A Night in New Orleans

Manhattan - Eclairant - Bar and Lounge

The lounge is decorated in creams and neutrals, teak woods and ash, with the occasional dark panel for contrast. There are splashes of Egyptian blue color throughout to break up the possibility of monotony: sprinkled in the carpet, accenting the wood panels, decorating the tables as glass candle holders.

The bar area fetches more colors to the palette. The recessed lights behind the bar are a mixture of blue and red, white and yellow. Colorful bottles line the bar shelf, and a huge mirror hangs at angle over the bar, reflecting the marbleized bar top and the bar area, depending on where one stands to look into the mirror. There is seating here too, and in addition to drinks, starters and light fare is offered to those who wish to dine in the lounge.


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Brooke Bishop Kieran Collins Sera Roche Bryn Blackwell Lucas Reynard Bridget Bishop Gabriel Howe Alexandros Kostas

The bar and lounge of Eclairant has been transformed.

No longer does it look like the upscale lounge of a restaurant that it is. Tables have been set up, and seem to be luminescent; glowing either green, blue, or purple. A large Mardi Gras float is in the center of the room filled with feathered gift bags. Each bag has a guests name upon it, with the newest Sera Roche book autographed inside of it. Information about the literacy program that is the charity for the evening, a Mardi Gras photo frame, beautiful mask-shaped wine charms, and a bottle wine with a copy of the cover of Sera's book on it, along with the date can also be found within every gift bag. In the women's bags are hand-crafted cloisonne ornaments, in the men's jeweled crown-shaped cufflinks.

The decorations are classy, the center pieces not to large or in-your-face. It's very much stylized like a party in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras, without being over-the-top or tacky.

People have started to arrive, some staying downstairs as they sign in, showing their tickets, receiving masks if they've forgotten theirs. Strings of colorful beads are handed out as they reach the top of the stairs.

Brooke fusses with her dress once more before attaching her mask and ensuring that her hair flows nicely down her back instead of bunching up. Taking a deep breath, she runs to make sure that the backdrop for photographs is set up, and then smiles. Everything seems to be in place, and she's more than ready for the party to begin.


Kieran is impressed. Eclairant has hosted many a gathering, and has been decorated and decorated many times in different themes, but it always retains that look that is clearly Eclairant. Tonight, however, the entire place looks different. It reminds him of the wondrous Mardi Gras parties he's been to over the years, and his estimation of Brooke Bishop might have gone up a few notches.

Watching (lurking) from the shadows he watches the pretty red head go through the last minute checks and double checks and finally peels himself away from the wall with a faint clapping of his hands and a low whistle. "Impressively well done, Miss Bishop. It's almost like being in New Orleans." Kieran tilts his head a bit, lips curving into a teasing sort of smile, "Have you been before? Or do you just know all the best decorators?"

He has the straps of a mask loosely wound one arm, and he's making no move to put it on yet. Luminous blue eyes drift over her and he takes in every bit of her costuming. From her hair to the toes of her feet and his eyes light up with no small bit of appreciation.

"You look lovely." Kieran whispers in her ear, having closed the distance between them. His mouth hovers there, breath warming her skin and his lips dance a feathery light kiss over the lobe and against her cheek. "Good enough to eat."

Drawing back, eyes are twinkling and were he anyone else, he'd be ashamed. He did promise to try not to distract her tonight. With a wink, he gives a part twist of his shoulders and looks around. "Now, where did our guest of honor get off to?"


Said guest of honor is in the walled off private party section of the Lounge, having a case of the nerves. It's amusing, really. She's almost two hundred years old and could wreak all sorts of havoc with the party goers if she was so inclined. Serafine could charm the entire room with a few words and a projection of power, but how firmly entrenched she is in her humanity shows through at times like this. Ironically, Sera likes taking charge of a room; this is just a different sort of center of attention. The human writer, not the seductive vampiress. It's a huge gaping difference in her mind.

Smoothing her hand over her dress and it's a positively resplendent work of shimmering purple and pale gold, done in too short notice by Bridget Bishop she touches her hand to her hair which hangs in loose curls that brush her shoulders. Serafine checks her reflection in the glass. Once. Twice. And takes a deep, unneeded breath.

"They're waiting for me, aren't they?"


"Yes, but there is no need to rush Serafine. You are the guest of honor tonight, take all the time you need." Bryn honestly believes he's got the better of the deal. He has dressed up a little, though his costume is quite simple when compared to that of the women who've been arriving. A dark suit, with jester shaped cuff-links, a gold vest atop a bright purple shirt and a shimmering green tie.

Much more colorful than he's accustomed to.

"Would you like a glass of wine to ease your nerves before going out?"


Hearing the clapping, Brooke turns in surprise. Of course he'd be here early. He owns the place. Smiling from beneath the white and gold butterfly that hides her face, she nods. "That's the idea. For everyone to step out of reality for a night, and into one of Sera's books for a few hours." Sera Roche can bring the words to life, but Brooke does it with decorations.

"The latter, actually."

The whisper at her ear has Brooke freezing completely for a moment. "Damn, I knew you were going to be a distraction." The words have a light, airy teasing to them, but it's the truth. He is going to distract her tonight. "I'm glad you approve though."

One final look is given to the room, and she dips her head in a small nod. Her decorator has gone above and beyond. The place really does look magical.

"Your kitchen has dinner under control then? I've little menus atop each place setting."


Kieran rolls his eyes in an exaggerated fashion and drops a more chaste kiss to her forehead before stepping back to give her some more professionally appropriate distance. "I'll do my best to behave."

"Yes, my kitchen has everything under control. They're quite good at this, yeah?" He's smiling and teasing, and knows that she's only asking because she's nervous, too. Probably as nervous as his Child. Whom, unless his ears deceive him, is fretting quite a bit. Part of Serafine's charm, he supposes. She's so whimsical and human.

As the first guests begin to pour in, Kieran raises his mask and ties it on. He checks his reflection behind the bar, he offers an arm to Brooke. "Let's go be gracious hosts, shall we?"


In the private section, that will be opened up for the festivities as soon as Serafine makes her appearance - or stops hiding out, depending on whom you ask - the vampiress gives a grateful smile and nod to her escort. "Yes, please. Wine would be lovely." Something more filling than wine would be even lovelier, but it's not a need so much as a desire. She's well fed, and it shows in the warm color to her face and bare shoulders and the light in her green eyes.

She smoothes hands over her skirt again and reaches for the purple and gold feathered and sparkly butterfly mask. Hand in mid-motion, she changes her mind with a shake of her head. Easier to drink without it. "Mon dieu! Look at me, you'd think I've never been the center of attention before."

Serafine smiles at Bryn, "Yes, I'd really like that wine, cherie. Then we can laugh at me later."


Bryn gives his date a nod, and reaches behind the bar. This would be much easier done with the simple flick of a wrist and a call to the bottle, but leaning over and gripping the wine isn't so difficult as all that. Plucking a wine glass from the top of the stack, he does use a little magic to pry the cork out. Pouring her a glass, he carries it over to her and ensures that Serafine has it firmly before he turns back to pour himself a glass.

"You are nervous, Princess. That is to be expected. Enjoy your glass of wine, take a deep breath and go out there with a smile. This is your night to shine."


Brooke is nervous. She's actually beyond whatever nervous is. Almost as though it were the first event for Steel Clover all over again. That was nerve wracking, and she thought she was done with that.

But there's something about setting up a large scale event at an establishment owned by the man she's seeing for her absolute favorite author that has her stomach tied into a million and one knots.

Reaching up, she adjusts Kieran's mask and smiles. "Yes, let's. You need your beads anyhow."


Kieran tries. He fails. His mouth turns up in a very broad, wide grin. "I think I prefer the more traditional method of claiming the beads." He's absolutely terrible in every sense of the word and he bloody well knows it.

Shooting Brooke a look of feigned chagrin, he sighs. "I'm going to have to work harder at that whole 'not being distracting' bit, hmm?"

He ghosts his fingers over her hand where it's tucked into his arm, because he is quite sensitive to her nervousness. Kieran can sense it in the faint tightening of muscles she's not even aware of, in the way she breathes. It's so charmingly human and endearing, and he does his best to play the soothing 'boyfriend.' "You did a fabulous job. I'm sure Sera will love it and the crowds will be impressed." With that, they arrive at position to greet the guests.


Masks.. Why did Lucas agree to an event like this? He never liked masks, it made in unecessarily difficult to get a read on people he talks to. But upon considering what had happened last week.. He really didn't have much choice but to get involved in one way or another.

