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Chapter One

Lovers, Friends and Enemies

"So the prodigal son of New York returns," thirty-four year old Nate Archibald drily commented, folding the social supplement of the newspaper on the antique kitchen table with a faint look of distaste marring his model features.

Jenny Archibald simpered. "So Chuck Bass and his beloved Waldorf have slunk back from Paris with their large menagerie?"

"I wouldn't exactly call their return 'slinking back', Jen. They practically posed for the paparazzi at JFK airport."

Jenny took the paper from her husband and saw a large black and white picture of Chuck and Blair Bass, who were impeccably dressed in black with dark sunglasses. Blair's hand was tucked securely in the crook of Chuck's arm and his body was subtly turned towards hers, as if he was shielding her from the glare of the cameras. Behind them were their four children, obscured from the cameras by their parents. The headline blared: 'BASS MOGUL RETURNS FROM PARIS TO SECURE HIS NEW YORK DOMINION'.

"They were in Paris for how long?" questioned Jenny, who had lost track of the Bass clan's globe trotting lifestyle.

"Boston for three years, London for two, and Paris for eight years," Nate automatically replied.

Jenny eyed her husband. "Do you think they're returning because of Bart's cancer?"

Nate shrugged. "I hardly think that Chuck is that noble."

"Well Bart has been travelling a lot to Paris for the past couple of years…they might have patched things up…"

"Would you stop asking questions, Jen? I do not know the inner workings of Chuck's twisted mind. All I know is that he is a backstabber who seduced my fiancée."

Jenny pursed her lips but did not remind her husband that the reason for Blair succumbing to Chuck's charms was because Nate had been neglecting her in favour of leggy blond goddess Serena. She merely took a sip of her coffee and inwardly looked forward to the inevitable fireworks that would arise from the arrival of the Basses.

Meanwhile, the large Bass family had piled into a limo and were making their way back to the Palace, which was to be their new home.

As the limo purred down the crowded streets of New York, a smirking Chuck squeezed his wife's hand. "The limo bring back any fond memories?" he drawled in her ear.

Blair gave him a wide-eyed innocent look that did not fool Chuck for a second. "I can't think what you're talking about, Bass."

"How about tonight I make you remember?" he murmured in a barely audible voice, his mocha eyes utterly hypnotic.

Blair raised a perfectly arched eyebrow, her full red lips twitching as if she was trying to suppress a smile. "You'll need to take me step by step through the memories, of course."

Chuck's eyes gleamed. "It would be my pleasure."

The two of them shared a quick private smile before turning back to their children who were engaged in a spirited battle of wits.

Ten year-old twins Lucille and Laurent were the eldest. Lucille was almost a carbon copy of her mother with her doe-eyes, milky skin and wavy chestnut hair. Already, she had the gift of the gab, a bright vivacious girl who could never be in a black mood for long. Her grandfather Bart doted on her excessively.

Laurent, three minutes older than his sister, was quieter than his twin and had inherited his father's sharp features and eyes. Whereas Lucille changed her likes and dislikes every couple of minutes, Laurent was steady, calm and fiercely protective of his sisters. If Lucille got into a scrape (which she nearly always did), Laurent was always there to pull her out of it.

Lucille and Laurent were also able to speak French fluently, like their father and mother. The twins had also developed a taste for outrageous scarves, like their father.

Ruby was eight years old and was more demure than Lucille. She liked to dress in fine clothes and preferred playing dolls than climbing trees, riding bikes and swimming, like Lucille did. She had Chuck's sharply defined facial structure and Blair's eyes. Her hair was straight and a chocolate colour. She loved wearing bright bows in her hair.

The last child was a Somalian orphan, Zara, whose parents had been killed by guerrilla troops when she was only a newborn. She was six years old and had been adopted by Chuck and Blair from a Parisian orphanage when she was four. She had flawless ebony skin, thick black hair and large brown eyes with long eyelashes. Zara could be quite introverted at times, but under the love of her new family, she was gradually blossoming into a bright, young girl. Out of her siblings, she was especially close to Laurent.

