The Setup

Flare

Flare advertises itself as fine dining in an elegant atmosphere, and it's not false advertising. The foyer, the dining room and even the bar are done in creams and neutrals, teak woods and ash, with the occasional dark panel for contrast. Etched glass panels hang from the ceiling and disappear into the taupe carpeted floor; some separate the tables, some are merely decorative, reflecting the white recessed lights that shine through them from the ceiling. There are splashes of Egyptian blue color throughout to break up the possibility of monotony: sprinkled in the carpet, accenting the wood panels, decorating the tables as glass candle holders.

The foyer has an elaborate mosaic pattern of dark and light browns highlighted with blacks and darker blues swirled into the floor tiles. The seats are eggshell white leather. The accent wall has a vertical waterfall, the water streaming down etched panes of glass into the marble pool to be recycled and begin the cycle anew.

The bar holds the motif, but fetches in more colors to the palette. The recessed lights behind the bar are a mixture of blue and red, white and yellow. Colorful bottles line the bar shelf, and a huge mirror hangs at angle over the bar, reflecting the marbleized bar top and the bar area, depending on where one stands to look into the mirror. There is seating here too, and starters as well as drinks are provided in the bar.

The wait staff dresses formally: servers in crisp white shirts with Egyptian blue bow ties, and slacks (or skirts) to match. Flare does not require reservations, but they are suggested to avoid long wait times. However, given its location, clients without reservations are as common as though with and the staff is able to juggle both magnificently.


Characters

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Corrie Aidan

T minus one hour, and counting.

Corrie's been at the restaurant all day, setting up decorations, rearranging furniture, ensuring that her cutely printed Mardi Gras mask-shaped menus for each place setting have the correct choices of courses on them.

But now it's time for the final touches.

Sandwich boards out front to welcome guests to the book signing. Buckets filled with Mardi Gras beaded necklaces. Various hued simple carnivale masks for those who didn't bring their own. Multi-colored rental lights to shine down on the entrance.

Corrie surveys the work, and checks her watch. One hour to go, and still so much to do to transform the restaurant to New Orleans perfection. With any luck, she should have enough time to slip into Aidan's office and change out of her old denim overalls and tank top, to slip her hair out of the braided pigtails.

If not, she'll simply slip out the kitchen door and wander home.

-

Aidan had one of those rare nights where he spent the night in his private flat above Flare. It's not something of which he makes a habit, though it is more convenient during those shortened nights of summer when he needs to be at the restuarant. The flat, while comfortable, is not as spacious as his loft and Aidan is a creature of habit. There are consistincies however; Kim has been here already, left his suit for the night and the carnivale mask he will be wearing.

She also left him dinner in an elegant blue wine bottle with a matching stopper. The note propped up against the bottle in Kim's tight, precise but elegant script reads, From your personal stock and happy to do anything for you.

Aidan laughs at the note, and once again recognizes that he chose well when he chose Kim. She does take such amazingly good care of him.

Blood is always better from the source, but barring that, Aidan can settle. Pouring a glass, he smiles again: it may not be from the tap, so to speak, but it is fresh. Already showered and shaved, Aidan finishes the offering and then slips into a more casual ensemble of trainers, faded jeans and an equally faded t-shirt sporting a Celtic cross on the front. He can hear the bustle and activity going on in the restaurant below, and he's curious to see how the preparations are coming before he finishes dressing.

He slips into his empty office, the entry to the upstairs flat carefully hidden in the back of a small closet, and from there into the restaurant proper to observe the decorations and preparations.

-

With everything outside set to go, Corrie rushes back into the restaurant. She frowns a little. The tables are ready, the only thing not currently working on them is the lights that have been placed underneath to cause them to glow either purple or green. The majority of the decorations have been set out.

There is one large item that still needs work though, and noting all the pieces in the corner she exhales a sigh. "Lovely."

As her 'helpers' seem to have disappeared she stalks toward the corner and nudges at the pieces. "Okay, Kavanaugh, you can do this. It's just a matter of following the directions and setting the screens up…"

Looking a tad perplexed she stares down at the mass of faux wrought iron and shakes her head. Then she sits herself on the floor to get to work on it.

She's focused, so she's not noticed Aidan as of yet.