Lucas strolled in adorn in a black, tailored suit, and the full-face mask he wears is about as festive as it's going to get, a paper mache mask that was clearly inspired by a Guy Fawkes design but with the colors of gold, black, and green. He arrives with hired muscle, a brown-skinned broad-shouldered companion bigger than himself in a similar color suit and mask, though his only covers the upper half of his face. It's probably not a good idea to joke that he is Lucas' date. Now then, the greeter.. The greeter.. Where oh where is the greeter?


There are those that deserve to be nervous due to being big contributors to the event, then there are those that are never comfortable in these formal gatherings. The added pressure of recent events hasn't made her want to be in public any more than she was already avoiding. Still, after a night of sleep due to passing out she's at least somewhat better. Somewhat.

Wearing a dress of deep swirling purple with gold and green beads, and an aquatic themed bead mask, the sister of the event host finally arrives. She's late, at least for her, but at least she's finally shown up. Bridget does well to appear comfortable and elegant in her formal wear but she truly is only here to support Brooke and Sera. It is rather nice to know that they are wearing dresses made by her. They'll wear them well and she knows it.

Surprisingly, the witch is thankful for the crowd that is around. She doesn't seem to see anyone that she'd rather avoid, and feels she can quickly and quietly slip into the background.


Serafine accepts the wine graciously, and downs it quite quickly in several long swallows. It takes a good deal for a vampire to get drunk or feel the physical effects of such a beverage, but the psychological ones work just the same. It takes the edge off and she rolls her shoulders with a faint sigh as she returns the empty glass to the bar.

She sets her mask in place and smiles brightly at her date before pressing a quick kiss to his lips. It's light and brief, no chance of leaving her lipstick behind. "Now, I'm ready, Monsieur Blackwell."


"Very well, Mademoiselle Roque." Winking at her, Bryn offers his arm and motions for two of the nearby cater-waiters to remove the screen. Tucking her hand into his arm he holds onto it for a moment. "You will be fine."

He knows for a fact that she will be, because he cheats again. As he tickles his fingers over the back of her hand, he whispers a very quiet calming spell that will help her get into the evening in a relaxed manner.

"Do you wish to greet guests at the door, or stand in front of the book float and mingle?"


A gentle, nervous laugh comes forth and Brooke smiles at Kieran. "I'm sure you would, but this isn't actually New Orleans, and we had better not have any guests trying to play Girls Gone Wild here." If so, she'll definitely have to look into a better vetting process before allowing tickets to events like this be sold.

"You really are. I need to focus, and ensure everything is perfect for Sera. I promised her that it would be."

The touch is calming, soothing even. At this point, there really isn't much else she can do. Her last task was ensuring the photographer knew where to set everything up, and from the corner of her eye, the backdrops are situated just so. At the moment an old-fashioned New Orleans balcony looking out over Mardi Gras festivities seems to be the scene.

Spotting Bridget more due to the dress than recognizing her sister as she slips in, Brooke offers her a wave and motions her to come over. "Gidget!" Golden beads are strung over her sister's neck, and then she turns to make introductions. "Bridget Bishop, may I introduce you to Kieran Collins? Owner of Eclairant." Her voice drops just a little as she adds, "My date."

Thankfully, she's not yet spotted Lucas.


"I didn't know we were keeping that secret," Kieran drops his voice in response to Brooke's, blue eyes twinkling with amusement. He's teasing the woman on his arm, in the most playful manner that he can at this point, and trying to keep thing light and relaxing.

Turning his attention to Bridget, Kieran tilts a charmingly boyish smile at her, that somehow makes his face look softer and younger, and makes him look entirely too trustworthy and welcoming. "Bridget, it's a pleasure to meet you." Taking her hand, Kieran raises it to his lips and brushes his lips ever so softly over her knuckles. "You've done absolutely stunning work on Brooke's dress for the evening. You've quite the talent."


"'Gidget'?" Lucas mumbles to himself with an unseen raise of his brow. Do people still name their kids that? Needless to say his attention is grabbed as he looks in Brooke's general direction, then is unable to help but look around a bit- He just wants to see if the person being adressed to is short. Because it'd amuse him.

He ends up disappointed.

"I hope we don't end up having to dance together, buddy," he murmurs to his company without looking to him, "That's going to be pret-ty awkward." He's responded with awkward silence, the other man having no idea if Lucas is joking or not.


That didn't take long at all. Sigh.

Once called she does comply, and soon enough finds herself standing next to the happy couple. She truly, honestly is happy for her sister. So much so in fact that she won't even report anything back to their mother. The beads are accepted but with one exception. "No Gidget tonight. I'm in disguise, you see." She points to her mask. "As anything but a childhood nickname that only you are allowed to use anyway."

Bridget turns to Kieran and offers the slightest of curtseys. "It is indeed a great honor to meet the great Kieran Collins, tamer of the fiery redhead." She promised to be nice, but didn't say which level of nice.

She doesn't pull her hand away, and smiles quite warmly at the greeting. She still doesn't trust him, but that's because her sister is someone that she plans to look after. He has to prove himself to a certain level before she fully consents to their pairing. That's what older sisters do best. "Why thank you, however I would argue that it is the one who wears the dress that makes it so magical."


"I know what you did," Serafine whispers, leaning against her sorcerer for a moment as they walk into the main room. It's as affectionate and 'improper' as she will be in this very public setting, before all eyes are on them. Well, on her. It's like a wedding really. Everyone notices the bride and no one pays any attention to the groom. "Thank you."

The vampire straightens then, a friendly, open smile on her face, beaming enthusiastically as she assumes a less intimate demeanor with the man by her side.

She only gets a few steps before she draws to a halt, her mouth gaping a bit in surprise. It's a very human reaction, as is the soft squeal of delight as her face lights up like a child at Christmastime. "Mon dieu! C'est beau!" Serafine squeezes Bryn's arm. "I could just kiss Brooke!"


Bryn laughs, and gives her hand another gentle squeeze. "You look lovely, you will get through this." Now that she's a tad calmer, he starts to release her hand to allow her to move about freely. "You are most welcome," he offers with a charmingly boyish grin.

Whistling lowly he can't help but laugh at her reaction. "She really did go all out for you, Sera," he says, careful to use the shortened form of her name in the public setting. "It looks fabulous. Much like the last Mardi Gras party I attended."


Gabriel was perhaps a touch late to the event, having decided that it is a Good Thing (tm) to come to such an event fully sated. So after stopping over to have 'breakfast' with Magda, he now filters through the crowd. Clad in a black suit and black-and-gold mask, the neophyte vampire takes in the sights and scents of the room.

The casual crowd surfing is forgotten, however, as Gabriel spots the form of the 'man' who is likely the reason he came to the party. One woman on his arm, another's hand in his. That brings the lightest of smiles to the Hecanthenos' lips. Just like a…

Wait. That scent, as he gets closer, it's familiar, it's her

"Kieran. Good evening," Gabriel says, approaching the small group. On the surface, the masked man appears calm and cool and collected. Likely, the elder vampire is the only one that can tell different.


"Sure thing, fish-face," Brooke teases with a bright grin. "I'll let you have your disguise for tonight because I know you loathe crowds."

Eyes rolling, she gives her sister a nudge. "Come off it. You sound every bit the romance novelist that Sera Roche is when you talk like that. Thinking of taking up a second profession?" Her sister's words cause her to blush, the color of which appears quite bright in contrast to the light gold of her dress and the white and gold mask that happens to be covering most of her face.

Even over the noise of the building crowd, Brooke can hear Sera's squeal. Biting her lip, she turns and glances over her shoulder. All the tension she's been wearing so far just melts away. The guest of honor loves it. Sera was the only person that Brooke cared about impressing after all.

Turning back as she hears a voice approaching them, she pulls out a set of green beads to drape over the guest's neck like a good little hostess.

That's when she spots Reynard in the corner, lurking with a strongarm. Blinking in confusion she drops her gaze to the floor and smiles. "Good evening," she offers to the guest, despite the slight re-tensing of her body.


"You're absolutely right," Kieran agrees with Bridget. "I didn't think it was possible for Brooke to be any more of a stunner, but I was wrong."

The banter between the sisters makes Kieran smile. He's aware that he hasn't quite charmed Brooke's sister silly, but he's not terribly concerned about it at the moment. There's plenty of time for that and the Irishman considers it an additional challenge. He'll even do it the proper way, without any of his vampire skills coming into play.

