Entre Nous


Anne Brisk& S X Meagher

"Let’s see … we’ll share a bottle of Bianco Latimis — the ’99," she said, handing the wine list back to their waiter. She waited until he walked away, then said, "I think you’ll like this wine, Marcus. It’s not exactly what I had in Capri, but the sense memory might help me to remember that I was lying on a beach just last week. I need all the help I can get to keep conjuring memories of my vacation."

"I wouldn’t mind lying on a beach right now. This is a cold city in winter. London rarely dips below zero. Oh, I mean thirty-two degrees. This weather will require some adjustment."

"So will your references to Fahrenheit instead of Celsius," Eleanor reminded him. "We’re oddly proud of the fact that we monitor temperature in such an arcane way."

"It’s a tad noisy in here. Mind terribly if I move closer?" She gave him a noncommittal look, and he moved his chair and his place setting. "I’m looking forward to dinner here. Why is it one of your favorites?"

"Well, I love French food, and I love seafood, and La Gamine is the best of both those worlds. They also have fantastic desserts, and I’ve been gifted with at least six sweet teeth."

"Six?" His eyes began to focus more intently on her lips, and for the first time that night, Eleanor began to get a funny feeling about this business dinner. Being the direct sort, she decided to put her agenda on the table.

"I’m interested in hearing what you plan on doing with our less successful hardcover books to make them pop out once they get to trade paper. I hope you’ve got some ideas we haven’t tried yet, Marcus."

Their waiter had busied himself opening the wine and pouring a tasting glass for Eleanor to approve. He interrupted, handing her the glass, and said, "Madame?"

She tasted the wine quickly, then nodded. "C’est parfait. Merci bien."

As soon as the waiter left, Marcus leaned back in his chair, clearly feeling relaxed and expansive. He gave Eleanor a smile. "Business? Must we?"

"You’re right. Let’s talk about you. Tell me how you ran the London division."

He laughed, giving her a wry look. "I suppose we must."

"I’m hopeless," she said. "I have a hard time being social during a business dinner."

Did that give you a clue, buddy?


"Jesus, Annie, just get your camera out. That way you can enjoy her in the privacy of your home."

"I’m not …" The young woman looked at her friends and saw that dissembling was a waste of time. "Okay, so I was looking at —"


"All right, I was staring. Give me a break — look at her!"

"I thought lesbians were above that obvious leering," Gayle said.

"Oh, Gayle, Gayle, Gayle. Where do you get these precious notions?" Annie asked. "So archaic, so … Nathaniel Hawthorne."

Her friends, who were her co-workers as well, laughed. The four young women shared a table across the room from the lovely, dark-haired woman and her companion.

"It’s the twenty-first century, Gayle. Women now have the freedom to feel — gasp —" she covered her lips with her hand and stage-whispered, "sexual urges." A rakish smile formed on her lips, and her voice dropped. "Maybe you’re not wired this way, but I love to look at women and put them into wet and messy and, yes, even nasty fantasies. Men do it, and women do too. And if you’ve never done the same thing — you’re missing something hot."

"I fantasize about men all the time," Kit said. "I never fall asleep without a man — even when I’m alone."

Gayle caved. "Fine. We’re all sluts. Let’s admit it and move on."

"Another round," Annie proclaimed. She signaled the waiter and nodded in the direction of the dark-haired woman, saying, "I’ll be what she’s having." At his puzzled look, and amidst the laughter of her friends, she amended, "We’ll have another round."


Turning to glance at the source of a burst of raucous laughter, Eleanor lingered on the group of four women across the bar.

I wanna change tables, she thought with a mental pout.

She watched the waiter deliver another round of drinks to their table, and she tried to figure out how old the women were by what they’d ordered.

Hmm … a beer, two glasses of white wine and something red in a martini glass. Could be a Cosmo or a Raging Bull. The beer says not long out of college. Single glasses of wine makes them look pretty young, too. If they were sophisticated, they’d probably order a bottle, rather than sticking with the house brand. Of course, they could be ordering from the wine list. I think they have some nice whites by the glass. The Cosmo’s going to … ooo … the cute blonde. I hope it’s a Cosmo. If it’s a Raging Bull that means she’s about twenty-two, and I’ve gotta throw ‘em back when they’re that small.

Marcus nodded when the waiter approached, and the man poured the rest of the bottle of wine into their glasses. "Care for another bottle?"

Eleanor unwillingly dragged herself back to reality. "No more for me, thanks. If I have any more to drink, I won’t be able to concentrate on business."

