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Kings of the castle
#1
Jaxen’s usual haunt was Manifesto. The place was it. Literally, it, and had been for years. In the fickle world of clubbing, that kind of trophy didn’t sit long on the mantle. Yet somehow Manifesto kept that baby front and center.

Therefore, because his usual haunts were places Jaxen was tending to avoid at the moment, he ended up trying out the not-a-strip-club club known as Kallisti house of burlesque. He gave the place credit. It was a good name. Burlesque? It was catchy, and when reminded of its presence, Jaxen was quick to nod, shrug and hail a cab.

Since splitting from Tony’s shack down by the river, he’d managed to produce a few wardrobe changes without ever having gone home. A guy can’t be expected to run around Moscow threadbare after all. And no matter how much fame, fortune and cash someone threw around, Face Check could ban A-list celebrities from top-notch venues; super models might be told to go home and change if deemed underdressed. That was the kind of humiliation Jaxen was smart enough to avoid with the meager effort of forethought.

Of course, Kallisti welcomed him with open arms. As if there were ever any doubt. On his worst day he was a good looking guy, and on his best, well--suffice to say, he didn’t mind the spotlight. With the fragrance of expense, free cash, and a loose hand - from his perfectly tousled hair, the dot of a black diamond in one lobe, and the supple step of handmade leather shoes, he was the poster child of Kallisti's target demographic.

He landed on velvet and silk. Somewhere with table service, of course, and a top shelf view. Sank back comfortably, propped his feet up, loosened the narrow tie tucked between his purposefully disheveled collar and trend-setting, body-hugging vest and waved himself over some service, the epitome of a king in his own little castle of sin.

Edited by Jaxen Marveet, Aug 22 2013, 10:24 AM.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#2
Kallisti had an air of vintage. Damask inlaid the walls, and the furniture was solid, luxuriant – and expensive. The bar itself was extravagant, back-dropped by antique bottles glittering wealth in the soft light, but it was the stage the seating was positioned to worship. The private arrangements walked a fine and purposeful line between comfort and straight-laced formality; Kallisti encouraged coy promises through fluttered eyelashes, incidental touches and husky whispers. But it sold seduction, not sex. If you wanted an anonymous fuck in a bathroom, or to act the voyeur peeping on the exploits of strangers, there were plenty of venues within the Red Light District to accommodate. In an age where every fetish was catered for, Kallisti was foreplay; the naughty, clandestine kind that left you breathless. And wanting more.

Along the farthest wall, cordoned off, a grand door led the way to the theatre; for those who stumped up the cash for admittance to the midnight show, which was still a few hours away. In the meantime the entertainment was the lightly teasing, wickedly cheeky kind. Most people thought of burlesque as the art of striptease, and Kallisti embraced that whole-heartedly, but it found its earliest roots in parody. Travesty. Sly and subversive mockery. When Ori surveyed this decadent kingdom, that was what she saw.

Tonight she’d claimed a seat at the bar, legs crossed and fingers toying with a glass of potent amber liquid. She watched the entertainment rather than the patrons, and wasn’t the only woman here to be doing so. Nothing about her spoke of ostentatious wealth, though the cut of her dress was expensive and form-fitting; like Kallisti, it straddled the line between provocative and elegant. She knew well her own appeal. But she also knew how to flip that confidence cold, to ward off all but the most masochistic of attentions like a class A bitch. Which was why she was sitting alone.

If she wanted to relax. To get drunk. To have some fun: this was not the place she habitually came to. Perhaps because she knew the orchestration of cogs and wheels behind Kallisti’s mystique, and for her its charm fell flat. Perhaps because it reminded her of the feelings that had brought the business venture into being in the first place, and if she dwelled it still burned like fire. Three years later. So unless she turned up on whim to work behind the bar, her presence during opening hours usually signified the possession of a foul mood. She always came here to sate it. Because for whatever abstract reason, Kallisti was among the few places her grasps into the unknown met with the warm taste of power. She could flood herself until it hurt. If she wanted.

