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the last of the real ones

New York

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a part of the last of the real ones, by partially-stars.

The city of dreams and destruction.

partially-stars holds sovereignty over New York, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

906 readers have been here.

Setting

Default Location for the last of the real ones
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New York

The city of dreams and destruction.

Minimap

New York is a part of the last of the real ones.

16 Characters Here

Lauren Clark [31] The world belongs to those brave enough to chase it.
Adonis Galante [20] "If you want a fight, you found your guy."
Olivia Eriksen [19] Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time
Gabriella Montez [18] "Please don't tempt me."
Erin Monaghan [17] "There's pieces of you in this town, and they carry me along."
Soren Bowers [16] you looked at death in a tarot card and you saw what you had to do.
Evie Addams [15] "at last, I'm free from my past."
Dean Sun [15] They say the devil that you know is better than the devil that you don't
Dylan Knight [15] "I got trust issues from trusting you."
Simon Rizzo [14] Music is the expression of the soul. Coffee maintains the soul.

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Erin Monaghan Character Portrait: Dean Sun Character Portrait: Olivia Eriksen
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content warnings: drug use, sexual themes, and mentions of sexual abuse.

Dean couldn’t pretend that Declan’s words hadn’t annoyed him; there was an obvious air of frustration (or was that hurt) on his face as his sibling walked away. He was trying, he really was. He wished others could see it. His entire mood had plummeted, and he’d started considering just up and leaving when he spotted Livvy. She’d always sparked something within him, though he wasn’t sure he could explain what it was if he tried. She was coming towards him, so he decided to close the space between them, casually sipping his drink.

He noticed two things once she was right in front of him: she’d definitely been drinking, and she was upset. Dean had always been pretty good at reading people, and he was even better at reading Olivia. He took a second to paste a concerned expression on his face before he spoke. Woah, hey. What’s wrong?” He knew if he played his cards right he might be able to turn this evening around for himself.

If Livvy was in a better headspace, she would’ve had more of a reaction seeing Dean leaning against the wall with a drink in his hand. She probably would’ve had some flashback of high school when she first approached him at a party. His smile lit up her world and pushed back the shadows of her home life. It was like the calm before the storm of their relationship.

If Livvy was in a better headspace, she probably also would’ve blinked in surprise as he came towards her. That familiar look of mischief in his eyes. At least, until concern replaced it. She tried her best to not seem as frantic or as desperate as she felt. She decided she’d start with: ”Lauren’s here.”

She tried not to glance towards where Lauren was likely still snickering to herself in Erin’s bedroom reading whatever gossip was being handed to her. She also tried not to turn her attention, or glare towards Camilla who invited the fire breathing bitch queen.

How did Lauren even know about her step father? Though, based on her comment, she didn’t know the full history there. But still… only a few people knew about it. Actually, the only person she remembered going into detail about it was Simon. She mentioned it vaguely to Erin and Dean, but neither would’ve told anyone… would they? Did Lauren know her step father? That would make more sense…. She was spiraling. She managed to gasp out, ”Distraction. I need a distraction.” She reached out a hand to grasp his wrist, though she tried to do it lightly to downplay her desperation. ”Do you have anything?”

Lauren was there? Dean raised an eyebrow and fought the urge to crane his neck to look for her. She was something of a weakness of his, but he knew how she got under people’s skin. She must have said something to Livvy. He nodded knowingly, an understanding expression painted across his features. He’d seek Lauren out later, assuming neither of them got kicked out of the party.

A wicked sort of grin broke out on his face when Livvy said she needed a distraction. A better person may have told her to slow down and offered to talk it out with her. Dean had seldom been accused of being a good person. He reached out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, tracing his finger down her jaw to her chin, applying a gentle pressure until he could look deeply into her eyes. He bit his lower lip, he loved this: being wanted- needed- that little moment of toying with someone before giving them what they needed- wanted. A guy had to get his kicks somewhere.

As if he couldn’t hold it back anymore, a bright grin spread across his face and he laughed. It was well practiced, looked natural. He wondered if Livvy would see through it, or if the distance between them that past several years would have made her forget his tells. ”Of course I do,” He said, tone warm and familiar, ”I’ve not changed that much.” He usually had something on him. More often than not now that he’d started seeing Jade, though the pills weren’t his preference. He jerked his head to the side, silently beckoning her to follow him. There weren’t an abundance of places to get some privacy here, really. There was a line at the bathroom, but he’d never let that stop him before.

”Hey, thanks,” He said to someone in line for the bathroom as he gently pushed Livvy in front of him, absolutely not subtly entering behind her while ignoring the protests from the line as he locked the door. He flashed Livvy a grin as he went digging in his pocket, pulling out a small bag with a few pills inside. ”Take your pick,” He said, handing the goods over to Olivia.

There was already heat in her face thanks to the alcohol in her system, but it flared a little hotter as Dean reached out to touch her. Their close proximity, his willingness to assist… It brought her back to those days.

If she closed her eyes, she could almost believe that they were back in the AP fine art classroom. The lights off so no one would know they were there. Only the music was different, louder compared to the jams they would play on their phone speakers, loud enough to hear, but quiet enough that no one else could. Then there was the heat, the rush, the paint. There was almost always some kind of colorful media on their skin but never on their clothes.

Heat filled her core and she found herself smiling at him. When he gestured for her to follow, she did so, sliding her hand into his so he could more easily lead her. Her pulse sped as he brought her back to the hall, put stopped at the bathroom, pushing her inside before shutting the door behind them and locking it. He dug through his pocket and pulled out a bag with different colored pills inside. She pinched a familiar light pink one between her fingers, stamped with a heart.

It was going to take some time to hit, which was a bummer, but of the bunch it was the one that would work best for what she needed it for. She popped it into her mouth with a smirk. ”Thanks, she said with a content sigh.

Dean watched her with all the intensity of a hungry tiger; his eyes only left hers to scan over her body. She looked good. Very good. ”It’s what I’m here for,” He replied. Hopefully his attempt at humor wouldn’t be lost on her. Being here, it reminded him of the way things used to be. There was no bad blood between them, just a stifling distance and the reminder of everything that they were when they were younger and more foolish.

”Hey, uh,” He started, putting on an act so he seemed a little bashful, as if this wasn’t a totally calculated move, ”It’s really good to see you again.” He reached out and let his hand graze her shoulder, then traced down her arm. He was testing the waters, seeing what she’d let him get away with. They’d always had so much chemistry, if he could just get a spark going, maybe they could ignite something here. Then this night wouldn’t be a waste.

She smiled, a little shyly herself. ”It’s good to see you too, Dean. His hand was warm on her shoulder, leaving a fiery trail down her arm. She almost hissed, but not in pain. At how good it felt. Lauren’s touch had been… short, calculated, foreign. Dean’s touch was heat, fire, and familiar. It brought to mind a painting she had done in high school she titled Passion in Paint after their first time together. It was a splash of orange, red, yellow, and black with hints of gold.

For a moment, she thought of Jade. How they were together and she shouldn’t be here. Shouldn’t be allowing this but… Dean was a big boy. He could make his own choices. Plus… what did she owe Jade anyway? She was on Gabriella’s side of that mess. She reached out a hand, lacing her fingers through his free hand and tugged him a little closer. With her other arm, the one he had run his hand down, she reached up, moving a loose strand of his hair from his forehead. A gesture she used to do often. His hair never stayed put.

Dean smirked, allowing Livvy to pull him closer, relishing in the way her hand brushed against his face when she tried to brush his hair back into place. It was all so natural. So right. He couldn’t help but think of all the times they’d snuck off during parties and found a nice quiet place to enjoy one another. There was a comfort in familiarity, and a desire that came from years of distance. Where Olivia used to be routine, now she was an old flame to be rekindled. Dean had always been good at starting fires.

He dropped his free hand to her lower back, pulling her right up against him. He paused, then, scanning her eyes for resistance, hesitation. Maybe it was better to let her make that move, then he couldn’t be accused of being too forward. ”I've missed you,” He mumbled. It wasn’t a total lie; he missed her desperately every time he saw a nice picture of her on social media. Something about not having her to call “his” anymore made the thought of her so much more tantalizing.

He readjusted the hand clasped firmly to Olivia’s, pulling her hand up to plant a gentle kiss upon it. This was all part of the fun; did she miss him? Did she think of him? Did she want him? Those were all questions he wanted answered, and he knew he could work them out of her if he worked at it a little. He was tempted to find that spot along her jaw, nibble there for a moment, but he refrained. The ball was in her court. There was no denying what he wanted out of this interaction, and he only hoped he’d read her correctly.

As he pulled her close, she was enveloped in the heat of him. She tilted her head up to meet his eyes, her long lashes fluttering slightly. This was what she had wanted from Lauren. Not… She pushed the thought away. She wasn’t going to let Lauren ruin any more of her fun. She tilted her head to the side, her hair falling back over her shoulder with the movement. ”I missed you, too, she purred. And it was true.

He was almost as constant in her life as Simon at least in high school. After they broke up and stopped being around one another, it felt like a hold had been carved into her chest for a while. Then it didn’t ache as much. Felt more like missing a finger. Odd with phantom pains, but manageable. She placed one hand on his chest, feeling the rapid beating of his heart, matching hers. ”I couldn’t even tell you how much.

One thing she loved about when they were together like this was the… tension. The pressure that would build. It was almost a game to see who would break first. ”Should I…” She bit her lower lip. She couldn’t believe these words were coming out of her mouth. ”Should I show you?”

Dean couldn’t help the smile that formed on his face- it was probably the first genuine one of the night. Olivia just got him, and she was good at throwing back whatever he tossed her way. This game they played had been a constant for almost as long as they’d known one other. Put them in a room long enough, and eventually they’d start to see if the other would crack.

There was, also, the building pressure of the people outside the bathroom door- quickly becoming restless. Dean didn’t care, but he didn’t want it to kill Livvy’s mood.

But when she asked if she should show him how she’d missed him, well, that was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. His breath caught in his chest, and before he knew it he was the one breaking, ”Oh, yes,” Then quickly, he added, ”Yes, please… If you’re so inclined.” He leaned in closer, if that were even possible, so his lips were almost brushing against her’s, ”I would love nothing more.”

Livvy could hear the people outside. She knew it was only a matter of time before Erin herself knocked down the door...but she couldn’t find it in herself to care. It was only her and Dean. There was a… voice in the very back of her mind who said this was wrong. That she shouldn’t be here with Dean. She kept that voice in the back of her mind.

She laughed a little under her breath at his acceptance. Her own breath caught as he came closer, his lips brushing hers. When he spoke she could feel his breath on her skin, smell the alcohol on his breath. She let them hover there for a few heartbeats before she broke. She couldn’t take it.

She needed him.

She closed that bit of space between them, wrapping her arms around his neck, pulling him to her and kissing him gently. Gently, of course, because though she gave in… they both knew there was more to burn. And she lit that match… by gently biting his lower lip.

Livvy kissed him, and the kindling caught. Dean kissed her back, hands resting, for a moment, on her hips, pulling her in. Sometimes it didn’t feel enough to be close, pressed together, you wanted to melt together. Couldn’t be close enough.

And he took her bait, deepening the kiss, relishing the taste of whatever she’d been drinking and the scent of her. Livvy had always smelled nice; it was a little different,a little more mature than the candy-sweet smells of her high school days, but still certainly her. It was the paint, probably, cutting through the vanilla, that he picked out as being her scent. He never could smell fresh paint without thinking of her. She was, in all, perhaps just as intoxicating as the alcohol. Dean let his hands wander as they kissed- exploring, gripping fabric, never quite digging in though. Instead, he firmly planted his hands on her backside to hoist her up onto the edge of the sink, tracing kisses from her mouth down to her jaw, slowly kissing until he’d found the right spot, then gently nipping at the skin there.

A soft sound slipped from her as he kissed her back, his hands on her hips. This close, she could smell cinnamon with something a little spicier underneath. When he took her bait and deepened their kiss, she found it wasn’t enough. She wanted more, more, more of him.

Then she was lifted, sitting on the edge of the sink. He trailed kisses from the corner of her mouth, to her jaw. Each kiss was a flame on her skin and she gasped. She ran a hand up into his hair, encouraging him until he found the spot. It was her undoing.

She closed her eyes and--with the muffled sound of the music from a different part of the house--she was brought back to that room in high school. Sitting on one of the work tables and exploring one another. Another sound slipped from her a little louder, a little more desperate. Without looking, she found herself undoing the buttons of his shirt, her fingers shaking slightly as she went.

Dean smirked against her skin, hands flitting across her body still, as if desperately trying to find purchase. He broke contact with her as she went to unbutton his shirt, taking half a step back to undo the buttons himself, and casting the shirt aside. ”This one too?” He asked, almost teasingly, as he lifted his white undershirt up and over his head.

It was almost incredible, really, the way the body remembers all the little things. A nip at the neck, a hand at just the right part of the thigh, that sloppy way you kiss when you’ve gone past the point of caring about neatness.

Dean let his hands rest on Livvy’s waist for a moment, pulling her closer to him again, then reached to tug at Livvy’s top. They could remove it if they decided, but for the moment he would be happy just tugging it down and out of the way.

Never in her life had Livvy been happier that high-low skirts were a thing as his hand trailed up her thighs, pushing back the fabric. They were warm and rough from his time in the kitchens. She reached as he pulled away but stopped once she realized what he was doing. She bit her lip as he removed his shirts exposing the slight muscle hidden beneath them. Then he was on her again, their kisses more heated, their touches hungrier.

His hands were on her waist, his thumbs reaching the tender skin beneath her breasts and at first, she hadn’t noticed. At first, it hadn’t bothered her. But then… No one wants you, his voice echoed in her mind. No one, but me. Then it wasn’t Dean’s hands but her step father’s. Gripping her, holding her to him, touching her…

She pushed Dean backwards. Hard. Her breaths came quickly and were shallow like she couldn’t get enough air fast enough. It took a moment to register what she had done. ”Sorry, I-” She started to say, a hand going to her waist. She was going to be sick.

She pushed from the sink, legs giving out beneath her causing her knees to smack into the floor, but she made it just in time. Her eyes burned, body trembling as she retched. She was dizzy, she was panicked, she was embarrassed, she was numb, she was overstimulated… it was all too much.

Dean was taken aback by being pushed; he hadn’t expected it, and narrowly avoided falling back himself. He caught himself, but that didn’t stop his head from hitting the wall off the small New York bathroom behind him. Irritation and embarrassment flared up in his chest, but Olivia was apologizing, and she quickly bolted to the toilet.

Then an awkwardness hung on Dean’s shoulders like a weight, pulling him down to the bottom of some unknown emotional harbor. He wasn’t sure what to do, so he squatted down close to Livvy and put a tentative hand on her shoulder. He hated vulnerability, never knew what to do with it. ”Hey,” He said, more mumbling than actually speaking, ”It's okay.” He questioned if he should do more, like try to hold her hair back or something, but if he were being honest he was a little grossed out by the vomiting, so instead he awkwardly patted her back for a moment before deciding to get his t-shirt back on. Maybe she’d had more to drink that he’d thought, or the drugs and the alcohol were a bad combination.

She came up for air, a cold sweat on her brow. She couldn’t look at him. She didn’t want to see the face he was making. She could only imagine disgust, pity, worry… She wanted to have a good time. To not let Lauren affect her and she failed. ”Sorry,” She said, barely more than a whisper. ”Lauren just,” She ran a hand through her hair, pulling it back from her face as the room spun around her, ”Got into my head. He got back into my head.” She shuddered as a wave threatened to rise. ”Just… sorry.”

When Livvy mentioned Lauren getting into her head, it all clicked. Anger flared in his mind: of course it was because of Lauren. She’d said as much before, but Dean hadn’t thought it was like that. ”Don’t apologize for that,” He said, shaking out how button up and draping it over Olivia’s shoulders. It wasn’t much, but it was a layer to hide under until she felt safe again, ”Don't even apologize for that.”

But this wasn’t something he was equipped to deal with, nor did he think his presence would be particularly comforting. And he didn’t want to be the person doing this part, if he were being honest. He sighed, running a hand roughly through his hair. ”Stay put,” It was a command, not a request. He slipped out of the bathroom, shooting a sharp look at the impatient souls waiting just outside the door, ”Be patient.”, made a beeline to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water, and went to look for someone that might be better at helping Livvy through this than he would be. Almost anyone would be a better option, really, but he ran into Erin first. ”Hey,” He interjected, not really caring if he was interrupting something, then he leaned in close to whisper, ”Livvy’s having a breakdown in the bathroom,” He passed the water to Erin, intending for her to take it to Livvy; he knew she didn’t like him, but he also knew she’d take care of Livvy. ”Lauren said something to her. I think about her stepdad.” He was sure that would be enough.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Erin Monaghan Character Portrait: Dean Sun Character Portrait: Olivia Eriksen
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Olivia Eriksen
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The Artist | Attire | #F1D03A
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Erin Monaghan
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The Bartender | Attire | hex:#800000
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Livvy barely registered his words but felt his button down go around her. Cinnamon filled her nostrils and she found it actually helped. She reached up to flush, but didn’t trust the strength of her legs enough to stand up. Instead, she pushed herself backwards, scooting on her butt until she reached the wall behind her. Her head still swam whether from panic or the alcohol, she wasn’t sure. She knew it wasn’t the drugs though. Those wouldn’t have had enough time to dissolve into her system. A shame really… she had been looking forward to the high.

She curled into a ball, her arms on her knees and her forehead resting on her arms. She closed her eyes and let the smell of Cinnamon ground her here. She would need to thank Dean for his shirt when she saw him next. Knowing him, he likely wouldn’t be back. He wasn’t good with this sort of thing. It was part of why they didn’t work. There was so much fire between them, but when the high ended and she needed tenderness… there wasn’t often much of it to share with her. Though… the glimpses of it, when he really tried, those memories she still savored. Maybe he was a good match for Jade. Tenderness didn’t seem to be her thing either from what Gabriella had told her.

She felt the shirt sliding back, exposing her shoulders and made her shiver. She slid the shirt on instead and savored the warmth. Placing her head back on her forearms, she sat, waiting.

Time passed without Livvy noticing until there was someone talking to her. Someone was in front of her. She lifted her head and found a familiar pair of hazel eyes. Erin.

Erin had made her way towards the hallway that led to the bathroom and bedrooms, after Dean had found her and informed her of what happened. God dammit...That fucking bitch-, Erin thought to herself as her eyes were anchored ahead of her. She needed to go check up on Livvy. That was where her priorities were, and always had been. Checking up on those who needed help, before succumbing to her own emotions. After she made it past the crowds of people and into that small hallway, Erin passed by a few stragglers before standing in front of the bathroom door. At first she gave a gentle knock to alert her presence, and then called out softly to see if she was allowed in.

Assuming the music must have drowned her voice out, Erin took a deep breath, cleared her throat and slowly opened the bathroom door, quickly slipping inside as she closed the door behind her. In front of her was Livvy, curled up in the corner. Erin's chest immediately tightened as she could feel her blood begin to boil. Lauren would get what's coming to her later, she reminded herself. Even though it wasn't said with words, Erin could tell by how Dean acted, it was enough. Plus, with what Erin knew about Livvy’s past, it was enough for her to piece together.

Carefully, Erin made her way over to Livvy, slowly crouching down in front of her, "Dean uhm...Dean found me and..." Erin paused for a moment, taking another heavy breath before she repositioned herself, so that she was sitting next to her friend this time; but giving her enough space. She knew what kind of state Olivia was in, and the last thing she needed to do was make it even worse than it already was.
With a gentle and soft voice she spoke back up again, "...He just said I needed to come check up on you..." Erin side eyed her friend for a moment, "If...If you don't wanna go into detail, you don't have you...But I am here for you, okay? And...You're safe, I promise." Erin gave her friend a small, but genuine smile as she spoke. Erin meant it all, she wouldn't pry if Livvy didn't want her to, and she sure as hell wasn't going to let anything else happen to her or anyone else tonight if she could help it.

Livvy blinked a few times, coming back to herself and the situation she found herself in. ”Oh I…” She looked around, realizing she was still in the bathroom and amazed that no one else had come to drag her from the room. What with the line that she assumed was still outside. How much time had passed. ”Dean. Right.” She remembered what they were doing before… what happened and she felt heat creep into her face.

”Uh… Lauren.” She ran a hand through her hair, frustrated by how difficult it was to form words, how slow they were. ”My- He’s back.” She hoped, based on her state, Erin would know who she was talking about. She tapped on her temple. ”In here.” She wrapped her arms around herself again. ”Messed me up.”

Erin sat there patiently with her back up against the wall as silence filled the room. She had anticipated waiting forever if that's what it took. She had promised Livvy she'd be safe, and she'd wait for god knows how long it would take for her friend to be okay. So Erin was a bit surprised when Livvy already spoke up after a few minutes. Staggering to explain what happened.

But considering from the look on her face alone, Erin had pretty much figured what happened. Her own chest tightened as some of her own memories from a past abusive relationship of her own came back. Erin hadn't ever really told anyone about it, other than Soren. But that was only because he ended up driving to the emergency room after Erin called him and explained how she fucked up and did something stupid. Jaimie got in her head time and time again. And all it took was one final push and she nearly went over the edge and it almost cost Erin her life.

Silence had fallen over the room again for a moment. Erin tried thinking of something to say. Anything at all to keep Livvy from feeling like she shouldn't have mentioned it. Erin swallowed hard before she looked back over at her friend, "I Uhm...I never really told anyone but...Well..Soren knew but, only because I did something stupid." there was a small chuckle to Erin's voice. More so out of awkwardness than finding the subject matter funny. "I don't know if you remember him but...Jaimie? Jaimie Blackburn?" Erin took a deep breath, her hands shook for a moment before she fumbled with them in her lap as she continued, "Turned out he was a major dick...I just didn't realize until I was too deep in some shit and...I dunno. I guess I'm just trying to say that I know that some men can be complete and utter shit. And I'm sorry you had to deal with all of that..." Erin vaguely gestured at nothing as she spoke.

Erin took another deep breath, "I guess...I just know what it's like to...To have someone else's voice and words echo in your head. Sure they're gone but...the trauma they caused isn't. It's still gonna fucking hurt and creep up on you when you least expect it." Erin took a moment to look back at Livvy, gauging how she was doing. "But what they did...what he did to you, and what Jaimie did to me...It wasn't either of our faults. Those damn pesky voices will always try telling us the opposite but, no one deserves to be treated like shit. Especially by people who should love them..." Erin lifted her hand for a moment, wanting to give Livvy a hug, but stopped herself short. "You just gotta remind yourself, that he can't hurt you anymore. And that you are one hell of a badass bitch, no matter what anyone else says." she flashed Liv a small, gentle smile before looking back out at the rest of the bathroom. Her head leaning back against the cold stone tile that adorned the bathroom walls.

Livvy listened intently, nodding as Erin shared her story. She vaguely remembered Jaimie Blackburn. She tried to remember her first impression of him, but everything was fuzzy. Coming back into focus slowly like a polaroid. Only, she was sure if she started shaking herself like one of those pictures, Erin would have an aneurism. But maybe they’d both laugh and chase the shadows of their pasts away together like they usually did. Though, Livvy didn’t feel like she could remember laughter right now so maybe not.

She reached out, gently touching Erin’s hand, pausing once she made contact with her skin and then slowly placed her hand into her friend’s. She was trying to comfort her friend without words, though she wasn’t entirely certain it worked.

She felt moisture in her eyes as she listened to Erin talk about how she was a badass bitch and everything. A part of her wanted to laugh because it was such an Erin thing to say. She watched Erin’s arm come up, hesitantly, but it didn’t come down around her like she had expected. She scooted a little closer to her and laid her head on her shoulder. It seemed everything was coming back to the way things smelled. Wine on Lauren’s breath, cinnamon on Dean’s shirt, and the smell of jasmine and leather from Erin. Two of those things were familiar and comforting. She found herself closing her eyes, feeling like she could sleep for days. ”Dean ok?” She found herself asking. Though she was sure Erin was going to say something like ”The big baby is fine. Don’t worry about him.” She wasn’t a fan of him. Then she said, ”You ok?” Mostly referring to what had happened to her years back and not finding Livvy the way she was.

A small smile had formed on Erin's face when she felt Liv's hand intertwine with her's. That was the only confirmation she needed to know that Liv was doing better, relaxing into the contact as Livvy placed her head on Erin's shoulder. There were a few more minutes of silence until Erin heard her ask about Dean, and then herself. A small smirk formed on Erin's face again, "Dean? Yeah. He was in a rush, bit anxious but...He'll be fine." Erin gave a small nod for a moment.

Erin gave a small shrug of her shoulders, "I dunno…" she answered softly, knowing exactly what Livvy was implying. "I'm doing better, I guess? I...I don't really know how to explain it." Erin gave a brief shrug, before looking back over at Liv, "But how are you doing..?" a genuine look of concern was etched across Erin's face, as well as a certain tone in her voice was clearly showing she was worried about Liv.

Livvy thought for a moment then said, ”Don’t know.” It wasn’t that she wasn’t ok. It had been the first attack in a long time and she was drunk. It heightened some things and dulled others. So she gave her own shrug justling her friend a little with the movement since she was leaning on her. She gave Erin’s hand a reassuring squeeze and added, ”Will be.”

She sat in silence for a moment, eyes closed and just… being present. She remembered when they used to do this in high school after long days. It was one of the only times Erin ever really sat still. It was hard to get her to do that when she was using her as a model for one of her art pieces. But when one of them was struggling they would just…sit. Usually by an open window or door to the outside for a nice breeze. And then life would catch up again and they would be moving.

”We should go.” she said, hearing the crowd on the other side of the door get even roudier. ”You’ll lose the door.”

Erin gave a small nod when Livvy said she wasn't but, but that she would be, and that's all Erin could ask for. As long as Livvy would be okay, that's what was important. She gently nudged Liv back in return, with a small wink added in. The two sat in silence for a moment, just letting life happen for a moment. It was small moments like this that Erin missed. When she could just be, without any everyday life stresses and concerns. The calm before the storm.

It was only when Livvy said that they should get going, that Erin opened her own eyes. Nodding slowly, "Yeah well, they do that, they'll owe me a new fucking door." she quipped back with a small chuckle. After a moment, Erin realized what kind of shape Livvy truly was in. She'd have a hard time walking, and Erin sure as hell wasn't going to make her try. Not after the bullshit she just went through. Slowly getting to her feet, Erin turned back to face Liv. Gently crouching down in front of the blond, "Alright...This is gonna be a bit weird but, I'm gonna have to carry you, okay?" she asked with raised eyebrows, looking over her shoulder for a moment. "I don't wanna sound like a jackass but, right now? You'd be like a newborn fawn on a hardwood floor..."

Livvy couldn’t help but smile. And she definitely couldn’t argue. She wouldn’t trust her legs either right now. So, uncurling herself even further, she reached out to wrap her arms around Erin’s neck, careful not to hold too tightly. Then she slid forward so her chest was flush against Erin’s back. When she was ready she said, ”Ok.”

