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Kalista Ross

Feeling emotions is not a sign of weakness. Showing them is. And I am not weak.

0 · 2,028 views · located in Manhattan, New York

a character in “In Mafia Vita”, as played by LostRiver


Kalista Ross

The Lead Assassin


Full Name:| Kalista Teller Ross
Nicknames:| "Kal" - Used by friends and lovers, "Silver Tongue" - Military code name, "Skin" - Used by military buddies, given to her in training
Age:| 26
Gender:| Female
Orientation:| Heterosexual
Originally From:| Manhattan
Currently Living:|Upper West Side
Occupation:| She is the assassin or “hired gun” for the family. She also does various jobs for high-paying customers that vary from assassination to thievery to incrimination.

+ Philosophy & Psychology- The world, mind, social situations, emotions, and everything in between fascinates her.
+ Days Off - She'd rather be in bed than working.
+ Reading - Many books bore her, but they often send her into a world that she'd rather be in.
+ Fire - It is a beautiful thing, but she is slightly afraid of it.
+ Romance - She is a true romantic and has always dreamed of finding true love someday and quitting her job.
+ Men - Not just as lovers, but as friends as well. It is partially because she was with all men in Special Forces.
+ Fashion - She doesn't seem like the type, but she is constantly up on the latest trends as well as fashion forecasts.
+ Winning - She likes competition, but she likes the feeling of winning a competition more.
- Being Rushed - She is a bit lazy and likes to take her time, but always gets the job done.
- Tension - She has had enough of that in her life.
- Most Women - Too pushy for her and she likes being around men because they will tell you the truth no matter how harsh.
- Secrets - She learned how to deal with people having secrets and keeping them in the forces, but she doesn't like people keeping them from her.
- Bragger - Although she likes to win, she will never brag about it because she hates people that do.
- Hospitals - Every hospital is too pristine. It makes her antsy and she has had too much experience with being in them to like them at all.
- Guns - She uses them quite often, but that doesn't mean she has to like them. She used them far too often in her lifetime.
~ Dying Alone - Not dying. She isn't afraid of death, but she is afraid that she may die alone and no one would ever care.
~ Snakes - In the forces, one of her buddies was about to leave in only two weeks and was bitten by a poisonous snake. They were unable to get him help in time and he passed away.
~ Prison - Despite the fact that she knows everything she does is illegal and she knows that she could be arrested for it all and go to maximum security prison, she is afraid of prison.
1: It was not an accident that the drug lord threatening the family got away. Kalista was about to kill him when she suddenly recognized him to be her nephew – her dead sister’s son whom she has been keeping watch over from afar. Kalista couldn’t kill him and decided to pretend that he had gotten away out of her own foolishness. It was a less painful punishment than what would have happened had she admitted to letting him go.
2: She secretly met with her nephew in an attempt to convince him not to go after the family. She tried to tell him that she was his aunt and had been watching out for him since his mother died; however, he didn’t believe her and is still coming after the family. Now, Kalista must decide whether to murder her nephew or face the consequences of the boss knowing what she did.

- Reading - Normally a philosophy or psychology book.
- Pick-pocketing - Just everyday people, and then staying to see their reactions. Then, occasionally, she will return whatever it is and wait again to see their reactions.
- Parkour - On occasion, when she is in a good mood, she will go onto the city rooftops and practice.
- Piano - She was a bit of a prodigy when she was very young and can still play very well; however, she has no real want or need to play
- Stealth - She is incredibly stealthy and flexible which is one of the reasons why many special teams wanted her and why she is a good assassin. She is able to get jobs done quickly and neatly.
- Reading People - She is able to read people like books. She can tell a person’s emotion by the slightest twitch of their mouth or move of their finger.
- Manipulation - She is extremely good at manipulating and persuading people (especially men) into doing her bidding.
- Strength - She is stealthy, fast, and able to carry a gun, but she relies mostly on tactics rather than brute strength.
- Conveying Emotions - She often hides her own emotions from people and shuts off when people genuinely express a kind or gentle emotion toward her.
- Watching families/lovers - She has no problem watching a person die, but when it comes to watching people who love each other, she simply turns away.
- Temper - She is usually good with keeping herself in check with no emotions, but occasionally when she bursts, the outcome is either sex, drugs, or multiple bodies with no evidence pointing to her.
- Custom Automatic - Almost always with her
- Pistol - Never leaves home without it
- Extra ammunition For both her usual guns as well as anything else she is using (rifle, sniper, etc.)
- Switchblade - Also almost always with her
- Lock picking tools - Normally in her handbag (she always has something like a bobby pin in her shoe or hair

Kalista rarely shows her true emotions and almost always comes across as cold and bitter. She learned early on from her father that showing emotions is a sign of weakness. Kalista never thought anything of it until her family died. She was always a fun, kid-hearted girl. However, after their murders, she shut down. She still feels emotions, but chooses not to express them unless it is for a job.

Kalista has major trust and commitment issues after everything she has been through in her life. After the murder of her family, she decided to never get too close to anyone out of fear of losing them. The only people she ever got very close to were in the military and even that proved to be fruitless. Quite a few of the men she fought alongside died in combat, only furthering her commitment issues, and seeing all the hatefulness and deceit of war only furthered her trust issues. She still speaks with those men that are still living, but only a few of them actually live where she can visit them. Despite all of this, if someone - like those men in the military - is able to break through all of her walls, she can be a fun-loving, enjoyable person.

People often get angry at Kalista for being so indifferent to everything. Although she is known in the crime world to be one of the best assassins and thieves, she is widely hated. Although she has deep morals about not sleeping with married men, people often accuse her of such because she is so indifferent. Through torture and interrogation Kalista has learned that even if you are telling the truth, people will often not believe an assassin that doubles as a thief.

Her ability to fake emotions often comes in handy when dealing with men. Kalista has the uncanny ability to deceive a man into thinking that she loves them and into believing that they love her. This can be used to her advantage, but if they ever find out, it normally does not end up well for her.

Since her failure to eliminate the threat on the family, Kalista has been even more cut off to the world. Whether it is because she is bent on finding the man and murdering him, or whether it is because she is trying to cut herself off from the family, even she does not know. However, she has recently been trying to avoid the boss after he sent her flying into a bookcase. She understands that it is his job to keep them all in check and order them around, but she hated the feeling she got that she could not fight back. In addition, she has been trying to prove that she is not sleeping with him.

Even before she was even born, Kalista’s father was friends with the boss. Her father was an old drug trafficker for the family. He did not do it often, but when he did, he always got the best weapons. The two were not great friends, but Kalista’s father was trusted by the family.

It seems as though Kalista’s father put a gun in her hand when she was born and simply told her to shoot. He taught her everything from how to shoot a rifle to how to open a safe. Kalista’s mother and father did not get along very well and were constantly fighting. However, they made sure to never do it directly in front of Kalista or her older sister, Lillian. They thought that they could keep the family somewhat together if their daughters didn’t know about their marriage issues. However, in a relatively small apartment building with the girls’ bedroom right above the kitchen, it wasn’t hard to decipher the angry words coming from their parents’ mouths.

Coming into quite a bit of money by means that no one but Kalista’s father knew, Kalista was sent away to a rather nice boarding school in California. Kalista had no complaints about it. Her sister had moved out and it was time for Kalista to get away from her parents, and she loved the California heat. When Kalista was only 16, she became an aunt. Lillian had gotten married and given birth to a baby boy at the age of 23. The family was so excited and the boy was pampered by everyone around.

Everyone was happy until, one October day, Kalista got a call from her sister. Lillian sounded out of breath and like she was sobbing uncontrollably. “We’re not going to make it, Kal. Watch over Frankie.” After that she heard a gunshot and the phone went dead. Kalista was in shock and didn’t know what to do. Her roommate found her sitting on her bed, staring at the phone with a blank stare. It took quite a while for Kalista to recover and tell the school’s dean what had happened. However, by the time they got it out of her, they had already received the call that Kalista’s mother, father, sister, and brother-in-law had been murdered in her parent’s apartment building.

The next year went by slowly for Kalista. She was put in the care of her aunt and her nephew, little Frankie was put in the care of his grandparents on his father’s side. While Kalista’s aunt was a kind woman who Kalista tried to be good around, Kalista had gone through too much in her short years. Almost immediately after the murders of her family members, she turned to drugs, sex, and thievery. It was all she knew. A year later, Kalista’s aunt died of a heartattack which Kalista still blames herself for. After that, Kalista decided to enlist to straighten herself out. She had already become the cold, emotionless person she is today, and Special Forces only furthered those traits.

She worked her way up and became a pretty highly respected agent. She had a great team, and while they lost a few men along the way, her team was one of the best there was. She had planned on coming back and going to college afterwards, but a mission gone south changed her mind. Kalista and several of her teammates were shot and wounded; another few of them were killed. Many of them were given honorable discharge and sent home. However, Kalista had nowhere to go. She checked in on Frankie, remembering her sister’s dying wish, but decided not to get too close to him out of fear that she would only bring trouble.

Although she never showed it, Kalista was afraid when she came back. She used the money the government had given her to get started and bought an apartment. For the next few months, she worked on every killing skill she had as well as searching through multiple files on her family and the enemies her father had. When she finally figured out who had killed her family - on a small detail that the detectives had missed - she took her favorite automatic and shot him in his own apartment. She felt nothing toward it, but other people began to look into her. The job had been quick and clean. She was the exact person that the crime world was looking for.

For the first few months out of Special Forces, Kalista was a “freelancer”. She slept with more men than she remembers, stole things, and killed people. She was not the woman she has wanted to be, but she no longer cared. The pay was alright, but the boss was the one that really gave her a chance. He quickly hired her a few months after her discharge and Kalista will never be able to thank him enough. He gave her a more solid job and a little security that she could never find. After that, her life straightened out a bit - well as much as an assassin’s life can straighten out. Ever since the boss hired her, Kalista has gained a lot of recognition in the crime world as one of the best assassins and thieves. Whether that is a good or a bad thing depends on who you are talking to.

Since being discharged, Kalista has been keeping an eye on Frankie, her nephew, and does not like what she is seeing [see Secrets section].

- She has an old red Ford Mustang Convertible which was left for her when her father died. She thought about selling it, but decided to keep it because she loves the feel of it.
- She has several large scars from bullets, knives, bombs, etc. However, the most prominent scar is a burst-like scar on the right side of her abdomen which is also visible on her back (this is the bullet that got her honorable discharge).
- Tattoos:
~After Kalista and a few of her buddies got discharged, they went out and got their nicknames on parts of their bodies that the others got to decide on. Her nickname was “Skin” and her buddies decided she would get it on her left hip.
~ Kalista’s father used to have a tattoo on his leg that said “SLKR” which stood for “Susan Lillian Kalista Ross”. They were the names of his wife, two daughters, and their family name respectively. So, after their deaths, Kalista got a tattoo on her right foot that says “FSLR”, standing for “Frank Susan Lillian Ross”. These are the names of her deceased father, mother, sister, and their family name respectively.
~ Kalista’s two other tattoos are a thin, dainty armband just below her elbow and a medium-sized tree on her back (about half as big as the picture).

I might end up adding something later on if I forgot anything

So begins...

Kalista Ross's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Charlee Shaee Genovese Character Portrait: Dylan Genovese Character Portrait: Jess Garcia
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Crap.... I guess we're all doing it.

The setting changes from Manhattan, New York to Genovese Mansion

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Charlee Shaee Genovese Character Portrait: Dylan Genovese Character Portrait: Jess Garcia
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Kalista Ross

Stepping out of her red Mustang, Kalista made sure to conceal to pistol at her thigh as well as the switch blade on her other thigh. In retrospect, wearing this beautiful dress was not been the greatest of ideas when she had a pistol with her, but the dress needed to be worn somewhere and this gathering seemed like the perfect place. Furthermore, Kalista had been in a good mood that day and wearing the gorgeous dress was representation of that.

As Kalista stepped out of the car, her black heels clicked slightly on the pavement. She looked around at the waiting cars with a look of indifference before leaning down to check her makeup in the side mirror. Seeing everything in order, Kalista stood up as tall as she could. She was a petite woman standing at only about five feet and the heels only added about two or three inches. However, since the entire Ross line had been very short, Kalista’s father had always told her that standing up straight, keeping your head up, and being proud of your height made people look past the fact that you were a shrimp. Lord knows where Kalista would have been had her father not told her that. Perhaps the only reason people had respect for Kalista was because of her pride and her ability to stand up to men twice her size.

Kalista stepped up to the waiting valet and placed the key in his hands. She stepped closer to the man, leaning over to him with a smile on her face and whispered into his ear, “If I see the slightest scratch on this car, you’ll be gone before anyone can miss you.” At first, the looked incredulously at Kalista, and finally, perhaps realizing the family that he was working for, realized that she was completely serious and went wide-eyed. The man nodded hastily and hurried around the car to the driver’s seat.
Kalista chuckled, as she watched the valet drive the car away cautiously; once looking behind him only to see Kalista’s eyes staring daggers at him. When the car was out of sight, Kalista ve one last chuckle and stepped up to the front door of the Genovese mansion. The bouncer stopped her and looked down at her for a moment with curiosity before a large smile became plastered on his face.

