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The rooftop bar was drenched with a purple sky seasoned with dusk. Round white tables dotted the patio. Transparent sheets of plexiglass gave the illusion they were floating above the city.

Adrian was shown to the only remaining table in the place. He folded himself into one of the chairs, decorated with white leather, thinking it to be a brazen move for outdoor furniture.

He ordered a scotch and soda, but it was mostly for show, and left it untouched on the table as he scrolled work from the screens of a wallet. He wore a navy suit tonight. The crisp white shirt open at the neck and wrapped with a waist coat. There was no tie, but the sharp line of a pocket square broke across the chest. An expensive watch decorated his wrist. Hair styled neat. He fit in well.

Yasmine was yet to be seen, and as soon as the time passed that she was committed to arriving, he sent her an irritated message inquiring about her whereabouts.

When she didn’t reply right away, he grumbled to himself and finally looked around the space to see who else was there. Which was when he spied a blonde at the next table. Her hair cascaded in waves down her back, and he at first wondered if it was Natalie until he caught a glimpse of her profile.

When she caught him looking, he nodded acknowledgement. “Sorry. Thought you were someone else.”

@"Colette Moreau"
Her tour concluded, Colette was quite struck over the course of the day by everything she saw. The sights were impressive, but the most startling was her reaction to the grandeur. She expected Moscow to be equivalent to Manhattan, and the breathlessness of surprise was a constant companion all day.

The bar was on a recommendation. She was drinking a gin martini but her designs were intended on food and the view. She always enjoyed a high vista. In Manhattan, it was to imagine herself a bird soaring above the island, constantly chasing the coastal winds. Moscow was quite landlocked in contrast, excluding the winding snake that was the Moscow River slithering through the city. At sunset, the water sparkled, and she wondered about the many lives of the millions living under this purple sky.

She was unabashed in her study, and was quite lost in it until the warmth of eyes shuddered her skin. She glanced and found someone looking at her.

He was alone, and quite clearly content to be so. The observation shouldn’t have been so striking except that the rooftop bar was peopled with couples and groups socializing their evening away. Rich, clearly, Colette could tell with a glance for theirs was a shared world. The posh British accent of his dismissal exuded sophistication, but heavens he was handsome. So much so it nearly stole her breath.

“Then I am sad I am not her,” she replied. She considered flirting with him. Colette was usually the one pursued, but she enjoyed the reciprocation of warm attention. Instead, she opted for open curiosity. A tip of the head, “but it’s quite alright. Who did you take me for?”  She asked.
[Image: AK.jpg][Image: Cole_Pinkflowers.jpeg]
Adrian and 

Adrian had already returned to studying the wallet screen hovering in front of him. He was reading a contract, pausing long enough to make his amendments throughout the details. It was a lease agreement on which he’d gone back and forth for months to finalize. He looked up when the girl continued to speak.

She was clearly American. The accent gave her away more than anything else. She dripped with it.

Amused, he looked her over, respectfully, of course. She didn’t look at all like the woman in his mind, excluding perhaps the hair. He answered truthfully, “Natalie Northbrook,” he replied.


Colette was worried for a minute that he may not actually respond. He seemed wrapped up in something, and Colette knew that look. She grew up around it.

She smiled when he revealed her doppelgänger. Colette knew exactly who Natalie Northbrook was. She was one of the first people that Evelyn insisted that she meet as soon as she arrived. Second, Colette would recognize the name of a Custody Patron. It was practically the kind of question seen on a high school world government exam.

“Natalie Northbrook, you say?” She smiled coyly, still clearly sensing his distance. 
“Clearly she must be beautiful,” Colette brushed some of her hair behind one shoulder. 
“Is she a girlfriend? Hopeful girlfriend?”


She wanted to be social, then. He stifled a sigh and with a flick of the fingers, Adrian minimized the contracts. She sounded like she knew Natalie, but the granddaughter of a Patron was a famous family for those in the know.

Memory of Natalie came unbidden, then. The temptation of her offer. The heat shared on the drive back to Moscow. Her tease and promise. He'd not seen her since then but for signatures and messages crossing the Wallet like the ghost of her hand. The question made him pause, certainly. “A business associate,” he corrected.


Colette laughed. She knew that look better than anyone. She plucked the stem of the martini as she laughed, tilted the frosty glass to her lips. It was a girly move that usually gave her what she wanted, and at the moment, all she wanted was his undivided attention. Since arriving in Moscow, she hadn't had much more than polite conversation with anyone. Even the tour guide had been rather stiff. Her smile brightened the light of the dying sky and she offered a hand to shake.

“I’m Colette Moreau,” she said.


