PART THREE: TILL DEATH US DO PART
Chapter Six: A Special Meeting
"Well, I almost wondered if you'd bother to show up here
Rory Llewelyn ran his gaze along the row of musicians thoughtfully, rubbing
his chin absently as his gaze rested on Luca. "It seems that one of you takes
some sick leave and the rest of you fall to pieces. Believe it or not, Diablo
belong to this company, and I won't tolerate this slide any longer. Jewel
aren't currently in the studio - it's the perfect time to put together some
He turned to Marissa.
"I know you've been ill, so I don't suppose you've got any music for us."
He said resignedly.
"There is a song." Marissa nodded slowly. "It's one we worked on a little
before my fall, but it's still somewhat rough. We have to put the finishing
touches to it."
"Well, that's better news than I expected." Rory sat down in his chair,
resting his chin in his hands and pursing his lips.
"Luca, I hope you understand that your recent conduct isn't going to be
welcomed, should it be repeated."
"I'm not going to say anything on the subject, except that I did what
I had to do and would again if the circumstances dictated it." Luca met
his boss's gaze with an uncharacteristically steely one of his own. "But
I'm here to play music - as are we all. We've all had too much time out lately
- I think we need to get playing again."
He shot his sister a sidelong glance, but she seemed oblivious to his
attention.She was staring out of the window, her gaze fixed unseeingly on
something beyond his line of sight. A frown touched his lips. He knew what
she was thinking about.
"And the sooner we snap her out of that, the better. Kid has enough to
deal with." He told himself firmly. "The sooner we're busy again, the less
time she'll have to mope. That's the last thing I want for her at the moment."
"Would it be too much for me to ask to hear this song of yours?" Rory's
tones were laced with sarcasm. "Or are you all above performing for your
"We've not really put the lyrics to it yet." Marissa said uncomfortably.
"Stef was having some trouble with the guitar part, and..."
"I'm ready to play."
Stefana interrupted her friend, folding her arms across her chest. "I
read the script over last night. It's no big deal - I can play it."
"Last night?" Madeleine stared at her. Stefana nodded.
"Well, it's better than lying awake doing nothing." She retorted. "And
you made such a fuss that I didn't know it before."
"Well, if that's the case, I want to hear it." Rory gestured towards the
door. "I expect to find you all in the studio when I come there in ten minutes,
ready to play. I have a call to make first, but I'll be with you in no time."
As one, the group of five left the office, Madeleine closing the door
behind her, and headed into the big studio. Marissa pulled herself up onto
the windowledge, a frown on her face.
"Ten minutes? We're supposed to have it down in ten minutes?"
"This is Rory's idea of re-exerting control." Clay observed shrewdly.
"I think he's still annoyed at Luca for what happened the other day."
"And Luca has no regrets for doing it." Luca said grimly. "I'm not a violent
guy, but Rory pushes too many people around."
"Well, let's put it behind us for now, huh?" Madeleine begged. "If Diablo
have nothing to record, well, Diablo won't be Diablo much longer."
"Like I care." Stefana muttered.
"You do care, Stef." Marissa scolded, coming to slip her arm through her
friend's. "You know you do. Diablo means a lot to all of us."
"I guess so." Stefana sighed.
"Do you really have the guitar part down?" Clay asked. Stefana nodded.
"When you don't sleep, Clay, the last thing you want to do is stare at
the ceiling and think." She said flatly. "I've done too much damn thinking
lately, and I don't need it. I took the manuscript down to the practice room
and played it over till I got it down. No problem."
"You look tired, sis." Luca said gently. Stefana shrugged.
"What do you expect?" She demanded abruptly. "Leave it, Luca. I'm here,
and Rory will be here any moment, too. I don't need your fussing - it doesn't
make me feel any better."
"Well, I suggest we get our instruments prepped, if that's the case."
Clay glanced over to where the drum kit stood. "After all, Diablo have been
out of the game a while. Who knows? Maybe this song of Mari's will be a
hit, after all!"
* * * *
* * * *
"Well, here we are."
Topaz turned off the car engine, pausing and casting her companion a glance.
"Are you sure you're ready for this? I know things have been mental lately,
Cameron, and I've put you through a lot of emotions in a short space of time.
You don't have to do this now."
"Rora, I've already missed more than a year of the kid's life." Cameron
said quietly. "You think I want to miss any more of it?"
"No, I suppose not." Topaz sighed, pushing open the door of the vehicle
and stepping out. "I'm sorry, Cam. I wasn't thinking."
"You 'ave to stop apologisin' to me." Cameron told her lightly. "If we've
made amends, then we've made amends. We're gonna be friends, for 'Ollie's
sake, and that's that. No need for more apologies."
"If you say so." Topaz looked sheepish. "I'm sorry, it's just..."
She trailed off, blushing, and despite himself Cameron grinned.
"Come on." Was all he said, however. "I ain't been to the Starlight on
good terms since Taylor got 'itched - it's about time I changed that."
"I think so too." Topaz nodded, locking her car and leading the way across
the front drive to the door, putting her key in the lock and opening it.
