"So you're mad at Rogue, huh?" Jean asked while she and Remy relaxed in the luxury suite they shared.
"Yeah, Remy's mad. And truth, if you knew why, you'd be mad, too."
"What do you mean?"
He didn't respond. Instead, he relaxed on the overstuffed scroll pillows of his Queen-sized bed. The teenagers had just checked in after a spontaneous, four hour, first-class flight from the Xavier Institute to New Orleans, where they stayed at The Hotel Monteleone. It was a result of Remy's debilitating jealousy and courtesy of Jean-Luc's black card. The Cajun teenager needed time away to nurse his ego, bruised by his girlfriend hooking up with his roommate. And then there was the sickening news he'd heard this morning. Jean was clueless of both but he intended to enlighten his little confidant, and hopefully wield her to his side of the battle, but he had to play his cards right.
She sat up from where she was resting on her own Queen-size, swinging her legs over the gold and lilac comforter. She still wore her Polo shirt and Anne Taylor khakis from the plane, rumpled now from the post-travel siesta.
"Hey, are you going to tell me what we're doing here? I came because I could tell something was wrong, like, really wrong, and I wanted to be here for you, Rem. But what's going on? And what do you mean, 'I'd be mad?' You mean at Rogue?"
His view of Jean was framed by the drapes. They were identical fabric to the toile duvet. He fleetingly prayed thanks to God for the beauty he was surrounded by all the time. He had passionate love for Rogue, which, since meeting her, had been the treasure of his life. He also appreciated all other luxuries of his privileged existence, such as escaping for a holiday at a lavish hotel. Even his friends were beautiful and brilliant. But he felt bad for Jean and he reserved a lot of pity for himself, too.
"Somet'ing is pissing Remy off," he tried again, standing for the first time since they settled into their room and rummaging through the wet bar. He dunked a crystal rocks glass into the ice bucket.
Jean's curious gaze followed him. "What's wrong with you?" she wavered.
"Not just me," he spat, and immediately felt bad for trying to make his friend feel miserable, too. But she did not know how fucked up people can be. He didn't want to have to tell her that the boy she had probably practiced taking family photos with had slept with someone else. Not just anyone—Rogue. Remy reasoned that if he was cool to Jean, she would wise up and accept the reality like he had, on the plane with two Xanax and five highballs. Of course, he was really pissed at Rogue for pissing on his feelings, and at Scott, no matter how clueless the bastard was, and he was about to take it out on Jean. Hell, he was mad at her, too. If she had just put out a little, instead of the high school, secret crush bullshit, maybe Scott wouldn't have been so horny that he had to fuck their friendship and Remy's girl.
"You know how Scott was kind of seeing Eden?"
She jerked her chin. "Yes, but he's just doing it to make me jealous."
"Why did you even let it get to dat? You might actually be de one to blame for all of dis."
Jean's feet sank into the powder blue carpet as she crossed to her overnight bag. She yanked it open and stripped like she was in a locker room. Her and Remy's relationship was simply platonic, familial, solidified by this brief break from their lives they were taking to, apparently, have serious revelations. She was already a little offended, and she could tell Remy was just getting started, but she still had no idea how much Scott's actions would hurt her.
"Don't you agree? If you had quit playing games wit' de boy, he wouldn't have fucked up? Remy not saying you had to jump into bed wit' him," like Rogue had, he thought, "but God damn!" He hated Rogue for sleeping with men. He hated Jean for not.
"Shut-up, LeBeau. You know nothing about me. The reason I did not fuck Scott was because I was sleeping with Professor Cash," she relented, understanding Remy was bitter about something and taking it out on her. But what? She used the Cash-card to get him to break.
"Greg Cash?" He paused. "What? De fuck?" His classically handsome features spelled realization. "De poor bastard. Scott found out, didn't he? He found out and den he didn't give a shit what happened anymore."
"Yeah. I don't know how he found out! Why? What's going on?"
He slammed his scotch on the huge, cherry wood desk. He stalked her, getting in her face without touching her. "Jean. Scott and Rogue." He spun. "Dress for dinner. D'ere is a carousel bar." With that, he grabbed his scotch and shaving kit, and disappeared into his of his and her bathrooms.
Jean was numb, afraid to grasp the meaning of his implications. Instead, she shuffled to the closet and retrieved her evening gown, and shuffled to the vanity framed by lights.
In one hour it was a quarter to eight. The friends met on the marble floor of the foyer, under the moon-sized clock that sat in the ceiling. Jean noticed how comfortable Remy looked in his tuxedo. He caught her eye in a gilt mirror while he adjusted his bowtie and smiled. He extended a finger and slipped into the bedroom, returning with a royal blue pocket silk to match her v-neck dress and the sapphires in her jewelry. They shared another smile, enjoying the pretend of being adults and the comfort of being friends. But their smiles were knowing and pained.
