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Eye of the Tiger
Giovanni had been productive. He had kept his promise to Jensen and had been looking for work. It was a strange thing for him to be doing, but a promise was a promise. Being around Jensen had other effects too. For one, Caos and Ordine were unusually quiet. Giovanni was slightly paranoid about it. He wondered what they were plotting in the recesses of his mind.

Giovanni felt like he deserved a break from the job hunt. He had used some of his money to buy more clothing. Along with nicer clothes for the job hunt, he had bough some exercise apparel. His recent exploits showed that he needed to practice more - both with and without the power. He was decent with grapples, but learning more wouldn't hurt. He also wanted to practice his swordsmanship. It had been a long time and it was time to polish those skills. Nox's fire whip had caught his eye and he thought with some tweaking, he could make it a blade - although a blade of electricity would be more fun than fire. Those skills would be useful if he ever ran into one of those things again.

Giovanni arrived at Gracie's Gym. It came highly recommended by a lot of people, so that's where he went. He decided to only pay for a day. He needed to ration his money until he could afford a membership. He went into the locker room and changed, locking the door with a padlock that he had bought for this purpose. The former thief was worried about being stolen from.

As he entered the gym, he saw separate areas - your normal run-of-the-mill gym where people rode bikes and ran on treadmills. There was a MMA where people worked on punching bags and sparred, and there was a small area where a few people practiced some swordsmanship. Giovanni headed there and started stretching before picking up a wooden bokken. The weight felt a little awkward; it really had been a long time.

He went through some drills, trying to get used to holding the blade again. It wasn't long before someone approached. "Care to spar?"

Giovanni looked at him and then nodded. They went at a slow pace, getting used to each other first. The man nodded at him. "You've trained before, haven't you? Seem a little rusty."

"Si, signore. It's been a long time, but it's starting to come back."

"Like riding a bike,"
the man said with a grin.

They sped up a bit as Giovanni felt the familiar feelings return. He was getting used to it again. Giovanni had to admit it felt good. The past few days had given him more regular meals as well and his stamina was a lot better than before. The duo stopped almost as suddenly as they began.

"Dan - one of the trainers here."
the man offered his hand. "I think you should give bo staff a try - you might like it. If you come back that is."

Giovanni smiled and introduced himself, before bidding the man farewell and heading to the punching bags. He wanted to work on some punches as well today. He was feeling good with the work out so far though.

Edited by Giovanni Cavelli, Dec 1 2014, 04:59 PM.
The last few weeks had settled down into strained domesticity with Ayden. The Atharim were still always in the back of his mind. But nothing jumped out at him.

They both went about daily routine- now that Ayden had cut her hours and moved, their schedules coincided much better and they were able to spend the evenings and weekends together, mostly except for the occasional crap shift.

It bothered Connor, though, because she didn't seem content with that part of her life. He could understand that. Back in college he'd been a server and it sucked. He tried to think of things she could do that she might enjoy, careers to learn about, hobbies to try. She needed a life she was passionate about.

But she had to be the one to find it. He'd hoped a job associated with the military might give her a sense of purpose, but that meeting with Vellas had been a waste of time. She had real skill, what with her Ranger training and all, her knowledge of guns. She lived in a world of life and death. He'd accepted that. That little brush with the Atharim in the park made it clear that he did too. That and back at that godforsaken house, he amended. Being a waitress after that just wasn't going to cut it. Working with the military had made so much sense. Too bad. He'd have to keep thinking.

She'd made a friend the other day, Emily. Another American. Rich too, but down to earth, for all that. He was glad for her. She needed her life to be bigger than him. They were out for a girl's shopping day.

He should probably buy Emily flowers in gratitude. God, but shopping was boring. You'd be in the store and just standing there. Other husbands or boyfriends would be there too, that far off glazed look in their eyes as they waited and waited- 'Just one more thing to try on.'- always wondering why these stores only put out one chair. The guy in it now had his head back with his eyes closed. Lucky bastard, he thought laughing to himself. Only time he enjoyed it was when she took him with her when buying lingerie or something sexy. The only time. Other than that, it'd be just standing their waiting, until finally- FINALLY- you had paid and with bags in hand were on your way out to freedom, yes, sweet glorious freedom and there's the door and suddenly it's like a hook around your neck jerking you back as they see something they hadn't noticed before.

Yeah, flowers would do nice. And something for Ayden too. He loved her dearly. She had brought him to life. Had given him hope when he had none.

