Tony Lothario's Blog #6
Published Mar 26, 2007

Written By



Page 1 / 84

I was about to quit this; but I'm going to shove a lot into one 24 hour period.

Sometimes it's difficult to determine someone's intentions. Sometimes you don't even know your own. Here goes.

I was about to quit this; but I'm going to shove a lot into one 24 hour period.

Sometimes it's difficult to determine someone's intentions. Sometimes you don't even know your own. Here goes.
Breakfast. A Sunday morning, so it was quiet. Gen was set on going to the courthouse tomorrow morning, get a license, get married. I didn't really care how I did it, but I worried about her. Her father was going to be legitimately angry that he missed being present when his only daughter got married.

"Are you sure you want to do this? You don't want some kind of big wedding?"
"No," she said, flat, adamant. "I want to do it tomorrow. If I wanted it any other way, I'd let you know. I've got some shopping to do, and you need a suit. The only one you have has a hole in it. Want me to help you buy another one?" In no possible universe did I want her to help me buy anything. She'd be in there for hours. "I'm not going shopping, " I said. "I'll go in, find the suit, buy the suit, I'm not interested in looking at anything else. No 'shopping'. Thanks -- no thanks." Once she'd gone, I got dressed and took my bike to the only place I really ever go to buy clothes. I I think I bought the first thing I tried on that fit. It was cold; the bike was starting to look like a stupid idea. I should have taken the car.

I was on my wait out, and there was MJ. Right between me and my bike. It could not possibly be a coincidence. What -- did she hang around outside my house and follow me? There's no other reasonable explanation.

I took a quick look around to see if anyone I knew was anywhere close by. No one. Good. I'd end this now.
"Tony," she started to say --

"No!" I got up as close to her as I could, angry, frustrated, and apprehensive. This was a public place, even if I didn't see anyone I knew. I'd promised Ginny I wouldn't see her again, and here I was, talking to her.

"Listen to me, MJ! I do not want to see you. I do not want to talk to you. There's no reason for you to be here except to hunt me down, and I do not, I repeat, I do not like being hunted!"
"I thought you were safe, " she said. "I had something else going on -- which looks like it's not going anywhere now but that's not your problem --- and I was bored and wanted to go out, but I didn't want anything to happen. We've known each other for a long time. I never expected you would be anything but safe. I'm sorry, Tony." Safe. I'm safe. Like, what, a stuffed toy? That went down really well. I still didn't understand what I felt about her, but the last thing in the world I intended to do was tell her that.

"You surprised me," I told her. "That's all. That's it. Don't elevate it to anything else. And right now you are interfering with my life. You're getting in my way, and I don't like it. We're done -- stay away from me!"
"Stay away from you, " she repeated. "I'm at fault here? And for how many years have you always, ALWAYS, Tony, come calling on me when things didn't go right for you! Who mopped up the floor when you got sick?! That whole issue with the fight in the bar in college when you almost got kicked out -- who cleaned that up for you? And you don't know what I had to do to fix it! And how many times have I bailed you out? Five? TEN?" There was some truth to that. However, like she did with everything else, she exaggerated, and it was a long time ago, and it didn't matter anyway.

"Two," I told her. "You bailed me out twice. Not five, much less ten. And you made the drinks that time and doubled them without telling me, and I think we both know what you wanted that night and you didn't get it. It's history. I do not want to see you again."
"Get over yourself!" she said. "I don't want to see you either!"

What a mess, I thought, walking away from her. But maybe the stuffed animal thing goes both ways. Maybe MJ was safe for me all those years.
Got on my bike and started to leave; I was freezing -- again, stupid choice. MJ didn't look back and was walking towards the bar the last time I saw her. The phone was ringing before I even got in the door.

"Tony." It was Don. "Hey, I need to tell you something."

Cousin Don had been morose for a long time now. I was in a bad mood, though, and didn't really want to talk to him. He needs to figure it out for himself.

"And that would be what?"
"You know that guy MJ was kissing in the bar?" he said.

I was still cold from the ride home. Gen wasn't back yet. I didn't want to hear it. "Don," I said, "I'm not in a very good mood right now. Is this some critical piece of info I just have to know?"

"Tony, man, I hate to tell you this, but he's Eden's brother. Thought you ought to know."
For a moment, it didn't register. The wind had picked up outside, whistling around the corner of the house. At least it cut the quiet. Eden's brother. Now, that was almost funny.

