A Fine Line


tania2_icon.gif zain_icon.gif

Scene Title A Fine Line
Synopsis It's important not to cross it.
Date March 8, 2018

Zain's Apartment

Tania arrives on a motorcycle, which she seems okay with leaving in the alley next to the building. She dismounts, high heeled boots clack against the concrete and she pulls her helmet off, shaking her hair out and letting it fall down her back in soft waves. Like she purposefully put her hair up in such a way to avoid helmet hair and to look amazing after. Her hands smooth out the free-flowing skirt that drops to mid-thigh, and she circles around to the front of the building, her helmet tucked under and arm.

From the outside, the old building looks almost deserted, except for the dim light flickering in one window. Inside, the old carpet is strewn with light pink rose petals that lead all the way up to the top floor. The building is old, but it doesn’t have the musty smell of roof problems or pipe leakage. Instead, there’s the faint scent of cologne that seems to hang lightly in the air.

When Tania arrives at the top, the door is already ajar and soft classical music is playing on an old record player. The hissing and popping through the speaker just seem to add to the ambiance, which, by the decor and choice of music seems to be springtime romance. It is quite warm inside the house and clean enough to take her shoes off without worry of snagging stockings or getting them dirty.

And near the door, Zain is waiting for her.

“Tania, you look more beautiful every time I lay eyes on you,” his accented voice is smooth as the silk tie he’s wearing for the occasion. Then he relieves the redhead of her coat and disappears into the bedroom before returning without it. “I have a special evening planned, I think you’ll enjoy it.”

The rose petals get a hint of a smile curling the corner of her lips and Tania follows them up, only taking a moment or two to appreciate the music choice— someone pays attention— before she lets herself into the apartment.

"Zain," she says with a broader smile, greeting him with a kiss to the cheek before she lets him take her coat. And the helmet, too. She steps further in when he disappears, fingers trailing over furniture before she turns back to look at him. "I suppose we'll find out," she says, her own accent still there, but lighter. She's more American these days, but doesn't want anyone to forget that she isn't really.

He leads her with a light touch to the elbow to a wingback chair near the fire. A soft polar bear rug is underfoot, head angled slightly toward the escape window and the dining room. “Have a seat, I’ll bring you refreshments,” already there’s a small cart nearby with a pitcher of what looks to be a peach colored concoction and two small plates with three appetizers delicately arranged on each. “I do hope you enjoy bellinis, I developed a taste for them in South America. It’s not a hard drink like these Staten Islanders seem to indulge in.”

Two glasses are half filled and one presented with a flourish of the wrist and a wink to Tania. “Should we commence to business first, or pleasure?”

Letting herself be lead, Tania takes her seat and sinks into the chair with a sigh. When he moves to get refreshments, that's when she slips out of her shoes to let her feet sink into the rug. But then she watches him fill glasses. "They have no appreciation for the finer things." Unless it can make them money. Which is a sentiment she can understand, at least. But still, she does her best to keep a bit of distance between herself and the rougher side of the business.

She takes the glass, his question getting a barely-there laugh. "Well, this is all very tempting," she says, her hand running down her skirt for a moment, "But business first." Always business first.

“Well then,” Zain replies in a lowered tone as he takes a seat in the chair opposite hers. “We’ll save the toast for dinner and get to the subject of auctions.” He takes a small sip of the bellini and then balances the foot and stem of the glass on his palm while his other hand supports the bowl. “How many paintings did you wish to bring to auction this time and would you like to pay me commission on a final sale or would you rather I buy them outright?”

The offer is a shrewd one, but they’ve both been through this drill before. Almost monthly. A guarantee of a lower price or risk getting the bigger paycheck. “For clarification, the auction will be held on the twenty fourth this month.”

It's a dance and Tania seems to find some comfort in it. Familiar. Instead of answering, she drinks from her glass, watching him over the rim. Elegant fingers tap against the glass as she moves to rest it on the arm of the chair. "I will have four finished in time." The date gives her plenty of room for final touches. "What percentage are you asking for?"

Tania isn't one to make rash or uninformed choices. Not lately. Not about her money. Her fingers twist the stem of her glass, but it's only for a moment. Because she opts to drink from it, instead.

“Normally twenty percent of the final sale price,” Zain quips before taking another sip from his glass. His dark eyes reflect the firelight as he studies the contents of his glass for a long moment, perhaps to draw out an argument or agreement.

“But we are the closest of friends,” he goes on his voice lowering just slightly as though he’s divulging a great secret. “So I will lower my commission to ten and tell you that your paintings always fetch me a very good profit. You would do better to auction them than allow me to buy them.”

