Max is at the bar in an instant when it comes time for the flaming poi show. The crowd parts for him as he leads me towards the stage and I change into the red leather hot pants and bustier that I know Max likes. When I emerge from behind the DJ booth I can see the widening of his eyes and I smile proudly before his attention snaps back to scan for potential danger.
Mitch starts the music and the wall of flames effect around the club and the crowd goes wild as I step out on to the stage. I’m barely aware of the crowd or the flames surrounding my body as I perform. The only thing my body seems to be aware of is how close it is to Max. I see the outline of his stoic stance at the edge of the stage and I’m filled with an overwhelming desire to run to him.
I see him turn his head slightly as a crooked smile plays on his lips. That cocky bastard. I keep my place as I finish my dance and extinguish the pois safely before darting back to change behind the DJ booth. Strong hands grab a hold of my waist and pull me out from behind the booth as Max brings me to my feet on the top step of the side of the stage.
The crowd cheers excitedly as the devil announcing that they’re all doomed comes over the sound system. Something about that voice tonight chills me more than usual and Max catches the fleeting glimpse of panic in my eyes and he starts to scan the room. I look back at Mitch who is giving me a thumbs up before he crouches down.
“I know right. I met this guy on the weekend and he said he could do a way better devil voice than the one I had. It was actually that guy from your dad’s funeral.” He explains proudly before taking his stand behind his booth again. I turn back to face Max. His eyes are stone black as he searches for a threat.
I step down closer to him as he winds his arm around my waist to lead me back towards the bar. I shake my head at him and he understands immediately and leads me out the side door to the break area. I can feel myself start to shake slightly at the cold night air. I take a deep breath trying to let it’s cool calm me the way it usually does.
Max’s concerned gaze doesn’t leave me for an instant. “I’m okay. He’s just toying with us.” I tell him certainly. Max grits his teeth.
“The coward hides behind his games and deceptions. He’s no warrior, he would never face someone man to man in combat.” He seethes angrily. I smile at him reassuringly. Then a playful thought comes to mind as I stand up to square off against Max.
“I think I can take you.” I declare playfully as I raise my fists in a fighter’s stance. Max looks at me incredulously before I add insult to injury. “Come on. Big bad warrior, commander of the seven legions of Hell. Bring it on.” I demand as I start to dance around punching the air.
Max bursts out into a fit of laughter more joyous than I’ve ever heard from him at the sight of me. All five foot nine and a hundred and fifty pounds threatening to take him on. I see actual tears form in his eyes from his laughter until suddenly he moves like a ninja grabbing my body from behind and throwing me up against the brick wall behind me.
His hips secure me against the wall as my legs wrap around his waist. He’s pinned both of my hands together over my head with one hand as his free holds my jaw securely. “Still think you can take me cor meum?” He asks with a playful tone. I nod defiantly.
“Yep.” I pronounce popping the ‘p’. He smiles a proud smile.
“Defiant little vixen. How would you get out of this?” He asks curiously increasing the pressure on all points of contact. I smile seductively at him and bite my lip.
“I would just ask you nicely to let me go.” I tell him coyly. He chuckles a light laughter.
“And if I show you no mercy, what then?” He challenges. I squeeze my legs tighter against his waist and squirm beneath his hold.
“Then I would should you none.” I whisper my threat as I feel the glowing fire blaze from my eyes. His entire face goes slack as he looks into my eyes. He leans back slightly staring in awe before his hand releases their hold on mine. I drop my hands to his face bringing it back to mine as I take his mouth in a possessive kiss.
We break away breathless. He steps away from the wall allowing me to slide down the front of him. I smile confidently at him. “Thank you for your cooperation.” I tell him sweetly. He smiles a crooked smile at me.
“You fight dirty. I never would’ve thought someone with grace could fight like that.” He says with mock disappointment. I shrug nonchalantly.
“I guess I’m more mortal than a being of grace.” I offer wickedly. He smiles proudly as we walk back into the club together. The noise fills me completely almost drowning out my thoughts of that heated encounter with Max outside. I glance at him from the bar and I see his piercing gaze and I can tell the noise is doing nothing to drown out his thoughts of me. I blush violently at my discovery and duck my head down trying to focus back on my work.
Thankfully being a Wednesday night the crowd starts to disperse a little earlier than usual. I cringe when I see Vladik give the signal for me to get the angel costume on. I remember it was destroyed during the last performance and I wonder what exactly I’m supposed to change into until I meet Gerry on the catwalk stairs holding a dress bag in front of me.
I unzip the bag as I feel a presence behind me. The fire in my belly tells me who it is and I smile at him over my shoulder. Gerry walks away to give us privacy as I pull out the new pair of angel white angel wings with tinges of soft light blue around the edges. I gasp at the dress as the material practically pours out of the bag.
It’s a white silky material with some kind of rainbow pearl effect shimmering throughout the fabric like a rainbow reflecting of snowy white clouds. It’s divine, the feel of the fabric on my skin. It looks like it was made for me as I slip it on over my body. The single halter strap around my neck holds it up perfectly.
The low cut back allows for the wings to fit without bunching any of the material. Even in the dark of the catwalk I can tell the total look is stunning. Max’s eyes are strained as he looks at me. I looks at him curiously. “What’s wrong? Doesn’t it look good?” I ask him concerned. He shakes his head at me seriously. I start to worry what he can see that I can’t.
