Sylvina Martescu hurried up the stairs of the big Starlight Estate, banging
hard on her bandmate's bedroom door. "Copper, are you up? Ted's just brought
over the fanmail from Misfit Music, and get this! You had a letter come direct
in the post this morning and it's PINK!"
"What are you shrieking about, Syl?" Copper swung open her bedroom door,
tying her dressing gown around her waist and eying her bandmate in confusion.
"I swear the only day you're out of bed first is the day that fanmail gets
delivered. What's this about a pink letter? What do you mean?"
"Ted brought the usual bag of fanmail around early this morning." Sylva
repeated, an amused twinkle in her blue eyes. "It's currently all over the
living room floor and Hollie's having a great time playing with it while
Topaz and Sadie are trying to sort it all out. But as he was leaving our
proper mailman came and he brought a letter addressed to you - in a pink
"So? It's probably from Ros. She has the most bizarre stationary." Copper
shrugged. "What of it?"
"It's postmarked L.A." Sylva shook her head. "Besides, if it was from
Ros, it would be addressed to Miss E Santiago. This one is just addressed
"Weird." Copper frowned, pulling the door of her bedroom shut behind her
and following her friend down the stairs. "Surely if it was fanmail it'd
come in with the normal mail?"
"That's what I thought." Sylva nodded her head. "But it didn't. We wonder
if it's some game Aaron is playing with you - what with you getting married
in just over a month. Don't you think so?"
"I suppose it could be." Copper agreed. "It isn't very much like him though.
Still, now I'm up I'll come see what all the fuss is about. Did you get many
"Enough." Sylva's eyes sparkled. "I love fanmail. They say the nicest
"That's sort of the point." Copper laughed. "Hence fan
Are Nancy or Cynthia up and about?"
"Cynthia's debugging her hard drive, or something complicated and technological
along those lines." Sylva wrinkled her nose. "I don't understand computer
speak, so I just nodded and said okay. Nancy is having breakfast. She's such
a spoilsport - she says the fanmail is just a load of nonsense and that's
"Whereas you're like a kid on Christmas Day." Copper grinned, pushing
open the door of the lounge.
"Well, I can't help it." Sylva protested. "I like getting nice letters!"
She followed her friend into the living room, where a chaotic scene greeted
them. Letters and packages were strewn across the floor as Sadie Monahue
and Aurora "Topaz" Stapleton attempted to sort them into piles, and a small
fourteen month infant was thoroughly enjoying herself in the centre of all
the mess, tossing envelopes around with a delighted chuckle.
"Hollie, you're really not helpful." Topaz cast her daughter a look, retrieving
a handful of envelopes from tiny fingers. "Oh! Morning, Copper - as you can
see, we've had a delivery."
"A big one by the looks." Copper settled herself on the sofa, scooping
up Hollie in her arms and perching her on her lap. "There, Miss Trouble.
Now Mommy can sort letters without you thwarting her efforts, can't she!"
"Thanks, Copper." Topaz dimpled. "That's a big help."
"Did Syl tell you you have a mystery letter, by the way?" Sadie glanced
up from the pile she was counting. "It's on the coffee table - we think
that it might be something from Aaron, though pink isn't really his colour
"Pink is noone's colour except yours, Sadie, and I don't expect you to
send me mail if you want to get a hold of me." Copper responded, reaching
out a free hand to scoop up the envelope. "Weird. Pink and...that's not Aaron's
handwriting, you know. Perhaps it's from someone else we know. Pretty much
everyone calls me Copper, so it could be. It feels kinda heavy...Hol, if
you sit still a second, I'll open it and see what's inside."
"Hollie doesn't know the meaning of sitting still." Topaz rolled her eyes,
retrieving her own pile of mail and taking a seat beside her friend on the
sofa. "Here, I've got her."
"So what is it?" Sylva demanded. "An invite or something? Because if it
is, I think it sucks that you got one and we didn't!"
"It looks like a letter." Copper's brow creased, and she pulled the sheet
of notepaper out from the envelope, unfolding it slowly. As she did so, something
shiny fell out, and Sylva bent down to scoop it up, letting out a whistle.
