A tall glass of water. A swimming pool one could dip into on a hot summer’s day.
Ariadne Wilson found her knees buckling the moment this dark-haired vision entered through the wooden gate, clad in an expensive suit, phone in one hand, the loop of a leather leash in the other. Though she could see only the profile of his wonderfully straight nose, slightly pouty lips and long lashes, she understood him to be an extremely handsome man. He was coolly making his way along the sandway and into the enclosure demarcated by wooden fences, when suddenly he stumbled backwards a little – something that made a dent into the atmosphere of suaveness surrounding him. He turned around and looked back, towards the uncooperative creature on the other end of the black strap.
”Come on, Birdie,” he addressed the mystery animal hiding behind the open gate, still holding his phone. ”Don’t be so dramatic. This is not the vet, this is a pampering day for dogs! I’ve brought you here to be pampered! You’ll get a massage and a wash... you get to run around with friends. What could be better than that?”
Ariadne tilted her head a little and tried to take a sneaky peek of the stubborn dog hiding behind the vertical wooden planks. She was interested in seeing what breed it was, this tail-wagger evidently disinterested in pleasing its owner. She, however, saw nothing. So she returned to studying the man, the way his dark brows were drawn together, the way he now stood there with his hands (and the phone) propped against his hips, looking down.
”Why are you gaping at me with those beady eyes of yours?” he asked, shaking his head a little, resembling a father scolding an disobedient child. ”They have no effect on me, you know that as well as I do. And why are you yawning?”
Needless to say, he received no answer. He clicked his tongue and exasperatedly lifted his attention to take a look around. After scanning the area full of people and dogs, colorful balloons and small workshops, he found Ariadne standing in the shade of a white canopy, next to a buffet table, staring at him with her mouth slightly agape. His blue eyes lingered on her, his gaze so intense it felt as if she was being touched instead of looked at. Luckily the air was filled with sounds of dogs barking so he couldn’t hear the gasp that escaped from her lips. She immediately broke the eye contact and turned to face the table, her cheeks probably as red as the short-sleeved blouson dress she was clad in.
”Now, look here,” she heard the man returning to the task of talking to his dog, ”I. Am. Not. In the mood. For your games. I am a busy man with a tight schedule. So. Come. On!” He began pulling the leash.
It was a battle of wills, each contestant plagued by the desire to go their own way. It seemed, however, that the man was going to win. Slowly from behind the gate appeared a reluctant, orange-colored terrier. The dog, not happy about the idea of finishing second, seemed to retaliate by taking its time, pausing to sniff all the obstacles and decorations that dotted the sandway leading to a stand advertising dog grooming.
Ariadne smiled to herself, finding it amusing that a Greek, olive skinned god like him was being bossed around by a small, adorably cute dog with a pink collar. Then she turned her head to take a look over her right shoulder. She immediately spotted Judy at a distance having the time of her life, chasing other dogs around a grassy field and once in a while stopping to take a breath. It was during moments like these when Ariadne truly understood why the Labrador retriever was so dear to her sister. Hell, Amanda loved that pooch more than she loved their parents.
”I swear, Birdie’s my grandmother reincarnated,” she suddenly heard a comment coming from her left. ”Equally stubborn, equally misandrist.”
Recognizing the name, Ariadne’s heart began beating intensely. She turned her head, only to find the beautiful man now standing right next to her, breathing heavily, sweat covering his forehead. His cologne entered her nose, his presence electrified the air.
”Dogs,” was the only thing she said, hoping that her voice wasn’t too high-pitched or shaky. She smiled and shrugged with one shoulder, doing her best to seem as composed and calm as possible when in reality she was freaking out.
”Indeed. I never even wanted one,” he revealed to her. ”I suppose Birdie senses it in some weird, dog-like way, and therefore doesn’t respect me enough to actually listen to me. Like I said, she resembles my grandmother. Is there anything worthwhile here?” he then, rather abruptly, changed the subject and began scanning the table adorned with a white cotton tablecloth, fresh flowers in glass vases and all kinds of fruity and chocolate-y desserts.