He too hears his Child's squeal; how can he not with his enhanced hearing, though he only chuckles and doesn't turn to look back at the woman. Kieran well knows just how enthusiastic and winsome Sera can be when she's in her 'delighted' mode.

What does get his attention is the way Brooke's body tenses again, and blue eyes narrow to scan the crowd. It would be bad, very bad for the organizer of this shindig to be upset or ill at ease for reasons other than party planning. His gaze swings back to the newcomer, and he nods with a welcoming, human smile, a far cry from the Master's Sheriff that the neophyte first met. "Welcome to Eclairant Gabriel, we hope you enjoy yourself tonight."


Lucas doesn't bother to clarify.. But he certainly could go for a drink at this rate. His eyes are one of the many that draw toward Serafine once she enters- He doesn't really recognize the man he's with, "The woman of the hour," he murmurs to himself, tone rather distracted and is unaware of any kind of distress he's forming. Just no one shoot at him.

He glances about while zeroing in on picking up some boozahol, and clearly not to be in any particular rush to mingle.


In the midst of what is already turning out to be a nerve-wracking event /he/ just has to slide up. She doesn't even have to turn her attention to the guest to know who it is. The fake smile in place remains just as soft, just as sweet, but surely any nearby vampires will be able to easily tell how uncomfortable she becomes. The way her breath catches, then the breathing goes shallow. The way that her heart beats ever faster. This is what Gabriel does to her, and it isn't good in the least.

Bridget would be thanking her sister for her words, but that gets cut short. In fact, she'd just prepared to scold Brooke for making fun of formal speech when Gabe approached. If Bridget were wearing a watch she'd be checking it right now.

The way that the two vampires exchange greetings really surprises her. Apparently she's the last person to meet Keiran, although she does wonder how he knows Gabriel. This causes her to actually turn finally to face Gabe, her external calm nearly failing.

She'd look to see how her dress looks on the ever gorgeous Sera but her blast from the past is winning.


"Oh she did! She really did!" Sera is gushing shamelessly and is not at all embarrassed to do so. It's her party and she can do as she pleases. She's been to her fair share of Mardi Gras events and the decor hits it perfectly. The vampire decides she will pay Brooke for this, one way or another, no matter what the other woman says or how she tries to decline.

"I think I'd like to mingle and stay near the books." That's an answer to Bryn's earlier question. It will make it easier to sign books, and she has no need to be at the door.

Sera is entirely unaware of the undercurrents brewing with unexpected sorcerers and neophyte former witches.

Ignorance is bliss.


"Mingling, and float hovering it is."

Bryn leads her toward the float. Spotting Lucas Reynard, he gives the man a slight nod of recognition. Bryn himself may not work directly with his own Dynasty, but he does like to keep on good terms with those in the cities where he is staying.

"Can I get you another glass of wine, Sera? Send the waiters this way with the hors d'oeuvres?" He is rather enjoying playing the doting date this evening.


Gabriel glances to Brooke as she drapes beads over his neck, managing a small smile for her benefit, and a murmured, "Good evening. Thank you." Like Bridget, though, his attention is largely caught by her, especially as her reaction to him filters in through his senses.

"And thank you, Kieran. I am glad you invited me." Even if it's a rather vague interpretation of Kieran mentioning the party in passing, it will perhaps serve to ease Bridget, maybe? Not stalking, see?

Thank god for the mask. Gabe is still recently human enough that there's a fair chance that his upper facial features might have exposed just how caught he is by Bridget's presence right now. As it is, it might not be enough to hide the interplay from, say, someone like Kieran.


Hearing the name Gabriel also puts Brooke on guard.

"Gabriel… Howe?" This comes right on the heels of Bridget's reaction; the only way she'd know who the man was.


"I'm very sorry about your mother. I had the opportunity to work with her on a few occasions." Despite the tension, her words are calm, and attempting to be soothing to the man.

Lovely, she thinks, Just what I need. Lucas Reynard, and my sister's past coming back to haunt her at this event.

"How do the two of you know each other," Brooke asks curiously.


Funny that, that's exactly what Kieran wants to know. Kieran dislikes being caught unawares ever and even more so when he's supposed to be the one on the high ground and in control. There are enough things going on in the city and the neophyte seeking to investigate and possibly avenge his mother's death is just another thing Kieran has to worry about.

Knowing Bridget adds another curiosity (annoyance) to Kieran's plate. Gabriel's all too apparent interest in the elder Bishop as well as her reaction to him is making Kieran's fangs itch. In private, or even alone among his kind, he'd gladly let the demon loose to find out what in the hell is going on. In public, here and now, however, Kieran is a master of his reactions and behaviors. No corner is given. No flinch, no change in poise or demeanor beyond casually projected curiosity.

"We met when I was in Seattle a few years back," Kieran lies smoothly and elegantly. "When I heard he was in the city, and why, I invited him. I know that distraction helps." There is a human softness to his eyes, a look of pure sympathy. Kieran has played this game for far too long.

"Small world, that you're also acquainted."

Howe, howe … Brooke's words click and though he remains outwardly calm, Kieran bristles inside.

Bloody fucking hell.


Oh not to worry, Brooke, Lucas isn't going to be around -that- much longer. He intercepts the waiter brushing by, and picks up the glass from his plate, just in time to make eye contact with Bryn. He gives a nod of aknowledgment, and it occurs to him that he may want to speak with the man; and so proceeds to make his way toward the man and Sera's general direction.


Running away isn't an option. In some forms she's been running away from her past decisions for the past twelve years. He's not done anything to make her uncomfortable other than just being there. Bridget pushes past that enough to try and be pleasant with the conversation. This is a big night for her sister and she's not going to ruin it.

"I see. Seattle. I never imagined you there." This is of course directed to the vampire that she actually knows. "Although this proves just how amazingly small the entire world can be."

The area is surveyed as a distraction before she locates a place to sit. "I believe I saw assigned seating?" This could get her about as far away from the three of them as she can be without being horribly rude. "It really was a pleasure to finally meet the man who seems to have won over my sister." Another brief curtsey. "Brooke, you look absolutely beautiful." With a smile she goes to find her seat, and possibly some air.


The dramatics and tension on the other side of the room have not met Sera's ears. Too many heartbeats and too many people and she can't really identify one racing heart from another. She likes to think that she can read her Maker, but he's across the room and there's nothing for her to be aware of on that end of things.

Picking up a book, she fingers through it, liking the scent and feel of a new book, before she graciously signs it with a special personalized note for a fan. In between she beams at Bryn, suddenly the Belle of the Ball despite her earlier misgivings. "Oui, cherie. More wine and something to snack on, please." Sera enjoys his doting behavior and will tell him so later.

Her gaze does flicker across the room when he makes eye contact with someone, mere curiosity really. The vampire blinks, but gives no other response to the sight of the Reynard sorcerer. There were no restrictions on invitations to this soiree. In fact it's almost amusing to see him here in what his technically her domain for the evening when she and Brooke invaded his.

The thoughts are fleeting as another fan arrives to discuss the new book and Serafine becomes Sera Roche the authoress.


Locating a waiter, Bryn nods toward Serafine asking that the little nibbles that are currently being brought about pass by her before anyone else this evening. It is her night, and she deserves to be treated like the Queen of the Mardi Gras masquerade as it were.

Spying Lucas coming toward him, he nods the man toward Serafine as well, and procures two glasses of wine. One red, one white, so that the vampiress might have her pick once he gets back to her side.

He does stop to talk to a few people he knows from his earlier time in the city, and even offers Bridget a smile and a nod as she hurries toward one of the illuminated tables.

"For you," he says once he returns to his date. "I was unsure what your preference would be this time around."


Gabriel looks in the direction of Brooke at her words, the blue-grey eyes behind the mask lingering on the woman. "Thank you," he says in response to her condolences. And, as Kieran supplies the requisite lie, Gabe has to do little besides nod, and keep his expression composed.

Attention is drawn back to Bridget, he says, "As if running into you the other night did not, yes, I suppose it does."

He falls silent then, as Bridget excuses herself. His eyes follow her lingeringly for a moment, before he turns back to the others. "I think I'm going to get myself a glass of wine. Can I get something for either of you?"

Once he has their answer, Gabriel will slip off himself, to find said wine, to collect his thoughts. And maybe some air.


"That's very thoughtful of you, Kieran." A smile is given to her date, and Brooke squeezes his arm. It really was thoughtful of him to invite the male witch to the event. Surprising, but thoughtful. "Hopefully this proves to be a good distraction for you then," she offers with a smile. She's got skills at playing gracious hostess even when she can sense her sister's discomfort.