-

Aidan has to admit that the foyer and the dining rooms look good. The decorations and centerpieces on the tables call to a Mardi Gras feel without being too much. A few of the staffers running into the kitchen stop and give him a surprised once over - it really isn't all that often that Aidan is seen out in public in anything as casual as what he's wearing - but then head off to finish their business with nods, waves or quietly spoken words of acknowledgement.

He's prepared to duck into the kitchens to check on that end of things when he spots Corrie. Aidan blinks at her, canting his head a bit to study her.

That's a new look.

Staying where he is, hands slid into the pockets of his jeans while he rocks on his heels, Aidan says nothing. He watches and listens, catching every muttered word and exhalation. After a few minutes, Aidan gives a soft chuckle and strides forward to rescue her from the tangle of assembly. "Kavanaugh, did you need a hand?"

-

"GACK!"

A piece of the faux wrought iron goes flying upwards, and she sets her hands to her head and curls herself forward so that when it lands it doesn't fall directly atop her noggin. When it clatters to the floor at her side, she sits up and looks sheepishly at Aidan.

"Sorry, focused. The party rental people were supposed to set this up, but seem to have forgotten, and I've got an hour to get it up and the cameras in place, and still have time to change and…"

Beat.

"If you've time, if not, I've got it. It's why you hired me after all."

Corrie nips her teeth onto her lip and quietly says, "It's supposed to look like a wrought iron balcony you'd see in the French Quarter. I've got back drops to give it dimensions, and with the screen below the pictures will wind up looking as though they're actually taking part in Mardi Gras."

-

Aidan's eyes track the faux piece as it flies up, braced to intercept it if it looks as though it might land someplace other than floor. However, with its trajectory determined, the vampire remains where he is, though he does wince and hunch his shoulders as it lands. There are appearances to maintain, after all.

He hasn't really seen the witch since she marched into his office and confronted him about the bite he gave her. As stated, he's granted her space. In response, she apparently has not run for the hills and is still agreeable - the last they 'spoke' via email - to being escorted by him tonight.

Corrie's ongoing explanation is met with a bemused half-smirk, but he says nothing until she winds down. "It sounds like it will be a wonderful and perfect addition to the decorations." Beat. "I have time, and four hands will make for faster work."

-

"It sounds like a North American prom nightmare," Corrie says with a grimace. "The idea was great, I'll give myself that much credit, but if I set it up poorly…" It'll just look awful.

"Are you sure?" Picking herself up off the floor, she wipes her hands on the denim and then looks down at it. "It's honestly the last thing I've got to do." She can wing her way through the introductory speech if need be. Reaching for a piece of the faux wrought iron, she grins. "Really all I need is someone to hold things steady while I put the puzzle together, and then help carrying it to the base and locking it into position."

Glancing over at him, she finally notices what he's wearing. "You're not dressed for the evening yet."

-

"If it looks awful, we'll take it down. If no one knows it's supposed to be here, it isn't likely that they'll miss it," Aidan points out. It's not a permanent piece and certainly not worth overly stressing over. The dining room is very well decorated, and there's nothing he can complain about there.

"I offered. If I wasn't certain, I wouldn't have offered." Stepping over to the bits of faux iron, Aidan looks at them and gathers up a few of the longer pieces, clearly the supporting parts. "One of these days you're going to remember that I don't do things I don't want to do. That includes offering." He caps the last with a light smile, setting the initial rods together and holding them in place.

At her observation, Aidan pointedly rakes his eyes over her as well. "Neither are you." Beat. "I've plenty of time yet. I didn't fancy roaming about in a suit before time."

-

"I was planning on being out of here two hours ago," Corrie points out. "But the party rental people arrived late, I sent everyone else to the kitchen to prep, and I've been doing the rest on my own." Which is the norm, really. Though at most publicity events, she can slip away at the last moment, give herself fifteen minutes to prepare and show up a little bit late explaining it away as checking on something in the kitchen. She won't be able to do that tonight since she's expected to be at the head table.

"I really do appreciate the help. I know this is a tad more modern than what Celia typically writes about, but I hope it captures the general ideas that were in the book." Pushing a few of the smaller pieces together, she waits for the support rods to be in place, and then starts to build. She's silent as she works, pushing some pieces together only to pull them apart moments later when they don't look right. Fussing with them until she gets the desired look, she attaches them to the support rods as well.

