“SUMMER OF lOVE”
by Suzette Bohne’ Sommers
I based my Nathaniel character on a young attorney I knew at the & Law Firm in Beverly Hills. He was my inspiration for the novella titled FORMOSA CAFE and my short Story titled GARY’S GIRL.
Nathaniel cared for me, and I him, but he changed my world and broke my heart. And damn it, I will capture him for myself in this love story! I am perplexed and still in love. Now I know what I’m supposed to do is jump back in the saddle and try again, right? What do ya do when a surprise person gets involved in your love affair?
Shall I give up on Nathaniel, let him win, or try another approach?
I will never give up, but I won’t try too hard either. We must classify this as self-defeating. I always thought trying real hard was an asset. I’m a fool suffering humiliation and uncomfortable in my own company. Pull yourself together! I received nothing more than promises. You can’t hug a promise! I fell in love and he fell out. Let it go, like a helium balloon. Damn it, I’m a writer and he will be one sorry SOB when he reads what a great lover he was, and how I championed his arresting singularity.
“Good evening ladies”
“Hello Sam, the usual?”
Samantha leaned her elbow on the bar and smiled. She knew he was referencing Sam Spade, the private detective of Dashiell Hammett’s 1930’s novel the Maltese Falcon. She smiled too because as a kid she was called Sam.
It was 1978, but the young women willingly accepted the pleasant trip back to the thirties and forties with the help of the original bartender of fifty years, who, like a godfather, was there to watch over them. He knew to offer a cigarette or two as they lounged at his bar enthralled with tales of the iconic establishment since 1925.
Lindy insisted on lighting their cigarettes using his lucky gold lighter, his fist folded over the flame with the practiced suavity of Cary Grant.
The Formosa was a place that invited nostalgia with a slanted wall above the bar plastered in black & whites of movie stars back in the day peering down on them, eavesdropping.
Tonight Samantha felt their presence, as did Lindy whilst he poured Sam’s dirty martini with three olives, and Jordan’s dry vodka. He fed them extra olives. His convincing sincere style was the voice of authority because he was the witness. Lindy knew all and the women lapped up the impossible stories of Bogart, Gable, and Sinatra. He assured them the place was haunted by Sinatra’s pining for Ava Gardner. They believed every word because it was in the very air of the place.
Couples poured in, beautiful young women in strapless gowns and men in tuxedos lighting cigarettes leaned over the bar to order cocktails. And single men, old and young began flirting with Jordan who looked all lawyerly in the office, but when she changed into a cocktail dress, let down her shimmering blonde hair, and added black eyeliner, she transformed into a stunning attraction.
Samantha was in no mood for attention. Jordan suggested they move their second drink to a remote table near the original jukebox that housed Billie Holiday’s earthy laments. Holiday’s voice resonated with the other ghosts as the women sat reverently sipping their Winston lights in this place of secrets they could only imagine. Samantha trusted the secret she would soon share with Jordan would dissolve like the vapors of Bogart’s cigar, but she was reticent about sharing, not wishing to spoil the evening.
“Tell me, Samantha pleaded, “What else did you hear about Nathaniel?”
“Well Sam, I do like him, and I think he’s a smart, sensitive guy. I’m sure you intuited that yourself, right?”
Sam squeezed a tear down her cheek reflecting on Nate’s passionate promises, then straightened up and threw back her drink, “I’ll have another, please.”
“Okay, I get it, you guys were intimate and only an insensitive bloke would walk out on you, Sam. Listen, I hate to give you false hope, but I have a feeling he may be having second thoughts about his engagement. I believe he cares for you. I heard he took a leave based on family illness, which is the only excuse he could have used other than a death in the family. So… Oh, Sam, I hope he’s breaking up with the bitch!”
“God I’m a dope,” Samantha laughed through her tears.
“Actually,” Jordan offered. “I hate to say this but I think it’s best that you forget about him.”
Irked, Samantha shook her head, why are attorneys so damned logical?
“You’re right,” Sam sighed as she tapped her glass against Jordan’s, “As of this moment–I’m moving on.”
“No more tears, my friend, the man’s not worth it.”
MR ROTHSCHILD HOSTING NEW INTERNS
Martin Rothschild entered the conference room pulling on his tie, a titillating prospect for the women who mooned over him daily. Always fastidious from his silvery hair and matching well-manicured beard to his every movement he’d captured his female staff.
Even Samantha held back sensual thoughts catching a whiff of his manly scent while alone with him in his private office. The few times he’d made eye contact she had shivered with desire. But she was well past that now. The consummate personal assistant that she was would never cross that line. Sam was the envy of all the women, including paralegals, associates, and law clerks.
Mr. Rothschild nodded to each of his associates, shaking hands with the new interns as he passed. He then took a formal stance at the head of the conference table and paused for the room’s revered silence.
“Okay, let’s do this.”
Martin wasn’t the king of France, but formality was his cup of tea, and he appreciated a defendable red wine.
Samantha had spent the afternoon directing the caterer for this sacred occasion. Sacred being a term she borrowed listening to remarks about the handsome new interns who stood at attention. At Mr. Rothschild’s request, Samantha had placed three cases of the vintage Mondavi under the table and uncorked all twenty-four bottles. The caterer delivered the cheeses, canape and readied all accouterments.
Rothschild asked her to line up eight large wine glasses for each of the Interns, and set nine for the paralegals, thirty-seven for each in-house associate, and three for the partners; plus, twenty-four wine glasses for the secretaries who would soon sip a lesser vintage at seven PM when this special event concluded.
The secretaries knew to merge timewise after Rothschild’s ritual speech. It was arranged for Maryann, a secretary who sits in for Samantha during her lunch breaks to assist pouring the wine, freeing Samantha to meet the interns as the celebration unfolded.
This would begin her fourth year greeting the summer interns. She knew to fill the glasses for the toast at just the right moment, while Mr. Rothschild was entering the party. She understood she must avoid any awkward down moments, and expect her simple introduction.
Samantha is the first person visitors meet when they walk through the royal doors of Rothschild, Kettering, and Levin. In keeping with that, she dressed stylishly. Think Princess Di. She rarely flaunts herself, but this day she’d pushed her boundaries thinking of Marilyn Monroe when she retired to the ladies room and slinked into the form-fitting white vintage Chanel cocktail dress, the bodice cut high, showing no cleavage, but the back had a cut out that plunged toward her ass. She turned, inspecting her image in the mirror and slid her hands over her hips, pulling the fabric thick with elastic to her satisfaction, it held her taut body just where a girl needed it, she then slipped into the high heeled black pumps.
At six PM sharp Samantha lingered near the head of the table paying attention to all who were entering the room. She felt it her duty to be available in case Mr. Rothschild needed assistance. When all felt secure she retired to the back of the room where she leaned against the wall near the hallway entrance like she always did for a catered event. This wasn’t her party, after all.
Mr. Rothschild cleared his throat, tapping a wine glass. Heads turned toward him as he poured the Mondavi cabernet.
Holding it up to the light, he swirled, put his nose to the glass, and inhaled, “Ah, she is, as they say, to use a word loosely, a vintage full of sweetness and expression. She shows a measure of restraint and finesse and finishes with a mature and complex flavor. A beautiful, fully matured sweet ripeness, with excellent purity.”
The young men sipped, but their heads pivoted when Rothschild lifted his glass toward Samantha.
“She is the redhead standing in the corner. Please allow me to introduce and salute the woman who will make or break your future here.”
She caught her breath. She thought he was praising the cabernet, but they sipped when he sipped, raising their glasses toward her.
Mr. Rothschild went on, tapping his glass again, “She sits under a chandelier like a princess, but don’t be foolish, Sam is the person you need to get acquainted with. She manages your message center and keeps track of your whereabouts. Don’t underestimate her power. Be nice and she’ll take care of you. If not, I assure you’ll regret it.”
Her face flushed when all the young men set their wine on the table and applauded. They’d had a good laugh at her expense while Samantha took a dignified yet purposeful fierce walk to the front of the room.
She smiled at Mr. Rothschild and whispered, “This is me showing my restraint.” He laughed, placing his warm hand on the bare skin of her back, his fingertips dipping just a little.
Samantha straightened when he brought his lips to her ear, “I couldn’t help but equate you to this fine wine, I trust you weren’t offended?”
She squirmed away, “No Martin. I’ll get my revenge later.” Then Samantha picked up a glass of wine and tipped it toward his with a clink.
“By the way, he winked, “I’m impressed with the professional way you handled all of this. I greatly appreciate your experience and finesse you know.”
Samantha knew she deserved praise having worked with one of the finest caterers in San Francisco. She had to admit she was a gourmet and a wine snob. It’s a past she didn’t think about often, but an obsession she’d not regretted. The firm hired her based on her culinary experience, and that impressed Mr. Rothschild who is a fanatic about great wine and cuisine.
Her green eyes twinkled, “I know,” she said as she turned and moved to the position when she would greet the new Interns. She would forgive him this indiscretion.
The room was rippling like the tide after a monsoon, the interns taking their time toasting, congratulating each other, shaking hands and edging up to meet the exalted redhead. These young men had passed the Bar Exams vying to be hired by the most powerful corporate law office on the west coast. Who didn’t want to live in Southern California with access to the most beautiful beaches, skiing only hours away, and all the drama of Hollywood at their feet?
This was also Samantha’s shining moment. Being SoCal born, she had spent much of her life as close as possible to the Pacific ocean. She knew every intimate mile of Mulholland Drive and every beach from San Francisco to Baja. Samantha as always appreciated the opportunity.
I suppose I am these guys’ go-to person. I know to anticipate every question. She’d come to this position with terrifying uncertainty, but over the years she had shed her old self-conscious fears and accepted her newfound power which she practiced daily.
The men were taking their time, stopping to celebrate their good fortune; toasting each other because they were getting a taste of the infamous wine and cheese Friday. And if in fact they were hired at the very short summer’s end, it would be a great and overwhelming opportunity.
There were eight interns this year. Five looked like frat boys. Duncan, Kirk, Jefry, Vincent, and Cory crowded up to say their hellos.
A tall intern hanging back caught Samantha’s eye once or twice, but the secretaries and staff swarmed in, surrounding the men and Samantha lost track of him. She never liked large crowds, and she felt stuck in a corner helpless to move. But not too helpless, she thought as she slipped out to use the ladies room and get some air. She turned in the mirror smoothing down her dress.
Refreshed, she stood at the entrance looking over the crowded space. Samantha flushed and turned her head when he made eye contact from across the room. He was too tall. Too good-looking. Too late. He was already swimming his way through the bodies toward her, holding his wine glass above the crowd. She felt an urge to run away, and at that moment she knew he was trouble.
Her stomach fluttered when he held out his hand, lighting her evening like a torch.
“I’m Nathaniel, but you can call me Nate.”
He took hold of her hand and didn’t release, or else, she was pretty sure if she could rely on the moments when time stood still, they’d simply forgotten to let go. Samantha noted his eyes that radiated sparks of amber, and his haircut because it was just on the cusp of too long for an intern. The way he had it combed back from his face, almost finger-combed made her long to run her own fingers through it. The nape of his neck was short enough to get by, but ruffled just over the top of his collar. She sensed that it had been longer, maybe shoulder length like the surfers in Manhattan Beach. She imagined him riding a wave.
His bronzed forehead with a wrinkle an inch above his eyebrows lended the impression of a deep thinker. And why would she be attracted to his smallish eyes? His brows, in such proximity to his eyelids, gave him the intensity of a stare she couldn’t resist. A well-shaped Roman nose with a slight bump. A perfect “V” defined his upper lip with enough space for a light shadow of stubble. She enjoyed watching him speak because of the slight dimple in his chin. The spatter of light freckles across his nose made him seem fresh and vulnerable, but the rest of him was all man.
His eyes crinkled, “You’re not really a Chanel girl, are you?”
