SHADOWS OF ETERNITY
Leia Winchester watched in awe as the Indian who had been introduced as Shadow Dancer dipped and swayed to the haunting music of flute and drum. His well-muscled, copper-hued body bent and twisted in ways she would have thought impossible, each movement masculine, sensual. His bare feet made no sound as they executed the intricate steps. Long black hair fell like a river of silk almost to his waist, now flowing around his shoulders, now whipping around his face in time to the beat of the drum and the rhythm of the dance.
He was, in a word, the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
Unlike other dancers who had performed earlier, adorned with paint and colorful bustles and headdresses, Shadow Dancer wore only a breechclout. A single white eagle feather fluttered in his hair. A wavy slash of bright red paint ran from the outer corner of his left eye to the curve of his jaw; a handprint in the same bright red was painted on his chest over his heart.
She applauded wildly when his dance was over. Then, hoping to get him to sign her program, she practically ran out of the auditorium to the stage door.
Gradually, the other dancers emerged in groups of two or three or four. Half an hour later, Leia was still waiting.
She had just decided he must have gone out another way when the door opened and he stood there. One dark brow went up inquisitively when he saw her.
"Are you waiting for someone?" His voice poured over her like dark chocolate, deep and rich.
"Um, yes," she murmured. "I was waiting for you."
She held out her program and a pen. "I…could I have your autograph?"
He grinned at her. "No one's ever asked me before," he said, reaching for the pen and her program.
She shivered as his cool fingers touched her own. For an instant, in her mind's eye, she saw a flash of images – a tipi, a herd of running buffalo, a calico pony, a freshly-turned grave. Before she could make sense of the images, they were gone.
"Are you all right?" he asked, frowning.
"I…yes, of course."
Opening the program to a page featuring his photograph, he scrawled his name across one of the pictures and handed it back to her.
"Rohan," she murmured, thinking it was an odd name for an Indian. "It's nice to meet you. I thought you were wonderful."
"Thank you," he said, returning the pen. "What would you say if I asked you out for a drink?"
"I don't know."
"Are you married?"
"Engaged? Going steady? Gay?"
"No, no, and no," she replied, laughing.
"Just not interested, huh? Well, it was nice meeting you."
"I didn't say that," Leia blurted, surprising them both.
"Well, good. There's a little club around the corner. We can walk, if you like."
She nodded. As fascinated as she was by him, her mother hadn't raised any stupid daughters, and Leia wasn't about to get in a car with a complete stranger, no matter how gorgeous and talented he might be.
The night club was small, dark, and intimate. They found a vacant table in the back. Rohan held her chair, then took the seat across from hers. "So, you know my name," he said, "but I don't know yours."
He arched one brow. "Leia?"
"My mother is a huge Star Wars fan. My older brother is named Luke Skywalker."
Rohan chuckled softly. "So, Princess, what is it you do when you're not watching Native dancers?"
"I'm a kindergarten teacher."
"Really? I'd say they didn't have any teachers like you when I went to school, but you probably hear that all the time."
She nodded. Mesmerized by his voice, she didn't care what he said as long as he kept talking.
"What do you do when you're not teaching?"
"I go to plays and concerts, take walks in the park, go out to lunch with my friends…." She shrugged. "The usual things women do. What do you do when you're not dancing?"
"Drink. Sleep. Hunt." He winked at her. "The usual things that men do."
"Hunt?" she asked with a grin. "You don't use a bow and arrow, do you?"
"Not anymore," he said cryptically.
"Well, you certainly don't hunt in the city, do you?"
"You'd be surprised."
Feeling suddenly like prey, she shivered as his dark gaze moved over her. Before she could think of anything to say, the waitress approached their table.
"What would you like?" Rohan asked.
"I'm not much of a drinker," Leia confessed. "What's good?"
"The house wine here is excellent." Turning to the waitress, he said, "We'll have two glasses of your cabernet sauvignon.
The waitress batted her eyelashes at him. "Yes, sir," she said in a deep, throaty voice. "Will there be anything else?"
Rohan looked at Leia, one brow raised.
"No, thank you." She rolled her eyes as the waitress walked away from the table, hips swaying seductively.
"What's that look for?" Rohan asked.
"I think she was hoping you'd ask her for more than a drink," Leia muttered, wondering why she cared. "Much more."
Rohan laughed, a deep rumble that made her toes curl. "You think so?"
"I know so. Women can always tell. I think she'd give you anything you wanted."
He leaned forward, his gaze caressing her face, lingering on the hollow of her throat. "What about you?"
"What about me?" she asked tremulously.
"Would you give me anything I wanted?"
"No," she said, pushing away from the table. "Sorry."
His fingers curled around her wrist. "Don't go."
"Let go of me," she whispered, not wanting to make a scene. "This was a mistake. If you're looking for a one-night stand, you'll have better luck with the waitress."
"Hey, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said what I did. Stay, please."
Leia hesitated a moment. Then, wondering if she was making a huge mistake, she sat down, her hands tightly folded in her lap.
"I'm sorry," he said again. "I guess I'm used to women throwing themselves at me. It comes with the territory."
She flushed, suddenly embarrassed because she had acted like such a fool. "I really should go. I have to work tomorrow."
"Can I see you again?"
"I don't think so. Good night."
He stood as she left the table, stared after her as she hurried out the door. "Leia," he murmured, determined to see his Princess again.
He grinned as the waitress arrived with their drinks. He would have preferred to share a glass of cabernet with the lovely Leia, but he had other thirsts and the waitress would serve those very well.