InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Bright Lights ( Chapter 177 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter One Hundred Seventy-Seven~~
~Bright Lights~


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'Baby, baby, baby ...
'When all your love is gone
'Who will save me
'From all I'm up against out in this world …?'

-'Bright Lights' by Matchbox Twenty.


-Valerie-


'H . . . How the hell did he talk me into this . . .?'

Scowling at her reflection in the mirror, Valerie took her time as she fiddled with the illuminated compact in her hand as she dabbed at the matte gloss on her ruby-red stained lips.  It rather matched the rest of the powder-over-polished look of her, she figured, right down to the little red tease of a dress that barely covered anything, and never mind that she'd been told it was a one-of-a-kind done by Larissa Larauent, one of the most cutting-edge designers in all of Europe.  Where Evan had come up with that at a moment's notice was far beyond her.  When she'd asked how he had managed to pull it off, he'd given her that cocky, almost contrite, grin and said that she probably didn't want to know, which, in Valerie's mind, meant that he knew the woman a little better than he was willing to admit to her, and that really just figured.

And that was kind of the reason that she had allowed herself to be talked into this.  Well, sort of.  Since it was the last festival show in Paris, Franco Tellingier had arranged an after-closing bash at his estate, which was where they were headed now.  All of the performers were going to be there along with their entourages and whoever else they dragged along.  Bone had mentioned earlier that the estate was well known as the House of Sin amongst those in the know, and while Evan hadn't seemed all that anxious to put in an appearance, he hadn't put up too much of a fuss about going, either.

In fact, Valerie had considered staying at the hotel to look over some files that had been delivered via courier earlier in the day before calling it a night—until she'd caught Evan, slapping a handful of condoms into Garret's hand, anyway.

So that was the long and short of it, really.  Garret had grinned and waved off her concerns that he'd be dead-tired when he was taken to the airport in the morning to fly back home, and Evan?  Well, he certainly hadn't wanted to let her check his pockets, either, and as far as she was concerned, that only meant one thing: trouble.

"Damn, I can't get over how hot you are," Garret remarked from the shadows on the other side of the limo.  Eyes catching the glow of the running lights that weren't quite bright enough to really make out anything, he looked somehow different from the gangly kid she knew him to be.  Decked out in faded jeans and a slightly oversized navy blue dress shirt—she thought it might be brushed silk—and wearing a jacket that still smelled like new leather, Garret looked every bit the part of the rockstar-in-training, but his words made her sigh.

"Considering you're my brother?  That sounds more twisted than it should."

Evan pulled her a little closer against his side with a soft chuckle and a rather disturbing crunch as his leather jacket protested the motion.  He was dressed in normal Zel Roka attire, which meant that the jeans he wore were held together by a series of knots and an oversized black linen shirt that was, of course, completely unbuttoned under the leather jacket.  "Nah, he's right," he agreed, his voice taking on that caressing sort of lilt, "hotter than fuck, V."

Garret rolled his eyes.  "What?  Is it really so bad that I think my sister's pretty?" he argued logically.

Valerie heaved a sigh and tried to shrug off Evan's arm.  It didn't work.  "Thank you, Garret," she replied primly enough.  Then she turned to look at Evan.  "Tell me, rocker-boy.  Just what goes on at these parties?  Do I want to know?"

He grinned at the heavy dose of reticence in her voice and quickly kissed her temple.  "Well, a little bit of this, a little bit of that . . ." he drawled.

Letting out a deep breath as she slowly shook her head, Valerie figured that it was the best she was going to get out of him, and besides, she had a fair guess as to what, exactly, this party would entail, and as much as she hated to admit it, this part of Evan's world was a little intimidating to her.  The glitz and the glam and the excess . . . she'd seen parts of it already, but she was also quite sure that she hadn't even begun to scratch the surface.

"Oh, do you remember last year's party?" Frankie's girlfriend, Janie piped up.  She'd flown in for this show, and to be honest, Valerie was more than a little surprised when Evan had told her that the two had been dating for the last five years.  She'd seen Frankie with more than his fair share of women, and the knowledge that he had a steady girlfriend just didn't sit well with her; not at all.  "Talk about crazy," she went on with a giggle as she wiggled her shoulders then leaned forward to adjust her breasts in the skin-tight black tank-dress that barely covered her.  "Zel hooked up with that Playboy model, right?  Damn, she was hot . . . Oh!  Am I straight?" she added, gesturing at her chest.

