Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Start of Something Good

Why were women complicated? He thumbed the cork out of the wine bottle that he’d hoped he’d be sharing with Devon. But instead he was out on the roof, bare foot with a cigarette and a glass staring at the New York Skyline that towered into the distance.

He didn’t get it. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to. Something was wrong but he didn’t have a fucking clue what it was. Things had been good…no-great between them. He had felt more alive in two weeks than he had in two years without her. He poured another glass and flicked his ash away. His phone sat dead. There was more chance of world peace being declared than her texting him tonight.

He needed to relax and let it go. Had he been too pushy? The whole week had been a see-saw of signals. Luckily they usually swung in favour of him but he’d put the rest down to her nerves.

His phone beeped and he snagged it quickly only to grunt at the message from Richie. Something about coming out again later next week for a writing session.

What the fuck ever.

He tossed the phone down and slugged his wine back. All he cared about tonight was how quickly he could forget the name Devon Scott.

For at least a couple hours.


Devon hung her dress in the closet and tightened her robe before slipping into her pink fluffy slippers. She was exhausted but too twisted up to sleep. If she counted how many times she’d picked up her phone to call Jon, it would be embarrassing.

He would only press her now. Ask her what was wrong and beg—no, convince—her to tell him.

That was the problem. Jon was so convincing and trustworthy. She already knew from the the way he carried himself with his band and personal business how much trust and loyalty meant to him. And she loved that about him. Every girl’s dream was to meet a man that loved them so fiercely that they’d protect what was theirs at whatever cost. But those men only existed in romance novels. Or so she thought until Jon Bon Jovi walked into her salon.

She poured herself a glass of wine and sat at the desk by her small box window that looked out into SoHo. God, she’d kill for a glass of New Zealand Sav right now. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before opening the lid to her laptop. She stared at the screen blankly. Who would she write to? No one. She had no one to write to as no one knew she was here.

The people in her life now were in the salon and Jon. That was it. She’d never been one to have a best friend she could dial up and gossip for hours with, well not since she was a teenager.

How times had changed.

She clicked on a local New Zealand news site and scrolled through the happenings of the day where places and names were still so familiar to her. Soon the autumn would be nipping at summer’s feet as they rolled into the cooler seasons. She missed it. More than she cared to admit but it was her home after all.

Her fingers rested on the keys and trembled as she typed his name. The one name she hadn’t thought about in a very long time and the one reason she’d left.

Jared Coupland.

Did she dare to press enter? And allow the memories to inch back in?

She took a swig of wine and then another as she scrolled down further to a New Zealand page with news from six months ago. The wine burned a path down her throat and to her belly as she read.

Parole Denied for Coupland.

Her chest squeezed tight as her ex-boyfriend downloaded to the screen. Of all the mistakes she’d made in her life, this was by far the worst. Jon couldn't have been more different to him than a bar of soap. God, she’d been stupid.

If Jared had never happened, she wouldn’t have met Jon. She would have never had the opportunity to leave New Zealand and start a new life, even if everything about those circumstances were wrong.

And Jared was still there. Still paying the price.

Their price.

There was another name that she hadn’t dared to type into Google for a very long time and the very thought of it terrified her. The wall of tears she’d held back in the car crumbled as she fingered the keys.

Charlie Mason.

Make that Police Chief Charlie Mason.

“Daddy,” she whispered brokenly as she flicked through the newsletters from the Christchurch websites. The only thing worse than the guilt was the void inside her not having her father to talk and confide in all these years. Would he have been proud at how she’d turned out, despite everything? Would he see what she had learnt from him all these years when he thought she wasn’t paying attention?

The best advice was always the advice from your parents, the one you always rolled your eyes at the time thinking they had no idea what they were talking about. Her father had been right about Jared, he didn’t have her best interests at heart. Only his own. She didn’t blame Jared though, she had made her own choices and she was the one that had chosen how now to live with them.

Southern Police Chief recognized for Twenty-Five years of service. She scrolled through the article and pictures of the event which featured her family. She glugged her wine down to numb the deep ache inside her heart. Her mother looked wonderfully radiant and she’d taught Devon many tricks of the trade she used today in her salon.

