Snake Charmer

Northwest Portland 
#1
Snake Charmer
@Gia/Kat

Ingvar examined his reflection. He hitched his chin, ensuring his tie was tied correctly. Neither it nor his shirt moved more than a few inches. Perfect. He could feel the wolf’s eyes on him, telling him silently that it was almost his turn to drive. Ingvar pointedly ignored the beast. Five full days remained before the full moon. The itch had begun after Gia’s texts, but he hadn’t wanted to delay.

He pulled a watch from one of his drawers, fixing the shining platinum contraption around one of his wrists. It never crossed his mind that this might be a ‘break-up’ dinner. The announcement that she had found something of her own accord or chosen a different broker in the time since their last showing would not surprise him in the least, but he doubted that was the case. He had a good relationship with the family. When you found an agent that would look after your interests, you tended to keep him in the family—a tried and tested theory.

Finishing with some cologne, he walked out of the bathroom, past the wolf shade on his bed.

Stay. He told it firmly. The creature only huffed in response, ears swiveling flat in irritation.

Gia lived somewhat close to their destination this evening, and Ingvar programmed only her home into the GPS, quickly memorizing the route from her house to the Hog & Feather. One of their perks was a valet, so finding parking would not muddle up the evening.

He left the Mercedes running in front of her home—an impressive structure—and walked up to the front door.

It opened before he could knock.
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#2
 Eyeing her reflection in the mirror, Gia was making sure that everything was just about perfect. Moving her hands down her form, making sure to ease out the fabric of her dress. Tonight’s choice being a deep red and classy in style, hugging her form in just the right places. Stepping into a pair of Loubotins and adding a finishing touch to her makeup, she was soon considered done.
 A moment later she was enjoying a glass of wine, her gaze briefly catching the time from the watch on her wrist. Right about then she heard the sound of a car pulling up on front, hence she finished her drink as the maid went to open the door. Gia heard the elderly woman greet someone and soon Gia herself appeared in the doorway behind the woman, a smile in place as she interrupted.
 "We will be leaving right away, Celeste. Would you be a darling and get me my coat?" There was a strange touch of affection in her voice and eyes as she had her attention fixed on the woman, who nodded and excused herself with a smile. Only then did she shift her attention to Ingvar, a quick glance at the wolf by his side. Not paying it any further attention, she turned to the man.
 "You certainly dress up nicely." She complimented, leaning in to greet him and kissing his cheek briefly - although making sure she didn’t leave a mark behind.
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#3
 An older woman appeared before him. Ingvar, who would die before missing a beat, said, “Good evening. I have come to escort Ms. Salazar to…,” and there she was, radiant in a red dress. The color made her skin glow, and Ingvar gave a tiny smile of approval under his groomed mustache. It was not an uncommon practice to wine and dine beautiful female clients, but Ingvar still wished to keep any untoward behavior carefully concealed. This was not a woman he met in a bar. She had extravagant means and a family with whom he would like to remain professional.

 He said this to himself like a mantra several times over.

 Celeste, the woman, left them to fetch the coat. As Gia moved in, he smiled wider and leaned down only for effect. Her shoes brought them close to the same height. The spot where she had kissed him burned for a breath, then faded. His wolf made a grumbling sound of disdain that ripped across his skin. Silence, he told it. I am working.

 “Me? I am as nothing. You did look in the mirror, yes?” Ingvar said with deep sincerity. “But I thank you.” He inclined his head, a gesture that felt archaic and, yet, formal enough to acknowledge that both of them had a strong sense of style. This evening would cost Ingvar in the triple-digits, and he would be damned if he appeared worth any less.
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#4
 That smile didn't go entirely unnoticed, but she pretended like it had. Gia was one who enjoyed the attention of men, and women, and would pretend like if nothing. Dusting it off while secretly enjoying the feeling of their eyes on her. Certainly it was the narcissist in her speaking and as they greeted, she made a habit of ignoring the pup by his feet. It wasn't her first encounter and certainly she knew what it meant; but she hadn't disclosed any information about herself and her being aware of the wolf at his feet. And she wasn't going to at this moment either, hence keeping her attention away from it and solely fixed on her company for the night.
 "You do know how to sweet-talk a woman." Gia teased, eyes glistening before turning her attention to Celeste who brought her a black, thin coat. She let the woman help her and for a moment she turned her back to Ingvar, while speaking to Celeste. "I fed Tezca, so he should be fine. Don't let the boy trick you. I'm not sure when Santiago will be home, but you can consider the rest of the night off. And why don't you sleep in tomorrow? Okay?" Again, there was this sense of affection as she spoke to the woman and Celeste returned the smile, as she adjusted the coat and nodded. "Okay. Thank you, miss Gia." The witch smiled at the elderly woman, winking at her, before picking up her purse and shifting her attention back to her date.
 "I'm ready to leave if you are."
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#5
 Ingvar said nothing at her compliment, only grasped his hands behind his back as Celeste returned with the coat. A brief exchange passed between them. Ingvar looked away from them out of polite consideration. Had he known there would be staff at the Santiago house...well, he was not entirely sure how that changed his opinion. Something twinged within him, and his eyes shuttled down to the wolf—Not me, the beast seemed to say. A longing was it? Nostalgia for a life lived a thousand years ago? That must be the trouble—he almost laughed at the realization. Employees only got in his way anymore, and he kept most of his at a far distance.

 Finally, Gia was ready. Ingvar snapped to attention, turning to look back over his shoulder at her. “Let us go, then,” he said, offering her his arm. Unable to entirely shed his earlier feelings as they proceeded to the car, he asked, “She has been with you very long? Celeste, I mean.” He wanted to put in something about knowing the value of old family help but decided to keep it close. Talking of that life put him in a foul mood, and he had no wish to sour the evening.
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#6
 As the front door closed behind them, Gia took his arm with a pleasant smile in place. Ingvar was certainly being a gentleman and as they made their way towards the car, she listened carefully to his question. Not entirely sure on how to respond to it, she hummed quietly as she decided on an answer. "I suppose. A few years at least." Gia tried to remember how long it had been, but she had hired Celeste a couple of years after their escape from Mexico. Which was something she wasn't about to dive into,
 "Trying to remember for how long, but honestly.. it feels like she's been with us forever." Perhaps because she reminded her so much of her deceased mother. Gia couldn't quite tell, but there was a certain warmth in her voice as she spoke of the woman. Maybe it was a sign of weakness, but it was a weakness she herself refused to acknowledge.
 "Not that it matters; tonight isn't about my staff, now is it?" She pointed out with a smirk, well aware that he most likely wanted to know what she had decided on. That was something he'd have to wait for, however, as she was going to make the most of the evening. Actually looking forward to having dinner with someone who wasn't her brother for once.
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#7
 Ingvar raised an eyebrow, and his mouth turned down in a look of consideration. “As you like. I was only curious.” And, perhaps, a bit envious. Gia did what had to be done to break the rose-colored lens that suddenly enclosed his feelings—Ingvar was grateful for that, though he did not say as much.

 When they arrived at the Mercedes, he released her arm and opened the passenger side door. The soft, mechanical whir of a small motor hummed; a footboard came down from its hiding place under the chassis, halving the distance from the ground into the cab. He leaned on the open door, holding on to the exterior handle with his right hand, and offering his left for her use.

 “Have you been to the Hog & Feather before?” It seemed unlikely that such a woman would not know of the place, but Portland was a prominent place, and its restaurants tended to change like the seasons. Not this one, however. It was an elite institution—a steakhouse whose cuisine featured in magazines and television, and a staple for the local dating and business scenes.
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