"She's got both hands in her pockets.

And she wont' look at you, won't look at you...

She hides true love, en su bolsillo.

She's got halo around her finger around you."

Alejandro by Lady GaGa

.oO Punctuality Oo.

What I was doing was illegal on so many levels.

Not only were we speeding past traffic at twenty miles over the speed limit but I was also balancing a cheeseburger in one hand, while steering halfheartedly with the other. A glance at my rearview mirror confirmed that Claudia was on our asses, pushing the limit of her Dodge Ram as it towed Kaiserin. It was late September, but summer still clung to the cerulean blue skies – the dashboard thermometer read seventy-six degrees.

I had to use the bathroom, too.

That's when I noticed that traffic was slowing to an abrupt crawl and with the screech of asphalt friction and the stench of burning rubber, I brought my Camaro to a halt. I couldn't help the panicked look I directed into my rearview mirror, hoping Claudia was a bit more attentive than I had been – and she was. The vivid red Dodge Ram rumbled appreciatively behind my Malibu blue car; I could clearly read the disapproval in Claudia's expression even through her sunglasses and the windshield.

So, with an apologetic shrug I turned my attention back to the traffic jam, watching the minutes tick by with irritation. Before long we had sat idle, moving but a fraction of a foot in the span of ten minutes and I surmised that at this rate I'd be late for next week's classes. "What the hell could be holding us up?" It was just a murmur but the boy in the passenger seat chose to take my gripe seriously.

I felt him shift in his seat, leaning forward to unlatch the seatbelt around his torso and the passenger side door lock all in one foul swoop. The way he moved, it was like liquid fire, smooth and confident – with a hint of burning intensity. Something you marveled at but knew better than to touch. Everything was calculated, predestined and balanced. I was almost positive that Karasu's peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches were cut diagonally down the center, served on a pristine plate accompanied by a chilled glass of milk.

Everything about him was perfect.

God, he was so fucking annoying.

Seconds later, my cell phone was buzzing – blaring my Lady Gaga ringtone. It was Claudia.

"Uh-huh?" I answered nonchalantly, toying with the leather that encased the steering wheel. I couldn't help but admire my new ride, in all of its vehicle-ness splendor. I glanced up at the rearview mirror and didn't bother fighting the grin that spread across my face. Claudia was exasperated, something I rarely witnessed.

She was glaring holes into the back of my head, sunglasses resting haphazardly atop her head while she fiddled with God-knew-what on her dashboard. Probably aimlessly searching for some Oldies station that I knew didn't exist anymore.

"What…," she cleared her throat, "where is Karasu going?"

"Beats me." My eyes wandered momentarily, scanning the expanse of the traffic jam for a crest of ebony or an crimson scarf. Nothing. "Maybe he had to pee?"

"Very funny, Elena. He's not being paid to investigate traffic jams!" I caught a soft string of profanity before she resumed her 'conversation' with me, "Stay in the car, don't you dare move. I'll go find him."

"Don't bother; I'm enjoying my 'me' time anyway." And just to be obnoxious I hung up on her, turning to toss her a casual wave before cranking up the volume on Paramore's "Misery Business." You know, just to be loutish. Not two seconds later I was perched passively against the hood of the Camaro, letting out a low whistle as I traced the long line of cars stretching down the interstate. If I squinted against the afternoon sun's glare, I could make out the flashing lights just beyond. Accident perhaps? There were quite a few vehicles spread across the road, with a semi-truck rolled on its side.

The sight made me cringe.

"Ti mangeri di baci!" Someone yelled from my right and I couldn't help but look their way, so I turned my maple-brown gaze on them. He must have been at least twenty years old, sporting a pair of enigmatic black shades that veiled the nature and intent in his eyes. Eyes I knew had already undressed me. A smooth tan complexion and very Orlando Bloom goatee complimented his otherwise clean-shaven visage, and much to my disgust I couldn't deny the man's handsome appeal. His jaw line was square and chiseled, reminding me of the models that posed for American Eagle. When I met his stare, the ominous shades were flipped over his head – revealing a pair of vermilion irises at me.

"What'chu doing there, gattina? Sitting your sexy self on that banging car?" Ew. His friend peered up at me from the convertible Chevy Corvette they sat in, which was polished and very chrome black. This second guy was slightly older though he was just as tanned and just as Italian. I flipped them both the bird.

While "I'll ride shotgun" guy curled his mouth in laughter, "sunset-eyes" simply smiled at me from the driver's seat. He was cool and collected behind the steering wheel of his sporty car, I hated the way his off-handed smirk twisted things inside of me. "Easy Gino, can't you see this is a lady we're talking to?"

