Underground Encounters, Book 2
by Lisa Carlisle
eBook ISBN: 9781419942556
A woman with a supernatural glow catches Tristan’s eye at an underground nightclub. Although his curse makes him avoid people, he must discover who she is and why she has that power. Their passion ignites, overpowering them. Will they be able to work together to understand their connection or will fiery personalities send their world up in flames?
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I hadn’t been back since the fire.
Whoever had bought the club had kept the black brick exterior with the painted black windows, ensconcing the club in mystery. Passersby down this hidden alley might think it an abandoned warehouse, unless they got close enough to look up into the recessed doorway to see it flanked by two watchful gargoyle statues.
I felt a moment of hesitation before I walked down the alley. When I used to come with Nike, I never felt threatened. We’d come after long shifts at the firehouse to unwind and dance off some steam. I’d practically bounce down the alleyway so I could get inside sooner.
But now, on my own, the creepiness of the alleyway set in. I wrapped my long black leather trench coat tightly around my body to shield my fishnet-covered legs as if protecting myself. It could be dangerous walking alone through warehouse alleys near the waterfront.
No wonder Vamps was hidden back here. You wouldn’t want an underground club on the main drag, would you?
My Mary Jane heels clicked loudly on the cement. The further I walked, the closer the clicks were.
Easy, Maya, I chastised myself. You’re going to break into a trot in a second.
Finally I made it to the front entrance and pulled on the heavy wooden doors with steel bars intersecting in the middle and was rewarded by a familiar figure.
“Byron, you’re still here!” I said to the extra-large bouncer who had an extra-large heart.
“Maya, where have ya been?” He threw his enormous arms wide and I rushed in, aware that I was grabbing him tighter than warranted, probably due to relief after my misgivings walking here alone.
“Whoa, girl, you must have really missed me,” he said before he let me go.
“Of course I did. It’s been forever. How have you been?”
“Been survivin’. Taking odd jobs here and there while they rebuilt this place. You saw the damage from the explosion.”
“Yes, I remember.” It wasn’t something I could forget any time soon.
“Why you here alone tonight?” he asked. “Where’s your partner in crime?”
“Nike? I haven’t seen her since the fire.”
“Are you kidding me? It’s been what—a year?”After I nodded, he asked, “What happened with her then? One of the bartenders told me how she saw her go upstairs with the former owner that night. What do you think—they hooked up?”
I didn’t know how much to tell about Nike and Michel, even though I was still hurt that I hadn’t seen heard from her in months. Sure, she sent postcards from time to time, but it wasn’t the same. We were like this—if you could see me, you’d know I was wrapping my index and middle fingers together. I know Byron was concerned about her, but I also didn’t want to perpetuate any rumors.
“Word spreads quickly around here, doesn’t it?” I chose to avoid the juicy part of the question and answered, “Last I heard she was traveling around Europe.” I left out the part that she was with Michel.
We were interrupted by a couple who opened the door. He was wearing a red velvet smoking jacket a la Gomez Addams, but didn’t pull off the look completely with his dirty-blond hair. While they showed their IDs to Byron and paid the cover charge, I looked at her outfit to see if she was sporting a Morticia-like dress. To my surprise, she was wearing a cowgirl outfit—hat, tassels, boots and a very short khaki shirt. Not a usual costume for a goth club, but she pulled it off.
Note to self: see if you can pull off a sexy cowgirl outfit.
After they passed through the next set of doors, Byron asked, “So you’re solo tonight?”
“Hopefully not all night,” I lifted an eyebrow. “How’s the eye candy in there?”
“You know, the usual. Lots of weirdos.”
“Just my type.”
“Who you kiddin’? I’ve never seen you leave with anyone besides your girl Nike.”
“Byron. I haven’t been out in months. I went on some crappy dates this past year and realized I’m happier just being on my own. So all I’ve done lately is work. Which means the only males I’ve encountered are coworkers and they smell pretty rank after a twenty-four-hour shift. Since Halloween is on a Saturday this year, and Halloween was always the best night of the year here, I decided to climb out of my self-imposed isolation and make an appearance.”
“Well then, get in there and be a naughty girl.” Byron smacked me playfully on the ass to push me on. Then he said, “Wait.” He took my hands and extended them out to the side.
“Let me get a good look at you. See what outfit you’re sporting tonight. Are you wearing a costume under there?”
I cocked my head as I took my hands back to open my leather trench coat shawl, which could fit in just perfectly at a gothic club or a Renaissance fair, but not too many other places. Tonight I was wearing a sexy little pirate wench costume, with a laced-up corset top and short leather miniskirt. “Does this warrant your approval?”
