"Well, good morning, Diablo."
Rory Llewelyn cast a smile around at his group, observing their curious
expressions with some amusement. "I assume Luca told you my news about the
Christmas Eve Party bash? It's a very high profile engagement, and could
not have come at a better time, in truth."
"It sounds like so much fun." Madeleine decided with a grin. "I didn't
know how it'd feel working Christmas, but actually I'm looking forward
to it...I dunno how everyone else feels."
"It's a concert. Whoopee doo." Stefana observed archly. "Do we get free
drink, considering it's Christmas and all that?"
"Stef!" Luca rolled his eyes. Rory laughed.
"You will be amply provided for." He said lightly. "May I ask how progress
is on the new song? Clay?"
"It's coming." Clay offered his usual reserved smile. "That's pretty
much all I can say. I had a definite idea in mind, but it's not panning
out, so I'm gonna hopefully grab Mari and ask her advice later...Mari?"
"Sure, cool with me." There was almost relief in the young keyboardist's
tone, and she flashed Clay a genial smile. Though she had balked from admitting
it out loud, she had always admired the plain-spoken, shrewd Briton.
"Well, then that's all good. I think you should have it ready to play
on Christmas Eve, so be warned." Rory told them. "That's everything I think,
for now. Stefana, can you stop back? I need to discuss a little something
"Yeah, yeah, I know the script." Stefana rolled her eyes.
"Guess we'll hold the car for you." Luca told his sister with a smile,
leading the way to the door and holding it open for the others to leave.
Then, finally, he was gone himself, and Stefana fixed Rory with a quizzical
"Well? What's the deal?"
"You shouldn't need telling what I want you to do." Rory's tones were
low. "The Christmas Eve concert is a big deal for Diablo, but also for Jewel.
They've been out of state for a while, and haven't had a US single for a
bit either. They'll be wanting a Christmas number one this year, when the
track is released next week, and they've every chance of achieving that."
"What can I do about that? Can't stop people buying a cd." Stefana snapped.
"No, but you can make them look stupid live on air." Rory returned. "Or
don't you think you can handle that? Image is everything in this business
- you destroy the image, you destroy the band."
"Mm, okay. So what you're saying is, in fact, that you need me to risk
my neck blowing their set out again just because you're incapable of manipulating
record sales? That it?"
"Don't be cheeky." Rory snapped. "You're under contract and you'll do
as you're told."
"I never do as I'm told." Stefana's eyes glinted angrily. "I do these
little...tasks you set me for the money, not because you own me. So get used
to that, okay? I'm in it for Diablo, for the cash and to spite that airheaded
girl group any I can in the process."
"Frankly, Stefana, I don't much care why you're doing it, so long as
you do it." Rory told her cuttingly. "Well? Are you scared?"
"I'm never scared." Stefana retorted hotly. "And I'm in. Just you wait.
Jewel will have a show they'll never forget."
* * *
* * * *
* * * *
* * * *
* * * *
* * *
"So, where exactly are we meeting these girls then?" Simon Lockwood
cast his companion a curious look as the three students headed into the
shopping centre that had become Jewel's local haunt over the two years the
band had been together.
"More to the point, are any of 'em single?" Gary Newall grinned. "I
haveta admit I did think you were making up all that stuff 'bout this Canadian
chick of yours, but you weren't after all that...she's a hell of a babe,
"You have one thing on your mind." Cameron rolled his eyes. "We're meeting
them at some coffee place or other in the mall - Rora said it were next
to a shoe store, but I forget the name of it. An' as for bein' single, Gary,
I dunno. You'll 'ave to ask around, won't you?"
From the midst of the bustling shoppers and tourists, Topaz emerged to
greet the bewildered Englishmen, greeting Cameron with a kiss and a hug,
then casting smiles at his two companions.
"You found your way, then...I was a little worried you wouldn't." She
admitted. "I was about to give your phone a call, and see if I could work
out where you were."
"It's a damn big city, Rora, give us a chance!" Cameron returned, laughing.
"'Ere, where are the others? I thought you were all gonna show us round the
'otspots, not just you!"
"They're grabbing seats at the coffee house, it's always so busy at this
time of day." Topaz explained with a smile. "You...do all drink coffee, right?
I mean, the place serves latte and stuff but I'm not sure about English tea..."
"It's cool." Gary cast her a smile. "We're students, Aurora. We write
assignments at ungodly hours in the morning, kept awake only by the lure
of the caffeine. Coffee will be fine."
"Speak for yourself!" Simon laughed. Topaz grinned.
"Well, in that case, there should be no problem. This is the best coffee
joint in town." She said, leading them inside. "See, I told you it was busy.
Oh, and also, we want to keep as low a profile as possible...you guys do
understand, I hope...but half of LA think we're their property to charge in
on for autographs and so on if they see us out and about, so..."
"Autographs, huh?" Simon looked surprised as she led them to the table,
where the other three Jewel girls were already waiting. "Impressive. Isn't
it kinda awesome being such a bigshot here? I mean, I'd heard you play and
all, hell, Cameron has all your goddamn disks, but this city is like Jewel
everywhere! Don't you love that buzz?"
"Mm, sometimes." Topaz nodded. "Other times it's just a plain nusiance.
We're all in it for the music, after all. Not for the adoring groupies.
That can be kinda embarassing." She grinned, sending her boyfriend an amused
look. "Take this one, for example. Can't get shot of him."
"Well, wouldn't be much of a stalker then, would I?" Cameron returned
neatly, kissing her on the forehead as the group sat down. He cast a grin
at the other girls. "Mornin' all. How's things in the life of Jewel, huh?"
