Summary: AU—Serena Hazelwood is twenty, an art student and an aspiring painter. It's all sex, drugs, and expanding minds. But by chance, she meets successful business man, Darien Yaden, who lives the glamorous Manhattan high life. And everything that unfolds, takes them by surprise. Warning: mature content with references to sex, drug use, and—in fact—all-around questionable morals.

Author's Note: Ah, yes, what? You're starting a new story. And, oh my, you're tackling the businessman Darien? Mmm. Yes. Guilty as charged. I'm a painter, and I'm always painting on a number of canvases at once, it's just how I work. Thus I've found I need three stories to keep my creative self alive. And since I've just finished Insatiable, I need something new. I have Sea Glass, which is all about teamwork (which is proving challenging to align schedules); I have Glimpse, drabbles galore; and at last, to keep my sanity, I have this: my au, where I'm utterly free. Ah, so, enjoy? Hehe. Much love, PrincessJade.

Falling is Like This

You give me that look that's like laughing

With liquid in your mouth

Like you're choosing between choking

And spitting it all out

Like you're trying to fight gravity

On a planet that insists

That love is like falling

And falling is like this

Feels like reckless driving when we're talking

It's fun while it lasts, and it's faster than walking

But no one's going to sympathize when we crash

They'll say "you hit what you head for, you get what you ask"

And we'll say we didn't know, we didn't even try

One minute there was road beneath us, the next just sky

I'm sorry I can't help you, I cannot keep you safe

I'm sorry I can't help myself, so don't look at me that way

We can't fight gravity on a planet that insists

That love is like falling

And falling is like this.

Ani Difranco

01: Stationary

Serena Hazelwood loved Brooklyn, especially during autumn, when everything was a mix of contradictions—its scent full of sweetness with an underlying tart, the air crisp but yielding. The leaves had just begun to change and it made the campus below shimmer and glow, all aflame in reds and yellows. To the right, Manhattan was stretched across an azure sky, the big brother to a darling sister—strong, loyal, and always there.

This was her favorite spot, on top the roof of Main Building, out the back door of the fifth floor painting studios. In fact, it was a favorite of most of her friends. Stoner heaven, as it was fondly called, was really only a small stretch of roof, speckled with sky-light windows, tucked high above Willoughby and Hall. It was a convenient gathering spot when studio work had to be done; a place to convene, hash out ideas, and then leave rejuvenated.

"You done for the day?" Graham Guerra exhaled, blue smoke swirling in the afternoon air, and passed the joint to her. His eyes were gray, the color of rainy days and sadness, and they drank her in. He was all legs and hollow bones—poetic beauty—the perfect manifestation of the man she'd always imagined loving: shaggy-haired, sharp-nosed, sensitively deep, a master of words.

And they both knew they were messy with paint, messy with drugs, and so messy with love—the perfect art school romance.

"Well do you have something better in mind?" She gave him a knowing smile. He gazed at her adoringly in return, for they both knew they were beauty defined when sprawled together across his sinking bed, their skin all muted gold's beneath the haze of marijuana and cigarettes.

"Always, come back with me. I've just put up the new Polaroids. Your tits look amazing in them. We can grab sushi."

"Sushi?" She shook her head, truly sorry. "I can't. I already promised Rei that I'd run around Manhattan with her tonight. We're rolling. I can't let her down."

"I understand." And he did, though he still felt cheated. He had been looking forward to an entire evening spent in her arms. A night full of spicy wasabi-kisses and smoke-filled sighs, with her sweet thighs wrapped around him—his hands, his face, his jerking hips. "Come tonight then, afterwards. You'll still be soaring. It'll be amazing. I promise."

"Okay. I will. It'll be late." She tossed the roach over the ledge and turned to give him an affectionate kiss, nibbling on his lip ring. "I'll wake you up."

"You know how." He smiled, though it never reached his eyes. Something felt off. She had begun to head inside, when he called out, suddenly, with a sense of foreboding, "I'll miss you, Serena. Be careful and come back to me."

"I always do."


"Betsy, you're a doll. Time?" Darien Yaden questioned, flashing a slow, seductive smile toward his secretary. She was an exotic brunette with a killer set of legs. And he knew he had hypothesized many times about how well she would be in bed. Perhaps, Darien thought wryly, it was time to test out some of those theories.

"Quarter to five." Betsy smiled, sooty lashes fluttering, as she handed over a stack of papers—sheets and sheets of numbers and figures. They both knew, perhaps Darien more visually so, of how her tailored suit outlined just the right curves, especially accenting her lush Latina backside. She leaned closer and dropped a hand to the bare skin—that his rolled up cuffs exposed—just below his elbow. Her eyes were sly, with just a hint of mint-green. "Why, Mr. Yaden! You do seem to be in a hurry this evening. May I ask what for?"

