Constantijn Avery Tarquin Claus Willem Pyotr Romanov-Nassau

Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Duke of Brabant, Duke of Limburg

Pierre hotel penthouse

Kallistos = Mother – Gaul?

Apology flower: white tulip

Jewels: .com

Herrenchiemsee palace?

Katz Castle

Marquis of Veere and Vlissingen (both in the Netherlands)

Count of Buren, Culemborg and Leerdam (all in the Netherlands), Dietz, Katzenelnbogen and Spiegelberg (all three now in Germany) and Vianden (now in Luxembourg)

Viscount of Antwerp (now in Belgium)

Baron of Breda, Cranendonck, Lands of Cuijk, Eindhoven, City of Grave, IJsselstein and Liesveld (all in the Netherlands), Diest, Herstal and Warneton (all three now in Belgium), Beilstein (now in Germany), Arlay and Nozeroy (both now in France)

Hereditary Lord and Seigneur of Ameland (in the Netherlands)

Lord of Baarn, Borculo, Bredevoort, Daasburg, Geertruidenberg, Hooge en Lage Zwaluwe, Klundert, Lichtenvoorde, 't Loo, Naaldwijk, Niervaart, Polanen, Steenbergen, Sint Maartensdijk, Soest, Ter Eem, Willemstad and Zevenbergen (all in the Netherlands), Bütgenbach, Sankt Vith and Turnhout (all three now in Belgium), Besançon and Montfort (now in France).

Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld (1938–1980)[21]

Her Majesty Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld (1980–present

Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, though his full title was "We, Nicholas the Second, by the grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, of Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Tsar of Kazan, Tsar of Astrakhan, King of Poland, Tsar of Siberia, Tsar of Tauric Chersonesos, Tsar of Georgia, Lord of Pskov, and Grand Duke of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, and Finland, Prince of Estonia, Livonia, Courland and Semigalia, Samogitia, Białystok, Karelia, Tver, Yugra, Perm, Vyatka, Bulgaria, and other territories; Lord and Grand Duke of Nizhny Novgorod, Chernigov; Ruler of Ryazan, Polotsk, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Beloozero, Udoria, Obdoria, Kondia, Vitebsk, Mstislav, and all northern territories; Ruler of Iveria, Kartalinia, and the Kabardinian lands and Armenian territories; hereditary Ruler and Lord of the Cherkess and Mountain Princes and others; Lord of Turkestan, Heir of Norway, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, Stormarn, Dithmarschen, Oldenburg, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth."

.org/wiki/Torquhil_Campbell,_13th_Duke_of_Argyll

I've Crawled Home From Worse Than This

Château d'Yquem

We cannot expect people to have respect for law and order until we teach respect to those we have entrusted to enforce those laws.

Grandparents are Oma and Opa

Title includes duke of limburg

Mothers title is Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov , great great grandson of Tsar Alexander II duke of Schleswig and Holstein-Gottorp .org/wiki/Duke_of_Glucksburg chateau petrus

I felt vaguely nauseous as I held the thick envelope in my hands. I grabbed the ancient letter opener off the desk and tore it open with an undertone of violence. I read through it and grimaced immediately… this will not be a pleasant event. I was cordially invited to my mother's wedding. I honestly haven't seen her since I was fifteen and the most contact we've had is mailing one another Christmas and birthday presents (she did forget my birthday one year however) and missed plans to meet up. Enclosed with her ostentatious wedding invitation was a piece of paper on her custom stationary. Inadequate pittance

Constantijn Avery Tarquin Pyotr Romanov-Nassau

You will be attending my wedding and you will also be a part of the wedding party so there is no getting out of this as you always do. I will expect you to be on your best behaviour and to actually be presentable among polite society. I will not tolerate any of your usual nonsense. I feel it is high time to introduce you among polite society so this shall provide the perfect opportunity and I will not have you ruin it for me. Call Lena once you receive this letter so you can hammer out the details.

Ekaterina Maria Nikolaievna Romanova Grand Duchess of Russia, Princess of Hesse-Kassel, Duchess of Holstein-Gottorp, Duchess of Halland, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, Countess of Teschen, Countess of Habsburg-Lorraine, Baroness of Nuremburg.

We have not seen one another in a great deal of time. I do hope that your time in boarding school and travelling you have matured. You are to attend my wedding and will not be getting out of this as you always do. You will be among polite society and I expect you to be presentable. I will not tolerate any of your usual nonsense. As you are nearly of age I feel it is high time to start presenting you to society. This event shall present the perfect opportunity. Call Lena once you receive this letter so the two of you can arrange your travel plans.

Ekaterina-Maria Alexandrovna Romanova

Reading her letter I can't help but be reminded of why I left her 'care'. So we may be European royalty but really who isn't? It really isn't a big deal… most of the places our titles are attached to no longer exist and the actual heirs are a bit disputed. Like the whole Grand Duchess of Russia business, currently all the Romanov's are basically fighting over who really is the heir… to a now defunct kingdom. It's kind of pathetic really but the more titles you tack onto your name the older money you look and there is this element of prestige if you're higher up than that person. Sure in the past couple of generations we have cared less and less about that but it still exists. Take my parents for example they never had a morganatic marriage, it was actually kind of obvious how painfully arranged their marriage really was. But I suppose it was slim pickings, you want someone of the right breeding who still possesses a fortune and is within your age range but at the same time you don't want somebody too closely related to you. Emphasis on too, my parents are very distantly related (well relatively anyways) and even then I am still ridiculously inbred; it's a wonder I don't have haemophilia or something. That being said I shouldn't complain about the whole title thing, my mother could've been really terrible and listed out mine which is a… daunting list. I inherit both my mother's and father's titles and honestly… I don't even know them all; I don't even know all the places they list. I mean they don't even exist, who really cares about Prussia anyways?

I looked outside the windows and felt nervousness start to build up in my stomach. This will be the first time I've seen my mother in… two years… I'll be meeting my new stepfather… my stepsiblings… will I have stepsiblings? I'm going to be paraded around to her friends and acquaintances and I'm going to be a pretty little object on display… ugh how tedious. The thing people don't realize about 'rich kids' is that while there is exceptions to every rule this is how we are mostly viewed. We are similar to a grain of sand and our parents are oysters. The grain of sand is a little irritant that is constantly coated with layers of nannies and boarding schools and when it is finally cultivated it comes out a beautiful pearl to show off. So pretty much you get paraded about while your parents go on and on about you and then you have to hear someone go on about their kid, throw in a few back handed compliments, and do it all over again.

The driver zoomed past opulent manor after opulent manor until finally we where driving down the driveway of one of them. When we finally stopped in front of a ridiculous house I got out of the vehicle and took a deep breath of the fresh sea air. The ocean wasn't too far from the house and I felt strange entering the foyer and taking in my surroundings. I immediately knew this was my mother's house, her house always has the same distinctive scent of potpourri… or something, I'm not sure… I've never bothered to ask any of the maids over the years what they did to make our house smell so fragrant. It was surprisingly… comforting, I haven't smelt this in three years… and now that I'm encountering it I can't help but feel a little… nostalgic.

After a few moments of standing around awkwardly my mother sauntered down the staircase looking as opulent as ever. My mother is of the non-reigning Russian royal family and just by looking at her it is utterly obvious. She like her ancestors before her is obsessed with jewels, lush fabrics, and the extravagant in life. That being said I shouldn't begrudge my ancestors that much. My branch of the family where the few to not sell off all we smuggled out during the revolution; we instead leached off of other relatives till we where back on our feet as it was apparently 'sacrilege' to sell such items (we most likely sold some bits and pieces but I know none of the major pieces where dismantled). The fact that they held such reverence for historical pieces despite the frivolity of the imperial family is pretty commendable (especially when you take into account a story I once heard. Apparently they'd leave bowls of jewels around just so you could stick your hands in and revel in the feeling of them against your skin, which is both strange and excessive. Once the fortune was regained (I'm not sure how but I can only assume through shady means) pieces have slowly been added back to the family collection… or well my mother's collection anyways; apparently her life goal is to gather up all of the Romanov jewels, paintings, and heirlooms. It's truly a spectacular collection so far… I've seen it once… no never in its entirety of course, but my mother has a manor along The Rhine and I remember she once took me to the jewel vault. The first time she ever slapped me was when I audaciously tried to touch a Fabergé egg; her rings left cuts on my cheek for weeks. My mother was looking as intimidating as ever with her gold hair pulled up in a tight bun, frighteningly tall high heels, and the kind of jewels you never see anyone wear on a day-to-day basis. My mother isn't like anyone I know… people who own diadems wear them to white-tie events and parties… but no my mother wears her insanely opulent jewellery on a daily basis; it's really no wonder she has a bodyguard/driver escort her everywhere. That being said it makes my mother a very easy person to shop for which is a very surprising feat when you take into account how particular she is and how impossibly high her standards are. "You're late," she said icily.

"As if it is my fault that the airport was utter chaos," I said with a roll of my eyes and trying to come off as flippant. My mother is like some kind of vicious predator, it will do you absolutely no good to let her know just how much she intimidates you. We approached one another, she was silently appraising me and I was trying not to shake in my shoes. She looked so different and yet… exactly the same. The same hair of spun gold, the same clear blue eyes, the suspiciously young looking face, the same high cheekbones I see in the mirror every morn. "It is nice to see you again Mamochka," I said before we exchanged a cheek-kiss greeting.

"You as well Avery. I should also inform you that you will be using the name Constantijn amongst polite society whilst you are here as that is how I refer to you when speaking to my friends," she said. "Let us take tea in the parlour and we can discuss details of the future while your room is set up."

"Alright but I would like to get to bed soon I am rather jet lagged."

"Of course," she replied. We made our way to a beautifully decorated parlour room and I recognized the Cézanne on the wall as one I remember my mother acquisitioning at the first art auction I ever went to. I imagine that is how what I am going to do with my life. I'll just collect things… it seems like a nice passive way to make money and I could really get into collecting art and old maps. My mother collects things traced to her bloodline and really anything beautiful in general and my father used to collect coins and all sorts of random things… and do not even get me started on how much random junk my extended family have. I've always been really curious and have poked around in more than one vault and it is astounding how many things people have just lying around… and historically important things at that, things that should be sitting in museums and mantle pieces so they can at least be properly appreciated. Almost immediately after sitting down a maid came in with tea and tiny pastries. "Once you have gotten over your jetlag you will be taken into the city to visit a tailor. You will be a part of the wedding party and I expect you to be on your best behaviour while you are here. I will not tolerate any type of nonsense; you will not speak of your more… questionable hobbies and habits and will be perfectly congenial and charming. I shall introduce you as that of nobility and you can tell me which title you want to use once you've come to a decision and please do not list your full name or I will go utterly mad. Now you will be meeting your stepfather and stepsiblings tommorow and you are to treat them with the utmost respect." My mother then had a troubled look cross her face momentarily and took a heavy sigh before fully composing herself. "I also have to inform you that you will no longer be living in that South American cesspool but will instead be living here with me in New York. I personally was against the idea but your stepfather insisted that all of the children live with us for one year after we marry so we can get to know one another. You and two of your stepsiblings shall be living in our apartment in Manhattan… this is the weekend home… and as you are a minor you are forced to do this."

"You cannot be serious," I said my eyes wide. "Why in the world would I move in with you? I will be of legal age in the autumn! I-I… what is wrong with this man you are marrying? Does he have a head injury or something?" I exclaimed trying hard to hold my composure.

"Bite your tongue you ingrate," my mother snapped in her heavily accented tone. "This is New York City I am sure you can find something here to occupy yourself with and you must realize that we will never see one another. Your stepfather is a very busy man and is often at the office and in London, I am here often, and we are always running off to the vacation homes. We will live in the same house, we will all take a couple dinners a week together, we will attend society events together where you will be devastatingly charming and polite, but we will keep out of one another's hair, is that clear? The apartment is quite large so it shouldn't be too hard to see little of one another. That is all I have to say to you now Avery, I shall bid you adieu, and allow you to process that information. Sleep well."

I sat there gaping like a fish before I quickly drank back what was left in my teacup, held my head up high and meandered back to the foyer. I pressed a button on the intercom system and rang the kitchen… there is always someone in the kitchen. Shortly afterwards someone I was surprised to see (but in retrospect really shouldn't have been) stood in front of me with a warm smile. "Avery, you've grown so much since last we met," she said in flawless Dutch before kissing both my cheeks and hugging me tight. I missed Lena a lot, she is my mother's personal assistant and most trusted servant. I've known her since as long as I can remember and she was more of a maternal figure in my life than my mother ever was… not that that's saying all that much, after all the bar is not all that high.

"I've missed you too," I replied back in Russian. I know I should speak better Dutch… but I don't, I sort of stopped studying it after my father's death and have lost much of my grasp on the language.

"Come let me take you to your room and we can catch up tommorow," she said linking arms with me and escorting me down some halls and up some stairs. I was finally in my bedroom and decided to poke around before going to sleep. The room was large and the colour scheme did fit me (dark green, browns, soft greys, black, and white) there was a beautiful balcony that overlooked the ocean and most importantly a large comfortable looking four poster bed with wispy curtains surrounding it.

I awoke to the smell of the sea air wafting in through my windows and I felt more refreshed than I had in a long time. The past month has been an endless party… night after night of debauchery pretty much. I spent some time in Paris visiting the catacombs and many a catophile, but most of my time was spent in Spain. I went to Ibiza and did what one does in Ibiza then went to mainland Spain and partied around Barcelona visiting old friends and pushing the limits of the human body.

I finally emerged from bed around lunchtime; I assumed I would be meeting my stepfather and stepsiblings so I spent extra time getting ready. I am meticulous about my appearance my clothing must be tailored, I have to be well groomed, and I spend an inordinate amount of time making sure I look perfect. I know it's shallow, I know it's vapid, but I can't help but feel utterly exposed if I don't have the chance to cultivate myself before facing the world. I felt as if I lived up to my mothers standards of semi-casual fare by wearing charcoal slacks, custom made oxfords, a white button up, dark green velvet blazer, the ostentatious ruby encrusted cuff links she gave me for Christmas one year, and the ratty old pocket watch a dear friend bought for me while we strolled a Parisian flea market.

When I entered a parlour not far from the dining room my mother stood to greet me and kissed both my cheeks. "Good morn Mamochka."

"I take it you are refreshed?" She asked. I merely nodded and then the introductions started. "This is my fiancé and your soon to be stepfather Edward Whitcomb V Duke of Argyll and his eldest son Edward Whitcomb VI." she introduced them first and I immediately shook hands with a man that was at least ten years my mother's senior however despite that he wasn't too terrible looking and his son was a rather handsome fellow who was quite large and broad shouldered and looked to be in his early twenties. "This is Alistair Frederick Whitcomb and Rosalie Camille Whitcomb, you will be going to school with Alistair as he is a grade behind you and Rosalie is three years younger than you."

"It is a pleasure to meet you," I replied trying to be cordial.

"This is my son Constantijn Avery Tarquin Pyotr Romanov-Nassau… which title have you chosen to use?" she inquired.

"Uhm… Lord of Willemstad?" I stated even though my tone made it sound more like a question.

My mother immediately threw me a dirty look and said, "I am the Grand Duchess of Russia and you expect me to introduce my son to polite society with one of his lowliest titles?"

"Fine," I said with a roll of my eyes, "How about Marquis of Veere or Duke of Brabant?"

"I will not use one of your dormant titles, I think Prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld is the one you shall use, it's prestigious yet at the same time not ostentatious as I doubt many Americans can tell you where Lippe is. It is also easy to pronounce unlike some of your titles," she said with a smile. "Do remind me to tell Lena to submit the change of your last name to the school; you can be Constantijn Romanov-Lippe-Biesterfeld instead." I personally was not keen on it… it's beyond ostentatious despite what she says… but I know better than to argue with my mother.

We soon where escorted into the dining room by a meek looking maid and I felt uncomfortable as hell. I have spent the last three years far away from polite society and it felt uncomfortable to play this role again. I am used to my personal apartment where I ate half naked while watching TV and could do whatever I wanted and act however I pleased. Instead I now have to be… this person. This image I have cultivated is that of a charming sycophant who is slightly aloof, a touch arrogant, and perfectly stoic. I am the Prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld… a useless name that makes me sound better than those around me when really it is utterly meaningless… this year will be hell.

Lunch was not a fun affair. I'll admit I was pleased to watch the interaction between my mother and Edward and it did make me happy to see that they seem to actually be well suited for one another. They seem to be equally matched when it comes to psychopathy and they appear to have similar interests; not to mention the way their eyes light up when they look at one another. Edward the younger is following in daddy's footsteps and doing something with finance or real estate or something and recently transferred to Yale. He is arrogant beyond all belief, vaguely uncouth, and an all around disgusting individual with a nasally sounding British accent of some type (I can't peg which region, but I'm going to assume upper-class London). Alistair didn't speak much but he looked to be the bookish type with his pallor, thin frame, thick glasses, and large vocabulary. Rosalie was… self-involved, she went on and on about herself, about her horses, about herself, and then some more. Edward and my mother undercut everyone around them my mother with back handed compliments and insinuations, Edward with his direct confrontation and a condescending attitude. The conversation consisted of false congratulations, wedding schedule, a disgusting amount of bragging, and material possessions.

I was lucky… I missed the engagement party and most of my mother's craziness and stressing over the wedding and just made it for the death rattle. I had to attend a rehearsal dinner tonight and then I would go to the wedding and then hopefully when I run off to Argentina to pick up my things my mother forgets about keeping me in New York.

I took a deep breath and smoothed out my lapels… I look perfect. My hair which I usually let fall over my forehead and into my eyes is parted to the side and disgustingly respectable looking. My usually dirty and tattered nails are buffed and cuticle free… and I will never survive tonight.

My mother arrived fashionably late to her own rehearsal dinner (I am still not sure what the point of that is). I felt awkward being there to be honest… sure the actual wedding rehearsal was not too bad as I'm not in the wedding party (despite my mother's earlier threat, she decided that her wedding was all about her and the novelty of her perpetually absent son was not going to detract from that) and was able to walk along the shoreline instead… but this will be daunting to say the least. I begged her not to make me walk down the stairs and have my title called out and all the attention that goes with it… but she never listens.

She sauntered down the marble staircase her arm linked with Edward's… then came my turn… ugh. I put on a mask of cold arrogance and let my name be called. "Presenting his illustrious highness Prince Constantijn Romanov of Lippe-Biesterfeld." All eyes where on me as I casually walked down the staircase and I fought back the bile urging to come up. As soon as I was off the staircase the other titled people where called and I glanced about the ballroom that was rented for this event. I immediately went up to the bar area and acquisitioned a glass of champagne… lest I go mad.

"Really Constantijn you're drinking already?" An unfortunately familiar voice said from beside me.

"Yes Rosalie I am drinking already, this is a party one must drink champagne at a party," I casually replied.

"It's illegal you know, you're not twenty-one," she said with a smug and superior smile… as if she actually had something on me.

"Rosalie I may as well tell you now so you can give up on trying to blackmail me. I have diplomatic immunity, I can do what I want, where I want, when I want and nobody can do anything about it. I could kill someone right here in this ballroom and nobody could do anything about it; I am essentially above the law. But seeing as I am not a sociopath I shall instead commit a different felony," I said motioning for the bartender to give me another champagne. "Providing alcohol to a minor, now you stay out of my way and I shall stay out of yours," I then handed her my untouched glass.

"Thanks Constantijn," she said happily with a big smile on her face before sauntering off somewhere or another.

I really do hope that little gestures such as that one will keep her off my back… I can already tell she is the type to snoop through my room. While I've lived a shamelessly open life the past couple of years… I must remember to be a bit more… restrained now; after all I'm now going by my given name and all that goes with it.

I sipped my champagne and surveyed the scene ahead of me. Right now it was drinks and amuse-bouche then we shall sit, have a terribly long meal, and then time for toasts, more drinks, and then finally I can take a breath. It was finally time to sit down and I was seated at a table with Alistair, Rosalie, and a couple of other people around our age whose names I immediately forgot. "Constantijn," Rosalie said with a giggle as I sat in my chair.

"Yes?"

"Can you get me some more," she asked in a conspiratorial whisper.

"You just giggled, I am not going to be responsible for you puking in a Ming vase or God forbid some urn. You can drink some more after you eat something."

"Fine," she said rolling her eyes. "You don't have to be such a buzzkill Constantijn I can hold my liquor you know."

I couldn't help but laugh then replied, "You are fourteen you cannot do anything."

This immediately caused Alistair to snicker under his breath but his hushed giggles where immediately stopped when Rosalie sent him a withering glare. "You're so mean Constantijn, just wait till I tell your mother that you gave me alcohol," she said with an arrogant and triumphant smirk.

"Wait till I tell your father that I caught you fucking a servant in the library; against the first editions no less," I replied casually.

"What!" she sputtered, "You wouldn't dare!"

"Or maybe I can mention how I found my mother's padparadscha sapphire necklace in your bedroom. Your father does seem inordinately fond of my mother so I imagine he'd consent to any punishment she could think up. If she would backhand her only heir for daring to even touch one of her jewels I cannot imagine what she would do to her husband's ingrate of a daughter who was bold enough to actually steal from her." Her mouth was agape and her eyes where as wide as saucers and before she could dignify my remarks with a response I said in a very serious tone, "I am not somebody you want as an enemy Rosalie, I have unlimited resources, I come from a very long and illustrious line of conquerors, and I am absolutely unscrupulous. If you stay out of my way I shall stay out of yours but if you continue to put your nose where it does not belong I will have no qualms about utterly destroying you in everyway imaginable."

"You wouldn't dare! I am Rosalie Whitcomb!" she hissed obviously unaccustomed to anyone standing up to her.

"Of course I would, your name means nothing to me. You may be able to intimidate others by only mentioning who you are but I am Constantijn Romanov the titles I have tacked to my name would make your entire lineage look like plebeians in comparison. Just because your father has a title and money does not mean your behaviour is excusable. You are but a disgusting little brat with an unwarranted sense of self-importance who should learn a little respect, cordiality, and most of all her place," I replied in a cold and authoritative tone reminiscent of my mother's that left no doubt in anyone's mind that the conversation was now over. "So Alistair why don't you tell me about this school we shall be attending?" I asked in a pleasant tone as our soup course was brought out.

"Oh… uhm, it's okay I guess," he awkwardly replied.

"How very evasive." The night consisted of me trying to engage Alistair in some form of conversation but he mostly just blushed and muttered back evasive answers, Rosalie glared at me the entire time, and the other people at the table where sycophants who fawned over my accent and title but I mostly ignored them and focused my attentions on Alistair. I must admit Alistair intrigues me… I suppose it's simply because he is so shy and isn't very forthcoming.

Once the wedding was over Edward and my mother immediately left for Fiji and I immediately caught a flight to Buenos Aires and hoped that she'd forget all about me. You can imagine how surprised I was to wake up from a siesta one afternoon to find my mother, Edward, Alistair, and Rosalie all standing in my hallway (how the fuck did they get past the doorman?). With a yawn I opened the door and tiredly asked, "can I help you?"

"Yes you can, by first answering why in the hell are you still here?" she practically screeched.

"I just assumed you'd forget that whole move to New York business so I didn't see the point," I replied with a shrug. The minute the words left my mouth however a furious look crossed her face and I was backhanded harshly.

"That is for your presumption," she said in a calm tone her anger was showing through however as her accent always gets thicker the angrier she gets and she gets this cruel look in her eyes.

"Forgive me for my presumption, I merely was trying to live out the option best for both of us," I said in Russian. "Please come in," I said further opening the door and motioning everyone inside. "May I get anyone a drink or something?" I asked filling my French press with some coffee… ugh I'm going to need this.

"I assume you have some wine," my mother said glancing around at the strewn liquor bottles a small wrinkle of distaste evident on the bridge of her nose as she appraised my living conditions.

"Yes would you like kir or anything specifically?" I asked.

"Something tasteful." With a roll of my eyes I busted out the decanter, the glasses, and poured a bottle I've been saving into it. I set everything up on my sticky coffee table and sat down in my favourite chair with a cup of coffee and pulled out the Fabergé cigarette case I stole from my mother years ago. Rosalie looked at me with wide eyes as I pulled a joint out of it and lit it.

"You do drugs!" Rosalie shrieked as if she had finally found out some huge secret.

"Everybody does drugs. Have you not heard of caffeine?" I replied with a shrug before taking a large hit.

"Yeah but marijuana is illegal," she said smugly.

"In American maybe, but that is not so in Argentina and haven't we gone through the whole diplomatic immunity thing Rosalie?" I couldn't help but smugly smile when I seen her mouth all agape and fought the urge to blow my smoke in her face.

"This place is filthy," my mother said with a glare.

"The maid comes in tommorow."

"I do not see how you can live like this."

"I prefer it. If I end up puking on the floor it does not matter, as there is no hannoun rug for me to ruin. If I burn cigarette holes in the sofa it does not matter, as it is not an original Louis XIV from Versailles itself. It's comfortable and allows me to be as destructive as I please," I explained.

"I suppose… but I still do not like it. You may shun your heritage but it is something you will have to accept sooner or later."

I rolled my eyes and replied, "I've accepted my heritage Mamochka, if anything I am too true to my lineage. I have no borders to extend or countries to invade so I throw all my energies into turning the third world into my personal playground." That isn't true at all but it's the perfect excuse to give my mother for why I have been living in Buenos Aires, Chiang Mai, and Tangiers.

My mother seemed very pleased at that answer and then of course fate had to intervene and be needlessly cruel. "Avery who are these people?" a lilting voice asked in Spanish and standing in my bedroom doorway wrapped in a sheet was an exceptionally pretty boy with messy black hair.

"Go back to bed Mateo," I said in Spanish hoping he'd actually listen for once and thankfully he fucking did (not before throwing me a really dirty look).

"Really Constantijn?" my mother said in a disgusted tone with a raised eyebrow. "You're still dallying about with all of those boys? I thought you would have outgrown it by now."

With a shrug I replied, "I will eventually when I find a beautiful girl of impeccable breeding to marry; until then I shall continue dallying about with all those boys."

"Well at least you can't get any of them pregnant," she said with a heavy sigh. "I do hope you maintain some discretion once we get back to New York you will after all be going by your given name."

"I am a hedonist, not an idiot," I replied with a roll of my eyes.

I couldn't fight the anticipation I felt as the driver stopped in front of the large apartment building. It was architecturally interesting… sort of. It was an art-deco building with beautiful intricate work for the first few floors and then it was very plain the rest of the way up until it reached the last few floors in which it had lovely terraces and an almost chateau like feel to it. I was full of anticipation as we rode up the elevator and as soon as we came into the private entrance I was smitten. It was beautiful; everything about the house was architecturally wonderful. As soon as you come in from the gilded elevator landing you open a door to this beautiful foyer. A truly spectacular one with high ceilings, a chandelier, and a giant black marble double staircase that as soon as you went up you where in a ballroom. It was a converted ballroom. There was a dining area, parlour areas, and a music area. You where able to go on these gorgeous terraces from it and it was absolutely massive; I was absolutely floored at how large it was. The apartment was just… amazing. There was of course Edward's office and his and my mother's bedroom, but there was also a rather decent sized library (it wasn't as large as the one at the weekend home) for being an apartment in New York City. My bedroom was rather beautiful as well. It had beautiful burgundy walls, ebony floors, and smatterings of grey, black, and white here and there. The art on the walls wasn't too my taste as I've never been particularly interested in the Renaissance. Not from a painting stand point anyways; I was always more interested in the sculpture. It did however feel very cozy and was quite large and other than the art it was decorated to suit my tastes.

The next morning I

New city, new social circles, new life. I fought back what nervousness I felt and opened the door. I was used to moving a lot, I was used to new schools, yet… I still never got over the nervousness I felt when I encountered new people. My father used to say it is a basic survival instinct and a remnant of the evolutionary process. I however just refer to it as socially inhibiting and at times embarrassing, thankfully I have a stunning façade of calm collectiveness. I pulled the map and schedule out of my charcoal coloured messenger bag and warily made my way down the halls. I found my locker and dropped off some of my books as the bell rang. I consulted my map once again and started to wander upstairs, I walked around and immediately wanted to smack myself. I of course had to misinterpret the map and walk upstairs instead of downstairs, a major slap in the face to any veteran map-reader. The late bell rang and I decided to take my time and languidly entered the classroom I easily found once I entered a basement section of the school. I entered the classroom quietly and glanced about for a free desk; fucking hell I hate that seat. Right by the teacher's desk… hm at least it's far from the windows, I have sensitive skin (a major annoyance when you live in a tropical or Mediterranean climate) so I've always stuck to shadows and shade no matter how cloudy the day. I sat down and pulled out my books. The teacher gave me a slightly curious look and I almost gaped when I fully took in his physical appearance… he couldn't be human. He had dark brown hair that was wavy and perfectly dishevelled and could have easily been mistaken for black had it not been for those chestnut highlights that appeared when the light bounced off his tresses, bone structure that if you examined closely you realized was perfectly symmetrical and near impossible to resist running your fingers over, and a body that could rival any Olympic swimmer's. "Hello class, I am Mr. Duchovny and welcome to Literature 30-1. I believe we should start the class off with introductions. We will go around the class and state our names as well as a small fact about ourselves," he said in a velvety voice.

A girl on the other side of the room started once he motioned to her and said, "I'm Lisa and I like hanging out with my friends and I love The Jonas Brothers." The rest of the introductions continued on in the exact same manner, few people had anything even remotely interesting to say.

It finally came to me and after a few seconds I said in my accented tone, "I often go by the name Constantijn and so far my favourite place in the world is the Chernobyl zone of exclusion… it's as if you stepped into The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali." Yes I have an accent… and no I cannot identify it… nobody can. It's an utter mix match of the many places I've been to you can however hear distinctive Eastern European undertones.

"All right class that was very interesting. I'm sure the rest of your teachers will go over the school rules so I am going to skip over that… We will however go over the course outline. We will do many novel studies, the dissection of various works of poetry, as well as a myriad of short stories," he started going in depth about which books. I glanced at the list he handed out with utter disinterest. Hm… The Canterbury Tales; at least it's in its original state and not some translated dribble, The Odyssey; I've been meaning to get into Ancient Greek literature anyways, The Metamorphosis; how cliché, Great Expectations; a decent read but a little dry for my tastes, Crime and Punishment; not Dostoeyevsky's best work by any means but Raskolnikov is one of the best characters in Russian literature. Hm it is a bit more vague when it comes to the poetry and short stories… we had better actually read some good poetry and not that Robert Frost 'the leaves are golden in spring' bullshit. So few true poets exist… I can only think of a few off the top of my head… but my god when you do encounter a true poet it's enough to send shivers down your spine. I only started to pay attention to my surroundings when I heard Duchovny say something about how we had the rest of the period to just fuck around. I being the awesome person I am pulled a small book out of my messenger bag. (Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplified, which was written in the 1700's and people angry about his "advocacy" for homosexuality actually had much of it destroyed. What is left of it was only recently discovered and despite covering such a serious topic it was a surprisingly funny book that had a more humorous and gossipy approach) and tried to ignore the chaos surrounding me.

"You're new here," a girl with a slight London accent said standing right in front of me and casting a shadow on the book I was enjoying.

I looked up to see a short girl with curly blonde hair and a curious if not slightly condescending look on her overly made up face. "What a cunning observation," I remarked wryly.

"You look like a prat," she said crossing her arms.

"Oh really?" I asked indifferently and looking down at my clothes. I think I actually look very good, I was wearing black skinny jeans, little black lace up dress-type shoes, a white button up/collared shirt, a dark grey v-neck sweater overtop of it, and to top it off a wine coloured velvet blazer (you can't forget I was also wearing a pocket watch I picked up at a flea market in Paris and my father's large jade ring). "I was actually going for Dimitri Karamazov, really all I'm missing is the ushanka."

"Who?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

"A character in the novel The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoeyevsky," I replied in a bored tone with a perfectly timed roll of my eyes.

"Right… so where did you move here from anyways?"

"Everywhere and nowhere, I am merely a nomad."

"What kind of answer is that?" she asked in a snide tone.

"A perfectly legitimate one," I retorted. "I have no home, I simply wander from location to location."

"Yeah okay," she said with a scoff. I in turn shrugged my shoulders and went back to reading my book. She huffed indignantly at my indifference and stomped off elsewhere (thankfully). I may come off as an aloof person… but geez I hate people; I get so nervous around them and never know what to say. Thankfully hostile situations are always easier as I come off as an 'ice queen' as one of my friends once put it. The bell rang after a while and I was suddenly glad for my seat… it was near the door. I bolted out of the classroom and then moseyed my way to my German class, this school teaches four languages (French, Spanish, Latin, and German).

I entered the classroom and took a random empty seat and waited for things to begin. The teacher took attendance, handed out worksheets and booklets and yammered on and on about the complexity of language and about how this class will be very interactive and a thousand and one other things. Then he just had to ask a question I hate answering as it makes people ask tons of questions. "So I want everyone to raise their hands if they can speak more than just English with fluency," the teacher (a really tall man who looked borderline anorexic) asked. I raised my hand and then he asked us who already spoke some German so once again I raised my hand. "Okay so we're going to go around the class and state which languages we already speak and why we want to learn German."

Most people in class could 'speak' French or Spanish (seriously… learning the way they teach you in school is practically useless… sure you can recite it but native speakers will have to slow down for you and you'll have a lot of trouble, unless of course you are being taught by a native speaker and the entire class is conducted in the language you're learning, then it's a whole different story), and most people wanted to learn German because it's 'interesting' or because their family is German. It finally came to me and with a heavy sigh I said, "I am currently fluent in English, French, Czech, and have neared fluency in Russian and Spanish I just need to work on my grammar a bit. I also speak conversational Italian and Dutch as well as a smattering of too many languages to list."

"Really? That's very interesting. Which is your native language?" he asked with genuine interest.

"I can't really say… I grew up in a household where we spoke Dutch and Russian… but I suppose it could be argued that Czech is also one of my first languages."

"So why do you want to learn German?"

"I find Latin useless, I speak French, I speak Spanish, and I should work on my German anyways."

"I assume you lived in Europe, did you ever live in Germany?" he asked in an excited tone.

"Nein, well not really. I suppose it's worth noting that in my youth I ran away from home and lived with gypsies in Hamburg for a few months," I replied indifferently not caring that my mother would be livid if she ever found out that I mentioned my short stint as a street urchin.

"Uhm… alright then," he said carrying on with his trite questions (at least I wasn't the focus of them). The class continued on in a boring manner, we went through class rules, school rules, and where told to get German/English dictionaries from the library after class. My next class was psychology and it was terribly uneventful. Then came lunch, I being the awesome person I am skipped over the whole cafeteria nonsense and wandered to a small café I found not far from the school.

