Chapter 1

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Callison Joseph shivered stood freezing as she waited for her daughter to emerge from the old, red brick school building. The three o'clock bell sounded, and she smiled behind her scarf. She knew that the one thing that made could make everything worthwhile was seeing her daughter's bright eyes and lovely smile.
"Hi Mommy. I missed you today."
Callison looked down at her five-year-old daughter, Alexa. "Hello, my Angel. How was school today?"
Callison held her hand out and Alexa put her tiny, gloved hand into it. "It was fun. We made pictures, Mommy."
"Did you? I can't wait to see them!" Callison knew that Alexa smiled behind her scarf. "Guess what we're going to do today, my Lovely One?"
"Are we going to the zoo?" Alexa became instantly excited.
"I think it's a little cold for the zoo today, Darling. No, we are going to see a movie!" Callison was so glad that she'd managed to secure free passes to the newest animated cartoon film.
"Oh, Mommy, is it the one with all the animals and flowers?"
"You bet!"
Alexa jumped up and down. "YAY!"
Callison smiled and took a seat on the bench at the bus stop. She pulled Alexa onto her lap.
"Yes, Darling?"
"Mommy, how come you aren't married?"
Callison took a deep breath in, "What makes you ask this, Sweetheart?"
"This other girl was talking today about how her mommy and daddy just got married." Alexa looked down at her feet as they swung back and forth in front of her.
Callison thought for a moment, she actually feared what question would come next. "Hmm...well," Callison choked a little on her words "Because I haven't found anyone who wants to love me forever."
"I will." Alexa said, then pulled down her scarf and gave her mother a big, goofy grin.
"Well, thank you Darling, I will love you forever too."
"Promise?" Alexa asked, as she jumped down to stand and meet the coming bus.
"I promise, Baby." Callison took her daughter by the hand and led her onto the bus.
Later on that evening, Callison sat on her windowsill, staring out into the falling snow. Her telephone rang.
"Hello?" she answered.
"Hello, Callie, Honey." The male voice made the hair stand up on the back of Callison's neck "How are you doing?"
"What do you want?" Her tone conveyed her utter hatred of him.
"I was just calling to see how you were."
"I am fine. Goodbye." She started to hang up.
"Wait a second." His voice stopped her.
"When can I see you again? It's been five years since I've even seen your face."
"Yes, Tom, and I like it that way. Leave me alone. I've told you a hundred times I don't want anything to do with you."
"Like it's that easy. You know you'll never be able to get rid of me. You like me too much."
"I loathe you. Forget my number." She hung up on him.
Callison plopped down on the sofa and began to cry. She forced herself to forget his hands touching her.
"Mommy?" Alexa came up and touched her mother's arm lightly.
Callison looked into her daughter's deep blue eyes. "What are you doing out of bed, Sweetheart?"
"I don't like it when you're upset, Mommy." Alexa hugged her mother close.
Callison sighed and wrapped her arms around her daughter. Someday you'll have to tell her. She thought with a sigh.
"I'm all right, Sweetheart. Let's tuck you back in." She picked up Alexa and carried her back into the bedroom.
The next morning, Callison dropped Alexa off at school and headed in to work. She pulled off her coat and wrapped it around the back of her desk chair and went to make herself some hot chocolate.
"Good morning, Callie." Her best friend, Jennifer Ellison, smiled at her.
"Are you always so cheerful in the morning?" Callison joked as she poured her coffee into her 'I'm a UK Alumni' cup. Oh, how she missed her carefree days on the University of Kentucky campus!
"Yeah, pretty much." Jennifer leaned in and whispered: "Especially when I get some the night before."
"Jenn!" Callison scolded, "Like I'm interested in your sex life."
Jennifer leaned back against the counter, mindlessly stirring her coffee as she spoke, "He was absolutely incredible! I couldn't believe it! And it lasted more than two hours!"
"Two hours!" Callison cut in. "Aren't you just the lucky one?" She teased.
"Yeah," Jennifer chuckled "I can't believe I actually met him at the laundry mat."