-

Aidan cocks his head, both listening to her and to the kitchen, as she gives an explanation. He wasn't really asking for one, but he's amused that she's providing one. "Too many cooks," Aidan says simply as he decides the ruckus in the kitchen isn't anything that needs his intervention. He's well aware that one of his head chefs and several of the sous and line chefs are drama queens. They're good at what they do, however, and he only intervenes when Kim and Owen can't handle it.

It's brushed off with a shrug as he does the simple task of simply providing support to the structure and holding it up. "You should have brought your costume here. You could've used the office to change."

Another light shrug is given, this one accompanied by an almost boyish grin. "You're welcome and it's the least I could do. This is helping Flare as much as it is Celia. Standing around holding up fake iron posts isn't a problem."

-

"It's in my car," Corrie replies with another sheepish grin. "On the off chance I wound up decorating until the last moment." She's not green at these things. She knows when she's set herself up to do the work herself, she generally runs overtime. When she's got the help though, she generally prefers to run home as it allows her to ensure she looks perfect.

Beat.

"Yes, but you shouldn't be out here holding up fake iron posts. You should be relaxing." Something in saying those words causes an odd reaction in her. Her head tilts to the side, eyes closing for a moment before she shakes it off and finishes building the balcony.

Once it's finished she steps back from it all and then frowns.

"Okay, let's move it to the base and secure it?"

-

"Always prepared?" Aidan remarks teasingly. "I should have guessed that about you."

If Aidan catches the reaction she gives to her own words, he says nothing, though there might be a moment where his gaze narrows just a bit, his eyes a little darker than usual and a bit more intense than the situation would dictate. The moment passes quickly however, and it's not until she's done with the final tweaks that he allows. "I believe that I'm plenty relaxed. Besides which, if I weren't assisting you, I'd be in the kitchen. I think everyone prefers me out here."

Beat.

"Maybe you don't."

They maneuver the faux balcony into place, and Aidan steps back while Corrie admires her handiwork. "You think it's a keeper?"

-

"It's what happens when one grew up as a Girl Guide," Corrie points out. It's one of the things they teach you. That, and well, she's a witch. Preparation for various situations is generally advisable.

Raising her brow at him, she sighs. "Don't let's start on that. Tonight is about Celia, and not personal issues." In the end that is the only thing that's kept her coming this evening.

"Well…" Corrie tilts her head to look at it sideways. "Let's turn everything on and see how it looks." She lowers the backdrop behind the balcony, giving it the look of a party going on within the building, the lights are turned on so that they cast the image of the street party below. The camera is fiddled with until the proper image comes up on the screen, and she motions for Aidan to come toward her.

"I'm going to stand on the balcony, tell me how it all looks?"

Beat.

"Your decision whether it's a keeper or not."

-

A frown creases Aidan's forehead and he purses his lips as he tries to figure out what he said that brought that reaction. Near as he can tell, he's being perfectly cordial and a gentleman … but then again, this is Corrie that he's dealing with.

He holds his hands up in mock surrender, opens his mouth and thinks better of it. Having no desire to argue with her or become annoyed before the dinner, Aidan merely gives up and moves on with a roll of his shoulders.

Aidan grins at her on the balcony and bites back his immediate response, which is a bit more to the bawdy side and would probably set things to a less than cordial state. Instead he says, "I think it's a perfect addition. It adds that extra touch."

-

"Oh, go on. Say what's on your mind. Last chance before you have to be nice all night," Corrie says, sticking her tongue out at him.

She gives the railing a little shove just to test for its strength. People will be imbibing later on in the evening, and the last thing she wants is for someone to lean against the rail and go tumbling.

"It's secure, at any rate. I think that's everything…"

-

"I wasn't going to say anything necessarily mean," Aidan points out. His hands are shoved in his pockets again and he rocks on his heels as though he hasn't a concern in the world. The left side of his mouth curls up slowly in a devious smile. "Ribald and off-color perhaps, but not mean."

He still doesn't say it.

"If that's everything then you'll probably want to get ready." Aidan rolls his shoulders as his attention briefly goes to the kitchen again. "And I should probably put out a fire."