She clicked closed her laptop lid. She couldn’t take it any longer. She had to save herself from losing Jon, he was the best thing that had happened to her in a long time and she loved him like crazy.

It was surreal. This kind of whirlwind romance only happened in the movies with Ashton Kutcher or Drew Barrymore. Not her, and the way she’d behaved tonight was appalling. She just didn’t have the strength to fight it tonight.

She crawled into bed and pulled the covers up around her, leaving the lights burning behind her. She needed to clear her head and needed to find the words and the courage to let Jon into her life. In such a way that wouldn’t let everything that she’d dreamed of slip away through her fingers.


It wasn’t unusual for Devon to be up before the sun-rose so when she padded down stairs in jeans, ugg boots and a black wrap-around cardigan to her coffee machine she had only one thing on her mind.


It had been a restless night but she knew what she had to do. Even if she had to admit to some of her past that she wasn’t particularly proud of. It didn’t take a genius for Devon to know that Jon loved the fun, carefree and sweet Devon that she’d ignored for years now. Ultimately she knew that was who she really was and it had taken him to make her realise that.

She brewed the coffee and snapped two lids on the Grande cups, scrawled Jonathan a note that she would be late and could he open up for her. That was something she’d never done but she trusted Jonathan to do it and she owed Jon as much time as it took to get through to him.

With her pink scarf wound loosely around her neck she ventured out into Mercer Street which was all but deserted apart from the couple of pieces of rubbish that flew past her feet. She’d taken a leap of faith before so she prayed that he would take another one with her now.

That was of course after he killed her for waking him at five-am.

The corners of her mouth twitched as she realized he was going to be grumpy but probably adorable at this time in the morning. He wasn’t a fan. But if she had to wait a minute longer she’d have gone crazy and she needed to go out on a limb for him now.

She let herself into the lobby of Mercer Street and the night guard buzzed Jon’s apartment for her before he’d let her through. She was either going in, or she was going back to her shop with two large cups of coffee to drink and her tail between her legs.

“Go right up ma’m.”

Whew. Relief set in as she stepped into the elevator. It took eternity to reach the top floor but when the doors opened and he was against the entrance way to his apartment with his arms folded. His clothes were crumpled and his hair was a mess.

“Do you know what time it is?” His eyebrow cocked but his face remained flat.

“The best time of the morning.” She forced cheerily as she stepped out into the lobby and let the elevator close behind her.

“Peace offering?” She held out one of the cups to him.

He rubbed the five o’clock shadow on his face and his eyes, still and grey stayed on her. “I didn’t know we were fighting.”

“We’re not, but I owe you an apology. Please. I’d really like to talk to you, I’ve been going crazy all night about this.” She rolled back on her heels and bit on her bottom lip.

His eyes shifted to her pink fluffy ugg-boots and she caught him tying to hide the small smirk on the edge of his lips. “You should come in then.” He took the coffee and stood back to let her in. She caught a whiff of booze and cigarette’s as she walked past him and felt a little bit guilty knowing she was probably the cause of whatever binge he’d gone on last night.

The apartment was dim and the curtains were drawn. A blanket lay rumpled on the couch next to a head-dented cushion. Her courage wavered but she held her ground.

“Can we go outside? I need a smoke.”

“Sure.” Now wasn’t the time to tease him so she followed him out to the wonder-terrace that was more like a mini version of the Empire State Building viewing deck. Or so she imagined if she’d done those tourist attractions.

He lit his cigarette and took a deep drag and leaned back against the railing facing her. “Are you OK?”

She perched herself on the edge of the outdoor dining table and swung her legs gently under them while she took a deep breath of courage. “Not really. I mean I am but I feel like an idiot for how I behaved last night.”

He flicked his ash off the side of the railing. “I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself. It wasn’t exactly a normal situation.”

She shook her head. “Don’t pretend you didn’t notice it. I was awful, especially when we came home.”

He shrugged. “If you mean you left me horny, I got over it.”

God, he was being such a boy. She deserved it but he wasn’t helping the situation. Her stomach already was a ball of butterflies. “That’s not what I mean.” She took a sip of her coffee and sighed.

“I panicked. I just wanted some time to think.”

“Why did you panic Devon? Did I do something?”

“God-no. You did everything right. It’s not everyday people get their own Pretty Woman movie to live.”