I sniffled loudly and entered the classroom. I haphazardly put my books on the best and pulled out the water bottle filled with an herbal cold remedy. I took a big swig of the sweet and slightly medicinal liquid and laid my head down on the desk. Mr. Duchovny prattled on about sonnets or some shit and I felt like dying. The same thing continued on for the rest of my classes and come lunch I was ready to just go home. But of course, I couldn't… I had a test this afternoon and I do after all only have a cold, no matter how horrid it may be. I sat down at our cafeteria table and opened up my lunch box. "Hey Avery," Zack said before taking a bite of an apple.

"Hey," I replied with a scratchy throat.

"Sick?" he asked.

"Mhmm," I said nodding and dumping some blackcurrant juice in my water bottle and grabbing the ceramic bottle. I dumped some of the dark red liqueur in the blackcurrant juice and shook it all up.

"What the fuck is that?" Tia asked.

"Blackcurrant juice and Riga Black Balsam, it's an herbal cold remedy," I said taking a swig.

Zack picked up the bottle and looked at it. "45% alcohol?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Mhmm, it's like herbs and shit mixed with vodka or something… I dunno… it works though, it doesn't taste very good however."

"Can I try some?" he asked.

"Go hard."

He took a sip and immediately scrunched his face in disgust, "Oh god how can you drink this?"

"Here try this," I said passing him my water bottle.

"Ugh, this still is kind of shitty," he said taking a sip.

"I don't drink it for the taste, it's my fucking medicine," I said before sneezing.

"Let me try," Tia said. She then took a sip from both bottles. "It's not so bad with juice."

"You do know you shouldn't have brought alcohol to school right?"

"My mom told me to, so I don't care."

"Your mom is weird," Tia said with a funny look on her face.

"My whole family is weird," I replied with a shrug.

"Are you sure you should be drinking so early, despite it being 'cold medicine'?" Zack asked with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.

"Why Zachary you forget I am European, it is perfectly socially acceptable for me to drink liquor for breakfast… or really anytime," I stated with a shrug and a swig. "Oh god, I'd kill for a bellini right now… mm but with actual champagne and not some sparkling white wine rip off."

"What are you yammering on about?" Tia asked.

I sniffled and replied, "I want to drink some really nice white wine… or champagne, something on the sweet side. Once I'm over this cold do you guys want to drink vintage wines and act really pretentious?"

"I hate wine," Zach said grimacing.

"Blasphemy," I replied instantaneously. "Let me ask you this, have you ever had good wine? Like you know… didn't come out of a bag."

"No I don't believe so," he said with a cheeky grin.

"I'm in… on the condition that we dress up and make an actual party of it… not just us standing around pathetically in your apartment spitting wine into paper cups," Tia said after a moment or so.

"Hm… okay, my mother and her consort are in Fiji and will be for… a while so it could all work out well… assuming I can count on you two to help me out with damage and crowd control… obviously precautionary measures will be taken, but things still happen."

"Okay, sounds neat."

Living with my mother really wasn't that bad… this apartment is absolutely massive; it actually rivals our apartment in Paris. It's almost ridiculous for an apartment, it's the top floors of this opulent hotel and consists of three floors and is apparently one of the most expensive apartments sold in New York… I mean there are chandeliers in this place that rival my Chateau's… it's simply an amazing piece of real estate, I mean there are terraces and a ballroom that has been converted into a parlour/dining room/music room… it's really just crazy impressive (and the acoustics are utterly amazing!). Then you throw in the fact that she is constantly jetting around the world and spends much of her time in Long Island. Also Rosalie and Alistair are surprisingly easy to live with; Alistair is a shadow lurker who is always in the library and Rosalie knows better than to cross me and if anything looks at me with this kind of awed respect (most likely because as the eldest I'm in charge when no adults are present and I turn a blind eye to nearly everything). The doorbell rang and I couldn't help but wonder whom in the hell that would be. Getting up from the grand piano I went to the door and was surprised to see a rather athletic looking boy with dirty blonde hair, clear green eyes, and adorable freckles on his nose. "Can I help you?" I aloofly asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Uh… where's Alistair?" he asked looking a little confused.

"Around somewhere," I replied with a shrug. "And you are?"

"Can you just go get him?" he impatiently snapped.

"Now, now patience is a virtue. Who might you be so I can see if he is indisposed or not?"

"Sebastian Belvedere, now will you go get him?"

"Well I must say you certainly live up to your name," I replied and then blatantly checked him out. "I'll be back in a moment, please wait here." And with that I closed the door and sauntered off to Alistair's room. Sure I could have had him sit in the foyer as opposed to the elevator landing but I felt like punishing his impatience. I knocked on the door and upon hearing a muffled 'come in' allowed myself admittance. "Alistair a Sebastian Belvedere is here and he is quite impatient," I said and as soon as those words left my mouth Alistair's eyes got wide as saucers and he harshly closed the book he was holding… which was quiet uncharacteristic as he is very, very gentle with books. "Do you want to see him? I can get rid of him if you'd like."

"What does he want?" he asked in a timid voice as if I knew the answers.

"Do you want me to find out beforehand or would you like to just deal with him yourself?"

"Uhm… yeah I'll go, thanks though," he said sweetly.

"Of course," I replied turning on my heel. "I'll seat him in the small parlour and you can compose yourself."

"Thanks Avery," he said as I left the room.

I grabbed a couple of wine glasses, set them on the table, and grabbed the crème de cassis and a bottle of white wine (from my mother's manor on The Rhine actually) and then brought in Mr. Belvedere. I opened the door only to be greeted with an even more annoyed looking Sebastian. "Alistair will see you now if you'll please follow me," I said motioning him inside. "And do take of your shoes, I know it isn't the American thing to do but it's absolutely filthy outside." He rolled his eyes almost angrily at that remark and slipped off his oxfords. "Please take a seat," I said opening the wine and pouring the kir. "He will be with you shortly," I said in a clipped tone and with that I left the room and went to the piano down the hall. I continued tapping keys and fought the urge to eavesdrop, it didn't really matter though as after not too long there was muffled shouting (I was drowning it out a bit) and then Sebastian Belvedere stormed out of the apartment and slammed the front door hard enough for me to want to drag him back and slam his head in it just to teach him a lesson; fucking barbarian. I went back to the room I left them in and found a fuming Alistair chugging the kir. "If you're trying to get drunk kir is hardly appropriate," I said with a small shake of my head.

"Fuck I hate him," he growled and I didn't show the shock I felt. I do not think I've ever heard Alistair actually swear.

"If you'd like to vent I can listen, if not I know of some things we can destroy," I said with a smile and then poured myself a glass of kir. "Or I can just get you so fucked up you don't care at all."

"Ugh… it's nothing really… he's just such an asshole. I hate him!"

"Okay Alistair… I'm going to mix us up some real drinks and you just try not to destroy anything valuable." I went to the drinks area and quickly mixed up some manhattans and found Alistair practically wringing his hands with frustration and the bottle of wine was much emptier. "Slow down on the wine, it'll catch up to you and really isn't very pleasant to puke up. Drink this instead and please do it slowly."

"Thanks, ugh I hate him so much."

"Why?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Well… promise not to tell?" he asked then took a big gulp of his drink and coughed. "Oh my god that's strong."

"Told you and of course I will not tell. If you want I can even tell you one of my secrets if it makes you feel any better," I said to be reassuring but really hoped he wouldn't take me up on that offer.

When I awoke I felt no different then the day before. This was a major day as well… eighteen, I come into my inheritance, I can legally drink hard liquor, and I am now an adult. My mother was quite excited about the affair and was throwing me this elaborate party here (with a 1920's 'Bright Young Things' theme) and she even agreed to let me go to Paris for a weekend and my friends there where throwing me a party in the catacombs!

I felt excited beyond belief as I skidded on the marble flooring on my rush to the dining room. Since everyone was very busy we where going to have a champagne breakfast (I was allowed to skip the morning of school too!) and I was ever so excited to see what else I was getting for my birthday. My mother may be neglectful but she gives crazy good presents. I entered and my mother smiled pleasantly and greeted me with cheek kisses. "Happy Birthday Avery," she said in Russian.

"Spasiba."

"Come let's sit and we can eat and open your presents," she said linking arms with me and guiding me to the dining table. Everyone (even Edward VI) was there and a pile of presents sat on the Louis XIV table. Brunch was amazing, we had bellinis and mimosas and ate eggs with truffles and there where fresh figs and olives imported from the Mediterranean and everyone was extra nice to each other and it was really pleasant. The table was cleared and my mother said in a happy tone, "time to open your presents." I was practically squirming in my chair at those words, while she has forgotten my birthday a couple of times she always gives great presents… which is strange when you take into account how little she knows about me. "First you will open Rosalie's present and we will go in ascending order," she said and had Lena pass me a small box covered in bright green paper and ribbons.

I eagerly tore into it and inside was a vintage Patek Philippe pocket watch… it was so pretty. "Thank you Rosalie I simply adore it," I said marvelling at the craftsmanship and the beautiful silver colour.

"You're welcome," she said in a chipper tone.

Then I was given a very long and strange present from Alistair which I promptly tore to bits and upon opening found it to be a very gorgeous and very large old map of what appears to be of Europe and Asia and was most likely created during the height of the silk trade. "You remembered my love of maps!" I practically squealed and wished I could fully examine it, but alas it was a bit cumbersome given the circumstance.

"Of course I remembered, it's not often you meet someone who actually studies cartography."

"This is very true," I said with a laugh.

Then I was given my present from Edward VI it was a heavy-ish box and upon opening it I found three very beautiful vintage wines. "Thank you Edward these are absolutely amazing vintages," I said running my fingers over a bottle.

"Your welcome," he gruffly replied and then looked at his watch… for about the millionth time.

"Now Edward and I have a few presents for you. These are the first ones and the very last one is from me alone," my mother said and put a small box on the table.

I ripped it open to find a jewellery box and contained inside was a gorgeous emerald cut ruby surrounded by onyx set in a delicately detailed silver ring. "Ooh, it's gorgeous. Is it historical or rather new?" I asked as I slipped it on one of my middle fingers.

"It's quite new actually, it was only unsurfaced in the 20's but it is a truly rare specimen, it's the second largest red diamond in known history and has indisputably the deepest and most spectacular colouring of any red diamond," my mother explained with a smug smile; clearly proud of herself for acquisitioning such a rare gem.

"This is a diamond?" I asked in awe loving the way the light bounced off of it.

"Of course," she said as if red diamonds weren't exceptionally rare. "Now here is your next present."

On the table was clearly a framed painting but I was so curious to see if my mother had pegged my tastes at all. I took it out of the box and was quite enamoured… it was not to my tastes and I probably never would've bought it for myself. But it was exceptionally beautiful, very well painted (it is after all a Botticelli), and depicted a scene from ancient mythology. "It's absolutely gorgeous, thank you so much," I said with a smile.

"Here's another small present for you," she said as a thin and long box was set in front of me.

I tore off the ribbon and inside was three sets of cufflinks, the first where these gorgeous circular opal things (the opals where exceptionally pretty and while not identical where closely matched with a beautiful black background and red streaking throughout), the next set of cufflinks where a little less exciting but still gorgeous (they consisted of large square yellow diamonds surrounded by rectangular white diamonds), and the last pair where very delicate looking and where the ones I was going to wear tommorow (they had a deep blue sapphire as the focal point and delicate diamond encrusted vines surrounded it). "Thank you so much, I simply adore them," I said considering switching out the ones I was wearing now for one of those beautiful pairs.

"Now here is your last present and it is from me alone. It's something I feel you should have as you are now an adult and if you so much as think of selling it I will never forgive you. We didn't sell off the treasures during the revolution; we persevered and you will have to do the same throughout the hardships you shall face," she said in a very serious tone before personally setting the box on the table.

It wasn't wrapped like the others and I opened the protective case/box to see something I never thought I'd ever possess. "Is this… is this what I think it is?" I asked my eyes wide as saucers.

"Yes it is," she simply replied.

I picked up the base with the utmost care and pushed my chair back so I could walk around and get a good look at it once it was safely settled on the table. "Can I see the surprise inside?" I asked almost breathlessly.

"Of course you can, it's your egg," she said with a laugh.

I ran my fingers over it and examined the beautiful bay tree Fabergé egg I now owned. It… it was beautiful and made me feel happy when I looked at it and it reminded me of the smell of the tulip garden right after it rained and just how comforting that was… it was so… gardeny… and I always loved the gardens as a child. I turned the gem/fruit lever my mother pointed out and actually squealed in excited delight when up emerged a little jewelled bird that moved around and opened it's little beak and pretty music played. I clapped my hands in child-like excitement once it finished and fought the urge to twist it again. "That was absolutely amazing," I said in an excited tone.
"I am glad you liked it, now I want the three of you to leave for school and once you're finished you will come home and sign some papers concerning your father's estate. I'll have your presents set up in your bedroom and I want you to remember that your Fabergé egg is not a toy and you must not get too overzealous with the surprise."

"Of course Mamochka," I replied in a cheerful tone.

Once we left the apartment and where standing in the apartment Rosalie immediately said, "I can't believe what a good haul you got! I mean… seriously… those presents your mom gave you where insane."

"My mother always gives the best presents. Just wait till your birthday's roll around; she will definitely get you something awe-inspiring… if she remembers. She's forgotten mine a couple of times, so it wouldn't be surprising if she forgot yours. I think she loves to know that she always gives the best presents; it's a bragging rights thing I think," I explained as the elevator doors opened.

"Your mother forgets your own birthday?" Rosalie said in a shocked tone.

"A few times; she'd probably forget it every time if it wasn't for Lena," I replied with a shrug and a wave of the hand.

"Uh… Avery are you sure you want to wear that ring to school? I mean I know your mom wears that crazy jewellery all the time but she has a bodyguard… I mean your mom did say that is like the best red diamond and red diamonds are the rarest kind… it seems a little crazy to wear it you know?" Alistair awkwardly explained.

"Come on don't be silly, we have our own driver taking us around and it's not like you can tell it's a diamond and if I can wear my emerald ring all the time, my ruby-esque one should be fine," I said with an eye roll. "Not to mention it's not like I'm afraid of being mugged. I lived in Phnom Penh and survived and now that is a rough city, I can't even count how many times I had guns pulled on me and was mugged," I flippantly replied.

"You've had guns pulled on you?" Rosalie practically screeched as we got in the car waiting for us in front of the apartment.

"Of course. It got terribly redundant, the first time you're terrified… but really it gets old quick. That being said I would never wear what I'm wearing in a place like that. In fact I never carried more than twenty dollars on me at a time and kept my credit cards hidden in one of those terribly uncomfortable money belts," I explained.

"The causality with which you speak of such events is astounding… I mean how can you be so dismissive about something so deadly?"

"Because Phnom Penh is full of rich kids with unwarranted senses of self-importance who believe Daddy's political ties actually matter to the world; when really they are meaningless outside of Cambodia. They where constantly getting in gun fights at this club right across the street from my favourite expat bar. And sometimes they'd pull guns out on us as we'd be walking home due to being drunken fools," I replied with a shrug. "It isn't that big of a deal, the gun is meaningless, they could be holding a nuclear bomb, all that matters is how you deal with the person, not what is in their hands."

I love my new apartment. I adore it beyond belief. The apartment I lived in for the last few weeks was nice. It was in a high rise and had a very roomy breakfast bar. It was small and something I'm terribly used to, apartments in Europe tend to be very tiny… there really isn't that much space anywhere. Strangers stand closer, the metro is more crowded, you sit with random people in cafes; that is the norm. But here everything seems to be bigger, less people on the metro; the price for a huge apartment isn't much more than a decent place in Paris. This place however is an actual house! I tried to secure a large apartment but none of the places where very forthcoming. So a house it is. The rent really isn't all that much more than what it was in my apartment (technically I bought the house but you get what I mean!), there is a ridiculous amount of room, I can set up a grand piano, I will be able to host more parties then ever, my neighbours aren't that nearby, and my washing machine is not in the kitchen or communal. The only real inconvenience is the location, I'm not as close to the school, and I have to rely on my car more. I'm not quite in the suburbs by any means but there is this one neighbourhood right in the city that is gated, has large houses, neighbours do not hear you, and I live in the largest house. I'm surprised my financial… guys let me live here. My money is all held in various bank accounts and trusts seeing as I'm still a minor these guys in London handle my cash for me. I am given a monthly allowance, a no limits credit card I can use whenever without too much flack, and they are billed for my housing costs, medical expenses, etc. and handle all of those expenses. But I guess I shouldn't be that surprised seeing as my monthly housing costs is about half of what I pay for a nice apartment in a world city of Europe. Besides I lived in a $200 American dollar a month apartment in Cambodia. The house is the largest one on the street but this is by no means the largest house I've been in. This is an upper middle class family home… okay maybe a little bit higher than upper middle class; I do have a chandelier in the foyer, and a grand piano kicking around. But still this is not a mansion or estate; this is even less opulent than some apartments I've lived in. However I have a nice backyard, an indoor pool, a few bedrooms, and the perfect house to party in. This is hands down a perfect place to party, there is a billiards table, a little bar area, too much alcohol for me to know what to do with, and a nice big fence.

I rolled up my hannoun rug and stuck it in the office. The only three off limits places in the house would be the pool, my bedroom, and the office. The other two bedrooms are fair game and I don't really have anything to break or steal. Sure I have some nice things but nothing is really irreplaceable and other than the wine sitting in the cooler nothing that is ridiculously expensive and easy to steal is sitting out.

I scoured the apartment once more and was happy to notice that nothing priceless was anywhere in sight. If someone gets drunk and smashed my giant TV… who cares, if someone gets drunk and pukes on my sofa… who cares, but if someone vomits on my mother's hannoun rug… well then I will be sent to Siberia… and while the Trans-Siberian is my favourite railway… I do not want to be there. Satisfied with the apartment I went to my bedroom and slipped into nicer clothes. While this party is by no means some 'classy' affair with ball gowns and tuxedoes, I've still enforced a dress code (which will inadvertedly be forgotten once alcohol is drunk) and I'm hoping this party is somewhat classy… the openly snorting cocaine, drinking champagne, and wearing designer sunglasses at night, type of classy of course and not the stuffy parents dragged you to a charity gala type of classy. I put on my cufflinks and pulled out the mascara tube. I glanced in the mirror and was more than happy with my physical appearance. The buzzer rang and I immediately smiled and locked my bedroom up behind me and then went and let Zach and Tia up. I opened the apartment door and was pleased to see they where dressed quite well. Tia had on a very nice minidress and while Zach was wearing jeans he at least had muted colours and a sharp looking blazer. "How are you both?" I asked giving Tia a kiss on both cheeks.

"Very good, how's the party coming along?" she asked glancing around.

"All priceless artefacts are locked away, the bar is more than well stocked, I have great music ready to be played and I am about to crack open a bottle of wine," I said with a smile.

"You open it and I'll call up and see where everyone is," she said grinning.

"All right," I stated with a nod and then went over to the bar area. "What would you like to drink Zach?"

"Not sure," he said glancing about.

"Hm, well just pick whatever… hell I don't even care if you drink the vintage scotch… it's so shitty but so expensive… people are strange."

"Very," he replied. "Did you pick up mix?"

"What do you take me for an imbécile? I have everything alcohol, weed, blow, mix, munchies, anything priceless locked up, all bedrooms are locked up… save for the spare, and there is nobody else living on this floor, and we have thick as fuck walls and floors," I replied grinning.

"Well planned my friend, well planned," he said picking up a bottle of vodka and grabbing a martini glass. Our martini glasses where admittedly a little odd, they had the basic shape but instead of the long flimsy stem ours had kind of frosty glass balls at the end… basically meaning you can smash one over someone's head and cause damage as well as not break it accidentally when drunk… and you can grip it better.

"I can make you a martini," I said trying to pull out the cork.

"Hm, what kind? I've never had one… but I want to feel like James Bond."

"I only can make classic martinis, uhm this one that looks like blood but tastes like blackberries, and uhm… there's much for liqueur and liquor… as well as a drink recipe book somewhere."

"Uh… I'll read the book."

I filled two glasses with the chilled white wine and passed Tia who was sitting on a barstool a glass and then motioned for them to follow me onto the terrace. It was a little cool out but overall it was actually a rather beautiful evening. I took a sip of my wine and then sparked the joint that I kept behind my ear. As I sparked it however the buzzer rang and I let them up with only mild annoyance. Soon three girls I only vaguely recognized, but seemed to be well acquainted with Tia entered my apartment and where dressed up to standards. "Hello, I'm Avery," I said introducing myself to them and doing the standard double kiss introduction.

"I'm Jilly," a short girl with perfectly coiffed locks said with a small giggle.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, can I interest you ladies in a drink?"

"Uhm… sure," the redhead said with a grin.

I motioned to the bar and took a swig of my wine and then passed the joint to Zach. "Oh bloody hell, Zach can you do me a favour?"

"What?" he asked in a funny sounding voice as he did it in between hoots.

"Go to my bedroom and grab the ashtrays you see. You should find a couple and I would appreciate it if you could set them up around the house please. Here are the keys." I said tossing them to him. He gave me a salute then marched to my room. "So what would you like?"

"Are you drinking wine?" Jilly asked her eyes big.

"Oui, we have quite an extensive collection of vintages," I said taking a sip.

"Can I just get a rye and coke?" the redheaded girl asked.

"Sure," I replied mixing her drink. "By the way, what is your name? I don't believe I caught it."

"I'm Stella," she said pushing some copper coloured fringe over.

"I'm Candice," the other girl said scratching her lightly freckled nose. She is in my German class I believe… rather quite and studious girl if I recall correctly.

"We share a class together do we not?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Yes! German class… fuck can you really speak all of those different languages?" she asked excitedly.

"Of course, anything I can get you to drink?"

"Hm, can I try some wine?"

"Absolutely. What would you like? We have red, white, port, champagne… and I'm not even going to bother listing off the different wine provinces."

"Uhm… I've never had wine really… I just want something that isn't bitter, I only had wine once at a wedding and it was gross."

"Oh you must've tried a rather dry one. Here try this," I said grabbing a glass and pouring some of the wine in it. "Jilly would you care for a drink?"

"Can I have a martini?" she asked coyly looking at the glasses.

"What kind?"

"A sweet and candy like one," she said excitedly.

"Uh… okay. I'll try my hardest to get straight liquor to be sweet like candy," I said pulling out some vodka and some Crème de Cacao as well as other various liqueurs and I looked for a candy bar or something to muddle in but was out of luck. I threw ice in the shaker and pulled out a shot glass, I quickly poured all the various alcohols into the shaker and mixed her drink. As I was shaking the buzzer rang again and Zach pressed the button and muttered some words while passing by on his ashtray organization. "Is it good?" I asked glancing at the door repeatedly.

"Oh my god, this is like so strong but so, so good," she gushed after taking a sip.

The apartment filled right up and while it wasn't over crowded by any means, there was a fair few people hanging out in various places throughout the large apartment. The party was however definitely on the right track when a drunk girl I couldn't remember the name of came up to me, wrapped her arms around my waist, and then said in my ear, "the bathrooms are full where can we snort coke?"

"Don't be so withdrawn darling, you can snort it on the dining room table for all I care. All I ask is nobody leaves dirty needles or lit cigarettes lying around."

"You're amazing, you get the first line… after me," she said grinning and pulling me by my sleeve to a coffee table. I sat down in front of it and eagerly waited for my turn.

I was rather inebriated, I had my bloody red martini in my hand and I stumbled out of the apartment and down the elevator. Fuck it's so noisy and chaotic… you can't even find a little peace and quiet on the large terrace. I took a deep breath and leaned against the building. Once I finally had cleared my head I ventured back up and as soon as I got a fresh drink there was a banging on the door. I moseyed over to the door with a slight stumble and opened it to only be greeted by two assholes who once referred to me as 'eurofag' not even dressed properly and standing there holding a case of beer. "Can I help you?" I asked as icily as possible and took a quick sniff.

"Hey fucker, let us in," guy with hair that looked crusty from gel said.

"Je mi to líto but this is a black tie affair… and I think you're assholes, so fuck off," I said with a lazy smirk before taking a gulp off of my martini.

"What the fuck did you just say?" the bigger guy with less hair gel said with a glare.

"You heard me."

"I'll fucking kill you," he replied his glare somehow intensifying.

"This is a private party hosted by moi… so I get the call do I not? Now fuck off," I said slamming the door on them and locking the chain just in case. I pushed the Ray Ban sunglasses off the top of my head and let them cover my eyes and started to wander around the party.

"So where are we going?" I asked curiously as Jared adjusted his tie. He looked so utterly strange dressed so dapper as while he may be a man with good taste he's more the scruffy bohemian type.

"Ugh I knew you where going to ask that sooner or later," he said with a sigh. "Please whatever you do don't freak out."

"I play in sewers and hang out with gypsies I doubt you can freak me out Jared," I replied with an overdramatic roll of my eyes.

"Okay well… I'm sorry for using you… sort of. But I'm poor and currently in the market for… a wealthy gentleman friend so we're going to a wealthy gentleman's bar. And to make me look less desperate and hustler-esque I decided to bring you along… you'll fit in and you can spend your time making me look good, sounds excellent right?" he asked with a wary grin.

"While I may fit in did it ever occur to you that I do not want people in certain circles to become aware of my proclivities. After all as my parent's only heir it is my duty to marry one of my cousins and continue the cycle," I replied feeling a tad annoyed.

"Come on Avery! You are never in any city too long, you won't stay in America I know that, you know that, and I need this! Not all of us have giant trust funds and mother's who give us fancy jewellery and world class art collections," he practically whined.

"Fine but you shall call me by one of my many pseudonyms."

"Okay what is it?" he asked with a glint of excitement in his eyes.

"Hm… Tarquin van Buren," I replied picking out one of the lesser-known surnames associated with my House. "And if I need a title of some sort as well… I'm wealthy and European they go hand in hand after all, I shall use Lord of Willemstad, can you remember that? That being said do try not to be forthcoming with the title, it's a just in case sort of thing."

"Yes I'll remember that Tarquin. It's so neat how you're constantly changing names and stuff… like a secret agent or something."

"It's more tiring than anything, although I will admit there is a certain romantic quality to it. Sort of like the intrigue associated with a rake joining the French Foreign Legionne and taking up a new identity."

"Exactly!"

We finally reached our destination and I felt vaguely nauseous… if anyone where to recognize me I'd be done for… unless they're married and equally as easy to blackmail. We where id'd at the door with barely a glance at our cards and allowed inside. I immediately fought down the grimace as soon as we walked in to the room with walnut stained panelling, oil paintings, and recreation antique furniture. "Okay this place can be split up into three sections, the bar area where we'll be, the lively piano bar where they play horrid show tunes, and the kind of intimate downstairs area, you can leave once I get taken down there okay? Also I need you to be a good wingman got it?" He said in some conspiratorial tone.

"I got it Jared, all I ask is you never ask this of me again," I replied making my way to the coat check and slinging off my pea coat and grey scarf.

"I couldn't help it. You're the only guy I know who actually dresses up to this place's dress code on a daily basis."

"It's how I was raised," I replied with a shrug before undoing my dark green blazer, straightening out the grey sweater I wore underneath, doing one button up again and pulling my sleeves down so the beautiful cufflinks I wore where visible.

"I know, but still it seems so odd," he said as we started to make our way to the bar. Ugh, I already hated this place. We stuck out like sore thumbs as everyone aside from a few other people (who where most likely doing the same thing we where) where clearly over thirty-five and many gave us rather… lecherous looks. I do however suppose it was a good place to look for a wealthy benefactor as the ambience tried to maintain and air of class and I did see quite a few tailored suits.

Once at the bar we took seats on the comfortable stools and Jared ordered a martini of all things… which is just odd as he isn't very keen on them. "Un kir royale sil vous plais," I said to the bartender in a Parisian accent and decided I'd overplay the French, and tone down the thick Russian accent that tries to constantly come through.

"We do not carry crème de cassis, we specialize in martinis and top shelf scotch," the bartender said in one of those superior, 'you're an idiot' tones.

I gagged at the thought of top shelf scotch. I've sat around bored out of my mind in one of those smoking rooms many a time before just drinking scotch and no matter how much I drink it still tastes like turpentine. "Do you have a wine list then?" I asked trying not to sound bored. I could be at a Bulgarian Immigrant bar right now drinking shots while dressed as a Russian soldier in a freezer room; instead I'm… here.

"Of course," the sycophant said in a sugary tone… which I sensed was sarcasm.

"Merci," I replied as it was passed to me. I want to give him a verbal lashing but I was raised with too much propriety for that… especially in a place where recognition was still a possibility! I glanced through the list and while this clearly wasn't a wine lounge they still did have an extensive and well thought out wine list that spoke volumes about the wealth of the clientele here… hopefully that means Jared finds his… benefactor soon so I can leave. That being said since they carry so much champagne they have to have crème de cassis; ugh I hate our bartender. "Yes I'll get a bottle of 1986 Chateau Latour and whilst it is decanting I'd like a Manhattan and a glass of water with a slice of lemon," I said feeling a little pleased at the wine I ordered. Much easier to overpay in a bar then to have something shipped in from the chateaux where I store all my wine.

The bartender's eyes widened considerably at my choice as I did pick one of the finest on the menu and he warily said, "We take cash only."

"Of course," I arrogantly replied with a roll of my eyes and a suppressing of the indignant huff I had at his insinuation and then I pulled out my wallet and paid for it without making a dent on my pocket change. Ugh what an idiot! As if my socio-economic status isn't obvious by my tailored clothes, large emerald ring, and ruby cufflinks. I am glad however they don't take credit cards as I tend to use mine often and this is the last place I want showing up on my bill. Ugh… then again he could think I'm like Jared… poor but owns nice things simply due to wealthy benefactors.

"Ugh I don't know how you drink that shit," Jared said looking warily at my Manhattan and the wine sitting on the counter.

"The cocktail or the wine?"

"Both," he said with a grin.

"It's an acquired taste."

"I still don't get it, I go to those fancy restaurants sometimes and we drink wine… and it just tastes terrible."

"You must realize I'm European, I've been drinking wine since I was conceived. My mother even has a vineyard on her estate along The Rhine," I replied casually.

"So… you where raised in Germany?" he asked curiously.

"No, I grew up all over, spent many of my younger years in Moscow, then as an adolescent it was Swiss boarding school and Paris, the past three years however have been spent just wandering around aimlessly to be honest."

"I knew you lived in Paris, but you went to a Swiss boarding school?" He asked in an excited tone.

"Oui, La Rosey. The curriculum was in French and the campus switched depending on season. The warmer months where spent on Lake Geneva as sailing was a major sport and the winters where spent in Gstaad skiing. It wasn't all it sounds however as the academic standards where very high and I never had a weekend pass," I replied with a shrug.

"It still sounds utterly exciting, I don't understand how you can be so blasé about it," he said in an excited tone but when I glanced over at him he clearly wasn't looking at me.

Ugh… I hate this scene; I want raucous laughter, inane dancing, and accordions! "That was just my life. I don't understand how people ate processed cheese as children but I don't go around asking why, why, why?"

"Fair enough," he replied before taking a sip of his martini… and then we where approached.

"Hello gentleman," some man in a suit with rather vulgar lapels who was in his mid forties said in what I am to assume is a… seductive voice.

"Hello," Jared replied in a most definitely seductive voice.

"Bonjour," I added boredly hating the fact that manners and propriety where beaten into me. I then finished off my manhattan, drinking it quickly in an attempt to dull this horrid scenario I've found myself in, took a quick drink of my water, and poured the now mostly decanted wine. Ugh finally some pleasure to what will surely be a night of hell. I was utterly disconnected from the world as soon as I put all my focus on my drink, appreciating the bouquet, swirling it in my glass, taking small sips. Mm… so amazing, only positive point of the night. When this is over I'm going to go and drink copious amounts of vodka in a bar filled with rakes and will be awesome, especially in comparison. I was finally pulled out of my musing by a terribly annoying fake giggle coming from Jared.

I yawned as I set my books down on my desk and I took a sip of my manchada or macchiato or whatever you want to call it. "Rough night?" Jack asked with a grin from beside me.

"Si, I didn't sleep a wink," I replied.

"Oh?"

Before our conversation could continue any further Duchovny entered the classroom with a self-satisfied air about him. Sure he wasn't sunshine and smiles but he there was something much more cheerful about his eyes and body language. "Hello class," he said in a pleasant tone. "How was everyone's long weekend? Actually don't answer that, I want to hear about your weekends."

I was immediately curious, suspicious, and perplexed. Aside from the first day he has never asked a single 'personal' question to anyone that I've noticed and I like to think of myself as a perceptive person. We went around the class talking about our weekends, many attended parties, a couple went camping, a few people did fuck all, and most people deemed the weekend a dull and boring event. Then it finally came to me. "My weekend was… amazing. I went to St. Paul and spent the entire time exploring a large network of underground tunnels. That was my second visit to the site and I am still barely scratching the surface… I can't believe a catophile such as myself is saying this… but it was even more impressive then the Parisian quarries I so dearly love. Such diversity is rare; the only place that rivals it is Moskva… hm maybe New York City as well… but I am only relying on rumour with the New York City claim," I explained with fervour… I always get like that when I talk of urban exploration. I get all excited and animated and sometimes start speaking with my hands and if I get really into it I start muddling my languages up and speaking in a few at once. "It was truly exciting, especially for such a small city to have so many different types of tunnels all interconnected through obscure ways, I even found a door that we're pretty sure could've gotten us into the prison! The best part however was how we got in; it was such an exciting challenge. We rappelled some five stories down an abandoned elevator shaft and it was quite amazing, I haven't rappelled in a long time either so it was fun to do so, even if it was only a paltry 80 feet… mind you there was sharp rocks at the bottom so caution must always be exercised. Oh and we also had to tunnel partially using screwdrivers and pocketknives! We discovered so many interesting things

it—" I immediately blanched and then blushed once I realized I had been rambling on and on. "Promiň, že jsem nechala unést," I muttered once I caught my mistake.

"So uh… why do you hang out in underground tunnels exactly?" Jack asked cautiously.

"Oh, that would be hard to explain to a surface person you either are one of us or you aren't. I suppose the reason I explore these places is because… well there is this sense of adventure in not knowing exactly what lies ahead, the thrill of being somewhere you are not supposed to be, the challenges presented in getting there, indulging your appreciation for history, architecture, and non-standard forms of beauty, and of course the cat and mouse game of using your wits to avoid detection and arrest quite often only narrowly," I explained.

"What are in these tunnels?" Duchovny asked.

"Many things they are a labyrinth after all. There is the telephone tunnels, the gas line tunnels, the water main tunnels, the cities very first sanitary sewers which have been relatively abandoned, different caves, completely abandoned tunnels that where used to power the old streetcars, various tunnels that had various industrial purposes, and these odd tunnels that I could use to get right inside of the Wabasha Bridge."

