What'll you do when you get lonely?
And nobody's waiting by your side?
You've been running and hiding much too long.
You know it's just your foolish pride.
Layla, you've got me on my knees.
Layla, I'm begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won't you ease my worried mind?
I tried to give you consolation
When your old man had let you down.
Like a fool, I fell in love with you,
Turned my whole world upside down.
Let's make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane.
Please don't say we'll never find a way
And tell me all my love's in vain.
"Layla"-- Eric Clapton
I stood in the shadows, watching the swirl of political power ebb and flow around me in brightly colored silks and stoic uniforms. I had attended hundreds of functions such as this one. Gatherings of powerful, wealthy beings posing for one another, deciding the fate of entire planets over glasses of Alderanian wine. It seemed, to me, a shallow way of discussing issues that were vital to the survival of entire races. But tedious functions were a part of my business, both past and present.
A woman dressed in garish yellow satin trimmed in mauve feathers minced by my hiding place. I rolled my eyes at the outfit, but quickly appraised the rope of honey-colored topazes that were wrapped around her throat. I shook my head, realizing that I was calculating how much a fence would give me for the rare tones.
That life is in the past. My sisters and Rogue Squadron are my present and my future.
Since the age of sixteen, my eye for the finer things in life, and other beings’ greed had kept me alive. I had had a 'normal' life until my adopted parents had been murdered. They were not my biological parents, but they were the beings that had loved me. They were the only people who had cared for me and they had been murdered by Imperial officers that had just wanted to prove a point.
My parents had been accused of a crime everyone had known they were innocent of, but that innocence did not save them. Knowing that my head would be next on the block, I ran away, losing myself in the slums of Corellia. Friends of my parents bought me a new identity, but I was still a teenage girl lost in a great big galaxy.
Lost and alone.
My parents had no living relations for me to rely on. I was without any ties, without anyone to defend me. If the Imps caught me, I’d either be executed, or I’d end up a ward of the Corellian government. Which meant that after being carefully groomed in an orphanage, I would become the mistress of some Imperial slug.
So I became a thief.
Strange choice of careers, but it worked fine for me. An innocent face and nimble fingers made pick pocketing simple for me, but it barely kept me fed. Slowly, by hiding in shadows and showing rapt interest to the right people, I learned how to perform more elaborate crimes.
And I practiced until I became the best damn thief in the galaxy.
A title I’m quite proud of.
Realizing if I kept reminiscing about my past, I would begin considering a come back tour into the world of larceny, I pulled myself free of my hiding place and headed for the bar. I noticed a numerous males giving me appreciative looks and pretended to be oblivious to their attention.
The outfit is perfect. Enough looks to give a girl an ego boost, but not enough to draw too much unwanted attention.
I was still amazed by the power of a black gown and the correct hairstyle. Properly accessorize, the black dress could belong to a humble secretary that somehow managed to accompany her boss to a political gala and was terrified by the riches that surrounded her. Or complimented by the proper array of jewels, the same dress could belong to a senator.
And the hairstyle. If I wore my hair up, I barely drew a glance, but if I wore it free…It fell down in soft waves past my waist. Auburn with golden highlights. If I had decided to wear it loose, the fire rubies resting at my throat would have accentuated the play of red and gold.
Instead, I had worn it piled high atop my head with curls falling ‘round my ears. A pretty style, but one that would not draw attention. I looked pretty, confident, with a large bank account, but not so excessively wealthy that I would draw too much attention from the wrong people.
I noticed my sister, Risha, at the bar. I smiled at her startling blue outfit then chuckled when I realized that her scandalous dress had caught the eye of an old friend. Wes Janson sauntered over to my sister’s side and, as I expected, murmured one of those cheesy pick up lines he seemed to adore.
What I didn’t expect was for Risha to pull a vibroblade and press it against Wes’ neck.
I quickened my pace, knowing I wouldn’t get there in time. Gods, sis. Don’t kill him. He’s an idiot sometimes, but don’t kill him! I hitched up my skirts and ran as best as I could in my heels, drawing a few curious looks and obvious stares aimed at my bodice as I tried to get to my sister’s side before she slit his throat. I was almost running when Celeste and Jace came onto the scene.
I slowed my pace as Celeste called our sister. After a few moments of conversation, the pilots guided Risha over towards their commanding officer, leaving Wes alone at the bar.
He was busy trying to pretend that the encounter with Risha hadn’t affected him, so he barely noticed my presence until I was beside him. I watched my new family go through the proper motions of diplomacy and etiquette, smiling as I watched every man in the place stare at Risha and Celeste.
"You have exquisite taste, Wes." My voice was a soft drawl that rarely failed to annoy him. "She is the most beautiful woman in the room."
Wes gave me a strange look. "I didn’t know you were into that, Selina. But if you are, maybe you could convince your friend that…"
"That you’re not really an idiot and to please join us for drinks?"
I couldn’t help laughing at his embarrassed nod. "I’m not gay, Wes. No matter how much you imagining a threesome between me and Risha, it ain't happening."
The Rogue pretended to pout; I ignored it. "Anyway, even if I was bi, I’m not into incest."
"Incest?" I snickered at the look of shocked confusion that crossed Janson’s face. "I thought Celeste…"
"We’re triplets," I answered simply. I looked over my shoulder, watching Risha talk to someone I recognized from the holos. All the guys here and you chose the hero of the Rebellion. Good work, sis. If Wedge weren’t so damn serious all the time I’d be fighting you for him. Correction, not serious, ethical. I don’t think the great hero would like his lover being a thief in her spare time.
