Have you seen the problem queen? Who: Fiona and Nicolas. What: An unexpected run-in. Where: Pax Letale’s pool. When: 14th November, mid-afternoon. Warnings: Language, dirty dirty talk. Notes: Completed GDoc.
Winter was at last beginning to show itself; it seemed not even southern California was immune to this. Though the weather was crisp and warm yet, daylight faded faster all the same. Four o’clock had only recently come and gone, and yet the sun crept ever closer to the horizon with every passing second. Nicolas Ashley Rutlege, having already earned no small measure of good will with his relatively new employer, had taken advantage of his good standing to enjoy the day’s beautiful, waning daylight. He rested now at the edge of the pool, long limbs stretched out across a gently sloping chaise, horn-rimmed Ray Bans and short, black 50’s style swim trunks his only protection against the dying sun. From behind their dark lenses he observed the fading bruises at his shoulders and hips, smiling at the sight they made on his naked skin. He settled back into the waterproofed wicker, humming contentedly at the feel of its rough edges on the slowly healing cuts there.
His mind was considerably distracted as he sipped at his mojito. He could not put from his thoughts the nameless creature who had carved those marks in him, who took what she wanted and left him behind. But to go back to CASKET, to find her again, would be to show his hand, to expose the vulnerable want she had so easily stirred in him. He crunched a bit of ice, carefully contemplating this new conundrum.
It was Fee’s night off, and she figured she’d take a dip in the pool before heading out to see what else was out there. She wanted no part of the ocean -- the salt and the sting tasted too much like that night. Her sister called her almost every day, and occasionally she even picked up, but for the most part, she ignored all the calls and e-mails and Facebook messages; the useless condolences that were only reminders of everything she’d done wrong. Sam checked in on her, and he was the only one whose company she’d tolerate for long, but she didn’t even always answer when he reached out. The only thing she wanted was to be left alone, and maybe fantasize about joining the 27 club in some fantastically gruesome, blood-and-come-and-coke-and-choke blaze of glory.
She didn’t bother with cover-up for the bruises and bites that littered her skin, and wore her dark blue, white-edged bikini low on her hips, almost as if to put them on display. She wasn’t a nice girl, she didn’t want anyone mistaking her for a nice girl. She wanted people to whisper behind her back or around her as though they couldn’t hear. Because fuck them, that’s why.
As she opened the pool gate, her eyes widened behind her sunglasses as she caught sight of him. There was no mistaking that lanky fuck; those hands, that mouth. And there he was, as pretty as he pleased, as beat-up as she, lounging next to her pool.
She almost turned around and went back inside, but it was too late. He’d seen her, and she wasn’t going to look like a retarded asshole by running away from him. So instead, she threw her towel and her sunglasses onto a lounge chair and did what she would have done anyway -- walked toward the diving board.
Now that he had seen her he could not pry his eyes away. He followed her progress from behind his shades, allowing his gaze to wander freely over her delectable curves; how clearly he remembered their warmth beneath his hands, the way they rolled and bucked to match his every move. He shifted subtly, willing away the arousal already brushing soft fingers all down his skin.
“Well now,” he said, kicking one foot where it lazily dangled off the side of his seat. “Can’t even say hey? What kind of manners are those?” He raised his glass to his lips, grinning at the chill rim. He canted his head, the scar at his cheek deepening as his smile slowly spread. “It is a pleasure to see you again. And so much... more of you, this time.”
He must live here, then. Or maybe he was somebody’s guest, just hanging out at the pool while they were out. Maybe he was visiting. Or maybe it was some slut he’d picked up at some other bar last night. The thought immediately infuriated her -- the speed of it surprised her. She took a breath and schooled her features to keep them neutral, maybe even disinterested, as she stepped onto the diving board and walked to its edge.
Giving him a shrug and a look that was far more bland than she felt, she said,
“I told you I’m kind of a cunt.”
With that, she dove into the water. Her form wasn’t perfect, but she broke the surface cleanly enough, re-emerging to push her hair out of her face and start backstroking across the pool.
“You know, I love the way you say that.”
He had risen from his seat when she disappeared into the pool, sliding to the chaise’s edge. The long, thin glass dangled from his long, thin fingers, lending an oddly predatory look to his grasp, like talons preparing to dig into soft flesh. He watched her move past him, imagining each bead of water sliding down the cleft between her small and shapely breasts. Unconsciously his tongue flicked out over his lips, as if hungry to follow that warm, slick path. He reached up, pulling off his shades, dropping them to the seat beside him. He could better see her without their shadowy, dimming effect, that left everything around him looking somehow unreal.
