Balder meandered along the back edge of the bar, stopping to pick up a bottle and hold it to the light. Bright red and cherry flashes danced across his face.
Charlii’s eyes glittered. “Oh, what’s that? It looks lovely.”
Balder shook his head, smiling at her. “Not for you, my dear. A sweet drink to give you bounce, but do not seek stimulants of this kind. Ecstasy flows through the young with sweetness and mirth. They dance their own dance.”
Charlii’s eyes widened. “Well,” she began.
Balder poured the reddish liquid into a glass cut with geometric symmetry. “And your youth, seeks honesty and history, promise and poise.”
Charlii sighed and followed Balder’s gaze to the back table where Jim stood, hands in pockets and bouncing on his toes, talking to John and Sam.
“No, really,” he said, his face flushing in the candlelight. “I liked, John. It’s just made me sleepy. Can’t handle the hard stuff. Besides, my buddy messaged me about a rave later. Need to keep my head clear.”
“Rave,” interrupted Sam. “What are we doing here? Let’s go.” He stood, pulling his wallet out of his pocket.
“Oh,” stuttered Jim. “Well, it’s just.” His face turned to Corey still sipping her Cognac. She smiled at him, and while his cheeks turned pink, he finished. “It’s just Corey and I are going together. It won’t get going for another couple of hours, and she wants to finish her drink.”
“Doesn’t start for another couple of hours?” asked John. “Rather late for a party, isn’t it? We have a meeting in the morning, don’t forget.”
“Not a problem, John.”
“Not for our Jim,” interrupted Sam. “He’s always on time.”
“No problem for either of us,” Jim said, his voice dropping an octave and his volume increasing. “John, we both love the firm. You can always count on us.” He drank from the crystal glass of red liquor in his hand.
“Of course, we can, Jim,” said Margaret, leaning forward on the bench. John and Sam startled to see her, but Jim lifted the glass to his lips again and smiled. He turned his head to Balder and smiled, toasting him.
Margaret, smiling and sipping, continued. “You’re all here tonight, because of your excellent skills.” She raised her glass to them, then leaned back into the shadows.
John raised his eyebrows at her then turned his attention back to Jim. “I’ll see you both in the morning, then. I need another brandy.”
Jim sat on the chair next to Corey, their heads bend close but not touching.
Sam leaned back in his chair. His eyes narrowed. His lips frowned and drank the last of his brandy in one gulp. He opened his mouth to speak, but John’s hand reached out and touched his forearm. “You’ll get used it, Sam. Let the young be young.”
Sam stood. “I’ll get us another round.”