While I was considering the Rogue, Wes’ eyes had glazed over. Faintly, I heard the word 'triplets' muttered over and over. "Forget it, flyboy, it ain’t happening." I pretended to swat at his arm. "Quit thinking about my sisters like that!"
He leered comically at me. "Can I think of YOU like that?"
Suddenly my heart rate quickened. I told myself it was a natural reaction to having a handsome man feigning interest in me, not any sort of serious attraction between me and the pilot.
I knew it was a lie, but I pretended otherwise. Instead of answering, I leaned against the bar, trying to decide what sort of image I wanted to project to the people around me. Innocent and meek or something a little wilder? I was about to order one of those fizzy drinks with a minuscule alcohol content that ladies were suppose to drink at diplomatic functions, but Wes’ grin caused me to stop.
"You know you want to."
The magic words. He always said that phrase whenever he wanted to goad me into doing something I probably shouldn’t do. Logically, I knew it and recognized his attempts, but I always fell for it.
"Whiskey," I sighed as Wes’ grin widened. For a moment, I had to look away, pretending to search for Celeste and Jace. His smile had always had an effect on me. He was attractive while serious, a rarity for him, but he became absolutely gorgeous when he gave me THAT grin.
"So…" he drawled. "Which of these stuffed shirts is your date?"
"None of them. My date was called way on business," I answered stiffly. I didn’t want to think about it. I might hate State functions, but I had been looking forward to spending some time with Jaster for weeks. But, as usual, the bounty came before me.
Wes gave me a long look. I fought the urge to fidget nervously. Wes could always read me better than anyone, including my sisters. And I didn’t really want to know what he discovered during this reading. "He stood you up." It was a statement, not a question.
I was about to deny the truth, but my voice decided to malfunction. Feeling something akin to humiliation, I lowered my eyes to the parquet floor and nodded.
I heard a sound that was a cross between a growl and a sigh. "I can’t believe someone would be stupid enough to stand you up."
I lifted my head and forced myself to laugh. "I’m not THAT vindictive, Wes."
Suddenly he moved closer, ignoring everyone around us. My breath caught as I realized how near he was. Every breath caused my body to brush against his. My heart hammered against my ribs and I suddenly felt my knees weaken. My hands tightened around the edge of the bar as I tried to remain upright.
Gods, he was so gorgeous. Broad shoulders that made me suddenly feel protected. As if I had found a refuge from the brutal world. He hadn’t even touched me, but I was overwhelmed by a sense of comfort. Dark hair curling around the collar of his uniform. The smile was gone, replaced by an intensity that I had never seen before. Concern filled his soft blue eyes. Concern for me. Concern I had never seen in Jaster’s eyes…
What was I thinking? This was WES! My closest friend. He would never think of me in that way. Would he? What was I thinking? I was with Jaster. I was IN LOVE with Jaster. I was NOT supposed to be thinking about some other man.
His hand came up, cupping my cheek. I tried not to tremble; I doubt that I succeeded.
"I didn’t mean you were a vindictive bitch." His lips were so close to mine. Suddenly I wanted to feel the texture of his lips pressed against mine. "I just can’t believe someone would willingly give up the chance to spend a night with someone as wonderful as you."
Spend…the…night…with…me…That started a thought process I definitely shouldn’t be considering. I was with Jaster. I couldn’t…
Too bad my smart mouth wasn’t listening to my brain.
"Flattery will get you everywhere," I teased. Then I realized I wasn’t teasing. A few carefully chosen words and I would go to his quarters. Oh Gods…
"Very tempting," he almost purred. I swallowed hard; trying to think of something to say that would cause him to back off. I couldn’t do this. Wes was my best friend. I trusted him more than I trusted anyone else in the galaxy. I couldn’t…
I was so close to tempting him. My lips only a soft breath away from his. My hands aching to touch him. My body starving for his touch.
Almost simultaneously, Wes and I turned to the barkeep, ready to kill him with a glare.
The twi’lek backed away, sensing the anger radiating from us. "Yes?" Wes asked quietly. If I didn’t know him so well, if his annoyance had been focused on me, I would’ve ran, hoping he didn’t vape me as I scurried away.
The being was braver than I thought. "Dinner is being served in the dining room."
I looked at Wes. His annoyance was still clearly evident. Once again, my smart mouth wouldn’t stay quiet. "Er…where else would dinner be served? The ballroom?"
Wes gave me a sidelong glance, then began to chuckle. "That would be ackward. I’d hate to try to waltz while balancing a bowl of chocolate mousse."
I nodded solemnly. "And if Wedge was dancing, it would end up EVERYWHERE."
The barkeep looked at us like we were insane then quickly took his leave. I put a hand over my mouth, trying not to giggle, when Wes whispered in my ear. "Chocolate mousse everywhere? Am I the only one having evil thoughts about that?"
Well, if I wasn’t before, I DEFINITELY was now…
I shivered as his breath moved the curls framing my face. "I…well…er…"
He chuckled, catching my hand as he moved away from the bar. "I’d LOVE to take advantage of a speechless Moonfire, but it’s dinner time. Let’s get some food."
I nodded dully, allowing him to drag him away. Trying to ignore thoughts of Wes covered in nothing but chocolate flavored whip cream and me cleaning it off…with my tongue...
Continued in Part Two