Devil Take It All

- Chapter 5 -

"Let me go!" Nessa said, dragging out the last word so that she sounded very much like a whiny two-year-old.

Then again, she was being held hostage in a death-grip, so who could blame her?

"Let me gooooo! Chaaaaad!"

Nessa hissed at Chad's high-pitched imitation of her voice. "You know, my family's going to come up here looking for me soon enough," she told him, trying a different route.

He kissed her nose again in response, and Nessa turned her face away to keep him from continuing. "Stop it!" she snapped, her nose twitching at the contact.

"But it's cute," he complained.

"But it's mine," Nessa whined, wondering why her maturity level had suddenly chosen to plunge into the abyss of hell.

Chad grinned at the side of her face. He couldn't see her expression because she was facing away from him, but he knew she was probably freaking out. "I don't know how you managed to seduce me that night when you're really just a kid on the inside," he commented lightly.

Then, before she could tell him to keep his voice down lest her family overhear, Chad dropped his arms, stepped back and watched her appraisingly.

"What?" she demanded in a scathing whisper.

Quick as a blink, he leaned in, reached behind her, and moved back again. Nessa's hair tumbled onto her shoulders and fell halfway down her back as she stared at him in surprise; her concord clip was being twirled around by his fingers.

"Give me back my clip," she snapped, reaching for it in a rage. "I happen to have spent a lot of time on my hair."

Chad ignored her, holding the clip out of her reach, and nodded in satisfaction. "Well it's obvious now how you managed to seduce me." His eyes slid over her body. "Nice package."

Her teeth snapped together painfully at his words. "That was unbelievably crude," she hissed. But a part of her, her vanity, couldn't help but be delighted at the comment. Crude or not, it was still a compliment.

He smiled in response, unshaken as usual. His calmness only served to agitate her further.

"Wait, why are you even here?" Nessa demanded as a thought struck her. It was only then that she realized he was a little dressed up, what with the dark-wash jeans and casual button-up shirt. "And all dressed up?"

Chad shrugged. "It's a party, isn't it?" he asked with a grin.

"This isn't college, Chad," she said, her left eyebrow traveling upward. "You can't just walk in and crash a party."

He rolled his eyes. "Who's crashing?"

She wanted to hit him for his audacity, but managed to hold back her anger. "You are, you-"

He cut her off before she could call him some unsavory names. "You know, I am wish I was crashing, just to see what you would do, but - unfortunately - I was invited." His shrug, this time, looked almost apologetic.

It didn't make sense that he would lie - it would be too easy to find out if he was - so Nessa asked the obvious question. "Invited by whom?"

Instead of responding with a name, he took her arm and turned her body so that she was looking out the window again. After searching the crowd with his eyes, he pointed into the backyard. "That's who invited me."

Nessa's stomach felt like it had been squeezed, and her breath was knocked out of her. He had pointed at Aria.

"Aria?" she exclaimed, her eyes flashing dangerously as she turned back to him. "My baby sister? I will kill you if you ev-"

"Nessa!" Chad grabbed her chin and turned it back towards the window. "Not her...him!"

"Him..." her eyes focused " brother? Thane?" She leaned forward as if his face would morph into someone else. It didn't. "Why would he invite you?"

His fingers began playing with the tips of her hair. "Sweetie, we work together...remember?"

Nessa let her forehead touch the glass of the window. "What are you talking about?" she said, resisting the urge to bash her head against the window instead of simply resting against it. "My brother is a video game developer!"

"For my father's company, Gamon Incorporated." Chad leaned against the wall beside the window and watched her with amusement. "It turns out I wasn't lying when I told Dan I know of you through your brother. I was bluffing, hoping that you did indeed have a brother, but it turned out that you do...and that he's a good friend of mine." He smiled wryly. "It's a small world, Nessa. You work for my brother...I work with yours."

"Thane never mentioned you."

"Maybe not, but he probably mentioned Shade?"

She nodded hesitantly, already guessing where this conversation would lead.

"That would be me," he said, confirming her thoughts. "Shade is my developer name. I...didn't want to be known as David Lansing's son...or Dan Lansing's brother."

It was a commendable reason, Nessa had to agree. "But w-"

"Nessa?" Vince's voice cut her off.

She spun towards the door, feeling guilty. He was leaning in, his feet still outside the threshold of the room. "Ah...Vince..."

Vince took that as an invitation and stepped inside. "Hello. Chad Lansing, right?"

"Yes." Chad didn't care about coming off as rude. Rather, that was his intention entirely.

Vince looked at him as if waiting for more of an acknowledgment, while Nessa wrung her hands. He finally gave us, a frown gracing his face, and turned back to her. "Are you ready to go downstairs?" His voice was reproachful; he was a strong believer of timeliness.

"Yes...let's go," she answered, studiously avoiding Chad's face as she made her way over to where Vince was standing.

The two walked out the door and were halfway down the stairs when Chad called out her name. They paused and looked up; Chad was leaning against the second-floor banister, staring down at them.


