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The Launch Party ((Radiance))
Spectra's entrance into the party was nothing short of a grand spectacle. As she stepped into the event space, her presence immediately commanded attention. Those nearest seemed to pause momentarily, turning their many eyes to take in her arrival.

Spectra moved with practice and poise while the air around her buzzed with whispers and admiring glances. Wallets were angled her way, flashed, and captured her every move as she navigated the space with a the aura of accustomed glamour. Her smile was polished, a well-rehearsed charm that she bestowed upon onlookers and fellow celebrities alike. Though her demeanor was vaguely friendly, there was a veneer of posh detachment to it, a subtle barrier that maintained her superior status.

As she made her way through the party crowd, Spectra engaged in brief, courteous exchanges – a nod here, a light laugh there – each interaction measured and seemingly effortless. Her presence was an orchestrated blend of accessibility and aloofness, a skill honed from her years in the public eye.

Some time after her arrival while surveying the room, Spectra's gaze landed upon a man at the bar. She recognized him, though he was more finely dressed this time. A woman was at his side, pawing at him, well, Spectra couldn’t blame her given who it was she pawed. With a slight tilt of her head and a faint, enigmatic smile, she opted for a subtler approach.

Locking eyes with him for a moment, she offered a fleeting glance – an unspoken invitation laced with curiosity. It was a calculated move, designed to pique his interest. Spectra then turned away gracefully, her attention shifting back to the surrounding party. In her world, the allure was in the chase, and she had just set the stage, leaving it up to the man at the bar to make the next move… if he dared.
The bar had been slightly elevated, allowing Nadya to scan the room. The lighting was dark, yet her eyes were adept at hunting in any light.

Nadya had leaned toward Alistair. "Do you see that guy wearing a gray suit, jacket, and glasses?" she had asked in her thick, rich Russian accent. Alistair had nodded. She had explained that he was worth over 1 billion, a major liquor buyer for the Family, whose group spent millions in their clubs. "We must keep him happy, no matter what," she had stressed, pausing to face Alistair and slowly emphasizing no…matter…what., hinting at needs beyond VIP passes and money. The gentleman had seen Nadya and nodded, smiling at Alistair and pulling his wife close, a gesture that communicated his desires. He had winked at Alistair before turning back to his group, moving his hand visibly down his wife's body. 

"Nadya, what the fuck was that?" Alistair had asked with annoyance. "I thought we were here to meet people, not to pimp me out to the Family's clientele."

"Oh little sparrow, you are so naïve," Nadya had replied in a thick Russian accent, pulling him close, her hand on his chest, the other around his waist. "Look at that group. Media moguls and gossip writers. They control the press and entertainment with their narratives," she leaned up to speak into his ear, then tugging him to follow her.

As they were walking toward the group, a woman had entered the room, capturing everyone's attention. Nadya had stopped them, noticing her looking right at them, seeing their eyes meet. "Alistair, do you have secrets you're not telling me? Do you know her?" she had inquired with a surprised tone.

"Yes, she is... well, we know each other well; you may need to keep your cage locked around me; I may fly away tonight." Alistair had coyly smirked, watching the woman turn and continued to walk.

"Well, Al Alistair, you may make my job easier than I thought. Let's go. We'll come back to that," Nadya said quickly under her breath before swiftly continuing their walk.

Alistair and Nadya had weaved through the crowd, hands laced, heading purposefully toward a group. Nadya had tapped the shoulder of a large man in the group, who had turned irritably before recognizing her. "What the fu..oh Nadya! Girl, come here," he had exclaimed, hugging her. "How are you? Mr. P gotcha busy?"

“Hey, JJ  business is hopping, keeping me out of trouble. Don’t you worry, I get my fun in.” Nadya takes a drink. Both exchange laughs, knowing Nadya is full of trouble. J turns to look at Alistair. “who is your boy? Is this Mr. P's new pony? What is your name, son?”

“Alistair,” He spoke in a brave yet demure tone. Only gave enough interest and breath to speak his name.

“You got a last name Alistair?” J said, his voice had boomed with bassy tones. He was a larger-than-life, charismatic character. 

“Bishop.” Alistair says, switching from a soft tone to a masculine pop, giving off an air of superiority, taking on the large man's presence as if it were a bout in the ring. “I’m sure your next question is to ask what I do, so let me tell you. I’m a fighter, about to be the best Moscow has ever seen. Make sure you tell everyone you know that I’m here.” Alistair, mixed with a little whiskey, fell right into the star prizefighter attraction Mr. P had envisioned. Cocky, sure of his abilities, and able to create a buzz.

