AND WHAT WOULD YOU like me to do to you?” the woman who called herself Desiree asked. She had a voice like rose petals. Soft and sweet. She did her job well, very well, and customers asked for her over and over again. She was talking to one of her repeaters now, and she knew his preferences. “I’d love to,” she murmured. “Just close your eyes, close your eyes and relax. I want you to forget all about the office, and your wife, and your business partner. It’s just you and me.”
When he spoke to her, she answered with a low laugh. “Yes, you know I will. Don’t I always? Just close your eyes, and listen. The room’s quiet and lit by candles. Dozens of white, scented candles. Can you smell them?” She gave another low, teasing laugh. “That’s right. White. The bed’s white too, big and round and white. You’re lying on it, naked and ready. Are you ready, Mr. Drake?”
She rolled her eyes. It killed her that the guy wanted her to call him mister. But it took all kinds. “I’ve just come out of the shower. My hair’s wet, and there are little beads of water all over my body. There’s a drop clinging to my nipple. It slides off and onto you as I kneel on the bed. Feel it? Yes, yes, that’s right, it’s cool, cool, and you’re so hot.” She fought back a yawn. Mr. Drake was already breathing like a steam engine. Thank God he was so easily satisfied. “Oh, I want you. I can’t keep my hands off you. I want to touch you, to taste you. Yes, yes, it drives me crazy when you do that. Oh, Mr. Drake, you’re the best. The very best.”
For the next few minutes she just listened to his demands and delights. Listening was the biggest part of her job. He was right on the edge now, and she glanced at her watch, grateful. Not only was his time almost up, but he was her last customer of the evening. Dropping her voice to a whisper, she helped him go over the top.
“Yes, Mr. Drake, it was wonderful. You’re wonderful. No, I’m not working tomorrow. Friday? Yes, I’ll look forward to it. Good night, Mr. Drake.”
She listened for the click, then hung up the phone. Desiree became Kathleen. Ten-fifty-five, she thought with a sigh. She was off at eleven, so there should be no more calls that night. She had papers to grade, and a pop quiz to make up for her students for tomorrow. As she rose, she glanced at the phone. She’d made two hundred tonight, thanks to AT&T and Fantasy, Incorporated. With a laugh, she picked up her coffee cup. It was a hell of a lot better than selling magazines.
Only miles away, another man clung to the phone receiver. His hand was damp. The room smelled of sex, but he was alone. In his mind Desiree had been there. Desiree with her white, wet body and her cool, soothing voice.
With his heart still pumping fast, he stretched out on his bed.
He had to meet her. And soon.
THE PLANE BANKED OVER the Lincoln Memorial. Grace had her briefcase open on her lap. There were a dozen things to be packed away, but she stared out the window, pleased to see the ground rushing up toward her. There was nothing, as far as she was concerned, that was quite the same as flying.
The plane was late. She knew that because the man across from her in seat 3B kept complaining about it. Grace was tempted to reach across the aisle and pat his hand, to assure him that ten minutes in the scheme of things really didn’t matter so much. But he didn’t look as though he would appreciate the sentiment.
Kathleen would be complaining too, she thought. Not out loud or anything, Grace mused as she smiled and settled back for the landing. Kathleen might have been just as irritated as 3B, but she would never have been rude enough to mumble and moan.
If Grace knew her sister, and she did, Kathleen would have left home over an hour before, making certain to take into consideration the unpredictability of Washington traffic. Grace had heard the note in Kathleen’s voice betraying her annoyance with Grace that she’d chosen a flight that would arrive at six-fifteen, the height of rush hour. With twenty minutes to spare, Kathleen would have parked her car in the short-term lot, rolled up the windows, locked the doors, and made her way, without being tempted by the shops, to the gate. She would never have gotten lost or mixed the numbers up in her mind.
Kathleen was always early. Grace was always late. That was nothing new.
Still she hoped, really hoped, there could be some common ground between them now. Sisters they were, but they had rarely understood each other.
The plane bumped to earth and Grace began tossing whatever came to hand into her briefcase. Lipstick tumbled in with matchbooks, pens with tweezers. That was something else a woman as organized as Kathleen would never understand. A place for everything. Grace agreed in principle, but her place never seemed to be the same from one time to the next.
More than once, Grace had wondered how they could be sisters. She was careless, scatterbrained, and successful. Kathleen was organized, practical, and struggling. Yet they had come from the same parents, had been raised in the same small brick house in the suburbs of D.C., and had gone to the same schools.
The nuns had never been able to teach Grace anything about organizing a notebook, but even as far back as sixth grade at St. Michael’s, they had been fascinated by her skill at spinning a tale.
When the plane was at the gate, Grace waited while the passengers who were in a hurry to deplane clogged the aisle. She knew Kathleen would probably be pacing, certain that her absentminded sister had missed a flight again, but she needed a minute. She wanted to remember the love, not the arguments.
As Grace had predicted, Kathleen was waiting at the gate. She watched the passengers file off and felt another flash of impatience. Grace always traveled first-class, but she wasn’t among the first people off the plane. She wasn’t among the first fifty. Probably chatting with the flight crew, Kathleen thought, and tried to ignore a quick stab of envy.
Grace had never had to try to make friends. People were simply drawn to her. Two years after graduation and Grace, who had skimmed through school on charm, had been rising in her career. A lifetime later and Kathleen, the honor student, was spinning her wheels in the same high school they had graduated from. She sat on the other side of the desk now, but little else had changed.
Announcements for incoming and outgoing planes droned on. There were gate changes and delays, but still no Grace. Just as Kathleen had decided to check at the desk, she saw her sister walk through the gate. Envy faded. Irritation vanished. It was next to impossible to be annoyed with Grace when faced with her.