Continues from I like what you did with the place
They say be afraid
You're not like the others
They don't understand you
Your from a whole other world
A different dimension
You open my eyes
And I'm ready to go
Lead me into the light
- Katy Perry, 'ET'
It was called 'The Howl' and yes, they all saw the irony of it.
The night club was located beneath the tunnel underpass along the strip. The ground floor was dueling piano bar that closed up shop at midnight so the basement floor located one flight down could open up and entertain the younger crowd with DJ'ing and live bands.
The stage was centered near the stairs, facing it there was one twenty foot long bar was to the left of it diagonally with a secondary bar against the back wall. There were round 4-person tables in front of the stage and to the opposite side of the bar near the stairs. The light system consisted of bright strobe lights in an otherwise dark and crowded room and standing on one of the tables was Carol Hedley.
Her long blond hair twisted freely back and forth as she raised her arms up, pulling up on her red and purple vertically striped halter top and low rider jeans that were so tight they looked painted on. She was singing loudly with the song Red was spinning currently. Katy Perry's 'ET' remix was playing on a long loop with a hundred other dancers crowding the dance floor along with Carol.
Brig came back holding up their beers by their bottle necks above his head, avoiding the people who were bumping into him, threatening to spill the precious amber. Behind him were three more Pipers holding up more drinks. Looking up, the four of them stopped as they watched Carol gyrate seductively on top of their table.
"Boy I bet you're wishing you hadn't broken up with her, huh?" Viv stepped up and took a bottled water from her fiancÃ© with a large smile.
Carol stopped just then and pointed toward Viv and Brig, twisting around and shaking what the good Lord gave her at them. Viv began laughing as Brig looked on speechless.
"You had your chance," his nephew said as he came up and grabbed his girlfriend off the table. Carol wrapped her petite legs around LT's hips and kissed him savagely enough to make Brig blush and look back at Viv.
Taking a long swig of his beer, Brig put his arm around Viv's shoulders and pulled her close. "Yeah but you're such a great consolation prize."
"Oh, dick!" Viv said kissing him as he took his free hand and put it gently on her now growing tummy. She was halfway through her second trimester at around twenty four weeks and had finally begun to show. It was a small basketball, but it had popped out one morning, scaring the hell out of both of them.
"Wish Charlie was here," Marko said sadly as he stood taller than everyone there.
Everyone raised their drinks and toasted to Charlie who was in his second month of recuperating at Duibne Industries. Still being held up by LT, Carol had her legs wrapped around his hips and began dancing again.
"Seeing that has cheered me up significantly though," Marko commented watching Carol with wide eyes.
Brig pulled his eyes away and looked back at the stage at Red who was wearing his trademark vintage Oreo cookie t-shirt and caught his eye. Red waved as he stood in front of his turntables looking the happiest Brig had ever seen.
"Having fun?" he asked Viv who had started to dance as well, still looking sexy in her clingy black dress that hugged her curves, especially her breasts that seemed to be getting fuller by the week.
They had been seeing Red at 'The Howl' every weekend since right after the Elders had arrived. He never failed to fill the place up after midnight, but it did make for extremely tired Sunday mornings, and in some cases, some seriously rough hangovers for some of the Pipers. It was relaxing, but there was an obvious void with Charlie not present.
Viv smiled up at Brig twisting around, pressing her body up against his. Taking her hands, he spun her into tango twist and danced in place.
The girls were aplenty, as was the forays into their beds, but JT spent most of his time nursing cokes and playing DD to the other guys. He had been more interested in the bands that came through playing in addition to Red and his crazy spinning fingers. The stage was set up for a band to go on after Red spent the first hour of the club's opening hours, warming the crowd up with his remixes. JT had his eye on the set of drums that were sitting behind Red.
"Who's the band tonight?" the LT asked when Carol climbed down and stood in front of him, dancing close and rubbing that achingly hot body against him. JT tried not to stare as he tried to think of an answer without being distracted by Carol.
"Uh, not sure. I haven't seen anyone else set up, other than the drums."
Just then they watched the manager step up to the stage and say something to Red who stopped what he was doing and shook his head. JT watched as Red pointed toward the drums and shrugged. Then he looked out into the crowd and pointed at JT.
"What, me?" JT mouthed and looked behind him. Red waved him up frantically. Moving through the crowd, JT walked up to the stage as Red knelt down to talk to him.
"There's no band tonight, I guess," Red yelled over the music.
"That sucks, what happened?"
"Well, apparently half the band got arrested."
JT laughed, covering his mouth. "So you're on till three?"
"I guess I can spin."
"Well, no, why don't you play? One of us can run and get your guitar."
