Title: Too Good to be True... or is it? [Sequel to Changed by an Angel]

Chapter: 4 [Last]

Author: Ashlee Angel

Email: ashlee_c69@hotmail.com

NOTICE: ^^ I've changed my pen name from Ashlee Angel to Ashleea. ^____^; I just liked the latter better. x) *glomps*

AUTHOR NOTES: Guess what? Hmm? Can't guess? You suck! XD Ehe... I'm DONE! W00! *prances around* DONE! FINISHED! COMPLETED THIS SEQUEL! *stage dives* ^^; Yeah, so I'm pretty happy that I finished. -.-; After a few nights of late night writing, I'm not too pleased with the turnout of the chapter... But, I decided against writing it over. ^.^; Didn't want you guys to wait any longer. So I hope you've enjoyed this. x) I'm just TOO happy that this sequel is finally finished! Thanks a bunch bunch bunch to Mae, my wonderful wonderful wonderful editor! XD And all the people who read this. =.= If it weren't for you guys, I would've given up writing. And of course, Jess and Mae [again] for being my motivation! :D Oh, don't forget VR-sama. @.@ For just... being there! XD

I hope you enjoy the chapter!

-Ash

Disclaimer: Do I look like Naoko Takeuchi? No? Not even a little? Oh, pooh. -_____-;

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Chapter 4 [Last chapter]

Serena was lost. She shouldn't be giving in. She shouldn't be accepting. She shouldn't be 'feeling'. Her fingers reached up to push him away, but instead they clung desperately to his shirt. His mouth was so warm, so inviting, and so 'right'.

'No.' This was wrong; she couldn't do this. No, he couldn't do this either. They were strangers and they would stay that way. A relationship wasn't supposed to bloom from a lie, and that's what Darien was and always will be; a lie. Taking all the strength that remained in her, she shoved him away.

If Darien was surprised, he didn't show it. More than anything, the look on his face told her he had expected her to.

"You're not giving me a chance, Serena," he said. "No wait, don't say anything yet. Give me a week, that's all I ask. Seven days to prove that I'm not such a bad guy, and to make up for hurting you. Please, Serena."

"And what would you get out of this?" she asked, eyebrows furrowed. Despite the fact that this was Darien, she still didn't trust him. What would he want from her now?

"The truth." Darien sighed, debating how to put the rest of his words. "I want- no, I need to know the truth about my past."

Serena sat unblinking, watching him quietly.

"That's it? You're planning to use me to get what you want? The only reason you want anything to do with me is because I'm the key to your answers?"

"No! Serena, it's not like that. Really... You misunderstood my meaning. I admit, it sounds that way, but I really would like to get to know you better," he explained quickly, hoping the flare that rose in her eyes would die down. If looks could kill, he'd be six feet under.

He wasn't going to give up, she knew that. Perhaps the best way to get rid of him was to agree. With school starting soon, seven days would fly by. He did sound sincere and he 'looked' sincere, but she had to remember who she was dealing with. He could very well be acting. No, he couldn't be. There wasn't any other reason why he would be doing this, unless he wanted to...

Darien threw his hands up in exasperation. "Serena, I'm not going to molest you," he said.

She blinked. "I wasn't- " she protested, but was cut off by his laugh.

"Who're you trying to fool, Serena? Would it help if I told you I was a eunuch?" He ran a hand through his already tousled hair. "I don't mean to interfere with your life, but if you would just give me a chance. One week. That's all I ask."

Serena frowned. No matter how he put it, he was still planning on using her. He said so himself, didn't he? What puzzled her was that he made it so obvious. Even her dog could figure it out- not that she had one. She should just agree to it. It sounded like a perfectly harmless situation, where two people could both benefit. So why was she holding back?

She clenched her hands in her lap, digging her nails into her palm. What did she want? She wanted Darien to love her. That's what she wanted. For him to fall head over heels again, willingly. Not because he made himself do it for her sake, pitying her "poor helpless, heartbroken soul". She didn't want to feel like an... obligation. A burden. As if it were almost his "responsibility" to look after her, because of the mess he left behind. The mess he didn't know he left behind.

'Come on Serena, you know you wanna,' she prodded herself. When life throws you a lemon, make lemonade. Except 'this' lemon came in the form of a six foot two piece of eye-candy.

Yes. No. Maybe so...

"Fine," she mumbled, biting her dried lips. If he was going to keep persisting, then sooner or later, she would have to give in. And Serena liked the idea of "sooner," better.

"What?"

Serena looked up. What what?! She waited for him to add something, but Darien remained motionless, staring at her blankly. Where was her "thank you"?

"Fine!" Serena said again, "if you want me to decline your offer, I will! For someone who was one step from begging on his knees, he sure doesn't look too happy about finally getting what he wanted. See if I eve- "

The rest of the sentence was drowned out as strong arms came around and squished her to the couch in a bone-crushing hug.

"Oh, Serena... you just made my week."

With her nose flattened against his shoulder, she suppressed a smile. Despite the uncomfortable position, she enjoyed being near him again. Perhaps the next week wouldn't be so bad. After all, half her day would be occupied by classes.

Abruptly, the warmth disappeared. Darien stood up off the couch and started for the door. He seemed to have completely forgotten about her, all of a sudden. But turning back at the door, he smiled.

"Pack a bag of comfortable clothes. I'll come pick you up at eight, tomorrow morning."

And with that, he was gone, leaving Serena gaping at the entryway. 'I-, he-, where the-, what?' she thought, jerking suddenly as the front door slammed shut.

'No,' Serena thought, shaking her head, 'he hasn't changed at all.'

* * * *

Serena groggily opened her eyes to the all too bright rays of sunshine that shone through her curtains. So much for getting her beauty sleep. She yawned as she stretched out her arms, turning on her stomach. Her fingers brushed over the mahogany side table, knocking something to the ground. Serena grumbled to herself as she peered over the side of the bed, and picked up whatever had fallen.

It was a folded card. A... wedding invitation. She drew her eyebrows together, sitting up against the headboard, as she read the contents of the letter.

