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With the full force of the Guilds at her back, Rilandra Vlas seized the Territory Throne of Dena Nehele. The common born Province Queen now owes allegiance to the Master of the Guilds for his assistance in both securing the throne and securing Darcia Glassade's continual safety. Trapped between the demands of the Guilds and the demands of the Aristos, Riley is struggling to rule, finding the palace more of a cage than she could have dreamed possible.
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Author Topic: Let's take off our masks  (Read 230 times)

Description: Attn: Irina

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Let's take off our masks
« on: Jun 19, 19, 11:27:05 AM »
179 AP - An estate in Tulzbruja


Zamfir Groza had a bad feeling about this party.

The week had been productive and difficult so Zamir wasn’t optimistic. He’d secured an alliance with another family that he'd pursued for months, but not without a little bit of ego-stroking on his side. Groza Solutions was still getting finding its footing as an accounting company, but Zamfir enjoyed math and wanted to make money putting it to use. The Ciprenu family was his first major client and he’d just helped them reduce their expenses by five percent, so the patriarch, Rica Ciprenu, invited him to a masquerade ball with the express purpose of networking and making stronger connections among the other aristo families.

Zamfir wasn’t usually one for parties, but he tried not refuse his clients.

The Ciprenu manor was located in the south of Caecian District, just outside the village of Huneadora. The Ciprenus built travel coaches and carriages and sold them across the Territory, so they had plenty in service for the guests seeking transportation at the Landing Pads. Zamfir had brought his younger brother, Teodor, to the party as the Prince was a much smoother operator when it came to dealing with people. Zamfir knew how to charm people, but Teodor always knew the right thing to say (or not say) to push a deal through. Zamfir stepped out of the coach and straightened his dark gray suit, praying that no one noticed that it was a couple of seasons out of fashion. They’d fallen on hard times after their father passed away and their mother abandoned them, but Zamfir worked hard to rebuild his family’s image.

That rebuilding started tonight.

The double-doors of the estate were made of dark oak and Zamfir thought they still carried a hint of the earth in their scent as he walked through. He wore a simple domino mask, one he’d picked up in a hurry prior to leaving Odobesti. He’d forgotten to purchase a special mask for this event, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to another one of these things again after today. Teodor’s mask was much more stylish, a velvet domino mask with black feathers lining the eyes. Zamfir could practically feel his brother’s excitement as he walked quickly to keep pace with the other man. They were just a couple of years apart, but Teodor was an old soul. Parties like this made Teodor happy.

I’m going to dance, big brother. Bring in some new contracts. Have a drink. Meet someone. Enjoy yourself.” Teodor said.

Zamfir couldn't hide his grin, but he did roll his eyes. He looked around and saw a few people congregated on the upstairs landing. He headed that way.

Maybe he could find a few people engaged in awkward courtship rituals to poke fun at while he waited for this night to end.




Offline Irina Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #1 on: Jun 19, 19, 11:32:09 AM »
“Which one do you think is him?” Parisia asked, lifting the tiny wine glass to her lips, wetting them but not really taking a sip. The rose gold liquid swirled within. Irina had never been sure if Parisia took to wine, or if she was just faking it for the sake of her friend, but it seemed like such a waste of rose. She had been admiring Lord Del Taturo from afar even long after Irina’s engagement to the rich Lord was announced.

She scanned the room, her grey-green eyes piercing behind the elegant alabaster mask. The colombina mask she wore was designed specifically for the event, tiny white pearls framed the eyes, a wide perfectly white feather crept back along with her dark hair which had been braided into an intricate bun on the opposite side of her neck. The sleek white ball gown she wore fitted her perfectly, accenting every curve. A small cape swept off the shoulder to a train of white peacock feathers. A sweeping neckline exhibited a single summer sky teardrop on a delicate silver chain.  Her lips were pained a bright red and her lids shadowed in kohl. 

Parisia had selected a pale pink number with a tight golden laced bodice and a whimsical half mask.  Irina’s eyes studied the room intently but she knew she would not see the face her dear friend was so thirsty to spot. “I told you Pari, he isn't coming. Business has taken him from me again. He is either rubbing elbows with some very important men, or rubbing something else with their wives.” Parsia rolled her eyes and smirked.”He is smitten with you, and you know it.”

“Is he?” Irina smirked, shrugging her shoulder. Then why wasn't he there? Surely Mauricio had a great interest in her, a fact that overjoyed her mother and brother. Father was too busy seeing marks on the backs of his eyes. He had paid for the dress, however. “I see Lord Vicintes and his sister, that dress does not suit her, what a cow.”  Irina glanced in that direction, her mother was making her way toward the Vicintes, an affluent family. Soon enough she would be waved over and forced to make pleasantries. Lord Vicintes looked handsome in his suit and half mask, his sister wore a lovely shoulderless black number with a feathery raven’s mask. He was full figured not unattractive. She remembered when Parisia were tighter than theives. Now she hated the woman. This was last week, an eternity for social politics. 

“I'm bored. I'm going to see if I find anyone else we know. Have my mother introduce you.” she motioned, much to Parisia’s delight. Her family was coming as quickly into their wealth as they were losing it. Networking to handsome single gentlemen was her full-time job.

The Ciprenu manor was breathtaking but also old. The original foundations had been rumored to have been laid before the purge. There were countless notorious names associated with visiting the manor at its prime. Irina enjoyed the idea of its age and resilience. It withstood the test of time. The Ciprenu were responsible for rejuvenating to its proper glory, and she wanted a look around. Parisia was entertaining, but there was a simplicity to her observations that annoyed her.  She moved about, taking the grand staircase to the second floor. For a masquerade ball, there were surprisingly a lot of recognizable faces. That sort of defeated the point. 

Her fingers trailed over the banister as she entered the balcony. Couples talked quietly as they looked over the gardens. A few intensely. Men swaggered past with drinks in hand. She looked at the moon and then back toward the arched balcony door.  Behind a set of exterior curtains, she saw a man, simple, humble suit, inelegant mask. He stuck out, but it was the way he smiled into his goblet as he looked on that caught her attention. There was something nice but utterly wicked about his secretive grin. In a party filled with the rich and powerful, he was trying to keep to himself, and having a good time doing so.

A man escorted a woman toward the balcony and hooked his arm around her waist. He spoke softly, but judging by her body language it was anything but sweet words. She took a swig of her cup while he apologized, she ignored him and shifted her hip away from him.

“I don't know why you're being that way Susan, you're the third favorite of all my mistresses.” she whispered in narration in her best male voice loud enough for Zamfir to hear. Irina tucked herself opposite the folded curtain to the would-be loner.  The woman turned to the man huffed and brushed his hand off her waist dismissively before muttering something harshly that Irina could not hear. So, she made her best guess again. This time her tone rose, dainty and sweet. “Don't you treat me like some common trollop Victor, I know where the skeletons and hidden and none of those bones are in your pants!”  she whispered, taking a sip of her chardonnay.

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #2 on: Jun 19, 19, 11:38:48 AM »
People-watching was more entertaining than expected. Zamfir watched the elite of Dena Nehele mingle and try to outmaneuver each other, first from the stairs, and then from the balcony. He hadn’t yet encountered Prince Ciprenu, but it would happen. Zamfir tried not to think too much about getting introduced to someone with an eligible daughter that they were looking to pawn off on a hard-working man. Zamfir wasn’t completely against the idea of marriage, but he’d just turned twenty-four. He had at least seven more years to do what he wanted, sleep with whom he wanted, and travel the realm building his family’s fortune.

That left another ten years to find a woman who would spend his money before leaving him for another man. Or attempting to cuckold him with one of his brothers or a good friend.

He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he didn’t register the whispering as someone else’s narration, but an extension of his own fun.

