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Maggie looked at her reflection in the mirror over the Ladies’ Room sink. She wiped away a tiny smudge from her eyeliner that virtually no one else would have noticed. Dipping into her purse, she reapplied lipstick. It was a new neutral shade they called “Cashmere” that made her well-formed lips look full and pouty. She suppressed the sigh that often sought release when she regarded her face, now showing signs of maturity and some tiny fine lines. She knew she shouldn’t complain, because even though she was now forty-five, most people took her for almost ten years younger. But still – Maggie could see the inevitable march of time, and couldn’t help feeling a little melancholy.
To fortify herself, she spritzed a tiny bit of her favorite perfume on her breastbone before heading back out there. She was in the Ladies’ Room of a fashionable lounge on the Lower East Side. Maggie’s team at the office, a group of four women between the ages of 25 and 30, had chosen the venue. This was one of their quarterly team dinner nights; while Maggie had chosen the restaurant — this time it had been a very hip Japanese place in Tribeca — she’d left the after-dinner drinks choice to her team. They selected this ultra-cool cocktail lounge that required a reservation made by way of a secret, non-published phone number you could only get if you “knew someone”.
Maggie was happy that it was nearly the end of the week, and that her team had this opportunity to unwind and relax. She wished she could do the same. Work had been very stressful for the last several weeks, as they anticipated the firm’s earnings announcements. She didn’t relish having to deal with all the communications necessary next week, once her firm’s executive management announced that they’d narrowly missed expectations and would have to go through yet another belt-tightening exercise. The financial services industry has been struggling since the tough summer of 2008, and her role as the chief of marketing and communications had been a particularly challenging one for the last several years, as a result. Still, she thought, she should be grateful, because they were better off than many. An alarming number of her industry acquaintances had been downsized in recent years and were still looking for work.
As she made her way back to their table through the glamorous retro 1950s style bar, she saw that their group had been invaded by several men who seemed to be in their early thirties or so.
Great, Maggie thought, here we go. She resolved to say her goodbyes as soon as she finished her drink and leave the younger women to their fun.
It’s not that she didn’t date – since her divorce she dated quite a lot. She also was no stranger to the one-night stand. Maggie wasn’t a prude by any means and had what might be characterized as a pretty healthy libido. It’s just that in places like this one – clubs full of B-list models, C-list celebrities and Wall Street types in various states of inebriation – she would not even try to compete. Looking around, Maggie thought: I’m at least 15 years older and three dress sizes larger than most of the women here.
As she approached her chair, Allison, a slim blonde 25-year old project manager, who happened to also be one of her most intelligent and ambitious direct reports, exclaimed her delight at Maggie’s return. Her high-pitched voice was loud from too much bourbon, but she still managed to be very lady-like. She introduced Maggie to the men who had joined their table, and one nearest to her stood and smoothly pulled out her chair.
Maggie only half-turned and caught a quick impression of the man that Allison introduced as Nick. She registered his height – he was very tall – and a mass of dirty blonde, stylishly mussed hair and dark clothes.
“Oh, thank you. No need to get up.” She said over one shoulder, a rather mechanical smile on her face.
“Don’t be silly. I was raised to stand up when a lady arrives.” He countered. His voice was very deep and he exuded confidence.
What a player. Maggie thought. Try that out on someone your own age. This almost made her laugh out loud at the self-deprecation, but she quickly stifled the impulse. As she sipped her drink, she scanned the other men around the table and quickly assessed which of her staff drew their interest.
The one called Drew was focused almost exclusively on Allison. Maggie thought they’d make beautiful children. He was as dark as she was fair, and he had a similar patrician elegance. Probably also a trust fund baby, like her project manager.
The man named Paul was more of the ‘boy next door’ type: like a former football player with a marshmallow center who was everyone’s best friend. He seemed to be about 30 or so, and Katie, her logistics manager, seemed to think everything he said was absolutely hilarious. Ah, the mating dance, Maggie thought with a sentimental smile.
To her right, Rob seemed intent on showing Jenna every app he had on his smart phone. They were now comparing their favorite music bakırköy escort downloads. Maggie had witnessed how Jenna could turn a 350-lb Teamster into a quivering mass of jelly when she was angry, but right now she was giggling behind one hand like a Geisha. Rob had the look of an aging skateboarder-turned-IT executive, complete with the hipster eyeglasses. He was wearing a hoodie under his posh suede jacket, and sported a five thousand dollar watch on his wrist.
