Authors: Marguerite Kaye
‘Darling, isn’t that exactly the point? One night. A dream that has nothing to do with reality. How can we refuse?’
He laughed. ‘We can’t.’ he said, taking her hand and leading her out of the Mirror Ballroom towards the lift in the foyer.
Vera was nervous. What had seemed so obvious, so certain downstairs in amongst the crowd, now seemed outrageous. Justin Yorke was a complete stranger. Though really, wasn’t that the point? Besides, he was clearly nervous too. That was somehow reassuring. They were the same, in an odd way. Both frigid. Now neither of them frigid. He wanted her. She wanted him. Dex was right, it was time they both found out if they could remember how to have fun.
Justin closed the door to the Dream Suite behind them. They were in a small foyer with just one door. She opened it, and found herself in a huge room with an arched ceiling painted white, giving it the appearance of the inside of a liner, or a church. The floor was polished wood scattered with rugs. The marble fireplace was white. The furniture was all white leather. There were white roses everywhere. The air was heady with their scent. One wall was formed entirely of glass. Vera opened the door at the centre and stepped out onto the balcony. The night air was cool. Below them, London was spread out, a carpet of yellow light. It was far too bright for stars.
‘Are you nervous?’ Justin was standing just behind her.
‘Yes,’ she said baldly.
‘Do you want to change your mind?’
‘No.’ She turned from the view to the man. ‘Do you?’
‘No, but I need you to believe me that I won’t do anything unless you want me to. That you can tell me to stop, any time.’
‘Really? Any time?’
Justin laughed. ‘The earlier the better, admittedly, but I’ll do my best.’ He touched her cheek. ‘What do you want, Vera? Tell me.’
‘You think you can make my dreams come true?’
He laughed. A soft sound, more like a breath than a laugh. ‘For one night only, I will do my very best.’
‘For one night only. That is a very seductive idea. The Dream Suite,’ Vera mused. ‘Does that mean it’s not really happening?’
‘I think it can mean whatever we want it to mean.’
‘What about you?’ Vera smiled, reaching up to undo his bow tie. ‘You’re in the Dream Suite too. How do I make your dream come true?’
‘You tell me yours,’ Justin whispered, nibbling on her ear, ‘and then I’ll tell you mine. Who knows, we might even find we have one in common.’
‘And we do have all night.’
He laughed again. ‘Are you telling me you’re insatiable?’
‘I don’t know.’ She tugged at the studs of his collar, and then at the top buttons of his stiff dress shirt, sliding her hand inside. Skin. Rough hair. Heat. ‘But I think I’d like to find out. Starting right now.’
She had never done this. There would be nothing to compare it to. No memories to be erased by it. ‘Yes,’ Vera said, ‘here, and now.’ She released him only to unfasten the sash of her gown, letting the silk slide down her arms to pool at her feet. It would be ruined. She didn’t care. She stood in the soft pool of light coming through the long windows, wearing only her skimpy stage outfit. She let him look at her, relishing her curves for once, enjoying the way he looked, as hungry as she felt. Then she took a step back towards him and hooked a hand round his neck and pulled him towards her. ‘My dream, then. I want you here, and now, and I want you fast, and hard.’
‘I’m already hard,’ Justin said, ‘and frankly it’s as well you want it fast, because it’s been so long I’m not sure I can manage anything else.’
Vera’s mouth, glossily crimson, sinfully curved, formed into the most provocative of smiles. ‘What are you waiting for?’
‘I’m not.’ He pulled her into his arms, and kissed her. She kissed him back hungrily, twining her arms around his neck. He ran his hands over her body, over the sheath of gold satin that was her stage outfit, down the curve of her spine to the plump swell of her behind, curling his fingers into the soft flesh, and pulling her up against him.
Her mouth opened to his, her tongue seeking his. Her hands were in his hair, on his shoulders, yanking his dinner jacket onto the ground, tearing at the buttons of his waistcoat and his shirt. Long, scarlet nails on his skin, hands splayed, making his heart feel too big for his chest, making him throb.
He tore his mouth from hers to kiss the white, smooth line of her throat, down to the deep vee of her costume, into the valley between her breasts. They staggered backwards, against the high parapet of the balcony. He released his hold on her delightful rear to cup one of her breasts, watching the way one nipple hardened and peaked through the gold, dipping his head to suck on the other, through the material.
