I'm probably a hair's breadth away from being finished with Mouse's Tale: An Alpha League Supers Novel, so I figured I'd post another excerpt. The usual caveats apply (eg, hasn't been edited, etc.). Needless to say, I'm further behind in my writing than I anticipated being at this point. That said, enjoy!
Satisfied with what I’d accomplished (especially in comparison to the effort I’d put forth), I left the backroom and went strolling down the hallway. Just as I stepped back into the main barroom, I ran into Vixen (who apparently had been about to head into the area I’d just left).
“There you are,” she said, flashing a lovely smile. “I thought I asked you not to go anywhere.”
“Yeah, I’m not good at taking instruction,” I responded, pushing down a jubilant vibe I’d felt upon seeing her. “I’m weird like that.”
I tried to step around her, but she glided right into my path.
“You know what’s really weird?” she asked. “Guys who don’t do what I ask them to. That’s not something that happens every day.”
“There’s a first time for everything, I suppose.”
“Maybe…” Vixen seemed to reluctantly agree, giving me an odd look.
“Well, if you’ll excuse me,” I said, preparing to walk away.
“How about we spend a little time getting to know each other?” she asked.
“Sounds nice,” I admitted, “but I’ve got someplace to be.”
Once again, I tried to step around her. This time, she laid a firm hand on my chest, stopping me in my tracks.
“I wasn’t really asking,” she clarified.
Her palm felt as dense and unyielding as forged steel. If I hadn’t figured it out from the blow she’d dealt Sandstone, I certainly knew it now: she was a hell of a lot stronger than she looked.
Vixen tilted her head in the direction of an empty, squared-shaped table nearby. “Why don’t we have a seat?”
I spent a moment debating my next course of action. With her strength, a direct physical confrontation was completely out of the question. Thankfully, I had other options at my disposal, but to be frank, she had aroused my curiosity. Hoping to get a sense of what her game was, I decided to play along – at least for a little while.
I went to the table indicated and sat down, with Vixen taking a chair opposite me. Neither of us said anything, so I spent a few moments glancing around the bar.
From my current vantage point, I could see a little more of the place. I spied an aging jukebox against a wall, and also a small dance floor that was maybe ten by ten feet in size. Not far from the hallway that led to the backroom was a set of stairs that apparently went up to the second floor.
I turned my attention to Vixen. There was a slight frown on her face, and – when she wasn’t glancing in my direction – her eyes seemed to be glued to the door.
“So who are we expecting?” I finally asked.
She turned to me, eyebrows raised. “Huh?”
“You’ve been watching the door like a hawk since we sat down. I assume that when you left before it was to make a phone call and that someone’s going to be joining us soon.”
She smiled sweetly. “Just some friends from work.”
I frowned, not sure what her statement implied. I didn’t know what she was up to, but I didn’t like the idea being pinned in by Vixen and some unknown cohorts of hers.
“Relax,” she said, seeming to sense my mood. “These are the good guys. You already chatted with some of them earlier today.”
She winked as she spoke that last sentence, and it all became clear to me then.
“The Alpha League,” I stated matter-of-factly, my voice clearly expressing that I had no desire for another parley with them.
“You want to speak up a little?” she asked sarcastically. “I’m not sure they heard you in the back.”
I hadn’t spoken in a particularly loud voice, but I understood her point. We were on the bad guys’ turf; it would behoove us to exercise discretion when speaking of the world’s greatest superhero team.
“You must be new,” I said, essentially giving away the fact that I kept up with who was on the Alpha League roster. I was less concerned with that, however, than slipping away before any more of them arrived. Now that I knew who Vixen was working with, I didn’t care to stick around.
“It’s a trial period,” she admitted. “I’m seeing how I like them, and they’re seeing how they like me.”
“I can understand that. There can be issues with having someone like you on the team.”
She gave me an appraising glance. “So, you know what I am.”
I nodded. “Siren. Manipulator of men’s emotions. And actions.”