"Copper, who's sending you jewellery, and does Aaron know?" She demanded.
"Copper?" Sadie pressed gently, noticing that the drummer's face had become
troubled and her cheeks pink. "Something wrong?"
"No...no I don't think so." Copper got a grip on herself, shaking her
head. "Just a bit embarrassing, that's all."
"What is it?" Sylva repeated. "Aw, c'mon, Copper, you have to tell us!
Is it fanmail?"
"Yes, of a sort." Copper nodded. "Though how it came right here and not
through Misfit Music is beyond me."
"Not that big a mystery." Nancy entered at that moment, dropping down
onto the beanbag in the corner and half-heartedly grabbing her own pile
of letters. "Anyone who lives in Los Angeles can address something here,
it's not that big a deal. And all our mail gets scanned for explosives and
that kind of crap, so I wouldn't worry too much."
"I think it's a love letter." Topaz's blue eyes sparkled with amusement.
"Well, Copper? Own up. Is that what it is? From an admiring fan?"
Copper's cheeks became scarlet, and Nancy chuckled.
"I'd say you hit the nail on the head, Topaz." She replied. "C'mon, Copper,
what's the loser written this time?"
"It's a private letter, you know. I don't have to read it out." Copper
protested, folding the letter up once more and picking up the envelope. "I
don't really want to read it out loud, if you don't mind. Not...not in front
"Ooh!" Sylva's eyebrows shot up. "One of those
kinds of letters?"
"Sick." Nancy looked amused. "What kind of moron sends a dirty fan letter?"
"It's not explicit or anything." Copper shook her head. "It just makes
me...uncomfortable. That's all."
She pulled a folded piece of cardboard out of the envelope, slowly untaping
it and pulling out a photograph.
"He sent his likeness, too." She added, unnecessarily. "Oh, why do people
send mail like this? I'm engaged, for heaven's sake, and everyone knows it!
Why do they bother? Do they just want to embarrass me?"
"Copper, you're a very pretty chick." Topaz told her. "You know that you
have a hell of a lot of admirers out there. It's probably a desperate attempt
by these people to stop you from marrying Aaron. That's all."
"Well, I wish they wouldn't." Copper replied firmly. "If they really cared
about me they'd not bother, because they'd know Aaron is my soulmate and
that's that. I hate it when people do this!"
"Can I see it?" Sylva asked curiously. "I won't read it out, if it's that
bad...but I want to know what he said that's got you so upset."
"I suppose so." Copper handed it over. "It's basically just...you know.
How much he likes me, how he knows we're meant to be together, that kind
of stuff." She blushed again. "I'm a romantic at heart but that's mush."
"The poor guy obviously has it bad." Sadie came to read over Sylva's shoulder.
"This is deep stuff, Copper."
"Maybe you should keep your options open, too." Sylva tapped the picture
with a long painted nail. "He's cute."
"Syl, please don't encourage Copper to cheat on my brother in my presence!"
Nancy sent the keyboardest a meaningful look. "Besides, who wants to date
someone who sends tacky letters in pink envelopes?"
"Will you all just stop it, please?" Copper begged. "It's bad enough it
got written. If you don't mind, I'm gonna go take the rest of my fanmail
upstairs and get dressed. Then I'll decide whether to reply or not."
"Why would you even think about it?" Sadie frowned. "Copper, you'll only
encourage him. I know you want to tell him that you're in love with Aaron
and to please not send you stuff like that, but it will only make things
worse if you contact him."
"Sadie's right, you know." Topaz nodded. "It's part of our job, in a way,
to receive dodgy letters as well as nice ones." She looked rueful. "When
I was pregnant with Hollie I got any amount of hassle from Diablo fans who
thought Luca Ranieri was the father. Some of it was really unpleasant, too.
But it's part of the job, and that's all there is to it. You don't want to
encourage people like that."
"There are worse people he could have a major jones for, though." Sylva
reflected, folding the letter and handing it back. "And he did send you
a pretty necklace, Copper."
