"I still don't know why you're fidgeting more than I am," Devon chuckles, reaching over to stop my pacing in the apartment building's elevator. "They're your friends after all."
"That's exactly why I'm nervous," I growl out shrugging him off and scowling lightly. I return to staring at the LED numbers slowly scrolling upwards. We're closing in on the 16th floor and my heart is beating faster and faster and faster.
"Calm down Hayden," the brunette whispers, wrapping an arm around my waist and tugging. I stumble backwards and land against his chest and he kisses the top of my head lightly. "So why the dark blue and white?" I laugh.
"Bet and a dare I suppose," I murmur lightly. "Fia said I only chose dark and violent colors to dye my hair. She said I should try something more calming and airy." Devon snorts and I hit him lightly. "Be nice."
"That was me being nice," he quips. I groan.
"They're going to eat you alive," I mutter darkly. The elevator stops, the bell dings, and the doors open. "And the gates of hell swing wide."
"We aren't demons or such nonsense," purrs a semi-angelic voice from the hallway. Devon arches an eyebrow as tiny woman in a Victorian dress stalks before the door. Vibrant dark hazel eyes flash below her platinum bangs. "We are, however, set to be exceedingly critical." She arches a slim eyebrow and smirks cruelly. "Monsieur Maxwell, welcome to Room 16E."
"And you must be Miss Fiammetta Nobilini," Devon purrs, stepping around me and giving a low bow before her. "Un piacere venirli a contatto la mia signora." I snicker and step out of the elevator.
"Come on Fabio," I mutter, grabbing onto his collar and pulling him along. He stumbles forward before righting himself and glowering at the back of my head. Fia glides down the hall, casting dubious and scrutinizing looks over her shoulder and at the brunette behind me. "Be nice Fia. He's only a month old," I drawl, sending her a scathing glance. She just rolls her eyes as Devon snorts again.
"Am I ever anything else?" she purrs, reaching and throwing wide the doors to the apartment. Devon stops and arches an eyebrow and I can feel the sarcasm building in his body.
"Well…this is unexpected," he says, the smirk evident in his voice. I let out another anguished groan.
The large couch in the living room was turned to face the door with it's back to the kitchen. And perched upon the large black leather surface is Lindsey, dressed in a bright red evening dress, and smiling with what can only be described as an evil expression. Behind the couch, dressed in black Polo or dress shirts, are Jason, Mitchell, and Stephen with matching grim expressions. Well…as grim as they can look while Jason is holding back an apologetic look, Stephen is holding back laughter, and Mitchell is holding back a yawn.
"Am I supposed to be holding an old flash camera?" I ask, a slightly amused look flashing through my eyes. "Or am I supposed to pick my trick for the night?" Stephen's eyebrow twitches. And Devon notices.
"The display is impressive," Devon replies. "But their marketing is wrong." He smiles and winks at me. "The men should be without shirts and with dog collars and the young ladies should have," he stops as Fia digs under the sofa and pulls out a whip. "They do have whips?" He smiles. "Brilliant. I'll take the blonde."
"Um…charade stops now," Mitchell yells out, flapping his arms wildly. "I am an arrow. An arrow damn it!" Devin arches an eyebrow and Fia snorts.
"Now we know why he failed his composition classes last year," I quip. Mitchell glowers at me. "Hey, I didn't fail your subject Renaissance boy." He scowls.
"Must be Mitchell," Devin says lightly. "History major. Aryan appearance. Spastic personality." He smiles and nods. "A pleasure to meet you."
"Wow. He nailed that description of Mitch," Stephen mutters darkly. "Has our little author been singing too?" His eyes are black with emotion. His lips are set in a thin line. He's pissed. I look between him and Devin and see it again: the calm brown and calculating eyes of the economics major were piecing things together.
And that lead to me getting into trouble.
"Ah. Mr. Lemar. Ina Reveres say's you're a promising student," Devin deadpans, a bored look on his face; his eyes are flashing a challenge: don't screw with me boy. "Hayden only had to mention your names a few times and I used my connections in the school to find out about you." He shrugs lightly and smirks. "Being a TA has its perks."
"Man in power. Now it makes sense," Lindsey cries, jumping up and grinning like a madwoman. "Not only does he have the looks, the smugness, and the ability to smirk and drawl like a British land baron, but he also has the authority!" Lindsey laughs and walks towards the dining room. "Care to regale us with the other members information?"
"Lindsey Cuthridge, Tischie," he replies, smiling in her direction while moving to take my hand and guide us through the living room. "And Jason Rush, medical student. Hasn't decided upon a specialization yet." Jason just gives this light and nondescript nod. I can't help but feel there are some things no-one is telling me. But, as usual, my friends have a way of hiding and avoiding discussing things.
"Should I worry about who cooked?" I ask as Devon pulls out my chair. I can't help but blush at the arch of Fia's eyebrow and the coo of adorable entertainment from Lindsey. Women. Ugh.
