Gold Diggers (Adult, AU, CC, Mature) Complete 09/22

Finished stories that feature the characters from the show, but there are no aliens. All fics completed on the main AU without Aliens board will eventually be moved here.

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nibbles2
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Gold Diggers - Chapter 35

Postby nibbles2 » Sun Jul 19, 2009 7:23 am

We're back on track with this part. Thanks to everyone who read and responded to that last chapter, you're all very kind.

kay_b I think right now it’s wishful thinking and you’ll see why in this part.

chanks_girl The calm before the hurricane is definitely a good way of putting it.

Begonia9508

Eva Yes indeed, batten down the hatches.

nitpick23 I think Philip would see along the same lines as you, if Max is taking responsibility for his debts and committed to honouring them, Philip would see that as a positive thing and be supportive. Philip would be much happier if Max spent his life as a janitor than the way he had been.

Alien_friend They had an agreement worked out in relation to how much money Michael would give towards Maddie’s upbringing. I don’t know if that would hold up in a court of law though.

xmag I agree, Isabel needs help but that’s not something she has really admitted to herself yet. Until she can do that, all the treatment in the world can’t help her. I know that doesn’t make sense given that she’s gone to Alex and is getting treatment from him, but she’s only looking for a band aid and not the real treatment she needs.

scorpio6 Better late than never for Max.

Rowedog Bomb drop in this part. Does that save me from the wet trout?

Natalie36 I’ll see what I can do.

RhondaAnn Well, she hasn’t got his money yet.

destinyc Sorry, no vote on where Max goes. It’s already decided.

Killjoy That line was totally for you.

spacegirl23 Well I think the Evans will react with shock at first. After that? Probably more shock.

tequathisy Michael and Maria’s marriage will have far reaching consequences for everyone. And the rent issue is just one reason why Max won’t be moving in with Liz any time soon.

uw51 All addicts are essentially selfish.

Empress_Luci Would Liz and Alex want to take Michael’s money though? Is it hard to type like that?

Zoi welcome back.

vilandragirl It would be great. A little convenient though.

Emz80m spiteful? No. Violent? More likely.

April You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to enter your fics through my computer and shake your characters so I’m enjoying the role reversal.

Tamashii Thank you, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed seeing Max’s growth.

roswell3053 Calm down? She hasn’t even started yet.

Maiqu It’s going to be very interesting (I hope.)

And of course Michelle in Yonkers who makes these chapters readable.



Chapter 35

Liz stifled a yawn as she poured her cereal. It had been after four when she got home that morning and she’d had a mere three hours sleep. Her body was screaming for bed and she had to fight the urge to put her head down on the table and sleep.

Across from her, Alex was stirring his coffee listlessly and looked like he too had little or no sleep the night before.

They yawned simultaneously then looked up and shared a smile.

“Tired?” Liz asked, more to kick-start her brain than an actual conversation.

Alex nodded. “I was tossing and turning all night. This thing with the center and Michael Evans... I’m going to lose, Liz. I think I’ve already lost and I’m just the last to know. My money’s gone. I’m only a few months away from them foreclosing on my apartment… I don’t know what else I can do.”

“I didn’t realize how bad it was,” Liz said guiltily. She had been so wrapped up in her own dramas that Alex’s took a back seat. She was sure that Maria didn’t know either or she would have informed her.

“Yeah,” Alex sighed in defeat.

“Alex, I know that you don’t want to talk about this but… don’t you think that it’s time to talk to your parents?”

“They’re not my parents,” Alex corrected her angrily.

Liz slammed her spoon down on the table forcefully, her tiredness making her more irritable than usual. “They are as much your parents as Grandma Claudia is mine. They raised you and loved you your entire life. And they made a mistake. Grandma Claudia made a mistake too. Everybody makes mistakes. Don’t hate them because they loved you and wanted to protect you Alex.”

Alex stared at Liz in surprise at her uncharacteristic outburst. “They lied about everything, on purpose. They kept major secrets from me that I had a right to know. If I hadn’t accidentally discovered that information about my mother I would never even have known they had a daughter. That wasn’t a mistake, it was something they did deliberately. They deliberately pretended that my mother didn’t exist. I can’t just forgive them for that because I need money.”

“At least talk to them, and find out why they lied to you about her and get some answers.”

“Liz, please just drop it. I’m not going to talk to them. I’m not going to ask them for money. I’m too angry right now and I have too many other things to worry about. Maybe in the future, when things are different, I’ll talk to them. But not right now. So just drop it, ok?”

“Ok. I’m sorry. I just hate seeing you like this,” Liz explained.

“I know,” Alex said with a small smile. “I hate seeing you like this, too.”

“It’ll pass-” The rest of Liz’s comment was cut off when the door of the apartment was flung open so hard, it bounced off the wall.

Maria stormed down the hallway and crashed into the kitchen. She was practically breathing fire. She stood in the doorway, rigid with anger. Liz frantically searched her brain to remember if she had done anything that would have upset her best friend but came up blank. She met Alex’s perplexed and worried gaze. He shrugged.

“What’s wrong?” Liz asked. “Is it Maddie? Did something happen?”

“You will never believe…” Maria shook her head in disgust and thrust a rolled up magazine into Liz’s hands.

Liz unfurled into and scanned the page. Her eyes lit on the photograph of Michael and she read the article with growing shock. Alex peered over her shoulder.

“Ok, why has that got you so worked up?” Alex asked, not understanding why Maria should be so angry about Michael Evans being named an eligible bachelor. “He might be an asshole, but Michael Evans is rich and single.”

“Michael Evans?” Liz echoed. She read the small blurb by Michael’s photo and realized just why Maria was so pissed off. “Alex, this is Michael Guerin,” she explained.

Alex’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What?”

“Michael Evans was pretending to be Michael Guerin the whole time,” Maria spat furiously.

“Oh my God,” Liz muttered, still in shock. She read the article again, hoping it would provide some answers. “Why? Why would he pretend to be somebody else?”

“Was he just pretending to help you to get to me?” Alex asked.

At Alex’s question, Maria’s anger disappeared and she dropped into a chair, tears streaming from her eyes. She began to talk, but it was unintelligible through her sobs.

Liz sat down on the chair opposite her and rubbed Maria’s arms. “Maria, sweetie, you’ve got to calm down. Please, take a deep breath.” Maria complied and calmed down a little but she was still crying and unable to explain why. Liz took Maria’s hands into her own. “What happened?”

Maria was holding a piece of paper which she pressed into Liz’s hand. “I married him.”

Liz and Alex froze in disbelief. “What?”

Liz unfolded the piece of paper and realized it was a marriage certificate, signed by Maria and Michael Evans. She handed it to Alex who dropped heavily into a chair, trying to make sense of what he was reading.

“What?... How? … Why…?” Alex stuttered.

Maria sniffed the last of her tears and took a deep steadying breath. “He said that the judge would only give us custody of Maddie if we were married. So I went to Las Vegas with him last night and we got married. And then… uh… this morning I found that article. So I went through his wallet and stuff and… he’s really Michael Evans.”

“You didn’t find out until this morning? But Maria, he signed his name Michael Evans here,” Alex pointed out, shoving the marriage certificate in her direction.

“I know… I don’t know why I didn’t notice it. Everything happened so fast, one minute I was at work and then I was in Vegas getting married.” Maria buried her face in her hands. “God, I can’t believe how stupid I was. I called you guys when I knew you wouldn’t answer your phones so you wouldn’t talk me out of it. I knew it was a stupid thing to do and I did it anyway.”

Liz took Maria’s hands. “You’re not stupid Maria, you wanted to help Maddie and he totally exploited that and abused your trust. He’s a bastard!”

“Tell me you broke his nose,” Alex sighed wearily.

Maria shook her head. “I’m so sorry, Alex. You know I would never have had anything to do with him if I knew who he really was.”

“I know that, Maria. I’m not angry at you. I’m angry at him.”

“Oh,” Maria’s eyes widened as she remembered something. She reached for the magazine and flicked through the pages until she found the photograph she was looking for. “Recognize this girl?”

Alex took the magazine and examined the picture Maria had shown him. The stunning glamorous woman in the photograph was worlds away from the pale and drawn Izzie he knew, but he recognized her all the same. “She’s his sister.”

“What?” Liz gasped. “He sent his sister to the center?”

Maria nodded.

Liz swallowed and forced herself to ask the question. “And Max?”

“I asked, Liz, but I didn’t really give him a chance to answer and he was denying everything at the time anyway.”

Alex placed his hand on her arm sympathetically. “He turns up where Maria works, his sister shows up where I work and his brother befriends you at your work. It just seems too coincidental to be a coincidence.”

Liz blinked back her tears. “But why? Why would they do this to us? What have we ever done to them?”

“I don’t know,” Alex said with a shake of his head. He looked at Maria. “What about Maddie?”

“Who knows? I was so mad and shocked that I just stormed out of the hotel and I never even thought to find out if he was really going to help her or if he was just using her. There’s supposed to be a hearing soon but I don’t even know where it is.”

“This has to be the most fucked up thing,” Alex spat. He stood up and stalked into the living room, needing some space to calm down.

Liz watched him go with a worried gaze, then turned to Maria. “Did something else happen between you and Michael?”

“I slept with him,” Maria admitted dully.

“Oh.” Liz didn’t know what else to say. She knew Maria and knew that Maria wouldn’t have just hopped into bed with any guy. She had to have had feelings for Michael. Which would have made his betrayal even harder to take. She pushed thoughts of Max out of her head. She couldn’t even go there right now.

Alex suddenly popped back into the kitchen. “There’s a woman outside about to knock on the door. She looks like a lawyer.”

Sure enough, there came a knock on the door. Maria groaned. “I don’t want to see anyone right now.”

“I’ll get it,” Liz offered. Anything to keep her mind off of Max.

She hurried to the door and opened it to find a tall, attractive, expensively dressed woman in her thirties on the other side. “Hello.”

The woman smiled. “Hello, I’d like to speak to Maria, please.”

“Maria’s not here.”

“Yes she is,” the visitor said in a calm voice, free from reproach. “I want to talk to her about Maddie.”

“Uh… I, um…”

“Who are you?” Maria asked from the kitchen doorway.

“My name is Christine Chung. I work for Michael Evans.”

Maria came down the hallway and stood beside Liz but made no attempt to let the woman inside. Christine wasn’t ruffled. “I’m not interested in anything you have to say.”

“I think you are Maria. I don’t know what exactly happened between you and Michael, though I can guess,” Christine’s eyes flickered to Alex who was standing behind the girls. “All I know is that you are angry at Michael and I’m told you have every right to be. However, Michael asked me to tell you that his offer still stands and if you want to get custody of Maddie that you should come to the hearing. I have a car outside, if you want to come then you have twenty minutes to get ready.”

Before Maria could give a response, Christine nodded and walked away.

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Thu May 05, 2011 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 36

Postby nibbles2 » Wed Sep 23, 2009 4:02 am

I'm back. Yay.

Thank you one and all for reading my fic and bumping me and sticking by me even though I am the slowest updater to ever disgrace this board.

chanks_girl One bloody nose coming up.

RhondaAnn Yes, it’s hit the fan. But that’s a good thing, the truth is out there now so they can start making real progress.

Rowedog I think when it comes to Maddie, there’s no conundrum. Which is what Michael is counting on.

destinyc The problem is that Liz, Maria and Alex think they’ve already learned the truth so now they’re conclusion jumping like crazy.

begonia9508 Liz knows who Max is, she’s always known. She became friends with him in spite of that.

Eva I don’t know if it will ever reach hurricane strength, but there are definitely storms ahead.

Alien_friend Whatever happens, Maria will always put Maddie first.

nitpick23 Right now, Liz and Alex just aren’t seeing straight. They’re angry on Maria’s behalf and making leaps in logic.

natalie36 you’ll just have to keep reading to find out.

scorpio6 I think it’s going to be a while before Maria sees that.

spacegirl23 Alex and Isabel are a loooong way from romance yet.

roswell3053 Thanks for reading.

AlysLuv Thank you.

Empress_luci I don’t think Maria’s going to get a break for a while.

confusedfool Thanks

Tamashii While this will create problems for Max and Liz, I think that it will help them too. In a weird way.

maigu aw, thank you.

tequathisy Jesse is the lawyer and Chris is his go-to-guy for non work related stuff.

xmag there’s a lot of stuff coming up on Alex and his parents soon and we’ll find out more about his mother.

zoi word.

liason A new reader – welcome!!

killjoy welcome to the Lesbian hug-in.

nubantu thanks.

April Exactly. Maria will do right by Maddie.

vilandragirl Thank you.

and as always a huge thanks to Michelle in Yonkers for being my beta.


Chapter 36

Michael paced the corridor in an agitated fashion, checking his phone obsessively and watching the door like a hawk. It made Jesse tired just to look at him.

“Michael, we’re up in about fifteen minutes,” he prompted.

“She’ll be here,” Michael bit back. His phone buzzed again and his father’s name flashed on the screen. He ignored it, not wanting to deal with his father right now. Still no call from Chris who had agreed to pick up Maria and bring her to the courthouse, however. He knew Chris was pissed at him and was probably deliberately making him stew. Something else he was going to have to deal with later.

Not convinced that Maria would show up, Jesse considered his alternatives. “I might be able to do this without her but it’s going to be difficult. The whole deal is contingent on you and Maria providing Maddie with a staple family environment.”

“Maria will be here,” Michael insisted. He knew in his heart of hearts that Maria would not let Maddie down, no matter what.

As if to prove his point, the door opened and Maria walked through it. She spotted him immediately and walked in his direction. She was dressed in a tailored suit, her hair pulled back into a neat bun and a murderous expression on her face. The whole effect was mesmerizing and Michael was so focused on her that he never noticed Alex come up behind her.

Michael wasn’t aware of Alex’s presence until the other man had swung his arm and punched him square in the jaw. He stumbled backwards, swearing in shock.

Jesse caught his arm, grabbed Alex with his free hand and hauled the two of them into a small conference room. He pushed them to separate sides of a table in the middle of the room. Maria, Chris, and Liz stepped in behind them.

“Need I remind you that we are in a courthouse? And in ten minutes they’re going to decide the fate of a baby girl who needs every break she can get. You two need to grow up and put your issues aside for now," Jesse said, his fury fully evident even though he spoke quietly.

Alex and Michael exchanged angry scowls but Jesse was satisfied they would at least try to behave themselves from now on.

He stepped out of the room to grab his briefcase and hurried back.

Maria and Liz had moved to stand by Alex and all three were glaring at Michael as though the combined strength of their angry stares would cause him to burst into flames. Chris was leaning against the wall, watching proceedings with an interested expression on her face.

“All right then,” Jesse began, trying to draw their attention to the matter at hand.

Maria turned to him, realising who he was for the first time and her eyes narrowed. “Oh look,” she sneered, “It’s Judas Ramirez.”

“Mrs. Evans,” Jesse countered without thinking.

His rejoinder was so unexpected that Michael laughed in surprise. He quickly covered it up with a cough, but it still earned him angry glares. Not that they weren’t looking at him that way already.

“Look, we’re going to get called in very soon,” Jesse said, pressing on. “I assume that you’re here because you want to go through with your deal and apply for custody of Maddie?”

Maria nodded curtly. “That’s the only reason I’m here.”

“What we’re doing – this sham marriage – it’s not exactly ethical. Judge Santos only agreed to this because I was able to convince him that you and Michael would give Maddie a loving, stable home. If you go into that courtroom looking like you want to kill Michael, you might find yourself going home empty handed.” Jesse watched to see if Maria was taking on board what he was saying. She nodded at him again. “Good. You need to convince him that you two are a real couple.”

He could see that Maria was trying to hide her anger, but it was a struggle for her. He glanced at Michael and saw the worry in his face as he, too, watched Maria. From the hallway outside, he heard a man call their docket number.

“That’s us,” Jesse informed Michael and Maria. “It’s showtime.”

They nodded and made their way to the door of the conference room. Liz and Alex tried to follow them but Jesse stuck out his arm to halt their progress. “You can’t go in there.”

Maria looked dismayed by that. Liz hugged her tightly and wished her luck.

“Thanks,” Maria said gratefully. She handed her buzzing phone to Liz. “It’s my Mom, she’s been calling all morning. Can you talk to her?”

Before Liz could object, Maria hurried out to join Michael and Jesse.

Jesse led Michael and Maria to seats near the front. He nodded approvingly as Michael took Maria’s hand in his larger one. Maria was anxious and nervous, all trace of anger gone. Michael looked calm and in control, though he was frowning. Jesse relaxed, glad that they at least looked the part. He failed to notice that Maria took the opportunity to dig her nails into Michael’s hand as hard as she could.

Michael grimaced but kept a hold of her hand. The judge began discussing the case, and the social worker answered questions. Jesse sat poised to make his application. Maria’s nervousness grew and her clasp on Michael’s hand changed. Instead of digging her nails into his skin in an effort to hurt him, she squeezed it tightly, seeking strength from him.

***


At first, when he had been told that he would be doing the stationery run that day, Max had been happy. It was a chance to escape the stuffy confines of the hole that Nancy liked to keep him caged up in.

He quickly realized that it wasn’t much better than where he had been. For one thing he had to face all the other employees in the company and go amongst them as the lowest of the low. None of them treated him that way of course, but he felt embarrassed, all the same.

When people realized that it was him and not Nancy delivering pens and paper, more and more people began to come up to him to ask for things that were not among the carefully counted items Nancy had rationed out on his cart. He found it hard to say no, but didn’t relish the thought of going back to Nancy to restock the cart half way through a run.

Eventually he found himself on the top level. As soon as he pushed the cart off the elevator he was confronted by Marty.

“My office. Now.”

Without arguing, Max followed, pushing his cart in front of him. He wheeled it into Marty’s office. To his surprise he found Isabel sitting at Marty’s desk, looking pissed off. Max parked the cart and took a seat beside his sister. “What’s going on?”

Isabel shrugged. “Don’t know. Marty just ordered me in here.”

They glanced up at their father’s closest friend and waited.

Marty took a seat opposite them and spoke calmly. “Maria Deluca?”

The response he got was two blank stares. Max shook his head and looked to Isabel to see if she could shine any light on the subject.

“Who?” Isabel asked.

“Where’s Michael today?” Marty asked, changing tack.

“Working?” Max guessed.

Marty sighed angrily. “If you know anything about what Michael did last night, then you need to tell me now. This is important.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Isabel retorted icily. “Either explain or shut up.”

Max’s mouth fell open in shock. He couldn’t believe that Isabel had spoken to Marty that way. It threw Marty for a moment too.

“I don’t know anything either,” Max cut in before the conversation took a different turn. “I don’t recall him ever mentioning the name Maria Deluca to me. Did something happen?”

Marty sighed again, this time in frustration. “It appears that Michael may have gotten married in Las Vegas last night.”

Isabel and Max laughed, but it died away when they saw the serious expression in Marty’s face.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Isabel said at last. “Of course he’s not married. He’s not even seeing anybody.” She turned to Max. “Is he?”

