Authors: Keisha Orphey
Dawn raised her head and looked into her eyes, “I came so close to – “
“Sleeping with him?” Elizabeth whispered.
Dawn shook her head and sunk in her seat like her whole world was crumpling.
“Well, did you?”
“No. I went up to his room, knocked on the door and when he opened it, he just looked at me with these eyes … then this woman called out to him from …
the room – “
“Girl, shut the front door. He had another woman in the room with him?”
“Yeah. I don’t even know why I was surprised, or why I’m even upset. I just met him last night, but
I feel like … like I fell in love with that man. What the hell?”
“How is your relationship with your husband?” Elizabeth asked coolly.
“Not the greatest. Boring. Unappreciated. Like a wall is being built between us. Brick by brick, every day.” Dawn felt her eyes sting with tears.
“Well, there you go. This
man is showing you the kindness you’re craving from your husband and as soon as your husband gets the
inkling another man is getting your attention? He’ll shape up. You can take that to the bank, honey.” She gave Dawn a look. “Tell me more about this man you met.”
Dawn paused and looked down at her hands that were folded on the table in front of her and pictured Nicoli. “He’s gotta be the most handsome man I’ve ever seen in my life,” she started with a whisper. “Everything about him is mind blowing to me. From his hair … to his eyes … his skin … his mouth … his body … the way he walks. The way he looks at me. Shit!”
Elizabeth whooped at Dawn’s expletive.
“I hate feeling like this. It’s like I can’t control my emotions. I wanna just turn them off. Forget I ever met him.”
Elizabeth leaned forward and said across the table. “That’s pretty deep.” She fell silent as a waitress sauntered up ready to fill Dawn’s cup of coffee.
“No thank you.” Dawn gestured.
The waitress glared at her inquisitively and when she left the table, Dawn asked: “You think I’m crazy huh?” Her question remained unanswered for what seemed like minutes.
“Of course I don’t. Who am I to judge? Your venting is clearing your head more than you know. Hopefully,
, when you leave here tonight and go home, you’ll feel better about it.” She paused and added, “Tell me. What all do you know about this man?”
“I don’t know much really.” Dawn stared at Elizabeth’s folded hands like they were cue cards she could read from. “He is so attentive. Charming. So damn fine – “
Set on the table beside her keys, Dawn’s cellphone rang. The screen illuminated with the name PHIL. When she picked it up, she said: “Hey.” Philip was calling to check on her. “Yes, I’m at work. I’m talking to a coworker right now.” She wiped her eyes. “Yes, I’m fine, just really tired.” Moments later, after they’d said their goodbyes, she hung up.
“Where do you attend church?”
“I’m not gonna try to push you to go to church.” She said that like an old female preacher from the South. “Enough people do that nowadays. Besides, church is in your spirit. You’ve gotta want to accept Jesus into your life. Pray about
. You’ll find your way. Now, pull yourself together and get home to your family.”
“Thank you, Miss – I mean, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth gave her a look that said
I’m not old.
“You remind me of my mother. In a good way. We’re very close.”
“Good and feel free to talk to me anytime. What we talk about stays right here.”
Dawn stood, readying herself to leave. She picked up her phone and her keys and started to walk away. “Have a good night.” She turned back around. “What time do you get off?”
Elizabeth glanced at a thin gold watch on her wrist. “Now.” She smiled, waved, and watched Dawn exit the restaurant.
She could feel his eyes watching her.
It was a quarter past seven A.M. Dawn walked through the long winding tunnel toward employee parking. And though the walls of the underground tunnel were concrete, she knew he was there. She could feel his lips caressing her cheek. His tongue tracing the outline of her chin. A cool draft chilled her. Again, she assured herself she was just exhausted and imagining things. Besides, the man realized she wasn’t interested and had turned his attention to a busy craps table, blending in with a group of gamblers on a lucky roll – all of them hunched over various denominations of casino playing chips. He’d looked directly in her face, searching for any sign of interest.
