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Your Cheating Heart

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Ashe gets stopped on her way to the main ballroom of the biggest gala of the year by someone asking the same question she’s heard all night: “Where is your husband?”

Ashe smiles. “He has his own projects to work on and unfortunately cannot attend.” She brushes by a woman in a red gown, not able to recall her name. “Enjoy your evening.”

She gets asked this again—so much that she ducks into an adjoining atrium with a magnificent marble staircase and significant security details just to escape. She is not the only one who does so if spotting the handful of celebrities in the same room is any indication. One spots her and immediately heads her way, a devilish smile on her face. “A pleasure seeing you here.”

“Evelyn.” Ashe looks past her. “I don’t see your band mates.”

“Around somewhere.” Evelyn waves before linking their arms together. “But tell me about you, darling. I’ve heard your name thrown around a lot tonight.”

“Not in the way you would imagine,” Ashe sighs. “Why does everyone keep asking where my husband is?”

Evelyn shrugs. “Easiest answer is that they’re hoping to bang you in his stead. There’s enough alcohol here for even you to slip up. Perhaps—“ Her eyes glint. “—there might be some juicy gossip about marriage problems.”

‘Not in a million years,’ Ashe thinks as Olaf spots them and ambles over, dressed in a black suit with its arms almost bursting. She whispers to Evelyn, “There really is nothing there.”

Which is the issue.

“There are lots of affairs going on behind closed doors,” Ashe admits, eying the inside of the hotel around them, the crystal chandeliers and deliberate lowlights in certain aloves. “I suspect that it is one of the main reasons for holding the gala here every year.”

“Just affairs? I’ve heard rumours of people finding love in these parties...just not with their spouses.” Evelyn smirks. “Who knows? Perhaps, love is in the air for you.”

Ashe shakes her head. Love was never meant to be in the cards for her.

She reaches out to greet Olaf as a series of gasps sweep through the crowd gathering at the foot of the staircase. Ashe looks up to see a woman descending the steps in a burgundy satin dress, a slit along the side rising so high that it verged on scandalous. The woman smirks, flipping her long hair over one shoulder, surprisingly confident with a clear scar down one eye.

Ashe whispers, “Why is everyone staring at her?”

“Oh, her?” Evelyn points at the woman with hair the colour of spilt blood coming down the marble staircase. “Katarina Du Couteau. She’s a psycho.”

Olaf nods on Ashe’s other side. “Hot but a little bit psycho.” He lowers his voice. “I hear people say run away, not walk away from her.”

Ashe snorts but politely covers her face with her hand. “That sounds exaggerated.”

Olaf and Evelyn gaze at her sombrely. Evelyn places her hand on Ashe’s shoulder, nails golden like painted spikes. “Stay clear of her. I’m serious. You don’t need that kind of drama in your life.”

A scream echoes from the other side of the ballroom as a young girl who looks barely out of high school jabs her finger at the trio. “It’s Evelyn from K/DA!”

Evelyn ruefully looks back at Ashe over her shoulder. “Speaking of which.” She slips on her dark, sleek glasses and disappears into the crowd.

Olaf grins and heads to the bar located in the room beyond this one. “G’luck with tonight.”

Ashe sighs and turns around to head to the main ballroom, feeling the hair on her nape rise. She looks back, and the red-haired woman is now watching her from the stairs, lips slightly parted as if surprised.

But Ashe doesn’t know her.

She turns and presses through the crowd, answering yet another round of polite, superficial conversations. The staff shepherds the crowd to the massive double doors, which open up a few minutes after Ashe arrives. A woman with whom she exchanges a few words titters nearby as they are ushered into the ballroom. “You are so lucky that you and your husband are in love.”

Ashe presses her lips together and nods.

Inside is a huge floor with over 70 tables, each seating ten diners each. Wait staff dressed in immaculate uniforms of black and white zip through the aisles, silver dishes and jugs of coffee in their hands. Ashe gets escorted to a table near the front of the podium, and she sighs at the scrutinizing looks she gets as she approaches her table. She barely recognizes any of them.

