The petite blonde watches her target from behind an enormous pair of sunglasses. Her head on a swivel, she dashes across the street and nonchalantly admires a bouquet of flowers at the market stand.
So far, so good. Lucifer’s detective has no idea.
She watches Chloe look down at her phone, then up at the hotel in front of her before stepping inside.
Bait, taken, she smiles to herself. Dark eyes sparkle as she adjusts her denim jacket and follows.
The blonde enters through the same door then turns right to head for the bar. She removes her sunglasses and proceeds confidently, ponytail bouncing to mirror the happy smile on her face.
Chloe turns on her stool at the bar, her blue eyes wide, “Candy...?” She looks around and her eyebrows come down, “I thought I was meeting Lucifer. What are you...?”
Candy Morningstar smiles at her ex-husband’s partner, hopefully, soon-to-be-more-than-that. “Hi Chloe!” she greets the other woman warmly.
Gone is the high-pitched, high-school cheerleader voice. Rich brown eyes gleam with intelligence and the set of her shoulders is relaxed and confident. She looks taller, even though she’s wearing more reasonable heels.
The detective cocks her head, “What are you doing here?”
Candy sits on a neighboring stool, “I sent the message using a ghost image of Lucifer’s phone.”
Chloe’s eyebrows shoot up, “You’re a hacker? I thought you...um...”
Warm laughter is the response, “Gosh, no. Private investigator, actually, but I have some skills that are more useful than others.”
Chloe coughs a laugh, “Like walking in mile-high shoes?”
Candy laughs. “THAT took me longer to learn than breaking into his phone.” She rolls her eyes with an affectionate grin, “Not like his passcode isn’t the easiest thing to figure out. I mean...come on. Sexsexsex?”
The detective snickers while she accepts her drink from the bartender and Candy orders one for herself, “Scotch. Neat, please.”
Another assessing look from Chloe, “You don’t look like a scotch girl.”
Another laugh, “Right?” She gestures at her general person, “I’ve got that whole Legally Blonde thing going. Sans accent, of course.”
Chloe watches as Candy accepts her drink and takes a sip, “So, why did you ask me to meet you? I thought you and Lucifer...”
An emphatic nod, “Oh, we are. Total splitsville. He let me keep the ring and his name, but we’re done.”
“Why do you need his name?” the detective asks.
Candy shrugs, “It was part of the favor. He helped me with a sensitive matter - saved my life, really - and I helped him in return. The ring was just...a gratuity, I guess.”
Chloe takes a sip of her drink, “Can I ask....how you two...”
The curvy blonde nods again, “Oh yeah. That’s part of why I asked you here. I’m in town a couple of days and felt like you deserve an explanation.” She takes a sip, “I’m seeing him tomorrow and didn’t want you to think...” she trails off at the look on Chloe’s face.
“Don’t want me to think what?” comes the question, then she shakes her head. “Nevermind. Tell me how you met.”
Candy gestures to the bartender to bring another round then smiles, “First, let me properly introduce myself. Candace Peters Morningstar. And please...call me Dace.” The bartender brings their drinks and the attorney begins her story:
It started when Dace Peters broke into the penthouse suite of the Mandarin Oriental casino. She’d been working with the City Prosecutor’s Office in Las Vegas to bring in a local mafioso when she got wind that her quarry had turned the tables and were now following her.
She led a merry chase through the Bellagio casino, through the hotel, along South Las Vegas Boulevard, and finally through the Mandarin Oriental casino. Sticky fingers lifted an access key from a cleaning cart and she made her way up the stairs until there was nowhere else to go. Finally, breathless, she quietly let herself into the topmost suite.
The space was dark and, for a long, grateful moment, she thought unoccupied until she heard a distinctive British purr, “Well, well, well. I don’t recall ringing for room service.” A tall, dark figure moved through the shadows but she couldn’t see him clearly, “Come to turn down my sheets, darling?”
Before she could answer, she heard her pursuers knocking on doors and attempting entry into rooms along the hall. Her gaze flew to the dark figure, silently begging him to not answer.
“Ah,” he said with a short nod then tossed a fluffy robe onto the chair next to her. “Strip,” he commanded as he reached for his buttons and quickly slid out of his shirt.
“Excuse me?” she whispered as he reached for his belt. “Look, buddy...”
“Help me help you, my dear,” he answered as he slid out of his trousers. “Remove your clothing and put that on. Quickly, now,” he stepped closer and pointed at the robe.