Max shook his head, then shrugged. “He never mentioned anybody.” Not that they talked about relationships very often. Michael was pretty much a closed book in that respect. The last time they had broached the subject, Max had gotten the impression that it had been a long time since Michael had been sexually active. That was only a few weeks ago and he doubted he had gone from celibacy to marriage in a few short weeks.

“And you have no idea who Maria Deluca is?” Marty asked. When they shook their heads, Marty sighed again. “Fine, you can go.”

They stood up and left the office, Max pushing the cart again. Isabel cast a cool eye over it. “Nice wheels.”

“I think you overdosed on your bitch pills this morning, Iz,” Max snapped. He pushed the cart over to Tess’s desk. He checked through his notebook to see if she had asked for anything. “Hey, Tess.”

“I’m not in that,” Tess informed him. “I buy all our stationery with petty cash. Michael doesn’t want to have anything to do with that crazy bitch. His words.”

Max laughed. “Is Michael in? I want to congratulate him.”

Tess gave him a funny look. “No, he’s not back yet. So it’s true?”

“You tell us,” Isabel asked.

Tess shrugged. “I find it hard to believe, but it does seem to be the case. It’s very sudden isn’t it? I wonder is it because of the baby?”

“What baby?” Max asked, confused and alarmed. His question was echoed by Isabel.

“I don’t know,” Tess answered quickly. “You should ask Michael.” The phone rang and she snatched it up eagerly, happy to get out of the conversation.

Isabel glared at her and stomped off. Max hurried after her. “Isabel, do you know anything about this?”

“No. Do you?”

Max shook his head. “He couldn’t possibly have got married without telling us. Why wouldn’t he tell us?”

“Maybe he was afraid you’d sleep with her, too,” Isabel suggested

“Fuck off, Isabel,” Max snapped.

“Go wheel your little cart, Max,” Isabel said with a sneer before she hopped into the elevator.

***


Michael glanced at Maria in concern. She was pale and shaking, and clinging to his hand as though her life depended on it.

“Are you all right?” he whispered.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” she whispered back.

He actually believed that she might be. “Just take a few deep breaths and try not to worry. Jesse has this under control.”

Maria nodded and inhaled deeply. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok.” He patted her hand and watched her carefully until he was satisfied that she was calming down, then turned his attention back to the judge who was leafing through the documents Jesse had presented.

Judge Santos peered at them over the top of his glasses. “Mr. and Mrs. Evans, please come forward.”

Maria swore under her breath and stood up shakily but as she and Michael approached the bench she appeared to be calm and in control. Only Michael, still holding her shaking hand, was aware of just how nervous she was.

“Mr. and Mrs. Evans, gaining custody of this child is a huge step for a newly married couple. Please tell me why you are doing this?”

Michael glanced down at Maria and realized that if she spoke, she’d probably cry. So he cleared his throat. “Your honor, I was in foster care until I was seven years old. I know how hard and lonely it is, and no child should ever have to experience it. My own experience was pretty tough. I was physically abused by more than one of my foster parents. But I can safely say that the worst thing about it was not having the love and security of a family. Maddie needs parents and a family, and we can give her that.”

“Thank you, Mr. Evans.” Judge Santos made a note on his papers then looked back up at the couple in front of him. “I’ve made my decision.”

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Thu May 05, 2011 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 37

Postby nibbles2 » Mon Nov 23, 2009 3:48 pm

I'm back.

Rowedog Funnily enough, there will be a dinner table scene with all six characters in the short to medium range future. However, a time when they all get along might be a little longer.

girl afraid Well, Michael is the only hand around to squeeze.

chanks_girl Yeah, I knew you’d like the punch.

Emz80m why, thank you.

nitpick23 I think Maria just had other things to focus on other than her new name.

begonia9508 Isabel only uses cocaine on rare occasions and even then it’s only recreational.

behrluv32 thank you.

Alien_friend Thank you. I had intended the relationship between Maria, Alex and Liz to be in complete contrast to the Evans’ relationship. They’ll always be there for each other in a way that Max, Michael and Isabel aren’t.

RhondaAnn Plenty of time for slapping later.

Natalie36 That’s a good point. They’ll work on it.

April A good fic writer worth her salt will always end the chapter at the most inopportune part.

tequathisy The Mrs. Evans remark was a line I’ve been planning from the beginning and I’m really glad somebody found it funny because I thought it was hilarious.

Tamashii I really didn’t think Isabel was that bad. She was a little bitchy, but there was truth in what she said.

Maiqu Thanks, I just hope by the end you’ll like Isabel again.

destinyc I think she will, eventually.

kay_b Michael knows what Carla is like, but in his eyes that doesn’t excuse what Max did so yeah, that’s the cause of the tension. But Max doesn’t know that.

xmag thank you. I tried to get a mix of funny and tense in that chapter.

spacegirl23 Michael has never told them about Maddie and made an effort to conceal her from them, so I don’t really blame them for not knowing about her. They should know, of course, because Michael should have told them.

Empress_Luci Better than a fly on the wall, you’ll get to read it here.

loviedovie Yeah, he so did.

Earth2mama Welcome back. God, I’m so embarrassed that you’ve been gone for so long and I’m still writing this damn fic.

Killjoy Michael didn’t send Isabel to the centre to get help at. Diane dragged her along to volunteer there and Isabel offered to help Michael bring it down.

roswellian117 A new reader, welcome!

And as always thanks to Michelle in LA my fabulous beta.



Chapter 37

Isabel stormed into the executive ladies bathroom and leaned against the row of sinks, breathing hard. She felt like she was dying. Her head was pulsating with pain and she could barely keep her eyes open. Her stomach churned with nausea. She desperately needed a pill. Just one. Just to make the pain go away.

“No.” She met her eyes in the mirror and repeated the word aloud. “No.” She was Isabel Evans. She was strong and independent. She was not dependent on a stupid pink pill. And she was damn sure not going to be dependent on Carla Sanchez. She was not sinking to those depths ever again.

She rubbed her forehead angrily, willing the pain to subside. It was all in her head. It was just her body’s way of tricking her into taking a pill. Her body wanted to betray her but she wasn’t going to allow that. She was Isabel Evans. She was in control.

She just needed somebody to talk to, somebody to talk her through this and get her to the other side.

Alex.

Isabel plucked her phone from her bag and dialed his number. It rang three times and then was cut off abruptly. It didn’t even go to voice mail. She stared at the phone in surprise for a moment, then shook her head. Alex might have pressed the reject button by accident. So she dialed the number again and again, it was cut off abruptly, this time on the second ring.

A wave of panic washed over her. Why was he rejecting her calls? Didn’t he want to talk to her? Had he given up, washed his hands off her?

Her panic turned to fury. How dare he? He had promised to help her. This was not helping. Angrily, she dashed the phone into one of the empty sink basins.

That act caused new darts of pain to stab at her temples. She cried out in pain and cradled her head in her hands. For a moment, she thought she would pass out from the pain, darkness engulfed her and she staggered against the sink and collapsed onto the ground where she curled up into a fetal position.

For several long minutes, all she could do was moan in pain. Even when it passed, she could not rise from her prone position on the ground right away. She simply did not have the energy to stand up.

It took a supreme effort for her to haul herself up, retrieve her phone and stumble onto a couch.

Isabel’s hands trembled as she dialed the number that she still remembered by heart. It was answered on the fourth ring.

“Carla, it’s me. I need your help.”

***


Alex and Liz were sitting on a bench outside the courtroom, waiting for Maria and her new husband to come out. Liz’s was bouncing her leg nervously. Alex was staring at some distant spot.

Suddenly Alex turned to Liz “It’s pretty quiet in there, I guess that means she hasn’t killed him.”

Liz gave him a small smile. “She’s probably waiting until there are no witnesses.”

“Yeah,” Alex snorted. His phone buzzed inside his pocket and he pulled it out and looked to see who was calling. He shook his head and rejected the call. “Unbelievable,” he muttered angrily.

“Who was that?”

“One Miss Isabel Evans,” Alex spat. He stood up and crossed the corridor to stand at the window. The phone rang again and again he punched the reject button. “I guess she doesn’t know the gig is up.” He whirled around to face Liz. “How could I have been so stupid Liz? How could I have fallen for her act?”

“You don’t think she’s really addicted to drugs?”

Alex shook his head. “Of all the things in the world she could be addicted to, she’s addicted to highly restricted, experimental pills. Her mother is in hospital after a car accident, that's probably where she got them from. Why didn’t that ring alarm bells for me? A pretty girl gives me the ‘doe eyes’ and believe every word out of her mouth. So stupid”

“No,” Liz stood up and grabbed his shoulders so that he was looking at her. “You are not to blame yourself for this. None of this is your fault. This is their fault. They played us for fools for their own amusement. It’s not our fault that we trusted them and tried to help.”

“I’m sorry Liz.”

“For what?”

“I’m sorry the Evans’ used you and Maria to get at me. The last thing that I would ever want, ever, is for you and Maria to be hurt,” Alex said mournfully.

“Alex— Liz’s words of protest or comfort were cut off as the courtroom door opened.

Jesse led out a group of people, with Michael and Maria bringing up the rear. They gathered in a group and spoke in low voices. Michael had his hand on Maria’s back. They looked comfortable together and neither Liz not Alex could detect any tension. Eventually the group broke up and Maria hurried over to them, a dazzling smile on her face.

“Good news?” Liz guessed as Maria reached them.

She nodded. “We’ve been appointed Maddie’s interim guardians. When she’s released from the hospital tomorrow, I can take her home with me.”

“Maria, that’s so great,” Liz squealed. She threw her arms around Maria and hugged her tightly then felt Alex’s arms surround them both.

“Congratulations, you’re going to be an awesome mom,” Alex grinned.

“Oh my God, I’m going to be a mom,” Maria gasped. She pulled back, her happiness replaced now by panic. “I’m not ready for this at all. She’s going to be coming home tomorrow and I am not ready!”

Liz immediately began to soothe her. “Maria, of course you’re ready. You are an amazing nurse, you have all the skills already. And you are so great with Maddie. You have nothing to worry about.”

Maria waved her hands dismissively. “I don’t mean that. Although… No, I mean, I have nothing. I don’t have a crib or any baby clothes or diapers or bottles or formula. How do I get her home? I don’t have a baby seat in my car. And the apartment is a mess, it’s filthy. It’s no place to bring a baby!”

Michael, who had been talking to Jesse, approached them uncertainly. His eyebrows shot up in surprise at Maria’s description of the girls’ obsessively clean apartment as a filthy mess. Alex and Liz were trying to calm Maria down but she wasn’t hearing them.

“And what about work? I haven’t given any notice there yet. I can’t just bring Maddie home and then dump her with a sitter. I can’t even afford a sitter. But I can’t just quit my job. I’m going to have to go shopping and get all the stuff Maddie needs. But, oh God, I don’t even have a car right now. What am I going to do?”

“Ok, sweetie, calm down,” Liz coaxed. “It’s going to be ok. Alex and I are here and we’re going to help.” She shot a nasty look at Michael who was hovering close by. “And Michael will help too. Your car is ready, I’m going to collect it this afternoon. We’ll go shopping then and get everything that Maddie will need right away so that we’ll be prepared for her when she comes home. We can get the rest later. The apartment is clean, you don’t need to worry about that.”

“Liz, just because the apartment is clean doesn’t mean that it’s clean enough to bring a baby home to. It’s going to need a thorough cleaning from top to bottom. And there’s no way that we can get everything we need for Maddie in one afternoon. We have to research all the options and decide on the best ones. Just because I’m a nurse does not mean that I know all this stuff. I only know how to look after them in hospital, I have no idea what happens when they get home.”

“Maria,” Michael interrupted.

She whipped her body around to face him, clearly about to launch into a tirade when her phone rang.

Liz thrust it into Maria’s hand. “It’s your mother.”

Maria shot Michael a murderous glare, then walked away to a quiet spot to talk to her mother.

Michael actually breathed a sigh of relief. He fished out his own phone and went in the opposite direction to make a call of his own.

Liz turned to Jesse who chose that moment to join them. “So, it went well?”

“Yes, very well. Maria and Michael have been appointed as interim guardians to the baby. The situation will be reviewed when and if the child’s mother is identified.”

“And their marriage?” Alex asked quietly. “Is that still on?”

“Their marriage was a significant factor in the decision. They will be expected to provide Maddie with a stable family life so they will have to find a way to live together, because they will have to. Live together.”

“Maria has to live with him? No wonder she’s freaking out,” Liz commented with a shake of her head.

Michael returned to them. “Where’s Chris?” he asked.

“She left,” Alex shrugged.

“Did she leave a message?”

“Do either of us look like your secretary?” Liz snapped.

Maria rejoined them then. “Mom has my crib from when I was a baby. She’s going to come visit tomorrow and bring it with her.” She rubbed her face wearily. “That’s one thing taken care of at least.”

Alex laughed suddenly and the others turned to him in surprise. “Sorry, I was just picturing what’s going to happen when Amy gets her hands on Michael.” He grinned triumphantly at Michael who responded with a dark scowl.

“I didn’t tell her any of that,” Maria said with a scowl of her own in her husband’s direction. “I mean, I told her that we got married in order to get custody of Maddie which she’s ok about. But I didn’t tell her that he’s a selfish, lying bastard who tricked me into sleeping with him, because I have enough to deal with at the moment without having my mother arrested for murder. So as far as she’s concerned, Michael is a decent guy.”

Michael sighed, trying to summon some strength from somewhere and ignore the barbs. “I called my assistant and she’s arranging for a cleaning company to send a crew around to your apartment. My former secretary is pregnant at the moment, she is going to meet us at a store downtown and she’ll talk you through everything you need.”

“You think that you can just buy your way into Maria’s good books?” Liz hissed.

“I’m just sticking to the arrangement that Maria and I agreed on. I promised that I would provide for them financially and that’s what I am going to do.”

They all turned to an uncomfortable looking Maria. She looked like she wanted to tell Michael where to stick his financial aid but at the same time she knew that she needed his help now. Very reluctantly and grudgingly, she nodded her head in tacit consent.

“I want to stop by the hospital and see Maddie first. And I guess I can talk to my manager then and see if I’ll be able to give up work right away.”

Michael glanced up from his phone. “Tess just sent me a message, there will be a cleaning crew at your apartment in about an hour. Can you have somebody there to let them in?”

“I can do it,” Liz volunteered. “I’ll pick up your car on the way, too.”

“Thank you Liz.”

“Maria, I’d love to do something to help but I really have to get to work,” Alex said apologetically.

“It’s ok Alex, thank you so much for being here today. And I’m so sorry about,” Maria waved her hand in Michael’s direction.

“I don’t blame you,” Alex assured her, his emphasis on the word you indicating exactly who did blame.

“My car is waiting outside, if you want to get going,” Michael offered. He just wanted to get away from them.

Maria nodded and she hugged Liz and Alex goodbye before leaving with Michael.

Liz and Alex watched them leave. Alex turned to Liz with a wry smile. “Mr. and Mrs. Evans — this should be interesting.

***


The look of rage on Carla’s face was so ferocious and terrifying that the man in front of her had the urge to cower.

She stepped closer to him, grabbing his lapels and bringing her face right up to his. When she spoke it was with an icy calm. “I need those pills.”

He used the significant advantage of his height and weight to extricate himself from her grip. He brushed himself down and tried not to show how ruffled he was. “There’s nothing I can do. The hospital knows that somebody is stealing them and it’s investigating the matter. I physically cannot access them now.” He thought she would hit him. “I can try and get an alternative for you but ever since this was brought to their attention, they’ve made it harder to-”

“I don’t care how hard it is,” Carla seethed. “You get me those damn pills or I will ruin you.”

“I will, I will. I just need a few days.”

“Two, you have two days.” She sneered at him once then stalked away, too angry to even take pleasure in the way that her former rapist had cowered before her.

Isabel’s call hadn’t been unexpected, but it had come earlier than Carla had guessed. That thought cheered her up. Isabel must be desperate, which would make it easier to control her. Oh, she had other means of making Isabel her dancing puppet, but the pills were the safest bet.

One way or another she would regain her control over Isabel. She would have Max whenever she snapped her fingers, and it would be no time before she had Michael back again.

***


As soon as Michael and Maria stepped off the elevator onto the ward, they were surrounded by Maria’s colleagues. Maria told them simply that she and Michael had been appointed guardians to Maddie. Her news was met with great delight and suddenly Michael found himself being hugged and congratulated by a number of people he had never met before.

When the crowd dispersed back to work, he and Maria made their way to Maddie’s room.

Maria immediately scooped her up and kissed her. “Guess what Maddie, you’re coming home with us.” She met looked up at Michael and, momentarily forgetting that she was mad at him, smiled happily. “I can’t believe it’s really happening!”

Michael shifted awkwardly. “It’s happening, tomorrow you get to take her out of here for good.”

“We should talk to the doctor and confirm that she’ll be released. And I need to talk to my manager and let her know I’ll be quitting my job.” Maria cuddled Maddie and then held her out for Michael to take her. “I’ll go find my manager now and then I’ll page the doctor. Won’t be long.”

“Ok.” Michael felt that familiar rush of fear he always did whenever he was holding the baby. Although, he was becoming more confident and relaxed about the whole thing. He thought back to the blind, panicked run he had made from the parking lot of the diner across the street the day he had first found Maddie. It felt like that had happened to a completely different person.

Alesha and a few other nurses popped in and out as he waited for Maria. They were all thrilled that Maddie was going home with them the next day and were all so grateful to him for his part in ‘saving Maddie’. He wondered what they would say if Maria had told them about Vegas and the morning after.

Eventually Maria returned and he passed Maddie back into her arms. The doctor was with them and he spoke briefly about Maddie’s condition. Most of what he said was incomprehensible to Michael, but Maria understood it all and judging by the smile on her face, it was good news.

“So I see no reason to keep her beyond tomorrow,” the doctor concluded at last.

Maria hugged him excitedly. “Thank you John. You’ll be around tomorrow? I know Maddie will want to say goodbye.”

“I’ll be here,” he assured her. “But just in case I’m not, best of luck and don’t be a stranger.”

“I won’t.”

Doctor held out his hand to Michael. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Michael answered, shaking the doctor’s hand.

“Did everything go ok with your boss?” Michael asked Maria when they were alone again.

Maria was returning Maddie to her cot. “Yes, she knew it was coming. She’s thrilled for Maddie.”

“Good,” Michael scratched his eyebrow. “We should get going, the store closes at six and Margaret will be waiting for us.”

“Ok, I’ll just wait until she’s asleep,” Maria told him softly. Without taking her eyes off Maddie she spoke again. “I just want you to know that I hate you for what you’re doing to Alex and I don’t know if I’ll ever stop being mad at you for what you did to me. But, for Maddie’s sake, I’m going to put all that aside and I’m going to forgive you.”

Michael didn’t really think that she had actually forgiven him as she claimed, but he appreciated that she was making the effort to try. “I really am sorry Maria, I never meant for any of this to happen the way it did.”

“I don’t want to hear any apologies or excuses,” Maria said, still speaking in a low voice. “What’s done is done. We’re putting it behind us and moving on.”

