Couples Only

She was wearing a 'smart' dress, and she changed its cut and color five times before he found an opportunity to introduce himself. He didn't ask how much such a thing costs; such a question would have given away that he was not native to this social echelon, that he was an Academy 'charity case', that he was orbiting above his station. He did manage to get her to demonstrate its full range, however: from evening gown to swimwear and back. Later, privately, it even managed convincing lingerie.

Now it lay draped over the end of the bed, lifeless and unimpressive on its own, but that was hardly cause for disappointment; Jules was more striking without it.

"Who did you come to the party with? I mean, who did you know?" She rolled over onto her stomach, reached for her purse on the floor. He watched her light a cigarette, casually, as if it was normal behavior.

"I went to school with Liam."

"On a scholarship." It wasn't a question; she'd made him.

"I suppose its obvious."

"Oh, don't be embarrassed. I knew straightaway that you weren't an Heir. I wouldn't have fucked you if I cared about that sort of thing. Do you know Liam well?"

"Roommates three years."

"Do you know the girl? The one he picked?" She didn't sound jealous, though she must have been in the running herself; all the girls at the party had been. Attendance at Liam's 'going-away' was something of a consolation prize.

"Shelley. She seems nice. They spent most of the week together, at some cabin."

She took a long drag, nodded sagely. "That's smart. They'll know, by now, then, one way or another. If it'll work or not." Liam's Slot was conditional, and probably so was Shelley's, but he hadn't asked. Two and a half years cooped up in a cabin smaller than most Heir's closets, and then a lifetime together on a new world.

"They held hands most of the party."

"Sure." She took a last drag and then tossed the half-burned cigarette onto the carpet for one of the miniature cleaning robots to chase down, extinguish, carry away. "What are you doing now? Any plans?"

She hadn't turned over; her hair lay spilled across her naked back. "Enjoying the view."

"No, really."

"I have a Slot too."

Jules rolled over, looked at him. "No you don't. Do you?"




"No, of course, not. You're there on a scholarship. You're probably some sort of genius. They'd give you a walk-on Slot." She sighed. "Mine's conditional."

"I figured."

"I really wasn't…" She sat up, moved closer. "I didn't know. I wasn't trying to rope you in so I could claim my Slot. I just thought you were cute."

"I believe you." Impulsively he said, "Wanna go?" He realized immediately that he meant it.

She sat there, naked, staring into space, for a long moment. He'd never watched someone decide the rest of their life before. Eventually she smiled, "Okay."

Courtyard By Marriott

"So here's my question…" I waited for the redhead to turn, to see me, to process what I had said, for the decision to hear the rest to play across her face; all of which happened quickly. Which was a good sign: if they're slow on the uptake I usually abort. Not this time. "What would the perfect thing to say to you be, right now, to convince you to give me a shot?"

"Probably not that."

I smiled; it had been worth a try. Women appreciate honesty. Especially women in hotel bars at midnight.

"But it's probably good enough."