At 4 a.m. that morning, Remy had been cringing at the memory of Rogue inching toward Scott's bed just a few hours prior. He had bolted, disgusted, and now sat in the dark in a professionally furnished guest room that belonged to two friends from primary school, brothers Henry and Robert Beauvais. Robert was called Trip, for triple, because he was a third. They were a few years Remy's senior, Henry a year older than Trip, pre-law students, and already accomplished businessmen at the firm for which they interned. In fact, Remy heard them rustling in their studies for any faxes that had been, for reasons good or bad, delivered in the dead of night. He had received his own news in the form of a text: Candace is dead.Remy got on the phone and spoke in French.
"Mar, is de Guild sure? Then Jean-Luc has told you what to do, yes? Mason. And make sure it's Noel."
Remy simply hung up. His father was a respected businessman, like most of his peers' fathers, except Scott. "That idiot," Remy shook his head. Remy determined to make an equal man of himself—equal to Jean-Luc. "Not Scott," he affirmed. He stood and stretched, catching himself in the white dresser mirror and leaving his flawless appearance untouched. He wanted to see Rogue right next to him instead of himself alone. "Or even just Rogue," he perked. He settled back into his chair, inspired, yanking open his belt. Just the thought of Rogue still turned him on, even if he was livid and depressed at the same time. He finished furiously, cleaned up with some Kleenex and wandered out of the room, fancying a rum runner.
Jean watched the carousel bar spin in the center of the restaurant, listening to the grand piano being played by an elderly man with his coattails draped over the piano bench. She was avoiding Remy so dinner had been silent so far. As long as she didn't ask, and he didn't speak, she remained blissfully ignorant. Jean wasn't ready to realize the fears planted in her head. Scott…and Rogue. Their sumptuous feast of oysters on the half-shell and shrimp and grits remained piled on the table, untouched.
Finally, she turned in her seat and faced the table. Remy straightened.
"Jean," he started, "Scott and Rogue…did somet'ing. Remy's been having a real hard time wit' it and he imagines you will, too."
She nodded knowingly. "Are they…"she didn't finish, her mind having plunged into the worst possible well. Together? In love?
"I don't t'ink so," he answered her unspeakable fears. "But dey did hook-up last night…" He paused, sizing her reaction. She was gnawing her lip but nodded, listening. Remy was sure he could make a friend of it, after all. "After de auction. I tried to stop dem but you know you can't stop Rogue from doing any damn t'ing."
Blue flames flashed in her eyes and then subsided to watery tears brimming on her sooty eyelids.
"And Scott didn't' want to stop." Remy refrained from saying, "Of course."
"She's a spoiled brat."
"Oh? And what about Scott? It seems to Remy like de boy just doesn't like any girl sober."
"What the hell are you even talking about?" the redhead tested.
"Rogue told Remy what he almost did to you after de Halloween party. Yeah, when you were drugged off your ass. Scott can be a douche."
"Interesting. When I think, 'Remy LeBeau,' I don't think 'moral example'," she challenged.
"Remy loves the clueless, clueless bastard. But he is a douche."
Still reeling from the news, Jean indulged in another instant fury, letting it rear in her for an unbridled second before snapping the door shut to Pandora's hell. She folded and unfolded her white, linen napkin. Why was she jealous when Remy suggested that Scott had taken advantage of Rogue like he had been tempted to do to Jean last year? It was bad enough Scott had fantasized about raping Jean, but then for her to be jealous? This was getting too complicated and sick.
"So they didn't even try to hide it, huh?" she deflated.
"No. She pretty much told me it was happening." It was obvious he still loved Rogue as he figured Jean still loved Scott.
"I don't think they're serious, either," Jean begrudged, "but what's his problem? Was he that mad at me for sleeping with Greg?"
"You know why Scott did it. Why de hell did she do it?"
"Maybe because you think the world revolves around you? Sorry. I'm not mad at you." Her teardrop earring caught the light and reflected in her champagne flute while she shook her head, rage directed inward now. "I must have really hurt him to make him want to hurt me so badly."
Remy wanted to argue that it probably had more to do with Rogue in her thong and less with Scott wanting to hurt Jean, but Remy didn't know which was worse. Instead, he dropped his black card on the tablecloth.
Remy and Jean stayed at the Hotel Monteleone for almost the entire break. They were the sole members of their ultra-stylized Broken Hearts Club, flaunting their youth and beauty fragrantly, creating a noticeably perfect aesthetic in the hopes that their own pain would go unnoticed. It is a common defense mechanism of the repressed upper-class. The teens had learned it in their homes, in fact. They shopped and spent compulsively. There were silent rides in a chauffered car, Remy donned in a Dior suit and she in a pink, Chanel skirt suit with matching pillbox hat.
