Edward was having a hard time keeping his mind on the game. The reason was the woman at the bar.
The woman at the far corner of the bar, sipping a glass of red wine.
She was wearing an airy, white summer dress. Her dark hair flowing over her shoulders in soft waves. Like most people sitting by themselves, her pale grey eyes were locked on her phone. She had her right leg crossed over her left, which made the skirt of her dress ride up, exposing most of her leg. Her right heel had slipped out of her soft pink pump, making the shoe dangle carelessly of her toes.
She was breathtakingly beautiful. Edward couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“Edward? Hey, Edward!” one of his poker buddies called out. “Where’s your mind at, man?”
“Sorry, what?” Edward mumbles, his attention snapped back to his poker game.
“I just raised twenty. Are you in or not?”
Edward peeked at his cards without really seeing them. “Hm? Oh yeah, sure.” He threw two twenty dollar bills on the table. “See your twenty, raise you another twenty.” He fully intended to pay attention to the others as they reacted to the raise, looking for the tells they were bluffing. Instead he found himself staring at the woman again.
She had noticed him staring. Looking at him through the corners of her eyes, she pulled the her skirt towards her knee, covering her leg up a little more. The gesture would have been a rejection, had it not been for the little smile playing around the corners of her mouth and the twinkle in her eyes. To Edward it looked sexy as hell. He felt a blush creep onto his cheeks.
“Eddie,” Ralph said in the sing-song voice people use to get your attention when you’ve been zoning out.
“What?” Edward snapped, a little embarrassed.
“What are you looking at?” James asked curiously. He turned around in his chair to glance in the direction of the woman at the bar. He turned back after a second with a little shrug, as if he hadn’t seen anything of interest. That made sense, Edward had long suspected James was gay.
“What are we doing?” Edward said with a sigh.
“I’m raising.” Ralph waved a hundred dollar bill through the air before putting it in the middle of the table. The pot had just jumped to a considerable amount of money.
Edward took out his wallet and pulled a hundred to match. And then, without thinking, he added another hundred dollar bill. He had no idea why. He couldn’t even remember the cards in his hand. It just felt like the right thing to do.
James whistled through his teeth. “Too rich for me, buddy.” He put his cards on the table. “I fold.”
Ralph stared from the money on the table, to the cards in his hand. He took so long, Edwards eyes once again moved to the woman at the bar. She looked like she was trying not to laugh. From her point of view, Edward realized, she could have seen Ralph’s hand. And she was laughing. Was that good, or bad for him?
“Okay,” Ralph finally decided, putting the extra hundred on the table. “Okay, show me what you got.”
Edward put his cards on the table, to amused shouts of his friends.
“Tens? You just gambled two hundred dollar on a single pair of tens?”
“Man, that was the ballsiest bluff I have even seen you play,” Ralph grinned, shaking his head as he collected his money off the table. “And you know what? Any other hand, it might have worked.”
“Well played,” Edward muttered. “Excuse me.” He stood up and walked to the bar. The woman looked up, studying him with interest. Her smile was friendly and inviting. He was going to make a move, Edward decided. He shouldn’t be doing that; there was no way in hell a woman like her would be interested in an out of shape, slightly balding man looking at middle age. The brush off would be painful and awkward for everyone in the vicinity. But he was going to give it his best shot anyway. Just as soon as he got another shot of liquid courage in him. Edward waved to the bartender.
The polite thing to do, was to offer the woman a glass of wine. It was a cliché, true, but if she accepted he could worry about coming up with something smooth to say and… A turned towards her, and she was gone. He scanned to room, nothing. She had just vanished.
“What can I do you for?”
Edward turned to the bartender, a little bewildered. “Where did the lady go?”
“The lady in the white dress. She was right there a second ago.”
The bartender glared at Edward for a long time, while rubbing a cloth over a wine glass. Edward wanted to yell You’re cleaning her glass right now, you idiot, surely you must have seen her? but no words would pass his lips. He just stood there, mouth agape, staring right back at the big man behind the bar. Finally the bartender spoke. “I think you’ve had enough, friend.”
Edward pulled himself together and nodded. He had hit the whiskey a little harder than usual. It must have been fate smiling on him and saving him from humiliation. Better quit while he was ahead. Or four hundred or so behind. He told his friends he was calling it a night and walked off, towards the elevators.
As he turned the corner, he saw the elevator doors closing. “Hold the door,” Edward yelled, as his slightly wavering gait turned into a sloppy jog. A slender, manicured hand pushed the doors back open right before they closed completely. The sight of that hand suddenly had Edward’s heart beating faster.
He reached the elevator, breathing hard and a little dizzy from the unaccustomed physical effort. The woman in white was standing in the elevator, looking at him with a smirk. Instantly Edward’s alcohol buzz disappeared. He made his way inside. “Hey,” he wheezed. Not as smooth as he would have liked, but at least it wasn’t some incomprehensible noise as he had feared.
“Hello,” the woman replied. Her voice was smooth as silk. She smelled of lilacs. To Edwards utter amazement, she placed her hand on his upper arm. “I am sorry you lost your card game.” She spoke softly, yet the sound seemed to fill the entire space.
