InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Surprises ( Chapter 39 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Thirty-Nine~~
~Surprises~


-Oo OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'Well, open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and damn you're free
Look into your heart and you'll find love love love love …'

-'I'm Yours' by Jason Mraz.

-Valerie-


Glancing at her watch as she pulled through the gates of the now-familiar estate, Valerie nodded at Bone as she passed.  Biting her lip, she couldn't quite help the slight anxiety that had started to build somewhere deep down in the pit of her stomach, not unlike heartburn only lower.

After having spent most of the morning, sitting behind her desk at the office, combing over the testimonies that everyone had given her and still drawing a blank, she'd decided that it was time to have another go at Evan in the hopes that she might actually get him to talk.  She didn't honestly expect that she'd get very far with it, but she had to try, didn't she?  After all, she knew damn well that there really was something entirely too false about his story.  She didn't have to be a rocket scientist to understand beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was lying to her.  She knew that much.  She also had a hunch that he was covering for someone.  Why else would they all be so evasive about the whole thing?  No, she knew it, all right.  She just couldn't prove it . . .

Well, he was about to find out that she could be just as stubborn as he could be, right?

"Right," she muttered to herself as she pulled to a stop in front of his home.

She grimaced as she shut off the engine and yanked the key out of the ignition.  "Oh, who the hell am I kidding?  That man gives the word 'stubborn' a whole new and somewhat perverse meaning . . ." Saving the man from himself?  It was proving to be a little more difficult than she'd thought . . .

Letting out a long, deep breath, she grasped the attaché case off the passenger side seat and stepped out of the car, unconsciously tugging on the hem of the navy blue cotton jacket she wore as she strode toward the porch.

"Evan?" she called as she stepped inside and closed the door.

"Uncle Evan's busy," a rather sullen little voice said.

Setting her attaché case on the floor beside the table, Valerie blinked as she stared at Bailey, who was standing in the doorway of the living room with a fairly disgruntled expression on his face.  "Busy?" she echoed, smoothing her skirt as she knelt to face the boy on his own level.

Bailey shrugged, his lower lip jutting out in an exaggerated pout.  "Wif Olive."

"Olive?  Who's Olive?" Valerie asked.

Bailey made a face, as though he thought that she ought to have known the answer to that question.  "My sister," he muttered, grinding his bare toes against the carpet and wrinkling his nose in obvious disdain.  "I don't like her.  She's a smelly baby."

Snapping her mouth closed, Valerie pushed herself to her feet since she wasn't entirely sure exactly what she was supposed to do with that information, anyway.  The boy didn't seem to be in any hurry to head back into the living room, though, and, standing where he was, he quite effectively blocked the doorway.  "Um . . . W-Would you show me where Uncle Evan is?" she finally suggested.

Bailey stared at her for a minute then suddenly grinned.  It struck her again that the child bore such an eerie resemblance to his father, right down to the long, loose, golden bronze hair—a strange trait . . . maybe.  "My leg're tired," he suddenly blurted as he lifted his arms high into the air.

"Your legs are . . .?" she echoed dumbly.

He bounced up and down on the balls of his feet to accentuate his demand.  "Up!"

"Ah . . ." she stalled, unsure what she was supposed to do.  It was unsettling, at the very least.  Children weren't exactly her forte; she'd be the first to admit as much.  It wasn't that she disliked them.  Quite the contrary, really, but she simply hadn't really been around them very much, and therein lay the problem.  They were a little –or a lot, if she were bluntly honest about it—intimidating to her.  After all, she knew better than anyone, just how easy it was to screw up a kid . . .

So it was with more than a bit of reluctance that she bit her lip and gingerly grasped the boy under the armpits.  "Oof!" she grunted, her eyes widening as she hefted him off the floor and hurriedly slipped her arms under his bottom to support him.  He weighed a lot more than he looked like he should . . .

Bailey grinned happily.  "Mommy says I'm a big puppy!" he exclaimed.

Valerie nodded, taking a moment to accustom herself to his weight.  "You certainly are," she agreed.

"I can bark," he said suddenly.  "Wo-o-o-of!"

She blinked and laughed a little uncertainly.  "That was a pretty good one," she said.

"Can you bark?"

Valerie frowned, feeling distinctly dumb, given the question at hand.  "S-Sure," she said.

