Phoebe turned from the window, eying her companion with a friendly, slightly
distant smile. It was early the next morning, and Rebel Records was comparatively
quiet. Rory Llewelyn and his partner, Sophie had not yet arrived, and Phoebe
had commandeered the main office for her rendezvous, knowing that it was
as secure and private a place as any within the music company to hold an
"You are sooner than I anticipated you." She observed approvingly. "You
must have been out very early, Stefana. I admire your dedication."
"Sooner it's done, sooner we can do something with it."
Stefana reached into her bag, pulling out a crumpled envelope and tossing
it down onto the desk. Phoebe moved to pick it up, examining the post mark
and then turning it over. She glanced up.
"You opened it?" She asked. Stefana shrugged.
"What use is it to us sealed?" She demanded. "Sure, I opened it. It's
enough to make anyone bring up their breakfast, too. This guy needs serious
help, I'm telling you."
"Indeed?" Phoebe's expression became thoughtful. She pulled out the folded
sheet, opening it and skimming over the contents. She chuckled.
"Oh, this is priceless." She murmured. "And exactly what I hoped you
might bring me. Not only does he sell his soul to this girl, he's also
given her an address and begged her to write back to him. He should not
be hard to locate, if this is indeed his address."
"He isn't exactly sane, you know." Stefana dropped down into an empty
seat, pulling her cigarettes from her pocket and lighting one. Smoking in
Rory's office was expressly forbidden, and she was enjoying taking advantage
of his absence. "What do you think, that we can trot over there and get him
to work for us? He's mad in love with this girl -and trust me, that
proves he needs help! He's not going to exactly just roll over and help
us make a fool out of her."
"No...no." Phoebe shook her head, sitting herself down behind the desk.
"That was not what occured to me."
"Then what?" Stefana demanded. "We have his name, his address, and we
know he's crazy about Copper. What do you suggest we do about it? And when
do I get paid for bringing you this info, huh? You told me yesterday that
anything I produced from Copper's mailbox would pay out. Well, pay up, will
you? I do have costs to pay, you know!"
"Ah, I wondered when you'd get to that." Phoebe's features creased into
an amused smile, and she reached into a drawer, pulling out a sheaf of notes.
Carefully she counted them, then pushed them across the desk. "Here. As
I promised. I want you to see how I keep my word, Stefana. You have done
well this morning, after all."
Stefana grabbed the bundle of notes, counting them herself and pocketing
them, an approving smile touching her own lips.
"Working with you is easier than working for Rory." She admitted. "You
practically have to threaten him with blackmail before he pays. And living
a celebrity lifestyle ain't easy on the money he pays out, either!"
Phoebe eyed her companion keenly, taking in the pale complexion and shadowy
eyes. Delight mingled with derision sparkled in her blue eyes as she read
between the lines of Stefana's words.
"So the shrew is wrapped up in the drug scene, is she?" She mused. "This
could definitely be useful information, just in case anything goes awry!
And no wonder she'll do anything for cash - she must be ladled with debts
up to her ears! Yes, this is a very useful alliance indeed!"
"So what's your brilliant plan, then?" Stefana exhaled a cloud of smoke,
eying her companion quizzically. "How are we going to use all of this to
spite that bitch?"
"Simple." Phoebe smiled. "Write to him."
"Write to him?" Stefana echoed. Phoebe nodded.
"Yes. He is waiting for a response. It would be a shame to disappoint
"Ohhh." Stefana's tired eyes lit up with comprehension. "I get what you're
after now! I write back to him pretending to be Copper - correct?"
"Yes." Phoebe nodded.
"But how will I get him to reply? I can't keep raiding the Starlight
mailbox at ungodly hours. I have work and they have a psycho computer system
running their house security. I don't really want to get caught!"
"No need." Phoebe dismissed this with a wave of her hand. "When I am
in Los Angeles, I have all my mail diverted to a P.O Box here. You will
tell him to write to that. If you word your letter correctly, then he will
obey." Her eyes twinkled. "For example, if he were to think that it was
Copper's only way of escaping the attentions of an overprotective fiance...?"
"You know, you are one ruthless bitch." She said appreciatively. "Everything
Rory said about you is true, isn't it? You are the queen of con-artists!"
"I know how to get by in this world." She said evasively. "And the truth
is not always the easiest or quickest way to get to what I want. But you
must understand that too, Stefana. I understand you're ruthless enough yourself."
"Of course." Stefana shrugged. "I've worked damn hard to be a success
in this business, and I'm sick of a fabricated act like Jewel queening it
all over the billboard chart. Diablo are miles better than Jewel ever were,
we just didn't get it all on a silver platter. I'm evening up the odds.
She smiled, taking a drag on her cigarette.
"The others like to play it fair. Fair takes too long."
She pursed her lips.
"What exactly should I write to him? Just thank him for his letter and
stuff? Or what?"
"I don't know." Phoebe looked thoughtful. "For now, yes. I must think
further about how to proceed once we have an answer from him. But encourage
him, Stefana. Make sure you give him some hope that Copper might be interested
in him. He should not need much persuading."
"Not a problem." Stefana assured her. "Give me the PO Box address and
his letter and I'll see what I can do."
* * *
* * * *
"Someone's in a good mood this morning."
Topaz lifted her baby daughter out of her highchair, casting Copper a
playful grin as her bandmate sauntered into the kitchen, whistling under
her breath as she hunted for breakfast. Copper grinned.
"No mail from you know who." She responded. "I half dreaded the mail
coming in this morning, but aside from a credit card statement, I didn't
get anything. And I've never been so happy to hear from American Express,
let me tell you!"
"Unless they've begun a crush on you too, of course!" She teased, raising
Hollie more comfortably onto her hip and wiping her mouth clean of banana.
