Novalee checked her makeup in the mirror. Her friends were due to arrive at any minute, and she was running late. Her work had kept her late for inventory, and Nova knew her friends wouldn’t forgive her if she made them late for Ladies’ Night at their favorite club. It didn’t matter to them that her boss had gone missing two days before, Ladies’ Night reigned supreme.
Nova primped her hair, letting the flaming red locks fall on her shoulders. The soft blue eyeliner in the corners of her eyes helped to bring out the orange flecks in the pools of light brown. She straightened her midnight blue dress, making sure the knee-length skirt wasn’t likely to ride up while dancing.
She groaned when she heard her friends beating on her front door, “Nova! We came ova! Now let’s go find a Casanova!”
She went and grabbed her handbag before opening her front door, “That rhyme got old a long time ago.”
“Hot mami,” her friend Sarah grinned. “It’ll never get old!”
“Girl,” Amber, her other best friend laughed, popping her tongue. “We’ll make you a new rhyme when this one gets old. Maybe, Novalee! Let’s go see, if us three, can get some D!”
Nova rolled her eyes, “We’re thirty, not fifteen!”
Amber looped her arm through Nova’s, pulling her from the doorway as Sarah shut the door. “Chickadee, we don’t talk ages! As far as the guys know, we’re fucking ageless!”
Nova laughed and followed her friends. Amber and Sarah had been her best friends since childhood. Their parents joked all the time about the day they had met on the first day of Kindergarten. Amber’s long blonde hair was in a tight braid that she hated. Sarah’s short brown hair was spiked by her single father and Nova had her bright red hair pulled into a tight ponytail. The three girls sat at the same table as their parents got ready to leave and Sarah and Amber threw identical tantrums over their hairstyles. Nova sat staring at the two girls, a calculating look in her eyes. Finally, Nova stood, fingers slicking Sarah’s hair back before unbraiding Amber’s hair and pulling her hair tie to give Amber pigtails. The three had been thick as thieves ever since.
Nova still acted as the problem solver for her two friends, always doling out advice or helping them out of tight spots. Amber was the beauty guru. She could spend hours finding the perfect first date dress or the perfect job interview outfit. Sarah was their techie. She kept them up to date with the newest gadgets and could find anything out within a few minutes.
The three took Nova’s car to the bar, piling into the Honda Civic and blaring music on their way. Sarah was telling them about the newest Samsung Galaxy as they poured out of the car and walked into the club. They quickly fell into their usual routine. Amber ran to the bar to get the first round, Sarah searching out their usual table, and Nova patrolled the bar looking for any easy targets for the night.
Nova found two guys, both Sarah and Amber’s types before sitting down with the women and filling them in. “Two guys, both smoking hot. The guy at two o’clock has that hipster haircut you love to tug on, Amber. Sarah, the guy at five was talking to some other guy about his new computer part. He just put in a new graphics card, and he’s regaling him with the improved picture. Oh! And he’s got a BOD for a nerdy guy. Arms are thick and juicy.”
Both girls squealed and turned to look at the guys, the two smirking when the guys noticed them and batted their lashes before Amber giggled, “Oh, my guy is going to be a synch. Can’t wait to play with that hair.”
Sarah bit her lower lip and gave her guy a coy smile, “I think I’m in. Novalee, what about you?”
“Night’s still young, and you guys know how picky I am.” Nova shrugged, “I like my guys tall, dark, and gorgeous. I’ll settle for two out of three, but none of these guys are hitting any spots for me.”
“You need to get off your ass and get out there,” Sarah scoffed. “I’ve only met maybe four vatos that would cover what you want. Hard to find a guy for you when you are so picky.”
Nova took a drink of her hard cider, “My guy will turn up one of these days, and you’ll shit yourself.”
Amber laughed, “At least you don’t have my problem! No guy likes dating a girl who’s only five three. I get called kid and shorty constantly. It’s a huge turn-off.”
