by:

Disclaimers: I think the characters are still mine (and Bertha's, of course). You may continue to borrow them for your own personal use (I won't ask) just as long as you return them fully bathed and with a pretty purple ribbon on their heads. Cause I like purple.

Sequel Alert: Well, this isn't really a sequel. It's more of a continuation of the same story but from a different perspective. So if you haven't read Alix then you probably won't have the slightest clue what's going on. Actually, even if you read Alix you might still have no clue what's going on. *points to Bertha* It was all her ... I had nothing to do with it ... unless, of course, you like it ...

Sex/Naughty Words/Violence: Yes there will most likely be sex, between two (or three or four .. no, just two) consenting adult women. If you're not 18 or live in a place where this sort of thing is illegal, or just have a problem with chicks getting it on .. well then ... away with you .. away, I say. Shoo. There will be some naughty words getting thrown around here and there, so if this offends you in any way, please forgive me. There might be some violence in this one. Nothing graphic or bloody or anything, because as always, I bring you loooooove ...

Content Warning:Valerie, the character as well as the story by extension, is a lot darker than Alix ever was ... but I'm trying to keep her/it as light as humanly possible giving the circumstances. Let me know if I succeeded. Also, fasten your seatbelts cause this is about to become a very bumpy ride.

Dedication: To Cindy, for helping me create Valerie, always supporting my insanity, giving me flat-out honest advice, and for threatening not to send me the hair buzzer if I didn't write more. Did you send it yet, huh?? And to Amber, for helping me sort through all of this madness. I would've had to be committed by now if it wasn't for you. Always remember ... the monkeys are listening

Joke Request: Send me jokes... pleeeeeeeeeease :)

Feedback: You can send all comments, questions, e-Cards, gifts, marriage proposals, voodoo curses, and/or threatening letters to amazonkiwi@aol.com. Please be kind ... rewind. And please don't kill me .. ::cries::


Chapter 4

You know how in movies every scene seems to have appropriate background music that works to depict how the characters are feeling without them having to say anything? Well picture this. We were walking side by side, down the practically deserted beach. Meanwhile, the theme song to The Twilight Zone kept echoing in my brain over and over again. All around me, the crashing of the waves seemed to say, "Tell her." The wind, too. I thought I was going insane.

The night was humid with the promise of rain. A look at the dark sky confirmed that indeed a storm was approaching. Perhaps walking down the beach hadn't been the most intelligent of ideas, but it had seemed like an appropriate locale for revelations. The waves were getting restless and the wind was starting to blow colder, but it hadn't yet begun to rain, so we kept on walking. If it started to pour, we could easily make it to shelter.

I made a point of staring down at the sand, pretending to concentrate on the crunching noises my boots were making as they made their marks, leaving behind the traces of my existence. Beside me, Alix walked with her hands in her pockets. I wished that I hadn't allowed things get so serious between us. I'd lost track of everything. I'd jeopardized everything and I wasn't entirely sure that I could make things right again.

Yet the fact remained that I needed Alix's help and I was running out of time to do anything but tell her the truth. Regardless of the consequences.

Surprisingly, it was Alix who spoke first. "Would it make it easier on you if I told you a secret too?" she asked, not looking at me. She sounded like she usually did, cheerful, but I could detect something else in her tone that I couldn't quite identify.

My eyebrows shot upward at her suggestion. "I guess it depends on the secret," I responded, wondering what anyone like her could possibly have to hide.

"Well, I'll measure the shock factor of whatever it is you need to tell me, and then I'll reveal myself accordingly."

I doubted she could possibly say anything that would measure up to my dirty dish of secrets. "So, I've got to go first regardless?"

She glanced at me quickly and I caught the sparkle in her eyes as she said, "You did tell me that you liked having something to look forward to."

Her comment made me smile briefly. "Indeed I did." My gaze wandered off to the ocean for a moment as I decided what to say. Did I tell her about Jessica first? How much about that did she know? Probably nothing. Or did I start with my brother? Which way would make me seem like less of an asshole? Neither. Sighing, I turned my attention to Alix. "Let's sit down," I suggested, and proceeded to plop down on the sand. It was rather moist but I didn't particularly care one way or the other. Alix was a bit more hesitant, but then dropped down beside me anyway.

