We had pretty much left the residential area and had begun to pass businesses along a medium-sized street after a few turns. It was then I noticed there were restaurants and bars lining both sides of the street with signs of life. Some of the restaurants were geared towards the college age groups.
Large men hoisted yard long glasses of draft beers and teased the women with them or sitting too close to their tables. I saw platters of nachos next to sushi and some patrons sipping wine. The basic predator prey behavior of the twenty-something age. We passed by all of them without Ruby pausing. She had a definite destination in mind. It took another block or two for her to suddenly stop and act surprised.
"Wow, I didn't realize we'd walked this far." I wasn't so sure but I smiled and nodded. Her obvious air of familiarity with the place was noticeable, to say the least. Even as worn out as I was it was comical.
Feeling a bit bratty I asked, "Oh, you want to turn back??"
She looked at me with wide eyes and then laughed, "Damn you. Okay, I'm caught. This is my current favorite watering hole."
Letting Ruby lead, we went into a small cozy bar.
Once my eyes adjusted, I saw nothing outrageous, just a comfortable space.
"Bobby!" Ruby called out as we approached the bar where it seemed that we were going to be sitting.
The bartender sketched her a loose handed wave as we sat down. I found it mildly dismissive, but since I didn't give a tinker's damn if we drank, I was okay. Ruby on the other hand seemed a tad distressed.
"Goddess, why is he ignoring me?" It was amusing that she hadn't included me in being ignored, but at the same time clarified how entrenched she'd become in the local community in such a short time that she'd been living here. I figured it was necessary to her to feel wanted and needed, in a place she was going to be stuck in for at least a decade, if not longer. Bobby appeared to be vanilla human, but I didn't bother to look for clarity. It wasn't my neighborhood. She'd shimmied her shoulders before we'd entered the bar, bringing her breasts to be admired, and it didn't look like Bobby had done more than a flicker a rough glance over at her. I could see the storm rising beneath her pouty smile.
I looked down the bar and saw that there were already a few folks tummy up to the bar and refrained from answering. She didn't need me to spell out the reality that Bobby wasn't currently that interested in her. I wondered how many nights she spent alone belly up to the bar, trying to look like she was just a normal human.
Bobby slid up to us and flashed Ruby a fake grin that I caught and she hadn't. That wasn't even amusing to me, but it wasn't my favorite bar. So I sat back and watched.
"Hey, Ruby, the usual?" He didn't meet her eyes but simply poured her a rather large glass of chardonnay. She smiled brightly and said, "Thanks. The same for her."
I loved that I wasn't consulted or even given a name -- fake or real.
"Excuse me," I spoke softly as Bobby began to trail off.
"Yes, ma'am?" I shuddered at being called ma'am, but figured he was stupid and didn't get tipped much, because women hated being called ma'am unless they were well into their sixties -- if then. So I bit back a growl at the idea that maybe Bobby thought I was in my sixties.
"May I have a glass of ice water please?" I tried to not flash my eyes because my sunglasses were already in my pocket once we'd arrived at the bar. If I had pulled them back out and stuck them on my face I'd look snotty at the least and somewhat deadly lingering on the edges. I wasn't trying to attract attention like Ruby, just some basic civility.
Something of what I was projecting sunk in and Bobby graciously sucked up saying, "Of course, honey. Any friend of Ruby's is always welcome. You need a menu?"
I grinned and said, "Not right now, maybe later, okay?"
He nodded and fled.
It was then I noticed where he was headed while fleeing. On the opposite end of the bar was a gal with her hair pulled back into a loose bun, with a pencil holding the ball of honey-colored hair in place. She had a rather thick set of horn-rimmed glasses with very thin lens perched on her nose. I wasn't even sure if the lenses were prescription or cosmetic. I detected a light hand of makeup dancing across her features and a bit too pink shade of lipstick slathered across her full lips. She was trolling for someone. I wasn't sure if it was Bobby or another patron.
Bobby wasn't hard on the eyes. He had a slender build and was tall and sinewy with a faint beard. His hair was light brown with some lighter shades that looked to me had been professionally applied at an upscale hair salon. San Diego wasn't exactly the end of the known universe and his entire appearance was 'actor' in my observation. His eyes were light blue and his hair was lightly tousled but again I felt like he'd spent at least a half an hour to get it that way. Too pretty in my book and far too predatory on the patrons from his various movements, I doubted Bobby boy ever went home alone unless by his own choice.
