“I love your shirt.” The cab driver says, striking up a conversation.
“Yeah, the band is awesome.”
“I got to see them live once. Best concert ever.”
“Was this the one they did in Reve?”
“Sure was. Whoever did the magic for their show was amazing.”
“It really was,” Esmeralda bonds with the driver over one of her favorite bands, Mercury and the Architects are a newer band, so not many people know about them yet, but they were already making waves. Their big break was last year when they played at the sanctuary of Reve, where the biggest events of the planet happen.
Esmeralda and the driver chat for a while, and when they finally reach the Phillips estate, the driver is quick to give Esmeralda his number. She takes it and leaves the cab. Then, pulling out her phone, she saves his number, gives him a five-star rating, and walks up to the door.
Esmeralda always felt like a commoner coming to the Phillips estate. Not many have seen success like Andre and Lisa Phillips, and their house reflects that. The house was easily sitting on half an acre in Los Mitichas’ most affluent area. This enormous colonial-style house looked like it housed a small garrison of people, and it did. The house came with a full-time staff, and here she was in her rocker shirt and jean shorts.
She lets out a long breath and presses the doorbell. Only seconds pass before a butler opens the door, greeting her with a warm smile.
“Ms. Reyes, we have been expecting you.”
“Thank you.” Esmeralda bows and the butler returns the gesture.
The butler leads her into the house and shows her to the dining area. After announcing her, Desmond and Alexa get up from the table to run to her. The seven-year-old Alexa and the five-year-old Desmond each pick a leg, yelling.
“Auntie Esmeralda,” to the best of their abilities.
“Hey, you guys!” Esmeralda squeals, picking them up and embracing their hugs.
“Alright guys, back to the table to finish your food,” Andre says, with a delightfully warm smile. Every time Esmeralda sees that smile, or just Andre in general, she can only imagine how happy Lisa is.
Tall, dark, and handsome were words that were created just to describe him. Even wearing polo and khakis, you could see the defined muscles of Andre. His trademark Drow red eyes seemed softer than most, and his short white hair was always neat and professional. Even in the heat of battle.
Lisa was nothing to frown at either. She had the life that most women can’t even dream of. Her figure still competes with models even after two children. Her naturally curly hair bounces as she moves. Her curves were something that Esmeralda was secretly jealous of, but it is hard to have a figure like hers when you are training to fight every day.
Lisa pats the seat next to her, and Esmeralda and the children find their places. A servant comes out with a tray to deliver bowls of soup for everyone. Drow clam chowder. Esmeralda licks her lips in approval of the menu so far.
Esmeralda has never seen the city in such a beautiful light before. She’s also never looked out over the city from a house balcony that was easily worth ten times what she planned to make in her lifetime. Her body is nourished, and her buzz starts. She’s sitting with Lisa going over the events at her house.
“E, he played you.”
“What!” Esmeralda sits up a little faster than her body was ready for. The lights of the city become a blur for a moment until she can re-adjust.
“You were a trophy for him. It’s a sad tale that I hear a lot nowadays. Men seeking bounty hunters as a show of their manliness.”
“That’s not … Ben’s not like that.”
“Tell me, has he met your parents? Or even asked to?”
“No, we were just having fun. But it lead to more.”
“If it lead to more, then why did he not want to meet your family? By the Queen, why didn’t he want to meet us?”
“We were trying not to complicate things.”
“You were trying not to complicate things. He was trying not to get attached.”
“He told me….”
“What? That he loved you? Was this before or after your clothes were off?” Esmeralda tries to think. And the more she ponders on it, she believes it was after sex when she first told him. “Okay, another question. How many dates did you go on before you started having sex?”
“… maybe three?” Esmeralda isn’t even sure of herself at this point.
“Were they real dates, or you guys just met up?”
“What’s the difference?” Esmeralda is feeling worse and worse as this conversation goes on.