Serena,

Mom called and she wanted me in Chicago. An emergency, according to her, but you know my mom. Anyways, I'm sorry I couldn't stay to say goodbye. I was going to wake you up... but you were asleep, and I didn't want to wake you. You just looked like you could use a few more winks of shut-eye. As for the wedding stuff, I wrote it all below, since I didn't have time to tell you. Oh, and smile, Serena. You know you wanna. :) I don't know what happened with Darien, but I'm sure it's just a misunderstanding. You two will probably be inseparable by this afternoon. I'd probably have to pry you guys apart with a crowbar. ;) Call me sometime! You still have to help me plan the wedding.

Love ya lots,
Amy xxooxo

Serena put down the card and grumbled once again. Just when things were looking up... She heaved a sigh and crawled back under the covers. She'd give Amy a call later today. Maybe have her come back to stay after this "emergency" was dealt with.

Smiling at the idea, Serena tossed about in bed until she found a comfortable position. She blinked, catching the red digits on her alarm clock.

9:09 AM.

"Shit," she cursed, flinging the covers off and racing to the bathroom. First day of class and Miss. Perfect Attendance was going to be late. Great. Absolutely fablulous!

After a cold five minute shower, she quickly dried her hair and got dressed. But her face was a mess. Puffy red eyes with big, dark, droopy bags. Such a splendid combination. Thank God for coverup. A little bit of blush here, liquid coverup over there, a sleek glaze of lip gloss, a light coat of mascara, and voila. She looked ready to take on the world... almost.

Dashing for the books she prepared weeks before, she raced down the stairs two at a time. Why, oh why didn't she set her alarm clock?

"William! I need to borrow Mom's car! I left mine at the University," Serena hollered, turning the corner and passing the kitchen. Dammit, no time for breakfast either. This was all Darien's fault! If it-

She shrieked as a set of keys came flying at her face. Barely catching it in time, she stopped to breathe. What in the world?!

"You might need these, too," a voice called from behind her.

Serena froze. Oh, no... Oh, no no NO... Deliberately turning slowly, she came around to face Darien, lounging at the breakfast table, holding a pair of sunglasses. The small smile that adorned his lips could've passed for a smirk.

"What are you doing here?!" Serena managed to get out, forcing her voice to sound half pleasant.

"I said I'd be here at eight." He smiled innocently, feigning nonchalance to her growing displeasure. This was his only chance and the last thing he needed was to blow it. She was going to be his answer. By the end of the week, she'd readily tell him what he wanted to know. Okay, so he was still using her, but this was also a chance to get to know her better. The churning guilt that was building inside his stomach mellowed as he thought about that. So, he'd get a two-in-one deal. Get to know her better, and find out his past.

"No, you don't understand. I didn't agr-" Serena stopped in mid- sentence. Oh, yes... how could she forget that she had 'agreed' to this absurd plan. "What I'm trying to say is that I have classes, school, homework, and stuff!"

At that, a grin spread across Darien's face. "Yes, stuff. Like eloping with me for a week. And you don't have to worry about classes. According to the University, you will be arriving home late from vacation. The telephone can do wonders, don't you think?"

Serena's eyes narrowed. How she wished she could wipe that grin off his face. But running away with Mr. I-used-to-be-a-hot-shot-angel should prove to be an interesting week.

* * * *

Three long, dragging hours of driving had pushed Serena to the brink of her sanity. Conversation, as expected, was minimal. But that was far from the worst. Not only did they have two more unending hours of driving, Serena had absolutely no idea where they were going. And her pride wasn't taking any steps toward asking. If only she could just get him talking. Then she wouldn't have to feel obligated to start a conversation anymore.

Clearing her throat, she spoke. "So... tell me about yourself."

"Why don't you?" he asked, putting one arm around her seat.

"Me?" Serena repeated. Trust him to turn the question back at her. 'So you want to know about yourself, huh? Ever tried being subtle about it?!'

"No."

"What?" Serena asked, confused for a moment.

"No, I've never tried to be subtle," Darien repeated, slightly exasperated.

"How... how did you hear the question?" Eyebrows furrowed, she waited expectantly for an answer. He couldn't have read her mind. No, definitely not. Then how else... unless-

"You said it out loud," he answered, turning to look at her strangely.

"Oh," was her only reply.

"Let's forget about me, shall we? Tell me about you. As much as I'd love to hear about myself, I think it's proper that the guest of honor should be the center of the attention."

Serena snorted. Some guest of honor. "What's there to know? I'm 20, female, and single. Enough about me. Why don't you fill me in on where we're "escaping" to, hmm?"

Surprised that she was finally willing to talk, Darien smiled to himself. "We're going to my grandmother's farm."

Hearing this, Serena's left ear perked up. "You have family?"

"Oh no. Not my real grandmother. It's a long story. But we came to know each other and I just come by to visit her when I can. She's the closest thing to family that I've got. I called her this morning to let her know we would be staying with her. For a pampered Stanford girl like you, I thought something different might be nice. That's why I told you to pack comfortably. Those skin-hugging jeans of yours won't be very useful up where we're going."

So that's where he was taking her, she thought. To a farm. Secretly, she enjoyed the thought of being with him alone for seven days. Anything could happen. But she had to also remember two things. One, she was still supposed to be mad at him. And two, he was using her. The last thought made her stomach tighten with grief. How she wished she could just forget all this and start over. Maybe she should tell him to take her home.

"Will we have much to do there?" she ended up asking.

"I don't think you'll have to worry about that. We could always just sit there and and watch the grass grow," Darien replied. To him, that idea didn't sound half bad. He wouldn't mind sitting like a lump all day, watching Serena. Despite her lack of enthusiasm, she looked more appealing now than she did when he first met her. Then again, when he first met her, she resembled a drowned rat.

"Fun. Staring contests. Why didn't I think of that?" Serena rolled her eyes.

"Then what do you suggest? Skinny dipping?"

Serena's eyes widened in mock horror. "With you? Never." But the sinful little devil inside her head told her otherwise.

Darien laughed. Not a slight chuckle, but a real, deep laugh. And boy, was it ever pleasant.

The next two hours were again passed with neither talking, but the stillness was doubtlessly more relaxing.