Or those women, her libido added. That blonde is just my type. I hope she’s old enough to drive.

The waiter left the couple to their conversation. Marcus caught her gaze and asked, "We needn’t define business too, too narrowly, need we, Eleanor?"

Eleanor groaned internally. Why me? Why is it always me? How do they find me? Is it pheromones? Why do mine work so well on men? I’m gonna stop taking that damned B vitamin.

"No, of course not. I’d like to get to know you, Marcus. I think that can only help us to develop a better working relationship."

I’ve never had such spectacularly poor results with any woman. She’s not wearing a wedding ring, but maybe she’s seeing someone. I suppose she might not find me attractive. Marcus paused for a moment and gave that possibility his consideration. No, that’s not it.

"Great," he said, with a slightly forced smile. "Here’s to our working relationship." He lifted his glass, and Eleanor clinked hers against it.


"Oh, fuck me, they’re toasting." Annie set her chin on her fist. "What can that mean?"

"Yes, darling, of course I’ll marry you?" Gayle offered dryly.

"The syphilis test was negative?" Kit suggested.

"If the poison works as planned, your wife will be dead within the hour," Maggie said.

"I like, ‘Here’s to inadvertently having been given a table with a stranger who’s going to dinner alone in about two minutes,’" Annie muttered, moping.

"I can’t tell," Kit said. "They don’t look like they’re together, but they don’t look like strangers, either."

"Maybe it’s a first date," Maggie said.

"I’ve still got a chance if it’s a first date," Annie said, brightening. "Ten minutes with her in the rest room …"

"I want to know why we’re all focused on looking at that woman," Gayle said. "Especially when the guy she’s with is so incredibly hot. You’re the only lesbian here, Annie. Shouldn’t majority rule?"

"You look at who you want, I look at who I want."

"I want Taye Diggs to walk in here and ask me to marry him," Gayle said. "I think I have about the same chance as you do."

"I won’t let your lack of self-confidence infect me," Annie said. "I know I could make that woman happy. For a night, at least."

"Have you ever noticed," Kit said to the group, "that when someone gets out of a relationship, she’s either filled with doubt or bravado? I think our friend here got a healthy portion of bravado from her breakup."

"Hey, I’ve been monogamous for two years," Annie said. "It’s time to sow some wild oats. And I know just where I wanna sow ‘em."

"You’ve been with three women, Annie. That doesn’t make you a player."

"Gotta start sometime," the blonde said, her optimism firmly intact.


"You know, Eleanor, I don’t know much about you. You’re obviously well thought of at Random House, and the word around the European offices is that you’re one of the rising young stars. But that doesn’t tell me much about you. Fill me in, won’t you?"

"Sure." Warming to her topic, she leaned in and folded her hands on the table, her arms pushing her breasts out and up. The candlelight bathed her features in a warm, golden glow, and her eyes glimmered like jewels. She licked her lips, and her nostrils began to flare. "I’d love to work in one of the European offices. That’s been my goal since I joined the firm. I speak French, and I’ve been studying German for the last four years, just so I can be ready at a moment’s notice."

Marcus discretely slipped his hand under the table and made a much-needed adjustment, nearly groaning as the pressure in his lap eased.

She’s obviously not frigid, he thought. But how do I turn that ardor for her job towards me?

His index finger slid down her folded hands, and he played with her dark red thumbnail.

A tiny scowl materialized at his touch, and he pulled away. "Tell me more," he said.

Somebody’s not paying attention. We’re co-workers. We don’t touch. Time to put the chill on.

She sat up straight in her chair, and Marcus watched in amazement and dismay as the sparkle in her eyes disappeared and a door that had seemed open slammed shut.

"My career is very, very important to me," Eleanor said. "I try to stay out of office politics and the petty squabbling and gossip that saturate the publishing business. I’m a lot of fun away from work, but I never mix business with pleasure." Her eyes hardened, and she gave him a feral smile. "Ever."

"I see." He sat up a little taller as well and straightened his tie. He was sure it was already neat, but he’d felt like she’d been yanking on it. "Look, Eleanor, I hope I haven’t given offense. I’m terribly afraid I have, and that’s really the last thing I wanted. You’re a beautiful woman with whom I hope to have a mutually beneficial professional relationship."

"I’m not offended in the least, Marcus. I don’t know of a woman who doesn’t like to be found attractive. I simply never date anyone at Random House or in the publishing industry at large."