"Abandoned or not why would you play in the sewers?" Jack asked disgust marring his features.

"They where interesting. Besides I once tried to trek through an active sanitary sewer just to get to a different underground location. It was actually the most horrible place I'd ever been… and I've been many horrible places. The sewage just sat all stagnant and was up to about my waist, I had to duck when walking lest I get touched by the mucus like stalactite dangling from the roof. When you'd step it was all squishy and bubbles of methane gas would rise to the air and there was just clouds of it in the air. The roof was also covered in cockroaches and when you'd shine your light they'd start scurrying about, run into one another, and rain on you. We actually had to turn back after only three blocks as the air was so toxic we feared we'd pass out and drown," I explained cringing at the memory of the experience.

"Oh my god… what the hell is wrong with you? Why would you go in a sewer?" some girl shrieked.

"Because in the end it was worth it. Sure I had to turn back, breath some oxygen, and revaluate things. But I ended up getting to my location through the sewers so it was well worth it; I just had to choose a different one. Besides there is no rational answer to why I do any of this, I do it for the same reasons I rappel down into missile silos, party in underground graveyards, and climb smoke stacks. It's most likely an evolutionary trait that hasn't been stamped out yet as after all historically speaking natural selection has usually favoured those with natural curiosity and the bravery to trek the unknown… either that or I watched The Goonies too many times at an impressionable age," I explained with a wistful smile. Hey… I should try and get on the school roof or check out the boiler room… too bad this school is too small to have steam tunnels. The conversation in the class ceased and soon we where focussing on a short story.

Come lunchtime I sat down at my usual back corner table with Tia and Zach. The news of my urban exploration seemed to spread like wildfire around the school and I have already had a couple of people come up and ask me about it. I opened up my thermos and took a greedy spoonful of the borscht contained inside. I was fucking ravenous to say the least and I was also pretty tired. But I suppose that's what happens when your flight came in four hours before school starts. Before we could even descend far into conversation however two people approached our table. One was a short girl with a bright green pixie cut, facial piercings, and very attractive bone structure and next to her stood a nervous looking boy who was really lanky and had clearly dyed black hair. "Hey are you Avery?" the girl asked.

"Oui," I replied. "And you are?"

"I'm Tick and this is Greg," she said with a grin. "We heard that apparently you are into that urban exploration thing, is it true?" she asked curiously.

"Si, I am," I said with a nod.

"Really? That is so amazing, do you think you could show us some kind of location? We've been trying to get into it but we don't know any locations, don't really know what we're doing, and can only find people online to take us somewhere and I'm not too keen on the idea of going into an abandoned building with someone I just met on the internet."

"Oh I could take you on an expedition if you want. Mind you half the fun is scouting for locations and you really shouldn't be too worried about meeting explorers online. I've met all of my explorer friends that way," I replied.

"Really you'll take us?" Greg asked with widened and surprised eyes.

"Of course, assuming you follow the rules and are properly dressed of course. What kind of location would you prefer? We can do infiltration, steam tunnels, storm drains, and there's a couple of buildings I can think of some of which are newly abandoned and some are in varying states of decay."

"Rules?" Tick asked dubiously.

"Well the catchall rule is 'take only pictures, leave only footprints'. The rules mostly are no stealing, absolutely no vandalization—"

"Vandalism," Tia interrupted.

"Oh yes sorry. No vandalism, no getting drunk… not on your first expedition anyways, and don't take stupid risks. Anyways when would you be interested in going? I cannot do anything tonight as I am going to be sleeping and will not be free tommorow until late at night… however some locations are best accessed at night."

"Tommorow night sounds good, here I'll give you my phone number and we'll set something up," she said with a grin and then pulled a sharpie out of her shoe and grabbed my arm. She pushed up my sleeve and wrote some numbers down in messy writing. "Well Mr. Avery it was nice meeting you and I guess I'll hear from you soon." Then the two of them left.

"Are you really going to take those two with you?" Tia asked.

"Yes of course, why wouldn't I?" I asked.

"Well… I hate to judge people like this… but they do mostly hang out with vandals and criminals and I mean aren't you basically just asking for the locations you love to be vandalized by inviting them?"

"No of course not. You don't realize that urban explorers are anyone and everyone… in a single group you have street urchins, trust fund babies, intellects, and everyone in-between… there's always a really varied mix. Like the group I was with this weekend, they where a bunch of anarchist punk types and then it turns out the craziest group member was this really straight-laced guy who you can't even envision jaywalking," I explained.

"That is awesome," Zach said with a grin.

I sat in my car in the empty parking lot and after a few minutes I noticed two shadowy figures look around suspiciously and since one had green hair I honked the horn. They looked around and then approached my car with matching smiles. "Get in," I said rolling down the passenger side window. They both got in my car and I turned down the music. "Okay how strong are you guys and how do you feel about heights? I have three locations in mind and I need to know if you're up to them," I said haphazardly pulling out of the parking lot.

"I'm not very strong," Greg admitted quietly.

"Well can you guys scale walls? There's a multitude of ledges and stuff to get up… but we need to climb to the roof so it will take some upper-arm strength," I casually explained.

"Where are we going?" Tick asked excitedly.

"First we're going to an old hospital. However we're not going to explore it in its entirety as some of it's been gutted, there's fire damage, and we have a few places to be. Do you guys have flashlights? Also how easily frightened are you? It is a creepy place and we are a small group."

"Yeah we got everything. Flashlights, good shoes, dark clothes," she said with a grin. "Plus I don't think we scare that easily."
"So you say now," I said with a smirk driving further into an older part of the city. We finally got near and I parked the car in plain-sight but a little ways away from the location and popped the trunk. I slung my backpack on and then pulled the beanie over my white blonde hair. "Ready?"

"Yeah lets go," Tick said with a spring in her steps. We chatted quietly mostly just making small talk and getting to know one another as we walked to the hospital.

"Come on," I harshly whispered running across a road and then scaling the fence. A couple of moments later they where on the other side and I motioned for them to follow me as we quickly ran into the shadows. We got around to the backside of the hospital and I then found the bush. "Here we are," I said pushing the board out of the way and climbing into the opening. I pulled out and turned on a flashlight as soon as I was in. "Okay a few tips. Never stray too far from the group, be aware of the floor, if you find a hole in the floor warn the others even if they aren't near it, and if you find a squatter be quiet, warn the others, and let me do all the talking. If we set off an alarm do not run wildly; follow me, same goes for if we see a security guard, and if we do see security keep off the fucking flashlights."

"Okay," Tick said looking around in marvel.

"Lets go," I said with a grin. I decided to start from the top to the bottom (we skipped the upper most floor however as it was gutted and fire damaged). They looked around in marvel as I took them into various wards and I was excited to discover that the once locked filing cabinet was now unlocked. I however didn't get to read through that many patient files, as I had to carry on the tour. I was excited to show them one thing however… it was my favourite part. "Watch your step," I said as we started to go down the stairs. It was the darkest here and I then took them down a hallway and opened the door. The followed me and I heard a gasp from Tick.

"Is this the morgue?" she asked quietly.

"Si," I said sitting down on one of the slabs they'd perform autopsies on.

"Uh what is this?" Greg asked pointing to something on the floor.

I went over and took a look, "that's a saw they'd use to cut through bones. I can't remember what that kind is called but it cuts through bone very cleanly but unfortunately the flesh and fluids clog the blades up a lot making it a nuisance to use."

"Oh man is this a toe tag?" Tick asked excitedly.

"Probably," I replied with a shrug. The two of them where like children in a candy shop as they rifled through drawers and various wards. However eventually we exhausted the hospital and snuck back into the car. "So what'd you guys think?"

"Oh my god that was so fucking awesome!" Tick exclaimed with a grin.

"It was amazing. I can't believe they left behind so much equipment and things."

"Yeah you'd be surprised at what gets left behind."

"So why'd you think we'd find it creepy?" Tick asked curiously.

"We where in an abandoned morgue at night, sounds like a horror movie setting doesn't it?"

"Yeah I suppose," she said bouncing in her seat.

We drove around and finally stopped at a location downtown. "Okay this location is high risk. There is a better chance of being caught, we have to scale walls, and while there isn't much left behind it is a very interesting place," I explained getting out of the car. We went down the alleyway and I started to climb the annoying fence (the kind with vertical metal bars and two horizontal ones) and then hopped onto a window ledge. I then pulled myself onto another ledge and started to walk that ledge while clinging to the walls. Once I got to the corner I climbed up onto a roof. I stood on the roof and after quite a few minutes they joined me.

"Where are we?" Tick asked looking around at the city.

"Bank," I replied with a shrug.

"Oh my god, we're breaking into a bank!" Tick exclaimed.

"Yes, now be quiet," I said opening the door. We then went down the stairs and where in a small storage room. I opened that door and looked around cautiously making sure that no cameras or motion detectors had been installed. There wasn't much to this location but it is fun to see just how many vaults and safes a bank has (even a small one like this). We finished the location up pretty quick and where soon enough in the car again. We then stopped at the local university campus.

I stood in front of the tall mirror and straightened out my blazer. Satisfied with my appearance I left my bedroom, grabbed the bottle of wine I set out earlier, and grabbed my car keys. I drove out to the suburbs and was feeling nervous. I have never done anything like this before in my life but I knew this was going to be awkward beyond all belief. As I drove I actually passed the house as all of them seemed to look alike but I eventually found it and took a deep breath. I walked up to the door clutching the bottle and pressed the doorbell. "Hey," Tick said with a grin as she opened the door. "Come in."

"Buono sera," I said kissing both of her cheeks. The minute I was finished however I noticed four people all looking at me curiously. Standing up straight I approached who I assumed to be her mother and feigned as much confidence as possible. "Bonjour madam, I am Avery," I said kissing her hand. "I brought this, I hope it is alright." And then I passed her the bottle of wine.

"Thank you," she said with a large smile. "I'm Mrs. Parker but please call me Susan."

"Hello monsieur, I am Constantijn Romanov," I said shaking her father's hand and then placing my hand on my heart. "It is a pleasure to meet you."

"You as well, I'm Mr. Parker," he said obviously evaluating me. Talk about fucking weird. I then introduced myself to her siblings who where surprising around our age, but I had never seen them in school before. Her siblings where named Ashley and David and we where immediately ushered into the dining room after introductions. I felt so unbelievably awkward as I took my seat. The way the meal was set up was a little weird, I'm not sure if this is how it always is in America but it was odd how it was eaten all at one interval instead of spread out into a bunch of small meals, it was also really weird how early we where eating. I usually never eat my supper until at least nine pm.

"So Avery how'd you meet Tara?" Susan asked sweetly while piling mashed potatoes on her plate. I was confused for a moment but then I remembered, Tick's real name is Tara.

I knew I couldn't tell the truth as she stated her family couldn't know about her urban exploration or mine. "She approached me at lunch one day in relation to her French homework," I explained casually. She is pretty terrible at French so it seems like a believable lie. "I'm fluent in French so I've been tutoring her a bit here and there."

"You're fluent in French? How fascinating," Ashley said in a flirty tone.

"Oui, I lived in Paris for two years and spent many summers at my chateaux," I replied casually.

"Oh my god, you lived in Paris?" Ashley exclaimed

"Where are you from anyways? I cannot place your accent," Susan asked pleasantly.

"Oh, nobody can place my accent as it's a medley of many. I was born in The Netherlands but have spent most of my life living all over Europe… I've lived in so many places throughout Europe it would be a chore to name them all but I usually move couple of years or so and spent much of my time travelling. I have also lived in Argentina, Thailand, and Morocco."

"You've moved nearly every year? Oh you poor dear, wasn't it hard to live like that?" Susan asked with what actually appeared to be genuine sympathy.

"Not at all. I've always been adept at making friends and I love how I've been exposed to so many different cultures and languages at such a young age. I know I wouldn't have such a proficiency with language if I wasn't forced into learning a new one so often," I explained.

"How many languages do you speak?" David asked speaking for the first time all night.

"Uhm… let me see. I speak English, Czech, Russian, and French fluently. I've also neared fluency in Spanish as well as being able to speak conversational Italian."

"Really?" he asked curiously.

"Yes, but I've put many hours into language study, have a multitude of private tutors, and I still don't understand a lot of words and idioms," I explained.

"So Avery what do your parents do?" Mr. Parker asked.

"Do?" I asked confused.

"What is their occupation?" he said looking at me as if I was an idiot despite the fact that I just explained that some common things about language still baffle me.

"My father has been dead for some time and my mother is a collector and investor of sorts. I'm not exactly certain what my stepfather does but he is in real estate I believe," I explained.

"I'm so sorry for your loss," Susan said.

"Thank you, but it was a very long time ago."

"What'd he do before he died?" Mr. Parker asked.

"Oh I'm not too sure… I think he may have done a bit of investing, considering where we lived it's safe to assume he helped my grandfather out when it came to exploiting the fall of The Iron Curtain. You must keep in mind I was very young when he died so I never knew very much about his work and he wasn't much for business and instead decided to focus on raising my brother and I as opposed to shuffling us off to various nannies and boarding schools. But then again I come from a very long and illustrious lineage so it's hard to ascertain how many of my assets came from him or from our ancestors."

"What is it your mother collects?" Susan asked curiously.

"She is primarily focused on gathering everything associated with her lineage up; which is of course the Romanov dynasty. Obviously much of it is in museums as it rightly should be but she feels that such historically important objects that where after all stolen from our ancestors shouldn't be split up among so many private collections and should instead be together. It's a rather ambitious plan I admit… but she has been surprisingly successful with her endeavour."

"And what do you plan to do with your life?" He asked with disdain clearly evident in his tone.

"I'm not sure exactly. However it is expected that I go to a good university; I'm thinking Oxford. I will most likely study political sciences and then take over my grandparents diplomatic duties upon their death and possibly have an undergrad in business or economics and continue in my grandfather's footsteps as an oligarch… admittedly though the latter is an unlikely pursuit," I replied casually.

"What's wrong with being a businessman?" he asked after a couple of moments.

"Nothing in particular, I just don't want to turn into one of those people who place profits over human life and lets themselves be consumed by greed. I will still most likely study business regardless of if I do take things over and I suppose if I get bored enough I can take control of the investments left to me or I could always use familial connections and get a real job," I replied.

"What are you some kind of communist?" he asked snidely.

The question truly threw me off… a communist? Hah. Wow. "What do you know of Russian history?" I inquired.

"What's that gotta do with anything?"

"Well if you knew anything of Russian history you would know that the Romanov's are the former imperial family and that my ancestors had their throne and everything that goes with it taken from them and on top of that where brutally slaughtered by the Bolsheviks who are also referred to as the Russian Communist Party," I explained casually.

"What kind of business will you be going into if you do?" Susan asked curiously so as to steer the conversation towards cheerier subjects.

"Oh… I'm not too sure. I really haven't glanced much at my financial profile as I only recently turned eighteen and they where hidden from me."

"Hm," Mr. Parker said focusing on his meal. Then out of absolutely nowhere he fixed me a hard glare and asked, "What exactly are your intentions with my daughter Mr. Whitcomb?"

Unflinchingly and as seriously as possible I replied, "to have her bare my illegitimate children."

This immediately caused Tick to burst out in laughter and her father's glare intensified. "What?" he asked through clenched teeth.

I couldn't help but grin slightly at my own joke and the fact that it brought such a reaction from Tick. "I don't really think I have any intentions for your daughter. I've never really understood that question anyways… what is it supposed to even mean?" I asked rhetorically. "I mean if I had some dastardly plan I obviously would not share it with her father and if someone does not have ulterior motives then they obviously date because they have things in common and enjoy one another's company."

"I suppose you have a point," he replied his glare unwavering.

The rest of dinner continued on with me being questioned and her mother adoring me, her father disliking me, her sister flirting with me, and her brother shying away from conversation or from eye contact. Tick on the other hand merely snickered to herself and smirked every time I was put in an awkward situation… which was often. Once we finished supper (the food was mediocre at best and I felt too-full from eating too early) I went downstairs to hang out with Tick and her siblings followed. I didn't see the big deal with David coming as Tick has mentioned that her and her brother where close but it was awkward and weird that Ashley was coming when she seemed to show only disdain towards her siblings and was constantly flirting with me.

"Horrible right?" Tick said sitting down on an old sofa.

"That really wasn't that bad. But then again I have a fucked up family, they are seriously the embodiment of so many clichés you associate with the rich. Right down to little bells being rung, back-handed compliments, and using philistine as an insult."

"That is so fucking awesome," she said giving Ashley a weird look as she sat down next to me.

"I hope you're being sarcastic."

"Completely… except for the bell thing. I've always thought that was awesome. This may seem kind of random, but I'm actually pretty surprised how much my mother likes you."

"Parents in general like me. Politeness has been shoved down my throat since birth," I replied.

"Poor you."

"Yes poor me had to say my please and thank yous, talk about repressed," I said with a wry smile.

"Ashley what are you doing here?" Tick asked after a moment or so of silence.

"I live here," she said indignantly.

"Yes but why are you hanging around with us? You fucking hate me and have been eyeing up Avery all night, so fuck off."

"What is your problem?" she asked angrily.

"You."

"Blunt," I commented just for the hell of it.

"Aren't I always?"
"Shall I state the obvious again?"

"Nah, lets go to my room. You coming David?" she said standing up. David and I followed her down a hall and into her bedroom. I immediately started to look around like the snoopy sewer rat I was.

"Having fun?" she asked sitting on her bed as I examined a bulletin board.

"You have no idea how much I'm fighting the urge to start rifling through drawers," I said with a grin before plugging my iPod into her iPod dock.

"You play any classical, jazz, blues, folk, country, electro-shit, or gangsta rap and I stab you," she said with absolutely no conviction at all.

"I have no idea how this relationship is supposed to work with you're lack of love for Vivaldi," I replied my eyes filled with mirth.

"Who?"

"Exactly," I replied putting some indie pop on, which drew a scrunched up nose from Tick.

"Is this Los Campesinos!" David asked.

"Yeah, they're great," I said sitting down next to Tick.

"Fuck that," Tick said.

"Not everyone can be Fugazi you know," I replied with a smirk.

"Unfortunately," she replied and then after a moment or so asked, "So can we go on an excavation tonight?"

"We could but there is no new locations and I'm not up for flying or driving anywhere far," I replied with a shrug. "Besides I feel so fucking gross, I shouldn't have been polite and let your mom think I was hungry."

"Oh yeah you eat at midnight and shit."

"Why would you eat at midnight?" David asked curiously.

"I don't. But in Southern Europe and Argentina we tend to eat four meals a day and have an afternoon siesta so supper is never ate before eight or nine."

"Goddamn this is boring. You should've brought a movie over," Tick said with a groan of frustration.

"Come to my place tommorow. I downloaded this short film last night that looks promising, I'll even be kind and put on the subtitles."

"What's it about?"
"A door. Plus it's all filmed in Prypiat which is the city right next to Chernobyl and is part of the dead zone and it is basically my favourite place in the entire world," I replied.

"Intriguing. Tell me more about this dead zone."

"I must take you. You'll love it, a city of fifty thousand totally abandoned in two days. Everyone left everything, it is so fucking amazing… it's like stepping into The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali its so eerie and just… God it's beyond words… it's just one of those things you have to experience."

"Fuck, I need to go there," she said her eyes widening.

"Oui, it's beyond words. You have to be careful with the dead zone though. In one place it may be safe but twenty feet away there's a deadly amount of radiation not to mention there are looters with a penchant for violence and guards who love extortion and cleansing showers."

"I will never understand you. You constantly lecture about safety but you're like the only urbexer who sees nothing wrong with getting drunk and exploring."

"Yeah I guess, but American's are more uptight about the drinking thing, it's not like I'm the only one who sees nothing wrong with it. Besides it's all about location… sure I'll get drunk in the quarries of Paris but I will never drink when in underground Moskva."

She scoffed and said, "Yeah only because you found barrels of radioactive waste."

"And you laugh at me for carrying a Geiger Meter in my bag."

"Fine so it has some uses but really how often do you run into vats of radioactive waste?"

"Yes but a lot of times people put up radiation signs in an effort to keep people out once you've already passed a couple of 'do not enter' signs. Besides it's light weight, not cumbersome in the slightest, and the only way to detect radiation."

"I guess but I still think it's excessive, just like how you carry that stupid fucking tripod."

"I need to get my shots," I replied with a shrug.

"You're a photographer?" David asked.

"Mhmm, I do most of my work while urban exploring but I've been known to take pictures of people as well. I'm partial to wildlife and landscape photography however."

"C-could I see some of your work sometime?" he asked quietly.

"I have an online portfolio if you're interested. Are you interested in photography?"

"Yeah I really like it as well as paintings," he replied.

"Hm, you must see my home in Siberia."

"What?" he asked confused.

"That's where my art collection is. I inherited a few priceless art collections… that's my personal favourite one. Mind you I don't know your art tastes or even what some of the other ones look like so you may like the art in the other houses. But I have a museums worth of great art in the house in Siberia," I explained.

"You're an art collector?" he asked with wide eyes.

"Si. I wasn't ever going to be despite a love of art… I've actually always given my art away when I move places. But I was given a Picasso for Christmas and then it just all went downhill when my grandmother bought this dacha in Siberia suited to my tastes and filled with an art collection suited to my tastes and gave it to me when she died; plus the other homes I inherited have extensive art collections in them. Now I've decided to collect it, but not pretentiously. I hate people who refuse to carry a piece unless it is worth a lot or is by someone famous."

"Wow," he whispered.

"If you want I can show you the collection in Siberia some weekend."

"Uhm… you do know Siberia is halfway across the world."

"I have a private jet," I replied with a shrug.

"What the fuck are you doing living here?" he asked absolutely aghast.

"My mother abandoned me here as she is engaged to some American guy and he hates me and no boarding school will take me. I could move away as I'm eighteen now but I'm sticking around till graduation at least."

"Why won't any boarding schools take you?" Tick asked with a raised eyebrow.

"It's an amazing story," I said with a laugh. "There's this really prestigious boarding school in England… like insanely prestigious and it's been around for well over a hundred years and has never kicked a student out. But within two months I got expelled so now no private school will touch me when they read my transcripts."

"Impressive," Tick said with a laugh. "What did you do?"

"It wasn't one specific thing. I did so many things; I uncovered the tunnels and was able to perform a multitude of pranks with them. Most notably I put purple dye in the water supplies."

"That's amazing," she said with a laugh.

The dark expanse of straight highway wasn't as intimidating as it should be. But then again I have had a few drinks and a few lines. "Okay we need to totally see how fast you can go, fucking floor it," Jack slurred with a stupid grin on his face.

"Okay we need music though. Like… uhm… we need something exciting sounding."

"I'll find something," he said scrolling through my iPod. He turned on something or another and then I pressed my foot as hard on the pedal as possible. I glanced at the speedometer and was surprised that I was going top speed in like ten seconds… if that! "Holy fuck man we're fucking flying," Jack exclaimed excitedly.

"I can't fucking believe how easy this car is to control at this speed. This is fucking intense," I replied. How it all happened was mostly an act of foolishness on my part. I was trying to figure out how to turn on the cruise control when Jack grabbed the wheel. I nearly ploughed us into the fucking ditch… unfortunately he has never driven this car so he didn't realize how sensitive the controls are and threw us into the other ditch. I slammed on the breaks but it was already too late. We where flying in the air and flipping around over and over again. I clutched the handlebar at the roof and about a dozen different types of airbags had exploded cushioning us. The music was still blaring as we sat upside down in the car.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, you okay man?" Jack asked.

I finally opened my eyes and let go of the bar, "yeah… I'm cool… we need to get out of this thing." I tried to open my door but it was stuck. "Your door open?" I asked hoping the car doesn't catch on fire or some shit.

"No, fucking hell, I can't pry it open. Wait… the music is still on the windows and that type of shit should still be able to roll down."

"Good thinking," I said pressing the button. I ripped off my seat belt, pushed my seat back so I could get around the airbags and crawled out. I was still shaking from the adrenaline as I stood next to the car and surveyed the damage. The roof was dented in and the sides had some dents as well, but generally speaking the car retained its shape rather well, especially considering we rolled at least four times at top speed.

"How the fuck are we alive?" Jack asked looking at the car in wonder.

"The airbags, there where fucking knee airbags and shit. Geez Louise if we where in a normal car… we'd… our bones would be like… dust."

"Oh man… we totalled your car… this things gotta be worth alotta cash."

"Who fucking cares? It was a gift… besides we're fucking alive. We're fucking alive!" I said starting to laugh. Jack soon joined it and before I knew it we where practically rolling on the ground with laughter and in between giggles we muttered about how we almost died. Fuck, you never feel more alive then when you're confronting death.

After we settled down and had finished laughing our guts out Jack made a very valid observation. "Dude… how are we supposed to get back into the city?"

"Uh… call someone?" I suggested.

"Who the hell do we know that's awake on a Wednesday at 2:00 AM and willing to pick our sorry asses up?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I dunno, guess we'll call a taxi to pick us up out here and in the meantime we can drink from this flask in my pocket," I said tossing him the flask I pulled out of my blazer.

"Fucking awesome," he said sitting down on the ground. I called a taxi and after saying I'd be more than willing to pay at least a hundred and fifty in surcharges they said they'd send someone down immediately. The two of us sat down in the grass drinking from the flask and where more than thankful that the few vehicles driving on the highway that night didn't bother to stop and see if we wanted help. The taxi arrived rather quickly and took us back into the city. Whilst we where in the car I called the insurance company as well as the Lamborghini roadside assistance company and they pretty much told me they'd collect the remnants of my car before scavengers got at it.

Once we got in the city I took a shit load of money out of my bank account and decided that a celebration of some sort was in order, Jack wholeheartedly agreed. "So what should we do?" he said passing me the now empty flask.

"Uh… I dunno… we need drugs though," I replied. "We need to challenge our mortality again you know?"

"I can dig that," he said with a stupid grin on his face.

I awoke on the living room couch and ran to the nearest bathroom to puke my guts out. I finished up and was still pretty drunk. I got in the shower and once I finished up there I glanced at a clock and couldn't help but laugh at the time. Just in time to get ready for school. Fuck I must've had maybe an hour of sleep or so. I tripped over Jack's shoes when I made my way to my bedroom and couldn't help but snicker at the fact that he passed out in my bed, I passed out on the sofa, and there are so many spare beds in this house. I quickly dressed and woke Jack up. "Ugh whadya want?" he mumbled.

"School time, shower, you can borrow some threads, or hell you can stay here if you want, but I have to go exam and shit," I replied before going to my bedside drawer and looking for my bag of weed.

"Ugh fuck school man, your bed is way too comfy for me to leave," he said.

"Alright see you after school. If you leave during the day just lock the doorknob," I said packing a bowl. My morning mostly consisted of me smoking weed, rolling joints for school, and eating breakfast. I didn't even realize I had no way of getting to school until I wandered into my garage. Groaning in displeasure I called a taxi and got to class.

"You look like shit," was the first thing I heard when I sat down in my English class.

"Yeah I know," I replied squinting at the bright fluorescent lights.

"What happened to you?" Mia asked curiously.

I yawned and said, "Totalled my car beyond recognition and came out unscathed so Jack and I decided to further push the limits of our mortality. It was awesome."

"What?" she said with raised eyebrows.

"I drove my car as fast as it goes, rolled it like a half dozen times, came out with no injuries, then decided to continue flirting with death," I replied slowly in a patronizing tone.

"Who the fuck does that?" she said snidely.

"Awesome people. You never feel more alive then when you're confronting death."

"You're such a freak! I can't believe you tricked Jack into doing that kind of thing."

I couldn't help but start to laugh hysterically at that. As if I ever had to manipulate Jack into my crazy schemes, he comes up with half of them himself.

"Are you quite done?" Mr. Duchovny asked with a raised eyebrow and bored tone as I continued to laugh.

"No," I barely choked out.

"Oh my god did you get a head injury or something last night?" Mia asked nastily.

That comment just made me laugh even more. Fuck I feel so alive. I should snort some more coke. The world is in the palm of my hands! "I thought I could do this… but I can't. The night is still young," I said once I composed myself enough to gather my books and leave the classroom.

I took the bus to a drug dealer and picked up some more stuff and then I took a taxi home (ugh it's so far from the bus stations). When I got back to the house Jack was still sleeping and I promptly woke him up as we have barely celebrated being alive.

I shoved the card in the door and the bellhop brought our bags in. I glanced about the opulent settings and couldn't help but wonder just how many bodily fluids are coating this room. "So when are we going to dinner?" Tick asked with excitement in her eyes.

"We are to be there at seven-thirty sharp," I replied in a dejected tone whilst throwing myself on a sofa.

"Geez you make it sound like you're facing the guillotine."

"My mother is worse. At least with the guillotine it's over quick. A dinner with my mother is more akin to _"

"What exactly am I getting myself into? You've made small remarks about your mother being not the nicest of people but is it really going to be that bad or are you just being overdramatic?" she asked seriously.

"Look… my mother is… well… you have to know how to deal with her. Just whatever you do don't let her get under your skin… she feeds off that kind of stuff. She's like a wild animal, never show weakness no matter what happens."

We where decked to the nines as we entered the ridiculously fancy restaurant and I immediately cringed upon checking my pocket watch… three minutes late. We where soon guided to a private room in the restaurant where a fat, bald, ancient man wearing tailored clothes sat and where a woman with gold coloured hair piled fashionably on top of her head sat. "Mother," I said with a slight nod "Steven."

"You're late," she said in an icy tone.

"Traffic," I shrugged. "I would like to introduce the two of you to my consort Tara, Tara this is my mother and step-father."

"Charmed I'm sure," my mother replied silently appraising her. We immediately sat down and thankfully all conversation was put on hold as a bottle of wine was ordered and we perused the menus.

"How's Connecticut?" I asked in a futile attempt to break the awkward silence.

"The same as always. How was England?" she asked with indifference.

"Delightful," I replied with the same indifference. The table was then shrouded in silence and I couldn't help but notice Tick glancing nervously between my mother and me. The waiter was back again however to bring the wine and we all ordered our food (appetizers and dessert skipped over naturally and we all ordered salads… the quickest thing to make).

"So Avery, how are you enjoying the car?" Steven asked not out of genuine interest but to kill the awkward silence.

"I totalled it not that long ago actually."

"Oh well, I'll have my assistant send you a new one," he said offhandedly.

"Thank you for that most generous offer."

"Really Avery that is most irresponsible of you, I thought I raised you to follow traffic laws."

"How are you so certain I was at fault?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"When are you not?" she asked raising a perfectly sculpted eyebrow in a mocking gesture. "So… Tara is it? What exactly are your intentions for my son?"

"What?" Tick squeaked caught absolutely off guard (it doesn't help that my mother's glare is pretty fucking menacing).

"Do not play coy with me I know your angle. Here's a little warning you won't get a single red penny out of my son you gold-digging little whore and that's a fact. He will never marry someone as lowly as you and if you get pregnant we'll make you and that bastard child disappear… or maybe just you," she explained her glare intensifying.

Tick looked at me with something resembling shock and outrage and basically silently told me to say something. "Do not look at me like that Tara she is correct. When I do finally marry my bride will have to be of a certain pedigree or else I'll lose my succession rights," I replied casually. Tick looked offended beyond belief and I felt awkward as hell. "What year is the wine?" I asked in an attempt to change the subject.

"Hm… '90 I believe, good year," Steven answered admiring the bouquet.

"Yes that was quite a good year, particularly for France. 2007 was a rather extraordinary year as well."

"Yes France seemed to flourish that year, too bad I cannot say the same for Chile."

"So Tara how exactly did you and my son meet?" my mother icily asked.

"School obviously," Tick replied just as coldly. I couldn't help but smile at that, Tick is warm and friendly to a fault and it is nice to see her treating my mother accordingly.

"Why would it be obvious? For all I know he could've met you on a street corner somewhere."

"Don't be ridiculous I'm far too attractive to necessitate the services of a prostitute," I replied as the waiter brought in our meals.

"Avery I hear you've started to collect art," Steven said in a bored tone.

"Oh Avery, you have?" My mother asked with excitement in her eyes.

"Si, I was given a Picasso for Christmas and it took off from there… my collection is… well I actually haven't seen all of it yet. Apparently I inherited a vast collection sitting around in the house in London but I am not aware of what is all there. I was far too grief stricken to properly appraise my estate at the time. I am however planning on going to the next auction hosted by Sotheby's."

"Steven bought me the most beautiful vase at one of their auctions a few months ago." And then the conversation continued on like that, Tick and I where ignored as the two of them discussed jewels, price figures, and when the next auction was. Then my mother had to ask what I was dreading, "Avery have you met with your financial advisors since the death of your grandmother?"

"Very briefly in London, I actually planned to meet with them tommorow to go over things in better detail and to figure out what my course of action will be. I'll also have to take a trip back to Europe soon to check on the estates and the various collections stored within."

"Perhaps I should go with you tommorow?" she said in a tone of fake sweetness.

"That won't be necessary."

"Don't be absurd. You can never be too careful, for all you know these advisors of yours could be embezzling away your assets as we speak."

"I doubt they need to considering how well paid they are. Besides it isn't like I don't have a slew of accountants."

"Nobody needs extra money, it's just nice to have Avery. Really! You've been spending far too much time in the slums. I still cannot believe that hovel you lived in, in that South American cesspool! And don't even get me started with those filthy gypsies you lived with. You know I'm beginning to think you actually enjoy poverty."

I immediately cringed at her words and took a calming breath, "Well it's in my genes isn't it? After all you lived in a four room house until grandfather became rich due to peddling narcotics."

My mother immediately bristled and glared at me venomously. Nothing pisses her off more than being reminded that she isn't from 'old money' and her father only amassed his fortune with drug dealing. In fact one of the reasons my father was disowned was because my grandparent's deemed her of not good enough breeding (and they thought she was a gold digger on top of it all). "Yes well some people worked for their fortune instead of having it handed to them," she replied coldly.

"Wasn't yours handed to you?" I asked.

"Your point being?"

"Oh I have no point, I was merely making an observation," I replied taking a glance at my pocket watch.

"Going somewhere?" my mother asked in a nasty tone.

"No merely making sure I have enough time to make my next appointment."

"What appointment could you have at this hour?"

"I'm going out for cocktails with my lawyer." Okay, okay a total lie but she wouldn't accept anything other than something along that vein.

"Is it really that important that you see your lawyer tonight instead of your own mother whom you haven't seen in months?" she asked and I know she didn't actually want to see me for longer she was just being her usual terrible self.

"And whose fault is that? If I recall most people live with their parents until they are eighteen, not fifteen."

"As if I could keep you restrained, always running away you where. Really Avery what are you running from?" she asked mockingly.