“Ok.”

Maria looked down at Maddie, who was now sleeping. Michael stood up ready to go.

“One more thing,” Maria looked up at Michael. She took a deep breath. “I just want to say, for what you did for Maddie — thank you.”

He could only nod and follow her out.

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Thu May 05, 2011 5:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Chapter 38

Postby nibbles2 » Sun Jan 24, 2010 12:07 pm

Eeek, I hadn't realised it's been so long since the last time I updated. Sorry about that.

Natalie36 thank you

Rowedog Yeah, there’s a lot more to Carla than just being evil and you will learn more about her eventually. (2016 probably)

chanks_girl You can’t seriously like Carla? What is wrong with you?

Earth2Mama Yeah, a simple conversation would clear so much up between all these characters. While I’m not going to make it that simple, they might surprise you.

RhondaAnn Carla thinks she knows how to play the Evans but she never factored in Liz, Maria and Alex and that will be significant.

keepsmiling7 True.

roswellian117 Alex isn’t related to the Evans – so gazers can relax – but he is connected to them and that’s all going to come out very soon. (2011-2012)

kay_b Well, Carla slept with Max and there’s a tape…. So draw your own conclusions.

Mary Mary ok

vilandragirl Thanks.

maxandlizforever ok

xmag One day we’ll explore Carla’s psyche a little and you’ll see why she does what she does.

Alien_Friend You get half your wish. Alex confronts Isabel, but they don’t really talk. Maybe next time.

begonia9508 True and Maria isn’t going to accept everything lying down.

scorpio6[b] Isabel was tiny bit involved. Nowhere near the same extent Michael was but she’s not entirely innocent.

Maiqu Alex and Isabel do have it out soon, right now actually.

tequathisy How long does a Michael/Maria truce ever last?

destinyc Lol. It might not seem it at the moment, but things are beginning to fall into place. I promise.

PML I knew I could depend on you to come up with an appropriate punishment for Carla. I like the geese suggestion.

April Thank you. I’m looking forward to Carla finding out too.

cameramandc You’ll see what happens between Isabel and Alex in this chapter.

Eva Very true, if it wasn’t for shared parenthood of Maddie, Maria would never talk to Michael again.

LonnyR New reader! Welcome to Roswell Fanatics and to Gold Diggers. Have fun on the site, there’s loads of great fics around.

And of course, the lovely Michelle in LA. Thanks!



Chapter 38

By the time Michael made it into his office that day, it was almost going home time for most of his staff.

Tess followed him into his office and closed the door, a wad of messages in her hand. “Did you really get married in Vegas last night?” she asked.

Michael groaned. So much for keeping it under wraps. “Yes.”

“Oh,” Tess was surprised that he had admitted it so readily. “Well then, congratulations.”

“Thanks. Messages?”

“Lots. Ironically, most of these are to congratulate you on being named as a ‘most eligible bachelor’. There were also cupcakes, but we ate those.” Tess laughed, then noticing the scowl on his face, hurried on. “There’s a few to congratulate you on your marriage and then the rest are work-related.”

“I can read those myself,” Michael said, holding out his hand for the messages. “Can you bring me a coffee please?”

“Sure. By the way, Marty and your father are both looking for you. They’re a little… uh, annoyed.”

“Great.”

Tess hurried off to get his coffee and came back a few minutes later with a steaming cup of coffee and a cupcake. “I saved you one,” she explained.

He picked up the pink cupcake and scowled again before taking a large bite from it. “That’s all for now, Tess.”

When Tess sat down at her desk, the intercom buzzed and Michael’s voice came through. “By the way, if a Maria Deluca calls or comes by, put her straight through. She’s my, uh… wife.”

“Yes sir.”

Michael had been reading through his messages and emails for about half and hour when the door of his office was flung open. Philip Evans and Marty were standing in the doorway, looking more than just a little annoyed. Michael pinched the bridge of his nose. “Hi Dad, Marty.”

“Michael,” Philip returned curtly. He came into the office and sat down opposite his son. Marty closed the door and leaned against the wall.

“So, we hear congratulations are in order,” Philip began.

“Dad…”

“What the hell were you thinking, Michael?” Philip yelled. “I just can’t believe that you of all people could be so reckless and stupid and … what were you thinking?” He stood up and began to pace the room.

Michael placed his hands flat on the desk and took a deep breath to calm himself down. “Dad, I’m sorry that you found out before I had a chance to talk to you but it’s not a big deal.”

“You got married to a girl that you didn’t even see fit to mention that you were dating, and without a pre-nup. Please tell me how that’s not a big deal?”

“Maria and I aren’t dating. We’re… we’re friends. I’m helping her out with something. We have an arrangement in place.”

Philip’s face reddened. “Do you mean to tell me that you put this company in danger for, what, a green card?”

“Dad, the company is not in danger,” Michael quickly assured him. “And it wasn’t for a green card. Please, just sit down and let me explain.”

Philip took a seat, though he looked too angry to sit still. Marty slipped into the chair at his side.

“Like I said, Maria is a friend,” Michael began. “She’s a nurse at the hospital. She works in the Neo natal ICU. I met her the night of Mom’s accident… A few days before that, a baby had been abandoned outside the diner across the street. Maria had developed a bond with the baby. Maddie, that’s the baby’s name, was really sick and she needed a special treatment which I paid for. Maria, both of us, were worried about her going into foster care and Maria really wanted to adopt Maddie so I offered to help her get custody. Jesse Ramirez helped me out and the judge agreed to award custody to Maria and me, if we were married. So we went to Vegas last night and this morning, we were awarded custody.”

“A baby?” Philip asked quietly.

Michael nodded. “Yes. Dad, I promise you that the company is not in any danger. All Maria wants is Maddie. She’s not interested in money. I’m going to help them out financially but that’s all.”

Philip shook his head, trying to make sense of what he had heard. “Michael, why didn’t you tell us any of this before? We would have been happy to help. The Foundation would have helped. There was no need for you to do all this.”

“There was,” Michael said in a low voice. “Look… I had my reasons. This was something that I just had to do. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you any of this until now. The marriage thing only came up yesterday and there really wasn’t time to discuss it because the hearing was this morning.”

“Michael… I’m proud of you for helping this child. It’s a wonderful thing to do.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Michael said guiltily. He felt ashamed of his actions concerning his treatment of Maria and lying to his father, so being praised didn’t sit comfortably with him. “I should tell you that Maria is a friend of Alex Whitman so there’s some conflict there.”

Marty sighed. The first time he had reacted since coming into the office.

“I see,” Philip mused.

“But I’m handling it,” Michael added.

Philip nodded. “Are you going to tell your mother? And your brother and sister?”

“Of course,” Michael nodded. “It wasn’t my intention to lie or keep this from you but things happened so fast that there wasn’t time, and I’m sorry for that.”

“I understand, I guess,” Philip shrugged. “Your mother is going through a very difficult time right now, and I don’t know how she’s going to take this news.”

Michael rubbed his face. The last person he ever wanted to upset was his mother. “I’ll come by her room tomorrow before we pick up Maddie and I’ll talk to her.”

Philip’s eyebrows shot up. “The baby will be going home with you tomorrow?”

“Uh, I think she’s going to go with Maria tomorrow. We haven’t really had a chance to discuss that part of things yet.”

“I see.” Philip shrugged and smiled a little. “Well, this is certainly a very interesting turn of events. This morning my son was an eligible bachelor and tonight he’s a husband and father.”

“No, no. I’m just helping out financially and legally. I’m not going to be a father. That’s not—” Michael cut his protests short when he saw the disappointment in his own father’s eyes. “I mean, I’ll be involved, but Maria and I aren’t going to be living as man and wife. I’ll be more of an uncle type.”

“Indeed? Well, that is between you and your wife, I suppose,” Philip shrugged. “However, I hope you realize that your mother and I will treat Maddie as if she were our grandchild.”

Michael had in fact not realized that. He hadn’t wanted for his family to become involved with Maddie because that would mean he would be involved even more than he already was. But Michael knew how much family meant to Philip, and that arguing with him on this matter wouldn’t do a bit of good. So he didn’t’ say anything.

Philip stood up. “I should get back to the hospital. Your mother had physio this afternoon and I want to see how it went. Make sure to come by tomorrow, Michael, we’ll both be eager to see you.”

“Sure, I promise.”

Marty followed Philip out but paused in the doorway, he waited until Philip was in conversation with somebody else before asking Michael, “Maddie? That’s short for Madeleine?”

Michael looked away and shrugged. “I guess.”

“It’s a pretty name,” Marty said knowingly.

***


Alex was practically asleep at his desk when Isabel stormed in. He instantly became alert when he saw her and slammed shut the file he’d been reading. “Isabel Evans, what can I do for you?” he asked sardonically.

“I have been calling you all day,” Isabel yelled. “Why didn’t you answer any of my calls? I’m a wreck, ok? I am this close to calling Carla and begging her to….” She trailed off as she became aware of the way Alex was looking at her.

He didn’t appear to be chastised as she expected. If anything, he looked even angrier than she felt. Then suddenly it dawned on her that he had used her real name. A name he wasn’t supposed to know. “Look-” she began, hoping to do damage control.

“Get the fuck out of my center,” Alex ordered.

“Alex,” Isabel protested.

“I’m sure that you’ll be happy to know that you and your family have succeeded. I’m broke. The center will be closed at the end of the week. You’ve won. Now leave.”

“Alex-”

“OUT,” he bellowed.

Isabel backed out of the room, then ran down the corridor and out into the night.

***



With the greatest of care, Liz pulled Maria’s car into a parking spot outside the nursing home. She had just picked it up that afternoon and was now returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak. She was terrified of putting another scratch on the car. It had cost her so damn much. By the time the garage had been satisfied to release it to her, they had run up costs that were three times what was originally quoted to her.

Satisfied that the car would be safe, Liz went inside. Grandma Claudia’s condition was unchanged from the last time Liz had seen her, except that she seemed even smaller and more fragile. It frightened Liz to see her grandmother, who had been larger than life, now visibly shrinking before her eyes.

“Hi Grandma,” Liz said softly. She leaned down and kissed her grandmother’s cheek, feeling the papery thin skin beneath her lips. “You will never believe what’s happened. Maria is married and tomorrow, she’s going to become a mother.”

Liz blinked away a tear as she wondered how her grandmother would have reacted to that piece of news if she was awake.

She told her grandmother all about it. Maria’s elopement to Las Vegas, the discovery of just who exactly her new husband was, the excitement at the courthouse that morning, the hectic afternoon they’d had.

They had spent all afternoon and evening getting ready for Maddie to come home tomorrow. As Michael had promised, the cleaning crew had shown up and cleaned the apartment so thoroughly that Liz would be happy to eat her dinner off any surface there. She had been embarrassed to see the amount of dirt the professionals had managed to unearth in what she had thought was a clean apartment.

Then Maria had arrived home accompanied by a truck filled to the brim with baby paraphernalia. Thankfully, the store had sent two men to help them set everything up and install the baby seat in Maria’s car. Margaret, Michael’s assistant, had proved to be invaluable in advising Maria and helping her get ready for the next day.

Liz had been shocked when she read the invoice for all the stuff Maria had bought. Clearly, Michael Evans had deep pockets and was pretty generous with the contents of them. Or he really wanted to get back into Maria’s good books. Maria was so hyper and stressed that it was impossible to gauge how she was feeling about Michael and they had been far too busy to sit down and talk. Liz predicted a rollercoaster ride over the next few days and weeks.

When she finished telling the story, Liz sank back in the armchair and thought of all the things she hadn’t been able to think about yet. Namely, Max. Was she just a pawn in the twisted Evans power game? Had Max been playing her all along? Was any of it real?

She wished so much that her grandmother was awake. She really needed the older woman’s advice right about now. Or even just a Grandma Claudia hug. Liz blinked back her tears; she really missed her grandmother so much. It was a constant ache.

Liz sat for a while, holding her grandmother’s hand. Eventually, she rose to go. It had been a long day and it was one of the few nights that she could go to bed early and she was eager to make use of it. Especially if there was going to be a baby in the apartment from now on. She kissed Claudia good night and stepped out into the brightly-lit hallway.

Max was polishing the hand rails just down the corridor from her. He had his back to her but she knew it was him, even in the cap and janitor’s uniform he wore. She decided that she was not in the mood to talk to him right then so she hurried in the other direction and pressed the call button for an elevator. As the doors opened, something snapped and she was suddenly marching back down the hallway to Max before she even realized that she had made a decision to confront him.

“Max.”

He turned with a smile on his face. “Liz, hi.” His smile faded as he took in her angry expression. “What’s wrong?”

“You tell me,” Liz snapped.

He frowned in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“Do I mean anything to you at all, or is this all one big game to you people?”

“What? Liz, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Cut the crap, Max. I know.”

Max shook his head, completely baffled. “Know what, Liz?”

“That I’m an idiot. I can’t believe that I ever fell for you or your bullshit. God, you must have laughed yourself silly at my expense. Well, I really hope that your new condos are worth all this.” With that said, Liz turned and walked away.

“Wait,” Max hurried after her. He caught her arm and pulled her to a stop at the elevator bank. “Liz, I swear that I have no idea what you’re talking about. I know that I’ve done some messed-up things in my life, but I wouldn’t hurt you. I thought you knew that.”

Liz pushed him away as hard as could. “Drop the nice-guy act, Max. It’s not fooling me anymore. You’re an ass.”

An elevator door slid open and she stepped inside, Max jumped in after her, standing in the door so that it wouldn’t move and Liz had no way to escape. “Liz, what are you talking about?”

“Alex!” she screamed. “I’m talking about Alex and your family’s crazy vendetta against him. I don’t know what he did to you or why you thought it was okay to go after me and Maria but it’s over now. So leave me alone.”

Max stared at her as if she had just sprouted three heads. “What are you talking about, Liz?” he shouted. “There’s no game. There’s no vendetta. I have no idea what you are so upset about. All I’ve done is be your friend. There’s nothing fake or sinister about that. Please, please, just tell me what I’m supposed to have done.”

“Like you don’t know.”

He threw his hands up helplessly. “I really don’t.”

Liz stepped forward, with deceptive calmness then shoved him so hard he stumbled backwards and landed on the floor. “Ask your brother,” she snapped as the door slid shut.

Max picked himself up and raced down the stairway so that he could catch up with her. He hurried out after her into the parking lot and grabbed her before she could climb into her car. “What did Michael do? Please, Liz, I don’t understand.”

“Max, I know that I’ve been pretty dumb up to now but give me some credit. The ruse is up. You can stop pretending to be a janitor and go back to being a worthless playboy.” She stepped around him and climbed into her car.

Before she could close the door however, Max caught it and held it open. “Whatever Michael did, I am not part of it, I promise.”

To his surprise, Liz climbed out and faced him head on. “You know, I didn’t believe it at first. I convinced myself that you were a good guy and that our friendship was real. I convinced myself even after Maria told me that Michael had told her you were in on it. I convinced myself even after it became clear Isabel had played Alex for a fool. I believed in you. But then I asked myself something, if you weren’t in on it, then why did you have the company credit card? And it came to me, you had the company credit card, because you were working for them. Well, congratulations - mission accomplished. Now let me go and don’t ever, ever talk to me again.”

She climbed back into the car and slammed the door shut. All Max could do was watch dumbfounded as she drove away.

***


“Well, well, well, Miss Isabel Evans.”

Isabel gritted her teeth at the smug tone in Carla’s voice. “Spare me the crow and just give me the stuff.”

Carla slid into the booth opposite Isabel and grimaced when her hands came into contact with the grimy Formica surface of the table. She turned her attention back to her former friend and smiled. “I don’t Know Iz, what kind of friend would I be? You’ve told me that you want to get clean, and as your friend I should be supportive and encouraging of you.”

“Just give me the pills, Carla,” Isabel snapped. She wasn’t in the mood to sit and listen to Carla taunting and playing with her.

Carla reached into her purse and pulled out a while pill bottle. Isabel reached for it, but Carla enclosed it in her two hands. “What do I get in return?”

“Whatever you want.”

“I want Michael.”

Isabel sighed. She should have known. “I’ve told you before that Michael wants nothing to do with you. There’s nothing that I can do to change his mind.”

“I can change his mind, but first I need to get him alone and make him listen to me. Can you arrange that?”

“Fine,” Isabel agreed. “I’ll arrange it. When do you want it?” She was done protecting Michael from this scheming harlot. It was his fault that Alex had thrown her out of the center tonight. Besides, if he really was married to somebody else then Carla wasn’t going to get far with him anyway.

Carla was surprised that Isabel had agreed but she covered it quickly. “I’m free Sunday.”

“Fine, I’ll arrange it for Sunday. At his place?”

“Sure.”

“Can I have the stuff now?” Isabel asked, trying not to let her desperation show, but failing miserably.

“Sure,” Carla said pleasantly and handed the bottle to Isabel.

Isabel grasped it eagerly. She was surprised at the weight of it, normally Carla was only able to give her six or seven pills max at a time. This bottle was full. She undid the cap and peered inside. “What the fuck is this? These aren’t my pills.”

Carla shrugged. “Isabel, you told me that you weren’t using the stuff anymore. You called me an hour ago looking for it. It’s hard to get and I didn’t have enough time. These will do just as well. And after I’ve talked to Michael, I might be able to get you the real stuff.”

Isabel pushed down her anger. If she lost it with Carla, she might never get her hands on the pills she needed. Instead, she stood up and stuffed the pill bottle into her pocket. “I’ll be in touch with you about a time for your meeting.”

She hurried out to her car, and in the darkness, swallowed three of the little white pills Carla had given her.


***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Thu May 05, 2011 5:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 39

Postby nibbles2 » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:38 am

Thanks to all you lovely people for leaving me feedback.

chanks_girl

Earth2Mama

begonia9508

Eva

April

Roswellian117

keepsmiling7

Natalie36

Rowedog

destinyc

RhondaAnn

valentinebaby

Alien_Friend

scorpio6

Maiqu

xmag

FSU/MSW-94

And Michelle in LA for playing beta.


Chapter 39

Max arrived at work early the next day, pissed off and ready to lay into Michael. He made his way to the top floor and was all set to storm into Michael’s office, when a small, blonde bulldog stepped into his path.

“No you don’t,” Tess said firmly. “He’s in a meeting right now. If you want to take a seat he might be able to squeeze you in before his next appointment. If he has the time.”

Max clenched his teeth in anger. He really was not in the mood for this. “You can’t talk to me that way — try and remember who I am.”

Tess smirked. “I know exactly who you are. You’re the assistant to the office supply manager. Maybe you should remember that I’m the assistant to the CEO.”

“I own shares in the company,” Max reminded her.

“That’s nice for you. You’ll still have to take a seat and wait,” Tess smiled sweetly.

Max growled and stomped towards the waiting area, where he found Isabel already sitting and tapping away on her phone. His bad mood rocketed. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to talk to Michael. Shouldn’t you be counting pens?”