He put his hand on his chin as he sized me up. “Not bad. I’ve seen you in worse. Still trying to forget the blue velvet gown, black combat boots debacle.”
“That was hot,” I protested.
He raised an eyebrow before his gaze moved up to my hair. “And you’ve gone back to black hair, I see?”
“Technically blue-black. There’s only so much color I can get away with at work, being a professional and all.” I winked. Lately, I’d been alternating between blue-black and a magenta tint, which was about as much as I could manage without the chief giving me the look. If I was feeling spunky and wanted to sport a hot pink or blue, I had to wear a wig. Could you imagine a firefighter with pink hair coming to your aid to deal with your distress call? I didn’t think so.
“All right, you get my seal of approval. And you know that’s not so easy, princess. Go on in.”
I kissed him on the cheek and walked down the dark tunnel lit by candelabras attached to the stone walls. A new sign adorned the door leading to the main club area. Dante’s quote was carved into the wood: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.
“But Maya,” he called after me. “Leave some of the pretty boys for me.”
“Obviously,” I said, rolling my eyes. “So not my style.”
* * * * *
Much of Vamps looked the same, yet much of it had changed. Gargoyles still guarded from their perches around the club. The three smaller dance platforms were replaced by one larger stage. They now had live bands perform up there as indicated by posters adorning the walls. Or when the stage was free as it was now, it was covered with uninhibited dancers who wanted to be watched.
I was worried that the vibe of the club wouldn’t survive the transition. Some clubs try too hard and end up seeming phony. Vamps always had its own style. Some called it goth for the prevalence of goth-inspired dress and music. But they played other music as well.
Others called it a fetish club for the freaky revealing outfits many chose to wear. Black duct tape pasted over nipples has been seen more than once. And the sexy futuristic outfits with hulking boots were a common choice. But to me a fetish club alluded to kinky sex out in the open, which wasn’t the case here. I’d never caught anyone doing it—but I have seen some couples get pretty close on the dance floor or in a corner.
I’d call it more of an underground club. One that was frequented by people who didn’t stick to conventional dress and music and followed their own path, rather than worrying what other people thought. Whatever the club was, it was where I fit in.
But I wouldn’t want my fellow firefighters to see me in my sexy pirate outfit tonight. Continuing to look around and assess the club, I thought it still had an authentic feel. The red marble bar hadn’t survived the fire, I noted. But it was still manned—or womanned—by the hot bartender with pink hair and a nice rack. I looked over the drink menu posted above the draft beer.
“What’s in a Tempting Fate?” I asked her.
“Southern Comfort, Amaretto, vodka, pomegranate juice, pineapple juice, grenadine,” she rolled out in a velvety voice that was as sexy as she was.
“Sold,” I said, banging an imaginary gavel.
“You won’t regret it,” she said.
After she gave me my drink, I toasted nobody in particular, well, I guess myself, thinking here’s to tempting fate. Then I watched the crowd as I tasted the drink. It was exquisite and I took another large sip. Maybe I’d pay for it tomorrow, but it was gooood.
When I heard a remix of Type O Negative’s Cinnamon Girl, I left my drink at the bar to slink my way amid the gyrating bodies. My favorite band, one of my favorite songs. Tragic that the super-hot singer died so young.
In a sea of black-clad bodies, I blended right in. It had been months since I danced, but I quickly found my rhythm and lost myself in the music, dancing with the crowd. I didn’t feel the least bit self-conscious that I was alone.
That is—until I felt his eyes on me.
You know the feeling when someone is watching you and you’re suddenly aware of it? I felt that and looked up. A tall guy dressed all in black—naturally—stood alone at the right side of the bar.
Something about that gaze arrested me and I stopped dancing. Dark eyes, almost black, on a face that looked as angelic as a young Jim Morrison. The black hair was a devil-may-care length, past his chin but not quite to his shoulders. Instead of the rock star’s signature black leather pants, this guy was wearing a cape over dark clothing.
His eyes defied the angelic appearance. Dark, penetrating eyes. The eyes of someone who was troubled—maybe haunted.
Why was he staring at me like that? Didn’t he know my weakness was a dark, brooding bad boy?
My lips parted as if they wanted to say something. But what did I want to say? And he couldn’t hear me anyway.
And then with a swoop of his cape, he was gone.
I stood there for a few more moments trying to process what just happened. Was some hot guy in the corner watching me? Who then took off with a flourish of his cape?
