Part One: Lovesick

Chapter Two: A Bitter Heart

It was hot.
The dark haired girl got slowly up from her bed, reaching languidly to push the big window open further to let in any snippets of air. It was only February, but California weather was often on the warm side, and that day it seemed particularly airless. Dropping back down onto her bed, the girl reached once more for her magazine, flicking idly through the pages.
She had taken refuge in her bedroom some hours before, for the stimulants that she strongly denied a dependance on had sent her heart into a spin and it had been all she could do to get up the stairs without blacking out. Now she was calm again, as the dose had worked its way through her system and her pulse rate had returned to normal, but she still felt tired and her head ached and buzzed. It was getting all the more frequent, and she knew that if she wasn't careful she'd have a turn in front of her over-vigilant older brother.
"And Luca just won't give up then till he's had me down the hospital talking to specialists about some heart condition he'll think I inherited from Dad." She muttered, reaching out for a cigarette and lighting it as she flopped more comfortably on her pillows. "I'm glad we're not working today. I ain't got a scrap of energy for any of Clay and Mari's compositions this afternoon. It's enough to read this article straight - I wish it wasn't so damn hot!"
Stefana Ranieri was twenty-three years old, and her drug problems were as deep rooted as they were secretive. She had developed an addiction to amphetamine when she had dropped out of school some years before, and it had spiralled into a trap from which she could see no escape. Not that, in truth, she had spent much time looking. If she was to be honest with herself, she knew that she was not well, but it was not in her nature to dwell on such uncomfortable musings.
Far better, in fact, to blame the heat and the hard concert the night before that she and her band, Diablo had performed to a sell-out crowd in the centre of Los Angeles.
She scooped up the magazine once more, taking a lazy drag on her cigarette as she read over the write up on their show. It was, she noted, extremely positive to the point of sensational propaganda, but then, since an unfortunate incident with one of Jewel, Cool Trash had been one of Diablo's most ardent adherents in the busy press world.
"And the pictures just rock. I can't believe it made today's issue." She mused, reaching for her scissors and carefully cutting around the article, being careful not to cut through any of the images. "We looked so wild up on stage last night with those red lights and everything. We really look like the big time now! I really wish I could copy this and send it to my bitch mother in Connecticut, just to show her what the daughter she pretends she doesn't have has done with herself!"
She pushed back her pillow, reaching down behind the valance for the sheaf of newspaper clippings and magazine cuttings she had carefully gathered over their time in Los Angeles. There were a lot of them now, she mused, some getting dog-eared and worn from their lack of a proper storage place, but with all her money going on drugs, cigarettes and the occasional night out, she had not found even the spare change for a scrapbook. Besides, part of her was embarrassed that it mattered so much to her to keep a record of Diablo's ascent.
"Still, this is the best one yet." She decided, laying the new clipping down on the top of the pile. "I look so fab in that dress - it was worth blowing the last of my credit on it, even though I probably won't ever pay it off."
She looked rueful, remembering how she had already lost one credit card that month. It had taken wild financial shuffling and the covert theft of several hundred dollars from her brother's bank account to pay off the debt and prevent charges being brought against her, but the credit card company had taken fright and had terminated her card as soon as the balance had been paid.
And she knew that this card was headed the same way.
"Luca didn't notice last time." She mused. "He assumed it was his new car's insurance premium going up after he scraped the fender against that truck, thank God. But Heaven knows if I can do it again. Oh well. Maybe it won't matter. Maybe I'll find the money someplace else."
She pushed the pile of clippings back under the pillow, returning her attention to the vandalised magazine and skimming over the next article. It was about Spring Fashions, and Stefana rolled her eyes, turning the page.
"I have enough to pay off when I get paid." She muttered. "I don't need designer shoes to add to it all! I already owe enough people things and those are people who might well get ugly if I don't pay them off nice and quick! At least payday is only a couple of weeks off...though dammit, I could use one of Rory's assignments right now. He hasn't called on me for ages - I hope he didn't scare off after the FBI got involved with the fire at Misfit Music. It wasn't like I was even involved in that!"
She glanced back down at the newspaper, flicking ash idly off her cigarette as she did so. Her gaze rested on a photograph at the top of the page and her tired features deepened into a scowl.
Brilliant. Just what she needed.
With one deft movement she tore the picture out of the magazine, dropping it down onto the covers.
"Aaron and that bitch fiancee of his." She muttered, her eyes narrowing. "Celebrity couples and how likely they are to make the grade? I thought Cool Trash was on our side! How in hell is it they've got Aaron and Copper down as being favourites to last as an item! What's that about?"
She ran her finger down the column of text, inhaling on her cigarette as her anger grew.