"Ryan," I said. "Eden's brother Ryan."

"Yeah, you know about him?"

I laughed. Eden's brother Ryan. The older brother. The one who grew up with his dad overseas somewhere, and who hated his sister so much he moved to the other side of the country when he came back. I never met him. So the Westover family could conceivably be stuck with MJ. Talk about irony! Not that Ryan probably deserved it.

"Yes, Don, I'm fine. Had to be hard to call and tell me -- thanks."

I hung up, in a much better mood than I'd been before he called, although I'm a little ashamed of myself to admit it.
It had started to snow. I had work to do -- if I don't write and sell what I write, we don't eat. Gen was really late, but then, that's SHOPPING for you.

Checked email first, and as soon as I logged on, there was something from Gabe, with an attachment. Gabe's like a free radical; you never know what he's going to damage by bouncing off something. Lately he's had the idea he can find someone for his dad, and once in a while he's sent me a pic he took with his cell phone of some woman he thinks Don would like. As if I could do something about it. Sweet, I guess, but stupid.

I deleted it. Not interested in helping my cousin with his love life, no matter how sorry I feel for him.
This was turning out to be wierdest day. I logged off and sat there for a minute. The phone started ringing again. Door slammed -- Gen, thank god, I thought.

I heard her pick up the phone. "Cat!" she said. "When did you get back? You've been gone for ages! You ran into Alex? Where -- in the airport -- did you know Anne is pregnant? Yeah, they've been trying for a long time -- you're kidding, you've got a club there too -- no, never have been to the one here -- but you've been gone, so I wouldn't go if you weren't there!"

It was so good just to hear her voice. I started to shut things down. Alex is Claire's brother -- I don't know what the guy does, something with computer security. He doesn't say much. And Anne, his wife, is generally known by her nickname Bug. I will not even venture a guess why. I'd never heard of Cat, though.
"Oh, well, that's great!" She laughed again. "Cat," Ginny added, "I'll call you tomorrow -- I'll have something to tell you -- no, I can't tell you now. You'll have to come over -- you haven't met Tony -- oh my god yes, he is. You have no idea. Think completely ripped, Italian, fall over backwards in your chair to die for -- nothing yet for you? we have to fix that, you know -- yeah, I know, you're not --- Cat, it is NOT impossible -- no, he doesn't have a brother, ha, and I wouldn't set up my worst enemy with his cousin -- ok, talk to you later." Sometimes eavesdropping does turn out well. To die for?

"Hi," I said. "Miss me?"

"Every single minute."
At the risk of being redundant, I will say it again. I love her. But I had to tell her I'd seen MJ today. If I didn't tell her, someone else would. It was out in the open. Someone had to have seen us. "Can we talk for a few minutes?"

She sat down, looking a little apprehensive. "What's going on? Did you buy the suit?"

"I bought the suit, Gen, but MJ was there."
She looked at me, flat, direct look. "And you're surprised?"

"I guess I was. I didn't expect it."

"But that's it. You told her to get lost."

"I told her to do more than get lost, but that's the gist of it, yes."
"Tony, you don't understand women like MJ...."

I zoned out. I sat there and watched her earnestly try to explain something she knew nothing about, and I heard nothing she said.

I was going to marry this woman, this woman I love, want, desire, tomorrow. And here we are sitting here talking about MJ. It was surreal.

But I let her talk. It was snowing. I could hear it, that soft whisper against the windows. Sat there and watched Gen and loved her. I felt pretty good about everything. Very good.

Turning it over to Don.
Tony thinks he was having a bad day, and I guess anytime you have to talk to the red witch, it's a bad day. But I was having a lot of them. Days and days of them. Drinking too much. Don't think I got out of my sweats for weeks, or it seemed like it.

And Gabe -- he was driving me crazy. Got locked up for fighting. Kept going after different girls, and I know he was looking for an opportunity to get them into the hottub -- I know what that's about.
I tried to talk to him again about it that morning.

"I'm not doing anything!" he yelled at me. "Come on -- get off my back! And look at you! When's the last time you got your hair cut, Dad? Or changed out of those frigging sweats!"

He seemed angrier than usual, even for Gabe. "You know what else? I think you've been lying to me!"
That surprised me. Can't stand his attitude, but I don't lie to him.