She should have been offended, but she felt as if he knew she’d rather be a chef or a writer. When he smiled that crooked smile like a kid it threw her off balance. Samantha wondered where this kid had been all her life. She felt her face heat, and a deep throbbing ache distracted her. Had he felt something too? Surely, it doesn’t work that way, does it?
She turned away, flailing, lifted her wine glass and made a false attempt at normality, “Oh, I forgot to open the extra wine for the secretaries!”
“Here, let me help you,” He offered.
She had let him, but she just needed to escape.
And escape she did. “Oh!” She argued with herself helplessly because he’d felt so threatening to her security, of which she obviously had none. A momentary terror passed through her. Why had she had resisted letting go of his hand? Why was he tracing my palm with his thumb? Whatever, it felt unfathomably healing. What was in that gentle act that caused her to ache like a lovesick girl? She ran away, glad it was Friday because she and Jordan had plans later for cocktails at the Formosa Cafe.
Monday morning, checking messages for Mr. McInerny Samantha looked up to watch Nathaniel enter her reception area from the South hallway behind, to her right. She watched him make his way across the marble floor into the North hallway, He has a nice long sauntering kind of walk, a Gary Cooper kind of pigeon-toed walk as though he’d just dismounted and his legs were stiff. Her knees went weak. The ache returned.
“Are you all right?” Said Mr. McInerny.
She put her hand to her forehead, “Just a slight headache is all.”
Nathaniel had the nerve to walk through her territory several times on Monday and Tuesday. He looked up at her with that little grin when he came from the North entrance, but when he came from the South, he didn’t look at her at all.
When any person walked through, if not Nathaniel, she sighed, is he ignoring me on purpose? Is he lost? Pull yourself together for god’s sake!
On Thursday, minding her own business, she looked up to see Nathaniel perusing the paintings. The massive reception area held the sacred ambiance of a formal art museum. The low-lighting enhanced the art intended to protect Martin Rothschild’s valuable collection. Samantha liked the soft dim lighting if the chandelier above her head. It offered a pleasant space for clients to wait because it invited them to stand and appreciate the art Mr. Rothschild’s curator rotated monthly.
When she looked up again Nathaniel stood in front of her desk. She loved his full name, the way it flowed off her tongue, “Hello, Nathaniel.”
“You can call me Nate,” He said.
She longed to ask him how his first week was going, like an adult, her being a professional and all. But no, she willed herself to say something, anything intelligent then felt her brain dissolve into an adolescent girl. I’m growing to hate that girl!
“I think you may have a message for me, from New York?”
“Oh, let me see, yes, here it is.”
Nate looked her in the eye, “Thank you, Samantha” then spun to walk his walk. He wore no suit jacket today, and she appreciated the pleasure of a view of his fine tight ass walking away from her once again and satisfied herself that his grin and eye contact had some meaning. There was a message in it, she was sure.
Or I am one possessed woman.
NATHANIEL INVITES SAMANTHA TO LUNCH
The following Monday Samantha was ordering lunch in for Mr. Rothschilds new clients. She kept specific menus based on their tastes. The caterer would deliver the food to the conference room unless it was to be a small intimate luncheon in which case she served it in his private office. As she hung up the phone she looked up to find Nathaniel standing before her.
“Hi,” Nathaniel said.
“Hi,” she smiled with a soft sigh.
He spoke, chin down, raising his eyebrow, “Would you have lunch today? With me?”
She bit her lower lip straining to remain calm, “Yes, definitely yes. At one PM? That’s when I’m relieved for my lunch hour, at one.”
He shifted his weight putting fist to chin, “Where should we meet?”
In the interest of discretion, Samantha asked him to meet her in the downstairs lobby.
When she stepped out of the elevator Nathaniel took hold of her hand and whisked her away, tugging her down Wilshire Boulevard to a smart restaurant with tablecloths and booths, an updated version of the Brown Derby that exhibited all the panache of a Gentleman’s Club Beverly Hills had to offer.
Their meeting held all the drama of a covert rendezvous. The host led them to a booth and they ordered something, but Samantha wasn’t thinking about food.
“Where are you from, Nathaniel?”
“My family’s in New York State, but I live in the city”
She poked at her salad, “There goes my surfer theory”.
“Nothing, forget I said it.”
Samantha willed him to touch her. He did, at first, tentatively. She placed her left hand on the red leather seat and he entwined his fingers with hers. She held her breath. It was an intimate moment; their hands, like hidden lovers, embracing beneath a fresh white tablecloth.
When he began to rub her palm with his thumb, she almost cried but kept some dignity, taking a sip of water with her right hand while inhaling the beauty of his tender love-making. She felt aroused, imagining the kiss that would follow. She hadn’t eaten a bite.
A moment later she thought he would reach for his glass, but he placed his fingers under her chin and turned her face toward his.
Searching her eyes, “So… Green,” he confirmed.
She succumbed to the embrace of his eyes and the delicious erotic sensations, the sentient touch of flesh; the scent of his breath. she slipped and stumbled into his hypnotic seductive allure, their lips growing closer by the moment.
Nathaniel looked at his watch and raised his left hand. The waiter brought the check. Nathaniel threw some cash on the table, then taking her hand, they raced out of the restaurant into the breezeway where he pulled Samantha into his arms and delivered that kiss. He held her close, just long enough for her to feel his bulge against her tummy.
He chuckled, “I think you’re wonderful, Can we do this again?”
“Sure, she said, but can’t we skip lunch next time?”
He pulled her close, “Oh dear Samantha, what am I going to do about you?”
THE ELEVATOR SCENE
Settling back into her routine after lunch Samantha felt anxious and buoyant. Anxious because her anticipation was exhausting. What had he meant? Was she a problem for him, or was he expressing the fact that as an intern he was under a microscope, and had little time to himself? It was true; they worked interns to the bone. It would take great effort to maintain his pace of work and begin a relationship in tandem.
Her heart ached for him. She’d be in the middle of a task and realize she wasn’t breathing and gulp in a huge breath. If she didn’t see Nathaniel during the day, she was forlorn. If she saw him and he smiled at her she’d feel joy again. The seesaw of emotions drove her mad.
God, she hated feeling this way. But she loved it too and distracted herself, shopping for clothing at Bonwit Teller during her lunch hour where she had a credit line. She enjoyed rummaging through their classic designer suits to add to her work wardrobe but would gravitate to the lingerie department where she fantasized about a night in bed with Nathaniel. She could not endure two full days on the weekend without seeing him.
But it had been four days!
She reprimanded herself, It’s all just fantasy, a fairy tale… don’t do this, you’re not ready! She’d begun conniving how she’d approach him at Friday’s wine and cheese. Normally men tripped over themselves for her attention, but now she felt all wrong and out of sorts. The usual steely in-control Samantha was experiencing terrifying feelings of inadequacy.
Sighing, she rose to leave the office and walked to the elevator. When the doors slid open, Nathaniel stepped out.
He turned to her with a stack of files on his arm, searching for words while Samantha stepped in and pushed the down button, “It’s okay Nathaniel, don’t worry about it,” she whispered, keeping her eyes down.
Nathaniel hopped in just as the doors were closing. Samantha was a mannequin standing there staring at the elevator doors, his warm body beside her, listening to him breathe, a deep breath, then an exhale when his arm touched hers, his sweet breath making her feel faint. The deep ache claimed her once again, and she began to tremble, biting her lip If this were a film or an erotic tale we would have collapsed on the floor of this elevator by now tearing at each other’s clothing.
When the door slithered open Samantha stepped out into the cool underbelly of the twelve-story building.
“Let me walk you to your car,” he said.
Their footsteps echoed as they walked. She felt the ominous terror that accompanied her, and unlocked the Toyota, then turned to look into his amber eyes. Nathaniel shook his head as if he’d been beaten, then stood up straight, took a breath and set the files on the roof of her car.
He put his hands in his trouser pockets and rocked back.
“You’re so beautiful,” rolled off his tongue like a sad lament, “I really want to see you again… Really, Samantha.”
One really too many was more than she could bear, so she turned letting his comment go like a leaf in the wind. She threw her bag onto the passenger seat and backed in to sit behind the wheel.
“Wait, wait, wait,” he said, going for her arm.
He pulled her forward, and she sat on the edge of the seat with her feet on the concrete. If he doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity, I will start the engine and run him down!
“Why don’t we get dinner tomorrow night?” he said.
Samantha didn’t miss a beat, and said, “why not come to my place for dinner?”
He raised his eyebrows.
Oh no, she thought. Cooking on a first date? I’m scaring him to death. But she had second thoughts, he’s a lawyer, he can handle it!
Nathaniel looked around, then taking her arm he pulled her out of the car. She stood frozen watching him turn her wrist over as he peered up tenderly and kissed the back of her hand.
“I’m looking forward to it, honestly.”
Samantha blinked. An honest kiss on the hand gave her little satisfaction.
She reached up and placed the flat of her hand on the back of his head pulling his face toward hers. Nathaniel fisted her hair and pressed his mouth to her forehead first, then sliding down, he captured her lips hungrily.
Holding her face between the palms of his hands, he searched her eyes,
“Samantha, he pleaded, Please don’t give up on me. Trust me baby, Please trust me. No matter what. I’ll make everything right.”
Samantha, overcome, sat hard on the edge of the car seat again, and Nathaniel crouched to slide his warm hand along her bare thigh and rested his head in her lap inhaling her feminine scent. She threw her head back and ran her fingers through his messy blonde hair.
“I trust you, Nathaniel.”
Nate raised his head, “Oh god Samantha, I’m sorry, I have a meeting…”
“I’ll put my address and number in your inbox,” she said.
Nathaniel turned toward the elevator.
“Don’t forget your files,” she said, pointing to the top of her car.
She watched him sprint toward the elevator.
SAMANTHA’S MISGIVINGS: A NO SHOW AT WINE & CHEESE & BAD NEWS RE: NATHANIEL’S STATUS
She had her misgivings, not concerning Nathaniel, but inviting him to her apartment held a certain terror for her. Hanging on to a positive, she thought Nathaniel might be the cleansing factor. She was sure there was something in him that owned her. She had only to think back on their introduction during the first wine and cheese when he’d claimed a place in her heart. There was no question about it, he was a permanent fixture there now.
When she found this charming apartment she’d fallen in love with it. It may be small but It has character. The living room that served as her bedroom had a fifteen-foot ceiling with French coving and original 1920s moldings, and windows nearly floor to ceiling with a view of tall palm trees.
The kitchen, almost all windows enhanced the airy charm of it. Samantha hung postcards on the walls above her dining table to remind her of her travels to exotic places, and so she enjoyed a large potted palm in the corner.
She worried, It just feels haunted now. How would Nathaniel react if I told him?
She wiped it from her mind again. How she’d fought to stay positive, just this once, and keep her head. She’d done her best to erase all traces of Levin’s presence. And as a thinking woman, she knew she had no obligation to disclose the incident to Nathaniel.
Samantha set a bottle of the infamous Mondavi on the mantle with two wine glasses before she left for work on Friday morning. She smiled because this promised to be a fun sexy evening. On her way home from work she would pick up a light supper from one of their finest caterers.
NO cooking on a first date!
Her morning went smoothly except Nathaniel hadn’t retrieved her address from his in-box. Samantha didn’t concern herself too much because she understood how busy the interns were. She hadn’t seen him this morning but trusted he would come out later to fetch it.
During her lunch hour she preferred to eat at her desk prior to going out. Today she jaunted down to Brentano’s to browse the books. It was a beautiful sunny California day. A day to just be happy.
Returning to her desk Samantha found an envelope on her desk. She tore it open to read an incomprehensible message, Please forgive me, I cannot make our dinner appointment tonight. Nate. She figured he didn’t owe her an explanation, but sure as hell should have given her one. But she blamed herself, believing if she hadn’t asked him to come to her apartment, they would still go out to dinner this evening.
