Disclaimer: Welcome to another original story by this lunatic. The story and the characters are mine. Do not use them without my permission. Also, any and all characters, events, and situations found in these stories are fictional. If there are any similarities between these things and real people, events, and situations, it is purely a coincidence.

I'm sure you know there will be a sexual relationship between two women, but if you don't know this is me warning you. There will be a sexual relationship between two women in this story.

If this story looks familiar to anyone, it's because its actually based on a fanfic I wrote called "There for You." The characters are different, but the plot is very similar. I hope you enjoy it.

Come say hi to me on FB: facebook pages / Shea-K/482097488469386 (take out the spaces or use the link on my profile.)

Many thanks to my betas – Rleef and RevSrVixena.

Comfort Zone

1: Nightlife

Mallory Glen donned the last piece of her working persona – Scarlet. She applied blood red lipstick to her puckered lips and assessed herself in the mirror for a final time, critical cerulean eyes slowly checking each part of her. Her strapless black dress clung to her as if she had been poured into it, showing off her smooth, creamy skin. A corset underneath made sure her ample cleavage was in display to make any person drool at her feet. Her makeup was flawless and made her deep blue eyes bewitching. Her wild, dark crimson locks were tamed down her back, but still had its natural curl to keep its somewhat fierce appearance. She was now Scarlet – dark goddess of fire, ice, and, of course, lust.

She fastened a diamond necklace around her throat and slipped a matching tennis bracelet on her left wrist. They were gifts from a client that she rarely wore, but she was told to have a touch of class to her. Most people in her position would not wear such a thing, but she could hold her own better than most. Slipping on her sling-back heels, adding height that she did not really require, she grabbed her clutch purse for the night. She winked at herself, chuckling as she left her bedroom and her chic apartment.

She smiled at the doorman as he held the door. She knew he was checking her out, which he always did. Proving her right, he playfully whistled at her as soon as she passed him. She did not give him a second glance as she walked into the warm night air to a waiting Benz, where her driver was holding open the door. He was a big man, appearing as if he were going to bust out of his dark blue suit.

"Baran, man, I told you lay off the steroids," Scarlet teased as she eased into the plush, tan leather seats.

He growled, which only made her smirk. He slammed her door with an unnecessary force to undoubtedly warn her to watch her mouth. The very thought tickled her. We both know that ain't gonna happen, she thought as she pulled out her pack of cigarettes.

"Hey, you're not smoking right before a date, and you're definitely not smoking in the car," Baran barked as he eased into the driver's seat.

"Calm down, Bear, before you scare your mustache off," she remarked with a smirk. "Although, that might improve your looks."

Baran snorted, which made his thick mustache bristle a bit. The mustache matched his short, bushy black hair. His rigid, rough face complete with a scar through his right eyebrow made him look like a thug, even dressed in an expensive suit.

"Stop calling me Bear and don't smoke in the car," he ordered as he pulled the car away from the curb.

"What? You stop looking like a Bear and I'll stop calling it like I see it. I'm not going to smoke in the car. I'm just checking to see how many I have left," she informed him.

"I thought you were quitting."

"Just as Rome was not built in a day, my carving for nicotine has not waned in a day."

"You've been quitting for a year."

She frowned. "What are you, my father? I don't go around asking you about how many times you go to the leather bar, do I?"

He growled at her, but that was the end of their conversation until they got to her destination. "Don't forget to check in," he reminded her out of obligation as he opened her door.

She waved him off. "It's not my first date."

She received a snort for her comment, which she expected. Since she was no longer in the car, she did not pay him any mind. Outside of the car, he did not exist. She, instead, focused on the restaurant where she was meeting her date. She had been there a few times.

Scarlet practically glided into the place, turning heads as she moved. She went to the bar to wait for her date to find and acknowledge her. Flashing the bartender a sweet smile aided by a hint of bouncing cleavage, she received service immediately.

"You have to be Scarlet," a man commented with a smile as he swaggered over.