Twenty percent gets the same frown it always gets. Just a tug on her lips. But then he amends it and she smiles just slightly. "I appreciate that," she says with enough warmth that it's hard to tell if she means the commission or the declaration of their very close friendship.

Flattery, though, that's a weakness she's still young enough to be susceptible to and the compliment to her work has her looking down at her glass to hide a more genuine smile. But she lifts her chin, her expression milder, and looks over at him. "I think fifteen percent would work out nicely for both of us, wouldn't it?"

The corners of Zain’s eyes pinch together slightly as he passes Tania an amused smirk, “Why Miss Kozlow, I would have never guess you were so sentimental. Giving up five percent to me is quite the gesture, it could be well into the thousands.”

He pushes himself up to a stand and wanders over to the small serving cart. Placing his wineglass down, he lifts one of the appetizer plates and lays a napkin over his arm. He then crosses the room to offer the young woman the napkin first and then the plate itself. “I am a terrible host, I invite you for a romantic business dinner and nearly forget your first course. And… refill or would you care for some wine?”

"If it's well into the thousands," Tania says with a crooked smile, "you can consider it a favor. And maybe you'll think of me first, the next time you come across something… unique." Opportunity or item, either one would be good in her opinion. And maybe she thinks his good opinion is worth it.

She takes the napkin, laying it over her lap before she takes the plate. "Thank you," she says softly. Her glass is mostly empty, so the question is a timely one. She considers it for a moment. "Wine. Please," she says, looking up at him with a tilt of her head. "And you're a marvelous host. My very favorite," she says, a touch of slyness to her tone. It's easy to miss, unless one were listening for it.

Being a gentleman, Zain only glances in Tania’s direction out of the corner of his eye as he makes his way to the kitchen. The wine bottle he brings back is still wet from the ice it’s been sitting in with its cork off. “I do hope you like bordeaux, I can’t remember ever seeing you drink it… but I managed a miracle in finding this bottle and I would rather share it with you than put it up for auction.” He almost croons the words as he pours just enough to fill the bowl of a wine glass. “I find it tastes quite special in crystal.” He’s not quite finished with his bellini, so he doesn’t pour himself a glass, not yet.

Instead of sitting, he stands near Tania’s chair, a little to the side and behind so that he’s not looming over her but close enough for intimate conversation. “You said you had four paintings,” he reverts back to business at hand, studying the way the firelight shines against her hair. “What sort are they? Modern, classic, a mix?”

"I do," Tania says, as far as her taste in wine. It could be that she doesn't, or has never tried it, but she spent long enough in Eltingville with whatever food they could manage to get that she enjoys the finer things now, even if they're not to her taste. Not that she would ever explain that to the man opposite her. Or anyone who wasn't there with her. And she wouldn't have to explain it to those three.

So when she takes the wine glass, she pauses to smell it, letting it decant in the glass a little before she tastes it. And it seems to have her approval, because she smiles more genuinely after.

"They're a collection of Dutch work from the seventeenth century. Secular, not sacred. Landscapes, not portraits." An easier sell to a wider audience, in her experience. Collectors like portraits. People who want to look well off like landscapes. "I have more modern pieces coming along. Soon."

“They sound absolutely delightful and should be an easy sell. Alister Black would likely want to pick them up, he seems to enjoy surrounding himself with wealthier fare.” The words are uttered quietly, as he stares into the fire. His eyes follow the dance of the flames, their reflections shining brightly in his dark eyes. Pensive, he is still like that for a while, until his bellini warms a little in his hand and he’s forced to finish it in a single swallow. “I will assume they are of a greater value, would you like them separated or sold as a lot?”

It’s then that he places the glass down and reaches into his pocket for a small red book and pencil. The book itself is perhaps the size of a deck of cards, the edges of the pages worn and dog eared. He scribbles a few notes before placing it back into his pocket. Then he turns his head slightly to look down on her. Where his jaw is usually clenched tight and his posture rigid, he seems a little more relaxed. “Or I can gauge the audience and go from there.”

The note about Mr. Black's tastes gets a hint of a smile. Tania's favorite people— to sell things to— are people who have a drive to prove just how rich they are. She doesn't mention that, though. She looks up at Zain watching him watch the fire for a long moment before her attention turns back to her wine. To taste it again. "I trust your judgment," she says, which is true. And might also be why she likes splitting the take with him. The more she gets for the paintings, the more he gets and that's very motivating for everyone.

A single eyebrow ticks upward as a smug smirk appears on his face. Chin lifted slightly, he parts his lips into a wider smile and wags a finger at Tania. “Darling,” he murmurs as he reaches for the wine bottle and tops up her glass. “With flattery like that, you will be the death of me.”

