Treacle by Alan Delaney

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SUMMARY: They thought they had it all worked out, they thought they had a good operation going, they thought they didn't need any more help. Then she arrived.

It wasn't the wildest of hang-outs - the city had enough discos, mos pits and all-night pubs to keep even the most hardcore of revellers happy - but it was a popular place nonetheless for those looking for a quieter night out. In particular it had become a favoured hunting ground of young, upcoming execs on the prowl for the right combination of looks, money and ambition and it was early enough in the evening that many of the men elbowing their way towards the counter were still wearing their office ties.

At one corner, far from the noise and the bustle of the bar, five young men were sitting around large, cluttered table, lost in their own private discussions. They had chosen, as was their usual custom, a quiet, out-of-the-way corner of the club where the dim light and the shadows gave them a curious sort of solitude in an otherwise bustling, noisy venue. They all wore the kind of cheap, functional clothing that would have fitted in equally well in a goth club, in a punk bar or at a gamer's convention, but here their reticence was a little out of place with the prowling and parading that much of the clubs patrons were engaged in. Indeed, had anyone cared to notice, their weighty-looking conversation seemed to be completely at odds with the idle banter and cheesy chat-up lines that most of the club was enjoying. They looked more like execs at a business lunch than party-goers on a night out. However, their choice of location and the relaxed, informal atmosphere of the club meant that their presence went largely unnoticed, which, in truth, was exactly what they wanted to achieve.

Abruptly, unexpectedly, and much their obvious surprise, that all changed when a pretty, trim and modestly-dressed brunette detached herself from the mob at the bar and walked directly up to their table, flashing a mischievous grin at one of the men. Their conversation died instantly as all five faces turned to examine the new arrival.

"This must be the vampire's table," she said, smiling brightly.

"You said you wouldn't come here," said the the tallest of the men. It was almost a growl. He glared darkly at her, obviously not welcoming her sudden arrival.

"I know. I lied." Her smile, like her voice, was pure saccharine.

There followed a brief and awkward silence. The men at the table, other the one that was glaring at their visitor, looked back and forth at each other quizzically, expectantly, not knowing what to make of the situation and each waiting for the other to make a move. It was soon broken by the girl herself.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked as she pulled up an empty chair from a nearby table. Two of the men obligingly shuffled their chairs aside to let her sit between them - obviously it had been a rhetorical question.

"No problem here," said another of the men at the table. He was awar that they were acting like rabbits caught in headlights and had resolved to take control.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything?" she inquired demurely. The smile that accompanied her question was so bright, so charming, that he found himself wondering if he was blushing.

"Not at all, happy to have you" he replied.

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