He'd gone back to Gracie's and Charlie was cool about how things had went down with them. He'd never gone to the fight club again, but he had enjoyed the regular sparring and so became a regular. The Atharim were around, after all. Probably a good idea to get a gun. Ayden would be willing to teach him, he was sure. More than the casual stuff he already knew anyway.

He walked into the gym and greeted a few of the trainers and regulars before going to his locker and getting changed. Charlie wasn't there yet and he wanted to warm up anyway- get the blood flowing. He worked out for about 20 minutes- legs mostly- and when he was done, he saw that Charlie had arrived and was putting on his gear. After a greeting and talking for a bit, they jumped into the ring and for the next hour, Charlie proceeded to kick his ass up one side and down the other. But he could see he was improving- that's what he told himself anyway- even getting in a few shots. He did enjoy it.

He needed a break, though. He was covered in sweat. He toweled off and sat down, drinking his water carefully. He felt good. That post-workout endorphin rush was kicking in. He was hungry too.

Idly he just sat there, letting his heart rate slow.
Giovanni worked alone. He wasn't really wanting to spar with anyone in particular. Mostly he was working out, although the spar with Dan was fun. It was fun working up a sweat and something he hadn't felt for awhile. He could feel the endorphins kicking in, but it was getting to be time for a break.

He took a drink from the water fountain and turned his eyes towards the fighting ring. Two men were duking it out, but it was the one that appeared to be losing that caught his eye. The other was clearly a trainer, but the one with Giovanni's attention was Connor. As he thought about it, the trainer looked familiar too, but Giovanni couldn't place him. He smiled and watched as Connor got his ass handed to him.

Not that Giovanni would fare any better. He was pretty sure that in hand to hand, Connor would probably give him a run for his money. Giovanni could be dangerous if he got a hold of you, but hand to hand wasn't his specialty even though he could hold his own.

Giovanni sat back and watched and soon enough the spar ended and the two fighters left the ring. Giovanni's eyes followed Connor as he sat and drank water. He looked like he was in a good mood at least. Giovanni was feeling pretty good too.

Giovanni stood and approached the other man and sat next to him. "Hello there,"
he said, a grin coming to his face. Giovanni took a sip of water and waited for the man to respond.
Emily followed Ayden to what appeared to be a gym. The sign outside read Gracie's. If Emily was going to find a guy here to help with her issues, she hoped to God he showered. She wondered about going for a run soon though. It had been awhile.

They entered and Emily looked around, seeing a sterotypical gymwith the exceptionof the MMA arena that was farther back.The gym must have attracted a lot of people who wanted to train in fighting.

Emily felt a bit nervous, but was comforted by the fact that Ayden was with her. That thought relaxed her quite a bit. Ayden would make sure no one would take advantage of her. Not to mention Emily had a gun now that gave her a further sense of security.

Emily looked around, but was really unsure of what she was looking for. She saw two men who appeared to be in conversation with each other and wondered if that would be a good place to start. At least then they wouldn't interrupt those working out or startle.those who were sparring.
Ayden took Emily to Gracie's Connor was there, they hadn't officially met yet. Breakfast had been a rush, and Connor had already gone for the morning. She didn't have a shift that day, so it was hers. To do what she wanted with. Sadly that meant little to her, there wasn't much to do, she hadn't found herself yet. She sighed in thought.

Gracie's was like any other gym, this one focused on MMA training, there were mostly men training, a few women would come in. Ayden had absolutely no interest in this type of training, running was more her style, and body weight workouts, but still she didn't use most of before, and now well she had no use for any of it. She still held a little of her military discipline, but it was just a little bit.

Connor was talking to another man when they arrived, she smiled and watched for a few moments before she noticed Emily watching them. Figures. Ayden tapped Emily on the shoulder and waved her hand to follow.

Ayden stuck an arm around Connor and kissed his cheek. "Hey babe, fancy meeting you here."
She smiled up at him. She nodded towards Emily. "This is Emily. Emily, this is Connor."
She looked over at his friend. "And who's your friend?"
A voice caused Connor to look up and he couldn't help but smile. He stood up and shook the man's hand vigorously, clapping a hand to his shoulder. "How's it going man?"
He was genuinely happy to see the guy.

He'd filled out a bit more and there was more fire in him than the last time they'd met. Then again, all of them were pretty out of it, what with the fight and all. And of course he'd had his own issues, his own internal struggles. That night had been a turning point for him. And Giovanni was part of that. Not as much as Aria, of course. Aria had actually given him answers, had seemed to care.