Turning, she now gave him a seductive smile. "And you must be my date for the night, Charles Bench."

He smiled and nodded while taking her hand and kissing her fingers. She fought the urge to roll her eyes, finding that she would never get used to a false gentlemanly manner. He helped her down off of the bar stool and they went to their table. When they sat down, he let his sleeve roll up to show off his expensive watch. He met her eyes and smiled nervously at her. She reached across the table, putting her hand over his.

"Hey, you don't have to impress me. I'm yours, so calm down and act natural," she told him softly with an enchanting smile.

He let loose an awkward laugh. "Sorry. I've never done this before. My coworker told me about your agency and said I should try it. I've been so stressed recently. I might have to lay some people off and my marriage is on the rocks."

Scarlet was not surprised that he had a sob story. She met a lot of people in her line of work that needed to justify why they were seeing her. She honestly did not care, but she had to pretend to be sympathetic, so she listened with half an ear and chimed in when pertinent. She made sure to smile and cast him alluring glances through out dinner. He was hooked already and begging to be reeled in, so she did not have to put forth much effort, but she did what she did best.

After the meal, Scarlet allowed Charles to take her to his car. He drove a black roadster, but when she got in, she could tell it was not his car. There were no little personal items that people tended to keep in their cars. Actually, after giving it the once-over, she saw that there was really nothing in the car at all. She did not begrudge him. It was his fantasy night.

"Do you want to hear some music or anything?" he offered, glancing at the many buttons on the dash. She was not sure if they would turn on the radio or fly them to the moon and from the tremble in his voice, she thought he might be of the same mind.

"I'm fine," she assured him and watched as he breathed a sigh of relief.

They arrived at one of the many posh, elegant hotels in the city. This one was ranked one of the best five-star hotels in the city. She checked in with Baran while Charles checked into their room. It was standard room rather than a suite with lush, soft blue carpet and a king-sized bed in the center of the room. The bed was piled high with fluffy pillows that they would not need and covered with a thick navy blue comforter that she would not get to enjoy.

There were a couple of pictures on the walls. There was also a large television on the wall with the remote sitting on a dark wooden nightstand by the bed. Underneath the television, on a stand, waited a bottle of champagne as well a bowl of strawberries and grapes and a plate with some cheese. Charles went to inspect things over there while Scarlet checked out the bed, finding it to be soft, but firm enough to be comfortable. If only I could enjoy it for sleep, she thought.

"Shall we, my dear?" Charles offered, holding up the bottle of champagne and two glasses.

She smiled, eyes almost glinting. "Please," she purred and watched him shudder.

He fumbled a bit as he poured the champagne, but managed to avoid spilling any. She sipped it slowly, making a show of it, trailing her own finger down her neck as she did so. His eyes fixated on her and he gulped down the champagne. She moved onto the bed as he poured himself another and set herself up against the mountain of pillows, watching him like a lioness watching a gazelle. He smirked and decided to put down his glass.

"You sure are sexy," he commented in a breath.

"I get even sexier when the clothes come off. Would you like to do the honors or would you like me to put on a show?" She made sure her eyes burned, beckoning him to her. Usually, she knew these things in advance, but Charles had given minimum amount of details for his date when he booked her, mostly because he wanted it to be like a real date.

The fire that already sparked in his eyes seemed to go nuclear. "I'd love for you to put on a show," he replied, his voice almost choked with lust.

A feral smile spread across her face. She preferred the show, just to give him an idea of what future dates would be like with her. She stood up and sauntered over to him, making sure that her breasts bounced with every step. Her cleavage caught his attention and held it. She doubted he even realized how close she was until she touched him. Grabbing his wrists, she twirled him to the bed, backed him up to it, and forced him to sit down. His eyes went wide, surprised by her strength more than likely, and he gasped, but covered it up with a laugh.

