Something about the floating club reminded him of Wonderland. Not Disney’s Wonderland, either, but Wonderland according to Lewis Carroll: dark, sumptuous. Treacherous. It was the sort of place where anything could happen…and probably did. He had a feeling if a deranged, bloodthirsty monarch suddenly swept in and started demanding people’s heads, no one would bat an eye.
Already, he could feel multiple pairs of eyes fixing on them. Darius kept his face carefully blank and leaned down to Bez’s ear. “Maybe we should get a drink.”
Bez nodded. Her face was blank too, but nervous energy rolled off her in great, uncontrolled swells. “I could definitely use a drink.”
This time, her arm tightened around his. She visibly steeled herself, then led the way deeper into the club.
The further they went, the more sinister the place felt. Music pulsed from speakers hidden in the dark, velvet-lined walls; an unsettling mashup that evoked both Rob Zombie and Thelonious Monk. The lighting was nearly nonexistent. An art deco chandelier gleamed overhead. Darius looked a little closer. It was illuminated purely by candlelight.
The tiny dancing flames were a lovely shade of purple.
“Neat trick, isn’t it?”
Darius jerked in spite of himself, remembered at the last minute to keep a grip on Bez’s arm. He turned. A man stood behind them. His couture suit was impeccably cut, his pale hair slicked back from the sharp lines of his face. He studied them with coolly assessing eyes.
Bez gulped audibly. “Kristof.”
“Bez.” He didn’t take his eyes off Darius. “Perhaps you would care to explain why you brought a mundane to my club.”
Bez coughed. “He’s not a…that is, Darius is a friend.” Her voice caught on the word. “I just thought—”
“Darius.” Kristof’s eyes widened slightly. “Darius deCompostela? Fuck me, is that you?”
Darius cringed, and Bez’s jaw slackened. She turned to him. “D? Is there something you’re not—”
The man snapped his fingers, and the room froze. Bez froze too, her mouth stuck around the not. Her eyes were an unnerving shade of white.
Darius blew out a breath. “Seriously?” He glowered at the other man. “What’s it been, fifteen years? I see your poker face hasn’t improved.”
Kristof met his glower with a sneer. “And I see you’re still turning up where you’re not wanted. Fucking busybody.”
“Two-bit stage magician.”
They glared at each other. Finally, Kristof’s lips twitched. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”
He extended a hand. After a moment’s pause, Darius clasped it. “That it has.”
† † †