InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Grudges ( Chapter 14 )

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


-OoOoOoO oOoOoOoOoOoO-

'And just like the ocean under the moon
'Well that's the same emotion that I get from you
'You got the kind of lovin' that can be so smooth
'Gimme your heart make it real
'Or else forget about it …'

-'Smooth' by Santana featuring Rob Thomas.

-Evan-


Evan walked into the brightly light gallery amid the flash of camera bulbs, sparing a moment to flash a broad smile and wave at the photographers while ignoring shouted questions that, even if he'd wanted to answer, he couldn't since he couldn't rightfully discern one voice from another.

It was insane, really, and something that had been making him laugh for awhile now.  It seemed goofy.  He was still just Evan Zelig, the screw-up son of the North American tai-youkai, wasn't he?  Nothing special, right?  Right . . .

Yet everywhere he went—at least when he went out in full Zel Roka regalia, anyway, people seemed to lose what little common sense they had, didn't they?  'Screwball wabbits,' he thought to himself as he waved off the girl who offered to take his leather jacket.

He spotted Dieter right away.  Standing off to the side, he kept glancing around almost nervously, and Evan had a feeling that his youkai senses didn't really help.  He was listening to everyone's comments—comments that he wasn't exactly meant to hear—the unofficial critiques of his hard work.  It was something that Evan had learned to ignore a long time ago, but Dieter . . . Well, it was safe to say that he tended to be a lot more sensitive than Evan did in that regard.

"Hell of a turnout," Evan remarked as he sidled up beside Dieter.

Dieter shot him a dark glance then snorted.  "You ditched me, man."

Evan grinned and shrugged.  "Sorry 'bout that.  Got caught, you know.  Couldn't escape the talons of my keeper for the night."

Dieter snorted.  "I waited for you till almost midnight, dude.  Miss got really pissed at me, too."  He suddenly grinned.  "Hey, that rhymed . . ."

"I tried to shake her off; I swear," Evan said.  "She was stuck to me like white on rice, and not in a good way."

Dieter made a face.  "M-Maybe you should tell her," he said, leaning toward Evan and letting his voice drop to a near-whisper.

Evan snorted and waved a hand in blatant dismissal.  "Don't worry about that," he breezed with a lazy grin.

He didn't look entirely reassured.  "The papers say you're gonna fry," he pointed out, his brow furrowing in obvious concern.  "Say you're gonna do time for it."

"Eh . . . What's a rock star without some time spent in the big house?" he insisted.

Dieter opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off short when Fawn Mantrall hurried over and grabbed his arm.  "Dieter, darling!  I have someone you absolutely have to meet!" she gushed.

"W—I—"

Fawn rolled her eyes and paused long enough to wink her false eyelashes at Evan.  The damn things even had rhinestones stuck to the tips to add a touch of bling for effect.  "Oh, if it isn't Zel Roka," she purred.  "Looking totally glam, as always."

Evan grinned.  "Is that right, Fawn?"

She laughed, her smoke-rusted voice husky and dark.  "Isn't it?"

"Well, damn . . . and here I thought you didn't waste your time on bastards like me," he quipped.

"Stick around, gorgeous.  I can always spare a moment for you," she promised.

Evan chuckled.  "We'll see, baby," he replied.

"Oh, uh, Zel, can you find Miss and tell her I'll be back?" Dieter called over his shoulder as Fawn dragged him away.

He raised a hand to wave.

"If he isn't careful, she'll have his pants around his ankles quicker than he can say 'Fawn's Crab Shack' . . . skanky-assed bitch . . ."

Evan chuckled again as he slipped an arm around Madison's waist.  "Eh, he wouldn't let her do that."

Madison shot him a droll look.  "You don't think?"  Sipping the glass of champagne in her hand, she slowly shook her head.  "She's not the kind to ask permission."

Evan shrugged.  "Maybe not, but Deet's not stupid."

"He doesn't have to be stupid to fall into her trap.  That hussy has fucked more men than Para Ho."

"The porn star?"

Madison snorted indelicately.

"Madison, you sound absolutely cynical."

"I'm hardly cynical," she shot back mildly.  "I just know a nasty fuck hole when I see one, and that woman has one of the nastiest.  Careful, Roka, or she'll try to suck you in, too—and youkai or not, I'm pretty sure you'd catch something off of the likes of her."

"Oh, hey, Maddy . . . Still got time to do me this weekend?"

She giggled and winked.  "Hmm, I might . . ."

He grinned and nodded.  "Always time for a lost cause?"

"Something like that . . ."