"The laundromat? Since when do you do your own laundry? I thought you always took it in to be cleaned for you."
Jennifer gave her a sly grin, "If you saw the man who washes my lingerie, you'd understand."
Callison shook her head and started to walk back toward her desk. Hurray! It's my lovely, little hole in the wall. She silently complained.
"Callie, when are we going to get you a man?" Jennifer followed her to her desk.
"When hell freezes over." Callison replied sternly.
"Oh, come on now. Surely you have some secret hidden desire to be swept away like Cinderella."
Callison took a sip of her coffee, "Not really. I have what I need in Alexa. Men are not important in the grand scheme of my life."
Jennifer shook her head, "One of these days, I'm going to cure you of this ridiculous philosophy you have about men."
"I seriously doubt it." Callison replied as she turned her computer on.
Jennifer walked out of the office shaking her head. Callison just stared at the screen while the computer booted up. I don't need a man. She reassured herself. I am just fine on my own. All men ever want from women is one thing: never again from this woman—never again.
Just before noon, Callison received an inter-office e-mail from Jennifer:
'Cal, lunch today. Noon. My treat?'
She replied in the affirmative then sighed. She knew she was in for an hour of nothing but, 'Callie, you need to get you a man.' And she had no idea why she'd just accepted the
invitation—unless it was because the peanut butter and jelly sandwich she had in the refrigerator suddenly just didn't appeal to her anymore. At noon on the dot, Jennifer appeared at the entrance to her cubicle.
"C'mon let's go! I'm just dying to try that new Italian place up the street."
"I absolutely love Italian food." Callison smiled.
"And, I absolutely love Italian men." Jennifer chided, taking her friend by the arm. "This place is supposed to be authentic, so it works out for the both of us."
Callison had to laugh. "Sometimes, I swear you have a one-track mind."
"Oh, no, no. I have two tracks. They just both merge on the same route."
The women laughed as they pulled on their coats and headed out of the door.
An absolutely gorgeous Italian man greeted them as they walked into the doors of La Italia. Jennifer was officially in Heaven and began her not-so-subtle flirtation.
"Yes, my friend and I would like a table for two." She paused for a moment, leaned in and whispered to him. "Actually, make it three, and you can take a break."
The young man grinned, then showed them to a nice booth in the corner of the restaurant near the front window.
"I honestly can't believe you, Jenn!" Callison laughed, "Do you ever stop?"
"Well, how do you honestly expect me to control myself with all of these fabulous men in here. Oh my gosh!" She took in a deep breath as she noticed the waiter who was coming close to their table. "Thank you, Lord!"
Callison laughed as the waiter approached.
"Good afternoon, Ladies." He spoke without an Italian accent, something that obviously didn't faze Jennifer, as she actually had to wipe drool from her mouth.
"Don't even bother to tell us the specials." Jennifer began forcefully, "We'll both have the Spaghetti Marinara." She leaned in close and added in a soft voice, "And I'll have a side order of you later on tonight."
Callison shook her head and wondered how in the world Jennifer managed to have such audacity—and actually have it work on these men! The waiter, however, didn't seem to think that Jennifer's suggestion was a bad idea (What man wouldn't want a beautiful woman so blatantly hitting on them?). Jennifer slipped him her business card. Callison chuckled softly and turned to look out of the window. She'd gotten used to people watching, especially while she waited on the bus and the train, and she'd begun to find it absolutely fascinating.
Suddenly, she took a deep breath in. "Oh my God!" She exclaimed as she saw him coming into the restaurant.
"What's wrong?" Jennifer asked, interrupting her flirtation.
Jennifer followed Callison's gaze to the man who'd just walked into the door. "Oh, Lord. Wonder of wonders! It's Cameron!"
Cameron James took off his black leather coat and wrapped it around the back of the chair at the table he'd been shown to. His short, dark hair was hidden beneath the black cap he wore—the only one in the whole world to bear the Cameron James logo. His gorgeous, chocolate-brown eyes remained hidden behind the dark sunglasses he refused to take off—well, at least most of the time—because they were one of a kind, created specifically for him to wear.