"I worked with his mother on a few charity functions is all." It's not uncommon for women on the Upper East Side to deal with those sorts of events, and promoting them is something Brooke is good at.

"You're at my table, Bridget." She'd offer to lead her sister there, but another couple comes in and distracts her from doing so. Offering them beads as well, she smiles to them and does the usual pleasantries with the greeting.

"Thank you," she replies to her sister, "You do as well." It helps that she's got a seamstress who can create unbelievable fashions at her disposal.

"I'm fine for now, thank you."


The vampire pats the hand of the witch on his arm, still as outwardly calm and relaxed as always. Later, he will have to take the young pup aside and make certain that there won't be any problem with the neophyte and one of Regina's witches. Yes, he is vaguely aware that there is a pot, there is a kettle, and both are black.

"I'm quite fine, but thank you. Please do, enjoy yourself," Kieran tells Gabriel with a subtle motion in the opposite direction of Bridget. "Sera appears to be signing books, over there." Kieran twists a bit to confirm her location, "The bar is open."


Apparently Lucas was very briefly side-tracked by another couple brushing by and just so happening to mention something about a bookreader tablet that was to be released soon. Well, that was certainly news to him! But he came back to reality and was quick to re-trace his steps. Ah, yes. Bryn and Sera.
With the slender, tall glass in hand, he doesn't seem to have a problem slipping in front of others to approach the pair, doing so with a friendly enough smile, "Hi there. It wouldn't be too much trouble to take a moment of your time, would it?" he asks to either of them.


Any further words spoken to her are not ignored but she honestly doesn't hear them. There is a mix of emotion swirling about within her and she is having a difficult time dealing with it. There are some stresses that she can deal with easily enough. The type that hit in this specific way are almost foreign, certainly borderline ancient, and not something she cares to deal with.

Her seat is acknowledged but she keeps walking. The destination of the eldest Bishop is the bar. She's not paying attention to any that she passes other than returning any greetings that she may receive. Once to the bar she orders 'something strong', which is unusual for her, and takes a deep drink of it as soon as it is in her hands. Bridget isn't a drinker but this /is/ a special occasion and all.


Serafine finishes up conversation with a lovely retiree who waxes poetic in a strong Virginia accent how she misses the south and loves the sound of it in Sera's voice. Handing the woman a book, she exchanges air kisses with her and turns to Bryn just as he returns. "Red. Definitely the red." It's not blood, but she can pretend rather easily.

Taking the glass, Serafine takes a delicate sip and swallow and tilts her head as the other sorcerer approaches. A very polite, sweet smile is given in his direction, "Good evening, Mr. Reynard. I certainly didn't expect to see you here." Perhaps at Eclairant but not at a book signing.

"Please don't tell me you're a closet fan? I'd be a little embarrassed after my showing at your club." All done up in 80s regalia, though the theme nights at Decades are quite a bit of fun.


"Lucas," Bryn offers the other sorcerer a nod of his head once again. "It is rather unexpected to see you here." Since sorcerers aren't known to fraternize with vampires at all often. Which is another story altogether, considering that Bryn is here with a vampire.

"What can we do for you?" Bryn asks the question as he hands the red to Serafine, and takes a sip from the glass of white. "If you are looking for a dining companion, unfortunately our table happens to be full."


Gabriel nods simply, leaving Kieran and his date to themselves, as he goes in search of booze. Which is there, at the bar… along with Bridget. Oh well. Look, she was supposed to go off to a table. That was what she said. So it's really not Gabe's fault, right?

And, since they got to the bar from different angles, Gabriel finds himself with a comfortable buffer between him and Bridget. "Scotch, three fingers. Keep it coming." On second thought, apparently wine won't cut it tonight.

Even with all the heartbeats flooding the room right now (and the few that are deadly silent), even with all the scents that waft to the vampire's nose, this close his senses seem to hone in on her. But for now, rather then looking at her, or talking to her… he drinks, and lets her do the same. They both need it.


When one of the staff approaches Brooke, she raises her brow a little. Nodding as the whispering finishes, she murmurs, "It would seem like all of the guests are here now. Could you be so kind as to locate Sera so that we can get everyone seated for dinner?"

Giving Kieran's hand a squeeze, the witch makes her way to the podium between the large float of gift bags and tables. She turns the microphone on, thankful when it doesn't make an annoying screech. When it cuts the background music to a lower volume, she grins.

A deep breath is taken as she faces the room. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to Mardi Gras at Eclairant!"

Pausing, she waits to ensure she's got most everyone's attention before she continues.

"First, I'd like to thank you all for coming. With your help, we've raised five thousand dollars for the Reading Tree." Pausing again, she nods toward the float. "At the end of the evening, each of you will receive a personalized gift bag to thank you for your contributions as well as celebrating the release of Sera Roche's new novel Tempting Darkness.

Throught the evening, we'll also be auctioning off a full, to date collection of the Scarlet's Song series. and an autographed manuscript with all proceeds from the auction also going to the Reading Tree."

A smile graces Brooke's lips as she turns her attention to where Sera is standing near the center of the gift bag float. "Our guest of honor is a woman who has been getting us all lost in her stories for the last nine years. She is the person who brings us right into the time periods in which her books take place, allowing us to feel as though we're there alongside the heroine or hero of every novel. The one who's stories let us see the challenges, hardships, and little known secrets of the past." Pause. "Not only that, but she will happily be adding personalized messages to the new novel you'll find in your gift bag. So please join me in extending a very warm welcome to Miss Sera Roche!"


At Brooke's announcement, Kieran's well trained staff sets to motion. Leading people to their tables, offering assistance where needed. Special attention is paid to Sera, and Kieran gives his child a nod and a wink, as she and her date are shown to the her place of honor. He hovers near Brooke, not taking his seat yet, but staying well into the background. He's as good at that as he is at being the center of attention.

At the conclusion of his date's speech, Kieran is the first to begin clapping, a broad grin gracing his face. One might even call it proud.


"A closet fan?" Lucas replies, "Well I guess that depends on if that would show up in the newspapers or not. I admit I am not familar with your work, but I just so happen to have a fan on my employ." he glances a moment over his shoulder, then back, "Though he's a little on the shy side, so.. You know how it goes. Quick question: do you take requests on what exactly to write when you're signing?"

A pause, then he look to Bryn, "Tell me about it, this is not a great place for people who have an irrational fear of masks, let me tell you." he says jokingly, and as for company, "Oh don't worry about that, brought my own. So what are you doing these days? I've been a little behind on the ne- Oops." that's when he looks to Brooke, taking a sip from his glass. "I guess that answers that."


The position and location of Gabriel isn't noticed. Her attention is focused on the drink in her hand, and the second one that soon replaces it. Sadly neither one of them seems to be doing the trick. She's not upset so much now as just plain uncomfortable. The woman in purple looks around. This is a truly wonderful venue but it could use more windows, perhaps a balcony, maybe just a big old garden in the middle of everything.

She's about to leave, just for air, whenever things really begin. Bridget remains standing by the bar as her sister speaks, all eyes on her. She really is proud of Brooke and that shows in her eyes. New York really has done well for her.

It isn't until people are being ushered that she catches sight of where Gabriel is. She watches him as she moves, preparing to take her seat long enough to eat a slight meal. Escapes can be made very soon.


Brooke's introduction and the round of applause that follows has Serafine feeling that fluttering of human nerves again. Maybe it's the sheer publicness of her facade. She does envy Kieran the ease that he 'hides in plain sight' and this scenario is high up on the list of spotlight. Again, it's not her typical millieu for the center of attention.

Still, she's gracious and looks the part, all full of confidence. She gives a little wave, very glad that there's no microphone around, and that no one seems to expect her to make a long speech. Worrying teeth over her lip, she looks around and speaks a bit, projecting her voice a bit in the busy room.

"Thank you all for coming, and for making my first public book signing extremely memorable and special to me. My fans are the ones who keep me writing and keep my publisher wanting more, so even if you're getting the book for your wife or granddaughter, I thank you and the Reading Tree thanks you."

A pause and a twittering laugh, "I'm a writer, but I'm at a loss for words now, so please enjoy your evening and the meal courtesy of Eclairant."


"You did fine, Princess," Bryn murmurs as he leans in close to Serafine's ear, pressing a delicate kiss there after she makes her little speech.

Turning to Lucas, he laughs. "I doubt you being a closet fan of romance novels would wind up in the tabloids, Reynard. Your secret is definitely safe from your father if that is what you are worrying about."