"Nessa, our conversation is by no means over. I know where to find you." The words sounded like a threat, coming from his lips, and his stoic expression did nothing to put her at ease.

Vince stared between the two, clearly confused and not enjoying it, and Nessa snapped her eye contact with Chad to drag him down the rest of the stairs. Vince's eyes watched her questioningly as she pulled him through the kitchen and into the backyard, but she was not up for answering anything he had on his mind.

She didn't have answers to them herself.

For the next few hours, Nessa used friends and family as a distraction to avoid speaking too much with Vince; she made a point of having long conversations and catching up so that he could not get her alone.

When dinner was served, she made sure Chad was as far away from her as she could possibly manage; it had been hard enough to ignore his gaze digging into her for the past few hours, and she was not going to subject herself to awkward dinner conversation by sitting near him.

Vince, naturally, was on one side of her, while Aunt Kendra - her father's eccentric sister - was on the other. Neveda, Aria, her friend Tanya, and Nessa's friend Allison were opposite them, and Nessa had a feeling they were making fun of Vince, based on the pointed looks, grimaces, and giggles coming from that side of the table. They were all sitting near the center of the long rectangular table, and Chad was sitting with Thane and her parents near the head of it. Luckily.

"Who's that handsome lad?" Aunt Kendra asked from Nessa's right. "I've never seen him before."

Nessa smiled and got Vince's attention. "Auntie, this is Vince Norman. Vince, this is my Au-"

"Not him!" Aunt Kendra interrupted with a snort. "This one is passable, maybe, but I meant him!" She pointed past Vince, and Nessa turned to see that she was indicating Chad.

Nessa prayed, again, for the ground to open up. And, again, no such luck. Cursing Aunt Kendra's direct approach, she smiled apologetically at Vince, who did not look pleased with the situation.

Especially not when Aria, the petty eavesdropper, was laughing from the other side of the table with Tanya, Neveda, and Allison. The four did not even attempt to hide what - or who, rather - they were being amused about.

Vince's eyes flickered between Nessa and the girls, his resentment clear.

"Want some potatoes?" Nessa asked hopefully.

It was going to be a long night.

Chad heard laughter from the center of the table, and his eyes - once again - found its way to Nessa.

But no, she wasn't laughing. In fact, she looked downright uncomfortable as she spoke to Vince. The name felt like a swear-word to his mind.

Her sister, Aria, and the three girls beside her were having a riot, though. The dark-haired friend's eyes landed on Chad, and she continued laughing, making him suspicious as to what they found so amusing. Because they seemed to be alternating between himself and Vince, and because Nessa looked like she wanted to drown herself, he had a feeling all three of them were part of...whatever it was.

"Don't mind them," Thane said, jolting Chad out of his thoughts. "My sisters are a bit off in the head," he continued with brotherly affection, "and their friends are just as insane."

Chad forced himself to smile. "The blonde and dark-haired ones are their friends?"

Thane nodded, watching the girls contemplatively. "The blonde is Aria's best friend. They go to the same university, and I'm surprised she made it all the way out here for this party. She lives quite far from here," he said, noticing Chad's questioning look. "And the dark-haired one is Nessa's best friend."

That caught Chad's attention. "Oh?"

"Yeah...Allison. She's been around since Nessa was a kid. Quite a brat, really."

Chad bit his lip to keep the smile away. Thane's tone of voice had changed when he spoke of Allison, and it was clear 'brat' wasn't the only description the other man would use to describe her. In fact, his eyes took on a slightly dazed expression as he watched the girl.

He decided to test his friend. "She's quite beautiful," Chad commented lightly. And she was, with her petite build, pixie face, and large dark-brown eyes.

Possessiveness flashed through Thane's eyes for a brief second before he managed to control himself. "Yes. Yes she is."

"So this is the girl you've been such a pansy over?" Chad teased quietly, making sure only Thane could hear his words.

"Shut up and eat, Shade," Thane growled in response. "You have enough of your own problems to deal with, without nosing into my love life."

Chad smiled in response as Thane turned away to speak with a friend who sat on his other side. He kind of wished Leslie was around that night to keep him company, since he barely knew anybody there. It really was too bad that his best friend was completely whipped by his wife, he thought with amusement.

The rest of dinner passed without hassle, and Thane's parents pulled Chad into conversation to make him feel more welcome. He found himself enjoying the couple, and thought that his own parents would never have split up if they had the same chemistry, love, and understanding as the White's.

As the table was being cleared - everyone took their own plates in - Chad made a point to walk by Nessa. She was introducing Vince to some of Thane's friends, who Chad was already familiar with, and he stopped by them just to keep her on her toes.

She was saved, however, by Neveda and Aria suddenly appearing by her side. "Come on Nessa, let's dance!" the youngest girl exclaimed.

"Dance?" Vince asked, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. "You dance?"

Chad thought to himself that it was pathetic that Nessa's boyfriend didn't know of her hobbies.

"Um...yeah. It's nothing special - just the three of us," she said, looking guilty for God knows what reason.

