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The devil's going to set me free



 
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Gray Taylor

This client requires something more than his usual approach, and that alone annoys Gray Taylor. The man is more than happy to sit in his office, go over contract details and sweep fine print under the rug, and get the required signatures and initials. But this woman... no. She is a tough sell, and he is nothing but stubborn. She needs to be truly sold, and he is prepared to do whatever must be done to get this done.

She's beautiful. There is no denying that. Her dark hair, sleek and straight, brushes atop the slender shoulders than frame her equally slender body. Lined almond eyes, a demure nose, and perfectly proportioned lips painted a deep shade of red greet him after a short wait outside her upscale apartment building. She gracefully slides into the posh towncar and into the seat beside the dapper young man, and he asks the million dollar question.

"Ladies choice."

He would regret this, for her choice is a the last place he wants to be.

The Monarch, also known as the beginning of the most turbulent time in recent years.

The drive is silent, his own steel eyes cast out the window as darker thoughts swarm his mind. No longer does Gray get to pick and choose his clients. Things have changed, and the man is truly a servant.

He would allow her to take his arm when they arrived, escorting her into the underclassed establishment. The two are overdressed, something he assumes she is just as used to as he is. As usual, his cagey gaze would briefly sweep the interior before taking her to a table near the fireplace so that it's warmth may remedy the winter chill that has surely reached their bones.

"Two Manhattens," he would order before the woman even has a chance to speak up. She might control the venue, and some of the terms, but she would not control his wallet. She purses her lips at his order. The tone has been set between the two, and it is clear that Gray would not relinquish his modicum of control over the situation.

This place sets him on edge, his shoulders square and tense beneath the jacket of his suit.

"I'm perfectly capable of ordering for myself," she proclaims.

"Maybe you should put that in your contract, then." He can't stop himself, nor does he want to. She is testing his patience. He pulls the file from his black, leather case, placing it upon the table and placing a pen atop it. A single push would bring it that much closer to her.

"Sign."

This is clearly not his strong suit.
February 23, 2018 11:42 am

Autumn Summers

Habits. Patterns.

Everyone has them, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. Even being unpredictable becomes expected, predictable. When one’s current way of life turns sideways, one tends to fall back on former habits. It’s familiar. It offers a piece of normal currently lacking.

For this reason, Autumn Summers is on her way to a familiar haunt, The Monarch.

The name far overreaches the grandeur of the place. It hasn’t quite reached dive status, but is well on the way. Or perhaps that is a clever illusion. The neighborhood might have been decent at one point. Unfortunately, the years or the economy, or both, weren’t kind. Through the trials and tribulations, however, The Monarch still stands.

Despite the outwardly downtrodden appearance, the upper middle class and above aren’t unheard of here. It is a good place for clandestine meetings and less than scrupulous business in general. Those who run it mind their own business and keep their mouths shut.

But that’s another story entirely.

Autumn goes because she knows the people, and knows she will be left alone, which is exactly what she wants.

Dressed against the cold, Autumn is just another female patron in search of warmth and a drink. Some folks stumble upon the place, some are regulars. She is the latter. Fine or upscale clothing isn’t too unusual in this almost-dive, given several of its clientele. But the hair? That flaming red hair draws attention, and is a dead giveaway of her identity.

She gives a cursory glance around the area when she walks in and, if not for her superior vision, she wouldn’t have recognized the man sitting with a woman at a table near the fireplace.

Gray. F*cking. Taylor.

Hard to mistake that man.

Her back goes ramrod straight. Why, of all the hundreds of establishments to choose from, did he have to be here? Just her luck.

Autumn bites back and curse considers leaving, but no. Hell no. Why should she allow his presence to keep her from enjoying herself? Especially since their last encounter, during which he denied being him at all. So, if he’s “not-Gray” to begin with, there isn’t much of a problem. Not to mention, he has a woman with him. She isn’t likely to be bothered. Good.

