Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday's Excerpt - Under The Sheets by Shirley Hailstock

Under the Sheets - Excerpt

By Shirley Hailstock

This was certainly a better place to work than the Assassination Bureau. Robyn Warren stood back¬stage, a three-pound headdress of pink fur balanced on her head. In moments, she’d be on stage for the second time in her twenty-five years. The first time had been two hours ago. She rubbed sweaty hands down her hips and waited. The curtain went up, and the lights rose, bathing sixteen scantly clad women in a blinding white light.

With a smile plastered to her face, Robyn listened to the music and counted the beats, as she performed the newly memorized steps. A single sound of tapping feet worked in unison to the music of 42nd Street. It was exhilarating. Blood pumped through her system, mix¬ing with adrenaline, restoring the energy her afternoon of rehearsal had depleted.

She felt her nervousness leave her. She could tell by the twinkle in the eyes of the other dancers when they passed each other forming a set of four circles that blended into one larger circle and finally opening into a straight line that she was a part of the group. The audience applauded in the middle of the routine. The sound was deafening to her ears. For the first time she looked beyond the footlights, wondering if the man from the pool was somewhere out there. It was hard to see anyone with the lights in her eyes. Besides she didn’t know anyone here, except Susan, who was dancing on her left. Robyn had only been in Las Vegas two days. The man by the pool was a stranger. They hadn’t even said hello.

The dance ended much too soon, and she followed the line of bobbing fur backstage to change for the next number. There wasn’t much time for musings. As soon as they had switched from pink to white lace, she heard the call of five minutes. It meant they were to line up backstage, according to a preset sys¬tem. She stood between Vera and Susan, the three of them were the same height.

The second outing on the stage seemed shorter than her first visit. She was breathless from the exhilaration and excitement. Susan had been right, she loved being out there. Almost before she knew it, she was back in the dressing room. The noise level was high as every¬one tried to get dressed for their dates. Robyn moved aside. Susan had quickly dressed and was the first to leave the room. Smiling at Robyn and telling her she’d see her back at the apartment. She disappeared through the door. Her dress changed and her face re¬made without the heavy greasepaint worn against the harsh lights of the stage, she looked happy and beautiful.

By the time Robyn was dressed, the room was clear. She flipped the switch, throwing the room into darkness and leaving behind the smell of sweat, perfume, and makeup. From the top of the stairs, she saw him— the man from the pool. While there were people mov¬ing around him, carrying scenery and lights, he stood still. His black suit, distinctive against the surround¬ings, made his presence commanding. His white shirt made his skin darker by contrast. Robyn smiled when he looked up at her.

"You must be lost," she said, as she came down the steps.

"I don’t think so." His voice was deep and dark like a warm night.

"If you’re waiting for one of the dancers, I’m afraid you’ve been stood up." She could not imagine anyone forgetting about a guy whose brown eyes were so warm they could melt ice. They followed her all the way to the bottom step.

"I’m waiting for you," he said quietly.

"Me!" She didn’t know this man, although she wouldn’t mind getting to know him. From the distance she had to look up, she confirmed his height to be just over six feet. His hair was short and neat. While she hadn’t seen him in a hat, the uniform told her there was one. yet no defining bank marred his hair or skin.

"I saw you by the pool. . .and on the stage, both times," he said.

She smiled, pleased that someone had come to see her one and only performance

"We were staring at each other," she said directly.

"My name is Grant Richards." He stood up slightly straighter, as if he were coming to attention.


"Robyn Warren," he finished for her. "I asked one of the other dancers," he explained to her questioning look.

"We don’t know each other." It was a statement. She’d remember him and not because of any training or her ability to remember almost anything she’d seen.

"A situation I’d like to remedy." His smile exuded charm.

He took her arm and locked it through his elbow. Several minutes later, Robyn found herself sitting in the casino’s restaurant and having a late dinner with one of the most gorgeous men she’d ever met. He told her he’d been a copilot for Trans-Global for nearly four years. By the time dessert and coffee were served, she’d learned he’d grown up in a series of foster homes, before going to stay with an aunt. He and his friend, David, were here for a few days before they had another flight. She told him she worked for the government.

"I didn’t know the government had a need for long-legged girls in bejeweled pink tights."