"Oh I'm sure you know," I replied glaring at her as menacingly as possible.

"No Avery I don't, why don't you enlighten us?"

My hands where shaking at that point and I was on the verge of absolutely losing it, I took a calming breath then as replied as coolly as possible, "I hardly believe that is appropriate table talk. Really, one would think you've never taken an etiquette lesson in your life."

Steven cut in once again before my mother and I could get carried away and claw one another's eyes out and said, "I have some exciting news, I've recently purchased a private island."

"Really?" my mother asked excitement shining in her eyes.

"What region of the world is it located?" I asked taking a casual sip of my wine.

"Just off the coast of New Brunswick," he replied.

"What?" my mother asked coldly. "You cannot be serious."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Conversation thankfully strayed away from me and my mother proceeded to rant and rave about how only an idiot would buy a private island in New Brunswick instead of say the Mediterranean or French Polynesia. The rest of the meal was pleasant enough seeing as she was thoroughly distracted. As we where exiting the restaurant my mother gave me a kiss on each cheek, told me to keep in touch, and then she just had to throw in one last remark. "Tara it was so nice to meet you and I must say that dress compliments your eyes stunningly, too bad it isn't very figure flattering." And then Steve exchanged an awkward goodbye with me and they entered a taxi.

Immediately afterwards we got in one of our own and Tick finally spoke, "your mother is the most horrible person I've ever met."

"I know."

"God… I just, how'd you end up so good when she's so evil? I mean I could see her being mean to me but she was just vile to you… hell I think she might've even been meaner to you than she ever was me. And ugh your stepfather, what a creep! He didn't acknowledge my presence once but spent half the dinner staring at my tits!"

"I told you the guillotine is preferable. And to answer your question I was raised by various nannies and whilst my father always had a vested interest in my upbringing my mother was preoccupied with spending money and drinking martinis."

"And what the fuck happened back there? You're mother called me a gold-digging whore and you pretty much sided with her," she said in an angry tone her brows furrowing in frustration.

I let out a heavy sigh, took a deep breath, and tried to speak in the calm and confident tone, "look Tick it's nothing personal against you. I truly, truly dig you and you can't take what she says personally. You know I'm of nobility and such and my titles are pretty much useless. My mother possesses a title that is completely useless but… we still have to fulfill the obligations surrounding our useless title because if the Russian Monarchy is reintroduced during my lifetime then I will be Emperor one day, not to mention I am the only heir, I have no brother to pass the burden onto. The parameters of my being Emperor entail marrying a girl from a royal family… so I pretty much have to marry one of my cousins."

After a couple of moment of silence Tick finally said, "that's fucked up. So are your parents related?"

"Distantly. If you truly want to know pretty much all of my ancestors where related one way or another, I'm surprised I don't have webbed feet," I replied with a wry smile.

"Ugh I can't believe you weren't exaggerating. Please oh please tell me we aren't having cocktails with your lawyer and are actually doing something fun."

"I was thinking we'd go to this immigrant bar I'd heard of," I replied.

"Immigrant bar?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Oui, it's like Bulgarian or something."

"I don't have a fake id and that sounds kind of stupid. What's so great about some bar full of immigrants? You may be able to speak twenty languages but I can't," she said crossing her arms.

"Oh okay… I just heard it was a fun place and you know it's kind of a gypsy bar and living in a gypsy camp is probably my best childhood memory. But we can do whatever it is you want to do, I'm open to suggestions."

"I don't understand you sometimes, how can living in a gypsy camp be the best time of your life? That's just ridiculous… they're gypsies! Nobody wants to associate with gypsies not even other gypsies."

"What would you know of gypsies?" I said defensively. "There is so much stigma associated with the Roma people but know what? They took me in when I was but a child living on the streets, I don't understand you to be honest. I mean sure I have a fun time urban exploring with you… but other than that I just don't fucking get you. God you're just as shallow and pretentious as my mother, just towards different things."

I couldn't help but feel exhilarated as I pushed the board covering the window over and shimmied in. I immediately turned on my small pocket flashlight and glanced about at the gutted room. I soon however found a door and was pleased to see that it lead to a hallway, which in turn lead to a large room filled with complicated machinery. I knew I had to be stealthy… many of the windows where haphazardly boarded and there is apparently security in the area… hence the scouting trip. I don't know why I didn't bring my gear though; it seems most scouting trips deviate into some hardcore exploration anyways. I couldn't help but marvel at the complex machinery before me, the corroded gears, the rusted pipes… it's all so fascinating. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted what could only be one thing. A grin enveloped my features as I casually meandered that way and started to climb the metal-grate staircase that creaked with every step you took. I finally got to the top and there was a railing like area where a foreman or whoever could just stand and observe everything that was happening in that room. There was also what had to be some kind of offices as there were two doors. The first opened easily and was some kind of storage closet but based on the location of the door and how large this upper level was the next door had to be the gold mine. The knob turned easily enough but the door was clearly jammed. Evaluating the risks I took a deep breath and forced all of my weight against it. My foot slammed against it again with a loud bang and after a few more kicks I knew I needed a new approach. I had to put all of my weight into it so I slammed my shoulder hard against it and smiled widely at the creaking sound I heard. I threw my shoulder into the door again and I couldn't help but stumble in as the momentum caused the door to open far wider than I had anticipated. A ripping sound was heard as I forced the door open and looking over at my shoulder it was pretty fucking obvious what happened. Sticking out of the doorframe was a rusted chunk of sharp metal that ripped my shirt and made a large gash on my shoulder. Muttering obscenity under my breath I tried to think of what to do… I have no supplies and can't even rip off a piece of my clothing lest I further imbed bacteria in my wound. With a heavy sigh I glanced about the gutted room that only had pigeon shit, an overturned chair, and a few random scraps of paper. I can't believe I went through all that hassle and bullshit for that! There wasn't even a filing cabinet for me to snoop in! No blueprints! No keys! NOTHING! I tried to be swift as I made my way out of the factory but that was a stupid mistake on my part. I shouldn't have been so eager, had I not been in such a rush I wouldn't have tripped on my own fucking feet as I made my way down the staircase and busted my ankle. The tumble down was not fun not only did I further aggravate my giant wound; I smacked the back of my head, and fucked my right ankle. Hobbling out of the factory I was faced with another challenge… I now had to scale a fence and then I had to figure out how I was going to get home. Why oh why did my car have to be in the shop? Why oh why did I go alone? And why the fuck didn't I take a goddamned supply kit with me? This would be a minor inconvenience at worst if I were properly prepared instead of completely derailing my fun and ruining the night. Trying to keep as much weight off my ankle as possible I walked as swiftly as I could and tried to suppress the urge to worry. A lot of blood was trickling down my arm and while it will eventually clot I knew I needed to get somewhere I could clean up quick. I could call someone but my cell phone is conveniently dead. My ankle throbbed as I continued along the side streets and the only thing that shook me out of my determined daze was a surprised voice asking, "Avery what are you doing here?"

I looked over and noticed Mr. Duchovny of all people was standing there looking oh so dashing and was eyeing me curiously. "Trying to get home," I replied.

"You're bleeding," he stated in a blunt tone.

I couldn't help but give him a wry smile and reply, "what tipped you off? The blood pooling by my feet or the large gash on my shoulder?"

"Can you walk very well? I noticed you limping."

"It's not that bad, I just sprained my ankle or something."

"Come on, my loft isn't far from here you can clean up there," he said while placing a hand on the small of my back and helping guide me down another side street and into some warehouse like building. The lift was terribly old and the rickety sound reminded me far too much of that staircase (when really it was more akin to the many industrial elevators I've rode and adored). Upon reaching the top floor there was a small dark room that had a door that Duchovny swiftly stuck a key into and then showed me in. His apartment was nothing like I had expected. How the fuck he afforded such a lavishly decorated place is beyond me, he must be a trust fund kid or something. The location is also kind of weird, if he could afford someplace so ostentatious, why the fuck would he want to live in such a shitty location? "Wait here," he said in an authoritative tone. I sat on the stool I was left in front of and looked around at the kitchen. Moments later he came back with a damp towel and told me in a clipped tone to remove my shirt so he could see the wound better. I couldn't help but smile at how good it felt to have pressure placed on my cut as he gently cleaned it. "What where you doing? You're absolutely filthy," he asked.

"I was exploring some old factory and decided to shove in a door that decided to fight back by leaving jaggedy metal things in the frame to attack me, then in my haste to get out I of course fall down some gigantic metal staircase, then to top it all off I didn't bring my first-aid kit like I usually do and I don't even have a vehicle right now," I ranted annoyance marring my features and thoughts of burning the factory down flitted across my mind.

"You have something grey starting to congeal in your hair and you're covered in many cuts and scrapes… this may sound highly unorthodox but you should go shower lest you further infect the festering wounds you're covered in and it'll give me time to try and find something for your ankle," he said with such a degree of causality that you'd think he told all of his students to just go in his shower. And while it was really fucking weird to shower in my teacher's house I couldn't help but love the idea. He was right I am really disgusting there was a lot of gunk on that staircase, my shimmying in and out coated me in dust, and I know the place was raining asbestos as the insulation in the pipes was falling out… not to mention I have a multitude of scrapes from my tumble down the stairs. I'm practically turning into the poster boy for what to do if you'd like to get infected with tetanus. He left me in the bathroom and I couldn't help but wonder why is he a teacher? He doesn't seem that passionate about it and this apartment is clearly an expensive place and there are subtle details that tell you just how expensive. Like… it's obvious the floor is mahogany and not some cheaper wood stained red and other little things like that. I took what had to be the quickest shower of my life as I didn't like standing on my ankle and I couldn't help but feel awkward about the whole scenario. I felt infinitely better as I dried myself off with the thick towels and then decided to throw caution to the wind and just exit the room. He was thankfully nowhere to be seen (hopefully grabbing me some clothes) and I cautiously meandered down the hallway. I clutched the towel tightly around my waist and eagerly sat down on the sofa once I got into the living room. I considered setting my ankle on the coffee table but that annoys a lot of people plus I am in only a towel… in my teacher's apartment. This is just too weird of a situation; Tick is going to laugh hysterically once she hears about this. As I glanced about his apartment seemed weirder and weirder it was just so… impersonal. Which really struck me as odd as this place was obviously custom designed, nobody would create someplace so lavish in an industrial sector of the city not to mention the colours and designs deviate from the typical IKEA catalog apartments you see nowadays; this place had a real vintage feel to it. Yet if so much detail and care was put into the draperies you'd think there'd be knickknacks and other little things that make a house a home. But then again who am I to judge? My entire life fits in two suitcases. Sure I own many paintings and objets d'art but really when it comes down to it, I live out of suitcases. My thoughts didn't delve much further into that subject as he soon returned with a small bundle of clothes. "You can wear these for now," he said handing me the bundle which I gratefully took. "I also couldn't find anything for your ankle."

"How long have you lived here?" I blurted before I even realized I asked the question. I immediately scolded myself; I always make it a point not to ask personal questions even the most mundane. My inquisitive nature gets out of hand once I'm indulged even the slightest bit and I always inadvertedly make some kind of faux-pas and ask why their father hated them or some other embarrassingly personal question.

"A couple of months, why do you ask?" he said with a slightly raised eyebrow but perfectly neutral expression on his face.

"I'm not sure to be honest, curiosity I suppose," I replied before standing up and heading back to the bathroom. I quickly pulled on the ill-fitting garments and grimaced at how swollen my ankle had become. Exiting the bathroom I hobbled along and practically collapsed on the sofa. My ankle was throbbing and forgoing all manners I elevated my foot onto the coffee table.

"I'd offer you some ice, but I'm afraid I don't have any," he explained in that ever so casual tone. How he can sound so casual is beyond me, this is fucking weird as far as I'm concerned.

"It's alright, besides it's just a little sprain."

"Do you encounter many injuries on your trespassing adventures?"

"Not really. I guess I've almost died twice… and I did once break my ankle falling through a floor; but I was quite intoxicated so it was well deserved. But I'd like to think I'm doing pretty well for how many explores I've gone on and how dangerous some of these places are."

"You almost died twice?" he asked casually for me to elaborate as if we where speaking of the weather.

"Yeah, outside of a prison in Spain some fucking pikeys heaved a chunk of cement at me from the roof and it missed by a foot or so. And of course when I was in a sanitary sewer and almost passed out from the methane and hydrogen sulphide… I actually had to bite my tongue to keep from passing out… I think I mentioned the sanitary sewer story in class one day now that I think about it."

"You did, but I don't recall you mentioning that you almost died."

"Yes we where just lucky we turned around when we did. In fact one of my comrades was seeing black spots and greying out near the end of it," I explained before furrowing my brows in confusion. What the hell about that story could elicit such an amused response from him? My knees felt like jelly at his grin though, it was just so carefree and amused… and he has a dimple. "What is so amusing about that?"

"Nothing actually. I just haven't heard anyone use the word comrade in a very long time," he explained.

"Hm… I suppose it is a bit dated. My Russkii drugs (droogs) do tend to laugh when I refer to them as tovarisch," I replied with a faint smile as well.

After a moment or so of surprisingly non-awkward silence he left the room and came back holding some ripped up cloth and clear tape. It wasn't a conventional medicine cabinet bandage, but more makeshift in nature. "Here I have some bandages for your shoulder. It's still weeping a bit," he said kneeling in front of me.

"Thanks," I replied pushing the too-large shirt's sleeve to show the wound.

He rested a hand on my thigh as he examined the wound and my heart immediately sped up and felt like it was beating out of its chest. Tingles shot through me at the lightest brush of skin and I was suddenly infinitely glad for my carelessness. "Aren't your parents wondering where you are?" he asked taping the makeshift bandage.

"I haven't lived with my parents since I was fifteen or so," I explained with such a casual air… as if it's normal to have parents that neglected you most of your life as they could just hire a nanny to care for you instead. Sure I may technically live with my mother now… but really we rarely see one another. I actually see my step-father more often than I do my mother and even then it's only for a couple of brief moments because he had to come grab something from his study.

"Oh… well that must be exciting," he replied.

"Sure," I replied with a shrug and immediately winced… fucking cut. I glanced down to notice he still had his hand on my thigh and when I looked into his eyes I was immediately entranced. He was looking at me with so much intensity it sent shivers down by spine but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't look away… not that I really wanted to. His eyes where the most gorgeous shade of green I've ever seen they where so dark that the very outer-ring looked black but got lighter as they got closer to the pupil and where marred with flecks of gold… they where absolutely entrancing. Before I even had a chance to come to my senses I felt his lips press hard against mine and I was utterly powerless beneath his touch. It was as if something inside of me snapped and I immediately tangled my fingers in his amazingly soft hair and kissed back with ferocity. My wound was soon forgotten and all I could focus on was him, how he tasted, how utterly soft his hair felt between my fingers, his hands

I awoke feeling groggy and surprisingly enough not sore in the slightest. I glanced about the room I was in and immediately blanched… it wasn't just a dream; I actually fucked Mr. Duchovny. Oh god, what the hell did I do? How could I do… that, of all things? Before I had time to ponder things further he entered the room holding a cup of coffee and a paper bag. "Good morning," he said casually. "I brought you some breakfast, I wasn't sure what you like so I just got you croissants and cappuccino."

"Thank you," I replied sitting up and facing a head rush. "Whoa," I mumbled trying to steady myself.

"Don't strain yourself. You probably lost a fair amount of blood last night," he said setting the food on the nightstand and helping to steady me. His very touch brought forth the same 'electric' tingles as before and I couldn't help but further lean further into his touch despite logic and my morals telling me to leave immediately. A small smile graced his lips and he said, "eat and I'll find something for your ankle." And then he placed the faintest kiss on my lips and left the room. I started to slowly gnaw on the croissant and sipped the coffee and my thoughts couldn't help but stray towards Tick. I was on a fucking scouting mission to find somewhere fun for us to go and instead cheated on her, real fucking classy. How could I do that? I mean… it's not even like I'm one of those people who can justify cheating or sees nothing wrong with it. What's worse is it isn't even like I love him… or even know him… I don't even know his first name; it was utterly meaningless… it was wholly carnal. It's not like I was torn between two people or anything… ugh I'm fucking disgusting. "Why are you so morose?" That velvety voice said whilst entering the room with a cloth-covered icepack.

"I'm not," I replied indifferently before taking a sip of my coffee.

"You look like it."

"Haven't had my morning dose of caffeine yet I suppose."

"Here's your icepack," he said placing it around my fucked up ankle.

"Thanks."

We sat in silence me finishing my breakfast and him sitting at the end of the bed adjusting the ice pack. As I glanced about his room and finally took it in I couldn't help but note that it was even weirder than the rest of his apartment. Sure it makes sense to have an impersonal living room after only living there for a couple of months… but his room was free of all personal affects or anything really. The only things that stood out was an old leather bound book sitting on one of the nightstands and some Renaissance style painting.

I awoke once again in his bed. I can't believe we went for a second round, just as I can't believe we had sex in the first place. The room was dark and empty and I nearly fell over from the head rush I experienced when getting up. I precariously set my feet on the floor and was quite surprised to find there was no pain upon standing. Hm, I mustn't have sprained it as bad as I had thought. I was also surprised to find I didn't experience a shooting pain up my spine, especially considering how rough it got. How odd. I groped about in the darkness the only sliver of light coming from between the thick curtains and pushed the dimmer switch up slightly. The clothes Mr. Duchovny had lent me where folded neatly on a chair instead of thrown haphazardly as they had been before. I slipped them on and was surprised to find my shoulder didn't hurt either. Shrugging it off I left the bedroom and made my way through the apartment. I was mildly surprised to find him talking in a hushed tone with some redheaded man in what sounded like Latin. I have only taken a year or so worth of Latin lessons which where mandatory at one of the schools I attended and I couldn't for the life of me fathom why someone would be speaking such a dead language. "Latin?" I asked with an amused smile and raised eyebrow.

"Yes it is a beautiful language is it not?" Duchovny said a smile upon his face.

"More like useless, unless the urge to read Cicero strikes you I suppose," I replied.

"Hm… do you speak much Latin?" he asked as I languidly sat on one of the plush chairs paying no mind to his friend who looked at me with curiosity.

"No, I barely know the basics. It isn't high on my list of languages to learn; besides if I was to ever learn a dead language I would choose Ancient Greek."

"Interesting. I must say I am quite surprised to see you awake so early, do you feel faint?" he asked.

"Hardly. I should depart soon however, where is my clothing?" I asked pulling the sleeve of his shirt up so it covered my shoulder again. He isn't all that much larger than me or anything, but he does have broader shoulders and some height on me which makes this shirt not stay on very well when you take into account it's a v-neck.

"In the dryer, I shall grab them for you," he said before standing up, kissing me softly, and disappearing down a hallway.

"So you must be what's distracted him the past couple of days," the red headed man said in a neutral tone. I finally took in his appearance and was shocked at just how striking he was. His hair was a dark red, his body the pinnacle of perfection, and his jaw line was the kind you wanted to run your fingers over. The most shocking part of his appearance however was his eyes, they where a dark gold in colour and made my own 'odd' eyes look quite mediocre in comparison.

"What a cunning observation," I replied curtly not feeling up to any type of conversation. I just want to go home, eat, stretch, and maybe sleep some more. I am feeling a little lethargic still and this situation is just too weird. I'm already feeling guilty and I really do not need to further complicate this already complicated situation. Before the conversation could go any further he re-entered the room holding a small pile of folded clothes. "Thank you," I said deftly grabbing them and making my way towards his bedroom. I changed quickly and folded up the borrowed clothes and set them back on the chair I found them before making my way out of his bedroom once again. Once I was in the living room I said, "thank you for your hospitality but I must be going." Then I made my way towards the door without even realizing that he was escorting me until I started to put on my shoes. Once my shoes where on I gave him a small smile, kissed both of his cheeks, and said, "fare thee well."

Before I could even comprehend what was happening he had me pushed against the door and his lips where hard on mine. I couldn't help but moan into the kiss as I opened my mouth and he ravaged me. It was so rough, but not too rough, and I loved the feel of his teeth pulling at my lips. Every time he kisses me I can't help but be rendered breathless, I'll never admit this to him but he is hands down the best lover I've ever had… and I've been around the block quite a few times. "Farewell," he whispered hotly in my ear before turning back towards the living room.

I took a moment to catch my breath and then left his apartment with no intention of ever going back. I swiftly made my way down the streets and couldn't get over just how strange the last 24 hours have been. It was nearing evening and I was more than thankful to find myself in my quiet house. I removed my torn clothes and stepped into the warm shower feeling better than I had in a while. I was pretty disgusting to be perfectly honest, my body was pretty well caked in dried blood and semen. Once I stepped out of the shower and examined my body I was shocked to be perfectly honest. The cut on my shoulder was but a faint red line, the gashes on my hips from his nails where just faint red lines (I distinctly recall blood oozing from them earlier), and it seemed the only place I still had wounds was on my neck (and chest and thighs). The teeth-marks all over my neck and chest where clearly visible and I couldn't believe his teeth where able to leave such deep markings. I couldn't help but go a little weak in the knees every time I examined a specific bite and was certain that I could easily become a fang-banger. I quickly got dressed and went through my clothes trying to find something that will suitably cover my neck when it comes time to face the world.

I started to make a quick and easy supper (penne with pistou, salad, stale baguette) and was surprised at just how ravenous I was. Sure I hadn't ate much aside from some croissants but I practically slept the entire day away. But still even after my large meal I was still hungry. Ugh… that's what I get for doing something so stupid. Who the fuck has sex with their teacher? No, who has sex with their vampyric teacher and cheats on their girlfriend at the same time? I'm so fucked up. Sure it was completely amazing but that does not excuse what I did.

Possible names for Duchovny:

Kallistos

Erastos

Arkadios

I entered the classroom as casually as possible. Nobody even batted a lash at my attire the entire day… nobody noticed or cared that I was wearing a scarf. I wear them often but that niggling sense of paranoia in the back of my mind still was worried someone would find it uncharacteristic and odd. I took my usual seat and languidly opened my books. When Duchovny entered the class he was ridiculously calm, I mean he didn't even acknowledge my presence and things where exactly as they've always been. You have to admire someone for being so blasé when their career was in the balance after what we did. He wrote some words on the white board and informed us to read a short story before going to his desk and leaving us be. I opened my textbook and started the story with disinterest. It was dull, contrived, and thoroughly unimpressive, as I continued to read however one of the characters said something that stuck with me. As I reread the line a realization hit me… we never used a condom… we fucked twice with no condom. Oh god… how the fuck could I do that? I've always been so careful… I mean I've never had sex without a condom before, except maybe possibly once when I was a drunken thirteen year old… but even that is debatable as I don't remember much about that night. A wave of nausea hit me as my mind started going over the list of diseases I could have contracted. Hepatitis B, C, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, AIDS… oh fuck… oh fuck, I could have fucking HIV! I jittered in my seat throughout the rest of class and tried to keep my thoughts as far away from images of mountains of pill bottles, emaciated bodies, and every negative thought that tried to consume me.

Once the bell rang I bolted out of the class faster then I meant to, I really wanted to walk out casually and nonchalant but I just can't. I'm taking a mental health day and that's that. I rushed out of the building and sped out of the parking lot at a dangerous speed. I continued down the roads crazily until I finally realized my aimlessness and stopped. Pulling out my Blackberry I found the address to the cities only STD clinic and felt relief that I knew which street it was on. I made it there easily and nervously entered the building. I walked up the reception and the woman working gave me an actual genuine smile and told me to fill out this form once I told her why I was there. She also informed me that I could use a false name and such but the medical information has to be honest. I was unbelievably happy about the anonymity of all of this… the last thing I need is for this to get out… which it undoubtedly would if I had to use my real name. I filled out the questionnaire not at all bothered by the personal questions but I cannot deny that I felt a bit of shame at my foolishness. I sat around after filling out my form and counted ceiling tiles, I would've done some people watching but there were only two other people in the clinic. Finally a doctor came out and called out the name 'Quinton'. I didn't respond at first but then I remembered that is my pseudonym. I entered the small sterile smelling room and awkwardly sat down on the paper-covered bed. "So is all this information true?" the doctor asked with a bored raise of his left eyebrow.

"I believe so," I replied quietly wishing this would be over and done with.

"Well considering what you wrote down we will have to do a rather invasive examination. I'll start by swabbing your mouth and checking the lymph nodes around your neck but afterwards you will be required to remove your clothing so I can get some swabs," the doctor said pulling on some gloves.

"Okay," I replied awkwardly just wishing this would be over and done with and I could have my results. He swabbed my mouth, fondled my neck, and then I quickly stripped off my layers of clothing and suppressed the memories of yesteryear. Having a doctor shove a Q-tip up my ass can easily qualify as one of the top ten most awkward moments of my life. When it was finally finished I quickly pulled on my clothes, was notified that my results would be ready in 48 hours, and as I was leaving the receptionist gave me a bunch of pamphlets and encouraged me to line my pockets with the condoms sitting in a bowl. I gracefully declined and went back to the car. I finally glanced at the pamphlets and immediately felt sick. "Living With HIV", "Dealing With Teen Pregnancy", "Herpes and You", I refused to read anymore and threw them out the window. I don't care if I'm littering, I don't care that I didn't recycle… the last thing I need is to read some bullshit about how HIV really isn't that bad. I'm just unbelievably glad that by throwing a couple hundred bucks around I was able to get the fast HIV test instead of that wait three months antibody bullshit. I just have to wait forty-eight hours and then I'll know if my life is going to be changed forever or not.

Tick laid on the sofa her head in my lap and my fingers playing with her hair. We where watching a foreign film about the Cuban revolution and Ché Guevara. I felt really guilty… I won't lie. I can barely even look her in the eyes. I fucked _ twice; I mean there is no way to sugarcoat it… at all. I can't even come up with a reason as to why I did it… I mean I know it was just all getting caught up in the moment… and then having him pounce on me as soon as I awoke and getting all caught up again. I hate that I betrayed Tick. I hate that I went against my own personal morals. I hate that it was the best sex I've ever had. I hate that I can't stop thinking of him. I hate that I know I'd do it again if given the opportunity. I am the biggest asshole in the world.

The film finished and we went onto the balcony to smoke a joint. It was a really beautiful night… the ice and snow blanketing the city while the streetlights twinkled through. I couldn't help but smile slightly despite it all… at least nature hasn't turned against me. At least I still can experience the beautiful. My arm was wrapped tightly around Tick as it was chilly out and she leaned right up to my ear and said with the utmost sincerity, "You know I'm pretty sure I love you." I couldn't help but stiffen at her words and my heart clenched painfully. Fuck. She loves me? How can she love me? We've only dated a few months and we're in high school. God how can she love someone like me? I let loose a heavy sigh, threw the nearly un-smoked joint off the balcony and went into the house. I slipped my shoes off at the door and wearily sat down on a chair. "Avery?" she asked uncertainly before sitting down on a chair near me.

"I'm sorry," I whispered. "I can't do this."

"What?" she asked her voice cracking.

"I can't continue to lead you on like this."

Confusion marred her delicate features and she asked, "What do you mean?"

"I… I'm a fake."

This immediately made her laugh and I couldn't help but cringe, "Avery don't be ridiculous you're one of the most real people I know."

"I just… I mean… have you ever heard me talk about anything other than the mundane? Sure I have genuine interests and hobbies and I'm honest about that. But beyond the superficial level… I'm a total and complete fake. I… I've led you on and I'm sorry… I'll never be able to love you… hell I'll never be able to love anyone not even myself," I explained quietly utterly incapable of making eye contact.

"What?" she asked her voice full of emotion. "What do you mean? Avery don't be so hard on yourself… you just need time. I don't care if you can't say it back right away, we after all have only been together a few months."

"No Tick," I replied with a heavy sigh. "I'm dead inside, I have been for a long time. I'll never be able to love just as I'll never be able to be happy."

"Stop being so irrational and jumping to extremes. You aren't dead inside, you have a spectrum of emotion I've witnessed it," she said standing up and placing a hand on my shoulder.

"Fuck you just don't get it Tick. I'm fucked up… really fucked up, I'm incapable of opening up to anyone and will inadvertedly die alone."

"Everyone is fucked up Avery, some people are just more obvious about it."

"Maybe so, but some of us are fucked up beyond repair. Look Tick… I just I-I can't open myself up… I just can't and I can't do this anymore," I quietly replied.

"Oh… well I guess I'll see you at school then," she stated awkwardly.

"I'm sorry," I uttered my voice cracking. She merely nodded incapable of eye contact, gathered her things and then walked out of my apartment and life.

I'm shit… I'm utter shit. I'm such a terrible person… I guess it's good that I didn't continue to lead her on… but I should be more upset about this. It's been three hours since she left my apartment and I already feel over her. Sure the first half hour was full of wracking guilt… but now I just don't seem to care much at all. I should feel worse about this… like way worse. But then again it isn't like any of it was real… I was mostly just killing loneliness. I glanced at the clock on the wall and decided enough of this self-indulgent bullshit. It was nearing nine so I decided to eat a quick meal, get changed, grab some cash, keys, and a fake ID. It's actually kind of despicable what I'm doing now that I think about it. Trolling around for a quick fuck and some hard liquor right after I break up with my girlfriend, I'm the epitome of classy. I drove around aimlessly and decided to stop at a place I've heard random people in school speaking of. I entered the bar and nobody even bothered to ID me. It was to put it bluntly a disgusting place… it looked like a small town dive bar if you removed the large TV's playing sports and changed the music. I grimaced and turned on my heel. I sat in the car and decided I should just go to the place I usually do. It's this hip little martini lounge with good music and a dark ambience. I walked in and it was deader than usual, I sat on the barstool and ordered a 'zen martini' basically it's a martini with a bit of melon liqueur and some green tea thing. Hm I should call some people and see what's going on at least then I'll have somebody to hang out with instead of sitting here next to some gossipy girl and bored out of my skull. All that seemed to be going on was a house party full of people I loathe, some people hanging out at this shitty dance club, and Eli invited me to join him and some of his friends at a club. I obviously chose the latter option. Climbing in my car I sped down streets following Eli's shoddy instructions and finally found a parking lot to stop in nearby. It was chilly as I walked down the sidewalk and I finally spotted the unruly mess of red hair shivering outside. "Avery!" he screeched as I approached.

"Bonjour Eli," I said before kissing both of his cheeks.

"Come on, you have to meet everyone," he said excitedly as he dragged me in the bouncer not even sparing us a second glance. He continued to pull me through and I was immediately surprised, he started to drag me away from the dance part which was right off the entrance we came in and towards the quieter tables.

"Eli is this by any chance a gay bar?" I asked following obediently behind him.

"Oh my god, you didn't know? Shit I feel stupid… I mean is that a problem? I always just kind of assumed you where, but then again you are European. I'm really reall—"

I interrupted him and said, "Eli calm yourself, I was merely asking for the sake of clarification."

"Geez you nearly gave me a heart attack. Well come on you have to meet everyone else," he said his excitement returning full force. He dragged me over to a table in a quieter area where three guys where sitting around drinking various liquors. "Everyone this is my friend Avery, Avery this is Trace" he motioned to a guy with short light brown hair and a large build, "Mike" he motioned to a small effeminate looking man with fake platinum hair (then again he might not be that effeminate and it could just be a comparison thing), "and Geoff" he then motioned to the last man who had dark hair and an even darker expression on his face.

"Hello, I'm Avery," I said sitting down after Eli.

"How do you know Eli?" Geoff asked pointing a glare at me.

"I tend to frequent the café he works at," I replied casually.

"Is your hair colour real?" Mike asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"Ugh I would kill for your hair."

"It's actually quite annoying, my eyebrows are near invisible and I have to dye my eyelashes… which is absolutely frightening no matter how many times you do it."

"What's so frightening about dying eyelashes?" Trace asked looking at me if I'm insane.

"I always get paranoid that they mixed the wrong dye and my eyes are going to burn out of my skull or something."

"What's with the fake accent?" Geoff asked his glare never wavering.

"Geoff that is so rude," Eli said with a small scowl.

"Not really, after all my accent is rather indiscernible. I've spent most of my life hopping from country to country throughout Europe so it's some muddled bastardized mix of a dozen dialects. I can actually mimic quite a few languages and could speak English with say a thick Parisian accent but I really do not see the point."

"That is so amazing I've always wanted to go to Paris," Mike said.

"I adore Paris, the quarries are probably the place I feel most at home."

"Quarries?" Eli asked curiously.

"Yes beneath Paris there is hundreds of kilometres of tunnels. The catacombs are a small part of it… mind you there is a lot of bones strewn haphazardly in some parts and slight flooding in others. It's quite an extraordinary place and you meet the most interesting people. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go get a drink," I replied before leaving the table in search of the bar. I finally found a bar and ordered myself a vodka tonic then quickly downed it grimacing at the taste of the cheap vodka. I then grabbed another drink and meandered back to the table. When I returned the topic at hand was something wonderfully mundane; film. We all seemed to have differing opinions but it made the conversation interesting. Geoff shared similar tastes with me and held foreign and independent film in high regard, Trace enjoyed documentaries, Eli was into action and slasher flicks, and Mike held no allegiance to a specific genre but had a soft spot for zombie films. Eventually Geoff and Eli wandered off somewhere (they mentioned something about dancing… as if the dancing here could actually be referred to as dancing), and the three of us spoke of random things. I wasn't as drunk as I wanted to be… the alcohol in this establishment is just too dirty and gross tasting for my tastes. What I really wanted was to crack open a bottle of Château Margaux and maybe snort some lines or something. This place was too loud and the drinks where disgusting… ugh it didn't even have a nice ambience. I decided to say my farewells and started to exit, as I was walking by the dance area Eli came out of nowhere and clung to me. I grimaced whenever I was in the dance area; the black lights made my hair the leading cause of retinal damage.

"Avery!" he slurred clinging to my arm.

"Hello Eli," I replied.

"Oh my god tonight's been like so fun, we didn't hang out much though. You have to come on another one of our uhm… expeditions!"

"Be sure to call me."

"Holy fuck, holy fuck… there's a guy staring at us and he is so fucking sexy. Oh my god I want to have his adopted babies," Eli said excitedly.

"Where?" I asked boredly.

"Mm just to the right near the guy in that fucking ugly fishnet shirt. Ugh what does he think this is 1996?"

I glanced over and my breath caught in my throat and my eyes went as wide as saucers. At my look of recognition a small smirk graced his perfect features. "I know him, so I'll talk to you later okay Eli," I explained whilst prying his fingers off and then I approached him absolutely entranced.

"Fancy seeing you here," he said with a broadening smile once I was in earshot.

"I could say the same for you."

"Hardly, last I recall you where under twenty-one."

"Yes well I live life by my own rules and not societies… but I'm sure you already knew that," I replied matching his smirk.