Max glowered at her and sank into a seat opposite her. The minutes ticked by and he grew increasingly irritated. He did not want to have Nancy on his back for tardiness.

Eventually the door to Michael’s office opened and a number of suited individuals left. Isabel and Max jumped up and barged their way into Michael’s office, just ahead of Tess.

Michael ignored his siblings in favor of Tess. They talked for a few minutes while Isabel and Max grew even more impatient.

Finally Tess left and Michael turned to Max and Isabel. “What do you two want?”

“We’re here to congratulate you on your marriage, of course,” Isabel bit out. “Thanks for the invitation, by the way. So you knocked some chick up, nice move. It doesn’t mean you have to marry her.”

“Knocked up? What?” Michael asked, confused.

“Tess said something about a baby,” Max prompted.

Michael rubbed his face and groaned. “I didn’t knock anybody up. I’m helping a friend to get custody of a baby. So we got married in Vegas and we’re going to be living as a married couple for a while until things are sorted out.”

Isabel arched an eyebrow. “That seems a very un-you like thing to do. I thought you hated babies. And people.”

“Whatever Iz,” Michael sighed. “I’m busy, so if that’s all?”

“Actually, no I have something to say,” Max blurted out. “What the fuck did you do to Liz Parker?”

It took Michael a minute to remember who exactly Liz Parker even was. “Nothing.”

“Well, she’s not talking to me now and it’s because of something you did.”

“Who’s Liz Parker?” Isabel interrupted.

“How do you know her?” Michael asked Max.

“She’s a friend,” Max said cagily. “I told you about her before.”

Michael scanned his memory banks for any mentions of Liz before. He remembered Max talking about a girl he was seeing, but had he mentioned her name?

“Who’s Liz Parker?” Isabel asked again, her voice holding a faint trace of whine.

“What did you do?” Max yelled, ignoring Isabel.

Michael shook his head. Maria had mentioned something about Liz when she was yelling at him that fateful morning in Vegas but it had gone over his head in the heat of the moment. Christ, if Max was involved with her friend then no wonder she had assumed the worst about him.

“It’s a misunderstanding, Max,” Michael told him.

“Michael, you have to fix this,” Max demanded. “Whatever it is, you clear it up. Because I swear, Michael, if I lose her because of you…”

“What? You’ll do what?” Michael snapped, rising to his feet.

Max spoke evenly. “I’ll never forgive you.”

The corner of Michael’s lip curled and he shook his head. “Anything else?”

“No. I have to get to work.” Max shot another glare at Michael and stormed out.

“What a drama queen.” Isabel flopped into the seat in front of Michael’s desk. “So who is Liz Parker?”

“Isabel, I’m really busy. What do you want?”

“I’m calling in a favor.”

Michael groaned. “What?”

“Carla has been hassling me about you. She wants to talk to you so I told her that I’d arrange it.”

Her brother laughed in disbelief. “No way, Isabel. I want nothing to do with her.”

“You owe me. I delivered Jesse Ramirez to you and now it’s time to pay up. I need Carla off my back. She wants to get back together with you. Tell her you’re married and have a kid and she’ll finally realize that it’s over and she’ll actually move on.”

Michael threw down his pen and swore. “Fine, I’ll meet her. Give me her number and I’ll call her.”

“Promise?” Isabel asked as she scrolled through the contacts on her phone and found Carla’s number. She sent it to Michael’s phone.

Michael nodded. “I’ll do it. There are actually a few things I need to talk to her about.”

“So you’re really married?” Isabel asked.

“Yeah.”

“And you guys are getting a baby? Is it a boy or a girl? How old is it?”

“A girl. Her name is Maddie. She’s only a few weeks old. Isabel, I’m really busy.”

Isabel held up her hands in surrender. “Fine, I’m leaving. Sorry for showing some interest in your life.”

***


When Michael walked into Maddie’s room, he expected to meet Maria. Instead it was Liz who was sitting by Maddie’s crib making cooing noises at her. She looked up when Michael came in and glared angrily at him.

“Where’s Maria?”

Liz pointed towards the glass window to the room next door where Maria was surrounded by a group of nurses and doctors. Maria and several of the nurses were in tears and were hugging.

“What happened?” Michael asked in alarm, stepping closer to the window.

“They’re just saying good-bye to her,” Liz explained, taking note of Michael’s genuine concern. “They’ll just be a few minutes.”

“Oh… good.” Michael returned to Liz and leaned down to allow Maddie take his finger in her hand. He smiled as she grasped his finger tightly. He looked up at Liz. “You should pick her up, Maddie likes being held.”

“I know, I just…” Liz trailed off, slightly embarrassed.

“You’re afraid?” Michael asked in disbelief.

“No, just… nervous,” Liz glared at him. “Just because I have ovaries doesn’t mean that I automatically know what to do with a baby. The last time I was around a baby, I was the baby.”

“I just figured that being Maria’s friend –. Never mind.” He stood up and took a deep breath. He’d watched Maria do this enough times. Slowly, very slowly, he leaned down and picked Maddie up as gently as he possibly could and lowered her into Liz’s waiting arms. “See, it’s not that hard.”

Liz laughed at the relief in his voice and pressed her nose to Maddie’s head, breathing in her scent. “Hello, gorgeous.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Liz turned her attention back to Michael. “I hope you don’t think that because you’ve been nice to me for a few minutes that I’m going to be on your side.”

“I wasn’t expecting that, at all. I just… ugh… I thought, for Maddie’s sake that it would be best if we all got along so I was just making an effort.”

“Are you going to make an effort with Alex?” Liz pressed.

“I don’t want to talk about Whitman.”

Liz shook her head. “You’re not going to get along with Maria, or any of us, if you can’t stop being an utter ass to Alex.”

Michael shook his head, not wanting to have this discussion with her. Fortunately he was saved from it by the sudden entrance of Maria. She was accompanied by two other nurses. All of them had their hands full with gift bags and baskets and a massive bunch of flowers which they piled on a table by the door. A fourth woman walked in behind them, Michael recognized her as the social worker.

Maria immediately scooped Maddie out of Liz’s arms. “Hello baby. Guess what, it’s time to go home.”

“Right now?” Michael asked, suddenly nervous.

“Yeah, the paperwork is all processed. Karen has just finished it. The doctor will be along in a minute to sign her discharge papers and then we can blow this joint. Isn’t that great?”

Michael nodded. “Sure.”

Liz beamed at her friend. “That’s so awesome. You want me to start carrying all that stuff down to the car?”

“Actually,” Michael spoke up before Maria could answer. “I have a car and driver waiting for you downstairs. I figured it makes sense for you to have a car service. It should make things easier. I can have the driver come up and collect it.”

Maria and Liz exchanged silent glances. Liz shrugged and Maria gave a sigh of resignation. “Great. Thanks. I guess this means you can have the Jetta, Liz.”

“Cool.”

“Oh,” Maria exclaimed, suddenly realizing that Liz and the social worker hadn’t met. “Liz, this is Karen, Maddie’s social worker. Karen, this is my room mate, Liz.”

“Your room mate? You and Michael don’t live together?” Karen asked.

Maria’s turned to Michael, her eyes wide in alarm.

“As you can imagine,” Michael began smoothly. “Things have been pretty crazy for us lately. We have rushed things in order to get custody of Maddie. Maria is living with Liz currently, but she’s moving in with me when my apartment is ready. We’re doing up the nursery at the moment so Maria thought it would be best if we waited until that was finished before we brought Maddie home.”

Maria relaxed and even managed to smile at him.

“I see,” Karen said. She flipped through her file. “I have an appointment with you on Tuesday. Which address will that be at?”

“Uh… we’re not quite sure yet. I have your number so I’ll call you on Monday to let you know,” Maria assured her. “I’m sorry, I know it’s a nuisance but as Michael said, this has all been very sudden.”

Karen sighed but nodded in assent. “Ok, make sure to call me.”

“I will.”

Michael slipped out of the room to call the driver and ask him to come up so that he could carry Maria’s belongings down to the car. He came up straight away but as he lacked security clearance to enter the neonatal ward, Michael began to carry everything out to the lobby. To his surprise, Liz gave him a hand.

Alone in the lobby with him, Liz grabbed his arm. “I just want you to know that if you fuck around with Maria, I will kill you. That’s not an idle threat, that’s a promise.”

“I’m not going to ‘fuck around’ with her. I’m on the level,” Michael tried to assure her.

Liz dropped his arm and shook her head. “Right, because so far you’ve been totally honest and up-front about everything.”

“I don’t think this is any of your business anyway. If Maria trusts me then you should keep your nose out of it,” Michael said, angrily.

Liz laughed harshly. “None of my business? Maria is my best friend and we look out for each other. You’ve already destroyed Alex, there’s no way that I’m going to let you hurt Maria any more than you already have. She doesn’t trust you, but she’s going along with this charade for Maddie’s sake. So there’s no way that I’m going to keep out of this. I’m watching you. And if you or your brother or sister does one more thing to us, you’ll be sorry.”

Michael threw his head back and stared at the ceiling, trying not to get angry. Liz’s words had cut to the bone. He took a deep breath, then when he was calm turned his gaze back to Liz. “Look, I’m not saying I’m perfect. But I want to do the right thing by Maria and Maddie. I swear, I don’t have an agenda with them. And for the record, Max had nothing to do with any of this. I didn’t know you two even knew each other until this morning.”

“Yeah, right,” Liz scoffed. “He just happened to wander into The Dangerzone, you just happened to wander in here and Isabel just happened to wander into Alex’s clinic. It’s all just a giant coincidence.”

“It is,” Michael insisted. “Wait, The Dangerzone? You work there?”

“Yes.”

“You’re a stripper?” Michael asked, incredulously. He ran his eyes over her, taking in her preppy outfit and all American, girl next door clean-cut appearance. “No way.”

Liz rolled her eyes, not believing his disbelief. “Like you didn’t know.”

“I didn’t,” Michael said with a shake of his head. “Look, I’ll admit to asking Isabel to spy on Alex when I found out she was working at the clinic, but that’s it. I didn’t come here with the intention of using Maria, and I have no idea what’s going on with you and Max — except that he’s really pissed at me because you’re not talking to him.”

“Whatever.”

“There you are.” Michael and Liz turned around at the sound of Maria’s voice. She glanced worriedly between them. “What’s going on?”

“Michael is just telling me how he’s on the level,” Liz sneered.

Maria glanced over her shoulder at the ward behind her. “Liz, I know he’s… Look, this isn’t the place. The social worker is here. Please don’t argue with him here.”

“I’m sorry,” Liz apologized.

“The doctor is signing Maddie’s discharge papers right now, so we can go in a few minutes,” Maria smiled. “We should be there for that.”

Michael nodded and went to join her by the door.

Liz glanced at her watch. “Maria, do you mind if I leave now? I really need to talk to my professor before class starts. Your mom is at home so you won’t need me there.”

“Of course, it’s fine. Thanks so much for coming with me today.” Maria hugged Liz. “I’ll see you later.”

Liz waved at her, shot one last glare in Michael’s direction and headed towards the elevators.

Maria and Michael returned to Maddie’s room where a number of nurses and doctors were gathered, including Doctor Fisher, the chief of staff. He made a beeline for Michael immediately and began to shake his hand and praise Michael for all he’d done for ‘the little darling’.

Maria rolled her eyes in disgust and walked over to where Alesha was holding Maddie.

“I guess this is it,” Alesha said tearfully as she gently returned Maddie to Maria’s arms.

“I guess,” Maria smiled. She really didn’t know how she was feeling at that moment. She was delighted and excited to finally be taking Maddie home, but she was stressed and worried about the situation with Michael. And she was really sad to be leaving the job she loved and the people she worked with. So she decided to focus on holding Maddie and knowing that in a few minutes she could walk out through the door with her in a matter of minutes.

After a few minutes, Michael brushed off Doctor Fisher and came to join Maria.

“You should get a picture of the three of you together,” Alesha suggested brightly, brandishing a small digital camera. She directed them to stand close together and smile. When she was satisfied, she snapped the shot and showed them. “Look, your first family picture.”

“Thanks, Alesha,” Maria smiled.

Michael took the camera and stared at the picture. It gave him an unfamiliar feeling in his chest to look at the three of them together. They looked like a real family.

“Ok, everything is in order. You can go,” Karen smiled, returning to them with a piece of paper in her hand.

Alesha removed the security tag from around Maddie’s little wrist and smiled at Maria. “Congratulations.”

Maria hugged her, blinking back the tears. She looked at Michael. “Ready?”

“Yeah, let’s go.”

There was another round of hugs and hand shakes as Maria’s former colleagues said goodbye to her and to Maddie. It took them almost fifteen minutes to get from Maddie’s room to the foyer.

“If it’s ok with you, I’d like to take you and Maddie to see Mom and Dad before we leave,” Michael asked nervously.

“Sure, no problem.”

The elevator pinged as the door slid open. They stepped inside, taking Maddie with them

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Thu May 05, 2011 6:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 40

Postby nibbles2 » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:14 pm

Much earlier than anticipated because Michelle got my new part back to me in record time. Everybody say thanks to Michelle.

Rowedog Michael and Carla meet in the next part. It will be my Christmas present to you.

chanks_girl There’s lots coming up in the next few parts on the whole Alex/Michael front. I think it will be interesting.

Earth2Mama Ooh, yes, the Michael/Max talk is coming up in the not too distant future too. By not too distant future, I mean in the Gold Digger universe. In real time, it’s going to be a while.

April Originally this chapter was supposed to be the scene where Maria and Maddie meet Diane and Philip and the scene where Michael and Maddie meet Amy. But, I felt that neither scene would have moved the plot along and I really wanted to get this moving again so essentially I skipped a chapter. (It embarrasses me no end that I’m posting my 40th chapter of Gold Diggers and you’ve just posted your 40th chapter of 522.)

RhondaAnn I’ll give you a hint about what to expect in the Carla/Michael meeting – you’re right about the compromising videos.

valentinebaby Max knows he’s not really in a position to be threatening Michael that way, but that’s how much Liz means to him.

Alien_Friend I love the sibling scenes. They’re so much fun to write.

FSU/MSW-94 I wouldn’t say Maria is unaffected by Michael’s wealth. It makes her uncomfortable and is a large part of why she doesn’t trust him. That’s not the reaction Michael’s used to getting.

Natalie36 I loved verbal kick ass Liz too.

Maiqu There’s no meeting with the Evans/the M’s, sorry, but Michael and Carla is coming up.

Grace52373 I guess Liz just doesn’t really know what to believe right now.

Tequathisy Liz’s words had an impact on Michael, but I think that circumstances have been leading to Michael agreeing to talk to Alex.

Begonia9508 Uh, yeah, turns out introducing Maria and Maddie to his parents is a good idea. Not so much for his plan to not get involved.

destinyc I think that a face to face meeting is more effective than a phone call for getting through to Carla.

nwinchester Well, yes it’s asking for trouble, but necessary at the same time.

vilandragirl Crap, maybe I should have written the scene where Maria meets the parents. Uh, to summarise, it goes well. I’ll be touching on it again in the future.

Killjoy Yeah, thought you’d like that.

camerandc I’m here.

Cereth Max rents his apartment so he can’t sell it. We’re not anywhere close to the end. Unfortunately. I have the feeling that when everybody else in the world has given up on Roswell fanfiction, I will be the only member left, still posting this damn fic. I do think that I’m headed in that direction though, at last.

blxgyrl18 I promise, all will be explained eventually.

Michelle in LA Max slept with Carla about a year before this point in the story, so he was 23. Also, Isabel is younger than him.


Chapter 40

Isabel’s head was pounding. In fact, her whole body was sore. It hurt to even keep her eyes open.

All she wanted to do was curl up in her bed, and die. But no, she couldn’t do that because she had to come to the hospital to baby-sit her mother. Philip had some stupid meeting he had to attend, and the boys were working. Nobody asked if she had any plans, Isabel was just expected to be there. Why? Because she was a girl? It wasn’t like her mother was alone anyway. She had her assistant and, oh yeah, a whole hospital full of orderlies and nurses and people only too happy to kneel down and bow before the almighty Evans family.

And was her mother grateful that Isabel had given up her own time to come and be with her? Of course not! Diane had done nothing but complain since Isabel had arrived that morning - She hadn’t slept the night before. She was too tired to go to physiotherapy. The physiotherapist pushed her too much. Her back was sore.

God, Diane acted like she was the only person in pain sometimes.

It wasn’t like Isabel didn’t know pain. And, unlike her mother, Isabel was not being medicated. The pills that Carla had supplied weren’t worth crap. They had done nothing to alleviate the pain; they just made her feel sluggish and tired.

It took all of Isabel’s strength and patience not to scream at her mother. She had to remind herself that Diane was in a lot of pain too. The physiotherapy sessions were hard on her mother, and she was probably as sick of being in the hospital as Isabel was of visiting her there. Philip would be here shortly and then Isabel could slip away and go home. She only had to wait it out a little while longer. She could do this. If only her mother would. Just. Stop. Whining.

It seemed to be forever before Philip finally walked into the room and Isabel could sigh a breath of relief that there was finally somebody else there to deal with Diane.

Isabel plastered on a smile and tried not to let her father see that she was in a bad mood. The last thing she needed from him was another lecture about having to help out with Diane.

She waited until Philip was sitting down by Diane’s bed before standing up to leave. “I hope you guys don’t mind, but I’ve a few things to do today so I’ll go now.”

“You’re not staying to meet Maria and Madeline?” Diane asked in surprise.

Isabel swore silently to herself, she’d forgotten about that. “I really do have things to do. I’m sure there will be lots more opportunities to meet them.”

“Isabel,” Diane exclaimed, shocked. “This is your niece and your new sister-in-law. You have to stay and welcome them into the family.”

“Really? Mom, they’re not family. For some bizarre reason, Michael only married her to help them out. It’s not like the kid is his. And ‘his wife’ is probably just a gold digging opportunist. It’s not a real marriage and the baby is not really your grand-daughter.”

Philip stood up, his face conveying his anger at Isabel’s attitude. “Isabel, whatever the reason and circumstances behind the marriage, the fact remains that Madeline and Maria are both members of this family now and will be treated as such.

Knowing she wasn’t going to win this one, and not wanting to anger her parents, Isabel had to concede. “I’m sorry, you’re right. I just don’t want to see Michael be taken advantage of again.”

“Neither do we,” Philip agreed, mollified now. “But for what it’s worth, I believe this girl is on the level. All she’s concerned about is providing for the child.”

“Good, I’m glad. I’m concerned about the child too, of course.”

Philip and Diane smiled proudly, buying her fake concern. It was almost enough to make Isabel laugh.

“I’m just going to go to the restroom. Do you need anything Mom?”

Diane was fine, so Isabel slipped out of the room and into the nearest washroom. It was thankfully empty, one of the perks of being in a private ward.

Isabel washed her face. When she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror, what she saw frightened her. She was barely able to recognise herself. Where was the beautiful skin, the bright eyes, the youthful glow that Isabel Evans was renowned for? When had she gotten so haggard and pallid?

