The Stranger

elevator copyI told myself no. A chorus of reasons shouted in my head—that I didn’t know him, that we were standing in a hotel hallway waiting for an elevator. Anyone could walk up. Additional major point: accosting a stranger simply wasn’t something I would do. Jennifer Franklin wasn’t that kind of girl.

The handle of my heavy briefcase itched against my sweaty palm. I could assign this momentary insanity to fatigue. Like all such conferences, this one had turned into a three-day blur of classes on everything from specialty cost coding and catastrophe adjustment to the latest on defining a collapse under a property insurance policy. Shaking hands, remembering names, smiling through dinners with speakers droning on about an adjuster’s duty to please both the insurer and the property owner. Keeping up with the latest industry standards and procedures zapped me with fresh confidence. But I was ready for a long hot soak in my tub and a mindless couch session with a bottle of wine and my cat Winston.

Yet here I was at the elevator a few feet from this man who made everything in my mind turn to mush. There was this urge, whatever recess of hell it sprang from, that caused my thighs to clench. I licked my lips, hoping my libido would tuck its tail and slink away. Maybe if I gave myself a few more minutes and couple of deep breaths…

Nope. Not working. Jesus, how did anyone exude such sensuality?

Okay, Jen, reason through this.

He wasn’t my type. I went for the slightly shorter, less sinewy man whereas this guy loomed several inches taller with an almost lanky frame. In the past, my tastes had ranged from blond and blue-eyed to dark and dangerous. I’d never given much consideration to men with light brown hair and eyes that were—what, amber? I stole another glance.

Damn. He caught my brief examination. One of his eyebrows rose slightly, asking. I quickly looked down and broke out in a little sweat. Damn damn damn.

His lips fascinated me, halfway between full and thin, sensual with a little flare at the bow and curling upwards at the corners. Tan and weathered, his skin stretched over prominent cheekbones and a bold jaw. And his neck, which happened to be directly in my line of vision—if I ever looked up again–what was it about his neck? Its intriguing cords and hollows disappeared into the open throat of his white shirt.

Oh, I could almost taste the salt on his skin. Feel the pulse in his throat against my lips.

I had seen him around the hotel, once passing along the corridor when I arrived for the first day of the conference, another time on the other side of the cocktail lounge where I hid at a dark corner table and sipped my wine. He’d been alone there, and I fantasized that he would appear at my table. I would allow him to join me and we would sit smiling in the dim light to pursue witty conversation with just enough innuendo. I refused to imagine what would happen afterwards, but I dreamed about him that night and woke up wet.

What the hell was wrong with me? I’d been around. No virgin here. Mild wear and tear, enough to consider any potential hook-up through slightly jaded eyes. No big hope left that some special ‘one’ lurked out there for me.

Now this? I wanted to slap myself for being ridiculous.

But, damn it, here I was at the elevator feeling as if my body had disconnected from my brain and would do what it pleased no matter what I thought.

Maybe it was that we were both leaving and I’d never see him again. Really, it wasn’t a choice I made, now that I look back on it. I was standing there with my briefcase gripped in my hand and a garment bag slung over my arm, my other hand seized on the handle of my wheeled travel case. Hands sweating. Knees trembling. Wanting a stranger so much I was about to embarrass myself in public.

The elevator was taking forever. He was standing a couple of feet away to my right, looking up to watch the elevator numbers frozen on floor twelve. He too had a garment bag over one arm and his travel case handle in his other hand, looking so incredibly fabulous in that simple white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled halfway up those tan forearms and in khaki slacks that looked a little wrinkled. I even checked out his shoes, Sixties style cordovan loafers, winey brown color, well-polished and clearly loved.

I could almost hear the switch flip in my head. Brain turned off. Instinct taking over.

I turned into him holding my gear on either side of me. He accommodated me by holding his luggage away from his body. With only a brief glance up at his face, I registered on his amusement, his welcome. As if we had known each other forever and this was going home.

I nestled my full length against him and brushed my lips against his neck, and oh god he felt good. At every point of contact, which actually was the entire front of me, he felt good. The strength of his thighs, the solid press of his loins, his hard chest—right there against me, holding his own, not backing away. And his neck—Jesus Christ, it was chocolate and musky wine and that skin, that soft velvet flesh that had served its time in the sun, warm and strong and scented with a heavenly fragrance that was aftershave and soap and him.

My lips savored him in that brief moment, brushing along the column of his neck as if he was my last sip of fresh water in the middle of a desert. In those few seconds—minutes?—that I stood there pressed against him, I had no sense of shame, no regret, no worry, no question. My mind stood still. I wanted never to move.

And then it ended. I don’t know how it ended. Maybe it was the elevator that ended it. A musical ‘ding.’ We moved apart. I really couldn’t remember, later, when I fought to overcome the searing embarrassment of what I’d done. One minute I was in full body contact with a man I didn’t know, oblivious to anything but him, and the next minute we were on opposite sides of the elevator with six people in between us including two kids and a dog.

I wanted to cry.

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