Venus and Mars

Brook Hollow Country Club

Polished hardwood floors gleam in the light that filters in from the large windows that overlook a private patio. Expensive Persian rugs rest beneath each grouping of furniture. Two large fireplaces can be found on opposite walls, giving the club a generally warm atmosphere. To the back of this large, open room, is a bar that is continually manned by an employee.
Billiards and card tables can be found in a smaller room down the hall, as well as a separate room for shuffleboard, and another for quiet games of chess. Outdoors features a series of private tennis courts, each equipped with a trainer to help those members who have never attempted the sport before.
The most important piece of the club takes up a large portion of the outdoor acreage. A complete 18-hole golf course, featuring both water and sand traps, as well as small decorative lakes always has at least one group of club members on it.

The evening began in Hugo's sleek black Porsche, which he assured Desiree he was only leasing, not that he owned it. The plan to go out for dinner and dancing had been in the works for a little while now. Desiree was impressed with Hugo's talent on the dance floor of her studio, but was curious to see how he fared in public with the new steps and dances that she had taught him. They're comfortable with each other, Hugo's hand resting lightly at the small of Desiree's back as he escorts her into the club and to the reserved table he ordered. He deftly chooses a fine wine once she selects what she would like to eat and conversation is relaxed and unreserved. His hands folded before his mouth, eyes watching Desiree with wry pleasure, Hugo asks, "Do we dance now then, while we wait for our dinner? Or after?" Leaning back slightly he pats his flat stomach and ponders, "And if we wait, won't we be too full and sated to dance well?"

It's a pleasant night at the country club to be sure. And it seems as though everyone is either dressed in their Sunday best, or at least putting their best foot forward. So too Paige Logan, outfitted in something black and exquisitely tailored, hair carefully pinned into cascading rings, looking for all the world as though she were here to spend a night on the town, and not at all like her usual self. And at the moment, she's on her way away from the bar, a glass of something bubbly in hand, tucking a business card into her purse, all the while wending her way through the tables, likely on her way towards the doors, which have been opened out to give a spectacular view of the course outside and the closest lake in particular.

"We dance, my dearest Hugo, whenever you wish," Desiree replies, mimicking his pose, with slender hands folded gracefully under her chin. "The band takes requests, so if there's anything in particular you want to hear, just send a note via the waiter." She's dressed in purest white, tonight, the evening gown a sharp contrast to Hugo's classic black. "What I've done before is dance once before the appetizers arrive, and between courses. Then, after dessert." She smiles at the man, her eyes meeting his with amusement. "Full and sated?— perhaps, but that's when we do the slow dances. They take us to the end of the evening."

The drinks arrive, and Desiree sips her mimosa. "Mmm, this is delicious. I've always enjoyed coming here for dinner and drinks. Are you a member, now? It's worth the cost. Brook Hollow's one of the most prestigious country clubs in Dallas. You can do a lot of networking here."

Michael has been a member of the country club since it opened, yet he's rarely bothered to visit. This evening would be no different, if not for the fact that an old associate wished to finish some business with him here. Something that has Michael somewhat amused, after all two vampires have little reason to go to the country club, yet the pair meet outside the door talking quietly with each other as they enter. "Yes, I think the Sinclair Harding's H one would be interesting to work with. And I'd very much like to pick them up from the Jewelry store. I may ask you to fulfill another favor for me." With that he nods to the other man. "If you'll excuse me, there are doubtless some humans here I'd likely wish to speak with." He then steps into the club proper scanning the room, for now apparently oblivious to the presence of anyone he knows.

He smiles warmly, fond of Desiree's playful and relaxed nature, which so well matches his own. "MmmMMMmmm, that sounds like a good plan. There's always a delay between each course. A dance here, a twirl there, slow dancing to finish the evening out. Pursing his lips, Hugo's gaze lifts to study the club, pondering, "Perhaps I will consider it. Seems a bit silly though, since I'll be going back to New York once the exhibition is over. But that is many months to come yet. So if the amenities are pleasing and the benefits many, it's certainly a possibility." Hugo has shed his black jacket, his white shirt bright against the tan of his skin, black trousers handsomely completely the simple but classic look. No tie though. That got him a look, but the rule was only for a jacket, and Hugo prefers not to have anything tight about his neck if he can avoid it. Too stuffy for the artist. Holding out his hand, he murmurs, "I think we should dance now. Ladies choice."

It's unlikely that Paige would fail to recognize the couple sitting not far from where she's walking, but given the circumstances, moving to intercept them seems, well, rather boorish, and at least for tonight, Paige has to be on her best behavior. The hand that's free of the glass, but filled with her clutch rises to the side of her face, rubbing at an ear, and there's just the barest hint of her lips moving, as if she were murmuring something to herself. But it soon passes, and she finally manages to escape the tables all together, well on her way to the patio. Deep breath, just a little while longer and she won't need to worry about tripping over her own feet.

"Well, since you've just mastered the tango, why don't we give that a try? Here, I'll send the note." Desiree scribbles some words on a small piece of paper provided to each table by the management. As she's handing it to the waiter, she notices a familiar face. "Paige?" she calls, although not loudly enough to disturb tables around them. To Hugo, she says, "I'm sure that's Paige, the woman from the auction. I ran into her and Oliver at the Ren Faire. She's really very nice." Desiree beckons to Paige, hoping to catch her attention.

