THE ART OF STARTING A FIRE
"Rae, lalabas ako. Baka ma una ako sa'yo. Rae, I'm going out. I'll probably be back before you." Rachel heard Nathan Bradley Thomson holler from her left as he yanked the front door open.
From where she was looking at herself in the full-length mirror by the living room, she saw familiar people outside, on the verge of opening the door. Rachel grinned when she recognized the two people about to barge into her house. Her grin widened when she saw Nathan's jaw drop.
"Hey guys. I'll be done in a minute," Rae greeted Tasha and Chris who were dressed to go clubbing.
"Hey hot guy!" Chris purred as he sashayed into the house with a wink.
Past Nathan, Chris wiggled her brows suggestively as Rachel. At the same time, he indicated to the couple stuck in the doorway. Rachel understood too clearly what he was getting at and restrained her laughter. Chris continued on to the kitchen to do what Rae wanted to do herself.
"Hi Tash." Rae could see her twin struggling for words.
"Hai," Tasha nodded, her voice monotonous. After a pause, she raised an inquisitive brow at the gaping male in front of her. "Aren't you going to invite me in?"
Automatically, Nathan sidestepped hurriedly. He stumbled as he did so, his coordination going haywire in the half-Japanese, half-Canadian girl's presence.
"S-sorry," he mumbled sheepishly.
Rachel always found it amazing how the petite tomboy could reduce her authoritarian brother into a stuttering mess by simply standing there.
"Have you got juice?" Tasha asked, following Chris's steps. Rachel nodded.
She fought not to roll her eyes or smile. She knew what Tasha was doing. The girl was trying to pretend Nate wasn't there, that she wasn't affected by him as he was with her. Sometimes, Rae thought Tasha was the biggest bitch in the world.
When Tasha had retreated into the kitchen, Nathan regained his senses.
"Puta! Ano ba? Bakit 'di ko makausap ng matino…urgh. Fuck! What the hell? Why can't I talk…urgh," he groaned in Tagalog in case his other half could hear.
"Ba't 'di pa kasi ligawan eh! Why can't you just go ask her out already!" Rachel laughed at her brother's misery.
"She—" Nathan started as he fumbled with the right words.
"Scares you?" Rae grinned.
"Shut up!" Nathan hissed then groaned once more.
With one last look to the direction Tasha disappeared to, he left, slamming the door behind him. Rachel then surrendered to her urge to laugh.
Glace Rouge or Red Ice was a popular hang out in town. It was a club not so strict on ID and served non-alcoholic drinks. But with an ID easily faked, it was no labor to get stronger drinks. It was the perfect place to 'drink and dance the night away'.
Tonight, some band was taking their equipment off the stage where women were usually asked to dance. Ice accommodated local bands at specific days, given specific slots. Coming in late, the last slot that night just finished. Hardcore dancing was just about to start. (It was a weird arrangement, but it worked.) Rachel spared the musicians a glimpse vaguely recognizing a few members before dismissing them from her mind.
"Nodo kawaita. I'm thirsty. You guys want anything?" Tasha asked nonchalantly, scratching her throat.
"Genki desu. I'm fine." Rachel responded in the same language, scanning the traffic on the dance floor.
"Non. No." Chris replied in his own language, already eyeing someone to prey on in the crowd.
With a shrug, Tasha headed off to the bar. As soon as she was out of sight, Chris snagged Rachel's arm and giggled.
"Ouch, bitch! What the hell is wrong with you?" Rachel yelped.
"Hottie at five o'clock! Do you think he'll bodyslam me if I come onto him?" Chris asked, uncaring to Rachel's agony.
Rachel looked at the stud with a critical eye and watched the way his wrist flicked as he picked up his drink. "Definitely gay," she concluded.
It earned her a grin.
"Pardonnez-moi, cherie, mais je dois partir. Il y a un personne isolé qui m'attend. Forgive me, darling, but I must go. There's a lonely person waiting for me."
As soon as Chris had sashayed away, someone called her name.