"Well!" He leaned back again and crossed his arms against his chest. His voice had a somewhat defiant tone. "It must make it hard to find dates when you rule out your entire professional cohort."

The professional mask was whipped away as quickly as it had been applied. Eleanor’s lips, generous, ripe and red, curled into a smile. Once again, her full, lush breasts were thrust forward, her shoulders level and erect. Her eyes glittered again, and she spoke in a voice usually reserved for the most intimate of moments. "Not really."

"Point well taken," he said, crossing his legs.

Eleanor waited until Marcus raised his glass again, knowing that his vision would be obscured, then winked playfully at the blonde.


"They’re not together!" Annie proclaimed, slamming her glass onto the table.

"They look together to me," Kit said. "She looks like she’s gonna have him for dessert."

"No, no, that’s just a façade. She doesn’t want him. She isn’t attracted to him at all! I’m sure of it."

"How can you be so sure?" Maggie asked. "She’s leaning against that table like she’s scent-marking it."

"Oh, puleeeeze! Are you three insensible to the world around you? Didn’t you see her shut down a second ago? She’s playing with the man for some reason. That last sizzling look was all for show. I’m certain of it." She leaned over and all three women followed suit. "Besides," she whispered, "I swear to God that she just winked at me."

"She did not!" Maggie said. "I’m facing her, and she didn’t even look over here."

"Then you looked away for a second. I’m telling you, the woman winked at me."

"Whether or not she winked, I think Annie has a point," Gayle said. "I don’t know why I’m helping her analyze a perfect stranger, but I think she’s right. She’s not giving off ‘I like you’ vibes with that guy."

Annie gazed at the object of her affection with a blissful smile on her face. "She loves me, she loves me."

"Yeah. She loves you. From twenty feet away, without speaking a word or knowing a thing about her, she loves you," Gayle said. "Let’s wrap her up and take her home."

"She might not love me yet, but she will. She’s just so perfect. Look at her eyes," Annie said. "See how sharp and focused they are? That’s a sign of intelligence. And she’s very animated when she speaks. Lots of energy. That means she’d be good in bed."

"Oh, so … Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse … would also be good lovers?"

"So droll," Annie said, patting Maggie on the leg.

Gayle leveled her gaze and said, "All right, Miss Player, Miss Thing. You found her. She’s perfect. What’re you gonna do about it?"

"Don’t rush me. I just now decided she’s perfect for me. It’s gonna take a few minutes to figure out how to make her mine."

"How do you know she’s gay?" Maggie asked. "She sure doesn’t look it."

Annie blinked at her friend. "What does gay look like?"

"Not like that!" Maggie maintained. All four women took another look, and this time, Eleanor caught them. Her eyes met Annie’s and held for just a second, while a smile turned up the corners of that sexy, red mouth.

Annie blanched and sank into her seat, choking and reaching for her glass. "Oh, fuck."

"You’re in!" Kit declared.

"She really gave you some eye contact, girl!" Gayle agreed.

"You’re about to faint, aren’t you?" Maggie predicted, having known Annie for years. "You always bite off more than you can chew."

Annie gurgled helplessly in response.


Eleanor couldn’t keep the smug smile from her face, try as she might. She truly loved to flirt, and there was something especially gratifying about flirting when she was with someone else. She gazed boldly at the young woman over Marcus’ shoulder.

Oh, she’s blushing! Isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?

She shifted in her seat, very proud of herself for eliciting such a reaction.

Now I have to come up with a plan to cull her from the herd. It’s almost impossible to do that in a setting like this. I mean, we’re not at a club. I can’t very well ask her to dance here in the bar at La Gamine.

"Pardon?" she asked, not entirely sure that Marcus had spoken, but suspicious of the expectant look on his face.

"Shall I check on our table? It should be ready by now."

"If you’d like."

I can spend a few more minutes flirting with that adorable woman. Hmm … I wonder if she’s going to have dinner, too, or just drinks. If we go upstairs, I’ll lose her if she isn’t going to eat.

With Marcus out of the way, Eleanor could give full rein to one of her greatest talents. She sat back in her chair, picked up her glass and slowly rolled the liquid around. She kept her eyes glued on the blonde’s profile as she tilted the glass, letting a bit of the wine warm her mouth. The women watched with as much stealth as they could manage, and Eleanor saw two of them desperately whispering to their friend. The blonde turned, pretending to catch the waiter’s eye. She shot a quick glance at Eleanor, and when she saw the woman staring right at her, she began to turn inexorably in her direction, nearly tipping over in the process. Kit grabbed her arm and held on — righting the chair and helping Annie save face as well as other important body parts.