The murmur of conversation behind her caught her ears, or its tone at least, and she turned to watch one of the servers whispering with Karmen, the woman Ori employed for the day-to-day running of the club. Voluptuous, blonde and porcelain pale, with a sharp eye for the beautiful and a sharper eye for business. The woman was frowning, and though they spoke quiet enough, Ori understood the gist.

Emma.

Her parents said she was missing. That shit happened, particularly in this part of town, and the only pertinent point to Ori was that her staff was short. The vacancy had yet to be filled, in part because she was selective in who she hired – particularly for the job of mingling with the customers, keeping the entertainment fluid between curtain-falls, the drinks wetting lips and the smiles heated. It was a strictly no-touch venue, and the men and women who worked here were renowned for not sleeping with the clientele despite their lascivious flirting. In reality there was no rule as such, just a certain type of individual Oriena favoured; those who liked the unusual power and seductive control Kallisti offered more than they coveted the good money to be made beneath the banner of its brand. And, more importantly, for breaking it, and allowing themselves to be bought.

"I’ll go."


Karmen’s lips pursed at the interruption, and she lifted a finely arched brow. To which Oriena smirked, and the serving girl looked vaguely alarmed. She did not openly advertise her position here, more because she was so often absent than for any other reason. As far as the majority of staff and customers alike were concerned, Karmen helmed this ship. "Ori..."

"I’ll play nice. I promise."
She outstretched her hand for the tray. Karmen knew better than to argue, and Ori slipped from her seat victoriously, liberating her own glass from the polished bar too. The glint in her eye was mischievous, and not in a particularly pleasant way as she left.

He was sitting alone. Lounging, really. Ori eyed the placement of his feet critically as she placed the tray, but made an otherwise languorous trail up the rest of his body - culminating in the offering of a glass, held far enough away that he’d need to sit forward to reach it. He was carefully dishevelled, with an errant air that in the end quirked a sly smile to the edge of her lips as she sat down uninvited. Nouveau riche. Young. Probably full to the brim with his own shit, but pleasant enough to look at.

Her own drink she nestled in her lap, legs crossed. Prime tables cost a small fortune for an evening. If he frequented the place, he would know that Kallisti’s express care of its patrons did not begin and end with the stage-show. Its touch was personal. If he didn't know, he would probably just assume something else had drawn her. Looks, maybe. Or the flash of wealth. He didn't look like the kind of guy accustomed to his own company for long. Poor luck for him that he'd been landed with Ori's. She wasn't feeling particularly charitable, and if there was something sultry in the gaze of her kohl smoked eyes, there was also something dangerously sharp. "Oriena."



Edited by Oriena, Aug 25 2013, 05:07 PM.
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#3
He saw her coming a mile away. He wasn’t blind. Then again, one sweep of the room highlighted the posers, the douches and the money bags almost before he spotted the short hemlines and well-positioned cleavage. Jaxen typically scoped out a room before throwing himself in.

He saw her at the bar when he was first led to the VIP booth he bought for the night. Saw and dismissed in almost the same moment. The chick had bitch stamped all over her forehead, but that wasn’t the reason he surveyed greener pastures elsewhere. A woman like that screamed the ticking biological clock, his and her towels, grow old together kind of danger. Jaxen was done with that: Aisha’s crazy had filled his quota for the year.

Imagine his surprise when the same lone-wolf pawed over his way. Bitch or not, Jaxen had no problem with enjoying the view. There was more skin to enjoy in the background, but the fully clothed curves bending right in front of his face was hard to ignore. That, and, the thrill of living in his own imagination took the steering wheel by the time she sat. A woman in that kind of dress wore only certain sorts of garments beneath; the fun kind.

He glanced, amused, at the empty glass she’d placed just out of reach. Then up the pale stem of her crossed legs. Then back to the glass placed alongside untouched ice, bottle and limes.

“Oriena,”
he said her name like a teasing whisper fallen upon her bare shoulder; one that begged him to say it again. He had an easy, silver tongue. The kind to draw a woman in, trustworthy or not. More likely not; Jaxen, from silver tongue to dark gaze, from tousled hair to a body that bragged about itself, had irresistible written on his abs as obvious as Oriena's brand was stamped on her forehead.

