Mark of the Dragon

Chapter One

"You're just his lapdog!"

Trina could still hear the offensive word ringing in her ears two weeks later. She remembered it perfectly. The girl's taffy coloured hair, her exaggerated red eye-shadow, the black spiked dog collar around her graceful neck, but more than anything, Trina remembered the look of utter disdain on the girl's face.

Trina had narrowed her eyes and said spitefully, "Well, you're one to talk. Weren't you just trailing around after him, too?"

Trina didn't know if their disagreement would have escalated to a fist fight. It wouldn't have been the first time some jealous half-crazed teenage girl wanted to slap her across the face because of her friendship with Redd. It had never gone that far, because the facts were undisputed. The object of their desire, Aaron Reddmond (more commonly known as Redd) was not Trina's boyfriend, so there was no ground to fight for. The angst-ridden girl couldn't insist that Trina stay away from Redd to give her a chance with him either, because Redd himself made sure Trina was included. So, she had the enviable, yet slightly difficult, position as his friend who also happened to be a girl. This particular girl was only behaving like this because Redd had recently given her the boot. This was the last fact that could not be ignored – Redd didn't want her. So, she was taking out her anger on Trina, who had regular access to him.

Since this was the third or fourth time something like this had happened with one of his jilted 'almost' lovers, Trina tried not to let the girl's antagonism bother her. Yet, what she said left a mark on Trina that she couldn't ignore, no matter how hard she tried to push it away. Was she his lapdog?

Anyone who had eyes could tell that Trina was suffering from a somewhat unrequited love. She had chased Redd's tail for the past two years and it had yielded nothing but a wholesome friendship … if something with Redd could be deemed wholesome. He wasn't exactly a model guy. He was twenty and Trina didn't meet him until he was already graduated from high school. If he was a good student or not was something she didn't know. He was far too intelligent to have been a seat warmer, yet she couldn't picture him shaking hands with the principal at graduation with a smile. Now he had a job, Trina thought. He said he worked in sales, but she could never remember the name of the company. He had a collection of guy friends who he seemed to think of as his dogs. The similarity wouldn't have been possible, if they didn't act like it was true. There was a constant influx of teenage girls and sometimes women in their early to mid twenties who found him irresistible, but no matter how hard they tried, they never got anywhere permanent with him.

Trina was a bit of an exception, because she was his 'friend.' She had always thought that she was better than those two-for-a-quarter girls who chased him, and much better than his K9 guy friends. She probably would have continued to think that way if that girl hadn't called her a 'lapdog' and if somewhere in Trina's heart, she hadn't feared that it was true.

She was seventeen and finishing the last of her grade twelve year. When she thought about it, she realized that she was going to graduate in two and a half months and she had done pretty much nothing the whole time she was in high school besides pursue Redd. And what had he ever given her? Her 'high school girl stock' rose every time he came to pick her up from school. He was such an unintentional heartthrob combination bad boy that he raised eyebrows and heart rates wherever he went, but he was impossible for her to catch. If she confessed that she liked him, she suspected that she would end up face first in the back of her emotional dump truck, because Redd didn't want her that way. He was too direct for her to let herself fantasize that he had actually liked her all this time and hadn't had the courage to admit it. That couldn't be his style. It was strange. She didn't think he'd ever had a romantic relationship with anyone, yet he seemed to know his way around a woman like he was a conman.

So, what was going to happen now? What was she going to do now that she finally realized that chasing him was just that – chasing him? She knew she had to put a stop to this, before the habit followed her into adulthood. Didn't she have any self respect?

Trina plunked down in front of her dressing table/dresser and picked up her cover stick. The light in her room was grey because it had been raining all day, so she flipped on her overhead and began erasing the dark circles under her eyes. She smudged grey eye shadow on her eyelids and then outlined her eyes with black eyeliner. She applied a generous amount of black mascara and topped off her makeup with a thin coat of shiny lip gloss.

She was pretty like the ocean surf hitting black rocks. Not tanned, but the whiteness of her skin was like a sand dollar worn white by the water. Her eyes were the water – perfect aqua. Her hair was shiny black with unpredictable waves accentuated by her layer cut. It hung to her shoulder blades and her bangs fell in her eyes. Her lips were on the thin side, but she had good teeth, so she ignored the fact that she wasn't one hundred percent perfect. But, even when she tallied up her flaws, (her sloping forehead, her overly long waist, wide jaw, and the zit in the corner of her nose that wouldn't go away no matter what) she still thought she rated a ten on anyone's scale. Why couldn't Redd see it?

