Waltzing through the automatic doors, Grace felt more alive than she had in years. There, inside the international terminal of the San Francisco airport, all eyes took in her entrance, step by sashaying step. Hoping the scant lingerie under her fur coat wasn’t too obvious, she cinched her belt one secure notch tighter. Not since she’d bid a sad farewell to her twenties had public attention been so intoxicating. She reacted with an uncharacteristically grand gesture, flicking her auburn hair out from under the supple mink collar.
How long had it been since Grace had picked up her husband from the airport—five years? Ten? No matter. Less than an hour had lapsed since she’d left her closest friend’s birthday lunch at Renata, where Grace had admitted to Brett that the number of times she had made love with her husband in the last year matched his coveted golf handicap. Scratch golfer.
Taunting Grace to surprise Peter at the airport dressed in as little as possible, Brett had giddily handed over the new garter belt and stockings she had just picked out before lunch. From across the table, she’d batted her dark brown eyes insistently at Grace while handing her the pretty black-and-pink handled bag from Agent Provocateur, a sexy lingerie designer that Grace had never heard of.
Raymond had then relinquished the mink coat that covered his tight black cashmere sweater and black jeans, insisting it was the perfect camo for the lingerie underneath. And Jane had contributed the strappy Manolo Blahnik sandals from her own feet.
With a final gulp of champagne confidence, Grace had bid Brett and her birthday guests au revoir.
Now here in the airport waiting lounge, stripped to her G-string skivvies and thread of a marriage, Grace wistfully anticipated that moment when Peter, a surprised smile on his lips, would cancel his limo to walk hand in hand with her back to the airport parking lot and then make passionate love to her in the back of her SUV. Being caught by a security guard or outraged wide-eyed passenger might make them flush. But the way she was feeling, she simply wouldn’t be able to wait till they arrived home. And considering how long it had been, Grace was certain that neither would Peter.
* * *
Peter expected perfection: it wasn’t his fault. He’d been raised that way.
He arrived a little rumpled and more than a little tired after ten dusty days in Asia that had left him looking forward to the relaxation of a long flight home. As he expected, the first class cabin was full, thankfully freeing him from having to sit with his uber-competitive boss, Michael, who, as the managing director, only flew in the front cabin. Michael had offered to pay for Peter’s return flight upgrade as a thank you for closing the business deal in Hong Kong. Yet, as fate would have it, Peter’s seat in business class was next to an under-the-influence passenger—one who was even louder while asleep than awake. After an extra half-hour circling San Francisco and waiting for the storm to pass, his patience would have been frayed even faster than usual if he’d been forced to wait endlessly at immigration. Easing without incident through customs with his carry-on garment bag and briefcase before Michael had even collected his checked luggage, Peter expected a routinely calm limo ride home. Breaking stride to check his iPhone as he approached the exit, he relaxed. Good. No surprises.
* * *
Grace glanced up at the arrivals screen and then back over at the government-sanctioned clock with its teasing second hand meandering at a snail’s pace around the dial. It clicked to 2:07 P.M. Peter’s plane had been on the ground for seventeen minutes. Any moment now.
Brett had told her to make sure Peter’s first glimpse of her made a perfectly sultry impression. Forcing herself to stop pacing, Grace sculpted her body into an imitation of one of the sleek models from the latest Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. As she did so, she could feel someone only a few yards away studying her intensely. She smirked with delight as she stole a peek. Hurrah! He was no older than thirty. A delicious idea flashed through her mind, to use this handsome young stranger shamelessly to practice her most flirtatious (albeit rusty) poses.
Digging deep into her memory bank as to how to flirt, Grace recalled how she’d first caught Peter’s attention. Almost two decades back, at Brett’s no-white wedding on the eighth day of the eighth month—auspicious details dictated by Brett’s heritage—Grace had flashed her large green eyes, these being what men complimented first. As one of the ten bridesmaids on her walk down Brett’s red-carpeted nuptial aisle, Grace had surreptitiously spotted Peter, but figured he must be gay with his perfectly tousled hair, double-Windsor-knotted tie and matching breast pocket handkerchief. At the reception, however, she’d then noticed him watching her from across the room and considered that she was quite possibly wrong about his orientation. She’d lowered her head and gradually lifted her long lashes, the ancient geisha trick Brett had taught her, until she and Peter were gazing straight into each other’s eyes. The two of them floated into one another’s arms and swayed to the classic, “Unchained Melody.” Three years later, during their own wedding reception, Peter had hired The Righteous Brothers to perform that same song for their first dance.
In the airport lounge, Grace started to lower her eyelashes, but just as she did, the young gentleman spun abruptly to stare in another direction. She shrugged smugly at his apparent coyness and idly allowed herself to follow his line of sight to the object of his (and every other man’s) attention. Grace’s smile withered and then died altogether at seeing a flurry of golden hair, a rosebud mouth, and slender hips. This woman’s strut was no act. Like a panther, she moved with the sumptuous ease of youth. Grace resumed her guise, although it didn’t feel right anymore; her limbs were all at odds with each other. She slid back to take refuge partially behind the pillar she had been using as her diva prop.
Just then the arrival doors whooshed open. Grace’s pulse raced again, yet less with wild anticipation than with a vague, percolating sense of sobering panic. What the hell am I doing here dressed like a hooker? Grace glanced over at the coquettish blonde who had molded expectantly into a voluptuous silhouette and then quickly looked back at the door. There he is. Grace hesitated for a split second and then nervously pulled herself out from behind the pillar with a toothy grin and a clumsy roll of her shoulder.
* * *
Peter glanced absently from left to right, searching for the familiar tubby figure of Sancho. At least, he guessed it would be the little pudge ball. The limo company had plenty of other drivers, but they knew he liked Sancho. Peter set down his bags. He was concentrating so hard, he didn’t even see her arms before they wrapped round him.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” asked Peter.
“How ya doing, boss?” An infectious giggle escaped her lips as she pressed them against his, molding their mouths into a long, hungry kiss. Peter pulled away and turned furtively toward the arrival doors through which Michael would surely explode any second.
“What happened to my limo? Was there something wrong?” Peter’s worried tone was in contrast to how his body naturally drew in to meet hers.
“No limousine today.” She winked as she placed her hands on her hips in a display of sultry control. “You’re riding with me instead.” She let her blonde locks fall over her shoulders and then bent down to pick up his luggage, revealing even more of her cleavage.
He glanced sharply over his shoulder again before slipping his arm behind her back. “Let’s get out of here, then,” said Peter.
A few yards ahead of them, a woman in a mink coat tripped and fell, crashing headlong into a group of travelers. Peter stepped instinctively toward the melee, but not before the woman picked herself up. Leaving startled people all around her and a broken heel on the floor, the woman ran off hobbling. Peter watched her curiously, until something about her auburn hair and the way she moved hit him like a runaway truck.
“Oh my God, no.” He only half called out, knowing she was too far away to hear, “Grace! Gracie…”