For some reason people have always thought that there would be a 'third' book, a sequel to Easy Freedom - really the 'seventh' book in the series.
Readers have written to me suggesting ideas for continuing the story of Cathy, Dev and Chris, and some of them have told me that, frustrated by the lack of the third book, they have made up their own plots or even written their own new scenes of the story. Here are some of their suggestions for the continuation of the story. Do you agree, or have you another idea? Contact Liz
'EASY FAME' see below
'EASY LIGHTNING' see below
Samantha Lomax' Chapter 1 of Third Book
On another site some of the readers discussed the casting of an Easy Connection film
(I should be so lucky!) Here are some stars nominated by the readers. Feel free to add to the Gallery! Contact Liz
by Sherryl Jordan
(Simon & Schuster)
splendid bookcover by
Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison
Val Kilmer as
(Pity he's in another place!)
Jude Law 2
Femke Japing, Singer/Songwriter
Justin and Dan Hawkins
Jonathan Rhys Myers
Chapter 1 of 'Third Book' - Easy Fame
Chris Carter sat alone in the living room of his London flat. He laid his head back on the sofa and closed his eyes, recalling that it was one year ago today that his best friend, Paul Devlin, had attempted to end his life. The suicide attempt was the result of a deep, consuming depression that Dev had fallen into when he was sure that he had lost his wife forever. But, after reconciling with Cathy, Dev had pulled through fine and was released from the hospital a few days later.
Chris cringed inwardly as he contemplated that part he had played in that situation. He had tried to steal Cathy from Dev, believing that he had the right to take her; after all, he had seen her first and he was deeply in love with her. When he thought now about the lengths he had gone to, trying to seduce her, he felt so foolish. How could he do that to Dev, his best friend, his brother? He knew in his heart that Dev had forgiven and forgotten but he didn't know if he could ever forgive himself for inflicting that kind of pain on the two people he loved most in the world.
Chris would always love Cathy until the day he died. But after Dev recuperated completely, he swore to himself that he would never interfere with their relationship again, no matter what. He would return to his old habit of “making do” until he found the special thing he'd been waiting for. He felt he'd had something special with Cathy, but that was all over now. He had lost and she and Dev belonged to each other completely. With the news of Charis' fatal overdose six months ago, Dev's chains to the past were cut for good. The pieces had all been picked up in his life and he and Cathy had moved on, now eagerly anticipating the arrival of their second child. Chris decided it was time for him to move on, too.
He lit a cigarette and picked up the fluorescent orange flyer that was laying on the coffee table. It had been passed on to him by one of his many musician friends. Across the flyer, in big bold lettering it said, “Azra's presents Black Velvet.” The flyer included a picture of the band. Three guys and a girl, all in their early to mid-twenties. The girl was breathtaking. She stood with her head held high, her eyes challenging. She was placed slightly in front of the others, an obvious implication that she was the lead vocalist. She couldn't be any more than 20 years old. Her long dark hair fell softly just below her shoulders. She had a seductive look in her eyes and a hell of a body.
At that moment, Dev walked in the front door from the neighbouring flat, with Tom Gibbon behind him. “You ready?”
“Yeah. Cathy coming too?”
Dev shook his head. “She didn't feel like going out tonight. She's on her way back to the farm with the baby.”
“Right, then we're on our own tonight.” Chris and Dev were searching for a band to produce. After enjoying so many years of successful album sales and tours, they were ready to put an unknown but talented band on the road to rock. Tonight they were going to Azra's to check out Black Velvet. They had been hearing for months how good the band was; so they just might be the lucky recipients of the chance of a lifetime.
Chris grinned at Dev and handed him the flyer. Tom looked over his shoulder and whistled. Dev laughed, examining the girl. “She's gorgeous!”
“Yep, and she's on the menu tonight. Let's go, I'm starving!” They all laughed at his joke as they walked out the door.
Daisy Carroll stood backstage at Azra's. She wore a black form-fitting body suit, a denim jacket and tight jeans. Her outfit was purely for entertainment and enticement. She bit her lip as she nervously ran her hands through her long black hair, her bright blue eyes scanning the expanding crowd. Black Velvet, the band she sang with, would take the stage in just ten minutes and Daisy needed to find tonight's victim: a cute male member of the audience to whom she could sing her song. It was Daisy's favourite part of the show. The band performed cover songs mostly, a mixture of Led Zeppelin, Heart, Queen, Janis Joplin, the Doors, the Connection and AC/DC. However, within the last six months, they had begun to write their own songs and were including them in the show.
Daisy had joined Black Velvet four years earlier at the young age of sixteen. Thinking that she was home by herself, she went into her bedroom, put on the latest Easy Connection album and jumped up and down on her bed, singing along at the top of her voice and playing air guitar. Pete had come home early and was stunned at the voice he heard coming out of his sister. Not long after, he managed to convince Daisy to join the band he had formed with two of his schoolmates, drummer Reg Slater and bass player John Wilde.
Daisy had the perfect voice for the kind of rock the band performed. It was a combination of the gritty tone of Bonnie Tyler mixed with the soulful power of Ann Wilson and the trembling sensuality of Robert Plant. In honour of the shiny raven locks of the newest member, the no-name band became Black Velvet.
A year later, the four bandmates moved in together in a small flat in London and began performing at local clubs. Daisy performed awkwardly at first since she was not accustomed to singing in front of other people. Pete suggested she find someone who could coach her on her stage presence. Of her own volition, Daisy visited one of the best-known after-hours men's clubs in London. She reasoned that any one of the girls there could help her out; after all, they performed in front of people all the time. With a little bit of training, Daisy soon became a confident performer. Men had been telling her how gorgeous she was since she was eleven years old, already beginning to develop as a woman and Daisy saw nothing wrong with incorporating her sexuality into the show as part of the act. But once the curtain went down, the sex kitten left and the only thing that remained was a beautiful young woman.
Ah! There he is! Daisy thought. A splendid-looking young man with short blond hair, pale eyes and a devastating smile. He wore a white shirt buttoned only at the navel and tight black leather pants. He was with two other men. One of them was an equally gorgeous man with long dark-gold curly hair, clad in a moss-green shirt, also unbuttoned to the navel and black satin trousers. The other man looked familiar to Daisy. He had dark eyes and short, bleach-blonde hair, almost white. He sported an old Jimi Hendrix concert t-shirt and raggy jeans, not quite as handsome as the other two, but good-looking nevertheless. Of all the nights Black Velvet had played here, she had never seen such handsome people at this place. It was obvious that these men not only knew how gorgeous they were, but knew they were causing a reaction in the club.
“Find him?” Pete Connelly, the band's guitarist and Daisy's stepbrother, was right at her ear. He knew Daisy's nightly ritual and he was always amused to watch the reaction of the man she picked out. Daisy had come such a long way from the shy girl she was five years ago. She had harnessed the power of her sexuality and mastered the art of whipping the crowd, especially the male members, into a frenzy.
“Yep,” Daisy grinned. “See the blonde in the white shirt? Right about in the middle of the room? That's him!” Daisy couldn't wait for tonight's show.
Pete gaped in astonishment. The “blonde” Daisy had picked out of the crowd was Chris Carter, lead vocalist of Easy Connection. He couldn't believe that Daisy didn't know who it was. But then he knew that she never bothered to read the papers and had never been to a Connection concert, so there was no way for her to know. He decided it would be funny if he didn't tell her until after the show. Besides, it might negatively affect her performance if she knew that the lead singer of one of her favourite bands was in the audience tonight. But it couldn't hurt to let the other members of the band in on the joke. He patted Daisy on the shoulder encouragingly and ran off to spread the joke that was on her.
A bottle of water was thrust in front of Daisy. She looked up into the smiling face of Lizzie King, her best friend from her school days. Lizzie had straight golden hair that reached to the middle of her back, shining like sunbeams, pale blue eyes. Daisy never told anyone, not even Pete, that Lizzie had been the exotic dancer who taught her all about stage presence. On the night Daisy went to the club, they were shocked to see each other at a place like that. Lizzie told her that after graduation, she had moved to London to attend the Royal College of Music where she was studying piano accompaniment. She was only working at the club to pay her way through school. She was a brilliant musician and Daisy had been trying ever since to get Lizzie to join the band on keyboards.
The manager of Azra's ascended the stage to introduce Black Velvet. Lizzie took the bottle out of Daisy's outstretched hand and eagerly sat on the amp case to watch the show. The crowd went wild in anticipation of the next set. The band started off with “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC.
Daisy eyed the blonde during the song. He was nodding his head in time with the music, really into the band's playing. When Daisy opened her mouth and began singing, she was happy to see that he was stupefied at the power of her voice. She sang the last line of the song “And I'm goin' down,” and she bent her knees, twisting her body down towards the floor. Then she sang the “Whoa-a-a-a,” coming up slowly in time with the note, dominating the song, her voice trembling, arching her back and throwing her arms out. Screams and wild applause followed the conclusion of the song.
Daisy took off her jacket to signal the start of the next song. She tossed it behind her where it lay on the floor by the drums, covering the wires that plugged in the equipment. One of Daisy's favourite cover songs was “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. She changed the words around so that instead of the song being about a man giving his love, it was a woman giving her love, demanding her man's love. It was during this part of the show that Daisy required a little “audience participation.”
Like a ritual, she always spent the first verse and chorus onstage with the band, dancing. Moving into the second verse, Daisy would grab the mic off its stand, bound lightly down the three steps onto the floor, and saunter over to her prey for that song. She danced up against him in such a sexy way that even a pious man could not resist wanting her.
The bass and the guitar began pounding out the rock melody. Once they heard the song being played, men in the audience stood up and began pointing at themselves, begging to be Daisy's choice for the song. She worked her way through the first verse and chorus, glancing occasionally at her pick to make sure he hadn't moved. She sang passionately to different men in the crowd, making each one think that he was the one. Finally, the time had come. Daisy jumped off the stage and danced over to the blond. As she sang, she moved her body with expert progression. She pulled him up out of his seat so that they were standing face to face. Men at nearby tables cheered him on as the special selection. She sang as she wiggled up against the blonde, pleased to note that he was seriously aroused. He looked at his long-haired friend, who nodded, giving him some sort of approval. Suddenly, with both arms, the blonde grabbed Daisy around the waist, pulled her to him and matched her seductive dance with one of his own, pressing his body tightly up against her. Daisy was a little shaken; she had never had that happen before. When she sang to other men, they just drooled helplessly. This one smiled darkly, licking his bottom lip in anticipation, his very essence dripping with sexuality. She tried to pull away, but he wrapped his arms around her even tighter, making it difficult for her to breathe, let alone sing.
She pushed him away with as much force as she could summon, sending him staggering a few steps backwards, laughing in surprise at the strength of such a small-framed woman. She spun around and ran back to the stage.
When she turned again to face the crowd, she saw the blonde with a triumphant gleam in his eye, laughing hysterically with his friends. She didn't mind that they were laughing at her. In her five years as a member of an increasingly popular band, she had learned that part of show business meant rolling with the punches, no matter what happened.
She ran offstage out of the spotlight as Pete moved forward to begin his guitar solo. From backstage she popped her head out to look at the audience and saw the blonde watching her. Their eyes locked and they maintained eye contact as she came back out onto the stage singing, her voice melting with the guitars. When she began to sing again, she sang directly to the blonde, gyrating her hips, changing the song's words slightly, “You gotta gimmee every inch of your love.”
The blonde led the thunderous standing ovation and cheers that followed the song.
After the gig ended, the members of Black Velvet moved out into the club to talk to their fans, people who had been coming to see them at Azra's for all the time they'd been playing there. She spotted the gorgeous young man. A crowd had gathered around him and his friends, but he was glancing around. He stopped when he saw Daisy. She looked him up and down, satisfied to see that he was giving her the same insatiable look. She tried to look away, but his sparkling eyes and beaming smile were too irresistible. When she finally could look away, she found she was drawn back to staring at him. She was slightly annoyed to find that he had gone.
“Quite a show you put on,” she heard someone breathe warmly into her ear. It was the blonde! His friends had come over with him. Her heart seemed to flip then started racing, but she just raised an eyebrow and looked at him. “You too!”
He didn't bother to introduce himself. “You've got an incredible voice; I've never heard anything like it.” He put his arm round her shoulders. “You're American, aren't you? How do you come to be so far from home, love?”
She reciprocated by sliding her arm sensually against his waist, flirting shamelessly. “I've actually lived in England for about five years now.”
“You follow a boy here?” he teased.
Daisy laughed loudly. “No!” Then she tensely bit her lip. The circumstances surrounding her move to a foreign country was not something she was prepared to discuss with a perfect stranger. She smiled and said, “I'll bore you with those details next time.”
He raised his eyebrows and grinned. They stared at each other for a long time. Daisy finally laughed nervously to break the now uncomfortable silence. “So, do you live here in London?”
He looked at his friends, then back at her, not understanding. “I've got a flat here in town, but I spend most of my time on the road or at his house,” pointing to his long-haired friend.
Before Daisy could say anything else, Pete had walked up. “Hi, Pete Connelly. This is a real treat for us.” He held out his hand and when each of the men took it in their turn, Pete shook their hands warmly with both of his hands.
This time the long-haired one spoke. “You put on a good show. The original songs are good. The band has real potential. Not to mention a talented young woman here.” He flashed a smile at Daisy. She flushed, pleased at the compliment, and shaken by his good looks. Yet she was confused at Pete's cow-towing to them, not to mention what seemed to be a musically authoritative air.
“Are you in a band?” she asked the young men. They looked at each other in disbelief.
Pete grinned wickedly. “Daisy, you don't know who they are?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Should I?” They were all watching her, smiling.
Pete took too much pleasure in this. “Gentlemen, this is Daisy Carroll, our remarkably gifted lead singer.” He grinned, pointing to the one with the bleach-blonde hair. “This is Tom Gibbon.”
Daisy smiled. “That's why I know you! I've seen you on TV.”
He looked her up and down. “You've got the making of a great performer. I enjoyed the show.”
Pete finished the introductions, pointing first to the long-haired man, “This is Paul Devlin. And this,” pointing to the blonde, “is Chris Carter. They're both from a little band called Easy Connection.”
Paul Devlin leaned toward Daisy, holding out his hand and said in a low sexy voice, “My friends call me Dev.”
Daisy sat in stunned silence, feeling Dev's warm hand closing gently and sensually around hers. The room seemed to spin about, the two beautiful men still watching her. In her shock, Daisy forgot about their friend. She spoke to Pete, without looking at him.
“You're joking! They're not really the Connection!”
She looked at Dev then at Chris as her skin turned pink and she giggled nervously, covering her face with both hands, embarrassed beyond words. The men were all openly laughing at her. She quickly recovered and slid her hand out of Dev's grasp, punching Pete in the arm.
“You knew that before the show and you didn't tell me! Bastard!”
She laughed at his little joke good-naturedly. She looked at Chris, her eyes narrowing, hands on her hips. “That explains your little dance number during our show.”
Chris shrugged, ignoring the tone in her voice that sounded like possession over the show. He put his arm around her. “What do you say I scare up some drinks for us, love?”
Daisy consented, feeling her heart sink a little. He was so attractive, but she knew about his reputation with women. Even though she didn't recognize him on sight she had heard all about the stories of the backstage shows at Easy Connection's concerts. She would have to emotionally keep him at arm's length if she was going to survive this night unscathed and untouched. But keeping him at emotional arms length didn't mean she'd have to keep him at physical arms length. After all, she was entitled to have a little fun just like any other girl.
“I have a better idea,” Pete interjected. “Why don't we all leave here and go to our flat?”
Daisy was mortified. “Pete, no! The flat…it…it's a rat-hole.”
Dev grinned at her. He was extraordinarily beautiful. “Sweetie, we've lived in our share of rat-holes, we'll be right at home. We weren't always rich and famous, you know.”
“You coming?” Chris asked Daisy.
“I have to, I live there too.” She grinned.
“Great, let's be off then,” Chris said. He put his arm around Daisy's shoulder and led the way out the door.
After only three hours of sleep, Daisy awoke to the relentless buzzing of her alarm clock at half past six the next morning. When her eyes finally opened, she began to wonder if she had imagined the previous night.
She had inadvertently serenaded Chris Carter, lead singer of one of her all-time favourite bands. Tom, Chris and Dev had come back to the flat with the band after the show and they had all just sat around, drinking, talking, and listening to music.
While she washed her face and brushed her teeth, she replayed everything else.