He hopped a little.  She had to tighten her grip on him to keep him from topping out of her arms.  "Bark!  Bark!"

Feeling a surge of heat explode under her skin, Valerie couldn't help the quick glance she shot around as she opened her mouth and uttered a very terse and very quiet, "Woof."

Bailey wrinkled his nose and shook his head rather sadly.  "No-o-o-o," he reprimanded.  "That wasn't a good bark!"

Snapping her mouth closed on the protest that she just couldn't help, Valerie felt her blush deepen as she met the earnest, if not startlingly green eyes of the boy in her arms.  "W-Woof," she managed, much to Bailey's delight.

"You're a puppy, too!" he exclaimed happily.

She smiled a little tightly at the praise as she took a cautious step toward the living room.

She wasn't entirely certain, what she'd expected to see.  She supposed that if she'd had to say, she'd have surmised that she'd find Evan doing something Evan-ish while the aforementioned 'Olive' did whatever a child her age was supposed to do.  She really hadn't expected what she did see, however, and the smile that widened on her face was genuine, almost enchanted, as she spotted the world-famous rock star, standing behind the baby grand piano near the sunlight-filled doors that led to the backyard with the cutest little girl—just a baby, really—sitting atop the instrument's closed lid.  Frilly white dress that reminded Valerie of a shorter version of a christening gown spread wide around her tiny form, she held a doll in her arms—also in a pristine white dress—sitting patiently as Evan carefully swept a bit of hair up and back just slightly with a pale pink brush that he caught in his teeth to free up his hands so that he could secure the vibrant tuft of rich, red hair in a tiny white butterfly clip.

"There you go, baby-face," he said, spitting the brush out and setting it aside.  Scooping her and the doll up in his arms, he planted a noisy, sloppy sounding kiss on her cheek.

The girl giggled and threw her arms around his neck, effectively clunking him in the back of the head with the doll as she kissed him back.  He didn't seem to mind.

"Oh, hey, V!" he greeted as he spotted her over the girl's head.

She shook her head, unable to stop herself as she stared unabashedly at the man.  "H . . . Hi . . ."

He chuckled and shifted the girl so that she was stationed securely against his shoulder.  "Livvy, you want to say hi to V?"

Olivia stared up at her uncle for a minute and slowly broke into a smile as she settled her head against his shoulder and regarded Valerie with wide, golden eyes.  "Hi," she whispered shyly.

Valerie blinked in surprise.  As small as the girl was, Valerie hadn't actually thought that she was old enough to speak . . . "Oh, my . . . She can talk?"

"Well, sure," Evan replied with a shrug then rolled his eyes.  "Bailey, get down before you break V, will you?"

Bailey laughed and wiggled around until Valerie set him back on his feet again.  "She can bark!" he exclaimed.

Evan chuckled.  "Oh, yeah?  Did you, V?"

The blush was back in vivid color.  "W—He wanted me to," she explained quickly.

"Mimi!" Bailey hollered as he carted around on his heel and ran toward the kitchen in search of those wicked beasts Evan called dogs.  "C'mere!"

"She is so cute," Valerie remarked as she crossed her arms over her chest and smiled at the girl nestled snuggly in her uncle's arms.

"Yeah, you're a hottie, aren't you, pumpkin?"

The girl sighed happily and clutched her doll a little tighter.

"You want to see something cool, V?  Olivia, here, learned a new trick."

Valerie blinked at Evan's strange way of stating things, but nodded, musing to herself that Olivia—Olive—looked entirely comfortable in Evan's arms.

"Here, Liv.  Give me the doll, okay?"

She craned her head back to gaze up at Evan but let go of the doll.  He set it on the piano and stepped closer to Valerie.  "Kneel down," he prompted.  Valerie shot him a quizzical glance.  Evan nodded.  "Go ahead, and hold out your arms, too."

She did rather ambivalently, unsure just what Evan was doing, but reasonably sure that he'd behave since he was dealing with a child, too.

Evan knelt, careful not to drop the girl as he set her on her feet and held onto her with one hand while he fussed with the cascading lace ruffles of her dress with the other.  "All right, Livvy.  You want to walk to V?"