Evan's commentary was cut short by the sudden, high-pitched holler directed at him.  "Uncle Roka!"

Evan grinned as Daniel darted through the milling crowd to grab Evan's leg.

"Hey, squirt.  Where's that hot mama of yours?"

"I dunno."  Daniel giggled and held out a hand to show Evan a new Ollie Owl stuffed toy.  "Daddy got it for me!"

"There you are!  Sorry, Zel . . . He ran off about the second we got inside," Miss apologized as she hurried over to reach for her son.

Evan laughed.  "It's all right.  Dan was hanging out with me, weren't you, buddy?"

"Yeah," Daniel announced happily, waving a hand at his mother to keep her at bay.  "Hangin' out!"

Miss rolled her eyes, her eyes sparkling softly.  She really was a pretty little thing, Evan thought.  Dieter must have bought her the dress she was wearing, though. Tasteful, sure, but the short, black sheath dress showed far more cleavage than Miss tended to present . . . Or maybe she'd bought it on purpose, knowing that Fawn Mantrall was going to be here.  Miss really, really didn't trust that woman, not that Evan could blame her.  Madison's assertions weren't too far off . . . "You didn't come here to watch him, though, did you?" she said.

Evan shrugged.  "I dunno.  I mean, he's pretty damn cool."

"That's right!  I'm damn cool!" Daniel proclaimed proudly.

Miss smiled, though Evan noticed how her eyes kept darting around, looking for Dieter, he supposed, but knowing Miss' jealous streak—completely unfounded but there, nonetheless—he figured that he'd do well to distract her before she saw her mate, being dragged along by the art director . . . "Hey, Miss . . . Why don't we go find something to drink?" he offered.

She bit her lip and forced a tight little smile.  "Oh, uh, I'm okay . . ."

"M-Miss!  Listen!" Dieter said as he stalked back over and shot Miss a hesitant smile.  "Fawn said there's a guy over there that wants to buy one of my sculptures for, like, a lot of money!" he marveled.

"Really?"

He nodded.  "Yeah, and another woman over there?  She said she wanted a different one, but she'd pay more if I delivered it, myself."

Evan choked back a chuckle as Miss' expression darkened.  "Oh, she did, did she?" she demanded tightly.

Dieter didn't notice his mate's foreboding air.  "Fawn told her that I don't deliver, myself though . . . Hell, how could I?  Those things weigh a ton, easy . . ."

"Hello, Miss," Fawn drawled, slipping her arm around Dieter's waist.  If the artist noticed, though, he gave no indication.  It was Evan's considered opinion that Dieter had a habit of overlooking most everything.  Daniel wiggled around, leaning toward his father.  Dieter grinned and took him, stepping away from Fawn in the process, much to Madison's undisguised amusement.

Too bad Miss looked like she was ready to light into poor ol' Deet.  Evan grabbed Fawn's hand and pulled her against his side.  "Now, honey, you can't possibly get away from me that easily," he quipped.

Fawn laughed, batting her eyelashes in such a way that made Evan wonder how the damn things kept from getting stuck together.  "Mr. Roka, are you coming on to me?" she murmured in an entirely catty sort of way.

Madison shot him an amused glance over her shoulder as she steered Dieter and Miss away from Evan and Fawn.  Evan merely smiled.  It was all for a good cause, after all, wasn't it?


-Valerie-


Marvin turned on the television and dropped the remote onto the sofa as he tugged on his necktie then meticulously rolled up his sleeves.  "Wow, that was a really good meal, wasn't it?" he mused as Valerie kicked off her sensible black pumps and reached up to remove her earrings.

"It was," she agreed with a smile.

He yawned but shot her a wide grin.  "Do you want a glass of wine?"

"Sure," she replied as she headed down the short hallway to her bedroom to change clothes.  Dinner and a movie had been exactly what the good doctor had ordered, really.  For the first time in a few weeks, she felt entirely relaxed for once, and that was a damn good feeling . . .

'See?  Marvin is good for me,' she thought with a soft laugh as she pulled the light cream colored sweater over her head and reached for the shapeless gray sweatshirt she tended to wear to bed more often than not.  Sure, she had some very pretty nightgowns, most of then given to her by friends over the years, but they were just too cold, and she much preferred the warmth of the sweats, even if they weren't particularly pretty . . .

Grimacing at a strained tightness that had settled into her lower back, she braced her hands against the sore area and leaned back to stretch.  It was all that damned Zel Roka's fault.  She hadn't gotten to go for her normal morning jog more than a couple times since she'd had to start 'babysitting' the man, and for reasons that she couldn't completely comprehend, he actually tended to get up ungodly early—a fact she'd discovered a few days ago when he'd unceremoniously waked her up at the proverbial crack of dawn, demanding over the telephone that she meet him for breakfast since he was bored.

