Disclaimer in chapter one

Author's Note: Finally, the appearance of the remaining Marauders. Been looking forward to this for a while! This chapter is a huge turning point, and I think it's probably the longest one so far. Glad it didn't take me as long to write it as the others...

The title of this chapter comes from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for those of you that recognise it and are wondering why (disclaiming it here – just in case I get sued for copyright or something). I was watching it at the time of planning this chapter and it fitted so well I couldn't bear to let it go.

Unfortunately, I can't guarantee the speed of the next chapter. I'll try my best, but schoolwork is dominating again...

Chapter 7

A Charismatic Quartet

The first thing I noticed when I rolled over and woke up was the single flower lying on my nightstand. I yawned, stretched, and then picked it up along with its attached note, with a smile. There were four words scrawled on the sheet in unfamiliar, sprawling handwriting:

An orchid, for perfection.

Then it hit me.

I instantly bolted upright, breathing heavily as a thousand thoughts raced through my head at the same moment.

To get this flower onto my nightstand James would have to get into my room.

To get into my room James would have to get into the apartment.

Which means... James had been in my room. While I was asleep!

I grabbed my robe and all but bolted into the living room, flower still in hand. My breath caught and I slid to a halt when I saw a dark-haired Adonis leaning over the coffee table, seemingly arranging something. He looked up at that moment and smiled widely at me, sending my heart skidding and my stomach flipping over.

"Morning, Sleeping Beauty," he said teasingly. "Did you like your flower?"

I nodded dazedly.

He was here.

Which brings us onto question two:

Why was he here, exactly?

"I made you breakfast," he added, his words so perfect for the question in my mind that I swear he was reading it. I stared at him incredulously, dimly aware of how gormless I must look. He chuckled lowly and grabbed my hand. "Come on. Sit."

He guided me onto one of the large sofa cushions that he had set up on the floor next to the coffee table, and I stared blankly at the mix in front of me. The table was neatly laid over with a tablecloth, with two plates of food ready and smelling extremely appetizing. There were two cups set up, with a jug of milk, sugar and a teapot. A small, empty vase sat in the centre, which James promptly filled by simply plucking the orchid out from between my fingers and dropping it in. He then sat down across from me at his own cushion and watched me patiently.

"Uhh..." I was trying to get my head around everything (a process that would have been quicker had I been properly awake, full of caffeine and without a bloke sitting across the table from me, dazzling me that irritatingly appealing smile). "Breakfast."

James' smile grew. "Yes."

I fixed him with an accusing stare (coherency, check). "Made or bought?"

"Made, naturally. I wouldn't dream of buying you a full English breakfast from any of these French people. They do good French food, naturally, but English breakfast..." he shuddered.

"What time...?"

"Nine twenty-two."

"How long have you been here?" Full sentences, check.

"Since about half past seven."

"You were in my room, weren't you? Probably watched me sleep too, you pervert." His grin, if possible, got wider (insults, check).

"I don't feel comfortable answering that question, Miss Evans."

And now for the million-Galleon question (sarcasm, check. I am awake!)... "Who let you in? Or did you pick the lock?"

James raised an eyebrow at me, as if showing disbelief that I believed he had the audacity to do such a thing. "Lia did, on her way out."

I started slightly, before glaring at him slightly. "Okay, now I know that is a lie. You know full well that Lia – my best friend Lia, Lia Reeser – does not wake up by herself before midday and without a string of profanities that should never be heard by children. So how could she possibly be going out, let alone awake? And at seven thirty?"

James shrugged. "She left you a note," he replied, holding a folded slip of paper (good, she hadn't slipped up and used parchment) out to me. He held his hands up in the air when I took it from him. "I swear, I haven't read it."

Lily, the note read in Lia's near-illegible script,

Gone to catch Dad and Daniel before they leave for Vienna, have a plan. Have fun with your man-candy/willing slave, looks like he's making you breakfast. You should thank him with un français kiss. Well, when in Rome - or should it be, more appropriately, when in Paris?


P.S. Don't look at me like that. You know you want to.

I rolled my eyes when I reached the end of the note, and slipped it under my plate, smiling at James.

"Lia has a plan," I said simply, picking up my fork. "And Lia with a plan is like... Hiroshima with the atomic bomb." He simply grinned back at me and shook out his napkin dramatically.

"Let's hope it has better results than her little run-in with Sirius the other day. Shall we eat?"