All of the servers, including the one Jennifer had been flirting with, made a beeline for that table.
"Mr. James, how nice to see you."
"Mr. James, what can we get for you today?"
"Are you warm enough?"
"Would you like another table?"
"Can we bring you anything right away?"
Attention like this can only be attributed to celebrity, and Cameron James was the quintessential celebrity. Cameron's résumé—if he ever thought to create one—would include: six multi-platinum albums; four consecutive sold-out, world tours—and he was currently in the middle of the fifth; cameos in at least a dozen films and television shows; and a plan in the works for his own behind-the-scenes, reality show. And, of course, he would have to mention the fact that he had zillions of fans all around the world. Callison Joseph had known of Cameron James since she was sixteen-years old. She had been a huge fan of his former group, Forgotten Souls.
Forgotten Souls: those five men who managed to single-handedly revolutionize not only the music industry, but also the music merchandising industry. Their endeavors had left all five members wealthy beyond all imagination and had created an army of faithful fans that still supported them, in spite of the band's breakup, to the present day. Callison sighed as she thought about the group and how much she loved being a fan. Everything was different now, though.
Though the sight of him made her heart jump and her knees weak, outwardly Callison professed not to even care about Cameron in the least. Jennifer knew better. Jennifer knew that Cameron had once called Callison his friend. What actually made Callison nervous, however, completely boggled Jennifer's mind.
"What a break for you, huh, Cal? The man of your dreams walks in. You see him, you nearly piss in your pants." Jennifer laughed as she teased her best friend
"Oh, shut up, Jenn!" Callison stood to put her coat on "He can't see me here."
"Damn it, Cal. You haven't even talked to him since you were pregnant with Alexa. He probably has no clue who you are. You're just another fan." Jennifer teased.
Callison shook her head. She wasn't just another fan. This man knew who she was, and it both frightened and excited her. "I am not a fan. I can't deal with this today. I'm sorry, Jenn." She stood up and put on her coat.
"Oh Jeez, Cal!" Jennifer stood up "Why do you do this to yourself? Every time anyone mentions the man you get all nervous. I've never understood why,
but I—" Jennifer stopped, a thought occurred to her, and moved closer to her friend. "He's not Alexa's father, is he?"
Callison shook her head, "Hell no. He just...he...he...knows Alexa's father." She stammered as she buttoned up her coat.
Jennifer shook her head, "I hope you don't think that I'm going to carry your lunch back to work for you."
"I'm sorry, Jenn. I've just got to go." Callison rushed past the server who had their drinks on a tray.
"Leaving so soon?" He smiled at Callison.
"I'm afraid so. Please cancel my part of the order, ok? Thanks."
Callison made it outside to the street. Her heart was pounding, she couldn't breathe. Damn that man! She thought. It was then that she realized she'd forgotten her bag. She turned around to go back in to get it and came face-to-chest with Cameron James.
Damn him for always being taller than me! She cursed him.
Cameron James didn't smile at first, "Callison Joseph." He extended her bag to her, and she took it from him.
"Cameron James." She replied it kind, slinging her bag over her shoulder.
"It's nice to see you. How have you been? What's it been, four or five years?" Now, he smiled.
"Something like that." Callison Joseph stood there utterly confused, and her gaze conveyed her feelings.
"What?" Cameron laughed a bit. "I can't be happy to see you?"
"I don't know why you would be, Cameron."
"You'd be surprised to know what makes me happy, now, Callie."
"I'm sure I would, Cameron."
Cameron stood there for a moment, just smiling at her. Did he honestly think that his smile still had the same effect on her? All right, so it did. She could feel her legs turning to butter, but he didn't need to know that.
Callison was genuinely confused by him but tried not to laugh as she looked past him and noticed that everyone in the entire restaurant, including Jennifer, was plastered against the glass window, hanging on every word. Cameron didn't need to look behind him. Years of celebrity had prepared him for situations like this, so he already knew what was going on.