"I should at least send that back." Copper looked troubled. "I don't want
to take gifts from someone who...who has a wrong idea about me. And Aaron
mightn't like it if he knew."
"Does the guy leave an address?" Nancy asked. Copper shook her head.
Well, then there's nothing you can do about it." Nancy shrugged. "Besides,
I'm with Sadie and Topaz. You don't want to encourage him - or offend him
by sending his gift back. People like that have a screw loose - not that
having a crush on you is crazy, but you know what I mean. It's better just
left. Aaron won't care. He'll probably find it funny, to be honest."
"Perhaps." She acknowledged. "At least he trusts me, that's something.
I guess you're right. I'll go have a shower and then go through the rest
of my mail. Hopefully it'll be less controversial than this one!"
Sadie watched the drummer leave the room, then she pursed her lips.
"Think he'll write to her again?" She asked at length.
"Why should it matter? She's not interested and he's just a fan." Sylva
shrugged. "Even if he is a cute one. He's not as cute as Aaron, when you
look at it...she's not gonna fall for him."
"I didn't think she would." Sadie replied. "But that letter was kinda
"It wasn't creepy. Just...mush." Sylva objected. "Like Copper said. I'd
be wa-a-y uncomfortable if I was engaged to be married and some guy I never
met sent me a letter like that, to be honest."
"What did it say, exactly?" Topaz looked curious.
"That he was devoted to her and that he had pictures of her all over his
room so they could be together twenty four hours a day." Sadie grimaced.
"That she was his soulmate and he dreamt about her every night...that kind
of stuff. Oh, and that she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen and he
was madly in love with her. He said that no guy could possibly care more for
her than he did, and that he was her biggest fan from now till the day he
died. Like I said. Creepy."
"Eww, I think I'm gonna vomit." Nancy pulled a face. "He wrote all that?
I'm surprised Copper didn't throw up!"
"Sadie's right, though. It is a bit creepy." Topaz pursed her lips. "Slightly
"Well, fans can be obsessive." Sylva pointed out. "Like you said about
those Diablo ones - sometimes they get way too involved for their own good."
"Yeah, but..." Topaz shook her head. "No, I guess you're right. Just another
fan madly in love with Copper - it isn't the first time, and won't be the
last, though it's possibly the strangest. I just wondered if he was that
nuts about her, whether he'd try and do something to Aaron to get him out
of the picture. That's all."
"Okay, somewhere here your mind has gone from real life to some wild action
movie." Sylva sat down beside her friend, casting her a playful smile. "He's
just a nut. A harmless, Copper-fixated nut. And it takes a lot to go from
obsessing about Copper - who always looks damn fine when she goes out in
public, so like I said, he has good taste - to actually hurting someone.
It seemed like a lovesick letter, Topaz, not a threatening one."
"I think Syl is right." Sadie said thoughtfully. "I don't think he was
threatening anyone...at least...well, it was creepy, that's all. I don't
know what to make of it."
"Well, my brother isn't a pushover, so he'd have a job." Nancy reflected.
"Come on, she asked us to drop it, so let's drop it. We've all got fanletters
to read and answer before this afternoon - Connie's Corner tonight, or had
"With you around, we wouldn't have a chance to." Sylva rolled her eyes.
"All right, already! Subject closed!"
* * *
* * * *
It wasn't easy, dreaming up revenge schemes.
Stefana sprawled out on the big beach towel beneath the parasol, a lit
cigarette between her fingers as she contemplated her options. It was another
hot February day and she had sought peace and quiet at the beach where wisps
of a sea breeze made it the coolest place to be. Sunshine was not really Stefana's
thing - her complexion was naturally pale and she burned easily - so she
had borrowed the big red parasol from Marissa's bedroom before leaving, knowing
that her friend was holed up in music writing with Clay and would not miss
it for some time to come.
It was strangely isolated at the beach today, however. As she stared out
across the expanse of blue sea she found her mind shifting from Jewel to
Aaron and the last time she had spoken to him. She frowned. She hadn't seen
much of him recently. She had left one message on his answerphone, but when
he had called her back he had been knee deep in house quotes - more preparations
for his life after the wedding.