Red looked uncomfortable and half shrugged. "I don't know. Suppose we both can."
"Yeah...wait, what? What do you mean we?"
"Get up on the drums, I'll play the guitar. It'll be fun. Just like back at the Den."
JT and Red had been messing around, playing their instruments for shits and giggles, but had never seriously talked about ever sitting in with a band. Now he was suggesting they carry a crowded bar with just the two of them.
"I've got tracks on my phone," Red said, "we can use it to accompany us."
JT shrugged and smiled, "You sure?"
"My god man, imagine the groupies!"
JT agreed immediately, "Sold."
Carol had drifted over to his uncle and was busy making him blush, giving LT an opportunity to reach out and gently take Viv's hand, pulling her over to him. She looked up at him with her brown and gold eyes.
"I was wanting to talk to you about something," LT said, leaning close to Viv and talking in her ear. "Privately."
Viv narrowed her eyes at him and smiled. Putting her water bottle down, she took LT's beer and set it down as well. Pulling him out to the dance floor, she danced close to him, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"What did you want to talk to me about?"
LT had never been this close to Viv before, at least not beyond beating the shit out of each other, so he stood awkwardly for a moment before wrapping his arms around her waist. He felt her tummy bump him softly and it made him grin. "Uh, well Carol's birthday is coming up. I was hoping you can help me with it."
"Oh, yeah of course! What did you need me to do?" Viv lowered her hands onto his chest and started to brush her body up against him, but never once breaking eye contact, not at all realizing how awkwardly good it felt.
Clearing his throat, he looked away for a moment so he could remember what the hell he was just saying to her. "Oh, I was wondering if you can teach me how to tango. I wanted to surprise her with it."
"How much time do we have?"
"Her birthday is in May."
"Oh yeah, that's plenty of time. Two months I can have you dancing better than your uncle."
LT grinned remembering when his uncle and Viv danced at Tinta Roja, apparently right before they got together as a couple. They had such a strained professional relationship, that he fully expected them to kill each other on the dance floor, but everyone had been surprised at how easily they came together and seemed to enjoy it.
"It'll be interesting with the wee one getting bigger though," she said reaching down and touching her tummy.
LT put his hand over hers and felt the hard ball beneath her dress. "Wow, she is getting bigger."
"Are you going to propose to her?"
LT looked back up at Viv and shrugged. "I had planned on it, but I don't know." He let the topic drop and wrapped his arms around Viv's waist again, pulling her close.
"Afraid to tell her everything?" Viv resumed her position against his body, hands on his chest. They had slowed their dancing down, just talking now.
LT looked down and nodded.
Viv bent down and got into his line of vision, smiling. Lifting his head he ran his hands along the small of her back. "You shouldn't be, Lothias. She really loves you. How could she not? You're the cutest thing ever!"
LT grinned and hugged her close, digging his face into her neck and making Viv laugh.
Cam had been in most of them during the past month she had been in Nachton and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of music and bevy of emotions from the crowds of people squeezing into the smallish clubs. Some had more occupants than others, but that night she wandered down to the piano bar called The Howl to listen to the dueling pianist, a hilarious concept but the music was always outstanding.
Walking up to the door, she peeked inside and saw that it was closing down. Backing up she saw the sign that pointed toward the stairs that led down to the tunnel that bypassed underneath the Strip. More people were moving up and down the flight of stairs. Her curiosity piqued, she stepped lightly onto the stairs with her square toed mid calf high boots.
Cam's long, black hair floated up with the gust of wind that came up from the tunnels. The others around her were dressed differently - skin exposed more than not - and it looked like the younger crowd gravitated toward this part of the club. Catching her reflection in the mirror, she supposed she fit right in looking, at the most, twenty five, herself. Moving in between the many bodies, Cam searched out the club and listened carefully to the music.
Everyone was gyrating or dancing, but generally just moving to the beat that was coming from the stage that was near the steps. Two men were up on the stage, hovered over turn tables. Looking around, she moved toward the bar, slowly taking in the feeling of the crowd.
It was nearly shoulder to shoulder with people bumping into her, making her smile. The general feeling was happiness, but of course she could feel the ones that were already well on their way to hangovers in the morning. Desire, excitement, laughter...it mingled in the air around Cam, making her smile widen. Finally reaching the bar, she leaned in and ordered a red wine.
The music was newer and catchy, making her body want to move with the rhythm as well. Suddenly it started to fade and there was a roar from the crowd - happy cheering, whistling, and a group of men who were boisterous in their enthusiasm, inciting the crowd into excited applause.