Kalista squinted up at him, crossed her arms in front of her, and tapped her foot impatiently. “Is there a reason you’re grinning like an idiot?”

The bouncer let out a rather loud laugh. “Ya haven’t changed a bit have ya, Skin.”

Kalista was normally able to keep every one of her emotions off her face; however, she couldn’t keep the small look of shock off her face as the man used her military nickname. Kalista scrutinized his face for a moment before she broke out in a grin as well. “Squint?” She asked, only just recognizing the man she hadn’t seen in years.

The man, “Squint”, didn’t say anything, but pulled Kalista in for a tight hug. Kalista laughed joyfully, something she hadn’t done in a long time. She returned the tight hug and then pulled back, smiling at the large man. “I didn’t know you were a bouncer for the family.”

Squint raised a single eyebrow at Kalista and gave her a fake half smile. “I bet you ten bucks I know what you’re doing for this family,” he said in a tone that told Kalista that he disapproved of her chosen occupation. Moreover than the other men Kalista had met overseas, Squint had always been the most protective and, even though he was smiling, she knew that he really did not approve.

Kalista’s smile faltered for a moment, but she plastered it back on her face quickly. However, Squint gave her a look that told her he had seen to quick look of dismay. Kalista sighed and dropped the façade. “Look, Squint, I ain’t proud of what I do, but I’m good at it and it pays the bills.” Suddenly, Kalista felt small. She had not felt this vulnerable in years and it didn’t feel good. Feeling emensly uncomfortable, Kalista stood up tall once more and put on her mask of indifference.

Squint looked like he wanted to argue with her, but seeing the already impatient line behind Kalista, he decided against it. He gave a heavy sigh, knowing better than to argue with Kalista. Instead, he nodded to her, quickly checked the phone in his hand to make sure she was on the list, and pulled her into another hug. He told her to find him if she ever wanted to have catch up, but knew that the attempt to rekindle their friendship would most likely be in vain.

With that, Kalista cast one last smile over her shoulder at Squint as she made her way through the doors to the mansion. She wished that she had kept in touch with the men she had fought with. The only time she ever seemed to be truly happy was around them. However, after becoming an assassin and a thief, Kalista knew that none of them would look at her in the same big-brother way that they had before. Kalista gave a short sigh of dismay at the thought, but quickly put back the mask of indifference over her features.

Kalista took a glass of champagne from a woman whom she knew that she recognized. She looked suspiciously after the woman, making a note to keep an eye on her, but otherwise walked on further into the mansion. Kalista didn’t show it, but she felt uncomfortable among them. She has always hated crowds. She loved sitting back and people watching, but being inside the crowd made her antsy. Especially a crowd such as this one; one full of snobby, malicious, rich people who were willing to do anything for their status. Kalista knew for a fact that many people thought the exact same thing about her and perhaps they were correct, but no one would ever be stupid enough to tell Kalista that. She gave a small into her champagne glass as she thought of this.

Kalista looked around at the crowd of people observing a work of art. Nearly every single one of them was feigning interest very well, and a few were pretending to understand the “meaning” behind the artwork. Kalista sighed to herself thinking about the fact that she should be acting more sociable, but the fact of the matter was that she would rather be at home at the moment. Maybe stealing something from one of these men would make me feel better, Kalista thought sarcastically.

Working for a crime boss had its perks and it also had its downsides. For example, being paid handsomely for jobs and coming to events such as this one were both perks; however, a downside was having no room for mistakes. Although, being as cocky as she was, Kalista knew that she had never made a mistake. Everyone thought that letting the drug dealer go had been a mistake, but Kalista knew that someone in the family had to be suspicious of her “slip-up”, seeing as she never made a mistake that big. Kalista frowned slightly to herself as she thought of her nephew. What if he had decided to show up at this event and finally exact revenge on the Genovese family? What if this was the night that Kalista would have to decide between killing the last standing member of her family, or most likely being taken out herself?

Kalista shook the frown from her face. What is wrong with me? I’m letting these strangers see my true emotions, Kalista thought to herself and she made her way through a throng of guests.

She noticed Dylan and Shae speaking and made a mental note of where they were. If her nephew, or anyone dangerous for that matter, decided to show up, Kalista wanted to keep them safe. Kalista’s job was not specifically to check up on the family, but she had always known that it was implied. She was supposed to take out anyone or anything that threatened the family, but that meant that she had to keep an eye on them to know who was threatening them. Besides, ever since the boss had basically saved her from herself when she had come back from combat, Kalista was eternally in debt to him. She would protect his family whether it was part of her job or not.

Kalista stood stiffly at on one wall for several moments before realizing that she must look quite strange with her elegant dress on as well as the stance of a bodyguard. Kalista forcibly loosened her muscles and made herself to look personable. She put on a slight smile and leaned slightly on one leg, making herself look as if she was a guest simply enjoying the night rather than an assassin who was only there because she had been summoned for a meeting with the boss.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victoria Genovese Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Nate Hagen Character Portrait: Dylan Genovese
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#, as written by Mela

Jonah was working himself into a very impatient, irritated mood as he waited for his second in command to arrive with his adopted son. They were certainly taking their sweet time, and this was not the day to test the man’s patience. Of all days, this was actually the very last one should try such a thing. He didn’t like the plans for the evening, but he also knew he needed to be so many places at once, and the only way to make sure he could do that, was to host the meeting in his home. The mere thought made his nerves vibrate, his muscles tense. He looked towards the door to the sitting room, behind which, one would find his office.

He looked at his watch, taking in a deep breath. He was supposed to begin a meeting in mere 10 minutes. Or rather, he had not given anyone a specific time. He had only told them all to be at the manor 7:55 at the latest. At 8 they would all receive a text saying the exact same, simple, yet completely understandable thing: ”Library. Now. Slip out unnoticed.” Place, time, and caution. Key words to Jonathon in almost all ways. He did manage to check his phone another time, trying to at least use the time well. It seemed Miss Ross and Miss Siqueira had arrived.

In response to this, Jonah tapped a quick text to the new techie: ”All set up, I hope? I’m counting on you to keep overall eyes and ears on this party. Do not disappoint, Miss Siqueira.” There, that should have her set for the evening. He sincerely hoped she wouldn’t let anything slip. Dylan had recommended her, and Jonah had interviewed her himself. She was more than competent; he just hoped she could handle this job. She was rather young, after all. Of course he didn’t expect her to be allknowing, but having all conversations and the like recorded and sent directly to his computer, was a great idea. All he really meant by his text was that he hoped she had installed all of the necessary cameras. He certainly paid her enough.

The boss had remained unreadable and coldly indifferent on the outside, except to anyone who knew that Jonah only ever paced when he was very irritated, and very impatient. He stopped immediately when he heard foodsteps outside the grand doors, and he stood still, rigid as he watched the entrance to the library, eyes cold. As he spotted Nate coming inside, he didn’t move. Just stood and watched as Kole joined him. This rather got to him.

Not that Kole had been talking to Nate, but the fact that the young man had apparently thought it appropriate not to be the place requested at the time requested. Jonathon did not run business like that. If Kole hadn’t been family, the patriarch would’ve been furious. As it was, he was only mildly irritated at the show of disrespect. However, as Kole spoke, Jonathon almost felt himself soften the way he would around his other children as well. However, he refused to show that weakness right now, and so he stood still, hands still clasped behind him.

Following that act, he stiffly nodded at Kole in greeting, and raised an eyebrow at the comment about him needing to talk to Nate first. With that, Jonah looked the kid over, taking note of every little gesture, every little wavering of his gaze, and every little movement of his nose. Nothing went past Jonathon as his gaze seemed to look right through Kole, and it didn’t take him long to deduct that something was definitely off. His son seemed almost guilty of something. What had happened then? And why wasn’t he already spilling the beans?

Jonathon sighed when Kole instead spoke of the raid from the day before. He cleared his throat, relaxing his stance as he finally let the irritation ebb out. The way Kole’s eyes kept darting, and the way his stature was slightly off, made Jonah forgive the previous insolence. Only with his children did this happen. Well, them, and Nate, along with Vicky. Basically… those closest to him. With everyone else, Jonah would remain cold and removed.

He nodded, gesturing towards his office before walking there himself, holding the door open for his two companions only to close and lock it behind them. He seated himself behind his desk, not bothering to ask the others to take seats. They would – they’d been in there plenty of times both of them. Only once that was done, did the man speak, having been eerily quiet up until now.
“I did. We got everything out. The place was perfectly presentable by the time the they showed up.” He said, finally smiling at his son, a look of approval in his eyes as he got out an envelope with ten thousand bucks in it, sliding it towards the man in question. It was a bonus for a job well done, or, the Jonathon version of a thank you to someone he paid.

The second he had done this, Jonah leveled a more serious set of eyes on his adoptive son. “Now,” he began, “why don’t you tell me what’s happened? It’s clearly got you uneasy.” He glanced at Nate, his eyes silently asking him whether it was very bad or just bad. Over the years the two has learned to interpret silent looks and signals in each other. It was very useful at all times really. Like now, when Jonah wanted to know the status of something in advance. He was sure his second in command had already been let in on the news. No one else was ever really able to figure out what the pair was communicating, which was also more than a little useful.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victoria Genovese Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Sienna Rose Character Portrait: Anthony "Tony" Rizzo
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#, as written by Mela

“I know that. I hate him. But he’s the only other dead body that I’ve seen die.” Kole said, and Jonah sighed, at a loss as his hand fell from his son’s shoulder. He had nothing more to say. This was something Kole needed to sort through and deal with alone, because no one could help him. The patriarch only hoped his adoptive son was up for it… hoped so very badly that he’d pull through. That he was strong enough, or rather… cold enough. The ability to kill was not what defined strength in a man to Jonah, although many be think so of him. What defined strength was being able to pull through in spite of all odds being against you. Strength was balancing the dark sides of life and still finding room to let in the light. If you could do that, you were among the strongest of men… or women for that matter.

“I know,” Jonah finally noted quietly, letting his mask of coldness fade for brief moments with his son as he then continued, “Just promise me you will face this, Kole. Do not shut it out; do not try to ignore it. It will only come back and tear you apart later.” With that, Jonah sent the briefest of looks in Nate’s direction, but it was so quick there was no way to tell whether that was what he’d actually done, as he looked back at his son. Before the crime boss had a chance to say anymore, Nate’s voice rang out, and Jonah couldn’t stop himself from smiling wryly at the tone. The two of them shared a very distinct dislike for the casino manager, but he made money. Lots of money, and Jonah was not going to throw away a good investment unless he had very good cause to. Then his mask was back up suddenly.

In response to Nate’s words, Jonah checked his phone, frowning at the time. Was it really eight already? And Tony had yet to arrive? He glanced up at his second in command, placing the phone back in his pocket, almost too calmly. “Not here yet, as usual,” he said coolly. Rendetti, Mr. Mick Carter, and Miss Kalista Ross seemed to be the only ones who still had the ability to arrive on time. He and Nate would have to have a little… talk… with the rest of his associates. Jonah paused, his gaze landing on Kole once more when he began speaking, noting that he had to go… and that he needed something to take back to the unit. He listened quietly to all of it, nodding once when he had finished speaking.

Before he could reply, however, knocking sounded, and he took out his phone briefly, wanting to see if it was Tony like he’d requested, or not. Sure enough, the money maker had decided to show. Well, he would be let it whenever it damn well pleased the boss. And so, Jonah ignored him for now, putting his phone away and replying to his son. “I’ll be sure to look into it. Both the information and the hitch.” Jonah picked up the thank-you envelope from his desk and handed it to his son, more or less putting it into his hand for him. “Put it in the guest room’s safe for the evening, just in case.” He ordered casually. “And take the alternative way out.” Jonah had other ways to get out of his office than through the library. One of them was through the conference room, which led to a smaller hallway, which led to his and Vicky’s bedroom.

It wasn’t something he would usually allow, but he didn’t need Tony to get any interesting ideas about Kole, even if the cops did think he was spying on the Genovese for him. No reason to tempt fate. So he put the papers Kole had give him away and then opened the door for Kole, not bothering to see him through it before he moved towards the other door, noting behind him, “Nate, make sure he gets out of here, then make sure to keep Rizzo here while I speak with my dear wife. He’s at the door.” Then Jonah was out of the office, in the sitting room, and then in the library, to which he opened the door, facing Tony with a deadly cold look in his eyes.

“You’re late,” he merely stated, his tone dangerously calm. “I trust you will not be so next time I give you direct orders.” Then he opened the door wider. “Get inside.” Jonathon was clearly not pleased, and Rizzo would feel that soon enough. After the meeting, he would deal with those who had decided to be late. He gave the guy a coldly calculating look before he made his way downstairs, quick to distinguish his wife’s voice. Wait, had she just said Sienna? He would have frowned if he had been a male more expressive. Instead, Jonathon’s eyes merely hardened and he sped up, not even pausing to greet the people who were eagerly trying to talk to him. He didn’t stop until he was beside his wife, facing the other two ladies. Indeed. Sienna Rose. And Nate didn’t know she was there? Good.

