DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. Characters belong to Shed Productions. I would like to thank my Beta Reader Rebelgirl. She has been a great help.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Sins of the Past
"What the hell do we have for page three?" Jim Fenner demanded as he walked into the news room.
The Daily Sun was the second highest subscribed tabloid magazine in North America and Fenner planned on making it number one. He looked out at the reporters and waited for an answer. When no one said anything he frowned. This was not going to be a good day. He looked over at Dominic McAllister sitting near the window. The young man was his nephew and hopefully his protégé to be, but the boy lacked the true drive to make it in this business. You had to have a thirst for sex and scandal in order to get anywhere; fortunately for Jim, his thirst made him one of the quickest rising editors at the magazine.
"Lorna what is going on with that Brad Pitt story?" he demanded. Lorna Rose's head dipped a sign that there was nothing more to add. "Fine I want something on Nicole Warren. Tell me someone had something on this woman."
Jim looked over at his nephew intently. Nicole Warren was one of the biggest movie stars of the last ten years but still she was able to evade any form of public scandal. No tabloid could write a story of any interest about the woman. She seemed to live like a monk with the exception of a quiet romance with bar owner Trisha Harrison and he had to use one of his biggest contacts to find out they were even an item. The only dirt they could find was that her manager Yvonne Atkins was the wife of a British mobster and the last time he tried to publish the story Nicole Warren sued the magazine for a retraction and damages. That story was the only black mark of his editorial record and he planned to make her pay for the embarrassment. When Dominic started dating Warren's personal assistant Jim thought his dreams were coming to fruition but it seemed that he spoke too soon. The young man was infatuated, instead of snooping for information; all the boy could do was daydream about that blonde twit.
"There's nothing to talk about. She just finished her normal rounds of press for her last movie and it seems that she is going on a holiday. The only thing that she has left is the Zach Pierce talk show tonight." Someone said behind a cubicle so that he couldn't tell who they were.
"Fine, then go find out where she's going on holiday so that we can inform everyone," Jim conceded.
He walked towards his office giving Dominic one last look. The boy wasn't going to make it in this business. Quelling his bad mood he opened his door and notice that it wasn't empty. Shell Dockley sat in his chair chewing loudly on a stick of gum. The blonde woman who wore too much makeup had her legs up and resting her red high heel on his desk. Maybe today wasn't going to be as bad as he thought.
"Now what do I owe this pleasure," Jim smirked.
Shell stood up from his desk and walked towards him. He couldn't help but appreciate the sway of her hips as she walked closer. Pulling her to him he kissed her passionately his hands roaming from her shoulders down to her round ass. Yes things were definitely looking up.
"I've come to let you buy me lunch," Shell said when they finally broke from the kiss.
"Shell there are plenty of things I need to do here," he sighed knowing this answer was not going to go over well.
But instead of throwing a tantrum, Shell just smiled. "What if I could give you some dirt on Nicole Warren? And trust me when I say you're going to want to pay for desert afterwards."
That caught his attention. "Well I think that my morning just freed itself up." They both leered at each other and walked towards the door.
Fenner took Shell to her favorite restaurant and ordered the most expensive glass of wine. If her information was shit then at least the magazine would pay for the bill. Though he had to hand it to Shell when she said that she had news it is usually worth the work he had to put in. He waited for her to start in on her food before pushing but for once Shell didn't make him beg.
"You know that I have been doing Warren's accounting for the past few years and I think I've come across something interesting," Shell started. When Jim nodded she continued, "It appears that Miss Warren gives a lot of money to charity."
"Her charity accounts aren't exactly going to sell papers," Jim frowned.
"I understand that. But it isn't that she is doing charity but who she's giving it to. Yvonne and her husband," she continued until she was interrupted.
"I can't go after Atkins and her husband. The gangster angle is off the table. After the last time I can't stick my name out for that," Jim argued.
Shell glared him into silence. "Would you let me finish? With the exception of myself, Atkins hires everyone that works there and they are all British. But more importantly they are all ex-convicts." Jim was about to say something but thought better about it. "Yvonne gets a list of applications from Charlie and goes through them. I talk to Denny, that little cook I've been flirting within for info, and she says that all the help are inmates from a Larkhall Prison. So I decided to do a little more snooping and in her records it appears that she has a separate account of money that goes to a series of charities but it seems that there is one beneficiary in particular." She took this moment to take another sip of her wine and cut into her overly priced lobster.
"Are you going to tell me woman?" he demanded.