"Don't get into me about my life! You got a roof over your head and clothes and food and I don't want to hear it! And what's this about me lying to you?"
He glared at me with Ellen's eyes. Doesn't look a thing like her except for those eyes. "I'll take care of myself," he said, and I swear he's got Tony's tone down cold. Pretty much has Tony up on a pedestal -- copies him. That 'leave me alone or I'll take your head off' thing, but said smooth and cool. "You need to get out of the house, Dad. Mom wouldn't want you to do this to yourself. And for the rest of it, I've gotta go now. Josh and I are going to the mall with Holly and Amanda. I'll talk to you later." It stung some. After he left, at least I got a shower and put on some clothes.

I was bored. Lonely. Miserable. But nothing got to me. Kaylynn came by to clean up and offered to stay for a while, but I'd done that and didn't want it. Plus, everything I'd done before I met Ellen had come down on Gabe, and I wasn't gonna go there again. It hurt him too much.
Long day. Gabe came home, slammed the door to his room and wouldn't talk. I let it go.

That night, I'd gone to bed, and I guess Gabe went out again. I got a call close to midnight -- one of Gabe's girlfriends, Holly, her dad. MISTER John Spencer. Whose wife divorced him, and I don't blame her.
"I want your son to stay away from my daughter!" He was yelling so loud I could have put the phone down on the table and still heard every word he said. "There's a curfew downtown for teenagers-- not that I expect you'd care anything about that! They're two hours overdue -- I'm going to the police, Lothario, if he doesn't get her back here within the hour!"

Oh man, not again. I guess I really hadn't paid much attention to some kind of legal curfew -- if there really was one.
"I don't want her seeing him!" he screamed. "The little punk is just like you -- don't think I don't know your reputation!"

It's one thing to insult me -- I deserve it. But Gabe's not just like me. Well, maybe some.

"I'll look for your daughter," I told him, and I was angry now, "but looks like to me your problem is with her! You don't want her going out, tighten the leash! Fix your own personal problems and don't let me hear you blaming them on my son! He doesn't even have a car -- she's the one taking them out, not Gabe!"

I didn't even remember clearly which one was Holly, but wasn't gonna tell her Dad that.
It was cold and snowing and all I could think of was how I'd come to this, going out in the middle of the night to track down my kid. Me. Yeah, well, you're a better guy for it, I told myself. What'd you get for it when you went hunting for something else? A lot of trouble you can't live down now.

And I wasn't sure I could even get Gabe out of this one because I wasn't sure I knew where he was. Sounds like a bad father to you, too, doesn't it?
I figured it was a place called Violet. Gabe had mentioned it. Big, hard to get into, I had to go up the stairs and take an elevator down to the club. I could hear it from outside. Made my way into the club, finally, and there was my son, all over Spencer's daughter. Well, sorry, kids, party's over for the night -- I had to break it up. I walked up, made some kind of noise, cleared my throat or something. Gabe jumped up off the couch. The girl made a screeching sound. Ouch. Not probably the right girl for him, long term, not someone who can make a noise like that.

"Dad! What are you doing here?!"
"Saving your sorry butt," I said. "You got about 30 minutes to get that girl back home before her dad calls the cops, or he hunts you down and starts cutting off body parts. She's got a fast car -- I've seen it -- so get out of here." "We're going," Gabe said.

Then he glanced out towards the bar, looked at me with a little smile on his face. "Hey, Dad, I met the owner of the club. She's here tonight. Take a look."
"Take a what? A look?" "Yeah," he said, even bigger smile. "Go on, Dad. Turn around. Just take a look. Holly and I are leaving -- I'll see you later." I turned.

Felt like I stuck my finger in a light socket. Complete, electric shock. Never seen anything like that in real life... and she strutted like a model on a catwalk...
"Rescuing a damsel in distress?" she said, and she had a smoky, whiskey voice, deep, soft. The hottest woman I think I've ever seen in my entire life. "Anything I can help with here?"

I might have been knocked for a loop, but it didn't keep me from coming back at her. "Doesn't look like she's in any distress to me," I said. "I'm rescuing my son from her dad."
She smiled. "Noble. I don't meet many white knights here. Are they going to be ok?"

I saw Gabe and Holly running for the door. "This time, yeah."
She looked toward the door, watching them leave, then back at me.

