-- -- 『Time - Afternoon - Evening』
『Location - Wolfe Estate』
『Collaboration With @Syn | Marco Ronquillo』
Out of the million scenarios and possibilities Nora had run through her mind, she had not been expecting the whirlwind that was Ezra Wolfe. The ease at which he fluttered around the room, the air of better-than-thou that oozed out of him naturally grated on Nora. He was the type of kid who had not just grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth, but a goddamn ladle shoved in, and worse yet, he knew it. It wasn’t until he introduced himself as one of the hosts did she feel her animosity shift. If this was who was blackmailing her, then this was going to be easier than she had thought. Ezra wasn’t going to be a threat, and if all the other Wolfe’s were like this, she really didn’t have anything to worry about. It wouldn’t take much to best this manufactured pompous trust fund, in fact, it might even be fun. Valentina was harder to suss out. She was more composed, aware of herself and not looking to draw every eye in the room to her. However, looking as she did, that would be a difficult undertaking. Valentina had the manicured Instagram influencer look done so flawlessly, Nora couldn’t help but find herself a tiny bit jealous. If she was going to have to look over her shoulder for anybody, it would definitely be her.
Nora sipped on her drink, watching on in interest as one of the other guests, an older latino, tried to chide their host. While completely dumb to paint a target on your back this soon, she couldn’t help but admire the tenacity. Then again, the more attention he’d draw to himself, the less that would be on her. And for once in her life, Nora was okay with the idea of less attention. That was, until she could figure out why exactly she had been brought her here. As the rest of the guests started filtering out of the room, Nora finished off her drink with a healthy swig, before exiting as well, on the hunt for her own room and some much-needed privacy to come up with a game plan.
The package sitting on her bed as she walked into the bedroom of her dreams drew all of her attention. The last time she had received a mysterious package she had found files that no one had the right of having. That was enough to get her here, so her curiosity was peaked to what other kind of surprise might be thrown at her. Her lips pursed in annoyance as she looked down at the elegant metal mask
sitting atop a pile of grey tissue paper. If the Wolfe’s thought they were being clever with the insinuation, Nora just found it a little too on the nose. At least it was a fox she’d be masquerading as, and not a full animal of prey. Still, the symbolism wasn’t lost on her. They were hunting her and they were more than happy to make a game out of it. Perhaps not, and it was just a coincidence that allowed Nora’s paranoia to run away with itself. But they had another thing coming if they thought she’d just roll over and take it.
Nora wasn’t sure why they were throwing a masquerade party. It seemed silly since all of the guests had already met each other. It wouldn’t be difficult to figure out who was under each disguise. She could hear as the party was being set up though, and realized they might not be the only ones invited to this thing. That meant the possibility of others being in on whatever the Wolfe’s had planned. She might not be able to get anything from the two brats that had already introduced themselves, but party goers, especially drunk party goers would be easier to pry information from.
Knowing that she was going to be doing her best to chat up whoever might fall for her wicked smile or long tanned legs, Nora decided on the shorter of her semi-formal dresses
, paid for by the Wolfes. The long lace sleeves gave a modicum of decency, but the deep sweetheart neckline, tight bodycon material, and short hemline didn’t leave much to the imagination. She put her hair in soft curls but opted for a more daring bold red lip and dark winged liner. Donning her favorite black heels, Nora she looked stunning, but she felt dangerous and powerful. All of which she would need if she was going to get any of the Wolfe’s other guests to talk to her.
She slipped on her mask, elegantly pulling tendrils of her hair to frame her face before heading for the elevator. Nora wasn’t sure if she was early or late, but none of the other guests seemed to be milling around the hallways. Not wanting to risk the stairs in her heels, she clicked the button as she steeled herself for whatever hell might come next. The day had barely started, and it had already been so eventful, whether that was good or bad for Marco was yet to be seen. Although, Marco didn’t mind being watched even if it wasn’t the hill he should die on so quickly into the game. Of course, that’s what it was to Marco, had it not been a game there would have been some clarity by now. Regardless of what transpired, Marco felt compelled to bathe himself. Not just to freshen up for the party, but also to scrub away the grime he felt invaded his skin from interacting with the Wolfe’s.
Upon entering his room, the first thing he noticed was the Wolfe’s did in fact not spare any expense in emulating his actual room. There was an alcove for a personal mini bar lined with his favorite brown liquors and Mexican cerveza. A record player with a substantial collection of vinyl’s sat adjacent to his bed on the opposite wall. The only thing that did leave him puzzled, but delightfully surprised, was the black and white San Marcos blanket etched with tigers stretched across his mattress. It was a nice touch, hell maybe some white people were culturally enriched.
