Chapter One: England's Rose

It had been a long flight.

As the plane began to circle to land, the dark girl stifled a yawn, gazing out at the clouded, dense sky as they began to descend.
"Looks like it's sunny old England waiting to greet us. As per usual."

The clipped, scots-tinted tones of the man sitting next to her jerked through her daydream and she turned her head, offering him a smile.

"You're looking forward to going home, then, Clay?" She teased, a playful sparkle in her brown eyes. Clayton Blake shrugged his shoulders.

"As much as I ever am." He said simply. "My family are still in Connecticut. Scotland's like a world away and England has never really felt like any kind of home to me, even if I was born there. This is a tour, Maddy, not a homecoming. It'd just be nice if, for once, the weather'd perk up to welcome us down."

"What else do you expect from a tinpot island stuck on the north side of the planet?" The girl in the seat behind fidgeted with her seatbelt, sending the plane's many 'no smoking' signs a malevolent glare. "I hate flying to England. As if it isn't far enough to go home! What's so special about it, anyhow? Nothing we don't have in the States."

"And here I was thinking you liked Europe, Stef." Clayton turned to grin at her, before settling himself in his own seat and clipping his belt tightly around his middle. "What about you and Luca and the downpayment on that Neapolitan villa? Regretting it already?"

"No, moron, of course not." Stefana stuck out her tongue at the back of his seat. "Italy is a whole other matter. It's not the UK, and being Scottish, I'd think you'd know that."

"English, actually."

"Oh, go stick your head Loch Ness or something. I told you before, your Mom is Scottish, so so are you."

"Of course, that makes it look a bit dodgy, being that I was born about twenty miles from Gatwick airport."

"There you go then!"

"Gatwick is a London airport, idiot girl!"

"Well, it sounds like it should be Scottish." Stefana folded her arms sulkily across her chest. "It's all wicks and lochs up there. Anyway, don't blame me. I didn't ever need to know where anywhere was in your stupid island, and I wouldn't now if we weren't having to play there."

"Don't start this again." Stefana's brother Luca put in wearily from the other side of the aisle. "Stef, shut up till you've had your nicotine kick. It's always the same way when we fly with you - you get seven hours in and you're twitching for America. We'll be down soon, and I told you you shoulda brought gum with you."

"Nicotine gum is for losers who can't handle a few hours on a plane without a cigarette." Stefana snapped back. "And I'm not twitching. I'm fine. Just bored of this plane and the seat is really uncomfortable. That's all."

"I'm guessing from all the noise that we're almost at Heathrow?"

The final member of the group opened a sleepy eye from her seat beside Stefana, casting a glance around her. "I hear raised voices, so we must be close."

"You have spent way too long with Diablo, Marissa." Madeleine looked amused. "Yes. We're circling to land. How you managed to sleep through the storm we just came through I don't know, but I'm telling you that I'll be glad to get my feet on the ground. Even if it is raining like mad down there."

"Cats, dogs and the whole bleeding ark alongside it, by the looks." Clay peered over Madeleine's shoulder at the ever-closening world below. "Are we playing any open air gigs this tour, anyone know?"

"Sophie's the only one who'd know that, Clay, and she's obviously spent too much time with Diablo too." Luca observed wryly, nodding his head in the direction of their escort and co-manager, Sophie Devereux. Fluent in several languages and shrewd behind her deceptively gentle front, she had travelled with the group to Europe in the past, and had long since learnt to arrange her own seating well away from her charges, if she wanted a quiet flight.

Marissa giggled.

"True enough." She agreed. "Though it'd be a pain if she sat with us. Rory's one thing, but I never really know how to take Sophie. She's hard to read."

"She's a bitch, that's all you need to know." Stefana said darkly. "She's Rory's floozie, so what else could she be? Besides, she's sneaky. She probably has us all bugged, it wouldn't surprise me."

"It's more what we don't know about her than what we do know, isn't it?" Madeleine looked thoughtful. "It's like we're always waiting for a punchline."

She looked rueful. "Mind you, who am I to talk? Everyone has their secrets."