Luckily, Ashe finds herself seated next to Luxanna and Garen from Crownguard Enterprises, and she’s relieved to see friendly faces among so many closed-off expressions. Garen nods politely while Lux reaches forth with a hug as the wait staff set down plates of salads with walnuts and sprinkles of goat cheese.

“Finally, someone with sense,” Lux whispers. “How are you enjoying this so far?”

“I was hoping to speak with someone in particular.” Ashe scans the crowd until she spots a flash of lilac hair at a far table. “And I think I found her.”

Lux opens her mouth to ask when the lights go out, and the stage lights up. The entertainment turns out to be K/DA, although Ashe had an inkling of it with Evelyn’s presence. The band is greeted with genuine cheers once they finish their latest hit before they walk off the stage to eat at their own table nearby. Then the speaking engagements from the heads of various companies and sponsors begin, and Ashe is grateful that they now have dinner being served to at least distract themselves if needed.

Their host, CEO Swain of Bastion Inc., speaks with something in his face that makes Ashe shudder. Even the curling of his lip could be seen when he looks at the Ionian table. Ashe’s target of the night eats her meal calmly there, despite the fact that she single-handedly destroyed Swain’s expansionist efforts into Ionia’s exporting industry by cutting off a major arm of his company.

When he steps down, it’s with polite, subdued applause and relief as the next speaker comes up after him. To everyone’s surprise, Katarina comes up to the podium on behalf of her father, a generous donor to Bastion. Her speech is short, direct, and clearly written by someone whose own tongue would be more diplomatic than the woman’s own if her reputation is to be believed. Still, Katarina delivers the words as if they were her own, smiling easily, though Ashe notes the stiffness in the corners of her mouth. Garen keeps his eyes on her, and Ashe is reminded of the rumours that he and Katarina have gone to bed together more than a couple of times. Katarina, for her part, skips her gaze over him to linger on Ashe, eyes darkening briefly before she moves on.

Luxanna seems to notice with the concerned glance she casts at Ashe. “Avoid her,” Lux mouths before Katarina finishes, and the next speaker comes up, commanding their attention. The night continues like this with speakers touting this new project or idea while people whisper among themselves and plan their next move. Ashe is grateful that the food is actually good and finishes off her cheesecake as the last speaker of the night finishes, and the lights go up.

Swain hobbles up to thank them for their attendance and mention something about a special afterparty that Ashe tunes out. She heads out of her seat quickly just as the woman she has been looking at puts on her coat and plucks up her leather purse.

Ashe stops her with a gentle touch to her elbow. “Irelia Xan?”

The CEO of First Land Exports turns, curious but wary. “Yes?” Her eyes scan Ashe. “You’re new.”

“I’m from Freljords Holdings. Ashe Falk.” She shakes hands with Irelia. “We’re a relatively new financial institute based in Rakelstake that is expanding outwards. We noticed that your relationship with your current institute is rather rocky, and we had hoped to speak with you about what options we have that could better suit your needs.”

Irelia eyes her. “And why would I accept a meeting with you and your associates?”

Ashe smiles slightly. “Because we are not The Iron Pinnacle.”

Irelia sighs, “True. I suppose that is as much of a reason as any.” She dips her hand into her purse and slips Ashe a card. “This is my direct line. I have free time in two days, and you can speak with my partner and I then.”

Ashe thanks her, slipping the card into her pocket. “I appreciate your time, Miss Xan, and I look forward to a warm and beneficial relationship for the both of us.”

Irelia nods, the lights shifting over them, and Ashe is suddenly distracted by the curve of her lower lip, the shape of her mouth. She snaps out of it and bids goodbye to Irelia who looks amused before Ashe hurries out of the ballroom. She stops at the door and turns, feeling something tingle along her neck. Ashe spots Katarina looking at her from halfway across the room, eyes glittering like a predator’s in the night.

She leaves right away.

Her goal accomplished, Ashe retreats from the ballroom, turning many corners until she finds a secluded bar in a lounge somewhere far from the centre of the hotel. The curtains are a lush maroon as is the carpet with shadowed corners and velvet loveseats for couples to sneak into.