“Haven’t seen you here in a while, Mrs. Dalca, ” Tony the Bartender says when Autumn approaches the bar.

“Miss Summers again,” she replies with a sharp smile.

Tony gives her one of those long blinks, taking in this new information, and finally nods. “I take it you’ll be wanting your usual.” A thoughtful pause. “I’ll make it a double.”

“You know me too well,” Autumn chuckles and claims a seat at the bar.

“It’s my job to know.” Tony flashes her a toothy grin, pouring the Johnnie Walker Blue into a tumbler. “First one’s on the house.”

“True,” she accepts the glass and lifts it slightly, “Thank you, kind sir.”

Tony leaves her to tend to other orders, both at the bar and other tables. He’s a good judge at when she wants to chat and when she doesn’t.

Left to her own devices, Autumn focuses on the drink in her hand, and does her best to ignore “not-Gray” at the table, conveniently visible from her peripheral vision. It’s a good thing whoever designed this place is long dead. This way she can only think about killing them instead of going out and doing it.

Damnit.
February 26, 2018 12:29 pm

Gray Taylor

"No."

There is no composing himself. Slate eyes roll as he sits back in his chair with a rough shove at the edge of the table, repelling himself away from the woman. Impossible. He is losing his patience at a first rate, and it shows.

While another woman may be aware of his unruly, oppressive presence - he is not. Back to the rest of the bar, he is blissfully ignorant of others. This is by design. Gray is a private man, excessively so, and out in the public he chooses to save face before body. It is better this way. Seeing the reactions of other patrons would only serve to annoy him further. Even when up against his self-inflicted lack of awareness, there are two names that he would never fail to miss.

Dalca, which irritates him. Summers, which grates him.

It throws off his game. It makes him harsher, and far more unfiltered.

"Miss Simmons," he is trying. Really. "If you don't sign this f-cking document, the deal is off the table."

She smiles, "You need me."

Vindictive.

There is a moment of silence as time stands still, and a terrible temper festers and simmers beneath the surface. Strong hands reach into his pocket, procuring a silver case and matching lighter. A single cigarette is thus lit, drawn to thin lips to draw in an excessively smokey breath. All the while, his gaze bores into the woman, dulled and unimpressed.

Manipulative.

There would be several long moments of silence before he finally spoke again. This time, his voice would demand his company to listen. "You are nothing. You have always been nothing. Everything you have is mine, and unless you want to return to your roach infested studio apartment... you will sign. This is your last chance."

Her jaw locks, telling of her mind.

Confident.

He exhales, blowing the smoke carelessly in her direction. "You want everything for nothing. You aspire to nothing. You desire nothing. You have no will. Go home, Miss Simmons. You'll be dead within the month."

Gray Taylor shrugs.
March 02, 2018 11:03 am

Autumn Summers

The cell phone in Autumn’s pocket chimes, demanding her attention. It doesn’t do much these days. With her family gone quiet, few friends to speak of, and Lucius no longer in the picture, the piece of technology has been nothing more than a glorified paperweight as of late, which is fine by her. She is not in the best state of mind to be social - thus drinking alone at a bar of questionable repute.

Removing the phone from her pocket, she discovers an automatic email notification. Nothing important. So the device goes back into the pocket, email unopened.

What catches Autumn’s attention next, try as she might to ignore it, is the conversation taking place between not-Gray and his client. Really, when one possesses hypersensitive hearing, eavesdropping becomes a problem, though she’s had enough practice to not actively listen.

At this moment, however, curiosity overrides manners. Why? This is different from the way Autumn knows the man to handle things, unless he’s angry. Anger presents a whole new ball game. She knows from experience. There is nothing suave or smooth here. Oh, no. Quite the opposite.

Which only serves to pique the fiery redhead’s curiosity further.

So, what does she choose to do? Needle him further, because that’s what she does. It always has been.

Taking a clean napkin and a ballpoint pen, Autumn scrawls one line in her familiar writing.