"Hm I suppose I do. So what brings you to a place like this?"

"The terrible tasting alcohol and inner-ear destroying noise of course," I replied as seriously as possible all sarcasm removed from my voice. "And yourself?"

"Oh nothing in particular," he replied tracing a hand down my jaw line.

Shivers ran down my spine at his mere touch and I decided to be as bold as possible. "While it is nice to see you wearing something other than a suit I'm afraid I must be going. This ambience isn't to my tastes and I feel I'm better suited to listen to music of artistic merit and drink some wine," I said trying to sound oh so suave and casual and then added as if it was an afterthought… a mere social nicety and not my true intentions, "Of course you're welcome to join me."

"What kind of wine?" he asked fluidly.

"I was thinking a bottle of '89 Château Margaux but I am open to suggestions."

"I cannot say I've ever tried that particular vintage but that is a very fine choice of wine, shall we depart?"

And with that my teacher followed me into my vehicle and I couldn't help but start to feel awkward as I sped down the streets music being the only noise and distraction. We finally got to my house and I hoped by then that things would be a bit less awkward… or I'd at least be a bit drunker as I'm about as sober as it gets. "Make yourself at home," I said speaking for the first time since we left the club and gesturing towards the sofa. I couldn't believe how nervous I was as I dug out the corkscrew and yearned for a wine cellar. But alas I was living in an house I do not feel like renovating and stuck with a wine cooler… thankfully I've had the good sense to keep it well stocked. I pulled the bottle out from the fridge and grabbed two red wine glasses from the shelf. "Would you care to put on some music?" I asked tearing the seal off haphazardly and stabbing the cork. He scrolled through the iPod I set on the table and soon the room was filled with the sound of some indie playlist… which was surprising I guess I thought he'd put on classical or some shit. I meandered back to the sofa he was seated on and poured us both a glass. My heart sped up when I noticed he actually drank wine properly and appreciated the bouquet beforehand instead of just throwing it down like a shot as so many of the people I've encountered lately do.

"What an interesting wine," he said after a few moments.

"I rather enjoy the undertones of iron."

"Really?" he asked surprise written all over his features.

"Yes it adds dimension to it."

"I'm surprised you picked up that faint metallic edge," he replied with something that resembled awe written on his features.

"I'm a wine connoisseur I have the nose of a bloodhound and a finely tuned palette."

We continued discussing the wine going on about the different subtle nuances, tobacco, leather, truffle, blackberry, cedar… over all it was earthy and minerally and fucking perfect with a long lasting finish. Once we finished our glasses rather than pour another glass I was instantaneously distracted from such a task. His lips where hard on mine and I immediately submitted to the dominating kiss.

When I awoke I was more than surprised to find Mr. Duchovny still sleeping next to me. I just assumed he'd be sneaking out of here as soon as I fell asleep so as to avoid the awkward morning after. With a yawn and a stretch I got out of bed and went to shower. Ugh my body is so gross looking after we're done, don't get me wrong it's more than a fair trade off considering how mind-blowing the sex is… but I do look pretty gross. I'm coated with dried bodily fluids and covered in bites and hickeys. Once I was finished I quietly got dressed and decided to get some coffee and start breakfast. I sipped the dark coffee and pulled a couple of different cheeses from the fridge. I can never be bothered to cook in the morning so I always have cheese, bread, and fruit. The thing I loved about where I live? Half the building is a hotel so I can have fresh baked bread brought up from downstairs every morning. Once breakfast was set up I finally ventured to my bedroom to see if he was up yet. My bed was empty and I could hear the shower so I decided to just wait for him to finish. Mere moments later he emerged dressed only in a towel and said, "I caught a shower I hope that's alright."

I couldn't focus on his words all I could think about was how good he looked wet.

I can't believe we've kept this charade up. I mean… it's obvious how we haven't been caught. After all I do have no parents keeping tabs on me. But still I've never really thought people actually got away with fucking their teachers. The fact that we've kept it up this long really is amazing… but I suppose we still interact in the same manner during school hours, which probably would've been the biggest tip off. I used my lock picking skills to get in the first door then took the elevator up to the entranceway. I've stopped by unannounced a few times and I've always entered in the same manner. I am however polite enough to knock on the main door rather than just break in. I knocked softly on the door and tried to keep my demeanour as casual as possible. Regardless of how many times we've met up… I'm still always a bundle of nerves. He just… does something to me; I can't even begin to describe the affect he has on me. The door finally opened and I was surprised at who was on the other end to say the least. It was a woman with thick chocolate brown hair, a flawless peaches and cream complexion, and the kind of face that the painter's adored and the kind of body poets wrote about; basically she was gorgeous beyond belief. "Who are you?" she asked with a snide tone.

"That is irrelevant," I replied fluidly. "I am here to see _, is he present?"

The beauty surrounding her was immediately shattered when an expression of revulsion and aghast graced her delicate features. "How dare you speak of him in such informal tones you filthy human, who the fuck do you think you are?" she asked sounding affronted beyond belief.

What in the world is this woman's problem? Misanthropic and angry at the world much? Fuck somebody needs to put this cunt in her place. I made my tone as icy as possible (in fact it was the tone I used when my mother said something exceptionally crass) and painted a mask of cold indifference. "Who am I?" Cue wry chuckle. "Why don't you learn your place darling and go fetch _, I really do not have the time to waste it on philistines such as yourself." Throw in a quick look of disdain and then go back to your cold indifference… as if she isn't even important enough to feel contempt for.

"My place? My place?" She screeched. "You arrogant fucking human—"

I couldn't help but roll my eyes at her rant, what the fuck is this woman's problem? Did she forget to take her Prozac or something? _ soon approached however and cut her off by saying in a reprimanding tone, "It isn't very polite to insult my guests Isabella." I actually didn't see him first but heard him. He didn't give the woman time to retort and judging by her expression and open mouth she clearly wanted to. "Hello Avery," he said with a fetching smile as he took a step out of the doorway.

"Bonjour," I replied getting on my tiptoes to kiss both of his cheeks in greeting. "I never realized you had guests. If I had known I never would have shown up. I was however about to open a bottle of wine and thought perhaps you would care to join me," I said motioning to the bottle clutched in my hand.

"How thoughtful of you," he purred before kissing me hard on the lips. "How about you come in anyways? I've grown quite weary of their company and yours is far more interesting."

I laughed and replied, "You are such a terrible host."

He showed me inside and I kept my shock contained at how many absolutely gorgeous people there where in his living room and sat on the bed once he took me to his bedroom. "Wait here while I get rid of them," he said with a smile before leaving the room and softly closing the door behind him.

I still couldn't believe I actually let him talk me into this. I understand that I'm a pretty little object that looks good hanging off of someone's arm… but still, I hate these kinds of parties! My mother ropes me into them all the time, my grandparents rope me into them, and now I'm letting a fuck-buddy who if we are being serious here I have power over rope me into one; I'm pathetic. He even told me specifically what to wear and I'm not talking the very vague term 'black-tie'. Sighing I pulled on the clingy green v-neck and topped it off with a dove grey blazer. I suppose he was right in saying that the colour green brings out my eyes.

As we sat in the car _ kept going on about the event we where about to attend; he actually seemed a bit nervous which I found quite surprising considering the kind of guy he is. "Remember, don't speak unless spoken to and don't leave my side—"

"I get it," I replied with a sigh, "You have been repeating yourself ad nauseum and you are also ridiculously nervous. Stop sweating it; I've been to these types of things before I already know how it works. You hold a drink in your hand, get introduced to random people who you pretend are oh so interesting, move on to the next group, and then you repeat the process until you finally decide to leave and go get drunk." He gave me one of those devastatingly beautiful smiles at my remark and pressed a quick kiss to my lips.

It took us about two hours to get to our destination which was some stately manor house in rural Connecticut. This was obviously a well-organized event judging by the fact that there were valets and a doorman. As we entered the ballroom, which was just off the foyer, I felt unbelievably underdressed. I thought maybe _ was being strange with his wearing of a tuxedo, but I was so wrong. Most people where dressed in relatively modern black-tie attire (some where even bordering on white-tie), however there where a few people whom where dressed in period clothing. Sure I had on tailor made slacks and a blazer and sure my shoes where handmade winklepickers and yeah I had millions of dollars on my fingers… but still I felt naked without some cufflinks and a collar. "Why didn't you tell me it was black-tie?" I hissed under my breath.

"Don't worry about it, you look fantastic," he said with a reassuring smile.

"Of course I look fantastic, that still does not detract from the fact that I am utterly underdressed," I said with a roll of my eyes.

"Stop fretting, most of the other pets are dressed similarly," he said tightening his grip on my waist.

Yes that is what he is referring me as tonight… pet, vampires don't really necessitate pets anymore what with the blood deliveries but many seem to prefer it as it's a fresh and constant source and many of them are still stuck in the past… but still it's a little degrading and I'm obviously viewed as and am supposed to act subservient; but I suppose that is all par for the course. As I glanced about more I did realize that _ was correct, the other 'pets' where indeed dressed similarly to me. I didn't notice them at first however due to them wearing dark colours in an effort to blend in (the men at least) and the women where rather underdressed but still quite nice looking. I suppose I shouldn't be fretting too much, I did after all try to wear purple to a white-tie event once.

We wandered towards the bar and I was quite pleased to notice that basically the only drinks they where serving was water, blood, and a wide array of full-bodied wines. I had no idea how I was supposed to act around the servants but before I could even think too much about it _ ordered us both a glass of Bordeaux. "Merci," I muttered as he passed me the glass. That's one thing I do like about fucking a vampire, you can whisper and not call any attention to yourself and still carry on a conversation. Not too long after we had moved away from the drinks area a ridiculously gorgeous woman with chocolate coloured hair, ruby red lips, and a Victorian-esque ball gown approached us.

"_ it's so good to see you," she said with a warm smile.

"Genevieve, it's always a pleasure," he replied kissing her hand.

"How have you been, it's been far too long!"

"It has, what have you been up to all this time?"

"Oh a little of this, a little of that. I've been sequestering myself on The Rhine and studying astronomy," she said with a delicate gesture to the ceiling. "Now who is that pretty creature clinging to you? He doesn't look human, but he certainly smells like it. I must ask where did you find such an enigmatic toy?"

"This is Avery my newest pet. He's actually one of my students," he replied with a chuckle. "I have been teaching at a private school the past few years."

"You a teacher?" she said with a laugh. "Do tell."

"I owed _ a favour and seeing as he is director of this private school he decided to cash it in and make me a teacher."

That is how the night progressed he'd talk for a little while and basically find out what everyone has been up to, quite a few people came up to him and introduced themselves and basically worshipped the ground he walked on whilst I sipped wine, had him constantly touching me in some manner (and no not the fun touching), and was bored out of my skull. Few people actually acknowledged my presence and those who did didn't actually talk to me; they talked about me as if I wasn't even there. A man approached _ with a smile and as soon as _ noticed him he matched it. They exchanged a warm greeting and I had already tuned out the conversation… in fact I've been tuning out all of the conversations I've had to endure. Sure in the beginning it was intriguing and I liked how a wide array of languages where spoken… but it was really boring. Seriously it was to the point that I only picked up key words or should I say key word, and that was 'pet'. "Mm your pet smells absolutely delicious," the blonde man said leaning in close and taking a sniff of my neck… I tried not to stiffen and glare but I imagine I wasn't too effective.

"He tastes even better than he smells," _ replied with a smug smile.

I honestly had to fight the urge to roll my eyes, the way these assholes parade us around like objects is so ridiculous. Fuck it's like a bunch of middle-aged society ladies fawning over one another's jewellery. "Hm, care to share?" he asked and I knew then that my composure was breaking. Share? Share! Who the fuck does he think he is to speak to me like that?

Before I could snap a scathing remark _ gave my waist a squeeze (I'm not sure if it was meant to be comforting or reprimanding) and fluidly replied, "I don't think so, you know how I detest sharing."

"Would I be able to convince you into selling him instead then?" he asked eyeing me up.

"I think not."

"I assumed as much, I just wouldn't help but try anyways," he replied with a shrug.

There where a few people of course who didn't fawn all over him and just treated him like any other peer but they where few and far between. He was sitting at a table speaking to this woman with blue-black locks and she honestly looked more powerful than beautiful, she was certainly attractive but she had this presence about her that just oozed power. Not to mention her face could be better described as interesting as opposed to classically beautiful. But I suppose many people did look like that. The more time I've spent around these vampires the less their physical appearance overwhelms me. Sure the vast majority are classically beautiful, unconventionally beautiful, or at least interesting looking; but surprisingly there was the odd… ugly vampire and a rather large amount of just… ordinary looking ones. My wine glass ran dry and I had to piss like a racehorse and I decided that it was high time to stretch my legs. I chose French to speak in and garnering _ attention with a hand on his upper thigh and a soft muttering of "Excusez-moi?" He glanced at me and I took that to be as much attention as I was going to get.

Speaking in the same quiet tone I explained that I needed to freshen up and get a new drink and was going to leave when a possessive look crossed his features and in one of those 'this conversation is over' tones said, "you are not venturing off alone in this crowd."

Rolling my eyes I decided on the flattery angle, "Don't be ludicrous _ it is not like anything will happen. I'm absolutely covered in your scent, I have an ostentatious amount of bite marks on display, and from what I've gathered you are far too important for anyone to dare even think of touching what is yours."

My words worked perfectly on him and he told me to hurry back and I quickly made my way through the crowd. I dropped my glass off on some random table and ignoring the few curious glances I garnered I made my way to the washroom where I proceeded to rifle through drawers and see if there was anything interesting to nab (some Dilaudid would be nice)… there wasn't. There was however a painting in here which made me raise an eyebrow, as the humidity from the shower would obviously destroy it. Exiting the bathroom I noticed a rather beautiful painting in the hallway and decided to examine it. I decided I would just look down this hallway, go back, get a drink, finish the rounds, and then get laid. With a smile I meandered the halls examining the various works of art; there where many 'classic' pieces and the renaissance was a clear theme however I did nearly walk by it without realizing… there was a fun satirical piece that featured a portrait I couldn't name but had seen in a museum before, but now there was a silly moustache drawn on her… at least I hope it was a fun satire and not some vandalism. I felt in much better spirits by the time I reached a turn in the hall and decided to turn back immediately lest I let my curiosity get the best of me. I made my way back to the ballroom and went straight to the bar. The wine list was fucking impressive to say the very least and I ended up picking the oldest vintage on the list (1927) and once the bartender passed me a glass of the dark liquid I glanced about my settings and couldn't find _ anywhere. I opted to just wander aimlessly and if I find him I find him if not oh well. I started to wander the perimeter feeling utterly bored when a gorgeous man with flaxen coloured hair, amazing cheekbones, and inky black eyes that looked ethereal with his light hair and skin came up to me and in a condescending tone said, "You're _ new pet aren't you?"

I gave him a look of disinterest and replied in a patronizing voice, "my aren't we observant."

"I've been hearing a lot about you. The pretty little pet _ drags around, I'm surprised to see you off your leash," he said in a mocking tone… as if his remarks where going to cut me deep and make me cry myself to sleep or something, geez do these pets tend to break that easy or something?

"Is there a point to this conversation or do you just enjoy hearing yourself speak?" I asked in a bored tone and took a sip of my wine.

"Of course there is," he snapped. "You had better watch yourself pet," he spat the word pet with a high degree of derision, "a lot of people do not like you and you had best watch where you step."

I immediately gave a wry laugh which caused him to scowl at me and said in an amused and denigrating tone, "How quaint, you are actually threatened by me; a mere pet… I wonder what that has to say about you?"

The minute the words left my mouth he looked at me with nothing short of complete loathing and screeched in an angry tone, "how dare you! You… you… filthy human!"

"Oh I'm ever so hurt," I sarcastically replied. "How about you go home tonight, think up some real insults, and then forward them to my assistant; I do not have the time to waste it on someone so puerile." I then casually sauntered off and really hoped to find _ soon.

It only took a couple more minutes before I finally spotted _ sitting at a small table talking with the woman from before and some random man. I never had a chance to make it there however as somebody else decided to talk to me. This encounter wasn't unpleasant as I actually recognized him, "Quinn! What are you doing here?" he asked in a shocked tone.

To be honest I felt the same amount of shock… I always knew he wasn't human but I certainly never expected to see him here. "Oh Francois it is such a surprise to see you. Now are you asking why I'm at this particular party or why I'm in this particular part of the world?"

He gave a small chuckle and replied, "I'm sure I can figure out why you're in this part of the world; after all your wanderlust is absolutely insatiable."

"How true. I'm actually accompanying someone as their pretty little pet," I replied with a shrug.

"You a pet?" he actually truly laughed this time. "I have to see it to believe it because while you may be covered in bite marks clever infiltration sounds far more plausible than you actually being a pet."

"You flatter me," I replied with a laugh. "I can prove it if you'd like."

"You're going to have to if you plan on actually convincing me."

"Come along then," I replied with a laugh and we walked the few meters to where _ was deeply engaged in conversation.

"What took you so long?" he asked the minute I sat down and gave me a curious look.

"I ran into my old friend Francois," I said motioning to him.

"I can't believe it, I am seeing it and I still find it hard to believe," Francois said with a shake of his head. "_, _, _ it is nice to see the three of you again."

"You as well it has been quite some time. I must ask how is it you know Avery?" _ asked in a curious tone.

"You go by Avery now?" he asked me whilst completely ignoring the question.

"On occasion, I go by many names after all," I replied enigmatically. "We met in the quarries beneath Paris at one of the many gatherings that seem to come together spontaneously."

"How intriguing," he replied. Then Francois was swept up into small talk with them and I was back to being bored and soon Francois and the woman left to talk privately. I felt so utterly bored and really, really wished to leave but alas my wish was not granted.

When I awoke I was surprised to find myself in _ bed. He wasn't anywhere to be seen and I had a headache. I looked around for my clothes and found them folded neatly on top of a dresser.

I was sitting at the table drinking some tea with Alistair and Rosalie and we where mostly discussing the upcoming weekend and what that would mean for all of us. It was mid-sentence that Rosalie was cut off by a servant entering the room with a large bouquet of white tulips sitting in a crystal vase. "These just came for you Constantijn," Maria said carefully holding the flowers. "Where would you like me to put them?"

"Set them on the table for now, did a card come with them by any chance?" I asked my curiosity piqued… who in the world would actually send me cut flowers? She nodded, set them on a free space on the table, and then passed me a white envelope. I opened it up and contained inside was a piece of white paper with two words and one name written in calligraphy; Forgive Me - _. I immediately scowled upon reading it and fought the urge to rip the paper in half.

"Who offended you?" Alistair asked not even trying to hide the curiosity in his voice.

"What do you mean?" I asked suspiciously.

"Well white tulips represent either love or forgiveness and based on your reaction to the card I can only deduce that they where sent by someone who truly offended you," he explained.

"I will indulge this much, yes they are forgiveness flowers but I am not so easily swayed. I shall send them back immediately with a card of my own," I said fighting the urge to scowl and just sweep the flowers off the table to smash and scatter spectacularly on the floor.

"Why in the world would you send them back? If you don't want them I'll take them," Rosalie said ghosting her fingers over one of them.

"I will not have this… ingrate actually thinking I accept their so-called apology," I said with a scoff and then I stormed to my bedroom. I pulled out my custom stationary and taking a deep breath tried to write a calm reply. After two failed attempts I finally came up with a composed note that held no obscenity or paper-tears. My very simple reply was; 'One cannot forgive the unforgivable.' I then sauntered back to the flowers, smelled their faint clean scent and fought the smile that tried to envelope my features, and had a driver take me to _ loft. I broke in using my lock picking skills (actually the door only required a bump key) and set the flowers and note right in front of his door.

At school the interaction between us was very much the same and when I came home I found a new bribe waiting for me. How quickly he came up with a new gift threw me off but I couldn't help but be impressed with what he gave me. It was a box or jewellery casket of some sort made of ivory… I think and had various scenes from mythology carved into it and inside was a white tulip made from mother of pearl and various fine gems set in silver (based on the intricacy it was actually most likely set in platinum). The box itself was gorgeous and had a high degree of craftsmanship but at the same time disgusted me. It was hypocritical for me to feel uncomfortable about its provenance as I played on ivory piano keys and most likely owned many objets d'art made from it but I couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor animal that had to die just to create this bribe. Mostly however I felt disgusted that he actually thought that I was so easily bought and that all it took was a pretty gift and I'd go running to him. With a heavy sigh I took the metro to his loft and broke in to set the box in front of his door. I gently set the box down and started to make my way down the hall. "You do not like my gift?" I heard a voice say to me.

I spun on my heel and standing in the doorway looking rather stoic was _. "I detest ivory," I replied.

"What about the flower? I know you like jewels," he asked curiosity seeping into his voice.

I crossed my arms raised an eyebrow and tried to keep the anger out of my voice, "Do you honestly think I am that easily swayed?"

"I don't understand why you are so angry over this," he said his brows furrowing in annoyance.

"I laid down a few very specific and very reasonable rules and still you completely ignored them. It is one thing to have momentary lapses, but you just… you just arrogantly assumed they didn't apply to you which is utterly detestable!" I exclaimed getting progressively angrier as I continued on and balling my hands into fists.

With a resigned sigh he looked at me with truly apologetic eyes and said almost as if he was in pain, "I didn't think it'd come to this… but I'm sorry." He then picked up the box (I'm not sure why… maybe for distraction?) and continued on sounding more apologetic and less in pain. "You are correct I thought the rules didn't apply and that you where just being hyperbolic or something with them. I am truly and deeply sorry for my reprehensible behaviour and hope you can find it in yourself to forgive me."

Is he being sincere? He could easily be lying to me… but he doesn't really have much to gain from it. I am just a pretty face and despite my position am on a much lower social rung than him and couldn't really destroy him or anything. "I have no reason to," I replied haughtily.

"Of course you do, you know as well as I that you could gain much from our acquaintanceship," he casually replied.

"I care not for social-climbing; it's a little lowbrow for my tastes," I replied keeping my tone arrogant.

"Maybe so, but our relationship has always been symbiotic in nature. Surely one mistake on my part isn't enough to completely destroy something that serves us both so well," he said in a sultry voice as he approached me.

"Perhaps you're correct," I begrudgingly replied. "However I will expect you to follow the rules implicitly in the future as I am not fond of forgiveness."

"Of course," he fluidly replied before pressing his lips fiercely to mine.

Before I could get caught up in the moment I broke the kiss and reminded myself to hold onto a little self-respect… it's just pathetic to fall right into his bed. "I must be leaving I have a previous engagement," I said untangling my fingers from his hair and taking a step back.

"Perfectly understandable. While you may hate ivory will you at least accept this flower as a token of my sincerity?" He asked picking up the box and opening it up.

Secretly pleased I was able to keep the beautiful flower I casually replied, "I suppose that would be acceptable."

My mother was acting quite weird about me going to the Netherlands for Christmas… but then again her and my grandparents have a rather antagonistic relationship. "Constantijn I want you do to me a rather large favour while you're in Europe," my mother casually said as we drank our tea.

"What is it?" I asked warily wondering why she was being so goddamned nice to me. I mean… my mother and I have an antagonistic relationship at best and these past few days have been a little… off-putting.

"I want you to go to my castle along The Rhine and do an inventory of the art, antiquities, jewels, furniture, and pretty well everything; I even expect you to count the silverware. I also think you should do the same for your chateaux as they have both been unused for some time and while the servants there are loyal to our lineage one can never be too careful; they may have gotten bold in my absence," my mother explained as if she didn't ask me to undertake an enormous task. "I have gone through my files and found the old inventory lists, everything is very organized so it shouldn't be too hard for you to count it all. You may have Lena meet with you to help with this task, I know I am asking a lot of you but it is a task only those I implicitly trust can undertake it and if you successfully complete this task I will reward you handsomely."

"But Mamochka it's my holiday and you aren't exactly asking a small favour of me… I mean cataloguing everything… that is quite daunting," I explained trying to keep the whine out of my voice.

Her eyes immediately turned hard and her voice cold, "I have given you everything and this is how you repay me? I ask you for one thing and you can't even take the time out of your oh so busy schedule to make sure the servants aren't stealing your inheritance!"

"I am sorry Mamochka… I will go visit your manor as well as mine and do the inventory… I will need to take more time off school then the regular holidays however as I imagine it'll still take well over a week to do both even with Lena helping me." Ugh there goes my plan to go skiing in Gstaad… I go there every fucking winter and now I'm going to miss out on skiing this year all because of her passive-aggressive bullshit.

"That can be arranged, I will have Lena fax your itinerary to your grandparents about mid-way through your stay and she will have all the inventory papers and keys and such," she explained. "Oh don't look so put out, most of the treasures are on loan to various museums so you have nothing to complain about."

"Yes Mamochka," I replied obediently knowing she only came up with this task to punish me… ugh passive-aggressive bitch.

"That's better."

I took the train from Den Hague to some village in Germany and it wasn't that bad. I was at least able to load up on the legal cannabis and blazed the entire time and talked to some rather interesting Australian backpackers. Once I got off the train I couldn't help but grimace. I was in some nowhere village and while it isn't all that far from a larger city it still felt so… isolated. I'll admit it was kind of quaint and I did vaguely recognize some of the buildings as the driver that picked me up drove me through the village and down various roads. We finally made it to the castle and despite its age (14th century) it was in magnificent condition and looked really pretty as it was built upon a ledge and overlooked the river. I ignored the out buildings and with a deep breath entered the house the driver dragging my bags in behind us. I thought it would smell like it was my mother's house but it instead smelt a little musty and had the faint undertone of cleaner. But I suppose it isn't lived in like the outbuildings… it's just cleaned and maintained on a semi-regular basis. "Avery," Lena said as soon as I came in "how was the visit to your grandparents?"

"Terrible and wonderful all at once," I replied with a heavy sigh. "How about I go to my rooms, get situated, and by the time I'm freshened up some tea should be done and we can sit in a parlour and discuss everything?"

"Sounds perfect, do you recall where your old bedroom is?"

"Yes I believe so," I said with a nod.

"Okay you go on and then buzz the intercom for directions to the tearoom."

I nodded and hauled my bags to my room as whoever drove me was long gone. I went down the winding halls and opened the doors to a large bedroom filled with a blue canopy bed, beautiful tapestries, and surprisingly enough some old childhood toys. I set my bags down, opened up the windows, and looked out at the view. Rolling up a joint I sat in a plush armchair and tried to prepare myself for the task ahead.

Once tea was finished Lena handed me a clipboard filled with fucking inventory sheets and a map. I was a little excited… this place is old and full of tunnels and passageways. Back in the day all castles/palaces/manors where constructed like that so you could keep the servants separate from the upper castes and they where also used in case of uprising; which basically makes these kind of places an urban explorers wet dream. Armed with my head flashlight I made my way through the winding tunnels and was glad I wore a sweater… it's fucking chilly. I finally found the spot marked on the map and pushed in a stone to open a passageway into a silly little room. It had a chair and desk and was set up like somebody's secret office... which it most likely was at one time. I climbed on the chair, took down a tapestry and the door to the vault became very obvious. I punched in the key codes, used the fingerprint pad (I hate fingerprint identification things… nothing not a fucking thing is worth one of my fingers), and opened the door to the jewel vault. It was warmer in here (it's climate controlled) and I felt intimidated. I flicked on the lights and came across glass cases filled with jewels. I felt like I was in a jewellery store to be honest. I pulled out the list, started unlocking the cases, and decided to start with the tiaras. The work truly wasn't as difficult as I had anticipated. Everything was very well organized, I got to have a bit of fun dressing up, and everything was so very beautiful.

I actually discovered many beautiful things and everything was very well organized, I even found a few things I decided to take back to New York with me (assuming mother approves). I had a good chunk of the vault finished when I decided to call it a day.

The next day I finished up the vault and plundered a few jewels and a sculpture to take back with me. The attic was also quite easy to catalogue; while it was rather disorganized, things hadn't changed much since the last inventory some ten years ago. Then came the truly difficult part; we had to account for every painting on the walls, all the tapestries, the furniture, the silver, the knick-knacks, and any other miscellaneous objets d'art. The work wasn't as tedious as I anticipated and I actually got sidetracked many times by my enthrallment with specific objects. Once we where finished at this house I apprehensively called my mother. It's one thing for me to loot my chateaux… but to loot my mother's castle? I was stretched out on the chaise longue and picked up the old rotary phone nestled on a shelf. I dialled my mother's number and hoped she wouldn't be too cross with me for calling during her vacation. I decided to lead off by asking if she wanted me to bring back anything as it makes it seem like the call is all about her; she mentioned that she'd like to change some of the art around in the house and instructed me to bring one of the Renoir's back and then I oh so casually asked if I could bring back some things I found and she agreed to the jewels but wouldn't budge on the sculpture… I mean I don't get it; it's like a gold… thing with an enamel base and two tiny people sculpted from gold and I think they're meant to represent Poseidon and some woman… probably Demeter or something, it's really small too. Ugh why she'd make such a big deal about it is beyond me, but that's my mother for you. I was actually quite excited to go to France… sure we had to take a car which would take so much longer than the train and I wasn't comfortable smoking weed in front of Lena… she knows and all but it's like blazing in front of your grandmother… trés awkward. The ride wasn't so bad especially since Lena insisted we stop often to marvel at beautiful things… which gave my camera a workout and indulged our appreciation for the beautiful things in life. We stopped in Paris for two nights, which allowed me to visit friends before we made our way to Vallée de la Loire. We finally made it to my old chateau which I spent much more time in compared to my mother's old castle. We used to spend the summers here back when we lived in Paris and my great-grandmother used to live here. She left it along with the majority of her things to me. I truly adored her whilst growing up and I was always her favourite. I think the reason she preferred me to my brother (despite him being the heir and a thousand times more charming, talented, and intelligent than I ever was) is because I was so grateful for whatever scrap of affection she'd throw my way. I even would eat the disgusting candies she would always offer that everyone else staunchly refused as they where always rotten and mouldy, which isn't surprising considering she detested sweets and where most likely from when my mother was a child. I'd play the violin for her until my fingers where near bleeding; she could even get me to sing which is something I was always very self-conscious about as a child. I couldn't help but smile when the servants greeted me warmly and my bedroom had a beautiful view of the gardens (too bad we weren't here during the summer). My chateaux was a bit harder to catalogue simply because it was larger and contained many more treasures but at the same time it was easier as I had a better idea of where everything was. It took Lena and I a bit longer to go through everything and when all was finished I ended up looting a small 'Venus' sculpture I found sitting on a table, a Monet I found in a spare bedroom, a Van Gogh from the attic, and a beautifully decorated jewellery casket for my new treasures.

When I arrived in New York my mother was surprisingly there to greet me and she was very pleased to see that nothing was missing and that I brought back so many paintings (she likes to change them around every now and again). She was so… nice and had everything taken to my rooms to be organized later and I felt some optimism before I slept off my jetlag.

I hate long ass flights. Seriously crossing the pond is fucking shitty. Airline food sucks, the tea is terrible, the movies are usually shit, the seats aren't all that awesome no matter what class you're in and there is always a baby crying. I finally landed at Heathrow Airport in London and quickly claimed my luggage (never use black or dark blue luggage when travelling, pick the most ostentatious thing you can find as it will always be the easiest to spot on the luggage belts). I grabbed my purple suitcase covered in tiny green dinosaurs and went through customs. I received another stamp in my passport (my very full British one as it keeps me out of large lines), I left the airport and yearned to explore London… but alas I must meet the family my father was estranged from. Apparently since I'm now an adult they want to finally meet me or something as my mother will have no say on if I can go or not. I left the airport and started to look around until I noticed a man holding a sign with my name. I showed him my ID and he opened the door to a Rolls Royce of all vehicles. I would've preferred some conversation or perhaps a warning about what I was getting myself into but the man remained silent. After quite some time of driving he escorted me into the house (more like elaborate estate… it even had a gated driveway and one of those lawns covered in statues) and showed me to my bedroom where I could sleep off my jetlag. The room was quite nice and done up in light blues… it was very impersonal though and it felt like something you see in an upscale magazine. With a sigh I changed into pyjamas and crawled under the covers of the exceedingly comfortable bed.

The next morning I awoke jetlag free and I quickly showered and went through my suitcase. Apparently these people are pretentious so I suppose I'll have to put in some effort instead of wearing a cardigan and vintage t-shirt. I pulled on some black skinny fit slacks, a grey v-neck, and a black blazer. I cautiously left my bedroom and wandered back towards the entrance of the house. I was now at square one, deep breath, get your bearings, you've been in crazier scenarios before. I casually walked through the foyer and almost immediately a maid walked by and I stopped her to ask for directions or what I should be doing or what not. "Oh, well afternoon tea is being served in a few minutes. I'll show you to the parlour," she said sweetly. I immediately and lavishly thanked her and was soon escorted down some halls. "Here you are," she said opening a door to a room I didn't even want to walk in. It reminded me far too much of the room in my grandmother's house (which yes it technically is) those kinds of rooms that look pretty but you feel weird going into as you think you'll mess it all up.

"You must be Tarquin," a rather old woman sitting on a plush chair said. She was tiny as hell, had stark white hair pulled in a tight bun, had a thick string of pearls around her neck, and scarily large jewels on her fingers.

"Yes I am," I replied meekly.

"Well don't just stand there," she said snappishly.

"Sorry," I replied awkwardly taking a seat in a chair. Another woman who looked about thirty, with golden blonde hair, sat at the table as well and she gave me a warm smile.

A moment or so later a different maid came in with teacups, a teapot, and a tray of small cakes and friggin cucumber sandwiches. "Tea sir?" the maid asked after pouring out a cup for both women (who I assume to be my aunt and grandmother).

"Yes please," I remarked awkwardly. I thankfully took my tea and dropped a bit of sugar in it.

"I'm your Aunt Sofia," the younger woman said introducing herself.

"As you've already guessed I am your grandmother," the older woman said. "Now Tarquin tell me something about yourself."

"Well my given name is Tarquin Avery Grayson Whitcomb but I am most commonly referred to as Avery, I enjoy reading and I've been trying to brush up on the classics, I play the piano, violin, and I mess about with the glockenspiel and guitar. I've spent most of my life living in various places around Europe but have also lived in Argentina, Cambodia, and Morocco. Hm… I'm not really sure what else there is to say," I replied feeling awkward as hell.

"Why did you start playing violin?"

"Oh well I was seven or so and told I had to pick up another instrument… I wandered about the store for well over an hour and finally this bright blue violin caught my eye," I explained.

"Now tell me about your education," my grandmother said taking a sip of her tea.

"Well I've never attended many prestigious private schools. I have always been very transient so I usually ended up going to the best of the International Schools and I had a small stint at Institut Le Rosey. It should also be noted that I have had a multitude of private tutors and that's where the vast majority of my education has come from."

