For complete disclaimers see part 1.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: <>

Kim Pritekel

Part 12

Bob Knowles absently raised the tumbler to his lips, only glancing into the glass when the ice clinked against the crystal, but nothing else happened. Forgetting he'd drank the last of the scotch ten minutes before, he set the heavy glass on the top of the desk in his home office in San Francisco.

He looked out over the bay, the fog moving in, muffling the traffic and the horn of a lonely fishing vessel.

Tearing his attention away from the window, he looked down at his desk, the newspaper sitting next to his abandoned glass, headline bold, mocking: MUSIC HEAVY HITTER STRIKES OUT

The phone call he'd had with Jack earlier in the day weighed heavily on his shoulders, causing them to slump, wrapped in the crisp, starched button up from Prada, designed with his form and tastes in mind. A shirt even named after him.

So they were all bugging out. Didn't trust him. Worried he'd do to them what he'd done to Christine Gray. Worried he'd betray them and fillet their closets open to let their skeletons dance around like a live chicken in a frying pan.

Knowles walked around his desk, taking the tumbler with him. He filled it to the rim from the nearly empty bottle, which he set back on the marble bar-top. Downing half the glass in one swig, he nearly choked as another thing Jack had said came back to him. Those pricks at Mercy Hospital won't say a fucking word. They were protecting that little bleached blonde nurse, who, according to the rags, was fucking the star singer.

"Bitches," he breathed into the glass, taking the rest of the liquid fire down, ice sliding against his perfect, capped teeth. "Fuck you all." He slammed the tumbler down on the bar with finality.


A green eye cracked open, nearby whispering tugging her from the warm web of peaceful sleep. Willow couldn't make out what was being whispered, or who was whispering, but the words Œcute' and Œhot' did catch in her brain.

As the haze of sleep wore off a bit more, she realized that she was still cuddled up with Christine, the blonde's head resting against a steadily rising and falling chest, her arm tucked up close to her face, fingers spread out over a somewhat pronounced ribcage.

"What the hell are you guys doing?" Christine muttered, her voice rumbling through Willow's entire body, making both green eyes flutter open. There, at the foot of the bed, stood Eli, Davies and Joey. Eli held a harmonica in his hand.

"Eli," Joey said, causing the drummer to blow a perfect middle C on the instrument, thus throwing the boys into an a cappella version of Brenda Lee's ŒI'm Sorry', which got both women giggling.

"Get out of here!" Christine laughed, throwing one of the shoes she'd taken off sometime during the night, at the retreating singers. "I swear," she muttered, re-settling, and wrapping her arm around the blonde.

"Goofy bunch," Willow murmured, basking in the warmth and comfort of her human pillow.

"I'll say."

"That was really sweet of them, though," Willow raised her head to see a small smile play across Christine's lips, her eyes closed. She nodded.


Willow lowered her head again, snuggling in. Heaven. Pure heaven. All the months she'd been missing human contact, all forgotten. She felt so safe, so cared for. Dare she say happy?

"So what's the plan today?" she asked, eyes opening to get a very up close view of Christine's t-shirt. She looked at the cotton fibers at an almost microscopic level, seeing the tiny fibers criss-crossing, and the occasional piece of lint, which she picked off.

"Mm," the singer groaned. "The fun starts. We pack up and head out." She took a deep breath, letting it out slow and steady, raising Willow's head along with it. "How are you doing this morning?" she asked, bringing her hand up to play with a few fly away strands of the blonde's hair.

"I'm good." Willow raised her head, holding it up on her hand, and smiling down at her friend. "You make a great pillow, you know."

Christine snorted. "I've been called a lot of things in my time, but pillow isn't one of them."

"Well, now you have, so deal. And I'm fine. You?" The smiles were gone, the seriousness of the night before flooding back. Christine looked deeply into Willow's eyes, trying to read her, see if she truly was fine. Seeing nothing but truth, her smile returned, albeit at half-watt.

"I'm okay."

"Come on. Feed me." Willow climbed off Christine, then the bed, running her hand through a very interesting do. "One thing I've always hated about short hair," she grumbled.