Once they had entered the flat, Tom had retreated to the corner with Reg and John, talking, but glancing back at Daisy the whole time. Dev and Pete talked over by the stereo. Daisy put on some music and dropped down next to Chris on the sofa. He slid his hand into hers, gently, and they talked and laughed the entire night. He grinned at her in his sexy way, teasing her, and going on about what a great voice she had. It was an exciting experience for her. He surely knew what he was doing, and Daisy knew it was nothing more than a game he played. Though onstage she could turn heads and could stimulate so many men, offstage she was no match for a man like Chris Carter, or for the kinds of games he played.
“I still don't understand how you knew Tom, but had no idea who we were?” he asked. “You sang some of our songs tonight, even one of the earlier ones. Surely if you know our music from that far back, you knew a lot about us.”
“I do know a lot about you as a band, but not one-on-one as the members,” she replied. “And I never read the newspapers, so I miss out on all the photos and gossip about the band. Well, not all the gossip. Lizzie fills me in on all the best and juiciest rumours.”
“And you'd never seen us in concert, either?”
“No. I almost did once, though. Pete was going to take me to kind of celebrate for it being my last year of school. I came down with the flu two days before the concert.” She laughed remembering, “I cried for weeks after. Pete brought me back a t-shirt, but it wasn't the same. And then for the past few years, we've had to pool all our money into paying our bills and buying equipment. So we haven't been able to afford to go to any concerts, not even yours.”
“We're playing Liverpool in two weeks. You can all come to the show. I'll get backstage passes for you.”
Daisy sucked in her breath. “Really?? You mean after all these years of loving you, I'll finally get to see you perform?”
He raised his eyebrows and laughed. “Loving me?”
Dev laughed. “That sounds like a proposition, Chris.”
Daisy turned pink. “You as in Easy Connection, not you Chris Carter.”
Lizzie laughed. “Speaking of love, remember, Daisy, how devastated we all were when this one got married?” She jerked her thumb at Dev. “I wanted to jump into the river.”
Daisy laughed too. “Didn't we all? But then there was that brief gleam of hope when the rumours started about all the trouble in paradise. The marriage worked out, though, to the disappointment of all the Dev-o-philes in the world.”
“Dev-o-philes. Is that one of my fan clubs?” Dev joked. They all laughed.
Chris turned to Daisy and stroked her cheek, speaking softly. “You're so beautiful, baby. And your singing and the way you danced really turned me on.” He slid his fingers down to her lips, tracing them gently.
Daisy, melting inside, laughed and pushed his hand away lightly. “Easy does it, Casanova. The dancing is just part of the act.”
“Is it? I look at you now and I still see a beautiful, sexy girl. That's not an act, that's you.” He traced her jaw line with his finger.
The music on the hi-fi changed to a fast-paced rock song. Tom, who had been talking world events to Reg and John the whole time, came over to Daisy and held out his hands, grinning. “Dance with me, love.”
Chris protectively put his arm around Daisy's shoulders. “Later, Tom, we're talking.”
Daisy, feeling a bit like a possession, looked narrowly at Chris. She shrugged his arm off and grabbed Tom's hands. “I'd love to dance, Tom.”
He pulled her up and held her very close to him, sliding his hands down her back and dipping her. Surprised by the suddenness of the movement, she shrieked delightedly at first then leaned her head back, laughing, feeling her hair flowing freely, her hips moving up against his hips. He brought her back up and their faces were close together, their lips nearly touching, his hands stroking her back. He looked into her eyes and grazed her lips gently. “You're gorgeous, baby. I think you need to come down to my studio sometime. I'll do a smashing portrait of you.”
“I thought you only painted political commentaries, Tom.” Chris was standing right next to them. Daisy pulled away from Tom. He just looked at Chris and laughed. “I make exceptions in special cases.” He pulled a card out of his pocket and handed it to Daisy. “This is the number of my studio. And this is my home number. You call me when you're ready to sit for me.”
“I will, Tom.”
Chris put his arm around Daisy's waist. She found it amusing that two celebrities were standing in the living room of her small flat, arguing over her like little boys fighting over the same toy fire engine. Before it could go any further, she released herself from his firm grip and with an effort, stood back and addressed the room. “Gentlemen, tonight has been the best night of my life. I'll remember and cherish it always. Good night.” She then turned on her heel and quickly walked to her bedroom. When she reached the door, she felt a hand on her arm and looked into Chris's eyes.
He laid his arms across her shoulder, his face very close to hers, smiling confidently. “You're not just going to leave me like that, are you?”
She gently removed his arms. “I think it's best. I meant what I said, I will never forget this night as long as I live.” She kissed him tenderly on the cheek, went into her bedroom and locked the door. She stood with her back against the door, eyes closed, breathing convulsively. Well done, Daisy, she congratulated herself. She went to sleep, her arms curled tightly about her pillow.
“Be careful, Daisy,” Pete said the moment Daisy emerged from her bedroom that morning. “Someone like Chris Carter will trample mercilessly on your heart and not even take the trouble to look back. You know the reputation the band has.”
Daisy poured herself a cup of coffee, scoffing. “Oh, Pete, who even knows if those stories are true. They could just be legends that people make up to sensationalise the band, like the rumours we've heard about Zeppelin and the Stones. Maybe the same is true of the Connection. Anyway, I have it all under control; I know what I'm doing. Nothing happened last night and after Liverpool, we'll never see them again, right?”
“Wrong. Dev rang this morning. He and Chris were so impressed with our performance last night, they want to collaborate with us on some songs for an album that Dev wants to produce. We're all invited up to his place in Nethercombe in three weeks, after they get done with this leg of the tour. I've already accepted on behalf of the band. We can't pass up a chance like this. That's why I'm warning you now to mind yourself when you're with Chris.”
Daisy was excited about the prospect of collaborating with a band with the talent, creativity and notoriety of Easy Connection, but she just shrugged and walked away. When Pete couldn't see her face, she rolled her eyes, feeling nervous yet thrilled about seeing Chris again. There was such a sexual magnetism about him that it made her uneasy and excited all at the same time. If she'd known that there was the smallest chance she would see him again, she never would have left herself open, letting him hold her hand and flirt with her and touch her the way he had. It had been a miracle, not to mention a physical battle, that she had been able to resist him last night without falling all over him. She felt sure there was no way she would have the strength to do it over an entire weekend.
Chapter 2 of 'Third Book' - Easy Fame
True to his offer, Chris supplied Daisy with passes to the concert in Liverpool. She was very excited. She had always fantasized about what Connection would be like, live, in concert. But nothing could have prepared her for the reality of the concert. They did shocking things onstage that delighted Daisy. She was on her feet nearly the entire concert, cheering and screaming, her mind racing, wondering how much of their performance she could use on the smaller stage at Azra's. After the concert, the band came offstage, dripping with perspiration, grinning, on an emotional high from the reaction of the audience. Chris strolled right over to Daisy. He put his arm around her.
“Well? How was your first time?” he asked, his eyes twinkling.
Daisy, ignoring his innuendo, gushed like the devoted Connection fan that she was. “Oh, Chris, the concert was nothing like what I expected. It was amazing. I want to be just like you.”
He stepped back a little and looked at her, threw his head back and laughed.
“Looks like the Legend's grabbed her too, Chris.” Dev grinned. “You reckon she'll start another fan club?”
Daisy laughed with them, embarrassed. “I didn't mean it like that. I mean I want to own the audience like you do.” She held up a fist and talked excitedly. “I want to have them in the palm of my hand like you do. I have a measure of sexuality on stage, but it's nothing like what you have. You completely manipulate them.” She grabbed his arm. “You have to show me how you do it!”
Chris released his arm gently and put it around Daisy's shoulder. He spoke very softly and seductively in her ear, “I'll teach you everything you need to know.”
Daisy suddenly felt a little panicked. She pulled away. “Y-you mean about my stage presence, right?”
Chris smiled wickedly but said nothing.
The following weekend, the band was at Cox's Farm and they were all having a good time. Some song writing ideas were put out, but mostly during the day everybody was in the pool, playing around, having water fights, throwing people into the pool. Daisy and the guys worked hard at their jobs all week then at their music for the rest of the time, so this recreation time was well-deserved. She met Dev's wife and thought the exquisite-looking blonde painter was the perfect sort of mystical creature that someone like Paul Devlin should marry.
One afternoon at the farm, while everyone else was at the pool, Daisy was alone in Dev's recording studio. The band had decided to add AC/DC's “You Shook Me All Night Long” to their show and Daisy wanted to practice a dance that she would perform during the guitar break. She was barefoot and wore tight Lycra shorts and a tank top that showed off the curves of her body, so she could best see the moves she made. She watched reflection in the control booth glass.
“Ready for your first lesson in manipulation?” Chris was standing at the door.
Daisy was startled at the sound of his voice. She wondered how long he'd been watching. “I thought I was alone in the house.”
He half-smiled. “You're never alone, baby. Not while I'm here.” He put his drink down on the floor and walked over to her, standing very close to her. “First off, when you're onstage stop smiling so much. You want to control the audience, not be their friend.”
He put his hands on her hips and moved her body rapidly up against his. His breath was warm on her face. “You want to seduce them. Ruthlessly. Leave them no room for escape.” He danced with her in time to the music, moving his hips against hers. They both become very aware of each other's body heat and were aroused. He slid his smooth, tender hands skillfully up her bare back. Daisy breathing was very rapid and shallow. Her mind briefly flashed back to boyfriends she had while she was in school. Like her, they were children of the working class. Every boy she dated had after-school jobs doing hard work at factories. Their hands were rough, their skin dry and calloused. In every way, Chris was very different from those boys. With an effort, Daisy swallowed and spoke.
“W-what's lesson number two?” she stammered.
He laughed softly. Pulling her close to him, he slid his mouth over hers, kissing her gently, slowly. She pulled away, gasping slightly.
“I don't want to do this, Chris.”
She gestured between them. “This. Not while we're working together.” It was Daisy's safe way of putting a wedge between them and making it impossible for an affair to happen. She turned away and walked quickly out of the room, taking refuge outside where there were plenty of people.
In honour of their last night at the farm, Dev decided to throw a small party on the final night they were at the farm. He invited a friend of his, Dave Hampton, of Night Mission. Dave would be bringing his girlfriend, Janey Adams. People started arriving, so Daisy bounded up the stairs, hurrying to shower, overjoyed that she would be spending the entire evening with professional musicians. She still couldn't believe this opportunity had presented itself. While she showered, she was in such a good mood that she started to blissfully sing one of her favourite Easy Connection tunes into the shampoo bottle, faithfully matching each of Chris' high-pitched notes. She emerged into the adjoining bedroom wearing only a towel, her hair dripping down her back. She began removing the towel to dry off then put it back in place quickly, startled to see Chris reclining lazily on his side on her bed, propped up on his elbow. His eyes roved up and down her body, taking in her scant attire, and grinned.
“What the hell are you doing in here?” she demanded.
“Admiring your singing,” he smiled broadly. “I couldn't resist. You sing that song almost as well as I do.”
“Thanks. Now get out so I can get changed.” He shrugged, grinning, and slid off the bed, grazing her bare shoulder with his hand as he left the room. It was nerve-wracking for Daisy to be so close to Chris. The night she met him, she felt sure she would never see him again, so she saw no harm in flirting with him. Now she was wishing she'd thought better of it and done things differently.
She came down a few minutes later in a long-sleeved black satiny shirt and jeans. Her long black hair hung down, glistening beautifully from being freshly washed. All the guests were in the living area. She couldn't believe her eyes. As Dev promised, there was Dave Hampton and Janey Adams, sitting together on one of the sofas, Dave's arm hanging on Janey's shoulders. Everyone in the room turned to look up at Daisy coming down the stairs.
“Here she is at last,” Chris smiled. Daisy took his proffered hand to guide her into the seat next to him on the sofa.
After everyone was properly introduced, Dev, his arm around his wife, smiled at Daisy, “Okay, Daisy, we've waited long enough. Give us a song.”
“Play You Don't See Me Standing Here,” she said to Pete. He began to play the guitar. It was one of their new songs, a slow melody they had written together that told the story of a girl alone in a torturous encompassing darkness, emotionally unseen by the one she was in love with. Daisy's voice rose to something like a woeful lamentation and Pete's guitar pulsated strongly, to match the sorrow of the song. Daisy closed her eyes and belted out the last line of the song, “But you don't see me standing here.” She held the last high note for a long time. Her voice was like the high-pitched screech of an electric guitar. When the song finished she opened her eyes and looked at the faces watching her sing, waiting for their opinion. Everyone, Chris and Dev included, was staring at her, overwhelmed by her strong voice, moved to silence. She looked at Pete, who only smiled at her, knowing that she'd blown everyone away.
Chris and Dev simultaneously broke the silence with resounding applause. Everyone else in the room jolted out of their silence and began to applaud. Chris' eyes were dazzling. He looked at Daisy and wrapped his arms around her waist, kissing her. “I've never heard anything like that before. It was phenomenal! I'm so turned on. Where the hell did you learn to sing like that?”
Daisy smiled, suddenly feeling shy. “I didn't learn. I just do it.”
Dave smiled and looked at Janey. “She's got a gift like you, Janey.”
Janey shrugged and said darkly. “But that gift can be a curse. It's like a beautiful apple with a bloody worm in the centre of it. No time to yourself or to be with the people you love. Just work and interviews and appearances and then more work. It never ends.”
Daisy said nothing, but she thought it was a strange thing for Janey to say. How could such a gift be a curse? She had heard Janey Adams sing before and she didn't hear anything that smacked of a curse. Chris and Dev changed the mood and began regaling their guests with off-colour stories of some of the girls they'd met on the road over the years. They took turns telling stories, finishing each other's sentences, sending everyone into fits of laughter at the absurd things some of the women would do to meet these famous, gorgeous men.
Daisy laughed so hard her sides ached. “Time out, guys, please. I need a refill on my drink. You're killing me with these stories.” She shook her head, laughing, and went to the bar. Chris followed her, topping off his drink. Daisy smiled at him. “I wonder what kind of stories we'll have to tell one day. Like what kind of things crazy girls will do to be with Pete, or Reg, or John.”
His eyes roved down her body. “Or what a man will do to be with you.” Daisy felt her heart flip over, as she turned pink. Chris laughed. “Can you picture yourself being famous?” he asked.
She nodded enthusiastically. “I can. We've come such a long way from what we were four years ago. We have such creative potential. I can see us being really successful and bringing our music to the masses.”
Chris' mood changed suddenly. His eyes darkened and he sneered at her. “Be careful what you wish for. There's always a price to pay. That success that you want so much will harden you.”
Daisy's eyes narrowed. “What's wrong with wanting to be successful? It hasn't hurt you one bit. You've got a nice car, a nice flat, any girl you want, lots of money. What's wrong with me wanting the same things for myself?”
He was suddenly very close to her. “Take my word for it, baby, being rich and famous will shatter all your dreams into little bits and leave you completely empty. Look at Janey. Then there're the lies. People will say things about you in the papers, whether they're true or not, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. It'll make any kind of normal life impossible.”
She glared at him. “Apparently it'll make you bitter and cynical as well.”
He shook his head at her. “You'll get my meaning one day and you'll regret ever even thinking about wanting to be famous!” He laughed without humour. “Long live rock'n roll!”
He stalked out of the room, leaving Daisy to stare after him.
Later that night, when most of the party had fallen asleep, Daisy sat alone on the bed in her room at Cox's Farm, barefoot, wearing jean cut-offs and a powder blue t-shirt with very short sleeves. The colour of the shirt made Daisy's blue eyes burn a brighter blue than normal. Obsessed by a creative streak that had hit her only a few hours ago, she picked her guitar up and strummed out a few notes. She made a disgusted face and changed the chord progression slightly. That time was a little better, but it still needed something.
“What are you working on?” Chris stood at the door wearing only tight jeans. He was always sneaking up on her like that, just appearing, seemingly, out of nowhere. Daisy stared for a long time at his bare muscular chest until she became aware of Chris watching her. He lit a cigarette and sat down so close to her on the bed that his warm skin was brushing up against her.
She moved over slightly so that they weren't touching anymore. “A new song I started writing.” She cleared her throat and her voice didn't shake now. “It's called `Fire in My Heart.' It's about really wanting someone, but knowing that it would be lethal to give in to that person, you're just stuck with this burning, consuming desire for him…or her, ”she corrected herself quickly, when she felt Chris' penetrating stare.