Luca cast the singer a thoughtful look, then,

"Sophie's problem is that she doesn't trust anyone." He said decidedly. "Not even Rory and especially not us."

"Meaning...?" Madeleine raised an eyebrow.

"That I hope Diablo don't keep secrets from each other any more, that's all." Luca spread his hands. "Seems like it's all we've done over the last few years."

Madeleine pursed her lips.

"You've taken all this kinda hard, haven't you?" She asked gently. Luca shrugged his shoulders.

"My best friend has what may well turn out to be a terminal illness." He returned gravely. "And she didn't trust me enough to tell me, even though she claims to care just as much about me as I do about her. That takes a lot of dealing with, Mad. If you can keep something that big from us, then who knows what else you could have kept a secret?"

"That's Maddy's business." Clay cut in, before Madeleine could respond. "It's like you said, Luca. We all have secrets. This was hers and she didn't tell us by choice. It's not up to us to judge her for handling it how she has. We all agreed we'd support her, and not talk about it if she didn't want us to. Did you forget that already?"

"No, I didn't forget." Luca shook his head. He sighed. "I guess I am having a hard time with it. We're young and we're only just having the time of our lives. It sobers you up. You think the people you care about will be around forever. Guess maybe they won't be. That's all."

Madeleine's expression became pensive at this.

"That's why I didn't tell you." She said matter-of-factly. "I don't want to think about death, I want to live life. I'm fine, Luca. You know I am. If I hadn't told you, you would never have known. If it had gotten to a point where, well, I couldn't cope, I would have told you. I wouldn't have let...well, anything happen without telling you all the truth. But I need things to be normal. It's the thing that keeps me going - Diablo, my singing, and you guys. If you start flustering and panicking and changing around me, I'm gonna have a harder time. And I need all the positive vibes I can get. Life is unpredictable. You take what you can get out of it and that's all there is to it."

"Luca overdosed on the worrywart juice when God was handing out the drinks." Stefana put in succinctly. "He's a fusser, Maddy. Trust me, I know from experience."

"We won't even go there." Luca twisted in his seat to shoot his sister a meaningful look. "You tried to kill yourself. I think I had a right to fuss."

"So I had a little emotional episode." Stefana dismissed it with a flick of her hand. "Big deal. Anyone would think the world had ended."

"Before this turns into World War Three, why don't you all give it a rest?" Marissa yawned, checking her watch and sitting up straighter in her seat. "It's about four am Los Angeles time. I might be the only one feeling the lag so far, but can we save the arguments till after we get to the hotel? Please? Then at least I can barricade myself in my room and avoid it."

"I'm with Mari. Let's drop the depressing stuff." Clay nodded his head. "If we want to have as good a tour as we did the last time we were here, we've gotta be up on all that team spirit crap Rory bleats out when holding a press conference about how good we are. Shall we try it? You know, just for once?"

"I wonder what kind of a hotel we're stopping in this time." Madeleine observed, as the rain began to sheet across the window of the aircraft, obscuring the ground in a haze of water. "I'm starting to feel the lag too, now Mari's told me what time it is at home. I knew it was late, but not that late. I could do with a hot bath and bed."

Luca opened his mouth to speak, but thought better of it. He closed it again, turning to rearrange the magazines in their holder. Madeleine caught his expression, and a smile touched her lips.

"It'll be okay, Luca." She said softly. "I promise. It will."

Luca raised his gaze to hers, then shrugged his shoulders.

"It's as Clay said. Your business." he responded, though his face belied the dismissiveness of his words.

"So long as the place serve a decent meal and it ain't a ten hour drive, it'll do me." Clay remarked. "I'm starving, and plane food sucks. What was in that curry, anyhow? Was it fish? Who curries fish?"

"Airlines, obviously. Bonehead." Stefana rolled her eyes. "And if you didn't want it, you shouldn't have ordered it. The pasta wasn't so bad. Chewy...but it didn't make me wanna vomit."

Airline food is airline food." Marissa shrugged her shoulders. "I didn't think the fish was too bad, Clay. But it wasn't very filling, and I could use a bath and bed, too. I hope Sophie's got a car coming to meet us at the airport. I don't want to hang around, especially if it's wet."