Robyn laughed. "They weren’t bejeweled. They were sequined." She explained how Susan had con¬vinced her to replace a sick dancer in tonight’s show.

"Well, since you don’t dance for a living, what do you do for the government?"

Robyn dropped her head. "I’m nobody important. I’m an analyst in a small Washington department." She was deliberately vague. She’d been taught to re¬veal as little as possible about her true purpose at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Washington, D.C.!" Grant seized the word. A large smile displayed his even teeth.

"Yes," she nodded, lifting her coffee cup. The liquid was lukewarm.

"I live in D.C., too. My home route is between DC and Reagan National Airport.

The thrill that shimmied up Robyn"s spine couldn’t be stopped. She’d only met Grant a few hours ago, yet she was sure she could fall in love with him.

"So where’s Susan, now?" he asked.

"She had a date." Robyn came back from her musings. "And where’s David now?" she asked, as the waiter served more coffee.

"He had a date. I lost him when I went to the sec¬ond show."

"Why did you stay?"

He leaned forward, taking her hand in his. "After I saw you, I was devastated. How could I leave?" His eyes twinkled with mischief.

Robyn blushed, knowing he was teasing. "How could you tell us apart. Up there, we all look the same." It was a common complaint of the dancers. With the makeup and costumes, it was difficult to tell one from the other. And with her coloring, she blended in easily with Susan’s complexion. "I could argue that." This time there was no teasing in his tone. It was deadly serious.

Robyn’s throat constricted, and pulling her hand free, she picked up her water glass. The cool water helped only slightly, for Grant’s eyes were fixed on her. She felt as if he was setting her on fire. It was all around her, defining her shape, and any effort to break free would cause the flames to incinerate her. But the overwhelming emotion that rocked her more than the thought of burning was that she didn’t want to break free. She wanted this new sensation to con¬tinue.

"Why don’t we go to the lounge and dance?" he suggested.

They had finished eating long ago, but lingered over the coffee to talk. Now, they rose and went to the small lounge. Soft music played by a combo filled the room, and couples crowded on the dance floor.

The hostess led them to a table, and Grant ordered drinks. Without waiting he pulled her into his arms, and began circling the floor to the slow beat of the music. Robyn held her breathe. Her heart hammered. She couldn’t describe her feelings. She was light and happy, feeling as if she was floating.

He smelled good, of lemon soap and aftershave. She raised her hand to the back of his head and touched his soft hair. His arm tightened around her waist, pulling her closer to his body. They moved in perfect rhythm, each matching the steps of the other as if they had always danced to¬gether. She didn’t think, after the grueling afternoon she’d had learning the steps to the routine, she’d ever want to dance again. Yet, now resting in Grant’s arms, her feet were light and responsive.

They spent the evening there. When most of the other couples had opted for the casino and thoughts of striking it rich, Robyn had found her fortune. She swirled in Grant’s arms to the sexy sound of a saxo¬phone that played on and on into the small hours of the morning. When he took her back to Susan’s apart¬ment on the outskirts of the city, light was just break¬ing behind the distant hills.

Robyn didn’t move when he pulled the rental car to a stop in front of Susan’s building. It was one of the best days she’d ever had, and she was reluctant to have it end.

"It’ll be daylight soon," she said, prolonging his de¬parture.

Grant looked at the pink color spreading in the sky. “It reminds me of an early morning horizon when I’m flying.”

"It’s going to be a beautiful day." He knew that, even without the clear sky. Robyn had entered his life, and for some unexplained reason, he knew all his days would be beautiful.

Robyn turned to him and smiled. His arms snaked around her and pulled her unresisting body closer to his. He kissed her slowly, something he’d wanted to do since seeing her asleep in the sun. She moaned slightly in his embrace as she circled his neck with her arms. She played with his hair, her soft fingers combing through to his scalp. Sensation rocked him. He’d never known anyone to make him feel the way she did. He’d loved having her in his arms when they had danced, and now, his body strained for her. When the kiss ended, he kept her close, hugging her tightly to him.

"Do you suppose it’s true that you can find anything open in this town at any hour?"

Robyn leaned back to look at him, her eyes dazed. "Is there something you need right now?" Her voice was thick with emotion.

"I know we only met today. All I know about you is that you work for the government, live in Washing¬ton, and like to dance. But I was wondering if we could find an open chapel. We could be married by sunrise?

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