"You want to be in the show, don't you, Lucy?" teased Bastien.
"I understand . . . but I'm not moving to Las Vegas until January," I explained. "I have to go home tomorrow night."
Matthias finally glanced up briefly from his beloved notes, seeming as pained as Seth often was when interrupted while writing a book. "You're here right now, aren't you? Might as well get started. Unless you've got something else going on?"
I looked helplessly at Bastien and Phoebe, who were grinning like idiots. The incubus slung a friendly arm around me. "Of course she doesn't."
After a moment's hesitation, I gave a slow nod, still a little overwhelmed at how fast things were moving here. "I . . . I'd love to rehearse."
It was hard to believe that in only a couple of days I'd gone from doubting my transfer was real to suddenly signing on to be in a Las Vegas stage production. Things happened so fast that it was easy to get swept along, and Bastien and Phoebe's gleeful encouragement just made things happen that much more quickly.
Shape-shifting took care of my clothing problem, and Bastien soon left us, allegedly to go get a drink and try his hand at the blackjack table. Once he left the theatre, though, Phoebe leaned over to me conspiratorially and whispered, "Here's a wager for you. How much do you want to bet he comes back with a glow?"
I laughed and whispered back, "I won't take that bet. Are you sure you haven't worked with him before?" Admittedly, an incubus looking to get laid wasn't that far of a stretch, but I liked how adeptly Phoebe was able to pick up on my old friend's personality quirks.
"Nah," she said with a smile. "I've just known his type."
Other dancers began trickling in. Phoebe introduced us as they arrived, and most were friendly and excited to have someone new in the group. They weren't yet at their full number needed for the show, so everyone was anxious for that to happen. I brought them one step closer, though it surprised me they were still short. From my experiences, there were always groups of girls lined up to try to make it in show business. Phoebe confirmed as much.
"Oh, yeah, tons have tried out. And you should have seen them at the beginning, when they first did the open casting. Matthias is just really selective, that's all. Cornelia - the head choreographer - is just as bad."
"And yet he took me on a five-minute audition," I pointed out.
Phoebe grinned. "Sweetie, he just knows talent when he sees it. Besides, he's in charge of this gig. If he says you're in, you're in."
Matthias wasn't the only one running the show, of course. Along with the dancers came other management and staff, like the aforementioned Cornelia. Everyone had a part to play. The rehearsal was fast-paced and aggressive - but also lots of fun. Phoebe hadn't been joking. The other dancers were good - really good. It had been a very long time since I'd danced with any sort of group, even longer since I was with one of such caliber. I was used to being the standout at anything dance related, and it was a surprise - a good one - to find myself surrounded by so many equals. I had to work to keep up with them on the first day, and even if I didn't walk out as an instant star, I left confident that I'd held my own.
Before I could go, one of the show's costumers asked to take my measurements backstage. Phoebe told me she'd go hunt down Bastien and meet me at the casino's central bar. The seamstress appeared with her tape measure, and I made a mental note of my height for future shape-shifting. Matthias came by, carrying his notes, and paused when he saw us.
"You did really well today," he told me. "It's like you've been with us from the first day."
"Hardly," I said. "I've still got a lot to learn. Especially in the fourth song. The steps are deceptively simple . . . but there's a certain attitude you've got to hold to pull them off. No, maybe not attitude. Grace? Vibe? I can't explain it, but the simplicity's what makes it so genius. It seems like such a basic pattern, but how it's executed is what truly brings out the beauty." I was thinking aloud, just sort of rambling, and realized that I sounded kind of ridiculous. "Sorry. That probably doesn't make any sense."
"No, no." Matthias stared at me wonderingly. "That's exactly it. That's how I intended it. I was inspired by watching classical ballet, how all the moves are amplified by the emotion put into the routines. Cornelia said it was crazy to try to think that deep for a show like this, but it just felt right."
"It's beautiful," I said honestly. "I can absolutely see where you were going with it. Reminds me of something from La Bayadère."
"You know La Bayadère?" he asked, wide-eyed.
"Of course," I said. "It's a classic. Who doesn't?"
"You'd be surprised."
I realized then that the seamstress had left, having achieved her goal. Matthias was still regarding me in amazement. Now that they weren't focused on the clipboard, I was able to see how blue his eyes were. They were like the sky on a clear, crisp day.
"Are you busy tonight?" he asked a few moments later. "Would you . . . would you like to go get dinner? Or even just a drink? I'd love to talk dance more with you."
For a succubus, I could be surprisingly na?ve sometimes. Because for half an instant, I almost accepted. I was so keyed up after the rehearsal and so excited to talk more about the show that I actually briefly thought that was all he wanted to go out for. Now, I don't mean to imply that his motives were totally base either. He wasn't using this as a ruse to simply get me into bed. But he also wasn't treating this as a meeting of colleagues. Bottom line: he liked me. I'd peaked his interest, and he wanted to go out on a date.
Normally, that wouldn't have been a problem . . . except, there was something I sincerely liked about him. He was cute, and I found his passion for his work endearing. I loved how he kept getting wrapped up in it, totally consumed and distracted like - Seth.
And there was the problem. This guy was the choreographer version of Seth. A one-night fling with some sleazy guy who meant nothing wasn't cheating in the eyes of our relationship. But for me to go out with a guy I liked, that I found intriguing and attractive in the same way I found Seth . . . well. That was wrong, especially since Matthias was obviously interested in me. It was a strange situation to be in, one I hadn't expected.
"Oh, that would be great, but my friends and I already have plans," I told him. "We're trying to make the most of my trip since it's so short."
"Oh." His face fell a little, then brightened. "But you'll be back for tomorrow's rehearsal, right? It'd be great if you were able to get in the steps one more time before you left town. You know, give you something to practice."
"Sure," I said. "That'd be great."
The rest of the evening went by in a blur of activity. Phoebe joined Bastien and me in a whirlwind tour of Vegas highlights, which included a lot of casino and club hopping. Phoebe and I both donned skimpy, glamorous dresses, playing up our succubus sex appeal to its maximum. We draped ourselves on Bastien's arms, and he swaggered around even more than usual, smug with the envy he got over showing us off.
After hours of this, I was ready for some downtime. Phoebe and Bastien had a quick consultation and decided that if we hurried we could make the late performance of a magic show they knew.
"Magic?" I asked, more than a little tipsy from vodka gimlets. "Don't we live a magic show?"
"Damn near," said Bastien. He was ostensibly still being gallant in offering me his arm, but it was unclear who was really holding whom up. "There's something special about this show, I've heard." There was a mischievous glint in his eyes.
The three of us made our way to a modest, off-Strip hotel I'd never heard of. It still had alcohol and slot machines in its casino, which was probably all that mattered to most of its customers. Bastien bought us tickets to see The Great Jambini, and we hurried into the small theater - which was about half-full - just as the lights went down. A mediocre comedian did the warm-up act, and soon the star attraction himself came out. He had graying hair and a bright purple silk turban, along with a sequined cape that could have come straight from the wardrobe department at Sparkles. He kept tripping over its hem, which led to my first observation: he was totally drunk. A second observation soon followed, once I realized there were more immortal signatures in here than just mine, Phoebe's, and Bastien's. The Great Jambini was an imp.