”Sure,” Ariadne nodded and grabbed a piece of chocolate cake from a silvery plate with her trembling hand. She took a bite out of this gateau, eyes dropping down to the man’s sensuous mouth and the long, dark stubble highlighting his strong jawline and gaunt cheeks.
”How is it?” he asked with a voice as smooth as honey, the drawl so long it could lull even the most troubled person into a wonderfully calming sleep. She could’ve listened to him talk for forever.
Being the center of his attention was intoxicating. Ariadne found herself loving every second of it – up until the moment when she accidentally inhaled crumbs. Oh no, she immediately thought to herself, for the love of god, not now! Sheer horror darkened her normally so bright face and delicate features, her round eyes opened wide upon the realization that something terribly embarrassing was about to happen.
”That good, huh?” the man asked, grinning a little.
As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t respond because of the painful tickle burning at the back of her throat. She ended up nodding while trying to fight back the urge to do something about the stinging agony. She could feel the skin of her face burning up and turning scarlet. Her armpits were moist and her heart, previously beating fast due to his proximity, was now hammering away because of panic, at a speed unhealthy for any human. Then tears appeared to her eyes.
”I say,” the man cocked his head a little, clearly astonished, ”you look like you’re about to burst into tears. Are you all right?”
Ariadne nodded, then shook her head, then tried to smile. She wasn’t paying attention to her strange behavior as every bit of her energy was directed at one thing: the need to alleviate the urge. Because of this her grin resembled the leer of a lunatic; it was something intimidating rather than amusing.
When the suppressed cough eventually made her shake all over, the man jerked his head a little.
”I think the toilets are at the back,” he said, taking a couple of steps back.
Ariadne shook her head, finally having to submit to the need to hack her lungs out. She did her best to do it in a polite way. She turned away from him and hid her mouth behind her hand – the one that wasn’t holding the piece of cake – then produced a series of controlled sounds that made no difference.
”Goodness,” the man leaned in and placed his hand on her upper back. ”No wonder you were so peculiar all of a sudden! I thought it was the pastries or your tummy. Do you need some water, perhaps?” he shot the buffet table a quick look, then returned to studying her face with his beautiful eyes.
Ariadne nodded and kept on coughing. The man pounced towards the table at once, quickly grabbed a glass and rushed to fill it with water. Some of the liquid sploshed over the rim and ended up on his black leather shoes.
”Here,” he handed the glass to her.
Ariadne nodded quickly as a thank you and began gulping the water. It didn’t help. If anything, it made matters worse. Now she was coughing all the more. She extended her arm to the side, and he knew exactly what she’d meant by it: he took the glass and put it back on the table.
”Okay, so that didn’t help,” the man said, straightening his spine and running his hand through his hair. ”Let’s try this, then,” he continued and began hitting her upper back. ”Just... breathe! Breathe, damn it!”
The man clearly had a flair for the dramatic. As a matter of fact, for a short while, despite the dire straits, Ariadne found herself wondering if he was putting on a riveting show for the crowd gathering around them.
Unfortunately humans weren’t the only ones paying attention to this. The sounds of coughing and thumping attracted the attention of Judy. The dog misread the whole situation and, alarmed by it, rushed over. She began jumping around Ariadne, barking furiously at the man she assumed was assaulting her auntie. Soon she was joined by other, equally enthusiastic canines. They formed a neat semicircle around them, all of them directing their disapproving noises and glares at the human culprit, ordering him to stop immediately. The absolute high point of the whole thing was when a dog sank its teeth to one leg of the man’s trousers and began playing tug-of-war with it.
”Birdie?” the man pulled back and looked down. ”What are you doing! You leave my pants alone!”
The dog wouldn’t listen, just kept on pulling, up until the moment the sound of fabric ripping cut through the barking like a sharp knife.
”See what I mean?” the man said to Ariadne, referring to his dog. ”A misandrist!”