15416/The Femme Fatales at Harlem's Paradise

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The Femme Fatales at Harlem's Paradise
Date of Scene: 02 August 2023
Location: Harlem's Paradise - Club
Synopsis: Gwen bumps into Jackie Estacado while visiting Harlem's Paradise on a gig from her modeling agency.
Cast of Characters: Ghost Spider, Darkness

Ghost Spider has posed:
It's not unusual for a club like Harlem's Paradise to be closed for private events. Most nights, this was an exclusive public venue with limited seating, but tonight it's an exclusive private venue with even more limited seating. The cost to secure a ticket was astronomical, but it included everything one might expect at such a rate. Unlimited food, alcohol, live music, and access to some of the the most beautiful women in New York.

There was likely some cause or charity purportedly benefiting from the event to give it some credibility, but everyone involved knows there's more money going to line the pockets of those orchestrating it than the poor orphans or abandoned animals will ever see. Maybe for a few here it looked good to tick off a box that they were good, contributing members of society. Certainly choosing to believe that the guests were here to support a good cause helped ease the minds of the fashion models that had been hired by the agency providing 'ornamentation' for the evening. In reality, most were here simply to either see, be seen, or both.

The theme of the evening is Femme Fatales, and by and large, the women here live up to the challenge. One could always rely on a certain standard of fashion from the guests of Harlem's Paradise, but tonight is a step above. From Mata Hari look-a-likes and Flappers to slinky gowns with high slits, the entire gamut of possibilities seems to be spanned. And even among that already impressive display, for those paying attention, the girls that work for 'the agency' are still easily picked out, each standing as beacons of beauty that shine even brighter than the last.

Attending this function wasn't exactly high on Gwen Stacy's priority list but getting paid so she could make her rent on time was, and turning down jobs from the agency was dangerous. If you passed on one, they might pass on you for two or three more after that. If you wanted to stay in their good graces, you went where they told you to go. And tonight that's Harlem's Paradise.

Standing at the bar, Gwen's blonde hair has been left down and perfectly curled so that it framed her face and just licked at her shoulders. The floor-length gown she wears is a shimmering white, but it's covered in sequins that appear black when they catch the light /just/ right, creating a dizzying effect of light and dark that hugs every curve. A thigh high slit exposes a long length of bare leg, a white garter just visible on her exposed thigh that conjures images of hidden throwing knives or single-shot pistols. She wears strappy heels on her feet, and her wrists and neck are both frosted with diamonds (no doubt on loan from 'the agency' like the rest of the outfit).

There's no drink in her hand, and she seems more focused on watching the band on stage than she does the rest of the crowd.
Darkness has posed:
There are any number of reasons that one might find Jackie Estacado attending an event like this and they range from the utterly nefarious and potentially front page making to the entirely mundane ( if elite ). To those in the right circles it's common knowledge that not only is he a hitman, wet worker, 'trouble shooter' for the Francetti family, but he's basically Frankie Franchetti's adopted son. To those outside those circles - he's best known as a man with more money than he clearly knows what to do with and a penchant for spending that money on enjoying his evenings, fast cars, and faster women.

Tonight's reason for attendance is certainly more the mundane, and as such, he actually paid for a 'plate' and arrives late enough to ensure that any buzz from those even more elevated on the ladder of the elite than he has started to taper off. Walking through the doors he's dressed in a clearly custom tailored bespoke suit that might well have been made for just this event, period styling with broad shoulders, the jet black suit is almost impossibly dark save for the gunmetal grey pinstriping that helps outline the physique of the man wearing it. With a clearly custom made Omega watch on his wrist, the metal an onyx black with what looks to be a face of sapphire, and a couple of rings on the fingers of each hand, Jackie cuts an impressive figure that surely draws the attention of more than a few women and men alike upon his arrival.

Pausing for a moment a few steps into the club he takes a moment to look around and get a good feel for the place, his choice of location giving him a good view of the dance floor and the bar itself, where his eyes wander with a lazy sort of intensity that lingers here and there without any attempt to hide the look, should he be caught, or silent apology for it - should his gaze be held long enough for such a communication to be had.

He waves off the approaching waiter with his tray full of glasses with bubbly atop it and makes his way towards the bar, his wandering gaze eventually landing on Gwen.