"I think it's adorable." The singer walked over to her, grabbing some of the strands that were trying to stand on their on, and helped them walk all over the little blonde's head.

"Stop it!" Willow smacked at Christine's hands, back away with a glare. She was further enraged by the laughter from Christine's handy work filled the room. "Pain in the butt. Go to your room," she pointed out the door.

"Oh, the little mother in you emerges."

"Out!" Willow's lips twitched as she tried to keep the glare in place, but as she continued to look at the singer, she was losing the battle. Finally a smile burst into full bloom. "Unless you want to see a fat woman shower, go away."

"In that case," Christine headed back toward her friend before giggling as she started to run, a growling Willow chasing her.

"Some people's kids," Willow muttered as she turned back toward her bedroom.

"You're not fat,"

Willow swung around to see Christine leaning against the doorframe. With a yelp, the singer disappeared.


Samantha Cox pushed her dark framed glasses a bit further onto her nose, sighing as she re-read her copy for the next days paper. The story was shit, and she knew it. The editor was a chauvinistic ass, and every woman in the building knew that. She should have taken that job as a stringer for the Times.

Finally giving up, deciding the story on the runaway pet potbelly pig was as good as it got, and she clicked the mouse, sending the story to the editor's que, and pushing away from her desk.

"Stacy, you want anything from Starbucks?" she asked as she slid into her light suite jacket.

"Yeah. Get me a mocha breve with extra chocolate and whipped cream. Grande!" the photographer called out to the retreating back of the young reporter.

"How the hell does she get any coffee with all that chocolate?" Samantha muttered as she made her way through the maze that was the small, Bay Area paper she worked for. Climbing into her Honda Accord, Samantha gave it some gas, and sputtered out of the parking lot.

One of the only good things about the job was the view. The Golden Gate Bridge was just off to the left, and it was amazing. Samantha had only moved to the area a few months ago, having grown up further south in San Diego. She certainly loved the area, even if it did cost her an arm and a leg to live there.

Singing to herself, as the radio was down again, she headed down the lane, the big Starbucks sign in view. Glancing again toward the bridge, she noticed a bunch of emergency vehicles there, lights flashing.

Slowing to turn into the coffee house parking lot, she quickly changed her mind, cutting off a Ford Taurus as she gunned the engine, heading toward the bridge. Her reporter instincts were telling her to investigate. As she saw a bundle being pulled out of the water, two hundred and twenty feet below the landmark, she gave her little car even more gas.

"Shit, a jumper," she murmured, driving like a lunatic to get there as quickly as possible. "Yes!"


"You are so full of shit!" Christine accuses, throwing the guitar pick she had been using at Eli. The group laughed, including Eli who chased the pick down. "Give me my damn pick back."

"No way. You threw it at me, so obviously you don't want it anymore," he grinned, waggling the little piece of plastic tauntingly at her.


Joey jumped up, his cell phone ringing toward the back of the bus. As he hurried down the main aisle, he snagged the pick out of Eli's hand.

"Hey!" the drummer yelped in surprise. Joey grinned, tossing the pick to Christine, then disappearing into one of the back rooms.

Willow sat curled up on one of the numerous comfy sofas that lined the outer walls of the bus. She watched the play between Christine and her band mates, and kept a constant smile on her lips, amused and touched by how close they were. A part of her felt sad for the boys, losing their lead woman, and wondered what they would all end up doing. Including Christine. The blonde couldn't help but wonder if someday the singer would regret her decision.

"Uh, Chris," Joey said, his face pale as he took his cell phone away from his ear. "You need to hear this." He handed her the small, silver flip phone, which she took. Her eyes remained on his face, worry furrowing her forehead.


"Christine, this is Kat," the woman on the other end of the line said, her voice low and slightly thick.

"Hey, Kat. What's up?"

All conversation had stopped, the boys and Willow watching and listening intently, trying to figure out what was going on, and Joey wasn't saying a word. Instead, he took Christine's guitar from her, quietly began to strum a mindless tune on it.

