The year she reaches nineteen it all becomes official.
Eve supposes there are worse things.
There is no known family head.
She could very well direct an onslaught of suitors and interested parties to the family plot. Or to Dallas, of course, off in the mountains at some strange recommendation for a retreat. She is not jaded; although that is long past due, being jaded - perhaps, she's even earned it, really. But there is no time either.
The birthday party is someone's idea. A grandmother, distant. An uncle, an aunt. Everyone is well-aware that she is neither interested nor patience enough to walk herself back into a history of drugs and laundering, nor is she interested in reinventing the family name, and of course, she is no longer a child. There is no need for miracles anymore.
"You are your father's daughter," a guest says to her. Eve smiles lightly, bowing the head of her champagne in acknowledgment. A lie is a lie, she thinks.
She does not remember much of her father anymore. Or her brother. Or her mother, after that.
"Thank you for coming," she says politely.
She wears silk, gray, and it hits just over her knees as she moves around the ballroom. She is gracious and warm; politicians and family heads aside, she is exploring the pieces of the family, and what she is walking into. The silk is cool though, even as the glass in her hand sweats against the tips of her fingers.
She passes into happy birthday! though and sneaks her fingers into her hair, gathered at the back of her neck, as she steps outside for air. The music is loud here, louder as the singer croons - she can count the breaths and the changes in pitch.
She smells the smoke, after.
Eve blinks. "Mr. Gandor," she greets.
It takes a minute. Then another second. Then Luck Gandor stands in front of her, leaning into the balcony rail with a cigarette.
"Happy birthday," he says, after awhile. His mouth twitches and then she joins him, elbows dropping against the rail. She cannot remember inviting him, she thinks. But her memories are much sharper, blood and a hand, Dallas' slight, glazed eyes and the Hudson. A mix of history, if anything but.
"Shouldn't you be enjoying the night?" he nods to the space behind her, and laughter sneaks outside to join them. "Your night," he says too.
She shrugs, pressing her lips to her glass. "I've made my rounds, Mr. Gandor." Her lashes brush against cheeks. Then she swallows, amused. "Although not well-enough," she adds. "Are you here with your brothers as well?"
"Mmm." It's neither a confirmation or a denial. There are too many names as it is. She remembers the Gandor wives though; and as tight as her recollection must be, she cannot remember spotting either or.
But she does not believe he would come alone. It does not surprise her though. She tilts her head to the side, meeting his gaze. Business, she thinks. Always business. Many of her lessons, to this point, have come from him. Maybe if she were still that girl, she would tell him. He would laugh. She would flush.
"Am I keeping you from your guests?" he asks. His voice is dry and she laughs, then. The sound is huskier than she intends it to be.
"As charming and handsome as you are, Mr. Gandor," she drawls. "I do think this me trying to have a bit of peace of mind. And champagne -" her nose wrinkles as she looks down into her glass " - flat champagne, apparently, but c'est la vie."
"I could get you another glass," he says, and she meets his gaze. His eyes are as sharp as she remembers. There are no lines in his face and that curl of his mouth is still somewhere between cruel and heated, a kinder generalization of him.
"You could." She pushes her bangs from her eyes. "And that would be very kind of you - but I imagine, this is not an unplanned appearance, you at my birthday or this conversation."
"You were always a strange girl," he murmurs. He chuckles then too. He drops his head back and her eyes follow the long curve of his throat. "I liked that about you."
He laughs now. "Well, you're no longer a girl."
She does not ask how though. She can piece together the appropriate assumptions. Newspaper men. Jaccuzzi. Dallas, even.
"Should I ask then?" Her voice is quiet.
He hums. "I'm deciding," he says slowly, pulling himself to full height. He shifts to her. His fingers graze her hip. "Business is inappropriate for a birthday - an important birthday."
"Age is just a number." She bites her lip to keep from rolling her eyes. He snorts. "As much as I appreciate how polite you are trying to be - "
"We could talk elsewhere," he supplies.
His fingers catch over her glass. She lets her gaze drop and it cradles, just as his fingers linger over the rim, steady. Inevitability, she remembers. She never did ask why he did what he did. It always makes her think less of Dallas. Or did. Sometimes the little girl is there, still waiting for righted wrongs.
"You're a terrible flirt, Mr. Gandor," she murmurs.
His mouth twitches. "My apologies," he says. But there is nothing in his voice; it's steady and strong. He's too close.
All right, she thinks. All right. She is aware of the music again, and then, there, the rise of voices. Perhaps she'll go missing for a little while. She will not be missed. She already knows the direction of the conversation - people are that predictable still - and it will round, almost lazily, with a poor girl and we'll see what happens. She is not self-righteous enough to hold on that tightly to the past.