The temperatures dropped in the March nights, and one evening, before music started on the street corners, Jean was relaxing on a chaise, reading a local art review. Her cell phone rang on the desk where Remy sat. He also looked at it, snatched it and silenced it.
"It's Rogue," he said simply. Rogue was calling Jean's phone now.
"They're wondering where we are," Jean stated.
He nodded, satisfied.
Friday arrived and Rogue sat alone in her dorm, the early spring sunlight filling the room. There was no television or music playing but, if she strained her ears, she could hear birds chirping in the woods surrounding the school. Nature was bright and cheery despite her nerves gnawing on her all week. Remy and Jean had taken off. Now she was engrossed in her phone. She had been calling and texting him all week, and he had finally texted back.
"We r coming home today," it read.
"Where u been? What u do?"
For a few minutes, nothing, and Rogue began to get nervous, but then, "U miss me?"
"Yes," she sent immediately.
"Nothin. See u soon luv."
She didn't know why she thanked him, but she didn't regret it. She was thankful that he finally talked to her. She had been miserable not hearing from him, and it was probably a test to see if she cared about him. She was thankful he was man enough to test her, and thankful that he taught her in the end. This was perfect to Rogue. It was what she truly wanted and, for a stunning young lady who wanted for nothing, Remy taught her how to want again.
As an afterthought, she texted Scott.
"They r coming home. Nothing happened."
She knew he would be thrilled that Jean was returning, too. Rogue had not spent the entire break on campus, staying with her mother who was visiting family friends in the Hamptons. But while she was at the Institute, she made a point to check on Scott. He hadn't traveled anywhere for the break and she would find him in his and Remy's dorm researching ballistics, for which he had a gift, or playing Xbox Live on Remy's flat screen.
Having extinguished the sexual tension that had him wound more dangerously than a grenade, he was now less embarrassed and even exuded confidence. He was the only student on his floor that stayed on campus, and he had used the time alone to meditate and go crazy over Jean Grey. Some part of him had awakened. He wanted to share it. Every time his mind and body reached for the thought of someone, it wasn't his mom and pop back home or his brother or old friends. It was Jean. He hadn't realized how strong it was.
Back on Wednesday morning of the break, before a full day of going to the gym followed by a salon appointment in the city, Rogue had popped in on him because she had an idea. He was unshaved and his hair was greasy. In fact, it was a little refreshing to see him drop the clean-cut act. In track pants, he half-heartedly watched television from his desk.
"What is this?" she asked.
"It's basketball," he laughed. "Really?"
"Ah know but, like, is it college… or NFL…" she got quiet, knowing that didn't sound right. She was standing just a few feet in the room and the door remained open. "Real quick, Summahs, just making sure you haven't killed yahself or anything. And Ah was thinkin', you know how you want to be a General and all?"
"Something like that, or an Operations Administrator for Intelligence, or an Engineer."
"Raght. And how are you going to do that? Ah mean, yoah not exactly…Well, how do you plan on doin' it?"
He straightened like he was ready to defend himself. "I may not have the same advantages as you guys, but I have a brain and I was raised right. I'm at the top of the class, if you don't remember. Not to mention I have an internship at an office of the Executive Branch this summer, which I got from applying to over one hundred programs selected specifically for their exclusivity."
Smiling, she told him that he needed to use that same drive to conquer Jean. "When she gets back, you got to walk right up to her and tell her you would literally kill someone if they evah hurt her, ya hearing me? And that if you evah hurt her, you would kill yoahself, got it?"
Scott nodded. He would. He still had not told Rogue that he slept with her because Jean slept with her professor, because he knew it wouldn't have affected Rogue's decision anyway. Nothing does. He decided to tell her now.
Her eyes widened, shocked. "Damn, she ain't the gal I thought she was." She grinned, deciding it was funny. "Wow."
"I do not care about that anymore," Scott said. "I just don't want her to be pissed at me. I feel like shit, no offense." He clenched his jaw, determined. He battled the possibility she did not want to be with him at all and that her attentions on him had been a fleeting dream, like he had feared from the beginning.
"Ah'm shoah she's going to fohgive us. I didn't know she was having an affair with her professah, but Ah know she believes that everyone has the right and freewill to pursue their own happiness." Rogue shrugged. "Ethics in Civics 112."
He smiled. "Oh, okay."
"Don't worry, Scott. I'm sure absence has made that heart grow fondah." She winked, mentally betting on the pony that Jean would care for new, hot Scott.
Rogue was still in her room when Remy and Jean arrived on campus. He dropped Jean off on the Green so she could attend an event she wanted to see there. Seated at her desk, Rogue was scribbling in her journal, documenting the drama. There was a knock on the door and it opened. Sucking a deep breath, she looked up prettily and stood to reveal her deliciously long legs under a tiny jean skirt, and his silver Rugby jersey she wore as a shirt. He was dressed in jeans and a gray tee, looking like a standard Abercrombie model.
