Gold Diggers (Adult, AU, CC, Mature) Complete 09/22

Finished stories that feature the characters from the show, but there are no aliens. All fics completed on the main AU without Aliens board will eventually be moved here.

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nibbles2
Obsessed Roswellian
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Postby nibbles2 » Sun Aug 12, 2007 4:40 pm

Massive thanks to Orangesky for all the help.

Sternbetrachter wrote:
As for Michael and Alex being related, they’re not buuuuuut…. There’s a relationship.
ah! so they are dating! :lol:


I literally cried with laughter when I read that. :lol:





Chapter 21


If Max had any lingering ideas that Michael was going to give him an easy ride in his new job, they were quashed soon after his arrival at the Evans Ltd. Building. He had to first report to the personnel department where he received a stern rebuke from a middle-aged woman named Cheryl for arriving so late on his first day. He then had to sit and listen as she talked him through the rules that he would have to obey: the dress code, the anti-sexual harassment code, the internet user code and a whole list of others that he knew he’d never remember. After that speech she left him alone to watch an introductory film about Evans Ltd. that included an impersonal message from his father welcoming the new employee into the fold and wishing him well in his career.

Cheryl returned, and he was taken down to the security desk to be issued his new ID card and pass. When he complained that his ID photo looked like a corpse, Cheryl met him with an indifferent look and simply hurried him back into the elevator. Max realised that instead of being nervous of bossing an Evans around, Cheryl was enjoying the task. And he had a feeling that Michael had chosen her especially for him.

She brought him to the third floor and to a small office overlooking an alleyway. The sign on the door read, ‘Stationary Department.’

“This is where you’ll be working from,” Cheryl informed Max with a smile. “Nancy will be along soon to show you the ropes. If you need anything else just let me know.” If he really had needed anything else, it wouldn’t have mattered. She was gone before Max had a chance to open his mouth.

The office was small and dark but neat and clean. There was a hatch looking out into the empty hallway and a heavy looking gray door set in one wall. It was locked. Large files and folders were lined along shelves on the wall, their titles in strange abbreviations and initials that made no sense to him. He sat at the ordinary plastic desk, a far cry from the beautiful ornate wooden ones in Michael’s and his father’s offices. The chair was a normal desk chair, certainly not the fancy one that Michael used. It was set so high up that his knees barely fit under the desk.

He reached for the lever to let it down but a voice stopped him. “Adjust that chair and you die.”

Max jumped in surprise and looked up to find a short woman glaring at him through the hatch. He stood up as she walked through the door.

“That’s my desk.”

“I’m sorry. Cheryl from personnel brought me here. I thought –”

“I’m Nancy. Not Nance, not Nan and not the Nazi. I sit at the desk because I’m the boss. So you can stop thinking. I tell you what to do and you do it. No arguments. Understood?”

“Uh….yeah.”

“Good. Follow me.” Nancy produced a key from her pocket and unlocked the heavy gray door. It led to a room stacked high with all kinds of stationary. There were no windows and the walls were painted a drab off white.

“This is where we keep the company’s stationary. It must be kept locked at all times unless you or I are here. Everything that goes in and goes out must be noted down in this ledger. Nobody is allowed to take anything out unless I have approved it. If they want anything, they submit a request by email. I make delivery rounds twice a day. Understand?”

Again Max nodded.

Nancy gave him a strange little file and handed him a sheaf of papers. “This is the weekly inventory. I need you to count everything here and tick it off on the list. For example, we should have thirty-three boxes of 2b pencils. One box is open and there should be seventy in it. Make sure that we have the correct number of boxes, and the correct number of pencils in the open box. Also, make sure that there are only 2b pencils in that box. If the number is incorrect, check the ledger to see if any were taken since the inventory was printed out. Understand?”

Max looked at her in disbelief. Was she actually serious? The stern expression on her face certainly looked as if she was serious. “It’ll take me all week to do that.”

“Yes.”

“And this is something that has to be done weekly?”

“Yes. You might think that this is a pointless job and that I am too strict, but most companies lose thousands of dollars a year on stationary and supplies that are wasted unnecessarily by employees. I run a tight ship, Evans. Understand?”

Max understood perfectly. Michael had chosen this job for him to make him suffer. He had two choices, grin and bear it or quit and bring his father’s anger and disappointment down on his head. He had made a promise and he was determined to stick to it. If that meant spending months locked in the supply closet under the close watch of the Stationary Nazi, then that was what he was going to do. Max reached out and took the inventory list from her. “I understand.”


***



Maria watched through narrowed eyes as the social worker chatted to the doctors and occasionally scribbled something in her notebook. She would have given anything to know what was being said and what was being written down. One of the doctors spotted her and waved his hand in her direction, causing the others to spin around. Maria quickly made herself look busy.

A few minutes later a hand tapped her on the shoulder. “Excuse me, Nurse Deluca. My name is Sandra Lopez. I’m the social worker on Maddie’s case. I wonder…are you free for a few minutes?”

“Sure.” Maria smoothed down her uniform and followed her into the office.

“The doctors have been filling me in on Maddie’s treatment. It’s wonderful to hear that somebody has paid for her to receive the metsophomine treatment. I see so many babies in Maddie’s condition and it’s heartbreaking to see such innocent little babies go through it. I only wish there were a way for them all to receive it.”

“Me too.” Maria smiled sadly and felt herself relax. For some reason she had been dreading the visit of the social worker and the possible consequences it would have for Maddie but she realized that her fears were unfounded. This woman was on the same team.

“Do you have any idea who the mystery donor is?”

Maria shook her head. “None I’m afraid. I…kind of think Michael Guerin might have something to do with it, but I’m not sure.”

Sandra made a note of his name. “He has been coming to see her I understand.”

“He’s been here a couple of times. His mother is sick, so he’s in the hospital a lot and he calls up here after he’s done visiting his mother.”

“I see. And there has been nobody else?”

“A couple of different people showed up claiming to be the parents, but I didn’t meet any of them. The police are satisfied that they had nothing to do with Maddie and that they had just read about it in the papers.”

“Yes, I’ve heard about them too.”
“What’s going to happen to her?” Maria asked, unable to keep the desperate worry out of her voice.

“Her future is a little uncertain at the moment. We’re in the process of making her a ward of the court. Once she has been released from here she will most likely go into foster care. After that, I really can’t say. I’d like to think that she could be adopted but without the mother’s consent, she will probably remain in the foster care system.”

“Even though the mother just left her under a car and ran?”

Sandra sighed and nodded sadly. “I’m afraid so.”

Tears came to Maria’s eyes and she blinked hard. “It’s not fair. After everything she’s been through already….”

“I know. If there was anything else I could do for her, I would.” Sandra slipped her notebook into her briefcase and pulled out a pamphlet. “You care a lot for her.”

“Of course.”

“Have you ever considered applying to foster? I’m sure that you would be accepted and we could make a good case for Maddie to be given to your care.”

“Really?” The idea had never struck Maria as a possibility before, but she found herself intrigued by it. “Even though I’m single, I could still foster?”

Sandra smiled and handed her the pamphlet. “Of course. Why don’t you look through this and consider it. If it is something you are interested in doing, then the sooner you apply the better.”

“Thank you.”

She and Sandra shook hands and the social worker left the ward. Maria tucked the pamphlet and Sandra’s card into her pocket and let herself into Maddie’s room.

“Hi sweetie,” she cooed to the sleeping infant. Maria ran her finger down Maddie’s arm. “Guess what? You might be able to come and live with me when you get out of here. Would you like that?”

Maddie grasped Maria’s finger in her tiny hand without waking. Maria grinned proudly at the sleeping girl. She had made so much progress in the last twenty-four hours. Maria sat down in the chair to watch Maddie sleep, her mind already planning how to make the little girl hers.

***



A silver Porsche, badly parked across two spaces, blocked Alex’s own reserved spot when he returned to the center after a meeting. He squeezed his battered Jeep halfway into another space and halfway up on the curb and walked toward the front doors.

He could hear two voices yelling from the center even from the parking lot. One of them was the distinct accent of Karl, their New Zealander counselor. The other voice, a female voice, was one that Alex recognized with a sinking heart.

“You can’t fucking stop me.” Izzie was trying to push past the Kiwi.

“Alex,” Karl called in relief.

“What’s going on?” Alex demanded.

“This retard won’t let me in,” Izzie pouted. She was wearing dark sunglasses that covered most of her face, but Alex didn’t need to see her eyes to know she was wasted. After a while in his job, he had learned how to spot it.

“I’m sorry Izzie, but I’m afraid Karl’s right. You can’t come in here while you’re under the influence of drugs.”

“I am not under the influence of anything.” Isabel’s outrage was almost convincing.

Alex nodded his head for Karl to leave them. He grasped Isabel gently by the arm and led her outside. “Izzie, I’m sorry. As a volunteer here you are expected to behave in a certain manner because you have a degree of influence over the people who use this center. I can’t allow you to come in while you’re in this state. Not as a volunteer.”

Isabel threw back her head and laughed bitterly. “What are you suggesting? That I should come here? I’m not like these losers. So what if I’ve taken a couple of pills. It’s no big deal. I’m under a lot of stress at the moment.”

“I’m sure you are Izzie,” Alex responded genuinely. “And whatever it is, I’m here for you. If you need to talk, I’ll listen. Drugs aren’t the answer Izzie.”

“Drugs aren’t the answer. God, you sound like one of them. You don’t understand. Nobody understands what I’m going through. You said you were my friend but you’re just like the rest of them. Well screw you, Alex. Screw you and your stupid center. It’s going to be a mall in a few months anyway.” She wrenched her arm away from Alex and turned to walk away. As she marched towards her car she fumbled in her purse for her keys, spilling makeup and tampons along the way.

Alex hurried after her, scooping up what she had dropped. He caught up to her just as she was about to open the car door and thrust her belongings at her. Surprised, Isabel reached out for them and dropped her keys as she did so. Alex grabbed her keys and pocketed them.

She rolled her eyes. “Oh please. Give me a break. I’m okay to drive.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” Alex snorted waving his hand at the badly parked car. “You have two options here. You can either fight me for the keys, in which case I’ll call the cops and report you for a DUI, or you can let me call you a cab.”

“Whatever.”

Alex glanced down the street, knowing that Karl would have called a cab after he had gone back inside. Surely enough, one pulled up in front of them about thirty seconds later.

Izzie tossed Alex what he guessed was a dirty look under her dark lenses and climbed in. He leaned in the window and spoke quietly to her.

“I’m here when you need me Izzie.”

“Yeah right. Like I’m ever coming back to this dump again.”

“She’ll be back for her car,” Karl pointed out as Alex walked back into the center clearly dejected.

“Thanks man. Can you round up everybody? We need to have a meeting in my office.”

Twenty minutes later twelve counselors were crowded into the tiny space. There was an air of gloom already and Alex knew that they had guessed what was coming. Alex decided to cut to the chase.

“I’ve just come back from a meeting with the Downtown Drugs Project. As you know they’ve been one of the main backers of the center since we opened. Unfortunately, they now feel that the money we receive could be better spent elsewhere and so effective next month, they will be withdrawing funding.”

“All of it?”

“They’re not even going to see out the budgetary year?”

“How can they do that? They were raving about us the last time they were here for an inspection, and that was only a few months ago.”

Karl pounded the desk with his fist. “Is it them?” He asked through gritted teeth.

Alex didn’t need to ask who ‘them’ referred to. “The DDP denied it of course. But it might interest you to know that the Evans Family foundation has offered to build a new Detox center for the DDP, to be announced next month.”

“So what now?” asked Sara, another of the counselors. “There are other organizations that fund projects like ours, aren’t there? We just have to get another one.”

“It’s not that simple. I’ve been looking into it in the last few months because of the difficulties we’ve been having. I was hoping to find assistance to fund procedures or maybe another counselor to replace the ones we lost, but I haven’t had any luck. Realistically, the chances of finding another group willing to provide the amount that the DDP were funding us is bleak.”

“So is that it? Are we finished?”

Alex shook his head vehemently. “Absolutely not. Nothing’s over yet. I’ll keep searching for a backer. If you know of anybody we could try, please let me know. In the meantime, it’s business as normal here. Speaking of which, back to work everybody. Thank you for your time.”

The counselors filed out quietly though he could hear them murmuring furiously in the hallway. He wondered how many would hand in their notice before the week was out. Not that he blamed them. He’d jump from the sinking ship too if he hadn’t invested so much in it.


***


“Maria Summer Deluca, born January eleventh, nineteen eighty-three to Amy Deluca, a single mother. No father in the picture. Grew up in California. Traveled around Europe for eight months after leaving high school before becoming a nurse. Has worked at St John of God’s for the last three years. Is a specialist in neo natal nursing. No spouse or significant life partner. Rents an apartment. Has no criminal record. Appears to have been injured or assaulted during an incident at a party in her senior year at school, details are sketchy. I’ve included any newspaper clippings I could find.”

Michael flipped through the file quickly before looking back up at his detective. “Any connections to me or Evans Limited?”

“None that I can find, but I’ll keep digging. It’s not uncommon for people to take an irrational dislike of celebrities or rich people from knowing very little about them. And…uh…well, the behavior of your brother and sister is well documented in the press. Many people find them…well…Frankly, there are as many anti Isabel and Max websites as there are fansites.”

“I think Maria’s dislike is personal for some reason.” A thought struck Michael that turned him cold. David Evans had died in the summer of 1982, which meant that it was possible. “When you say her father isn’t in the picture, what does that mean? Do you know who he is?”

“A Brian Deluca, he married Amy in the fall of nineteen eighty-one but skipped town in December just before Maria was born.”

Michael let out a sigh of relief that he didn’t know he was holding. Somehow the idea that Maria could be his half – sister was really, really disturbing. But that still didn’t explain her hatred of everything Evans and him in particular. “Ok. It’s important, so make this your priority.”

Chris’s eyebrows shot up. “Uh….yes sir. And the other project?”

Michael turned in his chair to face out the window of his office. He said nothing for a number of minutes, his mind in turmoil as he debated his options. Eventually he swung back around. “Go ahead as discussed.”

“Very good sir.” Chris nodded and left.

Alone, Michael replayed the conversation with Chris in his mind. Why did he care whether Maria liked him or not? He didn’t care what anybody else thought of him, so what made her opinion so special?

He leaned back in his chair and sighed. He already knew the answer. It was the same reason he had felt relief when Chris had confirmed that Maria wasn’t David Evans’ daughter. It was because he was falling for her.

“Shit.”

Wasn’t it bad enough that he was starting to care about Maddie? Why did he have to fall for the nurse too? What had happened to the stone wall that he had so carefully re-erected after Carla? It was supposed to be impenetrable. Anybody who had got through it before had to fight long and hard to crack it and suddenly a little baby girl and a woman who hated him were walking through it as if it didn’t exist? What the hell was wrong with him?

There was only one thing to do about it. He had to stay away from them both. No more visits to see Maddie, no more breakfasts with Maria. They would be fine without him. After all, Maddie was getting the treatment she needed so badly. And he certainly didn’t need them.

Michael didn’t need anybody.


***



Max was beginning to think that five o’clock would never come. The day had dragged on and on until he thought he would lose his mind.

If he never saw another pen again, it would be a thousand years too soon. Somehow Max was going to have to get himself out of bed the following day to come back in and do it all over again. And the day after that. And the day after that. And every day for the foreseeable future until Michael decided to move him. Max figured that when Michael did finally move him, it would be into another job as equally hellish as this one was. Still, Max had to wonder. Could there really be another job as bad as counting pencils?

At last Nancy bellowed, “Time to go.”

He jumped down from the ladder he was perched on and tried to make a bolt for freedom, but it wasn’t that easy. Nancy made him wait as she checked the pages he had been completing all day, then produced a number of ledgers and entered figures into them. Finally she closed them with a snap and returned them to their places on the shelves behind her.

“Can I go now?” Max asked.

Nancy’s eyes drifted down to where his hands were stuffed into the pockets of his chinos. She looked suspicious and Max fully expected her to demand that he empty his pockets before he left to make sure that he wasn’t trying to steal a red pen or a bottle of white out.

“You may go,” she said at last, almost sounding friendly. “See you tomorrow.”


***



Surprisingly, there was a silver lining to the job from hell as Max found out later that night.

He had told Liz all about his first day at work and she was full of sympathy for him. Seeing her beautiful brown eyes fill with compassion for him made the whole thing worthwhile.

“That sounds horrible, Max. You poor thing.” She placed her hand on his knee and squeezed his leg gently.

“And I get to do it every day,” Max added with a grim smile. He poured himself a glass of champagne and swallowed it down in one go.

“I couldn’t do it. I’d lose my mind. But at least you get to keep your clothes on,” Liz joked.

Max’s chest swelled. Liz sounded as if she admired him for what he had done, as though putting up with Nancy and the hundreds of pencils was something to be proud of. He returned her smile. “I can just about imagine Nancy’s face if I started stripping. I think it would kill her.”

Liz giggled at the thought before sobering up. “I can’t believe that your brother is making you do that. What a jerk.”

“Yeah, but I had it coming.”

“Why? What did you do?”

He shook his head. “If I tell you, you’ll hate me.”

“I couldn’t hate you.”

Max looked over her shoulder at his own reflection in the mirror. He averted his gaze to the floor.

“Michael was engaged to a girl. Her name was Carla and she was perfect. She was beautiful and smart and sweet and perfect. You kind of remind me of her actually.”

He looked at Liz. She took his hand in hers and nodded for him to continue.

“I slept with her.”


***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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nibbles2
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Postby nibbles2 » Mon Sep 24, 2007 7:40 am

I’m back and I have a new part. It’s shorter than usual but what it lacks in length it makes up for in explanations.

Thank you everybody who has nominated me and voted for me in the recent awards. Thanks for reading, your support is amazing and really appreciated.

FSU/MSW-94 I’m no expert on family law either, and even if I were I’d be ignoring it. Certain things will happen in this fic and I’ll be making up laws to suit myself. But I’m glad to know that I’m not completely wrong.

RhondaAnn Yeah, Michael’s deluded if he thinks he can stay away from Maria and Maddie, but he’ll learn. And bonus points to you for finally guessing Michael’s parentage. Of course, there’s a whole lot more behind his being named Guerin which will come out eventually.

roswck Max wasn’t exactly thinking when he slept with Carla but he explains it better in this part. And while I have your attention will you be updating your fics soon?

Natalie36 Actually, Liz knows he’s a jerk. But she also knows he’s trying to change.

Cocogurl Liz won’t hate Max for this. She’s falling for him and as they say, love is blind.

Chrissie1218

Sternbetrachter

sydniepaige

behrlyliz As much as I’d love to answer your questions now, I’m not going to because making you all wait is far more fun for me. But they are key questions and will have a big impact later in the fic and not just on Michael’s story. I don’t know if I’d call sleeping with your brother’s fiancée a favor. I think there are better ways to let somebody know that their girlfriend is a gold digger.

confusedfool

roswell3053

BehrObsession
That's quite a bit of growth for him in a short time.
exactly, it’s probably more growth than he’s shown in his lifetime. And don’t worry about Liz’s reception at the Evan’s, that’s very, very far off. Besides after the change she’s affected in Max I’m sure that they’ll welcome her with open arms.

tequathisy I love your new avi, very steamy. Excellent questions. Not telling.

begonia9508 Isabel is a spoiled brat, but that doesn’t make her immune from having problems. If anything it makes her less able to cope with them when they arise. Don’t be expecting any road to Damascus type changes from Isabel any time soon.

Michelle in Yonkers As far as Maria is concerned, Michael Evans is the devil. Cloven feet, fire and brimstone, the whole works. It’s going to take something of sledgehammer proportions for her to take the leap from the kind, generous, wounded Michael Guerin to Satan. And he told her his mother’s name was Madeline. But it’s such fun writing them this way, because as you said, Maria wouldn’t let Michael see the real her if she knew who he was and he wouldn’t have given her the time of day if he had known she hated him and why earlier.

You are pretty spot on about Carla, as you’ll see in this part. And while I agree that Michael is better off without Carla, I don’t think he thank Max for the manner in which he proved it. Please don’t bet your house on Nancy liking Max. It’s not for nothing that she’s been nicknamed the Nazi. Or that Michael picked her.

VeronicB I think you hit the nail on the head, Isabel doesn’t think she’s got a real drug problem because it’s something she associates with poverty. And I think it’ll take people longer to identify that she has a problem because of preconceived misconceptions.

uw51 this update is sooner than the last one so…I’d love to be able to post long chapters the way you do every week without fail. How do you do that?

xmag Hmm, Carla fooled everybody not just Michael. She’s very clever and knows exactly what she’s doing. I thik you’ll have a better insight into her after this part.

loviedovie thank you

Tamashii

Maiqu I guess what it will come down to is which matters more, his hatred for the center (or whatever his problem with it is) and his feelings for Maria. He’s only known Maria a short time, the other…who knows how long that’s been festering. Welcome to roswellfanatics.

Illyria thank you.

maya

Empress_luci your cousin is very insightful. They’re not related but there’s definitely ‘a family secret thing going on...’

paper my evil plan to convert dreamers to candies is working, muah ha ha ha.

ultimatepickupline never say never, when you have money and power nothing is impossible. Now, who do we know who fit’s that description?

LairaBehr4 I’d better get some real feedback this time.

and a special thanks to

Orangesky Thank you Alli.


Previously.
Liz giggled at the thought before sobering up. “I can’t believe that your brother is making you do that. What a jerk.”

“Yeah, but I had it coming.”

“Why? What did you do?”

He shook his head. “If I tell you, you’ll hate me.”

“I couldn’t hate you.”

Max looked over her shoulder at his own reflection in the mirror. He averted his gaze to the floor.

“Michael was engaged to a girl. Her name was Carla and she was perfect. She was beautiful and smart and sweet and perfect. You kind of remind me of her actually.”

He looked at Liz. She took his hand in hers and nodded for him to continue.

“I slept with her.”





Chapter 22


Max noticed she didn’t seem surprised by his revelation. She looked disappointed, but not surprised. That hit him like a hammer blow. The worst thing he had done, the worst thing he could ever possibly do, and Liz wasn’t surprised he had done it. That was the type of person he was. That was the type of person she believed he was.

“Were you in love with her?” Liz asked softly.

Max shook his head. “No. I had a slight infatuation with her. I thought she was perfect. Plus she was forbidden fruit. Wanting something you can’t have always makes you want things more, you know? But I didn’t love her… I didn’t mean for it to happen. I never set out to sleep with her. I may have found her attractive, but I never actually wanted to sleep with her. She was Michael’s fiancée.”

“So what changed?”

“I don’t know.” Max sighed, drained the last of his champagne and stared into the bottom of his empty glass as if trying to find the answers. When he didn’t find them, he looked back up at Liz. “I’ll tell you the whole story.

“When Michael brought her home to meet us, they were already in a serious relationship. Michael wouldn’t have brought her home otherwise. My whole family fell in love with her straight away. She and Izzie were like sisters and my Mom worshipped her. My dad kept telling Michael that he had made a great choice. But I knew she was dangerous, right from the beginning. I knew that she was the type of girl that I would fall for. She was exactly like you: sweet and innocent and oh so beautiful. So I stayed away from her. I was friendly and welcoming but I never allowed myself to get too close to her. She and Michael got engaged soon after that.

Everything was fine for a while. She was just another one of the family and everyone was so happy for Michael. My mom is patron of a children’s charity and she organises a ball for it every year. It’s always a big thing and Carla offered to help her out. Michael and my dad were busy at work and Isabel was getting a lot of modelling work so they weren’t around much to help out and I got dragged onto the committee. Carla and I were working together. Our job was to get as many celebrities as we could to attend. We worked together for a few weeks and we got really close. We had so much in common, Liz. We liked the same kinds of movies…books…music. We could talk all day about everything. I… actually thought I was in love with her but she always treated my like I was a younger brother. She would tease me and talk my ear off about how great Michael was. Everyday was wonderful and terrible. Being with her was amazing, but it was torture at the same time. She used to kiss my cheek and play with my hair and pinch my biceps and it took all my will power not to touch her back.

The day of the ball, Michael flew to New York. There was some emergency with the company and he went so my Dad could stay with my Mom. Carla was devastated. I found her crying in one of the rooms at home and she told me that she and Michael were having problems. He worked too hard and she never got to see him. I was so angry with Michael for the way he treated her. But I wanted her to feel better, so I did my best to cheer her up, which basically meant getting drunk off our asses. At the end of the night, I took her back to her apartment. She kissed me goodnight and….”

“One thing led to another?” Liz supplied.

