As the bouncer let them through the door, Aleya whistled appreciatively.
"Man, have I missed this!"
The room was packed with writhing bodies on the dance floor and others just standing around, holding drinks, talking, or doing… other things. The lights flashed, rainbow colours bouncing off the mirrors on the walls and the packed crowd. The smell wasn't too fantastic to Aleya's sensitive nose – a mixture of sweat, cigarette smoke and perfume. Already, only a few steps in, she could feel the sweat beginning to prick at her skin as the temperature inside the club soared. It still looked the same as before, with exactly the same looking people. The club was filled with mirrors, metal and neon blue, with dark corners everywhere. The people were a mix of Supernatural and human, but all were on the shady side of life and generally had piles of money to throw around.
Exactly the kind of people Aleya fit in with.
Aleya watched in amusement as Harper tried to contain her awe. The girl did clean up pretty nicely and, with the makeup and the short dress, no longer looked underage. Aleya herself was wearing a sleek green dress that matched her eyes and flowed over her body when she moved.
She lost her balance slightly and grasped onto Sophie's arm.
Sophie shot her a frown. "I told you that you wouldn't be able to walk in heels of that size after this long."
Aleya glanced down at the sky-high black heels, the straps on which wrapped around her calves.
"Aw, come on, Soph. They're hot. And wearing heels is just like riding a bike. Or sex, for that matter. It always comes back to you." She winked at Sophie, who rolled her eyes. "Let's go fuck shit up."
"Oh, and you said I wasn't allowed to swear?" Harper drawled to Sophie, shooting a pointed look to Aleya.
"Hey, pup, I'm allowed to swear. I'm twenty-four. You're, what, fifteen?"
"Sixteen, actually," she muttered, crossing her arms angrily.
Aleya waved her hand dismissively and strode forward towards the VIP section, shoving past random people.
Fever was exactly as she remembered – the people grinding on the dance floor, and most of downstairs, were either human or the less important Supernaturals. Upstairs, in the VIP section, was where the powerful Supernaturals, and even some humans, would be.
Sophie grabbed her arm to get her attention. "I'm gonna stay down here with Harper. I don't want her going up there and I won't leave her alone down here."
Aleya shrugged. "Suit yourself."
As she climbed the lit up stairs, she could hear Harper snarling about being treated like a child. Aleya, frankly, didn't really care. She wanted the girl out of here completely. Only completely insane people dived into Supernatural underworld voluntarily at such a young age. Maybe she felt so strongly because Aleya's own induction hadn't been voluntary, thanks to Savion. She'd been handed the scraps of a life and she'd done as best as she could with what little she had.
And she'd gotten pretty damn far.
But there was no way in hell she wanted to bring a girl into her world, street orphan or not. As much as everyone liked to preach about gender equality, females still got the short end of the stick, especially in the Supernatural world. And especially if they were a teenage girl.
As she reached the top of the stairs, she glanced around for the familiar face of Jefferson. There were no bouncers at the top of the stairs – it was an unspoken rule that didn't need to be enforced by the club that only certain people were allowed up those stairs. Even if some plebeian did manage to stumble upstairs by accident, the bodyguards of some of the people would soon sort them out.
Usually, by throwing them over the side of the balcony.
She found Jefferson reclining on a lounge; surrounded by some lackeys and with two sparsely clothed women sprawled across him. Smirking, she strolled towards the group of chairs. Two of his lackeys, both fire Elementals dressed in black suits, jumped to their feet to bar her way.
"No humans allowed up here," Tweedledee growled, Tweedledum in the background calling some fire into his hand as a warning sign.
Aleya ignored them. She leant around the two buff men and twiddled her fingers at Jefferson.
"Oh Jefferson, darling, remember me?"
Her smile, like a cat's, grew as she saw the recognition spark in his eyes.
"Aleya?" he asked incredulously, shooting upright. A grin overtook his face. "Sugar pot! It is you! I heard you were getting out of prison today – I didn't know you'd dive back in straightaway, though!"
He waved for Tweedledum and Tweedledee to back off, then came forward and hugged Aleya. He leant forward to kiss her but she, as per usual, tilted her head to the side so his lips landed on her cheek. He was handsome and Aleya got along with him, but she just wasn't attracted to him in any way. She'd fallen for one man – fallen hard – and look where she ended up after that? Her heart smashed to pieces and a constant, dull ache inside her body. And the fact that no matter how she tried, she couldn't find that spark with anyone else.
