- October 21st, 2011
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“I do not suppose you can make yourself scarce for that evening? Let everyone know you are leaving for the night to head to the performance? I will have someone else in the box. We shall use bait to see exactly what fish will come and bite?” His expression was hooded as he turned back to the woman and slid to his feet. Along he moved over to her now that ghost flames no longer danced across her flesh. Allesandro leaned against the edge of the bed with both hands, letting it sag under his weight. “I would rather head home knowing you were safe.”
Lash’s eyes narrowed in warning as the assassin took a step closer. The room grew ever warmer with his approach, and the air sighed with heat when he finally placed those gloved hands upon her bed. The maestro always knew how to push her buttons. With a simple caress or a cold steel dagger….he always knew how to play her emotions to a fine tune. A baleful glare was the only answer she had for him then. This battle was already lost.
Lash was a lot of things. Allesandro knew this first hand, and had no qualms vocalizing it. But she wouldn’t let someone else risk their life for her. Not without damn good reason. And the thought that this was one of her competitors was trying to run her to ground?
That wasn’t good enough. Not by far.
“No bait.” Smoldering eyes burned into his for the first time this evening. They were hot enough that many a man would have looked down or backed away by now. Her voice was set with reluctant contempt and the girl abruptly yanked the fallen cover further up her body. “I take it you’ll be expecting formal dress?” Her words were surely, but suddenly this was every inch the high society lady he once knew. Eyelashes batted with further irritation. Irritation. Not fear.
Not terror. That annoyed Allesandro to no end.
Those would all be acceptable reactions at the knowledge that one of the Beautiful Ones had her on a list. But this was nothing more than a worn down sort of apathy that resulted in living through fierce battles and dirty competition. Cork had its own kind of law and Lash had helped to forge it. Still, a cold fear spread through his belly at the thought that perhaps the bartender wasn’t taking this threat seriously enough. People weren’t irritated when they found out one of the most powerful, ruthless and inhumane creatures to ever decimate humanity had it out for them. Irritation didn’t even come close. Paralyzing horror ought to be shining in those ember eyes, but there was none. “Your students better be everything you think they are. I don’t like the idea of risking your identity in a public setting if things go wrong. You are supposed to be the talented but spoiled socialite. That means hiding and cowering if things get bad…not slicing up the villains.”
Allesandro smiled in amusement as he watched her mind start to turn. Even now, giving orders. How very typical.
“So leave them and me to the dirty work. -IF there is any to be had.” Again, the girl still sounded rather unconvinced.
Allesandro smiled. “You have something formal to wear?”
Interrupted with a sniff. It wasn’t quite as disdainful as usual. Despite the circumstances of present, Allesandro let his knees slide onto the bed and tilted his head with a smile of appreciation. “I think seeing you that way is worth any potential problems with my cover.” His voice dropped to just a whisper. “Lash, my students will make sure you come to no harm. You are too precious for me to risk. If it was anyone else but you, would I be here like this? Right now? In person?”
Despite the warm words his tone was as ever dry and his dark eyes stayed as placid as a winter lake. At his approach, the woman pulled herself more upright, and took on an indignant tone. “I control the largest vice and weapons trade within the only neutral territory left in the entire world. Procuring formal wear is probably a lot easier than acquiring a fifty year scotch or a banned detonation device….and those come easy enough to me.” Lash put on a damn good front but still swallowed hard and fought the urge to bail out of her own bed to seek cover. Not from the Beautiful One, no. But from the man standing in front of her. “Besides, I actually DO dress formally for very special occasions.” It was now her turn to sniff. Lash grasped at an affronted, impersonal facade but it faltered.
Allesandro leaned in close. Too close.
“You know? Like the ones that don’t require me to cause massive amounts of bodily harm in defense of my personal well being or property. Those are the ones that come with hired security.” Sarcasm rolled off her tongue unchecked but it wasn’t hot or biting. Her words weren’t slurred with drink so much as nervousness. Really, she sounded more troubled now. “I do wear a dress for all away-tournaments. I just forgo gloves for obvious reasons.
It’s…hard….to…deal…in…gloves….and….frowned..upon…anyway.” Her words became broken as his knees slid on to the bed.
Stalling for time again? What other explanation was there for this foolish lesson on fashion?
“Too easy to palm a chip or switch a card if I’m in gloves, you know.” The last bit came out in a rush as she pretended to ignore his proximity.
“Not that I would. I might cheat as a player, but I wouldn’t dare risk my reputation as a dealer. I happen to-” Nervous, rapid fire words came to a halt at his touch. Fingers brushed against the side of her face, tracing the bruises there with a surprisingly gentle hand. All at once her blabbering stopped.
Except for the crackling and popping of the fireplace the cramped room fell silent.
“It isn’t the threat of harm that concerns me, Allesandro.” She whispered into his cupped hand. “It’s the threat of exposure.” A pause while her soft lips nibbled his wrist. “And that threat grows with each passing moment you spend here.”
The low warning was supposed to be a growl, but it came out softer.
Allesandro smiled. His eyes stayed hidden by locks of ebony hair. “You’ve dropped your lilt, Lash. Bad show.”
The comment was subtle and deep as any stiletto. After all, the maestro could kill with words as easily as any sharp weapon. Allesandro released a sigh and loomed a bit closer. The girl on the bed froze and in the fireplace, the flames flickered and died. Allesandro’s thumb brushed over her bottom lip, pulling the soft flesh just to see the way it moved. Exposure? That made him chuckle for a moment before softened gaze settled on hers once more.
“Exposure.” he laughed again. The words were a bare whisper when he leaned in replace the touch of his thumb with the touch of lips.