"When are we seeing grandpa?" Lucille asked, tapping her fingers impatiently against her black and white checked dress.

"Once we've unpacked and settled in," Blair replied, leaning over to pick off a piece of fluff that was sticking to Lucille's stockings.

"When are we going to see our new home?" Lucille continued. "I'm so bored."

"You're always bored," Ruby commented primly.

Lucille stuck her tongue out at Ruby. "Goody-goody."

"Hey, that's not fair, I'm not a—"

"Lucille and Ruby, if you girls want to tear yourselves apart, please wait until we get to our house so you can do it in private so the rest of us don't have to witness the bloodbath in this confined space," Chuck interceded.

Lucille quietened down. "Sorry, dad and Ruby."

"Want to listen to my IPod with me?" offered Ruby as a token of peace.

"Sure," responded Lucille.

Laurent rolled his eyes. "Girls," he muttered.

Lucille flicked him the finger and Blair gave her a warning look. Laurent smirked at Lucille and mouthed 'sucker', as Blair leaned her head on Chuck's shoulder, her eyes sliding shut.

Laurent's face softened as he looked upon Zara who had fallen fast asleep on his shoulder and placed his jacket over her.

A rare silence fell over the limo.

Chuck's eyes were directed out the window, lost in his own thoughts, making the ever-perceptive Laurent wonder what exactly he was thinking of. Was it of his dying father? Of this 'Nate' that he had heard his parents talk about in heated whispers when they thought he wasn't listening?

He then noticed his father's fingers entwined with his mother's and he smiled to himself. Whatever his dad was worried about, he knew that as long as they were altogether, it would be all right.

The Palace manager and numerous luggage boys were awaiting the Bass arrival. The manager shook Chuck's hand while the luggage boys expertly removed the numerous suitcases, bags and packages to their new penthouse suite. Chuck gave the head luggage boy a generous tip.

Once in their penthouse that had once been the home of Bart and Chuck, the children ran amok and immediately laid claim to a room each, leaving Blair and Chuck standing in the living room together. Chuck slipped his hands around his wife's middle from behind, resting his head on hers. "This place hasn't changed much."

Blair turned in his arms to face him, smiling. "I'm assuming those 'tasteful' magazines you used to own are no longer lying around?"

Chuck smirked. "Why would I need a magazine of buxom ladies when I have my ultimate fantasy right here in my arms?"

Blair gave him a lingering kiss on the lips. "I never knew you were such a romantic, Bass."

"If you tell anyone, I shall have to kill you," he murmured against her lips.

"My lips are sealed."

And she leaned in to kiss him again.

About half an hour later, they had the most unlikely visitor: Jenny Archibald.

"Welcome, Jenny," Blair greeted, her voice acidic.

Jenny smiled brightly. "Welcome back, Blair. So the fugitive has come back to town."

"And the little gold digger has come visiting," shot back Blair in a sugar-sweet voice.

Jenny's eyes narrowed. "You know you are a little—"

"Who's this, mom?" Laurent asked, standing beside his mother.

"An old friend," Jenny popped in with a cheery smile. "What's your name, young man?"


"And how old are you? Sixteen?"

"Ten," replied Laurent in a tone that suggested Jenny was a bit dim.

Jenny giggled falsely. "Well, he's obviously like his father."

"That he is," came a new, commanding voice.

"Oh, Chuck….hi," Jenny said.

"Laurent, go and help Zara unpack," Chuck said in a low voice, gently patting his son's back.

Laurent did not argue slipped off without giving Jenny a second glance.

Once Laurent had exited, Chuck's eyes narrowed. "What do you want, Jenny? You obviously didn't come here to exchange empty pleasantries."

Jenny's eyes shifted back and forth to the steely eyes of Chuck and Blair. "I just wanted to see how you were going?"

"I'm sure you were," Blair sarcastically responded, "Since we are such great friends and all."

"Look. I just wanted to see if—"

"I was happy with Chuck?"