“Were they planned events or did you just meet up and hang out for a minute?” Esmeralda’s silence answers. “E, it is a known fact that most women in the bounty hunter field are either promiscuous or insecure.” Esmeralda feels small as Lisa explains this. “For some men, it is a badge of honor to either be picked by a female bounty hunter or find one that will have sex with them. And with most men not wanting to feel fragile about their masculinity, most female bounty hunters don’t have a lot to choose from, making you easy prey.” Lisa takes another sip of wine and realizes how bad Esmeralda feels.
“So it can’t be that he just felt the strain of dating someone who is in my line of work?”
“I want to lie to you and tell you that, but I’m also your friend. He knew what he was getting into when he dated you. Unless you weren’t honest about what you did for a living?” Esmeralda shakes her head, and Lisa continues. “When I started dating Andre, he was just a trainer for the royal guard of the Queen’s elite forces. Before he proposed to me, Lord Rouse came to him and asked him to join the fight in the Orc invasion.”
“You’ve met Lord Rouse?”
“Yes, I’ll have to tell you about that man some time.” There is a sly grin on Lisa’s face.
“That Man? You talk about him as if he’s just like every other person on the planet.”
“He may as well be. Ever since Simon has become eighteen, he’s stepped out of the affairs of mortals and only runs his shop. Besides, once you get to know him, it will change how you see him and your thoughts on how the Gods really were.
“Really,” Esmeralda’s eyes are full of stars, and it feels good to talk about something other than her for a second.
“Yes, but I was going to make a point.” So much for that. “When Lord Rouse asked Andre to join the fight, I wouldn’t let Andre say no. I knew what that meant. I knew there would be a lot of nights where I wouldn’t get to see him. A lot of days of me worrying if he was okay. A lot of time for me nursing him back to health. When someone is a fighter like that, you have to have a certain mindset and if Ben knew from day one, he didn’t plan on being around long enough to care.”
“What kind of friend are you? Do you plan to make her feel better at any point tonight?” Andre says, walking out to the balcony.
“Are you listening to our conversation, Babe?”
“I’m a parent. I hear everything. The young ones are in bed, by the way,” He says to Lisa, then turns to Esmeralda, “And you have an appointment to teach Desmond the basics of Power. That was the only way to get that boy to lay down.” Andre laughs.
“Of course, Andre.”
“Babe, I’m glad you’re here.”
“Because you love me, and you missed me?”
“Nope, so you can prove my point.” She smiles then leans to give him a kiss. After their kiss, Andre starts up.
“What makes you think I want to prove your point after you say something like that?”
“Because you still have to sleep next to me.” She says with a devilish grin.
“I have a bed in my man cave,” his tone says that he was accepting her challenge.
“You think you can go a night without sleeping next to me?”
“Need I remind you who was the last person to go on strike…”
“Okay, never mind. Please help me prove my point.” Lisa says, putting her hand to his mouth. He removes her hand and kisses her again. He then turns to Esmeralda.
“Yes, it sounds like you were a notch in Ben’s belt. Would you like me to teach him a lesson?”
“No!” Esmeralda and Lisa yell at the same time. A proud smile slides across his face.
“Why did you both yell like that?”
“Andre, dear, you’re terrifying. Unless someone has to die, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” Lisa says, holding his hand. Esmeralda has flashbacks of seeing him work during the invasion. She didn’t know anyone could make death look like someone composing a song. How fluid his movements were, how effortlessly he danced around the battlefield. Some of his kills happened so fast, she didn’t even see him move. Just bodies drop around him.
“I’m not that bad. Right?” No one answers. They just pour more wine and look out at the night sky. “Lisa?”
“You’re not afraid of me, are you?”
“I’m afraid of what you can do. The first time you came to my rescue in that basement. I nearly died from just fear alone.”
“Well, this is all good feedback. Most people around don’t have a chance to tell me. Well, in any case. My services are yours if you need them, Esmeralda.”
Esmeralda just nods and sips her wine, thinking about everything that’s been said tonight.