Chapter One: Discontent
"This is a nice place, you know."
Aurora Stapleton perched on the windowsill of the small living room, peering out of the window at the view below. "When you told me what you and Aaron had managed to negotiate in terms of rent, I imagined you were gonna be living in a box. But it's nice."
Her companion cast her an amused grin, pausing in his rearrangement of the bookshelf.
"I thought you came here to help, you know." He teased. "Not to sit and gawp at the view. Ain't you seen enough of San Diego since you've lived in America? I was under the impression Jewel played a lot of shows 'ere."
"We do." Aurora blushed, getting to her feet. "Sorry, Cam. What did you want me to do?"
"Well, I'm done with this shelf." Cameron Milligan set the last book in place, turning to face her. "But I can think of other things I might like to do."
He caught her in a playful embrace, kissing her on the forehead, and she laughed.
"Is that the real reason you asked me to come out here?" She scolded. "And I thought perhaps you were feeling confused and homesick in a new country. I took pity on you, and you just want to fool around?"
"It's been a bloody long time since I've been able to." Cameron told her bluntly. "An' I know we said we'd take things bit by bit, like, but even in England we didn't get much time alone. Not with 'Ollie. Since Cynthia 'as her this mornin', I thought I'd take advantage."
"Speaking of Hollie...where's she going to sleep when she comes to stay with Daddy?" Aurora disentangled herself from his embrace, slipping a hand into his and squeezing it. "I presume there's a second bedroom?"
"No...not exactly." Cameron looked rueful. "But there is a box-room at the back of the flat. I'm shiftin' junk out of that an' I figured it'd do for 'Ollie's crib an' stuff. It ain't big, but nor is she. An' she won't be 'ere every weekend. Only when it works out for me to 'ave her. I 'ave thought it out, Rora - I just 'ave a lot to settle."
He bit his lip. "And I am stranded in a strange city. I don't know many people in America, an' all those I do know live in Los Angeles. I guess it is a bit strange."
"Oh, you'll be fine." Aurora kissed him tenderly. "I know you will. When do you start your life as a resident?"
"Tomorrow." Cameron admitted. "First day an' all that."
"Well, you're a damn good doctor, according to your diploma." She teased. "So go out there and show them."
"Dr Cameron Milligan." Cameron said aloud. "It sounds impressive, don't it?"
"It does. Very." Aurora nodded. She paused, then, "I'm glad you're here, Cam. Even if it's not Los Angeles. And I'm glad we've made up. Hollie needs her Dad, but I need you. And, well, Jewel needs me, so I can't leave Los Angeles. This seems like a good compromise."
"Are Jewel busy at the moment?" Cameron asked. Aurora shrugged.
"On and off." She agreed. "Working on a new song that's driving us all a little scatty. Nancy's gone for some bizarre key change or something...I don't quite know where she dreamt it all up. It sounds fabulous when she plays it. Unfortunately, at the moment she's the only one who can. And it's difficult to sing over a backing track that's out of sync."
"Sounds like fun." He said, amused. Aurora grimaced.
"You're telling me." She responded. "Actually, I think it might have something to do with the new guy Nancy's been hanging out with."
"Guy?" Cameron looked surprised. "I thought she was all in all into her music...am I wrong?"
"It's the weirdest thing, actually." Aurora looked pensive. "She's dated Dean Stacey for ages. I mean, years. You remember Dean, right?"
"Yes. Nice bloke."
"Well, we thought they were pretty settled. Actually, really settled." Aurora pursed her lips. "But now, suddenly, they're not going together any more. And Nancy doesn't really talk about it. She and Dean seem fine when we play his show - but it's a weird kind of fine, like it's not entirely natural. She says they're friends, but it's still strange. And then, out of the blue, she starts hanging out with this other guy...Robin Sheppard."
"Do I know 'im?"
"No...no." Aurora shook her head. "He's a new Misfits Music signing. At one point we thought he was more interested in Starlight Music and Syl's cousin Sammi, but apparently not. And Nancy says they're just friends and all...but it's strange. He's a weird dude, Cam. Kinda dark and brooding and, well, creepy on occasion. He has these eyes which look right through you when he wants, and he badly needs a haircut."
"So he's a zombie neanderthal...so what?"
"That's it. He's not." Aurora spread her hands. "He's actually a damn good singer, despite it all. Writer, too. He's just...well...odd. Honestly, aside from their interest in music, I don't know what he and Nancy have in common. But it has caused a few disagreements in camp, I have to admit. Things can be tense when that subject comes up."
"You girls sweat over the oddest things." He said affectionately. "No bloke would care who his mates were 'ittin' on, unless it was 'is bird they were tryin' it on with. That's the truth."
"Well, there's noone hitting on this bird." She teased. "And even if there was, she's definitely taken. And has been for a very long time."
She kissed him.
"And if you don't need me here, I ought to get going. I have to pick Hol up from home so Cyn and I can both head into Misfits Music. I have a practice at two, and she has some kind of technical meeting, so I'd better not make us both late."
