posted on 1-Jan-2002 2:39:58 PM
Author: Liz and Annie
Summery: just read *happy*
Disclaimer: We don't own anything...Not Roswell, not the songs (except ones written by Annie), not anything.

"Cause I'm with the star,
thats what you are,
a beautiful star..."

- "I'm With The Star" by Ben Lee

Prologue by Annie

Maria’s silky voice filtered out into the hallway from the West Roswell High music room. She sat cross-legged on the floor strumming her guitar flawlessly, the words harmonizing with the instrument. It was a beautiful melodious sound, enticing passerby’s to look in the classroom.

My eyes are open,
And I can see the world
Where my future lies holding dreams
Just waiting to be unfurled.
I reach out and embrace fate,
For he respects me so.
And together we dance through
The flames of hate
To where the written word is spoken.

Liz just watched her friend in amazement. Maria was so talented. They had only been friends for a few months, since Liz moved to Roswell, but they were now inseparable.

Liz hated to remember her first days at West Roswell High. She didn't know anyone and by lunch on the first day there were rumors about her, most of them were invented Pam Troy. But that was how Liz met Maria. Maria and Pam were practically mortal enemies. So when Maria heard the rumors, she told Pam to shut her "big mouth."

Maria finished singing the verse she was working on as Liz pulled out of her daydream. "So what did you think," she asked in anticipation, pushing her black framed glasses up her nose a little, and smoothing back her blonde locks.

Liz jumped up from her chair. "Maria, that was wonderful," she exclaimed as she hugged her friend. "One of these days you are going to be a big star. I just know you will be."

Maria sighed. "That is what I want more than anything in this world, Liz. Do you really think it will happen?"

Liz gave Maria a really big smile. "Let's make a promise right now. We will do everything we can to make each others dreams come true," Liz said as she held out her little finger.

"Well, we already know what my dream is, but what do you want," Maria asked.

Liz got a dreamy look in her eyes. "I really want to settle down and have a big family someday. I know that it is corny, but my dream is to marry a man the truly loves me."

Maria shook her head. "You are a hopeless romantic, you know that?"

"Yup," Liz smiled. "That's me."

Maria reached over and latched her little finger with Liz's. "Well, it's a deal. You make me a star and I will get you a guy."

Both girls broke out into fits of laughter, which ended when the realized they had to get to class. Over the years, Liz never forgot her promise to Maria. Her friend's talent was to precious to go to waste and Liz did
everything in her power not to let that happen.

Part One by Liz

Her hand throbbed with pain as the hand grew tighter, knuckles white. "Maria," Liz hissed urgently. "Calm down. You’re breaking my hand."

Maria stared down at their hands, clenched between each other, her eyes growing wide. She pulled her hand away. "Sorry," her voice was laced with tension. God she was nervous, its not everyday you get to do something like this. She tucked a strand of her long honey hair behind her ear and pushed her glasses up on the bridge of her nose out of habit. Some things just never changed.

It was like her friendship with Liz. Sophomore year of high school way back in Roswell they’d met. Their friendship was instantaneous. Liz had looked so wide-eyed and scared when she’d arrived, slowly taking her seat beside Maria.

Maria had never been shy, and felt sorry for the new girl. While the teacher droned on, she pulled out a pen, and jotted a hello down on a ripped off piece of paper. She’d thrown onto Liz’s desk, and when Liz read it she looked over, her eyes shining, giving a dazzling smile. ‘Hi,’ she had mouthed. It was the beginning of their friendship.

And now, here they were, still together. They were 22 now, grown up in the eyes of the law. And here they were, standing in the lobby of this massive building right in the heart of Los Angeles. And this was likely the most important day in Maria’s life so far. Valenti records, her dream come true.

Kyle Valenti had come to visit Maria a week before. He’d sashayed up to her, wearing a designer suit, and flashy glasses. Everything was flashy when it came to Kyle Valenti. He’d whipped out a crisp beige business card, placing it delicately in her hand. "9am, Monday. Be there." He’d simply stated, turning and leaving Maria to gawk in silence. He was President and owner of the most high-profile, and successful record company in America, hell---the world. And he wanted to see her, to…sign her?

She looked up at Liz, who was completely professional. She looked cool as can be, ready to take on the world. But Maria knew Liz, and she knew that her friends heart was beating probably about as fast as hers. Two years ago, when Maria started trying to get gigs, Liz had agreed to become her manager part-time. She was studying at UCLA to become a lawyer, and this was a perfect job for her.

And then Maria looked down at herself. Her hair was a windswept mess compared to Liz’s, and her clothes her casual. Just a denim skirt, and a sky blue tank top, topped off with a hemp purse. But that was her look, the Maria Deluca style.

Liz approached the desk confidently. "Hello, this is Maria Deluca, I’m Liz Parker, her manager. We have a 9 o’clock appointment."

The secretary fixed her bored stare on Liz, then Maria. "One moment please," she drawled in a southern accent. She pressed a red button. "Mr. Valenti, your 9 o’clock is here. Uh-huh…" She paused to listen. "Yes, okay." She peered over her glasses at the girls again. "Mr. Valenti will see you now. Through those doors, please."

"Thank you," Liz said coolly, and Maria sent her a warm appreciative smile. She tailed behind Liz, pushing her way through the big glass double doors.

"Ladies, welcome." Kyle boomed, standing from his plush black leather chair behind his big mahogany desk. It seems it was only the best for him. "Have a seat," he motioned to two chairs in front of the desk for them to sit in.

"Thank you," muttered Maria shyly, taking a seat beside Liz. She didn’t know why but Mr. Valenti made her feel shy, and unsure of herself. The man was certainly intimidating.

"I see that you’re interested in my client," Liz began. "Would you like to elaborate?"

Kyle cleared his throat, picking up a silver ball point pen from his desk, and rocking it back and forth in between his fingers. "Indeed, I’m very intrigued by Ms. Deluca. Not only is she talented, but beautiful as well. Her voice is very unique and strong. I’d like to sign her for a record deal." He opened a file on his desk, and pulled out a thick stapled together wad of paper. "I’ve drawn up a contract. I’d like to see her put out an album within the year, and before that tour with one of our already established stars."

"Really?" Cried Maria, forgetting her woes, and jumping out of her chair excitedly. Liz put a firm hand on her friend’s arm, settling her back into her chair. "Wow…" she breathed.

Kyle gave a deep laugh. "Yes, really. Of course, we’ll have to set up a few more meetings to discuss everything, and you’re sure to want to look that over. It’s a long read. But, I must say, Ms. Deluca, in advance…It’s nice to have you aboard." He smiled charmingly, and held out his hand to her.

Maria shook it firmly.

Part Two by Annie

Maria held Kyle Valenti's hand firmly within her own. When she heard his comments about her, her nervousness seemed to melt away. That was until the door to his office burst open.

"I cannot believe that you did this to me," an angry voice bellowed into the room. A tall, beautiful blond came striding into the room, followed closely by an equal tall man with dark black hair and Kyle's secretary.

The secretary opened her mouth to apologize, but Kyle held out his hand. "It is alright, Sylvia." He then turned his attention to the irritated blond standing in front of him. "What can I do for you Isabel?"

Maria just fell back into her seat next to Liz. "Do you know who that is," she whispered into Liz's ear.
Liz nodded, but her attention was else where. She hadn't been able to take her eyes off of the man that had followed Isabel in the room. Maria glanced in the direction Liz was looking and smiled to herself. She had to hand it
to her best friend. She had taste. Maria waved her hand in front of Liz's face. "Earth to Liz."

Liz jumped a little bit as she was jolted out of her staring session. "What is it Maria," she asked.

"I asked if you knew who that was," Maria restated with a big grin on her face.

"Yeah, its Isabel Evans," Liz said nonchalantly.

"You say that like we're not just a few feet away from the biggest female vocalist of the year," Maria exclaimed in shock.

While Liz and Maria were chatting, Max Evans was trying to calm his sister down before she managed to insult the man who made her famous. "Isabel, does it really matter that Dido has a bigger dressing room than you?"

Isabel turned to her brother and shot him an angry glare. "Yes it matters, Max. She has had like one actual hit song. I have had three this year alone, and she gets the bigger dressing room?"

Kyle opened his mouth to speak, but it was Liz's voice that filled the room. "Don't forget that she does sing the theme song to that teen alien show," she stated matter-of-factly. "What is the name of it?"

"Roswell, I think," Maria added.

Max could help snickering. That was until he noticed who spoke. Sitting here before him was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her chocolate colored hair was pulled back from her face and her dark brown eyes
focused intently on his. However, the intense moment was short lived. "Who are you," Isabel asked, finally acknowledging Liz and Maria's existence.

Liz stood up and stuck her hand out. "My name is Liz Parker and this is my client Maria Deluca."

Isabel turned away and looked directly back at Kyle. "You are signing her," she whined. "Are you just going to let anyone record for this label?"

Liz went to defend her friend, but Max beat her too it. "Isabel, that was uncalled for. Apologize now."

Isabel began to pout, but didn't say a word. Instead, she stormed out much the same way she came in. Max turned his attention back to Liz and Maria.

"I am really sorry about that. Sometimes my sister can be pretty spoiled."

Kyle chuckled at what Max was said. "If you don't mind me saying, Isabel has a lot people beat when it comes to spoiled."

Max nodded he head in agreement before shaking Kyle's hand. "I am really sorry about this, Mr. Valenti."

Kyle smiled. "Don't worry about it."

"Thanks again," Max added, then turned to face Liz. "I better get going. My sister has left me stranded before, and I bet she wants to do it again. "

Liz smiled at Max. "It was nice to meet you."

Max nodded. "It was nice to meet you too."

Part Three by Liz

Three Months Later

"Maria, doll," Kyle called airily to his starlet-to-be. As usual, he was decked out in a formal business suit and tie, looking crisp and professional. It was part of the routine. Always look good for the client. He approached her in an embrace, kissing her gently on the cheek. Thats how these industry types seemed to work. A lot of it was business, and when it wasn’t business it was bullshit.

"Hey Kyle," she said, playing along. Truthfully, it made her a bit uncomfortable, this whole LA facade. After all, deep down she was really just a small-town girl. And it was just weird…But Kyle was a perfectly nice guy. Just a little absorbed in his life, which was pretty much work. He was an egotistical, charming workaholic, really.

Maria glanced around nervously. She’d never been in a real recording studio before. It didn’t seem that foreign. But then again, she was only in the lobby. There was a secretary at a desk, and three long, cold corridors. Kyle took his hand in hers, pulling her into the studio farther. He took her forward into the hallway, and then turned into a studio. They opened the door. A man sat at the control panel, working intensely on something. He was tall, and lean with chocolately brown short hair. He wore a pair of loose jeans, and a simple blue button-down shirt. The man was completely absorbed with jotting down notes on a pad of lined paper.