"Callie, can we chat a minute?" He took her by the arm "Let me walk you to wherever you're going, please?" He waved off the security guard that followed behind them.
Callison was on the verge of refusing, until she made the mistake of looking directly up at him. Oh Lord, help me! He's taken his shades off! She remembered the first time she'd ever looked into those gorgeous eyes and sighed.
"All right walk me part of the way."
Cameron smiled. He knew that Callison really couldn't resist him. "This is a twist of fate, don't you think?"
"That we should run into each other." He paused then smiled. "Or rather, that you should run into me."
"That was an accident, Cameron. I apologize."
"No big deal." He replied, and then was silent for a minute. "Callie, why do you automatically avoid me?"
"Do I?" She feigned ignorance.
"Yes, you do." Cameron insisted. "This isn't the first time I've noticed that you get up and leave whenever I come into a room. It's just the first time I followed you out. Why do you hate me so much?"
Callison stopped in her tracks. "It's amazing how your mind works, Cameron. You obviously don't remember the last time we spoke, do you?"
Cameron sighed, "I know I was mean, and I'm sorry for that. But, you never gave me a chance to..."
"You never gave me a chance to explain either, Cameron!" Callison interrupted.
"I came to you for help, and you called me a liar. I stood before you in tears, and you cast me out like the whore of Babylon."
"It was a very hard pill to swallow, Cal." Cameron looked directly into her eyes. She melted, in spite of herself. "I knew that you would never lie to me, but I didn't want to believe that he would do such a thing."
Callison sighed. "Well, it's all in the past, I suppose. The truth did come out. It's not my fault that no one wanted to hear it."
"Look, I don't intend to stand here and argue with you."
"What do you intend, then?"
"All I wanted to do was have a nice conversation with an old friend. What's it been, three years?"
"Four" she corrected.
"See, all the more reason for me to want to talk to you." He smiled widely.
"Don't even try to be charming." Her tone wiped the smile off of his face.
"Are you always going to be angry with me?" He was frustrated.
Callison sighed. "You will never understand, Cameron. Take care. I have to go." She turned to walk down the street in the opposite direction of her office building.
"Callie, wait." He caught up with her "This did not go well. I'm sorry. I just wanted to talk to you and find out how you were doing. I miss talking to you, Cal."
She bit her lower lip, in thought, then spoke: "Cameron, I appreciate the fact that you wanted to talk to me, and I'm sorry I've been a bit of a bitch to you this afternoon. But, I must go now."
He grabbed her by the arm before she could walk away. "I am so sorry, Callie."
She sighed, then turned and gave him a hug. "Take care of yourself, Cam." She whispered, walked away from him, made a block, and snuck into her office building. She plopped down in her desk chair and just sobbed.
Alexa stared up at her mother as they walked from her school to the bus stop in uncharacteristic silence. "Mommy, what's wrong?"
Callison had been lost in thought when the small voice pushed her back into reality. "Nothing, Sweetheart. Why do you ask?"
Alexa shrugged, "Just wondered." The little girl hopped up onto the bench at the bus stop.
Callison sat beside her. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart, I've just had a long day. Why don't you and I do something special?" She pulled her daughter close to her.
Alexa nodded and Callison continued, "How about we rent a movie and pop a big bowl of popcorn?"
"A big bowl of popcorn?" Alexa questioned. "Really big?"
"You bet!" Callison smiled at Alexa as the bus pulled to the curb.
Alexa barely made it through the first thirty minutes of The Little Mermaid before she'd fallen asleep, holding the biggest popcorn bowl that Callison could find. She smiled as she looked at her daughter, then she pulled the bowl away. She picked Alexa up and carried her into her bedroom, tucked her in, and was about to retreat to her dark room with the rest of the popcorn when the phone rang. She glanced at her watch: 7:30.
She sighed as she answered, "Hello?"
"Hi Cal." The voice automatically forced her to sit down.
"Chris?" Her voice shook as she spoke "How did you get—"
"I have my resources." He interrupted.
Callison took in a deep breath. "What is it that you want, Chris?"