Serena surveyed the surroundings as the car came off the highway. As the minutes passed, roads disappeared, and land emerged. Trees, dirt roads, lakes, followed by fields and fields of dandelions. This wasn't the life she was used to. The air was fresher, the breeze lighter, and feel of everything all the more homey.

"We're here," Darien said, stepping out of the car.

Serena looked from the big, ranch-style house that they had reached, then back to Darien. Maybe, just maybe she'd enjoy herself, she thought, as the small hint of a smile crept up her face.

Just as she was getting out, she saw an elderly woman run up to Darien.

"Darien, my boy! Look at you, getting here so early when I was worried that you wouldn't make it for dinner!" she rambled, pulling Darien into a warm embrace.

She looked about 5'3", a short mass of wavy grayed hair, and faded green eyes. And the smile that graced her face seemed to fit perfectly, as if it belonged there.

"My, my, my... and this must be the "absolutely beautiful" girl you told me about. Serena, yes? I'm Elizabeth Mae, but just Mae will do," she said. "Well? What are you waiting for? Come inside! Your room still needs a bit of tidying up, but you two can start unpacking. Oh, and make yourself at home, honey. My home is yours. No need to feel uncomfortable. I have to get inside now before my apple fritters burn!"

Serena watched her peck Darien on the cheek before rushing back into the house.

"Well?" Darien laughed, "don't just stand there. Come on, let's get inside."

Serena hauled her bag out of the trunk and followed Darien into the house. She didn't truly know what to think. So she decided not think at all. Problem solved, she thought, laughing to herself. Living with Mae might prove to be more interesting than spending time with Darien.

Once they were inside, Mae came bustling out of the kitchen in a red checkered apron and a wooden spoon, stained purple from her jam.

"Here, let me get you to your room so you can get acquainted," she said, guiding them up a trail of stairs.

By the size of the house, Serena was surprised there were only two doors.

"This one," Mae said, pointing to the door on Serena's right, "is my room." She then opened up the opposite door, leading them into the bedroom.

Serena's eyes widened considerably at the size of the room. It was, to put it simply, huge. The pale amber colors matched her mood perfectly. On the far side of the room was a door to what, Serena assumed, was the bathroom. And in the middle, stood a king-sized four-poster canopy bed. A bed. Singular. One. For herself, of course... right? Serena repeated that in her head.

Mae sensed her thoughts, because she laughed at Serena's dubious expression. "Oh yes, I forgot to mention that you two will have to share a room. You don't mind, do you?"

"Oh no, of course not," Darien assured her.

Mae jabbed her elbow into Darien's stomach. "I know 'you' wouldn't mind." she teased. "I was asking Serena."

"I- uh... umm..."

"If you're not comfortable with it dear, speak up. I can always pull out the cot in the attic."

"No, no." Serena smiled and pulled Mae's small form into a hug. She didn't want to trouble Mae. "It'll be fine, really. This room is beautiful."

"All right. If you need me, just give me a holler, and I'll be with ya in a jiffy," Mae replied, patting Serena's cheek before retiring downstairs.

"Well..." Darien said.

"Well..." Serena echoed, eyeing the bed once again.

Darien smiled sheepishly. "At least it's big."

* *

With Mae downstairs cooking dinner, Darien had taken Serena around for a personal tour. And to her surprise, she'd almost forgotten her little "I hate Darien" charade.

At 6:30, they were called in for dinner. With Mae's friendly chattering, neither Serena or Darien had to say much. Serena had felt Darien's eyes on her for most of dinner, but she refused to acknowledge it. Though, when he wasn't looking, Serena stole brief glances at him from across the table. She willed herself to stop, but her movements didn't seem to be under her control.

After dessert, double-cut cherry pie with butter cream whipped on top, Serena helped Mae wash and dry the dishes. She then excused herself to go upstairs, leaving Darien and Mae to catch up. They needed privacy, she insisted, even though Serena knew they wouldn't mind her being there. But inside, she didn't want Darien with her when she got ready for bed. He was still somewhat of a stranger. And Serena's modesty wouldn't allow him to be near when she was changing.

She sighed, as she grabbed her duffel bag and headed for the bathroom. Brushing her teeth and changing into her, God help her, short slip, she climbed into bed. If she fell asleep before he came in, then all her problems would be solved.

'Okay Serena, sleep,' she commanded herself.

Closing her eyes, she started to count.

'One, two, three, four, five...'

* *

'Nine hundred ninety-seven, nine hundred ninety-eight, nine hundred ninety-nine, one thousand.'

Screw counting, Serena thought, eyes wide awake. Just as she was about to sit up, the door opened. Darien quietly walked in, closing the door behind him. Serena watched as he moved soundlessly about the room, his tall physique like a shadow roaming the walls.

After eternity passed, Darien finally shrugged off his clothes, leaving only his boxers on, riding low on his hips. Serena felt the weight of him fall heavily onto the bed, making her shift closer.

She waited for him to do something, say something. When she heard the even breathing of his fitless slumber, Serena found herself bewildered.

It puzzled her that he made no move to... well... to come closer to her. But she shrugged the feeling off, along with a hint of disappointment.

Soon after, Serena felt herself relaxing and her eyelids drooping. When sleep came, she gave herself willingly.

1 day down... 6 to go.

* * * *

"Ready?" Darien asked, a boyish grin spread across his face.

"Yes, but I don't see what's the rush," Serena complained, cranky from being pulled out of bed so early.

Darien just laughed, grabbing her hand and running outside.

As they neared the rear of the house, Serena heard the sound of chickens, horses--perhaps, cows, and dogs. Nearing the dark burgundy barn, she wondered if the old Darien would be so enthusiastic about farm animals. Shaking her head at the thought, she followed him into the barn.

Serena wrinkled her nose slightly at the smell. But as soon as she took in her surroundings, the stench was forgotten. She couldn't exactly say it was beautiful. It was more breathtaking, with so many animals. Big and small, fat and skinny, black and white, with everything else in between. Truthfully, Serena had only ever seen so many animals together once in her life, and that was at the pet shop where she bought her first dog.