"I tried to call your cell, but it wasn't on,"

"Oh, shit, sorry. I was charging it and forgot to turn it back on."

"It's okay. Listen, boss, this morning Bob Knowles' body was drug out of the bay,"

"What?" Christine stood, shock sending a wave of energy through her body.

"He jumped." She clarified.

"Ah, Jesus," Christine sank to the couch next to Willow, free hand going to her forehead. "Is he," she couldn't bring herself to say it.

"Very much so." Kat sighs. "I can't believe he did that,"

"Yeah," Christine feels a very uncomfortable numbness begin to envelop her. "Thanks for letting me know." With that, she slaps the phone shut, tossing it back to Joey, and heads toward her sleeping quarters at the back of the bus.

Willow looks around, confused.

"What happened?" Davies finally asks the question that is on everyone's brain.

"Knowles committed suicide off the Golden Gate this morning," Joey says quietly, watching his fingers uselessly adjust the pegs of the perfectly tuned guitar.

"Serves the fucker right," Eli says, grinning at everyone, but only being met with disapproving glares from his band mates.

"Dude, that's not cool," Joey says.

"What? The guy was an asshole from the word go. Good riddance," refusing to feel bad, or take back his comment, Eli stands, walking over to the bar. "Hey, where's the rum?" he looks over his shoulder, looking for answers, which he doesn't get. "You guys take off with the booze?" he tries again.

"Chris threw it all out," Davies finally says.

"Fuck. Goddamn puritanical-"

"I'm going to make sure she's okay," Willow says, cutting off Eli's muttered remarks. She couldn't stand hearing him talk badly about the singer who was only trying to live better. She didn't feel it was her place to lecture Christine's friend, so she said nothing.

Fighting her nausea as the bus jerked her from side to side, Willow finally made her way down the aisle, to Christine's closed bedroom door. She walked up to the dark paneling, fingers running lightly over the smooth wood. For a moment she thought about walking away, leaving the singer alone, but then had a change of heart. She needed to be there for her.

Knocking lightly, she called out Christine's name. Not hearing anything, she decided to take a chance. Turning the knob, she was glad to find it unlocked, and pushed the door open.

"Christine," she whispered, pushing her way into the small space. The singer sat on the edge of her bed, legs curled under her, hands resting in her lap. She didn't answer. Walking over to her, Willow stood before her friend, seeing the faraway look in her blue eyes. "Christine," she whispered again, tentatively touching her shoulder. The blonde yelped in surprise when she was suddenly gathered in needing arms, pulled to the edge of the bed.

Getting her balance, Willow wrapped her arms around Christine, cradling her head against her chest, running her fingers through long, dark hair. She felt Christine's hands clasp at her lower back.

No words were spoken. None had to be. Willow could feel the sorrow radiating off Christine in waves. She hoped the singer would want to talk about it, knowing she needed to, but wasn't about to push the issue.

As they stood there, Willow couldn't keep the image out of her mind of a cold, February night, and the Dittman Bridge. She remembered how blue Christine's face had been, how lifeless her body. She held her friend a little closer, her protective instincts kicking in like mad. But today this isn't about Willow, and it's not about what Christine had attempted to do. It's about the singer's obvious pain over what her long-time manager did, no matter what an ass he may have been.

The blonde rested her cheek atop the wonderful smelling dark hair, the tiny wisps tickling her skin.

They stayed like for so long that Willow's legs were beginning to ache, her feet tingle. Finally Christine spoke.

"Willow?" she said quietly, her head leaning against the blonde's chest, listening to the steady heartbeat.

"Yeah?" Willow said softly, finger-combing Christine's hair.

"Do you think that my firing Bob had anything to do with his, ... with what he did?" She pulled away from Willow, looking up at her with the saddest expression on her face. The blonde's heart broke at the sight. She smiled sweetly, shaking her head.

"No, honey, I don't. I think he did it to himself," Willow said, her voice soft, no malice in her words. She contemplated whether she should tell her friend what she'd heard at the hospital, and decided it might be best. Christine deserved to know the whole truth. "Honey, he was trying to ruin you,"

"Perhaps, but I got him back-"

"No," Willow pulled slightly away, enough to be able to look into confused blue eyes. "He was trying to find someone at Mercy to speak against you, Christine," she gently caressed the singer's shoulder, trying to take the sting out of her words.