I eagerly dug in to the tantalizing dish in front of me, and my eyes flew open at the first bite.

Forty minutes later, I had an epiphany.

I never thought, in my life, that I would ever find a decent guy. Not with my luck, anyway.

But then I came to Paris. I met this man. This wonderfully sweet and funny and handsome man, who was everything that I'd ever wanted and more.

He was a benefactor to an orphanage.

He got on with his parents (when they were alive, anyway) and had great friends.

He seemed to like me for me, and even better, seemed to worship the ground that I walked on. He was even genuinely interested in my answers when he asked me a question, and his eyes didn't even stray to my chest when he was talking to me.

Despite his mysterious background, and his obvious secrets, and the fact that I knew disturbingly little about him, I felt about James Potter in a way that I'd never felt about any other man before.

But this morning, he well and truly bowled me over with his perfection and the most important discovery of all:

He can cook. And well.

I was never letting him out of my sight again.

"That," I said breathlessly, finishing off my last piece of bacon. "Was the best breakfast that I've ever had." And I lived at Hogwarts for seven years, I added silently.

He grinned at me. "Why, thank you," he said, bowing his head modestly. "But I can't take all the credit. I had a great teacher."

I bit my lip, not knowing if I should cross this line. I knew, from his reaction yesterday, that we would cross a dangerous boundary if I did. But I took my chances anyway. "Your mum?"

He became silent. Suddenly, gone was the playful, laughing mood that surrounded us – the room was filled with an uncomfortable, awkward tension, and I knew what was the cause of it. Like I had learned from the orphanage, James didn't like talking about his parents, or his past, for that matter. In fact, I had a strong suspicion that he physically hated his past and would like nothing better than to forget it.

"Yes," he said finally, as if with some difficulty. I smiled at the fact that he had finally shared with me, and as he met my eyes, he smiled too, albeit weakly. The tension in the room somewhat lessened. "Yes, she did. She was a great cook. She didn't have to, because we had a – a maid, but she loved to do it anyway."

"She sounds wonderful," I said, tentatively reaching across the table to place my hand on his. He met my eyes again and smiled further, grasping my hand in his, knowing that this was my way of silently thanking him for sharing. He stared at me for a second longer, unconsciously grazing my hand with his thumb (which sent tingles shooting up and down my arm), and then something in his eyes seemed to snap as he came to a decision.

"You should get dressed," he said, still stroking my hand. "I want to take you somewhere today." He stopped grazing, to my disappointment, and pulled me up. A grin crossed his face. "Not that you don't look ravishing in those pyjamas of yours."

I blushed slightly and pulled my robe together with one hand, covering up my camisole and shorts combo (which, I am sure, showed him more than I was comfortable with after only a few days of knowing him). He began leading me over to my door, and shooed me inside my room.

"I'll do the dishes while you dress," he said, and then a wicked spark came into his eyes. "Unless, of course, you need some help changing..."

I gave him a slap upside the head. "Go and wash up, slave man," I ordered, pointing to the coffee table. "You made the mess, you may as well clean it up."

He pouted slightly, and I found myself staring unashamedly at his lips.

"Fine. But be quick," he added. "If I finish earlier than you, I'll think that something's wrong and I'll come bursting in here, and you probably don't want me busting in when you're half-naked. Although," his eyes sparkled again. "I wouldn't mind that at all."

I shooed him away this time, feeling a mortified kind of embarrassment at the prospect, yet was embarrassingly eager at the same time. "Go and wash up! You're putting bad thoughts into my head," I said, reaching over to shut my door. He grinned wickedly at me.

"Only building on what's already there, Lily."

He ducked as I sent a blue missile, in the form of a shoe, his way. It missed, naturally, and hit the wall instead. Unfortunately, the shoe took the brunt of the impact, the already weak heel snapping as it collided. James grinned at me, and I fumed.

"You're lucky I was going to throw those out anyway."

Ten minutes later, I skipped out of my room and into the kitchen, where James was drying the last of the dishes. I laughed at the sight of him in a pair of bright pink rubber gloves as he wiped.

"Fetching," I remarked cheerfully, dancing up behind him. "Bright pink is so your colour." I noticed the twinkle in his eye just in time, and stepped smoothly to the side as he flicked the soapy dishwater at me. I stuck my tongue out at him childishly. "Missed me!"

He put the last dish down and turned around. I began to back away slowly when I caught sight of the soapy sponge in his hand and the evil look on his face. "Don't you even think about it," I warned, groping behind me for the door.