Damn! I’ve never almost killed one! Well, I’ve made my intentions clear. If you want to meet, you’re gonna have to give me a sign. Other than falling on the floor.

Marcus came back and said, "It’ll be another half hour. Can you wait?"

"How do you feel about sashimi?" she asked. "We could have a light dinner right here — let’s move to the sushi bar."

"That’s fine, if you’re sure."

"The sashimi is fantastic, and I generally eat very little at dinner anyway," Eleanor said.

"Whatever you do, it works," Marcus said, giving her a friendly smile.


Face flushed, palms wet, heart thumping, Annie dabbed at her brow with her napkin. "Tell me I didn’t almost fall on my face. Tell me!"

"You didn’t almost fall," Kit said, giving her a sympathetic look.

"Yes, she did!" Gayle laughed. "Don’t lead the girl on. She’s got to know the truth."

"Well, no one noticed," Kit maintained.

"Girl, the whole restaurant looked!" Gayle insisted. "The bus boys came out of the kitchen!"

"They did not," Annie said, her tone pleading. "Please, please, tell me they didn’t."

"Uh-huh! They sure did!"

"I’ve got to kill myself. What would make less of a scene? Hara kiri or hanging myself with that towel dispenser thing in the bathroom?"

"I favor a simple ritual suicide," Maggie said. "It’s always classic."

"Don’t worry about it," Gayle insisted. "No one here knows you — or wants to."


"I’ll have sashimi, a la carte, please. I’d like Botan shrimp, kohada, toro and bonito."

"Very good. And for you, sir?"

Marcus laughed, gazing at Eleanor. "That’s not enough food for a cat! I think I’ll make up for my light-eating companion by ordering the sushi and sashimi platter."

"What type of roll would you like with that, sir?"

"Spicy tuna."

"Excellent choices. Would you care for some saki with your dinner?"

"None for me," Eleanor said. Marcus shook his head, and the waiter walked away.

"So tell me, do you always eat so little? I don’t think you’re going to have two ounces of food."

She smiled and said, "I eat quite a lot, but I try to eat early in the day. I feel better that way." She was trying her best to keep up the conversation, but it was clear that Marcus didn’t want to discuss business, and other than that, she had no interest in him. She was, however, still quite enthralled with the attractive woman who was sitting across the room. The woman’s friends seemed to be reassuring her that falling off furniture in public was no longer the faux pas it had once been.

God knows I found it endearing. She’s very attractive, and besides that, there’s something completely genuine about her. She looks like she’d be a lot of fun, too, and I could stand to lighten up a little. Gee, I have a lot of furniture in my loft. I wonder if she’d like to come home with me and fall off it.


Annie continued to stare at the floor, convinced she’d blown the chance of this or any other lifetime. Her past girlfriends had been attractive, but this woman made attractive seem like an insult. And it wasn’t just her looks, which were stupendous, it was the playfulness that Annie could see hiding just behind those indescribable eyes. She had an air that was sophisticated, yet approachable; it made the young woman certain that she was more than just a beauty.

"Oh, what have I done?"

"For God’s sake, stop moaning!"

"There is no God! If there were one, we’d be in her apartment, and I’d be sitting on her lap, attached to those lips. Not wishing a hole would open up and swallow me."

"What makes you think this woman was attracted to you in the first place?" Gayle asked.

"She looked at me. She swallowed wine at me. I could tell!"

"Well, she’s still lookin’," Gayle said, "although it’s from a different direction. She’s got a better angle now, and every time I sneak a peek, she’s sneaking one right back at you. You’re still in the running — even after falling off your chair."

"I did not fall," Annie insisted. "I nearly fell. Big, big difference, and thank you, Kit."

"My pleasure, buddy."

"Where’s that confident player who was ready to hook up in the bathroom?" Gayle asked. "One little slip and you’re ready to give up the game?"

Annie squared her shoulders as she sat up. "You’re right. I can’t let something so minor ruin my chance. She probably didn’t even notice."

"Oh, she noticed," Gayle insisted, "but she’s still looking. That’s what counts."

"The question is, how do I make her look and —"

"Unh-uh," Gayle said, "your turn."

"My turn?" Annie gulped. "Really? Can’t she make one more little move?"

"Nope. Your turn. Put up or shut up."

"I’ve … never really been in this situation," Annie admitted. "This is such a formal place, and she’s with someone. What should I do?"

"You’ve never heard of sending someone a drink?" Maggie asked.