A man stepped on stage and introduced himself as the manager. The featured band had been replaced, he said, and then he pointed to the two men on stage: a tall red head standing in front of the microphone and a dark haired man at the drums behind him. Another extremely taller man walked up to the stage holding an electric guitar in his hands and gave it to the man at the microphone.
The red head was tall and lean with cut muscles on his arms, straining against his t-shirt. His hair was a deep red with bits of it sticking up every which way in the front. Cam watched as he pulled the strap of the guitar over his head and stuck a bright orange pick between his teeth as he adjusted the instrument.
The strobing colorful lights stopped and a spot light shone down him, making him squint with a charming smile. Cam leaned back against the bar and waited patiently for the music to start.
JT pointed at stick at him and smiled.
Resting his arm left arm on the neck of the guitar, Red covered his eyes against the spot light and looked out into the audience. The crowd settled down, getting ominously quiet and it successfully amped up his nervousness. He considered saying something, but decided against it. It was now or never, so Red adjusted the microphone, touched his phone that was hooked up to his system, and started.
"One. Two. One, two, three, four.
The core remains of what began with a passionate start
And they may not want it to end
But it will, it's just a question of when
I've lived long enough to have learned
The closer you get to the fire the more you get burned
But that won't happen to us
'Cause it's always been a matter of trust."
Finishing the first verse, he got to the guitar solo and started singing again, this time a little louder.
"I know you're an emotional girl. It took a lot for you to not lose your faith in this world," he began to smile, feeling the beat of the song and was happy with his ability to pick up the music just by listening.
Lewis had computers (and his nerds), Charlie had his multiple degrees in bio...blahblah, Marko had engines, and granted Red could do medicine, but he was extremely pleased with music.
Red kept singing, much to the crowd's dismay since they stood quietly through two verses before he heard the distinct howl from Carol rip through the crowd. Suddenly the crowd began to cheer and clap as he kept singing.
And that's when he saw her.
"Good gravy, look at him go." Viv began to cheer along with Carol and it started a chain reaction throughout the crowd.
Red did not once look at his fingers as he sang and it impressed the hell out of the people who did notice. Granted most everyone was just shocked that the local DJ who warmed up the crowd for the band could actually sing and play an instrument. Well. He began to work the crowd, smiling and winking at the women who came right up to him at the foot of the stage.
"I'm going to take my panties off and throw them at him!" Carol squealed!
"Next time, babe," LT said with a chuckle.
"JT is working it, too. Dang," Viv exclaimed.
Carol clapped happily and got back up on their table. She began dancing and yelling Red's name. She'd work the crowd up, get them excited for him, and hopefully Red would really get the showmanship working. She was yelling so loud she felt her caps vibrate in her mouth, but it got the rest of the crowd whooping and hollering.
"Who's he looking at?" Viv asked. Carol looked back at Red and followed the direction of his gaze.
"Oh that dog! He's singing to a girl at the bar!"
"Groupies, man. Groupies," Marko replied, shaking his head in disbelief. "They are going to have so much sex tonight."
"After you've heard lie upon lie, there can hardly be a question of why." Looking around the room, he sang to the back of the crowd and his caught the eye of a particular girl standing at the bar. Long black hair, brown skin, and dressed in gauzy type dress that begged to be see-thru but wasn't quite standing in a vision of soft, contrasting purples.
Statistically he knew his odds of sex had gone up that night, not that he did bad as a DJ, but as a guitarist and lead singer? He tripled the odds at least. But this particular girl just looked up at him with a small smile on her lips, holding a glass of wine. Red kept his eyes on her, unable to look away, and finished the song.
"Some lovers just rely on their hearts, the core remains of what began with a passionate start, but that can't happen to us, 'cause it's always been a matter of trust."
Suddenly the girl looked nervous, straightening up and looking away. Red's grin widened, trying to catch her eye again as the song ended and he played the last bit of the instrumental still not looking down at his guitar.
"Red, you dog!"
Red looked back at voice yelling. He saw Carol waving her arms, chanting his name along with the other Pipers. As the song finished, the crowd roared and surged forward with applause. Looking back at JT, the Piper nodded, twirling the drum sticks in his hand.
"Do Satriani," JT yelled over the crowd. "I'll keep it soft, you wail."
Reaching out to his phone, he picked the specific track and waited a moment for the crowd to die down. It gave him the opportunity to look for the girl again, but she had disappeared from the bar. Crestfallen, he searched the crowd for a moment but could not see her. With a shrug he pressed play on his phone and it started with the acoustic guitar riff of 'Always with me, always with you' but Joe Satriani.
Wordlessly he closed his eyes and played his guitar, perfectly matching the songs sweet guitar riffs. His fingers moved quickly and effortlessly, holding the audience silent awe, even Carol, as he tore through the song, doing it justice. Opening his eyes, he looked down and saw the girl again.