Edward smiled sheepishly. “Don’t worry about it. Just the luck of the draw.” The woman’s warm smile and her lingering touch were a little unsettling. Compared to her, Edward felt boorish. He didn’t have a clue how to handle himself. Instead of laying on his moves, as he had wanted, he reverted to the script of using an elevator, and moved to press the button of the second floor. He noticed no other buttons were lit up. “Where are you going?” he asked the woman, his hand hovering over the control panel.
The woman lightly traced her fingers over the skin exposed under his collar. As if by magic Edwards top button came undone under her touch. “How about your room?” she said seductively.
Edward made a sound that was half a laugh and half a gasp. “My.. my room? Really?” He could hardly believe it. Actually, he didn’t believe it. “Am I…supposed to pay for this encounter?”
The woman gave him a little eyebrow wiggle. “Oh, yes.” she responded.
Edward sighed. He was strangely relieved by her admission. “I mean, I would… It’s just that I lost at poker just now. I don’t have…”
Laughter bubbled up from the woman, like fresh water from a spring. It was intoxicating. She cupped his face in her hands. “I’m not after your money, baby.”
“You can have my immortal soul,” he breathed. He had intended it to be a joke, but that was not how it came out.
The woman pouted. “Nothing as drastic as that,” she said, acting a bit hurt. “I just want a little of your time. You can spare some of your time for me, can’t you, baby?” She had hooked her fingers in the waistband of his pants as she spoke. Edward swallowed hard and nodded, unable to get any words past his throat.
The elevator announced they had reached the second floor with a soft ding. The doors creaked open. The woman pulled Edward enthusiastically into the hall. “Lead the way.”
As Edward took the woman to his hotel room, the thought oh my god, this is really happening played over and over in his head. He barely noticed when they passed a maid pushing a cleaning cart. He didn’t notice her nod in greeting, or the quick waggling finger wave the woman gave to the maid in return. He certainly didn’t notice her strange eyes following the two of them until they disappeared inside.
The door of Edward’s hotel room clicked shut. Edward opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, the woman was kissing him. Eagerly. Hungrily. Edward had never elicited such fervor from a partner before. He was only happy to match it. They stumbled to the bed, still kissing, leaving a trail of clothes in their wake.
From the moment they hit the bed, the woman took charge. She knew exactly what she wanted, guiding his hands and whispering profanity laced instructions. Edward surrendered to her skillful command, reveling in the way her body responded when he got it right. Every shudder, every gasp, was an ego boost the likes he never experienced before.
Their love making became more feverish, more urgent, until Edward couldn’t hold on anymore. He climaxed with a final thrust and a loud moan. Edward rolled unto his back, spent, panting. and somehow tired to the bone. The woman laid next to him, also on her back, staring up at the ceiling with a satisfied smile on her face. It took Edward almost a full minute to recover enough to say something. He turned on his side to face her. She looked even more beautiful in the afterglow. She looked lively. Younger, somehow. It was a stark contrast to how Edward felt at the moment. How did a woman like her end up in his bed? “Thank you,” he said softly.
She giggled. “Thank you,” she responded lazily.
Edward wanted to express how amazed he felt, but he couldn’t find the words. Nature decided to interfere. “Um, I…need to use the toilet,” he said, sounding apologetic. He hoisted his body upright and swung his legs to the ground. It felt like it took much more effort than it should have. All his muscles felt stiff and his knees actually creaked when he tried to get up. Slightly embarrassed of the state he was in, he hobbled to the bathroom. I really need to start going to the gym, he scolded himself.
While washing his hands at the sink, he caught his reflection in the mirror. Edward cringed at what he saw. He looked rough. There were bags under his eyes, his cheeks sunken and covered in stubble.
Wait, is that… Edward leaned closer towards the mirror, stunned by what he saw. He had not imagined it, nor was it a trick of the light. Gray hairs were scattered into the dark stubble on his face. Alarmed, he looked at his hairline. There too he saw silver strands hiding among the black. How had he not noticed he was going gray when he shaved this morning? How had he gotten this much gray without noticing? He could feel panic wanting to well up inside him, but he was just too tired to waste energy on panicking. And he had company to get back to.
“Hey, do you maybe want to call in some room service?” he asked as he opened the bathroom door. There was no reply. The woman wasn’t in the bed. He scanned the room. Her clothes were no longer on the floor. She was gone. He hadn’t even heard the door close. I don’t even know her name.
For a moment he considered going after her. But just the thought of walking down the hall towards the elevator was too much. Edward let himself collapse on the bed. He felt like he hadn’t slept in years. I’ll find her tomor — before he finished his thought, he was asleep.
Alice opened the door with her master-key and glanced inside. The man was sprawled on the bed, snoring loudly. Good. Miss Novelia always got so upset when guests turned up dead. She was such a pain to deal with when she was upset. Alice watched for a second until she was convinced the man was breathing regularly and then softly closed the door again. The woman in white must have liked him. She wondered briefly if he would ever realize how lucky he was. Probably not. Humans were such unperceptive creatures.