"Which languages do you speak?" Sofia asked sweetly.

"I'm currently fluent in English, Czech, French, and have neared fluency in Russian and Spanish. I speak conversational Italian and an unimpressive smattering of too many languages to list. I'm also currently taking German lessons."

"That is very impressive, what are your plans for the future?" my grandmother asked in her severe tone.

"Well I'm not quite sure yet. I will most likely continue do a little more wandering around the globe, as I've never explored much of South America yet nor sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and then I will most likely go to university. I'm not sure what for yet… the only things I have interest in pursuing at the moment are useless liberal arts degrees," I explained wishing I never ever came here. This is just so weird… I mean I don't even know these people and it's just so queer to be interviewed like this.

Conversation continued on in that vein. I asked them random question about their lives and they absolutely interviewed me about mine. After tea Sofia told me that my cousins would be present for supper and I could meet them then as they are currently fucking around London. Mowing down on cucumber sandwiches appeased my hunger a bit and as I wandered about the house I came across a fancy looking room with a baby grand piano inside of it. With a grin I sat down and found some sheet music. The piano was still in tune, which was a plus, and I began to play.

Some time later a maid entered the room I was pounding keys in and informed me that supper was soon and I was to follow her. I stared longingly at the piano as I left the room but followed her nonetheless to a room where a bunch of unfamiliar people where seated. I took a seat on a chair and glanced about, Sofia was sitting next to a man around her age—obviously her husband. Three other people two boys that where clearly twins and around age sixteen or seventeen and a girl who looked about thirteen—most likely my cousins. "Avery these are your cousins Brinkley Cartwright Haverbrook III, Chauncey Lorillard Haverbrook, and Arabella Emery Haverbrook," Sofia said motioning to each of her children. I spared them a glance and immediately felt out of place. I was severely underdressed compared to everyone in the room (admittedly these are my semi-casual clothes) and the expressions on their facial expressions ranged from snide to utterly stoic. They all had light brown hair (with the exception of Arabella who had golden blonde instead) and sharp features similar to mine.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," I replied smoothly pretending I was perfectly at ease.

"You are eighteen Avery correct?" Sofia asked taking a sip of her martini.

"Yes, I turned eighteen two months ago," I replied.

"Well then would you care for a drink?"

I immediately jumped on this request… I need something to calm my nerves. "Sure," I replied awkwardly.

"What would you like?"

"A Manhattan preferably," I replied. A moment or so later a fucking bell was rung and Sofia told a maid who immediately came in to make me a Manhattan. I will never understand this whole being waited on hand and foot thing. I'm not going to lie I do have a maid come in twice a week and yes I had many nannies that watched over me… but this is just ludicrous. "Thank you," I replied before taking a generous 'sip' of my drink. It was strong yet surprisingly sweet and I relished in the burn it left when going down my throat.

"I'm surprised that you drink Manhattans as well," my grandmother said her expression slightly curious.

"I don't know much about cocktails to be perfectly honest… just of the few I've tried a Manhattan seems to be the best," I replied awkwardly.

"Yes they are a very good cocktail, truth be told I prefer mine dryer than yours however," she said.

Soon conversation was between Sofia, her husband… Brinkley Cartwright Haverbrook II I assume, and my grandmother. The room was enveloped in conversation regarding topics that held no interest to me whatsoever. The adults spoke of real estate and the children spoke of boarding school. I was more than grateful that as soon as I swallowed my drink we went to the dining room. Maids brought out a salad dish and I was thankful to notice mine didn't have the pieces of proscuitto everyone else's did (I mentioned earlier that I was a vegetarian). I slowly ate and the conversation continued to be just as dreadful. I however immediately felt a smile hit my face as the main course was brought out, wine was poured, and Brinkley II started talking about the Picasso painting he just bought. "What period is the painting from?" I asked curiously.

"Period?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Yes… is it from his blue period, rose period, cubist, black period… hm? I cannot seem to recall if he had any other major periods," I stated trying to recall the art history books I've read.

"I haven't a clue… it's titled Femme en Pleurs," he stated with a smug look on his face.

"Do you mean La femme qui pleure?" I asked. "If so, it's from his cubism period… it's a portrait of Dora Maar… it's very beautiful yet at the same time dark and sombre wouldn't you agree? I love the details he put upon her eyes, despite its abstract-cubist approach her eyes almost seem as if they are looking right into your soul."

"Yes… it could possibly go by that name. I do not pay much attention to trite details such as those."

"It sounds like you know a bit about art. Which is your favourite painting Avery?" my grandmother asked in the severe tone I realized is absolutely usual to her.

"That is a very tough decision… I can't really pick just one… however some of my favourites off the top of my head are; Apple Tree in Blossom by Piet Mondrian, Acrobate et jeune Arlequin by Pablo Picasso, No 18. 1950 by Jackson Pollock, The Hallucinogenic Toreador by Salvador Dali, Starry Night Over The Rone by Van Gogh, Musique by Gustav Klimt, and I also enjoy most of the work by Zdzislaw Beksinski and Wassily Kandinsky. I also love that painting Goya did where it depicts Napoleon's troops executing Spanish civilians but I for the life of me cannot recall the name," I explained awkwardly.

The next couple of days consisted of arduous torture… and by arduous torture I mean me hiding in the library and music room, only conversing for meals, and being constantly hounded about my interests and ideas. It honestly felt as if it was some job interview from hell as these questions where always asked in such a serious manner. Today however was to be slightly different. Chauncey and Brinkley invited me to go clubbing with them and I immediately jumped on the opportunity. I dressed a bit more comfortably wearing a cardigan and vintage t-shirt (or should I say my travelling clothes) and met them in the foyer. They too where dressed more casual then usual (then again I only see them at dinner which has specific dress codes) and we made our way to a vehicle. It turns out they drove a fucking Range Rover (aren't those bad for the environment?) and they immediately plugged in an iPod which played mediocre trance at a loud level. By the time we got into London and navigated around (who drives a vehicle in a city like this?) we stopped in a parking garage and left the vehicle. "So you do much clubbing?" Chauncey asked some of the pretentiousness leaving his voice.

"Not really. I hang out at bars and stuff but I'm not really into that whole dance club scene," I replied.

"Are you serious?" Brinkley asked shocked. "You lived on the fucking continent and you didn't get into clubbing? What is wrong with you?"

"I don't know, I'm just a square I guess," I said feeling awkward.

We immediately skipped the queue and didn't even have to flash our id's Brinkley just muttered a few words to the bouncer. We immediately went to a table upstairs where it was a tiny bit quieter and ordered a round of drinks. "Okay Avery since we already exchanged numbers on the way up things will be simple. We're basically going to text one another when we want to leave and yeah that's basically it. Lawrence and Madeleine are supposed to be here soon as well so yeah, see you fucks later," Chauncey said.

Brinkley opened up his cell phone and muttered something about being back soon. I sat at the table feeling weird and slammed back my drink. I stood up and decided 'when in Rome'… some horrible club music blared loudly and I ordered another drink and slammed it back as well. Liquid courage metabolizing in my liver and flowing through my bloodstream is the only thing that made me actually step onto that dance floor. I do not dance as a rule (okay a total lie, I love dancing… but this bump and grind bullshit I just do not understand in the slightest, how is this art?), however I threw all caution to the wind and let the music flow through my veins. I danced like a complete idiot and tried to ignore the girl with an orange tan hanging off of me. I went to get another drink and Brinkley and some other guy who was tall and blonde came up and grabbed me by the back of the shirt. "We leaving?" I asked as we now stood outside the club.

"Yeah this place is shit tonight, so we're going to the Alibi Room, going to do a pickup, and then we'll probably head to another club," Brinkley said and Lawrence sent him a glare.

"Hm… what kind of a pickup?" I asked intrigued.

"What the fuck do you think?" Brinkley asked giving a hard sniff.

"Ah, well awesome," I said as Chauncey and some chick came out of the club. They chatted amongst themselves as we made our way back to the vehicle and all hopped in. They drove around London until we came up to somewhere completely different… somewhere actually my style. It was dark inside with red walls; low laying lights, and black seating. We took one of the larger tables near the back and some indie rock band walked off stage once we ordered a round.

"So who are you?" Madeleine asked me sweetly whilst fixing her dark brown curls.

"Avery, I am Brinkley and Chauncey's cousin," I replied taking a sip of my rye ugly.

"I don't recall them ever mentioning a cousin Avery and I've known them since childhood so try again," she said her smile still fake and sweet.

"We met him recently. You remember that time our grandfather got wasted and started yelling about his bastard son who disgraced the family? That's his father," Chauncey said taking a sip of his drink.

"Ooh intriguing," she said with a raised eyebrow. "So Mr. Avery what was it like being raised by the black sheep?"

"Pretty awesome. I've spent my entire life trekking the globe, I ran away to join the gypsy's once, I've lived most of my life amongst artists and yeah… shit's been pretty awesome," I explained with a grin.

"You ran away to live with gypsy's?" Lawrence asked with a disgusted look.

"Yes I was eleven or so and living in Sweden… I absolutely loathed my stepfather so I ran away trying to get to Prague and didn't really plan anything out beyond that but striked up a friendship with some gypsy type kids and next thing you know I'm living with them," I replied awkwardly. I hate, hate, hate thinking about Sweden and my stepfather and that entire fiasco… however the people I met in Germany are some of the best I've ever encountered.
"Sounds… interesting," Madeleine said after a small silence. "So do you know when Yvonne is going to get here?"

"She said soon, she's trying to get rid of her boyfriend," Lawrence said boredly.

We sat around talking or I should say they sat around talking I listened to the music coming from speakers I couldn't see and we drank. Eventually Yvonne a short girl with perfectly straightened chocolate brown hair came in with a purse full of goodies and immediately clung to me. "I adore your hair is that your natural colour?" she asked running her fingers through it.

"Uh… yes it is," I replied awkwardly.

We then went to a club after awkward introductions. I was buzzing pretty good and sat down at the table and sipped at another drink lazily. Everyone was running around, dancing, and having a great time while I was just… there. That is until Yvonne grabbed my arm with her perfectly manicured talons and dragged me into the men's room. "What're we doing?" I asked sipping my drink and garnering barely curious glances from other patrons.

"Powdering our noses darling," she said with a wink of her too bright blue eyes.

"Awesome," I said with a laugh.

She dished out some lines on a mirror and I immediately snorted half of them before passing her the rolled up fifty-pound note. She too snorted away and we stood there sniffing suspiciously and she immediately asked, "do you have a fag?"

"I don't smoke… but if I did I'd chain-smoke and have one of those holders like Hunter S. Thompson did and it'd be fucking awesome… I'd like run away to Las Vegas and binge with my attorney," I rambled the drugs immediately working their way into my bloodstream.

"Fuck Avery I love you, it's so refreshing to be around someone who is actually interesting instead of the mass produced heirs we all seem to be," she said with a smile.

"Poverty made me awesome," I said hopping up onto the counter.

"That it did darling," she said dishing out some more lines. We both snorted away and I commented on how tasty the coke was. "Come along, let's go dance and drink and have fun," she said smiling. I quickly chugged back my drink and slammed the glass on the counter.

"Alright, we can do the twist Pulp Fiction style," I exclaimed standing up and starting to do a shoddy twist.

The night continued on in the same vein… Yvonne and I danced away, drank heavily, and powdered our noses with enthusiasm. Drunkenly I returned went back to the mansion at 4:00 AM and stumbled to my respective rooms I flopped onto my bed and ate the sleeping pills Yvonne gave me before we parted ways.

I awoke slightly groggy and had dark circles under my eyes. I got ready for the day wearing clothes reminiscent of my first day of school, which brought a smile to my face… I love how many people got in my face concerning my clothes. I even wore my Oliver Twist-esque hat… or what I imagine Oliver Twist would wear on his head. I strolled to the kitchen and was informed it was almost teatime… with a heavy sigh I went to the parlour where tea always was and entered the room. There were two unfamiliar faces there and I immediately felt nervousness course through my veins. There was a woman with dark hair who was about Sofia's age and a young girl about my age with a bored expression on her face and what looks like a Chanel dress on. "Avery take off that ridiculous looking hat," my grandmother snapped as I sat down in my usual chair. I pulled it off and set it on my lap and tried to maintain my stoic demeanour. "Claudette, Marlow this is my grandson Tarquin Avery Grayson Whitcomb. Avery this is Claudette Delancey and her lovely daughter Marlow Amherst Delancey," my grandmother said as the maids came in bringing the tea and cakes.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," I replied smoothly dropping the metal bag thing of loose tealeaves in my cup of hot water.

"You as well," Claudette said with a slight French accent.

"Would it be too audacious of me to ask where in France you are from?" I asked curiously.

"Oh not at all. I'm surprised you even noticed, I am actually from Lyon but spent most of my life in England," she replied.

"Oh I haven't ever been to Lyon before. I did however live in Paris for a couple of years," I said in a feeble attempt to make conversation.

"I love Paris. We have a château near there it's the best place to be during the summertime," Marlow said with an excited grin.

"Oui, Paris is a very beautiful city. Le catacombs are most fascinating as well," I replied playing with the metal chain of my tea bag.

"The Catacombs? You mean that creepy underground graveyard?" she asked shock written all over her face.

"Well yes that creepy underground graveyard is fascinating but that isn't what I was referring to. There is hundreds of kilometres worth of underground tunnels and rooms, the graveyard is but a small area and the only part open to the public," I explained.

"Ooh how come I've never heard of these tunnels before?"

"Most likely because it is illegal to enter them and not many people enjoy going through them as some parts are flooded and it is exceedingly easy to get lost," I replied.

"Oh… have you been in them?"

"A few times, artists sometimes throw parties down there and le catophiles are always down there exploring and doing particularly interesting things," I stated boredly and lying through my teeth; I practically lived in those quarries.

"Hm… sounds fun. So where do you live now if not in Paris?"

"Oh… I'm in America for the rest of the year… I'd prefer not to speak of it, it is a terribly dull place," I replied.

"I really want to move to America for school. I think I'm going to go to Sarah Lawrence," she said with a smile.

"Sarah Lawrence hm? Which of the arts are you interested in?" I asked finally finding something I'll enjoy talking about.

"Art? Like painting? I'm going to learn not to draw," she said laughing.

"Sarah Lawrence is a liberal arts school which emphasizes creative arts, social sciences, and humanities," I explained my hopes crushing and feeling the sudden urge to bash my head into a wall.

"What are humanities?" she asked with a curious expression on her face.

"Classes such as art history, literature, philosophy… etc."

"Avery the other day you professed a penchant for liberal arts… is there any particular school you want to attend to study such topics?" my grandmother asked interrupting our conversation.

"No I do not think so. I cannot justify going to school for a liberal arts degree to be perfectly honest. Why would I spend thousands of dollars to learn all about Heidegger or whomever when I can just go to the library… it all seems ludicrous to me. Not to mention post-secondary isn't about learning or the pursuit of knowledge it's about bragging rights whether it be on your resume or to your peers and I do not want anything to do with that until I am ready to pursue a career that necessitates a name on a resume," I stated shaking my head ever so slightly before putting a cucumber sandwich on my plate. I've sort of developed a liking to them ever since I've started drinking afternoon tea all the time.

"That is… very insightful and practical," my grandmother said after a prolonged moment of silence.

Conversation continued and I had my ear talked off by a moron named Marlow and was happy when tea was finally over. When it was finished I called up Yvonne and asked if she would assist me with something. The conversations at tea reminded me that it was almost Christmas and I still hadn't done any shopping. I opted to wait till I was here as I assumed London would have more and I had no idea what the people I was shopping for where like but now that I have an idea I thought I might as well… after all Christmas is in three days. She jumped on the opportunity for us to go shopping and I pulled on my cap, grabbed my wallet filled with credit cards, and checked the pocket watch I bought at a flea market once upon a time. She picked me up in some little sports car and we sped down the streets at a dangerous speed. "So what do we need to go shopping for? Adorable clothes by the way," she said flicking through her iPod.

"Fucking hell watch the road, I'll do the bitch work. I don't know I need gifts for my grandmother, my aunt and uncle, and my cousins… I'm not even sure what to get everyone… I barely know anything about these people," I explained awkwardly.

"Get your grandma jewels or artefacts… all must be old and in mint condition, Brinkley the second is a wine connoisseur, Sofia… uh I dunno? Something pretty I suppose. Chauncey is way more practical than Brinkley but both like useless gadgets, and anything to show off wealth. However Chauncey would appreciate some rare vinyl the most… he's trying to do that whole DJ thing and collects useless things. Arabella… fuck I don't know get her jewellery… yeah it'll make her feel sophisticated," Yvonne said rolling her eyes. We got into London and immediately went to a crazy jewellery store.

"Yvonne… I'm so in over my head… I have no idea what kind of shit they already own," I said as we walked about looking at the cases.

"It doesn't matter if they like the present Avery… really you're so naïve. It just must be expensive that is all that matters," she said eyeing up some earrings.

"That's horrible."

"God I love how common of a background you have compared to the rest of us. That's just the way it works in these circles just be glad you where raised by the never mentioned children," she said grinning.

"I love my background… I just fuck I feel so out of my element. I'm used to vodka that rivals as floor cleaner and starving artists not caviar and champagne, I mean yeah when I was a kid my mom threw these kind of parties but I was too young and once I was old enough I just… didn't ever show up," I replied peering into a case filled with watches.

"I know, I know… but just think now you know both worlds," she said as we strolled down an aisle.

"Wait! I found the perfect present for Arabella," I said looking into a case to my left. "I'm getting her a tiara… little bitch thinks she's so awesome and acts like a spoiled princess… well now she can look as stupid as one as well."

"Don't be a moron. A girls first tiara must be passed down from a mother or grandmother and is first worn at a coming out party," she said rolling her eyes.

"And I'm supposed to know this shit?"

"No I suppose not," she replied.

"I think she likes the colour blue," I said poking around cases. "Should I get her like earrings or a bracelet with blue jewels or something?"

"Yeah that's a good idea get both though make them match… sapphires."

"Alright… what about those?" I asked as we strolled about.

"Hm… no they're too ostentatious for a young girl. We want something classic and timeless."

"Fine," I said rolling my eyes and continuing on. I finally found platinum earrings and a bracelet that where encrusted with tiny diamonds and larger sapphires. "So what do I get Sofia? Jewellery or something?"

"Yeah get her a necklace or something like that," she said peering into a case.

We wandered around and I finally settled on getting her a bracelet with a large yellow gem and diamonds encrusted on it and earrings to match. "Okay now what?" I asked.

"Fuck this is bullshit. I'm going to call my mother's assistant and get her to do this shit, what's your name we might be able to use it to open a few doors? You just look around," she said with a roll of her eyes.

I passed her my phone and said, "I am Tarquin Avery Grayson Whitcomb."

"God your name is almost as bad as Chauncey's… but hey at least you go by your middle name," she said with a grin.

I looked around and grabbed a black pearl bracelet then paid for everything which made me blanche immediately as the clerk stated the price. I handed my credit card and they wrapped it up. Yvonne came back a few minutes later with a pleased grin on her face and passed me her cell phone. "Your name is very, very beautiful you know. Seriously stating you're the grandson of Tarquin Whitcomb III does fucking wonders, it also helps that you're named after him," she said happily.

"So where to next?" I asked holding the small black bag filled with jewels.

"We're visiting this guy who pretty much bought out Sotheby's last wine auction… we're going to pick up a few bottles from him and then I was able to somehow get this guy from Christie's to allow us to buy something despite it not being an auction as he found out it would be your grandmother's Christmas present," she said grinning.

"Sounds great… what about Chauncey and Brinkley? I was thinking a watch or some shit for Brinkley and records for Chauncey."

"Perfect, get Chauncey some cufflinks as well he is always losing his. Then we should go to a tailor's and get you some suits. There is the Christmas party and the New Years party so we'll have to look dashing and I doubt you have anything nice enough… no offence darling."

"None taken, I know I don't."

"Okay for Brinkley's watch… well let's go to this watch shop and we'll figure it out there… buy some cufflinks for Chauncey here though."

"Okay… what should they look like, I've never bought them."

"Hm… let's go with simplistic and initials," she said asking the clerk about cufflinks. We soon where on the far end of the jewellery store looking around.

"What about those?" I asked motioning to some square ones with a fleck of ruby in the corner.

"Perfect!" she said excitedly and then told the clerk to engrave his initials on them. "Now you need some."

"I want those," I said pointing to some shaped like puzzle pieces.

"Are you sure?" she asked warily.

"Yeah of course they're neat," I said. We then went back to the register where I paid for the cufflinks and went into the car. Soon we found ourselves at a watch shop down the street and I bought Brinkley a Cartier watch as apparently he already has a couple of Rolexes. Then we stopped at a tailor, Yvonne was yammering on about colours when we entered and the boy working immediately escorted us to the back.

"Would you please remove your blazer, I need to take your measurements," he said pushing some blonde curls from his face.

"Of course," I said trying not to check him out and passing Yvonne my blazer. "Yvonne how terrible are these parties?"

"Honestly… they suck. But the champagne is flowing like water, the bar is open, and a few of us sneak off to different rooms and just go crazy."

"Ugh… I should fake sick," I whined.

"You're such a girl, it isn't that bad. Fuck you told me you partied in dirty caverns under Paris, yet you can't handle something like this?"

"No I cannot… this is just horrid. Dirty caverns beneath Paris feature drugs and artists and amazing people. Seriously my grandmother tried to set me up with this Marlow chick this afternoon and it was just terrible… she was really slow and wore way too much makeup. It was absolutely frightening," I said fighting the urge to twitch when Blondie measured my leg length and got pretty close to certain parts of my body.

"Marlow Delancey?" Yvonne asked with a laugh.

"Uh huh."

"Oh man that's great… did she offer to suck your cock?"

"What?" I asked shocked. "No… fuck I probably dodged a real bullet there. It was kind of subtle you know forcing us to talk during tea and then suggesting we go for a walk or I show her my piano skills but I got out of it by saying I had to call you."

"Dodged a bullet?" Yvonne asked with a laugh. "Most guys would jump on that opportunity. I know Chauncey and Lawrence have."

"Gross I do not want herpes. Besides I am not most guys, I have something called standards."

"Well if it helps any tons of girls will be all over you now that they know you've turned her down. She's pretty much widely hated and everyone thinks she's a real slut."

"Great," I said with a groan.

"Are you gay?" Yvonne suddenly asked after a little bit of silence.

"Nah I'm… shit I don't know what I am. Sexual orientations are such a recent construct and I just prefer not to complicate my life with useless semantics. I'm attracted to whomever I'm attracted to and that's it. But that's besides the point, I just don't want to get involved with some rich kid that is well acquainted with my estranged family, way too high maintenance and awkward for my tastes. Not to mention I kind of have a girlfriend."

"That is rather practical… and who is this mysterious girlfriend? You've never mentioned her," Yvonne replied.

"Oh well… it's a rather recent development and it's not really… real for lack of a better word. It's more some effort to kill loneliness as pathetic as it sounds. I have after all lived alone for the past few years with few lasting ties," I replied trying to sound stoic and composed and not pathetic and needy.

"That's terrible. But at least you've been welcomed back into the family," she said with a fake smile.

"Don't be ludicrous you sound absolutely naïve. Currently they're merely seeing if I'm even good enough and even if they do welcome me with open arms, what difference would it make? I am still going to be a restless wanderer who uses feigned elitism to cover up their social ineptitude, except maybe now I'll be forced to endure London weather in the wintertime."

"I hate how practical you are sometimes," she said with a heavy sigh as the tailor finished up. "And hey chin up and what not. You're the first person I've met in my entire life that I can actually speak candidly to without worrying about being stabbed in the back and black mailed. Which is pretty fucked up seeing as we've known one another two days."

"This is true, but recreational drug usage has torn down many social barriers."

"So which colours would you like?" he asked.

"I will need a two piece suit… I'll just need two different dress shirts… one dark purple, one a crimson red. I want a really skinny tie… everything black… uh I want my pants not super loose and on the tight side, I guess I wanna look like a 1960's Mod," I explained.

He gave a small smile and said, "here I'll show you some fabric samples and you can choose a cut you like out of this book I have."

"Thanks," I said pulling on my blazer. He took me around the shop and I picked a nice cut, colour, and material and then Yvonne took me to a shoe store where I had to buy new dress shoes. We then spent an hour or two going through records before finding a nice little stack of ones we didn't think he had. Then we went to the jewel guy and he immediately grimaced at the sight of me but in the end sold me a really neat looking brooch that was covered in diamonds, rubies, and onyx. Then we picked up five bottles of different wines from the wine guy, which was kind of annoying to carry out. I was so glad to be done with shopping and to have the stores wrap my presents. We went for a deliciously non-fancy meal where I mowed down on frittes and she then dropped me off at the house and gave me a quick hug. I entered the house and moseyed to one of the parlours where a very nice looking Christmas tree was set up. There was already presents set underneath it and one of the butlers helped me place the gifts I just acquired beneath it as well.

When I awoke on Christmas it was to Arabella shrilly yelling at the top of her lungs for me to wake up. Groggily I conceded and got quickly dressed in casual clothes, as my tailor made suits would be arriving this afternoon. I finally made it to the parlour where we were to open presents. Everyone was already there looking as tired as ever. Arabella excitedly handed out the presents, which she sorted and I started to open the small stack sitting in front of me. The first was from my Aunt, which was a very nice watch it was silver with a black square face. I set it back in the case and opened up my next present, which was from both Chauncey and Brinkley. Contained inside was a bunch of first edition hard covers of various books… they where even in their original language. I couldn't help but smile as I fingered over them and set them both aside to open the rest of my gifts. I was absolutely floored however when I opened up a large box to find La Femme qui Pleure inside with a tasteful frame around it… holy fuck… holy fuck… he gave me the Picasso he mentioned the other day. I couldn't help but be in absolute awe as I ran my fingers over the protective glass and stared at it for eons. "Aren't you going to open the rest of your presents?" Arabella asked.

"Oh… yes, of course," I said setting the painting aside and opening the one from Arabella. Contained inside was a bottle of cologne and I immediately gave it a whiff… hm not bad smelling at all. I then opened my last present; I ripped open the cardboard box only to find a wooden box inside of it. Opening the wooden box my jaw dropped for the second time today. There was a very old and beautiful looking violin.

"Most of the men in our family have played the violin including your grandfather and great grandfather. It's one of many family heirlooms," my grandmother said turning back to her presents.

"Wow… uhm… thank you everyone for the really nice and thoughtful presents… they're great," I said my smile never faltering and feeling a little bit terrible over how impersonal the gifts I gave them are in comparison.

Murmurs of you're welcome echoed through the room and we went to breakfast the servants moving our presents to our rooms and cleaning everything up. We ate a quick brunch in which we mostly spoke of our presents and asked about them and then we went our separate ways but where told to be ready by eight to attend the party being held in the ballroom. Once I was in my bedroom I picked up the violin and started to play a slow song of my own creation.

It was nearing evening and a maid informed me the party was in two hours. With a heavy sigh I went to a bathroom and had a shower. I had on my robe and was towel drying my hair as I glanced at the suit I had laid out on the bed. Soon I heard a knocking on the door and I opened it to see a young guy with a black bag in his hand and brown hair cut stylishly and with a bunch of highlights. "Uhm hello," I said awkwardly.

"The maid dropped me off here, you're Avery right?" he asked with a smile on his face.

"Yes… come in. May I ask who you are?"

"Oh sorry, I'm Ryan I'm basically your hairstylist for the evening."

"I need a hairstylist?" I asked dumbly throwing the towel on the floor.

"Apparently so. I'm also supposed to cut your hair so you look respectable," he said with a wry grin.

"But I like my hair… I guess if you cut it but please be careful… like just take off minimal amounts," I said sitting down in a chair in front of a mirror.

"Don't worry I like your hair as well, much better than those twins' hair. It was disgusting how much product they insisted I put in their hair," he said plugging in a hairdryer. He started blow-drying it and all conversation ceased, then he grabbed out scissors, which made me gulp, but he gave me a reassuring smile and started to comb through it. He made basic small talk and barely took anything off of my hair; he just made it look a little less shaggy. He then put a little product in it to make it look a little messy but still tailored. I thanked him and he went off to a different room. Feeling awkward I pulled out a tiny bag of makeup and put a little loose powder foundation all over my face… my skin is clear but this is a precautionary measure, I then covered myself with sheer shine powder and was infinitely glad I dyed my eyelashes not too long ago… mascara just looks weird. With a heavy sigh I pulled on the dark purple button up shirt and pulled on my slacks… everything fit like a glove and I immediately smiled as I pulled on the black suspenders and then my tie. I finally pulled on the blazer, tie, suspenders, shoes, and cufflinks. Looking at my reflection I couldn't help but smile… I look fucking great. I inspected my appearance and was more than pleased at how I looked. I put on my pocket-watch and noticed it was ten to nine. With a deep breath I locked the bedroom door behind me and started to make my way through the halls. The halls where alive with servants running around the place doing the preparations, I was amazed at how much was going on today. I entered the ballroom to see a large Christmas tree that was elaborately decorated, beautiful decorations all over the place, the walls where a shimmering gold and the floor a beautiful black marble with ornate carvings and pillars and stuff against the walls. But most impressively there was a gorgeous and ornate crystal chandelier in the centre of the room. "Oh Avery what are you wearing?" Aunt Sofia said coming up to me and wearing a beautiful red dress and her hair in an up do. "Why aren't you in your tailored suit?"

"I am, I had it tailored to fit me and my style," I replied with a shrug.

"Well yes I suppose… but it is a little odd looking. I do wish you would've worn a bowtie and looser trousers however," she said with a sigh.

"Hey I'm dashing, I have suspenders and cufflinks," I said with a lopsided grin.

"Fair enough," she said before running off to dictate some kind of order.

I decided to approach the musicians hanging out in the corner and they looked at me with distaste. "So what kind of music is this shindig going to have?" I asked eyeing the different instruments.

"Classical," a man with a small moustache said giving me a contemptuous look.

"Gee, I didn't figure that out," I sarcastically replied. "I meant anything in particular? To be honest I really hope you play some Rachmaninoff and Vivaldi but play Bach sparingly, he nearly puts me to sleep."

"Don't worry we're playing a shit load of Vivaldi," a girl behind a cello said.

"I do hope you play Storm it has to be his best work, despite what popular opinion says. Anyways I had best stop harassing you, adieu." I meandered to the music room and fucked around on the piano for half an hour… who cares if I'm late. Maybe then I can just try and blend into the background; I'll undoubtedly be a fun topic for tonight. I made my way back to the ballroom and there was a myriad of people in it… obviously not everyone by any means but it was bustling with life to say the least. I snagged a glass of champagne off a passing waiter and wandered about boredly glancing at everything in my path.

I was only in the room for a short period of time before Arabella confronted me and said in a superior and highly pleased tone, "grandmas looking for you, you're in so much trouble."

"Where is she?" I asked casually.

"How should I know?" she said before turning on her heel and wandering off.

With a shrug I decided to just continue wandering about and try to blend into the background. You know have one or two people seen me so it can be attested that I was here but just… melt into the décor. It wasn't even ten minutes before Sofia ran into me and asked in a harsh tone, "Where have you been?"

"Oh I'm sorry I was playing piano to kill some time before the party started and I got carried away."

"Yes well your grandmother wants to introduce you to some people so come along," she said in a rushed tone whilst walking swiftly.

The moment I've been dreading… I was hoping to just skip over the whole introduction type bullshit. I followed her to a small group of people standing around drinking and my grandmother said in a surprisingly pleasant tone, "Oh Tarquin there you are, Tarquin this is Laurence Gottfried, Pierce Van Ryan his wife Corinne Van Ryan, Sebastian Ivette, and Wilhelm Devereax." She motioned to a group of well-dressed middle-aged people aside from Laurence who was closer to her age. "Everyone this is my grandson Tarquin Whitcomb V."

"It is a pleasure to meet you," I replied fluidly pretending I wasn't nervous at all as they obviously appraised me.

"Why is it we haven't heard of you before Tarquin?" Corinne asked with an obviously fake sugary sweet smile.

"Why Corinne I never thought of you as dense but it is glaringly obvious that he is the offspring of my late son Tarquin as is clearly evident by his name," my grandmother stated in a clipped tone.

"Oh clearly… but still I thought you disowned your son oh so many years ago," she replied pleasantly.

"Well he is deceased so that is all quite irrelevant," I stated with a wry smile.

The moment I said that the fake smile left her face and she gave a sour look before immediately putting back up her front. I suppose having such an evil mother has finally come in handy for situations such as this… these people may be piranhas but my mother is a shark. "I suppose so," she stated curtly.

"So what school did you go to?" Pierce said with a pleasant smile once the awkward silence set in.

"Too many to list and nowhere prestigious. However the vast majority of my education came from working with private tutors," I replied casually. "But if you're grasping at straws for a conversation piece I spent a brief amount of time at Institut Le Rosey School."

"That is a very fine school," Sebastian said taking a sip of his drink. The entire environment was awkward to say the least but my grandmother at least recognized that instantly and swept me away to meet more people. The next half hour continued on in a similar vein. I was introduced to a multitude of people ranging in age we made brief small talk, some were bold enough to mention my father, and then I was swept away again.

Thankfully just before I was to be escorted to another group of people I noticed a beacon of light. I politely excused myself much to my grandmother's chagrin and approached Yvonne. "Hello Yvonne," I said in a pleasant tone before kissing both of her cheeks.

"How European of you," she snickered.

"What can I say, I'm ever so suave," I replied wryly.

"Very," she said adjusting her black opera gloves.

"So you where more than correct on how this party would pan out… seriously I've been introduced to so many people that just looked down upon me and made the most boring and awkward small talk ever."

"Yeah these things get tedious, come on I'll introduce you to the very few interesting people," she said snagging some champagne for us off a passing waiter.

Krug, Clos du Mesnil

I received the phone call from Aunt Sofia and I was absolutely taken aback. She's apparently been terminal for a while and that is why she wanted to meet me… harsh… but somehow fitting to her personality. Sofia and I talked a bit before she hung up and told me she'd make arrangements for my arrival.

Come school I received my work for the next few days and I then took a flight to London. I was picked up once again in a Rolls Royce (the same one I think) and instead of being taken to the mansion I stayed in before I was taken to a different one in a different part of Buckinghamshire and I went to my room to sleep off the jetlag.

I awoke jetlag free and completely lost. I quickly got ready and was escorted by a maid who found me wandering to the dining room where dinner was just starting. Sofia wasn't present and nor was Brinkley II but my cousins where all there eating soup. "You're awake," Chauncey said picking up a piece of bread.

"Yeah jetlag kicked the shit out of me," I said sitting down at the table.

"So did you have any idea she was dying?" Brinkley asked.