Max nodded his head grimly. “The next day we both promised to never mention it again. I moved out of the house and got my own place and avoided going home when I knew she and Michael would be there. I started going out every night and getting drunk and sleeping around. I was trying to erase it out of my mind altogether. Then a few weeks later, Mom called me in floods of tears to tell me that Michael had called off his engagement to Carla. He never really said why. He just said that it didn’t work out.”

Liz frowned. “So it wasn’t because of what happened between you and Carla?”

“No.”

“Did you tell him?”

“God no. He’d kill me.”

“Do you still have feelings for her?”

Max smiled, but it was a twisted, cynical smile. “No. A few weeks later, when it became clear that Michael wasn’t going to change his mind, Carla came to see me. She wanted two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”

Liz's eyes bugged. “For what?”

“Her silence.”

“She blackmailed you?”

Max nodded. “Yeah. Turns out, she wasn’t anything like the sweet innocent girl she pretended to be. She was an evil, gold digging, manipulative tramp who played us all right from the very beginning. I found out later that she had persuaded mom to get us to work together and she told me herself that I had walked right into her little trap. Our ‘friendship’ was completely fake. She played me like a violin. I think she knew that her relationship with Michael was on the rocks and I was her insurance in case she didn’t get her hands on his money. She set the whole thing up that night. There was a camera in her apartment and she has a tape of us having sex. She said that if I didn’t give her the money, she was going to show Michael the tape.”

All Liz could do was stare open mouthed at Max.

“I went to Isabel to ask her for help getting the tape. Only Carla had her hooks in Isabel too. She got Isabel into drugs and was supplying her with them. Isabel was so messed up, she helped Carla set me up.”

In shock, all Liz could do was stare at Max. She couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. She couldn’t believe that one person could wreak such havoc on people’s lives. She took a gulp of her drink. “Did you pay her the money?”

“What other choice did I have?”

“And was she satisfied with that? Has she left you alone since then?”

Max grimaced. “She keeps sending me bills. One day I got a bill for a really expensive car, another time it was a shopping spree at Louis Vuitton. One time she turned up at a hotel I was staying at in Hawaii and billed everything to my room. She had a guy with her and I ended up paying for their entire stay. Sometimes I even had to pay her rent.”

“She just sent you bills and you paid them?”

“I had to. If Michael ever found out what I had done to him…. He’s very big on loyalty. And….he’s always had issues because he was adopted. If he knew that I had betrayed him that way, he’d never forgive me. I’m his brother, he’s always looked out for me. If he knew that I had slept with Carla, he would think it meant that I don’t consider him my brother. And the worst thing is that she’s trying to get back with him. She’s been visiting Mom in the hospital. And Mom loves her, so she’ll use Mom to get to Michael and I’m afraid that she’ll use me and Isabel too.”

“Max, you can’t let her away with this. What she did to your family is criminal. If you tell your family what she did to you and your sister, then-”

“I can’t Liz. Michael can never know what I did to him. You don’t know him. He comes across as an ass and sometimes it’s like he doesn’t care about anybody, but that’s his way of protecting himself. He went through so much when he was a child. The last thing I want is for him to think that I would betray him.”

“Does Carla know that?”

“Of course. I pretty much told her that. She knew exactly what she was doing the whole time. And that’s why she’s coming back. She knows I’ll never say anything to him.”

Liz took his hand and squeezed it until Max looked up at her. It was the first time he had looked her in the eye since he began his story. “That’s what she’s counting on, Max. That’s what gives her the power. But maybe your brother knows she’s not the innocent sweet girl she pretended to be. If you and your sister tell him what she’s done to both of you he’ll see that you didn’t set out to betray him.”

“I can’t.”

“So you’ll sit back and fund her attempts to get back together with your brother even though she’s pure evil? You’ll allow her back into your mother’s life and your sister’s life even though you know that she could be harming them?”

Max hung his head mournfully. “I can’t stop her. But Michael and I used to be close. If I can get that back, maybe he’ll listen to me. Maybe I can protect him from her.”

“And what about you? Are you going to stay under her thumb for the rest of your life?”

He met her gaze again and nodded. “What I did was unforgivable and it’s only right that I pay for it for the rest of my life.”


***



“No way.”

Liz nodded her head vigorously and scooped another spoonful of ice cream from the carton. “It’s true.”

“Oh my God.” Maria was so captivated by Max’s story, she had barely moved at all. As a result, her spoonful of Phish Food was now a puddle on the table.

“He’s really beating himself up about it. I felt so sorry for him. He says that he goes out and gets drunk and sleeps with random girls just to try and forget what happened.”

Maria snorted with derision. Liz's last sentence was enough to break her out of her stupor and she began to dig into the ice cream carton with a vengeance. “Poor little Maxi…he’s so cut up about it that he goes out partying and living the playboy lifestyle to punish himself. What masochism.”

“I think that his whole lifestyle is an act. He pretends to be this jerk because then his actions make sense. He loves his brother and he’s really devastated that he hurt him. Acting like the type of guy who sleeps around and doesn’t care about others allows him to deal with what he did, because the type of guy he wants to be would never do that.”

“Ooookay.” Maria stood up and tossed her spoon into the sink. “It may be that it’s almost four thirty in the morning and I’m still half asleep, but what you said made absolutely no sense. You know what I think? I think that you’re really into Max and you’re making excuses for him so that you can justify liking him to yourself. I’m sure he has some nice qualities, but he’s also the type of guy who is happy to live off his parents, hang out at strip clubs and sleep with his brother’s fiancée.”

Liz shook her head. “There’s more to him than that Maria. He’s a good guy. Behind the shallow façade there’s pure gold.”

“I think you’re dreaming, Liz.”

“Promise you won’t tell anybody?” Liz called after Maria as the blonde made her way down the hall to her bedroom.

“I promise. Goodnight Liz.”

Liz put away the ice cream, washed their two spoons and made her way to her own bed. Even though she was exhausted and had to be up for classes in a few short hours, she couldn’t sleep. Her mind was buzzing and Liz had to tell somebody to help her process, so she had dragged a sleeping and grumpy Maria from her bed to tell her what Max had confided to her. Of course, Max had asked her not to mention it to anybody, but Maria didn’t really count. She wouldn’t tell a soul.

After tossing and turning for about an hour, Liz's eyes eventually drifted shut, one final, fleeting thought crossing her mind. What exactly had Max meant when he said she reminded him of Carla?


***




Max woke the next morning with a fresh sense of purpose. He felt lighter than he had in ages. As he showered quickly and hurried to get ready, he realized just how right that old cliché was. Confession really was good for the soul.

Max had made a resolution last night while talking to Liz that he was going to work on rebuilding his relationship with Michael, and he intended to stick to that resolution.

Max and Michael had been close as teenagers. In fact, it was really only in the last two years that a rift had grown between them. While Michael had been busy at work, Max had drifted aimlessly. They had little common ground, and only ever saw each other at home. Since Max had moved out of the family home in a deliberate attempt to avoid Michael and Carla, they very rarely saw each other. And neither of them went out of their way to spend time together. Michael pulled away from everybody, not just Max, when his relationship with Carla ended.

That was going to change.

Max called Michael’s cell that morning and arranged to meet Michael for breakfast. He was sure that Michael only agreed because he was so surprised.

They met in the breakfast bar at the IMM. Michael was there before Max and was scouring some documents, sipping a glass of orange juice, when Max arrived. Michael put the papers away in his briefcase and gave his brother his full attention. They exchanged the usual pleasantries, making small talk as the waitress served orange juice and coffee and took their order. Michael had spoken to his father shortly before Max arrived and was able to tell his brother that Diane had passed the night peacefully but there was no change in her condition.

“So, what’s up?” Michael asked after they had run out of the usual topics. His tone said that he thought he already knew what Max was going to say.

“I just wanted to catch up with you. We never hang out anymore. I don’t like that we don’t talk like we used to.” Max shrugged, surprising Michael for the second time that morning.

Michael looked at Max dubiously. “Okay. What’s brought this on?”

Max sighed. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy. “I guess seeing Mom in the hospital made me realise how far apart we’ve all grown. And I’m trying to make things better, in my life I mean. I know that I’ve messed things up and I want to improve myself. One of the things that I want to make better is my relationship with my family.”

“Alright. What else are you going to do?”

“I haven’t really got a plan yet but I’m going to stop going out partying and getting drunk all the time. I’m going to stop spending money that isn’t mine and I’m going to rebuild relationships with people I care about.”

“It all sounds great,” Michael told him with a smirk.

“You don’t think I can do it?”

“I think you’ll do it until Dad reinstates your allowance and then I think you’ll find the motivation for being a better you is gone.”

Max frowned at his brother. “You did it. You made the decision to stop fooling around and get serious and you stuck to it. Why don’t you think I can do it?”

“Because I made the decision for myself. You’re only doing it because Dad is forcing it on you.”

“Not true,” Max told his brother angrily. “It’s not about the money. I want to be a better person.”

Michael speared a piece of his pancake and shovelled it into his mouth. “Why?” he asked with disinterest.

“Because…I…I met somebody and she’s inspired me.”

That made Michael sit up straighter and put down his knife and fork. “You’re seeing somebody?”

“Not exactly, no. But there’s somebody in my life, somebody very special and …nothing can ever happen between us unless I make drastic changes in my life. And maybe even then nothing will ever happen between us. But I’d like to think that it could, that I could be the type of person she would fall for.”

Michael resumed eating his breakfast, his forehead creased. Max knew he was deep in thought. “Huh,” he said at last. “Well, good luck. I hope that you can stick to it. I don’t like seeing you waste your life away.”

“What about you? Are you seeing anybody?” Max asked to steer the conversation away from himself.

“No,” Michael responded too quickly and too loudly, causing Max’s eyebrows to shoot up. “I’m too busy,” Michael added in a calmer tone before Max could probe further.

Knowing that Michael wouldn’t tell him anything until he wanted to anyway, Max decided not to press him on the issue and picked another topic. “How do you like running the company without dad?”

“It’s pretty hectic. The days are long and there’s a lot to get through, but I’m managing. It’s hard to keep on top of everything.”

“Well, you have one less thing to worry about. The stationary supply is in good hands,” Max joked.

Michael laughed. “How do you like Nancy?”

“She’s a real doll.” Max laughed.

“You could learn a lot from her Max. She might be a little obsessive about her job, but she does save the company thousands every year, as she likes to remind us constantly.” Michael grinned. “Dad’s terrified of her.”

They both laughed at the thought of Philip Evans, one of the richest and most powerful men in the country, being afraid of a woman who counted pens for a living and barely came up to his elbows. Michael began telling Max a story about an incident between Philip and Nancy that involved a refill for the Mount Blanc pens that Philip used. As Max listened to the story, he relaxed and smiled. He was delighted to see the old Michael again. It may have only been breakfast, but it was a good start.

***



Dickie Byrd wasn’t having a great day.

He shifted in his seat and waited as his editor, Stella, scanned through his latest article submission. She was frowning in a way that concerned Dickie.

Finally, Stella looked up at him. “I’m sorry, Dickie. I can’t run this story.”

“Why not?” Dickie couldn’t believe his ears. “It’s a great article.”

“You’ve got nothing concrete in it. You didn’t even get a comment from Max Evans or this Carla Sanchez. You have no proof, no photos. The only evidence you have is that he maybe…I don’t know…decided to let her keep a car he had bought her as a wedding gift even though the engagement to his brother was off.”

“Max Evans had an affair with that woman.” Dickie pounded his fist on the desk.

“I believe you. But Dickie, you know there’s no way I can run this story. To be seen attacking Max Evans while his mother is in hospital fighting for her life would be distasteful. To suggest that he had an affair with his brother’s fiancée without proof would be suicidal. The last people I want to make an enemy of are the Evans.”

“So that’s it? Possibly the biggest story of the year and you’re going to sit on it?”

Stella nodded. “Unless you can get me more proof, I have no choice. It would be our jobs and our reputations ruined if we run this story without real proof, Dickie. And you know that.”

Dickie huffed, but he had to concede that Stella was right. “Fine.”

“I will run the article and the picture of him leaving the club the day after his mother’s emergency operation,” Stella assured him in the manner of a parent trying to console a weeping child. “Get me proof Dickie…and I’ll run that story.”

The problem was that Dickie had no idea how to get proof. None of his contacts were able to tell him anything and he was afraid to cast his net too wide in case it alerted other journalists. This was his story.

Then the phone rang and his day changed.

He recognised her voice at once. She was the anonymous caller who had started him on this hunt.

“You don’t know how happy I am to hear your voice,” Dickie told her gleefully. “I wanted to thank you for the tip off. I’ve tracked down the car like you told me, and I can prove that Max Evans bought it for Carla Sanchez. But my editor won’t run with the story.”

“Patience, Dickie.” The woman laughed. “I told you that the time wasn’t right and it still isn’t. I don’t want you to run that story until I’m ready. Until then, I need you to have all the facts. I suggest you look into Max’s trip to Hawaii last September.”

“Okay, great. What should I be looking for?”

“Something unusual I guess,” she teased. “In the meantime, there’s a stripper at The Dangerzone who you should talk to. She goes by the name Ivana. Her real name is Greta Muniz.”

“What’s she got?”

“She’s got the next nail in Max Evans’ coffin.”


***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Postby nibbles2 » Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:57 pm

Thank you Orangesky. You rock as an author and you rock as a beta.

Chapter 23


It was three days before Izzie returned for her car. Alex had used her confiscated keys to move it out of his parking spot and into a safer location. A nice car like Izzie’s in that location was sure to attract unwanted attention, and it was somewhat of a miracle that it remained untouched while waiting to be collected.

Alex checked the parking lot regularly in the hope of catching Izzie. He had her keys in his pocket, but he suspected that she would have a spare set and would try and take the car without coming into the center. In the end he was proved right. When Izzie returned for the car, it was late at night and the center had closed for the day. There were only a handful of people staying overnight now. Under the terms of Alex’s insurance a member of the staff had to be present for every five people sleeping on the premises. Since he couldn’t afford to pay anybody to work the night shift anymore, he was there on his own. It killed him to walk through the mostly empty dormitories knowing that so many of the kids who came through the doors during the day were probably sleeping rough or in squats right then.

He happened to be walking by a window when he saw a taxi pull up outside and Izzie hop out. He hurried down the stairs. She was standing by her car, rummaging through her very large purse when Alex burst through the doors. Izzie gave a small scream and whirled around in fright.

“Sorry.” Alex winced at his own clumsiness. Izzie glared frostily at him before turning her back on him.

Alex pulled her keys from his pocket and jingled them. “Looking for these?”

Wordlessly Izzie stalked over to him and grabbed them but Alex didn’t release them.

“Are you sober?” He asked.

“Of course I am,” She spat indignantly.

Alex raised an eyebrow. “You weren’t the night you abandoned it here. You were completely out of it.”

Izzie rolled her eyes. “So what?”

“So you could have killed yourself or somebody else. I would have thought that you of all people would be a little more careful about things like that.”

“Why?” she asked, genuinely puzzled.

“Isn’t your mother in the hospital because she was in a car crash?” Alex asked with a frown.

Izzie visibly paled at his reminder. It wasn’t something she had considered before. Not wanting to let him know he had scored a point, Izzie snatched the keys from his grip. “Oh my God. You’ve been lying in wait for the last three days, just so you can lecture me about how I got a little drunk one night? How sad are you? It’s after midnight and you’re here, waiting for me. Get a life.”

“Yes. I haven’t been working hard or fighting desperately to keep my center open for the last three days, I’ve been keeping guard at the window upstairs just for the chance to lecture you,” Alex responded dryly.

“Whatever,” Izzie muttered with an eye roll. “If you don’t mind, I need to go now.”

“Izzie,” Alex called after her retreating figure.

“I know, you’re here for me if I need a friend, blah blah blah. Take a seat, Alex. You’ll be waiting a while,” Isabel sneered.

“Actually, I wanted to ask how your mother is doing.”

If Izzie heard him, she pretended not to. Instead she climbed into her car and took off with a roar and a spray of gravel. Alex watched until her taillights disappeared. He wondered if he’d ever see her again. He doubted he would.


***



“How have you been?” Liz asked Max as they sipped champagne in their usual booth. It was the first time she’d seen him since the night he’d told her about Carla. She hadn’t been working since then.

“Good.” Max grinned. “Work is tough, but I can handle it. And I’ve made progress with Michael. We’ve eaten together a few times and he seems more relaxed around me. And my Mom is doing better. She’s still in bad shape, but she’s recovering really well.”

Liz smiled warmly at him. “I’m really glad for you Max.”

“It feels really good,” Max admitted shyly. “I never realised that I was miserable before. I thought I had a great life. I used to think that a normal nine to five job and no money was my idea of hell. Now here I am with a crappy job and hardly any money, but I feel happier than I have in a long time.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Well Doctor,” Max began with mock seriousness. “I think it’s because I have a purpose. I’ve always drifted along without a purpose but it’s an empty existence. There’s no satisfaction in that. Now I have something I want to achieve and when I achieve it, I feel good about myself and about everything else.”

“I concur,” Liz nodded seriously before cracking a smile. “Also, I think you’ve been carrying around a huge burden of guilt and it’s been eating you up. Now that you’re doing something about it - trying to make it up to Michael - your load is getting lighter.”

Max nodded and sat back with a smile of contentment. “Do you know what else? When I’m at work and the Nazi is screaming at me because the number of bottles of white out on the shelves doesn’t add with the number in her ledger, it washes right off me. Nothing she does can touch me. No matter how bad my day is, it can’t touch me. Because at the end of the day, I get to leave it all behind and come here to spend time with you.”

Liz flushed with pleasure, “Max…”

“The days that I don’t get to see you are the worst. My biggest fear right now is what I’m going to do when I run out of money. And it’s not because I won’t be able to buy new clothes or get a new car or eat at a nice restaurant. It’s because if I don’t have money, I won’t be able to see you.”

The expression on Liz's face told Max that it was something she worried about too. “I’m going to keep coming here as long as I can,” Max assured her. “I’m not completely destitute yet. And maybe we’re worrying about nothing. My dad is really impressed with me, he told me so this evening. He’s not a hard ass. When he sees that I’m really serious about making an effort, he’ll give me my allowance back.”

“What will happen then, Max? Will you fall back on your old ways or will you stay on the path you’re on right now?”

“I’m not going back to the old Max Evans. Those days ended when I met you, Liz Parker.”

“We don’t have to come into the booth. I can always sit at your table and keep you company. It would be less expensive,” Liz suggested.

Max knew that but he hated the idea. He loved the booth. It was like a cocoon where he and Liz could hide away from the outside world for a few hours. He relished the privacy and the intimacy of it. He didn’t want to be outside where the music was playing, where the other girls would be vying for his attention and his money and where other men would be ogling Liz. But he couldn’t afford to keep paying for the booths every night either.

“Or…” Liz trailed off and she bit her lip nervously.

“Or?” Max prompted gently.

Liz hesitated before leaning close and speaking in a low voice. “Or we could always meet up during the day. When you’re done with work for the day and I have free time after classes, maybe we could…you know….get coffee together.”

A bright smile lit up Max’s face. “I’d love that.” He glanced uncertainly at the camera above them. He didn’t want to get Liz in trouble or find himself barred from the club. “I’ll leave my card on the table. Call me and we can arrange to meet up.”

Liz nodded happily.

“Soon.”

She nodded again. “Max, can I ask you a question?”

“Of course, anything.”

“What did you mean when you said that I reminded you of Carla?”

“I didn’t mean that you’re an evil blackmailing slut.” Max grinned. “I meant that she portrayed herself as this really sweet girl. She could have based herself on you because you’re exactly the type of girl she wanted everyone to think that she was. And you remind me of her because I knew as soon as I saw you that you were dangerous. I knew that if I got too close that I’d fall for you…and I did.”

“Max….this can’t ever be anything.” Liz told him sadly.

“I know that Liz. But that doesn’t mean that I can stop myself feeling this way about you.”

Wanting to stop the conversation there before it went any further, Liz put her glass down and climbed onto the table. She hooked her leg around the pole and swung around gracefully. “Wow, that looked professional,” she joked.

Max smiled at her. “I guess you’ll be making your debut soon.”

“It’s on Friday. You’ll be here, right?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Thank you.” Liz smiled. Knowing that Max was going to be there watching her that night was just about the only thing that was going to get her through it. That, and knowing how much extra money she would earn to help towards her massive bills. She grinned again and arched her eyebrow coyly, getting into character. “Care for a preview?”

***



Isabel drummed her fingers anxiously and without rhythm on the arms of her chair. Her manager glanced up and frowned at her until Isabel stopped. She shifted in her seat and began to chew on her fingernails.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to cancel a number of appearances in the last week following your mother’s accident. Most of the promoters have been understanding and have agreed to wait until a later date. So you won’t lose any money. I’ve rearranged things for next week so that you can make all your appearances here in LA and the following week you’ll be flying to New York for a club opening. Then it’ll be on to Miami for a photo shoot.”

Isabel rubbed her forehead, trying vainly to ease the headache that had been throbbing all morning. “My mother is still in hospital. I’m not flying to the other side of the country to go to a club.”

“She’s on the mend now Isabel. And you have to honor these contracts.”

“She’s still in critical condition. I’m not leaving her,” Isabel snapped. “And I’m not doing any more of those stupid appearances here in LA either. I’m so sick of it all. I’m taking a break.”

“You’ll be sued for breach of contract Isabel. And if you get the reputation for breaking contracts on a whim, clubs will stop hiring you to come. You might be ‘The Party Princess’, but there are hundreds of girls just like you waiting in the wings to take your crown. You’re not any more special than they are, you’re just the one everybody knows. That’s why it’s important that you stay in the limelight. The coverage of your mother’s accident and your brother helps, but you can’t afford to disappear. If you do, you’ll become a nobody.”

With a scowl, Isabel stood up. “Fine, whatever. I’ll do the stupid appearances. But I’d like to stay in LA while my mother is in hospital.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” John assured her with a satisfied smile.” And Isabel, try to remember that you’re supposed to be a fashion icon. Just because your mother is in the hospital is no excuse for you to let yourself go. I’ll arrange an appointment with your stylist so that she can pick out some outfits that are more suitable for hospital visits.”

Isabel glanced down at her jeans and T-shirt. It wasn’t her most fashionable outfit ever, but it was neat and clean and everything she was wearing was designer.

“Look at Paris,” John went on. “She looked very classy when they released her. No reason you can’t do the same.”

“Screw you,” Isabel muttered before leaving his office. She stormed into the ladies room and threw her purse into a sink with an angry shriek. She ran some cold water and splashed it on her face before inspecting her appearance. John had a point. She looked pale and tired. Her hair was pulled back into an untidy ponytail and she wasn’t even wearing any mascara. The girl in the mirror looked like a mess.

The girl looking into the mirror felt like a mess.

Isabel picked up her purse and rifled through it until she found a half-empty bubble pack of aspirin. She popped four and swallowed them down, but they were useless. Forty of them weren’t going to help her headache, and she knew that. The only thing that ever helped was…

She picked up her phone and scrolled through her contacts until she came to Carla’s name. Her finger hovered over the call button as she debated whether to call Carla or not. She knew that she was getting sucked back into Carla’s web. She wanted to be strong enough to say no to Carla and no to her pills. It had been so hard to give them up the last time and she didn’t think she could do it a second time.

But it wasn’t like she was addicted to them or dependant on them or something pathetic like that. It wasn’t even the last time, when she got so used to taking them, that they became everything.

It was just because she was so stressed right now, with her Mom and everything else going on. And her head was killing her.

She could go to the doctor and get it checked out, get something prescribed for it.

But if she went to the doctor, the press would find out and they’d run some stupid story about how she was pregnant or dying or something. And that would upset her Mom.

Besides, the pills Carla gave her were the only ones that were really effective. The pills the doctor gave her never helped.

She’d only take a few and then when everything had calmed down, and the press weren’t focusing so intensely on her family, she’d go to the doctor…if her headaches were still bothering her. But they’d probably be gone by then because she wouldn’t be so stressed.

She’d pay Carla for the pills so she wouldn’t owe her any favors.

So that would make it okay.

Her mind made up, Isabel made the call.

***



Marty Freeman entered Diane’s hospital room with a small bunch of daisies. “Hi gorgeous,” he said with a beaming smile as he leant down to accept her hug.

“They’re beautiful,” Diane told him, indicating the flowers in his hand.

He laughed and plopped them unceremoniously into a vase of very expensive lilies. “How are you feeling?”

“Still feeling like I got hit by a car, but better than the last time you were in.”

“How are you doing Phil?”

Philip smiled at his wife before turning to his old friend. “I’m doing great.”

