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Recommended by the Bardic Circle

- Special thanks to my precious Gem, only you have the key to truly open my heart. You're my Angel, my love, my life, my everything...forever Sweetheart, I'll love you forever.

- And my immense gratitude to all those wonderful fans out there. Keep the feedback coming! <g> Also thanks to Em and Jaden ( Prada rules!! <g> ) and to my best buddies; Jamie, Courtie, Merlin and Sue.

Chapter 13

"Ok, I'll have the chicken Kiev and ......" Stacey rolled her eyes in frustration as her cell phone went off loudly. Oblivious to the disapproving glances she was receiving from other patrons, the popular cheerleader proceeded to fumble around in her Prada handbag for the elusive phone. "Fucking hell..." She mumbled under her breath.

Nicky choked on her water, watching the redhead become frantic in her bid to locate the source of the garishly loud noise which was piercing through the relative quiet of Mattie's Cafe. "Where the bloody hell...ah-ha!" Stacey yanked her hand hastily out of her bag, bringing the small black phone along with her, a look of triumph settling over her cherubic features. "HELLO!?!" She barked into the mouth piece, instantly relieved when the constant buzzing of the phone halted and a familiar baritone sounded on the other end of the line.

"Stace?" Carl said, confusion and irritation apparent in his gruff tone."Where the hell are you? I went round your house over half an hour ago to pick you up to go for frigging dinner and I've been waiting here ever since!"

Stacey's eyes bulged and she grimaced, waving the insistent waiter away."Bugger off a minute will you?" She practically shouted at the flustered young man.

"Stacey!" Nicky scolded, giving the young waiter an apologetic smile."It doesn't look like we'll be needing to order anything right now....Thanks." The waiter simply nodded his head, scampering off to another table, relieved to be out of the brash red-headed dragon's proximity.

"Oh baby!" Stacey gushed, plugging one finger into her other ear so that she could hear Carl better. Nicky watched on with unconcealed amusement, sipping her glass of water tentatively to ensure that she wasn't going to choke to death on it any time soon. "I totally forgot that we were going out tonight.....yeah...urm, yeah..I'm sorry sweetie..." Stacey winced, holding the phone away from her head as the captain of the football team continued with his audible tirade.

"Christ, methinks he's a bit pissed off!" Stacey groaned, reluctant to bring the ear piece back to her sensitive ear drums. "Yeah....I'm sorry baby, you know I am...What? Oh. Ok...hmm, Ok then, see you in five...Love you too! Bye....bye.....Ok...Bye!"

Stacey pressed the off button, shutting the phone down and placing it back in her bag. Nicky stared at her friend, waiting for the inevitable. "I take it by that less than private little conversation with your man that you're outta here, huh?"

Stacey grimaced once again and sent her best pal an apologetic look. "I'm sorry Nicky, I just totally forgot that I was supposed to be going out with Carl this evening...Urgggh!" Stacey squealed, throwing her hands up in exasperation and glaring down at her clothes in an accusatory manner. "I mean, LOOK AT ME! Carl's coming over right now to pick me up to go to Cher Katerinee's and I'm not exactly dressed for the occasion now am I? Urgggh! Men! The least he could have done was to have let me go back home to change...but nooooo! He's booked a table at 7pm and so he wants to eat precisely at 7pm! I don't know why I bother. He'll probably ignore all of the gorgeous French cuisine anyways and end up ordering a well done burnt-to-a-bloody-crisp steak as per usual. Hummph!"

Nicky stood up out of her upholstered chair and grabbed a hold of her hefty shopping bags. "Well, then I suppose you'd better go and make your way over to the entrance Stacey." Nicky mumbled, a little disappointed that the time spent alone with her best friend was about to come to an end. It wasn't often that it was just the two of them together sans the pack of screeching cheerleaders, and Nicky wished their rare indulgence in feminine pursuits had lasted for a little longer. "Here, pass me your bags as well, I'll take them home with me, Ok? That way you can go enjoy yourself....You might as well just leave them at my are still coming over on Friday before the Dance to get ready, right?"