Of course, when Jefferson's hand slipped down to grab her arse, she swiftly grabbed it and twisted it until she could feel the bones straining. Sometimes, he tried to be as slick as the water he controlled.
"Ah! Let go! Let go!" he yelped, and Aleya stepped away, letting his hand go.
"And hello to you too – it seems you haven't changed at all, Jefferson."
"It's Jeff now, dahrling, and I couldn't help myself – your arse just looked so good in that dress and heels." He sighed theatrically. "But I guess being in an all female prison for three years can make even the raunchiest swing for the other team."
Aleya punched him in the arm and the man winced. "Dammit, woman, it hurts when you punch me! Stop abusing me!"
Aleya leaned in close, so her voice was just a whisper. "Don't be upset because you," she gave a pointed look down, "aren't enough to please me."
At his dumbfounded look, she laughed and leaned back.
"It's good to see you, Jeff," she said with genuine warmth.
In the years she had known Jeff, he had somehow managed to wheedle his way underneath her walls and into her limited trust. He seemed like a harmless flirt – and a tad crazy – but underneath that he was a veritable genius. He could make a bomb out of virtually anything in whatever time frame you gave him, which was why he was highly sort after by many of the crime lords. It was a bit of a paradox, that a water elemental was so good at causing things to explode and go up in flames.
"I need to ask you a question," she said, sitting down delicately onto one of the couches. It was leather and even felt expensive as she sank into it.
"Yes, I will sleep with you," Jeff answered, his face deadly serious.
Aleya rolled her eyes. "Can it, you horny boy. I wanted to ask if that Girodet job was still open, 'cause the painting is sitting half done in my room."
Jeff looked guilty and shrunk in on himself slightly. "I gave the job to Flea and Conrad." At Aleya's annoyed look, he continued quickly. "You were in prison, Aleya – please don't give me that look!"
Flea and Conrad were, essentially, Aleya's competition. Although she did take up other odd jobs at times, her favourite profession was art theft – it was so much more… elegant than anything else. The skill with which it took to emulate a painting perfectly was phenomenal and Aleya prided herself on her skills. In regards to her competition, Flea usually did an imitation of the painting or whatever art it was, and Conrad did all the dirty work. While Flea was a friendly character, Aleya disliked Conrad with a passion. Not only were his methods crude and sometimes vicious, but they seemed to be a reflection of his personality.
"Now what am I supposed to do with that painting? I spent ages studying Anne-Louis Girodet's style too."
Jeff shrugged. "Well I have no clue. Maybe you should finish it and give it to someone you love – me, perhaps?"
"It was worth a try. Now, would you like to dance, love?"
Aleya gave him a blank look, then stood up, smoothing out the front of her short dress. "It was nice seeing you, Jefferson, you've given me something to think about. I would hang around longer but, unfortunately, I've chosen a very dull night to make an appearance." She stepped closer to him, lowering her voice. "But I'm out of prison now and you better make damn sure you stop giving my jobs to Flea and Conrad."
She gave him one last smile before whirling around and striding away, wobbling only slightly on her tall heels. She quickly found Sophie and Harper, and dragged them out of the club, to the car.
"So, how was your first experience at a club?" Aleya asked when the silence grew strained, trying her hardest to be nice to this stray, for Sophie's sake. The car swerved as she dodged in and out of traffic, travelling down the motorway way over the limit.
"It wasn't my first," Harper said haughtily, arms crossed as she sat in the back seat. "And that has to be one of the dreariest clubs I've ever been to."
Sophie sighed softly in resignation but Aleya ignored her, her hands tightening on the wheel. For God's sake, she was just trying to be nice.
She raised an eyebrow. "Well then, I'm sorry it wasn't up to your obviously very attuned and high tastes," she said coolly, sarcastically.
"And we weren't even there for long – I mean, I got dressed up for absolutely nothing. What the fuck's up with that?"
"Harper," Sophie hissed.
"The point, pup, was to be seen. Not for you to be seen, but I needed to be seen to let everyone know that I'm still in the game. And I was also catching up with some contacts."
Harper snorted. "I only saw you flirting with some guy, and the one time I tried to talk to a guy, Sophie dragged me away."
Sophie perked up and looked at Aleya hopefully. "You were talking to Jefferson?"
Aleya grimaced. Sophie had it in her head that Jefferson and Aleya would be perfect together, but Aleya stayed firmly away from the subject.