She had moved close to the center of the crowd and was watching him with the same small smile playing on her lips. He kept his eyes on her, smiling as he moved his fingers quickly. Her hair looked like black silk, shining even with the little light that club had at the moment. Crowned on her forward was a widow's peak that implied an older Spanish ancestry, her skin looked flawless except for what looked like tattoos on her forearms - simple but intricate. High cheekbones and dressed with class, Red thoughtlessly finished the song as his own smile softened, completely enthralled with her.
Then he looked at her.
She could see his blue eyes even from the back of the club. The thrill of entertaining shifted to a flash of desire that made her heart stop. Being empathic made dealing with people in her business of acquiring antiquities easier - knowing when she was being lied to had saved her and her clients quite a bit of money, plus being able to look at something and know it was real because she had seen the like herself so many centuries ago made her successful. On occasion she had come across men who found her appearance pleasing, but the rawness of that emotion was usually quite off putting. Nothing could compare to her Isidoro, the way he loved her, even the way he looked at her, but the human standing on stage wasn't just exhibiting typical male lust, it was different and it made her nervous.
Looking away, she tried to close off from what the man was feeling, but she could feel his eyes on her, somewhat intrigued with what he was seeing. Touching her outfit, she wondered what he saw to make him react the way he was. Glancing back, his smile deepened as he caught her eye again, and with great interest, Cam watched as it smoothed into soft grin, making her extremely nervous that a man's smile would make her blush.
As the song ended, she felt his attention break off from her and in an instant she moved, leaving her glass on the counter. The crowd had managed to pack itself tight, preventing her from being able to get to the stairs to leave before he started another song, this time an instrumental. The throng of people was shoulder to shoulder and Cam found herself stuck in the center in front of the stage. The next song was a soft melody that she recognized from about twenty years back. For as old as Cam was, she still enjoyed music and all its varied nuances. The man played the song flawlessly, making her look back up.
His eyes were closed as he moved his fingers expertly and quickly along the neck of the guitar, mesmerizing her as she found herself wondering what his hands must feel like when he opened his eyes, looking directly at her again.
There, the flash of desire and curiosity besieged her, making her smile at him. Now standing directly in front of him, she was sure she looked like she was pursuing him when actually she just wanted to leave as quickly as possible. This man, Red, held her with his blue eyes and made her flush with her own attraction which surprised her. His body was lean and tall, his muscles impossibly cut along his arms. His sense of style was curious, if not a throwback to years gone by. They were two opposites, for sure, but she felt his enchantment with her and, much to her dismay, felt herself reciprocate.
People were looking at her, following the man's gaze, and the curiosity with a tinge of jealousy seeped into her mind. He had singled her out and people were noticing, making the moment that much more uncomfortable for her, but Cam could not look away as she watched his expression shift from curiosity, to smoldering sexuality, and intense fascination.
As the song finished, the crowd around them roared again and she found herself clapping happily for his performance. He swung the guitar behind his back and turned to the drummer and then turned back. Another song, this time without his guitar, began to start slowly. It was one she did not quite recognize, not until later, but she listened to the words as he sang them.
His choice of music varied it seemed, bouncing from the 80's, 90's, to recent pop charts, but this one was more R&B. The lyrics surprised her, especially since he never once broke eye contact with her as he sang them.
And I wish that I could be with you tonight
You give me butterflies inside, inside and I
All I gotta say is that I must be dreaming, can't be real
You're not here with me, still I can feel you near me
I caress you, let you taste us, just so blissful listen
I would give you anything baby, just make my dreams come true
Oh baby you give me butterflies
Cam felt her blush burn her cheeks and felt the need to run again. It was all she could do to not break out into a run as she felt his growing interest in her mix with humor as he saw her reacting the way she was. Trying to pull away from his emotions was proving to be harder than it normally was, maybe because he was just so damn intriguing, enough to make her want to stay more than run. When the song ended, he moved onto faster 80's rock and got the club roaring again, finally shifting his attention off of her.
A sense of relief passed through the women as he began to work the crowd again and Cam was finally able to move again, squeezing gently through the tight crowd of people. As she looked up at the stairs, she turned back and watched the man sing, exciting the crowd, and the thrill of it was too much to just up and leave.
Coming to these clubs filled the emptiness her imposed loneliness drowned her with, even though she shied away from intimate relationships that went beyond that of a sexual flavor. Instead, Cam found a dark corner and watched the rest of the show for the next hour, letting the crowd's emotions comfort her.
"I think I love him," Carol laughed.
"I didn't know Red had it in him," she said, a little in awe of how Red was working the crowd, especially the one girl in purple. "He's singing to that same girl."