Jonah cleared his throat to make his presence known, inclining his head quietly in Doctor Arden’s direction. A show of respect and a greeting all in one, but for her benefit, he added, “good evening, Doctor.” Then his gaze fell on Sienna, beyond ice cold, but he said nothing to her, instead he leaned in to whisper in his wife’s ear. “I will be starting the meeting in a couple of minutes. Make sure everyone’s busy, hm?” Then he straightened entirely, eyes once more on Sienna, anger seething in him. “Ah, and dear, would you please get this… woman… out of my house before I do it myself? Do not tell him anything.” He noted, taking one dangerously threatening step towards Sienna, his eyes almost murderous.

Then he leaned in to whisper, his voice menacing, but low enough to only be heard by her. “You practically tore out my best friend’s heart when you left him, you little bitch. You have a lot of nerve showing your face in my house. Get the fuck out before you leave here in a less than pretty state.” Before she could even reply, Jonah was off, not caring one bit why she was there or what purpose she served. All he cared about was keeping her away from Nate. The man was cracking enough as it was; he didn’t need this little lady to come screw any more with his head. In fact, Jonah was going to make sure she got the hell out of Manhattan as soon as possible. She had caused Nate enough pain, and Jonah honestly didn’t take too kindly to that.

As he walked back up the stairs, heading back to his office, Jonah sent out the text to all of his associates, minus Tony. They would all know who the text was from, but it was completely untraceable.

To: All business associates

”Library. Now. Slip out unnoticed.”

From: Sender Unknown

The setting changes from Genovese Mansion to Manhattan, New York

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victoria Genovese Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Sienna Rose Character Portrait: Anthony "Tony" Rizzo Character Portrait: Charlee Shaee Genovese
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#, as written by Mela
Jonathon Genovese

Jonah remained only to let Victoria speak, his gaze on the finger she was poking at him with. Once she was done menstruating, Jonah calmly but firmly took her wrist and removed her hand from his chest, before he, just as calmly, but with a cold gaze still, said “Victoria, do not start a scene.” His eyes flared up at that, a sliver of fire, his temper showing her to stop now else regret it. He really did not feel like dealing with her theatrics tonight. He would not tolerate her taking this route; he would have no social suicide tonight, and that was what the two of them arguing in the middle of this event, would be. “And I had every right. I don’t give a fuck who she is; don’t you dare go against me on this,” he said more quietly, for her ears only. Then he curtly gave her a nod and was off.

As he texted and walked, Jonah thought things over. Mostly him and Vicky. They had been slipping more and more apart lately, and where her defiance usually turned him on, it now irritated him instead. He didn’t know why, and he hated having to do this to his wife. He hated the fact that he wasn’t himself at the moment, and his intense focus on the business was pulling him away from his children too. Once in the private, quiet corridors upstairs, Jonah sighed, rubbing his neck. He loved Victoria; would do anything for her, but he would not draw her deeper into the business right now. He didn’t like the thought of her exposed and taking an obvious part in the business right now, because if he went down… then she would go down with him. And where would that leave their children?

Where would that leave his youngest son, who although bright, was far from ready to be by himself in the real world? What would happen to Charlee, who was already so very lost, Jonah had no idea how to help her? Ever since her pregnancy, Jonah had had people tracing her every move, so he knew more about her activities than a father would ever like to. He just wasn’t sure whether to tell Vicky or not. He’d told her about the abortion once it was done, but he had told her not to mention it to their daughter. Charlee had been plenty freaked as it was.

And then they had Lincoln. Their oldest kid, who although dyslexic was able to fight his way through college; how would he fare? Probably better than the others, but Linc would drop out of college. Jonah didn’t doubt that. His son was a fighter and he would devote all of his time to trying to help his siblings, while also wanting to keep some sliver of the business going. Jonah shook his head thinking about it. No. He couldn’t have Victoria anywhere near the line of fire anymore. The threat was too great. He knew she hated him for reducing her to what she called a trophy wife, but what else was he to do? Jonathon Genovese was out of options, and everything seemed to be falling apart at the seams.

He would simply have to take the time to explain all of his thought to his wife. The real problem here was their lack of communication. He barely had time to sit down and talk to her, but he was going to tonight. He didn’t care what needed his attention, or who was in trouble Tonight Jonah was going to be a husband to his wife, and he was going to make this deal with Sienna up to her. He didn’t yet know how, but he’d figure something out. Currently it was most important to at least explain everything to her, because obviously she was frustrated with his choices. He didn’t blame her – he really didn’t. He just wished she could understand him.

When the crime boss finally entered the library once more, his gaze landed on Tony, having strayed to Nate only briefly. “You know what’s quite amusing?” Jonah said calmly, his eyes inexpressive, but somehow cold regardless. “The fact that although you know how much I despise tardiness, you amazingly still manage to pull one every time. One more time, Rizzo, and you’re out.” Everyone knew that when Jonathon fired someone he took everything. So to Rizzo, that would mean losing every last cent he had earned while working for Jonah, which would, in essence, leave him broke as fuck. With that comment, Jonah looked up to see his other associates entering the library.

He regarded them with an inexpressive mien, a single nod being their welcome. Then he jumped right to it. “Follow me,” he said, his voice calm as he led his associates through his office and into the room behind it: the conference room. The long table had plenty of space for all of them, and Jonah seated himself at the end, letting Nate take his place on his right; his at all times. Once everyone was seated, Jonah’s calm gaze seemed to gaze into the soul of every person present as it roamed the room. Only after this, did the man in charge speak. “I realize many of you have questions, and I assume most of you are rather nervous regarding this raid the other day. This is exactly the reasons I have called this meeting. The authorities are on our tails, and they seem to be closing in. I will deal with that.” Somehow, he thought to himself.

Then he finally leaned forward and began the actual meeting. He took all questions, answered them, reassuring his associates. He kept everything tight, but in the end they would all feel like everything was solved and all their doubts had been assuaged, when in reality, all Jonah had did was play with the words a little. He had to, because his job was not to tell them the truth; his job was to keep them in line and to make sure there was no panic. His job, in essence, was to keep them working steadily, feeling safe as meat in a house of vegetarians.

Once the meeting finished, Jonah dismissed them all, but remained seated himself, knowing he had to tell Nate about Sienna. He hated that he had to; hated that the bitch was back in the first place, because odds were she would only mess his best friend up further. But then, he would rather Nathaniel found out from him than from some magazine of blubbering socialite who had “seen it all”. He sighed as the last one closed the door behind him, leaving Nathan and Jonah alone. Then he put his gaze on the man he loved as a brother. For what seemed like the first time in days, Jonah let the crime boss go entirely, his face of cold indifference, turning to that of a friend. A true friend. The man Jonah was at heart.

“Nate, I need to tell you something,” he began, “and when I do, I want you to remain calm. No rushing out on me or the party. I need you here tonight, okay? Too many people for me to feel comfortable having my kids here without you.” He looked at Nate seriously. His best friend knew better than anyone the toll the previous kidnapping of his children had taken on Jonah, and how paranoid it had made him. Jonah might be in possession of security by the dozen at this event, but he trusted no one more than Nate when it came to keeping his children safe. If Nate ran off like Jonah feared he would, then the crime boss would probably have a nervous breakdown of some sort. He also really didn’t want Nate around Sienna. But that was his own choice; his own life. All Jonah could do was… remove Sienna. Which he would. Soon. Quietly.

The setting changes from Manhattan, New York to Genovese Mansion

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victoria Genovese Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Charlee Shaee Genovese Character Portrait: Dylan Genovese
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Kalista Ross

Kalista had slipped in and out of the meeting as she had planned: silent and unnoticed. She hadn't given too much of a crap about the raids. She was loyal, but if those loyalties were stretched far enough, they were sure to snap. Kalista was not about to go to prison for the Genovese family and, if it came down to it, she had people all over the place who were more than willing to get her a private jet out of New York, or perhaps, out of America.

Despite her indifference toward the situation, Kalista made sure to flick her eyes up to meet the boss’s as she left the meeting, wanting to see how he felt toward the situation. Kalista had been grinning throughout the meeting, loving the way that the boss twisted his words and made his own associates -some of whom had seen him do this a hundred times- believe his every word. Again.

In truth, Kalista had been trying to avoid the boss since he had sent her flying into a bookcase. She knew that as a former marine and a current assassin, she should not shy away from someone simply because he gave her a tap. It was a sign of weakness. However, it was not the fact that he had hit her because Kalista had always mused at getting into the boxing ring with the boss, but rather it was the fact that she could not fight back. Had she fought back and punched him square in the jaw like she had wanted to, there was no doubt that Mr. Genovese would have found a new assassin as quickly as he had found her. So instead, Kalista had made herself seem indifferent toward the situation and no one had noticed her dodging the boss. If anyone had, they were at least smart enough to avert Kalista’s gaze.

As she scrutinized the boss, Kalista could see that he was on edge about something that wasn't the raids. Perhaps, she thought, it was the family. Kalista quickly stopped herself from musing on the subject. She knew better than to meddle in family matters, especially when it came to the Genovese family.

Kalista stepped quietly out of the library, her heels making small clicking noises on the tile. As she walked along the rail, she peered down into the crowd. Clusters of rich art snobs shuffled along the floor. One group spoke heatedly about the art –which Kalista could see they knew nothing about- while another group had had one too many glasses of champagne and were laughing loudly about something or other. Kalista took a moment to chuckle at them before descending down the rest of the stairs.

Out of good manners and simply wanting to observe the various guests, Kalista decided that she would stay a while longer. Not really having many friends inside the business, Kalista reserved herself to walking through the throngs of people. In one mingling cluster, Kalista found herself pretending to be the young wife of a wealthy investor, while in another, Kalista had inherited millions from her father’s oil business. Kalista found herself sharing fake stories about her prosperity and while the group would laugh over her story, Kalista would be laughing at the fact that they had believed her.

As she hopped from group to group, Kalista made sure to keep an eye on the happenings with the business. She noticed the siblings standing to one end of the room, one seething Victoria Genovese being ushered back into the house by her son and then linking arms with her adoptive son, and a variety of other events going on. Kalista liked being in the business because it was one of the few things in life that always kept her guessing. The other associates, the family, and even the people she was assigned to kill were always interesting. As she thought of this, Kalista felt a bit of pride that she was no longer a freelance assassin and thief, but rather an ally to one of the most powerful families in the city. That not only gave Kalista recognition, it also gave her power within the world of thieves and hired guns.

The setting changes from Genovese Mansion to Manhattan, New York

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victoria Genovese Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Sienna Rose Character Portrait: Nate Hagen
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#, as written by Mela

Why was he doing this again? Why was he telling his best friend that the girl, who had broken his heart, had decided to come back to New York? Well… because he had to. Right? He couldn’t not tell him. He’d decided that much already, so why was he hesitating? He knew he had to; knew that if he didn’t, Nate would find out elsewhere, but still… Jonah paused when Nate looked at him. It was odd, really, considering Nate was closer to Jonah than any other man, so Jonah should know how to tell him things like this, but he found himself unsure of how to word this in the best way possible.

Perhaps it was because he cared too much. Jonah had trained himself not to care a long time ago, or rather, maybe circumstances had done that for him, but still, his family was his weak spot, and Nate was a part of it. Jonah stood as Nate asked him what it was, prompting him to tell him, since Jonah had kept quiet for a while. He pulled on his cuff links, straightening his shoulders as he easily fixed his suit to sit perfectly once more before he looked over at his best friend, hating Sienna for even being there. Hating her for forcing him to do this, because she’d just had to show up at his house.

Hell, Victoria had probably been so pissed with him she’d convinced the bitch to stay, so Nate would maybe have to face that too. He suspected he wouldn’t mind that himself though. Fact was he’d probably try to find her once Jonathon did tell him she was back, which was a problem in itself. For some reason the guy had been rather attached to Sienna. Jonah didn’t get it. She was a self-righteous, fake little snake in the grass, and though Jonah hadn’t minded her too terribly much before she’d left, he now despised her. Bad things had a tendency of happening to people Jonah didn’t like.

He’d have to talk to Kalista about that. He didn’t like keeping secrets from Nate, and he rarely ever did it, but this was different. Because he cared about her. But honestly Jonah would have had her dead, gone once and for all, instead of her disappearing again, only to come back, and then disappear, and come back… and so forth. It would tear Nate apart if she split on him again. Jonah wasn’t blind either; he knew she hated him too, but honestly, he couldn’t care less. She merely needed someone to blame for Nate being in the life he was in, because it didn’t fit her image of the ideal.

