Everyone gaped and awed at the painting created by Nathaniel Dalton, admiring the smooth strokes and the life like quality that was unhindered by the mortal bounds that tethered so many artists to mere depictions of creation instead of being creation itself. Nathan's gift could not be denied and already people were haggling over the piece, trying to purchase the work before it could be taken by their equally eager peers.
The painter himself stood proudly a few feet away, leaning against the wall so his dark brown hair splayed across the white wallpaper as his blue gaze wandered from each potential buyer, money signs dancing across his vision as he allowed himself a self satisfied smirk which curled along his thin lips. He smugly patted himself on the back as the offers rose higher and higher, reaching the three hundred thousand range. There was no doubt it could go higher still and yet the battling rich folks were silenced as a melodic all to familiar voice rose above the rest with a number that when related to currency was not for the faint of heart.
"One million." A young woman who looked to be about twenty and who Nathan knew to be approximately calls. She looked every bit as beautiful as he remembered with a curtain of glossy blond hair so pale it almost had a whitish sheen and large doe eyes of a dark chocolate brown, warm and betraying a form of innocence that people wrongly fell for. Her sharp, flawless features were accented by the same olive skin tone of Nathan himself and clung to her slender and rather gentle figure clad in a simple green dress and a pair of golden flats. It had been two years since Nathan had last laid eyes on her but no amount of time could cause him to forget the face of Natalie Dalton.
A hush had fallen over the crowd and a few raised their hands, prepared to offer more for Nathan's art but they all fell back the moment Natalie pierced them with her dark stare, challenging them to deny her or enter economic combat. What was most unsettling to most was the woman's composure, her confidence, the aura of someone twenty steps ahead. Like this was all a game in which everyone else was a piece and she foresaw each move the rest of the world would make. It was a daunting conclusion for most to feel themselves outmatched by someone so young but they swallowed their pride and allowed Nathan's manager to announce Natalie the winner of Nathan's piece.
The two women briefly discussed details as Nathan momentarily closed his eyes, trying to overcome the unsettling return of the woman who had remained in the shadows for the last two years. She was going to be pissed at him for he had defied one of her three rules.
Keep your head down and out of the media.
Nathan's head had been up and about and the media was gushing over his quick rise to fame. Natalie's return meant she was either here to resume their mission or to make her anger for Nathan's failure to follow her rules unpleasantly clear. Nathan was hoping for the former as Natalie always had an explosive temper that he did his best to steer away from.
"So. I take it you're the creator of my fabulous new art piece." Natalie muses in her soft, soothing voice, one that to most was like a mournful lullaby and yet Nathan knew that description to not come close to revealing its hidden devastation. It was so empty that Nathan could not yet gauge whether or not he was about to get his face punched in. "You have a lot of potential. Maybe you should consider branching out to greener pastures."
Opening his eyes Nathan grins down at the woman leaning on the wall beside him. "I take it you've cooked up a scheme in your absence? Tell me sister. Who's on the menu?"
A coy smile flitted across Natalie's face as she tilted her head slightly towards her older brother. "We both know I enjoy my secrets dear brother. However, you'll be pleased to know that I've been preparing quite the feast."
"I'm glad your back." Nathan tells her genuinely. "So what's first?"
Opening her gold clutch Natalie hands Nathan a piece of paper, which he unfolds, reading the address 1447 Mulkin street. "I'm getting the family back together. Retirements over brother dear. Don't be late for dinner."
Nathan looked up to see a head of white blond hair disappearing into the crowd causing Nathan to laugh and deposit the paper within the pocket of his dress pants. If Natalie was back than retirement was indeed over and it would stay that way for a long time.
Grimacing the lanky man hunched further over his computer, practically withering over the mundaneness of his task, the simplicity and the routines of this job and his life for the past two years. His sandy blond hair was plastered to his forehead due to the lack of air conditioning provided in his office. Even his fingers were sweating, the narrow digits clapping away at the keyboard as he did a few basic lines of computer code.
Robert was made for more than this. He was a computer genius and now here he was wasting his time as a lowly programmer as to avoid breaking Natalie's first rule of not attraction attention. Not that it had prevented her brother Nathan from getting himself all over the media as a rising artist.
At least Nathan hadn't broken the second rule like Wes. No relationships with outsiders. Wes had gone and gotten himself a girlfriend, one who he had no plans of giving up anytime soon and Chloe had broken the most vital rule of all. Don't continue the mission alone. Chloe was putting them all at risk, continuing without aid. Natalie was the one with the plans. Without her any attempts were futile. Something Chloe should've known by now.
However Robert had been good. He didn't break a single of the thee rules. He got an average job, formed no friendships or romantic attachments or otherwise and had ceased all efforts regarding the mission until Natalie's return. He would wait as long as he had to. Natalie had saved his life and two years of boring was a small price to pay for her kindness.
Little did he know that his wait was over.
"I must confess I find this a bit mundane for a man of your talents." A woman chuckles causing Roberts green eyes to widen in a most amusing manor as he sprung from his chair and whirled towards the door through which Natalie Dalton had just entered.