But there were still lingering thoughts of Nicoli floating in her mind. Even after her venting session with Elizabeth and as much as he’d disgusted her now, she found herself picturing him in the doorway, remembering his fragrance – the emanating soap and musky smell of his skin and underarm. Pictured those droopy, begging eyes and sultry lips. She thanked God that she hadn’t given in to him. Wondered if he would’ve sent the bitch packing had she decided to stay. Probably not. She was probably his steady piece of ass when he came in town and Dawn was just something new. Something different.
Another toy in his box of tricks.
Then she thought about Philip and the kids and how much she couldn’t wait to spend time with them that evening when she woke up, but as she drew upon the exit of the tunnel --
“Good morning, beautiful,” Nicoli said in that smooth, sexy voice, leaning against one of the concrete bollards protecting the entrance of the tunnel.
“What are you doing here?” her forehead wrinkling with frustration, she pushed passed him like a bat out of hell. “The nerve of this bastard--” She scoffed under her breath.
He treaded right beside her: “Well, if you would’ve given me your number, I would’ve
and invited you to breakfast, but you ran out on me so fast. Twice, now. Are you making this a third?”
“Nicoli! Shit!“ She scoffed, stopping mid-step, turning to look at him with irritated eyes. “What do you want from me? First, you tease me in the restaurant … you know what you do to me. Am I some sick game to you?”
“No – “ he looked wounded.
“And as much as I’m trying to forget I ever met you, what do I do? I go to your room like a
fool…then what I find! … oh, my God – “she panted, chuckled against the pain, flicked the long hair cascading over her shoulders. “What I found made me feel like such an idiot.” She couldn’t reach her vehicle fast enough, but with every step, Nicoli was right beside her, his boots crunching the gravel beneath his feet.
He’d been too repulsed to lay in bed. He kept seeing Dawn’s sad hazel eyes – so much pain in that glare – they’d conjured up feelings he hadn’t felt … since … never. Agitation mixed with lust, confusion and love had him all fucked up. Not once since they’d met had the ulterior motive crossed his mind. He was a cold-blood killer, but for the first time in his life, nothing would give him more pleasure than to take her in his arms and kiss her. Strangle her later, maybe, but right now, he wanted to mend the pain he’d caused her. Sure, there was a woman in the suite when Dawn showed up, but she meant nothing to him. Nothing at all. Nothing more than a rat scurrying amongst sewage in Mexico. All she did was dance and remove her clothes in the middle of the floor. He’d pictured Dawn’s face the entire time. Couldn’t even recall now what color hair the dancer had or what color her eyes were. Hadn’t remembered looking at her that closely. And she’d arrived just as
slipped from Dawn’s lips over the telephone.
“Don’t you see I’m feeling this just as much as you are? Dawn, I didn’t touch that woman,” he gently grabbed her arm and held on not wanting to let go … ever. “She’s a dancer. And that’s all she did … was dance for me … and take off her clothes, but …. Had you accepted my offer, she would’ve danced for the both of us.”
Dawn stopped mid-stride again, and gave him a bewildered look. She almost wanted to laugh. “What?” she chuckled.
Embarrassed, he brushed his forehead and nodded. “As soon as you left, I asked her to leave.”
“Then why didn’t you say something? Why’d you let me leave upset like that?”
“I didn’t think you’d believe me. I didn’t know what to think. I was tired. I wanted you to be there. I don’t even know
I wanted you there. I just … I just want you.” His hand slid down her sleeved arm to her hand, intermingling his fingers between hers, he moved a step forward, and leaned into her as if to rest his head against hers.
She gestured as if brushing away at a fly. “Forget it. This … us … we just don’t make sense. None of this makes sense –“
“We can. If you’ll just give me a chance.”
