Hmmm...I am unable to continue with Gryphon's Feather and Defiance and Glory is undergoing total I've been working on my realistic little one-shots.

The lawn was sprawling, manicured to perfection. Hedges were trimmed neatly, prettily, the clean grass mowed evenly. She, in her tight, faded jeans and old oversized American Red Cross T-shirt, was as unwanted as a parasite in the colorfully blooming flowerbeds that lined the walkway leading up to manor. Her footsteps crunched hesitantly on the gravel, and a bead of sweat trickled slowly down the nape of her neck - from the heat or cold fear, she was not sure which. Behind her, a horn bleeped unhappily. Hold on, Stephanie, she thought crossly. I just have to get this over with. It was funny how she was so bitterly, sinfully delighted when she heard the news - ignoring the panic that put flutters in her belly - and now she was dreading it, suddenly realizing how foolish she was. Newspaper headlines still mentioned the incident between that poor young girl and her boyfriend in Baltimore, Ohio, and what he did when his girlfriend told him. It was an event that could not be forgotten, but she was too determined to be deterred. He loved Cathy, would do anything for her. But she would make sure he belonged to her. She had a sure-fire way to make him hers. He ruined her life.

So she would ruin his.

As she halted before the steps, she whipped out a cell phone and dialed a local number.


"Is this Cathy?"

"Yes, it is."

"Cathy, this is Darlene Montgomery…"

A pause.

"I thought I'd just let you know something…"

In spite of her predicament she barked with laughter as she flipped the phone shut against Cathy's outraged, wounded gasp. It was him, no matter what that little bitch said. And Darlene knew for a fact that Cathy - beautiful, gentle, rich, intelligent Catherine Elaine Beaumont, so strong, so independent - would not under any circumstances welcome him back. And his parents, conservative and strict but oh, so honest, would never let him anyway. It was the ultimate scheme of the century. She was fifteen and barely passing Math, and he was eighteen and graduating valedictorian, on his way to Harvard with his soon-to-be-ex-fiancé. But the moment she passed the common legal age standards…she would get him. Mr. Big Shot will never be a lawyer if she had anything to do with it. He would love her one day, someday. She knew it.

As hot, sour pleasure fueled her blood, Darlene marched up the steps to the great double doors set in the center of the wrap-around porch. The horn honked impatiently again, and Stephanie revved the engine. Darlene felt a surge of annoyance at her; her friend was not known for her tolerance or tact. She just hoped the stupid whore would wait for her.

Look who's calling who a stupid whore…

The thought came unexpectedly and unwanted. Darlene squirmed uneasily, trying to banish the embittered reflection, and, before courage could fail, raised her hand and rapped rapidly twice on the doors. Almost instantly the doors swung open, and a tall, thin, balding man wearing dark livery stared down his hawkish nose distastefully at her. Stubbornly she glared back up at him.

"Yes, madam?" he asked stiffly.

"Fetch Travis," she ordered arrogantly. "I have to speak with him."

"May I ask who's calling?"

"It's an emergency," she emphasized evasively.

For a moment he paused, and Darlene wondered uneasily if he was contemplating shutting the door in her face and ignoring the incident. She held her breath, and let it out when he nodded briskly and slammed the door closed. A moment later the door opened. In freshly pressed khakis and a crisp white shirt, Travis Camber never looked so handsome with his well-groomed bronze-blonde locks and deep-set dark eyes, and strong nose and full kissable mouth. All her resolve and cool, false hate melted into helpless adoration at his stunning features. The moment she saw him last year…she, a lowly if vainly pretty freshman and he, the popular and brilliant junior…she knew he was hers from that moment on, no matter who he dated at the present time. Stephanie crossly called it obsession and dismissed it completely.

But then again she would say that. For Stephanie always had men, right, left and center, flocking to her like bees to the honey. Rumor was that as soon as she turned eighteen in two years - although how anyone could plan that far ahead - her boyfriend, Jake what's-his-face, would propose to her. Poor guy, he was so smitten with the cheating slut that he was completely blind to the fact that his own best friend - who had a pregnant wife and a little boy, at that - was banging her.