"Copper's relationship with behind the scenes Jewel road manager Aaron Pelligrini seems set to last the test of time despite busy schedules and long tours." She read. "Cool Trash's compatibility - 95% likely to make it as a married couple. Bah. What do they know anyhow? How can they write a brilliant article about us one minute and this kind of nonsense the next! Aaron doesn't love her! He doesn't, dammit! He can't possibly! She's sweet and simpery and does charity openings for free to get publicity. What on earth could he see in such a goody goody flake like that?"
She grabbed the scissors up off the bedcover, bringing the sharp blades down angrily across Copper's face, again and again until the musician was barely recognisable. Then she took a deep breath, getting a hold of her rage.
"It's just a stupid magazine." She muttered. "Don't freak out. It's not like this wretched wedding will ever happen, anyway. Showbiz weddings never do. They always wind up being called off and stuff. She's out of his league - she's just some no-hope drummer from Detroit who got a contract because her precious Mama was a bigshot. That's all."
She shoved the tattered clipping with some force beneath her pillow, tossing the magazine and the scissors onto the floor with a thud and a clatter, and then burying her head in her pillow.
"I need a goddamn aspirin." She muttered. "I hate this heat!"
A voice from outside the door made her start, anxiously glancing around to make sure all evidence of her fit of rage was out of sight. "Steffi, it's Marissa. Can I come in?"
"I guess so." Stefana's tone was rich with reluctance, but the door swung open anyway to reveal Marissa Young, the baby of the band. At twenty-two, Marissa was one half of Diablo's creative drive, and Stefana's long-time best friend. As friendly, gentle and sympathetic as Stefana was brash, confrontational and rude, their friendship was a mystery to many people, yet it had endured through high school and the years after. Marissa was the only one to know the secret drug habit that plagued her friend, but misguided loyalty kept her silent, no matter how worried she became.
And it was clear from her expression that she was worried now.
"You look rough." She said softly. "Are you sick?"
"No, just tired out." Stefana's tone did not invite sympathy, but Marissa sat down on the end of the bed.
"It was a hard night last night." She admitted at length. "We played out of our skins. But you've been quiet today, even considering. I was worried you weren't feeling good."
"The heat isn't agreeing with me. That's all." Stefana pulled herself into a sitting position, tossing her half-smoked cigarette into a discarded coffee cup and stretching. "Why are you up here, Mari? Did you want something specific?"
"Yes." Marissa nodded. "Luca asked me to scoot up and find you, since I had to grab my folder." She indicated the grey manila file under her arm. "Rory's called. We're to go to Rebel Records right away."
Stefana muttered the worst expletives she could muster.
"What the hell is he, a sadist?" She demanded. "We were working till three this morning and now he wants us in the studio again? I thought he gave us today off!"
"Well, we thought so too, but apparently not." Marissa shrugged. "I'm sorry, Stef - I don't want to go in any more than you do, but we don't have a choice. Luca took the call and I think whatever it is is either urgent or important. Possibly both. You know Rory."
"Yeah. Unfortunately." Stefana muttered. "All right, already."
She grabbed a hairband from her dresser, pulling her thick black locks into a rough ponytail and getting to her feet, glancing around the room for her boots. "Seen my shoes?"
"They're in the hall, if you mean the boots you usually wear." Marissa replied. "Stef, are you sure you're feeling all right? You're white as a sheet and you've shadows under your eyes. You don't look well."
"I'm fine, dammit!" Stefana snapped, pushing away the well meaning arm Marissa had reached out to her friend. "It's hot and I'm tired and I don't need your fuss! I'm fine! I just wanted some space up here to read my magazine in peace! I spent far too much damn time with all of you anyway. Sometimes I need my personal time too, you know!"
"I'm sorry." Marissa bit her lip. "I didn't mean to fuss."
Stefana opened her mouth to retort, but she sighed.
"I'm too tired to yell at you." She admitted. "Come on. Let's go and see what the old miseryguts wants with us this afternoon, huh?"
Rebel Records was busy by the time Diablo arrived, and, with very bad grace, Stefana stalked into the lobby behind her companions, her displeasure clear from the scowl on her face. Casting her a sidelong glance, Luca decided that it was safer not to venture a remark. He knew his sister and the wild extremes of temper she favoured. It seemed all too clear that today they had been graced with one of her unpredictable sulks.
Rory Llewelyn was in his office, and for once he was not alone. Sat behind the desk was his deceptively pretty business partner, the conniving Sophie Devereux, and by the window, gazing out at the busy Los Angeles scene below was a stranger, who turned as they entered, casting them a cool and almost patronising smile.
