Tonight he called himself Ares, and he sat at the counter taking in the Sanguine Lounge, his back to the bar and a Bloody Mary in his hands. His eyes moved with deliberate purpose, like a hawk surveying a meadow from atop a tree, and there was the slightest hint of an amused smile playing at the corner of his mouth. Every city had places like the Sanguine Lounge, and they were playgrounds for children all. Playgrounds for children who wanted to dress up and act out their fantasies. They imagined themselves as beings of darkness, creatures of the night, but they were not. Not like Ares.
He brought his drink to his mouth, sipped it, and pondered which woman he would take home with him tonight. There was no shortage of them in this place. The Sanguine Lounce was a living thing, a beating heart. Its walls pulsed the rhythm of the music, and women, laughing, smiling, dancing, smoking, drinking were the blood that flowed through its chambers. A shy one looking for an excuse to forget her inhibitions? A wild one thinking that she has complete control of the situation? Something different from the last one, or something exactly the same?
Ares’s smile widened into a grin for a moment before shrinking back down. It didn’t matter. He would be gone in the morning, anyway, gone without a trace. Just another bleary-eyed businessman at the airport, the night’s indiscretions nothing but a memory.
He sat and he watched the people come and go, and in time, he saw her. She was small, thin, pale, with limp brown hair and eyes that looked like they were perpetually on the verge of tears. She looked frightened, frail, overwhelmed.
She was alone.
Ares’s smile became a grin once more. Oh, he thought. This will be fun.
He finished the drink, stood up, and walked over to where the woman sat by herself.
* * *
She said her name was Alisyn, and every time she laughed at one of Ares’s jokes, she covered her mouth with her hand, turned her head away slightly, looked back, turned away again. Ares smiled. It was a sincere, albeit predatory, smile. She was meek, eager to please, naïve. She was perfect. He couldn’t have asked for a woman more perfect for what he intended to do to her.
Ares imagined her naked beneath him, her eyes rolling back, her lips parted, her breath escaping in short shuddering gasps. Movement, frantic and desperate, and then stillness. Stillness.
“So,” Ares said in between sips of a new drink. He’d bought her a drink as well, and when she sat with her hands in her lap, her drink clasped firmly between them. “Tell me about yourself. What’s your story? What brings you here tonight?”
Alisyn played with her hair, caught herself, smiled nervously without exposing her teeth. “Oh, I come here about once or twice a month. I just get the mood to go out every now and then, you know?”
“Plus, I just like the name of the place. ‘Sanguine Lounge.’ Makes me think of… life. And passion.” She turned her head towards him and smiled that close-mouthed smile. “And blood. You know?”
Ares nodded again. Oh, he knew. He knew.
“Do you want to dance?” he asked her.
She shook her head. “I’m not a very good dancer.”
“I bet you’re a fantastic dancer,” he said. He gently put his hand on her leg and smiled at her. He raised his glass to his lips and finished it, motioned for her to do the same. “Come on, let’s go dance!”
Alisyn was actually a very graceful dancer, moving her hips and her feet in time to the music in a way that suggested natural talent honed by a considerable amount of practice. Ares asked her about, having fully expected her to be an adequate dancer but surprised to see her doing well at it, and she simply shrugged. “I took lessons years and years and years ago. Back when I was young.”
“You’re still young,” Ares said, not missing a beat. “Younger than me, anyway.”
She smiled. “That might surprise you.”
* * *
Hours passed, and the club closed. Ares approached these evenings out with a script in mind. Things didn’t always go the way he wanted, but tonight, they had gone better than he could have ever imagined. Clean up the evidence, dispose of the body, and leave the city never to return. It was a simple plan that had served him well so far.
They took a cab to her apartment, and as soon as they stepped in the door, she was upon him, kissing and licking and touching and rubbing and breathing heavily. So meek and shy in the club, so wild and hungry out of it.
And for her part, Alisyn was hungry. His scent had been burning in her nose all night, and it took all of her willpower to keep from leaping on him inside the Sanguine Lounge. There was something about this one that was different from her usual fare, something inside him that she knew would not let her stop with leaving them drained and dazed and confused. No, things would not stop there. Not tonight.
She excused herself from his presence, put her hand over her mouth and giggled and slurred a line she liked to use about having to go to the bathroom to freshen up. “Take off your clothes and get on the bed,” she told him, and of course he was too happy to comply.
Inside the bathroom she looked in the mirror and took a deep breath. Even through the closed door, she could smell him still, the heat of his blood flowing through his neck, his wrists, every artery lurking just beneath the surface of his skin. She looked in the mirror, allowed herself her first grin of the night, and watched the light shine off of her teeth, row after row, so sharp, so white.
“Alisyn?” he called out from the bedroom.
“Coming, lover!” she said, not looking away from the mirror.
Oh, she thought. This will be fun.