"Hey, Cameron." Copper grinned at him. "Not bad, actually. Yourself?"
"Fine...getting over my jetlag." Cameron responded. "I s'pose I better
make some introductions, huh? Girls, these are two of me mates from Uni -
Simon Lockwood an' Gary Newall. Guys, meet Jewel."
"That's helpful." Gary observed dryly. Topaz laughed.
"You're useless, you know that?" She told her boyfriend playfully. "Gary,
Simon - this is Elizabeth Santiago, Nancy Pelligrini and Sylvina Martescu,
otherwise known to the world as Copper, Goldie and Sylva; my bandmates."
"Nancy, please." Nancy grimaced. "I will not be called Goldie out of press
"Copper...sounds familiar. Are you Aaron's girlfriend?" Simon sounded
interested. Copper blushed slightly, nodding her head.
"Yes...he mentioned me?"
"Copper, Aaron always mentions you." Cameron said dryly. "Whenever we
chat or email online 'e always brings you into the conversation. Guy's 'opeless
"Mm, and you're not?" Copper bantered back. Cameron laughed, squeezing
"Touche." He acknowledged. "Generally Aaron an' me bore each other to
death on the subject."
"Men are so charming." Nancy rolled her eyes.
"You look kinda familiar...why do I feel like we've met?" Gary eyed the
youngest Jewel thoughtfully.
"Nancy's Taylor's cousin." Cameron explained. "An' consequently Aaron's
kid sister, too. That's probably why."
"I'd forgotten Taylor and Aaron were cousins." Gary admitted. "Seems weird
that family of Taylor's should speak like yanks." Then, as Cameron raised
an eyebrow he looked sheepish. "Erm, sorry. Forgot where I was. I meant Americans,
"No offence taken." Sylva, who had been silent up to that moment put in,
sending him a smile and eying him with a critical gaze at the same time.
The news about Jack had disturbed her more than she cared to admit, but, putting
it down to bruised ego she had determined to account for it elsewhere, and
had decided that Cameron's friends were a perfect place to start. Simon, she
knew, had a girlfriend back home, for Topaz had spoken to her boyfriend the
night before to arrange things and the conversation had gotten onto other
topics. Gary, on the other hand, was a different prospect and, much to her
delight, she found that she liked what she saw. Sandy hair framed a friendly
face, with soft brown eyes and a sturdy chin. She'd noticed his eyes crinkle
at the corners when he smiled, and with an inward nod of approval she decided
that perhaps he was worthwhile pursuing. Turning her back on thoughts of
Jack for the time being, she had allowed herself to sink back into her high
school ways of judging a suitable date, not thinking for a moment about how
her actions might affect the guy in question.
Gary, catching her look, returned the smile, startling her in the process.
She had not realised how much she had been staring, and despite herself she
felt discomfitted by it.
"Totally not cool." she murmured to herself. "I'm not desperate, damnit.
What kind of first impression to give him!"
"Thanks, girls, for offerin' to give us a bit of a tour of the city, by
the way." Cameron said at that moment, bringing her attention back into
the conversation. "We're really kinda bemused about it all at the moment."
"Can't drive the stupid hire car cos all the cars drive on the other
side." Gary rolled his eyes.
"Don't worry. Sylva can't drive properly on either side of the road."
She said dryly. Sylva put her hands on her hips.
"I heard that!" She exclaimed. "I can too drive, Nancy! And my record
doesn't have many blips on it, so there!"
"More than mine does." Nancy retorted. Sylva shrugged.
"So? You need to learn to live a little."
"That sounds like my motto." Gary laughed, as both Cameron and Simon had
sent him amused grins. "Seriously. Every time I get a speeding ticket or
a parking ticket or whatever I tell them to quit fussing and live a little."
"It's true." Simon nodded. "And this is why he's had his license suspended
twice over the last three years, too."
"Mm, Syl's not so bad as that." Copper smiled. She stood.
"I guess I'll go grab coffee." She said. "Everyone game? Any special requests?"
"Latte for me, ta." Nancy said with a grin.
"Coffee sounds good." Cameron observed. "I think I still need a mornin'
wake up call."
"Cameron, it's half past eleven!" Topaz looked amused, as Copper headed
to place the order. "What use are you gonna be when you're working and on
"I know." Cameron looked sheepish. "Ah well. I'll 'ave got the 'ang of
it by the time I graduate...least I 'ope so. If not, Rora, wanna come to
London an' be me 'uman alarm clock?"
"Mm, with pleasure." Topaz winked at him.
"Nah, that'd be no good." Sylva said, sending her friend a teasing glance.
"Neither of you would ever get up!"
"Ooh...I'll get you later." Topaz pretended to go for her friend's throat,
"She 'as a point, though." Cameron conceded good-naturedly. "'Ere, so
what are you gonna take us to see in this city, then?"
"Well, I want to show you where I work." Topaz responded with a grin.
"And then just the places to hang out and stuff like that. Syl suggested
we took you bowling or to the roller rink, if you're game."
"Bowling sounds good." Gary cast Sylva another smile, which she returned
with magnanimous ease, her composure once more her own.
"Gary fancies himself as quite the bowling king." Simon explained with
"Well, Syl's our resident champ, so guess we can crown them king and queen
then get on with a proper game." Nancy laughed.
"Which I plan on losing horribly and then getting teased about for the
next few weeks." Topaz grimaced.
"Stick with me, I'll 'elp ya cheat." Cameron said, amused.
"No fair!" Sylva protested. "No cheating!"
"So I guess it looks like the bowling alley first." Nancy observed, as
Copper returned to the group. "Looks like this is gonna be one interesting