She knew it was the pills. She knew it. So why couldn’t she just stop taking them? Deep down, Isabel knew that they were responsible for everything. But she needed them. She needed the real ones, they actually worked. Not like the stupid replacements that Carla had foisted onto her the last time the met up.

Angrily, Isabel tossed a few of them into her mouth and swallowed them dry. It wouldn’t be enough to get rid of the pains, of course, but it would at least it would give her a little respite from the worst of it. She closed her eyes and waited for the pills to take effect.

After a few minutes, she felt the pain in her head ebb slightly and she was able to open her eyes again. She felt a little better, but she looked the same, so she pulled out her make up and applied it carefully. When she was satisfied that she looked presentable, Isabel packed her stuff away and left the restrooms.

The elevator chimed as she walked out and the door slid open to reveal a young couple with a baby. It took Isabel a moment to recognise Michael, so out of context was the sight. Standing framed by the elevator doors, they actually looked like a family. Isabel watched them approach Diane’s room.

Isabel’s eyes flitted from her brother to the blonde beside him with the baby in her arms. The woman’s clothes were casual, and probably cheap. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her make up was minimal. She certainly looked like a nurse and a mother, Isabel mused. She was a far cry from Carla who always looked like she’d stepped off the pages of a magazine.

Still, appearances could be deceptive and Isabel wasn’t going to fall for Maria’s homey charms just because she was shrewd enough to wear a crappy pair of jeans.

“Hey, Iz,” Michael said, when he spotted her. “Uh, this is Maria Deluca and Maddie.”

Isabel plastered a smile on her face. “Hi, it’s so nice to meet you.” She stepped closer and peered at the sleeping baby in Maria’s arms. “How adorable.”

“Hello, Isabel,” Maria greeted in a neutral manner. Isabel noticed how Maria’s eyes swept over her, appraising her, and apparently not liking what she saw.

Isabel bristled. Who the hell did Nurse Perfect think she was to be judging her? She wasn’t the gold digger who had trapped her brother into a marriage just to get her hands on his fortune.

“Is mom back from her physio?” Michael asked.

“Yeah, and she’s in a really bad mood,” Isabel warned. “Dad’s there too.”

Maria groaned quietly.

“You ok?” Michael asked her.

Maria nodded. “Yeah, I’m just nervous.”

“Don’t worry, Mom and Dad will be fine,” Michael assured her.

Isabel shook her head at the sight of Michael being nice. It was so weird. She rolled her eyes and pushed past them into the room.

“Look who I found outside,” Isabel exclaimed, her phoney smile back in place.

Michael and Maria entered the room, both looking nervous. The scowl disappeared from Diane’s face as her eyes lit up, her pain completely forgotten about in the presence of her beautiful new grand-daughter.

Isabel shook her head in disgust as her mother gushed over Maddie and fawned over Maria. Philip was smiling from ear to ear and kept patting Michael’s back, like he’d done something amazing. It was sickening to see how easy her parents had been duped by the stupid nurse.

Maria was smart, Isabel realized. She was going to have to keep her eye on her.


***



Max had given serious consideration to not showing up at the nursing home that night. He hated the janitor’s job, even more than he hated his day job. The only silver lining had been the possibility of seeing Liz and spending time with her, but after she had blown up at him the night before, there wasn’t even that possibility anymore.

The only reason he had come at all was because he had checked his credit card balances online at work. He had expected the amount owed to be down significantly because he had deposited a paycheck in them the day before. But the credit card companies were charging him astronomical interest rates and his payments were barely a drop in the ocean of what he owed.

He’d made out a budget a while ago, and he’d worked out a way to survive until his next dividend check, but he hadn’t taken into account the interest he’d also have to pay on the amount he owed. At the rate he was going, not even two jobs were going to see him through this.

He was definitely going to have to give up the apartment, that was now a given. But even that wasn’t going to solve his debt crisis.

He was so busy trying to figure out a way to alleviate his money troubles that he wasn’t paying attention to what he was supposed to be doing, which was mopping the corridor outside the dining hall. It was only when he heard the squeal of outrage that he even realized that there was somebody else on the corridor. It was a little old lady in a pink nightgown, and thanks to him, wet slippers.

He straightened up and pushed his hat back off his face. “I’m really sorry about that.”

“You’ve ruined them. I have to go the ball and you’ve ruined my silk dance shoes,” The old lady cried in distress.

Max didn’t know whether she really believed that she was on her way to a ball in her silk dance shoes or if she was just pretending, either way he figured he’d just play along. He grabbed a cloth and patted them down. “There, I think they’ll be fine. Nobody will notice.”

The old woman lifted her foot carefully to better examine it. Max reached for her, afraid that she’d topple over. He was almost afraid to hold her too tight. Her arms were so thin and he could picture her brittle bones crumbling in his tight grip.

The lady smiled at him. “Are you going to escort me?” she asked hopefully.

“I think maybe I should,” Max conceded. He held out his arm so that she could hold it and began to lead her, very slowly, down the corridor. She babbled away about the ball, the dresses the other girls were wearing and all the gentlemen she was going to dance with.

She was wearing an ID bracelet on her wrist that told Max her name was Delilah and that she was in room one hundred and four. They made slow progress, but Delilah was amusing and anything was better than mopping.

Finally they rounded a corner and came upon an orderly and a frantic looking, well dressed woman.

“Mom!” the well dressed woman cried in relief, hurrying towards them. Delilah made no sign of recognizing, or even hearing, her daughter, and went on babbling away to Max.

“This lady will see you to the ballroom,” Max told her gently. He took Delilah’s hand off his arm, kissed it gently and gave her a bow as the orderly took Delilah’s other arm. Delilah immediately started to regale the orderly about the handsome young man who had escorted her in from the car.

Max grinned to himself and returned to his mop, feeling in a better mood than before, and resumed his mopping.

A few minutes later he heard the click of high heels behind him and turned to find Delilah’s daughter.

“I just wanted to thank you for looking after my mother,” she said. “You made her night.”

“She made mine,” Max told her, truthfully.

“Well, thanks. It’s nice to know there’s one nice janitor in this place. The other guy is….”

“Yeah, I know what the other guy is,” Max grimaced. He knew all too well, unfortunately.

Assuming the conversation was over; Max went back to trying to get rid of a scuff mark on the floor. The daughter didn’t move away.

After a moment, Max realized she was staring at him and he looked back up at her. “Sorry, was there something else?”

The woman shook her head. “You’re not… I mean, you look exactly like Max Evans.”

Crap. He forced himself to laugh and recite the line he'd come up with if anybody said anything about his resemblance to Max Evans. “I wish I was him, I’d love to have his bank account.”

The woman laughed too, her face reddening. “Of course, I’m sorry, that was stupid.”

“No, I get it all the time,” Max said casually, praying that she’d leave it alone and just go.

She didn’t leave, instead she stood there, obviously trying to work herself up to say something else. Max waited.

“Ok, I’m just going to put this out there,” began finally. “My sister is a huge fan of Max Evans. He’s on her list.”

“Her list?”

“You know, the list of celebrities that she’s allowed to sleep with.”

Max blanched. “I’m not going to sleep with-”

“No, no, no, that’s not what I’m asking at all,” she hurriedly assured him. She looked like she was about to die of mortification. “No, you see, she’s getting married soon and she loves her fiancé, she would never cheat on him with anybody. It’s just a fantasy thing. But I’m in charge of organizing her bachelorette party… And, I was just wondering if, maybe, you’d like to earn a couple of hundred dollars.”

Max was almost too afraid to ask. “Doing what?”

“Stripping,” she squeaked nervously. “You look like you have a decent body under that jumpsuit and you do look like Max Evans so I know she’ll think you’re hot. I could pay you five hundred dollars.”

Five hundred dollars! For ‘pretending’ to be Max Evans and taking his clothes off! If the press ever found about that, they would slaughter him. On the other hand, five hundred dollars was more than a week’s wages for this place.

“A thousand dollars,” she offered, sensing his hesitation.

A thousand dollars would be such a huge help. And he could always say he was just doing it for a laugh. “Ok, I’ll do it.”

“Great. That’s awesome.”

She took his phone number and promised to be in touch shortly with the details. It was only after she was gone that the doubt set in for Max.

What did he know about stripping?

***


Liz parked the Jetta in front of the apartment building at three in the morning. She leaned her head against the headrest and closed her eyes wearily. It had been a long day and she was exhausted. The adrenaline that had helped her get through her shift at ‘The Dangerzone’ deserted her and every bone in her body felt tired and heavy. It took a supreme effort to climb out of the car and trudge up the steps to the apartment.

There was a light on in the living room and when she stepped inside, Liz found Maria sitting on the couch giving Maddie a bottle.

“Hi, roomies,” Liz smiled and plopped down onto the couch beside Maria.

“You look exhausted,” Maria said with concern.

“Long day,” Liz shrugged. “How was yours?”

Maria’s face lit up in a smile. “Awesome.”

Liz couldn’t help but smile back. She was so happy for Maria, and for Maddie. “It’s a good look for you.”

“Thanks,” Maria kissed Maddie’s forehead and glanced back up at Liz. “You should go to bed. We can talk tomorrow.”

Liz shook her head. “I’m too wired right now. It’s always the same when I get home; I need to unwind before I can go to bed. I’ll make myself a hot chocolate; that usually helps.” She made an effort to get off the couch but her body refused to cooperate. “In a minute.”

“I’ll make it for you, if you’ll take care of this little lady.” Maria carefully passed Maddie to Liz and went to make Liz’s drink.

“Hello,” Liz cooed to Maddie. She pressed her nose against the babies’ head and breathed in the gorgeous baby smell. She was still a little nervous holding Maddie, but rapidly getting used to it.

Maria returned a few minutes later with two cups of hot chocolate heaped with marshmallows. They switched again, Maria taking Maddie and Liz taking the hot drink.

“So how did it go with Michael and your mother?”

“Fine. Michael was charm itself and Mom loved him.”

“What?” Liz exclaimed, shocked and disappointed. She had been looking forward to Michael getting the Amy Deluca treatment. Never was a man so deserving of an Amy Deluca tongue-lashing. “She liked him even though he tricked you into marrying him and is a total dickbag?”

“Well I didn’t tell her about any of that,” Maria sighed. “I figured that if Michael and I are going to make this work then it’s better for all of us if Mom doesn’t know what he’s really like because I’d never hear the end of it. So we made a deal, I don’t mention his behavior, to either of our parents, and he’s going to talk to Alex.”

Liz’s eyebrows shot up. “He is?”

“Yeah, he even promised he’d be reasonable and listen to what Alex has to say.”

“Do you believe him?”

Maria shrugged. “I kind of do, actually. I don't know, he just seemed genuine.”

“And you believe him? after everything?"

“Yeah,” Maria sighed. She pulled Maddie closer. “Michael had the kind of life that Maddie could have had, and he wants to protect her from that. I think that, whatever else, he's serious about that.”

“Oh,” Liz pondered that fact for a while. “That’s…” She trailed off, unable to come up with a word to describe what it was. She rubbed her eyes. "But his whole family are assholes."

“I don’t know, Liz. Michael swears that Max had nothing to do with it and his parents were lovely to me so I don’t think they have a problem with us. I think it’s just him. And his sister.”

“Oooh, you met Isabel Evans? What’s she like?”

Maria shook her head. “She’s a piece of work. You should have seen the way she was looking at me today, like I was some kind of insect. She played nice, but it was so fake. Plus it wasn’t even noon, and she was wasted.”

“And that’s your aunt,” Liz teased Maddie, squeezing her foot gently.

Maria laughed humorlessly. “Yeah, what kind of family did I get you into?”

“At least she’ll have the most wonderful mother ever,” Liz smiled.

“Aw, thanks, Liz.”

Liz rose to her feet, “I think I’ll be able to sleep now.”

“Sweet dreams.”

“Night,” Liz bent down and kissed both Maddie and Maria on the forehead, then straightened up. But she didn’t leave.

Maria raised an eyebrow in question.

After a moment’s hesitation, Liz blurted out the question she wanted to ask. “Do you believe that Michael is telling the truth about Max, that he had nothing to do with all this?”

“I really don’t know. I mean, what would he gain by lying? But on the other hand, what does he hope to gain out of any of this? For what it’s worth, I think he was telling the truth but maybe I’m not the best judge of Michael’s character.”

“I think he was telling me the truth this morning too,” Liz said, more to herself than Maria.

“Liz, even if he was telling the truth, I think it would be wise to be careful. I don’t trust the Evans family one bit.”

“I don’t trust them either, Maria, but I miss him. I miss Max.”

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Thu May 05, 2011 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 41

Postby nibbles2 » Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:02 am

So, you probably think that you're seeing things, but you're not - this is in fact an update for Gold Diggers.

Once I've finished Crush, I'm going to start working on Gold Diggers again and my hope is to get it finished this year. So, look out for more regular updates in the near future and feel free to be nasty and throw stones at me when I slack off, which we all know I will.

But, as today is the fifth anniversary of the day I first started posting Gold Diggers, I thought I'd mark the occasion and post a quick update.

Thank you for all the bumps and wonderful feedback I've received while this fic has been on hiatus. And thanks to Michelle in LA for betaing this in record time.

So, if you're like me and you've totally forgotten half of what happened in the fic, I'll give a brief synopsis of where we are now.

Maria and Michael married each other in Las Vegas in order to secure custody of baby Maddie. They ended up sleeping together and in the morning, Maria discovered the truth about Michael's identity. Despite her anger at him, she managed to push it aside for Maddie's sake and they were awarded custody. At the moment, Maddie is living with Maria in her apartment but they will be moving in with Michael.

After discovering the truth about Michael, Maria incorrectly assumed that Max was in on the scheme to get to Alex by using Maria and Liz. Although Liz didn't really believe it at first, her anger got the better of her and she ended up yelling at him and accusing him of using her.

Max was shocked and disappointed that Liz had turned on him. However, he was provided with a distraction in the form on a request to work as a stripper at a bachelorette party because of his 'similarity to Max Evans.'

Alex has lost all his money and had to close down his center. He also accused Isabel of using him at Michael's behest. Not entirely true but not a baseless accusation either. Unfortunately for Isabel, Alex's discovery of her link to Michael has come at a very bad time. She is finding herself caught once again in the web spun by the evil Carla and has become dependant on pills that only Carla can seem to supply.

And now, on with the show...


FORTY-ONE

Liz stood in the doorway of her grandmother's room, debating with herself. Max had just walked past, pushing a trolley of cleaning equipment. He hadn't seen her, and he would be around the corner is a couple of seconds so she could slip out of the hospital without having to talk to him.

But she wanted to talk to him.

She owed him an apology. Or at the very least, she should give him a chance to tell his side of the story before ending their friendship completely. He had been so good to her, and even if he had been using her, she wouldn't have been able to get through the first few weeks at The Dangerzone without him.

Decision made, she hurried down the corridor after him and called his name. “Max.”

He turned around, surprised and uncertain. “Hey, Liz.”

“Uh, hi.” Liz brushed her hair back nervously. The last time she had seen Max, she had yelled at him. “I was just wondering if you could spare a minute. So we can talk.”

Max looked at his watch. “I get a break in twenty minutes. I can meet you for coffee then.”

“Great. I’ll see you then.”

It looked like Max wanted to ask more, but Liz spun around before he had the chance.

Twenty five minutes later, Max rushed into the coffee shop. “I'm sorry. It took me a little longer than expected.”

“That's ok,” Liz smiled.

“I'll just get a coffee,” Max told her. He went up to the counter, and returned a few minutes later with a hot drink and a muffin. He sat in the seat opposite Liz.

“So...” he prompted.

“I didn't know you worked Saturdays,” Liz said.

Max shrugged. “They needed somebody to cover the shift, and I needed the overtime.”

“Oh.” Liz considered that. If he was still working as a janitor and giving up his Saturday to earn extra cash then, she conceded, he was probably telling the truth. “I wanted to apologize for yelling at you. I think I was blaming you unfairly.”

“Oh.” Max's face lit up with relief. “Thank you.”

“You've been honest with me from the start and I shouldn't be blaming you for your brother's actions.”

“I don't even know what he did,” Max confessed. “Something about a baby? And condos?”

“He put my friend's center out of business so that he could build some condos and he tricked my other friend into marrying him,” Liz spat.

Max frowned. “What about the baby?”

Liz explained briefly about how Michael had found Maddie and the relationship that had developed with Maria as a result of that, culminating in Maria finding out the truth about his identity and going along with the marriage in order to gain custody of Maddie.

When she was finished, Max shook his head. “I had no idea about any of this stuff. Wow. So he's really going to be a father?”

“I don't know,” Liz sighed. “Maria and Maddie are moving in with him soon, so I guess. Maria vacillates between trusting him and not trusting him at all.”

“Understandably,” Max nodded. He sighed, feeling the need to defend his brother even though he didn't understand his actions. “Look, Michael is... he can be hard and ruthless sometimes. But underneath, he is a good guy. He'll do sneaky underhanded things to get his way, like with your friend's center, but I know that he wouldn't use a child like that. I think he really wanted to save her from ending up in foster care like he did.”

“Wait - Maria said something about this before. How was he in foster care?”

“My parents adopted him when he was eight. He's actually my cousin. My uncle ran wild - drinks, drugs, women, the whole works. He got this girl pregnant... I don't know, it's a bit complicated but my parents didn't find out until my uncle was dying, and it took them another year to find Michael. My uncle had a girlfriend. She knew where Michael was, but she was in trouble with the law for running a teenage prostitution ring so she forced my parents to help her get out of jail before she would tell them. I think, in the end, they had to give her money and help her flee the country. And apparently, that year was the worst for Michael. He was living with this guy who used him for a punching bag.”

“Oh my God,” Liz gasped. She pressed her hand to her mouth. Could that be why Michael had a grudge against Alex?

“So, Michael has always had a chip on his shoulder,” Max continued. “He's angry and he feels the world owes him something. But he would never use a baby to get his way. He's not that bad.”

“What was the woman's name?” Liz demanded.

Max was surprised by the question, but he wracked his brains. “Uh, I’m not sure. Whitmore, maybe?”

“Whitman?” Liz asked, her voice barely a whisper.

“Could be,” Max shrugged.

Liz sat back in her seat, reeling from that information. If that was the case, then she could understand Michael's hatred of Alex, irrational though it was. She almost felt sorry for him. No wonder Maria was so conflicted.

“My advice is to give Michael a chance, generally he does the right thing in the end,” Max said quietly.

Liz nodded, only half listening. She was wondering about Alex. He didn't know any of this stuff. If it was true, and if the woman in question really was his mother, then should he be told? As far as Alex was aware, his mother was a saint who had run a shelter for runaway teenage girls, and he desperately wanted to carry on in her footsteps. Learning the truth would shatter him. On the other hand, it would explain why his parents, or his aunt and uncle, had lied to him about the truth of his parentage. They would have wanted to shelter him from that knowledge. Alex was so angry at them. Would learning the truth about his mother help rebuild the relationship between Alex and the people who had raised him?

“Liz? Liz?”

“Sorry,” Liz realized she had completely zoned out on Max.