“So, cunt...” The word tripped off his tongue, sounding at once forced and somehow familiar. His tongue traced over his teeth, tasting the word, feeling its single, hard syllable. “Does this mean I have the pleasure of being your neighbor?”
She gritted her teeth against the way his voice went through her, and the immediate rush of heat just his tone sent between her legs. The sense memory of him was too recent and too strong to ignore, but she pretended to do so all the same, swimming faster still, making a concerted effort not to look at him as her limbs smashed through the water.
“Call me cunt again,” she said, cutting harder through the water until she reached the wall, then turning around and shoving off again, “and pleasure won’t be the word you’ll wanna use.”
“Are you sure about that?”
He watched her slice through the water, her slim body a dagger darting through waves of her own devising. He took a shallow sip from his cocktail, more to busy his hands - and his mouth - than from any real thirst. As it turned out, the gesture only postponed his retort, rather than curbing it altogether as he had hoped.
“The way I remember it, neither of us complained about a little pain.” Ice rattled in his drink as his wrist rolled languidly. His eyes slid up her body, watching her upturned face gleaming wetly in the sun. “So I’m curious what you think you could dish out that I couldn’t take.”
She tried to focus on her breathing, on the rhythmic motion of her limbs through the water rather than his smug, self-satisfied smile, the way she could feel his gaze on every part of her it touched, the way he held his stupid fucking drink. She swam. Stroke. stroke. stroke. She was already starting to tire -- this wasn’t the leisurely swim she’d had planned -- but she couldn’t stop. Not with him there, watching, waiting like some nature show predator for her to surface.
“So,” she said, trying to regulate her breathing, “I guess... you’re one of these guys... who turns into... an insufferable cock... as soon... as you fuck him... huh?”
“No turnin’ about it,” he said. “I’m always an insufferable cock.” He grinned, entirely too pleased by her panting breaths, by the broken speech that reminded him so much of that whirlwind of a night. Even now, her threat made explicit, her anger boiling so near the surface it was impossible to ignore, he found he could not resist baiting her. He longed to see her claws come out, for her to turn that passion he had seen before thoroughly on him. Unvoiced laughter threaded through his tone when he spoke again, rolling sweet as honey and harsh as smoke. “I guess that’s why I get on so well with self-professed cunts.”
Finally, she took a break, leaning against the wall of the pool farthest from him, holding onto the edge to give herself a break. The fact that she wanted to laugh, or at least crack a smile, at that wasn’t helping. She hated that silent laugh, his mockery of her, his fucking smirk. She wished she could throw something heavy and hard at him that would knock that smile right off his face, though a harsh voice inside her reminded her this was irrational. Short of that, wanted to leave. In fact, she suspected the best possible thing for her to do would almost certainly be to do just that. But she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.
“If this is what you call getting on well, I’d hate to see what you’re like with people you get on shitty with.”
If pride, or something else, wouldn’t let her leave yet, she could at least get out of the pool. What little peace she’d hoped to find here was obviously not forthcoming, so she put her palms on the pool’s edge and hauled herself out, getting up and walking over to her towel, which she wrapped around herself, before sitting down and putting on her sunglasses.
The towel, he decided, was a disappointment. He tried to look at it otherwise. He felt certain that for anyone else she would have flaunted her skimpy swimsuit, would have marched shamelessly around the pool with all her well-earned bruises exposed to the world. But to him she offered nothing, withholding even what he had already seen, had already enjoyed. He had gotten to her.
“You know,” he said at last, dragging the phrase out with a lengthy, satisfied sigh, stretching his long limbs back out across the chaise. “I think you would like that, actually.” He settled his Ray Bans atop his tousled head, watching her over the rim of his glass as he took a long sip. Then he thought for a moment, drawing the swell of his lip between his teeth, sucking at the lingering taste of alcohol.
“So what’s your real name, Baroness?” he asked.
She snorted, stretching out on a lounge chair, and thought to herself that he was probably right. something in her started to relent as she looked at him. If he fought anything like he fucked, it would be a sight to see, and Fee couldn’t pretend she wouldn’t enjoy it. The fact that he’d predicted it made her grudgingly smirk, and she loosened her hold on the towel.