"Rem! Ah missed you so much."
Wordless, he walked to her and scooped her like a bride. She gasped, the clean, expensive smell of his cologne making her heart leap. He kissed her. He set her down. They kissed again. His hands were planted on her hips and he was gazing seriously into her grass-green eyes. She was a little intimidated but thrilled, too, so Rogue decided to go with it, returning his black stare with equal intensity.
He pulled a little black box from his pocket.
She burst into tears. "Oh mah Gawd! Remy, what are you doin'?"
He opened it to reveal a diamond, glittering like a star against the black silk.
Her knees folded. As she sank, he caught her and gathered her like a bouquet of red roses.
She was overwhelmed by the passion and the beauty, and now he asked if she would let him love her for the rest of their life. She knew it was ignorant to indulge the whim, but the spitfire in her, that trusted her heart despite logic, overcame the girl who had been taken out of Mississippi, and her father from Texas, but from whom Mississippi and Texas could not be taken out.
"Ah want to say yes. Ah used to always believe in true love when Ah was a little girl, like every little girl does, Ah guess," she breathed, her large eyes looking like green ponds.
"But you know how when you grow up, people think it's stupid?" She bit her lip and peered around. "But Ah think I want to. I know I want to, but Ah think Ah'm gonna."
He slipped the ring up her finger, kissing her, plunging his tongue confidently past her lips. He was being sexy, and Rogue rolled her eyes under closed lids.
Later, they laid together, Remy having pulled on his tee shirt and briefs. Rogue was still naked save for hew new diamond ring. She curled against him. Remy was loving the new experience of unconditional adoration, and he opened himself to receive it. Even though he was spent, Rogue stirred impishly beside him again, this time slipping down his abdomen and stroking his thighs with her soft, thin arms.
"Mm," he petted her glossy curls, entranced to the point of enslaved by her pretty, cottony cheeks, bloated.
Later yet, she said, "Hey, let's take the Mustang to yoah friend Trip's. Ah want to stay with you tonaght."
Remy said that would be fine and he waited for her while she packed a bag. They left campus by sundown, the first of many times they would show blatant disregard for The Institute's stringent curfew. As for Rogue, though she was supremely high on love, and excited to make a dangerous escape with her fiancé from the tentacles of campus, a slight jealousy nagged her knowing that Jean had already experienced the privilege of escorting him. But Rogue knew her man and her friend, and she knew they probably sat miserably in a room being dramatic the whole week. To the jealousy, Rogue snapped silently, "Shut up."
Jean arrived at the room after a speech on the Green by Hilary Clinton on a tour of preparatory schools in New England. There were still very few students on campus, but everyone present was buzzing about Noel. A newsletter on the Institute's intranet announced that Candy had been found a few miles from campus, dead from suffocation. No one knew Noel's, who had been taken into custody, connection to the crime, but terror struck the student body. There were alerts posted which warned, or ordered, the female students not to travel alone at night. Once home, Jean was thankful her roommate was gone. She forgave Rogue but she wasn't ready to face her, especially not until she talked to Scott, which she was anxious to do. She dressed in jean shorts and a long-sleeved tee, applying mascara to make her eyes pop like firecrackers. She wore heeled ankle boots that elevated her petite body. Halting at her door, she shrank out of her bra and tossed it to the floor. "By any means necessary," she thought. She walked to the boys' dorm, her heels clacking through the empty campus, stopping in front of Scott and Remy's door. She heard him playing Xbox and talking to the other players online. She paused, enjoying the deep boom of his voice. He eventually stopped, too. She heard his footsteps approach the door slowly. He knew it was her.
"Scott, please open the door if you want to talk to me."
It swung open. He wore basketball shorts and no shirt. Her eyes widened, a little embarrassed, before traveling the length of mousy brown hair trailing from his belly button to the lank but long bulge in his shorts. He was unmoving, unabashed.
She sputtered, "Oh, so you're Joe Cool now that you've had sex, huh?"
"I take it Remy told you."
He let her in, closing the door behind her, but they went no further.
"Yes," Jean continued. "Remy told me about you and Rogue when we took off to New Orleans and spent the week alone at a fabulous suite. Did that make you jealous?"
"First," he extended a finger, "you mean Remy told you that me and Rogue hooked up is all. There is no, 'me and Rogue,' like you're implying. Second, no, I wasn't jealous that you were with Remy. Why would I be? He loves Rogue."
She coiled. "Oh, so I couldn't get you and I couldn't get him, is that what you're saying?" She narrowed her eyes, the blue flames flaring.
"You said that, I didn't. No, I did not mean that, Jean. I don't want you to want Remy."
