~18~

Game. Set. Match

Google.

The only source I could turn to for answers on my brother's condition. Bipolar disorder or manic depressive disorder draws a clearer picture of the working mind of Amyas Constance. It didn't hurt so much now to know that I was an annoyance. It gave him an acceptable excuse to be unreasonably moody and in some instances, unforgivably mean. It also explained why he would escalate into a hyperactive mode in which everything he said and did was utter nonsense.

But as it was, with Amyas in his bed riddled state, according to Wikipedia-a Major Depressive Episode can last from anywhere between two weeks to six months. I raked my eyes over the symptoms, coming to a disturbing conclusion. I found myself nodding in turn at each descriptive word-Sadness:yes, Anxiety:yes, Anger:yes, Isolation:definitely, Disturbance in Appetite:unfortunately, Lack of Motivation:Obviously. My heart skipped a beat as my eyes landed on the last possibility-Morbid Suicidal Ideation. I didn't have an answer for that.

But then again, what does Wiki know?

I felt a lump form in my throat. I was going to pay my brother an unwanted visit soon.

He was medicated though...or at least you'd hope so.

I clicked on the red ex at the top right of the screen, diminishing the open window.

Mother had a lot to answer for.

xx

Monday, 2nd week of Term 2.

I had yet to converse with Lexi Mathews, only being met with Jeremy's dashingly smitten grin of glowing white teeth. He was at his ninja tactics again, appearing out of thin air to whisk his fair maiden away from my advances. It was like the psychotic boy had grown a set of eyes in the back of his head-because he knew my movements all too well. I was never able to spot him of course, thinking the coast was clear only to be shown otherwise. He was like a slippery snake that slithered around Ashdale Academy, eating his prey and prolonging their suffering because he liked to play with his food.

And the Gods only knew how much I loathed snakes.

I spotted him sitting there, his feet upon his desk and a companion already by his side. Jeremy smiled as I approached our shared desk, whispering something to the slip of a girl and whistling appreciatively as she left. He tilted his head to the side, studying what he'd dismissed, a sleazy tongue running across his disgusting lips.

"You're vulgar." I greeted him with a fact we both knew.

"Don't worry Cherry," he stroked the seat next to him, "she's got nothing on you."

I reluctantly sat down, making an effort to move the seat away from him. I failed because he's a control freak and grabbed the back of my chair, holding it in place.

"Do you mind?" I shot at him, glaring.

Jeremy lent in towards me, his brown eyes dark and unkind, "Is that any way to speak to Jeremy Hillsong?"

I raked my eyes despairingly over his mask of audacity, feeling sick to my stomach. There was nothing worse than Jeremy Hillsong and his I'm-better-than-you-all attitude since overtaking Zeus and becoming Ashdale Academy's big shot. He was just as handsome, just as smarmy and just as egotistic, only now he held that air of being undefeatable.

I scoffed at his question, "I'll speak to you how I like."

This made the boy growl at me like the wild animal he'd become, "I wonder how Zeus would feel if I kissed Lex in front of him."

My fingers burned with the itch to scratch his eyes out, "You wouldn't dare."

He grinned at me knowingly, "Play nicely and I'll pretend the thought never entered my head." He sighed heavily and sat back in his chair, "It'd be fun though, to see the look on his face."

I shook my head in bewilderment and couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all, "You think you're so untouchable."

"But I am, Cherry." And he sounded so sure of himself. "With Zeus out of the way, I'm at the top of the pyramid."

I slouched back in my own chair and scowled at him challengingly, "Enjoy it while you can."

He chuckled, "I love how you underestimate me."

I clamped my jaw together, not wanting to bicker any longer. Mentally, I had the last word. No Jeremy Hillsong, I love how you underestimate me. I turned away from my irritating companion, only to realise we had an audience of one-Poseidon McClaymonte was staring at our exchange. I didn't understand why he tormented himself like that. It's not even as if he could hear our conversation or even lip read-he just wanted to be a part of the action. If there was such a club within the school-or even the whole world-called Let's Kill Jeremy Hillsong, he'd be the first to sign up.

I would be the second.

Jeremy tilted his chair so that it knocked against mine, his lips dangerously close to the nape of my neck, "Your friend over there obviously doesn't know that it's rude to stare."

I stiffened in my seat, trying to sink away from him, "And you obviously don't know the concept of personal space." I shoved him in the chest, but it only resulted in his seat knocking back against mine.

Jeremy looked thoroughly pleased, "You know," his arm slithered around my shoulders pulling me closer, "I would let Zeus have the girl on one condition."

I tried to shrink in on myself, not wanting to touch him any more than necessary, "I don't care about your terms of conduct."

"You want to succeed at being Cupid? You'll hear me out."

I shivered from his intoxicatingly hot breath that danced around my ear, burning, "I can accomplish that without your twisted mind games." You deceitful prick!

Jeremy bowed his head so low that it rested lightly upon my shoulder and haughtily laughed at my comment. To the untrained eye his reactions could be taken as an affect of my comedienne abilities, coming up with a splendid joke-Q:Why did Jeremy Hillsong cross the road? A:So Cherub Constance could run his conceited behind over. It was a far less desirable situation though and I was playing into the palm of his wretched hand.

"You give yourself too much credit dear Cherry."

I stared at the blackboard, trying to seclude myself from feeling his presence suffocating me, "No, the fault is that you don't give me enough."

My companion shifted stiffly away from me, studying my face in a state of detest, "You're very sure of yourself, aren't you?"

