Disclaime: All Twilight related material is the property of its original author. Mask'charade is a work of fiction brought to you by Chynnadoll.
A/N: Thanks to all who gave Mask a go. There were a lot of you who put me on author alert for this and I'm truly grateful. For the newbies, welcome; to the regulars, welcome back my lovelies. To knock out a few questions, yes this is a E&B story (all the way)and yes there will be an HEA. Yes, there will be angst and yes I will probably make you tear up a bit. It's just a warning for those who don't enjoy an angst filled story. I don't want to give away any of the plot, but feel free to ask any questions and I will provide answers the best I can. Okay, on to chapter 1(Btw, Rosanna is Rose, just wanted to switch it up a bit. I'll be doing that throughout) FoolforEdward edits beautifully as always. You inspire me, dear lady.
Chapter 1, The Mask
It's a warm night; the humidity in the air fluffs up my hair and leaves a thin sheen of sweat across my face. My nerves are a jumbled mess as I stand in the parking lot.
I look up at the flashing neon sign and wonder what I've gotten myself into.
I hope that my colleagues, who are already inside, aren't waiting for me. It's going to take me at least another ten minutes to prepare myself to enter.
Get it together girl. It's just a night out. What can possibly go wrong?
The silent pep talk does nothing to stop the nervousness from coursing through my entire body. I rub my sweaty palms along the length of my skirt, remove my thin leather jacket, and debate how I should carry it, draped across my arm or clenched in my hand? I must look like a dithering idiot to other patrons outside the club.
I shouldn't be here, but I'm sick of the same old routine. I go to work, come home to an empty house; and a frigid bed. After five years of marriage, James seems to always be preoccupied with his business. Work appears to have become his priority, so instead of going home and curling up with the cat yet again, I've decided on a night out with the girls.
God, why is it so hot?
I pull my hair back into a ponytail and take a deep breath, before I approach the red velvet rope. There's a mammoth-sized man barring the entrance. My eyes lock with his as I slowly approach.
"ID, please." He says robotically, sounding annoyed. Makes sense, given that he probably asks this question numerous times each night.
I dig into my purse and hand him my driver's license, which I dread anyone looking at. He pulls out a keychain-sized flashlight and looks over my credentials. He raises his eyes to mine and stares at me briefly before one corner of his mouth turns up into a smirk.
"You're thirty-two." He states, and I have to force myself not to slap his face, or at the very least give him a tongue-lashing.
He notices my state of annoyance and holds up a hand in surrender, handing my license back with the other.
"Enjoy your evening, Miss." He says with a small chuckle as he steps aside to let me pass through the velvet rope.
I swallow hard as I enter. This place, with its dim, red lighting and sensual music, is not what I expected when Tanya invited me to join her and a group of others for a drink after work.
I glance around the room at the provocatively dancing couples, not caring that they're in clear view of watching people. They seem liberated in a sense.
The swirling lights blind me with each passing phase across my face. I squint through the glare, trying to see through the crowd; my eyes finally settle on Tanya, Rosanna, Alice and three women I don't know that well. I clear my throat and walk over to join them.
"Bella, you made it. I thought I was going to have to drag you out of the house by your hair." Her condescending cackle rips through me like a blade.
What a bitch!
"Had I known we'd be hanging out in a den of hedonism, you would've had to do just that, Tanya; what is this place?" I lower my voice to a near-whisper, as if anyone could hear with the music at this level.
"Hedonism?" She chuckles lightly. "You're so funny, Bella. I bet it took you at least twenty minutes to convince yourself just to enter the place."
"Ignore her." Alice jumps to my defense as she always does. At times, I feel like a timid teenager, afraid to stand up for myself when it comes to her.
I bite my lip to keep from responding to Tanya's accurate assumption. I wouldn't consider her or Rosanna a friend. They're just work associates, and I don't think they care for me too much. They've aligned themselves with me because of my wealth, which I came by through my marriage.
They're snobbish, single socialites who'd do anything to snag a wealthy husband. I'm sure they've only taken the time to get to know me to find out how James and I came to be; either that, or they've figured that I could set them up with friends or colleagues of his. They're always working an angle.
A waiter, dressed in a gladiator costume, comes over. He's wearing a mask, but his blue eyes shine vibrantly through the apertures. His body is toned, muscular and oiled. I shift nervously in my seat as I try not to stare at his rippling chest.