“You must be new at this.”
He patiently laced his fingers together, laid unmoving across his lap. Meanwhile, Jaxen made no effort to uncross his feet and get his own cup. “Aren’t you suppose to be serving me?”
His brows lifted playfully, but poignantly. “I being the client for one such as yourself to woo. You being the pretty face to keep me happy.”


There was no chastisement. No hurt nor threat to his conversation, but he had an ego, and if Kallisti wanted one such as he to grace their business, Oriena really needed to stroke it.

“Jaxen.”
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#4
Arrogant prick. The challenge itched; not in his words, but in the casual drape of his body. The inference of power in his laced fingers, so carelessly expecting worship for every dollar trailing after his name. It didn’t matter that he was right; cage Ori in expectation and she fought back instinctively. How about you get your feet off my fucking furniture first? The irritation flared and died quickly. She’d lost dozens of jobs that way, before she’d learned how to keep her mouth shut - or at least to invoke subtler retributions. The acting wasn’t so hard. Convincing herself it was necessary, though; that wasn’t always quite so easy. He didn’t appear offended, which was perhaps his saving grace insofar as her reaction was concerned. Entitled – though weren’t they all, these pampered billionaires? – but maybe a little amused too.

"Hmmm."
She pressed the edge of her glass to her lips as though considering this proposition of roles, or perhaps the innuendo in the playful rise of his brows. Her back was pressed comfortably into the chair, and she made no effort to jump to his beck and call – though neither was her manner belligerent. A smile teased the edges of her lips. If it wasn’t entirely friendly, it wasn’t cold either; like a cat deciding whether or not to toy. He offered no surname for her to place him. Offend the wrong richboy and the damage would cascade irretrievably toward ruin for Kallisti. But, he was alone, and unless he was expecting company (and it didn’t seem so; he may have ordered bottle service, but it was still bottle service for one) it tickled a suspicion that he was out of favour. Hiding, from something or someone. Looking at that sinful face, she could hazard a few guesses.

"Well, you got some of it right,"
she conceded; an admission he should be wary of mistaking for surrender.

Kallisti had served its purpose the moment Moscow’s elite had sanctioned it with their favour, and its infamy and longevity since then was almost entirely to Karmen’s credit. If it burned to the ground tomorrow, Ori wouldn’t find much to mourn, so she felt no unease at lighting a match to test against Jaxen’s tolerance. If he didn’t enjoy her partiality for tease, he was going to end up shredded on the barbs of her sense of humour. She might be the proprietress, but Oriena herself didn’t care whether or not he found a reason to come back. This was just sport.

Ori hadn’t broken her attention away from him yet; that much interest she offered for free. She took a deliberate sip of her drink, the ice clinking when she set the glass back down. The burn down her throat reminded her she wasn’t entirely sober, but the spread of warmth made her pleasantly sedate. Maybe it was the seductive way he’d spoken her name, or recollection of the promise she’d made to Karmen; Ori wasn’t sure, but either way he presented a game she was willing to play. She revelled in a challenge, though she was a very poor loser. Not that she played for anything but to win.

She uncrossed her legs slowly. "Are you going to tell me the way you like it? Or should I just guess?"
There was no mystery as to what he intended to drink, since he’d ordered so few ingredients, but she acted on his assumption that she was a novice with uninhibited coquettishness and a wicked smile. The bottle she studied long enough to discern what it was, but otherwise she didn’t pause before tumbling ice in the glass and drowning it in vodka. A generous squeeze of lime finished it off. Classic and unadventurous, though potent; she wondered if there was a reason other than habit why he was drinking it practically straight, though she wasn’t going to make the mistake of asking. If he had woes to sink to oblivion, she really didn’t want to know.

She sucked her thumb after she discarded the lime, and picked his drink up in the other hand. The glass had already begun to bead refreshing condensation by the time she offered it out to him, smiling slyly. He was going to have to come a lot closer in order to collect it, unless he planned to point out the flaws in her hostess skills once again. "You haven't been here before?"
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#5
Vicious little vixen wasn’t she?