I found that to be the richest statement in the history of the world. Didn't he know that the bad guys always lose and the good guys always prevail? I refrained from offering him my collection of novels and telling him to read through them to see if Evil ever came out on top. I know he was trying his hardest to rewrite history, but with my wit and determination, I was going to bring his sorry arse down from cloud nine and kick it all the way to Timbuktu.

The appearance of Miss Kane saved me from conversing with the child of Satan himself. His dimples were enough to provoke me to punch him in the face-but the repercussions wouldn't be worth it. I needed some answers and they definitely weren't going to be coming from him. Oh Miss Kane-we're stuck in here with a psycho!

εїз – εїз

Mission: To find the queen of Gossip.

As soon as the bell signalled end of class, I was up and away-shooting off like a rocket out of the classroom. Of course I bumped into missiles, apologising profusely for my klutz like behaviour. Even poor Poseidon who had called my name from somewhere in the throng of students was ignored. I'd get an earful later, but I'd deal. Because I had bigger fish to fry.

I was completely lost in my own world, my eyes only honing in on people with a specific hair colour, height and love for everyone else's humiliation. A flash of black hair came into my line of sight albeit being the wrong person I wanted to bump into now or possibly ever. The girl stepped boldly in front of me and her light brown eyes shone for attention. And this is how an untimely intervention starts. Damn it! Shouldn't have made eye contact.

Amazon pulled me aside lightly, "Can we talk?"

Ok, reassessing the situation. Deal with Amazon and then find Dahlia. No. More. Distractions.

I smiled politely, "Yeah sure." It's not like I have things to do, people to talk to and Jeremy Hillsong to kill.

The girl before me gave her own version of a polite smile, although somewhat strained at the corners of her mouth.

"I know I've been avoiding you."

"Oh." And here I thought it was the other way around, "Mmm." Originality-great.

"It's just-I really liked him I guess." She threw her arms out in a wide swing and shrugged her shoulders in the process, "But I suppose that's nothing new, seeing as a majority of the girls at this school are in love with him."

"Uh-huh." I was in an unconscious sate of bitch mode.

"I just wanted to tell you that this thing between Hades and me is over. I was kidding myself from the start really, thinking too big and reading into his kind gestures all wrong. He's just a genuinely nice guy and...well, I'm happy for you."

I shook my head slowly, only just realising what she was implying, "Oh no, no we're not...you have to-"

Amazon placed a reassuring hand upon my shoulder, although I suspect it was just to calm me down and stop me from sounding like a broken record player.

"It's ok I understand. He's a McClaymonte, you're a Constance, it was meant to be. I can't stand in the way of fate."

I gulped, feeling my throat dry up, "Fate can be changed." By Cupid. Me. Amazon and Hades were written in the stars! Cherub and Hades? No. Never.

Amazon shook her head and gave me a beautiful smile, "No Cherub, no one should tamper with fate. Not even Cupid." She winked at me cheekily and then laughed heartily as if she knew good Karma was coming her way, "Go and get your Psyche-I think." She scratched her head in thought, "I was trying to be clever with Roman Mythology-it always was my downfall."

I opened my mouth to protest but she had already turned on her heel and caught up with a friend in the constant flow of students that gushed through the hallway. I looked after her helplessly, a bluish-black bob disappearing from sight.

Cupid and Psyche-they were meant to be together. Cupid and Hades? There was no history there.

I felt my knees buckle beneath me and backed into the wall for support, ignoring questioning eyes and quiet-yet very audible-conversations. There was a door that had just opened for me, a door that lead me into a world that I wasn't meant to be a part of. Hades McClaymonte was off limits at all costs. A memory that had been pushed to the back of my head resurfaced, teasing me with the taste of his mouth and the feel of his lips. My heartbeat quickened in pace and my head was spinning like I was on some kind of torpedo contraption. This was it, I was finally going insane, becoming a mental case, a free spirited loon!

Hades was just my best friend's brother. End of.

Shit.

I lurched back into the crowd of peers, pushing past them and forgetting to apologise for tripping them over or pushing them firmly out of the way. I saw the lavatory door just up ahead and a rush of relief flooded over me. I needed time out. I needed someone to slap me hard and wake me up from my mumbo jumbo stupor I'd fallen into. Pull yourself together!

And then it happened. I collided with something that wouldn't give way to me and found myself at a standstill staring blankly into a masculine chest. I knew who it was even before our eyes met and I had to keep myself from squealing like an obsessed Belieber. Fate was just too cruel.

Hades caught me steadily with both his hands, holding me at arms length. He tilted his head to the side to study me with his gorgeous grey eyes, a quirk of an unsure smile appearing at the corner of his mouth. Oh god his mouth. I trained my stare over his shoulder in search of a better mechanism for ignoring him, but it was impossible.

I must have looked as messy as I felt because Hades said, "Are you feeling ok?"

I stepped out of his grasp only to be pushed into him again, "I am."

The boy quirked his pierced eyebrow, "You don't look it."

Trust him to be super observant, the freak, "Well you never look ok either but people don't say it to your face."

The brows furrowed and the unspoken question was unmistakable:Say what now?

I gave him one of the best smiles I could possibly conjure, "I was just on my way to the girl's bathroom, if you don't mind."

I straightened myself up and folded my arms over my chest, watching his grey orbs that never missed a beat. I shuddered under their gaze and moved to step around him, but being the gentleman that he is, he stepped aside for me to pass by. I took the gesture courteously, sparing him a grateful smile and trying to muffle a nervous fit of laughter. This was highly ridiculous.

"Thanks." I mumbled so low I thought maybe he'd miss it.

