Consuming most of the dimly lit room, a semicircle stage extends from the back wall. Polished black bars keep visitors off the stage, or hold the performer prisoner inside. Hanging on the wall false candles with red bulbs bathe two Itoril men dressed in expensive suits sitting on leather sofas in the corner facing the stage. Their eyes simmer like coals. On the other side, a female in a business suit flips the pages of a book. Even fully dressed and golden hair pulled back in a tight bun, the woman is unmistakable, Yasmine from Necropolis.
Steve sits beside Yasmine. Glancing over, she smiles and returns to her book writing notes.
Slipping out, Kandy closes the door.
Deep percussions shake the room. The bars around the cage vibrate. The sofa shudders. Even the air seems to shimmer. Or the light. The false candles flicker along the line of perception sending waves rolling through the wood-paneled walls. The angelic vocalists enter a hymn, a tragic lullaby filling the belly of the beast.
Oddly enough, the combination of light and sound seems relaxing. Easing back into the leather, Steve soaks in the rumbling beast.
At the back of a stage, a red velvet curtain slides open. Slipping onto the stage, a woman struts, her tall boots tapping the mirrored floor, her breasts bouncing in a shiny pink bra. She twirls around throwing her dark hair out, her skirt of meshed silver chain rises above her thighs.
The two men lean closer, their noses nearly touching the bars.
Black glove grabbing brass pole, the dancer swings her body around, free arm flying out. She drops throwing her hair over covering her face, hands on the mirrored floor.
The music fades, and the walls cease rippling.
Setting her book aside, Yasmine leans closer and grips the edge of the sofa. She glances over, smiling. Hunger fills her blue eyes. She looks as if about to speak, but seals her lips.
He offers his hand. “Steve Reynolds.”
Gripping his palm, Yasmine squeezes tight. Authority beams from her smile, and her suit completes the image of power. Snug against her bare neck, the black tie disappears between her breasts squeezed together by a velvet corset beneath her black jacket hanging open.
“Of course,” says Yasmine. Dropping her hand, she grips leather cushion.”Steve, you look absolutely delicious.” She licks her fangs.
Music rises from the depths, chimes and a thumping drum, a heartbeat growing closer. With each pulse, the dancer bounces, head bobbing. A hush, and smoke floods the stage engulfing the dancer.
Steve glances around. The Itoril men watch the stage with hungry eyes. The same look floods Yasmine’s face, maybe with more lust. A crash of drums, and an eruption of guitars sends the room rippling. Light blasts up from the stage shooting through white smoke. Dark fan spins up blowing smoke; the dancer flips her head back. On hands and knees, she crawls pushing through the smoke approaching the bars nearest the two men. It seems like a normal strip club. Is this supposed to be his sin? He imagines other sins behind other doors: blood drinking, torture, illegal gambling.
“Do they let anyone with enough cash in here?”
“What?” Yasmine shakes her head. “Exclusive. Itoril of a certain stature. And.” She winks. “You, my sweet.”
Gripping the bars, the dancer swoons rising out of the smoke. One of the men reaches out, two fingers holding dollar bills, slipping between bars. He lets the cash drop into the smoke and leans back on the sofa. The woman dances in a circle pressing her body against the cage.
The music falls into a groove, and the heartbeat returns. The dancer moves with the pulse, pressing her breasts against the cage. Her stage name might be exotic or flowery, but standing above the others is the perfect name, Sin.
Twirling around, Sin cups her breasts and squeezes for the audience.
“City leaders,” says Yasmine. She rolls her eyes. “Itoril council members. They want to shut this place down.”
“Attracts curious eyes.”
“Right.” Leaning over, Yasmine pushes several bills between the bars. “That and some of the weird shit that goes on in here.” Reaching into her jacket, she produces more cash, pushing the bills onto the stage before Steve.
The dancer struts over, smoke swirling around her legs. Reaching to her shoulders, she pulls the pink straps down her arms flipping the bra over, breasts bouncing free. Gripping the bars, she dances, her hips moving to the heartbeat of the beast. Smoke slithers up her bare thighs, wispy fingers snatching at her glistening skirt.
Yasmine leans closer touching shoulders, and releases a pleasurable gasp. “I’m planning on opening my own club. For lovelies like her.”
“Humans you mean.”
“Right.” She laughs sounding wicked. “Thursdays could be Itoril night.”
He recalls the other evening, the memory in some other corner of the universe, the Itoril woman wearing the chain mail dress and explaining her plan to make vampires cool. In that other memory, the sanctuary offers food and shelter to those in need. Here, sin for the elite.
Spinning around, Sin leans over, meshed chain sliding up offering a tempting view. Steve lowers his gaze finding the dancer’s face looking back through the smoke. She smiles.
Yasmine holds out a twenty. “A little more sweetness for you, Steve?”
He pushes her hand away and shakes his head. “I’m good. Thanks.”
“Don’t mind me then.” She drops the twenty before her.
The dancer spins around, swaying her hips. Guitars fade giving way to the thundering heartbeat. Body bouncing, the dancer locks her gaze with Yasmine. Hands on her hips, she slides knives from the mesh skirt. Curved blades like slender talons held in hands, she twirls around and slashes at the smoke.
Yasmine scoots the edge of the sofa and gazes up at the dancer.
Holding blades to cheeks, the dancer licks her lips, circling around and touches tongue to nose. Hips rotating, shoulders dipping, she moves to the heartbeat. Red oozes along the blades, clings to the surface. Red tears slide down her cheeks.
