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Jamboree

"You speak our language with very little accent. That's quite unusual—"

The sensuous voice slipped in through the chatter and smoke like a familiar caress. He turned to peruse the slow-moving crowd but got no hint as to who was enticing him so seductively in English. Gobbling his half-eaten shrimp, he bade farewell to his flirtatious vendor who puckered her lips and ordered him to come back later for some of her hot carimañolas.

A quick scan of the human hive swarming all the succulent trays spread before the row of amber-light stalls told him the odds of finding his mystery admirer were probably slim. One thing on his side was that the night revelers were now ambling in aimless packs. The other was his utter confidence that he would know that voice in any language, within an instant.

He sidestepped a loud-talking bunch drunkenly scratching their groins and clowning, then smiled as he glimpsed three wet-eared Lotharios huddled with their jester-capped heads bowed low, arguing how best to steal a kiss from an unsuspecting girl. After roaming the crowded stalls in vain, he decided to see if his enchantress was among the flock of painted ladies preening on stage in their long ruffled skirts showing off the same impressive needlework he'd seen on the old man's colorful shirt. To his dismay, as he neared the platform by the gazebo's brass band, he knew from one look that those faces were far too mellowed to belong to his seductress. Still, there were many more colorful ladies sashaying to the band's waltzing music. Any of them might be the match for his intriguing voice. What made him so sure he could spot the right one? Perhaps he was simply being a fool and she had been talking to someone else.

"¿El dar para arriba tan pronto?Don't you want to try and find me,Señor Antillano?"

It was the same droll voice! —coming from behind him! Turning expectantly, he was instantly surrounded by six bubblingseñoritas. Like the vigorous women onhorseback, their faces were hidden behind golden masks but their matching native dresses were less revealing.

"If you can pick her out, she'll dance with you!" A lighter voice piped up in Spanish and the rest of thecomparsaagain bubbled with laughter.

He laughed along, happy to join in the game. Looking the six of them over he immediately felt discouraged. There was little to choose from as the women seemed almost identical except for one who was slightly smaller and whose brown neck appeared a few shades darker. Trusting the stars to steer him right, he lightly clutched her delicate wrist.

"Will an enchantress favor a fool with a dance?" he entreated with a bow, inspired by the passionatecampesinos.

"Who could refuse a handsome man with such keen perception?"

His heart gave a leap—‌he had found his ironical voice! Feeling brash, he swept her up into his arms sending her companions into squeals of delight. Despite his sudden nerve, he promptly bungled the steps, but his partner was superb on her feet and guided him patiently through an improvisedpaseowaltz. The gazebo band seemed to swoon to a halt, and when one of her cohorts abruptly loosed a high notea capella, his enchantress stamped her right heel on the ground and twirled from his grasp to dance on her own. Her shoulders sharp with disdain, she moved like a flame as the music returned with its tempo turned hot. Thecomparsatook up a clapping chant, adding pepper to the urgent beat until suddenly she spun back on her toes and with her masked gaze fixed on Roberson drew his eyes to her hips as the drumbeats receded and she slowed her saucytamboritointo a sinuousbullarengue.

He could barely master his excitement. Mesmerized by each silky insinuation as her embroidered skirt shimmied against her twisting thighs, he barely noticed when the drunks he had earlier passed by pushed in to add their crass commentary until an older woman clucked her loud disapproval that leaked more than a latent drop of envy. His enchantress paused mid-step, then turning with her pelvis thrust, taunted her critic with tantalizing subtlety, the coil of hips as violent as a fluttered leaf before dancing on light as a breath, her arms outstretched to beckon him back.

Her movements were so intuitive that, while each step required premeditation, he was able to follow her lead and savor the dance. Though her grip was strong, she was quite petite, so to relieve their disparity in height she danced entirely on the tips of her toes, her tiny feet in blue-velvet slippers scarcely skimming the ground. He concentrated fiercely, alert for each cue and exciting nuance, all the while drinking in her bare neck and shoulders that brought back the taste of his Aunt May's cream and cinnamon coffee, until he saw that she was watching him intently from behind her mask. Caught flat-footed, he promptly raised his eyes to feed on her upswept, black-curled hair glittering with tiny multicolored beads.

Without warning, the earth seemed to stop and it took a moment for him to realize the dance had ended. He felt dazed and strangely  lightheaded and there were moist spots warm in every crevice of his body. Gulping the carnivorous night air, he was beginning to understand why his aunt forbade the mere utterance of the word 'erotic' in her God-fearing home. When his head seemed to clear, he recalled letting go of her han

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