"What? What do you mean? When?"

"A couple weeks ago. He wanted to expose what happened last winter."

"God," Christine looked down at her lap, stunned. "Why hadn't I heard anything about this?"

"Because no one would talk." Christine looked up again, meeting Willow's gaze. The blonde smiled. "We weren't going to turn on our hometown hero,"

Christine chuckled, then hugged the blonde to her again, quick and tight, then released her.

"I need to make some calls," she said, pulling away, then standing and running trembling hands through her hair.

"Okay. If you need anything, don't hesitate, okay?" Willow said, halfway to the door. The singer nodded, then smiled. Willow heard the cell phone come to life as she clicked the door gently closed.


They stood at the foot of the stairs that led to the small jet. Christine pushed her hair back, the wind immediately blowing it back into her face.

"Thank you so much for coming," she said, lightly rubbing Willow's jacket-covered arm.

"Thank you so much for inviting me. It was," Willow chewed on her lower lip for a moment, looking out over the tarmac as she tried to think of the words. "a trip of a lifetime," she finally said, looking up at her friend.

"Well, I don't know about that,"

"No, really," she hugged Christine close. "It was truly amazing. Thank you," pulling away, she smiled.

"I'm going to miss you," Christine said, holding the blonde's hand.

"I'll miss you, too. When will I see you again?"

"I'll come visit for a bit. How would you like that?" Christine glanced at the plane as the engine roared to life. "You better get going."

"Yeah," Willow stepped up onto the first stair, bringing her to Christine's eyelevel. "And I'd love that. You better keep your promise," she poked the singer, who grinned and nodded.

"I promise. I need to take care of some stuff back home, then I'll be out."

"Okay." About to head up to the next stair, Willow quickly threw herself into Christine's arms, hugging her tight. The singer squeezed her eyes shut as she allowed herself to be enveloped in Willow's warmth. "If you need anything," the blonde whispered into her ear. "I've got two good shoulders, and a great set of ears, okay?" Looking deeply into her friend's eyes to make sure Christine was listening, she smiled, and with a quick peck on Christine's cheek, she was up the stairs and in the plane.

Christine stepped back from the jet, which was getting ready to taxi out to the runway. She saw her friend getting settled through the small, oval windows. She waved with a smile when the blonde spotted her. She didn't feel the smile, however. It was purely for Willow's benefit. She missed her friend on a level she couldn't believe. Just bring around her made Christine feel better, feel grounded.

Even Adam didn't have that effect on her.

Shaking those lonely thoughts away, she waved one last time, then turned and headed back to the limo to catch her own flight.

Willow watched as her friend walked away, ducking into the back of the limo. The plane began to pull away, and she twisted her head to watch as far as she could until the car was out of sight.

Turning back around in her seat, she sighed and settled in for the short flight back home.


Rachel pushed the buggy down the cereal aisle, glancing up from her magazine from time to time to make sure she wasn't running into anything or anyone. Looking back down at the article she was reading, she turned the page, the buggy coming to a screeching halt against a display of chocolate Lucky Charms. Not even realizing what she'd done, she stared at the magazine in her hands, mouth catching flies.

Breaking her freeze, she grappled with her purse until she found her cell phone.

"Of course you can come over. You know better than that," Willow rolled her eyes, wiping her hands off on her thighs as she finished brushing Star down. Shutting the phone, she stuffed it back into her pocket, sweet talked her horse for a few more minutes, then headed back inside. It wasn't long before she heard Rachel's SUV pull into the yard.

The front door opened, and Rachel was whooshed in with the wind and snow.

"Close the door! It's freezing out there," she muttered as she brought a cup of coffee to a frozen Rachel.

"Thank you," the redhead mumbled, lips half frozen. She took a long, hot drink and began to unthaw. Remembering why she was there, she quickly put the cup down on the kitchen counter, and tugged her huge purse from her shoulder.