She laughed heartily at that. “I prefer to think that I unshackle their spirits – give them free reign to do what they feel in their soul.”
“As long as it aligns with your interests.”
She winked. “Well, a girl’s gotta live.”
“I don’t doubt it. Let’s just hope your type of lifestyle doesn’t cause friction with your new teammates.”
She sobered somewhat at my comment. I hadn’t been kidding earlier when I had mentioned Sirens causing issues on superhero teams. Their presence typically led to several male team members – usually two, but occasionally more – battling it out for the Siren’s affections at some point. More than one team had completely disintegrated as a result of a Siren being added to the roster. In short, the Alpha League was wise to have a trial period with Vixen, but even that came with a certain degree of risk.
“So what’s keeping them?” I asked. When Vixen gave me a puzzled look, I added, “Your new teammates. I would have thought that with super speed, at least Buzz or Alpha Prime would be here by now.”
“As hard as it is to believe,” she replied, “you’re actually not every team member’s top priority. We still put a premium on saving lives, so some of our speedier members are off dealing with other crises.”
I was about to make a smart-aleck response when I noticed someone heading towards our table. It was some bruiser in a black muscle shirt with a crew cut, and a face only a mother could love. He topped six-and-a-half feet in height easily, and – aside from a couple of gold-loop earrings – looked like a walking advertisement for steroids.
“Would you like to dance?” he said in a gravelly voice after reaching our table.
“She’d love to,” I blurted out with a grin.
Vixen shot me an angry look, then turned to our visitor and put on a sweet smile. “Actually, I’m a little tired right now. Maybe later.”
“I wasn’t talking to you,” the guy stressed to Vixen, then swiveled his head in my direction.
I think both Vixen and I did a double-take at that point. Slightly shocked, I gave our visitor another once-over and realized almost with a start that it was actually a woman. The muscle shirt was actually a halter top, and she wasn’t doing herself any favors with the crew cut, but when you looked closely her feminine attributes were there.
“Would you like to dance?” the woman asked again.
I blinked, and had trouble finding my tongue for a moment.
Vixen put a hand up to her mouth to stifle the sound of laughter, and then - mimicking my earlier comment - said, “He’d love to.”
I gave her a look that encompassed shock, surprise, anger, contempt and a dozen other strong emotions. I looked back at the big woman standing there, searching for words to let her down easy, when it suddenly occurred to me that I could turn this situation to my advantage.
“As a matter of fact, I absolutely would,” I declared.
“Really?” asked the big woman, clearly surprised.
“In fact,” I added, getting to my feet, “why don’t we get out of here and go have some real fun.”
The big woman drew in an excited breath and clasped her hands together in delight. Vixen, suddenly realizing the door she had opened with her attempt at humor, stood up, frowning.
“Actually, he’s not interested,” Vixen stated.
The big woman didn’t seem fazed by this. “I think the little man can speak for himself, and he’s made it clear that he’s up for some fun. And one thing Bellua” – she pointed a thumb at herself – “knows how to do is have fun.”
“That’s fine, uh, Bellua,” Vixen said. “But you’re going to have to find someone else to play with.”
Bellua let out a frustrated sigh. “Look, Red, I’ve had a long day, and I really need to unwind with a man, if you know what I mean. Now, your boyfriend’s a little on the small side, but I prefer a guy who’s willing than one who’s likely to press charges later.”
I fought to keep my face impassive, although Bellua’s words brought several unsavory images to mind. (Of course, she had to be kidding…)
“I sorry,” Vixen said, shaking her head in sympathy, “but he’s not going any–”
There was an audible smack, like someone slapping a raw side of beef, and Vixen’s words were cut off as a backhand from Bellua sent her airborne. She slammed into an exterior wall, smashing the drywall before dropping to the floor. Somewhere in the background, I heard the bartender angrily screaming expletives about not tearing up her place.
Bellua turned back towards me, a frightening grimace on her face that it took me a moment to recognize as a smile. “Now, where were we?”