"Most of the money actually goes to Larkhall Prison. She pays out for numerous programs to help with improving inmates lives and to get them back on their feet. The funny thing is that none of the payments are more then $10,000 a piece but she puts them under different names." So far Jim didn't appear to be impressed. The inmate storyline was interesting and would take a little more research but it wasn't anything more then a good doer story in the end. "Fine if that's not enough for you then let me tell you the juicy part. When I finally found all the donations it totaled over one hundred million dollars." That got his attention. "But the thing that is really interesting is that all the programs are run by the same woman, one Helen Stewart."
"So you think that she has something going on with this Stewart woman?" he asked more to himself then to her.
"Well maybe not right now but I'm guessing that something happened between them. Warren doesn't want her to know who's giving her the money which explains the small amounts and fake names so I wonder what kind of story that might be," Shell suggested innocently.
He kissed her before she had a chance to react. Yes things were definitely starting to look up.
The sun felt glorious on her back as she sprinted through the park. Her weekly runs were one of the few pleasures that Nicole Warren allowed herself. With an Oxford cap and slim black sunglasses she raced against all the pressures of the last few weeks. Her long legs flexed with each step relishing the abuse as she pushed herself past her body's limits. When she was running it was just her and the past she could never go back to. Most people would mock her moment of self pity looking at the life she had now, but there was a difference between having a good life and the one you wanted.
A black sedan waited for her as she came to the end of the running path. Part of her wanted to run past the car but like every other week Nikki quelled that impulse and moved into the car. The cool air inside caused her sweat to dry faster than her liking but she said nothing as the car drove off.
"Yvonne wants to talk to you when we get back," the driver said without looking back.
Nikki sighed. Of course she wanted to talk to her. After two weeks full of press interviews and circling the news circuit all she wanted was to spend the next two weeks on her own. She had been working nonstop for the past three years without a proper holiday and there was no way that Yvonne or the bloody pope was going to sidetrack her plans.
The sedan passed through the tall gate and drove up to her "modest" home. The three storey mansion was nestled an hour out of Los Angeles. For most actors it would be a summer home but it had all that Nikki wanted; an indoor pool, a small stable and work out room with a full kitchen and plenty of room for all of her staff to live comfortably. Walking through the double doors, she headed straight up the stairs to her bedroom. Only the sound of her name being called as she closed the door caused her to pause. Screw it, Yvonne could wait another half hour.
Out of her running suit and into a comfortable pair of jeans and a blue shirt, Nikki decided to face the music. She brushed a hand through her wet cropped hair. Yvonne would be in kitchen waiting and the longer she had to the worse her bollocking would be.
"I was wonderin' if I'd have to come in and get ya," a blonde woman said, a leather jacket tightly wrapped around her thin frame. Nikki marvel how her manager could wear leather in the California heat without collapsing.
Instead of answering right away, Nikki moved to get some tea. No matter how long she lived in the states she could never switch her preference to coffee. "I thought everyone would appreciate my lavender body wash over the distinct odor of my Monday run. Now what is so important that you needed to speak with me before my shower?"
The sound of a script slapping down against the counter caused Nikki to jump. She looked over and paused at the manuscript before her. Of all the things Nikki expected this was not one of them. She thought it had something to do with her interview tonight. Yvonne hated it when she went on the Zach Pierce Show. It was too small and only B-rated actor ever went on. That or she would have gone on about how her weekly jog was a security risk and that she should have at least one other person go with her. The idea that her manager would even think about showing her another script was beyond reason. This was not happening.
Yvonne noticed the frown forming and steeled her stance. "Now don't look at me like that. I just want you to read this over. It doesn't start shooting for another six months and I think it's just want you've been looking for. Just give it a read and then yell at me. When have I ever led you down the wrong path?"
Nikki opened her mouth for a sarcastic remark but then shut it. "I'll make you a deal." She waited for Yvonne to nod before continuing, "I'll read this if you promise not to say another word about tonight."
The blonde's smirk of triumph quickly disappeared. That was way too easy. "Why? What are you planning to say?"
Nikki had overplayed her hand. She shouldn't have said anything and just done the interview. Well there was nothing she could do about it now. "Zach is having a few problems with the ratings and his contract is coming up for renewal so I said I'd come on and make the night interesting."
Yvonne's jaw clenched at Nikki's words. "Just remember all the work we go through to keep you out of the press and keep everything where it should be. You go start telling stories just make sure that you can deal with the consequences."
"Yes mother," Nikki replied.
"Oi, that's my line," Lauren said as she walked into the kitchen.
Mother and daughter matched each other in size and stature, but where Yvonne was pale and blonde Lauren had her father's darker complexion and hair color. The other main trait Lauren retained from her mother was the lack of subtlety that only equaled her bluntness.
