Los Angeles, 2015
Sadie Monahue awoke with a jerk, breathing hard as she struggled against the last remaining wisps of her dream. As the pictures faded, she closed her eyes, taking a slow, deep drag of air into her lungs as she forced herself to calm down. Sun streamed through the window onto the bedcovers, comforting her, and she pushed her messy white-blond hair out of her face, pulling herself into a sitting position. As she did so, she caught sight of her companion and paused, a tender look entering her dark blue eyes. He was lost to the world still, sleeping with a tranquility that Sadie envied. Resisting the urge to touch him, she pushed back the quilt, slipping quietly out of bed and over to the window. It was early, but outside the city was starting to come to life, and she pushed back the mesh curtains just a little in order to watch the people below going about their daily business.
A voice from the bed startled her out of her reverie, and the fair girl turned, casting her companion a faint smile.
"I thought you were asleep." She murmured, turning away from the window and returning to the bedside, sitting down on the covers. "I didn't mean to disturb you."
"You didn't." Her companion rubbed the sleep from his eyes, sitting up. "I have to get up for work in about a half-hour anyhow."
He eyed her keenly. "Is something bugging you? It's not like you to be up and around before me when you stop over here."
"I know." Sadie sighed, leaning back against the wall. "But I'm all right, Alex, really I am. I had a funny dream, that's all, and I guess it just got me thinking about a few things. Nothing important."
"Things?" Alex Bray raised an eyebrow, leaning across to put a gentle arm around her shoulders. "What sort of things?"
"It doesn't matter." Sadie shook her head. "Nothing you should bother about."
"Would it have anything to do with the fact that my mother is visiting from Oregon this coming weekend?" Alex pursed his lips. "You've been quiet ever since I told you she was coming. And it's not like you to have 'funny' dreams when you sleep over here."
"I didn't realise I was that transparent." She admitted.
Alex looked amused.
"Maybe you're not, but I'm a Federal Agent and inquisitiveness kinda goes with the territory." He acknowledged. "So that is it? Mom coming?"
"I guess it is preying on me a bit." Sadie examined her nails self-consciously. "In...in a way. I haven't met your family yet...I am worried that they won't like me."
"What isn't to like, Sadie?" Alex asked her gently, a playful smile on his lips. "You've got me out of my office and dating, which Mom wholeheartedly approves of. You eat nicely, you say please and thank you and you always take care with your appearance. What wouldn't she like about you?"
"Oh, just...things." Sadie bit her lip. "I told you, Al, it's nothing. And you're gonna be late for work - not to mention so am I, if I don't get dressed soon. I have to be at the studio in an hour to run over the manuscript with Nancy before Jewel's practice. We've neither of us got time to hang around here having chats about nonsense."
"Sadie, if it bothers you, it isn't nonsense." Alex pushed back the covers, getting to his feet and wrapping his dressing gown around his shoulders, tying it at the waist. Carefully he pulled her to her feet. "I've told Mom a lot about you and she can't wait to meet you. She says that it's a miracle I found any girl willing to take me and my idiosyncratic work ethics on...so you're onto a winner before she even comes! I think she thinks she raised a workaholic."
"Hrm, well, maybe she did." A slight smile touched Sadie's lips at this. "No, Al, it's not that. Honestly, I...I was thinking about, well, the past. England. Things...then. My dream - it was more of a memory."
"England?" Alex looked surprised. "How so? What kind of things?"
"Back in the squat, with Neal."
"Why on earth?" Alex frowned. "What has that to do with here and now? He's dead, and you've left all of that way behind you. Why is it bothering you now? It doesn't usually, does it?"
"Sometimes I get flashbacks like that, even now. They might be behind me but they're never really gone, and well, sometimes it makes me dwell." Sadie said sadly. "Particularly when I realise I'm not good enough for you. And your Mum will realise it too, Alex, as soon as she meets me."
"Now you really are talking nonsense." Alex hugged her tightly, kissing her gently on the forehead. "Mom won't think anything of the kind."
"She will." Sadie looked troubled. "I was part of a gang, I lived outside the law, I went to prison, I used drugs. Those were the kind of people who were responsible for your brother's death, Alex, and your Mom isn't going to be impressed when she finds out what kind of a girl you've hooked up with. It doesn't matter what you say about it, or how much I've changed - I've still got that in me. I'm a reformed character but it'll never go away. It was too big a part of my life for it not to have had an impact on me and how I am now."
