He was Italian. He had eyes the color of rich dark chocolate and full sensual lips that ignited a hunger in her that had nothing to do with food. And she was famished. She was wearing her V-neck wrap dressÂ with the black and nude lace push-up bra underneath, and a small silver locket that dangled between her breasts. He leaned over and said, Scusi, pointing to the hot pepper flakes. She passed them. He said Grazie. His warm breath caressed her bare neck as he took the pepper. Her heart fluttered.
Italian?, she asked.
Si, he said.
Rome, she guessed?
Jersey City, he said, scooping pepper onto his pizza. He looked at her and smiled. Some like it hot, he added.
My parents were from Rome. Near Rome, he clarified. You have good taste.
Oh, she said, feeling the heat rise in her face. It’s just a Marguerita.
I mean your necklace, he said. And your dress. I like a woman who looks like you.
How do I look?, she asked. She wasÂ alone. He was with a couple. Their heads were touching. Each fed the other their pizza.
That’s my brother, he said. And his fiancÃ©e. His name’s Tony. It’s a cliche, right?
It’s not his fault, she said. He laughed.
What’s yours?, he asked. If you don’t mind my asking.
Margaret, she said. Like the pizza.
I’m Chris. Christopher. Like the Saint.
He held out his hand. It was broad with strong, well-formed fingers. He wore a college ring. I’m an investment banker, he said. They’re better than lawyers but worse than firemen.
I’m a graphic artist she said. The place was full, noisy. The air smelled like pizza dough, fennel, and beer. A hot fire flickered against the walls of the brick oven. Your hand is strong, for a banker, she said. He laughed.
She felt like herself, yet not herself. Bold. Surprised.
He turned his hand palm up, on the wooden table. She looked at his long fingers and wanted to take each of his fingers into her mouth, one at a time, and pull them out. Slowly. It made her breath come fast.
Want to read my fortune?, he said. Or maybe you see something already?. His eyes glittered and laughed. But his face looked serious.
She took his hand. It was solid and heavy. And strong. She touched the skin of his palm, traced a line. His brother glanced over and smiled. She was oblivious. Her body felt on fire. A waiter passed, carrying a huge pizza. He smiled at her too.
You like danger, she said. You court it. You like to see…how far you can go.
He looked up, surprised. For a moment, then his eyes narrowed. And held her gaze.
How far can I go, Margaret?, he asked.
She kept her gaze on his hand as his dropped to her breasts. He didn’t hide it. Every nerve in her body was burning. She felt transparent, and she wanted to be. She wanted him to see her, see right through her. She felt her defenses falling away, as though they belonged to someone else. His hand in her hand felt solid and intimate — at the same time, like a dream.
She saw he was looking at her, quizzically, and she realized he was waiting for answer.
He said, Forget I said that. But she was now aflame. Every nerve in her body was burning. And she said, I can’t…