Sweat poured from Jaylah’s head as she and Jourdan shook and shimmied on the dance floor. Faceless partners came and went, all trying to strike up a conversation with Jaylah while she pretended not to hear them above the music. Her mind was firmly set on Champagne Johnny, but an hour into her romp on the crowded dance floor he was still nowhere to be found.
For a moment, Jaylah thought about calling him. After all, he’d scribbled his number into “The Book” she lugged around to write down addresses, bus directions, and a string of men’s numbers. But that seemed silly, and a little desperate. Besides, he said he would come.
If it was meant to be, if she was meant to see him again before she left London, he would come.
A voice behind Jaylah broke her train of thought. “Excuse me, love.”
She turned around expecting to see Champagne Johnny’s beautiful blueblack face. Instead a halfway handsome tawny dread was standing behind her.
“Holding court I see.”
“What?” Jaylah tried to mask her disappointment.
“All that dancing. You must be on fire. Can I get you a drink?”
“Sure. I’ll take a Stella.”
Letting strangers buy her drinks wasn’t usually how Jaylah rolled, but it was her last night in the city and she was determined to have a good time.
Jaylah scanned the room for Jourdan who was wrapped in a seductive slow wine on the far side of the dance floor. While the dread was at the bar, her eyes swept the room–just in case.
No Champagne Johnny.
“Here you go, love,” the dread handed her the ice cold bottle. Jaylah put it to her head to cool off. “I’m Ivan. And you?”
“Jaylah,” she said before taking a long swig of her beer.
“Jaaaylaaaaah,” he nearly sang, “You’re American, innit?”
“That obvious?” she grinned.
Back home she would have never called herself simply American, full stop. Always black, African-American, hell, even negro. But the more she traveled, the more she realized that once she opened her mouth, her Americanness trumped all else and nobody seemed to be as quite hung up on race as folks were back home.
“You live here or just visiting?” he asked, giving Jaylah his undivided attention.
“Visiting. Actually, I’m heading back home tomorrow.”
Ivan sucked his teeth hard, “What a shame. I coulda showed you around.”
“Maybe next time,” she smiled.
“Yeah. Right now, though, let’s dance.”
Before Jaylah could object, he grabbed her and gently pulled her toward the dance floor.
Ivan knew how to move. He rested a hand on Jaylah’s hip and swayed smoothly. Jah Cure’s “Searching For A Girl” came pouring through the sound-system, and the crowd slapped the walls of the club.
“Pull uuuuuuuup,” they yelled, demanding the DJ start the tune again. He obliged, firing an air horn that tore through the basement like a rocket.
None of it seemed to phase Ivan, though. He wrapped his arms around Jaylah’s waist and started singing.
“Girl I got a message for you….deep in my heart it’s so true. Don’t play with my love…” he crooned in her ear.
Jaylah closed her eyes and lost herself in Ivan’s raspy baritone.
“I’m not your toy boy….I came to bring you joy…”
Ivan nuzzled his face in the crook of Jaylah’s neck and hummed.
Although she would never dance this close with a man she just met back home, something about Ivan made Jaylah feel at ease. He was easy-going and confident, but not pushy. And although he wasn’t the most handsome man she’d ever laid eyes on, his smile was so earnest it pierced her.
Jaylah leaned further into him and rested her head on his chest and decided to put Champagne Johnny out of her mind.
She slid her hand up Ivan’s sturdy chest and ran her fingers through his long locks. He brushed his lips across her shoulder. Not quite a kiss, but definitely an invitation. There was more if she wanted it.
Jaylah suddenly felt light headed. She couldn’t be tipsy, not from a few beers. This was something different. Happiness? Fun? Comfort?
“Relax girl. Stop thinking, just dance,” she whispered to herself.
She looked up at Ivan and rested her hand over his heart. He smiled and kissed her forehead. She blushed and kissed his cheek. They continued to dance for what seemed like hours until he grabbed her hand, put it to his lips, and led her to the back of the club. Jaylah leaned against the wall, and Ivan pressed his body so close, she couldn’t tell whether she was still standing or he was holding her up.
Still, he waited. He wanted to kiss her, to taste the inside of her mouth, but he also wanted her to give him permission. Jaylah knew this. She watched his eyes fill with longing. She noticed his body tense and begin to expand with every second she withheld her touch. They stood, looking but not quite touching, waiting for someone to make a move.
His restraint amused her. She thought it sexy. While he waited for her permission, most men she knew would just move in for a sloppy, awkward kiss. Ivan wanted her to make the first move. He wanted her to confirm he wasn’t the only one aching to be consumed.
Ivan wanted her to unlock the craving he felt, but couldn’t quite explain. Sure Jaylah was pretty, but he’d been with a lot of pretty girls. But when he saw her on the dance floor moving like nothing else mattered in the world except her body and the beat, he knew he wanted to taste her…for as long as she’d let him.
Jaylah put her thumb to Ivan’s lips, parting them slightly. He pressed closer, almost unable to wait any longer.
As Jaylah moved in to kiss him she heard Jourdan call her name.
She looked around for her friend who feverishly pointed toward the bar. Jaylah strained to see what was so important that Jourdan felt the need to wreck her flow.
That’s when she saw him. And her heart caught in her throat.