But she has just started to find this funny.
Eve licks her lips and nods.
Dallas gave her billiards.
Eve has a mind for it. Corners and shots, angles, the sharp curl of distance - she loves numbers, she loves the actuality and the facts. The table is a wide berth of promise for her and a secret, of course, since she always let Dallas win.
Luck breaks. She notices first: his elbow is too sharp.
"You still prefer cards," she says absently.
She follows the yellow color of the balls. Her weight leans into her stick and she bites her lip.
"How long have you played?" he asks.
"Long enough." Her voice is short.
He misses - perhaps, on purpose. Eve does not know if she finds that amusing or condescending. What she understands that this is, in part , a test from him to her and her to him. Old habits, maybe. Courting, who knows.
She shifts and leans over the table. She is all limbs now. Her hair falls into her eyes and two balls make a pocket.
"Well." He sighs.
"Well," she mocks. Her sigh is gentler.
She turns around the table, brushing by him. He leans his cue stick against the ledge. There's a snap and he is rolling his cuffs over his elbows.
"Your brother, I assume."
Eve shakes her head. "Pressing the subject is unlike you, Mr. Gandor."
"And you're -" he bites back, pausing as she sinks a third ball. She misses the fourth with a frown, drawing away from the table. He is studying her.
"I'm?" she presses.
He turns over the table, lining his shot up. He does not look away from her either, drawing the cue stick back.
The end hits the ball hard.
"Would you believe me," he says quietly, "if I told you I was waiting for you? Or would you believe me if I told you that it never settled right, the way you and I went our -"
"Separate ways?" she interrupts. He snorts and she shakes her head. "It was for the best, wasn't it?" Her lips purse, and then: "It's terribly romantic of you too."
"Is that what you believe?" His voice is hard and dry. She does not pay any attention to his face; it's the game, after all. Signs are in the body. Dallas was a tense player. Father, terrible.
He sinks another shot. She pulls back away from the table and moves to lean against the wall. She can hear the party, downstairs. This room is her father's old study, an odd mix of memories - to him, her mother, and both her brothers. Dallas' sweetie still lives around in her head, never kind enough to be a warmer memory.
I don't know, she doesn't say. This is the truth. Her lips purse tightly.
"I think this point is irrelevant," she says carefully.
A ghost of smile touches his mouth.
She ignores it too. Reaching back, she pulls the knot at her neck loose. Her hair spills everywhere and she sighs, relieved.
"You're giving me nothing," he tells her.
She thinks she hears a little bit of pride. So she gives, a little. Just a little.
"Tell me this," she chooses instead. She moves back to the table. "Are we touching upon - fonder memories," she says dryly, "or are you talking to me as part of the Gandor family? Should I be having this conversation with your brother?"
And then, there, is that look in his eyes. A look she remembers, holds closer to her than the scraps of her family and her own brother. It starts after, at the corner of his mouths and works into the rest of his face as he, in part, relaxes and tenses, an easy paradox.
She wonders if this is why he waited - if this is about him and her and waiting. She cannot recall what the girl in her might have seen or if, if anything, it might have been relevant.
"So it's true then."
She doesn't budge. "It's official," she says.
"And this is -" his mouth quirks again and he leans back over the table. But whatever he has to say is lost.
"Stop," she says.
His body stretches, unlike hers, in a much tighter fluidity. She thinks of grace and lines. There is blood too and the careless, uglier memory of how he stood between her and infinite grievance, clutching his own hand. She could have questions.
Instead she moves behind him, still, still much smaller. She presses lightly against his legs and then slips over herself him, her hands adjusting his over the cue stick.
"This isn't cards," she half-teases.
"You play a lot," he remarks.
She smirks. Her mouth grazes his ear.
"A natural talent."
It's bold, it's brazen, it's just plain stupid. It may be the champagne; if she's not careful, a lot of things may be too.
He still lets her adjust his stance and then she pulls back carefully, even more aware of her position. Her knees are against the back of his legs and then gone, as she smoothes her dress back into place.
He makes the shot. She is not surprised.
Luck turns against the table.
"I wanted to see you for myself."
"You had years," she says. It comes out cross and he smirks. He leans forward and his fingers catch against her jaw. She stills. "Relatively speaking,"and she doesn't mean for it to sound the way that it does, both callous and coarse, uneven at best.
"I know," he shrugs.
Eve understands that she cannot read him. Maybe better, this time around. She feels rusty and hates it.
But his finger are at her jaw again, and she feels it - too exposed, too sudden, too there, as he bows over her and his lips dust over hers, his mouth opening as he speaks again.
"You don't trust me," he tells her.
"No." She is quiet. He tastes like smoke. "I remember," she says.
"You forgave me."