"Lucky cow," Carol sang as she stood next to Viv.
"I like how neither one of them acknowledges that we're right behind them listening," Brig said chuckling.
"I know, right," LT mumbled with his uncle.
Both Viv and Carol shushed them as they watched Red intently, hanging on his every word.
"This place is going to be so full next weekend," Carol said in an awed voice.
"We should get here early."
"Definitely." Pausing, Carol added breathlessly, "God I would totally wreck his shit."
Viv had taken a drink from her water bottle and almost choked on it. Laughing, she wiped her mouth, trying to cough up the water.
Red and JT ended up playing for another half hour before ending their set for the night, playing a total of forty five minutes. The crowd had gotten thicker by the end of their impromptu show and easily at max capacity. Carol and Viv clapped and hollered with the rest of the crowd as JT and Red stepped off the stage and went into the back. They were covered in sweat and grinning ear to ear as they moved through the crowd.
Turning back to Brig, Viv wrapped an arm around his, making him look down. "Oh now you love me again?"
"Oh stop. We're just proud of him." Viv cleared her now hoarse throat and drank more of her water after clinking against Carol's bottle of beer.
"Yes we're just so proud of him we want to tell him...really, really hard," Carol snorted with an equally lost voice.
A remix of 'Son of a Gun' by Janet Jackson with Carly Simon started to play in the club, sending Carol off into another hip shake against LT who quickly forgave her and nuzzled on her ear.
Viv looked back at Brig and smiled. "Why, jealous?"
Brig moved his arm out of her grasp and encircled her waist, reaching down with both hands to cup her bottom as he kissed her deeply. Squeezing with his hands, Viv pressed herself up against him and giggled into the kiss.
"I'm always jealous. You should make it up to me."
Viv swayed in his arms as he whispered to her in that low, throaty voice that promised very good things as well as very bad things and those were equally as good.
"Oh my god, we are all right here watching you two!" Carol squealed, covering her eyes.
"Seriously, I almost prefer you guys hiding from us," LT said with an embarrassed laugh.
Brig reached out and shoved his nephew, turning him away as he continued to kiss Viv, making her laugh.
"That went well, I thought," JT said, snorting happily.
Red turned to a table in the room and began humping it happily. "HAHAHA! That was fucking awesome!"
They went through their customary man celebrations - high fiving, chest bumping, and even lifted their shirts and belly bumped. Red was deliriously happy as he took off his Oreo shirt and wrung it out.
"I can't believe we did it. I've never had so much fun in my life," JT said picking up a towel and wiping the sweat off his face.
The manager walked in and shook hands with both men. "Here is your take."
"Take of what?" Red said taking the envelope the manager was holding out to them. He opened it and gasped. "There's money in here!"
"Live bands get a cut of whatever the bar profits are and we're packed! See you two next weekend?"
Red shrugged and looked at JT. "I...guess?" They both shook hands with the manager and he left. Red jumped on JT and they laughed and jumped around.
For the first time Red was exhilarated, loving life, and feeling happier than he had ever been. JT threw him a towel and he wiped at his chest as he considered his life up until this point.
Life with the Pipers was everything and it wasn't something he'd ever give up, and then there was his love for medicine but he had suffered a setback having to pull out of college once he accepted his life as a werewolf. Everything after that point in his life had gone downhill from there.
Meeting his biological father, after having not seen him since he was five and his parents split, had turned out to be more devastating than the joyous reunion he had hoped it would be. He distinctly remembered his father walking out of his life as a young boy and never even calling. Red grew up idolizing a man who didn't even have the time to give his son a phone call on his birthday, but when the senior Reese Deardon came back into his life and offered him this new life, Red jumped at it. With the gift he thought would come a relationship with his father, but it was like watching him walk out on his life all over again.
Reese Deardon, Sr. did his duty as a Jameson descendant and then deserted his son all over again. No goodbye, no good luck...nothing.
His mother had remarried and his stepfather was everything a boy could hope for, but he wasn't Red's biological father. He just couldn't compare. Red integrated himself quickly into the Pipers and never looked back...or at least tried. Next to Charlie, Red was the easiest to go to, clown of the group, but quite possibly the only Piper on the verge of serious depression. It was easier to laugh than to put a bullet into his mouth. At least that's what he kept telling himself.
So as Red stood there, holding the money in his hand, he smiled feeling more than just some kid who's father didn't give two shits to call on his birthday.
"Oh! I'm so sorry."
Red turned toward the door, shirtless and sweaty, and looked directly at the dark haired girl he was singing to in the bar.