“You’re gorgeous,” Novalee praised. “And if a guy calls you kid, run! That’s just skeevy.”
Sarah choked on her drink, coughing out, “O.M.G! Nova! I think your guy just walked in and my panties are now soaked.”
Nova looked through her lashes at the guy that walked in, jaw-dropping. “Oh yeah. That’s my type!”
The new guy was tall, really tall. His dark blue suit hugged his broad shoulders, and the red and gold tie hung loosely around his neck. She smiled and turned her face up to get a better look, wondering if his long brown hair was as soft as it looked.
Sarah nudged her with her shoulder, “Chica, you look like the cat that got the cream!”
Nova hummed, “I’d take his cream.”
“That is just wrong,” Amber groaned. “And dirty. And I feel soiled just hearing it.”
Nova smiled at her friends, “Okay, should I do a run by or sit and try to lure him over?”
“Fly by.” Sarah brushed her curly brown hair off her shoulder. “Vato looks tasty, but he’s a bit overdressed for a club.”
Nova nodded and stood, downing her cider before straightening her skirt. She winked at her friends and started her extended circle around the club, dancing across the floor before slowly walking to the bar, empty bottle in hand. She leaned her chest across the bartop, giving the bartender a quick wave as he talked to Tall, Dark, and Yummy.
Devon waved back and excused himself, chuckling, “Hey Nova. You want a drink or info?”
“Both, please,” she urged.
He reached behind the bar, grabbing rum, a lime, and the other ingredients needed for a Dark ‘N Stormy, Nova’s favorite drink. “He’s FBI Agent Jones. He’s investigating those disappearances over the last week.”
He worked slowly, mixing her drink while filling her in on the agent before she whispered, “Think I have a chance?”
He looked out the corner of his eye at the guy, and Nova leaned back, giving a small giggle. “Oh, I think you do. He’s been sneaking peeks at you since you leaned over this bar.”
She grinned and took her drink, watching the ginger beer, lime juice, and rum swirl. “Thanks, Devon. If he asks, put in a good word.”
He winked and took her money before walking back to the agent. Nova took a sip of her drink before smiling at Devon and Agent Jones. She gave a small finger wave, smothering a giggle when the agent gave her a shy smile and turned to Devon. Nova walked back to her friends, grinning at them and giving them a small thumbs up. Her friends clapped and bounced in their seats.
Nova spent the night trying to flirt with the agent while drinking coyly. Small smiles and quick glances were exchanged before he finally got up and started walking over. Nova’s stomach felt like it was going to burst with butterflies, making her more excited to talk to him. Amber had already left with her guy, and Sarah was making out with her's in a booth in the corner. She finished her second cider, setting the bottle next to her old mixed drink cups. She was starting to feel the effects of the alcohol and worried she would make a fool of herself.
She was used to selling things. She worked at a local clothing store and shoppers regularly needed to be talked into things they thought were not needed. Nova was the top seller for her shop, being promoted to temporary manager shortly before her boss disappeared. Sitting in a bar reminded her of her job. She had to sell herself to the guys that she wanted to go home with and this guy looked like a tough sell.
She drank in the sight of the man as he walked over. His suit looked good on him, the color only a shade deeper than her midnight blue dress. His hair was parted down the middle, the ends almost brushing his shoulders. His suit jacket was buttoned, and his tie had been tightened. Nova looked down at the table, sucking on her bottom lip as she wondered if she could make this sale.
She studied her empty bottle, suddenly feeling shy as he came over and stood next to her, “Are you Ms. Novalee Prince?”
“Um, yeah,” she hesitated, taken by surprised by his formal tone as she looked up at him. “How did you find out my name?”
He gave her a quick smile, “I have a few questions for you and Devon, the bartender, pointed you out to me.”
She turned and glared at Devon, who burst into laughter before she turned back to the agent. “May I ask who you are?”