She nodded mutely, Sounds sort of prissy. I can probably take this guy out if I have to, she reasoned as she pulled her shirt over her head. Her jeans hit the floor, leaving her in her bra and panties, and she felt large, warm hands gently tousling her hair.
He leaned forward and whispered against her lips, “Apologies, dear, but needs must...,” he captured her lips in a bruising kiss and gently scraped a stubbled cheek against her. As he drew back, to examine her face then helped close her robe. He nodded in satisfaction just as someone tried the door.
He mussed his own hair and nodded her in the direction of the main suite. She kicked their clothes out of the way and shuffled along, tightly gripping the robe.
The door to the suite flew open and she saw the slender silhouette of her boxer-clad rescuer framed by the light in the hall. “What the bloody Hell do you think you’re doing?” an angry British voice roared into the hallway.
Dace couldn’t help but shiver in fear as the vibration of his voice washed over her. Oh shit, who is this guy?
“You miscreants are interrupting a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I should have you pitched from the rooftop...” he snarled as he took a half-step forward, “Maybe I’ll do it myself.”
Dace cleared her throat and stepped toward the door, “Honey...is it the champagne we ordered?”
He growled down at the cowering thugs before him before looking back to reply, “Afraid not, love.” The men in the hall peered into the room and frowned when they saw her. Dark eyebrows came down as the British man turned back and leaned forward menacingly, “I suggest you find somewhere else to be right about now.”
Dace’s pursuers nodded vigorously and couldn’t seem to vacate the hallway fast enough.
He closed the door and leaned against it, making sure they’d gone before he reached over to turn on the light. He didn’t need it, but his guest may feel more comfortable as he strolled into the suite, chuckling.
He looked down at the tiny blonde being swallowed alive by the fluffy bathrobe and gave a gentle smile as he nodded politely, “Lucifer Morningstar, at your service. Fancy a drink?”
Chloe laughs and shakes her head, “I can totally see him doing something like that.” She flashes a look, “I imagine you were...grateful that he helped.”
Dace laughs and nods, “I was. Absolutely. I offered cash, but he didn’t want it.”
The detective snickers, “He wouldn’t, but I’m sure he thought of something.”
Another nod, “He did! Turns out he needed a favor, so we came to an....arrangement.”
Sharp eyebrows go up, “He needed to get married?”
Dace shrugs, “Sort of. It worked out that it was the best way to do what he wanted.” She leans forward, “We never even consummated it,” she says in a conspirator's’ whisper. “I certainly offered because...LOOK at him...but he refused. Said something about not wanting to take advantage of the situation.” She winks at the detective, “I don’t think that’s the reason, though.”
“Huh,” Chloe grunts and sips her drink while the other blonde continues.
“He needed me to get close to his mother. Seems she was working on something he didn’t want her to do, so he needed me to cozy up and get information.” She laughs, “I spent the day shopping with her. Damn, was my head killing me by the end of the day from having to act so stupid. I knew how to sell the act but I had no idea how hard it would be.” She pauses and looks down, “And my poor feet.”
“So....it had nothing to do with...”
“You?” Dace smiles and shrugs, “Maybe a little. He’s crazy about you and scared half to death at the same time.” She pats Chloe’s arm, “But mostly crazy.”
Oblivious to Chloe’s internal question, Dace continues, “Apparently I got the information he needed from his mother, though. After a few days, he thanked me and turned me loose.”
“As Candace Morningstar?” Chloe asks.
Dace nods, “I’m helping to take down The Mob, Detective.” She smiles, “Lucifer and I might have divorced, but him letting me keep the name means I’m still under his protection in their eyes. If they touch me, there’ll be Hell to pay and they know it.” She snickers, “Literally.”
Chloe looks at her watch and remembers it’s Tribe Night. She glances over at the other blonde and smiles as she pays the tab, “Hey, what are you doing tonight?”
Dace shrugs, “Honestly, I was going to hang out in my hotel room and read some files. Why? You have a better offer?”
The detective retrieves her credit card from the bartender and gently takes Dace’s arm, “Come to Tribe Night,” she says with a smile. “A group of us get together every once in awhile for drinks.”
Dace smiles, “You think they’ll be okay with me coming?”
Chloe snorts, “I think you’ll fit in just fine.”
Ella hops into the back seat of Chloe’s car and blinks when she sees the passenger.
Chloe laughs, “Ella, Dace. Dace, Ella.”
Ella blinks again, “Wait. Candy? I thought...”
Dace laughs, “I know. It was a ruse. Lucifer needed information out of someone and asked for my help.”
