John Williams’s emotions rose as his gaze centred on a woman standing close by. He recognised her as Sally Johnston, the famous author of steamy romance stories. She wore a green slinky low-cut dress and looked ready to take part in one of the two smash-hit films based on her books. John sighed as he imagined his hands running through her long hair. The idea of even talking with her made his dull eyes light up. If he only could, she might be able to give him some ideas on how to improve his chances of finding an agent. He shrugged and then returned to reality. Why on earth would she want to talk with him.
At thirty-five and six feet tall, thanks to various sporting activities, including swimming, diving, and hang-gliding, John looked in his prime. With his healthy physique, some women said he looked handsome. No matter what, today he had made an extra special effort and instead of jeans and a sports coat, he wore a suit and tie.[AL1] [AL2]
John had attended the book launch in a conference room of the Carlton Hotel of William Farrell’s latest book. He had found the hall packed with other wannabe authors. Still, what else did he expect?
He was there, hoping to find an agent to represent him and his new book. On completion of writing his action story, it had some good reviews. However, despite sending off enquiry letters to numerous agents, he had no success. As John hoped one day to write a best seller, he knew that having an agent was a must Given this, he decided to try his luck at the book launch. However, after an hour and no joy, John decided a drink might help raise his spirits.
While slumped on a bar stool with his head in his hands, the sound of a soft voice cut through his depression. At first, he ignored it, thinking they were addressing someone else. However, when he heard it again, John raised his head. The sight of Sally Johnston in the bar mirror made his eyes open wide in astonishment, and a twitch appeared over his right eye. It was something that always happened when he was taken by surprise. His frown changed into a mile wide smile as he swung round on his stool.
“Pardon he stammered, were you speaking to me?”
Sally’s brown eyes twinkled as she flashed him a beaming smile.
“Yes! Sorry if I disturbed you.” A flicker of a smile crossed her face. “I noticed you in the mirror slumped over your drink. Perhaps you might like someone to talk to.”
She shrugged her bare shoulders as she flicked a lock of her long hair over one shoulder.
“Still, if you don’t, I’ll leave you in peace.”
The mere sight of Sally made John shake his head in disbelief. Did he dream this, or did Sally ask if he wanted to talk.
John’s breath caught in his throat as he said, “I guess I did appear rather sorry for myself. Still, if you have time, I would love to talk with you.”
Sally nodded in satisfaction. The tone of John’s voice showed him not only handsome, but well educated.
As he stretched out a hand, the instant Sally’s long fingers grasped his, butterflies fluttered in John’s stomach.
With reluctance, he released her hand. His lips turned into a grin. I’m John Williams.” Before giving her a chance to speak, he shook his head. “There’s no need to introduce yourself. You’re Sally Johnston, the famous author of erotic novels.” He chuckled. “When I spotted you in the conference room, I remembered you from photos in magazines and books.”
Sally fluttered her long eyelashes in mock amusement. “Thank you, but it must have been some time ago.” She sighed. “I’ve not had a new book published in a long time.”
Standing face to face with Sally, John found she looked even better to close up than she did from afar. Plus, not only were they the same height, but both had brown eyes. To him, Sally’s eyes were one of her main assets. When she smiled, they shone like beacons of light. Now with her close to him, the delicate pear scent of Sally’s perfume [AL3] [AL4] [AL5] intoxicated him. John wanted to run his nose along her neck and pleasure the smell for a moment. With Sally’s slim figure inside her slinky dress, he found it hard to concentrate. For sure, she looked younger than her years, which, on reflection, must be in her early forties.
With an effort, John forced himself to keep his eyes on Sally’s face.
“Yes, maybe, but you’re well-known for your… erotic novels. Plus, with your eye-catching looks, you’re not one easily forgotten.” Sally blushed and a dimple appeared on her cheek. “Thank you, John; it’s always good to receive a compliment.”
For a moment, John thought Sally had held his hand longer than necessary. He shrugged. ‘Who am I kidding? She’s a famous author, while I’m still struggling to get anywhere.’
A quick glance around showed no one seemed ready to whisk Sally away. He took a deep breath and said, “Please don’t consider me presumptuous, but would you care to join me for a drink? Or are you with someone?”