"I thought you were going to LA?" Yvonne asked her daughter deciding that her conversation with Nikki was over.
"Tommy had to stay in the studio to finish the last track on his CD so I figured I'd come home and bug you guys," Lauren explained.
"Well, Nikki has to get ready for her spot on Zach Pierce and Zandra will be here in about an hour to drive her into the city."
Nikki zoned out of the conversation and headed out of the kitchen. Lauren worked as her mother's assistant and so shop talk had a way of working into every conversation. When she felt the change of topic and knew she could leave without being questioned. Besides she had other things to think about. Zach had been a friend for years now and this was the first time he had asked for help with the ratings. There were plenty of stories that would go over well with the audience but most had heard before. Whatever she was going to reveal it had to be something juicy.
It wasn't until she sat down at her vanity that she noticed the script still in her hands. She looked down at the packet and read the title, Bad Girls. Obviously a working title that would be changed later but it caught her attention. She opened it up and began reading.
Zandra Plackett sat in the back seat with Nikki as the car turned into the covered parking garage. The pixie blonde had been quiet the entire hour-long drive. Nikki had been engrossed by the script and barely acknowledged anyone as she left the house. It wasn't until the car stopped that she realized that they were there. She left the script in the car knowing there would be no time to read anyway and the chances of someone looking over her shoulder for information to sell were too high.
Walking into the building, Nikki noticed Zandra tapping one finger against the outer case of her cell phone. Her assistant was anxious about something. Over the last year Zandra had been her personal assistant and Nikki was more than pleased with how things had worked out. Zandra had the spirit and loyalty of a lion mixed with the heart of a trickster and watching her overcome her past and addictions was an inspiration.
"How is Dominic doing?" Nikki asked unable to bear the constant tapping anymore.
At his name Zandra broke out into a cheek splitting grin that accented the small cleft in her chin. "Bloody marvelous! Last night he took me out to Club Nuvo which reminded me of some of the old clubs back in London. It almost felt like being home. You should try it sometime."
Dominic and Zandra had been dating for the last four months and so far everything seemed to be going well. Nikki was still a little concerned. Dominic worked for The Daily Sun as a photographer under the ever watchful eye of Jim Fenner and Nikki feared that he was dating Zandra to get a story, but as the months went by Dominic's interest still remained focused on the blonde assistant and no where near her.
"Yah, I can just see it now. The tabloid would find a picture of me asking for a drink and a dance and then next day they would be describing my night of debauchery with some young teenager." Nikki joked.
"Probably but it wouldn't be that bad of a story. You could use a bit more flare," Zandra explained.
"Maybe," she sighed as she walked into the dressing room.
The lights and crowds swirled around her as she walked onto the stage. Moving to kiss Zach on the cheek she gave him a wink for what was about to happen. If he needed rating then she was willing to give away a little of her past to help him out. Zach stood a good half foot taller than Nikki and crushed her in a bear hug. She scuffed his blonde hair good-naturedly before taking her seat.
"Welcome back to the Zach Pierce Show, we have one of the greatest actresses of our time with us, Nicole Warren." Zack said in a deep booming voice. The crowd roared around them as Nikki nodded her head in appreciation. "And I have to tell you that we have a special treat for all of you. The most reclusive of my friends has graced us with a very special treat. She is going to reveal a secret to you my viewers for the very first time."
"But lets make this fun," Nikki said interrupting him.
"Yes, yes. This poor girl has had to wade through thousands of questions about her latest movie and the next project she is going to be doing, so I thought that we would have a small contest. Now I want everyone to get their thinking caps on. Most of you are loyal Warren fans but here is a trivia question for a true fan." Zach continued milking the anticipation as much as possible.
"Oh take pity on them, Zach." Nikki said as she smiled out at the crowd.
Waiting for just another moment he nodded. "For anyone who can answer the next question correctly they will sit up next to her, with us for the rest of the interview." He had to wait for the crowd to stop screaming. "All right, all right. The question of the hour is how many tattoos does Nicole have?"
There was silence no one expected such a question. It took a couple of guesses before a teenage girl finally guessed two, and rushed towards the stage when she was told that her answer was correct. The girl said her name and gushed her love for Nikki. Everything was going as planned. The next question was easy enough to guess though she was somehow surprised when the words dropped from his lips.
"So you've given us this little tidbit are you going to let us see them?" Zach asked.
Nikki thought for a moment. "I'll let you see one of them because the other is somewhere that is no one else's business."
That got the crowd's attention. She unfastened and removed a leather strapped buckle bracelet on her left wrist and angled her arm towards the camera. The girl sitting next to her inched forward to get a better look. Two simple black letters presented themselves in elegant script. They were an H followed by an S.
