"You're preoccupied today."
Sadie cast her companion an anxious look. "Is it me? Am I boring you?"
"Oh God, Sadie, no, of course not!" Alex jerked to attention, shooting
her a guilty smile. "I'm sorry. It's the fire, I'm afraid. I'm trying to
muddle it all through in my head, and I'm not making much sense of it."
"Nor are we." Sadie rested her chin in her hands, looking grave. "Jetta's
getting better, have you spoken to her yet?"
"No, I haven't. Doctors won't let us." Alex shook his head. "Though maybe
tomorrow we'll get a chance." He shrugged. "At least to my mind the business
of the studio sabotage is settled."
"Oh, I see." Sadie hesitated, then, "Can I say something, off the record?"
"Of course." Alex nodded. "Be my guest."
"We think that was Stefana." Sadie murmured. "But it has to be off the
record, Alex. We don't want any trouble with Diablo or Rebel Records. In
the press we keep up a reasonable relationship and most of them are okay...we
want to forget about it, if that is how it happened."
"Sadie, equally off the record..." Alex took her hand gently. "Stefana
unofficially confessed to it this morning. Don't worry. I see the delicacy
of the issue, and besides, I'm hoping she might help us with information
on the guy we've got cooling his heels in our cell."
"Oh." Sadie smiled. "Well, that's good. I don't know why Stefana hates
us, I joined the group after Diablo came to Los Angeles, but none of us want
"It's understood." Alex considered, then, "Sadie, why did you come to
America? I mean, really? What drove you to take the step? Because it's a
big jump, all things considered. A whole other culture...did you plan to
do it, or was it on impulse?"
"It...happened." Sadie's expression became hunted and a little wary. "I
just did it. Topaz had told me I was always welcome, so I went out to see
them, and it snowballed from there, because she was already expecting Hollie
and all...I was the solution to Jewel's momentary problem."
"Oh, I see." Alex smiled. "Well, I'm glad of that. We'd not have met if
you hadn't have come."
"I know." Sadie blushed slightly. "I feel...odd, having lunch with you
like this. It's a nice sort of odd, but it's a feeling I've not had in a
long time, if...if ever."
"You've not dated in a bit, then?" Alex asked.
"No." Sadie said flatly. "I haven't."
"Me either." Alex admitted. "I have a bad habit of letting my work swamp
me sometimes - Ray is always telling me I need a life more."
"Oh...I don't like him." Sadie frowned. "He looks at me like...like I'm
something not very nice."
"He's rather aloof, but he's not so bad really, not deep down." Alex replied.
"We've worked together a long time now."
"Mm, I see." Sadie sighed. "Well, I suppose in the line of work you do,
it's easy to get distracted from life, isn't it?"
"Too easy." Alex admitted. "Sadie...about Neal..."
Sadie dropped her fork with a clatter, staring at him in utter horror.
"Who in hell told you about Neal?" Her voice was low, as if she was trying
to control her emotions.
"I'm sorry." Alex murmured. "I didn't mean to be so blunt, I guess I thought
it was long enough ago now for you not to mind so much."
"Not mind?" Sadie repeated his words as if not comprehending them. "Just
tell me, who told you?"
"I...It was in your file." Alex admitted. "When we began this investigation,
everyone was scanned for past misdemeanours and past run ins with local police.
Even...even you. The name Neal Ridley appeared once or twice in your records...I
read the transcript of the evidence you gave at a manslaughter hearing some
months ago." He paused. "Georgia Monahue is your sister, isn't she?"
"Yes, she is." Sadie's tone was strangely cold. "Not that it's your business."
"Sadie, listen." Alex took her other hand in his, but she pulled it away.
"Please, just hear me out. I only mentioned Neal because I can't shake the
feeling you're afraid of me, and I wanted to know if that...if that's the
"Afraid of you?" Sadie stared. "Dammit, I was falling in love with
you! And then you had to go ruin it all..."
With a choked sob she got to her feet, tossing her napkin down on the
table and fleeing the restaurant. As she ran, a terrified realisation hit
her, and the tears began to fall in earnest.
"He knows everything." She whispered, sinking down on the wall outside
the restaurant and burying her head in her hands. "He must do. Oh God, I
knew this would happen. I knew..."
