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 The Doom That Came to Hollywood

Discussion in 'Roleplay Execution' started by GMO, Jan 4, 2019.

  1. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    @Teneo Lupum

    David Chandler's house overlooked Los Angeles, which at night seemed a carpet of diamonds from Mulholland Drive. It was to be a family affair, but in the household of the most powerful man in Hollywood - if one believes TMZ about the subject - that meant there was plenty of help around, too. Cooks, servers, a bartender, even the nanny for David's youngest son and a bodyguard.

    David came out of his office when he heard the whine of his son's Tesla enter the driveway. He was sniffing, wiping his hand across his nose. In his sixties, David still cut an imposing figure - tall and broad-shouldered, with good muscle tone in part due to frequent injections of testosterone and training with a series of fitness experts. He was in an Armani suit because even for Christmas he was the most powerful man in Hollywood. Just ask TMZ.

    Philip, David's eldest child, entered. He was as big as his father, and younger, and he kept himself trim. He had the looks to be an actor, but never had the taste for things on that side of the camera. He was a writer, albeit an LA writer, so it helped that he looked good and knew how to dress fashionably. Now, he was casual. Painted on jeans and a flannel shirt against the December chill.

    David said, "You look like you're going to a baseball game."

    Philip: "It's a family dinner, Dad. There aren't any reporters here."

    "Oh, are reporters following you around any other day of the year? I hadn't heard. Well, good on you."

    "You're a gas, Dad, a real gas. Specifically, sarin."

    "Have you seen the new nanny for your brother? You'll like her. Elisabeth! Where's Hannah?"
     
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  2. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    Elisabeth Bauer was a stunning woman - dark hair and striking blue eyes with high cheekbones and a creamy complexion - and the red lace Marchesa cocktail dress she was wearing only emphasized her beauty. She was David's third wife and was nearing the expiration age of his second wife. Always worried that she would find herself served with divorce papers on her thirty-seventh birthday, she worked hard to keep herself looking youthful. Exercise, clean eating, visits to the dermatologist for facials and the lightest touch of Botox to stave off wrinkles - they were all part of her regular maintenance.

    She was just coming down the stairs, her hand gliding lightly down the banister and a glass of champagne in the other. "I believe she's helping Tyler with his bow tie." She made her way to the men, her Louboutins marking her progress. Elisabeth pressed her cheek to her husband's and offered the appropriate Hollywood vague air kiss. "She should be down soon."

    Her attention turned to her husband's oldest son as she then pressed her cheek to his, letting it linger a bit longer than perhaps was proper. In truth, her 'stepson' was closer to her own age than her husband was but such was the way of things in this town. "I believe the bar is set up in the living room if you two need a drink," she said as she brought her own glass to her lips for a sip.

    A thunder of feet caught her attention, her blue eyes lifting only in time to see Tyler, David's twelve-year-old son with his second wife, Margot, come pounding down the stairs and headed for the spread of hors d'oeuvres in the festively decorated living room. One eyebrow lifted slightly but she said nothing, instead choosing to take another sip of her bubbly.

    Behind Tyler came his nanny, Hannah. She was young with big brown eyes, an artfully tousled pixie haircut, and a smattering of freckles across her button nose. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Chandler. I tried to tell him he couldn't bring his Switch down with him but he just didn't listen." Her smile was apologetic. Hannah hadn't been working for her employer for long and she really didn't want to lose her job.

    Her eyes glanced at Mrs. Chandler. No, Ms. Bauer, the woman hadn't changed her name, not wanting her successes to be tied to her husband's name even though everyone who was anyone knew they were married. Hannah felt very plain next to the stunning woman, especially given the difference in her attire. Dark-washed skinny jeans and a gold sequined top just paled in comparison next to the stunning designer dress.

    Blowing out a nervous deep breath, she finally noticed the man next to Mr. Chandler. He was tall, he was handsome, and he was dressed similarly to the way she was. "I don't think we've met. I'm Hannah," she said brightly as she extended her hand to Phillip.
     
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  3. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    "Bowtie? Poor kid," Philip said. "You're going to give him an issue. Another issue. He's already got subscriptions, but I guess that's a part of the Chandler DNA. But in this house, I always need a drink. You look stunning, Elisabeth. As always."

