A hand stroked the back of her neck gently, and Casey felt a kiss placed on the top of her head. She leaned back affectionately and looked up into a pair of grey eyes, and a pale face with neatly trimmed dark hair.
"How are you doing, hun?" said a clear cut British accent. The eyes and accent were accompanied by a tall man, of about twenty five.
Casey sighed and smoothed her dress. "Better today. Less nauseous. Tired as hell though. How are you?"
Peter pulled up a chair from the other side of the dressing room and sat next to her, lacing his fingers in hers. "Worried about you. It's not like you to duck out of a set early."
She smiled and turned back to putting on her make-up. "It was just the tiredness. I went home, went to bed and had a lie-in. I think it was the stress of last weekend."
He nodded. "At least that's over and done now, we can concentrate on the next few months."
"I know. Thanks." She picked his hand up and squeezed the fingers. "I really appreciate your help."
"What are friends for?"
"Yeah but you don't deserve this. Loading yourself up with a pregnant burden."
"Yeah…well." She said, cautiously. "Thanks."
Peter looked thoughtful for a moment.
"Case, hun. I don't mean to worry you, especially not today, but…" She looked over at him, hearing the anxiety in his voice.
"He's back. He's outside in the club. I've seen him."
He didn't need to worry that she didn't understand who he meant. She spun round, her eyes questioning him.
"Yeah. I mean him."
"Shit. I mean I knew it would happen, I just thought maybe I'd have longer…" her voice trailed away.
"I know." Peter was quiet, noting her distress, and the renewed paleness of her skin. He knew the effect this guy had on her. He had been around when he had come into the club before.
Casey pulled herself together. "Is there… is there anyone with him?"
Peter shook his head and watched her shoulders relax slightly.
"Not that it matters." She whispered.
At that moment, the owner of the club, in whose dressing room she was currently sitting, came through. He was overweight, sweaty and Casey was sure his suit was polyester.
"You're on." He said flatly. "Try and finish the set tonight. I don't pay you for half a set." He turned to Peter. "And I don't pay you to sit in here with her. Back out to the bar, now."
They nodded, but as soon as his back was turned rolled their eyes at each other and then Casey stood up.
"Time to go."
Peter watched the manager disappear through the door, and then held Casey back with an arm.
"I'm watching out for trouble, okay?"
Casey nodded. "You don't need to worry though. I know how to handle Trouble. I've been handling Trouble since I was fifteen."
Peter fixed his grey eyes to hers. "Yeah. But things are different now." He said, looking down at her stomach where the little bump was starting to show, pushing against the satin fabric of her dress. Automatically, Casey put her hand to her bump.
"I haven't forgotten." She said, and then more sadly. "I can't forget."
Emerging on stage for the first time each night was as nerve-wracking as the very first time she had ever got up and sung with a rock band back in high school. Of course, this band was a lot better, although she hardly knew them. They were just like her, session musicians, brought together piecemeal to perform five nights a week in a grubby club. To be honest, Casey could do without having to perform every evening, she was still in lectures during the day, and with finals approaching it was getting harder and harder to find time to complete her studying. In an ideal world, she would be jacking in this job and concentrating on her studies; most of the other students around her were. But, she couldn't. She needed the money.
Her fingers brushed her stomach carefully. She really needed the money.
It wasn't like her family didn't care, because they did, a hell of a lot. But she wasn't going to take money from her mom and George knowing that it would deprive Marti and Robbie. And Dennis…Dennis was already paying for her apartment and her medical insurance, so Casey couldn't take any more.
Especially since this was her mistake.
Every time she thought the words, she apologised to the tiny form inside her. The act was a mistake. The result…Casey was already in love with the being yet to be formed.
She stepped into the spotlight, concentrating on the music from the band. She met her cue as the song was quiet, thinking that if he was in the audience tonight, the irony of the bloody song was cruel. The ballad part over, the song became rock.
