My mood perked up as I stepped into the grand rotunda entrance. I’ve always liked museums. I should probably pretend it’s because I’m so erudite and scholarly and love to learn, but the truth is I just love shiny, pretty things, and from what I’d heard about this place, it was packed full. I couldn’t wait to see them.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to get very far.
One day I would stop taking off my clothes in V’lane’s presence, but the cost of that resistance would be a piece of my soul.
Today, here and now, strolling through the National Museum of Archaeology and History, dazzled and delighted by the Ór exhibit, a treasure trove of Ireland’s gold, I had no idea that pieces of one’s soul could be lost.
Back then, I was so blind to everything that was going on around me. Back then, I was twenty-two and pretty and up until the month before, my biggest concern had been whether Revlon would discontinue my favorite Iceberry Pink nail polish, which would be a disaster of epic proportions as it would leave me without the perfect complement for the short pink silk skirt I was wearing today with a clingy pearly top, and shimmery gold sandals, flattered by just the right heel to show off my golden, toned legs. A polished pearl-drop necklace swung between my full breasts, matching earrings and a pearl bracelet at my wrist gave me just the right look of youthful glam. My Arabian Night curls were soft around my face and I was turning more than a few male heads. I notched my chin a bit higher and smiled inside. Ah, the simple pleasures in life . . .
A few display cases down, over by the stairs, a really cute guy was checking me out. He was tall, athletically built, with short dark hair, great skin, and the dreamiest blue eyes ever. He looked to be about my age, maybe a few years older—a college student, I was willing to bet—and he was exactly the kind of guy I’d have gone out with back home. He gave me an appreciative nod and a smile, making his interest plain. Distinguish yourself, my mom had told Alina and me, in an age where girls often make themselves too available to boys, by making him work a little for your attention. He’ll think he’s won a prize when he gets it, and he’ll work that much harder to keep it. Boys turn into men and men put a premium on what’s hardest to get.
Have I mentioned what a wise woman my mother is? My dad is still head over heels for her after thirty years, still thinks the sun rises and sets on Rainey Lane’s head, and if one day she didn’t get out of bed, neither would the morning. And neither would he. Alina and I never lacked for love, but we always knew our parents loved each other a little bit more. We found it disgusting and, at the same time, reassuring that they never stopped locking us out of the bedroom at the weirdest times of day, sometimes twice in the same day. We’d roll our eyes at each other, but in a world where the divorce rate is more alarming than oil prices, their ongoing love affair was our Rock of Gibraltar.
I started to give the guy a demure smile, but the moment my lips began to curve, they froze. Why bother? It wasn’t as if dating was something I could schedule neatly in, right between vampires, life-sucking Fae, mobsters, and OOP-detecting. Would he come pick me up at Barrons for our date? Gee, what if my enigmatic and cold-blooded host chose that night to turn off the outside lights again?
Bye-bye cute boy, hello pile of clothes.
That thought iced the blood in my veins. I stepped up my pace and left the boy behind in a hurry. Continuing through the exhibit, I focused on my recently discovered raison d’être, stretching my Spidey-sense in all directions, waiting for a tingle.
I got nothing.
I moved through room after room, past artifact after relic, display after display, without getting the faintest twinge of nausea. I was, however, getting a few other twinges. Apparently the cute boy had stirred up my hormones, because I was suddenly having downright kinky thoughts about him and wondering if he had a brother. Or two. Maybe even three.
That was so not me. I’m a one-man woman. Even in my fantasies I go for good old-fashioned steamy sex, not multi-partnered porn. A particularly graphic image of cute boy plus brothers swam up in my mind and I nearly staggered from the raw eroticism of it. I shook my head sharply, and reminded myself what I was doing here: looking for OOPs—not orgiastic, mindless sex.
I’d nearly given up hope of encountering anything of interest when my gaze was drawn to a scrap of pink silk and lace lying on the floor a few feet away to my left, back in the direction from which I’d come.
I couldn’t help but think how pretty it was and walked back over toward it, to see what it was.
My cheeks flamed. Of course I’d liked it.