. “Mr. Dade, so good to see you.”
“You too, Gladys. I’m going to start with five thousand.”
The woman nods and after he signs a slip of paper a pile of black and purple chips are placed in front of him.
This is not the way people normally get their chips.
I put down a two hundred dollar bet and the dealer doles out a few cards. I start with a five and an ace. It’s not a bad beginning. Mr. Dade isn’t so lucky with his ten and six.
I tap my finger next to my cards and am given another. Mr. Dade does the same.
My card’s a four. I smile to myself. I’m on a roll.
Or at least I thought I was until Mr. Dade is handed a five.
No one says the words but the chips are pushed in his direction.
As the dealer adds a few chips to my pile, a smaller acknowledgment of my win against the house, Mr. Dade leans toward me, ever so slightly. “Care to make it interesting?”
“I thought that’s what we were doing.” I contemplate my chips, not because I need to count them but because I’m a little too unnerved to look directly at him.
“More interesting,” he clarifies. “If I have the better hand we’ll leave the table and you’ll have a drink with me.”
“And if I have the upper hand?” I ask, twisting the words to my liking.
“Then I’ll have a drink with you.”
I laugh. Between the excitement in the room and my new, albeit temporary look I’m already feeling a little lightheaded. I can’t imagine what a drink will do to me.
“If I win we’ll have a drink right here at the table and keep playing,” I say. From an economic standpoint my plan is probably the more risky one but from every other perspective it’s decidedly safer.
“A negotiator,” Mr. Dade says. Although I’m still not looking at him I can feel his smile. The energy he’s exuding is sexy, but also a little mischievous.
I like it.
The dealer doles out a few more cards. I get a three and a six while Mr. Dade gets a King and a four. It’s anyone’s game. It all depends on what we’re dealt next….a nice little metaphor for life. But I keep that thought to myself and quietly tap my blood red fingernails against the felt green table. Mr. Dade gestures to be hit as well.
This time he’s the one who gets to twenty. I don’t even get to eighteen.
He stands up, offers me his hand. “Shall we?”
I collect my chips and hesitate as I mentally plan out how to get up from the table without exposing more than I’d care to display.
Again, I can feel this man’s smile. An old song pops into my head, The Devil Inside, and I mentally play it as a soundtrack in my head as I carefully get to my feet. He doesn’t rush me as he escorts me first to the cashier where I can cash out my chips and then to the escalator. People are still looking, but now they’re looking at us.
But there is no us. I remind myself. This is a fantasy. A fleeting and insubstantial encounter. We’ll drink, we’ll flirt and then we’ll vanish from one another’s lives like smoke from a controlled flame.
“Here,” he says as he moves us over to a bar with walls of glass.
People are looking; they’re being drawn into the fantasy of us.
He sidles up to the bar and waits as I struggle to get up on the barstool. I pull out my cell to text Simone my whereabouts but before I get a chance to enter the first word the bartender is here.
“I think the lady would like a glass of your finest champagne, Aaron,” Mr. Dade begins.
“No,” I say quickly, some deleterious impulse getting the better of me. “Whiskey.”
I don’t know why I upped the ante except for that this isn’t a champagne moment. It feels grittier, stronger, it calls for grains not bubbles.
Mr. Dade smiles again and orders us both a whiskey, a brand I’ve never heard of. “So,” he says as the bartender moves away, “blackjack’s your game?”
“No.” I lower my head as I send the text to Simone. “This is only my second time at the tables. I don’t really have a game.”
“You’re playing one tonight.”
I look up, asking the question with just the rise of my eyebrows.
“You don’t normally dress like this,” he continues as our drinks are placed in front of us. He slides the bartender some money. He’s not asked if he would like to start a tab. Our server seems to sense that this is not the time to interrupt.
“How do you know how I normally dress?”
“You don’t often wear heels like those. You don’t know how to walk in them.”
I laugh nervously. “No one outside of Cirque Du Soleil knows how to walk in these shoes.”
“And if you dressed like that all the time you’d be used to people looking at you. You’re not.” He leans forward and I can smell the faintest wisp of woodsy cologne. “You’re self-conscious. You’re not comfortable with the stares or how much you enjoy them.”
I start to look away but he takes my chin in his hand and holds it so that I’m facing him directly. “Even now, you’re blushing.”
I don’t know this man, this man who is touching me. He’s a stranger. A blank slate. I should walk away. I shouldn’t let the rough skin of his thumb move back and forth over my cheek like this.
You should sleep with a stranger.
Slowly, I move my hand to his and then move it away from my face. But I don’t let go. I like the feel of his hands. They’re strong and textured. These hands have built things and been exposed to the elements. I visualize them grasping the reigns of a horse. I see them inside the engine of a sleek sports car that can drive fast and hard away from the constraints that hinder the rest of us. I imagine these hands touching me, his fingers inside of me…
What am I doing here?
“My name’s Kasie,” I say. My voice comes out raspy and flustered.
“Do you want to know my name?” he asks. “My full name?”
I realize immediately that I don’t. I don’t want to know who he is. I don’t even want to know who I was yesterday or who I will be tomorrow. I just want to know who I am now.
“I don’t do this,” I whisper. But even as I say it I know that I’m talking about yesterday, tomorrow. Tonight is…different.
This man, he’s not like the man who raked my body with his eyes, all conceit and sleaze. This man isn’t pushing his agenda on me; he’s drawing out mine. Reading my movements, my smiles, the quick path of my eyes. In his face I can see my own desire. He’s no longer a blank slate. He’s my fantasy and the chemistry…the intensity that exists between us…it’s what I would have longed for if I had known what it was.
But I know what it is now.
I notice the button at the top of his jeans. It reads Dior Homme. Six hundred dollar jeans…and yet the t-shirt could have been bought at Target. Like his youthfully muscular arms and conservatively cut salt and pepper hair. It’s the contradiction that seduces me.
“I’d like to make you a drink,” he says.
It doesn’t take me a moment to grasp his meaning. I know he’s inviting me to his room. I glance around the bar. I’ve never had a one-night stand. I’m studious. I’m the girl everyone can count on for her rock solid, solemn consistency.
Except tonight. Tonight I’m the girl who is going to sleep with a stranger.
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