Jaxen liked her.

He took a deep, satisfying breath -- the sort that filled his chest with pleased resolve -- and made no effort to avert his gaze when she bared just enough inner thigh to tease him into wanting to see more.

Bravo Kallisti.

The self-amused smirk only deepened with her accompanying question. He entertained the answer like sinking into the pillows and giving himself over to the whim of a woman begging to have her way with him.

“Oh I think you know your way around a man’s drink.”


Jaxen waved, half-permitting and half-gesturing that she get on with it. Of course, the accompanying smirk radiated his playful mood. Which truly was authentic for once. He’d heard of Kallisti’s entertainment, but had the intelligent intention to keep his anticipations low. So far, this was a pleasant coup of expectation.

At least she guessed right. A glass of straight vodka. A squeeze of lime. Ice. Anything else in the glass and the man drinking it wasn’t a real russian. Tolerance could be built, but vodka was in his blood. Jaxen could drink a couple fifths and still drive home afterward--more than enough to leave other men wasted. Like his father before him, the only person who could tell when he was drunk or not was his mother. Which was the sort of insight that sent the young rebel to the smog of Mumbai at the age of sixteen.

Again, Oriena toyed with the proprieties of service, and a spike of irritation filtered across his expression. She was pulling the strings, and for what was already bought and paid, he was forced to chase after. But the flash was gone almost as soon as it appeared.

He laughed, accepting the tug, for now. He could abide a few jibes, assuming that Oriena knew what she was getting into--that he was going to want something in return for such mockery. Jaxen was one to bide his time, a man of immense patience, especially when a payoff loomed; he couldn't do what he did otherwise. With her, though, he was beginning to expect something more: more than what Kallisti was willing to advertise.

From relaxed posturing, he slid closer to her. She was tall and languid, much like himself in that regard. The lighting caught every facet of her arm and dressed her curves with tantalizing shadow and hue as it did his own. Jaxen hovered nearly above her now and explored the scent of her perfume, the sheen of her hair, and the cut of her dress though he remained seated and barely moved more than a few inches to do so. He could court the edge of appropriate boundaries as well, and assumed it was welcome. Honestly. From Jaxen. Who wouldn’t welcome it?

“No,”
his answer rolled with amusement. Sitting close, he studied the paleness of her eyes yet soft as a rose petal on her skin, he lightly grazed her forearm from the elbow down to her wrist where a deft roll of his fingers suddenly stole the glass from her hand without ever breaking their gaze. He brought it to his lips and leaned back against comforts of their booth. “Its my first time. You’ll have to show me what to do.”


Good, russian vodka, thin and clear as ice, and just as cold crossed his lips. The first drink seared glaciers down his throat, but the pain was invigorating, demanding and conquering as a naked plunge in the frozen winter lakes of his homeland.
Edited by Jaxen Marveet, Aug 27 2013, 03:44 PM.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
Reply
#6
Continued from A Lawsuit

Jon peered into the crystal tumbler in his hand and noticed it was empty again. What had this been – his sixth drink? He didn't even remembered what he had ordered, let alone what it tasted like. Something brown and smooth – with a bite. Whatever it was, it was doing its job.

He slid the empty glass to the other side of the bar and politely caught the attention of the bartender to bring him another. The blonde woman running the bar nodded to him and held up a single finger – it would take a moment. Jon nodded. The place was starting to fill up, probably in anticipation of the midnight show, and service was having to adjust accordingly. Not that it mattered too much to Jon, the show or otherwise. But perhaps he would stay awhile.

Kallisti's was hardly the sort of place Jon would consider frequenting. Indeed, he didn't normally consider any sort of club as a good use of his time when there were things to be learned, briefs to file, opinions to write. Other experimentation and meditation to be done. Awake or asleep, he was always focused on a goal, except for today. In his current mood, having spent the day idly walking around Moscow and blowing off all other work that lay waiting for him, it had been mere coincidence that he had chanced upon this place, and on a whim had decided to come in.