She got up on her knees and from her pockets pulled out wadded-up napkins, all written on, and let the papers fall onto the bed. She reached into the other pocket and produced folded-up receipts with something written on the back of all of them. She unfolded and smoothed out all the pieces and arranged them on the bed in an order known only to her.
She looked at the little sea of white that was in front of her and looked at Chris, smiling, shrugging and spreading her arms out. “You never know when creativity will strike, right?”
“Right.” Chris smiled back at her, knowing only too well the messy disorder artists sometimes made on the path to creativity.
She flipped her hair back, laid her guitar next to her on the bed and sat back on her heels in front of the papers, looking at Chris. “So I thought the song could start out with just a drum beat, an erotic rhythm, something like a heartbeat, like this…”
With her hands, she pounded out the rhythm on wood of the guitar. “Then as the tempo picks up, Pete could come in on the guitar. I'm still trying to figure out a way to incorporate something similar to the sound of a blazing fire, when the flames are really big. I think he may be able to duplicate it if he works his fingers just right on the chords.”
She gestured expansively with her hands as she began to talk faster, vivaciously. “And I wanted to add something else with the keyboard. I could bring Lizzie in for that; she's really amazing. I want to give the song that mystical sound like you guys have with your music. I love that sound.” She stopped abruptly. She got so excited when she had an idea for a song or if she was just talking about music, she found that her breathing was rapid and shaky. Her face was flushed and her eyes danced. Chris was looking at her earnestly. He moved close to her again and, still holding her gaze, put his arm gently but firmly around her waist.
“What was it that brought you to England? You never told me,” he reminded her.
Daisy was startled at the abrupt change in subject. She bit her lip, looking into his eyes then away again, trying to decide whether or not to tell him. His eyes penetrated hers persuasively. “My mother died when I was fifteen. My father insisted that I come live with him and his wife, Helen and her two kids from her first marriage.”
“The wicked stepmother?”
“No, not at all. On the contrary, I love Helen. I couldn't have asked for a better stepmother.” It was true. Her stepmother had always taken good care of Daisy, giving her the space necessary to a 15-year old girl. She made sure that Daisy was comfortable in her new home, buying her things that she felt any young woman should have.
“She told me recently that before I moved here, she had a long talk with Pete and Vivien and told them that because of what happened to me with my mom, they would all share the responsibility of looking after me, until I was okay. They've been really great, especially Pete. He could have resented my coming here, but he never did. The first six months here were especially hard on me. My mom had just died; I was starting a new school in a new country. And on top of that, after I'd only been here a month, the biggest girl bully in school decided to pick a fight with me for who knows what reason.”
“Who won?” Chris grinned, intrigued at the thought of a girl-on-girl fight.
Daisy laughed, reading his thoughts, and flexed her muscle. “Who do you think?” Then her voice changed. “You oughta see the other guy,” she said in a mock man-voice. They laughed together.
Chris became serious again. “So your mom and dad never got married to each other? That must have been hard on you.”
“Well, my mom didn't want to move here and my dad didn't want to move to the States. But he sent money to us, sent us whatever we needed, whatever he could whenever he could. It was hard because he's just a typical working class guy and didn't have a lot of money. But my mom understood that, so we made do with what we had. He was always as good a sport as he could be about the whole thing, never really abandoned us.” Daisy stared off into space reflectively for a moment, then she looked back at Chris. She was shocked at the things she was disclosing to him. She'd never discussed her mother's death with anyone before, especially not to someone she'd only just met. “I still remember the deep depression that hit me and stayed with me for an eternity, or at least it felt like an eternity at the time. I thought it would never end.”
“What changed?” His voice was very gentle. He seemed genuinely interested in what had happened to Daisy.
She looked away and laughed, looked back at Chris and bashfully laughed again. “It's a little embarrassing to talk about.”
Chris smiled encouragingly. “C'mon, it can't be as bad as all that.”
She took a deep breath. “Okay.” She rolled her eyes and laughed shortly again. “I…I heard some music coming out of Pete's room one afternoon after school. I was drawn to it, without understanding why. It was this….”she paused, looking for the words, “this insanely beautiful and unique rock music with elements of fantasy and carnal lust mixed into it…not in the words, but in the music. Well, in the words, too, in some of the songs. There was an amazing raw emotion in the singer's voice, in the instruments, in the theme of the songs. I asked Pete who it was and he introduced me to…”she paused again… “My very first Easy Connection album.” She bit her lip as she watched Chris' face. “I was immediately hooked. It lifted my spirits. Changed my life.” She laughed softly and blushed a little.
Chris' voice was soft and low as he gazed at her. “You mean I saved you.”
Daisy drew in a quick breath and she abruptly looked away from him. It was an idiotic, romantic way to put it, but it was truth. Chris, Dev, the whole band, saved her from the despair of her mother's death, her feeling of not belonging anywhere, her utter desolation. Chris already knew Daisy's answer. He took her face in his hands and began kissing her softly at first, then passionately, insistent. She was receptive at first, her lips hungrily seeking his. Then she suddenly pulled away, not wanting to give in.
Knowing what she was thinking, Chris turned her face to look up at him. He was smiling and his eyes were glowing urgently. “You can't fight it, Daisy. I'm the fire in your heart.”
He began to kiss her again. She saw no point in trying to fight her attraction to him anymore. He could see right through her, it was better to just get it over with so they could both move on. She put her hands on his body and leaned into him, eagerly returning his kisses. They removed each other's clothes and held each other close, responding wildly to the intensity of their desire for each other.
Daisy lay awake after only a few hours of sleep, troubled. She felt an iron-like arm across her waist. She looked over at Chris, surprised to see that he was hadn't left. She slipped noiselessly out of bed, brushed her teeth, packed and got dressed. She moved down the hall to Pete's guestroom, tapping gently on the door.
“What is it, Daisy?” Pete said when he came to the door.
“Nothing. I'm fine. But we have to get out of here, Pete. I don't want to stay a minute longer.”
Pete looked at her soberly. He knew. “Did you sleep with him?” Daisy said nothing, just looked away.
“All right,” he said, "Give me a minute to get my things together. Then we'll go.” A few minutes later, they crept quickly and quietly out of the house without saying good-bye.
Chapter 3 of 'Third Book' - Easy Fame
At her job on Monday, Daisy spent the entire day thinking of Chris and what to do, how to behave around him, what to say to him the next time she saw him, whenever that might be. When she came home from work, Lizzie was sitting on the sofa in the living room. Daisy was relieved to see her. They both went to Daisy's room and she agonizingly told Lizzie everything that had happened that weekend.
“But I'm not going to run after him like some love-sick groupie,” she said, feeling resolute. “ I'm just going to forget about what happened while we were at the Farm and move on.”
“Daisy, that's going to be nearly impossible. What will you do about the album? Pete said you'd be recording at Dev's studio. You're bound to run into Chris at Dev's place.”
Daisy put her head in her hands. “I don't know,” she was nearly whining, “I hadn't thought about that yet. No matter what happens, I've got to get control of this situation before it gets control of me.” She lifted her head, an idea dawning on her. “I'll just be professional and insist that Chris behave the same way. I'll stay away from him until it's absolutely necessary. Like when we're recording the album. Or working on a song.”
Lizzie looked at her sadly, her pale blue eyes almost pitying. “Poor Daisy. He's so spectacular-looking and gorgeous and he really seems to like you. You won't be able to avoid him forever. How many guys that you've been with have asked about your mother and actually shown any kind of interest in what you went through?”
Daisy looked away crossly. “He made me tell him.”
“Made you tell him? What, did he beat it out of you?”
She grinned. “No. It was this look in his eyes. I can't explain it.” She shrugged. “He was probably just doing it to make me let my guard down so he could lure me into his little trap. Besides, I'm not trying to avoid him completely.” She flopped down on the bed and sighed. “I just don't want to end up in bed with him again.”
As she was leaving work the following day, Daisy looked up and saw Chris standing up against his car, signing autographs for several adoring women who had gathered around him. She couldn't believe it. She thought surely he was done with her now and she would only see him at Dev's place. She retreated a few steps to go wait inside the building until he'd left, but he looked up suddenly and she froze. He broke away from the group of eager fans and crossed the street.
He closed his hands around hers and pulled her into his arms, kissing her possessively on the mouth. “You left so suddenly yesterday morning, I didn't have a chance to see you off.”
Daisy raised an eyebrow. “Were you wanting me to hang around so you could bring me breakfast in bed? That doesn't seem like your style.”
Chris laughed. “I just wanted to see you before you left, that's all.” He leaned forward to kiss her again, raising his eyebrows when Daisy turned her head away. “Playing hard to get, Daisy?”
“You weren't so hard to get last night.”
“Last night was a mistake.”
His face quickly changed. Daisy couldn't tell if he was angry or not, but he was making her uneasy.
“I'm sorry if that hurts your ego. But I don't go around sleeping with guys I've just met. I usually have to know a guy for at least a year before I'll even let him kiss me.”
“I don't have that long to wait, love. We're leaving for Australia in a few days.”
She removed his arm. “Look, Chris, I don't know what you're expecting from me. But I'm not going to come panting after you like some star-struck admirer, just hanging around, waiting for you to give me a bit of your attention.”
“That's not I want.”
“What do you want?”
“I'm not sure. I just want to be with you. We'll see how things go from there, see how far we want to take it. Nothing wrong in that, is there?”
So much for having the situation under control, Daisy thought. “I suppose not.”
“Good.” He kissed her again, slowly this time. He wrapped her in his arms. “Come on, I'll take you home.”
Chris was eating at the flat the next night when Lizzie showed up, looking grimly at Daisy.
“I know you don't look at the papers normally, but you may want to start now.” Lizzie dropped a copy of the Mirror on the table. Daisy gasped, her mouth dropping open. On the page were two large color photographs, side-by-side, one of Chris kissing Daisy, the other of him with his arm around her, smiling into her eyes. The headline read “Chris Carter and his new Connection.”
“Christ, it's on the front page,” Daisy groaned, putting her head in her hands.
“Well, you said you wanted to be famous,” Chris said mockingly, his eyes unreadable.
Daisy looked up, glaring at him. Her voice was icy. “I do want to be famous. As the talented lead vocalist of a talented band, not as a pretty girl hanging on Chris Carter's arm.” She shook her head vigorously. “We can't be seen together in public anymore. No more picking me up from work, no going out together. I'm not going to have my career ruined before it even gets started just because I was careless.”
Chris was angry. “You mean to tell me that I can't take my girl out for dinner or to a nice club on the off chance someone might spot us and take a picture?”
“We slept together once. That doesn't make me your girl.”
His eyes flickered. “Shall we have another go at it, then?”
Daisy pressed her lips together. She was in no mood for his casual sexual bantering. “When Black Velvet hits the big-time, you can take me out anywhere you like, anytime you like. But until then, we keep a low profile. I'm not going to have people thinking I got famous just because I showed up to a club with someone famous. I'm not riding into fame on your coattails, Chris.”
He stood up swiftly, incensed, knocking his chair over. “Look, Daisy, this is how the game is played. If you're with someone famous, you get your picture in the paper. Cathy got used to it, you'll have to get used to it too.”
Daisy stood up, face-to-face with Chris, her eyes blazing. What did he mean by comparing her to Cathy? “Well, I'm not Cathy, am I? I'm not married to a famous rock star. Anyway, she didn't have a singing career that she was trying to get off the ground. She's a painter and doesn't have to rely on newspaper reports for the sake of her career. I do, and I understand that I'll have to be in the public eye, but I'll do it on my terms, no one else's. Not yours, not this stupid photographer or his damned editor. If it's so important to you that `the game' is played your way, maybe you need to be seeing a girl who'll just keep her mouth shut and do as she's told.”
They stood, staring at each other, fierce and unbending.
“I don't like it anymore than you do, Daisy. But that's something you'll have to get accustomed to if you want to be famous. You'll always be living in public. You can't hide anything from those vultures.”
“Well I don't want to end up in the papers unless it's because of something Black Velvet has done. Please try to understand why I'm doing this, Chris. It's important to me that I become famous because of what I do…” she stopped dead, but it was too late. Chris raised his eyebrows at her, smiling wickedly.
“Not because of who you do?”
Daisy couldn't help laughing. “Exactly.”
Christmas finally came and Daisy left London to spend the holiday with her dad and stepmom. She always arrived late on Christmas Eve so she could help Helen with all the food preparation. She loved cooking, it was her favourite part of the holidays. She grinned, wondering if perhaps she would have to hide that part of herself once she became a famous rock star.
She walked up the pathway to the home of her adolescence, smiling and looking around the pleasant yard that was peppered with big trees, cool and well-shaded in the summertime. Daisy wanted to live somewhere like this someday. She thought about having a nice house out in the country. She wanted children too, lots of children. But all that would have to wait; the band and her singing came first.
When her stepmother greeted her at the door, she said, “And just wait until you see who's come to spend Christmas with us.” As the two women walked into the house, Helen pointed to her small grandson playing on the kitchen floor.
“Colin!” Daisy squealed delightedly. Little Colin was a chubby fifteen-month old with brown hair and big brown eyes. Daisy picked him up and twirled him around, kissing the soft baby skin on his cheek. He screeched happily.
“Viv and Edward will be along tomorrow,” Helen said to Daisy, referring to the toddler's parents. “But I wanted Colin here with just us, so I picked him up early. Your father's in the study. He's smart, he knows by now to stay out of the way while we're cooking.” Helen laughed.
Daisy looked around. “Pete's not here either? He left London before I did.”
“He called this morning, said he was picking up a surprise and would be here later.”
Daisy put the baby down, donned an apron and began cooking. She worked quickly and deftly. Before long she had flour all over her apron and a little on her face. Her hair had been tightly pinned up, but a few strands had escaped and tumbled down in tendrils to frame her face. Even though she was a mess, she still somehow looked extremely beautiful. The baby toddled over to her, handing her his toy and gurgling something to her in his baby talk. She stopped what she was doing and picked him up.
Pete's voice floated into the kitchen from the entrance hall. “Hello, anyone home?”
Daisy ran to greet him with the baby on her hip. She stopped short when she saw Chris standing next to Pete, smiling challengingly, daring her to object. She thought he was on tour in Australia. “Here's the surprise I promised,” Pete laughed.
Chris walked up to Daisy. “Well, well, just look at our little mother,” he teased her. He kissed her on the mouth. She felt like she was greeting her husband, just come home from a long day at the office. “Merry Christmas, Daisy.”
“What are you doing here?” She asked, breathless and flushed.
“Bill rescheduled some of our Australian tour dates so we could come home for Christmas.”
“No, I mean what are you doing here at my house?”
“Pete invited me. It seemed like a good idea, spending Christmas with Daisy and her family. So, here I am.” He tugged the baby's little fist as he walked by, whistling at the large home.
“I thought you said your father was working class, Daisy. I don't know any working class people who live in a house like this.” Daisy wondered if he knew any working class people at all.
“Spoils of war, Chris,” Pete grinned. “My mum got it in the divorce.” Seeing Daisy's eyes blazing, Pete tried to walk by casually. She grabbed his arm.
“You invited him?” she hissed.
Pete's voice was soft, full of empathy for their lonely rock star guest. “Come on, Daisy, have a heart. He really didn't seem keen on going to his parents' for Christmas, so I invited him here. He'll have a much better time with us.”
“Pete, Christmas is our time to be with our family. I feel like I'm being invaded.”
Pete looked at her reproachfully. “Oh, Daisy, don't be so dramatic, nobody's trying to invade. Anyway, Chris practically is family, isn't he?” He laughed at her furious look. “Ok, Chris, you're up on the second floor, the room next to mine.”
As everything was cooking, Daisy went up to her room to unpack her things. She looked around after she finished. Nothing had changed since she moved out two years ago. Her fluffy red and black matted pillows lay on the bed and the walls were still the same shiny black she had insisted on painting them, much to Helen's horror. She looked up smiling at the poster over her bed. She had decorated her room specifically to compliment the large poster of Chris Carter. He was standing in front of a red backdrop, his head bent, looking straight ahead direct, seductively. He wore black leather trousers and a black leather vest that was unbuttoned, hanging open, showing off a solid, sexy chest and stomach muscles. His arms were wide open. After all the hours she spent staring at the poster, Daisy had never been able to determine if his arms were open in welcome or challenge. Now that she knew him, she'd definitely have to say a challenge. She smiled at the poster and left the room, closing the door. Chris was coming down the hall.