Unsatisfied, she smacked him.
He stared at her, stunned. He snatched her wrist and pulled her against him. She buried her face in his chest then wrenched it away.
"Back off! I know how you just love to catch a girl down and out."
He clenched his jaw, grasping a handful of cherry strands and pressing her face against his. He spoke to her between kissing her, his teeth scraping her lacy skin.
"Red, if you want to leave be my guest. But I would bet that there is a reason you came here this late, with perfume on," he buried his face in her neck and inhaled.
She was shocked at his behavior. "Are you high?"
He snaked a hand to cup her breast. Warmth flooded her crotch. She strapped her arms around his neck, closing the gap between them, letting him grab her ass and hoist her. Her ankles crossed behind his back. He pressed her against the door, crushing her with his body. She cried out.
"Is that good?" he urged. "I've been waiting forever for this."
She Frenched him, lapping his tongue, and he continued to feel her up under the thin tee. Her hands slid down his chest and stroked the bulge in his nylon shorts. She lowered the waistband and his erection popped out, nestling between their bellies. She broke away to stare at his dick, a string of saliva bridging their wet kiss. He impatiently resumed, pinning her head. She moaned into his mouth and it was enough to make him start bucking the head of his dick against her stomach. The friction seeped pre-cum from the tip. She shimmied out of her shorts. He hoisted her again, smelling her sweet pussy as he fingered the petals open. He dove in.
"Oh, oh," she sighed at every thrust. He was sucking her neck hard. It would leave a hickey, they both knew. She found his hand on her breast and guided it between her legs, pressing his fingertip against her clit. "Do this, please. It feels so good," she whined.
He drew circles on her clit while his cock pumped. He stared shamelessly at her.
"Scott!" she squealed. Shuddering, she threw her head back until it made a loud smack on the door. She sighed, recovering from her high. He had stopped pounding and was handling the back of her head.
"You okay?" he asked.
She nodded. He braced himself and went to town. She felt his cock swell inside her right before he pulled out, leaving it to jut against her abdomen and spurt hot cum on her flat stomach.
She disappeared into the shower before standing in the doorway of the bathroom, toweling her perfect, doll-like body. He lied in his boxer briefs staring sideways at her, his expression satisfied.
"Remy won't be back tonight." He glanced again at his phone on the night stand. "Oh my God, they're engaged."
"She said yes?"
"I knew he was going to ask her."
Scott knew in an instant that Remy and Jean were good friends, that is, they were good for each other, had a good connection. Scott was thankful that neither had relationship feelings about the other, or Scott guessed he would be out. There was no question, Jean made him feel wonderful, and he wanted to do the same for her. "Will you spend the night?" he asked.
"No, I'm not spending the night, Scott." She crossed to her shorts, shaking her head. "And Scott, I want to thank you for that. It was amazing and a lot of fun, and I can tell you really like me. But please don't make me regret it. You know that I like you, too, but I'm not about to jump into being your girlfriend or anything. You probably think I have it all backwards because of what we just did, but I really do want to take it slowly. Please, if it's okay."
He leaned back, patting the spot beside him. She hesitated but slinked onto the bed. He put his arm around her and kissed the rosy crown of her head. "Whatever you want, Jeannie." They were quiet. Scott rubbed her back while making mental checklists of tasks to accomplish before school started. "Can you believe Noel's in jail?"
"Is he in jail? I heard that he was in custody but I didn't know that meant he was in jail."
"Well, he's definitely not at the Chateau de Nice. Or here."
Jean shrugged under his ministrations. "True. We knew he was a devious Narcissist, but a killer?" She gasped. "Do you think Remy framed…?" she couldn't finish, a knife of fear holding the words in her throat.
Scott saw her realize something about her friend. He faced her and said honestly, "Probably."
The break ended. A handful of students' parents pulled their children from the school on account of Candy's gruesome slaying. Faculty and students alike were fearful, scurrying through campus in the twilight. It was where and when Candy herself had been last accounted for by her girlfriends, Eden and Barbie. Police were holding Noel Mason for questioning. Rumor had it that they had evidence against him. His father, Ivan Mason, had flown from an extended business trip in San Diego to support Noel and deny any allegations along with his team of defense attorneys.
Classes resumed and members of the Institute tried to return to normalcy. The first week picked up speed as homework started being assigned and Spring sports kicked off. Wednesday was a pretty, mid-March day, punctuated by the fresh-cut lawns sprinkled with yellow and red bulbs. It was late morning but Rogue was still in bed, reveling in the feel of her beige, silk nightie. Her bones jutted slightly under the fabric because she had not really eaten that week. She was too high on love, lingering on Remy's arm, stroking his cheek, dropping her head on his shoulder. They had spent every night that week at the Beauvais' flat because they had no interest in being apart anytime soon. She hadn't even found the luster to attend her own morning lab. After they crept onto campus that morning, Rogue crashed while Remy attended his favorite course, a pre-requisite to an M.B.A. She knew her fiancé's interest in following in his mogul father's footsteps, whether he admitted it to himself or not. She was gazing at the engagement ring, an exquisite, silvered antique, when Jean entered their room. She looked perfectly kempt in a red pencil dress cinched with a little black bow at her tiny waist.
