Disclaimer. All publicly recognizable characters, settings etc., are the property of their respective owners. The original characters, ideas and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I only do this for fun.

Life's A Gamble

A/N: If you have any questions or comments, post them in my reviews and I will answer them in my next Author's Note at the bottom of the chapter! - Bella'Xo


(Alexia's POV)

"The Last Dance Auction is getting ready to start," she clarified.

"And these two lovely ladies have agreed to participate." Peter smirked at his brother, a suggestive smile pulling at his lips.

Jasper's eyes narrowed, seemingly warring with himself, before finally nodding, his gaze flickering over to meet my eyes. "That's very generous. Perhaps I will be making a bid this year, after all."

I sucked in a breath, my eyes remaining glued to his, any response completely lost on my tongue.

"Shall we, ladies?" Peter held out an arm to Kate and I, forcing me to tear myself away from the spell Jasper had never failed to put me under. I took his arm and headed in the direction of the stage, where a group of other women were already lining up with a large hoard of men waiting at the front of the stage, auction paddles ready.

I felt my heart as it began to quicken in my chest.

What have I gotten myself into?

Chapter 10: Money Talks

(Alexia's POV)

I nervously wrung my hands together as I stood behind Leah near the steps leading to the stage. I tried my best to stand near the back, attempting to delay the inevitable for as long as I could.

I was able to hear the other women around me gossiping and babbling on anxiously as they waited for the auction to begin.

"This is so exciting!" A stick-thin redhead giggled.

"Oh, I know!" The blonde next to her agreed, "Last year I raised over fifteen-thousand from some wall-street banker, who was in town for the weekend."

"I heard that Makayla St. Claire once raised thirty-thousand one year!" A dark-skinned girl mock-whispered.

"Yeah, I was there that year! No one has ever even gotten close to beating it!" A tall brunette informed the group.

"But Adrian Blake got close last year with twenty-five grand."

"That's Damien Blake's sister, right?"

"Yeah, she always participates in the final auction."

"I wonder if he's is going to put in a bid this year?"

"Well, he never has before. But, my dad's friends with one of his accountants, and he said that he always adds an extra couple million to the pot at the end of the night from his own private account." The redhead gossiped.

"God, can the man be any more delicious?" Blondie sighed dreamily.

I did my best to tune them out after that, not really wanting to hear how 'perfect' they all thought he was. I'd had enough of Damien Blake for one evening.

"Hey, Alex!" Someone called my name, and I turned to see Adrian making her way over with two shots of dark liquor, one in each hand, extending one towards me once she was within reaching distance. "Here, this will help calm the nerves."

"Thanks," I smiled before throwing back the shot, delighting in the tingling feel as the Bourbon warmed my stomach all the way down, beginning from my throat and chest.

"So, how does this whole thing work?" I wondered, placing the empty shot-glass down on the table.

"Oh, it's really simple," she began, "We all get called up to the platform, one by one, then they start the bidding as we look pretty and try to tempt the audience to raise their bids - highest one wins. It's simple."

"And, how exactly do we get them to raise their bids?" I asked uneasily. "We don't have to - you know - strip or anything, right?"

She laughed, "God, no! This is a dignified event, after all - the clothes stay on!"

"Well, that's good to hear," I smiled, despite myself, feeling only the slightest bit more relieved.

Adrian giggled, placing a hand on my upper arm. "Just watch the women who go up before you, you'll see what I meant."

"Excuse me, ladies," a man with a red bow-tie graciously interrupted, "Would you mind filling these out for the auction?" He asked, handing us each a slip of paper with what looked like a couple of questions typed out on it.

"Of course," Adrian smiled, taking one of the offered pencils.

"We will be collecting these again as you are called up where they will be read on stage before they begin to accept your bids," he explained, politely excusing himself as we began to fill out our answers with the small four-inch pencils that were provided.

It was then that Kate reappeared to my left with her slip already filled out and a glass of champagne in her opposite hand.

"My God, I felt like I was filling out a questionnaire for one of those cliche dating websites they are always advertising for. I highly doubt any one of these guys will care about my home town. Just give them my cup size and we'll call it even," she grumbled until she noticed that I hadn't been standing here alone. "Oh, I'm sorry?"

Adrian laughed and waved her off, "Don't worry about it."

I smiled at the two women and quickly introduced them, "Adrian, this is Leah McNeal. She's been my best friend since we were kids. "

Leah grinned as she straightened her stance. "It's nice to meet you."

"Likewise," Adrian nodded as she folded her slip in half.

"You're Damien Blake's sister, right? I saw you on stage earlier."

"That's me," she smiled widely as the man in the red bow-tie reappeared, and explained that we were to give that auctioneer our card as we pass him at the podium before we continue on to the center of the stage. Then, he nodded to the first woman at the front of the line as she climbed onto the stage and handed off her card. The auctioneer then introduced her before beginning to sell off her last dance to the highest bidder.

The shorter the line got, the more nervous I was feeling. Leah and Adrian pulled me along behind them and we wound up somewhere near the halfway mark.