Her fingers brush over his shirt. "I was a girl." She smiles wistfully too. "But yes," she allows. "I did."
"Your brother?" he asks still, and if she were still that girl, the girl, she would flinch or declare, somewhat petulantly, that he cannot have Dallas anymore. It stopped being about him anyway. Instead she sighs into his mouth and it's a kiss, but not quite a kiss, but then again a kiss is a kiss is a kiss. She swallows his smoke and when he sighs, it all comes together like this.
He bites at her lip, over the champagne. She must, she assumes, tastes just like that and her nails are curling into the fabric of his shirt, their hips walking back against the billiards table.
The wood is hard. She forgets the party and the others, happy birthday evie! and the rest of the non-answers, of course. His mouth coaxes hers and she feels her lips flush back, wet, her teeth running lightly into his skin. His tongue rolls forward and then there is a palm on her knee - oh wait, wait his fingers are pushing the silk over her skin, his palm opening over her skin. Just like that then. Just like that.
"My family," she murmurs, and at the same time, his forehead drops against hers, his breathing sticky with smoke - still - as he speaks, "Your family."
She hopes the message is clear enough.
It certainly is an odd way to agree, of course.
Somehow it is too soon for her head to spin with elixirs. She knows the story; how could she not know, and well, that is just a silly question and an even sillier story as it is.
But Luck Gandor calls on her again, and then again, and once more, for tea and whiskey, settled into the odd corner of a safe house as they both pretend to watch his brothers play cards or pretend to not watch the two of them back.
"It's spring," she says faintly.
He shrugs. "I like the snow," he says, and she rolls her eyes. His mouth purses and then twitches. "We could walk," he offers.
He shrugs again.
There is a deck in the middle of their small table. There are two more men, guarding the door, and another two that linger in the hall. She has a car and her own guards outside, waiting.
"You too," he says.
She shakes her head. "Me too," she agrees. Then she picks up the deck, studying it. "I do hope that this isn't a marriage proposal, Mr. Gandor," she says.
"And if it was?"
Eve laughs. "You're doing a terrible job."
"Ah, I see."
He pulls the deck from her hand, gently, maybe too gently. His fingers stretch over her knuckles and she tries to not to react. The flush curls at her throat.
"You're nervous," he says.
"I'm confused," she corrects. Then she draws back. "I haven't seen you in - " she stops herself, shaking her head. "Understandably so," she adds. Her fingers press against her forehead. "I just don't understand you, I suppose." She's serious too. "I do understand the need for business, however."
"A dangerous thing," he says lightly.
Eve snorts. She watches as he shuffles the cards in his hands.
"Ah," she murmurs. "I may have been just a girl, Mr. Gandor, but I never once underestimated you and your ..." she laughs to herself, leaning against the wall, " - your presence," she decides.
"But you're here."
It comes sudden, sharp even. His mouth twists and he watches her, as if he were waiting for a specific reaction.
She becomes aware of his brothers then; Keith, of course, peering off-handedly in their direction, Berga and his ridiculous frown. There is a strange sense of fondness that shifts in her. She isn't sure if she likes this feeling or not.
There is always Dallas in the back of her mind, of course.
"I have an audience too," she murmurs.
"You're not Dallas," he says - and carefully, maybe too carefully. Her lips curl.
"No," she says. "That I am not."
And it's there, business being business. She smiles then, really smiles, a tired, long drawn of her mouth as she reaches for the cards in Luck Gandor's hands. She pulls them between her fingers and curls them around the edges, shuffling her nails against the surface. It flicks and clicks.
She misses billiards. Cards are not her thing. They were her mother's things, perhaps her father's if she chooses to remember - Dallas chose billiards with a purpose and she, then , had followed in kind because she knew nothing else. Her skill was always a little different.
"All right," she drawls.
"All right?" Keith - the eldest, the head. The sharpest, if she remembers correctly and that she always does.
"Yes." She shifts close to Luck. "Let's talk then."
After all, it is time to read between the lines.
Luck lights a cigarette. Eve spins a pen between her fingers.
"You're a surprise," he say finally, and all she can think is nineteen, her family, and wrapping this up into something to managed. Because this is what it's all about.
"It's simple," she shrugs. "I am more than happy to step into a partnership with the Gandor family. I am, however, not a fool."
He chuckles. "I didn't say that." He's shuffling the cards again.
Her lips twist.
His brothers are gone - upstairs, perhaps, to their wives, even more plausible. There was a wink and low chuckle from Berga and Keith, still, prefers a non-reaction to a reaction. She can see how she once, somehow, found this frightening. What worries her more is her non-reaction to all of this; age, a birthday, and the lingering weight of her brother. That hasn't left her.
"Did you think I wouldn't make it a priority?" she asks.
