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 [ 18+ ] How Heaven Must Look At Night [ for vice ]
Lar
 Posted: Sep 15 2015, 02:57 PM
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Vegas: an oasis of a city, a fever dream hallucination of lights and lasers; aurora borealis wandered too far south. The heavy air sucks moisture from every sandy surface, drying mouths and eyes, shriveling souls. Sin city, aptly named.

The grander hotels stretch along the strip like sleeping lions, hiding behind them the motels and slums, the wounded carcass of a broken city. The money dried up years past, but the neon never did; the casinos and hotels that carry on line silk pockets with money. Those that succumbed to the depression are tenements in all but name, housing the dregs of society for months on end—no background check required. Marble facades still stand brilliant under spotlight, though the veneer has begun to chip away, showing dull dead brick beneath.

Post-depression Vegas is a colder, meaner place, but no less vibrant, moving around the clock like a particularly busy anthill. Limos are fewer, and mopeds and motorcycles crowd the intersections. Cheaper vehicles, cheaper to run. Tourists still loiter rowdily all night long, making passes at the glittering showgirls—the ghosts of old Vegas, married unhappily to the new, dripping with sparkling LEDs and shining chrome, feathers made of fiber optics.

In the midst of it all, at half-past midnight, Vincenza Serté moves through the crowd like a queen, revered and despised at once. Against the riot of color that is Vegas, she is a looming dark cloud—severe in expression, in dress, in manner. She purses lips the color of dried blood and waves away her classic limousine, bored of waiting.

No one on the payroll says no to Vincenza, heir to the Sertè fortune—heir to the great roiling underworld of Vegas. There are other Families out there, turf wars and skirmishes, but not a soul in the city would lay a finger on Victor Serté's china doll.

The crowd parts like the red sea before her. Even drunken tourists stumble out of the way, staring along the way. There is danger painted over every inch of her, from red-lacquered nails dripping with rhinestones and filed to points, to the thin steel heels of her stilettos. Her airy white blouse gives way to a leather pencil skirt; her blonde hair is pulled back into a severe ponytail, straight as a rail. When she disappears into the rioting lights of the casino, the crowd seems to exhale a collective sigh of relief.

Inside, the clamor of slot machines fills the recirculated air, everything musty with the smell of too many people over too many years. Vincenza wrinkles her nose as she settles down at the battered bar. The bartender nearly trips over himself when she raises one slender finger for a drink.

"Mimosa," she says, smoky voice barely carrying over the casino ruckus. The bartender reads her lips and dares not ask her to repeat herself. The look on his face prompts her to say:

"It's sunrise somewhere, darling."
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vice
 Posted: Sep 18 2015, 08:09 AM
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Harsh, unflattering fluorescent light spills across the floor, pooling between the shadows sloughed off the clusters of bodies writhing fervently on the dance floor.

The eager slam of drums and low, sultry purr of electric guitar heralds the track’s commencement, carving through the musty air with all the cheerful insouciance of a rabid bear, and the entire room thrums with barely-repressed energy. It’s a symphony of being, that casino, all wild whooping and dirty dancing and cacophonous clamoring over the rickety slot machines, the contents of their faded screens dimly illuminated by a low backlight. Loud, contemporary music floods the floor, its delirious beat rocking the building’s foundation in a series of frenetic, needy bursts.

It’s intoxicating, Quinn thinks, very much in her element, toned arms slung casually over the back of her chair, posture loose, assertive. The music slides into a vivacious, erratic scale, wordlessly narrating the incoming refrain with thrusting percussion and smirking bass. Every low, rumbling pulse, every soulful swell of a particularly energetic crescendo, has Quinn riding high on the crest of her favorite drug. There’s something about the atmosphere, something about that delicate balance between debauchery and fraternity, that sets her mind abuzz with the thrill of being. (That could, also, be the liquor talking. She’s carefully cultivated an image of a tough-as-nails tank insofar as bar nights are concerned, and she’s got a reputation to maintain. Can’t very well back down from a challenge, can she?)

She’s addicted from the first heady hit. This is her domain, her kingdom, and she leans back in her seat, posture a casual slouch, surveying her realm with all the careful scrutiny a good sovereign should. (And, well, if her mind’s a foggy, nebulous haze incapable of distinguishing one burly bouncer from the next, that’s not her problem.) Her guard’s dropped, any sense of professionalism sliding down the drain in one gloriously fluid motion, reservations falling as steeply as her standards.

Quinn is at the top of her game. She gets just a little tipsy, just a little loud, just a little cocky. She sprawls in her chair, she rests those toned arms on the tabletop; she doles out hearty laughs and suggestive eyebrow-waggles.

(She’s best friends with everyone.)

Quinn almost doesn’t see her, at first. Almost misses the slow, deliberate sashay, posture that icy, indifferent rigidity that typically presages focused, intense violence.

(Nice try, shit-for-brains. Not quite.)