"Hey," Jean stopped at her desk, dropping her matching Birkin bag on the chair. They hadn't seen each other yet since Rogue slept with Scott. Jean worried the moment might be awkward, but she slipped off her pumps and settled in with her roommate like old times. "You're home! I missed my roomie!"
Rogue propped up on an elbow. "Ah know! Me, too!"
Jean scurried over and sat on the foot of her bed. "And I'm so excited for you and Remy!" Her face got serious. "And I hope you're not mad about me going to New Orleans with him. I didn't know the real reason we were going until, well, way after we got there."
"Well, Ah'm not going to lie to you, shug. Ah was a little jealous at first, even though Ah know yoah the one who has the raght to be mad."
"No. If you're talking about what happened with you and Scott, I couldn't be mad at you without being mad at him. And I'm not. Besides, I guess Scott told you about my affair, so you get that I'm in no position to judge anyone."
"Ah guess no one ever really is." She broke into a devilish grin. "And Ah see you guys made up, judging by that huge hickey!"
Jean explained that her course load was early on Mondays this semester, and that she was done for the day. She touched up her matching red lipstick in the mirror and left for lunch.
Rogue dressed in cigarette jeans and a spaghetti strap tank, made her bed, and picked up a gift bag she had set aside. She fingered through the robin's egg blue tissue paper from a locally famous paper store. Inside were the invitations she had ordered to a formally informal engagement dinner at the Russian Tea Room, where her and Remy's parents would meet for the first time. The date of the engagement dinner was saved for the first weekend in May. Now it was Rogue's duty as bride-to-be to extend invitations. Both families were shocked to say the least at their children's decision, but supportive after all. Rogue remembered hearing the roll of her mother's eyes in the pregnant pause that followed Rogue telling her on a phone call. Mrs. Rouge knew her daughter's mind couldn't be changed, as usual, and that Mr. Rouge would indulge any whim belonging to his little princess anyway. Rogue exhausted extreme attention and detail to stuffing the envelopes, relishing the task. She sat back and reflected how, though she loved the education and experience she was receiving in academia, Remy would likely be the breadwinner and, "Besides," she thought, "A gal could get used to this homemaker thing," as she scrawled the address to her family's estate in perfect, black script on the winter white paper.
It was nearly five p.m. when Jean trotted from the media building to the boys' dorm in her slingbacks. With dusk approaching, she had one hour before she had to be in Marion Leigh in accordance with campus curfew. She had been researching since lunchtime and was anxious to pool her information with Scott. Since classes began, they had come together to try to discover who was responsible for Candy's death. Jean was impressed that Scott had proven himself to be reliable and supportive at the first opportunity. Through the horror and shock of their friend's death, it felt good to trust someone, especially Scott.
Her heart sank as she approached his room and heard a pretty voice chiming in response to his rich baritone. She opened the cracked door to reveal Eden standing in front of him, her hands at her sides and her face turned up pleadingly.
"Jean," Scott crossed and strapped an arm around her, "is a wonderful person to talk to. If you ever need someone to talk to, she's great."
Eden scoffed, looking genuinely broken and, Jean thought, worried?
"Oh. Okay. Thanks," Eden sulked. Without another word, she left.
Jean faced him and nodded at his hand on her.
"Sorry." He dropped it reluctantly but remained standing close. "She said she's scared," he explained.
"Because of Candy?"
"Yeah, because they were friends. She's afraid she might be next."
"Why should anyone be next? Do you think someone is next?"
He quickly pulled her into a hug. "Hey, it's okay." He hoped she wouldn't think of him as vulnerable if he told her. "Jean?"
She answered from where she was smushed comfortably against his chest. "Yeah?"
"Just so you know, I would protect you from anything."
She retreated and sat at his desk, pulling an ivory leather iPad case from her bag. "We shouldn't have to live in fear, anyway. Even Eden." She pulled up some sites. "So, did you come up with anything since yesterday? It was in a few papers and I highlighted some spots here."
He looked over her shoulder.
"If we could just determine exactly where they found her…" she trailed, scanning her screen, and they set to work.
