DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. Characters belong to Shed Productions. I would like to thank my Beta Reader Rebelgirl. She has been a great help.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Sins of the Past
By Ladyhawke


Chapter Seven

If this had been a movie, the music would rise as the camera tightened in on the long lost lovers reuniting after so many years apart. Nikki would pull Helen into a loving embrace and everyone else would disappear as she kissed the first and only true love of her life with all the passion she had buried for all these years. Fade out; cue the credits as the movie concludes to its predictable yet perfect Hollywood ending. She'd played this part more times then she cared to remember; hell she could have recited dialog, but then reality decided to make its presence known.

Nikki was lost in Helen's hazel eyes as they hugged. She remembered replying with some greeting because Helen said something in return, but the words never registered. It may have been cliché, but having Helen in her arms made Nikki feel whole again. This was where she wanted to stay for the rest of her life, but the rest of the world started to phase back into her consciousness. Nikki remembered that Sean, the fiancée, was standing five feet away and her entire staff were watching on. How long had they been hugging? Helen made no move to escalate the hug or pull away and she didn't know what that meant. Fifteen years ago, she would have pulled the shorter woman into a breath taking kiss and the rest of the world be damn. Now her courage seemed to abandon her.

She pulled away and smiled when she felt resistance. She returned to Helen's unreadable gaze and took a calming breath before locking her emotions in place. The hug must have lasted less time then she thought, because when she greeted Sean he smiled and shook her hand with so much vigor that she lost feeling in her fingers. Before she was forced into some god awful small talk, Kris pulled her into a hug and directed everyone into finding their rooms before getting ready for dinner. Once again she thanked whatever higher power that introduced Kris Yates into her life.

Helen watched Nikki and Kris head up the stairs laughing and joking. It wasn't until she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder that she turned away. Selena looked at her with concern then headed up after her girlfriend. The shake was enough to keep Sean from thinking something was wrong. The stars were just leaving her eyes as she turned and nodded towards the staircase. It was taking all her willpower not to go after Nikki; part of her wanted to pretend like that last fifteen years had never happened while the other half wanted to throttle the taller woman for leaving in the first place. The look in Nikki's eyes after their hug was haunting. Her ex-lover never could hide her emotion. They could radiated through her if you knew how to read them, but the wall that quickly locked into place was something new and it terrified her to no end.

No one noticed as Shell watched the entire scene unfold. The blonde had to make sure she wasn't drooling. Unlike Helen Stewart's fella, she did notice the length of their hug and the look on Nikki's face as they parted. If this was just the introduction, she couldn't wait to see what the next couple of day would bring. Noticing that everyone was starting to move, she rushed over to find Denny and make sure to stay as far out of Yvonne's way as possible. Shell would ignore the overprotective manager a little longer as she thought about the money she would get for this story.

Sean came up behind Helen and placed his arm around her waist as they went to go find their room. She smiled at him and almost wanted to laugh at the grin plastered on his face. Helen had a feeling he would be telling everyone about his holiday with the famous actress. At least with him happy, he might stop asking questions she didn't want to answer. At the top of the stairs, Helen took a right ready to drop her bags in her room.

"Helen, you'll be staying in the south wing with Kris and Selena," Barbara said halting their movements.

"What?" Helen asked as she turned back to the older woman. "I'm not staying in my normal room?"

Barbara gave her a sympathetic smile. "Sorry, but with all the guests right now there was a mix up on which room went to whom. Your old one is temporally occupied at the moment, but we made up one just as nice down the other hall, plus your new one is a little bigger then the other one." They both knew she was lying. Nikki wouldn't let anyone else stay in her room because of the adjoining door between hers and Nikki's bedrooms and Barbara made sure that it was always free for whenever Helen chose to visit.

"It's alright Babs whatever room you have made up will be fine," she said with an understanding smile.

Walking into the guest room Helen smiled, the only truthful part of Barbara's excuse was that it was bigger. Sean placed the smaller bags down near the door and hopped onto the king size bed. He looked like a kid on his birthday. A small laugh left her lips as she watched him. His boyish manner was one of the things she loved about him. The stress of the last half day disappeared as he claimed her attention.

"This place is amazing!" Sean exclaimed.