He looked up to find a couple in the heat of a quiet argument and a woman wearing a feathered cape and an expensive mask. The woman’s narration (she imitated a man pretty well, he had to admit) was more amusing than whatever the actual spat was about. This was Dena Nehele; it was possible that she was narrating an actual argument between two lovers finding relief outside their marriage. His estimation of both people lowered instantly, even though he didn’t know them or the situation. Marriage was a sacred act. People who made those vows to each other and before Mother Night, then pissed them away were little better than thieves in his book.

He moved to stand beside the woman and decided, for a moment, to play her game.

That’s not what your sister said last night, Susan. That’s definitely not what Liara said last Tuesday, either. But then that’s why they’re my first and second favorite mistresses, respectively. They never get judgy or upset the way you do.” Zamfir said, taking up the part of Victor as he stood beside her. Her scent was light and lovely, and it made him want to stand closer to her despite having no idea who she was beneath the mask.

Now why don’t we skip to the party where you apologize, I forgive you, and then we find a place to make up? But it has to be quick. My wife is talking about art with someone and I need to be back before she realizes I’m gone.” he whispered, a small smile forming on his face. He hated the thought of such a conversation actually taking place but it was fun to interpret the lives of people he wasn’t going to see again.

Are you always this much fun at parties? If so, I’m going to a mixer next week and I could stand to take a new friend.” Zamfir said.




Offline Irina Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #3 on: Jun 20, 19, 12:16:21 PM »
He took the bait and whats more, played along. This earned him an enigmatic smirk that hooked at the corner of her ruby lips.  Irina studied the couple, tilting her head toward the gentleman who tested the waters at her side.  He could have walked off, could have scoffed and instantly made a pass at her, but he chose to carry on their narrated play and take on a leading role.

Susan. The woman definitely had the created brow and short, severe hairstyle of a Susan. He wore a crisp cologne, something clean and understated. She could smell his drink and the starch on his suit.

The woman’s eyes widen behind her dark mask and she turned her long neck like a scandalized snake, unsure if to strike or guffaw, whatever he was saying she clearly did not like. Her eyes rolled and she looked away as the man took a more apologetic pose and lowered his voice further so he could whisper into her shoulder. All in all, this stranger was doing an excellent job. The Lady now known as Susan took in a deep breath and chased it down by a hefty swig of straight alcohol before she turned toward him, her lips thinned into a smile that could cut glass, cheeks bunched beneath her mask of sarcasm.

“Ah yes Liara, how is that rash she passed you last week?”  The man looked about suddenly to see if anyone had heard what Susan had said in such a well timed choreography and shushed her. “Don't you shush me you son of a butcher! You know I don't like to be shushed.” The feathers of her mask wiggled as Irina turned up her chin. Clearly into this.

Her lips parted as she spared a glance toward the handsome stranger with the great smile before looking back at the couple. “Why Lord, we not even just met, isn't it a little too soon to ask me out on a date?” she paused, giving him a moment to absorb while, the couple grew silent, stung by exchange of accusations. “Also, yes, I'm always fun at parties.”  Smiling  she bit the corner of her full lip. It was much to her disappointment Susan who turned her head away in an overly dramatic fashion and stalked off after the male had the last word. Such an exit was a statement in and of itself, especially since he finished his drink and went after her.

Irina shrank into the corner as he passed, amused. “Seems like the first act is finished. What to do, what to...” A pudgy balding male in an expensive suit caught her interest. He had a considerable gut that he had been sucking in for the last few minutes and the woman speaking to him was a good foot taller and thin. Flicking her finger toward him she considered. He wore gold cufflinks, a gold bracelet, and a bright green boutonniere. “If I were to guess, that man is a banker, he has made a few bad investments and will have to pawn his jewelry later along with his prized dog Poochy in order to pay his investors if he cannot find a suitable woman with his majestic mating gut. Who else do you see?”  This had always been one of her favorite games, making ridiculous guesses on the lives of complete strangers. Everything from their professions, hobbies, devastating life situations and style choices were under grabs. It was clear she wanted to see how her friend would do,

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #4 on: Jun 20, 19, 12:29:24 PM »
Zamfir liked to people watch, but he’d never played a game like this before. It made him think and got his creative mind moving. He usually saved that for the boardroom, as most people hated talking about business when they could be talking about anything else. He looked to the woman dressed in fine fabric and peacock feathers, wondering if she was someone he’d already done business with. He would know the timbre of her voice if they’d spoken outside of this place, so that made her unfamiliar in that respect. Her body was also unfamiliar, though Zamfir was inclined to put in the work necessary to remedy that.

But when he looked into her green-grey eyes, he found himself unable to focus on much else. It was with difficulty that he tore them away to regard the couple as she made her comment. He had to stifle a laugh at her comment, but he had a comeback ready.

I suspect you’ll know soon. I was with you the day after I was with her, so...you should probably see a Healer about that. I did. Marks well spent.” Zamfir quipped. It was strange to be making light of a couple’s sexual indiscretions at a party where someone might overhear them, but Zamfir didn’t care. On a regular night, he wouldn't be here. He’d be at home working.

He was taking a sip of his drink when she asked him if it was too soon to be asking her on a date. He lowered his glass and shook his head. “Not at all. The way I see it, Lady, is that at least one other man here tonight has thought about approaching you. He saw you downstairs but couldn’t think of a way to speak to you without it being abrupt or awkward. Right now, he’s watching us and hoping we’ll be done talking soon so that he’ll get another chance to be bold and brave. Maybe he’s even asking around about you, trying to see what he can learn about ‘Lady Peacock’, so to speak.” Zamfir said, gesturing to her attire.

The longer we talk, the more he realizes that he waited too long to make his move. He’s looking around now for one of the society hags that come to these parties looking for a man. In about ten minutes, he’s going to give up and settle for one of them, marry her, and have fifteen kids he barely likes while nursing his regret that he missed his chance to say hello when you walked by.” Zamfir said, looking back to her. His smile was charming, but there was something else in that smile as well. Something sharper and a little predatory.

I almost feel bad for him. He had a fighting chance...until we met.” Zamfir said, sipping his drink.

He let that linger until she turned the conversation toward a man he recognized. Prince Miha Piruza was a corpulent man who loved food as much as he loved money. He chuckled at Irina’s description of him.

You’re the best kind of correct: technically correct. He’s a banker out of Silca, so he can pay for any lady he wants. And usually does.” Zamfir said quickly, before sipping his drink.

But if I had to choose a mate for him, it would be…” he stopped, looking over the crowd for a moment before spotting a younger woman dressed in a pale pink dress, laced with gold, wearing a half-mask and studying the people on the floor.

Her. She looks like a bastion of scintillating conversation.” he said, his tone making it evident that he didn’t believe it one bit.




Offline Irina Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #5 on: Jun 20, 19, 12:39:48 PM »
Irina nearly made an unflattering sound as the laughter tried to push from her mouth and nose all at once. Luckily she had caught it on the tips of her fingers. Turning her gaze toward him she noticed his reluctance to look away. She was curious of what features she missed behind his simple mask. It was small enough that she could make out a strong, stubbly jaw, and deep chestnut eyes. It was a handsome face, but his smile was charming and dangerous at the same time.  Irina reminded herself that this was a masquerade and there was some excitement in the mystery of it all. She might never see this man again, but she was finally enjoying the party and for the first time tonight did not regret coming.  They would have to see if that lasted. “You have a dark sense of humor.” Compliment or reproach, he would have to guess how she meant it.