Yet, even as Darlene resented Stephanie for being such a beautiful if cheap young woman - when once, Darlene vaguely remembered, she had been such a dumpy, quiet little nerd - she had to admire the expertise with which she connived and controlled all the boys who loved her. Even, she reflected, as Tony screamed at her and popped her around, he always came back, contrite and loving, for what only Steph could give.

It was a gift Darlene worked hard to obtain, and she used it with all her might on only one man.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Travis whispered, his deep baritone voice sending shivers down her spine. "How dare you come up to my house like some bold little tart? What game are you playing, Darlene? We broke it off, we're finished."

"No, we're not," Darlene replied quietly, reveling in his startled expression. "I told you once, a long time ago, that I would do what it takes to make you mine."

"I can never be yours, stupid," Travis said in annoyance. "You knew this was just a fling, Darlene. You were sexy, available, and I feel terrible about what I did behind Cathy's back. But I love her, and I could never do it again."

"Our affair lasted for almost two years," she said bluntly. "You could have stopped at anytime, but you kept it up. In fact, I distinctly remember you seeking me out for our secret little trysts."

"Okay, fine - granted, I did go back again and again for more. But it was just the sex, not my everlasting love for you. You were a drug and I was hooked on you for a long time. But I'm over my addiction. I have Cathy, and that's all that matters."

"Had," Darlene corrected smoothly, smugly. "You had Cathy. Past tense."

For a moment, Travis stared dumbly at her, confused. Then he flinched, and his voice raised in volume and loathing. "You vindictive little bitch," he hissed, eyes bulging. "What did you tell her?"

The phone rang. Darlene could hear it through the door. Somebody - that old butler, probably - answered it midway the second ring; a second or two later the door opened.

"Master Travis, Missus Beaumont is on the other line."

Without tearing his burning eyes away from her, Travis reached for the cordless phone presented to him and murmured in a sweet voice belying his anger, as the butler mutely retreated. "Cathy, sweetheart, I'm a little busy right now. Could you ca -"

A high hysterical note issued from the phone, although the words could not be made out from where Darlene stood. Dawning horror, regret, revulsion, grief, agony, and outrage, as one emotion, molded his expression into something frightening, ugly, that she resisted the urge to flinch away.

"Cathy, love, I can explain - I don't love her - no, I never did - Cathy - please -"

Triumph, golden and bittersweet, put a curling smirk to her lips, as she heard a sudden flat monotone. Cathy had hung up. Slowly his grasp on the phone loosened, dropping to the floor in a clatter. Bleak, silver sorrow and anguish lit his face into stunned shock.

"Why?" Travis asked softly, the anger gone. All that remained was the emptiness that once was Cathy, and the terrible melancholy misery that she would never return. "Why did you come back, destroy my life?"

"Because I'm pregnant," Darlene said evenly, without batting an eyelash. "And you will be a father to our child and send me money to support us, until I turn eighteen and we can officially marry."

"The games you play," he whispered wonderingly. "The schemes you plot. What is wrong with you? Do you have some kind of mental illness? How do I know you really are pregnant, and how do I know if it's mine, when trash like you probably slept with hundreds of guys? What kind of girl are you, beginning an affair with someone out of your league, breaking up his future, and then forcing this issue on him?"

"I am what I am," Darlene said quietly and suddenly, as Travis stared at her helplessly. And she saw, with suddenly clarity, that she had altered fate with her own hands. She had taken a love that was meant to be and crushed it, shattered it, for her own gain, when her own distorted image should not have been in the picture. "And I cannot change what I was born to do."

All the euphoria left her then, the fierce determination, the knowledge that he would eventually love her one day. Because she knew now he would not. In trying to ruin his life, all she had managed to do was destroy her own.

Ah, yes, in answer to my reviewers' comments (or those that reviewed Yesterday's Innocence, from which this extends as it contains Steph's character), my one-shots are supposed to be unfinished, or sound it. These one-shots are an excerpt from their lives, not a long story or summary about it. Besides that, I continue everybody's story in future one-shots, although from a different character's point of view. Anyway, review! Hope you liked it!