At the bar, she took a seat on one of the bar stools, and ordered a Cosmopolitan. Watching people dance to a song that went straight to her, well, heart and lower located places, she was waiting for the magic to begin. The first sip of an amazing drink. The first eye contact. She’d bring home a favorable impression of NOLA after all.
The first woman to casually stroll her way was a cute blonde with curly, shoulder-length hair. She stopped to order a drink, giving Payton a long sideways look and a smile. She wore jeans and a low-cut top, revealing an average-priced wardrobe to Payton’s schooled eyes. Payton wasn’t a snob. She appreciated people choosing clothes that fit their personality and body.
“How come you are all by yourself?” the woman asked.
“I’m a tourist—kind of,” Payton told her. “I had the choice between getting up at five to catch my flight, or simply stay up. I thought this place was worth checking out. I’m Payton.”
“Maryann,” her companion said. “Good choice. This is a cool place, awesome drinks—as you already found out—and you can meet interesting people.”
You have no idea, Payton thought, amused. She was, after all, an interesting person if the tabloids were to be believed.
“Sounds great to me. So, Maryann…” For some reason, her gaze fell past Maryann and locked on a woman who stood leaning against a pillar, beer bottle in hand. It might be the one cocktail she had almost finished, but Payton stared, unabashedly, long enough for the woman to catch her doing so and smile smugly in acknowledgment. Payton felt her cheeks flush, more with excitement than embarrassment. She tore her gaze away hesitantly, her voice breathless when she asked, “You live here?” Truth be told, she had come here with the intention of not wasting any time. Her approach seemed to work with Maryann, but all of a sudden, Payton wasn’t so interested anymore.
“Yes, I moved here for work a few years ago. I love it here. It’s where all my favorite lesbian detective novels take place.”
Payton smiled at that before she tried to unobtrusively check for the other woman again. She hadn’t moved from her vantage place, still studying Payton and Maryann with interest. Maybe she was looking for more than one partner for tonight…This time, the heat welled up and went everywhere. Payton was willing to experiment—maybe not that much tonight. She signaled the bartender for another drink, barely able to wait until it was ready.
“I like those novels too,” she said to Maryann. It was the truth, except it had been a long time since she’d had the leisure to sit down and read. Working on her designs was quality time these days, when she didn’t have to attend this charity dinner or that runway show. The cocktail arrived, and she stood, picking it up. “I’m sorry, but I have to go. My date just arrived. Have a great evening.”
She didn’t wait for Maryann’s reaction, the pang of guilt fleeing quickly as she made her way through throngs of people to her intended target, the woman she really wanted to get under tonight.
Payton had met women like her before, gorgeous, with the attitude and the skills to back it up—they usually didn’t stay in her life for long, but she never regretted the time spent together. Her hair was long, but the buttoned down white shirt and black jeans told Payton a lot about who’d hold the door open for whom. Well, she didn’t mind any opening of doors, as longs as things were equal in the bedroom.
“Funny,” she said, craning her neck a bit when she stood in front of her, even in her own three inch heels. “Maryann just told me I could meet interesting people in here. I think she was right.”
“What else did Maryann tell you?” the woman asked, amused. Her voice had a warm, dark timbre, and Payton silently congratulated herself on her choice. This one was a winner. Tonight, she’d be all hers. If all else failed, few women could resist the temptation of a luxury hotel and unlimited room service. Payton didn’t think she’d have to work so hard with her.
“Honestly—I met her five minutes ago. When I saw you, I thought it wouldn’t be fair to get her hopes up too high.”
“Really. Now you’re messing with my hopes instead?”
Payton smiled behind her cocktail glass. “I wouldn’t call it ‘messing’. I’m in a city where I don’t know anybody except my super-annoying clients, and I’m a little lonely. I really don’t like to sleep alone.”
She hoped that wasn’t too direct. There was a type of woman who liked to stick to a certain protocol. It wouldn’t work for Payton in a relationship. Then again, she wasn’t looking for a relationship at the moment, but someone to spend the night with—a few hours, anyway, until she had to go to the airport.
“I can take care of that.” The woman reached out to brush her fingers over Payton’s cheek, her voice dropping to a whisper that caused a pleasant shiver easing down Payton’s spine. She could feel her toes curling slightly, a nice kind of foreboding. “Can I buy you a drink first? I’m Rose, by the way.”
“Payton—and yes, you can. I just had to make sure no one else was snatching you away from me.”
Rose’s reaction was a throaty chuckle. “It sounds very convincing when you put it that way.”
“Good, that was the plan. What do you say we postpone the drink and get out of here? We can always go down to the hotel bar later. They have a pretty good selection as well.”
Rose seemed to hesitate for a moment, then she nodded. “Yeah, let’s do that.” It was subtle, but present, the negotiation for some sort of balance. When they left the bar, Rose’s arm was around her in what could have been a practical move as the place had filled up even more. However, it had the feel of something more emotional, possessive. Payton was fine with that. She loved knowing she belonged.