Author's Note: I don't even have words to really describe why this chapter is a favorite of mine so I won't try but Thank you all for bearing with me and waiting patiently while I worked to rewrite lost sections of Chapter 16. Now that it's in good standing I hope you all enjoy 15!

Saii79 thank you for putting up with my crazy ideas time and time again. You're welcome for killing you and you can tell me "NO" anytime. Youre seriously the sweetest and most patient girl in the world.

Lainierb you are my best friend and I love you so much. Thank you for always being there for me and distracting me with our unofficialbusiness so flawlessly. Malayan Mare Mediator & order of business I promise! #4M

shokoshik you are truly amazing and such a blessing. I'm so thankful for all of the help and advice you give me when I'm struggling. I love over analyzing and I always trust your opinion.

Alitheplatypus My dear Aussie girl ;) I love talking to you and ugh...youre the like the little fighter on my shoulder when caveman attacks. I love you and I'm so happy your skittles are improving. Please never stop making me laugh and do it so wonderfully

A_Joyce_ Thank you for being so sweet and for creating that insanely awkward yet AMAZING 3:33 video for us! you rock and im surprised you still talk to me at all lol. Enjoy #2BG!

Checkerboard321 I love your emails! they get me through the day smiling and I love talking to you at 3am (my time) about trip and all of the randomness! so much fun! Kill those Mechs!

silentwonder510 I'll try to supply ample cussing in every chapter and I'll refrain from digging into Peter's sex life even though i'd love to ;p You always make me laugh. Please don't stop.

JMHarder22 Girl you're so funny and make me smile. Thank you for the support and interest in the story!

A final important shout out to my Nate-Like stalker! Thank you for being an idiot and making me laugh with your effortless butchering of words in general. Q.)"why u no like Maya?" a.)Who the fuck is Maya? But at least the only time she made Em cry was when she died...always thinking of herself...ENJOY THIS PAILY LOVE STORY!

To All of the girls that have a special appreciation for Marley the way that I do... #MarleyBaby #MarleyRides #MostAmazingGirlAward

Reviews are greatly appreciated and I always do my best to reply to all of them. I enjoy talking to you all about the story and any questions you may have.

#WhiteOut #Emary #17months #McCullen #ThereForYou #TellThem #HelplessBlue #EmilysReason

"Wake up!"

I threw open the wood door, letting it crash into the wall, and took in the state of the girl's room. I have some things to do before meeting up with Emily for dresses and this is one of them, actually the only one. The girls would never make the improv if they slept any longer and sadly its up to me to keep them in line sometimes.

Clothes littered the floor and the blinds were shut which made walking hazardous. I tripped over several pairs of heels on my way to open the window and avoided rolling over an empty wine bottle, saving myself from a broken ankle or worse. That kind of injury would throw me out of the show and throw Paige into a raging fit. I'd have to kill the girls quickly to spare them from the slow torturous death that Paige would put them through... but then again it could be amusing to watch. As soon as I made it through the mess and pulled the string, casting bright sunlight across the room, several moans of protest sounded from the bed behind me which had me sighing and shaking my head. Yes you heard me right. Several moans and bed in the singular.

And everyone thinks I'm easy.

"Rise and shine, Ladies!" I grabbed the blanket on the bed and ripped it off, glaring down at the girls and two of the guys that work in the warehouse.

"Shit Mary..." Sadie whined, making no attempt to cover her naked body as she pulled her pillow up over her face.

"Get up!" I slapped the guys on the ass and they groaned and covered themselves. "Please boys I see bigger on a daily basis and no it's not cold in here so let's go! Get your pants or not, just get out." They grabbed their jeans from the floor and darted out into the hallway. I couldn't keep from admiring the backside view. "Cute picks girls though I'd lose the scrawny blonde next time and go with one of the tan stable boys. I find they're better with their hands."

Faye at least had some modesty and by that I mean she covered her breasts with her hands. Why she felt they were more important than her vagina is beyond me but whatever. Girl power.

"Fuck Mary, we're home so why are you waking us up? Down days remember?"

I walked over to the dresser and grabbed two handfuls of random fabric out of the top drawer, it didn't really matter what it was and it would have to work regardless.

"Oh I'm sorry." I frowned, tossing the array of colors at their faces. The different shades of pink lace and red satins rained down on their bodies as they whined. "Its nine and I've been up for two fucking hours already while you two have been recovering from a roaming orgy so please tell me why I should feel bad for you. And that's rhetorical because I really don't give a shit."

I bent down and grabbed random jeans and shirts from the floor and tossed them on the bed before turning to their vanity to pick over their extensive supply of body products. And I mean extensive. Settling on a dark blue eyeliner I leaned into the mirror to apply even lines around my eyes before dropping it to the counter to flip through stacks of tiny shadows and glitter dust palettes, choosing a ruby and royal blue to smoke around my eyes. I could hear movement behind me as they got dressed and several profanities that had me smiling proudly.

"Damnit I'm tired and sor..."

"Don't say you're sore from fucking two guys?!" I turned to her in mock horror but she just looked oblivious as she pulled a white lace tank top over her head, fanning out her flame red hair down her back. "No way Sadie! You know actually..." I brushed mascara over my eyelashes. "...I heard that means you're out of shape and you should probably add a third next time. You know, just to really break yourself in." I shook my head in disbelief and grabbed a lip gloss from the counter, immediately dropping it back down because nothing in me wanted my lips near where theirs lips had been.

I could feel Sadie glaring into my back. "If I don't understand your snarky jabs at a normal hour then nine in the morning should be off-limits."

"As much as we all hate it nine is a normal hour, Genius." Faye sighed, slipping into a pair of jeans.

"Bitch!" Sadie tossed a pillow at Faye and shielded herself when it flew right back towards her.

I threw my hands up and ducked as one whizzed past my head.

"Seriously?" I snapped "This is why guys think all women do is prance around in their panties and throw fucking pillows that eventually bust open and litter the room with feathers! Calm your shit because I'm not about to be in the middle of your little half-naked stereotype."

Faye gave up and retreated into the bathroom but Sadie tossed another pillow that smacked me in the back.

"Loosen up Mary!"

"You're already loose enough for everyone." I ignored the pillow and picked up something I recognized. "Is this mine?" I turned to face her and held out the small red tube.

"Yeah its good." She smiled, laying back on the edge of the bed as she wiggled her naked hips into a pair of cut off shorts. Commando was a favorite around here.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" I snapped. "Where did you get this?"

"It was on your dresser." She shrugged and slipped into a pair of slouch boots.

"Why the hell were you in my room?"

"I told you I couldn't find my brush and you have three." Sadie stood up from the bed and walked over beside her to begin a lengthy make-up process, trying to ignore me glaring at her. She gave up trying quickly and turned to me. "What Mary? It's just a fucking lip gloss. What's the big deal?"

I smiled and set the tube into her hands as I turned away and moved towards the door. "It's actually called Virginity." I corrected, stopping in the doorway and turning back to face her. She was already puckering her lips in the mirror and applying an even coat. "It's not lip gloss it's edible cherry. I roll it wherever I want Riley's tongue or on the places he wants mine."

I turned and disappeared down the hallway, smiling as I heard bottles of perfume and lotions crash to the floor. I probably should have told her that it was new and hadn't been used yet and definitely that it was indeed just lip gloss but doing that wouldn't be as effective at keeping her out of my fucking bedroom and honestly she had it coming so I'm sorry but...I'm really not. Pat on the back for pulling that shit out of my back pocket so effortlessly.

I moved quickly down the hallway towards the kitchen, hesitating outside of Riley's bedroom door. It was usually quiet inside because Riley spent more time in my room than in his own but the sound now coming from inside stopped me in my tracks and took me back years in an instant. His door was closed, mostly, except for a small crack and I carefully pushed it open just enough to let the music fully reach my ears. I leaned in and pressed my back to the hallway wall just outside the door, listening and visualizing Riley's fingers moving lightly over the strings, how they always tried to move lightly over me. His voice filtered softly through the doorway and I think back to the first time he sang for me. Well, kind of for me.

The night Paige found me in Albany we had walked back to my friends apartment together to pick up a few things and Paige had called Riley to come pick us up with the truck. He was cute, naturally, but entirely too cocky for his own good. He insisted on singing 'light my fire' the entire drive back, to no actual music I might add, while smiling at me across the cab with Paige sitting between us. She was probably more uncomfortable than I was but that's only because obnoxious behavior makes me push back harder so I simply bit my tongue for the drive. When we got to the train he tried to make Paige carry my bag like she was the third bit my tongue harder and took my bag from Paige to carry on my own. This hole ridiculous interaction probably looked like a bunch of idiots fighting over a fucking suitcase and it was beyond ridiculous. Riley tried to take it from me because for some reason it was okay for him to help me out but not help Paige. After several insistent pleas from him I casually kicked my leg out and swept his feet out from under him, making him crash to the ground, and then proceeded to drop my suitcase on his stomach. Point made. Carry the fucking bag for the ladies. Plural. Paige included.

He plays his guitar a lot on his own while we're traveling, usually by himself but sometimes when he thinks I'm asleep. It's the softness of whispered words escaping his lips that absolutely tear me down. I've begged him several times to do a duet with me in the show but he refuses, though he shouldn't because he's amazing. I never push too hard because he'd be surprisingly difficult to work into Burlesque. His music is probably the thing he's the most modest about, his escape..probably from me.

*Make you believe, make you forget.*

I bite my tongue now and push myself off the wall, walking quietly by the room towards the commons. The girls would easily be another hour before they were ready and I have no intention of keeping Emily waiting for too long. In fact I'm probably more excited than I should be to have another girl around because she isn't a lost cause. Other than Paige of course there's no one else and even though I love her, Paige has her ego driven moments but I guess I do too, hence my holier-than-thou wake up call for the girls. Emily on the other hand might be the only sane person in this group of beautiful misfits and while its refreshing it likely won't be long until she's just as damaged as we are. Luckily for her we're all amazing so it's not a bad thing. Well..some more damaged than others obviously or I wouldn't be ripping random men from the girl's beds. Remind me again why everyone thinks I'm the promiscuous one.

Oh yeah...this is why...

I stopped short in the middle of the hallway by Paige's office. The door was open and sound of papers rustling caught my attention. Peter was sitting at the desk with a stack of papers that he was flipping through one at a time. He yawned and continued his work, oblivious to me standing in the doorway.

"Peter... baby, what are you doing?" I smiled and sauntered over to the desk, leaning over the front to watch him write. I know I shouldn't enjoy doing this but the red of his cheeks is too entertaining to pass up and he knows I can't just walk away which is why there's a very wary look in his eyes. "Why are you tired? You're the one that pulled me out of my warm bed and forced me to put clothes on."

Peter's eyes flickered up to my white slouch t-shirt hanging low off my shoulders. Sadly if I had known this opportunity was going to present itself I would have gone with something more revealing but at the moment just my black bra strap made him swallow hard as he crinkled his eyes in concentration back to the paperwork in front of him. The desk was strewn in pens and a few stamp pads that suggested he'd been at it for awhile.

"I'm not tired I've just gotta go through a hundred profiles and make sure nobodies been slacking off or getting into trouble here while we were gone."

I worked my way around to the back of his chair and heard him sigh hesitantly. My work with Peter was always easier than it should be but that's the weakness of men...not me. I leaned in and rested my chin on his shoulder, pressing firmly against his back and gasping lightly as his breathing hitched, making him write faster across a paper. His way of trying to ignore me and any distractions I may bring. He's so cute sometimes with his determination.

"What about the ones that are getting into trouble on the train?" I whispered, keeping my lips just close enough to his ear that he'd now be feeling my breath down his neck.