“But I’m married, Nicoli –“
The answer was ‘no’. But who was
keeping the score? He was everything she’d ever imagined a husband would be and she felt so much passion for him, wanted to wrap her arms around his neck, and kiss him deeply, but instead said: “I can’t … I just can’t … I apologize. My actions were uncalled for. You…me…. this will never go anywhere,” she pulled her hand away from him, “I’m sorry for going to your room unannounced. I had no right just like I shouldn’t be arguing with you in a parking lot. I don’t know what came over me. I – “
“Probably the same thing that’s coming over me.” Nicoli admitted reluctantly, and looking down into her hazel eyes, he said softly, “Have breakfast with me … please.” Nicoli hastened when he saw that she was about to turn him down. “A lady’s gotta eat, right?”
“Nicoli, I-I don’t understand what’s happening between us. What
this? I don’t know you. You don’t know me. I’m a married woman and my husband could show up any minute – “
“And leave the kids at home? At this hour? I doubt that. I’ll share you if I must. I need you.”
There was something so sinister about him. Dawn couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but she enjoyed it. Loved the attention. He was daring, persuasive and above all, drop-dead gorgeous. He listened to her. Laughed with her. Complimented her.
Or was she imagining that, too?
Nicoli is trouble, her mind reeled
. If you have any sense, you’ll get away from him now. Forget you ever met him. Before innocent admiration turns you into an adulteress.
But it was too late. He knew what to say. Worse, he knew all the
words to say. Pushed all the right buttons. That smile. That walk. That body. She knew it was wrong, in a million trillion ways, yet he intrigued her curiosity.
And curiosity killed the cat, too.
Her mind and body were eager to peel back the layers of perfection, reveal the tarnished layer, and expose it, then dispose of him for good. Why’d she feel the need to do such a thing? She was a married woman. And a married woman entertaining the likes of a single man was risky. Stupid and dangerous. But what harm could an innocent breakfast do? She needed this. And nothing was going to stop her from enjoying this moment.
Not even thoughts of Philip and the kids at home. Selfishly, she allowed herself to lust over Nicoli. This was Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas...no one would ever know.
Nicoli was wearing a pair of black jeans, a dark indigo button down shirt, and black Feragamo boots adorned his feet. She’d know those boots anywhere. Were Philip’s favorite brand and with a whopping $900 price tag, he owned only one pair, but Philip’s were hand-me-downs from a rich uncle.
Dawn blushed and considered refreshing her lipstick, but he’d complimented her appearance just the way she was – exhausted with messy hair and dressed in a suit riddled with the smell of the casino and cigarette smoke.
Philip had never been so admirable. Even when they were dating.
Sunrise had painted the Las Vegas horizon and the beaming orange brilliance seemed to radiate in her hair. He felt compelled to run his fingers through those tendrils, fantasized about his lips against hers. He knew intimacy should be the last thing on his mind, especially with her. But she was so gravely near that he’d better clear his mind before his thoughts became action.
“I’ll follow you there. That way, I know you won’t kidnap me,” she smiled an apologetic grin.
“Let me drive you. I’m parked right over there.” he gestured toward a cotton-white Bentley idling quietly.
“Who’s in the car?”
“Just a close friend of mine.”
Dawn tried not to notice how snug his jeans fit around his muscular thighs, could smell the newness of his clothes, and even the leather of his boots were fragrant. His shirt gaped loosely at the neck. She saw a gold chain glistening on smooth golden skin and a gold ring adorned his pinky finger.
She was certain he smelled just as handsome.
Don’t even think about it, she cautioned herself. A man this fine and attractive will have you losing your kids, divorced and homeless. He’s probably married, too. But she hadn’t seen a wedding ring or any sign of one now or earlier that evening. Not even an imprint on his finger. She couldn’t help but notice the way he licked his lips or the way he walked --- confident and sexy. Damn! God broke the mold on this man.
“How about I ride with you and then you could drop me here later. Whatever makes you comfortable,” his voice became a hoarse whisper, adding: “Just don’t say ‘no’…please. I’ve been waiting out here for two hours— “
“Nicoli, I—this is a bad idea.”