"Nah, when I first met her I thought she was ridiculously thin but I didn't think she had cancer or anything."

"I'm surprised I didn't figure it out, she used to chain-smoke then all of a sudden quit," Chauncey replied.

"Onto brighter subjects… how's life?"

"Well my step-dad is fucking weird and crazy old… I don't hate him but I certainly don't like him. School is really dull… except for the fact that I think my history teacher wants in my pants. And uh yeah my life has been pretty dull you know? I'm mostly just biding my time until I can leave the country," I said and soon a maid came out to bring out the main course and she immediately looked surprised before bringing me out a salad and the meatless part of their meal. We continued to chat idly about random topics and then went our separate ways… I decided to explore a bit and they did… whatever.

The next day I awoke early and got ready wearing my tailored suit except this time with a charcoal shirt instead. The entire mood of the house was sombre and quiet… not long and we where shuffled off to some church. I felt awkward as we entered the church and sat at the very front with the casket in front of us. The priest delivered his speeches, then Sofia gave a eulogy, and then some random woman gave one. It was probably the least funny funeral I've ever been to… don't get me wrong funerals aren't funny… but most of the time you hear amusing stories about the person. After the funeral we went back to the mansion and everyone drank and ate hors d'oeuvres. I felt awkward not really knowing anyone there and practically clung to Brinkley and Chauncey and received numerous handshakes and condolences from people I didn't know.

I didn't feel saddened by her death… at least not really. I didn't know her that well is all… sure she was a fascinating a woman and many will miss her… but I barely knew her. I met her not that long ago and she barely spoke about herself… she seemed to be more focused on interviewing me.

The next day when I was eating lunch Sofia informed all of us that we had to go to the lawyer's office as it was time for the will reading. I went with a heavy sigh as I just didn't care… she probably owned a lot of shit… way too much shit and it just didn't interest me, but hey with any luck I'll receive that beautiful baby grand. Which I could actually really use, my old stand up has gotten pretty beaten up over the years as I do ship it around the world on a frequent basis. We finally got to the lawyer's office and I was the first one to be called in. The room was intimidating to say the least, four men in their mid-forties (and older) sat around a table in some boardroom that had a magnificent view of London. "Tarquin please take a seat," one of the men said amiably. I awkwardly placed myself in one of the numerous chairs and tried to look as stoic as possible. "We may be here for a while so I apologize in advance. I am Henry Steinbeck one of the members of your board of advisors. In fact us four are the ones whom have been controlling the assets your father left you until you came of age. We also handled your grandparents financial affairs and you where rather recently written far more extensively into your grandmother's will than before. As it turns out you stand to inherit the vast majority of your grandparent's financial empire."

"If that is true, is there any inkling as to why? I after all have only met my grandmother once and never even knew my grandfather so this all strikes me as rather queer," I replied trying to hide my shock.

"Well your grandmother left a note that we are to give you upon her death, but I'd prefer if we could get through the paperwork beforehand as it may be quite emotional," one of the other men said. "Besides you are after all the rightful heir. Your father had always stood to inherit nearly everything and when he died that obviously left it for you."

Then the guy from before pulled out a briefcase of papers and then proceeded to recite from them. I was to put it frankly fucking floored. I couldn't even conceive that I would inherit so much… in fact I didn't even conceive that my family owned so much. It kind of put my grandparents thinking my mother is a gold digger in perspective (mind you she actually is, but she does after all come from a wealthy family). When all was said and done it turns out I inherited billions of dollars, the controlling stake in all of the companies that earned them their fortune, various houses, and a private fucking island. There where of course a few stipulations, I inherited only half of it at this age and would have to wait until I was thirty-five for the other half of the cash. Also if I so choose to play an active role in the companies I had to work closely with my board of advisors until I've proven myself worthy, and I wasn't to ever sell a couple of the estates.

Tarquin Avery Grayson Whitcomb:

I had only one son whom I disowned after a falling out and you happen to be his only child. I never even knew of your existence until your father's untimely death. Once I knew of your existence I was curious about you, more curious than I have been about anything in my life. When you where fourteen I finally appeased my curiosity by hiring a private investigator to give me a small report about you so I could at least have some idea about you. When I finally read the report I was ecstatic to find out that you grew up to be such a well-rounded young man your grandfather felt the same way. From there on in we would receive one short report on you a year just to make sure you where still on the correct path. I had always wanted to meet you but could never bring myself to give up my pride and contact your mother. It wasn't until I was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer that petty grievances and old grudges become meaningless. It was then that I decided to contact you. Upon our meeting I was more than pleased to see the reports where understatements. You are everything I could've ever wanted in a grandson and despite not knowing what to do with your life yet are well on your way to success. They say money leads to corruption… well based on what I know of you and how I've seen you handle the hefty inheritance from your father I am going to assume you'll handle this money well and always with a heart of gold, as it is after all in your nature. I want you to do with this money what you will, invest it, gamble it away, or give it to charity… do what you please. Just always remember that your life's income does not determine your life's outcome and the most beautiful things in the world cannot be bought for any sum.

Love

Your Grandmother

Elsa Kamilla Whitcomb

I slipped the letter back in with a smile on my face but was surprised to find another small folded piece of paper.

Of all the property you inherited the place in the Russian countryside will be best suited to your tastes.

With a deep sigh I pocketed the letter and everyone else left the building. We got in the vehicle and Arabella immediately started going on about how unfair it was that she'd have to wait till she was twenty-one for her money and that I was the main heir which made Brinkley II retort, "then you'll be happy to know that you won't be able to access the trust fund your mother and I set up for you until you're thirty-five."

The next day I discussed with the lawyer some more of my financial bullshit, met up with a financial advisor, and then I caught a flight back home. This entire scenario still felt a bit too surreal… I knew I should check out my place in Russia, the château in France, the island off the coast of Greece. But I just couldn't bring myself to, I just wanted to sleep, and then wake up with things back to normal. All of this money bullshit hurt my head and made me feel really, really guilty. Thousands of people are starving and here I am a fucking billionaire at eighteen and I didn't life a finger. I guess I could donate a bunch of it… or maybe make my own charity so I know it won't all be pocketed by people who're only pretending to care.

I immediately woke up upon the first ring; I've always been a light sleeper. Who the fuck calls at four in the fucking morning? I picked it up and was shocked to hear Chauncey speaking in a loud whisper. He yammered on and on about how I needed to stay home all day and was due to accept any and all collect calls from Mary-Jane Escobar… which is probably the fucking worst fake identity I've ever heard… it doesn't even sound realistic. I agreed to accept said calls and stay home… it's not like I ever need an excuse to skip.

A little after noon I received a call from Mary-Jane Escobar and was faced with the very voice I was expecting. She was surprised that I figured out it was her so easily and then demanded I pick her up. Grudgingly I drove to the Greyhound bus station and tried to envision her riding one. I just can't. She's the type of woman you just can't imagine doing so many things, riding public transit is one of them. "What in the hell are you doing here?" I asked going up to her. She looked so ridiculously out of place. She was standing around a large pile of expensive luggage and examining her nails. It was… strange. You look at the dirty street, you notice the drug addled types hanging about, and then her… you see filthy rich and shockingly beautiful Yvonne.

"I need to stay with you indefinitely. Or till I'm eighteen anyways, I have run away from my parents and I figured you'd let me leech off of you," she said in a matter of fact tone but she clearly wasn't as confident as she came off as her eyes where silently pleading.

"Of course you may stay. I very well couldn't send you back nor let you on the streets. Here let me take your luggage and we shall speak more in depth about this once we get home," I said picking up the calfskin luggage. "How much did you pack?" I asked hauling the heavy bags to the small Porsche.

"Everything. I can't return Avery! I took all my savings out, I packed all the necessities, I even snuck out of the country without anyone finding out. I mean why do you think I took that dirty bus? They don't ask for ID. I had Chauncey and Brinkley give me a ride in their jet and then I had to travel by bus to help cover my footprints. The last thing I need is for anyone to link me to here," she said in an exasperated tone.

"Yvonne how the fuck do you expect me to find parking here?" I asked with disdain.

"We're going to the most exclusive club in the city there is obviously a valet. Ooh wait there, there it is," she said pointing to a warehouse like building with a line around the block.

"You have to be fucking kidding me, I am not waiting in that goddamned line," I adamantly replied.

"As if we'd wait in a fucking line," she said with a scoff.

"And how do you suppose we're to get in?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"We're rich, young, gorgeous, and well dressed. How can we not be let in?" she replied as if it was oh so obvious.

The ostentatious car Yvonne made me drive did attract us a bit of attention (she adores the Lamborghini I rarely drive whereas I prefer the Porsche.) Thankfully she was correct on the assumption that there'd be a valet (I only had to pay fifty dollar fee as well, aren't we lucky?).

We walked up to the bouncer and I decided to let Yvonne do the talking. I refuse to be a part of this… besides this isn't my scene and my pockets are stuffed with cocaine. "Hello," Yvonne said with a forthcoming smile as we approached the bouncer and held out her ID. I pulled out mine and held it out as well all whilst conveying the image of a VIP on the list. "How are you?" she asked sweetly. It took everything in me to fight the urge to roll my eyes.

"Back of the line," the guy said boredly sparing us a disinterested glance. Yvonne's fingers clutched tighter around her purse and I decided to just take matters into my own hands.

"How much for us to get in?" I asked boredly.

"If you're insinuating that you can bribe me to give you entrance then I'll have you know it's against the rules and I'm not risking my job for you two," he stated bluntly.

"Oh Tarquin don't be silly I told I'd take care of everything. We are on the list Tarquin Whitcomb plus guests," Yvonne interjected impatiently.

The completely expressionless bouncer finally had a smirk on his face and I could only hope it was a positive thing lest I hear Yvonne complain. "Let me see your ID's," he stated. I quickly passed him both of our ID's and then he said, "Alright you have a VIP table talk to the coat check and he'll hook you up with your personal waitress."

"Ugh that guy was such a dick," she said as soon as we entered.

"I guess," I replied with a shrug. "Bonjour I am Tarquin Whitcomb we have a private table," I said to the coat check.

"Of course, your personal waitress will be here momentarily."

We stood around for maybe two minutes before a woman dressed like a prostitute escorted us to a small VIP table. "What bottle would you like?" she asked in a flirtatious tone.

"Darling you can cut the false pretence I didn't come here to stare at your tits and your tip is not related to your looks. Bring us a wine menu and open up a tab," I replied handing her one of my credit cards.

"Of course," she said with a broadening smile.

"I can't believe we're here. I mean I knew we'd get in but still… this club is like frequented by celebrities and shit," Yvonne said absorbing everything about the environment.

"As if I care about celebrities. I don't even know who they are to be honest… I'm utterly detached from pop culture," I replied shrugging.

"Here… let me see if I can spot any…. Okay! Over there three tables down from us, I'm pretty sure the dark haired man sitting next to the girl in the monstrous sequined dress is Christopher Adams."

"And I'm supposed to know who the fuck that is?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"You're such a square Avery," Yvonne said as the waitress brought back my credit card and a menu, hm that was timely.

I quickly glanced at the menu and was quite impressed. Most American bars/clubs/etc have next to nothing for decent wines. "Yes, I'd like a bottle of—"

"Absolutely under no circumstance are you to order some ridiculous red wine. You sit around like a fucking bloodhound with your nose in the glass and go on about the 'subtle nuances' and that is all we drink at home. I'm sick of it, I want champagne," Yvonne interrupted.

"Fine, a bottle of Dom Perignon 1993 sil vous plais," I responded boredly. "We want flutes to drink it from as well as opposed to a coupe glass."

"Of course," the waitress replied.

The bottle was brought to us immediately and Yvonne commenced me for my choice of champagne and she then decided to leave the table and hunt for celebrities and most likely find a bathroom to powder her nose in. Me? I decided to open up my compact mirror of cocaine and ever so discreetly take a hard snort from the contents inside. I am a very brazen individual after all. I couldn't help but scoff at the scenes laid out before me. Sure many of the idiots where separated from the area I'm in but it is still revolting. There are so many idiots with their ugly clothing and ridiculously gelled hair and fake tans. Everyone is listening to terrible electronica and drunkenly grinding upon one another. Ugh I hate the club scene; I'm a martini lounge kind of guy. It wasn't long before Yvonne came back to the table with a noticeable change in her disposition (she's an utter annoyance when snorting cocaine and then becoming sober… but I suppose everyone is) and two scantily clad women with her. "Avery this is Chantelle and Lauren," she said sitting back down.

"Bonjour, would you care for a glass of champagne?" I asked hoping these two had something interesting to say.

"Sure," the brunette one said with a giggle (Chantelle I think).

Before I could even apologize for our lack of glasses the waitress was back with a few more champagne glasses. "That was prompt," I remarked with a small smile before opening back up the wine menu. "Could I get a bottle of Pol Roger Brut 1998 and Grande Siècle 2000?"

"You sure know your vintages," the waitress remarked with a small smile.

"Ah yes I am somewhat of a connoisseur of fine wines. I suppose that comes from having lived in France," I replied dully with a small shrug. Back when I lived in Paris it was common for us to take bottles of wine down into the catacombs to drink back on our breaks, it's what really got me into wine.

"Oh my god you lived in France?" Lauren said all overly excited.

"Yes I lived in Paris for two years."

"So like where's your accent from?" Chantelle asked.

"Oh well I have lived all over Europe and a few other places so… I suppose it's a mix of too many dialects to list. I have a terrible case of wanderlust and my parents saw it necessary to indulge my geographic whims," I replied already bored of the conversation. Fuck how many times do I have to have this conversation? I get it; I talk funny.

I awoke feeling groggy and hungover. Lying next to me was some girl I could barely recall… hm at least I wasn't drunk enough to have sex with anyone ugly. I crawled out of bed feeling like death and couldn't believe how late it already was. Ugh… last night was fucking wild. I downed some water and called down to room service for some breakfast. Now just to wake up Yvonne, get rid of my overnight guest, and get on with our day. We're supposed to be going shopping and I am not particularly looking forward to it. I've never been big on shopping but Yvonne is right in mentioning I am in need of a larger wardrobe, I pretty much live out of a single suitcase! Besides there is also an art auction much later in the evening I would like to check out as I have decided to collect it. It's a good investment, it makes your house look nice, and now I'll finally have something enjoyable to talk about when I'm forced into a room with the obscenely wealthy and materialistic.

Yvonne is far too dependent on vehicles. We would have covered far more ground if she'd agree with me on the notion to ditch the car and take the metro, but she is very adamant. "Why in the world would I need a smoking jacket Yvonne?" I asked as I stood around in the tailors. "I don't even smoke."

"Because rich men do smoke and you are obviously going to consort with them and a smoking jacket is classy, it makes you look debonair. Frank Sinatra wore a smoking jacket, if it's good enough for him it's good enough for you."

"This is ridiculous Yvonne."

"You asked me to help you expand your wardrobe and now that I'm doing just that you keep fighting me. Make up your mind Avery," she said rolling her eyes.

"Okay I'm sorry, I just detest shopping."

"Blasphemy."

"I am not spending four thousand dollars on a sweater Yvonne. A tailored suit sure, but a fucking sweater?" I said whilst Yvonne picked out cashmere sweaters from some Italian store.

"Yes but you'll look gorgeous in it darling, now stop complaining about money. Brinkley drunkenly complained about his inheritance and what an interloper you are and the figures he received where astronomical. So I can only imagine what you got being the main heir and all not to mention your previous inheritance, I mean your father was a fucking oligarch and your mother is a Romanov. So come on you're never going to spend it all so we might as well try to waste as much as possible. Think of the frivolity of it all and I know you love frivolity," she replied shoving a pile of sweaters at me.

"Alright I concede… but still it feels so self-indulgent. I mean some people are living on two dollars a day and you expect me to waste so much money on a fucking sweater?"

She rolled her eyes at me and then snapped, "I've seen you buy a kilo of cocaine Tarquin, you're practically supporting the entire Colombian economy so stop your complaining. I get it you used to live on the streets; you're a poor little rich boy, get the fuck over it and start a charity. Also you come off as a bit of a hypocrite complaining about money when you have a multi-million dollar diamond sitting on your finger."

"Fine whatever, here I'll give you free reign if you shut the fuck up; but just so you know this ring was a gift."

"You cannot honestly expect me to wear white pants… who the fuck wears white pants Yvonne?" I asked as she checked the tags on a pile of pants.

"You'd look great in white pants. Beside they would look amazing with your dove grey velvet blazer," she replied already immune to my bitching.

"In case you have forgotten I have pasty white skin, I don't have that gorgeous sun kissed skin tone that makes white pants look great. I may have lived in Milano but I am not Italian," I said with an eye roll.

"Well then we'll just get you a tan," she replied without even sparing me a glance.

"My hair is fucking white I'd look like one of those platinum hair dying morons, I always burn as opposed to tan, and spray ons look orange and disgusting. What the hell do you think I am some stupid fucking twink?" I said stomping my foot and crossing my arms.

Yvonne immediately glanced at me and started laughing, "Oh my god! Did you actually just stomp your foot and cross your arms?"

"Stop mocking me," I snapped fighting the urge to stomp my foot again.

"The expression on your face is priceless!" she could barely even get the words out she was giggling so hard. I couldn't help it… her laughter was so infectious even if it was at my expense and I broke out into a fit of giggles as well.

"Okay, okay, what's the greasiest thing you've ever done?" Yvonne asked as we snorted lines in a martini lounge. Okay to be honest we nipped off to the bathroom to snort lines but we are always prompt to do so.

"Uh… what do you mean by greasiest? Like I've done some pretty gross things you need to be more specific," I said taking a sip of my icy cold manhattan.

"Hm… alright. Most disgusting person you've ever slept with?" she asked with a devious grin on her face.

"Let me think… uh… damn I'm kind of a whore. This is going to be hard to answer… I'd have to say the greasiest person I've slept with was… uhm… you probably know him… Stuart De Veer," I replied blushing furiously.

"The diamond guy?" Yvonne shrieked. I nodded mutely and she then continued her tirade. "Ew oh my god Avery! He's like forty years old, and married, and like such a dick! He's such a gross human being and treats like… everyone like shit. My god he funds fucking death squads! Why the hell did you fuck him?"

"Shut up! I know, hence why he's the greasiest. And stop judging me I was ridiculously drunk, a little maudlin, and he came off as charming at the time and has a South African accent! How the fuck am I supposed to resist an accent like that?"

"You're so gross! Ew I can't believe you! That's so… icky," she said before taking a big gulp off of her drink.

"As if you haven't slept with anyone greasy! Whose your most disgusting bed partner then?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Uh… my economics teacher," she said quietly.

"Elaborate."

"Okay he isn't as bad as De Veer but he's like thirty or something and totally married. I was failing abysmally and that is one of the few classes my parents cared about so I did what I had to and passed with flying colours," she said quickly finishing of her drink.

"We are such gross people. If it's any consolation I'm currently fucking one of my teachers," I replied with a shrug.

"Ooh, do tell," she said with a grin.

"It's really not that exciting. I'm not failing, but he's mad sexy, came on to me so I thought why not, and he is hands down the best lay I've ever had. We actually hook up a few times a month," I said taking a gulp off my drink. "Okay strangest place you've ever had sex?"

"Haha, uhm… strangest or craziest?"

"Either."

"A public park, it was night time and all but I felt like such an exhibitionist."

"A park? Seriously?" I asked with raised eyebrows.

"Yes a park. What about you?" she stated.

"Uhm… I was in an abandoned seminary and inside the chapel right on the alter I had gay sex. It was amazingly sacrilegious and makes for a good story, but the sex itself was on the mediocre end of the spectrum and made me feel really dirty afterwards and not the fun dirty but the I need a shower dirty; I probably got asbestos on my dick."

Yvonne immediately started laughing once my story was done

I opened my credit card bill for the month and was shocked beyond belief. I couldn't believe what kind of cash I was dropping on utterly ridiculous things. I spent forty thousand dollars in one night just going clubbing. God I shudder to think of how much I've spent on coke lately.

I was sitting in my large office spinning in the plush desk-chair. I had finished up my paperwork for the day and you'd be surprised at how little work is involved in controlling a vast financial empire. Underlings tend to do all the hard stuff I just peruse reports, sign things, go to meetings, and pretend I'm doing more than I actually am. Don't get me wrong I have a shit load of things to sign and tons of reports to read… but really it's all so easy. A buzzing came from my phone and I clicked the button. My secretary's sickly sweet tone informed me that Yves needed to see me immediately. Yves was a couple of rungs below me on the hierarchy and one of the best people to hang around with in the office. He was constantly spouting about conspiracy theories and if he wasn't so good at his job I'd have absolutely no idea how he got in such a high position. He was unconventional by all standards and it was hard to take him serious at times; but despite that he was incredibly intelligent and ridiculously nice without being a walking doormat. He barged into my office all flustered looking and threw a paper on my desk. "Have you been reading the newspapers?" he exclaimed.

"You know I don't bother with them. It's all the same thing, death, pandemics, misery… ugh it's utterly tedious," I replied dully.

"Read the front page! This is huge! I can't believe it myself… well I can but… c'est de la folie!" He then took to pacing and was talking rapidly making wild hand gestures.

I opened the rumpled newspaper and quickly skimmed the article on the front page. "That's it?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"That's it?" he exclaimed nearly shouting. "World leaders are rubbing shoulders with mythological creatures and all you can say is that's it!"

"Yes Yves, I knew this would happen sooner or later."

"How did you know?" he screeched stopping abruptly.

"Many years ago I was in well… a relationship with a vampire and I overheard more than one conversation concerning this," I replied as casually as possible. It was still weird to think of my relationship with _ and the fact that he was actually a creature from storybooks.

"You knew all this time and didn't tell me! You didn't warn anyone? What does this all mean anyways?"

"Why would I? From what I gather all the different creatures have been planning for many years to peacefully insert themselves into regular society and demand equal rights. It's a very proactive and progressive decision as far as I'm concerned and I see nothing wrong with it. I've never met a lycan before… well that I know of. But I have met many vampire and a few fae… now that it's actually happening I'll support it wholeheartedly," I explained.

"How can you be so sure it'll be peaceful? Not to mention it's unnatural they are dead! Vampires are dead! Wolf creatures are dangerous and well… I don't know anything about fae."

"They aren't dead at all… that's just a ridiculous misconception, lycans aren't even dangerous during the full moon, and fae are well the most normal they just look ridiculously good and can use well… magic I guess, it isn't really all that powerful though it's more little tricks here and there," I explained.

"How can you be so calm? How do you know all of this? This is insanity!"

"This is insanity? You believe the government created basically every disease in existence with the plans for mass genocide," I stated bluntly.

"Not every disease!" he exclaimed. "And you know as well as I do that the government is hiding lots of things."

"Maybe so," I conceded. "But I still think you take some of this stuff too far."

"Fine maybe I do. But doesn't this seem dangerous to you? Right now it's just rubbing shoulders with the government, but what if it turns into some kind of enslavement of the human race in retribution for the years they had to spend in the shadows."

"Hm. That is a very real possibility and I don't doubt that many feel that way… but it isn't underway yet so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it."

"I guess you're right," He said with a heavy sigh and flopped himself down on my sofa.

I had spent the last two months on my island and I loved every second of it. It was a chance to get away from the office (it's a good thing I can conduct business from any part of the globe as I'd go insane stuck in one place), it lent me the opportunity to live in near solitude with little contact with the outside world, and the ancient olive trees dotting the island have some of the best olives I've ever tasted.

I returned to the London office with a spring in my step. The weather was always so beautifully dreary and it was a nice change of pace from the calm waters and sunshine I've been used to. However not even two hours into the workday Yves came barging in my secretary following him and explaining that she tried to stop him. "Where have you been?" he screeched ignoring the embarrassed looking secretary.

"It's fine Maria," I said dismissing her. "I was working out of New York for a while and the last two months have been spent on my island soaking up the solitude… why are you so distressed?"

"Remember that conversation we had eight months ago about that whole world takeover stuff… it's happening for real now. It is, it really is. A few world leaders have already stepped down and given their positions to those… creatures. What are we going to do? You're the only one who'll listen to me about this… this is getting out of hand… something serious is going on, something really serious! It's progressing too fast, way too fast," he carried on his distress clearly evident.

"Yves sit down and I'll get you a drink you need to calm down," I said pouring him a glass of scotch. "Okay we need to figure things out. I want you to drink this and come back here in two hours I'm going to do some research concerning this and we'll take it from there, okay?"

He gulped back the drink and shakily replied, "Yes… okay… you're right, you're right." Then he left the room whilst muttering under his breath. I went to my computer and started to scour the internet for as much as information. There was newspaper articles galore but all of them painted these changes in a positive light… however you would find the odd small scale publication that shared a very different viewpoint and unsurprisingly most of the criticism came from religious groups. The surprising thing however was how few bloggers where worried… mind you this organization called the VLFA was gaining a lot of political sway and every brand new political leader seemed to be a member of it. The fact that this group demanded equal rights for all creatures wasn't what was alarming, the fact that they where opposed to anthropocentrism wasn't the unsettling thing, nor was the lack of criticism for them either as they had contributed to a lot of different charities and where rather successfully trying to make the world a better place for all living things it seemed. However the fact that they had garnered so much control in such a short amount of time is what made me worried. It's been only eight months since that newspaper article and for members of this group to suddenly become political leaders (with no elections but instead with the current leader stepping down and putting that person in their place) and the fact that this was happening in all types of different countries. The United States, Canada, India, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Guatemala, New Zealand, Israel, Iran, South Africa, Japan, and Indonesia. The countries that threw me off where Indonesia, New Zealand, and Guatemala… not to mention the fact that they've garnered control in so many powerful nations in such a small period of time is really unsettling. And that's not even counting the various cabinet ministers and those types that where given positions of high power in many different nations. So many politicians who've been in the game for a while are even finally admitting to being a part of the VLFA. I shudder to think of what's going to happen if they get the other overly powerful nations. While some of these countries aren't the most powerful the fact of the matter is that is a lot of countries…

I was still conducting research when Yves came into my office and I hated that the outlook was… bleak. I'm not stupid, I'm not one of those easily led sheep, and something serious is going on… really serious. "Yves you have to stay calm, but the outlook is really bad, things are progressing far too fast and the only solution I can think of is either convince a lycan or vampire to change you… which is quite risky and painful or start coming up with escape plans and a hide out. This VLFA… they're far too politically savvy… I mean they must have garnered control of mass medias, they're already controlling thirteen nations and have representatives in many more, and it's only a matter of time before they get more. They've already got Germany and Spain and the rest of the EU is nearly in their clutches, they almost control all of North America and it's only a matter of time before they are in charge of Mexico. In the little exposure I did have to vampires and fae is that I noticed there is an apparent hierarchy… among all of them and it is highly respected. I'm not exactly sure how it works but that could prove beneficial to us… I'm not exactly sure how it could help but it may."

"What else do you know about them?" Yves asked sometime later while fiddling with his garish looking bow tie.

"Not much… it was many years ago and a sexual, impersonal relationship. We didn't speak much and when we did it was of history, art, literature, and the like and it took me a while to discover their vampirism. What information I do know merely comes from the very few questions that where answered and conversations conducted in Latin that I overheard whilst lying in bed. They are very secretive… very secretive… in fact I only discovered because there is only so many times you can have your blood drank before you get suspicious."

"This is so messed up," Yves moaned despondently.

"I suppose… but I'm not going to worry too much. I think I'm just going to hide some money away, I have some secluded homes, I can find a hiding spot wherever I go, and in the meantime I'm going to cut my workload down and embrace my freedom whilst it is still around. I assume it will be two years at most before they control the world… and that is being generous."

"How are you so calm?"

"Something like this was bound to happen sooner or later and with money I can at least buy myself some degree of freedom."

"I suppose but living off the radar sounds easier said than done."

"It's not that hard, find a very secluded home in good shape… or just build one, make it as self-sustaining as possible, and convert a bunch of your funds to gold or something and stash it away… who knows what's going to happen to currency and the economy in the months to come."

I was sitting in the dark bar sipping from a whiskey sour and observing my surroundings. The table was filled with people I could barely remember the names of (but the faces very familiar) and the few who I even bothered to remember I immensely disliked. What the fuck is the point of all of this? God I hate this city so much… maybe I should fuck off to one of the country homes for a while. It seems I can't win wherever I go. This money has honestly been the worst thing to happen to me… okay total exaggeration far worse things have happened and I've done a lot of good with it… but I just hate this lifestyle. I go to a new city and things are awesome then people find out how much I have and are either using me for my money or they have money of their own and are using me for my name. Why can't anyone just like me for me? Don't get me wrong I've met a few non-materialistic people during my adventures… but they are so far and few between and are just as jaded as I am. I slammed back my drink and with a disgusted sneer left the bar and caught a taxi. The taxi dropped me off at my beautiful apartment building and I opened up my suitcases to start packing… fuck this town and fuck everything in it. I have no idea where I'm going but it certainly isn't here… maybe I could slum it in South America again? That was fun… despite the bugs. Or maybe I should go to Indonesia? Fuck I hate this lifestyle so much. I hastily threw clothes in my bags and realized my biggest grippe with this entire lifestyle is I don't have a single lasting friendship. I've spent my entire life on the road, I've met so many memorable people, and so many people that will forever hold a place in my heart… but I have nobody I can call at night when I'm feeling lonely and fighting the urge to cry my eyes out. I have nobody I know I can always turn to… all of my friends are but a memory now. We had our time and then we parted ways… we aren't the people we once where and things can never return to how they where. I just can't help but be lonely… it really doesn't help that I have no family save for a few aunts/uncles and cousins I barely know and a mother who detests me. Fuck it hurts so badly why she doesn't even bother to stay in contact… fucking money... I know she isn't a nice or kind person by any regard, but when it comes down to it she's still my mother and I can't help but love her despite the fact that the only thing she's ever shown me is scorn. I was packing my carry-on bag and contemplated on where I should go… I mean I have no desire to stay here anymore… I guess I could go to the country house in Russia… but fuck what would I do there? Further isolate myself and binge on drugs? At least I'd be away from the phonies while I do it I suppose… no fuck that. I'm going to go to a nice city, not a world city, and I'm going to make friends, hell maybe I'll even find a real relationship.

I dragged my bags out of the taxi and entered the hotel. I would start looking for an apartment first thing in the morning I suppose. After sleeping off my jetlag I decided I might as well see if this city is even worth staying in. I started my day off by catching an early supper (or breakfast if you will) and then I opted to go out for drinks. I got in a taxi and asked the guy to take me to the seediest bar he could think of. The man gave me an odd look and I insisted. Over-paying him I got out of the taxi and smoothed over my dark green velvet blazer and entered the bar, which was down some side street and had a barely visible sign. I don't even know why I decided to come here… I don't know… maybe I feed off of the misery of others. These are the places you go to and everyone else is so much worse off than you and in a sick twisted way it makes you feel better about your meagre existence. I looked around my surroundings and sat on a stool in front of the bar. The entire place was dark due to dim lights and a lack of light fixtures, it had a lot of wood paneling in it, a concrete floor coated in a thin layer of beer and piss, and most people where either hunched over a drink alone or they conversed quietly in small groups whilst looking at everyone suspiciously. I ordered a beer wishing I had brushed up on my Romanian before I came but decided to forget it. My existence was wholly ignored as I drank myself into oblivion and wallowed in my self-deprecating pity party. It wasn't until a familiar face walked in that I received the shock of my life. I set my beer glass on the table and finally raised my head to catch the bartender's attention. As I waited I looked around the place and as I did a figure stepped in the bar and to say I was surprised would be an understatement. My glassy eyes widened comically and I thought I was seeing things at first. "Hello Avery," a velvety voice said approaching me and ignoring the ridiculously attractive blonde man that trailed him.

"Hello, fancy seeing you here," I said thankful the bartender had re-filled my glass.

"Yes it is quite odd isn't it?" he said with a smile. Then he ordered two drinks and as the bartender went to get them asked, "would you care to join us?"

I looked over at his friend who appeared utterly indifferent and with a world-weary sigh said, "I suppose so."

He gave me a grin and took the two drinks before walking to a dark table in the corner. It was one of the darkest parts of the bar and thus the least inhabited. "So what brings you to Oradea?" he asked pleasantly.

"Nothing in particular, it isn't like I have anywhere else to be anyways," I stated lamely. "What about you, I thought you where teacher?"

"I am, but now I'm an EFL teacher," he replied fluidly.

"I'm sure," I replied sarcastically.

"I suppose you do know me too well to believe the lies I feed. I must admit I am quite surprised to find you here, this doesn't seem like the type of place you would be. If I recall correctly you're more of a connoisseur of fine wines and not into liquor that can double as drain cleaner."

"You haven't seen me in three years and where my teacher, what would you know about which establishments I haunt?" I said before gulping back a bunch of my drink.

"Maybe so but I cannot see anyone wanting to be in an establishment such as this."

"It makes me feel better about myself in a twisted way, to observe how much more terrible other people's lives are in comparison to my own," I explained honestly.

"That is quite interesting. Oh where are my manners Avery this is _, _ this is Avery," he said pleasantly. _ merely nodded and remained as stoic looking as ever.

"What the hell's your name anyways? It seems weird to call you Mr. Duchovny."

"My name is _," he replied with a smile. "So Avery what have you been up to these past years?"

"Not too much… my wander lust has worsened. I used to be able to stay in a place a year or two, now I have to leave every few months and barricading myself in one of my country homes for a bit of time is a necessity to sanity. I dunno I guess I'm just really jaded and it annoys me more and more to spend time with lots of people. Uh… I do a lot of drugs; a lot of one night stands, uh… yeah that's it. I'm basically a worthless hedonist… I guess I give a fuck load of money to charity but it's not like I actually do anything, I never fucking joined the Peace Corps or anything."

"If you hate that life so much why do you continue on with it? It sounds like you hold a lot of disdain for it."

"What the fuck else is there? Should I go off and buy the two story in suburbia with the white picket fence and have 1.5 children? Or I could do the whole corporate yuppie asshole thing, which I already tried and it is just as meaningless as this. Fuck the world holds no meaning and it's just utter bullshit. Yeah the pursuit of knowledge is awesome but fuck holing up in your libraries and isolated houses gets so fucking lonely at least when you live like a hedonist in the city you can pretend the people you surround yourself with are actually your friends. I'd kill myself but I have far too much pride and "

I awoke in a panic… my eyes scanned the room and I immediately felt sick. Where am I? God I must've done some drugs and not remember it… fuck me. I took a deep breath and placed my feet on the cold hardwood floor. The room was exceedingly dark and my pockets empty so I groped around for things in the darkness to help guide me. I finally found the wall and after running into a few things I found the door. Just as I grasped it open a figure stood on the other side effectively scaring the hell out of me. I jumped back in shock and mustering up as much courage as I could feigned calm and asked, "Who're you?"