Fortunately he had been properly attired for the atmosphere. The hostess had taken his blazer and he was adorned in presentable, if simple attire. Copper-colored vest buttoned in the front, laid over a crisply starched white shirt with wide collar, kept up with a wide tie of copper, silver and white striping. The cuff links on his shirt were set with mint condition silver dimes from over a hundred years ago, emblazoned with a representation of Mercury, the ancient messenger, an androgynous figure set with wings on the side of the head. Probably a little under-dressed, yet good enough.

The next drink came. Jon grabbed it and took a deep sip, honestly he could hardly taste anything at this point. He supposed it was good. Had he ever drunk so much before? Probably not, even in college he had been more focused on work and studies than parties, or girls, or drinking. His mind was a bit fuzzy, as was what Jon had been aiming for. He didn't want to think of his recent hearing, and especially the fact the Prosecutor General had killed himself, and the implications that meant for Jon's culpability in the matter. He didn't want to think at all. He just wanted to feel – well, nothing would work. Anything other than guilt would be better. For the moment, he was savoring the feeling he had loosed the firm grip of control over himself. At the moment, on the edge of stupor, he was king of his own castle of oblivion.

Idly, Jon looked from his glass and his seat at the bar to scope the room. His thin-rimmed spectacles weren't doing him a whole lot of good as far as helping his deficient eyes focus anymore. It probably wasn't the fault of the glasses but the drink in his hand. At a private table in the corner – well, not too private as it had a full view of the bar – a well-to-do man was toying with a waitress. No, perhaps the waitress was toying with him. Jon made some inquiries and after some hemming around the subject found out the woman over there was actually the owner. Perhaps the flirtation was merely an exercise in the subtle seduction this place was known for. But it was clear to him as an observer that both of them thought they were in control of the dialogue between them, the man with a black diamond in his lobe flashing a smile as he got his drink, like he had won a victory, the sultry owner playing her own game with him.

Jon sipped his drink – how many had it been? Great Spirit, he was definitely drunk. Having nothing better to do, he continued to watch.


Edited by Jon Little Bird, Aug 29 2013, 03:34 AM.
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#7
Though she only noted it because she’d been looking for it, his flash of irritation was perversely satisfying. Oriena was both cruel and playful; very aware of the strings she tugged and more than willing to abuse the power until it snapped - or she grew bored toying with a dull partner, though that was one scenario which never ended well. She delighted in eliciting conflict; in burying right under another’s skin until they were no longer sure whether to love or hate her for it. As such, her past was littered with the unintentional corpses of friendships and lovers. And those were just the ones she’d liked.

Apparently he was willing to play, for which her smile erred a touch more genuine, and perhaps a shade darker. His attention was welcome; she’d provoked it, after all, and she captured it securely when he leaned in close, bold-eyed and cast in an edge of sultry challenge. Ori clearly enjoyed the control she had wrought, and her smirk brandished victory like a trophy. Or a weapon. Not that she was unaffected by his proximity. This close, he smelled good; a delicious mix of masculine and clean. The allure of sheer arrogance. Her breathing deepened, and she savoured the tension; daring him to push his luck. He answered with the unanticipated trail of his fingers shivering sensation down her arm.

She imagined he knew exactly how sensitive that touch would be.

Power pulsated with every thump of her heart, daring her to embrace its heat and feel the rush to her senses. She didn’t, but only because by then he’d retreated with her stolen drink. Not many would dare be so bold with Oriena; she was the sort of woman who dished out rejection with offhand malice and no care for the hearts she left bleeding in the dirt. Of course, it was the audacity she appreciated; a trait unsurprisingly common in men with large bank-accounts and the misinformed belief that it bought them the world. A sweet kind of poison, given her history, which was perhaps why she always treated them the cruellest.

Oh, he was trouble. Her favourite kind of trouble.

"First time, huh."
She laughed as she retrieved her own glass. "Then I ought to promise not to lead you astray."
That statement came with no promise, of course, and the distinct impression that Ori was inclined to do exactly as she pleased. He might have parted with a small fortune for this table, and he might lounge like he owned the place, but they were in the heart of her domain. "Only I’m not sure I’m feeling that charitable."
She smiled around the rim of her glass, and finished the last of its contents. He wasn’t the only one drinking hard, though her tastes were a little rougher.

