Remarkable. Just look at the use of light and shadow . . ."
"You see how this image hints at the sorrow of the place, yet manages to convey a promise of hope?"
". . . one of the youngest photographers to be included in the museum's new modern art collection."
Gabrielle Maxwell stood back from the group of exhibit attendees, nursing a flute of warm champagne as yet another crowd of faceless, nameless, Very Important People enthused over the two dozen black-and-white photographs displayed on the gallery walls. She glanced at the images from across the room, somewhat bemused. They were good photographs--a bit edgy, their subject matter being abandoned mills and desolate dockyards outside Boston--but she didn't quite get what everyone else was seeing in them.
Then again, she never did. Gabrielle merely took the photographs; she left their interpretation, and ultimately, their appreciation, up to others. An introvert by nature, it made her uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of this much praise and attention . . . but it did pay the bills. Quite nicely, at that. Tonight, it was also paying the bills for her friend Jamie, the owner of the funky little art gallery on Newbury Street, which, at ten minutes to closing, was still packed with prospective buyers.
Numb with the whole process of meeting and greeting, of smiling politely as everyone from moneyed Back Bay wives to multipierced, tattooed Goths tried to impress one another--and her--with analyses of her work, Gabrielle couldn't wait for the exhibit to end. She had been hiding in the shadows for the past hour, contemplating a stealth escape to the comfort of a warm shower and a soft pillow, both waiting at her apartment on the city's east side.
But she had promised a few of her friends--Jamie, Kendra, and Megan--that she would join them for dinner and drinks after the showing. As the last couple of stragglers made their purchases and left, Gabrielle found herself gathered up and swept into a cab before she had a chance to so much as think of begging off.
"What an awesome night!" Jamie's androgynous blond hair swung around his face as he leaned across the other two women to clutch Gabrielle's hand. "I've never had so much weekend traffic in the gallery--and tonight's sales receipts were amazing! Thank you so much for letting me host you."
Gabrielle smiled at her friend's excitement. "Of course. No need to thank me."
"You weren't too miserable, were you?"
"How could she be, with half of Boston falling at her feet?" gushed Kendra, before Gabrielle could answer for herself. "Was that the governor I saw you talking with over the canapes?"
Gabrielle nodded. "He's offered to commission some original works for his cottage on the Vineyard."
"Yeah," Gabrielle replied without much enthusiasm. She had a stack of business cards in her pocketbook--at least a year of steady work, if she wanted it--so why was she tempted to open the taxi window and scatter them all to the wind?
She let her gaze drift to the night outside the car, watching in queer detachment as lights and lives flickered past. The streets teemed with people: couples strolling hand in hand, groups of friends laughing and talking, all of them having a great time. They dined at cafe tables outside trendy bistros and paused to browse store window displays. Everywhere she looked, the city pulsed with color and life. Gabrielle absorbed it all with her artist's eye and, yet, felt nothing. This bustle of life--her life as well--seemed to be speeding by without her. More and more lately, she felt as if she were caught on a wheel that wouldn't stop spinning her around, trapping her in an endless cycle of passing time and little purpose.
"Is anything wrong, Gab?" Megan asked from beside her on the taxi's bench seat. "You seem quiet."
Gabrielle shrugged. "I'm sorry. I'm just . . . I don't know. Tired, I guess."
"Somebody get this woman a drink--stat!" Kendra, the dark-haired nurse, joked.
"Nah," Jamie countered, sly and catlike. "What our Gab really needs is a man. You're too serious, sweetie. It's not healthy to let your work consume you like you do. Have some fun! When's the last time you got laid, anyway?"
Too long ago but Gabrielle wasn't really keeping track. She'd never suffered from a shortage of dates when she wanted them, and sex--on those rare occasions she had it--wasn't something she obsessed over like some of her friends. As out of practice as she was right now in that department, she didn't think an orgasm was going to cure whatever was causing her current state of restlessness.
"Jamie is right, you know," Kendra was saying. "You need to loosen up, get a little wild."
"No time like the present," Jamie added.
"Oh, I don't think so," Gabrielle said, shaking her head. "I'm really not up for a late night, you guys.
