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Making Deals with the Devil

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The day of the auction hadn’t come quickly enough for Cielo, and the days before had been filled with checking figures, setting limits and looking longingly upon a term deposit that would lose thousands if she moved the balance at this point, but then- she really wanted this opportunity, and was willing to go a few thousand over to get it. How many thousand though?

A small crowd gathered at the foot of the steps that led up to the building. A few appeared familiar from the viewing and so there was interest. She had doubts now- these appeared shrewd folk who perhaps had the same idea and now she had wished that she had just made an offer while it was still available for private sale.

This was a new experience for her and no matter the priming one can do regarding auctions and bidding and the etiquette involved, she was sure that she would somehow mess it up. Registered and with a number allotted, she moved a little to the side of the huddle  that spread across the sidewalk but sure that the flash of crimson silk leaving into a v neckline that she hoped would attract the attention of the auctioneer and was merely waiting on a glance, while her heart beats in her chest at such a rate she is sure all can hear it.

A quick review of the crowd and all wore the same poker face that she had adopted , but some were better at bored disinterest than others. There was an air of avid entitlement about the place as all who stood there could also see themselves at the top of the stairs with key in hand. It was going to be a tough crowd, and already was starting to wilt with defeat.

She had turned Malakai down the last time they had met in public, away from her work. Embarrassment, perhaps, at the notion anyone with his level of riches could really show interest in the working class woman that she was.

 In truth, he wasn’t all that interested in the building that she had chosen and he only knew of her interest because of how long he had stuck around shortly after their little spat. Bringing it up in the club had been a notion he hadn’t been comfortable with and his training dictated he fixed things before the two moved forward in their arrangements.

 He had come not as a client, not as a friend, but as an investor. Being that he already controlled a portion of the construct that was in the works across the district, it only made sense that he made attempts at drawing the crowd into his own personal scheme to gain more business. It only made it better that he could offer his services to the woman, if she was at all interested.

He stood at the edge of the crowd, the steam from the closest sewer grate riding one of the pant legs of his trousers, too hot for comfort. He immediately moved, pushing his way through the crowd that had gathered toward familiar territory.Deep blue eyes, so dark that they resembled the night time sky, had focused on the group and the two individuals at front, the auctioneer and the actual realtor of the building. One, he knew from personal experience. The other, a stranger he hadn’t seen before in his life. No wonder the building hadn’t shown on his radar. His attentions, however brief, rolled onto the familiar scents of the area and it was impossible not to squeeze through the small gathering toward the single factor who felt, for the most part, out of place among the smug, shrewd likes of those who had already shown an interest in the building.

He made it so that he was visible, even went so far as to smile his devilish fanged grin in the direction of one of the women who, while interested in the building, made her way to him only for the two to talk in hushed tones before he slipped her a card, took hers, and tried to act nonchalant about the exchange that had just taken place.

She was becoming impatient now while the auctioneer and the slick and suited realtor fussed upon the steps preparing, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. What was taking so long? She wasn’t planning to come in til 250, if it got that low to begin with. The crowd appeared reticent but appearances could be deceptive.

When the auctioneers voice echoed out over the heads of the crowd, that the process was about to start, Cielo would suddenly be very intent indeed. The starting price might be a sign at how the bidding was going to go, and as his voice boomed first at 250 and it was taken up immediately, Cielo’s heart sank a little. This wouldn’t leave her with much room.

Flashes of white card as the bidding increased very quickly past 300, in increments of 25 then hovered at 350 for a while as the auctioneer was once again assessing the meter of the crowd. Cielo then raises her card with 375 and there is a groan from certain quarters as they see another contender enter the ring. It wasn’t over yet. Not for Cielo anyway but certainly there were a few already walking away from the mass, shaking their heads and perhaps at their unrealistic expectations.

Cielo’s weren’t unrealistic, merely hopeful. But as the bidding crept up towards half a mil, Cielo’s heart sank even further. Who was it- an unknown suit, probably from one of those law firms uptown that were buying up great swathes of Consequence. A builder developer that she had seen at the viewing and Cielo. Damn it! She could feel it all slipping through her fingers.

He did his best to focus, to read the crowd. He could tell by clothing that at least half of the people here were not as rich as they seemed. Both information wise and because at least one or two of them had dealt with him in the past. Typically, crowds this large meant that more wealthy buyers had simply sent their goons to literally do their bidding. It was about knowing who you could push over, about making the price high so that others backed down while you rose above and to the occasion. He recognized enough of them to know that the building itself was mired with interest and that alone meant the auction was worth paying attention to, though for him, in more ways than just investing. It was something he could make money off or use to build more relations with clientele. This, in short, was another Tuesday for the Octavian prince, hunting grounds that filled his empty portal pockets.