"You have an irrational fear of masks?" Raising his brow, he takes a sip from the glass of wine and nudges Serafine's elbow. "We should take our seats."


It's probably not the original drink that Gabriel is sipping from by the time Bridget catches sight of him. The gaze seems to be felt, for it soon draws his own. Their eyes meet, and hold for a moment.

Gabe doesn't say a word. He simply offers up a smile, a small thing that is part apology, part reassurance, and part wry amusement at the utterly unfunny hilarity of it all. He then tips his head towards the doors, an invitation for later, if Bridget wants. But for now, he seems to understand she needs her space, and so remains at the bar, to finish his drink, before he'll move to find his own seat, where ever that happens to be.


Alexandros Kostas likes to make an entrance. It can't be helped. Public appearances are not made often or frequently. This is a special occasion. He purchased his ticket the moment this fine function was announced, under a different name, naturally. He has so many of them. There is always a fall back.

Coat and hat are handed off at the coat check room, and the Master of the City doesn't so much walk into the room as he flows and glides. Two shadows follow at his back, non-descript, blending into the shadows. His personal guards.

He has presence and his entrance is noticed. Conversation dips, heads turn, and then as if not noticing what has happened, conversation resumes again.

Hazel eyes survey the room, a slow smile turning up his lips as he takes in the decorations. More importantly, his attention lingers on his Sheriff, and then the Irish vampire's Child. He smiles warmly as a server comes up with a tray, and he claims a glass of red wine.


Things just keep getting better and better. Brooke had thought that the last thing she needed here tonight was a Reynard. She should have actually been prepared for that one. It's not unusual for RINC to try to get their fingers into everything; even if it's being put on by a witch. Gabriel was a rather huge surprise, but she's got more to worry about than some blast from the past hounding her sister.

Because the vampire of the city, the one that Regina is constantly warning her about, teaching her upper echelon about, has just walked into the room.

You're going to have to get through this, Brooke. It's not as though you've not done work for the man before.

Entirely different since she never had to deal with him.

Clearing her throat, she affects a bright smile and then continues, "Dinner will be served shortly. Afterward, the tables will be cleared for the masquerade ball, and the photographer will be set if any of you would like a commemorative photo."

Stepping down, she smiles at Kieran. In a low voice she murmurs, "I do hope that was an acceptable introduction for Sera."


It's the first time this evening that Kieran's composure has slipped. It's brief, no more than the blinking of an eye or the passing of a heartbeat. But slip, it does. Pale blue eyes widen and nostrils flare as Kostas strolls into the lounge as though it's an everyday occurrence. As quick as Kieran reacts, the reaction is gone and he's back at ease.

Holding a hand out for Brooke's, Kieran tucks it into the crook of his arm once he has it. "It was perfect," Kieran murmurs back in an equally low voice. "I think she's quite impressed."


"I'm quite impressed."

It should become evidently quickly to the witch that Kieran isn't leading them toward the table, but rather toward the new arrival. He flashes her a smile in explanation, "Alexandros Kostas, the financier. We really should greet him personally, don't you think?"


"Certainly," Lucas whispers, "Ever since I was a kid. Hated Halloween, as you could imagine." and another sip from his glass is taken. "So it wouldn't, huh? I suppose that's for the better, romance never really 'clicked' with me. I guess that isn't public enough knowledge to make it a scandal in retrospect."
"Well then, it was nice seeing you two again, though Sera, if you wouldn't mind signing my copy 'To the sexiest man alive', that'd be fantastic." a glance to Bryn, ".. I'm pretty sure that's ok, I can't get sued for that, right? Pretty sure, yeah. You know what, I'm going to make a phone call on that." and just like that he has his cell phone out as he wanders off.


Did he? She's not exactly positive, but she's pretty sure that she saw that. Bridget pauses in her steps to turn and survey the rest of the room. Everyone appears to be preoccupied, including the guest of honor and her sister. Maybe the meal can be skipped. She can slip back in a few minutes and none would be the wiser.

The fashionably late entrance is noticed. The witch has no idea exactly who this man is but he does know how to make an entrance. That is the main thought on her mind before she looks over to where Gabriel was. If he doesn't make eye contact that's fine by her. Most likely for the best, honestly.

Bridget, in desperate need of air anyway, then makes her near stealthy exit. She'll slip back in, hopefully unnoticed.


With the conclusion of her impromptu speech, Serafine settles more back into her skin. She laughs at the Reynard sorcerer's comment. "Yes, I can certainly do that." A glance and a wink is given to her escort, and she reaches out to give his hand a squeeze. "You understand, though if I can't testify to it in a court of law?"

Once out of the spotlight, the vampiress is clearly back 'on her game,' and full of perfectly polite flirtiness. It's a mark of her nature and her bloodline, though it's doubtful the RINC man knows that.

She truly hopes the other sorcerer hasn't realized what she is.

Kostas' entrance is noticed and the woman is not as composed as her Maker. A sharp, unneeded breath is drawn, green eyes comically wide as her attention is nearly riveted to the ancient vampire. Her hand tightens around Bryn's, and it's only by force of will that she stops herself from exerting vampire strength and hurting him.

It's a show of power of some sort, it has to be. Serafine forces herself to calm down, though she is always a little ill at ease whenever Kostas is present.


"Really?" Hated Halloween? That definitely is news to Bryn, but he's not going to ask the other sorcerer why he dislikes the costumed holiday.

Bryn chuckles at the request, and then glances over at Serafine. "She has already signed one with that." It's as subtle as he can make it, though as he's here with the guest of honor, it's an expected response. "I do doubt that you would be sued for it." Bryn is not overly violent, so Lucas won't even get punched for the comment.

It's the tightening of the hand on his that has him glancing up. He spots Kostas, and his wariness goes up a thousandfold.

"It is fine, Sera. You should likely go greet the new guest before we sit for dinner. It would be rude not to."


Like the rest, Gabriel's attention is drawn to Kostas. His entire being seems focused on him, even as the others begin to go back to their normal routine. The newest of the vampires, however, knows better then to meet the man's eye, or even draw attention to himself right now. His time will come, introductions will be made. For now, at least, he knows his order in things, and knows that time is not yet.

So, after a moment, he looks back, and sees Bridget making a stealthy exit. Now is as good a time for that as any, it seems. And so, taking a last provision of scotch, Gabriel slips quietly away from the bar, heading outside as well while the rest are busy paying attention to the Old One.


He waits. The Master of the City is in no particular rush to be anywhere or do anything. He hardly notices the attention he's garnered, or at least he pretends to not notice it. Kostas sips quietly on his glass of wine. His mouth curls up into a cool, disarming and unreadable smile as he notices Kieran and the pretty redhead are headed in his direction.


Well, shit.

Brooke is nervous all over again. It's been fluctuating up and down. Calm when the party started, tense when Reynard and then Gabriel showed up, surprisingly calm to make her speech, and now tense again. "Well even if I didn't impress Sera, so long as you're impressed," she teases with a lighthearted laugh.

"Yes, we likely should greet him. I had no idea he was going to be here this evening." Brooke also has no idea why Kostas would be remotely interested in Sera's books, and she didn't think this event would draw in so many big business names.

"Xander," she greets the man with a smile. "It's been a while."



It could be possible for Kieran to be more confused and off-center, but he doubts it. For a few moments, he thinks that he might well be the butt of a joke, then realizes the foolishness of it. He might be out of the loop regarding what Brooke is, but it's doubtful she truly knows what he is. Not considering the signals she's giving off as she greets Kostas. The witch is trying, that much is for certain, but Kieran can smell her fear and nervousness. The sweet, sticky scent of the trace prespiration that surfaces on her skin that even she won't be aware of. The change in heart rate, in breathing and the way her body tenses.

Yes, she knows what Xander is and the response is typical, expected even. Brooke doesn't react the same way to Kieran, and she's given him the time of day. She can't be one of Regina's higher ups, likely just a regular witch within in the Coven.

Begs the question still of how she knows Kostas.

All this goes through his head in the time it takes to extend his hand and offer Kostas a warm, friendly smile. "Welcome, Xander. I have to say, I wasn't expecting to see you here tonight."


"Of course," Serafine says to Bryn. "It wouldn't be proper to be rude."

The vampiress draws an unneeded breath, but it helps to calm her. Then, with her arm tucked into Bryn's as is befitting a lady on the arm of her escort, she puts a warm, professional smile on her face and glides toward the Ancient Vampire.