"We're such a bunch of happy campers." Madeleine snorted, amusement on her face. "We've spent a couple of years living in Cali where it's hot and we've all become wusses about weather."

"Why get wet if you don't have to?" Stefana demanded. "If Sophie hasn't got a car waiting, she'll hear all about it from me!"

"And so will half of London, God help them." Clay muttered under his breath. Madeleine cast him a grin, but made no comment, and the group sank back into silence as the voice of the pilot came over the tannoy, announcing their descent into Heathrow airport.

"Collect your cases quickly."

As they disembarked from the plane, the tired and stiff musicians found their enigmatic escort at their heels, not looking a bit like she had just spent the last twelve hours on a long flight from America. "I 'ave a car waiting to take you to our 'otel, and I want to save as little time as possible. You are featuring on a television programme this evening, and I want all of you fresh and alert for that, if you don't mind."

"A television show? When we've only just flown here?" Luca stared at Sophie in dismay. "Please tell me you're joking."

"Joking isn't something I usually waste my time doing." Sophie's blue eyes sparkled with mischief. "Non, cherie. It is just about midday now, United Kingdom time. That gives you time to get to the 'otel, get lunch and unpack whatever you might need for an evening interview. Rory has only arranged for you to play your newest song, and Stefana, you often assure him that you can play it in your sleep - so it shouldn't be a problem. After all, we're professionals now, n'est-pas?"

She bestowed on them an amused, condescending smile, then turned on her heel, heading to the big conveyor to collect her own suitcase.

"Great. And just when I was looking forward to a good sleep." Clay sighed. "All right, troops. Guess we better do what Captain Nutjob and his mad assistant have planned for us, and grab our stuff. If we're lucky, we might still get a couple of hours to kick back and sleep off jet lag before Madame comes knocking at our door."

"Here's hoping we do." Madeleine rolled her eyes. "Come on, then. Mari, I think I can see your bag at the back of the belt, and that's definitely mine just in front of it. Even if we are being dragged out again, the hotel still sounds appealing."

"I wonder if it has a pool." Marissa wondered idly, as she moved to retrieve her bag, stretching over other luggage to knock Madeleine's to the front. Stefana snorted.

"What do you want a pool for? Step outside the airport and you drown." She retorted, taking her own bag with very bad grace, and looping it over her shoulder. "Well? Are we moving, or what?"

"We're moving." Clay grabbed his and Luca's bags, tossing the latter to his bandmate, who caught it deftly. "Anyone see which way Madame went? Or did she do her usual vanishing act?"

"That way." Marissa waved a hand towards a block of signs, beneath which their escort had just disappeared. "Come on. Lunch and bath are still on the agenda, even if bed isn't. And the sooner we're out of that horrible weather, the better. Wusses or not, I can hear the rain coming down from here!"

"What time is this show we're doing later, Sophie?" Luca asked, as the group hurried to catch their chic French companion. Sophie offered a smile.

"It goes on the air at 'alf past nine." She responded. "The studio wanted you to be there for eight at the latest, but in light of our long transport this morning, I managed to persuade them we would better be able to accomodate eight thirty. That would leave an hour to get you ready to go on - but I have confidence that you won't need much time to practice your song. You've done enough of these shows in the States to know what you're about. Non?"

"Eight thirty?" Marissa's expression brightened at this. "That's not so very bad. Thanks, Sophie. We need all the rest time we can get, after a flight like that one."

"It was not a fun voyage." Sophie agreed thoughtfully. "I need my rest too, petite. Never forget that. I have a lot to do now Diablo are in England, as do you. It would not do for either of us to appear unreliable from the first."

She led the way to where a big black car was waiting, gesturing to the driver that she and her companions had arrived.

Immediately, as if charmed by the Frenchwoman's unconscious air of sophistication, the man got out of his car, opening the doors so that the musicians could clamber inside. After exchanging a few words with Sophie, the man took charge of the cases, packing them securely into the rear of the vehicle before climbing back into the driver's seat. Sophie settled herself next to him and, with a quick glance to make sure all five musicians were safely within, she gave him the instruction to drive.