    Philip was not surprised by the way that his father treated his third wife. Not only was had Philip's mother told him everything there was to know about her relationship with David, Philip was old enough to understand what happened between David and his second wife, Margot. In Philip's opinion, a lot of Margot's problems were sourced with David. But it was a tough path for Tyler - caught between his fuck-up of a mother and, well, David. Philip liked to be there for the kid, but couldn't be, not as often as Tyler needed. Or, at least, that's how Philip saw it.

    Elisabeth, though? His father's relationships kept getting weirder. She was much closer to Philip's age than David's. And Philip had always admired her beauty. He couldn't say he knew her very well, though he was cynical about her motives for marrying his father. Still, she had seen him at some of his worst, when he'd been wounded in Afghanistan and mustered out of the Corps. A Purple Heart and a Silver Star, and his father told the wounded Philip, in agonizing pain because he still had bits of metal in his guts, that this was just the first career he'd fucked up. David liked winners. Getting your ass shot off by "Stone Age sand niggers" showed a lack of intelligence and character.

    If not for Tyler, perhaps Philip would have cut all ties with his father. But his brother needed him, or so he told himself.

    He shook Hannah's hand. "Ah, the new surrogate...." Then he regretting taking a biting tone with Hannah. "Excuse me. I sometimes forget my manners. I'm Philip, the crown prince of this little kingdom."

    David: "Not necessarily. I do have another son."

    Philip smiled ruefully. "And who knows? Liz is in great shape. Could more spares be in the works? So, Hannah, do you think my old man will let you have a drink with the grown-ups? I could stand some bourbon. It's my Christmas spirit."
     
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  4. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    Hannah murmured a polite "Nice to meet you" even while Phillip implied she was there to replace Tyler's mother. She had read the tabloid's version of Margot and David's divorce but never felt quite comfortable inquiring what had really happened. Nevertheless, her smile faltered before reappearing.

    Elisabeth's jaw tightened when Phillip suggested that she and David were working on 'spares'. It was not common knowledge that they struggled with fertility issues and that David flat out refused to consider fertility treatments or even adoption. No freak of science babies for David Chandler, virile Hollywood producer. Nor would he consider raising someone else's child. It had been the source of the vast majority of their arguments at the start of their marriage. Eventually, Elisabeth had acquiesced to his wishes so as not to lose her position as his wife. She downed her champagne before giving Hannah permission to have a drink. As long as she was able to put Tyler to bed, Elisabeth didn't give a damn what the young woman did.

    "I'll leave the bourbon to you, Phillip. Perhaps just a glass of champagne for me," commented the nanny as she stepped toward the living room.

    Elisabeth shot a glare at her husband. "More spares in the works? I thought we agreed you would keep your.., " she paused, her lips pursing as if she tasted something horrible, "...dalliances more secret than you have in the past." She was under no illusions that her husband was faithful. She would be a stupid woman to think otherwise and Elisabeth Bauer was not a stupid woman.
     
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  5. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    Philip felt slightly bad when Elisabeth's jaw tightened. He had made a dig at his father, but someone else had felt its sting. It was how David was. He didn't feel shame. He didn't mind the needling, if he even understood that he was being needled. Elisabeth, though, noticed, and he felt bad. He read the trades. He knew that she wanted kids and he didn't. He felt like a heel.

    Philip accompanied Hannah, who seemed designed to project innocence. He said to Hannah, "Bourbon gets you there faster than champagne, but you can blend them. Bourbon and bubbles. It's a classic, and it gets you lit, which will be useful tonight. Trust me, Hannah. You don't want to be sober for this."

    While Philip went to get a drink for himself and Hannah, David said to Elisabeth, "What are you talking about? You're the only one for me." He lied seamlessly. TMZ covered his affairs often and with confidence. But David lied the same way fish breathed water - naturally. "You're beautiful and I love you." He hadn't touched her, sexually, in years. "Don't be paranoid. You're my wife!"
     
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  6. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    "I can't possibly get drunk! I'm at work and I'm responsible for Tyler tonight. Ms. Bauer instructed me to make sure that he's in bed at a decent hour." Hannah was about to step up to the bar when a waiter approached carrying a tray of champagne flutes. She smiled at the man as she lifted a flute from the silver tray. He inclined his head politely before heading off to see if any of the other adults wanted a drink.