Landing.. and then rising slowly upwards from her feet to the fall of her blonde locks, and the appreciation for the view she presents isn't something he even attempts to hide. Altering his trajectory a bit he arrives at the bar a stool or so away from where she is, placing one hand atop the bar and lifting a finger to get the bartenders attention.
Ghost Spider has posed:
The faces of Gwen Stacy are many and varied. Sometimes, she's in a lab coat geeking out over a new drug she's working on at Alchemax. Sometimes, she's sitting on stage behind a drum set, rocking out with the Mary Janes. Sometimes, she's wise-cracking and webbing up bad guys while dressed in a black-and-white costume not entirely unlike the dress she's wearing, flattering and form fitting, giving her an air of sophisticated mystery that leaves everyone wondering, 'How does she keep a white costume that clean?!'

Tonight, she's in fashion model mode: posture straight, shoulders down, wrists bent, fingers graceful and elegant. She's so perfect she might be a mannequin except that the underlying grace is that of a dancer, every movement smooth and fluid, from the subtle shift of her hips to the smile that curls her lips when the jazz band's drummer gets a solo. Her face is timelessly youthful, blue eyes shining with a kind of passionate optimism that's hard to fully extinguish.

Yes, she was paying more attention to the band than the occupants of the club, which probably wasn't exactly what she was being paid to do. But, in her mind, she was being paid to be eye candy (which was already a dubious enough proposition, though one she could at least reconcile), not an escort. Sort of. This wasn't her first time being paid to attend an event like this, either, and it wasn't without its expectations.

After a moment, a particularly broad man standing up from the bar blocks her line of sight to the stage, and with a soft, disappointed sigh, she lets her gaze roam. Bored. Impatient. Sure, a smile lingers on her lips, but only because it was paid advertising space. It doesn't reach her eyes, not that many people seemed to notice or care, but at least one person did.

From across the room, she spotted Jackie Estacado. It was hard not to. Even if he hadn't been handsome and wearing more money than a year of her rent (of course, so was she), the way his eyes raked up her sent a subtle shiver down her spine. It felt.. predatory. Shameless. Not something she was used to while web-swinging her way through town, even if people did tend to gawk. This was... different.

He made his way into that new vacancy that had just been made, and it isn't until he's settled his hand on the bar that she realizes she'd been watching him for too long. In polite society, it would have been uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable to /her/, and that much was obvious by the way she turned her gaze pointedly back to the bottles behind the bartender, blonde hair shifting around her shoulders to demurely half-obscure her face.
Darkness has posed:
There's no readily apparent change in Jackie's expression or posture that might give away the fact that he's noticed Gwen's attention, their eyes not directly catching as he crossed the room, and as such it _may_ be that he simply chose the closest empty spot at the bar to belly up to and signal for a drink.

Not bloody likely, as some might say. Jackie noticed and does smile a touch to himself at the lingering attention, the really observant might notice the pleased satisfaction in his eyes, but he does a fairly decent job of not letting it show. He angles his his lean against the bar so that he's mostly facing it, but just slightly turned towards where Gwen's at, making it appear entirely natural for him to notice her lack of a drink when the bartender arrives.

"An Old Fashioned, with an orange bitters, an orange peel and of course your top shelf choice of whiskey. " A pause, a turn to include Gwen even if she _isn't_ looking his way by reaching out the hand closest to her, fingers not _quite_ brushing against her arm or side, which ever might be closer, "And I see that she's not gotten her choice of drink yet either...clearly an oversight that needs fixing."

His tone's casual, easy, commanding even for one that's clearly under thirty, and while there's arrogance there it's not the boisterous or over the top sort of 'entitlement' one might expect out of a young man in an environment like this, and with his obvious status.

The bartender takes a moment, listening to Jackie's order and then turns his attention to Gwen, taking her own order and answering any questions with aplomb and politeness - as one might expect - before moving off to start to put together the drink(s) as requested.
Ghost Spider has posed:
Depending on who you are, suddenly gaining the attention of Jackie Estacado is either the highlight of your evening or one of the last things you'll ever do. Most of the women at this party, including all of the single ones and even some of the taken ones, would trip over themselves to move closer to those outstretched fingers and close the gap between them. After all, Jackie Estacado had enough money to make /all/ your dreams come true. If you could bag him as a husband (or even find a niche as his mistress), you'd be set for life.