“Missing work?”

“Not a bit.”

Marty raised an eyebrow in surprise but said nothing more about it. “I got a call from Forbes today. they want to do a feature on the company, specifically on the Wilson Road Development. They want to know if you’ll do an interview.”

Philip hesitated then shook his head. “Have them interview Michael. Actually, while it’s just the three of us, I’ve something to tell you. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week. Almost losing Diane has made me re-evaluate things. I feel that I’ve taken the company as far I can take it now. Michael is more than capable of running it. In fact, I believe that he’s better able to handle it now than I am.”

“What are you saying Philip?” Diane asked. Philip could hear the excitement in her voice.

“I’m saying that I’m going to retire. Not fully, mind you. I’ll still have a hand in. But I won’t be in the office every day and for all intents and purposes, Michael will be in charge.”

“Oh Philip. Are you sure you want to do this? I’m fine you know.”

“I know sweetheart. But I’d like to do things and travel places and enjoy our lives together while we’re still active and healthy. I’ve worked so hard for so long but all the money and houses and everything I have mean nothing to me without you.”

Diane wiped a tear away and squeezed his hand. “I’m glad and I can’t wait to get out of here so we can start enjoying ourselves. We could buy that house in Napa.”

“The world’s our oyster.” Philip laughed.

He glanced at Marty to see the reaction of his closest friend but as always, Marty was impossible to read.

They passed a pleasant hour discussing all the wonderful things that Philip and Diane could do together until Diane drifted off to sleep. Quietly the men stole from her room and walked out to Marty’s car.

“What do you really think?” Philip asked, his voice serious.

“I’m glad for you and Diane. Like you said, you’ve worked hard and it’s about time that you got to enjoy the fruits of your labor.”

“I’m sensing a but.”

Marty sighed and carefully considered his words. “I’m worried about Michael.”

“Michael will do great. He’s ready for this. And Max is starting to grow up. He’s the reason that I don’t want to say anything to the kids yet. I want to be sure that he’s serious about changing his ways. If he’s dedicated, he’ll learn fast. He’ll be able to work alongside Michael in no time.”

“I know that Michael has the ability, Philip. But I worry about his temperament. I worry about what having this kind of power will do to him.”

“Michael will be fine. He’s a good boy. He’s not like David.”

“David got very nasty when he felt people had wronged him.”

“What does that have to do with Michael?”

“Surely you have to see that Michael is going out of his way to bring the Whitman center down. Alex Whitman is doing good work there, and while I understand that Michael would have a problem seeing her name being used that way, it’s no reason to destroy the center.”

Philip glanced away and said nothing.

“You agree with what he’s doing,” Marty realised. “Philip?”

“Do you remember the first time we met Michael?

“Of course, but-”

“But nothing. She did that to him and she got away scot-free. Do you think that we should sit back and let her name be held up as some sort of modern day saint? I let her get away with what she did once for her kid’s sake and it killed me. If Michael wants revenge, then he deserves it.”

“He’s getting revenge on the wrong people. Alex Whitman and the kids at that center haven’t done anything to Michael.”

“Michael didn’t do anything to Lucy Whitman but that didn’t stop her, did it?”

“Destroying the center isn’t going to make up for all that Michael suffered.”

Philip shook his head. “I don’t think you understand what it’s like, Marty. I let Lucy Whitman get away with murder twenty years ago. I shouldn’t have. I should have made them pay for what they did to David and to Michael. I’m not going to take this away from him. He needs to do it.”

Marty sighed in resignation. He knew there was no point trying to talk sense into Philip – or Michael – for that matter. They had been nursing their grudge for two decades.


***


Liz hurried into the diner to meet Alex and Maria, thirty minutes late. “Hi guys, sorry I’m late,” she said breathlessly.

“You look like you’ve just come from the gym,” Alex commented.

“Almost. I had rehearsal today. I’m on stage in two days time. Brenda was putting me through my paces. The routine isn’t quiet as polished as the other girls, but it’s pretty cool. I wish you guys could come see me.”

Alex choked on his sandwich. “I love you Liz, but there’s no way I want to watch you up on a stage, stripping. No offence, but it would put me off sex for the rest of my life.”

“No problem.” Liz laughed and turned to Maria. “Hey, can I borrow your car this afternoon? I want to go see grandma after class.”

“Of course.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a grumpy waitress. Liz decided on coffee and a Danish as she didn’t think she could stomach any concoctions the diner made and called food. She hadn’t come for the food anyway.

“So what’s up?” Liz asked after the waitress left. Even though she had been off work for two days, she had barely seen Alex and Maria as she had been so busy trying to catch up on college work.

“Maria was just telling me about her plans,” Alex supplied.

“What plans?”

“I’m going to apply to become Maddie’s foster parent,” Maria explained. “I spoke to the social worker in charge of her case, and she’s going to support my application.”

“Oh.” Liz glanced at Alex to read his reaction.

“You guys don’t approve?” Maria asked.

Alex sighed wearily and rubbed his forehead. “Maria, we’ll support you no matter what you decide to do, you know that. But…I just think that maybe you should give this some more thought.”

“It’s all I’ve thought about in the last few days, ever since it was suggested. I want to do this.”

Liz took Maria’s hand in hers. “Maria, it’s a huge decision to make. I know that you love Maddie and that you want to help her, but you’ve got to think of the bigger picture here. You’re essentially signing up to be a single mother. You of all people know how difficult that is. ”

“It was tough but if my mother can do it, so can I. She was sixteen when I was born. She didn’t even have a highschool diploma. I’m twenty-three and a qualified nurse. I have a good job. I can take care of her.”

“What are you going to do with Maddie while you’re working?”

“There’s an excellent daycare facility at the hospital.”

“Is that really what you want for Maddie? To be in daycare, surrounded by strangers?”

“They’re not strangers, they’re my colleagues. They’re trained, professional childcare workers who do an excellent job. Maddie would get to know them quickly and they’d get to know her. It’s based in a hospital with one of the best paediatric units in the country, and I only work two floors up from it.” Maria took a breath to calm down before continuing. “In a perfect world I would be able to be a full time parent, but there’s nothing wrong with having a working mother. Studies have shown that daycare doesn’t affect the child negatively, and if dozens of child experts are happy to have their children looked after at the hospital daycare, so am I.

“Ok, I’m sorry,” Liz conceded. “I didn’t mean to imply that it’s bad. I just didn’t think that you would want her to be looked after by people who…didn’t love her. I figured that the whole point of you fostering her was that she’d get to be raised by somebody who loves her.”

Maria slumped in her seat, the fight gone out of her. “It is,” she admitted miserably. “I can’t stand the thought of her being in a home or competing for the attention of an overstretched foster mom with six or seven other children. But I can’t be a full time stay at home mom. I wouldn’t even consider the day care if I didn’t think it was better for her than the alternative.”

“And it’s not just that Maria,” Alex added. “It’s a huge financial burden. You’re already working overtime to cover the rent of your apartment, even though Liz pays for her own food and contributes to the bills. I know you get an allowance, but will it cover all that?”

Liz frowned at the implication of Alex’s words. She didn’t realise that Maria was struggling to pay rent for the two of them.

“I don’t care about the money, Alex. And I know how tough it’s going to be. I want to do this.”

“We understand that and we’re honestly not trying to talk you out of it. We just want you to really think this through.” Liz pulled Maria close and hugged her. “I know how much you love Maddie and how worried you are about her. But you’ve got to consider all the options. And you’ve got to consider what’s best for Maddie and you.”

Maria buried her face in her hands. “I know what you’re saying is right. I want to do it so badly that I’ve only been focusing on the pros and I’ve ignored the cons.”

Alex smiled sadly. “That’s understandable, Maria. I made the very same mistake with the center. When I found out about the money and my mother, I was so determined to make the center work that I never considered any other options. If I’d set up a trust or worked within an existing organisation I wouldn’t be in the mess I’m in right now.”

Liz and Maria exchanged worried glances. “What mess are you in Alex?” Liz asked.

“I never told you this but I took out a mortgage on my apartment and now I can’t afford to pay it back.”

“You’re going to lose your apartment?” Maria gasped. “Alex, what are you going to do?”

“Alex please go and see your parents. They can help,” Liz pleaded. “Your aunt and uncle,” she quickly amended when she saw that he was about to correct her.

“I don’t think there’s anything I can do. It’s too late.”

“Don’t say that,” Maria cried.

Alex shrugged his shoulders. “I’m stretched to the limit. There are no other avenues to explore. It’s just a matter of time until Michael Evans gets what he wants and the center is closed.”

“That bastard,” Maria muttered.

“It’s not fair,” Alex said and angrily pounded his fist on the table. “All I wanted to do was continue the good work my mother started. Why does he have such a problem with that?”

***



It was a gloomy and despondent Liz who sat in her grandmother’s room that afternoon. She didn’t have the energy to fake any cheeriness and knowing her grandmother was oblivious to her foul humor just made it worse anyway.

“Life sucks Grandma,” she complained bitterly. “Alex and Maria are such good people. All they want to do is to help children who are in really difficult situations but they can’t because they have no money. Maria would be such a good Mom and Maddie deserves to be raised by somebody who would love her the way Maria does. Alex did such a great job at the center. He was making a real difference in people’s lives. But because some jerk wants to build a mall there, everything he has worked so hard for is being taken away from him.”

She sighed and got up to pace the room, too agitated to remain sitting. “You raised me to have values and principles and here I am throwing them away and stripping for sleazy men just so I can afford to give you the medical care you need.”

“I like Max, I really do. He’s so sweet and kind and he’s really trying to change. When I’m with him I feel safe and precious. There’s no way I could have survived at The Dangerzone without him. But there’s a small part of me that really resents him. He has so much money and so many opportunities and he’s wasted them all. He doesn’t know what it’s like to really struggle or to have to humiliate himself everyday for a few bucks.”

Liz resumed her seat. “I’m sorry to be going off on you like this Grandma. I just wish things could be different.”

She sat with Grandma Claudia for a while longer, talking quietly about what she was doing in class or sometimes just sitting in silence. Eventually she glanced at her watch and saw that she had to leave. She kissed her grandmother’s cheek and said, “Love you Grandma.”

She made her way down the stairs to where the administrative wing of the hospital was located where she was directed towards a bored looking lady who barely looked up from her computer as Liz handed over a check.

“I’ll just print you off a receipt and a copy of this month’s bill.”

“Thank you,” Liz told her politely, though she felt like shaking the woman or something. She had sold her soul to raise the money for that check. She had sat naked and flirted with strange men, swung from a pole for their entertainment, degraded herself over and over again all to pay the stupid bill and the woman didn’t even have the courtesy to look at her while she accepted Liz's money.

In the car Liz opened up the envelope she had been given and gasped. The bill for the month was even higher than she had expected. She mentally calculated how many hours she would have to work to pay it and figured she would probably have to work full time and really, really flirt her ass off to earn as many tips as she could. If she really cut down on her spending then maybe, just maybe, she would get it paid in full and on time.

Hot tears stung her eyes and she brushed them away angrily before starting up the car and backing out of her spot.

And promptly smashed right into the side of large, shiny SUV.

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Fri May 06, 2011 3:40 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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chapter 24

Postby nibbles2 » Fri Nov 09, 2007 7:01 pm

Reamhar You’re back too. Dirty little secret and Walk away and I stumble anytime soon – I want updates now, now, now? Please.

Maiqu Please tell me what you think the connection between Alex and Michael is. I hope you're wrong, in fact I'll be crushed if you're not. :lol:

Natalie36 actually, she didn’t hit an Evans.

Cereth I’m definitely guilty of playing the justification game so it wasn’t a hard mental conversation to write. Anything to get out of studying.

Addicted2AmberEyes Thank you.

begonia9508 I will be delving into the Whitman’s soon but there will be hints along the way.

Sternbetrachter thank you

Emz80m Actually, that’s a good point, Liz did under react to Max’s declaration. Not because she isn’t thrilled but purely because of an oversight on my part. :oops:

VeronicB thank you

chanks_girl I will explain the relationship, just not anytime soon I’m afraid.

roswell3053 Nope, not an Evans. Why would the Evan’s be at the Nursing Home?

kay_b The problem with anybody who has an addiction is that they have to hit rock bottom before they realise they have a problem and unfortunately, Isabel is still falling. But the tide will change eventually for her and Alex, Liz and Maria.

RhondaAnn Sparks? More like massive explosions.

Michelle in Yonkers Why would anybody want to resist chocolate? That’s crazy talk. And surprisingly, things will start to change for the better for at least one of them soon, though for the others, it will be decades.

uw51 It’s all very well to say let it go, but sometimes when somebody has hurt you or somebody you love then letting it go is impossible, and when you’ve been nursing a grudge for twenty years your vision can get very warped and very narrow.

flyawayraven thank you

tequathisy you took the words right out of my mouth.

madroswellfan welcome back. Hope you get a chance to do some writing soon.

83 AlienAngel thank you

xmag To ‘get away with murder’ is just a figure of speech, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Lucinda killed somebody, just that she did something heinous and got away with it.

dreamerbabylioness tut tut. I appreciate you taking time from your studying to read my fic.

killjoy That’s funny, I would have said that Max is getting better, Michael is staying the same and Isabel is getting worse.

Blink1lit Not yet, but eventually their breaks will come.

and as always a huge thanks to Awesome Alli, aka Orangesky for being a great beta despite being so busy with her own stuff.


Chapter 24

Max had a genius idea.

It was so brilliant and so obvious he was a little embarrassed that it had taken him so long to think of it.

All he had to do was wait until the Nazi had left the office, then grab the ledgers. They told him exactly how many of everything there had been at the last count. All he had to do was subtract the number that had been removed since then and jot the total down on his tally sheet. It took him about twenty minutes. After that he was able to relax in the storeroom and as long as he didn’t get caught napping by the Nazi, he was on easy street.

At three o’clock that afternoon, he emerged from the storeroom scowling and grumpy and passed his latest tally sheets to Nancy. “I’m going on my break.”

“Fifteen minutes,” she reminded him - as she did every day - and set her watch. Max kept his scowl in place until the elevator door closed and then burst out in a grin. He was still chuckling when he entered Michael’s office.

“What’s got you in such a good mood?” Michael asked curiously.

Max took a seat and explained his brilliant plan to Michael. “I’ve been counting pens like an idiot for a week now and it’s all so unnecessary. Nobody would ever dare remove anything from the storeroom without her permission, and she catalogues everything. Even if she thinks I’m not doing my job right, the totals will always be correct so she’ll never be able to prove it.”

Michael shook his head and laughed. “You’re either very brave or very stupid if you think you can pull one over on Nancy.”

“It’s so ridiculous, Michael. She goes on and on about saving the company thousands every year, but then she wastes it paying somebody to count pens when there’s no need. Why can’t she just do a general stock take once in a while like normal people?”

“She’s allocated a budget every year, same as every other department, and she’s the only one who comes in under budget. As long as she keeps doing that, I’m going to let her do her thing.”

“You mean Dad will.”

“It’s not up to Dad. I’m in charge of the budget.”

“Oh.” Max didn’t really know what to say to that. It had never really dawned on him that Michael was in charge before. He had always thought of it as Michael working for their dad. For some reason, it bothered him to realise that Michael had such a powerful position within the company.

“Hey, are you free this Friday night?” Michael asked suddenly. “O’Dwyer has invited me to watch the Lakers play. You want to come?”

“Yeah, I’d love to. That would be great. It’s been ages since we went to a game together.”

“Great. He wants to meet for dinner first, but I think I’ll skip that. We can get something at the IMM and head to the game.”

“Awesome.”

Michael’s pager beeped and he frowned at the message.

“Is everything ok?” Max asked, his thoughts immediately going to their mother.

“Yeah, it’s nothing.”

Max checked his watch and saw that twelve minutes had passed. “Crap, I better rush. Do you want to grab some dinner before we go see Mom tonight?”

“No, I have a meeting. I’ll probably see you at the hospital later.” Michael waited until Max had left the office and shut the door firmly before picking up the phone and dialing the number.

Dr. Sloan’s office. How can I help you?

“This is Michael Guerin. I’m returning a call.”

Ah yes, Mr. Guerin. I called to let you know that your tests results are back and Dr. Sloan would like you to come in so he can discuss your results and any further treatment with you.

Michael scratched his eyebrow, a nervous trait of his. “Can’t you just let me know over the phone?”

I’m afraid not, Mr. Guerin. Would you be able to make it on Monday morning?

“Sure. Can you fit me in about ten-ish?” Michael asked after checking his diary.

Ten it is. We’ll see you then.


***



Liz was sitting at the kitchen table chewing her fingernails when Maria came through the door.

“Oh, you’re home,” Maria exclaimed in surprise. “I never noticed the car outside. Look what I got today, it’s so cute.” She reached into the shopping bag she was carrying and pulled out an adorable baby outfit consisting of a tiny pair of jeans and the cutest pink sweater Liz had ever seen.

“It’s gorgeous.”

“Isn’t it? Doctor Hepburn examined Maddie today and he thinks that we’ll be able to take her out of the incubator soon. It made me realise that we have no clothes to put her in. I got her some practical stuff too, but I just couldn’t resist getting this for her. Actually, it’s probably a good thing that I went today and not tomorrow because I’m getting paid tomorrow and I would have blown it all on baby clothes. They are soooo cute….” Maria trailed off with a frown as she eyed her friend. She threw down the clothes she was displaying and wrapped her arm around Liz's slender shoulders. “Lizzie, what’s wrong?”

Liz steeled herself bravely. “I had a teeny accident today. I was upset and I wasn’t concentrating and I pulled out of my parking space without looking and I backed into a guy in an SUV. I’m so sorry Maria.”

“Is the car badly damaged?” Maria asked.

“It’s repairable. I’m so sorry Maria. I’ll pay for it, I promise. The guy in the shop said that it would take about a week. I’m really sorry, I feel just awful.”

“It’s ok Liz, these things happen. Are you alright? You didn’t get hurt, did you?”

“It startled me, but I’m fine. I just feel terrible.”

Maria laughed. “The main thing is that you didn’t get hurt. What about the guy you hit?”

“I barely made a dent. He was more worried about scratching his SUV than anything else. I promised to pay for that too. Once I apologised and assured him that I’d pay, he was reasonable.”

“Is it going to cost you a lot? Can you afford it?”

“The guy in the garage said he could do them both for a couple of hundred dollars,” Liz lied. “It’s a couple of nights tips. I’ll probably make that Friday night when I strip on stage. Don’t worry about it.”

“Phew,” Maria breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, ok then. So we don’t have a car for a few days and you have to give up your tips for one night. It’s only a small thing. I thought it was going to be way worse than that when I saw your face.” She patted her friend’s knee and stood up. “I’ll make dinner.”

Liz smiled weakly, glad that Maria had taken the news so well. She suspected that it was mainly due to the fact that Maria was in such a good mood because Maddie was doing so well. “Maria, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“It’s about what Alex said today at lunchtime. Are you paying my rent as well as your own? Because I don’t want you to do that Maria. It’s not fair to you.”

Maria grabbed Liz's hands tightly and looked her dead in the eye. “Listen to me. I love you and I love Grandma Claudia. You guys are my family. Whenever I needed you in the past, you were always there for me. Now you need me and I’m not going to let you down. I’m only sorry that I can’t do more for you. It kills me to know that you have to strip for a living. So if I have to pick up a few extra shifts at the hospital to help you, then I’m more than happy to. I would be there anyway because of Maddie, so as far as I can see, it’s a win win situation.”

“But-”

“No buts. I don’t want to hear them.”

Liz's eyes filled with tears and she hugged Maria tightly. “Thank you Maria. You’re the best. If it wasn’t for you, I’d never be able to get through this.”

“When you win the Nobel Prize for science, make sure to dedicate it to me. That’s all I’m asking.”

“I promise.”


***



Isabel’s head was throbbing so badly that she could hardly think straight. Max was regaling everybody with stories about his boss and the sound of everyone’s laughter was piercing her temples like a thousand needles. She just wanted them to shut up.

Damn Carla. Why couldn’t she have agreed to meet her earlier?

“Isabel, you’re being very quiet tonight. Is anything wrong?” Diane asked in concern.

“I’m fine. I just have a little headache,” Isabel answered.

“Did you take anything for it? Maybe somebody here could get you something,”

“Mom, I’m fine. I just need a good night’s sleep is all.”

“You do look exhausted, sweetheart.” Philip said with a frown. “I know you guys are worried about your mom, but you need to take care of yourselves too.”

Isabel caught Max and Michael exchanging worried glances before they scrutinised her carefully. The last thing she needed was her two brothers on her back again. She forced herself to smile and act normal. “I promise that I’ll go home soon and go straight to bed.”

That seemed to be enough to convince Max and Michael and they went back to their previous conversation. After a few minutes, Max turned once more to Isabel. “Hey Izzie…Michael and I are going to see the Lakers play on Friday. We’ll make sure to say hi to Dwayne for you.”

Isabel glared furiously at him, causing both guys to snigger.

“Oh, say hello to him for me as well,” Diane exclaimed. “And tell him thank you. He sent me a lovely card and flowers. Wasn’t that sweet of him, Isabel? He’s the only one of your exes who did.”

“That was really sweet of him,” Michael chorused with a grin that Isabel itched to slap off his face.

“He is such a lovely boy. I really wish that you two had stayed together.”

Michael and Max were now holding their sides, they were laughing so hard.

“You two! Shut up or grow up,” Isabel snapped. She grabbed her purse and her jacket and stood up. “I’m going to go.” She kissed her parents goodbye and shot another withering glare at her laughing brothers before departing.

Her security guard whisked her through the throng of paparazzi to the safety of her car. A few of them jumped into cars and onto motor bikes to follow her as she drove off. Thankfully the numbers had greatly diminished now that Diane was no longer in critical condition, now that she was expected to make a full recovery, but there was always a small number who followed her. They were wasting their time tonight, Isabel thought. She had meant what she told her mother. She was going straight home and into bed.

When she walked through the front door of her apartment, she was shocked to find Carla inside, waiting for her.

“I still have the key you gave me last year,” Carla explained.

“Right,” Isabel muttered, surprised that she hadn’t changed the locks. “Have you got them?”

Carla produced a small plastic container and rattled it. “Right here.”

Isabel frowned. It sounded like there were very few in it. She reached for the bottle, but Carla held it close to her body.

“Of course. How much do I owe you?” Isabel asked, opening her purse and pulling out some cash.

“Owe me? Isabel, I’m hurt. We’re friends. I’m not going to charge you for a couple of pills. What kind of person do you think I am?” Carla asked silkily.

“All the same, I’d like to give you some money for them.”

“I won’t take it,” Carla said with a laugh. “We’re friends. I do a favor for you and you do one for me.”

Isabel closed her eyes as her stomach churned. She wanted those pills so badly. No, she needed those pills so badly. But sometimes Carla’s ‘favors’ left a very nasty taste in her mouth. “Do you have something in mind?”

“Well…actually, it’s something that you offered to do. I miss Michael and you promised to help get him to talk to me. How about you deliver on that?”

“I’ve tried to talk to Michael about you, but he’s so stubborn. You know what he’s like. Once he gets an idea in his head, he just won’t let it go. And right now he doesn’t want anything to do with you.” For her part, Isabel envied Michael’s self discipline. She wished she could stay away from Carla’s cancerous influence too. Still, Isabel was firm in her resolution. Once her mother was out of hospital and she stopped being so stressed, she would rid herself of Carla for good.

Carla dismissed Isabel’s argument with a wave of her hand. “I’m not asking you to convince Michael to take me back. I can take care of that myself. All I need is an opportunity to get close to him. Unfortunately, that’s proving to be a problem.”

“I’d love to help you with that, really I would. But I can’t force Michael to talk to you or to listen to you when he clearly doesn’t want to.” Isabel’s gaze drifted to the bottle clutched tightly in Carla’s hands and her temples throbbed again. She clutched her head and moaned.

A malicious looking smile flitted across Carla’s face as she realised how desperate Isabel was for the pills. She stood up and made a show of putting the pills into her purse.

“No, wait,” Isabel exclaimed urgently. “I’ve just thought of something. Michael is going to see the Lakers play on Friday night. I can get you tickets. Courtside, just like his. My friend Dwayne is on the team. Michael would rather sit and let you talk than make a scene on TV, in front of all those people.”

“Perfect,” Carla decided. “Dwayne Ryder? Isn’t he the guy who paid you to be his beard?”

Isabel nodded impatiently.

Carla smiled in satisfaction and handed the bottle of pills over to Isabel who snatched it greedily and swallowed down three at once. Her eyes closed in relief.