They arrive on the heels of Kieran's greeting, and Serafine gives a small head dip and nod. It's a supplication, however subtle given the surroundings, but Kostas and Kieran will recognize it for what it is.

"Good evening, Xander. Of all the surprise guests tonight, I have to say you were not one I would have put my money on." She can play her role to the tee. In this instance, the art broker who's sold him many fine and exquisite pieces.


"Yes, it is quite the surprise, Kostas." Bryn gently tickles his fingers over Serafine's hand, trying to keep her calm. He's quite happy he cast that spell for her earlier, because otherwise it would have made things much more tense and awkward.

"Brooke, Kieran." Beat. "Wonderful shindig you have put together for Miss Roche. I am quite impressed by how you have managed to transform the restaurant into New Orleans."


"Brooke," Kostas greets the pretty witch with a twinkling smile. His manner is so casual, so warm that it is hard to believe he is as neutral and indifferent to it all as the decorations that grace the room. "What a delightfully pleasant surprise to see you here, m'dear."

The Master of the City has an air of presence and arrogance, the measure of a man who knows his place and his place is everywhere and above everyone. He moves in and places an air kiss to Brooke's cheek. Inwardly it pleases him to smell her fear and know that his presence has put her so very ill at ease. "Though, I might have known that an extravanganza such as this would have your magical touch upon it."

As he draws back from Brooke, he takes Kieran's hand and gives it a firm shake. It's unnecessary but part of the presentation. "Kieran, I had not realized that you were acquainted with the lovely Miss Bishop." He shakes his head and laughs. "I should have considered it. You have always been a man of good tastes."

Finally, his attention lights upon Serafine and the Priory sorcerer. Kostas is not surprised to see the man here on the arm of Kieran's Child. Such is the reason he assigned her as he did, putting her close to the Priory. He had hoped at the time that her charms would overwhelm Ashcroft or the detective, but a sorcerer who is not linked to RINC has its perks as well. "I may not be a fan of historical romance, Sera, however, I do believe in supporting those who have earned it."

He extends the same pseudo-affectionate air kiss to his vampire and then nods politely to Bryn. "Mr. Blackwell." Beat. "I should say he is absolutely right. The place is transformed. It feels like New Orleans."


There is only one option when Kostas greets her so warmly. A friendly smile is locked into place, and Brooke accepts the air kiss, leaving one of her own in its wake. She may be fearful of the man, but she can play a good game when she needs to. Right now, she definitely needs to. It's not like she can announce to the world that there's a vampire in their midst.

If she only knew.

A light laugh is given at his emphasis. A slight blush. "It really is magical, isn't it? I do think I chose the best name possible for my fledgling little business." Touch of Magic really is fitting in more ways than one.

Kostas compliment via his conversation with Kieran causes a deep blush to begin its way up her cheeks. Looking down at the ground for a moment until she gets it under control.

When she lifts her head up, she spies Sera and Bryn and offers them both a smile.


The carefully couched comment regarding Kieran's 'tastes' is not lost on the vampire. It's not exactly common knowledge among vampires that spellcasters have a certain sweetness and extra something in the taste of their blood. Also, Kostas knows Kieran's penchant for witches. To be fair, this time, he didn't know exactly what he had his hands on, or fangs so close to.
"Apparently, it's a much smaller city than I thought," Kieran quips lightly. It's only appropriate, because to do otherwise would be to thive the game away.

A warm smile is given to his Child, "You look lovely this evening, Sera. I hadn't gotten to greet you yet." Beat and his manner is warm toward the sorcerer. "Bryn."


Her initial focus on Kostas, Serafine misses Brooke's reaction. It's only when the woman turns to greet her and Bryn that she catches the scents of fear and anxiety wafting from the other woman. It certainly isn't Sera or Bryn she's wary of, and Kieran would have mentioned by now if he'd incited that reaction. The only conclusion is that it's Kostas; and it's not the typical fear. Sera knows that scent. All Vampires who've been around for some time and have hunted know that particular combination of fear and apprehension.

It's the scent of prey that knows it's prey.

"Thank you, Kier." Sera offers her Maker a smile before leaning in to press a light, chaste kiss to his cheek. Nothing untoward, and they are close after all. "Handsome as always, mon beau cher." It's whispered near his ear as she draws back, and turns her attention to Brooke. Just a compliment on the surface, but so many more words and warnings and hidden meanings beneath it.

"Brooke!" Serafine doesn't have to fake the gushing in her voice, "The decorations are perfect! It's wonderful. Absolutely fantastic." Disengaging from Bryn, she gives Brooke a friendly, polite hug. It's two fold, confirming that the woman doesn't react to Sera, and a hug of gratitude. "Thank you so much!"


Bryn is better able to hide his feelings toward the surprise guest. He's dealt with Kostas plenty of times when he's had to clean up messes in the city. The old vampire doesn't startle him or cause him to shake in fear, but his presence here is noted, and he will be asking Serafine to stay away from the man as much as she possibly can.

There's something about Kostas that he doesn't quite agree with.

He laughs when Serafine so easily compliments Brooke, simply because he knows that the vampiress had some hand in it as well, with choosing the theme.


"Please, don't allow me to interrupt," Kostas smiles, and it's a smile that makes small animals cower and run for cover. "I'm certain that the guest of honor has her admirers to which to attend, and I wouldn't want to take away from that."


Kostas gives a polite nod of his head, "Wonderful fete, Brooke. Always so very talented." His gaze shifts to Serafine. "Again, congratulations on your novel. Now I'll trouble you no longer, and see myself to my seat." With those words, the Master of the City strides away, body guards in tow.


"Oh, please. You're hardly interrupting anything," Brooke replies with a soft laugh. "Please allow me to show you to your sea —" Kostas is already on his way with his guards, and she nods. She doesn't mind at all if he wants to be that way, but Regina would never forgive her if she purposefully snubbed someone so powerful in the vampire hierarchy.

As it is, she's going to have to let Regina know that he showed up at the event to congratulate Sera Roche on the novel. Which makes her curious as to how he knows Sera, and she'll have to put out feelers on that.

"I'm glad you like everything, Sera. I did go with the designer we chose, and tried to keep it a mixture between both old world Mardi Gras, and the more modern events." Hugging the woman back with just as much enthusiasm, she laughs. "I forgot you two wouldn't have beads since you were in the staging area." Reaching up around her neck, she smiles. "Here, take mine. I can grab another set just before we make our way to our table."


Kieran hears what Sera doesn't say, and gives her fingers a light squeeze as she turns away to speak to Brooke. There are a lot of … mysterious and interesting connections revealing themselves tonight and they'll certainly be talking about it. The witch hasn't calmed yet, but she truly is putting up a remarkable front. Not that it fooled Kostas.

"Maybe it's time to take our seats, luv?" Kieran asks, resting his hand lightly at the small of Brooke's back. "I'm sure you can decorate Sera with beads later in the evening, so long as they don't clash with her outfit." His smile is playful and cheeky, and he's for all the world the young entrepeneur that doesn't care that a well known financier has just decided to call upon this event. The wheels are turning in the back of his mind, and he's going to ask Samira if she knew that Kostas was coming. It would be just like her to find it amusing to withhold such information.


"Oh, stop it, Kieran. The beads are part of the ambience." Sera laughs and happily accepts the necklace of beads from Brooke, giving her Maker a quick, covert glance. She knows that she's missed something, other than Kostas' completely unexpected presence, but she really isn't certain what it is. She's not going to dwell or ponder for long, however. There's an entire night ahead of her to pose pretty and autograph books, and that's exactly what she will do.

Turning to Bryn, she beams at her escort. "I think Kieran is dropping not so subtle hints that we should proceed to dinner?" Sera cranes her neck a bit, trying to catch sight of where the Master of the City is sitting, and noting his location allows Bryn to lead her to her table.


"I did catch that," he murmurs to Sera as he offers her his arm again. He really wants to ask what could possibly have drawn Kostas from his normal state of keeping out of the public to attend the event, except that he can't ask that in mixed company. Though he does share a look with Brooke to ensure the woman is alright after that encounter.

"You will have to grab me beads as well," he points out gently. "I am afraid I did not think to grab any before we set Sera up to be comfortable before the fete started."


"I'll just be one second," Brooke promises Kieran. "Please, go sit with Sera and Bryn, I'll be there shortly." Giving the man a quick kiss on the cheek, she makes her way back to the door and asks that they be closed once the meal is served. If people are arriving after dinner is started, they will just have to stay out for the meal so as not to distract things.

