"Was it worth waiting for?"
I turned and mimed applause. She was an image of cool elegance, slender in a snug-fitting black slip dress. No stockings - with her olive skin, she didn't need them.
As I helped her into her coat, I realized that the dress was all she was wearing; the dress was thin enough that I would have noticed bra strap or panty lines.
I swallowed. "Are you sure you want to go the party? I could call Rob and give him our regrets, and we could settle down here..."
She cut me off with a laugh. "Down boy! Public party first, private party later." She danced lightly out of range of my mock grab, and laughed again.
I offered her my arm as walked towards the house. Though we were early, the closer parking was already taken. Laughter drifted around from the terrace in the rear.
"Remember, don't let me drink too much." Her expression was half serious.
Shelly has almost no capacity for drinking - even a glass of wine turns her giddy; it also tends to make her very, very, horny. More than two, though, and she gets sleepy, almost comatose.
I laughed at her. "One or two, no more. I have plans for you, my dear." She made a face back at me as I put on my best leer.
I would keep an eye on her, not that she usually needs it; she'd learned the hard way how little tolerance her body has for drinking.
A young man, one of the college boys Rob had hired to help with the party, let us in. After a brief detour upstairs to leave the coats in one of the spare bedrooms, we threaded our way through the mob in the living room to join the even larger mob on the terrace. There must have been over 50 people there already.
Rob waved us a welcome without interrupting his conversation; we waved back, and moved on. Most of the guests were people I didn't recognize.
"Do you want to dance?"
Shelly shook her head. "Maybe later. I'd like to circulate a bit and meet people, first."
Wine glasses in hand, we did just that. Before long, a female friend claimed her, and I wandered over to join the group listening to the band. Looking back, I could see the two women now had several men in attendance.
Somehow, I found myself roped into a heated political discussion, the kind that usually ends with some variation of "I guess they're all crooks!" I didn't get to hear the end of this one, though - just as it started to reach the loud stage, Shelly reappeared and pulled me out onto the dance floor.
Though she was enjoying herself, she wasn't dancing with her usual careful restraint. I took in her flushed expression and raw, almost predatory, dancing style with a frown.
"Shelly, just how much wine did you drink?"
She giggled at my worried expression. "I know, I know - I've had all the wine I need. Don't worry, dear - I only had two glasses, and I'm switching to punch after this. You'd better switch, too - you're going to need all your strength later."
Though she tried her best, Shelly's face isn't really built for dirty leers. Though I was delighted by the sentiment, it took all my willpower not to laugh at her.
Instead, I steered her towards the buffet. She wasn't hungry, but did accept a tall glass of the milky-looking orange punch. She sipped, then took a much bigger drink.
"This is good!"
I did laugh at the pleased surprise in her voice, and got a glass for myself. I had to agree with her - it was good: creamy, mildly orange flavored, and slightly fizzy. I sipped mine slowly, then laughed again when I saw that she had finished her first glass and was asking for a refill.
"Ready to go home, Shelly?"
"Let me sit down and listen to the music for a while. And you can help yourself to some of the food that I see you drooling at." She laughed back at me as my stomach gave a rumble.
I walked her to the nearest seat before returning to the buffet. She gave me her empty glass to take back.
"What was in that punch? My wife really likes it."
The bartender gave a shrug. "Nothing hard to find - a quart of orange sherbet, a big bottle of ginger ale, two bottles of cheap sparkling wine."
I suddenly lost all interest in the buffet. Even at that dilution, Shelly had just finished the equivalent of at least three more normal-sized glasses of wine. If I didn't get her home soon I'd have to carry her.
Even in the short time I'd been gone, it had started to affect her. She swayed visibly when she stood, and clung to my arm desperately as I led her back towards the house.
"I need to lie down for a while. I'm sorry, honey. I didn't mean to make such an idiot of myself." Her voice was muted and more than a little slurred.
"Shh, sweetheart. Not your fault. Can you stay awake long enough for me to get you home?"
"I'll try." Her voice sounded doubtful.
Rob must have a sixth sense - he met us before we'd covered half the distance to the house and took her other arm.
"Your punch - she didn't know it was spiked. I need to get her somewhere to lie down."
He looked thoughtful. "If we can get her up the stairs, the spare bedroom next to the coatroom is empty. If she doesn't feel better later, you can spend the night there."
Despite our worries, Shelly stayed awake long enough to make it to the bedroom. With a final, worried look, Rob headed back down.
"Will you be all right, honey?"
She managed a sleepy smile. "I'll be fine after a nap, sweetheart. Give me an hour or two and I'll feel better. Just turn out the lights and let me sleep till then." She kicked off her shoes and scooted onto the bed.
When I checked on her ten minutes later, she was so soundly asleep that she didn't even stir when I tugged her dress down to a more decent level; it had risen enough to confirm my guess about her lack of underwear. I gave her a gentle kiss and headed downstairs. We obviously weren't going anywhere for a while.
Though I tried, I was too distracted to really enjoy the party. Rather than just wander aimlessly, I took over the indoor bar; it had the benefit of keeping me too busy to brood. Over the next couple of hours, the crowd shifted gradually outside, till only a small, all-male group was left, dividing their attention between the bar and the television in the far corner.
As the demand on the bar slowed, I had time to notice a minor oddity; guys would head upstairs, be gone for a while, then return to the main group. I shrugged; probably just looking for an open bathroom. Seemed kind of a long way to go, though.
Finally, one of the college boys relieved me. I headed up to check on Shelly. At the foot of the stairs, the doorman flagged me down. I paused.
"How's your wife?"
"I was just heading up to check on her."