* Once she had her personal baggage in view, she relaxed somewhat. She pulled out her satellite phone and called K. It rang, once, twice, ...."Hello?!" A harsh male voice answered. Lily tensed and she could feel her nostrils flare. She said nothing, taking in the voice, and wondering who would be answering K's phone.

"Hello!" The man yelled. Lily took a deep breath. She let it out slowly and asked,

"Is K there?" Silence greeted her question. Then harsh breathing let her know she was still connected. He finally deemed to answer her question.

"Ooo's callin'?" He asked in a rather cockney way. She digested that info before answering.

"It's Lily."

"OOOooooooooiiiiieeeeeeeee!" The man squealed into the phone, then he got quiet and dark.

"It's like this, We have the love-ly Kay, and you, you have the mon we want. Rockwell Stannard. A trade is what we're pro-posin'..." he continued in the bad cockney accent. Lily's nostrils flared. She didn't like making trades. It was bad for business. As well as other things. She considered what she had been through, what Rock had helped her through, and decided to see what else they would take in trade. She affected a cool tone as she told him,

"I haven't seen Rock in days, over a week. I don't have him here. What do you want with him? " The line fell silent for a few moments. He came back with the answer.

"He's worth a lot of money to a certain party I know, and I know he's with you , and I have what you want right here. " Lily was silent, thinking. The thug tried a more cajoling tone of voice. " Aww, C'mon now , duckie. You're not going to let a man come between friends, are ye?"

"I don't know where you got the idea he's with me. I haven't seen him, honestly. What was that you said he was worth? Money? I have lots of that. What will you take to give me K?"

"You!" He replied finally.

Lily's heart beat heavily. She didn't know what to do. Should she give them what they wanted? She could. She could turn him over in a heartbeat. But to what end? Would they release K? Or kill them all anyway? Should she include Rock, and let him know what was going on? Or did he already know what was going on? Who was behind this? The System? Someone else? She decided she would find out what Rock knew as soon as possible. As of this moment, she couldn't decide if he was the enemy or not. It seemed as though he had brought an awful lot of trouble her way. What was it with her and him? Wasn't she capable of seeing clearly when he was around? She felt lost at the moment, but felt old stirrings building in her belly. She wasn't going to turn him over to anyone. She was going to have to fight her way out of this one, she could just tell. It wasn't going to be pretty. Why did they think that Rock was with her? That was one big question. And why was he so valuable? Could she monopolize on that? She realized the thug was still waiting for an answer.

"And what if I do know where you can find him? How do I know you really have K and haven't killed her already? ?

The thug laughed and smacked someone in the room. "Yer friend wants to hear you scream, Missy! She don' think yer still alive. Ya hear?" He bellowed and another smack followed. Lily heard a grunt that time and K's voice yelled out, "Stay away Lily! They'll kill you both! They'll kill me anyway!" Another slap rent the air and K shut up again. Lily was shaking with rage. That was K allright. Dammit! Dammit! Dammit. Why, oh why had she allowed K to get so messed up in this? It was all her fault. She had no option but to do everything she could to secure K's release.

"All right, you've got my girl. I have what you want, or at least I can get it. How do we swap?"

The thug chuckled, sounding more in control of his emotions now that he felt he had the upper hand.

"Meet us in St. Louis, top of the arch, in three days at midnight. You give us Rock, or Yourself, and the love-ly Miss K walks free. Got it? Don't be late!" And he hung up the phone. A million thoughts were running through her mind at this time. She definitely needed to go find Rock. She got off the bed and selected some clothes to put on. A sleek black leotard and a pair of silky warm up pants were donned, a quick jamming of feet into well worn tennis shoes and she was off and down the hall. She had been wanting to examine the rooms more closely anyway. For future reference, she rationalized. She walked to the first door she came to and tested the knob. The door was unlocked. The room was dark inside, but she could make out a pool table and small bar in the room. She closed the door and moved on. She peeked into the next three rooms and found nothing more extraordinary than a library, a small bedroom and a room full of file cabinets filled with comic books, of all things. This house was huge she realized, and there were many corridors. She could be here all night. She moved on until she came to a crossroads of halls and realized she was lost. There was an intercom box on the wall and she pushed the call button. A voice came back to her.

"Hello?"

"Hi, it's Lily, I'm lost. I'm in a hall way, looking at doors. " She could hear the man chuckle a bit, and asked where she was going. She told him she was looking for Mr. Stannard's suite and was directed to go down the hall to her left, make the first right and knock on the second door on the right. The intercom system told security where it was being paged from, largely for this reason. It amused Hayu to make his home a maze. He often called for assistance.