“Where did you run off to?”
“Just to unpack.” Why was he wandering around in her home as though he lived there? He was a guest but he had already taken over in the house.
“Is this your room?”
She stood aside and smiled, pointing to the big gold star she had mounted on her door shortly after joining the band. She had signed her name on it, a final draft after hours of practising the perfect autograph signature.
“Let's have a look, then.”
“No! It's a little messy. I haven't put everything away yet.” She was thinking of the poster; she didn't want him to see it. The last thing she needed was for him to see her as some kind of wild-eyed groupie, though she didn't know why it mattered. Chris shrugged and turned to walk away, with Daisy slightly in front of him. He turned back and opened the door before Daisy could stop him. He laughed at the sight of his own eyes staring back at him.
“All right,” Daisy said, embarrassed. “You've seen it, can we go now?”
“Great poster!” He was mocking her.
“No, really, I think that's one of my favourite pictures of me.”
Her face felt hot. “I said shut up!”
They went into the living room and joined Pete on the sofa. Chris grinned at Pete.
“I was just admiring the poster on Daisy's wall.”
Pete laughed loudly. “Every time we went into the record shop, she was drooling over it. I finally bought it for her. I would pass her room and she'd be on her bed with her feet propped against the wall, staring at the poster. God knows how long she'd been sitting like that.”
Chris stared at Daisy, his grey eyes penetrating, mysterious. “It's Karma.”
Later that evening, worn out from the day's activities, Daisy sat quietly on the sofa with the baby, listening to his gibberish. Chris came in and sat down very close to her, putting his arms around her. She laid her head on his shoulder. A long silence passed, but neither of them noticed.
“Well, this would make a sweet photograph,” Helen came into the room, smiling. “Let me get my camera.” Daisy and Chris smiled nicely.
“Take one more, Helen,” Chris said. He turned Daisy's face toward him and kissed her.
After she took the picture, Helen stood silently for a moment, looking consideringly at the three sitting on the couch. She then came over and took the baby out of Daisy's arms. “It's time for this little one to be asleep. I'll be in the study if you need anything else tonight.” She left, speaking softly to the baby.
It was peacefully quiet in the room again. Chris stroked Daisy's hair, making her drowsy. He leaned forward, kissing her slowly, then leaned back, just holding her and looking down at her. She looked sleepily into his light grey eyes.
“There're so many different sides to you. Daisy Carroll, the sexy seductress on the stage. Then there's the beautiful girl offstage. And this afternoon you answer the door looking like the lady of the house all messy from making dinner, with a baby on your hip. Who's the real Daisy Carroll?”
“They're all me. What about you? Who is the real Chris Carter?”
“What you see is what you get.” He didn't sound very convincing.
Daisy laughed tauntingly. “I don't believe that for a second. You're the Legend, like Dev said. All of you are. No, there's a real you in there somewhere. It's my mission in life to find him.” Chris laughed at her. She changed the subject to something that had been bothering her since their little row at Cox's Farm. “Chris, do you ever regret becoming famous?”
He sighed deeply. “Sometimes. Being famous, you can't make a move without it being reported in the newspapers. Well, you know. Even the day you and I were together outside your office it was reported in the papers. You have to live out your life in public all the time. It gets difficult. Then you meet people who go on and on about how talented and wonderful you are. But you find yourself always thinking in the back of your mind if they mean what they say or are they just telling you what they think you want to hear because they want something from you.”
“But surely there have been benefits to your fame. It can't all have been bad.”
“Yeah, I love the music, the excitement of performing onstage every night. But it can be awful sometimes, having to go on even when you don't feel like it and still having to give a hundred percent. But anyway,” he changed his voice to a falsetto, “ `You've got a nice car, a nice flat, any girl you want, lots of money.' ” He was making fun of what Daisy had said that night at the farm. “It's true, I could have any girl I want. But after a while, it's all the same. It's always the same kind of girls following the band wanting the same thing. They just want an excuse to touch you, to sleep with you, to be with the Legend. It's not real anymore. You want something different. A real girl with real dreams. A family.”
It was Daisy's turn to poke fun. “A family? You? That's not very rock and roll, is it?” She paused for a moment, pondering. “You mean you want something like what Cathy and Dev have?”
Chris was silent for such a long time that Daisy turned to stare at him. “Yeah, like what they have.” There was an odd tone in his voice. “But their relationship has had its share of problems. They got off to a rocky start.”
“They're okay now though, right?”
“They're great now. The perfect little family. Couldn't be happier.” He sounded bitter. Abruptly, he stood up. “I'm off to bed. See you in the morning.”
On Christmas morning, Daisy's sister and brother-in-law arrived for breakfast. After all the dishes were cleared away, the women hastily began preparations for Christmas dinner, talking and laughing while they cooked. Pete played with the baby in front of the television.
When dinner was nearly ready, Daisy rushed into the living room and began assigning duties to the men, pointing to each person as she spoke. “Edward, you take out the rubbish that's in the kitchen. Pete, you and Chris move the table and chairs into the dining room and put the extra leaves in the table. Then all of you get the extra chairs and put them around the table.” Everyone immediately jumped to attention except for Chris who sat motionless on the couch, staring at Daisy. She stood over him, hands on her hips.
“You deaf? Move it! Dinner's almost ready.” She clapped her hands together.
He got up, laughing. “I had no idea you were so bossy and domineering, Daisy.”
Pete snorted. “You'll get used to it, we all did. We've had to deal with it ever since she moved to England. She just sails into a room and takes over. Better you know now as later.”
Daisy looked Chris in the eye, grinning wickedly. “Well, you want a real woman, this is what you get.”
As a custom, the Carroll family did not exchange gifts on Christmas. They instead chose to concentrate on spending the holiday with each other, enjoying the company. Pete told this to Chris ahead of time to spare him any embarrassment in case he had thought he had to bring something for everyone.
Later, Chris took Daisy aside privately, looking about to make sure they were alone. “I have something for you.” He produced a small white box from behind his back. When he opened it before Daisy, there was a pendant nestled atop tissue paper. It was a circular design, cut from green jade. It had a carved silver dragon in the centre of it, and another one on top of the jade piece with a hole in it for the silver chain that it hung from. There were carved silver butterflies on the top and bottom of the jade disc, and silver frogs on either side.
Daisy drew in a breath. “Oh, Chris. It's beautiful!” He looked into Daisy's eyes while he fastened the pendant around her slender throat from the back. His fingers glided sensually down her neck. She swallowed hard as he put his arms round her waist, speaking arousingly into her ear. “Think of me while I'm away, Daisy love.” He kissed her ear, his breath warm and soft. His lips traced her face from her ear to her mouth. Melting, she slid her hands round his waist to his back, holding on, letting him kiss her slowly, his lips passionately caressing hers.
© Copyright 2005 Rebecca Martin.
If you would like to read further chapters of Rebecca's
fan-fiction Third Book, email a request to her at
making sure that you put 'EASY FAME' in the subject line.
Rebecca Ellis, Chapter 1 of Book 3,
Briannon stared at the ceiling above her bed. She had done so for the last half an hour, putting off getting up till the very last minute. In bed, she could imagine she was still in her room in Ireland, with its plush furnishings and bay window, rather than her cramped flat in London, with its mouldy walls and musty odour. She had only been back in London a few months but she already missed the open spaces and quiet sounds of Ireland.
Technically she was a Londoner, having been born there and stayed till she was 12, but her Irish roots and the 11 years spent there wiped the fact from her mind. With a sigh, she rolled out of bed and went about her morning routine.
Ten minutes later, she was sat at her desk in the study/lounge and on the 'phone. Briannon's dream was to be a writer but until her worldwide bestseller was written and published, the bills were paid by doing freelance articles for various magazines and journals. She was currently working for "Lightning", a magazine that specialised in British pop culture, and it was to its editor that she was talking.
"We've got a big story for you to cover. Ever heard of Easy Connection?"
Briannon laughed. Who hadn't heard of them? They were all over the newspapers, and even a girl like her who preferred novels to real life dramas had heard about them and their troubles.
"Yes. What about them exactly do you want me to write about?" There's a lot to choose from, she thought. Between Paul Devlin's love life and drug problems, and the music itself, writing about the Connection would take books, not articles.
"We want Chris's side of the story. Y'know, what he thinks of Cathy, her effect on Dev, the future of the band. It'd be an interesting take and one that hasn't been done before. Think about it, Annie darling, this could bring your name into the spotlight. Your big break, as it were."
Though she cringed at being called "Annie darling", Briannon knew that Mr. Thomas, the editor, was right. There had been few pictures or interviews with Chris Carter, and she herself knew very little about him. If she got this interview, she would be famous.
"OK, I'll do it. How do I get to speak to the legendary Mr. Carter?"
"He's holding a press conference outside the hospital where Dev's staying at noon today. Attend it, and then approach him after. Use your feminine whiles to charm him, he's a sucker for a pretty lady."
I will not do anything so degrading she thought righteously, but thanked Mr. Thomas anyway and hung up. She got up from her desk and went into her bedroom to get ready.
Chris Carter walked out of the hospitals double doors and into a barrage of press people.
"Mr. Carter, how is Dev?"
"Chris, Chris, is Cathy back?"
"What's going to happen with the tour?"
He held his hand up to silence them and flashed one of his devastating smiles.
"I can happily say that Dev is well on the way to recovery and will be going home any time now, along with his lovely wife Cathy." His eyes darkened at the memory of the couple's joyful reunion, Cathy's glowing face buried in Dev's shoulder and Dev holding her with all his returning strength. Chris shook the thought out of his head and continued.
"The tour has been cancelled till Dev is 100 percent better. Who knows, we may have even more material by then. That is all, there will be no questions."
He turned away from the questions that came regardless, and re-entered the hospital.
Briannon stepped away from the throng of journalists and sneaked into a side entrance unnoticed. She'd had years of practise at being unseen, even with her fiery hair, as she'd found it the best way to avoid the teasing of her looks and studious ways. She roamed the hospital halls deep in thought.
Never before had she seen even a picture of Chris Carter, yet he looked incredibly familiar to her. She was still thinking when she caught sight of his blonde hair down the corridor in front of her.
"Mr. Carter! Chris!" she shouted, but the head did not turn. His face swam across her eyes and something deep in memory fell into place.
Chris stopped dead. He turned slowly to face the woman who had called him by a name abandoned long ago. He stared at her, looking her over from head to toe. Long, reddish-brown hair that fought to escape from its restraining bun.
Bright, sharp green eyes that matched his strong gaze and held it briefly. An angular face that went with her slender frame and long legs. Her skin was milky pale and her mouth, set in a determined line, glowed deep red against it.
She smiled. "Long time no see, Gabriel."
Recognition flared in Chris.
"Bri?" he questioned incredulously.
She nodded, and he fought rising disbelief. This couldn't be the same chubby girl he'd grown up with, protected from the idiots who hated her for her intelligence and for his name and surprising strength. She laughed at the expression on his face.
"Aren't you going to ask me how I am?"
Rebecca Ellis Chapter 2 of Book 3:
Chris started laughing. He recognised that tone. He pulled her to him in a
tight embrace. How long had it been since he'd seen her?
"Bri! It's been what?"
She pulled out of his arms slightly so she could look at him. "Ten years Gabriel. Ten whole years."
"It's not Gabriel anymore. I'm Chris now."
What he said was true. She saw little resemblance to that idealistic boy in
the man in front of her. Life had made those bright eyes dangerous, a
warning against living recklessly.
"So what have you been up to? Don't tell me you're a journalist?" He said
the word like it was poison.
"I'm a writer. Journalism just gives me the financial freedom to be one.
Anyway, who are you to judge, Mr. Rock Star? What happened to the boy who
wanted to change the world, eh?" She said it half joking, half accusing.
"He grew up. He realised that one person doesn't have the power to change
He really has changed she thought sadly. He used to believe so much.but that
was changing even before you left, a voice in her mind reminded her. Still.
"One day, I swear, I'll stop this for good." The boy's face shone earnestly
as he spoke. "I'll make people see that it's not fair."
"You will Gabriel?" The girl sniffed loudly. Gabriel smiled at her and wiped
the tears of her cheeks.
"I promise, Bri. Those bullies will pay, someday. When they grow up, they'll
see. Me and you, we'll be better than them."
"Yeah!" Bri joined in, matching his enthusiasm. "We'll show them together.
When they come to us for help because they have no job and no money, we can
say that they shouldn't have laughed at me. They shouldn't have picked on me
for being clever."
"That's the spirit. When you get to my age, you'll see the truth for
yourself." He winked at her, making their conversation more light-hearted.
"Your age?" she cried indignantly. "You're only three years older than me,
Mr. Big Shot 14 year old." She laughed anyway. He was only doing it to wind
her up, knowing how much she hated to be told: "You'll find out when you're
"D'ya want to come round for tea? Mum says you're always welcome and she
always makes too much."
Gabriel nodded eagerly, thinking of the tin of soup his parents had left him
whilst they went for a business dinner.
"C'mon then." He took her hand and they walked home.
"Hey?" Chris was looking at her questioningly.
"What? Sorry, zoned out for a minute there. Do you want to come back to my
place, catch up properly?" All thoughts of the article had left her mind.
"Sure. I've got a few things to do here first. Give me an hour?"
She gave him the address to her flat and turned back down the corridor,
leaving him staring after her. He carried on walking and entered Dev's room
deep in thought.
"You look like you've seen a ghost, mate" Dev was sat up in bed, flicking
through a magazine.
"You could say that." Chris sat down in the plastic hospital chair next to
the bed. "Where's the lovely wife?"
"Gone to the flat, to get a rest, a shower. Poor little baby was worn out.
I've managed to persuade her to let me take care of her." Dev was smiling
broadly, buoyed by Cathy finally admitting she needed him and their son.
Chris was happy for his closest friend but the pain of seeing Cathy so happy
with someone else still stung. He forced a smile.
"Doctor said you'll be free to go soon. Tomorrow morning, probably. I'll
organise a car to take the pair of you back to Nethercombe."
"You're not coming with us?"
"No. I don't want to get in the way of happy families."
Chris couldn't face seeing the two of them fawning over each other. He wished them well, truly he did, but he needed time. He'd never get over Cathy but someday the burden, the pain, would lessen. It had to.
Dev's eyes were stern. "You're as much a part of this family as anyone, Chris."
"I know but you two deserve time alone. It's fine. Anyway, some business has
come up in town." His thoughts turned back to the girl in the corridor. Bri.
"Chris?" Dev was talking again, dragging him back to the present.
"I said, business or a girl? I know that look, ol' buddy."
"Just someone. I have to go. I'll be back to see you off tomorrow."
He got up and turned to leave the room.
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"That doesn't rule out much. Goodbye, Dev."
"I can't believe how you've turned out."
Bri and Chris were sat drinking coffee at her dining room table. Bri looked
at him speculatively. He'd had that distracted expression on his face since
he'd been there. He'd replied to her questions with one-word answers or
non-committal grunts. He looked at her now, intrigued by her statement.
"How do you mean?"
"The way you were heading when I left, I thought you'd be all drinks, drugs,
girls." She stopped.
Chris laughed loudly.
"You know I am, babe, just with a bit of mega stardom along the way."
"You always said you'd make it to the top. Change the world. Guess you've
done that too." She said softly.
In a way I have, he thought, staring into his coffee mug. Lead singer of
Easy Connection, supposedly one of the biggest and most influential bands of
all time. Being here with her had brought back memories of what he'd once
wanted, a long time ago. Before he'd developed his cynical view of this
bleak world. When he still believed.
"Do you remember the day I left?" Bri was staring into her mug now too.
"Like it was yesterday. You cried so much that I could never quite get my
T-shirt dry again."
She laughed. "That sounds about right. I really didn't want to go. Even
though, I hated my school, our street, I didn't want to leave. But then, I
didn't want to come back either. Strange how things turn out."
Different images of the two of them together flooded Chris's brain. It was
too much. He stood up abruptly, knocking his chair over.
"I have to go but I'll come back. Some other time."
It was too late; he'd already gone. Bri sighed. Something had hurt him,
changed him and she had to find out what. She'd make it better for him, like
he had for her so many times before. The phone rang.
"Annie darling, it's me. How was the press conference?"
Shit, the article! In her excitement at finding Gabriel (Chris, she
corrected herself hurriedly), she'd forgotten all about it. She slumped into
"Well, the thing is Mr. Thomas..."