Turning to face her caller, she saw Ash with a bass strapped onto his shoulder.
"Blake," she said, eyeing him coolly.
"Better than nothing, I guess," Ashton responded with a shrug. He adjusted the strap on his shoulder once more. Rachel's eye briefly fell on the instrument. She said nothing but Ashton spoke like she posed a question. "My band, we play here sometimes."
"I didn't ask," Rae replied in monotone, shifting her gaze elsewhere.
"You really know how to make a person feel unwanted," Ashton remarked after a silence in which Rachel was passing wishing he would leave.
"If I did, you wouldn't be here," she responded dryly.
Without being asked, Ashton answered the unspoken question Rae refused to say simply because she didn't want to say it. "Because you never answered my question. Are you interested?"
Rachel looked at him like he had grown an extra head within the last two seconds. She let out a derisive laugh and eyed him with disdain. "Would you stop even if I said no?"
"No," was Ashton's quick reply.
Eyeing his cheeky grin like she wanted to burn it off, she shrugged. "Then I might as well start ignoring you."
"Not going to beat me up? Gone soft, Thomson?" He laughed at her like he had the upperhand. If that's what he thought, he was gravely misled.
"Wimp like you? I can't even call it a workout." She smiled sweetly at him before walking away.
But he wouldn't just leave it there.
"Dance with me."
He wasn't asking her. He wasn't telling her. He wasn't begging her. He was requesting it softly.
He could change all he wanted. But she simply wouldn't budge.
"I'd rather keep all my toes, Blake," she snapped. Ashton tried opening his mouth, but Rachel had enough. "If the message isn't any clearer, fuck off! I'm not known for controlling my temper, Blake. I will trash you."
"Then why don't you? Why are you being nice?"
Ashton's innocent questions threw her further off-balance. Nevertheless, she was determined not to be outdone.
With a casual shrug, completely rid of prior animosity, Rachel replied. "I'm not in the mood."
"You're not in the mood?" Ashton echoed, confusion ringing in his tone.
Feeling no need to explain any further, Rachel nodded.
"In the mood for a drink then?" Receiving a raised brow in response, Ashton grinned. "It's on me."
"Whatever drug you decide to chose, or even if you put them all in, Blake, I can take you."
"I know." With a laugh, Ashton disappeared.
Rachel watched him from a distance and entertained the thought of disappearing herself. The bar was busy. She had the time. But no, he might think she ran. Away from him? She resisted the urge to laugh. The thought was stupid.
She sighed, feeling absurd for standing by the dance floor and doing nothing. She dove into the crowd and did what they were all supposed to do: dance, because she was in the mood for it.
The bastard she was dancing with was starting to become too confident. He was beginning to feel her up. Repulsed, she easily flicked his hand away from her hips. But she kept on dancing. The wandering hands returned. A scowl scrunched Rachel's features.
This time, she asserted more forced when she flicked his hand away so that the guy's hand slapped someone else's anatomy. Pushed away twice, the guy persisted probably thinking third time's the charm.
The third time was his demise.
For a small girl like Rachel, it was essential to know how to take care of herself. It's always been like that. She didn't want or need anyone taking care of her but herself.
She caught the guy's hand, her thumb on his pinky's knuckle, her other fingers around his thumb. She pushed the knuckle while twisting his hand outwards. The guy cried out, kneeling in pain as Rachel twisted it more.
After kicking his shoulder, she watched him roll back into a wall, the crowd clearing around them as they cried out in alarm. He groaned on the floor as she walked towards him leisurely.
Grabbing him by the neck of shirt, she ruthlessly pulled him up. Rachel punched him in the gut the same time she let go of him. The guy collapsed on the floor again, accompanied by gasps now louder than the music.
"I don't think anyone told you the meaning of no, jerk. If she doesn't like it, shove off," Rachel growled, delivering a kick to his crotch. "Keep your bitch in check, bitch."
A hand descended on her shoulder. And if she wasn't already familiar with that hand, she would've twisted it the way Lucy Liu always did in the movies.