“Where’s Amy?” Maggie asked the crowd in general. Allison answered for the group.
“She’s over by the bar talking to Brad.” Allison had to shout a little to be heard over the music that had just started playing. The lounge had a live band that evening – they played a sort of cool Latin fusion. Maggie had no idea who Brad was, but assumed he’d come with the rest of these guys.
She jumped when she heard Nick’s voice in her ear. She’d almost forgotten about him sitting to her left.
“What are you drinking?” He asked. His arm was resting across the back of Maggie’s chair as he leaned toward her to talk into her ear. When she leaned back to look at him, she came into contact with his lean muscles and flinched away almost as if she’d been burned.
His eyes moved from her face to his arm and back again. A sardonic smiled crossed his face, which Maggie now looked at for the first time. Dammit, she thought. How ridiculously handsome is this one? He seemed to be in his mid-to-late 30s, or perhaps even older. For a brief moment she felt bad for him. He was the odd man out at this table. She speculated that this didn’t happen to him very often. But, Maggie reasoned, he would not be in a solitary state for long – not with that “kisser”, as her mother used to say.
He looked at her, smiling enigmatically. His eyebrows shot up to emphasize the fact that he was waiting for an answer.
“I’m sorry?” Maggie asked.
He leaned even closer this time, his lips almost brushing her ear. “What are you drinking?” He asked again.
His voice was the kind of deep baritone that usually made Maggie’s knees weak. When he finished posing the question, he didn’t move back more than an inch or two – so his face was still unnervingly close to Maggie’s. She leaned back a bit and again made contact with his arm – still curved across the back of her chair. This time she forced herself to be cool and allow the contact.
Despite herself, Maggie felt a tiny rush of sexual energy moving through her. She noticed that his eyes were dark, velvety brown and his skin glowed with a healthy tan – the kind you get from being on boats in the sun. He had very white, perfect teeth. A Palomino boy, she found herself thinking, and probably an actor. She thought he looked vaguely familiar and assumed it was because she’d seen him in some Indie movie or other. It pissed her off. This was the last thing she needed right now, some idiotic crush on a younger man who wouldn’t seriously look twice at a woman like her. Perversely, Maggie decided it was time to play a little.
“It’s a New York Flip.” She answered, picking up the martini-style glass and bringing it to her lips. She didn’t take her eyes off the Pony Boy, as she decided to call him. She watched him watch her mouth as she drank from the glass.
“Want a taste?” She asked, her voice rather husky. He seemed slightly surprised at the sexual innuendo. She feigned an innocent expression and held the glass toward him, a mischievous grin hovering faintly on her lips. She saw a slow, wicked smile grow on his handsome face. There was a danger there that Maggie found exhilarating, in spite of herself.
“Oh – definitely.” He replied. He reached for the glass, but rather than taking it from Maggie, he closed his fingers over hers and drew the glass to his mouth, taking her hand along for the ride. His eyes were locked onto hers.
This son of a bitch is smooth, thought Maggie.
“Like it?” She asked, as he slowly released her hand.
“Delicious.” He answered, a crooked grin on his wide, sensual mouth.
“We should order you one, then.” She said, smiling, as she turned her gaze back to the table in general. She could feel him continuing to look at her face in profile, and was grateful that the dim lighting would mask the flush she could feel blooming in her cheeks.
Just then, Amy returned with someone Maggie could only assume was Brad. Tossing her tiny purse on the table, she announced that they were going to dance. Then Brad took Amy’s hand, and spun her expertly as they headed away back to the tiny dance floor.
Allison immediately jumped up and said “Yes – let’s go dance!” And was followed by Katie, Drew and a very reluctant-looking Paul. Jenna and Rob were now sharing one set of earphones, trying to watch a video together on his phone. Maggie realized she had no escape in sight from Pony Boy.
Feeling the need to flee, Maggie sighed slightly and decided to stick to her original plan – finish her drink and leave. She took another sip, trying to calculate beşiktaş escort how much of her drink was left, when a waitress appeared at her side and deposited another round down for the entire table – including a new cocktail for Maggie.