"You're fine, Janie, I don't know that Zel really wants to stroll down Memory Lane at the moment," Frankie pointed out in what could only be described as an indulgent tone of voice.

Janie twittered again.  "That's right; that's right . . . Valerie, wasn't it?"

Ignoring the slightly condescending undertone in the woman's voice, Valerie smiled politely and gave one slow nod.  "That's right," she replied, brushing off Janie's not-so-subtle attempt to establish some sort of unspoken pecking-order.  Maybe that was the way of it.  Janie saw herself as having some kind of illusory superiority since she had been around for a few years?  Well, if she actually thought that Valerie was just another one of Evan's hussies, then she had another thing coming . . .

Janie shot her one of those practiced little smiles—the kind that didn't show enough teeth to be considered raucous—the kind the fooled most men into thinking that the giver was being sincere.  It seemed to Valerie that most girls learned early on, how to use expressions like that to cover up their catty behavior, and while she'd like to think otherwise, she figured she probably did it, too, just maybe not as blatantly as Janie did.

Janie giggled again, waving a carefully manicured hand dismissively.  "Well, you know, Zel's girls come and go so fast that it can be hard to remember the names."

"Oh, I don't think V's going anywhere, any time soon," Evan remarked before Valerie could.

Janie's smile took on an even more polite tilt.  "Of course not," she agreed quickly before turning her attention more fully on Valerie again.  "So you work, right?"

"Sure," Valerie replied, her tone just as sweet as Janie's.  "Don't we all?"

"What all have you done?"

Janie's candid question caught her off-guard.  "Done?"

Sipping a glass of champagne, Janie nodded.  "I've done a few things—mostly swimsuit ads and the like, but my manager said that one of the reps from Playboy's been hinting around . . . That would be so huge, right?"  Then she turned to Frankie, pinning him with the big-eyed, doe look.  "You wouldn't mind, would you, baby?"

"Why would Frankie mind?  Hasn't everyone already seen your tits?" Tay piped up.  Valerie bit down hard on the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing outright.

"Shut up, Tay," Frankie said with a good-natured smile, "and no, Janie.  You should do whatever you think is best for you."

She squealed and kissed him quickly.  Evan figured that Valerie could to do to keep from rolling her eyes—not that anyone would notice.  Nope, Garret was doing his damndest to keep from staring at Janie's overinflated boobs, and knowing Evan, he wasn't even trying not to look . . .

Evan chuckled.  "V isn't a model," he clarified.  "She's an attorney."

He could have just as easily said that she was an astronaut, and the reaction would have been the same.  For one glorious moment, dear little Janie seemed genuinely tongue-tied as she glanced around, as though she were trying to figure out the punchline of some joke.  "You're not serious!" she finally blurted.  "You didn't have the right look or something?  Maybe it's your hair.  Blondes are so 'out' lately with photographers . . ."

"I'm not really interested in doing any modeling," Valerie said.

Janie looked like she just might pass out, and Valerie almost laughed out loud.  Fortunately, though, the limo stopped, and Frankie shot Valerie a rather apologetic kind of look as he reached for the door handle.

"Did she really just go there?" Valerie hissed, grabbing Evan's hand to stop him after Janie had climbed out of the car behind Frankie.

Pulling her over, he kissed her temple again.  "Take it easy, V.  There's not a thing on that girl that isn't lifted, dropped, taken in, let out, inflated, or deflated in some way.  Not everyone is born hot like you," he chuckled.

She wrinkled her nose and rolled her eyes as Garret climbed out of the limo and reached back in for her hand.  There were a few choice things she'd dearly love to say, but with a sigh, she let it go, deciding in the end that it just wasn't worth it.  "Come on," Garret coaxed with a lopsided smile.  "It sounds like the party's already started."


-Valerie-


"I hear Zel's just arrived."

"That right?  Did he bring that little cutie that was playing bass earlier?"

"Hmm, don't know . . ."

Valerie kept moving, ignoring the snippets of conversations she heard as she wandered through the immense mansion in search of a certain notorious rockstar.  She'd followed the older man who had quietly opened the door through the foyer and into the main hall in search of a bathroom.  He hadn't said a word and had just bowed his head in greeting.