The memory was soured by her later appearance at the club, the way she played him, forcing him to feel pain and guilt. But over the last months his anger at her had changed. Not that he wasn't still wary and angry at her. But he he also felt a sense of loss. It was like he told Alex. Aria had lost something, had lost that sense of humanity and compassion that had saved his life that night.

In his mind, he blamed the Atharim, It was the only way to reconcile the two women that he'd met being the same person.

But he pushed all that aside. He did have some things to talk to Giovanni about. The fact that he was on an Atharim hitlist, for one. And that Giovanni was not his real name. But that would come later.

They sat down and began to talk when suddenly he felt soft cool hands go around his neck and a kiss on his cheek. He turned his head to see Ayden as she greeted him. He couldn't help but smile and put his hand on her arm. She had that effect on him. She was with a blonde woman whom he could only assume was Emily.

Before he said anything, she confirmed his guess. "Nice to meet you,"
he said standing and extending his hand. At Ayden's question he answered, "This is Giovanni Cavelli."
The man used a fake name for a reason. It wasn't his place to announce it, anymore than he'd tell everyone that Ayden was really Anne.

To Emily he said, "I've heard a lot about you. I owe you something,"
he said with a smile, putting his arm around Ayden and winking at her. "You saved me from shoe shopping."
It was a joke of course...except that he really did hate shoe shopping.

To Ayden he asked, "So you bought out the store and now you've decide to take up MMA, that it?"
He smiled at her with nothing but love in his eyes..

Edited by Connor Kent, Dec 9 2014, 01:46 PM.
Giovanni smiled and took Connor's hand. Like Jensen, Giovanni was happy to see him. "Bene. Everything is going really well. In fact..."
Giovanni was going to tell Connor of him trying to straighten his life out when two woman approached.

One with fiery red hair and eyes. Under normal circumstances, Giovanni probably would have glanced twice, but not too long ago, he had seen a man with yellow eyes. It didn't really matter. She placed an arm around Connor and kissed him on the cheek. A girlfriend perhaps...then Giovanni noticed the ring - a wife or fiance then.

The other woman was a blonde and well...gorgeous. Giovanni caught her name from Connor's red head - Emily. She was smiling and offered her hand to shake as Connor introduced him. Giovanni noticed the slight hesitation as she did, and wondered at it. He shook her hand and met her gaze, giving her a wink as he offered her a seat. She smiled and accepted, sitting down gently. Giovanni sat down next to her and was able to see all three people.

Giovanni noticed the way Connor looked at Red - he was clearly enamored by her, and it made him smile at the exchange. He didn't want a relationship per se, but seeing two people in love was always a good thing. He turned towards Emily and offered her a smile. "Buon Giorno, Signorina. How are you?"

Fine thank you. And you?"
She had smiled as she said it. Her accent was American.

"Well, grazie. What brings you to Moscow?"
Emily followed Ayden to the two men and to her surprise, one of them was her fiance, Connor. She was all smiles until Connor offered his hand and for a split second her smile faltered. She changed her thinking process. She was safe. Connor wouldn't hurt her. She was still tense as she shookhis outstretched hand. The memories flashed for a moment and then were gone.

"It's wonderful to meet you , Connor. Congratulations on your engagement."
Emily said as they released hands. Her smile was wide and genuine. She was really glad to meet him.

Connorintroduced his friend Giovanni. Giovanni stood to greet her and she hesitated before shaking his hand too.She wished the memories would just go away. Giovanni's accent matched his name, marking him as Italian. She smiled at him as he winked and offered her a seat. He was at least interested in her.

Ayden and Connor were being all lovey dovey, so Emily turned to Giovanni and smiled. "Buon Giorno, signorina. How are you?"
He asked her politely.

"Fine thank you. And you?"

"Well, grazie. What brings you to Moscow?"

Giovanni seemed really nice and despite seeming like he wasn't sure what to say, appeared willing to talk. She found his uncertainty a little adorable though, and the guy wasn't bad looking either. She was looking to meet someone who would help her get comfortable around guys and maybe Giovanni would. She would have tobe upfront that she wasn't interested in something permanent though she wasn't from Moscow.

"I'm taking a little vacation and spending time with Ayden. I needed a break for awhile."