-

Corrie snickers, and then leans on the railing. "I can handle ribald and off-color," she points out. "But go on, Romeo. Jules likely needs you in the kitchen anyhow." A quick glance at her watch tells her she's got about 20 minutes before people start arriving, and she makes a face.

"I'll just go get my things then…"

-

"Curious… considering that you're the one on the balcony, does that make you Juliet?" Aidan gives her a cheeky grin. "Though I don't think that Juliet wore overalls and those cute little pig tails."

Turning toward the kitchen, Aidan starts in that direction, throwing a glance back at her over his shoulder. "Use the office. I promise to knock before entering and close my eyes when I have to."

-

"I should hope my life doesn't end quite that tragically. Romance of it all aside, I'm not really suicidal." Corrie glares at him when he uses the word cute, and then blushes and looks away.

"Yes, well, it's easier to work when I'm not wearing business clothing or have my hair getting in my face every few minutes." Beat. "Thanks, Aidan. I'll try to be quick so that you can get back in there."

-

"I think you should wear them more often," Aidan winks. He throws a hand up before he disappears into the kitchen, "Take your time."

People think that the drama seen on reality shows is faked for the cameras. It might be played up for the cameras, but Aidan knows that it's quite real. Fortunately, it's only a few minutes for him to intervene and get the kitchen sorted out. He takes extra time to go over the menu yet again, and compliment the pastry chef before he runs out of reasons to stay in the kitchen and avoid the office.

It's not that he wouldn't love to take advantage of the opportunity to catch Corrie in her knickers, and really Aidan's modesty (or lack thereof) means that he doesn't see the point of modesty when he's seen it all before. Then again, Aidan doesn't see the point of modesty at all.

Therefore, it's with a somewhat amused smile on his face that he knocks on the door, "Corrie? May I come in?"

-

The car is not close. Corrie's had to run there and back, and she's just finished getting her clothing off in the office when the knock comes to the door. "Bloody hell," she mutters. "Just a minute." It's a good thing she's had the foresight to lock the office door so he can't just knock and wander in.

The gold dress is thrown over her head haphazardly and she struggles to find the proper holes for the sleeves through all the material. Wandering to the door with the dress still unzipped, she unlocks it and nods. "Sorry, tried to be a tad more swift, but…"

-

"It isn't a problem," Aidan steps into the office, drawing the door closed behind him. "I wasn't waiting that long." He stops then because he's looking at her. As much as it might seem that Aidan throws around flattery like it's nothing more than air, he really only compliments that which he finds worth complimenting. He appreciates an attractive woman, which is why the ladies on his arm are always pleasing to the eye.

Corrie is an attractive woman, and the dress is quite complimentary on her.

"Quite lovely," Aidan says without a trace of smarm or licentiousness in his voice. It's a genuine compliment, sincere. His gaze travels slowly, almost delicately over her, following the dress from the scoop neck line to her hem and back up again. "It looks far better on you than on a website."

-

"You think so?" Corrie fusses with the dress to try setting it to rights and then sighs. "I don't even have my shoes off yet." Beat. "Would you mind zipping it up the back? I need to figure out what to do with my hair, and find the make up and…"

She realizes she's stressing all too much, and laughs.

"I'm sorry. I'm a bit jittery. It's the first large promotional event for the restaurant, and it's a chance to become Celia's PR rep for the UK." She smiles a little and then looks at her feet. "I'm nervous."

-

"Don't be. The decorations are bloody brilliant and the restaurant looks spectacular. The menu is ready and the whole event has come together quite well, I think. Now you need to take a deep breath and enjoy the fruits of your labor."

Aidan strolls over to her and makes a downward pointing circle with his finger. "Turn around." He waits until she's done so, and in a very gentlemanly fashion, grips the zipper of her dress. He pulls the zipper up with proper decorum, his knuckles only once brushing the bare skin of her back, and it is truly accidental. Once done, he squeezes her shoulders lightly, "It's going to be fine."

-

Turning around, Corrie reaches up to pull her hair to the side. It's only then that she remembers the braided pigtails, and she laughs. "Thank you," she says quietly once he's zipped her up.

