Chapter Twelve:

Author's Note: I do not own Krispy Kreme, Wal-Mart, or Target.

Thanks to Hoodwynk, reallyinnocent2007, and Lady of Secrets for reviewing last chapter. And thanks to GrannyP for betaing this.

--dancing among the flames--

Chapter Twelve: The Suggestion of Selene

"You want to go shopping," Phoenix squeaked when she heard Selene's plans the next day.

Selene giggled. "Why, of course! Mesodonia has some of the best shops." And that was how Phoenix's plans to talk to Rhys and Morgan about the criminal after them flew out the window. Well, she had more of a feeling that Selene had hurled them out the window on purpose.

"What did I do to deserve this?" she groaned.

"You're not really a cat person. I bet God's a really big cat person," Rhys offered.

She glared at him.

"I was just trying to help."

"By making a joke, of course," Morgan added helpfully.

"It's written in the Rhys Rules that I'm supposed to make jokes."

"Many jokes," Phoenix added.

"That really aren't funny at all."

"Hey, I never said I was a comedian."

Phoenix grinned. "Yeah, you're just a wannabe."

"Why couldn't you leave me in my delusions of grandeur?"

"Now that you're all done with your funny act we can leave for the stores," Selene said impatiently.

Rhys looked at her blankly. "Oh, you were serious about the shopping thing," he mused.

"Why's that so funny?" she practically growled.

"I'm picturing Phoenix and shopping. Together."

"I'm not even going to bother to ask why that is such a big deal." Selene grabbed Phoenix's arm.

"Really, Sele. Can't we think of something else to do? You know, something that the guys would enjoy doing," Phoenix offered.

"Rafyel doesn't mind shopping. Do you, honey?" Her voice dripped honey and more sugary sweetness.

"Of course not." He smiled easily. Phoenix had an acute urge to strangle the ever-so-helpful Rafyel. She looked to her two idiots for help only to see them smiling like the yellow smiley face logo of Wal-Mart. They were going to get a kick out of her being tortured.

She suddenly grinned, surprising them and herself. "Don't worry, guys. You only have to carry a bunch of bags, fork over the money to pay, and follow us around like lost puppy dogs."

"She says that like she actually plans on buying something," Rhys whispered to Morgan loudly.

"I might not buy anything, but Selene will."

"Ah, we have to go do that one thing in that one place," Rhys remarked, pointing towards the exit.

"You're going." Her tone revealed a steely command. Her eyes showed that she was very serious.

"How can you get so worked up over shopping, Sele?" Phoenix asked while trying to deny the urge to roll her eyes.

"How can you not?"

Phoenix closed her eyes as she felt a major headache forming. Selene dragged her out the door.

--dancing among the flames--

Twenty shops later, Selene had just begun. Phoenix wanted to bash her head against something hard. Rafyel, Morgan, and Rhys had managed to escape. They claimed they needed 'man fuel' (Rhys's term), which was also known as food.

Phoenix caught Selene checking out her anklet in their large dressing room. The store had only one big room for dressing, and Selene wasn't shy about changing in front of others. "Rhys gave it to me," Phoenix offered. The silver anklet was a charm bracelet weighted down by charms. It featured a graduation charm, a fairy, a dog, a star, a heart, and many more.

Selene nodded and said, "Oh, so you guys were an item."

"What?"

"Well, that shiny thing cost a bundle," she remarked. "Hard to believe a guy would give you such an expensive gift—jewelry at that—without you sleeping with him."

"Dear Lord. Selene, not every guy is obsessed with sex."

"Whatever you say. So, is Rhys rich?"

"Ah, he makes good money."

"Is he gay?"

"What? No."

"Are you sure?"

"Very. Both Morg and Rhys are very heterosexual. I'm sure. I lived with them for several years."

"I'm not sure. I mean, what do you know about guys?"

Phoenix winced. "I lived with them. If that didn't teach me something, I don't know what would."

"Okay. So, tell me. How exactly old is Morgan? Is he rich?"

Phoenix sighed.

"Well, I don't really see any other reason why you would date him. Unless, he's good in—"

"Don't you dare say it. He's both. If you can ask me all these questions, I shall ask you this: what is going on with you and Rafyel?"

Selene's eyes widened. "Well, he's rich, of course." She laughed.

Phoenix lowered her voice, so the eavesdropper Alexis, who was supervising them, couldn't hear. "You're not that good of actress. You. Cannot. Fool. Me."

"Hey, we're back!" Rhys called cheerfully from outside of the room.

"Are you still alive, Phoenix?" Morgan asked.

"No, the horrors of shopping have done away with me!" She walked out of the dressing room in a flowing emerald green skirt and a matching halter top. She had put her hair down so it fell down her shoulders like a black curtain. Thanks to Selene's 'suggestion'.

"You look cute, flame bringer," Rhys offered with a smile.

Morgan couldn't take his eyes off of her face. He could easily read the anxiousness in her eyes. "Present." He lifted the Target sack in his hand.

"Is this really what I think it is?" she asked happily as she grabbed the bag and looked inside. "Blue jeans." She sighed. "I love you, guys!" She hugged Morgan. Then she embraced Rhys with the same enthusiasm.

"They weren't joking when they said you would worship them for bringing you the pants," Rafyel remarked. "Can I get a hug since I brought Krispy Kreme donuts?" He displayed the bag full of fresh donuts.

"Donuts!" Selene cried. "Those are fattening. I will not eat those."

"We weren't asking you to. Besides, there's more for us," Phoenix responded.

Selene glared at her.

That night Phoenix dreamed about the man in the file that King Stefan had showed her. In reality, it was a flashback.

They had been captured. The trio had gotten lost on their way back from gathering wood in the forest for their camp. It was just their luck that they ran into a rebel group.

Phoenix was separated from Morgan and Rhys. She had been placed in a dark room that smelled of liquor. A cloth had been tied around her eyes.

She barely heard his approach, but she felt his undeniable presence in front of her. "Care to tell me why you are here?" he spoke in English with a heavy accent. Phoenix was sure the accent was Russian.

She kept silent.

"What? You do not understand? I will be easy on you if you give me information." He touched her hair and she had to force herself not to flinch. "You want to be on my side. I want you to be on my side." She could almost feel his smile. "I like beautiful women to be on my side. If you know what I mean."

"Ah," she spoke in Russian, copying his accent. "You learned your English from American movies." She wanted to get his view on America.

"Yes, I did. They are disgusting individuals, aren't they?"

"I don't know. I've only watched the movies," Phoenix said in Russian carefully. Her head felt a bit light, so she was having trouble mimicking his dialect.

"Feeling sick, my dear?" he asked in Spanish. Dots swam before her eyes. She knew he had guessed that she was Hispanic by her coloring.

She bit her lip. She was sure she was going to black out. She heard a crash; then she fell into darkness.

--dancing among the flames--

Author's Note: Thanks again to Hoodwynk, reallyinnocent2007, and Lady of Secrets for reviewing last chapter. And thanks again to GrannyP for betaing this.

I hope you all enjoyed this chapter.