Erin patiently watched as Livvy slowly got to her feet as well as she could, offering some assistance if she needed any. Erin had turned around to offer her back, it was unconventional yes, but it'd be the easiest way of carrying Livvy without making things too awkward. Last thing they'd need is people getting the wrong idea, even if they did, so what. it was none of their concern. Erin waited and kept herself grounded firmly as she felt Livvy wrap her arms around Erin's neck, Erin nodded and carefully looped her arms around Livvy's legs to help support her, and held on a bit tight as she slowly rose to her full height. Turning her head slightly to look at Liv, "You doing alright back there, Spider-Monkey?" she offered with a grin. This oddly reminded Erin of the time back in highschool when Liv messed up her ankle and needed to be carried. They did the exact thing back then, and got plenty of odd looks then, doubt it'd be any different this time. Oh well, people could mind their damned business.

Livvy’s response was a swift peck on Erin’s cheek as she turned her face towards her. Well as much as she could with Livvy being on her back. ”Thanks.” Then she settled against Erin’s back feeling safe and cared for and for the first time that day she thought, Fuck you, Eustis. I am wanted, but people who aren’t selfish disgusting shit lords like you. She closed her eyes, letting her hair cover her face so she wouldn’t be seen. She didn’t care if the people she cared about saw her like this but a whole crowd made her feel panicked.

Erin couldn't help but blush ever so slightly when she felt Livvy plant a small kiss on her cheek. Clearing her throat, Erin took a deep breath, "Don't mention it. For you? You know I'd do just about anything, so...No need to thank me, hun." she said with a small smile before turning back to face the bathroom door. "Alright fuckers.." she muttered, before opening the door. There was a group of at least six people waiting outside in the hallway, all of which gave the two an odd look. "Yeah well mind your fucking business, alright? Or fuck off." she bit back.

Hearing Erin telling the horde outside the bathroom to fuck off, Livvy bit her lip, hiding the beginnings of a smile. She brushed her thumb against where Erin’s skin was at her neck in approval. A sign she was becoming herself again.

At the sudden sensation on the back of her neck, Erin immediately straightened up some, clearing her throat once more. God dammit..., she thought to herself. Just like that, Liv managed to get back into her head, of course she did. She always did. But now wasn't the time for that. Erin was brought back to reality when she caught sight of motion in front of her.

The group made way for Erin, who gave them a small nod and began to make her way out from the hallway and into the main room. Looking for a place for Livvy to sit, allow herself to breathe again and be left the fuck alone. There was the den, but it seemed busy with people still playing pool and the other games available. Her eyes scanned the room, before landing on one of the couches, thankfully they were entirely unoccupied. Erin passed through the mass of dancing folk, and people who were standing and talking.

Managing to sidestep and walk around others, even with Livvy still on her back, Erin managed to finesse her way through the crowd. Ignoring the looks she received. It was only when they finally arrived to the couch, that Erin finally turned back around and let Livvy down. When she felt her grip loosen and finally slip away, Erin turned back on her heels. Giving the blond a small wink, "I'm gonna get you some water and, you just sit tight, okay?" Erin quickly disappeared for barely a minute, quickly returning with an unopened bottle of water. She took a seat next to Livvy for a moment, opening the bottle of water and finally handing it to her, "That should help." she said with a small smile. Looking around the room for a moment, looking back at Livvy, "You sure you're going to be okay? I don't...I don't wanna leave you alone if you're not feeling entirely fine to be on your own.." the look on her face was genuine and sympathetic, and she'd be damned if anything else happened to Liv during this party. Or Erin would actually throw hands with someone.

Once Erin stopped moving, Livvy could sense a large, comfy object behind her and with about as much grace as a belly flop diver, she released herself from Erin’s back and dropped onto the cushions. She pushed herself back until she was leaning against the back of the couch and waited for Erin to return with the bottle of water. When she did, she gladly took it from her, savoring the cold beneath her finger tips before she downed almost the whole thing. When Erin asked her if she was going to be ok if left alone, she nearly found herself asking Erin to stay… But this was her party. There were people to see and things to do. She couldn’t hog her friend all night so instead, she gave her another peck on the cheek and said, ”I’ll be fine. Thanks to you.” Then she nudged her friend on the arm and said, ”Go. I’m sure Evie would like another dance.” Just like in high school when their period of stillness was over, life was calling them back.

Erin gave a small nod when Livvy said she could go, and how she'd be fine. But Erin knew enough that she was simply saying it put her mind at ease. A small chuckle escaped her lips, "Oh please. Like anyone in their right mind would want to dance with me again. Cuz I totally know how to dance." she mused. With a small shake of her head, Erin sighed. Looking back at Liv, she gave the blond a small smile and leaned down.

Gently placing a gentle kiss on her forehead before pulling back away. "I'll come check up on you in just a bit, okay? You're priority number one." Erin said as she gently squeezed Liv's hand before turning back out to face the crowd. She had far too many things to keep track of, and attend to. And god damn if she knew what she was going to get out of the way first.




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Character Portrait: Robyn Miller Character Portrait: Soren Bowers
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soren bowers
outfit - #4d5676
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robyn miller
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Soren was pointedly trying to avoid Lauren as best he could, and was doing pretty damn well. He was making a beeline back towards the kitchen to replenish his drink without catching her attention, and her wrath, when he heard the unmistakable sounds of somebody getting slapped from across the room. He turned to see Robyn, of all people, screaming at Lauren. Her outburst was something he never would have expected from her, but he couldn’t say that he wasn’t glad to see it. It was worth it for the look on Lauren’s face. He continued his beeline to the kitchen, but grabbed another drink while he was there.

Lauren was nowhere to be seen when he returned to the main room, so he felt safe enough making his way to Robyn, holding out the second drink to her. “Do I want to know what bullshit Lauren was spewing this time?” He asked as he did so.

Robyn had only taken a few steps away and leaned against a wall to try to compose herself. It wasn’t like her to blow up like that at someone. As she looked up she was startled a bit and flinched back seeing someone come up to her, as she was still on edge. “Oh. Sorry. Hey Soren.” She spoke quickly, then taking another deep breath and taking the drink from Soren, figuring out what to say exactly. Robyn obviously didn’t want to tell the secret of her and Lauren getting together and cheating on Nathan. “Yeah. Just, some things she said about Nathan got to me…” She trailed off, rubbing her arm with her free hand, and taking a deep drink. “Thanks for this.”

Soren just nodded, shrugging a little as she explained. “She’s a pro at getting under your skin and figuring out the best way of tormenting you. Try not to let her get into your head, that’s giving her what she wants,” he advised. “Trust me, took me long enough to get her out of mine.” He shrugged again as she thanked him for the drink. “No worries. It’s great to see you again. I’m… sorry I couldn’t get home for the funeral. I was in Australia and we had back to back shows booked, I just… couldn’t get around them,” he said. “How are you doing? Feel free to feed me some bullshit about how you’re fine or tell me to just fuck off, I won’t mind,” he said with an awkward laugh.

She nodded in agreement with Soren about Lauren getting into her head and how she was such a good tormentor. Luckily she didn’t have to deal with that often since they were mostly on mutual terms. Is this what it was like for everyone trying to deal with Lauren during high school while Robyn ignored most of it so she wouldn’t feel Lauren’s wrath. The thought sent a shiver through Robyn before focusing back on Soren and their conversation. She kept her gaze to the side as he apologized for not being able to make it to the funeral.

“It’s fine Soren. I know you were busy, Nathan would always give me updates about you and Beautiful Strangers. Plus it wasn’t that big of a ceremony, it was small and simple, something that Nathan would’ve wanted you know?” Robyn quickly downed the drink and set it down. “I still go see him just about every week. He has a beautiful headstone.” She continued to speak, able to see the headstone, crystal clear in her mind as she just visited yesterday and told Nate about the party. A pair of angel wings at the top above words; Husband to one, Friend to all.

Robyn let out a small sniff and composed herself before she would start tearing up. “But that wasn’t your question. I’m doing alright. It differs from day to day. I thought coming here would help, but so far it sucks. Haven't even seen Simon since I arrived with him.”

He nodded as Robyn spoke about Nathan. Her love for him was clear, even now. Nathan had always been an amazing guy, the type of person it was impossible to hate, no matter how hard you tried. Not that he’d ever even given Soren any reason to hate him. They’d been friends through most of high school, and after the accident, Nathan had been known to randomly drop in on Soren to make sure he was doing okay, both in the hospital and when he was discharged. It was weird to think he was actually dead and not just… gone away to work for some charity or something.

Soren reached out and took Robyn’s hand, giving it a brief squeeze. “Sorry the party sucks. I promise it would have been fun, if Voldemort herself hadn’t shown up,” he said, tilting his head in the vague direction of where Lauren was. “And oh shit, I was talking to Simon earlier. If I see him again, I’ll tell him to come find you,” He promised.

As soon as Soren apologized about the party Robyn regretted her choice of words, even though he said it was Lauren’s fault. “Oh! No no! Sorry. The party is fun, I just meant in general and thinking I would be fine with it in general. Shocker, but I’m not so sure I’m over Nate completely, and everyone and everything here is just a reminder of him, of us. Going to your or Cam’s little garage practices. Hanging out with Julian after games. Or just any of the parties back then. It’s hard to think of a time when I wasn’t with him.” She spoke, taking a moment looking at Soren, realizing she’s dumping a lot. “Sorry, but it’s nice to talk to someone else besides the lord about this.” Robyn quickly gave Soren a hug.

“It is a good party Soren. I swear. You and Erin are excellent hosts. Where is she anyways, haven’t seen much of her. Sort of wanted a tour of the apartment.” Robyn rubbed the side of her neck with her left hand as she looked around for a moment.

Soren laughed, shaking his head. “It’s fine, Robyn. I know you didn’t mean it quite like that.” He said. He just smiled gently and nodded as she explained how everything reminded her of Nate. He squeezed her hand again. “Nobody expects you to be over him yet, Robyn. You take as long as you need to, okay?” He said, softly, before leaning into the hug.

At the question of where Erin was, he just shrugged, looking around. “Last time I saw her she was dancing with Evie so maybe they’re- no, there’s Evie, but no Erin, that’s a shame. I can give you a tour though?” He asked, looking back at her. It was then that he noticed something. “Hey, Robyn, where’s your engagement ring? You used to wear it all the time, right?” He said, wondering if she’d lost it somewhere in the apartment.

It made sense that Erin was dancing with Evie, Robyn always thought the two of them were cute back then, and still are, she had a suspicion of something between them. She was about to accept the offer of a tour, it was something that would take her mind off of what had happened, and possibly lead to seeing some of the others, but then Soren pointed out something. Her ring. “Huh?” Robyn looked down at her hand and immediately noticed it was gone. “Oh my god!” She freaked out for a second, trying to figure out if she ever took it off or left it somewhere. But then she froze and remembered she had it while talking to Lauren, she pointed it out. And while they were talking, while Robyn was vulnerable, Lauren held her hands. “Lauren.” Robyn mumbled out loud. “I’m going to kill her. She took it.” Robyn said to Soren, before walking off without saying much of a bye to him.

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Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Adonis Galante Character Portrait: Camilla Rhodes
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Adonis waited on the balcony for a moment after Evie left to smoke a cigarette, doing his best to calm himself. He pulled up his camera roll, looking at photos of Flor he’d taken recently. She had learned to walk and hadn’t stopped moving since. His parents had to hire two nannies to overcompensate for their negligence. He was able to visit, take her to the park or on a walk but they only allowed him to play the role of father on his terms. Doing things his way has gotten him into this situation. The consequences of his action no longer just affected him. He had to hold it together, for Flor.

He put out his cigarette on the ashtray out on the balcony, others already beginning to filter back out now that he wasn’t chasing everyone off. Already his hands were shaking, Adonis never could hide his emotions. Detouring to the kitchen, he poured himself a tall drink downing the liquor all in one gulp. Drinking wasn’t the best choice to lend to self control, but he hoped to ride that sweet spot before it fully hit him to be able to hold his temper with Lauren.

Wherever she was, Lauren was doing a good job hiding from him. He worked around the flat a couple times, it wasn’t that big so he wasn’t sure how she could be hiding so well. Supposing she must’ve been in the bathroom or something, Adonis doubled back to the hallway. As if he manifested her she stepped out from Erin’s room with all too smug of a smile.

Adonis exhaled roughly, his hands already balling into fists. He shook the tension off to the best of his ability, moving towards Lauren. She saw him before he reached her, already her expression twisting in that familiar expression. Adonis never had impulse control, the perfect guinea pig for her manipulations.

“Nis,” She purred as he approached her, giving him a once over. “I like the look, the new work uniform suits you.”

“Glad you like it,” Adonis bit the inside of his cheek, forcing a smile.

Of course Lauren knew he was working for the cartel. Adjusting his tie, he leaned against the wall and turned to face Lauren. He knew she just wanted a reaction. Years of managing his parents, Adonis found the trick with narcissists was to not give them that. He wasn’t really sure what more Lauren could want from him, or anyone here - except maybe attention, and control.

“I was hoping you’d show.” Adonis admitted, lowering his voice an octave as he stepped in towards her.

“Oh?” Lauren raised a brow towards him, feigning ignorance. “I didn’t think you’d be so happy to see me, not after the last time you came over.”

Escalation, that’s what it always was with her - with his parents. You could never win a game of chicken, sure to end in mutual destruction before any chance of victory. Adonis shook his head, laughing under his breath. He had to keep his cool.

“Yeah - about that.” He swallowed hard. “I’m sorry. I lost it and honestly I don’t want things to be like that between us.”

Lauren kept her eyebrow raised as Adonis apologised for how things had gone the last time. “Oh, really?” She asked. “Is that the only reason you were looking for me? A half-hearted apology? Or did you actually want something?”

“Come on, don’t be like that.” Adonis pleaded, reaching out for one of Lauren’s hands. “I messed up, I know I did. I just -”

Adonis paused, catching his breath. If he acted out like he did last time he showed up at Lauren’s house, he’d never get custody of Flor. Especially if his parents got wind of it. Showing up to the mother of your child’s house screaming and pounding the door wasn’t a good look for anyone. He was genuinely sorry - though more because he wanted to be better for Flor than any sympathy he might have had for Lauren.

“Look - I know you had your reasons for what you did.” He reasoned, doing his best to appear empathetic. “I’m not saying you or I would do any better, but - my parents?”

Lauren very deliberately pulled her hand away from Adonis and folded her arms so he couldn’t repeat the gesture. He was trying so hard to stay calm, and it was adorable, really. But that just made the challenge of getting him mad all the more tempting.

“Who the hell else was I supposed to hand her over to?” She asked. “My parents? Who would just pay nannies to look after her so they never have to deal with her, because she’s a shame on their reputation? What other options did I have? Should I have given her to Nate and Robyn, let them play happy families? Because that wouldn’t have ended well, would it? Who else did I have after that? Strangers? Would you have preferred that?” She asked, her tone equal parts hurt and defensive. Truth be told, she had felt lost about what she was supposed to do with the baby. She’d taken a gamble by going to Adonis’ parents; and oh, it had worked out so perfectly for her.

As angry as he was with Lauren, Adonis empathized. He wouldn’t have known what to do either, and he doubted he would have been able to make a better decision himself. Honestly he didn’t know what was the best choice but that was the point, he never got the chance to even think about it let alone have a say. He felt the clench of guilt in his chest. If he could have been there for Lauren, for Flor - he would have, but she took that choice from him.

“Maybe you could have talked to me - we could have figured something out together.” He reasoned, his anger fading to frustration. “My parents took advantage of you Lauren, they used you and now they’re using Flor.”

Lauren had to hold back a laugh as Adonis said that he could have talked to him. That had certainly never been an option. Lauren hadn’t wanted to be tied to Adonis. That was the whole reason she’d handed the kid over in the first place. No attachments, and a clean slate for her. Getting him involved would have made the situation unnecessarily difficult.

She shrugged as Adonis said that they were using Flor. “What am I supposed to do about that? I signed over all my rights. I legally have no connection to her. It’s not like I can just go back and say, ‘sorry, changed my mind,’ Adonis. Not to mention, they made it explicitly clear that I am no contact with her. I can’t do anything.” Not to mention, going back on their agreement would involve having to pay back all of the money they’d given her, and that wasn’t an option for her right now.

“You can tell the court you were coerced.” Adonis said a bit too quickly, the request has been sitting at the tip of his tongue. “You could tell them you lied when you said you didn’t know who the father was.”

His tone was bordering near desperation. The details of his parent’s agreement with Lauren were still fuzzy, whatever terms his parents had set in place with Lauren was beyond Adonis. He had figured there had been at least some conditions, though to which extent was unclear. Adonis pulled out his phone, opening his camera roll to a picture of Flor to show Lauren.

“I’m begging you, Lauren. Please - don’t do it for me, I’m a piece of shit. I know that.” He pleaded. “Do it for her, she doesn’t deserve this shit.”

Of course he’d come to her with a plan, an answer already prepared. Lauren just shook her head a little and shrugged. She was about to respond, when he shoved his phone towards her, showing her a photo of the toddler. Lauren hadn’t seen Flor since she’d handed her over, and she didn’t want to see her right now. She pushed Adonis’ hand aside.

“And what? Let you have custody? Do you really think the court would even let you have custody? You’re involved in the fucking mafia, Adonis. Does she really deserve that shit?” She hissed. “I’m not getting myself in trouble with the courts by admitting that I lied, and I’m certainly not pissing off your parents, just so you can play happy families with your daughter.”

Adonis’ jaw tensed, Lauren obviously striking a nerve. He placed his hand against the wall beside Lauren, his eyes darkening as he leaned in. His words came out through gritted teeth, strained. “I would be real fucking careful what my next words were if I were you, Lauren.”

Obviously there was no reasoning with Lauren, there never was. There was only one thing Lauren understood and that was self-interest. Any sympathy he might have had for her dissolved. If she was insistent that he was the bad guy, fine - he’d be that bad guy. He was tired of playing nice anyways.

Adonis leaned in, lowering his voice to a near growl in Lauren’s ear. “There is no limit to what I would do for that little girl, Lauren. So if I were you I would start thinking less about whatever court ramification, and more about what happens to people who piss off people in the mafia.”

Lauren didn’t scare easily. And she certainly didn’t show it when she was. When Adonis leaned in, she didn’t let herself respond, just stayed standing up straight, staring at a spot somewhere behind them, and keeping an indifferent expression on her face. It was only when Adonis made his threat that she actually responded. She grasped the lapels of his jacket, taking a step even closer.

“What you need to remember is that me and your boss have a history of our own. Remember who the fuck you’re playing games with before you show all your cards,” she whispered, before patting his cheek and ducking out from under his arm, choosing to saunter away from him without a second glance.

Shifting as Lauren maneuvered around him, by the time he rounded towards Lauren she had already put a few bodies between them. He opened his mouth to swear, catching himself before the words escaped his lips instead letting out a sound of frustration. Others in the hall gave his a sideways glare, Adonis turning his backs to them as he rubbed a hand over his face trying to maintain his composure.

It didn’t matter who Lauren had or hadn’t fucked, or who she thought she may or may not had wrapped around her finger. Adonis would make sure Lauren would fix her fuck up, or pay the price. His hands balled into fists once again, Adonis rooted in place willing himself not to go after Lauren. He looked back to where he saw her last, now seeing Camilla near the end of the hall.

He met her gaze with undeserved ire, his mind still on Lauren. When he realized this misdirection expression of anger, he softened. Shaking his head, Adonis looked back to Camilla. There were still traces of his anger, but now he looked more sad than anything. Unsure how much Camilla had witnessed between him and Lauren, he wasn’t sure what her impression of the situation would be. Afraid to approach her should she be wary of him, he leaned back against the wall behind him waiting for her reaction.

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Character Portrait: Damien Wolfe Character Portrait: Gabriella Montez
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Jade’s voice sounded fainter the second time through the door. Gabriella took her first breath in a while, realizing she’d been holding her breath while listening. Her hand naturally brushed over where the inner pocket would be had it been exposed, almost protective in nature. She hated how comforting she found it just to know they were there. There was almost a sense of pride that she could just hold onto them and not take them, her addiction trying to convince herself that she was practicing willpower. The only thing that was keeping her from taking those pills here and now was spite, but that wouldn’t last long. Self-restraint had never been Gabriella’s strong suit. She much preferred the help of others to do the restraining.

Gabriella opened the door slowly, scanning for Jade as she stepped out. When her gaze landed on Damien she paused, any worry she might have been showing melting away. She didn’t have a chance to even say hi to him earlier, let alone notice the way his suit fit his frame. He was dressed in all black, not that it surprised her. He and his wolves often did.

Anyone who had been lingering around before had moved into either the kitchen or living room, leaving Gabriella and Damien alone in the dimly lit hallway. On a better day, Gabriella would go and find Declan or Evie, maybe go home. However right now the only thing keeping her from popping the little pill in her pocket was the thoughts Damien’s intense stare provoked.

“I didn’t realize you and Jade were so chummy.” Gabriella leaned against the wall beside Damien, one of her legs sliding over the other to brush against his.

Damien waited for Gabriella to emerge from the washroom after Jade had gone. He eyed her warily as she rested against the wall near him, crossing her long legs in front of her. Damien made an effort to ignore the fact that her leg had come into contact with his, which was now exposed due to the slit in her skirt. He was well aware of what she was up to. But he wasn't going to let her take him that easily.

Then Gabriella commented about Damien knowing Jade, which made him lift his eyes and smile at her. “I didn't think it mattered,” he said as he took a step closer to her, his hands stuffed into his pockets. “You aren't jealous, are you?” When he mentioned being jealous, his grin faded immediately, and he became solemn. He didn't believe there was any cause for her to feel jealous. Damien made sure that they were just fuck friends.

As he stepped in towards her, Gabriella bit back a smirk. Even his proximity was intoxicating. She rolled her eyes as if the notion amused her, ignoring the little voice that said he was right. Jealous of who, she wasn’t sure. She never felt she had any claim to Damien, nor wanted any claim of Jade - so what was there to be jealous of? Waving a hand dismissively, she crossed one arm across her torso.

“Hardly,” Gabriella coyly tilted her head, her lips resting in a natural pout. “I mean, I knew you had friends in low places - I just didn’t realize that included actual demons.”

Gabriella hadn’t sought opportunities to foul mouth Jade. In fact, only Declan knew about the circumstances of their split. However, the very thing that drove Gabriella into Damien’s arms had been that she was running from Jade. It’s not like she thought they were strangers, they all knew each other somehow - but Jade’s familiarity just put Gabriella ill at ease. Damien drew a breath, simultaneously bringing a hand to his chest.


“Ouch,” he drawled, his chest clenched, “Friends in low places? You can’t be so cruel, Gabs.”

It was a simple tease for dramatic effects. Whether or not she actually meant what she had said about him and his associations, he didn’t pay any attention. He knew he had a long list of people who were considered criminals; however, they made for great allies when he needed a certain job done and “messes” to clean. They became the same friends that Damien knew he could count on to be there armed and ready to fire whenever he needed them to be. Still, Damien couldn’t hide his amusement at hearing Gabriella compare his allies to literal demons.

The mafia boss pressed both hands on the wall behind Gabriella on either side and leaned in towards her. She inhaled sharply, holding her breath. “And what does that make you to me?” He whispered, keeping his voice in a tone that was loud enough to hear, but low enough for Gabriella’s ears only. Damien eyed her lips, clenching his jaw while dubiously fighting back the urge to taste them.

It was difficult to think when he was this close, the rest of the party fading away for a moment. She looked up at him, his gaze transfixed on her pout. Usually, at this point, they’d already been tearing each other’s clothes off. Admittedly she preferred it that way. Damien had made it very clear to Gabriella where his priorities lie. She knew it was only setting herself up for failure when she began their affair. He and Dylan were endgame.

It wasn’t even that she wanted or needed Damien to herself. In fact, it was better that he wasn’t an option for the long run - that just meant there was more room to use him as a means of self-destruction. He seemed to use her for the same reason, though she imagined he framed it differently in his mind. There was a reason he came over more when he and Dylan were fighting.

“I think you’ve made it clear exactly what I am to you.” Gabriella smiled sweetly as her leg slid between Damien’s, her hips naturally lifting towards his. She tilted her head back to rest it against the wall behind her looking up at Damien. “As for what that makes me to you, I’m much more interested in all the ways and positions you can show me that.”

Damien's plans to keep Gabriella within arms reach had all but vanished the moment he felt her leg slip between his. He was battling each feeling one by one. First, she was sultry, staring him in the face with her beautiful figure. Then, just when he seemed to have triumphed, his next fight was her perfume's lovely fragrance. Finally, he had to deal with the uncomfortable sensation of skin-to-skin contact. After this epic struggle of his senses – which, of fact, lasted just a few seconds but seemed to last an eternity in his mind - he had to "adjust" himself by shifting his legs. She glanced down between them, smirking suggestively. He couldn't deny that she was driving him insane. With Gabriella, he was willing to violate any rules. He was already flirting with fire by keeping her so near to him when his wife might be anywhere. Nonetheless, he went on to accomplish what he did next.

Damien dropped his head toward Gabriella's luscious lips, licking them seductively with the tip of his tongue. “Why don't I show you exactly what you mean to me?” He groaned, his gaze fixed on her. He intended to leave her begging while selfishly taking what he wanted.

Gabriella inhaled sharply as his tongue ran across her lips, lifting her face towards his. She knew that she should have pushed him away; should have walked away instead of lingering. The truth was it was a bit exciting to know that they were one corner away from being entirely exposed. A part of her wanted Jade to see her, to see that Gabriella had moved on as well. The other part was completely powerless when Damien stood over her like this, leaving her without any choice but to stay there helpless under his stare.

“Damien,” Gabriella rested her hand on his chest, sighing with measured restraint as she felt his firm muscles beneath her fingers. She looked down as she spread her fingers across the fine fibers of his button-down. After a moment, she glanced back to Damien, her lips now upturned in a devilish smirk. “Don’t start something you can’t finish.”

Damien couldn't stand it any longer when Gabriella uttered those words. He smirked, a dare he was ready to accept. The sexual tension was overwhelming for him; usually, he could keep his guard up but Gabriella was someone he knew he shouldn't have, which only made him want to pursue her even more.

Pushing himself away from the wall he slipped his hand into Gabriella’s without saying so much as another word. He led her along the corridor past the bodies of inebriated strangers. Even holding Gabriella's hand was dangerous when someone they knew could see them and inform Dylan, or worse, Dylan would catch them. However, he was prepared to accept the chance. Gabriella was lethal. She fueled Damien's need to make poor choices, regardless of whether they would kill him. Still, he kept his eyes peeled for any recognizable faces and blended seamlessly with the crowd.

Damien pushed the bedroom door on his left, closest to the bathroom, open. It was unlocked, much to his astonishment. He peered inside to make sure it was empty. Then he glanced behind him to make sure no one they knew saw them entering the bedroom together. Finally, he took a step inside, gently dragging Gabriella along with him, and closed the door behind her. As the bedroom door slammed shut, he pressed himself against her and kissed her passionately. At that moment, Damien controlled Gabriella, leaving her with nothing but the pleasure of their connection.

She inhaled sharply as Damien leaned in, her breath cut short by his kiss. Her head was spinning so fast, all she could do was react. Arching her back, Gabriella slid off her jacket tilting her hips toward Damien. That little green pill was a distant memory, only Damien consuming her thoughts now. It was wrong, but it was the only thing keeping her from spiraling.