“Breakfast? Or me wanting to see you?” he asked wistfully and sighed heavily, then straightened as if he’d grown tired of asking, then gesturing with his hands a motion that said he’d succumbed to almost begging, he added: “I promise I’ll behave. You have my word.” His smile was irresistible and as much as she wanted to say yes--
The Bentley drove away.
Dawn’s heart dropped.
Like a man on a mission, the passenger in the car had slipped into the driver’s seat when she wasn’t looking and nearly cleared the parking lot. The car veered into the flow of traffic on I-15.
“Where is he going? Is he
you?” Her voice went shrill with anxiety.
“I’d understand if you have to go— “
“And leave you out here? You wouldn’t make it passed security if you walked down that tunnel and the only way to the guest entrance of the casino from here is through the parking lot and down the highway.” She gave him a look and pointed a finger. “Just breakfast— “
He held his hands up chest-height
to stave off protest
, “Just breakfast.”
“Okay,” she responded, although she didn’t believe she was actually accepting his invitation. Again. She’d thought about him all night, but there was something mysterious about him, something exciting, and something she perceived as perilous.
Or was she just fearful of Philip popping up unexpectedly? So fearful, she quivered when Nicoli moved closer and took both of her hands in the comfort of his own.
He was so tall that she stood eye-level with his chest and had to look up to make eye contact. His collar bone protruded, his neck was masculine and refined. Laugh lines creased both corners of his mouth, and there was a small mole beneath his left eye. Despite the inevitable magnetic attraction, she didn’t know this man -- someone who seemed confident and unflappable, when underneath the façade, he could be a raging maniac. His thoughtfulness had made the misunderstanding forgivable, especially to a married woman who’d wake up beside her husband tomorrow night masking the impending guilt. His perseverance charmed her and his obvious concern to mend their friendship was comforting. Made her trust him. The incident in the hotel had also precluded a mistake she would regret in the morning, which had shuddered Dawn more than she realized.
As they strolled through the employee parking lot, she glanced at him through the corner of her eye – he was walking with both hands in his pockets, calm and confident. She thought about Philip and how quickly he walked; always in a hurry. Probably explains his migraines, she thought. Anxiety will do that to a person. Although she had been blamed, by his family, of course.
This is only breakfast. A conversation between new acquaintances. He’ll be gone by morning and I won’t hear from him again.
What happens in Vegas
… That’s all. Tomorrow, I’ll smile and say he was nice and I loved the smell of him …the way he dressed…. his smile…his walk….
Nicoli slid in the passenger seat beside her and closed his door. For a moment, Dawn sat quiet, as if second guessing his company. The vehicle was a two-year old Chevrolet Tahoe, a family vehicle with leather seats and a single DVD player mounted in the roof. Dawn and Philip had traveled with the kids from Louisiana to Nevada in this truck with their second vehicle in tow. The vehicle was nothing close to what Nicoli was accustomed to. Sierra’s toys littered the backseat and an empty sippy cup sat in the cup holder.
Her cellphone illuminated in the cup holder. It was Philip.
WE NEED TO TALK. ARE YOU ON YOUR WAY HOME YET?
Was that jealousy she heard in his voice? She couldn’t read his face, because his eyes were focused behind the seat on the toys strewn about, his weight resting on his elbow against the center console. She figured he was being cautious. Didn’t want to get caught red-handed with another man’s wife.
She palmed the cellphone and responded:
ASKED TO WORK A DOUBLE AGAIN. WE NEED THE MONEY, SO I SAID YES. CASINO PUTTING ME UP. SEE YOU TOMORROW. XOXO.
She hated to lie, but she had to clear the air with Nicoli.
At least, that’s what she’d told herself.
He shifted in the seat, faced forward smoothing the legs of his pants, gently scratched his lower leg, felt the hard steel of the dagger secured around his calf.
The knife he’d chosen to kill her with.