Impersonating Brianne Ch. 02byHLD©
The two girls dressed Marissa quickly.
"Do you think this is the night?" Kyra asked conversationally.
"For what?" Marissa was puzzled.
The other girl smiled. "That he's going to ask you to marry him?"
Marissa's jaw dropped.
"Oh," Kyra blushed furiously when she saw the blank expression. "I'm sorry. I just assumed . . . big date . . . gorgeous gown . . . Ohmygod . . ."
"You two just look like you're so in love," Patty said, trying to come to her friend's rescue.
Me? A hooker in love? Marissa's pulse began to race. It took a minute to find her voice. "That would be nice, wouldn't it?"
Kyra didn't say anything else. If she could have disappeared, Marissa thought she would have. Instead she tried to hurriedly finish up Marissa's makeup.
When the final touches were complete, Patty turned Marissa towards a floor-length mirror.
Marissa's heart jumped into her throat.
All that was missing were the glass slippers.
"Thank you, girls," Marissa said when she could breathe again.
"You're very welcome," Patty replied. They each gave Marissa a quick hug, being careful not to smudge any makeup.
They led her out to the sitting area and assured her that her clothes had already been sent up to her room and that the bill had been taken care of.
It was exactly six o'clock, and Alan was no where to be seen.
Marissa fidgeted nervously.
She felt a soft touch on her elbow.
"Ma'am?" The spa manager stood beside her. "Mr. Gibson says he is going to be a few more minutes. He's asked if you would meet him in the main lobby."
Marissa slipped her hand into the crook of his offered arm.
They walked out of the spa and across the floor. As she passed, people fell silent, staring at her. Marissa held her head high as if oblivious to the admiring stares. Her heart raced. She was the princess going to the ball.
She spied Alan talking to someone at the concierge desk. He still hadn't seen her.
The woman behind the counter pointed at Marissa and Alan turned. He was wearing a handsome black tuxedo. There was a corsage on the counter next to him.
Marissa stopped in her tracks. Alan's eyes were fixed on her. Time seemed to stand still. All the ambient noise—from the people, from the slot machines, from the music playing through the overhead speakers—faded away.
"Thank you," Marissa said to the spa manager.
"It was my pleasure. You two have a wonderful evening," he bowed slightly and then walked away.
Alan still hadn't moved. She crossed the distance between them, fully aware of all the eyes upon her.
Is he seeing her? Marissa thought to herself. Or does he see me?
"You look fantastic," he breathed, spellbound.
They stared at each other for a moment longer. Finally, Alan took out the corsage and pinned it on her. Of course, it matched perfectly.
"We'll have that all taken care of when you get back, Mr. Gibson," the concierge said with an envious smile.
Marissa took Alan's arm as he led her out the front doors. Everyone around them stopped as they passed by, as if they had been drawn into a fairy tale for just a moment.
Waiting outside was a white limousine. The driver held the door open as Alan and Marissa got in.
She felt like she was having an out of body experience. It was surreal.
A couple of times, she looked over and saw Alan staring at her. When they made eye contact, he looked away.
Then she took his hand, and their fingers intertwined. They rode to the Paris hotel and casino in silence.
The door opened and Alan went to get out. Marissa caught his hand and pulled him to her.
They shared a quick kiss.
The touch of Alan's lips was electric.
He pulled back and stepped out of the car. She took his hand and followed.
There, too, people there stared at them as they made their way through the hotel. Alan led her to the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. They were seated at one of the best tables in the house, with a magnificent view of the hotel and the rest of the city.
The lighting was low and romantic.
The food was fantastic and the service superb.
Alan was quiet after they ordered. Marissa tried to engage him in some small talk, but all he did was stare absently at her.
The appetizers arrived.
"This dress is gorgeous," Marissa said, trying to draw Alan out.
"It was Brianne's," he replied, almost apologetically.
The first night they were together, when Alan looked at her, Marissa could tell he was seeing his wife. Their resemblance was close enough. Now . . .
Now there was something different in his gaze.