He lifted his eyebrow and chuckled. “Right, so what was the problem?”

“I don’t want to lose you. I’m sorry if that makes me one of those needy and pathetic women.”

“You’re definitely not one of them and why on earth would you think you were going to lose me?”

“Because I’m not who you think I am.”

He tipped his coffee to his mouth and his gaze rested out on the skyline. “Oh?”

“I’m not this strong woman you think I am. I’ve done somethings I’m not proud of.” Her arms trembled but she pulled herself back into the moment. She had to get through this. She owed it to him and to herself to.

“Like? I’m not exactly perfect either Devon and you know that.” She knew that because he’d told her and Jon knew his weaknesses even if he didn’t want to admit them. He knew.

“I’ve been alone for a long time Jon. You came walking into my life and breathed something back in me, something I thought I had lost forever.”

He turned back to face her and his eyes softened. “Believe it or not. I know what that’s like, but you’re not alone Devon. Look at the salon...and you have family.”

She shook her head and the tear slipped down her cheek. “No I don’t. They don’t want to know me and they have every right to. The things I’ve done are unforgivable and I miss them so much.”

He took a step closer but didn’t approach her. “Is that why you came here? To America?”

She nodded. “I left out of shame. I was my father’s shame.”

“What happened?”

“Jared happened. I can’t blame him it was my choice in the end. He didn’t approve. Jared wasn't the nicest person in the world but he made me feel like a million bucks and I stupidly fell into that trap that he loved me and he hated my father and always convinced me my father was just trying to control me and didn’t want to have a life. Little did I know that it was actually the other way around. Jared was jealous of my family and didn’t like that they’d do anything for me.”

“Men can be pretty convincing, especially when it comes to women.. That doesn’t seem like you though Devon, you have so much spirit.”

“I do now. I didn’t back then. I don’t even know how it happened when I look back and how I let it get so bad.”

“He was the policeman, right?”

“Yeah. The best actually, you’d have liked him a lot.”

“So that’s why I’m not getting the tour anytime soon huh? When was the last time you spoke to them?”

“Before I left for the United States.” It hurt just as much now as it did back then, if not more. Time healed only so much and there was only so many band-aids you could mend a broken heart with.

“Dev. God. Do they know where you are?”

She shook her head.

“Hell.” The worst part that she didn’t tell Jon is that they probably thought she was dead. She’d been listed as a missing person three days after she’d left New Zealand by boat.

“I don’t expect you to understand, I look at you and your family and see what we were and god.” She blinked the tears away as she looked up at the stars that were melting into the morning sky. “We were so like that.”

“Sure. I don’t understand as I wasn’t there but doesn’t mean I don’t care.”

“You shouldn’t. I’m a horrible person.”

He rested his coffee down on the table beside her and placed his hands on her shoulders and rubbed gently. “You’re not. Things happen and we regret them. Doesn’t mean you can’t put things right.”

She shook her head. “I can’t Jon. Not yet. I’m not ready, I want to-but I’m not ready.”

“Shhh. Ok.” He kissed the top of her head. “You’re not alone Devon. I can’t promise you this will be forever, I don’t think anyone really can but I can promise you I really do want to be with you and want to make this work.”

She didn’t deserve such a wonderful proclamation but it made her heart swell. “That’s more than anyone has ever said so I’ll take it.”

His hand cupped her cheek. “It’s been a crazy couple of weeks hasn’t it.”

“Yup but still the best.” Her hands slid up his chest and rested on his shoulders. “I’m sorry Jon.”

“Don’t apologize. That’s quite the burden you’re carrying around with you there love. I could help you if you wanted to make amends.”

“No-I mean not yet. But thank you.”

“Thank you for telling me. I know it had to hurt to bring it all up.” His thumb scraped along her cheek and she felt just a little bit lighter.

“Only because you make me feel things I haven’t in years Jon.”

“Oh, so now I’m to blame?” He teased as their noses bumped and the familiar sparkle returned to his eyes.

“No, not at all. I love you.” She kissed him squarely on the lips and tasted a mouthful of wine and smoke.

“Gross. What the hell did you drink and smoke last night?”