"If I get struck by lightning," she announced. "I'm going to do inhumane things to you with that feather. Just a warning."

Glancing briefly at the sky, I saw no signs of lightning. Not yet anyway. "What do you think I'm going to tell you?" I asked her, curious to know what she was thinking and just how off she was.

She shrugged and played absently with a handful of sand. "We can go back to your apartment and play pictionary until I guess. Or even charades, I'm good at that." She caught my gaze. "I'm not sure, Valerie. But I'd wish you'd hurry up and tell me 'cause the suspense is kind of killing me here. You can trust me, you know? I am the queen of secrets."

"Oh?"

Alix nodded, paused as though recalling something, and shook her head. "Yeah." The next thing she said almost to herself, but I heard her anyway. "I think Jessica's alone are enough to land me that title."

It made me wonder how many of Jessica's secrets she actually knew. All of them? If so, perhaps it wouldn't be so difficult to explain everything. But would Jessica really tell her? I doubted she even knew herself. "Jessica has secrets?" I wondered, hoping to sound casual.

She snorted at that. "Yeah. Probably one for every dollar in her bank account."

"And you know them all?"

This question caused her green eyes to dart on over to mine and her eyebrows to rise in question. "What does this have to do with anything?"

If she only knew. I paused, wondering how blunt I should be, then deciding to just go for it. Like a band-aid. The faster the better. "Do you know about her parents?"

Alix frowned, staring at me. "What do you mean? That they died?"

I studied her for a moment, searching her eyes for a sign that she knew more than she was letting on. I doubted that she knew. If she knew that meant that Jessica knew and her parents wouldn't have told her before they died. Would they? I decided to press forward. "No not exactly. Do you know anything else?" I asked.

"Why are you asking me about Jessica's parents?"

"Which ones?" I asked, under my breath. I didn't intend for her to hear me but she had somehow.

There was silence. Then, "What are you talking about?"

"Huh?"

She was watching me intently now. "What did you mean 'which ones'?"

Shit. How did I explain this?

"Are you a reporter?"

A reporter? I would've laughed had she not sounded so serious. "No. Not even close."

Alix was biting her lip again. She was watching me with a look that bordered on confusion and something else. Fear perhaps? I didn't want her to be afraid of me. "Valerie, I'm two seconds from kicking you in the face and running for my life, so you better start talking now."

I ran a hand through my hair, swallowing hard. "Okay. Uh, once upon a time, in a mansion by the seaˇ"

"What?"

Perhaps that wasn't the best approach in these circumstances. I decided to just explain the easy part first. Maybe we'd actually get somewhere that way. "Remember when you asked me if I had any siblings and I said no?"

"Right..."

"Well, I lied." I looked at her to see her reaction, she appeared to be waiting for more, so I continued. "I have a younger brother named Aaron. He's eighteen, and sort of a computer geek. Anyway, he was involved with these peopleˇ"

"What kind of people?"

I hesitated. "Drug people." Before she had a chance to react, I continued. "He was in charge of keeping all their information on the computer. Client information and money and so on. Well, he started stealing from them. Little bits at a time, so it wouldn't be noticeable, except that it was. He'd stolen 50 million by the time he got caught and he wouldn't say where the money was." I shook my head, feeling stupid for my brother. "Their leader, which you briefly met the other night, owed me a favor, which is why Aaron had gotten the job with her in the first place, and why she hadn't immediately killed him. She contacted me, told me what he'd done, and I rushed over to see if I could talk him into telling me where the money was. If he gave them the money back, they'd let him go. He'd have to leave the state but at least he'd be alive. Well, he wouldn't tell me. I suspect it's long gone by now. Well, needless to say that Chris was furious when I came back and said that he wouldn't tell me. She was ready to kill him right there in front of me, but I asked her to give me a chance to get her the money. She said no. I told her I'd double it and she relented." I looked at her then.

Alix was looking down at the sand. "So you were using me to get to Jessica so you could get the money for your brother?"

She made it sound so ... simple. I didn't know what to say.

"I'll get you the money from Jessica," Alix announced, though her voice was distant and cold. She wouldn't even look at me. "You could've just asked from the beginning. You didn't have to go through all the trouble of pretending you were interested in me."

