InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ The Wrong Foot ( Chapter 18 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Eighteen~~
~The Wrong Foot~


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-
< br> 'You cried, I died ...
'I should have shut my mouth, things headed south in ...
'As the worlds slipped off my tongue, they sounded dumb ...
'If this old heart could talk, it'd say you're the one ...
'I'm wastin' time when I think about it ...'

-'Misunderstood' by Bon Jovi.

-Valerie-


"Z . . . Zel . . .?"

The man shot her a deprecating grin and a halfhearted shrug.  "Zel?" he echoed, apparently deciding on playing the 'dumb' card.

She narrowed her eyes, glowering at the man in question.  "Don't feed me that, Zel Roka . . . What the hell did you do to your hair?"

"My hair?"

She snorted.  "Yes, your hair."

He looked blank for a moment then shrugged.  "I cut it."

"You . . . You what?"

He rolled his eyes.  "It's just hair, anyway."

"Just hair," she echoed with a shake of her head.  "Why on earth would you cut it?"

"Because I wanted to look respectable."

She snorted again.  "Yeah, well, it'll take more than a haircut to accomplish that, Mr. Roka."

"You look like you could use a drink," he said, pointedly ignoring her question as he offered her the untouched glass of champagne.

She eyed it but didn't take it.  "Just what do you think you're doing?" she hissed from between clenched teeth, mindful of the other guests, some of whom were migrating over to stare at the painting.

"I assure you, Ms. Denning, my actions are strictly on the up and up," he told her with a reassuring smile.  That smile, damn it . . . She'd seen it before, and if there had been any doubt in her mind as to who, exactly, he was, it was gone.

"My ass," she growled.  "Listen, Mr. Roka—"

"Evan," he interrupted.

She snapped her mouth closed and blinked at him.  "What?"

He chuckled and slipped a hand under her elbow to gently lead her over to the side, effortlessly shielding her from being jostled by the milling crowd that was drawing closer.  "Evan," he stated once more.

She stepped away from him, her eyes flashing as she glowered up at him.  Hair so light that it seemed almost silver in the light—that had to be her mind playing tricks on her—he stared at her with such a strange intensity that she felt an odd, fluttering sensation deep in her chest.  Standing off to the side where they were, though, she couldn't rightfully see his eyes; couldn't discern the color . . . A strange sense of vulnerability lurked just beneath her carefully constructed calm: a vulnerability that she was fighting desperately to hide.

And just why did this man seem entirely familiar to her, as though she'd seen him somewhere before, Zel Roka notwithstanding . . .?

Her mind was too befuddled to think, though, too clouded and confused to make sense of anything in particular as everything about the man overwhelmed her.  That he didn't seem to realize exactly what he was doing didn't matter.  She did, and that was more than enough to send her hackles right back up.  "Need I remind you of the conditions of my representation of you, Mr. Roka?" she gritted out, crossing her arms over her chest stubbornly.

Something flickered behind his gaze as he casually pushed the wire rimmed glasses up with his knuckle.  It was gone before she could discern it.  "I regret to inform you that there is no 'Mr. Roka' here tonight, Ms. Denning," he said, leaning toward her close enough to say it without having to raise his voice much over a whisper.  "Besides, I'm here on a very special date."

Valerie very nearly growled at the fierce irritation that shot to the fore at the mere mention of his 'date'.  So special that he would jeopardize her representation of him, was she?  Valerie snorted indelicately, tossing her head in a completely haughty sort of way.  It wasn't that she cared who the woman was.  Of course not.  What Valerie did care about, though, was Zel Roka's avant-garde attitude, especially when it came to things like whether or not he wanted to listen to her.  He could not ignore her, damn him, and the sooner he figured that out, the better off he'd be . . . With that in mind, though, she leveled a no-nonsense look at him and slowly shook her head.  "I don't care if you escorted the Queen of England here tonight, Zel Roka.  Must I remind you of the terms of our agreement?"

His chuckle was husky and dark, almost like a physical caress.  She rubbed her forearms to chase away the rise of gooseflesh that surfaced on her skin.  "Evan, Valerie.  My name is Evan.  It's not that tough, you know.  I'm reasonably certain that you can say it, can't you?"