“Oh really? Another round; who ordered these?” She asked the waitress.
“Mr. Sinclair ordered these.” Said the waitress. She gazed over at the Pony Boy with a strangely simpering look.
Maggie thought – yeah, that doesn’t help me, who the hell is Mr. Sinclair? Her eyebrows arched up questioningly.
“That’s me.” Said the Palomino.
Maggie’s head snapped around to look at him, slightly alarmed that he almost seemed to be reading her mind.
“In case you were wondering…” He added. “So, Maggie, tell me about yourself.” As he asked the question, a glass broke somewhere in the lounge. Nick’s eyes began to wander around the room. As she saw his attention wander, Maggie realized that he was beginning to tire of babysitting her already. Nick looked down at his watch – a very elegant Swiss chronograph.
“Listen, I’m sorry.” Maggie said. He glanced back to her briefly, but his eyes continued to find their way back to the far corner of the lounge. From where Maggie was sitting, his attention seemed to be drawn to a crowd of rather toasted models in tiny dresses who were gathering around a magnum of champagne.
“What do you mean? Why are you sorry?” He asked.
“All the beautiful girls are occupied, and you’re stuck here with me. I’m sorry. I bet that never happens to you.” She had his attention now.
The Palomino cocked an eyebrow at her – he wore a smile seemingly meant to charm, but it didn’t reach his eyes. They seemed very thoughtful and alert.
“Oh, but you’re a beautiful woman, Maggie.” The way he said it sounded automatic – rather practiced.
She laughed at this, shaking her head, and finished the contents of her first cocktail.
“Did I say something funny?” Pony Boy asked. Leaning in and putting a hand on her shoulder, he let it slide it down her shoulder blade. The gesture felt like condescension to Maggie, given the circumstances. But the warmth of his hand on her back through the silk of her blouse brought a fresh rush of wetness to her panties. She couldn’t decide it if made her want to slap his face, or let him stick his tongue down her throat.
Something snapped inside of her. Her posture became very erect and her eyes flashed with anger. He withdrew his hand. She turned to regard him for a fraction of a second before speaking.
“Look, handsome, I know what I look like and I know who I am. I’m a self-made woman with a triple digit IQ. I’m certainly twice the age and twice the size of the girls you usually sleep with. Yet you sit there, oozing charm, telling me I’m beautiful, and what? Am I supposed to think you have all this depth, because you see beauty where no one else would? Am I supposed to be flattered because you’re bored enough to patronize me? Sorry, there’s no need to waste your time on me. I’ll leave you to the beautiful idiots and cougars – if that’s what you’re into. But thank you for the drinks, seriously. Have a good night.”
Maggie winked at Nick as she finished her speech. He sat back in his chair, seemingly stunned, his expression unreadable. She rose from her chair and walked away, toward the bar.
As she made her way there, she could feel his eyes boring into her back. She forced herself to walk slowly and prayed she wouldn’t trip or do anything to ruin the sense of cool she was so desperately trying to create.
At the bar, she leaned over – immediately attracting the attention of the bartender. He walked up, smiling, and leaned in for Maggie’s order. She asked for a New York Flip for herself, and for the man at the table she’d just left. He glanced back to her table, smiled and nodded, then moved away to make them. Maggie could tell from her peripheral vision that Nick continued to look at her as she stood at the bar, but steeled herself against looking at him.
Happy that she’d turned the tables, a tiny little smile broke across her lips.
Still, she thought to herself, it might have been nice to fuck him.
This made her laugh out loud. She didn’t care who was looking.
Nick was in his office approving some of the invoices that had piled up while he’d been away dealing with his mother’s latest crisis. He had a tremendous amount of faith in his club manager, Richard, but he still preferred to manage the accounts payable and payroll process personally. He just didn’t like giving up that much control, however competent the manager.
As the majority shareholder within a syndicate of partners, Nick held the bulk of the equity in this lounge and three others around the city. But this one – called “Cream & Sugar” was by far his favorite. It was the first lounge he launched in Manhattan, and it was the realization of a business concept he’d had since graduate school. He still loved coming here. His private beylikdüzü escort office, sound proof and tucked away upstairs from the noisy, bustling lounge, had become a second home to him.
