Gabriel had let himself be convinced to make an appearance at the twins’ club to celebrate the victory. He was also celebrating the fact that he’d gotten under Director Skinner’s skin. Which meant he was onto something with his current case. He’d left the jacket to his business suit in the car and rolled up his sleeves, much the same way that Senias would do. Ahhhh, Sen… he missed his lover. Just talking to him today at the coffee shop had been a delight. Gabriel just worried about bringing too much attention to their relationship. After the big magazine article – the surprise magazine article – they’d both been scolded. Plus, this case – the one in which he planned to prove dragons should not be on the Crimson Black List?  He supposed he was probably more motivated to move forward with it because of Senias. But he didn’t want people to use his feelings against him. The elevator opened and he was met by the two bouncers, making sure everyone was welcomed. They looked him up and down, then looked at one another. Yes, his presence alone was a surprise little on the way he wore his clothes. He was getting more and more comfortable with not being as stuffy as everyone expected him to be.

“Good evening, gentlemen. May I?”

The two large men nodded and let Gabriel pass through the threshold and into the club proper, where music was playing and people were talking, drinking, and dancing.

As he entered the noisy, crowded atmosphere, Gabriel had expected to see Inea and Largros along with Angelus aka “Dante” and Derek with Mira. He had expected to see Senias in the mix as well, after all, they’d planned to meet up. However, upon seeing the man in business slacks and white shirt with suspenders and no coat, Gabriel had felt a sudden flash of heat and longing. He knew what Senias felt like and he missed the… man? Did he even call him man at this point? Was that viewed as incorrect and insensitive by those like him? These were things Gabriel had never thought about before now. Instead of approaching him, Gabriel made his way to the bar.

“What’ll it be, Councilor?” Derek asked his old friend and kind-of brother from across the bar.

“Just… uh… do you have wine?”

“Only the best. Preference?” Derek chuckled, “Naaaaa, I know what to get. Be right back.” He’d known Gabriel all of the kid’s life. He knew he liked something stout, but not too dry and not too sweet either. He’d come back with the proper bottle.

Senias had been with his new Councilor most of the time. He had heard about the good news of Gabriel’s win in the chamber and the news of Derek and Mira’s baby. The twins had a lot to celebrate. He and Gabriel had kept apart since their last adventure or maybe they’d been kept apart, who knew? But when he’d met up with the man at the coffee shop they both frequented, it seemed like tonight neither of them planned to allow anything to come between them.

Sebastian had been talked into it with the help of Samantha Keene, who had apparently caught the vampire’s eyes. The dragon had felt Gabriel walk in before he ever caught sight of him. He was at the table with Sebastian and Sam and some other higher up when he finally caught sight of his lover at the bar. As great as Gabriel looked in a suit, like this, more relaxed? – well, it was a welcome change. The other gentleman said his goodbyes and Sen nodded politely.

“You know, no one is gonna stop you from going over there and chatting him up,” Sam pointed out quietly, before leaning into Sebastian’s shoulder playfully. She knew her date had noticed the way his Tasker was watching the bar. She wondered if that would still affect Sebastian.

“Are you trying to be playful with me, woman?” Senias asked, a brow raised. Dr. Keene had never even pretended to like him. Was the liquor getting to her?

“I know things about Gabriel that he doesn’t tell anybody else. And I happen to know he misses a certain Tasker of his,” Samantha pointed out.

“That so? And here I thought I embarrassed him,” Senias chuckled. “Put him in unnecessary danger… you know all the things a Tasker’s not supposed ta do.”

“You brought spark into his life, Jean-Michel… or do you prefer…”

“In the public, Jean-Michel or just Jean will do nicely.” Senias barely got to finish his sentence when Sebastian chimed in, apparently tired of their banter.