She hands the once folded napkin to Tony the Bartender and nods toward not-Gray. It’s almost like she’s in bloody high school again, passing notes. Hah.

Tony obliges and delivers the napkin-note to its recipient. When unfolded, it reads:

You’ve lost your touch.
April 03, 2018 10:56 am

Gray Taylor

The man is literally sitting, staring at the dumbstruck woman without an ounce of regret for his words. Gray Taylor may have taken a different approach, but sometimes that is just necessary. The cigarette is smoked idly, filling his relaxed lungs while it brings no aid to his tense shoulders. Always tense, always alert. This is simply his way.

He's doing just this when Tony approaches, and a pair of cold, steel eyes cut upward to the man with a dismissive glare. "We're good."

He cannot help but wonder if his words, however quiet, had carried to the bartender's ears. Would he tell Gray to leave, check on the lovely creature across from him, or is he simply checking on their situation. It turns out to be none of the above, instead a folded napkin being placed on the table before him.

Gray places it beside his glass, giving a nod before looking to his counterpart once more.

"Your choices are clear. Don't sign it, and let nature take contol. Or do, and live the rest of your undoubtedly short life as you desire."

No matter what, you're worthless, his mind cuts in. He bites back his cruelty.

It is just as he is taking the last, lazy drag from his cigarette that she picks up the pen and scribbles her name upon the contract before her. No doubt, she must think that if it is illegible, it might buy her some time. This happens from time to time, and Gray finds that those people tend to have shorter lives. The devil has a nasty sense of humor.

A twisted smirk crosses his visage as he stubs out his smoke, and he glances toward the furious woman as he pulls the contract back toward himself and proceeds to tuck it into his leather briefcase. "Have a nice night, Miss Simmons."

With a huff, she is standing up and collecting her things, proceeding to storm out of the establishment. This only further pleases him. And, free of distraction, he picks up the napkin and reads the words jotted in that neat scrawl. Gray has been fully aware of her presence there, and he cannot help but feel that pang of nostalgia as she chips at his ego.

Inwardly, he sighs.

However uncouth, he stands victorious.
And he knows it.

Without turning his head, he speaks knowing that she would hear him.

"Clearly not. Different keys, different strokes, beautiful."
April 20, 2018 09:24 am

Autumn Summers

By this point, Autumno longer tries not to listen, but doesn’t go as far as to be blatantly obvious about it.

Give her a little credit.

Visually, her attention remains on the half-full tumbler. But those keen ears are following the conversation she watches from the corner of her eye. Though she hasn’t involved herself directly, the note will tell Gray she is listening, Tony having delivered the napkin.

Really, she suspects he knew she was there before. The man doesn’t miss much. Missing and ignoring are two different things, as Autumn well knows.

The woman sitting opposite of Gray… ugh. Autumn can be prone to fits of jealousy, to be sure, but this is disgust. Plain and simple. There is something about her that makes the redhead wonder what sort of repercussions there would be if she sought the woman out later and… amused herself.

She noted the last name and filed both it and Miss Simmons’ likeness away for later.

Then that oh-so-familiar voice demands her attention. In spite of everything, the words make her lips twitch.

Slender digits wrap around the smooth glass, and there is a flash of a memory from what feels like ages ago; them sitting at the bar, talking, after one of the many times they butted heads. Autumn’s owner, her sire, walking in. Gray squaring off with him. The glass shattering in her hand.

Her eyes pinch for a moment before she shoves the memory away. It’s different now. All of it.

The few steps it takes to reach him are enough to recompose and smooth the lines of her face back out. She risks being shut down a second time, but there is nothing left to lose, so she comes around his side. The table stands in the way of facing him completely, but it’s close enough.

“I don’t mind being proven wrong occasionally.” There is no sarcasm or sass. One might call it subdued, but pleasant. It appears she might say more though decides against it.

