Chapter Five: Kelly
"So, what exactly was this afternoon all about?"
Topaz gazed at the messenger window morosely, tears pricking at her pale blue eyes. It was some hours after Jewel's chat had finished, and she had signed back online at the Starlight Mansion, half hoping Cameron would not be there, but secretly knowing that he would be looking for her. From the tone of his opening greeting, she could tell he was both hurt and angry, and she inwardly said a prayer for courage.
"I know what I have to do." She murmured. "Now I just have to do it."
Slowly she typed into the small white box.
"We had a lot of fans to deal with, I didn't have time to play."
"Well, you could have told me that, instead of booting me like some troublemaker!"
"Sorry? I don't expect my girlfriend to block me from a public chatroom! What is this, Rora? Are you afraid that people will find out we're an item? Is that it?"
"No, it's not that, Cameron." Topaz swallowed hard. She already felt like crying, and his angry tone was doing nothing for her composure.
"Well, then what is it? Is it Luca Ranieri?"
"Cameron, why are you fixated with Luca?"
"Well, for the two seconds I was in the chatroom, before I got strategically removed, I saw some kid ask you if you and he were a "hot item"." Cameron's response came back in a flash, followed by an angry face icon. "Then strangely enough, my so called girlfriend boots me from the chat and that's that. What's going on, Rora? I thought I could trust you!"
Topaz hesitated, then she bit her lip.
"If that's how you feel, I have nothing more to say." She typed slowly, pressing the enter key as her tears began to fall. "I love you, Cameron, but I can't keep handling you being jealous whenever you're not here to watch over me. I'm sorry that you can't trust me, but if that's how it is, I think we should stop this now."
"What?" Cameron's response came back in big bold text, followed by a stunned face and a bevy of question marks. "What are you saying, Rora?"
"I guess I'm saying goodbye, Cameron." Topaz reached up to dash her tears away, for they were blurring her sight and making it hard for her to read the screen. "I...wish you luck."
Before he could reply again, she hit the block button on her messenger, and, sobbing bitterly, deleted his name from her contact list. Then she buried her head in her hands, giving in to her tears fully.
"I love you Cameron, and I'm sorry." She whispered, putting a damp finger to the computer screen. "I can't tell you why, but it's for the best. You're better off not worrying about me. Somewhere in England there's bound to be a girl who will love you and who won't let you down. Someone who's as clever as you, and who you can trust. Believe me...this is for the best."
Sylva's voice came from the doorway, and, as soon as she saw her friend's tears the synth player hurried to the fair girl's side.
"What happened?" She demanded, pulling her companion to her feet and holding her at arms length.
"I did what I should have done when Cameron left America after Vi's wedding." Topaz swallowed hard. "I broke up with him, and...and I blocked him from contacting me. I feel like crap, Syl, but it's for the best. I had to do it, it wasn't fair to keep messing him about."
"Sadie told us about what happened in chat earlier." Sylva hugged her friend tightly. "Come on, I'll make you a mug of hot chocolate and you can come mope downstairs, huh? I'm sorry things didn't work out with Cameron, but you have a little girl to worry about, and getting all upset like this can't be good for either one of you."
"I know." Topaz sighed heavily. "Thanks for the hug, Syl. I don't know what I'd do without you guys. I think it's fair to say that my love life has always been a joke, and Cameron was the first guy who was different. Dunno, maybe I'm just jinxed where men are concerned."
"No, you're not jinxed." Sylva linked arms in hers, leading her downstairs. "You were a kid and you made mistakes. Cameron was just your first serious relationship, that's all. You're a sweetheart, Topaz, you'll meet other guys and it will be okay. Besides, baby isn't far off making her debut...that will give you plenty to do."
"I know." Topaz put a hand to her stomach. "It's the only thing keeping me going. I know I love Cameron, but I want the baby more than I've ever wanted anything in my life before. The decision had to be made and I made it." She offered a wan smile. "And I guess you're right. It will get better. After all, if it's not meant to be..."
"Right." Sylva nodded. "I keep telling myself the same thing about Jack. It will get better and some other guy will show up and sweep me off my feet."
"Jack isn't with Melanie any more." Topaz remembered. Sylva shrugged her shoulders.
