A/N Hey everyone! I am sorry for such a long wait. As I've said, Inspiration is a rare guest in my humble home these days. Nevertheless, I've managed this chapter. Hope, you'll love it!



James Birdsong, I've found the book, gonna reread it!







another Guest



Starrlight1812, will do!




Disclaimer: Don't own SM!

Chapter 11

Every next minute of the masquerade was getting on Darien's nerves more and more. Who could think that just an hour ago he thought this idea was brilliant! And who to blame? Of course, his ex-wife with her insane matchmaking ideas! Why, oh why she had this need to complicate things?

There were around 300 people. All of them wearing masks. Ok, so only half of them are females. But it still didn't make things any easier. The place was enormous. Serena could be practically anywhere. And Mina had had actually the nerve to ask the man how bad he wanted her sister and if he would take care of her. And then… then…

'That wench!'

«Oh, Darien there you are!» he spotted Mina standing outside the marquee with a platinum-haired man. Was this even his natural color? Mina and her craving for abnormal. «Thought you've decided to ignore my little gathering dedicated to celebration of my recent divorce. By the way, meet Kunzite Gelide. He's Serena's close friend and I totally approve!»

All of sudden Darien didn't like the man he was shaking hands with (needless to say, rather coldly) for all the different reasons. He was tall, muscular and seemed to be strong. His gray suit was very well-tailored, the simple mask didn't give away a single feature of his character. Kunzite behaved with the pride of a person who had achieved a lot, and all by himself. He was radiating the waves of power and confidence. Mina didn't feel the need to hide her admiration for the man and Darien relaxed a little. Surely, she would not feel free to look so completely smitten if the man had not been available. Would she?

For a second, Darien actually thought, they could become friends.

'How sick is that? Being friends with my ex-wife's new lover? Better Mina's new lover than Serena's ex… or worse - current boyfriend.'

Suddenly, Darien felt exposed and vulnerable as he noticed a small smirk on Kunz's face. He hadn't experienced that feeling for so long. Darien had had the upper hand in everything since school. And with every next year the level of his self-assurance only grew higher and higher.

'And that's not the moment to become all self-conscious!'

Regaining his self-control Darien nodded in return, this time actually smiling rather smugly as well.

«Nice to meet you, Mr. Shields.»

«The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Gelide. Ms. DeVeen, I could not miss your party for all the tea in China.»

'The bastard is smooth.'

Mina was restraining herself from jumping giddily. She saw Darien's masterfully hidden emotions. She also knew that never in a thousand years he would have attended her party if not for an incredibly important mission. Serena.

She was not a sadist. No. Mina just loved seeing him like that, all nervous, jealous, suffering from not being able to see Serena and sweep her off her feet, ready to kill the ex-wife, but knowing it was too late and now he just must play the role. Oh, this was priceless. Mina was playing the ideal wife for much more time than she liked, he'd have to tolerate her a little more than he'd want.

'That's only fair.'

Smiling mischievously, Mina reached for Darien's hand and grasped it tightly. It could easily rank as one of the most intimate gestures they had shared. Knowing the woman's plan, Kunz disappeared into the crowd, leaving the ex-couple alone.

Mina didn't seem to mind.

A passing waiter offered them a drink: «Cristal?» - and Mina thankfully took two flutes, passing one to Darien.

«OMG testosterone rush….» she muttered to herself. «So, Mr. Shields, before I tell you the whereabouts of a certain young lady, I need to be sure this is worth it. You will not harm her in any way. And… I've just found her and do not want to loose her.»

«Are you kidding me, Mina? Have I ever given you a reason to think I'll hurt her? Anyone?»

«Actually, you can be pretty scary.»

Darien had never wanted to scare Mina, but strangely enough the thought appeared to be pretty satisfying. But then again, that was what Darien did best, intimidate people. Naturally,

'Was Serena afraid of me too?'

«Serena deserves the best, Darien. She is a pure and innocent soul, and I do not want you to… break her. Do you… can you understand me?»

«I guess so. I can only promise that I will do everything in my power to….»

«Shut up, Darien. This mumbling does not become you. I just want you to know that if something - anything - happens, I'll kill you with my bare hands. You are the man of action, not words. So…»

The way Mina glared at her ex-husband guaranteed at least torturous death. Fortunately for Darien, Mrs. Wilis interrupted Mina's train of thought. Hardly did she think about her happy place, unless it was torture chamber designed especially for Darien.

«Mina, a Mr. Kou asked to see you in the library, I saw Serena with him.»