Scarlet did not give him much time to process her power, immediately going into her show. She gyrated her hips to a song in her head and slapped his hands away when they reached for her hips. He gave her a heated, but wounded glare. She offered him a promising smile for his troubles, silently letting him know that a little teasing could be a good thing. He seemed to accept that, eventually keeping his hands to himself, which earned him another, more sensual smile. After a few more moves, she put his hands on her hips, wordlessly letting him know that things would not happen until she allowed things to happen.

"You feel good," Charles said, as she allowed his hands to wander her hips and waist.

"Oh, but that's just the beginning," Scarlet pointed out, bringing one of his hands up to her chest and letting his fingers roll over her soft breasts.

He groaned. "You do feel so good."

She almost rolled her eyes because she knew that she felt good, but instead, she let a sexy smirk curl onto her face, not that he was paying attention to her face. Her hips and breasts hypnotized him, which was what she wanted. Moving things along, she reached for her dress' zipper. She slowly lowered it, catching his attention when he happened to glance to see what her hands were up to. The room was so quiet that they could hear the teeth of the zipper unlocking. He tried pulling the dress down, but she smacked his hands away.

"Uh-uh," she chided him, shaking her index finger at him. "Not yet. This is still my show."

"C'mon," he huffed impatiently.

"Trust me, it's worth the wait," she remarked as she winded in a sensual manner. She eased her dress down and he whimpered as she revealed black lace undergarments. His eyes devoured her body as it was shown, inch by inch.

He reached out for her again, but a glance from her made him pull his hands back. Internally, she smiled. He's learning. She took his hands and placed them on her sides, listening to his breathing increase. She stepped closer to him, causing him to spread his legs, so that she could stand between them. She leaned down, close to his mouth, but grabbed his hair and gently pulled his head back as he tried to kiss her. He looked up at her, brown eyes beseeching her.

"Are you ready for this?" she asked in a whisper, practically breathing into his mouth.

Charles could only whimper and nod. I bet he didn't even know he wanted it like this, wanted me to control him and not the other way around. She smirked and pulled back a little. He groaned, disappointed and needy. She leaned back in.

"Are you ready for this? Until you answer, using your words, it isn't going to happen," Scarlet informed him. "So, are you ready for this?"

"I am. God, I want you so much," he growled.

Her eyes lit up as she smiled down at him. "Then why don't you have me?"

Relief and fire blazed in Charles' dark eyes. She knew the look as she grabbed his hands as he reached for her. He frowned at her and his hands shook in her secure grip.

"Don't rush. We've got several hours," Scarlet softly reminded him, not wanting him to think that she was scolding him.

While his chest was heaving in anticipation, Charles' hands stilled. She guided his hands over her body, lightly touching her skin as well as her lacy garments. Once he seemed totally settled, she let his hands to ties of her corset. He let out a long exhale as he undid the corset and then eased her out of her panties. With that out of the way, she settled down on the bed and pulled him with her. He moaned as she helped him out of his suit and pressed their nude forms together.

-8-8-8-8-

Poe Bryant yawned, almost causing her to lose the thin paintbrush that was caught between her lips. She scratched her head despite having paint on her tan fingers and under her short nails. Her long ebony hair was messy from sweat and neglect, anyway. She doubted a little paint would hurt it, except maybe clash with the lilac dye job that graced the front of her head. I'll take a shower when I'm done with this anyway and wash my hair.

Taking the paintbrush from her mouth, she was about to go back to her canvas when her cellphone started going off. "Shit!" she hissed as she very nearly made the wrong mark on her painting. The ringtone let her know just who was calling, not that it was hard to determine since only five people tended to call her.

Dammit, Nadi, what do you want from my life now? Huffing, Poe tore herself from her seat and moved to find her phone. She scanned the apartment for the irksome phone. Her brow furrowed as she noticed the phone was not in usual place. She scratched her head.

"I need to clean this place," she muttered, but knew it was never going to happen.

