InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Ripped ( Chapter 12 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Twelve~~
~Ripped~


-OoOoOoOoOo OoOoOoOoO-

'How dare you say that my behavior is unacceptable?
So condescending unnecessarily critical,
'I have the tendency of getting very physical,
'So watch your step 'cause if I do you'll need a miracle …'

-'Harder to Breathe' by Maroon 5.

-Valerie-


"I'm looking forward to seeing you this week," Marvin said in his normal, enthusiastic tone.

Valerie smiled, tapping the cap of her pen against the desk calendar.  That was one of the things she really liked about him: his fathomless energy, his overwhelming zeal.  "Me, too," she agreed, glancing at her watch.  "Do you want me to pick you up at the airport?"

"Oh, you don't have to, Val.  I can get a cab."

"Okay . . . You'll be here in time for a late dinner?"

"Assuming the flight's on time," he allowed.  "Anyway, when are you leaving?  You've got that conference this weekend, right?"

Her smile dimmed just a little at the mention of the conference, but she brushed the sense of trepidation aside.  "I got a flight out Friday night, but I should be back on Sunday."

Marvin chuckled warmly.  "That's a short one," he said.  "I'm due back here on Sunday, anyway.  There's supposed to be a big meeting with Hendricks Frontham.  He asked me to bring over all my research so far.  If I can impress him, he might underwrite some of the costs."

"Really?  That's great!" she exclaimed, her momentary lapse of enthusiasm gone.

"Yeah, keep your fingers crossed."  In the background, Valerie could hear the PA system announcing a flight out to Dallas.  Marvin sighed.  "Listen, Val, I'd better go.  Figured I'd grab a paper to read on the flight."

"All right.  Have a safe trip."

"Absolutely.  See you in awhile."

The line went dead, and Valerie snapped her cell phone closed, a little smile still lingering on her face.  Hearing Marvin's voice was just what she'd needed today, wasn't it?

She sighed.

The conference.

She'd almost forgotten about that . . .

It wasn't a conference, exactly, no, but when Marvin had assumed that was what she was planning on attending, she hadn't actually corrected him, either.  At the time, she'd just thought that it'd be easier that way.  She'd do what she had to do and fly right back: no muss, no fuss, right?  Right.

'Conference, indeed . . .'

No, the truth of it was that she was planning on flying to Kentucky to see her baby sister's middle school graduation.  She'd read online that Kaci Lea was graduating at the top of her eighth grade class in the 'commencement' ceremony to be held Saturday at Bluegrass Middle School, and she really wanted to go just to see it.  With any luck, Valerie could slip in just before it started and slip out again without drawing notice.  That's what she wanted, anyway.  Maybe, if she were lucky, she'd catch a glimpse of Garret, too . . .

She bit her lip, leaning over unlock the bottom drawer of her desk to retrieve the small picture frame she kept there.  Two children, a boy and a girl: the boy wearing bright green shorts with white stripes up the sides of the legs and threadbare gray t-shirt that was about two sizes too small.  The peeling yellow writing on the shirt couldn't be discerned, and the girl was clad in a faded but clean orange terry-cloth sundress with her cornsilk blonde hair caught up in a messy ponytail . . . He was about three, she might have been around one and a half in that picture.  It was the last time Valerie had actually seen them . . .

'How much different do they look now . . .? Would I recognize them if I passed them on the street . . .?'

She sighed again, the pad of her thumb softly caressing the glass that covered the snapshot.

A terse knock on the door drew her attention, and Valerie was just tucking the picture away when the door opened and Xavier Bainey strode inside and closed the door behind himself.  "Ms. Denning, I'd like to have a word with you," he said in a completely brusque tone as he dropped a copy of the New York Times onto the desk.  "Have you read that this morning?"

"Uh, no," Valerie allowed with a shake of her head.  "Should I have?"

Xavier stuffed his hands into his pockets and pinned her with 'The Look'.  "You made the front page."