Caught off guard by the near playfulness in his quiet tone, Valerie blinked and didn't reply.

"So tell me . . . that . . . gentleman you were talking to . . .?  Am I to assume that was the illustrious Marvin?  The man who is . . . how did you put it?  Ah, yes . . . bigger than me."

That snapped her out of her reverie quickly enough.  "Marvin," she repeated, unable to keep the suspicion out of her tone.

Zel—Evan—nodded.  "Yes, your fiancé."

Valerie bristled at the condescension she heard just below the conversational tone, though if she were being completely fair, she'd have to admit that it could have just been her imagination, too.  Too bad she wasn't feeling particularly fair.  "Of course," she said.  "He was invited."

He nodded, but he didn't comment on whether he believed her or not.  "Here," he said, slipping the glass of champagne into her hand with a smile.

Valerie opened her mouth to protest but heaved a sigh, figuring that it would be damn near impossible to get him to listen to her, anyway.  "Look, your act is pretty convincing," she said slowly, carefully, "but you know damn well that you're violating the terms of our agreement."

He rolled his eyes, and for the briefest of moments, she almost saw a hint of the Zel Roka that she'd come to know.  "Can't you just make one exception?" he prodded.

She shook her head.  Give a guy like him an inch, and he'd run with a mile . . . "No, I can't."

He sighed.  "Then I'm sorry, Valerie.  I guess I'll have to violate your terms.  Punish me tomorrow, if you want."

Gritting her teeth, she counted to ten before she dared respond to him.  "What I'll do is drop your case," she bit out quietly.  "This is not negotiable."

"Neither is this," he insisted with a shrug.  His tone was light, but she could see the definite stubbornness set into the lines of his body.

"Why is she so important?" Valerie demanded, resisting the urge to grasp her forehead in her hands and rub like crazy, unable to grasp exactly why the stubborn man was being so adamant about the situation.

He chuckled again.  "Suffice it to say that she means the world to me."

Valerie snorted loudly.  "Oh?  Is she that good in bed?" she snapped.

She could feel him tense beside her.  "I suppose you could say that," he replied tightly.

She shook her head.  "Why doesn't that surprise me?" she muttered.  "Zel—"

"Evan."

"Whatever!"  She drew a deep breath and leveled a pointed look at him.  "No women, no booze, and no drugs.  Ring a bell?"

"You forgot the home by ten o' clock thing."

"This is not a joke!"

He was laughing at her, damn him.  He really was.  "I know the terms, Valerie," he told her calmly—too calmly.  "I promise I'll follow them, too—tomorrow."

"You will not pick and choose when you'll listen to me," she insisted.  "I mean it!"

He ducked his chin and so that he was peering at her through his bangs.  "So do I, V."

That was enough to give her pause, and for some reason that she didn't really want to consider, the use of the hated nickname was somehow reassuring, too.  "So where is your hussy?" she demanded instead, ignoring the voice in the back of her head that told her that she was being catty for no good reason.

That stiffness was back in his stance.  "My date, you mean?" he corrected indelicately.

She gave a derisive laugh.  "Potatoes, potahtoes," she spouted back.

Zel—Evan—narrowed his gaze slightly but shifted enough to scan the room.  Then he chuckled.  "See that flock of poor bastards over there?  It's safe to say that she's in the middle of that."

"Poor bastards," she echoed, arching her eyebrow skeptically.  "And why's that?"

He chuckled again, a strange sense of warmth entering the depths of his stare as he watched to catch a glimpse of the woman in question.  Something fierce and vile twisted Valerie's stomach.  "Because," he said simply, the affection in his voice a nearly humbling thing, "she's going home with me tonight."

"You are not—not—violating the terms I set down, Zel Roka—"

"Evan."

"Shut up!" she snapped.  "You're not!  And you're not taking that floozy home with you, either!  Do you hear me?  If the press got a hold of this, they'd crucify you, and the last thing you need is more bad publicity right now!"

He pinned her with a fierce look that made her hesitate just for a moment.  "Be careful, Valerie," he warned her coldly.

She recovered her composure quickly enough and glowered at him.  "Truth hurt, Evan?" she snapped.