Picking up two strands of beads, she sets a purple around her neck and carries a gold over to Bryn. "Here you go. I know it doesn't match exactly, but I pulled from the top of the pile. You'll have to make due."

Once everyone is seated, the servers come out and begin to fill the wine glasses. From behind the float of gift bags, soft strains of New Orleans Jazz can be heard. The volume of the sound grows until members of the jazz band can be seen taking their place in front of the float.

Just a little extra thing to surprise Sera with.


"Don't keep me waiting too long. I'd hate for the tabloids to report that I was dumped publicly at my own establishment." Kieran winks at Brooke, but turns and follows in the direction of his Child and her pet sorcerer.

He too notes where Kostas is seated on his way, to the table, giving the man a polite nod of acknowledgment and then taking his seat. He leaves an empty space between himself and Sera, to allow Brooke to sit and talk with her favorite author.

A low, appreciative whistle escapes as the band takes up placement. He leans close to the witch, whispering softly in her ear, "You really went all out with this event. Amazing. You are amazing."


The quick bit of air turned into a brief and horribly emotional confrontation. At the very least he /appears/ to have left for good, at least from the event, which makes things a little easier. The time has been taken to stop and collect herself; washing her face and drying any tears that may have been shed. It isn't a perfect job, but all in all Bridget has pulled herself together rather well. With her mask firmly back in place she re-enters, walking tall and pretending like the last half an hour simply did not exist.

Everyone deserves a do-over at least once.

A brief nod is offered to any who pass close enough but for the most part the eldest Bishop is in robot mode. She walks immediately to where her assigned seat is and promptly sits. She does make it before the doors are closed, unaware of any potential awkward moments she may have missed.


The jazz band is entirely unexpected. She and Brooke didn't discuss that at all. She blinks and then slowly begins to smile brightly. Very brightly. She might not gush as she did earlier, but the atmosphere is calmer and more relaxed now, however the smile speaks volumes.

"This is too much, Brooke," Serafine says, taking a sip of her wine. Reaching over, she gives the woman's hand an affectionate squeeze. "It's fabulous. Thank you." At this rate, Sera might just have to hire Brooke.


Doing his best to smile at Bridget as she returns, Bryn shifts a little more closely to Serafine. He can't move too much closer without accidentally setting his chair on the skirt of her dress, but at least he can shift a little further away from Bridget to make her more comfortable. "Thank you for the beads," he says to Brooke, slipping them over his neck. He's not crass enough to make a comment about being beaded, though he does send a slight grin toward the younger of the two witches at the table.

"Bloody brilliant," Bryn adds, laughing as the music comes into play. "Full of surprises, Bishop."


Brooke would be stupid to keep a man like Kieran Collins waiting for very long. She really does just grab the beads and slip into her seat, making it just before the servers come to the table with the wine. There's a big smile of appreciation as Brooke finds herself sitting between her date, and her favorite author. Which means that Bryn is on an angle from her and because their table can seat six, it leaves an empty space between Bridget and Bryn. Though it does seat her sister right beside Kieran.

"I did. I wanted it to be memorable for Sera. I know she doesn't do signings very often." That should be amended to say 'at all' but instead, she just turns and smiles at the authoress.

"I'm glad you like it."

She may have gone well above and beyond, but at least now the authoress can't say all book signings are boring.


"I'm certain it will be quite memorable," Kieran remarks. The decorations and the fete itself are quite well executed, but Kostas' unexpected arrival were certainly the icing on the cake.

As for the seating arrangements, Kieran thinks that it will be rather advantageous to be able to talk to Brooke's sister. More specifically, to find out the relationship between the neophyte and the witch.

Eventually. When the opportunity presents itself.


Bryn is lucky for tonight he will not feel the wrath of the older sister. To be honest, Bridget could quite frankly care less if he's around. This is an event for Sera, for Brooke, and that's what she's going to be here for. Her feelings about the sorcerer will not be reflected.

For now she has to be seated next to Kieran. At least he doesn't make her skin crawl. For a witch known for protection spells and being the overly protective family member, it should come as no surprise that she'll be the hardest to win over. After everything, she's likely proved that she'd give everything for Brooke. She deserves it.

As far as conversation goes, she's quite silent for the time being. This doesn't mean she's not all smiles and enjoying the atmosphere. She truly is. She's just not going out of her way to speak.


The evening, with the exception of Kostas' appearance, has gone even better than Serafine could have hoped for. She sips her wine, listens to the band, and strums her fingers over Bryn's thigh beneath the table.

"I'm having a fun time," Serafine tells Brooke. "I might just have to do something like this again." Her publisher would tell her to write the next book first before she starts planning.

Gazing over at Bridget, she smiles graciously. "I know I told you when I picked it, and thank you again, for seeing me so late in the evening. I really hate it when I can't get away during the day…" Serafine trails off with a head shake and apologetic look before catching the thread of her thought. "The dress is perfect. I adore it. I might have to go home for Mardi Gras and find a ball, just to wear it again."

Oh yes, she can sense that Brooke's sister is ill at ease, and Sera is merely trying to draw her out and relax her.


"You should do it again, Sera. The limelight suits you well." Bryn dislikes shortening her name, but he knows that it's necessary tonight.

"You did do lovely work, Bridget. I recall the dresses you used to create for Brooke for the school functions. She always stood out due to your handiwork."


Dinner goes well, for the most part. Conversations are lulled and quiet from the tables, everyone enjoying the food thanks to the work of Kieran's kitchen staff. It's traditional New Orleans fare, just hitting home the theme of the evening. Even Brooke is impressed by how well they put the menu together.

There's a bit of a kerfuffle from one of the tables when a certain woman just happens to be sitting across from her husband's mistress and both women just realize it right then and there, but Brooke is quickly able to get things under control with a quick calming spell and a promise of a picture with the guest of honor.

As dessert is finally cleared, she pushes out of her chair. Leaning over she whispers something to Kieran, and then moves toward the podium again.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I do hope you've enjoyed your evening thus far. The band will continue to play while the tables are cleared, but please feel free to come up to the float and find your gift bag, or talk to the photographer about your commemorative photograph."


"You two should take a photo," Kieran addresses Sera and Bryn. "Get a memoir to remember tonight by."


"You do make an attractive couple, wouldn't you agree, Bridget?" He's just trying to coax the elder sibling in conversation, because in his opinion, it would be hard for any one - male or female - to not look good next to Sera.

"Perhaps you won't mind too terribly if I steal her for a dance before the evening is over, Bryn?"


Relaxation is not exactly something that will come easily, if at all for the rest of the night. It isn't to say that she isn't normally going to be this way in this particular seating arrangement /anyway/. There's a man who she very much wants to have strong words with for hurting her sister, there's the man who appears to perfect and is trying to win over her sister, but at least Sera and Brooke are there to keep Bridget from speaking anything that would normally come to mind.

"It really is my pleasure," Bridget responds. "My hours are completely flexible and it gets me out of my apartment. If it's easier to adjust my hours, I'd rather do that than to put someone out." In speaking she's completely content. Her words are true and it does please her to see her work look so well on others.

Bryn gets her attention and she looks over to him with a sweet smile. "Well, I'm glad that my sister was able to have some good times in school." Yes, it's an insult, but it's also not. It's said with a sweetness that only those in the know (or likely vampires) would catch on to.

What's that? Kieran is speaking to her. "Oh, yes. Very much so. It's good to see Bryan so … adult."

That being said, Bridget is mostly quiet through dinner, other than when she's directly spoken to. However she's careful to not say anything else negative.


Sera picks up on the tension and tightness when Bridget addresses Bryn or speaks to him, and though it surprises her, she says nothing. It wouldn't be proper, after all, and she can always ask Bryn about it later.

"I promised Bryn the first dance," Serafine places her hand atop her escort's and gives it a fond squeeze of affection. It's both to show him affection and a subtle claim. The sorcerer might not have noticed the admiring looks he's received tonight, but Sera has, and she wants to be clear that this one is hers. "But then, I'm sure I can fit you in somewhere, mon ami."


"I do not mind in the least. The two of you are best friends." So much more than that, but again, Bryn can't really say that in mixed company. He reaches beneath the table to give Serafine's hand a squeeze and then smiles. "Though I would like to claim her first dance of the evening, if the you do not mind."

When Serafine claims the first dance, and by proxy him, Bryn smiles at her.

Catching the insult from Bridget, he takes it in stride. He knows that what he did years ago did not gain him any love from the elder Bishop sister. "She had plenty of enjoyable times in high school." It's a calm response in the face of the insult.