I glance over to the girls who are marveling at him and vocalizing my thoughts.
He introduces himself as Jasper and takes our drinks order. I forgo the alcohol and settle for a club soda with lime. My choice of drink elicits an eye-roll from the entire table, but I couldn't care less. I have to be at work early in preparation for an important client, and I refuse to go in with a hangover. More importantly, James would flip his lid if he found out I'd been drinking, let alone in a place like this.
"Okay, so that's three vodka on the rocks, one dry martini and a club soda…with lime." He smiles at me, and suddenly I feel like the Debbie Downer in the group.
"A club soda, really, Bella?" Tanya scoffs, and I shrug my dismissal of her ridicule.
"Shall I bring your drinks back to your table, or will you ladies be headed up to the masquerade room?"
"Masquerade Room!" They all chant in unison and stand as they, gather their purses and jackets.
I look around in confusion, but follow suit. We make our way through the crowd and up the spiral staircase located in the center of the dance floor.
"Alice, what's the Masquerade Room?" I whisper as we reach the landing.
"You'll see." She smiles wickedly and winks.
For some reason, her response and the atmosphere does nothing to reassure me. We reach a door and are greeted by another man, also masked and wearing a gladiator costume. He's much taller and even more muscular. His extremely white teeth illuminate his smile as he greets us.
"Welcome to Club Masquerade ladies. The rules are, no one enters without a disguise and everything that happens here…well, you all get the idea." He chuckles somewhat darkly. "My name's Demetri, and I'll be one of your hosts for the evening."
He hands each of us a decorative mask and stamps the back of our hands as we pass through. I swallow the ever-present lump in my throat and silently wish that Jasper would get here with that club soda already.
Tanya and Rosanna enter without hesitation, leaving Alice and me at the door. I scan the room, trying to gauge what type of situation I've been roped into. I'm surprised to see a spatter of normal, everyday people like myself inside. They look to be regular businessmen having drinks at the bar, trying to unwind and have a normal conversation with women. I look to the back of the club and see a table full of men, laughing boisterously as if they're engaging in last night's sports discussion. Maybe it's just the normal happy hour spot, I think.
Alice moves to enter, and I follow.
"Ah, ah, ah, beautiful. You have to play by the rules." Demetri laughs and removes the mask that I'd completely forgotten I was holding from my hands.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I totally forgot, is this necessary?"
"It's highly necessary. Downstairs you're free to do whatever you want, up here, there are certain rules." He moves behind me and ties the mask over my eyes. The air, as he exhales, tickles the side of my neck.
"There, now you're all set." He returns to his position in front of me and smiles broadly, showing off his perfect teeth. "I hope you'll enjoy the evening."
I smile weakly, and he disappears into the crowd of mingling couples.
Alice and the other girls are subtly dancing with a small crowd, while Tanya and Rosanna seem to have made friends of the male persuasion. I instantly realize that I'm in the wrong place. A married woman shouldn't be in a place like this.
With my mind finally made up, I turn to leave, but someone entering stops me.
"You can't be leaving already?"
"Well, I noticed you just arrive, so you can't be leaving until I have the chance to get to know you. Can I buy you a drink?"
"Um…I…" I'm stumped by the man standing in front of me. I hadn't expected to be approached by anyone. My thumb instinctively rubs across the diamond of my wedding ring as I struggle to answer.
"She's spoken for. Come on, Bella."
To my relief, Alice comes to the rescue, whisking me off into the crowd of dancing patrons.
"Come on Bella, let loose!" She yells over the music, and I shake my head in protest.
"I'm married, Alice. I can't. I think I'm going to just have a seat at the bar and wait for my drink. You have fun, though."
I back away and watch as she moves to the music. She's always struck me as a free spirit. Alice knows how to have fun and is fun to be around. Unlike Rosanna and Tanya, she hasn't simply befriended me because of wealth. I haven't known either of them for long; I met them all when I was hired to work at the advertising agency about a year ago. Alice was the more approachable one. I feel like I can trust her, and she's not as shallow as Tanya and Rosanna, although I try and keep an open mind and treat them all equally.
I take a seat on one of the empty barstools, my eyes still transfixed on the dance floor as I watch the couples seductively swaying to the beat. Rosanna and Tanya are practically sandwiched between two guys, whose strong hands roam up and down their legs and touch them in the most intimate places. I look on in astonishment.
