Tempting Fate, Part 1
Location: Gravelines Estate - London, England
Timeline: Backposts - Late 2009
“Hey did you know you're making eyes with a murderer?
Hey did you know you're swapping lies with a dirty girl?
In order for me to play your nurse,
You're gonna have to tell me where it hurts.” Tell Me Where It Hurts - Halestorm
The party had gotten boring for Talia about an hour in and already three extra hours had passed. She was used to various soirees and get togethers to celebrate business dealings; however, these dealings had left her a bit bland. Her eyes had begun to wander to the host of different faces in attendance as she steadily downed as much champagne as she could and still not seem like a lush. Luckily, she was skilled at such things, even managing to make swigging back enough alcohol to paralyze a horse seem like graceful artistry.
The brooding man near the toady lawyer had caught her eye before. Graveline’s driver and bodyguard that always looked so serious. He was broad shouldered, his blue eyes were sharp, always watching, and every time his eyes landed on her, she could almost feel them boring through her. Finally, he was standing alone in a corner, the man that had been accused of a brutal double murder that left his wife and best friend dead, and Talia, sheathed in a nearly sheer bejeweled party gown, slits up either shapely leg to her slender hips, with a head full of bubbles and that ever-present air of confidence, strolled easily up next to the acquitted bodyguard.
“Do you look at all of the women that way?” Talia asked quietly, her deep, rolling accent curious, though there was a touch of awe to it, just a hint of that primal fear over facing an accused murderer, a potential predator. Even if her voice was edged with that base concern, her eyes moved not-so-casually over his solid form, as she continued, “Or have I done something to offend you, soldier?”
Jon’s blue eyes flicked to the young beauty. “Not a soldier anymore, ma’am,” he said. He had always stayed on the edge of the party, not partaking of the alcohol or hors d'oeuvres, unsure why Rupert had even invited him into the party and not left him in the car as usual. It wasn’t like the lawyer was in danger here, among his own kind. “And no offense, ma’am,” he said. He had a working class accent, Bristol, if she had to guess. “But you’re an anomaly here. Too young to be a wife,” he nodded to one of the businessmen’s wives, “and clearly not a working girl.” He glanced at one of the highly attractive young women working the party, their profession rather evident. “I don’t like anomalies. So if it please, ma’am, just trying to determine if you’re trouble.”
“Ma’am? No, no. That just makes me sound old before my time. Oh, and I am trouble,” Talia said with mischievous smile and a small, bubbly laugh. She had been drinking rather steadily in her boredom and it was showing, even if her behavior was still measured and controlled for the most part. The young woman held a delicate hand out to the man with that hint of excitement and fear still dancing in her eyes. The young bombshell didn’t know what it was about a potentially dangerous man that she found so attractive, but then she wasn’t in any shape to spend much time analyzing it either. “Though I highly doubt it is the trouble that you are imagining. I am Talia Zajic. I handle some of my father’s dealings in the arena of antiquities.”
“Zajic,” Jon said. “Some would say the name is trouble enough,” he returned, taking her hand politely. “But then, I speak out of turn. My apologies.” His hand was rough, but gentle. There was a strength in it, but he was careful not to crush her hand. “Jon,” he returned. “Jon Harrison.” He studied her. “But then you likely already knew that,” he noted perceptively.
“Touche. I suppose that is a fair enough assessment. No apologies are necessary.” Again she graced him with a friendly laugh and nodded, her soft, flawless hand still holding onto his large, rough one, daintily. “One would have to live under a rock to not know who you are, Mister Harrison. Even if the headlines have faded,” Talia responded, her eyes meeting his steadily.
The fact that his guilt was still widely debated apparently did nothing to dissuade the lovely woman from pursuing a conversation with him. Though, if the rumors were true, the men in her family weren’t exactly saints, so perhaps she simply felt more at ease around the potentially violent than most women would. “Tell me, soldier, does Gravelines really feel that he needs your protection here? Among the haughty elite that happily pay his hefty fees? It seems such a shame, you are a rather handsome man, and it looks as though you could use a little fun.”
Talia glanced around at the formal, posh, low-key gathering, sighing a bit as her smoldering eyes returned to Jon, and took a small sip of the champagne that she was carrying with her, muttering, “Though this isn’t really the place to find much of that, I must say.”
Jon gave a wry smile. “Mr. Gravelines likes to...keep people off balance,” Jon allowed. “I suppose I am meant to shock and impress. After all, most believe I should be rotting in prison but for his skill. You could say I am...advertising.” He glanced around at the other guests furtively watching them. “But you are right, this is really not my scene, luv,” he admitted.
“Most of these people have no room to judge,” Talia said, her eyes following Jon’s glance to a roundish woman, surrounded by a gaggle of other gossips, whose face was overly done in an attempt to recapture the type of youth and beauty that the stunning redhead maintained. She flashed a wicked grin at the women and wiggled her fingers at them, causing each of them to flush and turn away, having been caught and called out for their nosiness. She then returned her attention to the man in front of her, her voice lowering to a conspiratorial, teasing whisper, “Besides, most of these lonely housewives with stuffy, boring husbands are likely wondering the same thing I am...”
