"Well, we're spending Christmas in Los Angeles...is anyone
Marissa Young, keyboardist and songwriter for Jewel's recent rival band
Diablo turned away from the window, her blue eyes sparkling. "I know it's
kinda weird too, being away from home and family and all, but still...it's
"It's a bore." Her companion, Stefana Ranieri told her bluntly, idly
lighting a cigarette and tossing her lighter onto the table as she inhaled.
"Christmas ain't anything but an excuse for people who have families to
get all hyped up and pretend they give a damn, that's all. So long as Diablo
play some good music and make some good money this break, that's all I care
"Stef, you don't mean that." Marissa chided her friend, looking amused.
She and Stefana had grown up together from their mid teens, and despite
their vast differences in character, they were really very close. Stefana
was possessed of a wicked temperament, made worse by years of spoiling by
her father then abrupt neglect by her mother on his death. Always an attention
seeker, Stefana had turned to other things to comfort her resentful feelings.
Since dropping out of highschool she had used amphetamines and sleeping
pills, though only Marissa knew it, and was barely in control of her own
Marissa, on the other hand, was sweet-natured, gentle and amiable. Born
diabetic, she had learnt to conquer her illness over the years and few
would ever know that there was anything wrong. She was fond of Stefana,
and the two were close as sisters, but sometimes Marissa's loyalty got
in the way of her common sense, and she had never betrayed Stefana's dangerous
habit to the other members of the band, not even to the frontman, Stefana's
own brother Luca. As to the other two group members, Stefana had never
had any time for singer Madeleine Dacourt, and distrusted the quiet shrewdness
and cynicism of British born drummer Clayton Blake, always afraid he might
put together the threads and expose her secret vice for what it was.
"I do mean it." She said now, flicking ash carelessly from the burning
cigarette as she did so. "And if that damn Jewel lot hadn't come back to
LA for Christmas break, we'd have taken over California by Christmas, I
"Jewel have been in this business a long time, Steffi." Marissa responded
sensibly, coming to sit down and wafting the smoke away. "In any case they're
friends, not foes. Even if they are signed to a different music company.
I like them."
"I don't. I wish something would wipe them all off the earth." Stefana
muttered. "I was real hopeful when I heard about that avalanche..."
"Steffi, shut up." A fresh voice came from the doorway, and both girls
glanced up to see Luca watching them. "Jewel are our rivals, they're not
objects you can destroy along the way to the top. Anyhow, we've not done
bad. Our first single made number twenty two, the last one went in last week
at number eighteen. We're creeping up."
"Mm, but it ain't Jewel's top ten guaranteed slot." Stefana retorted.
"Don't tell me that if you had a choice between Diablo being top banana
and sharing the charts with Jewel, you wouldn't want them out of the frame
"I don't think they're even relevant to what we're doing." Luca shrugged,
dropping down onto the sofa and stretching out on his back, resting his
hands behind his head. "I'm just stoked to be here recording and releasing
singles like we've worked so hard to do. That's all that matters to me."
"Hah." Stefana snorted. "We all know what matters to you. Getting inside
Sirena's pants." Sirena was the daughter of former Misfit Phyllis Gabor,
and a singer in her own right signed to the same label as Jewel. It was
no secret in music circles that Luca had something of a fancy for the firebrand
musician and Stefana, always jealously possessive of her brother's actions
had taken a violent hate at the whole affair.
Luca rolled his eyes.
"How nicely put." He observed with a wry smile. "Anyhow, Stef, Sirena
and I haven't gotten off to the best start. This girl slams her door in
my face and flat ignores me otherwise."
"Mm, well she'd better. Sly witch." Stefana responded darkly.
"Maybe if you chilled out a little and just got to know the competition,
you might like them more." Luca suggested.
"I like Copper." Marissa admitted. "The other Jewels seem okay too..and
you know I'm a huge Sirena fan."
Stefana merely rolled her eyes heavenwards, inhaling on her cigarette.
"Where are Maddy and Clay?" Marissa asked.
"Maddy is at Rebel Records, settling up the last of those vocal harmonies
that the machine screwed up yesterday." Luca responded. "Clay's upstairs,
I think he's writing music or something. He told me not to disturb him
"Ooh." Marissa frowned, then, "He didn't ask me to help him."
"Maybe he's feeling super-inspired." Luca suggested. Stefana grinned
impishly, sending her friend a thoughtful look from beneath long dark lashes.
"Or maybe Mari has a little crush." She suggested, her tone deceptively
Marissa's cheeks flushed red at this.
"I do not!" She exclaimed. "I just enjoy writing in tandem, that's all.
We have such different musical perspectives and it gives Diablo a fuller
"Mmhmm." Stefana exhaled a cloud of smoke. "Whatever."
"Well? I said whatever." Stefana shrugged, sending her friend a benign
"Hey, that reminds me." He said, sitting up and swinging his legs over
the side of the sofa thoughtfully. "Rory wanted to see us all in his office
tomorrow morning to arrange some gig or other. I think a band dropped out
of the Christmas Party show Jewel and Sirena are playing and we've been invited
to play. Rory said he tried to get us on before, but it was all arranged
six months ago, before we were really on the scene. Now we've hits behind
us, people want to hear us play...he wants to fill us in on protocol and
the first window he has is tomorrow morning."
He cast Stefana a grin. "He specially wanted me to make sure you show
up. Says he wants a word with you...don't tell me you're gonna get another
"I can handle it, I'm a big girl." Stefana shrugged carelessly, knowing
that such a request stemmed from Rory's desire to employ once more her talents
of unscrupulous sabotage. "Rory knows only too well that Diablo can't spare
me, so he can't kick me off his books. Not if he wants to make a profit from
"Mm. Stef's right." Marissa agreed, her face returned to it's normal colour
by now. "By the way, what was the letter this morning about, Luca? It was
addressed to all of us, but I've not gotten a look at it."
"Mm..." Luca frowned, casting his sister a surrepticious glance and then
shaking his head imperceptably. "Nothing much. Just...advertising."
Marissa looked startled, but realised that whatever it was, he didn't
want Stefana to know about it, and changed the subject. As it happened,
though, Stefana seemed bored with the conversation and headed into the kitchen
to find coffee, unaware that her brother was hiding something from her.
Once she was gone, Marissa eyed her bandmate questioningly.
"An invite to Jewel's christmas party on the 23rd, at Starlight Mansion."
Luca responded quietly. "I didn't tell Stef yet, I'm thinking not to tell
her at all till the night of the party. It'd look bad if we didn't go, and
I don't want squalls from her the whole time leading up to it."
"Ooh. Good point." Marissa looked troubled, then, "She really hates them,
Luca. I don't know why, exactly...but I have a suspicion it has something
to do with the fact Copper is dating Aaron Pelligrini."
"Aaron? What has he to do with anything?" Luca looked startled.
"Stef won't admit it, but I think she kinda likes him." Marissa admitted,
toying with her hands and glancing anxiously at the kitchen door, watching
for her friend's return. "I don't say she's gone all soppy and fallen in
love with him, that's so not Stef, as you well know, but I think she finds
him attractive. Also, he's good at what he does and she seems determined that
Diablo should have the best of everything. I think she'd quite like to lure
him away from Jewel into our camp."
"Well, she mustn't. We don't need that kinda trouble." Luca said firmly.
"Don't mention it to her." Marissa begged. "She'd kill me for even talking
to you like this. But I think that explains some of it."
"In which case, it might be an interesting Christmas." Luca mused with
a sigh. "In that case, roll on New Year!"