Time unknown.

"I assume you have some good news for me, Ms. Perraudin." Cold, dead eyes gazed from the sunken crevices of an equally dead face, a face many would mistake for a mask.

He sat stone still in the chair, regarding the young woman standing in front of him with beautifully concealed contempt. At that, he needed no further practice. The endless recruits came and went, an eager and obsequious New Mutant after another, each rarely lasting for long before being replaced by yet another eager and obsequious New Mutant. Yet none of them had ever pleased him well.

The young woman with straight jet-black hair stared at him coolly through catty green eyes, and they glowed resplendently against her ivory complexion.

"Well? Wasting my time will not gain you any credits from me." His voice was, of course, frosty, but she was far from daunted.

She sauntered over to the table and almost seductively, bent forward and splayed her long fingers near the edge; smirking as he hurriedly pulled his hands away in the fear that she would somehow touch him.

"Oh but I can afford to. You have all the time in the world, Mr. Eckhart," she purred, imitating a Feral perfectly despite the fact that she wasn't one. Oh no, she was far stronger than ferals, almost as strong as most psionics even, and she knew that. "But one of Adam's Mutants." She paused for a dramatic effect, and the edges of her lips curled up slightly, "- doesn't."

And from beneath the mop of bleached, synthetic hair flashed a sudden smile of triumph.
The Bronx,

A few days before.

She made her move through the dance floor; her slinky silk dress clinging to her delectable body like satin sheet. At first glance, she was, like any other girl worthy of a second glance, hot, like really, REALLY hot. But to Jesse she was a scorpion; a deadly hunter seeking out the perfect target, the perfect mate, with the audacious yet perfectly alluring sexiness. . .

The way her crystalline eyes pierced through his, smouldering and mesmerizing.the way her lips pulled back in that oh so sexy smile. . .Jesse surreptitiously lowered his eyes. The way her hips swayed in time with the music. . .And the fact that she was heading straight toward him made him feel almost giddy.

And the moment she pressed herself against him, sending him up against the wall, Jesse knew he'd been had.

How bold. A stranger too. No, Jesse corrected himself. A perfect, beautiful stranger.

"Caramel. . .," He murmured. Pick-up lines always came easy to him but tonight, nothing seemed to stop him from saying out the first thing that came to his mind, nothing seemed to stop the tremors than ran down his spine as she traced a long fingernail along his jaw line.

That got her attention. The stranger lifted her head; her long, shiny black hair partly shielding her eyes but Jesse could still catch the sharp gleam in them. What beautiful eyes she had.

"Hmm?" Even the lustrous timbre of her voice struck a chord in his heart.

"I bet you taste like caramel," he said huskily. Red, red lips parted, showing the whitest set of teeth he had ever seen.

"You want to try?" Jesse detected a hint of an accent from the soft roll of her tongue as she whispered her invitation, subtle yet exquisite. A rush of euphoria coursed through his veins as he pulled her closer toward him. He couldn't believe his luck; a French beauty of all things. Secretly he hoped Brennan was watching; he would definitely go nuts with envy.

Jesse nodded.

The girl dug her fingers into his strong shoulders. Jesse acquiesced and lowered his head, gently pressing his lips against hers. Then for a long, endless second, Jesse was floating; caught deep in the throes of passion and love at first sight. And when the kiss finally broke, Jesse knew caramel was not the right word to describe her.

"I take it back. . ." Jesse bent down to kiss the nape of her neck. "Rich. . .red. . .wine. . .that's -what you are. . ."

She giggled, her throat vibrating against the flesh of his lips. This is just too easy, she thought with glee. Damn fool, is he one of the people Eckhart is so afraid of?

She wrapped her arms around Jesse's neck and pulled him in close for another kiss. Hmm, not a bad kisser. I bet the rest of him doesn't taste that bad either.Should I go for his chest? She splayed her hands against his torso, amazed at how taut his muscles were. Painful, but too quick. Scratch that.

"Who ARE you?" Jesse asked in amazement.

"Je veuz rentrer. . ." She mumbled dreamily. And Jesse forgot all about her name.

One of the few reasons why Jesse could never be as tough, let's face it, as Brennan was because he was brought up rich. There were times Jesse would curse being born, as Brennan had put it so eloquently, with a silver spoon in his mouth, but now wasn't one of them. Because one thing rich kids like him got to do, was go for French classes.

She's asking me to take her home, Jesse realized. "Avec moi?" He asked smilingly.

You wish, she thought. She ran her fingers through his blond hair and held both hands against his temples. Hmm. How about the brains? Adam would have a hard time dealing with THAT. . .

She nodded seductively.

"Ou habitez-vous?" Asking her where she lived may not sound all that romantic, but at least he was getting somewhere. He would sure hate to lose out with a girl this hot.

"I live. . ." She gazed dreamily into his eyes. "-in your heart." Her grip tightened, and Jesse winced a little when her fingernails dug into his temples. But his smile faded a little when her eyes suddenly rolled up, showing only the whites, and the pressure at the sides of his head intensified.

"Whoa!" Jesse quickly pulled her wrists away from him. "Are you okay?"

For a moment, Jesse thought he saw her eyes glower in the dark. And before he could say anything else, she balled her fists as if to punch him, and without so much of a word or a smile, turned on her heels and stalked off.
Damn, Elaine Perraudin cursed under her breath. She had almost had him. Just a little bit more, and he would be dead. And now she had to start all over again. From the shadows she had slunk, she watched him. His tall dark- haired friend had joined him now, and Jesse was turning his head from side to side as if looking for someone. Looking for me. Jesse seemingly appeared to have read her move. Had he really?

In the ladies', she stripped off her dress and flung it to the far corner in frustration. There's no way of going after him now, she fumed as she pulled on the jumpsuit she was wearing earlier.

Guess I'll have to wait then, she thought. She summoned all her energy she had meant to use on Jesse that night, and soon, dark red clouds swiveled over her balled fists in coats of resplendent aura.

Jesse had been right. She was a scorpion. And she had chosen him as her first victim. Then only would it be the rest of the Mutant X.