Zain’s heard about her brother and he can’t imagine that Sasha would look kindly on this affair.

“But… “ he continues, “I believe death would be worth every moment that I spend in your company.”

It's very true that the other Kozlow has spent many years cultivating a completely different reputation than the one his sister is going for. The opposite, one might say. Tania doesn't speak about him often, certainly not without prompting, but anyone who knows them knows the bond there is a strong one.

It has its pros and cons.

But whatever Zain's worry, Tania doesn't seem to share it. She smiles up at him at the murmur, glancing down at the glass when he fills it again. His words make her smile more genuine, her eyes a little brighter. But however obviously she enjoys them, her reply is more tempered. If still a little wry. "And rob of us you too soon? That would be a true shame." Her smile lingers, though, as she looks from the wine back to him.

“I agree.”

The simple statement is delivered with a winning smile and a hand stretches out to take the plate of barely touched amuse-bouches away. When they are placed back onto the small cart, he returns to gently take Tania’s hand. There, Zain bends slightly, bringing her fingers to his lips and presses a light kiss on top of them.

“A question, my dearest,” he murmurs again, low and almost inaudible against the music. “Would it be too forward of me to hazard a guess that our business is concluded?”

Tania looks at her hand as he takes it, then follows it up as he leans over to kiss it. Not much about her expression changes at his question, just her head tilting as if she might need to consider whether or not it is too forward. "We were meant to have dinner," she says, as if she'd forgotten. There's a subtle emphasis on her use of dinner instead of echoing his choice of pleasure earlier in the night. As if flower petals and flattery, warmth and wine weren't quite winning her over. But she picks up her glass as she stands, her lack of shoes leaving her a bit shorter than she likes. "I think we can consider it concluded, yes," she says with a gentler smile.

“Excellent,” Zain’s smile brightens as he straightens, his eyes drifting to the shoes she leaves behind. Perhaps to give a discrete look to where on the fur they’ve touched. “I do hope you like pasta. We have a wonderful mushroom ravioli waiting for us.”

As he leads her into the dining room, the view into the kitchen gives Tania a brief glimpse into Zain’s culinary abilities. A distinct lack of cookware along with an abundance of flimsy silver containers is telltale enough. The plates on the table, though, are nice enough and after he pushes her seat in, he’s off toward the oven. And she’s left alone. “Help yourself to the little sticks of bread,” he calls from the kitchen, obviously meaning the small paper-lined tin of dry looking twisted sticks that are standing like twigs. “They aren’t to my liking but the old woman at the stall swears they are authentic.”

He might be pleased to note that her shoes have kept their distance from his fur and, instead, sit just off to the side of the rug. She doesn't seem to mind being led along, nor does she seem to mind what's on the menu. She does glance into the kitchen, the sight bringing a crooked smile to her face. It lingers enough to leave her smiling warmly at him as he pushes her chair in. "Thank you," she notes quietly. Her glass gets set down before she takes one of the sticks to give it a try. Even if they aren't his favorite. Her opinion on them is kept quiet, aside from the fact that she finishes it. But perhaps that's in the interest of countering the flush to her cheeks from the drinks. She may have watched him go, but once he's in the kitchen she settles back into her chair, one leg crossing the other and fingers lingering on the stem of her glass. As if she were some sort of painting herself. Only the gentle sway of her foot gives it away. "It is my understanding," she notes with some amusement, "that it is better not to question an old woman's opinion." If you valued your life, anyway.

“I suppose that is true,” Zain calls lightly from the kitchen but soon enough he is visible in the door with oven mitts on and two plates in his hands. He moves toward Tania and places one of them in front of her, on top of the charger. It’s— artfully decorated, five pieces of ravioli with a swirl of sauce underneath. There’s no fresh parsley but a pinch of dried has been sprinkled on top. It’s very likely that Tania’s host did not do this himself.

The oven mitts are removed as Zain sits and are tossed carelessly under the table, out of sight and mind. Then his eyes find hers over the candlelight and he lifts a glass of wine in a toast. “To you, Miss Kozlow,” his smooth tone is softer but his pronounciation of her name is more deliberate, “the most beautiful, talented, and intelligent woman I have had the pleasure of knowing in such a long time.”

Tania can appreciate a good presentation and a smile comes to her lips when the plate it set down in front of her. And it's likely that she does know it wasn't his doing, but it's just as likely that it doesn't matter to her whether it was or not. It's almost a shame to ruin the look of the food, so Tania is content to put it off for a few more moments. She lifts her glass as well, but the content of the toast gets a gentle laugh. But she drinks to it, which may be her way of saying thank you. For the compliment, for the meal, probably for the business, too.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License