"Her mother..." He looked away, put the phone back in his jacket's breast pocket. She noticed tears in his eyes.
"Hey," she said, touching his wrist. "I didn't mean to..."
"No, it's...We were swimming in Costa Rica, a place called Playa Hermosa, and she..." He compressed his lips. "She was a terrific swimmer, but the riptide was too strong, and by the time..." His face seemed briefly to crumple in on itself; then, just as quickly, he recovered.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I thought this part of it was behind me." He got up, bowing his head in apology. Juliana reached out a hand, caught his forearm, beseeching him to stay.
"Sit, please," she said. "How long...?"
He picked up his drink, sipped, put it down. "Two years." He slowly sank into his chair. "I still can't really talk about it. I
shouldn't have tried. I—I never do this. This isn't me."
"It's quite all right—Matías, is that right?"
"I don't know you," he continued. "But I feel as if I do, that's the weird thing. Just something I saw when I looked at you. Don't ask me to explain."
"Okay, now you're going to have to explain."
"Well, I can try. You're beautiful, of course. But so many beautiful women have this icy reserve—they have to, it's how they protect themselves, keep guys out of their swim lane. But you—this is going to sound crazy. I saw a sense of a light inside you."
She blushed again, hoped it wasn't visible. "LED, I'm sure."
"You're making fun of me, and you should," he said, tipping his glass of Scotch toward her and taking a sip.
"No, I'm sorry, go on. What else did you see?"
Juliana reached for her wineglass, took a steadying sip. "Sure, why not?"
"I see a kind of...loneliness. Not by-yourself lonely. But lonely. Maybe because...well, didn't you say you're with the law conference? You are a lawyer? A judge?"
Juliana was momentarily speechless.
"I am so sorry," Matías said. "I swear I'm not normally like this.
Let's blame the Ardbeg." He put his hand on hers briefly, and she felt the heat. "Four hours ago I killed a deal that looked great on paper until I met the management team. And I knew within two minutes these guys couldn't execute the plan. These were not the guys. Now, that's where my instincts are good."
She gave him a long look. "Maybe not just there," she said, and she took a good swig of the Sancerre.
They kissed leaning against the door to his suite. She could taste the single malt. She pulled back, took a breath. He smelled of wood smoke and leather. He found a tendril of her hair and ran his fingers under it, along her cheek. His eyes met hers for a moment. "I wonder if you know how beautiful you are."
She could feel the heat radiating off his body. "Tomorrow I'm flying off. Back to my life. This...this can't mean anything."
Something was happening inside her. Like a wave that suddenly, startlingly forms in a usually placid lake. A wave formed by that surprisingly good French Sancerre and some kind of reservoir of resentment at how goddamned predictable she'd become. Everybody knew she'd never do this. But shouldn't there be more to her than what everybody knew?
For just one night, she'd pretend to be that woman she's not. For just one night, she'd do what she never does. For just one night, she'd live a life that wasn't the one she'd so carefully mapped out.
Just one night.
He found his key card and the lock beeped open and he held the door.