Foto bij 065. - Lucien

Life quickly gets back into the regular roll of things. I make long days at work and usually spend my weekends at 'influencer'-events. I don't really get - or take - any days off, which is probably why Gabriel contacts Selene behind my back to figure out when I'm not kept at work by meetings or appointments. In true Gabriel-fashion he barges into my office one Friday afternoon, completely ignores my protesting and turns of my computer monitor.
"You, sir, are coming with me." He says, leaving no room for arguing. "I checked with Selene - you don't have anything scheduled for tonight or tomorrow, so I'm taking you out for dinner and afterwards we're going out to String of Pearls."
"Hello to you, too, Brie." I say dryly. He offers me a boyish grin. "You know, I'm not dressed to go out. At all." Am I trying to get out of this? Maybe.
"You wound me, Lulu. I have an outfit for you in the car. Two, even, one for dinner and one for Pearls. Now, get typing or we won't make our reservation. Hold on - what are you looking at?"
He caught me redhanded trying to find Emma in the office, before I remembered she left early for an appointment. I clear my throat, trying to avoid the question, but that doesn't work with this man. His grin comes back, even wider than before. "Invite her, then. Have her invite her friend, too. We'll take them to Pearls like they took us to Brian's." He frowns to himself. "Gregg's? Something of that nature."
I'm hesitant. My feelings for Emma have lessened; we haven't seen a lot of each other over the past weeks. Gabriel steals my phone out of my hands and before I can even react, he's already drafted a text. Doesn't send it, though, because he knows where to stop pushing me. "Invite her." He says again. "God knows both of you need some fun. How are things going with her promotion?"
"I'm working on it, having a meeting with Jacques on it this Monday and all will be determined then." A meeting I'm not exactly looking forward to, because my father insisted to do it in person. "Keep your mouth shut to her, will you? She doesn't know yet."
Gabriel lifts his hands in innocence. "Not a peep."

The girls come out the door at the exact time Gabriel rolls up to the curb.
"Looking fine, ladies!" He compliments them as they step in. It's true - both of them look stunning. I have a suspicion Kenna borrowed one of Emma's dresses, but who cares? I meet Emma's eyes through the rearview mirror; she grins at me.
"I can't believe he actually got you out of your office."
"He full-on abducted me." I answer, laughing. "But to show you two String of Pearls will be worth it."
Emma wrinkles her nose. "Just that name sounds like I can't afford it."
"You don't pay in Pearls." Gabriel drives off, engine roaring. Show-off. "That is to say - Lucien pays a hefty fine to be a member and as long as you're with him, you can get into any Pearls around the world and not pay for any of your refreshments."
"Are you not a member?" Kenna asks. It is a genuine question, no ill intent. Gabriel shakes his head.
"I don't make that kind of money just yet. There's exclusive, and there's Pearls."

I flash the little black-and-gold card and we're let in no trouble. The club is accessible for non-members, but you have to pay a steep entre price. Those people fill the main area, where drinks have to be paid but also where the most dancing gets done. The girls are obviously out of their comfortzone and rich men wouldn't be rich men if they didn't gawk at everything with a cleavage, so in an almost automatic motion Gabriel and I flank Emma and Kenna to shield them from the looks. We lead them to the members-exclusive part of the club, where it's far less crowded but still quite full, with trance-music booming loudly over the speakers. The entire room is dark, only dimly lit with blue lights. One of the walls is entirely lined with the plant that gave the club its name: String of Pearls. In this particular location, there's a waterfall behind the strings. I hear Kenna whistle, both her and Emma are looking around with big eyes. Gabriel grins at me and we sit down. Barely a second later, each of us is brought the signature cocktail, in this case something called 'smoked blood and sand'.
"Every location has a different one." I explain. "Some people make a game of getting to try all of them."
Emma looks around, grinning. "It feels that if I should just want a simple beer..."
"Beer is a dirty word around here." Gabriel smirks. "With the exception of high end speciality beers."
"Of course it is." She laughs. "This place is nuts. Incredible, but nuts."
"All the rich are nuts." I lift my glass to toast. When the glasses clink together, my eyes find Emma's. "To a great night."
"So," Kenna begins after taking a sip of the cocktail, then having to recover it with a light cough. They're using an intense whiskey, nearly too strong even for my tastes. "What do you do around here? Dance? Chat? I doubt they'll be happy to let customers dance on the bar to a Rihanna song."
Gabriel almost chokes on his cocktail and I grin. "Depends on the night. I'm not a big dancer -"
"That's a lie." Emma says.
"but we do often enough get down. Just not before we've had enough to drink."
Right on cue, with our cocktails not even finished, a grand total of twenty-eight shots get delivered to us, with one empty glass. Gabriel's eyes sparkle in the blue light. "At Pearls, we like to play a little game when we bring new friends. I'm guessing both are familiar with true or false, where each player tells a story and the others have to guess if it's true or not. If you're wrong, you drink. The Pearls version, however, has a little twist." He puts the empty glass in the middle of the table, the simple sight of which makes me groan. As he talks, several other things are being brought to our table. Tabasco sauce, lemons and limes, other fruits, honey, barbecue sauce, olives... it just keeps going. I know exactly where this is going and I'm determined not to lose.
Gabriel continues, arranging the items neatly around the glass. "If you are the one telling the story and no one gets it right, you get to add one of these things into the glass. If someone did guess correctly, they get to add something. When the shots run all out, we top this of with vodka and the one with the most incorrect answers has to shot it. But since this is the first time to Pearls to each of you... You'll each start off with two incorrect answers to your name."

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