Stacey sprung out of her seat, passing her carrier bags over to her best friend. "Oh gods Nicky, you have got to be the best friend that ever existed on the face of this earth!" Stacey leant over and placed a small kiss on her friend's flushed cheek. Standing back and regarding the pretty face before her, Stacey reached out and gave Nicky a quick hug, which was heartily returned. "Yeah, I'm still coming over...I need you to do my hair for me, remember? You're my perfect hair stylist Nicky-babe, I wouldn't trust anyone else with my ruby mane, no one but you!"

Nicky released Stacey and stepped back, snickering at Stacey's comment. "Stace, no one out there wants to destroy your glorious red mane, as you so dramatically put it."

"Whatever you say Ms. Mayfair," Stacey muttered, her doe eyes swinging from side to side, before leaning back in conspiracy towards Nicky, "But I KNOW that some evil bitch from the cheerleading squad replaced my canister of hair spray with that can of toxic fly spray!"

Nicky giggled, linking arms with the smaller girl and walking them out of the busy cafe. She frowned upon recalling the incident whereby Stacey had nearly poisoned herself with toxic insect spray, which had mysteriously replaced her usual canister of hair spray. Till this day none of the cheerleaders knew who amongst them had actually committed such a heinous crime, but since that day, Stacey had kept a close eye on her cosmetic products. Remembering the socially fatal time when she had been covered in absolutely revolting rashes, the petite redhead had sworn to track down the culprit and claim vengeance. The little bitch's life wouldn't be worth living once she discovered her identity....

Both girls jumped as the loud obnoxious bleeping started up again, emanating from the small phone in Stacey's hand bag. "Bet that's Carl." Nicky guessed, shooing her friend towards the front of the shopping complex. "Go have a good time, Ok Stace? And give Carl a hug from me!"

Stacey grinned, rolling her eyes and quickly skipping over to the escalators."You'll be all right, yeah?" Stacey called out. Nicky walked over to the balcony and watched as Stacey made her way down the rickety contraption. "Yeah!" The blonde girl yelled, being careful not to lean too far over the balcony. Straightening her shoulders, she grabbed hold of the bags that were left in her possession. "I'll just wander around for a bit longer then make my way home!"

Stacey jumped off the escalator, just avoiding a collision with a stressed looking mother of two, who was dragging her sweetly screaming brats behind her. "Ok, I'll call you later Nicky!" Stacey waved one last time before ducking out of sight.

Nicky smiled whimsically, simply content to stand still and gaze at the people rushing by, letting her mind wonder aimlessly. The streams of milling strangers slowly decreased as time ticked away and everyone inevitably sought the comforts of their own homes. A happy young couple who were laughing and walking by hand in hand, their heads tilted tenderly towards one another, captured Nicky's attention. Both looked to be in their late twenties and were rather attractive, but it was the dazzling look of love that was present on both upturned faces that captivated Nicky. The love that obviously existed between the young couple made Nicky's heart long for something more. Aren't you supposed to be in love with Brad? Nicky shook her head, bangs of blonde hair scattering everywhere. I DO love him.....sort of...I care for him, that much I do know. But is it enough? She sighed heavily and reached up to begin setting some sort of order to her hair when something else caught her attention. This time it was a screechy voice that side tracked her from the task at hand.

"Rae! Wait uppppp!" Nicky glanced up, snapping out of her self imposed dream state. Rae? Raven? Where?!? Nicky's heart beat sped up ten fold and her palms began to sweat nervously as she pushed herself away from the railing and searched for the origin of the voice, which undoubtedly belonged to Phil Rogers. "Goddamn it Rae!"

Raven ran along, effortlessly dodging aggravated shoppers, agile limbs preventing her from suffering several collisions with various exasperated onlookers. A deep throaty chuckle escaped her lips as she ran up the escalator stairs two at a time, bounding upwards and glancing back briefly to see a now grinning Phil stumbling after her, like an eager puppy.

"Ha!" Raven sniggered as she fondly watched Phil almost trip over himself in his bid to mimic the dark girl's athletic strides. Raven was approaching the top of the machine motivated stairs when she hastily turned around and bumped directly into someone. Raven's hands automatically reached out to steady herself, wrapping around whoever was unfortunate enough to have had a six foot amazon smack straight into them.