Copyright Rebecca Ellis 2004
CareKate's Chapter 1 of Book 3
Chris Carter was slumped on the hallway floor in the corridor of a London hospital, wearing a pair of surgical scrubs borrowed from one of the medical attendants. He was pale, disheveled and in need of a shave. He wearily rubbed the stubble on his jaw, then stared absently at the tiny cuts and scratches on his hands, still oozing blood.
One of the nurses had noticed his injuries, as well as his soaked clothes, and had started fussing over him. He had gratefully accepted the dry clothes that were offered, but had impatiently shooed the nurse away when she wanted to clean and dress his wounds. He didn't want anyone to treat his hands, preferring to be left alone. He wanted to suffer from the stinging and discomfort caused by his injuries as a sort of penance for the guilt he harbored over the reason that Dev had been near death and was currently recovering in the room down the hall.
Chris and his bandmate, Paul Devlin, had been away in Europe, enjoying a rare two-day break between an Easy Connection gig in Germany and another in Barcelona. Chris had flown ahead with the road crew, but Dev had said that he wanted to make an overnight stop in Paris before joining the rest of the band in Spain for the show. However, instead of going to France as he had claimed, Dev had returned to London and locked himself away in his flat near Sloane Square. He hadn't wanted to be disturbed as he carried out his dire plan.
On the first anniversary of his troubled marriage to Cathy Devlin, Dev had been driven to such a level of abject hopelessness that he had intentionally taken an overdose of heroin in an effort to end his life because he had felt unable to endure the raw desolation of spirit any longer.
Chris was still shaken by the realization of how close Dev had come to succeeding in his attempt to end his life. The fact that Chris had been instrumental in causing his soul brother to fall into such a pit of despair and desperation that suicide had seemed to be the only alternative was nearly his undoing. He just hoped that it wasn't too late to rectify the damage he had caused by his interference in Dev's marriage to the talented young painter known to the exclusive and insular art world as Catherine Harlow.
Both Dev and Chris had fallen into a self-destructive spiral after Cathy had walked out on the marriage and turned her back on them. Each had been so absorbed in his own private hell of grief and hopelessness that he was unable to offer any solace or consolation to the other.
Since the fateful day when Dev had discovered Chris trying to seduce his wife in her art studio, there had been a subtle change in their relationship. Even though they were still more than friends, closer than brothers, there now existed a new tension and wariness between them, the direct result of the trust that had been broken on both sides. Almost too late, Chris had realized that Dev had reached the end of his rope and was contemplating suicide.
With Gregg Fisher, his roadie and personal assistant, by his side, Chris had had to hurriedly chartered a plane in order to return to England as quickly as possible. It was sheer instinct that had made Chris look for Dev at the London flat first. They had found the front door locked, but when Chris tried his spare key, they discovered that Dev had been taking no chances and had also barricaded the entrance with a heavy piece of furniture that had proven impossible to budge.
Feeling precious moments slipping away, finally - in a fit of inspired desperation - Chris had gone to his apartment next door and out onto the terrace, where he had lept across the adjoining balconies, seven stories up, and crashed headlong through the glass, french-style doors and landed in Dev's living room.
He found his friend on the floor, still clinging to life, but nearly delirious and deep into a drug overdose. Dev was clutching the stone pendant he wore around his neck, the wishing stone that he was so superstitious about, feverishly mumbling about having had changed his mind because Cathy had finally come to him and now he no longer wanted to die. Dev was trying to make a wish on the Atlantis stone, begging that he be allowed to live so that he could be with his wife and son again.
With one part of his brain, Chris heard the telltale buzz of an out-of-order telephone and realized that it had been knocked off of its cradle. Had Dev been trying to call for help but been unable to do so even before they had arrived?
While Gregg phoned 999, Chris half-dragged, half-carried his friend to the bathroom where he had held Dev under an icy blast from the shower in an effort to force him back to consciousness, telling him he had to fight, to stay alive because they all loved him and needed him.
“Damn you to hell, Dev,” Chris cursed, tears running unchecked and unnoticed down his face, mingling with the spray from the shower. Dev began coming around, responding to the shock from the cold water pounding down on his body, but he still needed professional medical attention promptly in order to flush the poison from his system.
When the police and paramedics arrived, Chris instructed Gregg to accompany Dev to the hospital in the ambulance while Chris went across town to fetch Dev's absent wife. If anyone could bring Dev out of the coma, to convince him he needed to live, it would be Cathy. She at least owed him that much.
Chris had believed himself in love with Cathy as well and so had warned his friend right from the start that he intended taking the girl away from Dev, by fair means or foul, if he could. From the moment that they had all met that day nearly sixteen months earlier there had existed a strange, almost mystical, complex and profound relationship between the three. They were connected to each other in a way that an outsider could never understand. Hell, even they didn't understand the link between them!
It had all begun late one sunny afternoon toward the end August last year when - believing the occupants to not be in residence - Cathy had trespassed at Cox's Farm, Dev's country estate in Nethercombe, in order to paint a landscape in the meadow next to the stream which bissected one corner of Dev's property.
Through a sometimes comical and other times tragic chain of events and misunderstandings that began when Cathy's painting had been knocked into the stream by a herd of young bulls and ended when Dev brutally stole Cathy's trust and innocence in a haze of alcohol and mutual misunderstanding while they were seemingly held spellbound by a joint wish on the Atlantis stone, there had existed an inexplicable bond between the three. From the time that each had first set eyes upon the other, they had realized a sense of deja vu, the feeling that they had known each other forever.
After Dev's assault on Cathy, she had run away to London in order to begin a new life at the London College of Art. She had just wanted to forget having met the two famous members of one of the most talented but notorious bands in the history of rock & roll.
But she had underestimated the determination of both Dev and Chris, who had immediately realized that Cathy belonged to them, belonged with them, and knew that being together brought a sense of completion, and that only by being together could they ever be whole and complete.
Dev had spent several months fruitlessly searching London for Cathy, hiring a private detective and stationing two roadies outside the college in a desperate attempt to find the girl. As the weeks passed and each alleged sighting of her proved false, Dev grew increasingly grim and began drinking more and more vodka until most days - more often than not - he was feeling drunk and hard.
His close friends and associates became increasingly concerned because they had never seen Dev in such a state of wild, reckless desperation, even during the darkest days of his two year stormy relationship with a spoiled American heiress.
The knowledge that Cathy was out there somewhere in the big city, young and inexperienced, penniless, alone and pregnant with their son ate away at Dev. The people closest to him were urging him to move on and find another older, more experienced and willing woman with which to share his life, but Dev was unable to let go.
He had always been a one-woman man, and he knew that Cathy was the only one for him. Although he was a member of one of the most notorious bands in the world, and Easy Connection's sex, drugs and rock & roll scandals were legion, Dev had never been as promiscuous as his lifestyle might suggest.
He could have his choice of loose, beautiful women virtually every single night, but unlike most men in his position - including Chris - Dev preferred quality over quantity. He despised groupies, those young women who followed the various rock bands around the country, eager to sample the delights of having sex with one of their music idols.
He would rather experience sex with one special partner rather than indulge in that kind of frequent, mindless mating with casual strangers. He had always known that when he finally gave his heart to a woman it would be forever and from that moment forward, there could never be anyone else for him.
For a while, he had mistakenly believed that he had found his soulmate in Charis Whatsherlastname but it soon became clear to him that he could never have anything meaningful or lasting with her, although - for reasons he couldn't explain even to himself - he had remained in that futile relationship for far longer than was wise. The affair with Charis had brought him to the point of breakdown and had nearly caused the breakup of Easy Connection during a time that the band were enduring a series of both personal and professional missteps and Dev had found his musical gift had begun to fail.
Dev and Charis had been together for nearly two years and, although he soon realized he didn't love her, she had obsessed him like a drug. And, like a drug, she had nearly caused his downfall. When she left him during the middle of an extended American tour, Dev had finally come to his senses and had woken up to the nightmare reality that his life had become and had slowly begun the healing process.
The first thing that returned was his musical genius. He began writing music again, and it was generally felt that he had bounced back from the brink even more astonishingly creative and brilliant than he had been before and Easy Connection's next album had proven to be an amazing critical and commercial success.
Even though his professional life was firmly back on track, Dev had remained unhappy and unsettled, nursing a silent and unhealthy desire to get back at Charis for the torment he had endured for two long years. He wanted to make her pay and pay again: to debase her and make her crawl for the months of torment and humiliation he had suffered at her hands.
So on the morning that the band was due to return home to England at the end of the U.S. tour, Charis had swept dramatically into the airport lounge and tearfully begged him to take her back. To the horror and astonishment of everyone present, Dev had seemingly accepted Charis's sorrowful apologies and allowed her to accompany them back to England.
In point of fact, Dev had been in the process of enacting his long-awaited campaign of revenge on the very day that he had first met Cathy. Charis had actually been the indirect cause of Dev's fateful, drunken decision that night to possess Cathy, with or without her consent.
At first Cathy had been wildly responsive to him, unable to hide her body's reaction to his touch, shyly but eagerly returning his kisses. But when she had suddenly changed her mind and began to struggle against him, Dev had believed that her teasing act had been a deliberate ploy and decided to make her pay for the sins of all women.
His misinterpretation of the situation and the resulting, ill-advised, split second decision had been a choice that had continued to reverberate with negative consequences and ramifications, igniting a fateful chain of events that had led to the climatic moment of life-and-death being played out right now in this London hospital.
As Chris continued his vigil in the hallway, biding his time until he could see his friend again, finally granting the couple the time alone that he had so-long denied them during their brief marriage to allow Cathy the opportunity to begin making her peace with Dev, he thought about the phone call he had received earlier that evening while he was still in Barcelona. So much had happened in the intervening hours that he was only now allowing himself to remember and digest the shocking news he had received.
That first day at Cox's Farm when the three of them had met, Chris had been the first one to spot Cathy, oblivious and completely concentrated as she put the final brush strokes on her canvas just before the curious bulls had panicked and knocked her painting into the water.
When Dev had happened along, Cathy had been lying innocently topless in the meadow, attempting to dry herself in the sun after having fallen headlong into the stream while retrieving her painting, as her T-shirt was drying draped over a nearby bush.
Dev had immediately assumed the worst, that she was a music groupie who had trespassed on his land in order to have a quickie sexual encounter with her idol, and had dragged her back to the house in order to call the police and have her charged. He was so furious that he hadn't listened as she haltingly tried to tell him a story that was so incredulous that if Chris had not witnessed it with his own eyes, he never would have believed it either.
With her sharp tongue and quick retorts, Cathy appeared to shake Dev out of the boredom and despondency that had seemed to envelope him for far too long, triggering brief flashes of the man he had been before Charis had gotten her claws into him and nearly stifled his creativity and spirit. Cathy hadn't had a clue who they were, so her genuine reactions were refreshingly untarnished by the legend and preconceptions that always preceded them and tainted the reactions of new acquaintances.
Chris had known that he should have made more of an effort to collaborate Cathy's explanations but so long as the hostility between them remained unchecked, Chris knew that Dev wouldn't give in to his attraction to the girl and therefore they wouldn't end up having to compete to pull her. Besides, he was enjoying himself far too much to care.
However, despite his best efforts to keep Dev and Cathy at daggers drawn, some time between the wait for the police officer to arrive so that Dev could lodge his trespassing complaint and the later invitation - at Chris's urging -- for her to stay and have dinner with them as an apology for the misunderstanding, Dev had stopped fighting and began to embrace the powerful chemistry he felt between Cathy and himself.
Soon he was so desperate to become Cathy's lover that Dev had negotiated a trade with Chris in order to gain the right to pursue her. In return for Cathy, Chris had gained possession of Dev's longtime girlfriend, Charis Whatherlastname.
For months, Chris had had to sit and watch as she put his partner through the emotional wringer. One night several months earlier, at the start of the U.S. tour, Chris had tried to intervene between Dev and Charis, but at that point Dev hadn't been ready to admit that his relationship was a mistake and that he needed to get out before she completely destroyed him. As a result of his meddling, Chris and Dev had fought viciously, violently, backstage after a concert in Orlando. Before Keith Hurst, the band's drummer, and some crew members had managed to separate them, Dev had blacked both eyes and broken one of Chris's ribs.
Chris blamed Charis for that injury, as well as for turning Dev into a near-complete basket case. He vowed that some day he would avenge his friend by giving Charis a taste of her own medicine.
So that night when Dev offered to trade Charis to Chris in exchange for Cathy, he had jumped at the chance. He had assumed that by sleeping with Cathy a couple of times, Dev would finally be completely free of the Charis's spell, then everything would return to normal and it would be like old times.
And when his friend became tired of playing with his new toy, Chris would get his chance to score with Cathy, all the while giving Charis the comeuppance that she so richly deserved. It had seemed like a win-win situation.
At the time, Chris had had no idea just how costly the decision to accept the terms of that trade would prove to be. It never occurred to him that Dev's intentions toward Cathy that night were anything more serious beyond the desire to simply get laid, and he certainly never dreamed that he would fall in love with the girl himself.
So when she ran away from them after that night at Cox's Farm, Chris had joined Dev in a highly concentrated and thoroughly controlled pursuit of Cathy, helping Dev to tie her to them irrevocably through pregnancy and marriage.
At which point, Chris had believed that he could begin undermining the fragile relationship between Dev and his new bride in an effort to steal Cathy's affections for himself.
Because she had been so young and inexperienced, in addition to still being disturbed and shaken by the
violent beginning to the relationship with Dev, Cathy had not trusted in the love and remorse that her husband had tried so hard to express so it had been easy for Chris to confuse and manipulate the girl until she longer trusted herself or her feelings toward either of them.
Realizing that Cathy's feelings toward the impending birth and baby were confused and conflicted, Dev had been completely distraught at the thought of leaving her behind as she entered the final trimester of her pregnancy, but Easy Connection had been required to fulfill contractual obligations made nearly fifteen months earlier and so the band had left for a three month tour of Japan, Australia and other destinations in the Far East.
Both Dev and Chris had found the enforced separation from Cathy to be an agonizing experience. But while Dev visibly pined for his wife, anxiously checking with the front desk staff at each hotel at which they stayed, eagerly looking forward to receiving a letter from home and crushingly disappointed each time to find none, Chris had lost no time in availing himself of the “traditional comforts” of a touring rock band, sleeping with a different girl nearly every single night.
Toward the end of the tour, Charis had flown out to join them and Chris had immediately taken advantage of the situation to begin settling old scores. The first thing he had planned was to arouse Charis to fever pitch and then refuse to grant satisfaction, but this plan had backfired because Chris had never been able to deny himself by walking away from a hot and willing woman.
Next, he had decided to ensure that he and Charis were accidentally-on-purpose discovered by the band, crew, and any other passers-by in a serious state of deshabille, naked.
This, too, was unsuccessful because Chris had not realized that Charis was an exhibitionist at heart. Far from being embarrassed or humiliated, she had actually found the experience an incredible turn on.
Things were not going according to plan so Chris decided to up the stakes. Having been previously told by Dev that Charis was a bit kinky - sexually adventurous and willing to try anything - and since it was readily apparent that Charis didn't seem to mind performing in public, he decided that it was time to allow her to entertain the radio station and music promoters as well as various other VIP guests that were in attendance at nearly every show. But first Chris had gone on a little shopping trip.
During the sound check before that night's performance, Chris had confessed to Dev just what he had intended for Charis to do that night after the concert. To Chris's immense surprise, rather than being supportive or amused, Dev had been appalled.
Backstage after the show, Charis had eagerly modeled her new lingerie for all those assembled in the dressing room.
Before long, there had been a line of men patiently waiting to take their turn accompanying Charis into a back room alone for a closer look at her new lingerie in private. After awhile, she no longer bothered to insist that the door be closed while she entertained each guest and soon there was laughter, encouragement and advice being shouted by the onlookers for the performers in the dank little room.
Dev had been disgusted by the entire episode and had left the after-show party and returned to the hotel, alone, before Charis had even entered her playroom with her first admirer. Although he had suffered untold humiliation and degradation during the two years he had been with Charis, after he had met Cathy he had felt as though he had been born again and everything felt brand new. He no longer cared about taking his pound of flesh and had just wanted Charis out of his life for good.
After being with Cathy that first night, Dev had experienced for the first time in his life the difference between just having sex and actually making love. So even after everything that she had put him through, that night in Tokyo, Dev had actually found himself feeling sorry for Charis and the unique brand of payback that Chris had made her endure. But once again he had misjudged his former lover, his pity was misplaced.