It was forward of him to presume she wasn't already taken, though considering she was alone for the evening she could see why he got the impression, but to invite her to another party, even with no intent to follow through so soon into their meeting was the height of presumptuousness. He continued to clearly explain his methodology with such fanciful detail, that her eyes roamed the balcony for any pining souls glancing her way. That was how good a storyteller he was.  Her ruby lips spread into a betwixt smile. It was impressive that he carried that tale from beginning to its very conclusion. It was a tragedy after all. Irina glanced at him from the corner of her eyes, trying to get a read on the man who studied her with claim in his gaze. It wasn't lurid, but something more weighty.

This is a bold one.

With a soft chuckle, she raised her brows beneath the downy feathers of her mask. “First, Lady Peacock? That will do for the night. Secondly, that story is filled with such heartbreak. I'm also impressed that he has managed to get married and she popped out fifteen unlikable little socialites before even dessert was served. I think that is a testament to his ingenuity and her readiness.”  She knew she was taking the tale quite seriously, but she couldn't help but tease him. “I am almost tempted to seek him out if only to save him from such a depressing fate. “  she took a sip of her wine. “Almost.” But not quite enough. “If our meeting is so fated then I would be running contrary to Mother Night’s will.”

Her nose wrinkled and she elbowed him gently. “No, no, you can't tell the truth. Thats cheating at this game.” she looked toward Prince Miha. “Now I have to know, does he also have a dog named Poochy? Wait, no, don't tell me.” Turning her gaze toward the Lord’s suggestion of the banker’s mate she almost laughed. Parisia was searching the room intently, moving from face to face. Her smile would paint on one moment, her hands a flurry of lady-like finesse. She scanned the room before falling on Irina and began to make her way over. “I will have you know, that is one of my dearest friends you have just insulted.” She said, her tone hard. When he met her eyes he would find them staring back at him, the corners of her red lips curved into a frown. A second of silence stretched between them and whatever he tried to say next to smooth out the situation when, unable to restrain herself much longer, she smirked unable to keep a straight face. “You're not wrong. “ she said just as Parisia bounced over.

“I've been looking for you everywhere. Your mother is about to leave, she has another one of her headaches. She said she would send the coach back for you.” It was then that she noticed Zamfir, her pink mask inching up as she scanned him from head to toe with interest. Like a hungry shark. “And who is this handsome Lord?”  Irina was glad that Parisia had remembered the rules of the night and had not divulged anyone’s name. Including her own. She was just the sort to allow a slip of the tongue to ruin everyone’s night. “This is an old acquaintance. We are just catching up. Lord Mask, this is Lady... Petunia.”  Parisia considered then seemed to like the name. “A pleasure.” she said extending her hand to him. “Are you enjoying the party? I do so love the mystery of it all. You never know where the night will take you or who you will be accompanying” she grinned, flicking her tongue flirtatiously against the roof of her mouth.

Irina finished her drink and set it on the tray of a busser as he passed.  If she let this continue then her handsome stranger would be chased off by inane conversation. “Can you tell my mother that I will see her at home? I would like to catch up with my old friend here. “ she said resting her fingertips on his arm. Parisia eyed Irina’s hand and then nodded. “Of course.”  she said with that painted smile. “Ill be right back, wait right here.”  she said in an almost scolding manner.

Irina bowed her head. “Of course, right here.”

“I’ll return soon..” She turned with a flare of her skirts, casting a glance back at the couple before taking to the stairs. Irina leaned back as far as she could, watching Parisia disappear into the main floor. Only when the coast was clear did she look back to him. “We need to go, before she gets back.” she smiled playfully. “Come on.”

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #6 on: Jun 20, 19, 12:46:40 PM »
The world’s a dark place. I see nothing wrong with meeting it on its own terms.” Zamfir said, his tone playful. There was an undercurrent of something in his words, something that lent to the idea that he believed the very words he’d just said. He didn’t linger on it or offer any explanation, though. No sense in ruining this moment with philosophical or political talk, especially with a Priestess. Zamfir had cast out his senses and found her psychic scent with ease. His little sister, Melita, was in training with the Conclave even now. Zamfir respected the Conclave’s strength and dedication to the people of Dena Nehele.

Lady Peacock it is, then. You make a fine one.” he said. “Some people are especially fertile. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to have children, but I don’t think they’re in my future. I have a number of things I want to accomplish in life. Children require one’s loyalty and focus to become their best selves. I think a lot of people fail to realize that when they have them.

He smiled when she said that breaking up their talk to save him would be refutation of Mother Night’s will. “It would be that. We wouldn’t want to offend her with our presumption, would we?

He moved a little bit closer to her, laughing again as she talked about cheating at the game. Zamfir thought it was funny, but he understood. The laughter died down, slightly, when she indicated that he’d just insulted one of her friends. The Warlord almost started to offer a note of apology, but stopped himself with a drink. He looked to Lady Peacock, holding her gaze with his own. One of them had to bend, but it wouldn’t be him. He felt that he read people very well and something told him that he was right about the woman he’d spoken of. Maybe she was testing him and the woman wasn’t even her friend. She seemed like the kind of person to throw in a random tease just to see how someone would take it. Pretty words could cover up anything. A bad attitude was easy to spot.

In the end, Zamfir was right and wrong. Lady Peacock did know the other woman, but it sounded like she wasn’t too fond of her.

The two ladies communicated and Zamfir stayed quiet until the other woman turned her gaze on him. Yes, she was a shark, but a starving one. She was, in fact, the kind of woman that Zamfir wanted to avoid.

Good evening, Lady Petunia. You look wonderful. I’m sure you’ve heard that a thousand times tonight, but I’ll say it anyway.” Zamfir said, his smile pleasant. “It’s a good party. First one I’ve enjoyed in ages.

The way that Lady Petunia licked her lips was filled with the promise of what she could do with them once she was motivated, but all Zamfir wanted to do was hand her the remainder of his drink. The poor woman looked thirsty, and Zamfir saw no reason for her to go without when she could probably have her choice of company.

Lady Petunia turned to go and she’d barely gotten away before Zamfir laughed again.

I’ll say one thing for your friend, Lady Peacock. She has, at least, the knowledge of how to choose good company.

Lead the way.” he told her, eager to escape Lady Petunia’s return.




Offline Irina Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #7 on: Jun 22, 19, 03:30:16 PM »
She had promised Parisia that she would be able to find her exactly where she had left her. Later she would be forced to apologize for not keeping her word, but now was not that time. Irina took the stranger’s hand guiding him away from the balcony and deeper into the second floor. The estate was a maze of wooden doors leading to spacious bedrooms and lavatories. She didn't take any of them, finding it rude to abscond with someone she barely knew into such private quarters. Glancing over her shoulder at him she smiled secretively even playfully like a woman who knew she was doing something improper and having the time of her life doing so. They moved to the south side of the building where only a few guests congregated. The long delicate train of her feathery frock trailed behind her like the tail feathers of some elegant bird.

Once she noticed the coast was clear she took his arm within the tips of her fingers and let him escort her toward the balcony. The view on either side of the house was absolutely stunning. She would own a home like this one day and fill it with family. “You have a good poker face. I don't think I've seen anyone withstand Lady Petunia’s charms before. She is like a magnet, though I don't think that she and the banker will be running off together this evening.” She smiled softly at his compliment even if it was a bit self-indulgent and rested her hands on the stone banister.

“Did you know this house predates the Purge? The foundation, the walls, even the windows are all original. It's been restored of course, but where time has been cruel and knocked it down to its most basic shell, it recovered. So many notable figures are rumored to have visited and stayed within these walls. Its switched owners several times as if it can't find the right fit. It feels like this villa has its own personality don't you think?”  She asked, unsure of where the thought came to her. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that she was enjoying her night with someone open enough to share her interests.  “One day I would like to own a house like this. A place where family can congregate.” Parties were a necessary evil used by aristos to flash their wealth and power.

