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View Full Version : Pit of Redemption (Evian, Shuis)



Courtaney
5.1.07, 8:24 PM
I wrote this story four years ago, when Evian were just starting to share their oh-so-hot kisses. I was inspired by the news that Sheridan would be thrown into a pit, and fans wondering if she would be alone in that pit. I wrote the first chapter just before we got to see her wake up in the pit onscreen. Hence, this pit is a little different, and larger. I wanted a pit storyline where we could get some of the sorely needed bonding on the show, between Sheridan and her brother, and between Julian and Eve.

I decided this was a great place to repost, on the new Coffeerooms fanfic board. I am going to try to post a chapter of it each day, and hopefully by the time it's over I will have begun to write a sequel for it that has been on my mind for years. :p

Courtaney
5.1.07, 8:26 PM
Chapter 1 - "Pit of Despair"

Darkness enveloped Sheridan as she struggled to her feet. Beating her hands against the side of the pit, she cried desperately for help. "Luis! Help! Please, God, somebody help me!"
As always, her calls went unanswered - unnoticed. Sinking to the cold, dirt floor, she cried feverishly, the tears streaming down her face. "How could this be happening to me?" she thought. "Why would somebody do this to me?"

How long had she been there? She tried to remember. Days, certainly, at least a week. It was so hard to keep track of time. A tiny beam of light streamed across the top of the pit at times. Sheridan knew it was day then. That's when she could see the outline of her prison - the uneven, hard dirt floor and the cold, endless walls. How high did they go up? It seemed like forever. When the light allowed her eyes to focus, Sheridan would spend those precious few hours trying to find a way out of the pit. She desperately tried to jump, reach, and claw her way to the top - but the sides were too high, and there was no place to put her feet that would allow her to climb.

It was during the daytime that Sheridan was fed - her unknown captors would lower a basket filled with food and milk. At least she was fed well. They weren't leaving her here to starve! But if they didn't want to kill her, why was she here? What did they want with her?

Sheridan's thoughts instinctively turned to her baby. "I don't care what they do to me," she thought, "just as long as they don't hurt you!" She rubbed her ever-growing stomach. The child inside had become very active - kicking harder than ever. She thought of Luis, "I wish you were here to feel him kick! I need you so much!" Then her thoughts turned to Antonio. What if the baby was really his? Oh, God, how did she get herself into this horrible mess???

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In the Crane library, Julian sipped his brandy on the couch as the music bellowed from the stereo speakers. "That voice," he thought, "that angelic voice." His mind wandered to the kiss he and Eve had shared outside the Lobster Shack - when they had reignited the passion that had been dormant for well over twenty years.

Well, not dormant really - he had always felt it surging in him whenever he had looked at or thought of Eve. It was the first time he had acted on those feelings though - the first time the two of them had really connected in all these years. He closed his eyes, trying to relive the magic of that moment - the taste of her lips on his. His heart flickered as he remembered the sheer joy of the kiss, the first time he had been truly happy in over twenty years.

His mind then turned to the next time he had seen her, when he had nervously asked her about the kiss. What had Eve told him? "We shouldn't have done that. We can't let it happen again. I'm married, and I love my husband." Even though it's what he knew she would say (he knew her so well), a piece of him had died when she said it. There was so little of him left now, he realized, so little of the real Julian, the Julian that had met and loved Eve. He was simply a shadow of his former self without her - a man destined to go through time wanting, and never getting, the love of his life. He was a man who would never satisfy his dreams.

What was he going to do now? Go back to being the old Julian - the ruthless businessman who was really a spineless puppet of his father's, the drunken coward who liked to play kinky games with the sex-crazed Rebecca and women half his age? Could he really be that person again? Would he want to be? He had never felt more lost than he did right now. He wished there was someone he could unload his burden on, but there was no one.
His thoughts turned to Timmy. Little Timmy had seen the good in him, had seen what only Eve had seen before. Timmy was his one true friend, and he was gone. The flicker of candlelight that was his dear little friend had burned out much too soon.

Julian heard Timmy's voice in his head - such a sweet, happy voice. He smiled. Then he heard another voice, equally childlike and innocent - haunting him from long ago. Whose voice was that? There was something familiar about it. It couldn't be - Sheridan???

Courtaney
5.2.07, 8:22 PM
Chapter 2 - "Memories"

Julian's eyes flew open at the recognition of whose voice he had heard. It was the voice of his sister Sheridan, from long ago when she was a small child. She was giggling with the kind of innocence that only a child can possess. He remembered that he hadn't heard that sound coming from her since their mother died so many years ago.