“Careful, I was only able to get you twelve. You wouldn’t want to run out.”

“I just have a really bad headache today. I probably won’t even need the others,” Isabel snapped.

Carla pulled on her jacket. “Make sure to get me that ticket. Otherwise, don’t bother calling me when you run out of pills. Goodnight Isabel.”

When she was gone, Isabel hurried over to the door and made sure it was locked and bolted securely. It made her feel better. Then she slumped down in an armchair and buried her head in her hands.

Why had she let herself fall back into Carla’s clutches so quickly and so easily?


***


There was only twenty-four hours until Liz’s debut appearance on stage. Max had expected her to be nervous and anxious. Instead she seemed glum and distracted. Unlike most other nights, she wasn’t even trying to pretend to be enjoying herself.

“What’s up? You seem very down tonight,” he asked after several other attempts at engaging her in conversation failed miserably.

“I’m sorry.” Liz physically shook herself and turned on a smile.

“Don’t do that.” Max told her kindly.

Liz looked at him in surprise. “I’m not doing anything.”

“You’re acting like everything is fine. You don’t have to do that with me. I don’t want you to do that with me. I’m not some customer you have to entertain. We’re friends and if there’s something bothering you, I want you to tell me about it.”

“Max, I don’t think that I’m supposed to-”

“Tell me what’s bothering you. Once it’s out in the open, you’ll feel better. Trust me. Then you can practice your routine for tomorrow night so they’ll be happy. Just…put on a fake smile and I’ll pretend you’re saying something funny. They’ll never know.” He pointed to the camera in the ceiling.

“I guess,” Liz sighed. “I borrowed my friend’s car today to go see my Grandma and I was a little upset afterwards, so I didn’t look where I was going and I backed out and hit another car. The driver was a total jerk and he screamed at me like I knocked his kid over when all I did was scratch his paintwork. The real damage was done to Maria’s car. I have to pay for the damage done to the jerk’s car and to Maria’s and it’s going to cost me about two thousand dollars.”

“Can’t your friend claim on her insurance?”

Liz shook her head mournfully.

“And you can’t afford to pay two thousand dollars.”

Liz shook her head again.

That was when Max realised the truth. “That’s why you work here. For the money.”

And then the whole story of how Liz came to be working in the club came tumbling out. As he listened, Max grew more and more ashamed of himself. How many nights had he whined and moaned to Liz because his cars had been taken away and his expensive allowance had been cut. She had to put her sick grandmother into care. He had complained about his job with his family company. Liz had to demean herself for the entertainment of sleazy men like him, every day.

“I’m sorry,” he said lamely when she had finished.

“It’s not your fault.”

“I…I feel like scum. I’ve been sitting here complaining about my life and I’ve never once asked about yours.”

“It’s not my job to burden clients with the sad details of my pathetic life.”

“I’m not a client, though. I mean, I like to think that I’m more than that to you.”

“You are.”

“What if you talk to your friend? I’m sure she wouldn’t expect you to pay that bill if she knows what you’re going through right now.”

“She’s already letting me live rent free at her apartment and she’s been working overtime because of that. Plus she’s going to have a baby to look after soon, and I already told her it would only cost me a couple of hundred dollars so…”

Max reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. It had slimmed down so much from the first time he was in the club. Most of his credit cards had been removed as soon as he maxed them out, and he didn’t have the huge wad of cash he used to carry either. He racked his brains trying to figure out how he’d get the money for her.

“No Max, that’s not why I told you,” Liz insisted. She placed her hand on his arm to stall his movements. “You’ve already helped me so much. I’ll get the money myself.”

“I just wish-”

“Wishing won’t get you anything, Max. I’ll be ok. I have a well paying job and starting tomorrow I can double my tips.”

Max was silent for a few moments. When he finally spoke it was in a low, sad tone. “I think that maybe I’m not helping you anymore. I monopolize you every night, but I can’t afford to tip you as generously as other guys can. Not anymore, anyway.”

Liz lowered her head. What he said was true, but that didn’t mean she wanted to admit it. She loved spending time with Max and hated the thought of leaving their shelter, going back out into the club, facing guys like that creep Paul every night.

“I thought that I was doing something good for a change.” Max laughed bitterly. “Instead I’m making things harder for you.”

“Don’t do that. We’re friends. You’ve helped me far more than you’ll ever know, Max and I’ll always be grateful to you. But I’m making things difficult for you too. I know you can’t afford to come here every night. You can’t afford to pay for this room or buy expensive champagne, but you do it anyway. I appreciate it, Max. I do. But I think it’s time that I look after myself from now on.”

“What are you saying?”

“I think that it’s probably best for both of us if you stop coming every night. I … I’m here to raise money and to do that I have to leave the cocoon and face what’s out there. You’ve taken steps to grow up lately, to stand on your own two feet, and now I have to do the same.”

“You want me to stop coming here?”

“Not completely. But I don’t want you to feel like you’re obliged to come here and baby-sit me when you can’t afford to. You could come once a week maybe…on the weekends…and tell me all the latest news on the Nazi.”

“Liz… I…I don’t think I could get by if I see you just once a week.”

Liz smiled shyly at him. “Me either. But we can meet up somewhere else, if you’re free.”

“Since you have no car, how about I give you a ride to the nursing home to see your Grandma? We could go for a coffee afterwards.” Max suggested brightly.

“That would be wonderful. I’m planning to go on Saturday afternoon. I have to make up some lab work at college in the morning first.”

They arranged to meet up at the UCLA campus on Saturday and have lunch together and then Max would drive her out to the nursing home. Although they didn’t say it out loud, they were both hoping it would become a regular thing, replacing their nightly meetings at the club.

“You’ll be here tomorrow night though, right?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”



***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Tue May 03, 2011 3:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Gold Diggers Chapter 25

Postby nibbles2 » Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:48 pm

Chanks_girl Thank you.

madroswellfan Thank you.

begonia9508 In a way, I think Carla made Isabel’s bed. Or at the very least tucked the sheets in.

confusedfool thanks

Maiqu thank you

Alien_friend Wait, you like The Evans kids? What fic are you reading? I’m doing something wrong if you like them.
I just wish he would open up more and let Maria and the baby in.
I think you’re going to like the next part.

Lairabehr4 I agree, Isabel is the one they should be worrying about. But she plays the game well and knows how to hide the bad stuff.

xmag Obviously, I’m not going to tell you what Michael was being tested for. But there’s a rather large clue in the next part. And lots of Michael and Maria interaction too.

Kay_b
Obviously she hadn't hit rock bottom yet. Let's hope it happens soon.
I think you mean that you’re hoping she can begin her recovery soon, not get worse right? Glad you like the fic, as a candy I often worry that I won’t satisfy the dreamers.

sternbetrachter thank you

RhondaAnn wow, Carla gets blamed for everything. Usually because it is her fault .

RiceKrispy thank you.

Tamashii hear hear.

Cocogurl all in good time.

cassie thank you.

paper
Maybe David Evans got Lucy Whitman pregnant then after the out-of-wedlock birth, they died in some accident where she was driving drunk. The Whitmans got Alex to raise & Michael went to his Dad’s family, the Evans.
It’s just a guess.
good guess, but no.

VeronicB thanks for reading.

roswell3053 thank you.

Blink1lit thank you.

tequathisythat’s so funny, because Bailey is exactly who I have in mind when I write Nancy. You and me, girl, we’re psychopathic.

loviedovie isn’t a sugar daddy a nicer word for customer? I don’t think Liz needs that.

Michelle in Yonkers There’s a lot of risks to take, but I guess Max and Liz figure that it’s worth just to be allowed to spend time with each other. Why would Carla go looking for new targets when the old targets keep playing into her evil little hands? She’s going to milk this cash cow for every last drop.

dreamerfrvrp thaaaaaaanks.

Cereth short and sweet, thank you.

mmluver89 Yes, fate is why they all know each other. Not lazy writing or unbelievable coincidence, it’s fate.

Addicted2AmberEyes thank you

cameramandc thank you

83 AlienAngel thank you

pookie76 thank you

girl afraid thank you


lurkers thanks for reading.

And

orangesky I was going to make a really bad pun about orangesky at night being a writer’s delight. But that’s so very lame. I think I’ll just settle for saying, Thank you. You are the bestest.

Chapter 25 is no ordinary chapter. It comes with an intro and is in three parts. The intro is posted today to whet your appetites. Part A will be posted on the 25th, which is the 2nd birthday of this fic. You’re all invited to the party. BYOB. I’m still working on B and C, hope to have them in the near future.



Chapter 25


Not that they ever realized it, but in the early hours of Friday morning, all three Evans children woke in a panic. Their sleep had been disturbed for very different reasons and the consequences would lead them down very different paths. But that night had one significant similarity for Michael, Max and Isabel, that night would prove to be an important turning point in their lives.

***


Isabel was the first to go to bed, just after midnight. She woke at two in the morning, her heart racing and her body coated in a thin sheen of sweat. She flung back her covers and raced to the front door to check that it was locked and bolted. Satisfied that it was secure, she made a tour of the apartment, checking every window and the doors to her roof garden. Even though she knew that nobody could have gotten in, she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was somebody else in the apartment. She grabbed a heavy silver candlestick from the dining room table and made another tour of the apartment, this time checking closets and behind doors until she was at last satisfied that it only her imagination.

Isabel heated up some milk in the microwave and sat down to drink it in the armchair by the window that overlooked the city skyline. Though the lights were calming and the milk was soothing, Isabel still felt anxious. She didn’t think that she’d be able to sleep again and to make matters worse, her headache was coming back. And she knew, from experience, that if she didn’t get a decent night’s sleep, her headache would be even worse in the morning.

Isabel didn’t want to have to take another pill so soon after the first but really, she knew that she didn’t have much choice. It was take it now and have a good night’s sleep or toss and turn restlessly all night, wake up miserable and in pain and then take a pill.

Besides, the sooner they were all gone the sooner temptation was out of the way, and then she could stop depending on them so much. Right?

Wrong. Because it was happening again and Isabel couldn’t pretend it wasn’t anymore. She was becoming dependant. And this time, Isabel didn’t think that she had the strength to fight the battle again. Not alone, anyway.

“I need help.”

***


Around the time Isabel went back to bed, Max crawled into his for the first time. He’d spent more time than anticipated at the club that night. Liz had been busy showing him her moves, though she remained coy about what she would be wearing – and removing - and how her act would be staged. When she was too tired to dance anymore she’d sat down and they’d talked about minor things, like work and school. Still, it wasn’t the conversation they were trying to prolong, it was time. This last meeting was the end of an era. Although they had plans to meet up outside of the club, something Max was really looking forward to, he was sad to know that their evenings in the booth were coming to an end.

Max was glad to finally reach his apartment. He climbed wearily into bed, remembering at the last moment to set his alarm clock for the next morning. He was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Five minutes later, he shot bolt upright in bed.

“Shit.”

Tomorrow was Friday. He had promised to go to see a basketball game with Michael on Friday. But Liz was stripping on Friday. He couldn’t attend both. He’d have to let one of them down.

But which one?

Liz would understand if he went to the game with Michael. She knew how important it was to Max that he repair his relationship with his brother. It was something she encouraged. And they had agreed that their little arrangement would come to an end. Liz was determined to become independent and stop relying on Max. She needed to spend time with the other patrons of The Dangerzone to make the money she needed for her grandmother. If he was to tell her his dilemma, she would tell him to go to the game.

But he also knew that she needed him to be there for her tomorrow. And he’d promised her that he’d be there.

Michael…well, Michael wasn’t the type of guy to get his feelings hurt if his brother blew him off for a stripper. It was only a game, and there were plenty more they could go to together. Basketball, hockey, football, soccer, baseball. The list was long.

But Michael also wasn’t the type of guy to extend invitations more than once. Things had been going so well between them all week because Max had been making the effort, but the basketball game was the first time all week that Michael had made an effort. And that was difficult for Max to overlook. Reestablishing their bond was important to Max. Still, Michael would get over it, especially if Max had a good excuse and suggested something else they could do together.

If he decided to go to the game with Michael, Liz wouldn’t hold a grudge. But she would feel let down and maybe she’d start to think that Max didn’t really mean to keep his promises. She might feel that if he let her down once, when she really needed him that he’d let her down on other occasions.

He couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t let her lose her trust in him. Because without trust, they could never have a real relationship.

That thought surprised him, but he realized it was true. He wanted a relationship with Liz and he was going to do everything in his power to make that happen. No matter how long he had to wait, he would wait.

His decision made, now he just had to come up with a plausible excuse for Michael.

Max laid back down in bed and his eyes drifted shut, images of Liz dancing just for him filling his dreams.

***



Like Max, Michael went to bed late. He’d been up reading reports, trying to get some work done. As his father was taking time off, Michael’s work load had doubled and it wasn’t uncommon for him to work late into the night either at the office or in his own apartment. Still, despite the massive stacks of files and reports, Michael found he couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand. His thoughts kept drifting to other things. They went from his mother in the hospital and his father’s decision to take time off, to Max and Isabel, Carla, and the plans he’d made but was now beginning to doubt. Occasionally his thoughts drifted towards Maddie and what would become of her, and then memories of Hank would pop into his brain. When that happened, Michael would snap back to attention and begin working until all other thoughts had been pushed out.

Finally, he was exhausted. He went to bed, where he tossed and turned for ages, trying not to let the memories resurface. At last he drifted off to sleep, where he had no control over his thoughts. And so he dreamed.

He dreamed he was running as hard and as fast as he could and when he looked down, he realized that he was holding Maddie in his hands. He looked up and saw that he was running to the hospital. He burst through the hospital doors, screaming for help until a doctor came running towards him. The doctor accepted the baby into his own arms and Michael slumped in relief, but as the doctor turned to walk away, something unusual caught Michael’s eye. He was wearing a belt with his green scrubs: a leather belt with a large, heavy metal buckle in the shape of an American eagle. He recognized the gait of the doctor as he walked away from Michael, still carrying the baby in his arms. Hank. Michael started running again, screaming out Hank’s name. But no matter how fast he ran or how hard he tried, he couldn’t reach Hank and Michael couldn’t get Maddie away from him.

He woke up with Hank’s name on his lips.

Michael looked at the clock and realized that it was almost five. Knowing that he probably wouldn’t get back to sleep, he decided to get up and go for a swim.

If there was one thing Michael could usually rely on, it was that when he was swimming the rest of the world disappeared. But that morning, the image of Maddie in Hank’s arms kept flashing before his eyes. He thought of her small, fragile body and her soft, delicate skin and kept imagining the damage that belt buckle would do to her, how ugly the bruises would be.

It threw his whole rhythm off until he swallowed a mouthful of water and had to pull up out of the water, coughing and spluttering.

“Hank is dead,” he reminded himself. “He can’t hurt Maddie.”

But that didn’t mean there weren’t hundreds of other creeps and jerks out there who could hurt Maddie. She was so completely helpless and alone, the thought of her going through what he went through was sickening.

He had to make sure that it never happened.

***
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Re: Gold diggers (AU, ADULT) ch 25 pg 10 01/23

Postby nibbles2 » Fri Jan 25, 2008 1:58 pm

25 (a) - Michael

Jesse Ramirez received his summons before he even reached his office. He was in Michael’s office by the time he was usually still having his coffee, standing around in the break room as he discussed the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy with the legal secretaries.

“What I tell you stays between us,” Michael began tersely. “I don’t want this discussed with Walt Smiley or anybody else.”

“Of course.”

Then to Jesse’s surprise, Michael’s usually confident and authoritative air vanished. He seemed almost uncertain of himself. He cleared his throat a number of times and shuffled some papers nervously. Jesse waited patiently for Michael to speak, wondering what on earth could have made him act this way. He wondered if it had something to do with the center.

Finally, Michael just blurted it out. “There’s a baby in St John of God’s hospital. She was abandoned by her mother under a car. She has been receiving treatment at the hospital which I’ve been paying for, anonymously. I’d like to find a way to make sure that she ends up in a good home with a loving family instead of being shunted into the foster care system.”

“Oh,” Jesse quickly covered his surprise. “Well, uh, this isn’t exactly my area of expertise. I’m still only finding my feet in family law, so it’s probably best that you consult an expert just in case I’m wrong or don’t think of something.”

“Ok,” Michael nodded that he understood and wanted Jesse to continue.

“As far as I know, there are only two ways to keep her out of foster care. One is to find her birth mother and perhaps find a solution to the mother’s problems so that she or a family member could take the child in.”

“The mother is a drug addict who left her baby under a car in a parking lot. She took drugs while she was pregnant, and Maddie almost died as a result. I’d like to find a way to keep Maddie away from them, if at all possible.”

“Maddie is the baby’s name?”

Michael seemed to be annoyed that he’d said her name aloud, but he nodded in confirmation. “What’s the second option?”

“The second option would be to have somebody appointed as her legal guardian, so that instead of being a ward of the court, she would be under the care of this particular person. It would ultimately be up to them what happened to her, though family services would probably stay involved. Is that more along the lines of what you were thinking?”

“Yes.”

“And are you…interested in being appointed her guardian yourself? Or is there another candidate in mind?”

“Not me. I don’t want to be involved, but I want to help her. I have another candidate in mind. Find out what you can and what steps would have to be taken, and we’ll talk some more then.”

Sensing that he was being dismissed, Jesse stood up. “I’ll make inquiries and let you know as soon as I can. Discreetly, of course.”

***


It was amazing how the simple action of calling Jesse to his office made Michael feel instantly better. It was only after Jesse left that Michael realized how much his own inaction had been weighing down on him. It wasn’t enough however, and Michael knew that, to really protect Maddie -- to keep her away from the likes of Hank -- he had to do more.

He wanted to help Maddie because of a sense of guilt, and perhaps, a sense of responsibility. But Maddie needed more than that. He remembered clearly how passionate Nurse Maria had been when she’d said that Maddie needed people to care for her. She’d done everything in her power to help Maddie, and it wasn’t caused by a sense of guilt. Maria cared about Maddie and Michael knew that she would fight tooth and nail to make sure that Maddie was safe and protected. If anybody was going to be appointed Maddie’s guardian, then it had to be Maria.

Initially he’d planned to visit Maria after work and before he met Max for the game, but as the day progressed, Michael was filled with a sense of restlessness. He was unable to focus on anything but Maria and what he was going to say to her. He began to worry that perhaps Maria wouldn’t want to be appointed Maddie’s guardian. Perhaps her concern was just a professional responsibility. What if Maria believed that her duty towards Maddie ended when Maddie was discharged from the hospital?

His job was to make sure that Maria was willing and able to take on that role. To do that, he realized he was going to have to see Maria again.

By two o’clock that afternoon, Michael accepted that his day was a lost cause. He wouldn’t get anything done until he went to see Maddie and spoke with Maria. He gathered his things together and told a surprised Tess he was leaving.

He stopped on the way down to the lobby to call on Max and arrange a time to meet him before the game.

Michael could hear Nancy yelling as soon as he got out of the elevator and he couldn’t help the grin that appeared on his face. When he knocked on the door to the supply office, Max was standing in front of the Nazi’s desk, his head bowed and his cheeks flamed.

“Excuse me Nancy, I just need a quick word with Max.”

“Of course Mr. Evans.”

Max followed Michael out into the hallway and stared at Michael incredulously.

“What?” Michael asked.

“She likes you.” Max’s astonishment was evident. “How did you get her to like you? Man, you’ve got to help me. She’s really laying into me.”

“She figured out your genius plan, huh?”

“She snuck three blue pens out of the stockroom yesterday while I was on my break and hid them in her drawer. Now she’s been lecturing me for the last half hour about stock control and waste and I don’t know what else. She’s not a Nazi, she’s a psycho. Please help me.”

“Sorry Max, but if you go against departmental policy then it’s up to the department head to address the issue. I really can’t step in to interfere. It would set a precedent.”

“You think this is funny.”

“Max, I think it’s hilarious. You’re just going to have to let her rant until she cools down. Then apologize and do your job as she requires you to in future.”

“Bastard,” Max grumbled. “What did you need to talk to me about anyway?”

“I’m going out for a while and probably won’t be back this evening. Will we just meet at the IMM for dinner?”

Max rubbed the back of his head. “Oh, right…tonight. Yeah…uh, sounds great. I’ll see you there.”

As Michael turned to walk back to the elevator, Max called after him, “Wait, where are you going? Can I come too? Please?”

Michael chuckled, “Sorry Max, you have to stay here.” He didn’t need to turn around to know that Max was flipping him off.

***


When Michael arrived at the hospital, he spotted a couple of paparazzi lurking around Isabel’s car. He was glad that the surge in the media frenzy that surrounded his siblings had dissipated when it became clear that Diane was going to make a full, if slow, recovery. The news vans and journalists had all gone to chase another story and now it was just the usual number of paparazzi hanging around again. He was even more glad that he’d escaped their interest.

He didn’t want to run the risk of bumping into Isabel or anybody who knew him and have to explain what he was doing at the hospital, so he used a side entrance and made his way up to the neonatal ward.

Michael showed his fake ID to the security guard and made his way through the corridor to Maddie’s room. He looked through the glass window and his heart stopped. There was a couple sitting on the chairs peering into the incubator at a small tiny bundle. Who were they? Had Maddie’s family come forward?

“Mr. Guerin? Mr. Guerin?” Somebody placed their hand on his arm to attract his attention.

“Yes?”

A nurse smiled at him kindly. He’d met her before, but couldn’t remember her name. What was it? Annie? Alexis? “Are you looking for Maddie? We’ve moved her back into the other room.” She pointed to the larger ward where Maddie had been before her condition deteriorated.

“Why was she moved?”

“Because she’s doing so much better and we needed the other room. You came at the perfect time. Go and get dressed and I’ll take you in to see her.” He spotted her name tag. Alesha.

Michael quickly did as he was instructed and returned to where Alesha was waiting. She smiled at him again and led him into the room.

“Look who I found,” Alesha announced as she made her way over to a corner. In front of her Michael could see an empty incubator and beside that, sitting in a rocking chair, was Maria.

Maria was cradling Maddie lovingly in her arms and feeding her with a bottle. She looked up and smiled in delight at Michael. “Hi Michael. Great timing.” She turned her attention back to the baby in her arms and spoke in a soft voice, “Maddie, look who’s here. It’s Michael.”

Michael barely noticed as Alesha pulled up another chair close to Maria and pushed him gently into the seat. He could hardly believe the difference in Maddie since the last time he’d seen her. “Wow.”

“Isn’t it amazing?” Maria agreed. “She’s incredible. I can’t believe how much progress she’s made in the last few days.”

“Is she better?” Michael asked in surprise, hardly able to believe that the infant Maria was feeding was the same little girl who had been so close to death so recently. She was drinking the milk greedily, her big blue eyes alert and focused intently on Maria’s face.

Maria placed a gentle kiss on Maddie’s forehead. “She still has some way to go, but she’s going to get there. This little girl is the toughest little fighter I’ve ever seen.”

Michael felt himself relax a little. It was clear as day that Maria’s concern for her patient was more than just a professional duty. Maria loved Maddie. It shone from her eyes every time she looked at the little girl. Michael knew then the best thing he could do for Maddie was to have Maria appointed as her guardian.

“How long do you think it will take before she’s all better?”

Maria’s smile faded. “I really don’t know. This is her first feeding, so we’ll have to see how well she responds to it. It’s unlikely that she’ll be discharged before she’s taking at least six ounces per feeding though, and that could be another week.”

“A week? That’s really soon.”

“Yeah.” Maria pulled Maddie closer and kissed her again.

Michael sat in silence and Maria began to sing gently to the baby until it was clear that Maddie wasn’t going to drink anymore.

“How much did she take?” Michael asked as Maria burped her.

“One and a half ounces. That was really good Maddie. Well done.”

Maddie responded with a large burp.

“I’m really glad you were here for this,” Maria said suddenly.

“Me too,” Michael admitted.

“Would you like to hold her?”

Michael’s response was immediate and emphatic. “No.”

Maria chose to ignore him. She was already on her feet and lowering Maddie into his arms, so Michael had no option but to accept the baby from Maria. She rested Maddie’s head on the crook of Michael’s arm and showed him how to hold her. Michael was terrified to move, and he flashed back to the day he’d found her and raced into the hospital. He was just as scared now as he’d been then.

“Don’t worry, you’re not going to break her.” Maria smiled. “Just relax. Remember to support her head.”

“Easy for you to say,” Michael grumbled but he tried to do as he had been instructed. Maria made sure that his hold was correct before resuming her seat.

“Ok, she has a little drool on her chin. Can you wipe it away?” Maria held a towel out to him.