"She got it for our fifth anniversary." The corners of his mouth turned up into a slight smile as the memory came back to him. "Brianne never liked to shop for clothes. She said she didn't like to spend money on herself. I practically had to hold a gun to her head to get her to go shopping. We found that dress and a couple others, but she didn't want to buy it because it cost so much. The other dresses were pretty, but not nearly as nice. I made her buy it. She deserved it."
"She was a special woman," Marissa said quietly.
"Yes, she was," Alan shifted uncomfortably. "You feel funny wearing her clothes, don't you?"
"A little," Marissa admitted.
"I'm sorry about that," Alan looked away. "I . . . I thought I wanted one more date with her."
Marissa had to remind herself to breathe.
"But you're not her," Alan continued. There wasn't any bitterness in his voice. Only sorrow. "You're just as beautiful, Marissa. You look like my wife, but you walk differently. You carry yourself differently. Your smile is the same but the way you talk isn't."
There was a long pause. It seemed like Alan wanted to say more, but couldn't.
"What do you want now?" Marissa asked softly.
He thought for a minute. "I want a date with you."
Marissa was struck speechless.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think about Brianne or wish she was still with me." Alan took her hands in his. Their appetizers were getting cold. "But when I'm with you . . . I forget about the sadness that has been the center of my life for these last two years."
The lump in Marissa's throat wouldn't go away. She had her answer. Now it was only a question of what she was going to do.
First she had to find the words, though.
"I—" she started, unable to continue.
"Sometimes," Alan said, seeing Marissa struggling to find something to say. "When you turn your head a certain way . . . Or when you laugh . . . I see her for just a second . . . But then . . . then Brianne is gone and I see you again, Marissa . . . And that makes me . . ."
He stopped and looked away again.
Marissa squeezed his hands. They were saved by the servers who brought a bottle of Pinot Noir, some bread and their main courses.
Alan had the duck breast in a white mushroom sauce while Marissa picked at her sea bass over scalloped potatoes.
They ate quietly, each not sure what to say to the other.
A light salad came after the main course, followed by a selection of cheeses. Then it was off to dessert. Marissa had a white chocolate mousse drizzled with dark chocolate and Alan had chocolate crepes served with fresh fruit.
Neither wanted to continue their earlier conversation. Marissa thought Alan didn't want to confuse his feelings for Brianne with his feelings for her. She didn't want to think about them.
With only crumbs on their plates, they sat nervously staring at each other.
Alan wanted to say something. "I . . . Thank you for this week, Marissa."
"It was my pleasure, Alan."
"Look . . . I'm sorry for putting you through this." He looked her in the eyes. She felt like he was reading her mind. If he really knew what she was thinking, she didn't know what she would do. "But I couldn't have gotten through this trip without you."
All Marissa could manage was a slight smile.
There was so much she wanted to say. Things she needed to tell him. Her feelings screamed to be heard. Yet she pushed all that from her mind.
Not now. This is his night. You'll get your say, she promised herself. Years of conditioned emotional repression took control once again. But not like this.
After a sweet ice wine to end the meal, the two walked back through the Paris hotel to their waiting limo. Marissa was feeling a little more relaxed. Maybe it was the wine she had with dinner. Maybe it was because she was determined not to ruin this night for Alan, his anniversary. The butterflies in her stomach were gone. Instead, she just enjoyed the romance of the night and the gentle touch of her companion.
They left and drove around town for a little while. Alan took her hand and she was eager to be close to him.
After seeing a few of the sights and giving their food a chance to digest, the driver took them back to the Luxor.
They got out and were once again the center of attention. Marissa felt vaguely self-conscious. She normally liked to keep a low profile, but since she was out of town, she figured no one would recognise her as a high-priced call girl. He led her once again to one of the lounges.
An eight piece band was set up and playing. There were a handful of people dancing, but mostly just watchers. It seemed like a throwback to the "old days" of Vegas, when women wore formal gowns and men wore tuxedos to dinner and Sinatra played the rooms.
Marissa smiled to herself as they made their way to the center of the dance floor. Alan spun her around and took her in his arms.
They slow-danced for the rest of the song. Alan's touch was comforting. Marissa found herself staring into his eyes more than once. He smiled at her.
The music ended and the band leader invited other couples out on to the dance floor. She noticed Alan nod in the direction of the band. The drummer returned a subtle salute and a waltz started to play.