"Amazing, isn't it?" Darien asked.

"If you like chickens," Serena replied.

"Oh, don't tell me you've been on a farm before."

"Never," Serena said, laughing at the disbelieving expression on Darien's face. "I'm a pampered Stanford girl, remember?"

The corners of his lips turned up slighty at the remark. Without releasing her hand, he led her straight to the cows.

"Then, I take it you've never milked a cow before," he said, dragging her to the end of the sun-streaked barn.

"You... want me... to milk... a cow?" Serena repeated, slowly.

"Of course," Darien replied easily, plopping Serena down on a low bench, only inches away from a bulky black and white cow.

"No, no, no." she rushed out hurriedly, trying to stand up. But a firm hand on her shoulder prevented her from getting away. "There is absolutely no way I am going to milk this cow."

Ignoring her protests, Darien took one of Serena's hands and stuck it under the cow. "Be good. Don't move. I'll be back."

Stunned, Serena withdrew her hand almost immediately from the cow. Ew.

Within a few minutes, Darien returned with a tin bucket.

"Now, you can milk," he said, placing both her hands from her lap to the cow's pink bloated udder.

Serena could only gulp. Giving Darien a look a of distaste, she gave one firm nipple a squeeze. Nothing happened. Somewhat disappointed, she tried again. Still nothing.

Hearing Darien's chuckle, she turned to glare at him.

"This was your idea!" she exclaimed, wiping both hands on her jeans. "Can't we do something else?"

"I guess..." Darien rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "It won't be as fun, but you can give it a try."

"Please. Anything will do," Serena said, sighing in relief.

* *

Serena's jaw dropped.

After following Darien out of the barn, she couldn't help but notice that the smirk on his face was widening. Her eyes popped out of her head when she saw where she was being taken to.

A pig sty.

Serena gawked at the pen of dirty pigs. Just what exactly did Darien 'want to do' with a herd of muddy pigs?!

"We," Darien said, snickering with satisfaction at Serena's shock, "are going to give them a bath..."

"Oh." Serena grimaced. That didn't seem so horrible. But don't pigs bathe-

"In mud," he finished.

Closing her eyes, Serena swallowed in as much air as her lungs could take. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in... Breathe out...

Darien laughed. "You don't have to strip and roll around with them, that is... unless you want to. Just help me get their mud bath ready."

"You are horrible. Absolutely terrible," Serena said, as she reluctantly stepped closer to the pen.

"No need to thank me," he replied, going back to the barn to get a hose.

After hooking it up to the side of the house, he returned to where Serena was standing. Turning the water on, he let a stream run into the pen.

"That's it?" Serena asked.

"That's it," he answered. "Just turn the water off in a minute. I'll meet you inside."

Serena watched as he walked back to the house. From what she could tell, he was keeping his distance. He hadn't made any moves to ask about himself. Had he forgotten? No... Darien was the type that persisted, begged, bribed, and charmed until he got what he wanted. This was, to say the least, unlike him. It made Serena wonder if she could love someone like him. Although, she never fell out of love in the first place. Inside she knew they were the same person.

In another five days, she'd probably never see him again. Rubbing her neck, she sat down in the dirt. It was time to stop playing "I hate Darien". As Mina had always said... 'Do a little dance, have a little fun, make a little love.'

Laughing at the inanity, she shook her head. Maybe she 'should' have a little fun... It's not everyday that you get a second chance at happiness.

* *
"Darien, you asleep?" Serena asked, lying in bed. The day had been uneventful. She spent it with Darien, feeding and playing with the animals. And while they talked, they didn't get into anything too personal. Just friendly chatter. It hadn't surprised Serena that he still had the same likes and dislikes.

"Yes," he mumbled into his pillow, making Serena laugh.

"What are we going to do tomorrow?" she asked.

"Whatever you like," Darien said.

In the darkness of the room, Serena smiled. "Goodnight, Darien."

"G'night, Serena."

* * * *

"You're going to do what?" Darien asked, eyeing the kitchen counter covered with cooking utensils.

"No, 'we're' going to bake cookies," Serena exclaimed cheerfully. "It's Mae's special "Chocolate Chippity Chip" recipe. I asked for it this morning."

Darien smiled meekly. "Oh... fun."

"I know! It'll be great. Now, go get us two aprons, please?" Serena asked, playfully pouting when he didn't move.

"By God, this girl's changed into the Devil," Darien murmured under his breath, as he stomped away.

Barely catching his words, Serena had the insane urge to giggle and went to get all the ingredients for the recipe. Eggs, flour, baking soda, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla pudding mix, vanilla extract, semisweet chocolate chips, and chopped walnuts. She was tying her hair when Darien returned with the aprons.

"Could you put mine on for me, Darien? Save me the trouble?" Serena felt Darien's eyes on her as she finished tying her hair. Maybe she scared him. After all, people don't usually just become sociable overnight. Especially to people you tried hard to avoid. Shrugging the thought off, she reached for a bowl. "Oh, and one other thing?"

"Hmm?" came a voice beside her ear, causing her to jump.

From the corner of her eye, Serena saw Darien's dark head over her shoulder. With a quick intake of air, the nerves in her body tensed. She hadn't realized how... close he'd come.

"I... uhh... can you preheat the oven to 350 degrees?" she asked, her voice squeaking.

"Mmmhmm, let's just get this tied," he said, his arms coming around her waist.

Serena lifted her slightly shaky arms, giving him better access. The ties on the apron were too long, so Darien had to secure it once at the front. With her back pulled against his chest, Serena couldn't help but lean back. But Darien stepped away then, almost causing her to fall.

As his expert fingers fastened the last knot, he gave her side a brief squeeze before walking over to the oven.

Serena let out a whoosh of air. Well, wasn't 'that' interesting. To say the least, she was disgruntled. Clearly, Darien didn't react the same to their brief encounter of close proximity as she did. 'Because he has no feelings for you, Serena,' she told herself.

"What next?"

Serena shook her head, Darien's words bringing her out of her sulking.

"Okay," she said, checking the recipe. "Sift together the flour and baking soda, and set aside. You wanna do that while I prepare the liquids? You do know how to measure and sift flour, right?"