Jonah, Thane's friend, snorted. "Nothing special?" he exclaimed. "These girls are amazing when they dance together," he told Vince. "We're all in for a treat."

Chad noticed Nessa looked at Vince and bit her lip at that comment, but her sisters dragged her away before she could respond. As they left, he watched Vince's reaction and saw that he looked confused and...was that disappointment?

The girls climbed onto the pool, which was still covered by the strong glass cover that wouldn't break unless there was a lot of pressure put on it. The lights filtering up from under the water gave them a glowing look, making them look ethereal.

He felt his breath catch when he saw the smile that graced Nessa's face as she conferred with her sisters.

"Yo Shade!"

Chad turned to see Thane motioning him over to the table he sat behind. It was set up with some DJ equipment, and Thane was clearly the DJ for the night.

"What's up?" he asked, coming to stand over the other man.

Thane grinned up at him. "Have any music suggestions? For this dance, I mean."

Chad looked over to the pool, where the girls were pulling their shoes off. He watched as they threw them onto the ground. "Don't they have something rehearsed?"

"Nah, they have no time to practice...or so they say." He laughed. "They're just lazy. What do you think about this?" Thane showed Chad a CD cover and plugged headphones into the equipment so that he could hear the music without anybody else hearing it.

He took the offered headphones and scrolled through the CD. The second-last song caught his attention, because it was a fast number with a catchy rhythm. And, for some reason, it reminded him of the first time he saw Nessa...from across that dance floor a few months ago.

"This one," Chad said, quickly pulling off the headphones. "I think the girls are getting impatient."

Thane nodded his agreement and set the equipment to play the CD. When the music came on, the girls grinned at each other and began dancing.

Chad was captivated with their movement. Like Jonah had said, it was definitely a treat to see the sisters dance together.

It was clear that all of them had gotten dance lessons at some point in their lives (it was that, or they were dancing prodigies), but the new song meant their moves were improvised. However, despite not having practiced, despite not being synchronized, all three were very sure about their steps, and they moved as if unaware of being watched.

Their skirts billowed as they spun, and Nessa's hair - which she hadn't put back up into a bun - slapped at the air with every turn.

Every guest was quiet as they danced, and every eye - even those of the youngest children - were focused on the three sisters as they danced across the impromptu stage like gypsies...or faeries, with the light flickering over them.

At one point, Chad saw Nessa's eyes travel over the crowd, and her step faltered for beat. Confused, he followed her eyes to where Vince stood, near the open back door. His face was illuminated by the light in the house, and the disapproval was clear on his face.

He didn't belong there at all, Chad thought angrily. Vince had no idea how the dynamics of this family worked, and his being there felt like a curse...and not just because Chad had his eye on Nessa.

The music began to fade away, and Chad turned his face back to the pool. The sisters huddled together, laughing and chatting openly as a wild round of applause, complete with whistles, began. They stayed that way for a minute, before Nessa pulled away, sweat beading on her forehead.

She wiped at it as stepped down from the pool, calling something to her sisters over her shoulder, and Chad watched in horror as she suddenly began falling forward; she'd tripped on a large rock.

His feet automatically moved towards her, but the damage was done. Nessa's arm shot out to break her fall, and the scream that escaped her mouth showed that something had gone very wrong.

Chad ran forward, pushing people aside. When he got there, however, he found that Jonah was already at her side, picking her up.

"She passed out," Neveda was babbling to him. "And her arm...oh God, her shoulder is at a weird angle."

Aria, surprisingly, looked to be the calmest of them all. "I think she twisted her ankle when she tripped, and dislocated her shoulder when she tried to break her fall. I don't think it's serious, but let's get her into a car. We'll take her to the hospital just in case, and the doctor can pop her shoulder back in."

"I...I think my car is at the end of the driveway," Chad offered quickly. "It shouldn't be blocked, so we can take her in that."

He heard the party being cleared up as they hurried through the house, but his mind was not focused on that. His eyes constantly found their way to Nessa's pale face, cradled against Jonah's arms.

Chad held the back door of his car open while Jonah placed Nessa inside. Aria and her mother joined her in the back, while Thane climbed into the front.

"Drive fast," Thane muttered when Chad sat down and started the car.

"You can count on it."

"...dislocated shoulder and twisted ankle. It's not serious." Nessa woke to hear a strange man's voice.

Her eyes were still closed, and she forced herself to open them. The room was white, and her first thought was that she was in a sterile chamber.

Keeping her eyes open was difficult, and they closed again as she struggled to see.

"Her eyes are flickering," came her mother's voice. "Nessa?" Her small hand took hers. "Honey, open your eyes..."

The strange man's voice came back. "The painkillers are making her drowsy," he said. "Let her rest for a bit."

Taking his words as permission, her body stopped struggling and slid back into unconsciousness.

A/N: Again, sherbetsi gave the final 'nudge', but all you reviewers rock my socks off. (When I'm wearing socks, of course.)

Continue reviewing? Please and thank you. :)