“You look perfect. You look the way I’ve always seen you in my heart, it’s confronting to see you as the angel you are.” He breathes out quietly. I smile sweetly at him before Gerry returns with the new harness. Max takes it from him to fit it and Gerry doesn’t try to fight him. Gerry does double check the harness thought when Max turns his attention to the rigging. I wink at Gerry and smile at him reassuringly.
I watch on in amusement as Max double checks every inch of the rigging before I’m finally allowed to step out over the railing. I turn to face Max and I’m stunned by the tears rimming his eyes. I caress his cheek as the music starts for the routine. “My love what’s wrong?” I plead urgently.
He looks at me completely defeated. “I just remember how close I came to losing you the last time you stepped over that railing. I loved you even then, though I had no idea what the feeling was.” He confesses. I plant a proud kiss to his lips.
“Tell me not to do this and I won’t. I refuse to allow you to suffer for my actions.” I tell him certainly. He smiles proudly at me.
“I would never let anything happen to you.” He promises me and with another quick kiss I’m lowered out over the crowd. I feel the familiar pull of the harness on my waist as I stay upright and balanced gracefully. The dress flows like liquid through the air as I fly. I almost laugh at the thought of me flying like an angel.
The crowd cheers as I sprinkle them with the magic of saving grace —otherwise known as silver confetti. The music fills the club and the dancers sway to the rhythm beneath me like a dark swell on the ocean. I can almost imagine that I really am flying. I feel a pang of regret for Maximus at losing his wings.
The freedom of flying must’ve been an incredible feeling. I hope against all hope that his wings are restored to him. The song starts to wind down and my heart plummets to the ground when I feel that familiar chill settle into my core. My eyes dart around the club furiously until I lock onto a pair of malicious one’s gazing back at me.
“Max.” I call out urgently but I’m already being hoisted back up towards the ceiling. Mitch turns on the announcement that all are saved by grace and the crowd cheers as they make their way towards the bar for last drinks. Strong arms pull me over the railing hastily before crushing me to his chest.
I can feel his rapid breathing at the same fast pace as mine. I take a deep breath trying to calm myself and Max as I keep my arms wrapped tightly around his torso. Gerry gathers up the equipment and disappears briefly before returning. “Vladik wants to see you.” I start to break away from Max. “He said to keep the costume on.” Gerry adds looking wretched.
“Is he in the V.I.P room?” I ask hesitantly. Gerry nods gravely. “What is it?”
“I’m sorry McKenna, they took Nina in there.” He says apologetically. I try to make a run towards the V.I.P room before strong arms hold me back.
“Think about this McKenna.” Max’s voice scolds seriously. “They took her to distract you. You put you off your wits. Use your brain.” I take a deep breath.
“What’s your plan general?” I snap at him impatiently. He raises an eyebrow at the impertinence of being addressed in such a fashion. If I was in the mood I would give him crap about it. He inhales deeply.
“Act natural. What do you normally do when they’re expecting to see you in the V.I.P room?” He asks patiently. I look at him incredulously.
“I get them drinks.” I acknowledge. “And I arm myself.” I add smiling as I start to make my way down to the bar. Max follows in close pursuit as I break through the small door behind the bar to start making drinks in my angel outfit. Customers leer over the bar until Max’s dark look makes them recoil. I give the signal for Justin and the bare tenders to close it down and get out. I don’t need casualties in here tonight.
“Good girl.” Max says proudly kissing my temple. I shrug at him.
“Something’s up. They’re here for a fight or they wouldn’t have touched Nina.” I tell him matter-of-factly. He nods approvingly at me.
“What else?” He prompts. I glare at him.
“Max this is no time for a lesson in battle strategy.” I snap at him. He smiles indulgently.
“You’re more cut out for this than you realize McKenna. You knew the instant the danger walked in here. In fact, you sensed them before I did.” He congratulates. I shrug at him.
“I’ve always been able to sense them.” I confess. “It’s like air from the room suddenly turns to freezing water dousing every bit of warmth. My lungs almost explode from the cold. Then the pit of my stomach turns to ice.” Max looks thoughtful for moment.
“Is that how you found me in the forest?” He asks curiously. I smile proudly at him and shake my head as I load up the drinks onto a tray.
“It’s a different feeling. Like a ball of fire in my stomach instead.” I admit guiltily. He looks amazed for a moment. “Hurry up guys, clear this place out and go.” I instruct the bar tenders seriously. They seem to comprehend my seriousness as they start to shut down everything.
I tuck my Zippo into the leather cuff on my wrist as I hide a switch blade in my bra. I pin a couple of hair pin blades into my hair securely. I slip a few ampules of flammable fluid into my mouth to hide in my cheeks. Max watches me in fascination. I pick up the tray and head across the dancefloor towards the stairs that lead up to the V.I.P room.
I can feel Max’s body at my back and I feel comforted knowing that I’m not going to face this danger alone. I have to shut down my thoughts. I can’t have Max worrying about me. I need him on his game with whatever we are about to face up there. I take a deep breath calming myself as the staff heard the last couple of patrons from the club.
I take a tentative step before squaring my shoulders strongly and I take another step, then another. Until we’re standing outside the V.I.P. room.