"Oh, you silly." Alex grinned. "There is a big difference between gun-toting thugs and a girl who got mixed up in the wrong crowd. Trust me! I see both kinds day in and day out. You're nothing like the guys who murdered Randall, so don't think that you are, or that Mom will think you are. Besides, I haven't told her anything about your background. I don't think it's her business, unless you choose to make it her business. You're who you are now, and that's all there is to it."
"Thank you for saying it." Sadie kissed her boyfriend. "But it doesn't change how I feel about it, Alex. Honestly, it doesn't. It's all very well saying I'm not like them, but everyone has to start somewhere."
"Yeah, but you got out of it." Alex responded quietly. "And you've spent your time since giving back to the community - with your counselling in Birmingham, with your music as part of Jewel....when are you going to just accept that you're a genuine, nice person and that people can like you just as easily as they can like anyone else? If you want the truth, I'm proud of you and the way you are. I know what you've been through and it makes no difference to me. Why should it? You deserve double the credit to have turned your life around so wholeheartedly and I feel really lucky to have met and hooked up with you. That's the bare truth of it. So don't be silly. Go have your shower, get dressed and I'll drop you at Misfits Music on my way to the office. Okay?"
"I guess." Sadie sighed, nodding her head. "Okay. I won't be popular if I'm late, anyhow. Nancy almost threw a fit at me when I told her I was seeing you last night, and that I had every intention of sleeping over here if we got back late." She grinned. "She doesn't mind us having social lives, so long as it's not when she has a new song to put to us."
"From the little I know of Nancy, she's very intense about her music." He agreed. "And we can't have you getting in trouble on my account. All right, then it's a deal. I'll see you in the kitchen for breakfast, all right? And chin up." He touched her cheek. "Noone thinks badly of you, and Mom will love you. Now there's an end to that subject!"
"I hope you're right." She admitted, scooping up her clothes and taking the towel he tossed her way. "Thanks, Alex. I know it's just me being insecure, but sometimes it's difficult to know how someone new will react to me. You mean a lot to me and...and I want her to like me."
With that she was gone into the hall, and Alex sat down on his bed with a frown, reaching for his work clothes.
He loved Sadie, but sometimes her insecurities got to him.
"I wish she'd understand that she's as good as anyone else and that I love her because she's one of the sweetest and most caring women I've ever met." He murmured. "Oh well. Maybe when Mom meets her she'll believe me. After all, I know they're going to hit it off just great. And besides, it's about time they met. If Sadie knew how much rested on things...well." He frowned, reaching over to the bedside cabinet and pulling open the top drawer, taking out a small blue box. He opened it briefly, glancing at it's contents, then returning it to the drawer.
"It's almost our anniversary. What better time to pop the question?" He mused. "But I don't want to scare the girl...I hope everything is going to go as well as I told her it would. After all, Sadie means the world to me...I just wish she'd understand it!"
* * * * * * *
"So how are you really, Copper, now it's had a chance to sink in?"
Nancy Pelligrini cast her sister in law a quizzical look, settling herself on the end of the sofa in the front room of the Starlight Mansion and taking a sip of her lemonade. "Or is it still just too traumatic to think about?"
Copper, or Elizabeth Pelligrini sighed, setting her own glass down on the table.
"It's still weird." She admitted. "Finding out you have a half sister is a big enough deal, but accepting that it's Jesta...it's a total other thing to take into account."
"I can't believe you guys could really be related." Sylvina Martescu wrinkled up her nose. "I about freaked when you told us - I swear it could've come right off Days of our Lives and I'd have been less surprised. Jesta? And you? Couldn't be more different."
"No, but I think it is true nonetheless." Copper admitted. "All the information fits and even though we've not gone for the DNA thing at the moment, I've started to, well, see it as well. She doesn't look like me or like Papa really, but there's...I guess it's a hint of it there. So I better get used to it, I suppose."
"What's the next move?" Aurora Stapleton asked. "Or isn't there one?"
"I'm taking her to Detroit." Copper responded. "When Jewel aren't busy and when she 'feels like it', basically. She's busy with something at the moment, so she says - but honestly I don't think she's in any hurry to sister bond. If she didn't want the money Papa left her, she wouldn't be interested in going at all. Still, it suits me if it's not right away. I've thought it all through and decided that Papa was Papa and even if I don't agree with him not telling me about this, I have to accept his reasons and his decision. Now I know, I have to do what's right...so there we go." She shrugged. "Jesta will be coming to Detroit with me sometime in the not so distant future, and a really happy trip that wil be."
