“Cotton,” she said stiffly. “Old-fashioned, boring, or, as you say, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm cotton.”
“Oh? Vanessa wears—” He didn’t finish his sentence because Samantha hit him in the ribs with both her fists.
Wincing, he gave a grunt of pain, then laughed, but he didn’t release her from the circle of his arms. “Sammy, baby, you’re the only woman in my life. Vanessa was a long time ago.”
“It doesn’t matter to me at all. Would you stop playing Tarzan and release me? I’d like to go upstairs and get dressed.”
Moving just a bit forward, he put his face close to her neck so she could feel his warm breath on her skin. “Tarzan? How about if we stay in today and play Indian brave and uptight missionary’s daughter? All your family could be killed by Indians, then I’d save you, but you’d hate me at first until I made you cry out in ecstasy, then we—”
Try as she would, she couldn’t keep from laughing. “Oh, Mike, you’re crazy. And what in the world have you been reading?”
“Crazy with wanting you,” he said, nuzzling her neck, but he still kept a breath of space between them, as though he had to keep distance between them. “If you don’t like Indians, I could show you a few tricks with red silk scarves. Or I could be a pirate and…” He stopped talking because his mouth was on her neck.
When he began to relax, Samantha ducked under his arm and moved away from him, hiding a smile at the groan of misery he emitted when she left the circle of his arms. Keeping her back to him so she wouldn’t see him in his present bare state, she left the bedroom and went upstairs to get dressed, smiling all the way.
She had no more than pulled on a pair of jeans than Mike knocked on the outside door of her apartment. His knocking was certainly only a formality as the door had a foot-size hole in it. Even at that formality, he didn’t bother to give her time to open the door before he entered and made himself at home in the living room. When Samantha entered the room, still buttoning her blouse, Mike was sprawled in a chair, his feet on the ottoman.
“You make up your mind yet?”
“You mean about which book I’m going to read? There’s what looks to be an excellent biography here on Captain Sir Frank Baker, the Victorian explorer. I thought I’d start that.”
Mike’s frustration showed on his face. “What does a guy have to do to get a date with you? My bony cousin—”
“Raine asked me,” she said pointedly. “He asked me politely and gave me twenty-four hours’ notice. Women appreciate that sort of thing. Asking a woman on a date shows a little more finesse than saying, ‘Uh-oh, my towel has fallen off,’ or ‘Let’s play doctor.’ ”
Slowly, Mike got out of the chair and stood before her. Taking her hand in his, he kissed the back of it with exaggerated politeness and courtesy. “Miss Elliot, may I have the honor of a day spent in your company?”
“With or without red scarves?” she asked with narrowed eyes.
“It is milady’s choice,” he said, again kissing her hand, but this time he touched her skin with the tip of his tongue.
Smiling in spite of herself, Samantha looked down at his tumble of black curls. “What will we be doing on this date?”
Mike looked up at her in disgust. “Not swings and ice cream.” After kissing her hand a third time, he smiled up at her mischievously. “We could always visit Vanessa.”
“Only if I can bring Raine,” she shot back at him with an equally impish grin.
Mike laughed and straightened. “How’d you like to see more of New York? Chinatown, Little Italy, the Village, that sort of thing. Believe it or not, there’s more to this city than Fifth and Madison avenues—both of which, I might say, you have adjusted to with amazing adaptability.”
“Let me change clothes and—”
“No, jeans are perfect for where we’re going.” He slipped his arm in hers and in another minute led her out the front door.
Samantha had her first experience of New York on the weekend. It seemed that on the weekend, midtown Manhattan emptied of all the beautifully dressed and groomed people and was refilled with what were unmistakably tourists. There were women wearing baggy dresses or shapeless trousers with elastic waistbands hanging onto big-bellied men with four cameras strapped over their polyester shirts.
“Where have they gone?” Sam asked.
“Country houses and neighborhoods around the city,” Mike answered, leading her north. First he took her to a street fair on Sixty-seventh near First Avenue, and Samantha saw table after table full of costume jewelry from the thirties and forties. She fell in love with a silver basket filled with flowers created out of colored stones. “It’s Trifari,” the woman said as though that meant something. Samantha wanted the pin, but she’d already spent too much the day before, so reluctantly she put the little basket down.
Mike didn’t hesitate as he bought it for her, but when he handed it to her, Samantha protested that he shouldn’t have, that he’d already done too much for her. When he urged it on her, she refused to take it. “You’ve done so much for me, I can’t take any more.”
Mike shrugged. “Okay, maybe Vanessa would like to have it.”
With a glare at him, Samantha snatched the pin out of his hand, closing her palm around it so tightly the pin bit into her flesh. Smiling, Mike lifted her hand, pulled her fingers from around the pretty pin, then fastened it onto the collar of her shirt. The sparkling pin wasn’t right for her casual attire, but she couldn’t have cared less as she happily took the arm Mike offered and walked beside him.
They walked down First Avenue together to Sutton Place. Mike led her into a pretty little park that had a few women with baby carriages; the women were obviously nannies and the town houses around them were obviously for the very rich.
As Samantha stood at the wrought-iron fence and looked up at the bridge over the East River, watching the barges along the river, Mike came up behind her and slipped his arms about her waist. As she always did when his touches became too intimate, she started to move away, but he said, “Don’t, please,” in a rough voice that she couldn’t deny. She stayed where she was, allowing him to hold her, the back of her body pressed down the length of the front of him, and for a moment she allowed herself to enjoy his nearness.