"Think about what?" he had begun tossing the sponge from hand to hand, sending soap suds flying. Inevitably, he hurled it at me, which sent me screaming and ducking behind the door for cover. The sponge hit the door instead and fell with a thud.

I peeked back into the kitchen, still hiding behind the door. The sponge was now lying on the floor, and soap suds were everywhere. James was still grinning annoyingly at me. "I just changed!" I protested. "And I like this outfit, so don't ruin it for me, especially if you're taking me somewhere nice."

"Hmm..." James picked up the sponge, and tossed it back into the sink. He ripped the rubber gloves off his hands and threw them aside too. "Sounds fair. Want you to look nice for them."

"Look nice for who?"

"You'll see."

I glared at him for a moment, but I only received a knowing grin in return. Growling in annoyance, I spun around and headed for the front door. I was halfway out and marching down the stairs before I heard James' footsteps and he caught up to me easily in three long strides. Damn him and his long legs.

He dangled my keys in front of my eyes, and I grabbed them from him, flushing slightly.


"You're welcome," he said, and slid an arm around my waist. I smiled inwardly at the contact, marvelling in the fact that it seemed so easy and comfortable for us to stand together like this. A slight tingle ran through me at that moment, and I decided to make good use of it, by turning to him and smiling brightly when we reached the street.

"So. Where are we going?"

We had begun to stroll down the street at a leisurely pace, a direct contrast to the manic drivers on the road beside us. He shook his head, and this time, I pouted like a little girl. He sighed at the expression on my face.

"Do you have any idea what you do to me when you look like that?"

I grinned and skipped happily along. "No, but I have a pretty good idea. Where are we going?" He looked at me for a moment longer, before pressing a light kiss to my forehead.

"To see my life. Starting with my café."

I stared incredulously up at him, pulling back slightly. "You own a café?"

"Nothing Starbucks-esque," he assured me. "Just a quaint little coffee shop, about two minutes from here. Needed something to keep my income coming in after I moved from England. That's why I was around here the day after we met – checking out the competition."

I remembered my words from that day too.

"'You still owe me a coffee...'"

"So I made you buy from your competitors," I said, laughing. "Bet they loved that."

We continued to poke fun at each other until James brought us to a halt. "Okay... before we go inside, you should know that I don't actually come here often," he admitted. "I only own the place... I gave it to my friend Remus to run. All I have to do is throw some money in and sign a few papers. And occasionally turn up when I can't be bothered to cook."

"So you live off coffee and muffins?" I teased him, lightly tapping his stomach with my finger. "No wonder you're getting a little..." He raised his eyebrows at my unfinished sentence, and his arm around my waist tightened.

"Watch it, now," he growled playfully. I giggled and gave him a quick kiss, which immediately softened him up. He leant towards me, intent on capturing my lips for a longer and more satisfying kiss, but I twisted out of his reach.

"Not here," I hissed at him, casting a quick look at the open-air area of his café, and the customers that were sitting around the small tables watching us with undisguised interest. But then again, they're French; they love a good romance.

Did I just say romance?

James suddenly let out an ear-splitting roar of delight that sent him bounding to the door and me covering my ears, cringing – I think he underestimates just how loud he can be sometimes. I gingerly removed my hands from my ears, checking to see if the coast was clear and my eardrums wouldn't explode, when I saw him grinning and waving me over.

That was when I took my first look at his café.

It wasn't huge, just a normal-sized area. Outside there were several black cast-iron chairs and tables set up, with large umbrellas for shade, all forming a path up to the main door. The café itself had a mahogany décor on the outside, with golden letters proudly declaring it as 'Around The Corner'. Inside, however, the elegant look vanished and the warm, cosy bright colours took over. Colourful, mismatched armchairs were paired with wonderfully created oak chairs. A large yellow couch was set up in a corner of the room. It was a cross between somebody's family room and their kitchen. Everything was warm, and sunny and kind of... fuzzy. It was homely.

Impossibly beautiful on the outside, but warm and touching inside.

It was so James.

He held out his hand to me when I came close enough, and grinned as he pulled me close. "Lily," he said, positively beaming, turning the two of us around to face the shorter, fair-haired man that he was talking to. "This is my friend Peter. He's visiting this week and apparently forgot to tell me." He gave him a mock-glare, and the two of them burst out laughing. I felt my chest swelling happily at the sound – they were obviously extremely close, like brothers.