    She lifted the glass to her lips and took a small sip. The bubbles tickled and made her nose scrunch up but even she knew this was excellent champagne. "But why exactly would I want to be drunk for this? Is something going to happen?"

    The waiter passed by Elisabeth and she helped herself to another drink. Hannah might not be prepared to take Phillip's advice but she definitely intended to be good and drunk by the end of the night. "My dear husband, I don't believe you for a second." Her words were cool and collected. There was no point in getting upset; he was going to have his affairs and she was going to turn a blind eye to them to ensure she remained in his will when he died. Elisabeth was bound and determined to by the woman by his side on the day he died. She would not be foolish like Margot.

    "Come, darling. Let's go attend to our guests." Elisabeth started to walk toward the living room but paused to ask one more question. "You didn't invite Susan, did you?"
     
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  7. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    "Did I say get drunk?" Philip said to Hannah. "I said that the spirits gets you there, wherever you want to go, fasters. Bourbon and bubbles. It's high-class. Trust me. I know high-class. And I know you're new here, Hannah, but when you have the chance to be drunk around my father? I suggest you take it. Friendly advice. Just look at Liz. I bet she's on her third or fourth glass of Krystal."

    Philip, with the self-assurance of a person born into wealth, made the bartender get him two shots of Four Roses bourbon with the champagne. He poured one shot into his flute, and offered the second to Hannah to fortify her drink.

    He kept an ear open for Elisabeth's conversation with David. He wanted to say something but didn't know what to say. Hey, you know the man you married - you were the mistress and now he's got other mistresses, how can you be surprised? Or, perhaps, Ditch him. it will get better. You'll make a few million and you can find someone who admires you for the talent and beauty that you are. The last made him feel uncomfortable since he believed it. She had wasted his talent on David. His last two screenplays had characters inspired by Elisabeth, but he doubted she knew, even if she had occasion to read them.

    David said, "Why would I invite Susan? Philip, how is your mother?"

    "In Jamaica. She's got this twenty-something boyfriend who adores her. Worships the ground upon which her feet have tread," Philip said. Then: "Hung like a horse. She always said that she didn't learn what an orgasm was until she was forty." Translation: after she was done with David. "It seemed a long time to wait, but she's happy."

    During this Jah was outside. He was under the weather, with something like the flu, but he powered through it. For weeks, David Chandler had been in touch with an English relative, Hadrian, who lived in Shropshire. Hadrian was loaded, old money, and had investigated his family tree and found a branch of his in the States. David had been suspicious until it was clear that Hadrian was rich as Croesus - then he became greedy. David was worth millions but wanted to be worth billions. Hadrian was that rich. Fantastically, improbably, but definitely that rich - and with connections to the court of St. James, bringing with him a status of the real aristocracy.

    In preparation for Hadrian's visit, he had sent ahead his things - including a box that Jah had laughed could hide a body. That's when Jah had taken ill.

    Hadrian arrived, no fanfare, no security check at the outer gate, nothing like that. He showed up and Jah showed him in. Jah said, "Mr. Chandler, can I present Hadrian Chandler?"

    David perked as his relative - handsome, powerfully built, young - entered the house. He seemed to fill the space. It was easy for all eyes to focus on Hadrian. He dressed in gray pinstriped Dunhill suit with a gleaming white silk shirt and blue-and-red striped tie, Hadrian projected understated elegance fused with high couture. He carried with him a silver-headed cane, in the shape of a grayhound's head, and on his right hand he had an antique gold ring with a ruby the size of a sparrow's egg that was likely worth millions.

    Hadrian said, "I hope I'm not interrupting?" His accent was beyond upper-class English, the kind of accent afforded to royalty.
     
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  8. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    Hannah accepted the shot of bourbon but didn't immediately pour it into her champagne. Instead, she nervously fingered the shot glass and wondered what the hell sort of family she worked for. What kind of people would require her to not be sober when taking care of a child? She sighed and poured the bourbon into the champagne. Cautiously, she brought the concoction to her lips for a tentative sip.

    Phillip's remark about his mother and her new boyfriend pulled Elisabeth away from her champagne. Her lips pursed slightly before she took another sip. "Phillip, don't be crass. That's your mother you're talking about. I'm sure she's very happy with her new boyfriend." Unspoken was the like she wasn't with your father.

