Chapter 1 - The Stranger
I woke to the unfamiliar sounds of traffic several stories below. Stretching my legs, I felt the sheets that were definitely not my own, and slowly opened my eyes. Ah, yes. Another morning in another hotel. I had arrived in town yesterday for a conference that was set to begin later this morning. I liked my job, I really did, but the travel was a bit much. It seemed that every month or so I had to travel to a new city, stay in a new hotel, attend yet another conference. But, it paid well. And to be honest, I didn’t have that much at home that I was missing. At least this time I was in California, where the February weather was gorgeous compared to Portland.
I stretched my arms over my head and glanced at the clock on the nightstand. 6:15am. I never slept well on my first night in a new place, so even though I had a few hours until the conference began, I knew I might as well get up. I padded over to the hotel bathroom and turned on the shower. A strong stream of water sprayed from the showerhead, and almost immediately released steam into the air. At least this hotel had good water pressure.
I slipped off my sleep shirt and stepped under the hot spray. I tipped my head back and felt the water pour down my face and body. As I spread body wash over my skin, washing away the sleepy feeling that clung to me, I thought about how long it had been since anyone else had touched my skin like this. Too long. How long had it been since my last relationship? Two years? It hadn’t been much of a relationship, but it hadn’t ended well, and during the weeks and months that followed I felt too raw to let anyone else in. Those months had apparently turned to years. Two years since I had felt someone touch me, kiss me, run their hands over me, into me…. And just like that, I felt a clenching deep inside me. Ugh, getting turned on in the shower? What was wrong with me?
Maybe there wasn’t anything wrong at all. Maybe, after two long years, I was finally ready for intimacy again. Too bad I had no idea how to even find someone. That last relationship had started when a fellow patron at a coffee shop I frequented asked me out repeatedly. I was flattered by the attention, saw him on and off for a few months, and then just when I thought we were getting serious I discovered that I was actually one of many girls he was seeing at the time. I hadn’t handled the news well.
My roommate, Sara, had been urging me to get back out there, but I just never did. I didn’t know how to go looking for romance, and nothing seemed to be coming to me. The bar scene wasn’t for me, and I was never the one-night-stand kind of girl. What was I going to do, lock eyes with some mysterious stranger across the hotel lobby and invite him up to my hotel room to fuck? Yeah right. More likely I would order room service, watch crappy TV, and fall asleep early.
Still, as I got myself dressed and ready for the day, I couldn’t help but put a little extra effort into my appearance. I had always been fit, but the constant travel had interfered with my workout schedule and healthy eating, and I had put on a few pounds. I didn’t mind though - I could finally fill out a pair of jeans for the first time in my life, and my breasts seemed larger than ever. For this first day in a new city, I chose a black pencil skirt and a light blue sweater. Professional, but still slightly sexy. I slipped on black heels that accentuated the slit in my skirt, and smoothed the clingy sweater over my curves. A plunging neckline showed just the right amount of cleavage, without crossing the line to unprofessional. I dried my brown hair, which was cut to below my chin, and applied just enough make-up to feel like I was putting forward the best version of myself, instead of trying to look like someone else.
I made my way down to the hotel lobby, where a continental breakfast had been set up off to the side. I made myself a cup of coffee, and grabbed some fruit and scrambled eggs. As I crossed the room to an empty table, I passed only one or two other hotel guests. It was still early, and I had an hour before my conference was set to begin. I sipped my coffee slowly, watching guests come and go through the hotel lobby. I dug into my breakfast, watched the local news playing on the TV mounted on the wall, and checked my email on my phone. Nothing I needed to deal with at the moment. I had a text from Sara from the night before, asking if I’d gotten into town ok. I answered that I had, and apologized for not answering sooner, but that I’d been too tired by the time I had made it to my hotel that night.
The next time I glanced up, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He was standing at the coffee maker, his broad shoulders snug in a dark suit. His hair was longer than the suit would imply, just a little bit shaggy and unkempt, with dark pieces falling just into his eyes. But there was nothing unkempt about his face - piercing blue eyes, cleanly shaven, lips that were just begging for me to….. Hang on. What was I even doing? This was NOT the kind of thing I did. But I thought back to my shower that morning. Maybe this was exactly what I needed.
Just as I was debating with myself, he glanced in my direction and froze. He stared right at me, like he could tell what I was thinking from 20 feet away. I couldn’t break the gaze, but I willed myself not to blush. Oh wow, he was gorgeous. After what felt like hours but was really probably only two seconds, he looked away and walked to an empty table across the room.
I sat there, my heart pounding, debating with myself. Go talk to him! No, don’t be crazy, don’t go talk to some guy you don’t know. But he’s so hot, and he looks like he could fuck me so hard… Stop it, that’s crazy, who says he would even be interested? Go find out, what’s the worst that could happen? Uh, he says no, and I’m embarrassed and have to run away and never show my face here again? Oh, that.
Get yourself together, I scolded myself. You are 28 years old and you haven’t been touched in two years. You deserve this. If he says no, then it wasn’t meant to be, and you’re not worse off than before. I reached into my purse and pulled out a pen. I grabbed a paper napkin from the middle of the table and quickly scrawled on it, “Room 629 - 10pm”. Oh shit, I thought, am I really doing this?
I slowly stood up from the table, my heart pounding. I grabbed my empty coffee cup, and walked purposefully across the room towards the coffee machine, making sure to pass by his table on my way. I could feel his eyes on me as I wove between the tables and headed for him. When I got to his table, I looked up, forcing myself to stare right into those gorgeous eyes of his. I placed my napkin on the table in front of him, and turned and walked away toward the coffee.
Don’t look back, don’t look back, I told myself. I couldn’t help it - I looked back. I watched him pick up my napkin, and his forehead creased as he tried to figure out what I was up to. Then I saw as bewilderment turned to realization, and a slow smile spread across that beautiful face of his. He slowly looked up at me, and I could feel as his gaze caressed me from my toes up to my face. When he was looking me right in the eye, he smiled knowingly, and nodded once. I nodded in return, and then turned my back to get another cup of coffee.
This time, I didn’t linger. I grabbed myself a lid, and strode out of the breakfast area to find the conference room.
All morning, I couldn’t help blushing whenever I thought about what I had done. Had I really propositioned a man I had never even spoken to? Had I really invited him to my hotel room? What was wrong with me, what was I doing? What if I didn’t even remember how to be sexy? What if he hated me once he actually met me? What if he was going about his day and thought I was crazy and was hating me already? Or worse, what if he wasn’t even thinking about me at all?
At a break in the conference, I snuck away to text Sara.
So, I did a thing....
What kind of thing?
I invited a man to my room tonight?
What! OMG! Details! What’s he look like? Where’d you meet him? What’s his name?
That stopped me short. What could I say to that? I saw him across a room, thought he was hot, didn’t speak to him, have no idea what his name is, but gave him my room number? Agh, what had I been thinking?
Tall, dark and handsome? Will fill you in later, gotta get back
It was true, everyone was trickling back into the conference room. But also, how could I tell her that I hadn’t even spoken to him and had no idea what his name was?
The day swirled around me. I sat through conference sessions all morning, ate the lunch provided by the hotel surrounded by my fellow conference attendees, made small talk, laughed at jokes. But my mind was firmly stuck a few hours in the future, at 10pm.