She was going to meet him that night and she felt disjointed about it. She hadn't seen him since she made her decision to stop seeing him. She hadn't called him in nearly a week and then he emailed her saying he wanted to meet her that night at Jollies, their regular club. With nothing else to do, she found herself getting ready.

Now she was looking out the window, deciding what coat to wear. It had finally stopped raining, but she didn't trust it to stay off. She'd take her umbrella and wear her recently completed black hoodie. Embroidery was one of Trina's gifts and she'd embroidered the outlines of coy fish swimming and splashing in shiny orange floss on it. Wherever she went, she always got compliments on her designs, because there was no piece of clothing of hers that she didn't alter. Everything always looked better after she meddled with it.

Trina went to the kitchen and got out a pen and paper to write her mother a note.

Mom,

I'm going to the club with Redd. I don't know when I'll be back, but I'll let you know when I get home. I shouldn't be too late. Melanie told me that she is planning to go to a sleepover at Katy's tonight, so just in case she's counting on me to tell you – I told you.

Loads of Lucky Love,

Trina

Trina sighed. She was always conveying her baby sister's messages. Why didn't her parents just buy the girl a cell phone and let that be an end to it? Alas, it was not to be. They thought she would play around with it during class and she'd never get any school work done. Trina rolled her eyes. It wasn't like Melanie didn't borrow her friends' gadgets during class. It was a hopeless cause.

But then, Trina didn't relate well to Melanie. They were sisters, but they didn't see eye to eye. Rather, Trina was looking at Melanie and Melanie was looking over Trina's shoulder at her own reflection in a mirror. If Trina was a ten, Melanie was a fourteen with maybe a couple of extra bonus points for vanity and effort.

Thank goodness Redd had never taken any notice of her.

Trina walked out the door, checking her pockets for her keys. She went down the hall of the apartment-style condos and then down three flights of stairs to the outside doors. Stepping onto the pavement, she realized that she was actually going to see that piece-of-trash guy after all, even when she had planned to drop him as a friend. In fact, she had spent the last two periods of the school day fantasizing about standing him up. She had pictured him whipping out his cell phone to find out why she wasn't coming. She'd see his name on the caller ID, throw back her head and laugh. Yet, here she was, standing on the pavement, puffing out her pink skull umbrella. Funny how these things worked out for her.

The rain pattered gently on her umbrella as she made her way down the sidewalk and she tried to think about the other guys in her life that she could possibly date. Who was she kidding? She didn't have any other guys in her life. There was only Redd. He was the only one who mattered. Everyone else looked pale and boring. Why couldn't she meet a guy who was just as attractive as Redd, but not quite so hopeless?

She made it to the bus stop. She got into the shelter and folded up her umbrella. It was colder than she had thought it was, especially when she sat down on the bench. Her hoodie didn't cover her butt. She shivered rhythmically, waiting for the bus to roll up.

When it finally got there, she jumped from the shelter up the stairs. Luckily, the sky was only spitting now. She didn't want to get her hair wet. If she did, she'd have uncontrollable frizz. She touched the top of her head as she sat down on one of the back benches. Still dry, but unfortunately, this was just the first leg of her journey. She needed to transfer to a different bus and that might not keep her hair as dry as she'd like, unless she wanted the hassle of opening and closing her umbrella every two minutes.

Her stop was coming up. She pulled the black cord, and made her way to the side door. Her legs were restless with anxiety. She didn't mean to feel that way. She didn't know what her encounter with Redd would be like and she didn't know when she'd see him again after this since she'd vowed not to contact him anymore.

She changed busses with much less fuss than she imagined. Her transfer was pulling up behind her bus, so it was a breeze.

The second bus was very crowded and Trina would be lucky to get a seat at all. As she looked around the bus after presenting her bus pass to the driver, she noticed that there was something unusual about the people. Most of the people on the bus looked like delinquents or part of a biker gang. What were they all doing on the bus? They were clothed in black leather with metal dripping from them. Some of them had dyed hair and or they had shaved their heads. Their piercings were incredible! Trina winced just looking at some of them. She only had her ears pierced, but mercy! Thinking about the cost made her twitch. Who had money for that sort of thing?