“Fiona,” she said, watching him from behind those dark lenses. “Who wants to know, Westley? Please tell me you have some great Southern name like Cleetus or something. Seriously.”
Fiona. Silently he repeated the name, wondering why it, like so much else about her, felt so familiar. He suspected that the lingering sense of deja vu had something more substantial behind it than the countless begrudging viewings of Shrek he had endured for his sisters’ sake. Still, that thought alone helped to curb his ire at her little jab, leaving him only - thankfully - with residual amusement at her ribbing. It was a good start, he thought, and better by far than the seething hatred she had exuded upon first seeing him. He stretched out one arm, setting his glass aside as he watched the thick towel slip blessedly lower.
“Nicolas.” His smiling lips pursed in a put on pout. “Sorry to disappoint.”
“No you’re not,” she said casually, settling more deeply into the chair and deciding to let the towel fall where it would, and it immediately began sliding down her body, aided in no small part by minute shifts of her legs as she got more comfortable. “You’re really glad you have a pretty, French-sounding name so you can prove my Yankee ignorance wrong.” She offered him a smile, though her eyes were obscured by those dark glasses. “I bet you were the prince of cotillion, or whatever.”
She found herself jealous of his drink.
“I bet you don’t even let anybody call you Nic, let alone Nicky. All Nicolas all the time.”
He tried to bleed the sudden tension from his jaw; her comment had meant nothing, just a passing joke at his expense. Fighting to turn his obvious discomfort into something more composed - aloof, perhaps, or simply unimpressed - he nursed his mojito, regretting that it was so quickly reaching its end. The continued downward motion of her towel helped immensely in improving his mood, and upon this he focused. In short order his smile began to return, though it quirked sharp and hard, as was its wont.
“Be honest,” he said, his eyes drawn, unabashed, to the fading bites and bruises slowly coming into view. “Do I really look like a ‘Nicky’ to you?”
From behind her dark glasses, she watched his jaw tighten, the large black lenses almost completely obscuring the arch of her dark brow. She wondered if she’d struck a nerve, but the tiny expression was gone quickly enough that she didn’t have time to ponder it for long before his gaze distracted her, and maybe as consolation, maybe just to tease, she let the towel slip a little more.
“I dunno,” she replied, smirking despite herself. “Maybe. It’s kinda cute. You could have a boyish thing going on if you didn’t seem like such a predatory perv.”
He chuckled against his glass, his breath fogging its thin rim. She was not wrong, and so he made no attempt to dispute her.
After a moment, she finally asked, “Where’d you get that drink?”
“D-five,” he answered. He tipped it back, the last of it now gone, only the dregs of ice and a few leaves of mint left behind. He gave the glass a little shake, reaching out to place it on the table close at hand. “Fully stocked bar. Exceptional accommodations. If you’d like one, I’m sure that could be arranged.”
Shaking her head with a smirk, she laughed.
“Wow, you really are butter smooth, aren’t you, Nicky? Deluxe floor and everything.” With a sigh, she adjusted her sunglasses, letting her towel slip down a little further. “You’re gonna ruin my street cred.”
After considering for another moment, she rose from her seat, letting the towel fall behind her. She scooped it up, tossing it over her shoulder, and said,
“Well? Come on. Are you gonna make me race you?”
Briefly he considered it; the view of her retreating backside would have been as pleasant now as it had been before, with the added benefit of her wearing far less clothing than in trysts past. But there was time enough to enjoy her ample charms, and an inebriated, wet-footed poolside race seemed to him less than wise for numerous reasons. So he only shook his head, smirking at her backhanded compliment, letting the use of that obnoxious nickname slide for the time being. He rose from his seat, plucking the glass from the table, letting it hang from his fingertips.
He passed close beside her, their sun-warmed shoulders brushing as he did. He held open the gate for her, gesturing for her to pass through before.
The courtesy made her shake her head, but there was still a half-smile on her lips as she walked through.
“So,” he asked, leading her on toward the main building. “What’s your pleasure? I want to be sure I have what you’re looking for.” They reached the lobby entrance; as before, he held the door for her. “For drinks, I mean.”
This time, she arched a brow, though once again, her sunglasses obscured it, though her smile lingered.
“I just bet you do,” she said, her smile shifting to a smirk. “Mean drinks, I mean.”