Drawing and holding a deep breath, Valerie slowly flipped the folded paper over.  It didn't take her long to find it.  Just under the article about the latest NATO talks was the picture—a picture of her, beating on Zel Roka's chest just after they'd exited the courtroom, along with a nice, large headline that read, 'Roka's Attorney Attacks Client'.  The air rushed out of her in a loud whoosh, and she gritted her teeth as she forced herself to read the article.

Of course, that wasn't even close to being the worst of it, either.  Apparently the DA, jackass that he was, had immediately taken the opportunity to suggest that Zel find himself a decent defense attorney; one that knew how to conduct herself in a court of law instead of demanding to know whether or not the judge was or wasn't wearing underpants, among other things.  He'd all but called her inept, citing that she could not control her client, and with the gravity of the charges that Mr. Roka faced, wouldn't it be a better idea to find himself another lawyer instead of choosing one based upon the physical beauty of her face . . .?

"Must I tell you how . . . negatively this entire situation reflects upon our firm?" Xavier asked after Valerie refolded the paper and set it aside.  "This article was released on the UPI . . . Every national—for that matter, every paper in the world—is likely to run a version of it in their papers today."  He slowly shook his head, as though he were gravely disappointed.  "I am vastly disappointed in you, Ms. Denning."

She could feel her face burning, as much from outrage as it was from just plain embarrassment.  That damned Zel Roka had caused all of it, hadn't he?  But no, she was the one being lectured by the old windbag . . . "Are you going to remove me from this case?" she demanded in a tight, clipped voice.

Tugging off his wire-rimmed glasses, he shook his head.  "Do I need to?"

She gritted her teeth.  Even if she wanted off the case, she couldn't back down now; not with her very reputation on the line.  If she quit now, she'd never, ever find another job as a lawyer.  It was entirely too high-profile.  He was entirely too high-profile.  Everyone—everyone—would know about this, and she didn't even try to delude herself into thinking otherwise.  "No, sir," she managed to choke out.

He shook his head.  "Why were you . . . beating on Mr. Roka?"

She sighed and counted to twenty.  "You have no idea what that man is really like," she said in a steady, even tone.  "He delights in saying and doing outrageous things, just to see if he can get under my skin.  I went out of my way to buy the man suitable attire for his court date, and he completely undermined my advice on the matter.  He never listens to what I have to say, and he doesn't show any desire at all to get himself out of this situation—a situation that he brought entirely upon himself.  The things he said to me in court were just another example of that.  Sir," she added, almost as an afterthought.

At least Xavier seemed to be listening.  He stared at her for several moments, his eyes slowly losing the irritation that he'd walked into her office with, and leveled a no-nonsense look at her.  "After this, everyone will be watching you—paying attention to how you conduct yourself—and how you represent this firm.  I trust that we will not have any more incidents like this one?"

Hating the feeling that she was little better than a child with her hand caught in the proverbial cookie jar, Valerie shook her head.  "No, sir," she bit out.

Xavier didn't look like he believed her completely, but he finally nodded.  "I've taken the liberty of having our press department draw up an official statement of apology for this.  I would like for you to sign it when it's brought to you."

She pressed her lips together in a tight line until after the man had let himself out her office, and only after the door closed did she give in to the urge to let her face fall into her hands as she heaved a longsuffering sigh and uttered a quiet little groan.

Damn that Zel Roka.  This was his fault.  He was the one who just couldn't say anything normally, the one who always—always—had to make inappropriate commentary . . . He was the one who had instigated everything, and somehow he was coming out of it, looking like a saint.

All she could do was regret the very day she'd ever met anyone as asinine as that man, but he wasn't going to get away with his bad behavior, damn it; not if she had a say in it . . .


-Evan-


"So you'll do it, right?" Evan asked, batting his eyelashes as best as he could while Madison teased his hair.

"Hmm, Saturday?  Sure . . . What's the occasion?"

With a chuckle, Evan reached for the newspaper.  "Well, my mama, of course!"

Madison rolled her eyes but laughed.  "Ah, silly question, hmm?  Who else would you 'get respectable' for?"

"That's right," he drawled.

"I didn't know Gin was going to be in town."