Gwen didn't budge. She didn't know who he was. There wasn't enough fear in her eyes, and there was no doubt he'd met enough people along the way to be able to pick out which ones knew about his darker responsibilities. Still, she knew enough to recognize that he wasn't some self-made tech billionaire, and his money came from somewhere.

She looked over at the sign of movement, eyes sliding down to the hand that didn't quite touch her until it's withdrawn and then back up to the eyes of the man that was now angled towards her, that same small, nearly forced smile lingering on her lips. Except now it came with a playful little lift of one eyebrow.

"Make it two," she says, a hint of playfulness finally reaching up to her eyes. Once again, she wasn't even looking at the bartender, just watching the man beside her with a kind of quiet fascination.

After a moment, she takes a step closer, offering her hand to him. "I'm Gwen."
Darkness has posed:
"Gwen, a pleasure." Jackie says with a genuine smile that as almost certainly sent more than one woman's heart a-flutter, if not more, and he turns just a bit more so that he can take up the proffered hand with his _other_ hand - which really ends up with him surrounding one of her hands in a firm, calloused, grip that's assertive without being aggressive. That grip is used to draw her in close enough to him, so that his other (originally outstretched) hand can land lightly on her hip with all the air of such a forward advance being not only acceptable, but perfectly natural.

Looking down at her he lets his gaze move from her eyes and that playfulness there, down .. specifically to what the dress is highlighting of her attributes visible from his new angle .. before lifting again to take ahold her gaze once more.

"Yes, truly a pleasure. I'm Jackie... and I'm entirely shocked to find you not only without a drink but without a baseball bat to fend off the onrushing hordes of admirers."

Of course, with Jackie here now - a lot of those potential admirers are unlikely to approach - and the one that does, from behind Gwen, another young socialite that's likely a college trust fund elitest, gets a .. _look_ .. from Jackie for just a moment that rather abruptly changes the direction of the other man's approach to one that's anywhere but near the 'tall dark and handsome' figure that's Jackie Estacado.
Ghost Spider has posed:
This was part of the 'expectation' of the job. Men, particularly men with money and power, tended to be... forward. There was security on hand for those men that didn't know the difference between forward and a felony, but in general, the models the agency sent weren't getting paid to throw drinks in the faces of powerful men. They may not be escorts, but they were definitely being paid to be both pretty and... tolerant company.

Besides, when it came right down to it, Gwen was a twenty-six year old woman that worked as a researcher, played in a band, modeled, fought crime, was working towards absolving her friend of his alleged crimes, and still managed to squeeze in a couple of hours of sleep here and there. There wasn't much time in there for anything resembling a love life. Being this close and feeling the warmth of his touch both on her hand and through her dress at her hip, the way the goosebumps race across her skin, wasn't the worst thing in the world.

Not by a long shot.

She had opened her mouth to respond, but she turned her head fractionally when Jackie's gaze shifts behind her. Quietly, head half turned to look over her shoulder, she watches the exchange. The younger man leaves with just that look. Not even a word uttered.

Then her gaze is back on the man in front of her, an easy smile on her lips.

"It doesn't seem like I need one." That youthful spirit flashes in her eyes. "The pleasure's mine." She leans just a little closer, conspiratorially. "I have to tell you, though. It's Femme Fatale night. There's a lot of dangerous women in here tonight, and baseball bats are so crude."
Darkness has posed:
Jackie catches her watching his little 'warn off' stare exchange with the other man and then can't help but chuckle at her response, there's a pleased.. and is it approving?.. look in his eyes that accompanies that noise that's as much vibration of his chest as it is noise, both of which are largely only perceivable by Gwen given their proximity.

A closeness that Jackie apparently decides to take one step further by sliding his hand around her hip as she leans in towards him, adding a firm but still quite resistible, pressure to the small of her back _just_ above the line of her hips with a hand that's spread out and flattened enough to enjoy the feel of the body beneath the thin shimmering dress she wears.

All without otherwise batting an eye or looking like he's pressing the boundaries even an event like this might normally deem 'usual and standard'.