A part of her thought Damien wanted to get caught. He was getting riskier and riskier. They’d both be lying if they said the prospect wasn’t a bit exciting, as shameful as it might be. She knew that this was a way for him to get back at his wife when they were fighting, or at least that’s how it started. Now it was a craving, a hunger - she could taste it on his lips.

“Please,” Gabriella moaned against his lips, already begging.

Damien would normally tease her a bit longer just to watch her plead, but he was already aroused. He wanted Gabriella as much as she craved him, as shown by the gentle moans that escaped her lips. So, like any gentleman, he pulled her off her feet and carried her to the bed to fulfill her wish.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Damien Wolfe Character Portrait: Erin Monaghan Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Gabriella Montez
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Gabriella was adjusting her skirt when the door to Erin's room opened. Instinctually she glared at Damien, having thought he had locked the door behind them. Immediately Gabriella felt her chest clench, her mind going to worst case scenario and expecting to see Dylan. When she saw Erin, her panic faded to shame. Color rushed to her cheeks, her face suddenly very hot. She caught a glimpse of her reflection, make up and hair mussed.

“My skirt broke,” Gabriella practically barked the excuse. She looked over to Damien who was equally disheveled. “Damien was just helping me.”

It was obvious Erin wasn’t buying it, not that Gabriella was selling it all that well. Gabriella knew she probably should have let Damien handle it. He was always much smoother than she ever was. It wasn’t that Gabriella couldn’t lie, though ‘sober’ Gabriella wasn’t nearly as good as Gabriella when she was using.

“Sorry,” was all Gabriella could manage to mumble, pushing past Erin and back into the party.

Suddenly Gabriella felt she should leave. Though she didn’t think Erin would drop the bomb on Dylan tonight, she didn’t know if she could stay here knowing that Erin knew about her and Damien’s affair. Her hand went back to the fabric over the inner pocket, comforted by the shape of the little green pill. She was reminded of the ketamine she had forgotten she’d hidden in Erin’s place last time she relapsed. The last thing she wanted to do now was piss Erin off, Gabriella needed to get those drugs before it blew back in her face.

People were distracted and drunk enough that Gabriella felt no one would notice her. She went into the den moving into the corner where the vent was. Looking around to make sure no one was looking, she pretended to spill the contents of her purse, kneeling down to pick them up looking into the vent to see her baggie still there from when she hid it. Luckily Gabriella had a knack for fishing out drugs she had to hide in a hurry. She had a paperclip in her wallet, manipulating it into a hook. Manipulating the clip into the vent to hook around the baggie she pulled it out, the bag piercing and spilling a bit of the powder as it slipped through. Moving too quickly to pay attention to who might be watching, she shoved the baggie into her purse along with her lip gloss.

Straightening herself, Gabriella slid her bag back over her shoulder as she dusted off her skirt doing her best to appear nonchalant. Not that it really mattered - the worst that would happen is that she’d have to admit to more bad behavior and hope that her friends trusted her intention. But Gabriella was tired of letting her friends down, of forcing them to give her the benefit of the doubt when she didn’t deserve it. Her hand went to her chest, fingers brushing over the fabric that covered the inner pocket of her jacket. She couldn’t feel the pill but knowing it was there was oddly comforting.

Lauren was scanning the room for her next victim when she spotted Gabriella on her hands and her knees, apparently picking up what she’d dropped out of her handbag. But Lauren also saw her fishing something out of the vent, a telltale little packet from Gabriella’s past; or so she’d have everyone believe. Lauren grinned and sauntered over to her.

“Hello, Gabriella, darling. Do you need any help or did you get everything?” She asked, her trademark wicked smile in place. “That fell out of your bag, I mean,” she added, the clarification entirely false, of course.

Gabriella stiffened at the sound of Lauren’s voice. Of course she would manage to be the one to find Gabriella in this moment. She didn’t even have to question if Lauren saw what Gabriella fished out of the vent, her expression of wicked delight a tell-tale sign. She wasn’t sure how she missed the arrival of the woman, though Jade and Damien had done well at distracting Gabriella from the rest of the party. It wasn’t that much of a surprise she ended up here, Lauren always managed to find a way to ruin things.

“I don’t think anyone needs nor wants help from you, Lauren.” Gabriella’s tone was casual, void of emotion. “Did you need something, or did you just want to insert yourself somewhere you’re not wanted?”

The two were no strangers to arguments, they always would end up in one, one way or another. Gabriella was different now though, Lauren wasn’t going to get a rise out of her. That’s all she wanted, a reaction. Gabriella crossed her arms, looking Lauren over.

Lauren pouted as Gabriella told her that she didn’t need her help, and asked if she needed something. “Come on, Gabriella, can’t I say hello to an old friend? Can’t we say that the past is in the past and move on?” She asked. She knew that Gabriella was unlikely to take her up on that offer; but at least Lauren could say that she’d tried the nice card; and, most importantly, everyone around her had heard her at least trying to be nice.

“Would love to leave the past in the past but she keeps showing up where she’s not invited.” Gabriella rolled her eyes, she knew Lauren’s game. “No one’s falling for your bullshit anymore, Lauren.”

Lauren loved to play a victim. It’s what would lead to everyone yelling at Gabriella asking why she was starting stuff with Lauren. Gabriella never cared what Lauren thought about her, at least not in the same way the others did. She knew Lauren was easier to manage if you just played along. That’s why she hadn’t been thrown out on her ass yet, or at least that’s what Gabriella guessed. However the others already knew she was a piece of shit, and that she was at least trying. What could Lauren have to hold over Gabriella to manipulate her that the other’s didn’t know already. She had nothing to lose, or so she thought..

Well, if Gabriella wasn’t going to play nice, then Lauren wasn’t going to either. She smiled again, taking a step closer to Gabriella and lowering her voice. “Oh, come on now. There’s no need to be like that. We don’t want to have everyone finding out about what you just stashed back in your bag now, do we?” She asked. “How do you think Erin would feel, knowing you stashed drugs in her apartment and left them here, all this time? And after you’ve come this far, I’m sure everyone would be… really sad to hear that you’ve relapsed again. Especially Evie, seeing how you cling to her for support,” she said, her voice just loud enough for Gabriella to hear. “And Jade… well, I’m sure she’d be heartbroken to find out that you’re not getting your supply from her any more.”

“Oh no - what will I do?” Gabriella’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Everyone will know I have a drug problem, how will I manage?”

People would sooner be pissed at Lauren for outing Gabriella than they would be at the prospect of Gabriella relapsing, at least the people that mattered. Besides, Lauren didn’t want to spill secrets - she wanted to lord it over others head to keep them under their control. Gabriella hadn’t done any drugs and while it didn’t look good to be busted with some on her, she didn’t deserve this bullshit Lauren was trying to spin it into.

Stepping in towards Lauren, Gabriella’s voice dropped an octave denoting the seriousness of her sentiments. “I’m the first person to admit I’ve fucked up, Lauren. You can’t hold my mistakes against me anymore, I own them and I’m trying to make myself a better person - which is more than you can say for yourself.”

It seemed that Gabriella was no longer as easily manipulated as she had been. The frustration was beginning to build inside Lauren, but she was determined not to let it show externally. She just needed to change her tact and approach this from a different angle. She had plenty up her sleeve; she just needed to decide how to use it.

“A better person, you say?” She asked, one eyebrow arching a little bit. “I mean, that’s one way of putting it. What would Mommy and Daddy say if they knew that their precious little darling girl was… well, selling herself?” She asked, increasing the venom in her tone. She needed Gabriella to know that if she so much as dared to try and cross Lauren, she would regret it. “I found out about those little streams of yours. Do you think they’d like to know about that? Have you sold them your lie that you’re a better person now?” She asked, raising an eyebrow ever so slightly.

Gabriella felt a clench in her chest. It’s not like she hadn’t been preparing for this moment. These days people loved to out sex workers just because, sending their family screenshots and links. She knew one day somehow she would face this moment, though for whatever reason she never saw Lauren being the one using it against her. Obviously Gabriella had struck a nerve and now Lauren was lashing out.

“What is your endgame here, Lauren? Do you just want everyone else as miserable as you?” Gabriella’s insult came out as more of a plea. She knew there was no reasoning with Lauren, she would do whatever she wanted regardless of any kind of begging Gabriella could offer. “I don’t know what you even want from me. If you’re just trying to scare me, honestly go ahead and tell them. I’d rather just get this all over with than keep playing these games with you.”

Gabriella’s response reassured Lauren that she still had something of the upper hand over the other woman. It was enough for Lauren to feel like she was, at least, still in control of the situation, and so she allowed her smile to widen a little.

“Oh, darling, I’m not trying to scare you. I’m just making sure that…you don’t try anything. I’ve heard how you’ve already turned Evie, and Soren, and god knows who else, against me. Just consider this… protection. So we can be friends again,” she said, her smile brightening. Her goal, of course, wasn’t to be friends, but to maintain control. Gabriella had always been one of the hardest to keep wrapped around her finger; so if she could keep a hold on her, she stood a better chance of regaining her position at the top of the food chain.

“Turned against you?!” Gabriella laughed, folding her arms as she shook her head. “Lauren, I didn’t have to do anything for people to realize you’re a shitty person. You showed them that all on your own.”

Lauren was tired of trying to play nice. Gabriella was being deliberately difficult, and she wasn’t afraid of Lauren any more. But Lauren knew things about Gabriella that she shouldn’t have known, and it seemed they were going to be the weapons she needed to use to bring the other girl in line and back into Lauren’s control.

“And what about all of those drugs you stole from Erin and her crew, hmmm? I hear that all of those drugs going missing got them in a little bit of trouble. Even got somebody killed,” she said. She had dropped the nice act, and now her voice was low and dangerous; a warning. This was no empty threat. Not any more. Gabriella either needed to be brought in line, or else she needed to be removed as a threat to Lauren. They were the only two solutions left to Lauren now.

It felt like the room went quiet for a moment, a sinking sensation settling in the pit of Gabriella’s stomach that made it difficult to swallow. There was no amount of preparation that could have equipped Gabriella for this bomb. She wanted to deny it, to pretend she didn’t know what Lauren was talking about but she couldn’t. In a way Gabriella felt she deserved this, that she should be called out - that everyone should know what she’d done. Disoriented, she lost her balance for a moment, reaching out for the wall beside her to steady herself.

Immediately her mind asked the question how did she know? The only person who Gabriella had ever admitted her secret to was Jade, and only after excessive amounts of coercion and Jade’s own personal drug cocktail put Gabriella in the most compliant state. She couldn’t imagine Jade would have told Lauren, it gave her too much of an upper hand over Gabriella to share.

“I -” Gabriella opened her mouth to speak, the words immediately faltering. There was nothing she could say, her reaction already gave her away. Denying at this point would just make Lauren angrier.

Suddenly Gabriella felt very alone, shrinking in Lauren’s shadow. It didn’t matter how hard she tried, her past would always come back to haunt her. Lauren was right, Gabriella was a bad person - she just fucked her best friend’s husband in the next room for Christ’s sake! Gabriella might have been able to fool Evie, Soren, Declan and even Dylan - but Lauren saw right through her. Birds of a feather and all that.

Lauren smiled triumphantly as Gabriella stumbled, clinging to the wall. She could see the cogs turning in Gabriella’s head, trying to figure out what had happened, trying to figure out how to react. But she made the right decision by not reacting. Her triumph just soared as Gabriella seemed to consider denying it or rebutting it, and then fell silent.

“I knew you’d see my side of things,” Lauren said. She took a step closer to Gabriella so she could whisper in her ear. “This can be our secret. Nobody else needs to know about it, do they?” She said, before kissing Gabriella on the cheek and walking away, confident in her victory.

Dazed, Gabriella watched as Lauren let herself out onto the balcony. There was nothing left for her to say. As usual, Lauren held all of the cards. Suddenly remembering there was still a party around them, Gabriella looked around to see if anyone was staring. As if the world was working against her, the first familiar face she locked eyes with was Julian - Jade’s older brother.

Gabriella tensed her jaw. She knew exactly how Julian felt about her, that Jade told him it was Gabriella’s drugs that he was busted with. The last thing she needed was his flawed judgement. Gabriella looked away quickly, heading out the front door and onto the street. She turned in a random direction, sending Declan a quick text: suddenly have urge to smoke. going to buy cigs. brb.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Jade Davies Character Portrait: Lauren Clark
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jade davies
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Jade walked past the kitchen and poured herself a glass of champagne, not skimping on the luxury she had come accustomed to. She walked past a few people near her, not even registering them. She leaned against the doorpost of the kitchen when she saw Erin carrying in Livvy like she had lost the feeling in her legs. Wow, that looks a bit dramatic…
She thought of checking up on her, but then, it wasn’t like she cared about Livvy that much. And it looked more like a case of not being able to hold one’s liquor.

Jade looked at the other side and saw someone coming in from the balcony door, tears in their eyes. Well, I guess Lauren did show up after all.
She turned around to grab another glass of champagne before making her way to the balcony herself. She opened the door and saw her standing at the end, her used-to-be role model for pretty much everything in life. She walked closer.
”I knew if I just followed the tears I would get to you sooner or later.”

Lauren raised an eyebrow at that familiar voice, smiling with delight as she spotted Jade. “Oh, you know me so well, darling,” she said, wrapping an arm around Jade and kissing her on both cheeks. “You look amazing, being a doctor clearly suits you,” she said. “God, it’s really been too long. So, come on, tell me everything that’s been happening. With you and with everyone else, I want to make sure I haven’t missed out on any potential dirt,” Lauren said with a wicked smile.

Jade was happy to meet the greeting and returned the kisses. As she received the compliment on her looks, she stepped back and circled around, showing her dress off. ”Wow you must have changed as well, if you need me to get any dirt on people.” she replied with a cheeky wink.

”Oh well, not sure how much news I have in any case. You must be up to date. Julian went to jail, i’m sure you knew that...” she started listing their old friends on her fingers. ”Nate died, Robyn cried. Gabriella pretends to be off drugs.” Then she held her hand next to her mouth and continued the line in a whisper. ”but I’ll make sure that’s not going to last.”

”Otherwise..uhm.. Erin just carried in Livvy like the latter can’t use her legs anymore, wonder what happened there…. Dec’s still a dick… and..oh, watch this” Jade grabbed her phone from her purse and scrolled through the pics till she pulled up one of herself with a little girl. She held the picture in front of Lauren. ”Guess who this beauty is” she said smiling.

Lauren had to force a laugh as Jade implied that Lauren somehow needed her, as if she wasn’t just trying to find out how much the other woman knew. “Nobody talks to me any more,” she pouted as an explanation. Nothing that Jade said was news to Lauren, although she was amused by her comment about Gabriella.

The only thing that caught Lauren off guard was when Jade showed Lauren a picture of her with Flor. Something about that felt wrong. But Lauren didn’t dwell on it.

“That’s Adonis’ kid, right? Can’t believe he was so careless as to get somebody knocked up,” she said with an exaggerated eye roll. “Come on, Jade, is that really all you’ve got? I would have thought that my right hand woman would have been able to find out more spicy gossip than that for me, I knew about all of that already,” she said, allowing a little bit of displeasure to seep into her voice in the hope that might make Jade spill the good stuff; if she actually had any.

Jade made a sound in disbelieve. “Wait, you can’t believe he was that careless? Do you know him at all?” Jade rolled her eyes at Lauren. If anyone of their group would get a person knocked up, it would always be Adonis. Or maybe Dean, but at least Jade made sure he wouldn’t do so with her.
“Of course that’s not all I got, but it’s all I’m sharing.” She turned and put her back against the railing and crossed her legs. “We hardly saw each other the past few years, and you still believe I am just here to feed you information? I kind of stepped away from that oversharing I used to do for you.”

Lauren’s smile was beginning to become difficult to keep in place. Jade had clearly gotten a little too big for her boots. But she kept that intrigued smile on her face, right up until Jade refused to tell her anything else. Lauren raised an eyebrow.

Jade could see the smile fading from Lauren’s eyes, just the plastered on smily lips left. Lauren used to be her role model, but had become the step to bring Jade herself to greater heights. She felt pride dwelling up in her chest, standing just a bit straighter than before.

“That’s a shame, you know. I really loved our old friendship,” she said, her smile fixed in place but no longer reaching her eyes. “And, you know, Jade, I’ve been keeping an eye on you. Just making sure my former bestie was staying out of trouble. And I got my hands on something really, really interesting. I have friends in the hospital; did you know that?” She asked, pulling her phone from her bag and tapping into a video. She tapped play, and held the video out to Jade.

Jade rolled her eyes once again at Lauren’s so-called friends at the hospital. If this was Dec’s handy work, he would pay for it dearly. Jade looked at the phone, seeing herself in doctor’s uniform. It was clearly CCTV footage taken during one of her shifts. Looking around before opening a door with a card key that could not have been hers. It was a medicinal storage unit and as a resident, she was not allowed in those.

Jade could see the time skip on the clock that was ticking away on the screen. Seeing herself get out the door, you could just recognize how she placed a few bottles of pills in her lab coat. The footage was quite old, and Jade remembered the day this happened. She had only just started there and she did not have any contact with the suppliers she had now. However, this video with the right, or wrong, people could be the start of a nasty inquiry she was not prepared to face.

She kept her face stoic, trying to show no reaction to it. “So you got someone to send you the security camera images from my place of work. Wow Lauren, you really have lost your touch. And this is supposed to impress me somehow?”

Lauren could recognise some of her own mannerisms in Jade’s face as she tried to hide her reaction to the video. To give the other girl credit, Jade did a good job of covering up her reaction.

“I wouldn’t say I was hoping to impress you. See, Jade dearest, I don’t really care about impressing you. But you know, this really did trouble me. Because well, stealing is wrong, Jade, especially from a hospital. So, let’s talk business, shall we?” She said, She took a step closer to Jade and dropped her smile. “40% of all your earnings from your sales. Or I send this to all of your supervisors, and possibly even some of my friends in the police. And you back the fuck off and remember which one of us is, and always will be, the queen.” She said, fixing her smile back on her face, as if she’d just made a casual offer.

“40?! 40 fucking per..?” her face was no longer one of calmness. She could not even finish the sentence at the same time as processing it. “You must be out of your goddamn mind to ask for 40%.” Jade pushed her finger in Lauren’s face. “If you really kept an eye on me, like you said you did, you know that is a fuck-ton of money. Earnings you yourself wouldn’t be able to explain.”
She lowered her finger, but she was still seething.

“You are no longer the only one with friends in nice places, Lauren. You want money, fine, I’ll get you 5% and I won’t send the hounds after you.” Jade threw up a smile of absolute sarcasm. “You know what, let me be generous, I’ll get you 7% if you will buy yourself a wardrobe that didn’t go out of fashion before even you did.” With the last comment Jade touched Lauren’s dress at the shoulder.

Lauren’s smirk didn’t drop, even as Jade began to rant at her. It was adorable, really, and in some strange way, Lauren was almost proud of her for the venom with which she attacked Lauren. She’d clearly taught her well. But that anger, that fire, was her flaw. Lauren didn’t respond at Jade’s attack on her dress sense, knowing that it came from a place of desperation.

“40%. Or I ruin you, and your career. Who knows? Maybe I might even drop in the fact that I know you were the one to drop Gabriella off to the hospital. That you were the one who was nearly responsible for her death,” Lauren said, her smile held in place. “You know what, Jade? I’ll give you some time to think about it. Just don’t take too long, okay?”

Jade was left behind as Lauren walked away from her, still smirking. Jade couldn’t leave it like that. “If you ‘ruin’ me, you can be damn sure I’ll drag you down with me!”
Others were looking at them as Lauren left the balcony.
Jade looked over at them with a death stare. “What the fuck are you looking at?”
As the two quickly looked back in front of them, Jade made her own way off the balcony.

In the apartment, she grabbed her phone from her purse again, quickly looking through her contacts. As soon as the phone rang, her face put back on the more familiar sweet smile. “Hi sweetie, I miss you, are you on shift tonight?” As she exited the building she whistled for a taxi and got in quickly.
“Lenox Hill Hospital…, get me there in 5 minutes and I’ll pay you triple.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Robyn Miller Character Portrait: Jade Davies Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Soren Bowers Character Portrait: Gabriella Montez Character Portrait: Olivia Eriksen Character Portrait: Julian Davies Character Portrait: Simon Rizzo
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xSimon RizzoJulian Daviesx
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"Best of Bros"

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Once Simon was sure Soren wasn’t going to go after Lauren (at least for now), Simon headed to a different room. Cam, Robyn, and Livvy had all vanished into the crowd of the party. So, it was time for him to go in search of his other best friend. Julian.

He found him in a den of sorts, a pool table in front of him. It seemed a game had already been started though there was no one else in the room with him. ”I heard playing with yourself could make you go blind.” He said jokingly as he walked up to his friend. He saw a strawberry liquor bottle on the side of the table and he picked it up, quivering an eyebrow. ”Dude, since when do you drink strawberry liquor?”

Julian lifted his shoulders. ”First of all.., don’t knock it till you try it. Second, desperate times…” he pointed out the empty beer bottles on the side.

Simon shook his head and picked up a cue stick. ”If you want, we can finish this game out. I could hit solids. Or we could just start over.”

Julian threw the white ball he had picked from the floor up and caught it again, just playing with it. ”Fine you can be solids. The wonder twin picking up where the other left off.” Julian put the white ball back on the table and lined up his shot again, making sure not to make it bounce like before. ”But since you have a head start, I’ll make the first move.”
He made his attempt, but it didn’t hit right, and he was left with the same amount as when he started. ”Are these damned cues skew or something?”

Simon paused at the “wonder twin” comment. ”Livvy was here? Where’d she go?” He smirked slightly when Julian didn’t quite make the shot he was hoping for. ”Sure, Sure, Sure,” he said, ”It’s the cue. Not the buzzed guy holding it.” He bent over the table, aiming for the solid red to the left, hoping he could hit it just right that it would slide into the corner pocket.

It did not. He swore under his breath and examined his own cue. ”Though… you may be onto something.”

”I tell you, it’s these cues, man” Julian used his own to point in the direction in which Livvy had disappeared, chasing Lauren. Then he finally made his first successful hit of the night, smiling with pride.
”Don’t blame me for letting her go, but she was looking at Lauren with hazy eyes.” He missed the next one, but actually knocked in one of the solids.
”Jeez, I’m on the wrong team here. So yeah, Livvy.. Lauren… I guess steering into the skid can be a tactic too?”

Simon frowned. ”Livvy and Lauren?” He lined up another shot, nearly knocking in a striped, but totally missed the hole. Concern started to rise in him and he thought about going after Livvy, but he promised her space. Besides, she was a grown woman. She could take care of herself… right? He did add, ”You didn’t stop her? Anything involving Lauren is likely to end in chaos.”

”Look, don’t give me that. Livvy is as grown as you and me, probably more now I think of it. If she wants to go looking for trouble, she can find it in more ways than one at this party.”

”Good point.” Simon rubbed some chalk on the end of the cue, waiting for his next turn. Changing the subject a little he said, ”Robyn and I came together.” He wanted to know what his friend thought. He wasn’t sure how to broach the subject. He’s been with other girls since high school but they never lasted and he wasn’t with Robyn. They were just friends. And he’d never put her in a position she wasn’t ready for after Nate.

Julian smiled at his friend as he had this unsure look in his eyes. ”So, am I supposed to read something into this?” To be honest, Julian was not sure what answer he was hoping for. Robyn was someone he always liked, and one of the people in his life that was a little bit more together than most, even with the passing away of Nate. He had to be an asshole though, to be anything less than happy for both if Simon and Robyn would end up together.

Simon rubbed the back of his neck. ”I don’t know, man. I guess… I like her a lot. She’s smart, funny, gorgeous… but since Nate passed so recently, I’m giving her the space to process it all, you know?” He glanced at the table. ”Your turn by the way.” He placed the chalk on the side of the table before continuing. ”But I do want to tell her I like her.” He laughed uncomfortably. ”Yikes. I sound like I’m in high school again talking about Cam.” He ran a hand through his hair. All fidgets. A quirk he picked up from hanging around with Livvy too much.

Julian looked at Simon, sizing him up on his plans with Robyn. ”Maybe you can ask her to hold hands with you on the cab ride home.” a big smile on Julian’s face, happily teasing his friend. He walked around the table looking for his next shot, finally finding one that seemed doable. He bent over in concentration, hit the ball and missed it by a hair. ”Oh crap..”

Simon let out a laugh. ”Tough luck, man.”

Julian went to stand next to his friend and poked him in the ribs. ”Look man, if you’re going to wait for her to get over Nate before making a move you can prepare for a dry spell of a decade. I tell you, not everyone is going to wait for that, not in Robyn’s case.” He waited for Simon to make his next move. There were a few options, so Julian did not expect to get to his turn again soon.

”Don’t just tell her you like her. She will say it’s too early, and you’re going to be friend-zoned for life. You already have Livvy, you don’t need a second.” Julian loved his friend, but a little more action would not be the worst idea.

Simon puzzled over the table for a minute, noting the remaining balls in play. There was one that would be a straight shot to the corner, but only if he hit it from the right angle. He made his way around the table, lining up the shot. He took a deep breath, nudged the cue forward into the ball, and watched as the ball slowly rolled forward…and landed in the pocket.

He let out a Whoop! before turning to his friend with a big grin. And responded to his earlier comment now that he sunk his shot. He pointed a finger at him. ”Livvy doesn’t count. She’s practically my sister.” He had once thought of her that way back when he was just starting to like girls, but then he realized she could be quite the brat when she wanted to be and decided they weren’t the right fit for one another. Besides… he didn’t want to lose his best friend.

“Finally, I was beginning to lose hope for us in this game.” Julian actually sighed with relief. “I’m not saying you want anything more from Livvy, but no action would put Robyn in the same position.”

His eye was caught by Gabriella who apparently dropped her bag. He noticed Lauren walking away from her and by the look in Gabriella’s eyes, she had gotten the full load. However, he had a difficult time to feel sorry for the girl. She had always been a bad influence on Jade and it’s because of her he was busted with drugs in his car. He saw the anger and shock in her eyes, but broke eye contact. If she used her stare to reach out for help, she was barking up the wrong tree. His friend pulled his attention back to the game.

Simon looked around the table for his next shot. ”You make a good point though,” He saw another that could work, but he’d run the risk of sinking the 8 ball. ”So you’re saying I shouldn’t just tell her I like her, but put some action behind it.” It wasn’t a question. He just wanted to make sure he understood what his friend was saying. There was this party hosted by the shop’s book club that was supposed to happen in a few weeks. Maybe he’d ask her to go with him. It wouldn’t be as wild as this, but he was told it would be a good time.

Julian shook his head. His friend needed some pressure otherwise he would still wait months before doing something. ”I tell you what, let me give you a goal post. If you don’t ask out Robyn on a date to actually happen in the next 2 weeks, I will.” Julian was surprised at how serious his suggestion was. He had always liked Robyn and the thought of asking her out had crossed his mind before. But he did not want to cockblock his best friend intentionally.
”Do we have a deal?”

Simon raised his eyebrows in surprise. He hadn’t expected Julian to give up such an ultimatum. If his friend liked Robyn, it would be fair to give him a shot, too. But… He didn’t want to miss his chance. He reached out a hand to his friend for a shake. ”Deal.”
Julian had a big smile on his face, as he definitely enjoyed a bit of competition. Especially if it would help out his friend.