"Mr. Garland, goddamnit, you listen to me! We are sitting on a three-hundred and fifty thousand dollar lawsuit here. Not to mention the goddamn Commissioner of Accounts breathing down my neck. Now you get your client's signature on the papers and to the Pearlman office by tomorrow morning," Trip yelled into his apartment phone planted in the minibar. "I'll be happy as a lamb to complete the paperwork, Mr Garland, sir. That would be fine, old boy. Say hi to the missus." He dropped the receiver gingerly. Trip Beauvais took a swig of his Cutty Sark and swiped his tie across his forehead. "Whew!"
"Ha!" Remy laughed. "What?"
He moved from behind the bar to the billiard table in his den. "Did you shoot, Hank? Nevermind, I see. Nothing, Remy, just some no-nuts bastard who needs to get on his client's ass about something. I try to tell him, Rem, those big, beautiful titties aren't going to sign on the line for her!" He raised his glass to Rogue petting their blonde Cocker Spaniel, Butter, on a sectional by the fire. "Excuse me."
She smiled, legs crossed in Jimmy Choos, looking demure and sophisticated even cradling the dog.
The doorbell buzzed.
"Who's that?" asked Trip.
"The Mason fellow, I presume," said Hank.
Remy whipped his head from his easy chair.
"What Mason guy?" Trip inquired.
All eyes were on Hank, who returned their stares stoically. "He pinged me about an hour ago from Theta Ki's Facebook group. Asked if he could come over for a second. I don't know what he wants."
Remy stood, jiggling his pant legs. "Let him in."
Hank walked to the intercom and pressed a button. They heard the door open downstairs.
"We're up here!" Hank hollered.
Rogue, her back to the door, stroked the puppy's head, listening only.
"Evening, gentlemen," Dickie Mason said from the top of the stairs. "Rogue."
Remy stepped into his view of her. "What are you doin'?"
"Charmed, as always, LeBeau. Some chaps at school told me I could find you here. Henry, Robert. Richard Mason—I believe we've met at the club." Turning back to the Cajun, he said, "I came to call a truce." He lowered his voice and the Beauvaises leaned in. "Noel was released today. Looks like your posse's grip doesn't reach as far as you thought it did." The Beauvaises jerked back, feigning interest in something else.
Remy stepped closer to him. "Simply loosened our grip, brot'er."
"Oh, yeah? Well, he's out! And someone else is missing."
Rogue froze. Remy sensed her fear and immediately shoved Dickie. "Get out." And before discarding him, demanded, "Who?"
"Barbie Carey," Dickie sniffed. "Shame, but at least the Mason name has been cleared," he nearly whispered, smirked, and traipsed down the stairs.
When Remy re-entered, Rogue was standing, hopping back and forth nervously. Butter also stood. "Remy! Someone else is missin'? Oh mah Gawd, what's goin' on?"
He reached her side and hugged her. "Remy wish dat bastard had contacted him privately. You shouldn't have had to find out dis way." He shot Hank a look.
"In my defense, I did not know who he was. I thought, at worst, he was a pledge who wanted us to purchase alcohol or some shit."
Trip walked around the pool table, no longer really interested in the game but still eyeing possible shots in case his brother had not yet surrendered. "Wow. Two females missing from your campus in less than one month." He paused, genuinely worried, lacking his characteristic charisma while he said, lamely, "They'll amp security if they haven't already." He shot his cue.
Hank watched the ball miss and prepared his own shot. "Indeed. According to the local news, armed security has been hired. In addition, the school has sent release forms to the students' parents for any privileged data they deem pertinent. That includes cell records and emails." He sank a ball, shot again, and missed.
Trip took over. "That's reasonable. We want to find the potential serial killer, don't we? People v. Martin precedents the random collection of such data in the case of becoming pertinent, if even several years down the road." He missed again.
Hank steadied a shot and sank it. "Oh, grasshopper. Never mind the heightened fear that comes with heightened security, the students then become stripped of their inalienable rights, beginning with privacy. The fraction of a chance that law enforcement will discover the identity of the killer by massing random data proves that the cost of losing one's liberty is not worth it. You will find it explained in that little document called the Bill of Rights, good man."
Ending the debate, they clashed cues like sporting fencers.
Rogue eyed Remy and turned to leave the room, clinging to his hand so that he trailed her. She led him down the moonlit hallway, past the windows with a view of the building's courtyard, deep into the guest corridor, and finally into the guest suite, where they were essentially living out of her giant Louis Vuitton suitcase. She dropped his hand and he halted where she left him. She sailed to the window and gazed at another view of the courtyard, silver light filling the space like a bowl.
Remy gave her space, like he knew she wanted, but he stared intently at the back of her head.
"What's wrong, chere? Don't worry about Barbie. Is dat what's wrong, chere?" He knew it wasn't.
"What was Dickie doin' heuh? Why did he come to see you? Mah Gawd, do you have anythang to do with Barbie missing? With…Cand'ys…murdah?" she was bawling.
Remy moved to comfort her but she threw her arms up.
"No! Answah me!"