"He hurt me and I can't forgive him for what he said." She said quietly. "So that's that one dead in the water." She shrugged. "Anyhow, it's not so bad, being single. We'll cope and keep each other company, huh?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Topaz nodded. She hugged her companion. "Thanks again, Syl. I'm glad I've you to fight my corner, at least."
"Well, that's what I'm here for." Sylva said flippantly. "Come on, let's go see if we can't find you something to take your mind off Cameron, okay? I'm sure there must be something here to help soothe a broken heart!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Well, it wouldn't hurt for you to take a night off, Em, and besides,
I happen to have reservations at the Red Rock..."
Stefana Ranieri crept up to the door of her bedroom, her ears pricked as she eavesdropped on her brother's call. Stefana, known to the American press as Diablo's "little piece of Hell", was Luca's possessive and fiery younger sister, and one of Los Angeles' biggest troublemakers, though few could actually link her name with her deeds. Caught up in a world of amphetamine drugs, Stefana often lost control of her temper and her actions, and on occasion could be so ruthless that even those closest to her wondered about her lack of morals. Stefana had one weakness, however - she had long since been in love with Aaron Pelligrini, Copper's fiance and Jewel's Road Manager. Every scheme she had tried to lure him away had so far backfired, and it was rubbing salt into an ever-present wound to realise that her brother was making ever more promising steps in his pursuit of Sirena.
Stefana had little time for anyone who dared take her brother's attention, for she was deeply jealous, and considered Luca her property. It was already a sore point that Luca had such a defined crush on the solo singer, but, until recently, Stefana had not suspected that Sirena was beginning to reciprocate the affection. However, the more she listened, the more it sounded like her brother was arranging a date, and a fierce wave of anger washed through her.
"How dare that slut think she can seduce my brother." She hissed, clenching her fists. "Noone messes with us...she and her stupid brat need to learn exactly where they belong, and it's not with Luca! He already wastes too much of his time and attention on them, like they were some charity case or something. Now he's taking the bitch out to dinner? What gives?"
"Well, if you can get April at the foundation to come over and watch Mike, that would be perfect, if Kimber can't have him there because of her cold. I want to take you out - you deserve some free time to yourself, you know." Luca's voice drifted down the hall. There was a pause, then,
"You're serious about this nanny idea, then? I wasn't sure if you were...what did the agency say when you called them?"
"Nanny?" Stefana's eyes opened wide. "Oh no, that isn't good! If Sirena gets some idiot to watch her brat, it will mean she has even more free time to run round batting her eyes at my brother and trying to get him into bed!"
"Well, okay. I'll come by yours and pick you up in about an hour, okay? All right, I'll see you then. Say hi to Mike for me...bye Em."
Luca terminated his call, and Stefana slipped back into her bedroom to avoid being seen, her mind racing.
"That bitch interferes with Luca's head too much already." She muttered. "Since we came to California, all he's been keen on doing is befriending the enemy. First he beds Topaz, then he's chasing after Sirena, and she's such a slut that she's bound to give in to him in the end. I won't have it! My brother deserves better than that kind of trash...the daughter of the enemy! How could he even think about spending time with her!"
She narrowed her eyes.
"I bet Sirena is plotting to use him somehow to sabotage Rory and Rebel Records." She decided, lighting a cigarette and exhaling thoughtfully. "She's friends with that bitch Jewel sister of Aaron's, so it wouldn't surprise me. The Gabor family are all the same - manipulative, lying creeps. Luca's dense, he probably doesn't realise what she's up to. I'm not gonna let that slut destroy everything we've worked for since we began Diablo, back in Connecticut!"
She pursed her lips.
"Well, there's only one thing for it." She decided. "He's taking her to the Red Rock tonight...I'd better trail them and make sure that nothing untoward happens. Maybe I can get that girl alone, and tell her precisely what I think of her low blow attempts on my brother's integrity. That would settle things once and for all!"
She pushed open her bedroom door, grabbing her car keys from the unit and heading out onto the landing. Pausing outside Luca's door to make sure he was busy getting ready, she took her coat and hat down from the rack, pulling the beret down over her dark curly hair, and slipping her boots onto her feet.
"I'll head out there and be ready and waiting when they arrive." She decided. "Sirena, you'd better be prepared, because there's no way I'm letting you seduce my brother!"