"I already have a work-up on the engineer." He cleared his throat, flipping another sheet of paper. "Apparently he's been spitting sunflower seeds out the window and that could be a health hazard for anyone standing too close to the tracks when we go by. Oh and if they got hit in the eye with a flying seed..." Peter tisked and shook his head.

I frowned slightly but recovered so much faster. His resolve was strong but not nearly as strong as Riley's when he wants to fight me and we know how things go with him. "So just the engineer." I noted, bringing my hands up to his shoulders when he nodded in agreement, dragging my nails lightly up into his hair. I stayed quiet and watched him continue to write, smiling against his neck every time he reached for a white-out pen because that meant that I was winning.

"Well...and one of the clowns for leaving dishes in the sink." He added. Obviously he was joking but that didn't stop me from crinkling my eyebrows in frustration.

"So then all you're really telling me is that I'm not doing anything wrong." I whispered, bringing my lips closer to nip at his ear. Peter's fingers grabbed at the white out pen again and made me chuckle heat across his skin.

"Hey Peter, Paige called over she wants to..." Riley appeared in the doorway, stopping short when he saw me with my arms wrapped around Peter's shoulders and my fingers twisting into his hair. "Oooh sorry dude." He smiled proudly.

"I'm staying strong, Riley. A little help would be nice though." Peter shook his head lightly to clear it but then he blinked his eyes hard too which only screamed of his struggle with concentrating on work and the fact that he wasn't staying strong.

Riley's eyes where apologetic but he made no attempt to help Peter because he knew better. Smart man. "You're a stronger man than me but that's by choice on my part. I like giving in."

"Thanks for the support now what do you want?" He sighed and I brought my hands down his sides, wrapping them under his arms and around his chest, hugging him as my hair fell over his shoulder and brushed against his neck.

"You've got the best support standing behind you at the moment." Riley beamed. "She's a good motivator."

"Yes but unfortunately she's motivating me away from my paperwork." Peter corrected, tensing when I dropped my hands down lower. Peter enjoyed manual labor with the show and it showed in the muscle of his stomach. He cleared his throat again and looked pleadingly at Riley. "What does Paige need? It must be so important."

I smiled when Riley laughed. "It just might save your life actually." Riley's eyes flickered to mine with a smile. "She wanted to see if you could fix the date of birth on Mar's profile. They don't have a current copy in the office."

That caught my attention and made me stop the movement of my hands above his belt. "I wanna see my profile." I straightened myself up and reached for the stack of papers.

Peter shook his head firmly and shuffled them away from my hands. "Not happening, Mary. But I'm thankful that's enough to distract you."

"Why, Peter?" I smirked sarcastically. "Am I gonna have to pull out one of those cheesy 'is that a such and such in your pocket or are you just happy to see me' lines? It'll make you blush more than you already are and then I'll giggle and toss my hair and then you'll pick me up and this desk will be violated in so many ways..."

"You're mean." Peter laughed and shook his head,

"And actually you already told me no about using the desk so that's hardly fair." Riley pointed out with a grin. "All else fails just use the wall, Peter." He winked.

I groaned and reached for the papers again, this time managing to pull the stack from his hands and turning my back to him to block his attempts at getting them back. He pressed into my back and reached around my shoulders but I moved them out of his range every time.

"Careful, Peter." Riley warned. "That's a good position too."

Peter dropped his arms in frustration and stepped back, hanging his head in embarrassment as he laughed. "You two are messed up."

"You're just easy." I smiled and flipped through the papers, not tearing my eyes away from them as I spoke. "With you against my back I don't have to think twice about pulling out one of those cliche erection lines."

Of course Peter wasn't aroused but it didn't stop him from looking down self-consciously to make sure which just bought me more time with the papers. He was too used to my games by now to get too flustered by me messing with him and that's exactly why its a game.

"There's a lot of white-out on these last few." I teased, placing forms that weren't mine back to the desk, smiling when I came across one with my name scripted across the top. "Got it.."

I leaned into the desk again as Peter slipped cautiously into his seat, watching me warily.

"See you later babe, I gotta go test the fire-lines so send Emily my way if you get done early enough." Riley pressed a kiss into my hair and darted from the room. "Good luck with the restraint, Peter."

"Always a pleasure, Riley." He quipped. I smiled down at the paper as my eyes scrolled through my information and how much of it was inaccurate. "Should I just give you a red pen so you can correct all the false information?" Peter chuckled.

"Yeeeah that would probably be a good idea." I nodded and took the pen from his hand, crossing lines through 'Andrews' on the last name line and obviously through the date of birth.

"Should I just give you a new form?"

I glared up at him with my blue eyes. "There's cute and then there's this." I gestured my finger between us and our little exchange. He smiled and ducked his head, biting his lip as I furrowed my eyes to read.

The form was basic contact information, or lack of information in my case. Nothing listed under residence which was normal for most if us because we lived our lives basically as nomads. There wasn't anything listed under family contacts either which also wasn't least not for me.

"There's nothing on here expect boring details." I frowned in disappointment and looked up at him. "Where's the notes that Paige writes about bad behavior? There should be books on me."

"Paige doesn't write notes on bad behavior." he smiled. "She handles it personally and I think you're the last person she worries about when it comes to that. You should know by now that you're good in our 'books', Marley."

I swallowed weakly and looked down at the form, filling in the right information over the crossed out parts. I do a lot to mess up sometimes and my mixed feelings about what Peter just said is something I don't even want to try to process. I've got the whole day to get through and something tells me its gonna be a long one. Emotional is never what I need.

I flip the paper around to him once I'm done and drop the pen back to the desk as I turn to the door.

"Marley Nolan-O'Connor." Peter sighed.

I turned back around to look at him with his amused smile on his lips and walked over to the desk to lean on it again. "Apparently my donors didn't believe in the sanctity of marriage. Go figure."

He smiled softly. "Well its a good thing they didn't because then we might not have you."

I smile because somehow he knows what I need to hear. He could have given me his sad eyes and felt sorry for me with words of wisdom or he could have just laughed and cracked a joke but he didn't. He says the right things which makes me want to give him a harder time. This is how we work.

"You know." I sigh, looking down at my profile. "This girl should probably be punished for lying about all of this when she was hired. Giving false information should definitely be grounds for dismissal."

"Nah." Peter shook his head firmly. "She's far too invaluable and irreplaceable." Again with the right thing to say.

I reached and grabbed a stamp pad from the desk and before Peter could stop me, which he tried, I slammed it down onto the paper over my name. I smiled when I pulled it back and saw the bright red "dismissed".

"You know I'm going to have to fill out a whole new form right?" Peter chuckled and snatched the stamp from my hand.

"Well you're so efficient at your work Peter and thanks to me you've mastered the white-out pen."

He smiled and pulled a new form from the desk. "You're pretty efficient at your work too."

"I can't be too efficient if I fail to have my way with you." I teased, walking around to his chair and pressing a light kiss to his cheek. "I gotta find Emily so don't work too hard."

"You're very efficient." Peter shouted after me, making me smile proudly and bite my lip.

Peter is amazing. Of course he is.. but I'll never stop torturing him and he'd never really want me to. It comes from his desire to wake me up too early and he's accepted the consequences.

The commons was quiet so I decided to back track to the kitchen. It's still quiet when I enter and its been an hour since breakfast so Emily should be around any minute. Sliding into a bar stool I wait, picking over the tear in the denim on my thigh. I've already said I'm excited about having Emily around and by now it should be obvious why. Main reason being that Paige is happier than any of us have ever seen her. Honestly I'm protective of her because I want what's best for her but I'm also not stupid. I'm just as good as she is at reading people and there's nothing even remotely similar between Emily and Cassie. Something tells me I'd be more likely to doubt Paige than I would be to doubt Emily and her intentions. So far I've never really doubted Paige and I probably never will.

Voices outside filtered into the open door and a laugh made my body tense completely as my eyes snapped to the doorway. Speak of the fucking devil and she appears. I threw myself from the stool, nearly knocking it to the ground behind me, and moved to the open door, smiling and biting my tongue at the familiar blonde hair standing beside Emily. It's all I have in me to keep my feet planted as I lean into the doorway, watching her smile falter when glances over at me. Her same green flecked eyes and the way she juts her hip as she stands. Cassie is so unpleasantly hard to forget.

She mirrors the challenge in my eyes as she turns away from Emily and walks away to join her followers. Girls like Cassie work in packs because they're too scared to fight their own battles and by work in packs I also mean sleep in packs. I don't need anyone to fight my wars and Cassie isn't on her turf at the moment.

Most people would probably run to Emily to warn her about the person she was just talking to but I'm not most people. I can't stand Cassie for reasons that are my own and I have no right to tamper with Emily's judgement. She has the right to be unbiased because she's so far removed from the situation and hopefully she can stay that way. I already know what's it's like to be caught in the middle of the Paige and Cassie crossfire and Emily seems fragile enough at moments without adding the chaos that Cassie brings. I'm waiting for the day when she stops showing up here and lets Paige come home in peace. The only place Paige feels at home now is on the moving train and that's heartbreaking. Anything to put as much ground as possible between herself and whatever happened between her and Cassie. It's not hard to guess though because she's walking away with a girl on each arm and four others giggling around her. Paige isn't the type to want an open relationship and that's Cassie's style. Paige deserves more.

I waited a few seconds as she walked away and I was so wrapped up in my temper that I forgot about Emily. I also somehow forgot about Ember whom I haven't yet met for some completely unacceptable reason.


Emily turned to me and smiled but the only thing on my mind was hugging his cute face.

"Hey!" She smiled and turned to Mary and the huge grin on her face as she jumped down from the train. "I'm sorry. I wanted to see him while I waited for you."

"Well obviously." Mary squeaked and brushed around her. She didn't give Ember the chance to get familiar by holding out her hand, her arms flew automatically around his neck as she hugged him close. "God, you're so cute!"

"Awe thank you." She joked, earning a sweet smile from Mary as she rolled her blue eyes.

"You're cute too." She teased, kissing Ember's cheek. "But you, Mr?" She clutched his face to look at him firmly in the eyes. "'re fucking adorable."

She had to look away while Mary loved on him because the first thing she noticed was how the height of Ember's nose was exact to Mary's chest. Paige had good reason to be worried for Ember's life but he was in Heaven at the moment. He didn't pull away from her and the twitch was gone from beneath his skin as his body relaxed under her touch. It was a little surprising considering Mary had one of the most energetic personalities. She was so similar to Hanna in some ways and yet exactly the opposite. Her eyes were deeper as she smiled at Ember and stroked his nose. Ember would probably be happy to leave this life at the hands of Mary, or any other part of her body.

"You know you can see him whenever you want. I don't think he'd argue at all."

Mary met her eyes softly and nodded as she dropped her arms and stepped back reluctantly. "We have work to do first. There's a lot to try on."

"I'm ready when you are." She agreed, patting his neck as she looked to Mary for direction.

Mary smiled and led the way through the kitchen towards the front of the train. The next car up was the hallway where the office was. Mary stopped in front of the door in the middle of the hallway and pushed it open. Automatically her eyes were forced to squint and adjust to the bright colors hanging from floor to ceiling racks lining the walls. A small chair sat in a corner and there was a long narrow table with a flip-up sewing machine beside a built-in wooden chest of drawers and shelves lined with sparkling pieces of jewelry and random accessories.

"Okay so first of all do you want to pick a color or style first?" Mary automatically started flipping through racks. "Style will be easy so you should probably think of a color first actually doesn't matter because we can make something if we have to."

Her mouth dropped slightly as Mary began pulling hangers down and tossing them over a chair. "Um I guess I'm not too picky about color.."