"You don't get to be friends with Mae and not learn a few tricks," Darien said, shrugging as he reached for the flour bin.

While they worked, Serena told him about her childhood. How it was always "Serena the nerd" or "Serena the geek". From kindergarten to high school, she was labeled the outcast. She told him about her parents, her brother, Matt, and even Evan. Darien was a wonderful listener, too, making her wanting to talk, and tell him more.

"So what all changed that?" he asked, curious as to where he came into the picture of her life.

Serena smiled at the memory. "Oh... nothing much. God thought I was helpless, so he sent down my own guardian angel."

Not waiting for Darien's reaction, she pushed him the bowl of leftover cookie dough from across the counter. "Eat."

Serena stared at him as he stared at the lumpy white dough. "Don't tell me you've never tried cookie dough."

"Is it such a sin?" he asked.

"Yes!" She threw her hands up in exasperation. Reaching across the counter, Serena plucked off a piece of the dough and stuffed it into Darien's mouth. Smiling, she munched on a piece herself, trying not to laugh at the grimace on his face.

"It might help if you chewed," she said, rolling another piece of the sticky mixture between her fingers.

Then seeing Darien had finished, she stuck another bit of dough in. This time, he opened his mouth and bit off the dough. Serena was about to pull back when Darien caught her hand. Putting her finger to his mouth, he licked off the melted chocolate and bits of cookie dough that clung to her fingers.

"I think I still like my cookies baked," he said, flashing her a grin, before dropping her arm.

Serena could only stare.

* *

Darien knocked on the bathroom door.

"Serena, you've been in there for two hours already."

"Use the one downstairs!" came a muffled reply, followed by the sound of splashing water.

"I finished an hour ago," he said, irritated that she wouldn't come out. After that incident in the kitchen, she'd been constantly trying to avoid him. Mae had even glared at him during dinner. He admitted to himself that he didn't lick off the chocolate because it was just there. It was because it happened to have melted on 'her' fingers.

Sighing dejectedly, he walked back to the bed. Flipping the covers off, he climbed in and waited.

Some time later, Serena finally crept out from the bathroom. He had to be asleep now. She had been in there for another 2 hours since the last time he knocked.

Tiptoeing across the carpet, she silently sat down on the opposite of the bed. Flinging her legs over onto the mattress, she looked over at Darien. She had always loved watching him sleep . He didn't do it often. But now... he was just like her, a living, breathing human. Leaning over him, she sighed. Bending down until her lashes brushed his face, she kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"Goodnight, Darien," she whispered before returning to her side of the bed.

In the moonlit gloom of the room, Darien smiled.

* * * *

"Did you sleep well?" Darien asked over breakfast.

Stirring her cereal, Serena nodded. "I guess." Then smiling, she asked, "So, what're we going to do today?"

"You'll see," was his only reply.

"If I'm not mistaken, dear, he'll take you skinny dipping!" Mae exclaimed from kitchen.

Serena gasped and choked on her toast, while Darien just laughed.

* *

"Tell me we're going somewhere dry," Serena pleaded, as she followed Darien through the dandelion fields.

"Oh quit worrying," Darien said.

He stopped when they reached a small patch of trees. Taking her here had been totally improvised. A spur of the moment, type of thing.

"Well?" he asked.

"Well, what? You took me all the way here to look at trees?" Serena frowned, not bothering to mask her displeasure.

'"That's exactly what we're going to do." He smiled. Then with a wink, he picked Serena up by her waist and sat her on his shoulder. Holding her legs for balance, he waited until she stopped shrieking.

"Was that so horrific?"

Serena glowered at the top of his head in horror. 'Damn, he's strong...'

"Next time, a little warning would be nice," she snapped.

Darien laughed. He walked to one of the largest trees, setting Serena down on the lowest limb, so thick, it could've passed off as another trunk.

"Climb."

"What?" Serena asked incredulously. "You want me to climb this tree? How high?"

Darien pointed a little ways above her. "See those two limbs that are facing each other? Pick one. I get the other."

She shrugged to herself. Why not? Nothing to lose, other than her leg, or maybe an arm, if she fell. Stepping carefully up to the massive branch that Darien pointed to, Serena plopped herself down with ease.

As she watched Darien settle himself, she raised an eyebrow. "Aren't you a little too big to be climbing trees? And you're well built, the last time I checked anyw-.. I- I mean l- like... well, you know, you weigh a lot and... you ah... umm... yeah..." The rest of her sentence trailed off. Serena coughed, watching their feet dangle so high off the ground. She hadn't realized they were so close... their knees were practically touching.

"Uh... so tell me how you met Mae," she said, suddenly interested in playing with the bark on the tree.

"Oh that. It's kind of embarrassing really," he said, running a hand through his hair, letting a few locks fall over his eyes. "I was on my way to see... this girl. She used to live under me. And, yeah. That day, I had other things on my mind and forgot that I was supposed to be there to see her an hour earlier," he said, unfastening the first few buttons of his shirt.

Now Serena was amused. Pushing away a brief moment of jealousy, she fought a smile. Darien only played with his hair and (to her delight) removed clothing when he was nervous. Well, he wouldn't go as far as putting on a strip show, but with half his shirt hanging open, it gave Serena quite an impressive view of a wide expanse of skin. All lean and hard taut muscle. Serena bit her lip at her own thoughts. 'Bad Serena,' she scolded herself.

Darien coughed inconspicuously.

Serena gave a little start. Then looked down, blushing when she realized she'd been caught staring.

"I uh... well I was speeding on the highway, not paying attention, so I accidently exited off the wrong road. I stopped at a deserted gas station, having no idea as to where I was. But at that time, Mae came out of a small convenient store, jabbering away to the store manager about how her car was missing from its parking space. Then... well you know the rest."

"What happened to the girl?" Serena asked, temporarily forgetting her humiliation.

"I went to see her the next day, but she refused to let me enter her house. So after that, I never heard from her," Darien said, giving himself a shrug of self pity.

"You never told me you dated," she stated blandly.