I was two strides away when his answer descended on my ears, "Always happy to oblige."

I whipped around to stare at him, wondering if I'd imagined it or not. He stood there with his vigilant eyes, unmoving save for the small rise and fall of his chest beneath his trademark leather jacket. His eyes seemed unblinking and if I were any good at staring competitions I would have risen to the challenge. As it is, I suck and broke all connections-forcing myself to walk away. I pushed through the blue door with the figure of a girl painted onto it and relished in the eeriness of being away from the incessant noise of high school life.

I rushed for the sink and turned on the tap, splashing handfuls of water onto my face and drinking some of it in the process. My face was burning like I'd stepped out of a sauna and I was shaking all over.

"You're a little worse for wear, aren't you?"

A cool and collected voice filled the room and caused me to jump. I hadn't even realised I had company until I saw Dahlia Leblanc slumped against a door of a cubicle, lazily observing me. She sauntered over, her emerald eyes flickering to her reflection in the mirror, flouncing her scene haircut to give it more volume.

"I didn't see you there." I was trying not to die of a heart attack.

Little miss chatterbox leant over a basin and puckered her lips, dabbing some Lucas Pawpaw onto them and then smacking them together. She turned to smile delightedly at me, all rainbows and bloody sunshine.

"Good. Nice to know my tactics are fool proof." Dahlia looked around the room hungrily, "You'd never guess how many useful things get said in here. It's the best place for gossip." She placed a hand on her hip, "And you Cupid are at the top of the bitch list."

"The bitch list?"

The girl in front of me smiled so brilliantly it was almost inhuman, "As in you're the number one girl other girls bag out. Lexi's the second, but who's keeping tabs really?"

I grabbed at the paper towel dispenser and pulled a square free, patting my face dry, "That's just... perfect."

She grinned and it was painful, "How is Hades?"

I shrugged, "Same old."

Both her eyebrows raised in question, "Really? No fireworks yet?"

"He's my best friend's brother." I deadpanned, trying to warn myself again.

Dahlia let out a shrill of laughter, "Well if it's not one cliché it's the other."

I frowned but shrugged it off. This small talk was getting me nowhere.

"Look I need to ask you something."

"Of course you do." She sounded so smug.

"If there's one person in this school who has the answer, it'll be you." I tried flattery. Maybe it would give me some brownie points.

"Go on..."

I sighed heavily, "Do you know anything about Lexi and Jeremy?"

"Depends-what do you want to know exactly?" She studied her black polished fingernails in a bored manner, feigning interest.

"I want to know why she's with him when she doesn't even like him."

Dahlia's emerald eyes locked onto mine, "Has she told you as much or is this all speculation?"

I narrowed my eyes at her, "You know something. Spill."

The girl was visibly considering it, "It will come at a price."

"I've already paid my price."

Dahlia looked taken aback, "With what?"

"Zeus Over-throne. Ring any bells?"

My companion stiffened at the mentioning of the article that was her pride and joy, "Well I can't give you the answers, that would just be too easy. But you may want to read tomorrow's Herald Sun." She winked, "You'll thank me later."

"Tomorrow's Herald Sun?"

She tapped her nose, "You didn't hear it from me." She twinkled her fingers mischievously, "X marks the spot."

She rewarded me with a peace sign and skipped off in her happy little dream world where everyone was subject to her poisonous lies that were devoured as truths. Oh wait, that was real life. I swear she'd rehearsed her little chipper routine in the mirror every morning, because she knew without a doubt that there would always be lives to ruin. Just her luck.

My luck on the other hand would come with the early morning sunshine. Jeremy Hillsong, be ready for the beginning of your descent to the bottom of the pyramid.

εїз – εїз

Early Tuesday Morning:Constance Ranch.

I rose from bed early, surprising Mrs Wilcox and making her even more flustered than she would usually be. She made me go back to my room and wait for her to bring in my breakfast on a tray. I was eating within three minutes of her ushering me back to bed. I was unladylike and Mrs Wilcox didn't hesitate to tell me that gorillas ate with less disturbing habits.

I was ready for school well before any other sane person-well that's assuming I'm sane. I couldn't wait for a McClaymonte joy ride to school so Fernando was my chauffeur, ever obliging and patient. We made a pit stop at the closest corner milk bar and I couldn't even wait for the limousine to stop properly before I dashed from the vehicle.

I entered the little shop, grabbed what I had been waiting for all night long, and ran back to the black limo. Fernando had just pulled away from the gutter when I spotted the smiling face of Christopher Hillsong, who was shaking hands with another pleasant looking man. The picture had been taken in front of a tennis club and the caption read: Christopher Hillsong and Manning Mathews coming together for the tennis community. I peered closer at Mr Mathews, realising just how much of his genes had rubbed off on his daughter.

The Mathews Tennis Club, a family business that has spread over countless amounts of decades, is undergoing a very generous renovation. Christopher Hillsong, who only just recently moved back to Australia with his family, is giving back to the Melbournian community that is his home. "I've always thought sports was an important part of a young person's life," Hillsong states, "I hope my donation greatly impacts on the growing sports club." Hillsong has presented Mathews with a gift of 1 Million Australian dollars to re-create a bigger and better environment for their future partnership at Mathews Tennis club. "Hopefully we can develop more clubs around Melbourne so there will be ample opportunity for more people to discover the world of tennis." Mathews seems optimistic that his dreams are finally coming true. "It's all thanks to Christopher."

The newly refurbished Tennis Club will be under construction next month.

