Life was certainly strange now, and everything familiar in Peyton's life had been ripped from out under, though at this point she was quite used to that. This time was different from the last several times, however, in the past, she had lost it all whenever this happened, her parents, her sister, her morals, her life. This time she did not really lose anything, she just kind of seemed to move on, everything happening as a result of how she had matured in life. From a Private Investigator to the owner of a private investigation firm, A Hymn For the Missing, to the personal bodyguard of the Aspect Of Darkness herself. She gained a family this time around if only she would let them, her stubbornness and resistance to trust so easily always seemed to get in the way here. 

It had been a little while since I visited the firm, it was pretty self-sufficient after all I put into it in the past two years. I knew I still needed to check though, be sure the potential clients looking to hire me found another PI in the firm, everyone was just as capable. I also needed to be sure all my paperwork was all in order, it was still my business after all. I greeted everyone there the same and they all knew to leave me be as I sat in my office and sorted through what I needed to. A file on my desk buried underneath all the piled papers catching my attention, my brow forward and I let out a growling huff calling one of my employees into the office. "What is this?" I asked holding up the file with one hand while the fingers of my other rubbed my eyes then the bridge of my nose. 'A case file, the family specifically asked for you. They want you to call.' I let a faint groan out but shook my head "okay... Alright!" 

Peyton expected this case to be difficult with how this woman's family made it seem, but nope, it was not and now Peyton was angry because she took the case for two reasons and one was because her other PI's did not have the unique skill set she had. The other reason was not important right now; she grumbled to herself walking towards where her "target" was last spotted and once she found her Peyton became confused on top of being angry. Ember was not at all a typical missing person, she was not in any clear or present danger, she was not tied up or being held here against her will, at least that is how it appeared on the surface; Peyton prepared herself to encounter a case of Stockholm Syndrom fully inclined to drag her out of here and to her family if she had to but she would not jump to conclusions. Instead, she gave a meaningless and coy smirk to Ember as an attempt to be cordial. "Ember Rinaldi?" 

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Things have seemed… almost normal for Ember for a while now. She’s been back in the city for a couple years and beyond the occasional run in with an odd encounter things have been quiet on the family front. Well other than that one matter. That had ended in a pretty nasty butchering job on Ember’s part. After that though they’ve pretty much left her alone which is all well and good. Except that they’d used their last chance with that. Now she’s been spending her free time to figure out a way to kill both her family and Gunther’s in quick succession. She’s sick of this, sick of the running and the hiding and the constant danger to her loved ones. She wants it over with.

But not at the cost of her life here. She has people she cares about now, those she’d die for or kill for, people she’s not willing to give up damn it all. She knew it was dangerous and yet here she is. With giant people sized targets for them to take advantage of. She’s an idiot, she knows, but yet here she is.

Her steps are quiet on the ground as she heads out of the dojo, a coffee in hand and her blades slung across her back. She seems, if anything, a bit tired but perfectly fine otherwise. What she is though is paranoid. She’s felt eyes on her for some time now and had located the stalker long before this. But the woman was different from the normal and she could sense the Therian on her so she’s waiting. It’s possible Orion has one of his pack watching after her after all, the Therian alpha is quite protective. Still, she’d think he’d have at least told her. Her suspicion when the woman actually approaches her is right at the forefront of her mind but she puts on a small smile despite it in an attempt to be cordial just in case this is one of Ori’s pack. “That’s me. Can I help you?” Despite her smile her eyes seem hard. Potential pack member or not, she doesn’t trust strangers. Especially not ones that have been watching her.

If Peyton really wanted to not be seen even by a trained eye she had made it so. However, she was not out to hurt or kill Ember, there was no real need for Ember to not know Peyton was there although it was clearly suspicious and quite unsettling if Peyton had been spotted. To be quite honest though Peyton at this moment could care less, for right now she wanted to be sure Ember was not in any present danger or under some strange case of Stockholm syndrome. Which the more she examined the women the less likely either of those seemed to be the case and the more obvious that became the more Peyton felt more inclined to just approach her with the truth and talk things through.

Something was not right and it was not on Ember's end, you see her family upon first hearing their side of things made me think this woman was in clear and present danger. Except I do not ever just take peoples words for anything because most people are liars when they want you more inclined to their side of the story and I am not in the business of taking sides despite being for hire. I am in the business of saving the kidnapped and finding the missing and stopping the wicked ones who cause the pain of everything. Ember, however, did not seem to be missing at all, in fact, she looked right at home, I should know this was my home. My meaningless and coy smirk melted ever so faintly into a genuine smile at the edges of my lips. "I am Peyton Holiday, your family hired me to find you and bring you home."

