CHEATED

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Chapter 23. DANGLER

The week after Thanks Giving I met with the editor of the East Hampton Star, a local Long Island newspaper. I hoped they would carry some publicity articles for me about a new builder at the beach. The Star wasn’t high class journalism, but the summer before, one of the issues caught my eye with a front-page photo of a semi-nude couple sitting together in the sand next to a jeep. The caption read: “Truck Beach”; and headliners about public outrage over a new nightclub; and an article questioning housing data.

It was a clear evening as I left their New York Offices on Lexington Avenue, so I decided to cab a few blocks west then enjoy a stroll down Fifth Avenue. I people watched and window shopped the Holiday decorations, each store outdid itself with glamour and dazzle. It was already dark when I reached Rockefeller Center, just in time for the annual tree lighting ceremony. The 70-foot Norwegian Spruce stretched into the night sky. Caught up in the crowd, I found myself moved along the railing overlooking the ice rink, under the flags on 51st street.

It was the perfect spot to watch with a full view of the tree. Suddenly I felt a bump and grind as someone behind was shoved into me by the jostling crowd. Twisting to give the perpetrator a reprimand, I found myself staring straight into the eyes of none other than Mr. Bobby Dangler. He raised his gloved hands, I was never quite sure if it was an effort to protect against another shove, to say “not me, I didn’t do it,” or to surrender? When the crowd surged as the tree illuminated to full brightness, he unwittingly planted full leather front and center on my coat, and gave the twin Fox ladies a full grope.

The shocked look on his face turned quickly to recognition when he realized it was me, and his grimace reversed to a full smile. AS did mine.

“Lori!” He grinned and hugged me. “Happy holidays! Lucky for me I bumped into you,” he laughed, “Or this could have been really embarrassing.”

Before I could answer, another thrust from the throng propelled us into each other’s arms. Was that a stiff dangler in his pants bumping against my thigh?

“Come on,” he shouted into my ear, “let’s get clear of this mob.”

With his arm around my waist, Bobby guided me into the street and out of the crush. Flushed and off balance, I kept hold of his arm to steady myself.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

“Oh, Bobby.” I was pleased to hear a breathless quality in my voice, feeling like a damsel in distress and thinking this was the perfect rescue.

“How about we find a quiet spot to get a drink?” He offered.

“Good idea.” I accepted, allowing him to take my hand and lead me.

Sitting in a quiet corner at Morrell’s Wine Bar, a couple blocks south of Rockefeller Center, Bobby held my hands across the table as we waited for the waiter to bring a bottle of their finest C&P Breton Bourgueil. As Bobby explained, “A passionate red wine, with hints of stewed fruits and spices. Just the thing to brighten your spirits on a chilly December evening.”

“Feeling better?” he asked, as I sipped the deep red liquid and let the heat spread down my throat.

“Yes, wonderful,” I told him. “Thank you for saving me. I love New York, but that crowd was something else.”

“Lori,” he said, with a happy warmth in his voice. “Lori. What brought you to Rockefeller Center tonight, and how have you been?”

“I might ask you the same question,” I replied, and explained that I had just left a meeting with Ramsey Jackson, editor of the East Hampton Star.

“I know Ramsey,” Bobby commented. “We go way back to paper boy days.”

Bobby and I sipped wine and nibbled charcuterie as we laughed comfortably over shared summer stories. I waited for him to ask about Dick, and was ready with my answer when he did.

“Last I heard, you were solid on Dick’s arm. Why am I discovering you alone on the streets of New York?”

“Dick? Oh my, I haven’t seen him in ages.” I feigned casual indifference.

“Really?”

“If I remember correctly, it was, hmmm, well, it was at that little bar uptown, and,” at this point I offered a sigh and a pout of my wine-red lips before continuing, “I thought I would hear from you, Bobby. Why didn’t you call?”

Flustered, Mr. Dangler offered to remedy the situation, and invited me to dinner on Saturday night. Then, like a gentleman, he hailed a cab and dropped me off at my building on his way home. Before sliding out of the taxi, I leaned in for an endearing kiss on the cheek.

“I’m so glad we bumped into each other,” he said, his warm hand caressing my cheek, “I’ll pick you up at 7 on Saturday.”

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