"Are you certain? I honestly feel like I'm forgetting something, and I haven't stopped to consider every possibility." Worrying her teeth over her lower lip, she shyly asks, "Do you think Celia will like it?" Beat. "I've got a jazz band coming in for later in the evening, but that's supposed to be a surprise. They were bloody hard to find."

-

"We certainly couldn't have your back hanging out of the dress, could we?" Aidan counters, though the words are a touch lighter than his usual biting sarcasm. He does know when to play nicely and when to be the royal arse after all. "But you're welcome." Turning her gently by the shoulders, he looks down at her. "The jazz band will be a perfect final touch."

Aidan pauses and considers. "Wow… I don't think I've heard a live jazz band for quite some time." Then comes the familiar crooked smile and he tugs one of her braids. "I do think that that braids don't exactly go with the ensemble. Perfectly fitting though if you ever wish to try the naughty school girl look."

-

"Better than my front, but no. Not the look I'm attempting this evening," Corrie replies with a laugh. When he looks down at her, she feels a little wave of something drawing her toward him, and she blushes.

She's just beginning to lean in when he tugs the braid, and she wrinkles her nose up and laughs. "I think I'm a tad old for naughty school girl. Would you settle for sexy librarian?" Her words are light, no promises behind them. Simply trying to lessen the tension and her own nervous stress.

Beat.

"Then I hope you'll like them."

-

"That's an entirely different sort of Mardi Gras celebration," Aidan chuckles, waggling his eyebrows. "There is no such thing as two old for naughty school girl." Aidan bites the inside of his cheek before the comment about watching the appropriate kinds of pornography comes out, though it would likely at least earn him an eye roll of disgust.

"Though, sexy librarian is really the best sort of librarian." He sweeps his hand down her arm and steps to the side.

"I'm sure that everyone will enjoy it." Beat. "I'm going to leave you to finish getting dressed and put on something a bit more formal for myself." An idle hand is waved over his t-shirt and jeans ensemble. He's opened the closet door, when he stops and looks back at her. There's an internal debate before Aidan lets out a low exhalation. "There's a bathroom and full length and vanity mirror if you'd like access to them downstairs."

The door to the downstairs flat would be at home on a bank vault, after all, and it isn't as though she can access the place without the code. It's more secure than his flat, and on the building schematics; besides Aidan is relatively certain that he doesn't have to worry about Corrie coming after him with a stake.

A fireball maybe, but not a stake.

-

"I'm fairly certain that there is." Corrie shakes her head at him, then laughs. "Get whatever thought is there out of your mind right now."

When he mentions leaving, she nods and moves over to her bag to dig out her compact so she's got a mirror. Then he offers a full length mirror and she smiles. "Really? You don't mind? I can make due with this one if it's a problem." But he wouldn't have offered if he minded, so she gladly takes him up on it, swinging her bag over her shoulder and waiting for him to lead the way.

-

The descent down into the underground flat is neither creepy nor dark. The staircase is well lit and sturdily built, lined with heavy wood and dry wall, painted in a deep burgundy color. It may be the pathway to a vampire's lair, but Aidan took care to make certain that it doesn't appear as such.

The heavy metal and steel door is open at the base of the stairs, leading into a studio flat. It's not the same spaciousness of his loft flat, nor is it smothering or claustrophobically small. The motive is a bit different, instead of neutral beige and warm colors, there's a contrast of black and white and navy and deep wine. The floor is hardwood, and a platform bed of cherry wood stands at an angle in one corner. There is a sitting area, a dining area, a kitchenette; a door off to one side leads to the bathroom, and a full length mirror stands beside the heavy wood armoire.

Aidan's suit for the evening hangs on a hook off the side of the armoire.

"Bathroom is through there," Aidan points, though it's probably unnecessary. He whips his shirt over his head and tosses it toward the bed, before giving her a curious look. "You don't mind if I go ahead and get changed?"

-

Taking in the entire sight of the rooms beneath the restaurant, Corrie marvels at how they've been built. She doesn't, after all, spend a great deal of time in underground rooms. She takes note of where the mirror is, and is about to wander over to it when she catches sight of the shirt removal.

There's that odd wave again, washing over her. She struggles against wandering up to him to tickle her fingers against his abdomen. Giving her head a few good shakes she disappears into the bathroom and sets her bag on the counter.