He laughed and nodded towards the lounger where the empty glass sat next to the wine bottle and a full-ashtray. “Maybe I was a little over-indulgent last night.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Yeah I get pissy when I don’t get what I want and what I wanted last night after seeing you in that ridiculous dress.” He kissed her nose. “Was you.” He brushed a lock of her hair back and his thumb pad traced down her jaw.

He leaned in and his rough cheek brushed against hers and she sighed as his warmth was back. “I know. I did too.”

“You know, I’m excellent at something else too.”

“What’s that?” she asked fingering the hair at the bottom of his neck.

“Make-up sex.” He pulled back letting his hands run down her arms to her hands. “After a shower.”

“I’ll have to be the judge of that then. Go and have a shower home-boy. I can wait.”

He dragged her into him and he kissed her again. “What about work?”

“I’ve left Jonathan in charge-so hurry up before I change my mind.”

“Ah, my little control freak.”

She laughed and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh and by the way.” He pointed at her boots as he put one foot inside. “Cute boots.”

Her cheeks flushed. “Oh shut up. I didn’t care what I threw on, which is so not like me. See what you are doing to me?”

He winked and grinned wider. “Get into my bed woman. I’ll be five minutes.”

And then he was gone. She took a minute to take in the early morning of New York city before popping herself off the table. She’d put herself out there and shown him the most vulnerable part of her. It wasn’t all of her but some parts had to stay buried, for the good of everyone. Things were definitely starting off better than they had been in a long time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chapter Thirty Seven: Torn

Jon checked his watch and frowned. Devon was taking her time and had been so withdrawn which wasn’t like her at all. Of course this wasn’t exactly the easiest place to bring someone that wasn’t used to it and his Dad’s words about looking out for her rang true.

“Stood up?” A strong hand cupped his shoulder and Jon looked up into familiar heavy-set eyes.

“Sonofabitch! Hell must have frozen over for you to be here.”

Bruce grinned and they shook hands. “Patti was the one that wanted to come. She loves the work Elton does so I had to come by. I figured someone local would be here I could hang with and voila. Here you are - minus a date? Lost your charm Jersey boy?”

“She went to the bathroom actually, smart-ass.”

“Patti did too so they’re probably talking and trading secrets or whatever women do in bathrooms, maybe Voodoo.” He wiggled his eyebrows and laughed.

“Is this a suit?” Jon teased. Bruce was the local pin-up boy for the blue-collared class so it was not every day on saw him in a pressed Boss.

“Now who’s the wise-guy? Yes it is. I woulda worn jeans and a shirt but Patti would have killed me.”

“Not to mention it is Black Tie, Bruce.”

“So, you still crazy in lurveeee?”

Jon narrowed his eyes and then shoved a hand into his hair.

“That bad huh?”

“No, just this-Devon got overwhelmed I thought she’d be OK with all this.”

“With the more flashing lights than the Rockefeller Tree outside in your face? Yeah sure, it’s a trip.”

He glanced in the direction of the ladies. It had been a weird day, from when he surprised her she’d been on edge and not like the Devon he knew at all. He could read her well but there was still something that nagged at him that shouldn’t have. She was afraid of something but he wasn’t sure what.

He did have to realize that she was out of her depth as well and this may have been the every-day thing to do for him but it had to be something completely different to her.

“I suppose you’re right, not exactly a relaxing evening out. This is the last place I’d expect to see you.”

“Meh-we hadn’t been to one for awhile. The extravagance of these things annoys the shit out of me.”

Jon raised his brows. “And you pick Elton’s to come to - that was a bad choice then.”

“Well as I said Patti wanted to come and I can handle wearing a suit for a few hours. Just.” Bruce winked and patted his arm and then straightened his jacket. “You look worried Jonny. She’ll be out soon, you know women they like to do their thing in there.”

“I know.” God. He could kill for a cigarette but he wasn’t about to leave not knowing if she was coming out or not.

He had to be OK with this. He wasn’t going to screw up another relationship being overly anal about things. He’d made that commitment to himself and he intended on keeping it. A puff of air left his lungs as he caught sight of her with Patti across the room. The strip of skin was distracting in the middle. How was he supposed to pay any attention to anything above her neck when the dress practically dragged his eyes down to trace the keyhole in the middle.

