A dainty foot with a 5 inch, high-heeled, strappy sandal emerged, followed by an impossibly long and shapely leg – then its mate and yards and yards of shimmering, emerald green satin.
Cries of, “Alanna! Alanna! Hey, look this way! Alanna, come here! Come over here! Alanna, over here!” erupted from the crowd.
Ryan turned to Dirk and with a quirked eyebrow said, “There you go, buddy. Alanna Cleary in the gorgeous flesh.”
Dirk appraised her, head to lovely toes, for a moment, then he shot Savannah a quick, guilty glance. But as Savannah watched the magnificent goddess in green satin glide down the red carpet, her waist long, copper hair flowing, her toned arms and legs glowing – an exquisite, Celtic beauty beyond compare – Savannah couldn’t blame him for gawking. Every eye was on Alanna Cleary, as she moved along, the picture of composure and grace, offering a warm, open smile to everyone she passed.
“Hey, where’s her date?” Savannah whispered to John.
“Yeah,” said Dirk. “You wouldn’t expect a woman like that to come alone.”
“Sh-h-h,” John replied. “Let’s just say there’ve been rumors.”
“We’ll fill you in later,” Ryan added.
No sooner had Alanna disappeared inside the theater, then another limo arrived. The rear door was opened, as before. But this time, when the passenger emerged, the cheering from the crowd was peppered with the occasional hiss and jeer.
Savannah was surprised at the fans’ reactions, until she saw the face of the newcomer. It was none other Vladik Zlotnik, the villain of the film. Standing at 6’4”, his long, black hair slicked back and hanging limply to his collar, his skin pale to the point of having a faint bluish cast, the Russian movie star looked more like a vampire than the dark, Irish god of the underworld that he played in the film.
“Creepy guy,” Dirk said. “No wonder he always plays an evil dude.”
“Vladik’s not so bad,” Ryan answered. “In fact, he can be the life of the party if you get enough vodka in him.”
John added, “If you’re an actor who looks like he does, you’re not going to get a lot of opportunities to play the hero.”
Nodding, Savannah said “I guess if little children cry when they see you, and dogs bark and run away, you might as well use it to your advantage.”
“I’d rather play the villain any time,” Dirk said. “It’s gotta be more fun, snarling and doing dastardly deeds. At least until the end when you get your comeuppance.”
A petite blonde who was more than a foot shorter than Vladik was helped from the limo, and the two of them walked hand in hand up the carpet.
To Savannah, Vladik’s date looked more like a teenager arriving at her first prom than a seasoned society girl. She tugged at the all-too-revealing black gown and wobbled awkwardly on her high, high heels.
As they made their way briskly along the crimson path, she glanced up at Vladik with an almost appealing look on her fresh, young face, as though seeking some approval or reassurance from him. But none was forthcoming. Vladik walked a step ahead, all but dragging her along. And Savannah didn’t need anyone to tell her this “date” was an arrangement of convenience.
At least for Vladik.
But before they entered the golden doors, another limousine arrived and with its entrance, absolute chaos erupted. All the attention shifted from Vladik to the new arrival. The crowd went crazy, everyone pushing their neighbors aside, trying to get closer to the front, while screaming, “Jason! Jason! Jason!”
Dirk leaned his head down to Savannah’s and shouted in her ear, “Gee, I wonder who it is.”
“Some detective you are. I’d say it’s the star of this whole shebang, but that’s just a hunch.”
Once again, the security guards snapped to attention. Even before the big, Cadillac limo was completely stopped, one had reached for the handle, while his partner slid into position just behind him.
A tall, burly chauffeur jumped out of the driver’s seat and quickly wedged himself between the guards and the automobile. He gave the surrounding area a long, scrutinizing look before opening the door.
At that moment, the noise rose to a level that Savannah could hardly believe. She had never been in a crowd whose energy and enthusiasm even approached this frenzy.
She had seen videos of the Beatles arriving in the United States during the sixties and clips of Elvis performances, where women shrieked, wept, and fainted. But this was the first time she had witnessed such a brouhaha herself.