"There, now you're clean, trouble. I tell you something, Copper - I never
knew anyone as bad as Hol for messy eating."
"She's one. Give her a chance." Copper came to join them, ruffling Hollie's
short reddy-gold waves playfully. "You just enjoy your food, kid, don't
Hollie put her fingers in her mouth, raising aquamarine eyes to the drummer,
then offering a smile.
"Trouble is, when she looks like that, I can't even scold her." Topaz
said ruefully. "Half of breakfast ended up on the floor, since Hollie's learnt
to flip her food...but she's so damn cute with it it's hard to tell her
"Like mother, like daughter." She teased. "No matter what you do, Topaz,
we always find it hard to stay mad at you!"
"Hey, I'm well behaved these days." Topaz objected. "A responsible single
Mom, that's me."
She glanced up at the kitchen clock. "Is anyone else up?"
"Not that I've seen, though Nancy's car isn't here, so I expect she's
gone to the studio or something." Copper shook her head, selecting a muffin
and sitting down at the kitchen table. "Syl and Sadie are both lost to the
world still. Taking advantage of the fact that Music Bizz rescheduled their
interview for tomorrow, I'm guessing. It's nice to have a day off, even if
it's at short notice, and Aaron is working. I thought I'd drive down to the
sea front and spend it at the beach. You and Hollie want to tag along?"
"I do, but I'm not sure about taking Hol to the beach." Topaz eyed her
daughter with a troubled gaze. "I mean, it's nothing against her, and I
know she'd love to play with the sand and the sea and shells, but you never
know who's lurking with a camera, and you know how I feel about Hollie being
in the local press."
"Well, equally you can't keep the kid a prisoner." Copper said sensibly.
"It won't hurt her for once if she gets a little unwanted attention, so
long as you don't make a big deal of it in front of her. She's too young
to understand about the press, anyway. I think it'd be a shame to deprive
her of normal toddler fun because you're in the public eye."
"Consider me scolded!" Topaz laughed. "All right, you've convinced me.
Give me twenty minutes to get my stuff and Hollie's junk and I'll meet
you out the front, okay?"
"Sure. I'll leave a note for Sadie and Syl, when they emerge." Copper
agreed. "Syl was murmuring something about shopping for new shoes this afternoon
anyway, so I don't think they'll mind if we take off. You know Sadie is
her shoe-shopping buddy."
"Only because they wear the same size and Syl figures she can school
what Sadie buys as well as herself." Topaz giggled. "Okay. See you in a
few, huh? Come on, monster. Auntie Copper's taking us to the beach so you
can get yourself covered in sand. That sound good to you?"
Hollie gurgled and reached out a small fist for her mother's ponytail,
pulling out the hairtie and examining it closely. Topaz rolled her eyes,
and Copper laughed.
"But she is precious." She pointed out. "Even when she's being bad!"
Within an hour, the two girls had reached the beach, spreading a big
towel out on the golden sand and erecting a parasol to keep the glare of
the sun off them. It was another scorching February day, and everyone who
was not at work seemed to be taking advantage of the fine weather to spend
some time at the seaside. Even despite this, however, the two Jewels found
they were able to set up their pitch in a secluded part of the beach, and
Topaz was soon immersed in teaching Hollie the best way to build a sandcastle.
Copper spread out on the towel, watching them.
"You know, watching you with Hollie makes me really really hope that
Aaron and I have kids of our own." She said after a while. "I know she's
hard work, and I know sometimes you're at your wit's end with her, but she's
so cute. It makes me broody."
"There's no hurry, surely?" Topaz glanced up, dabbing a blob of sand
onto her daughter's nose and making the infant giggle. "I was only twenty
two when Hol came - you're not twenty four till June, and a lot of women
these days don't start a family till they're in their late twenties or early
thirties. It's not like you have to get pregnant the moment you get hitched,
"I know, but I'm impatient. Besides, it won't happen that way." Copper
grimaced. "Once Aaron and I are settled in our own place and everything
is cool, we're going to consult a specialist together and see what our options
are. It's not going to happen the way Hollie happened for you, so we might
as well be clued in about the choices before we have to make them."
"Well, you know if you want any babysitting practice, I've a great candidate
for you here." Topaz grinned. "Okay, Hol, now we turn the pail this way
around....and tap it with the shovel. See? Like this...Oh, Hol, you're getting
sand all over me! You're supposed to hit that, not my sandals!"
"Maybe she is a bit young to learn." Copper giggled, sprawling on her
stomach and reaching over to lift the bucket. "There, Hol. See? You've a
Hollie pursed her lips, eying it thoughtfully. Then she grabbed her beloved
ragdoll, perching her on the top.
"Doll." She said importantly. Topaz laughed.
"Well, we have a damsel in distress." She said playfully. "And we certainly
have a monster she needs to be rescued from, don't we, squirt?" She tickled
"I'm gonna take a wander down to the sea, I think." Copper decided. "I'll
see you in a few, okay?"
"Sure. Don't get lost on the way!" Topaz glanced up, nodding her head.
Copper grinned, getting to her feet.
"Try not to." she bantered back, sliding her flipflops onto her feet
and heading across the soft sand to the water's edge. Lost in thought,
she did not notice the man with his camera, perched behind one of the large
seaweed covered rocks that littered the terrain. As she dipped her toes
in the sea, he raised his camera, hitting the zoom and then beginning to
She was even more beautiful up close.
"I wish you were close enough to touch." He whispered, setting down his
camera. "But now you have my address, at least. You can write to me...we
can be friends, then you'll understand why that Pelligrini jerk is so wrong
for you. I just have to be patient. I know you're too sweet to break my heart...I
know that everything is just going to be fine. Just wait, Copper. You and
I - we have so much to do together. Trust me."