"Rae-rae," the owner of the hand started in a stern voice. "You know I don't like throwing you out. Why can't you help me out here and not beat up my customers, eh?"
Rachel looked back to smile innocently at Fabien Azanneau. She had long learned to recognize the hidden note of amusement in his tone.
"He started it," she pouted.
The kind old man smiled in understanding, eyes twinkling, and called two of his bouncers forward. He gestured them to take the moaning bastard out while he had two other bouncers disperse the crowd. Then, he turned back to his adored customer.
"Pardon, ma cherie. You know the drill," Fabien said gently, nodding his head to the exit.
"How come you never set Pierre and Evan on me?" Rachel asked with another endearing pout. She leaned against the club manager as they walked towards the exit together.
The old man let out a laugh filled with mirth. Giving her a one armed hug, he said, "Cherie, their paychecks won't cover their hospital bills."
"You should hire me to be your bouncer then."
"I'd like to have people inside my club, cherie, not outside hitting on you." That earned him a mischievous grin. At the door he stopped, abruptly remembering her lack of wheels. He looked at her questionningly and dotingly. "Est-ce qu'il y a une personne qui peut te prendre chez toi ? Telephone ton frère. Si tu veux, je pourrais attendre avec vous. Is there a person who can take you home? Call your brother. If you want, I can wait with you."
"Non, non, vieil homme. Allez-vous! Géres vos affaires. No, no, old man. Leave! Run your business." Rachel laughed in response, trying to shoo the man away.
The manager looked at her worriedly. "Mademoiselle! Je ne peux pas—"
Rachel only shook her head and began to push the old man through the doors they had come out from. "Fabien, allez-vous or I'll beat you up too!"
He gave her one final dubious look before sighing and conceding defeat. He knew the girl could take care of herself, but she was like his daughter. Like any father should be, he was disinclined to leave her.
When the door finally closed shut, Rachel began to walk down the dark street. She hadn't even gotten five steps away from the door when a blue BMW rolled in front of her.
She wondered if it was the guy she had assaulted. But the window revealed a different face when it descended.
"Where's my drink, Blake?" Rachel demanded, resuming her walking. The car easily kept up with her.
"How about a ride home instead?" he chuckled.
"That's the best thing that's come out of your mouth the whole night."
"So…how much is it to hire you to kill someone? Here?" Ashton asked as he drove into her neighborhood.
"How much did it cost this BMW? Turn right."
"That's a per hour rate, Blake. This one."
Ashton let out a wry laugh as he parked in front of her house. With the car safely immobile, he turned to her in his seat. Blue eyes caught her green ones. "How much does it take to date you?"
That question made her blink as it stunned her for a moment. Then she leaned towards him. In a low voice, she asked, "How much of what I want do you have in you?"
"Baby, I can't promise you anything. But I can try," he admitted in a breathy whisper.
Rachel's heart did a quick flip it wasn't accustomed to. She didn't know if she was nauseated or giddy.
She leaned in and closed the distance between them. Their lips met in a soft clash. Rachel felt warmth spread throughout her body like wildfire.
They only pulled away when they heard loud banging on Rae's window.
"Fuck!" Ashton cursed as he rested his forehead on Rae's, bretahless, and glanced at the guy outside the vehicle.
Rachel smiled and loosened her seatbelt. She turned to open her door until Ashton's hand stopped hers.
"You never answered," he said with difficulty.
With her smile widening, Rachel's eyes twinkled at him.
"I forgot the question."
Then, she was gone.
"Was that Ashton Blake?" Nathan asked, scowling as he closed the door on the BMW for his twin.
"You know him?" Rachel said, only vaguely interested in the answer.
"He's bad news," Nate growled.
"Rachel, I said—"
"I heard, Nate."
"He'll probably only hurt you."
At that, the haze Rachel was in dissolved away and she let out a snort.
"I can beat him any day."
Nathan only grumbled, grudgingly acknowledging her abilities.
Look forward another update soon...with Devlin.
June 9, 2007