Sophie was the one who had suggested Les Delices. She had never been there before, but it was supposed to be one of the top French restaurants in New York, especially renowned for its seafood and its dreamy celebrity chef Andr . Plus, Bella had worked as a waitress there when she first got to New York, so Sophie thought of it as friendly territory.
When she walked through the revolving door, it was like entering another time and place. Inside, everything was plush and wonderful. She could have stood and stared at the vast, sculptural flower arrangement alone for hours on end, especially since she was already a little toasted from the Shrunken Head.
Sophie couldn’t resist reaching out and tracing a finger along the edge of one of the huge, magenta orchids, just to see if it was real. It was. Through the flowers, she spotted Avishai sitting in one of the banquettes in the lounge, leaning back into the satin cushions and twirling a brandy snifter between his fingers.
He looked spectacular in his finely tailored suit, and Sophie saw a woman at the bar eye him longingly over her date’s shoulder. Sophie’s heart started beating faster and she felt pinpricks of sweat break out on her palms. She did not know why Avishai had such an effect on her. She had never felt this way when she was going to meet Josh.
She stood apart from him for some time, prolonging the moment before she approached. All around her, she enjoyed the little chimes of silver and crystal, the murmured French phrases, and all the other delicate sounds of the grand old restaurant. Later on she would remember how she had waited before approaching the table. It was as if she knew that her innocence was about to end.
He stood up when she came to him. Sophie avoided his eyes, because she was worried that if she looked directly into them she might trip while the waiter pushed in the chair for her. Only once she was settled did she look up. His dark, almond-shaped eyes bore into her.
“So glad you decided to join me,” he said.
Suddenly the posh lounge felt small and cramped. Again she had that sensation that she was some kind of scared little deer trapped in a cage with a lion. She laughed nervously and looked down at her napkin. Avishai spoke some French and someone brought Sophie a martini on a silver tray. The cocktail had a huge ball of ice with a rose frozen inside it. Sophie reached out and touched the ice ball, setting it spinning inside the cocktail.
“Sophie,” Avishai said. “Look at me.”
She picked up the cocktail and took a sip first. It tasted just like roses. She lifted her eyes to his. “I find it hard to look in your eyes,” she blurted out. She was surprised to find that her voice was trembling.
He smiled. “Why is that, Sophie?”
“And the way you keep saying my name,” she said, looking away from him again. She felt suddenly angry. “Everything you do, it’s just so. . .” She shook her head. “So suggestive.” She was going to say no to this man. She was going to stand up for herself and set some boundaries. “You’re my boss, Avishai. It’s not right.”
“So that’s why you came out here to have a cocktail with me,” he said, his voice amused. “So you could tell me no?”
She nodded, still staring at her lap. “That’s right, Avishai. I came to tell you no.”
But as she said the word “no,” she felt a terrible wave of disappointment spread through her. It was almost enough to bring tears to her eyes, and she didn’t know why. She didn’t know why she had come she didn’t know why she was saying no she didn’t know what she was doing at all. She felt like a little kid, and in that moment she wished desperately that Bella had answered her cell phone.
“Let me give you a piece of advice, Sophie. As one mathematician to another. Never give an answer until you understand the proposition.”
A waitress appeared with a tiered tray of appetizers. “With our compliments, Monsieur Cohen,” she said with a lilting accent.
Sophie looked up at her. The woman looked like she had stepped out of a French erotic film. She gestured to the tray. “On the lower tier we have Jonah crabmeat canap s with avocado and micro cilantro, and freshwater eel in aspic with sweet pea here we have a crudo of hamachi with watermelon, and asparagus flans and on the top, parmesan tuile with chive mousse and a mushroom quiche. Et ca fait enormement plaisir de vous revoir, Monsieur.” Sophie saw a knowing look pass between her and Avishai.
“Merci bien, Cecile,” he said.
