Chapter 9

The hardest secret to keep was what happened between them as Darbie continued to act as if Alexio was the banished poor step child had when they were among the Howell family or at school.

They both knew given the situation and circumstances that the chances for a perfect happy ending were pretty slim but as long as they could keep the secret going they'd be okay.

It didn't happen very often, but occasionally Elton and Helene were both in the Howell house at the same time which definitely made Alexio the true man out, although Helene continued to treat him nicely and tried to include him in any group event but the last thing both Darbie and Alexio wanted was to have Alexio hangout with Elton, although Helene had no clue about any of that stuff.

Helene liked to tease Elton about attending an all-boys school although Darbie good naturedly gave Helene a hard time about being a Greenville "Greenie" instead of a Hillsboro "Hurricane".

Sometimes Alexio wondered if he'd be better off transferring to Greenville High.

Darbie continued to pick up Alexio walking home from school when she had Eddie's car thanks to Helene. They didn't always go straight home when they knew Marie was going to be there, but they were limited as to where they could go since they didn't want to be seen alone in public by anybody they might know because somebody could start asking questions – mainly, "I thought you hated that guy?" to Darbie.

Darbie had no interest in going anywhere near Sun Rise Lake knowing Elton was on the school campus there and even a stop in Greenville could be problematic because lots of Hillsboro kids hung out there, not to mention the reality of Helene living there.

They couldn't go to The Antique Barn and Look Out Point in South County every day either. One afternoon, they drove up to Mt. Griffin to check out Have Some Faythe Soaps and Candles which Darbie had heard about but never visited.

"This place smells good," Alexio joked as they walked through the aisles of sweet smelling soaps and candles of all scents, most with interesting and unique names to them, including local themes.

Alexio picked up a bar of unwrapped sample soap, free for the taking and held it up to Darbie's nose. "Do you like how this smells?" He asked.

"It smells like sex," she joked.

Alexio tried to stuff it down the back of her designer jeans. "Let me wash your ass," he said seductively.

"Cut it out, you jerk!" Darbie laughed.

Just then, Helene of all people walked around the corner and she stopped short when she saw Alexio with his hand down the back of his step-sister's pants. All three looked at each other in shocked horror.

"Hey," Helene greeted numbly as Alexio pulled his hand out of Darbie's pants.

"Hi, Helene, how are you today?" Darbie asked politely, pretending nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

"I'm okay," she reported, flustered. "You guys?"

"We're good," Darbie replied. "I'd never been here before, so we were just checking it out."

"This is my first time too," Helene said.

"Hey, Helene!" Two other girls appeared by her side. "Let's go!" One of them said.

"Yeah, this place stinks!" The other one said, laughing.

"Well, I'll see you," Helene replied, giving Darbie and Alexio a wave.

"See you," Darbie smiled watching as Helene disappeared with her friends. "Great," Darbie moaned to Alexio. "Yet another secret to keep."

"Do you think she'll say anything?" Alexio worried.

"To whom?" Darbie frowned. "She knows better than to cross a Howell."

"This is all my fault," Alexio sighed.

"Who knew she'd be here?" Darbie shrugged. "But that's what you get for trying to get a piece of my ass in public."

They left the store without seeing any signs of Helene and they climbed into Eddie's car, but Darbie didn't start the engine.

"This must be torture for you," Darbie said sympathetically, giving Alexio the eye.

"Everything's fine," Alexio said neutrally.

"No it's not," Darbie said knowingly. "Sooner or later we're going to be found out."

"That would be bad," Alexio sighed.

"Would it?" Darbie tested.

"Of course," Alexio said. "I really don't think my mother would be all that upset about it, but your father? Eddie? Elton? All your friends and Eddie's friends at school?"

"I should be more like your mother," Darbie realized.

"It's only a matter of time before your secret is exposed," Alexio warned. "Who knows if Helene is on her way to tell Eddie right now when she picks him up after practice?"

"I'm not worried about Helene," Darbie said.

"Who are you worried about then?"

"Everybody else," she admitted.

"You're staying with Elton, aren't you?"

"I have too," Darbie sighed.

"Because he's rich?"

"Because it's what I'm supposed to do," she said.

"You do a lot of things you're supposed to do," Alexio observed. "Is that why you've been breaking the rules with me? Is that your only secret?"

"You have secrets too," Darbie protested.

"Only yours," he said.

"What about the girl at the lake?" Darbie asked.

Alexio didn't say anything, looking out the window instead.

"What happened to her?" Darbie wanted to know.

"My mother stopped being friends with her mother when she married your father," Alexio explained.

"I could bring you there now," Darbie offered.

"What for?" Alexio frowned, looking at her with surprise.

"So you'll have somebody when we have to end our secret," Darbie said, her eyes filling with tears.

"It really doesn't work that way, Doobie," Alexio sighed.

"Don't call me Doobie."

"I think she must be off somewhere at college by now," Alexio said.

"Let's go drive by the house and see," Darbie suggested.

"It doesn't work that way, Doobie," Alexio said.

"Well," Darbie decided. "I guess we only have one choice then."

"What's that?" Alexio asked with defeat.

"Keep the secret going," she grinned, leaning across the shift console and giving him an impassioned kiss.

Alexio grinned into her mouth. "It is a secret worth dying for."

"You'd better mean that because when our secret's exposed we're going to go throw ourselves off South County's Look Out Point together, holding hands," she said.

"Fatal love," Alexio said knowingly.

"Worth dying for," she whispered into his mouth. "Thank you for being my secret."

"Shh," Alexio said as he darted his tongue inside her mouth. "It's a secret."