Sally flashed her long eyelashes. “I’m not with anyone, and unless you’d rather be on your own, I’ll have a G&T please.” She gave a subtle wink. “I may be wrong, but it’s what you are drinking.”
John turned to the barman who stood almost drooling at the sight of Sally in her slinky dress. “A G&T please.”
As Sally came to sit on the stool next to his, the slit of her dress opened. It revealed a pair of shapely legs clad with high stiletto heels. With such a delightful view; John had a job to tear his eyes away.
Once her drink arrived, John thanked the barman. As he turned to Sally, he said, “Please don’t consider me rude, but would you mind if we had our photo taken?”
Sally gave him the benefit of a smile, which, would have aroused even the Mona Lisa.
“Of course not, but do you always carry a camera?”
John laughed as he pulled out his cell phone. “I don’t, but this will do.” He held it up towards the barman.
“Excuse me, but would you mind taking our photo?”
The man grinned as he took the phone from John’s outstretched hand. “No problem.” After taking their photo, he handed the phone back to John, who turned to Sally. He pointed to some armchairs. “Would you prefer to sit on something a bit more comfortable?”
As she spoke, her voice seemed like magic to John. “Yes, that sounds a good idea.”
As Sally rose off her stool, she seemed to slip. In a flash, as John shot out a hand and caught hold of her arm, his fingers tingled at the touch of her skin.
Sally beamed him a smile. “Thank you, John.” She sighed. “These high heels may make one’s legs appear good, but I’m a bit out of touch in wearing them.”
She glanced at John’s hand still clutching her arm. With a start, John removed his hand. “What with Sally talking with him, and with his hand on her bare arm, his emotions arose.
He grinned. “What can I say, but wow.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” she said laughingly.”
After making themselves comfortable, Sally arched a questioning eyebrow. “Well, you recognised me, but what about you. Tell me about yourself John. Are you a writer? An author? Is that why you’re here at the book launch?”
“I’ve written one book, but sales have not done as well as I’d hoped, so I came to find an agent.” He sighed. “On finishing the manuscript, despite sending off inquiries to lots of agents, I’ve had no success in finding one.” Forced a half smile, John said, “If I managed to talk with one face to face, I might have more success.”
Sally shook her head. “Well, after finding you the way I did, I guess you were unsuccessful?”
He chuckled. “Well, perhaps, but as I met you, I consider myself lucky.”
Sally’s dimple re-appeared and her cheeks reddened. “Thank you, John.” She looked reflective for a moment before she said, “When I saw you in the mirror, it reminded me of myself years ago.”
Sally sighed, “Thanks to someone finding me in a similar situation, I later became successful.” With a twinkle in her eye, she said, “By the way, I don’t usually make a habit of picking up young men I meet. Therefore, I hope you don’t mind my talking with you?”
John’s eyebrows shot up in disbelief. “What? Don’t be silly. You’re a lady.”
As they continued to talk and sip their drinks, several people approached to speak to Sally. Due to her popularity, to say nothing of the dress she wore, John did not expect anything else.
When they were finally alone again, Sally leaned over. “If you have time, would you care to join me for lunch?”
John, almost choked on his drink at her offer.
“What can I say,” he gulped, “but yes?” He hoped Sally would say no, as he asked, “Are you sure no one’s waiting for you?”
“Don’t worry, John; there’s no one.” Her smile came soft and dreamy. “From the way you talk, you’re the sort of person I like to spend time with.”
John shook his head in amazement. A broad smile lit his face. “I would love to, and thank you.” He gave a silent sigh. “Thank goodness I worn a suit and tie today.”
As they strolled out of the hotel side by side, John noticed several people gaze at them. When he commented on this, Sally winked. “It’s not a problem for me, is it for you?”
John chuckled. “No, but I’m sure they are jealous on seeing a beautiful woman like you with me and not with them.”
A satisfied smile flashed across Sally’s face, and she gave him a subtle wink.
“I can see we’ll get on fine, John.”
When he opened the door of a waiting taxi for Sally to enter, she beamed with delight. Once he’d climbed in next to Sally, she gave instructions to the driver. As they drove off, with Sally sat beside him who could have passed as Hollywood movie star, John pinched himself. As he became more comfortable making small talk with Sally, the cab pulled to a stop.
