The Balcony

‘Shh,’ he whispered, his lips close to her ear. ‘Eyes forward.’

She hadn’t heard him come in, hadn’t heard the swipe of the hotel keycard she had left for him at the lobby or the click of the door as it latched closed behind him. She hadn’t heard his soft footsteps on the hardwood as his approached her, predator stalking prey. She hadn’t been aware of his presence until he slipped his hands around her, his fingers entwining with hers, holding her grip against the steel balcony railing. She began to turn quickly – in surprise at the interruption, in need for home – but he stopped her with just a touch.

‘Shh,’ he whispered, his breath warm against her skin. ‘Eyes forward.’

She stared out over the city. The sea of lights had been mesmerising just moments earlier, but now all she wanted was to turn her back to them, to trade the gleam of Paris at night for the kiss of her lover.

Six months. Too long.

Six minutes. Too long.

He tightened his grip, holding her hands in place. You’re here now, his touch seemed to say. Back with me, where you belong. And this time, you’re not going anywhere.

She smiled at that. As if there was anywhere she’d rather be.

She felt the scratch of his stubble at the back of her neck, just below her hairline, just above the fabric of the dress he had asked her to wear for him on their first meeting in what felt like forever. It was his favourite dress; she knew that well enough. She couldn’t count the number of times she had caught him staring at her lasciviously from across the room when she wore it, nor the times he had taken her back home afterwards, away from prying eyes in cities all over the globe. The dress had been left on countless hotel room floors, tossed over chairs, left scrunched up and neglected even as she was stretched out on the bed next to it.

Next to him.

‘Shh,’ he whispered, planting butterfly kisses at the nape of her neck. ‘Eyes forward.’

She felt him stand tall behind her, pressing her body against the balcony railing – a brief moment of panic as she imagined tumbling forward and down, down, down to the street below, losing herself in freefall as she did every time she felt his touch… but then the safety of knowing that he was there with her, that no harm could come to her. His grip on her was absolute. She was safe.

He loosed his fingers from hers, tracing a path gently up her bare arms. She shivered, despite the summer evening; his fingertips were warm, but the faint hairs on her arms rose up in a frisson of need, calling for him. They ran to her shoulders and he pulled her gently backwards, kissing that sacred dimple at her neck. She wondered if he could smell the perfume she had picked out – the light jasmine scent she had been wearing the first time they had made love, when he kissed her in that exact spot and she felt her world catch fire.

‘Shh,’ he whispered, feeling her tense up beneath his touch. ‘Eyes forward.’

She let her eyes fall closed and smiled in the darkness. She could hear the city beneath her, busy even in the small hours of the morning; the steady rumble of traffic was dwarfed by the sound of his breath quickening next to her. She knew that sound: the ragged desperation that made it clear that she wasn’t alone in her desire.

She turned to face him, eyes still pressed firmly shut, and this time he made no move to stop her. She felt his hand on her neck, drawing her near; the stubble of his cheek against the smoothness of her own – and the slow exhalation of six months’ wait finally, finally at a close.

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