Etienne touched Ryose’s shoulder and gave him a crooked grin when his eyes met hers.
“Finished? I need to practice for a few hours then we can go.” She paused for a moment then turned her head, looking at the spot where the goddess had last stood. The air tingled and sparked and Etienne darted a knowing glance up at Ryose before taking his hand. “I have to get to practice now… You can watch if you like.”
His heart seemed to speed up suddenly.
Finished? He’d taken two puffs. He looked down at the cigarette in his hand. It was a pillar of ash, burnt nearly to his knuckles, that fell almost painfully slow even as he watched. Ryose nodded and took one last drag before stubbing the cigarette out in the tray by the door. It did not escape his notice that Etienne had looked to where the Goddess had been standing.
“Did you…” He started as he followed her back inside, “No…” He muttered softly, thinking better of it. Asking if she knew about the steel eyed goddess sounded silly when he started to say it out loud.
Etienne patted his hand and led the way in. She picked up a couple of warm, gooey croissants of the over laden table, handed him one and wolfed hers down as she went into the gym proper. She led him to a bench on the far wall and left her yoga jacket and pants with him. Under her yoga outfit that she was wearing a close-fitting tee and a pair of tiny garnet colored shorts. Etienne kicked off her shoes and pulled off her socks, then wiggled her bare toes. Quickly, she rushed through a short series of warm up exercises then was off with the rest, tumbling and cartwheeling.
Etienne was a show off at heart but today every move was for Ryose. She and her team went through a flurry of flips and pratfalls, pyramids and leapfrogs. Etienne and the three girls worked in perfect harmony. The performance was spectacular and the way her eyes kept flicking to him, as if to make sure he was watching… as if Ryose could tear his eyes away.
She ended her practice by ribbon dancing and spinning her way from the ceiling to the floor. This, watching her use what looked like a gossamer ribbon to support herself until she reached the floor, was by far his favorite.
Finally, when she was finished she trotted over to him, Ryose stood as she approached and clapped lightly. She was sweaty and more than a little proud of her mini performance. “So, how did we do?” She asked as she toweled her face and guzzled a bottle of water.
“Excellent, ” He replied at her query. “You are very,” He spun his hand, looking for the right word. “Limber?” He settled on, smiling. “You and your teammates work very well together. Have you been a team long?”
She chuckled then bowed, her long braid snaking over her shoulder to pool on the floor beside her like an ebony python. “Thank you, thank you,” she said affecting an austere mien. “The girls and I have worked together for about… 5 years or so?” She patted his leg and grabbed her gear. “Be right back.”
Etienne showered and changed into the spare jeans and tee she kept at the gym. The other girls in the shower hall chattered inanely around her. They were used to Etienne ignoring them. Etienne had found that it was easier to stay apart from her troupe. She looked up though when Belle pretended to swoon over one of the new heavy lifters. Belle was forever in love and on some level Etienne envied her. What would her life have been like if she’d been able to swoon and be giddy over a pair of muscular shoulders and brooding eyes?
Etienne shook her wet hair out then left it unbound to dry. Love… she snorted and amended her thought to: ‘Belle was forever in lust…’ as she walked out of the shower hall to collect Ryose.
“So…” she said when she found him, pretty much exactly where she had left him. “A job… you any good at waiting tables?” she grinned at him cheekily.
Waiting tables. A waiter? Yes, he supposed he could do that. It seemed like easy, honest enough work. It might mean leaving Etienne alone for a long time though, each day. He had his honor to uphold but he must be sure no harm came to her as well. They started walking towards the exit, side by side. Etienne called her goodbyes while Ryose pondered.
“I have never done it before,” Ryose answered honestly, “But it should not be hard to learn.” He smiled at her. “Where should I apply?”
“Whoa…” she said staring at his earnest expression. “Kidding! I was kidding. I would hate for you to blow away the first jackass that insulted your customer service.” She bumped him with her shoulder. “Get in the car, I will take you to a guy I know who…. well he’s…” she waited till they had both gotten into the car and the doors were securely locked. “He’s like an agent for assassins. ” she said with a nod, thinking that summed it up nicely.
Assassin. That was what he was. That he could do, easily and well. He licked his lips, as much in anticipation as in nervousness. This would allow him to pay Etienne back very quickly for what she had done for him. In one hit perhaps. Maybe get a place of his own soon. He nodded once, sharply.
“I would have no issues with that line of work.” He said watching her intently, “Are you sure you wish to be associated with a killer?” She herself didn’t kill, did she care if he did?
Etienne let out a whoop of laughter. “Oh, Ryose,” she said and started the car. “You make me laugh.”