She shook her head, "Sean, you've been here before."

He paused and thought about her statement. "Well, that was before I realized that Nicole Warren lived here. It was impressive on its own, but that we're going to spend time with her, wow!"

He wrapped his arms around her and gave her a kiss. She leaned into him and took a calming breathe. Tonight was going to be hard, but with Sean by her side she should be able to deal with everything without making a scene.

"Come on now, we better get ready for dinner," Helen said as she gave him one last kiss and headed towards the bathroom.

Dinner was surreal for Nikki. As a child, she would sneak down and watch her parent's dinner parties. Women dripping in diamonds and fine silk dresses while the men were decked out in tuxes with their hair slicked back. Barbara would find her huddled behind a door and have to chase her back up to her bed. The rest of the night she would dance and laugh as she pretended to be one of the partygoers. Years later she would still sneak down to watch the dinner but with Helen by her side. They would make fun of the guests and before Barbara could run them off they would sneak out a bottle of champagne. Once she reached Hollywood, her parent's parties weren't as glamorous anymore yet there was still the thrill of watching something you could never be a part of. Now looking around at all of her mates, who were more like her family then her parents ever were; she almost wanted to laugh. Gowns and tuxes were replaced with jeans and sweatshirts and refined civilized conversation was replaced with shop talk and gossip.

"Babs, if you don't get your arse in a chair this minute, I'll tell everyone what happened last Christmas when Henry let you drink more then usual," Nikki ordered as the older woman walked in through the kitchen door.

Barbara looked at Nikki in shock, until Nikki gave her a broad smile. "Well, someone has to make sure you lot are feed. I can't remember the last time you were ever in the kitchen."

"You got that bleeding right," Denny chorused then slapped her hand over her mouth.

Both Atkins girls laughed as Nikki took the ribbing good naturedly. "Fine, but once that food is out you better put your butt in a chair and eat along with us." Nikki gulped down golden liquid from her glass and closed her eyes as she savored her scotch.

Helen watched on with a smile. Nikki seemed more relaxed, and it was nice to see a little bit of her old friend back. Drinks were being sorted as food was being brought out.

"Gin and tonic for both," Sean said to Barbara's daughter, Tessa, waving his finger between him and Helen.

She looked at both of them confused, "Sorry, Nikki already ordered Helen's drink."

Helen looked back at Nikki who was sitting three seats down at the head of the table. She just gave an innocent smile and turned to talk to Yvonne who was sitting to her right.

"So then, Nikki rushes out of her trailer beat red with Samantha Robertson rushing after her. It turns out that the Two Julies spread this rumor that Nikki liked Samantha who was rubbish at reading the signs if you know what I mean," Lauren paused for dramatic effect and laughed as Nikki started to blush. "All Nik would say was that Sam wouldn't take no for an answer and that she never had such a hard time lifting a ninety pound woman off her."

"The Julies are just lucky they couldn't make it up this weekend. Every time someone reminds me of that story I have the urge to fire them," Nikki retaliated with a heavy sigh.

"Oh, you'll never fire them. They just can't help themselves." Yvonne said patting her on the shoulder.

Helen was about to say something about the Julies when a glass of scotch was placed in front of her. She looked at the server who was placing Sean's gin and tonic down and then back at Nikki. "Your father's scotch?"

"Couldn't think of a better time to drink it. We'll top off two bottles just like the last go around. Hopefully we hold our liquor a little better this time," Nikki said with a sad smile.

"I'm amazed that the tabloid didn't get a hold of the Robertson story," Sean wondered completely oblivious to the look that passed between his fiancée and the actress.

When Nikki didn't respond Lauren volleyed the question. "That's why she snagged a golden man on her first try." Lauren threw a piece of bread at her old friend who refocused on the conversation. "It's amazing to see. She set Samantha straight and the rest of the shoot was smooth sailing. She could hate another actor and no one would ever know. I swear, when we were doing the film Remembrance there was this actor that Nik was about to strangle; I mean every night the rants we had to put up with, but through the entire job and press she acted like they were the best of mates. You should have seen it."

"Jack Ellis." Helen muttered as she took a long sip of her scotch.