"Oh dearest Serena, could it be? Is that "jealously" I hear in your voice?" he mocked playfully.

Serena laughed heartily. "You wish," she said, putting her head against the trunk of the tree, looking down.

"I do."

Serena blinked, finding Darien's face barely a foot away from hers. Her eyes calculated him as he shifted closer.

"You wouldn't."

"I would."

With their faces only a few inches apart, Serena licked her lips, something she would refer to as a nervous habit. She watched his eyes darken and his eyelids droop lazily.

"You would," she accused, moving closer.

"Or wouldn't I?"

Serena gazed at him from under her lashes, only a breath apart. "Is the great, almighty Darien Shields afraid to kiss a g-"

The rest of the sentence was forgotten as his lips touched hers.

The kiss was a mere touch. A gentle caress. Neither of them moved, but Serena felt her head growing light. His lips were soft against hers. Nothing was forced or pressured.

When Darien pulled back, he ran a tongue over his lower lip.

"I would."

* *

That night, Serena fell heavily into bed. All day, she'd been off in La-La Land, like a love struck, airheaded school girl. God help her, she was as much in love as she was 2 years ago.

And come to think of it, daydreaming had taken most of her energy. She needed to talk to Darien, but she was just too tired. No, Serena wouldn't let herself sleep just yet. She had to know whether Darien was... sincere. If he was just playing her, she wanted to know. If being used and then discarded was going to be her "happy ending", then she'd rather end this right now.

Serena yawned. But first, she'd take a nap. Darien can wait...

* *

Serena opened her eyes drowsily. Looking out the window, she slapped her hand over her eyes to wield off the bright light. 'Some nap,' she muttered inwardly.

Serena tried to roll over, but her right arm was caught. Peeking under the covers, she found her arm entangled around Darien's, their fingers intertwined.

Sighing, Serena laid back and shut her eyes again. Did she do that? Or... by some miracle, did he?

Letting out a frustrated groan, she sat up. She had to talk to Mae. She 'needed' to talk to Mae. Tossing the covers off, Serena disengaged her arm from Darien's. Picking up a nearby robe, she slipped it on. H er hair wasn't done, her face wasn't washed, and she probably looked like she just got ran over by bulldozer, twice.

Once downstairs, she walked straight to the kitchen.

"Good mornin', Serena," Mae chirped. "Did you sleep well?"

"So-so," Serena replied. "Need help with breakfast?"

"Nope. How about you and I sit down with some coffee? You don't usually wake up early... unless, is something bothering you? And if I'm not mistaken, is it about Darien?" Mae guessed, going to pour some freshly brewed coffee.

Serena nodded.

"Milk? Sugar?" Mae asked.

"No, it's all right. I'll take mine black."

"Just like Darien, I see."

Serena sulked. "Yeah... just like Darien. He's just so..."

"Wonderful, I know," Mae finished for her, handing her a mug of coffee.

That made Serena laugh. "Oh yes, he's fabulous. It's just that I'm-"

"In love."

Looking up from her cup, Serena scrunched her nose. "Is it that obvious?"

"I don't think the cows have figured it out yet, but the pigs seem to have a pretty good idea," Mae said seriously. "You're the one, aren't you?"

"The one?" Serena repeated, not understanding what Mae meant.

"Oh you know, the girl who gave him the ring? The one who's supposedly going to bring all his memories back? I admit, when he first told me about having some weird kind of amnesia, I didn't believe him. But he seemed genuinely lost. So I don't know anymore. Perhaps you can tell me the whole story?"

"He told you all that?" Serena asked. Frankly, the news didn't come to her as a surprise. "It's an awfully long story..."

"Oh, I have all the time in the world." Mae smiled warmly, encouraging her to continue.

"Well... to put it simply, I fell in love with him two years, or so, ago. Darien made some kind of mistake and was taken away. I don't know the details, but he left... and I haven't seen him since then. Then about a week ago, I kind of met up with him again." Serena said with a shrug, as if it was no big deal.

"What a jackass!" Mae exclaimed.

"Pardon me?" Serena asked, shocked from hearing foul language echo from Mae's mouth.

"He left you, didn't he?"

"Well," Serena fiddled with her fingers in her lap, "it wasn't necessarily his fault."

"I see... Why don't you just tell him what you told me?"

"Because! He wouldn't understand. He'd either never talk to me again, or he'll just feel obligated to stay by me. I don't want to be pitied by him," Serena tried to explain.

"Hear me out, dear," Mae said. "Darien might not remember you, but he's still a good person. Give him a second chance. Soon enough, he'll come around. If he loved you as much as you did him, he'll come back to you. As for right now, I can't really blame him for hangin' on. You're his last chance. Ah Hell, just don't worry about it. I hate to see you moping around the house like that. Now run along upstairs and take your coffee with you. Darien will be waking up soon. Enjoy your last few days here."

"I'll try," Serena said. With a grin lit on her face, she went to give Mae a hug before retreating upstairs.

* * * *

"Serena, wake up," Darien whispered, nudging the sleeping girl.

Serena moaned, rolling away from him.

"Leave me alone," she muttered, trying to push him away when he didn't move.

Throwing his hands up in the air, Darien got up.

"Fine, I guess I'll just have to go alone."

Like a three year old toddler, Serena took the bait.

"Go where?" she asked curiously, crawling to a sitting position. Her only answer was a slow grin spreading across his face, against the light of the window.

* *
Serena blinked sleepily at the pond by her feet. Darien dragged her here at 1:30 in the morning for THIS?!

"We walked fifteen minutes for 'this'?!" Serena complained.

"How deep do you think it is?" Darien asked, disregarding her question.

"How the hell should I know?" she snapped. Suddenly awake, she looked him up and down., eyeing him suspiciously. "Why?"

Flashing her a wolfish grin, he strode closer to her.

"I don't know. You tell me."

Serena gave him a fleeting smile before taking a step back. Looking around her, she scanned her surroundings. Nothing but trees caged them in this tight knitted clearing. The only source of light came from the moon, leaving a gleaming reflection on the water. 'What' were they 'doing' here?!

