"I hate animals," said one of the Chrises, a conservative-looking fellow with a liberal streak of self-importance. "I do love a good steak."
Why the ill will toward four-legged friends?
"I had a Jack Russell, but I gave her to the ex-fiancée," he explained with a look that suggested the two would be happier alone together. "If there's going to be a third in a relationship, a kid's OK. But not an animal."
Ah, that explained the hostility. Cock-blocked by the terrier.
A commotion outside interrupted our meet and greet. Aimen was spouting off and waving a handful of hundred-dollar bills around. He'd come to the benefit to meet May, hoping she'd do a story on his art project. According to Jane, he'd begun drinking while he was sailfishing, and since their arrival, I'd watched him down at least four Jäger shots.
"Toni, what do you need, baby?" Aimen slurred as he crawled across the bar top, cash in hand, to get at the TV-show host. "Toni! You're looking the other way! Toni!"
I had to hand it to her: May showed more patience than I would have. She gently guided her fan off the countertop and returned his change from his last drink purchase, talking to him as if he were a small child.
Once on his feet again, he dramatically threw the change into the tip bowl with an unspoken "Bam!" as if he were Chef Emeril.
"What?" he challenged, peeling off hundreds. "You want more?"
"C'mon, she can't be bought," Jane reprimanded, laughing embarrassedly.
"I wouldn't go that far," Toni retorted with a big smile. Evidently, this charity was close to her heart.
After insisting that she wasn't with Aimen, that they'd just shared the same cab from Singer Island, Jane and I did a little bonding by helping the huntress in each of us bag our game.
"Did you see that guy inside with all the hair?" I leaned over trying to find her mark on the other side.
"The European-looking one," she said, guiding me in my search.
"Damn," I said when I was caught conspicuously checking him out. "Sorry, that wasn't too smooth."
I pointed out the guy I'd had my eye on.
"That one's mine," I said, gesturing discreetly with my eyes as my tray-carrying Adonis approached again with more appetizers I would decline. I was beginning to wonder who was stalking whom.
In what would probably be considered un faux pas terrible (and, yes, my French is worse than my social graces), Jane took charge and introduced me and our server, Scott. I dropped my eyes as we shook hands, more embarrassed by my obvious desire than by the etiquette no-no. For a brief moment, I wished I didn't have a date later.
"A bird in the hand," I reminded myself.
Since I was just being greedy, I figured we'd better focus on Jane. We moved inside so she could advance on her prey. There, she took the initiative with her man while I stood next to her talking to one of the Andrews, an architect/interior designer with an office on Worth Avenue, the street for shopping if you're into designer anything.
"The Wednesday celebrity event crowd is not congruent with the regular happy hour crowd, though most of the regulars have been through here tonight," he said, providing me his perspective as one of the regulars though there was nothing regular about his elevated diction, long blond hair, perfectly plucked eyebrows, or elegantly polished nails.
I was trying to overhear the conversation between Jane and her hunk, but all I could discern was his smooth accent Italian, maybe and her delicate, feminine laughter. (Wise strategy: Better if he thinks she's the prey.)
"Amici brings all different people for the charity events, including Palm Beach society who like to get their pictures taken," Andrew explained, "as evidenced by the two society photographers."
Jane's European interest, however, wasn't looking for publicity. With his full head of tousled, salt-and-pepper hair and the four top buttons of his white shirt undone, he probably got all the attention he could handle. He looked like he'd materialized from the cover of a steamy romance novel.
"He told me he was in real estate," Jane reported when she turned to face me, "but he says that's his second job."
"What's his first?"
"Gigolo," she giggled.
He did look like a taller Richard Gere.
As a good reporter, this Night Rider followed up to check her facts, but the stud staunchly denied Jane's claim, refused to identify his country of origin, and asked that his real name not be used.