Jenny flushed. "I wanted to know if you were interested in coming to dinner tonight. My brother and Serena will be there with their kids, and I think it would be great if you and your kids could come to."

"Why the sudden chumminess?" Chuck drawled. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were—"

"We'd love to come," interrupted Blair, shooting a glance at her husband. "We'll see you there at seven pm."

"Great. And it would be—"

"Sorry, we can't talk now. We have to settle in. We'll save what must be a fascinating conversation for tonight. Nice to see you, Jenny."

And with that, Blair closed the door on Jenny's face.

"What was that? I thought we had decided to not see them again?"

"You had decided," corrected Blair. "I want to show them how happy I am with you and dispel the rumours that you were merely 'sloppy seconds' as my mother had tactfully said."

Chuck cocked his head. "Really?"

A very Bass-like smirk appeared on Blair's face. "I think I need brain surgery or something, but I want to show off my beautiful children and my genetically blessed husband."

"So no trip down memory lane in the limo tonight?"

Blair's eyes darted behind her to see if any of the children were within hearing vicinity. Since they were not, Blair seductively pressed herself against him. "If you agree to accompanying me and the children to the Archibalds, I will see that you will reap the rewards."

"Are you propositioning me?" Chuck asked with feigned indignation.

"You better believe it, Bass," she breathed. "I have some new lingerie that needs your approval…"

Chuck traced languorous circles on her hips. "If spending the evening with that peroxide Muppet and Nathaniel is the price I have to pay to analyse this new lingerie of yours, then I'm willing to pay it."

"Good," and with a devilish grin, she pinched his buttocks, slipped out of his grasp and went to see what the children were up to.

"Minx," Chuck muttered with an undeniably smitten expression.

Nate had been angry, to say the least, that his wife had invited the Basses without consulting him. But as much as he hated to admit it, he wanted to see what Chuck was like with Blair, and what kind of kids they had produced. To his surprise, Chuck had kept the kids out of the media glare and had once successfully sued an American tabloid for taking an unauthorised picture of the twins in a Parisian playground.

Seven pm came around too quickly for his liking. The doorbell rang and Jenny called out for Nate to get the door because she needed to touch up her make-up. Sighing, Nate got the door.

"Nate," greeted Blair in a charming voice and giving him a peck on the cheek as if their turbulent past history had never occurred. "Thank-you for extending the invitation to us."

"Not a problem," Nate responded in a strangled voice, briefly losing his impeccable composure.

"Nathaniel," Chuck politely, his face inscrutable.

For appearances sake, Nate extended his hand stiffly to Chuck, who shook his hand in an equally mechanical way.

"And these are our children: Laurent, Lucille, Ruby and Zara," Blair continued. Each of the children, except for Laurent, smiled at him and shook his hand. Laurent regarded Nate with a guarded expression and placed himself protectively between his mother and Nate.

Blessedly, Jenny appeared and ushered them all into the ornate living room, all the while chattering about inane topics. Nate noticed Chuck hold Zara's little hand and ruffle her hair affectionately.

Nate's own child, nine year-old Thomas, was waiting in the living room. Thomas solemnly shook hands with both Chuck and Blair and rather awkward introductions were made between the children.

"Why is Zara black if her parents are white?" Thomas asked.

Jenny coughed embarrassedly and Nate could not think of something eloquent to say.

"Why are you such a dummy?" Laurent snapped back, wrapping his arm protectively around Zara's shoulders.

"Colour does not matter," Blair answered in an even tone. "She is my daughter and part of this family."

"But how can she be your daughter if she is a different colour and—"

"Why don't we change the subject?" Jenny said hastily. "Tom, show the kids your new games room."

Zara was near tears. With a look at Nate and Jenny that could have cowered a rampaging elephant, Chuck scooped up Zara in his arms and took her into another room, speaking to her in a low, soothing voice.

Laurent turned to his mother, and in rapid French said: "I don't want to play with that stupid idiot."