A glance revealed they were outside an Italian restaurant. Sally shot him a questioning glance. “Well, here we are. I hope you like Italian food?”
He nodded. “I do, but I’ve not been here before.” After climbing out of the cab, although he tried hard, with Sally wearing such a revealing dress, John found it impossible not to stare as he helped her out.
As they entered the restaurant, a smiling maître d’ greeted Sally like a firm friend. He led them to a corner table with a reserved sign, and pulled out a chair for Sally. Once she and John were seated, he asked, “Would you care for a drink while you decide what to eat?”
Sally turned to John. “Which do you prefer? Red or white wine, or would you like another G &T?”
“Red wine would be fine, but what about you?”
“Red is fine by me, too.” She flashed John a smile. “Would you like to choose, or will I?”
He chuckled. “I’m sure you understand far more than I do about what wine to choose.”
Sally ordered a bottle of wine that John had never heard of before. As they sat facing each other across the table, John sighed silently, ‘This is a dream. I’ll wake up at any moment’
Sally must have noticed the faraway expression in his eyes. “Are you alright, John? You looked miles away.”
“Yes, I’m fine thank you.” His grin turned into a soft smile. “When I attended the book launch, I never expected things to turn out like this.” He shook his head. Perhaps I’m dreaming, and I’ll wake up in a minute.”
Sally looked flattered. “Well, if it’s a dream, I hope you’re not disappointed?”
“What?” John spluttered. “Why on earth should I be? I would be mad if I did.” Before he had chance to say more, a waiter brought their wine and poured out a sample.
Sally pointed. “You try it, John. If you don’t like it, we’ll order a different one.”
When he sipped and found it to his taste, he nodded. “Excellent,” he said.
After the waiter poured out their drinks and left, Sally raised her glass. “Well, what will we drink to?”
“Well, without taking too much for granted, I’d like to toast to a new friendship.”
Sally’s eyes lit up. “That’s an excellent suggestion,” she said. To John’s further delight, she added, “To our new friendship, and long may it last.”
After they had ordered their meals, they sat and talked some more. John felt surprised to be at ease with such a famous writer. He hoped Sally might help him in his quest for success. Plus, as she looked incredible, he hoped they would meet again. As John gazed across at Sally, being with her was nothing short of a miracle. When Sally said, “I want to thank you for making this such a pleasant day John,” he came back to reality,
“What, no. It is me that gives thanks to you,” he replied.
They had finished their meal when Sally picked up a napkin. With a pen, she took from her handbag. After she wrote on it, she pushed it across to him.
“I’m sorry John, but I don’t have any more cards with me.”
To his astonishment, John found Sally had given him her phone number. He shook his head. “No problem, and thank you.”
To his further astonishment, she said, “If you like, perhaps we might meet again next week?”
After he recovered from his surprise, he said, “Yes, that would be great. I’ll call and we’ll arrange when.”
After finishing an aperitif, Sally sighed. “I’m sorry, John, but I have another engagement to attend.”
His smile faded. “I’m sorry, too, but I understand. Still, I’ve enjoyed our time together and will be waiting for our next meeting.”
After insisting she had invited him, Sally paid the bill before they walked outside to the taxi the maître-d’ had ordered for her.
As John put out a hand to shake Sally’s hand, to his surprise, she gave him a brief kiss on the cheek. The heat on his face showed as he opened the cab’s door.
As she climbed inside, John had another view of Sally’s tempting legs. She tilted her head. “Don’t forget to call, John? I await to hear from you.”
As the taxi drove off, John stood there frozen in time. He wondered if he had dreamed the past couple of hours. A call from the driver of a second waiting taxi snapped him out of his thoughts.
“Do you want a cab?” the driver repeated.
“Oh, sorry. Yes, please.”
As he climbed in, the driver looked at him in the inside mirror. “Are you okay? Where would you like to go?”
John let out a joyful chuckle. “Take me to the Red Lion pub in Putney - I need a drink.”
The driver grinned. “If I’d been with a lady like that, I’d also need a drink to calm me down.”
At the pub, John ordered a large gin and tonic. As he sat nursing it, he reflected on the day’s events. For sure, it had been one he would never forget. However, John wondered if he would see Sally again.
Due to busy sending off inquiry emails in his search for an agent – and the small matter of his nerves – ten days passed before John called Sally.
