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To my Dearest Gem..... my life will be forever brightened up by the illuminations of your love, Sweetheart. You lighten up even the darkest days with your radiant presence Gem.... I love you

Chapter 3

Charles pulled up outside of the red-brick building that had once seemed congruous, at least as far as he was concerned, with the blazing inferno most folks call 'hell'. Neatly trimmed rows of rose bushes sprawled around the perimeter of the building, each meticulously attended to and blooming healthily, emitting a delicate perfume for all to admire. Even the lawns surrounding the site were immaculate in their plush greenness.

" Well 'ere ya go Raven," Charles nodded towards the school, Thursville High, eager to get rid of the girl and regain some semblance of his uneventful life before she could disrupt it again.

Raven regarded the decidedly hung-over man staring nervously back at her. Both him and a bunch of his cronies had awoken her late last night with their drunken brawling and bursts of lewd language. In the morning light Charles Winton was a rather sorry sight, what with his bleary red eyes and heavily stubbled chin.

" I take it you're not coming to the meeting with Principle Greener then?" Raven assumed, acknowledging his lack of responsibility with contempt and taking it as a sign that he didn't give a damn about what she did. ' So what's new?' she thought as she flicked the odd speck of flint from her blue tank top, 'Same old news, just new faces.'

Charles' eyes widened in appreciation as he intently watched Raven's fingers flit lightly across her firm breasts. Boy!, this girl really was one hell of a looker! At least his damn sister had done one thing right in her miserable life...

" Huh..urr, no. School's yer own business, not mine," he mumbled, turning his head sideways, his face crimson at the thought of his luscious niece's young body....

Raven darted one more disgusted glance at her sinister uncle before yanking her jacket on and getting out of the truck. She could hear her uncle speed away as a cloud of dust blew up around her. Coughing slightly, she made her way to the building's extravagant foyer.

A glimpse of gold flashed briefly in the sunlight and Raven immediately spun around, her eyes resting upon the beautiful girl she had encountered the pervious evening. She watched her skip merrily across the grassy lawn and jump into the arms of a very attractive blonde guy, who returned the hug enthusiastically. So lil' goldilocks does have a Prince Charming to look out for her....Pity.

Snorting, Raven quickly headed in the opposite direction to evade detection. Mustering the last vestiges of willpower, the brunette dismissed the petite blonde's image from her mind and instead attempted to avoid the blatantly curious stares coming from the cluster of teenagers lounging around the school's premises.

The corridors inside of the building were also teeming with throngs of vocal adolescents. The air was punctuated with girlish giggles and boys yelling loudly in an attempt to impress their buddies. Ice blue eyes narrowing, Raven shot her fellow students - most of whom were leaning against their lockers - an irritated glance. Tutting in disgust, she headed for the sign-posted door embossed with large gold lettering, which boldly declared, ' Principle Greener '.

' Here goes nothin', Raven thought glumly as she knocked soundly on the pine door.

"Who is it?" barked a rough voice from inside the room. Raven took that as her cue to enter,' Someone woke up on the wrong side of bed' she thought as she strode into the cream coloured office, careful to wipe her boots on the pristine 'welcome' mat before entering.

A small, dark man sat hunched, entrenched behind the largest desk Raven had ever set her eyes on before. Principle Greener glowered in her direction with a ferocity that was both surprising and repelling since he had only just set eyes on her. Usually they have to have known me for at least 5 minutes before they hate me...Raven thought ruefully.

"And you are...?" The Principle barked once more, obviously trying his best to intimidate and belittle this Amazon of a girl. Raven was tempted to laugh at the ridiculous image he presented, behind the massive desk that dwarfed his already diminutive stature.

" Raven Vlade, Principle Greener." She replied, straightening her shoulders with innate pride and striding closer to the head of the Thursville High."My uncle, Charles Winton, sent over a form of application..."

" Ahhh, you're the one without any previous school records, are you not Miss.Vlade?" Greener said suspiciously, scowling at her with his beady little eyes." You'd better sit down young lady. I'm not prone to favour society's cast-offs, but the school board is willing to let you be educated here if you prove to be a capable student. Hmmm....Winton did you say? I do believe I knew your mother.... Veronica wasn't it? She came to a bad ending too, did she not....?"

Raven sat down in the leather chair and regarded Principle Greener with a nonchalant look, trying to prevent herself from clenching her jaw in anger as she inwardly prepared herself for the usual disparaging remarks she always received from authority figures. And from just looking at the slimy little shit eater sitting in front of her, Raven was convinced that the two of them were not exactly going to hit it off....