The bartender is young, handsome, impeccably groomed, and worried when she orders the hardest liquor he has. He frowns as he hands her a shot of fire whiskey. “You sure, ma’am? This thing is pretty strong. Can do a lot of things to mess up your thinking.”

Ashe nods, thanking him for his concern. She sips at the glass, the kick in the back of her throat reminding her of home, and a warmth fills her chest that has nothing to do with the alcohol.

A husky, low female’s voice floats over to her, and the hair on Ashe’s nape rises again. “How is a pretty thing like you all alone?”

Ashe glances up, already looking at any available exits before Katarina Du Couteau seats herself beside her, blocking her view. She tilts her head, red hair spilling across the polished bar counter like a waterfall of fire. “No escort to accompany you?”

Ashe looks away, hoping Du Couteau would take the hint. “He is not needed for a simple ceremony.” She feels Katarina’s gaze wander up and down, and she turns to meet her stare as if drawn to do so. “Is there something I can help you with?”

Katarina grins, her eye teeth glinting white under the lights. “Do you know who I am?”

“Katarina Du Couteau.” Ashe lifts her glass to her lips, the liquid in it golden like amber. “So, what do you really mean?”

Katarina leans towards her, the slit in her dress exposing her thigh, which Ashe pointedly ignores. “Do you know what I do?”

Ashe frowns. The rumours say—

“I’m a dance choreographer.” Katarina smirks at her expression. “Surprised?”

Ashe coughs, turning away. “I just didn’t expect that of you.”

“What did you expect?” Katarina tilts her head slowly, exposing the long line of her neck, and Ashe hisses under her breath as she feels heat creep up her face. “Something more provocative?”

Ashe sips at her drink. “Such as?”

Katarina just laughs and leans further into the table, the curve of her hip standing out in a stark silhouette. Ashe’s eyes flick downwards then away. “I saw you watching me on the stairs earlier.”

“You do know how to make an entrance.” Ash signals for the bartender to give her another drink and fast. “So what does a dance choreographer want with me?”

Katarina merely smiles and gestures for the bartender to give her what Ashe is having. “You are rather famous in the city for having such a—“ She clucks her tongue. “—family-friendly reputation.”

“You seem to have an opinion about that.”

“Opinions are a dime a dozen as you already know.” Katarina picks up her newly-delivered drink and tosses it back. “That’s quite strong. Seems you want something fiery tonight.”

“It looks like a night to let loose for some.” Ashe shrugs, ignoring the couple in the fake corner, whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears. She knows that both are married to other people.

“Like you?” Katarina leans in, and Ashe could feel her stomach heat at the sight of golden flecks in the green of her eyes. “I hear in the Freljords, the culture is quite...traditional, but that doesn’t seem to apply to you.”

Sighing, Ashe tosses back her drink in lieu of answering. “I know your type,” she says dismissively.

Katarina’s lip curls. “You think you do?”

“I think…” Ashe leans in close, and Katarina mirrors her. “…that your weakness is that you are so insatiably curious. And I bet there are things you want to know about me now.”

Katarina’s eyes flit down to Ashe’s mouth then lower, lips curling into a smile. “Perhaps.”

Ashe gestures for another drink. “You should be a little cautious, Miss Du Couteau. Our reputations are always on the line.”

“Only fools hesitate. You should live a little while you can.” Katarina smiles, and Ashe hates that her gaze is drawn to her mouth in turn.

Trying to stop the conversation cold, Ashe says, “Your affair with Garen Crownguard—“

“A series of mutually beneficial encounters.” Katarina shrugs one shoulder. “What of it?”

“Rumours say that it might be more than just lust,” Ashe prods, trying to throw Katarina off-balance. “It certainly looks like it from the way he looks at you.”

Katarina throws her head back and laughs. “Fantasies, purely.” She looks smug. “I don’t fall in love.”

How perfect. Ashe has never fallen in love either.

But it doesn’t stop her from wanting.

“But what about you? These…same rumours say there is trouble in paradise for you.” Katarina’s eyes glitter in the low lights of the bar. “Why else would your husband leave you here all alone?”

Ashe nearly snorts. “Because he can’t stand your CEO, and that is no secret.”

