When she was a little girl, she used to hold her arms out and spin around in circles until she got so dizzy the ground would rush up to meet her. She didn't have anyone to catch her back then, and she certainly doesn't have anyone to catch her now that she's older. She bats her eyelashes in the right direction, lets her fingertips linger on the right arm and brushes her lips against the right ear, breathing promises and propositions. They're eager to take advantage of everything she has to give, and she takes what she can in return. It's all a game to her and they follow her rules. Then, she meets Ethan. He doesn't play her game. He plays his own. It's a dark and twisted game and he leads her down a path that she veers off from time to time. It makes her sick to her stomach to need him, but she does. She claws her way up to the top with his help and the only thing she has to sacrifice is her soul. She doesn't need it, anyway. Who's she going to share it with, after all?
She isn't glad when Ethan dies, but she can't pretend there isn't a certain satisfaction that clings to her. She's free from his sadism and his cruelty, but she's also afraid. She doesn't know to make it without him. She wants to be a good person, knows deep down that she can be. She doesn't count on the disgust in people's gazes and the accusation coating their words as they indulge in their gossip. They don't want her to make it. They want her to disappear. She's an unpleasant reminder of an unpleasant man. Or even worse, they see her as a victim. She's no ones victim, not anymore.
It isn't hard to revert to the way she was. She's fire and ice, tantalizing male senses wherever she goes and leaving nothing but a pleasant memory and a lingering trace of expensive perfume. She schemes her way to the top HOD job without much trouble. Callum isn't immune to her charms, and privately, she despises him for it. Men are predictable creatures. She expected more of a challenge.
TK Samuels has warm brown eyes and an easy going laugh that puts everyone around him at immediate ease. He's nice to her, but he's also wary. He doesn't trust her. She likes him for that. He's a worthy opponent, whether he realises it or not. She starts off small, undermining him in ways that she knows he won't react to. She gets a rush from the way he looks at her, gets a surge of smug satisfaction whenever he realises what she's up to. He gets the upper hand every now and then, but that's okay. She never expected him to take it lying down. She pushes him to breaking point and loves every second of it. He's a nice guy at heart, he won't fight back too hard.
The hours are brutal and more often than not, she finds herself in her office until the early hours of the morning, checking and rechecking her paperwork. She finds this part of a job a bore. Truthfully, most of it is boring. The only thing that keeps her going is outwitting those around her. Her mind wanders to TK, as it often does. She conjures up his eyes and his smile in her mind, wondering what it would be like to have the full wattage of that grin directed at her. He doesn't smile at her anymore; he only looks at her with grim determination.
She's lost in these thoughts when the door to her office swings open, and she swivels her chair around to see who could be paying her a visit at such an odd time. TK stands there, holding himself in a rigid position with his arms crossed over his chest. He's glaring at her, but there's nothing new there. Brooke relaxes at once, her lips curling into an easy smirk.
"TK, what a surprise." She put down the folder she was holding and pushed herself to her feet, crossing the small distance between them. His posture didn't relax, if anything, he backed up a step. She ignored that, waving him inside with a grand gesture. "Come in. It must be important if you're here."
He watched her carefully, but he nodded, making his way over to the patient's chair and dropping down into it. She almost laughed out loud at the irony. She knew that even if he were dying, he'd never seek medical advice from her. It made her wonder why he was here at all. Her face was curious as she took her seat next to him, raising a perfectly arched eyebrow. "Well?"
He rubbed a hand over his face, looking up at the ceiling before he lowered his gaze to her. "I want you to cut this out."
She arranged her expression to one of polite inquiry. "Excuse me? I don't know what you're talking about."
His fist banged down against her desk, startling her. "Yes, you do! Stop playing with me, Brooke."
Her tone was icy as she replied, "I'm not playing with you. I'm only doing what I have to."
TK shook his head, letting out a humourless laugh. "Doing what you have to. So, you admit it." He leaned forward, his eyes dark and intense. "You've got Callum wrapped around your little finger. But you'll never have me as your little lapdog."
Brooke smiled as she rose from her chair, walking around to the back of TK's and resting her hand on his shoulder. "I know that. You're different. It's… interesting." Her fingers traced the side of his neck. Her voice was quieter now. "You're interesting."
He flicked her hand away, pushing himself to his feet and turning to glare at her in something like outrage. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Nothing." She shot back, but she was feeling off balance now. What had she been doing? She should have known better. She had thought she'd pushed TK to his breaking point in the past, but it was nothing compared to how he was looking at her now. He advanced on her, and she backed up automatically, driven by the force of his eyes.
"Look," she found herself babbling as her back pressed against the wall. "I know you can handle yourself. That's why I did this. You're the only one of them who can best me."
TK pressed his arm to the wall by her side, blocking any chance she had at escape. "My life isn't a game. You don't know what you've started."
Brooke closed her eyes, her breathing ragged. She was afraid, really afraid for the first time in a long time.
"I… I didn't-"
"You didn't what, Brooke?" He was closer now. She could feel his breath warming her lips, smell that warm scent he gave off that was uniquely him.
No, she thought. Damn it, no. I'm no one's victim. Not anymore.
She opened her eyes, looking up at him defiantly. "What are you going to do? There's nothing you can take from me. Ethan, my Dad, everyone… everyone has taken all I have." Her voice broke a little at the end, but other than that she stayed strong.
TK surprised her then, his eyes gentled and he took a step back. "I don't want to take anything from you. I want you to stop these sick little games of yours."
"Make me," she whispered. "Show me another way." Deception was all she knew, all she had.
His hand lifted, warm, slightly rough fingers tracing her cheek and pushing her hair back. "I'll show you."