The girl shot him a look as though she wanted or needed a little more encouragement, but she nodded.  When she turned her head toward Valerie, though, she had a big smile on her face.  Evan let go of her, his hands left dangling between his knees as he watched her.  She brought her hands up, fluttering at her sides like baby birds that weren't quite ready to leave the nest, and she carefully picked her way toward Valerie.

"Aww," Valerie crooned, marveling at the girl's little steps as she closed in.  "She's just adorable . . ."

"Eh," Evan drawled, putting a hand on the floor to push himself to his feet again.  "She's been doing that for awhile, but Bubby carries her around so much that I was starting to think that she'd forgotten how."

Valerie giggled as she grasped Olivia to steady her.  Somehow, she couldn't quite picture the huge man she'd met the day before with a child this small—this delicate—in his arms.  "She's too tiny to be his," she commented.

Evan laughed.  "Yeah, probably," he agreed.  "Good thing she looks like her mama."

Olivia sighed happily and clutched the front of Valerie's shirt.

Valerie blinked and shot a quizzical glance at her.

"She wants you to pick her up," Evan prodded gently.

"Oh, I-I-I don't . . ." Valerie stuttered.

Shaking his head and rolling his eyes as a good-natured grin widened on his face, he strolled over to her and scooped up the little girl.  "Come on, V.  You act like you're scared of her or something."

Valerie snorted loudly, mostly because she was, at least a little bit.  "I'm not," she shot back in what could only be described as a sulky tone of voice.  "I'm just not . . . used to babies."

"Keh!  How could anyone not want to cuddle someone as cute as her?  Isn't that right, Livvy?" he crooned.  The little girl giggled and buried her face against Evan's shoulder, peeking shyly back at Valerie though her smile didn't fade.

Torn between appreciating just how cute he could be with a child and acute irritation that she'd actually admitted that she was uncomfortable with children, Valerie crossed her arms over her chest and opted instead to change the subject.  "You had time to babysit today?"

"V, I make time to babysit these guys," he corrected.  "I only had a couple things to do later, anyway," he pointed out with a dismissive shrug.

"I wanna go swimmin'!" Bailey proclaimed as he ran back into the living room once more with a yapping Mimi on his heels.  Valerie couldn't help herself as she cast the dog a rather suspicious eye.  Tiny, sure, but she was still quite certain that the little furball was simply biding her time till she found the perfect opportunity to sink her little fangs into Valerie's ankle . . .

Evan grinned.  "Okay, okay," he agreed.  "How 'bout it, Livvy?  Wanna go swimming?"

"Not with her!" Bailey insisted, pointing an accusatory finger at his sister and offering an indelicate snort.  "Put her down!  You're s'pose'ta play with me!"

"Yeah, but I can't leave her in here just to take you swimming, Bailey," Evan said.

Bailey didn't seem to like that answer, either, if the sulky expression on his face meant anything.  Valerie could fairly see the proverbial wheels turning in his head as the boy glanced around and stopped to stare at her.  "She can watch her," he decided, visibly cheering up the moment the thought came out of his mouth in words.

"Uh," Evan drawled, narrowing his eyes as he cast Valerie a questioning sort of glance.  "Would you mind?  I mean, she's not really a problem.  She'd potty trained and all that jazz."

Very distinct warning bells clanged in Valerie's head.  Those bells only grew louder as Evan walked over to her and industriously handed over the child.  "E-Evan," she barked, unable to staunch the rising panic in her voice as she quickly wrapped her arms around the little girl to keep her from topping to the floor.  "Evan, I'm not sure—"

Evan was already heading for the door as Bailey gave a loud whoop and tugged off his t-shirt.  "Don't worry about it, V.  In fact, why don't come swimming, too?  Livvy likes that."

"Fwim!" Olivia exclaimed in the sweetest little sing-song, silvery-bell sort of voice as she wrapped a long lock of Valerie's hair around her fingers.

"B-But I don't have a swimming suit," Valerie blurted, hoping against hope that she didn't sound as freaked out as she thought she did.

"It's okay," he tossed over his shoulder, his voice muffled a little as he shed his own shirt, as well.  "There're lots of 'em in the cabana—all new.  Just pick one."

"But—!" Snapping her mouth closed as the thud of the closing door brought an abrupt end to the conversation, Valerie let out a deep breath and rather hesitantly glanced down at the girl in her arms.  "Oh, boy . . ." she half-groaned, wondering just how she'd been suckered into this situation.

