The first place I met Emma was at Lorem Dames, a famous strip club downtown. The club was known for its extravagance. At the entrance were interchangeably blue and pink columns so tall you could scale their height to the moon. The steps were made from white marble so fine that it glowed when looked upon. The front doors were always open and inside, the club beamed sweet hues of blue, purple, and pink. The lights were low and heavily saturated. Guests couldn't even decipher the races of the dancers. This meant, of course, that the guests were unable to see the perfect shade of bronze that radiated from Emma's complexion.
She was a dancer in the club, one of the best. Without so much as a kick, she could spin a pole for hours. She was so strong that she could crush a man's skull between her thighs, reduce it to powder. This was the Emma I'd heard about. It was my first time in the club. I'd only gone because of Emma's reputation, not that she went by "Emma" there.
Her stage name was "Day", thought up by another dancer who found Emma's skin to shine so bright and brown that it reminded her of the sunbaked desert she grew up in. Those who had only seen Day in the fuchsia lighting of the club assumed she was named for the bright flicker in her eyes, an untamed fire that led guests to run into walls and chairs while they were so distracted.
I found all of these rumors to be plausible as I approached the dark stage where a single light, the body and soul of a dancer bathed in violet, stood. A long, sleek wig that slid over the smooth contours of her arms and back like a sea of black ink was the first thing I saw. When she turned, her eyes, dark and sultry, flashed with heat. Her smolder was searing. Five guests standing too close to the stage burst into flames.
I was cautious in approaching her. She barely noticed me before I spoke.
"Emma!" I shouted over the booming club track.
She looked down at me in surprise. Maybe it was because I called her by the wrong name or maybe it was the pastel yellow sundress I was wearing that got her attention. Neither of them suited a strip club.
With a fraction of her audience now reduced to ash piles, she found the time to kneel down on the stage and speak with me.
"Kara Ambrose," I told her as she leant down her hand. I took it and she pulled me forward to kiss the back of my fingers.
"Emma York." She smirked at my dumbfounded expression. "What can I do for you?"
I was baffled by her beauty and charm. My throat was rather dry then but I managed to find my voice.
"Have you ever heard of Circo De Vida?" I asked her.
"Of course." She nodded with a bubbly grin. "I used to want to be in the circus."
"That's perfect." I smiled and it was, until things became not so perfect. "I came to ask you-"
There was a sudden and loud bang! that beat hard against every eardrum in the club. It coursed through the music right to the source and the speakers exploded into a shower of sparks. Everyone turned to look at the entrance where five men and two women stood, one of the women with a pistol raised high in the air.
"In case anyone's confused," said a man at the front of the leather-clad crowd, "This is a robbery!"
"Who robs a strip club?" I murmured to myself.
"Hey!" another man shouted in my direction. "Can it!"
"Empty your G-strings!" the unarmed woman ordered.
A stocky man wearing a fedora began walking around with a burlap sack to collect the ones and fives that dancers were digging out of their snug crop tops and suspenders. I was attempting to squeeze my wallet between two bolts under the stage when I felt Emma's hand on my shoulder. I glanced back and she gave me a devious grin before holding a finger to her lips.
I remained quiet as she seemed to join the others in retrieving their tips but rather than a dollar bill, I spied the gleaming edge of a throwing knife leaving the sparkling green gauntlets around her wrists.
Not an eye was laid to the blade as it soared. It was invisible at such a fierce speed put forth by no more than a smooth flick of the thrower's wrist.
The gunwoman's pistol disappeared from her hand without a sound. She panicked, they all panicked, and one dancer near the entrance noticed the silver weapon staked to the wall beside her. She swiftly plucked it from the wall and kneeled down to "fix her shoe strap" and kicked the gun just hard enough for it to slide under one of the nearby dancing tables.
"WHO THREW THAT?!" the gunwoman demanded to know.
"It was her!" Emma shouted.
I whipped back at the accusing finger. I was too startled to deny it.
"She's the notorious international assassin for hire, Night!" Emma added on. Her eyes were big as beach balls as she cried, "She harasses us and buys out the whole club during the summer! She has lots of money!"