    Elijah appearing and announcing their guest was a welcome change to the conversation. Elisabeth's eyes were drawn like magnets to the well-dressed man. One eyebrow lifted slightly as she took yet another sip of her champagne. She would have to ensure she was seated next to this man at dinner.

    Hannah was shocked at Jah's appearance. He looked horrible and like he should have been tucked into bed with a hot cup of tea. She set her glass of bourbon bubbly down on a side table as she rushed to his side. Crouching a little, she grabbed him by the upper arms and looked into his eyes. "You should be in bed, not standing outside. Let me take you to a room to rest?" The two of them had become friendly enough due to their positions as employees of the Chandler family.
     
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  9. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    "Who do you think taught me to be crass, Elisabeth?" Philip quipped with an arched eyebrow and a smile. "Crass is the word boring people use for wit. She taught me that, too."

    Philip looked at his new relative. He thought, at first, yeah, Hadrian is going to do alright in LA. With that looks and that accent? Even if he wasn't stinking rich - and clearly he was - that would be enough. Philip also noticed the look Elisabeth gave Hadrian... and suspected he'd be getting a lot of that, too. There were a lot of unhappy trophy wives that circled the Chandler house at the worst of times. A rich, single, handsome, European man? Panties would be getting wet from Brentwood to Bel Air.

    Philip didn't know David's new meat. Heard the story - David was practicing down at some mixed martial arts place (a lot of Hollywood guys loved hanging out with legit tough guys) and turned his personal trainer into a stuntman and then into a bag man. It was a pretty old LA story, but they loved the classics - stick to the script, and there were always plenty of hungry boys and girls willing to make bad choices for their name in lights.

    Hadrian shook hands with everyone. His grip was cold - it was nearly freezing outside - and rock hard. It was like shaking hands with an industrial clamp that was carefully calibrated to spare flesh and bone. Hadrian, clearly a poised man, took a slight pause when he saw Hannah, though, who was speaking to Jah. He started to turn away, stole another glance, and then turned back to the Chandler clan.

    Hadrian said, "It's a pleasure to meet you all. I would have called ahead, but I've never gotten the trick of cellular phones and my valet was unable to make the trip. He was unwell, I fear fatally so."

    "I'll find you someone to handle your day-to-day business affairs," David offered. "Someone reliable. You know how hard it is to find good help."

    Hadrian inclined his head with a smile. He did know. That's what the look said.

    David introduced everyone: "This is my wife Elisabeth, that's my elder boy, Philip, and the younger one fixed to his video game is Tyler. We're glad to have you here, Hadrian."

    "And I'm glad to be here. It's my first time in the colonies. Such energy, though, I can feel it."

    Over by Hannah, Jah said, "I'm alright, it's nothing. I... I'm fine, Hannah. It's okay." But he didn't look fine. Up close, he looked flushed, his skin dry and thin. He looked worn out, and he normally radiated health and strength. He had the stamina of a bull.
     
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  10. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    “I’m sure she taught you plenty,” Elisabeth murmured into her champagne as she took another healthy sip. Phillip seemed to have inherited his father’s ability to be quite insulting while hiding it behind a smile. He was right about one thing though - being around this family definitely required a healthy dose of alcohol. She intended to be quite inebriated by the time this forced family function ended.

    Her delicate hand slipped easily into Hadrian’s where she was quite surprised to feel how cold it was and also the strength in his grasp. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Hadrian. You’ll have to tell us all about what your branch of the family is like. David is a champion at keeping secrets and he tells us so little.” Here she shot her husband a glance and offered the smallest of smirks.

    Hannah was oblivious to the way Hadrian had done a double take when he saw her, concerned as she was with Jah. “You don’t look fine, Elijah. You look very sick and you need to go lay down,” she chastised gently as she pressed the back of her hand to his forehead to check for a fever. He felt a little warm but she couldn’t be certain. Her small hand then moved to cup his cheek, her thumb passing lightly across his cheekbone. “Come on. You can rest in one of the guest room.” The petite pixie of a woman wasn’t about to take no for an answer, even from the much larger man.