Mary smiled hesitantly. "Would it bother you if I just test a few things? You can get a feel for what you don't want then it'll be easier for you to find what you do want."

"Yeah." She nodded and looked at the open door behind her. "Yeah that's fine."

Mary's eyes softened as she forced herself to take a deep breath and slow down. She automatically moved around her to the door and closed it, flipping a lock on the doorknob. "Better?" She asked, genuinely trying to make her feel comfortable.

"Thanks." She exhaled lightly and smiled, ducking her head back towards the dresses Mary had already pulled down.

"So Paige left you to fight the crowds? If anyone bothers you just let us know. It's not uncommon to get the occasional drunk person, even this early in the day. Crazy seems to follow us even though we constantly tell it to fuck off."

"No one so far." She assured. "But I'm not surprised that it gets crazy around here. Hanna went ballistic on a married couple over nothing but that was also just a 'Hanna thing' I guess."

"Hanna's the blonde friend of yours? The feisty one?"

"The one and only."

"She lacks a certain filter like I do. I liked her." Mary smiled proudly and pulled emerald-green from a hanger, crinkling her eyebrows as she studied it. "I usually don't have luck with blondes so that's a serious compliment.

"Do you need me to..." she tugged at the hem of her shirt and gestured at the dress Mary was holding.

"Yeah go ahead and strip down." Mary nodded, keeping her eyes on the dress and then looking over critically at the pile on the chair. She was focused on what she was doing and turned her back to pull down another hanger. "Just your jeans and shirt for now." Mary added, unzipping the emerald silk and tossing the hanger to the floor.

She had years of changing in locker rooms at school so she was hardly worried about changing in front of Mary. They hardly wore clothes themselves so it's not like here was anything new to see. "Thanks for taking your time to do this. I don't even know where to start with an act let alone all of this." She kicked her boots off and scooted them off to the side.

"Of course." Mary turned to her and stepped closer, tilting her head to the side as she reached automatically for the hem of her tank top and pulled it over her head for her. "Sorry I'm used to working fast with this stuff." She smiled softly but continued. "I get it though, its tough coming in on all of this because it feels like everyone else is so far ahead of you with their performances. I've been there. The only difference is you have me and I had Cassie and I promise you have it really good."

She slipped out of her jeans and froze uneasily as Mary studied her body for a moment, crinkling her eyebrows.

"Okay I'm gonna be pissed if that's the only shade of blue I don't have because that's a really good color on you." And just like that Mary turned away again and looked through the racks.

She released her breath, not realizing that she had been holding it. Mary didn't seem like the type to be critical when it came to women's bodies. She was too confident and proud of her own body to be judgmental so she forced a deep breath to relax. "So...Cassie didn't help you when you started?"

"She helped immensely with increasing my anger issues..does that count? We were pretty hostile towards each other. She was threatened by me for a number of reasons. Main one being that I was the only person that didn't back down when she attacked." Mary chuckled and then frowned at the dresses in the same breath. "Okay that is the only fucking shade of blue that I don't have."

Luckily the room was warm so standing in lace wasn't uncomfortable except for the obvious reasons. Those being that she was basically naked in front of someone she hardly knew.

"Fuck." Mary shook her head and grabbed white from a hanger instead. "Okay we need to find you a style you like so I can work on expanding color options."


"Yeeees." Mary nodded and pulled threads loose on the sides of the white corset. "It helps to appreciate the style when there aren't colors clouding your judgement but this one you can actually keep on. It goes under the dresses for breast support which is always so welcome around here." she joked.

She smiled as Mary wrapped the white satin around her chest and she lifted her arms to aid in the process, holding it against her body as Mary stopped behind her back to lace the threading.

"Okay I'll hold this here to cover you if you can pull your bra off for me. You don't need it with this." She nodded and reached around to unsnap the back but Mary moved faster and flicked her fingers over the clasp for her. She slipped her arms from the straps as Mary held the corset in place, tossing the lace to the chair. "I can slow down if you want but I don't plan on calling you for a second date so what's the point?" Mary tugged the threading lightly against her back and secured it then she moved around to face her again, pulling the laces up her chest and forcing the air from her lungs with each tug.

"That's good because I should tell you I haven't been faithful to you." Her breath hitched as Mary pulled the threading a little tighter, a smile tugging at her lips. "There's someone else."

"Yeah?" Mary smiled and her eyes softened. "That's good thing. I forgive you."

There was so much care in her eyes that anyone could see how much Mary was relieved to hear those words. Like she had been waiting to hear them for far too long. If Paige had been alone since Cassie then it was too long and it was easy to see how that had affected the people around her. They all wanted what was best for Paige and with how calm Mary was now compared to the other times she had been around her it was clear that she must have been doing something right. So far she was making Paige happy and she planned on continuing indefinitely.

She wanted to know what Cassie had done to hurt Paige so much but it wasn't her place to ask Mary. She wasn't going to be the girl that asked about Paige behind her back at least not about something like this. Old insecure Emily probably would have asked more questions but Paige made her feel confident in herself. Curiosity is one thing and doubting is another but even curiosity wasn't important compared to the trust she had for Paige. If there was more to Paige and Cassie then them simply wanting different things then she would be here to listen whenever Paige was ready to talk about it and if she never wanted to talk about it then that was fine too. Paige was the one she wanted and that's where she planned on focusing all of her time and attention. If Mary chose to tell her on her own then so be it but it felt wrong to pry too deep. In the meantime a few small questions probably wouldn't hurt.

"So does she show up here a lot?"

"Cassie?" Mary glanced up at her briefly and then moved her eyes back to her chest as her fingers adjusted the strings.

"Yeah I mean Paige obviously isn't happy being here so I'm guessing she does otherwise it probably wouldn't bother her so much."

"She tends to weasel her way in and stalk the grounds when she knows we're back in town. For starters she likes pissing me off by coming and upsets Paige so that's the main reason she does it. Shes always been a bitch like that."

"Even if she wasn't Paige's ex I don't care for people that go around hurting others for their own enjoyment. I've had enough if those people in my life and I don't want any more."

"You probably wouldn't know if you did meet her. She's good and landing direct hits and then taking off until the next time." Mary bit her lip and gave her a quick once over to study the fitting then moved over to a small stack of drawers.

"I'm not okay with her hurting Paige for her own pleasure so lets hope she doesn't stop by."

Mary's eyes weakened sadly as she returned to her side, bunching nude nylon in her hands. "Well just you saying that proves how good she is."

She crinkled her eyebrows as Mary's blue eyes flickered to hers. "What do you mean?" Mary sighed and shook her head lightly but she didn't speak as she separated two strands of pantyhose. Her throat tightened instantly and a sickening feeling formed in the pit of her stomach. Her mind went back to how Ember was calm in Mary's arms but not when... "Oh God, that was her wasn't it? Outside...that was..."

Mary's eyes were soft and hesitant but she nodded. "You couldn't have known that and she's just that good at getting close. She knew you were with the show right?" Mary arched her eyebrows and she knew the question was rhetorical.

"She wanted to see Ember, I mean she said her parents have horses and that's all we really talked about except..."

"I really shouldn't have said anything. I didn't plan on it. It's not my place to affect how you perceive someone. Just because I don't like her doesn't mean you..."

"No I'm glad you said something because I felt bad for being rude to..." she squeezed her eyes shut to clear the feeling that she had been deceived and even worse the feeling that Cassie had done it intentionally to get at everyone else. Even such a short conversation somehow made her feel violated. While it was unlikely that Cassie knew her connection to Paige she did know her connection to the show and she must have felt proud for being able to get so close unnoticed. Well not completely unnoticed. "She saw you that's why she gave up so fast.. "

Mary nodded. "Yeah she would have been stupid to linger."

The questions rolling around in her head were getting harder to ignore. She should be asking Paige these things but Mary was the one here now and having already met Cassie without even knowing it...she felt a entitled to a few questions. "How bad was it with Cassie? Paige told me she came to you but..."

"Then you need to hear from me that it was just that one time. It wasn't more than that and it couldn't have been." Mary toyed with the nylon in her hands but she didn't look away. It was easy to see the pain in her eyes because she was making no attempt to hide it. It made her mouth dry because it meant she was right and that Mary was bothered by something that she was keeping from Paige. It was growing more obvious as to what that something was.

"I believe you." She nodded instantly to cast any doubts or worry from Mary's mind. "She's lucky to have you and everyone else that cares about her. I was alone for a long time so I know how hard it can be to not have someone close enough."

"It was hard." Mary nodded. "But I don't know the details of anything because Paige never told us but knowing Cassie she was probably messing around on Paige."

Slowly it was making sense why Mary might be upset about what happened between her and Paige. She was there for her and she didn't even know what had brought Paige to her door. She didn't have an explanation and yet she didn't hesitate to be there for Paige when she was needed. She swallowed dryly. "She hit on me with her girlfriend standing a few feet away so I can see that being likely."

"Girlfriend in the singular is probably being nice." Mary chuckled and gestured to the pantyhose in her hand. "These are thick on the bottom so they'll protect your feet if you decide to ride without heels or boots. I honestly think barefoot would be beautiful with bareback riding but I can probably find you some flats too."

"That's so much better than heels." She agreed.

"Well, we don't want Ember getting hurt and especially with this all being new for you both the more comfortable you guys are...the better. We want steps forward not backwards."

She smiled because Mary had stood up for her against Sadie and the topic of what shoes to wear. Mary was clearly talented as Paige had said and truly a visionary with the appearance of performances. Even watching the girls during their act it was clear that she knew how to achieve the desired response from the audience. Their clothes were risky without being tacky and the details were beautiful. She glanced down at Mary's ripped jeans and admired the way even the tears where patched in spots with scarlet lace. Simple and still beautiful, the denim and lace matching to the blue dust around her eyes that was sparkled with a hint of ruby glitter. Even the nude nylon in her hands had a shimmer of silver from specks of glitter. It looked like the smallest amount of stardust had been brushed across the fabric. The thing that made her smile widen was the fact that Mary was so supportive and cared so much about the same things that were important to her too. She was wrong about Mary though. Mary wasn't as similar to Hanna as she had originally thought. Mary was so much more like Paige.

"What did you say to her?" Mary asked, bending down to aid with dressing.

She lifted her leg slightly so that Mary could slip the thin nylon over her foot, holding onto her shoulder to keep from falling over. "Same thing I told you." She smiled. "I'm seeing someone."

Her breath hitched as the heat of Mary's fingers guided up the length of her leg. Mary didn't seem to notice and as she stopped high in the crease of her thigh, she held her breath. Mary reached one hand to table behind her and returned with small white garter straps, clipping them from the nylon to the lace around her hips. She could feel her hand tremble on Mary's shoulder and she dropped it back to her side to keep her from noticing. Her cheeks warmed from embarrassment at the shaking and also the obvious fact that someone she hardly knew was touching her body in intimate places. As Mary snapped them into position her blue eyes flickered up with a soft smile tugging on her lips.

"If you react this way when I touch you like this... how are you going to react when Paige touches you here?" Mary clipped the last garter to the lace on her inner thigh, using its placement to drive home her question, proving her point as her breath caught hard in her throat again.

She swallowed hard and smiled as her cheeks flushed. "Hopefully better than I just did."

"No." Mary shook her head and guided the other strand of nylon over her other foot and up her leg. "This kind of reaction is perfect because its so natural and intense."

Hearing someone so important to Paige basically give her her blessing was powerful and her words left her mouth without thinking because it did feel natural...and more intense than she could have expected.

"I'm not gonna hurt her."

Mary's hands faltered at her knee but she nodded and continued up her thigh. "I didn't think for a second that you would. You're nothing like Cassie so don't doubt yourself when it comes to Paige. She wants you."