That was after some big-haired brunette with equally huge breasts had grabbed Evan's hand and fairly dragged him away.  Evan had looked back at her and told her that he'd find her in a minute, and she was ready to go after him, but Tay slipped an arm around her shoulders and held her back, telling her that Evan and that woman were just friends.  She wasn't sure if she believed Tay or not, but he'd seemed serious enough . . .

It was insane, wasn't it?  People everywhere . . . In the first room she'd peeked into, she'd spotted a couple guys that she recognized from one of the bands that had opened for Evan during his mini-tour.  They were hammering away on acoustic guitars as a small crowd gathered around.  Women turned out in the hottest fashions straight off the runways, completely polished, looking absolutely fabulous, dah-link, really . . . and the men?  Valerie shook her head.  There were two kinds of men, or so it seemed.  There were the rockstars—the ones who did their level best to look like they'd just tumbled out of someone's bed—and the panderers—the ones who catered to the brooding artists—who looked more like the shinier versions of those elusive creatures—the demi-gods who stood atop their own empires, looking down at the little people and laughing derisively.

"Excuse me," she murmured, weaving through the milling crowds.  It was worse than intermission at the theater, and she winced when a man clad in black leather from head to foot, stormed out of a small room off to the right and smacked right into her.

"Watch where the fuck you're going, bitch," he growled, putting a hand out to catch himself on the wall with one hand and yanking a pair of chrome rimmed, smoked lens sunglasses off his angular face.

Valerie stumbled but managed to steady herself before she fell flat on her ass, but she stepped back in retreat, not because she was frightened of him, but because he stank horribly.  "Me?" she growled indignantly.  "You're the one who ran into me!"

He glared at her, his eyes puffy and bloodshot.  Before he could lay into her again, though, another guy stepped up behind him and grabbed his arm.  "Calm down, man," he said, hanging on when his friend tried to shake him off.  "It was an accident, right, sweetheart?"

"No way," he grouched, turning to glower at his buddy.  "She ran the fuck into me!"

The other guy glanced at Valerie and jerked his head, his meaning clear: get the hell out of there while he sidetracked his friend.  She did, but she held her head high, refusing to even offer the 'good Samaritan' a thank you.  Considering his friend had run into her, she didn't figure that she owed him a damn thing.

But her bravado waned slightly as she peered into a few more rooms.  The living room was packed with women laughing loudly as they posed provocatively in the guise of chatting with one another.  She didn't miss the way their eyes kept darting around, likely to see if any of the men noticed them.  There was a group of people on the sofa and gathered around the coffee table, and Valerie realized a moment too late that there were a kaleidoscope of various pills in a bowl in the center of the table.  She had no idea what any of them were, and she didn't really want to find out.  Ducking out of that room, she bit her lip and suppressed the slight surge of panic that welled up in her.  She needed to find Evan . . .

It just reinforced her resolve, didn't it?  Seeing the nonchalance that seemed to ooze from every inch of the mansion, the laissez faire feeling that seemed to mingle with the off-the-cuff feeling of entitlement, she was getting a really good look at the lifestyle that he'd alluded to—the side of things that she hadn't gotten a good, close look at before.  Every excess was readily available.  All one had to do was want it . . .

She sighed and kept moving, scanning the throngs as she searched for him.

It was exactly what she was afraid of, wasn't it?  As much as she didn't want to admit it, she didn't want Evan coming here alone.  She knew well enough that women tended to gravitate to him.  She'd seen it, and whether it was the rockstar mystique or Evan himself, she wasn't sure, and, quite frankly, she didn't care, either.  All she knew was that she did not want those women hanging all over him, and she wasn't about to let them think that they'd be able to drag him off for their own sordid purposes, not if she could help it, and if she were truly honest with herself, that was the real reason she'd allowed herself to be talked into this.  She was worried about Garret, of course, but Evan . . .

"Speak of the devil," she muttered to herself, spotting Garret, standing just inside the dining room.  It had huge sliding doors that had been drawn back to make the living room larger.  As she drew in closer, she stopped short with a frown.  Some guy she didn't recognize was talking to him, and as they spoke, he leaned to the side to stop a girl wearing nothing but a frilly black lace miniskirt with black stockings and impossibly high stiletto heels as she passed by with a silver tray.  The guy picked up a silver straw and plugged one nostril before inhaling deeply.  Then he held the straw out to Garret as he sniffled a few times and wiped his nose.