"Pwetty," Olivia breathed, holding up a fistful of Valerie's hair and smiling brightly.

"Y-You think so?" she asked tentatively.

Olivia leaned back far enough to stare into Valerie's face.  Those blue eyes of hers were so big, so round, that they seemed to take up almost all of her tiny little face, and the trepidation that had gripped Valerie so tightly slowly started to wane.  "I fwim wike fishies," she said very seriously.

"Swim like fishies?" Valerie echoed with an uncertain smile.  "O-Okay . . . Do you have a swimming suit?"

Olivia nodded and yanked up the hem of her skirt before patting her belly and the bright pink one-piece garment underneath.

Valerie laughed softly despite herself.  "Oh . . . What's that?" she asked, tapping the cartoonish-looking black cat appliquéd to the front of the suit.

Olivia giggled.  "It's me!" she exclaimed.

Valerie's tentative smile widened as she headed toward the doorway that led to the cabana.  "You're a kitten, are you?"

The girl nodded quite happily and snuggled against Valerie's shoulder.  "Oh-Oh-Oh!" Olivia grunted as they passed the piano, leaning to the side though not far enough to fall.  "My baby!"

"You want your baby?" Valerie asked, veering to the side to retrieve the doll Evan had left atop the instrument.  Olivia held out her arms, quite pleased to have the doll back, and Valerie smiled.  True enough, children were more than a little daunting to her, sure, but Olivia?

Maybe she was okay . . . Maybe . . .




-Evan-


'Holy shit!  I'm going to die . . .'

'So much for bright ideas, you moron,' Evan's youkai grumbled.  'Just grab a swim suit out of the cabana?  You're a fucking idiot.'

Unable to keep himself from glancing back at the far end of the pool where Valerie was seated on the wide steps in the shallow end with Olivia in her arms, he very nearly whined.  The pale blue bikini she'd chosen fit her just a little too perfectly, and worse, sitting where she was, he could see quite plainly that she thought the water was a little on the cold side since her nipples were sticking out so far that he could see the shadows they cast in the flimsy fabric of that damned suit.  'Look at those tits . . .!' He winced.  If he didn't know better, he'd have sworn that she had to have had a boob job—they were just that perfect, damn him . . .

"Evan!  Watch me dive!"

Reluctantly dragging his attention off the woman in question, Evan gritted his teeth and turned around in time to watch as Bailey launched himself off the short diving board, drawing up his legs and crashing into the water with a very impressive splash.  "Nice," he approved, resisting the urge to glance over his shoulder.

'Behave yourself, stupid.  There are pups here, remember?'

Of course, it was a double-edged sword, really.  If the pups weren't here, he never would have talked her into the swimming pool, but since they were . . . He sighed.  'Yeah, yeah, I'm being good . . .' he grumbled.

Bailey came up sputtering and wiping his eyes.  "Did you see?  Did you?"

Evan grinned.  "Sure did.  That was pretty impressive, buddy."

"I'm gonna do it again!" Bailey squealed, lunging at Evan's back.

Evan caught him and swam over to the side of the pool to deposit him on the edge.  "All right," he agreed.  "Let's see it."

Walking as quickly as he could to the diving board since he'd been told often enough that he wasn't allowed to run near a pool, Bailey monkeyed his way up the short ladder and onto the end of the platform while Evan pushed away from the side of the pool.  "You ready, Uncle Evan?" he hollered, his arms curled at his sides as though he thought that the stance would aid his ability to make his voice carry.

Evan chuckled and nodded.  "Yep."

"Okay!" Bailey said.  Springing off the board, he curled himself into a ball once more, and this time, the geyser of water he unleashed was a lot larger than the first try.  He coughed and sputtered as he surfaced, but he was grinning, too.  "That's a good one!" he insisted.

Evan caught him under the arms and tossed him back about three feet before catching sight of Valerie and Olivia out of the corner of his eye.  Olivia was cuddling against Valerie—not surprising, given that Evan wouldn't mind doing that, himself—and not surprising since Olivia really was a kitten at heart.

Bailey splashed around and gave a very, very loud whoop.

"A-A-A-Ah!" Valerie exclaimed.