Irina was not embarrassed to share her thoughts, nor did she apologize and excuse them as some did. “Tell me something about yourself, not your identity, but something you enjoy, or haven't told many people.”  she looked at him, studying his features for a long moment. He had stared back at her before, taken a sip of his drink. He was unwilling to apologize even as it hung on the tip of his tongue, so that made her curious about what kind of man he was.

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #8 on: Jun 22, 19, 03:45:26 PM »
Zamfir followed Lady Peacock closely, moving his hand to the small of her back, both to keep her close and let her know that he was following. He placed his glass on the tray of a nearby servant and kept walking, eager to keep his new friend close as they walked.. He took in the layout of the estate as they walked, committing it to memory. There was nothing worse than getting lost in someone else’s house. Zamfir wanted a large house someday, a place where he could have dinner with his family and control his family’s empire. People would come to see him for favors and making alliances, and he’d have just as much power as anyone serving in the First Circle of a Court, if not as a Steward.

He escorted Lady Peacock to the balcony at her insistence and then stood beside her to look at the rest of the grounds. He stole a glance at her while she looked out over the area. Was she truly here alone? Was there a flaw in her personality that prevented her from meeting people? If there was, he hadn’t found it. Zamfir was happy to play “Lord Mask” tonight, as he was having fun with their current game.

That’s some interesting history. Do you study every old house you come to? Or do you have a special interest in this one?”  Zamfir asked. He waited for her answer before replying. “Maybe this one will find the right owner someday. These places tend to last longer than we do.

She wanted to own a house like this. Most men would drop some kind of clever line about how they’d be happy to give that to her, or give her the world. They’d say anything necessary to get her into bed. A few of them might actually give her the house so that she could do exactly what she wanted, fill it with family. The intimacy that she’d granted, sharing that desire, didn’t go unnoticed. Maybe it was easier for her to do so because she thought she wouldn’t see him again after tonight. They were both likely to go their separate ways and never encounter each other again.

Tell me something about yourself, not your identity, but something you enjoy, or haven't told many people.

He looked at her, turning to lean against the railing. She was bold to ask that of him. He considered turning her down flat. Beautiful or not, there were things he wasn’t willing to divulge to anyone. For all he knew, she was a Shaos sent here to steal his secrets so that one of his enemies could ruin him. They’d picked a wonderful package, if that was their intent. Zamfir regarded her coolly, considering if she really was too good to be true.

Now why would I do a thing like that, Lady Peacock? We just met. If I say something that you don’t like, then this conversation is over. Your friend might ‘suddenly’ catch up to us and whisk you away.” Zamfir said.

He turned to look back over the grounds again, letting her request hang in the air between them. A change of subject wouldn’t be out of line, he figured, though it might put her off as much as a bad answer would. She was a Priestess, and maybe she wouldn’t judge, but Zamfir hated the idea of being exposed to someone that he didn’t know. He hoped that Lady Petunia hadn’t run into Teodor. He didn’t want him near her anymore than he’d wanted to be near her.

Finally, Zamfir hit upon words he could part with to keep the conversation going.

I hate wine. Not dislike. I hate it. I won’t drink it. Wine killed someone that I love, so I don’t drink it. I usually don’t even spend time with people who consume it. But that would cost me half of my social circle, at minimum, so...I have to make some allowances. But I never drink wine.” he said.

You want anything more personal than that...you’ll have to give up your mask, Lady Peacock.




Offline Irina Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #9 on: Jun 22, 19, 03:53:34 PM »
His hand brushed the small of her back, fingers perched almost possessively against the thin fabric of her dress. They made their way to the balcony and she glanced about making sure that Parisia didn't just manifest from behind a curtain at random. Her friend’s potential to manifest sudden powers was never as likely as when there was a handsome man about. Though she hadn't seen his face, Irina imagined that Lord Mask fit that description.

He asked if she always studied old houses or just the ones she was going to visit and she smiled knowingly and stared out into the gardens for a moment. Some men would offer to buy such a house simply on a whim. Their pockets were so deep that they were not above enticing a mistress with a lavish gift. Others were all talk, using the lure of material possessions to reel in their prize. Irina had never been a fish and she was not looking to increase her wealth by earning it on her back. She came from a family of means and there was little that she could want in life. At least, that's what she told herself.  Lord Mask didn't try to buy her or fill her head with illusions, which impressed her. “Actually, I study history. Places like this just intrigue me, so I gather up as many bits and pieces of knowledge as I can at work or in my small library. I also have a tendency to share it unprompted. “ she nodded softly in agreement. “They do at that, but only if people remember that it's not the cost, but the experience and history of such places that adds to their real worth.”

Suspicion was a subtle cologne in his scent. Irina asked a personal question to a man she would never see again. Perhaps their family would have dealings in passing and she would recognize the deep tenor of his voice and smile if they were lucky.  She had shared something about herself without trying to and she recognized it immediately.  She did not rush him, just met his eyes for a moment and smirked. “Lord Mask, if I didn't already enjoy your company I would not need any friend to come save me from it. Try me.” she encouraged, curious at what this insulated man would come up with.

He turned to face in the same direction as she. The wind carried the scent of flowers and rain from the previous night. The evening was surprisingly clear as if it had shed all its tears and powdered its nose with stars for the masquerade.

Wine was his choice or rather his distaste for it. “I'm glad I didn't put you off then.” She glanced at him, her smokey green eyes studying his features. Hidden within that impersonal confession was a nugget of something true. She caught it right away, letting it sit between them so she could carefully consider what she was sure he hadn't meant to share. “I noticed you drank bourbon. I enjoy wine and coffee, most beverages actually. I find that people who like hard spirits rarely develop a taste for wine.”   Glancing down her lips partially obscured by the bottom edge of her mask she said. “I'm sorry for the loss you went through.”  Wine didn't kill people, but those who chose to imbibe could drown in their sorrows.

“You don't trust easily do you?” she asked curiously. Irina knew it was a great risk, she could be anyone.  Easy laughter spilled softly from her lips. “Is that what you want Lord Mask? Another for your collection?”  she tilted her head, a curl of dark hair caressed her neck. “If I give you my mask it breaks the illusion, it defeats the point of this masquerade doesn't it? Its a night where you can be anything to anyone, or no one at all. Haven't you ever wanted to be someone else?”

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #10 on: Jun 22, 19, 03:58:44 PM »
Zamfir nodded when she said she was a historian. He respected that. History was one of the few subjects in his education that held his interest for any length of time, the other being math. They paired well together, in his mind, like a good steak and a good glass of bourbon. Most people disagreed with him, but he was better than most people. He was an aristo by birth, no matter what hard times his family had fallen upon. His bloodline and pedigree mattered to him, so he took pains to avoid embarrassing his family and sullying the Groza name.

I respect that. I like history, don’t get me wrong. But I rarely find worthwhile company to discuss it with. Tonight’s been full of surprises, hasn’t it?” he asked rhetorically.

Coffee is good. I like a good cup in the morning while I plan out the day. I get up before the sun rises, so I usually have a cup or two before I get to work. I’ve heard that Shalador has great coffee plants, but I wouldn’t know. Never been to Shalador. Seems a bit on the wild side.” he said, chuckling softly.

Trust is earned, though, Lady Peacock. We live in Dena Nehele. Everyone you meet could be a member of the guilds or just looking for something to use to destroy you. Besides, anyone can tell you that they’re trustworthy. I think actions are a better indicator. Don’t you?” he asked.

He sighed, realizing how paranoid that sounded. It wasn’t like he didn’t have a good reason, but...he’d been betrayed by people that he thought should have been incapable of doing so. He kept his circle small to avoid the kind of betrayals that ruined lives. He didn’t want to become his father. He would rather die than live long enough to see it happen.

