“Just take a look at this one”, she thought to herself…..
Darcel leaned back in her cushioned seat at the swanky restaurant she and her cousin had come to for dinner. But her mind was not on what Julia was saying. What was this guy about? And why he was so drunk he’s almost falling off his chair?
The man in question was dressed to the nines in what was clearly expensively tailored clothing, but something about him seemed out of place. What was it? Perhaps, Darcel mused, it was an air of loneliness about him that was out of place in a dining room sparkling with every kind of luxury and aloud with the laughter of people making merry.
He suddenly put a hand on the table rather roughly and demanded, “Another bottle of Jameson!” His voice was deep and husky, and if not for the considerable amount of booze he’d been downing, that voice would’ve sounded rather good. But right now, being so far under the weather, the slurring of his words made him sound like a fool. A nearby waiter nodded and scurried off, looking more than little bit afraid.
Finished with her dinner, and having said a rather hasty good-bye to her cousin, Darcel decided that this man, whoever he was, was worth ordering a piece of cake and coffee to give her more time to observe him.
He was a big guy, no doubt well over 6 feet tall standing, with a broad build that made everything around him seem small – like a grown man sitting at a table in a child’s nursery. Without thinking, Darcel found herself smiling at him. Not to flirt. Instead it was a precursor to nervous laughter that she was determined to keep down. She was attracted to him all right.
Before she could direct her attention back to the cake that was set before her – the man sensed her watching him and turned sharply toward her. And for a second or two their eyes met.
Though quite red from too much liquor and probably no sleep in days, his eyes shone bright blue and almost, just barely, twinkled. With surprising agility, the big man was up out of his seat and moving, quite steadily to her surprise, and heading toward Darcel’s table. The confused and all the more frightened-looking waiter making fast tracks behind him, carrying a fresh bottle of whiskey.
Nearly in unison, the man deposited himself on a chair beside Darcel, and the waiter plunked down both the bottle of Jameson and a fresh glass. “Will there be anything else, sir?” The waiter asked quietly.
“No!”, the man growled, waving a hand, “Leave us!”
With more surprising panache, the stranger poured himself a generous amount of whiskey, drank down half the glass, and looked squarely at Darcel. “You’re pretty.” He said without further fanfare.
She blushed a little, a response she always found to be rather stupid but was not completely within her own control. “Thank you. But I think you’re at the wrong table. I’m sorry, I have no idea who you are.”
He laughed. “Well, there was a time a few years ago when you would. In fact, ” he gestured toward the large dining room full of people, “everyone here would!”
Darcel was now intrigued. “May I ask then, what is your name? “
“Allen. Tracy Douglas Allen.”
She raised an eyebrow. “The singer?”
Darcel hesitated. It was hard to believe that this man, who smelled of whiskey, tobacco and what she believed to be ladies’ perfume, was the world-famous performer. “You – well – have been thought….to be……”
“Well, honey,” he laughed hoarsely, “I’m not!” And leaning closer still, “Would you like to spend the night with me and find out how alive I really am?”
Darcel wrinkled her nose at the nearness of those powerful smells. They were not entirely unpleasant, though, she had to admit to herself. But she answered as a proper lady should. Or at least a woman who wanted to be perceived as proper.
“You have surely mistaken me, sir. I am not here to get that kind of attention. I was merely finishing a dinner with my cousin. She had to leave earlier.”
Mr. Allen laughed loudly. “That’s what she was? I figured you were both – ladies of a certain value you might say – and that you won the toss up over who was staying to land me as a prize!”
Shaking her head in disbelief and (she fully admitted to herself) feigned outrage, Darcel stood up to leave.
Allen took hold of her arm. “Whatever you are I really don’t give a damn.” He slowly looked her up and down. ” You remind me of someone. She’s quite a bit older than yourself but a rare beauty. You are near to her in my eyes. The offer still stands.” He applied a bit of harder pressure Darcel knew was meant to keep her where she was until she answered. Yet she saw kindness in his eyes and was unafraid. He was, she realized, nothing more than a (rather huge) child in grownup clothing.
He went on, “Aside from being thought to be dead, I’m not only a very capable living man, but have quite a bit of wealth still. Enough to make it worth your while. Just for the night, mind you. I want no more.” He finished the remains of the whiskey in his glass before going on. “You might be shocked at what I’ll pay. It’ll be enough to set you up if you’re smart about it. And, if you are what I believe you are or certainly can be, you will have enough to quit that way of life. So, what will it be, my dear?”
Darcel gently drew back her arm, and Mr. Allen released her at once. Her mind raced. He sounded intelligent. Looked like he had enough money. God knew she needed it. If her cousin Julia had not offered to buy her dinner she would have gone hungry yet another day.
Her voice was barely above a whisper, “Sir, may I ask what amount you are offering?”
“Three thousand dollars.” He answered a little too loudly, causing a few heads to turn in their direction. It appeared not to bother Mr. Allen at all. He kept his eyes on her without flinching.
Her mind sped to process what he’d just said. Three thousand dollars? A small fortune for a night? Why, she could buy that neat little house on the edge of town with part of that amount and have come from the interest of the rest.
It was extremely tempting. Yet, Darcel was skeptical. “You are telling me you would pay such a sum for just one night? I am free to leave at dawn?”
Allen’s gaze remained steady. “Yes.”
She took a step toward him, continuing. “She means that much to you? That woman? To pay an outrageous sum just to have a short time with a lady who reminds you of her?”
He didn’t bat an eye. “Yes.”
After a mere moment’s hesitation, just for show really, Darcel smiled and nodded in agreement.
He motioned to the jumpy waiter. “My lady friend and I are about to leave. Make sure you include her bill with mine. And have a carriage waiting for us outside.” The waiter made a small bow and did as he was asked.
Mr. Allen stood next to her for the first time, towering over her. He looked down and proferred his arm. “My lady, your chariot awaits.”
She laughed sweetly and stood on her tip toes to kiss him on the cheek. Once again the combination of whiskey, tobacco and perfume accosted her. She was about to be, she strongly suspected, not the first woman in his bed today. But she didn’t care. For now, her financial problems would be solved. That was all that mattered.
“Mr. Allen, there is just one requirement. If you don’t mind, I want my money in advance.” She whispered into his ear.
Tracy threw his head back and laughed. Darcel was sure people could hear it clear across town.