I parted my lips to respond but nothing came out. How could she think that?! Then I sighed. How could she not. "Alix," I started, attempting to get her to meet my gaze. She wouldn't. I kept thinking that letting her go was for the best. She was better off without me. I should just get the money, get my brother and forget all about this and her ... but one look into her eyes and I knew it was easier thought than done. "I wasn't pretending."

She shook her head, looking anywhere but at me. "Sorry if I have a hard time believing that." She looked up at the sky then back down at the sand. "It's gonna rain. We should get out of here."

Mutely, I nodded. I got up, then reached out to help her, but she was already on her feet and walking away from me. "Alix," I called.

She didn't turn.

Running a hand through my hair in frustration I looked around as though expecting the palm trees or the waves to have the answers I needed. Sighing, I started to run after her. I caught up soon after and fell in step beside her. She still wouldn't look at me. And then it started to drizzle. "If I told you there was more, what would you say?" I asked her.

"That I don't think I can stomach anymore revelations for one evening," she replied, looking down, her hands in her pockets again. "You know, whatever it was that I expected you to tell me ... I never thought it would involve you using me for money. The thought never entered my mind." She shrugged. "Guess I've been pretty naďve. I should've expected it. You were too good to be true."

"I wasn't using you for you to ask Jessica for money," I told her, not sure why. This admittance wouldn't do me any good. It would only make me look like even more of a jerk but as long as I was being honest. "I wanted you to help me find a document I wanted to steal from her so I could blackmail her."

She stopped dead in her tracks and only then did she look at me. "What?"

Oh boy.

"What kind of document?" she demanded.

I'd never seen her angry before and I decided right then and there that as beautiful as she looked with her eyes flashing in rage that I never wanted to see her mad again. "Her birth certificate," I confessed, and felt myself sink further into the grave I was digging.

She blinked then her anger dissipated into confusion. "Why would you blackmail her with her birth certificate?"

How did I even begin to explain this? Then I paused as I notice her face change from confusion into something that resembled recognition.

"You know?!" she yelled. "How do you know?"

My turn to be confused. "Know what?" Then I realized and I winced in surprise. "Wait, you know?"

Alix looked distraught. "How did you find out? Nobody knows except Jessica, Mathew and me." She stared right into my eyes and asked, "Valerie, how do you know that?"

Sighing, I said, "I overheard my parents talking about it numerous times."

"Then how did your parents find out?"

I closed my eyes for a moment, willing myself to find the strength or perhaps the courage to say it. I looked right into her eyes and replied, "Because they're her parents too."

It's amazing the effect that five little words can have when put in the right order and used in the right context. For the next few seconds I watched as Alix processed the information I had just provided her. My heart stopped beating, I was sure of it, and I wasn't entirely certain that I was breathing either.

"I think," Alix stammered, looking incredibly pale all of a sudden, "I think I need to lie down."

I caught her before she had a chance to hit the ground and I thanked whatever gods had blessed me with fast reflexes because the girl had fainted fast. "Well damn. That's a first."

By the time she came to, which was only a few moments later, it was already pouring. She blinked through the rain, appearing confused.

"Hey," I told her, "We have to get out of here."

She nodded slowly and I helped her to her feet. When I was certain she'd remain in an upright position, I grabbed her hand and led her in the direction of my apartment. It wasn't far and I knew a shortcut. We'd just get really soaked along the way. She didn't say anything and neither did I. Instead, I focused on avoiding most major puddles, though it didn't seem to matter because the rain was coming down hard and my tee shirt and jeans were sticking to me like glue. Personally, I didn't mind, but Alix appeared uncomfortable and I guessed that she didn't like getting wet. At least not with her clothes on. Um. Okay, let's not go there. We passed by people under umbrellas and people under the protection of outstretched newspapers hurrying to find shelter. Cars swished by, cutting through the layers of water accumulated on the pavement.