Everyone turned to look at her in confusion. When all eyes were on her, Helen returned their gaze and nodded at Nikki for confirmation.

"Was I that obvious," she asked.

"Only because I knew the signs; you've gotten better. You leaned back a little whenever he touched you in a scene; not as bad at Mr. Petters from fourth year at Hallview but I caught it," Helen answered.

"He was a right slimy bastard. Made my skin crawl." She noticeable shivered at the memory of the man.

Food and liquor flowed as the topics changed from prison to Hollywood gossip and everything in between. Everyone was stuffed and in various stages of intoxication; the night was going better then most expected. Kris made eye contact with Yvonne as Nikki downed her fourth scotch. Nikki had never been a big drinker, even when she was dating Trisha, so this change in behavior was concerning to both women.

"So there I was, an innocent impressible youth, minding my own business as I walk towards my first class. I had been transferred to a new school my second year, after an unfortunate misunderstanding," Nikki began telling another story.

Four women scoffed, causing Nikki to glare.

"Shut it all of you. Remember I pay quite a few of your paycheck," she threatened good naturedly.

"And remember that I know the reason you were transferred," Barbara countered.

Nikki stuck her tongue out at the older woman, causing the rest of the table to erupt in laughter.

"Now where the bloody hell was I? Oh right, so I was walking down the hall to get to my first class, and this pint size terror runs out of the lavatory. All I could make out hazel eyes and a really bad perm." Once again she was interrupted.

"I've never had a perm in my life, Nicola Wade, so don't you even think about adding any extra details," Helen ordered, using her best wing governor voice.

Nikki raised her hands up in surrender, "Fine, you win. So there was this absolutely charming, intelligent, underappreciated Scot," she looked at Helen, who nodded her approval to the corrections. "Running out of the lavatory and down the hall. Well as you can imagine, I was a little stunned but not nearly as stunned as when an explosion went off. Someone thought it was funny to flush a firecracker down the toilet. When the teachers came to investigate, all they found was me unsure of what happened. So after a lovely chat with the headmaster, he decided to assign me a peer behavioral aid or something like that. I was about to tell the old prick off, when in walks…this absolutely charming, intelligent, underappreciated Scot. We were best friends before the end of the day."

"Only because you threatened to tell on me," Helen grumbled.

"So you was a budding criminal, miss?" Denny asked, her eyes wide like a child given a special secret on Christmas.

Nikki grinned when Helen sat a little taller in her seat. "You need to understand that my actions were retaliatory," Helen started.

"I was picked on as a child. You don't understand what it's like to be new at a school when your father's the new minister; yah de da de da." Nikki explained waving her hand like an orchestra conductor. "You enjoyed playing pranks and causing mischief and that's why we always got along; besides my wonderful charming demeanor, and infinite calm to deal with your temper tantrums and your holier then thou attitude."

She caught the napkin that catapulted towards her, and once again stuck her tongue out which was rewarded with a patented Helen Stewart smile; the one where she smiled and you could see just a tip of her tongue through her teeth. Nikki felt her heart flutter. She wasn't sure if it was the alcohol, or remembering the lighter time in her life that caused her to be so playful, but for once in her life she was just going to focus on the good and leave the bad for another day.

"I have a question, if you don't mind?" Sean asked.

"I'm an open book," Nikki responded, getting a raised eyebrow from Shell, who had been quiet for most of the night.

"Well coming from money, why did you live on the streets?" He felt awkward asking, but he really wanted to know.

Well there went that positive energy and optimistic outlook. Nikki refilled her glass. "Well, once you're disowned, it don't matter what kind of money you got," she said, downing half the glass.

"Disowned?" Helen asked.

Brown eyes locked with hazel ones as she realized what she just said. Unable to hold the look, she turned to Sean and continued. "My parents were… conservative, to put it mildly. When I came out; they chucked me to the curb. But I guess in the long run, things turned out for the best."

"But when?" Helen pushed. She couldn't believe that Nikki's parents would ever go that far.

"Two weeks before the plane crash," was her only reply, as she finished the second part of her drink. "Now, let's change the subject. I didn't mean to bring the rest of the night down."