Brett, the head bartender this evening, rapped lightly on the door before opening it and leaned his head in.
“Hi boss. There are four guys downstairs who said they want to see you. They asked me to come and find you.”
Nick looked back at the monitor of his PC, a cynical grin on his face. “Oh yeah? What is the story this time?”
“Well, one of them said his name is Drew, and that he’s your nephew or something.”
At this, Nick looked back up sharply, a slow smile spreading across his tanned face. Drew is the oldest son of his big sister, Ellie. With no kids of his own and no inclination to have any in the near future, Drew was the closest thing Nick had to a son.
“He’s early!” Nick exclaimed with a grin. “He wasn’t supposed to get to the City until Saturday. How long has he been waiting?”
Brett’s face registered surprise that the kid’s story was true (they looked nothing alike) and that his boss registered such warm emotion. In the two years he’d worked here, he didn’t recall seeing him ever show any kind of softness. It humanized Nick more than Brett thought possible, and he liked it.
“Oh – only a few minutes. He’s with a few friends.”
“Please set them up with whatever they want, and tell them I’ll be right down.”
Nick dove back into his work, running quickly through the urgent emails and tidying up the most immediate financial issues. Then he quickly powered down his PC and snapped off his brass desk lamp to go join his favorite nephew downstairs.
Drew was moving to the City to start a new job at a big Wall Street firm downtown. He’d finished his MBA at Dartmouth two years ago and joined the training program at a fund management shop in Boston. Drew had, however, always wanted to spend time in New York. Nick was only too happy to make a few calls – after all – his reach into the financial industry in the City was pretty solid. Two of his syndicate members were investment bankers, and he had dozens of top brokers on his VIP client list.
As Nick ran down the steps to the main floor, he ran a hand through his thick mane of unruly hair. He was tired and feeling a little jet lagged, but seeing Drew might just be the tonic he needed. The two weeks he’d just spent in La Cote d’Azur had brightened the natural highlights in his dark blonde hair and given him a deep tan, but it had been draining to his energy levels. His mother, Danni, had yet another tiff with her on-again, off-again paramour and insisted that Nick fly over to help her emotionally adjust. More importantly, she needed him to arrange moving her things out of Philippe’s house in Monaco, and back to their family villa in St. Tropez. He knew that it would only be a matter of time until she went back to Philippe, but he never learned how to say no to the dramatic and self-centered former debutante that gave birth to him. It wasn’t the first time that his own life had been put on hold while he had to “arrange” something for his beautiful but perpetually needy mother.
It was a wonder, Nick thought, that he and Ellie were so normal. He knew they owed that to Loretta, the governess who raised them until they were old enough to be shipped off to school in Lugano. Despite the dysfunction of their upbringing, Ellie and Nick always tried to maintain a level of family normalcy. This is why he was so close to her son Drew.
Nick pushed open the door to the lounge, and his deep mahogany-colored eyes scanned the large, dimly lit room. He paid no attention to the throngs of beautiful people of various shapes and sizes. His focus was on finding Drew. Several of the models that frequented Cream & Sugar squealed and ran up to air kiss Nick as he appeared. He affixed his standard smile and greeted them with the right balance of affection and professionalism, but kept moving through the crowd. He’d actually fucked a few of these gorgeous creatures, but sadly, most were a little empty and bent on manipulation – something with which he’d had plenty of experience. The day he realized that they were all pale variations of Danni – a most disturbing, almost Oedipal discovery – was the day he stopped sleeping with his clientele. That had been more than three years ago, right around his 40th birthday.
Just then, Nick spied the shock of dark hair and the lean, elegant frame of his nephew. He saw that Drew and his friends were talking with a group of women at a table toward the far side of the room. While Nick crossed the distance, he took in the scene – and was relieved to realize that Drew’s taste wasn’t bad. The young blonde he was chatting up was lovely, and dressed very tastefully. Her friends, likewise, all looked like nice girls – and were not clad in the current uniform Nick liked to call the “Skank du Jour”. This season, the bimbos and club rats all wore micro mini bandage dresses and stripper platform heels. It was as if they wanted to look like they worked in the Porn industry. While certainly effective at snaring the one-night stand, it gave all those girls a desperate and vacuous aspect that Nick found sad. But his male clients seemed to like them well enough, at least for a few hours.
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