She slid her sunglasses on top of her head, pushing her wet hair back.
“You know this is fucked up, right?” she said as they passed through the lobby. When they reached the elevator, she pressed the button, then turned to look at him, crossing her arms under her chest. “Not fucked up bad, mind. Fucked up weird. This whole opening doors and Southern gentility thing. You know, after fucking me bloody and calling me a cunt.”
The doors opened, and she stepped inside, still watching him, still smirking. His expression mirrored hers, his thoughts wandering where she led. It was a pleasant rabbit trail to follow, even if only for a moment. With his free hand he reached past her, skin brushing skin, and pressed the button marked D. The car slid into motion; he leaned back against the wall, sighing contented at the hard chill pressing against his back. He was still too close to her, perhaps, though he made no attempt to move away, and neither did she. He looked to her, then, eyes sleepily narrowed in the elevator’s unnatural light.
“I gave you exactly what you wanted,” he said. “What you needed, too, I think.” A darkling smile twisted his lips. “As a gentleman should. All this is just the other side of... all that.” He gave a vague little wave, chuckling under his breath.
“Oh is that what you did,” she said with a smirk, leaning back against the cool wall herself. “And here I thought you just liked testing the structural integrity of your hipbones. Or, you know, railing girls like you want to nail them to the wall with your cock. Not that I’m complaining.”
As the elevator ascended and each floor number lit up and darkened in succession, she held the bar on the wall of the elevator and watched only him.
“As far as what I needed,” she said, her smirk remaining, but her eyes taking on a dangerous glint, “whatever would make you say that?”
He knew that look well. It was the same sharpness that had briefly shadowed his face when she hit too close to home, but unlike his own, this wound was fresh. He looked to the lights at the door, each illuminating in its turn, and judged how long he might have to react; then, unflinching, he stepped out into the mine field.
“You know why,” he said. The corner of his mouth quirked, his eyes narrowing as they met hers. “You had a fuckin’ death wish when I found you. Who knows what trouble I kept you out of.”
The car stopped; the doors slid open. He walked too close beside her, courting danger he was not entirely sure he wanted to avoid.
She snorted and shrugged, willing the tension out of her muscles that made her want to shove him away from her bodily. The very idea that he’d saved her from something, or that he’d want to, rubbed her the wrong way. That wasn’t what this was about, and she wasn’t going to let him think so. So instead of pushing him aside and getting back on the elevator, she said,
“Who said you kept me out of anything? You think you were my last stop for the night?” she smirked at him, standing next to the door of his apartment, folding her arms under her chest. “I hope you don’t have some kind of fucked up white knight fantasy going on in your twisted little head.”
“Of all the fantasies I have, precious, that is fairly low on the list.”
Her smirk broadened into a dark little grin at that as he reached down, slipping a single loose key from the narrow pocket of his trunks. A flash of his hard smile showed as he bent his head to the door, unlocking the flat; he pushed the door wide, gesturing for her to enter.
Her smirk returned at his unrelenting politeness, though there was a bemused cast to it as she stepped inside.
Much of the apartment beyond was precisely as Fiona might have expected. Gleaming hardwood floors were laid throughout, the only carpeted surfaces in sight the plush, thick piling of overpriced rugs. A warm but somber color scheme prevailed, all dark wood and heavy, luxuriant colors: dark reds, blues, and yellows scattered throughout, lending some semblance of life and light to an otherwise shadowy palette. More surprising was the wealth of personal items the space seemed to not only hold, but almost show off. The bulk of his artwork appeared to be photographs, many clearly shot in his native land, others showing what appeared to be family. Two girls in particular, their features and matching smirks not so different from his, featured quite prominently.
“So,” he asked, striding barefoot beyond the living room, into the spacious, green-marbled kitchen. “Was it the mojito in particular you wanted, or do you have something else in mind?”
“Well,” she said as she lingered in the space between the living room and the kitchen. Her eye was immediately drawn to the design of the room, the decor, the art on the walls. The artist in her immediately approved of the aesthetic, and something else in her was drawn to the unexpected openness of the photographs. Her first impulse was to examine them more closely, to find out more, but she reminded herself that wasn’t what she was there for. “Normally I’m a bourbon girl, but since you’ve already gotten to see my bartending skills, obviously, it’s time for you show me yours.”
An impish half-smile curved her lips as she ambled over to him, slinging her towel around her hips and tucking it into itself.