Helen looked back at Barbara, who nodded. Pieces were starting to fall into place, but that still didn't explain why Nikki hadn't just come to her when her folks tossed her out. Helen refilled her own glass and sighed, as the strong liquid slid down her throat.


Chapter Eight

"So here I was maybe on the streets for four months and this local drug gang was starting to give me some trouble. They wanted me to work for them, and I told them to bugger off. I was nineteen, but knew nothing about handling myself with their sort, so they cornered me one day; my back was against a wall literally when they got me down some shitty alleyway. The leader was about to do me in when this voice came out of nowhere. The next thing I know two of the girls are down on the ground and the leader is up against a wall with Kris' hand around her throat. I swear I would have shagged her right then and there if she could have kept a hold on this bitch until it was over. After a few more punches, Kris sent the girl on her way and we've been mates ever since." Nikki finished her story. Kris looked embarrassed while Zandra and Denny looked at the blonde with awe.

"Well unlike our pampered princess Nikki over here I had been around once or twice by the age of, I guess seventeen. It wasn't that big a deal. The first two slags didn't even know what hit'em until it was too late," Kris explained. Her humility did nothing to deter the adoration of the reformed prisoners.

With dinner over, everyone moved into one of the studies to relax for the rest of the evening. Nikki started to tell another story about her adventures with Kris while most of her staff sat mesmerized. It was rare to hear Nikki talk about herself so they weren't going to miss out. Helen wanted to join them but felt a bit like an outsider. She'd never lived on the street or had any problems with her family beyond the occasional squabble, so when they started talking about the shit that lady luck handed them she could not compare. Luckily, Selena came over giving her an outlet. The redhead rolled her eyes at her girlfriend and the rest of the group that had formed around Nikki and started talking about work. It was safe and Helen was grateful. Sean surprised her when he asked Shell for a game of pool.

When Barbara entered the room, Helen left Selena. "They disowned her?"

"Yes," she answered and pulled Helen farther away from the various groups. "They didn't react well to her coming out and acted brashly. They died before either side tried to make contact."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Helen should have been told. Barbara had given her the same cock and bull story as everyone else; that Nikki was away at one of the family homes to grieve, not living on the streets and god knows what else. She could have died in some filth-ridden alley, rotting away until the stench was too pungent to be ignored.

"I was told to stay out of it and at the time it wasn't my place to interfere. With everything that was going on I had to adhere to Nikki's wishes." Barbara tried to explain.

"So, you've known where she was this entire time," she couldn't hide the betrayal in her tone.

Barbara placed a hand on her shoulder. "Please believe me. I've only know where she's been for last few years; before that I was just as much in the dark as you."

Helen nodded and started to move away.

"I told Nikki that if she didn't tell you everything this weekend that I would," she offered hoping that it would be enough.

She didn't know whether to be grateful or upset that she had been kept in the dark this long. She finally decided, "Thank you."

Barbara joined Yvonne and turned to watch everyone else. "We have a problem."

"What sort?" Yvonne asked.

"Helen has almost finished her bottle of scotch and I had to tell Nikki that she was cut off when she finished her own at dinner," she explained.

This didn't surprise the street tough blonde. She had been keeping an eye on her adoptive daughter all through dinner. Yvonne wanted to say something to Nikki, but it wasn't her place and pulling the actress away now would only draw more attention. "How well can Helen hold her drink? Their bottles weren't as tall as the rest of the containers in the liquor cabinet."

"They may have been smaller but they were potent, part of her father's prize collection and over a hundred years old." Barbara didn't have to say anymore.

For the first time in four years, Yvonne was grateful that Shell Dockley was around. Even though Nikki and Helen were on opposite sides of the room their eyes never left each other, and the trashy blonde seemed to have set her eyes on the young gardener. While the trollup kept him busy, he wouldn't notice her fience's change in demeanor. There was only so much buffering Kris and Selena could do before Nikki or Helen would say something out of place. She just hoped that Sean would be so pissed not to remember in the morning.

"So, how rich are the Wades?" Shell asked as she sunk another ball into the corner pocket.

Sean groaned as the end of the game was in sight. "There aren't any Wades; Nikki is the last in line who has any claim to the estate. It's all hers."

"And?" she prodded sinking another ball.