She comforted herself recalling her promise of trust, Be patient, it could be out of his control.
Samantha grew nervous before entering the conference room. It was something she had done a hundred times over the past three years. She’d worn her favorite Dior suit with the plunging neckline and slipped into a pair of high-heeled pumps. Tall without them, they gave her added confidence, and Nate was tall enough that she wouldn’t tower over him.
She halted in the doorway, her shoulders sagging because all the interns were there except Nathaniel.
Samantha spotted Jordan, and strolled up, “Have you seen Nathaniel?”
Jordan poured a glass of red for Samantha and turned to hand it to her, “He had to go back to New York,” she said.
Samantha took a deep breath and swallowed, “Okay I’m ready, spill the beans.”
“I’m not sure, but he may not be coming back.”
“What? Why? I don’t understand.”
“Understand this sister. He’s engaged to be married.”
Samantha whirled around, searching in disbelief, “No! That’s not possible.”
“Oh Sam, I’m sorry. I know you care for him. I can see you’re not okay.”
Sam held her hands over her ears, “Of course I’m not okay, I should have played hard to get! I should have cut my own heart out; become untouchable, damn it!”
Jordan, turned, taking her hand, “You don’t deserve this Sam. Let’s get you out of here; I’ll call a cab, but I need to get out of this suit first, then we’re going to the Formosa to get good and drunk!”
Most days Samantha took the bus from Palm Drive to the office, “I drove today,” she said.
“It’s okay, you can pick up your car tomorrow.”
They exited the high rise from a backdoor at street level of the parking garage. It was a shortcut to the historic landmark on Camden Drive where Jordan lived in the stunning 1926 Churrigueresque hotel of a Spanish Baroque style.
“It’s not the Beverly Hilton, but much better,” Jordan often commented.
Stepping into the darkened cave that was once the hotel lobby Samantha relaxed and re-experienced the ambiance of the architectural wonder. She felt the clearly decaying unkempt building envelope her, and as always she was able somehow to feel safe as if the time warp was wrapping its arms around her.
The antique box elevator was permanently out of order so they climbed the serpentine staircase. Samantha dragged her fingers along the worn banister pondering which famous stars had touched the surface over the last half a century or more.
Samantha wasn’t surprised when Jordan knocked on door 209.
The old woman opened it wide with a flourish, “Come in, my darlings.” The Diva showed off her garish stage makeup and the dramatic cream satin gown. Raising her crinkled sagging arms she whirled, dripping a mass of lengthy pearls and heavy costume jewelry that weighed down her substantial bosom. Her hair was a flame of unnatural red piled high with a tiara that tilted when she spoke.
Samantha marveled at the rose-flocked papered walls holding countless yellowed photographs in elaborate frames, some pinned in every accessible space except where the draperies of deep wine velvet hung ponderously. Every space in the room was brimming with her abundant and mysterious history.
The Diva enjoyed displaying her past as a bohemian film star from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
“Oh, I never get enough,” Samantha sighed.
Riveted once again by the fading portrait of the diva, she realized that in the photo, the actress was probably the age Samantha is now. And she was indeed a beauty. It struck Samantha like a dart. She faltered, experiencing a sick feeling, an emerging awareness, that caused her to weep openly.
Both women rushed to her, the diva taking her hand in her bejeweled fingers.
“What is it dear?”
Samantha looked at her pleadingly, “I’m sorry, I’ve ruined everything.”
“Not at all my dear,” she said.
Jordan watched as the stately woman bore herself luxuriously to a glass table and carefully filled a crystal champagne flute with sherry from a slim carafe.
Samantha’s mind was whirling, wondering how the spinster managed to retain her radiant confidence of youth, and her shimmering wealth, though it was obvious her money was long gone. Surely, she had answers that Samantha couldn’t begin to know the questions for.
Jordan stood by, watching, trusting Ms. Charlemagne’s instincts. While Samantha sipped from the flute, the diva tapped her tear-stained cheeks with a fine lace handkerchief. She then took hold of her fingers and guided Sam to a tufted piano seat.
“Now, my dear, sit. Tell me–there is a man involved!”
Samantha nodded, blinking away tears, but revealed nothing.
Squeezing her hand with her long wrinkled fingers and blood-red, manicured nails, the diva countered,
“Well, we’ll take care of that stinker!”
Samantha’s weak smile emerged, “Thank you,” she said, wondering how the woman would go about fulfilling her promise. But she felt somehow reassured by the warmth of her hand alone.
The old woman took Samantha’s hands and squeezed them, her grey eyes intensely focused on Sam’s and she barked in her deep cigarette voice, “My dear, listen closely, find who you are deep down and express it no matter what, your strength is in your confidence as a woman. Hold your head high, and most importantly exhibit your unique truth.”
Satisfied she had done her job, the diva patted Samantha’s hand. She handed Sam the damp handkerchief, “Take this with you as a reminder; your tears will dry.”
Samantha nodded again, rising. As the young women took their leave, Madam called to them,
“Embrace your life darlings. Life is short!”
FORMOSA CAFE: Meet Dennis
On a whim, Samantha grabbed a jacket and descended the stairs from her upper apartment in the old Deco building on Palm drive. She had no destination in mind except that she’d left her Toyota in the parking garage last night and needed to pick it up. These walks helped her unload her mind, and so she strolled the short block to Wilshire Boulevard, turned right, and pressed forward.
“Gin and Tonic.” the bartender smiled as he placed it on the bar before her. It was early, but not too early since the sun was low, and she was thirsty for her favorite drink, her way of ushering in summer. A false step toward normality, but it proved refreshing.
She picked up her drink and walked out to the sidewalk patio. She felt both envious of the couples and almost embarrassed to be alone, but the drink had given her courage. And so she took the last sip and raised her head as the diva had prescribed.
She strolled further down Wilshire Boulevard and stopped at her favorite French patisserie. Feeling bold, she seated herself at an outdoor table and ordered a salad niçoise with Chenin blanc. She was lifting her glass when a male voice with a French accent announced, “spécialité pour la belle dame,”and laid down a steaming chocolate Pots de Creme.
“You must be mistaken.”
“No no, I assure you it is the gentleman who sent it.”
She turned to find Dennis standing beside her. The metal chair screeched when he pulled it out and sat.
She stretched out and taking his arm, she pulled him close, and she drew up her shoulders experiencing a moment of sweet delight and breathed in his refreshing scent.
“When did you get back?”
He placed his large warm hand on hers, “I got in last night.”
“How are the girls?”
Dennis straightened, “My daughters are doing well, just growing up too fast.”
Sam placed a finger to her chin, “So, what else?”
His smile disappeared, “Nothing to report in that area, probably won’t be.”
She reached out to touch his cheek, “I’m so sorry.”
Sipping her wine, she leaned back facing the sun setting in streaks of pink and glowing halos around puffy clouds on the horizon.
His eyes followed hers, “Say, I’m on my way to meet Roger for drinks, want to come?”
“Ummm,” she said, “Not tonight, but thanks, I’m not up to Roger today, but let’s get together soon.”
Dennis stood, “You got it. Monday for Sushi?”
“Not Monday, We have a special engagement with the new interns. My schedule is overwhelming this week. I’ll call you when I have time to breathe.”
He leaned in and took her jaw in his hand and turned her face toward his locking her eyes. “Sam, you’re not excited enough with all that fresh meat surrounding you. I know you better than that. You should fly high! Hey, what happened to Arthur?”
“You know that was just two dates Dennis? Besides, he left us, hired by a firm in San Francisco.”
“Oh. Sorry, I brought it up, yikes!
“Not a problem big guy.”
He pulled his keys out of his pocket, then he hesitated, “You okay?”
He placed his hand flat on top of her head like her big brother used to do. God, she’d missed him!
“Why am I not convinced Scarlet?”
Samantha couldn’t bring up Nathaniel. It seemed trivial to complain to him after he’d shared his own personal grief. “I’m fine Dennis. Thank you for my chocolate fix.”
“I know your tastes Sammy, you be a good kid, and next time I’ll get to hear all about your new designer male.”
“Haha,” she smiled as she watched him stride over to his Jaguar Challenger parked by the curb. He raised his hand and jumped over the door into the gorgeous red convertible, waving as he sped away with a screech of tires.
Other than Mr. Rothschild, Dennis is the most honest man she knows. Samantha’s heart hurt because it felt so wrong that she hadn’t opened up to him when he sensed her trouble. Her barrier was as thick as a lead door. She still had tonight to reconcile her thoughts. After that, she may as well disappear. She laughed at herself, limping along toward Palm drive. She had no reason to pick up her Toyota today, and she had no business driving drunk, anyway.
The evening dragged on while Samantha contemplated her breakdown in the Diva’s apartment. She needed to talk to Dennis, just hadn’t worked out how to go about her confessions regarding Levin, not to mention her agony over Nathaniel.
Samantha had worked hard to hide the truth. She believed she could keep the secret and behave. There was so much more she hadn’t shared with Jordan, and even if she had, Samantha had no right to expect her silence when it was she who should have dealt with the authorities. She wondered why she felt what happened with Levin was her fault. This is the crux of it, I’m guilty of something. I must be.
SAMANTHA LOOKS AT HER FUTURE
Samantha was approaching her thirtieth birthday this month and on that note, she focused on the next phase of her life carefully. She made a vow to turn all thoughts to the future. First, she dismissed her dreams of Nathaniel as a nonsensical girlish mistake. She squared her shoulders rationalizing that a relationship now would have paused her professional progression. It had been eating at her that the writer in her had stalled because of distraction.
Professionals who had their careers surrounded her and it was unsettling to think of herself as a career receptionist. She honored her deep love of literature and fine arts, and so today, she tackled her piece on War Veterans she’d interviewed and spent the rest of her afternoon at her desk sketching a book-cover for her thesis, “Our Real Lives. Personal stories told by Veterans of Vietnam.” She had presented her thesis to her professional writing teacher at the UCLA Extension program but hadn’t finished it. She received a positive critique but had dropped out because of the Levin issue.
“Now is the time to finish the piece,” encouraged the journalist. “It’s still viable, interviews like yours are never too late.”
An art history class based on modern artists had also drawn Samantha. She wished to explore this more and realized she had the perfect source right under her nose. Who better to ask than Elizabeth, Mr. Rothschild’s in-house curator?
She met with Elizabeth the following afternoon.
“It’s good to start wherever you can, but I advise you to begin by taking some undergrad courses at Santa Monica College so you’re gathering credits if you wish to pursue a degree. And, it would make sense to volunteer in a venue like an art gallery, or a museum similar to the night you hosted the Barnsdale exhibition with Mr. Levin.”
The thought of Levin irked her, but she had yet to tell anyone in authority that he had harmed her that sad night. A night that had enlightened her otherwise.
“Also, Elizabeth said, you don’t need a degree to volunteer for this, but if you want to get more familiar with Martin’s collection, it couldn’t hurt to do some research, and next time you’re asked to host, you’ll have more knowledge to provide the guests.”
Later that afternoon Martin Rothschild stopped by and knocked twice on her desk. Samantha enjoyed his quirky sense of humor. She relished the fact that Rothschild was more than a lawyer, that he was an intellectual and a prominent patron of the arts.
“Stop by my office before you leave, OK, Sam?”
“Course I will, Martin.”
“Good,” he said, knocking twice again before he jogged away.
His colleagues called him Martin, and Samantha grinned because he included her in that circle and calling her Sam was a nod to that bond. She thought Martin was very energetic for a man of forty-five. Today she’d noticed his untamed locks of hair that made her think of an aging Nathaniel that caused that ache to hitch a ride in her stomach again.
When she recovered, she grabbed her bag and sweater and stopped by Mr. Rothschild’s office at 6 PM.
“Liz tells me you’re interested in the art,” he said, tapping a pencil on his desk.