Her gaze broke momentarily to search the bar, looking for Karmen in order to signal her empty glass, and it was about then she noticed the curious eyes of a man staring quite blatantly at their booth. Considering the warm-up spectacle on stage, he was looking in completely the wrong place. Not that Ori was offended by the attention, nor perturbed. She’d bet he was a blusher. "One of us has a fan."
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#8
With single-malt scotch coursing through his veins -- yes, that's what he was drinking; amazingly, a lucid mind was still there if Jon chose to reach out and grasp it -- the Jon of this morning was gone. The apprehension and guilt he had wrestled with - and fear that with such power to harm he would make even more terrible mistakes - these things which had so terribly shaken his confidence had been pulled down beneath the surface of his psyche like driftwood caught in the undertow of a receding tide. The liquor had replaced it with something else that invigorated and emboldened him. Yes, this drink had potent properties indeed when consumed in large quantities. The rational part of his brain reminded him not to trust that feeling too much; while hardly a heavy drinker he was certainly aware the alcohol was affecting his reasoning and judgment in ways he would probably not be aware of. For the moment, that was just fine by him.

Jon sipped his drink. Bold, smoky flavor with a hint of pepper. Full of fire that coursed into him with each sip. He regarded the two again as he set his glass down. He could care less what was going on over at the stage. Just like any entertainer, the players were merely actors, cast in their roles as part of a purposeful, scripted routine when it came down to it -- where was the real mystery? The game being played out before him, though...that was real. Those two were players upon their own stage with no script, no rules and no predictable outcome. That made it much more entertaining.

And it was complex and thrilling game to watch. Jon couldn't hear anything from his seat, but any lawyer worth his retainer fee knew to watch for unspoken words or actions in order to better refine his questions when cross-examining the opponent's witness. With the way the man moved in toward her ever so much closer, initiating the slightest touch, he wanted to see how close he could get to the fire without being burned. Yes, the man thought he was charming her over. But she was regarding him like a cat with a ball of yarn. She had started the interplay and wasn't about to surrender any control over the situation. Yes, she was toying with him in a very purposeful way.

Jon briefly caught her eye as she turned to the bar. She had noticed Jon's attention fixed upon their table. He unashamedly relaxed and sipped his drink again. The whisky had stripped the inhibitions from him that would normally have elicited embarrassment in being caught in an act of voyeurism. Very well, she knew they had an observer. So what? They could still play their game.

And Jon was of a mood to maybe play a game, too. As she looked his way again, he raised a single eyebrow and raised his glass off the table in acknowledgement.

Edited by Jon Little Bird, Aug 30 2013, 05:48 AM.
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#9
While Oriena was on a holy quest to drain the bottle, Jaxen was in no hurry to do the same. Though with the way he kicked his feet up again, crossed leisurely at the ankle, his posture would oblige her goal to drain anything she wanted. If she was so lucky, that is.

The rift she dangled was dangerously close to solicitation; dangerously close to getting exactly what she wanted from him, and the thrill of holding himself back shot burning adrenaline through his chest. Much deeper and her claws might have drawn five bloody streaks down his back. It only made him want to push her harder. Just to court that red line until she could take no more and then retreat to the sound of begging for his return.

He smiled at the thought. That was one of his favorite sounds ever.

He scratched at the shadow of a beard he'd purposefully left unshaven and took his time deciding what to do here while she shot a line of sight toward the bar. Of course, while she was turned away, Jaxen flicked a long, hungry look toward the stage. Would Oriena take the floor?

No.

When she danced, it was going to be only for him.

Her comment broke the trance, and Jaxen twisted around to measure up the competition she supposedly noticed.

He barked a laugh at what he saw.

"He's yipping up the wrong tree."
Jaxen's gaze narrowed suspiciously before he dismissed the pup altogether. He wasn't a threat, but that didn't mean Jaxen was willing to write anyone off completely.

Jax lifted his glass in return. If nothing else, he had to give him props. If he were indeed eyeing Jax, the guy could only be so lucky.