Yet again, Chris had miscalculated his victim. Far from feeling outraged or horrified by the experience, Charis had been eager to make it a regular feature of the band's backstage hospitality for the remainder of the tour. Night after night, there was a gang-bang in the dressing room as Charis entertained guests and crew alike. And when they returned to the hotel each night, Chris had Charis all to himself.
Once the Far East tour had ended and Chris felt that he had finally gotten a measure of retribution against Charis for sins committed against his best friend, Chris stopped seeing Charis all together although she had pleaded with him and begged him to change his mind.
He remained resolute in his decision to cut Charis out of his life, although she relocated to London and had her wealthy father buy her a penthouse in nearby Chelsea in an effort to stay close to him and did her best to ensure that they saw each other often at the various parties and social functions. To the amazement of everyone, Charis actually seemed to remain celibate as she chased Chris all over London, determined to make him change his mind.
After Cathy had walked out on her marriage, leaving her three-month old infant son behind, Dev and Chris had gone out every night, burning up the town, attempting to drown their sorrows by drinking and drugging themselves into oblivion. The situation became so severe that - for the first time in their entire career - Easy Connection had had to cancel half the dates on the three-month long American tour supporting the Message from Anarres album.
Dev went home each night alone. If he was unable to be with Cathy, then he preferred to forego female companionship of any kind. But one night a couple of weeks ago, high as a kite on a volatile mix of cocaine and tequila, Chris had met up with Charis backstage at a show at Hammersmith and had taken her back to his apartment.
Although he was a little hazy regarding the details of that night, Charis had called earlier evening to inform him that there had been an unforeseen complication resulting from their careless enthusiasm that night because one of the condoms had apparently failed.
CareKate's Chapter 2 of Book 3
Charis was pregnant.
Those three little words reverberated shockingly, sickeningly, inside Chris's head. And, of course, she was absolutely certain that Chris was the lucky father to be.
Unlike Dev's delighted reaction when Cathy had confirmed the results of her pregnancy test, Chris wasn't at all sure he was ready to be a father. And he definitely didn't want to have a baby with one woman, whom he despised, while he was in love with another.
But before he could dwell on the matter any further, Cathy opened the door to Dev's room and popped her head around, beckoning for him to come inside.
The hospital bed was cranked nearly upright, with Dev leaning back propped on a pillow. He still looked pale and drawn, but more alive than he had in months. There was a happy smile on his face and the sparkle had returned to his eyes as he beckoned his friend closer.
Chris hesitated in the doorway, his eyes first going warily to Cathy. Her eyes were clear and bright, the pain and uncertainty he had seen in them for so long had vanished. The two of them looked amazing, even breathtaking together. That enchanting girl he had watched that day painting by the steam had returned. He felt his heart wrench, she would never belong to him now but that would never stop him loving her.
She stood on the far side of the bed, leaning down so Dev could cuddle her close, shyly holding one of his hands. She looked back at Chris with a misty smile as Dev held the other hand out toward Chris.
“Cathy tells me I should be thanking you,” Dev began.
“But if I know you, you were cursing me for my effing ESP instead,” Chris continued with an irrepressible grin, finally sauntering into the room, the door whispering quietly closed behind him.
He walked over to the bed slowly. If anything had happened to Dev, he didn't know if he could survive himself. Dev was the most important thing in his life, Dev and Cathy.
“She said that if it hadn't been for you and Gregg....” Dev's voice trailed off and he swallowed hard. Chris took Dev's outstretched hand in his, leaning down to awkwardly embrace him, his eyes suspiciously bright.
“If you ever pull a stunt like that again, I'll kill you myself,” Chris warned him and they both laughed shakily. “I ruined my brand new peacock leather jacket when I crashed through those damn doors - sliced the sleeve right open....”
“While we're on the subject of murder...if you ever lay a hand on my wife again,” Dev proudly emphasized the words, leaving the rest of the threat unspoken. Cathy had been his wife in name only, but hopefully very soon they would make it the kind of real marriage that Dev had always dreamed of.
For a second Dev and Chris's eyes met, no words were needed. Dev knew how much Chris had wanted Cathy, but she was his, the one and only thing that he would never share with his closest friend. He could see that there was a shadow in Chris's eyes, something was bothering him deeply. He made a mental note to ask Chris about it later.
Before Chris could respond, the door opened violently and a plump, mustached man in rumpled clothing shambled into the room, a nurse flapping ineffectually at his heels. His thinning salt and pepper hair was standing up in tufts all over his head, as though he had repeatedly been combing his hands through it.
“Really, sir,” she stammered in his wake. “You can't go in there. Immediate family only, doctor's orders.”
“Shut up, lady, and get out of my way,” Bill Hopkins, the band's manager, snapped huffily. “Make yourself useful and bring me a cup of coffee, black, two sugars - it's been a hellacious night.” The nurse subsided, muttering about obnoxious showbiz people, and stomped out of the room, her crepe-soled shoes squeaking noisily on the spotless linoleum floor.
“Well hello, Bill, old boy,” Dev appeared to be in appallingly good spirits given that he had been at death's door only hours before. “It's so nice that you could join us.”
Bill grunted irritably, taking off his overcoat and hanging it on the hook on the back of the door. He turned and looked at Dev appraisingly for a long moment.
“Well, you've really gone and done it this time.” Bill told him. “What, you didn't think we had enough bad publicity challenges just lately, so you go and add a suicide attempt and another drug charge to the mix?”
Dev and Chris laughed, and Bill regarded them sourly. Sometimes he felt that managing this lot was like trying to teach a shark table manners. Completely incorrigible, they were, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
The nurse returned in tight-lipped silence, sullenly handing him the cup of coffee he had demanded. She wished that she could tip it down the front of his shirt. He didn't offer any thanks and the nurse hadn't expected any. Typical, she thought with a smirk.
Bill gave the trio perched around the bed a thorough, considering look as he sipped his coffee. Perfect, just the way he liked it. At least that bloody nurse was good for something.
The ethereally beautiful blonde girl was perched on the side of the bed, lying alongside Dev, her arm draped across the top of his pillow, one hand gently stroking his hair.
On the other side, Chris sprawled bonelessly in the chair next to the bed, his feet propped up on one of the rails. He actually looked quite respectable in the medical scrubs he was wearing. If Bill hadn't known better, he might have thought he was looking at an off-duty surgeon, relaxing after a tiring session in the operating theatre.
Reunited at last. They belonged together, the three of them. It looked like the girl had finally stopped fighting against the inevitable, but Bill decided to test the waters just to make sure.
“What's she doing here?” Bill said nastily, gesturing toward Cathy. “Guilty conscience, or did you want to come to the hospital to check that you were a widow and wouldn't have to bother with a divorce?”
In the bed, Dev sat up, tense, his eyes kindling dangerously, but Cathy squeezed his shoulder warningly, shaking her head slightly. “Let me handle this,” she silently told him and straightened to a sitting position, fixing Bill with an icy glare.
“She is finally back where she belongs,” Cathy told the manager hostilely. “If you don't like it...”
“Take it easy, sweetheart,” Bill replied with a relieved smile. “It's about bloody time you two sorted yourselves out. Any idiot can see that you belong together.”
Bill noticed Chris wince, then hang his head and stare at the floor. There was something wrong there, but it would have to wait for later. “I just wanted to make sure you were back on board for good and weren't planning to break his heart again.” Then he turned the conversation back to more serious matters.
“The story is spreading,” he reported. “I had to sneak in through the delivery entrance around back because there were so damn many reporters blocking the front doors. Apparently one of the medics decided to seize his `fifteen minutes' and leaked that it had been an overdose, but I think we can keep the part about it being intentional under our hats.”
“Hey Bill, when can I get out of here?” Dev asked the question that was uppermost in his mind. “Cathy and I have got a lot of catching up to do,” he said with a wolfish grin, grey eyes gleaming. Cathy flushed and Dev and Chris laughed aloud, the tension in the room breaking at last.
“Cathy thinks that I have to stay and talk to a shrink. I don't need a shrink, I've got what I need now,” he continued, looking at Cathy in that dark, intense way that always made her pulse pound. “Can't you do something? I want to go home!” He sounded like a sulky little boy.
About that time, there was a commotion outside the window. A photographer had climbed out onto the ledge to snap a picture of the room's famous occupants through the glass but lost his balance and fallen two stories to the street below. Fortunately, his fall was broken when he landed in the bed of a lorry picking up the facility's dirty laundry in the alley below.
Landing on the soiled towels, bedding and requisite backless hospital gowns had saved the hapless paparazzo from any injury more serious than a broken wrist, but he was required to have a tetanus shot booster, just in case he picked up any unwanted germs from the contact with the dirty clothes and linens in the back of the truck. This was a hospital after all - who knows what kind of bacteria had been lurking in those fibers? But he had managed to shoot off a couple of photographs before his foot slipped on the pigeon droppings, so he felt the mishap was well worth any personal sacrifice.
As one of the orderlies wheeled him down to Radiology for x-rays, he happily occupied himself with thoughts of the bidding war that was sure to break out as all the dailies vied for an exclusive picture to accompany the banner headline, pound signs dancing before his eyes. He even had a caption already in mind: Re-connected. He grinned in appreciation of his clever pun, then gasped in agony as the technician arranged his injured wrist into a completely unnatural position before instructing him to freeze until the shot could be captured for posterity on radioactive film.
“I hate to tell you this, my friend,” Bill continued as though there had been no interruption. “Even if I were able to talk the hospital into releasing you this very minute, there's still the little matter of the Barcelona concert.
“I was about to say `day after tomorrow,' but now it's just 24 hours away,” Bill grimaced slightly as he checked his watch, realizing how much time had passed since he had received Cathy's frantic phone call in Munich. “Are you going to feel up to doing the show, or should I cancel it? What about the gig in Rome the day after that, what do you guys want me to do?”
“Will you come with us?” Dev looked at Cathy searchingly, his grey eyes dark and pleading. “I need you with me. I don't think I could deal with being apart right now, even if it's just for a couple of days.”
“Let's talk about in a bit, after Chris and Bill go home and get some sleep,” she tried to drop a graceful hint. Cathy was acutely conscious of the others in the room. Now that they were about to embark on a real married life, she wasn't sure how she felt about discussing private matters in front of Chris.
In the past there hadn't been any `private matters' for Dev and Cathy to talk about, so it hadn't mattered that Chris was always there. But now that she and Dev were really going to try, she felt funny about having Chris know all the intimate details.
She worried, too, that openly expressing her feelings toward Dev in front of Chris, knowing that he would be listening avidly as she and Dev happily made plans for their future would somehow be hurtful to Chris.
She'd never believed it was possible for one woman to have two soul mates, but here she was in love with both of them. But Chris didn't understand about the darkness, and he could never break the special bond that linked her to Dev.
While it might be possible to have two soulmates - how else could the relationship between Dev and Chris be explained - there could only be one love of one's life, and for Cathy that man was Paul Devlin, her first and only lover and the father of her child. She could hardly wait until she and Dev could be alone together. After all the time it had taken to reach this point, she now found that she actively craved his touch.
Charis DeWinter was about six weeks along, but although she had told Chris Carter that he was the lucky man, the truth was she had absolutely no idea who the father could be. After all, when one eats a can of beans, one can never be sure which one made you fart. She had been with so many men recently it was impossible for her to pinpoint the exact moment of conception.
She tipped out the last portion of white powder from the little vial onto the coffee table, cut it into three lines, then leaned down and snorted the first two, inhaling deeply. Her nasal passages burned briefly, the years of repeated abuse having taken their toll, and a thin trickle of blood dribbled from one nostril. She unconcernedly wiped her nose on the sleeve of her white cashmere sweater, designer, of course.
The doctor had confirmed her pregnancy just yesterday morning when she had paid a surprise visit to his private surgery, demanding that he write her another script for the prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety pills that she favored at the moment.
Dr. Huntingdon-Smythe had tried to refuse, worried about the possibility of losing his medical license if his lucrative little side business was discovered, but Charis had threatened to tell his very proper, well-heeled wife about their relationship.
“How would it look, darling,” she purred silkily, “if the little woman were to discover that her eminently respectable husband got his jollies dressing in women's lingerie and having sex in public places with many partners that were not his wife?” He had quickly capitulated, writing her a prescription with six refills available.
Of course, the reminder that they had had unprotected sex during their last encounter so the good doctor could very well be the sperm donor for Charis's little happy event had also helped bring him to heel.
“Imagine being served with a paternity suit the next time you and the missus are dining at the Palm,” she continued. “The scandal of having to submit to a paternity test....”
Charis had always had a singular talent for manipulating otherwise intelligent men into doing her bidding by turning their own sexual desires and proclivities against them. Worthless and predictable - they all thought with their dicks, she thought scornfully.
Of course, Dr. Huntingdon-Smythe had warned Charis that she was putting her unborn fetus at risk with her drug addictions and lifestyle choices, but ensuring that her baby was born healthy and whole was not her immediate concern. In fact, it might not ever be born at all!
Her own dear old Daddy had finally wised up to his daughter's incessant pleas and demands for money to fund her lavish lifestyle and had put her on a monthly allowance that Charis had found to be so woefully inadequate that it wouldn't even cover her monthly expenses with her drug dealer.
Charis needed to find an alternative source of income, quickly, if she was going to continue indulging in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed. She had a feeling that Chris would be more than willing to give her money to pay for an abortion, plus a little extra, to ensure her silence so that Chris's little indiscretion wasn't leaked to the media.
She knew that Chris wouldn't want his precious Cathy to find out that her husband's best friend had been `sleeping with the enemy,' so to speak. Besides, she knew for a fact that Easy Connection's manager had a special fund set aside for just these sorts of emergencies.
She walked over to the built-in bar and splashed some Bailey's into a glass over ice and walked back to settle on the couch. She reached for a cigarette and lit it with a slim gold lighter, 18 karat, a gift from one of her admirers, she couldn't remember who. She inhaled the tobacco and held it deeply in her lungs before exhaling a thin, acrid stream of smoke through her still-stinging nostrils.
Her eyes were deeply calculating as she tossed the lighter from hand to hand, wondering how much she'd be able to get if she hocked it. Maybe it would be enough to float her through the rest of week with her dealer. Enough for a couple of grams anyway, to see her through until Bill Hopkins could write her a check.
It suddenly occurred to her that it might prove to be infinitely more lucrative if she were to carry the baby to term, sticking Chris for a generous settlement and monthly child support payments. Hell, maybe she'd even demand a wedding ring!
She laughed aloud at the thought of busting in on their cozy little threesome. Dev, Cathy and Chris were a complete unit, believing that they only needed each other.
She imagined Dev's horror if his `sweet little baby' was forced to endure a daily reminder that Charis had had Dev first. She hated that goody-goody little bitch for taking Dev away from her, for ending Charis's control over him. One way or another, she'd find a way to make Cathy pay.
They were finally alone. Bill had left nearly an hour ago, having first spoken to the hospital brass to fast-track Dev's psychiatric exam and receive assurances that he would be released no later than 6pm that evening. It was now mid-morning so, thankfully, Dev's impatience would be held to a minimum.
Bill had then gone out to make a statement to the media, skimming over the overdose, instead choosing to emphasize the reconciliation between Dev and his estranged wife.
“I'm sure you all can understand Dev and Cathy's desire to resume their married life away from the prying eyes of the public, so they ask that the media and fans give them some breathing space, although they did ask me to thank everyone for their prayers and support.
“Dev and Chris also wanted me to assure the ticket holders for Easy Connection's upcoming shows in Spain and Italy will go on as scheduled and they promise to the give the fans their money's worth!”
There was good natured grumbling from the assembled press as Bill refused to take questions, shuffling away from the podium with a smile and a wave before climbing into an idling taxi.
Chris had stayed on a while after Bill had left, but he finally acknowledged the increasingly unsubtle hints from Dev and reluctantly took his leave, promising to return later that afternoon after he had collected a change of clothes and shaving kit from Dev's flat. It wouldn't do for the band's superstar guitarist to be hustled out to the waiting limousine clad only in a hospital issue gown!
Chris had hoped to have a minute with Dev alone in order to warn him about Charis's current little game, but his friend had been reluctant to let Cathy out of his sight even for a moment.
He walked toward the hospital exit, stopping briefly at the tinted glass doors, grimacing as he took note of the media gauntlet waiting on the steps outside. He debated whether to backtrack and sneak out another way, when a shout went up from the crowd, he'd been spotted. He sighed deeply then squared his shoulders before pushing the door open, bracing himself for the barrage of questions.