Yours would be the only one in my collection, Lady Peacock. I’d frame it and place it somewhere that I could always see it. Then you’ll know that you’re always close to me in some way.” he said, reaching out to take her hand. She could pull away or simply avoid him if she chose. If she didn’t, he’d take her hand and raise it to lips before brushing them gently against her knuckles.

I’ve never really wanted to be anyone else. No matter how bad things get, everything you go through shapes you. And if I hadn’t been where I’ve been, I wouldn’t be here right now with you.” he said.

I might be the man who didn’t have the courage to stop you and talk to you. Or I’d be serving you a drink instead of listening to you talk about the history of this house.” Zamfir said.

So, no. I like being me. What I don’t like is being interrupted.” Zamfir said, seeing movement just beyond her shoulder.

And Lady Petunia is about to interrupt us again. Unless…

He grinned.

Do you trust me?

It was a bold ask, especially after what he’d just said about trust. When she said yes, Zamfir sunk into his Rose and covered them with a sight shield.

Follow me right now.

Still holding her hand, he turned and lead her further down the hall. He opened the door of the first room he came to and pulled her inside...of a closet.

A closet full of coats.

He released the sight shield and tried to put a little space between them, but the confines of the closet combined with the sheer amount of coats inside made it difficult for the both of them to gain any space. He did laugh this time.

I’ll be honest. I saw this going differently in my mind.




Offline Irina Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #11 on: Jun 25, 19, 12:46:00 PM »
It was a night of surprises, she had to agree. Irina had all but resolved to enjoy the party for a short while, long enough not to cause embarrassment to her parents. The idea of a masquerade intrigued her, it was a chance to go incognito which was also why she had put so much effort in finding the right dress and most importantly, the perfect mask. What she had not expected was to meet anyone of any real interest, resigning herself to polite conversation and discussions of politics and the beauty of the estate in a way that wasn't too complimentary. Instead, she encountered someone of similar mind, who’s smile made her more curious than was safe to admit.

“They do have wild, undiscovered plants indeed. I managed to get my hands on a handful of beans, barely enough for one cup. They were plumper, far more rich in texture and far more robust than your local blends.” She had savored the smuggled beans for nearly a week before grinding and brewing them.

Irina realized she sounded a bit too enamored with a drink so she turned her eyes toward him as he commented on her observation. The corners of her ruby lips curled into a rapt but questioning smile. “That's the biggest risk isn't it? To trust someone you don't know for even a minute? You're right, this is Dena Nehele and its culture and politics sometimes rob us of the most basic desire to know someone, to trust blindly without fear or reservation? We are taught to hold everything to our chest, even the things that can't be used to hurt us.  Were we to have met in the street I would not be speaking to you so freely. The anonymity of a night like this helps.”  She smiled and stepped closer until she could smell the subtle cologne he wore. “Plus if I were some spy..” she whispered. “I would just need to ply the banker with some expensive drink and wait for his lips to flap in the wind.”  she looked up at him, tilting her head. “I care for nothing more than this moment.”

He took her hand and pressed a kiss to her bare knuckles. His lips were warm and soft and the sensation lasted even after he put her hand down. She arched her brow beneath her mask, listening as he spoke of the merits of being exactly who he was at this very moment and how it all led him here. It didn't dawn on her till right then that he could have been a waiter and that thought made her want to chuckle. His words sounded genuine, her lips parted to respond when a hint of annoyance laced around his words and he quickly explained the cause. Looking back over her shoulder she spotted Lady Petunia hurrying through the next room. As if she had suddenly heard her name she turned her gaze straight toward Irina, pausing long enough to gather her skirts and smiled brightly as she wove around other guests. “Oh no.”  Their night was about to end early. It felt like a heavy loss.

“Do you trust me?”

Irina looked at him, staring into his dark eyes for the longest second of her eyes. Trust him. Her instincts steered her toward taking his hand and squeezing in response.  There was something unmistakable about him. They disappeared from view, she could feel the pull of Craft wrap around them and for a split second, she spotted Parisia as she paused, looked and spun all the way around.  It felt like they were children, hiding from their parents. She laughed softly as she was half pulled into the hallway in a rush all the while avoiding people as they passed none the wiser.  He pulled the door open and pulled her into...a small closet.  Irina glanced around, jackets and coats hung on three sides in stiff wooden hangers. Its contents consisted of every single guest's coats and some to spare.

Pressing a hand over her mouth she tried to muffle her soft laughter so they would not be heard. Her dusky emerald eyes dancing with mirth at their luck. “You got us away from her at least.”  she grinned, letting her hand fall away, then inhaled, taking note of how close they stood out of sheer necessity. “Did you hope for a suite? An office?” She didn't really expect an answer. It felt warm in the closet suddenly. “See how good it feels to trust someone, for even a second?” He smelled good, and he had just saved them both from her dearest friend.  After a few silent moments, she reached up with both hands, hesitating at the very corners of his mask, giving him every opportunity to stop her. If he didn't, she would gently pull his mask off and reveal his face.

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #12 on: Jun 25, 19, 12:48:42 PM »
I was expecting...not a closet.” he said, his voice low. It would be a shame if they’d gone to all these lengths to hide from Lady Petunia, just to be caught out by the sound of their voices in a closet. Zamfir didn’t want to let go of Lady Peacock just yet. He didn’t want to surrender her back to her family and friends and relegate this evening to a a single good memory that he’d look back upon over the years when he wasn’t thrilled about everything else in his life. If he had to do that, however, he resolved that he’d wring every second out of this memory that he could take.

Her perfume was so light that he thought he imagined it, mixed in with her scent. They were standing close, too close, for him to think about anything more than those scarlet lips of hers. He liked the way she smiled. The left side of her mouth lead the way, followed by the rest to reveal perfect white teeth. Her eyes captured his attention once more. Did anyone naturally have eyes like hers? Maybe it was just an effect of the mask. This was a masquerade ball, after all, and if she had the money for it, she could easily have Craft woven into her mask to change her eye color for a night. That would make it harder for him to identify her outside this place.

It was certainly warmer in her than he expected. The coats had nothing to do with it.

I’m good at quick escapes. Maybe I’ll get to show you another one of my tricks before the night is over.” he teased.

Yeah, maybe this trust thing has some merit.” he said, his hand moving to lace fingers with her own. Her hand was soft and warm, yet he sensed that when she took hold of something, it wasn’t easy to make her let go.

Silence reigned for nearly a minute before Lady Peacock slowly reached up to take off his mask. Zamfir raised his hands to gently grasp her wrists. For a moment, he just stared into her eyes. He could have demanded that she take off her mask. He started to do just that. Or maybe he’d ask her to take off her mask immediately after, just to keep things even. He didn’t want to be made a fool or look desperate. He did, however, want to keep her close.

He lowered his hands and let her remove his mask.

Perhaps she was worth taking a chance on, too.




Offline Irina Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #13 on: Jun 25, 19, 01:14:47 PM »
She didn't know what was worse, getting to know him only for an evening, or never knowing who he was. Irina was not a woman who was easily smitten, and she couldn't say this was the case now. It was worse, she was intrigued. He spoke to her in a way that made every word sound so genuine and deliberate, so much so in fact that he didn't reveal much more than he wanted her to see.  She wasn't sure if it was the illusion of the night that added to his mystique, but she wanted to know more.

They stood together unsure of what they should be doing in the coat closet and yet neither of them had made a move to go. He could have been waiting for Parisia to lose interest and wander off, or maybe just long enough for her to leave the party entirely but Irina didn't think that was the case. He looked down at her and she could feel the fine fabric of his suit press against the soft satin of her own. It was older but not worn, even his mask was so simple. He didn't look as though he had come to this party expecting to impress anyone.

The night was filled with surprises.