They seem to be enjoying themselves; I can't understand how they can allow strange men to publicly paw them. In part, I feel disgusted by this place, but I don't want to cause a commotion by telling them I want to leave, so I play the waiting game.
This can't possibly last that long. After all, we do have to work tomorrow.
Just then Jasper enters, carrying a tray of drinks. He smiles as he reaches me and hands me a glass.
"One club soda with lime."
"Oh, thank you." I smile at him graciously and take a sip from the glass. He places the rest of the drinks on the bar and stands beside me, looking out over the dance floor.
"So, how come you're not out there?"
"Oh…um…two left feet. I have horrible rhythm too." I laugh, pointing at the floor.
"I doubt that, besides you don't have to do much with your feet, it's all in the way you move your hips." He winks and nods in the direction of a couple gyrating as if they're the only two people in the club. "I could teach you."
My eyes widen, and I nearly choke on my club soda. "Uh, no thank you. I'll sit this one out."
He seems amused at my reluctance. "Some other time, maybe?"
He smiles, but doesn't wait for a response, and I for one am glad, not trusting what would come out of my mouth at the moment.
God, how much longer will we be here?
I finish my club soda and place the empty glass on the bar. My eyes settle on the drinks he'd left for my friends, and I grab one of the vodkas. I figure one drink won't hurt, while I'm waiting for them. I take a few sips, nursing it as the night drags by.
A few songs later, and I've polished off another Vodka on the Rocks. I realize that I must be feeling more relaxed, because I'm swaying to the music. Alice is chatting it up with Jasper, and Rosanna and Tanya seem to have disappeared.
A few couples are still dancing, but for the most part, everyone has either fallen into deep conversation or left the club entirely. I assume that we'll also be leaving soon.
"I like the way you move." A smooth, honey-like voice melts into my ear. I spin around and look up into a pair of magnetic green eyes. He towers over me in a crisp, white shirt with the first two buttons undone and a pair of charcoal grey slacks.
My mouth opens and closes repeatedly, trying to find the proper response. He simply smiles at my bafflement. "I…I wasn't aware that I was moving that much."
"Oh, you weren't, but it's not about how much. Have you ever heard the phrase 'less is more?'
His words may be tactful, but the sexual innuendo is clear.
"I'm acquainted with the phrase, and thank you." I try and divert my eyes, but it's a feeble attempt. Those eyes are the most striking orbs I've ever seen; I don't think I've ever witnessed a color quite like theirs before. He breaks contact first as his gaze travels the length of my body. It's only then that I notice his taller than six-foot frame and perfectly disheveled auburn-colored hair. It's obvious that he has an expert and probably very expensive hairdresser
"So, is someone sitting here or…"
I watch him take the seat next to me and motion to the barmaid. She immediately pours him a glass of clear liquid.
"Can I refresh your drink?" he nods at the empty glasses in front of me, and I'm suddenly mortified at the smug smirk on his face.
"I'm good, thank you." I take furtive glances at him as he swallows the contents in his glass. As I regretfully wish that I could see the rest of his face hidden behind his mask, it dawns on me that I'm still wearing mine as well.
A slow, seductive song fills the room, and all the lights dim to a red tone. I instantly look behind me, and his eyes are on mine once more.
"Is this your first time here?"
My eyes focus on his full lips as he speaks.
"Um, yes." I look down at the floor, not wanting to be rude for staring.
"Would you like to dance?"
My eyes snap back to his, those magnetic green orbs nearly mesmerize me into doing something I know would be inappropriate for a married woman.
"I'm sorry…I–" I feel my thumb brush over my wedding ring once more, and the lump in my throat resurfaces. His eyes follow the reflection of my diamond.
"You're married." But he doesn't make a move to leave like I assume anyone would after that revelation. Our eyes stay locked until Alice's voice pulls us both from our reverie.
"Bella, are you ready to go? It's getting late and work beckons us early tomorrow morning."
"Oh, yes…I'm ready." I look back at the man standing in front of me. He still hasn't budged.
I follow Alice, and we meet up with Tanya and the rest. I remove the mask as I reach the exit, and I turn around to see him still sitting at the bar, watching me.