“What she means is why are you still sitting here and not over there at the bar? Far be it for me to tell you what to do, but if you aren’t interested I’m sure he won’t be lonely long by the looks of a few others eyeballing him.” Sebastian nodded to at least one other across the club that was appreciative of Kennedy’s appearance. Had he actually pushed his…the Tasker away? He had toyed with so many little plans for possibly getting Senias back in bed with him, that he swore half his own brain nearly seized at his words.

“Fine. I was just giving it the appropriate time.” Sen took a deep breath, chucked back the rest of his drink and made his way through the crowd.

“I thought he’d never leave. I know he’s your Tasker, but he doesn’t have to be around you like a bodyguard, does he? He normally keeps a distance. Or were you his support or something?” Samantha wasn’t sure how it worked. But she liked the idea of some alone time with her love interest. Though, the term alone wasn’t quite true. They were surrounded by others at this party and she could tell that Sebastian was more than a little put-off by seeing the big Celtic man go after the human.

“I was just his excuse for being here.” Reaching for Samantha’s hand, Sebastian lifted it to kiss it as he smiled for her. “That is the real reason he came out with us.” He kissed her fingertips one by one, “But now I have you all to myself.”

“Ooooohhh….” She shook her head. “Right. You do.” Sam let her tongue move over her pink lips as she watched him kiss her fingers.

“I think you are gorgeous, sunshine.” Bastian glanced toward the dance floor, “Care to dance?” He wanted to get her in his arms and up close.

“Definitely. You’ve been bragging about your dancing skills for a while. Time to prove them.” Samantha let him take her hand and lead her to the dance floor.

“Here you go,” Derek settled a heavy wine glass on the bar in front of Gabriel and poured it half full of a nice red liquid. “It’s a mix of local scuppernong and New York red grapes. The local winery claims it’s not too sweet, this one.” He was helping bar-tend tonight so his mate could enjoy time with her brother and their friends and cohorts. Besides, Derek found that being considered “just the bartender” had worked out previously for him when he had run things in the underground on the other side. Why not try it here? People told the bartender a lot…

“I’ll give it a shot,” Gabriel grinned at Derek. He’d known the man for what seemed like forever and was actually quite comfortable with him. His gaze, though, kept going to Sen where he sat with the vampire and the doctor. “Did none of the rest of the Pack decide to join the festivities?”

“The pack have the preferences of bars. Not many come here. Besides, it’s also a celebration night, full moon. More might come more often once they know I’m here. But it’ll take a bit. I know mom and pops might show up later and Russ and his crew are already here. I think Miras may have to show ‘em the door, though.” Derek smirked. Gabe probably didn’t know all of it. That was fine. Derek was lucky he hadn’t been kicked out of the pack yet, to be honest. Things were up in the air right now. “How’d ya like it?”

“Mmm,” Gabriel had already swirled the wine in the glass, smelled it, and was enjoying the flavor on his tongue when Derek had asked. “It’s not bad. You say it’s local?”

“Yep,” Derek put the bottle down next to the man and turned to look down the bar at his other customers. “Be back.”

Gabriel sighed heavily. He felt nervous here. He watched Derek step away and took a breath. He wasn’t used to quite so much public interaction and casual mingling. Every appearance he’d made at some gala or event had always been with a purpose so he felt awkward. He especially felt awkward knowing that people had read that article about one of the most successful business bachelors being gay… too bad ladies… the image crossed his mind’s eye once again – that of Jean-Michel’s hand cupping his cheek and kissing him in the French afternoon sun. It made his stomach flutter.

“Mind if I keep you company?” Senias’s unmistakable voice, the very same as Jean’s, asked from very close behind Gabriel. He had slipped through the crowd while his lover was busy.

“Oh, when’d you get up,” Caught off guard, Gabriel looked his lovers way and grinned, “No, I don’t mind at all. Will he mind?” He nodded toward the table Evansworth sat at with the pretty blonde. Had he really said it that way? A chink in his armor, that green-eyed monster of his.