Evan shrugged.  "Eh, they both are, but Mama's got a benefit Saturday night, and apparently good ol' Cain's got something else going on—bet it's a woman on the side."

Madison snorted indelicately and gave a tug on his hair.  "You know better.  Your father adores your mother."

"Yeah, yeah, so much so that he knocked her up just so that she could have me," he retorted dryly.  "Fan-fucking-tastic."

She sighed but didn't argue with him, not that it would do any good, anyway.  Evan was nothing if not stubborn as hell, especially when it came to the subject of his father.  "So you're actually going to escort your mother to that gala?  You?  Zel Roka?"

He grinned, partially because she'd dropped the subject of Cain Zelig without a fuss, and partially because the idea of spending any time with his mother was always enough to make him smile.  "That's right . . . I get to show off my hot mama.  Reminds me.  I sent over a dress for her, just for the occasion.  Ol' Cain'll never know what hit 'em . . ."

Madison grimaced.  "You didn't."

"Oh, but I did," he replied happily.  Of course he had.  It was completely innocent, of course.  He had been walking down Fifth Avenue yesterday, just out prowling, when he'd seen the perfect dress for his precious mama, prominently displayed in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue, so, being a good son, he'd marched right in and bought it.  He'd also left explicit instructions that they were to make sure that it didn't need to be altered before they left it with her, but that was beside the point.  Then again, the salesgirls in there were quite hot . . .

"So, you going to tell me why V was beating the hell out of you in this morning's paper?" Madison asked casually—too casually.

Evan grinned.  "I have no idea, Maddikins," he lied.

She rolled her eyes, her expression stating quite plainly that she didn't believe a word of it.  "They say that you only hired her because she's gorgeous—Well, they didn't say 'gorgeous', but it was implied."

Evan snorted.  "Shit . . . Why else would I have hired her?"

She cocked an eyebrow.  "According to the DA, you just wanted to add her to your 'pretty thing' collection."

He grinned like an idiot at that.  "I have a 'pretty thing' collection?  Seriously?"

Madison hit him on the shoulder but giggled.  That giggle died away, though, and when Evan peeked up at her, he had to stifle the urge to sigh at the seriousness in her gaze.  "Evan . . ."

"What?"

She grabbed the curlers he was trying to pin together and dropped them in her kit, out of his reach.  "Maybe . . . Maybe you should tell her . . ."

He stiffened, all traces of humor gone.  "No."

"But—"

He shook his head and batted her hands away from his hair.  "I said no."

She heaved a sigh and crossed her arms over her chest, her features showing her irritation at what she perceived to be his own show of stubborn idiocy.  "You're going to go to prison, Evan," she tried again.

He shrugged—belligerence or mock bravado, he didn't know and didn't rightfully care, either.  "Leave it alone, Madison," he replied in a deadly serious tone.

Biting her lip, she looked like she wanted to argue it further.  He was quick to cut her off before she could begin.  "I don't have anything to lose, do I?  Now leave it alone."

She slowly shook her head, her gaze dropping to the floor.  The contentious silence that filled the room was deafening, but finally, she heaved another sigh and forced a tight little smile that looked more like a grimace, her eyes filled with a suspect sheen as she willed her smile to brighten.  "So do you want the full rocker pouf or the flat rocker grunge look?"

Evan chuckled softly, content to let the subject drop, glad that Madison was willing to do the same, at least for the moment.  "Hmm . . . how about the full rocker pouf?  I haven't done pouf in awhile, right?"

She didn't comment as she finished working on his hair, and that was good enough for Evan, too.  "There," Madison said, stepping back to give Evan a healthy coating of hair spray.

"Thanks," he said, getting out of the chair as he rubbed his nose with the back of his hand, scrunching up his face a few times to keep himself from sneezing.  "Oh, nice.  Contact high . . ."

Madison laughed and started packing up her gear.

"Hey," he said, spinning around to face her.

"Hmm?"

"Could you do me a huge favor?"

She cocked an eyebrow but shrugged.  "What's that?"

"Would you tell Bone that Mama should be stopping by sometime today to drop off my babies?"

"Sure thing."

