S he woke up abruptly— click! Like that, no warmup, no transition, no ascent into consciousness out of a dream. She was just all at once awake, brain in gear, all of her senses operating but sight. Her eyes were closed, and she let them remain that way for a moment while she picked up what information her other senses could provide.
She felt the cotton sheet under her, smooth. A good hand, a high thread count. Her host, then, wasn’t a pauper, and had the good taste to equip himself with decent bed linen. She didn’t feel a top sheet, felt only the air on her bare skin. Cool, dry air, air-conditioned air.
Whisper-quiet, too. Probably central air-conditioning, because she couldn’t hear it. She couldn’t hear much, really. A certain amount of city noise, through windows that were no doubt shut to let the central air do its work. But less of it than she’d have heard in her own Manhattan apartment.
And the energy level here was more muted than you would encounter in Manhattan. Hard to say what sense provided this information, and she supposed it was probably some combination of them all, some unconscious synthesis of taste and touch and smell and hearing, that let you know you were in one of the outer boroughs.
Memory filled in the rest. She’d taken the 1 train clear to the end of the line, following Broadway up into the Bronx, and she’d gone to a couple of bars in Riverdale, both of them nice preppy places where the bartenders didn’t look puzzled when you ordered a Dog’s Breakfast or a Sunday Best. And then . . .
Well, that’s where it got a little fuzzy.
She still had taste and smell to consult. Taste, well, the taste in her mouth was the taste of morning, and all it did was make her want to brush her teeth. Smell was more complicated. There would have been more to smell without air conditioning, more to smell if the humidity were higher, but nevertheless there was a good deal of information available. She noted perspiration, male and female, and sex smells.
He was right there, she realized. In the bed beside her. If she reached out a hand she could touch him.
For a moment, though, she let her hand stay where it was, resting on her hip. Eyes still closed, she tried to bring his image into focus, even as she tried to embrace her memory of the later portion of the evening. She didn’t know where she was, not really. She’d managed to figure out that she was in a relatively new apartment building, and she figured it was probably in Riverdale. But she couldn’t be sure of that. He might have had a car, and he might have brought her almost anywhere. Westchester County, say.
Bits and pieces of memory hovered at the edge of thought. Shreds of small talk, but how could she know what was from last night and what was bubbling up from past evenings? Sense impressions: a male voice, a male touch on her upper arm.
She’d recognize him if she opened her eyes. She couldn’t picture him, not quite, but she’d know him when her eyes had a chance to refresh her memory.
She reached out a hand, touched him.
She had just registered the warmth of his skin when he spoke.
“Sleeping beauty,” he said.
Her eyes snapped open, wide open, and her pulse raced.
“Easy,” he said. “My God, you’re terrified, aren’t you? Don’t be. Everything’s all right.”
He was lying on his side facing her. And yes, she recognized him. Dark hair, arresting blue eyes under arched brows, a full-lipped mouth, a strong jawline. His nose had been broken once and imperfectly reset, and that saved him from being male-model handsome.
Early thirties, maybe eight or ten years her senior. A good body. A little chest hair, but not too much. Broad shoulders. A stomach flat enough to show a six-pack of abs.
No wonder she’d left the bar with him.
And she remembered leaving the bar. They’d walked, so she was probably in Riverdale. Unless they’d walked to his car. Could she remember any more?