    Her employer, however, he had the ability to say no. She squared her shoulders and headed toward the small group. It was when she laid eyes on Hadrian that she remembered her manners as she offered her hand. “Forgive me for being rude. I’m Hannah. It’s very nice to meet you.” She wanted to ask David if she could put Elijah to bed but something made her hold her tongue. For now.
     
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  11. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    Philip took a drink of his own, to cover his sense of embarrassment. He'd learn to cut people with his tongue from both of his parents, to be honest. His mother wasn't better than his father at raising children - she was a self-centered egotist who put him into military school so she could traipse around the globe with her ever-younger collection of boy toys. It was why he stayed with his father so often. While equally self-centered, David had a home and spent time there. Philip preferred to be ignored in person. But was that an excuse for being a jackass? It was not.

    "My branch of the family is dead," Hadrian said amiably, conversationally. "As in, I am the last. For people in my class, birth rates have been going down for generations, and unless I have a child - which seems unlikely - well, I suppose, eventually, everything that I have will belong to the people in this house. Before my parents passed on, well, they were typical of their breed. One of the things I do not believe I will miss is the British obsession with class."

    Elijah shook his head and whispered to Hannah, "No, I've gotta stay here. You wouldn't understand." But he shot a glance - a complex glance - at Hadrian.

    It was not typical of Elijah. He was very good about his health. He was the kind of man who believed that when one was sick they should focus on getting better because it disrupted one's training less. He was the kind of man who did lay down when sick, who rested when injured, if at all possible. And under her hand, he felt warm and he sweated too much. Something was wrong, yes.

    Hadrian looked at Hannah with intensity when she offered him her hand. It was the kind of look that few people saw in the modern world: it was the look of a lord who owned everything he saw, gotten by the strength of his arm and by his wits and treachery. It was a look of possession, the kind one did not see, or did not see often. It was the look of a born aristocrat looking at something he coveted - something he would possess.

    He shook Hannah's hand with the same restrained strength. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Hannah."

    Then the look was gone. He was just a man, again.

    David would usher people towards the dining room, which was large enough to seat twenty, so everyone had plenty of room. They tried to do girl-boy-girl-boy, with David at the head, Elisabeth to his right, Hadrian to his left, with Philip next to Elisabeth and Hannah next to Hadrian. Tyler would sit at the end, next to Hannah. Elijah didn't have a seat at the table. He was the help, after all. He was in the outer room. "Patrolling," even though there was no risk to the house.
     
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  12. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    It was the words that everything he had would belong to the people in this house that piqued Elisabeth's interest. She was a Chandler, if only by marriage. As loveless and business-like as her marriage to David was, staying a Chandler for as long as possible seemed to have some benefits to it. Still, she knew the polite thing to say. "You are young and handsome, Hadrian. Surely you have women who would be more than willing to be your wife and give you a child? Or perhaps you could do what David refuses to do and adopt." She pointedly did not look at her husband. It was an old argument and one long dead but that did not mean she did not mind pointing out what she considered to be one of the man's many faults. Elisabeth finished her champagne and set the glass down on an end table. Someone would clean up after her, they always did.

    Hannah most certainly did not understand why Elijah was so reluctant to lay down. He was the only always encouraging her to exercise regularly, eat healthily, and be sure she got plenty of rest. This sudden change in his behavior worried her but she couldn't quite put her finger on why.

    Her worry about Elijah disappeared into thin air when her eyes met Hadrian's. The intensity in his eyes scared her and made a shiver run down the length of her spine. Never before had she been looked at in such a manner. Still, she managed to offer a polite smile and an incline of her head at his pleasantries.

    David ushering the group into the dining room saved Hannah from any more uncomfortableness. For the time being. She found herself seated next to the man and tried her best to focus her attention on Tyler, making sure his Switch was away and that his napkin was on his lap.

    Elisabeth raised a finger and at her signal, several servers began to serve dinner. The first course was soup - a shrimp tomato basil bisque. After everyone was served, the waiters made the rounds pouring water for everyone and wine for everyone of age. She glanced to her husband and waited for him to give some sort of toast to begin the meal.
     
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  13. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    "I've seen so many unhappy marriages, particularly to people of my station, I hesitate to say that it is for me," Hadrian said, ignoring or seeming to ignore Elisabeth's cut towards David.