“Fair enough. Swain is barely tolerable most days.” Katarina places a hand on Ashe’s thigh, and Ashe doesn’t brush it off. It’s been so long since she’s felt the touch of a woman. “And you?” Her palm presses down slightly, and Ashe is hard-pressed to admit it doesn’t feel good. “Why are you here besides to speak with that Ionian?”

Ashe shoots her a look. “You were watching.”

“Of course. How could I keep my eyes off of you?” Katarina blinks, as if startled at herself before continuing on. “You have quite the presence.”

Ashe sighs, tossing back her drink. “I'm tired of your game. What do you want, Miss Du Couteau?”

“I wonder.” Katarina slides her hand farther up Ashe’s thigh, and Ashe bites on her tongue to stop herself from making a sound. “You haven’t brought up your husband once while we were talking. I can’t blame you, especially with the stories that it was purely a business arrangement.” She clucks her tongue. “Is it something else you’re craving in your marriage, something that he can’t provide?”

When Ashe goes silent, Katarina grins. “Tell me something.” She leans in, her arm around Ashe’s shoulders a burning brand. She gets so close that Ashe can feel her sigh against her lips, something hot and molten pooling in her own belly. “Does your husband fuck you as well as I would?”

Ashe shoves her back. Her drink’s in her hand one moment and all over Katarina’s head the next. The people around her stare as Katarina tosses her head back and laughs.

This woman really is a psycho.

Lux appears out of nowhere, tugging at her arm and muttering, “I was looking for you. C’mon, Ashe. Let’s leave.”

Ashe feels herself get dragged away as she watches Kat flip her sopping hair back, slicking it back with one hand as she meets Ashe’s eyes. A corner of her mouth lifts in a smirk, and Ashe half-wants to turn back.

Lux fussed over her the entire way down the staircase. “I don’t know how you manage to deal with her.”

“Judging by how I lost control, I didn’t.”

Snorting, Lux turns a corner. “That is minor compared to other reactions she’s provoked in others.”

Ashe doesn’t deny that, but there’s something in the back of her head that tells her to turn back, like a siren call at the edge of a ship.

An arm suddenly wraps itself around Ashe’s shoulders, and a beautiful woman with red curls appears from the crowd as if summoned. “Miss Falk, surely, you would not leave without joining the VIP party up on the rooftop? Your company has reached some significant milestones this year, and the host wanted to extend an invitation as a congratulations.”

Ashe frowns, stepping away. “I appreciate it, but I am in the midst of leaving.”

The woman smiles—pretty and practiced with a face that seems disturbingly familiar. “That is a shame. There are lots of…talks and partnerships that are formed when things are less formal and more relaxed. Perhaps, you might reconsider when you see the kinds of relationships you may develop up there.” She extends an elegant pass etched with Ashe’s initials and winks, slipping it into Ashe’s palm before waving and disappearing into the crowd without a look backwards.

Lux looks crossed. “An elitist circle created by a Noxian. How original.”

Ashe glances over. “Do you know her?”

“Only by name and rumours.” Lux shakes her head. “I’m surprised she wasn’t giving the speech earlier tonight instead of—“

The elevator beside them opens, and a crush of impatient party-goers swoop in, sweeping Lux and Ashe in along with them.

“Excuse us!” Lux shouts. “We’re trying to get off!”

The doors close, and the crowd excitedly chatters over Lux’s increasingly irritated shouts. Ashe gives her companion a worried look as the elevator heads straight for the rooftop without a single stop elsewhere. When they reach the top, the two women are carried out with the crowd, the bouncers briefly overwhelmed with checking people’s passes while Lux and Ashe sneak around them to the sight of a low-lit massive pool stretching along the rooftop. The smell of alcohol and other substances linger in the air. More than a handful of people are swimming in various levels of undress while others are engaging in physical acts that have Ashe turning red as she turns away.

Lux splutters, turning red. “So, these are the special relationships Cassiopeia was talking about?”

