Page 23 of The Dancer

With that attitude of hers she reminded me more of the boriquas on the block I grew up on. Those fierce Puerto Rican chicks who would as soon cut you as look at you.

She had that kind of fearless force about her. But underneath, if you look into her eyes long enough, you’d see the vulnerability.

That must be it. That vulnerability I saw in her that reminded me of my young mother and the

struggles she’d gone through. But with the vulnerability there was also an inner strength and an independent streak a mile wide. Just like mom’s.

Maybe that’s why I feel this connection to her, this need to protect her. If only that was all it was. But I knew deep down that there was something else going on here. Something more than I was willing to admit.

The next day I went to the club first thing in the early afternoon and locked myself away in my office. I’m usually more relaxed here, but not today.

I kept wanting to call and check up on her, but I was sure she’d accuse me of stalking her or some shit with that mouth of hers.

I gave serious thought to finding a way to keep track of her and asked myself what the fuck I was thinking. She had me bent.

I wasn’t in love with her, that much I knew. I would know if I was, wouldn’t I? Sure I found her attractive, but instead of a wild need to take her to bed and fuck her into the hereafter, my feelings

were of a gentler nature.

Not that I wouldn’t fuck her, she was more than desirable in that aspect. But all the women I’d been attracted to in the past had ended up in my bed not long after we first met.

Lust would burn hot and quick, and die just as suddenly. And my lust never came with any other emotion. I never kept anyone in my thoughts, it was always out of sight out of mind.

There was a nagging little voice in my head telling me that maybe that was the difference. I never kept any of the others around for more than a few weeks if that. Somehow I couldn’t imagine not seeing her again. The thought left me cold.

I had that knowing feeling deep down inside, that she was someone I wanted to keep around. Like Tony! In just a short while she’d come to matter. That at least was nothing new. I can usually tell within the first few minutes if I like someone.

But this felt like way more than that and that was the problem. After beating myself up again I told myself that the fact that I had no name for whatever this is wasn’t important.

All that mattered was that she was on my mind and refused to leave. That for whatever reason she was now under my skin. But more importantly, I realized that I didn’t mind having her there.

Instead of an annoyance, she was more like a puzzle I couldn’t wait to solve. And if there was just a tinge of fear mixed in with these new feelings, so what?

I’ve faced fear before. Besides, what can a little thing like her do to me anyway? Other than make me lose my senses and occupy my mind at inconvenient times? Like now when I’m supposed to be working.

By early evening, just about the time she should be clocking in for her second day of training I felt sick. My pulse was too fast and my stomach hurt like I had caught some type of bug.

I called Tony who was in his office doing who knows what. “Get in here.” He took his sweet time getting here and I glared at his ass.

“You rang.”

“I think I’m coming down with something.”

“What are your symptoms?” He came around the desk and put his hand on my forehead, like I couldn’t do that shit myself.

“I don’t know, my heart feels fucked up and my stomach is upset. Feel my pulse.” I knew he would know what to do since he was trained as an EMT in the service among other things. Murdering fuck!

“You don’t have a fever. Your pulse is a little fast, but your eyes are clear. Why don’t you just pick up the phone and call her before you give yourself a heart attack? Idiot.”

“What? What the hell are you talking about? Never mind.” I held up my hand when he opened his mouth to tell me some shit that I didn’t want to hear.

“Hey, you’re the one who called me in here. I was just about to get off this board on Candy Crush that’s been kicking my ass for a week.”

“Is that what I pay you for?”

“Nope, you pay me because no one else would put up with your shit and you need me to keep the dogs away tough guy.”