Her loft apartment was organized chaos in her opinion. Everything had its place, but a bunch of things had places right next to or on top of each other. Of course, the fact that she did not have much helped. Moving some clothes that she had recently worn and had carelessly discarded on the floor, she discovered the missing phone. By then, the customized ring stopped, but started up again as Poe held it, which she expected.

"Yes, Nadi?" Poe said with blatantly false cheer.

"Don't take that tone with me. Where the hell are you?" Poe's best friend and self-proclaimed babysitter demanded.

"Uh …" Poe scratched her head. "Home …" she replied hesitantly, innately knowing that was the wrong answer.

A heavy sigh came before a tight reply. "I should've known. Listen to me, you get your ass showered and dressed appropriately for this damn party, and you get your ass here ASAP," Nadi ordered.

"Shit, I lost track of the time."

"I bet you did. Now, do what I say and get here now!"

Poe winced as Nadi hung up on her. She glanced at the time on her phone and winced again. She was supposed to have arrived at the party over an hour ago. She rushed to take a shower and struggled to do something with her hair beyond just wear it straight down. Typically the most that she did as far as taking care of her appearance was at least trying to style her hair. Unfortunately, she never could do much on short notice.

She brushed her long, silky hair and pulled it back into a tight braid. She let her band lilac-colored hair dangle by the side of her face. With that done, she brushed her teeth and threw on the last set of clean clothes hanging on her clothing rack, which was situated in her "bedroom."

Poe had a corner of the loft shielded from the rest of the apartment by a section of mismatched curtains. Behind the curtains, there were a couple of very cheap, white dressers and a pipe for her clothes. Her bed had originally been a simple futon mattress that had been laid on the floor. Her mother had forced her to get a platform for it after Nadi told her what Poe had been sleeping on. So, she got a very low plateau platform for the futon.

She slipped on a pair of boot-cut jeans and a tank top that had a mountain scene depicted on it. Once she had on her sneakers, it occurred to her that she needed a ride, so she called a cab. As she waited for the cab, she turned her attention back to her painting. The sight made her frown.

"Why isn't this working out better? Maybe I should sketch it out again. It looks like a hot mess." Poe considered different colors, different strokes, and even removing some of the planned pieces, but as she worked those things out in her mind, she found herself still dissatisfied. She shook the thought away as she heard a horn blaring outside, knowing it to be her cab.

The ride to the party was silent. Poe did not make it a point to talk with cabdrivers, even when they tried to engage her. Thankfully, this cabdriver had nothing to say. He merely gave her a doubtful look when she gave him the address. He gave her another when he pulled up to the establishment.

"You sure this is where you want to go?" he asked, almost as if questioning her sanity.

"Yeah," she groaned as she paid him and exited the taxi.

Taking a deep breath, she steeled herself before she marched into the restaurant, earning long stares from workers and patrons alike. She ignored them and went to the main hall, where there was a huge gathering. Ladies wearing expensive dresses and men wearing their best suits were in attendance. Poe hardly felt out of place, as it definitely was not her first time showing up to such a formal event dressed as if she were going to the grocery store. She would not be surprised to find out that some people had come to expect it of her, even though most people still gawked at her like she was a museum exhibit.

"I hate these things," Poe muttered to herself as she navigated the party.

Once again, she received stares; glares in some cases. She would not have been surprised if someone called security to have her removed. But, there were a few people that recognized her and kept her from being thrown out by going over to greet her. Others were curious, so they came over to see who Poe was and why she was allowed into the gathering.

"Poe, my dear, I was enchanted by your Sunset Cougar piece. I must know when your next showing is," a woman practically cooed, attaching herself to Poe's muscular arm.

Poe easily slipped the grip. "I'm not sure when my next show is." Why do people always wanna touch?

"What about your next book? When will it be out? My niece has been dying to get the new one and I would be in your debt if you autographed it again," another woman said, sliding her hand down Poe's arm.

"My son has both Maru the Dragon Slayer books," a man chimed in with a warm smile.