Peter then held his hand out to me. "So you must be the girl that James worships the ground you walk on," he grinned. Laughing, I shook his hand, sneaking a look at James.

"Worship, huh?" I nudged James, who shrugged nonchalantly.

"You are utterly irresistible, Lily."

I flushed slightly as the three of us entered the café, heading up to the counter. "Sit," James said, firmly planting me down on one of the stools in front of it. He stood close behind me, while Peter sat down to my left, and both bellowed, at the same time: "REMUS!"

I once again cringed at the sound, and an amused chuckle came from somewhere in front of me, getting louder as its owner came closer. A sandy-haired, tired-yet-friendly-looking man appeared in front of me this time, a cup in each hand.

"Shout a little louder next time," he said. "I don't think a man in a coma on the sixth floor of a hospital in Argentina heard you." He placed the cups he was holding in front of James and Peter, and turned to me. "Hi. I'm Remus. You must be Lily."

I nodded and smiled. "Nice to meet you."

"Likewise. I've heard a lot about you. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot." He looked over to James. "Mate, I know Sirius said she was pretty, but I don't think he did her enough justice."

I blushed, and James growled playfully at Remus. "Back off, Lupin. She's mine."

Remus and Peter laughed, and I felt a funny churning in my stomach. His. Normally I would be offended by anyone claming me as 'theirs', and would argue my own independence... but then again, he was mine too.

I ordered a green tea from Remus, who spoke to James about recent business as he made it. James himself was still standing close behind me, his fingers brushing lightly against my arm as they spoke. Peter was sipping his coffee on my other side when suddenly a certain someone thumped him on the back and he choked, practically drenching the waiter behind the counter.

I hid a laugh and Peter turned around to glare at his attacker.

"Sirius, if you weren't my friend and kept me amused, I swear to Lucifer that I'd castrate you."

Sirius let out his bark-like laugh and turned to me, winking. "Get in line, Pete. Lily's friend threatened the exact same thing two days ago."

"It was your own fault for provoking her..." Remus pointed out fairly.

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Presented with a good-looking girl, you would have said the same thing."

"No we wouldn't. We're not all manwhores like you."

We all snickered, and Sirius pretended to pout.

I gestured to his face. "Your nose healed fast... Lia'll be disappointed. She thought she did more damage." I turned to the others. "She has a wicked right hook; you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of her."

Sirius winced at the memory as the others laughed. "So where is the perfectly violent Miss Reeser today?" he asked, leaning casually against Peter (who protested that he was not a leaning post).

"She has a 'plan'," I replied, complete with air quotes. "And I don't like to be around Lia when she has a plan... particularly those with potentially life-threatening, end-of-the-world type results."

All four of them winced this time.

"And what brings you here today?" Sirius asked. A reminder suddenly went off in my head, and I spun around again.

"James here promised me, and I quote: 'to see my life, starting with my café,'" I eyed him apprehensively. "So where do you plan on going next?"

James wrapped his arms around me and gestured to his friends. "They are my life. They have the stories."

My eyes twinkled with mischief. "Really... so who wants to go first?"

The next two hours consisted of me, James and his friends gathered around the counter, and them sending me into hysterics over the stories they told me about what they had gotten up to.

There was the incident with the Muggle police (of course, to them, it was just the police), which ended up with the four of them locking their arresting officers to the bars in their jail cell with their own handcuffs; the accident at the amusement park which led to an old lady bashing Sirius over the head with an umbrella; and some unfathomable event which involved a racoon, a glass of milkshake, and a crossbow.

I can honestly say that I've never met anyone like these four in my entire life.

They were just so full of life. They had done everything everyone in the world had ever wanted to do, and more. They were the epitome of what life should be like.

I was now on my fifth green tea, and struggling to stop my stomach exploding from the laughter that they were the cause of as the four of them told yet another story of some escapade they had a few years ago.

"...we're about halfway down this path, and it's dark, so we can't see a thing..." Peter was saying, grinning from ear to ear. "Suddenly there's this huge massive light shining in our faces..."

"Naturally, we try to shield ourselves from it," Remus continued, his own grin evident. "Sirius and Peter here, however, thinks that the mothership has landed and start screaming: 'Alien attack! Alien attack! Then James turns to me and says – "

"I knew we should have turned left!" James and Remus echoed in unison, which sent us all into a new wave of hysterics.

