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Save the Last Dance for Death




"Don't look to your left," Relda whispered.


So, I immediately looked to my left.


"No, no. Look at me. Say something clever."


"What? What do you want me to say?"


Relda poked at her salad. "Tell me about your salad."


"Well, it's not bad. The lettuce is nice and crisp this evening."


Relda looked ready to kill me with her salad fork, but she quickly withdrew her rage when an utterly gorgeous gentleman approached our table. He stopped to speak to others along the way, and a slow smile gradually curved his lips. If it was possible, he was even better looking when he smiled like that. His full head of wavy jet-black hair made him look like someone featured in a hair-styling commercial.


He must be visiting someone because he looked way too young to be a resident. I tried not to waste my time focusing on the men I spotted here at Laurel Pines, good-looking or otherwise. I'd had a wonderful marriage with Dan, and he wouldn't want to see me testing the waters in a retirement community, at least not quite so soon.


Well, actually Dan would get a good laugh out of my current momentary fantasy since this young man wouldn't have any interest in me or any of the other female residents at Laurel Pines. Unless, of course, he was the type who trolled the residents searching for wealthy old ladies to swindle. No, that thought was mean-spirited. I didn't know why the worst possible scenario had surfaced in my mind. Perhaps I read too many mysteries, and in so many stories, the bad guy is usually the last one you'd ever suspect.


Maybe I remembered the way my high school girlfriends and I had checked out the boys at our school dances all those many years ago. We were ruthless in our pursuit of the guys we hoped might be worthy of our attention. Was this the same? No, how could it be? Besides, it was too late to churn up faded high school memories, and this wasn't something I could google for answers.


The young man finally reached our table. "So, Mizz Relda, you need to introduce me to our lovely new resident."

"Of course, Oliver. This is Marge. Marge, Oliver." We shook hands, and I would've sworn I'd heard the click of his heels. But that was something done only in the movies, wasn't it?


Mr. Gorgeous Oliver held onto my hand just a trifle too long. Like many of our residents, he wore jeans and cowboy boots even though there wasn't a single horse anywhere on the property. At least he looked good in his western attire. His strong jaw and penetrating dark brown eyes intensified my opinion that he was way too pretty for a man.


He said, "I hope you will honor me with the first dance at tonight's festivity. Yes?"


Was he talking to me? I couldn't speak. At least not intelligently.


Relda piped up, "Of course she'll save tonight's first dance especially for you. I'll have to tear her away from the delights of unpacking, but we'll see you at the PTL this evening."


"Yes?" He ignored Relda and gave a hurried brush of his lipsover the back of my hand. Wasn't that also something done only in the movies?


"Yes," I stammered. "Tonight. Okay. First dance." I was painfully aware that I sounded like a grade school dropout, but more appropriate words simply weren't quickly materializing in my head.


He turned and walked away, stopping only to acknowledge the little finger waves of an endless regiment of women along his way. He very discreetly passed what looked like a business card to some of them.


"What was that all about?" I whispered.


"You don't have to whisper. Valentino can't hear you when he's lost in a throng of his adoring public."


"Valentino? You said his name was Oliver."


"You have an awful lot to learn in the next three hours."


"Who is this guy?"


"Valentino is one of the hired help around here. He shows up at every dance and makes certain even the most ancient old lady is asked to dance." Relda sighed. "Even the ones who graciously refuse him act like they've been honored by royalty."


"So, he's a paid gigolo?"


"I guess." I was still confused. "PTL? What's that?"


Relda got up and gently pushed her chair closer to the table. She waved away a server who was heading in our direction laden with plates of chocolate cake.


"Dang it; we're going to miss chocolate cake. We have to skip dessert or we won't have time to get you ready for the ball."


"Ball? I thought it was just a dance."


"Think more ostentatious," she said. "You coming, Cinderella?"