"Well, no one knows for sure, but the rumors say it's nearly ten billion pounds. They own dozens of larger companies so only a few people know what the combined net worth could be," he attempted to whispered, but the liquor hindered his volume control.

Shell scratched the ball and looked up at him in shock. He only nodded his head as he continued to play the game; though it ended as expected as the blonde regained the turn and pocketed the eight ball.

"Does anyone else want to throttle me at pool?" he asked good-naturally.

No one seemed interested until Zandra nudged Nikki. "If you want to watch a pro in action, then play against Nikki."

"I don't play pool," she protested.

"Only cause ya can't be beaten," her assistant continued with pride. A chorus erupted egging her on.

Nikki cursed the alcohol that coursed through her body. Everyone was watching her and she could feel a less then subtle blush that was creeping up her neck. She looked over at Helen who was the only one staying silent. Even Barbara and Yvonne wanted to watch Nikki trounce Sean at pool.

"It looks like our audience requests a match," Sean agreed with an obnoxious smile.

Nikki felt the urge to wipe that smile off his perfect face. It wouldn't take anything but a couple of words and he wouldn't know what hit him, but that would be the booze talking. Helen had a right to her secrets; god knows how many Nikki had locked up tight in her own closet, but part of her wanted to confess her love in front of everyone and the consequences be damned.

"Go on Nik, they won't leave you be until ya agree," Helen said when Nikki didn't respond.

Their eyes met; hazel and brown fought a silent battle. There had been too much time; Nikki didn't know if Helen wanted her to battle her fiancée in a game of pool as a symbolic gesture, or was she just enjoying the teasing atmosphere. They hadn't spoken in fifteen years so where did the past lie.

"Fine," Nikki relented.

Everyone cheered as Shell handed her the pool cue.

"Break'em," Sean said still smiling.

"If you want this game to last more then a few seconds you better take the first shot," Nikki said no longer being humble.

A flash of annoyance was quickly quelled. "Your house so you have the honors."

"Mistake," Kris said to Selena but made sure that everyone could hear.

Nikki smiled at her friend and enjoyed the glare that Sean gave Kris. He had no idea the mistake he made when he chose to make her his enemy. When Kris had told her about him, Nikki didn't want to believe that Helen would ever fall for someone like Sean. Being two faced was something that she couldn't understand. Even living in Hollywood, she did her best to be honest even if it was only to herself and those she viewed as friends. Sean could be polite and chivalrous around people he wanted to impress; maybe that was what Helen wanted in a partner, but the way he treated Kris told of something else. The next few minutes would tell her a even more.

As a child Nikki hated pool. It was a game that seemed slow and lacked the outlet for her childish exuberance. When she got a little older, she discovered the trick to winning and that made the game more enjoyable. Breaking the set she sank two balls and slowly drowned out the applause coming from around the room. As she focused in on the next move the room disappeared and she could no longer hear anything. Everyone watched every ball bend to her will as she moved around the table. It took no time at all for her to line up the eight ball in the side pocket and ended the game. Once she had cleared the table she turned and looked at the rest of the guests.

Sean watched Nikki play with a mixture of amazement and envy. He bowed as he placed his stick on the table and moved next to Helen. "I accept a miserable defeat and applauded you," he said as he placed an arm around Helen's waist.

He handled the defeat with grace, which won him a few points, but she couldn't quell the rage that boiled in her belly at his possessive stance. What made matters worse, was watching Helen lean into him. At that moment, Nikki wasn't nothing more then to throw him out on his ass and let him find his own way home, but that was unfair. It wasn't his fault that she left the only woman she truly loved so many years ago. It wasn't his fault that even after all this time, Nikki could not expunge the strong willed Scot from her heart, soul and mind. She had to be the better person; no matter how hard that might be.

"It wasn't fair. I played a lot with my father and there was never a better teacher when it came to pool or cards," Nikki said trying not to rub it in.

Helen finished the scotch in her glass and handed it to Sean. "I think I'll play the next round."

Nikki extended her the cue, happy to step out of the spotlight.

"No, I'm challenging you Nikki," Helen said moving to pick up the other stick still on the table.

"You must be joking," Sean stated moving towards Helen. "She throttled me and I'm better then you."