As always Robert met such events with the only weapon at his arsenal that didn't involve the world of computers. Sarcasm and temper tantrums. "Well since you ordered me to lay low my opportunities have been rather limited. Thanks for those two years of silence by the way, I appreciated it. Really I did. It's not like I expected you to call or-" Robert ranted until Natalie cut him off.
"As much as I'd love to listen to the compelling sob story you have brewing we have more urgent matters to discuss. You know what I mean." Natalie breathes, eyeing him intently.
"You've done it haven't you?" Robert verifies, excitement coursing through him for the first time in two long, agonizing years.
"I've gathered enough intel. It's time to execute phase one." Natalie confirms, wrinkling her nose as she surveys Roberts office in distaste. "Sorry Robbie, I'm afraid your working here is no longer an option. You have a greater purpose."
"I'm still mad at you." Robert grunts before running over and hugging Natalie and after a moment of hesitation Natalie returns the favor, albeit a little unsurely.
"You'll forgive me once I make you rich." Natalie smiles, handing Robert the address to 1447 Mulkin street. "Six sharp."
Ducking Wesley jabs his gloved hands into his opponents midsection before adding an uppercut which connected with the mans jaw sending him sprawling across the training mat. It was relatively empty at this time of day but there was still a few people around who dragged the poor man away to treat his injuries only leaving a few to continue training. Wesley turned, prepared to leave the ring when a familiar voice behind him caused him to freeze.
"I never took you as one to run away from a fight." A woman baits.
Bait which Wesley took, turning to face the woman he hadn't seen in two years as she slipped through the ropes surrounding the boxing ring with ease. "Alert the media. Natalie Dalton is offering to get her manicured talons dirty. That's certainly a first." Wes taunts, narrowing his eyes at her now that the initial shock had worn off.
"Oh my manicured talons have always been dirty. Just because you aren't privy to the information doesn't mean I haven't gotten blood on my hands." Natalie states cooly. "I simply know how to apply a fresh coat of nail polish." She moved closer, raising a thin eyebrow as she held her dainty fists up daringly. Wes knew her enough not to take any threat she made lightly but Natalie was the brains behind the operations, she didn't put herself in the firing line like this.
"So what brings my favorite snake to this humble establishment? I'm assuming it wasn't for a work out." Wes replies, deciding to humor her as he lifts his own fists albeit a little nervously. Natalie wasn't physically imposing, short and slender as she was, but that didn't mean Wes should feel safe in their current position.
"No, nothing so trivial." Natalie says with a dismissive flick of her wrist. "I'm here to make a proposition. I think you shall find it worth your time."
Wes runs a hand through his light brown hair, hoping this had nothing to do with his breaking of the second rule by taking Jody as his girlfriend. On his list of top ten scariest things Natalie's wrath was number one with a bullet.
"Might I imagine you manically laughing as you rub your hands together in evilness?" Wes teases, keeping his composure as Natalie takes another step forward.
"If that suits your misguided fancy than by all means imagine me surrounded by dark clouds and lighting while petting a hissing white cat. So long as your ready to put the rest of you attention to good use." Natalie smiles.
"And should I say that I'm no longer interested in being your puppet?" Wes questions.
Natalie's pleasant smile remain intact as her fist darts out, punching Wes in the stomach causing him to bend over as she plants a knee in his face sending him shooting back up. Before he had time to counter his feet had been knocked out from under him and he lay flat on his back, being straddled by Natalie's lithe form as a dagger was pressed to his neck.
Wes shivered from the chill of the blade, not daring to breath in such a dangerous position. Natalie smirks at him. "Everyone's my puppet Wesley dear. I'm just here to reattach your strings." Pulling out a slip of paper with the address 1447 Mulkin street Natalie places it on his closed lips, enjoying the fear in his hazel eyes.
Standing she slides the knife back into her sleeve, giving him a breathtaking smile that veiled unmentionable menace that only the few who knew her best could detect. Wes being one of them. "Oh, tell your girlfriend I said hi. I'm just dying to meet her." Natalie left the room, the slamming of the metal door the only indication of her departure apart from the light the lights going out.
The park was silent save a soft breeze and the singing of a few restless birds flitting from tree to tree. Chloe payed them no mind, her attention focused solely on the chess board in front of her, her manicured hand drifting lazily over the checkered woods as she plans her next move. She played against no challenger, not having the patience to withstand the fumbling play of a passerby. The only person she had any interest in playing against was her mentor.
Knocking a pawn aside with her knight Chloe spins the board, deciding her next move. Everything about chess was tactics, strategy, planning. You were a king, commanding an army. One that could fall with a few simple misplacements. It was almost like this game had been built specifically for Chloe's mentor.
Playing her rook two spaces right Chloe spun the board again only for a hand to dart out and hold it still. Crimson red nails scraped across a black bishop, playing it diagonal and plucking the same white rook from the board that Chloe had previously moved. A calculated risk made with an unwavering, indisputable confidence. Chloe needn't look up to know who was before her but lifted her head as a sign of respect.
In the chair across from her sat her mentor, Natalie Dalton.
"Natalie." Chloe breathes. "At last you've returned."
