Dan wouldn't have been sitting at the Cinnabar Club without Bunny Dingwerth. He sipped the fine wine and admired a gleaming chandelier. He was a smart enough guy. On a good day, a hard-worker, and on a better one, better looking than most. Still, he knew what thousands of smart, hard-working, good-looking guys didn't have.
"Danny?" Bunny giggled, and twined her hair through her slender fingers. Her straight, white teeth glistened in the glow of soft candlelight. "I'll be right back, Danny. I need to go to the little girls' room." She snatched her cute pink clutch purse, and pranced among the tables.
In that rare moment, Bunny piqued Dan's curiosity. Puzzled, he sat motionless while Bunny floated among the tables, first to one friend, and then another, to chat, chat, chat. For twenty minutes or so, she'd posed by his side in stony silence--punctuated by peals of silly giggles--and now, it was chat, chat, chat.
Time for another glass of wine. He inspected the rolls in the breadbasket and chose a brown one with sesame seeds. He didn't like rolls, especially ones with seeds. He wasn't hungry. Yet, he nibbled, chewed, swallowed, his eyes glazed with regret. What bothered him so much?
He sliced a corner from a pat of butter and smeared it on a tattered piece of bread. After all, things were going well, weren't they? He was Vice-President in charge of something--well nothing really--at his father-in-law's printing company. They had a perfect little--well not so little, June Senior wouldn't allow little--so it was a perfect larger house nice and close to June Senior. Bunny had lots of time for tennis at the Cinnabar Tennis Club, and now, he had lots of new Bunny friends. Why then, did he feel so confused?
Poverty and shame haunted Dan's youth. Now, his wealth exceeded any and all expectations. A football scholarship and marriage to a future heiress won him the future of his Plan. All he needed to do was savor it, and smile The Smile. How Bunny loved that smile--the one she said made him look like Tom Cruise. He took another sip of wine, and another, followed by yet another one. He floated, high above the chaos. Maybe he could fly...
"Ready to order yet, Mr. Hunter?"
Dan glanced up to see Rocco, his favorite waiter. What a relief! "You know how it is, Rocco. Waiting for the new wife." Rocco winked.
"How long you been married now, Mr. Hunter?"
Dan smiled The Smile. "Almost a year now."
"Ah, newlyweds." Rocco nodded. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Anything else I can get for you sir?"
"No, nothing. I'll just...wait...right--"
"Sir?" The clinking glasses, the scraping silverware, the buzzing conversation--all noise had been drenched by the sight of her--the lady in the open doorway luminous in the beams of a full August moon.
"Mr. Hunter," Rocco said. "Are you not feeling well?"
Dan had never seen a woman so exquisite, not in all his thirty years. Quite simply, she was everything Bunny was not. With her dark hair, dark, almond-shaped eyes, and sensuous mouth, she might have been Ava Gardner, his favorite movie star from the Forties.
Rocco leaned closer to him and whispered. "You know her, sir?"
Dan shook his head. He struggled to smile at the exotic stranger. He couldn't.
"She is very beautiful, eh?" Rocco said. "But, a little too late for you--eh, my friend?"
Rocco chuckled, and nudged Dan in the ribs. "And look! The Mrs. She is right on time." Entranced, Dan turned to see Bunny, prancing across the dining room toward him. Her slick lip-gloss shined like new patent leather.
"Hi Danny!" Bunny giggled, and her button-like nose scrunched. She pressed her cheek against his, and nuzzled his lips. "I'll bet you were wondering where I was." A cold stare glowed from her eyes. "Or, were you?"
"What? What did you say, Bunny?" Dan's desperate gaze scanned the room for That Woman.
"Wondering about me, Danny. Don't you know what I mean?"
"Sure. Sure, I do."
Dan knew one thing. This heady rush of magic felt new and intoxicating--and dangerous. He liked it and he craved it. But, he needed much more.