Michael stared at her in panic. Accepting the towel would mean he was holding Maddie with one arm. Maria could easily have wiped it away, but she just held the towel out for Michael to take. Slowly and deliberately he took away his hand and reach for the towel. He gently wiped the drool away and gave the towel back to Maria. He felt relieved that he’d even managed to do that much, but still held himself rigid for fear that the slightest movement would cause a catastrophe.

“You’re doing great. Relax.” Maria told him with a smile. “She’s fine. She knows she can trust you. You’re the guy who saved her.”

Michael wasn’t sure if babies could remember things like that, but since Maria was the expert, he figured she knew what she was talking about. “I’m sorry I haven’t been around more.”

“You’re here now, that’s what matters. Even if you can’t be here everyday, the fact that you come when you can means a lot.” She patted his knee and stood up. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“No…wait,” Michael called after her but he was too late. She’d already left the room. He glanced helplessly at the other nurse on the far side of the room. She gave him a knowing smile and turned back to her business.

Ok…all he had to do was stay exactly as he was -- sitting on the chair and not moving -- and he should be fine. There was a nurse in the room, so if for any reason something went wrong, she could come to the rescue. And if it was a real emergency, he would scream as loud as he could. Surely somebody would come running.

He looked down at Maddie. She was watching him intently through her big blue eyes and he remembered something Maria had once said about babies being able to sense emotion. Michael forced himself to calm down. “We’re ok,” he told her. “I’m not going to drop you or kill you or anything.”

A few seconds passed -- though to Michael they felt like minutes -- and Michael began to believe his own words. He wasn’t going to drop Maddie. He started to breathe easier. “Piece of cake.”

Slowly Michael began to feel more confident. His posture loosened up a little and he was able to get a more comfortable position in the chair. Maddie continued to watch him impassively and without complaint. He figured that if he was doing something wrong, she’d be crying or whatever it was babies did when somebody was hurting them.

A wave of nausea washed over him at that thought and the memory of the dream from the night before came back to him. Hank’s careless grip on her, his belt buckle gleaming, Michael’s inability to reach her. It frightened him to think of this tiny little person being in the care of Hank or anybody like him. She was so completely helpless, so innocent, so delicate. She had done absolutely nothing wrong, yet somebody had left her to die under his car.

Up until that moment, Michael had had the vague idea that whoever it was that abandoned Maddie had tried to do the right thing by dropping her off near the hospital, choosing an expensive car in the hope that the odds were with them and Maddie would be taken care of. But suddenly Michael had a different perspective. What if he’d never spotted her lying there and had driven over her with his car? Or what if there had been wild dogs roaming around? Or what if he had left the car there for the day and Maddie had been left lying out in the cold? Or what if he’d been some sort of sick bastard who was delighted with the gift of an abandoned baby that nobody knew about?

He was Michael Evans. He had more wealth, power and influence than most people could dream about. And what had he done when he found her? He had dumped her in the hospital and walked away. All it would have taken was one word from him and the world would have been bending over backward to help Maddie. But he’d said nothing and done nothing. He’d shelled out a few dollars and thought it enough.

“I’m sorry Maddie,” he whispered. “I’m really sorry. But I promise that I’m going to make sure you’re taken care of properly from now on. You’re not going to end up where I did. I promise.”

Her only response was to drool some more. Michael grinned and wiped her clean.

When Maria returned a few minutes later, Maddie was fast asleep in Michael’s arms. “Any problems?”

“None at all,” Michael assured her.

Maria smiled at him triumphantly and he had the sneaking suspicion that she’d left him alone deliberately. “I have to put her back down now.” Maria transferred Maddie back into her incubator. The little girl didn’t wake up. “I hate putting her back in there. It feels like I’m packing her into a box.”

“She’ll be out of there soon for good,” Michael reminded her.

His attempt to reassure Maria only seemed to make the blonde nurse more melancholy. “Right.” She nodded sadly.

“Are you alright?”

Maria shook her head in the negative. “I have to get out of here.” Michael followed her out into the hallway where she leaned against a wall and covered her face with her hands. Her shoulders heaved. She was crying.

Shit. He hated when girls cried.

“Hey now, don’t cry,” Michael muttered. He looked around, but there was nobody to come to his rescue.

“I’m sorry,” Maria sobbed.

Michael had no idea what to say to make her stop crying. He patted her awkwardly on the shoulder and then, for some unfathomable reason, pulled her to him until her face was pressed against his chest and her arms were wrapped tightly around his waist. He could feel her hot tears seeping through the material of his shirt and he wrapped his own arms around her, holding her until she calmed down. He made no further attempt to make her stop crying.

Eventually Maria pulled away from him and smiled in embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” she said again. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and blew her nose.

“That’s ok.”

“I need to get out of here.”

“Ok…good. I need to talk to you about something.”

Maria was surprised at that but recovered quickly. “I just have to tell somebody I’m going and get my things. Will I meet you in the diner?”

Michael made a face at that suggestion. “Let’s go someplace else. I’ll bring my car around to the entrance and meet you there.”

“Great. I’ll be three minutes.”

“There’s an Italian place near here that’s pretty good. How about we go there and get some dinner? Do you like Italian?”

“It’s my favorite.” Maria gave him a watery smile. “Do I look like I’ve been crying?”


She did. “You look great.” Maria smiled again and hurried away. As he watched her retreating figure, Michael shook his head. What was wrong with him? Since when did Michael Evans hold babies and comfort crying girls? Did his stone wall just not exist anymore?

***



“This is really nice,” Maria commented as she looked around the little Italian restaurant. She was thankful there were very few people eating just then, as she was dressed in an old pair of jeans and a sweater that had seen better days. Michael, dressed in his expensive business suit, looked right at home.

“I’m sorry about earlier,” she said, pointing to the still visible damp spot on his shirt.

Michael shrugged away her apology. “What made you so upset? I figured that you’d be glad to see her doing so well.”

Maria stirred her drink with her straw and sighed. “I am.”

“But?”

“But…it just made me realize that we’re not going to be able to keep her in the hospital much longer. Soon she’s going to be discharged and then God knows what will happen to her. As much as I hate putting her back in the incubator, there’s a part of me that wants to keep her in it. I just want to keep her in a glass box where nobody can hurt her.”

“Are you worried about what will happen to her once she leaves the hospital?”

“I’m scared to death for her. I know there are some really great people out there who foster children and there are some really caring social workers too, but the system is overstretched. Kids slip through the cracks and cases get forgotten about. I’ve worked with kids who were in the system and it destroyed them. I’ve seen what it does to them and I don’t want that to happen to Maddie. But…there’s nothing I can do.”

Fresh tears came to Maria’s eyes and she brushed them away angrily.

“You really care about her.”

“Of course I do. How could I not care? I’ve tried not to get too attached but I can’t help it. And I don’t want to help it anymore. I want to be attached. There needs to be one person on the planet who cares about her, who cares what happens to her.”

Michael was relieved to see how passionate Maria was about Maddie. If he could just make sure that Maddie was put into Maria’s care, he knew the little girl would be just fine. Then he could stop feeling so guilty. “Have you thought about applying to foster her yourself?”

He was surprised when Maria nodded. She picked her bag from the floor and pulled out a folder. “I was going to apply for it. I filled the form out and everything, but I can’t do it. It just wouldn’t work, not on the money I make. I’d have to work even more overtime than I am right now…Maddie would be in daycare constantly…it just wouldn’t work.”

“Even with the allowance?”

“It’s not really about the money. I would be happy to work and go without nice things if I thought that I could give Maddie what she needs. But if she was with me, then she’d spend most of the day being looked after by other people. And no matter how good they are at their job and how great the facilities are, it’s not the same as being looked after by somebody who loves her. In the end, that’s what made me realize that I can’t take her. She needs a full time mother.”

Michael put down his fork and picked up the folder. He leafed through it and saw that Maria had done her research. As well as the application form, there were several pages on child care costs, budgets and finance. “So the only reason that you haven’t sent this form in is because you can’t afford to?”

Maria smiled sadly and nodded. “There’s also no guarantee that I’d be approved as a foster mother or that Maddie would be placed in my care, but money -- or the lack of it -- is the main reason, yeah.”

“I can help you with that. All of it.”

“What? How? Seriously?”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I want to help Maddie. I don’t want to see her go into foster care either. I…she wouldn’t…she doesn’t deserve that. If you’re willing to be appointed her guardian, then I’ll help make sure she’s placed with you. And I’ll support you…the both of you…financially.”

Maria held her breath and gripped the edge of the table, hardly daring to believe what she was hearing. “Really?”

“Yes.”

“How can you help make sure that I’m appointed her guardian?”

Michael smiled. “I have a very good lawyer.”

“And when you say that you’ll support us financially, what does that mean exactly?”

“It means that you can give up work and I’ll support you. We could work out the details later.”

“Give up work?” Maria repeated faintly.

“You did say that you wanted to be a full time mother. I’ll pay your bills and set up a trust for Maddie so that she’ll be taken care of, long after she turns eighteen.”

“That’s a lot of money.”

“I can afford it.”

Maria shook her head in disbelief. In all her wildest dreams she had never even this considered as an outcome to her situation. She’d seen enough of the world to know better. That was why, even though it really was happening, she had a hard time believing it. “Why?”

“I want to help her. I have money Maria… a lot of money… and I want to use it to help Maddie.”

She didn’t doubt that he had a lot of money. She had seen his expensive clothes, his expensive watch, his expensive phone and the expensive briefcase on the backseat of his car. Even the pen he pulled out of his pocket looked expensive. She’d known his car was expensive -- it was supposedly why Maddie had been left under it -- but she’d just assumed he was one of those guys who spent a lot on their cars. Today, for the first time, she was beginning to see that Michael Guerin was rich. But if he really was that rich, then why had it taken him so long to offer to help out? “Why have you waited until now?”

He averted his gaze and shrugged.

“A few days ago you called her garbage. You haven’t been to see her in ages. She almost died because I couldn’t get funding for her treatment and….” She paused and narrowed her eyes. “You paid for her treatment…didn’t you?”

Michael nodded.

Maria waited but he didn’t elaborate. “You’re not going to explain why?”

“I don’t think I have anything to explain to you.”

“I think you do. You want me to give up my job to raise a baby that isn’t yours, one you’re willing to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars for, yet so far you’ve been very inconsistent with Maddie. You come and see her and then avoid her for days. You call her garbage one day and spend a pile of money on her treatment the next. In my experience, people don’t just dole out that kind of money and expect nothing in return. I want to know what you’re expecting from me. I want to know that you’re not going to change your mind in a few days time. And I want to know if you’re going to be involved in her life, and therefore, in mine.”

Michael was annoyed. He’d made what he considered to be a great offer and instead of being grateful, Maria was interrogating him. “Look, do you want my help or not?”

Of course she wanted his help. More than anything Maria wanted it to be real, but it was just too good to be true. Michael could see the conflict on her face. She wanted to accept his offer, but she didn’t trust it. She needed an explanation.

“Alright. I stayed away because I don’t want to get attached. Not to anybody. And anytime I go to see her, you’re there and you make me hold her hand and talk to her and I was starting to get attached. So I stopped going to see her. But I’m not an unfeeling bastard, Maria. I do care. I want to help her because if I don’t she’ll end up in some foster home with some drunk who uses her as a punching bag. And she deserves better than that. She deserves to have somebody like you who will love her and look after her and make sure that she doesn’t end up where –” He stopped speaking abruptly and looked down.

“Where you did,” Maria finished softly.

He nodded and met her eyes briefly. In that moment, Maria saw all the pain and hurt and loneliness Michael had ever known in his life. She wanted to reach out and hold him but knew instinctively that any shown of pity would be rejected and scorned. The only thing that he wanted to hear was that she would help Maddie.

So she straightened up and cleared her throat. “I think it’s important for young girls to have role models who are independent and earn their own way, so I would like to work once she starts school. But for the first few years, I’d really like to be a stay at home mother.”

Michael was relieved that Maria didn’t press him any further. He was happy to get down to business. “Ok, if that’s what you want.” He pulled out a budget that Maria had drawn up and cleared some space on the table for it. It was detailed and thorough but conservative. Obviously Maria had anticipated that money would be tight when she drew up the plan, but the monetary restrictions she had accounted for were no longer necessary. “We’ll go through this and work out a more flexible budget and see what we can come up with.”


***


An hour later they were reading through a document Liz had downloaded off the internet about the cost of childcare when Maria remembered that it was the night Liz was making her stripping debut. “Shit. Liz.”

Michael looked at her in puzzlement.

“Can you call a taxi for me please?” Maria asked a passing waiter. She looked apologetically at Michael and started gathering her things. “My friend Liz is uh…she has a thing and I wanted to wish her luck before she goes. I’m sorry but I really have to leave now or I’ll miss her.”

“I’ll drive you,” Michael offered. “We can take this stuff and finish up at your place.”

“Thank you. I can’t believe that I forgot about Liz tonight.”

Michael paid for dinner and followed Maria out of the restaurant and to his car. They arrived at Maria’s apartment at the same time as a taxi pulled up outside and honked its horn. Maria hurried out of Michael’s car and to her apartment and Michael followed behind, taking in the neighborhood as he climbed the steps.

“Thank God you’re still here,” Maria exclaimed as she almost collided with Liz, who was coming out the door. “I’m sorry. I meant to be home ages ago, but I got sidetracked. Are you ok?”

Liz laughed at Maria’s flustered state and returned her friend’s hug. “I’m fine. I’m really nervous, but I’m fine. A little excited even. You didn’t have to rush home just for me, Maria.” She noticed Michael standing awkwardly on the steps and smiled at him.

“Oh. Liz, this is Michael. Michael, Liz.”

“As in the Michael who found Maddie?” Liz asked, reaching out to shake Michael’s hand.

“The Michael who saved Maddie,” Maria effused.

Liz looked at her best friend curiously. Maria was acting very hyper. Excitement vibes were radiating off her and Liz knew that something big had happened. She figured it had something to do with Michael, judging by the way Maria gushed. But Maria didn’t normally act so excited because of a guy she was into, even one as handsome as Michael Guerin. “I have to go now, but we’ll talk tomorrow.”

“Good luck tonight sweetie. I’ll be thinking of you.” Maria hugged her again and added in a lower voice that Michael wouldn’t hear. “Remember you’re doing this for Grandma Claudia so don’t let any jerks make you feel like you’re not special. You are incredible.”

“Thank you,” Liz said, a little tearfully. She was glad that Maria had made in back in time because a hug from her best friend was exactly what she needed. She nodded at Michael and hurried down to the taxi.

“Come in,” Maria said and opened the door to the apartment. The apartment was spotless and tidy and Maria said a silent thanks her best friend. Michael took a seat and looked around the small room. Maria nervously wondered if he approved. “Would you like a drink or something to eat?”

Michael shook his head. Maria gestured for him to take a seat on the couch and she flopped down into an armchair, removing her sweater. As she stretched her arms above her head, her t-shirt rode up to give Michael a view of her toned stomach.

He cleared his throat and looked away. “Is it just the two of you living here? How many bedrooms do you have?”

“Two.”

“And would Liz move out if Maddie comes to stay with you?”

“Oh, I actually hadn’t thought about that. I don’t think so.” Maria bit her lip anxiously. She hoped Michael didn’t think she was trying to get him to pay for Liz as well. “I pay rent on the apartment and Liz has been staying with me. She’s having some personal and financial problems at the moment. I figure that I’d have Maddie in my room at first and when Liz is back on her feet and able to afford to get her own place, then I’ll move Maddie into her room.”

“I see.”

“I should have told you about Liz earlier. It’s only for a few months. I pay her rent but she pays all her own bills and other expenses. And it will be really helpful to have her here with me to help with Maddie. I don’t expect you to support Liz as well. I just forgot to mention her.”

Michael nodded to show that he believed Maria. “Do you think maybe you need a bigger place? I mean, this is nice but it is quite small. What about when Maddie gets older? Wouldn’t you need more space then?”

Maria didn’t know what to say. He had a good point about the apartment being small. It felt cramped with Liz in it. To add a baby and the mountain of paraphernalia needed for a baby was going to make it even more cramped. But she really didn’t want to push her luck in case Michael thought she was being greedy.

Fortunately, Michael was already thinking of other things. “I think the most important step is working out arrangements for now. Obviously there are a number of areas that will have to be reviewed as time goes on.”

“Sure. And of course, all this is hypothetical until I’ve been approved as a foster mother.”

“You’re an experienced, qualified nurse. There’s little doubt you’ll be approved.” Michael assured her. “Unless you have a deep dark secret lurking in your closet, that is.”

He meant it as a joke, but Maria’s face fell.

“Is there a skeleton?” he asked in surprise. Michael was sure if there was something to find, Chris would have found it. The P.I. had turned up nothing.

“I don’t know,” Maria began. She sighed and averted her gaze. “I put a guy in the hospital once. I wasn’t charged or anything, but I did get suspended from school and there was an investigation.”

“You put a guy in the hospital?” Michael echoed incredulously.

“It was when I was in high school. I went on a date with this guy and he got too grabby and wouldn’t let me out of his car. I punched him and somehow managed to break his nose. When I hit him, he hit his head on the window and got a concussion as well.”

“Good for you.”

Maria shrugged, but her lips briefly curled up into a small smile. “It was a lucky shot. He was the star football player in our school and his family went nuts because he had to miss a big game. They wanted to have me charged with assault. But I had bruises and torn clothes and then when news got out, other girls came forward and told stories about him. He should have been charged, but his family is loaded so they covered it up. He got away with it.”

“I see. But if you weren’t charged, I don’t see why that should prevent you being approved as a foster parent.”

“But they’ll do a background check and-”

Michael cut her off. “Trust me, you’ll be approved. People who’ve done a lot worse have been approved. And if for some reason there is a problem, well, like I said, I have a good lawyer. Don’t worry.”

“Ok.” Maria visibly relaxed. “I guess we should get back to work.” She opened the folder on the coffee table and searched for the budget they had been working on. As she leaned over, Michael noticed that her top also gave him a great view of her cleavage.

Shit. The very last thing he needed was to be attracted to Maria. Strictly business. That’s all this could be.


***



It was the sound of Michael’s stomach rumbling with hunger that finally caused them to finish up and make their way into the kitchen. Maria was shocked to see that the microwave clock read ten pm.

She arched her back and stretched her arms above her head to work out the kinks in her muscles before opening the fridge door. “So I have some three day old yogurt, one shriveled carrot and something with pasta in it. Oh, I have cheese. Would you like a grilled cheese sandwich?”

“Sounds great,” Michael smiled.

“Coming up.”

Michael took a seat at the table and watched as Maria made the sandwiches. He couldn’t take his eyes of her. As she stood with her back to him, he found himself admiring her perfectly formed ass.

He told himself to get a grip and forced his eyes to look away.

Instead he focused on a photograph on the fridge door. It showed three children on a beach, arms around each other and huge smiles on their faces. It reminded him of the one sitting on his desk in the office, right down to the ice cream stain on the little blondes t-shirt.

He walked over to it and pulled it from the magnet. “This is you?” he asked, pointing to the little blonde in the middle. Maria nodded. “Are these your brother and sister?”

“Not quite.” Maria smiled, came to stand beside him and pointed first to the dark haired girl then the dark haired boy. “That’s Liz and that’s our best friend Alex. We grew up together and we’re still best friends. I love them like they’re my brother and sister, but I’m an only child. What about you?”

Michael stepped away from her so that he didn’t have to smell her perfume. “I have a younger brother and sister.”

Maria went back to making the sandwiches. “Are you close to them?”

“Not really. We were when we were younger, but not anymore. I still see them a lot, but it’s usually because they want money or a favor.”

“That’s a pity.” Maria placed the sandwiches and drinks on the table and took the seat opposite Michael. “Do you think they’ll come see Maddie?”

“Why would they?”

“Because they’ll be like her aunt and uncle.”

Michael almost choked on his sandwich. “What?”

“Your family will be her family.”

He shook his head. “No, my family will not be involved with Maddie. I’m not going to be involved with her. My contribution will be purely financial.”

Maria put down her drink and grabbed Michael’s hand. “She needs you more than she needs your money. It’s what I’ve been telling you from the beginning, Michael.”

“She has you for the mushy stuff.” Michael was clearly getting annoyed at the turn of conversation.

It was obvious to Maria that Michael believed in staying emotionally detached, that he was uncomfortable with feelings and emotions. And though she hadn’t considered it before today, before Michael, she added that to the long list of why she wanted to keep Maddie out of foster care. “I want Maddie to grow up knowing not only that she’s loved, but that it’s ok to love other people. I don’t want her closed off and afraid to get attached. Liz’s Grandmother, Grandma Claudia, always says that a person can’t live their entire lives without caring about anyone. Eventually you stop being a person.”

Michael understood that she wasn’t just talking about Maddie. He had absolutely no desire to have a conversation about his feelings, but there was an intense look in Maria’s eyes that said she wasn’t going to drop the subject. “I have to go,” he told her abruptly. “Send in the application form as soon as you can and I’ll talk to my lawyer tomorrow so we can get the ball rolling on this at once.”

“I will,” Maria assured him. She walked him to the door but stopped him before he left. “Michael, please don’t shut Maddie out. It’s ok to get attached you know.” Before he could respond she threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “Thank you for everything.”

He almost pushed her in his haste to get away and hurried down to his car.

She was still standing in the doorway as he drove off and she waved at him. The light of the porch cast her in an almost angelic glow.

Shit.

This was exactly the situation he didn’t want to get himself in. It was bad enough that he was starting to care about Maddie, but now Maria was getting under his skin as well. It was too dangerous. He wasn’t going to let that happen. Not again. Once the arrangements were in place and Maddie was in Maria’s care, he just wasn’t going to have anything to do with them.

He switched on the radio, found a station broadcasting the game and turned the volume up loud in the hope it would drown out his thoughts. He didn’t want to think about how tiny and helpless Maddie was. He didn’t want to think about Maria’s soft skin or the way that it felt holding her in his arms, her body pressed against his.

He did his best to ignore the fact that for the first time in a year, he was attracted to a woman.

***



A note to all you non candies out there: If reading such a candy heavy part didn’t kill you, maybe you might risk reading a candy fic. Passion by the supremely talented April is one of the funniest and most enjoyable fics on the board right now. Don’t miss out on it just because it says M&M in the title.
Last edited by nibbles2 on Tue May 03, 2011 4:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Gold diggers - UPDATE 5/12

Postby nibbles2 » Mon May 12, 2008 2:44 pm

Firstly, an apology – I never meant to go five months without an update. So sorry for making you all wait. I will try to make the next part arrive sooner. But sometimes a little thing called real life rears its ugly head and strikes me down. This part just got lost in the mire of other stuff that I unfortunately had to prioritise.

Once again, a huge thanks to Orangesky for taking the time to help make this chapter better and to Michelle in Yonkers who also gave it her seal of approval.

Thanks to everybody for leaving me feedback and bumping. For those of you who don’t write, you’ll never understand how great it is to receive feedback even if it’s just to say ‘great part, can’t wait for more’ so thank you. And to know that people are sticking around even after so long means a lot too.

End of mush.

Maiqu He’s more attached than he’d like or her realises but he’s not going to give in too easy.

Alien_Friend Yes, Michael forgot Max but as you’ll see from this part, Max isn’t exactly waiting by the phone.

Emz80m Umm, actually I don’t think who forgot who is going to be an issue. It suited them both to forget their plans so there’s no need to play the blame game. A first for these two.

girl afraid For reasons that you have no way of knowing at this point of the fic, that step was a huge, life changing step for Michael. It might just be financial but it’s so much more than that.

Tamashii Well, the Alex in the picture was six and covered in ice cream so he’s not the Alex that Michael knows. Will Michael give Liz a chance…? That’s an issue that we’ll get to in time.

tequathisy Michael remembers the names of people he considers important to remember and he forgets the names of people he considers less important – like nurses and office clerks and even his own secretary. I can spin it by explaining that it’s a defence mechanism. He ‘forgets’ the names so that he can keep his distance from them and stop them getting to close. But that’s not really true, it’s because he’s a jerk. Although he acts like a jerk to keep his distance from people so in a way it’s true.

begonia9508 Yes, Maria has the bit between her teeth and she’s not going to let this go. She’s determined that Maddie and Michael will bond, and it’s not just for Maddie’s sake.

RhondaAnn Michael noticed that Maria was attractive before, now he’s realizing that he’s attracted to her. It’s small difference for man a giant difference for Michael. I wish I could explain why it’s a giant step just now but I can’t so you’ll have to wait.

aussietasha77 I can’t wait for the scene where Maria finds out either. It’s been in my head since I first read the challenge for this fic which is over two years.