"Dammit, Aaron's nothing to do with this. I need to concentrate on Jewel."
She muttered, taking a deep drag on her cigarette and flicking ash onto the
sand. "I should know those bitches inside out now - their weaknesses, their
strengths, what makes them tick. There must be something I haven't tried
yet - something subtle and evil that can't be traced back to me or Rebel
Records. Something Rory will pay big bucks for - I need money, dammit, and
that's more important than anything right now! There are only so many times
I can steal from Luca without him noticing the discrepancy in his account.
If he knew I knew his pin number he'd freak out beyond belief!"
She rested her chin in her hands, creasing her brow in concentration.
It didn't help, she realised, that she had not gotten much in the way of
natural sleep the night before, and the sleeping pills she occasionally
relied on usually made her wake up with a pounding headache and a worse
temper than she had had the night before.
"The trouble is that I've been doing this too long. It's hard to be original."
She sighed, rubbing her temples. "Think, Steffi! This is the answer to your
financial problems - you know Rory pays well for results and you know you
can get them. So think!"
"Is this a private conversation, or can I join you?"
A voice startled her and she turned, the stinging retort dying on her
tongue as she registered the speaker. Instead a slight smile touched her
lips, and she shrugged.
"That depends." She responded. "I didn't expect to see you out here, Aaron
- I thought you were house-hunting or something all this week."
"Well, Copper and I have a good idea which house we want. It's working
out the financial side of it that's fun." Aaron sat down on the end of the
towel. "I'm taking a break from working it all out - she's gonna have a look
at the paperwork tomorrow as well. For now, I'm on time out. You?"
"Likewise. Marissa and Clay are writing, Maddy's practicing various phrases
and Luca's working out guitar chords. Me, I've a migraine coming on and their
noise isn't helping my brain any, so I decided to come out here for a bit."
"A migraine?" Aaron eyed her keenly. "You do look pale. What brought that
"Rory, too much work and goddamn hot weather in February." Stefana muttered.
"Rory's playing the slave driver - one minute he says yes, we can have the
day after our concert off, then he has us in studio till ten at night working
on new album tracks. Apparently he's bothered by Jewel having a big selling
single - you think he'd be damn used to it by now."
Despite herself, she could not keep an edge out of her voice and Aaron
"It isn't Jewel's fault if Rory Llewelyn's a jerk." He pointed out. "But
he can't work you till you're dead, you know. You need some time off, else
"Well, I took today off, to make up for yesterday." Stefana inhaled on
her cigarette. "Everyone else is working but I'll catch up later. I'm in
no mood for music."
"Is something wrong, Stef? You seem riled up." Aaron's tone was rich with
concern, and Stefana bit her lip.
She knew what she wanted to say. Everything, starting with your damn engagement
to that Jewel witch.
Instead she shook her head.
"No. Just hot, tired, overworked and fed up. That's all."
"Well, I have this afternoon off and I'll tell you it's cooler here than
the office." Aaron reflected. "I was gonna buy an ice - you want one, or
will it upset your head further?"
"I don't think it could get more upset." Stefana said truthfully. "I need
something to cool me down."
"Then I'll go grab us some." Aaron grinned. "Don't move."
"Move? I think you mean don't melt." Stefana rolled her eyes. Aaron laughed.
"Possibly." he acknowledged. "Even for LA, the weather is hot for February!
I'm hot and I grew up with it!"
"Well, on the east coast we had normal weather. You know, like rain in
February." Stefana returned. She settled herself more comfortably on the
towel, closing her eyes. "California weather sucks."
Aaron cast her an amused look, then tipped change out of his wallet, dropping
it down onto the towel and heading up the beach.
For a moment, Stefana made no move. Then she opened her eyes, glancing
at the wallet.
She knew already that Aaron earned a decent salary at Misfit Music, for
Phyllis Gabor's financial clout was well known. It was more than likely
that he had cash in his wallet, and cards beside. Despite herself, she was
She shuffled herself into a sitting position, reaching over to pick up
the wallet, and flicking through its contents. A photograph of Copper was
on the inside flap and it was all she could do not to rip it out and tear
it to shreds. As she had suspected, it also contained Aaron's credit card
and several bills in crisp cash, and she hesitated.