"Mmm.. dangerous women. There's all sorts of ways they can be dangerous, and so very few of them tend towards the obvious and up front. " He quirks a devilish sort of smile then and flicks his gaze away from hers and downward - as if to encompass the fullness of her own outfit with it - "Such as all of the .. dangerously outlined and enticing curves on display this evening. "

It's abou then that the bartender returns with their drinks, sliding them across the bartop to the pair atop a pair of simple black bar napkins, along with a small plate of a selection of the appetizers making the rounds elsewhere in the room this evening.
Ghost Spider has posed:
That pressure at the small of her back inched Gwen incrementally closer.

The thing about being so close was that they could almost feel each other's breath when they spoke and every little movement meant something. Even a slight turn of her head moved her mouth noticeably farther... or closer. A shift of her weight moved her hips and shifted his hand against her back. Even the way her lungs expanded her chest filled the space a little more, suddenly acutely aware of the rhythmic pulse of her own breathing.

"If you find the curves too dangerous, you can always slow down."

At some point, one might wonder whether Gwen was just enjoying the part of Femme Fatale for an evening, if she really was feeling that forward and catty, or if she'd simply gotten caught up in a fog of pheromones and had completely lost track of her sense of propriety.

And she hadn't even had a drink, yet.

She reaches for the little plate of appetizers that had just been set down and picks up the tip of a toothpick rather than her drink. Without so much as pulling away, she pops the little bite-sized morsel in her mouth. Her lips close around the tiny wooden dowel, dragging it out clean through her teeth and lips.. some sausage or meatball or something covered in sauce.. and then proceeds to chew. She'd gotten a tiny smudge of sauce on the corner of her lips, but at least she chews with her mouth closed.
Darkness has posed:
Yes, all that closeness means all that heightened awareness... and Jackie's very well tailored suit conceals a body that's all lean and powerful muscle, there's very little softness to it anywhere, and he moves with a subtle and rather understated sense of coordination and power that very much belies his apparent 'playboy' nature.

Gwen might well find such physique familiar given her crime fighting persona, its one of a person well accustomed to their body and puts it to use with regular practice in venues far more stressful than the handball court, or even the bedroom.

Jackie reaches for his glass with his free hand, lifts it to take a sip, at about the same time she samples the bit of saucy sausage, letting his eyes close briefly for a moment as he savors the faint burn of the alcohol and then the taste of the drink itself before he sets the glass down and returns his attention to the very appealing blonde that's all _but_ snuggled up against him - there may not even be enough room between them at that moment that her breathing doesn't have her chest brushing against him on every inhalation.

He considers her for a long quiet heartbeat or two and then lifts that free hand as he says, "There's rarely such a thing as 'too dangerous' - simply a situation, or obstacle, that needs to be addressed... "

His hand touches a fingertip under her chin, and should she not move away or resist, nudges it upward - encouraging.. requiring.. a bit of an arch to her back as he does so and doesn't allow her lower half any movement with the current placement of his other hand.

"... one way ..."

His thumb moves, lifting, and brushes at the corner of her mouth with the pad of it, one and then the other, once more barring her objection or retreat.

"..or the other." Beat pause. "A touch of sauce there. Wouldn't want to leave that there over long, hmmm?"

A flash of that devilish smile once more.

Quiet, easy tones, a man in his element and confident of _so_ many things. Yet he doesn't attempt to push drastically further in any direction, not so crass as to just try and drag her up to one of those booths above - or the private rooms that are surely available if desired - at least not within such a short time since crossing paths.
Ghost Spider has posed:
Where she's found herself is ridiculous, yet there's still enough plausibility for Gwen to convince herself that she's doing her job.. that she's entertaining. That the faster drumbeat of her heart was just a biochemical reaction, a response to being in such a vulnerable position with a man that was...

...lifting her chin, arching her back, and coaxing a little part to her lips as he stroked his thumb across each corner of her mouth.

There in her eyes, even as he's claiming the sauce from her lips, is the first flash of understanding and something approaching surprise. She hadn't just been playing a part or getting paid to entertain. She enjoyed it. The confidence. The assertiveness. The... maleness. She at least had the decency to blush, the heat coaxed up into her cheeks not just by his touch (which was absolutely invasive enough to do it on its own), but by her own realization.

There was no doubt that he can feel the responses, too. Her pulse had quickened. She squirmed ever so subtly. Her sinewy body wasn't just bony, high couture fashion model thin. She had the musculature of a trained dancer and the curves of the woman that wasn't afraid to eat a bite of saucy sausage every once in a while.