Instead, she simply waits.
May 10, 2018 10:26 am

Gray Taylor

A far too familiar gaze sets upon her, stormy as ever. Gray Taylor merely stares, the mask that is his own face not betraying his thoughts as he sits back and takes a sip of his drink as if nothing had happened at all. No Miss Simmons, no contract, no scene. Just a businessman, and his nightcap. He mulls over her words in his mind, giving a pregant silence as he waits for her to continue.

She doesn't.

She's learning.

If he were not such a pigheaded animal, he might even crack a smirk of appreciation.

He nods slightly toward the chair that his counterpart had been seated in just moments ago, an open invitation to join him. His drink is placed upon the table's surface, and Gray puts himself to task as he begins to roll up the sleeve on his right arm to rest halfway up his forearm. It is a meticulous motion, careful of creating wrinkles or a look that is less than clean.

The same is done to the left.

Finally, after his silence and borderline dramatic preparations for what would, in his experience, be a blowout.. the man moves to sit forward, leaning into the table as his forearms press atop the surface.

"Very unlike you," he jabs.

A breath is taken, and he finally pulls his gaze from her to look upon his dwindling Manhatten. Without much thought, he lifts it and rocks the glass gently, causing ice to click against ice and glass, and the liquid to swirl within it's entrapment.

"I'm surprised dear Lucius let you out unattended."

Zero shame, Gray Taylor has his opinions. He is sticking to them.
May 15, 2018 07:32 pm

Autumn Summers

In reality, very little time has passed between the day the pair met and this day. Less than two years. A drop of water in an ocean for them and their life expectancy. But all the events which transpired made it feel like a lifetime, at least to Autumn. They are the same and yet so very different.

This is her internal musing while awaiting Gray’s eventual invitation.

Autumn’s distaste for the woman formerly occupying the seat she takes is evident in the way her nose briefly wrinkles. She has little patience or use for those sorts aside from fodder, and does not envy Gray his task which forces him to deal with her ilk.

Contrary to what he may expect, she waits patiently as he makes a show of rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. It’s done intentionally. As such, she watches the familiar movements while sipping at her drink.

His posture suggests he expects an argument. Their history considered, it isn’t an incorrect assumption.

“People change,” is her calm reply to the jab. Perhaps it won’t be her initiating this time.

The comment about Lucius is well deserved. She saw it coming. It produces what is undoubtedly the desired effect; a brief stab of pain. The corners of her eyes pinch. Her left pinky finger rubs against the ring finger, unused to the bareness where there once was a ring. A slight forward tilt of her head acknowledges the fact.

“Lucius no longer has any say where I’m concerned.” Right to the point.
July 04, 2018 08:38 pm

Gray Taylor

"That so?" It is unclear what his question is geared toward. People rarely seem to change, and Lucius never should have had a say, anyway. Gray's opinions on that union were low, and still are. There are some things the man will simply not regret.

Slate hues land on the table as he lifts his glass up to drain the contents in full, except for ice. He would then wave it once sure the bartender is looking their way, a silent order for another.

"He was a cur," he speaks, without missing a beat. "The man had no business in a relationship. His only interest, it seemed, was in controverting others, asserting dominance, feigning entitlement to everything and anything. Clearly, he received several participation trophies as a child."

Without filter, Gray simply lets it out. He'd been forced to travel their wild ride for some time, until both left Mercy, and suffered the aftermath just the same. Meeting her gaze, his next words come easily, as if he were spreading soft butter on fresh bread. "I should have killed him."

With a fresh drink sat before him, Gray merely looks up at the man to give a curt nod of appreciation before sliding it to sit directly in front of him.

"Why this bar, Autumn?"
July 31, 2018 07:29 pm

Autumn Summers

Autumn makes a non committal response to what she takes as a rhetorical question. It’s more of a challenge to dare her to say otherwise. She chooses to let it slide.

Trust Gray to speak his mind, however harsh those thoughts may be… At one time and not so very long ago, such a blunt, negative assessment of her former husband would have induced no small amount of anger on her behalf, accompanied by cursing in addition to potential threats, even escalating into a physical altercation. Now, once again, Autumn does not take the bait.