As she scanned the bus, she saw that there was one empty seat and it was right smack dab in the middle of these punks, next to the window. She'd have to squeeze by one of them to get to it since the only person sitting on that bench was sitting by the aisle instead of the window. Trina plucked up her spunk and moved toward the seat. Maybe the guy would let her have it. As she got closer, he actually got up and let her sit next to the window. When she was seated, he sat down beside her without saying anything. He stared straight in front of him.

Actually, close up, this guy didn't seem that scary. He didn't have any piercings in his head that she could see and his hair was cut somewhat normally. Maybe it was a little long in the front. His clothes were plain compared to everyone around him, too. Was he even with them? Hmm … he would have been hot if he hadn't looked so sombre. His expression made him look like he was sixty.

Trina dragged her eyes from her silent bench partner. After all, she shouldn't be staring at him. It probably made him uncomfortable.

It was then that Trina noticed someone glaring at her. It wasn't one of the punks either; it was a woman standing in the aisle. She was carrying several grocery bags and looked as though she was having a difficult time standing. Trina had to look at the floor to escape the woman's evil eye. It was obvious that she didn't like the preference Trina had been given by the guy sitting next to her. He hadn't moved for her, who clearly needed the seat more than Trina.

Then, something strange happened. The guy sitting next to Trina turned on the woman in the aisle with a potent dark look. Then the woman was suddenly pushing past the other standing passengers to the front of the bus. She was afraid of him.

Trina didn't get it. Why was she given the preference? She was cuter, but helping the other woman would have made more sense. Why hadn't he treated her with the same disdain with which he treated the woman in the aisle?

After that, she half expected the guy to say something, but he kept quiet. Actually, all the punks were abnormally silent.

Some of them had pierced their eyebrows, or noses, or both. One man who sat two seats in front of her had a tattoo of a blue dragon down the back of his neck. A girl ahead of her had black lipstick and black heart earrings. Maybe Trina wasn't as different from these people as she thought. Actually, maybe they weren't as extreme as she'd originally thought. They were probably exactly her type.

Right then, her knight in shining armor seemed to be watching for his stop, because he stood up and pulled the cord. It seemed it was the stop for the entire metal clad army, because they all moved to get off together.

Trina silently got up with them. It was her stop too.

The bus was half full now, and everyone standing took a seat.

Once on the sidewalk, Trina began walking to Jollies. Oddly enough, the strange group from the bus walked with her. It was the weirdest experience. Some of them walked in front of her, some behind her, and some on either side of her. Not one of them said one word to her. She wasn't afraid, exactly. They could just be walking the way they normally did and she was somehow mixed up with them. She felt lucky that they didn't mind.

Jollies had bright orange lights outside. The punks took her to the door, but they didn't follow her past the swarms of outside smokers. She watched them walk down the street, in search of a real place to party. She heard them laughing and talking as they went. They had been oddly noiseless as they took her to the club from the bus.

There was weird and then there was weird. This was weird.

Trina paid the cover charge and got a black broken heart stamped on the inside of her wrist before she went inside. The club was loud and foul as usual, with the same unchecked influx of underage partiers. In three months, Trina would turn eighteen and then it was sayonara to this club that didn't properly card its patrons. Trina had been coming here since she was fifteen and never had a word with a bouncer. She'd loved it at the time. She felt so grown up, but now that she was almost an adult herself, she was eager to outgrow this hangout. This had to be the lowest club in the city.

It was dark in the lounge, but she spotted Redd sitting at a table by himself. He had nothing on the table in front of him, but an empty ash tray and the drinks' menu held up by a plastic stand. "Just look at him," she thought. Redd had spiked blond hair that didn't quite make it into a point. His eyes were blue, and always had gleams of mischief in them. He was tallish without being impossible to reach, and he had good shoulders, but she thought it was his charm that attracted attention wherever he went. How was she going to get away from him? Her confidence wobbled.

'Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!' the girl in Trina's head barked.

Trina took a deep breath, rolled her eyes, and sat down across from him, as she knew she had to since she'd bothered to show up.

He looked up at her with sharp eyes. "You're a little late." He surveyed her. "Is that your latest hoodie? You're really getting into those Asian themes, eh? Well, why not take it off and stay awhile?"