LairaBehr4 Yes, it was very convenient. Saved me having to write the conversation between him and Max. These chapters are too long already.

Cereth Stripping in this part. Isabel part is next. I’d love to say I’ll have that part ready soon but real life has a way of making me a liar when I promise new parts.

AusCat I think the rude shock will be less Michael’s and more Maria’s. Michael will be in for some rude words though.

VeronicB It’s so true, when it’s very bad to deny our feelings. Because we just might end up like Michael who is ********.

kay_b Unfortunately for Isabel when she hits rock bottom it may just turn out to be a false bottom. She doesn’t realise how far she can fall and that the bottoms keep sinking lower.

Cocogurl Thank you, I’m glad you enjoy the candy moments. I’m just glad to finally be able to write the candy moments. After twenty five chapters I think it’s about damn time. Imagine me a candy writer waiting this long to have candy, who would do that? Not looking at anybody in particular coughaprilcough.

roswell3053 Yep, they’re going to pretty much ignore it. They might refer to it once and then it’s over and done with.

ultimatepickupline Well there’s no guarantee that she’ll go with Maria, yet. No fanfic writer worth her salt would make it that easy.

83 AlienAngel thank you, sorry for the delay in the new part.

mmluver89 A stargazer moment – if I’ve been slow writing candy then the stargazers are moving at glacial speed. There will be a moment in the Isabel part which is up next. But the Isabel and Alex moments are tricky. Isabel is a drug addict, Alex is an addiction counsellor which is not the best basis for a relationship. Then again either is stripper/client or nurse/emotionally retarded jerk.

Blink1lit thank you.

Michelle in Yonkers good catch, everybody is focusing on Max and Michael blowing each other off that they’ve forgotten who did go to the game. But more of that in the next part.
This night does change all their lives – and in big ways too. But the evidence of this might not be apparent just yet. Parts of it is, Michael’s decision to help Maria adopt Maddie, stuff that happens with Max in this part and Isabel in the next part. But there are also far reaching consequences that will come about as a result of this particular night. You could always argue that it came when they met Liz, Maria and Alex but it’s far more dramatic to say ‘the night that changed their lives forever’.
You mentioned the paparazzi catching Max and Liz. Of course it will come out eventually – there’s somebody who will make sure it does. But the paparazzi are less of an issue for Max than they appear to be. He’s the Nikki to Isabel’s Paris. And Isabel isn’t really a Paris, she’s a lesser spotted Paris if you will. Right now they are big news because of recent events but as they are both falling off the radar right now, the paps will move on to the next celebutard. Unless Isabel and Max do something to attract their attention or wander into their path. Max isn’t famous for any other reason than he’s Isabel’s brother. He doesn’t court the press the way she does so they don’t really bother with him unless they know there’s a chance of a story.

April I’m really glad you’re enjoying it, thank you. I wish I had your updating ability.

paper Little known fact, Michael is already a philanthropist. He has substantially increased the amount that the company donates to their family foundation. I don’t know if I’ve already mentioned that. He’s not all bad.

uw51 another one who’s ability to update regularly puts me to shame. Thank you.

Egyptian_Kiss thanks for reading.

RiceKrispy I think real life enjoys screwing with me.

xmag
pookie76
spacegirl23
girl afraid
Sirio
kyliemou

Thanks for bumping.

Forensicschic You stayed up until 2am when you had an exam at 8am the next morning to read this? Way to prioritise. Hope it went well or I’ll feel really guilty. As for Michael’s disease, I’m dying to tell but it’s not time yet.

And so here it is, in two parts because of length. (It took it’s time to get here so to compensate, it’s a long part.) Enjoy.



Chapter 25 – b


When he’d started his new job, Max had placed an alarm clock on the highest shelf in his large walk in closet. When it went off in the morning, he was forced to get out of bed, make his way into the closet, and find a chair to stand on in order to turn it off. Then, just in case he was tempted to get back into bed, another clock sounded from his bathroom one minute later. The system worked. It got him out of bed and into the bathroom on time and prevented him from simply rolling over and going back to sleep, which was what usually happened when he only kept an alarm clock on his nightstand.

Max was especially thankful for the system as he trudged bleary eyed from the closet to his bathroom, dropping his boxers on the floor along the way. He slammed down on the second alarm clock just as it beeped and stepped straight into the shower. He was hit Immediately with a blast of cold water that woke him up completely. It did nothing to relieve the uncomfortable feeling in his groin however, so as the water heated up he relieved himself. It was unsatisfactory and he got no pleasure from it but at least it took care of the problem.

As Max dressed, he realized that it had been a long time since he’d been forced to take care of himself. He paused as he did up his tie and glanced at himself in the mirror. It had been many days since he’d last had sex, an unthinkably long time for him. He hadn’t gone that long since….his freshman year at college. The first time.

And the reason he’d gone so long without sex? It was the same reason he’d woken up that morning with a boner. Liz Parker.

Never before had a girl been more perfect.

He’d always known that someday, once his wild oats were sown, that he’d settle down and fall in love. When he’d imagined the type of girl he wanted -- beautiful and sexy but unaware of it, smart and serious but fun -- he’d thought perhaps she would be a doctor or a lawyer. He’d never imagined that he’d fall for a stripper. Strippers were for wild nights out and taking back to the IMM, not for taking home to his parents.

But here he was, falling for a stripper.

Things with Liz were going great now. They were able to be open and honest with each other. He’d told her his most shameful secret and she hadn’t looked at him any differently. She’d opened up to him about her grandmother. She was comfortable talking to him and taking her clothes off around him. She had agreed to see him outside of the club. And even though he was no longer able to afford to see her every night at the club, she knew he wasn’t letting her down or breaking his promise to her.

And she was attracted to him, he knew that. Maybe he wouldn’t have to wait months and months before she was ready to sleep with him. Maybe it would take a lot less time that he had initially thought. If he played his cards right, his forced dry spell could end soon.

As he drove to work that morning with the top down and the sun shining, Max felt like he was king of the world. It made no sense. He had a sucky job, he wasn’t getting laid and he was broke. Yet he’d never felt happier or more positive about the future. Funny that.

***


Nancy wasn’t in the office when he got back after lunch, so he took the chance to grab the ledgers and quickly note down the figures he needed to know. He took a seat in the stock room and began working out the totals for that evening. When he heard Nancy come in, he stuck his head out the door and greeted her before slipping back into the stock room and shuffling things around a little to make it appear like he was doing work. His boss came to find him thirty minutes later and asked to speak to him.

Max followed her into the office and took a seat opposite her at the desk.

“As it’s the end of your first week, I wanted to review things with you,” Nancy told him. Perhaps if he had slept better the night before or wasn’t trying to imagine what Liz’s routine would be like, Max would have noticed the steely glint in Nancy’s eyes.

Nancy pulled out a thick looking form and began to fill it out. Max only half-listened as she listed his punctuality, dress and appearance as ‘good’.

Then she asked him whether he had he received adequate training. Did he have a good understanding of the job and his duties? Were his levels and skills adequate for the duties he was assigned to? Did he feel that more training was required?

Max had to bite his tongue to stop himself from pointing out that a trained monkey could do his job. He assured her he was happy with everything so far. Nancy noted all his comments down on the form.

“So then, you’ve received adequate training, you understand the job you’ve been assigned to, it’s not too hard for your level of skill and experience and you don’t feel that more training is necessary?”

“Right,” Max nodded. He glanced at the clock on the wall behind her and wondered how long this was going to take. He still had to come up with a good reason for not going to the game with Michael.

“What is your job Max?”

That’s when Max started to get worried. There was something in Nancy’s tone that made him sit up straight and pay attention.

“My job?” He wracked his brain, trying to remember the exact description he had read in the contract. “It’s to maintain an ongoing stock take of stationary supplies and to assist you.”

“What does that mean, Max?”

“Uh, to count all the supplies and keep track of what’s removed.”

“That’s not a hard job, is it Max?”

He shook his head.

“All you have to do is count.”

“Right.”

“And you’re able to count.”

He felt something inside snap. He wasn’t going to sit there and be spoken to in that fashion by a jumped up little bureaucrat with a Napoleon complex. “Why don’t you just say what you want to say?”

She smiled at him, the sort of smile that could freeze molten lava. “I’m just trying to determine if you are able to do the job you’ve been assigned to.” She held up the form and tapped it with her pen to validate her line of questioning.

“You know that I’m able to do the job. This is a waste of time.”

“I’m just doing my job.”

“I’d like to get back to mine.”

Nancy said nothing in response. Instead she reached into her desk drawer and removed a handful of pens. She laid them on the desk.

“Your job is to count the number of items in the stock room. Yesterday, I removed twenty five pens and didn’t mark it down in the ledger. At the end of the day, you marked in the ledger that you’d counted the pens and that none were missing.” She shoved the ledger across the desk for him to see.

“I miscounted.”

“Or didn’t count at all. Do you think I’m stupid Mr. Evans? Do you think that you can pull the wool over my eyes?”

“No, I don’t think that. I think you’re psychotic and in a desperate need of getting laid.”

Nancy’s mouth flapped open wordlessly.

Max squirmed in his chair. He knew he had gone too far. “I’m sorry, that last remark was uncalled for. I -”

“How dare you. How dare you speak to me like that. How dare you disrespect me. I am your boss. I call the shots around here. I have assigned you to a duty and you have to comply with my order. It is not your job to second guess my decisions; it is not your job to find short cuts. It is your job to do what I tell you to do.”

He tried to apologize again, but Nancy was shouting over him and wasn’t listening to what he had to say. “You may be able to get away with being a lazy good for nothing with your family. But you won’t get away with that here. Don’t think that because your daddy owns the company that I’m going to let you sit on your ass and do nothing. Your daddy isn’t the boss here, I am. Just because you’re an Evans doesn’t mean that you get away with doing nothing. You are just a regular employee. And you do what I say.”

“It’s the most pointless job in the world. There’s no need for me to do it. You keep such a tight reign on this place that nobody would ever dare steal a pen from you. In fact, the only way for something to go missing is if you yourself stole a pen.”

“You don’t think that there’s a need for this job?” Nancy hissed. “And what qualifies you to make that judgement? Did you learn that in the three months you were in business school? Or the six weeks in film studies? Or the five months you spent as an English major?”

He opened his mouth to respond but Nancy kept on yelling. “I’ve worked in this field for over twenty years. I am more qualified than anybody else in this building to determine if there is a need for your job. I have studied, in depth, all the reports and studies and papers on this subject. American businesses lose millions of dollars every year on stationary supplies.”

Max realized that this was her soapbox. Getting the chance to make this speech, and to him of all people, was probably going to be the highlight of her sad and pathetic life. He stood at the desk and pretended to listen as she ranted on and on.

And then there was a knock on the door.

Nancy stopped mid spiel and stared at the door in surprise. Who would possibly dare knock at the door outside of opening hours?

Michael popped his head through the door. “Excuse me Nancy. I just need a quick word with Max.”

To Max’s complete amazement, Nancy smile at Michael. “Of course Mr. Evans.”

Max followed Michael out into the hallway and stared at Michael incredulously.

“What?” Michael asked.

“She likes you. How did you get her to like you? Man, you’ve got to help me. She’s really laying into me.”

“She figured out your genius plan, huh?”

“She snuck twenty-five blue pens out of the stockroom yesterday while I was on my break and hid them in her drawer. So now she’s been lecturing me for the last half an hour about stock control and waste and I don’t know what else. She’s not a Nazi, she’s a psycho. Please help me.”

“Sorry Max, but if you go against departmental policy then it’s up to the departmental head to address the issue. I really can’t step in to interfere. It would set a precedent.”

“You think this is funny.”

“Max, I think it’s hilarious. You’re just going to have to let her rant until she cools down, apologize, and do your job as she requires you to in future.”

“Bastard,” Max grumbled. He knew Michael was right. “What did you need to talk to me about anyway?”

“I’m going out for a while and probably won’t be back this evening. Will we just meet at the IMM for dinner?”

Max rubbed the back of his head. Damn. He still hadn’t thought of a good reason to blow Michael off, and his brain was too numb from Nancy’s onslaught to think of anything on the spot. “Oh, right, yeah…uh, sounds great. I’ll see you there.”

As Michael turned to walk back to the elevator, Max called after him, “Wait, where are you going? Can I come too? Please?”

Please? Man, he was desperate.

Michael chuckled. “Sorry Max. You have to stay here.”

Max glared at him and stuck up his middle finger. Childish he knew, but he felt better for it.

Very reluctantly, Max made his way back into the office. As soon as the door closed, Nancy resumed her former tirade. Max took Michael’s advice and sat down, waiting for her to run out of steam.

But as he sat there, he began to think.

Michael was such an ass. He had really enjoyed seeing Max suffering like that. It’s probably why he had assigned Max to Nancy’s office in the first place. In fact, Max realized, that was exactly why he had assigned him here. He knew how crazy and psychotic Nancy was. He’d stuck Max in here and waited for something like this to happen. Maybe he’d told Nancy what Max was up to and that’s why she’d removed the pens. It would be just like Michael to do something like that. Michael had been an ass to him for ages now. Max was a fool to think that Michael was interested in repairing their relationship. He’d just lured Max into a false sense of security so that he could have a ring side seat when things went wrong. It made Max so furious to think of Michael cozying up to him and inviting him to basketball games while the whole time Michael was engineering his downfall. And what exactly did Michael get out of seeing Max being humiliated like this? Absolutely nothing. As far as Max could see, Michael was just doing it because he was spiteful.

A little voice reminded him that Michael had good reason to want to humiliate him. But Michael didn’t know he had a good reason. So as far as Max was concerned, he didn’t have a good reason. Other than being a grade A jerk, he had no reason at all.

Well fuck that. Fuck worrying about what Michael thought. And to think he had considered blowing Liz off to go to the game with Michael. Fuck worrying about what to tell Michael about missing the game. He just wasn’t going to go. Not that Michael would care anyway. Ass.

Screw Michael. Screw them all. He was trying, really trying, to better himself. Michael had deliberately set him up to fail. And his father had sat back and allowed it to happen.

With one breath they criticized him for the way his lived his life, and with the next they did their best to prevent him from doing what they said they wanted him to do.

Why should he bother?

Why was he sitting here listening to Nancy, allowing her to treat him like this?

“Shut up Nancy.”

For the second time that day, Nancy’s mouth flapped open in shock.

“Find some other monkey to count your pens. I’m out of here.” He pulled his jacket off the hook behind the door and left her office.

In the plaza outside the Evans building, Max took a deep breath of the sweet air of freedom.

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Tue May 03, 2011 4:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Gold diggers - UPDATE 5/12

Postby nibbles2 » Mon May 12, 2008 2:48 pm

Max spent hours grooming himself that evening. Over the last year he had participated in several photo shoots and attended many events, so even though he had to get ready without the assistance of a stylist or dresser, he left his apartment looking like he had just walked off the cover of a magazine.

In fact, he’d called his agent and left instructions for her to find him some modelling work, just something to tide him over until his trust fund kicked in.

He checked his cell phone at a red light and was pleased to see that there were no calls from either Michael or his father. That meant they hadn’t heard about him quitting his job yet. Max was sure there’d be hell to pay when they found out, but he wasn’t going to let that ruin his evening. He’d deal with them on Monday or whenever.

Tonight was all about Liz.

When the lights of The Dangerzone came into view, Max felt butterflies flit around in his stomach. He realized, with surprise, that he was nervous. But why? Because tonight was an important night for Liz and he was nervous for her. But there was another reason. Tonight could be a game changing night for the two of them and their relationship, and he was both excited and nervous about what that could mean.

He pulled up in front of the club, tossed the valet his keys, and sauntered to the door.

A security guard scanned his membership card but instead of handing it back and letting Max pass, the guard stepped in front of him.

“I’m sorry Mr. Evans, but I can’t allow you to enter. Your membership has been suspended.”

“What? You can’t suspend my membership. Do you know who I am? I demand to speak to the manager.”

Julia Brown glided into the space between Max and the guard. With an almost imperceptible nod of her head, she sent the guard back to his job. “Come with me please, Mr. Evans.”

She guided him into a small office and asked him to take a seat at the desk.

“What’s going on?” Max demanded.

“Mr. Evans, I’m afraid that I have had to suspend your membership. As you may recall, on your last visit we had a glitch when you tried to pay your bill. After you left, we ran it through again using your credit card details as you instructed. The credit card was rejected.”

Max reached into his pocket and pulled out the last remaining credit card he had that wasn’t maxed out. It was the company card that Michael had given him when he was supposed to entertain the Japanese clients. He’d never returned it. He knew that he was going to get in trouble for using the card, but he just didn’t care anymore.

Julia took the card and ran it through the machine. It made a beeping sound and she frowned. Max’s heart sank.

“Is there a problem?”

“I’m afraid that this card has also been rejected.”

“No, that’s impossible.” Max was sure that he hadn’t gone over the limit on that card. He’d only used it once or twice. “Try it again.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Evans.” Julie picked up a pair of scissors and snipped the card cleanly in two. She tossed the two halves into the trash can near her desk. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave my club.”

“Look, there’s obviously been some sort of mix up. You know I’m good for the money. I’m Max Evans for Christ’s sake.”

Julie looked at him impassively. “Mr. Evans, it doesn’t matter who you are. If you cannot afford to be in my club, then you may not enter. If this was the first time there had been a problem with your cards, then I might be willing to overlook it. However you have a history of credit card problems. Therefore, I’m going to have to ask you to leave my club.”

“Please, just let me in for tonight. I promise you’ll get all the money I owe you. I’m just having a cash flow problem at the moment.”

Julie was deaf to his pleas. She walked to the door and motioned for a security guard to join them. “Please escort Mr. Evans off the property.”

“Wait.” Max jerked his head in a silent request for privacy. She nodded at the guard to leave them alone. “Look, you have to let me in tonight. Liz is depending on me to be here for her. She’s really nervous. I promised her that I’d be here. Just let me in to see her perform and then I’ll go.”

He could see that Julie was considering his request carefully. After a moment she nodded her head. “Very well. You may stay to watch Liz because she needs you. However, as soon as she is finished on stage, you are to leave.”

She went to the door again and spoke to the guard in a low voice. Max strained to hear what she was saying, but couldn’t make out anything.

The guard held the door open. “Follow me.”

Max thanked Julie sincerely and followed the guard.

Instead of being taken into the club as instructed, Max was led to a small, boring waiting room, one that wouldn’t have looked out of place in any office in the country. Nothing about it indicated that it belonged to an exclusive strip club.

“Sit here. I’ll come get you before Liz goes on stage.”

Max nodded, took his seat, and waited.

Eventually the guard came back and Max was lead into the main room of the club and given a table just at the edge of the stage. It was a prime location for watching what was going on. A waitress set a glass of ice water in front of him but didn’t offer to keep him company. None of the other girls working the floor approached him either.

Max seethed as he waited. He wasn’t used to being ignored; he wasn’t used to being treated like a nonentity. And frankly, he didn’t like it. He was so angry at his father for doing this to him, but he was even more furious at Michael, whom Max felt had put his father up to it in the first place. Max was entitled to his money, dammit.

He was so lost in his musings that he almost didn’t notice the lights go down to herald the first act of the night. He said a silent prayer that it went well for Liz.

The room filled with gentle harp music and the sound of choral voices. A gold spotlight drew everybody’s gaze upwards as a figure was lowered from the ceiling to the stage. She was in silhouette but Max knew her well enough to recognize that it was Liz. She was wearing a pair of massive wings, her hair was bundled neatly on top of her head, and she was wearing a halo.

She landed on the ground and began to move in ballet fashion to the music. Despite the cumbersome looking wings and the restrictive dress that she was wearing, Liz moved with grace and ease. She might not have been a natural show girl but she was a natural dancer.

Max was a little surprised that she was wearing a floor length dress that looked more like a grandmother’s nightdress than lingerie. But then she glided into the full spotlight and Max’s breath caught. The long dress was almost sheer and when standing in front of the light it became see through. He couldn’t tell if she was naked under the dress but it certainly gave the illusion that she was.

Liz came to the pole, which was directly in front of where Max was sitting. Her eyes swept the audience and lit up when she spotted him. He smiled back at her and gave her a cheesy two thumbs up. She seemed to visibly relax then and turned to contemplate the pole.

She walked around it slowly, trailing her fingers against it and with a look of confusion on her face. Then she grasped it with two hands, swung herself around it and smiled wickedly.

Suddenly the choral music stopped and the soft golden light disappeared. It was replaced with flashing reds and oranges as the loud strains of Dance with the Devil by Breaking Benjamin began to play.

Here I stand, helpless and left for dead.

Close your eyes, so many days go by.

Easy to find what's wrong, harder to find what's right.

I believe in you, I can show you that I can see right through all your empty lies.

I won't stay long, in this world so wrong.


With a shirk of her shoulder, Liz’s wings fell off her and were promptly gathered by a stage hand, who materialized from the audience. Liz grabbed the pole again and this time used her leg and one hand to swing around it. Then, holding herself in place with just her legs, Liz leaned backwards. She ran her hands down her body suggestively then trailed them into her hair. She pulled the halo off and threw it like a Frisbee into the crowd and her hair tumbled free of its tight bun.

She pulled herself upright and swung on the pole again, her hair swung wildly as she did and when she righted herself on the ground, Max could see two little devil horns peaking out at the top of her head.

Say goodbye, as we dance with the devil tonight.
Don't you dare look at him in the eye, as we dance with the devil tonight.


She gyrated around the stage, making eye contact with the audience and smiling wickedly. The crowd loved her and as she danced, it looked like she was really enjoying herself. But Max could see that she was putting on a brave face. She was hating every second of it.

She reached another pole, leaned against it and dipped low to the floor. She pushed herself back upright.

Max saw her tense for a moment, as if she was bracing herself for what came next. She closed her eyes briefly, then gripped her dress tightly and ripped it from her body.

Trembling, crawling across my skin.
Feeling your cold dead eyes, stealing the life of mine.


She was wearing a sparkly bra and skimpy pair of panties and she looked amazing. Her body gleamed under the lights and it looked like she had been dusted with golden powder.

Liz ran her hands over her body again, down between her legs and over her breasts. She began to dance slowly and seductively, almost as though she was in a trance. The fake smile on her face was fixed permanently in place.

I believe in you, I can show you that I can see right through all your empty lies.

I won't last long, in this world so wrong.


She made another complicated move on the pole at the far end of the stage before dancing back towards Max’s direction. As she gyrated she removed her sequinned bra and twirled it around her finger. She leaned over the edge of the stage and let it brush over the heads of a few members of the audience before letting it fall into the hands of one.

Say goodbye, as we dance with the devil tonight.
Don't you dare look at him in the eye, as we dance with the devil tonight.


She ran her hands over her body again, squeezing her breasts and closing her eyes to show pleasure.

Hold on. Hold on.

She hooked her fingers around the skimpy waist band of her panties and wiggled her butt.

Max felt his insides tense up again in anticipation.

Say goodbye, as we dance with the devil tonight.
Don't you dare look at him in the eye, as we dance with the devil tonight.


Then with a sly wink, Liz pulled her hands free and grabbed onto the pole again. The crowd groaned in disappointment.

She pulled herself into an upside down position and extended her legs in a split then gracefully lowered herself back to the floor.

Hold on. Hold on.

Say goodbye, as we dance with the devil tonight.
Don't you dare look at him in the eye, as we dance with the devil tonight?


Then she blew a kiss in Max’s direction and stalked back to the top of the stage. As she walked, she undid the skimpy panties. Instead of falling to the floor, they unrolled to the ground in the form of a tail. She shook her hips and the tail slashed around. Then she gripped the pole, wrapped her legs around it, and glided downwards.

Beneath her the floor opened and a bright red light illuminated her as she disappeared under the floor to the sound of maniacal laughter.

As she disappeared, her eyes locked on to Max. He tried to smile at her to silently communicate that she had been brilliant. She returned his smile briefly, but it didn’t reach her eyes.

***


Mere seconds after Liz had finished her dance, Max was escorted out of the room and his car was brought around. Instead of going home as he had planned, Max drove into the hills overlooking the city.

He parked his car in an empty lot and climbed out to sit on the hood and look at the lights below.

He felt like the biggest heel in the world.

The look in Liz’s eyes as she had disappeared into ‘hell’ had been like a shot to the heart. She had stripped off in a room full of strangers. She had humiliated and embarrassed herself. She had put herself through the worst thing that she could go through and all so that she could put her grandmother into a good hospital and go to college.

