STRANGE HEAT Excerpt - Chapter 2 on Eat Sleep Write

*This originally posted here.

November 19, 2013
by Adam Scull

Strange Heat - Chapter 2 by Erica Sutherhome

Tory was about to do something drastic.  She entered the club with a feeling of exhilaration.  Lord, what she was doing was absolutely insane.  Everything about her was different now.  She wore contacts instead of glasses, a fact that was very strange.  She had never gotten accustomed to the feel of contacts.  Her hair was styled so wild that she hardly recognized herself.  But, in a way, she liked the mid-thigh length dress and the way the black knit fabric hugged her breasts, hips and thighs, accentuating them.  She felt like some wanton creature from another world, a sea nymph suddenly appearing on shore. 
She gathered her courage.  Alyssa had taught her all the tricks.  A mystical pout playing on her ruby lips, she headed straight to the bar.  A man with broad shoulders dressed in a navy suit was leaning over the bar.  When he saw her, he stepped back a little.  Victoria wondered if he'd been deep in conversation with the bartender or perhaps another patron.  She barely glanced at him as she requested a rum and coke.
            "You got it," the short man with a black dress shirt and matching pants agreed, stepping away to get her order.
She wondered how she appeared to them both...a woman so certain of her position in the eyes of society.  A bitch?  Some woman out for the night, ready to have a blast?  She wasn’t completely familiar with all of the terms for such a woman.  Who knew what they were thinking of her.  Were they stereotyping her?  She didn't want to care. 
The man standing at her elbow was observing her; he began to pique her curiosity and unsettle her at the same time.  For God's sakes, she couldn't be the only woman in the club!  The makeup and clothes improved her appearance drastically...but how might he view her in the real world, in professional life, in her real life?  What would he think of the real Victoria?
            She shook away the thought and leaned against the bar as she observed the place in silence, unaware that her hips were swaying to the reggae beat of the music.  A hand on her shoulder nearly made her jump, but the look in the man's eyes was smoldering.  There was sharp intelligence and charm in the depths of those hazel eyes.  Also, she saw purpose and something that made her think of running. 
            "You're a natural...could I have this dance?"
            Setback.  She wasn't a dancer, but she wanted more than anything to try.  "Maybe...maybe not."  She tried to sound nonchalant…even cool, if that was possible.
            His eyes darkened in his too attractive features and his mouth tightened.  He had longish brown hair and a physique that made her a little breathless.  "I see."
            Was she hurting him by saying that?  Victoria didn't know who she was supposed to be or what she needed to say.  Should she accept or play hard to get?  What would Alyssa do?  Since she couldn’t be sure, she blurted, "Look, all I know is that the second I arrive you confront me."
            He threw up his hands.  "With a dance!  It's a club, right?"
            She felt the heat flooding her face and nodded.  "Yes," she answered slowly.
            "You seem like a girl who likes to be in control.  Just don't fall in with the wrong crowd..."
            What did he mean?  "Thanks for the advice."
            "Yeah."  Then he turned away in the direction of the dance floor.
            Could he sense she was that inexperienced or had he only been sarcastic?  "Damn," she whispered, afraid that she was failing at the game miserably.  She sipped at her rum and coke, reveling in its smooth taste as it went down her throat.  She wasn’t used to alcohol, but she shrugged a little.  It didn’t matter.  This was the scene.  She took a big drink from the small glass.  She finished it shortly.  Still unsettled, she requested a couple more.  After she was through with her drinks, Victoria laid several bills down and leaned over the bar, signaling the bartender.  "Ladies’ room?"
            "Across the dance floor, there's a neon sign.  You can't miss it."
            "Thanks."  Then she turned and headed across the floor.  Suddenly, she felt a hand on her wrist spinning her into a pair of arms and a big chest.  She strained against his hold and panting, she glared up at his face.  It wasn't the man from the bar...this one was different.  He was too big and too strong and he smelled of animal sweat.  Choking on his stench, she tried to push away from the man.
            "Hey, baby.  Maybe you want some company?"
            "No, please..."
            "Come on, baby.  Don't fight me.  You'll enjoy the things I can do to you."
            To her?  Hadn't he meant with her?  "No."  She shook her head, pushing against his large biceps.  Her fear and rage were building little by little inside of her.  "Damnit, let me go!"  She wasn't strong enough to fight him and none of the patrons were exhibiting any altruistic behavior.  The music was too loud on the dance floor.  "Let me go!" she screamed, her hysteria rising.
            "Let the woman go.  She doesn't want you, man."  It was the man from the bar; she froze as recognized his voice.
            "Stay out of this, buddy!"
            "It's obvious what's happening here.  You grabbed the girl against her will on her way out."
            Close, he was very close in his assumption, and yet her captor didn't slacken his grip on Victoria.  He was holding her so tight she felt she might faint.  Instead, Tory fought him and the sensation at once.
            "Do you see those bouncers, man?  A signal from me and they'll be on your ass in a second.  I have some influence here, if you get my meaning."
            The man tensed and uneasily, he glanced at the huge men by the entrance.  Then he flung her away, into her savior's arms.  "You deserve that bitch!"  He fled toward the back exit.
            Tory, gasping for breath and composure, blinked.  "Oh, God," she whispered against the lapels of his coat.
            He lifted her chin, observing the pallor of her face.  He frowned.  "Are you all right?  You're not going to pass out on me, huh?"
            She shook her head.  "Must have been the alcohol..."
            He raised a dark eyebrow.  "Are you sure?"
            She managed a small smile.  "That, and he scared the hell out of me."
            "Come on.  Let's find a seat for you."
            "No," she protested, grasping his shoulders lightly.  "Don't do that.  I'll be okay.  I just need time, a few minutes."
            He grinned.  "Honey, I can give you more time than you think you need."
            She cocked a disbelieving brow at him.  "I'll just bet you could."
            He nodded.  "See?  You're feeling better already.  Back to your vixen self."
            She grimaced.  If he only knew who she really was.  "Hmm."  She pushed away from him and dizzily clawed at the thin air to regain her balance.
            He caught her in his arms again.  "Okay, Cinderella.  Alcohol and terror don't mix.  You're going to use me for support and that's the end of it."
            She set her jaw, but nodded, resting her head against his chest.  His body was warm and inviting.  She frowned.  Why was he making her feel this?  She lifted her head to look at him.  "What is your name?"
            She repeated it softly.  "Rick."  She was on the point of asking what he did for a living, but stopped herself.  She was not supposed to care about that.  She was only supposed to make casual acquaintances.  No connections, Victoria, she reminded herself.  Or, at least, those were the rules that Alyssa had said she abided by.  But, he was so welcoming even though every good sense told her to run away because he was capable of violence.  It was obvious in those cool, dangerous eyes of his.  Every instinct told her she should avoid him at all costs, but she could not. 
He must be slightly honorable to have rescued her from that terrible man though.  I am naive, Tory thought.  I still do not know what people are capable of in any matter.  Her instincts were usually good.  He could be dangerous, but there was also the truth.   He hadn't been violent with her yet.  Why should she expect it from him when he was so obviously concerned about her at the moment?  Life was full of risks.  Should she take a chance?  This chance?  She didn’t know yet.