He could almost taste her skin. He wasn’t above burying his doubts deep inside her either because when they connected it was something else. The sparkle of on her shoe caught in the light but he wished it matched the look in her eyes. She searched the room and when her gaze landed on him she smiled.

“Here they are. The best two looking women in the room. Evenin’ young Devon.” Bruce leaned forward and kissed her cheek and Jon did the same to Patti.

“Lovely to see you again Patti.”

“Hi.” He said just out of ear shot of Bruce and Patti as he slipped his arm around her waist. “Everything ok?”

“Yes, fine all those lights are not good for the face so a little touch up with in order.”

Patti grinned. “Ain’t that the truth. Imagine my surprise finding this darlin’ in the ladies room. Now what’s everyone having to drink?”
“I’ll have a white wine and Devon will too?” He finished as she nodded.

“We’ll be back soon.” Patti hooked her arm through Bruce and dragged him towards the bar. Subtly sometimes wasn’t her strong suit as he knew damn well her and Bruce didn’t drink barely anything at these events.

“Did you want to dance?” Jon asked hoping he could coax her nerves away with a little dance.

“That would be lovely.”

He winked and took her hand and led her into the sea of people. A low sultry beat was playing and he shifted her hand into the small of her back and pulled her in. Her sweet scent surrounded him and her lips parted. He leaned in and kissed her gently letting his lips hover for just a second.

“You made it through.”

Her eyes flicked up to his but then the lines in her face relaxed. “I did. You must think I’m silly.”

He pressed his cheek against the side of her head as he swayed her gently and clasped his hand in hers. “I would never think that. This isn’t exactly-normal.”

“It’s your normal.”

He chuckled and let her drift with him. “It’s overwhelming though?”

“Most things about you Jon are.” He could hear the smile in her voice and closed his eyes and enjoyed the simple moment. Hips lips brushed her ear.

Some day, when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight.

“That’s not the song playing silly.”

“You should know by now I do what I want.”

She tipped her head and their eyes met, a small smile played on her lips. “No comment.”

He brushed back her hair and his thumb scraped along her jaw.

You're lovely, with your smile so warm
And your cheeks so soft,
There is nothing for me but to love you,
And the way you look tonight.

He wanted her to trust him, implicitly as he’d never felt like he could trust someone the same in a long time. Song had been the easiest way to express himself all his life and hell, who could go wrong with the greats he so loved and admired. The lights were low and his hand slid down her back and rested over her ass. She lifted her arms up around her neck and reached up to kiss him gently.

“You’re lovely Devon.”.

Her blue eyes deepened and her fingers sifted through the ends of his hair on his neck and she smiled. He took a step back and let her twirl out and back in close to him. Each word he whispered into her hair.

Lovely ... never, ever change.
Keep that breathless charm.
Won't you please arrange it?
'cause I love you ... just the way you look tonight.

The song was true, a classic Sintara track covered by many others but it rang true tonight. She was lovely, and it didn’t matter to him if there was press lining up to get snaps of them or she felt awkward around them, it’s what made her real and if he was honest he hated the red carpet so it was refreshing to have someone that didn’t have an agenda with him. Her innocence was one of the most attractive things about her and that was something new for Jon.

A breathless charm was perfect in the way to describe her. Franky definitely knew his stuff when it came to women.

“No one has ever sang to me.”

His brow lifted and he winked. “Get used to it.”

“It’s just us.”


His hand cupped her jaw and he pressed his lips against hers. “Forget about the room, the photographers, the people...just be here now, with me. That’s all that matters.”

Her body tensed as his hands slid over her ass and he frowned. She wasn’t herself at all and he wanted her back.

“Dev-come back to me.”

She eased up a little and she pressed up against him, all her soft curves against him. His cock jumped to attention. He couldn't help it-- all that skin and straps up against him. She tipped her chin up and her eyes filled with warmth.

“I am here, silly.”

He kissed her gently. “Good- so stay with me.”


She closed her eyes and the music swirled around her. She wanted to get lost with him but it was holding her back. She loved Jon and she loved the idea of his life, she screamed for it from the inside. She truly did.

The week had been overwhelming and maybe she needed a couple of days away from him just to screw her head back on properly. Ground herself. Take a few moments and just breathe. It pained to her to even consider it as she’d been so used to being alone, living in her world with her people and just doing fine. Now she craved Jon more than she did being alone so it wouldn’t be something easy to give up. If she had to give it up.