“Mercy,” she said, though she knew no one would be able to hear her. “Just imagine . . . such a commotion over one measly feller.”
In her opinion, any woman who passed out at the mere sight of some guy – who put his britches on, one leg at a time, like any other man – had to be a few pecans short of a Sunday dinner pie.
Then she saw him. And she understood what the hoopla was all about.
Jason Tyrone was absolutely, heart-stopping, take your breath away, cause you to drop dead in your tracks and go straight to heaven gorgeous.
Standing at least six foot, six inches tall, shoulder and arm muscles bulging against the fabric of his tuxedo, thick, wavy blond hair that was fashionably shaggy, the bluest eyes she had ever seen and a jawline that had sold copious amounts of Tyrone Nights cologne and aftershave – Jason lived up to all the hype and more.
As he strolled along the red carpet, drawing nearer to where she and her three guys were standing, she could feel her own knees literally getting weak. She had to work at not wobbling on her high heels.
Yes, maybe she’d judged those Elvis and Beatle fans too harshly, after all.
Jason was the picture of elegance as he moved along, nodding to one, waving to another, pausing to shake hands briefly here and there.
Though Savannah did notice that beneath it all – in spite of the graceful, masculine presence he projected – there was something else that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Something unsettling.
Maybe it was the way his eyes occasionally darted around the crowd, as though he were on guard, searching for someone or something. Perhaps, an unwelcome, unfriendly presence of some kind?
Dirk poked Savannah in the ribs. “When do we get to meet him?” he said, his mouth against her ear. “Ryan and John are supposed to be his good buddies. Are we just gonna stand here with our thumbs up our – ?”
“Sh-h-h!” She gouged him back. “Just wait and see.”
A moment later, Jason was even with them, only a few feet away. And that was when he spotted Ryan and John.
Instantly, his face lit up, and his whole demeanor changed. “Hey!” he shouted, rushing over to them. He grabbed Ryan in a bear hug, then managed to fold John, as well, into the hearty embrace. “Man, I was hoping you guys would make it!” he said, as pleased as a kid whose out-of-town dad had arrived at his last baseball game of the season.
“Are you kidding? We wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” Ryan replied, thumping him soundly on the back.
“Wild horses couldn’t keep us away,” John added. “But these crowds nearly did. You’ve collected quite a bevy of fans for yourself here, lad.”
Ryan turned to Savannah and Dirk. “And here’s a couple of them,” he said, pulling them closer. “Jason, we brought two of our favorite people in the world to meet you and see the show. This is Savannah and Dirk.”
As though in slow motion, Savannah watched and recorded every micro-second of the experience she knew she would relive ten-thousand times before she got to be Granny Reid’s age. At least.
Jason Tyrone stepped toward her. His eyes met hers . . . his world-famous eyes that were the same sapphire blue as her silk dress. The world around them disappeared – the raging crowd, Ryan and John, and even poor Dirk.
For just a moment she felt terribly guilty. Here she was only a few weeks married, and her knickers were a’ jingle over a couple of blue eyes. And a mane of golden hair. And six and a half feet of solid muscles.
Okay, she didn’t feel all that guilty. But she did make a mental note to cut Dirk some slack later if she caught him ogling Alanna.
Jason Tyrone, his whole gorgeous self, reached for her hand, and enfolded it in his. His enormous, strong hands – that she couldn’t help noticing were just a little bit moist.
In fact, if they had been anyone else’s hands, she might have called them clammy. But you didn’t use a word like “clammy” when describing a Celtic god/sex symbol. It just seemed inappropriate somehow.
“I’m so happy to meet you, Savannah,” he said, as though they were the only two people in the world, hundreds of cameras weren’t snapping their pictures, and a thousand or more people weren’t waiting impatiently for Jason to make his way inside, so the real festivities could begin.
“And I’m just so proud to—”
Just over her right shoulder, a loud popping sound. It went through her nervous system like an electric jolt.
Someone in the crowd shouted, “Gun!”
In an instant, Ryan, Savannah and John had grabbed Jason. Dirk had Savannah. And they were rushing en masse toward the theater doors.