PART ELEVEN

"Hey Hunter. Long time no see ....." Libby Flanders chirped sweetly, appearing beside Hunter Reeves as he rose from his desk in Study Hall. Libby hooked her arm into his and peered into his eyes affectionately.

"Libby?!" he stuttered, a smile crossing his lips when he saw her.

It was the end of Study Hall, and Libby wasted no time in making a bee-line for Hunter before he could leave.

"In the flesh. So, how have you been doing? You're even more handsome than the last time I saw you...." she giggled, stroking her fingertip across the bottom of Hunter's chin and staring at him with her big, brown eyes. Hunter began to blush.

"I .... I haven't seen you since ..... since .....".

"Since you and your mom moved from Seattle over a year ago. I remember ..... " Libby interrupted. "I've really missed you Hunter. I'm so happy to see you again .....".

But Libby didn't mention to Hunter that she had already seen him in the front page picture of yesterday's Paradise Valley Gazette with Alex Mack. Libby liked the advantage of surprise, and she intended to take complete advantage of it.

As she engaged Hunter, her friend Patty Baker positioned herself beside the door of the classroom, keeping a watchful eye on the flow of students outside in the hall.

Hunter could feel his heart beginning to race as Libby stared at him adoringly. He always thought she was one of the prettiest girls he ever met. It had been almost a year and a half since Hunter last saw her, when they were an "item" at a Seattle high school.

Libby Flanders was the first girlfriend Hunter ever had, but when he was fifteen, his mother moved them to San Diego, and away from Libby.

He and Libby wrote to each other for a while, but soon, the letters stopped. Another long-distance relationship that was doomed to failure.

Just like Libby, Hunter was originally born in Paradise Valley, but moved away when he was eight years old, a month after his father died.

His father was a young, up and coming scientist who worked for Paradise Valley Chemical and Danielle Atron, and was involved in the initial development of GC-161 at PVCP's production facility.

When he discovered the potentially dangerous affects the chemical, he went to Ms. Atron to tell her.

After Ms. Atron ordered him to stay quiet, he refused, and threatened to take his findings to the FDA.

Ms. Atron lulled him into a false sense of security by assuring him the results would be properly reported, but that weekend, when Mr. Reeves went fishing on Paradise Lake, he drowned in a freak accident.

The morning following his father's funeral, Hunter remembered his mother receiving a mysterious phone call. By early that afternoon, she had packed up what she could, loaded Hunter into the car, and left town.

It was eight years before Hunter saw Paradise Valley again.

Hunter and his mother roamed up and down the coast after moving away, only settling for any significant amount of time in Seattle, Washington.

That's when he met Libby Flanders, who was also the "new girl" in school. When the two discovered they were both originally from Paradise Valley, they became close friends.

Now, after being separated a year and a half ago, Fate re-united them in Paradise Valley.

Hunter returned when he finally convinced his mother to bring him back so he could have some "closure" concerning his father's mysterious death. He also wanted to investigate Paradise Valley Chemical and Danielle Atron to find out how his father died.

Libby's family moved away three years ago when her father accepted a job in Seattle, but when her parents got divorced, Libby and her mother moved back to Paradise Valley to be around relatives.

Hunter stared at Libby in wonder.

"I can't believe this ....." Hunter said, surprised, finally hugging her.

"Believe it" she laughed at his hug, beaming her beautiful smile at him. "My mom and I just moved back last week. How long have you been here?"

"I moved back this summer " he replied. "San Diego totally sucked".

"You mean it 'sucked' because I wasn't there?" Libby pressed with an adorable, sly smile. Hunter paused before answering, and Libby knew exactly why. Alex Mack.

"Well Libby, I ....." Hunter answered nervously, shifting uncomfortably. Libby just cocked her head, her eyes wide and innocent.

"It's been almost a year and a half since we last saw each other, and since then, well ..... after I moved back to Paradise Valley, I've sorta been ..... seeing someone else ...." he explained grudgingly.

Libby's expression changed to surprise, then sadness. Hunter noticed immediately.

Even though Libby already knew about Hunter and Alex, she felt surprised that it actually bothered her to hear him say they were involved. It was her intention to only feign being hurt, but this wasn't working out as she had originally planned. When she saw Hunter walk into the Study Hall an hour ago, she began plotting to manipulate this situation to her advantage, because Hunter was a perfect way to get even with Alex. But as she schemed throughout the period, Libby caught herself staring at Hunter several times, momentarily forgetting her plans of revenge.

Libby never counted on her still being in love with him.

"Oh" she said quietly, deftly taking her arm out of his. A cold twinge surged through her stomach.