"Valerie . . ."

"If the judge hears anything else negative about you, you won't have a chance in hell, and you should know that, too!  Just keep it in your pants until after your trial, can't you?  No woman is that important."

"That's a matter of opinion," he muttered.

The crowd of men parted, and Valerie blinked.  She wasn't sure what she had been expecting, but it certainly wasn't the tiny slip of a woman clad in a pretty silver satin dress.  That it barely covered her was arbitrary.  Somehow, Valerie hadn't really expected anything else from someone who'd be stupid enough to catch Zel Roka's wandering eye, and she didn't think about the surge of irritation that frothed inside her, either, when she also realized that the woman was absolutely stunning, too.  "Hmm, no wonder she's surrounded by men," she scoffed.

"Valerie—"

"They're all hoping that she falls out of that damned dress—or bends over . . . So what is she?  A stripper?  Some groupie that gave you a good fuck after a show?  Playboy Bunny of the Month?"

"Stop it."

Valerie snorted again and shook her head, not bothering to take her eyes off the woman in question.  "Women like her are a dime a dozen, aren't they?"

"Jealousy doesn't really become of you, he growled quietly.

Indignant color rose in her cheeks as she sputtered a few times.  "Wh—You—I—Don't even flatter yourself, damn you!  I am not jealous."

He shrugged candidly.  "Might I suggest that you keep a tighter rein on your tongue before you say something you regret?"

She snorted, ignoring the blatant warning as she waved a hand at the woman—Zel's date.  "So what's so special about that one?"

"Special," he repeated in a deadly quiet tone of voice.  "You want to know what's so special about her?"

She finally glanced at him and stopped short, the next round of her tirade dying on her tongue.  His expression was carefully blanked, yes, but his absolute rage lent an unearthly glow to his gaze.

"That woman is everything—everything—that most women could never, ever be.  She means everything to me.  There's nothing in this world that I wouldn't do if she asked me to.  She asked me to escort her here, and I said that I would.  If she asks me to go home with her, well, then I'll do it.  If she asks me to sleep with her, then I guess that I'll do that, too.  I would die for her, Valerie.  Tell me: would your precious Marvin do that for you?"

She blinked and stared as he turned on his heel and stalked away.  Only after he was gone did she realize that her knees felt like rubber, and her burgeoning headache had blossomed into an all-out migraine . . .

"Valerie!"

Gritting her teeth, she managed a wan smile as Marvin scurried over to her with a shiny smile on his face.  He was quite obviously having the time of his life.

'Well, at least one of us is,' she thought wryly.  'Zel . . . Evan . . . What in the world . . .? And why is he acting so . . . so weird . . .?'

"I found her!"

Shaking her head in confusion, Valerie felt her feigned smile falter.  "Found who?"

He rolled his eyes and laughed as though he thought she was trying to be funny.  "What do you mean, 'who'?" he hurried to say.  "Mrs. Zelig, of course!"

"Oh . . . right . . ."

He sidled up next to her, leaning one way then the other in an effort to see through the crowd.  "There!  See her!" he whispered loudly, pointing and shaking his finger in his excitement.

Valerie blinked and shook her head. "Where?" she asked, unable to see the woman in question.

Marvin laughed again and shook his hand to emphasize his point.  "Right there!  See her?  In the silver dress . . ."

"That's not Mrs. Zeli—" she began.

"Sure!  They said she was here with her son tonight!"

Valerie felt the room grow about fifty degrees hotter, or so it seemed, as her throat went dry; as Evan's words rang in her ears . . .

"That woman is everything—everything—that most women could never, ever be.  She means everything to me.  There's nothing in this world that I wouldn't do if she asked me to.  She asked me to escort her here, and I said that I would.  If she asks me to go home with her, well, then I'll do it.  If she asks me to sleep with her, then I guess that I'll do that, too.  I would die for her, Valerie . . ."

She swallowed hard.  "H-H-Her . . . son," she stammered.

Marvin didn't notice Valerie's sudden pallor.  "Yeah!  They say he's a songwriter.  Wrote a song for Bethany Lane last year that was number one for about six weeks . . ."