Jon raised an eyebrow at the attractive young woman. “And what is that, luv?” he asked, leaning in closer to her to hear her. The press of people pushed Talia into Jon and he instinctively slid his hands to her waist to support her.
The gorgeous young woman managed to keep her feet with his help, that small, welcoming smile turning up the edges of her crimson lips as she said, softly, seductively, “They’re wondering what your lips taste like; what your strong hands would feel like on their bodies, around their throats...” Talia leaned in a bit further, stopping just shy of touching the wary bodyguard again, allowing him to support her, and whispered hotly into Jon’s ear, “What it would be like to look into your gorgeous, haunting eyes as you held me down and...ravaged me.”
Jon’s haunting eyes closed and a shiver ran through his body. Flashes of blood, memory, splashed over his eyelids. “Is that them...or you?” he asked, his hand closing painfully on Talia’s wrist, his blue eyes snapping open, capturing hers. There was an intensity there, a danger, coiled up inside this ex-soldier. “You might get burned, luv.”
The young woman hissed in pain as Jon’s hand closed tightly around her wrist, then a thrilled gasp escaped her as she found herself caught in that predatory gaze. The fluttering of her heart and the excitement that Talia felt at that moment was difficult for her to hide, but she managed it, just barely. Her small smile spread a bit as she caught her breath, and she responded softly, shakily, “I never could keep my fingers out of the fire. So why start now?”
“Because one day that fire will burn you, and then you might not be so pretty. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures.” The tabloids had printed the lurid scene and it made Jon sick. “I need some fresh air,” he murmured, releasing Talia’s hand and turning to head for the exit.
Talia sighed a bit as Jon turned and made his way out, then silently followed along, watching him for a moment as he stopped by the car that he drove for Gravelines. She paused thoughtfully before walking up next to him again. “You take me for being flippant, and perhaps I am a bit jaded. After all, my mother was gunned down in front of me when I was nine. It is difficult to shock someone after that,” the young woman said, breathing in the much more quiet night air.
Then the slender redhead turned to regard the brooding, blue-eyed man seriously, saying, “I would be a fool to not fear you in some way, Mister Harrison, but I do not allow my fears to control me. There are plenty of neglected women here that will go to their lonely beds tonight, high on champagne, and whatever else they’re taking, and pleasure themselves to the thought of you doing unspeakable things to them. Unlike so many of them, I am not afraid to pursue what I want, and I want you. You need to blow off some steam before you explode, and I am quite willing to take that risk.”
Jon slid his eyes over to the young redhead beside him. “Wot do you know of wot I need, luv?” he asked, tensing. He shoved his hand in his pocket and pulled out a small chip of some kind, rolling it between his fingers. It looked rather worn, but was clearly an AA chip.
“Most men are not that difficult to figure out,” Talia said with a laugh, her eyes roaming his body again. Her hands moved to her hips as she began pointing out, “Your shoulders are visibly stiff, your manner is brooding and dangerous, intentionally pushing everyone away. In the middle of a party, you didn’t even eat anything and I highly doubt Gravelines would have minded had you fed yourself. You can’t bring yourself to trust a woman, or you think that you can’t trust yourself with one at the very least. So, yes, it may be an assumption on my part, but I really think that you are lonely, you need a massage, and you need to get laid. I know that I’m at least good enough to take your mind off of wanting a drink.”
Jon stiffened and quickly pocketed his chip. “I’m on duty,” Jon said, staring out into the darkness of the grounds. “I haven’t been with anyone since--” He broke off. Why was he even telling this girl something like that? Melinda had been the love of his life, and she had betrayed him. But he did want that drink.
“Of course, you’re on duty, soldier,” Talia teased, her voice softening a bit. Her father may not have been the best of men, but she remembered the agony he suffered when her mother died. “You are always on duty, always on guard, always on edge. Once a soldier, always a soldier.”
The young woman moved into Jon’s field of vision, looking up at him with a slender eyebrow arched upwards. “If it’s been that long, then you definitely need to remedy that.” Talia shook her head and pulled a bright orange smartphone from the tiny bag hanging around her wrist. After poking at it for moment she put it to her ear and waited for the man to answer.
“How much do I have to pay you to buy out your bodyguard for the night?” Talia grinned at Jon as a muffled voice laughed, then spoke briefly. Again the young woman’s eyes roamed the former soldier’s hard body and she nodded. “It’s worth it. I’ll replace him with one of mine.” The muffled voice spoke briefly again, but she was already closing the call, and starting another. “Report to Gravelines for the night.”
She didn’t even wait for a reply before shutting off the phone and pushing it back into the little golden bag, flashing him another bright smile as she said, “There. You are no longer on duty. I will not attempt to force you into my bed, nor will I beg. The invitation is open. I will say good evening. Enjoy it as you see fit.” Talia then stepped around Jon and began making her way back towards the party that she really didn’t want to be at.