"To learn your familial assets?" He leans over the table, resting his chin in his hand. "I never thought of you as an idiot, Eve."
Her name comes out of nowhere. It seems softer.
"I didn't say that," she presses. Her hair slides over her eyes. The repetition seems redundant. Is this an impasse, she wonders. "What I mean," she murmurs, "is that you seem to have a different idea of where I was meant to end up."
"Didn't you," he says, and really, it's not a question. Instead the assumption sort of sits with her.
She doesn't answer.
Her hands are tense. It takes a moment for her to realize. The pen slips and scatters over the card table. No, she thinks. No, no. She didn't wonder. Her world was a little different, now even - she was trying to keep her family together, at least what was left of it.
It happens then, a sigh - a long, drawn sigh. Her lips purse and her legs cross at the ankle under the table.
"No, I suppose. No."
She shakes her head.
"Perhaps if I was - " she laughs, then. "If I were a part of another family, mother and father and brothers and all. I would engaged by now, I imagine. I would know nothing of calibers, for sure. It would be tea settings and lace and all terribly dull things. God might still be a factor, I think -"
"God?" his amusement is heavy.
She flushes, licking her lips.
"I was a child, Mr. Gandor."
"You're not making any excuses," he says.
She shrugs. "It doesn't matter even I did."
Her gaze focuses. She reaches for a small stack of papers; warranty, insurance - call it what you will. The family still has a few factories, none that level at a prize. It's all mathematics, and a little bit of semantics, and really, truly, Eve is well aware that she is dealing with Luck, not Keith because the business end is the business end.
"I suspect your brother will call on me then."
"Mmm." Her eyes stray to his mouth, then his hands as they spread the cards over the table. "This isn't everything," he says.
Eve's eyes are bright with amusement. "No, no it's not."
He tilts his head to the side. "Smart girl," he drawls.
"And there you go again. With the girl."
He flashes a sharp grin. His cigarette goes out in an ashtray by his elbow, smoke waving in a small pile.
"Eve works well," she says.
"Eve then," he says and he's rolling the sound with too much purpose. Neither of them have come out to say it though. "Familiarity," he says too, tailing a chuckle.
It's the luck of the draw, she thinks suddenly - or well, he's certainly mocking her and, and those papers are certainly there and she knows, Eve, that these conversations that they've been having for the last couple of days, outside of his impulsive return into her life, make everything very, very, very real.
"Nineteen," she murmurs, and then, it's pen to paper, the tip etching a very fine signature. Dallas would say blood oath or something to that effect. She remembers a lot of strange things.
Eve blinks. His eyes are darker than before.
Her smile is serene then.
"Nothing," she says. "It's nothing."
There are no impossible lies here and really, there is no need for them. There is no Dallas. There is no traumatic search. She looks at Luck Gandor and still sees the man too. It's even in the way he still looks at her; he knows that she can see what through him.
Will there be bodies then, will it be that kind of growth - Eve still believes in the devil after all.
"Well." Luck puts his cigarette out in a tray next to him. "Suppose we should get you home."
"I have a car," she murmurs.
He licks his lips. He's deciding something. It's a strange and funny feeling, watching him, really watching him. She cannot decide if she trusts the moment or if she should catch up to her instincts. But he leans forward; it's a jerky movement, palm dropping hard into the table. The cards scatter from the deck and she has no time to be confused.
Luck kisses her.
He tastes too hard again. She likes that, you know. That he does. That it is just as real as everything else.
It will not be the last time. You could call it a beginning. Maybe. Maybe not.
After, what follows:
she learns the slight line of his mouth, the way his skin puckers under her teeth and it's all sort of a heavy, heavy sigh as his fingers dig into her hips and she's halfway onto her feet without realizing it, his hands dragging her dress over her thighs and her fist is pulling his tie harder and harder - a button pops, maybe, does it matter? - because then he's licking the inside of her mouth and his tongue is hot and sticky and like a bitter whiskey -
but Eve likes it all, Eve likes it all.
Eve Genoard does not rob a bank.
But she is callous and sharp and knocks a bullet into the knees of an old Runorata friend without flinching. Tricks of the trade, doll! This is what not-Vino-not-Claire says upon meeting her, proudly slapping Luck on the back and spinning things about babies and weddings.
The man had a mind to ask her about god and God and her big brother Dallas as if she were the lesser of two evils, as if this were really about evil, whatever that means these days. She is never graceless and there are too many that call her Miss and the lady. Luck kisses her forehead to patronize her as she rolls her eyes.
But nineteen will give away to twenty and so maybe, this was not supposed to be her path-du-jour and that's coming down the line.
She likes to keep it simple though.
Occasionally she lets Luck win at cards.