Kyle ushered her in, approaching the man. "Maria, this is Alex Whitman. He’s going to be collaborating with you on some songs. He plays the guitar expertly, and some background vocals. Also, a pure genius when it comes to writing. He’s written a few songs for the album to add to your own."

Maria nodded, gazing at Alex, who was still completely enthralled in whatever he was doing. "Alex?" Kyle’s voiced imposed. The man jumped, looking up with a sheepishly embarrassed expression on his face.

"Oh hey," he said easily, with a warm smile. "Sorry, I was just writing something. Got caught up. You must be Maria," he said, holding his hand out to her.

She shook it, and smiled back at him. There was just something about him…This mischievous boyish look to him. It seemed he was one of the good ones, one who had not been affected yet by this whole famous atmosphere. "Yeah," she nodded. "It’s nice to meet you."

"Likewise," he said, pushing the papers aside, and standing up. "I’ve heard some of your stuff. You’re amazing."

Maria blushed, looking down timidly. "Thanks, it’s just…my passion."

"I know what you mean," he agreed whole-heartedly. "I think we’re going to get along great."

"So anyway, Maria, where is Ms. Parker?" Kyle asked casually, seating himself in a swivel chair.

"Traffic. She called me earlier saying she’d be late."

Kyle nodded, his face disapproving. "Mmmhmm," he muttered to himself. "I guess I’ll just let you know now, then. Well, the PR team has decided that the best thing for you after your first single hits the air is to go on tour. Now, we tried to fit you in with Weezer, but we’ve decided over at the label that you should work with someone more close to your specific genre. That’s why you’re going to be placed on tour with Isabel Evans and her entourage. You’ll be her opening act."

Maria gasped. Isabel Evans. On tour. This was like…A dream come true. Okay, so their first meeting hadn’t exactly gone what you could have called smooth. But she was probably just in a bad mood, stressed out. Touring with Isabel was just, amazing. They would probably get really close, and maybe she’d even consider doing a song together or something? A duet. She liked the sound of that. She let out a long hiss of air. "Thank you, Kyle," she managed to choke out.

"No problem, babe. You’re the one who got yourself here. But that means we’re going to be really busy working on the album for the next four to five months or so. I want this baby out as soon as possible. The marketing people will want a photo shoot, videos and probably a gig on MTV. But it’s going to happen quick. We have a schedule here." He paused to look at his watch. Rolex, of course. "Which means, to be on time, if not early. And be ready to work, I don’t want any attitude. This is hard work, and you’ve got to want it so bad you can taste it. Otherwise you’re not going to get it. You get it?"

Maria nodded, overwhelmed. She knew he was mad about Liz being late. But, that wasn’t the most important thing right now. She was going to be touring. She was going to have an album. And music videos---MTV for God’s sakes! She was going to meet Carson Daily and all. "So does that mean—" she started, but was interrupted by the shrill ring of a cell phone.

"Sorry, thats me," Kyle said, pulling it from his pocked, and switching it on. "Kyle Valenti…Yes…No, I said now! Isabel, you have to….No. No…..One minute." He glanced over at Maria and Alex. "You two get acquainted. Excuse me." With that he let himself out into the hallway, slamming the door behind himself.

Maria bit her lip nervously, glancing out the door at Kyle’s increasingly reddening face. He was pissed. And it seemed that it was because of Isabel again. Maybe it wasn’t such a good thing after all that she was going to tour with her. But it’s not like she could pull out, there was no way she’d ever do that. She glanced at Alex.

He smiled goofily, taking a bite out of a donut. "Donut?" He offered, holding up a rainbow sprinkled one. She nodded, taking it from him and slumping down into a chair. She had feeling it was going to be a long wait.

posted on 1-Jan-2002 2:45:30 PM
Part Four by Annie

Max flopped himself down unto the couch in Isabel's condo. She hated this place, but Max liked it because it was close to the studio. Which was a good thing today. Isabel had him running errands up and down, making plans for her upcoming tour. Hell, Max felt more like an errand boy then a manager.

Lately, Isabel was impossible to live with. Nothing pleased her and she had no problem complaining about it. Max was just tired of dealing with it. The worst part was that the tour was still months away.

"Maaaaxxx," he heard her call into the living room.

"Isabel, there is not a chance in hell that I am getting off of this couch," he yelled back at her as he pulled a cushion over his head.

Isabel walked into the room, grabbed the cushion off of his head, and threw it across the room. "Did you hear who is opening for me?"

"Maria Deluca," he said, barely opening his eyes. "She is pretty good. I heard a couple of her demos. Why?"

"You planned this," she yelled. Isabel grabbed another cushion and began to hit him with it.

"dammit Isabel," Max managed to spout out in-between getting hit. He managed to grab the pillow, but Isabel was still pulling at it to wrench it from his grasp. "If you hit me one more time, Isabel, I will quit," he said

Isabel let go of the pillow and sank down on the chair across from the couch. "Why do I have to tour with her," she whined.

Max sat up. "What is so bad with Maria Deluca?"

"You can't fool me, Max," she said, pointing at him. "You just want to see Liz Parker again. You don't even care that you have signed me up with a no name who could bring down the entire tour."

Max rolled his eyes at his sister. "You have never even heard her sing. She is really good. She is the perfect act to open for you and that has nothing to do with Liz Parker."

"Don't even try to get around it Max. I have seen you look at her," Isabel accused.


"Just last week. We were walking out of the studio and she was walking in. You were looking at her like you had never seen a woman before."

"None as beautiful as her," he mumbled under his breath.

"What was that," Isabel asked with a smirk on her face. "Did I hear the word 'beautiful' being used?"

Max got up off the couch. "Are you twelve, Isabel?"

Isabel's smile got wider. "And are you getting defensive, my dear brother?"

Max walked over to the door and opened it. "I am taking the rest of the day off. For your sake, don't call me for the rest of the day." With that, he closed the door.

Isabel sat in her chair, triumphant in the knowledge that Max was getting defensive over a girl. She hadn't seen him date much in the past couple of years. It would be good for him to go out. But she still did not like the fact that in order for him to get this date, she would have to be stuck on tour with Maria Deluca.

Part Five by Liz

"Mmm, coffee, my lifeblood," mumbled Liz to no one particular as she drunk in the warm rich scent of her flavored coffee. The steaming coffee was her one release from the stressful day which she was having. First of all, that horrible jam on the highways, and then getting to the studio and finding out that she wasn’t even needed. Liz had gratefully found solitude in a nearby café, her cell turned on in case of a duty call. Most likely there would be, considering Kyle seemed especially perfectionistic. It was like nothing could be completely right for him.

She relaxed, easing herself down in one of the lush padded chairs, letting her tired and aching body sink into the padded comfort. It was nice to finally take a break. God knows she needed one. She’d been busy non-stop ever since Maria had been offered this contract, in fact, she’d taken a leave-of-absence at school so she would be free to devote more time to her best friend’s impending superstardom.

Liz closed her eyes for a moment, cradling the hot over-sized mug in her hand, letting a serene feeling overwhelm her body. It was almost like a meditative state for her. She inhaled deeply, smelling the coffee, then exhaled. Inhaled, exhaled.

"Mind if I join you?" came a deep, velvety voice whispering in her ear.

Liz jolted suddenly, spilling the hot substance all over her skirt. "God!" she cried irritatedly, jumping up and placing the cup on the table in front of her. Then she winced painfully, "…and, ‘ow’." It hadn’t even occurred to her to give any recognition to the source of her accident, until she found a masculine hand, blotting away the coffee stain with a napkin. And god, what was attached to that hand…Well, it was worth the pain, she could admit. "Hi," she said hoarsely.

Max scrubbed at the stain, his black jacket removed, and his blue-colored button-up shirt’s sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He kneeled on the floor, at her feet, and his head flicked up, shooting her a worried glance when she spoke. "I…" He sputtered, "I am so sorry about that."

Liz shook her head. "No, no. Look, it’s all my fault. I don’t know what happened there. I’m just a total spaz!" She exclaimed, taking a napkin, and helping him with his clean-up.

He looked up from the stain again, his face lit up in a breath-taking completely charming smile. "But a cute one," he muttered lowly to himself.

Liz blinked. "Excuse me?"

He shook his head. Oh god, he had said that out loud. Out. Loud. He could feel himself flushing, knowing that a blush covered his entire complexion by now probably. "Nothing…I, uh.." He stumbled for a word or phrase he could use. Something witty, charming, smart. Something coherent, perhaps. There was just something about this girl…He studied her quickly. Her warm brown eyes were round orbs of concern, her face slightly tinted with a blush. Her silky long tendrils were worn loose, tucked haphazardly behind her ears. And the cute little half grin, half smirk that was playing on her lips…It was just breathtaking. He’d never seen anything more perfect in his life.

He diverted his eyes back to her skirt. "Oh! Look, it’s gone."

She smiled warmly, "thanks." She placed a hand tentatively on his upper arm. It was hard and muscular. She took a long intake of air before snatching it away, like his arm was on fire. "Here," she said, flustered. "Join me."

Max stood slowly, his eyes locked with hers, not wanting to betray himself by uttering all that he felt. He slung his suit jacket over his shoulder, and gave her another charming toothy grin. "Thanks. So what brings you here?" He questioned, taking a seat across from her.

Never in her life had she been so physically attracted to a man before. Of course, she’d felt it before---when first meeting him, and run-ins at Valenti Records. But never so strongly, and never in a social atmosphere. His chocolate brown hair was slightly rumpled, gold tie loosened, shirt unbuttoned a little casually, and a five o’clock shadow across his face. Now, it’s not that professional, sleek Max wasn’t sexy. But now…just sitting there looking so rumpled and yet so adorable. She just wanted to ravish him right then and there.

Of course, that was not an option. First of all, they were professionals. And it was never good to mix business with pleasure, so says Cosmo, television, and her cousin Stacey. Also, the fact that she’d never even had a full, intense conversation with the man. Oh, and of course, the fact that he had absolutely no attraction to her, most likely. Thats the way it was for her. She’d be the crushee, not the crush. So sad and pathetic, but true. To even comprehend that this male-model, sexy, Adonis guy would even go for her was mind-boggling.

"Ms. Parker?" Max asked, his eyebrows knitted together in concern. "Are you okay?"

"Liz," she babbled. "Call me Liz…And yeah, long day---you know, distractions around, lots of stuff and yeah…Whew," she sighed. "I was late, Kyle was pissed, I got coffee. Your excuse?"

Max liked the way she babbled. It was like one of those cute adorable quirks that people either thought were great, or loathed with a passion. Of course, it was the former for him. He could listen to Liz talk all day through those gorgeous, supple lips. She could say anything she wanted to, as long as he could be in her presence. He could smell her perfume. It was a like walking through a field of wildflowers on a summer day.

