"Hey," exclaimed Bastien, with mock incredulity. "I resent that. As if I would ever lie to two such treasures as yourselves !"
"Bastien," said Phoebe dryly. "You'll lie to anything female if you think it'll get you in their pants faster."
I laughed in spite of myself, earning me another wounded look from Bastien. "Fleur, you know that's not true. You've known me longer than anyone."
"Which is exactly why I know it is true," I replied solemnly.
Bastien muttered something uncomplimentary in French and was saved further indignation when Phoebe's colleague returned to take our order. Phoebe, with our permission, ordered for us, requesting some "specials" that weren't on the menu.
"Are you a cook here?" I asked her.
"Bartender," she replied, clasping her hands and resting her chin on them. "Gives me something to do until the show starts."
Bastien's earlier dismay was gone, replaced with an expression of supreme smugness. "You see, Fleur? I told you I had a good reason for coming here. My lady Phoebe here is a . . ." He paused delicately. "Is it still polite to say 'showgirl'? I can never keep track of what's PC anymore. It took me ages to figure out why I kept getting in trouble for calling career women 'working girls.' "
Phoebe laughed. "Yes, 'showgirl' is fine."
I felt myself sitting up straighter. "You're a dancer? Where do you perform?"
"Here," she said. "Or, well, I will in a couple months. It hasn't opened yet."
"What kind is it?" I asked. "I mean, is there a theme?"
"It's a full-fledged Vegas music-dance extravaganza. Exactly what you'd expect from a place called Sparkles. Rhinestones everywhere. Scanty, but not topless." She tilted her head, regarding me with interest. "Are you a dancer?"
"I dance," I said modestly. "I haven't done full stage performances in a very long time, though. I'm out of practice."
Bastien scoffed. "That's nonsense. Fleur can pick up any routine. She used to bring the dance halls of Paris to their knees."
"Yeah," I said. "A long time ago."
"Are you interested in being in it?" asked Phoebe, face serious. "They're still scouting. I can get you an audition. Although . . . you might want to make yourself taller."
"I . . . I don't know," I said, suddenly feeling overwhelmed. "I mean, my transfer doesn't take place until next month. . . ."
Phoebe was unconcerned. "I don't think Matthias would mind. He's the company manager. In fact . . ." She glanced at her watch. "He'll be around in another hour or so. I can take you to meet him."
"She'd be happy to," said Bastien.
"I'm sure she can answer for herself, monsieur," replied Phoebe tartly.
I chuckled at seeing Bastien dressed down again. "I'd love it. That'd be great."
Phoebe left us as our food began arriving, promising to return at the end of our meal. Everything she'd ordered for us was amazing, and I fretted over eating so much since I wasn't entirely sure if this meeting with the company manager would turn into a full-fledged audition.
"Lovely, isn't she?" asked Bastien.
"She is," I agreed. "You were right." What I found more astonishing than having the chance to dance in a Las Vegas show was that Phoebe was responsible for orchestrating it - and had seemed genuinely happy to do so. In my experience, succubi would jealously guard those kinds of positions, keeping out the competition.
"I have no doubt you'll dance your way right into this Matthias's heart," Bastien mused. He gave a mournful sigh. "Would that I could dance so easily into Phoebe's heart."
"She's too smart for you," I said. "She knows your tricks."
"Of course she does. I'd think that would be half the appeal." He paused to finish off the last of his cocktail. "Speaking of bizarre attractions . . . I'm totally behind in what's transpiring in your Northwestern world. Are you still joined at the hip with that introverted mortal?"
"Literally and figuratively," I told him. Thinking of Seth diminished some of my earlier good mood. "This transfer . . . it was kind of a shock. I don't know how it's going to affect our relationship."
Bastien shrugged. "Bring him here."
"It's a little more complicated than that."
"Not if he wants you badly enough. Here." Bastien waved to get the waitress's attention. "Have another round with me. That'll fix everything."
"Not when I might have to dance soon!"
But I shared the round anyway and found my cheerfulness returning. It was hard not to with Bastien. I'd known him for a long time, and there was something so easy and comforting about being in his presence. We swapped stories and gossip on immortals we knew, and I got the scoop on some of the more colorful ones I'd eventually be meeting here in Las Vegas.
Phoebe returned just as we were paying the bill, having swapped her work attire for casual dance clothing. She led us back through the labyrinthine glitz of the casino and into the quieter and much more subdued back halls of the building. They in turn led to a backstage door to the casino's theatre, which wasn't yet open to the public. We found the vast space empty, save a couple guys installing tables in the seating area. The pounding of their hammers echoed through the room. A moment later, I did a double take when I saw a man sitting off to the side of the stage, so still I'd hardly noticed him. He glanced up from a sheaf of papers at our approach.
"Phoebe," he said. "You're early."
"I wanted to introduce you to someone," she said. "Matthias, these are my friends Bastien and Georgina. Georgina's moving here next month."
Matthias looked like he was in his late twenties, early thirties at most, and had sandy blond hair in need of a haircut. There was something cute about its disheveled state, and he took off wire-rimmed glasses to peer up at me. I couldn't help but think Ian would've liked those glasses, but unlike Ian, Matthias probably needed them. Matthias blinked a couple of times, and then his eyebrows rose in surprise.
"You're a dancer," he said to me.
"Er, yeah, I am. How'd you know?" Per Phoebe's suggestion, I'd made myself put on some height while we were walking down the back halls, but that was hardly enough to tip him off.
Matthias got to his feet and studied me up and down, not in a leering kind of way . . . but more like how someone assesses the value of a piece of art. "It's in how you walk and stand. There's a grace to it. An energy. It's exactly what she does." He nodded toward Phoebe. "Are you guys sisters?"
"No," said Phoebe. "But we've taken some of the same classes."
Bastien choked on a laugh.
Matthias was nodding, completely enraptured. He picked up his papers and flipped through the pages. "Yes . . . yes . . . we could definitely use you here and here." He paused, checking a few more places. "And here. Maybe even here." He jerked his head up, blue eyes alight and excited. "Let's see what you can do. Phoebe - do the opening part of the second number."
Phoebe responded instantly, springing to center stage and instantly falling into line as Matthias began counting off beats. When they finished, he looked at me expectantly. "Now you do it."
I started to point out that I was in heels and a dress but then realized showgirl attire probably wouldn't be too different. I took a spot near Phoebe and mirrored her as Matthias counted again. We repeated the combination, and by the third time, I hardly had to look at her to get the steps. He directed her to a different number, slightly more complicated, and a similar performance ensued as I sought to match her. When we finished, he clicked his tongue in approval.
"Amazing," he said. "You guys need to tell me where you trained so that I can recruit all your classmates." Turning back to his papers, he began scribbling notes. "Phoebe, can you lend her some clothes for practice? Not that it'll affect her performance, of course, but I imagine she'd be more comfortable in something else for two hours of rehearsal."
Phoebe winked at me. "I'm pretty sure we can get her a change of clothes."
I glanced between her and Matthias. "Rehearsal?"
"Sure," said Matthias, still not looking up. "That's what we do to get ready for performances around here."