Returning to the dance hall, the fox spotted the wolf standing alone, holding the wall beneath the balcony. The lights were beginning to dim and a voice on the loud speaker announced that the next dance would be the last of the night.
“Sorry I took so long,” she said sheepishly. The wolf said nothing. He took her by the hand and led her to the center of the dancefloor.
The final dance was an Argentine tango. Just as before, their bodies moved effortlessly to the rhythm of the music, as though rehearsed to perfection. Even so, he seemed to handle her with a roughness that was not present before. The twists seemed sharper. The embraces seemed firmer. The quebradas were so sudden that her necklace swung to the side.
As the dance went on, the owl’s comments crept back into her consciousness. How did she know they barely knew each other? Was she jealous? Had she been his lover before? Was she just offering conventional words of caution, or was there some reason for her to worry?
These fleeting thoughts did not trouble her for long. The fox allowed herself again to be swept away in the wondrous sensations of the moment. She danced with a vigor and sensuousness that she had never imagined before in her life, matching her partner step for step, stare for stare, until it was difficult to tell which of them was in control.
As the song came to an end, he leaned her over the floor with his arm cupped around her waist in a climatic final pose. Their breathless faces lingered just inches from each other. With her arm draped over his shoulder, she was overcome by an urge to kiss him. And so she did.
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming out tonight!” boomed the voice on the speaker. “We hope you’ve had a splendid evening!”
The wolf was taken off guard by the unexpected kiss, though his lips were complicit. He lifted her back onto to her feet so that they were facing each other.
“I had a wonderful time tonight,” said the fox, with a twinkle in her eye. Again, the wolf said nothing.
He turned and led her by the hand to the marble staircase. Up the staircase they went, along the balcony, and then down a long hallway lit by rows of laterns until they reached Suite #330.
The wolf retrieved a key from his pocket and unlocked the thick mahogany door. A pleasant smell greeted them as it opened. Inside sat a plush king-sized bed with at least a dozen pillows. An elegant painting hung above the headboard.
The fox strolled around the room, admiring its amenities. The wolf remained by the door. She glanced back at him hesitantly.
“Are you ok? Is something wrong?” she asked.
The wolf turned toward the door and locked it. He removed his mask, and turned to face her.
She covered her mouth and took a step back.
It wasn’t the rider from the beach.
It was him.