“Do you know all of these people?”

He chuckled softly into her ear. “Not intimately no. Elton has circles far and wide than I could ever rival.”

“Well he is a knight.” She murmured as his fingers drifted down her back and she took in the spice and strength that surrounded her.

His lips hovered over hers. “I could be your knight.”

She curled her fingers around her lapels. “You already are.” That was something that couldn’t be more true. He had rescued her, more so from herself than anything else.

She took a quick intake of breath before his mouth covered hers. It was soft and sweet at first but he tugged her in closer and fire burned inside her belly. His finger tips steadied on her hairline as he tipped her head up for a better angle and the kiss went deep. It hit her knees and melted through her like a sweet creamer in your coffee. Her hands slid onto his chest, all that firm muscle under her palms as he tasted each corner of her mouth. It would never stop amazing her how quick he could make her forget any given moment and just want him.

Her eyes fluttered closed and his hand cupped the back of her neck, they were out of view concealed in the corner of the dance floor while the rest of the guests floated around them.

Time stood still in the moment that connected them. It was overwhelming and it wasn't till she moaned as his lips hit her neck that she stepped back. “I should go.”

The worry etched in the lines of his face made her stomach bottom out. “Why?”

“I-I’m just not feeling well.”

His hand rested on her shoulder. “We can both go. I don’t have to stay.”

She nodded her head but didn’t have the heart to tell him she needed to be alone. God dammit she didn’t want to be alone but she had to take a step back from all this and gather herself. But she wanted to get out of here, she didn’t belong here and she certainly didn’t deserve to be here no matter how hard she was fooling herself.

She should have gone and said goodbye to Patti and Bruce but she couldn’t bring herself to do it, the more she was there the faster she needed to leave.

In the safety of the town car she breathed a sigh of relief away from the choker-chain of press photographers. Jon tapped in his phone and then tucked it away in his pocket and slung his arm around her shoulders.

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Maybe this was too soon.” She rolled her lip over her teeth.

His fingers teased a wisp of her hair. “Maybe it was. It’s a lot to take in.”

She wasn’t sure if she was thinking about the night or Jon for a second there. On paper what she’d had in a week was the stuff storybooks were made of and she had loved every minute of it, pretending she was someone else, someone that could fall in love easily and well, live happily ever after.

The dimness of the car was a blessing as she bit back the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. Patti was right, she had to tell Jon the truth but what was the point if she was going to lose it all. You couldn’t have your cake and eat it too.

God, I am so stupid.

“How about we have one of those famous bubble baths and just unwind tonight?”

“I just want to go home Jon.” She sat still with her knees together and her purse tucked under her hands neatly on top.

“Ok-your place it is.” He nuzzled into her ear until she spoke again.


His arm dropped away from her shoulders. “What’s wrong?” His tone fell flat. He wasn’t amused with her.

“I just need a little time out. I’m tired and just need a girl moment or two.”

He let out a sigh. “I don’t like it only because I know that’s not all there is to it.”

Her behvaiour had been a little on the dramatic side so she needed to be the good actress she was or she’d lose Jon for good without even trying. “Honestly, I just need a bit of time. We agreed we’d had a huge week together and it’s been everything a girl dreams of. Jon, I’m just-”


“Tired.” She finished. She rubbed his knee gently and forced a smile. “Honestly.”

The car rolled to a stop outside her place and the driver opened her door and Jon got out on his side and followed her to the door.

“Are you sure I can’t change your mind? I don’t like to think of you like this Dev.”

She stood on the first step and kissed the top of his head. “I’ll call you tommorow?”

“I love you dammit.” His fingers dragged under her jaw as their gaze met.

“I love you too.”

That’s the problem.

The sincerity in her voice was enough to ease the worry on his face.

“Call me anytime - but call me tomorrow. I’m not happy about this.” He stole a quick kiss but held it for a few seconds before stepping back.

“Night Jon.”

As he slid back into the car she turned around and the tears spilled down her cheeks. It was ridiculous really, why was she crying? Because she was in love with a man. But it was more than that, she was in love with a man that loved her back, unconditionally. And that was the problem.

Will you share her secret?