He found his next move and went to strike. That’s when he noticed Lauren leaving a stunned and pained looking Gabriella. He missed. He frowned, but couldn’t bring himself to say anything other than a soft swear at scratching.
Gabriella and Simon had always been like passing ships. She was friends with Livvy, he was friends with Livvy, but neither really interacted. Though he did have some short, choice words for her once he found out she helped Livvy down a darker path in high school. Even if Livvy said it was more Jade’s fault Gabriella was on the path. Or… is that what she said? He shook his head, going back to the game. Lauren was on a warpath tonight and it seemed Gabriella had somehow stepped on a landmine. He didn’t want to be in the blast zone unless he had to.

”Your turn,” He muttered, eyes following Lauren. Livvy wasn’t with her which wasn’t a good sign. He’d have to find his friend later… or confront Lauren about it. Right now, he wanted to finish a game with his friend that he’s been missing. ”I’d go for the green one.”

Julian looked around the table. There were some options, but since his skill was so deplorable this particular evening he was unsure about any of it.
”Really? You don’t think that one is in the way?” Julian pointed out the orange one in the middle.
”Oh..okay, I see. So via the long rail. You have that faith in me, to make that shot?”
Julia walked around to where Simon was standing and put the cue over his thumb and index finger. He took his shot and the cue ball bounced off the long rail, past the green ball, bounced off the short rail and hit the striped red into the pocket.
Julian raised his eyebrows, stunned by what happened. ”Well… Would you look at that.”

With a triumphant step he got ready for the next shot. His short moment of luck made him cocky. ”Okay, here we go. Green ball, right corner pocket.” He concentrated, planning his shot to hit one rail before knocking in the green ball easily. He pulled back and knocked the cue ball hard. Being the expert he was, he did hit the rail he planned on. And he did hit the green ball perfectly. However, the green ball then hit the 8-ball, tilting it into the side pocket.
”Wait..shit! No, no,no, that doesn’t count!”

Simon let out a laugh. ”Man, isn’t that game?” He thought a moment. ”I could give you the out but I…” he trailed off, looking back towards Lauren. ”I should probably find out what happened to Livvy.” He placed the cue onto the table and gave his friend a quick hug. ”We need to hang out more, man. You should come by the shop. Or I guess maybe I should come by the bar.”

Julian looked a bit defeated, still looking at the corner pocket. ”I...yeah, I guess that’s game.” When Simon mentioned Livvy, Julian finally looked up at him. ”Uhm.. Yeah, sure. You go find Livvy, I’m just gonna go and get some air. It’s really hot in here.”
He put the cue on the table. ”Hey, if you want to take Robyn home later, just let me know, I’ll make sure Livvy gets home safe.” Then he leaned in closer and whispered to his friend. ”And if things get ehm… frisky, safety first. Let me know if you need the talk.

Simon watched his friend, concern wrinkling his brow. He opened his mouth to ask if his friend was alright when he spoke again. Simon found himself laughing again. ”I think I’m good on the talk, but thanks.” He gave his friend a pat on the shoulder, then gave it a good squeeze. ”I’m here if you need anything ok?”

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Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Adonis Galante Character Portrait: Camilla Rhodes
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!!CW!! There are heavy sexual themes and drug use in this post.
Anything related to plot will be later referred to in less detail
so if these subjects bother you please allow yourself to skip to next post. x

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Camilla only caught the tail end of the conversation, well, more of catching the comment from Lauren to Adonis. Something about her knowing his boss and a vague threat, though knowing Lauren, no matter how vague the threat was, it was very much still something to be worried about. Cam also caught Adonis’ glare before he softened his look, which she returned with a smirk, and slowly walked over to him. Adonis ran a hand through his hair, his nostrils flaring. He wanted to keep his cool but it was difficult. The room seemed to get louder making it harder to think straight.

“You know, you do pull off the sexy scowl look pretty well Nis.” Stopping closely in front of him. “A good friend would probably ask if you’re okay after talking to someone like that. But I feel like I know the answer.”

Glancing back at the direction Lauren went before turning back and staring at Adonis, Camilla flashed a smile. Suddenly sneezing once then rubbing her nose, checking her hand to make sure her nose wasn’t bleeding. Adonis shook his head at Camilla’s observation, both of them looking off for a moment.

It felt like Lauren was still there, her presence haunting. He turned back to Camilla as she checked her hand after touching her nose, seeming to look for something. Adonis had been around drugs enough to know what that meant, not that he cared. He didn’t use as much as he once did but Adonis still did a line or popped a pill from time to time. If he let on that he knew she was holding, he didn’t linger.

“I can’t fucking deal with her right now,” Adonis said, referring to Lauren as he stuffed his hands in his pockets. Camilla rolled her eyes, more so in agreement with him than directed at him. “I’m just going to end up starting some shit - I should just leave before I get the cops called on us.”

“Oh come on Adonis. Don’t let her get in your head.” She said, then having an idea. She took another step forward and slowly pulled one of his hands out of his pockets and held it with both of her hands for a moment.

“Don’t leave the party - you’re here to have fun. Come on, we can get some privacy and talk.” Cam continued, pulling Adonis down the hallway. She was already starting to feel her high and wanted to do something a bit more fun than talking and taking a sip of alcohol.

Adonis feigned reluctance, letting Camilla lead him. She tried the handle on the first door she saw and let out a sigh of relief as it opened up and quickly pulled Adonis in. Camilla let go of his arm as they entered, assuming he would close the door. Cam took a moment to look around the room, quickly realizing it was Erin’s before clearing some stuff off of the top of the dresser and pulling the bag out of her purse from earlier.

“You know, I usually wait for the high to hit me harder and go down before hitting again, but if you want a big girl to hold your hand, I can.” She teased Adonis with a wink, making two lines and offering one to him.

He clicked the lock to the door behind him, Camilla already serving up two neat little rows of powder for them. It probably wasn’t wise for him to do any drugs tonight, but any liquor that had been in his system was already burnt up from the adrenaline of fighting off James and confronting Lauren. He took off his jacket, tossing it on Erin’s bed and crossing over to her dresser.

“Fuck it, this night’s already gone to shit anyways - right?” Adonis smirked, pulling out a crisp hundred dollar bill from his wallet and rolling it up to resemble a straw. He leaned over, neatly running over the makeshift straw over the line so it shot straight back. The medicinal taste hit the back of his throat, Adonis clearing his throat as he pulled back. Camilla held a smile as she watched Adonis do his line before lightly yanking the bill he used and following suit. She scrunched her nose as she whipped her hair back, running her fingers through it.

“Damn,” He said, pressing down on one of his nostrils with his thumb to inhale sharply, sending the remnants of the cocaine as far back as he could. “This is some good shit - looks like fame has its perks.”

“Mhmm. And much more than just that.” She sighed with contentment. Adonis ran his fingers over the residue from their lines, rubbing it over his gums. It made his mouth tingle. He looked over at Camilla as she slipped the hundred dollar bill into the front of her dress, giving him a look up and down.

“So suspenders huh?” Cam said as she reached out and pulled one towards her, pulling him to her a bit. He looked down at her hand pulling him, raising his brow as he looked back to her.

“I mean, you look great in them, just a curious choice. Definitely can pull them off.” She continued, releasing it as it snapped back to him and winking at him.

“You still all pent up?” Camilla asked as she turned around and strutted over to the desk on the other side of the room, she bent over slightly, possibly a bit more than needed on purpose, and moved some things out of the way and a bit of snooping. Adonis’ gaze followed her like a predator did their prey, suddenly noticing the cut of Camilla’s dress. She turned back around and faced Adonis, leaning against it.

“In a way,” He smirked, Lauren far from his mind now. His eyes ran over Camilla’s figure, lingering along her plunging neckline. Camilla felt the energy she was emitting as she watched Adonis trace her body.

“Eyes are up here big boy.” She said with a snap of her fingers and circling her face. After a moment she flashed a smile, giving the air a kiss in his direction with a soft, ‘mwah’.

Like the dog he was, Adonis’ attention was broken by the sound of her fingers snapping, looking back to her dark eyes. He flashed a mischievous smile, starting to feel the effects of the blow emboldening his actions. Stepping forward so that he blocked Camilla in, his hand slid along her arm all the way up to gently push her hair behind her shoulder. His fingers ran along her jawline, brushing over her neck before pausing.

“Camilla,” Adonis sighed, as if he was finally realizing that she was in front of him. “You know I was never really good at self-control.”

Staying still as Adonis approached, and then having him stop in front of her, Camilla started to feel a bit of heat build up in her chest and light chills over her body as his hand slid across her. She raised her chin up slightly as his fingers went along her jaw. “Well.” She spoke a single word, feeling a bit vulnerable to him for an instant. “I don’t think I’m asking you to have control.”

Cam leaned in and lightly kissed him on the cheek, barely making contact before leaning further, to his ear, her finger tracing behind it, playing with his hair. “And trust me. I know.”

Camilla knew what she was doing. He didn’t know if she just wanted to have her fun but either way he was grateful for the distraction. Wrapping his free hand around her waist he tugged her close against him. The hand that had lingered by her neck slid around, fingers curling around the nape of her neck turning her face towards her.

“What about now?” He asked, giving her an all-knowing smirk.

Letting out a light gasp in reaction to the sudden movement, Camilla just stared at Adonis for a moment. Her own hand slid down, tucking her fingertips into the waistband of his pants. Camilla wasn’t sure if it was; the effect of the drugs hitting her, the memories of spending time with Adonis in the past, or her own lust fueling her but she was enjoying this and the anticipation of what it was leading to.

Camilla just nodded in reply to his question, letting out breath as her eyes stared into Adonis’. The feeling she felt before of how she started to feel like she was under control was now in full effect. Camilla was now at his complete mercy.

“What are you going to do now?” She asked, tempting fate, giving back a smirk of her own.

As if he’d been waiting for her answer, Adonis wrapped a hand around Camilla’s leg raising it over his hip. The motion lifted her slightly, Adonis sliding her back so that she was sitting on the edge of the desk with him standing in between her legs. The hand still gripping at the nape of her neck pulled her in, his lips colliding against her’s a bit more forcefully than he intended. It was like muscle memory with Camilla.

They may have never been a thing, at least not in the traditional sense - but they had always had fun together. There was a time that it seemed like they might be, but Camilla was never meant to stick around a place like this; with people like them. He reached behind Camilla, knocking over some of the things on Erin’s desk as he leaned Camilla back pushing himself against her all the while. She was so warm and soft, his hands roaming over her and reaching under the fabric of her dress. Pausing, his hands gripping her tight, he broke their kiss looking back at Camilla with his eyes alight.

“How about something like that?” He teased, knowing full well she was enjoying it just as much as he was.

Cam exhaled softly as Adonis positioned her, letting out a quiet surprised squeak. Camilla welcomed the kiss as her hands explored behind Adonis, unclicking his suspenders and untucking his tidy shirt. She envied this feeling, her and Adonis weren’t a perfect match. They weren’t the chocolate and marshmallows that made perfect s’mores. But more so the fire below being ignited with gasoline, dangerous but hell of a lot of fun. Camilla was a bit disappointed when Adonis pulled back, but realising she was starting to breathe heavier.

“Just shut up.” She said, pulling him back in. Adonis laughed against her kiss, breaking to kiss along her jaw and down her neck - then pause.

“Hold on,” He said, walking back over to the bed to grab his jacket. Slipping his hand into an inner pocket to pull out a condom. The last thing he needed right now was to knock up another ‘friend’ from high school. Eagerly finding his way back against Camilla, Adonis returned to their previous position picking up where he left off - making sure to leave a path of destruction in their wake.

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Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Simon Rizzo
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After leaving his friend in the Den, he made to follow after Lauren. He looked around as he went, searching for the platinum blonde that was his best friend, but she was nowhere to be seen. Instead, he managed to find Lauren in the kitchen, sitting on the island with her phone in one hand and a drink in the other.

His hands clenched into fists as his sides and he took a deep breath before approaching. He vowed he would try to do this carefully. ”Hey, Lauren,” he greeted, ”Have you seen Livvy? Last I heard she was with you.”

Lauren was vaguely aware of someone approaching her, but she didn’t as much as look up from her phone, just taking another mouthful from her drink. She shrugged. “She started being all weird and stormed out of the room after I was talking to her. I thought that it was probably best to just let her be. You know what she can be like,” she said, finally glancing up at Simon.

Simon raised an eyebrow. He couldn’t help but feel like there was more to this conversation than she was letting on. Especially with the nonchalant tone she took while speaking about it. She didn’t even look at him until she had finished her response. ”That’s it? What did you say to her.” He crossed his arms over his chest, indicating that he was going to need more information before he left her alone.

Lauren had glanced back down at her phone, scrolling through her Instagram, and had intended on further ignoring Simon. However, at his question, she looked back up at him. “What does that matter to you? It’s none of your business, go find her yourself if you want to know,” she said.

Simon frowned and took a deep breath, releasing it through his nose audibly. ”It matters because she’s my best friend and you have a tendency to cause trouble.” He uncrossed his arms, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. ”Look, you’re not my frist choice, but I can’t find her and you were the last one she was seen with. So if you could give me something, for once instead of,” he waved his hand at her phone, ”whatever it is you’re doing, I can get out of your hair.”

“Ugh,” Lauren said, looking up at Simon. “Fine. We were in Erin’s room, we were talking, she made a move on me, I politely turned her down, and she lost it. She left and I don’t know where she went, probably to drown her sorrows even more. Okay? Happy now?” She asked. “I don’t know where she is, and to be honest, I don’t care.”

Simon scoffed. ”Yeah. I don’t buy that. You don’t do polite.” He gestured between the two of them to make his point. ”What’s with you anyway? Isn’t the gossip and ruining people’s lives thing a little… juvenile for you? You’ve been like this since high school. Only back then, you had friends. Do you see the people here? Everyone is interacting with the people around them. But not you.”

He couldn’t stop himself. This girl changed Cam, she teased Livvy, and he still wasn’t entirely sure what happened with Soren, but he knew it wasn’t good. He felt like his friends were behind him as he continued. ”You don’t have any friends left. You spend all your time digging up dirt to keep them under your thumb until they’re sick of it and leave you. Friendship is knowing people’s secrets and keeping it to yourself. So do everyone a favor and grow up.”

He turned and started to walk away. ”I’m going to find Livvy. And the truth.”

Lauren rolled her eyes as he made his big speech, questioning her motivations, and calling her juvenile. She didn’t need friends. She needed power, she needed control, and that much, she was getting. She was tempted to just let him go to find Livvy; and then the temptation to play her games became too much.

“Funny how you talk about friends so much, Simon. I know your family has some very interesting friends,” she called. “I would have thought that you of all people might have understood the importance of making sure that your “friends” don’t try stabbing you in the back, even if it does mean that they’d rather not be your friend,” she said. “What with the… business they’re involved in. But maybe not.”

Simon was stunned for a moment. Then sighed. He should’ve known she would have something on him too. He turned to face her. ”Don’t bring them into this. They have nothing to do with this.” He pointed a finger at her like a disapproving father. ”You don’t get to make your problems my problems.”

Lauren smiled at him, the perfect venomous smile. “I’m just reminding you that even you and your high horse have secrets that you’d rather I keep. Just remember that, Simon. Before you go and start spreading too many stories and lies about what actually happened, just remember that I have stories of my own to tell,” she said.

”Yeah well, good luck with that, Lauren. You’re going to end up on someone’s bad side and it could get you into trouble.” He said, turning and heading off in search of Livvy.

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Character Portrait: Evie Addams Character Portrait: Olivia Eriksen
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After Erin’s departure, Livvy found herself staring blankly at the wall opposite her. She was careful to gaze above eye level lest anyone mistake her blank stare as direct eye contact. Phantom fingers tickled at her skin and it took a lot of concentration not to itch or swat them away. She momentarily thought about seeking out Dean to apologize, but she couldn’t muster the energy or motivation to move. Maybe she could go find Adonis? No, there’s that moving thing again. Her fingers twitched, wanting to wrap around a pencil, the handle of a brush, or a stick of chalk, but her bag was not with her. Where did I leave that anyway?

She was so lost in her thoughts, she didn’t notice someone had approached her until they were sitting beside her.

Evie had gotten herself another drink and was just about thinking about maybe going looking for Erin again when she spotted a familiar head of platinum blonde hair sitting by herself. Livvy and Evie had never been particularly close but once Evie caught sight of the expression on Livvy’s face, she couldn’t walk away. Instead, she walked over to her, and sat down on the couch beside her. “Hey,” she said softly. “Are… are you okay?” She asked.

She didn’t startle, thanks to Evie’s soft tone. She blinked at her, a little surprised she was the the one sitting beside her. It’s not that they didn’t like each other. They just… never interacted really. Especially when their relationships with those around them had been so different in high school. Then her question finally registered.

She gave a little shrug. ”Lauren.” She didn’t give a one word response because words were hard for her. She was slowly coming back into herself from that. She gave the one word--the name--as a response because she felt that was all the explanation she needed to give. Everyone knew Lauren’s reputation and though they weren’t close, she knew Evie would likely understand without needing details.

The one word answer was more than enough for Evie to understand. Lauren’s words were still ringing in her head, even as she tried desperately not to focus on them or dwell on them. Lauren was in fine form tonight, it seemed, leaving destruction in her wake. Evie briefly reached over to rest her hand on Livvy’s. She squeezed the other girl’s hand gently, and then released it.

“I don’t know what she said, and you don’t have to tell me. But Lauren is manipulative and cruel, and doesn’t think about anyone other than herself. Whatever she said or did, she’s wrong,” Evie said, mimicking the things that had been said to her. “The opinions of the people you care about matter way more than hers do.”

Livvy gave Evie a soft smile. ”Thank you.” Livvy ran a hand through her long hair, picking at the knots that have started to form. ”She brought up something from my past that was better left buried.” She looked up, glancing at the wall again. ”But you’re right. She’s wrong. And there are people I value who have shown me that.” She was thinking of Erin. Adonis and Julian, too.

Evie returned the smile. “She does that. She doesn’t like not having control of your present, so she tries to bring up the past to use that against you. But you’ve just got to remember that your present is way better without her,” she said. She glanced down at her hands for a moment, her words equal parts reminder to her as to Livvy. “Speaking of which, I saw some of your art. It looks incredible, I was blown away,” Evie said, knowing they’d both appreciate the change in topic, but meaning the compliment.

Livvy blushed a little, unused to people praising her work like that. Some people appraised it like they would a prize pig, but not the way Evie did. Or at least, no one outside of her friends and her teachers. And even then, no one had ever said incredible. She tucked her hair behind her ear and said, ”Thanks. That means a lot.” She curled a lock of her long hair around her finger, fidgeting. ”And I uh. Saw your channel. Erin showed it to me. I’m actually a subscriber now.”

It was Evie’s turn to blush as Livvy said she’d seen her YouTube channel and had subscribed. It was still strange, hearing that from real people and people she knew outside of YouTube. “Thanks. I know there’s like… a really wide range of videos going on there, but I have fun doing it and people seem to like them, so guess I’ll stay going for now,” she said with a shrug. Then an idea hit her, and she turned to look fully at Livvy.

“Hey, you should set up a channel for your art! You could do like… speedpaints and- ooh, I bet you’d be great at ASMR! You have such a lovely soft voice, I think it would work great for it!” She gushed. “It would be another platform for sharing your art, and more people should see it!”

Livvy didn’t even have to think about it. It blew Lauren’s instagram offer--not that she’d still extended or had actually intended to from the start--out of the water. She was grinning, ear to ear. ”Oh my gosh, that’s an amazing idea, Evie!” She took the girl’s hand in hers and gave it a grateful squeeze. ”I can’t believe I hadn’t even thought about it before.”

Realizing she was holding onto a girl who was very nearly a stranger to her. She let go with an awkward laugh. ”Sorry. And thank you.” She brushed her hair behind her ear again. ”Would you mind if I came by sometime? You could show me the ropes? Help me find equipment?”

Evie’s grin just widened at Livvy’s reaction and seeing how excited she got about it, delighted that she also liked the thought of the idea. She squeezed Livvy’s hand back, before letting go. She smiled at her awkward laugh.

“No worries. And absolutely! Please do!” Evie said excitedly. “I’m happy to help! We should collab too, give you a bit more exposure. Just message me on Instagram, any time, and I’m more than happy to show you the ropes. I’ll also find some of the resources I use to help figure stuff out and send them to you too,” she said delightedly.

”I would love that! Oh, wow! I’m so excited!” She very nearly squealed. ”And, hey. I’m sorry we’ve never really talked before. I tend to keep to the familiar. And… thanks for coming to check on me. I definitely feel a lot better now.”

Evie smiled as Livvy apologised for never having spoken to her, shrugging a little bit. “To be fair, I never spoke to you either. I was… too busy fawning over She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. But I’m glad we talked now. If you ever want to talk… well, I’ve been through stuff as well. So… I get it.” She said. There was a second or two where she didn’t know what to say next. “Um, I think I’m going to go grab another drink, make sure Gabriella and Adonis aren’t getting themselves into too much trouble. I’ll see you around though, yeah?” She said with a smile as she got to her feet.

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Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Julian Davies Character Portrait: Simon Rizzo
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Julian watched Simon wander off to the kitchen. He looked around the room and saw some people staring back at him. It was 6 months ago, but still whenever he was in a group he would see them looking and whispering to each other. It would make him mad and sad at the same time. He generally felt better than he had in a long time, but unless people spoke to him, they’d only see the convict.

He was starting to feel the heat inside and went out to get some fresh air. As soon as he opened the balcony door he felt the fresh air on his face. Damn, that’s better.
Some peace and quiet to gather your thoughts was never a bad thing.

He walked to two people talking and smoking. ”Hey both, can I sneak a cig of you?” After being offered a menthol (you take what you can get), he walked a few metres away from them and lit it up.

As he blows out the smoke, he feels himself relax a little, the tightness in his chest receding.

Lauren was taking a brief reprieve from causing havoc. It wasn’t a deliberate break, but she was enjoying seeing all the dirty looks that people were sending her way, a sign that they were all just too afraid to actually do anything. It was more that she was searching for her next target. She took a sip from her drink, before spotting Julian making his way towards the balcony. Perfect.

She sauntered over towards him, not saying anything until she was standing beside him, too close for him to attempt to escape and claim he hadn’t seen her. “Hello, Julian, sweetheart,” she said. “So wonderful to see you.”

She had definitely startled him and he hoped he didn’t jump too high in the air upon hearing her voice. He turned to face her. Her dress; perfect, her make up; well done, her smile; unnerving, and her tone; venomous. Yes, there was no mistake this was Lauren.
He hated keeping up pretences, even more so since Lauren would strike regardless of what he said.
”If it isn’t the wicked witch of the Upper West Side. I would say it was nice to see you too, but who would believe that?” He looked back in front of him, at the street below and took another puff from his cigarette. Although when releasing it this time he noticed he did not find the same relief as before.

She laughed at his comment. “Original, Julian, really,” she retorted, her tone dry. “So, you finally got out of prison, then. Is it true that you’re now working for Erin of all people?” She asked, knowing that the disdain that coloured her voice would help to rile him up even more.

“I got out of prison almost 6 months ago now. And yes, I am working for Erin.” He rolled his eyes at her fake interest. “You see, that is something actual friends would do, help out when a friend is in need.” He looked her dead in the eyes. “You can maybe take some lessons from that.”
The next puff of his cigarette is coming quicker and quicker. This always happened when he was nervous. He knows he should be walking away, nothing good can come from entertaining Lauren.

Lauren raised an eyebrow, her smile widening at how easily he’d walked into her trap. “It’s interesting that you mention ‘good friends’, you know, Julian,” she said. “Because I heard something really interesting about you the other day,” she said, as if she was just talking about some casual gossip and not his time in prison.
“I heard that you made some really interesting friends,” she said, her eyes alight. “God, what were their names?” She asked, pretending to think for a few moments, but mostly waiting to see his reaction.

What the hell is she getting at? It actually felt like she was digging in his brain. It felt so real he felt the need to scratch his head, in the same way you start to itch when someone keeps mentioning how itchy they are.
“You meet a lot of interesting people in prison, a real colorful cast of characters. Who knows, maybe you get to find out one day. Although, orange is really not a color for you, is it?”
Run, jump, close your ears and shout LALALA
. He knew he had to avoid what came next. He knew it was Lauren about to strike, venom ready at the go. And there was nothing he would be able to do to stop it.

Lauren chuckled to herself and shook her head a little as Julian seemed to imply that she would somehow end up in prison. “What exactly are you implying, Julian? I’d never be so foolish as to get caught,” she said with a laugh, even if it was true. She wouldn’t get caught, and besides, if she did, she’d never actually end up in prison. She’d made sure of that.

“And besides, these people were particularly interesting. Does the name ‘Luke Hoffman’ mean anything to you?” She asked, smirking.

Julian felt like all the air was punched out of him, his cigarette fell from his hand over the balcony railing. He turned around to face Lauren. He was not extremely tall, but his presence still towered over her. Facing her, he grabbed her right wrist with his right hand and pulled her close to him, their faces just inches away from each other.
“If you know what’s good for you, you will forget that name.” He spoke it soft, just clear enough for her to hear it. He had the feeling he was foaming at the mouth and he had half a mind to push her straight off the balcony.

She’d never seen Julian quite that bad, and for a moment, Lauren was genuinely afraid of Julian, his hand gripping hers so tight that she could feel the bruises already beginning to form. Her back was against the balcony, in a position that was far more vulnerable than she would have liked. But she didn’t dare show that fear. She kept his gaze, holding it steady, even as he threatened her, looking like a madman. She spotted her escape when she spotted others staring at them.

“You ought to be careful, Julian,” she said. “People are staring, and this won’t look quite so good for you.” She didn’t move, careful to make sure that she would still look like the victim of this scenario.

If his mind hadn’t been working overtime and he hadn’t been seeing red at the moment he might have noticed the small flinch in her eyes. She mentioned other people, but at the moment he just knew of her and him.
His voice, still intense and audible only to her. “Forget. That. Name. Lauren.”
He released her hand by pushing it away, hard enough to push her back into the railing, but not to make her fly over it.

He turned on his heels and walked to the balcony door to go back inside, not giving her another look. The sounds of the party were still going on, but he didn’t want to hear it. The beat of the song that was playing seemed to give him an instant migraine, even though he knew that was Lauren’s doing.

In the shortest time possible he made his way to the other side of the room, got out of the apartment and took a big breath. He tried to concentrate on his breathing in order to calm down, and slowly he started to see more clearly again. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. It made him stress out and a cigarette was not going to cut it this time.

Julian exited the apartment and took a left. He just needed to be alone for a bit. A few blocks over he felt like he was going to hyperventilate. He took his phone out of his pocket. The person he was looking for was number 3 on the speed dial and he paced back and forth as the phone rang.
”Julian, are you all right?”
The voice sounded concerned, but had a quick calming effect on him.
“I just…, I don’t know man, I’m at this party and I am just stressed out. I don’t know what to do.”
”I’ll be right over, just drop me your location. It will be fine Julian, remember the breathing exercises.”