Valerie didn't ask Marvin how he knew that.  No, she was having a difficult enough time trying to keep the room from spinning around her . . .

"That must be him!"

Valerie grimaced, unwittingly following the direction of Marvin's gaze.  'Mother and son . . .?' Why hadn't she noticed that before?  They looked quite a bit alike, even from a distance: the same silver colored hair . . . Maybe it was because she was so used to seeing him with various hair colors that it hadn't struck her, but . . . "Oh, God . . ." she moaned under her breath.  No doubt about it; she was going to owe him an apology, wasn't she . . .?

"Come on!  Let's go introduce ourselves!"

Valerie uttered a terse little squeak as Marvin grabbed her hand and barreled forward.  She tugged on his hand to gain her freedom.  It didn't work.  "Marvin!  Marvin, wait!"

"They say she's really, really sweet—sweetest lady you'll ever meet!" Marvin went on, ignoring Valerie's pleas, or maybe he just didn't hear her.

"Marvin . . .!"

It was too late.

"Hello, Mrs. Zelig!  I'm sorry to interrupt," he said, his cheeks reddening as he shot Evan an apologetic but enthusiastic smile.  "I wanted to thank you for inviting us—well, actually, an associate of mine was invited, but he couldn't make it.  I'm Marvin Pinkle."

Valerie couldn't even meet Evan's gaze though she could feel it boring into her skull.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't catch that," he said.

Marvin laughed.  "Pinkle.  Marvin Pinkle."

The diminutive woman's eyes rounded in wonder, and she giggled.  "Oh, you mean like kosher dill?"

Marvin chuckled again.  Evan leaned toward his mother.  "No, Mama, not pickle: Pinkle."

Mrs. Zelig's cheeks reddened as her hands shot up to cover her mouth.  "I'm so sorry!  Please forgive me!" she insisted, making a low bow along with her apology.

"No, no!  It's quite all right," Marvin insisted.  "Happens all the time."

Evan smiled just a little, though she could hear the trace nastiness in his tone, even if she were quite sure that no one else would actually discern it.  "I'm sure it does."

Valerie wondered if she stomped on his foot whether it would offend him more than she already had.

"Pinkle," Mrs. Zelig repeated, her face scrunching up in concentration.  "Pinkle, Pinkle . . . Okay, I've got it now!"

"Anyway," Marvin went on with another smile, "thank you so much for your hospitality, Mrs. Zelig."

The woman smiled.  "Oh, you're welcome, Mr. Pinkle, and please, call me Gin . . ." Her gaze shifted to Valerie, who couldn't contain the blush at the things she'd just said about the bubbly and sweet woman.  "And who is this?"

Marvin glanced at Valerie almost vacantly, as though he'd forgotten momentarily that she was with him.  "Oh!  This is Valerie Denning."

Gin reached out and took Valerie's hands in both of hers, giving her a warm squeeze.  "Pleased to meet you," she said before turning toward her son.  "Evan, have you . . .?"

He shot his mother that lazy little smile that made Valerie grit her teeth—why had she thought that he'd only made that smile for her . . .? Brushing aside the irritating thought, she forced a wan smile.  "We've already met, Mama," he assured her.

Marvin blinked and shot Valerie a questioning look.  "You have?"

"Just a few minutes ago," Evan went on with a tight little smile.  "Enjoy your evening."  He slipped an arm around his mother and abruptly headed her toward the dance floor.  "Come on, Mama.  You promised me a dance."

Gin giggled and tugged her son down to kiss his cheek.  "Such a darling little man!" she said as they moved away.  "You could fit him in your pocket!"

Marvin laughed and turned to face Valerie.  "I didn't know you'd met him already!" he said.

She waved off his excitement.  "I-I didn't know . . ." she replied weakly.

Marvin's smile widened as he quickly squeezed Valerie's icy fingers.  "I have a good feeling about tonight, Val.  Something great's going to happen; I can feel it."


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A/N:
'Misunderst ood' first recorded by Bon Jovi on the 2002 album, Bounce.  Song copyrighted to Richie Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, Andreas Michael Carlsson, Desmond Child.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
He did say 'Pinkle', right …?
==========
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 17
Chapter 19
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