Episode 5: "Too Close For Comfort"
Part One

Atlantis Room, Thurium's Banquet Hall

"Another dry one here, please," Simon called after the bartender. He ran his fingers through his curly dirty blond hair and exhaled sharply. This party sucks, he thought glumly. And to top it all off, my own cousin stole Kendra right from under me. I knew bringing him here was a bad idea. Bitterly, he snuck a peak at Kendra, who was now dancing with Jake Herrington. Punk! Him too? What a slut... The bartender placed a martini in front of Simon and waited. Simon rolled his eyes and handed him a dollar. As if you don't make enough money, you gotta take mine. He fished the olives out of his glass and popped them into his mouth.

"Simon Pratt!" Mae Jernigan slapped his back, causing Simon to nearly choke on the olives. He swung around to see the fiery, but actually visually appealing redhead glaring back at him.

"What happened to you the other day?" Mae demanded to know.

"Whatever are you talking about?" Simon played innocent.

"You know very well," Mae's usually wide peacock blue eyes narrowed. "The other day, when your cousin moved in. You shoved me out the door so quickly, you didn't give me the chance to get my clothes...or call a cab, for that matter. You don't know how embarrassed I was, standing barefoot in front of my ex-college roommate's door, in your clothes! Thank goodness she was home, or I would have had to call Lana. What got into you?"

Simon knew exactly what Mae was talking about, and he genuinely felt bad about leaving her outside the apartment like he did. He remembered enjoying her company the night before Bryce came to town, and he didn't want to jeopardize any future rendevous like that night. "I apologize, Mae, really. I'm sorry," Simon fibbed. "I was too wrapped in Bryce coming to town, and we had so much to do. I totally screwed up, I know, but I didn't mean to leave you," he put on his infamous puppy dog pitiful pout. "Please forgive me."

Mae fell hard for his ploy. "Aww, Simon. It's ok," She reached out and patted his shoulder. "Don't worry about it."

That was too easy. Simon smiled forcefully and gave her a hug. "Thanks, I'll make it up to you, I promise."

Mae looked around mysteriously, then in a hushed voice suggested, "How about I take you up on that promise, right now?"

Simon couldn't believe his luck. He grinned mischievously and held his arm out to her.

Part Two

Atlantis Room, Thurium's Banquet Hall

Jake hadn't met Bryce McKeon yet and already he despised the very ground on which he walked. Kendra talked about him through the three songs they danced. Hasn't he only been here a week? She talks about him like they were childhood friends. Of course, he couldn't forget the first day she saw him, it was the same day he did. But there was something strangely familiar about him...

"Oh, and get this - I think this might interest you, you're sporty - he played college baseball for FSU."

Jake's interest peaked. "Did he?" So that's how he remembered him. Jake had also played college baseball, for UNF. Having triggered that memory, he remembered Bryce very well.

"He's standing alone, Jake," Kendra was still too distracted to pay attention to him. "Let's go keep him company." Before he could protest, she had broken away from him and was walking toward Bryce. Jake had no choice but to follow.

"Bryce, have you met Jake?" Kendra sweetly inquired. "This is Jake Herrington, one of the beat writers for the sports section of the Bay Area Tribune."

Bryce held out his hand, which Jake reluctantly shook. "Herrington...Jake Herrington...have we met before?"

Kendra quickly replied, "I was just telling Jake that you played college baseball..."

"As did I," Jake finished for her, "For UNF."

"Ahhh, that's right! You were a pitcher, right? Awesome, you were tough. How come you're not playing for the Tempests?" Bryce asked.

"Shoulder problems," Jake lied. "You know how that is."

"Hell, yeah, pain in the, well, yeah, I get it." Bryce chuckled. "Small world. Well, it's really nice to meet you." He smiled. Kendra looked at Bryce adoringly. Jake forced a weak smile. It's hard to smile in the face of the enemy. He sighed. He wished Lana were there, he needed an ego boost. He scanned the room for her, but saw that she was no where to be found. Some date I turned out to be. I'm such an idiot, I shouldn't have left her like that. "Kendra, have you seen Lana anywhere?" He asked.

Bryce took immediate interest in his question. "Brunette in the beautiful black strapless dress?" Jake nodded, casting him a suspicious look.

Kendra frowned. "No, I had no idea she was even here," she sniffed stiffly.

"Yeah, she is," Jake fixed his eyes on Bryce, "She's my date." He watched as Bryce flushed a slight shade of pink.

"I'd like to meet her," Bryce said casually, quickly taking a sip from his martini.

Would you? Jake was keen to hide his excitement. Ahh, I was wrong about you. You might not be a threat after all.

"I mean, to apologize for spilling my drink on her." Bryce added quickly.

It was Kendra's turn for excitement. "Did you? Goodness, what a shame," Jake detected a touch of sarcasm in Kendra's voice and he narrowed his eyes. No wonder, she must be in the ladies' room, trying to clean her dress.

"I'm going to go find her," Jake excused himself from the conversation and headed for the restroom area. Slightly cracking open the women's door open, Jake called out, "Lana? Are you all right?" There wasn't an answer. Giving up, Jake instead went into the men's room. He relieved himself and was washing his hands when he heard a moan. He turned the faucet off and remained silent. He heard a shuffle of shoes against the floor, then a gasp. He called out "Hello?"

A door to one of the stalls opened slightly and Simon Pratt peeked out. "Oh, hi Jake," He wedged himself out, leaving the door closed. "How's it going?" His face was flushed red, his forehead shining with sweat.

Jake eyes him uncertainly. "Fine...hey, have you seen Lana?"

"Lana, Lana, oh! Oliver drank too many dry ones, so Lana drove him home." Simon answered, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

"She what? She didn't even tell me, dammit," Jake swore, trying his best to believe the hapless night he was having. "Thanks, I guess I'd better split to. Catcha later," Without waiting for Simon's reply, he hurried out of the restroom.

Part Three

Thurium's Banquet Hall

Simon heaved a sigh of relief and leaned against a sink. He heard the door behind him squeak. He turned to see Mae scrambling out of the stall, her red hair tossed wild and dark gray spaghetti strap of her dress hanging off her shoulder.

"That was naughty," Mae giggled. "But I'm not finished with you yet." She slipped her arms around his waist and kissed his neck. Simon wiggled out of her grasp. "What's wrong?"

"We were almost caught! Don't you think we should get out of here?" He looked around nervously before sticking his head out of the restroom's door. "That was too close."

Mae's face fell. "I guess so," She said glumly. "But isn't that the exciting part? Almost getting caught?"

Simon pulled his head back in the room. "No, I'd rather not almost get caught. This was a bad idea."

Mae's eyes watered, her pink lips trembling. "A bad idea? Well, that's the last time I suggest anything to you." She stormed past him and out of the door.

"Dammit!" Simon swore, chasing after her. "Mae, look, I'm sorry. I was out of line. I just didn't want Jake to see..."

"So what if he did? Who cares!" Mae shot back angrily, her eyes flashing. "What do you want from me, Simon?"

Simon stared back at her, realizing he was in too deep to give her the whole truth. She looked so innocent, so needy, so gullible. He couldn't bring himself to break this beneficial bond with her, she was so willing with generosity. Yet it tore himself upside because it boiled down to the simple fact that he was using her.

"I want you," Simon caressed her soft cheeks gently," To want me." His eyes fixed on hers, channeling his fire of passion as deep into her core as he could delve. Mae stared back, slowly comprehending his feelings. She nodded in reply. In a way, she was using him, too.

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