"I do not!" I protested but the group had already set their sights on me.
"Assassin, hmm?" Fedora Man grinned as he crept closer. "You look more like the T-Mobile girl."
"You look more like a horse molester than a robber." I scoffed.
His stupid grin turned to a stupid scowl and he lurched forward but the previously-armed woman pulled him back by his cheap black vest.
"Just give us your cash." The woman said as she slowly strode up to me. "That ring'd be nice, too." she added with a nod to the ruby and gold ring on my right ring finger.
"I don't have cash and the ring is fake." I responded.
"You didn't bring cash to a strip club?" she snorted.
"She tips in charm." Emma answered for me.
It was then that chaos truly let loose. One hand firmly grasping the stripper pole, Emma swung out and landed a fierce strike of her little black boots to the woman's face. The other robbers charged then and Emma took them all down.
One took a kick to the groin and an uppercut to the jaw. Another received ten knife wounds in the left leg at the same time two others were put on their backs by one swift sweep of Emma's leg. In an attempt to escape, Fedora Man tripped and got his vest caught on the strap of one dancer's stiletto. Club security moved in to handle the defeated robbers but was unable to reach Fedora Man as he was getting his spleen dissected by the toe of the dancer's free shoe.
Emma approached the last robber who scurried back against the front doors. Emma was ready to give that lady the boot quite literally but the criminal suddenly broke down in tears, sinking to her knees and crying, "I just need to pay my bills! I'm a theology major! I've been eating rice and ramen for three years! My nails are turning purple and my hair is falling out! I need proteins! I need money!"
Emma was startled but she remained firm as she drug the young blonde up by her shirt collar.
"Don't hit places up." Emma said simply. The woman looked confused as to why Emma was doing more talking than hitting. "Be a dancer here." Emma added as her eyes lightened. "You wouldn't believe some of the tips I get. We get tons of famous guests and they're just rolling in it."
The woman started to look hopeful but at that point, I was a bit distracted. The other woman, the really aggressive one, had me by the left strap of my dress. I guess she'd figured out I wasn't the assassin in the room.
After letting the redeemed criminal go, Emma or Night or whatever the hell her name was turned our way. In a flash, Emma's eyes shifted from forgiving to the stare of Death itself. Before everyone's eyes, the robber's body slowly sank. Her grip on my dress weakened and I stepped away as she collapsed. That day, Emma proved that looks really could kill.
By the time the cops showed up, it was night. Apparently they got a lot of calls about Lorem Dames that turned out to be false alarms, something to do with "Tame Me Tuesdays".
Though a bit frazzled by the whole event, I'm secretly pleased. I got to see Emma in action and confirm two more rumors, one of them being Emma's involvement in the recent hunts and disposals of corrupt business owners. The other? Emma makes creative use of her cleavage.
"You shaken up?" she asked me as she walked me to my car in the parking lot.
"Uh, well, I spend most of my time watching people jump around rafters and cables." I laughed nervously.
"That's right. You like the circus, right?" Emma smiled.
"I own it, actually." I told her.
Her eyes widened like she was in any position to be surprised, like we hadn't just gotten held up in a strip club.
"You're kidding." She said.
"No. I'm for real." I shook my head. "…and what I was saying earlier- I came to ask if you would want to join. I mean, maybe Day…or Night would be interested?" I asked with a slight raise of my left brow.
She wasn't surprised then, naturally. She just smirked. I matched her expression. I was a businesswoman. I wasn't getting into my car until I got what I wanted and I wanted her.
"I don't know about Day or Night," Emma finally sighed and leaned forward with a smug grin, "But Emma York has always wanted to join the circus."
"I'll be over tomorrow, then." I smiled as I unlocked my car door.
"Not so fast." She shook her head. I glanced at her confusedly. "I think you owe me a tip."
Argue? What would be the point? I could see by then that Emma was going to be real trouble.
I rolled my eyes and leaned up to her to press a sweet kiss into her lips. She was grinning like the Cheshire Cat when I turned back to my car and slid inside.
Yeah, she was trouble.
But that was, of course, why I wanted her.