Julian sent his location over and hung up the phone. He waited for a few minutes, but he found it hard to keep his legs still. He couldn’t just stand here, he had to go. He looked around one more time, but didn’t see anyone coming, so he took a right and just kept walking.

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Character Portrait: Gabriella Montez
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!!CW!! There are heavy themes of drug use, substance abuse and addiction in this post. Anything related to plot will be later referred to in less detail, if these subjects bother you please allow yourself to skip to next post. x


Gabriella didn’t really smoke, at least not cigarettes. It had become a habit during her recovery, an errand to occupy her mind and hopefully prolong the inevitable bad decisions. She wasn’t sure where she’d get some, but in New York there was always a bodega nearby. When she exited Erin’s, Gabriella turned in a random direction and just started walking.She wasn’t sure how long it was until she found a bodega, buying the first pack of cigarettes she pointed to and a lighter.

“Can I use your bathroom?” She asked, the cashier giving her a once over. “I have to change my menstrual cup, I don’t want to bleed out onto the sidewalk.”

Obviously not wanting any more details, they handed over the key to her. Gabriella took it a little more forcefully than she intended, her jacket swinging out as she turned swishing like a cape. Immediately locking the door behind her, fishing around her purse for the little baggie. Some of the contents had spilled on the inside of her bag. She dumped the contents of her purse into the sink, batting at the fabric to get out the powder to the best of her ability.

The baggie sat near the faucet, staring back at Gabriella as she placed her things back into her purse. Her hand ran over the fabric that covered her inner pocket again, causing Gabriella to pause. She sighed roughly, that knot tangling in her chest. Her fingers twitched, be it towards her phone or towards the pill she couldn’t tell.

If she did what she was supposed to, Gabriella would dial her sponsor now or at the very least Declan, Evie or Robyn. Gabriella had left the party telling herself she just needed to get some fresh air, but if she was being honest she knew she’d end up here. This was the plan, to get herself alone in a room with her greatest temptation - the rest had just been distractions or delayment of this moment.

Some of the graffiti had spilled onto the mirror, only part of Gabriella reflecting back at her. She brought a hand to her face. Her fingers ran over her smudged lipstick before pausing over her neck, still hot from Damien’s touch. Sliding her hand into her jacket, she withdrew the pill from Jade then grabbing the baggie with the other.

Dark eyes staring back at her, taunting - telling her all the things she knew to be true. At the end of the day Gabriella had never been strong enough. She looked down at the drugs in her hands. If she had a bump of ketamine it might fade by the time she got back to the party - but ketamine was a hell of a drug. Gabriella couldn’t have herself going down another K-hole. It was never ‘just a bump’ with ketamine.

Bringing the little green pill at eye level, she inspected it closely. It was only inches from her lips. She resisted the compulsion to just toss it into her mouth, instead rotating it to read the identifying number imprinted on the side. She pulled out her phone, looking up the pill and its effects.

Of course Jade had given her the perfect cocktail. Pocketing the baggie to focus on the capsule in her fingers, she was weighing the pros and cons when there was a pounding on the door making her jump. The pill slipped from her fingers, nose diving down the sink Gabriella grasping at the air after it.

“Aye - you cooking up some meth in there?” Shouted the cashier through the door.

“Do I look like a fucking meth head to you?” Gabriella shouted back, obviously distraught enough to make him quiet down. She swore under her breath, shining her flashlight down the drain to see if she could spy the pill. With some gum and a bobby pin, if she could see it she might be able to fish it out, but the green capsule was nowhere in sight. She pulled the baggie out once more, looking down at it with desperation - she was stranded in the desert and it her oasis.

Just one bump - she could do just one bump? Right?

Gabriella looked back to her partial reflection, not recognizing which part was staring back. She had to decide who she was going to be.

Emerging a few moments later Gabriella went right to the cashier and bought the first pack of cigarettes she pointed to. She packed the cigarettes as she walked back onto the street, the bodega cat sitting on a stack of crates by the door. Scratching the long haired feline behind the ear, it pushed it’s face into her touch purring at her affections. Gabriella smiled softly. She stayed there a little while, finding comfort in petting the small animal. It was therapeutic. As much as Gabriella wanted to stay there longer, she’d have to face her friends again some time tonight. Going home now wasn’t an option, the only way out was through.

“See ya, ya stinker.” Gabriella said to the cat, giving it a final rub down before shaking it’s fur off her hand.

Erin’s place wasn’t that far so Gabriella took the long way back, sparking up a cigarette as she walked. She didn’t hit it that often, just enough to keep it lit. It helped just to have something to do with her hands. By the time she reached Erin’s she had calmed down enough, taking deep breaths as she approached the party.

She stood outside as she finished her cigarette, giving herself a pep talk. More than anyone they would understand the need for some space after coming face to face with Lauren, no one would question her absence. All she had to tell was the truth, minus one or two important details.

There was an empty can of beer on the stoop, Gabriella dropping her cigarette butt inside. She felt sorry for the poor drunk sucker that later would mistake it for their own beer and get a mouthful of backwash and ash, but the thought amused her too much to do anything to throw away or move the can. Pushing through those who lingered by the door, Gabriella made her way back into the party bracing herself for the worst.

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Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Dean Sun
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This party was bogus. Dean wasn’t having nearly enough fun for this to have even been worth attending. So he was slinking around, talking to people, drinking, you know how it goes. He didn’t really feel like he was super wanted here, and he considered leaving, but then he caught a glimpse of someone he just had to speak with across the room.

So he made a beeline for Lauren, cutting her off with a hand firmly planted to the wall near her. Hopefully she wouldn’t try to worm her way past him. “Laur,” He said, with nothing but love and friendly adoration in his voice, “I didn’t expect to see you here. You look great. Having fun?” He, of course, wasn’t really that interested in how much fun she was having at the party. If there was one thing Dean knew about Lauren, it was that she was certainly enjoying herself if she could get under someone’s skin.

“How’re things going with Soren?” He asked (before she could finish telling him all about how she was ruining people’s lives), with a bit more venom in his tone than strictly necessary.

Lauren had known that Dean was somewhere around, but truth be told, she hadn’t really cared enough to go find him just yet. She wasn’t quite that bored just yet. She made no attempt to escape him when he arrived in front of her, however, simply managed a smile.

“Dean, wonderful to see you. And speak for yourself, it’s such a nice change to see you all dressed up,” she said, matching the warmth in his tone. She decided to dodge the question about whether or not she was having fun; but evidently, Dean didn’t really care about that either.

At the mention of Soren, she dropped her nice act, rolling her eyes and scoffing. “He’s still up on his high horse, thinks that he’s too good for me now. So, I’m just gonna have to drag him back down. Time for the internet to find out he’s hooked on painkillers and god knows what else,” she said, phrasing the last part with over dramatic fake shock. “You might want to warn that brother of yours. If he gets involved with Soren, he’ll probably have to endure begging for prescriptions for oxy and morphine.” She phrases it as though it’s legitimate advice for a genuine risk, and not just the beginning of the smear campaign against her ex.

“He is too good for you,” Dean offered, simply. “You should give it up.” That was something he’d been telling Lauren for a while. Not that she wasn’t good enough for Soren, but that it was a waste of her time. He’d moved on, would want nothing to do with her now. She couldn’t bully her way back into someone’s heart, try as she might. Dean would know.

Dean shrugged, “I’m not worried about Declan. They make good decisions.” This was, of course, completely ignoring the years of work Dean had put into driving a wedge between Soren and Dec. That was for purely selfish reasons, completely separate from Declan’s ability to choose a suitable partner.

“Actually, Lauren, I was thinking that it’s high time you moved on to someone else.” He, of course, meant himself, “And I think I can convince you.”

Lauren just rolled her eyes as Dean told her, yet again, to give up on Soren. He was probably right, of course, but Lauren hated admitting defeat. His comment about Declan, however, took her slightly more by surprise. She had heard about Dean’s attempts to keep Soren away from Declan, and by all accounts, he’d made it his life goal to make sure nothing ever happened. So when he ignored the information she’d given him, information that could keep Declan away for a while, if not for good, she was surprised.

That was, until he changed the subject. Of course that was what was on his mind. She laughed, raising an eyebrow. “Oh, really?” She asked. “How do you intend on doing that?” She took a step towards him as he spoke, as if to playfully challenge him.

Dean shrugged, feigning indifference. “A little birdy told me that you’ve been siphoning money from daddy’s business accounts for yourself.” That “little birdy” had been Dean, snooping around Lauren’s apartment the last time he’d been over. He really was just trying to see if she had anything laying around that she wouldn’t miss that he could sell for a bit of cash, but this had been a real find.

“As it stands, my morals tell me I simply have to let your father know. But a dutiful boyfriend may be convinced to keep your little secret,” It was only partially about the money he might be able to get his hands on if they were together. Something about Lauren was electric, captivating. He couldn’t let go of her. “Provided, of course, he gets to benefit from it as well.”

Lauren had been expecting him to flirt with her, perhaps make a move, and she had intended on letting him do so. She had to give him a little something every now and then to keep him hanging on. But what he actually said took Lauren aback. It was exactly the game she’d been playing with everyone else all evening, and she hadn’t expected to have it turned back on herself.

For a moment, she considered telling Dean exactly where to go and turning the little favour that Declan had done for her back on Dean. And then she realised that she could use him. She needed an accomplice, and if it meant sharing some of her funds, so be it. Besides, there was something oddly attractive about the manner in which he’d managed to turn her own tactics against her.

“You drive a hard bargain, Mr Sun,” she said. “How could I refuse?” She added, as if all he had done was flirt with her, and not threaten to expose her to her parents and ruin all of her carefully orchestrated plans.

Dean had been expecting Lauren to fight him more than she had. A part of him had to wonder what she had up her sleeve for him, or how quickly she would grow bored of him and move on. Either way, he’d won for now, and he would always have that blackmail to fall back on if he needed it.

He smirked, and leaned in to plant a quick, chaste kiss on her lips. “Of course, I expect a nice instagram post about the relationship soon enough. I won’t be satisfied being hidden away in the background.” He was hoping this would force Lauren to give up the Soren thing. She would probably still expose all his dirty secrets. Dean didn’t give a shit. He just wanted her to focus on him.

Lauren grinned, making it appear as though she was just delighted to be dating the man who was actually trying to blackmail her, and not that she was relieved to finally have somebody to rope in on all of her plans. She’d been wondering how to pull it off, and Dean had just handed her that opportunity. Maybe they’d even be able to use Declan as well.

At his comment about Instagram, she laughed. “Of course, darling, I would never hide you away.” She pulled him in for another kiss, but this time also pulled out her phone and snapped a picture of them kissing. “This will do nicely,” she said. Posting it would probably break Jade’s heart, and that just made Lauren all the more delighted with her plan. “I’ll be sure to post it later with a suitably sappy caption.”

Dean craned his neck to look at the picture, “Perfect. you got my good side.” He grinned, genuinely not having felt quite this elated since… He didn’t know when.

“Lauren,” He started, voice encompassing a tenderness not many have ever heard from him, “I want you to know how-“ He stopped abruptly, having spotted something out of the corner of his eye that made his blood run cold. He turned slightly, to get a better look, and all his fears were confirmed. Fucking Soren was talking to his brother again.

“Hey,” He said, sounding already like he was a million miles away, “I’m gonna have to hold that thought. I’ll find you later.” He reached out and gave Lauren’s hand a squeeze before going to intervene in what could possibly be the worst thing that could happen tonight.

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Character Portrait: Soren Bowers Character Portrait: Dean Sun Character Portrait: Declan Sun
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declan sun.
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dean sun.
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“I-” Soren tried to say something to Robyn, but she was gone before he could say anything. He sighed, running a hand through his hair and draining what was left of his drink. Lauren really was being extraordinarily awful to everyone, it seemed, and he could only wonder what the hell she actually wanted from them, or if she had just come to prove that she still could ruin everyone’s lives. And if it was the latter, well then, she was doing a fantastic job of that.

He headed towards the kitchen with the intention of getting another drink; but stopped as he spotted a familiar figure. He hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to Declan at all yet. And what was better was that Dean didn’t seem to be anywhere in sight. So instead, he changed course, heading towards Declan.

“Hey,” Soren said. “Long time, no see.”

Declan was still a little shaken up about their interaction with Lauren, and he jumped when he heard Soren’s voice. He’d been so in his own head, he hadn’t even heard Soren coming.

“Oh, god,” They mumbled, “Hi. Wow. Sorry,” A chuckle, awkward as could be, and then they cleared their throat, “I didn’t- I was deep in thought there.” Declan smiled, then, put the thought of what Lauren had said to the back of his mind. “It has been a long time. Too long.” They punctuated the statement with a smile- soft but genuine. The two had kept in touch via social media, but their busy schedules made it hard for them to meet in person, even on the rare occasion that Soren was back in town.

“Thanks for inviting me tonight,” He said, taking a half step closer to Soren, “It’s been really nice to get out, do something social for a change.”

Soren laughs a little at Declan’s admission to being lost in thought. He was more than used to that after this long. He returned the smile as Declan stressed that it had been too long. It really had. When you were only in the city for a handful of days at a time, and you knew you’d probably end up spending half of those days asleep, it made it hard to make plans. They’d tried, of course, but it had never worked out.

Soren leaned one shoulder against the wall beside them, shaking his head with a smile as Declan said it was nice to be social. “Glad to help. You know I’m always happy to provide a distraction,” he said, with a wry smile. “So, they’re still working you far too hard in that hospital then?” He asked teasingly.

Declan nodded, weariness showing very clearly on their face. “Working hard with no end in sight. You have to get used to it at some point,” He smiled, nothing but genuine gladness and fatigue. He wasn’t bitter about the work he was doing, this was the life he’d chosen, and he was just happy he had the chance to chase it.

“How’d the last tour go?” Declan asked, slowly back to be a bit more out of the way. Maybe find a rare space with some seclusion. Soren was such a busy man, it was hard to get his attention all to himself, even when he wasn’t touring or working on albums.

This small talk, catching up, there was always a lot of it when Declan came back in contact with someone. Their back and forth always went about the same. “It’s been so long.” “It really has,” “Written any good songs lately?” “Nothing that’s ready for the world. Saved any lives lately?” “Not quite but I like to think I’m learning how.”

Declan bit their lower lip, a thoughtful little nibble that gave away the gears turning in his mind. “How long are you in town for?” Maybe, just maybe, if they actually had the time, they could have a proper… Date? Outing? What would they even call it? He wasn’t sure.

Soren recognised the tiredness in Dec’s expression. It wasn’t just from a rough shift or even a rough week, but constant ongoing exhaustion; and an exhaustion that you didn’t care about, because you were doing what you loved. It was hard not to smile a little at Dec’s clear passion for what they did.

Soren caught Declan’s slight movement backwards, and he mimicked it, pushing off the wall and taking a few steps towards the quiet and the relative privacy of the hallway. “It was good. Absolutely exhausting, I slept for a few days straight when I got back,” he said with a laugh. “But good to finish on a high note at least.”

He raised an eyebrow as a thoughtful expression crossed Declan’s face, wondering what they were thinking about. At their question, Soren smiled. “Back for a while. A couple of months at least. So… we might finally be able to make it out for those drinks we kept talking about?” Soren asked.

Dec nodded along to Soren’s sentiment about ending on a high note. That was always the goal, probably. Touring couldn’t be easy; always on the road, never getting any meaningful rest. He could understand some of that.

Declan couldn’t hide the way their eyes lit up when Soren said he’d be in town for a while, this time. They nodded enthusiastically, said, “Absolutely,” And reached into their far-too-small-to-be-practical pocket for their phone. Immediately, Declan was sorting through his calendar, trying to figure out the most opportune time. “Sorry,” He smiled, almost sheepishly, “Busy, you know?” He got a text from Gabriella, and swiped it away. He’d check it in a minute. “How busy are you while you’re here?” Dec’s brows knit together, thinking about logistics and plotting out the best possible time.

Declan’s reaction made Soren smile, a reflex reaction he barely noticed. He didn’t even mind as they pulled out their phone, laughing a little at Declan’s explanation. “I get it.” At the question of how busy he was, he shrugged. “Not busy at all. I’ve got at least a month of zero commitments, so I’m flexible. Whenever works for you.” he said.

It felt like he and Declan were caught in an eternal state of “almost, but not quite,” and had been for a while, so the fact that they might actually be able to have plans they could both keep felt strange in a very good way. Part of Soren was trying to stay grounded, reminding himself that with Declan’s schedule, things could change at the last moment, while the other part was revelling in the delight of finally being able to make plans.

Declan nodded sagely, fighting the urge to pump their fist in victory. This was perfect. They could make real plans, Dec could insist on keeping them this time. He kept looking for dates. Maybe next Thursday. That wasn’t a weird day to meet for drinks, was it? Maybe the next Friday. That could work. “What do you think about-” But they couldn’t finish the thought before a familiar arm draped itself around their shoulder.

“What’s up, you two?” Dean. How was it he always materialized in moments like these?

“Dean, do you mind?”

“Not at all, big brother.” Dean smiled, as if to emphasise that he wasn’t going anywhere. Declan sighed, then Dean looked right at Soren and said, “Hey. Nice party. Didn’t expect to see Lauren here.”

Declan didn’t know what Dean’s angle was on this one, so he shot Soren an apologetic look. They’d continue their conversation as soon as Dean got bored and went away.

Soren had to bite back a curse as Dean materialised, seemingly from nowhere. Every. Goddamn. Time. He’d learned the hard way that telling Dean where he could shove it usually only made things worse, so the easiest thing to do was to just be nice and hoped he went away soon. He never did, though.

“Dean. Lovely to see you, as always,” Soren said, with zero effort at hiding his true feelings. “Neither did I, given she certainly wasn’t invited. Some people just have a knack of showing up where they’re not wanted, don’t they?” He said, raising an eyebrow. He returned Declan’s apologetic look with one of understanding. Soren would be damned if he let Dean’s interference ruin their almost-plans.

Dean nodded, a glimpse of something resembling relief glinting in his eye, “Some folks just can’t take a hint.” He shot Soren a knowing look, “Can they?”

The two had had many fights over the years, mostly about Soren and Declan’s relationship. Dean hated it, didn’t want the two of them to be close in any way, not as friends, certainly not as lovers. It had been suggested that Dean didn’t like how everyone he cared about liked Soren more than they liked him. That was silly. Declan just deserved better, was all.

“What do you want, Dean?” Declan interjected, and to Dean’s credit, he did a very convincing job of looking offended.

“Can’t a man want to spend some time with his only sibling?”

“You can spend time with me any day,”

“False. You’re so busy, this may very well be my only chance for weeks.”

Declan sighed, “Okay. Fine.”

Dean grinned, “Perfect. Have you had some of that strawberry stuff? It’s super fruity, you’d love it. Maybe Soren can fetch you some.”

Soren met Dean’s knowing look with one of scorn, still managing to bite his tongue for now. God, he wished that he and Erin had decided against inviting him now. He probably would have still shown up, but at least Soren would have had more authority to tell him to fuck off then.

The banter between the two siblings was borderline entertaining, even if Declan was the one to back down, as he usually was. Dean’s attempt to get rid of Soren was unoriginal and not even a terribly good one. Soren shrugged. “Sorry, have no idea what one you mean,” he said. “Erin sorted the drinks, and I haven’t come across that yet. Tell you what, seeing as you know what you’re looking for, how about you go get the drinks, and me and Dec can finish our conversation?” He asked, his tone perhaps overly cheery.

Dean clicked his tongue, as if he was very disappointed in what he was about to say, “Oh, Sor,” He said, emphasizing the nickname, as he knew they weren’t anywhere near close enough for Dean to feel so comfortable being familiar with the other man, “You know I’d love to, but I really do need to have a word with my brother.”

“It can wait, Dean.” Declan insisted.

“It really can’t, Dec.”

“Yes. It can. Anything you have to say to me can wait, or you can say it to both of us.”

Dean shot a look at Soren, considering his options. “I suppose it’ll have to wait, then.” Dean shot Soren a dirty look, as if to say ”You win this time.”

“I have something I need to talk to you about, too,” Declan said, a bit of panic working its way into his voice, despite how he tried to quell it, “I’ll find you later.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. Something resembling genuine concern crossed his face, “Is everything okay, Declan?” He said, voice low enough that nobody besides the three of them would hope to pick it up.

Declan nodded, “I’m fine. Go away.” But Dean made no move to actually leave, which didn’t surprise Declan in the least.

Soren was sure that his eye twitched as Dean called him Sor. It wasn’t that he disliked the nickname; just about everyone he was friends with used it at some point or another. But the emphasis on that point was friends. The familiarity with which Dean used it was grating and deliberate.

As a result, Declan’s triumph over his brother felt all the sweeter. Soren’s smile was triumphant and vaguely smug. So often, Dean did get the upper hand, with Soren often conceding defeat for Declan’s sake. It wasn’t fair that he got caught in arguments so much, but it also wasn’t fair that Dean started them so much.

It was the panic in Declan’s voice that cut through the delight of triumph. Soren looked at him, looked back at Dean and Dean’s reaction, and bit back a sigh. This was something that probably was just between the two brothers. It still counted as a triumph, he told himself. And then he pulled out his phone and groaned, perhaps a tad overdramatically. “Shit. Just got a text from Erin, she needs me to go… help her with something.” This was a complete lie, and not a particularly good one. “I’ll… catch you up later, okay?” He told Declan, shooting him a small smile. And then he shot Dean a glare, before turning and walking away. As he did so, he texted Declan.

“Whatever time you were going to suggest, I’m down. And now you know where the apartment is if you ever want to drop by ;)”

Dean smiled and waved as Soren walked away. The Erin thing was an excuse. They all knew it. But Soren’s concern for Declan won out at the end of the day. It was sweet, really. Dean turned to Declan, “What’s wrong?”

It couldn’t be summed up, really. Not easily, not by Declan. They just wanted a nice, normal night. That was, evidently, too much to ask for. “Why do you have to try to ruin my life every chance you get?”

Dean had the decency not to act surprised, but lacked the decency not to lie about what he was up to. “Dec, I swear, I’m not-“ He reached out to touch Declan’s shoulder, as if he were going to comfort his one and only brother.

“Don’t touch me!” Declan snapped, “Everything that goes wrong in my life is because of you! Can’t you see that?” They were maybe being a bit too loud. A bit too dramatic. But now two things in his life had been messed up, and Declan could trace it all back to Dean.

“Dec, I just don’t think getting involved with Soren is-“

“God,” Declan cut him off, as if Dean weren’t just trying to look out for him, “Can’t you let it go?”

“I’m trying to help you.” Dean certainly sounded like he meant it.

“That’d be a first, wouldn’t it? You wanna help me? Talk to Lauren.” Declan rolled his eyes, “No, you just go along with whatever she tells you to do, don’t you?”

“Dec, what’s wrong?”

“Just go away, Dean.”

And, this time, he did.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Robyn Miller Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Gabriella Montez Character Portrait: Adonis Galante Character Portrait: Camilla Rhodes Character Portrait: Julian Davies
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ImageCamilla had insisted that Adonis leave Erin’s room first, though he doubted anyone would even notice them. He wasn’t in that pristine a state before him and Camilla hooked up, so he didn’t appear any more roughed up than before - though the same couldn’t be said for Camilla. Giving her a once over as he slipped out the door, Adonis gave her a wink.

It had been a blast from the plast, that much was sure. Though he and Camilla never dated, they always got along. Unfortunately Adonis was drawn to the types others labelled as bitches. It was what got him in this situation in the first place. He closed the door, forgetting to lock it behind him. Looking around to see if anyone noticed him, as if summoned by the smell of a clandestine affair Lauren was staring right back at him with a wicked smile.

He did his best not to react but Lauren could read him better than most, all he did was dull his reaction. Resisting to take the bait and engage with her, he let her walk right past him and into Erin’s bedroom where Camilla was. He considered following but stayed put. Camilla was more than capable of handling Lauren on her own, and honestly Adonis would just be a liability. There wasn’t much else he could do except walk away. He went to turn into the living room when a pretty figure stepped in his path.

“Adonis, hey.” Robyn said, obviously annoyed - though seemingly not at him. “Have you seen Lauren?”

Adonis furrowed his brow in thought, considering at first just telling Robyn but deciding against it. Robyn was sweet but soft. If she were to be around while Camilla was tearing Lauren a new one, Lauren would somehow manage a way to manipulate Robyn to come to her aid. It was her savior complex, always having to tend to the victim something that Lauren would surely play to her favor.

“I think I just saw her on the balcony.” Adonis lied, pointing in the opposite direction. “I dunno though, I’m trying to avoid her.”

“Okay, thanks.” Robyn huffed off in the direction of the balcony, leaving Adonis scratching the back of his neck with a sheepish expression of guilt.

He wasn’t really sure what he should do at this point, it seemed he was out of options. As much as he’d enjoyed his time with Cam, now that the moment was over he was still left in the same situation. Even if it was out of his hands, he couldn’t help but to feel like he should be doing something about it. There had to be another way, and it had to be tonight. Who knew when he’d see Lauren in person with witnesses who’d believe his side of the story?

As he walked to the main entrance, a rogue hand grabbed ahold of him pulling him back. Expecting the worst Adonis turned with a hostile expression, softening when Gabriella’s face was staring back. She put up her hands defensively, laughing under her breath.

“Woah there, was calling your name you didn’t hear me.” Gabriella joked, playfully punching his arm.

“My bad,” Adonis shook his head, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “What’s up?”

“You seen Evie?” Gabriella asked, knowing Adonis was bound to be keeping tabs on her.

Adonis looked around, Evie nowhere in sight. It had been a while since he last seen her. Hopefully she had managed to avoid Lauren but he should probably check in on her soon. He shook his head, turning back to Gabriella.

“Not for a while, I bet she’s in the kitchen or the bathroom or something. . .” He said absently, his mind still on the call he needed to make. “Do you mind finding her? I gotta step out.”

Gabriella nodded, motioning for Adonis to go ahead and turning back into the house as Adonis stepped out. He took a few paces from the door, dialing his lawyer as he lit a cigarette. Surely he had smoked nearly half a pack tonight alone. The shots he took before his encounter with Lauren were already wearing off, and his high was definitely starting to crash. He was scarily sober, adrenaline continuing to burn up any substance he consumed.

“Hello?” Said the gruff voice from the other end of the line.

“Hey, it’s Nis.” Adonis mumbled, looking around to see if anyone was watching him.

“What’s up kid? It’s the middle of the night.”

“I spoke to the mom,” Adonis answered quickly, taking a long drag from his cigarette. He could hear his lawyer move on the other end of the phone, presumably somewhere she could talk to Adonis in private.

“What happened? We need to send a clean up crew?” She asked.

“Nah, nah - nothing like that.” Adonis almost laughed, ashing his cigarette onto the sidewalk. “Though maybe, night’s still young.”

“Well don’t hold out, tell me what happened. Strike that, tell me only what I need to know about what happened.”

“I mean, long story short - she’s not talking.” Adonis looked back to the party, as if he could still see Lauren. “She said she’s got some relationship with the boss.”

There was a loud silence for a beat, he could hear his lawyer thinking what to say next. The thing that made them such a great lawyer is that they knew what questions not to ask, better to have deniability. If Adonis’ was dealing with one of the bosses’ play things, they’d need to tread carefully.