When the bandleader announces the tango, however, Desiree allows Hugo to rise and assist her. She gives Paige a wave, and points to an empty chair at their table as she's led to the dance floor. The lessons have paid off well, and Hugo assumes the proper position with Desiree assuming her own. "Ready, steady, go," she whispers, eyes dancing. The music seeps slowly into Desiree's body, and she becomes the dance, following Hugo's lead as if they have been dancing together for years, not mere weeks. "I love this dance," she whispers, head on Hugo's shoulder. "And you move so beautifully, like a graceful cat."

As Michael enters the room and begins towards some old associates, he his attention turns to the dance floor, there's little chance that he's missed Desiree and Hugo, his impassive expression coming to rest on the pair for a moment, and then he spot Paige, moving towards Paige, Michael seems to be every bit the vampire now, his usual fidgeting forgotten his movements no longer measured to look human he seems almost too graceful as he moves, his expression void of anything approaching feeling. "Good evening Paige."

One brow lifts curiously as Desiree espies someone she knows, his bright blue gaze following her focus to land upon the woman in question. He studies Paige for a moment, her face familiar from the auction, but no, no, they didn't actually speak or interact. But then Hugo is flashing Desiree at teasing look and asks, "Ren Faire? As in a Renaissance Faire? You went to a Ren Faire?" The artist has a hard time not smirking, instead coughing lightly into his hand before rising up and taking Desiree's hand, leading her to the dance floor. His left hand take her right, his right hand slips to her back and his face takes on an uncharacteristically fierce expression. Tango - a love/hate sort of dance, full of passion and fire. Hugo enjoys playing the roles that are involved in each dance, his eyes studying Desiree's face with a hint of fire, as if she were the kind of woman you hate to love and love to hate. He moves her about the floor with powerful turns, guiding her smoothly and yet allowing her moments of rebellion and resistance. When she spins and melts against him, her cheek to his shoulder, Hugo dips his head close to her ear, chuckling softly and murmuring wickedly, "Flatterer!" Before spinning her out abruptly, as if flinging her away, only for his hand to reach out, catching hers and dragging her back to him passionately, his palm curving over her cheek as he gazes into her eyes and replies, "You inspire me…" eyes sparkling with mischief.

Just turning to avoid an older woman and her much, much younger companion, Paige catches the wave and the greeting from Desiree, and offers a smile in her direction, and a nod to the seat, more a tip of the head as if to say, 'Are you sure?', but the two are already heading off towards the dance floor and any sort of conversation would be impossible. So out of politeness, she can at least take the seat until they return. A step forward and just then, Michael moves in, intercepting in that sort of eerie way that all vampires seem to have, and her eyes shift. The smile she offers is just as warm, though she makes no move to approach him, nor does she offer a hand, even if she had a free one to offer with. "Michael. Good evening. I haven't seen you in ages. Where have you been keeping yourself?"

It's the role-playing Desiree loves, and she becomes the target for Hugo's fierce passion. Her own face is impassive, save for her eyes. Those blaze with fire, with flames that seem to burn their way into her partner. She flows like water, and then is rigid stone. She melts, then flings herself away. It is a telling dance, a story of love and hate, passion and lust. Many of the other couples on the floor stand aside as Desiree and Hugo dance.

"I don't flatter idly," Desiree whispers when Hugo recaptures her. "You are a good dancer, fluid and smooth. I love teaching you new steps." And then it's time for him to fling her away again, and capture her for the final dip. She's lowered to the point where her hair sweeps the floor, and then immediately brought up into his arms as the music ends.

Breathless, Desiree smiles as others applaud her and Hugo. "See," she says, bowing slightly and grinning, "they think you're good, too."

Pausing Michael once more glances at the dance floor, then back to Paige. "I've been keeping myself occupied, as always I've been balancing good business with staying out of trouble." He studies Paige for a moment. "You look well. I thought I'd take the opportunity to thank you for helping Desiree, at the Ren Faire. It upset her deeply, I'm glad she had a friend with her."

"You're an excellent teacher," Hugo returns with a rakish smile as she jerks away from him, following after and grabbing her from behind, puller her against his body, arms crossing around her, sliding down her hips and up against before taking her hands and spinning her about to face him again. "And an inspirational partner…" He dips her deeply, lips brushing against her throat before finally pulling her up. When people start to applaud, Hugo's gaze lifts to glance about the room, a slight blush actually touching his cheeks before he steps back to give the lady her due, kissing the back of her hand before leading Desiree back to their table and the waiting company there. His gaze drops to Paige first, a friendly smile there as Hugo offers his hand. "Hi, we didn't meet at the auction, but I'm Hugo." Michael he has met before, one brow lifting as he nods his head to the vampire and notes, "Not playing human tonight, I see?"

Paige too, looks over at the dance floor, though, she looks, well, unimpressed by what she's seeing. And likely that has much more to do with the fact that she couldn't tell a good dance from a bad one, and less that she's unimpressed by the skill of the dancers, and so clueless might be more to the point, "Are they meant to throw each other around like that? Rather reminds me of ice dancing, and that's just craziness." But, on to other things, as the topic turns a bit more serious, "I don't picture you as a man who actually ever gets in trouble. So I imagine it hasn't been too terribly difficult. But you're welcome. For what it's worth, I did what I could to protect her. Hopefully, that will be enough." She pauses her conversation with Michael as the pair approach, and then, as Hugo offers his hand, she accepts, a quick firm shake, before she'll attempt to withdraw, "Paige. No, we did not. You look wonderful, Desiree."