Raven strode purposefully into the airy and spacious computer room, ignoring those who looked up as she entered. She absently tied her long hair behind her head in a hasty knot with a leather thong, the effect causing the sharp slash of her cheekbones to become even more pronounced, her exotic beauty lending an air of concealed danger.

Raven was absolutely fed up.

"Fuckin' shit eating school," she swore as she sat down gracefully in one of the empty seats. Raven expertly loaded up the computer and decided to download some of the school's documents, just to see who was who about the place.

Raven could break into any system with ease, it was one of her many talents that had gone unnoticed and uncared for by any would-be enthusiastic teachers. This ability had helped her keep a low profile, if only by making sure no actual physical data or records about her were available, hence the reason old gruesome Greener hadn't been able to locate any past references from previous schools.

She had just cracked the school's pass word code when she became increasingly aware of the tense atmosphere in the room and for once, surprisingly enough, she wasn't the cause of it.

Two burly looking guys had just strutted into the room like a pair of cocky tom cats, leering at the girls and sneering at the boys, who readily avoided eye contact with the two thugs. How original, Raven thought as she regarded their studded leather attire and skinned heads.

If this wasn't a desperate cry for attention, she didn't know what was.

The shorter of the two, the one with a small but prominent scar by the side of his mouth, strode directly towards a gawky-looking kid, who was too busy tapping away at his computer to notice the potential danger looming over him.

Raven automatically scanned the general layout of the room and checked for exit doors. This was a technique she had picked up during her more hectic days, when any advantage was necessary for survival. Leaning back in her chair, she awaited the inevitable outcome of this dire situation.

Her astute eyes roved over the sandy haired geek who was destined to get his face rearranged in roughly three seconds flat, unable to decide whether she should actually intervene or not.....after all Greener had warned her to stay out of trouble and Raven knew he was looking for any excuse to expel her. But then again, since when had she ever heeded the snide advice of judgmental teachers?

"Look who it is, Bone!" The shorter punk, Kane, called to his buddy. The sandy haired boy, Philip Rogers, froze as if paralysed. Thin fingers, previously tapping diligently at a keyboard, now began to shake violently in suppressed fear. In a noticeably dilatory manner, the weedy boy reluctantly turned around to confront the two maliciously grinning faces.

"Erm, hi there guys. Anything I can do for you?" Phil ventured. His features remained remarkably composed given the situation, but his trembling tone betrayed his stoic countenance.

That kid's got guts...Raven mused to herself as she continued to watch the scene unravel.

" Anything we want?" Kane asked, looking at his friend inquiringly.

" Yeah," Bone snickered, clasping the boy's shoulders with his beefy hands and effectively diminishing any chance Phil had of escape. "We wants a word wid you, Philly Boy."

"Yeah," Kane agreed, his eyes roving around the room to ensure the occupants were witnessing his 'tough guy' act with an appropriate amount of awe. "We gots a bone to pick with you." Both punks broke into laughter at this apparently witty pun. Kane and Bone were devoid of functioning brain cells, and the Good Lord had evidently failed to bless them with an accessible sense-of-humour, too.

The rest of the room watched uneasily, their own safety a primary concern when faced with two members of the notorious Red Cobra gang. It was well known that anyone belonging to the malicious faction was fundamentally amoral and they could get really violent when pissed off.

Phil gazed around frantically for help. Unfortunately finding none, he stared hesitantly at his would-be tormentors." Have I done something to upset you guys?"

Bone snickered, his yellow teeth protruding from his prominent gums." 'ave I done anythin' ta upsets you guys?" he mimicked, in an unnaturally squeaky tone.

Kane guffawed and slapped Bone on the back. Setting laughter aside, he placed his hefty bulk in front of the smaller boy. The whole room winced in sympathy as Kane's formidable fist slammed into Phil's face with an audible crack. Phil's body slumped to the side, and he tried in a futile attempt to fend off the next assault using his bare hands alone.

Raven sat up, snapping to attention in an instant. Her fingers were itching to wrap themselves around the throats of the two tormentors and slam their vicious heads together, not that it would have done much damage to their stupid skulls and the meagre contents within. She would be doing the world a favour, she thought, but stopped herself from reacting as Principle Greener's skanky head appeared in her mind. ' And he'd just love to expel me on my first day...,' she murmured angrily, physically forcing herself to remain relaxed and focused, to control the increasing urge to commit brutal murder.

Bone reached out and grabbed a plastic cord from near-by and proceeded to coil it around Phil's heavily gulping throat, the constricting motion hindering the boy's ability to breathe.