The house is still dark, making it obvious that James isn't home from work. Of course he isn't. Late nights in the office play a commanding role in my marriage, it has since day one. I try to be supportive in all things he does, because I feel it's what marriage is about, fifty-fifty, give and take. Mostly, I give and he takes.
I check my phone to see whether he's left any messages, but there are none. Frustrated, I enter through the kitchen door. Cookie, my three-year old, Chocolate Point Himalayan, instantly greets me. She was a gift from my husband after an impromptu, extended business trip, which I wasn't exactly happy about.
"How are you my beauty?" I lift her into my arms after she meows and curls around my ankles.
I get myself a bottle of water from the fridge and pour some into a dish for her. I stroke her soft coat as she laps up the water. I hear the distinctive sound of the front door alarm being deactivated, and I make my way into the living room.
"Another late night at the office?"
He turns with a startled expression.
"Bella, babe, I thought you'd be in bed already." He greets me with a kiss. "It's late, why are you still in your work clothes?" He briefly studies my attire.
"I… just got in a few minutes ago."
He frowns, releasing me from his embrace and waits for me to elaborate.
"I went for a bite to eat with some co-workers after work. We got talking and lost track of time, before we realized, it was late. You know how it is when women start chatting." I laugh and glance down at the back of my hand, hoping he doesn't see the stamp from the club. Thankfully, it's no longer visible.
"Woman chat, sounds like a fun evening." He flashes a wide smile. "What was the conversation about, work…male bashing…" He undoes the top three buttons on my blouse and gently kisses my exposed skin.
"What are you doing?" I giggle as he pulls me over to the sofa to straddle his waist.
"Did you talk about sex?" He continues unbuttoning my blouse, until I sit before him in just my satin bra.
"I don't talk about those things with my co-workers, James."
"Liar, I know what women talk about during those 'get togethers', but I'll let you keep your little secrets. In the meantime, why don't we do what you don't want to talk about?"
He gazes at me with lustful eyes as he unhooks the clasp in front of my bra with a flick of his wrist.
The next morning, I sit at my desk, idly tapping away at my computer. Hypnotic, green eyes have been in the forefront of my thoughts all morning, and oddly enough, I can't seem to rid myself of that compelling stare.
"So, did you enjoy the club last night, Bella?"
Tanya interrupts my daydreaming.
"You must be thinking about that hot guy I saw you talking to last night; naughty Bella," she tuts menacingly.
"What, no…you're speculating, as usual, Tanya. There was no hot guy, and I'm a married woman." I begin shuffling, files on my desk, emphasizing the fact that she's intruded on my time while I'm busy.
"Don't bother denying it. I saw you talking with him; tall, nice physique; looks to be wealthy. He had a really nice ass too. Tell me, what's your secret?" She whispers and perches herself on the edge of my desk, as if expecting for me to respond to that nonsense.
"I'm married, Tanya." I say more forcefully as I push away from the desk and slot the files in their appropriate place.
"When you get a chance, I'd really like to see the copy and layouts for the latest Volturi print campaign. Jill and I would like to go through them as soon as possible. Gianna Volturi will be flying in this weekend, and I want to ensure that our recommendations meet their brief."
"Sure, sure." She deadpans. "All business, that's a nice way to avoid my observations."
'What observations are those, Tanya?" I downplay my huff of annoyance with a smile.
"Well, for one, the fact that you always answer a question with 'I'm married', and the fact that you only ever refer to it as just 'married.' You never say 'I'm happily married.' Also, your flat out denial of that guy you were talking to last night. Any fool with a pulse could see he was hot."
"He was wearing a mask, Tanya."
"And? I mean, you're kidding me, right? He could've been wearing a burlap sack along with that mask, and he'd still ooze sexiness."
"Really, I wasn't paying attention." I add nonchalantly, knowing full well that's a crock. "Besides, I'm–"
"You're married. I get it." She mocks.
"You know, Tanya, you could always seek him out. You're gorgeous and single, and I'm sure he frequents that place; he just strikes me as the type. Why don't you give it a shot?"
"Maybe I will." She deliberately saunters across my office, her statement laced with an obvious threat. "A man like that shouldn't go to waste."
My expression morphs into one of disgust, I'm sure, when she finally exits. Of course she would seek him out, being the skank that she is, and of course I would suggest it just to get her off my back. But those eyes, still ever present in my head, are beckoning me, and I can't for the life of me understand why.
End Note: I will update this story bi-weekly. See you in 2.