"Indeed I have." Natalie smiles, though there was an unmistakeable edge to it. "It's time to finish our game, I'm a bit disappointed that you tried playing without me though."
Chloe was known for being as cold and unfeeling as stone but before her mentor she winced, realizing that she had been discovered. "I'm sorry. I grew impatient." Chloe quickly apologizes bowing her head.
Studying her Natalie cocked her head to the side. "I believe it's your move."
Cautiously Chloe eyed the board before moving her queen to position in for attack causing Natalie to cluck her tongue in annoyance.
"What have I taught you Chloe?" Natalie questions, glaring at the piece like it had insulted her.
Bowing her head Chloe realizes her mistake. "Always keep your big pieces in the background until it's time to strike." Chloe chants.
"At least you remembered something." Natalie rolls her eyes. They played a quick game in which time Natalie completely demolished Chloe. Finally Chloe tossed over he piece in shame.
"As always, you win." Chloe sighs.
"Do not fret so. You needn't concern yourself with strategic pastimes as I. I brought you end to this in the first place for your other talents." Natalie smiles and for once it was almost kind. "It's time to resume our task."
"I don't know." Chloe replies hesitantly. "I mean of course I am most honored and shall always be at your service but I'm on a job right now." Chloe had rejoined the assassination business during Natalie's absence and her current target would bring in a hefty payment. "Look I really need the money right now. Just give me a few months."
"There's a reason I always win Chloe." Natalie says, seemingly changing the subject as the twirled the king piece between her fingers. "I am the player and everyone else is just pieces in my game. Should you say yes to my proposal you would be my knight. No, and you're just another pawn to be swept aside. I need to know I can count on you to be where I want you to be exactly when I need you to be. are we clear?"
Gulping Chloe nods. "Yes."
Standing Natalie replaces the king before dropping a piece of paper on the table, leaving the park as quickly as she came, almost seeming to vanish in her fluid and silent movements.
Reaching forward Chloe lifts the paper up for closer inspection. '1447 Mulkin street.'
1447 Mulkin street was no house but rather a manor, one that towered over the neighboring houses, standing like a castle amongst the modern city. Yet it was not an imposing structure, it was a soft white hue and it's lush, spacious lawns were well cared for and decorated. It was cosy and inviting and not at all where you would expect any illegal activities to be taking place.
Another reason why one should never judge a book by its cover.
Drumming her fingers across the cool top of the counter Natalie waited for the arrival of her soon to be housemates. She imagined that they all wanted to remain in their own homes but she didn't imagine that it would take long to convince them otherwise. All she need do what hire someone to burn their houses down. That usually sent the message.
While Natalie stood in thought her recently hired cook prepared dinner. It smelled divine though Natalie never had much of an appetite when she was excited and right now she was almost bouncing with anticipation.
Finally after two years Natalie had gathered all the necessary information so that she may continue with her plot to reclaim her families company and exact her revenge. She had planned out every minuscule detail, acquired every scrap of data and now her team was to be reunited. The only thing left was to execute the plan.
Going upstairs Natalie set about getting ready, quick shower, teeth brush, hair comb, clothes change and reapplication of her signature red lipstick. She'd be lying if she said that despite the short shower it didn't take her ages to ready herself and by the time she strode back downstairs all of her guests were already seated in the dinning room.
It was almost surreal to see the group all back together after so long. They were obviously uncomfortable, not sure how to speak to each other in the two years they've been apart. It was like a room full of strangers and the tension was thick enough to choke on which of course would not do. Natalie had her family back together and she was going to make sure they acted the part.
"I'm glad you all could make it." Natalie greets warmly, taking her seat at the head of the table as all eyes drifted to her. Natalie quickly deciphered them one by one. Nathan was excited to continue their quest for revenge, Chloe was ashamed of having broken Natalie's rules, Wes was defiant and angry, and Robert felt betrayed. She'd have to speak with Robert, he couldn't be left in such a state for long, his emotions were too delicate. "I hope you had a pleasant vacation?"
"Vacation?" Wes scowls. "That's what you call leaving us for two years without contact? A vacation."
"It was necessary." Natalie replies calmly. "There were things I had to know before we could proceed any further, tasks I had to complete without any setbacks or distractions. I'm back now. That's what matters."
"What is the plan than sister?" Nathan acquires before any more accusations could be thrown or arguments begun. Nathan hadn't the time for such trivial matters.
An evil smile worked its way across Natalie's face and what made it worse was that she 'knew' how devious it was and reveled in it, enjoying the way the table both flinched at the side and yet took comfort in it.
They had all been wronged, terribly so by their families and their friends so Natalie had forged them a new family and despite being the youngest had taken over as respective mother.
Already she could feel them relaxing, trusting. She needn't make a speech or hand out hugs and needless apologizes. When they needed her she was there and now Natalie was going to give them everything they wanted. She was going to give her children riches beyond their wildest dreams so they could bathe in luxury.
Yes, Natalie's children would be happy with the spoils of the war she raged. Natalie herself however along with Nathan were in it for more than money. Their were debts that had to be paid, paid in blood. There was no to her way the wrongs against them could be righted.