Evan whipped around then froze, eyes widening as he spotted her.  Olivia whimpered and smashed her face against Valerie's chest, but that wasn't what held his attention.  Oh, no, it was the limp tangle of pale blue bikini top, dangling from the little girl's fingers that did—or more precisely, the very stunning sight of Valerie Denning's abso-fucking-lutely perfect breasts—or at least the parts of them that weren't hidden by the child's face at the moment.

"Uh . . ." Valerie stammered, unsure for the moment, whether she ought to comfort the child or if she ought to try to retrieve the top of her swimming suit.

'Homigawd!' he squawked, hands unconsciously moving to cover his crotch as a painful surge of blood rushed to the area in question.

Bailey stopped splashing, treading water as he stared curiously at the far side of the pool.  "Eww," he snorted loudly, his tone clearly derisive as he flipped around to paddle over to the side.  "Boobies!"

"Oh, I like boobies," Evan muttered, his mouth—his throat—suddenly bone-dry.

"No," Bailey argued.  He'd reached the edge and had hauled himself out of the pool.  "Daddy's got boobies, but they're not squishy."

And that, for Evan, was akin to a dousing of very cold water.  Uttering a weakened laugh as he started hauling toward the shallow end of the pool, he wasn't sure if he ought to thank Bailey for that ungodly visual or not . . . .

"Hey . . . what's going on?" Evan asked in a soothing tone that he was far from feeling as he tried—really tried—not to blatantly stare at Valerie's bared goods.

Valerie shot him an imploring look, her eyes suspiciously bright, full of acute panic that she was just barely managing to hold off.  "She slipped when Bailey yelled," she explained.  "I think she bumped her head . . ."

Evan reached for the child, who instantly let go of Valerie and reached for her uncle.  He figured that he ought to thank his lucky stars that Valerie was upset enough not to notice that his hands were shaking badly—and that she also seemed to forget momentarily that she was topless, to boot.

He inspected Olivia's head while Valerie stood up to help him.  "Is she okay?" she demanded in an airy, breathless sort of tone.  Behind the words, he could hear the trembling in her voice.

"Yeah, she's fine," he said.  "She's tough, aren't you, Livvy?"

Olivia sniffled and slowly nodded at him.  Evan sighed and carefully pried the bikini top out of her still-clenched fist.  "Uh . . . I think this one's trash," he remarked as he held it out to Valerie.

She blinked and stared, unable to recognize the bit of fabric in his hand for a moment.  As realization dawned on her, though, her eyes widened, and Evan had a feeling she was about to scream if he didn't move fast.

Striding out of the pool and around the side, he grabbed a couple of towels out of the cabinet.  When he came back, she was squatting in the water, hunched over to hide her chest from view, her skin a vivid shade of pink as she reached out to snatch the towel out of his hand.  "Thank you," she choked out.  Evan almost chuckled but figured that she would probably not going to appreciate it if he did.  The woman wasted no time in wrapping the towel around herself and getting out of the pool, heading straight toward the cabana.

Evan let out a deep breath.  "Holy dogs," he muttered with a grimace.  "Uncle Evan's gonna die . . ."

Olivia stared at him with a rather confused expression on her face and shivered slightly as the slight breeze that had been blowing all day unleashed a short gust.  Her little teeth were chattering together when Evan carefully shook out the other towel and draped it over her head.  "Better?"

She huddled against him.

Turning to glance at Bailey, Evan grinned.  Munchies had jumped into the pool to play with the boy, who was sitting atop the dog that was happily paddling around in large circles.  A minute later, Valerie stepped out of the cabana, this time sporting a white bikini that was just as skimpy and maybe a little more translucent than the other one had been.  Evan heaved a sigh.

"You're sure she's all right?" Valerie asked, frowning at Olivia.

"She's fine," he assured her.  "Tell her, Livvy.  You're okay, aren't you?"

Olivia turned and peeked at Valerie from underneath the edge of the towel.  She must've smiled, though, because Valerie did, too, though the slight lines of anxiety lingered around the edges of her eyelids.  "Good," Valerie breathed.  "She really scared me."

"V!" Olivia exclaimed, holding up her arms and leaning toward Valerie.

Valerie blinked and caught the child before she launched herself right out of Evan's arms.  "You taught her to call me that, too," she muttered accusingly as she shook her head.

"Of course I did," Evan joked.  "You know, you look damn good with a pup in your arms."