    Philip: "Funny. I've had the same thought about marriage."

    "We are blood kin after all," Hadrian said with a sly look towards Philip, as he was seated.

    David laughed. "Women are a curse, but we bear them gracefully. My life would be unfulfilled without my beautiful wife."

    When the wine was served, David stood up. He raised his glass and said, "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine." That was the whole of his toast. He drank, sat down.

    Philip laughed, drank, said, "Did you get your blasphemies wrong, Dad? That sounds more like an Easter disgrace. A Christmas one would be more, I don't know, 'Here's to mistaking premature ejaculation for virgin birth?'"

    Tyler said, "I don't get it."

    David: "Heh. That's not bad. Maybe next year. And you'll understand it later, Tyler. Ask Hannah to explain it to you. God knows we pay her enough."

    Hadrian: "No one stays innocent for long, but, in the end, do we miss it?" And at the same time, one of the shins of Hadrian's leg brushed against the shin of Elisabeth's leg, and he glanced at her meaningfully. Hungrily. And while he tasted everything, he ate sparingly, though he seemed to enjoy the wine.
     
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  14. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    “You flatter me, my dear,” Elisabeth replied to David with a faint smile. A smile that faded after his mockery of a toast. With an exasperated sigh, she reached for her wine. There was not enough booze in the world to get her through a forced meal with her husband.

    She ignored the directive for Hannah to explain Phillip’s suggestion. In her mind, David was correct. They were paying the nanny quite a small fortune to tend to Tyler. In her opinion, far too much. Maybe we should ask his damn mother to help pay for his nanny ran through her mind but was quickly quieted by some wine.

    Over the rim of her glass, she caught Hadrian’s eye at the same time his leg brushed against hers. A warm flush filled her at the semi-innocent touch. It had been far too long since she’d been touched in that way. Add the vast quantity of alcohol she’d consumed to the draw she already felt to this stranger and it was a recipe for an after dinner ‘conversation’.

    Meanwhile, Hannah was busy fielding Tyler’s questions about what his father and brother were talking about. She was stammering trying to figure out which part of the quips he hadn’t understood - the religious aspects or the sexual ones. At a loss for what exactly was appropriate for the nanny to explain to the youngest Chandler, she shot Phillip a beseeching look and mouthed ‘Help me’.

    As the family finished their soup, the waiters cleared that course and prepared to serve the salad which would then by followed by the main course. All the while, they buzzed around in the background, refilling drinks and fetching whatever someone might ask for.
     
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  15. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    Philip laughed a bit when asked to field the question with Tyler. "It was my damn joke, so I guess I'll be the one to explain it. So, Ty, I'm just going to assume, since you have the Internet, that you've seen more porn than existed when I was your age." Tyler blushed. Philip continued, "You don't have to say anything. Anyway, so you know that sometimes a man will pull out before he pops and finish the job with his hand."

    David: "My God, and you call me blasphemous." But he smiled when he said it. Otherwise, he ate the main course, not bothering to interfere with the conversation.

    Philip half shrugged, as if to say, Maybe if we had a normal family.... Then, to Tyler, he said, "Well, that's also a form of birth control, called the rhythm method, that was used before modern birth control. When you start fooling around with girls, don't do that, use a condom. But before then, it's what people did to keep from getting the girl pregnant. It doesn't always work, though. Sometimes something happens and the boy pops his load inside the woman, which is how babies are made. This is the joke. Since the story runs that Mary was 'made large with child' through divine magic, but skeptics disbelieve the story, that what 'really happened' was that Joseph and Mary were fooling around using the rhythm method and they messed it up and she got pregnant and used the divine birth angle to cover up for them fooling around."

    Hadrian said, "I take it you're a skeptic about religion, Philip?"

    "In the sense that don't believe that any religion is even vaguely right, yeah," Philip said. "How about you?"

    "I was raised religious and believed quite strongly for much of my life until I had a revelation of sorts. Sort of a reverse Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment, though it did happen quite near Damascus. Since then? I'm sure I don't believe in God, though the jury is still out on whether there's a Devil."

    Tyler said, "You're all weird. How can there be a Devil without there being a God?"