Christopher Rigby always wanted something, even if that something was as small as a pinhead. Christopher had been in Forgotten Souls along with Cameron James, Cameron's brother Michael, Damon Dennis and Damon's cousin Troy Duncan. Callison may have adored Cameron, studied him, idolized him beyond normal reason, desired him beyond all comprehension, but Christopher Rigby was her other half. He eventually became her Achilles Heel.
For Callison, Christopher was the ideal celebrity. He was never mean, never crude, he always took the time to talk to the fans, and make them feel wanted, welcome, appreciated. None of the other guys in the band had ever bothered to be as "fan friendly" as Christopher was. What his fans didn't realize, however, was that Christopher needed their love and attention; it was like a drug, his vice. He needed those millions of girls to scream his name in orgasmic ecstasy. He needed to have control. It wasn't just to feed his
overzealous ego, either. Christopher had been the only child in his family. His mother died when he was ten, and he was sent to live with his father; who made it a point to use his son's only talent to everyone's advantage—especially his own. It wasn't that Christopher ever really wanted to perform in talent shows, plays, and musicals as a child—he truly didn't. His father always forced him to audition for everything. However, the stage was the one place where Christopher was in the spotlight and received the love and attention he so craved.
Callison had made the mistake of forming a friendship with Christopher that went beyond her being "just another fan." She managed to win a backstage pass and a front row seat to a Forgotten Souls concert when she was sixteen years old. When she got backstage, however, she only really got to meet Cameron James, her favorite member of the group—who was more interested in checking out some older woman's cleavage than he was in talking to her, and Christopher—with whom she discovered she had quite a bit in common. They actually spent hours talking on Christopher's tour bus that night, and he invited her backstage again at other concerts. Christopher became fascinated by the idea that someone could understand him so well—probably because no one else had ever bothered to even try to get to know him, not even his own father. Once Christopher managed to accept Callison for the person she was instead of as a fan, they became each other's constant companion, even while Christopher was on tour with the band. When Callison graduated from high school, she spent the summer on the road with Christopher—something that she would continue to do throughout her academic breaks in college as well, until the group disbanded. Then, after she graduated from college, Christopher was the first one to offer her a job. At one point, Callison was willing to tell the whole
world that she'd fallen in love with Christopher Rigby, but that was in the past now.
"Why do I have to want something other than to talk to you?" Christopher's tone placated her, and she knew it.
"Stop it."
"Stop what?" He feigned innocence.
Callison shook with frustration. "Just get to the point."
Christopher laughed to spite her. "I want to see you."
"I don't think—"
"And Alexa." He interrupted back. "It's important to me."
"I don't think so."
"Please, Cal." He now sounded on the brink of tears. "It's something I have to do."
"I'm sorry, no. If you want to see me, that's one thing, but I will not bring Alexa."
"No." She interrupted again "Absolutely not. After everything we've been through, now you want to talk to me? What are you on, now?"
Christopher sighed, "I'm clean, Callie. I have been for a while now."
"Well, that's good for you." Callison's tone remained firm.
Christopher sighed again. "Listen, I go on stage soon. May I please come and see you to talk about this?"
"On stage? I didn't know you were on tour."
"It's a musical here in town." He corrected gently. "I'm quite proud of my role."
Callison thought for a moment. "Chris, coming to see me is out of the question."
"How about you come to see me, then? I'll make sure there's a ticket for you in the box office. Please come tonight."
Callison sighed again. She knew she couldn't win. She'd never been able to resist Christopher Rigby. "All right, Chris. What theater?"
"King Square, 8:30."
"I'll be a bit late."
She could tell he was smiling; it was evident in his tone. "Thank you, Callie." He replied, and then hung up.
"Damn," Callie said aloud, "Who can I get to baby sit on a Friday night?"
The last person in the world Callison thought would be available to sit with Alexa walked right through her door.
"Jenn!" Callison was ecstatic to see her, suddenly inexplicably excited about seeing a man she loathed.
"Well, I didn't expect trumpets and whistles!" Jennifer joked, surprised by her friend's sudden ardor.