He groaned. "Isabel is a pain. She’s always a pain. Maybe not so much at the beginning, but as soon as the second number one single came out, suddenly she’s J-Lo. She got all diva on everyone, and won’t let anything get in her way, including her brother."

Liz laughed. "Oh God, if Maria ever got that way I’d disown her. But she’s too grounded. It’s just…a passion for her, I guess."

Max nodded. "Mmm, I get that. She’s got a beautiful voice. Too bad Isabel is in such hysterics she won’t even sit and listen to her demos."

"She’s that bad, huh?" Liz brought the mug to her lips, taking a small sip of the scorching hot liquid. "Maria’s so starstruck I don’t think she even realizes how much Isabel seems to dislike her."

"It’s not even that," Max assured Liz. "She just…gets in these moods. She wants to be number one forever, and intends to do anything in her power to stop her fame from pummeling. And if that means stomping on starlets, then so be it. She can be heartless and cruel."

Liz shook her head. "God, what fun this will be."

Part Six by Annie

A week later.

Max was so busy reading over the purposed itinerary for the tour that he didn't notice the person standing right in front of him until he felt the collision.

"What the hel…" Liz's voice trailed off when she turned and saw who bumped into her.

Max would have given anything to find a pile of sand to stick is head in. He felt so stupid. Way to go, he chided himself. "Oh God Liz. I am so sorry."

Liz laughed. "Its okay Max. I think that it has just been one of those days."

Max grew a bit ridged. He hated hearing that Liz was having a bad day. He didn't know why, but Liz just effected him in every way imaginable. If he saw that she was happy, his mood would soar. When he saw her get upset, Max
would instantly feel worse. And none of this was like the undeniable attraction he felt towards her.

"Is everything okay," Liz asked, after noticing how silent Max grew.

Max shook his head. "Yeah," he responded with a smile. "I'm fine, but what is making your day so bad?"

"Nothing much," Liz said with a sigh. "It is just my professors. They told me that if I missed anymore classes I would have to drop this semester."

Max just looked at Liz with shock. "You're kidding. Why would they do that? I know that you have to be the brightest student in that school."

"I doubt that," Liz replied with a smile on her face.

"What did you do," Max asked.

"I dropped this semester," Liz sighed again. "It wasn't like I could stay in school and go on tour with Maria."

"That's a lot to give up for your friend."

Liz glanced sideways at him. "You of all people should know. From what I have seen, Isabel can be pretty demanding. I bet you spend a lot of time keeping her happy."

Max laughed. "You have a point."

"I know," Liz said. "Besides, I made a promise."

Max raised his eyebrow. "A promise?"

Liz opened her mouth to speak, but she noticed that they were at the boardroom. "Well, it looks like we're here."

Max nodded and opened the door for her. Liz walked passed him with a smile, and entered the room, looking around. She saw Maria sitting next to Kyle. Isabel was sitting down on the other side of him. Alex, who Liz had met a couple of days earlier, was sitting a couple of seats down from Isabel. Liz could tell by the way that Alex was smiling at Isabel that he was into her.

Then there was someone that Liz had never met. This man was wearing jeans and a white button down shirt with his hair spiked up all over the place. Max leaned over to her to her. She felt slightly stimulated as his warm breath breathed in her ear, "That's Michael. He has designed all the sets for Isabel's tours. He's not too bad at it."

Michael overheard Max. "Not too bad," he said, getting up from his chair with an indignant facial expression. "I would say that I was brilliant, actually a genius, in the area of stage design."

Maria rolled her eyes, giving a little snort. "Arrogant much."

Michael turned to face her. "Oooh, is this the new star wannabe?" He asked, his tone mocking. He knew very well that Maria was talented.

"Not wannabe, gonnabe," Maria retorted.

"Clever four eyes," Michael snapped, without thinking. He found this feisty blond quiet attractive, despite the dressed-down look, and rumpled hair. Her glasses were slid down her nose slightly, and a firey look was in her eyes. He was not about to let her get the last word in. However, after he saw the hurt look on her face, he wished he had never said at all.

Maria wanted to cry, but she wasn't going to give Michael the satisfaction. Besides, she didn't want to be embarrassed in front of all these people. Especially Isabel, who had seemed to take an instant disliking to Maria. She didn't know why, but every time she got near her she'd be greeted by a snide glare, and a huff coming from the other woman. Maria opened her mouth to say something else, but Isabel spoke instead.

"Do we have to listen to anymore of this childish bantering. If I have to be stuck on tour with her, I will not put up with it."

"The diva speaks," Michael joked as he took he seat again.

"Shut up Michael," Isabel snapped. Obviously Isabel had taken a bit of a liking to Michael, because she wasn't half as harsh to him as she was with the others.

"Nice comeback," Maria mumbled under her breath.

"ENOUGH," Kyle voice boomed. "I have had enough of this." He turned his attention to Isabel. "I know that you are not happy about going on tour with Maria, but you are going to have to learn that you are not the only star represented by this company. The sooner you accept it, the better."

Next, Kyle turned his attention to Michael. "Michael, you will just have to stop…well, being yourself, if we want to get through this. The only reason you're on board her is because I can't find anyone better. But that doesn't mean you have leverage to demonstrate that attitude of yours. Don't upset the girls."

Then, Kyle looked at Maria with a sympathetic gaze. "This is what you will have to work with. Are you still sure you're for it?"

Part Seven by Liz

"Now," Kyle announced, rubbing his hands together. "In order to be a star, you’ve got to have it."

"It?’" Maria asked uneasily. "Um…Define."

"’It’ is the essence, the vibe. That spark that gets everyone to buy your stuff, to adore you. And you are a star Maria, you have it."

Maria flushed. "T-thank you," she stuttered, throwing a glance over at Liz. She had no idea what was going on. After the conference Kyle had invited Maria and Liz to stay afterwards. Of course, it was much to Liz’s dismay as she kept looking longingly out the door ever since Max had left. "But I’m not exactly sure what you’re getting at."

Kyle nodded, gazing at Liz who acknowledged him with a nod. She stood slowly, facing her best friend. "Maria, Mr. Valenti and I have been in discussion about this for some time now. We just don’t think…" She trailed off, hoping to word this in a way which wouldn’t offend Maria. "What I mean is that, you need to….Change your look."

Maria’s eyebrows shot up, her eyes widening. "I don’t know," she said, shaking her head. "This look is me, this is Maria DeLuca. I don’t want to be this fake person."

Kyle nodded. "And we know that, but it’s just the way things work. But it won’t be anything too dramatic. Just some makeup, clothes, maybe hair. Now, we’ve set you up an appointment at the record’s personal salon. Will you be ready for, say, 3?"

Maria opened her mouth to speak, but Liz placed a firm hand over it, shooting Kyle a grin. "We’ll be there."

He gave a curt nod, collecting his things. "So long, ladies."

As soon as Kyle descended through the wide double doors, Liz removed her hand from Maria’s mouth. "Liz!" She cried. "I cannot believe you just sold me out---to him!"

"Maria," Liz soothed, putting an arm around her best friend, stroking the straight blonde hair.

"No, Liz, you do not understand. I have been growing this hair since---well, forever! Ever remember me getting it cut? Or straightened? Or anything? And make-up….damn, babe, that stuff clogs your pores! Natural is the way to be."

"I know," Liz sighed. "I know you like it that way, but this what the company wants, and what they want, they usually get. I‘m sure the last thing they want is another Isabel lording over them, whining at everything. You’re new, we need to do this."

Maria pulled her glasses out of hr pocket, slipping them on her face to watch Kyle as he left the room. "That boy…" she sighed. "He is way too uptight. What he needs is a slutty blonde and a fifth of vodka."

Liz smiled, thinking of a short blonde girl from one of her classes. "Maybe I’ll give him someone’s number," she said with a giggle.

Part Eight by Annie

"I feel like a turkey," Maria sighed as they walked out of the salon.

Liz turned to her friend. "Why do you feel like a turkey?"

Maria looked sideways at Liz. "Because I have been pulled, plucked, poked, and dressed enough to satisfy 10 Thanksgiving dinners."

Liz wanted to laugh, but she knew better. Maria was already mad at her and she didn't want to add to it. "Well, you don't look like poultry. In fact, you look amazing."

Maria didn't know if she believed it. "Really?"

Liz nodded. "Why would I lie to you?"

"You weren't too forthcoming about this little makeover," Maria pointed out.

Liz smiled. "That wasn't lying. I just withheld information."

"Spoken like a true lawyer," Maria teased.

Liz pretended to be offended, but deep down it did strike a cord. At this rate, she wasn't going to be a lawyer. Not without finishing school, anyway. Maria noticed that Liz looked a little down. "Hey babe, what's the

Liz gave a little smile. "Nothing."

Maria shook her head. "Now that was a lie. You can't hold out on me, Liz. I know you too well."

Liz sighed. She wasn't really looking forward to telling Maria that she dropped out of school. Liz didn't want her best friend to feel guilty. But, by the look on Maria's face, she wasn't going to budge. "I dropped out of school today," Liz said softly.

Maria brought her hand up to cover her mouth. "Oh God Liz. I am so sorry. Why didn't you tell me things were that bad a school?"

"I didn't want to stress you out even more, especially with everything going on. You had a lot on your plate with rehearsal and recording."

Maria nodded. "You still should have told me. I know that you are just sticking to your promise, but I didn't want you to lose everything over it."

Liz took Maria's hand. "And I haven't. My best friend is going to have her dream. It means so much to me that I helped in some way. Besides, you still have to keep up your end of the bargain. Go find me a man."

Maria laughed a little bit. "You hopeless romantic you."

Liz nodded. "That's me."

Just then both girls noticed Michael walking down the hall toward them. "Oh no," Maria gasped. "Look who's coming."

"You mean Michael," Liz asked.

"Yeah Michael," Maria said sarcastically. "The jerk that called me four eyes in the meeting."

Now Liz understood. "Well, I say that it is time to take this makeover out for a spin. Whip out that famous Deluca smile."

Maria looked a Liz in shock. "What?"

Liz just smiled. "Revenge can be a sweet thing. You of all people should know that. So smile and see what happens."

Michael couldn't help but notice Liz and the gorgeous blond walking in his direction. "Who is that," he wondered to himself. Liz and the blond stopped right in front of him. Michael couldn't take his eyes off of the other girl. Her creamy white skin practically glowed under the light. Her pale pink lips where curled in the most beautiful smile he
had ever seen. The soft blond hair fell in delicate layers past her shoulders. Michael was absolutely blown over.

"Hi Liz." Michael said.

Liz was trying her best not to laugh. She could tell that Michael into Maria. "Hi."

Michael mustered his best I-know-you-want-me smile. "Well, aren't you going to introduce me to your friend."

Liz couldn't hold her laugh any longer. Neither could Maria. Both of them just stood before Michael, laughing there little hearts out.

"What is so funny," he asked, getting a bit angry.