Desiree won't take all the credit, and gestures to Hugo, including him in the applause. Blushing slightly herself, more from exertion than embarrassment, she follows in his wake as they move back to their table. The platter of appetizers they ordered has been brought to the table, but there are friends to greet, too. "Paige, so lovely to see you," Desiree says, sitting as Hugo pulls out her chair. "I didn't know you knew Michael." That's said to both of them.

Then Hugo's speaking to Paige and Michael, and Desiree sips her water in silence. "Thank you, Paige, you look great yourself. So elegant. Won't you and Michael join us? There's plenty of room, and the company would be pleasant." Her eyes turn to the vampire, and there's an odd mixture of emotions in the green depths. "It's nice to see both of you looking well," she adds, lowering her eyes to her plate. "What an unexpected pleasure to see you."

Michael shrugs a shoulder to Paige. "Oh, you would be surprised. It's not that I don't /get/ into trouble, I just never stay that way for long." He nods again. "I don't think we have to worry, it was a situation that got taken as worse than it actually was." Hugo gets a very slight incline of the head from Michael. "Hugo." He seems to consider the next statement, his tone as empty as ever. "No, I suppose I'm not, but then I do find it… problematic at times." He offers a nod to Desiree. "Desiree, you are as stunning as ever. I've met Paige a couple of times before, I thought I would offer my greetings since I was here on business." He seems to consider the invitation. "Only if you're sure I won't be interrupting your evening?"

Though Hugo wasn't expecting a foursome for the evening, he certainly doesn't seem to mind a change in plans, nodding cordially as Desiree invites the pair to join them. "Oh," he remarks with some small surprise at Michael's clarification. "So you two didn't come together?" he asks, "Just a happy coincidence?" The terse reply, quick shake and Paige's subsequent withdraw is noted with some bemusement, but now that Desiree is seated, Hugo takes his own, his eyes flickering from Desiree to Michael and back again with quiet speculation. There's definitely more than meets the eye, it would seem, but Hugo merely picks up his fork and spears one of the scallops on his plate, taking a bite and chewing it slowly, savoring the tenderness of the shellfish, the richness of the garlic butter.

"You sound like someone else I know," Paige offers in answer to Michael's assertion that he never stays in trouble for long. But that part of the conversation seems much less interesting or awkward than the interaction between the other three in this now foursome. "Thank you, Desiree, I had quite a bit of prep work beforehand. Which, I'm told, I sorely needed." Not that she'll ever say by whom, but there it is. "No, I was already here paying a call on an old friend. Michael was actually just coming in, I think, as I was going out." She's still standing just to the side of the table, not moving to join, even as Desiree and Hugo take their seats for the appetizers. "Have I missed something that I should know about?" Might as well be blunt, since there's obviously something going on, and it's not all pleasant. If there's one thing Paige is quite good at, it's reading people, and at the moment, there's a feeling on the wind like that moment just before the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

As much as Desiree enjoys Hugo's company, it's only polite to invite others to join them. She looks to Hugo, trying to convey this without speaking aloud. "Michael and I have been considering some business together," Desiree says, nodding in the vampire's direction. "Mdm. Trovanova is getting older, and no longer really has the time nor health to participate in running the studio," she explains. "I've been looking for someone who might want to purchase her half of the business, since I can't afford to purchase it myself." This is, after all, a legitimate reason to know a vampire, especially one who is known for his business acumen.

"And, thank you for the compliment, Michael. You're such a flatterer, considering all the great beauties of history you must've met." She teases the old vampire, her smile warm. "Paige, would you like something to drink? I'm sure our waiter will be happy to bring both of you a beverage of your choice."

Only after she feels she's played hostess for the appropriate time does she take a bite of scallop from her own plate. "Delicious, as always," she tells the hovering waiter. "I really want the chef's recipe. Not, mind you, my attempt would come out anything like this! I'd be lucky they'd be edible."

Michael for his part's unreadable, even Desiree as well as she knows him will get nothing from him. He moves only his mouth now as he speaks to Hugo. "Yes, I was just arriving, a business associate wished to meet me here. I think he was… teasing me for my fondness of playing human… but you endure. I may have found myself a Sinclair Hardings Sea Clock in need of repair. As well as a lead on some emeralds for a friend." This is said to the table in general although Michael glances a Desiree during her explanation, nodding his head again. "Yes, I still need to finish going over the books. I suspect it's best that I leave that until tomorrow." He then once again becomes motionless, since he doesn't eat after all. Who needs an elephant in the room when they've got an ancient vampire.

His brow lifts again at the assertion that someone would tell Paige that she needs 'work' to look good. There is a soft snort as he counters, "Whoever told you that was both rude and incorrect." Picking up his glass of wine, Hugo plays audience for the moment, studying the interactions between the various people. Paige is certainly a no-nonsense, to the point sort of person it seems. Michael is being more vampire than vampire and Desiree is being, well, Desiree. "If you would care for a glass of wine, we have a lovely Barolo that's been breathing for a nice while," Hugo offers to Paige. The two of them standing there is starting to get a little awkward, so putting down his fork, Hugo turns to the waiter and asks for another glass for Paige and then turns to Michael and inquires, "A Tru Blood for you? Do you have a preference? A positive? O negative?"

"No, he was actually one of the most honest people that I know." Clearly Paige does not seem at all put out by the fact that she actually was told such a thing. When you know something's true, you don't argue. "But it's kind of you to say so." But it's telling that not a single one of the people at the table or around it seems to want to answer her question, "I don't drink, but thank you," comes the comment, as Hugo orders a glass of wine. Apparently, she's ignoring the fact that she actually has a glass of what looks like champagne in her hand already. Though, to her credit, it seems to be untouched, a prop, perhaps. "But I think I'll leave you three to your meal, and take my leave. If you'll all excuse me."

