“Thank you, my dear. It’s nice to know that my youth isn’t entirely a thing of the past.” Jamed Ursek chuckled gently, and caressed the abundant soft hair spread on the pillow beside him.
Yalet blinked up into his face, blue eyes wide. “You’re not very old! And anyway, the young ones are…” her nose wrinkled a little. “Well, they’re energetic, but they don’t have much style, if you know what I mean.”
Jamed laughed. She probably said the same thing to a hundred men a year, but she certainly managed to deliver the line with sincerity. He groaned a little, involuntarily, as he turned and swung his legs out of bed. He was in decent shape, worked out regularly, but he’d used muscles that didn’t come into his regular regimen.
The heavy lirasilk robe was tossed over a chair beside the nightstand; he reached for it and swung it over his shoulders.
“No, no, stay where you are, my dear. I’m just going to get us a drink. I could certainly use one, anyway. You?”
She turned, and raised herself on an elbow. “One of those jet-propelled fruit things? Sure! I never had anything like that before, those are good.” It had been one of several pleasant surprises that, while he’d welcomed her with a glass of very expensive brandy, he’d then switched to the amazing tangy-sweet fruit concoction from a real crystal decanter in the room chiller. She’d not had to worry about palming more booze, just enjoyed the light glow of the one brandy and then really liked the tart, sweet thing he’d called a “rembek tootie” or something like that.
“Ah. I’m glad you approve. The rembek comes all the way from Surimaka Delta, shipped intact, since they don’t deconstitute well. A very expensive vice, but I developed a taste for it when I was stationed at Raliki.” He poured the sparkling, pale-green concoction into two tall, narrow, footed goblets.
Her eyes widened again, as she reached for the goblet he extended. “You’re not a Homie, then? I didn’t think so!”
“Certainly not. Klaros Legion, retired General-Hartman.” He set his goblet on the nightstand and slid back in next to her, reaching to dial the canopy lights to a marginally brighter golden glow that gave her skin a warm luster. His eyes dwelt appreciatively on the exquisite curve of shoulder and breast for a moment, then he picked up his goblet and held it out.
Her eyes sparkled as she tapped it with her own glass. Yalet wasn’t too sure of the higher military ranks, but she knew that any kind of General was pretty far up there. “I always kind of envied military women,” she confessed. “It must be wonderful to travel, and see how people live on other worlds. Even if they are all benighted heretics,” she added hastily, her gaze becoming suddenly wary.
Retired General-Hartman Jamed Ursek suppressed a cynical grin. “A very proper sentiment. Yes, it’s interesting,” he gazed into the middle distance for a moment, remembering a few things, then pulled his attention back to the amazingly lovely woman beside him. “Oh, well, they also serve who only help retired old officers ease a little biological back pressure,” he smiled.
She laughed. “I guess it’s the least I can do, as a patriotic citizen.” She sensed he was drifting a little, and lay quietly beside him, sipping the delicious drink occasionally. His gaze had returned to the middle distance, and his face was hard to read. She wondered if she should make a gesture toward going, decided to leave it for a bit. When he came out of his brown study, she’d be able to get a better read on it.
He’d pleasantly surprised her, and she’d been glad to deliver with real sincerity the conventional thanks she delivered so often with carefully calculated coquetry. Older men sometimes, especially if the ‘biological back pressure’—she grinned a little at the phrase—had been building up for a long time, were a little too abrupt for her to really hit her stride. Jamed had been one of the lingering kind, and also one of the confident ones, neither intimidated by her looks nor anxious about their own capabilities. It had been nice. Very nice. Why, she wondered for the billionth time, did the Church have such a down on it?
She looked up at the half-dome canopy that covered the upper third of the bed, lights gleaming subtly from artful recesses. A sideways glance at him reassured her that the customer was still off in his own thoughts. Sometimes they wanted to talk, and sometimes not. Sort of a shame Jamed wasn’t the talking kind, he had interesting stories, she’d bet. The little he had told her, that he was a widower, retired, treating his two daughters and their families to a family holiday at Birval before taking up a lectureship at the Altyne Orbital educational facility, was intriguing enough. Altyne Orbital was that big satellite cluster, riding out beyond Revielle D, where all the famous scientists and writers were. EduTel had run a vid program on it last year.
Yalet always watched EduTel when she had a chance. Her own education had ended at Eight-level, which was better than most in Reschek, the small Fard Karachik community she’d grown up in, but she always wished she’d been eligible for the extra two levels that the better-class cit kids could request.
One more sip, and the lovely fruit stuff was gone. She glanced sideways at Jamed, who was, she thought, smiling faintly now, and set her glass on the nightstand beside her. The tiny chink seemed to recall him, and he turned his head to look at her, and smiled. “Sorry, my dear—Yalet. How discourteous of me to leave a lady unaccompanied.”
Her eyes crinkled at the corners with her smile. “Not at all, if you were enjoying yourself. I like seeing people enjoy themselves.”
He chuckled then. “You do, don’t you. How admirably suitable.”
She had the read on him now, something in the tone of voice told her the evening was over. She slid out of bed, and came round to his side, and leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “You’re a great gentleman.”
“Well, thank you. You must go?” It was a polite enquiry, but he was already elsewhere.
“Indeed, I have to get some beauty sleep, Citi… er, General. I have three shows tomorrow.” She let a saucy lilt come into her smile. “’But all you have to do is…whistle!’” She quoted the classic line from Evening at the Tower.
“‘Ahh… and I do know how to whistle!’” he smiled, capping the quote.
She went to the chair beside the table where she’d left the wrap and low-cut gown and provocative underthings she’d been wearing. “Shall I take these in the ’fresher?” Some men, she knew, loved to watch a woman undress but didn’t care for the reverse process.
“You needn’t, unless you’d like to.” She was pleased by his attention as she drew the garments on, carefully, one by one, then went to stand before the vast mirror by the console between the windows, and tidied her hair and face.
Jamed wasn’t conscious of how much he enjoyed watching her dress at first, but then he realized it had been, what…–nine years?—since he’d been both intimate and relaxed enough with a woman to watch the little smoothings and pattings and attentions she gave to herself during the dressing process. He thought of Liret, but it was a warm nostalgia, not the painful ache that often came with such memories. As Yalet gathered the tiny gilt bag and scarf, he slid from the bed himself, took a folder from his dressing-gown pocket, abstracted a credit slip, and walked her to the door.
“I hope you’ll allow me to express a little extra appreciation, Yalet. I very much enjoyed myself… and you.” And he bowed over her hand just as though she were a real exec-class type lady.
He was a real gentleman, to be sure. She gave him her warmest smile and most appreciative wink, as the door closed behind her.