Dinner was served but neither Diana or Danny ate much; he was too busy whispering questions into her ear, and she was too busy telling him her life story in a quiet undertone. The constant pressure of his thigh against hers, and the occasional squeeze when he thought no one would notice, had Diana in a simmering state of excitement that she’d never experienced before. She noticed that Danny was drinking sparkling water, and remembered reading something about him having an alcohol problem, so she opted for sparkling water too. The dinner itself seemed to go on forever, and she was relieved when Simon, the young comedian who had been drafted in to cover for Danny, got up on the podium and banged the gavel for attention.
His vocal limitation had no effect on Danny’s ability to participate, and Diana watched in awe as large sums of money were bid for relatively trivial things. As the auction progressed, so did the value of the goods. Pictures and items of clothing were replaced by cars, boats, holidays and jewellery. She leafed through the auction catalogue noting that Danny had marked a few items with stars. The guide price alone made her feel quite faint, and as each item soared past its guide, Diana’s feeling of disorientation increased. She’d lost count of how much Danny had spent by the end of the evening; he had been in a few bidding wars with other attendees, sometimes triumphing, and on other occasions confessing to her in a whisper that he didn’t want the goods, he was just doing it to wind the other person up a bit, and make them spend more money.
It was close to midnight when the last item was sold, and the extremely grand total raised was announced. Danny stood and raised his glass of water to the room, pulling Diana up with him. She blushed at being the centre of attention in this way, and was hugely relieved when they sat down again.
“Sorry my angel,” he said as he squeezed her hand. “But I wanted everyone to see that I’m not just sitting next to you by accident. You’re a beautiful woman, and you’re with me. Have you had a good time?”
Diana pulled a face.
“Talking to you has been the best bit, dinner was okay, and the amount of money that’s changed hands this evening frightens the life out of me. Have you any idea how much you spent?”
“Nope. Mike has kept an eye on it though. I haven’t had the daggers look from him yet, so I expect I’m still within budget. Don’t forget that charitable donations are tax deductible anyway – according to Mike.”
“Do you remember what you bid for?”
“A fortnight on Necker. Hamilton’s F1 helmet – we’ll probably put that up for auction again, and get some more money for a different charity. Oh – a few small things and I think there was some jewellery somewhere. Mike will know what I’ve brought.”
“What’s Mike’s official title?”
“He’s my manager and has been for the last fifteen years. He’s the closest thing to a brother that I have. Don’t be put off by his manner; he’s naturally suspicious of anyone new. He’ll be fine once he gets to know you.”
Diana took a deep breath.
“I’m going to get that opportunity then?”
His eyes softened as he put his arm around her and whispered in her ear, “Do you honestly think I would let you go that easily? I was dreading all the fuss and attention this weekend. It’s been years since I did this sort of thing in the UK, and even Mike was a bit worried about how successful it would be. You’ve turned it all around for me – for all of us really. You and I have still got some talking to do, but I’m getting a bit tired of all this whispering. We need some privacy. Your room or mine?”
“Oh!” Diana was taken aback for a moment. “Mine please? I mean, there will be less people, won’t there?”
“Precisely. I’ve even come prepared.”
He opened his jacket and showed her the toothbrush and toothpaste tucked into his inside pocket. She wasn’t sure whether to feel flattered by his attention, insulted by his assumption that she’d let him stay the night, or disgusted that he thought she was such a pushover. As a nurse who had delivered many sexual health advice sessions in the course of her job, Diana wondered if Danny had anything else tucked away in his pockets. The thought gave her cold shivers, and they weren’t caused by fear. He sensed her ambivalence and spoke softly to her again.
“We can just talk all night if that’s what you want to do. I’d like the opportunity to brush my teeth at some stage though. I have a bit of a thing about dental hygiene. I’ll go back to my suite whenever you say the word.”
She felt churlish to have judged him so harshly, and relaxed against him, closing her eyes as he kissed the top of her head, and breathed in the scent of her hair. The room was beginning to clear at last; Danny called his entourage over, and croaked out a few orders, paramount of which was that he would be staying in Diana’s room, and did not want to be disturbed until morning unless the hotel burnt down. Mike raised a quizzical eyebrow at this, but Danny’s responding glare put paid to any comment. Diana and Danny took the stairs to her room, and once inside she felt an overwhelming relief at being out of the public eye. The relief was short-lived however, as she realised that now they were alone, all pretence would be stripped away and Danny would see her for what she really was; a middle-aged woman with stretch marks, good upholstery, but the actual sexual experience of a nervous but slightly wayward teenager.