Gino's wave of laughter subsided only long enough for him to murmur what I thought was an apology, but I couldn't be quite sure. I swallowed while I slipped off my car's hood; a warm gust had embraced us, drawing a few beads of sweat from my brow. I could faintly hear Claudia's voice discussing some matter or other on her cell phone and a distant snort from an agitated Kaiserin. Traffic started to edge inch by inch and before long I'd have to move my car. Where the hell was Karasu?

"What's your name?" Sunset-eyes asked me in a voice laced with velvet, dipped in a thick Italian accent that would have most women on their knees. This guy was all things romance novels worshipped. I eyed him steadily before I quirked my head at him.

"Reina." I lied. Then I saw him, gliding and weaving through the mass of cars. His stark black hair waltzed with the breeze, like ruffled feathers brushing against his face. A deep black, so dark the sun illuminated each strand with highlights of mauve and midnight blue. The bright turquoise pools of his eyes only intensified the contrast. Karasu was beside me a moment later and I gently leaned into him. "You're a little too late, boys."

My bodyguard eyed them evenly before he set a quiet stare down at me questioningly. "Get in, we're about to get moving." I told him and he wordlessly complied. With a final wink at Gino and the nameless model, we pushed passed them as our lane crept forward. An hour later, we were speeding down the interstate headed toward Sword & Gale. I was running late but freedom already tasted so good.


I never asked where he'd run off to, but somehow Claudia and I were weaving through the traffic – passing the jam, until we were free. I kept eyeing Karasu but he gave nothing away with his gently stoic expression and everlasting silence. We arrived at Sword & Gale fashionably late, with a charismatic smile plastered on all our faces except Karasu's. He remained impassive and neutral to the world around him, with the subtlest of frowns on his lips. As though Karasu were listening to music only he could hear, and he didn't like it.

Claudia took center stage as we entered through ridiculously glossy glass doors, she led herself right up to the massive front desk that gleamed of polished marble. The receptionist there was friendly and helpful as Claudia, in her most professional tone, explained our situation. Though Sword & Gale had an upscale staff, Claudia still overshadowed the woman she was addressing. I took a moment while they discussed the dormitory arrangements and the new addition, my personal burden Karasu, to indulge in my surroundings.

It was everything the website had boasted about and more, with tall ceilings and polished beams. I couldn't even detect the miniscule dust in the air as the sunlight filtered through the elegant floor-length windows. This place was meshed and coordinated tastefully in regal hues of alabaster, regal violet and royal blue. Everything complemented anything and even the receptionist dressed in similar colors; sporting a flattering violet pencil skirt and ocean blue vest over her white button-down shirt.

The ceilings were domed and the trees that cushioned the building highlighted the magnificent view from the many windows. In fact, everything was so well-lit by natural sunlight that the extravagant chandeliers were turned off. Karasu followed obediently behind me as I wandered the lobby and turned to grin at Claudia after a few minutes.

"Do you like it?" She asked, turning to face me. I studied her pretty face momentarily, and it struck me then: I'd miss her. My smile wavered and I opted for a nod instead, trusting that my own voice would quickly betray my sudden sadness. She smiled delicately, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Excellent. Be home for the holidays as we arranged, I'll help unload Kaiserin so why don't you head to your room?"

I turned to leave when I heard her clear her throat and raised a questioning brow. Then I realized it was Karasu's attention she had intended to steal, and when I paused he turned to face her. "Not you, Karasu. It's not a coed room, you'll have to stay in your own dormitory down by the west wing." Those peacock blues glanced down at me, uncertain and questioning and it gave me the strangest sensation – as if he were checking for my disapproval or approval on the matter. A few stray tufts of black dipped over those enchanting pools before I remembered I was staring, and quickly nodded.

Though not without the fleeting thought of what might have transpired had I not approved? What would he have done? I could almost envision it now: the unblemished halls and marble stained red with the massacre of those who opposed him, or myself. Listless bodies littering every inch of the magnificent floor, lifeless eyes opened in eternal horror as he ended their insignificant existences one by one. I shook my head free of the ridiculous notion, somewhat appalled by my graphic imagination.

"Well, go ahead then. I'm sure you'll know where to find me." I ushered him away and he reluctantly obliged – disappearing into a long, shiny hallway with not an echo of his departure. I let out a small sigh, "What's his deal, Claudia?"

She chuckled mysteriously, handing me a few forms and a map before patting my head. "Do enjoy yourself little Elena and try not to tarnish your family name."

"Gee, thanks."

Author's Note: Yep, it's been about a year since I last updated and guess what? This chapter has been sitting around collecting dust for almost the entire time. Not sure what possessed me to suddenly upload it, maybe it's a poor attempt to rekindle my interest in the story - or writing in general?

Hope everyone has been having a wonderful year! Do enjoy!

Happy Reading & Writing!