We reached my building a few minutes later and I opened the door, letting Alix pass through first. A gust of cold air hit my body as I stepped inside and I saw Alix shiver. I didn't even bother glancing at the elevator as I headed for the stairs. The swooshing of our shoes as they met with the carpet almost amused me. We sounded like a couple of ducks walking down the hall. At my door, I paused. If my apartment was indeed bugged, then Alix and I couldn't discuss anything pertaining to any of the topics we'd touched on that night. But what was the likelihood of that? Could I risk it? Did I have a choice? I rubbed my forehead for a moment, trying to think logically. Chris knew I never had visitors. If she'd bugged anything it would've been my phone.

"Why are you pausing?" Alix asked, watching me curiously.

Glancing at her, I shrugged. "Just thinking of something," I replied and proceeded to unlock the door. I flipped on the light, did a quick survey of the room, determining that no one had been there while I'd been gone and most importantly, that there was no one currently inside. Only then, did I allow Alix through. "I'll get us some towels." From the linen closet in the hallway, I grabbed a couple of towels and made my way back to the living room. Alix was staring curiously at my phone. "Something wrong?" I asked, handing her one of the towels.

She looked at me. "Do you have another phone besides this one?"

"The one in my room." I was confused. "Why?"

She appeared thoughtful for a moment, then she caught my gaze. "You don't have caller ID."

"No, I don't." I started to ask why, when I remembered why she was asking.

She pinched the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes, as though attempting to halt the assault of an impending headache. When she opened her eyes she laughed slightly. "That shouldn't really surprise me." She studied me quietly. Then asked softly, "Did I hear you correctly, before I passed out?"

I nodded.

"You're Jessica's sister?" The words sounded awkward and I couldn't decide if it was because she wasn't used to saying them or because I wasn't used to hearing them. Perhaps both.

Instead of responding to her question, I said, "We should get you into some dry clothes."

For a moment, I thought she was going to refuse. In fact, I thought she was going to throw the towel at me and storm out. She looked torn and awkward and hurt and I felt so helpless I wanted to scream. "Okay," she said, to my surprise.

In my bedroom I found a change of clothes for the both of us. I gave her a pair of black sweat pants and a green tee shirt. As for myself, I opted for black cotton boxers and a light blue tee shirt with the Whispers logo on the back. While we changed, I politely turned my back to give her privacy. I found it depressing that I felt it necessary to do so, since I'd pretty much memorized every curve of her body, but as much as I hated to admit it, everything had now changed between us.

The room was momentarily lit by lightning, followed almost immediately after by a clap of thunder that made the lights flicker and my skin crawl. Feathers and thunderstorms. Anything else I could handle. When I turned around, Alix was dressed and seated on my bed, petting a contented Loki. Unsure of what to do, I did nothing. Just stood there, a few inches from my closet watching her silently.

Green eyes rose to meet my gaze. "Are you going to tell her?"

Jessica. Was it always about Jessica with her? My sudden anger unsteadied me and I turned to stare out the window, attempting to find some mode of control. I had no right to be jealous. "No," I answered. "I was going to get the proof, blackmail her with it, get the money and then return the birth certificate to her." I paused to look at the ground before continuing. I wasn't sure what it was about the floor that provided me with comfort. "I just wanted to help my brother out of the mess. I never had any intention of hurting anyone."

"So, have you been spying on me?" she asked.

Her question made me turn around to face her. "What?"

Instead of answering, she asked another question. "How did you know I called you that night at Jessica's, since it's pretty much obvious that you don't have Caller ID?"

"My phone rang and you're the only one who has my number." Well, that number. I had two.

"Then why didn't you pick it up if you knew it was me?" she pressed.

"Because I was having second thoughts about the whole thing," I admitted. She seemed both surprised and confused by my answer, so I decided to continue. "I had expected you to be different. I knew you were friends with Jessica and I just assumed that you'd be another rich snob. I didn't think you'd be so ... " Unable to pick an appropriate adjective, I intended to let it just hang in the air. Of course, I should've known better.

"So what?" Alix asked.

A stream of words floated through my mind, but non served to accurately describe her. "I don't know," I stammered. "So you."

Alix was silent for a moment, then said, "So you went ahead with it anyway, cause of your brother?"

I nodded.

Another bolt of lightning crashed nearby and I jumped.

"I'd get away from the window if I were you," Alix advised.

I started walking toward her, expecting her to stop me and tell me to sit on the floor or in the corner or something. Instead, she moved to the side to make room for me and I crawled across the bed to lean back on the wall the bed rested against. Her back was to me for a moment and then she turned around to face me.