"I don't envy you." Nancy grimaced. "It's like finding out Stefana Ranieri was your sister."
"Stefana's not been so bad recently." Aurora, or "Topaz" as she was better known, looked thoughtful. "So I think we're safe to say she's not out for our blood these days."
"No, since Aaron and I got married she's cooled off that way." Copper agreed. "I'd almost rather take her than Jesta in this instance. But there we go. You can't choose your family."
"Where's Sadie this morning?" Sylva glanced up at the clock. "I thought we were all hitting the studio to practice in a half hour."
"I guess she'll meet us there." Copper responded. "I came by here basically to spill my guts more than anything, since Aaron already left for work. But didn't she say she was seeing Alex last night?"
"Yes, she did." Nancy sighed. "I hope that doesn't mean we're going to have another lovey dovey session rather than a work one. She's been in one of her preoccupied moony phases lately - anyone else noticed?"
"I think it has something to do with the fact Alex's Mom is coming to town." Topaz said, amusement in her tones. "Sadie's a bit scared to meet the parents, as it were."
"What's not to like about Sadie?" Sylva asked. Topaz shrugged.
"Nothing, but you know Sadie." She responded. "Self confidence isn't in her vocabulary as often as it should be."
"Meeting family is a big deal step in a relationship." Copper pursed her lips. "I was just lucky with Aaron that I met Jetta and Justin both through Jewel and work almost as soon as I met Aaron himself."
"Well, I wouldn't know about that." Sylva stretched out more comfortably on the couch. "I'm not really big on relationships."
"Speaking of which, Syl, what exactly is going on with you and Logan?" Topaz asked. "Since you came back from New York three days ago we've heard all about Anna's wedding and how you had such a good time, but you clam up whenever his name is mentioned. Something we should know about you two?"
Sylva's cheeks turned pink.
"I took Logan to the wedding just as a good friend...and an escort." She said slowly. "What else do you need to know?"
"Why you spent three hours getting ready last night for a just friends dinner date would be a good start." Topaz's eyes twinkled with mischief. "I know you, Syl. That's not platonic behaviour."
"Well, I don't know what it is at the moment." Sylva sighed, shrugging her shoulders. "We...well, we both discovered that maybe we like each other a little more than just friends. But we're taking it carefully and seeing where we end up. Neither of us want to sacrifice our friendship by jumping into something that isn't really there. I think I like him, and I think he likes me. But to call it a relationship or anything at the moment...no way."
"I think it's sweet." Copper dimpled. "Logan is a really nice guy, Syl. You could do a lot worse."
"I know." Sylva looked pensive. "I guess we'll see what happens. We're both pretty busy, as much as anything. But I'd like to see if...if there's something worth pursuing. I...kinda feel at the moment that there is."
"Blech." Nancy grimaced. "Excuse me while I go vomit."
"Nance!" Topaz laughed. Nancy shrugged.
"So I don't go for all that lovey dovey romance stuff." She said practically. "I never have. I don't need to hear about Syl going goopy over Logan Matthews, of all men. It just isn't cool."
"Nothing wrong with Logan." Sylva protested. "He's a nice guy, like Copper said. He's not a jerk."
"I didn't say he was." Nancy shrugged. "I just think that this discussion got a whole lot more mushy than it really needs to be, that's all."
"And Jewel have a rehearsal to get to, right?" Topaz grinned. Nancy nodded.
"Exactly." She agreed. "Since Cyn already left and took Hollie to the creche, we might as well stop waiting on Sadie's arrival and grab a car and scoot. I want to get this song down as soon as possible because I've another one buzzing in my head already, and I can't focus on it till we've settled the one we're working on now."
"I guess that's our cue to get our butts in gear, then." Sylva sighed, getting to her feet. "Wow, back to work with a vengeance. I'm almost tempted to go back to New York."
"No point. Anna'll be on her honeymoon." Copper pointed out. "Where did you say she was going?"
"The Dominican Republic." Sylva dimpled. "Though she didn't know. She wanted to be surprised, so John arranged it all. He told me, though. And she was working really hard before the wedding, so I told her to make sure she does nothing more strenuous than sunbathe and enjoy herself. She deserves it and they're such a happy couple."