Fact was, however, that all of this had been Nate’s choice. A long time ago, when Jonah came back into the business after finishing his degree, he had asked Nate whether he’d be interested. There had been no pressure. Nate had said yes. Jonah sometimes blamed himself for Vicky’s involvement, but not Nate’s. Nate had made a clear choice, and though he did hate the fact that it seemed things were falling apart to him, Jonah didn’t feel like that was his fault.

After a little while of consideration, Jonah finally sighed, and spoke. He had not put the face of the crime boss back on. Rather, he had let his friend see the person he knew behind the mask, because this was not business. This was family, and it was personal. “It’s about Sienna Rose,” he started, his voice soft but serious, much like Nate’s as he looked into the man’s eyes, pausing before he continued, elaborating, “She’s back… in New York. For a job, it seems; MET curator.”

He stopped then as he looked at his friend, gauging his reaction, reading every little move on his face.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victoria Genovese Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross
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#, as written by Korrye

Kole felt caught up in a whirlwind of family drama. For as much as he had missed his family, he had not anticipated a soap opera upon his return. He stiffly watched his adopted parents argue with each other. He knew things had been building between them but for Victoria and Jonathon to yell at each other in public was something else. It was unheard of. As his mother raced off Sienna Rose, Kole stepped toward Jonathon, biting his tongue, feeling like his own issues were an unnecessary addition to all that the man was dealing with. Shouldn’t have said anything, he thought to himself. But how could he not have? What was done was done. Kole kept his head bowed as his father walked away, eyes glued to his phone. Circling on his foot, he saw Victoria returning with Lincoln on his arm. Kole watched his brother wearily, knowing that they had never gotten along very well.

He turned then, and pushed his way through the crowds into the main dining hall turned gallery. The various pieces that had been donated to their cause were brilliantly displayed. Most were paintings through a handful of sculptures were scattered throughout. He was immediately out of his comfort zone. Despite how many times he had been dragged by Victoria to exhibitions and museums he had never quite grasped by someone’s splashing of paint on a canvas could suddenly make something worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Or millions if you were looking at the classical pieces. It made him shake his head and at that one of the MET personnel turned to look at him, about to ask him something when suddenly his adoptive mother returned, free of her son, and grabbing onto him quickly.

“Kole, darling. Time to make our bit,” Victoria instructed, looping her arm through his and walking with him into the make-shift auction room. Kole swallowed, remaining quiet and scanning the faces of the crowd, all of which were more than willing to offer him penetrating gazes. “Do they know what I’ve done?” he wondered, feeling his earlier anxiety return. When Victoria stepped away to take the podium he was content to stand behind her and offside while she introduced the story of how she had become involved with Homeward Bound, what it meant to her to ensure a better life for Kole who had been homeless and a runaway from foster care when he had been introduced to the family. Her speech neglected the details – making their meeting like a glorious union made with a social worker, and not the fact that he had been found starving and stealing from a restaurant dumpster that had belonged to the Genovese’s. It painted over his destitution, a means to save face yes but also a lie that didn’t sit well with him. Then suddenly it was his turn to speak, and he knew it was important to look as good as the boy Victoria had painted him to be. Patted on the shoulder by his mother, he stepped up to the podium when she concluded and pulled out three index cards that he had scrawled some talking points on in his nearly illegible handwriting. Clearing his throat, the room fell silent and Kole looked out onto the waiting crowd and again their searing eyes.

“My name is Kole Marinos,” he began. Sucking in his cheeks, he sighed, glancing over his points before realizing he wanted to say something else entirely. He gathered them up and flipped them underside before shifting, tilting his head and sorting through his chaotic mind. “Many people don’t know this, but I grew up in Chicago. My father was a drug addict and loanshark. My mother was an exotic dancer, a pretty way of saying that she was a prostitute. Call them humble beginnings but I don’t. I know that my mother means well when she describes me as the son she always wanted, but I wasn’t. I was troubled. And if it wasn’t for them and Homeward Bound, I am pretty sure that I would be dead today…”

* * *

He couldn’t even focus on the success of the auction. As the auctioneer announced the grand total spent on art that evening, Kole was withdraw, his eyes glazed over. He didn’t see the people in front of him. Instead he smelt blood and gunshot residue, the burning of the pistol, the sound of the gun in his ears. Nothing could bring it out of his mind. As Victoria began to receive guests, he put a hand on her shoulder and stepped away, knowing she was mid conversation and would find him later. He had permission to spend the night and he intended to but for now, he was curious if the meeting was over. He knew that many people had killed within the organization, but he also knew that one did it more often than most. Kole was familiar with Kalista Ross. In fact, he had her number and had been told to forward her information if something was urgent. It should have been Kalista who took out Frank, but Kole had wanted to do it himself for some stupid reason. It wasn’t a mistake. You were protecting yourself and everyone here.

As he strode amongst the guests who now sipped cocktails and ate appetizers, he noticed the assassin talking amongst a flurry of upper east siders. Dressed in red, she was hard to miss, especially given the fact that her dress was cut to reveal her legs in the front. Kole swallowed and stepped up behind her, finding himself quickly amused by her lies.

“Now darling,” he hushed her, putting a hand on her shoulder and feeling the lie slide off his tongue, just as his sincerity in the auction room had. “Can we speak?” he asked gently, looking across at a pair of theatrical looking rich socialites. The man in the couple looked unimpressed with him. “Kole Marinos,” he introduced himself, sticking his hand out to the man. “Without donations from the likes of you, my kind would be dead. But I’m sure you’d prefer it that way right?” His snarkiness caught them off guard, but he couldn’t help but be bitter. The front melted away the moment the couple stepped back and Kole looked down at Kalista. As a waiter passed by he grabbed a glass of whiskey and a glass of red wine.

“In all seriousness though, can we talk? Somewhere private might be better.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Kalista Ross
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Kalista Ross

Kalista was in the middle of telling a rich couple about her and her husband's Safari trip to Africa when she felt a man's hand on her shoulder. It took every ounce of Kalista's self control to deny her instinct to turn and punch the man attached to the hand. However, as Kalista turned to see who it was, she was glad that she had kept herself in check.

Kalista felt both angry with Kole for interrupting her conversation and amused with his snark. She chuckled and placed a hand on his chest lovingly. "Honey, I was just telling them about our marvelous Safari trip," Kalista said with a smile over at the couple. She chuckled as if there was some untold inside joke between the four of them; however, the couple still grumbled about Kole's bitterness as they backed off.

Once they were out of earshot, Kalista turned toward Kole and looked at him as he grabbed a glass of wine and a glass of whiskey from the passing waitress. Kalista gave him a mischievous smile and looked up at him with a shrug. "C'mon, I was having fun," Kalista said in her normal, playful tone. She had known Kole for quite some time. He was around the same age as her and they had gotten along. Despite the fact that Kole was nearly a member of the Genovese family, Kalista felt more comfortable around him than she did around the family members. She worked for the family, but she was not buddy-buddy with any of the family members. However, since Kole was technically not related to them, Kalista felt that she did not have to be as formal with him.

“In all seriousness though, can we talk? Somewhere private might be better.”

Kalista's playful smile fell as she saw the seriousness on Kole's face and heard it in his voice. His featured showed something more than just seriousness. The man was carrying a weight on his shoulders. It reminded Kalista of the look she had seen in the forces when a new recruit made their first kill. Kalista tried not to make it obvious that she could see his true emotions that were playing inside his mind. Often times, her ability to understand and tell a person's emotions made people wary of Kalista. Quite frankly, it freaked some people out. Instead of call his emotions out on the spot, she hid her knowing look from Kole.

Kalista sighed deeply and nodded to the man. "You know this house better than I do. Lead the way." She made a sweeping gesture as she spoke, signalling for him to show her to 'somewhere private'. In truth, she knew the house inside and out like the back of her hand. It had seemed important when she was first recruited to work for the Genovese. However, noticing Kole's unease, she knew that it was a good-hearted gesture to have him choose a place for them to talk.

Kalista looked up at Kole and discretely looked over his features. He was definitely carrying some burden and she knew that that was what he had wanted to talk to her about. It was clearly not a friendly conversation he was looking for. Kalista sighed once more and hooked an arm through his as she waited for him to lead her to a more private part of the mansion.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Kalista Ross
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#, as written by Korrye

It was so easy to forget that the woman in front of him, so casually embodying the role of an upper east side socialite, was only two years older than him. It wasn’t often that Kole got to see Kalista. The woman was always in and out of the mansion when he had lived there. They had exchanged passing glances a dozen times before he finally asked Jonathon who she was, why she was so important, why she always was there and then gone. He was sixteen when he learned that Jonathon had a contract killer on his payroll. When Kalista had come into Jonah’s service a few years back, Kole had been curious about her. Never had a woman been the hired gun. She had the look of a bond girl and a cunning sly fox charm about her that drew him in. Victoria had always turned him in the other direction, arguing that he was not to talk to her beyond common courtesy. It was obvious that his adoptive mother didn’t like the woman. Talking to her when he could was the one form of rebellion he had against Victoria. It was enthralling to stand there, to watch her turn around and mischievously smile at him. Kole stared at her fingers as they danced across his chest, toying with the collar of his suit jacket before patting it. He smiled wryly before telling off the couple she had been talking to.

The older pair were barely ten feet away when she whirled back towards him. He held his claimed drinks, offering her the wine as she grinned at him. How could she manage to smile like that when what she did for a living was so…heavy? he wondered. He intended to find out and as she admitted to her lies and wanting to have fun he shrugged, asking her to speak with him in private. He saw her smile disappear in a split second. The playful smiles disappeared and Kalista moved from being as carefree as Charlee to the serious attentive woman that she had to be on the job. He looked away from her when she cast him an analytical gaze.

When she sighed, he tensed. Looking back at her, Kole felt like he was standing on a bed of pins. Then she nodded and he exhaled. He took the glass of whiskey to his lips and downed half of it in one go. The liquor was smooth, burning and bringing him back to full awareness. As a waiter walked by he put the remainder of the glass on the tray and let it go, knowing he would be in trouble if he finished it.

"You know this house better than I do. Lead the way,” she offered, allowing her hand to cut through the air in a sweeping motion. A killer’s arm,” he reminded himself. And yet she still looks dainty.

“You’ve been here enough times to know it through and through,” he countered, raising an eyebrow at her comment before extending his elbow for her to take as his mother had hours before. Kole turned and the crowds behind them parted as he began to walk authoritatively towards the back kitchen. He didn’t want to take the main staircase and risk being seen heading upstairs with the woman. The socialites would be scandalized and worse his parents would be demanding. He didn’t feel like weighing down the Genoveses with any more of his issues. Instead he stepped into the kitchen where the chefs team were preparing desserts. He slid his suit jacket off then and tucked it around her shoulders before opening a set of doors heading out onto the back terrace of the house – the very same place he had spoken with Nate initially.

“It’s cold,” he muttered, trying to be chivalrous but knowing she had braved far worse than a few degrees below zero. He took her hand again as they stepped outside and proceeded across the patio, beyond the wicker furniture, to a pool house at the back of the property. The walk took no more than two minutes but as they removed themselves from the auction, they were accompanied only by the noise of the city and the idle chirping of stray crickets.

When he approached the door, he knelt in a garden next to it and picked up a fake rock, sliding off the back to collect a key that he could use to unlock the door. As he opened it, it held it for her and gestured her into what was more of a guesthouse than a storeroom for pool related toys and chemicals. He had been permitted to stay in it when he had initially moved in with the Genoveses. Victoria hadn’t been one hundred percent comfortable with him being in the house at first. The sofa had doubled as a futon. He stepped forward and turned on only one lamp before sitting on the couch opposite her and sighing.

“I know you can see it,” he began, looking at her with a tilt of his head. “I had to kill a man for Jonathon yesterday. He was ready to blow my cover.” The explanation rolled off his tongue so easily now that it was the third time he was telling someone. Kalista knew that Kole was Jonathon’s inside man within the joint task force assigned to take him down. “It was time sensitive. I would have forwarded the information to you but it just seemed quicker to do it by myself, to find out what he knew.”

Kole paused, his brow creasing as he fought away the images from his mind again. He wanted to be present, in the room with Kalista and not in his head and back in that moment. “I shot him. I watched him die. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a dead body. My father died in my arms. But I can’t stop seeing it. I close my eyes, he’s there. I become distracted. He’s there. How do you do it? How do you deal with…killing people?”

It was such a blunt question. When it was out there he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and his chin balanced in his hands.

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Character Portrait: Victoria Genovese Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Dylan Genovese Character Portrait: Lincoln Genovese
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Hearing her mother exhale, as if taking her very first breath made Lincoln curse in his head. Whatever happened between his mother and his father is all Dr. Rose’s fault. As he ushered his mother inside, he felt her mother lean against him. That subtle gesture made him worry. His mother was the epitome of a self empowered woman. Strong and independent. Yet warm and nurturing. Victoria Genovese got balls. Just about the only person who would go head to head with his father.

“I look forward to catching up.”

