Daylight over Las Vegas was disappointing. The neon became nothing more than an annoyance and a bit of Sin City’s magic faded in the presence of sunlight. Everything became ordinary, or as ordinary as possible in a place where a replica of New York City sat beside the largest Coke bottle in existence.
Erin sighed as she turned away from the view, rubbing her eyes and trying not to yawn. She had finally drifted off to sleep sometime during the night. Self-reproach could only last so long after an exhausting day of walking through almost every shop on the strip. A couple hours of fitful sleep would keep her going through the day. No different than finals week cramming.
The knock on the door was expected. Looking through the peephole she could only see Loran’s distorted image. So she had been correct, that kiss had ruined everything. Reaching for her purse, she composed her face into what she hoped was an expectant smile and headed out the door.
"What’s on today’s agenda," she asked, almost wincing at her too-cheerful voice. Calm down. Acting like a nervous idiot will only make him suspicious. As soon as she finished the thought, Erin knew it was true. Loran eyed her curiously. She saw the questions in his mint-colored eyes, questions she did NOT want to answer.
Instead, she took one of the cups he held, "Mine?" At his nod, she sipped at the coffee and sighed with relief. Nothing like sugar and caffeine to make things look marginally better. "I should never have started drinking the stuff. But it keeps me awake while studying. Now I can’t get through the morning without it."
Her words seem to be enough explanation of her mood. Face relaxed as he led her to the elevators, whatever he was going to ask her now forgotten. And hopefully it will stay forgotten…
As the elevator whisked them to the main floor, Erin found something that resembled courage. "Um…where’s Ton?" Not exactly eloquent but at least she didn’t stutter too much or start babbling.
"He wasn’t feeling well so he decided to rest. He said he’d join us this evening for dinner."
Erin watched Loran’s reflection in the polished metal of the elevator doors. There was no nervousness in his posture, but then he was an actor, he could lie and she would never know. He’s probably being nice and covering for Ton. What is he really going to say, "Ton hates you and wants nothing to do with you?"
Sighing, she took another gulp of coffee and wished that she could find a way to fix the mess she had managed to get herself into.
Erin was having fun. She didn’t deserve to. Not after how she had treated Ton, but despite her best efforts to be thoroughly miserable, she was enjoying herself. Strange to actually enjoy shopping. But then I don’t usually have an unlimited back account…
And even without the guilt-free Visa card, the experience was a pleasure. Face had laughed as she ogled the jewelry displays that were so prominent along the promenade, teasingly offering to buy her the huge ruby that caught her eye. "After all red is your color, Love." She had replied by sticking out her tongue and wandering off to the next shop. They had spent at least an hour in the toyshop, most of that time spent soothing poor Face’s ego when he realized there were no Wraith Squadron action figures. Before they left FAO Schwarz, she purchased a matched pair of radio-controlled cars, sure that the Wraiths would terrorize their squad mates with the annoying little vehicles.
After toy shopping came clothes shopping…She really had no idea what she was going to do with all the things they had bought. Every item was completely frivolous and went against what little fashion sense she possessed. What the hell am I going to do with a pair of white leather go-go boots? Of course the way he was looking at my legs while I was trying them on had NOTHING to do with that purchase. Yeah, right.
Somehow he had charmed her into getting the most incredible clothes she had ever worn. Beautiful gowns that she had absolutely no practical use for. Suits that made her look professional and sophisticated. Tight jeans and short skirts. Even the simplest item seemed exotic. Everything was beautiful and vibrant, and somehow she felt the same way.
Erin was beginning to think that everything was going fine until he noticed a certain shop. "We must go in there," he announced, pointing at the pink window dressings.
Oh no…any store but that one…
"But I don’t need…" Erin began, hoping to distract him.
"Nonsense. I have never met a woman who didn’t need more…"
"Lingerie?" He can’t be serious. Trying on underwear with HIM around…Oh Gods… If Face noticed her nervousness, he showed no sign of it as he guided her towards Victoria Secret. Knowing that there was no escape, Erin let out a tired sigh. "I have a bad feeling about this…"
"Can I look?"
