Where the ground leveled, trees and grass gave way to gravel and pavement. A dense motorcade of carefully driven vehicles navigated the parade of citizens leaving the park. Both drivers and pedestrians were finalizing plans and settling on destinations for the night.

As D’stherae neared the bottom of City Hill, she noticed one of her neighbors from the boarding house whose room was on the same floor as her own.

Gordon stood a few feet from the entrance to the park, leaning against the driver’s door of his shiny black truck. Were he any place beside Maszrana he could have easily been taken for a security guard, or officer of some sort. D’stherae had often found his presence commanding, even watchful. It seemed unusual in a city as carefree and casual theirs. But Gordon was actually such a gregarious individual, as inviting and sociable as any other citizen – if not more – that she easily dismissed the observation.

A crew of four or five handsome and strapping young men surrounded him at the truck. The tall, angular lot joked boisterously among itself while Gordon made direct eye contact with attractive female passersby. He smiled confidently at each one; as if to silently affirm that the best time that night would be spent in his company, with his boys.

D’stherae was entertained by Gordon’s confidence in his direct methods of gathering women. There was no performance to it. He was a natural flirt who was proud of himself, and his ability to please lovers.

Gordon was not unattractive. His height fit his weight perfectly, though his posture and stance made him seem larger than D’stherae believed he actually was. He had a broad chest and defined forearms above rugged, hard worked hands. His voice was deep and bass-filled. One could feel, as well as hear, his words. And Gordon liked to talk.

His clean-shaved head and face made it difficult to guess his age. Though his expressions could be intimidating and serious, Gordon smiled often. Several of his front teeth were chipped, and this imperfection – in contrast to an otherwise perfectly manicured persona – lent charm to, and excused, his tendency to be overbearing.

The combination of Gordon’s person with his booming voice, subtle air of supremacy, nice clothing, shiny car, and warm smile – spared mostly for ladies – meant that he was rarely ever without a lover for the evening. For this reason, men were also eager to know him, join his posse, and share in his spoils.

D’stherae delighted in the dynamic.

Gordon smiled when he noticed her, raising an arm to wave D’stherae toward the group. She smiled and waved and approached him. It was easier to identify the most attractive of the young men as she got closer. Two in particular stood out, and both eyed her with approval.

“D’stherae!” Gordon announced her with a tight embrace.

Since they were neighbors and had socialized on several occasions before his reception was not at all surprising. Gordon was a man liberal in his expressions of affection, often throwing his arm around the person nearest to him, and moving in closely as he spoke to them.

D’stherae had shared many interesting conversations with Gordon and she always found him full of sound advice, compassion, and unique ideas. She hoped now that he could be counted on for favorable introductions to the two men with perfect jaw lines. D’stherae was in luck, for intuition was among Gordon’s many traits.

“Beckford, Trim,” he called.

The men turned their bodies toward his.

“Meet my darling, spritely neighbor. She’s truly one of the happiest, most sparkling girls you’ll meet in this city. And she keeps remarkable company.”

D’stherae was sure he was referring to himself.

The men extended their hands in greeting. She smiled, and returned her attention to Gordon. He winked, the smile never leaving his face.

“Where are you going tonight?” he asked.

“I have plans to meet Elayna and Cynthia at the Nightingale. After, we’re going North East for a house party.”

Gordon nodded as she spoke. He’d heard and understood what she said, but his observations were on the people passing behind her. Gordon was constantly luring.

“Do you need a ride?”

He glanced at D’stherae for a moment and waited for a response.

“No, thank you,” she answered. “I have to return to the boarding house and I won’t be ready for some time.”

“Very well,” Gordon acknowledged. “I may stop back at the house. If I run into you I’ll take you to the Nightingale. We were planning to go there. North East sounds interesting. Perhaps we’ll follow you.”

“We’ll see,” D’stherae replied.

Gordon and his men were succeeding in attracting women, in no small part to her presence, she was sure. D’stherae smiled and said her good-byes.

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