He just smiled. He’s pretty sure that’s code for Lincoln-Genovese-Are-you-dating-another-Airhead/Scatterbrained-Model? He made a mental note to evade that topic. He let her go, then he added “You’re gonna be ok, right?”

He went to the bar and asked for his Second favourite poison: scotch on the rocks. He thanked the bartender and walked away with his drink. Tilting the glass and hearing the ice clink got him to contemplating. Funny he’s never been a Beer-kinda guy. He’d discovered that early in life. It was his high school senior year and he was invited to a party. One thing led to another and next thing he knew, he was playing beer pong and losing fabulously. He threw up his innards 30 minutes after. Later on, he discovered that he favoured hard drinks. It would seem like his Genovese genes hardwired him to only go for the best.

The auction ended and people were filing to the dining room. He saw his mother going for the bathroom and Kole talking to the beautiful Miss Kalista Ross. The couple disappeared to the gardens. Well what d’ya know ? His boy got game. He grinned at that. His cell beeped. He ignored it. It’s probably Candy asking him where he was.

He walked to the dining table and seated himself next to Dylan. His brother was putting on a very convincing show of smiling and making small talk. However, he could see right through the facade. And being the big brother that he was, he just couldn’t resist teasing him.

“Your girlfriend replied yet?” He asked casually.

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Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Kalista Ross
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Kalista Ross

Kalista grinned at Kole’s comment on her frequent trips to the mansion. It was true that she knew the mansion backwards, sideways, and upside-down, but it was not unusual for her. Call it habit from scrutinizing blueprints and exit strategies in the military, but Kalista always made sure to know at very least the exits to any and every building she entered.

The pair walked arm-in-arm to the kitchen, away from the art coinsures and into the bustling world of chefs preparing elegant, dainty pastries. Kalista was caught up for a moment in the busy workers until Kole slung his jacket over her shoulders and brought her back down to earth. Truthfully, she did not need to the jacket. She could handle the biting cold. However, that did not mean that she wasn’t grateful for the added heat of Kole’s jacket; especially considering that her dress did not offer much in terms of warmth. As they stepped out and a sudden chill hit Kalista, she nodded a thank you to Kole and offered him a gracious smile along with a small, undetectable shiver.

Once she had gotten used to the persistent wintry breeze, their stroll to the guesthouse was quite lovely to Kalista. It was peaceful and serene despite the constant buzz of Manhattan. Rather than being lit by stars, the sky was lit by the bright city lights. To some it seemed strange and repulsing that humans could block out the stars like that, but to Kalista it was aw-inspiring.

As they stepped inside the small room, Kalista was glad that Kole decided to be a gentleman and not take his jacket back from around her shoulders. Although the room protected them from the wind outside, it clearly was not heated, or had not been in a very long time. Kalista sat down across from Kole and crossed her legs. Her dress slipped slightly and nearly revealed her concealed pistol, but she quickly wrapped the dress back around her leg as to keep the gun out of sight. Everyone within the Genovese family was sure to know that she had a weapon on her at nearly every moment, but Kalista made sure that no one saw them unless she was using it against them.

As Kole began to explain the situation to her, Kalista gazed at him with understanding eyes. There had been a time when Kalista had been in the very same position as Kole. Even more so than before, he reminded her of the new recruits from overseas. Although Kole was less disheveled and boyish than the rookies Kalista had sometimes been forced to work with, he still had the same look on his face. A look that contain a mixture of anger, confusion, and something close to fear.

Kalista knew it was coming before the words came out of his mouth. She knew that he was bound to ask the one question that she had been asked by so many of the younger team members in combat. “How do you do it? How do you deal with killing people?” If she had seen it coming from so far away, then why did it still surprise her when the words were finally uttered? Perhaps it was because it was the first time someone had asked her since the war. Perhaps it was because she had seen men ruined by the fact that they had killed a human being. And she didn’t want that to happen to Kole. Whatever the case, Kalista did a mental double-take but kept her features immaculate.

With a heavy sigh, Kalista leaned forward as well, balancing one elbow on her crossed legs. No matter how many times she was asked this question, answering it never got any easier. She looked down at her hands and gave a dry chuckle, masking the pain she felt as she tried to speak over the lump in her throat. “I can’t tell you how many times I had people ask me that same question overseas.” Kalista blinked rapidly and then finally looked up, her piercing deep blue eyes peering at Kole with a determined look. “Everyone always seems to think that the way to cope is to just forget that it ever happened and there’s no doubt that someone will tell you to just push it out of your mind.” Kalista paused both to let that sink in and to gather her own thoughts before she spoke again. “But it’s exactly the opposite. Not only is it harder to forget, but it doesn’t help. Forgetting only makes it harder when the thoughts rear their ugly heads back in. I can see that look on your face and I know that you’re trying to push the memories out of your head. I don’t know your reason for pushing the thoughts away because everyone has a different reason but I do know that it’s not good for you. It happened and no matter how hard you try, there’s no denying it. So, I don’t care whether you killed one or a dozen men; just remember them. If you don’t remember them -if you dehumanize them, pretend they never existed, or pretend that you weren’t the one that killed them- not only are you an idiot for lying to yourself, you’re also a coward for not coping with it. You remember that man, Kole, but don’t let him get into your head.”

As Kalista ended her rant, she looked at Kole’s face and suddenly flashed back to her first kill. It had been at close range. An “intimate kill” as many psychology books called it. It had only been her third week in combat when a small group of enemies had found their way into her camp. She was woken by the echoes of gunshots and the heavy stomping of boots. Much like in training, Kalista had put on her gear, grabbed her multiple firearms, and was about to head out the door. However, just as she was going for the door, it came right off its hinges and the world slowed. It all happened within a matter of seconds, but it felt like several minutes for Kalista. All at once, she saw the enemy turn toward her, she heard nothing but the sound of her own heartbeat, and she felt her own hand raising the gun to aim at the man in the doorway. Then it was over. She had done it without even thinking. The man was down with a hole in his chest. Only after everything had calmed down did Kalista have time to think about what she had done. She had killed someone. And she felt like an absolutely horrible person. Afterwards, Kalista had been depressed and had even considered suicide. But she had kept going. She remembered it and kept on going, and she was still going to this day because she remembered it all. In some strange way, it was like losing a loved one. There was no point in trying to forget about the person or their death. Remembering them is the best way to cope. If you tried to forget it, the emotions eventually become too much and you lose your head.

As Kalista suddenly snapped back to reality, she found she was still looking at Kole’s features and it was all so real. Kalista leaned forward even further and put a hand on each of Kole’s cheeks. If he had not been listening before, she made sure that he was now. She straightened his gaze and forced him to look her in the eye. “Listen to me Kole. I have seen too many good men go and drink themselves to death because they believed they weren’t good people. You are a good man. It’s always hard to remember that you killed another man. But that doesn't make you a horrible human being. You remember what you did, but you don’t let this get to you and you do not let this define you. You hear me?“

Kalista did not drop her hands and she did not drop her gaze until he answered her in order to make her point absolutely clear. If Kole was a bad person for killing one man, what did that make Kalista?

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Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Kalista Ross
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#, as written by Korrye

Kole watched Kalista carefully, continuing to rest his chin in his hands. He felt the gravity of his question strike him. He had always known when he was younger that he would undeniably kill a person in his lifetime. He had expected for it to happen sooner if he was being honest with himself. The string of crimes he had committed when he was younger was heinous, more than enough for most kids to land themselves in juvenile detention for years. Then when he had found out the true nature of the Genovese family business he had known again that it would happen. Yet when it had, he had still shocked himself, so much so that he sat there in front of an assassin jumpy and with twitching fingers. His body seemed repulsed by himself and he could only explain it by his actions. Killing was wrong. Justifying it as he tried to didn’t seem to work. There seemed to be no exception in his head now. But there he was, a member of a joint task force. Even his own unit was surprised that he didn’t have a death over his head yet. Now he did though. He just couldn’t handle it. It was gnawing at him painfully.

“I can’t tell you how many times I had people ask me that same question overseas,” Kalista replied, at first looking away from him. Kole couldn’t tell if his question perturbed her or not but she did seem slightly less comfortable by it. He inhaled when he stared at him directly, the soft happy go lucky quality of her gaze gone entirely. The assassin in her was wholeheartedly staring at him and he knew he was afraid, he just didn’t want to admit it to himself or her.

“Everyone always seems to think that the way to cope is to just forget that it ever happened and there’s no doubt that someone will tell you to just push it out of your mind,” Kalista explained, taking a moment to pause. Kole ran his tongue over his lips and nodded at her. It was the only thing his body seemed to want to do, rejecting what he had done. He could say that he had killed someone and yet at moments it didn’t feel like he had done anything. But the secret, the lack of owning up to it to himself, to what he had done, was there and burning his heart from the inside out. It was straining and vicious. He had someone’s life on his hands, a man he didn’t even know but it was still a man whose face was in his head every second of every minute of every hour of every day now. Twenty four hours after and it was getting worse, not better.

“But it’s exactly the opposite. Not only is it harder to forget, but it doesn’t help. Forgetting only makes it harder when the thoughts rear their ugly heads back in,” Kalista continued. Her words caught his attention then and he looked back at her, finding himself caught in the ferocity of his eyes, knowing his own were watery and bloodshot. He shifted his hands then to fists, feeling the tension as momentarily stress relieving. “I can see that look on your face and I know that you’re trying to push the memories out of your head. I don’t know your reason for pushing the thoughts away because everyone has a different reason but I do know that it’s not good for you. It happened and no matter how hard you try, there’s no denying it. So, I don’t care whether you killed one or a dozen men; just remember them. If you don’t remember them -if you dehumanize them, pretend they never existed, or pretend that you weren’t the one that killed them- not only are you an idiot for lying to yourself, you’re also a coward for not coping with it. You remember that man, Kole, but don’t let him get into your head.”

When she concluded, he found himself nodding all the way through, rocking back and forth in his seat. But when she finished Kole shook his head, turning his left cheek to her and staring across the room at the white floors and walls. When he blinked, the walls were covered in blood spray, the noise of a gunshot rang through his ears and he winced. Frank Karparthy’s face was there in his head, stuttering and bumbling and dropping his folders of paperwork.

Kole jerked when Kalista’s cold hands touched his face. He pulled back and his hands immediately went to hers. He blinked twice as he focused back on her features and then he slackened, breathing deeply through his nose. Allowing his hands to slide off hers and back to his thighs with a slap, he sighed and then leaned back towards her. It was all momentary reflex, so fast to the average person, but he didn’t doubt that her attentive gaze caught it all.

“Listen to me Kole. I have seen too many good men go and drink themselves to death because they believed they weren’t good people. You are a good man. It’s always hard to remember that you killed another man. But that doesn't make you a horrible human being. You remember what you did, but you don’t let this get to you and you do not let this define you. You hear me?” she asked him defiantly. He stared back at her for a moment, silent and staring at her, trying to not look as broken as he was feeling.

“How are you older than me?” he asked then. “So much wiser. Still as pretty as the day you walked in here.”

His words were meant as a distraction to himself but it didn’t work. Kole sighed then, nodding as best he could with his head in her hands, biting his tongue. “I hear you,” he admitted then. “Jonathon told me the same thing, to live with it, absorb it, and to not just reject it. I grew up in as immoral a household as one can get. My mother was a whore. My father had people killed over petty debts. I was abused. I was starved. I was a criminal at ten years old. Yet after my parents were killed and I got into so much trouble, I was sent to my grandfathers upstate, my mother’s father. He was a hard ass Russian immigrant but he taught me things…morals, values…things that have stayed with me. And now they’re making my mind twist in circles over what I’ve done and for what? Two values I hold so dear – to protect those close to me at all costs and to never kill – they’re irreconcilable to me now. And I can’t wrap my head around it. And I know this is only the first time of what will be more in the future. A sad thing to admit. I am trained for it all – not quite like you. But enough that for me to be lethal is easier than most. Except this thing in my head, this belief. I have never believed in God Kalista, never, and yet I feel like I’m sinning and I can’t explain it. I’m angry with myself and yet I’m proud. I don’t know what to do.”

He sighed then, his own tirade over, his eyes narrowing as he pulled back from her to sit back on the couch, reclining into the cushions and throwing his arms back. “I understand know why soldiers have a tendency to drown themselves in liquor and women,” he scoffed at himself. “I’m sorry if this is heavy. I never intended to dump all of this on you now. I don’t talk to people like this. Ever. But you’re you. You just seem like the type of person to understand. And I’ve always admired you and it’s not like you’re always around to bother me about this.” At that he concluded, feeling like he had said too much. He didn’t know what she would say then and that in and of itself was intimidating. Does she think I’m some immature baby who’s never seen anything?

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Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Kalista Ross
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Kalista Ross

Kalista could not help the small grin as Kole commented quietly on her wisdom. Kalista did not feel wise in the least, but she appreciated Kole’s compliment. Kalista wished that Kole could meet some of the people that trained her. Then he’d see real wisdom. They’d probably be able to console him better than she could.

