A man wrapped up in boots, mittens and a balaclava mask walked up and down in front of the hotel entrance, pushing what looked to Colm like a lawnmower for snow. More flakes rushed onto the concrete behind him, however, so by the time he'd done one length of the pavement the clean line was almost white again.
Talk about a white Christmas, Colm thought as he waited for the automatic door to open and let him inside before he froze his balls off. The gust of hot air that greeted him when he walked through to the lobby practically vaporized the flakes that stuck to his clothes and hair after the dash from the bus before he reached the reception desk.
Once there, he felt the sun had come out and shone upon him. The heat made him sweat, the tropics seemed to have settled overhead, and instead of winter he was basking in the glory of summer.
Behind the reception desk stood a woman who made him blink; he wasn't sure it wasn't a mirage that dazzled him.
Her black hair, the ends dyed auburn and blonde, fell in ringlets about her ears. It framed a round face with skin the colour of milk chocolate, and bewitching eyes. Light orange, or golden brown, Colm was at a loss to compare them to anything except twin summer sunsets over the Atlantic, captured and encased in glass. Or like those barley sugar sweets the chemists used to have before they were called pharmacies. As she smiled, though, it seemed she'd never tasted barley sugar or any other sweets, just sugar-free chewing gum, which she discreetly chewed. She had teeth the like of which he'd never seen at home. His dentist would have swooned had they arrived at the local clinic for a check up.
But what was most dazzling was her body. She was tall, just a few inches shorter than Colm's six feet. Whoever in heaven was responsible for making curvy figures, Colm reckoned he’d made Marilyn Monroe and this girl, and then broke the mould. She had full breasts and wide hips, and Colm didn't know where to look. Her breasts were hard to keep one's gaze from, as if they had their own gravity; her cleavage like a black hole he could not drag his eyes away from. Simultaneously, every time she turned and walked from the desk to the printer her hips swayed, mesmerising him.
Some people waited in front of him, so Colm had time to watch her—and wonder how to have a bit of banter with her. He had to make some good come out of this disaster; after all, he had nothing to lose.
She was younger than he; in her mid-thirties, whereas he'd just gone forty. But feck it, he was still fit-ish. His hair was grey, but he’d been going grey from the age of eighteen. He forgot about it most of the time, except at the barbers when he saw the hair falling all around him like the guy was shearing a badger. But, hey, if it was okay for George Clooney, it was okay for Colm Ryan.
The couple before him went off with their key cards and their printouts, and Colm stepped forward.
The receptionist smiled up at him. "Hi. How are you today?"
Now that he was closer to her, he could smell her perfume. It was sweet and tropical, too; sandalwood with coconut and mango, and other scents that Colm had no idea about, other than it made him want to follow her around sniffing it.
"Well, until just about thirty seconds ago I'd have said I was having a terrible time of it, but things seem to be lookin' up."
"Yes. Your smile is like the sun has come out te melt all this snow away."
She smiled even wider. "Well, thank you, sir. That's very nice of you to say. If you're hoping it might get you an upgrade to a suite, though, I'm sorry. We're fully booked up with the storm."
"Colm," he said. "And I'll make do with a camp bed so long as it's warm..."
He felt his heart pause as he cringed at what he was about to do. But he dropped his gaze from her glowing eyes and examined the name badge that balanced on the curve of her left breast. Amber Gonzalez.