Poe could only offer a smile and resisted the urge to correct the man about her book series. Just because her paladin, a female knight in a medieval fantasy world had killed a dragon in the first book, it did not mean she was referred to as a dragon slayer. But, it was unimportant, especially when she was snatched from behind and spun around, staring up at blazing hazel eyes. The furious gaze belonged to Nadira Moore.

"Uh … Hi, Nadi," Poe said with an anxious grin. The crowd seemed to melt away, as if they knew something private and not pretty was about to occur.

"Don't 'hi' me like this is perfectly acceptable. Where the hell have you been?" Nadi demanded. Her anger sort of contrasted with her soft, chocolate features, especially with her makeup.

Poe was all too aware that was a trick question. She looked to her other best friend to help. Justin Haywood was at Nadi's side as always, as was his duty as her boyfriend. He was wearing a tuxedo and tugging at the shirt collar while Nadi was focused on Poe. When he saw Poe's dark gaze on him, he shrugged.

"I already got in trouble," he commented, cobalt eyes glancing away.

"Is it because you tried to wear jeans, too? How did she get you in a suit?" Poe asked, even though it was not the first time that she had seen him in such a thing. She was just all too aware how he felt about formal clothing.

"She forced me, like always," he grumbled, shifting on his feet a bit. He tried not to look uncomfortable, but failed as he always did. He also looked a little out of place, like Poe, because his ebony colored hair was spiked and the tips were dyed a frosty blue.

Nadi waved him off. "Ignore him. I didn't force him to do anything. I just made sure he was dressed appropriately for the evening."

"She threatened no sex for a month. That's force in my book," Justin complained, folding his arms across his chest.

Poe nodded in agreement, which earned her a pop in the bicep from Nadi. "Ow!"

"You know better than to encourage him. Now, what the hell are you wearing?" Nadi barked.

Poe shrugged. "Clothes. They were the only clean things in the place."

"How is that even possible?" Nadi huffed, throwing her lithe arms in the air.

"What? It was what happened. I don't have any other clean clothes. Why do you have to make such a big deal about things?" Poe asked with a frown.

"Because once again you look like a damned bum. You know you're supposed to dress nicely for these things, yet once again, you totally disregard that. How can you show up to my important event looking like this?" Nadi replied, speaking through gritted teeth.

Poe glanced away for a second, feeling a pinch of shame, but she was able to push it away. Nadi was the reason that she was at the party. Nadi was a dancer and a performance artist, working in popular shows in the city's theater district. She currently had the lead role in a show, which she had worked hard for.

Nadi often got invited to parties because her career, and undoubtedly because of her looks and talent. Sometimes, the parties were fundraising events for productions, or celebrations for great openings, or great show runs, or just parties thrown by producers or other people involved in a show, or even just wealthy patrons of the arts. Almost always Nadi's invitations were to elegant, sophisticated, high-class social events and Poe was expected to dress accordingly. Of course, that rarely happened because Poe did not hold the gatherings in the same esteem as others.

"Poe, do I really have to show up at your house every party and dress you? You're worse than Justin," Nadi stated, motioning to her boyfriend, who was fiddling with his jacket. She slapped his hand down, causing him to yelp.

"What? I'm fine." Poe glanced down at her outfit. She had come to other parties dressed as she was and nothing happened. She did not understand why Nadi always got on her case about these things.

"You are not fine. I had hope that you'd at least be able to get a date, but everyone is going to think you're some hobo that wandered in. No woman in her right mind is going to want to go out with you," the dancer pointed out.

"Well, if you can't get a date, then let's try to get a commission," Justin suggested with a grin. He grabbed Poe by the hand and dragged her off before Nadi could lay into them anymore. They laughed when they felt they were a safe distance from Nadi.

"I thought she was going to cut my head off," Poe commented with a chuckle.

"She probably was. She had big plans for you tonight," he told her.