Music explodes, and Sin dances waving the blades around stirring up smoke. She strikes the bars, chiming to the music. She slices over collar bones. Crimson tears slide down onto her breasts, one off to the side, the other pooling over her nipple, separating, and two drops fall splattering thigh. Crimson tears spread in three directions. White smoke licks thighs.
Steve gazes at the smoke, bright red on flesh, and dark hair sashing around. Beautiful. Spotting Yasmine gripping leather, he suspects the Itoril woman sees something else. A tease of blood, her senses on fire sending her body shuddering into an a near orgasmic-like state. The pleasure filling her face is priceless.
Watching Sin dance, working the blades like paintbrushes spreading crimson streaks over the canvas of her flesh, he feels warmth build inside. The grim art sends tingles into the back of his head, and he shudders realizing this is his sin. Or close to it. Maybe due to the performance, the naked flesh, or just the color. Red is sensual.
He watches Sin bleed.
As the performer dances on the other side for the gawking gentlemen, Steve notices Yasmine watching him. He nods.
“Delicious, isn’t she?”
“How long have we known each other?”
“Long time.” Licking her lips, Yasmine glances at Sin and drags her gaze back. “I was just a girl then.”
Hard to tell, but Yasmine appears young for an Itoril. Her youth might have been decades ago.
She scoots closer bumping shoulders. “Are you doing anything these days?”
“What do you know about Kandy?” Looking at the blank expression, he thumbs over his shoulder at the door. “Our hostess.”
“She dances like a storm.”
One of the men bangs on the bars and reaches into the cage. Spinning away, Sin grasps the poll and twirls around. The man hammers on the bars with his fist while the other tugs at his coat trying to pull him away.
Yasmine laughs. “Blood sometimes gets the best of them.”
Leaping, Sin grabs the poll and twirls upside-down climbing higher. Ankles gripping poll, she spins holding her arms out. Blood droplets drain from the slashes above her knees, into the groove between her clenched thighs.
Grabbing the bars, the enraged Itoril tugs rattling the cage. Arms bulge within the suit, and cracking sounds circle the stage with each mighty jerk. He snarls exposing his four terrible fangs, two on top surrounding the two smaller ones on the bottom.
As Sin swings around, she throws her hand out. A blade spins through the bars striking the raging Itoril in the chest. Stumbling back, the man pulls the blade out and throws it to the ground. Madness fills his eyes and he leaps at the cage, toes shoved between bars. Leaning back, he tugs wrenching the cage. More creaking, and several of the lights in the stage floor flicker out.
Palms on the glass floor, the dancer dives into a roll, flips over and throws her arm out, blade twirls between bars piercing into the Itoril’s chest. Pushing away, she rolls back over and onto her feet.
Shock consumes the man’s face as he gazes down at the blade stuck deep into his chest, blood draining down his shirt. He reaches for the blade, but slips tumbling onto the sofa.
The other business man falls at his side, yelling obscenities.
Yasmine claps her hands delicately. “I’m hiring her.”
“Is he okay?”
“He’ll be fine.” She laughs. “Except for his pride.”
Sin resumes dancing with a smirk on her face.
Returning to his thoughts, Steve searches for his next topic. “Venom. Is it true that it causes memory loss?”
Yasmine’s face turns serious. Looking at him, she seems to consider the question. Or him. Itoril keep secrets for their survival. She leans closer brushing her cheek against his and speaks into his ear.
“Venomous Itoril are rare creatures. Elders. Mostly.”
Nodding, he watches the two business men exit the room closing the door behind them.
“Memory loss is often temporary,” says Yasmine. She takes in a breath and presses closer.
It feels uncomfortable, fangs so close, but he trusts Yasmine. They have a history going back to her youth. Is Kandy involved? So many questions that must wait. Of course, Yasmine is the same woman that owns Necropolis where they follow the letter of the law and sweep crime under the carpet. He watches Sin holding the bars and writhing. She grins at him, and he returns the smile.
“Itoril venom eases the pain,” says Yasmine, her lips brushing his ear. “Addictive as hell.”
“Can it be bottled?”
Yasmine growls. “Venom is stature. More than blood. Those with it hold it over everyone else. Nobody messes with them.”
Pulling out a twenty, he reaches out and drops the tip onto the stage. Falling back, he feels the woman press in beside him. The Itoril is far from warm, not exactly reassuring, but she feels safe. She is young. With the scent of blood in the air, crimson painted on Sin, Yasmine is in control.
“I could use a guy like you.”
“Pardon?” Turning his head, he gazes into her deep blue orbs. Within the dark centers, embers burn.
“The world might be moving on, but for Itoril, it’s still very much a man’s world.” She licks her lips. “If I want to climb the corporate ladder, I need help. And who better to help me than an outsider? A ghost.”
Looking back at the cage, he finds Sin watching him. Squatting, her bottom nearly lost in smoke, she reaches through the bars and curls her finger in a come-hither motion.
“Think about it, Steve.”
He stands before the cage.
Sin reaches through and tugs his belt. The bars press against him, and her breasts.
Rising on toes, she presses her cheek against the cage near his ear.
“I have a message from you,” says Sin, whispering above the music. “Time to go.”
“Get the hell out of here.”
Pulling back, he gazes at Sin. The determination in her copper eyes tells him she speaks the truth. A message from him must be important. Something bad approaches. Whatever it is, he must have thought better not to pass along the nature of the warning. Or he didn’t know the details.
Nodding, he steps back bumping into Yasmine.
Sin dances away and grabs the poll spinning around, hair flowing.
“She’s a sweetie, isn’t she?” Yasmine laughs.
Tearing his eyes from Sin, he strides for the exit and throws the door open.