The forensic tech nods, “Ooooh, got it! So you weren’t really....hey, are you a method actor, too?”
More laughter from the front seat, “Oh, we were married. Had to because he refused to lie about it. Was sort of sweet, actually. He let me keep the name, even.” She pauses then turns to look back, “You don’t believe him?”
Ella waves her hand, “Dude, it would be pretty cool if he was ‘The Devil’ (she uses air quotes) and all, but...seriously? I think Old Scratch would have better things to do than show up in LA and chase down murderers.” She pauses and her gaze drifts off for a moment then she shrugs, “Although...that’d be a pretty dope thing for Satan to do if you think about it.”
Chloe nods, “I’m with Ella. He can be weird, but if all that Bible stuff were true, I think Satan would be a little more strange than Lucifer. I mean...don’t get between the man and his cool ranch puffs or teeny tiny donuts...but he’s just too dorky to be taken too seriously as Satan.” She blushes as she tries to focus on her driving, “And he’s...really nice sometimes. Even if he doesn’t mean to be.”
Dace nods, Noted. “So, where are we headed?”
Chloe grins, “Well, since we destroyed the last tiki bar we went to, we decided to hit this little place down by the beach. They have a rooftop bar with a nice view of the ocean and the pier.” She catches Ella’s eye in the rear-view mirror, “And a karaoke stage!”
The Latina in the back seat fist pumps, “Yes! What are we singing tonight? We already did the only Pat Benatar song I know.”
The detective shrugs with a laugh, “I don’t know. Let’s see what they have.”
Dace grins happily, “I love karaoke!”
The trio arrives at Bongo’s Beachfront Bar and Chloe parks next to Linda’s car. She smiles at the adorable, bright blue convertible as they walk by.
Maze and Linda have commandeered a corner booth and shots are already lined up next to a recently-opened bottle of tequila.
“Chloe!” the short, blonde therapist calls out and waves. She points at the table, “First round is ready to go!” She sees Dace emerge from behind Ella and Chloe and blinks, “Oh!”
Maze licks her lips as she gives the blonde PI a slow elevator look, “Helllloooo, Candy Morningstar.”
Dace smiles and steps forward, “It’s Candace, actually. And, please call me ‘Dace.’” She stretches forward to shake hands and smiles happily. “We didn’t spend much time together when we first met. Lucifer talked about you,” she points at Linda as well, “Both of you, really, quite a lot. I’m glad to actually get to know you. For real, this time, anyway.”
Linda cocks her head, “So you’re not...”
“Dumb as a box of hair? No, doctor. Quite the contrary.” She looks down at her curvy, petite figure and shrugs, “Not my fault people make assumptions based on appearance, is it?” She grins wolfishly, “Not that I’ll deny it comes in handy in my real line of work.”
The therapist looks more closely, “Which is...?”
Dace’s grin grows, “I’m a PI. I do a lot of the leg work for the City Prosecutor in Vegas. Go after the bad guys, get them hauled into court, then send them to jail for a long, long time.” She winks at Maze, “Lucifer tells me you’re a bounty hunter, so we’re in similar fields.”
Maze’s eyes narrow as she nods appreciatively, “Leg work. I see.”
Linda smiles knowingly, also nodding, “So, you have other things in common with Lucifer than we originally thought.”
Dace winks, “Oh yeah.” She looks around, “Hey, you girls know where the bathroom is?”
Maze stands up, “I gotta go, too. I’ll show you.”
The pair walk away while Chloe and Ella sit down and join Linda for their first shots of the evening.
Dace and Maze enter the restroom and the demon taps the PI on the shoulder, “You know,” she states abruptly.
The blonde nods as she turns around, two pairs of brown eyes meeting each other without flinching, “Yeah. I know.” She points back out toward the bar, “Chloe and Ella don’t believe it, though. What about Linda?”
Maze nods, “Yeah. She got a crash course. Fucked things up for a while.” She looks the blonde over, “How’d you find out?”
Dace shrugs, “Does it matter?”
The demon shakes her head, “I guess not, but why are you here?”
The private investigator shrugs again, “I’m seeing Lucifer tomorrow and didn’t want,” she grins, “his Tribe to get the wrong idea, especially Chloe. I conned her into meeting me then explained what happened. How Lucifer and I met.”
Her smile grows affectionate, “Thought it might help him out, too. He’s a really good guy, Maze. He deserves to be happy. At least for a little bit, you know?” She furrows her brow, “What happened with his mother?”