"Whoa!" Rae called out, her hands grasping around a slim waist that seemed to be tumbling backwards, unable to support the extra weight of Raven's broad frame.

"Eeeek!" A small voice squeaked in surprise as two bodies crashed to the dusty floor. The larger of the two quickly turned to the side so that her body wouldn't land on the smaller one and cause any undue damage.

"Christ!..Bloody hell!" Phil gasped, hopping up the stairs as quickly as his gangly legs would allow him, arms flailing in an effort to pull himself up. He vaguely resembled a ridiculous grass hopper that had spent too many years sniffing glue. "Rae! Are you alright?"

Raven felt a whoosh of air leave her lungs as she hit the hard marble floor, then gasped once more as a small yet compact person landed on top of her. "Owwe! Bloody buggery shit 'n' hell!" She muttered, wincing as she felt a twinge of pain in her elbow, which had taken the brunt of the weight in the crash landing.

"Ouuffpph!" Nicky grunted in bewilderment as she landed on top of a warm, soft body. Feeling strong arms still wrapped around her, Nicky paused momentarily, feeling safe in those arms that held her so securely. Hmmm.....Nicky thought, closing her eyes and inhaling a deep breath of the attractive musky scent that surrounded her.... something smells good. She knew that earthy scent from somewhere.... Nicky's eyes sprung wide open and she quickly popped her head up...or someone! Oh no..I couldn't possibly be lying on top of.....a pair of mischievous electric blue eyes glinted back up at her. Raven!

Panicking, the blonde cheerleader struggled to free herself from the safe embrace that held her captive. Yeah, but you know that you're a willing captive though, huh Nicky? And DON'T even try to pretend that you're not enjoying the feeling of Raven's firm breasts pressing up against you, in fact why don't you just squirm a little more and... Hmmmmm.... just like that....NO!!! Stop it!

Blue eyes gazed in amazement as her brain kick started and Raven realised who it was that she had lying on top of her. Hmmm! Ok, so maybe I don't have the shittiest luck in the world after all! Raven grinned, white teeth glinting under the overhead lights as she regarded the flustered looking cheerleader who was wriggling away on top of her prone body. Ohhh yeah! Just like that...Ummph! Raven growled as a small hand accidentally pushed too hard against her stomach in an attempt to escape.

"Whoa! Easy there Nicky!" Raven said, clasping both of the flustered cheerleaders small hands in her own. "Hold on a sec and I'll help you up." Raven hefted herself off the floor, easily bringing the smaller girl up along with her. Nicky's eyes widened slightly, impressed with Raven's blatant strength, swallowing heavily as she felt firm muscles clench and relax against her as Raven moved.

"Thanks..." Nicky mumbled softly, unsure whether she should say something more or not. After all, it's not as though you're the best of friends with her or anything, in fact isn't she still pissed off with that whole fiasco with Maria? I sure hope not... Nicky stood up on her own two feet just as Phil reached the top of the stair case.

"Shit! Rae, are you Ok? Huh? HUH?" Phil bounced around the tall girl, giving her a quick look-over to check that everything was still in working order.

"I'm fine, I'm fine Phil. Calm down will ya?" Raven turned her attention back to the suddenly silent blonde. "How are you Nicky? I didn't hurt ya did I?" Nicky glanced into sincerely worried blue eyes and felt her heart turn to mush. Ohhh, what are you doing to me Raven? I shouldn't be feeling this way about you.

"I'm fine...I think..." Nicky said, a small disbelieving titter leaving her lips as she ran a hand through her rumpled blonde locks, her smile growing even further as she heard Raven's chuckle join her own. "What on earth were the two of you up to anyways to have caused such a ruckus?"

Raven inhaled deeply, catching her breath as she placed one hand on her elbow in hopes of stopping the throbbing. Yeah, but that throbbing in your elbow is nothing in comparison to the throbbing further down south, huh hotstuff? Raven's eyes widened as she attempted to put a lid on her dirty thoughts. Damn, keep your mind out of the gutter when ladies are around Rae! "Erm, nothing much, just showing Phil how superior I am..."