Instead she sighs, swirls the amber liquid in the glass, and drinks it down. This is unusual. The fiery redhead seldom abuses Johnnie in such a manner.

“Perhaps. I even agree with one or two of your statements. However, I’m thankful you didn’t kill him. But not for the reasons you might think.” She pauses to fish out a cigarette, light it, and stuff both the pack and lighter away. “Because some lessons must be learned the hard way, and I prefer not hating you.”

"Why this bar, Autumn?"

She directs an arched brow Look at him. Yes, look with a capital L. It’s one which says, ‘You know the answer to this, why are you asking?’

But the woman is an agreeable mood and decides to humor him. “This bar is where I normally come when I’m looking to drink enough to dull my senses. When there are things on my mind I’d rather not dwell on. It’s been a while, granted. I certainly didn’t expect to find you here…” Autumn leans back in her seat, expression distinctly unhappy, directed at herself and not Gray. “Since you are, though I doubt you give a f*ck about what I’m about to say next, I owe you an apology. For my actions and words, for Lucius and his, and allowing him to dictate in any way what I did or who I saw. I am sorry for what we... what I, put you through.” The truth of her words reflect in her green eyes as they meet his.

Autumn absolutely does not expect anything but more snide, cold or flippant remarks or to be brushed off in return and she prepares to meet whatever comes without complaint.

It doesn’t change the fact that the hot tempered, headstrong Autumn Summers admitted she was wrong. More, she apologized for it.
August 02, 2018 09:57 pm

Gray Taylor

"He deserves to die."

It is that simple to Gray. Emotions are put aside, and he looks at the grand scope of things from the outside. No one was innocent, but some were more than others. However, one thing remained true. Lucius had gotten out of control, and become an issue. So... like any flame out of control, he should have been put out.

But no. Gray had to be nice.

'...I owe you an apology.'

The look on Gray's face is utterly ridiculous. A ghost of a smirk, eyes alight with satisfaction. The high road does not apply here, and he wants her to know. Decorum may be key, but he would let up just this once. And, just to punctuate his pleasure, he taps the tip of his index finger upon the table just once.

Apologies are nice, but there is little that could undo what has already been done. They both know that. As much as he appreciates her efforts, he would not praise her for taking a step in the right direction. This sort of thing is just part of growing, as a person. "I appreciate that."

And that is precisely where he would leave it.

Tearing his slated sights from her fire framed face, Gray lifts his glass and takes a sip.

"You are too young to be numbing yourself, Autumn."
August 19, 2018 05:25 pm

Autumn Summers

“Many deserve to die. Yet they live on. Such is life. As for Lucius, if you get the chance, I won’t stand in your way,” she shrugs. Not again.

It isn’t that Autumn wants to see her former husband dead. She won’t go out of her way to arrange it, or help one who might wish to. Simply, she has made a choice. One in a long line of many, which will not be elaborated on.

Once the apology is made, the moment of openness disappears and Autumn is guarded once more. Her piece has been said.

Gray’s satisfaction doesn’t go unnoticed. A twitch of the corner of her lips as her fingertip traces the edge of the empty glass tells him as much. Though distant in recent memory, they know each other’s nuances well enough to correctly interpret such things.

"You are too young to be numbing yourself, Autumn."

This elicits a noise between a snort and a laugh. “I’ve been numbing myself since before the day you met me, Gray. Then I tried doing it the other way, and we both know how well that worked. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy life, but numb is preferrable.” Autumn taps the ash of her forgotten cigarette into the glass ashtray before she takes the last drag and snuffs it out, emerald gaze following her hand down.

“It hurts less.” The words are spoken quietly. More to herself than to Gray.

