Banjo Man

Banjo Man by Sally Goldenbaum

Book: Banjo Man by Sally Goldenbaum Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sally Goldenbaum
Before, with Rick, it had been full, but now it was empty. Empty room. Empty heart. Empty hands folded in her lap.
    And yet her hands remembered the feel of his hair. Her arms remembered the shape and heat of his body. Her senses remembered the feel and taste and smell of him. She wanted that. She did!
    Then why run away?
    Because in life there was only going forward or going back.
    Back was safe and known … and lonely.
    But forward was a mystery that had her running and hiding. She didn’t know anything about sex, about sensuality! How did you touch someone else? How did you let someone touch you without bursting into flame? All day she had burned with new feelings that frightened her. She felt like a butterflyjust out of the cocoon, a baby bird pushed from the nest.
    “Cut the poetry, O’Neill, and figure out what you’re doing before it’s too late!” She groaned aloud, and then gulped in surprise.
    How many nights had she stood in her convent room, thinking aloud, just like this? Thinking, and praying, and wishing for happiness.
    And here it was!
    So what if she hadn’t known happiness would be wearing faded jeans and playing the banjo. Call it beginner’s luck!
    Several minutes later Laurie hurried back down the stairs, her heels clattering on the linoleum, and came to a sharp stop in front of the desk.
    “Excuse me? Ma’am? I’m checking out.”
    “You just checked in.”
    “I know,” Laurie replied sheepishly, “but I’ve had a change of heart.”
    “There are no refunds.”
    “That’s okay. I didn’t expect my money back. I just wanted you to know the room was empty.”
    The woman looked at her, pressing stray wisps of hair back into her bun with a dry, thin hand. “Fine.”
    Laurie was about to smile, then decided to save it for someone else. “Can you tell me where there’s a pay phone?”
    “In the corner.”
    Laurie dropped in her coins and punched the numbers. “Hi. Could you please send Frank to pick up a fare at the ‘Y’? He’s expecting the call. Thanks.”
    When they pulled up in front of Rick’s hotel, Laurie gave Frank the smile she had been saving and a five-dollar tip.
    He shook his head. “You know, with what you spent on cab fare tonight, you and your fella could’ve stayed at the Hyatt!”
    “That’s all right.” She laughed. “This is where I want to be. And Frank … thanks for everything.”
    Laurie slammed the taxi door, waved, and hurried into the hotel hobby, her skirt twirling about her knees.
    The elevator was stopped at the sixth floor and the call button was already lit, but she pushed it anyway, willing it to hurry.
    After ten heartbeats she couldn’t stand it any longer and pushed the button again, trembling with impatience.
    What if he wasn’t there? What if he was sick to death of her uncertainty, her naivete? What if he had taken her advice and gone out somewhere for dinner … or met someone? He must know dozens of people in this town, and at least half would be women, all sexier and more sophisticated than she. And each and every one would probably have been glad to take Rick Westin out to dinner—or home!
    She was so nervous she couldn’t stand still. Her eyes clung to the lights above the door, counting the numbers down to “lobby.” When the door slid open she jumped inside, hit “7,” and stood with her toes at the door as the elevator rose, her arms folded tight across her chest, as if to keep her heart from leaping clear out of her body.
    She raced down the hall to 721 and tried the knob, then knocked loudly.
    “Rick—Rick, it’s me … Laurie!”
    The door was yanked open from inside, and he was there. He took one eager step toward her, then held himself back, his dark eyes studying her face. “Hi, darlin’,” he said softly, his hand resting, white-knuckled, on the doorknob.
    For a second Laurie couldn’t say anything. Her head was suddenly empty of words, filled instead with the sight of him in fawn-colored slacks and

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