Exuberance spun out of the twirl. The man was still watching her. She sashayed over to the bar, swishing her skirt, and stood with her bared back to the table where he sat. She felt his stare making suggestions she wasn’t getting enough, these days.
“May I buy you a drink, pretty lady?” He was beside her now, leaning on the fake driftwood bar; a middle-aged man, neatly dressed. He looked like he took good care of himself, other than the broken vessels on his cheeks that said he was a drinking man.
She smiled, and he smiled back.
“I like cosmos.” She let a hand reach out to almost brush his. The man’s eyes followed it, and Exuberance’s smile got wider as he hurried to catch the bartender’s attention. She flipped her hair over her shoulder, as he ordered drinks – her cosmo, and a double scotch, neat, for himself.
They toasted to nothing, and sipped. After a minute or so, he said, “Do you only dance alone, or -”
“Are you asking?”
“Yes. Will you dance with me, -?” He left a space for her to say her name, and he leaned in close. Exuberance just breathed him in for a few breaths. He smelled of good scotch, suntan lotion, and expensive cologne; the smell of easy money and luxury.
It had been too long since she’d had either.
“I only give my name to people who give me theirs, first,” she answered, and this time she did touch his hand. He caught it, brought it to his lips. They were soft, and lingered just long enough to tease her. His eyes glittered in the low lighting.
“You can call me Howie,” he said, with a crooked grin that made promises – promises Exuberance thought she might let him keep.
“Hello there, Howie. I’m Exuberance.” She grinned. She hadn’t had a night this exciting in months; maybe longer. Suddenly, she felt alive – even exuberant enough for the name she’d taken. “Yes, I’ll dance with you.”
Howie was smiling, too. He had a nice smile, and that glitter in his eyes got her imagining. “Exuberance. What an unusual – and fitting – name.”
He kept her hand, and led her out onto the dance floor just as the music changed to a hot Latin beat. They nearly ran into another couple; a silver-haired man with a very young girl, maybe not even out of her teens. They clung together, kissing and swaying, as though they didn’t notice that the slow dance was over.
“Shameful,” Howard said, looking back over his shoulder at them. “He must be three times her age, at least.”
“They seem happy.”
He scowled. “It just doesn’t seem right,” he said.
Instead of arguing, she whirled out onto the floor, pulling him along until he wrapped his arms around her, bringing her hard against him before spinning her away.
Howie was a good dancer, and, when the next slow song came on, he pulled her in close, his arm just a little tighter than she liked – but it felt so good to be held by a good-looking man with money that she pretended she was comfortable, and gave herself to touch and motion happily.
They danced until they were breathless, and then headed back to the bar. After one drink, Exuberance excused herself to go “to the powder room” she said, like she was a fancy lady. When she got back, Howie had already ordered another round.
“Thank you,” she said, as he wrapped an arm around her and kissed her. He tasted of scotch, and his mouth was hungry on hers. She sipped the drink, then let him buy her another, and another, although she had a rule about stopping at two.
She was a little giddy when he bent to brush her hair from her ear and whispered, “Would you like to go get something to eat? I know a very nice place, secluded and quiet, up the beach. Very, very classy.”
“I know the place – you mean the Oyster’s Treasure? Howie, that’s the most expensive place on the whole island!”
“I’m thinking it’s going to be worth it.” The glitter in his eyes was brighter now. Was there a shadow in them? No, she decided. It was just the drinks catching up with her.
Exuberance shoved the doubt away, and teased, “And if it isn’t?”
“Then I’ll have to take you again,” he said, and his smile this time said all the things his words didn’t.
Exuberance let Howie lead her to the door.