My mouth went dry. That was it-that's what Jeremy had on Lexi. Lexi was playing along for her father's benefit, because she was a sweetheart and couldn't let her old man's dreams be crushed by a devil in human form. It was all fitting together like a disjointed jigsaw puzzle. It would take one bad word from Jeremy to ruin all chances of the anticipated renovation. I felt at a loss for any type of action. There was nothing I could do unless I stooped down to his level. I refused to do so.

Once I'd arrived at Ashdale, I couldn't sprint fast enough to get to Zeus. He watched me stumble towards him with a slightly amused expression, until his blue eyes caught sight of the paper I was clutching onto like it was a life source. I thrust it into his chest and he grabbed hold of it reluctantly.

"Read it." I demanded.

"Already have."

"And?" I asked his face for sign of emotional turmoil and coming to the conclusion that he didn't give a rat's arse.

"And nothing."

"Did you really read it? Or did you just skim over it."

My best friend gave me an impatient look, "I read it, ok? It didn't interest me in the slightest."

"It doesn't come as a surprise that Mathews and Hillsong are working on a project together, and then all of a sudden Lexi's with Jeremy?" I was so infuriated with his slow mental state.

"So they're chummy," Zeus said gloomily, "it was only going to be a short amount of time before their offspring got together."

I took a deep breath to compose myself, "Lexi and Jeremy are putting on a front. They don't actually like each other."

Zeus' eyes locked on mine, "And you know this how?"

"Call it an intuition." I stared back not blinking, "Jeremy is blackmailing Lexi into staying by his side."

"Uh-huh." He didn't sound so sure, "He's finally made you paranoid. I knew this would happen."

I frowned. I was not paranoid; I was looking at a bigger picture-something that Zeus didn't want to see. He was in denial that Lexi was still every bit the girl he'd fallen for. It was going to take a while to get him out of that cage. He was stubborn at the worst of times.

"Do you trust me?"

Zeus flinched but decided to humour me, "Always."

I sighed, well that's a start. "Then you won't have any objections about what I'm going to do next."

His facial expression said otherwise, "As long as it's not stupid, I'll condone it."

I studied the boy before me; his lack of compassion for anything recently was disturbing me. Usually he'd jump at the chance to stir up a bit of trouble, but no matter how juicy that watermelon was, he didn't want to take a bite. I found motivation to push forward though, because if there was anything that could rile me up enough, it was Jeremy Hillsong. It probably wasn't a stable way of thinking, but when it came to my mind, it went a little awry on me when he was in the firing line. And I was yearning to be that bullet-albeit how imaginary-that shot him down.

I gave Zeus the most innocent smile I could produce, "That's good enough for me."

He didn't ask and I didn't tell. It was probably better that way. I was headed down a one way street and there was no turning back until the target was dealt with. This Cupid knew no bounds.

εїз – εїз

Some dodgy corner in the school yard.

Dahlia Leblanc was smiling at me with an air of superiority and devilishness that I was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable. The girl was good at what she did-outing people at the most horrendous times. It's what I needed. If you wanted to beat the mole, you'd have to dig the deepest-and I was about to dig myself into a huge, black hole. I just hoped Karma would be happy with my own perception of rightfulness that it would not catch up to me-ever. I signed my own soul over to the same demons that had devoured Jeremy's a long time ago. No regrets.

"You sure you want to do this?" Dahlia asked, knowing all too well I was in for the long haul.

I nodded, finding it hard to form words, "Yes."

"It could ruin the Hillsong's forever." She sounded marvellously evil.

I nodded to show that I understood, "I know."

"Good." She purred like a happy cat. "I'm glad you've come to see reason. You can't get anywhere unless you get your hands dirty."

But that's just it, it wasn't reason at all. I'd lost all reason. But dirty hands? That's something that made me shudder. Meet blackmail with blackmail and you've got yourself a ticking time bomb that could leave everyone around you in smithereens-failing to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and glue them back together.

"I just want the best possible outcome."

Dahlia laughed cruelly, "Honey, we're way passed that now."

I gulped, "Ok, what do I do?"

"We wait for the opportune moment." She pulled something out of her pocket and handed it to me.

I looked down at my palm, confused, "A pen?"

Dahlia winked, "Trust me love, it'll come in handy when the time is right."

I flinched at her pleasurable tone of voice, like she was feeding off the possibility that a life-or more-could be ruined over what we'd concocted. Maybe Jeremy wasn't that bad after all. I shook my head free of doubtful thoughts. This was it. And we shared a smile only the damned should showcase to one another. It was an unworldly look.

εїз – εїз

Two weeks of being guilt ridden:Constance Ranch.

My mother was being insufferable, I mean when wasn't she? She was going into anal mode, getting everything ready for Amyas' twenty-fourth birthday party that we were hosting tonight. I didn't get why we were throwing my brother such a festivity when he couldn't even look at food without getting nauseas. Hell, he couldn't even handle my own company let alone a room full of strangers and associates. But she was determined to treat him in the usual way a mother would shower a healthy son.

"He's the healthiest he's been in ages, it's a miracle."

She'd said those exact words when I questioned her about him. It didn't matter that he needed medical help or a professional to talk to-he was a prized possession that she wanted to boast about to the world. There was no way her favourite child would go without the best celebration that money could buy him. She'd bought him his own yacht to compensate for the loss of his dearly beloved. It was amazing that Mother was actually feeling guilty over something. That never happens. But anything for Amyas!

He wasn't allowed out of his room until the guests had started to arrive. That gave him another half a day to gather his wits about him and play along with his psychotic mother's fantasies. It made me sick that I was living in a house full of deluded people who walked around without a single ounce of care in the world. I was the only realist and it pained me to keep the charade up. It wasn't going to last long though, seeing as I'd invited a guest of my own that wasn't on the list of attendees.