“Here’s what you’re going to do - you’ve already shown your hand so we’ll have to do some damage control.” She started, Adonis nodding along. “Stick around, maybe you can get her to let her guard down. A few drinks, maybe she finds something like a pill or something that gets her feeling loose. Not too much, we need her to appear lucid. Get her on video admitting everything, maybe then we can make it work.”

Adonis sighed, running a hand through his hair. He didn’t like the idea of having to hang around Lauren any longer but he was desperate at this point. To be honest, he rarely saw Lauren drunk enough to lose control like that - but maybe he could help with that.

“I might have to slip something in her drink, but I can make it happen.” Adonis said, his lawyer immediately talking over him.

“Woah, woah - I don’t need to know the details. I just need the video.”

“Got it - video.” Adonis said, noticing that Julian was standing nearby. Unsure how long his friend had been there and what he’d heard, he gave a nod of acknowledgement doing his best to play it off. He added to his lawyer, turning from Julian momentarily. “I gotta go, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Turning back to Julian, Adonis slipped his phone back into his pocket pretending that he hadn’t just talked about slipping something in someone’s drink. Even with context, it didn’t make Adonis look all that good. He offered Julian a cigarette, taking a hit of his own.

“What you doing out here?” Adonis asked. “Only the fuck ups and exiles hang out by the stoop.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gabriella Montez Character Portrait: Dean Sun
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ImageImageGabriella looked around as she walked back into the party, giving awkward stiff smiles to unfamiliar faces. She wondered if Lauren had already chased off the rest of her friends, checking her phone for any texts and seeing none. It wasn’t like any of them to disappear without warning so they had to be around here somewhere. If she could just find Declan or Robyn, maybe tonight wouldn’t be so bad. She wanted a drink but didn’t trust herself with one right now. The only way she was going to make it through tonight was by convincing herself that she had some measure of self-restraint.

Then of course there was Dean. It was like he had an innate ability to show up when Gabriella was at a breaking point. The image of Jade’s lips against his flashed in her mind, sending a shudder down her spine. It wasn’t just jealousy, though she’d be lying if she said that wasn’t a part of it. Something about it was just wrong.

“Hey.” She grabbed ahold of his shoulder, turning Dean to face her. “You seen Dec?”

Her tone was obviously annoyed, giving Dean a look that she clearly did not want to be talking to him. Truthfully she didn’t have much to say to him, it’s not like he knew any better. That’s just how he was, how he always was. Really she was just mad at herself for not seeing it coming, Jade always would find a way to fuck up every thing in Gabriella’s life.

Dean had run away from Declan with his tail between his legs. There were very few people on planet earth that made him feel vulnerable, and Declan was one of them. Why couldn’t they seem to see that he was trying? He didn’t try to hide the sullen, frustrated expression on his face as he skulked about the room. He saw Gabriella, and initially was going to let her go about her evening, but she grabbed onto his shoulder, so it would only be polite to hear her out.

He audibly sighed when she asked about Declan. Why was he all anyone cared about? ”No,” Dean lied, despite how he could easily tell Gabriella exactly where Declan was. Dean was upset with Declan, and intended not to do anything to help them or anyone looking for them, ”I haven’t seen them since we got here.”

Usually, Dean tried to at least fake a pleasant face for people, but he didn’t bother with Gabriella. He wasn’t in the mood. ”Look for Soren, he’s bound to be there making googly eyes.” Dean rolled his eyes, clearly disgusted by the very thought.

“Jesus fucking christ, don’t be a child.” Gabriella rolled her eyes, crossing her arms. “Like you’re one to talk.”

Dean shook his head, “Dec deserves someone who has time for him, and won’t drag him down with their own issues.” And who Dean didn’t so deeply and personally hate. As some sort of cover up for that all too real admission, he added “You look like shit.”

Gabriella couldn’t help but laugh. One at the idea of Dean micromanaging Dec’s love life, two at his weak jab at her appearance. She ran her hand through her hair, nodding her head in agreement with him. “You got me there, I’ll give you that.”

As annoyed as she still was with Dean, it was more like one would be with a child or a pet. You can’t really stay mad because they don’t really know better. Their friendship was rooted in encouraging one another’s worst impulses, chaos was just a byproduct of it all. Despite it all, Gabriella did believe Dean had a soft spot for others - though he had a funny way of showing it. Regardless, she wasn’t going to just let him make himself into the victim or the good guy just looking out for his brother.

“I think you need to care a little bit less about who Declan fucks, Dean.” Gabriella pointed towards Dean to emphasize her words, then clasping them together to keep herself from gesticulating wildly as she spoke. “If it doesn’t affect your life then you need to leave it be. You know, unlike you fucking my ex without telling me for god knows how long. You know, like how that could affect me - you know from like contact fucking my ex.

Dean crossed his arms as Gabriella said he needed to care less. He didn’t care, so long as it wasn’t Soren. He wouldn’t pretend to internalize her point, though. He knew she wouldn’t expect him to, either.

But when she brought up Jade, he winced, just barely, but likely enough for her to notice. ”Yeah, that…” That broke some major codes, he knew it wasn’t cool. ”She came to me, you know.” He shrugged, ”Who was I to say no?” He offered Gabriella a weak smile; he knew she’d understand it. Jade offered a lot. Well, she offered some of what he needed, anyway.

”That’s over, anyway. I’ve got… Bigger things lining up for me.” He wouldn’t apologize for what he’d done, because, really, he’d not done anything so bad that it warranted an apology. ”You can do whatever,”

“Yeah, I know that.” Gabriella’s head bobbed with each word, her smile tense. “Could have her with or without your grace, she was literally throwing herself at me earlier tonight. She was just using you to make me jealous, or mess with Lauren - or whatever fucked up shit she has planned.”

Gabriella made no attempt to censor the truth, Dean wasn’t someone who was going to get his feelings hurt - and obviously he wasn’t very invested in the relationship anyways. Still, the fact that he used her coming to him as an excuse as if that made it any better knowing damn well that’s exactly how Jade operates. He might be emotionally stunted but he wasn’t dumb.

“I don’t even care, because I don’t even want her.” Gabriella added, be it to reassure herself or Dean she wasn’t sure. “Are you going to dump her publicly though, and if yes can I film it?”

”She knows I’m just Lauren’s little pet,” He said, with a shrug. He knew it was true, and so did everyone else. There was no point in hiding it. ”You shouldn’t let her get to you. It’s all mind games around here,” He tapped his temple to drive his point forward, ”The best thing to do is learn to play along, or finally block her number like Declan keeps telling you to do.”

Dean cared about her. He did. He was shit at expressing it, but he was shit at just about anything that involved emotions.

He laughed when she asked if he was going to dump her publicly, ”We aren’t even dating. I’m just gonna text her. I’ll let you know before I do if you really wanna film her reaction though. She won’t care that much.”

Gabriella rolled her eyes again at the implication she should just block Jade. If even Dean was saying it now, what the hell did that mean? He was right about one thing at least, it was all mind games around here. Before she could just check out, playing her role of pawn very well. Dean knew how to make the game work for him, always had. As much as anyone would hate to admit it, he was smarter than he let on.

“Ugh, that’s no fun.” She pouted at the idea of him just dumping her over text. The prospect of Jade being publicly humiliated was enough to get her salivating, though Dean wouldn’t want to piss of Jade that much. He had to make sure to cover his bases and she understood that, she had to start doing the same. She thought about mentioning Lauren but figured Dean had already ran into her, then remembered his earlier statement. The gears turned in her mind, a look of realization dawning on her face as she put it together.

“So I take that to mean you already ran into Lauren?” Gabriella asked, her expression a mix of amusement and bewilderment.

Dean shrugged apologetically when Gabriella said texting Jade to break things off wasn’t any fun. If things went south with Lauren, and he knew they eventually would, he would need someone else around that could fund his bad habits. Having a rich spouse was the goal, one way or the other.

When Gabriella asked if he’d run into Lauren already, Dean tapped the side of his nose. “Dig deep enough, you’ll eventually find treasure.” He smiled, some pride showing in his face, “Don't expect wedding bells or anything. We all know it’ll end badly, but I have to leverage the dirt I’ve got while I’ve got it.”

Gabriella raised a brow, mildly impressed. Of course anyone who wanted to keep up with Lauren had to play her game but it was rare anyone got the leg up on her. The part of her that wanted to watch Lauren fail was itching for more information but she knew Dean wouldn’t hand over his leverage.

“Wouldn’t be Dean Sun if you didn’t, I guess.” She joked, shaking her head. “Pretty satisfying to know that Lauren is getting a dose of her own medicine, though.”

“I learned from the best.” Dean hadn’t spent years following Lauren around like a lost puppy for nothing. To her he was just a pawn, but he picked up a few tricks along the way.

Then it struck him that Gabriella may have had a less than excellent interaction with Lauren over the course of the evening. “I know she’s sometimes, uhh, less than pleasant but…” Dean was fond of Lauren for reasons he couldn’t really explain, and even if he could there was no way most anyone at this party would understand. He shrugged, mumbled a quick, “Oh, hold still,” As he picked some cat hair stuck to Gabriella’s top, and then said, “We all have our vices, huh?”

He winked at her, then. He knew something about the way he was living life was going to kill him one day, and it would probably be Lauren. Gabriella belatedly swatted at Dean’s hand as he picked the cat hair from her top, then batting at the fabric of her clothes when noticing other hairs had stuck to her. It didn’t matter that he was helping her, or that he had touched her many times before - even though she wouldn’t hold anything against him she was still annoyed.

“At least my vices get you high while they ruin your life.” She said absently, looking around the room once more. “I’m going to grab a drink - do you need one?” Dean snorted, as if he didn’t share some of those vices as well. He waved off her offer to get him a drink with a noncommittal grunt. He was a big boy, he could get his own when he wanted one.

”Catch you later,” He said, maybe a little too confidently. Gabriella gave him a weak wave, making her way back towards the kitchen.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Adonis Galante Character Portrait: Julian Davies
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Julian Davies.
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outfit. #8744ab.song.
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The neon lights of the shops went by in flashes. Julian was half walking, half running. He felt like someone was sitting on his chest. How the hell can she know that name… there should only be one person knowing, and that was one too many.

He felt his hands itching. The more he scratched them, the rougher they felt. He felt his phone buzzing in his pocket, but he wasn’t in the right mind to answer. He buried his hands in his jeans pockets, not having a jacket on him. He didn’t really know where he was going, but he felt like he had eyes on his back the entire time. Like officers would jump him again to arrest him and take him back to prison.

Although he did not discuss this with any of his friends, he had been having panic attacks for a long time. He felt scared he would cross the line, scared he would do something that would make him have to go back. The police jumping from out of nowhere the night he was arrested had definitely left a mark, and it made him feel like he was never safe.

He had a hard time adjusting back to normal life, and if he would tell his friends, they would likely assume he should be in the looney bin instead. He just got a job and his life back together, he couldn’t lose that, not because of Lauren fucking Clark. He had handled her exactly the way he shouldn’t have. He needed to go back to her. Talk to her again. Maybe he could offer her something, maybe he could convince her to drop the subject. He would just have to make her see his side of the story, there was no other way.

He almost jumped when he felt his phone vibrating again. He saw the name of his parole officer, Jason, appearing on the screen, along with the message he missed 5 calls already. He answered and heard how his voice was more high-pitched than usual.
”H-hey, man, I’m sorry… about that.”
He heard a relieved sigh on the other end.

”Julian, jeez, you had me worried. I haven’t received a call from you like that in a while. Where are you? I am here but I can’t see you.”
Julian looked around him, for the first time seeing the street sign. He was quite a bit away from the location he had given earlier.
”I just had to walk it off. I’m so sorry man, I didn’t know what to do, but I know now. I shouldn’t have called you.”

”Dude, you can always call me, we went over this. Just let me know where you are, we can talk.”
Julian looked around, his paranoia getting the better of him.
”No, man, it’s fine. I just had to think.” He cleared his throat, trying to sound a bit more like himself. ”The fresh air helped, I feel much better.” he lied.
He knew if he talked to Jason face to face, he would be distracted. Right now he needed to talk with Lauren and figure this thing out. Why did I have to react so violently, that’s not gonna help against Lauren.

”Then do me a favor, Julian. Make me feel better by seeing you are okay.” There were a few seconds of silence. ”You know what, let me pick you up and drop you off at the party again, that’s all I ask.”
Julian softly punched the brick wall he was leaning against while he contemplated the offer.
”No man, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” He put up a smile, hoping it made him sound more convincing. ”I’ll see you next week, you promised to come to the bar, right?”

Julian didn’t wait for an answer. ”Anyway, thanks again. You’re always there for me, I won’t forget it. Have a good night, I won’t disturb you again” He could hear another stammer on the other end, but he didn’t wait and clicked away the call.
It was only a few seconds before it rang again, but he clicked the call away and turned off his phone.

Julian still needed to calm his nerves. He couldn’t lose it again in front of Lauren. He saw a shop across the street. He walked inside, past the cat that was lying lazily on the doorstep.
He walked up to the counter. ”One square.”
He threw some money on the counter from his pockets, letting the cashier count what he needed.
”The bathroom is closed!” the guy told him rather passive aggressively.

Julian gave him a confused look. ”Did I ask?”
”Not yet, I’m just letting you know, this isn’t a public toilet.”
Julian scooped the money that was left back in his hand and shoved it down his back pocket without counting it.
”Dude, you can do with the toilet whatever the fuck you want, can I have my smokes now?”
The man gave the packet and Julian removed the plastic right away, leaving it on the counter as he removed one cigarette. He already lit it on his way out, and took a deep drag the moment he was standing outside.

It was helping, but he was still freaking out. He still had no idea what he would say, but he probably had to go through the dust pretty deep after his last stunt. He noticed his step became slower and slower, the closer he came to the party. He lit the next cigarette as the last reached the filter. Almost finding more comfort in having it in his mouth than from the nicotine he dragged out of it. He could hear the music from the apartment a while away. It was busier here with people still coming and going from the party, and a steady amount of smokers haunting the front door.

To the side he saw Adonis smoking, and still finishing his own, Julian went over to him. He kept to the side, since he saw his friend was still on the phone. He only picked up parts of the conversation.

“I might have to slip something in her drink, but I can make it happen.”
Julians ears pricked up, not expecting that. Julian scraped his throat, not feeling comfortable knowing his friend had no idea he was there. He threw his cigarette on the ground and squashed the burning ash with his shoe. As soon as he did he saw Adonis turn to him. His eyes definitely turned larger for a moment, before turning away from Julian.
“I gotta go, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Julian watched as Adonis stopped the call. Whatever that was about, it was nothing good. And knowing his friend didn’t always stick to the rules, it actually made him worry a bit. Adonis walked over to Julian, holding out another cigarette, which Julian gladly took. I’m smoking as much tonight as I did in the past 2 months combined.

“What you doing out here?” Adonis asked. ““Only the fuck ups and exiles hang out by the stoop.”

Julian laughed as he lit Adonis' cigarette first, and his own second. He slipped the lighter back in his pocket together with his cold, turned off phone.
”I qualified under both categories for years, is my fuck up card revoked or something?”

He looked Adonis dead in the eyes next, feeling calmer himself if he could worry about someone else. ”I’m not going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”
He felt little enthusiasm for lying to his friend.
”Just gonna say, it sounds like an awful idea, and if it’s meant for anyone in here, I still know how to knock your teeth out.”

He put his left hand on Adonis’ right shoulder. With a soft smile on his face: ”Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Now, I need to see a dog about a bone. Do you know where I can find Lauren?”

Adonis just smiled as Julian referred to what he’d just said, shaking his head as he hit his cigarette. Though the threat sounded tempting, Adonis laughed at the prospect of Julian ‘knocking his teeth out’. Julian might have been able to beef up in lock up, but Adonis was in those pits throwing and dodging licks. He’d let Julian find that out the fun way, though.

“Didn’t figure you for a masochist.” Adonis answered Julian, unsure why people kept seeking out Lauren, subjecting themselves to her manipulations. “No idea, follow the smell of sulfur - that’s bound to lead you to her.”

Setting

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Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Adonis Galante Character Portrait: Camilla Rhodes
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Camilla brushed her hair out of her face with her hand and readjusted her dress while Adonis was on the other side of the room fixing his shirt and suspenders. “Like good old times, right Nis? Honestly, it might have been better than the time we snuck into the rafters during the musical senior year.” She said with a smirk at the end. Her and Adonis were never a thing but more so the person to feed the impulse of a bad decision. Cam gathered up her things and made sure she had everything in her bag, realizing she probably only had enough for one or two more hits tonight. “You head out first, don’t want people to get the wrong idea about us, plus I need to clean up the mess you made me into.” She commented looking around the room and spotting a mirror on the back of the door. She opened it let Adonis out, staying behind it to use the mirror.

Cam put on one puff of perfume to cover up any smells she might have on her, weather it was the smell of sweat, drugs, or anything, she wanted to stay at the top of her game. She had just finished applying a layer of her red lipstick, when she heard someone enter through the open door she was behind, humming to themselves. Camilla peaked around the corner and saw it was Lauren. Though she wasn’t completely surprised to see the woman snooping around, probably trying to find more dirt on Erin to cause some drama.

“Ahem.” Camilla said, followed by a fake cough as she touched up her make-up, letting Lauren know of her presence.

Lauren was beginning to feel that she may not be wanted at this party. Knowing that she would either have to leave or would probably end up being escorted from the apartment before long, she decided to use what time she had left to her advantage. Soren’s room was locked (smart boy) so she tried Erin’s instead. As it had been earlier, it was thankfully still open. But not empty, as she discovered when she entered the room to a fake cough. She whirled around and found it was only Camilla.

“I was afraid it was Erin there for a moment. She’s being particularly difficult this evening,” Lauren said. Then she took a better look at Cam, raising an eyebrow and smirking. “Hope I didn’t interrupt anything. You can tell Adonis to come out if he’s hiding under the bed or something,” she teased, scanning the room for anything that could be of use.

Camilla let out a light laugh, in response to her comment about Erin, but it immediately went away when she brought up Adonis. “First off, you’re lucky it’s not her. Been seeing and hearing a lot during this party, and I doubt she’s happy with you. And second off, he’s not in here, no one is in here.” She rolled her eyes. Cam was hoping that it wasn’t obvious what had happened in here, but maybe others weren’t as observant as Lauren, though Lauren usually observant for her own needs rather than for curiosity. “I’d stay away from the desk though if you’re trying to steal anything.” She spoke still facing the mirror and adjusting her look. “Though I heard from a birdy she has good things hidden around.”

Though as she finished trying to fix her look as much as she can, Cam pushed the door with one hand and it quickly closed. “Any specific drama you’d like to spill? Secret for a secret? Like how we used to Jade on Fridays after school.” She said, finally turning around and facing Lauren.

Lauren pulled a face of exaggerated disgust as Cam told her to stay away from the desk, instead turning around to face her friend. She grinned as Cam asked her if there was any specific drama she wanted to spill. She had to pretend to think for a moment. Hopefully Camilla would be more useful than Jade had done.

“That depends. Who do you want gossip on, and who do you have gossip about?” She asked, going to sit on the bed where Cam had been sitting before. “I’ve got gossip about just about anyone here,” she said, her trademark wicked grin in place. Of course, she was curious to know who exactly Camilla wanted dirt on, and why, and that would determine what exactly she told her.

“Well, Erin carried Livvy out to the couch from the bathroom earlier, but you know how those two are. Dylan’s been pretty flirtatious with Adonis. Oh, and Julian and Simon have some sort of two week bet about dating Robyn.” Camilla leaned against the wall, checking her nails. “Speaking of the widow, I heard she gave you a little love tap.” Camilla smirked, pretending to squint towards Lauren. “Might want a bit more touch up to cover the redness, or at least some blush to even it out.”

Oh, Lauren could always rely on Camilla for the good stuff. She raised an eyebrow and took a mental note about Erin and Livvy. That she could use. She’d had her suspicions about Dylan and Adonis, so it was good to get some confirmation. She honestly didn’t care about Julian and Simon’s bet. That wasn’t quite juicy enough.

She pouted at the mention of Robyn slapping her. “I think you mean she attacked me in a vicious, unprovoked manner,” she said, a tad overdramatically for the sake of letting Cam know she was joking. “That’s interesting about Erin and Livvy, though. Considering Erin showed up at my place, yelling about how it was my fault that Evie starved herself and her heart nearly gave out. And the two of them looked rather cozy when I showed up. Sounds like Erin’s playing the field a bit,” she remarked.

“Let me see, what have I got to offer you? By the looks of it, Gabriella’s back on drugs, which I’m sure Jade will be delighted about. Meanwhile, Jade’s up to her old tricks, I’ve heard she’s been stealing meds. And by the looks of things, there’s something going on with Declan and Soren, which Dean is not happy about,” Lauren listed off, dropping the last bit purely to see how Camilla would react to the news.

Most things Lauren was telling her were interesting. Letting out a laugh with Lauren’s overdramatic retelling of what happened with Robyn. Nothing was ever unprovoked when it came to Lauren, though she knew Camilla knew better from her. Though she was surprised to hear about Erin showing up and the bit between Evie and Erin. “Seems like it.” She replied about Erin ‘playing the field’.

The news about Gabriella wasn’t all that surprising, hearing a few stories about her relapses and being needed to be taken care of. But Jade stealing meds? That seemed pretty out there, especially since that could easily ruin her career in medicine. Though when it came to gossip hours between Camilla and Lauren, probably one of the few times the words coming from Lauren had some fact behind them.

But then she mentioned Soren. Of course she would, Lauren remembers their last meeting together and how she walked in on Camilla sitting next to Soren’s bedside. Cam tried not to show she cared about what Lauren was saying, but doubted she kept her poker face. “I know the Lauren Clark doesn’t just hear things. Jade’s really stealing meds? Like from her work?” Cam asked, hoping to change the subject from Soren, and legitimately curious.

To Camilla’s credit, she almost kept a straight face. Almost. That flicker of emotion was enough to give her away, and anyone else might not have paid too much heed. But Lauren knew exactly what that meant. Even after all this time, Camilla still cared about Soren. She tried to cover it up with a change in subject, but Lauren had noticed, like she always did.

“Please, giving away too many details might give away my sources,” Lauren said. “But it certainly seems that way. Not much, and just here and there. But if you’re looking for anything specific, she might be a good place to start, is all I’m saying.” But Lauren didn’t care about Jade. She was waiting for Jade’s answer, and telling Cam about all of the things she was doing wrong wasn’t likely to cause too much chaos.

“Anyway. Back to Soren, I know you and him have an… interesting relationship,” Lauren said. “You’ll be glad to hear that Beautiful Strangers are going to have an absolute PR disaster on their hands before long, once I get this Instagram post finished.” She said vaguely, watching Camilla and her reaction the whole time.

Cam let out a sigh and a roll of her eyes when Lauren wouldn’t elaborate about Jade, whatever it was, it seemed like something juicy. She just ignored the comment about going to Jade for anything specific. Unlike Soren, Camilla’s occasional drug use wasn't kept a secret, hell, even got a song or two about it and relapse. But then Lauren brought it back to Soren.

“What?” Camilla quickly blurted out, without much of a thought. “What instagram post?” She asked, taking a step closer to Lauren. Taking a moment to think. “And we don’t have a relationship, if anything. We are rivals.”

Cam’s reaction meant that Lauren had to hold back a wickedly delighted grin, instead keeping it to a smirk. The way that Cam added that there was no relationship between them made Lauren chuckle a little. Seeing her lose her composure like that while she insisted there was nothing there was far too amusing for her. “Oh, I know there’s nothing going on there, darling. Someone else has got his attention. But, well, we’ll have to see how long that lasts.” She paused for a second, pulling out her phone and taking a moment to swipe through the photos until the one she found.

“Well, you know that ‘quirky airhead frontman’ act Soren pulls all the time when he forgets the words to songs or spaces out in the middle of an interview? Well, I’ve discovered it’s not just an act. He’s high off his ass on painkillers. And my sources say that it’s not just an occasional thing. By all accounts, he’s practically hooked on them. And I have proof,” Lauren said, holding out her phone to Camilla but keeping it clutched in her hand so the other woman couldn’t snatch it from her. “So I’m going to post this, talking about how there are reports of him not being able to function without them, and see how people respond to him when they find out he’s a junkie on the road to nowhere.”

Camilla squinted, a scowl coming across her face as Lauren taunted her about someone else having Soren’s attention. It wasn’t jealousy that was getting Cam heated, but that Lauren was trying to make her jealous by saying these things. But her scowl dropped as Lauren showed proof of the words she was saying.

The photo was just an unmarked pill bottle in Soren’s possession, much like the ones she took out of the cabinet and now had in her purse. “It won’t stick, Lauren. It’s just a picture.” Camilla took a step back. “Plus he doesn’t have his pills anymore.” She said with a smirk coming across her face. “I overheard you two earlier, it wasn't hard to figure out your plan.” She shook her bag, referencing something inside of it.

Lauren raised an eyebrow as Camilla insisted that it wouldn’t stick. She clearly underestimated Lauren’s abilities if she thought that Lauren couldn’t make something stick if she wanted to. Then Cam declared that he didn’t have his pills any more, with a gesture to suggest that she had them instead. Lauren paused for a moment, raising an eyebrow.

“So what’s going to happen when he notices that they’re gone?” She asked, calmly. “Are you going to confess? Say you were trying to protect him from me? He’ll think you were in on it too, Camilla. You won’t earn yourself any favours with him. He won’t change his mind about you. And what then?” She asked.

Cam let out a chuckle when Lauren paused, a bit of a slip up and surprise of her actions. “Easy. I blame you. You’re already in here snooping, already threatened him once or twice or half a dozen times.” Camilla got closer to Lauren’s face. “You don’t have the upper hand. Drop it. Bitch.”

Lauren raised an eyebrow as Cam said that she didn’t have the upper hand, smiling a little. “Oh, really? I’ve got plenty of dirt on you, too, by the way. I could say that you have the meds because you want to take them for yourself, because you’re really no better.”

“Then it’s a case of she said she said Laur. And while some people don’t like me, they despise you a hell of a lot more.” Camilla didn’t back down, staying in Lauren’s face. “But good luck trying to get in the light Lauren. While it might be a disaster with whatever you may have planned for Soren’s band or for me, it’ll pass. No ones gonna care in a few months. Just like no one is going to care about you or remember you after tonight.”

The unfortunate thing about Cam knowing Lauren so well was that she knew exactly how to get under her skin. The concept of being a nobody was a horrific one to Lauren. She needed to be seen, needed to be remembered, and Cam knew that. And for the first time that night, her composure cracked. She shoved Camilla away from her, roughly. “Get the fuck out of here, Camilla. I can’t believe I ever wanted to keep you around,” she spat.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Jade Davies Character Portrait: Adonis Galante
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#, as written by TushoKa
Jade Davies.
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outfit. #cb0e36.song.
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The taxi driver put some speed behind it. During the day it would not have been possible to make it to the hospital in that amount of time, but late in the evening it was a bit better. Especially if you, like the driver, would know where they were busy with road works.

With a minute to spare they arrived at the hospital and Jade got out. She dropped enough cash with the man to make it worth his while. She didn’t listen for a response as she made it to the staff entrance at the back of the hospital. Inside, she made her way to the second floor. She was way too obvious in her outfit, so she made a beeline for her locker to grab her doctors coat. She looked at the mirror inside of her locker and undid her hair from the tight bun it was in.

