A Lebanese Feast

Sea waves crashed on the rocky coast as Pierre sauntered up the steps to the Excelsior Hotel, a bastion of Lebanese society. Bellmen in gold-braided uniforms fronted the magnificent nineteenth-century building. Lavish palm trees swayed in huge containers.

Pierre had returned from Paris especially for the reception. In his own way, he was taking a stand against barbarity. Craters and checkpoints be damned. Being on time was a sign of his civility, as was his Armani suit with the impeccably folded handkerchief in the breast pocket.

At the entrance to the Grande Salle, Luella Bashir stood welcoming her guests. In her fifties, she was a commanding presence. A cascade of diamonds crested her cleavage. She extended her head toward Pierre, and her face came so close he could see the perfection of her makeup, the penciled margins of her lips.

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