“I think you should.” In no rush to leave she considered his features. She could see his strong jawline, the color of his eyes, the grizzle peppered on his cheeks. He had dark hair and ruddy brown eyes that stared at her as though she were the most interesting thing he had seen in a long time. Men didn't often look at her like that. It was more hungry, and while she was sure his gaze was able to smolder in such a manner, it had not been how he had greeted her.

She considered their conversation on trust. She had taken a leap and wound up...well in a closet. It wasn't the smoothest application but it also wasn't the worst. His hand held hers tenderly and it was as if she had just noticed that touch. He didn't want to let her go, though he had plenty of opportunity to.

That clenched her decision. If she showed her some measure of trust, she could stay. If he risked it all for just a moment.  Lord Mask took her wrists, her gaze held him softly. Trust me. Be brave. Like she had been for him. He struggled with it just as he had when she asked him to reveal something personal and did so anyway without intending to. He didn't trust, so at that moment she asked him for so little and so much at the same time.  He finally released her hands and she blinked, looking thoughtful as she pulled back the mask to reveal a very handsome face. She had known he would be, but catching even a hint of vulnerability was more attractive to her than he could possibly imagine.  She lowered the mask, running her thumb over the pliable leather and tilted her head with a gentle smile. “I'm hesitant to give it back. “ she studied his features and itched to touch his face.

Keeping the small domino mask in her hand, she reached back to give him exactly what he had been too proud to ask for before. The ribbons loosened in her hair and she carefully peeled it away from her face, letting it hover an inch in front of her features to tease him, before lowering it completely. Her nose had a delicate point and her lips were full and plump. Those almond eyes did not shift color as he had guessed but retained their vibrance. Her jaw was soft but carved. She smiled at him, her lips creasing. “Now that you've seen my face, is the mystery lost?”

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #14 on: Jun 25, 19, 01:19:34 PM »
She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

Zamfir had seen beautiful women before. He’d spent time with a couple, here and there, but none were ever so intriguing that he wanted to spend more than a couple of weeks in their company. He’d let her take his mask, trying to keep the expectation of reciprocation out of his mind. He was extending trust, not trying to negotiate a deal. He wanted her to feel safe enough to stay near him. Part that was letting her see his face. What would she think of him? He was an attractive man, but there were plenty of good-looking men out there with empty heads. He hoped that their conversation thus far had intrigued her enough to stay nearby.

He couldn’t tear his eyes away from her.

Mother Night, no. There’s so much more I need to know about you now. You’re a historian. You’re a Priestess. You’re an intelligent woman. If this wasn’t a masquerade ball, I don’t think I’d have made it within twenty feet of you, much less stolen you away to this spacious area.” he said, gesturing to the closet they now stood in. His smile made him look even younger. His hands drifted down to her hips, holding her close to him while he looked into her eyes.

It’s not the mask. Your eyes. I thought maybe it was Craft woven into the mask that made your eyes so…” he paused.

I’m glad it wasn’t. That’s what I’m trying, and failing, to say.” Zamfir said. He wished he’d shaved now. He wished that he’d spent the money to buy a better, newer suit. This was a first impression, the only one he’d get, and he’d squandered it because he didn’t care. He’d never do that again. He would put his best foot forward every time from tonight forward.

So we’ve moved past the mask portion of the night. We probably won’t see each other again after tonight, Lady Peacock. We’ll go our separate ways and just wonder what might have been…

He started laughing. That was bad, even for him.

If you like, I’ll escort you back to your friend, if you like.” he said.

Well, I will. After I do this.

Zamfir kissed her, then. Even if she slapped him for his presumption, it would be worth it just to know the feel of her lips on his.




Offline Irina Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #15 on: Jun 26, 19, 02:47:04 PM »
Taking off her mask was worth the look of utter awe in his eyes. She gave up her anonymity, as did he and she couldn't help but feel it was nearly the perfect end for such a night. He stared down intently at her and she smiled sheepishly, unsure of what to say under the warmth of his gaze. He was saying enough, and it was amusing to see such an eloquent man flustered just enough to have let his thoughts slip away.

He was so handsome.

She asked if the illusion was shattered, and in it the allure but he was quick to respond and recite what he had learned about her thus far. Irina smiled, tilting her head as she watched his lips sort through the words and when he smiled it was like watching a private sunrise in the coat room. “I like your smile, I like what it does to your face.”  Her fingertips brushed his jaw, unable to restrain the urge, her touch soft. He should spend every day smiling that way. “Don't sell yourself so short. I approached you didn't I?” She chuckled softly, glancing around their spacious suite.

His own hands slipped down to her hips and she felt the thread of a breath catch in her throat but at the same time, it only served to draw her closer. It was exactly where she wanted to be. Again, his smile captivated her. Lord Mask, stared into her eyes, transfixed and she felt the weight of his admiration bore heavily on her.  The fact that the execution of his compliment was not so perfect was even more charming. Irina’s eyes were hazy silvery green which was a point of perplexion for her father. Instead of admiring his daughter’s best traits, he used them as a tool to support his own conclusions of her mother’s fealty.  So to have this man seem so drawn to them made her feel beautiful.

She smiled and nodded softly. Tonight was a dream. She had spent so much time talking about how it was good to be someone else, but that also meant losing someone she had barely gotten to know.  Laughing with him, her smile was tender. He would escort her out of the closet and back to the friend they had gone to such great lengths to avoid. She wanted to protest, to tell him she didn't much mind the smell of a cigar in someone’s wool coat, or how this was a perfectly suitable place to have a discussion but he didn't give her the opportunity.  Warm lips met hers and she inhaled sharply. Her thoughts moving straight into tomorrow when the night was over and she would need to return to her life and her fiance. If he happened to visit her.  All of that turmoil was quick to wash away, her hand cupping his cheek, she did not slap him, but leaned into the kiss. Plump lips pressing warmly, then a bit more hungrily to his.  He felt so good against her, she couldn't shake the feeling that it felt right, as wrong as it was, he felt right.

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #16 on: Jun 26, 19, 03:06:07 PM »
Zamfir pushed her against the wall of the closet, his mouth on hers, every moment adding to his hunger. He hated wine, but he didn’t mind the taste of it on her lips. He didn’t care about the cigar scent in anyone’s coat. He didn’t care how cramped this closet was. His world consisted of her. He didn’t know her at all. He didn’t even know her name. He didn’t know what she was like outside this party. He just knew that he liked the feel of her backside in his hands. He liked the way her breath caught when he kissed her neck and throat. He liked the way her scent filled up his mind.

He wanted to see her again.

His hands roamed over her body as her hands roamed over his. Her nails dug gently in the back of his scalp, pulling him closer against her. He moaned against her skin at the feel of her hands against his muscular frame. Zamfir worked hard to stay in shape, refusing to let himself go the way his father hand. As Lady Peacock’s hands grasped at him, he was glad that he’d taken such care of himself. It was worth every moment of sweat and exhaustion to know that she appreciated his hard work.

His lips kissed the spot just behind her ear. His hands reached down and he lifted her, her back still against the wall, but now she could look directly into his eyes. He could look at her every day for the next ten years and find something new in her expression. He could listen to her talk about the best way to grow grass and tolerate the subject so long as she kept talking to him and looking at him.

His kissing grew lighter until he stopped to look at her. He was holding her up off the floor, but that wasn’t the problem. He wanted more. He wanted to take her, here and now, while they still had the mystique of the evening left to them. They could have this moment and then part ways, having obeyed their most primal urges as Blood. Zamfir’s body wanted to obey those urges and toss aside his caution for a moment of pleasure.

His mind couldn’t go there. Lady Peacock wasn’t the kind of woman that one just fucked and forgot. She didn’t feel like that kind of woman.

Moreover, he didn’t want her to know him as that kind of man. He cared what she thought of him, so he needed her to see that he was more than just the mask and some clever wordplay.

