Author Note: Oops. I posted accidentally before editing. Please refresh the page or read in a webpage instead of Reader. The edited version should be here.
“You’re going to love this place, baby.”
Her voice was reassuring, but Gage still felt out of place. He hadn’t worn his tuxedo since Jennifer’s funeral. Still, it was the best thing he had to wear in a high-end city club like this.
It was the first week after Thanksgiving, and Anita had wanted to spend the day in Simcago. She dragged him around the City to hit all the sales at many high end stores. In addition to all the clothes she bought herself, Anita purchased paints and brushes and new canvases, new shoes, and two work outfits for him before Gage could protest. Then she told him she had a surprise for him as they walked into a fancy hotel, and checked in for the weekend – the penthouse suite, of course. Gage felt uncomfortable with the lavish attention, but Anita insisted, giving him puppy dog eyes until he relented. He said he didn’t have anything packed, and she said that was the point of a last minute trip. He stopped by his cousin’s apartment since Sam had been storing his suit before returning to the hotel. Normally, he couldn’t afford such a luxury, but he did admit that it felt nice… for a brief moment.
Now that evening settled in, Anita wanted to go out on the town, and she called ahead to a fancy Simultan night club called Desert Sands and got their names on the guest list. When they arrived, they were ushered past what seemed like hundreds of people waiting, who protested when they saw Anita and Gage cut the line. It’s exclusive, alright, he winced, and mouthed an apology to the couple in the front of the line.
After collecting appetizers at the bar, Gage and Anita went to watch the pianist who was playing some pop classic cover from the Simultan desert. The musician was energetically playing, her fingers flowing over the keys with high speed and precision. When she finished, they clapped and she nodded her thanks before she began to play another piece – this one from Simcheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights.
“Hey, she’s quite talented,” Gage remarked, sipping his guava nectar.
Anita grabbed his arm, steering him away from the piano. “Let’s go dance. Upstairs. They’re playing more traditional clubbing music.”
“Mmm…” Gage murmured, almost spilling his drink. “Anita, I’d like to finish our food first.”
“Then let’s get a table,” she hooked her arm in his other arm and walked him over the the restaurant section.
“Um… okay…” he said, trying to balance their snack plates and his beverage.
For a high-end club, Gage noted the place wasn’t busy. There were a few individuals sitting at the bar, one or two couples at the tables, and about three other people out on the dance floor that he could count. Given how many people were waiting outside in line to get in, he was surprised the bouncers didn’t allow more people past the velvet ropes so they could make more Simoleons.
“It doesn’t work like that,” Anita said casually, leading him to the dance floor.
He spun the woman around, and smiled. “Yes, but it would certainly make it feel more… oh… I don’t know… club…ish…”
“Have you ever been to a club?” she asked with a light laugh. “Exclusive places are like this. Plus it’s around the holidays in the City. There are a million places to choose from.”
“Okay, I guess…” he shrugged. “I just expected it to be… I don’t know… hopping…”
Anita threw back her head and laughed. “Oh Gage…” she placed her hand against his chest. “You’re too cute.”
“Cute?” he grimaced. “No… men aren’t cute. Puppies. Babies. Not men.”
“Okay… how about adorable?”
“Better, but still not great.”
“You’re just… I’ll take you clubbing more often and you’ll get the full experience. I just thought this place was nice and wouldn’t be too busy. I’d get you more to myself.”
“Yeah, I guess. I was expecting more action that’s all.”
“I’m not… action… enough?” she quirked a brow.
Gage grinned, leaning in and pushing her hair aside so he could whisper in her ear. “Of course you…” he trailed off, noticing a woman in a fantastic purple evening gown walking confidently across the dance floor in their direction.
“Um Gage?” Anita said, bewildered. “Simterra to Gage.”
After he wouldn’t stop gaping, Anita stomped on his foot. “What the hell, Gage? I’m right here.”
“Um… uh… oh… sorry…err…” he stammered.
Anita narrowed her eyes, breaking free from his embrace, and turned to face the breathtaking woman who had captured her date’s attention. She gasped.
“Well, fancy finding you here,” the woman said, her voice melodic and smooth.
There was something familiar about her, Gage thought, closing his mouth so he wouldn’t appear rude and inconsiderate. From the look on Anita’s face, he knew she was already mad at him.
“…Anita…” the woman finished.
“Carlotta,” Anita acknowledged coolly.
“Carlotta?” Gage squeaked. “What your twin? Your sister?”
“Why yes, she told you about me!” the woman seemed almost surprised, shaking her shoulder-length wavy black hair. “Anita…” she said, her voice climbing slightly. “You told me nothing about a new man in your life. I thought you would run off and join a nunnery in Simspania.”
“You wish,” Anita said, gritting her teeth. “Then all the men in the Sim Nation would be fair game, isn’t that right, Carlotta?” her mouth spread into a saccharine sweet smile and she placed her arm around Gage, squeezing tightly around the middle and the other arm across his chest, laying her hand on his heart. “This is my boyfriend, Gage Briody.”
Gage didn’t know what to make of the scenario. He knew of her sister, but he never knew how she felt about Carlotta until now. He sensed the intense animosity between the twins, and wondered why. He had always wanted a sibling.
“I thought you were in Al Simhara still,” Anita said before either Gage or Carlotta could say anything else.
“Oh I was,” Carlotta replied, glancing at her fingernails. “But I came home early. I’ve been in the Nation for over a week.”