"My love life is not up for discussion," Aleya said in a steely tone, her face and eyes immediately going blank. Sophie, sensing she was entering dangerous grounds, backed off. Harper, however, had no idea about Aleya's complicated love life.
"Oh, so you guys can interfere into mine? That's a bit hypocritical of you, don't you think?"
Everyone in the car jerked as Aleya whipped the steering wheel to the side and slammed on the brakes.
"I wasn't the one pulling you away from the guy, was I?" she said, her voice cool despite her seething anger. "For all I care, you can go and fuck as many boys as you want. So no, I am not interfering in your love life so I am no hypocrite. Now, get out of the car."
Harper's mouth popped open in shock. "W-What?"
"Get out of the car," Aleya repeated calmly. "If you're going to act like such a spoilt brat, you can walk back to the apartment."
Harper's mouth clenched shut and Aleya could see the emotions flitting through the girl's eyes as she frantically wondered what to do. Finally, without another word, she threw her chin up and slid out of the car, throwing an acidic look Aleya's way. Immediately, Aleya put the car in drive and zoomed off.
"Lee," Sophie sighed, her voice a reprimand.
"I'll teach her."
Sophie's head jerked up in surprise. "What?"
"Oh, come off it, I'm not a complete monster," Aleya said, her earlier anger apparently gone. "I didn't make Harper walk home for my own sick pleasure." Aleya thought for a moment, then smirked. "Okay, it kind of was – her bratty act was getting on my nerves. But she didn't break down and beg to stay in the car; rather, she handled herself with pride. She handled herself well. So, I'll teach her."
"After all I've told you, you decide to teach her because she has a little pride? She has pride by the truckload! I could have told you that!"
Aleya shrugged. Secretly, Sophie had already worn her down and that little act had made the decision for Aleya. Aleya wasn't going to lie – she found it hard to deny Sophie, the woman who saved her life, anything. In her mind, she was eternally indebted to the woman.
But damned be if she let anyone else know that.
"Truthfully, I see some of myself in her. I'm sure she's a good kid once you get past the whole 'hot-headed, bad-ass' façade."
Sophie was silent for a moment before she said, "Well, I'm taking her to start her new school tomorrow. She's incredibly intelligent and I don't think that should be wasted, so she's going to that private school around the corner from your apartment block. Would you like to come?"
"Firstly, I said I'd teach the girl, not wait on her hand and foot. Secondly, it'd probably look like she had two lesbians for parents. And thirdly, I've got other stuff to do."
"You're not still considering going to see Kylar, are you?" she asked gently.
"I'm not considering anything – I'm going tomorrow afternoon to pick him up from school. I'll call Lynne in the morning."
Despite Lynne being her mother, Aleya refused to call her anything but her given name. Sophie could probably give some psychological explanation for that, but, deep down, Aleya was still deeply hurt by her mother's treatment of her. She was the reason why Aleya had run away and abandoned her half-brother in the first place and then got abducted by Savion, so she guessed that she vaguely blamed Lynne for it all, no matter how unfair that was.
Aleya didn't really like to think about it too much. She more readily blamed her dislike on the indifferent treatment Lynne had given her for most of her life. Lynne didn't understand Aleya's strange and supernatural powers, and had thus pushed her away rather then be confronted with not only her ties to her anonymous father, but her unnatural powers.
Sophie sighed. "Would you like me to come with you?"
Aleya shot her a wry look, lips twisted in a smile. That was Sophie – she was basically the definition of a mother hen. Well, a mother hen that was a demon.
Once they'd arrived back to the apartment, Aleya went straight to her room and locked herself inside. Her room, compared to the rest of the apartment, was fairly simple. There were two other doors, one leading to the bathroom and the other leading to the closet where she kept all her clothes. And, in a false wall at the very back, where she kept all her weapons and relics from a past life. A single-sized bed was pushed into one corner, the sheets freshly washed and made up by Sophie. A bedside table was next to it with a lamp on top of it and various thick, leather-bound books littering it. The table was made of thick enough wood so that Aleya was able to hollow out one of the legs and use it as a place to store cash and various other valuables.
A large, metal cupboard was next to the end of the bed, and inside was her storage of paint, chemicals, spare mobile phones, plastic explosives and other miscellaneous products that she might need. The rest of her room she used as a working area. The floor, for a couple of metres, was covered in canvas to stop the paint from getting on the expensive carpet. On top of a wooden stand, was a half-finished painting, with only the background of a cave and forest completed. The painting was 'The Funeral of Atala' by Anne-Louis Girodet, the painting she had been planning to steal from the museum exhibition, replace with the fake and sell the real one at a high price to an overseas buyer. Hell, she already had one or two promising buyers lined up through Sophie, who sometimes acted as a fence. Now, they probably believed she had led them on, so she could add a few more names to her long list of enemies. A multitude of other canvases were stacked up behind it. In total, the painting area took up over half the room.