Poe's brow furrowed and she scratched her head. "Big plans? More blind dates or something?"

"Of course, and just introducing you to women. You know she worries about you and you showing up dressed like that – and I envy you, by the way, in that outfit – only makes her worry more."

She huffed, puffing out her tan cheeks. "I know, but this was really the only clean thing. I totally forgot all about this party and I haven't done laundry in who knows how long. This was all I had."

He smiled a little bit, causing his dark blue eyes to shine. "But, even if it wasn't, you'd have worn it, anyway." She was always more likely to show up in casual clothing than formal.

She laughed. "Yeah, maybe. Come on, let's try to make some money and not piss Nadi off any more than we have."

"Amen to that."

The pair searched for patrons while keeping an eye on Nadi since she was walking the room alone now. Nadi was lithe and glided whenever she moved. Poe guessed that it had something to do with being a dancer because her mother moved with just as much elegance and her mother was a former dancer, now a dance teacher. The way Nadi moved, stood, and just about everything about her made her seem to belong at fancy galas, sipping the best champagne, even though she was not old enough to drink yet. Added to that, Nadi was gorgeous.

Poe recalled that the first time she saw Nadi, all she could think was that Nadi was the prettiest girl in existence, and then, as was Nadi's nature, she started ordering people around and Poe decided that she was the bossiest person on Earth. But, the point was that when Nadi was on her own, Poe and Justin watched her like a hawk because, even though she liked to pretend otherwise, Nadi got into her fair share of trouble. Sometimes guys would get too touchy with Nadi and Poe and Justin felt it was their duty to come to her rescue.

"Stop checking out my girl," Justin teased, bumping Poe with his hip.

Poe rolled her eyes and scoffed. "Please, that's a coral snake there. All pretty colors and deadly poison. You can have her."

He shrugged. "She's going to find you someone just like her. Delicious chocolate on the outside with a bossy caramel center," he joked.

Poe laughed and they went back to searching for patrons. She imagined that they looked a sight with her casual outfit and him in a tux while having his sandy blond hair spiked and the tips dyed a frosty blue. Some people flocked to them, possibly because of their odd appearance, but mostly because the people knew them or knew of them already.

"You're Justin Haywood? I actually just purchased one of your pieces to hang in my foyer. I love it," a gentleman declared and then he spared Poe a slightly less than impressed glance. "Is this your girlfriend?" While the sneer did not curl his lip, it was in his voice.

Justin almost jumped away from Poe, which would not have surprised her. "Girlfriend?" He chuckled and shook his head. "No, no, this a fellow painter and my best friend, Poe Bryant."

"Poe Bryant? You write those books about that girl knight, right? You paint, too? Amazing," another man declared. He had been standing there to engage Justin like the first man, but now his attention was on Poe.

Justin gave Poe a lazy smile as a few more brave souls came over to talk with them. Poe did not really engage in the conversation beyond answering questions. She eased back whenever someone got too close, but never completely retreated. She spoke with confidence when she did and friendly, smiling whenever it seemed called for. Occasionally, a woman would caress her bare bicep or forearm and Justin would give her an encouraging smile. Poe always stepped just out of the woman's reach, making sure to keep smiling and speaking, so not to appear rude.

Has Nadi told everyone she's ever met that I'm a lesbian? It explained why Poe often got unwanted touches from women whenever she was anywhere with Nadi. She did not mind the attention, but she wished that they would not touch her without her permission. She also wished that they would try to seriously talk to her instead of acting like fans or just seductresses.

By the end of the night, Poe knew that she was in trouble again. Those hazel eyes of the bossiest woman on Earth glared at her as Nadi stormed over to her. Nadi slapped her in the bicep. Poe yelped.

"Don't wince like that hurt. I saw you running from all of those women. Did you get a date from any of those women that crowded around you tonight?" Nadi demanded.

"I was trying to get work, not a date," Poe pointed out, rubbing her arm.