She was beguiling. The girl knew the breadth of her own power, casting out a light that against the dying sky even Adrian was tempted to watch it dance. More, everything about the girl radiated sophistication. The way she sipped the diamond liquid against the masterful tilt of her body. She knew exactly what she was doing, and the sweetness that wafted dug its claws into his skin. He had misjudged the American accent, he realized. She played in Moscow, and there were a few vixens in Manifesto he would like to see her pitted against. Just to watch her neatly snap them up. The moment she offered her name, he understood. The pieces of the puzzle slid into place.

The Moreau’s were one of the wealthiest families in the world. Given the majority of the world's money was banked within Custody borders, those outside that harbored net worth in the high billions were legends in their own. Moreau was a sort of royalty in America, or so he assumed they would be. Adrian didn’t follow the American chess board. He was doing well enough to stay on top of the pieces in Moscow, and here, where the game was played for blood, he was doing well.

He grasped her hand, “Adrian Kane,” he replied, knowing she would not recognize him in return. She must be used to it, he assumed. Fending off the drooling fans pawing at the hint of her beauty and money.

Since he was already drawn in, and since he now knew exactly who was trying to win his attention, he decided it was time to let her have it.

A server was summoned, and he orchestrated the union of their tables into one. He’d not ask Colette to move, and he was the gentleman. It meant giving up the best table, but it was a necessary sacrifice. The server moved his drink and other belongings as he joined the chair next to her.

“What brings you to Moscow?” he said, settling into the seat alongside. The server asked if they needed anything else before departing. He glanced at Colette, offering on her behalf.
And the tide turned the moment her name was revealed. 

Colette breathed victoriously when Adrian abdicated his station to join hers. That he knew her spoke to his education and awareness, but Colette did not doubt that the Moreau name carried weight on the other side of the world. If only it pulled as much with the Sphere, the council of Privileges that advised Ascendancy. She watched the commanding manner in which his belongings was moved. A cup and napkin was hardly a burden, but he let the server carry out the task. She might have found it haughty if not for the fact that Colette would have done no different had the roles been reversed. He was certainly upper class, then.

Once he was settled, Colette indicated that she had no additional requests. The server left them to talk. The sky dimmed to a deep plum by then.

She considered how openly to respond to his question. She saw no reason for secrecy, but still, this was the CCD and she was an American working with an American Congresswoman to try and exact change over here. She didn’t want to invite trouble by offending the wrong person, and she didn’t know Adrian. He may work for the government for all she could discern from a look.

So she opted to be tactful. “I’m trying to gain an audience with Privilege Sulteev,” and waited to see how he would react. Either he would find her aspiration absurd or he would think the goal impressive. “His office is very busy, as I can only imagine,” she added with a tip of the shoulder.
What Colette admitted made Adrian work to actively coach the muscles in his face. Lips pushed together. The hollow of his cheeks flenched. Jaw flexed. Head nodding. He nearly put a hand to his chin before stopping himself. But beneath the rise of brows that almost gave away the impression of absurdity, his eyes were keenly focused on her reaction. Testament to Colette, she legitimately believed in her chances for success. Such American hubris. Fly into Moscow and the next day book a personal appointment with one of the most powerful men in the world? She might as well set her sights on Ascendancy instead. He was much harder to reach, he mused, for those unable to brush the dreams of gods and men. Whatever Colette wanted with the Privilege of DI, sitting at this rooftop bar, distant views of the Kremlin walls a scant mile away, was about as close as she was apt to get to achieving it.

Adrian wasn’t going to enlighten her of these truths. She would learn them herself in time, and rather than crush her aspirations, he was more interested in her motives at all. She was clearly alone. No retinue of her acclaimed family hoisted her upon the heights she strove to seize. Why was she really in Moscow?

Following the expert schooling of his reaction, Adrian settled his thoughts with a refreshing breath. His opinion of Colette was formed solid, but what he did not yet know was how well she played the game when she knew the pieces were set against her. And he was genuinely interested now the wider picture was taking shape.

“Privilege Sulteev sits atop the Custody’s largest bank and media corporations. If the power of money and narrative at the highest level isn’t enough, it's said he is one of the Ascendancy’s oldest friends. You might as well climb the mountains and grasp the clouds. Strange place for Stella Moreau to send someone.” His tone was inquisitive. Despite silent opinions of these preposterous aspirations, he carefully leaned into that charming accent so many Americans admired and wielded that heat like pulling moths to the flame. It was a dance, and Adrian was mindful of the ears and microphones around them. Saying his name marked them both, and the Kremlin was in sight. Adrian knew how the world worked. He was careful not to criticize. Not when he knew someone was listening, maybe not even when they weren't.
Stella Moreau didn’t exactly send her, but Colette wasn’t going to correct him the assumption. She came on her own, although she couldn’t have done so without the blessing of her family. They saw as well as she did the advantage of having Congresswoman Avalon’s friendship. An empire such as Stella Moreau didn’t grow worldwide without government support, which meant they had friends deep in Washington, but Evelyn Avalon was an altogether different type of politician. She was climbing the ladder of American power quickly, and for what Colette knew, she was doing the same in the CCD. Quietly, of course.