He managed to ignore them until someone shouted a question that was so ludicrous he was forced to respond: What are Dev and Cathy doing right now?
Chris raised a mocking eyebrow, “If you were married to a girl that looked like that and you hadn't seen her for months, what would you be doing?” The hapless young reporter flushed as the crowd snickered at Chris's pithy response.
“I thought he'd never leave,” Dev pulled Cathy into his arms the minute the door swished closed behind Chris.
Without hesitation she wound her arms around his neck, pressing her body close. They began to kiss, softly, lightly, nibbling and exploring, gently reacquainting themselves to the pleasure of each other's mouth. But the passion flared inevitably, igniting a fire in the blood and the kisses became more urgent, their hands seeking the hard muscles and soft curves beneath the other's clothes.
Dev rolled over until Cathy was lying beneath him in the narrow hospital bed. His hands slid under her sweater, roaming the warm skin beneath as she wound her legs around his waist, sinuously rubbing against the hardness pushing against the apex of her thighs.
“Cathy, my sweet, beautiful, little baby,” he whispered. But when she felt his trembling hands fumbling for the snap of her jeans, she froze.
Remembering abruptly, she grabbed his hand, “Dev, we can't!”
Dev went completely still above her, instantly recalling all the other times she had reacted this way. He closed his eyes in acute disappointment and took a shaky breath. Rolling over on his side, he pulled her with him so that they were lying face to face.
“I'm sorry, Cathy. I'm going too fast. I know you still need time,” he gently stroked her face.
He actually thought she was rejecting him again! Cathy was appalled at the misunderstanding, but this time she couldn't let it pass.
“No, Dev, you don't understand!” she said urgently. “I mean we can't. Not right now....” They'd been married for over a year and had a child together, but she still found it awkward to talk about some things.
“Sweet heart, there's a lock on the door. We won't be disturbed.” Dev still didn't understand the problem.
She flushed scarlet, but kept his gaze. “I'm in the middle of...I'm having...I just started...” She closed her eyes in anguish, fumbling for the right words.
“It's that time of the month!” she finally managed to blurt it out, shyly burying her face in his neck.
Dev looked at her in incredulous disbelief, then groaned as his shoulders began to shake with suppressed laughter.
“I'm sorry,” she wailed miserably. “I didn't plan it this way! I never meant for you to think...” she trailed off. They both knew what Dev had thought. “I just wanted you to stop before...I didn't want you to think I was teasing you.” A lone tear tricked down her cheek and she closed her eyes in misery.
Dev leaned forward and kissed the tear away, then held her cuddled against his shoulder while they laid in silence for a few moments, content to just be together.
After a while, Dev raised himself on one elbow. “Sweetheart, I don't want you to think I have a one-track mind or anything, but exactly how much longer will we have to wait?”
Cathy snorted and punched him in the shoulder. “I just started yesterday, so we've got about four days to go.” She hesitated, took a deep breath, then plunged ahead. “When you get home from Italy, I promise we'll be together.”
Dev immediately understood. “You won't come with me?”
“Please understand,” she wanted to explain. “I want to arrange for my things to be moved back to the Farm. I want to get settled in first.
“I want to see my son!” She confessed the real reason for her reluctance to go to Europe. Now that she was so close to being reunited with Paul, she found she couldn't bear the thought of any further delay. She had so much to make up to her husband and baby son and she had wasted so much time already.
Dev was silent for a moment, digesting her words, then his hand resumed its rhythmic stroking up and down her spine.
“Will you stay with me tonight at the flat?” He offered a compromise. “We'll have to catch an early plane in the morning so I need to stay in town. I know we won't be able to make love, but I'll settle for sleeping in your arms.”
“It's a deal,” she mumbled drowsily, the events of the last few hours and days finally catching up with her. “But we'll have to stop by my place first - I need to pick up Stanley.”
“Who the hell is Stanley?” But Cathy was already asleep.
CareKate's Chapter 3 of Book 3
The past three days had been an ordeal, Cathy reflected as she changed into her nightgown and turned down the covers on Dev's enormous bed in the master bedroom.
They had been married for over a year and Cathy didn't even know which side of the bed Dev slept on, though she supposed she'd find out soon enough as Dev was due home tomorrow. She wondered if Chris would be coming too.
Her friend Janey Adams had phoned earlier that afternoon to see how she was doing. Janey reported that her boyfriend, Dave Hampton, guitarist for Night Mission and one of Dev and Cathy's inner circle of friends, had arrived in Rome for a flying visit and they planned to drop by the Connections after-show party.
She climbed into bed and pulled up the covers, snapping off the bedside lamp. Stanley was already parked in his favorite sleeping place, in the crook behind her knees, purring loudly. She grinned in the dark as she imagined Dev's reaction to their new bed mate.
She had already introduced them and Stanley had taken an immediate liking to her husband, sitting on his lap for the short ride from her flat to Dev's place, purring loudly and kneading his thigh with needle-sharp claws.
Dev had not been amused by the amount of cat hair that had been transferred onto his clothes during that brief contact. Her beautiful, elegant husband was in for a rude awakening, she thought gleefully - just wait till his black velvet trousers meet Stanley!
Her amusement faded as her thoughts turned to her son.
When the car had pulled into the drive at Cox's Farm the other morning, George had barely brought the Bentley to a complete stop before she had swung her door open and leaped out, rushing through the front door and bounding up the stairs to the nursery.
“Mrs. Devlin, wait!” Mrs. Kaye, the housekeeper, had called out to her, but she wasn't going to be deterred.
Now that the time had finally come she couldn't wait to hold her son in her arms again, so her disappointment was acute when she had opened the door to Paul's room and found it empty. Whirling around, Cathy had nearly collided with the housekeeper.
“Mrs. Devlin, they're down in the kitchen having lunch.”
Cathy had smiled sheepishly, “Is it that obvious?”
“No one could blame you for being anxious, ma'am,” Mrs. Kaye had smiled understandingly as they walked downstairs. “I can't tell you how happy we are to have you home. Your men haven't been the same since you went away...”
Mrs. Kaye had held the kitchen door open for Cathy to precede her into the room, cozily warm from the Aga in the corner. She had frozen as she caught the first glimpse of her baby in five months.
Paul had been sitting in his high chair, laughing and slapping his hands on the tray as his nanny, Sue Bloom, spooned up puréed fresh bananas mixed with rice pudding.
He had a head full of curls, dark gold, and silver eyes rimmed with a darker grey. He looked so like Dev that her heart had skipped a beat. His face had been smeared with fruit and his happy grin had revealed a single upper front tooth.
Cathy's eyes had misted over and her knees had begun to buckle. Mrs. Kaye had hastily rushed over to pull out a chair as Cathy collapsed into it.
“Are you all right, Mrs. Devlin?” Sue had asked with concern. “I can guess how you're feeling. Why don't I clean him up a bit and then you can have a kiss and a cuddle.”
“No, let him finish eating. I don't want to interrupt his routine.”
For the moment, Cathy had been content to just sit and watch her baby, memorizing all the changes. She had felt the familiar excitement rising, her hands actually shaking from the fierce need to draw, to create. With an effort, she suppressed it. Now was not the time to become absorbed in her work, first she needed to bond with her son.
And it had been an experience she wasn't keen to repeat.
After Sue had wiped the baby down with a wet cloth, she had passed the wriggling infant to his mother. Paul had taken one look at the face of the stranger holding him so awkwardly and had begun to screen with fright, kicking and squirming, anxiously searching for a familiar face, reaching his arms out toward his nanny, the only mother he had really ever known.
Cathy had been nearly as distraught as her son. She had passed him back to Sue and the baby's distress almost immediately subsided, his sobs reduced to hitches and gasps as he buried his face in her neck.
With a helpless, apologetic look, Sue took the baby upstairs for his afternoon nap.
Gutted, Cathy had sunk back into her chair, burying her head in her hands as Mrs Kaye patted her comfortingly on the shoulder, clucking sympathetically and murmuring false platitudes about `time' and `patience.'
Oh god, what had she done, she thought. Her own child hadn't even known her. She wondered then if her quest for freedom had been worth the cost. She had nearly lost her husband, her child screamed in terror at the very sight of her, and she'd nearly driven herself over the edge with the compulsion to paint dark themes of death and destruction.
When Dev had phoned that night from the hotel in Barcelona, she had been nearly inconsolable. Dev had finally managed to calm her down, and they had ended up talking for hours, about everything and nothing at all. It was the single longest conversation that they had ever had.
The next day, at Dev's suggestion, she spent baby Paul's every waking moment shadowing him and Sue as they went about their daily business. Cathy had been determined that her son would become used to having her around.
So long as the nanny had been within his sight, Paul would tolerate Cathy stretching out on the play mat beside him as he rocked and crawled around the room. He was an active baby, even attempting to pull himself up using the coffee table as a brace.
At mealtimes, Cathy had been right there with them. Sue had suggested that they alternate spooning up his food. The baby had eyed her suspiciously, his bright eyes considering, then he had obligingly opened his mouth for a bite. But when she had reached over to wipe his chin, he had ducked his head away, chuckling. He had invented a new game for meal time with the strange, beautiful golden lady.
“Bastard!” Charis was enraged. She picked up a heavy jar of moisturizer and hurled it across the bathroom where it crashed into the mirror above the vanity, shattering the glass, sending fragments raining down onto the tile and marble floor.
Heedless to the fact that she was barefoot, she stalked across the floor, shards of glass piercing the soles of her feet, embedding themselves in the delicate skin. When the pain finally registered, she sank to her knees and pounded her fists against the floor, slicing her hands as well, screaming vile curses.
She managed to get to her feet without further injury and painfully limped her way back into her bedroom, leaving a trail of bloody footprints on the plush, pale gold carpet. She pulled herself up on to the bed where she collapsed into violent tears, snot and flecks of blood bubbling from her nose.
She was in bad shape. She had tooted over two grams worth of cocaine in the last eighteen hours. Bill Hopkins had refused to write her a check to cover her abortion fees, and Chris had flatly refused to discuss any future arrangements until the paternity of the child she carried could be firmly established. Parentage could be determined via amniocentesis but the test couldn't be conducted until she was at least twelve weeks along, and she needed some cash now.
She had already snorted up the proceeds from the gold cigarette lighter that she'd pawned yesterday, though it hadn't fetched quite as much as she'd hoped. The 18 karat gold she had believed it to be had been merely vermeil instead. She was broke and her dealer wouldn't fix her up with an I-owe-you any longer. He'd heard about her cash flow problems and her credit was no good.
She needed money and she needed it fast. Her eyes drifted to the remnants of the past couple days' newspapers, which she'd shredded earlier in a fit of rage, scattered around the bedroom. She'd managed to deface the accompanying photograph on one article, but the banner headline was still visible.
Re-connected, it screamed: Dev and Cathy reunited at last.
She wiped away the last of the tears drying on her cheek and grabbed a tissue from the night stand and blew her nose. Was it just her imagination, or was she seeing more blood on the tissue than usual? Maybe she should think about mainlining instead.
Once again her eyes drifted to the newspaper. They began to gleam as the idea took hold. Finally, she'd found the perfect way to get back at Dev, Cathy and Chris, while making a tidy sum in the bargain. She hobbled to the living room to dig her address book out of her handbag and dialed Melvin McKinley.
Chris was restless, standing at the window staring out into the night. They'd gotten back to the hotel a couple of hours ago, but he was still too wound up to sleep. Even the hot little signorina currently passed out in his bed hadn't been enough to ease his tension.
The last few days had been an emotional roller coaster: discovering he might be a father, nearly losing Dev, confessing all the Cathy and then abruptly having to put his `game face' on to take the stage and entertain the fans without really having had time to assimilate. But both shows had gone smoothly. Dev had been brilliant, playing without missing a single beat.
Chris had finally managed to find a few minutes to speak to Dev without interruption and brought him up to speed on the situation with Charis.
“How do you know she's telling the truth?” Dev had asked. “She's probably just out for a quick score, I hear her daddy finally cut her off.”
“At first she just wanted me to pay for an abortion, but now she's talking about keeping it.” Chris was not able to keep the horror from his voice.
“She may not even really be pregnant - have you thought of that? You want my advice, man, don't do anything hasty until you know for sure the kid is even your's. I wouldn't put it past Charis to have a list of likely candidates for paternity...she's probably phoned every single one of them to share the happy news.”
“She wants to come down to the Farm for a couple of days, to talk about our `options' and make plans. She says it's past-time that she was properly introduced to Cathy.”
“Like hell,” Dev had exploded. “I don't want that bitch anywhere near my wife and son, so don't even think about inviting her down.”
Watching the night lights of the Eternal City, Chris reflected that he had always wanted to find someone special, to be part of something special, but his thoughts had never progressed any further than that. He supposed that having a baby with one's true love would be the ultimate in fulfillment, though he'd never thought of himself as being particularly paternal before.
Dev, on the other hand, had always wanted children - he'd been devastated when Charis had aborted their child early on in their relationship. He was sure that their fans would never believe it, but Dev was actually a hands-on father - a real pro at changing a dirty nappy, calming a fussy baby, walking the floor at all hours when his son was ill. Hell, even when Paul had spit up down the front of his new Prada suit, Dev had only laughed and changed his clothes!
No doubt about it, Dev was born to be a father. But Chris had always seen himself more in the role of doting uncle to Dev's brood. He utterly adored little Paul - how could he not? That beautiful little boy was half-Dev, half-Cathy, born to the two people he loved most in this world, his closest family.
During the time that Cathy had been gone, her son was the only bright spot in the lives of the two men she had left behind.
That had been a terrible, devastating time for him and Dev and he now knew that Cathy hadn't faired much better. In his mind's eye, he could still see all of the dark, terrible paintings, death all around the room, figures without faces, in the throes of some terrible agony that had been lining the walls of her tiny apartment, the canvases stacked three and four deep in some places.
Chris wondered what Dev had thought when he'd seen them the other day. He hadn't said anything, but Chris felt sure that Dev was blaming himself for driving Cathy to that level of desperation. He probably thought the paintings were a result of that very first night at Cox's Farm, but Chris wasn't so sure.
Cathy had been painting brilliantly in the months before they had found her the night of the riot at Azra's, turning out works of astonishing vision and complexity, her talent so immense that she'd been offered an exclusive contract to the Arundell Gallery even though she had only been a first year student at the London College of Art.
She had had a brief block during the first few months after the wedding, but had broken through with the mind-boggling and much-celebrated “Space Gods.” It wasn't until she had moved out of the Farm and returned to the City alone that she had fallen into a pit of despair, which led him to believe that Cathy's near-breakdown had been a result of her separation from Dev and baby Paul.
His heart lurched as he realized that he had nearly destroyed both of his soul mates with all of his selfish and devious machinations.
They were flying home in the morning, and there they would stay for the next three months. Except for the odd personal appearance or music festival, the only thing occupying their time and attention would be work on the new album.
Thankfully, the state-of-the art recording studio that Dev had had constructed at Cox's Farm had been completed so they would be able to work from home without having to endure a long commute into the City each day.
Chris had the feeling that now that their creative muse had finally returned to the fold, Dev would be able to break through the writer's block that had prevented him from coming up with any new music or ideas these past five months.
He decided it would be prudent to stay in town for a couple of days before traveling down to the Farm to give Dev and Cathy some alone-time. He'd like to think he was being tactful, but the truth was he wasn't sure if he could handle seeing Cathy's glowing face and Dev's smug, satisfied smile the morning after their belated wedding night. It had nearly killed him when he had only thought that Dev was loving Cathy every night, but now that he knew for certain he wasn't sure if he'd be able to contain his jealousy.
It had been bitter envy, after all, that had motivated his interference and mischief-making in their marriage previously, when Cathy had still been so full of hate and resentment. He had been so surprised when Cathy had left Dev after that fateful day by the swimming pool. Rather than turning to him, she had run from them both.
But it hadn't been enough to sever the ties that bound them. The three of them were connected, forever. He and Dev had always known this, from the moment they had walked across the field that first day, and Cathy had finally come to the realization herself.
His thoughts returned to his current predicament. Was Charis really pregnant? Was he the father? Was she going to keep the baby this time?
Every time that last question came to mind, his brain simply shut down, unable to process the thought. An alley cat possessed more maternal instincts than he believed Charis was capable of. He was pretty certain that she wasn't curtailing any of her so-called recreational activities - the baby would probably be born addicted to cocaine, or something even worse. He shied away from that thought.