"All right." Cameron looked wistful, but he nodded. "Gimme a call later, okay?"
"I will, if you can find your phone in all this mess." Aurora promised. "And I'll tell Hollie Daddy says hi, too."
"That was the next thing I was gonna say." Cameron grinned. "But if you can, put 'er on the line later. I'll say it myself."
"Deal." Aurora dimpled. She grabbed her jacket up off the back of the sofa, kissing him on the cheek. "And now, I ought to fly. Speak to you tonight!"
With that she was gone, and Cameron moved to the window to watch for the familiar blond figure as she crossed the road to her car. He bit his lip.
"One day you'll stop over 'ere for the night, like it used to be." He murmured. "But I guess you're right about takin' it slow. We 'ave to, for Hollie, and for our own sanity. I've just missed you so damn much."
He shrugged, turning back to the chaotic living room.
"Oh well. God knows I've enough on my plate as it is." He acknowledged. "An' there's time enough yet. No 'urry. I'm in the right country now, and it's a start. Let's just see 'ow it pans out!"
* * * * * * * * * *
"And so that's the bottom line."
Rory Llewelyn cast a glance around at the assembled group of people, dropping the folder down onto his desk. "Getting this contract for Rebel Records was no mean feat, I'm telling you. In fact, if it wasn't that Diablo's newest album has been selling up a storm, I don't know that they'd have been convinced. We do have the PR for this kind of compilation to be a success, and I was afraid that bitch at Misfits Music was going to snatch it out from under us. Thankfully Sophie met with Mr Rallett yesterday, and papers were signed."
He cast the lady at his right hand a slight smile, which was returned with a wink.
"What exactly is this contract, Rory?" The room's other female occupant, a slim blond put in, her tones delicately laced with the hints of a German accent. "A compilation - of what? Will your Diablo be appearing, or is this beneath them?"
"There's nothing wrong with Diablo, Minx." Rory said, warning in his eyes. "But no, they're far too busy. They're Rebel Records' big seller, and, since Stefana seems to have pulled herself together and started to focus on her music, they've been doing very well for themselves."
He flicked open the file, pulling out a few sheets. "I have already mentioned it off the record to Chris Dallas from Ghost, and a couple of our other acts, though. He seemed keen to be a part of it - remembering that this is going to be an international rock release, we want to be sure we have some strong contenders on it, and Ghost are snapping at the heels of the top ten all the time these days. We've also begun negotiations with other companies and their acts - on our terms, of course."
"Other companies?" A man in a suit asked, raising his eyebrow. "Mr Llewelyn - not Misfits Music?"
"I wouldn't have their artists on my project if they paid me." Rory was scathing. "No. But I have mentioned it to Aja at Starlight Music. She said she'd discuss it with her new assistant and be in touch."
He looked pensive. "I must say that, as ever, Starlight Music is much easier to talk business matters with than Misfits Music."
"So Ghost and a few Starlight Music bands." The slim blond pursed her lips. "I presume you have others in mind, too - otherwise I do not see how this is going to be a big selling album."
Rory banged his fist down on the desk.
"It's going to be a big seller because we're going to make it one." He snapped. "Minx, your expertise is always welcome on the subject of music and score, but I'd appreciate it if you'd leave the managerial decisions to people who have greater experience and knowledge in that field. I am perfectly able to build up a repertoire of songs that will catch people's attention...not only that, but publicise it on such a wide scale, the company will stand to make a fortune from it."
"Well, it all sounds good to me." The man in the suit remarked. He checked his watch. "I have a meeting with the rest of the marketing department in two minutes, Mr Llewelyn, so I'd better be moving. Shall I pass this on to them?"
"Yes, David, please do." Rory nodded. "It never hurts for them to be aware of what's going on, and everything they've been doing for Diablo's new release has been excellent. I hope to be using a similar strategy to push this out there, so tell them to get working on it."
"Will do." David nodded his head. He got to his feet, nodding to the two women, and leaving the office.
The door clicked shut behind him, and Rory began to gather together his papers.
"So that's it, girls." He said matter-of-factly. "Meeting is over."
"Not quite." The blond shook her head, folding her arms across her chest. "Riot, do you realise how full of yourself you have become since Diablo began to break into the big time?"
"I beg your pardon?" Rory paused in what he was doing, casting her a startled look.
"I am Ingrid Krueger." The blond said softly. "Does that name mean anything to you? It should. It's won many many songwriting awards. Even when we were Stingers. Perhaps I don't run this company, but my music is a big part of it's success. You know that my songs will likely be involved in this album. Just because I'm not part of the day to day administration here, it does not mean I am incapable of putting forward suggestions or ideas to make those things better."
"Minx, I haven't time for this now." Rory sounded impatient. "I have another meeting in half an hour across town. Can't it wait?"