Now it was time for those lessons to pay off.
Shoulders back, chin up, elbows up, chest out, she remembered the instructions of her dance tutor from the days before.
Alan had a surprised look on his face which quickly became a broad smile.
Marissa was still kind of clumsy, but Alan was a good lead. Her feet didn't quite move instinctively and she tried to let herself flow with the music instead of counting along in her head.
She felt like she was floating on air. This man, who had started out the week as a paying client, had become more than just another john. His kindness, his humour. The way he opened up to her, and in turn, got her to open up to him. He almost made her forget what she did for a living. And there she was, wanting only to be in his arms.
Everything about this night seemed perfect.
"Where did you pick up ballroom dancing?" Alan whispered in her ear. The song was ending and he pulled her close.
"I had a lot of free time while you were in your meetings," she replied.
"You're full of surprises, Marissa," he said and the look in his eyes made her heart skip a beat.
"I didn't want to step all over your toes again," she blushed.
"What else did you learn?" Alan asked.
"Just the basics, so don't try anything funny," Marissa laughed. Alan pulled her closer as the band struck up another tune. "We did a waltz, a foxtrot and a tango."
"Not in two days."
"I guess I'll have to teach that to you later."
Before she could respond, Marissa found herself tilting her head back as Alan leaned in to kiss her. She melted into his arms.
Is he kissing me or is he kissing her? she thought. It didn't matter. Marissa only cared that she was in his arms, not Brianne.
Finally he pulled back and began leading her around the dance floor again.
As the evening wore on, their dance became more intimate. Alan would tell her which way he was going to turn or where to go next or when he was going to dip her. They got a feel for where the other was going to move. Marissa still managed to step on his toes a time or two, but they were learning to be partners.
They took a couple of breaks, but danced the rest of the night away. Alan coached her along and turned out to be a pretty good teacher. It helped that Marissa was a fast learner. Soon, she found herself a step ahead of Alan's instructions and he didn't need to tell her which way to go next. Everyone else made room for them, and some people seemed to be stopping by just to watch them dance.
A part of Marissa imagined that it was because they looked as if they were made for each other. That their movements had become part of their innermost selves, intertwined and anticipating the other's next step. She found she liked that feeling.
The rest of the night was a blur. All too soon, Marissa heard the band leader announce that it was the last song of their set.
As soon as the music started, Marissa's head shot up. She looked Alan in the eyes. It was the same song they had first danced to the night they arrived in Las Vegas.
This time, though, the distant look was gone from his face. He looked straight into her eyes. There was a flash of sorrow, but it was quickly gone, replaced by a combination of tenderness and—dare she think it?—love.
Marissa's hand rested on Alan's shoulder. She drew in close to him; close enough to feel his breath in her ear. One of his hands rested on the small of her back. The other held her hand tightly.
There are moments in someone's life that they will never forget. That they never want to forget. This was one of those times for Marissa. Everything about her life was temporarily forgotten. The people around them faded away. The only thing she saw was Alan's steady and unwavering gaze. The only thing she felt was his gentle touch. The only thing she heard was the music.
All too soon, the song came to an end. Still Alan held her.
She vaguely heard the band leader speaking, "That was 'There Will Never Be Another You' by the great Andy Williams. Thank you for dancing with us tonight. We hope you enjoy your stay at the Luxor. Good night!"
Marissa didn't want to let Alan go, and she got the feeling that he didn't want that either.
They stood there in each other's arms for several more minutes. The house lights never came up even as the band packed up their instruments.
Alan kissed her again, and she felt lightheaded. A shiver ran the length of her spine.
"Are you hungry?" he asked finally.
"Actually I am," she replied. After all the dancing she had worked up quite an appetite.
Marissa wasn't wearing a watch—and casinos don't have clocks inside—but most of the evening crowd had dispersed.
The other people in the casino gave them a wide berth and Marissa was on the receiving end of many more admiring stares. Her arm rested comfortably in the crook of Alan's arm and even in her heels, she felt as if she were gliding along side him.
They went to Fusia, one of the restaurants in the Luxor, and got a table. Although not as romantic as the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at the Paris casino, Fusia was intimate enough for them.