"Well, so this is Diablo." She observed, in gentle tones that rang with a hint of superiority. "I'm most honoured to meet you all. Riot has told me so much about you all."
"Rory, what in hell did you want with us?" Stefana demanded. "We were promised a day off, and..."
"And this is showbusiness." Rory interrupted, shaking his head. "No tantrums please. I'd prefer it if you remembered your age as given on your birth certificate, at least when you are in my office. I am as aware as you are that you were working late last night and that today was mutually agreed as a free day for Diablo. But Jewel's new song is breaking sales records already, and to top it off there's a rumour buzzing that their next concert's gate receipts are going to the Starlight Foundation. Jewel are flavour of the month and we need to hurry along your next album."
"We've written a lot of stuff already, Rory." Marissa proffered the folder, which her manager took, flicking through the contents. "There are two or three songs Clay and I were working on last week that we've almost done with, too. I think we'll only need two, perhaps three more tracks to finish an album."
"You write the songs, then?" The stranger cast Marissa a thoughtful look, then, "Funny. You don't look a lot like your music, my dear."
"I beg your pardon?" Marissa stared at her, confused. "What do you mean?"
"Marissa and I both write the music." Clay said quietly, meeting the visitor's calm, amused gaze with a grave one of his own. "And we all put ourselves into performing it."
"Please, I meant no offence to anyone." The newcomer laughed, a tinkling, condescending laugh. "I find it an interesting observation, that's all, how little song-writers are reflected in their music these days."
"Who are you, anyway?" Clay demanded. "If you're going to patronise us, at least tell us who you are, so we know if you're in any position to do so!"
"This is Phoebe Asche." Sophie put in from her desk, her soft, accented tones carrying in the brightly lit office. "Formerly Rapture of the Stingers, and a dear acquaintance of both Rory and myself. She is no stranger to the music industry, Clay - as you can see for yourself."
"Rapture?" Stefana narrowed her eyes, considering. "You're the one who cons people out of their money promising seances and all kinds of crap like that, aren't you?"
"Con people?" Phoebe's eyes opened wide in mock horror, though there was a twinkle of humour in her expression. "No, I merely give people the service they pay for."
"But all of that is garbage." Stefana said bluntly. "I know who you are now. Rory's mentioned you before, and your business. You tell people things that aren't true and make money out of it."
"Is that true?" Marissa looked stunned. "Is that what you do?"
"I am a medium." Phoebe inclined her head slightly. "Though I wouldn't dismiss the work I do with as much scorn as your friend." She eyed the dark haired girl with interest. "I suppose you are Stefana. Yes," As Stefana looked surprised. "Rory has told me about you as much as he has told you about me. I think that makes us even, doesn't it?"
"In that case you should know better than to try and fool me." Stefana folded her arms. "I don't buy into all of that voices from the beyond junk, just so you know."
"Well, nobody's asking you to." Phoebe laughed. "I'm not here to convert you to anything. I came to visit old friends, that's all, and take an interest in Rebel Records. I mightn't be in administration here, but I'm still a Stinger, you know, and this is a Stinger run company."
"Enough." Rory held up his hand. "Diablo, I want you in the studio, working through some of these songs Marissa mentioned. I want some constructive plans about how you want this album to progress and we shall have a meeting about it tomorrow lunchtime. Stefana, stay here for a moment, will you? I have a contractual glitch I need to discuss with you."
"Whatever." Stefana dropped herself into a chair with bad grace, but there was a hopeful glint in her green eyes. "I guess I don't want to play music right now anyway."
Rory made no comment, waiting until the rest of the musicians had gone. Then he cast Sophie a glance. The frenchwoman smiled, winked at Phoebe, then obediently withdrew from the office. This was not lost on Stefana, who narrowed her gaze thoughtfully, casting her employer a defiant look.
"What's this about, Rory?" She demanded. "You haven't called me back for a long time - what's up?"
"I'm concerned, my dear, that's all." Rory said smoothly. "About Jewel's progress. Our little...arrangement appears to have lapsed since your entanglement with Los Angeles' FBI bureau six months ago."
"That's down to you. You know where I am." Stefana shrugged, eying Phoebe warily.
"You needn't worry about my discretion." Phoebe assured her softly. "I am perfectly capable of forgetting this meeting ever took place, Stefana. I told you, I'm a Stinger. Besides, I have no love for those Jewel brats either. They messed up our performance at the Reunion show and I don't forget something like that. I have a score to settle myself. Particularly with the brat they call Copper."
"You do, huh?" Stefana's expression changed. "Copper's the worst of them. She always pretends she so sweet and nice but she's a bitch and I hate her."