"Excuse me, ladies. Coming through!" The familiar voice belonging to none other than Makayla sounded as she made her way to cut into a spot near the front of the line with her two ladies in waiting following behind her. They completely ignored the annoyed looks the other contestants behind them had pointed in their direction, however none of them had the courage to actually say anything.

"What's her deal?" Leah grumbled to us, glaring in Makayla's direction as she stood at the front of the line, waiting for the auctioneer to call her up.

Adrian rolled her eyes, "It's just Makayla being Makayla, always dutifully followed by her ladies in waiting. You know the type."

"Yeah, the type who thinks their shit don't stink, obviously." Leah chortled.

"Why doesn't anyone ever say anything to her?" I asked, confused why everyone just let her treat people that way, like they were so far beneath her that they allowed her to disrespect them that way without a fight.

Adrian sighed, "They are afraid of her."

Leah scoffed, "Why would anyone be afraid of the likes of her?"

"I once thought that same way," a small voice that belonged to a dainty young blonde woman murmured from behind us gaining the attention of all three of us.

"What changed your mind?" I wondered, keeping my voice at a low octave as to not be overheard.

"You mean 'who' changed my mind," she corrected me. "Candice Abrams did."

"Who's Candice Abrams?" Leah asked.

As she spoke, I'd noticed a brief flash of recognition light up in Adrian's eyes, but disappeared before I could be sure of what I'd saw.

"I-I shouldn't have said anything, forget I mentioned it," the young woman stuttered, turning away as to not make eye contact.

"What? Why? Who is she?" Leah continued to unrelentingly interrogate the fearful blonde, causing her to stop her retreat.

Her eyes flickered behind us for several seconds to where Makayla and the other two who followed behind here were waiting, and sighed. "She was my friend. She was kind and giving and loyal. One evening, she and I were at this banquet that a mutual friend of our mothers' was hosting. Makayla was there with her family, along with the Blakes." She wrung her hands together, unwilling to make eye contact or speak above a gentle whisper as though she were afraid of anyone overhearing.

I peeked over at Adrian at the mention of her and her family, but she was pretending that she hadn't been paying attention. However, I knew that she heard it all, word for word.

What could have possibly occured to have shaken these two beautiful, confident women like this?

"Candice and I were out mingling in the gardens, along with several others, drinking champagne, not a care in the world." She continued almost wistfully. "I guess she had consumed a glass too many and I had suddenly lost track of her," she shrugged. "I was talking this guy I was interested in - one of my older cousin's friends. I wasn't paying attention to much else.

"About an hour before dessert was brought out, this high pitched scream startled everyone - practically rattled the windows and glasses. We all started running towards the sound, leading us to one if the fountains hidden behind a row of tall hedges."

The young woman swallowed thickly, her eyes having become pink and bloodshot with tears nearly brimming over her bottom lids. She sniffled and quickly shook it off, forcing a small smile up at the three of us. I realized that this was the first time she had made eye contact since she'd begun her story, even if it didn't last more than a handful of seconds.

"I'm sure I don't have to elaborate much about what we'd all found when we'd arrived."

I exchanged an uneasy glance with Leah, who'd been uncharacteristically silent since the young blonde started speaking.

"She was... dead?" I wondered out loud in the gentlest, most sympathetic voice I could muster in my shock.

Her head bobbed once in a quick jerk of confirmation. "Her neck had been snapped and she was bleeding heavily from her forehead. I didn't realize so much blood could come from a simple head wound "

"But how do you know Makayla had anything to do with it? It could've been an accident from drinking too much champagne? She could've tripped and hit her head, then fell into the fountain when she broke her neck," Leah offered, her brows furrowed down towards the center of her forehead in befuddlement.

The blonde laughed humorlessly, "That's exactly what the M.E. ruled as her cause of death - but I know better; everyone does."

"How?" I pressed with as much patience I could muster, regardless of how anxious this knowledge made me with my newfound rivalry with the woman in question.

"People talk," the blonde shrugged, trying to catch Adrian's eye, who was too occupied with the bubbles rising in her glass to notice. "Some say they'd seen her leave the upstairs bedroom where the coats were being kept a minute or so after Damien Blake. Others admit to overhearing her and Makayla arguing that night. I'm sure you can imagine how stories evolve and change the more the rumors continue to circle."

I could feel the anger and outrage coursing through my veins as I tried to keep my composure. "If this is true, why hasn't she been arrested - questioned even? Why hasn't anyone come forth, or done anything about this?"

She scoffed, "You're clearly not from around here, or understand how things work. Money talks - or, in this case, buys silence, ignorance and immunity."

"But surely someone saw something? Someone who wouldnt need the money, or has a conscious, even?"

"Any guesses what fear will buy you?" She quirked a brow. "There are dozens who'd provide her with an alibi. And anyone who knows anything is too afraid 2 talk. The St. Claire's are a very powerful and influential family in these parts. They have their claws into everything and everyone, not to mention their close relationship with the Blakes," She shot a look at Adrian, "a family who practically owns this city and everyone in it...well, it keeps people from wanting to get on their bad side, even if said family doesn't realize their role in all of that..." She began trailing off, her mind beginning appearing to drift in a dangerous direction as she stared into space, clearly a little too long for Adrian's comfort.