“Yes, Martin, I fell in love with your collection who wouldn’t, living with it every day? And working at your Barnsdale exhibition inspired me. I think I’d like to focus on that.”
He rocked back in his chair tapping the pencil to his chin, “Most people fear German Expressionism; it makes them think of burning bodies and the Holocaust.”
“Oh not at all, I think it’s romantic the way the young artists and poets met in coffee houses to collaborate on their work. I think it’s the most exciting art I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe we’ve not discussed this before now.”
Martin leaned forward, brown eyes flashing, and studied her with a grin that looked like he’d discovered uranium, “On that, we agree,” he concluded.
He seemed to be pondering, so Samantha looked up curious to hear if he had anything else to add.
He raised his head, “I have an idea, Would you like to see the most important portion of my collection? Would you be able to come for lunch on…looking at his calendar, he penciling out a time… “Friday afternoon?”
“Friday? I’m working.”
“Ah yes, let’s see__Saturday then?”
“That sounds fine.”
“Okay then. Have a good night. Oh, let me write my address for you. Let’s say 12:30?”
She caught a whiff of him when he stood and removed his suit jacket, then sat again. Finger-combing his thick tresses, he grabbed a pen. He looked up at her then jotted the information on a pad, ripped it off and handed it to her.
“See you Saturday,” he winked.
“Good Night Martin.”
She knew she’d see him before Saturday. He surely knew that tomorrow was Friday. Bob had been acting odd, and she wondered if it was his age showing.
MARTIN ROTHSCHILD’S REGRETS
Martin Rothschild had not understood Samantha at all. His knowledge that she’d taken his meaning during his daring introduction to the new interns, half in sport, was disconcerting. He shook his head. From the high rank where I stand, how could I expect her to take it any other way?
In his cowardice, he had buried a sincere truth and in his realization of the facts; he had checked his own boldness, how he’d made a sincere introduction and how smoothly she had accepted it unruffled. She’d let it slide over her like a smooth wave showing him the deeper side of her character that had outshone her beauty.
His attraction was less to her sensual beauty than to her fearless ambition. She had been an indisputable professional and handled his outrageous toast with grace. He’d been steadfast until now determined to never break the barriers between Partners and staff.
But how would he bridge that gap he had set between them? Her feminine attractiveness was undeniable the moment he felt himself agonize with jealousy watching Samantha spend the evening holding hands with that new intern Nathaniel.
It’s lonely at the top, he nodded to himself as he steered toward his office. She is the mature one. She would never cross that line! But his imagination presented a scenario that defied his barriers.
Martin admitted he needed so much more to fulfill his tastes. He’d never settled for financial success. What was it anyway but an ocean of opportunity to achieve his highest ambitions? For him, it was the gateway to an unfulfilled mission. And he’d denied himself love by keeping his sights on the prize.
Rothschild decided he was fighting a war of his own. He hadn’t the complete support of his two partners. He understood he was the lone wolf, larger than life, thus set apart like an icon no other would ever chance to be. His wealth separated him from Kettering and Levin who had no interest in the art. They had nothing in common other than their positions in the firm. For them, it was all about finances. They’d made very different choices. kettering, a conservative, was dependable but lacked the courage to create greatness. And Levin was a bit of a rogue.
FRIDAY WINE & CHEESE, LEVIN
Friday evening Samantha took a smooth sip of chardonnay while watching the entrance to the conference room because Jordan hadn’t shown herself. When Marcel Levin sauntered in and locked eyes with her, she spun to focus on the large plate-glass window trusting she wouldn’t turn and fling her wineglass at the back of his head. She imagined the patterns of blood, like a great abstract painting with all its dark and bright vivid sharp shapes dripping down the glass for all to witness.
Without Jordan’s or Martin Rothschild’s protection, she felt like an easy target which she’d meant to avoid this evening.
Levin strolled around to the head of the table like an innocent man. She stood rigid with purpose, ignoring the violence in his gaze, and lowered her eyes to peer down from the fifth-story window. An endless stream of silent vehicles moved haltingly like a slow river, and in their glacial movement she counted Mercedes, Ferrari, and Jaguars slowing down for the light, and a single vulnerable girl pushing a baby carriage attempting to cross the intersection on the corner of Beverly and Wilshire.
Samantha turned toward the massive mahogany conference table laden with fine wines and cheeses, the very image of undeniable abundance dealt those living and working in the wealthiest shopping district in the world. The usual attorneys, paralegals, and various personnel were assembling in flocks of animated conversation.
She turned to look down once more, imagining her lowly used Toyota merging with the luxury automobiles limping along below. But as Dennis had reminded her, this was the springtime of new male blood that she usually greeted with great anticipation. Friday evening was Samantha’s time to feel the silence rush over her before the onslaught of a mass of bodies surrounded her.
On cue every Friday at six PM they’d file in, in twos and threes until the room was growling with male voices. This thought caused a sudden pang of loss because Nathaniel had abandoned her.
After Levin, she’d felt shy of men, and had been fearful of losing her cushy job and ending up on the streets. Or worse, scandal. She was nervous because Jordan hadn’t arrived, and so gathered her things and retreated to the safety of her apartment.
Samantha was circling her desk when Mr. Rothschild appeared.
“Aren’t you coming to the wine and cheese tonight sweetheart?”
She raised her head looking at him blankly.
“Perhaps you would allow me to escort you?”
Samantha strolled into the conference room on Mr. Rothschild’s arm knowing that the only man she wanted to see was not there, and the only man she couldn’t abide stood across the room wearing a practiced innocent face.
Jordan arrived shortly after, “Sorry Sam, I had a last-minute phone call. Wow, you’re like a vision in Chanel’s newest collection”.
“Gucci.” A knock-off”
Levin would never approach her under the circumstances and she felt grateful to be cared for, But when he eyed her again, she flinched.
Martin took her arm, “Don’t worry dear, let me pour you a nice glass of wine.”
Ugh! What am I, a child?
Had someone given Mr. Rothschild a head’s up? Not possible. She’d not disclosed the incident to anyone except for Jordan, who pried it out of her last Friday at the Formosa. She closed her eyes and her shoulders dropped. Of Course, Jordan had no choice, but there was a relief Samantha hadn’t expected.
- ROTHSCHILD INTERROGATES SAMANTHA AT HIS MANSION
It was a warm sunny day in Beverly Hills. Samantha had chosen a white knit sundress with gold flat sandals. Mr. Rothschild’s home wasn’t far from her apartment on Palm drive, but in a more upscale neighborhood. As she turned up Roxbury the hill climbed too fast for her to read the addresses. She made a U-turn at the top of the hill and drove back down. This time she found a brick pillar that said 908 on a black plaque with gilt trim.
She turned into the drive. The gated entrance shielded a view of the house with abundant bright red bougainvillea blossoms trailing across the wrought iron. She pushed the button on the gate that opened automatically to reveal a long uphill drive with a view of the exquisite Italian Estate. She passed a tennis court on her right, then pulled up toward the grand entrance, a double-door entry flanked by huge white columns holding up an enormous pilaster.
I should have rented a car, she thought when she parked her old Toyota as far from the entrance as possible.
As she walked toward the mansion, the architecture appeared to grow larger. She was confused seeing no doorbell and turned to look back over her shoulder. Her car appeared to be crouching under the bougainvillea. She felt a little lost when the door opened, and Martin Rothschild stepped out to greet her.
“Ah, there you are, Come in, Sam, come in.”
They both wore white, he in his tennis whites, and Samantha dressed for a garden party. He wasn’t wearing tennis shoes, but a pair of orange flip-flops instead, on his pedicured feet. She couldn’t help but notice his strong muscled tanned legs.
She lifted her eyes in awe. The entrance was a large circular room of white marble with a huge chandelier high above their heads and a skylight that made it all feel sacred somehow.
“Well here it is,” he said, waving his arm in the direction of the step-down living room.
As she stepped down she gasped, “OH, Mr. Rothschild! OH! This is incredible.” She couldn’t close her mouth turning around while she tried to take in the room filled with German Sculptures!
“Call me Martin,” he smiled. Now tell me, what do you honestly think of my collection?”
She opened her mouth, “Oh my god!”
“This room has that effect on people,” he chuckled.
She pointed, “Tell me about this one.”
He began to weave in and out describing all the crazy insane and beautiful art that inhabited his living room. Martin spoke like a scholar, but very passionate and proud as if he’d created them himself.
He had taken this exquisitely sophisticated house and built a museum. Each room he led her to was like that, with art on the walls in the hallways and very spare furnishings.
“This is the way we should all live, surrounded by art,” she mused.
“I agree,” he smiled.
“I ordered our lunch served on the terrace, would you like to join me?”
Samantha followed him out to the resort-like terrace with a sparkling swimming pool where he seated her at a round table under an umbrella.
A moment later a woman appeared in a maid’s uniform.
“Sam, this is Nina”.
Nina brought lunch and drinks out on a wheeled cart and placed it in front of them, then disappeared.
They were sipping a crisp white wine with a succulent crab Louie, and French baguettes with sweet butter.
“Here’s to art,” Martin said, tilting his glass toward Samantha.
Pushing his dish away, he stretched his arms above head and placed his elbow on the table fist to cheek as though contemplating something. He was fiddling with his fork then lifted his head. He looked like a man who’d just made a very important decision, “Would you like to see my master suite?”
Martin’s attention heightened Samantha’s resentment toward Nathaniel. She deliberated a moment, stood and glanced around for the maid. She thought it a big leap from poolside to the bedroom but remaining calm, she raised an eyebrow.
“It’s not what you’re thinking,” Martin laughed. You know how my living room is not a living room? Well, my master suite is a comfortable gallery.”
When he reached out his hand, she took it because he had so far not misled her, and she allowed him to lead her back into the mansion.
As they climbed the curving staircase Martin took her arm in his. He escorted her into a wing with a long hall that opened into the grand suite filled with breathtaking modern paintings. He motioned to a cushioned French chair and pulled up a matching one for himself, “Come, he coaxed, please sit.”
She perched on the chair expectantly.
“Now, Samantha you will explain to me what happened the night after the Barnsdale Exhibition.”
She stood, “How did you know?”
“I mean to hear it from you. Levin! I know! Give me the facts!” He bellowed.
She trembled sitting on the edge of the chair. A breath and a sigh caused her shoulders to rise and fall, “I was afraid of losing my job, I…” She dissolved into a helplessness that grew to a maddening high-pitched scream.
He softened his voice and pulled his chair closer “Men have ways of revealing themselves, trust me, I won’t do anything you object to, but I assure you dear, you have nothing to fear. I’m only involved because we’re friends. Are we not?”
She nodded, wondering how all gentle people magically revealed a soft white handkerchief, “I’m afraid of him. He threatened to… he promised to… I mean, I can’t expose him or he’ll ruin me. It’s over now. In the past.”
“I see,” he said.
“Oh, please don’t open things, I’ve moved on. I’m fine, really!”
“All right then. You’ve no worries, Samantha. I have my ways of setting things right.”
He raised his arm and turned his palm to her, “Will you trust me?”
There was that word again. Trust was untrustworthy all the way around now. Who could she trust when she couldn’t even trust herself?
But his palm felt warm when she pressed her palm to his.
Martin imagined his arms about her. But this wasn’t the time. He’d wait to determine how fate would intervene. Today he had learned more, and the intimacy of her touch moved him. He’d coveted to taste her lips, and if she wasn’t offended, he might have gained her trust and some hope. With Nathaniel out of the picture he at least had her to himself this one precious afternoon.
He was counting on the fact that Nathaniel hadn’t been honest with Sam. He’d granted Nathaniel his leave for two reasons. One was convenience. The second, not so much. He’d gambled that Nathaniel’s betrothal party would cement him on the East Coast where if he were sincere it was a good reason to marry and stay there with his bride.