"Armed and ready, you fought love battles in
But too many opponents made you weary of the fight
Blinded by passion, you foolishly let someone in
All the warnings went off in your head
Still you had to give in"
Casey tried to behave normally, her eyes registering the fact the crowd tonight was a good one. She kept singing, denying to herself she was searching the crowd for anyone in particular, but she was. She was looking for the figure that haunted her dreams and her nightmares alike.
And then she spotted him, leaning backwards against the bar looking at her. Red/brown hair longer again and falling in his eyes slightly. His leather jacket pulled back by his elbows resting on the bar, dark jeans straining as he leaned. She glanced away as his eyes met hers.
The song came to an end and she moved on to the next one. He turned back to Peter at the bar and asked something. Casey saw Peter shake his head, and then the figure in front of him argue. Peter shook his head again. She couldn't hear what they said, but Casey knew.
Derek was drunk and Peter was refusing to serve him.
Shaking slightly, she completed the set. She watched Peter put a complimentary glass of water in front of her step-brother and then the same glass break as he swept it to the floor with his arm. Peter glanced up at Casey in concern and she tried to smile weakly. Things had been bad before with Derek.
She had known that tonight they would be even worse.
It was 2am. The set was over and she was on her way back to her dressing room to grab her coat and her bag. She pushed her way through the door behind the stage and walked the dimly lit corridor to her room. Reaching it, she slammed against the door pushing it open, flicked the light on and stopped.
Derek was sitting in her chair.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, astonished. When Peter had continued to refuse to serve him and Derek had got up, Casey had assumed that he had left the club and gone in search of alcohol somewhere else.
"Not pleased to see me, huh?" he slurred. She was really unnerved by this. The Derek she knew never drank like this.
"No. I'm happy. Can't you see the ecstatic smile on my face, SIS?" he spat the word out.
"Derek…" she said warningly.
"What's the matter?" he asked teasingly. It wasn't pleasant.
He sat forward. "I spoke to Nora." He said,
pointedly. "I gather congratulations are in order."
"What's that supposed to mean?" she said, sniping at him, too.
"I guess I'm going to be an uncle."
Their eyes met. "Derek." She said softly.
He laughed, humourlessly. "It's okay, babe. I understand. No taming the beast with you is there? No problem. It's just if I had known you were a slut, I'd have screwed you sooner. I thought you had standards."
Casey's jaw dropped. "What?!"
"Two men in a month, Casey. I thought better of you."
She didn't correct him. There was no point. "Like Mr Virtue was so choosy. Bringing your bits here. Blondes, brunettes, red heads. Pointless actually, as if I'd care."
"Did you get yourself tested?" he asked, casually as if their whole world hadn't been destroyed by the idea that it was necessary.
She was silent.
"You did, huh? And…surprise…surprise, I was clean. Just like I said."
She turned pale and put a hand to her stomach, as if to protect her unborn child.
"I don't know you. You aren't Derek." She said weakly.
"No. I'm not. I'm just the evil fucker who took advantage of his step-sister."
He stood up. "I'll leave you, the boyfriend and your little love-child to play happy families." He stepped close to her on his way to the door. "I thought I knew you, princess. I was wrong."
Casey cowered away from his proximity.
And then he was gone. She closed the door, slid to the ground and cried.
As Derek Venturi emerged from the club, via the rear door, something grabbed him and slammed him against the wall.
"You will stay away from her." A chill, clipped, accented voice stated.
"I make it a point of never obeying anyone…anytime. Least of all the stupid fucker who screws my sister." Derek replied.
Peter sniffed. "You think you're a hard man Derek. You're just sad. Taking your sister's happiness out on her."
"Yeah. Right." He said sarcastically. "She's on such a wave of happiness in there."
Peter shrugged. "Her only problem right now is you. As soon as you are out of her life, she'll move on. This baby will be good for her…for us."