She shot him a rather wild sort of look, followed in short order by a pinched little smile that was thin and weak and faltering.  "I-I don't know about that."

"What?  You don't like them?"

She made a face.  "Kids, you mean?  Of course I like them . . . I just . . . I haven't been around them that often."

"Yeah?  You're a natural."  He was only half-teasing.

For a moment, he thought she was going to argue.  In the end, she opted to ignore his comments as she flicked her gaze over toward the pool once more and grimaced.  "I think that beast is going to eat him," she said, nodding toward Bailey and Munchies as they frolicked in the water.

Evan grinned, glancing at the two.  "Eh, he wouldn't hurt Bailey . . ."

Valerie wrinkled her nose and sank down on a deck chair with Olivia.  "Why don't we sit here?  Evan can go play with your brother, can't he?"

Heaving a longsuffering sigh, Evan shook his head but headed back toward the pool again.  He wasn't sure why Valerie seemed so uncomfortable with children, and somehow, he didn't really think that she'd tell him, even if he asked . . .


-Valerie-


She had to admit that it was nice, enjoying the warmth of the late afternoon as Olivia drowsed, cuddled against her chest.  Evan had gotten out of the pool long enough to drag over a wide parasol to shade them both—Valerie didn't mind the sun, but Oliva's skin was so fair that she had to admit that she was a little concerned that the child might burn.

She's also spent a half hour methodically checking Olivia's head to make sure that she really hadn't been hurt though honestly, Valerie wasn't sure that Olivia had bumped herself, it had all happened so fast.  One moment, she'd been happily splashing with her hands, and the next, she'd been frightened by her brother's boisterous outburst at the other end of the pool.  Valerie's own scream hadn't been as much because of the loss of the bikini top as it had been because of the overwhelming worry that Olivia had been injured, and once she'd calmed down in the cabana, she'd been able to put things into perspective.  It wasn't like a big deal, now was it?  After all, Evan had seen her breasts before, considering Madison had used those pictures of the two of them as leverage to get him to agree to accept Valerie's terms, to start with, and even then, he'd seen more than his fair share of breasts over the years, hadn't he?  So what was one more set of them, anyway?  Nothing, right?

'Right.'

Blinking as the reverie abruptly ended, Valerie glanced down at the child and frowned.  A strange sound—almost like a purr but a little softer—seemed to be issuing from her.  Thick, dark eyelashes fanning over her pinked cheeks, she was sleeping, and yet . . .

Staring at Olivia for another long second, Valerie shook her head.  She supposed that she hadn't realized that children that young could snore, but she supposed that it wasn't unheard of.  Purring?  Valerie smiled.  Now that was a silly, idea, wasn't it?

"You ready, Bailey?" Evan asked, holding a bright orange Nerf football over his head.

Bailey nodded and hopped up and down.  The two had moved into the shallow end of the pool for the duration of their game, and Valerie noticed with a guilty sort of grimace that the boy's skin was a lot browner than it had been when they'd come outside.  Luckily, though, he didn't look like he'd burned at all, which was good, all things considered.  She ought to have asked Evan if he had any sunscreen for the children, but she hadn't thought of it earlier . . .

"Daddy!" Bailey suddenly hollered, veering around and climbing out of the pool faster than Valerie might have thought possible.  She frowned and glanced around since she certainly hadn't seen or heard anything.  The door was closed, too, but she didn't have time to question it when it slid open a moment later, and Bas Zelig stepped outside.  "Daddy!  Daddy!" Bailey exclaimed, running around his father and somehow managing to shimmy up his back.

Bas made a face, likely because the boy was sopping-wet, but he laughed.  "Hey, buddy.  Were you good?"

"Yeah," Bailey insisted, locking his arms around his father's throat.  Bas grimaced and shoved his hands under his son's arms to loosen his death-grip.

"Back so soon, Bubby?" Evan asked, cocking an eyebrow as he dug a couple towels out of the cabinet nearby.  "Here."

Bas caught the towel that Evan tossed at him and whipped it over his shoulder at Bailey.  "Their mama missed them," he explained.

Valerie carefully shifted Olivia and got to her feet.  The girl rubbed her eyes, taking a moment to acclimate herself to being awake again.  Olivia spotted her father quickly enough, though, and the smile that surfaced on her little face was so brilliant that Valerie almost laughed.

