“…They edited it out, but he never wore that shirt again.” Andrew was finishing a story when George tapped his shoulder.
Kary stood quietly to one side. “I’ve come to say good night. It was very kind of you to make it possible for me to meet Chrissy—she’s had a tough break.”
“You’re leaving?” Damn, I didn’t get a chance to talk to her.
“George said you’re all going barhopping; you won’t even miss me.”
“Hang a bit.” He had a quick word with George. George headed for the kitchen. “The limo’ll take you back to your hotel.”
“I’ll get a taxi, Mr. O’Connell. Don’t worry about me. I’m a grown woman.”
“Worst kind,” he said—it made her laugh. The ‘Mr. O’Connell’ widened some undeniable chasm between them. “The driver bloke is sitting around doing nothing until we leave. It’ll take him two shakes. Come, George already went to get him.”
He guided her through the kitchen with its strong scent of pine cleaner, quiet clatter of cleaning crew. He waited outside with her in the frigid air. Their breath made tiny clouds.
“Thank you for a wonderful time.”
“Nothing to it. Maury arranged everything.”
“The food was excellent, but I meant the conversations.”
“Good, eh?” What the hell was it about her? He didn’t want her to leave yet.
“You guys are outrageous.”
“Do you have to pull a Cinderella?”
Something flashed across her eyes, disappeared. “Don’t you have to get back to your guests? You’ll freeze solid.”
Serenity. She exuded calm. Everyone else was so frantic, everyone else wanted something. He held out both hands to her. “They can wait.”
He expected her to place her hands in his. Instead, she received his hands as she might a gift, scrutinized his palms, gently turned his hands over, felt his calluses with her thumbs. The ruby in his uncle’s ring gleamed in the glow of the street lamp. She examined the backs of his hands. He resisted the urge to move.
“My worst feature.” His large square hands—stubby fingers, nails chewed—lay captive in her slender ones. Her left ring finger had a faint indentation at the base. “What are you doing?”
“Memorizing you.” Her tone was light. “I don’t want to forget anything—I probably won’t see you again.” She released him. “Good hands.” She crossed her arms over her coat, tucked her hands under against a sudden gust.
Tire crunch. The limousine rounded the corner, purred to a stop. George climbed out, held the door.
Andrew handed her into the carriage like a princess of the blood. “The film I’m doing next, about the Revolutionary War?”
She looked up, expectant.
“We’re filming in New England. That’s close to you, isn’t it? Can I visit you sometime?”
“That would be lovely.” She turned to George. “Good night, George. You’re a lucky man.”
George grinned, closed the door with a solid clunk.
As the car floated away, she looked back and waved.
Andrew felt watched. Three fans waited in the icy night. He signed what they thrust at him, told them to go home and get warm. He let George hustle him back inside.
He had the distinctly unsettled sensation of having made a mistake.
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Copyrighted material by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt.