Nikolai made his way through the first class cabin, flashing a coy smile and brushing past the stewardess towards his place, his brow lofting as a wave of arousal washed through him. Heavy lashes dropped and he nodded his thanks, sliding gracefully into his designated seat and tilting his head.
“Bring me a bourbon, my sweet,” he murmured to the young woman, who blinked at him then blushed and nodded, stammering some kind of reply of affirmation before hurrying off. Niki watched her go, the heat rising in his blood as he imagined her naked and straddling him, that pretty mouth open as her head fell back and…
His phone vibrated in his pocket, startling him out of his reverie. He scowled and drew it out, watching his father’s name flashing on the screen…under three missed calls and quite a few text messages from every other Katorga in the country.
“Leave me alone, will ya…” he muttered to himself, slumping in his seat and letting his head fall back against the headrest. He dropped his phone in his lap, staring at it as it rang but making no move to answer it.
“Niki, turn it off if you don’t want to answer.”
Long nails tapped gently on the plastic barrier between the first class cubicle seats as Asinoe’s voice came mocking and partly muffled from the other side.
Niki froze, cobalt eyes widening in surprise, then narrowing as he placed the voice and tone.
“Really? He’s sending you now?” he wrinkled his nose, huffing and moving to turn off his phone as she suggested, glancing at the partition between them and making a face as he tossed it aside.
“Like that Russian windbag could order me to do anything. I’m not part of his plans…” Asinoe’s amusement was palpable as she ran her nails over the plastic wall, delighting in the grating sound it made. She crossed her legs and waited, hoping to irritate him further, a small smile tilting her mouth.
-Your eyes are beautiful when you’re angry.-
The thought made her skin tingle, her mouth drying. It had taken her very little effort to get herself seated next to him on the flight to Paris via Dubai…and even less effort to find out about his plans to go in the first place.
“Want to see if I’m wearing any underwear?” she purred in his direction.
Niki snorted and banged on the partition with his fist, scowling at the scratching sounds.
“Quit it!” he hissed, his eyes closing at the thought of her likely lack of underwear, “Besides, I already know the answer,” he added as hunger flashed through him, annoying him even more. “Why are you stalking me?” he asked, knowing the answer to that, too.
“I’m bored and Melbourne is sweltering. It’s intolerable…” her eyes sparkled at his obvious ire, “Besides, seeing you try and have a family moment with your fleeing bride is oh so entertaining. I couldn’t resist watching you stare at her from around Parisian corners…” she grabbed the partition and pushed it down, revealing the handsome billionaire on the other side. “Remind me why we didn’t take the jet?”
“Because you weren’t invited, and I was trying not to draw attention to myself…” Niki said flatly, throwing her a dark look. He was more annoyed than angry with her, irritated that she had seen so completely through his plans…that she knew him so well.
And that she was obviously having him watched.
“Who says I’m going to be peering around corners anyway?” he replied with a pout, ignoring the stewardess as she returned with his bourbon. He snatched the glass from her without as much as a glance, “Maybe I’m going to make a wild gesture of insane grandeur.”
“Please do. I’m counting on a spectacular mess of human emotion and folly.” Asinoe winked at him and took her champagne from a handsome steward with a careless smile, tilting it in mock salute to Nikolai. “I’m rooting for you darling. You’ve chosen a side. I’m just along to support you and keep you from being assassinated by Katorga wolves.”
Niki scoffed and took a sip of his bourbon.
“Please,” he said, perking a brow, “I’m going on a holiday and Claudia happens to maybe be in the same place…they’re hardly going to murder me…Alexei’s kept me alive this long.” Tilting his head, he fixed his gaze on Asinoe, his expression darkening. “But it’s thoughtful of you to keep me company on the long flight…Bella hardly needs more scandal…if I were to get bored…”
“That’s me,” Asinoe tapped her lips with a finger and grinned, “Thoughtful to a T.” She leaned back in her chair, crossing her legs the other way. “Shall we stop in Dubai for a play date?” her smile was cheeky and beguiling, “Before you get pulled down by angst…”
“Sure, because I’m going to reward you for your bad behaviour, that’s a thoroughly sensible method of dealing with you…” Niki’s lips quirked and he glared at her, that darkness swirling in depths of blue, “Or…”
The glass of bourbon suddenly ‘slipped’ out of his hand, its contents pouring over Asinoe’s lap in a shock of sticky cold.
“Oh my! How clumsy of me!” Niki exclaimed, eyes widening in mock surprise, “I’ve made you all wet…”
“Niki!” Asinoe shrieked, outraged, then sneered at the quelling glance from a businessman across the way. She dabbed at her skirt with a napkin, her cheeks flushing with anger. “This was one-of-a-kind Versace! One of the last pieces he made before he died! It’s pure silk…” her voice trembled with low anger and her eyes narrowed at him, “That was uncalled for.”
Niki’s face had lit up as a jovial laugh fell from his lips, his eyes sparkling with mirth.
“Cry me a river…” he replied, giving her a mock pout, “Serves you right for being a mean and smug cunt,” he grinned, his gaze lowering to her wet clothing, “Shall I help you clean yourself up?”
Asinoe scowled and hit the button for the steward, who appeared within seconds.
-My, aren’t we just the celebrities on board today.-
“Get me some soda water, this idiot just spilt his bourbon on my skirt,” she glared at Niki. The steward tutted and ran away immediately. Within a minute a stewardess arrived, offering a towel and a robe.
“Ms. Bellamantis, do you want to clean up in the shower while we try to get the stain out for you?”
Asinoe smiled at the woman warmly until, with a startled moment of awareness, the stewardess blushed.
“Yes actually…a shower would be lovely,” she purred, her fingers touching the woman’s hand with a circular movement, “Mr. Black will also need one…I think he spilt some alcohol on himself as well…” she looked to Niki, “Am I right?”
“Oh no doubt,” Niki replied, glancing down at his clothing, “I’m decidedly sticky…ghastly accident…” His blue eyes rose to stare at the stewardess, his lips curving into a charming smile as he reached out to pat Asinoe’s knee, “And I imagine Ms Bellamantis might need some assistance getting out of her clothes…will you do it or should I?” he asked the woman with a wink.
“I…uh…” the stewardess stuttered, a frightened, intrigued look in her brown eyes. There was a ‘ding ding’ sound, and she shook her head. “Excuse me,” she whispered softly, her blush rising again as she fled.
“Drat,” Asinoe sighed, “Look what you did. I almost had her.”
“Oh I know,” Niki replied, watching her go, “And fuck you for making fun of me. Now go have your shower, you smell like a pub…” he took up a napkin and dabbed at a damp spot on his trousers, “it’s unbecoming…” His lips quirked again in amusement, though he tried to hide it and appear put out.
In the privacy of her cubicle Asinoe wiggled out of her skirt, pulling the provided first class Panama pants on with a pout. She would never wear them usually but he was right, the alcohol on her skirt was unbecoming and it irritated her to no end that he had messed her up unnecessarily. She hit the button for the steward again, scowling at Niki as she leaned on the partition wall.
“Don’t get all surly. It’s a 13 hour flight to Dubai. We could have been having fun for some of them.”
“I’m sure I’ll be over it in an hour or so…” came his reply, and he too rang for service. “Bourbon,” he said flatly to the steward who approached, then threw the bewildered man a wink.
The loudspeaker bell went on and the Captain’s voice echoed tinnily through the plane, announcing take-off. Niki blinked, exhaling heavily and leaning his head back against the chair, his eyes sliding closed.
The nausea was already starting.
-Get drunk, quickly.-
Asinoe peered at him in interest for a moment before giving her skirt to the approaching steward, advised him that she had a change of clothes in her carry on that she would need once the plane was in the air. Throwing Niki another sideways glance, she settled back into her chair studying the lines on his face and the twist of his mouth.
-Nerves?- she wondered, her own lips twitching in amusement.
13 hours to watch him, stuck on a plane, trapped by his emotions…trapped by his duty and his heart.
She sighed happily and took a sip of her champagne.
“Stop that,” Niki murmured, his forehead creasing slightly, though he kept his eyes closed. The plane’s engine rumbled, and he winced, finally turning bright eyes on his companion. “I know what you’re doing,” he added, his lips curling into a scowl, “I suppose you think it’s all terribly funny.”
“Maybe I just like spending time with you,” Asinoe teased and blinked at him innocently. Her fingers itched to touch his silken hair, and she ran them over the skin at the base of her neck instead, goosebumps rising beneath her silk blouse. Niki’s lashes fluttered and he lowered his eyes to drink in the sight of her again, that all too familiar hunger rising in his gaze and making her twitch.
God he was beautiful. Especially when he was angry with her.
“I think you like me more than you wanna admit to yourself,” he murmured, his lips quirking a little, “Do I detect a hint of genuine concern?”
“For the assuagement of my boredom? Yes, actually. You are unbelievably stroppy today. Are you feeling alright?” Her body reacted instinctually to his heated gaze. Having the two cubicles next to each other formed a very effective barrier between them, and it irked her. She wanted to rub up against him, tease him until he lost control.
-How annoying. We could have been on a private jet. You could be fucking me right now.-
A powerful surge pushed her back in her chair as the plane finally taxied to the runway, then launched into the air. Adrenaline swept through her as it always did when a plane took off, her heart racing and her eyes shifting to the window. Clouds obscured her view for a moment, and then the bright blue of the sky filled the circular orb. The businessman in the window cubicle grunted and drew the shade down, returning to his book. Asinoe’s felt anger lance through her, pulling the door to her cubicle closed roughly and draining the remainder of her champagne before glancing at her travel companion.
Niki was watching her through the partition, amusement playing on his lips at her irritability…and the thought that perhaps he’d contributed to it.
-Good. Serves you right.-
“No I’m not feeling alright,” he said finally, answering her earlier question, “I feel fucking sick, and I need to rip something apart. But nothing new, right?” he shrugged, though he seemed more perplexed than usual by the situation.
Asinoe rolled her eyes at him.
“Don’t tell me you’re nervous,” she said, fixing him with her stare.
Niki made a face, then shook his head.
“I’m not dignifying that with an answer,” he muttered.
The seatbelt sign pinged off and Asinoe unclasped the metal restraint, pushing it aside. Within moments the steward was back, handing her the small carry-on bag. She stood, pulling out a pair of soft slacks and handing the bag back to the pretty young man, who nodded courteously at her and, after replacing said bag, bustled off. Asinoe turned to Niki, the pants slung over her arm.
“Do you need anything from the galley?”
Niki’s lips curved into an appreciative smirk as he looked over her outfit.
“No thank you, fancy pants,” he drawled at her, then seemed to think better of it. “Bring me a wine, if you can bear fetching one for me…” he winked at her, “And maybe I’ll think about starting to forgive you for stalking me like a bunny boiler…”
Asinoe gave him a quelling glance.
“I wouldn’t be in these fancy pants if someone hadn’t thought it funny to make me wet…” she turned to leave, then paused and glanced back at him. “And you have to care to be a bunny boiler…” she added flatly, throwing him a cold smirk before heading to the bathroom, instructing a steward to bring Niki a wine as she passed.
Niki pouted, the barb having hit its mark, albeit lightly. He sulked the entire time she was changing, amusing himself by flirting with the old widow across the way until Asinoe’s return.
When she finally retook her seat, he eyed her sideways, saying nothing until the steward had been and gone with his wine.
“Do you remember much about your sessions with the Professor?” Niki asked Asinoe casually.
She froze for a moment, then resumed getting herself settled, glancing at him in consideration.
“As Alina or as myself? I imagine I remember as much as he wished me to….”
The thought of the late Professor planting ideas or triggers in her head without her knowledge turned her stomach. The man was a sore point for her…he’d once held the keys to manipulate and control her, and to a slightly lesser degree Claudia now held those same keys and had passed some of them over to Niki. She scowled at him, annoyed that he’d reminded her of her powerlessness over her own mind and body.
Niki was watching her in that way he always did when he was looking for the things she didn’t say, his eyes narrowing as he nodded.
“But, do you remember, I mean…” he took a sip of his wine, waving it before him as if he were trying to find the right words, “Did he ever suggest anything that may have influenced your behaviour, that you can remember..?” he seemed almost hesitant.
Asinoe’s eyes narrowed as she studied him. He was obviously asking about something that was worrying him, and he was about as subtle as a tank rolling down a hill.
“Why? What do you think he did to you?” she asked lightly, her fingers toying with the corner of the pillow next to her. Her thoughts unwillingly went back to her sessions with the Professor, her nose wrinkling as she shuddered inwardly.
-Who knows what he could have done, to either of us?-
Niki made some noise of dissatisfaction, shifting in his seat and tapping absently on the plastic partition between them.
“Who says he did anything? Maybe I’m just curious,” he said dismissively, taking another sip of wine. “We’ve had all sorts of little nasties sewn into our brains. I’m just curious about what else they put in there that maybe we don’t know about. We could be bloody sleeper agents set to assassinate government officials for all we know…”
Asinoe laughed softly.
“I think you and I are assassins in our own bodies, Niki…” she sighed and averted her face looking at the screen in front of her. The countdown for their journey hit 11:49 as she watched.
-Hours to go with this angst.-
“I don’t know what the Professor may have done in my head,” she said bluntly, “Are my likes and dislikes my own or do they belong to Alina, the construct he created to take over my life for years at a time? I barely know who I am as it is…who I truly am, now that I’ve got my body back.” she shrugged and looked at Niki again, struggling to push down her vulnerability. He knew her better than anyone, and he knew the right buttons to push to set her on edge. It irritated her, but part of her was thankful for it…frankly, she liked that she didn’t have to hide from him, that he saw her in her entirely.
-Except when you look at me like that-
Something akin to pity flickered ever so briefly through his gaze, pity and sadness that seemed completely out of place on his face and made Asinoe scowl. It was gone in less than a second, his characteristic smirk twisting his mouth once again as he leant over the partition wall, resting his arms on it and his chin atop that, blinking at her, those wide cobalt eyes round and solemn as a child’s.
“I think that Kreutz did something to me. About Claudia…there are…things, reactions I’m still having that aren’t…normal.” There was no guile in his voice or manner, he seemed in complete earnest. “Don’t make fun,” he added after a moment, scowling.
Asinoe stared at him for a long moment, then nodded slowly, her forehead creasing.
“I believe you. Every time you see her you end up blind drunk. I figured there must be some reason…” she smirked at him, her eyes sparkling, “You’re not a real reprobate.”
Niki gave her a look of mock indignation and pouted prettily.
“I am too a reprobate…” he huffed, “Don’t be telling anyone otherwise…” His face tilted against his arms, his hand moving over the partition to trace a finger languidly over her knee. Asinoe blinked and smirked, then tilted her head, considering him.
“Tell me what happens?”
“I get sick,” Niki murmured softly, “Like…nauseous, if I’m…” he paused, then laughed almost bitterly, “If I look at her too long, or talk to her…sometimes even when I think about her.”
“Fascinating…” Asinoe shifted towards his touch, trying not to smile or laugh, “When did it start? Since you came back? When you were still merged? How long has it been?” Her face was close to his, her hair falling forward like a sheet, shielding them in shadow. She pushed it back behind an ear, her mouth tilting softly. His scent was warming her insides, her fingers tingled to touch his hair and, unable to resist, she reached out a hand to brush back ebony strands. Niki locked his gaze on hers, staring at her intently, his lashes fluttered ever so slightly at the contact as he blinked, then wrinkled his nose.
“Since my birthday…that night after I left Oakleaf…” he said after a moment’s thought, “It started bit by bit…when we went back to the place that weekend…and it’s slowly gotten worse…and hasn’t stopped.” He looked at her, searching her face for any hint of guile or mocking as his fingers continued to trace over her thigh.
Asinoe’s knuckle touched her mouth in thought.
“So only when you’re around Claudia? Did it get stronger the more you fell in love with her?” she tilted her head, trying to piece it together, her mind whirring with this new puzzle to solve. Niki’s gaze was intense on her, his fingers tracing trails of fire that made her shift in her seat, her body responding to him as it always did. She smirked at him. “If you want help, stop distracting me, Nikolai.” She leant forward, dismissing his problem in the pursuit of her own pleasure, reaching out to stroke her fingers down his cheek. Her hand wound behind his neck and into the short hair at it’s base, her fingers tangling and pulling.
Niki’s mouth fell open in a gasp, hunger flashing through his eyes at the sudden pain. He stared at her, a low moan sounding on his lips before they curved upwards in a twisted smirk.
“Then stop encouraging me to distract you,” he breathed, a hand reaching up to clamp about her throat.
Across the way, the old widow was staring at them in bewilderment.
“And yes, if you must know, it did get worse the closer I got to her.”
Asinoe pulled his head forward, rubbing her cheek against his and peering over at the bewildered widow. She smiled at the woman and licked her lips, smirking as the old’ crone’s mouth opened in shock and she hurriedly looked away, shutting her cubicle door and shielding herself from view.
“Well then, problem solved. Stay away from Claudia and you’ll be fine,” Asinoe whispered, kissing his ear, then pulling back to look into his eyes, a teasing glint in her own. “But if you must have her – and for the record I have no idea why, frigid as she is – then ask her to lift the Professor’s spell. Surely she’ll have answers about it…if you can bear to admit this all to her…” Asinoe rolled her eyes and pulled his hair again gently, taking advantage of his open mouth to slip her tongue inside.
Niki tightened his grip on her throat, letting his tongue snake out to meet hers. He kissed her, hard and hungry, then pulled back to make a face at her.
“Admit what exactly?” he asked, his eyes darkening, “You think I’m afraid? The woman makes sock puppets out of human flesh and fucks on dead bodies…frigid is not a word I would choose to use for her…” a hint of admiration flickered through his eyes, then the desire returned. “She’s not a whore like you or me, but she has her own set of vices and virtues…”
“I think I threw up a little in my mouth,” Asinoe said dourly, rolling her eyes and grimacing. She slid away from him and out of his reach, reaching for her champagne. “Claudia is an amazing monster, I’ll give her that. But she lacks human something…” she tilted her head, trying to find the right words, “She’s cold and clinical, aloof…and honestly, who hasn’t fucked on top of a dead body in our family?”
“I’m sorry, who’s lacking human ‘somethings’?” Niki sniggered and bit his lip, gazing at Asinoe almost fondly, “You’re a funny one, you know that?”
Taking a long drink of champagne before putting it down again, Asinoe shrugged and looked at the clock.
-11:03. This flight is going to take an eternity if all we do is talk about Claudia.-
“Will you tell her that being with her makes you physically ill..?” amusement flickered in her eyes, “And can I watch you do it?”
“Yes I will tell her and no you can’t watch,” he replied, frowning and shaking his head, “I don’t need her getting angry and triggering you back into Alina…just yet…”
“Aw come on, you could always just trigger me back in,” Asinoe teased, her lip caught in her teeth and her eyes alight with mischief. She leant forward again, coy suggestion dancing through her eyes. “Please…” she batted her lashes in jest.
Niki smiled at her, tilting his head and reaching out to stroke her face, his pale fingers tracing over her skin lightly. A brow lofted, his cobalt hues glimmering with dark mirth as he bent closer, so close he could feel her warm breath on his face.
“No,” he said flatly, then pulled back to recline in his chair smugly.
“Fine,” Asinoe pouted, leaning her elbow on the divider, her face in her hand, “Whatcha doing?” she asked, obviously trying to irritate him. She was bored…the flight had hours to go yet…and he wasn’t playing the way she wanted. She poked him in the leg with a finger and bit her lip, waiting.
Niki lay back in his seat, blue eyes staring at the ceiling.
“Pondering the meaning of life,” he murmured, his lip curling as he rolled his gaze towards her. “And thinking about you on top of me, wet and writhing…” his words hitched over the last syllables, his lashes becoming heavy as keen desire washed over him, “And maybe slightly wallowing in self-pity…” he added after a moment more, with a bitter laugh. “I feel like Baelian. I’m not supposed to be so broody…”
Asinoe blinked, her eyes widening as he mentioned her cry-baby plaything, visions of their entangled bodies crossed her mind’s eye, making her shiver in anticipation.
“Well, don’t look at me…I thought we fixed this. I followed your plan,” her eyes narrowed with interest, “But you are more emotional than usual. Baelian is locked away, isn’t he?”
Niki threw out his arms and shrugged animatedly, making a face.
“The fuck should I know? No one talks to anyone anymore…sometimes I think I’m the only one here then someone makes some weird comment or that psycho bitch laughs and I wonder…” he pouted, “It’s not like I thought we’d all just play ball, but you know him…he keeps himself to himself…” Wrinkling his nose, Niki looked concerned suddenly, his eyes widening. “You think maybe he’s up to something?”
“I think he’s up to many things,” she shrugged. “Naturally he wants his body back and his Alina and his children and responsibilities. Who is he without all the angst to keep him going?” she pushed her hair over her ears again, rearranging her pillow to be more comfortable while looking at him. Desire was gnawing at her, talk of Baelian making it worse.
-Mine. Mine…my toy.-
Niki blinked, staring at her, then blinked again, the corners of his mouth turning downwards slightly and a faint tremor reverberating through his body. He drew in a breath, then huffed it out, looking away and chewing on his lip absently.
“Well…that’s just annoying,” he muttered.
“Not for me” she teased, playfully walking her fingers up his trouser leg towards his crotch, “I rather like having him around.”
He slapped her hand away so sharply and suddenly that she gasped, his wide blue eyes alight with sudden anger and a thinly veiled desire.
“Then your standards have lowered,” Baelian snapped, shuffling just out of her reach. He leaned back against the chair and stared at her with blazing eyes, his mouth twisting. “The fuck are we going?” he demanded.
-Oh hello. You heard me call…-
“Baelian…” Asinoe purred, her eyes focusing unwaveringly on his face like a snake. Her body stilled and then, in a smooth movement, she pulled herself up off her chair and over onto his side of the partition, her body leaning over the barrier and her hands tangling into his hair, determined to force a kiss from him.
To say he hadn’t been expecting her sudden attack would be a lie, but even so Baelian’s lips parted in a gasp as Asinoe’s fingers twisted in his hair cruelly, his hands coming up to her arms and his fingers digging hard into the soft flesh.
“Down, kitty,” he hissed at her, trying to pull away and push her backwards at the same time – and somehow conveniently failing at both. His lashes fluttered as he fought her, his breath quickening almost instinctively at her touch.
“Kiss me and I’ll go back to my own side,” she purred back, pushing against his restraining arms. Her eyes flickered to the embarrassed air staff watching, “If you don’t, I’ll make a scene…and you’ll be the star.”
Baelian didn’t even bother to glance at the staff, he knew they’d be watching just as he knew she was perfectly capable of causing a scene. For a moment he considered resisting her and to hell with the consequences…but then he didn’t know where they were or where they were headed, or how long they’d be stuck here together.
Any amount of time with Asinoe was a problem, especially in public. And when it got right down to it, he had more will to surrender than to fight her.
Tilting his head up towards hers, Baelian stared at Asinoe with wide, almost frightened eyes…and let her go.
She ploughed into him with a sigh, her fingers tightening in his hair as she kissed him roughly, inhaling his scent and savouring his taste as her body hummed to life. Her hands drifted to the skin of his neck, her fingers curling about his throat when she finally drew back, her blue eyes bright with lust. She was effectively sprawled over him now, supporting her weight with her elbows and rubbing her breasts against him as if marking her territory. She kissed him again, this time more softly, her lips lingering on his. Baelian moaned against her mouth, his body shuddering and arching up beneath her like a puppet on a string.
His breath came hard and fast when she finally pulled away, and he stared up at her like a chastised child that had been caught misbehaving, his lower lip forming a pout as he watched her with something akin to awe, his shaking hands at her hips.
“Get off,” he whispered.
“Aww,” Asinoe tilted her head and smiled at him, batting her eyes. One hand trailed down his shirt, fingers tugging at his belt. “You don’t want me to leave…Baelian,” she crooned, her hand creeping lower over his trousers to stroke the bulge she found there, her lip catching between her teeth as she pulled in air with a hiss, “You don’t want me to go anywhere.”
Baelian’s eyes slid closed, a helpless and low moan sounding on his lips as his hips rose beneath her touch.
“No…” he breathed, his lip curling into a sneer and his fingers digging into her hips, his body grinding up against hers, “But you’re gonna get us arrested…and you like the long game…”
“They are hardly going to arrest us for joining the mile high club,” she smirked, but obliged him and moved herself back into her seat, taking care to drag as much of herself over him as possible in the process. His body spasmed against hers, twitching involuntarily in her wake in a way that made her chuckle, her eyes shining with mischief as she gazed at him.
-10.5 hours to go and Baelian is here. The day’s looking up!-
“To answer your question,” Asinoe paused, checking her mirror to ensure that her lipstick hadn’t moved, “Niki and I are on our way to Paris, to see Claudia Monére…” she focused her attention on him again, something dark inside her twisting at the sight, “Niki has decided to ignore his father’s wishes and to go see his lady love….it’s all rather romantic really…” she was being sarcastic, her tone belaying any hint of sincerity.
Baelian grit his teeth and drew in a deep and shaking breath, smoothing back his hair and adjusting his crumpled clothing as he glared at her, ignoring the hushed and scandalised whispers of the host staff all around them.
“Is that right?” he replied, seeming genuinely surprised, “That was quicker than I’d anticipated. Why is Claudia in Paris?” He was trying to keep his tone even, his voice calm and his body from shaking as he studied her, everything in him obviously screaming to close the gap between them and finish what she’d started.
“No idea, I’m not her keeper. Probably something to do with her fashion house.”
Asinoe watched him, her mouth twitching at his obvious tension. Her body was humming too, wet pooled in her silk panties and her fingers stung with the need to touch his skin as her body started to come down from the endorphin rush.
It was making her irritable. She had to fuck him, and soon.
-Maybe the shower?-
“You anticipated him disobeying his father to follow Claudia?” she asked, suddenly realising the implications of what he’d said. Her eyes narrowed at him. “Anticipated…or nudged? Niki says he’s been feeling more emotional lately…” She smiled at him, baring her teeth. “Baelian,” she drawled his name, “Did you do something?”
He narrowed his eyes at her, leaning back against his seat and drawing his legs up so he could rest an arm on his knee in an almost defensive pose, shielding himself from a second attack…and that piercing stare.
“If I had, I wouldn’t be telling you about it now would I?” he scowled, “And yes of course I anticipated it. The fuck else was he ever gonna do? I know how his mind works, and it’s not like he even tries to stop me poking around in there anymore. He’s an open fucking book, as I’m sure you know and exploit to your advantage often…”
“I’ll tell him you said so,” Asinoe laughed, putting her chin on her hand and looking at him askew. “He’s acting strangely. Are you aware he gets sick whenever he is near her? Nausea, he says.”
“Ask me if I care,” Baelian muttered, looking away, his scowl deepening, “The way the Professor fucked with all our heads, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if he’d put some kind of failsafe in there in regards to his dear precious Claudia…” Blue eyes shifted to regard her, the anger dissipating ever so slightly. “So why are you here? I can’t see him inviting you on a rendezvous with Monére…”
“Morbid curiosity really. I’m hoping to catch him throwing up on her shoes,” she looked suddenly tired, the mask sliding away for the briefest moment before smoothing into an empty and blank stare. “Why do you think I’m here, Baelian?”
He gave her an unimpressed and deadpan look in response.
“You’re bored,” he said flatly, “Life has no purpose or meaning other than chasing around other people’s drama to gratuitously feed off, or to sculpt it in your own image. You have no fucking goals or passions of your own and don’t know how to person, so you follow the one thing that will never let you down…” he blinked, perking a brow. “And the idea that he could find happiness and love nowhere near you kills you a little bit, because you think we all belong to you,” he added.
“Jesus, how self-obsessed of you….maybe I just want to see the Christmas markets,” Asinoe laughed, giving him a winsome smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “I am bored. I’m always bored…and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to watch one of the most awkward couples I’ve ever seen try to be a family with their new bouncing baby boy. But I’ll clap with the rest if they manage it…Lord knows you could never do it with Alina…or Bella…or Bethany or Red…or Betty,” her mouth tightened with obvious contempt, “your need to have everyone love you poisons everything you touch. Niki makes people feel good about themselves…even a monster like me can see his value to the family…” her mouth twitched in amusement, “And you are correct, you all do, in fact, belong to me. Niki’s stubborn and headstrong, but we make a good team…and he gives you to me whenever I want. I’d call that a winning relationship really.”
Her words hit their mark, though it was barely a flicker in Baelian’s eyes, the tiniest hint of pain as he looked away, his jaw tightening. Lashes lowered and he blinked, waving at a stewardess to indicate that he wanted another drink. When he looked at her again he looked tired, sullen, but determined not to let her get to him…too much.
“Alina,” he said finally, slowly, “will be back sooner or later, and I think you’ll find that we’ll get on perfectly well without any of you fucking us up once you’re gone…”
Asinoe scoffed and waved for her own stewardess, who arrived promptly.
“Any luck with my skirt?” she asked, touching her hand. The woman flushed, her fingers shaking lightly beneath Asinoe’s.
“We got the stain out, Ms. Bellamantis, it’s just drying now.”
“Oh well done,” Asinoe smiled at the woman and gestured to her champagne glass, “Please get me another one…and see if Mr Black wants anything…at all…”
Baelian shook his head, scowling and averting his eyes.
“It’s already taken care of,” he muttered.
The woman nodded and left to get the drink. Asinoe looked at the man beside her, broody and sullen and so easy to play with.
“Be nice, you may be fucking her before we get to Dubai and first impressions matter…” she smirked, then made a show of eying her nails, “Mmm, if only you knew how much you hurt Alina just by being you. Maybe she’s better off asleep…” she mused, almost to herself.
“About as much as Nikolai thinks you’re useless to him,” Baelian replied dourly, “Say what you like about us…you’re the weak ones. We exist because your fragile minds can’t deal with life. No matter how fucked up we are…we’re still stronger than both of you…” He slid further down into his seat, sulking, hating that he was even allowing himself to be drawn into conversation with her.
“My mind was fractured by a mad scientist, not because of a weak inability to deal with trauma,” Asinoe replied snidely and picked up her remote to flick through the things in her entertainment system, scrolling through an endless list of movies as she continued, “Would you prefer me to go? Just take Alina with me and never darken any of your doorsteps again?” She didn’t look at him, feigning interest in a documentary about Hitler instead. “I won’t, of course, my body chemistry is intrinsically linked with yours and I don’t like going through withdrawal for anything. I’m a bit of a hedonist at heart.”
“Let’s not insult either of us by pretending you actually have a choice or the capability to leave me any more than I can leave you…” he threw back at her, “I may be a crybaby but at least I’m not lying to myself about my weaknesses…”
The young stewardess came and went, as did his own, and he sipped on his drink in silence, finally turning his attention away from Asinoe, though his senses and body remained on high alert. Perhaps it was the public setting that made him so bold – she could hardly silence him in her usual fashion here – or perhaps he was taking what small opportunity he could to provoke her…the chilling thought of her retribution made him shudder involuntarily, the hairs on the back of his neck rising.
-You’re pathetic, Black. Truly.-
He looked back at her, watching her pretending to ignore him, intense cobalt hues fixed on her now that she wouldn’t look at him, a strange tightening in his chest at the thought that she was done with him – a flutter of irrational and desperate fear. He found all at once that he couldn’t bear it.
“You’re wrong,” he said suddenly, putting his drink down and finding himself leaning forward onto the partition, “The Professor only ever worked with what was already there. I’ve read his notes – Alina was manifesting before he even met you…you did it to yourself, Asinoe…he just gave you a little nudge. If he was capable of just creating fractures at a whim then we’d have ten of Claudia…maybe that’s why Niki prefers her…she’s the stronger one…”
Asinoe’s eyes glittered with anger when she finally fixed her focus back on him. Colour had risen to her cheeks and her fingers itched to hurt him…to run her hands through his hair and rip and twist it until he cried, to bite the soft skin at his neck until his blood flowed hot and salty. She pulled her breath in with a low hiss of frustration…he was so damn close but she couldn’t touch him. Not like she wanted to.
“I don’t believe you. Alina was an imaginary friend, coaxed and manipulated into a fracture at my father’s behest. I had no reason to fracture naturally, I wasn’t abused until I got to Funday…” she narrowed her eyes, “And Claudia is fucking crazy, she has no idea what side she is on and can’t accept who she is or what she wants half of the time. Her mind broke and she formed delusions to cope…she talks to nothing. She is fragile, in both mind and loyalty and you know it. But nice try.”
Baelian blinked, his body twitching at the look in her eyes, the anger emanating as raw heat from her. It made his breath catch, his insides trembling with anticipation of retaliation…his heart was pounding.
-Don’t poke the hellcat you idiot…-
Swallowing, he pressed his chin against his hand upon the barrier, lowering his head and his gaze in subtle submission. He could look up at her from this vantage point, his striking eyes as guileless as a child’s.
“You didn’t know Marcus,” Baelian said slowly, “Not like Alina, and not like I did. But you are like him in many ways…except that you’re less prone to grandiose displays of false feeling – unlike your muppet brother…” distaste filled his face for a moment when he spoke of Grigori, but it was gone an instant later. “Now,” he went on, holding his gaze on her, “Imagine it was you…with the child of a lover who jilted you for someone less worthy. Imagine you had that child in your grasp, but your best friend and bane of your life told you that someone else was to have first taste…” he tilted his head, “Of YOUR property…” He let his lip curve into the ghost of a smirk. “And then tell me again that you weren’t abused until I crawled on top of you at Funday.”