Indianna De Bono-boy was she going to cause a stir. Plus, she was better than any present anyone could give. She was love and that was all that mattered. My brother was in pain and in dire need of some strength to push through the very dense mood he fallen into. Indi was going to be his sunshine once my arrow had hit home.

My arrows were smoking!

I heard my Mother approaching in her boot wedges and turned in my window seat to glare at her. I wasn't in the mood and by the looks of it, she wasn't either. It scared me every day how much I reminded myself of her. I'd spent my whole seventeen years of living trying to push her away, and yet when I looked in the mirror and pondered on my actions, I could be her clone. Shoot me.

"Cherry dear, aren't you going to get ready?"

Ok, one-it's midday and the party doesn't start for another six hours. And two-she's been asking me that question every time she sees me. She's either deaf or she was a fish in a former life.

"Unlike you, I actually don't take that long to get ready." I was feeling snappish today and she was doing nothing to calm my nerves. Oh God, my Mother all over again.

"You know I'm getting rather sick of your attitude lately." She glared at me through comically oversized, fake lashes, "We'll have a talk about that later."

I scoffed. She always chastised me with a promise of more displeased small talk, but it never happened. There was something more important to attend to every time.

"Of course you will." I deadpanned.

"I will." She stared at me perplexedly and pursed her lips in distaste, "I don't know what's got into you lately."

"That's a bit rich." I crossed my arms over my heaving chest.

"I beg your pardon?" Her hand leapt to her cold heart.

"You heard, Mother."

She tisked angrily, "Well I know when I'm not wanted." And she stormed away from me, stomping her wedged feet as she did so.

I rolled my eyes at Darjeeling who was purring next to me, "The witch is gone." She purred more.

I averted my eyes to the window and looked out through the glass panes, watching the colossal of events unfolding outside in the garden. The party planner was at it like usual-on her mobile and trying to juggle her pager and a pen and paper in her hands. I sat and stared as hour by hour the backyard became a spectacular masterpiece to ogle at. Fairy lights helped to brighten it daintily and lanterns hung magically from obscure tree branches. The round tables and chair sets were positioned into one huge circle, leaving the middle for speeches and a present table-no present no entry. A catering team had been hired, and they were busily placing cutlery, plates and other decorations upon each table.

It wasn't until an hour beforehand that I decided to get ready. I put my hair into a bun and adorned my ears with golden hoops. My dress was a cream coloured, one shoulder design that had been approved by my Mother. A maroon blazer and sparkly gold heels finished the look off. I was heading down the stairs when the first guests started to arrive. The foyer door was left open as a gathering place to greet people and share nasty gossip. Jeremy Hillsong had just walked through the door as I'd stepped off the last stair, his elbow playing as a support for his plus one-Lexi Mathews.

My Mother beckoned me to join her and greet the Hillsongs in a friendly manner. Miranda had already scooped herself a champagne from one of the waiters. I plastered a smile on my face and braved the intruders.

"Oh Cherub, honey." Miranda smiled brightly and swished her glass forwards, as if I had my own glass and we were sharing a cheers moment. "Don't you look beautiful!" She turned to Jeremy with her eyes raised, forgetting he already had a date, "Doesn't Cherub look beautiful, dear?"

Jeremy nodded his head and gave the most dashing smile, like the tosser he was, "She always looks beautiful."

My dear Mother gushed at his charming act, "Oh Jeremy, Cherry here really is lucky to have a friend like you."

"On the contrary, Mrs Constance-I'm lucky to have a friend like her." Again with the smile.

Wow. Where's a bucket when you need one?

Mother actually looked impressed and that was no easy fete, "Call me Leah, please."

I rolled my eyes, "I'll take Jeremy for a walk while you catch up with each other."

Miranda winked at me, "You're such a darling. You kids have fun now."

It always evaded my mind how adults talked to us like we were still learning how to walk. Jeremy nodded in consent and propped out his spare elbow for me to take hold of. I slipped my arm through his mechanically and I steered him forcefully towards the opening of the hallway below the stairs. Lexi hadn't made eye contact or even said anything yet, and with Jeremy around, I'm afraid that wasn't going to change.

The smile dropped from my face, "I know what you're doing Jeremy, it was all over the newspaper."

The boy didn't even blink an eyelid, "Congratulations." Her turned to Lexi and dismissed her from our presence, before returning to the conversation at hand, "That must have been so hard to figure out, seeing as it was on the front cover of the Herald Sun and it has been all over the news since."

I glared at him, "You can't blackmail people like that! It's a horrible thing to do."

Jeremy shrugged, "I can do what I feel like."

"Don't you care about hurting her? She's too nice to be treated like this."

His brown eyes bore into mine, "Her feelings have nothing to do with it."

I stared back, "Well it should. Just because your family is falling apart doesn't mean you can threaten another family's happiness."

The annoying boy scoffed at me, "Her family is already broken."

His brown eyes lingered towards a couple and there was no mistaking that they were her parents. They seemed happy to me, with Mrs Mathews gushing at everything her husband was saying.

"They look perfectly fine to me."

"It's time you woke up, Cherry." He gestured to the guests who surrounded us, "I can guarantee you that ninety percent of the couples here have fallen apart or are on the verge of breaking. Happily ever after doesn't exist in the real world."

I frowned, "What made you so cynical?"

"There's two reasons, and none of them are worth giving credit to."