"We don't serve teenagers at the bar," she told me. "They pay the cover, they can dance, listen to the band, that's about it. If I need to tell the staff to keep an eye on your son, let me know."
"Appreciate it," I said. "This is your place, I guess."

"One of them, yes."

Thought about it for a second, then stopped thinking about it. "You have a really great voice," I said. "And my name's Don."
The professional smile, the boss smile, changed a little. She took a look at me. Again, in that husky voice, she said, without taking up the compliment, "I'll bet you haven't been here before, have you?"

"Have to admit I haven't. Haven't been out much lately."

"My name is Cat. Cat Sterling." She hesitated. "Come on, sit down, I don't know anyone here. I've been out of town for a long time. Have a drink."
"Ok, but I buy."

"No no," she said. "You can't. It's my club. No one buys me a drink in my club. That's in the list of top ten rules."

"What else is on the list?"

She smiled again. "You don't get the list," she said. "Sit."
Sat down. It was loud, but good music. "So you're married," she said.

Right out of the box. Could be a good thing. "Yeah, well, yes, no, I mean, Gabe's mother, Gabe, he's my son, she died." It was hard to get out, and I sounded stupid. Yes and no?
Her whole faced changed. There'd been something there what went completely away. "I'm sorry, I am so sorry -- how awful for both of you! I don't know why I asked -- I'm sorry."

"No, natural thing to ask. I've got a son. Why wouldn't you want to know if I'm married?"
There was only one reason she'd ask. She knew it. I knew it. She let me have a second. Didn't say anything. Then she said, "What's your last name?"

Here it comes, I thought. No getting around it. "Lothario," I told her. She looked at the bar, looked at me, with a little smile. "Would you be related to someone named Tony Lothario?" she asked me.

Don't tell me she's one of Tony's old girlfriends, I thought. Don't tell me that. No, probably not. Not his type. Not anywhere near his type. Not a jeans and sweater girl. "He's my cousin. You know him?"
"Never met him," she said, and laughed. Looked over my shoulder as if she was thinking about something, then went on.

"Ginny Piacenza is a friend of mine, and I guess she's engaged to him. I've been away on business for a long time, so no, I haven't met him. Well, well, so you're the bad boy, the one who's SO bad Gen wouldn't set me up with you if I were her worst enemy... "
Small world was an understatement.... but this wasn't good. Tony never said anything about it again, but I know he hadn't forgotten that I'd hit on Gen. And Gen let me know all the time that she thought I was a dirtball.

I had a real black second, hating everything about myself.

"Trying to raise a kid by myself changed me some," I told her. Didn't know what else to say.
She looked at me. "Hey, I make up my own mind. I don't know you, so there's no history to apologize for." Someone walked up behind us and said, "Cat, I have a problem with those glass panels for the third floor."

She looked up, got up. "God, now what," she said.
"They don't fit! Nick is on his way here -- but I don't see any way to fix it!"

Ok, I turned around and took a look.

I could NOT believe it. Two of them? This one a brunette who would make plants wilt, much less me. Yeah, well, you can have too much of a good thing; plus, she glanced at me but not with much interest.

Cat looked across the room. "He's already here."
A very, very big guy walked up, bodybuilder guy.

"Don," Cat said, very smooth, "my business partner, Nicholas Alcaide. And my personal assistant, Sofia Romero. Who should NOT be working on panels tonight and obviously didn't show up here dressed to move furniture. Everyone make nice for a second before you two go try to fix my problem."

He gave me a long look. "Nice to meet you. Let's go, Sofie."
The lady in blue, Sofie?.. took a look at me, and another at that guy -- first guess on my part is he thinks he's got a lock on that, not sure he's right, though -- "Pleasure to meet you," she said to me. Soft, pretty voice with a little spice added, an accent of some kind.

Conan the Barbarian stepped between the two of us and they started walked away, talking about panels. "I have to pick something up," he told her, "I'll meet you up there."
I really wanted to stay, but I needed to get home and make sure Gabe got back in one piece.

"You have to go?" Cat asked me.

"Yeah, I really do," I told her. "I gotta get back."

I liked everything about her. The way she looked. The way she talked. The attitude. Everything. "Maybe I'll see if you're around here tomorrow," I added.