She passed by a table with extremely tall men and did her best to avoid bumping into them but their excitement and happiness caught her attention. She recognized the entire group as the people who had initially cheered on the red head that was interestingly enough called 'Red'. Passing them quickly, she was caught in a pack of females heading to the bathroom and ended up in a long line. With a sigh, Cam decided to just duck out the back and avoid weaving her way through the hundreds of people still in the bar and stepped out of line to go further down the hallway. There was of course no line into the men's bathroom, but she did not have to go that bad, so she moved further down and found another door. Quickly she stepped up and pushed the door open.
The man called Red was standing in what looked like a makeshift dressing room with the drummer. His deep reddish brown hair was slick with sweat, making it look darker. His blue jeans hung at his narrow hips and Cam could not help but look at his abs which were lean and long curving up into muscular shoulders and even bigger biceps and forearms.
"Oh! I'm so sorry," she blurted out as she stared at the man's body. Cam took a step back and managed to walk right into the door, slamming it shut.
"You're that girl," the man said lifting a finger at her.
"I...," Cam stuttered as she reached behind her and tried to find the knob. "I thought this was the exit," she said hurriedly as she turned around and grabbed at the door knob and tried twisting it.
The door suddenly pushed in, knocking her back and into the red head who caught her with his large hands. The tall men from the table she passed stepped into the room and opened the door wide, looking at Cam.
Their stunned silence ramped up her anxiety as all the men stood and stared at her. She felt the tingle of desire along her back before she realized just how close to the red head she was, making her stumble forward, pushing through the group of men.
"She's pretty," Domingo said as they looked after her.
Red spun around and looked for his t-shirt, picking it up off the table he was previous humping and then dropped the soaked garment. "I need a shirt. Right now."
The other Pipers just looked at him.
"Right now right now right now right now! Dom, gimme your shirt!" Dom shrugged off his jacket and pulled his light blue polo shirt over his head and handed it to Red. Bolting through the door, Red ran back and took Dom's jacket as well, then slipped on the shirt as he pushed through the crowd.
"I want that jacket back, Red!" Dom yelled behind him.
The second he made it out to the crowd he was besieged with congratulatory whoops and cheering. Being as polite as he could, he thanked a few people when he saw the girl in the purple dress disappear up the flight of stairs. Pushing harder through the crowd, he smiled at the well wishers and new fans before bolting up the stairs after her. Finally making it up to street level, Red slipped on Dom's jacket and ran out into the street, looking down both ends of the Strip.
"What? Aw come on," he whined after he ran down one end of the block but saw nothing. Doubling back, he ran past the club again and took off down the sidewalk for another block until he got to the corner. Rounding it, he looked down one end and then to his right and saw the flutter of purple passing through a group of people.
"Hey! Hey wait!" he yelled and ran after the girl. She turned and looked at him, her face shocked. Finally reaching her, Red stopped in front of her and then realized what he was doing.
He was chasing after a perfect stranger, probably scaring the shit out of her.
"Uh, hi. Hi, I'm...I saw you back there at The Howl." Red hooked a thumb behind him, as if to prove it.
The girl looked around and then back at him. "Hello," she said cautiously.
"Uh." He paused and drew a blank. "Hi," he said again, feeling the burn on his cheeks.
The girl tucked her black hair behind her ears and nodded. "Hello," she said with a little more confidence.
"I'm, my name is Red. Well it's Reese actually, but my friends call me Red. But I'm good with Reese if that's...what you...uh...prefer?"
Red mentally kicked himself for acting like an idiot. The adrenaline from being on stage and then seeing the girl again was finally starting to leave his system and he was beginning to see just how silly he was acting.
"I'm sorry. I'm Red," he said with a grin and held his hand out to her.
The man looked at his hand and then lowered it slowly. "Could I? Would you like to get a cup of coffee?"
"It's almost one thirty in the morning," Cam said slowly.
"Uh. Water then?" Red gave her a hopeful look.
Cam could feel his hesitation and nervousness as he stood in front of her, trying extremely hard to be nice to her. Despite being as old as she was, he made her nervous, not so much for her safety, but for just showing an interest in her. He chased after her, which really was a charming thing to do, but her own hesitation was warning her to run away. This man, Red, seemed sincere in being friendly but Cam still pulled at her wrap, using it like some sort of body armor.
"Just water. I'll spring for ice, but that's it though."
Despite her anxiety, she smiled at his humor. She did not want to trust this human, but it wasn't as if she couldn't defend herself. Her eyes looked up and then at the store front they were standing in front of. It was a small diner opened all night, like most of Nachton she noticed.
"Here?" she suggested, pointing a finger from her grip on her wrap.