On three different occasions, Philip Evans had paid exorbitant tuition fees at three different Ivy League colleges for Max. He’d bought Max plush apartments and furnished them expensively. He’d bought Max cars and watches and laptops and anything else Max could have possibly wanted to get through college. He’d called regularly to talk to him, brought Diane out to visit him, paid for a housekeeper to cook him his favorite meals. He’d introduced him to college professors and influential people and helped Max make connections that most people would have killed for.

And three times, Max had walked away without even bothering to thank his father for what he had done.

Max had lost count of the number of times Philip had hired him to work at the company or had arranged interviews and positions at other companies. Half the time, Max had walked out within a week.

Philip had never asked Max to put his hand in his pocket for anything. He’d just wanted Max to do something worthwhile with his life. Max knew that Philip would always be there to help him when he needed it. He was never alone.

Liz Parker had nobody to turn to for help. She had to do it alone. And she did it without feeling sorry for herself or getting angry at other people.

If Liz could get up on stage and take off all her clothes, then Max reasoned he could tolerate Nancy for a few months until his father felt he could be moved to a better job. He could survive without expensive clothes and nice cars and a huge bank balance.

He’d go back on his hands and knees to Nancy if he had to. He’d get a second job if he had to.

He was going to make his parents proud of him. He was going to make Liz proud of him. And maybe, that way, he’d be able to feel proud of himself again.

***


Max was drinking a cup of awful coffee he’d made himself when his phone rang the next morning. The caller ID showed Michael’s office number.

“Hey Michael. I’m sorry about missing the game last night. I was just so pissed off after getting chewed out by Nancy that I went for a drive and completely forgot about the game.”

There was silence on the other line for a moment, and Max wondered if there was a problem until his brother’s voice came through, sounding very surprised. “That’s no problem, I got held up at a meeting myself until very late so I only caught the last twenty minutes on the radio. What are you doing up? It’s only nine.”

Max laughed. “I guess I’m just used to getting up early now. Hey, do you want to shoot some hoops later today? I’m meeting a friend this morning, but I’ll be free this evening.”

“Dad wants us to all have dinner at home tonight at seven, so why don’t we meet there at five and play for a while?”

“Cool. Hey, did Nancy say anything about me yesterday?”

Max heard Michael shuffle some papers around in the background.

“No, I guess she hasn’t filed the paperwork on whatever disciplinary action she’s taking yet. She’s probably mulling it over for the weekend.”

“Great,” Max grumbled. In reality, Max was pleased that Nancy hadn’t filed a report that stated he’d walked out yet. He would have to go in early on Monday morning and either beg or bribe Nancy to forget that he had quit, but maybe Michael and his dad would never know he’d called his boss psychotic.

Michael said goodbye and Max hung up.

Philip called an hour later as Max was driving to UCLA. He sounded surprised and pleased that Max was up and about so early. He confessed that he’d waited until just then to call because he thought Max would be enjoying a well deserved morning of sleeping in.

“I’m impressed with anybody who can last with Nancy for a few weeks. How is everything working out with her?”

“Oh, you know…she’s a nightmare. We had words yesterday because I miscounted some pens, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Great. Max I can’t tell you how proud your Mom and I are of you. You’ve shown real growth and maturity lately.”

“Thanks Dad.”

***


He met Liz in a café close to the library.

She was sitting at a table by the window, engrossed in a book, and didn’t see him arrive. It gave him the opportunity to watch her in her natural environment for a minute. She was dressed in a faded pair of jeans and a UCLA sweater and her hair was pulled back from her face in a long ponytail. She had flip flops on her feet and her right foot was tucked under her body, her sandal hanging off her toes.

Once again he was mesmerized by how beautiful she was without the layers of makeup and the back combed hair. She looked so wholesome and girl-next-door like. A far cry from the woman he had seen last night.

Max ordered coffee and a Danish and made his way over to her. He grabbed her shoe from her foot to get her attention. She looked up in surprise, grinning when she realized it was him.

“Max.”

“I almost didn’t recognize you,” he told her.

Liz looked down at herself uncertainly and smoothed down her sweater.

Max added quickly, “You were amazing last night and you looked incredibly hot, but I think you look a thousand times better right now.”

“Thank you.” Liz smiled shyly. “So you thought I was ok last night?”

“I thought you were fantastic. Were you pleased with your performance?”

She shrugged. “I guess. Most of it’s just a blur. Thank you for being there for me. Julia told me what happened and I’m just so grateful that she allowed you to stay. I’m so sorry. I feel really bad Max.”

“What? Why?”

“You’re broke because of me. It cost you thousands to keep coming to see me every night. And buying all that expensive champagne? I should have stopped you when I realized-”

“Stop. I’m responsible for my own actions. I blew thousands of dollars on the stupidest, most pointless things. I didn’t have to let it come to this. Once my Dad cut me off, I should have wised up. I didn’t. The last person that’s to blame for any of this is you. And if you say anything like that again…you’re not getting your shoe back.”

“Oh no…not the shoe!” Liz exclaimed in mock horror.

A waitress came over with Max’s order and he thanked her. When she left he turned back to Liz. “Did things go well after I left?”

“Amazing. I made enough to cover the cost of getting Maria’s car fixed. In one night, can you believe it?”

Max flashed back to how amazing she had been on stage. “Yeah, I can believe it. You were hot.”

They chatted for a while over coffee. Max told her about his argument with Nancy and his decision to return on Monday and suffer the consequences. He didn’t tell her what had inspired him though. Something told him that Liz didn’t want to discuss that. In return Liz told him about her night. None of the guys were as nice as Max, but none of them were awful either, and she was thrilled with the result.

“Do you think you’ll do it again?” Max asked.

“I have to, I need the money. I’m just glad that the first time is over and it wasn’t horrible. And now that I know I can do it, doing it again won’t be so hard.”

As the café began to fill up, Liz looked at her watch and was surprised to see how much time had passed. “Wow, it’s getting late. We should probably get going.”

“It seems we have a habit of letting time get away from us,” Max laughed. The truth was it felt like they had only been talking for a few minutes. No matter how long he spent with Liz – it was always too short.

Liz held her hand out expectantly and Max frowned in confusion until she poked his leg with her bare foot. “My shoe.”

Max fished the sandal from his back pocket and dropped down onto his knees in front of her. He held her foot gently in his hand and carefully slipped the shoe onto it. Liz wriggled her toes to situate it correctly.

Still holding her foot, Max glanced up at her and suddenly realized that it was probably the most intimate position they had ever been in. Sure, she’d shaken her booty in his face and performed some amazingly sexy dance moves for his eyes only, but the rules of The Dangerzone forbid them from touching. Crazy as it was, holding Liz’s foot was the most physical he had been with her.

Liz seemed to realize it too as she turned a pretty shade of pink and blurted out, “My toes are so ugly.”

Max laughed in surprise and inspected the aforementioned digits. “What do pretty toes look like?”

Liz shrugged, clearly embarrassed, though at what he couldn’t be certain. Was it the conversation they were having? Drawing attention to her ugly toes? Or maybe because she, too, was enjoying his touch? “I don’t know.”

Rising to his feet, Max held out his hand and helped her out of her chair. Instead of dropping his hand like he expected, Liz linked her fingers through his. He couldn’t help but feel slightly giddy by the gesture. After weeks of only being allowed to look and not touch, holding Liz’s hand felt like such a treat. Like it was special.

It reminded him of when he was younger. Before he had grown into his good looks and confidence, he had been a shy, geeky, awkward boy who was incredibly uncomfortable around pretty girls. Back then, simple things like dancing with a girl and holding her hand had been major feats, moments he treasured.

That was something he’d lost as he grown. Every girl he’d slept with had lessened the pleasure that simple physical contact could bring. But Liz restored it. Holding her hand warmed him more than all those countless girls had combined.

***


Liz pushed open the door of her grandmother’s room and peered inside, as always saying a quick and silent prayer. Not that it mattered. Grandma Claudia was exactly the same as the last time. There was no change in her condition – either for the better or the worse.

She gestured for Max to follow her in and took a seat beside the bed. “Hi Grandma, this is my friend Max.”

Max waved his hand lamely, completely unsure how to greet a woman in a coma. Liz gave him a sympathetic smile, understanding his discomfort.

“Can she hear?” he asked in a quiet voice.

“I don’t know. Most professionals say not but there’s a lot of people who believe that coma victims can hear. Or maybe they just need to believe it.”

“It’s good to meet you Mrs. Parker,” he said louder.

“Actually it’s Doctor Parker. She has a PHD in archaeology,” Liz informed him proudly. She lifted a hairbrush from the locker and began to tenderly brush her hair.

“Sorry.” Max smiled. “I’m going to take a walk around so you can talk about me in private.”

Liz laughed cheerfully as he left the room.

He walked around the hospital corridors for a while. There were several doors leading into small private gardens which were beautifully maintained and laid out. The walls of the hospital were tastefully decorated with expensive artwork. It was the type of place that reeked of money and he understood how financially draining it must be for Liz. He felt a pang of regret at how foolishly he had squandered his own money. It would have been so simple for him to help her if he had just been a little bit smarter.

It compounded his desire to turn his life around and become a better man.

After walking around for a while, Max took a seat in the plush lobby. There was another man opposite him, dressed in a cheap suit and jiggling his leg nervously. He kept looking at his watch and then up at the reception desk. After a few minutes he stood up and stormed over to the desk. “Hey, I’ve been here for fifteen minutes. Where’s the lady?”

The receptionist looked at him blankly. “Pardon me?”

“I’m waiting for some lady to come interview me for the janitor’s job.”

“Ms. Segal will be with you in a few minutes sir. Please take a seat.”

The man resumed his seat and muttered under his breath about ‘snooty bitches’. After another minute, he stood up suddenly and stormed out of the hospital. Max glanced over at the reception desk expecting to share an amused grin with the receptionist but found the desk empty.

A moment later he heard the sound of high heels clicking down the corridor and an impeccably dressed woman came around the corner. She walked straight up to Max with her hand out. “I’m so sorry for the delay. One of our nurses is pregnant and she was experiencing some pains. I didn’t want to leave her until the ambulance came for her.”

“Uh…”

“I’m Katy Segal. Let’s go to my office shall we?”

“Oh, you’re the interviewer lady,” he realized. “Actually…”

“Yes?”

“Nothing. I’m ready.”

She smiled at him and he stood up to follow her to her office.

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Tue May 03, 2011 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gold diggers (Adult, AU) Chapter 25 b - 5/12 pg 3 An pg 7

Postby nibbles2 » Thu Jul 24, 2008 5:20 am

Alien_Friend
pookie76
Natalie36
citlalmina
RhondaAnn LoL, :lol: Max’s morning alarm routine is pretty much mine as well, it’s the only way that I’ll get out of bed.
begonia9508 Philip and Diane will be happy as long as Max does something. They’d love if he followed them in the family business but won’t hold it against him if he doesn’t. They’d a thousand times rather see him as a janitor than continuing to live as he has been for the last few years. In fact, after the last few years they’ll be proud of him for getting a job as a janitor.
tequathisy believe it or not, but answers to what ******** means in the very next chapter!!!!
uw51
nitpick23 Nobody transforms overnight, no matter how much they want to. Max has a way to go yet, but I think he’s definitely on the right path now.
Cocogurl
xmag
Wench On A Leash thank you
spacegirl23
Michelle in Yonkers
pookie76
ForeignLoveMonkey
RiceKrispy
Egyptian_Kiss
roswell3053
April
paper
Cereth
Forensicschic
Leigh
Tamashii
RhondaAnn
spacegirl23
killjoy
behrluv32
girl afraid

and orangesky thank you

I refer to a couple of different kinds of medication for migraine in this chapter. All made up.

Chapter 25 – C


Isabel woke in the morning to find that she was lying in a pool of her own vomit. Again. She grimaced in disgust and carefully climbed out of the bed, trying to avoid getting anymore of the foul smelling stuff on her. Standing up, she surveyed the sight. Not only were her silk bedsheets ruined, but her formerly immaculately clean cream carpet was destroyed too.

When she examined her own appearance in the harsh light of the bathroom mirror, she realized that she looked just as bad. Her skin was grey, her eyes bloodshot, and her hair looked limp and greasy. She leaned over the toilet and retched a few times but her stomach was too empty to make any offerings to the porcelain god. Eventually the retching stopped and she was able to crawl into the shower.

Isabel barely had the strength to stand up under the water but she did. Still, it didn’t last long, and after a few moments she slid to the ground. After a while the too hot water roused her from her stupor and she struggled back to her feet to shampoo her hair and wash herself.

She dressed in jeans and a simple blouse that her stylist had picked out for her weeks ago before applying her makeup expertly and pulling her hair into a high ponytail. It wasn’t her usual magazine-cover type perfection, but she was pleased when she consulted the mirror again that she looked presentable. Satisfied, she grabbed her Christian Dior sunglasses and left the apartment.

As she rode the elevator down from her penthouse to the underground parking lot, she rested her forehead against the cool metal doors. Already a headache was needling behind her eyes and her stomach was churning. Every cell in her body was calling out to pop another pill. But she willed herself to ignore it. She was not dependant on those damn things. She could stop taking them, no problem. She wasn’t falling back into her old ways.

The elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open. Isabel pushed her glasses back so that she could see in the gloom and fished in her purse for the keys to her car. She didn’t notice the figure sitting on the hood of her Porsche until she’d reached the car and as she looked up, she froze. Isabel looked back towards the elevator, hoping it was still there, but the doors were closed and the display indicated it had already gone. Cursing under her breath, she turned back.

“What do you want?”

“That’s a nice way to treat a friend,” Carla said dryly. She slipped gracefully off the hood and waited for Isabel to get closer.

“You’re not my friend, Carla.”

Carla tilted her head to the side and thought about Isabel’s statement for a moment. “Don’t be like that Isabel. After all, we’ll be sisters one day.”

“W..What?”

“I’ll be seeing Michael at the game tonight, remember. He will be there, won’t he?”

“Of course.” She’d forgotten all about that, but she wasn’t really worried about it. Isabel didn’t know all the details about Michael’s break up with Carla but she did know that Michael was no longer under any illusions about his former fiancée’s real character and wouldn’t be fooled by her again. She didn’t think that Carla had anything incriminating on him, or would be stupid enough to use it if she did. Not if she really wanted to get back with Michael.

“What do you want Carla? I’m kind of busy today.”

“Going to see your Mom? Why don’t I come with you?”

“No. Stay away from my mother. You are not welcome there.”

“That’s not what she says. She says I’m always welcome.”

A little angrier this time, Isabel repeated her question. “What do you want Carla?”

“I am going to get Michael back. So it’s best for everybody if we bury our differences. We should be friends. We used to be, remember? We made a great team. We can do that again. Be there for each other, look out for each other.”

Isabel scoffed, “When have you looked out for me? The only person you’ve ever looked out for is yourself.”

“That night after your mother had surgery I brought you home and looked after you. Remember that?”

“Oh please. You weren’t looking out for me, you were lying in wait for me so that you could trap me and get your hooks into me and my family again.”

“That’s harsh, Isabel.”

Summoning a strength that she didn’t know she had, Isabel suddenly grabbed Carla by the arms and pressed her against a pillar. “Shut up you bitch. We’re not friends. You were never my friend. I was just a way for you to get to Michael. But I’m not making that mistake again. I’m not letting you poison my family the way you did before. Stay away from my mother, stay away from my brothers and stay the fuck away from me.”

If Isabel thought that she could intimidate Carla, she was wrong. The brunette simply laughed. She pushed Isabel away and smoothed down her rumpled clothes. “Oh please, like you’re really going to be able to keep me away. You don’t have what it takes to stop me from getting what I want. I own you Isabel. I own you because you need me. I’m the only one who can get you those little pills. So why don’t you just play nice?”

“I don’t need you for that. I’m not taking those pills anymore Carla.”

“Right.”

“I’m serious, in fact…” Isabel reached into her purse, pulled out the bottle of pills that Carla had given her the night before and pushed them into the brunette’s hands. Not giving the other woman a chance to respond, Isabel pushed past her and reached the door of her car. “We don’t have anything else to talk about, so leave me alone. We’re not ever going to be sisters. And we were never really friends. I don’t want to see you or talk to you again.”

Carla caught the door of the car before Isabel could pull it closed. “You’ll come crawling back Isabel. You’re too weak and too pathetic. You need me. And I’ll be here when you call but I warn you now, my price will have gone up.”

“I won’t be calling.” Isabel wrenched the door free and slammed it shut.

***


The irony was that following her stand off with Carla and her vow to stop taking the pills, Isabel was left so shaken and worked up that her head was pounding even worse than before and all she wanted was one of those damn tablets.

They were all she could think of as she sat at her mother’s bedside and sorted through get well cards with her. Diane had received literally thousands of them, from all corners of the globe. The last batch Isabel had gone through all had international stamps on the envelopes.

“There is something so very wrong about this,” Diane sighed.

Pulled from her own thoughts, Isabel looked in question at her mother. “What?”

“I’m getting get well cards from Japan and Alaska and….” She picked up one and glanced at the return address. “Oh, I actually know who this is from.” She placed it on the much smaller pile of cards that she would reply to personally. The rest went into the bulging mail bag that her assistant would take care of. “How do so many people I’ve never met know so much about my life? And why do they care?”

Isabel shrugged. “I guess they must have very small lives.”

Diane frowned at her daughter's uncharitable suggestion, but she didn’t disagree. “You must have a lot of fans honey. The only reason that ninety-nine percent of these people have sent cards to me is because they know who you are.”

“And Max,” Isabel mumbled.

“I suppose this is the nice side of it.”

“What do you mean?”

Diane considered her words for a moment. “I suppose I mean…It’s lovely to know that so many people care that they send cards when your mother is in hospital. I’m very grateful for all the support and good wishes I’ve received, of course, but…it frightens me, Isabel. It frightens me for your sake. So many people know all the intimate details of your life. Some of these cards even have my room number on them. It’s scary, Isabel. You hear about all these weirdo obsessive types all the time.”

“I can take care of myself, Mom.”

“Oh honey, of course you can. You’re smart and independent and I admire you so much because you do take care of yourself. But there are people out there who could hurt you. I don’t think you can take care of yourself against those kinds of people.”

Isabel rubbed her temples. Her head was beginning to really throb now and her mother’s scrutiny was making it feel worse. “Mom, I’m fine. Really. There’s no need to worry about me.”

“I’m your mother, Isabel. You do know that means I’m biologically programmed to worry about you.”

“Try not to, Mom. I’m fine.”

It seemed like the more Isabel said ‘I’m fine’ the less her mother believed her. Diane moved the cards away from herself so she could shift in the bed to face Isabel directly. She took her daughter’s hand in her own and squeezed it gently. “Sweetheart, promise me that you’ll come and talk to me about anything that’s bothering you. I know that you’re under pressure and that sometimes things get tough. I understand what that’s like. And I’m here for you, always, no matter what.”

“Mom, I know that. I’m fine.”

Diane looked her straight in the eye, willing her to open up. Isabel met her gaze steadily and never wavered.

“This is a tough time for all of us,” Diane sighed eventually. “But if we’re here for each other we’ll all be fi…ok.”

“I know that Mom.”

“I could understand that maybe you might be tempted to take drugs again, Izzie.”

“I swear that I’m not taking drugs, Mom. I’m not going to make that mistake again. I promise you.”

Comforted by Isabel’s promise, Diane smiled and brushed away a tear. “Look at me, I’m crying. It’s the medication I’m on. It’s making me emotional and weepy.”

Isabel kissed her mother’s cheek. “I love you Mom. Even when you’re an overmedicated emotional mess.”

Diane swatted her arm playfully and resumed the task of sorting through the cards.


***



When a couple of the most sycophantic interns Isabel had ever met came in to check on her mother, Isabel slipped out. In the restroom down the corridor from her mother’s room, she reapplied her make up and undid a button in her blouse, artfully arranging it so that her cleavage was showing just right. Then she went to stand in the corridor and waited for her opportunity. She wasn’t waiting long, only a few minutes, when she saw the male intern emerge from her mother’s room and head in her direction.

Isabel reached out and caught his arm as he passed. “Excuse me doctor.”

“I’m kinda of in a….Uh…Ms. Evans. What can I do for you?”

“I’m sorry, I know you’re very busy. I was just hoping you could spare me a minute.”

“Of course.”

She graced him with her best smile and moved a little closer under the pretext of keeping their conversation private in the busy hospital corridor, when really it was a strategic move designed to put her amble breasts right under his nose. The young doctor’s eyes bugged, then he diverted them to her face and glued them there.

“Is Mom doing ok? Everyone says she’s making good progress but sometimes I worry that people are keeping things from me so that I don’t worry.” She frowned, put her hand to her forehead, and closed her eyes.

“She’s doing wonderfully, Ms Evans,” the doctor assured her hurriedly. “But how about you? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Isabel said with a wearied, long suffering sigh. “It’s nothing.”

“Are you sure? You seem…very stressed.”

She pretended to brush off the suggestion. “Oh, you know. It’s just a headache. I get them a lot. It’s nothing really. Just with Mom being here. And being hounded by the press doesn’t help of course. And I’m so worried about Mom and so wound up that I’m just not sleeping at night and that doesn’t help with my headaches. Once things have settled down and Mom’s on the road to recovery, I’ll be fine.”

“Have you seen a doctor about them, your headaches?”

“Sure, when I first started getting them. But not lately. I haven’t had the time to see my doctor. I barely have time to brush my hair. I must look a mess. Do I?”

“No, you look great. You look tired though.” The intern hesitated for a second then drew out his pad. “I can prescribe something for you.”

“Oh, that’s so kind of you,” Isabel told him with fake surprise. “My own doctor usually gives me Hepatrin.”

“Sounds about right,” the intern told her. He scribbled something on his pad and tore the sheet off. “Here you go.”

“Thank you.” Isabel took the piece of paper and folded it up neatly and with one last smile, brushed past him and returned to her mother’s room.

***



Three o’clock.

At three o’clock it would be exactly twelve hours since she had taken her last Carla pill.

That’s what she was aiming for. Twelve hours was a good target. It was a nice round number and it was achievable. She could go twelve hours; she knew that from past experience. She also knew that she couldn’t go much longer than that, not at first.

So at around two that afternoon, Isabel made her excuses and left the hospital. By then her head was thumping viciously and she could feel her hands shaking. In the parking lot outside the pharmacy, it took her several minutes to compose herself. The last thing she needed to do was to attract attention while in line by acting like a junkie in desperate need of her next fix.

Fortunately it was a quiet time of day and she was served quickly, but it still felt like an age before the pharmacist came back with the bottle of pills for her.

“Here you are, Ms. Evans. Take one when you have a headache. Don’t take them unless you are experiencing a migraine. I’m sure your doctor explained all this to you already, but it’s worth repeating. These are very strong pills. It’s best not to drive or engage in strenuous activity after taking them. Don’t take more than three in twenty four hours and if your headaches persist, consult your doctor.”

Isabel gave him a polite smile and managed not to snatch them from his hand.

Back in her car, Isabel tried to screw the top off her bottle of water but it felt like somebody was poking her skull with a thousand needles. In frustration, she threw the unopened bottle on the floor of her car and swallowed two of the pills down dry. Then she leaned her head back against the head rest and closed her eyes. Already she felt better. The pain in her head began to recede and her body wasn’t shaking as it was before.

After a few minutes, she pulled the sun visor down and looked at her reflection in the mirror. “Ok Isabel, you did great,” she told herself. “You got through the last twelve hours. That’s always the hardest part. You can do this. You can do this. You don’t need those pills. You did the right thing. You’re going to get through this. You did it before and you can do it again.”

She started her car and slipped on her sunglasses. “I can do this,” she told herself before driving off.

***



Feeling a lot better about herself and her circumstances, Isabel strode confidently through the hospital corridors to her mother’s room. She could hear her mother laugh. It was so wonderful to hear her mother laugh again after everything she had been though.

Isabel was smiling as she walked through the door. That is, she was smiling until she saw who was making her mother laugh.

“Hello, Isabel.”

“Carla. What are you doing here?”

“I was in the neighbourhood and I thought I’d pop in and say hi to your mom. I was hoping to catch you too, actually. I haven’t seen a lot of you lately.”

Isabel clenched her fists at her side. She couldn’t believe that Carla could be so brazen to show up here again, where she ran the risk of running into Max or facing Michael’s wrath again. She really had no shame. And no fear, Isabel realized suddenly. Carla was able to do what she liked around them because she wasn’t afraid of any of them.

“You should leave. Michael will be coming by to see Mom this afternoon and I know he won’t be happy to see you here,” Isabel told her former friend coldly.

“Isabel,” Diane admonished. She placed her hand on Carla’s arm gently. “Ignore her. You are always welcome here, I hope you know that.”