“I wasn’t abused. I didn’t meet Marcus until I was 8, my mother never let us meet…” Asinoe’s face was white with anger and her eyes burned into him. The submissive posture he’d adopted was doing nothing even close to mollifying her. Tightening her jaw, she reached out and caught his chin in her hand, her nails digging into his soft skin. Ducking her head, she kissed his pursed lips roughly, then pulled back sharply. “I hope you are enjoying yourself, Baelian. I imagine you know exactly what you are doing…but still, surely you know that once Niki gives you to me again you’ll be paying for your insolence.”
Baelian flinched at her touch, his pupils dilating instinctively in arousal at her kiss and the pain, though he looked thoroughly disgusted with her and his reaction to her all the while.
“I’m just entertaining the possibilities…” he murmured softly, “None of us really know what did and didn’t happen to us…what with the drugs, the alcohol, the ambrosia…and the Professor there to wipe it all away on a whim…” he blinked at her, his forehead creasing as his expression changed and his eyes lowered, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t lie to me. You despise me and you’d love to be able to hurt me,” she hissed at him, letting him go. “Unfortunately for you, I am just as skilled at this game.”
His hand rose to rub at his jaw, his lashes fluttering lightly as he nodded slowly.
“Yes I hate you…but I love you too…and hate myself. I’m more complicated than you are, and capable of feeling more than one thing at a time…”
Asinoe smirked and eyed him thoughtfully, her anger dissipating, her lips twitching with amusement at his confession.
“I think I got the better end of the deal…” she said, observing how the glow from the reading light above him shone in his hair. “How did you get out anyway? I thought Niki had you under lock and key.”
Baelian sat back slowly, watching the monster of a woman across the way, marvelling at her and his own reactions to her.
-My how things have changed-
“Niki doesn’t get to lock me away. I’m here to protect him and I come when I’m needed…whether he wants me there or not,” he told her, “And the more unstable he gets, the easier it is to surface, so to speak. It’s always just a matter of time.”
“That damn boy and his feelings…” Asinoe mused, shaking her head, “So I’ll be seeing more of you during this trip?” Her smile was wide, her anger forgotten as the promise of future delights sprawled before her. “Is he breaking apart again?” she asked in slight annoyance, “I should just knock that Monére bitch into traffic and make it look like an accident so he’ll get over these weak hang-ups.”
“It’s inevitable,” Baelian replied, “He’ll tap out completely again…sooner or later it’s bound to happen, something will push him over the edge…and then…” narrowing his eyes, Baelian glared at her again, his expression becoming hard. “Then I will have my sister trigger you out and lock YOU away…and Alina and I will go on happily failing at life without you and your abusive bullshit getting in the way.”
“Ohhh that was nasty,” Asinoe said with a laugh. “Are you sure that Claudia won’t choose to fix Nikolai instead? I imagine she’ll start working on the nausea issue as soon as she hears about it, and with them both able to spend more time together she’ll be more inclined to keep him by her side. How sure are you she can’t put fail-safes in place to help him and banish you? She is the Professors protégé, after all…”
“No one can fix him. There is no better. She can’t help him, the damage is done. He will always fall, over and again. The best he can hope for is a peaceful coexistence with the rest of us…once he puts his ego aside and realises that we’re here to keep him safe…”
Asinoe looked at Baelian curiously.
“My, how noble and self-sacrificing of you. Do you really think you and Alina can be happy together? You with all your women and dependence on everyone to love you and keep you going? And her, with her jealousy and insecurity and desire to have you all to herself? Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.”
Baelian was gazing at her blankly, hunger and anger and fear dancing behind his eyes as he watched her speak. His lips quirked when she mentioned Alina and his utter failure at giving her anything that she wanted or needed, the way his face lit up speaking volumes.
“I like to think we’re still capable of growing,” he replied slowly, “some of us have the ability to evolve.”
“As long as she evolves in the direction that suits you and your lifestyle?” Asinoe seemed incredulous at his response, then rolled her eyes, “You wouldn’t dream of giving up your harem to just be with her alone, would you?” her mouth turned in contempt, “Of course not. She’s not enough for you. How like a man.”
Baelian blinked in surprise, a bewildered laugh escaping him, followed by the tiniest crease of his brow.
“And how not like you to get so impassioned about something that doesn’t affect you…now who’s being more emotional than usual?” His eyes narrowed as if he were looking for something…or someone…deep within her.
“I love Alina,” he said, “and I belong to her. How many people ever say that about you?”
Asinoe waved his question away airily.
“I don’t need to be loved. It means that people are reliant on you, and I don’t like being tied down…” Her eyes sparkled as a thought went through her head, “And I don’t like the idea of any woman being treated like you treat Alina. You don’t meet her needs and you refuse to change to meet them. She needs to be adored and the Queen of one man that idolises and cherishes her. She was a whore most of her life, used by anyone who could pay for her…even as an adult she greased the wheels on Marcus’ deals. Playing second fiddle to a dozen women makes her feel like she’s still just one of the herd and worth nothing…” she eyed him, “but you wouldn’t know anything about feeling worthless.”
“I know plenty about feeling worthless,” Baelian replied through grit teeth, “Don’t presume to know me just because you think you’re above emotion. You’re just like us, you’re just too broken and ignorant to see it.”
“I should form a relationship with Kristian again. If Alina ever taps back in and is married to him then at least she will get what she needs and my body will stay healthy until I return.”
Baelian’s expression hardened and his eyes grew unimaginably cold. He was angry now, his hand clenching and unclenching.
