It can’t happen again. Like spontaneous combustion, we collided that night. The memory burns in my mind. I rise above my desire for more, but seeing Sam at the gallery is awkward. Sometimes painful.

I am dressed suitably chic for the opening, in a black cocktail-length sheath and simple accessories. I do like a sexy shoe; however, and tonight I’ve selected gold open-toe evening sandals with 4-inch heels and rhinestone details. I’m not showy when it comes to clothes, but I like to look clean and classically stylish with just a bit of added intrigue.

Christophe mans the front door looking dapper as usual in his mismatched hipster garb and ironically bed-headed appearance.

“Well, hello, miss thing!” he gushes, grabbing my hands and kissing me on both cheeks.

“Hey, Chris, how is Dex?”

“Let’s not go there, tonight, lady girl…” He rolls his eyes.

“Enough said.” We share a  look that is code for a three-hour brunch and gab session coming soon. “Have you seen Sam yet?”

He rolls his eyes. “He’s painted into the corner with that Rachel bitch from the Henry gallery.”

“Kisses, my dear, see you at the after.”

I make my way across the room, through the maze of rental waiters in their black and whites hustling champagne and hot canapés, until I finally find the two of them standing in front of one of the larger works.

They appear newly acquainted and there is a flirtatious quality in the way he is holding his head. Making subtle inquiries, those getting to know you pitches—taking the swing that either soars or falls dead at his feet. Even from a distance, I notice the tiny beads of sweat collecting on his upper lip. He’s putting himself out there. For her?

Eric approaches, all business, as usual. Black jeans and tailored shirt, affecting his standard too affluent to care look.

“Did you speak with Devereaux?” I feign engagement in the business tonight.

“He seems interested in the Rogue series.” I continue, monitoring Sam and Rachel out of the corner of my eye.

“Yes, it is getting a lot of attention tonight,” he beams proudly.

“He’s going to want to talk you down on the price—you know how he is.”

“We’ll see.” Eric rocks back on his heels, brow furrowed in thought.

I notice Sam making his way out into the courtyard with his hand placed easily on the small of Rachel’s back. My heart sinks.

“I think I’m going to make the rounds and turn in for the night…” I wince at the bright lights, suddenly sensitive to the least little distraction. “My head is killing me.”

We say goodnight, because I know Eric won’t be home until two in the morning. I usually accompany him to the obligatory after party, but not tonight. I feel my face flush with jealousy. How easily Sam seems to pick up women. How casually they just seem to drop into his lap. How foolish I was to fall right in line. Right under his spell.

Out on the street, I wait for a cab on weary feet, cramped in my cute shoes I just had to wear even though they pinch my toes within the first five minutes of slipping them on. Across the street, music pumps from Seven, our usual  haunt on gallery nights. But not tonight. A familiar figure reclines against the outside wall of the bar. He nods my way and smiles. He is alone.

He starts across the street and my first reaction is to turn away, but where to go? It’s too late and he’s right there, smiling—welcoming.

“Early night?”

“I have a splitting headache.” Pulling my sweater against my chest protectively I look beyond—out into the street, scanning for a cab.

“I know I have no right to ask…” He touches my shoulder. “And by the way, I was not trying to seduce Rachel, if that’s what you’re thinking. “ He looks serious—concerned, his deep green eyes searching mine.

“Can we go somewhere and talk?”

I look back toward the gallery, thinking about my silent, empty house.

“Okay.” I hear myself answer as we head down the block together.

To be continued…