The second was the thought Nathaniel may be breaking his engagement because of Samantha which meant he would come back to Los Angeles as a free man. Jordan told Martin Nathaniel pursued Samantha without revelation of his engagement. That alone should have put her off. Martin believed she was smarter than that, but he understood how love could make the brain fuzzy.
Martin admitted to himself the risk was fifty-fifty and that he had immediate competition for Samantha’s love. He wondered if Nathaniel had needed an excuse to end his betrothal in which case there were no immediate answers other than, God forbid, he was in love with Sam. In that case, it would depend upon Sam’s feelings for Nathaniel.
But luxuriously, he saw the couple as a poor risk at this moment because of Nathaniel’s waffling. However, because he didn’t know the young man, and he knows and trusts Sam, the possibilities remained fifty-fifty.
Most importantly, he could now get rid of Levin with a clear conscious but wondered if he would need more ammunition. He couldn’t ask Sam for details now. She had already suffered too much.
It was like a dam broke. Samantha pulled Martin to her, hugging him tight while she let tears flow on his shoulder, “I’m sorry, I should have come to you sooner.”
He placed his hands on her shoulders pushing her gently away and looked into her wet green eyes, “You have nothing to apologize for, dear”
“But I do! It’s been months, and I haven’t told a soul until now. I don’t understand what I was thinking. It was awful. I can’t be alone in my apartment! I should have done something! I’m sorry!”
Martin stood and paced, “Don’t be. I’m just livid about this, not because you did anything wrong, but because the damn fool hurt you and got away with it.”
Confused, Samantha wasn’t sure if they were discussing Levin or Nathaniel. She put her head in her hands and shut her eyes tight, “It was my fault.”
“I think I frightened him away the day before he took his leave.”
Martin held her, blotting her tears when he realized she was suffering and he’d only meant to comfort her.
“Nathaniel never mentioned he was engaged! He led me to believe… he promised to make things right. I didn’t know what that meant. Now I don’t know what to think.”
“Now, tell me Sam, are you in love with Nathaniel?”
“I… I thought I was, but that was a mistake. How can I love someone who lied to me?”
Martin knew that this was not a straight answer. What if Nathaniel is in the process of breaking his engagement? What if he’s on his way back to her right now?
What if this is my only opportunity to have her in my arms?
She put her hand to her head, “The wine. I need to lie down.”
He led her through a hall to his bedroom suite. He bent down and unfastened her gold sandals and placed them by the door. Her toes sank into the plush wool carpet. She sighed languidly, stepped toward the bed and lay down.
He stood over her and passed his hands through his hair trying to determine who he was and why he was doing this. But he allowed his compulsion to guide him, brought a chair next to the bed, picked up a book and fished his reading glasses from his pocket feeling like he’d just captured a rare species of bird. His ownership didn’t thrill him much because behind it all lay a thick and sticky pool of grief.
When she sat up, he remained calm while she reached out and removed his reading glasses. He blinked and leaned in and she made space for him and he fell toward her, clamoring onto the bed.
Sam turned her hips to face him. She looked in his eyes and traced his lips with her index finger.
“It will be okay, right?”
I must be mad, he thought.
The moment had been sensual.
Oh god, Martin wanted her more than he’d imagined!
Terrified, he wondered if she and Nathaniel had had sexual relations, “May I ask if you and Nathaniel…?”
“No Martin. I thought it might happen, then he bailed.”
Martin lay his head back, relieved. clasping her hand, he stared at the crystal chandelier on the high ceiling and closed his eyes. But he couldn’t rest with Samantha’s lush body next to his. He wondered what James Bond would do. He knew the answer was a seductive move but he also knew he was no James Bond and settled for thoughts and fantasies of sliding his hand under her summer white dress, of lust, and scents and images. In his lascivious mind, he feasted on her until he ached and pitied himself. A moment later he felt the feather touch of her fingers slide across his cheek.
“Shhhhhhhh, it’s okay. I want this. It’s just between us.”
She stroked his stubbled chin and kissed his forehead, then his nose, “You are a good man,” she smiled, tears streaming.
Martin lay still trying to stop his body from responding to her gentle stroking, then closed his eyes to a rapturous aching agony.
When she awakened, he slipped off the bed and lifted her gold sandals. He helped her buckle them, then walked her down the spiral staircase to her car.
Samantha held his arm, tilting her head to his shoulder.
Martin laughed thinking back on their private nap.
“What’s so funny?”
“Now I can say I’ve slept with you.” he grinned.
She giggled and buried her face in his chest, “Don’t you dare!”
“No worries, it will remain our secret. Sam, next time we’ll talk more about the art. I’m hoping you’ll host our upcoming opening. Levin will not be attending.”
When he closed the door on her Toyota, she lowered the window and he leaned in, “Also, Sam. This is important, I’m hoping you will write a scenario of what occurred that night with Levin. It will be for my eyes only. I want to wave it in his face when I fire him. I’m hoping not to be forced to use it. I believe I can get rid of him easier than that.”
Dennis Back Story…Samantha’s birthday fell the first week in July. Dennis invites her out.
“Hey Sam, I wanted to do something special for your birthday. I bought tickets for A Chorus Line in Century City.”
“Oh wow, I can’t wait!”
“Sam, can we talk soon?”
“I’d love to meet you at O’briens, but why not wait until my birthday night? It’s not that far away.”
Samantha met Dennis on St. Paddy’s Day two years ago. Jordan and she were seated at the bar in O’Brien’s Irish Pub sipping Irish coffee. The place was packed.
Two men standing behind them edged in ordering shots of Bushmill’s.
The tall one knocked back a shot, “You must be Irish with that mane of red hair. Let me buy you a proper drink.”
He didn’t wait for her answer and yelled, “A shot of Bushmills for the lovely lady!”
Then turning to Samantha, the guy’s friend blurted out, “Do you believe in love at first sight?”
The tall one, speculating, worried about his friend’s intoxication. He placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder, “C’mon Roger, leave the girl alone.”
Relieved when Roger slinked back Samantha let the tall one slide in.
“Sorry about Roger, he’s plastered.”
“No kidding,” she smiled
“Roger’s a great guy, really.”
“What about you, are you a great guy too?”
“Oh god, sorry, I’m Dennis,” he said.
“Samantha,” She smiled.
At that moment the bartender slid her shot toward her.
Dennis caught him, “Another Bushmill’s here.”
They tilted their shots in one slug,“ Prost!”
Samantha noted his almond colored face, full lips, and large soft dark eyes. His hair thinning above a high forehead, he compensated by growing it long around his collar. His suit fit his tall frame perfectly. Here was a man who paid attention to fashion.
Okay Samantha, “Let me tell you an Irish joke.”
She raised her eyebrows.
He changed his mind. “It was a stupid joke anyway, or Shall we have another drink?”
“Only if you promise you’re not a pouncer.”
She laughed, “A pouncer is a guy who gets your trust, then slobbers all over you.”
Samantha looked at Jordan.
“This calls for another round.”
“Okay Jordan, wait, wait wait, don’t slug it yet, I have to tell the joke first.”
Roger piped in, “Hello beautiful, mind if I tell one this time?”
Samantha turned to Dennis believing Roger was the one to be mindful of, “Tell me what you do in do in this crazy town?”
“Roger and I are in Radio. Down on Wilshire, the Miracle Mile.”
He thoughtfully put his hand to his chin, elbow on the bar, dark eyebrows furrowed and shared, “I think I’m in the middle of a divorce, but I’m still hoping we can work it out.
“Well, Dennis I believe you’re one of the good guys, if you want to get together for a drink sometime I’d like that. I’m on Wilshire too.”
Roger burst out, “SCORE!” when he watched her write her number on the back of Dennis’ business card.
“Roger really is a cool guy,” Dennis assured.
They had a habit meeting once a week at a bar near the law offices at Beverly and Wilshire.
Dennis brought an entourage of guys from the radio station every time. His friend Roger did prove to be a stand-up guy, although he could not give up his insistence that Dennis and Samantha should be a couple.
He hollered, “I can’t imagine it’s even possible for you to spend time with a dame like her, and not want to get in her pants!”
Poor Roger. They all loved and tolerated his outbursts.
Dennis was still trying to patch up his marriage, spending time with his kids. He never treated Samantha as more than a good friend and that contented them both. His group, hard working men in suits, who after a long day met at the bar, probably every night. This was their watering hole, and Samantha was honored to be the only female admitted to the feisty crew, the only woman present, and an insider of a sort of men’s club. The guys always pooled their money and paid for her drinks. How did she get so lucky?
She and Roger became close friends too. He’d wander over and kiss her cheek, “Hi good lookin’,” and shake his head, as though Dennis was a fool.
Samantha believed the men rallied behind Dennis, that their nights spent clubbing were all in his honor, to keep him alive, and hopeful. And she had noticed that Dennis often would intercept the bartender’s bill and pay upfront. Those guys never knew about it.
Dennis rarely mentioned his wife. When Samantha first met him, his two little girls came on weekends to his rented home on Beverly Drive. The house was beautiful from the street, but inside it was a bachelor pad. Practically vacant, with only the necessary furnishings, a large recliner, and a TV. It was obvious he wasn’t invested in staying there. He used the kitchen to make coffee and ate all his meals out. It was temporary because he was still holding out hope of being with his wife. But when she moved the girls back to Chicago, he was a broken man.
NIC & SAM
Raised with five brothers Samantha adored her oldest brother Nicolas. He was actor-handsome, not in the intense James Dean way, but more like the boy next door. Think of a young Paul Newman. She loved Nicolas because he liked her even though he was four years older. He walked around in a buff-colored fringed suede jacket that thrilled Samantha’s high school friends.
When Samantha turned fourteen he taught her to dance. His patience had no bounds, and she was an eager student, fast to catch on to the athletics of swing dance. Broad-shouldered and strong Samantha’s petite frame allowed him to lift her in their acrobatic throws and jumps. They practiced until their routine had been polished and they won competitions at high school dances. As his sister and partner, their relationship was solid. She could always count on him to catch her. They became known on campus as “Nic & Sam.” When he wasn’t home, she would wear his suede jacket around the house. It held his scent. He was her closest friend.
Samantha had never gotten over her devastation when Nicholas died of cancer at the age of thirty. The extreme violence of an early death had her involved to the point of a driven belief that she could cure him through prayer and meditation. When he died anyway, she felt she had failed him; that God had failed her. Her logical mind told her it was possible to find that one boy next door kind of guy who would replace her brother. All her life she had turned to men for friendship. She cherished a deep abiding desire to have a male friend. But mostly, that had evaded her until she met Dennis.
She carefully cultivated male friends at the law firm. Orlando is a young office boy, a nebulous slight young man with an obvious feminine mystique. When he hung around her desk, they mused over reports and animated tales of in-house misbehavior.
Mr. Van Voorhis, the office manager alerted Samantha they had a new hire, an office boy’s assistant named Frank, who would work with Orlando. When Sam met Frank his physical beauty moved her. He had the face and body of a Greek athlete, all chiseled as a sculpture. The secretaries were swarming around him, needy for his attention, but Sam laughed when the guys revealed they were lovers. The three of them often lunched together. She’d spent Several of her days off meeting the couple for lunch and shopping at the French Quarter in the Valley. They exhibited a relationship she believed was impossible to find with a straight man.
SAMANTHA’S BEACH BIRTHDAY… MEET SHAWN AND CHASE
A young female paralegal latched on to Samantha because Shawn’s mother was a winemaker in France and was now managing a winery in Napa. Samantha had catered at that winery and surprised to learn that Shawn was the woman’s daughter.
Shawn approached Samantha the day before her birthday.
“Mon Ami, I’m taking the day off, we’re going to Santa Monica beach tomorrow morning. You’re in dire need of some sunshine!”
Samantha was about to decline because she had arrangements with Dennis in the evening.