Phil snorted in mock disbelief and then flashed Raven a grateful smile, pleased that Raven hadn't revealed their little 'special magazine' conversation. Now that I would have NEVER lived down! "Just humour her Nicky," Phil said nonchalantly to the still smirking blonde. Raven glared at Phil for a moment before bending down and picking up Nicky's littered shopping bags. Nicky smiled fondly at Raven as she passed her the bags.

"I'm sorry fer runnin' into you Nicky," Raven mumbled, returning the gentle smile that graced the beautiful blonde's face.

"That's ok, I'm sure you didn't mean to land on me..." Nicky screwed her face up and moved out of the way as a group of children ran past down the escalator."Hey and anyway, it was me that landed on you, so you took the brunt of it I suppose."

Raven grinned wolfishly, shoving her tempted hands in the back pocket of her jeans to keep them out of trouble. I wonder if I run back down stairs and bound up the escalator, will she let me 'accidentally' jump on her again???? Raven sniggered, giving up on trying to control her lustful thoughts about Nicky and instead graced the cute cheerleader with a quirky grin. "That's Ok. It was the least I could do since I was the one that bumped into you.."

"YAWN!!!!" Phil said, amused but still bored at the cautious conversation going on between the two girls. Jesus, someone throw them a clue! Phil turned to Nicky and quickly said, "How about you coming with us to the movies? Huh? We were just gonna go and see a film to put in a couple of hours while macho woman here avoids my mother's clutches..."

Raven's head shot up and blue eyes glared at Phil with deadly intent. What the hell are you up to Phil????? Phil grinned innocently at Raven before turning his attention back to a surprised Nicky. I'm gonna strangle you Philly Boy...with my bare hands, Raven thought, as she watched Nicky shift from foot to foot, obviously uncomfortable with this unexpected invitation to join the established duo. Well, what did you expect Rae? That Miss. Popularity would actually jump at the chance to spend time with you after the shit you put her through over the past couple of days? Huh? Still, the disappointment that Raven felt due to the blonde cheerleaders reluctance hurt her feelings...not that she'd ever admit it.

Phil could see Nicky's indecision and taking a guess as to the cause of it, he quickly grabbed hold of the blonde's arm in a friendly manner, much in the same way as the two of them had held each other when discussing their woe's in the library."We won't be moment Rae." Phil said, dragging Nicky away from the scowling Raven.

"It's Ok Nicky," Phil whispered as quietly as possible, not wanting Ms. Tall, Dark, With-Ears-Like-A-Hawk to overhear them. Phil grabbed hold of the much passed around shopping bags and threw them over to Raven, who promptly caught them and glanced at the shiny pink bags with a less than enthusiastic look. Pink? Raven looked around quickly with apprehension. Can you imagine what being caught carrying PINK shopping bags would do to my street cred? Urrgh!

Phil lead the cheerleader off to the side for a moment, leaving a grumbling Raven in their wake."Rae's not angry with us Nicky.." Phil whispered earnestly, ignoring the blue lasers that were directed with curiosity in his direction."She's just a moody git every now and then, but she's well worth the hassle. Believe me, that girl can be the best friend you ever hoped for if you give her the chance to open up a bit. But she's as stubborn as a mule, so just stick with her, Ok Nicky?" Nicky laughed and glanced over at the adorably grumbling Raven, who looked as though she was suffering from her friend's apparent neglect.

"Is she always like this?" Nicky whispered, a gentle smile taking over her face as she fondly watched Raven's strong frame stalk around impatiently, holding the pink carrier bags as far away from her tall body as was physically possible."She always seems like.... like a caged animal or something...."

"Animal?" Phil looked over at the impatient Raven, who growled at a creepy old man that was leering at her, causing the old dude to jump backwards in fear as the deep and seriously scary noise emitted from Raven's throat. Phil chuckled and wrapped a lanky hand around Nicky's slim wrist.

"She certainly acts like a goddamn savage sometimes!" Phil moved to stand in front of Nicky, blocking the enjoyable view of the object of her secret desires. Phil heard the sigh of disappointment that escaped the blonde's lips and grinned accordingly. Ohhh, someone's got a crush! I KNEW IT! Yes!!!! Score one for the home team!