The young Blake sister motioned for the auctioneer's assistant as he came to went to ready Makayla for her turn, only stopping first, and, after a momentary internal battle of wills, gave in and gestured for the blonde to come over to the stairs at the front of the line.

It was then that two large men in tuxedos - security who'd obviously employed by the Blakes for the high profile event - began to escort her over to the steps that led up onto the platform.

One of the men had longer hair that had me already guessing at his more superior rank. The other was younger looking and still sported his hair in the way all special force soldiers did, buzzed shortly from his head.

I instantly knew that Adrian had called them to escort her for a reason when the obstacle known as Makayla St. Claire suddenly stood in front of them, blocking their entrance onto the platform.

"I do believe that I'm up next," A wide, polite, but clearly intimidating smile grew on her face as she spoke, daring anyone to dispute her claim.

The auctioneer's assistant, who was assigned to collect each of our cards before the one who'd been standing in line next to the steps off to the side of the stage, stood there peevishly. His eyes shifted back and forth, unsure of who he should be listening to. The more experienced-looking one with his long dark brown hair slickly combed back shook his head, seemingly unaffected by her intimidation tactics, and stepped forward in a way that caused Makayla to clear their intended path as she took a step over to the side in an attempt to get away from his overly close proximity or risk falling onto the stairs.

However, things were never just that easy…..were they?

Adrian stepped from around them at this moment and glared at Makayla who had just opened her mouth to argue, "She will be going next, then you and your little band of flying monkeys can follow after."

Makayla ground her teeth together as the two women seemed to have a battle of wills. Adrian would not be daunted though, and, seconds later, Makayla looked away, taking a step back made me wonder why? If she had the power to get away with murder without any trepidation, then what exactly was constantly bringing her to, abet unwillingly, submit to Adrian's threats? What had happened to these two confident women, and what was the relationship between the two?

"Alright, now that that's settled, please stand on the middle step and prepare to be called up," the assistant decreed and motioned towards the stairs, just in time for the auctioneer to close on the final bid for the current contestant at twelve thousand dollars.

It was Makayla's turn to grace the stage as the auctioneer was handed her card and began to read from it as she made her way to the center of the stage, posing with a hand on her hip and a smile that I was willing to bet was just as fake as her personality.

Being the owner of a PR firm, Makayla did a rather impressive job at selling herself to the bidders, twisting and turning in an alluring way or making a not-so-subtle gesture, which only got more intense as the bidding began.

Fifteen Thousand, eighteen thousand, twenty-two thousand, thirty thousand - the numbers continued to grow higher until there was only two men battling each other upwards of forty-thousand, finally ending when a middle-aged man around forty-five went unchallenged in with his final bid.

The gavel sounded as the auctioneer closed the bidding, "Lot Makayla St. Claire goes to the dark haired gentleman in the middle for fifty-thousand dollars, which I understand is a new Last Dance record!"

The room was sent into a roaring applause as Makayla smugly left the stage, sending a wink to her two minions on the other side of the stage who were up next.

Adrian sighed, "Guess I'll be putting up with her gloating for who knows how long." She tipped her head back and finished the last of her champagne in one go before signaling for a waiter to take her glass.

I continued to watch the women ahead of me continue to take the stage. Both Amber and Lucy made just over twenty grand, while some made less and others made more. And yet, no one could seem to raise anywhere near Makayla's amount.

Adrian was prepped to go up next, waiting with confidence to take her turn until her name was finally called. She made her way to the center of the stage, throwing a random wink at an eager bidder who had his paddle ready in his hand. Her introduction was then read and the bidding began at the standard one thousand dollars, which quickly began to rise.

As I watched her, I noticed that she didn't use much sexual allure as she tried to encourage the patrons to increase their bids like many of the other women did. Instead of twisting and turning as though she were trying on a new dress at a high end boutique, she would engage with everyone, smiling and laughing in a carefree way as she signaled for the bids to go higher. Needless to say, my respect and liking for the young woman grew.

Finally, the bidding for Adrian's last dance went to an older man with greying hair for forty-three thousand.

Leah went up next, and really made an impression, as usual. Being in PR, and really good at her job, she was able to really put on a good show, so much so that there were even a couple women putting in bids, one of them even being the winning bid.

However, I wasn't able to get a good look at who it was due to the nervousness rapidly flowing through me at the prospect of going up next. It felt as if a swarm of butterflies - no, more like the whole damn zoo - was running rampant in my stomach.

Then, the time finally came when the auctioneer called me to the stage, "Next up, please welcome Alexia Withers!"

A/N: So, what do we think? Hope it was worth the wait! Any thoughts on what will happen during Alexia's Last Dance auction or who will win?

If you have any questions or comments, post them in my reviews and I will answer them in my next chapter's Author's Note!

To see more, go to my FF and Wattpad pages under the penname: Xo Bella Italiana oX

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- Bella'Xo

Xo Bella Italiana oX