Kalista slowly lowered her hands from Kole’s face as he began to talk about his family life. The fact that Kole was ranting to her about his past was both uncomfortable and pleasant. Since coming back from combat, Kalista hadn’t had many people who felt comfortable enough around her to open up like Kole was doing. This in itself made Kalista uncomfortable, but gratified by the fact that he felt comfortable enough to talk to her, even if he was talking to her about murdering someone.

When Kole had finished speaking, for the first time in years, Kalista found herself remembering her own family. She had never truly spoken to anyone about them and she did not plan to talk to anyone in the future. Some people who had been around long enough knew a bit about her family by virtue of the fact that Kalista’s father had been a drug trafficker for the old crime boss. However, not many people who were still alive ever knew her feelings on her family. Kalista’s father was the one who initially taught her everything from how to pick a lock to how to shoot a rifle. So by all means Kalista had not been brought up in a moral house either. However, her parents loved Kalista and her sister and had always attempted to keep the crime out of their home. They had not been the most ethical family, but they worked well together and everyone had put in at least a little effort to keep them a family.

Occasionally when Kalista would drink one too many, she would find herself thinking about what her parents might think if they saw her now. What would they think if they saw their happy-go-lucky Kalista as a big, bad assassin? Would they blame themselves? Maybe they’d blame their murderer. And what about Kalista’s nephew? It seems that after his mother -Kalista’s sister- died, he too had taken a turn for the worst. Now he was a drug lord who didn’t even know his aunt and was threatening the most powerful crime family in the city. Kalista sighed lightly as these thoughts came down on her, but shook them off and looked back at Kole, giving him her full attention.

Kalista sat back slightly on the chair, mimicking Kole, but kept her legs crossed and her arms laying lazily on one armrest. “I understand know why soldiers have a tendency to drown themselves in liquor and women.” Kalista couldn’t help but stiffen somewhat at the comment. Kole didn’t know that when she had made that exact comment, she had been talking about herself. After coming back, Kalsita had drowned herself in alcohol, drugs, sex, anything to take her mind off the emotional trauma. She had gone against everything that she had just told Kole. The only person that knew about that chunk of her life was the boss and that was only because he had hired her when she was still in that state.

Kalista silently swallowed the lump in her throat as Kole continued speaking. “I’m sorry if this is heavy. I never intended to dump all of this on you now. I don’t talk to people like this. Ever. But you’re you. You just seem like the type of person to understand. And I’ve always admired you and it’s not like you’re always around to bother me about this.” Kalista snorted at this and gave Kole a saddened, warm smile which she never gave to anyone. It was slightly unnerving to Kalista that she would ever be able to smile like that to someone who was connected so closely with the boss. By all means, Kole was an acquaintance, but he was not someone whom Kalista should be giving warm, friendly smiles to. Kalista blinked twice to stop her musing on the subject. There was no reason for her to get caught up on the subject. It was just a smile.

Kalista shook her head slightly, one long curl bouncing in her face. She pushed it away aimlessly. “I’m not exactly the greatest role model.” Kalista said it with a playful smile, joking once again about the fact that she was only two years older than him, but there was a hint of seriousness in her voice. She didn’t want anyone to see her in that light. A lying, thieving assassin was not someone you admired.

Kalista sighed for the umpteenth time that night, but it was quieter and less forced than the others had been. Suddenly feeling a chill, Kalista slowly sat up straighter and balled the edges of Kole’s jacket in her fists slightly. With a small smile still playing on her face, Kalista looked away from Kole so that her right cheek was facing him and continued speaking, “But thank you. I don’t get many people that actually talk to me.” Kalista’s smile turned to a sadder, sweeter smile as she turned back to Kole. “And I do understand. I was in the same place as you once.” Kalista cut the sentence off, making sure to convey the message to Kole that that was as far as she was willing to elaborate on her past.

A moment of silence passed before Kalista was serious once more, but not so intensely as she had been before. She looked at Kole, trying to convey as much truth in her eyes as she could. “You may think yourself weak for feeling like this, but you’re not. Being in this business is hard and you’re strong, Kole. Stronger than a lot of soldiers I’ve seen. And that’s saying something.”

Another moment of silence passed, but Kalista felt a weight had been dropped at what had passed between them. “I’ve never believed in God either, but if there is a hell and you’re going there, I don’t wanna know where I’m going.” Kalista gave a soft snicker, trying to loosen at least a bit of the tension Kole was feeling. Kalista had been truthful about every word she had said to Kole and now all she could do was hope that he listened to anything she had said.

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Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Kalista Ross
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#, as written by Korrye

“I’m not exactly the greatest role model,” Kalista smiled, shrugging at herself. Kole maintained a serious face however, knowing that he was being sincere – even if she didn’t want to accept it. “I’d like to think you’re more honorable than most people in this business,” he countered, watching her as she sighed and shifted, looking uncomfortable. Kole didn’t miss that she gathered up his suit jacket coat in her hands due to the cold. The heat was definitely off and were they spending more time there he would have offered to start a fire in the small fireplace across from them. In fact, he wanted to. Going back into the gala was not something he was looking forward to.

Kalista turned her cheek to him and Kole leaned forward again, watching her look at the wall to their left. “But thank you. I don’t get many people that actually talk to me. And I do understand. I was in the same place as you once,” she concluded. Kole knew she wasn’t about to spill her guts to him and he respected that but it only made him more curious. What would Jonathon think if I asked about her? he wondered. He grew concerned as her smile faded momentarily. “You may think yourself weak for feeling like this, but you’re not. Being in this business is hard and you’re strong, Kole. Stronger than a lot of soldiers I’ve seen. And that’s saying something,” she explained. Kole nodded but he still didn’t believe it, no more than Kalista was taking his comments. Still, the seriousness of her words struck him and Kole shifted, rubbing at the crown of his hair to pre-occupy himself. He didn’t have anything to say in return to that.

“I’ve never believed in God either, but if there is a hell and you’re going there, I don’t wanna know where I’m going,” Kalista chuckled. Kole lost his serious face then and his frown turned into a smirk. “I could kiss you right now,” he admitted, shaking his head and feeling his desire to laugh grow, not at her but at their respective situations. He couldn't imagine the things she had seen and done, how many people she had killed. His comment was sarcastic, one signalling his appreciation more than his crush on her. He didn't want to make things more awkward.

Kole moved to stand then, knowing that he was feeling better – and better able to hide the war going on in his mind. “Now, are we staying here? They keep the mini bar well stocked. Or are we going back into the jungle? To deal with the barbarians and socialites without lives who like to make themselves feel better by pretending to care about serious issues?” the offer rolled off his tongue smoothly and he shifted his shirt then, undoing the cuffs so that his wrists were freer. To be honest the shirt itself was probably a size too small, the collar almost too tight which was why he preferred to keep it unbuttoned to a degree.

He wanted to go to the shooting range then, or a run through the park. Still, he knew he had an obligation to stay at the mansion overnight. Victoria wanted to speak with him. Jonathon still had to give him the small bit of information to appease his superiors. There was other business to discuss, including the new field guy. Kole had met him the day before and staring into the brutal eyes of Lucas Hitch had been his only sobering moment of the day. The thought of going back to the office was even more imposing on him though than going back into the mansion for the gala. Kole knew he was paling at his own thoughts when he turned back to Kalista, waiting for her reply, wondering again what she thought of him and what secrets she was keeping to herself. She had talked more than he had thought she would and more openly too. He appreciated what he had gotten nonetheless.

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Kalista Ross

Kalista smiled lightly to Kole as he smirked at her joke. She knew that her joke wouldn’t be enough to lighten his heart or his mind, but she was glad that his mind was momentarily preoccupied. Kalista wouldn’t admit it and neither would Kole, but the two were growing on each other. Kalista appreciated that Kole had come to her and she had hopes that he would listen to what she had said.

”I could kiss you right now.” Kalista shook her head lightly as she let out another soft chuckle at his counter-sarcasm. She had, of course, been joking with Kole, but in some small way she had been serious. If Kole honestly believed that there was a hell, then Kalista had to be going somewhere far worse. If hell existed, there would be a special place in it for people like her.

Kole stood then and Kalista waited a few moments before standing up alongside him. She smoothed her dress out, pushed the thigh strap for her pistol up slightly so that it was once again out of sight, and smiled up at Kole mischievously. His offer to stay in the guesthouse was even more tempting as he spoke exactly what Kalista had thought of the rich socialites back in the house. She watched as Kole shifted in his shirt and moved to unbutton his cuffs. The slight tug of his shirt had been noticeable earlier as well as the unbuttoned collar of his shirt. Kalista only chanced an inconspicuous glance at him as he shifted. She had to admit that Kole was a well-built, handsome man. She had spent a good amount of time around the men of the household rather than the women for several reasons, and the few times she had spoken with Kole, Kalista had admired him. He was loyal and strong, yet not too strong. He had his weaknesses about him, and Kalista respected and admired that. Not to mention the fact that the man was very good-looking and gentlemanly.

Kalista considered Kole’s offer once more and then gave him another chortle. “In their defense,” Kalista paused, giving the impression that she was actually about to defend the snobs back in the gala, but instead of defending them, she continued with, “they were pretty fun to mess with.” They had been fun to fool, but that was no reason for Kalista to ever enjoy something so pretentious as this event. She had been born to lie in people’s faces and pretend to be someone she was not. However, she had gone to several of these high-class social events and they were always harder for her to fit in with. The fact of the matter was that these people always seemed easier to fool, but it was harder for Kalista to stay in the character of a wealthy, elegant woman. It was not how she had been raised and she disliked acting like the socialites she stood among.

Kalista gave a small shrug and continued speaking. “Besides, Miss Genovese would most likely have me executed if I were to keep you out here all night. I believe that I’m already on her list of possible murders.” Kalista paused for a moment before realizing that her statement was a bit too heavy and added in a teasing voice, “And I suppose it’s rightfully so.” Kalista gave Kole a mockingly suggestive look and began to make her way to the door.

Kalista stopped at the doorway and turned to look at Kole. She knew that she was about to put a damper on the humorous air in the room. She did not want this to weigh down Kole, but she had forgotten to say on crucial thing to the man. “Look Kole, I trust you that this was a time-sensitive situation, but if you can in the future, let me do it. Not only is it my job, but you work with cops every day.” To make her point come across easier, Kalista added with a very small smirk, “Let’s just say, it’s much harder for a hound to sniff out something miles away than something right in front of it.” The comment was meant to be taken lightly, but it was a heavy subject. She knew that Kole would never purposefully put her in danger or pin a murder on her, but she was not prepared to let Kole, whom she was beginning to feel a friendship growing with, go down for something like this. Kole had his form of loyalty and this was Kalista’s own form. Kole was able to kill people, as he had said before. However, the question was if he could cover his tracks well enough. Kalista was willing to kill someone who needed to be killed. There was no reason that Kole should have to do it too. If the law ever caught up with her, she would be able to get a private jet out of the country in a matter of minutes. She had no doubt that the Genovese were the same way, but she was not sure that Kole would be able to get to his adoptive family in time if the detectives came knocking at his door.

Kalista leaned slightly against the cold doorjamb and looked down at the thin tattooed armband just above her elbow. “I don’t care if you’re lying to my face, but just promise me that you’ll let me do it whenever possible.” Kalista sighed and furrowed her brow ever-so slightly, looking back up at Kole once more. “Please.” Kalista had said the single word matter-of-factly, making it more of statement than it was a beg. Even from across the dim room, Kalista made sure to catch Kole’s gaze with her determined, bright blue eyes. Her gaze was not frightening or hard, but rather it was softer with a hint of pleading that she wasn't quite sure Kole could see. If they found out Kole was the mole within the police, he was screwed enough as it is. He didn't need the addition of multiple murders on his head. If they ever actually sent Kalista to prison for her murders, her thefts, or both, she was going for life. As bad as it sounded, a few extra would neither help nor hinder her sentence.

Despite the fact that Kalista had been about to leave the room on a joking note, she did not want Kole to think that she was not serious about this. Kalista wanted to be associates with Kole, but she also wanted him to know that in some odd, very Kalista-esque way, she cared about him as a friend. Kole would undoubtedly have to kill for Jonathon again, but Kalista was fully equipped to do her job and take the heat of the killing. She had been telling the truth when she had said that Kole was strong and not just physically; however, that did not mean that she was about to let him go to jail for doing a few times what she had done countless times.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victoria Genovese Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Dylan Genovese Character Portrait: Jess Garcia
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#, as written by Korrye

Kole raised an eyebrow as Kalista moved to initially defend the people inside the mansion.

“In their defense… they were pretty fun to mess with,” she teased. Kole shook his head and ran a hand through his hand again, trying to settle. He moved to the doors and checked himself in the mirror then, dusting off the corner of his shirt. He wasn’t the vain type but it was a high end gala inside. There was a lot to consider when it came to appearances at a Genovese gala, especially when your face was the one being slapped on the charity cause of the hour.