"Care for the photo first, Sera?"


If Brooke were at the table, she likely would've given her sister a rather loud warning via a kick under the table. That she still blames Bryn for everything that happened all those years ago is both sweet, and slightly annoying.

"With that being said, enjoy the remainder of your evening. Don't forget the auction. If you're interested in anything, silent bids can be made via the boxes in front of each item."

Returning to the table, she steps behind Kieran and leans in to press a kiss to his cheek. "I'd like a picture with you when you've got the chance." Beat. "One with you too, Sera, if you don't mind?"


"As if I would refuse having my picture taken with the most beautiful woman at the Mardi Gras Ball." Kieran turns his head to return the press of kiss to a cheek. Then he affects surprise and embarrassment, and clears his throat, smiling apologetically to Serafine and Bridget. "One of the most beautiful women."


"Uh huh." She's honestly feeling like the odd woman out. It's rather difficult not to. The seating arrangement she can understand, but she'll never fully appreciate. "I think, yeah, I think that I need to go get something to drink." Bridget stands and smiles warmly towards her sister. "Please excuse me." She then heads for the bar, but it is her plan to just slip out once the coast is clear.


Serafine isn't the least bit offended by Kieran's words. She knows the man too well, and besides, it's only appropriate that he dote upon his date this evening. It would be rude to overtly admire or focus on another woman. If there is one thing Kieran is good at, it's making the subject of his current focus feel like the center of his universe.

Giving him a very dramatic eyeroll, she reaches across the table and pats his arm. "It's alright, because I'm certain Brooke doesn't mind having her picture taken with the second handsomest man in attendance." She purses her lips and gives Kieran a wink before twisting just enough to place an openly affectionate kiss on Bryn's cheek.

"That's fine, Brooke, I would be more than happy to have my picture taken with you."


"Picture first then," Bryn says, pushing his chair back and standing. He offers his hand to Serafine, and that's when he can feel the vibration of his phone in his pocket. He curses, because he knows that vibration is particular to the Priory. Leaning down to Serafine's ear he murmurs, "I need to take this. Why not take Brooke for a photo first, and I will meet you over there as soon as I can." Kissing her cheek in return, he hurries toward the bar where it's a little quieter. Chances are the vampires will still be able to hear him as he answers with, "This better be good."


"Bloody hell. Another?"




"I will be there in fifteen minutes."

Glancing toward Serafine, he frowns. "It is her gala event, Kayla. I am not pulling her from this. I will inform her and then fill her in once the signing is over."


Blushing, Brooke leans down and kisses Kieran full on the lips. It's nothing too lasting though, because she's aware they're still at a table filled with family and friends.

"You're sweet, you know that."


"Bridget, I want a picture with you too, okay? You can put it up in your shop to show off your costume dresses and masks."

She's even about to see if she can con Bryn into a photo for old times sake, when he takes off with his phone. She desperately wants to know what or who he's talking to, but she's not about to cast an eavesdropping spell here.

"That's a good idea. Why don't we go put everyone else to shame and get our photos taken."


Kieran rises gracefully and offers his arm to Brooke. He can hear every word of the sorcerer's conversation, though he pretends not to hear a word of it. A very covert glance is exchanged with Serafine, though it's unneccesary. His Child will report back to him whatever it is that she knows.

"I think that I'd like one with you too, Sera," Kieran smiles down at her, holding out his hand to her once Brooke is on his arm. "It wouldn't be right to not take a picture with my best friend at her personal gala."


She's here for family. It isn't that she has to remind herself of this; she's already well aware of this fact. It is, however, the reason why she doesn't just up and walk out right now. "Now how can I say no to that?" Easily, were it anyone else.

Bridget doesn't give up her stance on the bar, though. She walks over and grabs a glass of wine. It's almost more of a prop at this point as she's not certain that she needs any more alcohol. She's still planning on splitting as soon as she can, however.

Eyes watch Bryn closely for a moment. There will never be a friendship there but she does actually feel bad that he's called away. That look even is reflected in her eyes.


Watching and listening to Bryn take the call, Serafine worries her teeth over her lip. It's bad for her lipstick, but she can't help it. The timing couldn't be worse. Not that there is ever a good time for an attack, but she can't help but feel a bit selfishly that fate and karma could have timed it better.

Staying in her human mode, pretending she can't hear the conversation, she accepts Kieran's arm with a sweet smile. Her words, however, are for Brooke. "You don't mind if I share your date until mine returns?" He won't, at least not for any longer than it takes to say goodbye, but Brooke doesn't know that yet.


Bryn does return long enough to say goodbye. But it's a quick one. A hug, a kiss, and a whisper that he promises to fill Serafine in as soon as he's got more information. He's not doing it for the Priory as much as he promised to not keep things like this from her.

Turning to Brooke he smiles. "A smashing success, Brooke. Unfortunately, duty calls and I need to go take care of a few things. Make sure Sera has a wonderful time without me?"


"I don't mind in the least, Sera. I can play hostess while you're dancing." As long as Brooke gets the first dance, she'll be happy. She can check on the auction and everything else while she's waiting on the sidelines.

"I promise she'll have a great deal of fun, Bryn. Just go take care of whatever you need to."


"You're leaving her in good hands," Kieran tells the sorcerer before the man departs. Once he's gone, he leads Brooke and Sera to the spot for photographs. "I have an idea. Why don't you two take one together first? Then bring your sister over and have her take one with both of you, Brooke? It's a very good advertisement for her shop."


Enter the life of a fifth wheel. If she hadn't just slapped him in the face she might almost welcome the Gabriel distraction at this point. Bridget chooses to retake her seat and stay firmly planted there. The others appear to be having fun and she's not about to try and stop that. Honestly, she's too preoccupied with being lost in her own thoughts to really be overly concerned with what's going on. Things just aren't adding up but she can't put a finger on anything.


The vampiress is suitably disappointed when her escort leaves. As much as she boasted about not needing a date, and she still doesn't need a date, she rather liked having him there and just being close to him. It's going to be wretchedly long tense night now, instead of a relaxing one. Yes, she has developed a rather irrational attachment to the man, and Sera will be called up on it soon enough. Soon enough isn't tonight, however and she indulges in a typically understanding, if somewhat disappointed farewell and then putsher party face back on.

"I think that's an excellent idea." Her gaze flickers to Bridget, and it's hard to not notice that the woman is a bit … distracted. Or maybe she really just doesn't like the social scene.


Nudging Bridget's shoulder she leans in and smiles at her sister. "Come on, fish-face. We're going to get you some New Orleans shots to add to your shop. We can get them blown up and put on the wall."

She waits long enough for her sister to get up onto her feet, and then turns to Kieran. "We can each get one individually too, to show off the back of the dresses. Then I want one with you, Kieran. I figure if the tabloids are going to publish pictures anyhow, they may as well wind up with a copy of a decent one."


"Here I thought that you didn't like being the Mystery Lady," Kieran teases. He presses a light kiss to her temple, then releases her to go take photographs. While the ladies are otherwise engaged, he searches again for Kostas, and sights the Master of the City making a stealthy exit. Still begs the question of why he came at all, but at least Kieran doesn't have to keep an eye on him.

With Kostas gone, he looks for the neophyte, Gabriel, but doesn't find him. Making a mental note to inquire of what exactly the relationship between the vampire and Bridget Bishop is, Kieran turns his focus back to the festivities.


This is feeling very similar to the prom, or at least what she suspected that the prom was like. It isn't as if Bridget made habits of attending school functions. Aside from one man, she's been quite happy being dedicated only to her family.

With a soft sigh she stands. "Pictures, but then I should leave." Brooke knows how uncomfortable her sister is at such events. Being the odd person out normally isn't enough to keep her from wishing to be around. It just seems to be a very long evening for some reason.

Ironically enough, the one way that Kieran could actually get Bridget to open up at all would be to ask her about Gabriel.


Technically, Bridget is no longer the odd woman out, though Sera has an entirely different personality and merely rolls with the punches. She'll take pictures, steal her dance with Kieran once Brooke is done with him, and laugh and charm her way through the guests the remainder of the evening. The book signing is, as Bryn stated, a smashing success.

Brooke will receive compensation in the form of a check and a gift certificate to a spa when all is said and done. Although Sera will have them delivered via registered mail to avoid the woman refusing them. Very likely, Sera will want to talk business as well after the fact.

The vampiress is still preoccupied by Bryn's call away, but she'll focus on the signing. The real world will still be there when the festivities end.

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