Desiree's expression is composed, now, all emotions regarding Michael are gone. She looks on the vampire dispassionately, settling him into the "business partner" role, as opposed to friend or lover. Nodding her assent, she says, "They're all prepared for your perusal. Just drop by the studio and you can use the office. If you need assistance with the computer, just let me know."

Her attention is thusly turned to Paige as Hugo speaks. "I agree. You're really quite a lovely person, Paige. Tell whoever told you that to stick it where the sun doesn't shine." She's really not pleased to know someone would say that to Paige. "They're dead wrong."

Desiree can feel that awkwardness, and even though she smiles warmly, she's aware of the stiffness of Michael and the apparent reluctance of Paige. "Of course, if you've somewhere else to be, we don't want to detain you," she says softly, politely, possibly to give either of the others an opportunity to leave if they choose. "But we'd love to have your company, please know this. You're both very welcome at our table." She lets Hugo take over the hosting responsibilities then, concentrating on eating her appetizer. Scallops wrapped in bacon. Yum!

As for Paige's question, Desiree looks up, eyes a little shadowed. "Not that I know of, Paige," she says firmly, "but there are always undercurrents when you sit amidst a crowd. I've learned to ignore such feelings." A pause. "Please, won't you join us? Perhaps things will settle down a little once you do."

Nodding to Hugo Michael seems to consider the seat. He finally takes it his attention turning to Hugo. "I'll have something in an AB if possible thank you." He then turns his attention to Paige. "Please you should accept the invitation. I'm afraid that the tension you're picking up is entirely me. I have much on my mind this evening more than I had before. Please pay it no mind."

Alas Hugo can't answer the question because he honestly doesn't know what the undercurrent between Desiree and Michael might be. And honestly, it isn't any of his business. His brow lifts at Paige's reaction, the woman bemusing him more and more with every passing minute, but he simply smiles and notes, "If you say so." The waiter waits, since apparently a third glass for wine will not be necessary. Hugo takes this moment to pour a glass for himself and for Desiree. Paige seems to have no interest in joining them, so he doesn't encourage her to either stay or leave. Once Michael chooses to join them, Hugo nods and the waiter departs, heading off to fetch a bottle and glass for the vampire.

Desiree seems to be the only one who can and did answer Paige's question. Her eyes study the other woman a moment. "Perhaps it's time for me to go to the powder room," she says, smiling at the gentlemen present. "Paige, would you like to accompany me?" she asks, trying to convey something in her tone. It's that "women go to the bathroom in pairs" thing, as far as men are concerned. But, if Paige looks at her, Desiree's eyes will possibly let her know there's something to be said which will make the trip worthwhile.

Desiree stands, waving the men down if they were going to stand. "I'll only be a few moments, promise," she tells Hugo and Michael. "Please excuse me." If Paige has walked away, Desiree will go after her, speaking low to her. "Come to the ladies room. I'll explain everything," is said /soto voce/ to her.

"Thank you, Desiree, but honestly, his frankness is refreshing. And as he's had more than one opportunity to see me makeup-less and brushless, well, I welcome it." But somewhere, there's a tenseness in Paige's jaw. And that hand rises to her ear again, rubbing, as if she had an earache of some kind. But finally, she nods, setting down both the purse and her glass at the vacant seat beside Michael, "I never ignore undercurrents. They tell you more about what's going on than any word that will ever come out of someone's mouth." A glance to Michael, something there that, well, "What's seen can't be unseen, the same applies to what you feel." But before she can sit, Desiree rises, and Paige nods, accepting the woman's request for an escort. "Of course." And with that, and her best 'for the camera' smile to the men at the table, Paige sets off towards the ladies.

Michael nods to Paige with a faint smile. "Very true, but there's a difference between ignoring them and paying them no mind." He looks to Desiree with a nod at the mention of her going to powder her nose as the women leave Michael looks to Hugo, still wearing the face of a dead man. "I'm sorry to have interrupted your evening, but I come from a time when refusing polite invitations was deemed exceptionally rude." He shrugs a shoulder. "I'm afraid most of us are slaves to our eras." He glances towards the departing women. "I take it you're well?"

Hugo smiles benignly at the two women, allowing them to depart before shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly. "Not a problem." And it isn't, other than the awkwardness that has ensued because of the whole matter, but that's really Desiree's fault for being so insistent. Ah well. "Mmmm-mmm, quite well, thanks." Watching as Paige and Desiree depart into the bathroom, Hugo chuckles, asking Michael dryly, "So. Do they really think that we don't know what they're doing when they go off in pairs like that? I've had my fair share of ventures into the ladies room and I know that there aren't any parallel bars in there. They don't need a spotter for the dismount. They're going off to talk about whatever it is that they don't want to talk about in front of us men." Turning to study the vampire, Hugo ventures, "I'm guessing it has something to do with the looks that Desiree was giving you earlier. There something between you two?"


Once the two women are within the sanctity of the Ladies Room, Desiree takes a breath and checks to see if the place is empty before she speaks. It is devoid of other human life, and so she turns to Paige. "I'm sorry you felt that," she says quietly, facing the mirror and pulling out her lipstick. "I didn't mean to … it's hard to explain, but I suspect you've already figured out that Michael and I have a … a kind of … relationship," she adds. "Hugo, though— he doesn't know. I haven't told him anything about Michael." She looks embarrassed, slightly. "I don't know if I'm ready to explain it to him, yet."