It seemed very Bela Lugosi-ish—another dark, brooding bad boy. I tried to shake off my confusion as Cinnamon Girl ended.
The DJ mixed in a version of David Bowie and Trent Reznor’s I’m Afraid of Americans. It took me another moment or two to brush off the effect that dark stranger had on me. I thought to hell with that guy and then got back into my groove.
Although I usually worked in the lab while the club was open, an industrial remix of Strange Days by the Doors snapped me out of my project. I couldn’t hide out down here all night; time to make sure business was running smoothly upstairs.
I braced myself for the onslaught on my psyche before I walked into the main club area. I glanced around the perimeter of the club, scanning the bar area and the dance floor.
The usual darkness surrounded people, the sadness, the isolation, which I could see so vividly while others couldn’t. Their souls crying out to me, draining me. I tried to ignore their pull as I glanced around. The bartenders looked busy. The bouncers looked alert for any drunken jerks acting out of control. Nothing seemed amiss.
Good, I could make my rounds and get out of there and back to the lab.
But then one figure on the dance floor caught my eye. She glowed with a light around her unlike anything I’d ever encountered before. Her bright spirit overwhelmed the darkness that surrounded the others. I watched as she danced, oblivious to those around her. Her light mesmerized me. For the first time I’d been around people other than my family, I wasn’t overwhelmed by darkness.
I couldn’t take my eyes off her. What was it she had?
Then she stopped and looked at me. Even though the club was dark, her light revealed her eyes were a brilliant blue.
When our eyes met, I saw her more clearly. A sadness buried deep within this bright spirit. Whereas others’ pain usually repelled me, her pain filled me with compassion. What was hiding there so deeply within this light? What hurt her? Suddenly I wanted to protect her from any pain.
Her light was magnetic; it drew me in. Now that her captivating eyes were staring back at me as well, I became unnerved.
I turned away and disappeared down the back stairwell. Safely in my lab, I sat in my leather chair in the corner I dubbed the library and thought.
What was she?
What would explain the light?
I scanned the books in the library, on the bookshelves built into a rounded wall modeled after one I admired in nearby Hammond Castle. I had books and books on the supernatural, so I flipped through them trying to find more information on why I saw what I did and what that meant.
I flipped through one book after another, reading by the light from the candelabra, which I found much more preferable than artificial light.
What would explain what I just saw upstairs with that woman? Finding nothing, I closed the book and stared into the flames. Then I closed my eyes.
A vision of her dancing quickly shaped itself in my mind’s eye. Getting past the initial shock of her light, I remembered the way she moved, the way she danced unabashed to Cinnamon Girl. I saw her hips sway, her arms unfurl into the air as if conjuring up the elements, her black hair wave out behind her as she tossed her head back. I visualized her long legs extend up from those chunky black heels, up, up to the tiniest of skirts in her pirate wench costume. Who wouldn’t want a peek?
My curiosity about her was now piqued by my arousal. I felt consumed with a need to see her again. What was she like? I had to get up there and meet her.
I blew out the candles and went upstairs, returning to the dance floor area where I’d last seen her. She wasn’t there any longer. I walked the perimeter of the dance floor, looking for her.
Where was she? She should be easy to see with that light. That glow.
Was it gone? Was it just my mind playing tricks on me?
Yes, that would explain it. I’d never seen anything like that before. It couldn’t be real. It shouldn’t be.
Nevertheless, I scanned the people at the bar looking for my little pirate wench. But she was nowhere to be seen.
Exhaling a deep sigh of regret, I realized I blew it.
An hour or two later, I decided my dancing legs were broken back in and were now ready for a rest. I went to the ladies’ room to make sure I didn’t acquire raccoon eyes working up a sweat out there, retrieved my leather trench coat from coat check, and then pulled a heavy door to walk back up the alley.
Byron was talking to someone dressed all in black. The man’s back was toward me and I quickly noted the slightly long black hair on a tall frame like Peter Steele of Type O Negative, at least 6’ 3”. Yes! This was a good night to come back!
Although he was wearing a dark outfit, which looked like a cape—a cape, capes were donned by many Halloween revelers tonight, much like my recent encounter with that dark-eyed mystery man—I could still decipher the broad shoulders.
Byron caught my eye. “You’re not leaving already, are you? It’s far too early to call it a night.”
“I think I’ve had enough, Byron. Looks as if I need to break in slowly.”
“Mr. Stone, this is Maya. She used to be a regular at the old club. It’s her first time back since you reopened it.”
When he turned to me, it was him. The guy who stared at me on the dance floor; the one who gave me palpitations.