“Samantha, don’t say no, ’cause I know you have the day off, and those cabana boys are dazzling!”
“Oh Shawn, I’ve missed our outings so much… Let’s do it! Just keep in mind I have a date with Dennis tomorrow night.”
“Don’t worry Sam, I’ll keep watch. Make sure you don’t get drunk.”
Shawn and Sam were an adventurous pair. Their summer road-trips were never boring. Samantha couldn’t resist a day of lazing in the sun with cabana boys delivering cocktails.
Bikini season in Santa Monica had ushered in a crowd of beautiful bodies at the posh beach club. Samantha slipped into a tiny string bikini. It was a fad. An innovation. She had fair skin, but when sunbathing, if she was careful, she could coax a saturated pale golden sheen.
They settled on their chaises early, ordering a pitcher of Vodka Collins recommended by their stunning cabana boy.
Zack was all lean muscle wearing a pair of speedos that exploited endowments between his legs. Shawn looked at Samantha and raised her eyebrows. Their boy was very attentive and when he returned with the pitcher of drinks, the women were slathering Coppertone over their bodies. Zack offered to do her back and Sam allowed him, “Is there anything else I can do for you ladies?”
Sam turned her head toward Shawn because Zack had a hard-on. “Plus de glace s” Shawn screamed falling off her chaise laughing, “He’s my favorite cabana boy, ever!”
Samantha poured the vodka drink into a pitcher of ice to water it down because at this rate she would be drunk on her ass before noon. She lay back sipping it through a straw. She’d never seen Shawn so raucous. Her friend was classy in the extreme, never drank hard liquor, wine being her family preference.
Samantha’s eyes were closed when Zack touched her toe. She sat up and removed her sunglasses, alert.
“I’m off work now, need to close out you ladies tab.”
Sam stretched for her wallet in a bag under her chaise.
Shawn sat up, “No way, it’s your birthday, this is on me.” She paid him and tipped him generously.
“Thanks, Zack said, then turned back toward them, Hey, happy birthday! Would you girls like to come to a party?”
Samantha could see that Sean was all for it. Sam could either go home and nap before her date, or continue to enjoy the day. But she allowed the alcohol to decide, and lifting her sunglasses, looked at Shawn and nodded “Sure, why not?”
Zack pointed to an apartment building across the highway, “Come on over!”
It was still early. They had plenty of time.
The apartment building was a clean white stucco with lots of tropical shrubbery on the exterior, but the apartment was unkempt with common square rooms that had little embellishment or architectural design. Samantha guessed it was fine for a young guy like Zack. He had tacked up Surf posters, and two surfboards leaned against a wall.
“This is Chase,” Zack announced pointing at him as he rushed into the small kitchen. “Chase, this is Samantha.”
A blonde surfer with a bronze tan and amber eyes sat on the couch sipping a beer.
“Sam,” she said.
Chase looked a lot older than Zack, maybe thirtyish, with a sun tanned mature face, the very image she’d had of Nathaniel as the surfer she’d envisioned on day one. She longed for Chase but reminded herself she’d had too much to drink to entertain such thoughts.
He stood and stretched showing his bright white teeth and bare chest; his tropical print surf shorts tied low on his hips, hard abs and broad shoulders duly noted.
“Heineken?” He said.
“Sure,” she smiled eyes following his movements. He pried open the bottles and turned to her. She hadn’t noticed Shawn and Zack had disappeared. She stood staring at the door.
“They went out to buy more beer,” he said.
“It’s awfully hot in here,” Sam said pulling her swimsuit cover-up off over her head, then threw it on the couch carelessly.
“Yeah, no air conditioning,” Chase said as he strolled out to the balcony with their beer.
Chase and Samantha stood leaning over the veranda enjoying the long clear view up the California coastline.
“How was the surf this morning?” she asked.
“It was fair in Malibu, not bad.”
Their hips were brushing, and she wondered if he felt the same urges she had. The briny sea air, sunshine, and a memory conspired a moment of sexual tension that confounded her. She felt Chase peering at her sideways. Was he feeling her vibes? She hoped he hadn’t read it as an invitation, because she was in no shape to be deciding something like that. She liked things exactly as they were at that moment, all pleasure, no friction.
On cue, Chase turned his head lifting his hand to pull a strand of her hair away while he touched his lips to her cheek. She smiled because he would not take advantage of her drunkenness. Neither did she object when he turned toward her, removing her sunglasses, he stared into her eyes, grinning. Samantha stepped up and pressed her hips to his. She saw Nathaniel’s face in his. This stirred her. She knew it wasn’t there, but she wanted, needed, even encouraged Chase to kiss her hard, and lost herself in his embrace. His warm skin burnt against hers, his bare chest, his strong tanned legs invited her to devour him.
“Hold on, Are you okay?” Chase said.
“Oh my God, yes! But Chase, I need to go!”
“Chase, is it okay if I take a shower before Shawn comes back?” I need to get back to town for an appointment and may not have time when I get home.”
“Sure, but will I see you again?”
“Yes,” she promised. “I’m sorry, I lost track of time.”
He was a good listener, so he walked her into the filthy bathroom, pulled open the shower door and ran the water. He kept his eyes down when she peeled herself out of her bikini, then turned and exited the small bathroom. When Chase heard her yelp he ran back in and helped her turn the water to a cooler temperature.
“This happens every time, he said. The darn thing runs hot and cold!”
“That’s very sweet of you,” she smiled as he climbed in.
Samantha slipped back into her bikini and ran into the living room to pull on her cover-up. Shawn sat cross-legged on the couch with Zack.
Samantha panicked, “Shawn we need to get back to town, now!”
Chase kissed her forehead and slipped his a card into Sam’s palm. They said their goodbyes and raced down to the parking lot across the street. Every minute counted. Each moment was passing too fast. They paid for parking and moved onto Wilshire Boulevard. Shawn lived in Santa Monica where Sam had parked her car. By the time she got into her vehicle, it was already six o’clock.
She still had to drive all the way to Beverly Hills. The traffic on Wilshire was sluggish. She thought back to Chase’s patient demeanor, helping her shower while he assisted, standing behind her naked, his hands sliding from her hips to her breasts, kissing her neck, but he did not take advantage! What kind of man does that? Another good guy, that’s for certain. Recalling their sensual interaction she almost made a U-turn.
SAMANTHA’ BIRTHDAY PALM DRIVE DENNIS DATE
Samantha arrived at her apartment on Palm Drive at 6:45 and ran up the back steps from the carport. She slathered soothing aloe cream on her pink body. She was finishing applying her makeup when she heard the apartment buzzer. If it was Dennis, she needed more time to dress.
Pulling on her robe she walked out to buzz him in. When she opened the door he stood smiling with a bouquet.
“Happy Birthday… is that what you’re wearing?”
“Oh Dennis, I went to the beach with Shawn today and came home with a terrible headache from the sun. Please forgive me, I was resting and lost track of time.”
“Sure kid, we have time.”
He sat and waited, flowers in hand like her prom date in his crisp formal dress jacket and tie.
Samantha gulped down two aspirin for the sunburn and impending headache. She planned what she would wear tonight, she brushed her hair into an updo and slipped into her heels.
When she walked out, Dennis smiled, “Hi, beautiful.”
Sam was feeling sheepish for having deceived him. But what else was she to do? She’d believed she could tell him anything but preferred to keep today’s details to herself.
As they pulled onto Avenue of the Stars Samantha felt a little more sober, though her sunburn was blazing with the setting sun.
Dennis, always a perfect gentleman was a great companion, but this evening felt oddly like a real date. He never drove. It would have been more more comfortable if they had met the gang at O’briens to celebrate her birthday.
She contemplated the harsh contrast between the dirty shower today and the dazzling beauty of a night on Broadway. Life is full of contrasts. Sam always recalled her hapless days to appreciate the present and tried not to judge anyone for the way they lived. There are so many who are quick to judge. But she felt fortunate just to be here this evening and she would never take their friendship for granted.
On the drive home, she lay her head back, her burning skin reminding her of Chase’s broad smile. Her stomach heaved with the memory of his kisses on the back of her neck while he rinsed the suntan oil from her hair, how he traced her body with his fingertips, and toweled her dry. Chase’s behavior was heroic in her eyes. She relaxed and accepted the luxury of thinking back on Chase’s eyes as they roved over her body when he handed her the towel. She’d gone too far, but oh he was lovely when he stripped down his shorts and stepped behind her under the steaming water. Feeling dizzy and aroused again, she wilted thinking of Nathaniel’s thumb in her palm. She wanted to scream, and nearly cried aloud.
Dennis interrupted her thoughts. “Would you mind stopping by my house for a nightcap?”
Feeling grateful for the lovely evening, she agreed. But when he opened the door Sam realizing none of his buddies were there. Alone with him in his house, all the while hoping, perhaps it was a surprise party, “Where’s is everyone?”
Dennis went to the makeshift bar and poured himself a shot of brandy, downed it, and poured another, then stood, “I’ll be right back.”
Samantha sat noting the contrast between Zack and Chases’ surfer apartment and decided they were essentially two common addresses. Dennis’ house says nothing of who he is. He hadn’t yet embraced his singular identity. She’d only seen Dennis as a whole person when his friends were holding him up.
Closing her eyes, she allowed her mind to slide back to Chase’s athletic body. Lost in her musings, she realized Dennis was speaking to her.
“My marriage is over. Done, Sam… I received the divorce papers.”
She stood, “Oh Dennis, I’m so sorry!”
Dennis strolled to her and wrapped her in his arms. Was he crying? She couldn’t tell. But when he held her shoulders away from him he searched her eyes, then tried to kiss her. Sam was still in a fog of sensual yearning and didn’t think before she kissed him back. Her mind was on this afternoon when she allowed Chase to make love to her, indulging herself in whatever leftover sensual urgency she hadn’t shed from the experience. She couldn’t deny that if she weren’t in such a rush they might have spent the rest of the afternoon feasting off each other. It would have been unfair of course because her lust still belonged to Nathaniel .
Dennis lifted her and carried her to his bed. Torn between blaming him for betraying their friendship, or accepting that she was at fault for losing focus, Might this be the opportunity to have everything I ever wanted, a friend and a mate? But the simple truth is I’m not in love with Dennis.
“Dennis, Dennis, Dennis, listen to me! You’re not ready for our relationship to change. What you need is a friend. Let me be your friend,” she begged.
Thank god for good men, Dennis was understanding when she explained, “It would be a mistake, you’re reacting to the bad news, you need a friend, not a lover!”
His urgency of sexual lust shocked him. “You’re right,” he said, begging her forgiveness.
Samantha focuses on Chase
Because of the calamity with Dennis Samantha forbid herself to have another thought of Nathaniel. She had moved on, hadn’t she? She could not wipe Chase from her mind, but forgave herself their naughty indulgence.
After work one evening Samantha came across Chase’s card on her dressing table and picked it up. It was a business card with a photo of him on a wave, the name of a surf camp in Malibu, and a phone number. She turned it over and read, Your beauty stunned me. I’m not that guy you think. Please call. Let me be your hero. Yours! Chase.
Samantha felt confused. It seemed a fantasy. Oh! Why am I so tempted to pursue this fairytale? Do dreams work this way? I can’t have my Nathaniel, but I can have his replacement, Chase? She threw Chase’s card in the trash. Oh, god help me!
Sam might turn her back on both men, but she changed her mind realizing she was still holding out for Nathaniel, like an idiot! And so she dug Chase’s card out of the trash. There was something physical between them, and the good news is, it had nothing to do with the law firm. She could find out easily by dialing his number.
He answered, “Malibu Surf.”
“Chase? It’s Samantha.”
“Naw, Chase is in the water, what can I do for you? ”
“Tell him Samantha called, okay?”
He laughed, “Oh hey that dude has so many girls after him, he won’t even know which Samantha you are.”