They chatted for a bit about normal things. Giovanni was indeed Italian. They didn't talk about work, which made her happy. She liked her job, but was on vacation. She found herself liking his demeanor. He was calm and seemed kind. She wondered what Ayden was thinking about him.
Connor poked fun at her with the shoe shopping, she'd never asked him to go with her shopping. Well not more than once, he hadn't enjoyed himself and it was a major drag having him be so pouty.

"So you bought out the store and now you've decide to take up MMA, that it?"

Ayden smiled playfully at him. She whispered to him."You wouldn't like it if i bought out the entire gun store now would you."
She poked Connor in the ribs. "I only need one, if Saint Petersburg is anything to go by."
She smiled at their friends and then turned back to Connor. "This one of those friends that helped you?"
She left the question unfinished, Ayden wasn't exactly sure what Giovanni knew of his situation. Beyond the fact that he'd lost his son, if he was the same person whom had helped him.

Ayden frowned, she wasn't sure she liked the vibe he gave off, something she couldn't quite put her finger on. It was her paranoia she was sure, but she had relied on her instincts for all of her life, she wasn't going to stop now. Emily seemed to have a knack for liking the guys who were bad for her. She sighed knowing that her last true boyfriend was testament to that. First Sebastian and now the bad feeling about Giovanni, despite the help he was for Connor.
Edited by Ayden, Dec 10 2014, 10:21 AM.
Emily sat and wondered more about Giovanni. She turned towards Ayden and met her eyes, and made a quick nod towards Giovanni silently asking what she thought of the guy. Ayden shook her head slightly. Emily nodded in understanding. There was something about the guy she didn't like, and Emily was aware that her own judgement in men was lacking.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the ring of her wallet. She pulled it out and an exasperated look came over her face. It was her personal assistant Andrew. She wasn't really upset that he was calling, but she had really wanted a couple weeks without having to work. She knew it was too good to be true.

She turned towards her friends. "Excuse me. I need to take this."

She stood up and walked away, going to a quiet area of the gym. She could still see the group from where she stood and faced them as she leaned against the wall. She answered the call.

"Hello, Andrew."
She hid her frustration well.

"Ms. Shale, we just finished the board meeting and as your proxy, I thought I should call you and let you know what was discussed."

Emily sighed. This really did frustrate her. "This can't wait until I come back?"

"I know you're on vacation. If I didn't think you needed to know this before your return, I wouldn't have called."
His tone wasn't angry - merely matter-of-fact.

She sighed again, feeling bad for her reaction. "I'm sorry - you know how stressful things have been and how much I need this break."

She could almost hear his smile. "No worries - I understand.
His voice became more serious. "The board was discussing our international endeavors. We're already an international company and are thinking about branching out. International HQ - maybe a new division as well. Nothing concrete yet - except that they think Moscow is the logical choice for a location. They left out the details - it's a big decision and the board thinks that you should be a part of making that decision."

Emily blinked as the multitude of decisions she had made in the last month and the decisions she would have to make soon ran through her head. All of it was overwhelming and she could feel the tears beginning to well up from the sensation. God, she didn't want to cry.

"You're upset, I can tell. Tell me what's going through your mind."
His tone was the same that he had used when he found her crying as a little girl.

"So much...I'm just overwhelmed. So many decisions to make."

Andrew sighed. "Don't think too hard right now. We'll go through the details and everything when you get back. You're on vacation, so keep relaxing. I know this is a big deal, but I didn't want it all thrown in your lap when you get back to Chicago. I just wanted you to know. There are no decisions to make yet, and when there is, we'll be here to help you."

Emily took a few deep breaths to calm down. The tears were still falling and she wiped her eyes. She knew he was right. Things would be okay, but everything in her life had changed so fast. She missed her mom and dad so much.

"Emily, are you okay?"
Emily was glad that he could switch so quickly between her assistant and friend.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. It's just a lot to process. This...this is a big deal."
Her tone became more formal and businesslike. "Thank you for informing me. I expect a report on what we need to decide with figures when I get back."

Andrew flipped back to professional. "Of course, Miss Shale. I will begin working on it first thing in the morning."
His tone once again became lighthearted. "Have fun and be safe."

"Thanks. Goodbye, Andrew."

Emily hung up her wallet and wiped at her eyes again. Wow - this really was a big deal and she couldn't help but think about it. She went to the bathroom to wash her face before returning to where Ayden, Connor, and Giovanni sat. "I'm back. What did I miss?"
Despite the redness still in her eyes she smiled.

Edited by Emily Shale, Dec 15 2014, 11:08 AM.

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