"What are the chances of Cassie leaving before she finds Paige?"

"Her game usually ends when she runs into one of us and I know she's here now so she'll probably take off. At least we can hope. But like I said...Paige has her attention on the right person." Mary smiled and attached the last garter then took a step back. "Okay you need to pick a color. Any ideas?"

She looked over at the pile of dresses Mary had set down on the chair. "Which one were you and Sadie talking about? When you asked if me and Paige were the same size?" She clarified.

Mary just smiled and shook her head firmly. "Lets try and go a little easy on Paige with the first dress. She struggled enough with the card game."

"You didn't drop your cards on accident did you?"

"I've never dropped my cards." She shook her head and turned towards the racks. "In fact I have ways of making people drop theirs."

She pushed her body forward and ran her fingers down a dress of gold silk and then over a black gauze speckled with tiny clear rhinestones. She kept her eyes to the different colors and textures when she heard Mary's jeans unzip and fall to the floor. That came from years of changing in locker rooms but it still made her cheeks warm. It'll take time getting used to how comfortable the girls are with their bodies but it only made her appreciate Paige's choices that much more. The way her thermal shirts cling to her tightly and her boots run the length of her calves. Her body is covered but that only creates the extreme desire to uncover it.

Her fingers stopped moving and her eyes landed on a color that made everything else disappear around her. She reached instantly for the hanger and pulled it down to study it. Luckily Mary was tightening a white corset over her chest because she didn't hesitate to turn around and hold the dress out to her. "This one?"

Mary smiled and pulled the threads tight across her chest. She had already slipped into a pair of high-waisted midnight blue satin shorts and when paired with the corset it resembled an old fashion one piece bathing suit. It was timeless and classic with a pair of thin black nylons and her high black boots.

"I spent weeks making it for Faye and she changed her mind on the color when I was done." Mary smiled, slipping her arms into a tight black half-length blazer that buttoned below her breasts. "The color is perfect. You'll match and Paige is fond of that shade already."

Mary reached for the dress and pulled it from the hanger, holding it open for her to step inside. She inched it up and slipped her arms under the hair-thin straps as Mary zipped the back. It hugged her tightly and turned to feather light gauze at the waist, only falling a few inches down her thighs. It was easily one of the shortest things she had ever worn but it was perfect. The flowing fabric around her hips wouldn't be constricting while riding and would be beautiful in movement. Her mind was made up the second she saw the color. The fact that it fit perfectly was just a bonus.

"What do you think?" Mary asked, stepping back to study it.

"I think its perfect too."

Mary crinkled her eyes and shook her head, making her heart sink. "It's not quite right but it will be. Lets get you dressed and I can work on making it perfect." She reached and pulled the zipper down again, letting the dress fall to the floor. "Besides, Paige should be back any minute and we don't want her seeing this."

She jumped when banging sounded on the door, her hands instinctively flying to cover her chest as she looked down. The corset covered everything down to the lace around her hips and the nude nylon took care of her legs but the garter straps made the entire thing more erotic.

"Mary open up!" Sadie's voice filtered through the door as she knocked again.

"Hold the fuck on!" Mary shouted and then turned to face her again. "I'll get started on this now. It should be ready in a few hours."

She nodded and stepped out of the dress. "So...umm how do improvs work exactly?"

"Hmmm." Mary's eyes twinkled as she smiled and hung the dress onto the hanger again. "Yeah I can be done with it by then but just keep this detail to yourself."

Her eyes furrowed briefly but they relaxed as butterflies took up residence in her throat, slamming down hard into her stomach. Walls of fire entered her mind and a blazing ring that was smaller than it needed to be. Those things should deter her but they didn't. It just made the idea more appealing.

"Mary open the fucking door!" Sadie's fist made contact with the solid wood, though it may have been a boot.

Mary smiled and ignored it, reaching for the garter straps around her thighs and pulling the pantyhose down for her to step out of. She fidgeted with the lacing on the corset but Mary's hands instantly took over and made quick work of the threading, loosening it from her chest. She didn't even realize it had fallen to the floor until Mary handed over her lace bra from the chair with a smile.

"I'll work on getting you something in this color."

She smiled comfortably and slipped the thin lace around her body, snapping the clasp as Mary bent down and picked up the pantyhose, bunching it up in her hands and tossing her jeans up from the floor.

"Thanks." She slid into tight denim and her boots. Mary waited as she pulled her pink tank top over her head before she moved to unlock the door with a glare in her eyes. "Mary?"

She stopped with her hand on the doorknob and turned back to her with curious eyes. "Yeah?"

"I know we don't know each other very well but can you promise me something?" Mary nodded before she continued. "Can you not tell Paige what we talked about? I want her to tell me when she's ready even if that's never...I just..."

"Yeah of course." Mary swallowed weakly and nodded again. "You're good for her."

"Mary!" The voices shouted from the hallway again. She smiled and ducked her head away as Mary rolled her eyes and turned reluctantly back to the door.

"Ladies?" She cocked her head and grinned sarcastically as she let the girls in. "That lip gloss looks good on you, Sadie."

Sadie scoffed and looked at her instead. "Emily! Did you find anything you like?"

" not really." She shook her head and looked at Mary and the smile she was fighting as she bit her lower lip. "I guess I'm pickier than I thought."

"Awe don't worry we'll find something perfect for you." Sadie smiled encouragingly and immediately stripped her body of her clothing and pulled dresses down from hangers.

She turned and immediately inched her way around the girls to the open door, keeping her eyes cast to the red carpet because their modesty was lacking. Mary touched her arm and brought her to a stop as she leaned in.

"I'll find you later when I'm done?"

She smiled and nodded. "Thank you."

"Anytime." Mary smiled and slapped her ass as she moved through the doorway. "Go find Riley if you have time."

"Annnnd she's back." She teased, smiling over her shoulder as Mary gave her a pointed look.

Her blue eyes sharpened, playful and beautifully inappropriate as always. "I don't know what hell you're talking about, Ems."

She stopped and returned the serious smirk. "Ems?"

"What? I'm working on it." Mary shrugged "It's hard to top Paigey."

You're just gonna have to get tips from Molly." She chuckled. "She's the Paigey creator right?"

"She's pure talent." Mary nodded and looked back into the room as something loud crashed inside. "Are you fucking kidding me, Faye? Son of a bitch!"

She smiled and turned on her heels towards the kitchen. She now needed to find Riley especially with this new development on her mind because testing it would be a big deciding factor first and foremost. Every part of her hoped that Paige would be done soon because after unknowingly running into Cassie she felt scammed and really just wanted to see Paige and hold her. She was more determined now to keep Paige's mind away from the fact that Cassie might turn up...again. Paige already didn't want to be in a place that should feel like her home and that wasn't fair. Part of her wanted to go on a mission to track down the blonde hair and green eyes just to make sure she was gone but the biggest part wanted to find the auburn waves and chocolate eyes...the heat of her touch. Her body plowed hard into someone coming through the outside door. She reached on reflex to stop her from falling backwards to the ground and just seeing who she was touching had her heart hammering up into her throat.

"Shit...sorry!" She swallowed hard.

"Are you hungry?"

She flipped another paper over and stared down at the one Sydney had just placed in front of her. "No I'm good. Mary made pancakes though so if you're smart you'd head over and see if there's any left. They're good."

"Peter brought a plate over already and I'm only asking if you're hungry because you've been over here for hours and I want you to leave."

She crinkled her eyebrows and looked at the clock. She had left Emily around nine and it was now pushing noon. "Shit."

"I've got this Paige its my job." Sydney frowned and knelt down beside the desk. "You've got plenty to do without stressing yourself over something like this. You know it's not gonna be a problem, I can handle it."

She looked down at the schedule in front of her and forms for the inspectors that liked to show up unannounced. Everything always went smoothly but it was stressful to sit behind mounds of paperwork and go over all of the files on safety regulations and make sure everything was current and up to par. Animal specialists for the tigers had to be brought in for health visits regularly, especially Stella because she traveled, and other specialists came to inspect their enclosure which meant she had to check in on each individual worker to make sure they were doing their individual jobs. It was one large chain of dominoes that could fall if one person messed up and it was completely overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time. To be responsible and in control of something that expanded everyday. Usually inspectors came while they were away because the grounds were closed and inspections went faster and smoother without crowds of people but the paperwork needed to be done in advance. Sydney usually handled the actual walk-throughs.

"Yeah okay." She caved and stood from the desk, sighing when Sydney's eyes followed her as she walked to the doorway. She stopped and turned to face her. "What's your argument this time?" She asked, leaning restlessly into the door frame.

Sydney shrugged and dropped into the chair. "I've got nothing." She sighed and slipped her tiny glasses over her nose as she studied the papers.

"Bullshit, Syd." She crossed her arms impatiently. "You called when we were in Charleston for nothing? When we were two days away from being back home? Somehow I doubt it. "

"They have a baby due in seventeen months in San Diego and I think it's a good opportunity."

"And there it is." She groaned and slumped against the door. This has been Sydney's battle for the last six years, first with her parents and now with her. "Syd..." Her mouth gaped as she shook her head lightly. "I don't know how many times I have to repeat ..."

"I know I know." Sydney cut her off and kept her head down to the paperwork. "I'm just saying I don't see the problem with it. This opportunity doesn't come around very often...but I know..."

"No, you don't know because you keep pushing this. We'd have to stop traveling and I love moving. It's the only thing that makes this bearable sometimes."

"You wouldn't have to stop traveling, Paige. Your great grandparents traveled and.. "

"And look how that turned out." She retorted. "It's already not fair for Stella to be locked up so much and now Ember."

"It could stay here when you're gone." Sydney shifted in her chair to face her with points she wanted to make just swirling around in her mind like she had a list of them planned out in advance. "Wait who's Ember?"

"Emily's horse and no!" She snapped, her voice was climbing because this was such a repetitive conversation. They've had it a hundred times before. Sydney had been here since her grandparents days the same way Peter had. Shes an invaluable part of the team because she knows everything so well but even that was beginning to sound less important on the resume. This was getting old and though sadly she had considered it several times...she knew she would have to power through and deal with repeat arguments. "Do you think its fair for Harley and Chloe to be shuttled around? I don't get to work with them like I do with Stella and you want me to add to the animals that I already don't have time to train."

"You could find someone extra to train it."

"And then that someone would be staying here too because I promise you I'm not traveling with..." She forced a deep breath before continuing. "I'm arguing myself in circles with you. Theres a reason we don't have one and a reason my great grandparents lost theirs. It's not humane and it's not fair and I'm not gonna change my mind so please Syd...please just drop it."

"Okay." Sydney threw her hands up and picked up her pen from the desk as she flipped through papers.

She opened her mouth to apologize or to continue to stress her reasoning but what was the point? She wasn't gonna change her mind and Sydney needed to accept that fact. Her pride told her to stomp out of the room but she couldn't. She also knew apologizing wouldn't change Sydney's mind either.

"Sydney...I just don't want to...""

Sydney set her pen down and pulled her glasses off with light eyes. "I know." She smiled softly. "You know better about these things and you're right. It's just an exciting idea isn't it?"

She sighed and dropped her arms back to her sides, slightly shocked by Sydney's submission. "Yeah it is but it's not right for us. Not now."

"You have 17 months." Sydney smiled stubbornly and put her glasses back on.

She shook her head. "You're unbelievable." Sydney was never gonna drop it anymore than she would stop fighting it.

"So Emily hmm?"