"By all means, go ahead, I'll just finish this and be ready for my mask and to wander out to greet people." Digging through the bag, she finds a hint of golden eyeshadow, the gold-huded lipstick, and a bit of body glitter to dust about the neckline.

-

Aidan doesn't wait until Corrie has vacated the room to continue peeling off the remainder of his clothes. It's that entire lack of modesty thing again, though there's nothing untoward or manipulative in the action. It's not that he doesn't know that he could very easily mess with the witch; it's that Aidan has that sense of professionalism that means he knows that the event going on tonight is far more important than any games he might be interested in playing.

The vampire has opted to not go in costume this evening, but rather to simply wear a dark formal suit - not a tuxedo - and tie. He dresses quickly and efficiently, standing before the mirror to tie his tie. He strongly debated going without but he is deferring to Kim's judgment as she did provide the tie with the suit.

Speaking of Kim … there's a tickling in the back of his mind, and Aidan tilts his head, waiting a beat before allowing her access.

Yes? It's not a method of communication that they employ often. Again, it's all about appearances and appearing to be normal.

Guests will be arriving soon, Kim tells him. Aidan can feel her wariness. Do you happen to know where Kavanaugh is?

I'm not her keeper, Aidan answers immediately, cheekily. Beat. She's with me. Getting dressed.

Kim's immediate flare of consternation and annoyance causes Aidan to laugh aloud, pausing over the tie. That's not what I meant, Kimmy. We'll be along shortly, play the good hostess until then, yeah? He breaks off the contact before Kim can get a proper objection in.

-

Corrie vacates the room pretty damned quickly — if only because she knows that time is of the essence, and were she to stay and watch, they'd be late. Guests are going to be arriving shortly, but they should still have time to make it back to the office before Celia arrives.

It's probably a very good thing that she's not privy to the telepathic conversation going on. That she's far too busy preparing to bother with worrying about what's going on upstairs.

Once the last of the glitter has been applied, she very carefuly removes the elastics from the braids, and gives her hair a shake. Thankfully the braids have left a soft wavy curl in her hair, and with a bit of finger toussling, it has a bit of added volume and body. Not bad considering she's not really done all that much with it. Giving it a few spritzes from a bottle of hairspray, she rushes back to the other room to give herself a once over in the mirror.

Satisfied with it, she turns for the stairs not bothering to give Aidan a once over. "Shoes," she calls over her shoulder. "And masks. Do you have a mask?"

-

Corrie is a blur of amber and gold, and Aidan knows that the only way she could possibly move any faster would be if she developed supernatural abilities. His eyes follow her dash, crinkling with amusement.

"Yes," Aidan calls after her, "I have a mask." He slides on his suit jacket, and gives himself a last once over as well. Aidan has absolutely no qualms about being 'fashionably' late. Making an entrance is always something that he has enjoyed doing.

-

"Oh good," she calls down the stairs. "Then I shant need to worry about locating the one I brought for you." Kicking off her runners, she slides on a pair of black heels with a gold embroidery, and then finds her own gold and black mask, fastening it carefully behind her head under her curls.

Hands brush down over her skirt, and Corrie smiles happily. She's ready, with seconds to spare. Still, she did it. Now she'll simply wait for Aidan before wandering out to ensure everything is going well and everyone is in their proper place.

-

Aidan comes slowly up the stairs, straightening the sleeves of his jacket, mask in hand as he hasn't deigned to put it on yet. The door to the downstairs is closed and locked behind him before he turns to actually regard the witch again.

A low, appreciative whistle is given as blue eyes skim over again. "You are most certainly lovely this evening, Miss Kavanaugh. You do that dress far more justice than a few digital pictures ever could." Stepping up to her, Aidan extends his arm, ever the consummate gentleman - when he wishes to be so, that is. "Shall we?"

-

It's not until he offers his arm that Corrie notices the cufflinks. Her cheeks immediately turn a delicious shade of red, and she looks down as she places her hand on his arm. "I'm glad you like them," she says softly. "Kim and Celia both let it slip that it was your birthday." She knows that they're not expensive and far below what he'd typically wear, but it makes her happy that he's wearing them at least once.

"We shall."

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