She left the roar of the football game behind her and stepped into the damp air outside, searching the pockets of her coat for a cigarette. She wasn’t normally a smoker, but the cops all smoked and everyone in England seemed to smoke, and after a few days, it had gotten tiresome being the only nonsmoker in a crowd of smokers. Besides, it was relaxing, taking in the sharp scent of tobacco and the glowing lights of the city.
She slid a cigarette between her lips, and was still fumbling for a lighter, when she heard the familiar click behind her. She turned and there was a tall man leaning against the front of the pub, a cigarette glowing in his hand.
“Do you mind…?” she asked, gesturing toward the silver lighter still in his hand.
He shook his head and held out the lighter. Her fingertips brushed against his as she took it, and she felt goosebumps raise up along her arms. He was wearing jeans and gray blazer and he looked for all the world like one of the vaguely-dressed up cops inside, but there was something almost deliberate in how mundane his outfit was, as if it was calculated only to make the barely memorable impression of someone decently dressed--nothing more, nothing less.
He had thick dark hair and dark eyes but pale skin—not unusual for English men—and a slender, well-muscled body with a narrow waist and broad shoulders. A strong jaw and lips that made him look like a Tom Ford model. He kept his eyes trained on the building across the street, a cell-phone store with three stories of grimy looking flats above it. There was something about his posture that seemed familiar, like she had seen men like him before, but she couldn’t quite place it.
“Thanks,” he said, when she handed him his lighter back.
His voice was American. So not English then.
“Are you here for the Scotland Yard reception?” she asked.
He didn’t answer.
“Are you a cop?” she pressed.
He didn’t look away from the building across the street. “Something like that.”
Back off, Evangeline, she told herself. She just wanted to finish her cigarette and successfully navigate the Underground back to her hotel. She wouldn’t say goodbye to Nick—he’d just insist on cutting his night short to see her safely back, and she didn’t want that. She’d text him once she got to the hotel, and then, since she was already safe, he’d have no choice but to enjoy himself at the pub.
A group of men were walking down the other side of the street, their heads down and voices low. One of them had a slim black bag. They were looking across the street at her and the man, and suddenly the man was in front of her, with an easy smile and relaxed posture. Surprised, she opened her mouth, but before she could speak, he brought his mouth to hers.
His lips were impossibly soft and impossibly warm, and she couldn’t help but melt into him. He tasted like toothpaste and tobacco, but his skin smelled like soap and cologne, a smell that gave her pause, but not for long because then he slid a hand behind the nape of her neck, and started kissing a trail down her exposed throat. She let out a breathy moan. It had been far too long since she’d been kissed like this.
He was a deep kisser, the kind of kissing that made her knees weak and her breasts ache. She should pull away, she should protest—after all, it’s not like he had bothered to chat her up beforehand—but this is what she had been craving all night. All week. Someone delicious and anonymous.
Still, what if Nick walked out and saw?
But then, as he moved back to kissing her throat, his hands slid up the outside of her thighs and found her ass, and then his fingers were tracing the outline of her lacy boy shorts, from her hips to the inside of her legs, and she couldn’t help the gasp that escaped her when his fingertips grazed the front of her, the skin under the panties impossibly sensitive from a year of celibacy.
Her hands found their way to his chest and then down his tight stomach to his belt. His lips were on the tops of her breasts now, and she ran hand through his thick hair and yanked it back. He hissed and then groaned as her other hand found the front of his pants. He was hard, and just feeling him that way made Evangeline so desperate to have him closer that she dropped her coat and wrapped her legs around his waist. He pushed her up against the wet brick, his shaft impossibly hard against her, his lips kissing the skin above the neckline of her dress, his hands supporting her ass.
Then his teeth found her nipple through the fabric of her dress and he bit down gently, and she cried out, a soft cry that made his breathing ragged. She didn’t care who saw, who passed by, who walked out of the pub—all she knew was that she needed this man, whoever he was, and she needed him now. But as soon as she realized that, as soon as she moved her hand to his zipper to release him, he was gently setting her back on her feet and stepping back.
“I am sorry about that,” he said. He was eyeing the sidewalk across the street, now devoid of any men.
It took a moment for her brain to catch up with what had happened. “Is something wrong? We can go to my hotel or—”
He shook his head politely, still staring across the street, where a light had come on in the narrow flat above the store. “If you’ll excuse me.”
Her voice seemed to pull him away from his thoughts. He looked back at her, and Evangeline got the distinct impression that he wasn’t accustomed to explaining himself or being overly polite. There was also something else about the way he stood, the way he seemed torn between talking to her and watching the building…
“It was rude of me to take advantage of you,” he said. “Again, I am sorry. Have a good evening.”
She picked her coat off the damp ground, shocked and self-conscious, tears of embarrassment pricking her eyelids. Was I that bad a kisser? Does my breath smell like beer? Was I too forward? But he had wanted her too; she had felt his unmistakeable desire pressed steel hard against her pelvis. But then why stop? It made no sense.
He made his way across the street and she started toward the subway station, but despite the shame in her stomach, the burning in her eyes, she turned back.
“Evangeline,” she said, wanting to leave him with something. “My name is Evangeline Lynch.”
Again, that look like he wasn’t used to exchanging these types of niceties. But after a pause, he said, “Gabriel.”
And then he was gone, his dark clothes blending into the shadows.