They ordered a couple of light appetizers and drinks.
When the server returned, Marissa whispered something in his ear.
"Alan," she started when she saw their server returning with her box. "Tonight has been perfect."
"Thank you," he replied. "I'm glad you were here to share it with me."
"Thank you," Alan said when the server placed a good-sized gift box on the table in front of him. The server bowed slightly and then left. "What's this?"
Marissa blushed nervously. "You can't have an anniversary without presents."
"You didn't have to do this," Alan looked her in the eyes. There was a flash of pain in his eyes, as if he had forgotten about his wife up until that moment. Then it was gone when he realised that the woman he was with was thinking of him, too.
She smiled. "Open it up."
Carefully, Alan untied the bow and slipped the lid off the box. He dug through the tissue paper and then stopped. He flashed an incredulous look at Marissa. His eyes went back into the box. Then back to Marissa.
Very slowly, he reached in and lifted out his present.
Alan was at a loss for words. Handling it as if it were the Holy Grail itself, Alan set the camera down on the table.
"How did—" he stammered. "You can't . . . Marissa . . . This must have cost a fortune."
"Then it's a good thing I'm ahead of the casino," she replied with a mischievous grin. Then she drew her own pocket camera out of her purse. "Oh, and smile."
He tried, but still looked bewildered.
Marissa watched him flip the camera on and off. He played with the lens. He didn't bother to look through the manual. He dug out all the other accessories along with the leather camera bag Marissa had also gotten for him.
With all the pictures he had of Brianne, Marissa figured he was quite the amateur photographer. She confirmed this over the course of several conversations and thanks to some helpful folks in the Luxor's photo shop, she found one of the best digital SLR cameras money could buy and ordered it through her friends at the Luxor's hospitality desk (with next day delivery, of course). Then it was just a matter of staying ahead at blackjack and craps to pay for it.
As she watched him playing with his new toy, Marissa smiled to herself. After all the nice things Alan had done for her, she felt quite a sense of accomplishment. His smile made her wish she could see it every day.
Is this what unconditional friendship is like? she thought to herself. Almost all of Marissa's relationships were built on people using each other for their own individual gains. All her clients paid for her services. Even though Laurie was friendly and they had gone out for drinks a couple of times, their relationship was still business first. Marissa didn't have many girlfriends because she worked so much and because she never wanted to tell people the truth about what she did for a living. She hadn't gone out on a real date in over a year.
"Marissa," Alan said and the sound of her name in his voice made her heart beat faster. "I can't accept this . . . it's too much—"
"Alan," she snickered. "Shut up. You deserve it. And really: I'm not out anything. I bought that on house money."
"You're that much ahead?"
More actually, she thought but didn't tell him. "Yes. Did they charge the battery?"
"Um," Alan looked down at the display as Marissa changed the subject on him. "I think so. This is a professional-quality camera. Don't tell me you picked up photography this week, too?"
Marissa giggled. "No. I only learn one new skill a week and ballroom dancing was it for me. The folks here at the hotel were very helpful."
"Especially for a pretty Miss High Roller. I'll have to thank them," Alan said appreciatively. "And thank you."
"You're very welcome." Marissa bowed slightly. Her toes started to tingle when she thought of the ways she could get Alan to show his appreciation. "Now let's eat."
Their small meal arrived just then. They split a spring roll appetizer and a chef's choice sushi and sashimi platter. For dessert, they had the "Fusia Chocolate Decadence". The food was fabulous, but it didn't matter to Marissa. All she wanted was to be with Alan.
Done eating, Alan gathered up his present. With the box under one arm and Marissa on the other, he led her back to their room.
The flowers were still all over the place, their sweet scent filling the suite. Alan set his box down on the desk and then went into the bedroom. He came back out with a garment travel bag that was designed for expensive gowns.
"Let me get one last picture," he said. Raising his new camera, Alan snapped several shots of Marissa in the dress and along with her flowers. She smiled for him and hoped that he would let her have copies of some of them. Marissa was also glad she had several pictures of the two of them from that night, taken at dinner, over their late night snack and even on the dance floor.