“I was just saying that I need your advice,” Max told her, looking a little embarrassed.

“Sure. What's up?”

Max looked down at the table and mumbled “I got another job.”

“Another one? When will you get time to do a third job? What is it?” Liz asked.

“It's a one-off gig. I met a woman here recently. Her mother is a patient here. She's organizing a bachelor party for her sister and apparently her sister is a fan of mine. And the woman thought that it would be funny to have a 'Max Evans lookalike' as the...” he blushed bright red and ducked his head. “Stripper.”

Liz shook her head, certain she had misheard him. “Did you say stripper?”

Max nodded. “Yeah. It's a one-off thing and she's paying me a thousand dollars which would be a big help to me. So, I agreed. It's next weekend.”

“Oh.” Liz had to bite down on the inside of her cheeks to stop laughing. And then she thought about it and was suddenly jealous. She didn't like the thought of Max stripping off while surrounded by a crowd of screaming women. She'd gone to a strip club with Maria once and it was wild. She'd thought the men were going to be mauled to death by some of the women there. It was completely different to what happened in The Dangerzone. The thought of Max stripping off wasn't as funny any more.

“Yeah. So, I’m not sure what I should do. Do I need a routine? What should I wear?”

“I guess you'll need to practice it so you'll be able to do it smoothly,” she suggested.

Max nodded. “I think they're in their forties, so they won't be too wild. Right?”

And then Liz was laughing again. The older women had been the worst that night. “Max, you're going to get eaten alive.”

“Great,” Max sighed. He pulled his best pout. “Please help.”

“Ok. What do you need?”

“I don't know what I’m supposed to do. I don't know how to dance.”

“I remember you putting on a little show for me once,” Liz reminded him, smiling at the memory. “You've got the moves. Tell you what, are you working tomorrow?”

Max shook his head.

“Come by my place and I’ll help you put together a routine. Plus, you'll get to meet Maddie.”

“Great. Thank you, Liz.” He reached across the table and squeezed her hand. He felt so warm and strong. She swallowed nervously.

Max stood up. “I have to get back to work. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Liz watched him go before banging her head on the table. She had just invited him to come over to her house and strip. If a simple touch of his hand turned her to jelly, what was it going to be like when he was dancing and taking off his clothes?

She was in trouble.

***


The sleek black town car pulled smoothly to a stop in front of the apartment building, and a uniformed doorman appeared at its side immediately. He helped Maria out of the car and reached for the diaper bag she was carrying. “Ms. Deluca?”

“Yes.”

“Mr. Evans is expecting you. You may go straight up.”

“Thank you.” Maria followed him into the lobby and across the marbled floor to the elevator bank. She tried not to show how impressed she was with the plush surroundings. Everything in the place screamed money.

“I understand you will be moving into the building?” The doorman said as the elevator rose the penthouse apartment almost imperceptibly.

Maria nodded. “Yes, we both will,” she told him, lifting the carrier seat that Maddie was sleeping in.

She could tell the doorman was surprised though he hid it well. “Please come and see me on your way out and I’ll issue you a pass for the building.”

“Sure.”

The elevator pinged their arrival on the top floor and the doorman stood back to let Maria out first. Michael was in the small lobby waiting for them.

He took the bag from the doorman with a nod. “Thank you, Frank.”

They waited until the doors of the elevator closed, taking Frank back down to the ground floor, before Maria and Michael addressed each other.

“Come on in,” Michael said, holding the door open for Maria. “Straight through.”

Maria hadn't really been sure what to expect Michael's apartment to be like, but she'd had some ideas. None of them had even come close to the reality. It actually stopped her in her tracks as she looked around the room.

It was one of the largest living rooms she had ever been in. It was easily bigger than her entire apartment. One wall was floor to ceiling glass windows leading out to a veranda. There was a large plush couch in the middle of the floor. A chunky wooden coffee table. A large screen TV on the wall and a couple of shelves of books, DVDs and CDs. And that was it. The walls were white and bare. There was no other furniture, no personal touches, nothing to make the place look homey. She would have compared it to a hotel room, but that wasn't accurate. Hotels made an effort to give their rooms some sort of homeliness. It wasn't even as if the style could be described as minimalist. It was just devoid of personality.

“Are you ok?” Michael asked, puzzled at her reaction.

“Uh, yeah. I just... how long have you lived here?”

Michael did a quick mental calculation. “Just over two years.”

Wow, Maria thought. How could you live in a place for two years and make no mark on it to show it was yours?

“How's Maddie?” Michael asked, interrupting her scrutiny of the room.

Maria smiled proudly and placed the carrier seat down on the table. “She's doing great. She's eating well and sleeping well. We haven't had any problems.”

“Great, good.” Michael stepped closer to have a look at the sleeping baby and a small smile graced his lips. “So, uh, do you want the tour?”

“Sure. Yeah.”

“Ok.” Michael indicated towards a door in the corner of the room. “Kitchen's through there.”

Maria checked on Maddie one last time and made her way into the kitchen, Michael following behind her.

It was large and spacious, decked out with top quality finishes. It had a few more personal items than the living room. There were a couple of brightly colored mugs on a tree beside the coffee machine. A couple of notes stuck to the fridge with magnets. There were even a couple of cookbooks on a shelf by the oven. But still, there was an absence of personality.

Michael showed her the laundry room, the storeroom, the dining room, and then his home office. The office was the only room downstairs that showed any sign of Michael. There were a couple of photographs, some trophies on the shelves, a couple of framed posters on the wall.

The apartment was surrounded on all sides by decking and verandas. There were plants which looked well tended, but again nothing that showed Michael's personal touch. A spiral staircase led up to a deck on the second level.

“You're in here,” Michael told her, leading her through glass doors into a bedroom.

To Maria's surprise, the walls were freshly painted with a light lilac and there was a pretty cream cover on the bed. Michael showed her a walk-in closet that was bigger than her own bedroom back in the apartment and her own bathroom.

“Will this be ok? I asked the designer who did the nursery to do something in here, too.”

“It's fine,” Maria assured him.

“You can change anything you don't like,” Michael told her.

Maria realized then that he was nervous, and wondered what he was nervous about. She shook her head and smiled. “It's great. I like the color.”

“Good. Um, the nursery is next door,” Michael told her.

“Lead on.”

In the hallway, Michael pointed to a closed door, “That's my room.”

Maria nodded, dying with curiosity to see what his room was like. But she forgot all about his room when Michael opened the door to the nursery.

It was incredible, like something out of a magazine. Everything was so pretty and perfect and girly. It was so unlike the rest of the apartment.

Maria walked over the the rocking chair by the window and gave it a little push so that it rocked by itself. There wasn't much furniture in the room because everything had been delivered to her apartment. She laughed at the thought of how everything had been squeezed into her room and stacked on top of each other to make room. There was a lace canopy hanging from the ceiling over a gorgeous white crib. She touched the delicate lace.

Michael watched her examining the room silently.

“It's amazing,” Maria said at last.

“Really?” Michael asked, feeling relieved. He had been worried about Maria's reaction.

She turned to him and nodded and he was surprised to see tears shining in her eyes.

“What's wrong?” he asked anxiously.

“Nothing,” Maria was quick to reassure him. “These are happy tears. I was just thinking of the difference. A few weeks ago Maddie was brought into the hospital in a dirty sports-bag and now she gets all this.”

“So, it's ok?”

“Yes,” Maria laughed. “It's absolutely perfect. We probably should have had everything delivered here instead of my place though.”

“Probably,” Michael agreed. Then his eyes widened. “So, you're definitely moving in?”

Maria nodded. “Yeah. That's what we agreed, isn't it?”

“Yeah, but...” Michael shrugged. “I guess after everything I thought you might change your mind.”

“No. This is what's best for Maddie,” Maria told him. “That's the most important thing.”

Michael nodded in agreement. “They used non-toxic paint and everything so the room is ready whenever you want.”

Maria touched the wall, it felt dry. “The social worker is coming for the home inspection on Tuesday so we'll move in before that, and I’ll start getting sorted out straight away.” She ran her hands though her hair, already dreading the hassle of moving all her own things, plus everything that now came with Maddie.

“Just let me know when you want to move and I’ll arrange a moving company for you. Or, well, Tess will.”

“Right.” Maria shook her head. She didn't think she'd ever get used to being able to snap her fingers and having things done for her. It was so unnatural to her. “I should check on Maddie.”

“You can take the stairs,” Michael told her ushering her back out into the hallway and towards the stairs.

Maddie was sleeping peacefully in her seat when they got back downstairs so Michael and Maria stood facing each other awkwardly.

“Can I get you a drink?” Michael offered after an interminable silence.

“I'd love some coffee, please.”

“Ok.” Michael went into the kitchen and came back a few minutes later with a steaming cup. “Cream, one sugar.”

Maria stared at him in shock before accepting the cup.

“That's how you take it, right?” Michael asked.

She nodded. “Yeah. Thank you.” Maria took a sip from the coffee and looked around the room, wondering once again why it was like this. “Your apartment is really nice.”

“Thanks. You can change whatever you like. Apart from my office, I don't really use the rest of it.”

“Ah,” Maria nodded. She'd forgotten that he didn't know how to have fun. She surmised that he also didn't know how to relax and take it easy.

“What?”

“I was just wondering why you'd never decorated or made it more... homey.”

Michael looked around and shrugged. “I work a lot and when I’m here...” he shrugged again. “It doesn't bother me.”

Maria looked at the blank walls and wondered if he would let her paint them. She couldn't imagine living with them this way. “So, you never thought of getting a decorator in here?”

Michael laughed; a hollow, bitter laugh. “I did once.”

“Oh?”

“That's how I met Carla. I hired her as my interior designer when I moved in.”

“Oh.”

“She had a vision of what the apartment should look like and I let her have free rein. She created something that was very... 'bold and contemporary and befitting a man of my status'. I hated it actually. But I kind of bought into the whole image. I wanted to be that kind of guy, you know? When we broke up, I just got rid of everything and painted over the walls. I had intended to get somebody else in to do something, but I just didn't get around to it.” He shook his head. “I was pretty stupid actually, how I fell for everything.”

“Yeah, don't you just hate it when you fall for somebody who appears nice on the surface but who turns out to be a massive asshole,” Maria bit caustically.

Michael grimaced. “Yeah.”

Maria put down the coffee and composed herself. “You confuse the hell out of me.”

“Why?”

“Why?” Maria spluttered. “Because I don't know who you are. I can't figure out what your motives are. I don't know if you're being genuine or playing me for a fool. I don't know whether I can trust you or not. I keep thinking that you're a good guy, and then I remember that you're not.”

Michael held up his hands in surrender. “Look, there's no point in me telling you that I’m a good guy or that you can trust me, because that's up to you. I guess, you'll just have to wait and figure it out for yourself.”

“I guess so,” Maria agreed. She stood up and picked up the carrier seat. “I'll let you know when we'll move in.”

She reached for the diaper bag but Michael grabbed it before she could. He gestured for her to go first and followed her out into the lobby.

“Let me know if there's anything you need,” he told her as Maria stepped into the elevator.

Maria nodded. “I will.”

The doors slid closed, and Maria let out a sigh, her shoulders slumping with relief. Being around Michael was so disconcerting. Sometimes she wanted to just smash his face in for what he did. Sometimes she wanted to grab him and kiss him and feel his hands on her body again.

Living with him was going to be an interesting experience.

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Fri May 06, 2011 3:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 42

Postby nibbles2 » Sat May 07, 2011 7:30 pm

I don't know why I even make promises anymore. They're just empty, meaningless words really. But I am trying to be better.

In previous parts, I had alluded to the fact that Alex's parents were actually his grandparents. But, after thinking about it a little, I realised that they would have been in their fifties when Alex was born so it's not really believable (not that much of this story is believable). So I've made a few changes and now his parents are his aunt and uncle.

Earth2Mama I don't know. It might be better for Alex to hear the truth about his mother from Liz than from Michael. Michael understandably hates Lucinda and is very angry still. Liz at least would be more tactful when telling Alex the truth.

Rowedog Yeah, Poor Alex is just the scapegoat. But there's a lot of stuff with him coming up soon when all of this will be finally be explained.

Begonia9508 I like the Jekyll and Hyde analogy for Michael. But, I think we'll be seeing less Hyde from now on.

Keepsmiling7 Well, I forgot half of what I wrote as well so the synopsis was as much for me as it was for you

Alien_Friend The foster care worker knows that it's a marriage of convenience. She's not thrilled about it exactly but she knows it's what's best for Maddie so as long as the present a united front and can provide her with a staple home life, she's happy.

Valentinebaby Alex definitely deserves to know the truth but he's not going to want to know it.

Natalie36 Max is certainly getting a taste of how the other side lives lately.

Grace52373 There's a big Alex and Michael scene coming up soon. Probably not the next chapter, but the one after that.

FSU/MSW-94 To be honest, what happened between Lucinda and the Evans is not really a secret. Parts of it are, but not all of it and I don't think Liz would be betraying Max's secret. He never told her not to tell anyone.

AlysLuv Thank you.

Cardinal Lol. I didn't think of that. I’ll have to check Max for tattoos and scars. I don't think Philip knows the dire situation of Max's finances. He had no idea that Max had squandered all his money. He just wasn't going to be a party to Max's debauched lifestyle anymore.

Kay_b Alex will be moving in with Liz. Not Max.

Tequathisy Yes, Maria would very much like to avoid Michael now and if it wasn't for the fact that she has to move in with him, he wouldn't see her for dust.

Zaneri1 Thank you very much

Sundae It's not touched on in this part, but Liz is very conflicted about whether or not she should tell Alex what she has learned.

Xmag Michael is a lot closer to letting go of his anger than he realizes and Maria and Maddie are a huge part of that.

Michelle in LA I definitely agree that finding out the truth will help Alex reconcile with his parents. And thanks for the speedy return of the chapter.

Mariegirl Thank you. I loved the long feedback. Yeah, Max started to change for Liz, but he's doing it for himself now too.

Mezz welcome to the fic. I suck at the updating thing, but I am determined to get it finished this year.

April I am never going to abandon this fic. If it take me until I’m 70, I’ll get it finished. (everybody pray this it doesn't take me that long.)

cameramandc This

PeaceLoveSurf Thank you

sarammlover Thank you. I love that you spotted the changing relationship between Michael and Tess, subtle though it is. It's kind of an inside joke for myself.

Mddk98 Cheers


Gold Diggers - Chapter 42


Liz poked her head into Maria’s bedroom and smiled at her friend who was feeding Maddie. “I’m looking for some help, but it can wait.”

“I won’t be long,” Maria told her.

“It’s no rush,” Liz assured her. She walked further into the room and surveyed the chaos. Maria was in the middle of packing up for her move to Michael’s apartment. Her room looked like an earthquake had struck. Every available space was covered with something. “How’s the packing going?”

“Great. I’m nearly finished,” Maria said brightly.

Liz raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

Maria laughed. “I know it doesn’t look like it, but it is. The clothes on the bed are for Goodwill. The other piles are trash and I just need to bag it up and dump it. And then the movers will pack everything else up on Monday. The guy who was here yesterday said it will only take about an hour to pack up everything.”

She had decided not to take any furniture as Michael had everything and Liz and Alex would need it more. Apart from a few personal belongings in the living room and the kitchen and everything in the bedroom, there wasn’t a whole lot to move. Maria was delighted because she hated packing.

Liz wandered over to the pile of clothes on the bed and picked up a flowery pink top.

“I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought that,” Maria said with a shake of her head.

“I thought it was cute, when I bought it,” Liz grinned.

Maria bit her lip guiltily before smiling cheekily. “Thanks for the loan.”

Liz laughed and threw the top over her shoulder and dug threw the pile to see what else was there that belonged to her. Something sparkly caught her eye and she pulled it free. It was a gold sequined dress belonging to Maria that Liz had always secretly coveted but never had the guts to borrow. “You’re giving this away?”

Maria nodded.

“Can I keep it?”

Maria looked surprised. “Sure. Take whatever you want.”

Liz smiled and held the dress up to her body as she posed in front of the full length mirror. The Liz Parker from a few months earlier would never have worn something so revealing as this. The new Liz thought it covered a lot.

She liberated a skirt and a blouse from the pile to keep for herself then before folding the rest of the items neatly and bagging them. She finished up as Maria put a sleeping Maddie back into her crib.

“I’m all yours,” Maria offered.

“Cool. Actually, can I borrow your mirror?” Liz asked.

“Sure.” Maria grabbed one side and Liz grabbed the other and they pushed and shoved it out of Maria’s room and into Liz’s.

Maria stopped in surprise when she saw Liz’s room. The bed was pushed up against a wall. Her desk chair, her laundry hamper and the piles of study notes that she usually kept neatly lined up along the floor were all piled haphazardly on top of the bed.

Liz pulled the mirror over to one side of the room and lined it up beside her own mirror. “Ok, can you help me move the desk? I just want to slide it down so that all this space here is clear.”

“Ok.”

With a bit of effort the two girls managed to move the heavy desk into place. Liz inspected the newly cleared space and nodded in satisfaction. “That’s great. Thanks.”

“So, what are you doing?”

“Uh… um…” Liz bit her lip nervously. “I’m giving Max a dance lesson.” She busied herself straightening out the two mirrors, deliberately not looking at Maria.

Maria shook her head in disbelief. “What?”

“Uh, he has this thing and he needs to be able to dance. So I offered to help him. He’ll be here soon.”

“You’re going to be dancing with Max Evans? In your room? Are you crazy, Liz? Because there's no way that he's going to want to just dance.”

Liz sighed and turned to face Maria. “No. He’s a friend and he needs help with something. He’s been a good friend to me, so I’m returning the favor. And it’s not like anything is going to happen, is it?” She gestured to the bed which could barely be seen under the mountain of things on top of it as proof.

“I thought that you hated him.”

“I don’t. I really like him. And Michael told me that Max didn’t know anything about what was going on between him and you, or with Alex.”

“And you believe Michael?” Maria spat. “You can’t trust a word that guy says. He’s a liar.”

“He had no reason to lie about this. He absolved Max and took all the blame on himself, so I believe him.”

“You want to believe him.”

Liz walked over to Maria and took her hands in her own. “Please, let’s not argue about this. I know that you’re angry at the Evanses right now and God knows that you have every right to be. But, Max wasn’t involved in any of it. He’s my friend and I’m helping him out.”

“I don’t trust any of them,” Maria told Liz angrily.

“I trust Max.”

Maria sighed. “Fine. But if turns out to be a lying shitbag, I get to kick his ass first.”

“Absolutely,” Liz smiled.

***


Max spent about two hours getting ready to go to Liz’s that morning. He hadn’t spent that long worrying about his appearance since his playboy days. He gelled his hair, shaved his chest, cursed the fact that he could no longer spend hours in the gym every day because of work, changed his clothes several times and tested out all his colognes before deciding on one.

He drove carefully to Liz’s apartment and sat outside in the car for five minutes taking deep breaths and telling himself that he had no reason to be nervous. But he was.

Eventually he jumped out of the car and rushed up the stairs to the second level before he could talk himself out of it.