"You are not going to believe this," she said, digging until she found what she was looking for. Tugging the magazine free, she frantically flipped through it until she found the page, then shoved it in front of Willow's face.

"What is this?" the blonde took the magazine, brows furrowed as she stared down at her own face. "Oh my god," she breathed when she read the headlines. "They think," she looked up at her friend, who looked just as concerned. "they think Christine and I are, ... lovers?"

"Why would they say such a thing?" Rachel whispered, picking up her coffee again, holding it between her still chilled hands.

"I don't know," Willow said absently, reading the story. The pictures were taken in Houston, and a few that Willow thought had been taken in Dallas. "I can't believe this," she was horrified to see a picture of Christine and her on the streets of Houston together, the singer's arms around her, their foreheads together. It was the main picture, certainly the largest. The caption underneath read: Christine Gray and this unidentified woman strolled the streets of Houston together, laughing and cuddling.

Willow looked up at Rachel, eyes wide and distraught. "How could they do this? It's not true," she smacked the smooth pages of the rag. "It's not true."


Christine closed the door after sending Millie home for a bit. There was no reason for the house keeper to stay in an empty house. She'd only be coming twice a week to make sure things were okay, and to watch the dates on food.

Jogging up the stairs, she went into a dead run when she heard the phone ringing. Grabbing the first phone she came to, she answered, out of breath.

"Are you a lesbian?" asked a solemn voice on the other end.

"What?" About to slam the phone down, she stopped.

"Are you? I need to know, Christine,"

"Willow?" the singer lowered herself to a chair, a chill gripping her heart. "Why, where did this come from?"

"Please answer the question. I mean, I'm not stupid, I've heard all the rumors, but I, ..."

Christine twirled her fingers in the phone cord, hearing the pain in Willow's thick voice. What was going on?

"Willow I don't, well, I don't really stick myself in any categories," she blew out a breath of exasperation, feeling sweat begin to pool between her breasts. "Willow, where is this coming from?" she asked again, her voice soft.

"Screen Magazine," Willow said, her voice low and, well, and something Christine couldn't quite make out.

"Yeah," the singer said, not following, but dread filling her all the same.

"According to Screen Magazine I, the unidentified woman, and you are lovers. The latest in a long line-"

"That isn't true, Willow," Christine said, the anger beginning to replace the dread.

"So what is true? Why would they say something like this?" Willow ran a hand through her hair, feeling the long, should-length strands falling through her fingers. She leaned against the counter.

"I'm so sorry, Willow. God, I'm sorry. I never wanted you to be drug into my mess. They do this because I don't give them anything to play with. You understand?" Christine gripped the phone tighter, praying that she could say the right things to fix this.

"No. What do you mean?"

"I mean that I don't give them details of my life. They don't see me at award shows with god only knows who, and I don't flaunt it." She stood, pacing nervously. "I can't apologize enough, Willow. I never meant for anything like this to happen."

"I know," Willow whispered. "I know."

"Do you still want me to come up next week?" Christine held her breath, praying she hadn't ruined one of the most important friendships of her life. Willow stared down at the magazine, looking at her friend's face, smiling, happy.

"Yes." She finally said, tossing the magazine into the trash under the sink.

Christine smiled and let out a silent breath. "Good."

Willow smiled. "I'll see you soon."

"See you soon."


Walking through the halls of Mercy was an interesting experience to say the least. No one really said anything, but the looks Willow got said enough. She didn't try and defend herself, figuring that if she were to bring it up, it would make things worse. If someone actually got the balls to ask her, then she'd set them straight. No pun intended. Right now she was just trying to concentrate on getting things ready for Christine's visit. She was thrilled as the singer said she planned to stay for a couple weeks. She even thought about looking into hiring security for her ranch, but then decided that was ridiculous. If that sort of thing was needed, Christine would know, and probably knew what to do about it, too.

Willow ran a hand through her hair. Part of her hated Bob Knowles for what he'd done to Christine, in so many ways. He'd brought the hounds of the media down on her, scrapping through every aspect of the illusive singer's life, even going so far as to make something out of nothing. She shivered, thinking about that article again. She also hated him for being such a coward, and leaving that sort of self-blame and guilt on someone so sensitive as Christine.