Trina frowned. That was probably about the nicest thing he had ever said about one of her pieces and even now when he was complimentary, she found his words hard to swallow. "Why would I?" she yawned. "I'm not staying long."

"Why not? I haven't seen you in weeks. I was starting to wonder if you'd dropped off the face of the Earth."

"Yeah, well, I had a bit of a run-in with your last girl. What was her name again?"

Redd hesitated, as though thinking. "Can't remember," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "Which one was that?"

"Spiked collar girl? Red eye shadow? Ring any bells?" Trina didn't have to struggle to remember; she knew every detail.

"Come on," Redd scoffed. "That was forever ago. I've already been through three since then."

"Do I make four?"

He winced. "What did I do to deserve that? I'd never count you as a scalp on my belt. Haven't we always been friends?"

She was going to roll her eyes again, but managed to suppress the urge. "I guess," she muttered.

"Say, Trina, that girl, she didn't do anything to you, did she?"

"No."

"If she did, I could make a call."

"Not necessary. I'm fine," she said. Besides, he didn't mean it. He just liked to talk like that.

"Good. I have a favour to ask you," he said, pulling a piece of paper out of his pant's' pocket.

It was always like this. She couldn't count how many favours she'd done for him in the last two years and some of them were not exactly easy. Sometimes she felt like his rescue team that he called in at the last minute except that she was only one person.

She stared at him. He was examining the scrap of paper he'd fished out. It was uncanny, even his mannerisms as he checked it were intoxicating. She needed to get a grip or she was screwed.

"This is what you wanted to talk to me about, isn't it? This favour?" she asked, trying to defy him in a small way. She wanted to point out to him that he didn't ask her to come because he wanted to spend time with her, but because he wanted to use her, but he would never think of it that way. All his friends were errand dogs. She wasn't any different after all.

She sighed and propped her cheek up with her palm, her elbow on the table.

"I wouldn't bother you if it wasn't for a good cause," he said smiling a crooked smile.

Trina bit her tongue to stop herself from uncorking a spray bottle of emotional distress. There was one time that he came over to her place at eleven thirty on a school night, just for her to iron a shirt he wanted to wear out to some party that night, which he didn't invite her to. Once he borrowed her from a sleepover party so she could help him wash his car. All the girls thought he was taking her out for coffee. They had no idea she was hosing down his wheel wells ten minutes later. There was another time where he pulled her from class because he wanted her to go to the mall with him to help him pick out a leather jacket. Another time where he …

"Do you think I would ask you down here without a good reason?" he said, interrupting her cerebral rampage.

"You never know," she said cynically, avoiding saying a fiftieth of her thoughts.

He didn't even notice her tone of voice, and went on without a problem. "I need you to help me with a project I've been working on."

"What did you have in mind?"

"Tomorrow I need you to go buy me a couple of extension cords, a pair of wire strippers, brake cleaner, batteries, starting fluid, and some antifreeze. I'll give you the money. Feel like helping out?" He pushed a piece of paper to her across the table.

She picked it up and read it. It was a list of the things that he had just mentioned. She raised an eyebrow at him. He was looking across the room at the dance floor. He took her acceptance for granted.

"Redd, I have a question for you. Why exactly do you need me to pick up this stuff for you? You could pop out of here and make a quick run to a hardware store and your errand would be done. It's not even nine o'clock yet. You know I don't have my own car. This is going to be hard for me to do. So, why don't you do this yourself?"

The nature of her question caught him off guard. She had never protested in the past. "Um," he said absently, still looking at the dance floor, maybe at somebody. "I'm supposed to be meeting someone here tonight and I can't take off."

"Who were you meeting besides me?"

"Um …" He didn't seem to be listening to her.

She had a speech planned out in her head. It started with, 'Redd, I'm tired of doing your errands' and ended with, 'Don't call me anymore.'

But the waitress came up and asked for their order.

Redd ignored her.

Trina felt obligated and ordered. "I'd like lemonade. You know - the non-alcoholic kind." Then the waitress left and so was Trina's resolve to break up with Redd.

"I don't exactly get what you mean," she said to him. "You could have told me all this in your email. Why haul me out here with all this mystery? Why . . ." She was about to ask him about the punks who seemed to be her personal bodyguards, but stopped herself. What if he didn't have anything to do with all that? It could have been a coincidence, but if it wasn't, if it was all his doing – he would laugh at her for not understanding exactly why he did it. Redd did hang out with some bizarre people sometimes and even though they had been 'friends' for years, there were still many things that she didn't know about him. She kept silent on the subject.