"Well, hey, little girl," Bas greeted, holding out his hands and taking his daughter with the utmost of care.

She giggled when he kissed her cheek and wrapped his very large arms around her very tiny body.  Clapping her hands on both of his cheeks, she held his face still as she leaned in and planted a baby-soft kiss on her father's lips.

And, well, it was possibly the cutest thing Valerie had ever seen, to be honest.  Who would have thought that a huge man like Bas—and he was huge—maybe bigger than 'huge'—would be so tender with his petite daughter?  She couldn't help but watch the two of them, completely and utterly enchanted.

"There's my baby!"

Valerie blinked and glanced at the woman she hadn't even noticed slip up beside Bas, and it only took one quick look to ascertain exactly where Olivia had gotten her looks.  The woman was stunning, absolutely gorgeous . . . Vibrant red hair with wild golden highlights . . . pale skin touched with a hint of healthy glow . . . bright green eyes that were so brilliant that they looked like jewels . . .

Valerie's eyes widened as a sense of déjà vu crept up her spine.  She'd seen that woman before, hadn't she . . .?

"Because she's my dream girl—or at least, she was . . ."

A vicious twinge shot through her guts, but she didn't have time to rightfully process that when the woman flicked her gaze—now icy and decidedly unfriendly—on Valerie.  "And who is this?" she demanded without preamble.

Valerie bristled and tried not to retaliate in kind.  "I'm Valerie Denning," she supplied.  "Evan—Zel's—attorney."

"Hmm, well, that's nice," the woman went on with a flick of her wrist.  "Do attorneys normally ogle other women's husbands?"

"Kitty . . ." Bas muttered under his breath.

The woman waved a hand to hush her husband, tapping her foot impatiently without taking her eyes off Valerie.

Valerie blinked and shook her head.  "I wasn't ogling your husband," she pointed out, unable to keep the hint of stiffness out of her tone at the obvious challenge.  "I simply found it hard to believe that someone so tiny had come from someone so huge," she explained in a tone designed to let the woman know exactly what she thought of a man Bas' size.  Good God, he was big enough to break someone in half, if he weren't careful, and that was just not something that Valerie found attractive.  Cute in a butterscotch Viking sort of way, sure, but . . .

Bas heaved a sigh and slipped an arm around the woman's waist as though to restrain her.  Beside her, Valerie felt Evan step up beside her, slightly ahead of her, actually, as though he meant to step between the women if he had to.  She didn't bother to look at him.

Suddenly, though, the woman laughed, the prior unfriendliness melting away as quickly as it had come.  "I like you," she decided as she reached for her daughter.  "I'm Sydnie."

Valerie shook her head, unable to grasp the lightning fast mood swing.  "Nice to meet you," she demurred.

"Were my angels good?" Sydnie asked.

Bas let out a deep breath, looking just as baffled by Sydnie's abrupt change of mood as Valerie was.  Evan chuckled.  "Absolutely," he assured his sister-in-law.

"So what did you do all day, Bailey?" Bas asked, craning his neck to look over his shoulder.

Bailey dropped to the ground and ran over to retrieve his football.  "I saw boobies," he replied simply.

Bas' head swung around to pin Evan with a completely menacing scowl.  "Saw what?" he demanded in a deadly quiet voice.

"It was an accident," Evan explained, holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender.

"You don't know the meaning of the word 'accident', Evan."

Evan backed up a step.  "I swear; I swear!" he protested.

Sydnie heaved a sigh and stepped over to Valerie, slipping an arm through hers to drag her back toward the house.  "Forget those two—they're not happy unless they're fighting, anyway.  Let's go inside and chat, shall we?"

"What?" Valerie asked, sparing a glance over her shoulder in time to see Bas' arm shoot out in much the same way it had yesterday.  Again he caught Evan in the center of his chest and sent the man flying back into the pool.  She grimaced as Evan came up laughing.  The man was an idiot, wasn't he?

No sooner did he make it out of the pool than Bas shoved him right back in again.

Valerie heaved a sigh and shook her head.  'Yep . . . a complete idiot . . .'


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A/N:
'I'm Yours' by Jason Mraz first appeared on his 2008 release, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things.  Song written by and copyrighted to Jason Mraz.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
The girl of his dreams, huh
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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 38
Chapter 40
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