“Do you always make friends this fast, Senator?” I murmured as our lips parted. The champagne—or maybe it wasn’t the champagne at all—was making me a little bit dizzy.
“Usually not,” he replied, still holding me close. “I’d say this is somewhat of a unique circumstance.”
He leaned in for another kiss, stroking my satin-clad hip. I reached my arms up, around his neck; shutting my eyes, I let myself drift away on the ardent satisfaction, the sweet, tingling affection stirring up in my belly and under my skin where his hands rested on me. Then Andrew swayed me a little closer, sliding his hand under my thigh—the sensation of his fingertips through the gauzy harem pants sent a quick shiver up my spine. I laughed quietly, breaking the kiss. He eased me up against the column, guiding my thigh around his hip before returning his hand to my side.
“Senator,” I whispered, giggling. “I didn’t know you were so… passionate… about your causes.”
“I can be passionate about many things,” he said, tracing his kisses in a line down to my throat, kissing me through the satin of my bright red mantle. “Not the least of which is a pretty girl with a secret.”
His lips brought a flush bloom of exhilaration to my skin, filling me with a fluttering wave of excitement. My head was full of sparkling champagne bubbles and glittery gold sequins as I pressed my full body against his firm, athletic shape, gasping with happiness as his hands stole down to cup my ass.
“Senator!” I murmured, nuzzling my face into his sandy hair, inhaling the clean, fresh scent of his shampoo.
“Please,” he laughed quietly against my skin. “Call me Andrew.”
“No names until the masks come off!” I giggled.
“I hardly think that’s fair,” he breathed. “You knew who I was before you asked me to dance. Just what am I supposed to call you while I’m stripping this lovely costume off of you and laying you down on that park bench over there?”
“Senator!” I laughed. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Oh, wouldn’t I?” he laughed back.
He had me backed up against the colonnade and practically suspended between it and him. His hands ran down my sides and back up the front of my costume—the warmth of his palms slipped over the curves of my breasts, his thumbs running over the nipples underneath the thin satin—even the bra I wore was thin lace and his touch sent another thrilling tickle through the flesh underneath.
My hands tangled in his hair as I kissed his brow, the crown of his head, his ear. My head was a whirl of racing thoughts and emotions—was this really me? Really Andrew? How had we come to be here, so quickly entangled in each other’s arms? Every movement of his hands was accentuated by the slither of material, tracing arcs of pleasure along my skin. I was aware that my nipples had stiffened into excited little peaks standing up under the tight satin of my costume, and Andrew ran his thumbs over them again encouragingly.
I moaned; the jester’s cap jingled as I rolled my head back in pleasure.
Andrew tilted his head up again and we were kissing once more, trading fervent pecks and deep, zealous lip-locks, no longer able to find words in the growing intensity of our embrace. One of his hands stole around my hip, to the back of my costume, searching for the zipper there.
I broke away from the kiss.
“You’ll have to be getting back for that auction,” I murmured breathlessly. “It starts in ten minutes.”
“What a spoilsport you are,” he whispered with a smile. “I can skip it… they’ve got plenty of eligible bastards in there to go up on the sales block and flaunt. They’ll never miss me.”
“You promised the Women’s Society, didn’t you?” I asked. Even as I said it, though, I pressed my hips a little closer against him, daringly exploring the evidence of his arousal beneath the fabric of his own costume, finding him hard and grinning wildly to myself.
“You’ll be in there to bid on me, little harlequin?” he asked. “Because otherwise I won’t go. I’ve got far more interesting business right here in this garden.”
“You are one determined man!”
“Oh, yes I am.”
He pressed his full body against mine, pinning me against the column and kissing me deeply. Both hands cradled my face now, pulling me close as his tongue slipped into a flirting tangle with my own. I moaned under him again, and one of his hands dropped down to caress my thigh again.
“I am quite determined to see you without your cute little mask on,” he whispered. “And without that cute little outfit on, either!”
I laughed out loud, dizzy with glorious excitement. Oh, how I would have loved to let Andrew take me back to his home, oh I would have loved to feel him strip away the tight satin covering my eager breasts and slide his hands along the flesh of my naked thighs. Even the thought of him laying me down on his big, beautiful bed—a bed I had dreamed of being made love to in for years—made me feel giddy with sweet, almost intoxicated joy.
I should have. Maybe I would have. The naughty harlequin in me thought stealing away from the costume ball early for the sneaky thrill of clandestine sex was really the only way this night could end.
But the personal assistant in me—who had been quiet all of the night, letting me enjoy my little game—ticked off the minutes like a pocketwatch in my mind. Andrew had to get back for the bachelor auction; and soon enough, before either of us knew it, it would be time to remove the masks and reveal the faces underneath.
And I would have to be shy little Liz again… shy little Liz in a too-sexy jester’s outfit, in a wilting illusion of glitter and gold.
I had had my fun; I’d had my dance, I’d enjoyed my moment. I’d tasted his kiss and even felt his perfect hands igniting a warmth of arousal and joy underneath my skin. But this plan had come to its end: the harlequin had to beat a hasty retreat, before the truth behind her pretty little tricks was revealed.