As he spoke, a gossip writer pulled out her phone and had quickly texted her editor. "We've got a story. I'll call you in a few minutes. Huge ttyl"

Nadya knew that the art of seducing a person or a society involved creating an aura of something missing in the target of the seducer's life, giving them an escape from the mundane and letting them live through someone else.  It also involved scarcity. Once she had seen the gossip writer texting quickly and the rest of the party starting to lean in to find out more, she knew it was time to exit.

The seed had been planted. With that, Nadya took Alistair by the arm, saying, “J, good to see you. We need to go. Be sure to come see our boy fight soon.” Nadya led him away, obscuring them from the group's sight as they disappeared into the crown.
As regulars at high-profile events, Maksim and his wife Alina entered the party with the smug air of unmistakable confidence and opulence. Maksim had the charismatic presence of someone who was well-accustomed to the attention, while Alina, with her connections to a more shadowy, influential world, exuded a refined yet formidable elegance. Their recent wedding was the highlight of Moscow’s social year, and anyone who was someone had an invitation to the 40 million dollar event.

As soon as the couple began to navigate through the party with the ease of seasoned socialites, they found familiar faces who stopped them to talk and toast. With their wealthy status (Maksim was the first heir of steel tycoon Scion Marveet and pocketing his own 3 billion dollar trust even before his inheritance was counted; assuming he didn’t piss it all away gambling) and rumors surrounding both the Marveet and the Vasilev families, they were quickly swallowed up by the party.

Maksim, who left Alina in the company of friends, embodied the 'life of the party' persona and headed straight for the bar, waving at those he knew along the way.  One of the people he spotted was Ipatiy Bogdanov, another one of the Russian mega-wealthy heirs to whom Maksim recently lost one of his McLaren P1s on a bet that he was still sure was staged. Ipatiy gave him a salute and then mimed driving and shifting gears, which turned into flipping him the middle finger as boisterous as he laughed. Maksim grumbled and summoned the bartender: “A Kvasya, if you please,” he requested, his choice of a classic Russian cocktail - vodka with a twist of cinnamon and ice. He sipped the spicy drink as he delivered his wife’s elaborate mocktail back to her. There Maksim raised his glass in a toast to the room and took the opportunity to see if his brother was in sight. Ezvin was there somewhere.
“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
+ Maksim +
The clues clicked into place when he learned of Ezvin’s career. The effortless cool that Ezvin exuded and the ease with which he navigated the party all made sense now. He looked at him with fresh eyes, and saw someone so completely unlike anyone he’d ever known before. Even Darya's playful warnings couldn’t dampen a growing sense of attraction brewing within Jensen.

Ezvin’s invitation was as tempting as the fast-paced music filling the room. Jensen’s smile was hesitant, flattered but embarrassed at first, wary of the public display and the eyes that might follow their movements. He told himself the concern was all in his own head, but watching Ezvin, feeling the infectious beat of the music, something within him shifted.

Jensen moved closer, a mixture of excitement and nerves evident in his demeanor. “Yeah, let's dance," he answered.

Ezvin stole Jensen's hand and led him onto the dance floor. The music was a dynamic, upbeat tempo, and at first, Jensen moved with a cautious rhythm, his dancing reserved as he acclimated to the beat and the sensation of dancing across from Ezvin. But Ezvin guided him with ease, a hand here, a lead there, and soon, Jensen grew warm enough to wish he’d worn other clothing. He now understood why pictures of people at parties like this showed them in various stages of undress. It wasn’t immodesty, it was the temperature!

Gradually, Jensen found his own rhythm, the music and Ezvin’s presence coaxing him out of his shell. They danced in sync, their movements complementary – Ezvin’s bold and sweeping, Jensen’s more measured but increasingly confident. It was only a random moment of glancing aside when the people parted and he glimpsed a familiar face.

And he felt every drop of blood drain from his face. He only realized he’d stopped dancing when Ezvin touched him on the arm. Jensen licked his lips and left the dance floor in the opposite direction as Maksim.

He should leave immediately. The Custody already knew what happened at the hospital that night, and likely due to his Wallet, let alone the tracker in his arm, they knew exactly where he was. The moment they learned he was at a party with Maksim, Jensen assumed they would be furious.

He could tell Ezvin a work thing arose. Come to think of it, Ezvin hadn’t asked about his job, but maybe there simply hadn’t been the opportunity. The excuse would invite the question, though, and Jensen didn’t want to lie. The same dilemma faced him if he claimed a family emergency arose, given that his family was on the other side of the world.

He glanced over his shoulder to see if Maksim was still in view, luckily, he was blocked by the crowd dancing in the center of the room, and luckily Maksim hadn’t seemed to notice him back. It would put him in an awkward position if he had, recognition and then pretending to not know him. It was a burden Jensen didn’t want to impose upon him.

He sighed, feeling deflated either way.

"I'm sorry," he told Ezvin. "I saw someone I know that I'd rather not run into." The explanation was certainly true, even if he felt convicted over withholding the whole story.

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