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That Sort of Thing
Excerpt from The Valet
They were at a gallery opening. Freshly painted white walls covered in neat rows of colorful canvases. People milling about sipping red wine. The room was abuzz with a hundred conversations, sounding like a tipsy beehive.
Mitzi Parker, the assistant to the gallery owner, eyed the crowd and spotted two friends she had been meaning to introduce for months.
She swept over to Valentine first, taking her arm and pulling the pretty redhead halfway across the room, her mind set on the perfect match she imagined the two of them making.
“Val, this is Patrick,” Mitzi said, tugging the arm of the tall man in a smart black suit, so that her two friends faced each other awkwardly.
“Patrick is a writer!” Mitzi said with raised eyebrows.
Valentine smiled at him shyly and he looked down at his glass of wine with slight embarrassment, feeling pressure to be as interesting as his introduction sounded.
“Nice to meet you,” Val said, shaking his hand as her eyes lingered on the perfect knot of his thin black tie.
“You too,” he said with a laugh, watching Mitzi the matchmaker walk away.
Val wore a red wrap dress that clung to her curves. It was not low cut enough to be scandalous, though it was sultry enough that Patrick made a point of not focusing on it for too long.
“Interesting work,” he noted, pointing his glass at the painting in front of them.
The painting was mostly streaks of gray and black, as if the canvas was a dirty window that was just hit with rain.
“I’m not sure I get it,” he said with a frown.
“I don’t know, there is something in the depth of the grays,” Val said moving a little closer.
“The way everything bleeds down, it just seems so sad, like life draining away.”
He nodded and sipped his wine somberly.
“I guess I’ve never been one for paintings. I think there is a lot of beautiful work, but I always seem to be looking at something and not seeing all the deep things everyone else sees. I’ve always been far more of a book person.”
“Well, I think it’s fine to just enjoy something for its beauty,” she said with an understanding smile.
His smile had some edge to it that made her both nervous and giddy.
“What do you write?” Val asked.
Patrick continued looking at the painting silently. After a pause that lasted long enough to bring back the initial awkwardness of their introduction he turned to her and said, “All sorts of things. I just got a piece in Wired about internet dating.”
“Oh, I’ve tried that. What did you have to say about it?”
“I guess that it has its time and its place. It isn’t for everyone, but at certain points in certain people’s lives it can be extraordinary. Give me your email and I’ll send it to you,” he said taking a pen and a business card out of his pocket.
She scribbled her name and email and then looking up at him again her phone number.
“Valentine, hm? That’s quite a name,” he said with a crooked smile, moving closer and whispering in her ear, “I’m glad we were introduced. I noticed you the minute I walked in. You have these sort of hungry eyes. You were standing in the corner watching everything, taking it all in, devouring the whole party.”
She felt her face redden as she smiled.
“I’m off for more wine, would you like some?” he asked holding up his empty glass.
She shook her head. As he walked away she cursed herself for not having a witty rejoinder for his “hungry eyes” comment. His hand on her hip and his mouth near her ear made her swoon.
In the busyness of the gallery Val lost track of Patrick. Mitzi came back with an eager grin.
“So, what do you think of him?”
Val rolled her eyes.
“He’s a charmer, I hope he comes back,” Val admitted.
Mitzi looked around.
“Oh, I think he’s stuck talking to some literary people over there. I think they’re all fascinated and horrified by him.”
Mitzi’s grin grew even more eager. Val recognized the look of her friend when she had some gossip.
“Yeah, didn’t he tell you? He writes erotica. Really dirty stuff from what I’ve heard. He’s good though and that agent keeps trying to get him to tame his stuff down so he can get a contract with one of the bigger publishers.”
“Really? What kind of stuff?”
“I’ve never read any, but I heard it’s pretty risqué,” Mitzi shrugged.
Val looked around for Patrick again, wondering what sorts of things the well dressed man wrote. Wondering if she could get up the courage to ask him. Hell, she blushed from a simple compliment, what would asking him about his dirty stories do to her?
Mitzi rushed off to welcome two women in fur coats and Val went back to examining another painting.
After finishing a second glass of wine, Val looked down at her phone to see that it was nearly eleven and she swore to herself she would be home by ten thirty. She cursed and turned around only to bump into Patrick again.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, glad he wasn’t holding a drink.
“My fault, I’m already spinning a little from three glasses of this wine. Sorry I didn’t come back, I was cornered by a gang of jackals,” he said looking over at the two older women Mitzi had pointed out.
“I saw, sorry I couldn’t save you, I didn’t have a gazelle carcass handy,” she said.
She moved a bit closer, wishing he would put his hand on her hip again. She chided herself for craving something so silly.
“So, where were we?” he said, clearing his throat.
“Damn, we were talking art and writing, but I have to go. I’m out past my bedtime on a school night.”
“That’s too bad,” he said with a genuine frown.
“Well, give me a ring-I mean a call, or an email,” she said, so bold she shocked herself.
“I will, that sounds lovely.”
“Lovely?” she thought. Seemed like an old fashioned way of putting it, but she liked it.
Valentine googled “Patrick Norfolk” the minute she got home, rolling around in bed with her laptop, still wearing the slinky dress she wore to the gallery. She learned that risqué turned out to be a bit of an understatement.
There were spankings and rope, leather, voyeurism, even some whips and chains, but none of that was all that shocking. It was the roleplaying and the taboo stuff that really confused her. From the girl who liked to feign sleep while her friend came and took advantage of her, to the boss and secretary, to the adult couple who liked to pretend to be a little girl and her dirty daddy, it was all forbidden and often hit some dark place inside of her. It all seemed wrong and hot at the same time, making her blush and squirm and make bargains with herself that she would stop reading after the next paragraph.
She never stopped though. She finished every story she found, her bottom lip raw from being bitten and her fingers wrinkled from spending too much time between her legs. She read until almost three in the morning, falling asleep with her laptop next to her pillow.
That Monday at work the stories floated around in her sleepy head. His dirty games and twisted fantasies were waiting for her every time she slipped into a daydream. She couldn’t shake them.
After lunch she snuck away to the little used basement bathroom to look for more stories on her phone. She found some anthology and bought the ebook. After devouring the first hot chapter, she pushed her hand under her pantyhose and hoped no one could hear her moans and labored breathing.