The door was opened by Liz’s roommate who greeted him with a look that would have turned him into stone if she had that power. He swallowed nervously.

“Liz, Max is here,” Maria called down the hallway. She made no move to let him in and Max didn’t even want to try pass her until Liz appeared.

Liz hurried out and smiled him before silently communicating with Maria. Maria shot him one last angry glare and stalked off into the living room.

“Hi Max, come on in,” Liz said cheerfully. “I hope you brought your leotard.”

Max laughed. “And my leg warmers.”

He glanced into the living room as they passed. It wasn’t what he expected at all. It was full of packing boxes which made the small room appear even smaller and more cramped.

“We’re in here,” Liz told him, leading into her room.

Naturally Max’s eyes went straight to the bed. Or at least he guessed it was the bed, but it was hard to tell if there was actually a bed under the mountain of stuff on top of it. Surprisingly, he felt himself relax. He realized that maybe the reason he was so nervous about this was because part of him had expected things to take a carnal turn, simply because for him, hanging out with a girl in her apartment, never mind her bedroom, usually did. But he should have known Liz was different.

“So,” Liz said a little awkwardly. “We have to keep it down because Maddie is asleep.”

“Ok.”

“Have you picked out a song to dance to?” Liz asked.

Max shook his head.

“Well, I have some suggestions,” Liz said brightly. “We can go for something a little cheesy and camp and fun or something a little sensual and sexy.”

“Cheesy, camp and fun,” Max answered immediately. It was by far the lesser of two evils.

“Cool. In that case, I suggest Leave Your Hat On, by Tom Jones. Stripper classic.”

Max nodded. “I like it.”

“And have you decided what you’re going to wear?”

“Pants and a shirt?” Max shrugged.

Liz shook her head. “I meant, you know, underwear-wise.”

“Oh.” Max blushed. “Ah, no.”

“Well I was, uh, thinking about it,” Liz said, also blushing. “The lady who hired you said that she didn’t want anything too risqué, right? So I think that you should steer clear of a g-string in that case and wear something like these.” She reached into a bag and pulled out a pair of red boxers covered in white love hearts.

“I borrowed it from work. They have gay nights there sometimes apparently. One of our bartenders fills in. He suggested that you should wear something under the boxers, something tight, in case the boxers get ripped off.”

“I doubt that will happen,” Max laughed uneasily.

Liz shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve been to male strip shows. They are a lot different from female strip shows. The women don’t hold back.”

Max laughed again, thinking that she was joking and then quickly sobered up when she didn’t laugh. “Shit.”

“I also borrowed a pair of these for you,” Liz said pulling a pair of black trousers from the bag. “These are the ones that you can just pull off. It will be easier than trying to take off a real pair of pants. I think you should wear it with a nice shirt and a sports jacket because that’s your signature look.”

“Ok.” Max nodded, he was feeling nervous again, but for different reasons this time.

“You should try them on. I’ll give you a minute,” Liz suggested. She smiled and slipped out of the room.

Max quickly changed into the boxers and pants and then let Liz back in.

“Now what?”

“Maybe you should practice taking them off? Jake said it’s easy but you should practice to get it right. You have to, uh, grab the crotch area and tug,” Liz was bright red as she spoke.

Max grinned at the double entendre. “Grab my crotch and tug. I think I can manage that.”

“So, uh, go ahead,” Liz squeaked.

“Ok.” Max took a deep breath and did as he instructed. One side came off fluidly but the other side didn’t. He gave another pull before it came off.

“Not bad, but let's try it again,” Liz suggested. She picked up the pants, rebuttoned them and threw it back to him.

It took Max a few attempts before he got the method right and was able to remove his pants in one swift movement.

“You’re a natural,” Liz laughed, as she rebuttoned the clasps again. “Let’s try it to music this time.”

She showed him a few basic moves, which Max mastered quickly. He had a natural rhythm and was determined to impress Liz so he concentrated hard on what she was telling him.

“But the steps don't really matter that much, all you really need to do is grind and thrust and shake your ass and they'll be happy,” Liz laughed.

Max groaned. “Oh, this is going to be so embarrassing.”

Liz quirked her shoulder. “Once you get up there and the adrenaline kicks in, it's actually kind of a rush.”

“Really?” Max asked not really believing her.

Liz lowered her head, her gaze fixated on the ground. “Not really. I mean, when I’m up on stage I can tune everything out and there is an adrenaline rush, but... afterwards, I always feel...” she shook her head and smiled. “It doesn't matter.”

“Liz...”

“Please, Max, I don't want to talk about it,” Liz pleaded.

Max sighed. “Ok.”

Liz nodded her thanks and picked up the discarded stripper pants. She fold them up neatly and handed them to Max. “I think you’ve got it down. Well done, Max. You’ll be awesome.”

“Maybe I should go through it once more,” Max said. He really didn’t want this morning with Liz to end.

“I think you're fine. But go through it at home a couple of times before the party so that you're fully prepared.”

“Ok,” Max sighed.

“I’m going to get us a drink. You can change back into your normal clothes now. Come find me in the kitchen when you're done.”

“Thanks, Liz.”

Liz smiled and left the room. Max changed back into his day clothes and went to find Liz in the kitchen.

Maria was there too, packing cookbooks into a box. She glared at Max when he came in.

Liz handed him a glass of lemonade. “It just dawned on me that you two have never been formally introduced. Maria, this is Max. Max, this is your sister-in-law, Maria.”

Max’s eyes widened. In his nervousness about meeting Liz he had forgotten all about the fact that Maria was Michael’s wife. He held out his hand. “It’s good to meet you. Welcome to the family.”

Maria reluctantly gave her hand for a weak hand shake, pulling it back almost immediately. “Thanks, it’s a pleasure,” she said sarcastically.

“So, you’re moving in with Michael?” Max guessed. “Does that mean you’ll be here alone, Liz?”

“No, Alex is moving into Maria’s room. That’s his stuff in the living room,” Liz said.

“Alex is...?”

“He’s the guy that lost his apartment, and all his life savings and saw his dream crumble to dust because of your family,” Maria said frostily.

“That covers a lot of people,” Max joked, and immediately regretted it. Maria looked like she wanted to kill him and Liz just looked disappointed. He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Sure,” Maria drawled. She looked like she was going to say more but was interrupted by the sound of a baby crying so she dropped the box onto the floor. “I’m going to check on Maddie.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Liz said once Maria was in her own room. “She’s just really mad at Michael and she isn’t quite ready to believe that you’re not all members of a satanic cult.”

“It’s ok,” Max assured her.

The doorbell rang and Liz stood up to answer it. Max was sipping his lemonade when he heard a familiar voice in the hallway.

Michael?

He rose to his feet and stood in the doorway into the hall and watched as Michael came inside carrying two heavy looking gift baskets.

Michael froze when he spotted Max. “Max?”

“Hey.”

“Did you come by to meet Maddie?” Michael asked.

Max shook his head, feeling ashamed. He really should have asked about Maddie, she was his niece after all.

Liz stepped out of Maria’s room and addressed Michael. “Maria will be out in a minute.”

Michael nodded and walked into the living room, Max found himself following his older brother. Michael searched around for a place to leave the two gift baskets, before simply leaving them down on the floor.

“Can I get you a drink? Maria made lemonade,” Liz asked.

“Uh, yeah, thanks.”

Liz smiled again and went into the kitchen.

“So what are you doing here?” Michael asked again.

“Liz was… helping me with something,” Max answered. “Hey, thanks for clearing things up with her for me.”

Michael shrugged uncomfortably. “Sure.”

Liz came back with a glass of lemonade for Michael and handed Max his glass, too.

They sat in awkward silence until Maria came out a minute later with Maddie in her arms. She glared at the two men and said nothing.

“I brought those over for you,” Michael said, pointing to the two baskets. “They’re from my mom and an aunt of ours.”

Maria’s expression softened. “Tell them thanks.”

“Sure.”

Michael looked around the room. “Are you all set to move in?”

“Yeah, the movers will be here on Monday morning and they said they’ll have me all moved in by the afternoon.”

Michael nodded. “I’ll be at work, but make yourself at home. Get them to move furniture around, if you want to change things.”

“Thanks,” Maria said grudgingly. She glanced down at Maddie and held her out to Michael. “Do you want to hold her?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Michael took Maddie carefully, still not one-hundred percent confident around her.

Max watched Michael closely. Someone who hadn’t known Michael for years would have missed the way his face softened ever so slightly and the subtle way his eyes brightened as he gazed down at the baby girl in his arms. But Max could read Michael like a book. It was incredible to see; Michael really loved this child, and it wasn’t just a convenient arrangement as he had told them it was. It was there in the way he looked at Maria too.

It reminded Max once again that he had allowed a huge chasm to grow between himself and his older brother, one that he had vowed to mend. Michael was married and he had a child - these were huge events in his life and until that moment they hadn’t even registered in Max’s radar.

Max glanced up at the Maria and expected to see the same angry expression she’d been wearing all day. But there was a range of emotions racing across her face and anger was only one of them. Max hoped that she could let go of that anger soon and get over what Michael had done because if anybody deserved to be happy, it was Michael.

He stood up and made his way over to the couch to get closer to Michael and Maddie. “She’s really beautiful,” he said to Maria.

She actually smiled in response and nodded.

Gingerly, Max reached out and touched Maddie’s tiny hand. He watched in awe as she grabbed his finger and held on. “Wow.”

“She’s got a pretty strong grip,” Michael smiled. “You want to hold her, Uncle Max?” He looked up at Maria to see if that was alright. Maria nodded.

Max took a deep breath. “Ok.”

“Wait,” Liz exclaimed and vanished from the room. She came back a minute later with a small digital camera in her hand and turned it on. “I want to get a picture. Smile.”

Max and Michael diligently smiled. Well, Max smiled, Michael grimaced.

Then Michael passed Maddie into Max’s arms.

Max was almost afraid to breathe in case he dropped the baby. Maria would most definitely kill him then. Maddie looked up at him with her big beautiful eyes.

This was his niece.

Max never expected the rush of emotion he felt for her but it floored him. He sighed happily. “She’s gorgeous.”

The flash of the camera alerted him to the fact that Liz was still taking pictures so he posed dutifully.

Maddie began to fuss after a few minutes and he glanced worriedly at Maria. “Am I doing something wrong?”

“No,” Maria smiled. “She’s just hungry. I’ll take her.”

Max handed Maddie over and then waved his fingers at her. “Bye, Maddie. I’ll see you soon.”

Michael looked surprised at that announcement but he said nothing to Max. Instead he stood up and excused himself, as he had to get to the office. “I’ll see you Monday,” he said to Maria.

“Ok,” Maria nodded. She picked up Maddie’s hand and waved at him.

Michael smiled, he nodded at Max and Liz and left.

Liz looked at her watch. “God, is that the time? Max, I’m sorry but I have to run. I have to meet my study group in the library at college soon.”

“Ok. Thanks for all your help today,” Max said as he rose to his feet. “I might see you at the hospital?”

“Ok. Let me know it goes at the party if you don’t see me.”

Liz led him to the front door and handed him the bag with the stripper outfit inside. “Don’t forget these.”

“Right,” Max grinned. “Most important.”

He looked down at Liz and considered a goodbye kiss. Just an innocent one, but Liz read his intentions and stepped out of his reach.

“Goodbye, Max,” she said firmly, but with a smile.

***

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nibbles2
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Gold Diggers - Chapter 43

Postby nibbles2 » Tue May 17, 2011 4:14 pm

Can you believe it, I'm updating again!

keepsmiling7 I think it's more of a case of Max not getting the goodnight kiss. Liz could have had it if she'd really wanted it.

Alien_Friend Yeah, Uncle Max is adorable.

Earth2Mama Oh, Maria was so mild compared to how angry she really is.

mary mary Should, in theory.

valentinebaby Thank you.

mddk98 Thanks.

Eva There's still a long way to go yet but I can sense the happy endings too which is a relief after five bloody years.

Cardinal Max has been pretty good about following through on his intentions lately.

Grace52373 Michael V Alex very, very soon (like in the next chapter)

Natalie36 Yeah, Maddie plays an important role in bringing all these people together.

killjoy I think you've learned a valuable lesson in not judging people by their first impressions. :lol:

AlysLuv I actually think that Max is proving that he has a pair by not going after Liz and respecting her wishes to take things slowly.

Michelle in LA

He's never been anything but nice to her so far. All Maria knows about Max is through Liz, and it's nothing but good.


Not true. For a long time before he ever met Liz, Max was regularly shown in magazines and tabloids falling out of nightclubs, sleeping around, squandering his money, not working and generally being a douchebag. Since meeting Liz, Max has slept with a stripper who sold her story to the media, offered to pay Liz to go back to a hotel with him and admitted to sleeping with his brother's fiancee. Sure, he's been great with Liz and when she calms down and thinks about things rationally, she might change her attitude towards him, but there's plenty about him that Maria doesn't like for very good reasons and right now she doesn't trust anybody with the name Evans. Plus, I think that everything she's been through lately she's entitled to be a little bit irrational and angry.

sarammlover Maria's probably not going to give Michael a chance any time soon. Sorry.

begonia9508 The gap between Michael and Max has really only been there for the past year. They were pretty close before then.

blxgyrl18 I really don't think there's anything Max can do to help Michael and Maria right now.

mariegirl There are some awesome scenes coming up between Michael and Maria. (Well, I think they're awesome.)

xmag You're going to get an answer to that question very, very soon.

chinkyeyes45

He obviously has real feelings for her and if she let go of a little of that anger, she'd realize that she has real feelings for him as well.


Which may be exactly why she's not letting go of her anger for him!

zaneri1 Since Max is no longer a client and because they are being very discreet about their friendship, I don't think that there's any danger to Liz's job.

Sundae Maria thinks that she's dealing with her anger and hurt. She's not, of course, but she really believes that she is.

As always, big thanks to Michelle for betaing this part for me.



Gold Diggers – Chapter 43

Isabel woke, as she did every morning now, with a killer headache and a feeling of nausea. She dragged herself into the bathroom and dry heaved a few times until she threw up a thick white bile-like substance. She stood under the shower for a long time, letting the steaming hot water pour over her body to help combat the aches she felt in every muscle and limb.

Once she was showered, she allowed herself to pop a couple of Hepatrin. They wouldn’t kill the pain, but they would ease it to a dull ache for a few hours so that she would be able to function as a normal person for a while.

She checked her phone and cursed when she saw there was still no message from Carla.

As much as she hated her former friend and wanted nothing to do with her, Isabel knew that the only thing that would help her now was the little pink pills that only Carla could supply.

It killed her. She hated being dependent on Carla just as much as she hated being dependent on those damn pills.

There had to be some way to break free from Carla.

She knew, deep down Isabel knew, that the only way to break free from Carla was to break free from the pills again. But the thought of going through withdrawal again was too much. It had been too much the first time, it had almost killed her, and Isabel doubted she could do it again. Not with all the pressure on her now because of her mother’s injuries. Isabel was expected to be there for her full time. She couldn’t slink away and curl up in bed for eight weeks while she went cold turkey.

Isabel needed those pills. They were the only thing that would help her now. But she had to find another source for them. Carla wasn’t making them herself ,- somebody else had to be able to get their hands on them. It was just a matter of finding the right person.

In the meantime, Isabel realized painfully, she was going to have to go back to Carla once more.

***


Holding a large stuffed giraffe Michael stood in the doorway of the nursery and surveyed the room. The decorators had given it the all clear and tomorrow, Maddie and Maria would be moving in. Michael found himself smiling at the thought, though it quickly vanished. Living with Maria was going to be difficult.

She hated him, and had every right to. He had to find some way to make her forgive him so they could go back to the way things were. His friendship with Maria mattered to him. If he hadn’t ruined things so completely, it could have been more than a friendship and Michael cursed himself for that. He had thought that after Carla, he would never trust somebody again or want to have a relationship with anyone, but Maria had changed all that for him. They could have had something great, the three of them.

Trust him to screw it up for himself.

He knew that stepping up and being there for Maddie would go a long way to appeasing Maria’s anger. He was determined not to fail her on that front, not to fail either of them.

The other thing he could do was to talk to Alex Whitman, to let go of his need to make somebody pay for what had happened. That would be harder. He had been nursing that desire for so long that it was as much a part of him as his own skin and bones.

He moved into the room, searching for a place to put the giraffe – a present from one of his neighbors. Word had spread so rapidly about his marriage and fatherhood that gifts were pouring in from all corners. Even today, a Sunday, he’d had three deliveries. There were so many clothes that Maria would be able to dress Maddie in something new every day and never have to do laundry. Enough toys to open a store, far too much for a child who couldn’t even lift her head by herself yet.

Michael glanced at his watched and sighed. It was time to meet Carla now. This was another meeting that he was dreading. But he had to do this, he wanted her as far away from Maria and Maddie as she could get.

He grabbed his keys and wallet and headed down to the parking level in the basement.

Thirty minutes later he found a spot close to the café where he'd told Carla to meet him. She’d wanted to come by his place, but he didn’t want her anywhere near his apartment, so he’d picked a random café. It was a generic diner, cheap and functional and not close to anywhere significant to him. It was important that he give Carla a clear and unambiguous message today.

She was already there, reading the menu, a look of disdain on her face. Michael could see that she had spread a paper napkin on the seat beneath her. He snorted. Not that long ago, places like this would have been a treat for her.

Carla looked up and spotted him. Immediately her expression changed as her mask slipped into place. Too late though, and pointless with him. He knew the real her. She stood up with her arms out to hug him. Michael stared stonily at her before sitting down.

“Hi, Michael. You look good,” Carla told him her voice sounding so sincere and sad. “Why did you want to meet here?”

“Why not?” Michael said with a shrug. He ordered a coffee from the waitress even though he had no intention of drinking it.

Carla waited until the waitress had delivered his coffee before she reached across the table to take his hand. “I’m so glad you agreed to meet me.”

Michael twisted her wrist and held it tight. He knew that he was hurting her. She winced but didn’t cry out. Carla was used to pain. But her façade dropped, - gone was her pleasant, easygoing smile, and in its place was the cold, hard bitch that he knew was the real Carla.

“I agreed to this for one reason only, Carla,” Michael said in a tone that was low and even. “This stops now. Leave my family alone.. That means that you stop playing head games with Isabel. You stop visiting my mother. You stop blackmailing Max. Just stop.”

Carla blinked in surprise. “Max told you? I never thought he’d have the balls.”

“Leave LA. I don’t care where you go, but you get out of this town. If you’re still here in a week’s time, I will come after you with everything I have. I have the full might of the Evans empire behind me. I have more money and more lawyers than you could possibly dream of. I know the names of every judge in the state. My dad has lunch with the police chief once a week. He plays golf with the governor every month. I have a private detective who has been looking into you for months and she has files of evidence on you. She’s straining on the leash to go after you. You so much as breathe in my family’s direction and I’ll let her do whatever she wants.”

Carla’s eyes flashed dangerously. “If you come after me, I’ll destroy your precious family. I have enough on all of you to bring you down for good.”