I never thought I’d say this, but...I can’t do this. Not like this.” Zamfir said. He took a deep breath. Just ask her..

This has been a good time and I don’t want it to stop. I’d like to have coffee with you. Maybe I can earn a chance to take you to dinner. But first, I’d like to know your name.” he said, lowering her back to the floor.

My name is Zamfir Groza.




Offline Irina Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #17 on: Jul 02, 19, 09:03:15 PM »
Irina had hoped she would be caught up in the mystery and magic of the masquerade.  She knew it was a fanciful notion, to be anyone else or at least allow herself to pretend long enough to convince others of that fact. It was not as if she had an uncomfortable life, there was nothing she was running from. Her family was well off, they were safe and she had a future all but carved out for her in the most elegant marble. It would be a smooth, successful transition, every detail planned, and perhaps that was exactly the problem and why she threw herself headfirst into the unknown. Darkness help her, she had been swept up in the current of the night by a single wave.

The Priestess inhaled sharply as his lips explored the smooth pane of her throat and collar. This male did not leave her with a sweet kiss to remember him by but with one the ebbed of longing. Irina considered the future again, her plans, but they slipped free of her thoughts as though greased. Her lips sought his again, even as hangers slipped and lost their grip around her, sending expensive garments crumbling to the closet floor. She smiled at the harmless destruction and rolled her shoulder towards him as their tongues explored and his hands ventured over her hips to lift her against his pelvis. The tight alabaster fabric of her dress stretched across her hips as she pulled him close.

She knew nothing about him.

No, that wasn’t true, she had known some and just enough to pique her interest. The undeniable attraction they felt for one another pulled them into each other’s gravity.  His body was clean but muscular beneath the well cared for suit, his hands burned against her skin, even through the fabric until she was certain that if he did not pull the dress off of her it would simply melt under his touch.

His face pulled back though he kept her pinned to the shadow of the closet wall. They wouldn’t be discovered here. This could be theirs for the night. Her lips sought his as he whispered and paused, curiously.  Irina considered she was being rejected, but it didn’t feel that way. Lord Mark had not set her down, his body flush with hers, hands gripping the back of her thighs with restrained need.  He inhaled and she ran her thumb under his lip as if she could ease the words that piled just behind them.

He asked her out. Irina considered if she was flattered, disappointed, elated or stunned. They all seemed to fit in the collage of her emotions at that moment. Zamfir set her down and she realized just what he was denying himself. They could have given in to their most basic urges and claimed a small victory they would remember for a long time, but he wanted to play a different game, he wanted to know her.
Zamfir Groza.

It was a good name, from a small family she knew little about.

“I could get coffee.”  She smiled at him biting the corner of her lip she considered what it would mean to reciprocate with something so little as her name.  She could not see him again because she could not trust herself when they returned to reality, but that didn’t mean she didn’t want to. “My name is Irina Dumitrescu and it is a pleasure to meet you Zamfir.”

Offline Zamfir Groza

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #18 on: Jul 02, 19, 09:24:47 PM »
Irina Dumitrescu, the pleasure’s mine.” Zamfir said.

He rolled her name across his tongue, enjoying how it flowed. He’d heard of her family and they had a good reputation among the aristo families of Tulzbruja and greater Dena Nehele. Their lumber company supplied several businesses inside and outside of the Territory. She certainly had the money to commission such an elaborate outfit for this masquerade ball. Zamfir knew now how fortunate was to have this moment with her right now, even inside a cramped closet. He imagined that her family wouldn’t take it well if they knew what she was up to right now.

Their masks had allowed him to get closer to her than he ever would have without them.

He’d thrown out the invitation to coffee as a gambit. Most men, in his position, would have pressed for the chance to fuck her and call it a night. Maybe they’d pass on the street someday in the future, share a look, and leave it at that. But Zamfir knew the moment that she kissed him that he couldn’t live with a one-and-done moment that haunted the rest of his years. All the same, he didn’t expect her to accept his invitation. Her family was respected and well-known. The gossips would see it as a family on the lower-rungs of aristo society with a tragic history trying to climb above their station.

He didn’t care. If there was any chance he could spend a little more time with her, he’d take it and let everything settle as it would.

Coffee it is, then, Irina. I hope I’m not being too forward by using your name.” Zamfir said, his hands still claiming her body possessively. He leaned in and kissed her the side of her mouth, then her jaw. Even now, the desire to vanish her dress and see what she wore beneath it tempted him so much. His body fairly tingled with the sensation of the Craft he’d need to do just that.

I know this really good place in Sevastopol. They get their beans from Shalador. If you love coffee, you’ve got to try it just once before you die. You’ll be hooked.” he said confidently. He’d been hooked the first time he tried it. He imagined walking with her, talking about history and other things as they sipped their coffee. He imagined that she could recount the history of a thousand buildings with a glance and a few minutes. Something that Zamfir would have considered dull and boring twenty minutes ago now sounded like the only thing he wanted to do.

You know, I thought that knowing your name would change something. Like it would take all of the fun out of this somehow. But it hasn’t.” he said.

When are you free to join me for coffee? I’ll make sure that my schedule is clear just so you can tell me more about the buildings that we’ll see while we’re out.” he said, mostly teasing.




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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #19 on: Jul 05, 19, 10:02:12 PM »
“I think we’ve moved past that level of formality.” Her smokey eyes lifted, glancing around them to illustrate her point. They were happily tucked away in a closet in the middle of perhaps one of the most elegant parties of the year. With so many influential people in attendance, they had managed to abscond with the only other person who could keep their attention. She liked the way he said her name and missed the sound of it.

Strong hands smoothed down the round of her hip, drawing her tightly against him. He smelled good. A soft sigh pressed from her lips as he kissed the corner of her lips and jaw, her head tilting like a cat being petted pleasantly. “That sounds wonderful,” she whispered absently, barely aware of what he was saying. Something about a coffee shop with beans from Shalador. On any other day, she would have been intrigued, but as it were Zamfir was the most interesting thing in the room. 

Then again, he was the only other living thing in the room.

Irina smiled at her silly thought and turned her gaze to him, tracing the shape of his lips and jaw with her eyes. His was a good face, handsome, rugged, even especially when not completely shaven. She smirked at herself and how comfortable she was in such an intimate moment with a virtual stranger.

“Good. I tend to think the fun is in the reveal though.” she smiled, biting the plump swell of her lip playfully as her hand smoothed over the wrinkles she had caused on his jacket.  Lifting up to her toes, she brushed his lips again, slowly, her own parted slightly but without giving him the satisfaction of the kiss itself. “If someone can keep your interest after that, then it's worth looking into.”  She was curious about him. Irina was glad that Lord Vicintes had chosen to spend his time elsewhere. It was a terrible thought, but her fiance was not there and Zamfir was. It took her a moment to realize she hadn't missed her betrothed at all.

Then again, the party would end and they would have to return to reality. She liked the thought of one where she could have coffee with the handsome Lord Groza. Irina smiled thoughtfully, considering her next words, her desire warred with a sense of propriety. There was no harm in having coffee with him, and she was not so concerned about her father’s approval were he to find out. Until the marriage was official she could do as she liked.

The person’s who opinion mattered on the subject wanted to have coffee with her.  “I am free this week. I work on the Conclave during the day, namely the district temple. We can meet there and you can show me these beans. There is something I should tell you thoug-”

“Hello?”

The door rattled soundly as a male voice attempted to open it from the hall. Irina’s almond-shaped eyes widened and she clasped a hand over her mouth with a mischievous grin. “Is someone in there? I can't get this door open.”

“Where is my coat boy?”

The pudgy banker was back, no doubt waiting for his coat so he could go home in time for ‘Poochy’s’ walk.