Garret shook his head and held up a hand.  "N-No, thanks," he mumbled.

The man looked vaguely amused by Garret's response.  "You don't do coke?" he asked.

Garret shook his head again.  "That shit'll fuck you up," he replied simply.

"That right?" the guy said, a hint of derision entering his tone.

From her vantage point, she saw Garret smile a little shyly.  "Y-Yeah . . ."

"I think it's cool," a very pretty red-head piped up as she slipped her hand under Garret's elbow and pinned him with a very friendly smile.

Garret blushed about twenty shades of red, and his smile widened dramatically—and took on an even more bashful lilt.  "Th-Thanks."

She giggled as the guy wandered away, and Valerie stepped forward to tap Garret on the arm.

"Hey, V," he greeted happily.  He could barely stand still.  Feeding off the energy of the place, his eyes were brighter than normal; his body nearly trembling with excitement that he could barely contain.  "It's surreal, isn't it?"

The girl beside him giggled.  "V?  Like Zel Roka's album?" she quipped.

"Something like that," Valerie replied with a wan smile, "and yeah, it's different, all right."

Garret's grin widened.  "You wouldn't believe how many people caught the show," he leaned in to tell her.  "Morris Davies—y'know, from Dreamare?  He said that Dad's song was killer!  Morris fucking Davies!"

If it were possible for Garret to have stars in his eyes, he would have, and Valerie's smile widened.  "Well, of course he did," she told him, "because it was."

"Garret!  There you are!" Frankie exclaimed as he hurried toward them.  He looked sober enough, which was a small relief, and he'd apparently shaken Janie off for the moment, and he nodded quickly at Valerie as he grabbed Garret's arm to drag him off.  "There's a guy over here I want you to meet," he went on.

"Uh, I'll catch you later, V," he called as he glanced back over his shoulder at her.  The girl happily allowed herself to be tugged along, too, since she still had a hold of his other arm.

Valerie heaved a sigh and slowly shook her head.  She'd wanted to ask Frankie if he knew where Evan was, but he'd taken off too quickly for that to be possible.  Then she smiled just a little.  At least her brother hadn't lost his mind in all the excitement.

"That shit'll fuck you up . . ."

But as she turned to restart her search for a certain rockstar, that smile faded.  She had to wonder, didn't she?  It made sense, of course.  Garret wasn't stupid.  He knew about Jack's excesses, and he knew what had come of it all—and he knew what was inevitable, too, like she did.  It was ugly, and it was stupid, and, ultimately, it could have been avoided.  Maybe it didn't do any good to relive the past or to cast aspersions, but at least it seemed like he was dead set against repeating their father's mistakes, and that had to account for something.  At sixteen, just how much had Garret already seen . . .?


-Evan-


"Hey, Roka.  Lookin' good, as always."

Evan turned to see who was speaking to him, only to be brought up short when a very buxom brunette wrapped her arms around his neck and smashed her lips against his. Moments later, her hand intentionally rubbed against his crotch, only to return to give him a very direct squeeze.

"Ah, Astrid . . . that was one hell of a greeting," he replied, turning his head away when the bartender set two glasses down beside him.

She giggled and fiddled with the zipper of his fly.  Evan chuckled but grasped her wrist gently yet firmly, and pulled it away.  "Sorry, sweetheart," he drawled, struggling to come up with a good balance between what he didn't want and what Zel Roka could allow.  It wasn't easy.  "I mean, I did just get here . . ."

Astrid—he didn't know her last name, only knew that she worked for Franco Tellingier in some capacity or other—giggled and slipped her arms around his waist, snuggling up against his shoulder.  She barely reached his chin even with the six-inch heels she wore, and as she peered up through the mysterious depths of her deep auburn hair, she sucked in her cheeks slightly, pursing her deep pink lips prettily.  The girl knew how to give head with the best of them, he had to admit.  She gave the term 'French kissing' a whole new meaning, that was for sure . . . "I can't believe you didn't even call me, and you've been here all week, yes?" she pouted prettily.

"Eh, you know how it goes," he hedged with a grin.  "Been pretty busy."