Malakai, not wholly interested in what the crowd had to offer, watched with impatience as the auction began, found it hard for his eyes not to slip toward Cielo as the first number in the bid went out and the bid itself was snapped up and into prospect by the first of the crowd and again by another, minimum bids pushing the price like a beacon toward extremes that swiftly pulled ahead of the hopes of others. It was with small curses that others walked away, their heads low and their bodies taut with frustration.

As they did, the building’s price soared once again with other buyers and gaze slipped from the auctioneer toward Cielo. He chose that time to approach, no white bidding card within his grasp, just as prices reached upward, half a million.

 “Keep bidding,” Malakai said, mischievous grin perking at his lips. “You want this, right? Don’t let go.”

A turn of her head just as Malakai approached, silent in his journey, and lips then part in surprise at his sudden appearance.

 “What are you doing here?” Cielo hisses beneath her breath as the bidding ticks on, ignoring his comments.

 There is a fleeting annoyance upon that calm masque and her head is whipped back to the auction and raises it number again at 475. He was providing a distraction and putting her off her game.

It was approaching the magic number- most would have a cut off point and that would be it. Goddamn it, it was hers, she had maybe another bid in her at 25, but the bidding them hovered again, as people considered their options. The auction took a moment or two to breath from his constant commentary and then once again starts to make his plea with the crowd, to not be afraid of that number and with that 500 is bid and Cielo’s teeth grind into a grimace of frustrated disappointment. 

His chiselled jaw tightened as prices ebbed ever further, ever higher. In the comfort of the auction itself, he heard her grind her teeth and even though he could see the annoyance in her eyes at seeing him here, his mind was on the business that could be gained. In short, he was the snake in their midst and probably the last individual that Cielo had hoped to see in this particular venture.

As rich as he had proven himself to be, it would have been inevitable, the thought that he might be here to purchase the place for himself. Indeed, the thought did cross his mind to grab a sign, to bid after the building himself now that he knew she really wanted it. After all, controlled interest bought more attention, an elevation to the meetings they had, had thus far.

It was, perhaps, tough to dictate whether he was there as a hype man for the auctioneers, though, until he looked from the crowd to Cielo, a soft nod of his head indicating she should continue bidding.

Money was not an object of worry. For someone like him, buying a building like this was simple and easy. He could have outbid at any time but stragglers often made things hard by remaining in till the very end. They could be beaten with a high stakes bid. With a generous push of fingers through his hair, he shifted weight from one foot to the other before his attentions moved back to the woman in question.

“I’m an investor,” he started, his voice a bit above a whisper so that she could hear him above the auctioneer’s commencing tone. “It’s my job to come here, to offer money to help up and coming businesses. That’s the kind of work I do.”

 As she bid, another quickly raised their sign. The crowd thinned, three people immediately shaking their heads and leaving the gathering that had crowded there. Some strangers from the streets, others here for the business of the building itself.

 “You want this building, you have full control of my wallet. No price is too high,” he answered in response, sliding both of his hands into his pockets.

“Decide now what this is worth to you and your future.”

The anticipation in the crowd is electric as people turn back now- interested instead to discover who would pay half a million for a mouldering townhouse that needed a new roof.  A hand raises to a brow that is furrowed with tension.

 “Damn it!” she exclaims, and it is clear to Malakai that she can go no further. The disappointment is heightened by the fact the bidding drops to increments of 10 as soon as 500 is reached. So there was a real unwillingness by the two left to go much further than that.

Cielo hear the whispered presentation of Malakai, and once more there is a flair of hope.

 “What are you saying?” she asks sharply. “You will loan me the money?” and then of course realization comes with a slow cynical smile.

“Of course” Cielo breathes in a tone that would sound as though she thought herself foolish for not seeing it before.  “You want a share in the business!”

 It would be a fool who would not. This place would be a discreet little private place, far from the main drag where the degradation associated with this area could continue in neon lit vulgarity and this business would appear as no more eyebrow raising than a conveyancy firm.

God damn this man! He knew how to pick her moments. 510. 520. A hiss of exasperation and then she responds, quickly laying out her proposal. “100 thousand for 20% of profit”, meaning that she would carry the losses. It was a sweet deal, especially for any who knew of Cielo’s influence among the women, and just how many had already expressed an interest to walk when she did.

