Late last night
Kristine Atterbury, Contributor
Archie, the cameraman stood poised in the parking lot of the club, his red cap perched at an angle, his right arm propping up the Sony DVcam that was balanced on his shoulder. I stood next to him, shifting from one foot to the next, feeling weary, and wishing, not for the first time, that I had a regular nine-to-five job like most people.
"How you waan do this?" Archie asked. I sighed and looked at the shot. The camera was aimed at a sleek, off-white Cadillac Escalade, in front of which posed two very skimpily clad girls and one very conceited VJ.
I motioned to the two girls, whose vacant smiles hadn't flickered one bit in the five minutes we'd been standing there. "Can you move closer to the VJ, please? Andrew, put your arms around them." They tottered closer to him on four-inch heels, needing no further encouragement. Andrew gave a wide grin, I waved a hand at Archie and the VJ began his spiel, "This is Late Last Night, only on ..."
I wandered off a short distance, surveying the crowd entering the party.
It wasn't that I hated my job. On most days, I enjoyed being a producer for the island's most popular music station. It was just that it was the holiday weekend, I was tired, and I was now stuck spending the next several hours with Andrew Blake, a man I normally did my best to avoid as much as possible. I tried to predict the night ahead:
Me, struggling through a crowd of intoxicated Kingstonians, trying to find people to interview. Archie, ignoring my instructions and filling the tape with shots of women's breasts. Andrew, having the time of his life, as usual.
Andrew was effortlessly good-looking, tall, with milk-chocolate skin and deep-brown eyes framed with long eyelashes. He wore his clothes well, usually a button-down shirt with the front tucked casually into jeans that were not too loose and not too tight, but fit well enough to show off long, strong legs. His smile was diabolical, displaying teeth that were slightly crooked and somehow lent even more appeal to his good looks.
We had only worked together once before and he had made me so nervous I had tripped over one of the power cords in the studio, nearly tipping over one of the expensive lights in the process. His overconfident smile and arrogant personality ticked me off but that didn't mean I was immune to his looks. I was annoyed, not blind.
He had never tried to get with me, he must have known better, but sometimes, during one of our weekly production meetings, our eyes would meet and hold for what seemed like a long moment. There was something in his quiet gaze that made me curious. But after the meeting was over, he would be back to his licentious self, and I'd be left to cuss myself for getting caught up like any foolish ho'.
I sighed. These were the things I didn't want to have to think about.
Archie finished shooting the intro and I strode ahead through the club's entryway, ignoring the giggling and heel-clicking behind me. The security guard stationed at the entrance looked me up and down, his gaze taking in my purple off-the shoulder jersey dress and my black gladiator heels. Another thing I hated about my job: having to dress up all the time. Long bangs framed my face, but I had pinned the rest of my short tresses up into a bun. The less effort, the better.
And so the night went on. Andrew did interviews, danced with random girls and sampled free drinks from the bar. I stayed out of his way, yelling most of my instructions to Archie. At one point, a drunken girl weaved across my path and I stumbled, nearly falling, when a warm hand grasped my arm, hoisting me upright. I looked up into Andrew's handsome face and mumbled a word of thanks before striding ahead again.
After a couple of hours, I told Archie to take a break from taping cutaways and leaned wearily against the balcony of the club's second level. After a moment, Andrew appeared. Despite all the drinks he had sipped, he seemed clear-headed. He stood beside me, watching the crowd.
He leaned towards me. "Finally, a moment alone," he said with a smile.
"Right," I replied.
"You know I've been trying to get your attention all night?"
I looked at him with incredulity.
He laughed, displaying those wickedly sexy teeth. "For real, though, Jillian. I like you."
My heart tripped and I turned away from him, trying to hide my confusion.
The DJ shouted something unintelligible and the music changed, Vybz Kartel giving way to Tessanne Chin's Hideaway.
"Well, I like this song," I said in reply. He nodded at me, his face suddenly serious, his eyes riveted to mine. We looked at each other for a moment that seemed to go on forever, then I cleared my throat, giving him a plastic smile, and turned to watch the crowd. There were mostly couples sprinkled across the floor. Girls stared dreamily into their lovers' eyes as Tessanne crooned about what her love could do.
I felt a sudden longing to be at home, or at the office even, anywhere but there.
Andrew kept watching me, I felt his gaze on the back of my neck as I surveyed the club, but I didn't want to look into his eyes again, and risk exposing ... well ... anything. I remembered those very eyes raking over half the girls at work. I don't know who he thought he was fooling.
"Want to dance?"
I shot him an irritated look. "No, thank you." Waving a hand at the crowd, I said, "But don't let me stop you. Nuff pretty girls around for you to pick from."
"That's true," he said. Then, casually: "But is you I want."
I hissed and kept my gaze firmly on the dancing throng. I felt him move closer and before I could get out of the way, he had planted a hand on either side of me, holding on to the edge of the balcony. His chest brushed my spine, and my body went hot and cold at once. I felt his lips brush the top of my shoulder and shuddered, trying to keep my knees from buckling. Thinking back, not once did it occur to me to push him away, to wrestle my way out of his arms, to tell him to behave himself. All I remember is a sudden kind of giddy relief and a mixture of fear and anticipation as I waited to see what he would do next.
His lips moved from my shoulder to the back of my neck, and a thrill ran through me. Without knowing what I was doing, I closed my eyes, and leaned back, revelling in the solidity of his chest and shoulders as he pressed closer to me. At some point the music had changed once more and now Tarrus Riley was singing. Andrew leaned his head towards mine and sang along under his breath, "She's royal, yes, so royal, and I need her in my life."
I suddenly remembered where I was, and turned to face him, aggrieved. "Singing song lyrics? How many girls you try that on?"
I expected him to laugh at me but instead he fixed his serious gaze on me once more. I tried to wriggle out of his way, but he only leaned closer. His gaze swept over me, rising to linger on my mouth. Trepidation filled me as he dipped his head closer to mine, the sheer nearness of him making me shiver. One hand came up to trace the line of my cheek, and then began a slow journey down my neck, past my shoulder blade and on to the soft swell of my breast. He paused, his breath quickening to match the rhythm of my own.
Then slowly, very slowly, he began to move to the music, one hand resting against the small of my back and pulling my body closer to sway with his.
Lord, I didn't want to want this man. There was no room for him in my neatly ordered life, no time for the havoc he was wreaking on my mind. I couldn't see him getting along with any of my friends, couldn't see myself introducing him to my father's frowning face, and I certainly didn't see a place for myself in his wild world. But I could barely process these concerns as he held on to me and I lost all train of thought when he closed the small distance between us with a sudden yank of his arm and finally brought his lips to mine.
The music and noise of the club faded to a dull roar. My thoughts jumbled together and then came to a complete stop. I let go of all my defenses as Andrew wrapped both arms around my waist and tightened his grip even more, crushing me into a kiss that was fierce and aching.
I was lost.