Angel’s caring older lover arrived to take him home well fed and tipsy on tequila shots. “Muchas gracias for watching over him, Xochi,” he said, pecking her cheek. Giving up on both Junior and Connor, Rachelle had departed around one with a man she met on her way back from the restroom and danced with twice.
“I wish she wouldn’t do that. I worry about her,” Xochi said.
“What, you can’t tell if he’s a bad guy with your magical powers,” Connor mocked. For lack of anything else to do, he’d consumed four Coronas.
“His aura is brown, the color of deception, but that goes for lots of the men here who will tell a woman anything she wants to hear in order to score. However, as you should know, doctor, there are all sorts of diseases she could pick up, and when drunk, the risk of sloppy, unprotected sex that leads to pregnancy. I didn’t notice any sickness on the guy, but I don’t see the future.”
“Yeah, sloppy unprotected sex, that’s how Dean got Beck, but he’s a great kid,” Tom added. “You ready to go, Legs?” he asked his wife.
“If you are.” The couple departed while they still had the energy for safe marital sex.
A man approached the table. To Junior, he looked like most of Xo’s many dance partners: brown, lean, slicked-back black hair. This one also sported a pencil thin mustache and three gold chains. “My turn,” he claimed.
Xo shook her head. “No, I promised Martin Segura this dance.”
“He went home early. We traded.”
Xo answered him sharply, so unlike her. “No trades. Last dance, Junior.”
He stood at her prompt, mountainous and muscular. Something wrong, but he didn’t know what. The band struck up the next number. They pushed past the stranger. Junior took his beloved in his arms and wondered if she felt the same warmth that suffused his body when they pressed together. Onlookers shouted, “Olé, Olé, Olé” at every pass they made across the floor as if he conquered his partner instead of cherished her.
The moment came for the lift over his shoulder, sore if he admitted it from doing the same move with so many others that evening, but Xochi soared as she were made of black swan feathers and landed lightly facing the audience. He pressed his lips against her nape where the waves of her dark hair parted and swore he felt an extra surge of heat from her body. Those that remained watching applauded wildly. From the sidelines, the man with the thin mustache glared at them with his dead black eyes.
Xo turned in Junior’s arms. “Time to go home.”
She insisted on remaining in the barroom while waiting for her favored driver despite the noise and dimness rather than out in the balmy May night where knots of men and women stood smoking and chatting on the broken sidewalk. When the taxi pulled up in front of Paco’s, Xo bolted for its door and flung herself into the backseat. Junior joined her and carefully placed one arm around her shoulders, held her tight. She trembled, and he swore he could feel the frantic beat of her heart fast as a frightened dove against his chest.
“Did I do something wrong? Was the lift too much for you? Or was it the kiss?”
“No, no, nothing you did, Junior. The lift, the kiss is part of the dance. That man who wanted to be my partner, he is one of the dark men I’ve been seeing lately everywhere I go. Soulless men with auras so black they seem to make a hole in the universe. New Orleans is a big city, often a sinful city, and I’ve seen them before, but never so many or so close to me.”
“I’ll protect you, Xo. You know I’d give my life for you.”
“Don’t say that! No one should have to make that choice.”