There's a pause as another woman comes into the restroom, and Desiree makes the normal small talk until she leaves. "You see, Hugo and I … we do more than dance together." The dancer's eyes look down at the sink. "I enjoy his warmth and … aliveness. I don't want to lose that, and I'm afraid if he finds out that I also sleep with a vampire, he … he might think ill of me and never see me again."

A deep breath is taken. "Paige, I'm playing dangerously here. Michael doesn't know about Hugo, either. I must tell them both, but not here. Not now. Soon, but not tonight." Her expression is miserable for a moment. "I'm trusting you with this. You deserve to know what's going on after what you did for me the other night."

Paige will always be a small town girl. And sometimes, more than others, it comes out. Whether she wants it to or not. And some things just squeak her more than most, "You do realize he's a corpse, right? A walking, talking corpse that's been dead for who knows how many years? Actually, you probably do know, since I have a feeling, given your slips, that he's the vampire you were speaking about the other evening." OMG, necrophilia, so GROSS! OMG, Paige just might wig out from the very thought of it. But thankfully, she keeps it together. "I'm sorry, Chance is always telling me I need to be less judgmental. I'm sure he's a very nice man. And probably has way more experience than anyone else you'll ever be with." Okay, Paige is trying to be nice, she really, really is. But it just gets more and more squeaky! "I can see why this would be a problem. I doubt any man likes to know that the woman he's sleeping with is having a little bit on the side, especially when he's—" Here Paige pauses, as the conversation is interrupted. She even takes a few deep breaths, before she continues, "You're walking a dangerous line, playing both ends against the middle. From what I know of vampires, well, you do realize how much danger you're putting Hugo in? What happens when Michael finds out, and decides that he doesn't like the idea of a human moving in on his lover? He doesn't strike me as a terribly jealous man, but I certainly don't know him as well as you do. But considering that you've decided not to be open with both of them from the beginning, that's sort of telling, isn't it?" Okay, she needs another few deep breaths, "I won't betray your secret, Desiree, but believe me when I tell you…lies come out. And the longer, larger and deeper the lie, the worse the explosion when it does."


Michael looks at Hugo for a moment, he sips his blood slowly, not responding to anything just yet. He then slowly shrugs. "I try not to think about such things, I've never been into a public restroom." He studies Hugo for a moment before replying. "You should trust Desiree. She told you that we're just business partners, because that is all we are." He shrugs a shoulder, actually managing to sound colder than before. "Perhaps she was just unhappy with the fact that it's going slow."

"Wow," replies Hugo thoughtfully. "That's pretty old then. Not even an out-house?" The human sips his wine while the vampire sips his blood, the two fluids ironically nearly the same color. His shoulders shrug as Hugo notes, "It's not a question of trust. That's not the sort of relationship we have. I like Desiree. A lot. She's fun, she's sexy, she's very alive and passionate. But her life is her own. She's free to do and be whatever it is that she wants." Taking a thoughtful sip as Michael denies anything more than a business relationship, Hugo simply nods and takes the vampire at his word. He doesn't necessarily believe him. Something is up, otherwise there would have been no awkwardness or need to take Paige to the restrooms. But the what of it all is up for grabs. "What's going slow, the shift in management … or the renovations?"

Shaking his head Michael studies Hugo. "Yes, I'm sure you're right on all counts…. except one. Trust is a question in any relationship." He then nods. "I'm /very/ old, when I was young we had… stone buildings that served a similar function, but not like they seem to be." He smiles a little. "If my understandings of business are anything to go by it's both, renovations always take too long, and the shift in management's not made much progress since it was first discussed."


Desiree can't look Paige in the eyes, and the hands gripping her small purse are white-knuckled and tense. "I know all that, Paige, yes, and— " She swallows a very large lump in her throat. "I didn't mean for it to get this far. I never meant for this to happen." There are tears in her voice, though none have fallen. Perhaps Desiree's learned how to express her tears without ruining her makeup? Possibly. "I met Michael and he made me feel so special— smart, beautiful, wise. He was so different from other vampires I'd met. I'd never even thought of a vampire lover, not even with Michael. I was … I got curious, and curiosity as they say, killed the cat."

She moves to a chair, sinking into it with dismay. "It was almost an accident. One night Michael was at my apartment, and I wanted to know what it felt like to be bitten, and— " She shrugs. "With Hugo, it was the dancing. We met at a flower shop, had lunch, and went back to my studio. We danced, and next thing I knew, we were in bed. The passion was … the warmth. It was so different from Michael, and so different from my ex-husband." She moistens her lips. "I meant to explain why the bedroom was rigged up to keep a vampire safe in the daytime, but … he never seemed to notice, nor asked. I will tell him, but we don't have a serious relationship. We're friends, Hugo and I, and we sleep together, but there aren't any strings. It's just … we just enjoy being on the dance floor and … letting our passions rule us."

She looks up at Paige. "I will tell them both. And I haven't lied to either of them. Michael and I /are/ in the process of conducting business. And, if Michael asks what Hugo is to me?— I'll tell him the truth. Michael doesn't have a claim on me, after all. I'm a free agent."