"We have already met," Maria managed to say.

Now Michael was confused. "We have? When?"

Maria regained her composure. "This afternoon at the meeting. You sure do have a bad memory if you can't remember my name for a few hours. Maybe this will refresh your memory. Four eyes."

Michael's jaw just dropped. "Maria?"

Maria nodded. "Yeah Maria, but I think that you should call me Ms. Deluca."

By this time, Liz was leaning against the wall, trying to support herself after laughing so hard. "I guess you like Maria's new look," she said before bursting into giggles all over again. Michael didn't know if he had ever been so humiliated. Yet, he was not going to let them know that. "It's not bad," he said, trying to be cool.

Maria lifted an eyebrow. "Not bad. Your previous looks leave me to believe that it is better than that."

Michael just gave a low grunt and walked away. Maria turned her attention to Liz, who was doubled over with laughter. "I think that I am getting to like this new look better and better."

Liz looked up. "Is that so, turkey?"

Maria began to laugh all over again. "Yeah, that is so." Maria reached over and helped Liz to stand straight as they made their way out of the building.

posted on 1-Jan-2002 2:51:11 PM
Part Nine by Liz

Gross. Thats what Isabel was thinking as she stared down at her nails. Her cuticles looked awful, what had that woman been thinking with this manicure? Ugh. She lay on a red lounge chair, waiting impatiently. That weird music guy was supposed to be here 20 minutes ago. She’d met him twice before, and he’s stared at her like all the others—same lovesick expression, the doofy grin and puppy eyes. It was just sad that a grown man could get like that. Of course, who could blame any of them? After all, she was both gorgeous and talented.

"Max!" She said icily. "Where is this man, I have things to do." She turned her head ever so slightly to gaze at her brother.

Max sat on a high stool at the kitchenette, an Evian water bottle in hand, and the other massaging his temple. "Isabel, staring at your reflection in the mirror is not ‘things to do’. Neither is going shopping with those horrible friends of yours."

Isabel let out a little sniff, and turned back to her nails. She was going to have to get Max to speak to someone about that manicurist. The little chime to the door rang, and Isabel waited. Yet, Max didn’t rise. She cocked her head around again. "Well…?"

Max shook his head indignantly, and rose to his feet, setting the almost full bottled water onto the counter. He made his way over to the door, and opened it. "Hey Alex," he greeted him, with a pat on the shoulder. Then he lowered his voice "you better have a good excuse for being late, Isabel is miffed, and that’s just never good." He rolled his eyes, and closed the door as Alex stepped into the room.

"Sorry," Alex said, his eyes darting towards Isabel’s lounging figure. "I was helping Maria record some of her tracks. They’re really good, but we ran over."

Isabel let out a little snort, and a scowl graced her face. "Figures," she replied.

Max grabbed a duffel bag and hoisted it over his shoulder. "Now, I’m going to be over at the gym. I should be about an hour or so. My cell is going to be on if you need anything."

"Thats cool," Alex nodded, and gave him a grin. "Don’t worry, we’ll be good. Lots of stuff to do."

Max nodded, and sent Isabel a warning look. Alex was a good guy, and he didn’t want her alienating him before he even really started working with her. God knows how fun that would be for him.

Alex walked over to Isabel, his hand outstretched. "Isabel, nice to see you again."

She settled her vision on his waiting hand and a smug smile frosted her lips. She raised an eyebrow at the hand. Alex’s smile fell, as did his hand, but only for a second. He was out to get to know the real Isabel. Her heart and soul. Because thats what made a good song, depth and feeling. And if you didn’t have that then, well, it was just words.

He cleared his throat, and had a seat across from her. "Now, the label has sent me here to help you with the new material. They really want me to help you get to know the feel of it. The first single is going to be ‘Let Me In’. It’s sort of a slow melody, kind of like…" He stopped for a moment. "Well, kind of like this…‘I've been watching you and all you do’" he sang.

His voice was nice, she had to admit that. Kind of Coldplay meets Dave Matthews. And the song wasn’t that bad. She’d looked it over the other day, with Max. Actually, he’d kind of forced her to. But she was glad, since if she didn’t like it then of course, she’d never sing it. "Come on, you try it," he urged.

Isabel sat up, bringing her feet to set on the floor, and to face him. She took a deep breath. "I’ve been watching you and all you do," she sang slowly.

Alex stood, placing a hand upon his hip. "Well, that was beautiful. But yeah, try not to tred on ‘do’, it only going to be one beat. And also, you should raise your key a little on ‘you’ and ‘do’."

Isabel nodded. Sometimes she could be kind of cold, or maybe mean. But deep down she really did love the music. And any pointers that she could get, even from this guy, she would appreciate. Not that she would ever admit it to anyone, not even her brother. "I’ve been watching you and all you do," she sang.

Alex’s face lit up. "Good! Great, that was perfect. Sounds just like I wanted when I wrote it."

"You wrote it?" She asked, a surprised look on her face.

He nodded, "yeah just a little hobby of mine. I mean, if I can’t sing, then why not write, you know?"

Isabel smiled. A real, genuine smile. She’d almost forgotten she could do that. "It’s really beautiful."

He blushed, looking down for an instant. "Thanks," he said, and coughed. "So uh, the next part is…"

But Isabel wasn’t listening. She was watching him, it was kind of like on tv when you put it on mute. Maybe she was wrong about him. She could reconsider her opinion, couldn’t she? He had talent, a good voice…And he was just a little bit cute in the lost little boy kind of way. Maybe working with him wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Part Ten by Annie

Max definitely needed to release some stress. As the launch of the tour grew nearer, Isabel grew more impossible. Her demands were more outrageous and her complaints were more nagging. Max's life had become more of a
circus than it already was. Max managed to workout most of his frustrations on the weights. The rest was taken out on the punching bag. After an hour, Max felt more tense than before he started. Usually, a workout helped him to relax, but today was different. He couldn't stop thinking about Liz.

She had sounded really down just before the meeting the other day. Her eyes didn't even sparkle the way they usually did. "Oh great," Max thought to himself. "Are you trying to get yourself worked up again." Max dropped his head, and noticed how sweaty he was. "I better take a shower," he thought as he walked over to the locker rooms. Reaching down, Max pulled at his T-shirt, peeling it off just before he opened the locker room door.

Just then, he heard his name being called out. Max turned around and noticed a petite blond walking towards him. "Hi," Max said, unsure of who it was.

When Maria saw Max walking to the locker room, she waved at him. Then he pulled off his shirt. "Damn," Maria thought. "Liz has some good taste. That boy is in shape." Yet Max seemed deep in thought. So, Maria called out to him. Now Max looked utterly confused. Maria walked up to him, then remembered that he hadn't seen the new her. "It's Maria."

Max's jaw nearly dropped to the floor. "Oh my God, Maria. I didn't recognize you."

Maria just laughed. "I sorta picked that up. So you like the new look," she asked, spinning around once.

"Yeah," Max said nodding. "It is not bad at all. So, what did Liz think when you showed her?"

"Liz liked it," Maria said, raising on eyebrow.

Max nodded a bit. "So how is Liz?"

Maria's ears perked up. "She is doing okay. Why do you ask?"

Max just looked at Maria. "She told me about dropping out of school. She seemed really down about it, not that I can blame her. I was just wondering how she was feeling."

Maria dropped her eyes a little. "Yeah, school. It seems it is going to be one of those things that Liz won't talk to me about. She thinks that I might worry too much or something. I feel really bad about it."

"Why," Max asked, a bit confused on why Maria would blame herself.

"The promise," Maria sighed.

"Oh, the promise," Max nodded in agreement.

Maria's head shot up. "You know about that?"

"Liz mentioned it before the meeting. She didn't tell me all the details, but I know that it was to help you. It's not your fault she dropped out. She really wants this for you."

Maria looked at Max in appreciation. "Thanks Max. But do you think you could help her. I know things are going to overwhelm her."

"I know the feeling," Max agreed. "Dealing with Isabel and her career has left me with more than my fair share of worries. Sometime I wish I could just get away from it all."

Maria gave a slight laugh. "Maybe you and Liz should get together and talk. I mean, you can help her with her issues and she can help you. And at least know that she is talking to someone."

Max's face brightened some. "You think so?"

"I know so," Maria told him. "She would love it. Help from another manager. She would be ecstatic. I bet that she will be so swamped in paperwork soon that she won't know where to start."

"Well, I'll think about giving her a call," Max said with an ever widening smile. It was at that point that Max realized how he looked. "Dammit. I better get in that shower before I stink up the place."

Maria crinkled her nose like she smelled something rotten. "Yeah. I think so too."

Max laughed a little. "Thanks Maria."

"No problem," she said walking toward the gym.

Max waved bye. Maria noticed that he was a little preoccupied by his thoughts. "Thoughts of Liz," she whispered to herself as she left the gym.

"Oh yeah, Maria is so going to keep up her end of promise. Go me. Matchmaker Maria is on the case."

Part Eleven by Liz

"I just can’t believe it," she sighed. "This is happening to me. This is my party, in none other than Kyle Valenti’s mansion! Look," Maria pointed. "They have a valet! A valet Liz, this is ritzy. This is for me."

If Liz hadn’t been driving at that moment, she would have reached over and given Maria a hug. Of course it was for her. Over the last few months she’d struggled and worked so hard. Before, when she was trying to make ends meet as a no-name artist, sure money had been tight…But having a tight schedule was almost just as bad. There had been so much sweat and blood, excuse the metaphor, put into that album. Maria deserved nothing more than a fancy party to be adored and showered with praise.

She pulled her silver Honda up to the curb, and let the valet open the door for her. Liz stepped out awkwardly, afraid of breaking her ankle in the ridiculous shoes she was wearing. They were pink, opened toed sandals to match her bright pink dress that she’d chosen with Maria the day before. She glanced over at her friend, who looked stunning, but rather nervous in her gold glittery tube top and black knee-length skirt. He heels weren’t quite as high, but she knew that they’d probably end up supporting each other all night long. Liz threw her an assuring grin and thanked the valet, handing him her keys.

They tentatively took a step up the stairs, arms linked. It felt like they were twelve year olds, going to some grown-up party, like they didn’t belong. "I can’t go in," Maria sighed, stalling right before the open door. "What if they hate me, what if it’s the wrong address? Maybe we should just go home right now and forget abo—"

"Maria," Liz stopped her. Maria’s eyes were pleading, like a child’s. "Good luck, you’re perfect," Liz said as she pushed forward her friend into the massive house. Maria stumbled forward, almost losing her balance, but a strong arm caught her before she could hit the ground, or anything else for that matter.

"Thanks," she blushed, adjusting her shoe. Damn Liz for making her wear this get-up. Speaking of, where did she disappear to? Maria turned, scanning the area for Liz, but she was no where to be seen. How the hell did she scurry away so fast in those shoes? Maria brought her gaze to the man standing in front of her, who had stopped her from that embarrassing incident. "You," she said coldly, eyes narrowing.

