xxiii. a study in pink

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Being grounded sucks.

I spent the last four days locked in my room learning all that I could about international relations in preparation for the state-sanctioned dinner. Like seriously, Ace straight up locked us all in the hotel and prevented us from exploring Paris just so that we would focus on the mission.

It was absolutely critical that all of us knew every detail so that we could blend into the diplomatic crowd. Now, the CIA had finally given us a measure of freedom for our hard work. They were letting us go shopping for our ensembles.

"So what type of dress are you looking for?" Ace asks as we stroll down the sun-filled Parisian street.

"Probably something satin and blush colored."

"You want to wear pink?" Ace reiterates in disbelief.

"What's wrong with pink?"

"There's nothing wrong with pink... you're just not soft," he explains. Ace's lips tug into a smirk. "Besides, you know I prefer you in red."

Tomatoes aspired to be as red as my cheeks at that moment.

"It's best for me to seem as unsuspecting as possible tonight, just in case something does go down."

"They'll have to go through me before they can get to you," Ace states. The way he said it was unwavering; it was a promise he intended to keep.

A small tugged at my lips. "I can take care of myself."

"Doesn't mean I can't try as well."

We decide on a boutique on the outskirts of town called Le Changement. Marble-clad the reflective tiles on the floor, and expensive looking attire hung in every corner; the whole store gave off a golden glow. The salesperson greed us immediately.

"Comment puis-je vous aider aujourd'hui?" She smiled.

"Nous recherchons une robe rose et satin et un costume," Ace responds.

They two hit it off, laughing and holding a conversation all in French. Never have I felt more like an uneducated American.

Though when her hand brushed against Ace's arm, I wanted to smack the croissant out of her.

We're swept away to a fitting room the size of my entire apartment at home. A rack of luxurious gowns, each more expensive than my monthly pay, are set to the side. There are three full-length mirrors which join together and fill about half the wall. First, the saleswoman pulls up the rack of suits.

"Avez-vous besoin d'aide pour mettre le costume?" The saleswoman smiles eagerly.

I didn't understand French. Though even I could understand it was probably along the lines of "you're so hot" and "take me now."

Ace throws a wink at her. "Merci, je vous le ferai savoir."

Red immediately blooms onto her face. Ace smirks when he catches me rolling my eyes at his blatant attempt to make me jealous. The saleswoman leaves the room with a lovestruck expression.

My eyes narrow in his direction. "Did you really have to flirt with her?"

Ace grabs a navy suit off the rack. "Jealous? I'd flirt with me too."

"Please spare me. I'd just rather not throw up all over these clothes as you two make out in the back room."

Ace gives me an amused look. "You looked like you wanted to kill her. She was cute, and I turned her down for you."

"Color me flattered," I state flatly.

Ace swiftly pulls off his t-shirt to reveal his chest. I avert my eyes, not wanting to give him the attention he wanted.

"What—what are you doing?"

Ace towers over to me. "I'm changing, you know, as one does in a changing room."

"Wait for me to leave first!" I say, flustered.

"Here's your warning. My pants are coming off next."

I quickly leave the room as Ace's chuckle filled the walls.


I take a seat at the couch in front of the rooms. When looking across the room, my gaze landed on the saleswoman, who was sending me death stares between pretending to scroll on her phone. How nice.

I give her my best "who pissed in your cheerios" look.

About five minutes later, Ace exits the changing room wearing an ox-blood colored suit. It framed him perfectly; the suit fitted squarely over his broad shoulders and tall physique, all of which made him look like a model on the cover of GQ.

My breath, unwittingly, gets caught on my chest.

"Your turn Cupcake," he smirks. Ace rolls up his cuff links and joins me in the dressing room.

Ace doesn't leave the room, instead, he leans back on a bench placed right before the mirrors. The first gown I pick up is a beautiful short cocktail dress and laced in the back by gold silk.

I give him an incredulous look. "Are you going to just sit there as I change?"

Ace smirks. "It was worth a shot."

I shoo him out with two middle fingers.

The rose gold gown fits slightly tightly against my chest but otherwise looks stunning. However, it did seem a little short for a diplomatic event.

Gown after gown, I disapprove until the very last one. It was a rose blush full-length gown. As soon as I put it on, I knew it was the one. The dress had been accentuating, but not revealing— perfect for any occasion.

The girl in the mirror seems like she could almost pass for a member of the financial elite.

"I think I found the one!" I yell over the room.

"Did you find a dress that could even give a potato curves?" Ace taunts.

My eyes have become sentient and roll on their own. "Hold on! I'm getting a call; it's the zoo. They were wondering how you escaped."

"I don't know what it is that makes you so irritating, but it really works."

I step out of the dressing room to finally shut him up.

From the corner of my eye, I can see Ace looking almost expressionless as he runs his eyes across my bare skin. He's motionless as well. The only thing that indicates liveliness is the slight tightening of his jaw.

When the woman stepped forward to get the zipper, Ace stopped her. "Let me," he whispered.

Gently, Ace stood protectively around me and pulled up the zipper. My heart rose rapidly following the hand he laid around my waist.

"What do you think?" I whisper.

"Christ, Cupcake," Ace mumbles into my ear. 

Octavia: "Vote if you want to see Ace in a suit."

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