    Hadrian smiled. His teeth were very white. "I think it makes a great deal of sense. Consider all the misery in the world! Child, have you ever considered how it is if God is all-powerful and all-loving there is evil in the world? If God is all-powerful, with the tiniest fraction of His power, he could remove all evil. And if God is all-loving, why doesn't He do it?"

    Under the table, though, Hadrian continued to stroke his calf against Elisabeth's, occasionally glancing at her. He seemed to be studiously ignoring Hannah.
     
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  16. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    Hannah had never regretted anything more in her life than when she asked Phillip for his help with Tyler’s questions. The first time he said “pop” in regards to a “load”, her eyes went as wide as saucers. She was sure she was going to be reprimanded at the very least for causing this. As he continued to offer an explanation, her mouth fell open. That she remedied relatively quickly as she finished chewing the food in her mouth. It was the “pops his load inside a woman” that made her cough right as she was attempting a sip of water. Hannah managed to keep from spitting water all over the table but just barely.

    As the conversation turned to religion, Hannah finally piped up. “I think perhaps you’re offering a rather simplistic view of an all-loving God,” she said to Hadrian. “Just because someone loves you doesn’t mean they need to keep all evil or all suffering from you. You also forget that God gives people free will so perhaps what we should be discussing is man’s insistence on being so absolutely wretched with each other.” Immediately after she finished, her cheeks flamed red. She couldn’t believe she had dared to speak so candidly in front of this group of people, two of whom were her employers.

    Elisabeth was definitely not paying a lick of attention to the conversation. There was still wine in her glass and the waiter kept refilling it every single time she emptied it. She was, however, most interested in what was going on under the table. She crossed her legs, letting the side of her foot press against Hadrian’s calf while it bobbed up and down slowly, rubbing against his leg. He was a captivating man, that much was true. Every time his eyes locked with hers, she felt a frisson of excitement run down her spine.

    By the time dessert had been served it was quite late. “Tyler, it’s time for bed,” she ordered with a glance to Hannah.

    Tyler groaned and moaned but hanging out with a group of grown ups wasn’t actually all that interesting so, after grabbing his Switch, he trudged off towards the stairs.

    Hannah offered a quiet “Excuse me” before standing up from the table to follow her young charge.

    The third Mrs. Chandler offered a coy smile to Hadrian. “I have some books in the library you might be interested in. Would you like to see?” She didn’t give a hoot about what David and Phillip did. The game of footsie under the table had made her quite interested in getting their guest alone.
     
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  17. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    Hadrian slowly turned his head towards Hannah. Like he was exercising an immense effort on his part. "Ah, the inevitable free will caveat. Forgetting for a moment that, too, is a divine creation, and certainly could have been created better, how does one justify babies with cancer or earthquakes that obliterate cities? Yes, free will, let us grant that, for the sake of argument, but what about all the rest? Things that arise from no will but God's? A Devil, though?" He held his glass of wine, swirling it. "Easy enough to imagine a Devil in all of this."

    Tyler was looking at Hadrian like he was a revelation. While Philip spoke to him "like an adult," in a fashion, there was something in the English lord's manner - some complete indifference to the moral impact of his words on the world - that made the rotteness of his father seem merely petty before he followed Hannah.

    Leaving the dining room, Elijah was standing, almost swaying, right by the door, out of sight but almost blank. Hannah could push him over. He was looking, it seemed, at Hadrian.

    David called to Hannah, "And don't put too many foolish ideas about religion in the boy's head. Just enough to keep him out of trouble." To the others he said, "She's almost barefoot and in the kitchen, that one, so why not the church, too?"

    Hadrian smiled, brilliant white, and said to Elisabeth. "Why, reading is one of my favorite things. I admit that I'm not very keen on modern electronic amusements, though I'm making an effort as not to be left behind by the world. I'd be honored."
     
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  18. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    There was no response Hannah could or wanted to give to Hadrian. He unnerved her and all she wanted to do was get away. Fortunately, her job as caretaker for Tyler provided that opportunity. Hopefully, after tonight, he would be far too busy on his visit to America to interact much with her.

    The sight of Elijah just outside the door startled her and made her draw up short. “Elijah!” she whispered harshly, “what on earth are you doing?” Her eyes shot to the stairs, where it seemed Tyler had decided to linger. “Darn it. Let me make sure Tyler gets to bed then I’ll come back down and check on you, okay?” With a deep sigh, she hurried up the stairs to chase young Master Chandler to bed.