"I'll watch for you." She was flirting with me now. God, that felt good... "But you know, you have to be careful with me. Cats can scratch."
"I'm a big boy, I'm not afraid of a little cat," I told her, tossing it right back.

She laughed. Then did something I really didn't expect.
Got up real close, and in that husky voice, said, "But I'm a big cat. Goodnight, bad boy."

I think I was gone right then. Never even had a second thought. I'd have given almost anything to hang around, but almost anything isn't everything.

I got out of there. Moved. If I didn't move, I wasn't going to move. Got as far as the door, and I was pretty anxious to get outside -- needed to cool off. And there was Alcaide, waiting.
"Do we have a problem?" I asked him. Still not sure which one of them he was after. "I don't know," he said. "Do we?" Then he backed off a little, smiled and said, "Cat's a friend, just a friend, but I do watch her back. And I know who you are. Enjoy your evening."

He walked away. No point in responding to that -- and I didn't think it was Cat he was worried about watching. Already she didn't strike me as the kind of woman who needed a bodyguard.
My son was asleep sitting up when I got back. No way the two of them could have gotten back to Holly's house under Spencer's deadline, but he wasn't bleeding, so that's good. Kind of funny to see him there, waiting up for me. "Hey, wake up, Gabe, go to bed."

He startled up, looked at me, sleepy eyes. "What time is it? Did you talk to her?"

"It's late, but I didn't stay that long after you left. Yeah, I talked to her."
He woke up all the way at that. "She's cool, isn't she? She owns the club, Dad! And she's hot, for an older woman, I mean. You like her?" "I don't know if I like her or not. I just met her. Yeah, I guess I like her."

Not going to tell my kid I was in shock over the woman. It might not turn out to be anything anyway.
He was quiet for a second. "Dad, I have to show you something. And I need for you to be honest with me about it. No crap. Ok? It's been bothering me for a couple of days now. Sorry to lay it on you tonight, but I have to know." That didn't sound good. I've tried to tell Gabe as much as I can. He's heard it all anyway. I couldn't think of anything that bad that I've held back. Well, maybe hitting on Gen; he doesn't need to know about that.

"Sure. I'm honest with you, Gabe."
He went upstairs, turned on the computer. "Ok," he said, "come here, look at this. And I don't want any lies." "See this?" he said. "I took this shot at the mall a couple of days ago with my cell and loaded it here so I could take a closer look at it. We had Amanda go up and talk to him -- no guy's going to chase her away -- he said his name was Rafe Taylor, some Senator's kid. He looks just like you! Is he my brother?" He was almost yelling at me, angry. Gabe shoved back from the desk and walked away, turned his back. "You told me I don't have any brothers or sisters. Was that a lie?" All right. I just met a beautiful woman I really like. I was feeling good about that. And now this. He had to do it to me tonight. But this was bad. This could be even worse than Gabe thought.

The kid in the photo wasn't mine. I was sure of that. But I knew who he looked like. Took a deep breath.

"He's not your brother, Gabe," I told him. "He doesn't even look that much like you. I didn't cheat on your mother, and that's the only way you'd have a brother the same age -- he looks about the same age as you. You don't have any brothers or sisters. I'd know about it. Everybody knows everybody here. I'd know."
He looked at me. Poor kid. He's had a lot to get over.

"You're sure."

"Yeah, I'm sure. Gabe, you need to delete that photo. Get rid of it. Don't show it to anyone. You hear me? Drop it. This isn't about me, but it's important."

"Sorry," he said in a real quiet voice. "I already did. I emailed it to Tony. I thought he would tell me the truth if you didn't."
I froze. "Get it back."

"I can't," he said. "I don't know how to do that. He has a different ISP."

Oh man... I put a smile on my face. "Ok, don't worry about it. Go on to bed."
He went upstairs, tired, to look at him. I waited, then sat down and pulled up the photo again.

If you put Tony and the Lady of Darkness Eden together in a bottle and shook them up, their kid would look like this kid. I mean, he's Tony at what, maybe 16, everything except those eyes, same eyes I saw on Ryan the other day. It wasn't possible. Yeah, well I guess it WAS possible. Wouldn't she have come after Tony? Maybe not, not if she had a better angle.
I was pretty high on energy, and thought, ok, google the Senator.