My heart plummeted for him but it was squashed immediately because Jeremy Hillsong was the last person anyone should feel sorry for. Before me stood a broken boy who hated the world and everyone in it. His heart was as cold as the falling snow and there was no sun for him in the near future.

"Do you really want everyone to turn out like you?"

His eyes hardened and his jaw clenched, "They already are, I'm just opening their eyes." He readjusted his suit and showcased his dimples, "Well, if that's all-"

"I'm not finished." I stood my ground.

"And you think I am?" He laughed at me, "When tonight's over, Lexi won't want to leave my side until I dismiss her." He left me to ponder what on Earth he was talking about.

~_ [|] _~

Abaida Peatling-Andrews couldn't believe her bad luck. She'd been roped in to cater at the Constance family ranch for their eldest son's birthday. But unlike everyone else that would be there, she worked hard for her money, and this is what gave her confidence to face all the upper class snobs. She'd been handing out chilled Moet champagne glasses to passersby and wasn't at all impressed with how quickly the same people came back for seconds and thirds within the first half an hour.

Her eyes roamed around the foyer coming to land on a particular green eyed, blonde haired boy. Usually at the sighting of him she'd feel a fire burning in the pit of her stomach, but ever since the incident at the kissing auction Abaida felt that her rage for him had dwindled. He'd actually been tolerable during the days following and he did little things here and there that caught her off guard. At first she was sure Poseidon was being as sweet as honey just to get on her nerves, but wasn't so sure if that was his game plan now. There was the occasional bump in the road, but those heated arguments were growing less and less. It confused her.

Abaida plastered a pleasant enough smile on her face and decided to do another round of the room. She bowed her head every time a glass was taken and replaced on her silver platter, uttering a kind "Sir" or "Madame" as was expected of her.

"Another, Madame?"

The lady giggled at her question, "Well, I won't say no."

The man by her side shook his head, "I think you've had plenty, Miranda."

The lady glared at the man, "Don't be silly Chris, I'm absolutely fine."

Chris shook his head at Abaida, "She's alright, you can move along."

Abaida went to do so when the lady latched onto her arm. It took her by surprise and before she knew it, the whole tray was tumbling from her grasp. The bottle of Moet and the filled glasses fell and smashed on the marble floor below their feet. Silence ensued the horrible sound of breaking glass and the reverberation of the tray clattering onto the hardened surface. Abaida blushed at being the centre of attention, feeling her cheeks heat up with humiliation.

The man was contrite, "Sorry, my wife is a clumsy alcoholic." He grabbed his wife by the arm and dragged her away from the mess she'd created.

Abaida watched after the couple as they weaved in and out of stunned guests and disappeared. She couldn't believe that they'd left her to clean up by herself. Well, she kind of could. She was hired help, nothing more, nothing less. Humiliation gave way to anger and she fell to her knees to start picking up the shards of glass that surrounded her.

"What is this?"

Abaida looked up to see a fuming Leah Constance, her very displeased employer, marching across the landing with her eyes glued to her. Half way she was stopped by Poseidon who mumbled in a low voice and the lady smiled sweetly at him, before disappearing into the crowd of onlookers. The blonde haired boy made his way towards her, giving her an encouraging smile. Abaida couldn't help but be wary.

"Here," Poseidon knelt down beside her, "let me help you."

Abaida glared because that was her natural reaction, "I can do it by myself. After all, it's what I'm paid to do."

Her frenemy was completely ignorant of her dismissal and started carefully picking up pieces of glass. Abaida took this time to study the boy who was acting out of character. Poseidon McClaymonte wasn't the type of guy to be chivalrous or understanding and he surely wouldn't put his reputation at risk just to help her out, would he? Maybe she had to reassess the situation between them. If there was a situation to even begin with. He caught her staring and cocked an eyebrow, his face was pleasantly easy to get lost in.

"Yes?" He asked softly.

"Why are you helping me?"

The boy shrugged, "Because my mother raised me to do the right thing."

Abaida scoffed, "Sure."

Poseidon stared at her with his green eyes, "True story."

There was something about his intensity that made Abaida stop in her tracks. What had happened to the boy she hated more than anything else in the world? He was supposed to be arrogant, conceited beyond belief and disgustingly rude. This new version of Poseidon was doing her head in, but for an entirely different reason. Even in his outrageously loud green suit and yellow bowtie, she couldn't put a finger on anything that made her cringe. She started helping him and they silently worked harmoniously together-which also struck Abaida as odd. She wasn't in the mood to bicker, and contrary to popular belief, he wasn't either.

She watched him curiously as his hands worked at lightning speed and not once did he complain about her clumsiness or her company. He smiled cheerily as his eyes flickered towards her own. He was actually nice enough to gaze at without feeling as if she was going to go insane. The boy was actually a calming force.

Their eyes held each other's for longer than necessary, and in a dazed confusion Poseidon blindly fumbled with a sharp shard of glass, drawing blood from his palm. He winced and broke eye contact cussing at his bad luck. Abaida rolled her eyes and pulled free the napkin that was tucked into her black work pants.

"Give me your hand." She extended her own to take his.

Poseidon gave her a quizzical glance, "And here I thought you'd prefer it if I bled to death."

"I would," she stated mildly, taking his wound and pressing the napkin upon it gently, "but I'm showing you I can be grateful."

He flinched, "Easy, woman!"

Abaida tisked, "Man up."

The boy laughed at her and then stopped abruptly, staring at her as if only seeing her for the first time. He even tilted his head in the process, making her self conscious.

"What?" She asked impatiently.

