Her Secret Life. Gwynne Forster
his mind to it, he ought to be able to figure out a way to spend time with her in forty-eight hours.
Warren spent most of his weekend thinking about Jackie Parks and pondering schemes to be alone with her outside the club without violating Allegory’s rules. Expulsion from the club would mortify him and practically assure that, for years to come, Allegory wouldn’t have another African American member. Membership in it had enabled him to obtain generous donations to Harlem Clubs, Inc., funds that he used for scholarships and for professional tutoring for the children who frequented the clubs.
He could get Jackie’s address and wait for her at her home one night after she left work, but that strategy involved asking the club accountant for information about Jackie. He couldn’t do that. He could follow her, but that was unseemly. And what if she lived with a man? From his one conversation with her, he didn’t think so, but who could tell?
I’ll ask her where she lives. That’s not the same as making a date. I’d call her at home, but she’s not in the phone directory. Damn, but this woman is in my blood!
He was never at a loss for something constructive to do, but Harlem Clubs didn’t open on Sunday. The only person in New York City who he wanted to see was unavailable to him and he was at loose ends. He put on his jogging suit and a pair of running shoes and went for a run down to the promenade, but instead of returning home at once, he sat on the bench overlooking the East River and lower Manhattan. A chilly, but otherwise perfect day, he thought, as the early afternoon sun warmed his face. All around him leaves floated lazily to earth and a tugboat hooted hoarsely for wider access with its burdensome tanker. The couples who strolled along the promenade holding hands, hugging and staring into each other’s eyes increased his sense of loneliness.
“I wonder what she’s doing and who she’s with?” he mused as visions of her long, silky legs and her large round eyes filled his mind’s eye. “Something about her doesn’t add up. Women who exploit their sexuality have never interested me, but with that skirt barely covering her…Oh, what the hell!” He got up and jogged on home and wondered if he could bear to wait until Monday evening.
After fighting the covers all night, he arose early Monday morning, not because he was invigorated—enervated was more like it—but because he wanted to hasten the beginning of the day. He didn’t wait until he got to the club to reserve a private lounge as he usually did. Instead he telephoned his reservation as soon as the club opened at noon.
She had to stop, Jacqueline thought to herself after she changed clothes for the third time that Monday afternoon. If she didn’t hurry, she’d be late for work, and that sleaze Duff Hornsby would have an excuse to get her alone under the pretext of reprimanding her. Green wasn’t her best color, and suppose she ran into Warren before she changed into her uniform. Oh what the heck! If I’m late, I’m late. She took off the green dress and put on a red woolen sheath, added a strand of pearls and a spritz of Opium perfume, put on her coat and headed to work.
She walked into Allegory at precisely six-thirty and let herself relax. She was on time and Hornsby, the club’s president, wouldn’t have an excuse to harass her. She changed into her uniform and the stiletto-heel sandals she was required to wear and went to the storage room to get some linen cocktail napkins.
“What on earth!” She gasped and backed out of the storage room, closing the door on the half-naked couple she’d just interrupted. Was that Carl Spaeder’s wife? And if it was, why didn’t they save their lovemaking for their bedroom at home? And why didn’t they close the door? Have I been missing something about this ritzy place? she asked herself. Is Warren Holcomb the only man here who obeys club rules?
The light flashed on her intercom, indicating a call to the Reagan Suite. Wondering who had summoned her, she opened the door, and when she saw Duff Hornsby, she didn’t move two feet from it.
“Yes, Mr. Hornsby. How may I help you?”
A smile crawled over his face. “For starters, you can move closer. Over here.”
“I can hear whatever you say standing right here. I have another call. What do you want?”
“I want you.”
“Mr. Hornsby, I’ve worked here for going on three years, and you’re the first member of this club to break club rules and harass me. I suppose you know that my contract provides for redress in such an event.”
“Oh, come now. You can’t prove a thing. Besides, I’ll make it worth your while.”
“That’s impossible. Not if you owned every ounce of gold in Fort Knox. And don’t be too sure that I can’t prove you got out of line.” She let the door slam behind her, aware that eventually Duff Hornsby’s shenanigans could force her to leave Allegory.
She went back to her station and saw the light flashing for the lounge that Warren frequently used. She got a glass of ice water, a pot of coffee and a coffee service, arranged them on a silver tray and entered the lounge.
“I’ve been ringing you for the past ten minutes,” he said. “I was afraid that you didn’t come to work today. How are you?”
Thank God for the serving table beside the door, for it seemed that her arms and legs turned to rubber and she quickly set the tray on the table. “I’m…fine. I hope you had a…an enjoyable weekend.”
“I had a lonely weekend, and it lasted forever.”
What was she to say to that? Her weekend hadn’t been a rousing celebration, either. “I’m sorry to hear that, sir. I brought you some coffee.”
Even from the distance, she couldn’t miss the warmth of his gaze. “Thanks for your thoughtfulness. It’s just what I want. I’d ask for a vodka comet, but I don’t want it badly enough to drink it alone.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” She poured the coffee, put about two tablespoons of milk in it, placed it on the cocktail table in front of him. Shock reverberated through her system when his hand covered hers, and, unable to do otherwise, she stared into his eyes. Eyes bright with warmth, affection and, yes, riveting desire.
“Would you p-please g-give me b-back my h-hand?”
“Don’t ever call me ‘sir’ again, Jackie. My name is Warren, and that’s what I want you to call me.”
She looked down at him, and at his restive and agitated demeanor. If I don’t get out of here, we’re both going to explode.
“I’d better go. If you want something else, just ring.” She didn’t wait for his reply, but walked out as quickly as she could and closed the door.
She returned to her station, saw that Ben had called her and, instead of calling him, she went to the bar. “What is it, Ben?” she asked trying to sound normal.
“Hornsby’s in the main lounge, and he wants these drinks.”
“Ben, what am I going to do about that man? He keeps hitting on me, and I can’t stand him. He’s so sure that nobody will believe he’d harass a cocktail waitress. But Ben, he actually propositioned me.”
“I’d believe it. The guy’s gray suit on the outside and pure trash on the inside. Don’t let that jerk upset you. I’ll send Jack in with this.” She thanked him and, on her way back to her station, glanced toward the main lounge and saw Hornsby huddled with Mac. Birds of a feather, she said to herself as she got ready to deliver another order.
Warren Halcomb had been aware of Jackie’s reaction to his touch, and knowing that he made her tremble had excited him. But at that moment, he’d had more self-control than she, for if he had stood and put his arms around her, she wouldn’t have moved until his tongue was deep inside her mouth.
Long after Jackie had left, Warren sat alone in the private lounge, leaning against the back of the leather chair musing about her. She wanted him as badly as he wanted her, or at least he thought so, but he couldn’t be sure. Maybe she had merely been frightened that he would take advantage of her. He’d certainly had the opportunity, for no one would enter