“You didn’t come by for Thanksgiving with the family,” Anita said tensely.
“You went to dinner with our parents?” Carlotta’s eyes widened.
“We met Mama for pie at the diner last night,” Anita explained, tightening her grip around Gage’s waist, and the connection didn’t escape him.
“Still avoiding Papa I see,” Carlotta clucked her tongue. “You still can’t face him.”
Anita threw her hands up. “You have no right to judge. I will do what I need to. You ran away to the Simultan desert.”
“Yeah, and you ran away to Simspania and married that… that… artist,” Carlotta sputtered, taking step toward her sister, accusingly. “The difference is I stopped making up fairy tales about our childhood and getting good people in trouble.”
“Fairy tales!” Anita sputtered. “You think they were fairy tales?”
“You needed the attention,” Carlotta grunted. “So badly… you made up terrible things. Tell me…” she looked almost devious. “Does Mama still protect him?”
“You wouldn’t say that if you didn’t believe me!” Anita shrieked. “I… I… can’t deal… excuse me…”
She pushed past them and stomped off for the bathroom. Gage wondered if he should pursue his girlfriend, but Carlotta blocked his path.
“I’m glad to see she’s moving on… really I am…” she sighed, heavily, and then offered her hand. “So you’re Gage?” she said, sizing him up with her eyes.
“Yeah,” he said, shaking her hand limply.
He was still in shock over the encounter.
“Don’t worry about Anita. She’ll cool off. She just… well… we were really competitive as kids, and I grew up and I guess she didn’t. She was so angry at our dad for favoring me, but I was always the one who was better at sports and school and stuff,” Carlotta explained.
“I see,” Gage nodded.
Somehow he felt like it was more than this, but he didn’t want to press. He didn’t really understand sibling rivalry. He had only met one of his sisters just earlier this summer and his older brother and older sister in the last week. He made a mental note to ask his older brother about what it was like to have a twin.
“So Gage, tell me about yourself,” Carlotta said, her mouth spreading into a familiar smile. “You’re not from around here, are you?” she giggled.
“Oh, um… kinda… my relatives live here… um… my aunt and cousins, the Bagleys.”
“Oh the Bagleys? How are they? You know I dated Junior back in the day.”
“Yeah, ages ago. Nice. They’re…” she trailed off. “…interesting people.”
Gage laughed. “That’s one way to put it.”
“So you moved here recently?” she glanced toward the bathroom door. “So did my sister. Though frankly I’m surprised she moved back to Riverview. After all the drama she put our family through, I always supposed she would stay over in the SimUnion.”
“You were in the Middle East, right?” he said, trying to change the subject.
“Yes, I am an archaeologist. I got a degree over there, in anthropology, and then spent time in Simtannica before getting a job with the Westerberg Museum. So I’ve been traveling back and forth between Simtannica and Al Simhara. Actually, I’m on loan right now, helping with an exhibit here in Simcago at the Natural History Museum. Simultanology, of course,” she smiled, seeming proud of herself.
“Interesting,” Gage nodded.
“Look, Gage, I’d love to keep chatting, but…” she began grooving to the music, her hips swaying. “But I really must… dance. I just…” she grabbed his hand. “Don’t you feel the beat?”
He flushed. “Uh… I guess…”
“It’s sexy isn’t it?” she said, her eyelashes fluttering. “The Simultans know how to have a good time,” she remarked, bumping her hip against his. “Dance with me, Gage,” she spoke the words more as a command than a request.
Gage glanced toward the bathroom door, worried that Anita still hadn’t returned.
“Oh, my sister… she’ll be fine… she’s probably just freshening up,” Carlotta said, swaying seductively in front of him. “Come… dance with me.”
“Okay,” he chuckled weakly.
Carlotta went and requested a song, and then returned to the dance floor, taking the lead. He was impressed. So Anita isn’t the only one with brashness? he noted. Carlotta showed him a few dance moves, including a native dance of the Middle East. He found he was beginning to loosen up and enjoy himself. It wasn’t until he noticed the fiery gaze of Anita that he realized he made a mistake getting suckered into dancing with her self-assured and beguiling twin.
“Gage!” she exclaimed.
Hurt flashed in her dark eyes, and she dropped her gaze to the floor, her cheeks flooding with color. He gulped and immediately broke contact with Carlotta.
“I’m…um… sorry… I just…” he stuttered.
“You have nothing better to say?” Anita snapped, accusingly. “You don’t even have an excuse?”
“Carlotta wanted to dance, and you were… well, I assumed you weren’t feeling well,” he adjusted his tie uncomfortably as he spoke.
“Seriously? You can’t do better than that?” Anita looked betrayed.
“No…. I mean… yes…” he squeaked, and then cleared his throat. “Look, Anita, I came here with you tonight. And I’m going home with you. I was just getting to know your sister,” he said, honestly. “I thought you’d be okay.”
“Whatever Gage,” Anita lunged at him with her arms. “I’ll see you later.”
With that, she stomped away, her aqua blue heels clacking against the tile floor, leaving Gage to wonder if he made a huge mistake.
“The twin sister, always a flare for the dramatic,” Carlotta said, nonchalantly, and then leaned in lingering too long on a cheek kiss. “It was nice to meet you, Gage. I’ve got to be up early tomorrow.”
Gage narrowed his eyes as Carlotta sauntered away. And then there was one.
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