"I don't see why it should." Ingrid said coldly. "When this company began, it began as the Stingers' answer to Misfits Music and Starlight Music. It's never been Stingers Sound, but you brought Sophie and I both into this because, you said, you wanted it to be like old times. To have people you trusted close enough to make it a success. Rapture chose not to stick around - I begin to understand why that was. Power has more than gone to your head...all you care about these days is Diablo and spiting that bitch at Misfits Music."
"Minx, I am not contesting your songwriting ability. I never have." Rory got to his feet. "But there are things you don't understand about running this company. I don't have the time to explain this to you now, but I know that if you think it out, you'll realise that I'm right."
He cast Sophie a glance.
"Will you be okay here, if I go across the city for a while? There's a lot to oversee this afternoon - do you want me to call Sullivan to make sure it all goes to plan?"
"I believe I can keep it in 'and, Rory." Sophie said comfortably, lazily rolling the 'r' at the start of his name. "You go to your meeting."
"Right." Rory grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair, heading for the door. He pulled it open, then paused.
"You know, this is going to be a success." He said quietly. "I know what I'm doing, and I'd appreciate having the support of my full team. If we all stick to what we're good at, and don't lose sight of the bigger picture, we'll be fine. Just think on that, all right? We'll speak later."
With that he was gone, and Ingrid banged her hands down on the desk in frustration.
"Ooh, sometimes I could happily pull his hair out!" She exclaimed. Sophie cast her friend an interested look.
"You seem put out with him today." She remarked conversationally, her words touched with a pretty French accent. "For the number of years you've known him, Minx, I'm surprised that you've only now begun to question his pigheaded certainty that 'e knows what 'e's doing."
"Why don't you question it, then, if you know it's there!"
"Ah, I like a quiet life." Sophie shrugged her shoulders. "I have learnt that men will always believe they are in charge. And it does no 'arm to let them think that way. It makes them 'appy...and it makes our lives so much easier."
She winked. "I've lived with him long enough. The trick is, of course, not to lay every card down in front of 'im face up. He may speak to you again about this, but Minx, you'll get nothing from it. That's how Rory works."
"Well, I'm getting very fed up with it." Ingrid rested her chin in her hands. "You know, I've even been thinking lately that he made a bad move, kicking Sirena out and going all into this Diablo group. They're far too self-sufficient for my liking. He has no control over them. They might make good music, but he can't manipulate them as easily as he did that girl, when she was here."
"He lost control of her, too, you know." Sophie stretched out a hand, glancing at her fingernails. "Manipulation isn't really a male strength. No, letting go of Sirena was the right thing to do at the time. She was a liability, with a child and an unpredictable temper to deal with. And Diablo 'ave been profitable. In a business sense, that matters."
"So you're all keen on this group too?" Ingrid looked disgusted. Sophie laughed, shaking her head.
"I couldn't care less about any of them." She said simply. "But if they mean I can go shopping and buy what I want, then I'll go with that. Rory is not ungenerous in that department, and I 'ave a great deal of freedom and power, if I choose to use it here. There's just never any need. He takes care of all the hard business. I just step in when he can't cope...like I did with Rallett the other night."
She looked amused. "I find that kind of business fun. It reminds me of being back in France, and sometimes I miss that life."
"Well, it's all fine for you." Ingrid groaned. "When Sirena was on his books, I wrote her songs. Since he began relying on these bands, like Diablo and Ghost, well, he's called on me less and less to write for his principal acts. And I still get a good wage, but it's like I've been pushed into a closet until the next time he needs me. He no longer listens to my opinion on anything, and it's beginning to drive me crazy!"
"Shh." Sophie got to her feet, coming to put an arm around her friend. "Have patience. He is excited about 'is new project. Give 'im time. If he sees things don't work his way, he will come around to other ways of thinking."
She grinned. "You just have to make him think they're his ways of thinking. That's all."
"Well, perhaps I've had enough of pandering to his ego." Ingrid groaned. "All right. I've nothing to do here, so I might as well go home. Have fun overseeing his business for him, won't you? No doubt he will call you when his meeting is done to make sure the company hasn't fallen apart!"
"Undoubtedly." A wry smile curled around the edges of Sophie's lips. "But I find it much better that 'e underestimates Sophie Devereux, Minx. He has come to believe - as the world believes - that I was led into crime by my late husband, and constantly under his influence. Now he thinks me under his. I don't challenge that opinion. I find it much easier when he doesn't know what I'm really capable of...should the need ever arise to do it."
She winked. "And now, I must go down to the tax department and discuss some figures with them. A plus tard, mon amie. I trust when we speak again, all will be once more settled!"
PART ONE: MEMENTO MORI
Prologue: Emmet's Task
Chapter One: Discontent
Chapter Two: Jewel In Session
Chapter Three: Mirage
Chapter Four: The Contact
Chapter Five: Le Klub Kool
Chapter Six: Sullivan
Chapter Seven: Cracks
Chapter Eight: Illusion
Chapter Nine: Jacqui
Chapter Ten: Marissa Demands
Chapter Eleven: Stefana's Warning
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
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 www.teenangeloutsiders.com!
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.