Well, she was going jogging in the morning whether he liked it or not, and if he got in trouble while she was out, then she'd beat him, no doubt about it . . .

Tugging the barrette out of her hair that held it at the base of her neck, she dropped it onto her dresser in passing, scrubbing vigorously at her head to alleviate the feeling that lingered as she padded back toward the living room in a thick pair of slouchy socks.

Marvin was setting two glasses of wine on the table behind the sofa when she wandered into the room, and he smiled endearingly at her when he saw her.  "Got a couple messages," he told her absently.

"Oh?  What were they?" she asked as she reached for her glass.

He shrugged.  "I didn't have time to check them," he replied.  "I can if you want me to, though . . ."

"No, it's fine," she said with a smile, hitting the button to retrieve them.  The first was the building maintenance department, reminding her that they would be working on their annual maintenance check as well as replacing a few things over the next week, and that they'd try to keep any outages to a minimum.  The second was a courtesy call from the car rental agency in Louisville, confirming her reservation for the weekend.  Glancing at her watch, she frowned.  It was too late to call them back, but she'd give them a ring in the morning before she left for the airport . . .

Marvin's cell phone rang as she deleted the messages and shuffled toward the computer.  She ought to be packing, but she felt so restless.  Besides, it really wouldn't take more than a few minutes to do that.  She would only be there for a couple days, and even then, it wasn't like she'd actually be seeing anyone while she was there, either . . .

Sinking down in the thickly cushioned sofa, she almost smiled to herself.  She'd taken her time in selecting the things that surrounded her, and everything in her home was accompanied by a sense of utter satisfaction.  She'd gone to great lengths to make sure that all of her things were the best and most economical that she could manage, spending countless hours researching online or shopping around for the best deal on the item she'd chosen, and as she grabbed a fluffy throw pillow and hugged it against her chest, she sighed.

Reaching for the remote, she raised it to change the channel, but stopped and hit the volume button, instead.

"And in entertainment news, infamous shock-rocker, Zel Roka was spotted at L'Attitude, the ultra-hip art gallery that hosts only the trendiest and most cutting edge artists, tonight, showing his support for his long-time friend and bass guitarist, Dieter Reichardt.  Sources say that the always colorful musician showed up without a date, not that it was a problem since he was seen leaving the high-profile art gallery with Fawn Mantrall, the owner of L'Attitude . . ."

Narrowing her eyes at the footage, she snorted indelicately.  It was Zel, all right, leaving the gallery with a very buxom woman hanging on his arm amid the flash of camera bulbs.  She didn't look like the owner of an art gallery—nope, she actually looked a little more like a fifty-cent whore, complete with her overly-teased, very bouffant hair, her low cut dress that barely covered her breasts, and those trashy false eyelashes . . . That damned dog had his hand on her hip and a completely lecherous sort of grin on his face, and he actually had the nerve to tell the reporters that they were heading to a 'private party' . . .

And she very nearly reached for the telephone to call Zel and remind him that they had a deal when Marvin hung up the phone and hurried around the sofa to grab her hands as he sat down on the edge of the cushion.  "Val!  Fantastic news!" he blurted.

Valerie blinked, requiring a moment to make the transition in her head from Marvin's boyish excitement to her own marked lack of enthusiasm.  "W-What?" she muttered, shaking her head since she honestly had no idea what he was talking about.

Marvin laughed and squeezed her fingers.  "Well, you see, there's this huge gala this weekend—I mean, bigger than huge, really!  It's kind of a fundraiser, but there'll be a lot of investors there, not to mention the ones hosting it!  I-It's the most fantastic thing, and I never really thought I'd ever manage an invitation to it, but Carson Meadows—You remember him, right?" He paused long enough to take another deep breath before waving his hands and plunging on.  "Well, his mother-in-law is pretty sick, so he and his wife won't be able to attend, and he called just now to offer us their tickets!  He said he'd send them over by courier tomorrow, and . . . Val, you know, I think you'll love it.  It's a black tie thing."

She shook her head slowly, unable to get the entire gist of what he was saying since he was talking so fast.  "Wait . . . When?"

"—This is so great!" Marvin went on without actually hearing Valerie's question.  He was so excited that he just wasn't listening.  "I mean, I've told them all about you, of course, and now you'll finally get to meet a lot of them, and—"

"Marvin," she interrupted, raising her voice enough to be heard over his happy chatter.  "When is this thing?"