"Selfish prick," she muttered, headed toward the locker room to get changed and go home.

Everything was perfect, clean, linens changed, perfect. Willow went to every room, touching up where there was no need to touch up.

Why was she so nervous? After being on tour with Christine for those few days, seeing how people literally threw themselves at her feet, seeing all the things Christine could afford and bought, and all that the singer was used to, Willow couldn't help but wonder if maybe her modest house was a shack comparatively. Shoot, even the suite they'd stayed in was bigger than the entire house, just about!

Deep down, Willow didn't think Christine was that way, but the worry still lingered. The sound of the front door opening broke her from her reverie.

Brows drawn, and a slight panic in her heart, she edged into the upstairs hall, making her way toward the staircase, peeking around the wall. Partly relieved, and partly annoyed, she marched down the stairs, bare feet padding a tune of irritation.

"What the hell are you doing here? And what do you think you're doing by just letting yourself in? Give me your key, Kevin,"

"Sure," the blonde man said, blue eyes blazing, "as soon as you explain this shit," he tossed the magazine at her, which flopped to the floor before her feet. "What is this shit, Willow? Is that why you left me? For that fucking dyke?" There was venom in his voice.

Willow glanced down at the magazine, knowing full well which one it was, though it had landed with an advertisement for Grey Goose. Green eyes lazily made their way back up to his, her arms crossed over her now voluptuous breasts, which made him stop for a moment, catching his eye. Quickly his anger returned, however.

"How dare you accuse me of that, Kevin, when you know damn well why this marriage failed." Willow was stunned at just how calm she felt. She was proud of herself for not blowing up, which was her usual tactic. She had been trying to work on her temper, knowing it wasn't good for her or the baby.

Kevin stared at her for a moment, at a loss for what to say. He knew she was right, but there was no way he was going to give it to her. "Is it true?" he nodded toward the rag he'd thrown on the floor, arms crossed in his own defensive posture.

"What business is it-"

"Is it true!" his face was red now, all pretense of a civil discussion gone. The vein raged in the center of his forehead, pounding in time with his heart.

"No," the blonde said simply.

"Then explain those pictures, Willow. The two of you cuddling, heads together," he was trembling now.

"I'll answer your questions, Kevin, though the Lord knows why, but I'm going to warn you," she pointed a finger at him. "If you blow up, if you lose your temper, you're out of here. Got it? It's not good for me or my baby to get upset."

"It took two to create that kid," he growled.

"Really? Well, I seem to be the only one taking responsibility for her, so she's mine. Deal. Now get the information you came here to get, Kevin, cause that's all you're going to get."

He took a calming breath, then started to walk past her, toward the kitchen.

"Where do you think you're going?" she said, stunned.

"To get coffee. It's six-thirty in the damn morning, and I'm tired," he explained, stopping to look at where her hand rested, none-to-gently, on his arm.

"No. This isn't a social call, Kevin, and I don't recall inviting you into my house. Right back to where you were, mister," she snapped her fingers, pointing back to the spot in front of the door. He looked at her for a moment, incredulous.

"You're kidding, right?"

"Do I look like I'm kidding?" she asked with a raised brow. Blowing out a breath, he muttered as he followed her orders.

"Feel like a goddamn child,"

"That's what happens when you act like one. See? Practicing on being a mother already." Willow smiled sweetly at him. He only glared.

"Are you fucking that bitch or what?" he asked, getting back to the main purpose for his visit. The other part may or may not come later, considering how his wife was acting. Hell, she wasn't even his ex yet. The divorce wasn't going to be final until December. He held his cards close to his chest, though he knew he'd better start behaving if he even planned to get to the next part, and not thrown out on his ear. Again.

"No, we're just friends. She invited me to go on tour with her in Texas, where those shots were taken," she indicated the magazine between them. "Christine's former manager has been trying to make trouble for her, and this got the news machine purring back to life. They must have tailed us, taking any sort of shot that looked like it could be anything. That's it, end of story, now get out."