She did 'not' like her surroundings. She did 'not' like sneaking out into a forest in the middle of the night. And she most definitely did 'not' like the impish glimmer that flickered through Darien's eyes.

"Tell me we're here on a nature walk," Serena pleaded.

Taking another step forward so their clothes were barely touching, Darien twirled a lock of her hair around his finger.

"You... and I," he murmured, "are going to go for a little swim."

Serena looked from Darien to the pond and back again. Oh. My. God. But then she smiled. Or perhaps is was the mini Satan inside her that did. If he wanted to go for a swim, then why not? Two could play his game.

Fluttering her lashes, Serena let her eyelids fall.

"Really now? It sounds... fun," she said faintly, reaching up to play with his collar. Then seeing a dark brow raise questioningly, she continued. "After all..."

She stopped to release the first shirt button from its hole. Slowly, she then undid what was left, her fingers lingering in between.

"After all," she repeated, "you did promise to take me skinny dipping. You wouldn't go back on your word now, would you?"

Serena watched Darien's reaction as she eased her hands up the contours of his chest and over his shoulders, sliding the shirt off. Seeing it float to the ground, she drew back and smiled at him, a wide, angelic grin.

More than anything, Darien looked amused. Taking a hold of Serena's chin in one hand, he moved the other around the nape of her neck.

"But there is," he started, "one other thing..."

"I'd like to do first," he whispered, raining butterfly kisses down the side of her face. When Darien reached her mouth, he gave it a quick peck before drawing back.

Serena moistened her lips, her breathing shallow.

"Darien Shields, you are absolutely devastating," she said, before wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling his mouth down to hers.

Strong arms encased her, cushioning her body against his, making her knees grow weak beneath her. Darien shifted, giving him better access to her lips as he deepened the kiss.

'Oh, he still kisses like Darien,' somewhere inside her thought, as his lips led a hot trail down her neck before devouring her mouth again.

Pulling away, Darien leaned his forehead against hers.

"Still wanna go for that dip?"

"I think I'll pass," Serena said, her answer breathless. Letting her arms drop from around his neck, she put her palms to his chest. "You're half naked."

"I wonder why."

Serena's laugh rang out into the night as she kissed Darien tenderly on the cheek.

"Too bad it's only your top half." She pouted.

"Oh, we can change that," Darien replied, his voice husky. Then swooping his head down, his lips met hers for another kiss.

* * * *

"Where's Serena?" Darien asked, after returning from the grocery store, setting the bags on the counter.

"Oh, she's outside playing with the pigs again." Mae absentmindedly waved a wooden spoon slopped with tomato sauce toward the direction of the barn. Then spinning around, she put her hands on her hips and glowered at Darien.

"Sit, boy," she commanded.

Baffled by the sudden change of mood, Darien sat promptly on the nearest stool. "Something the matter?"

"No," she replied, smiling once again. "Tell me what's going on with you and Serena. You guys slept in quite late this mornin'. Even youngsters like you don't sleep in to the afternoon. And look at you! Sleeping like a log at 3:00pm and still, you've got bags hangin' under your eyes."

Darien coughed, clearing his throat, suddenly busying himself with the groceries. "Just tired, I guess."

"And anyway, the girl's broodin' all over the place one minute and acting lovesick the next."

Darien bit his tongue, not enjoying where this conversation was going to eventually end up. Tousling his hair, he toyed with the clasps on the cuffs of his shirt. His intentions toward Serena weren't even clear to himself at the moment. As for their so called "relationship", he wasn't positive that it was going uphill. They were a lot more comfortable around each other now (oh, were they ever), but that could very well turn out to be a bad thing. Frankly, he just didn't like the word "commitment". He was just too caught up last night to think coherently. Not that anything happened...

"Ah... there's nothing to tell, really. We're friends," Darien said with a shrug.

"You're in love," Mae stated plainly, her face still. But inside, she was jumping off walls. She was right. She just had to be.

Darien just raised a dark brow at Mae's accusation.

Piqued by his reaction, she threw her cooking spoon at him, barely missing his head.

"Oh, you and I both know it. Come out with it, boy, admit it. Y ou know you wanna," she prodded.

"Mae, you're pushing it," Darien said, not liking the turnout of Mae's words. In love? Yeah, right.

"Darien Shields! You snap out of that arrogant wall of yours! Being stupid will get you no where!"

"Mae, I'm only telling you the truth. There's nothing going on between me and Serena," he repeated.

"So what was last night?" Mae inquired. "Oh, don't look at me like I'm stupid, boy. If you thought sneaking back into the house at six in the morning is your idea of being inconspicuous, then you've got another thing comin'!"

"It was an accident," Darien claimed. "Hell, nothing even happened! I'm only in it for my answer, Mae. Serena knows that, too. Once this is over and I get what I want, we'll go our separate ways."

Mae sighed in aggravation as she watched Darien go into one of his silent modes, with his "I have nothing else to say" wall put up. Narrowing her eyes, she turned her attention back to the stove tops. "You'll regret those words, Darien."

* *

Outside the kitchen entrance, Serena clenched her teeth. 'Fool!' she cursed herself harshly, before retreating upstairs to pack.

* * * *

"Serena, dinner," Darien called from outside the door. Hearing no response, he went in, only to find the room empty.

Strange, he thought. After checking outside, he assumed she was upstairs. Walking back down, he went straight to the kitchen.

"Mae, do you know where Serena is?"

"I don't know, Darien. You tell me. Check upstairs," Mae suggested.

"I did."

"Check the drawers," Mae told him.

"Check the-" Darien started perplexedly.

Then realization struck.

"Shit."

* *

Damn that girl to Hell, Darien thought, flying down the highway at 80 miles per hour. At least there were no cars.

Darien slammed his hand hard on the steering wheel. He had been so damn close. His head still hummed with Mae's words.

"I told you, you'd regret those words, boy!" she had shouted at him as he was leaving the driveway. But there was no way Serena could've known what he said unless Mae told her. And Mae was within eyesight the entire time.

Mae's words echoed inside him again.

'Hell, I'll get you back Serena. You watch me.'