Evan strode over to Madison to kiss her cheek.  "Thanks, Maddikins."

Pointing a brush at him, she shook her head.  "So will you do something for me?"

Reaching for brand new Zel Roka t-shirt that they'd dropped off for the photo shoot, Evan shook it out and held it up for inspection: the profile of a naked woman with a gothic-looking winged demon floating over her with his signature scrawled across the bottom.  "Aw, hell, they put the 'R' right over her tit!" he grouched then heaved a sigh.  "Damn censors . . . Ah, well, what can you do?  Maddy, toss me a pair of scissors."

She dug a pair out of her makeup case and sauntered over to him.  Evan grinned, appreciating the fluid way the woman moved.  She was like water, wasn't she?  Every part of her body was in perfect synchronicity, even the little smile on her face . . . He'd always adored that about Madison Cartham . . . She held out the scissors but pulled them back when he reached for them.  "Listen to me first, okay?"

Evan rolled his eyes but nodded.  "Yeah, okay," he agreed, holding out his hand.

She tapped them in the air but didn't hand them over.  "Take it easy on V today, will you?"

"Did I tell you about our date?" he countered instead.

Madison heaved a sigh.  "Yes, you did, about a hundred times, and I'd hardly call taking her out for crab a 'date', Zelig.  Now . . . Promise me you'll behave yourself."

"All right, all right," he relented.  "Jesus, you're a slave driver, aincha?"

She laughed and handed over the scissors.  "Don't mess up your hair."

He snorted, making quick work of relieving the garment of its collar and sleeves—and half of its sides.  "Yes, ma'am."

"Why didn't you just have them send over a tank top?" Madison asked as she took the scissors back and moved to pack them away.

Evan pulled the amended garment over his head, though he was careful not to ruin his hair.  "Nah . . . only geeks wear those—geeks trying to be . . . hella cool."

Madison snapped the case closed and pulled the long leather strap over her shoulder, giggling since he was still leaning to one side, snapping his fingers in a completely un-hella-cool sort of way.  "I have to run.  I've got Sanna Ton coming in for a one o'clock . . ."

"Sanna?" Evan repeated, his chin snapping up at the mention of the international supermodel—the one with the really long legs and really huge tits that he'd fucked between sets at a show in LA last year.  She sucked damn good dick . . . "Really . . ."

Madison laughed and kissed the air beside his cheek.  "Too bad you're celibate, huh?"

Evan heaved a longsuffering sigh as Madison headed for the door, her laughter lingering in her wake . . .


-Valerie-


Valerie very nearly whimpered as she pulled her feet up closer and held onto the cupboard above her, gathering all of her courage before leaning over to peer down at the floor.  She nearly screamed when the two beasts bared their teeth at her, their gawping maws hanging open, their tongues lolling out . . . 'They're going to eat me . . .'

'Oh, stop that!  They aren't going to eat you . . . that little one isn't big enough,' her conscience pointed out.

She made a face as futile tears filled her eyes, and those tears only served to tick her off a little more.  "G-Go away!" she squeaked, unable to control the trembling in her voice.

Those beasts tilted their heads to the side and stared at her.  She could see it in their eyes, couldn't she?  They wanted her to fall off the damn counter—wanted to devour her for dinner—or at least a midday snack . . .

'Get a hold of yourself!' she told herself sternly, biting down hard on her lip, hard enough to draw blood.  Twisting her hand to tap along the shelf above her, she grimaced.  She'd already thrown everything she could get her hands on in a vain effort to make those two monsters go away.  They'd ignored everything else, quite possibly because they couldn't get into the cans of food she'd thrown, and while rational thought told her that she was being stupid when she'd thrown them, she couldn't help hoping that they'd chase the cans, anyway . . . Grasping something smooth, flattish, and cool, she pulled it out of the cupboard and nearly cried.  Sardines, the kind with the key lid . . .

Her hands were trembling terribly as she caught the end of the key and began to turn it.  Nasty sardine oil spilled over the freshly exposed rim and ran down her fingers as the stench of the canned fish made her stomach roll.