"You wanted to know what it was like to have a vampire use you as a blood bag? Look, I seriously don't hate vampires, at all, so that's not the issue. Lord knows, I have my own issues with my humanity. But Desiree, you willingly turned yourself into food. You say you're your own person, that you're a free agent, but you stopped being a person in the eyes of every vampire you'll run into as soon as you turned yourself into a stop at a buffet table. And then, to make matters worse, you continued to let yourself be fed on, am I right? Part and parcel to the relationship, I have no doubt." Paige really is not the meanest b!tch in the world, she's really not. But she KNOWS what's out there waiting for Desiree. One of the curses of being a witch. There's no sheet to pull over your head.

"No man, no matter what his origins should be the one to decide or influence how you feel about yourself. If you're not happy with yourself by yourself, you'll never be happy with any man. Or woman, if that's your thing. And you're clearly not happy now. No one can fix what's broken except you. And whether or not your relationship with Hugo is serious, he doesn't deserve to be cuckolded. Neither does Michael. And that's what you're doing to both of them. Please tell me you don't have any other…friends with benefits in the woodwork." Paige pauses, taking a moment to compose herself, "Desiree. I can do what I can to help you, protect you, but my powers are not limitless. And there is nothing that I can do to protect you from yourself."


Hhhmmming softly, Hugo nods, concurring, "I feel that there is a level of trust that is in balance to the level of how intimate we are and how well we know each other. But I certain expect that there are things that Desiree might not care to tell me and secrets that she may wish to keep. She has that prerogative." Taking another sip of his wine, Hugo muses, "Perhaps there will come a time when I will want more from her, but right now trust is not a dominating factor in our relationship." Smiling over the edge of his glass, Hugo muses, "Well, perhaps with you coming over to see the papers that will pick up apace." Tilting his head to one side, Hugo asks curiously, "What makes you interested in such a venture? Why would you be interested in investing in a dance studio? It certainly won't turn over a great profit. Perhaps it is a tax write-off for you?"

Michael shakes his head. "The business is solid, and despite my record I'm not /that/ wealthy that I can afford to disregard small reliable business." He sips his drink before continuing. "I am also doing it as a favor to Desiree, though she doesn't know this. I knew her parents and suppose that they were…. friends after a fashion."

Oh. Now Hugo is curious. "Friends after a fashion? That is intriguingly vague, Michael. Care to elaborate on that statement?" He starts to eat his scallops again, not wanting them to go completely cold. "Well, whatever your reasons, I'm sure she will be most grateful. I know Desiree has other ways of making a living, but I think the studio is what she loves most of all. She's a natural teacher. Very patient and encouraging, and of course talented. She could always go back to modeling or acting, but I think dancing and teaching are her true loves."

Michael becomes outright cold, his words carry a very faint edge, it's cold emotionless, but just a touch warning. "Yes. Very vague, has anything I've told you been otherwise?" He finishes his blood and once again goes motionless, his attention moving away from Hugo and his eating… the thought of digestion doesn't sit well with Michael after all.


"No … not always," Desiree says firmly in regards to the feeding comments. "Michael also just … holds me, and talks to me, and treats me like I'm not just a pretty face or a sexy body. He /listens/ to me, and … and no man's ever done that to me before. Not even my father, and certainly not my bastard of an ex-husband." She shakes her head. "Yes, I know he's dead, and I know it's a dangerous world out there. I'm not ignorant. I've been jumped by a bunch of gangbangers, attacked by some sort of were-creature and … threatened by a vampire far younger and more deadly than Michael." And, yes, her voice is low, and she's made certain the place is still empty before she speaks. "I'm not stupid, Paige. Naive sometimes, and certainly foolhardy, but not stupid."

Desiree takes a breath, calming herself. "Michael has fed from me less than a dozen times. He knew my parents, and I suspect my grandparents. Maybe even my great-grandparents, who knows? He looks out for me, and he's saved me from death twice already— but he doesn't have a claim on me. I /am/ free. I make my own decisions, and I'm careful enough not to let myself be caught alone with other vampires. Not without Michael near." And then she stops. "Paige, I appreciate your help, and your advice. I don't have any other men in my life— well, maybe one more, but he's just the guy I bought at the auction. He's kissed me, but that's it. I don't know if there'll be anything serious between us. Ever."

"And you think he really means it? That he's not doing it simply because he wants to see how you react to it? He's a vampire, Desiree, you can't possibly know all of his motives and feelings. For all you know, he could be looking at you the way you and I look at ants in an ant farm, seeing how they react to outside stimulus. I can't help but think that if he truly respected you as a person, he would never have agreed to feed on you, no matter how you begged him to. You don't turn someone you love or care about into an object. That's not how love works. That's not how they should work.

Paige sighs, moving, not to sit beside Desiree, but to kneel in front of her, looking at the woman's face, "I am not a great scholar of vampire lore and history. I only know what I learned from my family, from various other sources. But it seems to me…that if I were thrust into a world filled with wolves, I would want a wolf protecting me. If this claim means that other vampires will look at you and KNOW that you belong to what has to be one of the oldest, and I would imagine strongest vampires in this city, if not the state, it seems to me that that's exactly what I would want. Because you've gone way past childish games. And you're playing for the only prize that matters. Your life. And you don't have the luxury of pulling any more punches. When you're fighting for your life, you can't afford to let pride get in your way, believe me, I know." Paige finally rises, "Now, I can and will help you, if you want me to." And she holds out a hand, offering to help the other woman stand with her, "Time to put our game faces on." They really cannot stay in the bathroom much longer. That will just invite too many questions.