“Besides, Miss Genovese would most likely have me executed if I were to keep you out here all night. I believe that I’m already on her list of possible murders,” Kalista joked. Her last word made him tense. The lightheaded edge that he had momentarily gained melted away in an instant. Murderer. Murderer. Murderer. Kole winced. He couldn’t help it.

“I suppose it’s rightfully so,” she added. Kole looked at her and she flittered her eyes at him. “Victoria is just territorial. You have a connection with Jonah that she lacks. She’s defensive. I’ve never really understood why she feels about you the way she does but if you leave her be, she won’t be breathing down your neck,” Kole shrugged. As he moved to the door, the family’s assassin followed him. He went to exit, only for Kalista to stop him, looking at him with again with her serious eyes. How does she do that? Changing back and forth like that from happy go lucky to cold killer?

“Look Kole, I trust you that this was a time-sensitive situation, but if you can in the future, let me do it. Not only is it my job, but you work with cops every day,” she reasoned with him. “Let’s just say, it’s much harder for a hound to sniff out something miles away than something right in front of it.”

Kole held his tongue between his teeth for a moment, breathing slowly and turning to look away from her then. “Kalista I would have,” he confessed with a heavy sigh. “Only I watched him leave the office and fast. He wouldn’t look at me. I got into his computer and figured out what he had found out. I didn’t have time to wait for you. You’re good but, one call from him, a message left somewhere…and I would be done.”

Kole watched her move to lean into the door frame, her elbow poised elegantly and displayed her toned arms and a tattoo he had failed to notice before. He searched her expression for some sort of acknowledgement of his words. She didn’t seem the type to want to know the explanation but he still felt that he needed to say it. So much had already been said.

“I don’t care if you’re lying to my face, but just promise me that you’ll let me do it whenever possible,” she sighed, looking up at him with determined eyes. He frowned and didn’t move to answer right away. “Please,” she added. That made him snort and chuckle lightly. Kalista saying please was a complete oxymoron to him. And it wasn’t even a plea. She was saying the word just because. It was something he used to do when he was younger and his tone would earn him a cruel uppercut to the jaw from his father or a spanking from his mother. Or worst, a glare and lecture from his grandfather. Victoria and Jonathon had made that word finally have meaning in his life.

“I will,” he guaranteed her, his tone far more sincere than her own. It wasn’t a lie either because right then and there Kole doubted whether he could handle killing again. At least right then and there. “But only if you hang out with me more,” he added then, tilting his chin up and raising his eyebrows with his bargain. “I run in Central Park every morning. Would be nice to cross paths. Besides, you in yoga pants…?” Kole let his eyebrows jump in a mocking gesture before he moved to open the door, holding it for her and motioning her to exit first. He looked over her head and back at the mansion, seeing the lights and music and crowds even from the yard.

"Back into the jungle,” he thought to himself then grimly.

* * *

Spending the night in his old room had proved difficult. For all his discussions with Kalista, his mind still wouldn’t ease off when he tried to sleep. Kole had ended up drinking a lot of whiskey to get himself to relax. Even then he’d laid in bed and stared at the ceiling of his room for more hours than he had dozed off. When his alarm buzzed for 8am he was startled, feeling like he had only just managed to close his eyes before the bloody thing snarled at him and woke up him.

Groaning, Kole forced himself out of bed, feeling his arms and legs protest at the lack of rest. Shuffling in his boxers out of his room and into the hall, he leaned into his door frame to stretch, gripping the top of it with his arms and flexing his shoulder blades. He took in the hall for the moment. He could hear the shower running in his parents room. Lincoln’s door was closed as was Charlee’s. Dylan’s was closest to his and he knocked lightly on it. “Still want to go to the park Dyl? I’m heading out in 45 minutes to grab Duke,” he informed him, unsure of whether or not his youngest brother heard him. Proceeding to the shower, he let it run ice cold before he stepped in. The only way to keep moving at this rate was to shock himself into awareness.

Still, as he let it rain down on him, he thought of Kalista’s words again. Then there was Nate and Jonah’s practically congratulations and thankfulness in their own way. Still, all of them had told him the only way to live with what he had done was to accept it. How could it when it seemed like such a monstrous thing? He would have felt better if this Frank guy had been a perv or molester or murderer himself. He would have been a murderer, Kole reminded himself. He would have told everyone who and what I was and then Jonathon would have been implicated…he would have gone to jail. He would have been murdered there for sure for being the mole.

All of his thoughts built up in his mind like a pressure sensitive bomb. Kole stepped out and toweled himself off, focusing on his reflection in the mirror as he dragged a comb through his hair and brushed his teeth. Dressing himself in a pair of loose black track pants, a white t-shirt and grey long sleeve overtop – jeans were set aside for later. Moving beyond the bathroom he moved back into the hall, leaning against the wall and checking his watch before double checking his phone.

"I was serious about that running part," he texted Kalista, unsure of whether or not she would respond. He had no idea quite what she was doing. Maybe she was killing someone? The thought made him frown. "We could also spar or go to the range you know. Bet I could beat you," he added, before hitting send with a tap of his thumb.

“Come on Dyl, 5 minutes. Meet me at the truck outside on the driveway if you’re coming,” he reminded his brother before heading down the stairs. He smelt breakfast in the kitchen and knew immediately that it was Victoria who was at work. Nothing smelt quite like her waffles on a Saturday morning. Though in this case it was a Tuesday.

It took a lot for him to move straight for the door. Pierre was standing, polishing the silver door handles as he stepped by. "Master Marinos! Good morning. So nice to have you back," the butler greeted him. "Morning Pierre. I'm not out of here just yet. Going for a run and then I'll be back," Kole smiled, nodded at the man as he stepped out onto the drive. The valet had left his truck parked off to the side, the Toyota Tundra conveniently detailed and washed as well.

Flicking his keys around his finger, Kole stepped into the driver's seat and turned on the engine, flicking the heat on. The morning was brisk but for New York typical for early January. The snow that had fallen the night before was gone for the most part as they hovered around 10C. It was warm enough that he didn't need a jacket, but he had one in the backseat if that turned. As he waited for Dylan, he pulled his phone out again, sending a message to his staff coordinator.

"Out of the office today, still okay? Any paperwork or things to do if I catch a chance to Jess? - Kole" He wasn't sure if the woman would reply right away, though normally Jess was never away from her phone. She was one of the superiors in the task force and he respected her, feeling bad at points with how much his antics could stress her out.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Victoria Genovese Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Sienna Rose Character Portrait: Anthony "Tony" Rizzo
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#, as written by Mela
Jonah hadn’t been happy about leaving his wife, but he also knew he had Rizzo to take care of, and honestly he’d rather not keep the guy around for too long. Besides, Jonah knew he’d be tied up in the basement, alive, something he would be for a while yet. Currently, the Genovese patriarch was in said basement, pushing open the door, his cold eyes landing on Tony in but a second. “Rizzo,” he said in greeting, a taunting, angry sound to it. Jonathon may have gotten rid of his tension and his anger with Vicky, but ah, Rizzo was a whole other thing, wasn’t he? Jonathon slowly crossed the room, bringing himself within touching distance of Rizzo. He glanced at the two men who had brought him here and gave them only a brief nod, his hands folded behind him.

He gave no reaction to Rizzo’s mumbling behind the gag in his mouth, as well as the frantic character of his eyes which were skirting around the room. Ah, but he would find no mercy here, and as Jonathon continuously watched Tony, his two men left, closing the door behind them. Only then did Jonah start folding up the sleeves of his black shirt, slowly, meticulously, watching the fear grow in the man’s eyes. Jonah didn’t much care for the fear; fear was not something he wanted from dead men. No, he wanted Rizzo in pain. He wanted him to suffer for what he had done – for violating his wife like that.

Once his sleeves were out of the way, Jonah removed Rizzo’s gag. The basement was soundproof for a reason. The man stayed quiet, however, so Jonah raised an eyebrow, casting the guy a cold smile as he took out a pair of thick, black gloves. Again, painfully slow, Jonathon donned the pair onto his strong fingers. “Fingerprints,” he explained to Rizzo, not because he didn’t think the guy would know as much, but because he wanted it to be painfully obvious to Anthony Rizzo that his torturer would be Jonathon himself. Hm, painfully obvious was quite the term, wasn’t it?

The bastard had made a move on his wife, he had tried to turn her against him, and apparently his brother had been in on it. Which meant Jonathon needed information first of all. As such, Jonah flexed his fingers, looking from his hands to the man, or dog, in question. “You know what your problem is, Rizzo?” He began, squatting down to be level with the tied up Rizzo, who merely glared at him. Just as well; Jonah hadn’t expected an answer, so he continued. “It’s that you’ve long thought yourself indispensable.” Jonah straightened then, moving to browse one of the many shelves. This one had a selection of knives he’d collected over the years. Just like guns, Jonah was in the habit of collecting knives. These, however, were always kept in the basement.

“And you know what the problem with cocky staff is?” He added, not looking at Rizzo as he concluded harshly: “They take liberties.” That’s when a pair of grey eyes finally landed coolly on Rizzo, an eerily composed, wry smile on Jonah’s lips. Rizzo’s lips set into a thin line, so Jonah picked up a knife. A small one, with an ornately decorated handle. Then he began moving back towards Rizzo, whose defiance was quickly replaced by fear in his eyes. “Frankly you’ve hit your limit,” he noted as he walked, before stopping in front of him, adding “but I can make your death quick if you tell me what I want to know.” Not that Jonah was particularly in the mood, but he did plan on keeping his word. Fact was, however, that he didn’t think he’d need to.

And just as he’d expected, Rizzo made a face and spat at Jonah’s feet, sneering “what makes you better than me, huh?!” Jonah’s only response was a knowing, satisfied smirk as he hammered his knife straight into Rizzo’s hand, impaling it along with the arm of the chair beneath it. The scream filling the basement was one of pure pain, but ah… the night was not yet over, and the screams would get much louder, just as the pain would get worse. Of course this was not for pleasure. Oh no, it was merely to extract information. Or, rather… for the most part.

Once done, having gotten everything he wanted out of the whimpering remains of a man who was still in his chair by 4 am, Jonah merely gave him a cold look. “Victoria says hi, by the way,” he then added, throwing a last jab into the mix as he took a towel and began wiping off his bloody and sweaty face. He would have to take a shower. He was almost as bloody as Tony, and that really spoke volumes. The guy was close to dying from blood loss alone, and so his only reply was a pained groan.

Jonah, feeling rather satisfied with his revenge so far, took out his phone, speed dialing his dearest assassin. Once she picked up, Jonah spoke, his voice hard and commanding. “Kalista, I have a problem I need you to handle. In fact, let me rephrase that: you are handling it. Right now. I don’t care what you’re doing. I expect you to be on your way back to the mansion already.” With that, the crime boss had hung up, and once the woman arrived, he’d shown her to the destination, made it clear that Rizzo was the target, and expressively ordered her to make it painful.

Then he’d left, heading upstairs to grab a shower, throwing his clothes in the fire once he’d finished. No one even lifted an eyebrow at his bloody state. No one working or living there doubted what Jonah did for a living, or what he was capable of, and as such, Jonathon Genovese had left Kalista to deal with the actual kill and the clean-up.

~~ Morning After the Gala ~~

Jonathon was in his office, not having been able to keep his promise to Victoria about coming to bed with her. Ah well, she’d understand. He was going over the folder Kole had given him just before the gala, analyzing every bit of information, figuring out how they could possibly keep anyone else from figuring all of this out. Kole had been compromised. That was a problem, because if one person could put the pieces together here, then so could another… and another… and another. And that bitch to Garcia was already plenty on his case. Them going around killing cops like that was only going to add more flames to that fire, and Jonah had enough on his plate as it was.

And his brother was against him. Rizzo hadn’t know much, except the other Genovese had come to him, convincing him to go speak with Victoria. This meant that it had been his own brother’s plan. That knowledge was a heavy burden on his shoulders.

He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He hadn’t heard anymore from Nate either since he’d run off like a lovesick puppy to join a girl who’d left him fourteen years ago. Well, at least Rizzo was out of the picture, and Jared was due back today. Good thing too, because at the moment Jonah really needed to be around someone who seemed at least half sane, lest he get pulled into the craziness himself. On that thought, a text came in, and Jonah checked it, a relieved sigh escaping his lips. It was a text from Jonah’s top accountant and not a moment too soon either. The deal about Garcia was something Jonah kept tabs on, so yes, he knew about that press conference. He had people on it. So he merely typed back…

“One of many, it seems – eyes already open. Welcome back.” The last two words would be enough to let Jared know that he probably shouldn’t take his time in getting to the mansion. Jonah wanted to get business out of the way for the day and then maybe find time for sparring with his younger friend and business associate. The guy was one of the only ones who presented much challenge. Once sent, Jonah left his office. His wife should be out and about by now, and as he bounded down the stairs, he detected movement in the kitchen, so he slid the door open just enough for him to see and be seen, smiling just a little once he spotted his wife.

