Noah stood outside the main entrance, Rosenborg Castle looming large behind him.
He glanced at his watch. It was quarter after eleven. He was pretty sure he was about to be stood up for the second time in less than twenty-four hours.
Had his mystery lady really said she didn't have a cell phone? She must have meant she didn't have it with her.
Noah was pretty sure none of his recents, Manda, Buffy, Candy, could live thirty seconds without theirs. Last night he'd arrived back at his hotel and turned his phone on to the madly pinging arrival of text messages from Manda. They proclaimed Brad her soul mate, but suggested a dramatic breakup with Noah could improve her media coverage. It all gave Noah a headache.
Which was increasing now. Stood up. He considered the possibility he was losing his touch. Women had always liked him. And he had liked them. But in the last few years, he had started to feel jaundiced, cynical about relationships. When he was young he had married his ambition. Success had come first, before anything else.
Then, in his early thirties—his every career goal accomplished and then some—he had become aware of a vague, empty space inside himself. He had been a little surprised to find he longed for a place to call home, and someone to share his life with him. Ironically, the success he had chased so relentlessly—that he had traded the young years of his life for—now seemed to get in the way of finding a meaningful relationship.
Noah was aware he moved in circles that included a certain kind of woman. They were the kind of women that graced the covers of magazines and moved in world of extreme wealth. They were sophisticated, but his choices had proved disappointingly superficial.
Manda, Buffy, Candy, Helga and Ferrari filled their worlds with parties and galas and dinners and debuts and openings and VIP seats at concerts and award shows and sporting events. They were interested in expensive baubles and designer clothes and fast cars and huge houses.
Noah did not trust their interest in him. Was their attention because of what he stood for, and for what material security he could guarantee them? It seemed each encounter, each relationship, left him feeling emptier than he had before.
Last night, looking at the clear polish on Mystery's tidy fingernails, her ringless hands, her wrists with no 14 karat bangles, her tiny earlobes with no diamonds, smelling of soap instead of expensive perfume, it felt as if what he wanted had suddenly crystalized.
A woman who could survive without her cell phone. Who might like walks in the woods, hot chocolate in front of a fire, who could have a long conversations, and who knew who Hamlet was. It felt too late in his life for children, but maybe a dog. He saw his responsibility in the choices he had made, relationships that required so little of him, and realized Mystery might have given him an opportunity to choose differently.
The thoughts shocked him.
Suddenly, Noah felt glad she was not coming, as if he had somehow dodged a bullet. If Mystery could lead his thoughts down these renegade paths after one short encounter, what could she do to him if he spent more time with her?
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