Chapter 28

“Yo, Chad, let me get a glass of water and an empty beer bottle, mine is full,” Angela said as she walked up, sliding a brown bottle sloshing with a myriad of spit-back shots across the smooth countertop. Chad plucked it from the bar as it danced near the edge, dropping it in the trashcan while pulling up one of the empties he’d set aside. Angela had let him in on the shot girl’s trick and requested he have a few empty bottles saved for change-outs when needed. With his other hand Chad grabbed a glass, then filled it with ice and water, sliding it back across the bar.

“Thanks, hot stuff,” she said, grabbing a seat at a stool adjacent to Vince. “I’m sweating like a whore in church out there. Thank the heavens I’m sexy enough to pull it off.” To illustrate this fact, she grabbed a napkin and dabbed her cleavage pointedly, the coy grin on her face making it clear that she was purposely drawing attention to this part of her body.

Vince made a point of looking away, which is when he noticed Camille stepping onto the dance floor with another man. Roy checked out her breasts, because he was Roy and they were quite nice breasts. Chad, on the other hand, coughed in surprise, nearly dropped the bottle opener he was holding, and suddenly found something in the ice bin that demanded his full attention.

It was the last reaction that Angela took note of. In the year or so that she’d befriended and been shamelessly flirting around Chad, she’d come to know his reactions well. To a simple stunt like this, she would have expected disinterest, or, at best, academic appreciation of her physiology. What he’d done was way out of character. That was the behavior of a man who was smitten, maybe interested at the least. It didn’t fit, and Angela wasn’t on top of her class because she wasn’t perceptive enough to pick up on changes like that. She decided to push it and see what happened.

“I swear, lugging these bottle and shots around in my boots is hell on my back,” Angela declared, stretching her chest out and back in so significantly that the crackling of vertebrae could be heard, provided one could discern the sound over the music. This had the additional effect of making her chest all the more visible, and redoubling Chad’s intent focus on the ice bin. “Chad, when we get off maybe you can give me a back rub. You’ve got all that strength in your hands, so I bet you can really go in deep and work the tissue.”

“I do not believe I will have time for that this evening,” Chad replied stiffly, gaze refusing to turn up towards her. He wasn’t blushing and his tone and breathing were still the same, but that didn’t really mean shit for a guy with his powers. He could hide the physical tells well, but not the behavioral ones. Normally Chad would have at least talked over the idea with her, seen about finding a time. He’d have taken a request for a massage as just that, a proven method of physical therapy to provide relief and increased performance. The sexualization would have gone right by him, or at least he’d have pretended it did. Something was definitely off, Angela was certain of it now.

Without any showmanship she dropped the napkin and straightened her back. Messing with Chad was fun because he never gave her any response. Now that he was reacting, it somehow felt mean-spirited. She’d need to get a handle on this new situation and then determine the appropriate plan of attack. Besides, she was a professional first and foremost, and these shots weren’t going to sell themselves.

“Thanks again for the water,” Angela said, and this time Chad dared to glance at her. She turned her own vision away from her prey, and realized the stool next to her was now empty.

“Hey, where’d Vince go?”

 *              *              *

“I’m impressed. I don’t know how you did it, but I’m impressed,” Vince said, taking his old former seat next to Mary. Though he spoke to his friend, his eyes never left the dance floor save for necessary navigational tasks.

“I don’t really think I had much to do with it,” Mary replied. “Camille doesn’t need us to push her along. She’s pretty much got that task well in hand.”

“So I’ve noticed,” Vince said, still looking at the awkwardly shuffling figures trying to keep time and two-step. “It’s actually kind of amazing how brave she is, the way she’s always throwing herself out of her comfort zone. I don’t think I could do it, honestly.”

Mary glanced at her friend and opened up her ability a bit. It was hard to hear over the constant thud of the music and the flurry of hormone-amplified thoughts, however all her training hadn’t been for nothing. She was able to locate Vince’s mind through the chaos and hone in on it. What she found surprised her: Vince was genuinely happy Camille was dancing with the other man. It shocked her so much, in fact, that she let slip an audible expression.

“What the hell?”

Vince glanced away from floor toward her. “What the hell what?”

A quick parade of potential lies darted through Mary’s head, then she decided that since she was already on the precipice of the subject, she might as well just dive on in.

“What the hell is with you and Camille? I know you like her Vince, even if I wasn’t a mind reader it’s obvious you look at her differently than you do other women. And not even you can be so dense as to not realize that she’s got some feelings for you too. So why are you happy seeing her dance with another man?”

“Because I want her to be happy,” Vince said, finally turning fully away from the dance floor. “Yes, I did begin to suspect that she had a small crush on me, and that’s why I’m glad she’s looking at other guys. They can give her what I can’t.”

“That’s idiotic,” Mary snapped. Her words might have been more forceful, however she’d spent most of her verbal energy trying not to snort audibly when Vince had said the words “small crush” to her. “If you know you both like each other, what’s stopping you?”

“The same reason I turned down Sasha when she wanted to get together at the beach house last year,” Vince said. “I’ve got some issues relating to a girl I met when I was sixteen. The thoughts and memories of her haunted my relationship with Sasha. Until I let go or move past it, it’s not fair for me to give half of myself to someone else. Especially not someone as important to me as Camille.”

Mary pressed her fingers to her temples in a vain attempt to fight back a momentary headache. “Your heart and intentions are in the right place Vince, I’ll give you that. But you’re also a moron. Whether Camille wants to be with someone in your situation should be her choice, not yours to make for her.”

“Maybe so,” Vince agreed. “But all I’m doing is not making a move. If Camille wanted something, couldn’t she have brought it up just as easily? To me, for right now, I’d say that is her making the choice.”

To that point, Mary didn’t have a ready response.