As he turned the corner into the kitchen he caught a single, brief glance of her thinly veiled interest, and filed it away for future reference. Now would not be the time to address it, but later... he told himself there would be a ‘later’, unable and unwilling to question that seeming truth. She entered the kitchen as he was gathering his ingredients, tossing mint leaves into a fresh glass, dumping the melting ice and wilted leaves from his own.
“See anything you like?” he asked, quirking a brow as he skirted the issue. From a woven basket he grabbed a couple of small limes, and a gleaming knife from a nearby block. “Aside from the obvious,” he said, slicing into one green rind.
Propping her elbows on the counter, attentive to his technique as she watched him work, she pushed her drying hair over her shoulder. She smirked at his question, not quite ready to rise to the bait.
“Yeah. Somebody with a good eye decorated your place. And the mint and limes look nice and fresh.” She cast a look over to the doors to the balcony. “And you have a porch. Which means we can smoke there, which is cool.”
Then she turned back to him, that smirk unrelenting. “Or were you referring to yourself in your half-naked glory? Because I’m not gonna fuck you right now. Two drinks, remember?”
She couldn’t help but laugh at that, shaking her head.
He cut a sidelong glance at her, a dark smirk casting the scar at his cheek into deeper shadow. He looked away to squeeze lime juice into each glass, then reached for the powdered sugar, pulling its delicate china bowl over to him. He hoped its presence did not give away the fact that he drank far more than he ate, particularly when it was his task to provide the preparation; he made a far better bartender than cook, though thought himself more than a passable hand at both.
“And thank you,” he added, spooning sugar into each glass. Too lazy - and preoccupied, more importantly - to reach for a muddler to properly crush the mint, he made do with the back of his spoon. “Most of the decor is my doin’. A few pictures aside.”
“Well look at you,” she said, his smirk reflected in her own. “A real live metrosexual. I don’t think I’d ever fucked one of those before.” She leaned over the counter, closely observing his technique, watching the way his hands moved. Despite her needling, she might have had to admit that this unfamiliar gentility coupled with the brutality she knew lurked underneath was enormously appealing in a way she hadn’t anticipated. Part of her did just want to push all the drinks aside, shove him against the wall and kiss him, make him fuck her again. But she resisted; she wanted to know what he wanted from her, exactly. What he expected. She went back to his earlier comment.
“So, ‘we’ll see,’ huh?” she smirked. “Are you being coy?”
“First of all, fuck you,” he said. “It’s not my fault the men you know likely live in glorified dorm rooms.” She laughed at that, shaking her head. Drinks in hand, he moved toward the fridge, setting each glass in its turn beneath the ice dispenser. Crushed ice clinked merrily into each glass. This done, he moved back toward her, brushing close alongside her as he did. His pouring of rum was quite generous indeed, the club soda just enough to his liking. He gave each glass one final stir, then handed hers off for approval.
“Second, I’m never coy. I just don’t believe in makin’ such decisive statements. Except in very rare situations, you can never really know what might happen.”
He raised his glass, clicking its rim to hers. “So,” he said, grinning wolfishly, “to us. Whatever that means.” He tipped his drink back, taking a long, self-satisfied sip.
She laughed again, shrugging as she took a long sip of her own, then nodded. It was good -- it was very good. Better than a lot of employed bartenders she knew could manage. Even so, after taking another sip -- just to be sure, of course -- she gave him a smirk and said,
“Not too bad,” she said, motioning to the drink. “Though for the record, most of the men I know live in shitholes and couldn’t care less.” There was no judgment in this statement for good or for bad. His own laugh, however, carried with it quite a bit of judgment, though he was pleased to have come out on top in this particular contest.
Then she turned, looking at the door to the balcony, then started moving toward it. “C’mon, you hedger. Let’s go sit on your fancy balcony and smoke some cigarettes with these.” She turned and looked at him over her shoulder. “Your cigarettes, specifically. I didn’t bring any.”
Nicolas never kept his vices far from hand. As they left the kitchen he stopped briefly by a long, narrow table nearer the entryway, plucking from its unmarred surface a half-gone pack of cigarettes and a gleaming silver lighter, its surface engraved with an R in a bold flourish. His long fingers clutched these easily, wrapping around the base of his drink as they crossed the living room. It left him one hand to open this door as well, a practice he appeared to consider quite vital.