"And then the light dies down a little," Sirius said, his eyes sparkling. "Just enough to let us see properly, so Peter and I stop screaming, and then there's this huge crowd of preteens, Scouts, I think, staring at us and holding a flashlight... then we're silent for a moment, just gawking at each other..."

"...and then Sirius throws the cans of tuna in their faces and we leg it!" Peter finishes, leading the five of us into yet another round of hysterical, almost manic laughing fits. I was clutching my stomach as I laughed, James leaning on me trying to stifle his own chuckles, and the others were just flat-out howling with no restraint.

"Those poor kids..." I mused, wiping a tear from my eye. "A perfectly nice and normal camping trip and then they're interrupted by a bunch of apparent adults..."

"Hey," James protested. "I bet we made their whole weekend with that. Cleaning their hair of tuna excluded, of course..." He turned to me, a mischievous beam present. "I think I preferred the water fight at the orphanage with you, though."

I whacked his arm as the four of them burst out laughing at my expense, but my newfound sense of humour pushed me into joining them before long. "I have to go to the bathroom," I said. "Thanks for making me laugh so much my throat is dry and I've had to drink five cups of tea..."

"Our pleasure," the four of them chorused, and I rolled my eyes as I slipped out of James' embrace and my chair to the bathroom.

Luckily there was no queue, and I slipped in quickly. I caught sight of my face in the mirror; my eyes were sparkling, my cheeks were flushed (and for once, not in embarrassment), and there was a seemingly unstoppable smile plastered across my face. I looked at that girl in the mirror, one that was becoming lightly tanned, without that constant look of worry and thought on her face, and looked completely carefree. I reached out to the mirror to touch my reflection.

Is that really me?

I smiled at myself one last time, and then quickly reached for my phone in case Lia had left me any messages (I had definitely learnt my lesson following yesterday). Sure enough, there was a message telling me that I had voicemail.

"Lily!" Lia's voice crowed. "You are going to love me forever! I managed to get another meeting with the ambassador tomorrow night. Just a little favour from my lovely daddy... for once in my life, I'm actually glad that I'm the baby and my family is so well connected... don't you dare miss this meeting, Lily Evans!"

I snapped the phone shut, grinning still. Boy, was I glad that I had taught Lia how to use a phone. Sending me a Patronus in the broad daylight in view of Muggles was not a good idea, no matter what open-minded city you were in.

I skipped out of the bathroom, and just about to loudly announce my reappearance to the boys when I caught my name in a snippet of their conversation.

"...definitely," Sirius was saying. "Lily's definitely the one to look out for, boys!"

"How much?" Remus asked, apparently ignoring Sirius' words and going back to whatever they were talking about before. The other two leant closer to James, eager for his answer too. James frowned.

"Too much. She's... let's put it this way – I feel like I was a man wandering alone in the desert, and found an oasis when I least expected it. After these past few days... I can't imagine what life without her is going to be like."

"Problem number one," Sirius pointed out. "She's going to have to leave eventually, you know. She's not staying here forever."

James sighed. "I know. And I'm dreading that day. The annoying thing is – I don't know when that day will be. It could be tomorrow, or next week, or next summer... she says she's staying here until whatever she and Lia are here to do is finished. I can't prepare for it."

"Which brings us to problem number two," Peter put in. "Why is it that she and her friend are here? They're certainly not just on holiday."

"She won't say much about it. It's top-secret stuff – she and Lia are in law enforcement. Like secret police. It's not the normal kind of police, though – she's definitely one of us. Actually, more correctly, one of them."

I froze.

"And that rounds off to problem number three," Remus said. "She has absolutely no idea who you are. How can you have a future with her if you have to hide half of yourself?"

"I know, but I can't face telling her. How do you think she's going to react when she finds out that I'm a – "

I had heard enough.

"Hello, boys," I said breezily, sweeping back to my seat gracefully. They immediately clammed up and smiled at me, although those smiles, for the first time that day, were not filled with amusement, but with slight... guilt. "Miss me?"

"James did," Sirius said, and everyone laughed despite the relative un-funniness of the joke. Again, for the first time that day, that laughter was tinged with something else.


They were worried.

About what?

Sirius and Peter cleared off not long after, claiming that Peter was exhausted from his trip and needed to sleep, and Sirius was expected somewhere else. That left James, Remus and I still around the counter, but James was soon hailed by a group of people that had just entered and went to greet them.