“Cassiopeia?” Ashe glances at the woman beside her, but her attention catches on the crowd in the distance. She spots Jayce from Piltover Tech Enterprises laughing with Caitlyn and Vi from Enforcer Security. Across the pool sneering from them is Viktor from a rival tech company based in Zaun who stands with the brilliant Dr. Mundo. Not far from them is a handful of Yordle representatives that are rumoured to expand in a handful of territories, and Ashe is curious as to the details of their plans. They don’t seem to be engaged in carnal behaviour, and Ashe decides that Cassiopeia was not lying. This was the spot to work out new partnerships before they even formally begin.

Her observation gets interrupted when Lux cries out as a man approaches them.

“Garen!” Lux scolds. “What are you doing here?”

“I was looking for—“ Garen’s face spasms before he looks away. “I thought she’d want to meet tonight. She usually does.”

Lux crosses her arms. “When are you going to give up on that woman? She’s been bad news since the day she was born.”

Ashe waits before venturing a comment. “Do you mean Katarina Du Couteau? She might be…changing. A drink was spilt on her.”

Lux snorts as Garen snaps his attention on her. “Is she okay?”

“Brother, she probably has a wardrobe already prepared here in case something like this happens.” Lux waves off his concern.

Ashe frowns. “Why do you say tha—“

A huge voice kicks out from the speakers around them with all three slamming their palms to their ears to drown it out. “IT’S DRAVEN TIME!”

Lux shouts and jerks her head towards the elevator where a crowd of people gathered, having gotten the same idea as a strange sort of techno music fills the air. Ashe shakes her head and points to the fire escape, and the three of them head down the stairs as people join them. They soon get separated in the crowd, the music still blaring loudly overhead that Ashe can’t hear anyone.

She stumbles into a random hallway near the top floors to get her bearings when she spots a man at the far end of the hallway who makes her freeze.

Sion, Bastion’s guard-dog, spots her and a lecherous grin spreads across his ugly, drunken face. Standing nearly seven feet tall and with rumors of his cruelty and sexual appetite circulating through the companies in Runeterra, no one but Bastion would hire him though they would never say why.

He starts wading through the crowd towards her.

Knowing his reputation for how he treats pretty women who get caught by him and how well Bastion bribes many judges to look the other way, Ashe ducks into a nearby unlocked room to avoid him.

She stumbles inside and immediately locks the door to bar a drunken Sion out. Sighing, she turns, freezing at the sight of an amused Katarina standing near the bed, topless with her dress hanging at her waist and her bra in her hands.

“I thought you did not want anything more to do with me tonight.” Katarina quirks an eyebrow, dropping the undergarment to the floor and starting to slowly shimmy out of the bottom half of her dress along with her underwear. “You caught me in the middle of changing after our indiscretion.”

Ashe looks away, flushing and furious at herself for staring at Katarina’s chest. Glancing at Katarina’s legs doesn’t help either. “Why are you here?”

“I can use any room I want. My family owns the hotel and the surrounding properties.” Katarina jams a hand onto one hip. “Did you not know that?”

Ashe curses under her breath. Another example of her growing sloppiness. “I picked the wrong space. My apologies.” She grabs the handle just as Sion roars in the hallway, and Ashe winces at the sound of his voice. She lets go in time to see Katarina’s flash of her teeth in a satisfied smile.

Ashe pointedly keeps her gaze on the crimson colour of the wallpaper as Katarina hums and walks across the room with nothing on. She stiffens when she feels Katarina press up against her, unwanted excitement flickering in Ashe’s belly as she becomes painfully aware of something between her legs starting to demand attention. “Step back, Miss Du Couteau.”

“Mmm.” Katarina plays with a strand of Ashe’s hair, brushing it back behind her ear and smiling widely at Ashe’s sharp inhale. “Why should I? You’re not very good at hiding your desire. In fact—“ Katarina cups her between her thighs, and Ashe flushes at her body’s reactions while Katarina’s smile grows.

Ashe shoves her off, and Katarina laughs. “This is sexual assault.”

Katarina shrugs before she turns and heads for the bed, sitting back on it with a tilt of her head that makes it hard for Ashe to look away. “Feel free to leave anytime if you want to.”