“Thank you Diane,” Carla told her, with what appeared to be genuine gratitude. She took a tissue from a box close to Diane’s bed and dabbed at her eyes.

Isabel snorted in disgust, earning herself an angry glare from her mother.

“Really Isabel, you should be encouraging Carla to come by more. Michael made the biggest mistake of his life by letting this girl go. We should be helping Carla get that through his thick head.”

“Actually, I think it was the best decision that Michael ever made,” Isabel insisted, surprising herself at how strong she sounded.

Diane gasped in shock at Isabel’s rudeness and she immediately began to make apologies to Carla.

“It’s fine Diane, Isabel is just looking out for her brother. She’s right, he wouldn’t want me here. I’ll go.” Carla stood up and turned to Isabel. “Iz, I really want us to be friends. I thought of you as a sister and apart from losing Michael, losing you is one of the biggest regrets of my life.”

“Puh-leeeze.”

Carla’s eyes narrowed hatefully for a moment. “Please, Isabel. Whatever I’ve done to upset you, I’m sorry. Let’s go get a cup of coffee so we can talk about it.”

It was on the tip of Isabel’s tongue to tell Carla to fuck off, when she decided that it probably wasn’t the conversation to have in front of her mother. All it would take was one comment from Carla about her drug use, and Diane would know everything. And besides, Isabel had a few things she really wanted to get off her chest. Now that Carla’s hold over her was gone, she was free to say whatever she wanted. “Ok.”

Her decision didn’t seem to surprise Carla at all. Instead, the brunette kissed Diane goodbye and promised to visit again.

The two women made their way to the diner across the street in silence. They slipped into an empty booth and waited until the unusually prompt waitress had filled their cups and left before turning their attention to each other.

Isabel glanced around to make sure that there was nobody eavesdropping on their conversation. There was a young man sitting at the counter and it took her a moment to recognise him as Alex, the guy from the center. He nodded at her politely. She jerked her head once in response.

Isabel turned back to Carla and was only mildly surprised to see that the bottle of pills she had returned that morning were sitting on the table in front of her.

“I knew you couldn’t go a day without them,” Carla said smugly.

“You can put those away. They’re not why I agreed to talk to you.” Isabel paused, secretly enjoying the shocked look on the other woman’s face before she continued. “I only agreed to this because I want to say one thing. Stay away from my family. I’m not going to let you hurt or use us anymore. Those days are over.”

“You’re playing with fire, Isabel.” Carla warned.

“Oh I’m not playing at all, Carla. I’m done with stupid games. It’s all over now. I don’t need you anymore. You have nothing to offer me. So you’re done. You are done with me, done with Michael, done with Max and done with my Mother.”

Carla merely laughed. “Somebody’s wearing her big girl pants today. It’s cute, actually. But the truth is that you do need me. You think because you made it a few hours without taking anything that you’re free and clear? It doesn’t work like that, Isabel. Face it, you need these pills and I’m the only way you can get them.”

“I don’t need them. So you can take yourself and your poison and spread it somewhere else.”

“How long has it been, Isabel? A few hours? I bet you’re already struggling. I bet your head is pounding and your heart is racing and your hands are shaking and all you can think about are the little pink pills. You want them more than you want anything else in the world. Oh, you think you don’t. You’ve done a pretty good job at kidding yourself that you don’t. But that won’t last. Look at you. I bet you’ve already taken something else. What was it? Topacatin? Nadox? Hepatrin?”

Isabel reacted involuntarily and Carla grinned smugly. “Hepatrin. You went for the strong stuff? Already? And it helped, obviously. You’re feeling good about yourself for the moment. It got rid of the headache for a while. But it will come back. Don’t you feel it needling at you already? By tonight you’ll hardly be able to stand the pain. So you’ll pop a few more and then the same again tomorrow. You might be able to fool yourself for a few days. But you’ll soon realise that Hepatrin isn’t going to work. It’s nowhere near as strong as you need and the doctors won’t be able to give you anything else to help. I give you three days and you’ll be calling me, begging for these pills.”

“No.”

“Yes. Because you’re weak, Isabel. You’re weak and pathetic. Your own mother would prefer to have me as a daughter than you. Your brothers don’t care about you. You have no real friends. The people you hang around with only do so because you can get them into the cool clubs. The cool clubs only let you in because the tabloids take your picture. The tabloids only take your picture because your daddy’s rich and you dress like a slut. Nobody likes you. You read what they say about you. They call you an ‘airhead’ and a ‘slut’ and a ‘bitch’. You have nothing to offer the world, nothing to make your family proud of you. You have nothing and you are nothing. You’re just a pretty girl with rich parents.”

“Shut up,” Isabel bit out hoarsely.

Carla sat back in her seat and grinned. “Face it, Isabel. You need me because I’m all there is.”

“I don’t need you,” Isabel repeated, sounding far from convincing.

“When you go back to your mom, you will apologize for what you said earlier. You will tell her that you were in a bad mood and that you were just taking it all out on me, but that we’re cool now. Then you will do as she says and you will get through to Michael that letting go of me was the biggest mistake of his life. I’m counting on you, Isabel.”

Isabel shook her head in disbelief. “If you think that I’m going to do any of that, you are deluded.”

“I’m not the one who’s deluded, and we both know that,” Carla told her smoothly. “You’re going to do that because in a few days, you’ll be picking up the phone and calling me and we both know I’m not going to help you if you don’t help me first.”

“Not in a million years.”

“If you feel that strongly that you won’t be calling me for help, then perhaps I should give you another reason to help me out.” Carla reached into her purse, pulled out her phone, and pressed a few buttons before sliding it across the table to Isabel.

It was playing a video. Isabel picked it up hesitantly with a sinking heart and watched herself stumble onto the screen, sit down at the dressing table at the center of the screen, fix and then snort two lines of cocaine.

She looked up at Carla in shock. Really she should have expected it but in truth, it had come right out of left field. Carla had set her up. She had taken it the morning after Isabel had crashed on her couch. Isabel’s hands shook with fury and her headache returned in full force. “You bitch.”

“Be nice, Isabel,” Carla singsonged. She grabbed the phone from Isabel’s hands and stood up. “I look forward to your call.” She picked the bottle of pills up off of the table, dangled them temptingly in front of Isabel’s face for a second before dropping them into her purse and gliding away from the table.

Isabel was frozen in place. It was the sound of the bell tinkling as Carla went through the door that jarred her back to life. She moaned and dropped her head into her hands.

Suddenly, she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She jumped in surprise and looked up. Alex Whitman was standing beside her booth, watching her with concern written across his face.

“Izzie, are you ok?”

Too tired and too weak to be anything but truthful, Isabel shook her head.

Alex sat on the seat opposite her. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why don’t you tell me about it and maybe that will help.”

Isabel smiled at him weakly. “I doubt it.”

“What can it hurt?”

Surprisingly, the thought of telling somebody her troubles seemed like a very appealing idea. Just to get it off her chest and maybe have somebody tell her what to do to get herself out of this mess. “Ok. But somewhere else.”

“Alright, I know just the place. I was supposed to be meeting a friend, but it looks like she’s a no show. Let’s go.”

Isabel nodded and followed him out to his car.

***



Isabel closed her eyes wearily and rested as Alex drove. Forget needles, it felt like a thousand pick axes were pounding away inside her skull. The pain was excruciating.

When the car pulled to a stop, she was surprised to find that they had driven to a small, quiet park. “Where are we?”

“A park a couple of blocks from the center,” Alex told her, gesturing in a vague direction behind him. “Do you want to get out?”

“Ok. Um…do you have some water?”

Alex pulled a bottle of water from behind her seat and handed it to her before they climbed out of his car and wandered through the park to a deserted band stand.

They took a seat on a bench facing out to sea. Isabel took a sip of the lukewarm water and tried to get her jangling nerves under control.

“What’s going on, Izzie?” Alex asked.

“Just…stuff. You know.”

“No, I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?”

Isabel remained silent, not sure how to explain what was going on and not even really sure that she wanted to explain it to him in the first place.

After a few minutes, Alex spoke again. “Ok, I can make a guess. You’re dependant on some kind of pills. You’re trying to break your dependency. That woman in the diner is your… supplier. She’s not happy that you’ve stopped buying and she’s trying to hook you again. Am I wrong?”

Isabel shook her head in surprise. She was shocked that Alex had such a good reading of the situation without her even having to say a word.

He couldn’t help but grin at her surprise. “There are two stages when people try to get themselves off their vice. Before the addiction takes total control, and when they’ve hit rock bottom. You don’t have the look of somebody who’s hit rock bottom yet.”

“You mean it can get worse?” She meant it as a joke, but it didn’t feel funny to either of them. Neither of them smiled.

“A lot worse, Izzie. I see kids who are sleeping rough on the streets, selling their bodies for a fix. They’ve lost everything, their homes, their families, their jobs, their pride and dignity, and their self respect. It’s not just kids from bad homes with bad parents you know, some of them come from well off and loving families. You might think you won’t end up as a junkie on the street because you’re rich and beautiful, but it can happen to anyone. Nobody is immune.”

“I’m not going to end up on the streets, Alex. I’m not on crack or anything hardcore. I don’t have a drug addiction. I’ve taken coke and x recreationally for years and I’m not addicted to either of them.”

Alex considered that information for a moment. “Ok, so what is it that you’re taking?”

“It’s just headache pills. I get headaches, really bad headaches. And nothing works to make them go away. Then one day last year my friend…well I thought she was my friend but she’s not…she gave me something and they worked. My headache was gone in minutes.”

“What did she give you?”

Isabel twisted the bottle of water around in her hand and picked at the label with her fingernail. “I don’t actually know. They’re pink and kind of lozenge shaped.”

She glanced up at Alex to see if he knew what they were but he shrugged with a frown of deep concern on his face.

“She said that they’re still in the trial stages. I don’t really know how she got her hands on them, and at the time I didn’t think to ask. They worked, and that was all I cared about. By the time I did ask, she knew that I was hooked and I knew that she was really Queen Bitch from the planet of Evil Bitches. So she refused to tell me. I’ve asked around, and nobody knows what they are. I’ve asked doctors about them too, but they don’t know either. They just prescribe Hepatrin or Topacatin and they don’t really work for me.”

Alex rubbed his face and exhaled deeply. “Have you been taking these pills for a year?”

“No, after I found out what she was really like, I realized that I had to stop taking the pills or she would always have a hold on me.”

“So you got clean?”

Isabel nodded. “It wasn’t easy. It was damn hard actually. But I did it. And I’ll do it again.”

“How did you get back on them again?”

“After my Mom’s accident, she came to see me. I guess she knew that I was vulnerable and…you don’t understand what it’s like. Nobody understands how bad my headaches get. And I was so worried about Mom. And she was there so even though I knew it was a bad idea, I took them anyway. But nothing else works, Alex.”

“So you figured that you’d take them for a while until things were ok again, and then you’d get clean like you did the last time?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you doing it alone, or are you getting help.”

“Alone. I can’t go to meetings or counselling or whatever. I can’t let anybody find out.”

“Going to meetings greatly increases your chances of breaking your dependency, Izzie,” Alex said gently. “You did it alone once, but it’s harder the second time. She knows that you can do it so she’s not going to give the fight up as easily this time either.”

Isabel turned to him and looked him straight in the eye. Her own eyes were swimming with emotion. “You can help me, please. I don’t need counselling or therapy, I just need somebody to talk to when I get low. Please Alex, please help me.”

“Of course I’ll help you, Izzie. But I really think-”

“No, I mean it. Nobody else.”

Alex relented with a sigh. “Ok. Just me. For now.”

Isabel gave him a small, sad smile. “Thank you Alex.”

He nodded and though Isabel could see that he wasn’t completely happy about it, she was just so relieved to have somebody to talk to, that she didn’t care.

“How are you going about it?” Alex asked. “What steps are you taking?”

“Uh, I don’t really have steps. I avoid Carla, say no to her pills, and that’s it.”

“Are you going cold turkey?”

For a moment, Isabel considered lying. “No, I got a prescription for Hepatrin today. I take some of those. They don’t work as well as the others do but it keeps the headaches at bay and that gives me the strength to say no to Carla.”

“I see.”

“It’s just until Mom is better. Once I know she’s ok, I’ll stop stressing and then I won’t get headaches.”

Alex looked very doubtful but he didn’t say anything.

“The doctor prescribed them to me, so it’s ok.”

She reached into her purse and pulled out the bottle to show Alex. He took it from her and examined the label. Satisfied that it really was doctor prescribed medication, he returned them to her.

Isabel unscrewed the lid. “I’m supposed to take one, three times a day, so I’m just going to take one now. It’s nothing for you to worry about. Ok?”

Very reluctantly, Alex nodded. He watched her shake a pill onto her hand – unaware that it was really two - and swallow it down with a large gulp of water. He knew that this was a bad idea, but he really couldn’t see any other choice. If he pushed Isabel right now, even the slightest bit, it could push her right away. This might not be the best situation, but at least she was talking to him about it. At least she was being honest about it, even if it was only with him.

Isabel smiled at him. “I’m not weak, Alex. I can do this. All I need is a friend to be here for me.”

He returned her smile. “I’m here for you, Isabel. No matter what.”

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Thu Jul 24, 2008 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gold diggers (Adult, AU) Chapter 25 - C pg 8 07/24 AN pg 10

Postby nibbles2 » Tue Aug 26, 2008 6:46 am

tequathisy wrote:where's the update?


Good question. :lol:

26

There’s nothing like humble pie for breakfast.

Nancy Wilson couldn’t decide if she was or wasn’t surprised when she arrived into work on Monday morning and found Max Evans waiting at her office door. On the one hand, he was a spoiled brat who was far too used to having things handed to him on a silver platter. If work was an alien concept to him, having to go cap in hand to ask for a job that was demeaning must have been completely unthinkable. On the other hand, Max had fallen out of his family graces and had been cut off financially. If he ever wanted to get back into his parents’ good graces, then keeping his job was essential.

“Good morning, Mr. Evans. This is an unexpected surprise,” she greeted smugly. It wasn’t every day that an Evans came crawling to her. She was determined to enjoy it.

Max was clearly still undecided about how to approach her. Should he grovel, suck up, charm or demand? Nancy arched an eyebrow and waited.

“Yes,” he agreed eventually in a neutral tone.

Nancy unlocked the door to her office and stepped inside. Max made a move to follow her but she turned to him and pointed at the sign on the door.

Stationary Department Employees Only.

Max opened his mouth to begin talking and Nancy promptly closed the door on his face. He knocked on the door, but she ignored him. She removed her coat and placed it on the hanger, placed her briefcase on her desk, and waited.

A moment later, Max tapped on the glass hatch. Nancy smiled to herself but quickly schooled her features back to their usual frown. She hopped up on the box and slid the hatch open.

“Yes, how can I help you?”

“I want to apologize for the manner in which I spoke to you on Friday,” Max began, gaining points for being direct. “I was way out of line. This is your department and you’re the boss. I should have respected you and any decisions you make regarding how it should be run.”

“Thank you, Max. Apology accepted.”

He perked up, relieved that it had been that easy, and disappeared from the window.

Nancy slid the hatch closed and sat at her desk. She heard him try the door. Moments later, Max reappeared at the hatch and knocked again. Nancy went back to the hatch, stood back up on the box, and slid open the glass. “Yes, how can I help you?”

“Nancy, I’d like to come in.”

“I’m sorry, only stationary department employees are allowed in this office.”

Max gripped the ledge of the hatch tightly, steeling himself to be patient. “I would like my job back, please.”

“You quit, if I remember correctly.”

“Yes, I know I did. But I’ve apologized for that. I want to come back to work here.”

“What, I thought I was supposed to find another monkey.”

“I’ sorry and I was wrong to tell you to shut up. I didn’t mean it. Please…can I have my job back?”

Nancy shook her head. “Max, putting aside the utter disrespect you showed to me on Friday when you spoke to me the way that you did, your behaviour was simply unacceptable. I gave you a job to do and you refused to do it. I do not tolerate insubordination in my department.”

Max made a face like he was eating shit which he quickly tried to cover up. “I apologize for not doing the job correctly. And I assure you that if you take me back on, that I will do the job to the very best of my ability and exactly as you tell me to do it. I won’t question your methods or authority again.”

“Really?” Nancy said with disbelief.

“Yes really,” Max told her impatiently. He took a deep breath. “Look Nancy, I could have reminded you that I have a five percent share in this company and that although Michael is the boss, I’m part his boss too. And I could have reminded you that that means you can’t fire me. I could have demanded my job back. But I didn’t. I apologized for my behaviour and I asked for my job, respectfully.”

“Alright, you can have your job back. But I want you to know it’s got nothing to do with your five percent. It’s because you’ve proved that you’re not a total waste of space. However, this is the only chance you’ll get with me. One more step out of line and I will fire you. I don’t care if you own one hundred percent of the company.”

“I promise I won’t so much as breathe out of line,” Max said with a grin.

Nancy didn’t return his smile but she did open the door and allow him back into the office. She thrust the heavy folder at him which Max accepted with grace.

“Back to work.”

“Yes boss.”

Nancy made a point of being extra watchful of Max that day and was almost impressed by him. Any time she checked on him he was working hard – hating it of course – but working hard none the less.

***


Across town, Michael was having a morning that was just as unpleasant as Max’s and a lot more difficult to swallow. He was sitting in a doctor’s office, wishing he was anywhere else in the world but there.

Doctor Marrow looked over his notes before he began to speak. “Mr. Guerin, I have examined your test results and after consulting with one of my colleagues, we’re both satisfied that physically everything is fine and in working order. There is no medical reason for your impotency.”

Michael winced. Just hearing that word made him feel small. “So what are you saying?”

“I think there may be other factors that are causing your problem. I recommend that you make an appointment with one of our psychologists. They should be able to help you get to the bottom of your problem.”

“You think that I can’t get it up because I don’t want to?”

“I’m not saying that, Mr. Guerin. It’s likely far more complex than that. On your first visit here, you told me that the last time you were able to maintain an erection was a year ago with your ex fiancée and that shortly afterwards, the relationship ended badly. You indicated to me that she had betrayed you. It’s possible that your problems stem from that betrayal or they may come from an earlier trauma that has been exacerbated by the break up of a long term relationship.”

“That is such a pile of shit.”

“I understand that this is difficult to accept, Mr. Guerin. And if you wish to have a second opinion, then I can recommend another doctor for you. But we’re the best in the city for dealing with this type of problem.”

Michael glowered but said nothing. He’d already had a second opinion. Doctor Marrow was his fourth. Every single one of them had said the same. Usually he had just left angry and embarrassed but today he was actually considering the suggestion to talk to a psychologist. Maybe after being told the same thing four times, the message was finally being heard. Or maybe he was beginning to see it himself.

Yet when he found himself out in reception, he couldn’t bring himself to admit that he needed to talk to somebody and refused the offer of making an appointment. He simply paid his bill and left.

Still, unlike the last three places, he kept the number of the clinic with him instead of tossing it in the trash.

***


Isabel’s breakfast consisted of a cup of strong coffee and the last of her Hepatrin.

There was a plate of golden pancakes and a selection of nine different types of fresh fruit on the table before her but the thought of eating made her stomach churn.

Her father was sitting opposite her and not wanting to worry him, she pushed her food around her plate and hoped that he was too distracted to notice.

Philip was busy heartily tucking into his own breakfast and reading the business section of the paper to notice what Isabel was or wasn’t eating. He turned a page on the paper and suddenly there was a picture of his daughter staring back at him. The article was about new clubs that had opened downtown in recent times and how they paid extravagant sums of money to celebrities in order to make them appear. Isabel was mentioned as one of those celebrities.

He looked up in order to mention it to her and found himself staring at his daughter. The girl in the picture looked like a movie star – beautiful and glamorous and perfectly groomed and dressed. Her eyes were bright, her skin flawless and her smile wide. He was struck at how different Isabel looked as she sat across the table from him. It wasn’t just that she wasn’t wearing any makeup or that she was dressed in her pajamas. She looked a lot more vulnerable, a lot younger. She was staring into space, a deep frown of worry on her face. And the more he thought, the more he realized he couldn’t remember the last time that he had really seen her smile.

“What’s up kiddo?” He asked.

Startled, Isabel focused her brown eyes on him and rewarded him with a small smile. “Nothing, just thinking.”

“About what?” Philip prompted gently. “It looks important.”

“Actually, I was thinking,” Isabel began hesitantly. “Well, I’ve been thinking of selling my apartment so maybe I could move back in here for a while. Just to help out while Mom’s off her feet and recovering. And to keep you company as well, I hate the thought of you being here alone.”

“Is there a problem with your apartment?” Philip asked.

“No, not really. It’s just that there are a couple of actresses and a singer living in my complex and the paparazzi have practically set up camp outside and I’m fed up of trying to dodge them every time I pop out for milk or something.”

“You’re always welcome here, sweetheart and it would be great to have you around to help out with your mom, but maybe you should hang onto your apartment. It has great value and I’m sure that you’d appreciate having a place to hang out in when the old folks are getting too annoying.”

She grinned politely at his joke but shook her head. “I want to get rid of it.”

“Your mom and I will be fine. We have a great staff here already and I’ll make sure to hire the best to look after your mother. So if that’s what bothering you, don’t worry about it.”

Isabel shook her head. “I know you’ll hire the best. I’d just like to be here for Mom.” She looked down into her lap and twisted her linen napkin around her finger. “Our relationship – Mom and I – it hasn’t been great for a while now and I’d like to mend it. I think this would be a good opportunity for me, for both of us. And I just think that my apartment…there’s a lot of negative influence around. The people who live in the building are the type of people I’m trying not to associate with anymore. There’s the paps. The clubs are all close by. I just need to get away from it all.”

Philip was surprised and delighted to hear Isabel say all that. He adored her, of course, but they had drifted so far apart in the last few years that he really didn’t think it was possible for them to ever get close again. And now it seemed that a bridge had just appeared out of nowhere. And his daughter, the girl he remembered before she had become famous, was on the other side, beckoning him across.

“I think that’s wonderful, Iz,” he told her genuinely. “Your Mom would love nothing more.”

She shrugged. “Thanks.”

“You know, work has already started on the Wilson Road Project. Michael is determined to get it finished as soon as possible. It’s going to be a lovely neighbourhood when it’s finished. You could consider getting an apartment there.”

“I don’t know, I heard it’s going to be pretty exclusive. I might find it hard to get a place,” Isabel joked.

“I know the owners,” her father said with a wink. “I’ll put in a good word for you.”

“Thanks dad,” Isabel said softly and Philip knew that she wasn’t talking about the good word. He nodded in understanding. “What’s going to happen with mom? Will she be allowed home soon?” Isabel asked to change to subject.

“The doctors are pleased with her progress. They want her to start physiotherapy next week. I’ve arranged an appointment with the physio for Wednesday. I’m hoping that your mother will be allowed to come home and receive her treatment her.”

“She’d like that,” Isabel said in approval.

Philip nodded. “I really think that if she didn’t have two broken legs and an injured back that she would have climbed out of her hospital bed and walked home already.”

Isabel smiled at the mental image. “Don’t they need specialist equipment to treat patients though?”

“Probably. That’s one of the things I want to talk to the physio about. Obviously as your mother is going to be in a wheelchair for a while and may have difficulty walking for a long time, I was planning on getting people in to renovate the house and make it more accessible for her. If she can be treated here, we can install the equipment at the same time.”

Isabel considered his words. “I didn’t even think about that. Are you and mom going to move your bedroom downstairs?”

“Oh, never thought of that. It’s another thing to consider.” Philip took out the notebook he always kept in his pocket and wrote it down.

“Because you could use the games room as a bedroom. It’s large, bright and airy. Plus it has a great view of the rose garden and it leads out onto the veranda. And there’s a bathroom next door to it. I’m sure that you could knock through the wall and make it an en-suite.”

“Good thinking. Do you think you could look after that for me? Get in touch with the decorators, pick out the furniture…that sort of thing? Be the project overseer?”

“I’d love to,” Isabel said enthusiastically. A genuine smile graced her face.

“Well then, you should probably come with me to the meeting on Wednesday to get a better idea of what will be needed to do to get the room in order. I know that you’ll probably ask much better questions than I will.”

Isabel laughed. “Probably.”

“How about we keep this a surprise from your mother? We can tell her that we’re getting some work done but keep the new bedroom a surprise.”

“Great idea,” Isabel agreed with another smile.

Philip felt very pleased with himself. Almost without meaning to, he had put the smile back on her face. She had such a beautiful smile. Still, there was the unsettling feeling that Isabel wasn’t telling him everything.


***


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