"When I was eighteen a friend of mine talked me into trying my hand at acting. Never thought anything would come of it but soon I snatched up a small part on the West End and acting looked a little brighter. As a reward for my hard work, I spent half my wages on this tattoo." Nikki explained.
"Is there any meaning behind the letters?" Zach inquired more for himself than the audience.
She smiled as she remembered. "The H stands for heart and the S stands for soul, because if you are going to truly survive in this business you have to find a piece of yourself in every character that you play and then give that character a part of your heart to give it life and then add your soul to give that character understanding. I guess its all deep and over the top but when I look at any script, be it a small independent piece or a big blockbuster, I have to find myself in the role. If I feel myself slipping all I have to do is look down and there it is to remind me."
"And you're not going to give us anything on your other one?" Now he was pushing it.
"All I'll say is I have a house crest located somewhere on my person nothing more," her tone indicated that the conversation was over and Zach relented.
The rest of the evening went on without a hitch. A few extra questions some smiling into the camera and she was done. Zach better send her a large bouquet of roses for this. Fifteen minutes after she left the stage she was in her car and heading home. Finally all of her press obligations were done. In a couple of days she would fly to England and visit Kris before the next round of press started back up at the end of the month. Well Yvonne couldn't yell at her. She didn't tell anything that would get her into any real trouble. It wasn't like anyone would ever see her other tattoo and even if they did only two people knew what the crest really signified.
When the car pulled up Yvonne was waiting for her at the door. Before Nikki had a chance to say anything Yvonne declared, "We have a problem."
Helen Stewart did the best she could to quell the raging headache that seemed to reside in the left part of her head. Two officers had called in sick for the next week and she just found out that G-Wing had five new prisoners starting on Monday. "Well, things could always be worse," she thought to herself, before remembering that she had to meet Sean for dinner with his parents tonight. Today just wasn't her day.
Looking down at her watch she realized that if she wanted to make it home on time then she better be heading out. "Susan I'm heading home."
"Yes ma'am," her assistant said from her desk.
"Oh, I forgot. Could you schedule a lunch with Selena some time this week?" Helen said as she stopped at the door. Susan nodded and went back to the computer.
"Ma'am, the Home Office wants you to fill out the rest of those forms for your new drug reform program that starts up next month," Susan reminded.
Helen groaned, "Thanks, I forgot all about it. Tell them they will be done by the end of the week."
After depositing her work keys at the front desk, she walked out the front door to a mob of news vans. She looked around to see what was going on, only to have a dozen bright lights shoved in her face and reporters screaming in her face.
"How long have you known Nicole Warren?" "When did she get involved with the prison system?" "Why is she hiding her charity work from the public?"
Helen froze. She didn't understand what they were going on about and why she had any knowledge of Nicole Warren.
"Please, give me a moment. Why on earth are you people going on about Nicole Warren?" Finally someone thrust a picture of Nikki into her hands and Helen froze for an entirely new reason. "Nikki?"
Her response caused the reporters to start screaming even more questions. They could smell the story becoming more interesting. "Why would a successful actress donate fifty million pounds to your programs?"
She looked at the reporters and ran towards her car. It didn't matter who she ran into all she wanted was to get into her car and away from everyone. This was not happening. She needed to wake up. Once she was in her car and drove away from the screaming mob Helen started to breathe. When she noticed that no one was following her she stopped the car.
It was amazing that after fifteen years Helen could feel the past pulling her back. All the emotions of abandonment and pain rose to the surface. This was not going to get the better of her. She was going to find out what was going on and handle it like the professional that she was. Her life was finally getting back together and she was not going to let Nicola Wade destroy it.
"Fifty million pounds?" she asked herself as she restarted the engine and drove back to her flat.
Nikki watched the chaos on the television as Helen was bombarded with questions in front of Larkhall Prison. The look of confusion morphed into recognition and then shock as the wing governor recognized one of the photos in front of her. Yvonne and Lauren stood next to Nikki waiting for her to react. They were prepared for violence and screaming but this silence concerned them more.
"How did the press get hold of my records?" Nikki asked as a newswoman overtook the screen and spun speculation about how Helen had any connection with her movie star persona.
"We don't know, but all our records have been sealed and we're investigating." Yvonne answered. "You knew that she was going to find out one day."
Nikki just watched the screen as Helen's personal photo came up on the screen. "I was expecting to receive a phone call or letter after Helen saw one of my films, not have press attacking her as she gets off work." There was a little of the anger they had expected earlier.