"You don’t send a woman a drink when she’s with someone! That’s an insult to both of them!"

"Just gut it up and go talk to her," Kit said.

"And say what? ‘Hi, I just came over to make sure you were flirting with me. Did I read that right?’"

"You don’t have to be that obvious, Annie. You could act like you know her. If she’s interested, she’ll tell you her name — maybe even give you her phone number or e-mail address. It’s worth a try."

"Okay, so I’m supposed to say, ‘Hi, aren’t you Mary Jones?’ and she says, ‘No, I’m Kathy James. Here’s my number. Call me.’"

"I see I’ll have to spell this out for you. You just go over and say, ‘Hi! How’ve you been? I don’t think I’ve seen you since …’ and you pause. If she’s interested, she jumps in with, ‘the Schindler wedding’ or ‘the thing at the Met’ or whatever. She’s smart, Annie, and she’s experienced. She’ll know what to do."

Annie blew out a deep breath. "Okay. You’re right. I can do this. I can do this." She sat up even straighter and ran her hands through her hair to neaten it. "How’s my lipstick?"

"Fine. Go."

"’Cause lipstick is important," she added.

Three voices joined together. "Annie! Go!"


While the debate raged at Annie’s table, Eleanor was just about ready to give up.

I’ve done everything but blow you kisses. Can’t you send some kind of sign? Buy me a drink, come over and talk to me, hell, act like you know me. I’ll take anything at this point. A lingering, hungry look’ll do it! We’ve been through a bottle of wine, dinner, after-dinner drinks, dessert and espresso. Work with me, will you?

"Are you ready to leave, Eleanor?" Marcus asked once the bill was paid.

Eleanor stood and realized she felt a little sad. "I suppose I am."


Annie screwed her courage to the sticking place, then turned and took a few confident steps before she realized she was walking towards two empty seats at the sushi bar. She whirled back to her friends and mouthed, "Bathroom?"

Three heads shook. "She’s gone," Gayle said.

Annie walked back, dejected.

"They must have gone when we were coming up with the strategy," Kit said. "I’m sorry, buddy."

"You’re sorry? I’m gonna be an old woman, living in a studio apartment with an illegal number of cats, all because I didn’t get off my butt soon enough."

"Want another drink, honey?" Gayle asked.

"Nah. I wanna go home. Anyone wanna to share a cab?"

"We’re gonna hop on the ‘F,’" Maggie said. "It’s right here."

"I’ll stay and pay the bill. You guys go ahead. It’s cold outside, and I don’t want you to miss a train."

They all tossed some bills on the table, then each one hugged and kissed Annie. "See you on Monday," she said.

It took a few minutes for Annie to pay the bill and collect her coat. She walked to the door, unable to summon a smile for the woman at the front desk. Despite all the joking she and her friends had enjoyed, she’d actually felt the evening had had possibilities, and now she was unnaturally depressed. She could easily imagine herself with the beautiful brunette, and the knowledge that she’d likely never see her again made her sad and tired.

Why does everything have to be so hard? Annie mused. I was attracted to her, and I know she was to me, too. The circumstances just screwed everything up.

She walked outside and saw a cab idling right in front of the door. The light showing that it was available was on, and the departing passenger opened the back door.

Her depression in tow, Annie hurried to the cab, not wanting anyone else to grab it before she did. Approaching from the rear, she watched the passenger get out and speak to the driver. When Annie got to the door, the brunette turned and gave her a brilliant smile. "If you’d been ten minutes longer, I would’ve had to let this guy go so I could find an ATM. And then where would we be?"

Annie’s heart stopped. "It’s you."

"It’s you and me," Eleanor said. She stepped aside and gestured for Annie to get in. Without a word, the blonde walked to her and took her hand when Eleanor offered it. She slid into the warm seat and waited for the brunette to sit next to her. They shared a look while the cabbie waited for instructions. Decisively, Annie said, "Mercer and West 3rd, driver."

"Lovely neighborhood," Eleanor said. "It’s always looked inviting."

Annie was unable to stop smiling, so she decided to revel in her happiness. Her heart was hammering in her chest, but she knew that her date was not easy to spook. She leaned over and rested her head on the taller woman’s shoulder, feeling perfectly content and at home there.

"I never used to like Valentine’s Day," Eleanor said. "Until now."

Annie didn’t trust her voice, so she extended her hand, a warm feeling washing over her when Eleanor put hers on top of it and kissed the top of her head. They linked hands as the cab sped down the street and towards the future.



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