Bobby had some odd effect on Ruby -- she'd slept with him, that was pretty much a given. He seemed to be little more than just a boy toy as far as I could tell by his behavior, but I knew Ruby to be more than a tad possessive of her toys. I would have figured Ruby to be smart enough not to set herself up for failure again so soon after New Mexico. She was truly lucky to have escaped with her life -- vampire blood or not -- Archibald Roberts, one of the stronger members from the committee that ran our bounty hunting asses, wasn't the forgive and forget sort in the least. Maybe Archie was afraid of the repercussions with the Vermilion Court. Aster Star was a powerful alliance to have and a far deadlier enemy. Still I couldn't ponder what set of circumstances made Ruby figure sleeping with a human would end well. She was rough on the supernatural lovers she had -- hell, her last 'man' was dead after all was said and done.
Ruby gulped the wine and I simply watched in disbelief. Ruby wasn't in control in any manner, and she was all that stood between me and all the crazy folks at Amber Consulting. I wondered if I was going to be her offering to get back in favor after New Mexico. I stilled my features and sipped slowly at the wine glass, alternating heavily with the ice cube-filled glass of water that Bobby had brought right after serving the pseudo-librarian. He hadn't lingered, but instead had moved decidedly away from Ruby. All too soon her glass was bone dry.
She hoisted her glass upright at face level and tried to get Bobby's attention at the opposite end of the bar. She really needed a refill it seemed, and the bartender wasn't tending. It must have been a common problem in the bar when Bobby was working; it was obvious he was more into chasing then serving. A few of the men who'd wandered in simply got a pitcher or bucket of beer and went to a table after paying. It seemed the regulars knew Bobby's skills, having probably seen him do the flirtation going on for a while. A couple nodded slightly to Ruby, who returned the nod with a casual tip of her own head but I could see she was starting to heat up.
Bobby was actually wiggling his ass like a horny alley cat waiting to pounce on the small, somewhat mousy-looking fake librarian on the other side of the bar counter. The librarian was pointedly ignoring Bobby. Her horn-rimmed glasses perched precariously on the end of her nose, while she stared only at the book next to her hot tea and sandwich. Yeah, she had ordered tea and sandwich while sitting at the bar counter. I could see that she had her own little game going, and decided not to let Ruby in on my observations. She'd been drinking most of the day, and I didn't see any reason to stir the pot.
Ruby cleared her throat being just a tad obvious, not to mention more than a little loud.
Bobby still had his back to us.
Flipping me a saucy wink, with a mischievous smile Ruby wiggled her fingers towards the bartender, half-mocking Bobby and his wiggling ass. Then her fingers danced over her empty glass with the same motion, and it silently refilled to the brim.
Horrified, I looked around and hissed, "Ruby, what the hell? You get caught and the committee will have your damn soul in a jar!" I looked at my nearly half-filled glass of chardonnay and glared at Ruby as it slowly rose. It was full again. Bobby was still flirting with the librarian and unconscious of the free liquor being dispensed magically. I didn't precisely know where she'd liberated it from -- here or some other place.
"Sheesh, lighten up! I mean with the crappy night you've had, you deserve a drink or two!" She grinned and took a deep gulp from her glass. I watched it refill the moment she'd set it down. Oh yeah, we were in trouble.
"Right, I get it, but seriously, enough talking about my night. So I told you that most of these yokels don't have a clue what is out there -- it wasn't like you didn't already know this. One of the more in-tune cops had called Sam up, and he then sent me out to show up and fix their problem. The rest of the police at the scene treated me like a piranha, just because I shot the troll in the middle of his head. I get all that," I was hissing because Ruby was getting too buzzed and I was starting to get a bit agitated and continued with, "I know and you know that once they've tasted human meat, that all trolls will eventually go rogue. They can't be simply dismissed as misunderstood and harmless and given a few Valium and some counseling. They will continue to soak in the blood bath of humans they slay until they are put down. We both know that." I sipped my ill-gotten gains and nodded to Ruby at her choice of wines. She had magically served up some tastier wine than what Bobby had poured us earlier. I could barely taste on my tongue the inferior wine that Bobby had served me.
"Yeah, but we can't do anything other than mop up the messes, unless you want to tuck tail and have a nice little talk with the committee." Her grin was wicked.
Bobby wandered over after being rebuffed by the librarian again. I saw a flicker of smirk flip over her face before she dipped her features to her book. The gal was enjoying being chased. She sipped her hot tea daintily.
"You ladies are taking forever to drink tonight. You want something to eat?" He pulled the empty pretzel bowl away. Ruby had inhaled them unconsciously. I tended to skip eating from public troughs. He didn't refill the bowl, but drummed his fingers in a distracted manner on the highly polished wooden counter top.
"Sure, Bobby, why don't you bring us the sampler appetizer plate?" I offered, not bothering to ask for a menu, simply knowing whatever it was it would be overpriced, and that Ruby would more than likely eat most of it. She had the metabolism of a teenage boy during a growth spurt. And I wasn't even really hungry.