"Hold on a minute," he held up a hand, trying to supplicate her, his eyes softening. For just a moment, only a small moment, Willow saw the man she'd fallen in love with so many years ago. She swallowed that moment down, bringing her current reality back into sharp focus. "Honey,"

"My name is Willow."

"Willow," he sighed sadly, "don't do this to us." He took a step toward her. She didn't step back, and he took that as a good sign. "We really loved each other once, you and me," he smiled, again, the man she'd married shining through. "I still love you. The divorce isn't final yet, ho-, Willow," he swallowed. "We can turn back the clock, get back what we lost." He stood right in front of her now. She looked up at him, her own eyes softening. "What do you say?"

"Turn back the clock," she murmured, eyes looking up into his, searching them.

"Yes. Turn back the clock," he leaned in close, inhaling the smell he knew so well. The smell of her hair, which he was glad to see she was letting grow out. She'd had long hair when they'd gotten together, and he loved running his fingers through it. "find what we used to have," he continued.

"Tell me something, Kevin," Willow asked, her voice soft, gentle. Her heart was racing.


"Do you remember that night when we made love in front of the fire, down here in the living room?" her voice got even softer.

"Yeah, I do," he could almost get hard thinking about that night. He had been the one to suggest the whole fire thing, knowing how much she got into that Harlequin, romantic nonsense.

"Do you remember how hard you came?" softer yet, Kevin almost having to bend closer to hear her.

"Of course. You're so beautiful, Willow, so sexy, how could I not?" he brought a hand up, running the backs of his fingers down the sides of her breasts, just a ghost of a touch. "You still are. God, you're sexy,"

"Well, if you want to turn back the clock," she said, her voice gaining strength. She caught his hand where it brushed against hers, her fingers like cold steel, "then I suggest you go back in time and shoot your load in a condom, because that's the night you got me pregnant."

He froze, blood like ice as he looked into her eyes, surprised to see the arctic coldness there. She shoved his hand away from her, turning her back on him and heading up the stairs.

"Take that filth with you," she said over her shoulder, glancing down at the magazine, still on the floor, though with a nice, big boot print on it from Kevin. "And leave your key!" she shouted, out of sight.

Kevin stood there, stunned, for a good five minutes, then finally got his bearings. Grabbing the magazine, he looked down at it, then quietly, sadly, he left the key on the balustrade, and left.


Christine knocked softly, waiting for the big door to be opened. Finally, after a few agonizing moments, which she knew were on purpose, the door opened, and Sandra stood in its place. They stared at each other for a moment, then the designer turned and walked back into her studio, leaving the door open for the singer to follow.

Sandra looked as she always did, calm, cool, impeccably dressed with her hair piled on her head just so. But knowing the woman for a eighteen years, Christine knew it was a farce.

Sandra walked over to her work table, where she had a smattering of drawings, some finished, most in parts, and picked up her pencil. Not looking at her uninvited guest, she spoke:

"What can I do for you, Christine?"

The singer looked around, enjoying the look and feel of the huge space- floor to ceiling windows, the entire room painted white, including the molding that lined the ceiling and floor. The old, hardwood floors. It almost looked more like a dancers studio in New York than a Beverly Hills clothing designer.

"How are you doing?" Christine finally asked, settling herself on one of the few pieces of furniture. The majority of used space was taken up with material, tables for cutting, and racks upon racks of clothing in various stages of pinning or sewing. A few life-sized mannequins decorated the corners.

"I'm fine. How are you?" the designer asked, still not bother to look up from her sketch.

Christine sighed. Sandra was being difficult. "How was it?" This got the blonde's attention. Her sharp eyes snapped up, grabbing Christine in a brutal gaze.

"You'd know if you'd bothered to go, now wouldn't you? You wouldn't have to rely on second-hand descriptions." Her voice was as cold as her eyes.

"I didn't feel it was appropriate for me to go."