Holy fucking shit!
When I caught those penetrating black eyes again, something weird happened inside my body. Some sort of connection I’d never felt before. I was suddenly aware of this thing beating frantically inside my chest. How difficult it was to swallow. And why I couldn’t break our gaze.
Rein it in, Maya. Rein it in!
“A pleasure,” he said. I wasn’t expecting such a deep voice, as sexy as Alan Rickman’s but with the accent of someone who grew up on the North Shore. Amazing how a sexy accent can affect your reaction to the opposite sex.
He bowed slightly to take my hand and kiss it. The tingle that shot from his hand on mine, his lips on my skin, did something to me that I still can’t logically explain.
It really must have been too long since I’d been out and interacting with the male species.
“Mr. Stone is the new owner,” Byron explained. “He put a lot of attention into rebuilding the club.”
“And you’re leaving so soon?” he said, never breaking our gaze. “What a shame. I hope it’s not that the club doesn’t live up to your expectations.”
Several seconds passed while my eyes traveled from his dark ones down to stare at lips that I could kiss for days—”interface with,” as the guys at work said when geeking out talking about girls. Suddenly aware that I still hadn’t uttered a word, I said, “No, it’s not that, Mr. Stone. It looks great. I don’t want to overdo it. Haven’t used these dancing legs in a long time.”
“Please call me Tristan. Come, Maya, I’m not convinced. Let me show you around. Maybe get a drink. I’d love to get input from a former regular to see if we’re missing any of the old charm.”
He took my hand and warmth once again spread from where he touched me all through my body. I controlled my racing pulse for a moment to turn back and look at Byron. His mouth was half-open in shock, but then he recovered in time to wag his finger in front of his face with a naughty grin.
I shrugged back at Byron before Tristan reopened one of the doors into the main club area leading us back into Dante’s Inferno as hinted at by the sign. As Tristan led me into the loud music and pulsing energy in the club, I thought, What am I getting into?
He pointed out some of the new features of the club, the new live stage and a newer bar. Polished black marble graced the top of a dark mahogany carved-wood bar, with scenes of ancient rites of what looked like naked witches dancing around a cauldron carved into the front panels. Stone gargoyles still guarded the bar from perches on either end as well as from various locations high above the walls.
We walked over to the bar and he asked, “What would you like to drink?”
“I tried a Tempting Fate earlier and it was smashing.” I tilted my head and peered up at him. “Anything else on the menu you’d recommend?”
He stepped back and looked at me. No, appraised me up and down unabashed. If another guy looked at me that way, I’d rip him in a new one, but when Tristan did it, it made me blush. Set me on fire.
I didn’t blush often and I wondered why I was now. Luckily it was dark in here.
“I think you deserve a drink as delectable as you look. But that might be hard to concoct. How about a Hotter Than Hell Bloody Mary.”
“Aren’t you a flatterer,” I said, aware that I was fluttering my lashes like some flirt. “Do you use that line on all the females here?”
“Never before. Boy Scout honor.”
I tilted my head. “Were you a Boy Scout?”
“No. Does that matter?”
I shrugged and took a sip of my drink. “Excellent choice,” I said. I looked around the club.
“I like what you’ve done with the place. The little touches make it unique. And the new drinks are extraordinary. ”
“No, thank you for buying the club. Saving the place.” Seeing all the people on the dance floor, I added, “You’ve made a lot of people happy.”
“I hope you’re one of them.” He looked at me so intensely that I felt self-conscious.
“I am. This is my favorite place for a night out.”
“I’m very glad to hear that,” he said. “The live music is what I think will really give this place a new life. We had an old punk band in here last week. Wicked fun. You’ll have to come and judge for yourself one night.”
“I will,” I said. As if I needed another reason to come back. First, this was my number one choice for a night out. Second, the new owner’s penetrating eyes and his special attention on me right now reminded me of forgotten body parts that had been out of commission for far too long. And third, I loved live music.
iTunes was one thing. It was convenient and you could listen to just about anything you wanted. Records were cooler. That crackly sound and delicate vinyl gave it a sense of something special in a way. But live music—when you could hear the music surrounding you from all angles so that you could practically taste it. When you could see the sweat glistening on the guitar player’s forehead and feel his passion for his song. When you caught the energy of the crowd and jumped or danced with them like some kind of collective orgy experience, well, nothing could replace that.
“Wicked?” I asked. “You must be local. We didn’t use that expression where I grew up and I only heard it when I moved here. Where are you from?”
“I’m from Salem originally. But now I live near the club.”