Sighing, she walked over to her closet and threw off her fancy dress in favour of the ratty singlet and underwear that she preferred to sleep in. Pants, sometimes even blankets, were an unneeded burden when she often had nightmares or needed to be up in a hurry, and they just tangled around her legs.
Sighing, she spurted some paints on her palette and lost herself in the painting.
Early the next morning, Sophie walked into Aleya's room in her pyjamas and dressing gown, only to find Aleya carefully painting the layers on the woman's face.
Aleya glanced at Sophie before returning to her portrait.
Sophie sighed in irritation. "Have you been awake all night?"
Aleya blinked to clear her fuzzy mind before straightening and glancing out the window.
"It would seem so," she said, faintly surprised. Then she shrugged, dipped her brush in the paint and began again. Thanks to her unknown heritage, she didn't need as much sleep as a regular human, and could last a few nights without a wink of it. However, it did eventually make her feel weak and tired, so she didn't pull numerous all-nighters in a row often, if at all.
"I made some pancakes; they're downstairs. Oh, and I can't take Harper to the school this morning 'cause something came up, so could you do it? Yes? Thanks!"
Aleya made an irritated noise as she wiped her hands off on a towel and turned to face Sophie's retreating back.
"Just as long as she doesn't act like a brat again."
Sophie turned around and peeked her head back in the doorway.
"Oh, don't worry, she's actually pretty excited about it – I didn't get a complaint once!"
Aleya sighed and ducked back into her closet to pull on a thin, summery dress and heels.
The headmistress glanced from Harper's dark red hair, pale skin and vibrant green eyes to Aleya's blonde hair, ocean eyes and bronze skin with suspicion.
"How did you say the two of you were related?"
Aleya gave the woman, who was trying to intimidate them by her stony façade, a cool look with a raised eyebrow.
"I didn't. I'm her aunt – her adopted mother is my sister, Sophie."
"Sophie?" The woman glanced down at the papers in front of her. "You mean Sophos? I thought that was a man."
Harper shifted in her seat, her expression dark, while Aleya just smiled. "Apparently not."
The woman sighed, as if it were such a burden getting a new student halfway through the term and the extra money that came with her.
"You will need to buy her uniforms and books today, but after that she will be free to go to class."
"I wouldn't call it being 'free'," Harper muttered, but quietened when Aleya shot her a sharp look. The horror hadn't shut up the entire way here, despite Sophie's assurances that she was happy to go to school – the whole way she bitched and moaned about the whole thing until Aleya's ears just about bled. As a small punishment, she withheld telling Harper that she had agreed to train her.
"I'll let you get to it," the headmistress said in a bored tone, the dismissal obvious as she turned to another piece of paper.
"It was such a pleasure meeting you," Harper said, her voice cheery despite the sneer on her face. The woman didn't even react as they stood up and walked out the door. The secretary directed them towards the uniform pool and they set off.
"This is going to suck balls," Harper whined as she dragged her feet along the pathway.
"You should feel lucky – I dropped out in year ten and I still regret it."
Harper's head whipped around in astonishment. "You didn't finish school? And you didn't even go to university?"
Aleya snorted. "I'm not exactly the type of person to sit in a classroom or lecture theatre for hours on end. I prefer to study on my own."
"That's exactly how I am!" Harper cried, her eyes gleaming at the thought of getting out of school.
"Oh, put a sock in it. You're going to school and that's final."
Harper muttered various curses and rude words under her breath.
"Well, I think you'll be right from now," Aleya said as they arrived in front of the uniform shop. "If I have to pick you up, I'll be late."
Harper quickly flipped open her diary to her timetable. "I have a free last, so if it's easier you can pick me up earlier."
Aleya raised an eyebrow. "I'll be there when school finishes. Besides, I'm going to talk to my brother and you're staying in the car and keeping your nose out of my business."
"You have a brother?" she exclaimed, but Aleya was already walking away.
A/N: thanks for all the great feedback I've been getting! Sorry for the wait - I honestly didn't plan to update this for a while, since I've got so many stories I'm working on, but I couldn't help myself.