Libby couldn't believe it! She still had feelings for Hunter, and he was Alex Mack's boyfriend now!

Her hatred for Alex increased tenfold on the spot.

"You make me a laughing stock at Atron Junior High, and now you have my boyfriend" Libby thought spitefully towards Alex.

"Libby, I'm really sorry if ....." Hunter bumbled, trying to console her, but he knew the damage was done. Hunter was assuming Libby thought they could just pick up where they left off a year and a half ago.

Not once did he realize her true intentions to use him as a pawn, which were now blowing up in her face!

For some reason, Libby couldn't bring herself to hate Hunter, only hate Alex that much more. She nodded at Hunter. "Hey, Hunter, it's .... o.k., y'know? I understand. I mean, it's been over a year and everything ....." she replied, a slight quivering in her voice.

Hunter didn't know about Libby's and Alex's history, and when he dated Libby in Seattle, he never saw the spiteful and scheming side of her. To Hunter, Libby Flanders was one of the sweetest, nicest girls he ever knew.

He stood there feeling helpless as Libby's eyes echoed her hurt.

Out of the corner of her eye, Libby spotted her friend Patty still standing beside the classroom's door behind Hunter. Patty was motioning at her frantically. During Study Hall, when Libby first saw Hunter enter and sit down, she and Patty quietly devised a plan to get even with Alex.

She assumed Alex would try to find Hunter after last period, and since Study Hall was located between Alex's last period History class and the lockers, she thought this would be the perfect opportunity to enact the first phase of her plan. As Libby stopped and stalled Hunter after class, Patty would look out for Alex, and signal Libby when she saw her coming down the hallway. She knew the time to act was now.

Libby's instinct took over and she bolted into action.

"Hunter, I, I still love you....!" Libby whispered loudly. She reached up before Hunter could react and placed her hands on each side of his face, pulled herself close to him, and kissed him passionately on the mouth.

At that very moment, Alex peered into the classroom.


"I don't have to tell you anything! " Vince protested. "You can't do this to me! I'm not saying anything until my lawyer gets here!"

Gino Lawless leaned over the table to face Vince close-up, who was seated on the other side. "Looks like we can do anything we want Vince" he smirked confidently. "Now, once again. Why don't you tell us where you were yesterday morning when David Watt's trailer blew up?"

Less than an hour ago, Gino Lawless, along with FBI agents Garth and Briggs, went to Vince Carter's house and picked him up for questioning concerning the explosion which ripped David Watt's trailer apart and hospitalized Dave.

They were presently in an interrogation room at the Paradise Valley Police Station. Gino was seated at a table across from Vince questioning him, but Vince wasn't cooperating.

"I told you I was at home all yesterday morning going over paperwork Gino" Vince snarled in response.

Gino leaned back, crossed his arms and glared at Vince. "And you expect me to believe that Vince? That you had nothing to do with Dave's trailer blowing up?"

"I can't help it if that idiot Dave's trailer blew up" Vince retorted. "That rusted heap was over twenty years old, and he never took care of it. I'm not surprised something like that happened".

"Uh huh" muttered Gino unconvinced, getting up and beginning to pace the floor in front of Vince.

Gino stopped and gave Vince a stern look. "Well Vince, it's not that simple. You see, the FBI thinks Dave's trailer blowing up wasn't an accident and I can't help but think the same thing".

Agent Garth, who had been standing quietly in the background, stepped up to the table and peered at Vince. "Our field experts found residual evidence of a high explosive which they believe was used to cause the blast, and we happen to know that you, Mr. Carter, have had demolitions training while you were a Navy Seal" explained Garth.

"I ain't done nothin'" Vince hissed. "You ain't got nothin' on me".

Gino leaned back over the table. "Vince, I find it pretty strange that David Watt gives us information involving you and Danielle Atron in a plot to murder Alex Mack, and then his trailer suddenly blows up. He could have just as easily been inside that trailer. Maybe we ought to get a warrant and search your home Vince? Maybe then we just might find 'something'".

"Then go ahead Gino. You won't find anything" dared Vince.

"Don't say anything else Mr. Carter!" said a deep voice from behind Gino and Garth. A short, balding, rotund man dressed in a pin-striped suit and carrying a briefcase walked into the room. It was Vince's lawyer. The man stepped right up to Gino.

"I'm Andrew Watkins, and I am representing Mr. Carter. Have you charged my client with anything?" he asked directly. Gino looked at Agent Garth, then to Vince, who was now sitting smugly at the table, and back to Agent Garth.

"I'll ask you again sir. Have you charged Mr. Carter with anything?" demanded the lawyer.