“Yeah? There are probably plenty of surfer babes for him to choose from… but none of them is me! So tell him anyway. Here’s my number. Tell him I’m the Samantha who took a cold shower!” She slammed the phone down.
Samantha flung herself on her bed and picked up the book Martin’s curator had written on the subject of German art. It was high time she took her career seriously. No more men equals no more sorrow.
Her phone rang. She hesitated but picked it up, anyway.
“Who is this?”
“Um, see if you can guess. Remember that guy who saved your tail?
“At least I saved you from freezing to death in the shower.”
“Oh, maybe I have a vague recollection…
“What? I pretty much rescued you from missing a hot date.”
She strolled into the kitchen, sat at the table admiring the tall palms swaying in the breeze. “It was my birthday Chase and yes, you were my hero.”
“Glad to hear that,” He said. “If there’s anything else heroic you need from me, I’m your man.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“No, uh uh, Your wish is my command.”
“Maybe you could give me a list and I’ll choose.”
“I meant what I said on the back of my card.”
“I found it intriguing, Chase.”
“Okay, this is how we’ll play it. I’ll pick you up for dinner at the fanciest fish fry dive in Malibu. What do you say?”
“I’m not a dive kind of girl.”
“Ha! You little slut, I know better than that.”
Sam laughed, “How dare you!”
“All right, princess, what about a spa with a nude swimming pool?
She sighed, “Okay, I get it. I was drunk, and you got lucky.”
“Want to start over? Pretend we’re classy, and I’ll take you to the most expensive restaurant in Beverly Hills.”
“I’m sick of the Hills. Where do you live? Not with cabana boy?”
“You’re right, I go where the surf is up, have some buddies along the coast. Tell you what, I have to get off this phone. I’ll call you from home tonight and we’ll make a plan.”
“All right, she said. But please don’t pick me up. I despise that kind of date, but I’ll meet you halfway.”
“Are you afraid of me?”
She sighed because the memory of Levin haunted her.
“No, of course not. It’s just silly, maybe a little afraid of myself.”
“Ah, Mr. hot date has a jealous streak?”
She closed her eyes. “Nothing like that.”
“Give me your address, you have a shower? I’m on my way over.”
She laughed, “Okay, I’ll tell you what, let’s meet for a drink like right now! You name it.”
“You know the Formosa Cafe on Santa Monica? I’ll be there in thirty minutes.” He said.
“Yes! That sounds perfect!”
“Yes is my favorite word!”
FORMOSA CAFE WITH CHASE
Samantha strolled in wearing her notorious white spandex dress and slid onto a barstool. Lindy looked up, poured her dry martini with three olives and delivered it with a flourish, “Here ya go Sam, where’s your partner in crime?” A moment later Chase sneaked up and kissed the back of her neck, whispering, “Hey baby, want to make out?”
She let her head roll back to find his warmth.
Chase leaned his hip on the bar, “I’ll have the usual.”
“Lindy stuck out his hand, Chase, my man, good to see you!”
Samantha blinked and turned to watch the two men. Chase looked at her, “Ah, Lindy, I’m with this lovely creature. I’m not here on business.”
Chase, the surfer, wore a tailored gray suit with a slim purple tie.
“Lindy, this is Samantha,” Chase said.
“Well, Chase what a coincidence, Lindy grinned. Sam and I are old friends. I’ll tell you what, you two make a handsome couple, congratulations, you won’t find another like her. He shook his head, I should have introduced you two a long time ago. She’s a good girl. Works at a law firm on Wilshire. You’d best be good to her, or you’ll have hell to pay.
Lindy looked at Sam, “I sure do love you kid. If he gives you any trouble you just report him to me!”
Samantha nearly choked on her olive, looking Chase in the eye, “How did I get so lucky?”
“Sure, sure Lindy said, lifting their drinks, you lovers need some privacy, let’s move ya to a private table. There ya go, just holler if ya need anything.”
Hypnotized, Chase watched her spine dip down the heart of her ass, her hips rolling like Marilyn Monroe. I’m the lucky one.
Samantha sat, chin lifted trying not to laugh. Chase sat, “Sorry, I don’t understand.”
She sipped her martini, “An attorney friend and I come here often. I love Lindy, he’s like the father I never had.”
“Male or female?” He asked.
She nearly choked again. “Oh please, you’re jealous? Now tell me how you know Lindy. I mean other than as a bartender at your favorite watering hole”
“Do you really think I surf for a living?”
She ran her finger over her lower lip, “Let’s just say you’ve ruined my image of your athletic body on a surfboard. Wait a minute, did you really think I was some brazen whore?”
He said, “Ohhhhh, You liked me naked, didn’t you? Surfers pick up babes too easily.”
She blushed, “Sorry, just caught a little off guard, I guess.”
“When we met you were wearing a tiny bikini, does that make you a professional sunbather?”
Samantha giggled, her hand over her eyes.
“Sam, you work in the corporate world right?”
“So do I. Surfing is my passion, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage.”
“You have a mortgage?”
He rested his hand to his forehead, and peered at her between two fingers, “I’m a partner. Here. At the Formosa.”
“Oh, I see. Does this mean my drink’s on the house?”
He cringed, “Yep, I’m loaded, I hope that’s not too disappointing.”
“Not at all Chase, I meet filthy rich men every day. It’s my job to keep them happy and satisfied.”
“If you wear that dress I have no doubt.”
“I dress appropriately. I order catered luncheons for some of the wealthiest men in the country. I get time off for travel. I can’t complain.”
“He leaned forward, Samantha, what if you could do whatever you wanted, anything at all, what would it be?”
She put her fist to her chin, “Let’s see, I’d probably finish my degree and write full time.”
“He mimed shock and surprise, You wouldn’t get married, settle down, and have a dozen kids?”
She sipped her martini, “Never been on my agenda. Why? Are you asking me to marry you?”
“I think one kid is enough, maybe two. You’d look adorable with a baby bump.”
“Not funny Chase, if this is a test I think I just failed it.”
Frustrated, he ran his fingers through his longish blonde hair.
She took a breath and rushed to the ladies room.
The cad! How dare he! Did I need him to remind me of Nathaniel? Not tonight…Never!
The bar was buzzing with customers when she weaved her way back to their table. She perched, taking a long sip of her drink, ignoring him.
“I apologize Samantha. I was toying with you and went too far.”
“It’s not your fault, I like you, Chase. I love your sense of humor, it’s just I…she leaned in, I’m in love with someone…”
Chase blinked disbelieving, “Oh girl, I meant to tell you I haven’t stopped thinking of you since…you know?”
“I know,” she said, wiping a tear from her eye.
“Oh man, when you rushed off from Zack’s apartment I was afraid I’d lost you. I had this whole image of us together in capital letters. I know, it sounds nuts but I think it’s no coincidence. Tonight. Meeting at the Formosa and Lindy. He touched her hand…it’s inexplicable!”
“Understood, she said. I’ve been replaying it over and over, wishing I hadn’t run out on you like that. No, not the hot date Chase, but a good friend of mine gifted me with a Broadway Show for my birthday. I couldn’t let him down. He’s been going through a divorce!”
“Is he the one? I’ll bet he was counting on more from you.”
“Well, yes there is that, but I’d never cross that line with Dennis. And no, he’s not the one.”
“It’s getting hot in here with all these bodies,” he said.
Samantha looked around, standing room only at the bar. “Guess we’re lucky to have a table.”
Chase raised his hand, two fingers above his head catching Lindy’s eye.
He winked and poured fresh drinks.
Chase pressed through the crowd to fetch them.
“Feels like a sauna in here,” Lindy said.
“Where were we?” Chase said sitting their drinks on the table.
“Let’s forget it, please. It’s stupid. Impossible really.”
“Ah the one that got away! He picked up his glass and toasted her, ” I was a victim of that lately. Why not ignore our heartbreaks tonight?”
Samantha smiled, “Agreed. Ya know what? I’m wishing for a nice cold shower.”
“Actually there is one, he laughed. Lindy’s apartment in the back. Do you think we should risk it? I’m dying to peel that dress off you”
“Chase, Tonight belongs to us, just like the moment the water turned cold… you came running! Let’s not let it slip away. Besides, it will thrill Lindy.”
He ran his hand over his face, “Sure you haven’t had too much alcohol?”
“One martini, are you kidding?”
“Okay, walk down the hallway past the restrooms, turn left at the mirrored wall and meet me at the door. I’ll bring the drinks.”
Samantha committed to the study of Mr. Rothschild’s art collection. It was time to focus on her growth and education. She took seriously the new challenges he presented her. The last thing she needed was another romance right now. Chase was a strong lover, but she had to admit she was still in love with Nathaniel. Her vulnerability annoyed her, so she put both men aside. She awoke mornings eager to learn. She especially anticipated the promise of Martin’s “Good morning.” However, she’d recently been stung by a surprising yearning for intimacy toward Martin. Was this evidence of a classic teacher/student crush? Or was it because she longed for Nathaniel? Her lust for Chase? The near calamity with Dennis? Probably all of the above, but nonetheless disturbing.
I just need to Focus on one thing. Her future took priority, and because Mr. Rothschild was the promoter of that, she’d chosen to stick with him. She dressed this morning with the thought of Martin Rothschild. Seeing herself through his eyes, she walked the halls of the firm with secret knowledge of his warm arms about her in his bed. Yes, what had happened between them was erotic, and that he claimed he had slept with her was no innocent statement. He’d given his thoughts away, and she’d read his meaning! There was no doubt that he wanted her!
Samantha smiled, Perhaps he’s thinking of me now, regretting not taking full advantage of the possibilities of a vulnerable woman?
Oh, how she wished he had! The intimacy of his fingers stroking her hair and his enormous arousal had sparked great quakes of desire. She was glad to have satisfied this simple intimate need, but sadly she could only imagine at the time that he was Nathaniel.
Perched behind her desk, she settled in like a princess on a magic pillow. She bit her lip, I suppose Martin will be my lover now. She accepted their relationship was more than sensual regardless of his old age and sighed dreamily. Yes, she would operate with that thought in mind.
It only made sense because sharing the truth about Levin had cleansed her. She had been raped as a child really, when she was very young, by a man she trusted. She had kept it to herself then, choosing to interpret it as love on his part. In doing so, she was a fool…a kid who thought sex was love. But she had conquered and risen above that. Free at last until Levin came along and showed her the true violence of rape.
She began to think of her relationship with Martin as a new religion based on the truths between them. He would surely keep the secret and provide all the security she needed. I’m his lowest paid employee and Mr. Roberts is our King and my Master. Whatever it is, this is a good distraction from Nathaniel. But she wavered, pushing away that old ache that plagued her. God, she missed him. She raised her chin confidently, It’s obvious! And she knew it fit. The way Martin orchestrated their time together! She dreamed of becoming his loyal submissive and she believed her gentle master would always dominate but never harm her in any way which meant she would remain safe. She thought of their warm palms touching, how they’d made a pact that day, that trust was their promise. But what of the promise of trust with Nathaniel? She decided to dismiss it because it was clear that he wasn’t coming back for her.
Mr. Rothschild was fifteen years her senior and she reveled in his sincere demeanor as a scholar, a man of wisdom. She would become his humble student and mistress. She imagined a scenario that fit her new vision, believing time spent with Martin would equate to an organized ritual, as thus: Arts education, Luncheon, and eventually Sex. Savoring their nap for last increased her anticipation of their meetings.
Why was Martin avoiding it?
Everything was arranged by Martin. He organized what they would talk about during their art discussions, and he knew when and where they would eat lunch. She simply wasn’t sure yet how she would get him back upstairs into the bedroom suite. She rationalized that Nina’s presence meant for the most part, they’d keep their hands off each other during lunch, but this increased her arousal.
She liked it when Bob would peck her cheek, as though they were merely friends. She especially liked it when they were in the middle of a discussion about, say German sculpture.