He turned to her. "Don't you think I want to see you?"

"No."

"I'm hurt," he laughed, but it wasn't for real. Besides, she couldn't hear him over the thunderous music coming from the speakers. He didn't look at her, not even when he laughed; he was watching the dancers out on the floor.

"Do you want to dance?" she asked.

"Let's dance," he said, as if he hadn't heard her offer. He rose from his chair and hardly waited for her to stand up before hauling her off by her wrist.

As they went into the streams of green light, the song changed and the music pounded a better rhythm than before. Redd grabbed her hips and yanked her close to him, pulling her back against his chest in time to the music. Regardless of her attraction for him, it was uncomfortable to be so close. His warm breath was moisturizing the side of her neck like she was a fogged up window pane. She could feel his hands on her hips. He was squeezing; she clenched her eyes to shut out the pain. A few months ago when he did that, she blushed and put her hands on his. Back then, she didn't seem to feel the pain. Now that old steam only tortured her and she was getting tired of the minor bruises. How could she have thought pain was sexy?

"Aren't you going to spin me around or something?"

He bent his head down and rasped in her ear, "I need those things by Sunday. Bring them over to my place." His hand was in the back pocket of her jeans as he slid something inside. "My debit card," he informed her indifferently. Touching her didn't excite him at all.

He spun her like she requested, but when she came back; he didn't pull her close to him again. Instead, he sort of left her hanging while he started talking to some girls that he knew that were dancing close by. He waved for Trina to follow him, but he looked so absorbed with the other girls that she would feel like an idiot joining them since he'd clearly just blown her off. He probably came here to meet one of those girls and she was playing the part of the third-wheel.

She snuck back up the stairs and sat back down at their table. Actually, she would have left if she hadn't ordered a drink. Now she had to wait for it.

The list of things Redd wanted was still on the table. She didn't really feel like doing favours for him, but he did give her his bank card. She toyed with the idea of going on a shopping spree with his money. He did always seem to have plenty of it, but such a thing was out of the question. Her head would be severed in a box mailed to her parents if she spent his money without permission.

Just then, the guy Trina recognized from the bus came and sat down in Redd's chair. He didn't say anything at first. He was staring at Redd out on the dance floor. Then he said to her, "Aaron Reddmond. You know him. How?"

Trina gave him a dirty look. Where did he get off? Sitting at her table uninvited and suddenly asking her questions without introducing himself or asking her name. She turned her head away snootily just in time to see the waitress coming over with her lemonade.

"Two fifty," the woman said lazily.

The guy dropped the necessary coin in the waitress's hand before Trina had even gotten her wallet out. "I'll pay for it," he said shortly, pushing Trina's drink towards her.

Trina took out her wallet anyway and rummaged around until she found a toonie and a loonie. "Here," she said coldly, returning his money to him. "I don't let strangers buy me drinks."

He looked at the money and shook his head like he found her offer boring. "What if I was just being polite?" He leaned back in his chair like he was lounging in a recliner. "I just want to talk. I'm not hitting on you."

"How could you possibly be hitting on me with an opening line like that?" she asked caustically. "You want to talk about Redd, which makes me wonder why you're bothering me. He's here tonight. Go bother him."

The guy shrugged his shoulders gracefully and said, "I am curious about your relationship with him. Is he your boyfriend?"

She relaxed a little in her chair. Maybe this was a half-crazed guy who was interested in her instead of a half-crazed girl who was interested in Redd. Trina felt slightly assuaged by the turn of the tides and decided to humour him by answering decently. "Not so much," she said, clicking her tongue on the roof of her mouth. "I met him when I was in the tenth grade. I thought he was going to ask me out, but he never did. I guess we became friends instead."

"I wonder why," the stranger said thoughtfully.

"Well, you got me. Who knows what he's thinking?" Trina sucked on the clear plastic straw and looked at her strange companion again. He was thinner than Redd, probably taller when standing, with soft brown eyes that tilted up at the corners. She wanted to ask him some questions, but couldn't decide how to word them. Regardless of his compliment, she was constantly leery of Redd's friends and acquaintances. Instead, she picked up Redd's list and slid it into her pocket.

"What's your name?" she asked.

