WICKED JUICE

She sat perched at the bar, gazing passively at the drops of perspiration sliding down her bottle of beer. The cool droplets took their graceful time caressing the sensual curves of the brown bottle, leaving a trail like a lover's tongue, and finally collecting in a moat on the counter.

Of this Payne soon grew weary and shifted her gray stare to the bar's entrance. Coyotes could be heard outside on this conspiratorial Arizona night. The sand spoke in whispers, talking of death and secrets.

Out of the corner of her eye a stale white coffee mug demanded Payne's observance. She attempted to divert her attention, but it called her back again and again. The brazen magenta stain lingering about its rim enticing her, luring her like a black widowed lover. The lights of the bar bathed its glossy surface in false beauty.

She leaned forward and pulled that holy grail to her, enraptured by its essence. What woman had befriended this vessel? Leaving naught but a lipstick smear behind to tell her history. Payne could almost see the reflection of the seductress on the mug's face. Oh, the things Payne could do to beauty like that...

A scurrying emanated from within the cup and she peered over the rim to discover a very large and very trapped cockroach. Payne pushed the mug away with a grunt of disgust.

A peal of laughter broke out from the far corner where the barkeep and his cronies were playing cards and gossiping about fast women. Payne smirked -- the leather-clad beast -- and fixed her eyes once more on the door.

"Never and forever."

Tonight darkness reigned and waited like a lurking beast. Not a breeze, not a rustle could be heard. The stars did not even appear to twinkle. It was a night for death -- indeed, the night WAS death -- and it beckoned to Payne, calling forth the Tiger who crouched, waiting with golden eyes to trap its prey.

So, when the dark-haired temptress entered, the leather-clad beast grinned and reached beside her for her beer.