"I just wanted to say sorry."

"For what? Being more clumsy than I am?"

He shook his head, "No, for kissing you at the auction."

Abaida ducked her head immediately, feeling a blush creep into her cheeks. She'd thought of that kiss a lot-not that she'd ever tell him that.

"Oh, well you're lucky you're still alive."

And he was. Because she had thought of countless amounts of ways to get him back-every outcome being a gruesome and painful death. Those thoughts had made her happy until they started to make her feel guilty. He wasn't a bad guy after all. She'd keep that to herself as well.

Poseidon laughed again and it was strange how much she actually liked the sound. Abaida's eyes fell to his lips and she regretted the action when she felt a yearning to taste them again. She was afraid she was actually losing her mind. He was a nightmare to figure out.

There was a slight cough from above and both heads snapped towards the newcomer. It was Cherub Constance and Abaida felt out of place around the pretty brunette. She was stunning in her evening attire and Abaida-well she was dressed in pants and a white collared shirt that made her look like a box. Cherub was smiling and her dimples left soft indents in her caramel skin.

"Hey Abaida, why don't you take Poseidon into the kitchen and get that cut looked at? I'll clean up this mess."

Abaida nodded consent, because her usually intelligible brain wasn't functioning properly. Cherub smiled and waited patiently as Abaida took control of the wounded boy.

"Thanks Cherub." Poseidon mumbled and flashed her a mouth watering smile.

It literally was. Abaida felt her mouth over-salivate and she grew angry at her new found weakness. How could she like a boy so much and still want to throttle him at the same time? She desperately needed to get her brain checked.

~_ [|] _~

The opportune moment had presented itself and me, being a very vigilant Cupid, took control-and bam-I bet Poseidon and Abaida are already on their way to blissful happiness. Or something of the sort. I'd cleaned the broken bits of glass up with Hades' help and now, looking at the clean floor, I felt like I had been Cinderella in a former life.

My brother had just descended the stairs and was looking very ridiculous in his oversized suit. If anyone else thought the same they didn't show it. They met him with adoration and gushing compliments that he took without really concentrating on their words. He was searching the crowd of strangers for someone, only to be met with my prying eyes. He raised both his eyebrows and traipsed over to me with a forced smile upon his lips. It took him a while, seeing as everyone between us stopped the boy to congratulate him on his twenty four years of living.

"Where's mum?" He asked when he'd sidled up to me.

"I don't know." I searched the many faces of people and was met with no maternal vibes.

"Who are these people?" His voice sounded strained.

"Your friends, apparently."

He scoffed, "I feel stupid."

He fixed his tie nervously and the bones in his fingers were scarily visible. Didn't he own any gloves? His caramel eyes stared at me blankly and then he left, heading towards the open door that led to the back yard. As soon as he'd gone through the doorway, everyone else took it as their cue to join him. I was going down a step when I almost face planted on the concrete below. Strong hands wove themselves around my middle and straightened me back up. I turned to thank my saviour-realising it was Hades.

"Watch your step." He warned.

"It's a bit late for that." I pointed out.

The corner of his lips twitched, "Try to be more careful."

I raked my eyes over his porcelain face, feeling my own catch fire. Why was he so-so flawless? Seriously, it wasn't natural.

"Anything for you." I said dryly.

He stuffed his hands into his pockets and swayed on the spot. His grey eyes lingered on mine and then fell to study his feet. Because they were much more interesting than anything else. His eyes seemed focus on my feet instead and he frowned.

"No wonder you're falling all over the place, those heels are a death sentence."

I rolled my eyes, "Thanks." Flattery wasn't his niche.

His eyes found mine again, "You scrub up ok."

I shrugged, "Same goes for you."

I could feel my heart beat pumping against my rib cage and I knew I was in trouble. I had to take deep breaths to calm my nerves down. No, Cherub, No! If I was a dog, maybe those words would have registered a boundary.

I couldn't help myself from taking him in. The way his hair fell, his eyes glistened, his mouth stayed set in a grim line-he was beautiful. But his tie, it was a mess.

"What?" He asked in his deep voice.

"Who the hell did your tie?"

"I did."

"Well it sucks." I moved closer to him, "Can I fix it, it's kind of getting on my nerves."

He shrugged noncommittally, "Sure."

I fumbled with the black silk, straightening up his collar in the process. I was aware of him staring at me and I could feel my hands turning to jelly. This was supposed to be an innocent, friendly gesture. Damn it! I pushed Hades momentarily out of my head and fastened the tie around his neck. I was smoothing the fabric out when Hades caught my hands in his softly. My eyes met his and I found it hard to swallow. He was peering at me and he stepped forward, both eyes trained onto something he was frowning at. Great, my mascara must be smudged or something...

"Close your eyes."

I was puzzled, "Why?"

"Because you'll flinch if you don't and I'll probably poke your eye out."

That was enough for me. I shut my eyes tightly and waited for something to happen. There was a slight pinching below my left eye and then it was over. My eyes fluttered open to find those grey eyes swimming with an emotion I'd never seen before.

"What-"

"Eyelash." He stated bluntly.

Right.

We were almost forehead to forehead when an ear-splitting sound made us jump apart. It was Mother Dearest and she was not happy. Hades gave me an apologetic look and I knew just why she was auditioning to become a banshee. I gave Hades one last glance before I headed back indoors. My heartbeat had miraculously quietened down.

Indianna stood there in the foyer, her face drained of any colour. My mother was livid and she turned to me as I entered. Roberto stood aside to let me pass, baring his pointy teeth. He loved knowing that I was going to get in trouble, it made his job all the more satisfying. Great.