“Dr. Keene all but kicked my arse over here. Not that I needed the kicking. I was just making sure no unwanted attention came your way. I can do that better if I’m not right here with you. Course…” He chuckled as he sat on the stool next to Gabriel and turned on it to face him, “…I also wanted to get over here before one of the others admiring you in those pants saw fit to make the mistake of flirting with you.”

Gabriel had a confused look on his face. He glanced around the club as if looking for the phantom interest that Sen had noticed.

“Well, damn, guess it’ll be two glasses, then? Or a high-ball for you and another bottle for him?” Derek set a decanter of Jameson on the bar in front of them. “Since I’ve got the rest of these people to deal with, make yourselves useful, will ya?” The lycan pulled two highballs from the shelf and sat them in front of the couple before moving off to help some other folks.

Senias unstoppered the bottle and poured some whiskey for the both of them.

Turning his attention back to Sen and now the glasses of liquor, he lifted the glass to breathe in the delicious aroma.

“So what have you and Evansworth been up to?” Gabriel hoped it was business only. He’d been researching a lot since their return from the other side. Much of Jean-Michel Raudine’s history was littered with that of one Sebastian Evansworth. At least, until the vampire was incarcerated. The story had so many questions spilling through Gabriel’s mind. Where did he stand with this enigma?

“The things you love best. Research and investigation,” Senias took a drink and then leaned on the bar with his elbow. “I can’t go any further on that subject. Sebastian has also been helping Samantha handle a special case at the clinic. So, I’ve spent some time in and out of there. Why?”

“I’ve missed you, and I’m curious how you’ve passed your time.” He cleared his throat, “I’ll tell you, I’ve been busy with this case. I’ve also been dealing with a cranky Largros. So its it’s been a lot to deal with.”

“Why in all the realms have you been dealing with a cranky Largros? He’s just supposed to be your interim Tasker, not your responsibility.” He took another drink.

“I don’t know. Something about an encroachment on his territory and also Izzy issues.” Gabriel took another drink.

“Izzy and Largros had a great time dancin’ just a few minutes ago. They left together in a rush. So, maybe – just maybe – yer Tasker’ll be in a better mood once he gets laid.” Senias pointed out before taking a drink.

“Hey, Gabe… “ Derek chuckled as he walked back over to the two gentlemen. “I have something for Zenlial. Will she be coming?”

“I believe she was working on preparing for interrogating a person of interest in the disappearance of her sister. Thanks to Gabriel and Darius breaking the case on what happened to the doppelganger…” Senias took another drink of the smooth liquor.

“I can call and ask her unless it’s something you want me to pass on to her? Or does it require explanation from you?” Gabriel drink from his glass and held it to Sen for a refill. Gabriel knew that the Elven Councilor, Zenlial Nedian, had a reason that she was so eagerly wanting to go back across. Was he about to find out more of what it was?

“I’m afraid it requires an explanation from me. I gave my word that I would give the package to her and also the words. I wouldn’t feel right sending it any other way…and if Wulf found out I had, he’d probably have my hide out. I may be older and more experienced, but he’s a damn good fighter.”

“Is Wulf the reason she gets lost in thought?” Gabriel smiled in understanding. The other man must be quite impressive in his skill to garner such respect from Derek.

“The way you do about this dumbass? Maybe.” Derek looked at Senias, who growled in response.

“I’ll text her and have her come by.” Gabriel blushed and busied himself looking at his phone.

“Thanks,” Derek moved to the next customer and prepared a second drink for them.

“And how are things with Mira and her family with you? No conflicts with her brother or father that any of us should be worried about?” Gabriel didn’t know how to take the demon lord that was the twins’ father. The man was … formidable. And he was difficult to read.