She stared at me quietly for a long time, studying me. I was thankful for the silence. All of the talking was making my head ache and my heart pound. I felt so drained, both physically and emotionally. "I have so many questions I don't know where to begin," she said finally.

"Well, what do you most want to know?" I wondered.

She shrugged. "I don't know. I don't think any of this has really hit me yet. I mean, I heard everything you said and I understand it ... but it hasn't hit me. I'm sort of numb inside."

Instead of answering, I reached over to open the drawer of my nightstand. I dug around with my hand until I found my copy of Ayn Rand's Anthem and pulled it out. All the while, Alix watched me curiously. I flipped through the novel until I found what I was searching for. "Here," I said, grabbing the photograph that stuck out between the pages. I glanced at it for a moment, then handed it to Alix.

She stared down at the picture, then looked up at me. "Oh...wow."

It was a picture of myself and of Aaron, taken a few years back. I'd been eighteen, he'd been fifteen. There was nothing special about the picture, really. Just the two of us standing in front of a car, looking annoyed at getting our picture taken. The only reason I kept it was because it was the last picture we'd taken together and for some reason I liked it.

"Your hair," Alix said. "You're not a blonde?"

"No, this was a recent development," I answered, grabbing a strand of hair for emphasis.

"Why?" Then she looked down at the picture and nodded. "Cause then you'd look too much like Jessica." She continued without waiting for me to answer. "Is this your brother? Aaron?"

"Yeah."

She stared at the picture for a moment longer. "We'll get him back," she assured me gently. "But I won't help you blackmail or steal from Jessica."

"I know."

She handed the picture back. "Is there anything else I should know before I call Oprah?"

Well, there was the small Jade factor, but did I really want to go there? No. I decided it was best if Jade told her herself. "Not really," I said. "Are you okay?"

"Not really." She smiled weakly. "I wasn't ready for this."

Would she pull back if I reached for her? Fearful of rejection, I didn't attempt to move in her direction. "I'm sorry," I said, like two words would do any kind of good. "I neverˇ"

"You don't have to explain," she said, cutting me off. She didn't sound angry, just tired. "I understand."

Leaning my head against the wall, I focused on the sound of raindrops pelting my window. It sounded like a ton of little rocks getting shot at the crystal. Loki padded across the mattress and came to rest between Alix and me. She yawned and closed her eyes, resting her head on her paws. "So, what's your secret?" I asked, letting myself fall into her eyes.

Alix looked around thoughtfully, then returned her gaze to my own. "I'm really a man."

My lips twisted into a smile. "Is that so?"

"That is so."

She had no idea how badly I wanted to kiss her at that moment. If she was indeed a man, she was the sexiest one I'd ever seen.

"I should get going," she said suddenly.

A quick glance at the window let me know that the storm was nowhere near being over. "You can't drive in that," I said, turning back to her.

She was on her feet already, searching her wet clothes for the car keys. Finding them, she rolled the clothes into a ball and started toward the door. "Why not? I've driven in worse."

"You don't have to go," I insisted, jumping off the bed to follow her out of the room.

"I really think I do," she answered, turning briefly in the hallway to give me a meaningful look. "I'll get you back your clothes," she added as she reached the door.

Short of jumping on her and tying her downˇas tempting as that would've been under different circumstancesˇthere wasn't much chance of my stopping her from leaving, so I let out a deep sigh, resigning myself to the inevitable. "Will you call me when you get home?" The request sounded pathetic to my own ears, I shuddered to think how it sounded to hers.

She paused, standing with half her body out the door and the other half still inside my apartment. "Why do you want me to call you?"

"So that I know you made it okay," I replied, feeling incredibly foolish.

I couldn't read her expression, but if I had to guess I'd have to say she appeared surprised. "Why?" she asked.

"Because you're my girlfriend," I responded and then proceeded to roll my eyes and wish I were alone so I could have the honor of kicking myself. What was this, middle school?

Her expression turned dark. She slipped from my view and shut the door without responding.

I stared stupidly at the door for a long while. Well, I'd gotten my wish.

I was alone.

Continued in part 3...


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