AN: Because you know you can take that whole "I have an ally in Steven" thing and run with it. After "Being Nikki" of course.

Alright, so "hiding" out at Brandon Stark's secret mansion complete with in-ground swimming pool wasn't exactly like huddling in a corner in Alcatrez…but I still felt like a prisoner.

I was currently…well I guess I could say "lounging" but that makes it seem like I was actually at ease…which I wasn't…ever. Especially here with the Stark creep pouncing on me every five minutes to make sure I wasn't planning some sort of escape.

I mean…I wasn't. Much.

But I was laid out on one of the foldout chairs by the pool and, refusing to put my bikini on and pretend I was relaxing, probably getting heinous tan-lines in my shorts and plain tank.

I didn't even know where we were. I tried peeking out the window several times and bribing the pilot who flew us here but to no avail.

Great. Now how was Christopher supposed to come rescue me?

Except that there was a slimmer chance of THAT happening than of me figuring out how to save myself. Or Cosabella talking. Especially after the way I'd blatantly rejected him.

Then I had myself tearing up just thinking about it.


I blinked and squinted at the face blocking the sun. I hadn't brought my sunglasses out. Actually, I was unsure Lulu had even sent them. Lulu. Someone else I missed terribly like a giant hole in my heart.

"Steven?" Nikki's older brother was looking (well, hunching. That guy was John Cena-huge) down at me in concern.

"You weren't crying, were you?" His voice was kind of panicky and I had to giggle. He was worse with tears than Christopher was.

I was going to say "Yes, Steven, I'm fine" but something stopped me. So instead I blurted "I miss Christopher", completely forgetting that Steven (as well as Nikki and Mrs. Howard) had witnessed me virtually dumping his butt for Brandon Stark.

But for some reason I could tell Steven Howard knew something was up. His eyes narrowed. "You can't tell me, can you?"

My heart sped up and I sat up, Cosabella hopping into my lap and pushing her face up to mine to lick my cheek. "Why do you say that?"

He shook his head and shrugged before sitting on a lounge chair next to me. "I miss Lulu if you can believe it," he said with a laugh and the hole inside me just got bigger.

What a mess this was. And all of my fault too. I mean, Lulu finally gets Steven to notice her and then he's whisked away from her because of this stupid deal I had to make.

"I'm sorry," I whispered and he looked at me.

"Why are you sorry, Em? I don't get it. You mope around here like someone died, not like you're at your boyfriend's secret vacation home." I hated that Steven seemed to be so perceptive.

I looked around. I could see Brandon, Nikki and Mrs. Howard speaking in the kitchen but they all had their bodies turned away from the two of us. I turned back to Steven who had noticed my obvious look-out move. "I can't tell you," I said hurriedly. "Because I care about you and what happens to you guys, I can't tell you. But I'm trying to figure out what to do about it, so until I do, just go along with it, okay?" I looked at him beseechingly. "And stay on my side." I gave him a little half smile.

He looked at me with the same shade of eyes I had, hands crossed in his lap, mouth turned down, before nodding slowly. "I knew something was up." I tensed and he held his hands up. "Fine, Em. Have it your way." He grinned and stood, patting my head as he walked by. "Besides, you always have to be there for family."

And he left me choking down another set of tears.