Hôtel Daunou-Opéra, Paris, France

She screamed when he presented her with the two box-seat tickets to the Paris Opera Ballet. Screamed and launched herself at him, arms around his shoulders and legs around his waist. Screamed and kissed every inch of his face as he stumbled backwards, narrowly avoiding clonking his head on the sloping eaves. His calf hit the boxspring and he fell back onto the mattress with her on his chest. She planted her knees around him, the curtains of her hair closed up his face. With the tickets in one fist and back of his collar in the other, she kissed him hard, gave him her tongue, and growled into his mouth, “You so got yourself a blowjob.”

He was all for collecting right then and there, but instead he was promptly abandoned, she was off of him and heading down the little spiral staircase.

“Where you going?” he asked forlornly, following her partway down on the steps. In the small living room she was shrugging into her camel coat and stepping into her boots.

“I have nothing to wear,” she said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“You’re gonna leave me hanging?”

She gave him a look as she put on her gloves. “Don’t worry, you’ll be rewarded. Handsomely.”

He tried his best injured expression but she was having none of it.

“Have I ever let you down?” She smiled up at him.

He sighed, capitulated reluctantly. “You are a woman of your word.”

“Damn right, sir.”

“Fine. Go. Spend a lot of money.”

“I will,” she said. “Take a nap.” With a happy whip of her red cashmere scarf she was heading for the door, off in search of a dress.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, left in the wake of her perfume. He trudged back upstairs and took a moment to admire the view of the 9th arondissement from the picture window before pulling the drapes closed. He lay down on the smooth, cool sheets, reached for a pillow, pounded it into shape. Folding his hands behind his neck he fell asleep, smiling smugly at the slanted ceiling and thinking of all the implications within the word handsomely.

Her pleasure that evening was a palpable thing, and it warmed his skin like sunshine. In her new ball gown, with her hair swept back and diamonds winking at her ears, she was so beautiful he found himself quietly choking up. The usher opened the door of their private box with a flourish, bade them enter with a gloved hand. She took two steps in and then stopped dead, open-mouthed. Even he was momentarily stunned at the magnificence. They were top tier, the last box, two birds in a nest. In an awed silence they took in the view of the theatre, the glint and glitter of chandelier light, the velvet seats, the beautiful people below, the orchestra tuning up, and she turned to him with brimming eyes.

“Thank you,” she whispered, her hand finding his and squeezing tight. “This is a dream.”

She was in her element, sitting up straight and attentive, not wanting to miss a thing. It was a concert-style program this evening, with divertissements from the major classical ballets, interspersed with contemporary works. They opened with two Shakespearian selections: Kenneth MacMillan’s iconic balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, followed by John Cranko’s comedic pas de deux fromThe Taming of the Shrew. He enjoyed both the performance and her intermittent, whispered commentary. He suspected she was showing off her knowledge a little, touching his wrist and murmuring, “watch this,” a split second before the ballerina made some spectacular leap into her partner’s arms. But hell, she did know her art, and she was so happy, he would indulge her anything. At one beautifully executed passage in Romeo and Juliet, she drew in her breath and brought her hands up to enclose her mouth and nose, then folded them into fists beneath her chin and turned her head to smile at him with such bald joy that he was helpless with love for her.

The second act was a contemporary ballet, Syncope, which she described as “one of Maurice Béjart’s nude mythologies.” His interest perked up at that, but within five minutes it deflated like a balloon: the music was dissonant and jarring, the choreography twisted and weird, there was neither myth nor any discernible storyline, and frankly the nudity was nothing to scream at. Confused, he sat back, put an ankle on the other knee, crossed his arms over his chest and looked over at her questioningly. She sat back as well, returned the expression and rolled her eyes.

He smiled, suffused with forgiving affection, and he put his palm on her face, running his thumb along her cheekbone, curling his fingertips under her jaw. She turned her mouth into his palm, then her eyes turned wicked and she closed her lips around his thumb. At the touch of her tongue he felt a stirring below the belt and raised his eyebrows at her. She flicked her gaze to the closed box door, back to him, and in a rustle of silk and tulle she slid off her seat and was on her knees beside his chair.

“Stop,” he said, with stop being the furthest thing from his mind.


“You’re insane,” he whispered slowly, keeping his arms crossed but taking his ankle off its perch and letting her move in closer.

“I believe I owe you for the tickets.” Her fingers were at his belt buckle, undoing him. He swallowed and ran a hand down the curve of her neck, out over her bare shoulders. Surreptitiously he turned his head this way and that. Nobody sat above them, and the high partitions blocked the next box from view. Only the people on the other side of the ring might have a clue what was going on, but they seemed transfixed by the performance. Nobody was looking.

“Is there a lock on that door?” he asked with the last vestiges of rational thought he could drum up.

“Doubt it,” she whispered, unzipping him, reaching into his pants. And then she had him in her hands, he was fully hard and completely turned on and fuck it. He exhaled softly, closed his eyes and let his head tilt back—fuck everything—and she was down on him in the dark of the Paris Opera during a performance and his life (yes) was complete.

The music became tolerable, He opened his eyes and stared at the complex, weaving patterns of bodies onstage, and it all made sense. It was all just great.

Her mouth was all over him, drawing him down down into that warm, wet softness beyond her tongue and teeth, pulling and releasing, again and again. If they were in bed she would be holding him down, working him with both hands and mouth in that way she had with him, God, she was good. If they were alone in bed he would be groaning his head off, telling her anything and everything. But here and now he could only sit still and project normalcy and not give away what was going on beyond the balcony wall. And it was going to send him right over the edge. Fast.

Slowly he ran his hand over her, wherever he could reach. Her skin so soft, her mouth was so good. She had him. Damn this woman and her ways, she always had him, she knew just how to make him crazy.

She wasn’t letting up. The music swelled into crescendo, the dancers grew more frenzied. As did her head in his lap. Was she actually choreographing this? He wouldn’t put it past her. God, her mouth, her tongue, her hands, her skin. With a dissonant blast from the brass section, it was on him then and he closed his eyes and held his face still as the wave crashed over him. His heart pounding hard in his ears, toes curling in his dress shoes, hand curling hard into her shoulder, the roll of her collarbone between his thumb and fingers as he flooded her mouth and she took it, took all he had to give, she was good, she was so damn good…

Interminable minutes slipped by. Their breathing stilled in unison. She was still kneeling between his feet, now with her cheek resting on his leg and her eyes closed, one of her hands curled in one of his. He held it tight and with his other he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, tenderly traced her jaw, her diamonds, the slope of her neck and shoulder, the line of her rising and falling breasts. Quietly she put him back together, zipped and buckled him, and slipped demurely back into her seat just as the music faded out and the lights onstage went dim.

The theatre filled with applause. They clapped along enthusiastically, and when the stage lights came up they looked just once at each other and dissolved into hushed, complicit laughter.

He leaned in close to her ear. “Have I mentioned how intensely in love with you I am?”

“Mm-hm,” she murmured, eyes fixed on the stage again, face twitching from the attempt to look composed and the color rising up in her neck.

Throughout the rest of his life, if ever he found himself in a conversation about dance, he took great pleasure in opining that his favorite ballet was Syncope, which he’d had the privilege of seeing at the Paris Opera. One of Béjart’s nude mythologies, really intense but not overly-sexualized, just incredible, really. He didn’t have the words to do it justice. Really you had to see it live.

And if she happened to be standing by him, she blushed every time.