Michael rolled his eyes, shoving some sort of cracker-thing in his mouth. "Whatever," he muttered through chewing.

Maria wrinkled her nose in disgust. "Ew," she commented, then looked him over. "You know, I must say, Guerin, you do look half decent when you’re dressed up." Okay, so he wasn’t completely dressed up. He had a button up shirt, and a jacket, but he was missing something…

"I don’t do ties," he grunted, and grabbed another cracker from a waiter carrying a tray. "Only reason I came is the food," he mumbled. "The food is good."

"Riiight, anyway, I have things to do, so yeah." With that she left, rolling her eyes and heaving a deep shy. No matter what happened, that guy just really bothered her.

"Maria!" Kyle called, hugging her. "There’s some people I’d like you to meet, come this way…" He said, taking her hand and escorting her towards the stairwell.

"Why do I even have to be here?" Isabel pouted. "It’s not as if we’re friends, or anything. We just happen to be two singers in the same age bracket, who happen to be on the same label and touring together. Doesn’t mean I have to like her, and spend time with her. We’re not going to bond over Haagan Daiz and pillow fights, Max."

"Thats not what I’m expecting, Isabel," he growled. "You are to be here because all of Valenti Record’s clients are to be present unless previously engaged. Besides, it’s good press, and good press will help us sell more albums and tickets to the concerts."

"I was previously engaged. I told you, bikini wax. Rohini is particular, she does not like to be canceled on. Especially for some nobody’s party!"

Max just shook his head and longed for the days that Isabel didn’t walk around like she was some mighty goddess, vapid and superficial all the way. Like when they’d been in elementary school…He’d never understood his sister and her obsession with popularity. It was just juvenile, and silly in his opinion. But still, she’d always strived to look her best and win over people to worship her. Even before superstardom. But there was a girl down there, a lonely and sweet-natured soul. Over the last few years he’d seen flickers of it, the shadow of the self that she once was. It had to be a lonely place at the top, people only talking to you because you were attractive or famous…But it’s not as if she let it all out for Max or anyone else to know. Instead she was icy cold.

"Just have another drink, Iz. It’ll all be over soon," he said, shoving his champagne glass into her hand. She shrugged, and took a small sip.

Max scanned the crowd. It was a good turnout, a lot of Kyle’s clients were in attendance, and Maria was being chatted up by quite a few of them. They all wanted to meet the next biggest artist on the scene. The one this whole shindig was for. And then his searching stopped. Liz. It was as if his eyes had a homing beacon for her. She looked absolutely breathtaking in the tight, flowing dress she was wearing, her hair all done up. Not that she looked worse when she didn’t look like that. But it was nice to see her in something other than work clothes. Work clothes were practical, but just not as fun.

He watched as she placed her glass of champagne down on a counter top, and disappeared into another room. He didn’t know why, and he knew that he shouldn’t but he found himself following her in the room. Him and Liz weren’t especially close, they’d talked at meetings, and that day in the coffee shop. And he’d of course, made up silly reasons to call her out of the blue when he needed to hear her beautiful voice. Everything about her was just perfect. He slipped into the room behind her. It was basically empty excepts for a large cherrywood desk, and a few chairs and books shelves.

"Liz," Max said softly.

She jumped, whirling around, eyes wide. "Oh my god, Max!" Liz cried. "Everytime I see you, you scare me," she laughed.

"Sorry he said," a huge grin breaking out on his face. "Didn’t mean to."

"No, no, it’s fine. I just…needed a breather. It’s really overwhelming out there. Everyone wants to know why I’m here and who I am. Sometimes I’d just like to fade into the background, and have no one notice me at all."

Max grinned, he knew the feeling. "Thats not possible," he said, and Liz raised her eyebrows. "You’re just too outstanding not to see."

Liz felt her heart melt, her face softening into a large grin, and her cheeks grew faintly red. Her heart let out a pitter-patter, her pulse quickening. He had such an effect on her. She hoped that he didn’t see her go all red and flustered.

Max couldn’t even believe he’d just said that to her. He was never so forth-right when he liked a woman, he would always just be so subtle that she’d never even notice. Now, that tactic didn’t really work, but then again, he didn’t fall for many women. In fact, there’d only been one before. And it hadn’t been love.

Soft music filtered into the study, and then the familiar sound of Maria’s voice. It seemed as though someone had persuaded her to perform a little for the guests. Not that it really took all that much to convince her. Liz stood there awkwardly, not really knowing what to say. She was relieved when he took initiative, stepping forward. "Dance with me?"

Your fingertips...your fingertips
Sometimes I feel it burning
That deep and primal yearning
I feel it burn, burn, burning
I try live without it
But then I think about
Those fingertips, those fingertips, those fingertips

Liz nodded wordlessly, slipping into his arms. He smelt so delicious, and felt so good. It was if they’d been made to be like that forever. She could feel his hand burning through the dress at her waist. The fabric was too thin, next time she’d have to wear wool to avoid something like this. She let out a soft sigh, and laid her head against his shoulder. It was nice that he was taller than her, comfortable.

Anyone will do, anyone will do
Could be you
It's in the way they move and
They catch that simple groove and
They tell a story all their own about the human heart alone
I try to get a grip but I find I always slip on fingertips
Those fingertips, those fingertips

Slowly, and unsurely Max stroked her hair, indulging himself in the touch of the silken tendrils. He heard her sigh, and he knew that he wasn’t the only one who was enjoying this. But was it even possible that she liked him like that? Maybe she just was comforted by being in the arms of a friend. Maybe for her, it was like a hug from Maria. But for him…it was heaven and Liz was his beautiful angel.

Anyone will do, anyone will do
Could be you
It's in the way they move and
They catch that simple groove and
They tell a story all their own about the human heart alone
I try to get a grip but I find I always slip on fingertips
Those fingertips, those fingertips

"Max…" Liz said, lifting her head to gaze into his extraordinary eyes. He nodded his head slightly, eyes locked with hers. And he felt himself moving towards her, pulling her body closer to his. And she was allowing him, hell, she was doing it to.

Sometimes I get so lonely
The time it passes slowly, so, so, so slowly
I know I'm just a fool
'Cause they're writing all the rules
Those fingertips, those fingertips, those fingertips

Anyone will do, anyone will do
Could be you
It's in the way they move and
They catch that simple groove and
They tell a story all their own about the human heart alone
I try to get a grip but I find I always slip on fingertips
Those fingertips, those fingertips

Liz felt so a peace, so happy. It was going to happen, she was going to kiss Max Evans. Her eyes fluttered closed, and she could hear him breathing deeply in anticipation. She was doing it too, her heart beat was so accelerated. He was so close to her lips, she could almost taste him, the warm puffs of air coming from his lips. The smell of the mint.

Whoever, whoever you are
I got my light on
Whenever, whenever you can
I'll be there
I swear
I swear...

Let it be me
Let me be your love

"Max!" Came an obnoxious voice, bursting into the room. Liz’s eyes flung open, and she felt herself jump away from his grasp. She started to fall backwards, but he caught her, pulling her to his chest.

"Ow," she muttered, feeling the pain surge through her ankle. Damn shoes. Both Liz and Max looked over to see a very angry Isabel.

"Max." Isabel stated again. Max realized he was still holding onto Liz, and they tore apart as quickly as possible.

Isabel ran a hand through her long blond hair, then continued. "They want us to do a duet! A duet! Me, with her!" She gazed at Liz. "No offense."

Liz just nodded, then limped over to one of the leather chairs in pain.

"Isabel, this is a party, we will talk about this later."

"I want to go," she cried. "I didn’t want to come to this, and I want to go."

"We just got here," he argued. "It’s important."

"Come on, Iz," came a voice behind Isabel. She turned, and suddenly had a hundred watt smile across her lips.

"Well…." She muttered. "Maybe for a little." Alex grinned happily, looping his arm through hers, winking at Max and Liz as he led her out of the room.

Max sighed, and turned his attention to Liz. "Are you okay?"

She nodded. "My ankle, I just turned it. I’ll be okay, though. I just need ice."

Max winked, "I’ll be right back."


Part Twelve by Annie

Max returned with some ice wrapped in a towel not more than three minutes later. Before Liz could say a word, Max knelt on the ground next to her and gently pressed the cold cloth to her ankle. Liz smiled at him. Even with
his hand barely touching her skin, she felt shivers running up her spine.

"Thank you," she said softly.

Max looked into her eyes. All he wanted to do was stay lost in them forever. "Its no big deal, but I think that you should take it easy on this ankle for a bit."

Liz gave a little laugh. "I guess no more dangerously high heeled shoes for me. Just when I was getting use to being taller."

Max got up off the floor and offered Liz his hand. Liz stood up in front of him, her body practically becoming flush to his. "I think you're the perfect height," he whispered.

Liz began to grin inwardly. "What was that," she taunted. She had heard what he said, but she wanted to see if he would say it again.

Max took a step back, thinking that he could have kicked himself right there. It was like his mouth had a mind of its own. He could never imagine saying these things to anyone else. It was like she was made for him. And right now he wanted nothing more than to let her know it. "I was just saying that I think you are the perfect height."

"Really," Liz asked as she took a step forward. A jolt of pain shot up through her leg. Liz let out a little gasp.

Max reached out to steady her. "Are you okay? Does your ankle hurt really bad?"

Liz let out a sigh. Just when she and Max were getting close, her clumsiness would have to kick in and ruin it. "I should probably stay off it, which means I'd need get home."

Liz tried to step away from him, but Max kept a firm hold on her arm. "I don't think that you should drive. You might hurt your ankle worse," he said, his voice full of concern.

Liz blushed at the idea of what she was going to suggest next. "Would you take me home?"

Max felt his breath catch. "Yes," he said in a low husky tone.

Liz gave her keys to Maria so she could get home, and Max ushered her to his car. Within minutes they were driving down a street, heading towards Liz and Maria's apartment. The wind whipped through her hair, and it took all
of Max's control not to watch them dance through the soft tendrils. "Turn right here," she said.

Max broke out of his thoughts, just in time to make the turn. The car jerked a little because the turn was sharp and caused Liz to slide closer to Max. "Sorry," he said softly.

Liz giggled a little. "That's okay. What were you thinking so intently on?"

Max stiffened a little in his seat. "Nothing much… the weather."

Liz laughed louder. "The weather? This is California. There is not much to think about. It can either be hot, hotter, or smoldering." The second that word left her mouth, Liz wished she had thought of a better word. Smoldering was to close to how she was feeling after any contact with Max. "Mental note to self, buy thesaurus tomorrow," she thought.

"I was thinking more along the lines of how cool it is out tonight," he told her quietly, with a grin growing on his face. "There is a nice little breeze."