"You don't have a date tonight?" Callison asked as she ran into her room to change her clothes.
Jennifer laughed at her friend's sudden excitement. "Nah, the bastard stood me up." She paused for a moment, watching her friend try on at least six different skirts. "Do we have a date tonight with Mr. Fabulous?"
Callison stopped dead in her tracks, thinking about Cameron. "No," she sighed, "It's someone else. And, it's not a date. I'm just going to see his new musical. Would you mind please staying here with Alexa?"
"Have you got munchies?" Jennifer plopped down on Callison's bed.
"You can have the popcorn in the living room. It's fresh."
"Ooh, mmm...popcorn. There's just something about that stuff that slays me. I just have to give in to it. So, I'll just veg in front of the TV and munch on the popcorn. No problem."
"Are you sure? I mean, it's sudden, I realize. She's already asleep, so it shouldn't be a big problem."
"Cal, geez, calm down!" Jennifer stood up off the bed and took hold of Callison's shaking hands. "What's wrong with you anyway?"
" just nervous, that's all. I haven't seen this man in a long time." Callison released herself from Jennifer's hold and finally decided on black slacks and a royal blue—her favorite color—blouse.
Jennifer smiled, "Well, good luck. And don't worry about a thing. We'll be fine. I'll watch some TV, make a couple of really long long-distance phone calls." She winked at Callison "Everything will be fine."
"Thank you so much."
"Although, I still want the scoop on you and Mr. Oh-My-God-How-Fine-Am-I from this afternoon. It's why I trucked my ass all the way up here."
" 'All the way?' you just live two floors down from us!" Callison laughed.
Jennifer smiled, "You better get going. I'm sure you're already late."
Callison glanced at her watched as she brushed out her long dark hair. "Probably."
Callison had actually enjoyed the musical, in spite of the fact that she wasn't really a musical-theater type of person. Now, she stood outside by the stage door, waiting for Christopher. She didn't dare attempt to go backstage after the show, she knew how it would be: interviews, photos, autographs, and screaming girls. It just wasn't something she wanted to be around anymore. Upon Christopher's emergence, however, he was instantly surrounded by a gaggle of women, all of which should have known better than to drool in public.
Christopher looked up and smiled as he saw Callison patiently waiting, leaning against the brick wall of the alley. "Ok, Ladies, just a few photos tonight, all right?"
He stood there and smiled away for each camera, signed playbills, and chatted to anyone who spoke to him. And, through it all, Callison waited.
She smiled as she watched him deal with the people who admired him. You always could charm the literal pants off of your fans, Chris. She thought and smiled.
He truly was handsome, in a wholesome, good old boy kind of way. Those crystal-blue eyes of his never failed to pierce a woman's soul, and his smile was an absolute work of art. Five years of braces, she reminded herself as she stared at his smile.
"Ok, Ladies, I have to get going now." He brushed a lock of his blonde, wavy hair out of his eyes. "Thanks for coming out to see the show." Christopher gently, yet forcefully, made his way to the outside of the gaggle's circle.
He passed Callison, purposely catching her eye. She knew the drill. It was a secret only she could know. He turned around, waving to the fans, and only held up four fingers on his right hand as he waived. Since everyone was paying attention to his waving hand, no one bothered to notice the three fingers he flashed Callison on the other hand. 43. That was the signal. She instinctively knew he meant the 43 Grill, a nightclub that was up the block. She'd been trained years ago to know all of the signs; it was its own form of sign language. Actually, if any one of those fans had even bothered to stop screaming long enough to pay attention, they could have read his signals. But, that was never the case with a gaggle of fans. Christopher hopped into his car and sped away.
Callison quickly made her way up the block to the 43 Grill, praying that she hadn't lost her touch in interpreting him. The bouncer at the door to the club checked Callison's
identification and personally escorted her inside, and to a private backroom party. She turned around to thank him, but he'd already left. When she turned back around, there were those piercing blue eyes.
"Hello Cal."