"Well, one of you had to be the workaholic twin." Topaz linked her arm in her friend's, as they made their way out to Nancy's car. "I guess it's not you...so it must be Anna."
"You got it." Sylva agreed. "Though I pull my weight."
"Sometimes." Nancy rolled her eyes, unlocking the vehicle and clambering into the driver's seat. "This song is late already because of your sister's wedding."
"Sorry, but I wasn't going to miss it." Sylva shrugged her shoulders. "Would you have missed Aaron's?"
"That would depend entirely on who he was marrying." Nancy responded. "And I was under the impression that you didn't like Anna's guy."
"I didn't dislike him." Sylva shook her head. "What I didn't like was the idea of her stopping out in New York permanently. But it's cool now, Nance. We talked things out and we both realised that we really miss each other. So she's going to make sure she braves flying more often and comes to visit me here when she can. It's more difficult for me to schedule vacation trips across the country, but I promised to drop in when I could. Hopefully she and John will spend this Christmas in California."
"It'd be nice to see Anna again." Copper reflected, fastening her seatbelt.
"Should someone call Sadie and make sure she's on her way to work, by the way?" Topaz asked. "I've got my phone so I'll do it, if you like."
"Probably should." Nancy nodded. "Just in case she slept in."
"Sure thing." Topaz deftly dialled Sadie's number, waiting for her to pick up. On the fourth ring her friend's soft Brummie tones came down the line, and Topaz grinned.
"Well, sounds like you're awake at least." She teased. "We're heading to the music company - are you on your way there too?"
"Already there." Sadie responded. "Alex dropped me off on his way to work, so I'm going over the manuscript. Guess I'll see you guys soon?"
"Yep, we've just left the Starlight and Copper is with us." Topaz agreed. "Be there in a few, okay?"
"Sure." Sadie replied. "I'm gonna go across the street and pick up a magazine from the newsagents anyhow. I passed Phyllis in the hall and she said the interview we did for Music Bizz on Tuesday has been printed up pretty nice...figured I'd grab a copy and see what she meant."
"Oh, do that." Topaz agreed. "We'll all want a look!"
She terminated the call, sliding her phone back into her bag.
"She's there already." She reported. "And apparently our interview's been printed up in Music Bizz, so she's grabbing a copy to see how it's come out. Phyllis reckons it's a good one, so she wants to see for herself. I told her to go for it - I figured we ought to all take a look at it."
"I hope there aren't too many photos from that shoot." Sylva pulled a face. "I was jetlagged as hell. It was so not fair to be met at the airport by a car and a memo."
"That's showbusiness." Copper giggled. "You should be used to it by now!"
At that moment Nancy pulled her car onto the main forecourt of Misfits Music and soon the four girls were in the lift, heading up to the floor which housed the main studios. Sadie was waiting for them, seated cross-legged on one of the big units with a magazine spread out in front of her. At the sound of the door she glanced up, grinning.
"Well, and I'm the first one here." She said playfully. "Guess sleeping over at Alex's doesn't do me any harm after all."
"Funny." Nancy grimaced in her direction.
"How's the article?" Topaz came to peer over the British girl's shoulder.
"Pretty good, I think." Sadie pushed it across so her friend could get a better view. "And the photo isn't so bad, either. It's very positive...I see why Phyllis liked it. It's been a scramble reclaiming publicity since Jerrica Pacheco died because it's all been about Starlight Music. And then with Syl going out of town..."
"No music on the Jewel front. I know." Sylva sighed. "Not on purpose, guys! Anna's wedding was just more important than recording a new single."
"Noone begrudges you that." Copper told her comfortingly. "Our press just hasn't been as overwhelmingly music based for a while. What with my wedding and then Jerrica swamping everything...and then you going to Anna's...we've not done as much as we'd maybe like to."
"But we're here now, and we're going to get this sorted out." Nancy added. "The new album is selling well and the cover we did of Always There In My Heart hit number one, but Mom reckons that's largely because of all the Jerrica hype and the Hologram nostalgia kick the city was on. We need to get this track laid down so we've a B side for the new single, and we need to decide what the new single is going to be. One from the album, obviously...but we never decided which before Syl went away."
"Maybe we should do that before we set down a B track." Topaz suggested. "After all, we only had the scripts for that song yesterday and we don't want it to clash horribly with what we release."
"I thought the plan was to release 'Letting You Go'." Sadie put in absently, flicking through the pages of the magazine idly as she did so. "That was how I understood it."