The agent nodded and flashed his badge, “Agent Jones, FBI. I’m here working a case. We’ve been informed that several older men have gone missing over the past two weeks. I understand one of them was your boss, Mr. Arthur Russell? Can you tell me anything about his disappearance, Ms. Prince?”
“Novalee is fine, and Art was the owner of the clothing store I manage,” She sighed and started picking at the label on her cider bottle. “He came to work Monday, helped me close the shop, and then never came back to help me do the inventory like he promised.”
Agent Jones pointed to the chair next to her, and she pushed it out with her foot before he sat. “Did anything strange happen that Monday night? Was he acting strange, Novalee?”
“He got a call from his wife,” Nova shrugged. “He sounded panicked, which is strange because he was always very level-headed. We locked up shortly afterward, and he left for home like usual.”
The agent leaned onto the table as he inquired, “Do you know how to get ahold of Mrs. Russell? The number we have has been unavailable.”
Nova pulled her phone out of her handbag and rattled off the phone number before sighing, “So, Agent Jones, you were just looking to question me?”
He gave her a shy smile and blushed, “Devon told me your name after I asked about the pretty redhead at the end of the bar.”
“Really?” He nodded, and she plucked up her courage, “Um, Agent Jones, do FBI agents get time off?”
He flashed her a gorgeous grin, “Yeah, we do. Usually after the case is finished.”
She reached into her bag and grabbed a piece of paper. She wrote her name and number on it before picking it up. Twirling it between her fingers, Nova noticed his surprised look.
Nova winked at him and held it out, “Call me when you have some time off, Agent Jones. I’d love to hear from you.”
“Okay. Um, thanks, Novalee.” Agent Jones stammered as he took the paper and looked at it for a second before slipping it into his suit jacket.
She jumped as Sarah’s fell onto the back of her chair, arms wrapping around her shoulders, “Oh! Ese looks yummy, but I’ve got this vato over here I’m going to take back to my place.” Sarah leaned her lips close to Nova’s ear, trying to whisper in Spanish but yelling instead as she slipped a condom into Nova’s hand. “Nova. Loba, take this principe home and have some dirty, yummy fun. If you don’t make him speechless or blind, keep going. I’m going to take your car.”
Nova groaned, sneaking the condom into her handbag and Agent Jones looked away, suddenly blushing. Sarah took her keys and shimmied away before Nova could stop her. Shaking her head, she mentally tried to figure out if she had enough for cab fare.
Nova grabbed her phone and used it to check her bank account. “Crap! Guess a taxi is out.”
“Did she leave you without a ride, Ms. Prince,” the agent inquired.
Novalee nodded, “Novalee, please and, um, how much Spanish do you know, Agent Jones?”
His face reddened further, “Enough to pass freshman Spanish in high school.”
“Please don’t take what she said to heart,” She groaned. “We all had a lot to drink tonight, and she’s perpetually horny.” Nova covered her mouth and sighed before hiccuping. “What I mean is… Ugh. There is no good way to fix that sentence.”
Agent Jones laughed as his phone went off. “Don’t worry about it. My partner gets that way when he drinks or breaths.” He checked his phone before sliding it back into his pocket. “Why don’t I give you a lift home, Novalee? My partner just messaged, and I’ve got some free time.”
She flashed him a brilliant smile before frowning, “Are you sure? I don’t want to be a bother, and I live about fifteen minutes away.”
“No bother. Can’t leave a beautiful woman stranded in a bar.”
“Well, I’d appreciate that, Agent Jones. And I promise not to try to jump your bones. Handcuffs can be fun, but not when you’re being hauled into the police station for assaulting a federal agent.” She blinked after realizing what her drunk mouth had just said and groaned, “Oh man, I need coffee or to sleep this off. I had WAY too much.”
“Come on.” He gave a quick laugh and stood, his hand under her elbow helping her get off of the stool. “I’ll make sure you get home safe.”