Location: Monaco Star Casino • Date: Friday, 5 September 2003

The casino was extremely busy tonight. Each gambling table was loud with laughter, gasps, or groans as people won or loss money. Wait staff flitted around like worker bees as they delivered drink orders to patrons. Men and women were smoking cigarettes and cigars, but a charm pushed the smoke away from the guests to prevent a hazy atmosphere. Michelle wouldn't be joining these guests tonight. She walked down the casino's main hallway with Hadrian not far behind her. Michelle waved to a few people as she made her way to the private room she'd been invited to.

Two security guards stood on either side of the door when as she approached. Michelle showed them her invitation before letting her in. She waited for a few seconds while they patted down her own security. Tonight's event was a high stakes game, put on by a budding friendship. Well, a professional friendship.

Michelle stood off to the side of the gathering groups of people and looked for a familiar face. A familiar face she wouldn't mind speaking to, at least.

Played By: Arsene
Astrid loved to gamble; money, reputation, the lives of her subordinates. It was all rather thrilling. Although, she had been advised not to be so reckless now that she had a baby at home, but a little indulgence never hurt anyone. After all, she actually preferred to conduct the gambling rings rather than participating, but something like this was just her cup of tea. And quite frankly, she needed an outlet away from the drama back in England.

She was accompanied by her own security guard for the night, Jeremie Lafaille. He seemed professional enough to bring here, unlike some of the younger ones of The Kingdom that she'd taken over. He could at least shut his mouth when he needed to. Blowing out a thin puff of smoke, Astrid caught sight of Michelle, and soon quirked a brow. Without much hesitation, she began to almost glide across the room toward the other woman.

"Michelle, darling, how are you?" She spoke, voice stoic as she leaned in to offer kisses to the air. "Such a delight to see you here"

Played By: Vyreia
"Ah, yes...Viola's wedding. What a...pleasant occasion that was." She gave a small sardonic smile before composing herself again. "Yes, well, I have been rather busy, I suppose. I attended Levi Persky's wedding recently, organised some purchasing agreements for a new business and..."

She smiled and then gave a small shrug.

"Well, I had a child. Nothing to brag about." She jested somewhat. "We names her Ingrid Eliana Iver."

Played By: Vyreia
"No shit, really?" Michelle exclaimed in surprise. She wasn't sure how to process this information. Astrid and Nathan — sure, Nathan was a good-looking man, but Michelle had always found him too aloof to be in a relationship, let alone married. Now with a baby? Then there was Astrid; enigmatic yet somewhat sterile. But, it had happened. As Michelle put it all together, she guessed it wasn't so strange that the two married and had had a child.

"Well congratulations," she said with a smile. "No wonder you've been rather busy."

Played By: Arsene
Michelle huffed out a laugh. "If only I could find the right partner," she said. "Most prospects have grand plans to get close to my father and then I become the little housewife. I need someone whom can get used to being known as a La Fratta's husband. Or..."

She waved down a magicked tray lined with champagne flutes. Michelle grabbed one. "Like you and Nathan, be on equal footing."

Played By: Arsene
Astrid also helped herself to a champagne flute, nodding along at Michelle's words.

"Oh, I certainly recommend the latter. As nice as it is to have a man bend and bow to your will, it gets boring very quickly, I assure you. If that is what you desire, you may as well marry a runt of a litter; but what use is that? You want an empire, don't you? You must have a supporting partner in that - a very difficult task, I will admit, but once you have it, you are far more likely to prosper."

She gave a small shrug.

"I searched Nathan out. We knew of each other, gave nods and glances; in fact we even spent some of our childhood together as most wealthy offspring did during business meetings. But it was I that sought out him. I knew it was time to find my partner in life, and he was a fairly good candidate. If you want a man to respect you, you have to indulge yourself a little...twist the course of 'chance meetings' between your fingers. Decide who is worth pursuing, and do that. If they respect you, they will contend to be as powerful as you. Not to overtake you...but to complement you."

Played By: Vyreia
Is that what she needed to do? Michelle loved Luca a lot; her mood had significantly improved since he became a fixture in her life. But there was the very large elephant in the room whenever they were together: his wife. His wife and his kids and his whole other life in Romania. Could that ever be resolved?

Even if he divorced and married Michelle, could he be a partner? "I'll have to keep an eye out, then," she said.

Played By: Arsene
Astrid glanced over Michelle. That was a slight hesitation...perhaps she already had someone in mind? Well, good! At least she had a plan of sorts.

"Yes, well, please do remember that as the woman of the relationship, you hold the power. Believe me, I have seen Nathan in ways that you could never imagine - why? - because I know what I am. Never forget that, my dear." She offered an almost soft smile before nodding her head to the side.

She turned to her security guard. "Lafaille, do see to clearing a space at the poker table for me. I will come in a moment."

Played By: Vyreia
The French man had remained excruciatingly silent throughout the exchange between the two women. He had clearly been very well trained; dressed professionally, eyes keen on the environment, shoulders broad and strong. At Astrid's words, he looked down at her and then gave a curt nod.

"Yes, Mistress."

Looking back to Michelle, he gave another small bow of the head. "Have a good evening, Miss La Fratta." And with that, he turned to leave.

Played By: Vyreia
Astrid watched as Jeremie left, and then looked back to Michelle, stepping closer.

"Just between us girls...just remember that no man is worth misery. No man. Nathan is not worth my misery...and I will ensure he never strands me in that state of mind. Always remember that, although you are looking for support and equality in a companionship, you hold the cards."

Played By: Vyreia
Michelle gave the man a quick goodbye before turning her attention to Astrid. She wasn't wrong and normally Michelle wouldn't have put up with this kind of nonsense. She would normally demand all of a man's attention.

She would have already told Luca it was her or Stefania. He needed to choose.

"Why do you think I stopped seeing Nikolaos Alexandros?" Michelle asked with a quick huff of laughter.

Played By: Arsene
Astrid chuckled, lifting her glass a little as though saluting her.

"Good, put your foot down." She gave a small shrug. "He wasn't a bad looking man, but you must know your standards. Settle for nothing less. Demand to be the priority..." She trailed off a moment.

Like she was a priority to Nathan and Viola's son? No...she knew she wasn't. That boy would get everything he ever wanted...

She cleared her throat.

"You deserve the best, my dear. Never forget that."

Played By: Vyreia