Solstice Bellatrix gets more than a rum and coke when she decides to meet her best friend out at the Skyline Lounge to catch up. Everything isn't as it seems when she meets a mysterious stranger and a dangerous new threat.
What the hell am I doing here?
Ice watered down my rum and coke, and Carmen still hadn’t shown up at the Skyline Lounge. Plus, she’s not returning any of my text messages.
Okay, just chill. I thought to myself.
Carmen’s stuck in traffic. Driving in downtown Tampa was a headache during the day, why wouldn’t it be just as terrible at night? One would think God’s waiting room, Florida, would at least have a slow-paced attitude; but that wasn’t the case when it came to driving in the state.
I really needed to be heading home. I had a rough day at work. And Monday would be here before long. The whole bar scene wasn’t my thing. The Skyline rooftop was swanky; white lounge chairs, tall glass tabletop stands, modern décor, sharp angles, clean lines, and 360 views of downtown more than five stories above the street. Tons of young professionals networking or catching up with friends. All except me. I kept my eye on the entrance. Then, used my tiny damp cocktail napkin to dab at the sweat that collected along my throat and the swell of my chest.
I should’ve stopped home to change into something cooler. I wore an already snug blouse that clung to my chest at this point, thanks to all my sweating, and uncomfortably stretched black work slacks that hugged my hips and thighs and were way too long for me.
It was close to ninety degrees outside around sunset when I first, arrived at the bar, and the temperature only dipped down to eighty-five or so with high humidity. Gotta love a good weather app.
Carmen blew my phone up earlier that day, hyping me up with promises of catching up after her overseas modeling gig wrapped up. She was my girl. I couldn’t say no to girls’ night. And now I was being stood up.
She knew I’d do anything for her. Even stand in heels alone at a bar, melting, while drinking overpriced watered-down alcohol.
Just go home. My inner voice told me. You don’t belong here.
Couples leaned in close at tall tables, whispering secrets while gazing at the cityscape. Groups of friends were celebrating loudly near the VIP booths as drinks were poured and downed just as quickly. And I stuck out, but not in a good way.
She gets fifteen more minutes. If Carm’s a no-show; I’m out.
Music livened up my dull, steamy, late evening.
I wanted to freshen up my drink. Just needed to grab the bartender’s attention. He was on one side of the bar serving a group of guys in business casual work clothes. When the bartender, finally, turned in my direction, I reached out my hand to wave him over but was rudely interrupted.
“Rum and coke, light ice.” A firm male’s voice yelled from beside me. He blatantly stole my bartender’s attention. I glanced over at him, considering whether to confront this guy about his lack of common decency. Assertive was not my middle name. Hiding in a crowd of people to avoid being noticed was more my speed. I gnawed on the inside of my cheeks. Timidity won. I’m as spineless as they came.