She let her words marinate before raising her hands to show that for the moment she was harmless and was not going to do anything rash. "I honestly just want to talk because you see, your family made me think you were in danger, actually they made me believe your case was life or death and it pulled me out of retirement. I have been happily working with and for Cora Ailward for quite sometime before your family refused to let any of my other P.I.'s work this case." Her Egyptian accent soaked the tips of her words making her perfectly understandable when speaking out of her native tongue but also pointing out she was not from America. It helped that she had not gone back to Egypt in year's, her accent just merely a personal quality she was determined to keep about herself, trying to hold on to a small token of her family and her homeland. She studied Embers demeanour as she spoke able to pick up on things she probably thought she was hiding. "You see I heard their side of things but after finding you here in the same town I live in everything is telling me they were just bending the narrative. Which does not surprise or affect me any, I hate most people, anyway so what is a few more?" 

Ember is very good at keeping emotions off of her face, to the point that many people if they’re not close to her, will sometimes wonder if she has them at all. She’s overheard students several times talking about her and her stony face. That, plus the expectation of things going badly, is why any response she might have internally is kept very well off her face. She doesn’t even twitch towards her swords, though there’s very little doubt she could have them at the ready before the woman managed to get close enough to cause harm. “Did they?” Though her tone remains the same there’s a dangerous edge to the blue of her eyes, the mention of her family very much the wrong thing to say.

She raises a slender brow, continuing to stare at the woman, Peyton, though she makes no violent moves toward her. This is slightly odd. Most of the time if Rita or Helga sent someone after her they didn’t bother to approach or introduce themselves and they’d learned years ago not to send one person. They’d gotten up to five at a time. Obviously since Ember’s still around that hadn’t worked either. So… either they’re very confident in this one woman’s skills, it wasn’t them that hired her, or…. Something else weird is going on.  

She’s quiet as Peyton begins to explain and slowly Ember’s impassive face grows into a smirk. Something about all of this is amusing to her, though not in the happy way. It’s almost bordering on ridiculous. “Well, as you can see, I’m fine. Usually they get involved and I’m decidedly not anymore, but…” That’s really none of this woman’s business. She shrugs and turns to begin walking, the path from the dojo to her own apartment a nice walk so she doesn’t usually bother to drive. Curiosity is one major thing though so she pauses in her steps to turn and look at the woman again. “Which one of them bothered you so bad?” If it were Rita or Helga, let’s just say that things might get dicey fast. The last one she’s expecting to hear would be Carlisle, her father. As far as she knows, he doesn’t know about what happened. He may very well believe her to be actually missing.

With a stern glower, Peyton watched Ember dance through her words, her words which only caused her to become more frustrated over this whole situation. Which was not a hard feat as Pey was naturally angry by default. The more she spoke and listened and observed Ember the more she came to find the truth of what was happening her own. Through the phlegmatic look about her face that was usually there, her eyebrows rose the faintest bit at Ember's last question. She twisted her mouth in thought breaking eye contact for the first time since revealing herself to the woman in front of her. However, she was hyperaware of everything Ember did without having to look at her from her scent alone she had been able to identify Ember being a Dhampier long before even being in earshot of her. From her observations of her, she now knew roughly where she held her weapon. She was not physic though, or about to look through walls so she had not the slightest what kind of weapon Ember had or the runes she could use. Precautions she entered this conversation with. 

To answer her question I would have to break my rules at not betraying my client confidentiality agreement...

  ...

Though as I think it through I never really accepted this contract because of their meticulous demands. I hated how demanding it was and the hurdles I would have to jump through to communicate with them was ridiculous and more than anything suspicious. I tilted my head back and forth before shaking my head no. "Helga and Rita both." I snarled a moment. "They are quite pretentious, to say the least, are they not." I wrinkled my nose and smacked my lips as if a foul taste sprawled across my tongue at the thought of those twos names on my lips. "The hurdles they demanded I jump through for them once I agreed to look for you was quite suspicious enough of for me to want your side of things. Makes me wonder if they are hiding that you are even alive from people you may know." My words trailed off for just one second before I refocused. "I am going to be blunt if I was going to harm you or drag you off I would have done it by now and you would not have seen me coming had that been what I wanted. Clearly..." I gesture to around me " that is not what I wanted. So because now that your family has pulled me into something deeper and darker without my knowing mind sitting with me and catching me up? I will treat you to whatever you want?" 