    “I swear David, next you’ll be wanting her pregnant too,” muttered Elisabeth, her words just a tad bit mushy and slurred together. “Leave the poor girl alone or we’ll get a reputation for being a difficult house and then we’ll never get another nanny. Those girls talk, you know.” She turned her head toward Phillip, almost concentrating on the movement far too much. “Tell your father, Phillip. Tell him to be nice to Hannah so she doesn’t quit. She’s sweet, she’s young, she’s pretty, and best of all, she puts up with all of us. Lord knows why.”

    Her attention turned next to Hadrian, a smile forming as he accepted her invitation. Under the table, her foot brushed one last time against the side of his leg as she uncrossed hers. Standing up took a bit more focus than it should have were she sober. Once upright, Elisabeth wobbled the smallest bit on her heels as she gained her balance.

    Hadrian circled the table and offered the stunning brunette his arm which she took gratefully. It was more than her husband would have done. As they exited the dining room, her eyes landed on Elijah and she pressed closer to Hadrian. The man looked positively sickly. Her upper lip curled in disgust as she called to her husband. “Your man looks sick and is acting oddly. Do something about it.”

    That unpleasantness dealt with, she leaned into Hadrian as the pair headed off to the library.
     
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  19. GMO

    GMO Gymnastically militant orangutan Member

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    Elijah said to Hannah, "How many times do I have to say I'm fine? I'm fine."

    He couldn't have said, precisely, why he was there - but he knew he had to be, so he was. His... his master might need him. The thought came to his mind unwanted but took up residence. It was a strange but overpowering feeling.

    As Hadrian passed by Elijah, he said, "Get yourself together this instant, man."

    It had a startling effect on Elijah. He stood upright against his exhaustion, he carried himself carefully, gracefully. One might imagine it was simply being shamed that did it, though. He resolved to be more discrete. So, when Hadrian and Elisabeth went into the library, he wasn't as obvious as before at keeping guard on Hadrian - because that was, now, what he was doing.

    David said, "Yes, Elijah, take a care. Don't annoy Elisabeth, I won't hear the last of it. The last thing I need is her having another reason to act the harridan."

    Back in the dining room, Philip said, "Elisabeth is right. You might have heard of Me Too. It took down Harvey and you're at least as bad as him." But he noticed that Elisabeth was leaning into Hadrian alright.

    David: "Pish posh. It's all ridiculous, nonsense invented by the media to sell papers, or however it is they make money nowadays. I honestly couldn't tell. Is it illegal to make a joke? I didn't grab her ass, though it is pert enough."

    "Some jokes, yes. Like that one. Hostile workplace, sexual harassment. You live in Southern California, Dad, one of the most liberal places on earth. This shouldn't be news."

    If David noticed Elisabeth leaning on Hadrian, he didn't show it, though it was possible he didn't care. He hadn't cared what she did for a long time, after all.

    In the library, Hadrian lightly closed the door. He had a look of amusement on his face, but also a building hunger. He wondered how far she would take this whole library business, though. He licked his lower lip, he openly admired her because she was stunning and Hadrian had certainly lived long enough to find women of a certain age more attractive than mere girls - especially when they kept themselves as well as Elisabeth had.

    "Whatever is it that you want to show me? I do love books," Hadrian said.
     
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  20. Teneo Lupum

    Teneo Lupum damned if you do, damned if you don’t Member

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    A coy smile appeared as Hadrian shut the door behind them. She liked the way he was admiring her, the way he was staring at her like she was a delicious treat. It was more than her husband had done in years. In fact, Elisabeth could barely remember the last time David had shown her any sort of physical attention. David Chandler was a powerful man, the most powerful man in Hollywood if TMZ was to be believed but the fact remained that he was almost twice her age. And this charming handsome man in the room with her right now was much closer to her own age.

    She moved away from him and headed for the nearest bookshelf. Her fingers trailed along the spines of several books before she glanced over her shoulder, a coquettish smile curling at the corners of her lips. "We're in a room full of books." A short pause as she turned to face him fully. "You can have your choice of anything in the room." Something in the tone of her voice made it quite clear she was referring to more than just books.
     
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