“Can I ask you something?”
“Quickly, I have to count out.”
“How many drinks did he have?” I asked as quietly as I could.
Debbie smiled as if I’d asked the exact right question. “Two. He nurses like a baby.”
“I know you don’t know me that well yet, but… would going out the front be a mistake?”
“Only if you take it too seriously.”
Debbie walked off to hand out the rest of the envelopes. What she said had been a relief, actually. It made the boundaries that much clearer. I could hang out, be close to him and feel the buzz of sex between us, but I had to be careful about climbing into bed with him. Fair warning.
Jonathan Drazen stood in the lobby, talking to Sam, laughing like an old buddy. I wasn’t going to approach him with my boss right there. Sam seemed like a fine guy for the fifteen minutes we’d talked. With his white hair and slim build, he looked like a newscaster and had an all-business attitude. I just pushed through the revolving doors, figuring fate had lent a hand in deciding whether or not I’d see Drazen outside a rooftop bar.
I was three steps into the hot night when I heard him call my name.
“You stalking me?” I asked, slowing my steps to the parking lot.
“Just wanted company to walk to my car.”
We strolled down Flower Street, the long way to the underground parking lot. Any normal person would have gone through the hotel.
“How do you know Sam?” I asked.
“He introduced me to my ex-wife, which I’m trying to not hold against him.”
“You’re a good sport,” I said. “Have you always been blue?”
He tilted his head a few degrees.
“Dodger fan,” I said. “I would’ve taken you for more of an Angels guy.”
“Ah. Because I have money?”
“I like a little grit,” he said, that smile lighting up the night.
“Is that why you met me after work?” I asked, turning toward the parking lot entrance.
He let me go first into the underground passage, and I felt his eyes on me as I walked. It was not an uncomfortable feeling. When we got to the bottom of the ramp, we stopped. I parked in the employee level and his car was in the valet section. I held up my hand to wave good-bye.
“It was nice to talk to you,” I said.
We faced each other, walking backward in opposite directions.
“See you around,” I said.
“Okay.” He waved, tall and beautiful in the flat light and grey parking lot.
“What do I have to say?”
“You have to say please,” I said.
“Where do you think you’re taking me?”
“Come on. Text a friend and tell them who you’re with in case I’m a psycho killer.”
The early hour guaranteed a traffic-free trip to the west side. I’d gotten into his Mercedes convertible thinking most killers don’t drive with the top down where everyone could see, so I just let the wind whip my hair into a bird’s nest. Jonathan drove with one hand, and as I watched his fingers move and slide on the bottom of the wheel, the hair on the back of it, the strong wrist, I imagined it on me. I grabbed the leather seat, trying to keep my mind on something, anything else, but the leather itself seemed to rub the backs of my thighs the wrong way. “So, you pick up waitresses a lot?”
He smirked and glanced over to me. The wind was doing crazy shit to his hair as well, but it made him look sexy, and I was sure I looked like Medusa. “Only the very attractive ones.”
“I guess I should take that as a compliment.”
“You definitely should.”
“I’m not sleeping with you.”
“You mentioned that.”
So maybe the rumors were true, and he was a total womanizer. Well, I’d already told him sex was off the table, so he could womanize all he wanted. Didn’t matter to me at all. I was driven by curiosity. Who was this guy? What was it like to be him? Not that it mattered, I told myself, because again, I had no time for a heartbreak.
“What’s your instrument, Monica? You said you were a musician.”
“My voice, mostly,” I said. “But I play everything. I play piano, guitar, violin. I learned to play the Theremin last year.”
“What is that?”
“Oh, it’s beautiful. You actually don’t touch it to play it. There’s an electrical signal between two antennae, and you move your hands between them to create a sound. It’s just the most haunting thing you ever heard.”
“You play it without touching it?”
“Yeah, you just move your hands inside it. Like a dance.”
“This, I have to see.”
When he tipped his head toward me, I thought, oh no. He wants to play it for him. Never gonna happen. For some reason, the idea of this guy seeing me sing or play made me feel vulnerable, and I wasn’t in for that at all. “You can watch people play it on YouTube.”
“True. But I want to watch you do it.”
I didn’t know where we were going, so I didn’t know how much of a drive we were in for. I wanted to get off the subject of me before I told him something that gave him a hold over me. I had to remember he was my new boss’s friend, and I really liked working at the Stock.
“What do you do besides own hotels and pick up very attractive waitresses?”
“I own lots of things, and they all need attention.”
He pulled the car to the side of the road. We were on the twistiest part of Mulholland, the part that looked like a desolate park instead of the most expensive real estate in Los Angeles County. A short guardrail stood between the car and a nearly sheer drop down to the valley and its twinkling Saturday night lights.
“Let’s go take a look,” he said, pulling the emergency brake.
I got out, thankful for the opportunity to uncross my legs, and slammed the door behind me. I walked toward the edge overlooking the city. My heels kept hitting little rocky ditches, but I played it off. They were comfortable, but they weren’t hiking boots. I stood close to the guardrail, leaning against it with my knees. I felt him behind me, closing his door and jingling his keys. I’d been to places like that before. There were thousands of them all over the city, which was surrounded by hills and mountains. Way back when, before I’d sworn off men as a distraction, I’d been up to a similar place to squirm around the back of Peter Dunbar’s Nissan. And after the prom, I’d come up to drink too much and make love to Darren behind a tree.