“Be my Valentine.”
Natasha speared the piece of pink-veined shrimp and dipped it delicately into the red cocktail sauce. She took a bite and closed her eyes. “Mmm.”
“I’ve never seen anyone eat shrimp more sexily than you.”
Natasha opened her eyes. Pepper’s smiling face was across the table. She looked gorgeous in her black cocktail dress, ruby-red stilettos, ruby necklace, earrings, and bracelet.
I’m very lucky.
Natasha mirrored Pepper with a black cocktail dress, though of different cut and style. Her stilettos were black, and she wore a thin gold chain with a gold, heart-shaped locket. Diamond solitaire earrings sparkled as she tossed her head.
“And that’s just the beginning, my dear.” Natasha took a sip of champagne, the bubbles tickling her nose.
The happy couple was sitting in one of the most elegant restaurants in Manhattan, filled with romantic couples celebrating Valentine’s Day on this busy Friday night. There were pink-and-white hibiscus in the center of the table and an attentive waitress in a red-white-and-black uniform with a buoyant, frilly skirt and filigreed white cap. Her blond hair was pulled back into a neat bun and she asked, “How is everything, ladies?”
“Delicious,” said Pepper.
“Your entrees will be out soon.”
The waitress went to her next table.
“Lovely girl,” said Natasha.
Natasha smiled. She finished her shrimp and decided the capitalist holiday was fine with her. Most holidays were connected to business in this society, so why fight it? Enjoy its pleasures as the businessmen pocketed their profits.
Their entrees were brought, salmon with broccoli and rice for Pepper, and steak, cauliflower and rice for Natasha. The waitress smiled and refreshed their water glasses, too. Natasha dug into her steak with obvious relish.
Pepper smiled. “A woman who loves a good steak. I’m impressed.”
Natasha ate another piece. “Juicy and flavorful. Mmm.”
Pepper laughed. “You’re unique, ‘Tasha.”
“I hope so. I’d rather be that than cookie-cutter.”
“You could never be that, my dear.”
Natasha’s red lips curved into a seductive smile.
They ate silently, eyes only for each other. While the murmur of muted conversation surrounded them, they indulged in good food and drink, each move deliberate and promising a night to remember.
They finished their meal with tiramisu and coffee. Natasha set her cup down into its saucer and reached under the table and produced a large, heart-shaped box.
“Capitalist holiday or not, it’s a pleasant way to celebrate love.”
“Any excuse for a good steak, huh?”
“This ain’t steak, love.”
Pepper took the red box with the pink flowers and opened it. “Ah, Godiva chocolates.”
“The best, darling. Though I could give you a Whitman’s Sampler and you’d be happy. Though I must admit, I like the little map that tells you which chocolate you’re getting.”
Pepper smirked. “Aren’t you the romantic? Mooning over Whitman’s Samplers when you’ve got Godiva in your hands.”
“I’m a simple woman.”
Natasha smiled over the rim of her champagne flute. Pepper opened the box and selected a chocolate. She offered the box to Natasha, who took it and perused the contents, choosing a chocolate.
“You have good taste, my dear.”
“I know. I chose you, didn’t I?”
Pepper smiled slyly. She reached into her purse and produced a square, red box. “Here, Valentine.”
Natasha took the box and opened it, her eyes flickering. “It’s beautiful, darling.” She lifted out a sparkling ruby bracelet.
“It suits you. Matches your hair.”
Natasha put the bracelet on her right wrist. “I love it!”
Pepper was very pleased. “You deserve it, my lovely.”
Natasha was touched. The gift was expensive, but she understood there was genuine love behind it, not just something to make Pepper look good. Rich people often substituted things for affection or other emotions, but Pepper was the real deal.
Not all capitalists are shallow, she thought.
They lingered over coffee, and Natasha was pleased to see their waitress take note of her new bracelet. Pepper noticed, too, and left the woman a generous tip, mostly for her service but a little for her admiration.
When they left the restaurant, both wore faux fur coats: silver fox for Pepper and Russian sable for Natasha. They rode in a limousine Pepper had hired for the evening, as Happy, the usual chauffeur, had the night off. Natasha grasped her lover’s hand during the ride, keeping their joined hands on her thigh.
Avengers’ Tower was quiet as the women rode the elevator up to their floor. By the time they reached their suite, they were kissing passionately. Disrobing was quick but careful, and jewelry sparkled as they made love. Well-toned bodies came together and lips tasted, fingers stroked and skin rubbed against each other. Declarations of love were happy and breathless as a hand cupped the swell of a breast or the curve of a hip.
In the afterglow the lovers lay entwined and Natasha lifted her arm and admired her bracelet. It glittered beautifully in the moonlight that streamed in through the windows.
Pepper smiled as she kissed Natasha. Both women laughed happily and hugged each other.
Valentine’s Day had its uses, Natasha thought.