"No, we have not charged him" replied Agent Garth. "We brought Mr. Carter in for questioning".

"Well then, if you do not have any conclusive evidence to charge my client with anything, then you have no right to detain him any longer. We'll be leaving now. Mr. Carter ..." motioned Mr. Watkins to join him.

Vince rose from his chair, a grin of triumph on his face. Gino was furious. He knew they couldn't prove Vince blew up Dave's trailer, at least not right now. They had proof that someone used an explosive to blow the trailer up, but he also realized that Vince wasn't stupid enough to leave any sort of incriminating evidence sitting around his home. His and Agent Garth's hands were tied for now.

As Vince rounded the table to leave with his lawyer, Gino stepped in his path, their eyes only an inch apart. "This isn't over Vince. Not by a long shot, and I'm going to bring you down if it's the last thing I do" he warned.

"I'm shakin' in my shoes" Vince growled defiantly. Agent Garth stepped in. "Mr. Carter, our previous orders still apply. You are not to leave town".

Vince looked at the FBI man but said nothing, and with a final glare at Gino, he left with his lawyer.

"Damnit!" exclaimed Gino, pounding his fist on the table. "I know that son of a bitch bombed Dave's trailer!"

"I agree that he's our prime suspect Gino, but we don't have any concrete evidence to charge him. We've got to wait until he makes a mistake" said Agent Garth.

"The problem with that is, that he could do a lot more damage before he does. We need to keep a close eye on him Garth".

"Already done. I've already contacted headquarters for another pair of agents to keep tabs on Mr. Carter and his activities. If he so much as spits on the sidewalk, we'll know about it".

Gino looked at Garth with a concerned expression. "I know you're just doing your job Garth, but don't underestimate Vince Carter. He's a pro, and he can fool the best of them".


Alex felt as if someone had sucked the breath from her lungs as she stood in the classroom doorway watching Libby kissing her boyfriend Hunter Reeves. Her mouth was agape, but Alex couldn't say anything.

She felt a gnawing cramp in the bottom of her stomach and began to feel nauseous. What was worse, was that Hunter wasn't making much of an effort to stop Libby's advances.

Ray and Robyn were right behind Alex, and saw what she saw. "Uh oh" said Ray. "Oh my God" whispered Robyn, putting a hand over her mouth.

"H... Hunter?!" Alex finally said, her voice echoing in the room. Startled, Hunter suddenly pulled away from Libby and the two separated.

"Alex .....!" he yelped in surprise. Libby's lipstick was smeared on his lips as he looked at Alex, his eyes wide with confusion and guilt.

Libby looked calmly and casually at her rival, an evil smile forming on her face. "Perfect" she thought.

Alex stepped into the room and advanced on Hunter, stopping a few feet away from him after Ray put his hand on her arm. Alex didn't even notice.

"What the Hell do you think you're doing kissing her?!" demanded an enraged Alex, a small crowd starting to build in the hallway outside the room. Alex's face was flushed in anger, with a slight golden hue to it.

Hunter tossed his arms up in a shrug. "Alex, I, I, uh ....."

"You mean Hunter never told you Alex?" asked Libby mockingly, attracting Alex's attention. "That he and I were dating each other before he moved back to Paradise Valley?"

Alex's jaw dropped. She focused on Hunter again, her eyes squinted in anger. "You mean to tell me your old girlfriend was Libby Flanders?!" she demanded. Hunter's gaze fell towards the floor, unable to look at Alex.

"I ..... I can't believe you Hunter! I can't believe you'd do this to me!" Alex exclaimed as tears began to well up in her eyes. "How could you?!"

"Alex ....." Hunter stuttered guiltily. "I'm ..... I'm sorry. I just..... I mean, Libby just did that, and......."

" ..... and you were enjoying it too!" accused Alex, tears now streaming down her face. Alex felt as if someone had plunged a knife straight through her heart. The last time Alex felt a hurt like this, it was for her best friend Ray when his mother died in a car wreck seven years ago.

"Alex, let me explain ....." Hunter pleaded desperately, stepping close to Alex. "No!" Alex warned. "Just stay away from me Hunter! Don't ever talk to me again!" Alex spun on her heels and bolted out of the room as the small crowd outside in the hall separated and made a path for her. Robyn chased after Alex as Ray remained behind. He looked at Hunter in disbelief, and then scowled at Libby.

Ray looked back at Hunter. "I can't believe you man. I can't believe you ....." he said, exasperated. Ray turned and left, leaving Hunter standing there, speechless, his arms stretched out in a futile gesture.

Libby silently watched Ray leave, and without Hunter's noticing, gave her friend Patty a triumphant wink.