A couple of hours later, the cab pulled over to the curb a few doors down from the club. She handed the cab driver a twenty for the ride, earning a smile for the healthy tip. She stepped out, earning wolf whistles as the silk slid sideways, revealing a long expanse of leg ending in the strappy Christian Louboutin sandals she always wore dancing. The soles let her spin easily on the balls of her feet. She had been salsa dancing since she was a teenager, sneaking into clubs using her older sister’s ID. She straightened her dress and headed towards where the line of several men stood waiting to enter, cordoned from the sidewalk by black velvet ropes. She heard calls of “Oy, Mami!” and “Muy caliente, Chica!” along with kissing noises as she walked past the motley crew and towards the bouncer checking IDs. She ignored the catcalls. If she gave them an ounce of attention, they would follow her around like a lost puppy. She passed the bouncer, watching him in her peripheral vision. He had definitely looked at her face rather than just her body. She would have to glamor him if she had to walk by him again. They were trained to notice people, and she most definitely didn’t want to be noticed by the staff.
She entered the restaurant and told the hostess she was meeting someone. The woman nodded, so Gabby walked into the restaurant. They had staggered the overstuffed booths to maximize privacy. The creams, sages, and muted burgundy colors were calming. It had a certain elegance with the cloth-covered tables and brass sconce lighting. It was not what she had been expecting at all. Elegance dripped off every surface. She wandered around all the tables to see if he was there. When she didn’t see him, she walked towards a doorway that lead into the club. A different bouncer was just outside the doorway, checking IDs. She gave him her fake ID and a smile as he read what she wanted him to see. He waved her through. She slipped her ID back into the small pocket in the v-neck of the dress. It was just big enough for her ID, door key, and some cash. A garter strap on her upper thigh held her cell phone. The doorway opened to a landing with a staircase that went up and a staircase that lead down. She could hear Eddie Palmieri’s “Vámonos pal Monte” upstairs, so she headed up.
* * *
She felt the pounding beat in her bones. The entire upper floor was one wide expanse, with pillars spread out to support the structures above. Crystal chandeliers forced shafts of light into the darkened room. She noted the DJ at the far end instead of the live band, which the website said frequently performed the club. She liked the ambiance. When she was in college, she had frequented the clubs down in Harlem since it was closer to her dorm. Off to the right was a large polished wood bar that ran almost the entire side of the room. The many bottles of alcohol were lit up with colored lights. She headed to the bar and waited until she got the attention of a bartender. “Mojito,” she ordered. She turned to watch the room while the bartender made the drink.
The DJ made excellent selections, and the dance floor was constantly full. She watched the dancers step through the specific six steps in eight beats that were inherent to salsa dancing. The only thing that changed between the different styles was the rhythm. New York and San Francisco used the On-2 Mambo style, which had the break step on counts 2 and 6, and a basic rhythm of slow-quick-quick. You stepped back slowly, then quick-quick, changing feet. You then went forward slowly and then stepped quick-quick between feet. It also featured couples executing turn patterns and figures in the “slot” using a lot of cross-body movements. To the uninitiated, it looked like constant swirling by the dancers. She scanned each part of the large dance floor, looking to see if he was present, starting with the VIP section in the loft and moving to the room below. She spent a good thirty minutes just watching and came up empty. It was nearing midnight. If he was going to show, he would have by now. She would need to come up with a different plan tomorrow. The Rede would never understand if she spent every night dancing, hoping he would show up.
One of her favorites, Te Regalare, started playing. Gabby set her glass on the bar down after slurping the last of the cool drink and stalked over to a man wearing a dark business suit with a loosened tie who looked wholly out of place. His eyes caressed her as he took her in, from her long dark curls to her red polished toes. Wordlessly, she grabbed his tie and pulled him towards her, dragging it over her shoulder as she headed to the dance floor, pulling him behind her. They found the beat as they joined hands and began to move. She stepped back and then twirled twice under his arm as she moved forward. She came out slowly before making quick-quick steps. He was a basic dancer and could lead her in the basic movements.
