Drai helped Arana out of her Camaro—he had driven—and privately thanked her obsession with standing out. The others had had to look into a better rental than the one they’d had. He smiled at her, gaze sweeping down the red silk and then meeting hers again.
The dress was dark red. It consisted of an underskirt—more of a slip, really—an over skirt, and a corset-like top. It looked wonderful on her, the soft gauzy, rosey design of the overskirt letting the slip be seen in brief flashes of black among red. The slim straps—not quite spaghetti-style, but close—were hidden from view by a translucent shawl, with long silk gloves covering her lower arms. Also red. She wore ruby studs in her ear lobes.
“Have I told you that you look beautiful?”
“Only half a dozen times,” she replied dryly, leaning on his arm. She turned to him and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Thank you for this.”
“You better have thanked the others,” he added. “They bought most of it all. Even suited me up.”
She chuckled. “That was why I took them out to breakfast this morning.” She glanced over at movement, and smiled. “Ruby! You look lovely.”
The sniper nodded demurely, red eyes startling with the shades of emerald and ebony on her lids. Black silk gloves ran up her arms to the elbow and she smoothed them down on the skirt of her outfit. The dark green strapless dress that she wore wrapped around her tiny body in clinging folds from her bust to her hips and from there cascaded down in loose waves. Her bright tattoos of clouds and sinuous dragons sprawled across her bare shoulders in full glory, broken only by a thin black chain and a single ebony pendant.
Beside her, Wolf stood proud and smug, linked arm in arm with his partner, lover, and charge. Dressed in the same charcoal suit from the Triad hit, there were barely any traces of colour, though at his throat was similar black chain.
The other men had also exited from the black limo they had rented for the night, the hired driver was already pulling away from the curb.
The group of them were rather intimidating when all dressed in high-end suits. Various shades of black and grey. Christoph was in a pale grey, almost white, and wore a striped tie in a familiar striking blue. Svorak had bypassed a tie completely, though a handkerchief in honey-brown was tucked into his front breast pocket. Medic was scowling as usual, tugging off his simple black tie and stuffing it into a pocket. He shot the one-eyed merc a scathing look and unbuttoned the first two ivory buttons of his silk shirt. Like Svorak, he was wearing a jet black suit, white shirt.
“Told you, you shouldn’t have bothered,” the smirking man told the medic.
Arana brightened and went over to first her Boys, giving them both a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then gave Medic, Wolf and finally Ruby hugs as well. “Look at us, all cleaned up,” she said, practically glowing with happiness.
Drai smirked. “I think the ladies have outdone us guys, though,” he said, glancing between their girls. “Does that count Baba?”
Arana gave him a scowl, and he held up his hands in surrender. “Just joking!”
The blond tilted his head and rubbed careful knuckles on his navy blue silk shirt, looking smug. “I’ll take that as a compliment.” Behind him his partner snorted.
Drai chuckled and bowed mockingly, just getting swat on the shoulder by his partner. “Alright, alright!” He bowed more seriously to her, a hand held out. “Kitty, do me the honor of letting me escort you into the Opera House.”
She smiled softly and took his hand, sliding her own onto the crook of his elbow as she stepped close. “Alright, let’s go in then,” she said, beaming.
“We ought to get a picture taken,” Svorak whispered into his lover’s ear. “She looks like she could light up the whole building.”
The chemist nodded, smiling as the retinue of mercenaries followed the immortal woman and her Arab lover into the opulent theatre.
“Deja vu,” Wolf murmured to himself, feeling the thick carpet under his polished shoes and seeing the same sights as two weeks ago.
Ruby heard him and nodded, though she thought the company was much improved and said so. Her partner chuckled and kissed her on the temple.
Lucy was humming softly to herself as she wandered around. She was a plain-clothes guard, whereas Maya was blatantly a bodyguard. Mostly this had been arranged so that Lucy could look cute. She liked looking cute. Cute was fun.
Heaving a sigh, she wandered further and further away from Chang and Maya on her route, gaze darting over unfamiliar faces that may or may not be potential enemies. To outsiders, she looked like a modern-dressed Miss, in a blue silk blouse and black pants, with a few pieces of jewelry scattered about.
And she was bored. She wasn’t even going to be able to see most of the show, though maybe she would be able to hear the music. Ahh, the music…
And that’s when she spied a familiar face. Two familiar faces, stepping out of the men’s bathroom as she passed along the far side of the hall. She perked and drifted over, waiting for them to spot her in the thinning crowd–and there we go. Ten feet away from the bathroom.
“Heeellloooo,” she sang softly, stopping a few yards away from them and beaming. “I remember you! From the market.”
The dark one tilted his head and nodded while the one in white nodded and spoke, “It hasn’t been long, but how have you been?”
She sighed wistfully. “Booorreeed. But mostly okay. What about you two?”
“Honestly? Pretty good,” Tiger replied. “I think my friend here is looking forward to this more than I am, but I’m willing to give the opera a try.”
Baba laughed and elbowed the other man in the side. “It’s been an interesting week and we finally got out for once.”
“En masse,” his partner added bemused.
The blonde girl perked and smiled a bit dreamily. “Ohh, you’re here with friends? Or family?” she asked curiously. “There was that other boy… Wolf, wasn’t it? Is he here too?”
Tiger looked at Baba with a grin. “If they were looking for us, they would have found us anyway. We’re not exactly subtle.”
The blond scrunched his nose, but shrugged and answered, “Wolf is here, yes. He’s with Ruby, his partner.”
She smiled. “That’s lovely. Oh… Ruby… that sounds familiar…” She hummed thoughtfully for a beat, then brightened. “Oh! She’s the one Chang fancies, isn’t she?” She smiled again.
“Yes,” Baba sighed as the other merc shook his head grinning. “She’s the one. Were you on detail with her before?”
Lucy nodded. “Yes. Actually, I think I was there when they met… My partner thinks it’s funny.” She giggled, glancing back the way she’d walked, then returned her attention to them.
Which is when the two men frowned simultaneously and the taller one brought a hand up to his ear. The merc in black shook his head, scowled, and stalked towards the main hall.
“Sorry, sweetling,” Baba muttered. “We have to attend to something.” He nodded and then left, quickly catching up to his partner.
Lucy blinked after them bemusedly. “What an odd couple,” she murmured.
Then, a crackle in her ear. “Dollie, get over here. We have… man issues. Baka neko–”
Lucy tuned out the Japanese ranting and trotted off in search of her partner and the Principal.