The waitress withdrew, leaving them to their food. Sophie wondered how many women Avishai had slept with.
“Try the eel,” he said. “It’s delicious.”
Sophie brought the silver spoon to her lips. The jelly around the eel dissolved on her tongue, sending pleasure thrumming throughout her. Sophie hadn’t ever been to a restaurant this good, but it was hard to focus on the food because her whole body was responding so strongly to the physical presence of Avishai. She dared to look in his eyes again.
He was studying her. “As I said earlier, Regina Chase is not my type. But you’re my type, Sophie. Our little waitress over there was my type, a few years ago.” He gestured with the brandy snifter to Cecile, who was standing by the orchids, gazing at Avishai with a piquant expression. “Because I have a specialty, Sophie, and it’s not making money.”
He set down the cognac and leaned in towards her. “I deflower virtual virgins.”
Sophie gasped. “What did you say?”
“Virtual virgins. It’s a term I’ve coined for women who have never had an orgasm.” He shrugged. “It’s my specialty.”
Sophie squirmed under his unblinking gaze. She couldn’t believe they were having this conversation. “What makes you think I’ve never had a. . .I mean, I’ve had lots of. . .”
“When was the last time you came, Sophie?” His voice was quiet and almost clinical, but his eyes were laughing.
She could feel herself blushing furiously. “I don’t know. I mean. . .it’s none of your business.”
“Exactly,” he said. “Do you know what they say about getting off, Sophie? They say that if you’re not sure if you came or not, you didn’t.” He swirled the cognac and sniffed it. “Believe you me, you’ll fucking know it when it happens, baby.”
“I have had orgasms,” Sophie whispered fiercely. “And don’t call me baby.”
She twisted the thick napkin between her fingers. How dare he suggest she hadn’t come? She had been having sex for years. There had been that one time with Josh in the back of the car when they had sex for three hours straight. There had definitely been an orgasm, somewhere in there. To her surprise, Avishai rose from the table. She looked up at him. She had forgotten how tall he was.
“I’m going home now,” he said. “You’re welcome to come over to my apartment right now and be deflowered. But I think maybe you should have another round here, get yourself warmed up, imagine all the things I’m going to do to you.” He slid a thick, cream-colored business card across the table to her.
Avishai Cohen, Ph.D.
210 East 59th Street, Apt 2
She sat as if paralyzed as he bent over and grazed her left cheek with his lips. He moved his face to her hair and inhaled. She could feel the warmth of his face against her ear and neck, almost touching her but not quite. He whispered in her ear, “I can always tell a virtual virgin when I meet her. There’s a fragrance they give off.” He stood back up and tossed off the rest of the cognac, then smelled the empty glass.
Cecile rushed to his elbow. “Mais vous allez d j ?” she asked him, looking disappointed.
Sophie’s French was bad. She had taken a few years, but all she could remember was Je m’apelle Sophie. J’ai quatorze ans.
Avishai touched Cecile lightly on the forearm, “Oui, mais Mademoiselle va rester un peu.”
“Bien sur,” Cecile said. She turned her doe eyes on Sophie and smiled graciously. “Please stay with us as long as you like, Mademoiselle. May I bring you another cocktail? If I may suggest, perhaps, what is in the jar?” She gestured behind her to an illuminated tank on the front bar filled with figs and vodka.
God, how many cocktails had Sophie had already? She should have saved the straws.
Avishai said, “Yes, why don’t you bring her that, Cecile, and while she enjoys it, why don’t you tell her a little about how you and I know each other.” He withdrew a silver billfold from his suit and slid two hundreds on the table. “Tell her what a catch I am. Mademoiselle Steele is the kind of girl that checks references.”
Cecile giggled. “Bien sur, Monsieur.”
“I’ll see you later this evening, Sophie,” he told her. “Just come by. It doesn’t matter how late.”
She sat there in shock and watched as Avishai kissed the waitress on both cheeks, then left the restaurant.”