"How does she do that?" Madeleine wondered in an undertone, as the car glided smoothly away from the curb and into the pelting rain.

"I don't know, but I wish she could teach me." Marissa looked rueful. "I still have issues hailing cabs in Los Angeles, and that's a fact."

"You have to be direct with them." Stefana put in, glancing idly out of the window and drumming her fingers on her knee. "Make them notice you. Then they stop."

"Steffi, jumping out in the road in front of them isn't the safest way of getting a driver's attention." Luca said playfully. Stefana coloured.

"I only did that once." She protested. "And it wasn't on purpose. It was last time we were here and I forgot which side of the road they'd be driving on. He kinda came at me out of nowhere."

"But he did stop." Clay laughed. "Which means Steffi's method works."

"Do we suppose we're staying in the centre of London?" Madeleine tried to make out street signs through the window, but the rain was coming down too hard for her to see. "If we're doing a television broadcast this evening, surely that would make sense? Rory did say we were playing Wembley and other city venues while we were here."

"Guess so." Luca sat back in his seat, stifling a yawn. "Honestly, I'm more concerned as to whether or not the place is likely to have lunch waiting for us when we get there."

"Typical." Marissa giggled. "It's true what they say about men and their stomachs."

"Yeah. Just like it's true a woman can't walk past a mirror without looking in it." Clay teased. Marissa gave him a playful elbow.
"Creep." She said, in tones which meant quite the opposite. "We're not as vain as all that."

"If you ask me, Rory spends far more time looking in mirrors than any of us chicks put together." Stefana observed. "How he copes when he gets his car waxed is beyond me."

"What do you suppose they'll ask us this evening?" Madeleine wondered.

"The usual kind of blarney, I guess." Clay pursed his lips. "How we like being back in England, what kind of shows we're doing, that kind of deal."

"Not forgetting the 'how does it feel to be back on home ground, Clay?' routine." Stefana pulled a graphic face. "I wish you'd tell them it sucks ass. That'd stop them asking."

"It doesn't suck ass." Clay looked amused. "It's just another tour date. But I get sick of the question too, Stef. Still, if it keeps people interested in Diablo, I'll answer it with a smile. Even if I really wanna rip the presenter's throat out."

"Now that would make good television." Stefana decided. She frowned. "Geez, is this car ever going to get there? The pace we're going, it'll be eight thirty before we reach the hotel!"

"You better hope it's not a no-smoking room." Madeleine said playfully. Stefana glared at her.

"I told you once, I'm fine." She snapped. "I've just spent way too long travelling, and wa-a-ay too long confined with you lot."
"Well, I think your prayer is about to be answered, Stef." Luca squinted out of the window, as the car slowed and then took a right turn down a busy street, drawing to a halt at the far end. "I think we're here."

"About time!" Stefana wriggled out of her seat. "Sophie - is this it?"

"Sit still, Stefana." Sophie said mildly. "The weather is appalling and I don't want you all getting soaked. Jack" (she pronounced it Jacques) will get your cases, and then you're to go into the lobby of the hotel and wait for me there, whilst I see to everything. We have a suite booked on the top floor, and as soon as I've spoken to the concierge, you'll be able to get yourself settled in."

She smiled, a knowing glint entering her blue eyes.

"Each of you will 'ave your own room within the suite. We think it better this way." She said simply. "And yes, Stefana, you will be able to smoke - but attend me on one point. Any damage you make will come from your wages. Understood?"

"Yeah, yeah, I get it." Stefana rolled her eyes, but did as she was bidden. "It's only a little cigarette. I'm hardly gonna set the whole hotel alight, but whatever."

Madeleine exchanged looks with Luca at this, and Luca shrugged his shoulders.

"And so begins another dazzling Diablo tour." He said wryly. "On with the show."

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

In the silent office, the executive stood at the window, staring with clouded, unseeing grey eyes out at the busy world below. On her desk, the phone lay off the hook, and for once the room was silent.