"Hi Chris." Damn, he still managed to take her breath away. Why was that?
"C'mon," He took her by the hand "there's a quieter place back here." He led her to an even more private room off the back.
A sudden fear overcame her, and she pulled her hand from his. He flipped on the lamp in the corner of the room and sat down in one of the three large, overstuffed, green chairs that filled the room.
"Please have a seat, Cal. I don't bite."
"Yes, you do." She teased and took the seat furthest from him.
Christopher sighed, "Cal, I wanted to see you tonight because I truly think we have something to talk about."
"Oh really? And, what is that exactly?" She always did admire the fact that Chris didn't waste time getting to the point.
"Alexa." He answered.
Callison rolled her eyes. "Alexa is my daughter, not yours."
"I don't believe that, Cal, and you know that." Christopher argued.
"If you honestly believed that she was your daughter, Chris, then why haven't you bothered to see her before now?"
Christopher paused for a moment. "Cal, you know how messed up I've been. I haven't been fit for anything at all for the past few years."
"I'm glad you're finally clean."
"Me too," He smiled. "It was a long battle, but I finally won."
Callison smiled, but her smile quickly turned into a frown as she thought about the last time she saw Christopher. He was drunk, high, and angry.
"I'm glad you won, Chris, but it changes nothing with me. Alexa is not your concern."
"I don't believe that, Cal. You know I never have. And, now that I'm better, I want to live up to my responsibilities and do right by both of you."
Callison shook her head. "It's not up to you to live up to anything, Chris."
"Cal, please." Christopher nearly begged. "It's so important to me to try to make things right—especially now."
"Why now?" She asked the obvious question.
Christopher reached into the pocket on the front of his shirt and pulled out a photo and slapped it down on the coffee table in front of them. Callison recognized the woman—just barely—but had no idea who the little girl was in the photo.
"Her name is Rebecca." Christopher smiled, reading the questioning look on Callison's face."
"Ok," Callison nodded, trying to figure out why this was important.
Christopher nodded, "Rebecca is my daughter."
Callison dropped the photo and stared at him in shock. "What? You have a child?"
"I just found out about her, myself. Apparently, her mother was afraid to tell me we'd conceived a child together." He paused to pick the photo up off the floor. "That's her in the photo."
"I thought she looked familiar. She was part of that group you used to hang out with, right?"
Christopher nodded. "She's been clean ever since Rebecca was born, though. And, she's helped me out a lot."
"That's great!" Callison was sincere—except for the tiny little spot in her heart with Christopher's name on it that felt as though it would break at any moment.
"I really went off the deep end after you and I broke up." Christopher admitted. "I didn't speak to anyone, including her. Then we lost touch. You know, it's a classic soap opera story: man meets woman, man and woman have incredible sex, woman leaves man, woman has a child, and tells man five years later, man gets DNA test, man is suddenly a father." He laughed a little bit, but Callison did not.
It was at that moment that Callison noticed the gold band on Christopher's left ring finger. "So, you married her? In secret?"
Christopher scooted around in his seat, conveying his sudden feeling of apprehension. "I wouldn't exactly say, 'In secret.' We had a public ceremony. People were there. The press was there. It just wasn't really newsworthy to most people, I guess."
"It would have been to me." She spoke before she realized what she'd said.
He smiled, "Maddie, that's my wife, is really a wonderful woman. She's helped me realize a lot of things."
"What an asshole I was to you, for one thing."
Callison paused before she spoke, "Chris, once upon a time, you meant the world to me. You were my best friend. We shared a lot of things together, you and me. But, the one time I really needed you—the one time I counted on you entirely—you weren't there for me."
"I know," He bowed his head. "But you also have to understand what a huge blow the entire thing was to me. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before."
"That doesn't excuse what happened between us. You'll never, ever understand what that did to me."
"Cal," He sighed "I want to try to make things right. I can't stand not talking to you. And, I think I'm entitled to some sort of relationship with Alexa."
"I just really don't think that is going to happen, Chris. I have to protect my daughter."