She leveled a cattish look at him.  "Rumor has it that you are here with a woman, no?"

He chuckled.  "Aren't I always with a woman?"

She smiled—one of those secretive little smiles that he understood all too well.  "And are you free tonight . . .?"

"Well," he drawled, trying not to be obvious as he scanned the room for Valerie.  He was going to go look for her as soon as he'd gotten the drinks if he hadn't been waylaid by Astrid.  "As much as I'd love to—"

"There you are, baby!  You weren't trying to get rid of me, were you?"  Evan's grin widened as Valerie hurried over to him.  She didn't even glance at Astrid as she grasped the front of Evan's shirt and pulled him down for a kiss.  "Did you miss me?" she asked in a sultry tone that he certainly hadn't ever heard from her before.  "I didn't mean to take so long . . ." She leaned back and blinked when she finally glanced at Astrid.  "Oh, is this a friend of yours?"

'She called me 'baby'!' he thought to himself as the slow daze brought on by the woman's uncharacteristic behavior loosened.

'Shut up and focus, rocker-boy . . . but yeah, she totally did!' his youkai-voice growled.

Before he could talk himself out of it, he reached out and snagged Valerie around her waist, dragging her against him a little roughly and kissing her before she had a chance to protest—if she had a mind to, anyway . . .

She seemed surprised for all of ten seconds before she slid her hands up his chest, locking them behind his neck, her body seeming to melt against his in an entirely stunning kind of way: the kind of way that made him want to take her off somewhere to be alone.  Still, the lingering reminder of the ongoing party was enough to quell the need that surged through him—barely.  All he wanted to do was to hold onto her forever, and yet the moment ended way too soon as his youkai-voice reminded him that he was taking unfair advantage of the situation.

"Fucking hell," he muttered a little huskily, letting his head fall back in a last-ditch effort to save himself.  Bad enough that he'd effectively put on a decent little show for everyone in the vicinity, but if he kept going, she'd have more than enough reason to be seriously peeved at him later.  At least she'd accomplished the thing that he had little doubt she was trying to do with that grand display: Astrid was nowhere to be seen, as far as he could tell.

"Give you an inch," Valerie muttered, but her voice sounded as shaky as her hands.

He grinned half-heartedly as she leaned heavily against him, and he had to wonder if she realized that she was doing it, in the first place.  "Yeah, but you called me 'baby'," he pointed out.

She tried to snort but the sound wasn't quite right.  He could feel her heart, hammering against his chest.  "Jerk," she grumbled, though she wasn't at all able to inflict any real derision into her tone.

"Sorry, V," he murmured, sparing a moment to kiss the top of her head.  "Occupational hazard."

She snorted, but finally managed to push herself away from him, despite the still-apparent fluster that lingered.  "So were you going to say no before or after she got you out of your pants?" Valerie asked in a deceptively neutral tone.

"Don't you trust me?" he asked, giving her a wide-eyed look.  "That hurts, V, really."

She snorted and rolled her eyes.  "You?  Yes.  Them?  Not any further than I could throw them."

He didn't comment when she reached over and nabbed his glass of whiskey and carelessly tipped it to her lips, but her words weren't lost on him.  She really was starting to trust him, wasn't she?  And that thought made his grin widen.  "Is that why you came along tonight?"

Making a face as the whiskey burned its way down her throat and into her belly, Valerie shook her head.  "Of course not," she scoffed after clearing her throat a few times for good measure.  "I just thought it'd be best to keep an eye on Garret; that's all."

"Oh, is that why?" Evan intoned, leaning on the bar as he sipped the glass of wine he'd originally gotten for her.  Her words made sense.  Too bad they were just a little too haughty, too readily available.  "He's fine, you know.  He's a good kid."

She didn't look entirely convinced, but she did let him slip an arm around her and escort her through the living room and out the huge doors that led to the back yard and the pool.  "Was she another one of your conquests?"

He wasn't fooled by her tone, and he didn't miss the way she kept blinking as her eyes shifted from one side to the other.  Leaning against him to avoid being knocked around by the milling crowd, she somehow seemed smaller than the Valerie that he knew and adored.  "She was," he admitted, figuring that it wouldn't do him a damn bit of good to try to hide it from her.  After all, she knew better than anyone that he wasn't even close to being a  saint.  Nodding at a few of the party-goers who called out to him in passing, he didn't stop since he wasn't entirely sure how Valerie was going to react.  Spotting an empty table, Evan steered Valerie toward it.