For a moment she just stood there, absorbing everything slowly and methodically as she reviewed the call.

It had been the last thing she had expected, she acknowledged to herself ruefully. Though why she should not have anticipated it's coming she did not know. He had been old. Infirm. He had even said to her the last time they had met that he didn't know how many more years he had in him. That had been some three or four years past now, she knew. It made sense, almost.

But it had still been a shock.

She turned from the window, absently brushing the phone receiver aside as she dropped down into her chair, resting her chin in her hands. On her computer monitor, a popup announced that she had new email, but she paid it no attention, lost in thought.

"You 'ave some nerve, young lady."

His voice cut across his wife's shrill shrieks of indignation, hands on his hips as he glared at her. "I've about 'ad enough of your lip an' your attitude as it is - but you just left your brother to rot in that prison cell? Where's your sense of family loyalty, you wretched girl? Jeremy'll go down for this and you're just going to sit there?"

"What do you want me to do?" Her voice shook, as if on the verge of tears, but in truth she was only fighting to keep a grip on her rising temper. "What would you 'ave me do, Dad? He tried to sell me down the river first. He told them I was there and I weren't nowhere near the bloody store that night! Thank God for Laura - I didn't notice either o' you comin' to bail me outta there! I coulda gone down for it too, you know. Jeremy's at least bleedin' guilty. He done the crime. I'm not going to be a part of that any more. I'm not, do you 'ear me? He can do his stir for all I care. I'm done with 'im an' the whole damn lot of you."

"Don't you talk to your father like that, Sheila." Florence grabbed the girl by the arm, pulling her over to one side. "A night down the nick'd probably do you the world o' good. Shoulda happened years ago."

She wheeled on her husband, still gripping the teenager's arm in a vicelike grasp as she did so.

"I told you your old Pa made too much of her! Thinks she's special now, she does, because he fawned over her and gave her everything! Well you get used to this, you ungrateful brat. Do you think that, if we'd 'ad any choice in the matter, we'd be botherin' with you now? You're a waste of good food an' shelter, an' you've never done more than you've 'ad to to keep up with it, neither. So don't think you're somethin' important. Your brother - he may not be the right side o' the law always, but 'e 'as brains an' initiative an' he'll use them to make good. Make money. And you?"

She twisted her pig-like features into a scornful grimace.

"You'll stand on street corners playin' for your supper."

"Maybe I will." Sheila spat back, wrenching her arm free. "I don't want anythin' from you an' I never asked for it, neither. You didn't have to keep me nor Jeremy if you didn't want us, and you know it. God knows why you did. God knows I'd 'ave done better in some bloody foster 'ome than' 'ere, with flesh an' blood like you."

"How dare you!" Florence began, but her husband held up his hand, shaking his head at his wife.

"No, Flo. This is mine." He said quietly. "You go phone your brother like you said you were goin' to do. I'll deal with Sheila. Don't you worry."

Florence's mouth set into a discontented frown, but she shrugged her shoulders, turning on her heel and flouncing out of the room. The door shut with a bang, sending flakes of ceiling plaster down onto the faded carpet below.

Now alone with her father, Sheila met his gaze defiantly.

"An' now what? You're gonna tan my hide like I was seven years old?" She demanded sarcastically.

"You bleedin' deserve it." His voice was quiet, but his eyes glinted with anger. "You listen to me, girlie. You shut your mouth about your brother and you shut your mouth about your family. You've no idea. You've always been too much of a dreamer. Your Ma is right - you expect too much from the world. Well, this is how it is. This is how it's always going to be. It's who you are. This family, this house...till the day you die. Live with it an' quit giving us hell. The next thing will be your Ma'll boot you out onto the street and then where will you go?"

Sheila hesitated for a moment, then her expression hardened.