"What do you want us to do?" Lauren said. There was no reason to sit and twiddle their thumbs while the rest of the world was organizing the biggest press convergence they had ever been a part of.
"Get everyone here. I need Zandra and if she's with Dominic have him come too. Then I need you to call Barbara and tell her that we are coming earlier then expected and let Kris know that as well. After that call Robert at USA Morning and tell him if he wants I'll give him ten minutes tomorrow morning. This will be a one time offer and he better be extremely careful about his questions. Call for the plane we need to get moving." Nikki ordered as she made her way upstairs.
Yvonne wasn't happy. Everything was going to shit and she just hoped that Nikki knew what she was doing. Either way secrets were about to come out and she just hoped that Nikki was ready to deal with them. Well now was not the time to dwell on what was coming but to make the arrangements that she had been ordered to complete. Time to call in the troops.
The hum of the engines lolled Nikki into a sense of calm. For a high powered movie star, she allowed herself little extravagance. Most of her counterparts owned dozens of homes all over the world and commanded fleets of planes and the like. Nikki owned two homes; the one in California that was her home almost year round and her place outside London. Her personal jet was small holding only twelve people comfortably but she loved the freedom. This was one of the only ways she could keep the press away from her while she traveled.
The stewardess came in with another bottle of water and did her best to keep out of Nikki's way. One of the things her employees knew was how to judge her mood swings. It wasn't one of her best traits but Nikki did what she could to diminish her negative reactions when around others but today was not going to be a shining example of control.
"Nikki?" Zandra called from the entrance hatch.
She looked up to see a very confused looking assistant and an even more confused photographer. After waving them into the plane, she nodded for the stewardess to return to the cockpit. "Thank you for coming on such short notice. Please sit." She waited for them to take a seat before continuing, "There have been some developments in England and it looks like our plans have to be changed."
"You don't think Dom had anythin' to do with em?" Zandra asked with a worried expression.
"No, that's not why I asked him here." She could see the couple relax. "Actually, the reason why I wanted Mr. McAllister to join us was to have him sign these."
She dropped a file in front of him and waited. He opened the folder and began to read. "I don't understand?" he said after reading the first few lines.
"I would think that the title was self explanatory. I want you to sign a non disclosure agreement. Trust me there are no hidden tricks. All it says is that you will not discuss any of my personal business to the press while under my employment or afterwards," Nikki explained.
"Are you offering me a job?" Dominic didn't know how to react.
Nikki smiled at the pair. She had been planning on offering him a job for a while. Having a personal photographer can be useful. She had so few photos of the people she cared about and all the ones she did have felt staged and unnatural.
"I know this is a little out of the blue but yes. I could use a man with your talents and you seem to be a stand up fellow. It doesn't hurt that I'll triple your current pay and give you full benefits" Nikki replied.
"But I have a job," he hesitated.
"Sorry to just drop this on you but there is a time limit. In five minutes the pilot is going to be closing that door and if you want the job you will remain inside. If you don't think this is the best place for you then you better be off the plane." She gave her ultimatum and the rest was up to him.
Zandra looked between her boyfriend and her boss. When Yvonne had ordered her to the airstrip with Dominic she didn't know what to expect. The idea of Dominic joining the family was amazing and she would show Nikki her appreciation later. She just hoped that he wanted to work with her. They had never talked about the next step in their relationship and no matter what this would change things. He looked at her and she did the best she could to keep a small nod of approval instead of a frantic plea. This was his decision and she didn't want to force him.
The pilot exited the cockpit and looked at his boss. Nikki watched Dominic as his gaze tracked all three of them. She was about to speak when he removed the cap from his pen and signed the document before him. With a quick release of breath he placed the file on the small table between them and reclined back into his chair.
Nikki smiled at Zandra then gave the pilot a nod. He closed the hatch and returned to the cockpit. "Well, now that's sorted here is what's going on," she explained the events of the last three hours and their part in the things to come.
"Wait we're leaving for London?" Dominic asked a little panicked.
The engines kicked into gear as the plane started down the runway. "Well, we're making a stop in New York so I can get off and then you'll head on."
Zandra nodded. This wasn't the first time Nikki had dropped everything on a whim. "We don't have any clothes," she reminded. Before she could say anything else a black card was placed in her hand.
"Charge whatever you two need. Don't worry about the price. And make sure to buy Dominic a good camera. We're going to be in London for at least a week and I want a ton of photos," Nikki explained. They spent another hour talking about their responsibilities.
"Is she always like this?" Dom asked his girlfriend when Nikki took a phone call. Zandra only smiled and nodded yes before giving him a kiss.
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