The shadowed figure merely walked in and flicked on a light switch… fuck should've thought of that. When I noticed whom it was my eyes widened. "Do you not recognize me?" he asked in that velvety tone.

"Where am I?" I asked calming down a bit.

"A manor of mine. I would like you to sit down so I can explain things," he said with a smile. I merely nodded and sat on the edge of the bed. "Now no interruptions please. I have taken it upon myself to free you from the terribly mundane life you where forced into and you seem like a worthy candidate. Do not worry about your possessions everything of sentimental and monetary value has been brought." I was utterly confused as to what he was going on about but those thoughts immediately ceased when he latched his mouth onto my neck. Flight or fight kicked in and my adrenaline started flowing as I shrieked and tried to get away. His mouth burned and I felt myself get weaker and weaker as he continued to suck on my neck. As darkness threatened the edges of my vision I felt him lay my body down with an odd amount of gentleness and his wrist found my lips. My body reacted purely on instinct and all knowledge was thrown to the wind as I greedily drank the liquid dripping from his veins. He finally pulled his hand away and trailed his fingers over my cheek as I fell into utter darkness.

I don't know how much later it was but I awoke in the same room only this time the lights where off and a few candles where lit instead. But that was the least of my concerns… my body felt unbelievably tense, parts of my body that I didn't even know could feel pain where feeling it. My very eyelashes where in agony, I convulsed and writhed, screams dying on my lips and my jaw clenching and my hands fisting large chunks of the plush blanket. "Shh, it's okay," a soothing voice said brushing the hair from my face. I was in too much anguish to even register who was saying it or what was going on… all I know is I wanted to die, more than anything I wanted to die.

I awoke covered in sweat and bed sheets bunched all around me. My body was still in agony but it was nothing compared to earlier. I tried to raise my head but was immediately confronted with a head rush. "Don't stress yourself… just lay back down," a voice said from beside me and despite the darkness of the room I noticed it was _. "Don't move… I'll have something delivered for you… just keep calm and quiet. I don't want you undergoing anymore stress," he said with the sweetest of smiles. He quickly left the room and came back in what seemed like mere moments with a full wine glass. He set it on the bedside table and helped lift my head up he then put the glass up to my lips and the scent overwhelmed me… it was such a complex aroma and clearly not wine. Throwing caution to the wind I opened my mouth and swallowed the thick red liquid. The taste was amazing… almost indescribable. It was rich and heady yet at the same time sweet and it just left me craving more. The complexity behind this drink was beyond words… I've tasted many wines, I've decoded many subtleties… but this is just beyond comprehension.

"Mm… what was that?" I quietly asked laying back down with a content smile on my face.

"You'll find out soon enough," he replied as I licked my lips.

"What happened?"

"No questions yet love, your body is fragile right now and you don't need any unnecessary stress. Just go back to sleep, all will be answered when you are well," he said pushing some stray hairs from my face and the candles where blown out. My head was swimming with questions but my body was physically exhausted so it didn't take long before I finally slipped into a dreamless sleep.

I awoke once again writhing in pain. My bones felt too large for my skin and my joints felt as if they where on fire and I held as perfectly still as I could. My internal organs felt like they where shutting down and my body was covered in a cold sweat. The slightest of movements brought forth such sharp stabbing pain it was almost indescribable. Screams where too much effort at this point and all I could do was feebly moan whilst eagerly awaiting for the cold hand of death to end this suffering. _ entered the room again with something resembling concern on his face. "I'm surprised you awoke so soon. Do not move, I'll get you something to help you along," he explained with the sweetest of smiles. Unless he injects Demerol into my spinal cord I doubt there's anything he could do for me. Moments later he came in with a large wine goblet filled with a red liquid. He held the cup to my lips and I once again greedily drank from it. It was the exact same liquid as before and I couldn't help but moan in pleasure when it hit my tongue. I wanted to lick the glass clean once it was empty it was so perfect. "Go back to sleep now. Next time you awaken I'll be right here with another glass for you, okay?" he said in such a reassuring tone and I couldn't help but feebly nod. In a normal state of mind I suppose I'd scoff and retort with a snide remark but he looked so earnest and whilst I should be taken to a hospital… he has taken rather good care of me.

I do not know how much time has passed. All I know is that I've been waking up in the same dark room that had a couple of far off candles lit, _ always leaves the room to grab that drink, and then I promptly pass out just to repeat the process. As time wears on my pain lessens and lessens and my coherency comes through clearer and clearer.

I rolled out of bed and blearily pulled on my robe. Who the fuck would be at my door at this hour? I stifled a yawn as I made my way to the door whilst rubbing my eyes. I opened it and had to rub them again, "_?" I asked unsurely.

"Surprised to see me?" he asked with a small smirk.

"What are you doing here?" I asked yawning again.

"Aren't you going to let me in?" He said as if I'm the ill-mannered one when he came banging at my door at three in the morning.

"Fine, come in," I replied with a glare. We made our way to the living room and I all but collapsed on an armchair. "So why are you here?"

"I have business to take care of that directly involves you."

"We haven't seen one another nearly four years, what business could you have that involves me?" I asked snappily.

"Oh you'll see," he replied with a smirk.

"Ugh, I'm going back to bed. Do what you will just be fucking quiet about it. I need my sleep," I said giving him a glare and then I made my way back to bed.

The next morning I went about my morning routine before I remembered what transpired last night. Ugh hopefully it was just some stupid dream. I was not lucky however as I noticed him looking stupidly happy whilst sitting at my kitchen counter reading the newspaper and drinking tea or some such thing.

"I see you've made yourself at home," I said icily whilst preparing breakfast.

"Of course, how could I turn down the warm welcome of do what you will just be fucking quiet about it," he said in an amused tone.

"Why are you here?" I asked with a resigned sigh.

"As I said we have business."

"And you couldn't have come in at a normal hour?"

"You know I do not keep normal hours, besides it's quite urgent. Cancel your plans for the day, after you finish breakfast we have an appointment and then once that has commenced things can truly get underway," he replied with a brilliant smile.

I wanted to dig my heels in the sand and raise up a fuss… but he's stubborn and the sooner I go through with his little 'plans' the sooner I'll be rid of him. Ugh

The familiar countryside zoomed past my eyes as we sat in the empty train compartment. Everything looked far more vivid and lush then the last time I was here… but I suppose my new vision is to thank. I'm rather happy _ had no problem with us moving to my home in Russia. I own a few houses, I've lived in many apartments, but this is the only place I truly consider home. My house was remote, spacious, and utterly picture-esque. The train ride ended in a small city just past the Ural Mountains. Then it was a car ride through a small town and finally passing through forests and down terrible roads. It takes about an hour and a half to get to my place and thankfully _ had a car all ready for us. We drove down the winding driveway covered with thick forest on each side and finally came to a large clearing where a _ mansion stood and a garage off to the side. This isn't my largest place by any means (that would be the château in France) however it is the one I prefer the most. We parked right in front of the stone steps and grabbed our bags. I shoved keys in the doorway, punched in the security codes, and we entered the bright foyer which was a pleasant gold colour, had black marble floors, and an interesting chandelier. "Take your shoes off," I said pulling mine off. "Fuck I'm so glad you had someone clean this place up, it'd be so dusty if you didn't."

"So where is my room? Possibly I could get the tour afterwards?" he asked holding his luggage.

"Of course… well what kind of ambiance and size do you want? There is many spare bedrooms so really it's just a matter of finding which is best suited to your tastes."

"Hm, something dark and spacious," he said glancing about.

"Okay… well most fit that criteria… what contrasting colour would you prefer?"

"Red."

"Come along," I said travelling down a hallway, up a staircase, down a hall, up another spiralled staircase, and down another hall, I opened up a bedroom door and it was a large room filled with burgundies, greys, and black. "I trust this is to your standards?" I asked glancing about the room.

"Yes it's perfect. Now how about that tour?"

"Sure," I replied shutting the ebony wood door behind us. I walked down to the end of the hallway and brushing against the door said, "this is my room." Then I went downstairs where I showed him the large modern looking kitchen, the most comfortable of the parlours, the unused ballroom, the music room, the well-used library, the home theatre, the pool, and finally the outside patio (I skipped over most of the bedrooms on the tour).

"This is quite a beautiful house… I rather like it. Despite the expansive size, it still feels very homey. It strikes me as odd though… you have clearly expensive things on display but instead of giving it that museum-esque feel it just makes everything even warmer. I must also say I like your choice in décor, it does strike me as amusing however that your house is somewhat of a vampire cliché and it had been that way well before your transformation," he said with a small smile while running his fingers over a vase.

I cannot believe I'm doing this. I've sold out. I'm going to fucking Oxford to study business. I'm going to take over the family business, I'll become a ruthless businessman, and I'll most likely die alone after alienating everyone in the name of greed. I can't believe I let them pressure me into this. I let people pressure me into this. But I guess I shouldn't complain… university is always portrayed in the media as some kind of insane adventure. Seeing as I've spent the last couple of years just engaging in random acts of drunken debauchery I should be able to fit in just fine.

I make terrible first impressions. On my first day of Economics I showed up hung over, stoned, and ended up sleeping half the class away. It wasn't until a ridiculously cute guy with short messy brown hair and a mischievous smile smacked me with a book did I realize class was over… and it was a two hour class.

University is nothing like I thought it would be. I envisioned it to be way crazier and stuff… but really I go to class, I do my work, I go home. It's just like high school except I'm doing way less work and everyone is anti-social.

I couldn't help but feel increasingly isolated as I lived here. Sure Brinkley attends Oxford as well… but it isn't like him and I are friends. I have a few acquaintances… but I don't care for the city of Oxford. But I suppose that is to be expected… I just did finish partying in the Mediterranean.

It wasn't until three weeks into school that something… exciting happened. I came back to my off-campus apartment from class only to find the place trashed. It was odd though, nothing was stolen, nothing actually priceless was disturbed, and it was mostly superficial things that where destroyed. It looked like someone tried to boot in my TV, my terrible IKEA furniture was completely dismantled, random books and DVDs where strewn about. The weirdest bit was the note pinned to the inside of my door. It was clearly written with a calligraphy pen and made me raise my eyebrows.

Tarquin Avery Grayson Whitcomb

We have determined you worthy of membership to our very prestigious and secret society.

If you accept this invitation to join us go to the _ at exactly midnight on Friday.

Cordially Yours,

The _ Society.

What the fuck? Is all I could think after reading that… I mean what the fuck? Secret society? I need to call someone who'll know about these things. I pulled out my phone and grimaced at the number before pressing dial. He was surprisingly happy to hear from me and invited me for drinks.

When I arrived at the martini lounge I found Brinkley sitting at a table with three boisterous men and two women who looked vaguely like prostitutes. "Avery!" Brinkley said loudly spilling some of his drink on the table.

"Hello Brinkley… may I speak to you in private for a moment?" I asked disliking the scene laid out in front of me. The prostitutes where evaluating my worth and the men where doing the same… it was disconcerting to say the least.

"So what do you want?" he asked glancing back at his table whilst we sat at one nearby.

"Something very strange happened tonight. I came home to find my apartment trashed and this letter left behind," I said handing it to him. "What the hell is The _ _ Society?"

"You got an invitation from The _ Society?" he said shock evident in his voice.

"Apparently."

"Let me put it this way. There are three clubs in Oxford for the elite. I am in the public one and the other two are secret societies. You have just been invited to the most decadent of the three. My group whilst we do engage in revelry we are far more conservative then The _ Society. I've never been to a _ party but apparently they are insane."

"Should I join or not?" I asked.

"You cannot be serious," he stated bluntly.

"What?"

"You have to join. They only allow a few people to join them… to turn down and opportunity like this is… fucked up. These kind of connections will serve you you're entire life," he said with the utmost seriousness.

"Hm… well maybe. It seems appealing in certain regards as I do love inebriated debauchery."

"Come on you need a drink," he slurred loudly whilst physically dragging me back to the other table.

I felt awkward sitting there and decided to just leave. "Sorry to cut this short Brinkley but I honestly don't care to drink tonight… I merely needed to ask you that question. We should definitely meet for drinks or dinner sometime in the near future however," I said standing up and smoothing out my blazer.

"Yeah okay, you going to Arabella's birthday party coming up?" he asked.

"Hm… probably not. You're mother will have an aneurysm if I show up," I stated casually.

He immediately started laughing and said, "Yeah probably. You should've seen her ripping up the parlour after we got back from the lawyers, I don't think I've ever seen her so pissed off in my entire life."

"Charming," I said with a slight grimace. "Anyways I bid you adieu." And then I made my way back home to clean up my trashed apartment. Ugh what the fuck is wrong with Brinkley, hanging out with prostitutes and getting wasted this early? I guess I'm not one to judge… but still prostitutes at 6:00 pm is a little greasy for my tastes.

On Friday I decided at the last minute to go. I wasn't going to join… but I decided at the last minute to. I am lonely beyond belief, I have no friends here, and if they end up being too weird and such I can just transfer to Cambridge or something. I arrived about quarter after twelve and felt awkward to say the least as I just stood there. I finally noticed another note after about five minutes. It was the same thick white paper and calligraphy ink so I followed the directions. I followed them to some undisclosed location and it reminded me of my urban exploration. It was a warehouse… but not abandoned. I opened up the door and pulled out my pocket flashlight. I was meandering in the dark my flashlight barely illuminating everything when the lights suddenly flicked on. I immediately hissed in pain at how much it hurt my eyes but soon adjusted. Standing around the room attempting to look very serious were fourteen people most of them male but there was a few women present as well. Weirdly enough I also noticed the guy who smacks me with his book when I fall asleep in Economics class was here too.

"So you've decided to join us?" Economics class kid said with that same mischievous smile.

"Shut up Marcus, you're not in charge," a girl with curly red hair snapped.

"Neither are you," he replied with a smirk.

She merely scowled at him briefly before smiling and rolling her eyes. "Hello Tarquin we've elected you to be the last member of our club. I assume you've agreed to join seeing as you're here. There is no initiation, but you do have to do a pledge and that sort of thing," some random guy said. Based on the lack of remarks after his speech I'm to assume he's the president or whatever.

"So what's the pledge? And please call me Avery nobody really refers to me as Tarquin," I replied stoically.

"Please put up your right hand and repeat after me. I Tarquin Whitcomb agree to adhere to the rules and regulations of The _ Society. I agree to never turn my back on a fellow member. And most importantly I agree to never compromise any of the Society's secrets."

I did my pledge, I recited the club motto in Latin, and then I was introduced to everyone. The kid from my economics class was Marcus, the president was Geoffrey, the five girls where named Desdemona, Penelope, Emmeline, Ophelia, and Valencia. The other seven members where Antonio, Lorcan, Nathaniel, Callum, Maxwell, Julius, and Percy. I have no idea how I managed to remember all fourteen names and it was all a little overwhelming to be honest. By the time I was finished with all the bullshit of becoming a member it was two hours later and all I had to show for it was a pin given to all members. Nobody outside of the club knows what the pin means but apparently we are to wear them to 'society' events and such so we can always identify past and present members.

The next day in economics I was surprisingly not as exhausted as usual seeing as I went to bed quite early (according to my standards anyways). "Hello Avery," Marcus said pleasantly whilst taking a seat next to me.

"Hey," I replied opening up my books… ugh I hate this class, actually I hate all of my classes.

It was my first _ party. I was given a letter an hour before telling me the location, the location was somewhere in the countryside, and I was informed to dress nicely. I quickly got ready, threw my drug box into the backseat of my car, and sped off. I finally found the place the party was at and I was quite late. It was some country manor and they even had security. It was so strange! My invitation was burned as I came in! I entered the manor house and it seemed as if the entire place was dedicated to debauchery. There were many people present aside from the members and I even recognized one of the guys in front of me as one of Chauncey's prostitute loving drinking buddies. I meandered through the crowd feeling rather underdressed. Everyone was in tuxedos and ball gowns; I was wearing a blazer and tie at least… but still. I meandered through the crowd and it was stranger and stranger upon closer examination. Many of the tuxedos where quite old-fashioned with the whole tailcoat and top hat going on, many people where dressed in drag (both genders where participating), and things where already well underway despite the party having only started forty-five minutes ago. My putting my drug box in my car wasn't even necessary. I ended up finding a bathroom early on and there was a pile of cocaine just sitting there. I being the upstanding citizen I am snorted a couple of lines, cut a couple more for the next occupant, and then left. "Hello Avery," a dark haired girl with tanned skin said with a grin. I immediately recognized her from the other night… I think she's Penelope.

"Hello," I replied casually. "Penelope right?" I asked getting it out of the way immediately.

"Yes," she said with a small laugh. "

I am starting to love being a part of The _ Society. Basically every member of the club is a very rich, drug-addled, whore; I fit in perfectly. Admittedly my upbringing is far less prestigious than my peers, but my background does makes up for it (I am of noble blood and I have the largest personal fortune out of any of us… as if that actually means anything). That being said I may be from old money but I wasn't raised that way so we don't understand some things about one another and of course we all don't share the same mundane tastes (music, film, etc.). However… I love it. Marcus is easily one of my closest friends, I actually enjoy my university lifestyle, and there is an allure to being part of something secret. It's strange as well however. I mean when you look at the past members you see that so many of them are in positions of power now, I mean we have had kings in our club! I mean the ex-members of this club are the people controlling the world right now… and our club has always been based on getting drunk and partying. Sure we go to dinners all the time (we are technically a dining club) but the night always ends with us smashing plates. I also don't understand the secret part of our club… I mean I get that we don't tell the locations of parties so they can't be busted by anyone or crashed by anyone… but it is still weird that we're referred to as a secret society… I mean we don't really do anything overly secretive, devious, or conspiratorial. We just snort cocaine, drink champagne, dress up funny, and have tons of sex.

I never realized just how hard it is to plan a party. I have hosted many parties with various themes… but the parties I'm a part of now are beyond elaborate. Sure we pay people to do much of the boring work… but still there is so much to do. We are in the works of planning an elaborate Renaissance style masquerade ball. Our little club doesn't really do much to be honest though. We plan parties, scream at each other in Latin (which I've started studying again… it's useless but rather beautiful sounding in a needlessly complicated way), and basically ingest drugs and fuck. It's a wonderful existence. I have no idea how I'm keeping up with my studies… other than following the advice 'it doesn't matter if you have no idea what you're talking about as long as it sounds good and uses complicated words and obscure comparisons'. The scariest part? I'm in a world-class university and I actually get by pretty well with that advice. I guess it helps that I have studied economics and political science before but it's still incomprehensible that I can get by like that.

I can't even begin to describe how awkward I feel. "Don't do it up so tight," I snapped feeling quite annoyed.

"Stop your bitching, do you want me to lace your corset or not?" Marcus asked before giving a hard tug on the strings, which momentarily took my breath away.

"This is my first time in a corset, be nice," I whined. "Besides I need my lungs to function so I can fill them with various smokes."

"Fine," he said and just by his tone it was obvious he was rolling his eyes at me.

"How the fuck did women wear this kind of shit everyday?" I asked glancing at my dress.

"They where so sexually repressed they probably wore such big skirts so servants could sneak under and eat them out without their husbands knowing," Marcus replied casually whilst carrying my dress over.

I couldn't help but snicker at his comment and let him help me put on my dark blue and silver gown made from silk and crushed velvet. I am going in drag… this is a first for me. After all just because I fuck men, doesn't mean I have any desire to resemble a woman in anyway. But here I am, dressing up as a woman for a masquerade party… My hair is almost to my shoulders so I guess it isn't necessary to wear a wig but I decided to anyways for authenticity and had some professional extensions put in. I should get around to cutting it though, it's such a nuisance when I'm exploring. I finally had my gown on and after that Marcus and I where both utterly useless. Thankfully Desdemona was going to help us once she was finished coiffing her hair. How my apartment became the place we where all getting ready is beyond me, but thankfully it made life easier. Desdemona ended up caking the makeup on me. I felt really gross to be honest… how do women do this? I had on fake eyelashes, thick black eyeliner, silver eye shadow, glitter all over the fucking place. Goddamn I have a hell of a lot more admiration for drag queens after this shit. Admittedly though I hated how feminine I looked. I know that's the intention and I mean if you look closely I'm clearly male as I do have a very male body (my dress kind of masks that) and I do have a defined jaw. But still… I look so girly. Ugh.

We got to the manor just outside of Oxford and I was so glad to be out of the cramped car. I'm usually behind the wheel of ridiculously fast sports cars, not in the backseat. There is one benefit to my dress… it has deep pockets without being apparent. My pockets are stuffed with goodies. We handed our invitations to the guard who scanned then burned them and we made our way into the old fashioned manor house. "I'm so glad I decided not to wear heels," I said as we walked on the narrow stone pathway.

I awoke feeling… terrible. I blearily opened my crusted over eyes and found I was in some unfamiliar dorm room. Groaning I wished my headache away and couldn't help but notice the revolting taste in my mouth. I looked over and got a good look at whom I spent the night with last night. Hm… at least he's attractive; I've unfortunately awoken next to quite a few hideous individuals since starting university. I precariously got out of the bed trying not to disturb my companion and started to hunt for my clothes. My green blazer was easily distinguishable but after that things went downhill quick. I eventually managed to find everything but my shirt, sunglasses, and hideously expensive cufflinks and pocket watch. I looked for something like forty-five minutes… but in my hungover state that isn't saying much, Sighing I scribbled a note onto a piece of paper, tacked it on the mirror with some tape, and left the room.

"Ooh look at this," Marcus said from the living room.

"Look at what?" I asked continuing to shake my manhattan up.

"Get out here," He snapped impatiently. I rolled my eyes and made my way to the living room where the TV was playing loudly and my eyes nearly bugged out of my head. "Can you believe it? I can't help but be surprised that the Romanian and Greek monarchies are being restored… seems a little strange. I wonder if anywhere else will be restored?" he said in a conversational tone.

"No… no… this cannot be happening!" I exclaimed feeling a little panicky.

"Geez, what's you're problem?"

"This is terrible. If the Romanian and Greek monarchies gets reintroduced and a bunch of other's do that means the Russian monarchy might… and ugh what a headache that'll be. Everyone is fighting over it and if things go my mother's way… which they very well might as she does have backing from The Russian Orthodox Church… well then I'm going to be fucking emperor… which is just another bullshit duty I never asked for thrown on the pile," I whined fighting the urge to petulantly stomp my foot.

"Oh boo hoo poor little Avery going to have another kingdom on top of the one he already possesses, aw going to have a new crown to wear? Save me the sob story poor little rich boy, people used to kill their frigging family for the position you're in," he said with a scoff. "Ooh maybe with monarchies being reintroduced our fancy titles will finally come with some power, democracy never fucking benefited me."

"Fuck you Marcus… being heir presumptive is not fun, it's fucking tiring. I have fucking newspaper leaches stalking me, I have to act all professional and shit in public when I'd much prefer to snort lines, I have to go to those stupid parties and wear an ugly orange sash and pretend I give a fuck about what everyone is saying, and to top it all off I have to marry some simpering little princess who is most likely my fucking cousin," I grumbled.

"Okay I concede all shitty things… but come on man you get a fucking crown and allowances and your planes and houses and servants are paid for by tax dollars and maybe with a little luck our titles will come with power and none of those things will matter… well except the marrying your cousin part," he said in an annoyingly chipper tone.

"Ugh that's what I get for asking a Prussian prince for some kind of sympathy," I replied with annoyance.

"You know it. Now all I have to do is get rid of my brother Frederick and declare myself Kaiser," he said with a stupid grin on his face.

"You're utterly terrible," I said with a roll of my eyes and went to finish shaking and pour my drink. I went back to the living room with my drink and immediately stole the remote and changed the channel.

I felt anxious and started to pick at my hangnails as I read the newspaper. "Marcus have you checked out the news lately?" I asked as he entered the kitchen.

"Ugh I just woke up," he mumbled all incoherently and went to fill the already set up French press with hot water from the kettle. I restlessly waited for his coffee to be ready and for him to wake up a bit. When he finally did start to look a little more coherent I immediately launched my rant.

"Marcus! The world is going fucking crazy! I mean what the fuck is going on? Three monarchies have already been reintroduced and now this! A major shift is happening and you don't seem to care. This fucking political group that promotes vampire, lycan, and all those other miscellaneous creatures interests is taking over so many governments. Am I the only one freaking out about this? Sure who gave a fuck when it was powerless little places like Guatemala and Bangladesh… but now they're getting major players. They stole France! Where the fuck am I supposed to go when the world gets dreary? That's my fucking home," I exclaimed smashing my fists on the table.

Marcus yawned and raised a manicured eyebrow up at me. "Let me read it," he said with a weary sigh. I jittered in my chair while he read. "I don't see why you're freaking out. They just want equal rights, which is long overdue if you ask me. After all they've only been out of the coffin," then he started snickering at his little joke, "for a few years and have been treated pretty terribly all around since then and it isn't like they are slaughtering all humans or something so what's the big deal?"

"Ugh, I don't know. It just seems suspicious and I know for a fact that they have some kind of hierarchy going on and it's widely respected so I can't help but wonder what is truly going on behind the scenes."

"And how do you know this?" he asked curiously.

"I used to fuck this vampire who liked showing me off to his friends and shit and I gleamed many a thing from those few parties I went to. They are a hell of a lot more organized than people think," I replied.

"Maybe so, but we both have ridiculous amounts of money so no matter what happens we can always just hide out or whatever," he said with a roll of his eyes.

I was in the middle of eating supper when my mother saw it fit to phone me. I was annoyed at first as I assumed she was dragging me to some sort of party or something… but it was much worse than that and I immediately lost my appetite.

I was thankful that this meeting was set up in London at least as I didn't have to battle with jetlag nor miss any classes. When I arrived in London I immediately went to Edward's London home and hoped that maybe Alistair and Rosalie came along. When I finally got there I was surprised to see just how exuberant and happy she appeared. "Hello Mother," I warily said as some maid brought me into the parlour.

"Hello Avery, how are you?" she asked in a pleasant tone.

"Very well… and yourself?"

"Oh utterly fantastic. I'm sure you've heard that the Greek, Iranian, and Romanian monarchies have been reintroduced so it is clearly just a matter of time before Russia is next," she said her eyes alight with excitement.

"Uhm… yes you mentioned that a Romanov meeting was going to happen… I imagine we shall be discussing who is the rightful heir?" I asked cautiously.

"Of course. Obviously I am the heir presumptive the Orthodox Church agrees but you know that cousins Nicholas and Vladimir seem to think they have any claimant to the throne… so we will be discussing it all in length," she said a small scowl marring her features as she mentioned Nicholas and Vladimir.

"When shall we be attending this meeting?"

"Tommorow morning it shall start at 1:00 PM and will not conclude until we've settled this dispute," she said with a smile. "I expect you to be on your very best behaviour and do try to show off a bit… but still make it seem like you possess humility. Also try to speak Russian as much as possible a few of them don't even speak the language very well so it will make us look even better as heirs," she said with a conspiratorial smile.

"The Russian court of old spoke French," I replied.

"Well then I suppose it is good that you also speak French with fluency," she snapped almost angry that I dared to correct her.

"Yes of course," I replied taking a large gulp from my tea. "Would you like to go over various strategies with me for tommorow or am I free to take care of some business?"

"There is no business more important than this! I am securing your place as Emperor of all Russians and you ask if you can leave?" She practically screeched.

"Sorry Mother," I replied in Russian. "What stratagems shall we be undertaking tommorow?"

"Well firstly we shall dress properly yet at the same time we don't want to appear too bourgeois lest people accuse us of simply wanting the throne for the jewels that will go with it. Do you have your family tree memorized?" she asked.

"Not as far back as I should but yes I do remember the past few generations," I replied.

"Good, we shall need to prove that nobody in our lineage has undergone a morganatic marriage. I will bring the paperwork with us but it's good to know that information off hand. You shall also make it a point to brush up on your Russian history tonight as well as current Russian social policies and laws," she said casually.

"You didn't see it fit to tell me this earlier? How am I to learn all of that so quickly?" I asked trying to keep the annoyance out of my tone.

"Well then you had better get to the library," she replied.

I was absolutely meticulous with my appearance. I started by taming my messy mop of long hair and with a little help from teasing, and excessive products stolen from my mother I was able to keep the shorter layers out of my face and securely tied back (I feel like such a douchebag wearing a ponytail). I was wearing a red velvet blazer, a crisp white button up, a black skinny little tie, black slacks, and some nice shoes. Remembering my mother's words the only jewellery I wore was my emerald ring, some simple onyx and diamond cufflinks, and my favourite pocket watch. I left my bedroom and made my way to the foyer where my mother was waiting for me. She looked… strange. She was still very elegant looking with a stylishly simply black dress on, her hair in a very simple up do… but it was her jewels that threw me off. She simply wore a strand of pearls, a simple Cartier watch and her most ostentatious jewellery was the large teardrop pearl earrings she wore. "Ready to leave?" She asked in a bored tone.

"Yes, I am ready… is my hair respectable enough?" I asked.

"Well as respectable as it will get I suppose," she said in a dismissive tone. We got in the vehicle and the chauffer drove us to some fancy hotel where we then went to the conference room set up for this event. There was a large amount of chairs all set up for when the discussions commence and currently everyone was drinking champagne and speaking in small groups.

I was feeling a little nervous as various people looked at us with obvious curiosity and it wasn't long before someone approached my mother. "Ekaterina! How nice it is to see you!" a middle aged man said in an annoying sycophant type of way.

"Oh Ivan it is fantastic to see you as well," she said in a sugary sweet tone.

"Is that Constantijn?" he asked curiously and completely mispronounced my name… he pronounced it Russian-style as opposed to Dutch-style.

"Yes this is him," she fluidly replied.

"My how you've grown. I haven't seen you since you where quite young," he said as if I should remember him.

"Oh I'm afraid I do not recall our meeting… I must've been very young," I replied trying not to feel awkward as fuck. Ivan laughed good-naturedly and then yammered on about something or another with my mother. Then we repeated the same thing over and over again until finally it seemed everyone arrived and we could finally get things underway. Whilst everyone was mingling however I did notice something… the family seemed to be split in two… well three technically. Fifty percent on my mother's side, forty percent on Nicholas', and ten percent for Vladimir… this was going to be a long day. The way things where set-up was chairs set up in front of a table for the three claimants and then the rest of us sat in rows in front of them and they'd be challenged by the rest of us and we'd come to a decision on who was worthy of the throne. As my mother's heir I sat in a row behind her and the claimants with their heirs, as after all we would be challenged as well.

Things did start very civilly, the rules of succession where read aloud, religious observances where spoken of, then family tress where dug up and once the issue of morganatic marriage came up things went to hell. My mother was the only one to not have any ancestors that participated in a morganatic marriage, which caused Nicholas to start attacking my mother's moral character and point out that I'm an unsuitable heir as I already have a kingdom. I had tuned out most of the garbage that has been spewed for the past four hours but once I was brought up something in me snapped. Maybe it had something to do with Nicholas' snide tone; maybe it had to do with the fact that I've been sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours bored out of my mind. Whatever it was I angrily stood up and in my most authoritative and calm tone said, "If the fact that I am to be King of the Netherlands is somehow supposed to detract from my mother's claimant you are most assuredly incorrect. This may be the first time we have ever met Nicholas but you are utterly transparent. You know nothing of honour and sacrifice you merely want to put a pretty crown on your head to feel important about yourself. You have no idea what it takes to be a king in this day and age whereas I actually have first hand experience. I have lived a life of duty and sacrifice all in the name of King and Country. Whilst I love the Netherlands dearly, Russia is my home and if being heir presumptive to the Netherlands gets in the way of my mother being empress I will abdicate because I would sooner lose a kingdom than watch you rape Russia for all her wealth and resources."

"How dare you speak as if you know me you presumptuous little brat," he spat standing up and glaring at me.

"How dare I?" I asked in an incredulous tone. "I'm not the one who is Putin's little lapdog and I am not the one who is trying to buy up emerald mines in the Urals nor am I the one who is trying to monopolize Russia's oil wells. I know your angle; you just want to be free from taxes and to clean out the State Diamond Fund."

"Aren't you being a little hypocritical Constantijn after all your grandfather did the exact same thing upon the fall of The Iron Curtain," he snidely replied.

"I am not my grandfather and upon finding out about his business practices I have actually tried to invest the ill-gotten gains back into the country. Whereas you've been stripping Russia of her wealth for the past twenty years and sneaking the money into offshore bank accounts. Now you just want to be emperor so you can avoid the bribes you've been paying to have you ecologically destructive business plans signed off and so you no longer have to pay people to launder money for you. At least I don't want to build pipelines by Lake Baikal which is one of the world's most precious ecosystems simply to fatten my bank account!" I passionately replied.

"How do you know about that?" He hissed glaring at me with nothing less than murderous rage.

"So you're not even going to try and deny it?" I asked with a raised eyebrow happy that he basically admitted his guilt. "And it does not matter how I came across that information all that matter's is that it is true and that you are undeserving of the honour of being Emperor of Russia. Not to mention you have no true claimant to the throne, you know the rules as well as I do and you cannot use your charisma to twist them to serve you. All it comes down to is your parents had a morganatic marriage, Vladimir's parents had a morganatic marriage, and there is no history of morganatic marriages in my mother's lineage. Those are the facts and we can stand here arguing back and forth for another four hours but the facts will still be the same so I do not see why we are still going on about it." After I finished my diatribe I sat back down and if within an hour this wasn't finished I was going to leave regardless. I tuned out everyone's… bullshit and just glanced at my watch and picked at my nails. Things surprisingly wrapped up quickly and my mother was unsurprisingly declared the only true heir and I was finally allowed to leave!

Once we where in the vehicle my mother said, "I am quite disappointed in you Constantijn for losing your temper like that, you could have easily cost me my claimant. That being said I would like to thank you for defaming Nicholas in such a way. After all his charm is the only thing that was keeping people on his side but after your little education lesson the tides turned. How in the world did you find out all of those things?"

"I shall not tell you simply because they didn't come from legal sources. As opposed to brushing up on Russian law like you told me to I sought to find his secrets… if he tries to take the throne from you again I have blackmail you can use against him," I replied casually.

"Excellent," she said with a devious smile. "I must reward you for that, what would you like? You can have anything in the world… there are no limits to my generosity."

I wasn't about to tell her what I truly wanted… as after all a tiger can't change it's stripes… and it's a little demeaning to beg for some scraps of affection. "I'm not sure… may I get back to you on that one?" I asked.

"Of course," she replied.

As soon as I got back to the house I washed my hair so I could be back to my messy look and started to pack my bags. I'll go back to Oxford tonight, I just need to get the celebratory drink with my mother out of the way and then it's back to the mindless hedonism of college life.

Pg 54

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