Authors: Delaney Diamond
Copyright © February 2012, Delaney Diamond
Cover art by Mina Carter © February 2012
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It was good to be back.
Miguel Delgado inhaled deeply, appreciating the familiar sounds and smells of his birthplace in the highlands of
. After the street vendor handed him the small bag filled with
, he paid her and walked away. He popped one into his mouth, enjoying the crunch of the thinly sliced fried bananas. They were one of the things he’d missed during his last sojourn to the States. After he arrived earlier today, he took a short nap before deciding to venture out.
He turned down a side street toward the bar owned by his friend, Seth, a former military
who’d first visited
over ten years ago. He’d met and fallen in love with a Cuencaran, chucked his life in the States, and opened Seth’s Bar for other transplants like himself. Expats from the English-speaking countries of the
frequented the spot.
Monday nights were rowdy and as busy as weekend nights because it was Karaoke Night. As a form of appreciation, customers donated cash, all of which was placed in a jar as prize money for the most popular singers.
Miguel stood inside the door for a moment and watched as another wannabe singer walked awkwardly back and forth across the small stage, singing a fifties song in the worst falsetto he’d ever heard. He couldn’t understand why anyone would stand up on a stage and put the spotlight on themselves in that way. It wasn’t worth the money. To think, people in bars around the world sang karaoke for
He walked up to the bar, and after he caught his friend’s eye, shook his head. “How can you put up with this noise?” He gestured toward the stage.
Seth laughed, grabbing his hand over the bar and shaking it vigorously. “After ten years, I don’t even hear them anymore.” Before Miguel could ask, Seth opened an Ecuadorian beer and set it on the polished wood in front of him.
He tipped the bottle in thanks and took a swallow.
“So how was
?” Seth asked.
“The same. I’m glad to be back.”
The tension between him and his mother had mounted to an unpleasant level, but the meeting with his art agent had gone well. Several of his sculptures had sold above the asking price with buyers clamoring for more.
“Yeah, I’m glad I left that rat race. There’s no place like
, am I right?”
“No place like it,” Miguel agreed. He came to the realization a long time ago and never missed the hustle and bustle of larger cities when he was home.
“What about Miguelito?” Seth asked. He always referred to Miguel’s eleven-year-old brother as “little Miguel” because of how much they looked alike, despite having different fathers.
Miguel dropped onto one of the bar stools and raked his fingers through his hair. Aarón had sulked in his room from the moment he arrived, but any attempts he made to find out what was wrong had met with resistance. The harder he pushed, the more withdrawn his brother became. His mother hadn’t been any help, claiming nothing was wrong. But he knew she didn’t see it because she chose not to. She would rather cater to the needs of her latest lover than acknowledge any problems in the relationship between her and Aarón.
“I know he’s unhappy, but he won’t talk to me.”
“He will when he’s ready,” Seth said with confidence as he wiped down the bar. “Think of yourself at that age.”
“I barely remember it.”
In truth, he remembered eleven quite well, but he wished he didn’t. Twenty years ago he’d been a bitter, angry youth, and it hadn’t been a pleasant period in his life. He hoped his brother didn’t experience the same turmoil he had.
In addition to meeting with his art agent, the visit to
had been meant to get his brother to open up to him, but it seemed he’d clammed up even more. He would have to endure his brother’s stoicism until he felt ready to talk, but he would not give up.
The sound of applause and cheers from the crowd caught his attention. The first performer had left the stage, and a new performer, a woman, had taken his place. She was the reason the crowd had gone wild. She tapped the microphone to check the acoustics and smiled at the audience. With her dark skin, she stood out from the other patrons of a paler complexion. Outside of the small number of Afro-Ecuadorians in the country, it was unusual to see blacks in town.
!” she said, resulting in an enthusiastic response of hollering and whistling from the crowd. She even received an enthusiastic greeting from the women.
“Who is she?”
is Samirah Jamison.”
Miguel glanced at his friend, who stood staring at the stage with his beefy arms crossed over his chest and a goofy smile on his face. His gaze slid back to the stage. Who was this woman that she warranted such a reception from the entire bar?
She was attractive, he admitted, with long black hair parted in the middle and allowed to tumble into waves past her shoulders, brushing each cheek to frame her face. In fact, she looked like a piece of art. His artist eyes took a slow tour of her body, taking in each line and curve. The brightly-colored fitted shirt dipped to a vee over her abundant breasts. The shirt tucked into the waistband of a pair of denim, painted-on white capris that left little to the imagination and accentuated the hourglass narrowness of her waistline.
His eyes made their way back up to her face and the brilliant smile she wielded like a weapon at her admirers. She must be a good singer to elicit such adoration. At least he thought so until she started singing her rendition of “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.