A smile tugged at her lips from Sydney's attempt to change the subject and that was her cue to leave and find that subject. "She's amazing!" She called over her shoulder as she pushed through the door and out into the hot day. She needed to shower and change but all she wanted was to see Emily and avoid the girl she knew was nearby. She recognized her with a group of girls on her way to Sydney's office and she wanted to steer clear at all costs. If Cassie couldn't find her or if she ran into someone else first then she'd probably leave. Here's to hoping she ran into Riley or even Peter. Anyone to blow her conniving game up in her face and end it early.

She walked cautiously through the crowds, taking a deep breath as she broke through the other side and Ember came into view beside the kitchen car. He perked up as she approached and she ran her fingers down his neck in passing, not breaking her stride to jump up onto the train so she could begin her search for ...


Emily wrapped her arms around her waist as she slammed into her in the doorway, nearly knocking her backwards towards the ground below. She would have gladly taken a face full of gravel because Emily was touching her again but she managed to lean forward into her and keep her footing.

"Hey, I just got done with Mary I was coming to find you." Emily's face lit up and she instantly pulled her closer by the hem of her thermal.

"Is it weird that I was only gone a few hours and I missed you?" She breathed, walking Emily back and away from the open door.

Emily leaned back into the wall and bit her lower lip to hide her smile as she shook her head. "No...its not."

Her eyes crinkled down to Emily's lip and just as they did Emily released it from between her teeth and pressed into her, pulling her flush against her body with her tight grip on her shirt. Their lips parted before touching and her breath was fire across her tongue. She brought her hands up instantly to Emily's cheeks, cradling her carefully as Emily pushed herself deeper, ripping a moan from the back of her throat with just the tip of her tongue. She pulled away for a quick breath and moved in again, sucking softly on Emily's lower lip and then moving to appreciate her top in the same tender way. In the few hours that she had been gone it was like her body had forgotten the taste while memorizing it at the same time. It was new and familiar. The first kiss and every kiss after. She was lost in the curves of Emily's tongue and the way she traced it over the roof of her mouth making her moan again.


She recognized the voice so she slowly pulled from Emily's lips. There was no hurry and they had nothing to hide. In fact Emily continued to land a few small kisses against her lips as she turned to see Mary leaning in the doorway of the next car back.

"Yes?" She sighed impatiently, dropping her hands from Emily's cheek and massaging them into the back of her neck instead. Now more than ever she felt bad for falling asleep with Emily outside on the ground. It was a stupid idea and she could only imagine how uncomfortable it probably was. Personally she was used to sleeping anywhere but Emily wasn't.

Mary smiled and took a step back, readying her retreat from the room. "Improv in two hours. Everyone wants to go out afterwards."

"Yeah, where?" She asked, her breath hitched when she felt Emily's head lean back into the wall.

"Ummm, Charq's..." Mary replied, squinting her eyes. "Hey can you stop doing that vampire soul mate shit with Emily right now... before she faints?" Her smile widened.

She crinkled her eyebrows in confusion and looked back at Emily melting in her hands as they worked over her neck. Her eyes were soft but they sharpened at Mary's observation and her cheeks flushed.

Mary just laughed and disappeared back through the doorway. "Take it easy on her, McCullen."

Emily's blush spread so she leaned in and pressed a kiss to the corner of her mouth, dragging her lips and hot breath to her jawline to kiss her again. Emily's lips parted as she sighed, her finger tightening around the hem of her blue thermal when she brought her lips to the sensitive skin below her ear.

"I have to get ready." She whispered, pressing one more quick kiss against Emily's neck as she pulled back. "We can get something to eat before the show if you want?"

She watched as Emily tightened her jaw and fluttered her eyes open, taking in the bright sunlight pouring through the door as her eyes readjusted. "Yeah, or I can go get something while you're changing...and bring it back here." Emily released her shirt and straightened herself from the wall.

"No, I'll be quick I promise." She kissed Emily lightly on the cheek and stepped away, moving towards the car door. A few angry words flew through her mind and were directed at the person who thought an improv was a good idea...since it meant she had to leave Emily's side, but those words passed quickly because as much as she was hated it at the moment she still had work to do and there was comfort in Emily being so close. Close and hopefully she'd remain untouched by Cassie's games.

"I...I'm gonna find Riley while I wait for you." Emily stated. "Mary... thought he might be looking for me."

She frowned as Emily stumbled over her words. "Probably something to do with a blazing death ring?" As much as she tried, which wasn't much, she couldn't keep the distaste from her voice and she didn't plan on lying about it. "Not one of their best ideas if I'm being honest."

Emily slumped her shoulders and cocked her head to the side with a soft smile. "I'm nervous about it but I'm excited too."

She immediately sighed in defeat over nothing. Of course Emily was excited while she was just worrying and overreacting as usual. Her trust rested more with Ember than with Riley and she had to focus on that to keep herself from tracking Riley and Peter down. Mary was close by but she wasn't blind enough to think she really played a part in this idea. That would have solely been the boy's handy work. She would always want to protect Emily and while she couldn't protect her from everything, a fiery ring seemed to be a perfectly acceptable reason.

She bit her tongue and smiled anyways. "You're fearless."

"Not even close." Emily chuckled, pressing a light kiss to her cheek as she turned towards the door. "Besides its time I get a little more daring what with you jumping from moving trains and taming ferocious tigers."

"I'd rather teach you to jump from trains and Stella is a baby!"

Emily just smiled and jumped down from the train, walking over to Ember's side and wrapping her fingers around the red velvet rope to lead him away. It hung loosely at her side and it wasn't necessary but Emily knew why it was needed there. She turned and smiled as she walked away and nothing had ever been so beautiful. Emily and Ember fit perfectly into this life.

Just under fifteen minutes. Record time for a shower considering all there was to accomplish. She wrapped herself quickly in a towel and stepped out of the tub, breathing deeply in the steamy bathroom. Her eyes fell softly on Emily's scarf still hanging from the towel rack. Seeing it there made her heart beat faster and when she noticed Emily's bag of shampoos and the ribbon-tied bar of soap she thought it might explode. It was Emily's things beside her own things...right where they belonged. Right where Emily belonged...with her.

She moved her body faster back into her bedroom, slipping quickly into her tight black pants and a red lace bra. Half of her closet was thermals the other half was what she needed at the moment. She slid her arms into white shirt, sucking her chest in to button the snug fabric and zipped her boots up her calves. Her hair was still soaked and she groaned from having to waste precious time drying it. The towel wasn't handling it fast enough but as it dried her long her twisted into waves on the ends, flowing lightly across her chest. A quick line of brown around her eyes and she was down, skipping the gloss because honestly she'd rather have Emily kissing her instead. She grabbed her velvet jacket and pulled it on before tucking her top hat under her arm and exiting the room. Record time again in only thirty minutes total. Emily was the best motivator ever.

The hallway was quiet but Mary was shuffling around the kitchen when she entered. She turned to her as she walked in the room and leaned against the counter, picking at an orange in her hand.

"You're two are seriously gonna kill each other." Mary smiled, pulling pieces of the peeling away.

"Well its about time you get to walk in on us since I've walked in so many times on you and Riley." She shot back. "Oh and Peter."

"Cute." She glared. "Once on Peter actually and that's because you never knock."

"I'm supposed to knock on the kitchen? Or how about the hallway?" She raised her eyebrows as Mary fought back a smile. "I'll make you a 'do not disturb, fucking in progress' post-it to slap on the doors so I know where to steer clear."

"And I'll remember this when I find you pinning Emily against walls." Mary winked and shook her head lightly as she looked down at her orange, her smile fading quickly.

She swallowed hard because Mary didn't often lack so much fight and the only times she did was when they were home. "You saw her too." She breathed. It wasn't a question because she already knew what the answer would be if it had been.

"Too." Mary nodded in agreement. "Yeah, being her sneaky little self."

"Fuck." She sighed.

"My instincts tell me you've left Emily in the dark on her and I know that simply because I'm not stupid. I know you." Mary shook her head and tossed peeling into the sink. "But... my question for you is why the fuck haven't you told her? I mean I get you not telling me details or anyone else for that matter and you know I've never asked but..."

"Because it doesn't matter." She sighed, and leaned into the counter. "She can show up all she wants and it's not gonna change anything between us. Its annoying but she's harmless."

"To everyone but you maybe." Mary rolled her eyes. "Come on Paige, you've always hated coming back home because she shows up every time and we all have to deal with the mess she leaves in her wake when you're all stressed out. Maybe it doesnt matter to you but have you thought about how much it would mean to Emily if you told her?"

"Well, it's really none of your fucking business." She felt her temper flare up the second Mary mentioned Emily and now it was boiling over, though...she didn't mean for it to show so heavily in her voice. Especially not in words directed at Mary.

Mary's eyes snapped up from the orange in her hands, turning to cold ice and contradicting the soft whisper of her voice. "Yeah, you're right...I'm sorry." She tossed the uneaten fruit in the sink and pushed past her, jumping down from train to fade away into crowds.

Her eyes slammed shut as she bit down on her tongue. She had had four years to move on and she had done it with flying colors in less than a few months. A few nights of drinking and a few weeks of manual labor with the show and she was fine. The only times she thought of Cassie at all was when she was home because she liked to show up just because she could. It was entertaining for Cassie and just plain annoying for her personally. Peter was right about what he said. They were a public establishment and she had no grounds to ban Cassie for simply being an ex-girlfriend. She couldn't kick her out without having to explain to everyone why she was doing it and that was something she didn't want to do. She was stronger now than she ever had been and she owed a lot of that to Cassie for teaching her what she didn't want. She now knew exactly what she wanted in life and in another person and none of it involved Cassie. They should make a hallmark card for ex-girlfriends along these lines.

'Thank you for fucking up because I now know what to avoid in the future. Despise, Paige.'

Cassie didn't hurt anymore... it was the fact that she had kept secrets from everyone around her because she didn't want them to look at her the way Mary just had. With sadness or pity for what had happened between them. They couldn't do that if they never knew the truth so it was better this way. At the time it was easier to let everyone assume and just smile and nod and let them think whatever the hell they wanted. They never questioned anything because she never offered any details to question. It meant she could attempt to pull the broken pieces of herself back together on her own just like she always had. As time went on Cassie became so far in the past that it was never necessary to explain the truth to anyone because it wasn't relevant anymore. It wouldn't do anyone any good knowing either way.

Then why was there guilt tugging at her from the helpless emotion in Mary's voice?

Because Emily was right.

Mary was one, if not the only, other person directly hurt by Cassie leaving. She could only blame herself for the pain in Mary's eyes the same way she had once blamed herself for Cassie's choices. She'd hurt her without meaning to and the only thing that was unclear was the extent of the damage. The fallout from this could be worse than she'd expected. If Mary had suffered then Riley would be affected too and the only person that left was Peter.

Her boot slammed hard into the kitchen cabinet and echoed off the walls.

Just by knowing Peter's past it was easy to see how he might have been hurt as well. She had lied to her entire family because of something as useless as pride. Telling them now would only do more damage. Mary was just as right about Emily too. She shouldn't have left her in the dark but she also didn't want Emily touched by anything that had to do with Cassie in any way. She had joked with Mary about using their names together but this wasn't a joke. There was no humor in why Emily should never come in to contact with Cassie. She pushed her body to move, jumping down from the train and beginning a determined trek to find Emily. This was what she had wanted, right? For Cassie to run into someone else first so she'd be more likely to give up and leave sooner rather than later. Then why did she feel worse than before knowing that it had been Mary to see her? What if it had been Emily?

The inside of the tent was completely dark except for a few small lights. The black-out curtains had been drawn across the interior keeping all sunlight from bleeding through the stripes and thus creating the sense of night. While the crowds had grown slightly outside people were lingering around the grounds and the inside of the tent was still empty except for a few. One of which was exactly who she was looking for.

