Catching Smoke: Ch. 5

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The gallery opening was much more interesting than Colin expected it to be. He had been expecting it to be the type of boring affair where the selected elite gossiped about absolutely nothing of interest while sipping expensive champagne and pretending to enjoy the slathering of paint on the walls. Perhaps it was the thrill chasing a new recruit always brought to him, or perhaps the quality of the artwork being showcased, but Colin was actually enjoying himself.

Even before Emmalee showed up. Though he had to admit, the event got a lot more interesting once she did show up. Partly because of the dress she was wearing that exuded innocence and seduction in way Colin found incredibly appealing, but also partly because her arrival meant that he could resume the chase. And Emmalee was so far proving to be his most exciting recruit to chase.
“Enjoying the gallery, Monsieur?” Emmalee asked him.

He had been standing in front of the same painting of a flowering field while she made her regally polite conversations with various people around the room, but had switched to observe a painting on the opposite side of the room when he noticed he had caught her attention. It was a deliberate trick of his: Wait patiently until the recruit is ready to talk. Then, stop being patient, and switch locations. It wasn’t long before she was standing next to him. A sense of mystery is hard to ignore.

“Should I say oui or will a more honest yes do for you?” Colin asked before leaning close to her ear. “Or perhaps the better question is what I should call you, Madame?”

She took a step back, and turned to face him. Her smile was almost wicked in the dim lighting, and the glare in her green eyes was electric. She stuck out a white-silk gloved hand.

“Madame Delveux.” She said. “Et toi?”

Well played, Colin thought as he matched her grin and nodded his head. Then, he turned away from her and moved to another painting. She followed him, the click-clack of her heels hitting the floor with a slight smack. So she doesn’t like to be ignored. Interesting.

“Excusez-moi, but I believe we had a deal.” She said, placing her hands on her hips.

He turned to face her, and she immediately crossed her arms over her chest. Doesn’t like to be ignored, but can’t handle confrontation. 

“Did we?” Colin asked.

She shifted the weight on her feet, and gripped her arms a little tighter.

“Yes, I believe we did.” She said. “You promised answers.”

He turned away from her again to gaze at the painting in front of him. This one was another field, though instead of flowers, the tall grass was bending underneath the weight of the wind.

“Why landscapes?” He asked, turning his head slightly to look at her face.

“I’m not immune to the methods of deflection, Monsieur,” she said, “and I don’t appreciate the change of subject. If you don’t give me what was promised, I will have security escort you out within the minute.”

Colin smiled. He had expected her to make such a threat, and had asked Harlem to replace the hired security for the night’s events with the retired combat-artists from Colin’s field. The security would not be hers tonight.

“If you’d prefer to make a scene, I suppose that will work for me,” Colin shrugged, “but then you might be left with the ramifications.”

“Do you think I won’t?” She asked. “I don’t know who you are or what you want, but you will regret underestimating me.” 

In a blink, she had pushed herself off his side and let herself hit the ground. She landed on her side in a position so believably painful and accurately executed Colin almost thought he had actually pushed her. Immediately, a collection of people gathered around her.

“Madame, are you all right?”

“Madame, let me help you up!”

“Madame, my goodness, what happened?”

The clamor was excessive, but Colin was impressed. He smirked when her eyes met his, and this seemed to infuriate her as she was lifted to her feet.

“I was pushed! Someone call security, sil vous plait!” She said, looking directly at Colin. “Have them escort this man out immediately.”

Just like that, the gathering of people spread out. The men who weren’t fawning over her dress, using her fall as an excuse to touch her, were running and calling for security while the women stood tight-lipped and awkward as they debated whether to do something or continue sipping their champagne. Colin waited for the height of the excitement to die down before taking a step toward Emmalee and placing a hand on her shoulder.

“I’m deeply sorry, Madame. I didn’t see you. It was an accident.” Colin said.

Emmalee scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Your apologies will not heal the bruises I will have from my fall, Monsieur. I would much prefer you leave immediately. Your carelessness is not welcome here.” She said.

The security guard and two of the men showed up then, and Emmalee immediately attached herself to the guard’s arm.

“Monsieur, please escort this man out. I’ve suffered a terrible fall at his fault.” Emmalee said, gesturing toward Colin.

“If your life and the artwork are not in immediate danger, I am not at liberty to ask anyone to leave the premises, Miss.” The guard said.

“Excusez-moi, Monsieur, but you shall refer to me as Madame. Do you not know who I am?” 

“I’m afraid not nor is it my business. I’m here to ensure the safety of the artwork and the attendees, and that is all.”

Colin noticed the muscle in Emmalee’s jaw twitch, and her chest rise from deep inhalation. He tried not to smile. He knew his arrogance would not help the tension.

“Very well. If you will not remove this clumsy stranger from my presence, I will remove myself.” She said. She took a few steps toward the door before she stopped and turned around. “Au revoir, Monsieur. Expect my deepest complaints of your services. And please, give my regrets to the artist for my short attendance.”

Her gaze flickered to Colin for just a moment.

Then, she was gone.

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