“Morning, darling.” He called out. Honestly he was hoping for a morning kiss before Jared arrived, and maybe a bit of a break. After all, he’d been up all night, and after letting out that tension between them yesterday, Jonah felt himself more at ease with her. It seemed she was done thinking he was cheating, and to him, that alone had eased up on a lot. Well, that and the absence of Anthony.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Jonathon Genovese Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Anthony "Tony" Rizzo
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Kalista Ross

Kalista’s eyes softened as Kole snorted at her half-plea. She had to admit that hearing a cold-blooded killer use the word “please” was strange even to herself. She did not look up at Kole as he agreed to her request. She could hear the apprehension in his voice and did not need to see it on his face to know it was there; however, she could hear the sincerity in his voice as well. He was being honest with her, but she knew that there was a catch to it. She just didn't know what it was yet.

“..But only if you hang out with me more,” Kalista finally looked up at the man with a grin. He tilted his head up slightly and Kalista shook her head. It was as if he were challenging her in some way. “I run in Central Park every morning. Would be nice to cross paths. Besides, you in yoga pants…?”

Kalista tilted her head up as well, imitating Kole’s posture. “Oh, you can try to run with me, but you probably wouldn’t be seeing too much of me,” Kalista paused a moment for dramatic effect before continuing in a taunting voice, “I’d be too far ahead of you.”

Nothing else was said, but Kalista was glad that they were parting ways on a happier note. Kole gestured for her to exit as he held the door open and Kalista gave him a small smile and a courteous nod as she stepped back into the frigid night air.

Kalista let out a sigh of relief as she stepped into her plush bed with her worn out copy of Utopia by Thomas More. Truthfully, Kalista did not have a clue as to why it was perhaps one of her favorites, but the book’s soft cover was delicately taped on and the binding was beginning to look as though she would have to glue it back on yet again. Kalista was fluffing the pillow behind her when her phone began to buzz on her nightstand.

Kalista growled in frustration and drew a hand over her face before picking the phone up, thoroughly planning on throwing the damn thing out the window. Fortunately, she had the sense to check the caller ID to see that it was the boss calling her. Kalista swallowed her frustration, realizing that he would only call her at this hour if it was urgent and held the phone to her ear. She only got the words, “Evening, Boss”, out before she was cut off by his harsh, authoritative voice. Kalista nodded sharply into the phone before realizing that he couldn’t see her nod. “I’ll be right over,” she stated, but he had already hung up.

Kalista sighed angrily, placing her book down and jumping out of her bed. She had heard, in the tightness of the boss’s voice, that he was calling her on a more personal job and that he would be expecting her as soon as possible. Kalista threw on her normal leather jacket, jeans, and calf-length boots before grabbing a pair of her patent leather gloves and going to the back closet where she kept her equipment. She grabbed her usual gear including two pistols, two knives, a silencer, and a variety of supplies for the clean-up, before heading out the door and back to the Genovese mansion.

When Kalista arrived, she was met by one bloody and sweaty Jonathon. This only heightened her suspicion that this was a personal matter and she knew better than to ask any questions. Her suspicion was confirmed as she was lead into the basement of the mansion and shown a bloody and broken Anthony Rizzo. As was the norm, Kalista showed absolutely no emotion as Jonathon told her to make it painful. She simply nodded sharply as the man left the room and Kalista was left to do her job.

As per the boss’s request, Kalista had made it hurt. When she was done with the casino manager, Kalista finally screwed the silencer onto her pistol. The man was as good as dead and if Kalista had left him there, he would have died an even slower and more painful death. However, Kalista knew that the boss would want her to make sure he was gone, especially after the scare with the old techie; not to mention, she wanted to go home and catch some sleep before the sun came up. Kalista looked at Rizzo once and then stuck the pistol between his eyes. The last words Rizzo heard were Kalista taunting, “I never liked you anyway,” before Anthony Rizzo was no more.

As always, Kalista’s clean-up was flawless. No body, no evidence, nothing connecting either the Genovese or Kalista to Rizzo’s ‘disappearance’.

Morning After The Gala

Kalista had only gotten a few hours of sleep, but it was nothing that she was not used to. The first thing she did in the morning was to take a rough and thorough shower and change her bed sheets. It was something of a routine for Kalista. She was always cold and blunt about killing a man, but she could not sleep in the same sheets that she had slept in less than an hour after murdering someone. She had already disposed of the clothing she had been wearing and once her sheets were changed and she had stepped out of her room in her sweats, Kalista felt refreshed.

The only other thing Kalista had to do was do a quick search for Rizzo to see if anyone was looking for him. Kalista nearly grinned when the search came up with nothing. Eventually someone would go searching for the casino owner, but it was a good sign that nothing had come up yet. It meant that no one had suspicions. Eventually, the news would probably make up some story about Rizzo disappearing to some other country. There would be nothing to say that he was dead and definitely nothing to say that he had been murdered. This was all Kalista's work. She couldn't help but feel a slight hint of pride at another clean, successful kill.

As she was accustom to doing after a kill, Kalista quickly grabbed her phone and sent a text to the boss. No one has noticed he’s gone. It’s done. P.S. It hurt. This was nearly the same text Kalista had sent the boss every time she was done with a job - minus the part about it hurting; that was her own bit of sarcasm. It meant that Kalista had done her job and it was to reassure the boss that Kalista was worth having around.

As Kalista finished with her post-assassination routines, she sauntered into the open kitchen area of her apartment and grabbed a quick smoothie before strolling back into her bedroom and coming out in her running clothing. She threw a hoodie over herself and zipped it about an inch, letting the rest fall loose. Kalista grabbed her phone from where she had left it near the computer. Checking it, she saw a text from Kole had come in and suddenly remembered his request to go running. Kalista did not mind running with someone as long as they didn’t slow her down – and she didn't think Kole would. However, Kalista had just murdered Rizzo. She had no clue whether Kole knew about that or if he ever would, but Kalista was hesitant to meet with Kole after she had spoken to him so seriously about murder just the night before. Kalista sighed and swiped a hand over her face before deciding it was childish for her to say no to a run with Kole. She quickly typed out a reply as she grabbed her headphones and armband. I was just heading to Central Park right now. You can tag along if you think you can keep up. With that, she stuck her phone in the armband and headed out the door.

Kalista arrived at the western entrance of Central Park and stopped only for a moment to grab some water from the fountain. The temperature was not as freezing as the other night had been, but wind still nipped at Kalista's exposed skin every once in a while. She had left her hoodie almost completely open because she loved the feeling of the wind tingling her abdomen. It was one of the few things that Kalista ever enjoyed about winter.

Suddenly, Kalista heard a high-pitched child’s squeal from over to her right and whipped her head around to see who it had come from. Among the few runners and wanderers in the park, a child had tripped over a rock and was now cupping a bloody nose as his mother shook her head in frustration and produced a small packet of tissues from her purse. Kalista froze for only a moment as she watched them. The boy’s nose was bleeding profusely and it was leaking through the mother’s few tissues. Blood. Kalista suddenly flashed back to the other night and Rizzo’s broken, battered face. Kalista shook her head and furrowed her brow at herself. She had not felt this way since combat and it was almost alien for her to flashback anymore. It must have been that conversation with Kole, Kalista thought to herself as she returned to her run.The fact that Kole had asked almost the exact same questions that she hadn’t been asked in years was sure to bring back memories. As she continued her chilling jog, Kalista did exactly what she had told Kole. She took long, deep breathes and let the feelings wash over her. Kalista sighed heavily once more as she came out of her half-trance and reminded herself, It’s always just passing thoughts.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kole Marinos Character Portrait: Kalista Ross Character Portrait: Dylan Genovese Character Portrait: Jess Garcia
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#, as written by Korrye

Kole batted at the steering wheel of his truck to the rhythm of the song playing on the radio. His phone buzzed shortly after he had started the engine, allowing it to idle for a few minutes and warm up, clearing a fog from the main windows. Smiling, he read Kalista’s reply. “I was just heading to Central Park right now. You can tag along if you think you can keep up.” That made him chuckle, and he was quick to respond. “Be there in 30 minutes. Meet me by the Alice statues?” he tapped in, hoping she knew about that particular monument. Kole knew it was a good place to start, mostly because if Dylan didn’t want to run he could take Duke over to the water or the nearby fields to play fetch.

Kole watched Dylan emerge from the front door, which led him to lean over the center console and open the passenger door for him. Grinning at his younger brother as he climbed into the truck, he pulled his seatbelt over his shoulder.

"Morning," Dylan beamed. Kole smelt the coffee before he saw Dylan take a drink from a large travel mug. “Dude, you’re fifteen. You don’t need to be caffeine dependent like the rest of us,” he taunted him, reaching over to push him in the shoulder gently before he turned on the truck fully, shifting it into gear and pulling out of the driveway. Traffic was traffic for the upper east side, though Kole didn’t have to take them very far to get to the apartment building that he lived in. Only a few blocks away, it was in truth walking distance, and not even that far from the park itself. But he had driven from across down at the precinct to get to the mansion and now he wanted to drop his vehicle off and grab Duke from the neighbors. As he parked in the underground parkade, he shifted to pull a backpack from the back seat, setting it on Dylan’s lap.

“Lost and found got their hands on a pretty snazzy pond boat. Thought you might want to take a crack at it today,” he commented, knowing that it was probably just warm enough for the water to be good for the remote control toy. Grabbing his jacket, then, Kole exited his truck, spinning his keys around his thumb as he headed for the elevators, swiping a key card through a door and holding it open for his younger brother. Heading upstairs was simple. Living on the eighth floor left him in no mood for stairs. Still, he didn’t want to spend anymore time at the apartment than he needed to. Kole felt like he was on auto-pilot, heading up to the neighbor’s place and hoping that Dylan was smart enough to follow. Kalista didn’t seem like the type to wait.

Knocking on his neighbor’s door earned him a loud and deep bark. Cynthia opened the door, the perky master’s student at NYU opened the door still in her pajamas, a spoon in her mouth and yogurt in her hand. She beamed at Kole who chuckled. “Good morning Thea. I’m here to retrieve my kidnapped dog,” he greeted. The retired police dog pushed his way out into the hall from the door behind his neighbor, heading straight for Dylan, tail thrashing and slamming into the walls in his excitement. “Good morning to you too sunshine,” she chimed. “I’ll never say no to a good study buddy like Duke. Be sure to drop by any time. And I mean any time.

Kole sighed and shook his head at the girl who was trying to look through her bed head with a sexy stare. She looked so naïve to him then, like she was trying too hard. It was a little too much but he laughed to amuse her, not wanting to exactly shut her down. This wasn’t the first time Dylan had met the overly chatty and flirtatious neighbor. Cynthia handed Kole Duke’s leash, allowing her grip to linger. “Any time,” Kole echoed. “I’ll be home later. Thanks again.”

When she closed her door, Kole allowed himself to kneel and greet the dog he had taken on. Duke was more than happy to have his chin scratched, his ears perky as he growled his content at being in his master’s presence again. Kole caught sight of the spray of silver and white fur on his dog’s muzzle with concern – proof that he was no puppy. Still, he scratched his ears once more before standing. “Mmkay, enough crazy for one day. Let’s go,” Kole announced, stuffing the leash on his pocket as he walked back to the elevators. Duke followed him at his side, pushing his nose into Dylan’s hand demanding more attention.

“Don’t give into him,” Kole commented. “Oh, and Kalista might meet up with us. She said she’s running already.”

Kole enjoyed the playful banter, feeling at ease as he allowed himself to just be. The excitement of a day off was there with the residual concern over Frank Karparthy. Yet today felt a little bit easier. He wasn’t trying to push away the feelings. Accepting them was a process but it was better. Somehow.

They headed out of the apartment lobby. When they hit the sidewalk Kole snapped a leash onto Duke’s collar, knowing that a by law officer might have a fit if he saw a loose dog on an upper east side corner. Central Park was close and fortunately he lived relatively close to East 74th Street where the Alice statues he had referred Kalista to were situated. As they hit the park, Kole pulled his coat over his shoulders, keeping his phone in his pocket, checking it as they walked and talked seeing a text from Jess now as well. “Sure, still fine by me. I want to talk a few things with you, though. I'm in the office till three, then I've got softball. Swing by before then,” she had replied. “Might be hard for me to get into the office but I’ll try. Email anything over in the meantime.”

Locking his phone then as they entered the park, he zipped it into his pocket and pulled out a pair of headphones and a smaller iPod nano with his running music on it.

“So, what do you want to do today?” Kole asked, looking over at a trio of kids screaming as they chased each other through the bronzed mushrooms, circling the statue of Alice in glee. Everyone’s just a little bit insane, he thought to himself. How fitting to meet here given what we talked about last night. Duke sat at his side, alert and watching every person within his vicinity. He still felt good until a magazine cart vendor held up a copy of the morning newspaper. He could have seen it from a mile away. Front page was a picture of Karparthy's house engulfed in flames and in white bold font across the front it read clear as day, "THREE DEAD IN GAS EXPLOSION." 3?