He was out there again. Gypsy could feel his presence, just beyond the light of the stage, in the back, in the shadows. Watching her dance.
She never saw him come into the Pleasure Club. Her name was announced and his spirit energy simply appeared on her radar. Once she left the stage he vanished. So far he hadn’t approached her. In spite of all she sensed from him, she had no fears for her safety.
Others, however, were paranoid on her behalf. Dante had pointed him out to her the preceding week. “Has that tiger been bothering you?”
She looked where he indicated. The sight of him stole her breath. Huge as a mountain, built like an oak, albino white in a stark black overcoat, handsome in a chiseled-by-adversity way. He didn’t look in their direction, but she was certain he was aware of them. Aware of her in particular. “No. Should I be worried?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ve heard bad rumors lately. If this joker’s who I think he is, a lot of people could be in serious trouble. I don’t want you to be one of them. If he does or says anything to make you nervous, howl. We’ll take care of it.”
Gypsy foresaw no physical danger to herself from the towering tiger. Her sight seemed strangely muted in regards to him, which she found disturbing. Then there was his aura, and the taint of sudden death it carried. “I’ll be careful. Thanks, Dante.”
She refused to allow his presence to interfere with her dance. Once on stage she came alive and joined her energy to the life-flow of creation. No tiger lurking in the shadows would ruin that for her.
The music took over and she gave herself to it. Her body moved sinuously to the rhythms of life. She briefly missed the presence of her occasional partner, Lamar. He had found himself another wolf to dance with. She wished them both happiness.
The music ended and so did her dance. This time, however, the tiger didn’t leave. She saw his silhouette rise from its chair and remain by the table. His blatant interest in her stretched between them like a binding cord.
Gypsy didn’t wish to be bound to anyone, and no man would hold her so. Perhaps a confrontation was needed after all.
She left the stage and circled around to the back, and the tiger’s table. He stood where she had last seen him, as if he had expected her to join him. Such presumption rankled. She smiled at him, friendly but reserved. “Good evening. Enjoying the show?”
“Very much.” His bass voice rumbled up from the subterranean depths of his chest. “I had hoped you would speak to me. I wish to express my appreciation. Your dance is beautiful. It renews my soul.”
What an odd way to put it. Her nascent annoyance gave way to curiosity. “How so?”
“I am new to this country. I have obligations that weigh heavily upon me. My soul sinks beneath them. Your dance dispels the burden. You are fire on stage. Beauty and fire.” He reached out and, before she could think to move, brushed his fingertips across her hair, lightly as a breath. “You are red wolf, yes?”
“Yes,” she admitted. “How did you know?”
“I have known your kind before. You are the poets of the wolf clans. Sensitive, not like the coarse grays. My people appreciate a good poet.”
“I’m not a poet. I’m a dancer.”
He shrugged. “It is all one. It celebrates life. Life is to be cherished.”
That wasn’t what her visions had told her of this tiger. She looked into his fierce blue eyes and saw melancholy and death. “Pretty talk,” she said, low-voiced, “from a hired killer.”
He smiled down at her. “Honest,” he pronounced her. “Refreshing. And not afraid. Also refreshing. You need not fear violence from me, firewolf. I will not bring harm to you. The world is a more beautiful place for your inclusion in it.”
“You mean harm to someone,” she whispered as the vision took her. “Someone close.”
“Perhaps. I’ve yet to be aimed at my target. My employer takes his time.” His voice dropped lower still. “He plays with death.”
“Leave,” she said abruptly. “Return home. There’s no dishonor in refusing to serve an honorless man.”
His shaggy brows rose. “You’re a seer too? Of course you are. The red wolves are known for the sight.” He shook his head. “I can’t do as you ask. I will discharge my obligations, but I will do it in my own way. He will learn what he toys with, to his regret. And I … ” This time when he touched her hair she didn’t shy away. “I will remember your dance. I will carry its fire with me into the dark.”
She took his hand briefly, impulsively. “Take care.”
“Always, firewolf.” He stepped away reluctantly, and left her. Drunken patrons swerved frantically out of his path as he strode from the club.
Gypsy clutched at the table to steady herself. Why hadn’t she called for Dante? What had she just allowed to leave?
Shaken, she returned to the closet the dancers sardonically referred to as their dressing room. A single white rose greeted her on the table by her mirror. She held it to her nose. His scent lingered on petals as white as ice, as white as his hair. But not cold. Not cold at all.
“Sergei,” she murmured. “I see death in your path. Please be careful. Please.”
We're looking at a two-day snow/ice storm, so if I don't show up on the boards it's because the library was closed. No picture this week, but for you wrestling fans, picture the WWE's Undertaker as an albino and you'll be pretty close to Sergei.