All that time for fucking nothing... She let her hair hang down and grabbed a hair tie from a small box inside the locker. She put her hair in a high ponytail. She checked her face left and right and put up a smile. ”Welcome to your shift, doctor Davies.” She gave herself a small wink, almost as if assuming a character.

Jade walked out of the locker room, not seeing anyone on the way. The hospital was generally more quiet at night, and that would give her a nice background story for what she had in mind. She needed to deal with this quickly, so she could make her way back to the party before anyone would notice she was gone.

Next stop was the cafeteria. As soon as she stepped in she realized she was out of luck. All chairs were on the tables and the soft zooming of the cleaning machine was the only audible sound. She gave a friendly but discouraged nod to the cleaner. If the cleaners were here, it usually meant the kitchen staff already left. Jade closed the door again before she heard a shattering sound in the kitchen.

The cleaner looked at her and raised his shoulders in disinterest. Jade walked over to the door of the kitchen quickly. There was a security code on the door, so she knocked instead.
”Hello? Everything all right? It’s doctor Davies, do you need any help?”
The person must have not expected it, because the moment Jade spoke she heard something else shatter.
”I’ll come in, just give me the code to the door, I can help.”

A shaky voice came from inside the kitchen. ”It’s 665566, but you don’t need to come in.., really!”
Before the voice had finished, Jade had already typed the code into the panel. She heard a soft click and she opened the door. Inside she saw a young woman, sitting on her knees, picking up the glass pieces of the bowl she had dropped earlier. Jade could see a cut on her hand. The girl stared up at Jade, her eyes watery.
”Please don’t tell anyone, they are complaining about me already, if they find out this they will fire me.”

Jade almost felt sorry for her. She hadn’t seen the girl before, so she couldn’t have been there for long. Jade put up a soft smile, trying to make the girl feel better. She could introduce herself as Jade, but doctor Davies made more of an impact, especially on younger people.
”No need to panic, just calm down.”
She bent her knees until she was at eye level with the girl. She spoke soft but firm at the same time. ”My name is doctor Davies, what is yours?”
As she asked it, she wiped a tear away from the girls cheek.

”I’m Samantha, but most call me Sammy.”
Her high voice spiked as she said her own name. She used her hands to wipe her tears away right where Jade had just done so.
Jade’s eyes squinted warmly as the girl introduced herself. ”All right Sammy, here’s what we are going to do. Let’s get this glass out of the way, then we’ll take care of that cut on your hand and then this will be our little secret.”

Sammy looked delighted at that, especially the secret part and she nodded her head quickly. Together they finished picking up the small pieces of glass all over the floor. Jade grabbed one of the carton food boxes and they placed all of it in there, before putting it in the trash.
”All right, now put your hand on the workbench here, palm open upward. ”

As the girl did what Jade said, she grabbed the first aid kit from the wall and opened it up on the workbench. She picked out some disinfection fluid, gauze and a roll of bandage. She put on the latex gloves and sprayed the disinfection fluid on the wound in the palm of her hand and cleaned off the blood and dirt. Then she put the gauze on the wound and used the bandage to put figure-8’s around it. ”You’re lucky, Sammy, you won’t need any stitches.”

She finished it off by putting on two bandage fasteners to keep it in place.
”There you go, that does it.” Jade said as she took off the gloves and threw them in the bin.
”Thank you, doctor Davies, thank you so much for helping me. I wish there was anything I could do back for you.”

There it was, the line Jade always wanted to hear. The more people owed you, the more willing they were to do anything for you.
”Well, it may not be payback in full, but I’d kill for some doughnuts. ” She pulled up her lip in order to make the request look more playful than it actually was.
”I have some! I just made a small batch to get started tomorrow.” Sammy’s face lit up when she realized there was something she could do in return.
”Wait, just one second.”
She disappeared to the back and Jade grabbed her phone to check how much time had gone by. She had been away from the party for about 20 minutes at the time and looking at Instagram, she wasn’t missing much.

Then she saw it. A post from Lauren’s account with her and Dean kissing. From the clothes she could see the picture was just taken. The caption was sappy as hell.

When that special someone is right under your nose all this time

It was so clearly just taken to annoy Jade, she might as well have been tagged. She knew that Lauren never had the slightest interest in Dean, and aside from a decent lay , there was not much he could offer.
Jade wasn’t as annoyed that Dean was gone, but more so that it would be Lauren he had gone to. If thinking with your dick ever needed a picture to illustrate...
She resisted the urge to reply or put any comment/barf emoji on the post, knowing it would only make Lauren’s smile a bigger one.

As Sammy appeared again with a small box, Jade locked her phone and put it away. She was here to do something, and Dean’s stupid decisions were just a distraction. Jade put up her smile again as she saw the four doughnuts in the box.
”Oh my goodness Sammy, you’re such an angel.”
The girl smiled and handed over the box.

”Now, I’m on shift this whole week, I’ll come see you in two days to check on the wound, okay?”
Sammy nodded enthusiastically.
”Now your shift must have ended some time ago. So don;t stick around too long and go home, sweetie, please.”
With a last wave Jade exited the kitchen.

Outside she passed the cleaner again who looked even less interested in her than before. She walked through the hallways on her way to the person she had called at the party. It had been pure luck that he was the one on shift, but Jade thought she earned at least a bit this evening. She waived hello to one or two of the doctors she passed, all of them just smiling back at her.

She knocked on the door to the small office and opened it without waiting for an answer.
”Bill, are you able to cheer up this poor resident in her break time?”
She stepped forward into the only light that was on in the room. Putting up the best pouty lip she could, and the one she had used every time she needed something from someone.
”Jade? I didn’t even know you were on shift tonight. You sure you want to spend your precious break time with an old fart like me?”
The man leaned back in his chair, looking at Jade with a smile on his face. He was a big man, his stomach standing out far further than it should. He had a big bushy moustache, as black as the few hairs still left on his head. He was wearing the suit and the pin that all security guards of the hospital wore.

The room smelled like sweat. It was not much more than a cupboard and the air circulation here was poorer than in the rest of the building. The heat of the computers and the monitors made the air stuffy, and all of this did not set well with the large man's armpits.
”You know I’m not supposed to let others in here.” He said it with a smile on his face, like he was only half serious.

It was a good thing Jade had the perfect weapon to take the serious half out of the equation. ”You mean you’re going to make me eat these all by myself?”
She held out the small box of doughnuts and opened it in front of his face.
Seeing the delicious pastries he sat up straight and leaned over, almost licking his lips.

”Okay then, you know, you drive a hard bargain, you.” He grabbed the box from her hands and put it on the desk in front of him. He reached with his hand behind him and he pulled forth another rolling chair, putting it next to him. ”Come, sit.”
Jade took the seat, smiling.

Bill had been an easy one to figure out quickly. He liked his food and he liked to think of himself as the glue that held the hospital together. He had worked there for most of his life, and he always provided a pair of open arms to any newcomer. He had three sons, and no daughters. This made him vulnerable to the young female residents. He would always back them up and gave a much harder time to the young male doctors.

Being the head of security, he had been a prime target for Jade. It might be a connection you could use at times, and such a time had now come. This wasn’t the first time she had been sitting here, and he had explained some things about the system before. Plus, Jade wasn’t stupid when it came to computers.
”Don’t you ever get bored, just staring at the screens?”

Jade took a bite out of her first doughnut when Bill started his second.
Still chewing, he replied.”Oh well, it’s nicer to watch TV, but this pays the bills. We can’t all be doctors, young lady.”
Jade laughed and playfully put her head on his shoulder.
”There must be some videos you watch more often, a kind of ‘best of’, so to say. To make the time go faster, I mean. How long do you even keep these files for?”

Bill licked his fingers finishing the second doughnut. Jade was plucking on her first still, savouring the food quite a bit more than he did.
”We keep all of them for exactly 3 years. After that we delete them from the system completely.”
Jade took one or two bites before asking on, not to seem too eager.
”I guess some other company will come in to delete them then, right?”

Bill tried to get to an all time record by attacking the third doughnut. With a full mouth he waived his hand. ”Ah no, it’s nothing. You can either delete or shred the file after selecting it, so we do it ourselves on a daily basis. Thank you for the snack, doctor Dimples.”

Jade smiles as she finishes her own as well.
”They are a bit dry though, I should have gotten a soda as well.” She put up a sad face and turned to Bill. ”Argh, and I was just so happy to finally sit down.”

Bill made an attempt to get up himself. ”No worries, Dimples. You treated me to a nice snack, let me treat you to a drink. Coke okay?”
Jade clapped her hands in played excitement. This was exactly what she had hoped for.
”You really are the sweetest man around. Anything but Pepsi is good.”

She watched the door close behind the large man before she pushed his chair out of the way. The playback system was easily navigated, and the date she had seen on the video on Lauren’s phone had not left her mind since she saw it.
She typed in the date and a large number of files came up on the screen. She didn’t have the time to go through all of the videos separately, so she selected all of them. In the menu she looked for the ‘shred button’ Bill told her about. She found and clicked it, all the while keeping an eye on the door.

From the corner of her eye she spotted the security guard on the live cameras. She kept moving her hands over the keyboard nervously, not even typing, just keeping an eye on the percentage of deleted videos.
As the files were deleted, she got a hunch and went back to the search box. She typed in ‘Jade’ and she saw a few videos come up. She recognized the first right away as being the video Lauren had. The others seemed to be close up of her walking in the hallways, and two of her eating lunch. She read how the user name on all of them were A306040.

On the camera, she saw how Bill was making his way back, with a coke in his hand. She just clicked on the one video and deleted it quickly. The videos of her eating lunch, they could have. Fucking pervs.

She set back the monitor as she found it and moved Bill’s chair back just as the door opened again. Bill entered and handed her the coke.
”You are the absolute best!”
She opened the can and took a sip out of it before holding it out to the security guard.

”No thanks, not for me.” He sat back in the chair which gave a squeaking sound as he sat back again.
”Well, my break is finished, back to the boring shift. You know what, I’ll check with the doctor on call if I can go, I’m just here for extra credit in any case.”
She got up out of the chair.

”I hope they let you go, it’s a good night for young people to have fun, not to be locked up here, like me. And you look like you could go to a party just as you are right now…, maybe lose the doctors coat.”
Jade laughed at the joke. That was exactly her plan, to get back to the party.

”Well, thanks for the company, time here is better when you are around.”
She gave him a quick side hug, happy her plan had worked exactly as she had wanted it to.

”That sounds like what I should be saying to you, dimples. Now you know the story, right? You were never in here.”
Jade mimed the locking of a key in front of her mouth and opened the door. When she left his office, she made her way back to the locker room to drop off her coat. She finished her coke on the way to the front of the hospital.

The same taxi was still standing there. As soon as the driver saw her, he got out of the car and opened the door for her. She got in and waited for the driver to get back in. ”All right, same deal if you get me back to the same place in the next 5 minutes.”

Sitting in the back, she took the pins back out of her purse, and put her hair back in the same tight bun as she had before. She redid a bit of her makeup, so it looked like no time had passed.
Okay, so the original video is gone. Next is Lauren’s phone, and then any copies she might have. And tomorrow I have to figure out who the hell user A306040 is.

The taxi pulled up to Erin and Soren’s apartment again and she gave the driver another generous amount. She stepped out of the car and walked to the front door. Waiting outside as if he’d been expecting her to appear, Adonis flicked the butt of his cigarette falling into step with Jade. He could tell by the look on her face that she was on a warpath so he saved her the favor of mincing words.

“Hey, I need something to get Lauren talking.” He said simply, already knowing dropping the L bomb was enough to get her attention.
Jade didn’t jump or even flinch with Adonis’ sudden appearance. She looked around, seeing if anyone kept an eye on them. The coast looked clear and she put her hand on Adonis’ chest, and pushed him backwards. The first option she could see was a storage unit, hopefully unoccupied at the time.

Jade kept pushing him back into the storage unit and closed the door behind her. Their faces were closer together than they had been in years. But neither of them had the look of passion on their face they had all those years ago. She grabbed her purse and pushed it into his hands. ”Hold this.”

Without waiting for response she rummaged in the purse Adonis was now holding. She took out the familiar box of pills and a small plastic bag. She took 3 pills, all the same and closed the plastic bag. She put the little bag into Adonis’ breast pocket and grabbed her purse back from his hands.
”One is okay, two works better, three might kill her. Understood?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Erin Monaghan Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Evie Addams Character Portrait: Olivia Eriksen
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Olivia Erikson
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The Artist | Attire | hex: #F1D03A
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Erin Monaghan
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The Bartender | Attire | hex:#800000
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Erin didn't exactly know how long she had been on the back patio for, but it was long enough for her to have gone through two full cigarettes. Her confrontation with Lauren in the hallway had left her feeling more angry and confused than she had originally anticipated. But, here she was. Trying to calm her nerves as she looked down at the cigarette she had in her hand currently. The golden burning embers were growing closer to her finger tips. She could go for a third but, Erin knew she had enough. Taking one final drag from the mostly finished cigarette butt, and crushed it in the ashtray that was off to her right.

Erin shook her head as she combed her fingers through her dark brown hair. Erin shouldn't have let Lauren get to her as much as she did. Her hands were still shaking a bit. Clambering her hands together in front of her for a moment. Taking a deep breath, she turned on her heel, her boots just barely squeaking against the floor beneath her. Leaning against the railing, Erin's eyes scanned through the glass pane window that led into the living room. Trying to figure out what she could do now. No one seemed of interest in that moment, before those all too familiar blond locks caught her attention.

Combinng her fingers through her hair once more, Erin straightened and patted down her clothes before walking back into the living room. Pausing in the threshold for a moment. Clearing her throat nervously before she walked over to Livvy. Erin gave her a shy smile before looking around for a moment. "Now a bad time or-?" she questioned, not sure if Livvy was waiting on someone else or she was going to occupy her time elsewhere. Erin would understand regardless of what Livvy may have wanted at that moment. Erin simply just wanted to check up on her friend again, especially after having confronted Lauren and spent some time away before finally coming back. Couldn't have been more than fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, right?

Evie had just vacated the seat beside her when she heard that familiar voice again. She beamed at her, doing much better than she had been when Erin had last found her. Talking to Evie had helped a lot. She was excited for the projects they had discussed. And so, she beamed up at Erin. ”No, now is great!” She gave the seat beside her a pat.

Once Erin was seated, she placed a hand on her arm, getting her attention and proceeded to gush about the channel she and Evie had talked about. ”Evie had an amazing idea, Erin! She recommended I start a youtube channel where I could do speed painting and art tutorials! Won’t that be amazing! Imagine the exposure? The commissions!” She gave her friend’s arm a soft squeeze before realizing she was just rambling on about herself. She let go, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. ”Sorry. You know how I am when I’m excited. I’m… better now. Talking to Evie helped.Thank you. For earlier I mean.”

Erin couldn't help but smirk a bit when Liv said that no was fine, and she found herself quickly sitting down beside her friend. Keeping her eyes on the blond the entire time as she spoke, a small smile still remaining all the while. Listening patiently the entire time she spoke, nodding along. A soft chuckle escaped her lips with how excited Livvy sounded, "It does sound pretty amazing, I won't lie. And you would for sure be great at it, trust me!" Erin said as she flashed a smile in Livvy's direction, gently placing a hand on her knee. "Your art's always been some of my favorite anyway, so...I have no doubt you'd be able to go far with that, trust me."

She couldn't help but give a small shrug when Livvy apologized, not having seen a reason for anything to be forgiven. Erin liked hearing how excited Livvy would get, talking about her hobbies. It just further helped prove that Livvy felt comfortable enough with Erin to talk about it freely. Something she always wished people could do. Another small chuckle was heard as Erin nodded, "Oh there's no need to thank me, I just...Did what anyone would do, ya know?" she questioned with a raised eyebrow. "You're my friend I...I wouldn't have done anything differently. You know that, right?"

Livvy’s smile softened, warmth filling in her eyes. She placed a hand on top of Erin’s where it rested on her knee. ”It means a lot to hear that from you. That you like my art so much I mean.” She looked down a little. ”Sometimes I struggle with feeling like my art is any good. I do think that having a muse, a… someone to create for and to use as a model that I care about.” She gave Erin’s hand a small squeeze.

”And I know. I feel bad that you had to come rescue me… again--when you should be enjoying the party, but I’m grateful for you. You’ve always come to my rescue.” She tilted her head, uncertainty crinkling her brow. ”You know I’d do the same for you, right? You need me, I’m there.”

Erin grinned cheekily as Livvy mentioned how much it meant to her, and how she often struggled to find her art as good as people said it was. "Oh please...Your art is some of the best, you shouldn't need other people's opinions to validate you." Erin said softly, looking down for a moment. "And uh..." she cleared her throat as Erin leaned back a bit, "You do have one hell of a great model, if I do say so myself." Erin flashed her friend a wink for a moment, before straightening up a bit again.

There was a brief pause between the two after Livvy spoke up again. Erin gave another shrug once more. Not exactly sure how to take what was said to her. Erin bit her bottom lip for a moment as she thought, taking a deep breath as she did so, before speaking up. "Really, Liv it...It's no problem, I mean it." her tone was genuine and soft. "For as long as I can remember I've always fought for other people...Never been a reason to change that, especially since..." her voice trailed off for a moment.

Clearing her throat with a small cough as she looked off to the side. Even now, simply referencing what happened with her brother was harder than Erin anticipated. She looked back over at Livvy giving her a small smile, "-And I know you would...I think it's why I-" Erin stopped herself, before she could say anything stupid. "Just uh...You mean a lot to me, ya know? So...Like...I always got you, is what I'm trying to say, I guess. You ever need or want, anything, I'm there.." she said with a small nod.

The softness of Erin’s tone sent goosebumps prickling up her arms. It was rare for Erin to be this vulnerable with people. She’s always cared fiercely for those she deemed…worthy of that care and attention. And Livvy was always amazed that she was one of those people. She could see Erin was struggling with something. And, in her Livvy way, she reached up with a hand cupping Erin’s cheek in her palm. ”Everything alright? You seem… Something’s bothering you.” Her blue eyes scanned Erin’s face, looking for any sign or tell to clue her in to what’s bothering her friend.

Erin's eyes had more or less found them anchored onto Livvy the moment she felt contact on her cheek. Her heart managed to skip a beat for just a moment before shifting a bit on the couch. Silence hung between the two of them for another moment as Erin tried to think of something to say. Her eyes scanned over Livvy before sighing a bit, "Just...Just a lot, ya know?" she gestured to her own head for a moment with her right hand, before shaking her head. "...Mainly Lauren getting in my head as well after I spoke with her and just...I dunno.." Erin shrugged a bit, not wanting to overshare in case all it did was worry Livvy more, as well as being uncertain of what she was even feeling at that moment.

Erin’s delayed response left her questioning the touch, but when she finally gave a response, Livvy gave a small knowing smile. “No matter how hard we try, she always seems to find that something that gets to us, huh?” She dropped her hand, running it down her arm until she could hold onto her hand. ”I’m here if you need to talk about anything, but I will tell you. Whatever she’s doing to get to you, even if it’s true, she’ll get what’s coming to her. Karma always comes back around. And...” she gave a small squeeze, ”No matter what it is, you matter and everything will be alright.”

Erin gave a small, curt nod as Livvy reassured her, as well as giving her hand a gentle squeeze. Which Erin returned in kind, gently rubbing her thumb against Livvy's hand. There was once again another moment of silence before Erin found herself able to speak again, "Yeah...I...I do. Just...I should have made her leave the moment I saw her get here...I...I'm sorry." her tone was low, but entirely genuine as she spoke. "I can't help but feel like what happened was cuz I didn't do anything...I'm sorry, Liv."

Livvy felt a crack form in her heart at the guilt her friend felt. ”Oh, Rin. That wasn’t your fault. She would’ve found some way to get back in or a different time to torment all of us. It’s what brings her pleasure.” She attempted some levity in a dirty joke as she said, ”I doubt she’s any fun in the bedroom.” She waited to see if her joke landed before giving her friend another squeeze. ”The only people I blame for this is Lauren and myself for letting her get inside my head. And mostly Lauren. You’re one person. You can’t be everywhere at once. Besides, I highly doubt she’d listen to you. I think we’d have to all team up to get her to leave us all the hell alone.” She sighed.

Erin slowly nodded as Livvy spoke, but slowly shook her head in distaste of the word used in accompaniment with Lauren. "Yeah no thanks-" Erin interjected with a tone of disgust. Allowing Livvy to continue. Immediately feeling her skin crawl at the next part, "Okay okay, how about we don't talk about her anymore? Okay, thanks?" Erin said with an overdramatic but clearly playful tone.

Shaking her head in disbelief of her friend's joke. "Eh, even then...Don't blame yourself. One day she's gonna get kicked off her high horse, and we're all gonna be able to revel in it so...How about we just say fuck it and enjoy ourselves, hm?" Erin asked with an eyebrow raised. "Don't need to continue letting that sour bitch ruin everyone's night."

Livvy smiled, and gave a nod. She reached with her free hand for her water bottle she had placed onto the coffee table. She unscrewed the cap and raised it between them. ”To ignoring the Fire Breathing Bitch Queen and enjoying the rest of our night?” She raised an eyebrow in question.

Erin grinned and nodded at her friend's comment, "The very Queen Bitch Tits? Yeah I'm good with that." she replied all too casually. She leaned back a bit, her eyes scanning the room again before looking at Liv, "You sure you're okay though?" the look on her face was genuine, even meeting her eyes. "Cuz you know that's all that matters..." Erin cleared her throat once more, "You being okay, I mean."

Livvy continued to smile and nodded again. ”Absolutely sure. Evie helped a lot and you being here to check in on me has definitely gotten me back to my almost normal self.” She eyed her friend for a moment. ”Are you feeling a little better now too?”

Erin nodded solemnly as Livvy spoke, giving her a gentle nod. Erin gave a small shrug in response, "I guess...?" she answered back honestly. Erin sighed as she clasped her hands together in front of her, "I'll be fine just...In time. I'm a big girl, I can handle myself." she flashed Liv another small wink as well as gently nudging her arm with her own. "Or we can both be messes together by the time this is over, who knows." Erin jested for a moment. That was until something, or more so someone had caught her attention immediately. Erin’s raised a worried eyebrow, before looking back at Livvy, ”I...I’m gonna go check on her real quick, I’ll be right back, yeah?” Erin said before getting to her feet and weaved through the crowd of people. Just barely being able to keep her eyes trained on her target as she passed through the bodies of people.

Evie was making a beeline for the door, weaving her way through the crowd and not caring if she collided with anyone as she left. She needed to get out of there, she needed to get out as soon as possible. She felt a hand on her arm and physically recoiled. Her heart sank as she saw it was Erin. She could practically hear Lauren’s words in her head. Good to know your “new friends” care about you so much. The look on Erin’s face as she looked at Livvy said everything. Evie wasn’t sure she could look at Erin right then, because she knew she’d end up searching for that same softness when Erin looked at her, and she doubted she’d find it.

She forcibly pulled her arm away. “I can’t do this,” she said, finally whirling around to look at Erin. “I won’t be used as a tool to play games, and I don’t intend on being a part of any of those games. I’ve had enough of people messing me around for a lifetime. So… I’m sorry, but I can’t do… whatever this is,” she said, more anger and hurt in her voice than she had meant. And then she just turned and walked away, keeping her head down as the tears began to burn.

Erin was only able to look at Evie in confusion. What the hell got her so worked up like this? That was until she explained she wouldn’t be a part in anyone else’s games. A genuine look of worry overcame Erin, her eyebrows knitting together, the in-curl of her bottom lip as Erin felt her teeth bite them anxiously. And her stomach feeling like it plummeted a thousand feet. Erin was anchored in place as Evie turned around one final time, turning her back on Erin and walked away.

Everything went silent, as if everything was suddenly submerged under water. The music that played overhead was muffled and drowned out, like she was swimming. Her body felt sluggish and heavy, and her head began to pound with an excruciating headache. Erin managed to push her way through the crowd and into the hallway, stumbling as she supported herself against the wall. Pushing herself to her room. I need to find it- she thought to herself. Erin attempted to open her bedroom door. Locked again. Who else was hooking up in her own damn room again? As if catching Damien and Gabriella earlier wasn’t bad enough. Ugh. She felt nauseous. For what felt like a few minutes, she simply stood near the door. But finally, turning on her heel, she attempted the bathroom. Also locked. Groaning angrily, Erin pushed herself out of the hallway, holding onto the wall as she made her way out.

She just needed to get away, she thought. Erin fumbled her way to the back patio, looking around as she dodged looking anyone in the eye. Before walking over to the corner of the patio, pushing her back up against it, and sat there. She just needed to calm down. Breahe. In. Out-




Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Erin Monaghan Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Evie Addams Character Portrait: Adonis Galante Character Portrait: Olivia Eriksen Character Portrait: Simon Rizzo
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XXXXXXSimon had searched everywhere for Livvy after his concerning conversation with Lauren. He was just about to pull out his phone to call her, thinking she had left the party when he spotted her familiar platinum blonde head seated on the couch. She was staring out at the crowd, her eyebrows drawn together in concern. He frowned and walked over to her, dodging people as he went. When had Erin's apartment become so crowded?

"There you are!" He said by way of greeting. "Are you alright?" He looked in the direction she was facing as if to see what she was looking for. "What are you looking at?"

Livvy blinked, pulled back to reality as she registered Simon was beside her. "What? Oh! Yeah. I'm ok. Why were you looking for me?" She asked, puzzled.

Simon ran a hand through his hair and let out a deep sigh. "Julian had said you were last spotted talking to the Fire Breathing Bitch Queen and I thought maybe something happened." She stiffened at the mention of Lauren. "Something did happen, didn't it?" Livvy shrugged, but wouldn't look at him. He waited, knowing if he wanted to talk about it with him, she would.

Finally she said, "Yes. But I'm alright now. I promise. She just... reminded me about Eustice and-" She cut herself off with a shiver. Simon reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. She smiled softly at him. "I just let her get into my head and had a bit of a setback. But Erin came and helped and then Evie suggested this awesome idea! She suggested I start a YouTube channel for my art."

Simon was glad his friend was fine, but he knew it couldn't have been pretty. Simon had known about Eustice's history with Livvy. It was an effort not to lay into the man whenever he saw him, but Livvy had begged him not to mention it. It would only make things worse. She never wanted to do anything more about it. Probably thanks to the gaslighting of her mother. Simon's hands curled into fists at the thought of her mother and step-father. The man hurt her daughter and all her mother did was call her terrible names and blame Livvy for the treatment. That was when he remembered what he had said to Lauren about Karma and he relaxed a little.

He realized Livvy was staring at him, confusion and concern on her face. "You ok, Si? Did something happen with Robyn?" She asked.

"No, not really. There is an interesting development there, but first, you're sure you're ok?" He watched her for a moment as she nodded, inspecting her for all her tells when she wasn't. Once he was sure she was alright, he continued. "Apparently Julian has an interest in Robyn as well."

Livvy gasped dramatically, more to make light of the situation than the fact she was actually surprised. "No! That must be rough. He's your best friend." She smirked, punching him lightly in the arm. "Well guy best friend, of course."