Instead he wondered if he would be able to love a child born to the one person whom he truly hated. Christ, he hadn't even been able to perform without becoming drunk or stoned first. What she had done to Dev had been so inherently cruel and evil that he doubted he could ever forgive her, even for the sake of an innocent child.
He turned away from the window and walked over to the bed. Time for `Sleeping Beauty” to dress and leave. Chris had never let a woman spend an entire night in his bed and he wasn't about to start making exceptions now.
When they walked down the steps of their private jet, parked on a corner tarmac at London's Heathrow airport, Dev's eyes anxiously swept the crowd waiting to greet Easy Connection, searching for that one certain face.
Cathy hadn't told him that she would come to meet them so he shouldn't have felt this disappointed, but she had made an attempt to surprise him once before so he couldn't prevent himself from hoping.
He flicked a practiced greeting to the fans screaming his name and entered the customs' lounge, grateful to leave the cold, blustery day outside as the automatic doors swung shut behind him. He wondered how Cathy would feel about moving to Texas - Austin was nice this time of year and the music scene was unparalleled....
The band members were quickly cleared through the formalities with only a cursory check. Dev and Chris moved through secret, maze-like corridors in the bowels of the terminal, led by a smiling airport security attendant, directly to the limousine waiting curbside.
As they approached, George Kaye quickly jumped from the driver's seat and hastily opened the back door.
When he climbed into the Bentley, the first thing he saw was his wife's face beaming at him from the darkened depths of the car. He was so surprised that he almost lost his footing on the icy pavement, just managing to save himself from an embarrassing fall. Definitely not cool! But Cathy pretended not to notice, as Chris slid in opposite him, and he decided that he'd never loved her more.
After treating himself to a very thorough kiss, watchful as Chris leaned across to plant a chaste kiss on her cheek, he asked the burning question.
“Why didn't you come down and meet us at the gate?”
“I was afraid that `Frank Sinatra' wouldn't let me through again,” she laughed. “Or else your fans would have spotted me and skinned me alive.”
She saw Dev flinch slightly and realized he assumed she was talking about her treatment by the band's rabid fans in the days preceding her expulsion from college, so she hurriedly set him straight.
“Remember when you guys told me I couldn't watch the show from the floor because the fans would tear off my clothes for souvenirs?” She jogged his memory.
Before Dev could respond, the car pulled to a stop in front of Dev and Chris's apartment building and Chris prepared to get out.
“You're not coming home with us?” Cathy was puzzled.
“No way, Sweetie, I've got a hot date tonight.” Chris winked at her and then was gone, slamming the door behind him.
Now that it was just the two of them in the back of the darkened car, Cathy's heart started to race. How were they going to pass the time on the three hour drive down to Nethercombe?
She saw his eyes sweep over her glowing face, taking in the golden hair left long and loose and move down to check out her sweater and jeans. She knew what he was thinking and had an answer ready.
“Just because I'm back, doesn't mean I'll let you dress me like a Sindy doll again,” she warned him, but Dev only grinned.
“I'm serious. I'll wear what I want, when I want - so don't start buying me fancy clothes and expensive jewelry again. I mean it, Dev!”
He just continued to smile that devastating smile, crooking his finger and patting the space right next to him. She blushed, but obligingly slid closer, her eyes fluttering closed, her body quivering expectantly in that familiar and disconcerting way as she awaited his kiss.
He put his head in her lap and promptly fell asleep.
Copyright Carrie Holland 2004
If you would like to read further chapters of Carrie's fan-fiction Third Book, email a request to her at firstname.lastname@example.org making sure that you put 'EC/EF Third Book' in the subject line.
Samantha Lomax (Samf) : EASY WAY OUT
Chapter 1 of Third Book
With a deft movement of her slender wrist, the girl threw the paper to the floor and slumped down onto the sofa. Her pulse was racing and a thumping beat stomped through her head. No matter how hard she tried to stop them, the words just kept playing over and over again in her mind.
Re-connected the headline had screamed. Cathy & Dev back together the sub had continued. “Made for each other,” someone had been quoted. There had been a blurry shot of three people, taken at a distance through a window; one lying in a hospital bed, one perched on either side of it. Holding each other's hands, they had made a perfect triangle.
She picked up the remote and flicked on the TV. A daytime interest programme blinked colourfully out from the screen, where an over made-up girl demonstrated how to bend and stretch for a flatter stomach. She switched over and there was Chris Carter, being interviewed on the midday news bulletin outside some swanky-looking building. She drew in a sharp breath and her pulse picked up speed again.
`Accidents draw loved ones together', Chris was saying earnestly to the female reporter, fixing her with his eyes. A smile flickered over his lips. `And potential loved ones.'
The reporter flushed scarlet but kept his gaze. `So will Cathy be staying with Dev in the hospital tonight?'
Chris gestured to the building behind him. `Are you kidding? This place is as good as the Savoy or the Lanesborough. And they're talking of renaming the room the Devlin suite.` He paused and looked the reporter up and down, a twinkle in his eye. `But don't worry love… I'm free tonight.'
The reporter's colour intensified.
The girl watching switched the `off' button on her remote, and leant forward, head in hands.
`There's just no escaping them,' she thought. `How can I move forward with all this going on?'
`The papers, the news, no doubt the flaming magazines… they'll all be running with the story for weeks. Dev and Cathy's split nearly ruined the Connection, and now they're back together, there'll be a public celebration. The biggest rock band in the world, nearly brought to its knees by the heartbreak of its lead guitarist.' She smiled slightly, despite herself. `But I nearly broke them, too.'
A light was wavering, deep down inside her head. Something important was trying to assert itself - a useful thought or feeling. She played with the Tiffany necklace round her throat, trying to grab the idea, but it wouldn't come. Her thoughts turned back to Dev.
`He bought me this necklace. At least, I think he did.' She frowned. `He loved me once. He did, he did.'
Her mind crowded over with fragments of memories. Nothing seemed to be complete. When had she last worn the necklace? The wedding?
Cathy, glowing, curved, golden, carrying a bouquet of white roses and trailing honeysuckle, floated into her head. The girl then saw herself; mini-skirted, scrawny, metallic, tapping sharp nails on the back of a pew. And then there was Dev, his eyes darker than she'd ever seen them, so intense; his hands trembling as he pledged his love to Cathy at the altar.
Cathy. Not her. But he'd wanted her once. She'd turned him down… what a fool she was!
She jumped up from the sofa with one neat move. She needed a cigarette. Where had she left them? Her eye caught the telltale flash of red and white on the mantelpiece, partly hidden behind unopened bills and society invites. She hooked the pack out.
The pack was empty, and she glanced frantically about, trying to remember where she'd hidden her reserves. She checked cupboards, bags, behind the toilet; she got on her knees and started opening all her video cases, shaking them, desperately hoping.
Drawing a blank every time, she retreated to her bedroom and opened the wardrobe. In front of her, an array of shoes shimmered under the built-in spotlights. She sighed deeply, letting the air flow slowly out as she focused on her collection.
`Jimmy Choo,' she said, repeating the name over and over, like a mantra. Her hand wavered over the different pairs, and she eventually slipped her fingers over a red satin sandal, the heel pointed silver. She placed the shoes down on the soft sheepskin rug and slid her stocking-clad feet into them. She turned and admired the look in her wall-to-floor mirror, unconsciously ignoring the obvious angles of her ankle, the protruding sharpness of her knees, and the hollows in her face. She could think more clearly in high heels. She stepped out into the hallway and lifted the phone, dialling a number without needing to look it up. She smoothed over her neatly bobbed hair and played with her necklace again as she waited for the pick-up.
`Yes, hi, I need something.'
`No, I'll meet you.'
`I know it. But - one thing - I need it on credit.'
`Who is it?' She gave a brittle laugh. `It's me, Charis.'
The party was in full swing as Victor Harrison entered the room. His eyes flitted about through the miasma of smoke, quickly checking who he needed to avoid, and who might be a useful contact. He strode over to the bar and ordered a beer, ignoring the ready-poured complimentary pink cocktails. A bunny girl passed by with a silver platter of canapés, and he grabbed a couple of blinis, hungry after a long day chained to his desk. He slipped the smoked salmon down, his editor's words still ringing in his ears.
`Get me a story, Harrison, or it's your arse out the door!'
The serialisation of an autobiography in their rival tabloid had killed their circulation. If that bitch TV presenter were here tonight, he'd have a few words to say. She'd promised him the deal, the full, uncensored version. But she'd gone over to the other side at the last minute, and left him high and dry.
He downed the beer and barked for another.
`Hey Vic! You staying off the pink fizz too? Don't blame you, man.'
Vic turned to the voice at his shoulder, recognising Chris Carter.
`What you doing here? Thought you were on nurse duty for Dev.'
`Gotta keep out there, Vic, you of all people should know that.' Chris caught the barmaid's eye, and she came straight over, smiling shyly. `Double vodka, lime, plenty of ice,' he told her, without emotion.
Vic watched with interest as the barmaid fumbled to dip the glass in limejuice and coat its rim with sugar. She placed it in front of Chris, and poured the vodka from a shot measure with an unsteady hand. Some spilled out.
`Sorry,' she muttered, pushing the glass forward.
Chris smirked at her confusion. `S'alright babe. I'm sure you're good at other things,' he said, with a wink, before turning his back on her blushing face.
`So how is Dev?' asked Vic, sniffing for any gossip.
`Mighty F - I - N - E,' said Chris, spelling out the word. `What do you think? He's stuffed up in hospital with tubes attached. He's bored, man, piss-bored. Keeps asking me to bring in his Strat.' He laughed. `Mind, he keeps those nurses on their toes!'
Vic eyed Chris with interest. `Oh yeah? I heard it was all back on with Cathy, the real deal. Don't tell me he's getting down with one of his nurses?'
Chris moved close to Vic, and squared up to his face. `Yes, it's back on with Cathy all right. So I don't expect to be reading in tomorrow's papers that Dev's at it with some nurse, if you get my drift.'
Vic averted his eyes and took a breath. `Sure, man. Totally. No worries on that count.' He patted his jacket pockets. `Look - empty. No dictaphone.'
Chris smiled and slapped Vic on the back. `Good stuff. Knew I could rely on you, ol' buddy.' He downed his vodka and shouted over his shoulder for a top-up. `So what is the news?'
`You mean, apart from Dev?' Vic took out a cigarette and placed it on his lip, then offered the pack to Chris, who shook his head. Vic flipped open his Zippo and sparked up, drawing in for a long time, before exhaling smoke rings that drifted slowly towards the ceiling, mixing with the pink stars that dangled down on ribbons.
`This,' he said, gesturing around. `This is the big story these days.'
The two of them leant back against the bar and surveyed the room. Assorted pop stars, actors, footballers, DJs, TV presenters, society belles, and great swathes of hangers-on, were all mingling, togged up in their best gear, the very famous among them wearing designer clothes and jewellery on loan specially for the night. A charity auction was due to take place later, with opening bids of £5,000 for items ranging from signed football boots through to bullet-proof cars. Photographers lurked, agitated; only permitted to snap in certain areas, at certain times.
`It's a bloody circus,' moaned Chris. `Where's all the talent?'
Vic gestured towards a girl, whose breasts were almost escaping from the top of her fitted satin dress as she spoke, animated, to a suited older man. `What about the redhead over there?'
`No, not that kind of talent! The type that sells out the biggest stadium in the world within 10 minutes of tickets going on sale, the type that keeps you glued to the big screen for a whole film so that you want to watch it straight over again. Real talent. That's what I mean.' Chris shook his head. `Where's it gone? It's all fake tits and pumped up lips and reality TV these days.'
`And you're complaining?' Vic laughed.
`It's not all just about how you look and who you shag, you know,' said Chris, steel in his voice.
Vic ignored the warning signs and eyed up Chris, noting the designer shirt open to his waist, the heavy gold bracelet on his wrist, and the carefully tousled hair. `Isn't it?' he smirked.
Chris curled his hand into a fist. `You better watch what you're saying, Vic my man.'
`Or he'll wait for you outside the school gates and steal your dinner money!' said a female voice beside them.
The two men turned and Vic noticed Chris turn pale.
`Charis. Long time no see.'
`Darling Chris. So good to see you out, what with Dev and everything.' Charis brushed her perfectly manicured hand against his face. `How are you bearing up, baby?'
Vic watched, fascinated. Charis? His mind went into overdrive, flicking through the filing cabinets stored up there. Rich society girl. American father, British mother: both big charity figures. Brother a key player on the UK polo scene. Links to the royals. Homes in several countries. Then the bonus ball: Dev's girl before Cathy.
`Leave it out, Charis!' said Chris, jerking her hand away from him. `Didn't I make it clear enough? Keep away from me and the rest of the family.'
Charis moved her scarlet lips into a smile. `What family, Chris? Surely you mean, the rest of the band?'
Chris tensed his shoulders. `The family. Me, Dev, Cathy, little Paul.' He threw his empty glass down on the bar. `Stay away. You're no longer welcome.' He turned and nodded at Vic. `Nice to chat, mate. Sorry to run out on you, but the tone of this place has suddenly gone downhill.'
Vic watched him walk away, tossing his hair, ignoring the women in his path who all threw their best smiles at him as he passed.
`Bye-bye sweetie,' called Charis. `Make sure you give my love to Cathy!' She turned and grabbed Vic's hand. `Pleased to meet you. Mine's a Jack `n coke.' She laughed at something, a brittle tinkling sound that grated on Vic's ears. `Well darling, maybe I just need the Jack!'
Vic noted her pupils, so large he couldn't tell the colour of her eyes, and the collarbone that protruded from under her shimmering dress. She laughed again, throwing back her head, and he turned to order her a drink. Get her sitting down and talking, he thought, his pulse racing. I can smell a story.
He took her by the arm and ushered her to an empty booth. She looked like an exotic spider on the red velvet cushions, all skinny arms and legs. She sprawled out, telling him how much she loved the silver necklace she was wearing.
`Dev bought it for me,' she confided, almost in a whisper. `I'm his one true love, you know.'
Vic moved closer. `Not Cathy then?'
Charis narrowed her eyes. `No, not that bitch. She just loves her stupid painting.'
`She's a very talented girl', said Vic, stirring.
`Girl being the operative word,' said Charis, taking the bait. `What Dev wants - no, needs - what Dev needs is a real woman.'
`And I suppose you're that woman?'
`I am indeed.'
Vic took out his cigarettes and offered her one, which she took. He leant forward and held his lighter flame to its tip.
She sucked on the cigarette, watching him.
`It's good to share your troubles,' said Vic. `You can confide in me, you know. Sometimes - ` he hesitated, wondering if he was moving too quickly. `Sometimes it's good to share those troubles with the public. Get them on your side. It can help move things along.'
Charis tapped her nails on the side of her glass. `You could be right. It came to me earlier, the thing I couldn't remember. But I know now.'
Vic frowned. What the hell was she on about? Get her back on track and get some sense out of her.
`What do you know, Charis? Something about Cathy? Something about her paintings? Or maybe she's seeing someone. Dave Hampton? Tom Gibbon? Is that what it is?'
Charis laughed again, that brittle, glass shattering sound that turned Vic's stomach. She fixed him with her eyes, breathless.
`Cathy! You idiot. Seeing someone. What a joke.'
Vic sighed. Maybe there wasn't any story. Just one drunken cow that wanted to slag off her rival. Time to call it a day. He stood up and smoothed down his jacket, but felt Charis grip his arm like a vice.
`Don't you dare walk out on me as well!' she hissed.
`I'm a busy man, Charis. Cards on the table time. I'm a hack, and unless you can tell me something I want to hear, I'm off.'
She released her grip and mumbled something.
`You heard me. I said, how much is it worth?'
He sat back down, his pulse picking up speed again. `Depends.'
`I can give you something nobody would ever have guessed. Something so good, you'll be made editor of whatever cheap rag it is you work for.' Her eyes gleamed. `This is the story of the year. No, the decade!'
`Money's not a problem,' said Vic, holding his breath.
She leant across so that her mouth was near his ear.
`Cathy was raped,' she said huskily.
Vic breathed out, silently formatting headlines. `Good story, Charis, but hardly the scoop of the decade.'
Charis clutched him so close he could feel her lips against his skin.
`You don't understand. She wasn't just raped. She was raped by Dev!'
To be continued…
Copyright Samantha Lomax 2004