Her head snatches a glance to the auctioneer. He was slowing a little to once more offer entreaty to the crowd, once more extolling it’s history and traditional architecture. The sunglasses are whipped from her face as shadow takes them and once more back to Malakai.

 “I’m leading with my final offer!” she follows, agitation manifests as a rise in her tone. A neutral business like mask but her eyes showed a desperate plea.

A serpent amidst other serpents, he is vehement in the way he conducts business. Even she can see that now as realization dawns behind the sheer vitality and darkness of her eyes. The halfling cants with a small half-fanged grin, blue eyes reverent in the way they regard her and the crowd itself. The offer, so dutifully upon the table between them, is eager and anticipatory but the funds are there and she knows it by now after their many meetings. It matters not the level of acknowledgement she offers him then. Only that there’s a rise in the bid and she now has a choice to make.She curses, drawing the eyes of those closest to them, and her smile is that of one who has figured out the game of the individual across from her. He shifts, inching closer to the woman so that he can speak more clearly. Ever the one to negotiate, he offers a counter price, a counter portion.

 “23% and you let me remain as your VIP client.” His eyes, so very trained to pick up the changes within his clients and, well, humans, easily picks out the signs of distress, raised heart beat, the look in her eyes that shows desperate desire to claim the building for herself, to see this all over with.

Whether she goes back to twenty, well, that’s all upon her to decide. He’ll accept it either way. As she leads, exclaiming her desire to stake her last claim to the building, Malakai steps back, sweeping a glance over the crowd for any that might outbid her. He can dispatch of them, if need be. Though she doesn’t need to know that and he would never publicly do anything with business plan in mind to endanger client or the business itself.

There is a moment when silence hangs between them and captures the crowd in a dome of eerie quiet. Just a moment, as Cielo’s future hangs in the balance and the vow that she would create something that was safe, reliable and most importantly- without the influence of men- and yet here she was, making a deal with the devil. But my- what a wealthy devil he was!

The excitement of the auction, being so close, she would have given her teeth for an extra 100 to play with. Perhaps Malakai was relying on this for it would have been that stubborn expression that he would see had he made that proposal to Cielo before the auction.

  1. Dropping again with a great show of sighing acceptance from the auctioneer though his poker face would not show the joy he feels knowing how much past reserve it has gone and the golden glow of his percentage of the sale would be lost in the showmanship of his craft. Cielo’s gaze was intense as she scrutinizes the inscrutable. Would he go for that? It was clear she was asking him to have faith in her potential, in skills yet not assessed by him.

 His next offer would produce an involuntary flash of a smile and a shake of the head- the 3% was negligible, she could absorb that easily- it was the addendum attached. This was her opportunity to do a sidestep away from the action end of the business and into something ultimately more rewarding.Her expression very quickly adopts that shrewd expression as she appears to mull over this for a moment or two. 530. The auctioneer’s voice rings out over the crowd, an almost quarter share. Damn this man! Her heartbeat races as it all hangs upon a knife edge. A glance to the auctioneer and then whips back to Malakai.

 “20% and the very best of VIP privileges!”

 Panic creates a tang upon the air. A fifth share and an anchor to that aspect but one that she could live with. A shadow of a smile plays at the corner of her lips. Wiley Malakai!

“Final offer” with a deadening tone that would illustrate to Kai that her next move would be walking away from a dream.

  1. Her weight shifts impatiently from one foot to the other as she hears this. This wasn’t now about the business but about her finishing negotiations on her terms.

Her dream is her own and for the most part, the business is still hers with regards to him as a fifth-share co-owner. She holds majority, she holds the entitlement to rise above the occasion to make something better for herself.

The whole response is what determines her future and she seems to have made leeway with that by the time the auctioneer reaches heights of her potential final bid. Dark blue cesspools land upon her and he signals a small grin in acknowledgement of her terms. Twenty percent and the best of the VIP privileges..

That, he can live with as well and earnest as she can. Besides, with him being a co-owner, that means she has pockets that stretch to the ends of the earth in which to play in once the business end of the deal is completed.

“You have a deal, my dear Cielo,” he states, hand reaching out to very briefly run over the side of the woman’s arm.

 He can hear the call of the Auctioneer and he steps from her even further to peer in their direction, alongside the realtor, before that smile has stretched over her lips and she is left to make her move on the building or forever hold her piece. She has another hundred grand to spend, whether completely upon auction or mostly upon the auction, the rest upon the building itself once she is settled and her business plan is in order.All that’s left is for her to claim it and she is once more in control of things, with an addendum to himself.