"Brock," he answered. "You are?"

"Trina," she said cautiously. From his looks, he wasn't processing it at all. He probably already knew her name. So, was he one of those punks? Or was he one of Redd's dogs that she had somehow missed seeing before? He looked a little older than Redd, but she couldn't be sure. Redd's age didn't often figure into the sort of company he kept. Trina shook her head. She couldn't decide what this guy was.

"Do you want to dance?" he asked.

Trina glared at the red rainbow light show and felt a distinct churning in her stomach. She didn't feel like being manhandled anymore that night. "Sorry, I'm not in the mood."

"Do you want me to go?" Brock asked, seeking out her eyes and holding them.

Trina stuck out her tongue, rolled her eyes and put her chin back in her palm. "You can stay if you want. I just don't feel like partying tonight. I feel like – you know – a gopher that's just been hit by a car."

"Road kill?" he supplied.

"Yeah. Road kill. Like a happy little burrowing fuzzy thing until Redd ran me over with his Hummer. Jerk."

Brock laughed.

"You think this is funny?"

"Sorry. I shouldn't laugh. Want me to treat you to some food then? You know, to cheer you up? What do you want? Nachos? Wings?"

"I can't let you buy me anything. I don't know who the heck you are."

"I already said that my name is Brock," he said arrogantly, like that was all the information she needed to know.

"Uh-huh and where did you come from, Brock? Do you live above or below the river?"

He looked at her curiously, like he still didn't think it mattered, "Below."

"What school do you go to?"

"I'm done with school."

"Okay, now does that mean that you're a drop out or does it mean that you already graduated?"

"Already graduated," he answered, his expression becoming increasingly interested.

"And how do you know Redd?"

"Doesn't everyone know a little something about him?"

Trina conceded. He was pretty famous. "So, you're just an interested spectator?"

He bit his bottom lip playfully and smiled. "I guess you could call me that."

"And you want to hang out with me because?"

"You don't look like you should be left alone tonight. You might get into trouble."

"Hmmm." She really didn't know what to make of this guy. Half of her wanted to send him packing while the other half was reminding her of her thoughts earlier that evening. Didn't she say that she wanted to meet a new guy, and wasn't there a perfectly good looking one sitting across from her offering to buy her nachos?

"Okay. You can order food. Nachos, I guess," she answered sullenly after she'd thought about it. "And another drink."

"Anything you want," he said pleasantly, peering into her eyes. He did have fascinating eyes.

After he ordered for them he continued, "So, what did Redd do to you to turn you into roadkill?"

"Nothing," she mumbled.

"And that's the problem?" Brock asked doubtfully, like he was hoping that wasn't the case.

"No. It's not that. I said we were friends, didn't I?" Trina didn't have the tiniest problem downplaying her feeling for Redd to the point of lying. There was no reason for this guy to know every gory detail. "It's just that he invited me here tonight and he's over there with those girls while I get hit on-"

"I'm not hitting on you," he interrupted.

"Then what are you doing here? Hey look! There's a redhead in that corner sitting at a table all by herself and there are three girls down by the bar and," Trina said scanning the dance floor. "There are whole groups of girls down there that don't have a man with them. What are you doing with me if you're not hitting on me?"

"Well," he said smoothly. "I'm intrigued by you, but right now we're just talking."

"You shell out your money rather quickly for a simple conversation."

"Well, maybe I don't like to eat alone."

She hesitated and had another swallow of citrus. "If the next words out of your mouth are, 'do you come here often?' I hope you'll forget all about your not-hitting-on-me policy."

He smiled. "That wasn't what I was going to say next."

"Really? What were you going to say next?"

"I was going to ask about your hoodie. Where did you find it?"

Trina's mouth hung slightly open. While ten women could ask her about it while she strolled through the mall, a guy had never asked her about her work. "I embroidered this on."

"It's beautiful. Did you design the pattern?"

"Uh-huh," she nodded as the waitress placed their food between them.

They ate and they talked.

"I should get you to make one for me," he said after she explained her passion and some of her past projects.

"A hoodie?"

He nodded and chewed.

"What would you want on it?"

"A dragon."

"What sort of dragon? There are so many kinds. There are Chinese dragons that look more like snakes, and there's the kind that look more like stingrays. Or maybe something more like a hydra with two heads?"

"No. A Chinese dragon would be perfect."