"You need a date way more than you need work. When was your last date? Senior prom? That was three goddamn years ago. You need to date and you need to get laid," Nadi insisted. "You need someone to take care of you, so I don't have to keep babysitting you."

"Most of those women were fans. They were just saying how they liked my work. No one asked me to go anywhere and I don't want to date any of them or anything like that."

The dancer sighed as Justin slipped her jacket onto her shoulders. The trio marched outside and Nadi gave Poe a sidelong glance before sighing. Nadi shook her head.

"No jacket either? What am I going to do with you?" Nadi wondered aloud. It was a warm night, so Poe figured that Nadi was now just in a mood over her. "We'll give you a ride home," the chocolate-skinned woman proposed.

Poe shook her head. "I'm good on my own."

"Like hell you are. It's midnight. Get in the car," Nadi commanded.

Poe threw her hands up and did as ordered. Justin drove as they all discussed what they hoped would come from attending the party. When Justin pulled up to Poe's building, Nadi got out, too. She walked Poe up to her loft.

"Hey, Poe, I know I ride you a lot, but it's because you still hide from people. You're a great person and not everyone is going to hurt you. I know it's hard to believe, but you know not everyone is bad and when you open up, you always make good friends. You can't shut out the world," Nadi said, almost imploringly.

"I'm not," Poe argued. It was not something she did consciously, anyway.

"You are. Look, I got this for you." Nadi went into her pocket and pulled out a card. She handed it to Poe, whose eyes almost fell out of her skull when she saw the card.

"An escort service? Are you nuts?" Poe hollered.

Nadi put her hand over Poe's mouth. "Keep your voice down, so the neighbors don't hear!"

"You want me to hire an escort?" Poe demanded, her voice muffled by Nadi's hand.

"Just to get back into the swing of things. I know it's been at least a year since you've had sex. Have a wild night to relax and then we can worry about dating."

Poe twisted her mouth up. "Would they even do this? I'm a girl."

"I know that. I checked already. You're fine. Just call. Have some fun, Poe. You deserve it. Don't shut yourself up in your cave and drown out the world."

Poe sighed and nodded. "I don't do it on purpose, you know?"

"I know. I want you to get out more, live a little," Nadi said softly.

Poe managed a small smile to show that she understood. Nadi gave her a kiss on the cheek as a farewell. Poe slipped the card into her pants' pocket as Nadi left. Sighing, she looked around her apartment.

"It's not a cave. It's just furnished like one," she grumbled, twisting her mouth up briefly. "Not that I care. I should get back to that painting." Looking at the piece, she was reminded of how much work the painting needed. Just the thought exhausted her. "To hell with that."

She turned her attention to her computer. She should sit down and write as she was supposed to be working on the third book in her series: Maru, Knight of the Realm. It was a popular series set in a fictional medieval period with kings, dragons, and magic. Usually, she delighted in writing Maru's adventures, but lately, she had been more in a painting mood than anything else.

"And look at what that's gotten me," she scoffed at the painting. "I don't wanna write or paint." Looking around, she suddenly did not feel like being in the apartment. Turning around and stepping out the door, she went out in search for the one thing that she knew would make her feel better. "I need soccer."

-8-8-8-8-

Scarlet exited the hotel, going right to Baran, who was waiting for her across the street. She handed him an envelope. He leafed through the money inside and then began driving.

"Going home?" he asked.

"No, take me to Goodies. I need a drink," she sighed, shaking her head. "Make sure the crazy lady Tat gets that money, so I don't have to hear her shit."

"Don't call her that." They both knew that Baran would make sure the money got to where it needed to because he was scared to death of "the crazy lady."

She scoffed. "Tell her to stop being crazy and I'll stop calling her that."

He snorted and kept driving. He pulled up to the bar and grill that she liked to go to after work. It was called the Goode Bar, but most people that went there called it "Goodies." It stayed open late, which was one of the things that she liked about it.