* * * *

"I'm sorry, Mr. Shields, but I can't let you in," William's voice came apologetically through the speaker beside the gate opening.

"Did Serena give you those orders?" Darien asked, his fists clenched at his sides.

"None other."

Darien sighed, leaning back against the tall columns that surrounded the acres of this estate.

"William, please. I just want to talk to her. I made... a mistake. I said something I didn't mean to say. And for whatever reason why she won't let me in, it's wrong. I 'need' to talk to her. Please..."

After a brief silence, William spoke. "And?"

"And?" Darien echoed.

"And?" William repeated.

"And, I'm an idiot."

The gate opened.

* *

Serena lay in bed asleep, her thoughts in La-La Land. But the constant beeping of her alarm clock woke her from her deep slumber. Rolling her shoulders back, she slammed the alarm off. Serena squinted at the numbers. 7:00 AM?! Since when did she set the clock to 7:00 AM? Since when did she even 'set' it?!

Serena shrugged it off as one of life's little mysteries, before returning to find a snug spot under the crook of Darien's neck. Getting comfortable, she snuggled closer to him.

Serena bolted up in bed and screamed. But her shrieks were muffled as a large hand came over her mouth.

"You don't want to do that," Darien's deep, velvety voice came from beside her.

Pulling away from him, Serena leapt off the mattress, and stalked to the other side of the room, not taking her eyes off him. "You," she said, pointing an accusing finger at him. "Out."

Darien moved off the bed and walked to where Serena was standing.

"Can we talk?"

"There's nothing to talk about. There's no 'we'. There's no 'us.' There's you and there's me," she said, her voice emotionless.

"All right. Let's talk about you and me."

"Out," Serena repeated.

Seeing the emptiness grow heavy in her eyes, making them seem hollow, Darien's chest ached inside. "Don't do this, Serena."

Serena grew stiff, her back rigid. "Is it so hard to understand the meaning of "get out"?"

"You owe me one more day," Darien reminded her.

"I owe you nothing," she said coldly.

Outside, thunder cracked. Then with a burst of lightning, it began to pour.

"Get out Darien, there's nothing left between us." Serena swallowed the tears that threatened to swell up. 'Let nothing show,' she told herself.

"You want your answer, don't you? Well you can get it elsewhere. I don't need, nor do I want, to talk to you. Now leave. Get out of my room, my house, and my life."

Darien said nothing. Turning around, without so much another glance in her direction, he walked out of her room.

When Serena could no longer hear his footsteps, she sank down to her knees on the floor. Putting her face in her hands, she finally let herself cry.

* * * *

"Miss Serena, would you like your dinner brought up to you?" William asked.

"No, it's all right, I'll eat downstairs. And William? Would you mind having someone get the work I missed this week? And for a few more days? I don't feel too good."

"All right, would you like me to get Mr. Shields in, from outside?"

Serena jumped off the chair she was sitting on, knocking it to the floor. "He's outside? Where?"

William shifted his feet. "Ah... under your window."

"It's still raining outside. Really William, where is he? You didn't let him in again, did you?" Serena said, her fists bunched in front of her.

William only shrugged before excusing himself.

As soon as he left, Serena ran onto the padded balcony. She scanned the area beneath it, spotting Darien's tall form sitting on the ground, leaning against one of the basketball hoops.

Serena shivered from the cold. Going inside, she went to the bathroom and grabbed a towel. A few seconds in the rain and she was soggy. Serena didn't want to think about what Darien must be like.

He'd leave eventually.

But the image of Darien sitting outside her window being drenched in the downpour kept nagging at her mind. Her nerves clenched every time she thought about it, her insides twisting.

'He'd leave... No- He 'will' leave,' Serena told herself fiercely. But as she walked down to dinner, she knew she wasn't convinced.

* * * *

At early dawn the next morning, Serena paced about her room. Sneaking peeks outside when she couldn't contain herself any longer, she fidgeted with her fingers.

'Leave!' she commanded him silently. 'Or stop raining.'

But whatever Serena was, she wasn't heartless.

"William!"

Within a few minutes, William appeared at her door. "Miss Serena. You called?"

Serena finally stopped pacing, admitting defeat. "Get him inside."

* *

Two other people helped carry Darien into the house and upstairs to Serena's room. Some time during the night, he'd fallen unconscious. After Serena ordered for him to get washed up and put to bed, she shooed out the servants.

"But-"

"Miss-"

The employees protested.

"I can handle it!" She snapped for the last time, then forcing a smile, she slammed the door shut.

Tentatively ushering closer to Darien, she knelt down beside the bed. His lips were colorless, but his color was gradually returning to his face. It was a miracle he didn't catch a cold, Serena thought, gently feeling his forehead. Then, yawning, she lay her head down. Holding his hand, she fell asleep.

* *

Serena awoke sometime around midday, her back taut and her neck stiff.

"Darien, I hate you," she cursed, rubbing away the soreness with one hand, her eyes still closed.

"I hate you, too," came a hoarse reply.

Immediately releasing his hand, Serena slid back from her place beside the bed. "You're awake."

"No wait- Serena, hear me out. Please." His voice rasped, sitting up. "I guess, somehow you heard my conversation with Mae. But I didn't mean it. I've searched two years for you," he stopped to clear his throat, his voice rough.

"And now that you're here... I no longer need to search for my missing past, because I already found her," he finished, dissolving into a fit of coughing.

"And?" she asked.

Darien laughed gruffly, remembering his conversation with the butler. "And I'm an idiot."

"And?"

"And I'm a dimwit," he said, none too happily.

"And?"

"And I'm a moronically witless fool."

Serena stood, hands on her hips, unimpressed. "And?"

"And..." Darien paused, "And I love you."

A smile finally lit Serena's face as she flew into Darien's waiting arms.

* * *

* * *

* * *

The End? XD

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

W00! Finished. Feel's wahn-da-ful. x) Thank you for reading! Tell me what you think? ^^;

So this is it. It's over! ^^ *glomps* I hope you liked it. And umm... oh yes! Look out for my next story, which will be written under the pen name Ashleea! ^.~ Just reminding you.

Luff ya guys!

-Ash