Somehow she had to pay her dealer that night, else things could get messy
for her. He had long since threatened to expose her if she failed to pay
him on time. But could she steal from Aaron?
"Fancy meeting you here."
A smooth voice made her jump, dropping the wallet onto the towel like
a hot potato, and glaring up into the self-assured, amused gaze of Phoebe
Asche. "Am I interrupting you?"
"Yes, you are." Stefana snapped. "I'm not here alone, and I don't need
to be nannied. If Rory sent you..."
"Oh, he doesn't send me places." Phoebe shook her head. "I'm not at his
beck and call, you know. I don't work for his company. I'm here to talk
to you about a business proposition of my own - one that isn't tied up in
Riot's red tape and bureaucracy."
"How do I know I can trust you?" Stefana looked suspicious. Phoebe retrieved
Aaron's wallet, glancing at it.
"Someone told me you were in need of cash." She said quietly. "I have
plenty of that, if you're interested."
"What do you know about me?" Stefana snatched the wallet back, putting
it protectively behind her bag. "That's Aaron's, not mine!"
"You do surprise me." Phoebe's clever face took on a look of mock-surprise.
"And what I know about you, Stefana? That's easy. You're independant minded
and you don't care who you push aside in your race to the top. I admire that
in a person. Too many people are worried about placating the competition,
especially these days. Your bandmates disappointed me - they don't have the
cutting edge. But everything I've heard about you suggests that you do."
"What do you want with me?" Stefana's green eyes became wary. "I'm not
cheap, you know. I don't run errands for just anyone, and you don't get a
discount because you're an old friend of my boss."
"Really, my dear, this has nothing to do with Rory." She said softly.
"He thinks in a business sense, and my concerns are personal. Yesterday
we both established a dislike of Jewel and a desire to wreak some kind of
vengeance on them. But Rory is soft and manipulative. I've known him many
years and I know how he works. He'll use you for his ends and then pay you
a pittance. That's why I didn't stay in LA when he set up Rebel Records.
I wanted an independance of my own, and I have one. I'm a wealthy woman,
you know." She winked. "And I did it all myself."
"Go on." Stefana said slowly, glancing up the beach for any sign of the
returning Aaron, but he was nowhere in sight. "And be quick. I told you
I'm not alone."
"Ah, of course. The fiance." Phoebe pursed her lips. "Rory told me that
you spy on Misfit Music through contact with him and I would not like to
do anything to jeopardise that situation for you. Of course, the poor idiot
probably doesn't realise he's being married for his family connections...men
can be so dense." She shrugged.
"But to business."
She pulled her purse from her pocket, opening it and extracting four hundred
dollar bills, holding them out to Stefana, who hesitated.
"It's all right. Take them." Phoebe assured her. "This is my assurance
to you that I am entirely on the level. There is no catch. I don't want it
back. It's yours."
"All right." Stefana paused, then took the bills, folding them and slipping
them into her pocket. "But what do you want me to do?"
"Well, I told you before that I hated Copper." Phoebe responded. "And
I gathered from what you said that you're one of the few people who sees
through her sugary character to the bitch that she really is underneath.
If you're willing, I thought perhaps your connections with her fiance and
my experience with manipulating Rory's contact information might make us
a good team. We neither of us have anything to hold us back...and I'm sure
you'd like to see that girl humiliated as much as I."
"You're talking my language." Stefana admitted. "All right. But we can't
"No." Phoebe shook her head, pulling a card out of her purse and handing
it to her companion. "This is my phone number. Call me when you're alone
and we'll arrange to meet. But I promise you, Stefana, I won't cheat you the
way Rory does. I'm offering good money up front and along the way for this.
I know it can be hard to be a star these days, especially in a situation where
there aren't many royalties to be split and when you have a greedy boss frittering
away profits. I will help you and you me. Agreed?"
Stefana frowned, then she nodded.
"Agreed." She said quietly, taking the hand Phoebe proffered, and shaking
it firmly. "You have a deal."