On the balcony there rested a sizable table, a work of wrought iron and glass both tastefully simple and deceptively strong. Finely sculpted wrought iron chairs were set alongside, thick cushions a verdant shade of green rendering them comfortable as any couch. Potted saw palmettos hid the corners of the balcony; creeping fig was slowly spreading its foliage along the outside of the rough exterior wall. Nicolas folded himself into a seat near the balcony’s edge, stretching out his legs as he settled in. He set his glass aside as he procured cigarette and lighter, breaking the silence with its small metallic snick.
“So,” he said, his fingers curled close around packet and lighter as he handed her both. “This isn’t so bad, is it?”
“Could be worse,” she conceded, accepting the pack and the light and fishing out a cigarette of her own. Once she’d lit it and taken a drag, she exhaled the pale smoke into the fading daylight, then took a long drink. “So here I thought you were gonna be a hit and run, and you end up living in my building.”
She shook her head, a wry smirk on her lips as she took in the view. She’d been a long way from polite conversation since Karin, and she didn’t feel that much closer now. Her suspicion of him hadn’t abated, but at the same time, neither had his draw. And since she wasn’t sure what his deal was, she wasn’t going to suggest they fuck again, as fun as that was. So that left small talk.
“So, I guess I should be neighborly and ask you when you moved in and why and all that shit, right?” she asked, taking a drag of her cigarette.
Nicolas shrugged, thin fingers plucking his cigarette from his lips. He couldn’t resist another brief, hungry glance over her, remembering well the greedy joining that had caused the marks she proudly wore; it was difficult, too, not to let his mind wander, wondering how best to bait and set the trap that might get them both back to that blissful place. His tongue darted out to the corner of his mouth, an unconscious gesture betraying his thoughts. Fee pretended to ignore it as a long, soft exhalation set smoke wreathing his vulpine face, fleetingly hiding a sharp little smile.
“I feel like the ‘hit and run’ would be a more interesting topic. But suit yourself,” he said. Fee snorted before he continued. “I moved in about a month ago. I took a job out here.” His hand drifted languidly downward, tapping ash onto the slate beneath. “Construction, to answer the obvious follow up question.”
“Construction?” she laughed, arching her brow. “Now that I wouldn’t have guessed. You definitely don’t look the type for manual labor, Nicolas. What are you, in the mafia? Do they have the mafia in the South?”
The idea of Mr. Nicolas Rutledge putting up drywall or mixing cement was so dissonant with the image she saw in front of her she couldn’t help but grin. Though for a skinny fucker, he did look exceptionally good without his shirt on, so she stored away the mental image of him toiling, sweat-slick and pounding away at this or that. Or maybe just pounding away at her. In a hardhat. That would work. On that friendly image, she continued to look at him as she took another sip of her drink.
At first Nicolas wondered what put that particular expression on her face, subtly devious in its way. After a moment he realized it was likely best left a mystery. His own brow quirked in answer, his lips smirking around the cigarette now dangling from the corner of his mouth.
“I do mean managing construction,” he answered blithely, as if she had been foolish to assume otherwise. He supposed he might have passed for some sort of skilled laborer, at least to an untrained eye, though it took him somewhat aback that his manner and poise would not have betrayed far more ambition, far better upbringing. “Bid proposals, labor negotiations, logistics, accounting...” He gave a lazy shrug, throwing her a sidelong glance. “There’s more to construction than swinging a sledgehammer, you know.” He smirked, his hand lingering overlong at his mouth, fingers brushing his lips as he pulled away his cigarette. “Not that I’m bad at that, either.”
“Oh, of course,” she said with a laugh, taking another drag of her cigarette, then exhaling it at him. “That kind of work’s for the plebs, right?” She stretched out her own legs, the towel parting with the shift to reveal an expressive expanse of pale skin, the turn of a smooth calf, the curve of her thigh. His shoulder lifted in a languid shrug, amused agreement written plainly on his face; his eyes, though, were too busy with the increasingly enjoyable view to reflect much at all.
“Personally, I don’t believe you,” she said after some thought and another long sip of the mojito, which she would admit was getting even better all the time. Eventually. “Guys like you don’t swing sledgehammers. By the way, shouldn’t this be a mint julep?”
It was a lie and a challenge. Whatever his polished exterior, Mr. Nicolas Rutledge had already proven he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in some ways, at least -- she just wanted to see how far that went.