So the stare down continues. Ember’s never been one to turn her back to a potential opponent, no matter the deception used. None of that means she’s unaware of her surroundings though, her senses cast out to listen around her just in case this is a ruse to catch her unawares. Paranoid to a fault but it’s kept her alive. She can sense the shift in Peyton’s demeanor as she considers answering Ember’s question, the potential for answers the only thing grounding Em to the spot instead of her doing her normal thing and walking immediately away. Truth be told she’s tired of the game of cat and mouse - tired of the killing, the person she’s been forced to become. There’s no doubt one day it will show on her features but for now she keeps it off her face with the same grace she always has.

The answer is what she was expecting. Not what she was hoping and, despite herself she can almost feel something in her chest deflate. Her face remains as impassive as ever, mostly due to the way the therian snarls the names as though they’re particularly unpleasant rodents. Which is an apt comparison. “They’re aristocrats. What else would you expect?” Her words carry a sort of dry humor to them, a joke despite herself. That the woman only confirms her own suspicions is enough to cause Ember to relax if only somewhat. She’d always been under the impression that they were hiding the truth from those around them but had no way of proving it barring her instincts. After all she didn’t exactly trust Gunther of all the scumbags in the world. Not that anyone would be trusting him anymore. “It’s possible,” is all she says in response though. Her next sentence causes Ember to smirk, fire flashing in the Dhampir’s blue eyes. It’s obvious immediately that not only does Ember not believe her, she finds the very prospect hilarious and unrealistic. People have tried that before. Assassination attempts have been carried out, kidnappings attempted, none of them successful, leaving the attacker’s bodies as the only evidence. Had that been attempted again, Ember would have happily added this Therian’s body to the list. None of this leaves her mouth though, instead settling on a highly amused grin at the very prospect. “Fine. Far be it for me to turn down free food. I suggest we find somewhere private though… It's a long story and not something I want others overhearing.” Not something she wants to relive either. But this situation is amusing enough that she’ll humor the woman for now.

She turns sharply on her heel, adjusting the strap on her back that carries her blades. One of her favorite little places is just around the corner, a café that specializes in Italian food. A small slice of home without all the bad memories associated for the times where she finds herself missing it. She’s acutely aware of Peyton’s exact position behind her, sharp ears catching every foot fall. The bell over the door jingles quietly and the woman at the counter smiles at Ember, the red head giving the familiar face a small smile in return before gesturing to her and causing the woman to duck into the back giving them a little privacy for a moment as they get settled. “This place is family owned. Some of the best food I’ve had since coming to the city.” She takes a seat at her normal table, gesturing for Peyton to join her. “If you like it, bring some of your friends. They’d appreciate the business.” The menus are already laid out on the table for Peyton to look over but Ember doesn’t bother even flipping it. She knows it from memory.

The appearance of being harmless was easy, Peyton, after all, was a petite young woman who to most of the world looked gentle and mild-mannered. Everyone unaware of the constant storm that raged inside her or the fact that she woke up every day and chose violence. Standing before Ember the two to the world probably looked normal, just two women sharing a view pleasantries among themselves, however for Peyton it was a bit of a Mexican standoff. Upon realizing what this woman's family might have gotten her into she was on edge, her mind was reeling. Then the fire flared in Embers eyes and Peyton couldn't help but think of her original thoughts, people thought she was harmless, others stronger than her let arrogance and their past believe they could take her. Yet even death lost that fight and Peyton was left with nothing but a story and the scars to prove it. 

I could feel my fangs begin to descend as a defence to Embers physical reply. Her words said one thing, her body another and I would be a fool to merely take a person's words alone. I hide it though, the fangs in my mouth calling them back and keeping my eyes from changing and instead stay sternly staring at her. Though I cracked a faint smirk at her dry humour and gave her a curt nod when she spoke of going somewhere private. Still ready to fight her, of course, I would never let my guard down, never again..I stepped to her left staying in her sight so she could see me and see I wasn't going to try and attack her from behind, something I would want someone to do to me, which was wishful thinking. I scoffed and clicked my tongue though nothing was funny about what she had just said. "I do not have friends." I said very clearly with vexation in my voice, there was more I could have said there to elaborate or expand upon but I decided against it. 

Her last words were also somewhat of a lie as of late, considering Cora was very much a friend as unexpected as it was. Also, while she did not want to admit it the guard was very quickly becoming her family and it didn't matter how she tried to stop it and push them away, it was fate and that no one could fight. She sat across from Ember flipping through the menu but never letting her out of her peripheral vision, freezing for just a second as she, at last, heard the sound she was waiting for as Ember sat. The sound of her weapon, or in this case weapons, which from sound alone Peyton now knew she was a dual wielder but of what was the question. Though given who and how Peyton was naturally it would not be a question for long, she would figure it out without actually snooping or investigating but instead by talking, listening, smelling and watching. "What would you recommend?" She asked placing the menu down at the moment and looking up at Ember. 

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