Ashe’s mouth goes dry, watching Katarina slowly cross one leg over the other as the redhead keeps her half-lidded gaze on Ashe. Maybe it’s the alcohol or the nearly aggressive advances by Katarina or the crushing loneliness that Ashe tries so hard to ignore, but she finds herself crossing the room to stand in front of Katarina who wastes no time in running her hands appreciatively over Ashe’s hips. “You are wanton and shameless, Du Couteau.”

“As are you since you’re here.” Katarina presses a kiss to the patch of bare skin on Ashe’s belly, and desire flares along Ashe’s skin like a heat bloom. “I have no qualms about giving you what you want.”

Ashe can’t help herself. She leans down just as Katarina eagerly arches up to meet her.

The first kiss is slow and deliberate, sending fire sizzling throughout Ashe’s nerves. Katarina purrs beneath her, slipping a hand upward to cradle Ashe’s jaw.

Ashe breaks the kiss, leaning in to whisper in Katarina’s ear. “Isn’t this a bit much for just a fuck?”

Katarina growls, fingers digging into Ashe’s shoulders as she yanks her down into her lap. Ashe tears her fingers through Katarina’s hair, starling herself with how fiercely she dominates the other woman with kisses of her own while Katarina makes a noise of approval and reaches for something on the nightstand.

Ashe looks over to see a handful of velvet cords, and her lip curls at the sight. “Some things to make a guest feel welcomed?”

Katarina smiles. “You are right that I am curious about you, such as what you taste like.” She glances at Ashe’s mouth before looking further down her body, and the heat that blossoms in Ashe’s belly is nearly embarrassing in its intensity. “I have half of my answer.”

Katarina quickly throws Ashe down, expecting to get her on her back, only for Ashe to flip them around. She spots the redhead reaching again for the cords and grabs them herself without thinking. Pinning Katarina’s hands down with one of her own, she nimbly ties the rope around Katarina’s wrists to a bedpost, surprising both of them.

“I thought you would give more of a fight.” Ashe eyes Katarina, now panting and furious underneath her. “Or is this something that turns you on?”

“Fuck you. Untie me!” Katarina struggles against her bonds, but the glistening on her inner thighs tell a different story.

And Ashe, drunk and angry and frustrated with everything that has happened tonight, makes a decision she would deeply regret later.

She takes Katarina Du Couteau on the spot. And she takes her and takes her and takes her.

And Katarina makes no moves to stop her, eyes popping wide in surprise briefly before settling into some very pleased sighs and happy grins. A flush rushes down from her face to her chest, and even with her eyes closed, Katarina clearly looks like she’s enjoying herself. She wraps her legs around Ashe’s waist, bringing them closer together, and her flush turns into a full-body blush. Her moans are also unexpected; Ashe had thought they would be like her, loud and shameless, but Katarina’s sighs were breathy, involuntary, and full of need, raised an octave to a series of high notes that sound nearly very unlike the woman they belong to. She is also constantly going for kisses, even with a blush as bright as her hair, and Ashe finds it bizarre for a woman who just wants a one-night stand.

Little matter as they would never speak again after this. Ashe supposes that it’s good that Katarina is having so much fun.

Katarina passes out after yet another climax, slumping into the bed. As Katarina’s breathing evens out, Ashe studies her face, wiping her own hands on the bed sheets below.

Katarina is undeniably pretty with aristocratic features and a mouth that Ashe feels an urge to keep kissing. Under the right lights, Katarina could be considered gorgeous, the kind of beauty that would stay in Ashe’s thoughts long after they cross paths.

As it were, Katarina was much better company when she wasn’t in a speaking state.

Ashe washes her hands in the private washroom, unties Katarina from her bonds, and pulls the blanket over her to give the woman some decency.

Then, she heads out, locking the door behind her, and catches a taxi ride home. She thinks nothing more of the evening when she wakes up the next morning with a horrid hangover and a vague memory that might be a dream of being over a beautiful woman in bed.

Ashe regrets her night with the intensity of a thousand burning suns. She sits at her dining room table, feeling faintly dirty despite the early morning shower she took. In front of her lies a pile of tax reports that the throb at Ashe’s temple worsens. A heavy tread sounds down the stairs at the side of the open, white living room.