Ahhhh. Hugo is generally fairly bold, it's the New Yorker in him, but he knows when a warning shot has been loosed off his port bow. Holding up his hands in a placating manner, at least to humans, Hugo offers, "My apologies. When I paint, I paint the people hidden inside of my subjects. As a result it makes me damn nosy and curious about other people's lives. I meant no offense." Finishing his appetizer, Hugo pushes the plate away and takes a sip of his wine, turning his head toward the ladies room with a soft sigh and then studying Michael once more. "You care about her a great deal," he finally ventures.

Nodding Michael glances at Hugo. "Yes, she is all the things you said and a great deal more. I hope in time I can convince her to see that." Michael doesn't order another blood his eyes meeting Hugo’s. "But my feelings are even more private than my past, so you'll forgive me if I don't elaborate." He looks at Hugo. "And what of you? Have you known Desiree long?"

Shaking his head, Hugo counters, "I haven't been in Dallas long enough to know anyone long. I met Desiree a little over a week ago. We hit it off right away." His gaze is direct, matching Michael's own, as much as any human's can. He's intrigued by the idea that Desiree would be a woman in need of encouragement or convincing of her own strengths and abilities. But then many successful people are surprisingly fragile and lack confidence beneath the surface that they so valiantly maintain. A small mental note is made not to push Michael about his past or feelings. Sometimes Hugo forgets that vampires are likely to do much worse than just punch him in the nose should he push to much or go too far.

Michael can tell when people are nervous around him, or even just wary, so he smiles, his tone returning to the simply cold fashion it's held since he spotted Desiree and Hugo. "Hugo, I know that I am coming across somewhat…. colder than might seem proper, I must apologize, but you have nothing to worry about, I take offense at very little. Although I'll tell you if you push too far." He turns his attention to the restroom. "I suspect the ladies shall returns soon enough, they have been some time already."


There's a world of emotion in Desiree's eyes as she listens to Paige speaking. "It's not like that," she insists. "Michael's not— " She stops. Just because he doesn't act like that with her doesn't mean what Paige says isn't true. "No, I don't know. I just know he's never hurt me, or allowed me to be hurt. And he swears he won't allow Marius or any other vampire to have me. Not unless it's what /I/ want." She takes another deep breath. "But, you've given me a lot to think about, and I … it's appreciated, even if I don't sound like it.

Holding out her own hand, Desiree grasps Paige's. "Yes, I'll accept your help, but— " She stops as another woman enters. "We can talk later," Desiree promises. "Game face on," she says with a grin. "Shall we go and storm the bastion on masculinity, then?" She smiles, looking grateful for Paige's talk. "I'll buy you a sparkling grape juice, since you don't drink." That's a promise made as they exit the restroom and head back to where Michael and Hugo are waiting.

When they reach the table, Desiree seats herself. She seems much calmer, less troubled. "Ah, I see dinner's arrived," she comments. "Paige, are you sure you don't care for something to eat?" She beckons the waiter over, just in case. "How about a refill of your drink— or something else, perhaps?"

That hint of tension eases from Hugo's frame as he nods and replies, "thank you… for letting me know where you stand. I appreciate it. I'm still curious, but I'll keep my questions to myself." Questions, curiosities, imagined scenarios… Michael's relationship with Desiree's past could be anything from quite coincidental and innocent to, well, perhaps that sort of thing doesn't bear thinking about too closely. Pouring himself another glass of wine, Hugo plasters a smile upon his lips as he notes, "And on that note, here they come…." And the waiters must be waiting for her arrival as well, for plates are put upon the table just as Desiree pulls back her chair. "So, how did it go?" Hugo asks drolly. "Training for the Olympics in there?"

Paige allows Desiree to lead the way, if only so she can get a good look at the state of, not only the table, but the dining room in general. Vampires can be completely silent, Michael proves that, so who's to say they couldn't silently make a room erupt into carnage? But, all seems, well, there's no blood spurting or limbs flailing, so it seems safe to return to the table, "Oh, no…thank you. That's why I was on my way out, as it happens. I'd just finished my dinner meeting. If I embrace my inner fatty anymore tonight, my dress will split like the skin of an overripe melon, and that would not be good viewing for anyone. But I wouldn't mind a glass of that grape juice you promised, Desiree."

Michael nods slowly to Hugo, apparently he's not going to let the man at his ease too soon. Before the girls arrive he nods. "I think it's always good to know where you stand. Which is why I warn you. If I find you hurt Desiree needlessly in any way. I will see to it that you regret it greatly for several weeks." It's said in that same cold yet casual tone. "I can accept any offense but that." He smiles a little warmer as the ladies return, apparently threats cheer up even the most friendly of vampires. "Ladies I'm glad to see you've returned."

At first he just blinks, but then the smile that Hugo flashes to Michael is a confident one. After all, he has absolutely no intention of hurting Desiree. Yeah, sure, he tends to be the love 'em and leave 'em type, but he's never a bastard about it. Hugo always is open and honest about the fact that he's not really looking for a serious relationship, and most of the women he's been with have remained friends. Most. Still, his gaze drifts over to Desiree as he bears in mind that perhaps with her he'll be sure to be extra open and conversational about just what exactly their relationship is. Rising up, Hugo pulls out a seat for Paige, since she's decided to stay for a little longer, taking his own to start cutting into his prime rib. MmmmMMMmm. Smells heavenly!