Liz nodded in agreement. The rest of the ride was spent in a comfortable silence, apart from Liz giving directions. Slowly, Max pulled up in front of her apartment building. "Well, this looks like my stop," she said trying to be funny, but she didn't want to get out of his car. She wished she could drive around all night with him.

Max turned to face her. She looked amazing with the moonlight highlighting her features. Max shoved his fear aside and reached out, touching her face lightly. "Goodnight Liz," he said, his voice becoming husky again.

Liz was having a battle with herself as well, and tonight her nerve won out. "Would you like to come up?"

Max eyes widen with a little bit of shock. "To help me walk," she added quickly.

Max relaxed a bit, his face lighting up with amusement. "Sure." Max got out of the car, walked around, and helped Liz out of the other side. The two of them walked into her building with Max arm around Liz's waist for support. Liz leaned into him as much as possible, trying not to be too noticeable.

They made it to Liz's door without any trouble. Liz took her keys out of her purse and unlocked the door. Max helped her over to the nearest couch. "Do you need anything while I am here," he asked as she sat down.

"Would you like a drink or something," Liz said quickly, not wanting Max to leave yet. "I could get you water or a soda or coffee."

Max laughed. "You couldn't even walk up to your apartment, but you are going to try to play hostess. I don't think so. You stay right where you are."

"Okay," Liz relented. Max found the kitchen and made them both a cup of coffee. A few minutes later, he returned to the living room, carrying the cups. He then took a seat next to her on the couch, placing the coffee on a nearby table. "Thanks Max," she said quietly. "You really didn't have to do this."

"I'm use to it. Isabel has me running all over the place most of the time. This is actually a nice change of pace."

Liz tilted her head to one side. "Is she always like a….,"

"Spoiled princess," he cut her off gently. "Lately yes. I think that the entertainment business has gotten to her over the years. She used to be just the opposite. But I see hope."

Liz raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

Max took a sip of his coffee. "I think that she has taken a liking to Alex. He survived being late to a rehearsal with her, which is always a good sign."

Liz let out a laugh. "I guess that would be. So have you always wanted to be her manager?"

"I guess so," Max told her, thinking carefully. "She was always my talented little sister and I wanted to help her. Kind of like you and Maria."

Liz looked into her cup of coffee. "I guess we are in the same boat."

Max leaned in towards her. He lightly traced her jaw lifting her chin up with his thumb. "Its not a bad place to be."

Liz took a sharp breath. She could see Max's face getting closer and closer to hers, as his amber eyes gazed down to her lips. She could feel his sweet breath washing over her skin, causing her to flush. Just then there was a knock at the door. Liz let out a slight groan as she placed her cup on the table. "Who is it," she said loudly.

"Alex," a male voice said back.

Both Liz and Max got up off the couch. "Alex what's the matter," Liz asked hobbling towards the door. She opened it up to find Alex with Maria draped over his shoulder and a very irate Isabel behind them.

"Oh my god," Liz exclaimed. "What happened?"

"Maria got a little tipsy," he told her.

"She's passed out," Isabel informed them. ""I am not working with someone who gets drunk and starts singing ‘Asshole’ at the top of her lungs."

Max sent Isabel a look that could kill, and Alex sighed. "Lay off, Iz," he said his tone irritated.

"It’s not a frequent occurance," Liz snapped a bit. "Maria rarely drinks, let alone gets drunk."

"Michael," Alex admitted as he laid Maria on the couch with help from Max. "The two of them got into a little tiff. I don't know what they said to each other, but both were pretty mad when it ended. Michael walked over and began talking to a red head in a short skirt and Maria headed towards the champagne. I think that I am going to need your help getting her out of here."

"Okay," Liz agreed. "That explains some of it. But she passed out?"

"Well, I don't think that she knew how much she had," Isabel said, half-defending and half-mocking. "Of course, it was after about two off-key verses."

Liz walked to the kitchen and got a cold cloth. She made her way back to the couch and began wiping Maria's face with it. Slowly, Maria opened her eyes. "Liz," she asked, unsure of where she was.

Liz nodded. "Yeah, its me. Are you okay?"

A tear fell from Maria's eye. "He is such a jerk," she mumbled, trying to hold back the tears.

Liz wiped the tears the fell away with the cloth. Then, she turned to Max and Alex, who had been waiting quietly. "I think we need to get her into her bed."

"Okay," Max side, taking one of Maria's arms and placing it around his shoulder. Alex took the other one, and Liz led them back towards Maria's room. The placed her gently on the bed and made there way back towards the door.

"We'll just see ourselves out," Alex told Liz, giving her a little hug.

"Good luck."

Liz smiled at him. "Night Alex." She then turned her attention to Max.

"I really want to thank you for tonight."

"It was pleasure, really," he said softly, trying not to disturb Maria even further. "And I will have a talk with Michael in the morning."

Liz shook her head. "That's okay. Maria likes to fight her own fights. Plus, we really don't know what happened."

"If you're sure," he asked.

Liz took a step towards him. "I'm sure," she told him. Then, she leaned forward on her tiptoes and placed a light kiss on his cheek. "Thank you again."

Max mouth curl in a wide smile. "Night Liz."

"Night Max." She watched him turn to leave. Her lips felt like they were humming with just the brief contact with his skin. "If I feel like this after giving him a little kiss on the cheek, I'll probably faint," she thought to herself. "Oh well, I better get changed and look in on Maria."

posted on 1-Jan-2002 3:00:00 PM
Part Thirteen by Liz

Two hours until the concert…

"Hey gorgeous," Alex said, pulling out a daisy from behind his back. "A little goodluck charm. Sorry its a little wilted. They didn’t have the best flowers outside. They were kind of….dying." He leaned over and placed a kiss on Maria’s cheek.

Maria laughed. "Didn’t your mother ever teach you that stealing is wrong? But thank you." She shoved it behind her ear, and struck a pose, and pouting her lips. "How do I look?"

"Sizzling, baby!" Alex declared, taking her hand and spinning her around. "You’re going to knock em dead."

She sighed. "I hope so, I’m so nervous. I’ve only ever played in little clubs and stuff. Certainly nothing this huge. What if I trip, or my pants fall down or something?"

"Maria," Alex’s face was dead calm. "They’ll love you especially if your pants fall down."

She laughed, slapping him playfully.

"Maria!" Liz called, rushing into her changing room. "They need you in makeup. Right now. Then wardrobe. We’re running lately, quickly!"

Maria’s eyes widened, and she ran off. Liz collapsed on the couch. "Oh my god. This is just…madness. Isabel’s out there saying that her hair is all wrong, and Max is out getting her favorite god-knows-what, Kyle’s flight from New York was delayed. So I’m stuck here trying to figure out what’s going on and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing! And the show starts soon."

Alex smiled. "Welcome to my world. But it’s cool. Settle down, it always works out in the end. I say, if something doesn’t go wrong, then its not a real show."

Liz shot him a small grateful smile. "Thanks, really." She let out a moan. "I just hope that—" Her cell phone rang interrupting them. "One sec." She opened it up. "Hello?"

"Lizzie," Maria’s voice came from the other side. "They’re trying to go at me with some kind of weird device thing. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but it’s metal."

Liz laughed. "Calm down, they’re professionals. I’ll be right there."

"Thanks, I love you, chica."

"I know, you too." Liz closed her phone. "Sorry, Alex, duty calls. I’ll see you later."

Alex nodded. "Sure thing. I’ll go check on Isabel." He grinned.

One hour until the concert…

Alex knocked on Isabel’s dressing room warily. He held him guitar in his arms, and a water bottle in hand. "Knock, knock," he called out.

Isabel open the door slowly, peering out meticulously. "Oh," she muttered, seeing him. "Oh, turn around!" she cried. Her face was au naturel, no makeup flawing her already beautiful face. And she wore a tank top, and a pair of baggy sweats.

Alex grinned. "C’mon, Iz," he teased. "You don’t have to pull that drama queen act with me. Everyone thinks you’re a diva, but you’re not fooling me." He pushed at the door, brushing by her, and plopping himself down on the blue overstuffed love seat.

Isabel let out an angry hiss of air and muttered "Whatever," very coolly.

"You know, you look really beautiful like that." He said admiringly. "I-I mean," he stuttered. "You always look beautiful, but I mean, its nice to see you without all that goop and frilly clothing."

"What do you want, Alex?" She interrupted, leaning against the wall.

Okay Alex, he coached himself. This is where you do it. Whatever happens can’t be any worse than what’s happened before. You know that. You just have to be strong. He looked up at her. God, she was so beautiful. It was true what he said, she looked so pretty without all the fancy stuff. Just plain old Isabel was fine for him, because she’d never be plain. She was like a shining beacon of light. He gathered up his courage, mustering himself to say it and…."Water?" Failed. He had just offered her water. God.

Isabel rolled her eyes, crossing her arms defensively over her chest as she shook her head at the offer of water. She wasn’t buying it that that was the reason he was here.

"Actually," he said slowly. "I wanted to see what you thought of this song I wrote…" He admitted. "Uh, do you want to hear it?"

"Is it fast? I have to get ready."

Alex nodded assuringly. "Like lightening." He patted the seat beside him, and she slid down beside him casually. He adjusted his guitar, then looked up nervously at her. Then he began.

Things seemed so nice for the first few weeks
Didn’t care
She didn’t notice me
Then I said ‘did she wanna hang out?
Get something to eat’
She said ‘I’m just another guy with high hopes
A real sorry sight’
I’m also half her height.

His voice was smooth and even, harmonizing perfectly with the notes of the acoustic guitar. They were simple cords, and the words were affecting to her. Because they were about her. Maybe not directly, but she still knew. Deep down in her gut. And she felt guilty. That’s right, Isabel Evans, diva-extraordinare felt guilty. It’s not as though she didn’t have a heart, it just needed a little thawing.

I’m just another guy in the crowd
She laughs at me
I died.

I wrote her a song
Took me a real long time to get
Everything to rhyme
Read in a magazine
Girls like it best
When you’re honest with them

She said the song sucks big time
I’m a talent-less clown
She doesn’t want me around
She said the final goodbye
A punch in my eye

I died.
I died.

Alex’s last note lingered, echoing in her mind. The room was silent. She looked up at him, a hopeful expression in his eyes. "Look, I know that…Well, I just…" he stumbled with his words. "…When I ask you to do something with me after the concert, please don’t laugh at me." He smiled warmly. "Please?"

Isabel nodded. "I promise."

Alex took off his guitar, and kneeled down on one knee in front of her. "Isabel, would you like to go out tonight. Like, on a date?"

Isabel’s eyes her wet, and her face softened. She brought herself to the floor beside him, squatting down. "Alex…" she started, her voice quiet. She reached out her hand to cup his cheek, caressing it with her thumb. "Thank you," she whispered, closing the small distance between them with a kiss.

Part Fourteen by Annie

Fifteen minutes before the concert….