Ashe doesn’t even look up when the footsteps walk past her, and a heavy hand claps onto her shoulder.

“Ashe.” A heavy bass resounds beside her ear.

“Trynadamere.” Ashe brushes the hand off. “I’m working through the company’s latest reports.”

“You slept on the couch last night.” He doesn’t say anymore.

Ashe tilts her head but not enough to look at him. There’s a vague sense of guilt, but she doesn’t know where it comes from. “I felt like it.”

He pauses. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it last night. The servers—”

“—were on fire. Yes, I heard.” Ashe waves away his apology. “I understand that running a game company requires your attention, and I don’t need you to accompany me everywhere.”

“Ashe.”

She slowly turns to look at him, a man well over six feet with a wide, broad chest, powerful shoulders, and sad eyes. He murmurs, “I’m your husband. I’m your partner for life.”

She drops her eyes. “I know you are.” She turns away from him. “Have a good day at work.”

He stands for a long time behind her before his steps slowly fade away.

Ashe goes back to reconciling the reports. Still, she can’t shake the ominous feeling from her shoulders, like a heavy pendulum hanging over her, ticking away her seconds.

She shakes her head of those thoughts and gets back to work.

Later in the afternoon, she gets called in to handle a particularly demanding client, and the moment the woman walks into her private office, all the memories from the night before seem to unlock in horrifically clear detail.

“Missed you from my bedside this morning.” Katarina slides into the chair across from Ashe, smirking. She wears a low cut, billowy white shirt over skintight leather pants, and she smiles with the confidence of someone eye-catching who knows it.

Ashe buries her face in her hands. What has she done? “You must be mistaken. I do not know what you are talking about.” She takes a breath to steady herself, narrowing her eyes at the grinning woman in leather in front of her. She swears softly under her breath. “How can I help you?“

The woman stretches, tossing her long hair back while the hem of her white shirt rises. Ashe pointedly keeps her eyes on Du Couteau’s face. “Well, you see, I’m a little sore after some...training last night.” She tilts her head and smirks. “But that has nothing to do with you, does it?”

Ashe tightens her grip on her own. “I’m afraid I’m not qualified to advise you on your choice of nightly activities.”

“Shame.” Du Couteau glances her over and crosses one long leg over the other. “I wouldn’t mind your expertise again.”

Ashe shoots her gaze straight down to her keyboard. “I heard you wished to open an account at this location.”

“Yes, my father has nothing but the highest regard for your bank.” Katarina shrugs. “Figured it’s time I open up a savings account.”

Ashe bites back a scoff. “Very well.” She gestures to the credit card machine. “Let’s proceed, shall we?”

Ashe goes very silent later when she reviews the amount of money in Katarina’s accounts.

Katarina smirks. “Not bad, huh?”

Ashe clicks at something not on her screen. “Is that what you ask your bedmates in the morning?”

“If you had stayed, you’d know.”

Ashe suppresses a sigh and laces her fingers together. “I’m finding your behaviour highly unprofessional and disrespectful.”

“You know what’s also disrespectful?” Katarina crosses her arms over her chest. “Fucking someone unconscious and leaving without a n—“

Ashe hisses. “Be quiet!” She catches herself and stares at her clenched fists. “It...it was a miscalculated indiscretion on my part.”

“Seemed pretty calculated to me.” Katarina meets Ashe’s sharp glance, standing up. “Give me your number, and see if you can convince me that it was a mistake outside of work.”

“Miss Du Couteau, that is the poorest attempt at—”

Katarina leans over and presses a kiss against Ashe’s mouth, hand cupping her jaw. When her tongue brushes against Ashe’s, a hunger opens up in Ashe, and she finds herself raking her fingers through Katarina’s hair.

When Katarina pulls away, she grins widely, panting slightly with strands of hair mussed over her face. “Come meet me. We’ll...talk more.”

Ashe shouldn’t.