She moaned. The most delightful sound of pleasure. He sucked again, her nipple puckering in his mouth. He slid his hand down, under the gold fringes that formed the skimpy skirt. The flesh at the top of her stockings was warm, soft. The bodice seemed to be sealed. He flattened his hand over her sex, feeling the heat of her through the silk. She rubbed herself against him. Damp.
He opened his eyes, and the ground swam up. Cursing, kissing, he steered them away from the edge of the balcony to the wall of the suite which bordered the long windows. He could see their reflection in the panes. Vera leaning back against the stone, one leg wrapped around his. His white shirt hanging loose. Her hands on him. His on her. A white thigh above her black stocking. Gold fringes like sunrays.
Then he kissed her again, and forgot to look. There was no way into the costume. He stroked her through it. Her nails dug into the flesh of his shoulders as she arched, rubbing herself against his hand. ‘Harder,’ she said, her voice rough in his ear, ‘harder.’
He yanked at the satin, and it tore. She was so wet, he thought he might come, just touching her. His fingers slid in, and she moaned harshly. Tight. She was so tight. He stroked. She tensed. He stroked.
‘Now, Justin. Now,’ she said.
He had to let her go to get at the condoms. He was shaking, fumbling with the packaging as she fumbled with his trousers. It ought to have been embarrassing but they were both beyond caring. He couldn’t think straight, with her hands on his clothes, yanking his trousers and his underwear down. Her lips were swollen, naked. His own must be streaked with her lip rouge. Her cheeks were flushed. And then her hands were on him, her fingers with their sharp, crimson nails curled around him, and he could feel himself tightening, and she felt it too, for she gave a little growl, and let him go, just enough time for him to slip on the condom, before she pulled him towards her again, and her mouth was on his again, and her leg wrapped around his, and her arms around his neck as he nudged against her, then into her.
‘Hard, and fast,’ she urged him, as if he needed any urging.
He picked her up, bracing her back against the stone wall, and thrust higher. She cried out. He gritted his teeth, determined not to come. Not yet. She bit him, bit his shoulder. Sharp teeth. Her fingers digging into him. He could feel her tightening too. Thrust. She was so tight. Achingly, perfectly tight. He thrust again, and she held him, pushing herself against him, friction and heat and wet, an off-key, not-quite-perfect rhythm, but enough, more than enough, for her to come, for the wave of her climax to send him over, making him cry out, a feral sound he had forgotten, ripped out from deep inside him, as he came.
It ought to have been embarrassing. Vera discovered that instead it was liberating. She rested her head back against the cool stone of the wall and laughed. She stretched her arms up above her head, and lifted her face to the deep velvet of the sky, felt her blood coursing back through her body, making her cold limbs tingle, as if she were being brought back to life.
Her stockings were ripped. Her gold bodice was ripped. No doubt her mascara had run, and her lip rouge was smeared over Justin’s face and chest. He had a bruise blossoming on his shoulder. She vaguely remembered biting him. She vaguely remembered scratching him too. ‘I’m sorry,’ Vera said, feeling not the least little bit so, ‘you look like one of the war wounded.’
She meant it lightly, but the sated smile on his face faded abruptly. ‘Excuse me,’ he said, pulling up his trousers, ‘I need to…’
He disappeared into the suite. Deflated, Vera picked up her Fortuny gown and Justin’s dinner jacket, following him inside, casting the clothing down on one of the opulent white sofas. There was a bottle of champagne on ice – or what had been ice. Still cold. She opened it expertly, and was pouring two glasses when he came back into the room. ‘I’m sorry, bad joke,’ she said.
‘No. I’m sorry.’ He took the glass from her, and downed it in one.
Vera did the same. ‘Were you?’ she asked, once she had replenished both glasses. ‘One of the war wounded, I mean.’
‘I know what you mean. I don’t want to talk about it.’
He was bare-chested and bare-foot. When he bent down to put a match to the fire that was set ready, despite the warmth from the steam heating, she noticed that she had indeed scratched him, several scores of raw flesh on the breadth of his back. His muscles rippled under his skin when he moved. His back tapered neatly down to a trim waist, accentuating the breadth of his shoulders. She had forgotten how different a man’s naked body was from her own. She hadn’t looked at one for so long. There was no sign of a scar on his back or his chest. Leg? Head? She had seen many such wounds. When he got up, there was such a bleak look in his eyes. She had seen that too, far too many times.