Michael twisted her wrist again, bending it back. This time Carla whimpered but she quickly covered it up, trying desperately not to show any weakness. “Try it,” Michael snarled. “Try it and it will be the last thing you do.”

He released his hold on her and Carla pulled her arm back gingerly. She rubbed her wrist. Then she shook her head. “Why are you trying to protect them, Michael? They’re not worth your time. Max slept with me while we were engaged. Isabel would happily stab you in the back if there was something in it for her. Neither of them cares about you. They think of you as the dirty stray that your parents took in.

“You’re so much better than them. They don’t deserve what they have. They’ve never worked a day in their lives. They’re so spoiled; they don’t appreciate what they have. They whine and bitch about the pressure of being famous and good-looking. They’re scum, Michael.

“They don’t know what it’s like to be like us. They don’t know what it’s like to be truly hungry, or scared or alone. You and me, we’re different. We’ve earned what we have. We’ve given our blood for it. We’ve suffered for it. We’re the ones who know what pain is like. We’re the ones who know what it is to fight for everything you’ve got. We deserve what they have.

“Let’s take it. You and me together, we could destroy them. We could take over your family’s company and make sure they get nothing. We could make Evans Limited something extraordinary. We could be the most powerful couple in the country. We could do it together. I know we could.”

Michael stared wordlessly at Carla. Her face was so twisted with anger and hatred that he couldn’t believe that he’d ever thought she was beautiful.

He couldn’t believe that not that long ago he’d wanted the same thing as she did; - to destroy his brother and sister and to take the company away from them; to be so rich and powerful that nobody could ever touch him.

He’d been so angry with Max for so long now. He’d reveled in his brother’s downfall and plotted to make it worse. He’d ignored his sister’s downward spiral. He’d watched his family fall apart.

It suddenly felt so meaningless.

He didn’t want to be like Carla. He didn’t want to let jealousy and bitterness consume him the way it had her. She could never be happy, could never love, and could never find peace because her anger was too strong.

But it wasn’t too late for him. Revenge wasn’t the only thing in his heart. There were good things too, and he wasn’t going to let his anger and hurt destroy every good thing in his life the way Carla had with hers.

“One week, Carla, and if you’re not gone from LA by then, I’ll end you.” He pushed away from the table and walked off, feeling freer and lighter than he had in a long, long time.

***


Carla paced the length of her living room furiously.

Michael had meant what he’d said, she knew that. He would destroy her to protect his family out of some sense of misguided loyalty to them.

She had really thought they were the same, she and Michael. She thought that he had the same darkness instead him that was inside her. She had watched what he was doing with the center and knew that it was because of a long held desire for revenge against the woman he blamed for his rotten childhood.

She had been sure that when she revealed Max and Isabel’s betrayal that Michael would be out for their blood, too. Max had been her trump card. Only it had turned out to be a dud. She couldn’t believe that he already knew. The last time Carla had been in touch with Max, he’d been terrified of her saying anything, and that hadn’t been long ago at all.

In fact… there was no way that Michael had found out about Max since then and had gotten over it in that short a time. It was barely two months. No way. He might not care about her own betrayal, but Michael would definitely care about Max’s betrayal… The brothers’ relationship had been so fragmented for the last year…. And now Max was struggling and Michael seemed to be enjoying it…

It hit her then, Michael had known about them for a long time. But Max didn’t know that Michael knew.

The first vestige of smile since her conversation with Michael broke out on Carla’s face. Maybe her trump card wasn’t such a dud after all.

Max would still want to hide that tape so that Michael wouldn’t find out. Isabel had left a desperate message on her phone.

This could still work out in her favor.

She was going to need seed money.

Michael was serious about his demand that she leave within a week, which meant that Carla had to leave town and go somewhere new. She had to leave the life she’d built up here in LA, leave her lovely apartment and everything else she’d worked for. She would have to leave behind the network of people who provided her with a regular source of income.

Carla wasn’t worried about starting over. After all she’d come to LA with nothing but the clothes on her back and had made something of herself. She could do that again. She was nothing if not a survivor. She was like a cockroach; she’d survive when nothing else could. There were always rich people ready to be used and manipulated.

But this time she could start her new life over in luxury. She wouldn’t have to start from nothing. She wouldn’t be homeless and destitute. This time she could have a nice apartment, her own car, designer clothes. It was so much easier to fleece the rich and stupid when they thought you were one of them.

All she needed was one last payday before she left.

And Max and Isabel Evans were going to pay.

***
Last edited by nibbles2 on Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:08 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Gold Diggers - Chapter 44

Postby nibbles2 » Fri May 27, 2011 5:03 pm

keepsmiling7 Max is getting himself back on track, though Liz was his initial inspiration.

sarammlover There's a lot of Michael and Maria coming up soon.

mddk98 Make that three updates in a month!

Earth2Mama It's not the misery she thrives on, it's the control. Have rich, powerful people at her mercy is what motivates her.

blxgyrl18 Isabel is still a long way from begging for help, I’m afraid.

kay_b You've hit the nail on the head, anger is exactly what's running through Carla's veins.

Grace52373 I feel sorry for her too, but I know her full back story.

valentinebaby Nope, Michael was definitely not conspiring with Carla.

begonia9508 Lol, yes in a bizarre and twisted way, Carla is doing some service.

mariegirl The difference between Michael and Carla is that Michael was rescued from that life when he was seven, while Carla never was. So, while Michael has issues stemming from that, they're nowhere near as bad as Carla's are.

Eva Will Carla succeed? Well, I’m not going to tell you that.

Alien_Friend I think the way Michael deals with Carla might surprise people.

Katie-M&MAU_lover Poor Isabel. She'll pull out of it eventually.

xmag We'll see.

Rowedog Alison, take note, this is my third update this month. I’m going to kick your ass.

And of course, big thanks to Michelle in LA for betaing.


Gold Diggers – Chapter Forty-Four


Alex slid the key for his apartment from his key ring and held it in his hand.

He could remember how excited he had been the day the key had first been handed over to him. His own apartment. The only furniture he had was a couple of bean bags, a mattress, and a shopping cart that he'd stolen back in college and continued to use as a magazine rack, coat stand, and general dumping ground.

Now the shopping cart was the only thing that remained in the apartment. Everything else was in a box in Maria's apartment or in Liz's storage unit. Probably the cart would be dumped by the realtor as soon as they entered the apartment but Alex liked to think that a part of him would remain here.

Behind him, the woman from the bank politely cleared her throat. She smiled sympathetically when she turned around. “I'm sorry. It's time to go.”

He nodded and handed over the key. He left the apartment and walked around the corner to the elevator bank, not wanting to be there to see a stranger locking up his apartment. He wished she hadn't been so nice and understanding. It would have felt good to be able to hate her.

“I just want to check my mail box and then I’ll give you the key for that,” Alex said when she joined him again.

She said nothing and they traveled to the ground floor in silence. Alex didn't linger in the lobby. He grabbed his mail, handed over the last key and left in case he did something really embarrassing like cry.

On the drive to the center he focused on driving and didn't allow himself to dwell on the loss of his apartment. There would be plenty of time for that soon enough.

Despite his efforts, his eyes filled up when he pulled into the empty parking lot at the center. It hurt to see the vacant parking spaces, the darkened windows and the locked doors. There were a couple of kids hanging around and reading the notice of closure on the door.

Alex composed himself quickly and climbed out of the car. One of the kids recognized him and they jogged over to him to find out why the center was closed. He explained briefly about the lack of funds and directed them to the closest alternative centers. He hated watching them walk off; it wasn't in his nature to turn people away.

He let himself inside, leaving the front door ajar, and made his way to the office. He spent the next few hours sorting out files, shredding, or filling out whatever forms needed to be filled. He was interrupted a number of times by kids who hadn't heard that the center was closed. With each one, he gave them a list of different options and wished them luck. And as he watched each kid walk off, he cursed Michael Evans even more.

At lunch time he paused to eat a sandwich he made from the odds and ends left in the kitchen. As he ate, Alex opened his mail. It was mostly bills which he ignored for the time being. The last one was a letter from his mother — aunt, he mentally corrected himself. She usually mailed something to him once a week with all the latest news. He always read them but never responded.

Now he didn't know what to do. While he was furious with his parents for deceiving him, he knew that they would be out of their minds with worry about him if they found out he was no longer at his old address. He would have to let them know that he had moved, but he really didn't want to initiate contact with them. Maybe he'd get one of the girls to do it; he knew they sometimes contacted his parents to let them know he was doing ok.

As he was cleaning up after his lunch, he heard the door open again. He made his way into the lobby expecting to find another teenager and instead found Michael Evans standing there.

The two men stared at each other silently for a moment then suddenly Alex swung his fist. It was a wild swing and Michael had been expecting it this time, so he deflected the blow. He waited for Alex to try again.

Alex clenched his fist but didn't try to punch Michael again. “What are you doing here?” he asked angrily. “You don't own it yet.”

“I came to apologize to you. And, I promised Maria that I would talk to you,” Michael answered.

Alex snorted. “Well, I don't want your apology and I certainly don't want to talk to you.”

Michael paused and then nodded. “When you change your mind, you know how to get in touch.” He turned to leave.

Despite what he'd said about not wanting to talk to him, as soon as Michael started walking away Alex’s anger returned in full force. He grabbed Michael's arm and swung him around.

“What the fuck is your problem? Seriously? What did I ever do to deserve this?”

“Nothing,” Michael said simply.

Alex immediately deflated in surprise. He stared at Michael for a moment. “Ok. Fine, let's talk.” He turned sharply and walked back to the kitchen, Michael followed slowly behind him.

They took their seats facing each other across a table.

Neither spoke.

Finally, Alex slammed his fist on the table. “So, talk.”

“I think I owe you an apology,” Michael said.

“You think?” Alex asked harshly. “Look around you. I’ve lost everything. The center is closed. We were doing good work here, we were helping so many kids, and you've gone and ruined it all. The bank repossessed my apartment today. It's all gone, thanks to you.”

Michael did look around the kitchen, and through the hatch into the large, deserted rec room on the other side. It had been his goal for so long to shut the center down, but now that he had achieved it, he just felt empty. He had gotten no satisfaction from it all. He licked his lips nervously. He never enjoyed apologizing. “I am sorry, Alex. You might find it hard to believe but I never wanted anybody to get hurt.”

“Just tell me why,” Alex said plaintively. “I've been persecuted for months now. My two best friends have been dragged into this, and I have no idea what I did to deserve this.”

“”It wasn't you,” Michael sighed. “It was what you represent.”

Alex stared at Michael, perplexed. “What do I represent? Charity? Helping homeless teenagers? Good people?”

Michael shook his head and looked away. “Maybe I shouldn't be the one to tell you this.”

“What?” Alex roared. “How can you say that, after everything you've put me through? The very least that you owe me is an explanation. So, fucking tell me! Who do I represent?”

“Your mother. You represent your mother,” Michael snapped. He looked angry now. He pushed away from the table and walked to the window overlooking the yard where one of the volunteers had set up a basketball hoop.

“I don't understand... Your problem is with my mother? What... why?” Alex shook his head in disbelief. “Do you mean my real mother? Lucinda? Why the hell would you have a problem? She was an amazing person. She devoted her life to helping young women in need. How could anybody have a problem with that?”

Michael's mouth was set in a grim line. He leaned his head against the window and breathed in and out slowly, trying not to lose his temper. He looked back at Alex and saw the angry expression on his face. “I should go.”

Alex jumped in Michael's path, blocking his exit. “No. We're going to have this conversation.”

Michael stepped back. “Fine. But you asked for it.”

He returned to his seat at the table and Alex reluctantly returned to his with a feeling of dread in his stomach. Michael's warning had unsettled him.

“I don't really know how to do this,” Michael admitted.

“Start with your problem with my mother,” Alex told him.

Michael sighed. “You don't know a lot about her, do you? You just found out about her recently... I’ve known about her for a lot longer. I found out about her when I was sixteen. She wasn't the saint that you think she was. She hurt a lot of people very badly.”

“Bullshit,” Alex interjected.

“You looked her up after you found out about her, right? You found an article in your local paper about her?” When Alex nodded, Michael continued. “That was how you learned about the shelter she ran and all the good work she did, am I right?”

Again, Alex nodded. “Yeah. My parents wouldn't tell me anything about her. My aunt and uncle, I mean. They adopted me.”

“They were protecting you,” Michael explained. “You know, we have something in common. I was adopted by my aunt and uncle too. My father was David Evans, he was my dad's younger brother. My mother was one of the girls who lived in your mother's shelter... They both died. I never got to meet my father. My mother died when I was eleven months old. After that I was put into foster care until I was seven. I had about eight different situations before I was adopted. Some of them were ok, but most of them were shit. In one of them, I used to be locked in my room when I was bad,and I wouldn't be given food for two days. *

“In my last one, my foster father Hank used to beat me. He had this belt buckle, one of those large, heavy, metal ones. He used to beat me with that. He broke my arm once. He put me in the hospital a few times. I was adopted when I was seven.”

“I'm sorry to hear that,” Alex said genuinely. He was surprised to hear Michael's story as he had always assumed that Michael was Philip and Diane's natural son. “But, I still don't understand.”

Michael scratched his eyebrow nervously. “That happened because of your mother.” He watched Alex warily.

Alex didn't know how to react or what to think. A thousand thoughts were running through his mind.

Now that he started talking, Michael found that the words were coming easily and he took the opportunity provided by Alex’s silence to keep going. Strangely, he was finding it cathartic.

“The shelter that your mother ran was just a cover. It was really a brothel.”

Alex made a strangled sound and thumped the table with his fist. “Fuck you.”

“It's true, Alex,” Michael said quietly. “I can give you police reports and sworn statements from people who worked there, and from customers, too.”

“No,” Alex said, shaking his head defiantly.

“I'm sorry, I know it's hard to hear. But it's the truth. Your mother ran a brothel and my mother worked there.”

Alex stood up and walked over to the window Michael had been standing by earlier. Blood was rushing to his ears. He walked over to the sink and poured himself a glass of water and took a large gulp.

Slowly he made his way back to the table. He signalled with is hand for Michael to continue.

“I don't really know how my mother ended up there, but my dad collected statements from other women who worked there and they all had similar stories. They ran away from home and came to LA hoping to make it big. They had no friends, no money. Most of them ended up on the streets. Then they met your mother. She'd offer to help them out, give them a place to stay, tell them that she could introduce them to movie producers and industry types. But when the producers showed up, the girl would be expected to sleep with them.”

Michael paused and let that sink in for a minute. “Most of them were underage when they first started working for Lucinda. I don't know when my mother started but she was only seventeen when I was born, so.... I guess she was pretty young.

“At some stage, your mother and my father met. They were dating, but he was also a client. That's where he met my mother. Apparently, he took a shine to her and paid your mother to keep her for his exclusive use.” Michael broke off, looking sick. He gestured to the sink. “Can I?”

Alex nodded numbly.

Michael poured himself a glass of water and came back to the table. He waited to see if Alex wanted him to continue with their conversation or if he'd had enough.

“Go on,” Alex said hoarsely.

“My mother got pregnant with me. My father decided that he was going to do the right thing by her. So he checked into rehab.”

“Rehab?” Alex asked.

“Oh yeah, he was addicted to cocaine. Anyway, he asked Lucinda to look after her until he got back. A month later, she showed up at the rehab place he was in and busted him out. She told him that Madeline had lost the baby and had gone back home to her family.”

“Madeline was your mother?”

Michael nodded. “Yeah. So David fell back into drugs and whoring and God knows what else. Eventually he contracted HIV. My dad got him the best treatment he could, but... well, this was back in the eighties when HIV was still a death sentence. He died in my dad's arms.

“He told dad about Madeline and the baby before he died and he asked my dad to find her and help her out. After he died, my dad did everything in his power to make sure that Lucinda was arrested and thrown in jail. He blamed her completely for David's death. He thinks it was her fault that he fell into drugs and got AIDS.

“Anyway, he found out that Lucinda had a son. You. Naturally Dad thought that there was a good chance that you were David's son. So he got a court order for a blood test.”

Alex held his breath. He had been wondering about his father's identity since he had first learned the truth about his parentage.

“It came back that you weren't David's son. But, I guess Lucinda smelled an opportunity. She contacted Dad and told him that Madeline hadn't lost the baby, that I was alive. But, she'd only tell him where he could find me when she got out of jail. So after doing everything he could to get her into jail, my Dad had to get her out of it. She never said a word about where I was until she was released, and that took eight months.”

“And all that time you were living with the guy who beat you,” Alex remembered.

Michael nodded.

“Do you know who my father is?” Alex asked.

Michael hesitated before shaking his head.

“You don't know because you haven't looked into it, or you don't know because he was a client of hers?”

This time, Michael looked away.

His silence was all the answer that Alex needed. “And the hits keep on coming.” He ran his hands through his hair. “The money that she left in trust for me, that was her profits.”

“Yeah.”

“What happened to your mother?”

Michael took another drink from his glass. “She went home, got into prostitution to support herself, started using drugs after I was born and she died of an overdose. I got put into foster care.”

“So your father died of AIDS. Your mother died of on overdose. You spent the first seven years of your life getting knocked around in various foster homes. And my mother got to live a life of luxury in Jamaica,” Alex summarized. “Nice.”

Michael nodded. “Yeah... I found out most of this by accident when I was sixteen. I made my parents tell me everything they knew. I did some investigating on my own to fill in the blanks. When I found out that there was somebody to blame for what had happened to me and to my parents, I just got angry. All I could think about was getting even. But of course, Lucinda was dead so I had all this anger and nowhere to focus it.”

“Until I moved into your backyard and set up a center in her honour.”

Michael nodded again. “It was like a red flag to a bull. I knew it wasn't your fault and that you were innocent in the whole thing. But you were living off money that was earned by selling my mother to strange men. You were holding Lucinda up as some sort of modern day Mother Teresa. And I wanted revenge so badly. I wanted somebody to pay for everything I’d been through.”

“Lucky me,” Alex said dryly. He paused to let it all sink in. “So, now that you've got your revenge, how do you feel?”

Michael laughed mirthlessly. “I don't feel good. It's like a cloud has lifted and I’m suddenly seeing things clearly again. You were doing something really good with that money and I should have let you do it.”

“If you'd told all this to me back then, I would have changed the name of the center,” Alex pointed out.

“I know,” Michael told him.

“The people who are really paying the price for what you did are kids who are just like your mother. They're just like you might have been if you'd stayed in foster care. They're like Maddie's mother.”

“I know,” Michael grated out. He didn't want to hear this because he knew it was true and it made him feel sick about what he'd done.

“I'm happy to accept your apology, Michael. But, I don't think that I’m the one that you need to make things right with.”

Michael was shocked at Alex’s magnanimity. It wasn't something that he was used to. It just made him feel worse. “How do I do that?” he asked.

“You're the guy with millions of dollars at your disposal. It shouldn't be that hard,” Alex said sourly. He pushed away from the table and stood up. “Now, if you'll excuse me. I have a lot of work to do.”

Michael waited until Alex was gone before leaving.

***


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