"Thank you."

Her eyes were locked on his for that moment, and once his thumb is finished with its task, she clears her throat gently and extricates herself just enough so that she can turn more fully to face the bar. It's not a complete rebuke, but it is a metaphorical gasp of air, giving her body a chance to part at least partially from that possessive grasp and her mind a chance to try to clear the fog as she reaches for her own drink.

"So... Jackie."

Slender fingers close around her short glass and she glances to the side, gazing at him just over the curve of her bare shoulder for a moment.

"What do you do?"
Darkness has posed:
There is a moment there as her lips are just faintly parted that Jackie seems to be about ready to brush the pad of his thumb across those lips, to complete a motion that'd seem almost natural given the situation. Natural if they'd had fewer spectators perhaps, or hadn't just set eyes on each other for the first time less than fifteen minutes ago. So instead his hand draws more naturally away to find another idle bar napkin and wipe the bit of sauce off on it instead, natural..easy and entirely..unawkwardly.

He senses her intent to turn almost as soon as she starts it, having quite easily felt.. and once more from the look in his eyes _approved_ of her responses up till now, he doesn't attempt to stop her.

Instead the hand at her back remains in place and provides _just_ enough pressure to encourage her body against his for the full ninety degrees or so of her turn such that as she leans forward against the bar is hand is, well, mostly at the small of her back and she's basically got her shoulder and side pressed against his chest.

The blush ... well that's quite the sight to see, one that evokes a smile that tugs at the corners of his mouth. Not a teasing smile, no, but one of a pleased sort of enjoyment. Clearly this man is more than a little happy with the way she's responding to him.

"Aside from fend off the unwanted crowds and hordes of potential suitors you'd otherwise be facing?" Jackie asks, a hint of a smirk tugging now at just one corner of his mouth. "You know how it is with the money types - they get to a point it takes care of it itself and they're just the idle rich - lazing around and doin' nothin' but attending entirely enjoyable parties like this. " A pause.. "That's not me. Nope. I do some security work here and there. Consult on crisis management issues for a few people. And... " he chuckles somewhat ruefully, "Try and not let all my money disappear every time the market tanks."
Ghost Spider has posed:
That brush of his thumb was exactly what Gwen had turned to avoid. That, and the inevitable rush of desire that was going to follow it. God, she hadn't even realized how long it had been since she felt that ache...

"I was doing just fine before you got here," she quips, apparently not realizing that what was supposed to be a biting retort was actually a compliment of his ability to slip right through her defenses.

She didn't seem to mind the way her shoulder and her hip brushed against him, perfectly comfortable being that close as long as she was still facing the bar... still contemplating the drink that she played with but hadn't yet taken a drink of. She listens, smirking a bit about the idle rich, but then her eyebrows lift at the mention of security work. Consulting.

Mmm. Dangerous words. Security work for whom? Did she dare ask?

With her luck, she was sitting here getting weak-kneed over one of Kingpin's goons. That was always the way, wasn't it? Every girl wants a good boy in the streets but a bad boy in the sheets...

"Who do you do security work for?"

Finally, she lifts that glass to her lips and takes a drink.

And immediately coughs as she's swallowing, her hand coming up to cover her lips as she clears her throat. Because it had been fun to order a second of whatever he was drinking until it came time to drink. Then it became obvious that hard liquor wasn't something she was particularly used to.

Smooth, Gwen. Real smooth.
Darkness has posed:
There's a knowing sort of smile at her comment, as if he might guess that she _meant_ it to be more biting than it came out - and doesn't care either way. Instead he seems content enough to watch her pick up the drink while leaving his hand perhaps a bit further south of her waist line than is truly politely acceptable - again without a care for what others might think.

"Oh, a number of people - here in the city, and around the country. Have a client or two in Russia even and the UK. But here.. I'm about to start thinking _you_.."

And then she takes the drink and starts coughing and he pauses, the hand rising up her back to rest for a moment about the middle of her torso, perhaps ready to give her a firm path there right about shoulder blade level if needed.

While helpful, it also likely leaves his in contact with her bare skin, the callouses rough on his hands, his fingers strong and .. well used to work from what she might feel.