Sitting up, the Crane businessman shook his head, shrugging off the voice as mere folly. "What's in this brandy?" he asked himself, setting the drink down on the coffee table. Then he heard the haunting sound once more:

"Julian!" the tiny voice chirped. "Bet you can't catch me!" Julian's mind flashed back to a time when Sheridan was no more than five years old. She was wearing a lovely white dress and had some kind of flowers in her hair, yellow flowers. Was it her birthday? No, it was Easter. He remembered she had a basket in her hand. The two of them had once played tag on Easter, he remembered, maybe the only time he had ever really played with his little sister.

Julian smiled at the fond memory. Then he frowned. Was that the only good memory he had of his sister as a child? He searched his mind for more.

There were plenty of sad ones: Sheridan, so small and vulnerable, sobbing at the loss of their mother. Then there was Sheridan at ten, hysterical over what had happened that awful night in the mansion - the night Martin Fitzgerald had "disappeared."

Then there was - he clamped his eyes shut - the time weeks after that horrible incident, when their father had sent Sheridan away. How could he have let that happen? She was so young, and to be placed in an asylum, when there was nothing wrong with her mind - how incredibly terrible was that! "It's best for the family, Julian," he remembered his father saying.

Their father - Julian winced thinking about Alistair. How ruthless could a man be, to do that to his own daughter? My God, he had even tried to - Julian snapped back to the present, opening his eyes. He didn't want to go there, didn't want to think about what had happened two years ago in Bermuda. He couldn't deal with his role in that fiasco. Not now, not when he had recovered a sliver of conscience.

"Julian!!!" the cold voice bellowed from the speakerphone, startling the man who had been deep in thought. Looking up, Julian could not believe his ears. "Good Lord, Father," he said, not even wondering who had answered the phone. Had it rung? "Is my mind not even safe from you?"

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Sheridan opened her eyes, wishing that the events of the past week had been just a bad dream, a horrible nightmare like the one she had had on several occasions. As soon as her eyes were open, she knew this was no dream; it was real.

The blackness of the pit enveloped her. She could barely focus her eyes. Standing up slowly, Sheridan stretched her aching legs. They were killing her. Her kidnappers had at least thrown down an old lawn cushion and a couple of blankets. She had slept on the tattered cushion, but was still in a lot of pain.

She looked above her and noticed the faint beam of light. It was daytime, she realized, having no clue of the actual time. She was not wearing a watch, and even if she were, she wondered if it were light enough in the pit to be able to see the hands on a watch. Well, maybe a digital one.

Sheridan's stomach growled. She ran her hands across her belly, trying to comfort the child inside. "It's OK, little one," she said. "We'll get out of here soon. Your daddy will save us."

She thought of Luis, her hero, and smiled. How many times had he rescued her? Five, six? This time would be no different. Realizing she had referred to Luis as the baby's father, Sheridan sighed. Well, he was her baby's father. She was so sure of that now. She reluctantly began her daily routine of exercise - walking in circles around the edge of the pit, her mind staying focused on Luis.

After fifty laps around her prison, Sheridan walked to the center of the pit. Her hunger was now overwhelming. "Please!" she called to the people above. "I'm pregnant. My baby needs something to eat!"

A figure appeared at the top of the pit - the clown! Sheridan had seen this person every day. She was the one who sent food down to her. She had once seen two of them - two people wearing clown masks - and had heard them whispering overhead.

"Well, Blondie," smirked the clown, "I guess your baby will have to be fed. Too bad it means giving you something to eat as well!"

The hideous clown lowered the picnic basket with a rope. "You know the procedure, Blondie," she hissed, as Sheridan untied the rope and set the basket down. The clown then pulled the rope back up to the top. "Enjoy your meal!" she taunted. "Who knows how many more you will get?"

Sheridan opened the basket and removed the food - a sandwich, apple, carrots, and a pint of milk. "At least they are feeding me all right," she thought. "They even gave me prenatal vitamins when I asked for them." Sheridan ate the food hurriedly, and then made her way to the cushion where she found the vitamin container beside it. Opening the vial, she removed a tablet and swallowed, the vitamin going down hard.

Sheridan sank to the cushion in despair, her eyes filling with tears. Wearied from her time in the pit, she sobbed. Her hands rubbed her stomach. Somehow this always comforted her. She knew Luis would rescue her, knew it with all her heart. The only thing she worried about was if he would get there in time...

Courtaney
5.4.07, 12:29 AM
Chapter 3 - "Love and Hate"

"Julian, what is going on with you?!!" the harsh voice shouted from the speakerphone.

Startled back to reality, Julian sighed uneasily. "Good afternoon to you too, Father."

"You have work to do, but I see that you are busy doing what you do best - nothing! Turn that damn music off. It gets on my nerves."