Walking over to the turntable, Marco dropped the needle as he began to strip off his clothes. It wasn’t until the lyrics to Stayin’ Alive started to play that he decided to turn off the cryptic omen. The ample time allotted to them prior to their evening engagement allowed Marco to soak with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other. Where would he have been had he not received that death sentence or rather briefcase and envelope? Probably the same just a lot less fancy and with no party to attend to unless you counted group therapy as a pity party.
Marco had gone three quarters a way down a bottle and half a pack deep when his pruning skin signaled it was time to get out. His eyes were fixated on the eggshell white box that housed the mask he was supposed to wear to the festivities. He wondered if it occurred to them that they were all already wearing their own masks so why have two? His fingers traced the top of the box before removing the top to reveal a Venetian Coyote mask inlaid with colors of gold and black. The patterns within the mask were just as exquisite as the color. Anyone would have been ecstatic to receive such a gift, yet Marco felt a lump in his throat as his mind raced back to the note he received at the airport. The game was very real as were the consequences of playing.
It took a minute before Marco regained his composure, never taking his eyes off the mask. He fetched his outfit from his closet which consisted of a dapper Alpaca and Mohair-blend blazer, Knitted Virgin wool polo shirt, black wool and Mohair-blend tuxedo trousers, all accompanied with brown wingtips. The last piece to the puzzle was the mask; slipping it on Marco could feel a shroud of secrecy, but also a hint of truth. He was hiding in plain sight, which only seemed to heighten the stakes for tonight. Before heading out Marco retrieved some last-minute accessories and the handkerchief Heather had left behind, Cinderella’s glass slipper.
He didn’t wait for nor did he approach any of his neighbors on his floor, instead he made his way to the elevator alone. It appeared someone else had the same idea as the elevator stopped on level two. When the doors opened, Marco perked up after seeing the ravishing femme fatale dressed in all black enter in front of him. While it might have been a trap, he couldn’t help but find himself succumbing to her intoxicating allure.
“Going down?” he asked with a slick smile and charming tone.
Nora quirked up her eyebrow at the innuendo, looking up from the nails she had been picking at before nonchalantly entering the elevator. She didn’t miss the way the man perked up when the doors had opened, she knew exactly what kind of effect she had on men. However, behind the mask she wasn’t sure she could exactly place which one of the guests it actually was. Still, if she was fishing for information, there was no reason she couldn't start now. She offered the man a smirk, not bothering to hit the close elevator button. “If I’m going down, then I’m taking you with me.”
With a playful wink, she turned her gaze back towards the front of the elevator. Nora stood close to the man, their arms just a hair’s breadth away from touching. “So I see the Wolfe’s have an affinity for animals. I wonder, why exactly a coyote? You’re not a close relative of our generous hosts now are you?” Marco wasn’t one who let opportunities like this slip through his fingers often. Men were dogs yes, but all dogs go to heaven. Taking note of all her seductive features, Marco couldn’t help but struggle to take everything in at once. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep” parrying her daring opener. If looks could kill he definitely would have been dead by now, the wink was just the final nail in the coffin. This woman was quite a ways off from the tall asian he was speaking to just before, something a little more his speed. Their masks were reminiscent of cats and dogs, so there was natural tension forming. She didn’t back down, only playing closer to the fire as she took her position dangerously close to Marco. “I’m afraid not my dear, coyotes tend to hunt alone while wolves are pack animals. What’s a sly fox like you doing here anyways? I’m sure we can spend our time better elsewhere than whatever this party they have planned” Marco said as his hand bumped into hers.
Under different circumstances Nora might have found the man’s quick wit charming. She always enjoyed someone with a silver tongue, someone who didn’t melt under her spell immediately. The chase was half the fun, and with this man, she wasn’t sure who was chasing who. But she was focused on one thing, and one thing only. Until she knew what kind of debauchery the Wolfes had in store for her, she’d have to stay on track. It wasn’t until he spoke did she pick up on the underlying accent, recognizing it immediately as the guest who had flirted shamelessly with Heather during their little meet and greet. Luckily the doors of the elevator opened with a small ding. Boldly, she leaned over to whisper into his ear, her breath tickling the skin on his neck. “Don’t be in such a rush.Waiting is half the fun...”
with that she took the man’s hand, leading the pair outside of the elevator and into the hall of mirrors. The reflection off of the mirrors facing each other was distracting and reminded Nora of a funhouse, especially with the dim lights only illuminated by the candlelight. Despite herself, and the situation she found herself in, Nora couldn’t help but feel her excitement rise. If nothing else, the Wolfes knew how to throw one hell of a party. “Well then, care to join me for a drink?”
she asked over her shoulder at the man she was leading along. The chime of the elevator broke the silence, how could he forget? All he had to do was press the emergency button and the elevator would have stopped there. Although in an estate like this, there must have been contingencies set in place to prevent that. Marco still had no knowledge of who was under the fox mask, part of him didn’t want to know. Her breath sent shivers down his body turning his skin into goosebumps. While his tongue tried to catch up with his mind, her hand enveloped his as she tugged him out of the elevator. It seemed as though his night was just beginning, an extravagant beginning to the start of the end. With so many mirrors surrounding them, Marco couldn’t help but notice every angle and blindspot solicited by the reflections. “So is this the part where you ask me how your dress looks?” already planning his response ahead of time. “Sure, do you like your men like you like your liquor?” asking a question of his own.