She ends up agreeing to speak with Katarina at a secluded club known for discreet meetings and backroom business mergers. Her cab peels off after it deposits her in front of a clean, white building with dark windows and red curtains. She steps through the door to find a young waiter with nearly trimmed dark hair with a menu waiting for her, dressed in a spotless white dress shirt, black vest and dress pants, and a gorgeous crimson tie. He smiles and bows, gesturing to her to follow with a slow turn on his heels. She follows down corridors with open rooms cut into either side of the walls, concealed by burgundy curtains and ebbing with the flow of murmured conversations in them.

The waiter leads her through several twists and turns of a white hallway lined with gold-rimmed mirrors and exquisite blue vases on ebony stands to a dark door at the far end. He holds it open for her, and Ashe steps through to find Katarina waiting with a smirk in a low, plush seat, one leg crossed over the other. The room is warmly lit with the glow of candles and low lights, the table set low to the ground with just enough space that Ashe could tuck her legs under while sitting on the ground. At the corners of the room sit large velvet pillows in dark hues that Ashe concludes are meant to serve as seats.

On the table in front of them lies a platter of carefully roasted meats and potatoes on skewers, and a bottle of something most likely rare and expensive with its label written in an unrecognizable foreign script. Beside that is a wine glass filled with a rich, amber hue that smelled faintly of fruits and honey, and Katarina is already drinking from her own.

Ashe eyes the other woman before striding forward and snatching the filled glass from the table. She tosses it back.

Katarina’s eyes glimmer like a predator in the night. “Need something to take the edge off?”

Ashe sighs and shrugs off her jacket, unbuttoning the top of her stiff white shirt. “You are beyond this childish taunting, Miss Du Couteau.”

“So formal for someone who fucked me at the biggest gala of the year.” Katarina smirks as Ashe stiffens. “Kat.”

Ashe’s jaw tenses, but she nods and slowly sits down. “How much do you want?” When Katarina looks blank, she elaborates, “This is blackmail for the evening, is it not?”

Katarina tosses her head back and laughs. “Oh, that is so cliche. No, I want a different prize—one that you’re far more willing to give me.” She smiles behind her glass. “You’re the one that agreed to meet. What do you want?”

Ashe grits her teeth. She ignores decorum and reaches for a skewer first. After a few tentative bites, she begrudgingly continues her meal. It is, unfortunately, well-seasoned and perfectly delicious. “You have good taste,” she begrudgingly admits.

Katarina runs her eyes over Ashe, lingering on her chest and face. “Can’t argue with that.”

Ashe crosses her arms. “Why do you follow me, Du Couteau? I would have thought once was enough to satisfy your curiosity.”

Katarina straightens up and gives her an excited look. “I had to hunt you down. No one has ever fucked me like that before.”

“Really? I would have thought Garen Crownguard could satisfy you on some level,” Ashe sighs, brushing her hair out of her eyes. “I’m sure someone like you could pay for that kind of service.”

“They wouldn’t be you. He’s not you.” Katarina stops before rushing on. “You have a fire in you that’s locked behind ice, and I want to break your defences. I want to see you undone under me.”

“So, this is just a game to you?” Ashe sighs, running her fingers through her hair. “A boost to your ego? Is that it?”

Katarina grins. “Just appreciating a good fuck. Don’t flatter yourself.”

Ashe glares while Katarina smirks, insufferably smug under the low lights in tight leather and what looks like half a shirt. And yet, Ashe doesn’t leave. What does she want from something that will clearly lead to disaster down the road? “What can you offer me that I don’t already have?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Katarina sets aside her glass and stands, walking over to Ashe slowly with her hips swinging. She smirks as Ashe’s gaze travels downwards even as Katarina stops in front of her. “A way to satisfy your…craving for a woman’s touch.”

Katarina leans in, breath hot against Ashe’s ear. “Besides, it’s only polite to return the favour.” She nips at her earlobe. “Don’t you agree?”

Ashe reaches out and grasps a handful of Katarina’s shirt. “You are playing a dangerous game, Du Couteau.” Her voice comes out low, raspy. Ashe is already losing control. “What if you fall in love?”

Katarina smiles. “I don’t love.”

“Well then, I’m in luck.” Ashe sighs, already pulling Katarina down into her. “I don’t need it.”