"From me?" He was on the verge of uncontrollable anger. "I've never done anything to deserve that crack, Cal."
"It wasn't a 'crack', Chris. It's the truth. Alexa will be protected from your family so long as I have breath left in my body." She rose and headed towards the door.
"Cal, wait!" Christopher stood up after her. "Please just stop. Let's talk about this some more."
"I don't think there's anything to talk about, Christopher. Nothing at all."
He came up behind her; his voice was softer now. "Please, stay."
"I can't, Chris."
He took hold of her arm, and she instantly began to shake. He pulled her close, leaning his face against the hair on the back of her head. "Please don't walk out on me like this, Callie Jo." His pet name for her sent shivers up and down her spine.
She leaned back against him, momentarily reveling in the feel of his arms around her. "Chris, I can't do this."
His arms wrapped around her waist, "Callie Jo." He whispered in her ear, "I—"
Both of them were startled when the door opened and in stepped the new Mrs. Christopher Rigby. He released his hold on Callison instantly.
"Maddie!" He kissed his wife on the cheek. "I'm glad you came in. I want you to meet a friend of mine, Callison Joseph."
Callison looked at the woman, and smirked. "Oh, we've already met."
"Yes, once upon a time." Madelyn didn't smile at Callison.
Callison extended her hand. "Congratulations. I'm sorry I didn't know sooner, I would have sent a wedding gift."
"Thank you," Madelyn Rigby was cordial.
"Well, I think I'll be going now. Madelyn, it was nice to see you again."
"You as well."
Callison turned to Christopher, "Goodbye, Big Brother."
God, how he loathed it when she called him by that nickname! "We will speak again soon, Callie."
Secretly, she hoped so as she exited the room and the club.
Callison glanced at her watch as she stood waiting for the elevator to take her up to her sixth-floor apartment: 11:35. Time always flies whenever Chris is involved. The elevator came, and she got in, pushed the '6' button and leaned back against the wall. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry. What am I going to do about Alexa?
The doors opening onto her floor jerked Callison out of her concentration. She walked to her apartment door and quietly slid the key in the door. Jennifer was sitting on the sofa, wide-awake, chatting on the phone.
Callison laughed, "That had better not be long distance, woman." She threw her coat over the back of her recliner.
Jennifer covered the bottom end of the receiver, "I think I'm in love."
"Oh Lord, again?"
"Can you hold on a minute?" She said into the phone and then covered the receiver. "Cal, this man is fabulous! He's asked me out for tomorrow night! I'm so excited!"
"Who is it?" Callison plopped down in her recliner.
"Well, if I tell you, promise you won't get mad?"
A sudden feeling of foreboding overcame Callison. "Um...depends."
"Well, it's Cameron."
Callison jumped to her feet, "WHAT!"
"Well, he called to talk to you a couple of hours ago, and he's just...oh Cal, he's so easy to talk to!"
Callison grabbed the phone from Jennifer, "Cameron, did you get her phone number?"
"Yeah, Cal. Hi, by the way. I wanted to talk to—"
"Good, then call her back on her own damn phone." Callison slammed the receiver into its carriage, and then turned to Jennifer. "Good night. Thank you for sitting with Alexa."
"No problem," Jennifer tossed a piece of popcorn in her mouth as she walked towards the door. "Cal, if it bothers you this much, I won't go out with him."
"He probably needs to get laid." Callison went into the kitchen to fix a sandwich.
"Hey!" Jennifer followed her "Just because I go out with a guy doesn't always mean that I'm going to have sex with them."
Callison gave her a slanted look.
Jennifer sighed, "Oh so all right, most of the time they do get some, but if you don't want me to, I won't go out with him."
"Oh, bloody go. I don't care." Callison lied, furiously applying mayonnaise to a piece of bread. "You better go, your phone's probably ringing."
Jennifer slipped out the door quietly as Callison finished making her sandwich. She stared at the creation she'd just made, and suddenly decided she just wasn't hungry at all. She peeked in on Alexa, bolted the front door,
then climbed into bed—fully clothed—and cried herself to sleep.

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