Nora admired the man’s persistence. It seemed like he wasn’t willing to let go of their little game. Not one to lose, and hoping she might get him tangled up enough to spill some information, she stopped from leading him down the hallway towards the rest of the party. She turned and faced him with another smirk. “Well… I do like my liquor neat most of the time.”
she said, taking her time to slowly straighten out his collar, letting her fingers just barely graze the edge of his neck as she looked up at him from under her lashes. “However, when its good quality and I’m feeling a bit more dangerous, I do like my liquor hard.” The lights and load murmurs could be heard and seen from just out of range, they were getting close to the main floor now. The fox had other plans, not wanting the game of cat and mouse to end just yet. Again she attacked his skin, this time with the touch of her fingers on his neck. It wasn’t enough, she certainly had a knack for teasing which left him voracious for something more. “I think I have something like that back in my room, but I tend to like my drinks both shaken and stirred” he said as he took his finger and pushed a stray curl out of her face and tucked it behind her ear. “So which one of the 3 girls are you? I didn’t get your name...just half your face” he asked trying to forage for some information. “I’m disappointed in your skills of observation. Not very useful for a potential partner to deal with the Wolfes. I’m obviously not the skittish blonde...what was her name,”
Nora said, pretending to think. “Haley I think… And I never got the other little girl’s name, then again I doubt you did either. You were very busy protecting the honor of our cruise director,”
she quipped sarcastically. “I’m sure we’ll get to know each other soon enough. I’m Nora. Nora Bellwood. And you’d be?”“You wound me with your words, so quick to disarm me” Marco said “I concede though, I was distracted by that Ezra character.” The mention of heather triggered his memory from earlier and the handkerchief he had tucked within his blazer. “I don’t think there’s much honor there” Marco said testing the waters, wondering if she would pursue his bit of knowledge. “Nora, that’s a pretty name if only I could match your face with the name” he said playfully, “I’m Marco, Marco Ronquillo” laying on the accent thick when rolling his r’s.
At the mention of the flamboyant Wolfe, Nora felt herself scowling just a bit, but she was intrigued by what he had said about Heather’s apparent lack of honor. “And what makes you think Miss Vandertulip isn’t as principled as she’d have us believe?”
she asked. His name didn’t ring any bells off for Nora just as Haley’s hadn’t. It seems as if they were all really strangers after all. Marco caught her scowl no matter how small it was, “That’s a new look, it still suits you.” She did pick up on what he was putting down, “For as professional as she is I don’t think she knows how to separate work from pleasure. Guess that’s what happens when you’re too high strung in this environment” his lips were loose, only to see if he could trust this woman.
Nora was surprised at this new revelation. If he was insinuating what she thought he was insinuating then she wasn’t the only one with skeletons in her closet. Originally she had planned on prying whatever information she could out of the other guests before leaving them behind to fend for themselves. Having an ally, at least for the time being, might actually be the safer move. “Well Marco, I might have been too quick to judge you after all. With secrets like that I might have to keep you around for more than your good looks,”
she said. Nora thought about revealing what was in her clutch, but there were too many prying eyes around now. She didn’t want to know what happened to the guests who didn’t play by the rules. The next time they were alone, however, she’d let him in on it.
A waiter interrupted the two, carrying a tray of bubbly in glass flutes. “From the actual Champagne region of France,” he says from behind his mask. Nora doesn’t hesitate to take a flute, raising it up to Marco with a wink. “Too a fruitful future partnership,”
she said before downing the entire thing in one long drink. It was a party after all. She replaced the empty glass, grabbing two more with a nod towards the waiter. Handing the second glass to Marco, she’d take this next one a bit slower, something to sip on as they entered the rest of the party. It wasn’t the place or time to discuss further secrets. The closer they got to the main room the less they could speak so freely. “I have a few other tricks up my sleeve, I hope you’re not just a pretty face yourself” he said as they were the first two to make it to the party. Marco took a flute for himself and toasted her glass, he was more skeptical about the champagne that she was. While it was impressive to see a girl with such vigor for drinking, Marco couldn’t help but stop her from downing the second flute. “I think you should slow down, champagne always has a way of sneaking up on you” he said keeping his own down by his waist.