"What the hell is she doing here?" Her voice echoed in the almost deserted room.

I ignored my mother and waved at my guest, "Hi Indi." She grimaced at me.

My mother turned to address Roberto, "Close the door, let no one in." The door was shut. Caramel eyes flared, "What were you thinking of, inviting her?"

It was like Indi wasn't even in earshot. I felt appalled at my mother's behaviour.

"She's my birthday present to Amyas!"

"She doesn't belong here."

"We'll see what Amyas has to say about that." I folded my arms over chest not meeting my Mother's eyes. They were poisonous.

"What about me?"

All our heads snapped towards the birthday boy who was just coming out of an adjacent room. He looked from me to our mother and then his eyes rested on Indi and he stopped in his tracks, his face crumbling with rage.

"Is this some kind of sick joke?"

Mother Dearest raced to his side, consoling, "Your sister invited her dear, I'd be happy to get rid of her."

"Don't be stupid." I took my position next to Amyas' future wife.

My brother was shaking all over, "Cherub, of all the hurtful things you could do to me...do you really hate me that much?"

I stepped forward bravely, "I invited her here so you could learn the truth."

"I know the truth!"

I felt inclined to say-you can't handle the truth!-but it was the wrong atmosphere. And it would get me nowhere.

"No. I know the truth! I know you have Bipolar disorder-"

Amyas glared at Indi vehemently, "You told her?"

Indi finally spoke up, "She has a right to know."

"Amyas is not sick!" My mother actually stamped her foot.

I was beyond angry, "Not sick? Not only is he bipolar-he's fucking anorexic! When's the last time he consumed something other than water?"

My mother wasn't backing down, "You don't know what you're talking about."

"No," I corrected her, "you don't know. Wake up Mother, Amyas needs help and Indi is just the right person to do that."

Amyas came to the witch's defence, "Did Indi even tell you what happened between us? She chose a future without me."

I rolled my eyes, "She was forced into a future without you! Did mother tell you about Indi's miscarriage and how she bribed her to stay away from you?" Doubt registered on the young man's face, "Yeah, that's what I thought."

Amyas turned to the lying woman, "What's she talking about?"

"Nothing, it's all lies."

"Oh for God's sake mother, tell the truth for once in your miserable life!" I stared into those caramel eyes I hated so much, "You told Indi to stay away from Amyas because she wasn't good enough for your perfect son. You told her to keep the baby a secret and that you'd pay for the expenses throughout its life. Indi came to you for help and you pushed her away."

Mother was rigid, "How dare you!"

Amyas' eyes sought out Indi's, "What's she talking about? What's going on?"

The blonde beside me answered and her voice was shaking, "I lost our baby, Amyas, I lost our baby." And the river broke free.

My brother was losing all the strength he had left. But adrenaline won over and he turned on our pathetic excuse for a mother.

"What is she talking about?"

Her talons reached towards him but missed, groping at thin air, "I was trying to help you. You're too young to get married and start a family, I was only doing what was best for you."

Amyas was backing away from the woman with a disgusted look on his face, "I was going to be a father?"

Indi rushed to his side, "We were going to be parents."

I couldn't stand to be in the same room any longer, turning on my heels and dashing towards the confines of the lounge room. I heard my mother scream my name and the heels followed me. Her claws dug into my shoulder and she forced me to look at her.

"You've ruined your brother's life."

I stepped out of her grip, "I'm sorry you think that."

"I'll never speak to you again!" She sounded like a child.

"Is that a promise?"

Her nostrils flared and then she marched away from me, snapping at Roberto to open the door. I walked in the opposite direction-finding myself in the guest lounge. I was so looking forward to some peace and quiet when I realised that the room was already occupied. Jeremy Hillsong was standing by the fireplace and he laughed at me as I approached him.

"There's happy families everywhere."

"Eavesdropping is rude." I hissed.

"I wasn't," he smiled, "I was on my own mission, actually."

I was ready to rip his pompous head from his ogre like body, "And what mission would that be?"

"Ruining a person's perception of living in an ideal world." He nodded towards a door that opened into the library, "Poor Lex."

I dashed across the room and was about to open the door fully when movement inside the library caught my eye. Two bodies were entwined into one. There was no mistaking the two adults. Chris Hillsong and Mrs Mathews. The bookshelves didn't even stand a chance, novellas falling around their feet noisily. I felt sick to the stomach and was about to retreat from spying when another movement caught my eye. My eyes focused on the only other door that adjoined the library, and my eyes met sad blue ones. Lexi Mathews disappeared as soon as I'd blinked. I was shaking all over.

Jeremy was still so impressed with himself when I returned, "My father always gets what he wants."

The boy in front of me was as twisted as they come. Someone else's pain was his pleasure.

"It wasn't enough that you threatened to pull the plug on her father's tennis dreams? You really had to stoop this low to get what you wanted?"

He shrugged, "Things just have an uncanny way of working themselves out." He paced back to the fire, the flames casting evil shadows upon his face, "Now she'll be mine until the end of school." He bought a finger to his lips, "Don't tell anyone though, her poor daddy has no idea."

I ran from the room, disgusted to even be near him. I kicked the shoes from my feet, finding the foyer empty and relishing in the fact that I was alone. I'd made up my mind. Dahlia's plan was going to come life if it was the last thing I ever did.

And all the king's horses and all the king's men could never put poor Jeremy back together again. And the sad thing was he thought he was broken already. He was going to get the shock of his life!


A/N

Harrah,

Another Chap.

Xx

Kazz