Neither woman took that comment well. "Fine, but don't think that I'll take it easy on you." Nikki relented more to put Sean in his place then wanting to interact with Helen in front of everyone.

As Helen moved to the opposite side of the table, Nikki received the full effect of her choice of apparel. Helen was wearing a skin tight blue button down top that had three buttons undone. This created a fair amount of cleavage which created a fair amount of heat in Nikki's nether regions. She really should have stopped drinking earlier.

"Why don't you break?" Helen offered with a smile.

Arousal quickly turned to suspicion. There was something that she was missing, a memory that seemed to stay just out of her grasp.

Nikki walked around until she was in position then noticed that Helen was now standing across from her.

"What you need to understand is when Nik plays pool she goes into, for a better word, a trance. As long as she ignores everything else, she can play a perfect game; being a math wiz has some advantages I guess. So… all you need to do is distract her," Helen said as she leaned over the side of the table.

Barbara gave Yvonne a look and the blonde gave a quick glace at Sean. At least for now he was more concerned on what his fiancée was saying and not her actions.

Nikki closed her eyes as she positioned her cue in hopes that Helen would disappear and only the balls would remain. When she opened her eyes all she could see was the gorgeous woman that first claimed her heart when she was ten years old. Their eyes locked and she forgot how to breathe. There was something in the look she was giving Nikki; one that she hadn't seen in such a long time.

"They aren't going to break themselves," Helen flirted. Everyone else disappeared as Helen watched Nikki.

Then without warning, the memories that hid deep within her heart flashed before her; images of a teenage Helen gasping, as she lifted her off the floor and onto the pool table. Hazel eyes filled with apperception, excitement and love as they kiss slowly. The shorter girl's fingers running through her short dark hair pulling them closer together. How could Nikki have forgotten? They shouldn't be in here, not right now. Not with everything that had happened in this room. She looked up at Helen and wondered if the same memories were running through her head, but the other woman seemed to give no indication one way or anther.

Unlike the game she had with Sean, none of her shots went were they were supposed to. Helen was a horrid pool player, yet it became more and more apparent that she was going to win. Each time Nikki took a shot, Helen was there; her eyes boring into her. If that wasn't enough, Helen would lean over the table, which exposed an ample amount of cleavage. Frustration and arousal mounted and if something didn't change soon Nikki wouldn't be responsible for her reaction. The desire the throw her on the table and ravish her right in front of her fiancé seemed the best retaliation to this torture. If it hadn't been for Yvonne whispering words of restraint in her ear every time Helen took her shot, Nikki wouldn't be able to think straight.

Shell had to make sure she wasn't drooling. When she first came here, the peroxide blonde expected to find out a few minor details about the reclusive actress, maybe a glimpse at the earlier years that the reclusive woman held onto with such tenacity. The next thing she knows, Helen Stewart walks through the front door and every rumor she helped start were confirmed. Dinner allowed for a few choice stories that she could sell without Yvonne being able to thrust her overbearing nose into the matter, but none of it compared to what she was witnessing now. If front of Stewart fiancé, both women were openly flirting with one another and if the rest of the weekend progresses at this speed they would be in bed for Monday. The fact that Sean was blind to everything only added to her amusement. She watched as Selena tried to distract him from the game with some story about the gardens.

The final ball dropped and the game was over. Nikki mercifully handed the cue over to Zandra and nodded at Helen. "You win tonight, but I ask for a rematch when I'm not totally pissed."

Helen gave a small smile but it didn't reach her eyes. The victory was bitter sweet. She wanted to prove a point. Get under Nikki's skin just to make sure that she still could, but now that it was over she felt empty. There was no secret smile like they used to have, no promising look for what would come next. Then she remembered why, they weren't a couple anymore. Nikki was a famous actress that had asked her up here because she got caught by the press. This whole night was an act and for once she was tired of trying to pretend that nothing was the matter; that Nikki disappearance wasn't something that tore her heart in two and left her to bleed to death.

"When could I ever refuse you," Helen said her words hanging as she stared at Nikki.