As soon as she answered the phone, he recognised her voice. When he greeted her, Sally exclaimed, “Oh, John! I’m pleased you called. I hoped you had not forgotten me.”
John, like a boy looking for his first date, chuckled. “Impossible, after you gave me such an amazing time when we first met?”
He heard Sally say, “That’s nice of you to say, John. I also enjoyed our meeting. You made me come alive again.” She sighed. “I mean what I said John.”
Although taken back at Sally’s words, John’s emotion rose. “Well, I must say you’ve made me a happy man.” He paused, summoning his nerve. “If you have time? Perhaps we might meet for lunch or a drink? But remember, it will be my treat this time.”
When she laughed, it sounded like music to his ears. “Well… it’s a bit early for dinner, and I’ve had lunch. Still, if you’re hungry, I’m sure something light would not be a problem.”
John, hardly control his delight at her words, said, “It’s not a problem. If you prefer, tomorrow would be alright. Or, whenever you have time.” He held his breath as he waited for Sally’s reply.
He let out a silent sigh of relief when she said, “No, today would be fine.”
“Great, what time would be good for you? Oh, and where will we meet?”
“I’m staying at The Carlton Hotel. Why don’t we meet in the lobby bar, say at 3 pm? We’ll have a drink there and decide where to go.”
“Great – I’ll see you there.” As he hung up the phone, John punched the air in his excitement.
On his arrival at the hotel, he stood waiting in the lobby. When Sally stepped out from one of the lift doors, he nodded in satisfaction. She looked terrific. She wore light blue trousers, a fawn top, with a beige jacket slung casually over her shoulders. He chuckled when he noticed her shoes had much lower heels than those, she wore at the book launch.
When so spotted him, Sally raised her hand in greeting. As she walked towards him, John put out a hand to welcome her. To his surprise, as Sally took it, she gave him a light kiss on the cheek.
When she noticed John colour up, Sally flashed him a smile. “There’s no need to be formal, John. We have already met. Plus, I regard you as a friend, who I hope will become a close one.”
When he leaned forward to brush his lips against her cheek, the subtle smell of her perfume made him breathe a little faster.
“Your perfume smells beautiful.”
She flashed him a smile. “It’s Burberry Classic, my favourite, and thank you for the compliment.”
John sniffed and raised his eyes to hers. “I find the aroma quite intoxicating.”
Sally laughed and leaned forward. “People are looking, John; we had best sit or leave.”
His colour rose again as he said, “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
She shook her head. “It’s not a problem. Now, why don’t we head down to the park for a walk?”
“Yes, it would be good.” He chuckled. “Still, the flowers will be jealous to see you walking among them.”
Sally’s cheeks flushed, and her smile widened. “You’re a real flatterer, John.” She shook her head. “We’d best leave before I go red with embarrassment at such lovely words.”
As they walked out into the bright sunshine, John began to relax. With Sally beside him, it took away his anxiety about finding an agent.
When she glanced across and noticed the expression on John’s face, Sally said, “A penny for your thoughts, John?”
He shrugged. “It’s just that I can’t believe how lucky I am to be with someone as attractive as you.”
She gave him a subtle wink. “Oh, come on, John. I’m not as young as I pretend to be.”
“Maybe, but I can tell you’re young at heart.” Before he gave Sally time to respond, he added, “I get a great satisfaction being with you.”
A satisfied smile flittered across Sally’s face. “Thank you, John, I appreciate your kind words.”
After they made their way through the crowded pavements they turned off and down a side street. As they did, Sally sighed. “That’s better.” She gave a sideways glance at John. “You may not agree, but I prefer the peace of the country than being in town.”
John chuckled. “Can you read my mind, or do you mean what you say?”
She sighed. “I’m not that clever, John; No, I meant what I said.”
“Well, apart from writing, that’s another thing we have in common.”
Sally gave a mischievous smile. “Who knows? We might discover we have more things in common.” She paused. “Now, what hobbies do you have, John, apart from writing?”
“Well, I like diving. I’m a qualified PADI diver… Before he could say more, Sally exclaimed, “See, that’s something else we share. I’m also qualified.”
John chuckled. “I suppose you’ll tell me next that you like hang-gliding?”