The music shifted into Hijo De Los Rumberos and he spun her into another mans arms. The dark Hispanic male nodded his head at the man in the business suit, who then walked off the dance floor. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence when she went dancing. However, this man was a different class of dancer. He showed it immediately by dipping her backwards over his arm before he lifted her up, grabbed her left hand, and spun her outwards. They break-stepped before catching the rhythm. He twirled her under his arm twice and when he pulled her into him. On the next beat, he stepped between her feet, forcing her to ride his thigh as he stepped forward. Bending her backwards again, he slid his fingers from the hallow in her neck to her belly button, before flipping her upwards towards him. Her hair flew up with her and circled his shoulders as he pressed his forehead against her. They continued the steps in sync for two counts before he spun her under his arm twice. They then repeated the sequence again and again.
The music morphed into Se Te Mira. After a bend and a spin, Gabby found herself in yet another man’s arms. Only this time, both men grinned at each other. She knew what they planned because vestido de fuego inflamed passions every time she wore it. With each spin out, the men traded her over to the other. Then the music morphed into Toro Mata. A third man joined in. This was new. And exciting.
* * *
"Toro Mata,” said Jared. “One of my favorites.” He tapped his fingers against the railing in time to the music.
“Reminds me of Cuba,” Nicolas said and the sighed. “The warm breezes, voluptuous women, and the stirring in my soul.”
“I never thought we would thaw out after the Russian front,” said Jared.
“WWII was a long time ago,” said Nicolas, watching the crowd. He leaned his elbows on the railing, looking out over the dance floor, building into the crowd of other well-dressed businessman. Any paranormal in the club would feel the power wafting off him if they paid attention.
“Your suite is ready for you. Must be nice to not have to pay that fee,” said Jared.
“Being co-owner has its benefits. Even comping such a small thing, the night ill still be profitable,” said Nicolas. “The alcohol had a nice mark-up, but sex, blood, and privacy are even more profitable.”
“Add to it one of the few clubs like this in the city, major bucks,” said Jared.
“Exactly. This way I never have to take a snack home. It would just make things far too complicated,” said Nicolas. “My home is mine alone.”
“Makes sense given you never feed from the same woman twice,” said Jared shrugging. “You are missing out. I just rotate my favorites and throw in a little strange now and again.”
“One woman is as good as another when it comes to blood. Some can even scratch an itch, but no matter what, she still isn’t my mate. I don’t need the headache of an addicted groupie,” Nicolas said. He sniffed the sir and frowned.
“Still trying to find her scent?” asked Jared.
“Yes. I thought for a minute I had, but there are just too many people in such a small space to separate their scents,” Nicolas said. He made a mirthless chuckle. “I had thought Fate had forgotten me. Until today. I won’t be sure until I have her face-to-face.”
“Was that your stomach?” asked Jared, alarmed. “Geez. If I can hear it over this din, you need to eat, like now.”
“Yeah, yeah. No one is looking appealing,” Nicolas said as he scanned the crowd. He stood up, preparing to head to the refrigerated unit in his suite when he spied a breathtakingly beautiful woman being spun between three men as they danced together. The thin straps barely held the wrap dress on her lithe form as she spun in circles. His eyes were riveted to her tantalizing long legs that peeked out of the slit in the fiery dress every time one of the men bent her backward over their arm. As they pulled her up, she gifted them with a smile that Con-Ed could use as a power source. "She'll do."
* * *
He jogged down the stairs and over to the sound stage. "Play Caridad" he said as he passed the DJ a fifty-dollar bill.
The DJ nodded and cued the song up.
Nicolas smiled as he circled the dance floor as the familiar beat started, slowly stalking the woman he had seen from the VIP loft. His eyes never left her beautiful face as she danced. As the music shifted, he watched as couples began a synchronized dance with the man behind the woman with his armed wrapped around her waist and his face buried in her hair. He smirked. He had known what dance was customary with this particular song. He slipped in behind the gorgeous creature in the red dress, beating the other men to the position. A jolt of electricity ran up his arm as he wrapped it around her. He shook the sensation off and then leveled a hard stare at the other men. His glare made it clear he would not relinquish his prize. They, one by one, each acknowledged his advantage and left the dance floor.
After a slight pause, the woman stepped in time to the music, swaying her hips in a lusty figure eight as she did. He groaned as she brushed against his groin, suddenly making it come to life. She threw her head back on his shoulder once he had wrapped his arms around her. She fit him perfectly. At six-feet-six, he frequently had to bend to reach a woman’s neck. In her heels, she was in the perfect position. He buried his nose in the space between her neck and her shoulder and inhaled deeply, expecting the glorious scent of a warm and willing woman.
What he scented made him freeze in place.