Darien glanced at Giselle, now seeing her face. Big olive eyes were sparkling with mischief, as she eyed him cautiously. Slight blush could be seen on her cheeks. And the woman looked like he was out of breath. Now more than ever she intrigued him. Giselle was a mystery. But he knew her. From somewhere. He just could not grasp…

A tall man approached the group, holding Giselle's mask in his hand. Despite the fact that Darien didn't see his face, he could sense something familiar about him. Calmly, he put his hand around Giselle's waist, hugging her close to him, stating his rights silently and making the woman blush a little. Mina didn't seem to pay the couple special attention. She just smiled mindlessly at the man and then turned to look at Darien, no trace of hostility in her eyes.

"I am heading to the library. I think you should come too, it concerns my sister's and my past, you should know if you are willing to be with Sere. but would you be so kind and bring Kun with you as well? " not waiting for a reply, Mina went towards the house, making few stops on her way to greet some guests and accept the endless praising.

Giselle, who had already put on her mask back, giggled like a school girl, surprising Darien even more.

"That's Mina for you... Mr. Shields, my apologies. I am being rude. This is my husband, Nick Wilis. Nick, this is your classmate, and according to Mina, megalomaniac mogul Darien Shields."

The moment Giselle introduced the man, it all clicked.

That was the man he had used to be best friends with. Until the moment they chose different paths - colleges that is. They used to be in touch and now Darien understood the reason Giselle looked so familiar. He had seen her photos several years ago, when Nick announced the future the marriage. She had changes a little, gaining glossiness, but the sparkles in her eyes, that had attracted Darien years ago, was still there.

The life0changing accident on the factory prevented Darien's present on their wedding. and though Nick claimed to have understood the situation, their relationship worsened and then disappeared into nothingness.

And now, here he was. Same copper hair, gray laughing eyes. The playboy got married and seemed to be genuinely happy with his life. In fact, this was the happiest Darien had ever seen him.

Despite the outgoing demeanor Nick had never found it easy to let people in, to share his fears and feelings even with so-called friends since he had lost all of his family in one night and was terrified of loosing close people again. Why bother letting them in? It had taken Nick quite some time to start communicating with Darien.

However now Nick even looked different. Alive, open, he seemed to have a new purpose in his life - his own family.

Wordlessly, Nick and Darien shook their hands. And though nether of them showed an emotion, Giselle could see that they were overwhelmed with the "reunion".

"That's where I leave you two alone. Be good boys, no shenanigans!" She kissed Nick on his cheek lightly and, wearing the mask back, headed towards the stage.

"Man, you are smitten!" Darien couldn't help but note sarcastically.

"She's my angel..."

"I figured that much out... Wait a sec." Darien's phone was buzzing insistently. "Yes, Andrew?"

"Darien, are Mina and Serena with you?"

«No. But they must be somewhere are around."

«Find them both asap!»

"What happened, Andrew?" Darien turned around, looking for Kunzite's platinum hair, having spotted none, he headed towards the house, Nick following him right behind. He could see that something serious was taking place right at this very moment.

«We've found out new pieces of information about the day our cars were attacked. Turned out there were two shooters, and they were positioned at two different standpoints. We can't be absolutely sure, but I'd say they didn't know about each other.»

«What does that leave us with?»

«I think, there are two killers after the girls. This time you have nothing to do with the shooting.»

The moment Darien heard this words, his world shattered, however almost instantly he regained control over his body, desperate to find Serena as fast as possible. The task of finding Kun completely forgotten, фтв even Nick's presence seemed insignificant. Little did Darien Shields know that a long-lost friend would be able to change his future.

Mina hurriedly went to the house. Suddenly she was overwhelmed with the guests, their desire to share opinions on the ball and congratulate her with whatever they found suitable. It made her sick. That cruelty, hypocrisy, artificiality, deceit - degradation. Women who claimed to be Mina's friends even asked if that would be ok to pursue her ex-husband. And it didn't matter that most of them were married or in a relationship.

'You wish, bitches! He's taken.'

In haste, Mina stopped acknowledging all those around her, their greetings and gestures. Now she remembered the reasons that made her leave in the first place.

True, it was her world. She knew the rules. She played well. Best of them all. But all Mina desired was sincerity, kindness, love. Things that no longer existed here. She had hoped to make a difference. To make people see the truth, understand its importance, leave scheming and games behind and live.

«Mina! Wait!» The woman slowly turned around, refusing to believe her ears. There was no way. Not one chance. How did he get here? Why?

Standing in front of her was…