He chuckled softly. "He gave me two weeks to ask her on a date before he made his move. I don't want to make her feel like she has to choose when she's still grieving Nate, but-"

"But you really like her and don't want to miss out on your chance. You're also thinking that he's your best friend and you want him to be happy." She finished for him, knowing him like the back of her hand. He gave her a look that said Get out of my head but he nodded. "Go for it, Si. The worst she can do is say 'no'. It stinks, but I know you respect people enough to give them that space. You still have to give yourself the chance."

He didn't know how to respond so instead, he just sat next to his friend and taking in the comfort of just the two of them being together. Finally, he asked, "Who were you looking for?"

"Erin. She was here talking to me, and then she saw someone and took off. I feel like something's wrong." She paused, understanding settling over her. "You know what? I think she saw Evie. Which means Evie saw us." Simon raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything. "We didn't do anything!" She said defensively. "I just... you know how I am around Erin."

He sighed. "Yeah. My thoughts are Evie didn't like what she saw given how she and Erin were dancing earlier." Livvy nodded but didn't say much else. "I would try to straighten things out with her when you can. Especially if you're going to ask for her help on the channel." Livvy nodded again, a look of guilt shimmering in her eyes. "No. No, don't you do that. Evie chose to get tangled with Erin. And from what I know of her, commitment isn't exactly something that comes easily."

Livvy gave him a hard look. " Says the guy who has feelings for a widow."

He opened his mouth to reply. Then closed it. Finally, he said, "Fair. But you can't blame yourself for that."

Livvy sighed, running her hands through her hair to the point where it seemed to tease it slightly, giving it more volume but also made it kind of a mess, "You're right. I'll try to talk to her later though. I..." She took a deep breath, "Erin knows how I feel about her, and I know that she cares about me, but I've seen the way she looks at Evie." She felt a tug in her chest. She rubbed at it. She bit her lip, feeling mist come to her eyes.

Simon put an arm around Livvy and pulled her in close, squeezing.

Something Lauren said, that thankfully wasn't about her, crossed her mind and she asked, suddenly concerned, "Have you seen Adonis? Last I saw him he was chasing Dylan." Simon just shook his head. "Sorry, kid. He's probably off getting into trouble somewhere. I swear he's like a magnet." Livvy nodded. A magnet made sense for Adonis. Explained why she always liked being around him. She was trouble herself apparently.

They sat quietly for a while before she revealed. "I almost fucked Dean in the bathroom."

"You almost did what!?"

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Character Portrait: Damien Wolfe Character Portrait: Lauren Clark Character Portrait: Dylan Knight
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Dylan was shocked at the outcome of her and Adonis trying to hook up at the party. James had forcibly ripped Adonis from them, and honestly, it took a while for Dylan even to move. They were trapped like a deer staring into the headlights of a car along a country road. James had been huffing and puffing the whole time, but Dylan hadn’t registered much of what he had said besides something about Damien.

As soon as Adonis and James went off to do their yelling, Dylan had slipped back into the house, unaware of who had made an entrance uninvited. As Dylan slowly made her way down the main hall, she could hear some commotion already and something about Lauren. For fuck sakes Dylan thought and seriously regretted coming to this party.

She made her way towards the bathroom, and there was no lineup, so she slipped into it, and as she looked up, the woman shifted back in shock as a little scream escaped her lips, and immediately she placed a hand over her heart.

“Damien, you scared me half to death, do the doors not lock around here?” She said with a slight scowl on her face before walking in farther and closer to her husband. “When did you get here?”

Damien was left alone with Erin when Gabriella ran out of the room. Based on the scowl on her face, he assumed that she was the owner of this room, of the bed in which he and Gabriella had “wrestled.” He didn't pay much attention to the décor, but if he had, he would've seen the crap hoarding on the wall and realized it was someone's personal space rather than a guest room.

Damien finally jumped out of bed and struggled with the zipper to his dress pants, uneasy with the tense air surrounding them. “Erin, is it?” he said, a smug grin creeping over his otherwise flawless face. He finished buttoning his pants, then his dress shirt, before grabbing his tie off the bed and throwing it over his shoulder. Damien took his time walking towards Erin, each stride proudly made while reaching into his pocket for his leather Gucci wallet. He came to a halt at Erin's side and casually withdrew ten-hundred dollar bills from his pocket, saying, "This should be plenty to keep you quiet." He grinned as he walked away, throwing the dollars in her direction and patted her shoulder.

“Oh, by the way,” Damien snapped his fingers, pivoting on his heel to return Erin's gaze. “Thank you for allowing us to use the room. You should probably change your sheets.” He smiled and winked again before returning to the party.

Damien strode down the corridor with a cocky attitude that made him untouchable. He felt like the king of the universe, whether it was the thrill of hooking up with one of his wife's closest friends or the fact that he had just paid someone to keep quiet for messing with his wife's friend. Damien couldn't make up his mind, so he went to the bathroom to compose himself before bumping into Dylan. He threw open the door to see her, dressed in a provocative black sequined gown that embraced her beautiful figure. Damien was taken aback; he barely heard the last half of what she said before she stepped in front of him. "How did I get here?" He drew his arms over his chest and looked down at his wife. “When did you arrive? I called you.” Damien struggled to stay serious with her considering this was the first time he'd seen her since she packed her belongings following their fight last week. He couldn't recall what the dispute was about this time because it was routine for them; they'd argue, Dylan would call him a jackass, she'd pack her belongings, and he wouldn't see her until the following day. Blah, blah, blah.. it was becoming tedious. Damien, on the other hand, worried how long she would keep up her little silent treatment.

This was why they fought, Damien came in with his broad shoulders and intimidating presence to demand answers and demand respect, but those things had to be earned. Something of which Dylan has not felt Damien’s done as of recent. Her eyebrows knitted together in frustration and her gaze piercing as she looked to her husband.

“I have been here an hour give or take.” Dylan said to the point not offering any inflections in her tone to convey any sort of emotion or notion she was mad at him. She was ready for the standoff part whatever number they were at now, and her eyes glanced over his appearance. It was sloppily put together, almost as if he had been in haste, but there were minor details that made Dylan know that it wasn’t how he dressed himself earlier in the day.

It was hard to notice and you would have had to be combing through his appearance to see it, but there it was the hint of colour on Damien’s shirt that otherwise would be crisply cleaned and all colour removed from it, a lipstick stain. Dylan was obviously annoyed by this point, but not knowing who it was, she didn’t want to make a huge deal.

“I’m just going to go back to the party.” Dylan started to walk closer to him to try to get by him but she couldn’t help the words she was about to say, “Maybe you can go fuck that bitch again and then tell me how much you miss me.” and right when the words left her lips and were no longer hers to take back someone was entering the bathroom, so she moved back over in front of Damien.

Lauren was having trouble keeping her composure and not screaming every single one of Erin’s filthy little secrets at those gathered. That wasn’t the right way to reveal them, she told herself. When she did, it would be in a controlled manner that reminded everyone that she was always, always in control of the situation. So she exhaled slowly and made her way towards the bathroom in an attempt to clean and dry off her dress.

When she opened the bathroom door, though, two people were already in there. Damien and Dylan. A grin appeared on Lauren’s face. Here was an opportunity to play a few games, she told herself.

“Well hello there, you two,” she purred. “Hope I wasn’t interrupting anything,” she said, slipping past Damien (a little closer than necessary) into the bathroom, where she grabbed a hand towel and began to dab at her dress. “How is married life?” She asked casually. “Heaven, I’m sure.”

Dylan's comments slashed Damien like a dagger; she was obviously still annoyed with him. He could tell she was angry about something because of the loud tone of her voice and the fire in her eyes. Damien was perplexed as to what she might be upset about this time, until he saw Gabriella's tiny lipstick mark on his shirt.

Shit, he mumbled, attempting to rub it away. He should have been more careful.

Damien managed to grab his wife's hand before she could rush past him. “Oh, come on, Dylan-” he said exasperatedly. He couldn't understand why she was behaving this way; they weren't even exclusive. At the time of their marriage, they decided that their partnership would be openly non-monogamous. So, why make a big deal about it now?

Damien opened his lips to resume his conversation with Dylan when the bathroom door flung open, exposing the devil herself, Lauren fucking Clark. He hadn't seen her in years, yet the mere idea of her threw Damien into a fury. Nonetheless, she was there, in the flesh. He thought she was dead. “Fucking hell,” Damien said, throwing his arms up in the air. As if his mood couldn't get much worse.

Damien rolled his eyes as Lauren made a snide remark regarding his marriage with Dylan. “Lauren,” he spat out her name with such hate and disdain that it left a terrible taste on his mouth, “Why are you here? I'm almost ninety nine percent sure you weren't even invited.” He hoped she'd crawl back into whatever cave she came out of.

“Holy fuck, do Erin and Soren not have locks in this place.” Dylan said in utter disbelief when Lauren fucking Clark, lady demon herself appeared out of nowhere.

Once upon a time, the venom and anger in Damien’s voice might have made her flinch. This time, she barely reacted, just looking up at him with a raised eyebrow. “Lovely to see you too, Damien, darling,” she said, wearing her usual smug smile. “And I was invited, actually. Soren and Erin just happened to leave me off the guest list, but a dear friend of mine brought me as their guest.” Oh, how she itched to play her games with these two. This was playing with fire, she knew, but she also didn’t care.

“Dylan. You look… well,” she said, a knowing glint in her eye.

They were not very welcoming of Lauren, and Dylan would never be welcoming of her even if they had been friends in the past. Her eyes immediately rolled when she said someone had been invited. “I bet I could guess who,” Dylan said with disdain in her voice, but her whole demeanor shifted when Lauren said she looked well.

If looks could kill Dylan’s would have combusted Lauren by now. “I will look even better when you’re out of my face.” She spat the words out at the woman because Dylan really was not in the goddamned mood for this or Lauren at all.

“Don’t you have other people to bother? Is your life really that much of a bore? You have to come to a party of people that hate your existence?” She shook her head. “You got issues Clark and I have clocked them since junior year.”

Damien crossed his arms across his broad chest, listening in on his wife as she chatted to Lauren. After she finished speaking, he contributed additional fuel to the flames. “So,” he said cockily as he looked down at Lauren, “what is it this time?” You ran out of daddy's money?” Then he let out a dramatic gasp and pointed a finger to the air. “You realized no one wanted you alone, so you returned to reunite with the very few individuals who actually cared about you from your past. Which one is it, Lauren?”

Lauren was nasty, but Damien matched her energy. He'd known her long enough to know just which words set her off. He knew exactly what games she liked to play, and if he didn't, he understood how to play them just as well, if not better. She was playing checkers, while he was always one step ahead.

“Well, I can certainly see what you two saw in each other,” Lauren remarked dryly, folding up the towel she’d been using to dab at her dress and tossing it to one side. She knew it was a waste of time trying to play friendly with these two: Dylan had hated her in high school, and she and Damien had far too much bad blood to try and repair that.

“God forbid a woman might show up with the intention of righting past wrongs and rekindling friendships,” she said. “Rather ironic for you to comment on my issues, wouldn’t you say, Dylan, darling?” She asked, malice written all over her face. “As I would be coming here of all places if I needed any sort of help, financial or otherwise. But while your concern is appreciated, Damien, I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know that I don’t need anything from anyone here, least of all, anyone from Wolfe Enterprises. God knows I want to leave those dealings in the past,” she said.

“That’s enough, Lauren." Damien bellowed with the same powerful voice he used whenever he felt challenged. Damien was okay with Lauren coming at him, but when it came to his wife that’s where he drew the line. He stepped past Dylan until he stood between the two women before his wife could get the chance to snatch the she-devil by her extensions. As much as Damien wanted to see his wife knocking Lauren out, they had to be mature about the situation no matter how much of a nuisance Lauren was.

“Stop the innocent act,” Damien said to Lauren, “Tell us what you really want, so you can leave.” He'd had enough of playing games. When they were dating, he had enough of them. Lauren's snarky attitude was one of those things that never changed.

It took a lot to make Lauren Clark flinch, but Damien was one of the few people who could do it. Even still, she held his gaze as he demanded she tell him what she really wanted. She knew that saying “ruining your night and causing as much mayhem as possible” was unlikely to play out in her favour, even if that was the truth. So instead, she smiled.

“Just wanted to remind you that I’ve still got this,” she said, tapping at her phone for a moment and finding what she was looking for. She held up her phone to show it was a voice recording, before raising an eyebrow at Damien, and tapping play, making sure to hold her phone beyond his reach. Damien’s voice rang out from the phone, as did Lauren’s. The beginning of the conversation was innocent enough, but it didn’t take long to get interesting.

Damien stayed quiet as he listened to his voice yelling menacing retorts on the tape; he was resisting the desire to snatch the recording from her hands, but doing so would only make things worse. He was stunned as to how she had gotten it. Damien was always able to see straight through her deception. And it eventually bit him in the ass.

“Why are you here?” Damien repeated himself, his voice bland and unaffected.

Dylan listened to the two of them basically spit on each other back and forth. Dylan knew the two of them had dated back in high school, but honestly it made sense that it didn’t last. What was the most shocking thing was hearing Damien on the audio recording.

As much as she wanted to ask her husband what the fuck that was about and be mad with him, they had more pressing matters and Dylan had a lifetime to yell at Damien, Lauren not so much.

Dylan was the one that snatched the phone from Lauren’s grip and right into the toilet bowl. “That’s enough of your meddling bullshit, Lauren. Just get on with your life and leave us the fuck alone.”

Dylan’s reaction made Lauren smile with her usual viciousness, satisfied that she’d successfully managed to get under their skin. She raised an eyebrow, and shrugged a little. “Fine,” she said, fishing her phone out of the toilet bowl as elegantly as one can complete such a task, before wiping it down with a towel. She went to leave the bathroom, but stopped on her way, unable to resist the temptation to make another jab. “Oh, and Dylan? When you get the results of that paternity test, do let me know so I can send my congratulations to the lucky man,” she said with a wink, before disappearing back into the crowd.

Just as Damien believed he had Lauren under control, his wife rushed through him and snatched Lauren's phone from her hands. She rushed so quickly that Damien didn't have time to stop her before she flushed Lauren's phone down the toilet. He looked at his badass wife with wide eyes. To be honest, it turned him on a bit. But he said nothing as Lauren discreetly excused herself past Dylan and Damien, retrieved the wet device from the toilet, and went towards the bathroom door before turning back to face them. This time, her focus was all on Dylan, and she suggested a paternity test before exiting the restroom, leaving Damien shocked.

Paternity test? Those words played back like a tape recorder in Damien's mind. This was the first he had heard about his wife getting a paternity test. Damien's only thought was that Dylan didn't mind telling him. “I-is that true?” Damien could hardly speak; his voice was hoarse. He'd never sounded so concerned before. His face was blank at first, then soon became angry. He didn't even give Dylan a chance to respond before storming out, leaving her alone in the restroom.

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Character Portrait: Damien Wolfe Character Portrait: Camilla Rhodes
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Damien needed a fucking drink. He'd just walked off on his own following his altercation with Lauren and his wife. It was recently discovered that his wife was holding a secret from him that he had only recently learned from Lauren. Dylan was expecting a child, and this was the big secret. It wouldn't have been a greater problem if Dylan had told him herself rather than his ex, whom he disliked with a vengeance.

Damien was about to become a father. The realization had slammed into him like a bus. He wasn't prepared to care for another human being when he couldn't even care for himself. He didn't have much of a father figure in his life, either. He was raised by a single mother until her suicide when he was placed in foster care until his birth father took custody of him. Damien, on the other hand, was already emotionally scarred. And his father was nowhere to be found. So, how was he to do the same for his upcoming child?

Damien needed to get away as quickly as possible since the air surrounding him was suffocating. He needed something, anything to take his mind off things. He was stumbling through the masses, knocking against party-goers who gave him a worried look. “Sorry,” he muttered as he collided with a blonde woman with a familiar face.

Camilla’s nerves were still on edge about what happened between Lauren and she didn’t want to go to anyone about her problems. Also, her high was coming down and she was already getting jittery, and she knew better to do bump a line in the open. So the next best place to go was the kitchen and get something to substitute with; alcohol. Cam knew she just had to get through the rest of tonight, and she may even come out of it with an idea for a new song.

Cam was already halfway through another drink, leaning on the counter just people watching the rest of the party. So entertained by some of the things she saw between her former high school friends and noting what people were saying and doing. She let out a sigh, thinking of getting some fresh air, possibly finding a secluded place to take another hit. Camilla stood up and turned towards the balcony when she bumped into someone, spilling her drink on herself.

“Gah. Watch where you’re going assho-” Camilla looked up and paused for a second looking at who bumped into her. “Damien?”

Damien was lost in his thoughts until he heard his name called from behind him, snapping him out of it. Camilla Rhodes, an old childhood acquaintance, sprang into his mind as he snapped his head around. He hadn't seen her in a while, but she wasn't a stranger; her father was old college buddies with Damien's. He was New York's finest lawyer, assisting Damien's father with legal issues pertaining to the business, and the two spent their spare time at the country club. Damien met Camilla when her father invited the family home for supper one night while a teenager. Damien thought she was cute, but he never made a move on her. At the time, she was little more than a close friend with one thing in common: they both hailed from wealthy families.

“Oh, shit-” Damien exclaimed, his eyes widening as he approached her with a fistful of napkins he had taken off the coffee table in the middle of the room. He wiped at her dress with care, being aware of where he placed his hands. “This isn't how I expected to see you again.” He shook his head, laughing. After thoroughly wiping the spillage on her dress, he stuffed the napkins into his pockets, making a mental point to discard them later. “It's been a long time, Camilla,” he grinned. “How are you?”

Cam was as surprised as Damien was to see him. She had honestly forgotten him and Dylan had gotten married, though it was a very loose marriage from what she heard. She was about to push back from Damien trying to dry her off, but knew he wasn’t doing it to get handsy but genuinely trying to help. Though Cam didn’t mind the man’s hand on her body.

“Right? Been quite a few years. Assuming you took over your dad’s business by the look of things.” Camilla replied, giving an obvious look over Damien. He had honestly gotten much more attractive than he was during his teenage years, not that he wasn’t cute back then. But cute wouldn’t be the right word to describe him now. “Though, I usually ask for a drink first before letting most men play with my girls.” She said with a smirk, teasing him. “You looked like you were in a hurry? Looking for the wifey?” Camilla asked. “Or a wifey?” Once again teasing Damien, but letting him know she’s heard about his marriage style.

The “girls” that Camilla was referring to were the first thing that drew Damien’s attention. “Is that so?” He whistled softly as he closed the space between them, letting her words reel him in like a fishing line. But, then he stopped himself short of flirtatious behaviors. Damien didn’t fail to notice the sultry looks that Camilla was giving him. In all honesty, it would have worked if he hadn't been in such a sour mood; on any other night, he would seldom give in to her flaunting cleavage. Camilla looked good. Real good. Damien almost regretted himself for not making a move on her. Then she brought up his wife, immediately reminding him of his terrible night thus far.

“Actually, I’m looking for a drink,” Damien said matter-of-factly, scanning the room for the closest alcoholic beverage. He discovered a New Amsterdam bottle in the hands of a passing stranger. Damien went for it, flicked open the top, and took a long swig of the vodka. Damien gagged as the cheap alcohol burned at the back of his throat. Then, he caught eyes with the stranger from whom he had taken the bottle, who was scowling at him with his arms outstretched. “Go get yourself some other business to mind.” Damien snapped while flipping him off. The guy did as he asked, and let Damien bring his attention back to Camilla.“We need shot glasses,” He yelled over the background music, then slid his hand into hers and dragged her to the kitchen.

Camilla’s smirk crept back across her lips as Damien stepped closer, trapping her between him and the counter. But then after mentioning his wife, his demeanor seemed to change, Cam took mental note of that. Hmm. Marriage problems. She thought to herself, and watched Damien snatch a bottle of alcohol from a guy, causing her to giggle. He hadn’t changed at all. This reminded her of the time the two of them were walking back from the store after their parents gave them some cash, and on the way back Camilla mentioned something about getting tired. But Damien quickly acquired some bikes from some kids so they wouldn’t take so long. She remembered laughing as the two of them rode the bikes down the hill back to his father’s house.

When Damien walked back over to her, she held out her hand to take the bottle and take a swig for herself, but he quickly mentioned getting shot glasses. “Pretty sure there’s some in the kitchen.” Camilla said. She was then surprised when he grabbed her hand, interlocking their fingers, and pulling her behind him.

As the two of them entered, Camilla flashed a taunting smile to a few patrons that Damien moved out of the way, and just about kicked them out of the kitchen. Cam quickly spotted two shot glasses in an open cupboard stretched out to reach and grab them, not letting go of Damien. “To the brim. You’re not the only one wanting some alcohol to clear your mind.” She said tapping her glass. “Yes, you’re that easy to read. And no, I don’t need you to tell me about it nor need me to tell you about why I need to clear my mind. Let’s just have some fun.” She spoke, rubbing her thumb on Damien's hand. “To good times.” Camilla said with a cheer, before downing her drink. “You’d think the Mr. Wolfe would like something a bit more high-end than New Amsterdam.” She said after clearing her throat, teasing Damien.

Damien followed Cam around the kitchen, opening and shutting cupboards for shot glasses. After tiptoeing to the top counter, she glanced at him and said something about wanting to fill the drinks to the brim. Damien snorted and rolled his eyes in response to the remark. He had forgotten how much fun Cam was, and it made him nostalgic. They’d always had a good time, whether it was getting in trouble with their parents for sneaking out to a party or being caught with fake ids. She had a knack for making things appear exciting. They hadn’t spoken in years, yet every reunion seemed comfortable and never unpleasant; they always picked up where they left off.

Damien tapped his shot glass against Cam's before swallowing the liquor entirely. “This is terrible,” Damien remarked between coughs as Cam joked about his expensive taste in alcohol. “I'd rather drink piss,” Damien laughed, shaking his head in disgust. He set the glass down and then let go of Cam's hand. “I need...” He hummed as he scanned the counter, which was crammed full with food platters and crimson plastic cups. Finally, he saw a Remy Martin on the countertop in the corner. He walked over to get the dark liquor, then turned around to face Cam. “This is more to my liking now. We just won the lottery.” He walked back to her and grabbed the empty glass from her perfectly manicured hands. He filled it to the brim as she had asked, handed the glass to her, and then filled his own. Finally, he rose the cognac toward the sky. “Here’s to the nights we’ll never remember. With our friends, we’ll never forget. ” He roared above the music before leaning back to gulp the thick liquor. As they drank their glasses, a few spectators cheered him on and joined him in the toast. When Shakira's song “Hips Don’t Lie” came on, Damien started bobbing his head to the intense bass of the music while placing a hand on the small of Cam's back and leaning in close. “Want to dance?” He asked.

Camilla let out a giggle as Damien reacted to the cheap vodka and her tease. She made a quick pout when he let go of her hand, it was warm and comfortable. But her eyes lit up as he went and upgraded their poison for the night. Cam wasn’t one to drink high-end alcohol unless she was drinking sangria or some other champagne at a fancy event, and never had Remy Martin, but she knew it was a top-shelf item. “Ohhh fancy. Wonder who let that laying around.” She commented as Damien took and filled her glass.

The two of them down their drinks after Damien’s cheers, obviously one-upping her New Amsterdam cheers. After the cognac went down her throat smoothly and she basked in the vanilla flavor, Camilla was starting to feel the effects of her precious drinks all stacking up. She was enjoying herself.

Cam’s face got a little bit more red when Damien slid his hand down her back. This a mixture of her being a little past tipsy, and her blush coming through. “Has anyone ever told you no Damien?” She let a smirk before reaching and filling up another shot but hovering over Damien’s mouth instead of taking it herself, and slowly pouring it in, and then letting Damien return the favor.

Cam pulled herself closer to Damien and started moving her hips to the music. She stayed close to Damien, the two of their bodies rubbing against each other a bit between the beats, faces inches from each other, Cam occasionally softly singing random lyrics from the song, usually the more dirty ones. Then, after Damien spun her around to where her back was against him danced for a bit, Camilla got a fun idea.

She tilted her head to the right where Damien was breathing on her neck. “Hey, let’s have some real fun. Help me up.” Camilla spoke, pointing over to the countertop, wanting to get on top. “It’ll be fun.” She continued, pulling him towards the counter. Damien quickly helped her up, and she didn’t mind where he placed his hands to help her up, though it did feel like a bit of a tease.

Damien’s jaw clenched as he concentrated on Camilla’s body, which pushed close to him as she swayed her hips to the lyrics’ rhythm. His hands were on her hips, moving along with them as she danced. Damien became very heated due to the effects of the liquor and the adrenaline of the sensual dance. Their steps were in rhythm, and their faces were so close that Damien could smell the delicious cinnamon spice emanating from her. He brushed a strand of hair away from her face, then dropped his hand, simultaneously caressing his palm down over her arm until his fingers intertwined with hers. Next, he lifted her arm and turned her around in a single motion, pressing her back into his chest. Damien let her grind her hips into him for a few moments before she perked up at the thought of lifting her on the island counter. He wasn’t sure whether she should go up there when she was tipsy, but she persisted. So, Damien extended his hand to hers while lifting her effortlessly on the counter at her hip. Cam let out a small squeal in response as he teased her hip, then turned to grin at Damien before beginning her performance.

Damien watched as she started rolling her hips like Shakira and bringing her hands to her hair. Camilla drew the attention of the party when she slid a sleeve down her shoulder. The striptease elicited some wolf-whistling and applause from the audience. Damien couldn't see her face, but he knew she was looking at him. Damien was in a daze as she boldly danced in front of him, then she performed a booty dip. Damien had to catch himself, slumping back against the counter as a result of the motion. He gazed at her flawless figure in that tight dress, appreciating each of her curves. Damien was sure of one thing, Camilla: she did an excellent job of grabbing her audience’s attention.

She was doing a fantastic job until she slipped on a spill on the counter, causing Damien to spring off the counter and quickly catch her in his arms. He cradled her in his arms and smiled tipsily. “You’ve definitely had enough to drink," he joked.

As Camilla got stabled on the counter she started enjoying herself a bit more, people clearing the counter of food and drinks out of her way. The music in the air shifted and Cam got more relaxed, running her hands through her hair and making it a bit messy as she started to dance, more seductively than loose. As she swayed, she slid one of her sleeves down to tease the onlookers but keeping a stare on Damien.

Cam was interrupted for a second when a familiar face, Robyn, came over and asked if she had seen Lauren, though Camilla just dismissed her, saying something about Erin's room.

The attention was brought to having fun when one person shouted out to take off her dress, she unbuttoned one button, but then wiggled her finger before continuing. She stayed closest to Damien, giving him multiple different views of herself, enjoying his eyes out of everyone.

The atmosphere around Camilla was similar to those of her shows, eyes on her and loving the attention. She went to do a spin around but the heel of her shoe slipped in someone’s spilt vodka, quickly sending her off the counter. She was scared for a moment but then fell softly into someone’s arms, looking up and seeing Damien, letting out a teasily lecture about her being drunk. “Pfft. But I definitely haven't had enough of you, Mr. Wolfe.” Cam said, gripping onto his collar and pulling in for a kiss.

Then, everything went black.