Yvonne knew they were pressing their luck. Barbara, Selena and Henry were all talking to Sean about having a tour of the gardens in the morning so they had a little bit of leeway with the drunk pool players but now that the game was finished Sean was walking back over. Taking her queue, Yvonne was at Nikki's side with Lauren not far behind.

A hand on the small of her back, told Nikki it was time to turn in. Now that she didn't have the table or Helen to focus on the room was starting to spin. She needed to go lie down. "If you will all excuse me. I think I overdid myself tonight and must retire."

She received a chorus of goodnights as Yvonne helped her to her room. She never looked back not wanting to see hazel eyes staring back at her or even worse having them not looking in her direction at all. She thanked the older woman for walking her to her room knowing that she might not have made it on her own.

"This was a mistake," Nikki whispered as they got closer to her room.

"And what mistake was that?" Yvonne asked.

"Having Helen come up here. This will only end up badly," she answered.

"You don't know that for sure." This was a side of the actress she rarely saw and preferred not to.

Nikki let out a pained laugh as she swerved a little. "I love her you know."

"I do," was all she could say.

"Well did you know that the first time we made love was on that pool table," she blurted out resentment painting her voice.

That was something that she hadn't known and in some ways which the other woman hadn't shared. Luckily, they were at Nikki's room which meant the night was now truly over. They went inside and Yvonne helped Nikki get ready for bed.

"Lock the bathroom door," Nikki said lying on her bed.

"Why?" She asked as she moved towards the door.

"It connects to the next room and Helen will try to come in. I can't face her like this. I need to have my head on straight and if she comes in tonight we will both do something that we'll regret in the morning," she said her eyes closed.

Yvonne locked the door and left Nikki to get some sleep. She was about to head of to her own room when she thought better of it. It was time to see what was really going on.

Helen roamed through the hallways without thought of her destination. Sean passed out within moments of his head hitting the pillow and left Helen to dwell on the nights events. She was under the same roof as Nikki and they still hadn't talked. Over the last fifteen years all she had ever wanted was answers and still she was being denied them.

Before she realized what she was doing, she walked into her old room. As she expected there was no one staying in here and the pile of lies were starting to weigh on the Scot. There was no need to turn on the lights since she knew where everything was. With only two doors between her and her answers, Helen made quick time to the bathroom door. She turned the knob only to find that if wouldn't move. She tried it again with the same effect.

"It's locked," a voice said in the darkness.

She turned around as the lights were turned on and Yvonne was sitting in a rocking chain in the corner. Helen felt like kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar. There was no way to explain her current situation.

"Lets get one thing straight now that we have a moment on our own," she said rising from the chair. Helen straightened her back at the older woman's tone. "There is a lot going on with the two of you and I only now bits and pieces, but if you ever pull a stunt like that again, or try to sneak into her room while your boyfriend is sleeping down the hall then we are really going to have words. Do I make myself clear?"

"You have no right talking to me like that," Helen was amazed that she sounded sober. "You might know what is going on with Nikki, but you have no idea what she put me through. My life was in shambles when she left and I wasn't given even a whisper of a reason, so don't act like she is some helpless victim cause she's not."

Yvonne's demeanor changed; her eyes softened and her voice carried a tinge of sympathy. "I know things were hard back then, but you can't blame Nik. She was trying to do the right thing and like most of the times that resorted in her being stupid. She never wanted to leave ya, but at the time that was the best thing in her mind."

Helen wasn't sure if it was the comforting tone or what the other woman was saying that pissed her off more, but she was tired of everyone coming to Nikki's aid so that the actress didn't have to. She closed the distance between them and made sure that every time she poked the woman her finger dug painfully into her chest. "Why don't you all let Nicola be a big girl and handle her own mess. If she has something she wants to say to me then let her do it. I don't want anymore excuses from you, Babs and Kris about how hard Nikki's life has been. She wants me to understand then she bloody well better tell me herself, because I'm getting sick of the lot of you."

"Very well dear," she conceded taking a step back. "But for the safety of everyone involved, it might be best if neither of you drink for the rest of the visit. There are only so many conversations that Selena can start up about gardening to keep Sean off the scent."