She made her way down the hall following the directions and paused outside his door. She put an ear to the door to listen for occupation. Hearing nothing, she put her hand on the knob, but as she was about to turn it, the door flew open, pulling her inside in a stumbling arc. Her other arm was grabbed and twisted up behind her back and she fell face first to the carpeted floor with a ‘woof' as the air was knocked out of her. Rock realized a moment too late who it was and reaction had taken him over. He leapt off of her and rolled her over to her back where she lay gasping for air. She glared at him.

"Sorry love. I'm not used to people sneaking up on me. Well," he said with a wry grin, "yes I am, but why were you sneaking up on me?" She finally caught her breath and clarified,

"I am not sneaking up on you, I merely touched the knob. A bit touchy aren't we?"

"In my line of work it pays to hear your attacker as soon as possible. What are you here for? I thought you hardly remembered I was here." He tried to sound nonchalant but failed miserably. The hurt in his voice was evident. It softened Lily up some. She hadn't mean to hurt his feelings.

"Sorry. If you will recall, Daniel is also here. And Hayu expects me to act a certain way with him. It doesn't mean anything. Or it shouldn't to you." She raised her brows in a siamese cat fashion, silently reminding him she wasn't his only one.

"Uh-huh. " He sat down in an armchair by the dresser and leaned back in an exaggerated relaxed pose. She felt anger rising up in her, but decided she needed to be very careful with him now. She needed him. He may know something about what was going on. She did care for him as well, but she had to be careful. It had been a long time, and she wasn't sure of his intentions toward her. Was he here for a bounty? To bring her in slowly but surely? To mislead her with his "assistance", then turn her over to his cohorts? She knew she could make him weak now. She could go to him and make him forget all his jealousies. Something inside stopped her from this path. It wasn't honorable, to be sure, but if was more than that. It was about forever.

She wasn't sure she could be with him. But, her mind argued, they did have the here and now. The question of here and now being enough went unanswered in her mind. She went and sat on the edge of the bed, resisting her urge to go to him and soothe his injured ego.

"We have a situation." She began. He studied a spot on the ceiling.

"Oh? What does it have to do with me?" He asked snidely. She was taken a bit aback by his attitude. She adopted a cool attitude and said quietly,

"Don't be snide darling, you know how I hate you when you're snide." He smiled a nasty smiled and replied,

"No, you hate it when I'm sarcastic, not snide. You like it when I'm snide. It turns you on." Her face flushed and she flared her nostrils. She wanted to respond sharply, but bit her tongue. After a few moments and deep breaths had passed she spoke quietly, and he had to strain to hear her. She lowered her eyes and began; " Someone has taken K and wants me to bring them you in exchange for her. Or myself. I told them I hadn't seen you in over a week. I would not give you over to save K. Or myself, but I need you to be honest with me now. As I feel it would be a breach of professionalism if I turned you in, and would feel quite betrayed if you did that to me, again, " Lily held up her hand to silence his refutal of her accusation, " I would hope that we had moved beyond that now. I want you to know that I am grateful you have not killed me yet, and so I expect that you will continue to extend me the courtesy of warning me when I'm in a trap." She looked up at his face with her big, round brown eyes, as filled with feeling as she could emote. Which in her case, was substantial. She was blessed / cursed with the power of enchantment. She could impress her aura upon one person or a crowd. Some called it presence. Others, sexual energy. She could charm just about anyone with her will, it was almost scary. It didn't always last very long, but long enough. Sometimes it seemed too long, with too many admirers beating down her door. It was easier to use this "power " on those she already knew, knowing what energy they best responded to, using every niche in their psyche to her advantage. He appeared stunned. He had been pouting because he hadn't seen her and she had made no move to see him. Well, now she had. Further, she was offered a chance to be rid of him, to double cross him, and didn't take it as an easy out. Not even for K. He was overwhelmed. He looked at her sweet heart-shaped face, her red lips gently smiling at him, her warm , dark eyes dilated as if with pleasure at gazing at him. Her hair gently falling down over her rounded breasts, exposed slightly by the scooping neckline of her leotard. He felt a spill in his lower abdomen that settled into his groin , his mouth opening slightly so he could breathe. She smiled and tipped her head at his reaction. Her lips curved gently into a sweet smile, capturing his voice and his will like a siren. Gracefully she moved from the bed until she was kneeling at his feet , her hands on his knees, sitting between his legs.