"Well, you better come in." She said with a slight smile. "Syl? Are you
"I'm here." Sylva poked her head out of the practice room. "I..."
She faltered, her eyes becoming big as she registered who was with her
"Uh, hi Cameron."
"Hi, Syl." Cameron observed her with some amusement. "It's all right.
"We met in town." Topaz said with a shrug. "We...talked about things and
we both agreed it does Hollie no good if we're fighting. Cameron wants to
play a part in her life, and I want him to, also. We're taking your advice
and settling things between us without resorting to legal battles - we both
think it's better for Hol that way."
"Oh, I see." Sylva's face cleared, and she dimpled. "Well, I was gonna
do coffee - you guys want one? Sadie's in the back yard with the kid, if
you wanna head out there. I think they were making daisy chains - Hollie
has a fascination for flowers."
Cameron bit his lip at this, remembering the daisy she had given him on
their first meeting. He nodded.
"So I recall." He murmured softly.
"No coffee for me. I had it black in town and that's enough caffeine for
my system for the time being." Topaz shook her head. "Cam?"
"Too 'ot for coffee for this British wimp." Cameron said ruefully. "Got
somethin' cooler, Syl?"
"Lemonade do you?"
"Sounds fine to me." Cameron agreed. Sylva grinned.
"Then I'll bring it out to you." She decided. She gave them a little push
towards the big glass doors that led out onto the patio. "Go on! Your baby's
waiting for your little family reunion!"
"We're going, Syl." Topaz rolled her eyes, grabbing Cameron by the arm
and leading him towards the french doors. Hesitating for a moment, she pushed
them back, stepping out into the sunlight.
A delighted shriek came from across the grass, followed by a small redhead
dressed in yellow and white, her formerly clean dungarees streaked green
from the grass, and a fistful of flowers in her hand. "Mama! Hollie flowers!"
"Wow, you've been busy, trouble!" Topaz laughed, scooping her up. "You
been good for Auntie Sadie?"
"She's been very good." Sadie agreed, following the small girl's tracks
across the grass. "We've been picking flowers for her to press and make
She eyed Cameron thoughtfully, then,
"I'm glad to see that you had a productive time out."
"Cam came to see Hollie." Topaz explained simply. "I'll tell you everything
later, Sade - for now, I guess..."
"You need some family time." Sadie's blue eyes twinkled. "It's no problem,
Topaz. Good luck, huh?"
She touched Hollie's nose with an affectionate grin, making the infant
giggle, and then retrieved the handful of flowers from the child's grip.
"I'll take these and put them inside. Be good, okay?"
Then she was gone, and the trio - Mother, father and baby - were alone.
For a moment, there was an awkward silence, as neither Cameron nor Topaz
knew quite what to say. In the end it was the child herself which broke the
"Mama, who dat?" She demanded, pointing a tiny pink finger in her father's
"This is a very special visitor, Hollie." Topaz said softly. "This is
Hollie put her finger in her mouth as she absorbed her mother's words.
She made no reply, however, and Topaz lead the way across the grass to a
shady patch, sitting down and setting the little girl down beside her. She
glanced across at Cameron, then beckoned for him to join them.
"It's nice and cool here, under the tree." She explained. "You won't be
so hot here."
"That's welcome news." Cameron said ruefully, obediently coming to join
her. He sat down on the grass, aware that big green eyes were watching his
"Aren't you gonna say hello, Hol?" Topaz whispered. Hollie giggled, then,
"Hi, 'Ollie." Cameron cast her an apprehensive smile. "It's...it's nice
to meet you, at long last."
Hollie wriggled out of her mother's grasp, shuffling across the grass
towards Cameron's feet, where the slithers of sunlight that slipped through
the leaves of the big tree were glinting off the silver on his shoes. Fascinated
by the shiny metal, her infant curiosity was soon caught by the long laces
and, very studiously, she began to untie the neat knots.
"Is this a greetin' ritual?" He asked playfully. Topaz grimaced.
"Well, she didn't throw her sock at you like she did at Jade." She responded.
"I guess this is just for you."
"I'm honoured." Cameron grinned. "So long as she doesn't tie them together,
of course...I'd fall flat on me face if that 'appened."
"True." Topaz reached over to retrieve her wayward daughter. "Come on,
you. Your Dad doesn't want his laces all messed up by little fingers, does
"Hollie wants." Hollie pouted, reaching out for the shoes, but Topaz shook
"No, Hollie. No laces." She said firmly. "Now sit here by me like a good
girl, okay? You're gonna give your father the idea I'm raising you to be
"Actually, Rora, I think you're raisin' 'er damn well." Cameron admitted.
He frowned. "She's 'appy and 'ealthy an' she listens when you talk to 'er.
You can't be doin' that bad a job of bein' a Mum, whatever you think of it."
"I do my best, but I'm all she's had since she was born." Topaz said earnestly.
"I've made silly mistakes along the way, Cam, but I have tried to learn from
"Like I'm trying to learn from the mistake of shutting you out from our
lives. I'm not sure that there was any answer to that problem that would
have made everyone happy in the long run."