Erin ground her teeth as she stared at her reflection. He had been saying that for the past ten minutes. "Can I look? Can I look? Can I look?" It was driving her crazy. Trying to ignore his persistent inquiries, she considered the little black bra and panty set she had selected. It was pretty and nothing like the outfits Face had chosen for her. Suddenly, she wrinkled her nose at the redhead in the mirror. For some reason, the plain lace seemed horribly boring.
Shimmying out of the set, she tossed it over the top of the dressing room door. She hoped they landed on Loran’s head. "Keep those, I might buy that pair."
"I wish you’d let me take a look," he muttered mournfully.
"Now you sound like Hobbie!" she countered, eyeing the set she had picked out while Face had been searching for a corset for her to try. She had said no to the leather, complaining that it would chafe too much. Gods, I can’t believe I’m actually considering… Oh well, she’d always like risqué underthings. And she was only trying it on. There was nothing wrong with trying it on.
"Can I see?"
"No," she growled as she adjusted the satin. He was going to drive her crazy if he didn’t stop asking that! "Can I…"
Her temper flashed. "FINE! YOU WANT TO SEE IT, TAKE A LOOK!"
Face almost fell into the dressing room as the door suddenly opened. He stumbled, then straightened to find a very annoyed Erin glaring at him.
He was sure his jaw hit the floor when he saw what she was wearing. When did she find that… Cream colored satin edged in…Face blinked to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. Feathers? Erin was wearing…feathers….
She almost looked like one of the women in the Follies. Unconsciously she had posed like one of the dancers, one leg bent and her arms gripping the sides of the dressing room doorway. She was completely dazzling right down to the blush that was turning her pale skin a rather warm shade of pink. Smitten didn’t quite cover the feelings generated by the sight of her.
Her silvery eyes widened as she realized what she had done. And when she saw the effect it was having on him…."Oh…My…God…I can’t believe I…." She let out a squeak then slammed the door in his face.
Face wasn’t sure how to react to Erin’s show of temper. It definitely was a show… When he finally convinced her to come out to the dressing room, she had seemed so mortified that he decided silence might be the best option. Though, it was difficult to remain silent when he noticed she purchased both the black lace AND the satin and feathered number. There’s defiantly more to that woman than anyone would guess.
The silence stretched uncomfortably between them as they returned to the hotel. He tried to speak, but each time he looked at her, the words froze inside his throat. What would he say? That she looked lovely in feathers? Somehow he doubted she would find the compliment flattering.
It had to be the most embarrassing thing she had ever done. Even more embarrassing, if albeit less hurtful, than her cowardly run from Ton. But if it had been so embarrassing, then why had she enjoyed it? Why had she enjoyed the way Face had looked at her? Because he’s attractive and you’re starved for attention. Simple really. Nothing more than that. Setting down her shopping bags, Erin paused, eyeing the Wraith as she fished for the key to her suite. Liar. He’s gorgeous and sweet. That’s why you liked it.
Embarrassed or not, she knew she should say something. The silence between them was unnerving. They were at her door. She had to say something before she went inside, even if it was a simple thank you for keeping her company all morning. "Um…Face?"
He paused then slowly set the bags he had been carrying down on the marble tiled floor. "Yeah, Erin?"
"I…um…wanted to thank you for…today." Ok, it sounded lame but it would do. At least the creepy silence had been broken.
Face smirked and took a step closer to her. She desperately tried to ignore those beautiful frosty eyes of his. "Believe me, Erin, the pleasure was all mine."
She KNEW what he was referring to and instead of embarrassment she felt something akin to pride. Leaning against the door, she pretended to be nonchalant about the whole experience. "I will admit," she said slowly. "That I did enjoy some aspects of the day."
"I’m sure you did," he answered solemnly, closing the distance between them. "And here is one more aspect for you to enjoy."
Her eyes drifted closed as she felt his lips against hers. It was the sweetest kiss Erin had ever experienced. Slow and sensuous, tasting of a gentle passion that left her dizzy. Powerful in its simplicity. Devastating her senses with tender adoration. It was a gift she savored with an intensity that frightened her.
Slowly, he pulled away, taking her hand as he stepped back. "Thank you," he murmured before kissing her hand.
As he disappeared into his suite, Erin finally remembered to breathe. And with breath came rational thought, which she swiftly buried until she got her packages into her room. THEN she threw herself down onto the bed and wondered what exactly had happened her mundane little world.
Continued in Part Seventeen