"Oh, uh, Saturday night."

She frowned.  "I won't be here," she reminded him slowly.

He grimaced suddenly, as though he'd just remembered that she'd already made plans for the weekend.  "Geez, I'm sorry, Val . . . Man, I forgot . . ." He brightened up suddenly and smiled.  "Yeah, but it's just one of those boring lawyer conferences, right?  I mean, every time you go to one, you tell me what a drag it was, don't you?  So why don't you skip this one?"

"Marvin . . ." She sighed and shook her head, trying to decipher exactly why the expression on his face made her feel so damn guilty.  "I already made reservations," she explained slowly, trying to temper the slight irritation that swelled up inside her at the ease with which he'd discounted her plans.

For the first time since he'd gotten off the telephone, his smile wavered.  "I-I know.  It's just . . . But you always say that you get bored at those conferences; that you never really understand why you go to them, in the first place . . ."

She forced a tight little smile, reminding herself that she really hadn't told Marvin what her true plans were.  It wasn't that she worried what he'd say.  Marvin would just have told her that she should do whatever she felt she should do.  Truthfully, she wasn't entirely certain why she was keeping it a secret, in the first place.  She supposed that it had a lot to do with the entire history of it all, and maybe even the feelings that she wasn't sure she wanted to face . . .

"I . . . It's too late to get my money refunded," she went on, fully aware of exactly how lame she really sounded.

Marvin laughed suddenly—one of those laughs that always sounded forced and never failed to make her feel like a complete and utter bitch.  "That's okay, Val.  It's fine.  I mean, it's not like I actually expected to be invited to this, and you're right.  You already made your plans.  I . . . I'm sorry."

And the kicker?  He sounded sincere, didn't he?  He really was sorry that he'd assumed that she'd drop everything for his little soiree . . . Rubbing her forehead, she heaved a sigh.  "It's just a fundraiser, right?  It's not like you are going to give a presentation or anything . . ."

Marvin shrugged and smiled, though the smile held a tinge of disappointment.  "You're right.  It's just that I'd talked you up so much to a lot of these people that I wanted them to meet you, but it's not a big deal.  I mean, maybe . . . Maybe we'll be invited next year . . ."

She glanced up and frowned.  She just had to look, didn't she?  She had to look up to see the doubt in his gaze.  He knew damn well that the odds that he'd be invited back to the annual fundraiser were slim and none, and he simply didn't want to make her feel bad, and she knew it.  That was the hell of it, wasn't it?

"It means a lot to you, doesn't it?" she asked quietly, shoving aside the prickle of irritation that she felt with herself for being irked, in the first place.  How selfish was she, really?  After all, it was just one party, right?  And the work Marvin was fighting to get funding for was important—really important—much more important than a family that Valerie had chosen to break ties with years ago . . .

"Oh, well . . ." he hedged, unsure whether or not he really ought to answer her truthfully.

She shrugged and deliberately kept her gaze averted.  "I-It's just such short notice," she murmured.

Marvin laughed softly, a cautious sense of optimism brightening his gaze.  "I should be able to rent a tuxedo, I think . . . Heck, it's such a big thing, though . . . Maybe I should see about getting a better one.  You . . . You could wear that black dress of yours: you know, the one with the matching jacket?  Classy yet businesslike . . ."

Valerie almost snorted.  "I don't know, Marvin.  That dress isn't exactly 'black tie', I don't think, and I've got time tomorrow.  Maybe I'll go shopping."

He chuckled and nodded—she had a feeling that he'd agree to just about anything, at least at the moment.  "Sure, sure . . . You look good in anything.  Oh, I need to make a few calls; see if I can't find out who all might be there!"

She sighed as he stood up and skittered away.  The feeling of irritation didn't go away completely, even though she tried to ignore it.  Untangling her legs, she stood up, grabbing her glass of wine as she shuffled over to the desk to check her email.  When she sat down, she bit her lip.  Clicking on her internet browser, she frowned.  It opened to the last site she'd looked up: Kaci Lea's blog.  She's made a new post about the dress her mother had bought for her just for her middle school graduation, and she sounded really excited.

Valerie read the post and clicked on the corner to close it as the soft sound of Marvin's excited voice droned on in the background . . .


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A/N:
'Smooth ' originally performed by Santana featuring Rob Thomas appeared on the 1999 release, Supernova.  Song is copyrighted to Rob Thomas and Itaal Shur.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
So, change of plans
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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 13
Chapter 15
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