“I will get it Lord. One moment, I just need to get the key. “ He banged on the door before they heard his footsteps moving down the hall.

Irina looked back to Zamfir and clenched her teeth with laughter. They were discovered. “Hasty retreat?”

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #20 on: Jul 05, 19, 10:12:39 PM »
She made him laugh. She had a sharp wit and a quick tongue, two things that kept Zamfir’s attention focused on her, in addition to her eyes. He wanted to take her somewhere and listen to her speak. He didn’t care about the subject or the location, he just wanted to extend this night a little longer before reality asserted itself to bother them with trivial things. His hands held her close against him while he waited for her answer about coffee. It was a harmless, simple get-together that didn’t have to be a date if she didn’t want to call it one.

She said yes. Relief drew a broad smile to his face once more. He kissed her again, this time sinking his teeth gently into her bottom lip for a second before drawing back. He wanted to know more about her. He wanted to ask all of the silly questions that people asked each other when they first met and started learning about each other, but he had deeper and more pertinent ones as well. His sister was a Priestess and he wanted to understand what her life in the Conclave would be like as she grew older. He had other questions, about Mother Night, but he she probably heard and answered those questions a thousand times a day. He could hold off on those until they knew each other better.

Then we can plan on coffee before you start or after you’re done. I know the temple you’re referring to. I did my Birthright Ceremony there. It was nice, even back then.” he said.

She started to tell him something when the knock on the door came. Zamfir cursed under his breath.

Alas, parted too soon.” Zamfir said, smiling at her again. He raised her mask and slipped back onto her face, settling as best he could in the confines of the secret world they’d created. He wanted to open the door and tell Lord Cat Gut that his stupid coat would be there in an hour. He didn’t. Instead, he took her hand.

Trust me just one more time tonight, will you?” Zamfir asked. He knew what rumors could spread if they were seen together. Her reputation needed to remain intact, given her family. He understood the value of a reputation and, for the first time, he cared about someone else’s more than his own.

Follow me and I’ll get you back into the public eye with no one the wiser that you were gone.

If she consented, Zamfir would reach into his Rose, concentrate, and move them both through the near wall and into the next room over, an office with an immaculate, dark brown oak desk and several hunting trophies hanging upon the wall. There were chairs in front of the desk, both empty, and Zamfir let out a deep breath from the effort of concentration and using that much Craft to move two people.

Looks like we’re in the clear. Just have to wait for our banker friend to move on with his night and we can leave.” Zamfir said.




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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #21 on: Jul 11, 19, 02:59:30 PM »
The interruption was unexpected. Irina felt a small sense of relief to have been delayed in her confession. A few more minutes of being unattached in Zamfir’s eyes was worth it. However, she knew she would have to tell him before the night was over. If he still wanted to see her, she would not have rebuffed him. The warmth of his kiss lingered on her lips and she was rewarded with a charming smile for her acceptance. Irina pressed down on her toes and met his mouth with hers again, capturing his lips in a brief but deep kiss. When she pulled away she was grinning and all too pleased with herself. “Its just not your night for interruptions. We’ll have seen every closet in Cipranu Manor by the time the night is over.”

They would be found, and gossip would spread if they did not put their masks back on. Her mother would be furious and Parisia would be able to light fires with the envy in her eyes. There was so little to look forward to that she almost suggested they bar the doors.  As if reading her thoughts, he lifted her mask gently to the bridge of her nose and tied the ribbons behind her head with a tenderness that was unexpected. When he met her eyes, it was as if she was wearing nothing at all.  Irina did the same for him, rewinding their night for just a bit longer. His mask slid snuggly onto his face.  Irina looked up at him then back to the door when he asked her to trust him. The answer was simple, yes.

Taking her hand she could feel the pull of Craft and instantly recognized it for what it was. They slid between the barriers of space and reality, folding into the next room like water through stone. The office was clear, luckily and she whistled softly under her breath as she glanced around. “You couldn't have gone one door down?”  she teased. As fortune would have it he had selected the wrong door for all the right reasons.

“Why is my coat on the floor?” They could hear the muffled commotion down the hall. Irina stilled to listen, her head slightly tilted in that direction. “I don't know sir, they must have slipped free of their hangers...”  the young man bumbled just as the sound of hangers crashed together along the closet pole could be heard. “I swear if my ....its ruined. My cigar. Do you have any idea...how expensive these were....more than you make....oh fucking-night I have nothing for the executives meeting.”

“I'm so sorry sir we will happily compensate you for..”

“For what!? The loss of my livelihood?” The banker made a noise between a yowl and a frustrated groan, like an angry cat. Irina buried her face in Zamfir’s chest, her body shaking with laughter. The poor coat checker chased the old man down the hall with a volley of apologies.

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Re: Let's take off our masks
« Reply #22 on: Jul 11, 19, 03:24:23 PM »
He shook his head at her comment about interruptions. He agreed with her. “Don’t tempt me. I’d be happy to explore any closet that we can find with you.” Zamfir said. They’d been accosted or nearly caught together twice now. It was like Mother Night was testing them to see what lengths they’d go to in order to stay together for another moment. A dark thought passed through Zamfir’s mind at that, one that he would examine later when Irina wasn’t around. For now, he raised her gloved hands to his lips and kissed the knuckles of each once while he listened to the commotion in the closet.

Expensive cigars....nothing for the meeting. Zamfir smiled to himself as Irina laughed against his chest. He knew the meeting that the old man referred to. Zamfir wanted to feel bad for the coat checker and the banker, but he didn’t. If that deal went through, it would create a stranglehold on commerce in Tulzbruja, perhaps in all of Dena Nehele. He didn’t think that the cigars would tank the deal, but if the old man needed replacements in the near future and found someone who could get them…

He ran his fingers through Irina’s silky-smooth hair while he played out the angle in his mind. The voices of the coat-checker and the old man faded down the hallway. He waited for nearly a minute after they were gone before he gently true back from Irina to look her over. Her dress was still perfect and her mask straight and impeccable. She’d replaced his mask and Zamfir watched he for a long moment, wondering what she’d look like early in the morning before the day began and she had to be someone’s High Priestess or guidance counselor, or help them file their family’s paperwork. She could do anything she wanted with her life. She could be with anyone, anywhere. He felt a small swell of pride that she’d said yes to coffee.

When it seemed that the coast was clear, Zamfir let her know. “I think they’re gone. We’ll just head back out to the party, mingle, and pretend we just went out to the gardens for a bit. They’re big enough that even a Warlord Prince wouldn’t locate someone without a bit of a search.” he said.

He took her hand and led her to the door. His hand was on the knob when he heard a new set of voices in the hallway.

I thought you said you saw her around this way.” a male voice said, annoyance in his tone.

I did see her, Mauricio. One of the serving staff was trying to chat her up, I think. The nerve of some people. They find a suit a couple of years out of date, put it on, and then think it makes them one of us.” said Parisia, disgust evident in her words. The voices drew closer to the door, then paused.

I should have told her I was coming. If I’d known that the business in Moesia with the Cosoveis was going to be so open-and-shut, I wouldn’t even have let go to a party in a such...dump.” Mauricio said.

Irina would call it ‘historic’." she said. “Well, I’m glad you came, Prince. I know that Irina will be thrilled when she sees you. She was practically dejected when you said you were working. She’ll perk right up now. Prince Dragomir was thrilled to see that you made it. He likes you, you know.” Parisia said.

“‘Historic’ is just a pretty word for old.” Mauricio said, sighing in disgust. “Come on. Let’s finish searching this dump so we can get out of here. I made reservations for us at the Belfry. I want to show Irina off before we’re married.

Their footsteps moved down the hallway in the opposite direction that the banker and the coat-checker had taken.

Zamfir turned to look at her.

You’re a wanted woman tonight.” he said, his tone neutral.