The dogs stood up, padding anxiously along the floor beside her.  She didn't dare look at them and cringed when the bigger one unleashed a loud, echoing bark.  It unnerved her so badly that she fumbled the flat can.  It slipped out of her hands and crashed onto the floor.  The sounds of the dogs, greedily licking their chops and tearing into the fish rang in her ears.  The big one licked his chops and half-growled at her.  'You'r-r-r-re next,' he seemed to be saying.

Valerie whimpered and pushed with her feet, scrunching herself back further into the corner . . . The trill of her ringing cell phone that she'd left in the living room mocked her, and she whimpered a little more.

Damn it . . .

She'd come over here just after having her ass handed to her by Xavier Bainey, set to give one rocker in particular a very large piece of her mind, only to realize once she's gotten there that he was out—a photo shoot, the itinerary that his manager had faxed over to her, had said.  Still, she hadn't figured that it'd take him that long, so she'd gone into the kitchen to get a drink of water, only to be accosted by those two beasts that had come running around the corner from whatever was beyond the kitchen like the hounds of hell.  She'd barely managed to save her feet from those miserable monsters, scrambling up onto the counter just as quickly as she possibly could, and she'd been stuck there ever since.  If the clock on the wall was right, then it meant she'd been stuck right there for the last four hours . . .

In the distance, she heard the unmistakable sound of the front door open then close, and she nearly cried.  Those damned beasts didn't move, even when Zel's voice rang out.  "Munchies!  Mimi!"

She squeaked out a strangled little squeak and smashed her hands over her ears when the dogs erupted into a very loud chorus of barks, and she'd just managed to force her eyes open when Zel sauntered into the kitchen, his coppery hair looking suspiciously like something had exploded under it.  Still, for that moment, he was a welcome sight.

At least, he was . . . until the bastard blinked, stared at her for a moment, then tossed his head back in laughter.

"Oh, shut the hell up!" she snapped, her anger quickly nudging aside her fear.  "Just call them off!"

They attacked him.  Valerie shrieked, glancing around wildly for something—anything—to throw at them as they lunged at Zel, yapping their fool heads off.  It took her a moment to realize that he was still laughing—laughing and hugging those monstrosities . . .

"Aww, did you miss me, babies?" he crooned, grabbing the huge dog's cheeks and shaking his head from side to side.  The dog retaliated by trying to taste Zel.  He sputtered but laughed and gave the dog a good, sound slap on the hind quarters as the tiny dog leapt into his arms.  "I know, I know . . . I'd be happy to be home, too, if I had to stay with that damned Cain, too . . ."

'He . . . He likes . . . it . . .' she slowly realized.  The knowledge didn't make her feel any better.  "Z . . . Zel . . .?"

She had to call his name a few times before he finally looked at her again.  Damned if he wasn't still smirking, either . . . "Hey, V . . . uh, what the hell are you doin' up there?"

"They attacked me!  They were trying to eat me!" she screeched, knowing somewhere in the back of her head that she sounded like a damned lunatic—knowing but not caring, at least for now.

He blinked and stared at her for a long minute then slowly looked at his dogs.  "You two can't eat her till I've gotten to sample her first," he deadpanned.

Valerie grabbed a towel—it was the only thing within reach—and heaved it at him.  It didn't go far, and the dogs, thinking that she meant for them to play with it, started an impromptu game of tug-of-war.

Zel chuckled.  "All right; all right, you two.  Out."  The dogs tugged on the towel for another moment then dropped it before careening around and tearing back around the corner the way they'd come, to start with.  He chuckled again.  "There weren't three?"

Valerie, who had started to swing her foot off the counter, jerked it right back up again.  "Th-Three?" she whispered, her eyes widening as the color she did have in her skin leeched out again.