Emily stood beside Ember, running her fingers down his nose as she watched Mary and Riley.

"Hungry?" She smiled, stopping by her side and following her gaze to the argument at hand.

"Nooo." Riley pleaded.

"You said you'd let me and now you're changing your mind?" Mary slapped his arm and held her empty hand out to him.

"I said I would let you lay on the hood, for my personal enjoyment." Riley clarified. "I never said you could dance on it with boots."

"If you ever want to see me laying on it, clothed or otherwise, then you're going to let me dance on it." Mary said smiled matter-of-factly. "Its the best prop ever and these boots have grip soles, they aren't going to scratch the paint."

"Mar, no." Riley whined, growing weak from Mary's hand moving to rest on his hip as she stepped closer. "No. No. No."

"Who are you trying to convince?" Mary smiled, leaning in to press into his bottom lip.

"Please make it a really really good dance." Riley caved, dropping the keys into her hand.

"Obviously." She smiled against his lips and kissed him again before pulling away, turning to a group of workers standing nearby. "Lets get the side curtain open please!" She waved her hands at the men to hurry and they darted over, tugging fabric that slid open on tracks to let larger objects through.

"Ooookay no, gimme those." Riley snatched the keys for Mary's hand, putting his hand over her mouth before she could protest with profanities that she was likely planning. "I'll drive it in, you can use it as a stage. Deal?"

Mary glared and smacked his hand away. "I can drive stick."

"Yes I know you can babe but..." Riley agreed but this time Mary smack him upside the head and made him laugh as he ducked away, still holding the keys out of her reach. "Babe..."

"Where's your mother?" She threatened.

"Why?" Riley suddenly became more serious. "You wouldn't!"

She rolled her eyes away from them arguing and looked at Emily again who just shook her head and smiled. "And you're still gonna tell me that that's not love?"

"That's plain dysfunctional." She swallowed dryly and shook her head with a weak smile that meant she wasn't going to argue with Emily any further. She didn't have it in herself to wrap her head around anyone else being right about things that she should have noticed on her own. Things that, if she had been paying attention to one of the most important people in her life, she would have seen. That was hard to accept. Suddenly it felt like she had failed the people around her. The sad part was that it wasn't a matter of if Mary loved Riley. That was just a smoke screen because obviously it was a good thing. The problem was that she knew them all so well yet she had worked so hard to keep them from knowing her too.

"You're blind." Emily teased with a smile, dropping her hand from Ember's neck as she sighed.

"Yeah you're probably right." She sighed. "Even the blind need to eat though. Are you still hungry?"

Emily furrowed her eyebrows and looked around at the empty arena. "Yeah how much time do you have?"

"We probably have thirty minutes or so before I should be back here for sound checks." She looked over her shoulder at Peter testing the sound booth equipment near the center ring. This wasn't like the tear down booth they used for traveling. It was a built-in, crescent-shaped table that rested between the center and right rings and it never went anywhere. Part of the behind the scenes feel was having it out and in front of the audience and it created a whole new experience.

Emily smiled and nodded. "Sounds good to me."

"Ummm, so did you test the fire?" She swallowed hard and looked nervously over at the metal ring and barriers then back at Emily for any signs of injury. There was nothing. "How'd Ember take it?"

"Uh, yeah I'm not sure he's quite ready but we'll work on it." She smiled and moved towards the tent opening, hesitating to look back at Ember. "I can leave him here right?"

"Yeah, I got him." Mary appeared beside him and smiled at Emily, I'll take him to the post out back."

"Thanks" Emily smiled.

"Anytime." Mary didn't even look at her. She kept her blue eyes to Emily and then straight to Ember as she led him away. It only made her clench her jaw to keep from screaming at herself.

She forced a breath and looked at Emily instead and instantly her body relaxed. "Ready?"

Emily crinkled her eyebrows as she looked after Mary and Ember. "Yeah." She nodded.

Finding something to eat was easy. Luckily Emily was just like she was and don't care as long as it was food. Variety seemed to work best for both of them so why not try it all. She was juggling fries and a salad along with a bottle of water and Emily was carrying popcorn and the worlds best cotton candy. If there was one thing the circus was bad for it was sticking to a diet because there was no way of that being successful. Thankfully with all of the actual manual labor that came with the job sometimes, and how tired everyone was by the end of the day, she forgot to eat at all let alone had time or energy to carry around armfuls of fried food and spun sugar.

"So did you and Mary find anything?" She asked, dropping the food down to the ledge of the half wall and scooting herself up to sit. "You guys were working on costumes right?"

"Yeah." Emily slid up beside her and nodded, plucking a french fry from the stack. "I don't know how much progress we made. There's a few things I liked but I don't know if you've been in that room before because it's a little overwhelming."

"I have been in there so yes...I know." She smiled. "Where do you think Ember's ribbon and feathers came from? I try to avoid it at all cost but that was visit was an exception."

"I like it its just...a lot to take in." Emily chuckled. "We tried on the basics but I'm still trying to decide what I want." She picked up the salad and scooped up a few bites.

She probably shouldn't but she felt relieved that they hadn't found a dress yet, more importantly that Mary hadn't whipped out a certain outfit that she had been boycotting for years. The girls had made it for her and she had never even tried it on. At least she found comfort in the fact that Emily hadn't either. Red velvet was fine in jacket form but the girls had taken it to a whole new level.

Emily shifted on the half wall to face her. "So how do improvs work exactly?"

"Pretty much the same show, same music but just a little less organized." She smiled when Emily did and loved the interest in her brown eyes. "The girls usually work the audience a little more than they normally would and...obviously Riley's car has become a prop."

She directed her eyes to the turquoise muscle car speeding recklessly through the open side curtain. Mary had won out on the battle, which wasn't surprising. She sat behind steering wheel while Riley was likely pale in the passenger seat. The tires dug into the dirt track as she hit the gas then skidded to a hard stop in front of the center ring barriers, throwing a high wall of gravel into the front left side of the front row. It would make for a perfect spot to be seen by everyone if the entire middle section wasn't blinded by shards of earth. Of course Mary knew the spot was right all on her own. While Mary and Riley got into trouble with each other...Mary was the most dedicated part of the show besides herself and honestly... sometimes she was better. She was possibly the only one that had never actually complained about anything and while she put up fights sometimes, her heart was always with her work. She had a lot of respect for Peter but with everything that Mary had been through in her life she had so much respect for her. She swallowed hard and picked over the fries, distracting herself because the guilt crashed through her again.

"That's definitely gonna be entertaining to watch." Emile smiled

She looked up and followed Emily's eyes to Mary climbing up on the hood of the car with her arms crossed as she argued again with Riley.

"The fighting or the routine?" She laughed. "The girls are good but throw in Mary and Riley getting into a heated argument and it becomes so much better. Mary dressed in next to nothing, swearing at Riley while he tosses fire."

"Well, Mary has good aim so how about Mary throwing objects at Riley while he swears..wearing next to nothing."

She laughed and nearly spit a french fry. "Okay or, Riley singing and dancing around in a corset while Mary throws fire and glass objects."

"Perfect!" Emily grinned. "Encore!"

She shook her head and laughed. "Wow you are already just as messed up as the rest of us."

Emily smiled proudly and shrugged. "Its easier than it looks."

Her cheeks warmed and she had to force herself to look away from Emily's smile. The happiness she felt by just sitting here with her was indescribable and so unreal. That was the perfect word. Unreal. None of it felt real and she would be perfectly happy if it stayed that way forever. Her history proved that the universe had a fucked up little way of sneaking up on her when she was finally happy and pulling the rug out from under her feet, laughing as she fell to the ground along with all of the broken pieces left of her life...and heart. 'Here you go Paige... be happy. Please be happy so that you have something that I can rip from you when you're not expecting it.' The problem was that after so many falls of her own she had never stopped expecting it. She possibly never would and that was either a blessing or a curse. It was good because it wouldn't hurt so much and bad because it kept her from really living sometimes. She didn't feel like that when she was with Emily. The ground moved when she was around and the difference was that she had instantly adjusted to the rotation. It was effortless and right and made perfectly for her.

"Check!" Peter's voice echoed through the speakers as he checked the sound board.

They ate a little faster and cleaned up, stretching against the wall as she slid back to the ground. She could hear crowds growing outside. The small dim house lights shut down completely as Peter tested emergency exit signs and then quickly flipped through an array of colored lights as he tested each one. He moved through fifty light combinations in just over a minute and then proceeded to test two-second snippets of the entire song list before shutting it all down and reaching for a water bottle. Other performers had begun filing into the arena through the side curtain and were now rearranging props and heading into the back to change and get ready.

Emily nudged her arm. "So much for your new act." She whispered.

Her shoulders sunk as she followed Emily's eyes to Riley's car. Mary was now sitting on the teal hood with her tall boots kicked up on the chrome bumper as Riley dropped to the ground to adjust the fire line on one of the barriers he had rigged for Emily. She ran her fingers absent-mindedly over the black nylon on her thigh, her hair falling over her shoulders and shadowing her face in way that made her look exactly the way Emily had been seeing her.

"Damn I was relying on that act." She joked half-heartedly and sighed at the way Mary was quietly watching Riley work. She owed her an apology for snapping at her earlier and seeing her sitting there like that made her grasp the fact that she actually owed Mary more than just the one. "I'm gonna go talk to her for minute."

Emily nodded and reached for the bottle of water still sitting on the ledge, finishing it off and tossing it into the recycling bin by the front row. She leaned against the half-wall again, picking at the bag of cotton candy as she waited.

She was only halfway to Mary when she looked up and met her eyes. The blue that had been ice earlier hadn't changed and she could tell Mary was biting the inside of her cheek, hard judging by the way she crinkled her eyebrows and looked down at Riley again. She forced a deep breath. It was only Marley, the girl who was probably stronger than she could ever be. The one that could take every snarky line of banter and return it without missing a beat. The girl that kept everyone on their toes and the girl that they'd all do anything for because she was always there when you needed her and she never asked why. Four years ago she had...

"Doors in thirty, curtain in forty, Paige!" Peter called over from the sound booth as he pulled his headset off and handed it over to one other tech guys.

"Fuck! Seriously?" She snapped, stopping in her tracks. Frustration passed through her ripping her from her thoughts so abruptly that she didn't expect to say it out loud yet it ended up echoing off the stands. It wasn't that she didn't want to have the improv for Molly but at the moment she wanted to talk to Mary before she lost the bravery that was in those french fries...or salad or wherever the hell it had come from. The moment of clarity that was finally enough to make her admit to herself that something was bothering Mary and that it was most definitely her fault. She needed to apologize...for a lot.

Looking over at her sitting on the car she was met with a sarcastic smile as Mary chuckled at her outburst, shaking her head as she slipped down from the hood and walked off towards the back stage area, leaving her to stare after her which was what she probably deserved anyways. It was like the calm before the storm. Fuck.

"Marley!" Little Molly appeared through the side curtain followed close behind by her mom and Sydney. She ran straight into Mary's arms and was scooped into a hug.

Peter shook his head and smiled. "Are you and Mary having a fight or something?"

"Yeah or something."

Peter nodded but refrained from using his wisdom to say anything else on the subject and she loved him for that. "Rounds?" He asked.

She sighed and looked over her shoulder at Emily with apologetic eyes but she just smiled encouragingly and pushed off the wall. "Em, you can come with me if you want."

"I'll wait out here with Peter." She said sweetly, making him smile and nod as she walked closer. "Do what you have to do and I'll see you at intermission. I don't want to miss Mary and Riley fighting and dancing in scant clothing." She teased

She took a deep breath, now even more reluctant to work because of how understanding and patient Emily was with all of the craziness going on around her. "After this improv we the rest of the day."

