“Do you know how to Shag?”
He laughed and said, “You mean the dance?”
“Yes, of course I mean the dance—while I was downtown this week, I saw that a Shag contest would be held tonight at Rembrandt’s on Society.”
“I don’t think we’ll go to Rembrandt’s, but what if I show you the dance steps on the porch after dinner. I’m surprised that you, a Virginia girl, never learned to Shag.”
When they finished dining, Cooper went into his hunting room, and Mills could hear him sorting through cassettes. He returned with a radio/cassette player and two tapes. “A true Shag enthusiast might argue that some of these songs aren’t Shag music, but I think we can still dance to them.”
He led her outside and placed a hurricane lamp on the screened porch.
The sun had set, and there was a light rain falling; the air was cool and damp. Cooper took her by the hands and showed her the dance steps while humming a song. Occasionally, he interjected a few lyrics from the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose song, “Too Late to Turn Back Now.” I wish I could read his thoughts.
They moved together through the steps until Cooper asked, “Are you ready to try?”
She nodded, and he started the cassette player. The first song was by the Spiral Starecase, “More Today than Yesterday.” They both sang along to the music. Has he chosen these songs on purpose?
Cooper was a smooth, athletic dancer, and Mills attempted to follow his lead but fumbled the maneuvers. He held her hands tightly, and despite her missteps, she had tremendous fun. One song played after another, and they all had one characteristic in common—they made her feel good.
When the tape finished, they were still in each other’s arms swaying in the candlelight. He pulled her close to him, his fingers gently caressing her arms. She was mesmerized by his touch and he said, “I have a song I’d like to play for you. When I heard it for the first time, I was in a taxi in New Jersey. I could not stop thinking of you all week, and this song reminded me even more of you. I went to Manhattan to purchase it—it’s a new release from Van Morrison from the album, Avalon Sunsets.”
He spoke softly to her. “In the legend of King Arthur, Avalon was an island called the Island of Apples or the Fortunate Isle, because the fields needed no plows for cultivation; nature provided an abundance of grains and fruit. Avalon was a magical place—paradise.”
He turned on the music and danced with her, holding her tightly in his arms. The song began with an instrumental overture and then the vocals started.
“What’s the name of the song?” Mills softly asked.
“Have I Told You Lately,” Cooper whispered in her ear. She felt flushed. He loves me?
The song continued to play, and as Cooper held her closely, she felt his first kiss on her throat. Captivated, she found herself breathless as his arm that was behind her was now inside her shirt, gently caressing her back. When the song finished, he turned off the cassette player and kissed her passionately on the mouth. Her entire existence was on fire.
She trembled in his arms and he softly whispered, “God help me, but I can’t help the way I feel about you . . . my worst fear is that I might lose you. I want you to understand that I’m very much in love with you . . . ma belle fille, j’ai très envie de ton amour.”
“That’s what you said to me at the East Bay Club. What does it mean?”
“It means: My beautiful girl, I long for your love.”
After months of handshakes and pats on the back, she was stunned by his admission. She spoke quietly, “You had no reason to be jealous of Henri. You see, I wouldn’t have been the least bit interested in him since I’m in love with someone else. Cooper, I feel like I’ve been in love with you my entire life.”
When she said these words to him, he lifted her in his arms and carried her through the candlelit house into his bedroom. He placed her on his bed and she noticed a warming circle of light cast onto the ceiling by a hurricane lamp. She watched him remove his shirt before he embraced her in his arms. Gradually, they removed their clothes, and as he kissed and caressed her, she felt deep pleasures envelop her entire body, from head to toe. They were naked against one another, and when they became one for the first time, she cried for him to hold her closer. Stopping his caresses, he kissed her on the mouth and whispered, “I love you. I’ve got you, and I’m not going to let you go.”
Mills never knew that such passion existed, and when she woke in the morning, they were still embracing each other, their bodies intertwined. They had loved one another until exhausted, then collapsed into each other’s arms.
She gazed at the rotating ceiling fan above the bed. The electricity had been restored at some point during the night, and turning her face toward Cooper, she discovered that he was awake and looking at her.
When their eyes met he said, “You were so lovely asleep beside me, and I didn’t want our time together to end. In my dreams, I’ve held you countless times, but loving you last night was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.”
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