"Since when do we need a reason to kick your butt? Huh Philly Boy?" Kane snickered, rubbing his hands together in sadistic pleasure. Phil's face turned various shades of purple, and he gasped as the cord tightened around his neck. Vainly, he attempted to prise away the make-shift garrotte from his throat, his fingers rapidly weakening with each surge of effort....


Nicky had been standing at her locker and chatting animatedly to her friends for sometime when she glanced up and recognised the tall girl from the Diner leave Principle Greener's office with a king-size scowl plastered across her beautiful face.

"Gorgeous...." Nicky murmured wistfully, a dreamy haze settling over her contented features. She unconsciously voiced her opinion as she stared at the retreating figure. Hmmm, such broad shoulders, she thought silently, ignoring her friends pointedly concerned looks. And that butt, absolutely delish! Nicky felt an all-consuming blush conquer her countenance, and then work its way down to stain other regions of her athletic body. Resisting the urge to simply follow the dark girl wherever she went did wonders for her willpower. Oh, I'm in trouble.....she thought miserably, confused at the strong emotions that popped up every time the brunette appeared.

"Nicky?" Stacy waved a hand in front of Nicky's glazed eyes, evidently concerned for her usually bubbly friend.

"I-I gotta go somewhere...." Nicky said quickly, picking up her bag and work folder.

"But .....?"

"Erm, I got a meeting, some ....teacher...." She hurriedly walked off in the direction of the tall, dark and devastatingly beautiful stranger, hoping her friends didn't try to follow her. She didn't want to have to analyse why she needed to stalk this gorgeous creature who had entered her life so suddenly, but Nicky knew that somehow this girl would be, needed to be a major part of her future. She couldn't quite shake the feeling that she knew her from somewhere.....


" Hey, stop that!"

Raven swivelled around sharply, recognising the soft and defiant voice as the cute little blonde's from the evening before. Oh no, here comes trouble.....

Nicky ran up to the trio of guys, an incredulous look covering her tanned face as poor Phil floundered around gasping for breath.

"Isn't anyone going to help!?!" Nicky exclaimed as she rushed at Kane who easily swatted the blonde out of the way with one swipe of his beefy fist.

" Hey!" Nicky complained, trying valiantly to regain her balance and free the still struggling Phil, who by now was turning a very interesting shade of blue, Raven thought to herself.

"Watch it Blondie!" Kane snarled as he pulled Nicky away from Phil by the hair." It'll be a real shame if I has to mess up that purty lil' face of yours fer pokin' yer nose in where it ain't wanted!"

Nicky ignored this idiot's warning and swiftly wriggled out of Kane's grasp, then agilely turned and placed a good solid kick on his shin.

" Owww, SHIT!" Kane screeched as he made a grab for the irritating blonde's small arm.

Nicky wisely retreated, quickly ducking behind the six foot dark post that stood between herself and the snarling Kane......Huh? Post? With her eyes still crammed tightly shut, she tentatively searched the 'post'. Uh-oh, Nicky's delicate hands roamed over a firm pair of what were definitely..hmmm....."Uh-oh!" Nicky gasped releasing her hold, her gaze suddenly coming into contact with the most glorious shade of azure she'd ever seen. " Um, sorry...I-I..errr..."

Raven grimaced, not quite sure whether to groan in annoyance or absolute pleasure. Jesus!, she could still feel the heat from the blonde's nimble little hands grabbing hold of her as though she was a final life-line.

Taking a deep breath Raven mumbled "It's okay," before returning her attention to the fuming gruesome twosome. As each second ticked by, the shameless bullies had been growing increasingly annoyed with the unwelcome interruption. Didn't these two bitches know who they were? Well, they were about to get a lesson in humility, after-all no-one messes with a member of the Red Cobra gang!

From her sprawled position on the floor, Nicky could see trouble on the horizon. She could also see the best backside she'd ever been lucky enough to set her hungry gaze upon....No! She shouted internally. Don't go there! Remember; Brad! Brad! Brad! Damn! She could still feel the heat from the blush that had covered her face when confronted with the piercing blue gaze of her unexpected but eagerly accepted 'protector'.

"You just piss-off lil' gal," Kane sneered, totally disregarding the fact that this new-comer was at least four inches taller than himself. "Or I'm gonna 'ave ta kick that purty lil' butt of yours to Minnesota and back!" Kane leaned forward, clenching his big fists into veritable balls of iron.

Raven raised a dark eyebrow, a superior smirk descending on her red lips as she evaluated the punk's threatening posture. In a movement as quick and deadly as lightening her muscled arm lashed out, strong hands grabbing Kane's wrist and viciously twisting his arm up against the middle of his back. The attack was so rapid that the bully barely had the chance to realise what was happening. Within seconds, he found himself holding back tears of pain as the muscles and ligaments in his sinewy shoulder ripped violently.