"She isn't pissed off with US Nicky, in fact don't tell her I told you this, but she's been feeling really guilty over the way she pushed us aside and..." Phil shifted his attention to the blonde's eager green eyes.

"And???" Nicky whispered, overjoyed to hear this turn of events. Her heart was pounding so loudly that she swore the blue eyed girl would be able to hear it from her sizable distance ...oh gods, she's sulking! Nicky grinned to herself at the sight. Ohh gosh, she's beautiful when she pouts.....

"And she told me personally that she wants to make it up to us...." Phil watched with immense satisfaction as a gorgeous smile took over Nicky's face and felt very pleased with himself, polishing his scruffy nails over his woolly pullover..... Yup, that's me, Match-Maker extraordinaire!

"She does?!" Nicky gushed, a flush of pleasure creeping over her youthful face. "Ohhh thank god! I thought that she didn't like me at all after that bitch Maria butted in and... and now...well.." Nicky broke away from Phil and bounded over to Raven who looked up in shock as the small blonde bounced towards her, bubbly enthusiasm pouring from her lovely smile.

"Oh Raven!" Nicky beamed, sliding her arms around Raven's trim waist and giving the brunette a quick hug.... which lingered for a moment longer than it should have. That said, neither girl acknowledged this fact, they were both simply content to be holding each other. Why does it feel like the most natural thing in the world to hold her in my arms? Nicky mused happily. "Why didn't you just come to me before now? I wasn't angry with you...I ...I think you're great Raven! I-I mean you're so brave and...I admire that..I want...oh bugger it! I just think you rule, Ok?"

Raven stared in bemusement at this sudden turn of events. Raven gave the bubbly blonde a quick and heartfelt smile before turning towards a sheepish looking Phil. Phil, what the fuck have you told her?????? Does she know that I want that? Inquisitive blue eyes captured eager green orbs and Raven bit her lip as she tried to quell her instinctive desire to ravish the small blonde. Come on Rae, a bit of control would be good here, ok? You don't want another, 'Miss. Keeny' situation do you?

Nicky waited impatiently for a reply from the strangely silent brunette. Raven looked at the beautiful girl and was helpless to resist beaming a stunning grin at Nicky, which practically floored the cute blonde with the sudden flood of desire that swamped through her little body. Ohhh, since when are my knees made of jello? Eek! Getta grip of yourself Nicky!....Or... Nicky ran her hands over the strong back that was encased in a rough denim jacket, a small sigh of delight escaping her parted lips as those firm muscles clenched subtly wherever her fingertips caressed. Hmmm, get a good strong grip of this sexy chick you've got in your arms...Hmmmmm! Nicky stepped back, yanking her arms away from Raven as if she'd just been burnt by hot coals. Raven was presently looking at her with a smug smile and....that damn eyebrow of hers edged skywards in bemusement. Crap! Remember a certain BOYFRIEND called BRAD! BRAD! BRAD! BEHAVE yourself Nicky!

"So, have you two finished kissing ass yet, cos I'm gettin' fed up just standing here." Raven and Nicky simultaneously turned around to mock glare at the lanky boy. Phil held up his hands in innocence. "Whoa! What did I say that was so wrong?"

Raven shuffled from one foot to the other, missing the small blonde's welcoming arms and warm touch. Raven struggled to actually say something comprehensible to the pretty cheerleader after that heart felt little speech Nicky had just given."I....listen Nicky, " Raven exhaled heavily and ran a hand through her dark hair in an attempt to calm her rapid pulse that pounded away like a drum having an epileptic fit. Nicky watched the nervous movements of the other girl and smiled knowingly."I AM sorry for the way I've been such a's just...well...."

"Raven," Nicky said softly, one small hand resting on the tall girl's muscled arm, squeezing it briefly in a friendly manner. "It doesn't matter. Truth to be told, I just want to forget all of that crap that happened Raven. Maria and some of the others..." Nicky shook her head, sighing as she let go of Raven's arm, immediately conscious that she missed the strong resilience and warmth that crept into her being every time she touched the other girl."They're not exactly the kindest of people ever to have graced this planet....but I've known them since I was a little kid and they ARE still my friends..."