"She's pretty," Valerie replied, slipping into a chair with a soft sigh.  He had to wonder if she knew how grudging her tone really was, but he didn't comment on it.

Sitting down next to her, he leaned in closer so that she could hear him over the buzz of the crowd.  "She is," he allowed.  She leaned her elbow on the table, rested her chin on her balled-up fist as she turned her face to the side, staring out over the pool.  Quite a few people were in that pool, many of them making out and completely ignoring everything going on around them.  All in all, though, it was pretty tame, at least for now.  As he stared at her, he could tell that she wasn't really seeing any of it.  "Whatcha thinking about, beautiful?" he murmured, tucking an errant lock of hair behind her ear.

She heaved a sigh and slowly turned to look at him, her eyes dark, mysterious, reflecting the glow of the candle light in the center of the table.  "Is that what it's always going to be like?" she asked quietly.  "If I—" Cutting herself off to clear her throat again, her gaze dropped to the candle for a moment before she raised it to meet his once more.  "If someone wanted to be with you . . .?  Running into women you know intimately—who know you intimately . . .?"

He didn't miss her slip-up, but he didn't remark upon it since there really wasn't a thing he could say, given the current topic of conversation.  "Because I've fucked them?  Do you really think it means that they know me?  Aren't you the one who told me before that not one of them really knows me?  That was what you said before, wasn't it?"

Shaking her head slowly, she didn't look like she wanted to agree with him.  Garret hurried over, though, slipping an arm around his sister as he leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.  "Holy shit!  Everyone's here!" he said, slipping into a chair on Valerie's other side.  "I can't fucking believe I'm here!"

Valerie smiled at her star-struck brother.  Evan figured that it was hard for her not to, all things considered.   Garret reminded Evan of his younger days, when he'd first started to really make the rounds.  He'd been just as starry-eyed as Garret was, and there were still moments when he felt that way even now.  Granted, it was a lot different these days, but that didn't mean a thing when he came face to face with people he'd grown up listening to or seeing on television or, better yet, in concert . . .

"What are you drinking?" Valerie asked, nodding at the glass that Garret sat on the table as she reached for the glass of wine in front of Evan.

"This?  Oh, it's sparkling apple juice," Garret admitted.  Evan wasn't sure whether it was intentional or not, but it was still rather amusing when the kid leaned in closer to her when he spoke.

Valerie nodded, but she didn't smile despite the heightened sparkle that ignited in her gaze.  Sure, he was old enough to drink in France.  That he wasn't spoke volumes, as far as Valerie was concerned.  "At least you haven't lost your mind completely," she mused.

Garret grinned at her.  "No way," he insisted with a shake of his head.  "But you know, I was thinking . . ."

"About what?"

He shrugged.  "Well, it just seems like a waste of money to fly me home then fly me back for Saturday's show," he ventured carefully.  "I mean, it's not like I can't skip a few days of school."

"And the next time something comes up?  You can't just skip school all the time," Valerie pointed out.  They'd already had this conversation once.  Valerie had won that round, which was not surprising in the least.

Scratching the side of his head, Garret looked thoughtful for a long moment.  Then he gave a little shrug and hunched forward, resting most of his weight on his arms atop the table.  "It's not like I'm that good in school," he slowly said.  He didn't seem at all upset about it.  "I'm not like you or Kase.  You guys are book-smart, like Mom.  I'm more like Dad, you know?"

Valerie stared at her brother for a minute before reaching over and patting his hand.  "It's not about being book-smart," she told him.  "It's about doing what you have to do.  If I had my way, you'd finish high school and then go to college, but it's not my choice.  You will promise me, though, that you'll get your high school diploma, because even though things look good for you now, if something should happen—if it all falls apart—you have to have that, at least."

"Yeah, I know," Garret replied.  "Dad already told me all that shit."

"Good," she insisted.  "As long as we're clear."

He finally shot her a lopsided grin.  "Damn, you're kind of tough."

The smile that surfaced on Valerie's face was bright.  "I have to be," she assured him, waving a hand at Evan.

"Excuse me."