"I cooked of course!" Mitchell barks, sounding so affronted that I could even suggest that someone else would be the cause of the wonderful aromas wafting around the apartment. Of course, all of us have some specialty of cooking, but Mitch does the best lavishly designed dinners. When we wanna feel like we have money to burn, Mitch cooks dinner.
"I do hope there is a fine wine being served with these delicious looking entrees," Devon says as he gaze flows across the lavish dishes on independent burners. Stephen laughs.
"Why do you think Fiammetta was invited?" the brunette asks. The platinum haired girl scowls and flicks Stephen off. The group laughs and Mitchell begins serving dinner.
"My god, I'm so stuffed!" Lindsey moans as she drops another scoop full of coffee into the machine. Jason and I laugh as we work in tandem doing dishes. Fiammetta has disappeared to find dessert and dessert wine. Stephen, Mitchell and Devon are on the terrace smoking.
"He did a better than average job I'd say," Jason murmurs as he slides another two dishes into the washer. "I suppose it's on account of you bringing Devon over."
"Really?" I ask, a frown crossing my face. "I've brought boys over before and dinner has been amazing, but not like tonight." I shake my head and set down the bowl I was rinsing. "What am I missing?"
"Hayden dear…he's a Maxwell," Lindsey says with an exasperated sigh. "As in Maxwell Acquisitions. As in one of the biggest financial firms in the North East." She shakes her head at me and rolls her eyes.
"As in one of the biggest backers of my father's hospital," Jason says tightly. "Watch yourself with him little Caulfield." He ruffles my hair lightly and smiles in the brotherly way I've come to rely upon. "I've known him for a few years. And sometimes I still doubt him."
"Would you be a human if you didn't?" I ask with false cheer. And he knows it. And he understands that I've been struck by something, but he just goes back to the dishes. I go through the motions. I engage in idle chitchat with Jason and Lindsey while my mind goes unfocused and my mind wanders. Could I take being someone else's plaything?
Could I take being something I had made so many others?
"Were you off in Rhima again?" comes a whispered voice into my ear. I smirk and look over my shoulder. Devon is smiling, knowing he scored points by mentioning the town I'd designed for my senior fiction thesis. I shake my head and smile.
"No, I was in my mind."
"Ah. A far scarier place…" he murmurs, nodding sagely. I scowl mockingly and hit him lightly in the shoulder.
"How long was I gone?" I ask, turning to put the dishtowel away and take the mug of coffee he offers. I take a sip and smile. One sugar, one milk - just the way I like it.
"Long enough for me to finish a very tasty Romeo and Juliet," he replies, stirring his own mug of dark coffee. I nod slightly.
"A while then. Those are good cigars if I remember…" I murmur, licking my lips and smiling slightly. He laughs and wraps an arm around my waist.
"Indeed," he chuckles huskily, a flash of memory going through his eyes. Yeah, the marks on his lower lip were still there in shadowy forms from the last time he had smoked an R and J. I grin. Yeah, I'm a biter.
"They're smiling…" Lindsey whispers, leaning backwards over the sofa and looking up at the two of us. "Methinks they are planning to do something naughty." She blinks, an odd looking event when the blinker is upside down, and grins. "Fia, go get your camera!"
"I really don't want to break a lenses…thank you," the petit Italian murmurs tiredly, leaning against Jason. The med student is stirring biscotti in his coffee and shaking his head.
"You don't complain when I pose," the subdued man quips before taking a sip from his mug. Lindsey starts laughing and Fia waves absently.
"That's because you've got the prettiest piece of manliness I've ever seen," she mumbles. Jason's eyes widen and Devon lets a smirk cross his face as Lindsey and Stephen laugh.
"I think we'll go to bed…" Jason stammers, setting his mug down and scooping the tiny woman into his arms. He nods to us all before disappearing into their room, the door shutting with a tiny click. I sigh and move out of Devon's embrace to clear away their coffee mugs.
"Maybe we should turn in too," Lindsey says with a stretch, not so subtly whacking Stephen on the shoulder. The two engaged in a mental screaming match that ended with Stephen rolling his eyes: Lindsey won.
"Good night you two!" she cries out before grabbing her boyfriend's hand and yanking him into their room. I sigh and shake my head. Devon arches an eyebrow and looks at me.
"What the hell was that?" he asks as he brings me the last two mugs. I smile and kiss his cheek.
"That was the family," I reply with a smile. He shakes his head and chuckles softly. I smile to myself as I see him sit down on the sofa and stretch. It's a well-practiced act that Mr. Maxwell does when he settles down. It means his guard is almost down. "What did you think?" I ask softly as I slide next to him and lean against his chest.
"They are an absolutely insane menagerie of humans," he replies, sliding an arm around my waist and kissing my neck softly. "Now that I've met the family…" he places another kiss to my neck and I squirm, "do I finally get to spend the night?" He nibbles lightly along my pulse and I can only nod.
How can I deny a request like that?