"Oh, Betsy, my darling! Hasn't Darien invited you?" Andrew Welling asked as he strolled in, blonde hair a disheveled mess. His olive green tie was already unknotted at his throat and he, like Darien, had his shirt sleeves rolled up to reveal tanned skin. He slung his jacket over the back of a chair and dropped a friendly arm around her shoulders. "We're having a big bash tonight in celebration of our new place. You should come."

"I would love to." She flashed—first Darien, then Andrew—a sweet smile as she began to leave, sensing she would not be privy to their following conversation. "Where and when?"

"We'll be in penthouse C at the corner of 43rd and 8th. "Andrew laughed and pinched her cheek in amusement. "Come around…eh…ten? Oh, and bring some friends—the more pretty faces the better."

"No problem." Betsy giggled and sauntered out of the room.

Once she was gone, Andrew sat on the edge of the desk and gave his best friend a knowing look.

"Man, I can't believe you haven't slept with her yet."

Darien shrugged. "I've been thinking about it."

"Well, you snooze, you lose—if you don't bang her tonight, I think I will."

"Be my guest. Though, I doubt any of us will be lacking for female companionship tonight." Darien pushed his paperwork aside and began to loosen his tie. He glanced at his cell phone. "It's five o'clock, which means--"

"It's time to talk business?"

Darien nodded and tossed Andrew a pen. "Shall we start with the alcohol or the drugs?"



They glanced out the window, where Midtown lay sprawled out beneath them, then back to each other. In contemplation, they were silent for a long moment.

Then, simultaneously, they both broke into boyish grins and said, "Drugs."


It was eleven and Serena was soaring.

Everything was warm and bright and good.

With arms linked, the two girls wove in and out and around clusters of pedestrians, giggling to themselves all the while. They had gotten off the A train at 14th Street and then began to walk, like speed demons, up 8th Avenue. They had felt, the entire way, like two fish swimming up stream. Though now that they had hit 42nd and its glittering lights, the sidewalks were so crowded that they had to sometimes let go of each other in order to squeeze by.

"People must think we're nuts." Rei Michaels laughed and grabbed a hold of Serena's arm again, tugging her closer. They passed by the Port Authority and then crossed the street. Midway, Rei squealed and pointed excitedly, coming to a halt at the corner of 43rd. "Oh, look! Serena, look!"

Serena glanced down the street to see what Rei was gawking at and—once she saw the flashing lights—she knew. It was a tall, elegant building, with its top two floors lit up in an ever-changing array of colors; red, blue, purple, green. It was so gorgeous that, immediately, both girls knew they had to check it out.

"What do you think it is? We have to get in there!"

"Oh my god, I know. Maybe it's a club?" Serena wondered as they turned down 43rd and began to run. Her heart was pounding, an endless thump-thump-thump, in her chest by the time they came to stop in front of a 7-Eleven. They both frowned, spirits sinking. "How do we get up there?"

Rei grabbed her hand in determination. "I don't know. Let's ask."

Inside, everything was all creamy yellows and oranges. It smelt of floor cleaner and coffee grinds—Serena wrinkled her nose. It was too hot in here.

Rei walked up to the counter and smiled at the cashier. Her eyes were huge; an endless black ink-well lined in violet. "We were just wondering what's at the top of this building? Is it a club? A restaurant?"

The cashier shrugged and regretfully said he didn't know. Disappointed, they turned around to leave when a tall, shaggy-haired guy in the next line called out, "It's an apartment building."

"It is! Can we get in there?" Both girls exclaimed.

"I suppose I could take you."

He laughed, brown eyes bright with amusement, and paid for a pack of cigarettes. He met them at the door and then followed them outside. He lit up a Camel Light and eyed them both. He noticed they were young, dressed in their shimmering dresses and dainty flats—their skin flushed with some Friday night delight. They reminded him of gemstones—one a glistening ruby, the other an illuminating pearl—and though they were certainly different, they were both equally beautiful and, most importantly, equally fucked up. Exhaling, he extended his hand and gave them his most charming smile.

"A few friends of mine just moved into the penthouse and they're throwing a party to celebrate. You girls want to come?"

They both laughed, their glossy lips revealing pearly-white teeth. "Of course! We'd love to!"

"Excellent. My name's Chad. It's nice to meet you—"



"Pretty names." He offered an arm to Rei and then Serena. "Come on, the entrance is on the other side. The guys are not going to believe my luck."