Some shrivelled, reclusive portion of her brain, the one she thinks may have possessed some degree of rationality, at some point or another, peers blearily through the alcohol-induced fog. Golden eyes that glow like embers of a dying fire sweep languidly across a severe frame that wouldn’t, she thinks, look out of place in a convent. Or a library. (To this day, she’s not sure which is scarier.)

The veritable mountain of a man flanking Quinn, all burly arms, portly gut, thick, veiny neck and impossibly broad shoulders, follows her gaze. While hers is appraising, his is downright lecherous, roving eagerly over that paragon of repression with all the enthusiastic vigor of a bullfighter dancing in death’s periphery.

(Ha. Death-dancin’ - funny, she thinks, somewhere between buzzed and absolutely plastered. Quinn’s not one for analysis, but it’s almost stupidly apt. If looks could kill, that puritanical knockout would be an arc of destruction, cleaving mercilessly, relentlessly through the crowd, a trail of smoldering wreckage sizzling in her wake.)

He murmurs something low and probably derogatory, tongue darting out to wet scaly, liquor-dried lips. Something about he hopes her cunt’s as tight as ‘er skirt, something that sets her hands curling into fists and her easy smile shifting into something a hair’s breadth away from menacing. Heat swells in her cheeks, anger dusting dark skin a few hues lighter, and one agitated hand rakes quickly and sloppily - god, even her coordination’s fucked to pieces, awesome - through her long, choppy sidecut.

Murmuring some truly vile commentary on Thunderfuck McGee’s ancestry, Quinn rises unsteadily to her feet, one arm darting out to grip the back of her chair for support. She sways, briefly, ignoring the chorus of wolf-whistles and shouts of encouragement, because the less-than-savory members of Vegas’s brass are kind of dicks.

Like, massive ones. All gross and putrid and slimy. Disgust crinkles her features, and an involuntary shudder trickles down her spine. Fuckers’re like smegma, except people, or somethin’, she decides, and, well, she isn’t wrong.

Quinn isn’t sure what’s spinning faster: the world, or her head. (Yet another intelligent contribution from the alcohol clamped around her brain in a vice grip. Shit, she’s starting to think it’s smarter than she is.)

Legs that quiver like a newborn lamb propel her forward, each step a precarious totter (what’s wrong with her, she’s not normally this shitty), and she doesn’t realize she’s reached the bar until she accidentally hip-checks it (a few stray glasses rattle, and the bartender levels her a low, threatening scowl that’s probably supposed to be frightening).

It's a sad, sad parody of her usual bluster.

They’re shoulder-to-shoulder, now, wispy white against crushed crimson like some shitty vampire paperback. The sleeves of Quinn’s slightly-rumpled button-down are shoved up past her elbows, the top two buttons undone and ignored. Something’s aflutter in the pit of her stomach, and it’s either the liquor or the pretty girl only an arm’s length away (or some unholy clusterfuck amalgamation of the two). A’ight, shit, you can work with this.

A wide, toothy grin unfurls on her lips, loose and casual. Flippant, heedless of the consequences, because any problem can be broken down into more manageable chunks if you hit it hard enough. “Y’lost, creampuff?” she says, even though the girl in question is the violent antithesis. Be cool, come on, you’re rad as hell! You can totally not fuck this up.

Then, predictably, she fucks it up. “‘Cause if you’re lookin’ for a place to get that stick taken out’ve your ass, the hospital’s a couple blocks down,” she says, cadence airy, irreverent.

And maybe it’s the alcohol talking, but she’s mentally patting herself on the back for a job well-done, because wow, this girl is super pretty? And Quinn's kind of having a hard time thinking straight, which, ha, she figures she isn't.

(Nice going, jackass.)
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Lar
 Posted: Sep 18 2015, 01:11 PM
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"Charming," Vincenza sneers archly, raising one perfectly groomed eyebrow. Her ice-blue eyes dart up and down Quinn, checking—ostensibly—for any sign of a threat. Here is where her bodyguard would step in, except he is nowhere to be seen—smart, maybe, considering the last one was found dead of exposure in the vastness of the desert. Even the bouncers hang back, seeming ignorant behind the shields of their dark men-in-black sunglasses.

Casino security is lax here, Vincenza notes, filing the information away in the back of her mind. Someone in the Sertés' private circle will have use for the information.

Her mimosa comes up on the bar, fizzing brightly and garnished with a twist of orange peel, and Vin takes it in one gem-encrusted hand and lifts it to her lips. There is no mistaking the gleaming diamond on her index finger as anything other than a mark of the Serté family—the filigree encircling the stone shows a snake beneath leaves, a hidden threat. For a moment she is very still, sipping her drink—as if giving her inebriated new companion ample time to leave.

Then she turns, back straight as a rod, and peers at Quinn through thick, dark lashes.

"I don't believe we've met," Vincensa says, every syllable sharp as a razor's edge.

Do you know who I am? is the question—the snake beneath leaves.
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