“Dante seemed quite pleased that things had been handled and Mira’s happy.” Derek used his demon-brother’s human name in public. “I’ve added more business contacts to his listing. I’ll bring in more clientele. I mean, you have to remember, in the end, this is a business. And I know my way around business. I’m not worried about Darius. He was there for Aiden’s birth and I got to see and feel the strength of the love shared between all of them, and… it’s mind blowing. I feel like we’ve really had demons all wrong, ya know?” Derek swallowed. He regretted that judgement. “I’ll do what’s best for her and our family. She and I are partners in this. Besides, when you look at how Dante and Inea are right now? I have to wonder if maybe he’s not ready to take some vacations here and there. Me being here, allows him that option.”

The couple were on the dance floor that very moment and the way the owner of the club looked into the dragoness’ eyes, anyone and everyone could tell that he was smitten. An incubus…in love. It was a very potent image, indeed.

“That’s true enough. I’m glad that it’s working out for you.” Gabriel didn’t say it, but they had all been concerned about Derek after his separation from Isabel a few years back. “Sen knows a few things about the market as well. You can always ask him if you have questions.”

“Yeah, I’ll take that under consideration,” Derek winked at them both before moving off to handle other guests. He really doubted that either of them knew more than he did when it came to the current markets. But they were just being polite.

“Offering my services for free now?” Senias poked at Gabriel.

“Not all your services just certain ones.” Gabriel was feeling relaxed with the bourbon in his system. He drank from his second glass and looked towards the dancers out on the floor. “Seems like your Councilor is quite the dancer.” He watched Sebastian with the pretty blonde doctor and couldn’t help but be envious that they could do such in public without causing a scene.

“Want to dance?” Senias asked. His eyes hopeful. “We can show him up, you and I. I don’t think I’ve lost my rhythm for the classic dance steps. I know you attend plenty of galas…”

Oh Gabriel really wanted to but he sighed and almost declined with some stupid excuse when Sen must have read his expression by what he said next.

“Our picture has traveled all over. You’re no longer my Councilor. What bad thing could come of us dancing, here? These people here for Angelus and Mira’s party? Whether we’d want to admit it or not, are just as much friends as any others. Maybe moreso.”

Finishing off his bourbon, Gabriel smiled as he stood up from the bar stool. The world knew he was gay and Crimson knew he had bent the rules with his Tasker. The conflict of interest there had been removed when Skinner had made Jean-Michel Raudine shift to be Sebastian’s Tasker. So, why not relax? Soon, once this pending case was finished, Senias wouldn’t have to pretend to be something he was not among the supernatural community. Gabriel couldn’t wait to give that to this… dragon… as a very special gift. Being in his arms and dancing? That would help remind him of why his work was so necessary.

“You’re right, not much else can happen at this point.” He let Sen take his hand and lead him out to the floor where the others were. Gabriel wouldn’t deny that he was on cloud nine right now. It was just going to be disappointing when it ended.

“Shall I lead?” Senias asked, rather than just taking the position. He knew Gabriel was probably used to leading. He didn’t want to mess the man up.

“If you’d like.”

Senias took Gabriel’s hand properly, and they began to move through the positions of the ballroom dance. He’d not done this in a while, but one never forgot a favorite. They moved through the steps and Senias relaxed after the second round.

“Well, we’ve not stepped on each other’s toes, yet,” he commented with a chuckle.

People all around were joining them in the dance or watching them. Senias couldn’t take his eyes off of Gabriel.

There was a long slow chuckle from Gabriel as they dominated the floor. All that was missing were ducktails and bow ties. He dare not take his gaze from Sen, afraid he may miss a step if he did.

When the song ended and changed to a slow dance, Gabriel smoothly stepped into his lovers arms and slid his hands around Sen’s waist; his head on his dragon’s shoulder.

His dragon…

Gabe really wasn’t one big on public displays of affection, but right now he was relaxed and feeling quite unlike himself.

“To bad this night will end, I’d prefer to stay like this a while.” He grinned against Sen’s shoulder.

“Then, we need to make sure it happens again,” Senias replied, continuing to enjoy holding his kindred against him. “…and again…”

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