With her silent for so long, interest in that svelte’s suited woman had waned and so few were watching to witness the hissed exchanges that were going on hurriedly between Kai and Cielo.  Sometimes that’s just how it went. Cielo had been blindsided with an offer that was too good but she still needed to feel she had leverage.

VIP privileges. The sly bastard. His offer would give her cause to smile once the furore of the highly charged situation had died down. An underhand compliment of sorts. 540. Damn this tension! He was making her work for it.

When those words finally come, a blast of relief parts her lips and she seems to wilt for just a moment and as she feels his touch, slaps a hand quickly over his “Done!” before chancing a bright smile in his direction, a lingering gaze of a burgeoning thrill and then, never breaking her gaze holds up her card and calls out. 545, raising it instantly by 10 and causing a gasp as those that had drifted saw that she was now a returning contender.

There is a pause as murmured electricity passes through the crowd. Cielo had bumped it again and hopefully put the opposing bidder off kilter. The sound of dozens of head all shifting focus to that anonymous suit. 550 after a long reluctant pause as whispered conversations pass between lips and a cell jammed up to the ear. This was it.

560 and the property seem to be almost in her grasp. This was it. The decider. She could tell. The auctioneer accepts the bid and tosses it back to the suit that turns distractedly to hide their face and murmur the feel of the crowd. The auctioneer hurries him along, until finally a tank of the head followed by a shake. Voice raise above the crowd of going once and going twice 

“SOLD!”, he hears.

It’s only because of his respect for her that he does not leave before the auction has fallen and it’s time for her to pay what she owes forward to the realtor when he could just as easily send the check to her later in the day. He can feel evening’s touch, the touch of the sun’s uncomfortably upon his flesh but it’s neither nauseating nor harmful enough to keep him from dubiously making a mistake in the terms of his money’s collection. He has faith in Cielo’s ability, otherwise he wouldn’t have shown such an interest in her, though that interest could have easily been misled due to her earlier, eager attempts at getting rid of him both in club and on the street when he had tried to approach her outside of work.

 Now, there was need to, a means to an end even though it had been pricey.His presence secured and hers integral to the success of the future business, the two are an eager pair that’s about to take the Red Light District and the Western District in general into a new age with his controlling interests in other businesses and partial ownership in hers. He straightens the cuffs of his blazer, stepping back only as far as the sidewalk would allow so that he is neither in the way of retreating crowds from the auction itself or a participating party.

He knows there’ll come a time when he needs to step forward. After all, payments still need to be arranged but his thoughts are on the excitement of the crowd and the potential first step buy of his future business partner and her response to finally succeeding after all her funds had gone to raising enough money to put her in a place of power, rather than under the control and whim of those less savory characters she had spent her time around before.

His tongue streaks over his lips and with the last of the crowd, droll and disappointed parties included, part to leave Cielo and Malakai left standing there other than the auctioneer and realtor, he finally steps forward to follow her. After all, she’s the leading signer for the property

This was the moment- anticipation flowing from every pore and that hand that merely sealed the deal now grips at Kai’s hand from where it remains against her arm.

 “Final offer now- going at 560 to the lady at the front. Subject to offer. Last and final chance now” The auctioneer was squeezing what he could from the crowd until finally.

“Offers made- number 12.  Please come to the front while I thank this wonderful crowd and remind those disappointed that we have another…” and on he went with his spiel as Cielo’s excitement and joy at actually pulling this off, bubbled over into a whooping laugh and arms that immediately enclosed the well timed Kai and hugged him close, a lip print pressed into his cheek  before swiftly releasing and drawn up the steps by the oily assistant.

 And it was done.

There was a sense of exhilaration as she mounted those steps and signed off on an offer that would then be taken into the property to where the owner’s representatives waited. A glance back to over her shoulder to Kai. She would have time enough in the future to consider the implications of this partnership but stood upon those steps while the crowd disperses, slowly stepping from them while the offer was passed or refused. It happens but given the swiftness of the auctioneers journey into the building- she didn’t think it would be knocked back.

It was more than generous. Possibly more than it was worth once the new roof was factored in. Already her mind was whirring into task mode, imaginings of improvements already happening within those mental images. Catching the eye of Malakai, she would smile and it would illuminate her expression into one of barely suppressed jubilance and as the auctioneer came scurrying from the house, with paperwork signed that the owners had accepted the offer, she allowed herself to breath normally again.

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