Raven looked over at Phil and shifted the bags she was carrying to her other hand before the one that currently held the hefty purchases dropped off from lack of circulation. Nicky's eyes ensnared Raven's for a brief moment. "But that doesn't mean that we..." She briefly looked over towards Phil, who was cautiously making his way over to the other two girls, "That the three of us can't be friends as well..."

Raven felt both mud brown and delectable green eyes land on her, waiting for an answer. She wants friendship......Raven fidgeted, unsure of what to do - could she just be friends with Nicky? Raven glanced over to an eagerly waiting Phil, his pleading and hopeful brown eyes boring into her, desperate for her to make the right decision. Shit, why does it have to be up to me anyways? Raven sighed and shuffled on her feet a bit more.

Nicky watched as the dark girl contemplated the possibility of friendship between them...please, please, PLEASE! Nicky's heart shouted in desperation. Her head on the other hand realised that perhaps a friendship with this dangerous girl from the trailer park wasn't the wisest of choices, certainly her family and friends would not look kindly upon Raven as a friend of Daniel Mayfair's daughter. But sod them! I WANT her as my friend! I want to be with her! Nicky held her breath, much the same as Phil was doing, gnawing away on his bottom lip impatiently.

"I...." Hopeful eyes glanced up at her and Raven felt like a right prick for keeping them guessing for so long. "Sure..." Two sets of eyes bugged out at her in joy."I think that...we can be friends." Raven stared into Nicky's beautiful emerald eyes, feeling her mouth go dry."I want to be your friend...." And anything else you'll let me be Nicky....

"Woo hoo! Yay!" Phil cried, wrapping his arms around his tall best friend and pulling Nicky in with him. "Lets go and see a film now then, huh? This can be our first official outing as pals!!" Phil ran off towards the direction of the cinema complex."Last one there is a pukey pimple on gruesome Greener's fat ugly butt!"

Raven watched the lanky boy skip away and a soft chuckle rumbled in her chest. Hmmm, this feels so good, Raven thought as she kept her arms snuggled around an unprotesting Nicky. "So, come on friend, we'd better catch up before Phil buys us tickets to some wimpy romance film or something as equally sinister...."

Nicky reluctantly left the warm haven of the other girl's arms, her nose creasing with cute little crinkles as she giggled, "Hey, don't knock a good romance film! Anyway, I bet you're a romantic at heart Raven Vlade!"

Raven scoffed and shoved Nicky gently away with the back of her hand. "Yeah right, and you're the Queen of the Faries! There's no way I'm watching a romance film...urgggh! Mushy love films suck!"

"I'll have you know that romance stories are beautiful Ms. Vlade!" Nicky narrowed her eyes playfully and shoved Raven back with her own hand, giggling at the dangerously evil glint emanating from sapphire orbs. "Tell you what, I'll race you to the cinema; if I get there first, you HAVE to watch a movie of MY choice, and if you win, then I have to watch whatever blood, guts and gore film you choose as worthy...Ok tough stuff?"

Raven grinned and nodded, positive that they were going to be watching a film of HER choice today. " You're on Stumpy!"

"I'll Stumpy you!" Nicky muttered mischievously. She reached over and grabbed hold of Raven's tanned cheeks, planting a quick, sweet kiss on Raven's flushed skin, much to the brunette's startled pleasure. With that the little blonde dashed off, leaving a stunned Raven just standing in the same place, gawking after the popular cheerleader with something akin to worship.....Ohhhh boy! Snap out of it Rae!

Raven chuckled happily, picking her feet up and legging it after the quickly disappearing Nicky. There was no way in hell that she was going to let anyone beat her, and she'd sooner amputate a finger than have to watch a stupid romance film."I'm gonna get you Nicky!" Raven yelled after the departing blonde. Raven picked up her speed and dashed as quickly as she could through the mall. One way or another, Raven mused, a huge cocky grin planted firmly on her beautiful face, I'm going to get you Nicole Mayfair.


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