"Regulars," Remus explained, as I watched James laugh and clap one of them on the back, joining their table for the moment. "Been coming here for years."

"Everyone here seems so close," I said, my eyes still on James. He caught my eye and smiled back – one of the group caught him and immediately pounced. Remus chuckled quietly behind me.

"Vultures," he said in an undertone to me. "See the brunette – the one with the long hair? Her name's Adèle. She's been after James for years but he's never given her the time of day. They've been wondering for a while if he's gay."

We both snickered.

"Then you show up," Remus continued. "So now they're all ready to jump, and are filled with questions. The main one being, why you and not her."

"I've been wondering that myself, actually," I admitted. Remus raised an eyebrow.

"You're joking, right?"

I shook my head. "I'm still waiting to wake up from this dream. He's just too insanely perfect and it feels too good to be true. I'm afraid that if I blink, even for a moment, all of this – James – will disappear."

"Lily." Remus' voice became suddenly serious, causing me to stare at him as he leant closer. "I've never met anyone as perfect for James as you. You make him so unbelievably happy that it gets a little unbearable at times," we both managed to crack grins. "Honestly, I was a little cynical before I met you today – how can someone have such an effect on him in just a few days? And then I saw the two of you together outside earlier-"

I had a sudden flashback of the two of us together.

"-and I had no doubt that you were her. The one that made James so happy, so carefree, in a way that he hasn't been in a very long time. One of the customers in here even asked me if you were his wife. Everyone was watching you."

I hid a smile, remembering yesterday, and the newlyweds we were pretending to be.

"You two," Remus continued. "Are so good for each other. From what I've heard, even you've managed to loosen up and had your first day off work in years since you've met him."

"Something Lia's been telling me to do for years," I said. "And something that I never accomplished until three days ago. I feel like I've been keeping my head down for years, and he finally showed me the light. As tacky as that sounds."

"I'm all for the tack," Remus laughed. "The more the better. He's been wooing you the old-fashioned way, with flowers everyday, right?"

I nodded.

"He has never given anyone flowers in his entire life, not even his mother."

My heart suddenly swelled with emotion. I was torn between joy, and disbelief. But then the mention of James' mother caught me, and I became suddenly curious. Here was a perfect opportunity to find out about James – as close as he and his friends were, I was positive that Remus would have known Mrs Potter well.

"That's the thing," I said, choosing my words carefully. "I don't know much, if anything about James. I wouldn't know if he's ever given flowers to anyone before – because he doesn't talk about his past."

Remus laughed, but I sensed some falsehood in that laugh. "James is like that. All for living in the moment."

I stared at Remus a little longer, trying to psych myself up. "I know... but I can't help but think that he's..." I hesitated, not knowing whether I should cross this line. I took a deep breath. "I think he's hiding something from me."

"But," Remus replied, his tone polite but clipped. "Remember the two of you have only known each other for three days. There's still a lot that you don't know about each other. It's not that surprising even if he is."

Remus and I both knew that was as much as he could say without outright lying. We stared at each other for a moment longer, the warm, comfortable and friendly atmosphere from before turning tense.

I now knew that James was definitely hiding something from me – and Remus knew that I was doing the same to James.

"Will you excuse me for a moment?" I asked politely. Remus nodded, the two of us ignoring the fact that I had only gone to the bathroom five minutes ago.

I stood up and hurried to the bathroom again, pulling my phone out of my pocket as I did so. I quickly shut the door behind me and dialled Lia's number.

Come on, pick up, pick up... I stared at my reflection in the mirror as I waited, my face no longer flushed and excited.

My smile was gone and I was now the exact opposite. Jittery. Apphreneive. And maybe even a little afraid.

"Helllleeeeeeeoooooo?" Lia crowed, finally.

I turned away from my reflection. "Lia, it's me."

"Lily!" she shrieked excitedly. "How did breakfast with your man-candy go? I saw the mess the two of you left in the kitchen..." she giggled. "I'm almost afraid to ask what you did... or maybe that's just my filthy mind. There, I admitted I have a filthy mind. Happy?"

"Lia." My tone was anxious and tense, something that Lia picked up on immediately. If she couldn't sense my moods by now, she had been my best friend all these years for nothing. She was suddenly all business.

"What happened?"

"Lia," I repeated, gripping the door handle tightly, watching my knuckles turn white at the effort. "Lia, I need you do something for me."

She was worried. "Anything."

"I need you to read that letter. I need you to find out who he is."