"Laura's." She said with a shrug. "I know her Mum'd put me up, if it was just for a while. I'd manage, Dad. I'm not a kid any more. I'm not a baby. And maybe Grandpa..." She faltered for a moment, then, "Maybe Gramps did 'ave a soft spot for me, but he's not 'ere now and I wouldn't need 'is 'elp even if 'e was 'ere. I know what kind of people Burns's are. I've lived with them all me bleedin' life and I've done with it! I 'ate bein' the girl who's brother's in the nick for armed robbery. I 'ate that I was arrested at work because 'e lied to police in an attempt to get off. I 'ate that you an' Ma are known for bein' tax evaders an' gamblers an' people who take cash on the sly. People who take paint off the back of a lorry no questions asked an' all that."

"So you think you're better than us? Than that?" Bertie's expression became a sneer. "You have a big shock comin' your way, girl."

She was silent for a moment, staring at him with anger and hatred in her grey eyes. Then at length she spoke, every word like a drop of ice falling from her lips.

"Or maybe you have one coming yours." She said softly. "All I've 'ad for nineteen years is your bloody complaints about 'ow you've gone through this or that 'ardship because of Jeremy an' me. I'm sick o' hearin' it."

She chewed on her lip, then,

"An' maybe I am better than you are." She added. "Because at least I can see a damn way out of it. Grandpa told me that I could be something if I wanted to be. Maybe 'e was right. Would it kill you, if 'e was?"

"More like it would kill you tryin'." Bertie said flatly. "You 'ave no bleedin' idea of what's out there. You live in your own world, Sheila, an' because you've tagged on with your brother you think you know 'ow the city works. How life works. You've never left London, an' you think you can go out there an' make it 'appen? I've news for you. This is safe. It's what you know. Goin' out's unknown."

He glanced at her, then shook his head.

"And I won't have my flesh an' blood turn up a hooker to make a bloody point." He added. "So get that into your head."

Sheila's cheeks flushed red with indignation.

"As if I would!" She shot back scornfully. "I can do other things, you know!"

"I'm fed up with this." Bertie shook his head. "My television show starts in a minute an' you ain't gonna make me miss it. Get lost with you, will ya? An' don't bother your Ma. She's got an 'eadache an' she don't need your yellin'."

"No, her own's enough to be goin' on with." Sheila muttered, but she turned, leaving the small front lounge and stamping her way down the hall to her own room. Pushing open the door, she banged it shut with a thud that had her mother screaming her name, then dropped down onto her bed. Reaching a hand under her pillow, she pulled out her cigarettes and her lighter, glancing at them.

"One wouldn't 'urt." She murmured, flipping open the box and extracting one of the slender white sticks. She put it to her lips, lifting the lighter, then she paused, frowning. She shook her head, dropping the lighter onto the bed and spitting the cigarette onto the covers.

"For the saxophone, I gotta stop with this." She muttered, rubbing her temples. "Grandpa said that you needed lungs to play an' if I'm goin' to play it's the only damn thing I got goin' for me. Somehow I gotta. Now I finally 'ave my own sax...thank God my folks don't know. If they knew what was hidin' out at Laura's they'd kill me. But I can't stay like this. I can't spend my whole life workin' in a diner an' livin' in a pit of an apartment. I can't be Sheila Burns forever, dammit! I want more than that. Grandpa promised me more than that! Now he ain't here an' I have to see that I get it. Somehow. And I'll have to do it on my own!"


A voice startled her back to the present and she glanced up, surprised.

"Mom, are you okay? I knocked twice but I got no answer." Her daughter stood in the doorway, a mixture of concern and confusion on her face, and Jetta struggled to shake the memories, offering a slight smile.

"Sorry, kid." She said ruefully. "Was miles away. What's up? Somethin' the matter?"

"That sounds like the question I should be asking you." Nancy slipped into the room, closing the door behind her with a soft click. "I just brought by the manuscripts you wanted to see, but they can wait. You're kinda pale...are you sure you're all right?"

Jetta eyed her companion keenly for a moment. Then she shrugged her shoulders.

"I will be." She agreed, reaching for the phone receiver and glancing at it before returning it to it's rightful resting place. "I'm sorry. I ain't tryin' to scare you. I just had a phone call from London, you see, and..."

She trailed off, frowning.

"It wasn't something I expected." She added.