Evan smiled at the girl who approached the table.  Cheeks pinking as she stopped beside Garret, she smiled a little shyly.  "Bonjour," she stammered, her shy smile faltering for just a moment.  "I-I just wanted to tell you that you were really good tonight . . . I saw the show.  I am Celine Tellingier."

"Garret.  Garret Duyer . . ." Garret said as he pushed himself to his feet.  "Uh . . . Y-You think so?"

The girl nodded, her smile widening, and she glanced around the table.  Upon spotting, Evan, however, that smile brightened as she hurried around to kiss Evan on both cheeks.  

"He is with you, no?" she asked in her native French.

Evan chuckled, and he nodded at Garret.  "Yes, he is."

She glanced over at Garret again, and she bit her lip as her cheeks pinked a little more.  "He is . . . available . . .?"

"Sure," he replied, intercepting the chagrined scowl that Valerie shot him since she wasn't able to follow the conversation.  He winked at her, but didn't explain as he looked back at Celine once more.  "This is V, Garret's sister."

She giggled and nodded at Valerie, who was still watching her with avid curiosity.  "I am pleased to meet you," she said.

"Likewise," Valerie replied.  Evan could tell from the expression on Valerie's face that she wasn't quite sure what to make of the entire situation.  That Celine was young was a given, though Evan figured she looked a little older than she was.  Still . . .

Celine smiled at Garret once more.  "Ah, Tay asked me to tell you that he has some people he would like for you to meet," she said.

"Oh, uh, okay . . . Do you know where he is?"

She nodded.  "I can take you to him," she offered, eyes widening as she gazed up at Garret in a wholly worshipful way.

Garret smiled.  "S-Sure . . ."

Valerie watched him go and heaved a sigh.  "Should I be worried?" she asked, only half-joking.

Evan chuckled.  "Nah . . . Celine's a nice girl—surprising, considering who her father is."

She rolled her eyes when Evan made a gesture like he was jacking off.  "Tellingier, you mean?  Why the hell is he letting her attend this party?"

This time, Evan snorted.  Franco Tellingier was never his favorite topic of conversation, and now was no different, especially when it came to his daughter.  "Unfortunately, she's seen all this before.  He never has seen anything wrong with letting her attend his parties, as far as I know.  Last year, she fucked a couple guys, and he didn't give a shit."

Valerie frowned.  "How old is she?"

Evan shrugged.  "I dunno . . . Fifteen?  Sixteen?  Not much more than that."

"But that's . . ." Trailing off with a frown, Valerie slowly shook her head.  "That's just wrong."

Evan didn't answer, but he didn't look like he disagreed with her, either.

Heaving a sigh, she shook her head again, but let the subject drop.  "So who does Tay want to introduce Garret to?" she asked instead.

Evan shrugged.  "Hard telling.  The guys really like him, though."

"I think Tay and Frankie like him a little too much," she muttered.

"Nah, it's great," Evan countered mildly.  "Besides, I think they're considering asking him to be their permanent bassist."

Sipping her wine as she slowly regarded him, Evan wasn't at all surprised when she set the glass down and frowned.  "And you'd be okay with that?" she asked quietly.

Evan grinned.  "Yeah, I think I would be," he allowed with a shrug.  "How about you?"

"Me?  Do I have a say in it?" she asked in a teasing sort of tone.  He could hear the underlying gravity, though.

"You want him to finish school.  I get you," he replied.  "I agree with you, too."

Raising an eyebrow, she smiled just a little.  "You do?"

"Sure.  Don't know if he'd agree to go to college, and you can't really make him want to do that if he doesn't already have a mind to, but getting his diploma should be a no-brainer."

Tilting her head to the side as a slow smile spread over her features, she stared at him with her heart glowing in her eyes.  "You have your moments, don't you, Roka?" she mused.

Evan chuckled and shot Valerie a cheesy grin.  "I do, don't I?  And you called me 'baby'."

Valerie snorted and rolled her eyes.  "Don't let it go to your head, rocker-boy," she insisted.

His answer was another laugh and a quick wink as he reached for the glass of whiskey.


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A/N:
'Bright< /b> Lights' by Matchbox Twenty originally appeared on the 2002 release, More Than You Think You Are.  Copyrighted to Rob Thomas.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
A rock 'n roll party ...
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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 176
Chapter 178
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