Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day
THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE
On my last night in Chicago, I took myself to a wine tasting bar in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. I dressed for my finale in red, form-fitting lambskin pants, with a black knit empire halter and red crocodile high-heel sandals. Not only was I overdressed for the casual bistro vibe, I stood out as the only non-coupled person in the room. The food was fine, but the infectious friendliness I had come to expect from my Midwest hosts was absent, and I was bored. My flight the next day was foolishly early, which was going to cut into my after dinner plans. I had yet to make it to a salsa club, and I wanted to hit another blues venue. There was only time for one club, so I checked in with the bartender to help me decide.
“The Green Dragon does salsa, it’s no more than six blocks down the street, on the other side of the river,” she answered. That clinched it. I paid up, and decided that six blocks was an easy walk, and would also kill time. It wasn’t quite 10:00 p.m., which is still siesta-time in the salsa circuit.
The doors to The Green Dragon opened into a restaurant dining room, decorated hacienda-style with tropical overtones. To the left of the dining room was the dance floor, a luxuriously large space, with a long bar against one wall, and several small tables at the far end. The club was near dead, and the DJ was spinning salsa tunes for the dozen couples shaking it up before eleven. I ordered a red from the bartender and checked my watch. I was going to give myself twenty minutes, and hope for at least one dance before I took a taxi back to the W. I still hadn’t packed, and 5:00 a.m. was the wake-up call.
I turned my attention to the dancers to scope out the leads. I saw the one I wanted immediately, looking sharp in blue jeans and a body-hugging white button-down shirt, his hair shaved into a short African trim. His dance style popped, his body infused with the Caribbean sound. He was smooth and quick, and led his partner with a classy flair into every double-spin, back-break, and cross-body reverse he pulled her through. They looked great. I saw that strong frame, and I knew he could make magic out of me.
The fabulous couple finished the song, and danced into the next. Disappointed, I was feeling the crunch for time, and faced the fact that I might not even get on the floor. There were simply not enough dancers in the room. I was feeling the music, and started moving my feet, suddenly conscious of my footwear. Were these even going to work? I had never tried a salsa spin in those red heels. Discouraged, I turned my back to the dance floor. The whole night was just off.
I caught my pouty face in the bar mirror, and cracked a smile. What was I complaining about? I’d had a nonstop, wild-ride in Chicago. It was my last night, and the truth was that I was dead tired. I’d finish my wine, and get a taxi. I raised my glass to my reflection in the bar mirror and proposed a toast to an amazing trip. I would come back to Chicago, and next time, I would do salsa right.
The song ended, and I turned toward the floor. I looked for my favorite view, that tight white shirt that I had code-named, Chicago’s Finest. I didn’t see him, but I heard his voice for the first time, to my left and close enough to touch. “Would you like to dance?”
Finally, my luck had reversed! I took his hand and followed him to the floor. He really was something special; the man even walked like he was feeling the music. He set me up in a closed embrace, my left hand in contact with his shoulder, my arm resting on his bicep. His frame startled me. I’d never been held by muscles that rigid before. My eyes were level with the naked V of his black chest between the white shirt’s lapels, and I saw that a gold pendant was framed elegantly at his neck. The skin of his face and his chest were moist, and he smelled delicious: a masculine fragrance of spice and earth. His fashion style was understated and sexy, and his body was simply super-hot. My senses cranked into overdrive to take it all in.
He held me still through the song’s prelude, and I ordered myself to relax. My shoes. Why hadn’t I practiced some spins at the bar? When the refrain broke, he led with two basics followed by a simple inside turn. Simple, sure: except for the fact that the force of the turn spun me right out of my left shoe with no way to stop the spin!
I was losing my balance, so I dropped his hand and went for the floor before I fell. The strap was knotted around my ankle, and I couldn’t make sense of the tangle. Cursing, I felt sweat break out under the hot lambskin pants, while my insufferable battle with the ankle strap dragged on and on. Meanwhile, the smooth and sexy salsero towered over my hunched position, with the music too loud to even explain my ordeal. Did he even know what had happened? The way things were going, I would never know; that twisted strap had other plans. It was going to keep me on that floor until the end of time.
“Sorry,” I shouted after coming to my feet and finally placing my arms back on his frame. That’s when my bad moment spiraled straight to hell, and humiliation burned hotter than those lambskin pants. I was terrified I would lose a shoe; so I blew the timing on every turn, and I couldn’t even nail my basic. The music played on, and I couldn’t follow a single step to save my life. When the song finally ended, I think he may have thanked me, but how would I know? My conscious mind had left the premises, in search of a disgrace free space. I only know that he didn’t ask for the next dance, and he had a pretty good reason: I stunk.
I sulked across the floor to my spot at the bar and found my wine. What a disaster. I signaled the bartender for my tab, and that’s when I realized that Chicago’s Finest had taken the bar stool next to me, the broad shoulders of his back a reminder of his hyper-fit frame. There he sat, oblivious to the role he had played in my pre-dance drama, and unaware that I had acted out a salsera short story by the time he turned me out of my shoe. It was actually pretty funny when I framed it that way. What the hell, I thought. Maybe that had only been the first act?
I leaned my body in and put my mouth near his ear, “I’m Vicki Marie, from Seattle.”
“Seattle?” He looked at me over his shoulder. “How long you been in Chicago?”
“Five days. I’m heading home tomorrow.” I leaned in closer, “I really love your city.”
“Yeah! Chicago’s it. Bes’ city in the world! Chicago! Hell, yeah! You get to Rus’ Street?”
“Rus’ Street?” His accent was killing me. “No, I didn’t. I don’t know it.” He turned toward me now, his face a corkscrew of disbelief.
“You’ leavin’ tomorrow, and you ‘ain been to Rus’ Street?” Before I could answer, he had a solution. “Come on, I gotcha. We’ outta here right now. You can’t leave Chicago wit’out seein’ Rus’ Street.”
I had just exchanged twenty-five words, and the worst dance of my life with this stranger, and yet I was following him out of The Green Dragon in a neighborhood I did not know, bound for some marquee Chicago street in another neighborhood I did not know. That went against every nightlife security plan, I reminded myself, as I double-timed my step to keep up with his.
I was trailing behind, and as we got further away from the club and deeper into the dark street I regretted my impulse, and was formulating a smooth way out. That’s when he stopped at a deep-blue BMW 525, and put the key into the passenger door. The Illinois plate was a vanity license, which spelled out in big capital letters: M-A-L-E RN. I came up beside him and looked up into his face.
“Are you a nurse?”
“Yes, I am—an’ a fire-fighter, too.” He held open the door. Just as quickly as I had turned out of my shoe, I turned toward my gut and sat down in the front seat. Chicago’s Finest, indeed, I smiled. Raise the curtain. I’m in for act two.
TOMORROW: Chapter 25
Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.