Red turned and looked up at the sign and then stepped to the door, opening it for her. Cam pulled a bit of her hair that had flown across her lips back behind her ear and forced herself to walk into the diner. Her shoulders were hunched over and she couldn't help try and make herself as small as possible as Red came up behind her.
It was an old style diner with small tables near large picture windows and a counter with red retro style round bar stools. The vinyl on the booths was the same cherry apple red color and Cam picked the one closest to the door and sat down first. Red slid across from her in the booth and put both his hands on the table.
A waitress came up to the table and smiled at them. "Just ice water, please," Red said ordering for the both of them.
Cam forced herself to relax. It was just water, this wasn't a date. Over the years Cam discovered, well more or less self diagnosed, that she suffered from Social Anxiety Disorder - or pretty much the frequent and unending fear that when coming in contact with unfamiliar people or experiences run her the risk of having her actions scrutinized by others. It was an odd thing for an empathic vampire to posses, seeing how she can read everyone around her and know perfectly well when she's the subject of scrutiny. But at that moment the man across the table was completely focused on her and it made her want to crawl under the table and hide. Part of her self-diagnosed treatments was to try and talk to different people every day; one person one day, two people the next. Most days Cam could function without her anxiety, in fact she could go months, but there was something about Red's blue eyes that made Cam self conscious. Flicking her brown eyes up, she watched him as he looked around, immediately recognizing what he was doing.
His blue eyes moved from one end to the other - judging the distance to the exit behind her and then twisting around to look for the kitchen doors. Finally Red turned and looked back at Cam. Smiling he tapped his fingers silently on the table top.
"So what's your name?"
"That's pretty," he said.
Cam waited for the lie, most men usually did when it came to flirting with her, but she felt nothing but honesty and admiration when he said her name was pretty. Raising her eyebrows, she smiled at him.
As he settled into the booth and did his cursory glance around the diner (without even realizing it) he watched Camille as she dealt with what could only be some sort of social disorder. Strangers made her nervous, attention from strangers was even worse. Her sitting down with him had to take a lot for her to do and he felt himself relax realizing that she at least thought he was interesting enough to fight against that overwhelming feeling to talk to him. Granted he was doing most of the talking, but he didn't mind.
"So how long have strangers made you nervous?" Red asked with genuine interest, wanting to put her at ease.
"I'm kind of the opposite. I don't like people making assumptions about me, so I tend to be a little over the top so there's no doubt as to the type of person I am," he said chuckling.
Camille was quiet, lacing her fingers together. Her expression was curious or maybe a little annoyed - he wasn't sure. Either way Red wasn't sure if she was going to answer until she did.
"I like crowds, just not...the attention."
Red narrowed his eyes. "That must be hard for you."
"What do you mean?"
"You're beautiful," he said plainly.
Camille titled her head to the side and gave him a curious look. "You mean that."
Now that was a weird thing to say, he thought to himself. The waitress came with their water and a piece of apple pie, leaving it with a wink. Taking a healthy gulp from his glass, he picked up one of the two forks the waitress left and dug into the pie. It was still warm.
Chuckling, he forked another bite. "Who makes pie at one thirty in the morning?"
Camille looked over at the waitress and smiled. Tucking her hair behind her ears again, she let her wrap drop down her shoulders as she reached out and picked up the other fork.
Pointing at her arms with his fork, Red swallowed his bite and commented on her tattoos. "What do your tattoos mean?"
Twisting her arms, she showed him the length of it and touched it with her fingers. "Ask me again later," she said softly as she ate the bite of pie off her fork.
Red grinned as he ate another piece of the pie. Licking his lips, he asked, "Like the pie, huh?"
Cam covered her mouth with her fingers and grinned. "Sorry."
"No, no. It is quite nummy."
Resting her chin in her hand, she laid the fork down and broke off a piece of the crust with her fingers. "You play quite well. But your band is small. Just you and the drummer?"
"Thanks, but we're not a band. We just filled in tonight. I usually DJ, warm up the crowd for the band but apparently they were indisposed."
"Yeah apparently they got arrested?" Red shrugged and made a face. "I can't wait to hear that story."
"That's fortunate for you then. You were very popular." Cam chewed on her bottom lip for a moment and added, "I think you have a wonderful singing voice."
Red looked down at the pie and grinned shyly. Cam watched as he fought the blush that was rising up into his cheeks. "Thanks," he said quietly and then shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"You don't like attention either," Cam said in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Compliments from a beautiful woman. What's not to like?" He finally looked up at her and held her stare.
She could feel him struggling with something just below the surface of his modesty. For as charming as Red appeared to be, he was extremely self conscious with a fragile ego that most men possessed but rarely professed.