* * * * * * * * * *
"You know, people will get the wrong idea about us, coming together to
a place like this."
Sirena handed her jacket to the waiting man on duty, casting Luca a wry smile as they were shown to their table. "It's hot enough gossip that you're always over at my house playing with Mike. Anyone who sees us is going to be convinced we're sleeping together."
"That's the press for you." Luca said with a shrug. "You and I both know we're not, so who cares? It's like Topaz's baby. She and I both know I didn't father it - in real terms, nothing else matters. The press will think what they like, and you needed an evening out." He grinned at her. "Besides, what's wrong with having a meal with a friend? I often take Maddy or Marissa out for dinner, and there's nothing going with me and either of them. Marissa's like a second kid sister and Maddy - well, that's so far back in the past that I can't remember thinking of her as anything other than one of my best friends. People should be more openminded."
"Very true, but they're not. Life sucks that way." Sirena shrugged. "I admit it's been a while since a guy took me out for a meal, actually. You could say I'm not good at making friends with folk - particularly not the opposite sex." Her green eyes twinkled with amusement. "I think the Gabor in me scares them off."
"Didn't scare me." Luca pointed out. Sirena laughed.
"That's only because you're too dense to run and hide like the others." She said playfully. "And besides, I tried hard enough to get shot of you. Just in the end you were stalking me so much that I figured I might as well make use of you."
"Oh, of course, that's how it was." Luca grinned. "Whatever you say, Emily. I'm glad you don't hate me any more."
"Well, to be brutally honest, it was too much bother." Sirena admitted, picking up the menu with a shrug. "And you're not such bad company, once you quit trying to chat me up at every turn. I don't feel like you're only after one thing from me now, and that's a much healthier arrangement for both me and Michael."
"You're my friend." Luca shrugged. "Just because I have a thing for you and make no secret of it does not mean that, in the normal run of things, I can't control my labido. Besides, I like spending time with Mike, too. I always wanted a little brother."
"Why? I would've thought after Stefana you would've been glad that there were just the two of you." Sirena observed acidly. Luca laughed.
"Aw, she's not as bad as all that, Em. Cut her some slack."
"Well, brotherly love must be blind." Sirena shrugged her shoulders. "Your sister is the devil's child, Luca. Like it or not."
From her vantage point across the restaurant, Stefana's eyes narrowed in anger at these words. As Sirena disappeared into the ladies restroom to 'freshen up', the Diablo guitarist slipped across the restaurant after her foe, pushing open the door and casting a glare at the older girl.
"I don't appreciate being talked about behind my back." She snapped.
Startled, Sirena turned, casting Stefana a surprised look.
"I heard what you said to my brother about me. You have some nerve."
"I'm sorry, honey. I didn't realise that Luca had to bring his personal minder whenever he went out with a friend." Sirena raised an eyebrow. "What in hell business is it of yours what I say or do? It's a free country."
"Luca is far too good for you, you know." Stefana glowered at her opponant. "So whatever it is you're planning, forget it, huh?"
"Planning?" Sirena stared, then, "Oh, Stefana, how pathetic are you?"
She laughed, further infuriating the other girl.
"Let me guess, you trailed us all the way here tonight just so you could give me a little speech on how your brother...your older brother, a free adult, who invited me out to dinner...is the victim of a blatant scheme on my part to seduce him with my wicked ways? Sheesh, I knew you were warped, but not that warped!"
"Don't even start with me, I'm warning you." Stefana spat back. "I'm not someone you want to cross, Sirena. Believe me. Keep your claws out of my brother, all right? He's not some casanova idiot with his brains beneath his belt-line, like the moron who landed you with that pathetic, waste of space brat you call a son. He's got class - something which a Gabor couldn't hope to understand!"
The amusement died out of Sirena's expression at this, and she grabbed Stefana by the wrists, pushing her up against the wall of the bathroom. The room's only other occupant, a dark lady in her early forties took one look at the squabble and disappeared into one of the cubicles, locking the door firmly behind her. Sirena took no notice, her green eyes sparking with fury.
"You listen to me, and you listen good, Stefana Ranieri. You can slight me, and call me every name under the sun, that's your business and I don't care. Your opinion of me means nothing. But when you start in on Michael, then I get involved. He has nothing to do with you - or anyone else, unless I say so, so leave him out of it, all right?"