"London?" Nancy looked surprised, then, "Aunt Laura? Is she coming to visit Hollie again?"

"Yes, it was your Aunt Laura, and no, she isn't coming to visit." Jetta said slowly. "More like I might be visiting her. That is, if I decide to go. I have to speak to your Pa first. If he can't find the time, well, I ain't going to travel without him."

"You're not making a lot of sense." Nancy scolded, perching on the edge of the desk. "Why would you be going to London? I don't understand."

"Your grandfather passed away yesterday afternoon." Jetta said simply, folding her hands across her desk. "Laura wants me to go to the funeral, and I'm in two minds whether it's a good idea or not."

"Oh. I see." Nancy pursed her lips, then, "I thought he wasn't my grandfather?"

"No, love, but the only one you'll ever have." Jetta shook her head. "At least on my side of the family. Besides, I ain't really sure what else to call him. He's just been Dad for...well, so long. He might as well stay that way to the grave."

"Do you think you will go?"

"I think I should." Jetta sounded pensive. "They ain't happy memories, but there's duty and there's only me left to do it. So I should. But I ain't going on my own."

"I could come with you. Or Aaron. Or both of us." Nancy suggested, but Jetta shook her head.

"No." She responded. "No, I don't think either of you need bother yourselves about this. He wasn't anythin' or anyone to you an' you both have plenty of work to do here. No, if I go, it'll be me and your Pa alone and it'll only be for a short trip. Nothing extravagant. Just enough to see to business."

She held out her hand for the folder and, after a moment of hesitation Nancy held it out. Jetta flicked it open, glancing over the opening few bars. Then she looked up.

"If I were you, I'd take this along to your Aunt Phyllis an' see what she thinks." She said at length. "In honesty, I'm not the best person to ask at the minute, an' if I'm going to get some time off to travel she needs to be in a sweet mood. Go take your work of genius to 'er, huh, an' do me a favour?"

Nancy looked thoughtful for a moment but she nodded, retrieving the file and carefully clipping it shut.

"I'll do that." She agreed. Then, rather awkwardly, "You do know, Mom...if...if you need me to...well...if you need to talk..."
She left the sentence hanging, and Jetta smiled.

"I know." She said softly. "But right now ain't the time. I 'ave a lot of stuff needs doin' and I'd best see to doin' it. Just run along to Pizzazz an' see what she says about that, will you? I'll be all right."

Nancy bit her lip, but she made no protest. With a backward glance she left the office, and Jetta let out a heavy sigh.

"An' now I gotta pull myself together an' work out what I'm goin' to do." She muttered. "First things first, though. Sooner Justin knows what's goin' on, sooner I know what the modus operandi is gonna be. An' sooner I know that, the sooner I can get my 'ead straight an' do some damn work!"

Prologue: London, England
Chapter One: England's Rose
Chapter Two: Delving
Chapter Three: Wissex
Chapter Four: Grace
Chapter Five: Revelations
Chapter Six: Facing Shadows
Chapter Seven: A Change In Plans
Chapter Eight: County Show
Chapter Nine: Trevor Hawthorne
Chapter Ten: A Sea Chest
Chapter Eleven: Binding
Chapter Twelve: Homecoming
Chapter Thirteen: Hawthorne Blood
Chapter Fourteen: Mayfair

The copyright for the original Jem characters featured in this and other stories by me belongs entirely to Hasbro and their interpretations to Christy Marx and the other writers of the Sunbow Jem series. Their future selves are based on concepts that are entirely my own and are not to be repeated elsewhere without due permission.
All other characters, including their likenesses, are copyrighted to myself as webmistress of Jewel's World from 2001 to the present day and are not to be reproduced elsewhere without permission.
The Teenangel Outsiders, Jesta, Flame, Ryan Montgomery and the future interpretations of Aja, Danse and certain of the other original characters are all or in part the concept of Gemma Dawn whose teenangel outsider fiction world is twinned with Jewel's World. You can visit her site at!
All events in the stories on this site are based on original ideas and are not rooted in any existing Jem fiction nor in any real life event or person.