“Let me see your hand,” she demanded, holding out her own with a brief, impatient wave of her slender fingers.
He smirked, brow arching curiously. “Are you gonna read my palm, Miss Cleo?” He tossed back a sizable measure of his drink, then moved the glass to his right hand, his cigarette once again perched at the corner of his predatory smile. “Can’t keep your hands off me,” he muttered darkly, holding his left hand out to her. It rested well in her palm, he thought; it felt good against her heated skin, as it had before.
Fiona rolled her eyes at his commentary, taking his hand in hers and examining his palm. Though she was hardly searching for insight into his future, she was satisfied by what she did find: that his hands were well-maintained was no particular surprise; however, there was a roughness to them that belied their well-manicured appearance. This guy was no lumberjack, but he hadn’t enjoyed a life of strict leisure, either. She found herself too pleased by this development for her own comfort, and so gave him his hand back, picking up her drink again and taking a drag of her cigarette.
“So you clean up working in construction but not on construction, you fuck like a pile driver, and you make a decent drink. And you like to pick up anonymous girls at bars to pile drive.” She took another sip of her drink. She found herself annoyed by the fact that she wanted to ask him more about himself, that she wanted to pick him apart and know what lay underneath all this. Stubbornly, she refrained and crossed her legs, leaning back in her chair, looking at the view, and nodding.
“‘Decent’,” he snorted, shaking his head. “You know that’s a damn fine mojito. Stop trying to downplay my exceptional skill.”
Smirking at him, she rattled her drink before taking another long sip. His eyes narrowed as he watched her, his eyes studying the guarded expression that shadowed her face. He wondered what she was thinking, knowing well she would not tell him were he to ask outright; neither could he fathom what she might have seen in his hand, what purpose her silent but markedly close inspection had served. He told himself that whatever she had seen, it had pleased her well enough to keep her from leaving, and for the time being he supposed this was the only point truly relevant to him. Still, her protracted glance had seemed to leave her hanging on the cusp of something; there was something she was holding back, and he was more curious than he liked as to its nature.
“I feel like there’s a question in there somewhere,” he mused. “I’m just not sure what it is. So I’ll just ask one of my own. Do any of your observations cause you particular concern?”
She shrugged, taking another drag of her cigarette. Her curiosity was an enormous pain in her ass, and she couldn’t quite stop herself from asking after being prompted. What she really wanted to know was why a poor little rich boy like him fucked like he wanted to destroy cities, but she was already getting too comfortable. “Do we have to ask questions? Can’t we just drink and smoke and think about fucking each other again and not get all... personal?”
Exhaling a stream of smoke, she turned her head to look at him. He couldn’t resist the quiet laugh that came, but he quickly reeled that in - along with his thoughts, wandering now thanks to her effective prompting - when she spoke again. “Though I guess I can answer by asking why a reasonably good-looking, rich, good lay like you is single.” She paused, arching a brow, a smirk forming on her face again. “You are single, right?”
He smirked, as much at her qualifiers as at the question itself. He did not have to guess at her reasons for veiling such compliments, and enjoyed their banter too much to call attention to it and risk its premature end. For much the same reasons he wondered how wise it would be to give any semblance of a whole or entirely truthful response; it was a dangerous hand to show so early in the game. One good throw hardly entitled her to the unabridged autobiography, but it was possible, he thought, to pull from its pages a few crib notes.
“I am,” he said, nodding as he lowered his cigarette from his lips, his narrow column of smoke joining hers, twining as they drifted slowly upward. “Not that I’m convinced it would’ve mattered much to you if I weren’t.” It was at once a question and not - bait to see if she might follow where he led. “I’m single cos I want to be. A good fuck is easy to find, and fun, besides. Finding someone to be with is different. That takes someone more... interesting.” He shrugged, arching a brow as he glanced back to her. “Or maybe I just enjoy the bachelor life. Semi-public sex, overpriced drinks, the whole nine yards.”
Smirking, she stretched out her legs, looking at her toes, then the ocean.
“Nothing wrong with that. Being with somebody is for suckers. Waste of time, energy and resources.” She shrugged. “I’m just as happy getting my fuck on and not having to bother with all that other shit. Happier.”
She tapped off her cigarette ash, then took another drag. The thought of attachment soured her mood, and she took another drink to take the edge off.
