Babylon Sister

Swaying a bit atop her stool as she nursed a fourth whiskey, Sister Rita Donovan gazed across the packed hotel bar, admiring furtively (so she hoped) the British thriller novelist Jon Carleton: raffish, handsome, bespectacled, tall. He stood in a crush of fans beyond the leather banquettes and dark oak tables, framed deftly between two vintage Tiffany lamps, pumping hands in grip-and-grins amid camera flash—ever the professional, she thought, marveling at his shrewd and tireless charm.

They’d spoken earlier, idle hallway chatter. She’d felt a bit like a schoolgirl, fixed in his gaze. Now, from some warm but shadowy place within her, a wistful sigh gathered, a little heated ball of air pushing upward like a mood balloon.

Oh, what a wickedly delicious confession I’d gladly make, an irksome but familiar voice within her said. If, if, if . . .

Shush, she thought, fearing for a moment she’d said it out loud.

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