Maze huffs, “Short story is she’s gone. We can talk about it another time.” She steps back with a respectful nod, “Welcome to the Tribe,” then exits the restroom.
Chloe sees the demon approach and looks around for the other woman, “Tell me you didn’t...you know...DO anything to her.”
Maze pretends to look surprised at the accusation and rests a hand on her chest, “Would I do something like that, Decker?”
The three women at the table start laughing as Chloe pours another round of shots, “Just tell me I don’t have to start working right now,” she says she raises a glass, “I’ve got a date with Jose Cuervo.”
Dace walks up behind Maze and lays an arm across the dark woman’s shoulders, “We’re good.” She points at the table, “Don’t hog all those. I’ve got nowhere to be tonight and I was promised some karaoke.”
Maze slides into the booth next to Linda and Dace slides in next to the demon.
The waitress takes their food and drink orders then the conversation continues once she leaves.
An hour or so later, after the destruction of several dozen oysters, a pound or two of peel-and-eat shrimp, some salad, and the first bottle of tequila, The Tribe makes its way over to a pool table. Dace sets up the table then leans over to make the break.
A young man breaks away from a group of friends standing at the bar and swaggers up to the petite blonde. He eyes her as she bends for her shot and waits until she stands again, his eyes migrating from her ass to her chest, “Mmmmh. How are you doing tonight, honey?”
Dace considers him and arches an eyebrow but remains silent.
He takes it as an invitation to continue. “That outfit is fiiiiine on you, baby, but I think it would look better on my floor.”
The woman rolls her eyes and glances at her new friends, who all look ready to step in if she indicates she needs it.
Dace leans into his space and takes a small step forward, carefully placing the sharp end of her heel onto the toe of his shoe. As she impales his foot, she grabs his crotch and squeezes hard, “You’re blocking my shot, baby. Go away before I put these (she squeezes harder for emphasis) on the table as well.” She lifts her foot, releases the hold on his pants and he staggers backward, sputtering.
“Crazy bitch!” he squawks.
She laughs and shrugs as she turns away, “I’ve been called worse by better,” then returns her focus to the pool table.
Ella high-fives Chloe while Maze nods at Linda. The Tribe is impressed.
After a few rounds of pool, dessert and another couple of rounds of drinks, the ladies wander back to their table. Ella bounces on her toes, “Hey, guys! I know! How about a game of Truth or Dare?!”
The other ladies look at each other in confusion. Chloe shrugs, “Sure. I’ll go first. Truth.”
Maze fires a question without even blinking, “Do you wanna fuck Lucifer?”
The detective rolls her eyes, “Seriously? That’s your question?”
The demon nods, smirking. “Oh yeah. Dish, Decker.”
Linda giggles as she leans against her dark friend, “Inquiring minds want to know.”
Chloe shakes her head and shrugs, “Doesn’t everybody?”
Ella raises her hand, “I don’t!”
Four heads turn and regard her skeptically. “What?” she responds. “I’m Ace.”
“Ah,” Chloe and Linda reply before the therapist calls Chloe’s attention again. “You didn’t answer.”
Chloe huffs, “I’m not going to. Ask something else.”
Maze growls under her breath, “FINE, Granny Panties Decker. What’s the sexiest thing you can do with your tongue?”
The detective laughs and points her finger up, “Oh, that, I can definitely answer!” She reaches for the cherry in an empty glass on their table to remove the stem. She places the stem in her mouth then closes it. The four ladies watch as she wiggles her mouth somehow then opens it again to reveal she’s tied it into a knot.
The demon’s mouth opens a little bit then closes with a snap, “Okay, that’s hot, Decker.”
The blonde bows deeply, a blush creeping across her cheeks, “Thank you!” She lowers her voice to a conspirator’s whisper, “Don’t tell Lucifer, alright?”
Maze snickers, “Oh no. I’m keeping that aaaalllll to myself.”
Chloe smirks at her roommate, “Well?”
Maze shrugs, “What? Lucifer? Been there, done that. For literally thousands and thousands of years. You really should try it.”
Linda snickers and raises her glass, “I’ll drink to that!” She sips her margarita, grinning as she gives the salted rim a kittenish lick.
The detective shakes her head with a snort, “No. Truth or Dare?”
Linda rests her hand on Maze’s shoulder, “Do truth. Only because you’ll do anything we dare you to. Takes the fun out of it.” Maze opens her mouth to protest but her friends stop her, “You can do it.”
Maze crosses her arms and glares at her roommate, “FINE, Decker. Truth.”