“Go,” I told him between kisses, even as he continued his passionate attention. “I’ll see you on the auction block.”
“Am I to take that as a promise you’ll be bidding for me?”
“Take it however you like,” I said. “But go check in before they decide to put some local college lacrosse star in your place.”
He seemed unconvinced, and he didn’t give up right away. His hands kept searching my body, looking for the zipper, while his lips kept up their wonderful attentions on my lips and down my throat. Finally, though, I put up my hands between us, and very gently nudged him away.
“Go,” I insisted. “I’ll be right behind you.”
“Why not come with?” he invited.
I smirked at him.
“And have us both show up, breathless and flushed, with my makeup smeared and my costume awry?”
I gave him a playful little shove. “Go, Andrew.”
He gave me a wry smile, his eyes sparkling behind his tuxedo mask. Leaning in for one last kiss, he finally turned to go back to the ballroom.
“Come,” he told me, cocking his finger at me. “Win me.”
I smiled and tipped him a nod to hurry him along.
As soon as his back was turned and he was disappearing down the colonnade, I sat down on one of the benches beside the reflecting pool, and smiled at my now-slightly-mussed reflection. Lipstick smeared, a lock of hair escaping the jester’s cap here and there, a bright flush reddening my cheeks—but still, in the eyes of the mirror me I could see the bright, sparkling pleasure of a woman who was truly, deliriously happy.
I had kissed my boss.
And though it had been only a few short, stolen moments… it had been everything I expected it would be.
I didn’t return to the ballroom or even watch the auction. I slipped away quietly, hailing another cab and riding home in silence, taking off my mask and jester’s cap as I sunk into the backseat thinking dreamily of Andrew’s affectionate hands, his warm, perfect lips. When I got home I stripped of the rest of my costume and hung it up neatly, taking one last moment to admire the pretty satin and ribbons and bells. Then I stared at myself in the mirror for long, long moments.
I was just Liz again. Tidy, organized, mousy little Liz, with a little smeary makeup on and a big stupid grin on her face.
I smirked at myself, and even winked, before climbing into a shower and getting ready for bed. It was nothing but pleasant dreams.
The next morning I was awoken by a smart rapping at my door. It was still early—earlier than I wanted to wake up on a weekend—and for long moments I just stayed in bed, wondering who would be knocking at this hour and when they would give up and leave. After several minutes, though, they still hadn’t, so I got up, pulling on my pajama top and bottoms, and heading for the door.
I was stunned to sheer silence when it was Andrew standing in the hallway of my apartment building. He leaned in the doorway, his eyes narrowed and a teasing smirk on his face.
“So you never did show up last night, Liz,” he prodded.
I didn’t answer at first—I was still too puzzled to even understand him. Stammering ridiculously, though, I invited him in and retreated to the kitchen to pour coffee for the both of us.
“Why didn’t you come?” he asked, taking a seat at the counter.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “My car wouldn’t start and I was here for hours waiting for the guy from the roadside assistance. It was a nightmare, Andrew.”
“Mm-hmm,” he said. “I’ll bet it was.”
“Are you angry?” I asked, pausing in my search for mugs.
“No,” he shrugged. “Although I certainly hope it won’t become a habit, you missing important events like this.”
“It won’t,” I promised, hoping he couldn’t see my blush as I pretended to still be searching, even though there were two perfectly good mugs right in front of my hand.
There was silence between us for several long seconds, and finally I plunked down both porcelain cups and started pouring the coffee. I popped two sugars into his and a dollop of cream in both, turning around to join him at the counter as I slid his mug to him.
“Good,” he finally said. “Because we’ve got another important event tonight.”
“Tonight?” I said. “There’s nothing on the calendar for tonight.”
“Just added it,” he replied. “Very important meeting. At the Courtyard Steak House, in downtown.”
“That’s a very fancy meeting,” I said, reaching for the small notepad I kept by my phone. “What time is it set for?”
“Seven,” he said. He had a pleasant smile on his face; I guessed one of the more prominent ladies of the city had won the auction for him last night.. “And be sure to wear something nice, of course.”
“Of course,” I said, dashing off the information.
“Like an evening gown.”
“This is a business meeting?” I asked, puzzled.
“Business of a sort,” he said with a smirk. I stared at him for several long moments… and a creeping suspicion was starting to bloom in my chest.
“I see,” I said quietly, laying down the pen.
“I’m glad,” he said. In one more gulp he had finished his coffee and was up, helping himself to the sink to rinse the cup and plop it on the drying rack. Then he turned and headed for the door, as if the only reason he had come all the way here was to inform me of this appointment. I hopped up to show him out, acting almost entirely on instinct, still confused by his mischievously strange behavior.
“Liz,” he said, spinning to face me again before he left. “Promise you’ll make it this time?”
“Yes, Andrew,” I said.
“Promise?” he insisted, dropping me a wink.
“Yes, I promise. I will be there.”
Then, he leaned forward, kissing me on the lips before I even realized it.
“With bells on,” he grinned, before slipping out the door.