" Fuck..... you BITCH!" He screamed in agony, his body contorting in pain.

Not liking his tone of voice, Raven neatly turned the punk around and drove her knee into his sensitive groin. The whole room gasped once more as they heard the loud 'CRACK' of Kane's pelvic bone shattering under the impact.

Nicky stared in amazement at this warrior of a woman as she literally kicked the shit out of the unsightly punk. It was the first time anyone had dared to challenge a member of the Red Cobra gang. "Oh, boy." She whispered in awe, listening to that soothingly deep and vaguely familiar voice warn the two thugs.

" Don't ever let me see you hassle these people again," Raven stood menacingly over the prone body, showing no mercy as Kane loudly began to cough up blood," Do you understand me, asshole?" Kane nodded weakly, his body convulsing slightly with pain. "Good."

A shiver of awareness passed through Raven's body as she glanced at the young blonde, who sat dazed on the floor by her feet. Raven couldn't help but smile at the brave, if rather foolish cheerleader who stared intently back at her.

"Wow!," Nicky chuckled in amazement, as she was helped from the floor by one of the other students. She turned and regarded Raven with a critical eye. "You sure know how to pack a punch!"

Raven dropped her gaze, staring instead at the other girl's feet. Hmmnn, she wore black loafers, both practical and flexible in any situation....Raven looked up sharply to see the petite blonde practically fly through the air whilst brandishing one of those same loafers in a small fist. Deadly intent gleamed in her usually placid emerald eyes.

Raven froze in shock, half expecting to be rendered unconscious at any moment, and was too startled and surprised to do anything about it. The shoe was flung through the air at an amazing speed, hitting it's target directly on the forehead.

Bone, who had been surprisingly quiet as he watched his friend come close to losing his 'manhood', had sneaked up behind the intimidating looking Raven. Nicky, aware that this trashy punk was about to attack the brunette, had reacted without thinking. Off came her loafer and down went Bone.

Raven turned around abruptly to see the other punk fall to the floor in a graceless heap alongside of his pugnacious buddy. Startled eyes regarded Nicky with a slightly amused glint winking in their blue depths. Raven walked slowly towards the small blonde, removed her hands from the back pocket of her trousers and shrugged her shoulders in disbelief. Nicky almost fainted from the rush of heat that flooded her body as those eyes centred directly upon her flushed countenance. Her heart began to hammer erratically as Raven's husky voice finally addressed her.

"Thanks....?" Raven ventured, unsure of the blonde's reaction to what had just happened. Even as she spoke, several students were in the process of scattering off, no doubt to report the exciting new occurrence to anyone willing to listen (Wasn't it weird, the way that tall stranger handled the situation? Nicky humiliated her the other night, and yet she still stepped in to save her from those punks. She had no right to just take over like that, though. After all, everyone else was just about to intervene when she decided to play the hero. It's pretty presumptuous of her to assume that Nicky will automatically be her friend now.....and anyways she's from the trailer park, and there's no way that any popular kid would even acknowledge trailer trash....)

"Nicky!" Nicky chirped, a bit too loudly even for her own ears.

"Excuse me?" Raven inquired, looking over her shoulder as she walked up to the struggling Phil, deftly removing the cord from around his neck. Nicky walked over to the dark girl, watching her hands gently massage Phil's swollen throat. Such strong looking hands, bronzed, with long tapering fingers....

Raven looked back over her shoulder and nearly collided nose to nose with the curious cheerleader.

"My name's Nicky. Nicky Mayfair...." Nicky repeated softly sticking out her small hand in welcome.

Momentarily ignoring the girl and the hand held out towards her, Raven peered back at the gangly teenager who was at this moment flashing puppy dog eyes in her direction.

" Uh, Phil?" Raven asked, helping the geeky teenager to stand. Out of the corner of her eye, she acknowledged the glimpse of hurt that registered upon Nicky's sweet face. Raven grimaced at the thought, but ignored her own strange feelings towards the young beauty, turning her attention back to Phil. "Ok, sorry to point out the obvious, but I suggest you go directly to the nurses' station, then to Greener's office to explain what happened. Okay?"

Phil nodded, his throat too swollen to respond verbally. He instead grabbed Ravens' hand and shook it profusely. Raven watched as Phil stumbled out of the room, helped by one of its few remaining occupants. Another couple of guys volunteered to take the two injured punks to the nurse's office and Raven winced as the door slammed shut behind them. Nicky's agitated voice rang out before Raven had even turned to face her, irrational jealousy overriding her normally reasonable behaviour.