Chloe grins, “Who is...your favorite Disney character?”
The demon blinks. Then she looks at Linda, then back to her roommate. Dace chuckles while Ella’s mouth drops open, “Dude! You watch Disney?”
Maze scowls, tightening her arms across her chest, “Not cool, Decker.”
The Detective shrugs, “Answer the question.”
“Fine! Stitch!” she grumbles. “My favorite character is Stitch.” She pouts as eyebrows around the table go up.
Linda smiles softly and rests a hand on her friend’s shoulder, “And why is that, Maze?” she asks.
The demon huffs and shrugs, “Well, he’s not from here, nobody understands him, and he...” she breaks off and looks at the therapist.
Linda nods encouragingly, “And?”
Another shrug, “Well...he...found a...he found people to be his tribe.”
Happy smiles all around and Linda gently squeezes the cafe-au-lait shoulder under her hand. “My turn!” she says cheerfully. “And I choose ‘dare’!” Without another word, she turns and kisses Maze on the mouth then pulls back, flushed, with a giant grin on her face.
Eyebrows go up and the table erupts in cheers as Maze reaches for her friend to pull her back for another, more thorough kiss. For a moment, it seems the couple forgets where they are.
“Oh, yeah!” Ella crows as she, Dace and Chloe clink glasses. Shots are downed around the table to toast the pair of women who can’t stop smiling at each other.
Dace stands and points toward the DJ booth then nods at Chloe as she sways, “I believe I was promised some karaoke.” She grabs Ella’s hand, “Come on. Help me choose.”
Chloe smiles at Linda and Maze and realizes how much they stay in physical contact with each other. Little touches. Looks. Tiny, knowing grins. How did I not notice this before? She wonders. “I’m so happy for you two,” she beams at her friends. Her large blue eyes sparkle at the happiness before her.
Linda blushes and opens her mouth to speak when they hear Ella from the stage, “Hey, ladies! Got bad hombre making moves on you and you wish he’d go away? This......is for you!”
Strains of “U + Ur Hand” from Pink come blasting from the speaker and Chloe starts bobbing her head before she stands up. She grabs Linda’s hand, who grabs Maze, and they head to the stage to join their friends.
It only takes the DJ playing it ten times in a row before The Tribe can belt it out without looking at the words. By that time, most of the single men in the bar were gone, some women and a couple of gay men were singing along and the bartender was signaling for last call.
Linda leans heavily against her friend-maybe-soon-to-be-more and gives her a drunken, lop-sided smile. “Take me home, please.”
Maze drops a soft kiss onto her forehead and smiles, “Let’s go.” She looks over at the detective, “See you later, Decker.” She points, “I’ve got her.”
Chloe laughs, “Just don’t let her make you breakfast, Linda. Her toast sucks.” She winks and gives her roommate an enormous grin, “Later, Maze.” She turns to the remaining ladies and is blind-sided by a hug from Ella.
“Dude, tonight was THE BEST,” the forensic tech gushes. “No fights. No smashing stuff. Tons of tequila. I’m going to feel this so hard tomorrow.” She sways on her feet and Chloe reaches out a steadying hand.
“You going to be okay to get home, Ella?” she asks the younger woman.
Ella waves her off, “Pfffft. Yeah. My cousin drives for Uber. I’ll just tell him to come get me.” She touches the screen of her phone a few times then looks up. “S’all good.” She leans over and rests her head on Dace’s shoulder. “You’re cool, Cand...um...Dace.”
The PI smiles as she pets Ella’s dark hair, “Thank you, Ella. You’re pretty cool, too. Let us know that you get home okay?”
The Latina smiles as she shuffles off, “Yep. No problem.”
Dace finishes sending a message on her phone then turns to the detective with a smile, “Thank you for inviting me, Chloe. It really means a lot and I had a great time.”
Chloe returns the smile, “Yeah, it was fun.” She looks down for a moment then back up again, “I was jealous as Hell, you know.”
Dace laughs, how appropriate. “Yeah. I know.” She pauses then leans forward, “He would never hurt you on purpose, you know. He can be dense sometimes but....give him a chance to make you happy.” She leans forward to peck Chloe on the cheek, “I need to get out of here, too. I called an Uber and took the liberty of getting a ride for you as well. Hope to see you tomorrow?”
Chloe nods as the other blonde walks away. After a moment, she grabs her purse then walks to the door. As she steps into the parking lot, a very familiar Corvette rumbles to a stop in front of her.