Maria paced back and forth just off stage. Her mind was racking through all the things that could go wrong. She could trip, go flat, lose her voice, get stage-fright… the list went on and on. Maria was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn't even hear someone walk up behind her.

"Nervous Blondie," Michael's gruff voice taunted.

Maria jumped, turned around, and slapped him in the face. "Oh my God, don't scare people like that," she exclaimed. Then, she noticed who it was. "Oh, it's just you. Nevermind."

Michael rubbed the cheek she had slapped with his hand as he began to laugh. "I guess that you are still mad at me."

Maria's eyes narrowed. "Why in the hell wouldn't I be? You managed to ruin one of the biggest nights of my life. Do you have any idea how much I wanted that party to go perfectly?"

"I didn't say or do anything that would ruin your night," Michael defended himself. "You just are way to touchy."

Maria raised her hand again. "Would you like to have a matching handprint on the other cheek?"

"Okay, tell me what I did that was so bad," Michael asked, getting more serious.

Maria placed both of her hands on her hips. "First, you asked me to dance. I thought you were going to attempt to be a gentleman. So I accepted you invite, giving you the second chance you so don't deserve. Then, you have the nerve to start commenting and checking out every other woman in the room."

Michael threw up his hands. "That just means I am a guy."

"I haven't seen Max do that," Maria retorted.

Michael had a comeback for that one. "Well, the next time I turn into Max, I'll let you know."

Maria turned away from him. "You are so aggravating. I don't know why any woman would ever bother with you," she said loudly.

"There just hasn't been anyone feisty enough to try," Michael told her, taking a couple of steps towards her. "Until now."

With those words, Maria did a complete turnabout. She opened her mouth to yell at him again, but he muffled her words by kissing her. He had immediate access into the hot recess of her mouth. She tasted even better than he thought she would.

Maria felt this kiss all the way to her toe. It managed to shoot electricity through her and relax all her muscles at the same time. The separated when they needed air. Michael was satisfied with his work. He could see Maria's chest rising and falling with each breath she took. "Have a good show, Blondie," he told her, before taking her hand, kissing it, and walking away.

Maria just stood there for a second, catching her breath. "Damnit," she yelled after him. "You would go and ruin my makeup."

Michael just waved his hand and continued walking. Someone would then have to choose that moment to tell Maria that it was time to take the stage. "I can do this," she whispered to herself as she walked out.

During the concert….

Liz stood just off the stage watching Maria performing her heart out. And it was amazing. "She deserves this," Liz thought to herself. There was a loud applause as Maria finished on of her songs "The crowd is loving it… her." Liz took a deep breath upon hearing Max's voice. She recognized it right away. Hell, she would know those rich velvety tones any day. It was better than any melody. "Max," she said.

Max smile grew when he realized she knew his voice. "Yeah," he said, walking up right beside her. "So are you enjoying the show," he teased.

Liz laughed. "Of course. But I have to ask how you handle the preliminaries. I know this is just the start, yet I already feel like I am being pulled in fifty different directions."

Max nodded his head. "That sounds about right. I promise that you will get use to it after awhile."

Liz let out a deep breath. "We'll see."

"I know that you are going to great Liz. Maria couldn't have a better manager," Max reassured her. That is when her remembered Maria's advice from that day at the gym. "If you every need any help, feel free to ask. Night or day, I am at your service."

Liz turned enough to look him in his eyes. "God he has the most beautiful eyes," she thought to herself. "I will," she said, accepting his offer. "Well I better go check on a few things," she told him, turning the rest of the way.

Don't you remember the second
Your entire life changed
The first time I saw your smile
All I knew was rearranged

Max heard Maria's voice start up again in the background. The soft, languid tones few upon his ears, and Max knew he couldn't let this chance pass him. Quickly, he reached out and grabbed Liz's arm. "I'm sure that what ever it is can a few minutes. Would you like to dance with me?"

Reaching out to
Catch an instant
Stopping time for us
Knowing what the moment meant

Liz looked back at him. "I would love to."

Max offered her a hand, which she took. He pulled her body against his. She fitted against his chest, just she had done at the party, resting her head near the crook of his neck.

Things I had been taught
Those that I had always known
Having you in my life was more
Than I was ever shown

Their movements were slow, allowing the melody of Maria's voice to dictate what they did. Liz immediately felt the tension leave her body as Max's fingers began caressing her lower back. He, too, was relishing being this close to Liz, having her fingers wrapping themselves in the hair at the base of his neck.

Reaching out to
Catch an instant
Loving the fact
You knew what the moment meant

Max tilted his head forward, working up the courage to speak. Liz could felt his breath on her ear, torturing her to no end. "Liz…."

I will never be more content
Than when your arms are around me,
The feel of your skin is ecstasy
This instant you are all I see

"I was wondering," Max continued.

"Uh-huh," Liz managed to say. Just having him this close was doing things to her that she had never imagined.

"Would you like to…" But Max never got a chance to finish what he was going to say.

"Hey Max," Alex called out. "I need your help with something, buddy."

Max slowly relinquished his hold on Liz. She had never wanted to hurt someone so badly in her life. "I'll talk to you later Liz," Max told her as he walked over to Alex.

Reaching out to
Catch an instant
Knowing that we both
Are relishing what the moment meant

Part Fourteen by Liz

"Maria!" Liz cried, wrapping her friend up in a huge bear hug. "That was amazing! They love you!"

Maria’s eyes sparkled, a permanent grin plastered across her lips. "I know. It was just such a...rush! Oh my god, Lizzie. Oh my god." She let out a shriek of joy. "I feel like I just won the lottery or something."

"Maria," Max said, a smile across his face. Maria turned, grabbed him into a huge hug. "I did it!" She cried. "I have to find Alex, and call my mom, and just...everything!" She darted off backstage.

Liz looked over at Max and he smiled. "I think she’s excited," he said. She nodded.

"I’ve never seen her more happy. This is a dream come true," She paused. "So what was it that you wanted to talk to me about?"

"Uh…Well, actually, I’ve got to go make sure Isabel’s ready, so we’ll talk later, okay?"

Liz nodded, a little dejected. "Yeah, uh, sure. Later, then."

Max shot her an apologetic glance, then walked off. Damn, Liz chided herself. She wished that he would just come out and say whatever it was he wanted to say. She knew what she was hoping for. They’d been flirting with each other for weeks. She was just about to snap if he didn’t kiss her soon. And if he wasn’t going to then, well, maybe she’d have to do it herself.

After The Concert:

Isabel snatched a towel out of a stage-hands grasp and dotted her face. She smiled at her brother charmingly. "I was good, huh?"

"As always," he agreed, hugging her. "Now come on, we’ve got everything set up. The other are back there celebrating." Max told her, leading her deeper behind the stage.

Isabel slid up beside Maria, a prowling expression on her face. "Good show tonight," she said in a sicky sweet tone. "You only went flat a few times."

Maria’s eyes flared with fire. Isabel was just completely infuriating! "Thanks," she seethed through clenched teeth. "I appreciate it."

"Now, don’t get too tipsy," Isabel motioned to the champagne glass in Maria’s hand. "The last thing the press needs to find out is that you’re a raving drunk. Those tabliods can be cruel."

Maria set her glass down on the table, taking a step towards the other girl. "Of course, I’m sure you’d be more than willing to give them that information."

Isabel shrugged, a smug grin across her lips. "I wouldn’t think of such a thing."

"For your information, I was upset that night. It’s not like I’d planned that."

Isabel rolled her eyes, giving a little snort. "Over what? Honestly, you’re a sensitive little thing, aren’t you? It’s just Michael, after all. And no respectable girl would go within a foot of him."

Maria’s jaw tightened, as she picked up her glass again. "Are you calling me unrespectable?"

"If the show fits…" Isabel sighed boredly, and brushed hair out of her eyes. "Now I really must go consort with other people." She turned to leave, and suddenly felt a cold, watery substance dripping down her head. She whirled around, wide-eyed, her mouth agape.

"Oops," Maria said simply, smiling. "I’m sorry, I tripped."

Isabel’s face contorted to an angry grimace as she let out a growl. "Max!" She cried, stomping over to her brother. "Tell Kyle that unless she goes, I’m quitting the tour!"

"Isabel," his tone calm, as he shook his head.

"No!" She pouted angrily. "I have had enough of her and her entourage of misfits. This is not professional!"

"And how is being a spoiled and whiny little brat considered mature behavior?" Maria snickered just loud enough so that Isabel could hear.

"Quiet," Liz snapped, stepping between the two girls. She gnawed a little on her bottom lip nervously before continuing. "If you two can’t get along, then maybe it is for the best that the tour ends, or at least you’re separated for the time being," Liz’s voice caught for a second, and she could feel the sting of tears welling up in her eyes. "We have worked so hard to get this far, given up so much. And if you two want to be petty and throw it all away, then fine!"

"Liz…" Maria said slowly, taking a step towards her friend in comfort. It’s true, Liz had done so much to help her succeed, and here she was—acting like Miss Isabel’s clone. "Honey.."

"Excuse me," Liz choked, stepping away from the impending embrace. "I have something to do." She turned and bolted out of the room, the door slamming closed with a loud thud. The room was silent as three pairs of eyes watched the door.

Max’s expression was grave. He looked over from the closed door to the girls, and then back at the door. He knew what he needed to do. Sit Liz down, get her to talk. Whatever was going on wasn’t just because of this argument, or any of the others. There was another meaning underneath, and he knew it. He followed Liz’s path, sending Maria and Isabel a disappointed gaze as he left the room.

Max knocked on the door tentatively, hoping that Liz wouldn’t send him away. "Liz?" He called softly. "Are you in there?" There was the sound of locks unhooking, and Liz peered out at him.

"Hi," he grinned gravely. "I was worried, are you okay?"

"Yeah," Liz nodded, "fine." She closed the door as he walked into the room, then went to sit on the rose colored sofa. "Everything wrong is just going right."


"It’s not working!" Liz cried, sliding down to her knees on the floor in front of the couch, the tears overflowing and running down her face. She threw the schedule binder, and it hit the wall and landed on the floor with a thud. "This tour, my school…" She took a deep breath, and let out a low sob. "My life…"

"Hey," Max said softly, kneeling down beside her. "Don’t say that, we’ll work through all this."

Liz brought her hand to her temple, shaking her head. "No…No, there’s too much stress, everything is going wrong. I c-can’t keep up…" She lowered her face to her hands, masking her tear-stained face from his view. He didn’t need to see this, he didn’t need to witness her mental breakdown. It was just so embarrassing to be doing this in front of him, of all people. Liz would stop if she could, but now that she’d started it was impossible to stop.

"Shh," he soothed, placing a finger lightly across her lips. "Just relax," he eased. Max brought himself up on the couch behind her, and placed to firm hands on her shoulders. She sighed lightly, closing her eyes to his touch. With even the lightest feel of his skin against hers she was deliriously content.