Senator Robert Taylor, got a lot of crap here, what he thinks, what he did, calendar of places he plans to show up, and some shots of his family. Wifey, kid, all standing and smiling under a flag -- except damn --

Beautiful Mrs. Senator is Eden. I'd know her anywhere. And right next to them was the boy. No way was that kid anyone's kid but Tony's. You have got to be frikking kidding me, I thought. What'd you do, Eden? Tell the Senator the kid was his before you even left Tony? That'd be my best guess. That's how you got him to marry you.
Had a bad thought right then. Got up, thinking about it. Calendar said he had a fund raising thing going on now. If I drove like a bat out of hell, I might be able to catch them when they left. Man, I really, really wanted to do it. Ellen, I thought, like I do sometimes, and maybe she does hear me, what do I do?

Go for it. Twitch the witch. Make her sweat if nothing else.
Couldn't believe my luck, there they were, coming out of the place. Parked the car, next to the LIMO, for crying out loud.

"These affairs are such a waste of time," she was saying to the poor smuck, Senator Smuck, as far as I'm concerned. It was Eden, all right. Wouldn't mistake that woman for anyone else.

And the guy looked a little bit like Tony, well, he had dark hair anyway, enough alike that she could have convinced him the kid was his.
"Hey, babe," I said, walking right up to her. "Hello, Mrs. Senator."

She knew. She knew right away. "What the hell do you want?" she said.

"Me? Nothing. Just stopped by to give to the fund raiser, let's see, I got a quarter in my pocket , here you go. And by the way, nice looking kid you got. Reminds me of someone."
"Get out of here!" she screamed at me. "Leave me alone, you degenerate moron!"

Mr. Senator, who might be a good guy, who knows, tried to get in the middle of it. "Do I know you, sir?" he said.

I started walking away. "You do now," I said over my shoulder.
Hardly ever in my life had I felt better than I did right then. No night in a hot tub had been as good as the kick I got thinking about how she was going to try to explain to her Senator what I'd said about the kid. It was really, really good... Yanked at least one twig out of her broomstick tonight.

All in all, a very good day for me...

I gotta get back and find Alex and get him to fix it so Tony can't see this bit.

Goodnight everyone.

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38 Comment(s) so far

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#29EmJay1986Apr 1, 2007

You've been holding out on us! I got a look at those screenshots you have on your profile page, and OMG. Gotta get me a bed with those filmy curtains! You've got something in the works for the next chapter and, what, they're previews? Fabulous! It takes you FOREVER to come out with the next one -- hurry up! Plus, why don't you post them as screenshots?

#30eshuffApr 1, 2007

No, I do not have anything ready to post yet. It does take me a long time, partly because I change my mind a lot, partly because I've got a collaborator who disagrees with me a lot -- so blame him, LOL. And I'm never satisfied with what I'm doing -- no I can't blame him for that. thanks for the note about the screenshots. I don't post screenshots -- they're not seasonal and some of them might be kind of edgy. they're my experiments in figuring out how to take nice shots. appreciate the compliment, though!

#31May 1, 2007

Nice twist with the kid!

#32eva hanstvedtMay 6, 2007

\:\) good\:\)

#33SongChild99May 17, 2007

*runs off to read next part* 6 down, 3 to go.

#34LlyrielMay 18, 2007

Thanks a lot for yet another excellent installment! Woooo! ^_^ I love the ending of this one... way to go Don! I LURVE Don and Tony. They're both such nice guys. I'm not much of a Gen lover, but Cat - I like her style! And Don's son (Gabe is it?) I think he's adorable trying to help his dad out. Too bad Tony's not interested in helping, but he's... you know... Tony. So I don't blame him. Look forward to reading the next! Yay!!!

#35Jul 7, 2007

I love it, I love it! I love Gabe, I love Cat (she's so effing cool), love the drama of Eden getting married to someone else while pregnant with Tony's baby...I love it all!! *Scuttles off to read the next part*

#36ZayuryNov 26, 2007

\:rah\: Ah Rafe! Teenager Rafe, he is soooo cute! \:wub\: So this is how Gabe 'found' him, WOW! Incredible, this all makes a LOT of sense now, lol! Fabulous story! \:rah\:

#37KenvjoFeb 25, 2008

I am absolutely hooked! Every chapter gets better and better!\:rah\:

#38Sarebear728May 31, 2008

You have such an aptitude for keeping the reader's interest. Props to you.

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