“Being an automaton doesn’t qualify you to speak for her or me…” He ignored talk of Kristian, though his expression hinted that he knew exactly what she was talking about. Asinoe scowled.
“I have feelings you idiot, I’m a high functioning sociopath. I lack empathy as a main trait, but I have “shallow” emotion,” she made quotation marks, “Do some research. My ability to assimilate other emotional hang-ups and pass as one of you at will puts me in the unique position of never allowing myself to be clouded by them. Alina is not a sociopath, therefore I have a whole range of emotion and understanding at my fingertips just by going through her memories…” she shrugged off his anger, rolling her eyes, “As for being broken and ignorant…” her mouth twisted into a sarcastic smile, “My other traits include narcissism and grandiosity…so I can’t accept my flaws as being so.” Her eyes were cold and empty as she looked at him, and the evident anger on his face, “Now calm down before you hurt our delicate truce. Don’t think I won’t make you beg on this crowded plane.”
Baelian stopped at her words, looking away and pouting sullenly, focusing on slowing his breathing and doing as he was told. He was almost shaking with the effort it took, his eyes lowering when he finally addressed her again.
“I wasn’t referring to you being a sociopath,” he said slowly, in a low and measured tone, “I was commenting on you as a person. Using the excuse of being a sociopath would be too easy…” He licked his lips, tilting his head as if wrestling with something inside himself. “But I’m sorry if I offended you,” he finished.
-Oh, you’re too beautiful like this…-
“Apology accepted,” Asinoe’s demeanour changed completely in an instant, her eyes sparkling with laughter, “And I am a sociopath…but you’re right, I choose to be soulless, manipulative and evil. Money helps with that, safeguarding yourself from this rotten family helps with the rest. We are products of our environment, and even you stoop to dark and dank levels when it suits you…” She moved her shoulders in an effort to loosen them slightly. She had been twisting to look at him for quite some time, it already felt like several hours, and her body was beginning to feel the strain. Reaching her arms above her head, she stretched with a groan.
Baelian watched her for a moment then looked away, something very much like relief flickering through his eyes as he drew in a soft breath and exhaled just as lightly. He seemed for all the world like a trapped animal, trying not to make any sudden movements that would draw the predator’s attention back to him. Leaning back in his chair, he turned his face away from her and focused on the small screen before him, watching the seconds tick by.
Asinoe stood suddenly.
“I’m going to the bathroom, you can join me…” her eyes flickered over him, appreciating his beauty, “Maybe I’ll make you fuck that stewardess while I watch.”
“Can I just?” he muttered, not looking at her, his eyes remaining down, his mouth twisted into a sullen pout. He didn’t move, though already images of the stewardess bent over the tiny sink or Asinoe shoved up against the wall were dancing through his head, making his blood burn and his breath hitch.
-Don’t give her the satisfaction-
He didn’t budge.
“In fact, I insist…” Asinoe said, her voice dropping, the threat evident. Her nails tapped on the plastic of the cubicle, waiting. Baelian was trying to hide it but she could see his uneven breathing and she could almost taste his arousal. Tilting her head and staying silent, she waited for a reaction – whatever it was, it would be amusing. She was thoroughly enjoying the position that she had him in.
His eyes slid closed and his breath caught. For a long moment still he did not move, that luminous gaze lifting to meet hers with pleading.
-Don’t make me do this-
And behind it, the faintest shimmer of devotion, adoration…an almost reverent desire to obey.
“Please don’t…” he whispered finally, tears rising in his eyes as he stared at her.
Lust flashed through Asinoe when she saw his tears, her breath hitching as she let it out with a shuddering sigh. Her lips curved into a predatory smile and she looked at his upturned face. She wanted to lunge forward and sink her teeth into him, her body jerking in response to the thought as she sucked her breath in with a hiss.
“Baelian. Come with me now.”
Her command was quiet and firm, the quiver of eagerness beneath barely touching her voice…but it was there, promising darkness, pleasure and power. His forehead creased, the standing tears spilling over his pale cheeks as he stared at her, his jaw tightening. He looked as if he would burst into sobs if she so much as said another word to him. Silently and slowly he rose, swallowing and giving a small nod to the steely-eyed woman before him.
“Of course,” he said softly, his voice strained, “if that’s what you want.” Slipping out of his cubicle, he waited for Asinoe to lead the way, staring at his shoes forlornly, his breath coming in ragged low gasps.
She crossed the pods into his aisle and jerked her head towards the front of the plane. The majority of the first class passengers were in the bar area and the others were either asleep or deep into their television screens or newspapers. No one noticed her smug smile as she turned on her heel and strode towards the bathroom.
Chewing on his lip, Baelian followed her, his eyes on her heels as he walked in her wake.
-Turn around. You fucking masochist go back to your goddamn seat-
The first class bathroom was big enough to have a shower in it, and the room was spacious and deep. Asinoe entered first, moving to the centre of the room and waiting. Baelian didn’t miss a step as he followed, crossing over the threshold before finally lifting his gaze to meet hers.
His heart stopped at the look in her eyes.
“Asinoe,” he barely breathed.
The low lights threw her face into shadow, and her eyes glittered with enjoyment.
“Close the door and come here, Baelian. Come and cry for me.”
A pained look crossed his features and he almost winced at her tone, throwing a glance behind him and out into the plane. One of the stewardesses passing by caught his gaze, then blushed and looked away quickly.
“Baelian,” Asinoe called sharply, her lips curving into a cold smile.
He let his eyes close as a shudder reverberated through his limbs, biting down on his tongue so sharply that he tasted blood.
And then he closed the door.
Written by C.Maliepaard and N. Ristovski.
All characters and storylines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017. Natalie Ristovski.