Colette wouldn’t share any of this with a stranger. In fact, she endured his condescending statements flawlessly. She tipped a shoulder as though it wasn’t a great concern of hers, and that her fate was only a matter of time.

“And what do you do, Mister Kane?” She sipped her drink, twirling the stem between her fingers. There wasn’t an unfriendly bone in her body despite the way she was treated. She was long accustomed to men talking down to her, and it seemed Moscow was filled with no different sorts. It didn’t mean she didn’t play her own game, and she could bite her tongue as long as necessary.
She didn’t take his bait. Good for her, Adrian mused. He still hadn’t taken a drink, though he considered the indulgence. He had an early session with his trainer in the morning, and while one serving of alcohol wouldn’t undo it, he opted to save the moment for advantageous company. Colette, so far, was not it. He was placing a glass of water back on the table when his gaze swept the rooftop.

Their al fresco champagne bar was perched on the roof of the building, offering a magical 360-degree view. Of all Moscow City’s downtown vistas, theirs was not the only competition, but it was superbly styled and had a stellar reputation. Nearby, beautifully dressed men and women sipped signature champagne or belinni cocktails. Everything from spicy snacks to foie gras, oysters and was presented on beautiful dishware. The wow-feeling was meant to draw a high-class customer many of whom were patrons of the hotel, but it was also popular with the employees of the leased spaces seeking to impress clients or competitors. Their reservation list was long.

Of all the places on the terrace she found him, there was a reason Adrian had abandoned the best seat to join Colette. Her question made him smile to himself.

“I’m an entrepreneur,” he said. After a moment to study her reaction, he elaborated, knowing the answer was going to impress. “For instance, I own this building.”
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +

Colette was born into a legacy family of entrepreneurs, so she was prepared to ask more questions until he explained more. “You own the whole building?” she asked, brows high, impressed. “And that is your ‘for instance’? You must be busy. No wonder you were focused on working tonight,” she said, glancing at the wallet that was now dark on the table. She now understood the significance of how he was seated in such a prominent place, and why the seat remained open when there were people waiting. He must be more than owner of the building leasing properties to a variety of tenants. Perhaps the bar and hotel itself were in his portfolio. “I’m staying in the hotel downstairs. The decor is really beautiful. If that is your doing, I applaud your fine taste,” she said, imagining that he would appreciate the compliment.

She noticed that he wasn’t drinking as frequently as she was, but she didn’t care. They hadn’t come together. This wasn’t a date. It was a chance encounter and she had no idea of his preferences. Yet there was a drink in front of him, and when he opted to put the water down yet again, Colette fixed him with a coy look.

“Is there something wrong with it?” she asked and swiped the globe of his cup and put it to her lips. Scotch and soda made her cringe a little for the burn, but she could tell that it was a superb vintage.

“Nope, nothing wrong with it,” she said brightly and slipped it back on the table between them.
“Thank you,” he replied with an acknowledging dip of the head. While Adrian hadn’t exactly designed the space himself, it was his tastes and oversight that painted the hotel with its present style. He had a vision and it was the job of his designers to bring it to life. Elegance was important to his world. From the very way he presented himself, currently attired in a sophisticated suit, crisp pocket square cutting across chest to the neat waves of hair laying suave and styled across his brow. The bar in which they currently lounged was his imagination brought to life. He wanted smooth surfaces that glowed deep within, devouring the sunset glow and casting it back upon his patrons in flattering rays. It worked now, even on Colette, who was probably lovely without enhancement, but in the starlight was a stunning creature. In essence, she was his creation, and he proudly accepted the compliment.

Until she did something so striking, he was utterly speechless. He watched with no small measure of humor while she stole his drink, sampled and found it worthy. His brows were arched high. His lips parted, confusion stuck on the tip of his tongue.

“Did you just do that?” he asked, chuckle rolling freely. He didn’t know if her charm was from the overt Americanese or if it was simply her. Either way, he shook his head and grabbed the cup for himself immediately afterward. The ice had melted a little during his abstinence; the glass cold beneath his fingers.
“Fair enough,” he said and tipped a sample to his own lips, holding her eyes the whole time.

He likewise murmured approval, but deposited the drink back to its place without indulging further.

“I’ve an early morning appointment with my trainer, but thank you for the conversation, Miss Moreau.”

When he stood, it was to slide a swipe his card code across the digital table top. It was temporary and would dissolve in five minutes.

“In case you need anything while you’re staying here, or simply want to report delinquent drinkers wasting good liquor in my bar… my assistant can get a hold of me anytime. I’ll be sure he knows the name Colette Moreau. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting it anytime soon,” his attentions lingered a few more moments, half-smiling and half-anticipating another unexpected act.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +


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