“Salem, Mass, right? Not New Hampshire,” I said. “We’re kind of between them both.”
“Yes, Massachusetts. Good ol’ Witch City,” he said. “So where are you from?”
“San Francisco. I’m a California girl, can’t you tell?” I said grinning, knowing with my Bettie Page-styled black hair, straight bangs, pale skin and goth makeup that I was as opposite of a California girl as you could be.
“You’re what I hope they all look like.” I looked down again. Why did he keep making me blush? This was not something I did often and I didn’t like it.
“So what made you decide to buy this club?” I asked, changing the subject.
“Every area needs someplace for the people who don’t quite fit in with the general status quo, the traditional boring people who all act the same.”
“Would you say you don’t fit in to the status quo?”
He gave me an impish smile and raised one brow. “God, no.” Then he said, “Look what happened to that club in Cambridge. Gone. Replaced by condos. I didn’t want to see that happen to this place—have it disappear and be replaced by yet another condo or warehouse.”
I looked around the club to imagine it divided into condos that all looked the same.
“That would have been tragic,” I said. “On behalf of all the misfits here, I thank you.”
He smiled at me in a way that shot pulses of energy through my body. I took a sip of my drink to break the gaze.
“I better get going,” I said, standing up. “Thank you for the tour. And for reopening Vamps. I love what you’ve done with it.”
“Let me walk you out,” he said. He stood and took my hand in his and led me to the front entrance.
The feel of my hand encased in his warm one did nothing to stop my racing heartbeat.
“Did you drive? Or should I call you a taxi?” he asked.
“A taxi would be great.”
While he placed a quick call, I retrieved my coat and said bye to Byron. He gave me a knowing smile, which I ignored. Then Tristan took my hand again and led me outside.
“It was such a pleasure meeting you, Maya.”
“Same here,” I said, feeling pangs of regret for saying I had to leave.
The regret was amplified when the stupid taxi arrived and Tristan kissed my hand.
“I hope to see you again very soon.”
When I closed my eyes that night, I saw Tristan’s dark eyes staring back at me. The moment when my eyes first met his burned on my memory, as if imprinted there permanently. I knew I wouldn’t forget that moment, that feeling, for as long as I’d exist.
Snap out of it, sunshine. You sound like one of those chicks in a romance novel.
Then I thought, What’s the harm? I’m awake. I can’t sleep. What’s wrong with a little harmless fantasy? When was the last time I met someone who inspired such longing? Or straight-out lust?
I tucked myself in cozy under my lilac comforter and closed my eyes. Tristan and I were at Vamps. We were dancing to an upbeat song. Hard Rock Sofa by Quasar. Our eyes were locked on each other’s, oblivious to the dancing bodies around us.
As the tempo quickened, the crowd’s energy rose around us, becoming more and intense, almost frenzied. Our bodies moved closer. Still we didn’t touch.
My body was so hot, on fire. Was it from dancing, the energy of the crowd? Or the rising intensity of how badly I wanted Tristan?
We moved closer still. Faces mere inches apart. Eyes still locked. Bodies almost touching.
The tempo grew faster. To a feverish intensity.
Closer still. I broke eye contact to look at his lips. Licked my own.
God, I wanted to touch him. Kiss those lips.
The beat was at a peak now. Almost orgasmic.
I looked back into his eyes and saw pure, unmistakable lust.
Touch me, my body screamed silently. Touch me now.
The crescendo broke. And with it, the crowd lost all control, their sweaty bodies flailing about to dance freely.
We followed them. And our bodies moved apart to dance wantonly. Seductively.
When the song ended, the DJ spun in a slower one.
Our eyes met again. Our bodies moved closer again. One hand reached toward me. I closed my eyes. Then I felt his hand on the small of my back. Pulling me close. Closer.
A song began playing over this one. It sounded so familiar. What was it?
Oh yeah, it’s Black No. 1, a great Type O Negative song.
I should have recognized it right away—it’s my cell phone ring.
Fuck, it is my cell phone.
Who the hell would call at this ungodly hour?
“Hel-lo,” I said, making sure the annoyance was apparent in my tone.
Double fuck. It was one of the guys at the firehouse.
“We’re short-staffed tonight. Figures, on Halloween. Can you come in for a few hours?”
“It’s after midnight. Not Halloween anymore.”
“Yeah, but I knew you’d still be up.”
I could use the overtime. Pushing my fantasy aside, I sighed before hopping into a shower of the coldest water I could stand.
Ellora’s Cave ‖ ARe ‖ Kindle ‖ Nook