"Sparkling grape juice for the lady, please?" Desiree orders, smiling at Paige's comment and the waiter. "We weren't gone all /that/ long, were we?" she says in comment to Michael's words. "I'd think a dear, sweet family friend would cut a girl some slack," she teases, giving the vampire a wide, warm smile. She looks to Hugo, then says, "I don't think I mentioned that Michael knew my family, did I? He says he knew my father, but /I/ suspect he also knew my grandparents … maybe even my great-grandparents, since the family's been in Texas since before the Alamo." The fondness she feels toward Michael is obvious. "He's a trusted friend of mine, as well as a possible business partner."

She glances to Paige, who's now being served the juice she was promised. "You look fine in that dress, Paige. Quite pretty. Stop underestimating yourself, or I'll have to take you to my favorite spa and force you into a mud-bath." Her eyes are dancing wickedly again, and Desiree seems to be her old self again. She eats discreetly, knowing that watching humans consume food isn't one of Michael's favorite things to do. So, she leaves quite a bit untouched on her plate, asking the waiter to box it up for her.

"When can I expect you over to begin work on your notes?" she asks Michael. "I've cleaned out the guest room, and put my extra computer there for you. It's an old laptop, but it still works." She looks at Michael, her expression open and free of worry. "Or, for that matter, to check the books of the studio. I heard from Mdm. Trovanova's son that he'd like to take her to Florida with him, so now's the time to strike, so to speak. We did have a record good year in 2009."

Nodding Michael seems to consider Desiree for several moments his expression thoughtful. "Yes, you seemed to have forgotten to mention that." He seems a little less cold now, he's fairly standard for a vampire now, his feelings still hard to read, although it's no longer impossible, for someone who knows his tells. He seems faintly upset, but he offers a smile. "Ah, well I've got several of my records being edited and am translating others myself." He glances to Hugo. "I believe your sister is still taking her… break from editing the records she was given?" He smiles just a little. "I'm thinking that I can finalize the sale by the end of next month.. if Mdm Trovanova's ready and the last of the books are suitable, unfortunately as I said I've been following some personal matters the last couple of evenings I'm afraid, my funds will be a little tied up until then." He looks at Desiree, his mood carries a concerned and somewhat angry edge to it. "What happened to your neck?"

Paige offers a polite smile to Hugo, as he pulls out her chair, as impersonal as ever is Paige. Or maybe she just doesn't get the charm, who knows. "Thank you. it looks as though you two have been getting along quite well, while we were in there practicing for the two man bobsled competition." Yes, she caught the Olympics comment. "It's very therapeutic, you know." And then she's content to accept the juice, and to allow the waiter to take away the champagne which has long since gone flat, and still untouched. "Oh, it's nothing to do with underestimating myself and everything to do with knowing exactly what I look like. Do you know how much airbrushing went into this face tonight? I fully admit to abusing the makeup department." She does offer a glance to Michael, "So it's not just mughal art you're familiar with."

One brow lift slightly as Desiree lays her connection to Michael on a trifle… thick. Like she was trying to cover for something perhaps? Hmmmmm. His ocean eyes flicker to the vampire and then back, a wry smile curling his lips as he replies, "No, you didn't mention it," without bringing up the fact that in her absence, Michael had. Hugo has no such compunction about eating. After all, he came here for dinner and dancing. He's done some dancing, so now damnit, he's going to have his dinner. If Michael doesn't like it, he can look elsewhere. Chuckling softly at Paige's comment, Hugo nods and offers, "Not dead yet. Watch out for those last quarter curves though. Too much thrust and you can flip right over." He likes a girl with a dry sense of humor. Lifting his gaze to Michael, Hugo hmmms about his bite, swallowing politely before offering, "Yeah, not really sure what's up with her at the moment. I think she's having an early mid-life crisis or something. Always was precocious." But his attention shifts to Desiree's throat, eyes narrowing slightly. In the wake of Michael's threat, his initial urge is to yell ~It wasn't me!~ but instead he puts down his fork and knife and asks simply, "What is it?"

The instant Michael's question is asked, Desiree's hand goes to her throat. Eyes widen, but her composure doesn't fail. "Oh, it's nothing, Michael," she says, looking him square in the face. "Just— " It's as if Desiree realizes there's no way to explain away fingerprints on her skin. Not that they're all that noticeable by anyone except a vampire; not as if they're dark and angry looking on her skin. No, in fact, they were covered with makeup; that "air-brushing" Paige was talking about. Desiree knows how to do that for herself, after all. She's a model.

"I think I'd rather explain it some other time," Desiree says, her voice even. "Perhaps when you come by to check the books?" She's not saying she won't explain it, just not at this time. It's a shame Desiree isn't able to broadcast her thoughts to Michael, or, rather, a good thing Michael isn't a telepath. He'd know already. "Suffice to say, I'm fine," she assures the vampire. She looks up to Hugo, smiling her warmest. She'll tell him later, too, if he's interested, but not now. She's not going to ruin the evening with thoughts of the other.

Hmmmm. Yet another thing they'll need to talk about later it seems. For what was supposed to be a romantic evening of dinner and dancing things have certainly gotten quite a bit more complicated and conversational. Next time Desiree tries to invite someone to sit with them, Hugo makes a mental note to gently, but firmly, kick her. But fortunately the vampire doesn't pursue the matter and decides that it's time for him to take his leave, rather than sit there and obsess over what happened to Desiree's throat or watch Hugo continue to eat. And though Paige keeps giving Desiree's boxed up leftovers a wistful look, she takes the departure of the vampire as an opportunity to beg off as well, leaving the two lovers back where they were, but with a great deal more talking and less dancing for dessert.

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