"Well at least you presume someone is worthy enough to shake your hand!" Nicky was very, very annoyed to say the least. Standing with her hands on her gently rounded hips, she faced Raven with a prominent, but equally endearing frown upon her face. Raven braced herself for the verbal blast about to explode from those sweet pink lips that she couldn't seem to take her eyes off....Whooah! She's off limits...she's straight remember? Raven mentally slapped herself.

"Just where do you get off, treating everyone as though they're your inferiors? Are you always this arrogant? Or is it just with me? Are you purposefully being mean to me because I accidentally spilt a little coke over you last night? Or do you just consider yourself my superior? Well you needn't bother Miss.Tall, Dark and extremely Annoying!" Nicky fumed, straightening her posture to enhance her height. She watched that dark eyebrow raise once more, and promptly launched into a second tantrum. " I do very well for myself! Can you say that you're the head cheerleader of a prosperous school? Are you editor of the school newspaper? Have you represented your town in any state championships? Hmmnn? No! Miss High and Mighty! Perhaps my friends were right about you! I don't know why I bothered to defend you from them after all! You-you've been nothing but rude and m-mean to me from the moment we met!" Nicky let out a whopping big sigh, as she regarded the stoic face before her. Well, what had she expected? It wasn't as if this gorgeous creature had ever welcomed her overtures of friendship, now was it? She's obviously not the social butterfly. Perhaps you've gone too far Nicky.... she thought to herself, waiting impatiently for the other girl to reply...... Damn her, she could at least acknowledge my existence!

Nicky scowled once more, wrinkling her brow in agitation. Raven tried to control the smile that edged its way onto her calm features. Wow, she sure is cute when she does that frowning thing, her pert little nose wrinkles up and...I wonder if she always frowns this much or is it just around me? She sure has one hell of a temper.....Hmmmn a fiery little temptress. Raven had to swallow the wolfish grin that threatened to take over her face and concentrated on the 'hypothetical' questions Nicky had just raised.

"Yes. No. Maybe. No. No. Wouldn't want to. And no." Raven raised one eyebrow high beneath the black silky bangs that hung down over her azure eyes. Well? the look seemed to say.

Nicky tried valiantly to make sense of Raven's answers, but frustration got the better of her once again. "Oh! You!" she eventually erupted. Giving up on her bid to figure this elusive girl out, she grabbed her bag and numerous muti-coloured folders, preparing to angrily depart. As an afterthought, she turned to poke one slender finger into Raven's chest, trying to hide her surprise at the lithe muscle she detected under the other girl's shirt. "I've had it with you! If you are going to be this, this...this..."

"Annoying?" Raven supplied helpfully, with a lop sided grin. Gods, she really is just too adorable....

"Yes annoying!" Nicky grasped at the word, whilst trying to control the red blush that greeted the brunette's alluring smile. "I'm...well, I'm finished with you!"

With that Nicky swivelled around and stalked grumpily out of the room.

"Raven!" The brunette called after her retreating form, pleased when the petite blonde paused in reaction.

Nicky glanced over her shoulder to see a vast expanse of gorgeous flesh looming over her, and found herself momentarily stupefied by Raven's dazzling smile. She side-stepped several students as they careered past her, focusing her attention on the stunning brunette before her. " W-What?" Was all she was capable of stuttering, in confusion.

" My name's Raven. Raven Vlade."

Nicky could feel the heat emanating from that husky voice all the way down the hallway and she blushed accordingly. All she could do was return the smile as she felt her knees turn to mush. Oh boy!

Raven watched the gentle sway of the blonde's hips as she continued towards her group of friends. Once Nicky had disappeared Raven re-entered the computer room to reclaim her jacket. She allowed a full blown grin to encompass her beautiful features as she remembered Nicky's heated words. There's no way we're finished yet, she thought determinedly, as her memory surveyed Nicky's image. No way. Raven's grin slipped slightly as the train of her thoughts altered. We've only seen each other'd think she was a jealous girlfriend or something. Hmmmmn that can be arranged! Raven snickered wickedly, her body immediately responding in a surge of heat at the thought of the little blonde. It was impossible to stay pissed off with someone that cute. Grabbing her leather bomber jacket as she exited the room, her thoughts remained focused upon Nicky. She says that she's finished with me...... then why do I get the funny feeling that we've only just begun? Eventually abandoning her reverie, Raven quickly headed towards the school's exit. She'd had enough 'education' for one day and no one was likely to miss her, or so she thought....

To be continued in chapter 4........

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