"And tomorrow." Peter added, flipping a sheet up on the clipboard in his hand.

She squinted her eyes and turned to face him. "Tomorrow?"

"Yeah, rain is following us and we can't have people walking around the grounds during a storm in tornado season. We need to close down after the show."


"At least we don't have to worry about issuing refunds since we don't charge here."

A smiled tugged at her lips as she turned to Emily again. "Okay so we have today and tomorrow." She corrected.

"Go I'll be fine." Emily assured, moving towards the sound booth where Peter was standing.

Arms wrapped around her waist as she was turning away. "Paigey!" Molly smiled, hugging her legs and looking up at her. Her bouncy chocolate curls were free around her face and green eyes twinkled.

"We match." She smiled and crouched down to her height, fluffing her red puffy dress. "Are you excited?"

Molly just nodded and giggled as she looked over at Emily and Peter, immediately running over pass round her amazing little hugs.

"Emily has cotton candy." She shouted after her, winking at Emily as she threw her under the bus. "Keep her company, Molly."

Emily ducked her head and smiled as she turned to retrieve the bag off the ledge.

"I've checked everything out here so all you have to do is the back." Peter sighed and handed over the clip board, stretching his arms over his head. "You girls are tough and you'll be fine." He frowned and even he seemed unsure.

"Yeah I hope so." She smiled lightly and pushed past him towards the back curtains, hoping work would take her mind off of everything that was for at least a few hours.

Ten minutes later and twenty to curtain call and her mind was finally starting to relax. She was in her element now and that made every worry disappear. Everything felt right when she was surrounded by streams of colored velvets and silks as the tiny crystal lights twinkling overhead. It was the only place she could come to and feel like everything would be okay and now with Emily so close it was more than okay.

She checked the locks on Stella's cage, glancing around the small enclosed space for a moment to check off the lit exit signs before turning back to watch her sleep. She'd always be able to find peace in the strong breaths rolling through Stella's lungs and the purr that rattled in her throat. The grass was soft beneath her boots and though the sunlight shone brightly through the candy cane stripes the wind kicked up beneath the curtains and brought with it the scent of rain from a approaching storm and...summer fruit. Stella pulled herself to her feet and the soft purr vanished. Her muscles tensed and her jaw clenched because every part of her body knew that scent and reacted immediately out of habit, shutting down and locking up like a paralysis.

"Shes gotten so big."

Her eyes slammed shut but she didn't move. She should have expected this...she did actually but denial was strong sometimes.

"You're not allowed to be back here." She kept her voice steady though it felt anything but.

"Then tell me to leave, Ringmaster."

"Leave." She sighed lightly and continued checking over her clipboard, working regardless of the nuisance standing behind her. She checked Stella's locks again.

"Be nice, Paige."

She turned and kept her eyes averted from the girl, moving her body across the small space to grab Stella's rope. "What are you doing here?" She forced herself to keep her voice calm but it was hard. There were people nearby and this conversation needed to be over and done with before it had even started. "I ask you every time and you still can't give me an answer that means anything."

"Relax Paige I'm just here with friends."

"Either they don't know you yet or they're just like you." She moved back over to Stella and hooked the purple rope beside her cage so it was ready when she needed it. "In any case friend isn't a word that applies."

"Wow, after four years you're still pissed at me? I'm here because I wanted see how you were doing. I'm not trying to start anything."

"Well I'm doing great but your lying abilities have decreased with age." She dangled her fingers into Stella's cage, relaxing as her white fur brushed past. Stella was pacing uncomfortably. Somehow she felt the same way.

"And you haven't changed a bit. You're threatened by me being here because you're still scared and confused..."

She turned then, her eyes falling on long blonde hair and honey eyes speckled with green that she knew so well. She could feel the bile churn in her stomach by just hearing her voice but seeing her standing there smiling made it rise up her throat, struggling to choke it back. That was anger...not fear.

"See that's where you're wrong." She shot "It's not because I'm scared Cassie it's because I don't need to hurt you to feel better about myself. That's the difference between me and you.

Cassie's smile widened as she crossed her arms over her chest and jutted a hip. That stance made her cringe because it meant she was making herself comfortable for the moment, settling herself in.

"Oh please you needed me just like I needed you. You were happy with me."

"I was so happy." She agreed, seeing the way hope of victory shot through Cassie's eyes. Winning was the only thing that mattered to her and that was the sad truth. "At least you let me think I was for awhile. We needed each other for different reasons Cassie and my reasons were right. Can you say that about yours?"

"I didn't make you think anything that you didn't want to believe on your own."

"Yeah you're right you didn't make me. I was happy with you because I wanted to actually be happy and you just played along. Such a trooper."

"Come on Paige we weren't that bad. We had fun together, remember?"

"I know I wasn't bad!" She snapped, the level of her voice climbing. "I know that! That was all you...all on your own. Your idea of fun wasn't that same as mine."

Cassie stifled a laugh as she shook her head. "You're not innocent Paige. You created that game and you had no problem playing it with me because you wanted the same thing I did."

"I wanted you and I wanted you feel the same way but I learn from my mistakes Cassie. I don't pretend to be innocent. I don't show up where I'm not welcome and pretend to be a good person just... so you can check off the 'I did my best' box on your list of morals?"

"And you're so happy without me?" Cassie's voice was cold and taunting and that wasn't surprising at all. "Because something is still clearly bothering you so speak your mind for once."

"Yeah, the fact that you're on my property forcing yourself down my throat every time I'm here. You're pathetic."

It's amazing how important personality really is. You could be the most gorgeous person in the world and be the worst person too. Physical beauty is forgotten when you realize how ugly the interior is and there's nothing beautiful about Cassie's. The smirk on her face is set to cause harm and she doesn't care how transparent she is in the process.

"Yeah I remember you being pretty pathetic when it came to me." Cassie smiled, taking a step closer which she countered with a step back.

"I'm happy now because of a girl that's nothing like you. She's already everything you'll never be. You're so far gone and I'd...I'd like to think there's hope for you but fuck if I can anything redeeming. I have people around me that love me and I don't need you. Not anymore."

Cassie's eyes sparkled as something peaked her interest and a smile tugged at her lips that made her throat tighten. Realization struck as to why Cassie was here and honestly she knew all along. Denial doesn't work forever. Cassie wanted to make an example out of her and push her as far into the ground as possible because that's who she was. She took pleasure in humiliating people that saw through her bullshit.

"God you never even told any of them did you? That's why it's so easy for me to just walk in here." She smiled and shook her head, amazed that she hadn't figured it out sooner. Not that it would have changed anything because this only made Cassie feel like she was further ahead and closer to winning. "Are you afraid they wouldn't care or are you afraid that they'd treat you like the victim you always tried so hard not to be?"

"It's for your sake too...not just mine. I didn't do anything wrong. The only mistake I made was feeling anything for you. You'll never have anyone like them because nobody can stand to look at you once they know you." Cassie's eyes sharpened at the ugly truth, though for her was beautiful and she needed to say it out loud.

"Yeah? And how about dear mom and dad, Paige? How are they doing these days?"

"That's exactly what I'm talking about, Cassie. You cut throats to make yourself feel better. You grasp at straws just to stay in the game. You don't have limits do you? You pick at everything that hurts someone just to try to prove a point that you don't even have because you're ruthless. You only care about yourself which is why you're alone and I'm not...its why those people that you're with will never give a shit about you."

"What the hell is this?"

Her throat tightened as looked over to see Mary standing in the doorway, questions in her eyes as Riley slipped in behind her.

"Awesome its Marley." Cassie threw her hand up and let it slap down to her thigh as she glared into her. "Still showing up where you don't belong?"

"Yeah see that's the thing, Sweetheart." Mary smiled condescendingly and stepped closer, her arms relaxed across her chest. "I've been here the same way I always will be and you're still just a massive bitch so...who doesn't belong? Nothings changed here."

"And just like before this is none of your business." Cassie shot.

"It is my business actually." Mary kept her voice calm but judging by the flaming blue of her wouldn't last. "You coming here makes it my business because I've had to wonder for years about what you did to fuck up and we've all suffered.

"Just tell them Cassie..." She sighed weakly. "You keep coming here so that must be what you want because I can't find any other reason. It's what you want right?"

"No bullshit, Paige!" Mary snapped and glared at her just as quickly as she had with Cassie. "You tell me. You came to me after she bailed and you never told me why."

Cassie laughed mockingly. "You went to her?"

"Shut up, Cassie!" She shouted, not tearing her eyes away from the questions in Mary's eyes. Cassie didn't even deserve that acknowledgment and she didn't heed it regardless.

"You're such a fucking bitch, Marley. Seriously? I thought cock was more your speed but I guess the best whores enjoy having both."

The thing with Mary is that she has the strength to stay completely composed when she wants to. Pressure doesn't get to her unless she wants it to. You could say anything you want and she'll stay in control until she's ready and there's never a way of preparing yourself because what works one time won't work the next. Her terms.

"That's a compliment coming from you with your pack of sluts waiting outside." The control in Mary's eyes was cracking slowly. She readied an arm to block them from moving any closer to each other. "For four years we were here for her and where were you? You screwed up and left us to deal with your mess so just shut the fuck up... right now. You don't get to speak."

"Oh God Marley, you think you're so righteous? You fucked half the guys on the train." Cassie shot venom as she sized Mary up. "You never could keep your legs shut could you?"

"Half the guys in the world still wouldn't be as bad as hurting her. I only 'fucked' Riley."

"I didn't know that." Riley smiled proudly and puffed his chest, drawing Cassie's attention to him now which is exactly what he intended. The hero.

"And yet you still slept with her." She shook her head. "You guys are all fucked up."

Riley's smile widened. "Well yeah but..."

"Shut up, Riley..." Mary bit at the corner of her lip and whipped her head around to him.

"No let him speak for himself." Cassie smirked. "Even he's surprised you weren't whoring around."

"Disappointed actually." Riley corrected and shrugged nonchalantly as Mary smiled and shook her head in disbelief. "I thought you were more experienced, babe." He winked.

"Riley!" She pulled her eyes from Mary and Cassie to tear into him. Though his resilience was respectable it wasn't the best time. Peter walked in suddenly and popped Riley in the back of the head and he quickly sealed his lips in defeat.

"Oh, its Peter." Cassie smiled wider. "I'm pretty sure you were fucking Marley at one point."

"Actually you're the only one that slept around Cassie. That undesirable knowledge comes with knocking on doors every morning." He sighed as though he was bored out of his mind, or at least trying to appear that was. He was likely just trying to keep things from escalating any further but suddenly it was too late for that. "A word of're not actually required to answer the door."

"Are you fucking kidding me?" She stepped closer, breaking the glare-off Cassie was having with Mary and forcing her eyes back. "God, I guess I'm not surprised.

"Oh grow up, Paige." She retorted. "Life sucks."

"Because of people like you!" she snapped. "Fuck! Who was it?"

"Wait..." Mary demanded, edging up beside her again. "If Cassie cheating is news to you then what the hell is this all about?"

Cassie groaned impatiently "None of your fucking business!"

Mary pointed at her directly and her limit had been reached. The calm was gone and she knew why. For four years she had let them believe whatever they wanted and now that the whole truth was close... Mary wanted it. "I'm going to knock you on your ass the next time you open your mouth." Riley was there instantly with a hand firmly on Mary's arm, holding her back though it didn't phase her one bit.

"I'm not scared of you Marley so save it."