Blair kissed the top of his head and replied in French: "Please try to get along with him. He is not as smart as you and doesn't understand that Zara is adopted. I know he is a little brat, but could you please make an effort for me?"

Laurent sighed and nodded reluctantly in assent to his mother's request. "Oui, maman."

Jenny and Nate could not understand what the pair said, watched mystified as Laurent coolly asked to see Tom's new room. Lucille and Ruby followed their brother.

"I didn't know you could speak French, Blair," Nate said surprised.

"I picked it up while I lived there. Since Chuck was running the European branch of Bass Industries, I couldn't very well, as wife of the CEO, not know the language. It would project a poor image. I thought if Chuck could speak it so well, then I could too."

Chuck came back into the room with a cheered Zara.

"I'll take you to Tom's new room," Jenny offered.

"I'll take her, thank-you Jenny," replied Chuck in a scrupulously polite voice.

Jenny did not dare argue. "It's just up the stairs and the third door on your left."

Chuck nodded curtly and led Zara up the stairs, leaving Blair, Nate and Jenny standing in an awkward silence.

"Your son is not too bright is he?" Blair coolly commented.

Nate reddened. "Excuse me, but he asked a valid question. He did not understand that Zara was adopted."

"Don't you dare make assumptions about my son," added Jenny vehemently.

"Since your son brought my daughter near to tears, I think I am perfectly justified in making that statement."

"Why did you come here tonight, Blair, if you were only planning on making fights? I know Chuck appears as if he would rather have his eyes gouged out with a hot poker than spend a moment more in our company."

"Your dear wife invited us, Nathaniel, in case you've conveniently forgotten," Blair retorted.

"I know you only came here to show off your perfect children and your perfect husband and your perfect—"

"Cut it out, Nathaniel. Leave my wife alone," interrupted Chuck in a cold voice that could have sliced through steel. "I will not allow you and your trophy wife to speak to Blair like she's the hired help."

Nate's temper flared and punches would have been exchanged, had it not been for the inopportune doorbell.

"Get the doorbell, Nate," ordered Jenny, her face flushed with anger. "Get it now."

Nate reluctantly stalked to the door.

Once Nate had departed, Jenny's face contorted into an ugly scowl. "If you dare talk to me or my husband like that again, Chuck and Blair, I shall make your stay in New York very unpleasant."

Chuck smirked unpleasantly. "Do you think that my wife and I are frightened of a vapid void like you? If you carry out your pathetic threats, I will ruin you utterly without a tug of conscience—do you understand?"

"Listen to what he says, Little J. After all, Chuck and I were the king and queen of dethronement at high school, remember?" Blair said in a sugary voice that was laced by poison. "Lay a paw on my family and I shall rip you to shreds."

Jenny paled. "You two are rotten to the core."

Chuck clutched his chest theatrically. "You've wounded me deeply."

Blair wrapped her slim arm around her husband's waist, her face smug with self-satisfaction. "Ouch, Little J. I'm quaking in my Italian leather boots."

Meanwhile, Nate answered the door to Serena, Dan and their two kids Rose and Deacon. "Come on in."

"Nate," Dan said curtly, pushing past him and heading into the living room, followed by Rose and Deacon who greeted Nate with a quick peck on the cheek.

"I'm sorry about Dan, Nate. He and I have been arguing," apologised Serena quietly.

"I'm so sorry, Serena," Nate murmured, his eyes staring into hers intensely.

Serena brushed her fingers against his. "Nate…"

He glanced quickly around to see if there were any prying eyes. Observing they were quite alone, he lifted her palm to his mouth for a quick kiss.

"Oh Nate…"

Never breaking eye contact with Serena, Nate reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a small gold key. "Here, this is for the Dorchester on Saturday night. I've booked us a suite under the name Lawson."

Serena slipped the key into her small make-up bag. "I'll be waiting," she whispered with a small smile.

Then the two of them put on detached fronts for the rest of the guests as they went out to mingle and make conversation.

The end of chapter one. I hoped you enjoyed it. Please review and tell me what you think!