"It's a mushy love song." Nancy sighed. "I do hate those."
"Nothing wrong with a love song." Topaz reasoned. "Not everyone's as averse to it as you are, Nance."
"And it's not exactly your classic love tragedy ballad." Sylva agreed. "Nothing Jewel ever does is formula, so it's not like we're slipping into that rut."
She cast a glance at Nancy.
"If you wrote it, why do you hate the idea of releasing it so much?"
"I didn't write it, and I don't hate it." Nancy shook her head. "Sadie and I wrote the melody, and she wrote the lyric. She's more poetic than I am, and I cannot write love song lyrics to save my life."
"Well, I like it." Copper shrugged. "There's a couple of nice drum sections and a guitar solo. I vote we go for it."
"I'm with that." Topaz nodded. "I like singing it. It's got a really pretty vocal line."
"Then I guess that's what we're doing." Nancy looked rueful. "Don't ever say I'm not democratic, okay? We'll release it."
"Then the B track you wrote will be fine." Sadie shrugged her shoulders. "It's up-tempo and has a bite. It'll make a great contrast without being too much. Nothing to worry about."
"Except laying it down, of course, which means we need to practice it." Nancy responded. "Are you done with that magazine, Sadie? It'd be nice to do some playing today."
"Sure." Sadie nodded. "I...hey, hang on a minute."
"What?" Sylva, who had been setting up her keyboard glanced up, curiosity in her blue eyes. "Something else in there other than the interview?"
"Sort of." An amused smile touched Sadie's lips. "Nance, have you seen this? It's a hoot."
"Huh?" Nancy's brows knitted together. "What do you mean?"
"Well, after your recent tirade on mushy love songs and romance..." Sadie giggled. "Get a load of this. Music Bizz have a two page spread on celebrity couples and whether or not publicity romances can hold up under the strain. They mention you and Dean."
"What?" Her music forgotten, Nancy was by her friend's side in a moment. "What exactly do they say?"
Sadie held out the magazine and Nancy took it, glancing at the article. She uttered a curse.
"What did they write, Nance?" Copper asked. "Something bad?"
"Something unexpected, I think that'd be a better word." Nancy tossed it down onto the unit. "God knows why they waste their time on speculating. They obviously don't have a clue what they're talking about."
"Let's see." Sylva grabbed the magazine up, scanning the article. She let out a snort.
"Jewel's songwriter Goldie and tv presenter Dean Stacey are one of the longest running couples in celebrity Los Angeles, and the secret of their success seems to be in their ability to keep their private lives away from the masses." She read aloud. "Secretive and shy they may be, but their solidarity speaks for itself. Rumours abound that Dean has already asked the special question and Music Bizz would not be surprised to see another white wedding at the Starlight Mansion before 2015 is out."
"Nancy?" Topaz's eyes widened. "Has he?"
"No, he has not!" Nancy reddened, shaking her head. "He's never asked me and I've never asked him, so they're making it up. We don't even talk about marriage and that stuff, so they're totally crazy. Can we leave the stupid press alone for one morning and get back to what we're meant to be doing? It's just speculation, I told you, and I get sick of other people trying to define me and my intentions in life. We don't all want to stick rings on our fingers and settle down, you know!"
"Woah, girl, cool down." Copper laughed. "It's flattering, even if it isn't true. And you and Dean have been a couple a long time, you know. I guess it's natural for them to jump to that conclusion."
"Well, they shouldn't." Nancy said firmly. "And that's all I'm saying on the subject, thank you. It's crazy and it's not getting our song done."
She reached into her folder, pulling out her copy of the song's manuscript. "So can we work now? Please?"
Prologue: Flashback - Sadie's
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2015
Chapter Two: Enter The Stray
Chapter Three: Flashback - Sadie's Song
Chapter Four: Nerves
Chapter Five: The Dean Stacey Show
Chapter Six: Flashback - School Concert
Chapter Seven: Sandra Bray
Chapter Eight: The Dean Problem
Chapter Nine: Cursed
Chapter Ten: Flashback - Stir
Chapter Eleven: Secrets
Chapter Twelve: Robin Vs Nancy
Chapter Thirteen: In The Line Of Duty
Chapter Fourteen: Flashback - Griefstruck
Chapter Fifteen: Aftermath
Chapter Sixteen: Jewel Consult
Chapter Seventeen: Forever Changed