Her attention returns to his face. “Besides, you and I both know age is measured in more than just years.” She leans back in the chair, green eyes on grey. “Answer a question for me. You once offered me a deal for my freedom and promised you wouldn’t collect when it came time. Hypothetically, if we made a different deal now, would you collect?”
September 12, 2018 04:25 pm

Gray Taylor

Gray clears his throat, brows raising momentarily as he takes in a breath. Deals. His entire life revolves around business, and this is the last place he ever thought he'd be doing anything of the sort. In this establishment, with Autumn, over drinks and cigarettes. It is absolutely surreal.

Shaking his head gently, he makes the decision to be somewhat transparent. "I don't get the luxury of making those choices anymore, Autumn."

Say what anyone will, Gray does not harbor ill things upon the woman before him. She is capable of bringing the very worst out of him, coaxing his temper into rising steadily. She hasn't even tried, yet. Instead, she's done the one thing she knows would truly catch his attention.

Business.

Without even thinking, a hand swoops down, pulling a notepad and pen from his briefcase, setting it down upon the table and poising himself to take notes.

"Since we are speaking hypothetically, what would your hypothetical deal entail?" For the first time, Gray gives her a glimpse at a true smile, the corners of his mouth turning upward just slightly.

"What is it you would be asking of me?"
September 12, 2018 05:12 pm

Autumn Summers

The question she posed was a loaded one. Autumn expected a simple yes or no and to make mental notes based on the answer, then puzzle on ‘why.’ Their conversation thus far hasn't been particularly deep or compelling. Stiff, one might even say. So, Gray’s actual answer surprises her enough to make her brows knit together.

‘What's changed?’ It hovers on the tip of her tongue. No doubt he sees the internal debate and ultimate decision not to pursue the matter, which goes against everything he knows about her.

His next motion throws Autumn entirely off her mental stride. The pen and notepad, and almost earnest willingness to help when he could have easily not offered at all, despite the hypothetical situation. This causes her to regard Gray quietly, searching his face.

Tony the Bartender brings a fresh drink for her and removes the empty glass without being asked as Autumn considers what to say next. The pad of her thumb rubs idly against the side of her index finger. Finally, she takes a deep breath.

“Please don't take this as me trying to pry into your business, but there are additional questions before jumping into anything. If you'll humor me? I know about the obvious material things - wealth, cars, job, and so on.” Hard to forget the night he closed a contract in that luxury apartment with her in tow. “But what else? Is it only tangible things? Freeing me from Nikolaus could fall under tangible, I suppose. What about intangible? What are the limitations? Are there any? Is there anything you simply can't do?”

They all tumble out in quick succession. Autumn offers Gray a small, rueful smile. Her mouth still gets carried away from time to time.
September 12, 2018 09:54 pm

Gray Taylor

Gray can see the question in her gaze, but lets it go. It would do neither of them any good to rehash the past, and that is precisely what would happen if he were to explain his circumstance. Briefly, he wonders how much she really knows. When she does speak, it is thankfully something he is capable of answering to with great ease.

What can't he do.

Gray takes several moments, deciding how to answer the question at hand. There are a great many limitations to what he can do, but ultimately, everything is simply bargaining. Most people are stuck in that singular stage of grief all their life, finding ways to better or lengthen their time here. Though one things holds true for the man and his work as what could be equated to a reaper.

"Life."

The word leaves him easily, and he remains with pen poised and ready to take notes. But, such an answer requires something more from him, and he realizes that. So, with a sigh, he goes into greater detail.

"I cannot create life. I cannot bring people back from the dead, nor can I reverse the undead. And, as a personal rule, I will not aid anyone in the creation of new life." Clearing his throat, it is clear what he means. His own, personal self would remain out of any future generations.

His decision.

Free hand reaching for his drink, he lifts it and takes a hearty sip before sitting it down upon the table once more. So much has changed, but their communication certainly has not. The two have a certain dance they do, with forked tongues and social queues.

"Outside of that... I'm prepared to negotiate anything. What is on your mind?"
September 15, 2018 09:35 pm
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