Yvonne walked towards the door but turned around. "Oh and by the way, just in case you still have this righteous attitude the next time you see Nikki. I had to get her into bed tonight as she sob on and on about still being in love with you, that she's never stopped loving you, so if you don't mind giving her a bit of space. I hope you have the decency not to snog with Sean anywhere public because I don't know how Nikki might take it."

The lights were shut off leaving Helen in a dark room with only Yvonne's words circling in her head. What was she going to do? Even after all these years, Helen remembered what Nikki was like when something bothered her. She would lock herself away from everyone and thing. There were more nights when she had to comfort the older girl after a particularly painful row with her parents. Now she was the one that seemed to be turning Nikki into knots and there was nothing she could do until the tall brunette finally opened up and explain everything. Her head hurt. There was too much to think about. She looked over at the bed and made a decision. She would make up some story for Sean tomorrow when things were less cloudy. She prayed that things would be easier tomorrow, but she had little hope that they would.


Chapter Nine

"Someone better tell me something or I'll fire the lot of you!" Jim Fenner screamed at his staff.

The last week had proven that Nicole Warren was the devil incarnate. Once he had released that article Warren had turned his world upside down and not for the better. First she goes onto that stupid talk show dismissing his story as nothing. It was helpful at the beginning because it validated everything that he had printed, but by proving that there was a story meant that everyone other tabloid was latching onto leaving very little to put his paper apart. Then to add insult to injury, that bitch seduced his nephew away from him. She took this minor feud on a professional level to a place that was very personal.

The fact that the story had hit a dead end did little to raise his spirits. It was well known that Nicole Warren wasn't her real name. She had legally changed it when she had started her acting career, but no one was able to unseal the document that showed who she really was. Without that there was no way to link her to Helen Stewart and so there was really little he could do. It was like milking water out of a turnip. Shell hadn't been much help either. His blonde informant had wrangled a golden ticket to Warren's private home in England but so far all he received was silence. He had expected her to phone with some news to stoke the fire but instead he watched as it fizzled out.

"Sir?" Lorna Rose said.

Jim looked back at the woman his patience already at its end. "What?"

"How did Miss Warren pay all that money to that prison?" the young woman asked.

"She gets paid millions of dollars. Last year alone she did three movies each with a paycheck of fifteen million." He explained in a condescending voice.

He was about to turn away when her voice stopped him. "Well that's what I mean. How much did she give to that prison, one hundred million? And that isn't all the money that she has been given away. Her fifteen million dollar paycheck only started last year and she wasn't making near that before, so how could she be giving away so much money? That doesn't even factor in the money she pays her staff and last time a check she gives them more then the excepted norm." Lorna felt more confident as she went on. Jim would have cut her off at the beginning if he didn't like what he was hearing.

The editor smiled down at the young reporter. He couldn't believe that he missed it. "I'll look into it."

He went back into his office and pulled up all the files that he had on the actress. It was time to do some old fashion math. Maybe there was something to the money laundering story after all.

The phone rang interrupting his line of thought. "Jim Fenner."

"Well hello," came a distinct voice on the other end.

"Now theirs the voice I've been longing to hear," he cooed.

"Flattery will get you everywhere," was Shell's reply

His smile widened. "Unfortunately I won't be able to have you anywhere until you return to the land of freedom and democracy. Have you found out anything interesting?"

"Darling you have no idea the things that I have turned up. It almost makes it worth having to drape myself over this stupid cook." She grumbling making him work for his information.

Jim rolled his eyes but played along. "And I will make sure that it is all worth it would you get back. I will take you out for a night that you will have forget and let's not forget you payment for services rendered."

He could hear some talking in the back around as Shell side of the phone went quiet. He waited patiently for Shell to return.

"I need you to get to England unless there is someone over here that you trust," the blonde instructed.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because if you don't find out this information a certain way then that bitch Atkins will know that I'm your informant. Find out where Helen Stewart went to school. Then look for the name Nicola Wade and you will find your story. If that doesn't make you happy then look up Wade Investment Corporation or WIC for short, but make sure that you go through the school records. Look I have to go. I'll call you later." She didn't wait for his response and he really didn't care.

"Lorna," he called from his office.

A moment later she entered. "You wanted to see me boss."

"Yes I need you to book me a flight to London." She nodded and left as Jim looked out his window and smiled.

Part 10

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