"Yeah, three . . . I have three dogs."  Zel waved a hand and touched the cell phone he had hooked over his ear.  "Call Cain," he said.  "Hey, sexy . . . What are you doin' answering his damn phone?" he greeted in a teasing tone as a very real smile spread over his features.  "Yeah, I was wondering about that . . ." He chuckled that same breathy chuckle that made Valerie's knees feel a little weaker.  "I see . . . well . . . All right, but just for a little while . . . Uh huh.  Of course . . . Do you?  Nice . . . 'Kay, I'll see you then.  My lawyer's here, so . . . Yup . . . You, too . . . Bye."  He touched the earpiece again and yanked it off, tossing it onto the counter behind him as he crossed his arms over his chest and leveled a look at Valerie and then at the stash of cans she'd tossed all over the kitchen.  "You can come down now," he told her as he leaned down to retrieve one of the cans.  "They'll stay outside till I tell 'em they can come in."

Valerie wasn't sure whether or not she believed him.  Still, she had to admit that they had listened when he'd told them to go outside . . . Maybe they were better trained than she'd thought . . .

He sighed though he was still smiling as he held out his arms.  "C'mon, V.  Let's get you down from there."

She blinked and stared at him for a moment, but let him pull her off the counter.  He set her on her feet with a soft chuckle as he let his arms linger around her a second longer than necessary before he let go and stepped back.  "You know, I think they just wanted to meet you, was all," he drawled as he scooped up the rest of the cans and set them on the counter.

She rubbed her arms, telling herself that her heart was just thumping so erratically because of the dogs; that it had nothing at all to do with the feel of Zel Roka's arms around her.

"They . . . They can't come in here again, can they?" she asked, glancing around nervously, half-expecting those terrors to come tearing around the corner yet again.

Zel snorted.  "Nah, they'll stay out . . . You're not really afraid of them, are you?"

She shot him a very dark look—as dark as she could muster, anyway.  "I don't like dogs," she replied in a tight, clipped tone.

"But they're just babies," he argued.  "They'd never hurt anyone."

"They were trying to taste me!" she insisted once more.

He rolled his eyes but laughed.  "They were trying to greet you, V . . ."

She snorted and shook her head stubbornly, glancing out the window over the sink to satisfy herself that the dogs really were outside.  Both of them were sprawled out under the leaves of a wide tree that was off to the right of the huge pool.  It wasn't nearly as far away as Valerie might have otherwise liked . . . "Look, I just don't like dogs, okay?" she snapped.

"Why?  Everyone likes dogs."

She rubbed her forehead, all the anger she'd managed to garner for her last statement having ebbed away from her.  "I don't like them," she reiterated.  "Can we just leave it at that?"

Zel considered that then shrugged.  "Lemme guess: a dog attacked you when you were little?"

"Something like that," she allowed grudgingly.  "It used to lunge at the fence whenever I walked past going to school, and one day, it broke the fence and bit me."  She shivered.

He sighed.  "I'm sorry.  I swear my dogs are much better mannered than that."

She didn't answer since she had serious doubts regarding his claim.

"So you gonna tell me why you were up there on the counter, anyway?" he asked, apparently appeased with her explanation.

She had to force herself to concentrate on his question.  "Did you . . . Did you see the paper today?" she demanded though her tone lacked any real irritation.

"Oh, tha-a-a-at," he drawled.  "Yeah, I'm sorry about that."

She snorted.  He didn't sound sorry.  Still, she just didn't have it in her to be overly irritated with him; at least, not at the moment.  He'd saved her, didn't he?  Never mind that he was the one with the damn obnoxious as well as scary as hell dogs . . .

"Give me a sec.  I need to go wash this shit out of my hair," he called over his shoulder as he strode out of the room, leaving Valerie with no choice but to follow him.  "If you want to bitch at me some more, I'll let you do it after that."

She shook her head and wondered if further 'bitching' would make any difference at all to him. Something told her that it wouldn't; not really.  "Will you at least try to behave next time?" she asked wearily.

He stopped long enough to cast a little grin at her over his shoulder.  "I swear," he replied.

She heaved a sigh as he disappeared up the stairway.  Somehow, his reassurances just didn't really make her feel any better, did it?


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A/N:
'Harder to Breathe' by Maroon 5, first appeared on the 2002 album, Songs About Jane.  Copyrighted to Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
She's afraid of my babies …?
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Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge):  I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga.  Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al.  I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.
~Sue~
Chapter 11
Chapter 13
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