"'Course not! Remy and his people had not'ing to do wit' our friend's tragedy and he knows not'ing about Barbie. But if ma cherie is dat concerned with finding out who is responsible, consider it done."
"Why did Dickie come heuh," she repeated, peering at him sideways. She was determined to get some answers because, if he wanted to marry her, he was going to have to show her all his cards. He didn't respond. She straightened, hands by her sides, waiting. He licked his lips thoughtfully and sat on the edge of the bed. Was he really going to try to sweet talk? She hoped he understood that this was the first of many tests that she would put him to, having accepted his marriage proposal way before she ever got to administer any of them in the relationship. Should he fail, she could potentially become a bitter witch and would reserve the right to blame him forever. She could be Diane Keaton with the door slammed in her face at the end of Godfather.
He understood. He said, "Rogue, de little rat came here because his father probably told him dat businessmen who work for Remy's father got de ot'er little rat arrested."
"What businessmen? How on earth is that even possible?"
"It's a group of men who have been working toget'er since before Remy's father's father. De Guild, like a fraternity. Except much more powerful. Yes, dey are very influential and, yes, some of deir methods are not in any books."
She held a hand over parted lips and whispered, "Did you get Noel arrested?"
She sank into the armchair by the dresser. Without missing a beat, he had told her the truth, and even though it wasn't ideal, she was relieved by that little knowledge. He confirmed some terrible suspicions about him but she could not possibly love him anymore than she did at that moment. She folded her hands in her lap and nodded, softening to him. Fear, however, for her missing friends, still pervaded.
At 3 a.m., the campus was silent, chilly, and pitch black except for the spots under the campus lights. There were no lights on in the boys' dorms. Jean woke up in the dark and adjusted her eyes by blinking. She propped her head up from Scott's desk and turned to see him asleep in his bed. She smiled, a little embarrassed. She had apparently fallen asleep while researching and Scott had turned off the desk lamp. She quietly pushed out her chair and slipped on her black slingbacks. A New Orleans Saints afghan that had been draped around her shoulders fell. She reached for her iPad still on the desk. On it was a Post-It that read, "Stop," underlined, and then, "Let me walk you home!"
Smiling still, she looked at him again. She wasn't going to wake him. She slipped out of the room, toeing down the hallway and exiting the building onto a path. Cold, she pulled a black cashmere cardigan from her bag and put it on. Her heart beat wildly. She was scared. The wind blew through the black trees in the distance and there was not a soul in sight, meaning if there was someone there, she did not see them.
She banished the fears and marched to Marion Leigh. If someone aimed to harm her, so be it. She decided she would face it bravely.
But her journey was uninterrupted. She crept into her empty dorm, changed, and went to bed. Snuggled safely under flannel sheets, she thought about Scott, her new best friend, someone she loved dearly, and, if he became her serious boyfriend, she didn't think she would mind…She was sleepy…She did mind it, or she was scared, when she felt fear at her own school, though.
Ninety minutes later it was even colder and darker. Remy and Rogue rolled into the student parking lot with the Fastback's lights turned off.
"Remy wants to walk you home," he said.
"No, don't be silly. It's cleah on the othah side of campus. Ah'll be fine. Get some sleep." She gave him a peck on the cheek. "Ah know how grumpy you are when you have a bad morning class."
"Remy don't t'ink so. You really t'ink he going to let you walk alone at this hour?"
"Let me? Okay, now yoah definitely not."
He opened his mouth to retort. She perked a brow, daring him to increase his punishment.
He held the back of her head. "Hey, look here. Go straight home and fast." He frenched her deeply. She responded. He stroked her thigh up to the ruffle trim of her short romper.
"Go to bed!" She broke away.
He watched her exit the car and walk across the parking lot. Hands clutching the steering wheel, he stared at her long after she had disappeared into the woods.
Rogue shook her head, feeling his eyes on her back until she was deep on the path. She inhaled deeply, eyes alert to the activity surrounding her.
"Oh mah Gawd! You scared me, Dr. Kelley!"
The dean's wife, also named Dr. Kelley, appeared from a garden beside Marion Leigh. She looked over Rogue's romper, black with purple flowers, and raised a judgmental brow.
At dawn, Jean was standing in the bathroom she and Rogue shared, silently stabbing earrings through her lobes to complete her pantsuit. There was a pounding on the door. She gasped, startled, and marched to it.
Swinging it open, she saw Remy, who bustled past her, wrenching the covers from Rogue's bed.
"She's not here! Did she make it home last night, Jean?"
"I…I don't know. What's going on?"
"Goddamnit, Remy knew he shouldn't have let her walk alone! She's gone! Mon dieu!" He panicked.
Jean's heart raced wildly like it had just a few hours ago. Whoever had been watching her in the dark had spared Jean, it seemed, but not Rogue.