That was him now, and she felt his gentle hand on her shoulder. "Sadie,
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry."
Slowly she raised a pair of tragic blue eyes to his.
"But you know." She whispered. "You must know everything there is to know
now, about Sadie Monahue and who she really is, mustn't you? Hell, no wonder
you came to question me so insistantly! Is that what these dates have been
about? You're hoping for some slip, some confession?"
"Sadie, don't be daft." Alex sat down beside her, putting his arm around
her. "I'm not that kind of guy. I wouldn't have asked you out if I wasn't
genuinely attracted to you. And yes, I do know about what happened in England.
I won't lie to you. It shocked me. But only because I didn't see how the
young lady I'd just interviewed could possibly be the kind of hardened criminal
Ray was making her out to be."
"Well, it's true." Sadie's tone lacked all emotion. "I'm everything that
it says I am...a thief, a criminal, all of the above. I'm not the kind of
girl any self respecting agent of the law should be even looking at."
"But I am looking at you, Sadie." Alex said softly, gently wiping her
tears away. "And you know what I see? I see a beautiful young woman looking
back at me."
"Beauty is only skin deep." Sadie choked out.
"Yes, it's true." Alex nodded. "But not in your case. Sadie, I know more
than simply the cold hard facts of your criminal record. I know you spent
a few years working in a drug rehabilitation centre, helping addicts to rebuild
their lives without the drugs. I know that you more or less begged me this
afternoon not to press charges on Stefana, when she'd done something so
bad to you and your group's stuff. I don't believe you're a criminal, not
for one moment. I believe you were misled."
"Maybe I was." Sadie sighed. "But you can't change the fact that I did
everything I was convicted for, Alex. I was guilty on every count. Hell,
I used drugs myself till I was nineteen. I'm no angel."
"Who is?" Alex stood, pulling her to her feet. "Look at me, Sadie. Look
me in the eye."
"Why?" A little surprised, Sadie did as she was bidden.
"Because I want you to know I'm sincere." Alex responded. "Sadie, I swear
that I never asked you out for any reason other than the fact I liked you
and wanted to get to know you better. That's the honest truth. And yeah,
I found out all of that before I asked you out, but I gave it a lot of thought,
and I realised that I had no right to sit and criticise things you've done
in your life, when you're clearly not that girl any more. I grew to hate
this Neal guy, more and more the more I read through the notes of your sister's
trial, and the evidence you gave. I was so afraid you'd never trust in me,
because of what he did to you."
Sadie swallowed, unable to find words to say what she wanted to say. Alex
took her hands in his.
"I'm sorry if I went about it this afternoon like a clumsy oaf, I'm a
little out of practice where women are concerned." He said softly. "But
I want to know, did you mean what you said when you stormed out? About...about
falling in love?"
"I...guess so." Sadie nodded. "I fall in love so easily, Alex...and I
get hurt so much easier still. I...I wanted to protect my heart, because
I didn't know if I could get out of it again, but I couldn't help it. You
were so kind to me, and you treated me like I was worth the time and the
effort. I...I guess I did mean it."
"Good." Alex said gently. "Because I think I'm heading the same way."
Sadie stared at him for a moment, as if not believing his words. Then,
impulsively, she kissed him. At first startled, Alex responded, till, with
a breathless apology, Sadie broke away.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, I just..." She murmured, but Alex put a
finger to her lips.
"Shh. No apologies." He said with a smile. "Let's just see where we end
up, huh? I like taking you out, and I have no objection to being kissed
by a beautiful woman, all right? So no need to apologise."
Despite herself, Sadie giggled.
"I don't know what you see in me." She admitted. "But...but I hope you
keep seeing it. I haven't felt this good with a guy for so long, Alex...don't
hurt me, huh?"
"I promise." Alex winked. "And don't worry about the past, Sadie. That's
where it should stay. All right?"
"Okay." Sadie nodded her head. "I'll try and remember it." She smiled.
"And thank you."
"For what? I made you cry."
"For treating me like any other human being." Sadie squeezed his hand,
a slightly shy smile in her blue eyes. "And I'm not crying now...so don't
worry about it. Let's just...enjoy the time we have together, before you
have to go back to the grindstone. I...I'm hoping that this might just work