At first he couldn’t believe how bad she was, but twenty-five seconds in the song picked up tempo, and so did she. The crowd started clapping when she pulled the mike from the stand and began to dance around the stage. She made eye contact with patrons at the first few tables, leaning forward to sing to individuals in the audience.
Silver hoops peeked between the strands of her thick hair and caught the light as she moved her body, gyrating her hips and sashaying across the stage while enthusiastically singing off key. She was obviously enjoying herself, holding her head up high and waving her hands with attitude about how she would survive.
Miguel found himself enthralled like everyone else, unable to take his eyes off of her. What she lacked in singing ability, she more than made up for in her performance. At one point, she turned her back to the audience and looked over her shoulder, crooning into the microphone with one hand on her swaying hips and a seductive smile on her lips. His body reacted to her movements. His groin muscles contracted as she teased him and every red-blooded man in the place into noticing her generous backside—and imagining doing all sorts of salacious things to it.
Miguel picked up his beer and took a sip to wet his suddenly dry tongue. As she neared the end of the song, she incorporated a shimmy, moving her body in a snakelike, provocative manner.
She stopped for a moment to lift her right hand in the air to hit a particularly difficult note—which she didn’t hit. As the song ended, her arm reached for the ceiling, and her head fell back as she became lost in the music. She held the pose for long seconds as the customers jumped to their feet and clapped.
She hadn’t removed an item of clothing, but her performance resulted in the same reaction as a strip tease. Miguel remained frozen, his eyes riveted on the smooth column of her throat and the tight arch of her body. An uncomfortable, tightening sensation spread across his chest, and he released his suspended breath.
is Samirah,” Seth yelled over the noise of thunderous applause he joined in with everyone else.
Samirah took a deep bow, allowing her hair to fall forward in a shiny black sheath before standing upright to descend the stairs with the help of one of the male patrons. She’d cast a spell over the entire crowd. Men and women alike gave her high fives as she made her way back to the bar. She appeared to be the kind of woman who got noticed wherever she went, and she was the kind of woman who enjoyed being noticed. It was evident in the confident way she glided through the tables, shoulders thrown back and head held high.
She didn’t acknowledge Miguel’s presence when she bounced up and slapped her palms on top of the bar.
“What will it be, gorgeous?” Seth asked. Miguel noticed the unmistakable lowering of his friend’s voice.
Samirah tucked her hair behind her left ear, giving Miguel a good view of her delicate features—a small ear, the roundness of her chin, and a mouth with a plump lower lip. With the soft curve of her luscious mouth, he got the impression she laughed often.
“Ginger ale, but only a little bit of ice.” She reached toward the pocket of her pants.
“Hey, hey!” Seth chided her. “You know your money’s no good here.” He added two cubes of ice to the glass.
“Seth, you can’t continue to let me drink for free.” She leaned forward and whispered, “The other customers will get mad.”
He set the filled glass on the counter and dropped in a straw, leaning toward her. “I’ve got you covered, gorgeous.”
Miguel slipped another
into his mouth as he watched the exchange. His neck muscles grew taut, and he crunched down much harder than normal. Had Seth forgotten he was happily married? That was the second time he’d called her gorgeous, and Miguel felt an unnatural elevation in his temperature. His friend’s flirtations irritated him. Maybe he needed to be reminded he had a damn wife at home.
“You’re too good to me.” She blew him a kiss and picked up the glass.
When Seth walked away to take care of another customer, she took a sip. Then she lifted her eyes to his face, and for a moment he felt like he’d been clobbered in the chest. The curiosity in her dark brown eyes played out in her next words.
He couldn’t blame her for asking, considering he’d been staring at her since she walked up. Her Spanish pronunciation was good, but she definitely had an accent, and he guessed her to be from either
. “I speak English,” he replied. “And no, you don’t know me.”
He caught a few
between his fingers and popped them into his mouth.
* * * *
Samirah was used to getting attention. In fact, she thrived on it because, as the youngest of three, she’d sometimes felt overshadowed by the perfection of her older brother and sister. But something about this man’s attention unnerved her. He looked like he wanted to pop her in his mouth the way he had the savory snack.
She’d never seen him in the bar before, which was no surprise, since this was a gringo bar. He presented a feast for the eyes. A scar above his left eye sliced through his dark brow. The pale slice of fibrous tissue, rather than detracting from his physical appearance, served to enhance it by adding a dangerous edge to his features. The light blue pools of his eyes, almost piercing in their intensity, seemed to swallow her, a striking contrast to his dark hair and swarthy skin. It wasn’t as if she’d never seen a good-looking man before, but his European and Amerindian features blended together to create a perfect storm of masculine beauty.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s not polite to stare?” she asked.
“Can you blame me? You put on quite a show, Samirah.”
Having traveled all over the world, and with
as her home base, she was quite familiar with accents. Still, the sound of his voice, with his rich Spanish intonation saying her name, caused goose bumps to prickle her skin.