Franci Johnson grew up hearing her grandparents' love story a thousand times and wishes to find the kind of undying love Frank and Maureen had once upon a time.
DJ Scott Kincaid just wants the ghost following him to go away. But Maureen thinks the hunky DJ might be just the answer to her granddaughter's dreams.
Frank propped his elbow on the iron railing at the edge of the dance floor and absently watched yet another Humphrey Bogart lookalike attired as film noire detective Sam Spade arrogantly strut across the ballroom, through the forest of faux palm trees and potted plants with crepe paper leaves.
Ribbons of gray tobacco smoke broke and swirled in his wake. The hard, leather heels of his polished shoes clicked a beat on the floorboards. At a rickety, corner table barely illuminated under the flickering flame of a sconce gas lamp, a Rick Blaine copy in the character's patented white tux and black tie rose from a wooden folding chair and grasped Sam's extended hand. An obvious Vivian Sternwood Rutledge in full aqua gown uncharacteristically scurried across the floor until she stood at Sam's side where she ran her hand over the back of his black suit coat. A glint of a too long pocket watch gold chain flashed in the dim, orange light. A subtle nod to Rick's left, and Sam turned his shoulders to take the hand of a seated Nora Temple resplendently sensuous in a black dress with plunging neckline that tickled the top of the fleshy V of her very noticeable, ample cleavage.
"You're staring," whispered Frank's own duplicated Nora into his right ear. "Not that she doesn't have a lot to stare at."
"She forgot the necklace. When Lauren Bacall played Nora, she wore a necklace with that dress in Key Largo. A silver one that clung to the base of her throat and accentuated the graceful turns of her head. Lauren Bacall isn't only the most beautiful actress to ever grace the silver screen, she makes the clothing and accoutrements she wears stunning"—he shifted his gaze and lost himself in his wife's glistening green eyes—"just like you do."
A quickly raised hand pinched his jaw at the chin. "Franklin Johnson, you are such a liar." Maureen's glossy red lips curled at the corners. "But a sweet one." She pushed his face left. "She's wearing the necklace."
He coughed a hairball of embarrassment. Oops.
Maureen pulled his face back to hers. In heels, she stood nearly as tall as he did and leaned in as if to offer up a kiss but stopped a heated breath short. "You want to gawk at a woman's chest, gawk at your wife's."
Frank glanced down. Maureen had captured the top of her black silk, body-clinging dress between thumb and forefinger allowing a full view of her diminutive, unclad breasts and perked, pink nipples.
His groin stirred immediately within his Rick Blaine white tuxedo trousers. "You hussy," he heaved out in a thick rasp. "Where is your brassiere? Some new moral descent didn't happen when we left the 50s behind us." Heat scorched his ears. How had he not noticed before this? His breath caught. God, she was beautiful.
"Built-in cups just firm enough to hold me in place." She chuckled at his discomfort and released the cloth, then slipped her arms beneath his jacket and around his torso. Inching in to him, she only stopped when the hardened beads atop her bosom pressed through his shirt and against his chest.
"Mmm," he moaned. Her mouth found his ear. Little nips tugged at the lobe. He stroked the sides of her body under the cool silk. The temperature of her skin headed for sweltering, the silken material warmed. Sweat beaded under his arms and between his thighs. She pressed into his thickening erection, which snapped to full attention under a tidal wave of arousal.
He allowed himself the publicly displayed pleasure of sliding his hands to the top of her buttocks, tracing the indentation with his little fingers. Nuzzling her soft throat, he whispered, "I want to make love to you right now. Let's get out of here."
The six-piece band comprised of three strings, the leader's clarinet, one sax, and a trombone returned from break to the small stage at the end of the long room, and oozed into a slow, soft rendition of As Time Goes By. Humphrey Bogarts and Lauren Bacalls of all sizes, shapes, and costumes materialized from the shadows of the gas lamps resurrected for this annual event celebrating Bogart's life and death. The past's mimes took to the dance floor under tiny squares of haunting light from the mirrored orb of the Harvest Moon Ballroom.
"No." Maureen grabbed his hand and yanked him into the throng of couples on the dance floor. "Bogie and Bacall wouldn't let a night like this go to waste . . . and neither will we." Her left hand snaked its way to the small of his back, her right took his left in a pretense of submitting to his "lead." She opted for a closed box foxtrot with her body trying to merge with his, their steps no more than foot-length shuffles.
"Besides, you haven't given me my anniversary orchid yet. Ten years today, Franklin Johnson. And though I love you more than ever, and have borne you three children, you will give me my orchid."
All the blood in him fell to his feet. The room swayed, but not to the music. The mirrored ball spun in a prismatic dervish. A ghostly orchid, fragile and pulsing its matte colors, swirled in and out of his vision.
"Frank? Frank! Are you all right?"
Movement. His. Somehow he moved across the floor—the orchid just beyond his grasp led the way.
"Sit down." The voice from an unseen well belonged to Maureen.
He did as instructed.
"I'll get you some water. I'll be right back."
The orchid hung motionless in the air. He reached out his open palm. The flower settled onto his skin. A smile parted his lips. The orchid was as beautiful as Maureen. A faint heat emanated from the flower's core. He brought the bloom closer. Flames engulfed the petals, burned his hand. Reflexively he dropped the small ball of fire onto the table where it disintegrated into black dust and disappeared.
The chilled rim of a glass touched his lips. Iced water trickled between them. He gratefully swallowed the mouthful, filtering out the ice cubes with his teeth, and then gulped down the entire glassful of water.
"Come on, pal." A man's voice. Hands under his arms lifted Frank from the chair. "You just need to lie down a few minutes. A little too much bubbly, eh?"