"Perhaps not." Cameron acknowledged. "How old is she exactly, Rora? I
mean, I can do the maths an' I've a rough idea when it must've 'appened,
"Fifteen months." Topaz responded. "She was born December 25th, 2013."
"Christmas day?" Cameron was taken aback. "Bloody 'ell - you 'ad 'er at
"Well, it wasn't as bad as it sounds." Topaz laughed at his expression.
"She was actually born at four minutes past midnight - so only just a Christmas
baby. We celebrated her first birthday last year on Christmas Eve, so she
had two special days, rather than just the one. I think she liked the concept."
"I bet." Cameron eyed her carefully, then, "She talks a lot, for fifteen
"She began fairly early." Topaz agreed. "And once she began, well, we
couldn't shut her up. Dr Finnan says it's because there are so many people
here, and she gets so much attention - she picks things up quickly. She's
smart, like her Dad."
"Well, naturally." Cameron laughed. "Wow. It's damn scary, you know, lookin'
at 'er an' seein' a large part of me starin' back. It's strange."
"It's killed me, having her look like you." Topaz admitted with a sigh.
"Not that it's bad that she should look like you, of course, but it kinda
rubbed in the fact I couldn't see you."
"Well, you're seein' me now." Cameron said levelly. Topaz blushed, dropping
her gaze, and there was another awkward silence.
Hollie, bored with sitting still, turned her attention to her father with
some curiosity. As Topaz had said, she had met many people already in her
short life, and strangers held no fear for her. She grinned at the visitor
companionably, then proceeded to clamber into his lap.
"Well, this is cosy." Sylva emerged from the kitchen at that moment, a
glass of lemonade in one hand and Hollie's rag doll in the other. "Hol left
this in the lounge - I thought she might want it. And here's your drink,
"Ta, Syl." Cameron took it with a grateful smile, as Hollie grabbed at
her doll with a squeal. Sylva winked at Topaz, then disappeared back inside
where, unbeknownst to the family, she and Sadie had been observing their
progress with some interest.
"Dolly." Hollie thrust the doll under Cameron's nose importantly, and
"This is a friend of yours, huh?" He asked her playfully. Hollie nodded
"Syl gave it her. She takes it all over." Topaz explained. "You know how
"I 'ave a vague idea, but no doubt I'm gonna get better acquainted with
it." Cameron said ruefully. "She's a lovely doll, 'Ollie. Does she 'ave
"Dolly." The infant repeated. Cameron raised an eyebrow.
"Nice name, kid." He observed, amusement in his eyes. Topaz laughed.
"She's no different from me when I was small. I had a sheep called Sheepy
and a horse called Horsey that I took to bed with me." She said with a grin.
"It's just Stapleton originality, that's all."
"Come to think of it, my favourite toy when I was 'er sort of age was
a worn out ol' Teddy bear called Ted." Cameron admitted. "So she 'as it
from both sides of the family tree!"
"Guess she does." Topaz made herself more comfortable, leaning up against
the tree trunk. "Is she okay there? I mean, if she's bothering you..."
"No, she's fine." Cameron assured her. "An' I want 'er to feel comfortable
with me around."
"I think she already does." Topaz remarked. Cameron shrugged.
"Maybe, but she doesn't think of me as "Daddy" yet." He responded.
"She barely knows what the word means." Topaz acknowledged. "But she will,
Cam. Give her some time. She'll soon learn."
"I 'ope so." Cameron smiled. "She's an amazin' little critter, that's
for sure. I don't know quite 'ow I'm breakin' this bit of news to Mum an'
Dad an' the family, but they're gonna 'ave to live with it, I think. I can't
believe 'ow much time I've already missed."
Topaz looked thoughtful for a moment, then,
"It's Copper's bridal party in a couple of days." She said slowly. "You
know the sort of deal - chicks night out and all that stuff."
"Yeah, I know. So?"
"Well, I was going to ask one of the girls from the Foundation if they'd
babysit." Topaz replied. "But it struck me, sitting here looking at the pair
of you - maybe...?"
"You'd trust me with 'er?" Cameron looked startled. "To look after 'er
for a whole evenin'? Already?"
"Only if you want to, and think you can handle it." Topaz told him. "It
struck me that Hollie and Mama have done a fair bit of bonding, but not
so Hollie and Papa. It would be a good chance for you to get used to her,
too. I mean, if you're going to be having her stop at your apartment sometimes,
you're gonna need to."
"I'd love to." Cameron said at length. "If you trust me to, I'd love to.
I ain't got any firm plans till the weddin' itself, and I agree, it would
be a good opportunity."
"Then it's settled?" Topaz asked. "You come here around seven on the night
of the party and watch Hollie till we get in? If we're late back you're welcome
to stop here. I mean, well, you know where the spare rooms are in this place."
A note of embarrassment touched her final words, and Cameron nodded.
"I know." He agreed. "Sure, Rora. I'm game."
"Okay then." Topaz smiled. "Then it's a deal."