“And for the record, if you weren’t single, I wouldn’t give a fuck, because that’s your problem, not mine. I probably wouldn’t fuck you again, because you’d be a cheating cocksucker, and I don’t like cheating cocksuckers, but I wouldn’t feel guilty about it or anything.” She shrugged.
His smile did not fade, precisely - it merely adopted another, subtly darker hue. Her assertions were too vehement to be convincing to anyone but her, and Nicolas wondered if she was accomplishing even that. Why she was so adamant was a question for later; he had not answered in full, and he could expect no more from her. Needling her, however, was still thoroughly on the menu.
“Mmhm.” His tongue traced the line of his lower lip, tasting alcohol, remembering the sweetness of her lips instead. In spite of the evident tension creeping through her limbs, he found himself distracted by the obscenities she spoke, that tentatively controlled heat that boiled just below the surface. “So I take that to mean you’re single, too,” he guessed. His eyes moved to hers, trying to read in their depths all she stubbornly refused to say. “All this talk about fucking again, I’d hate for you to be interested and unable to act on it.”
She smirked, but the expression had more of an edge to it now. She didn’t like his little hum, didn’t like how he seemed to be measuring her words, and she didn’t like how strongly she’d responded, how much it seemed to have given away. She didn’t like his assumption.
“If I weren’t single, I’d have been fucking my boyfriend in that bathroom, not you. If I wasn’t fighting with him or setting his shit on fire.” She took a drag of her cigarette. “If I’m gonna be bothered with a relationship, it’s gonna be with somebody who can rail me past the point of even thinking about fucking somebody else, much less having the energy or interest.”
Another draught of her drink, which was getting low in the glass.
“You’re a pretty good lay,” she said. “We’ve already established that. Nothing wrong with a good lay. But you can stop trying to figure me out or whatever you’re doing.”
He raised his hands - one palm up, the other firmly wrapped around his own drink - as if to ward off her accusations, or perhaps another thinly veiled attack. Whatever his body language, though, he was more interested in what lay between the lines of her responses. She hardly seemed open to advances now, but there was time enough for that; she was single, she was interested, and they shared at least one serious, pelvis-crushing hobby. That, coupled of course with her hair trigger temper and unbridled passion, was all the reason he needed. And that quickly it was decided: The hunt was on in earnest, and the first order of business would be to learn more about his quarry. All that remained was to keep her interested, to engage without seeming overly invested - or worse, desperate. This much he was sure he could do.
“Fiona, I am certain it’d take more than a chat and a drink on a balcony to figure you out,” he said. “So I’m damn sure not gonna try. Not now, anyway.” His cigarette twitched at the end of his fingers, grey ash drifting down to grey slate. “But if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that sounded less like a warning and more like a challenge to find your heart by way of your pussy.”
Before turning to look at him, she set down her now near-empty glass and dropped her still-burning cigarette in it, the cherry extinguishing it when it touched the cold liquid in the bottom.
“Let me just clarify something for you, Nicolas. I’m not one of the little Southern belle, husband-hunting, smoke-and-mirror, pussy-ass bitches you’re probably used to hanging out with or courting or whatever the fuck. I say what I mean and I mean what I say, and I don’t use my pussy as a man trap. And I sure don’t know what the fuck made you think that if I were trying to trap anybody, it’d be you, so fuck you very much.”
She rose from her chair and pulled open the door to the balcony.
“Thanks for the drink. Next time use simple syrup,” she threw over her shoulder as she stalked inside.
Nicolas was careful not to let his smirk - earnestly, dangerously pleased with her answer as it plainly was - show until she’d safely turned her back. It would not do for her to know too soon the effect she had on him, or how much he enjoyed the sharpness of her tongue. To show his hand would be to lose the game entirely, and he was, as of yet, absolutely not done playing.
“I’ll make a note,” he said, unfolding his gangly legs from their place on the seat. Without a downward glance he tossed his cigarette over the balcony’s edge. With a light clicking of glass on glass he lifted her drink from the table, chucking its contents over the side with a flick of his wrist. On quiet steps he followed her inside.
“So glad you could join me for a bit,” he said. He left the balcony door standing open, glad of the cool breeze that blew in from the ocean. “We should do this again some time.”
His voice, the silence of his movements, even his polite goodbye seemed only to raise her hackles more. As she reached the door, she didn’t respond other than to raise her middle finger over her head before exiting the apartment and, much harder than was necessary, shutting the door behind her.