"I'll say what I like!" Stefana shot back. "Get your paws off me, will you?"
"Not a damn chance." Sirena said grimly. "If you think that your little games intimidate me, Stefana, you're sadly mistaken. I don't know if you've met my mother, but if you ever have you should know from her that it isn't wise to tangle with a Gabor. It can get...messy. Do you follow my reasoning?"
Her grip on Stefana's wrists tightened, and despite herself, Stefana began to wonder if she'd crossed the line.
Sirena met her captive's defiant green eyes with cold ones of her own.
"Luca is his own man. He has his own life to lead and I strongly suggest that you let him do so." She said in low, threatening tones. "If not, it might be unpleasant for you. Luca is my friend, and I don't like people messing with folk I call my friends. I don't care if he is your brother. You haven't any right to tell him what to do, and you certainly don't have any say over what Michael or I do. If he wants to spend time with me, then I don't mind. It's no business of yours. I advise you to remember that."
"Let go of me! You're cutting off my circulation! I'll be bruised all over!"
"Good." Sirena was unmoved. "Then maybe you'll remember that it's never a good idea to cross horns with a Gabor."
She released her grip, pushing Stefana aside. "I don't want to have to tell you again."
With that she left the restroom, eyes still flashing with indignant anger. The door banged shut behind her, and Stefana muttered a string of expletives under her breath. She rubbed her arms, trying to rid herself of the pins and needles that had begun in her fingertips.
"Bitch!" She exclaimed. "Where does she get off telling me what to do?"
"Some people are just hostile."
Startled by the voice, Stefana swung around, casting the speaker a confused look. Now the conflict was over, the woman had emerged from her cubicle, and she was sending the young guitarist a strange, sympathetic smile. "Are you hurt?"
"No, just bruised." Stefana's eyes narrowed. "I'll get her yet. Who does she think she is? She and her damn baby aren't so damn wonderful! Hell, she can't even look after it properly, if she's going hunting up some poor nanny to bratsit for him! What right does she have to treat me like that? Luca's my brother, he's not her unpaid babysitter!"
"Terrible." The woman shook her head slowly, tut-tutting under her breath. A tragic look touched her expression. "Some people...they just hurt other people."
"I guess so." Stefana shot her companion a confused look. "Who in hell are you, anyway? Do I know you, or something?"
"My name is Kelly." The woman smiled. "Kelly Arca. Pleased to meet you...?"
"Stefana." Stefana frowned. Where had she heard the name Arca before?
"What a pretty name!" Kelly exclaimed. "Well, if I had another daughter, that is what I would call her! Stefana, such a lovely, lovely name!"
"Um, thanks, I guess." Stefana stared. "It...my father chose it for me."
"I have two children." Kelly told her, and Stefana got the impression that she was not entirely listening to the musician's words. "But they were stolen from me."
"Stolen? Like, kidnapped?" Despite herself, the guitarist was curious. Kelly nodded, her expression becoming distant.
"Yes. My son and my daughter. Taken away from me without any reason." She agreed dreamily. "But it's better now. I've seen my little boy, I'll get him back. My Carl and my Raesha...yes, they'll soon be back where they belong. I'm sure if Carl is here, Raesha can't be far away..."
She paused, seeming to remember where she was.
"It was nice to meet you, Stefana. Such a very pretty name you have."
"Uh, yeah. Whatever."
Now entirely unnerved, Stefana decided she had had more than enough of this strange woman's company, and she hurriedly left the restroom, making her way around the back of the restaurant and out to her waiting car before her brother could see her and demand to know why she was there.
As she got into the driver's seat, a strange realisation struck her.
"Carl Arca? Is that what she said?" She wondered, halting what she was doing, and turning her gaze back towards the restaurant. "But...that's crazy! She can't have said that...can she?"
She shrugged, putting her vehicle in gear and roaring out of the parking lot.
"Well, I've had enough of nutters for one night." She decided. "I'm not going to the Red Rock again until they improve their clientele. Carl Arca, indeed. What does she think I am, an idiot? After all, Carl Arca can't be her son!
Carl Arca was Blade's name!"