Gallery showings always take a lot out of me and I--"
"Driver?" Ignoring her, Jamie slid to the edge of the seat and rapped on the Plexiglas that separated the cabbie from his passengers. "Change of plans. We decided we're in the mood for celebrating, so ixnay on the restaurant. We wanna go where all the hot people are."
"If you like dance clubs, there's a new one just opened in the north end," the cabbie said, his spearmint chewing gum cracking as he spoke. "I been takin' fares over there all week. Fact, took two already tonight--fancy after-hours place called La Notte."
"Ooh, La No-tay," Jamie purred, tossing a playful look over his shoulder and arching an elegant brow.
"Sounds perfectly wicked to me, girls. Let's go!"
The club, La Notte, was housed in a High Victorian Gothic building that had long been known as St. John's Trinity Parish church, until recent Archdiocese of Boston payouts on priest sex scandals forced the closings of dozens of such places around the city. Now, as Gabrielle and her friends made their way inside the crowded club, synthesized trance and techno music rang in the rafters, blasting out of enormous speakers that framed the DJ pit in the balcony above the altar. Strobe lights flashed against a trio of arched stained-glass windows. The pulsing beams cut through the thin cloud of smoke that hung in the air, pounding to the frenetic beat of a seemingly endless song. On the dance floor--and in nearly every square foot of La Notte's main floor and the gallery above--people moved against one another in writhing, mindless sensuality.
"Holy shit," Kendra shouted over the music, raising her arms and dancing her way through the thick crowd. "What a place, huh? This is crazy!"
They hadn't even cleared the first knot of clubbers before a tall, lean guy swooped in on the spunky brunette and bent to say something in her ear. Kendra gave a throaty laugh and nodded enthusiastically at him.
"Boy wants to dance," she giggled, passing her handbag to Gabrielle. "Who am I to refuse!"
"This way," Jamie said, pointing to a small, empty table near the bar as their friend trotted off with her partner.
The three of them got seated and Jamie ordered a round of drinks. Gabrielle scanned the dance floor for Kendra, but she'd been devoured in the midst of the crowded space. Despite the crush of people all around, Gabrielle could not dismiss the sudden sensation that she and her friends were sitting in a spotlight. Like they were somehow under scrutiny simply for being in the club. It was nuts to think it. Maybe she had been working too much, spending too much time alone at home, if being out in public could make her feel so self-conscious. So paranoid.
"Here's to Gab!" Jamie exclaimed over the roar of the music, raising his martini glass in salute.
Megan lifted hers, too, and clinked it against Gabrielle's. "Congratulations on a great exhibit tonight!"
"Thanks, you guys."
As she sipped the neon yellow concoction, Gabrielle's feeling of being observed returned. Or rather, increased. She felt a stare reach out to her from across the darkened distance. Over the rim of her martini glass, she glanced up and caught the glint of a strobe light nicking off a pair of dark sunglasses.
Sunglasses hiding a gaze that was unmistakably fixed on her through the crowd.
The quick flashes from the strobes cast his stark features in hard shadow, but Gabrielle's eyes took him in at once. Spiky black hair falling loosely around a broad, intelligent brow and lean, angular cheeks. A strong, stern jaw. And his mouth . . . his mouth was generous and sensual, even when quirked in that cynical, almost cruel line.
Gabrielle looked away, unnerved, a rush of warmth skittering along her limbs. His face lingered in her head, burned there in an instant, like an image set to film. She put down her drink and braved another quick glance to where he stood. But he was gone.
A loud crash sounded at the other end of the bar, jerking Gabrielle's attention over her shoulder. At one of the crowded tables, liquor seeped onto the floor, spilled from several broken glasses that littered the black-lacquered surface. Five guys in dark leather and shades were having words with another guy wearing a Dead Kennedys wife-beater tank and torn, faded blue jeans. One of the thugs in leather had his arm slung around a drunk-looking platinum blond, who seemed to know the punker. Boyfriend, apparently. He made a grab for the girl's arm, but she slapped him away and bent her head to let one of the thugs put his mouth on her neck. She stared defiantly at her furious boyfriend, all the while playing with the long brown hair of the guy fastened to her throat.
"That's messed up," Megan said, turning back aro...
--This text refers to the
Mass Market Paperback