Closing his eyes for a moment, he struggled against his own mind. Tell her. It said. No! He wouldn't. He didn't want to tell her and have the unknown open before him. He opened his eyes again to see her gently smiling up at him, resting her cheek on his thigh. She searched his blue, blue eyes for his thoughts, and seeing the confusion there, decided to take advantage of what she percieved as his weakness and sat up to meet his lips in a tender kiss. What began as a ploy was a double edged sword. It cut both ways. They both opened their eyes and looked at each other for a moment or two, then came together in a blending of breath, lips and tongues. It was as if they required each other as they required air. She forgot she was supposedly manipulating him. Who was winning this, anyway? He pushed forward and took them gently to the thick shag. They kissed for a long time before Rock pushed himself up onto his elbows to support himself over her . He looked at her beautiful face, flushed with feeling. God, how he loved her. It washed over him in warm waves. He smiled suddenly. She looked into his eyes, and saw something that made her suspicious.

"What?" She asked warily. He smiled some more.

"Nothing. Just I love you. And I would warn you if you were in danger. I would die for you. " That sobered her up for a moment. He felt the change as her body went stiff. She didn't want him to die for her, and she surely didn't want to die for him. She didn't sign on for this. Feeling suffocated suddenly, she pushed him away and rolled to her side to sit up. Rock sat back casually, one knee up with his hand draped loosely over it. Lily glared at him accusingly. She felt almost betrayed. He does know something.

She turned to look at him and decided to play her hand. If she lost, she lost. Sometimes you crap out. It's just the way it is. Allowing the hurt to rise up, moistening her eyes with unshed tears, she looked at him full on, allowing him to see the tears forming, her flushed cheeks and lips, throbbing and red as she said softly.

"You are such a bad liar." Her face was mesomorphic when she cried. Her eyes looked even larger, the tears causing her lashes to appear darker and spiky. Her nose and cheeks took on a rosy hue almost immediately, and her lips would fill with blood, pouty, looking even darker red than usual. She was indeed blessed with natural beauty, excellent coloring. Half Irish, Half Cherokee. The result was a full figured, dark haired, white skinned beauty. He was hit full in the heart with the sight of her. Two strands of hair falling softly across her full lips, where his were pressed but a moment before, drew his attention. Filled with guilt, and remorse, and love, he crossed to her on his knees. She trembled like a dew laden rose. He was not only falling for it, he was eating it up with a fork. She smiled inwardly, but remembered to take a deep trembling breath, focusing his attention on her lovely figure. Dropping her head into her hand she sobbed a bit, going with the feelings bubbling up. Rock tried his clumsy best to comfort her. He patted her useslessly for a few moments before going to retrieve some tissues. He sighed and closed his eyes. He was going to have to tell her the whole truth. But he was so close to his goal now. They were almost there. How does she know? What does she know is a better question. He decided against just telling her, and tried to soothe her instead. He lead her to a chair, turned to the bar and made her a drink. Bringing it to her he turned and made himself another and joined her in a nearby chair. Lily brought her crying routine full circle and blew her nose noisily before gently dabbing it with the tissue.

Rock stood casually by the bar sipping his own drink and quietly asked,

"So, tell me about Daniel." Lily blinked a few times, obviously taken aback by his sudden interest. Why would he want to hear about Daniel?

"What do you want to know?"

"How long have you known him?"

"Oh, I guess it's been about five years or so now."

"How did you meet him?" Lily smiled and gave a little laugh.

"It's sort of a funny story really." Rock smiled blandly to encourage her. A soft look overcame her and her eyes cast downward coyly.

"Well, I was posing as a scientist's assistant at a large conferance. I was actually there to procure a few precious art pieces for a serious collector and I was just eyeing the prize when Daniel came up behind me, so quietly I actually squeaked with fright when I heard him ask me if I knew the significance of the pieces I was looking at. When I said no, he spent the next hour or so explanining it to me. If he hadn't had such a nice voice I might have yawned , then when he realized that my eyeballs were spinning with the details, he apologized for being so passionate about it and I asked if he was as passionate in all things and one thing led to another and I almost forgot about my mission!" She laughed at the memory, her eyes rolling up and taking in a sighing breath in a self depreciating manner. "I ended up hijacking the truck the next day and making a lot more work for myself! But it was worth it. " Rock's cheek twitched will ill suppressed jealousy. He could plainly see how she cared for him. He wondered why she seemed to keep him at arms length.


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