            “I met someone last night, Alyssa.”  They were both standing in front of the mirror at work.  Alyssa was reapplying her lipstick and fluffing her hair.  Victoria looked at her own reflection, her long dark hair pulled back into a French braid, and she could see it left much to be desired.
            “Really?  Give me the details.”
            “No details.”
            “I don’t believe you.  He’s hot, right?  Well, he has to be.”
            She looked away from her friend.  Surely, Alyssa had to be affected by receiving a close call with a rapist.  What would ever cause her to change?  “I don’t want to upset you.”
            “Come on, honey.  Those things happen.  Some men just get too involved in the act.”
            She shook her head.  “I don’t think so.  There are a few with scruples who would never stoop so low.”
            She lifted a brow.  “Tell me about him.”
            “I can’t believe you’re dismissing it like it was nothing.  It would certainly be something to me!” she blurted out.
            Taken aback by her friend’s outburst, Alyssa gathered her wits and sighed.  “You are right.  It was something and it shouldn’t have happened.”  Tears filmed her friend’s eyes.  “I was lucky, Vicky.  It was a miracle the cops arrived when they did.  It was a miracle my neighbor heard all of the commotion.”
            She hugged Alyssa.  “I am glad you can admit that.”
            The redhead sighed.  “So where did you meet this hunk?”
            Victoria blushed and drew away.  “A club.”
            “A club?  Girl, you went to a club?”
            “What were you doing there?”
            “Testing myself, I suppose, to see if I could lead the kind of life you lead and still be okay….and still live without having to learn that kind of lesson.”
            Alyssa frowned.  “Vick, the only lesson I learned was to be careful of who I trusted.  I think that’s good enough.  I don’t like that you’re going alone though.”
            “You usually go with someone?”
            “Friends or dates, yes.  It’s safe.  And you should consider that as well, your safety.”
            She nodded.  “I’ll give it some thought.”