He pulled her hair together, and pushed it to one side, rubbing her shoulders slowly. He kneaded and smoothed away the knots of tension and frustration expertly.

Liz felt herself feeling light, her breath growing even and moderate. He certainly was good with his hands. She could feel his warm breath against her naked neck, teasing her lightly. She longed to reach up, and grab him, to taste his lip. He continued to rub, and breath…which made her pulse race. She imaged his hands all over her, his lips on hers.

"Is that better?" He murmured softly in her ear, his breath hot, causing tingles throughout her system.

She tried to nod, but she was so afraid that if she made even the slightest movement that he would take those hands off of her body, and she didn’t think she could handle that. Not right now, not in this state. "Mmm," she groaned instead. It was defiantly in approval. And she guessed that he knew that because he ran his hands down her arms then, slowly and lightly. She bit her lip to stop herself from letting out that sigh she’d been penting up inside of her.

His breath was so warm, his hands so soft…She could barely take it anymore. And then she felt it. As if she wasn’t desiring him enough---His lips tentatively grazed her neck. She opened her eyes for a moment in surprise. Quickly she shut them again though, what he was doing just felt so nice. His lips met her neck again, lightly, less unsure. She reached her arm around, burying her fingers in his hair gently, then cocking her head back and crushing her mouth against his.

The kiss was hungry and passionate. It was what both of them had been longing to do ever since they’d set eyes on each other. His tongue slid against her bottom lip, and she responded by opening her mouth, allowing him access. Their tongues dueled together, caressing each other, finding a rhythm. It was hot and craving, they were lost in each others presence.

Max stood, bringing Liz up with him, kissing her ravenously. He moaned lowly into her mouth as her hands entered under his shirt, tracing patterns against his smooth skin. He pushed her against the wall, kissing her harder, with more need. "Liz," he groaned, as she started to unbutton his shirt, running her hands down his hard chest. Her hands were cool like ice, sending tingles throughout his body. The shirt, undone fell to the ground, unnoticed by either of the two. All they needed was to be closer to each other. To feel what they had been denying all this time.

Max ran his hand up her thigh slowly, stimulating every molecule in her being. He teased her as his hand reached up closer to her core, he rubbed in soft little ministrations. She groaned against his body, burying her head against the crook of his bare neck, feeling limp to his touch. "Oh god," she breathed. "Max…Please..."

He gathered up in his strong arms, throwing her gently down on the couch, and bringing himself on top of her. He pulled a strap of her thin tank top down, sucking and nipping, teasing her. She arched up towards him, digging her nails into his muscular back lightly. Liz was trembling underneath him. "Max," she sighed once again.

And then it seemed that he realized exactly what he was doing. He jerked up quickly, a wide-eyed expression. "God, Liz, I’m sorry." He said, clearing his throat. He couldn’t believe that he had done that. He was attracted to her, no doubt, but taking advantage of her in such a situation was wrong. But her skin had been so soft, and something happen…something took control of him making him kiss her.

Liz gnawed on her lip, sitting up beside him. "Why?" She asked slowly. Maybe he’s regretting it? She panicked.

"I’m usually so in control, but I just…You…I have feelings for you." Good, he told himself. That was safe, safe in a way which wasn’t expecting more. But in reality all he could think about was the tingling that remained from her lips on his, the way her body fit so well in his embrace. How his name sounded so angelic on her lips.

Liz nodded. "I understand."

Max returned her nod, his heart dropping. She hadn’t said anything about returning those feelings. Rejected, he stood, and leaned over to pick up his shirt, tie and jacket. He could feel her presence behind him, moving closer.

"Hey Max," she whispered in her ear, wrapping her arms around his waist. Her touch burned at his flesh as he resisted the urge to ravish her again. She turned him around. He gaped at her, she wasn’t wearing a shirt. "Lose control," she demanded, her eyes glinting with lust. She placed her hand at the back of his neck, and crushed her mouth on his once again.

Part Fifteen by Annie

"Lose control." Liz repeated her bold words in her head over and over again as she walked into the office of Valenti Records. Each time she did, she would giggle a little bit at how forward she had been with Max that night. They had made-out, truly and honestly made-out, but that was it. Both had felt it was still to early in the relationship to take it further than that, no matter how much they wanted to. Still, Liz was extreamly giddy the next morning. That is until Kyle called a meeting.

"Damn," Liz said to herself. "That guy would call a meeting if his tie was crooked. Maria was right when she said that he needed to get laid." Then Liz paused. She was still mad at Maria. Last night was too much comprehend. Maria actually acted spoiled, something Liz would have never considered Maria capable of. Then, there was the whole thing with Max. Just the thought of him shot Liz’s thought back up to cloud nine.

"Hey beautiful," she heard a deep, wonderful voice say behind her. Liz turned to see Max standing there, a content smile filling his face. "Who would have guessed I would have run into you here," he teased.

Liz took a few steps towards him. Max leaned over, placing a light kiss on her lips. "You know Kyle and his love for meetings, so it probably was a safe bet," she replied, unconsciously licking her lips after the kiss. Max tasted so good that Liz wondered how she ever managed to live with out kissing him.

"Tell me about it," Max laughed. "I wonder what he has to worry about now. Last night’s show was great. All the reviewers were telling me about the great articles they were going to write on Isabel and Maria."

Liz sighed. "It could be about the party afterwards. God, why can’t they just get along. I mean they are going to be working side by side for months, you’d figure that they would at least try to like each other."

Max nodded. "I know, I mean it would be the sensible thing to do, but sometimes Isabel is anything but that. I actually think that she is a bit threatened by Maria."

Liz raised one of her eyebrows. "Why would she feel threatened by Maria? After all, she is the one headlining the tour."

"Maybe its because Isabel knows that Maria is a great singer with the same type of passion that she use to have for it," Max explained. "Of course, she has no intention of telling anyone that, not even me. But I am pretty hard to fool."

Liz grabbed ahold of his hand. "Is that so," she asked.

"Yup," he replied, caressing the back of her hand with his thumb. "I knew that you liked me the first time you saw me," he teased.

Liz reached over and began tickling him. "Really," she asked, trying not to laugh at the way Max’s face was contorting from holding back his laughter. "Then, why was last night the first time you kissed me?"

Max sucked in some air. He could still feel Liz’s fingers dancing along his ribcage. "I’m shy," he managed to mutter.

Liz couldn’t hold her laughter any longer. She stopped tickling him as she attempted not to lose her balance. "You weren’t last night," she said in a low voice.

Max wrapped his arms around her waist, not only to steady her, but to draw her closer. "Neither were you," he told her, his voice getting husky.

Liz looked him in the eyes. Max returned the gaze. The kiss was enviable, but they both tried to prolong the moment as much as they could. Their lips met, drawn together by some strange force of gravity. Liz sighed lightly, causing Max to feel the vibrations against his mouth. He, in return, began to coax her to open up her mouth so he could kiss her as deeply as he wanted. She granted him access, and Max began his slow exploration.

"Ahm," the secretary at the front desk said, clearing her throat. Max and Liz broke apart, not even knowing how long they had been kissing. "Don’t you two have a meeting you need to get to," the secretary reminded them, turning her attention back to her computer.

Liz rolled her eyes, but Max took her hand and led her down the hall. They reached Kyle’s office and noticed that everyone was already in the room. Max and Liz broke apart, not quiet ready for everyone to know that they were a couple. They walked into the room separately, Max sitting by Isabel and Liz next to Maria. Kyle seemed really focused on the newspapers in front of him.

Maria looked up at Liz as she sat down, but Liz refused to look at her. Hell yeah, she was still mad and Maria needed to know it. Liz just looked down at the table in front of her. She wanted to look at Max, but that would just give the whole relationship thing away. The next thing Liz knew, a little piece of paper crept into her vision.
"I am evil. I became the little wicked bitch of the west when you really need the calm, sensible me. I am so sorry. Please forgive me."

Liz couldn’t help but snickering. She picked up a pen and began to scribble on the paper. "I might, but you don’t deserve it."

Maria took the piece of paper, read it, and wrote some else on it. "Pretty please with sugar on top. I would be so lost with out my best friend."

Liz smile widened as she read what Maria wrote. She nodded her answer. Maria practically jumped for joy. She wrapped her arms around Liz, giving her a hug. They were interrupted by Kyle throwing the papers across the table.
"If you two are done passing notes, I would like to start this meeting. Or is it something that you would like to share with the class," he said, trying to control is anger.

Liz threw him a look. "What is the matter Kyle?"

Kyle gestured towards the newspapers he had thrown. "Just look at those, all of you. It seems that last night’s concert becoming famous for more than the great music being performed."

Max looked confused as he reached out to grab a newspaper. On the front page was a picture of Maria dumping the champagne on Isabel with the headline "Bickering Backstage."

Liz looked equally as shocked as she looked at the newspaper she had picked up. There was a photo of Michael and Maria kissing backstage. Its headline read "Singer Sucks Face with Stage Designer." Liz tried to speak, but all she managed to do was open and shut her mouth. "This is bad," she thought. "Really bad."

That was when she heard Michael laughing at the paper he was reading. "Hey," he said, breaking the heavy silence. "Any publicity is good right, and this is free publicity. Besides who would believe any of this. I mean it’s obviously fabricated."

"Usually that is true," Kyle said calmly. "But this time they have art," he yelled at Michael. "What the hell were you all thinking. This is not "Orgy Onstage" as the newspapers put it, and I refuse to have it be. So from now on, there is a new rule. No relationships behind the scenes, period. If I find out that there is, I will throw that person off of the tour, maybe shut down the whole thing."

"You can’t do that," Isabel protested, jumping out of her seat. "I am one of the biggest moneymakers for this label. Shutting down the tour could ruin my career."

Kyle turned to her. "I know that. I hope that both you and Maria will consider that before you decide to have another catfight with the press present. And don’t think that I won’t do it. I would rather cancel the tour than to have this label’s good reputation ruined."

Everyone just sat in their seats, completely at a loss for words. Liz thoughts began fighting each other. She wanted Maria to become the star that she should be. That was what she had promised. On the other hand, she had never felt for anyone the way she felt for Max. He was so kind and gentle. She knew that she was falling in love with him. "Damnit Kyle," she thought, trying not to cry. "This is so unfair."

Max looked across the table at Liz. He could see that she was fighting back her tears, but a lonely one slipped out, making its way down her cheek. His heart broke at the sight of her being in pain. Well, there was no way he was going to let this little rule keep him from Liz. He was falling for her, and nothing was going to stop him from seeing her.

Maria saw the looks on Max and Liz’s face. "I knew it," she congratulated herself. "I knew they were going to get together. There is no way that I am going to let Mr. Record Company mess with my master plan. It’s a love connection, and I helped."


Here you go, Cinder--and everyone else. Enjoy!