"But at least he has good taste,"
a smirk twisted his lips. It was obvious just exactly which of the two at this booth Jaxen was referencing--and it wasn't Oriena.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#10
A bashful man would have looked away. A licentious man would’ve shown some indication of interest; particularly a drunk one. But he didn’t smile, and he didn’t leer; just raised a brow and his drink. There were other booths to watch, if that was his thing, but there wasn’t so much heat to his gaze as simple attention. The gesture he made was more acknowledgement than anything else. Of being caught? Or something else? She could hazard a guess, and it cleared the scrutiny in her eyes to something more amused. A wry smile touched her lips as her gaze moved away. An informed audience didn’t faze her; on the contrary, it stoked her sense of humour.

Until another possibility occurred to her; a decidedly less pleasant one.

His shirt was cuff-linked neatly about his wrists, and there was no way to tell if the left sleeve hid a tattoo. If that were the case, his toast took on a macabre significance. Coolness pebbled her skin, trailing a path of fear where before there had been pleasant heat; reminding her that despite the absurdity -- despite how it often felt like little more than a dangerous flirtation with paranoia -- even within her own kingdom she had reason to be vigilant. The sentiment quickly fisted into resolve, soothed by the caress of power easily within her grasp if she needed it. She would not hide, the way Cara had. And she would not be hunted.

Karmen didn’t look particularly pleased to be subtly signalled with an empty glass –they were busy, and Oriena had legs – but her head bobbed a brief acknowledgement all the same, and her attention lingered a moment longer before being swept away with other business - as if Ori were an errant child who needed to be watched. Her refill might be a while, which she supposed was fine; her thirst had dried a little with such a sharp reminder, and she was still pleasantly numb to the frustrations that had set her on the path to Kallisti this evening in the first place. And she had other useful distractions.

In the span of those few heart-beats it felt like lead had settled in Ori’s chest, though little changed in her manner. She laughed dryly at Jaxen’s assessment of their voyeur; probably not quite the sultry agreement he could have hoped for, since it was his conceit that earned her amusement and it wasn’t an altogether kind reaction. Oh, she could have purred pretty words in his ear; offered to give their observer a show worth watching. Fuelled by alcohol, her libertine attitudes would have enjoyed both the game and the control of it. But if Ori was provocative it was on her own terms, and those terms did not include fawning. Brandish an inflated ego and she was more inclined to sink her claws in until it cried for mercy than to play nicely with it. Considering which, she was being rather well behaved.

"Dangerous taste, maybe."
And perhaps she wasn’t talking about Jaxen either, by the wry amusement in her tone. She imagined he would find the remark suggestive - there was fire in her eyes when she spoke, and promise. But her meaning touched a subject he could have no understanding of. If the man at the bar was a hunter, he’d picked a dangerous prey. Ori wasn’t the sort to shy away from confrontation, nor sit idle and let fate work her interference. She did not look at him again, but she was aware. When a question mark like that entered your head, it was a hard thing to shake off, and she suddenly understood why five years ago Cara had cornered her in that corridor and wrenched up her sleeve to see her arm. Before the evening was out, friend or foe; Oriena would be sure.

So, as she leaned back into her chair, re-crossed her legs and placed her hands in her lap, she did something potentially quite stupid.

Light and heat rushed into her system, heady as the most potent drug and alighting every sense to exquisite detail. She drew almost to capacity, until it felt like every atom might tear apart in blissful destruction. A beautiful kind of pain – and one she instinctively pulled back from when she teetered right at the edge, letting the feeling settle like cool mist on parched skin. She felt invincible, and it made her more playful than predatory, the mischievousness sparking sharply in her gaze - like perhaps she was still amused at the prospect of an audience.

Power fizzed beneath her skin. Ori had some control, when she could reach the light at all, and she used it to knock Jaxen’s feet from the table.

If the man at the bar was a hunter, if he was looking for signs of anomalous behaviour, then it was a blatant message. I am not afraid. And if he wasn’t? He’d be none the wiser, and at least Jaxen’s shoes were off her bloody furniture.
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