"Then maybe you should put your mind to thinking up something that will stop Jewel's current smooth success curve." Rory said quietly. "That is all. We'll talk more when you've had time to think."
He gestured towards the door, and Stefana scowled, getting to her feet and stalking out of the office, banging the door behind her.
Once she was gone, he cast Phoebe a look. His companion laughed.
"She's a spitfire." She remarked. "I'm impressed. Though potentially a liability?"
"Oh, I'm afraid so." Rory sighed. "She has no ethics to worry about, she'll do whatever it takes for cash in hand, but yes, she can be a liability. That's why I'm getting you involved, Rapture. You wanted your shot at getting revenge on Jewel, well, I can't be seen to be involved in something like that. Not in professional circles. Since the fire at Misfit Music everything has been low profile from that point of view - Stefana was interrogated by agents at the time and I'm still unclear on how far she was involved, though she was never charged with anything."
"What's her motivation, then?" Phoebe took a seat opposite the desk as Rory settled in his more familiar chair. "Why does she do as you instruct? General ill temper? Because if you ask me, she has a grudge and I'd like to work that grudge to it's full potential."
"She hates Jewel. We all hate Jewel - it's not an uncommon sentiment around here." Rory replied. "But I have noticed that she spends an inordinate amount of time with one of Misfit Music's employees, considering our rival status. In fact, occasionally she learns tidbits of information by it, but it's a connection that concerns me."
"A member of Pizzazz's staff?" Phoebe's eyebrows shot up. "And you rely on this girl to do your dirty work?"
"As I said, she's potentially a liability." Rory responded darkly. "And he's more than Pizzazz's staff. He's also Jetta's son...and Copper's fiance."
"O-oh." Rapture's clever face took on a look of comprehension and she chuckled. "So that's how it is? The shrew has a crush?"
"A crush?" Rory looked startled, then a smile touched his lips. "Now you mention it, I believe you might well be right. As I said, she is...strangely keen on his company. And she has become extremely bitter towards Jewel - especially Copper." He rolled his eyes. "Feeble female emotions! No wonder she's so erratic."
"Not all females have feeble emotions, Riot." Phoebe told him quietly. "As you should well know from your own experience."
She smiled.
"But if that is the way of it, I'm sure I can find a way to motivate Stefana into revenge." She added. "I'll arrange to meet her, accidentally and spontaneously, and see what I can do. After all, it's one thing to develop the perfect scheme, but it helps to have someone to do the carrying out. And if she is such a good friend of Copper's fiance - what's his name? - then that's got to be the starting point."
"Aaron. Aaron Pelligrini." Rory reached into his filing cabinet, producing a folder and pushing it across the desk. "Everything our spies at Misfit Music have told us about Jetta and her family is in here. It should be all you need."
He smiled.
"And if anybody is going to dream up the perfect deception, Rapture, it's you."


Prologue: Downtown Los Angeles
Chapter One: A Special Task
Chapter Two: A Bitter Heart
Chapter Three: A Fan Letter
Chapter Four: A Valentine Surprise
Chapter Five: Cynthia's Advice
Chapter Six: Interception
Chapter Seven: Test Of A Friendship
Chapter Eight: Rendezvous
Chapter Nine: Cat Burglar
Chapter Ten: Phoebe's Plan
Chapter Eleven: Copper!

Copper, Nancy, Sylva, Anna, Blade, Raesha, Sirena, Topaz, Aaron, Sophie, Justin, Elliot, Rosita, Luis and any other characters in this fiction which do not appear in the animated Jem series are copyrighted to me (E.A Woolley) as of January 2002 <unless otherwise specified> and are not to be reproduced without permission ANYWHERE. Jetta, Pizzazz, Stormer, Roxy, Raya and all other original Jem characters are the copyright of Hasbro Inc, Sunbow, Christy Marx and the other writers of the Jem series. The future world of Pizzazz, Raya, Jetta, Roxy, Stormer, Clash, Synergy, the fate of Jem and her memorial are all copyrighted to me. The future world of Kimber and Shana is copyrighted jointly to myself and Gemma Dawn.
The concept of 'Jewel' is entirely my own, and any apparent link with any fictional or actual person or persons of this name is entirely coincidental. Equally the characters in this fiction are not based on any real life individual.
The concept behind the future world of Danse, Aja and Craig, the idea behind Jerrica's futureworld and the split of the Holograms is copyrighted to Gemma Dawn, whose Teenangel Outsiders fiction is directly twinned with Just a Dream. The character Sammi and any of the other Teenangel Outsider characters mentioned in this fiction are entirely copyright to Gemma Dawn and appear here only with her permission.
Pay her page a visit!