Red pushed the plate toward her, making her look down. "Last bite," he offered, laying his fork down.
Cam reached out and took half the last bite onto her fork, then picked up his and scooped up the other half. Holding the fork out to him, she was surprised when he leaned forward and took the bite into his mouth without taking the offered utensil. She nearly sat back when he lifted her fork and offered her the bite as well. She looked at it and again her anxiety overwhelmed her.
"I'll eat it, don't think I won't," he said holding the fork in front of her.
The gesture was intimate as well as personal. You don't feed a perfect stranger and that wasn't her intention with him, but Red held the fork steady, waiting for her to take the bite. Isidoro used to feed her, she remembered fondly.
Slowly, Cam sat back in the seat, away from the fork.
"I think the waitress meant it as a gift."
"Yeah, she was being nice. Nothing wrong with being nice back, though." As soon as he said it, he regretted it. He stopped and looked at Camille who was watching him with no expression.
A look across a crowded room could mean a thousand things. An invitation, maybe, with the spark of something more. It could be fate bringing two people together for a piece of pie or maybe for the rest of their lives. But sometimes, more often than not in Red's case, a look was just that. A look.
"It was very nice meeting you, Camille. Can I get you a cab?" Red said politely.
Camille sat up straight in the booth and seemed surprised. "I don't live far."
"It's late. Would you like me to walk you home?" It was a polite offer delivered with sincerity written on his face. He wasn't expecting anything.
"No," she said plainly.
"Okie dokie," he said not at all surprised. It occurred to him just then that he had been completely enamored with her looks and for this he felt ridiculous. He slid to the edge of the booth and waited politely for Camille to stand which she did quickly. "Thanks for joining me for a slice and some water." He smiled at her as he walked to the door and opened it for her.
Camille passed him, her scent floating up to him. She smelled like spices - capers and white sage. The unique mix filtered into his senses and he tasted her scent, remembering it. He'd always be reminded of her when she smelled either spice, not that it would be often.
Stepping out the door, he was surprised to see her waiting for him. He was either completely misjudging the woman or not too confident in himself. Either way, he'd get his Oreo shirt later and just go home. The others probably left already anyway.
Smiling down at Camille, he held his hand out to her again, only to have her look at it awkwardly.
"Right, sorry," he said politely and then stepped out into the street, hailing one of the yellow cabs that was driving by. After a few moments one pulled over to the curb and stopped in front of him. Turning toward Camille, he saw that she was already walking away.
"Wow, ok." Surprisingly it hurt more than he thought it would. She was so pretty, so unique. Even her scent. He thought he liked her and she liked him, but as usual he was a horrible judge of character. The evening had peaked for him as a personal best: friends cheering him on, a weird twist of fate putting him and JT in the spotlight, and a pretty girl looking at him from the crowd. But there he was, standing on the curb, feeling sorry for himself, watching said pretty girl walk away.
Turning back to the cabbie, he leaned in the open passenger window and gave the address. Without looking back at her, because it would just make his evening suck that much more, Red opened the cab and got in. Slowly the cab pulled away from the corner and picked up speed heading down the street. Red looked up as the cab passed Camille.
She wasn't looking.
Sitting back in the cab, he closed his eyes when he heard her yell out his name.
Cam saw him twist around and then lean forward to the cab driver, forcing him to stop. The red brake lights flashed on and he opened the door and stepped out to look at her. He looked as confused as he felt.
She was doing a horrible job trying to enjoy the short time with Red and in the process she hurt him. She never meant to do that. The thrill and adrenaline in him had excited her as well, but as Cam withdrew more and more, she felt Red's discouragement till finally he had given up trying to be something to her. It confused her. His interest in her was superficial, she could feel that, but when she walked away without a word, she felt the pain she caused him.
Running up to him, she let the wrap fall off her shoulders and dangle from her hands. Stopping in front of him, she reached out and took his face, pulling his lips down to hers, and she kissed him.
His lips were full, soft, and eager, much to her delight. Once he got over the initial shock of her kissing him, he put his hands around her waist and pulled her close as he gently deepened the kiss. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she dug her hand up into his hair and pressed her body against his. After what felt like hours, but surely was only a minute, she pulled back and looked up into his blue eyes.
"You're...so confusing," he said with a laugh.
Cam got inside the cab and pulled onto his hand, making him get in with her. She leaned forward and gave her address at the Liefde towers. Once Red settled in and closed the door, she turned and kissed him again, this time more aggressively.
She could feel him wanting to ask her a million questions. His confusion was tinged with desire and he struggled with it. But the more she kissed him, the more the confusion faded. Or maybe that was how she was feeling, she couldn't tell anymore.
Continues in 48 hours - Cam's apartment