‘I’m really sorry,’ Vera said. ‘I forgot. No, not that. I wasn’t thinking.’ She tried for a smile. ‘It was nice. The not thinking.’
Justin ran his hand through his hair. It was damp. His face was clean of her cosmetics too. In the flickering flames of the fire, his chest gleamed. ‘It was,’ he said, trying for a smile of his own. ‘It was nice.’
Vera took a sip of her champagne, eying him over her glass. ‘The other thing, that was nice too,’ she said, daring to tease now.
His smile broadened. The darkness faded from his eyes. ‘Just nice?’
‘Just exactly what I wanted.’
He picked up his own glass, and took a long sip. ‘That’s a relief. I am not – I am not usually so – I’m afraid I must be out of practice.’
‘You are not the only one. It’s just as well we’ve got all night.’
Justin placed his glass on the mantelpiece before crossing the room, setting her glass down too, and pulling her towards the hearth. ‘We have,’ he said, ‘and you know what they say.’
‘Practice makes perfect?’
He smoothed her hair down, tucking it behind her ear. ‘Precisely.’
Perhaps it was the firelight, or the lingering sense of well-being from that first, wild coupling, but this time was different. No longer starving, they could take time to taste. And yet as he kissed her, her mouth, her neck, her throat and down, this time removing her bodice so that his lips were warm on her skin, the craving grew just as fiercely inside her, as if it had not just been sated.
Sensation. She was all sensation. Lying on the rug in front of the fire, wearing only her stockings. She was all nerve endings and tight muscles. She was an ache, and then a throb. She was burning. She was melting. When he entered her this time, it was like an enfolding, as if he belonged inside her, a part of her, that made her blossom from the inside, then bloom, and then finally climax, huge waves of it as he rocked inside her, his eyes dark with passion, holding hers, until he came too.
Only after she remembered. ‘It was your turn. Your dream,’ Vera said. He was lying on top of her, naked. His head on her shoulder. She ran her fingers through his hair.
‘That,’ he said, ‘that’s what I wanted.’ He ran his hand down her flank. ‘Skin. Naked. Slow. Just so you know I can.’
He kissed her again, then rolled away from her, coming back with a black quilt, which he wrapped around them both after topping up their champagne glasses. They sat side by side, sipping the tepid wine, watching the fire. Behind them, the Dream Suite was in darkness. Downstairs, the party would probably go on until dawn. Dexter would be pleased when they didn’t reappear. Not that he’d be around to see. Dexter was off to his new life. A new world, a new lover. Brave Dexter. Lucky Dexter.
What would she do without him? A tear tracked its way down her cheek. She never cried, not in front of anyone, not any more, but Justin wasn’t anyone, and this place wasn’t anywhere. Another tear joined it, and then another. She made no attempt to stop them.
She shook her head, trying to smile. A pathetic attempt, but it stopped the tears. She rubbed her eyes, careless of what was left of her dramatic make-up. ‘Do I look like a panda?’
‘Not a bit like a panda.’ Justin wiped her cheeks with his thumbs. ‘You look very beautiful and very tragic. Like Cleopatra. Do you want to tell me about it? In the spirit of the night,’ he said with a sad little smile. ‘What happens in the Dream Suite, stays in the Dream Suite.’
‘It won’t make any difference,’ Vera said. ‘It won’t change anything. It won’t turn the clock back.’
‘Is that what you want to do?’
She sighed, and the sigh turned into a shiver. ‘I don’t let myself think that. What’s the point?’
Justin frowned, twirling his empty champagne flute around in his fingers. He had nice hands. Long fingers, well-kept, the nails cut very short.
‘I don’t know,’ he said finally. ‘I wish to God I did. That would be my dream. Turn back the clock. I doubt very much it’s the kind of dream David Chatsfield had in mind for this suite though.’ He reached for the champagne bottle, and poured the remains into their glasses. ‘What the hell, we’ve got one night only, why don’t we give it a shot. You tell me yours, and I’ll tell you mine. We’ll probably never see each other again.’
She thought about this, and discovered that it wasn’t only that she was tempted, for once, to bring the darkness in her soul briefly out into the light. She wanted to know how hers compared to his. ‘A toast then,’ Vera said. ‘Not to turning back the clock, but to stopping it. Just for a while.’