"Okay..." Mary stepped closer automatically and pushed the sleeve up on her black satin jacket as she clenched her fist. This time she brought her readied hand up against Mary's stomach to block her, pleading with her to take a step back.

"Don't." She whispered, locking onto Mary's blue eyes and begging her to stop. "I'm not about to fill out paperwork for you hitting a customer because that's exactly what I'd have to do. I'd be forced to let you go and I can't do that..."

Mary swallowed hard and the anger in her eyes dissolved, helplessness making itself known again. It wasn't something she was used to seeing in her and the effect it had was heart breaking.

"Paige, please just tell me because I'm fucked up over something I don't even know the details to so...just give me that." Mary choked on her words but her determination was stronger. She felt her eyes sting from seeing her this way, knowing that it was her fault. "I think I've been more than understanding..."

"Whores are always so understanding aren't they, Marley?" Cassie laughed, zeroing in on Mary's vulnerability in that moment because that's what she did best. She vultures around and tears people apart until there's nothing left and then she basks in the pleasure she takes from hurting others.

Cassie stepped closer and her body tensed, pressing firmer against Mary's stomach to keep her back. One glance at Riley and she knew he had tightened his grip on her arm too.

"She doesn't have it in her to blame anybody but herself." Cassie spat. "That's all she's ever done. She blames herself for everything because she knows she's not ever going to be good enough. She can't even be good enough for whatever perfect person she created in her head that nobody could ever live up to." Cassie's eyes locked onto her now. "You can't even be honest with your so called family so who do you have Paige?"

"For fucks sake Cassie with the nonstop shit flying out of your mouth!" Mary shouted. Riley pulled her back more but she dropped her hand from Mary's stomach, trusting in his strength to hold her as she turned to Cassie on her own.

Enough was enough the second she saw the hurt in Mary's eyes that didn't belong there. It was her fault that it was there at all and this had been a long time coming. She was done being too scared to speak up and defend herself. She was too scared to be weak like Peter always teased and while it was innocent on his hit too close to home. The only reason Cassie is brave enough to be here is because she's relying on her silence. If Cassie believed for one second that she was strong enough to tell everyone the truth about her then she never would have come at all.

"You're right!" She snapped, seeing the first falter in Cassie's eyes. "I can't blame anyone and you all know that...but its because of you, Cassie. It's because I wanted to be happy with you and you made me feel worthless. You made me feel like I needed you and that I'd be nothing without you. I still can't blame you for anything you did but I at least have it in me now to tell everybody everything that I have to to keep you from coming back here. That's what you want right? For everyone to know so you can feel proud of your handy work and your ability to screw with my life?"

Cassie smirked uneasily. "Paige..."

"No shut up." She cut off her words. "I'm giving you what you want aren't I? I'm talking now? I looked up to you I trusted you which is exactly what you wanted. I wasn't moving fast enough for you because I wasn't ready and you knew that but you were so set on getting your way. You wanted me so you could steal money from parents and so you could keep buying that shit that you slipped me the first time..." Her throat tightened but she pushed on, biting back the closing of her throat. She was too determined to ever let Cassie see her broken again because she was so far from that place now. "I woke up confused and alone I found you sitting around with your friends like nothing had happened. I realized how fucked up you were but I fought it. I stayed with you because I doubted myself. I blame myself for everything you did and I protected you from my parents finding out. Then when I'd finally had enough and told you to leave you threw me into a wall to say thank you. You won.."

Movement slowed around her and the first thing she noticed was Cassie's eyes flicker to Riley releasing Mary's arm and voluntarily taking a step back. Time picked up in double as Mary's fist made contact with Cassie's jaw and threw her back stumbling. She hated the chivalrous part of her that reached and grabbed onto Cassie's arm to keep her from falling, her reflexes were working faster than her mind but that was for herself...not Cassie and she released her instantly, maybe so that she could be the one to hit her this time. The reason was unclear and she didn't have time to pick one.

"Fuck!" Cassie snapped, her hand flying to her mouth and smearing the blood on her lip.

Her concern wasn't for Cassie. She turned to face Mary, stepping in front of her to block the way just as she pushed forward, pulling her arm back to hit Cassie again. She reached for her red hand but it was quickly yanked away as her body froze. Her blue eyes glistened and the helplessness on her face was like a bludgeon to her whole body, all tension fading from her body as if every once of fight in her was gone. That was a confusing thing to see because Mary always had so much.

"I fired myself this morning." She said weakly. "Let me have the last improv for Molly and I'm gone. Saves you the paperwork."

"Mar..." She reached for Mary's arm again as she turned away towards the curtain but immediately it was ripped from her.

"Please don't." Mary breathed, disappearing through a stream of blue. Riley sighed and followed after her slowly so her eyes shot to Peter instead.

"Fix the paperwork, Peter." She demanded, forgetting Cassie behind her as she moved to follow Mary. "She's not going anywhere."

"I already fixed it I just need you to sign it." Peter looked at her softly but she kept her eyes to the ground as she edged around him. "You're gonna need her to sign it too."

Her legs faltered as she heard his words but it wasn't the main reason. The main reason was the girl standing just behind him. The girl with her arms wrapped protectively around her chest...again. She clenched her jaw and swallowed the burn in her throat, forcing herself to focus.

"I'm sorry, Em." She whispered, leaning in to kiss her cheek without really looking at her. She couldn't. Emily was holding herself together the way she had in Rosewood, but she was also lucky to be more separated from the whole situation because she wasn't there four years ago. There were people that her actions had hurt more directly than Emily, thankfully. She felt guilty for feeling thankful over something like that.

She pushed through the curtain and tossed every emotion she was feeling to the hard ground, trampling them over as the crowd began chanting for their entertainment. The anger at Cassie being here, the guilt and pain that came when she thought of the way she had never confided in the people that loved her or explained why Cassie enjoyed showing up here unannounced. She knew Peter and Riley completely but why didn't she try to really know Mary? The only girl that without fail would have been there for her for the last five years and she had pushed her away instead. Mary didn't deserve to hear the truth this way. Not on Cassie's terms, not under her vicious attacks and insults. She deserved more than that. She could have protected Mary from this if she had told her everything years ago and now what? Cassie had what she wanted, aside from a busted lip. Cassie had pranced her way in and insulted the people she loved and the only person to blame, as usual, was herself. She let Cassie have that power by trying to be strong when she should have just trusted her family. Even her own parents hadn't known and that only made her feel worse.

Her feet faltered as she saw Mary blocking Riley with her shoulder just behind the entrance into the arena. He was trying to check her hand but she pulled away, wiping her fingers self-consciously across her cheek. She bent down and adjusted her boots against her calf and adjusted her ear piece, determination in her eyes as she readied herself to perform. Mary's hand faltered as she sensed her watching but she didn't meet her eyes and she didn't blame her for that.

Swallowing hard she grabbed her top hat from a prop chair and placed it on her head, stepping automatically out into the center ring as the spotlight came to life overhead and the music vibrated from the speakers.

If Emily didn't have a reason to change her mind before...she had one now.

Come On Get Higher- Matt Nathanson (Riley) {I Do Not Own These Lyrics}

I miss the sound of your voice

And I miss the rush of your skin

And I miss the still of your silence

As you breathe out and I breathe in

If I could walk on water

If I could tell you what's next

I'd make you believe

I'd make you forget

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips

Faith and desire and the swing of your hips

Just pull me down hard

And drown me in love

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips

Faith and desire and the swing of your hips

Just pull me down hard

And drown me in love

I miss the sound of your voice

The loudest thing in my head

And I ache to remember

All the violent, sweet, perfect words that you said

If I could walk on water

If I could tell you what's next

I'd make you believe

I'd make you forget

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips

Faith and desire and the swing of your hips

Just pull me down hard And drown me in love

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips

Faith and desire and the swing of your hips

Just pull me down hard And drown me in love

I miss the pull of your heart

I taste the sparks on your tongue

I see angels and devils and God, when you come on

Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on

Singin' sha la la la Singin' sha la la la la

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips

Faith and desire and the swing of your hips

Just pull me down hard

And drown me in love

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips

Faith and desire and the swing of your hips

Just pull me down hard

And drown me, drown me in love

So wrong, So wrong So wrong, So right

So come on, get higher

So come on and get higher

'Cause everything works, love

Everything works in your arms

Last Train Home-David Mead (Paige & Emily) {I Do Not Own These Lyrics}

The caldwells and the oranges

Footprints on this morning's daily news

Counting down the stations

Crosswords on the nougahyde with you

We spent the day remembering the city

Mixing up our streets and avenues

But now you're fast asleep

And I am so alone

But we're together on the last train

All the towns repeating

Four more stops to go

We're together on the last train home

Catching our reflections

Flickering just like a super 8

Somerset and chatham

Someone in an office working late

And you were softly singing in the kitchen

Washing hands and saving him a plate

But now you're fast asleep

And I am so alone

But we're together on the last train

All the towns repeating

Two more stops to go

We're together on the last train home

Rolling past the orphanage

Oil-colored cars all in a line

Pretty pile of stones ahead

Morristown and convent fall behind

It's quiet in the shadow of the city

Clicking wheels are ticking off the time

But now you're fast asleep

And i am so alone

But we're together on the last train

All the towns repeating

One more stop to go

We're together on the last train home

Now you're fast asleep

And I am so alone

But we're together on the last train

All the towns repeating

No more stops to go

We're together on the last train home

On the last train home

There For You- Flyleaf (Paige & Marley) {I Do Not Own These Lyrics}

Sometimes I'm selfish fake
You're always a true friend
And I don't deserve you
'Cause I'm not there for you
Please forgive me again

I wanna be there for you
Someone you can come to
Runs deeper than my bones
I wanna be there for you
I wanna be there for you

Swirling shades of blue
Slow dancing in your eyes
Sun kisses the earth
And I hush my urge to cry, cry

I wanna be there for you
Someone you can come to
Runs deeper than my bones
I wanna be there for you
I wanna be there for you

'Cause I hear the whispered words
In your masterpiece beautiful
You speak the unspeakable
I love you, too

I wanna be there for you
Someone you can come to

I wanna be there for you
And be someone you can come to
The love runs deeper than my bones
And I, I wanna be there for you

Impossible- Shontelle (Paige & Cassie) {I Do Not Own These Lyrics}

I remember years ago

Someone told me I should take

Caution when it comes to love I did, I did

And you were strong and I was not

My illusion, my mistake

I was careless, I forgot I did

And now when all is done

There is nothing to say

You have gone and so effortlessly

You have won

You can go ahead tell them

Tell them all I know now

Shout it from the roof tops

Write it on the sky line

All we had is gone now

Tell them I was happy

And my heart is broken

All my scars are open

Tell them what I hoped would be

Impossible, impossible Impossible, impossible

Falling out of love is hard

Falling for betrayal is worse

Broken trust and broken hearts I know, I know

Thinking all you need is there

Building faith on love and words

Empty promises will wear I know, I know

And now when all is gone

There is nothing to say

And if you're done with embarrassing me

On your own you can go ahead tell them

Tell them all I know now

Shout it from the roof tops

Write it on the sky line

All we had is gone now
Tell them I was happy

And my heart is broken

All my scars are open

Tell them what I hoped would be

Impossible, impossible Impossible, impossible Impossible, impossible Impossible, impossible! Ooh impossible (yeah yeah)

I remember years ago

Someone told me I should take

Caution when it comes to love I did

Tell them all I know now

Shout it from the roof tops

Write it on the sky line

All we had is gone now

Tell them I was happy

And my heart is broken

All my scars are open

Tell them what I hoped would be

Impossible, impossible Impossible, impossible Impossible, impossible Impossible, impossible

I remember years ago Someone told me I should take Caution when it comes to love I did...