"Carrie, who is that woman?" I leaned closer and asked. "The one dancing with Aras."
What I really wanted to say was "The one with her arms draped around his neck?" The stranger appeared to be in her fifties, yet her black corset and mini-skirt gave the impression that she clung desperately to her twenties.
"That's Melinda," Carrie replied. "She's also on our team."
"Do they always dance that close?" My initial impulse was to look away. Why should I care? But the more inappropriate their movements grew, the more entranced I became.
"Unfortunately." Her nose snarled as she watched their hips press dangerously closer to one another. "Melinda is not shy about what she wants."
That got my attention. I turned, certain I had misunderstood. "Excuse me."
"Look at her." She motioned with a lifting of her chin. "The way she throws herself at Aras. It's disgusting."
I fidgeted with my shirt sleeves in attempt to stop myself from drowning in the wave of embarrassment that washed over me. Obviously I was not the only one who was smitten by Aras's charm.
I searched the room and found Velna twirling nearby. "Why doesn't Velna say something?" I asked. "Doesn't she realize what Melinda's doing?"
"Oh, believe me, she knows. But she lets Aras do whatever he wants."
"Because in Velna's eyes, Aras can do no wrong." Carrie stepped closer as though she was preparing to share a secret. "Besides, I don't know if you've noticed or not, but they don’t behave like the typical husband and wife."
Yes, I had noticed but I longed to know more. "How do you mean?"
"You’ll see," she replied. "The closer you get to them, the clearer it will become."
Her vague comment lacked the answers to the many questions that still lingered within my mind. Fearing that further inquiry would only give the impression I was meddling, I decided to stop while I was ahead.
Just then, someone shielded my vision with their hands.
I reached up, curious to the identity of the possessor. Inches from contact, their hold suddenly dropped to my shoulders, forcing me to whirl and face the mysterious stranger. My lids fluttered until my focus returned. And then, there he was: Aras. I wanted to speak, yet all I could was stare at him with wonder.
"Look at you, Lillian." My heart raced against the tempo of the music as he examined every curvature of my body. "You're stunning."
"Just something I grabbed out of my dresser." I shook it off as if it was no big deal, however on the inside I bubbled with excitement. Aras's observation had destroyed any insecurity that struggled to remain. The classic white men's button-down shirt accentuated my curves perfectly, and was long enough to hide the black boy shorts I wore underneath.
"You look nice too," I continued. That was a lie. He looked delicious. His black cotton pajama pants, matching long-sleeve top, and now gel free curly hair gave the impression that he was a young lad in his twenties, rather than the groomed to perfection dance instructor I was used to.
He grabbed my hand, and pulled me behind him. "Let's go."
"To the center of the floor." He looked back over his shoulder and winked. "I want to dance with you."
"But..." I had never danced in front of others, and I still wasn't sure of the steps.
Stopping in the center of the polished floor, among the many couples that surrounded us, he pulled me closer than ever before. His eyes sparkled with danger while his lips parted. "Is this what you wear to bed?"
Panic seized me as I glanced around the studio, only to see Carrie leaving the ballroom with Velna by her side. "Why do you ask?" My voice dropped to a shaky whisper.
"Because I want to picture you when I go to sleep tonight."
"Aras." My eyes closed as I became disoriented by the seduction in his voice, and the brush of his arousal against my leg. "You shouldn’t say such things. Velna could..."
"Shh, don't say it."
The room fell silent. The only sound of chirping crickets within the music filled the air. Aras lightly traced the contour of my arm, causing chills to erupt on the skin beneath my shirt. Lacing our fingers, he placed our hold protectively against his chest.
"Forget about the others," he intimately whispered, pressing his palm against the small of my back. "No one else exists."
Turning submissive to the rising notes of the accordions, my left palm slid upward, outlining his flexing muscles along the way. I opened my eyes and cupped the back of his neck as the roll of the snare drum accompanied the first movement of our dance. The steps were foreign, yet within Aras’s arms, they were erotically simple.
Without conscious thought, my body followed him in the eight basic movements. With an extended step forward with my left, the tip of my right toe grazed the oak floor until both my ankles drew together in a gentle kiss. The sensual chase had now begun as my leg followed Aras in a glide to the right. With complete control over me, each progression became more seductive than the last. As multiple violins increased his chase, I soon found myself entangled and stretched up on my toes.
His body lowered as he closed what little distance remained between us. Stretching my leg back to meet his change in height, I gazed up at him. The tiny pants of each breath I drew grew hotter with each passing second I remained in his embrace. His focus remained strong, as though he was undressing me with his eyes. Then, in one swift motion, he lifted me, wrapping my calf securely around his hips.
There was no longer denying how much I wanted him. Despite the danger that surrounded us, I threw caution aside, allowing the sensuality of the music to take control. Aras’s muscles tensed as I lowered my leg, allowing my ankle to trace the contour of his body all the way to the floor.
"Lily," he panted, brushing his shadowy jaw against my cheek. "I want..."
Just then, someone tapped my shoulder. "Excuse me."