"Our tenth anniversary," Maureen said. "We had some champagne earlier, but I didn't think he'd had that much. My husband isn't a drinker normally. Only on special occasions."
Frank flopped his head back, watching the dark ceiling boards skip past. He tried to count them, but they moved too quickly as the men on either side of him half carried him from the ballroom. Then his feet scuffed their way up a stairway and into a small room. A lamp clicked on. Light under an emerald shade flooded a cluttered desktop. He was lowered onto a leather couch that squeaked his arrival.
Maureen appeared in front of him and helped him out of his jacket. She loosened his bowtie and unbuttoned his collar. Cool air sprinkled his exposed throat.
"I'll have a pitcher of water sent up. Stay as long as you want. Not the first time a guest needed that couch to sleep it off." Two shadows stepped through the doorway into the hall.
"He's not drunk," Maureen said in a huff. She wiped his face with her open hand. "Are you okay, honey? You scared me there for a minute."
Little by little, Maureen's face came into focus. Lines of worry wrinkled her brow. Still, the creases somehow looked damn good on her. Age would meet its match in this gorgeous woman. Frank grinned. "Yeah. Better now. Just got a little dizzy. I guess I should stay away from champagne that comes in six-packs. I'm fine. Let's get out of here." He placed his hands on the cushions and pushed in an attempt to stand.
Maureen countered with her hands on his shoulders. "You stay right there, Mister, until I'm sure you're all right."
He tilted his head and kissed her wrist. "I'm okay. Honest. Let's go home." Something inside him rolled over. An urge, a need of some kind. A desire to leave this place.
"We will, Frank." Maureen guided him downward and placed a throw pillow under his head. "But I want you to rest for a few minutes. For me? Please?" She lifted his feet onto the couch. His shoes thumped on the floor. Cool air swarmed over his stocking feet, delivering a sense of comfort in its rush. Her hands went to his waist. His belt came undone, then his trousers unbuttoned.
Tension ebbed under Maureen's care. Wrapped in her love, he was as safe as she was in his. He swept away the orchid as a momentary quirk in the thick tobacco smoke. "Too much champagne, celebration, dancing, and too much confined heat from the packed house crowd. That's all that happened. Nothing to be concerned with. I'm fine. And I still want to make love to you."
She arched a brow and ran the tip of her tongue across her red lips. Subtly moving her hips from side to side, she gripped the zipper of his pants and slowly tugged it down; each metal link clicked surrender to Frank's private lap dancer. A not unfamiliar game in their bedroom. But they certainly weren't in their bedroom. His interest and erection swelled.
Ten years of marriage, and Maureen could still turn him on in an instant.
"Are you trying to seduce me, madam? I am a married man, you know." He waggled his left hand back and forth. "I have a ring and everything."
Maureen narrowed her eyes, and huskily whispered, "It's the everything I'm after." She ran a finger over the cylindrical shape of engorged flesh under his cotton briefs. "Bogie and Bacall wouldn't waste an opportunity like this."
A grin of desire spread across Frank's face. "And neither will we."
Staccato tapping at the door.
Maureen snapped her head around. Frank groaned and looked at the young man in the open doorway. Oops.
"I – I . . . ." The trembling teen filled his lungs and tried again. "I brought your water?" He held up a cranberry colored metal pitcher and two matching tumblers. A vein of liquid dribbled down the side of the pitcher. Droplets splattered onto the wood floor.
"Put it on the desk, please," Frank mumbled. His cheeks could have lit charcoal briquettes. He dug out his wallet and a five spot. "Here. For your trouble."
"No trouble." His task completed, the teen turned to leave.
Maureen snatched the bill and stuffed it in the boy's shirt pocket. "Then accept it as a friend who won't spill his guts about what he thinks he saw that he didn't. Will that work for you?"
The freckled face flushed. "Yes, ma'am. Thanks." He all but ran out of the room. The door clicked closed behind him.
Maureen turned the lock, and then pirouetted on the ball of one foot. She kicked off her shoes. One hit the desk with a thud. Her hands slithered down her body to the hem of her dress.
"Are ready for this, Mr. Johnson?"
"Oh yeah, Mrs. Johnson."
Her features grew concerned. "Are you sure you're okay, Frank? We don't have to do this."
His heart pounded excitement and need. Muscles contracted, relaxed, tightened again. There was no way he wasn't going to make love to his wife right here, right now. "Want to bet? Take off the dress, or I'll rip it off with my teeth."
Maureen pulled the black silk from her body without mussing so much as a strand of her rolled blonde hairdo. Black panties hid the fluff between her sweat-glistened thighs. After wetting the tips of her index fingers on her tongue, she rubbed each one around the pink areolas of her milky breasts. The nipples strained and stretched.
Frank's mouth watered for the taste of her—for every inch of her. His erection throbbed for the feel of her wet folds.
"What would you like me to do, Mr. Johnson?" she throatily taunted.
"Undress me. Then I want you to lie down and enjoy. Tonight's about you. I'm going to eat you from top to bottom and back again. And I don't plan to stop until you beg me."
She ran the back of a finger down her chest, to her belly, and then dipped her hand under her panties. The black material moved in waves as she stroked herself.
His hard-on needed another two inches of skin or he'd explode.
She took a step toward him. His body quivered in anticipation. Another step and her gaze shifted to the throbbing pole between his legs.
"What if someone comes to the door? What if they discover what we're doing in here?"
The questions served to tease him, to make him wait a few more pain-filled breaths of wanting. "Let 'em wait their turn," he snarled. "Take my clothes off and spread your legs. Bogie's hungry, and he's looking at you, kid."