Chapter 20

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 With an electronic beep Cal locks his car and we head down a cobbled alleyway

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With an electronic beep Cal locks his car and we head down a cobbled alleyway.

The evening air is scented with petunias and lavender as we slip past the florist towards the Love Shack. I dare a glance at Cal as we make our way towards it. He is making no effort to hide his distaste at the flashing pink letters which hang above the door.

The sound of pop music from the 90s drifts out towards us as we approach.

Eric, doorman and friend of my fathers, stands before us.

"Alright Lila," he says, giving me a quick bear hug. "How's your dad doing? Any better?"

 "Yeah he's doing OK," I reply. 

I push myself away and stick my hand out for him to brand me with the under 21 stamp.  

He glances suspiciously at Cal.

"This is Cal," I say in response. "He just moved here from LA."

Eric shrugs then stamps the matchmaking agent - who instantaneously looks horrified at the palm tree image stained onto his pale skin.

"Third new guy I've admitted today," says Eric. "Well, in you go. Send regards to your father for me."

I nod and we walk along a narrow corridor towards the main club area.

"Third guy?" I say quietly to Cal "I guess Cupid was the first, but who was the other?"

My companion shrugs, too preoccupied with rubbing at the stamp to pay attention.

"I am over 21 you know," he grumbles.

I open another door and we enter the noisy main room of the Love Shack.

It is as familiar and homely to me as always, but I feel a brief clench of tension at the thought of what Cal will think of it.

The entire, crowded room is washed in an unnatural pink light. There are a number of high tables sitting below falling apart sunbed umbrellas;  their straw littered all over the sticky  floor. A few neon signs reading beach party are hung about the room and all the staff wear rings of brightly colored flowers around their necks.

"It's meant to be a Luau beach party theme," I say to Cal in attempt to explain the tired decoration.

He surveys the room full of people coldly.

"It's even tackier than I remember," he says as Backstreet boys blare in the background.

Across the room I spot Charlie who waves us over. I nod and begin to weave through the crowds of people.

"You've been here before?" I ask Cal.

"Not by choice," he responds as we approach my friends.

Charlie is sat with James at one of the high tables - nursing a lavish pink drink with a paper umbrella poking out from it. Her face lights up as she realises Cal is with me and James leans over to shake his hand.

"You guys want drinks?" asks Charlie as we take the two vacant stools "This one is delicious. It's called Evening Sunrise. You should get one. Alcohol free of course but I heard Cupid and the cheerleaders have sneaked a hip flask in."

She takes a sip as a dark look passes over Cal's face.

"Where have you two been?" asks James looking uncharacteristically serious.

He's not jealous is he?

"Lila was just helping me out with some registration tasks," says Cal.

He stares at my boyfriend in an equally hostile manner.

James shrugs but his expression is  still frosty.

"Me and James were just discussing Cupid's party tomorrow," says Charlie - interrupting the tension. "I think it'll be fun. And it's a Friday so there's no reason not to go really. What do you think Lila?"

Cal shoots me a warning look but I shrug - Cupid's address still folded into the pocket of my jeans.

"Yeah maybe," I reply.

Cal is just about to say something when I see him tense up. I look behind me and see why immediately.

Jason, one of the footballers, is holding  a scrawny looking kid from the year below up against the wall.

"Is that Jack?" Charlie says to me over the music.

Jack? His name has cropped up before today.

"You stay away from Laura," I hear Jason shout as he hits the younger student against the wall hard.

Suddenly it comes back to me.

The two girls I passed in the corridor were talking about him; when I was on my way to meet Cal. They said he was stalking Laura.

Jason raises his fist to punch Jack in the face when suddenly Cupid appears out of nowhere.

He is no longer wearing his leather jacket, and his arm muscles bulge through his grey t-shirt.

He rapidly intercepts the blow - grabbing the well-built jock's fist in his hand, and pushes Jason backwards. The two square up to one another for a moment before Jason is dragged away by two guys from the football team.

Cupid turns back to Jack who is looking stricken; flattened against the wall.

I'm about to spin back towards the group I'm sitting with when a gasp catches in my throat.

Cupid makes a swift movement towards the younger male.

When he pulls his arm away he is holding something sickeningly familiar.

A gold arrow - tipped with dark red.

As I watch it crumbles into ash and floats softly down to the dance floor.

Cupid looks right at me and smiles.

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