He’d ask, “Are you ready for this?”
She believed it was a double entendre, but she continued to behave as he wished, like a student of the arts. She studied tenaciously all he had to share. She is, after all, as he refers to her, a natural.
It was during one of those California downpours the afternoon she’d arrived at his door soaking wet. Samantha had no umbrella in her car, so ran across the long driveway to the massive door, hoping he would open it, but he hadn’t heard her so she stood, dripping and knocking. When he finally rescued her, she was shaking with a chill.
Martin was alarmed, “We must get you warmed up, come with me,” and grabbing his coat from a hook wrapped it around her.
He took her hand and walked her up the double marble staircase, through his bedroom, and into a cavernous master bath.
She perched on a small chair, huddled under his coat while he ran hot water into a massive deep tub. The steam filled the room, clouding the windows and the mirrored walls contributing to her dream.
She felt like a child when he began to remove her wet clothing. First, he took his coat away and placed it in a cupboard. He then knelt on the tile floor and removed her shoes and stockings.
When he began to pull her wet sweater over her head, her breasts bounced and she wondered if he’d closed his eyes when he peeled the wet wool away from her cold flesh.
There was a pause for a moment when her arms were above her head that she imagined he was looking at her. Was he taking his time, examining her pert nipples? Her longing for him increased as she yearned for her master, for she was his to observe, touch, and control.
“Stand up.” He directed.
Martin’s fingers went to her waist slipping under the elastic of her skirt. He tugged it down and paused to assist her and lift her.
Samantha trembled at the thought he was examining her naked body while she felt the warmth from a heater and the wet steam that settled around her.
“Let’s get you in the tub.”
He carefully guided her down the steps, “Is it too hot?”
She shook her head then submerged to sit on a tile step, the water up to her shoulders.
“I’m coming right back,” he said. “don’t worry, just soak for a few minutes.”
She thought he must be doing something with her clothing, perhaps giving it to Nina to dry for later.
When he returned she was moving her arms in the water finding it a sensual experience.
“Are you hungry? Would you like some champagne? Nina is warming soup for you.”
He hand-fed her the creamy soup and patted her mouth with a cloth napkin after each sip from the spoon.
When he tilted the champagne glass to let her sip Samantha felt like a combination of a pet and a child nurtured and cared for.
After the last spoonful, he said, “Stand up dear,” and produced a soft cashmere robe that he wrapped around her as he guided her out of the tub.
She yawned, feeling luxuriously sleepy as he walked her out to the soft lambswool carpeting in his bedroom. She was facing the bed. He removed the robe and placed it over the back of his chair.
“Sit,” he said and Martin lifted her legs into his bed and covered her with a silky sheet and a light blanket. The pillow was soft and inviting. Samantha snuggled up to the sound of the rain drumming down on the veranda outside his room.
Martin sat in his chair reading when she woke.
“No, don’t get up,” he whispered, peeling back the covers to reveal her naked body.
She watched as he hovered over her pulling off his tennis shirt, then tossed it to the floor. His chest and shoulders were wide and well built, tapering down to a narrow waist. When he peeled down his tennis shorts, his thighs glistened and flexed for her, and an impressive cock raised hard and magnificent He swept her into his arms and kissed her deeply, hungrily, climbing over her.
But Samantha did not spread her legs. Instead, she squeezed her eyes shut, and when she opened her eyes again, it was Nathaniel’s’ face she saw.
She began to cry helplessly.
“Why are you crying?”
“I don’t know… I think it was a dream.”
“Alright, he said, pulling his sweat pants back on, “Your clothing is dry. I laid it over the armchair with your shoes. I’ll be downstairs in the Sculpture room when you’re ready. Unless you don’t wish to have our meeting today. It’s okay if you don’t. We can set another time if you like.”
When he turned, he understood she was hiding something. He didn’t need to hear the details of her dream. Perhaps it was a terrifying memory of the rape? He was kind enough not to ask her. Had he made a mistake in caring for her? Yes, of course, and it was obvious that by his actions he had awakened her terror of men. She was still dealing with loss. He’d thought of his actions as a comfort to her frozen body, but it had been a huge mistake.
He realized now that he’d traumatized her beyond what she could endure. He should have filled the tub and left her alone. She was a grown woman! How stupid could he be? But, oh god, she was beautiful. He had not been able to erase the image of her sensuous buttocks. And he never wanted to.
Martin was seldom confused. It was a state of being he couldn’t accept. He believed there is always an answer or a solution, that one only needed to ask the right questions.
“I fucked up,” he said when she stepped down into the sculpture room.
Samantha froze as still as one of Martin’s precious sculptures.
“It’s my fault,” she cried.
“Not at all dear, I’m to blame.”
“I was dreaming about Nathaniel, ” she said bluntly flopping down on the sofa.
“Oh, I see. How can I help?”
“You can tell me if you’ve heard from him. You can tell me if he’s coming back. You can tell me if he went through with the wedding for God’s sake!”
“Sam, I don’t have all the answers yet, but what I can tell you is matters are pending with Levin. It is a matter of time, and I apologize for keeping you in the dark. It was stupid of me to hope our meetings would distract you. I promise you we will have it all swept under the carpet by summer’s end.”
“Summers end! I don’t care about Levin anymore!”
“So, this isn’t about Levin?”
She reached for him tearfully, “I made a mistake, Martin, I love you, but not the way I love Nathaniel. I’m one mixed up woman, and I’ve made a mess of things.
“No, it was I who messed up!”
She stood. “Oh for God’s sake, all you did was try and protect me. Don’t you think I know that?”
Feeling the need to be forthright, he shared the news with Sam.
“As far as Nathaniel’s status, I haven’t heard back other than he hasn’t dropped out officially. He’s one of our star candidates. We wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. The partners voted to hire him if he’s still viable.”
FORMOSA CAFE: SUMMER’S END
Jordan drove toward Venice Beach where they would say their goodbyes to the Interns who were not hired and congratulate those lucky ones that were.
“Sam, Do you remember which turn it is to Mr. Rothschild’s condo?”
Samantha Stared out the window at a strip of white sand that swept into the churning ocean, like a painting she recognized but couldn’t recall the artist’s name.
“Huh? Oh, it’s the crossover near Maiden Lane.”
“Sure, just wondering, Do you believe he’s gonna show?”
“Of course he is, you’ve every right to be bitter.”
“Bittersweet love,” She sighed.
“Listen, This your moment, three years in a row! You know the play, Schmooze with the sad Interns who are leaving, they’ll be drunk by now. Be your charismatic self and dance with them! You look like a dish in that dress. But stay close, I’m here for you, as promised. I’ll cater to you hon, bring you a martini. Whatever you need.”
“That sounds ominous,” Sam said dryly.
The sunset was beaming reds and oranges in the sunglasses of the secretaries lolling in lounge chairs wearing skimpy swimwear and sipping cocktails waiting for Mr. Rothschild to announce the honored Interns. They cared who was chosen. It meant new male blood on the fifth floor. There would be a salute and a farewell to those poor losers.
Jordan was right, the party was in full force, but Samantha didn’t see Nate in the crowd. Yes knew he’d been offered the position, but had he accepted? She felt conflicted either way.
He’s not here, but I can’t think about that now Sam warned herself as she raised a shot of tequila. She tapped it against Shawn’s glass and threw her head back, then wiped the salt off her mouth with the back of her hand.
“You’re a natural” Shawn laughed, shaking her head. “Too bad Nathaniel’s not here to see you in that sexy sarong. He doesn’t know what he’s missing! Dang girl, go find a dance partner.”
One of the drunken Interns lifted Samantha’s skirt, “Are you wearing anything under there?”
Samantha slapped his hand and ran. Jefry followed, but fell flat on his face. She laughed and kicked off her sandals for more traction.
It was a sultry evening. The cool sand felt refreshing on this sultry evening and she strayed to a strip of light. When she squinted, she saw the reflection of the moon rising on a wave, and breathed in the salty air, the waves luring her like a purposeful trail from reality; perhaps a road she hoped, to another dimension.
Mesmerized by she struggled to the top of a dune yearning to plunge herself into the beckoning sea. Somehow her drunken tears would mingle with the cool salty foam. She might be reborn in this baptism and swim out to sea. Standing on top of the dune, he swayed in the breeze, her hair damp as seaweed. She’d always adored the night sky with the sea’s soothing song. She felt light as a seabird now, descending, then climbing over the crest of the next dune she envisioned the silhouette of a person and forged upward, her feet squishing in the sand, making piles of deep tracks.
She descended, balancing, to keep from falling forward, but she tripped, and plowed down the sandy hill. Is that Nathaniel? But no, the guy wore cut-off Jeans, and bare chested.
She squinted her eyes and grew cautious. Fearing the person was moving toward her, she stood swaying for a moment, then took a step down and tripped into his arms. Sighing, she rested her cheek on his warm chest and breathed in the briny scent of his skin, then lifted her face.
“Hi,” she slurred.
He held her up like a rag doll and resting his chin on top of her head he rocked her.
“Liar!” she screamed and tore herself away, then ran away in the wet sand, crying tears she refused to allow him to witness.
Nathaniel gave chase and overcame her. His strength and determination mastered her inebriated state when he’d tackled and pulled her down hard.
Samantha rolled, digging her feet in. She was strong too, and he didn’t deserve to win this battle. She rose to her knees to crawl away, but he reached out grabbing her ankles with his large hands and flipped her onto her back. Taking advantage, he crawled over her while she flailed tearing at his hair.
But she weakened, leaving herself open. He lay his heaving body across her torso and held her arms above her head. This triggered Samantha’s rage again.
She twisted her hips when he relaxed thinking he’d won. She laughed in his face, and rolled, digging into the sand. The painful crawl bloodied her knees.
Nathaniel thrust forward again, “Samantha, please let me explain!”
She looked back at him and growled so he gripped her ankles and dragged her backward through the cool sand that created a trench. Her sarong slid up to her waist exposing her bikini. Nate lunged, but she dug in with her heels again, kicking sand in his face.
He turned his head and spit sand out, then took another quick lunge pinning her again; lay his head on her chest, pleading,
“Please, just listen?”
She calmed to silence for a moment and nodded. He squeezed her hand sliding his downward, carefully. She remained calm, blinking, looking in his deep-sea eyes.
He relaxed back on his heels.
“Samantha, do you still want me?”
She’d never seen Nate without a shirt. His wide hard shoulders, his bare chest pumping and glistening in the moonlight, his breast heaving. She watched the patch of hair that crossed above his nipples and dipped in a thin line toward his navel and she longed to trace it with her finger. She couldn’t find her voice, fighting in her desire.
She blinked and nodded again.
Nate peeled her dress down to cover her nakedness, holding one of his arms out in defense to prevent her from kicking him again.
Samantha lay still watching and listening.
“I’m crazy about you Samantha, but it’s time I tell you the truth.”
“No, please no no no!” She begged.
“Look at me! I love you, but it was impossible with Levin.”
She burst into tears sobbing on his chest, “Levin? Oh my poor Nathaniel, what have you been going through?”
He cradled her, “Shhhhhhh.”
They lay there together in a trench of sand holding hands, watching the soft moon glow over the crashing surf, stars blinking alive one by one.
“Rothschild vs. Levin”
The associates waited till after the vote to impeach Levin, with the assumption Rothschild would not vote for Nathaniel. They’d agreed the votes would be two to one, and so Nathaniel was officially invited to join their team. It was then up to Nate to accept or reject their offer.
They served Levin papers the following day ordering him fired. Levin, of course, countered with a lawsuit based on the unwarranted accusations, none of which was rape. They had hope that he would quit because he’d threatened time and again to start his own firm due to long drawn out disagreements. That would be just fine with Martin Rothschild.
Rothschild had hoped blackmail wouldn’t be necessary, but he wasn’t above it. In this case, he would certainly twist the knife if forced to.