"No?" Sandra threw her pencil down, coming around her table, long, flowing material fluttering around her thin body. "And why not?" she stopped just before the singer, glaring down at her, thin, graceful hands on hips. "He was your manager for eighteen years, Christine. He made you-"

"Stop!" Christine held up a hand, her own anger beginning to build. "Stop right there, Sandra. You and I had this very conversation not six months ago." She met the woman's steely gaze, dagger for dagger. Finally Sandra's eyes dropped, and she turned to one of the many windows.

"When did he turn into such a cowardice ass?" she said absently, watching the traffic down on Ventura Boulevard.

"He always was, Sandra. He just hit an all time low," the singer said, just as quietly, standing.

"No pun intended, I'm sure," Sandra muttered. Christine smiled, but it vanished quickly as she made her way over to the designer, leaning against the cold, painted brick wall.

"You don't need to lay any sort of guilt trip on me, Sandra. Trust me, I'm doing that enough on my own."

The designer's eyes met hers again, studying her, almost to the point of making Christine uncomfortable.

"He loved you, you know," she glanced over her shoulder, taking in the beautiful woman standing close by. Christine just looked at her, revealing nothing. Sandra turned back to the window. "Don't feel guilty, Christine. You have absolutely no reason to. Robert did this to himself. He tried to ruin you out of spite, and in so doing, he ruined himself."

"What happened?" Christine asked, her voice quiet, almost afraid to hear the answer.

"He lost every client he had. Every last one," she laughed bitterly. "They were all afraid he'd send them off to the same fate he'd created for you." She sighed heavily. "I guess he figured since he'd already committed career suicide, he might as well finish it off. Just like him," her voice cracked slightly. "If you're going to do it, do it right and irreversible, he used to say."

"I'm so sorry, Sandra," Christine whispered, laying a gentle hand on the normally untouchable woman's shoulder. To her surprise, the designer turned and threw herself into the singer's arms. Christine held her to her, rubbing her back, staring out at the street below. "I didn't go," she quietly explained, "because I knew I'd be expected to say something that I didn't mean."

Christine was shaken from her rambling thoughts by the feel of soft lips on her neck. Her heart stopped for a moment, then started back up again, double time, as those lips continued, softly, slowly, up toward her ear.

"Sandra," she half said, half moaned.

"He used to talk about you," Sandra said, bringing her tongue into play as she licked a fiery trail down the singer's throat. "when we were in bed. He used to talk about bringing you in to join us,"

Christine was torn between two worlds. Torn between what she wanted and knew was so very wrong, and what her body was pleading for. She didn't mean for her eyes to close, or for the long sigh to escape as she felt ringed fingers brush across her breast, her long-neglected nipple instantly flaring to attention.

"You are so beautiful, Christine," Sandra whispered against her skin, kissing along the chiseled jaw line, then finding Christine's mouth. She kissed her, lightly, almost chaste, whetting their appetites. "Let me do this, Christine," Sandra begged, her hand squeezing the breast, getting a feel for the size and shape. "Let me fulfill his wish-"

Christine's eyes flew open, and she shoved away from the designer, her body screaming at her, but her mind screaming at her for an entirely different reason.

"Don't," she said, stopping Sandra in her tracks, looking confused and slightly peeved. "don't use him like that, and don't use me as a replacement for Bob."

Sandra swallowed, trying to push her embarrassment and pride down. "It's that little blonde from Texas, isn't it?" she finally managed. Her emotions and body were caught in a whirlwind, and she did not like it at all.

"Don't do that," Christine whispered, pained. "Don't bring that innocent woman into this. You know me better than that."

"You're right. I do." Sandra brought her hands up, touching her hair to make sure it still looked fabulous, then she straightened her dress unnecessarily. She looked as beautiful and statuesque as ever. "I'm sorry, Christine." She looked away. For the first time in a very long time, she did feel sorry. Christine Gray was one of the few people on the planet who had managed to garner her respect and true admiration. "Perhaps you should go."

"Yes, I think I should." Christine walked back over to the couch she'd been sitting in, gathered up her coat. Hand on the knob, she stopped as Sandra's voice called out to her. She didn't look at the designer as she spoke.

"She really is lovely, Christine."

With that, Christine made her exit.


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