Derek snorted. "For you…so you got her pregnant…big deal. Are you going to look after it? After her?"
Peter shrugged. "Why not? It's me she wants to go with her to the big scan next week." His attitude said. 'Me. Not you.'
Derek smiled, but it was a cold, harsh smile. "Enjoy it. Enjoy her. Neither of you are worth it."
And then he walked away.
Derek was drunk. It was true. But on the scale of things he could blame himself for, getting drunk the week he found out Casey was pregnant with someone else's kid…that came way down the list.
He staggered to his car, tried to get the key in the door lock, and fortunately for him and the rest of Kingston, accidentally dropped his keys into a grate in the road.
He wasn't driving anywhere tonight.
Swearing colourfully, he hailed a cab.
He had been drunk for three days now. Ever since his surprise visit home to the family where his step-mom had announced that his sister was fifteen weeks pregnant. Apparently, Casey hadn't said anything about the father, but she assumed that the rather hot British guy Casey had been spending a lot of time with had something to do with it.
Derek counted it a good thing that he hadn't vomited at the dinner table.
The next morning he had continued his journey back to college, and thrown himself heavily into alcohol-induced oblivion. Somewhere into the second bottle of Jack D he had decided he needed to see Casey.
Now, in the present, the morning after the club, he woke to a monster hangover and seriously considered downing the entire bottle of painkillers. Sinking into a permanent slumber that didn't involve Casey seemed like a good idea. Today, however, he had hockey practice, and for some reason he had arranged for Colin, one of his team mates to pick him up. Colin had a very loud way of knocking on a door.
"Jesus Colin! You trying to wake the dead?" Derek said, opening the door.
Colin grinned. "Looking at you…I guess, probably. Heavy night?"
"Heavy three days." Derek said moving into his bedroom and pulling on the last clean outfit he possessed. His spare hockey kit.
Derek blinked. "If only. Nah. My sister's managed to get herself knocked up by some ass-lickin' Brit."
Colin whistled. "Crap!" He frowned. "Which sister? Lizzie?"
"Nah. The other one."
And suddenly the reason behind the drinking rampage became abundantly clear to Colin. He knew Derek well. He had never met Casey, but he knew of her, because Derek talked about her all the time. Colin was one of the few people Derek had admitted to that his 'sister' was actually his step-sister. Colin had suspicions about how important those four extra letters were.
"Fuck D. I'm sorry."
Derek looked at him as if realising that his secret was out of the bag.
"How far along is she?" Colin had a sister who was also pregnant.
"Fifteen weeks according to her mom." Derek sat down heavily on the sofa. "I made the mistake of trying to see her last night. The British freaking bulldog was proudly ramming the 'we're off for the big scan next week' line down my throat." He gazed off into space. "Never mind that it's her career and future down the pan."
Colin didn't know what to say. Then he frowned. "Are you sure she's fifteen weeks?"
Derek nodded. "Why?"
"Angela had her big scan at twenty weeks. They wait until then so that they can spot abnormalities etc. Also of course, you can tell the sex then…" He stopped then because Derek was staring at him, his mouth hanging down.
"What?" Colin asked.
"The big scan is normally at twenty weeks?" Derek asked, although he had heard Colin perfectly well the first time. His friend nodded.
"So if Casey was going for her 'big scan' next week, it would make her nineteen weeks pregnant. So the baby was conceived nineteen weeks ago?"
"Not exactly. They calculate it some weird way involving the monthly cycle. Angela told me that her baby was conceived on her birthday which was actually about ten days after the calculation says it was conceived." He watched Derek carefully, because he could tell something was very wrong. Colin and Derek had just had a discussion about women's things and Colin had displayed a lot of knowledge about something that he really shouldn't know about, yet Derek had said nothing. No teasing comments, no ew! No Derekness.
Meanwhile, Derek's hungover brain was racing.
Nineteen weeks minus ten to fourteen days meant the baby was conceived…