Stepping out of the car, Scarlet did not bother to turn around as Baran drove off, even though she would have to find her own way home. She did not mind and she went into Goodies, finding it empty for the most part. Only the owner and his son were within view. She smiled seductively at the son, who was the bartender.

"Hey, Lysander," she purred as she sat down at the bar. He smiled at her as he stood before her.

"What can I get for the pretty lady?" Lysander asked, making eyes at her and flexing his massive muscles. His pecs jumped under his short-sleeve shirt.

Out of the corner of her eye, Scarlet could see his father, Leander Goode, glaring at her. He always did when he saw her and Lysander playing their flirty game. Leander obviously knew what she did for a living, not that she knew how he came by that knowledge. He never came right out and said it, but the disgust in his eyes was evidence enough. He was of the opinion that she would corrupt his precious son and he was not shy about sharing that.

"Gimme the usual," Scarlet told Lysander.

"Well, I would, but you're not my type," the bartender remarked with a chuckle and a wink as he moved to pour her drink.

She could not figure out how Leander did not know his son was gay. Lysander was better groomed than she was and always up-to-date fashion-wise. The pride he took in his appearance made him good eye candy and, if indulged, he would talk about his grand looks all day long. He was practically wearing a sign that announced he was gay. Some of his mannerisms were close to flaming, not that she cared. He also liked flirting, which she could get behind.

"Long night?" Leander sneered, glaring at her with dark eyes.

Scarlet ignored him. She knew that toward most of his other patrons he was an extreme gentleman, but she rubbed him the wrong way from the first time that she came in the bar. In fact, she watched as he personally carried a drink to a customer that she had not noticed earlier.

She was surprised that the only other person in the bar was a girl. She was tucked in the corner of a booth, watching something on one of Goodies' many television. It was an odd sight because it was past two in the morning and Goodies would actually be closed in a little while. It was hardly safe for her to be out alone.

"Who's the kid?" she asked Lysander, pointing at the girl.

Lysander shrugged. "She comes in here to watch in soccer sometimes. She's good friends with my father."

"Yeah, so you leave her alone. She's a good kid and doesn't need to be mixed up with the likes of you," Leander stated soundly as he made his way back over to them.

Scarlet chuckled. "Now, I feel the urge to buy her a drink. What's she drinking?"

Lysander shrugged. "Father takes her order."

"Gimme another usual."

Lysander made the drink, even though his father glared at him. She smiled in triumph and winked at the fuming middle-aged bar owner. She sauntered over to the table, but the girl did not look away from her game. Scarlet was a bit shocked by being ignored, especially in a dress that she knew for a fact caused both men and women to stop and stare. She eased the drink on the table just the same. That caused deep, almost puppy-like chocolate almond-shaped eyes to gaze up at her. She's adorable! The light purple streak in her hair only added to her cuteness.

"I figured I buy another night owl a drink," Scarlet commented with a half-smirk.

"I'm not old enough to drink," she replied curtly, pushing the drink away. Her eyes went right back to the television.

Scarlet frowned because of the rudeness. "Then you shouldn't be in a bar."

The girl sighed. "Look, I just want to watch my match in peace."

"Then you should do it at home." Scarlet cut her losses and walked away. Leander openly laughed at her.

-8-8-8-8-

Poe returned home, sighing. She realized that she had probably blown a chance with a redheaded goddess just because she was in a piss-poor mood and only wanted to watch football while sipping some soda. She slapped herself in the forehead.

"What type of moron am I? She was practically sitting in my lap and I dismissed her. Stupid." She sighed again. She figured it was time to end the bad day by going to bed. Checking her pockets before she took off her pants, she pulled out the card Nadi gave her. "Even Nadi thinks I'm too pathetic to find a date on my own. Well, I'll show her."

She was going to throw the card out, but found herself unable to do so. Instead, it ended up on her cluttered art desk while she took a shower.

-8-8-8-8-

Next time: Mallory enjoys a day off and Poe sets out to get a date.