"What colour of hoodie would you have and what colour of floss?"

"I don't know. You're the artistic one. I'd say white on black, or black on white."

"Normal combinations," she commented. "You couldn't possibly go wrong, but you can't leave it that simple. You need accent colours like purple, or green."

"Red."

"Okay. How much are you going to pay me?"

"Whatever's fair. So hey, do you feel like dancing now?"

"My fingers are covered in grease."

"So, wash them. I'd really like to dance with you."

"Um. I guess so. Wait for me, and I'll go to the washroom."

Trina went to the ladies' room to wash her hands. Peeking in the discoloured mirror, she saw that she still looked perfect. Her dance with Redd wasn't long enough to give her a hard-night-of-dancing look. Her cheeks were still white as marble and her makeup hadn't smudged while she was eating. So, she washed her hands, wiped the grease from her mouth and headed out to meet Brock.

She came back to the table and noticed that her two little coins were still sitting there undisturbed.

"Ready?"

"Yeah."

Together, they went down to the dance floor. The place was shining with white and blue light. The music was fast, and Trina let her body swing to it.

Half ashamed of herself, she peeked around the dancers to see if Redd was still there. Had he gone so soon? She never caught a glimpse of him. As if she wasn't already angst ridden because he made her come out to meet him, he left without even talking to her. That pig-headed jerk!

She had to forget all about Redd and just dance with hot guy number two, so she put all her effort into it. At least Brock was a good dance partner.

They danced three booming electro tracks before Brock touched her. It was a light touch on the small of her back, but Trina was very aware of it. It was a touch, but it was almost like he whispered in ear, 'I think you're beautiful.' It sent her heart thumping.

After that, she found herself looking for that moment she could touch him back, but where? His shoulder? That was perfect. She'd touch his shoulder. Going for it, she put her hand on his shoulder and spun around behind him, running her fingertips across both his shoulders from behind.

He responded by grabbing her hands and pulling her into a more formal dance pose.

"Your hands are cold," he said, placing her hand more fully on the back of his neck as a cooling device. He was quite warm from dancing.

"Yeah, people keep telling me that. My hands are always cold. It doesn't seem to matter how hard I dance – I never warm up. Sometimes it's like that when I run, too."

"Well, you know what they say, 'cold hands, warm heart'."

"Something like that."

She took a peek at her watch. To her amazement, it was getting close to midnight. Had they really talked for that long? It would take her at least forty minutes to get home, or more. She thought that if she disappeared quickly enough she might be able to lose him.

"Hey, I've got to go."

"It's too early."

"No, really. I'll see you some other time."

Suddenly, she ditched him on the dance floor and bounded up the stairs and over to the front door, yanking the sleeves of her hoodie from around her waist and zipping it up. Glancing back, she checked to see if Brock was still on the dance floor.

He was following her, dodging people as he went and grasping her arm. It was impossible. His eyes hadn't left her.

"Wait! I want to take you home," he shouted at her over the music.

"Don't bother," she yelled back, and pulled her arm out of his grip.

He let go of her, but followed her out of the club. He got on the bus with her when it arrived.

"You know, it's a little creepy for you to insist on following me home even though we're on the bus," she said snootily hanging onto a poll.

"I wouldn't do this if I didn't think it was important. Besides, I'm not a stranger. I introduced myself to you and everything, just like you wanted. You're just not used to getting hit on by decent guys."

"So now you're hitting on me?"

"Definitely," he said evenly.

She had the sudden desire to kiss him, but she kept herself together. Her experiences with kissing had always left her cold. Now wasn't the time to light that flame.

He walked her to the door of her apartment complex. They stood in front of her door and she put her key in the key hole.

"Thanks for bringing me home. I had a good time," she said in a smudge of a hurry, feeling like if she stayed out much later, she'd get into trouble with him.

"My pleasure," he said as he shut the door between them. He gave her one last glance through the glass, and she thought for a moment that she saw a shadow of regret cross his features.

Then he walked away. Maybe he wanted to kiss her, too.


Author's Notes: Thanks to everyone who came to read. Please review and let me know what you think. As some of you may know - this is a rewrite of my story 'Dragon's Moon'. If you saw the old drafts - you'd shudder. All comments, criticisms, compliments and critiques are welcome. Seriously - I need to know what I do right and what I do wrong. LOVE!