Reluctantly, Julian got up and turned off the stereo.

"I would think you would trash that tape now that Eve Russell has turned you down," Alistair sneered.

Julian turned toward the phone, a look of surprise on his face. "You know about that?"

"Of course I do, Julian," Alistair smirked. "The former ghetto girl turned down a chance to be with a billionaire. Just how bad in bed are you, anyway?"

"Shut up, Father," Julian protested. "Eve's not from the ghetto, and she didn't turn me down. She...she has a family that she loves and doesn't want to leave."

"Well, be glad the so-called doctor did refuse your advances. I warned you what would happen if you took back up with her - I would completely disinherit you. You would be left with nothing."

"Except my dignity."

"Don't get me started on that, Julian. You have no dignity. Anyway, at least nobody else saw you sucking face outside of that dive a couple of weeks ago - nobody except your tramp of an ex-wife Ivy, your loser son Fox, and me."

"I didn't know you had the whole town under surveillance," Julian said, blushing. "I should have known. Not to worry, Father. It's in Ivy's best interests not to talk, and I took care of Fox."

"Yes, you handled your son well, Julian. I'm surprised. At least that's one thing you learned from me - how to make your wayward children mind you."

"Speaking of children, Father," Julian said, "I want to talk about Sheridan."

"Why would we talk about her? She's out of the picture now, Julian."

"Father, you didn't have anything to do with...?"

"Of course not!" Alistair blared. "But can I say I'm not disappointed she's gone? Hardly!"

"She's pregnant!" Julian said. "Don't you have a heart at all?"

"A heart? I thought you would get over that lovey-dovey nonsense when Eve Russell stiffed you!"

"Yes, well, maybe my heart is here to stay, even if I don't have Eve," Julian sighed.

"Get over it, Julian! Now, I have important business matters I want you to attend..."

"Father!" Julian interrupted excitedly. "You could help find Sheridan. I just realized - your cameras. They had to see everything the night she disappeared."

"That's nonsense, Julian. I have no cameras in the cottage. I got sick of seeing nothing but Lopez-Fitzgeralds running around."

"Yes, but the grounds cameras - they had to have picked up something!"

"So what? As I said before, she's out of our way now. That's good news for both you and me - not to mention Crane Industries."

Julian shook his head sadly. How could a man not care whether his own daughter lived or died?

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Luis rubbed his fingers through his hair in frustration. He had been sitting at his police desk for over two hours, combing through his notes on Sheridan's disappearance. He kept coming up with nothing.

"I don't get it. I'm missing something." His mind turned to Beth. Charity's premonition had implicated Beth in the disappearance, but he hadn't wanted to believe it. The entire cottage of Lopez-Fitzgeralds and friends had grilled Beth for hours, until she had finally broken down and told them that Sheridan had run away.

According to Beth, Sheridan had said she couldn't take the stress anymore. She was worried about the health of her baby and had decided to leave town, to have her baby in peace. "She did it for the baby's sake, Luis," Beth had said. "You know a mother would do anything to protect her child."

Sheridan had told Beth about it because she knew she would understand the stress she was under and would not try to stop her, Beth had revealed. She was afraid Gwen would have tried to talk her out of it.

"I did try to talk to her," Beth had said, "but her mind was made up. So I helped her pack."

"I was worried about your baby," Beth had insisted, looking at Luis. "I didn't want anything to happen to it."

When Sheridan realized no one was outside of her cottage, she had left through the bedroom window, according to Beth. "I don't know how she left the estate," Beth had assured them. "In a car, taxi, bus - I don't know. Maybe she hitchhiked."

Luis shook his head at that suggestion. He knew no matter how desperate Sheridan was, she would never hitchhike.

The real blow had come when Gwen admitted that Sheridan had told her on more than one occasion that she had thought about leaving town. Luis had never expected to hear that. He couldn't believe she would just up and leave him.

He set his notebook down on his desk. Did Sheridan really leave, just like that? Had she left him and Antonio because she couldn't take the pressure?

"Maybe I put too much pressure on her," he thought, "constantly saying we needed to tell Antonio the truth. It would be too much for anyone, especially someone in her condition."

Luis thought of Sheridan's sweet face. "I miss you, sweetheart," he whispered, tears forming in his eyes. "I just want you to come back."

Shaking his head in disbelief, Luis stood up, clutching the police notebook in his hand. "I will find you, Sheridan," he vowed. "Whatever it takes, I will bring you back to me!"

Courtaney
5.4.07, 10:09 PM
Chapter 4 - "The Squeeze"

A tiny beam of light flickered across the top of the open pit. Sheridan lay motionless on the cushion in one corner of her subterranean prison. "It's daytime," she thought to herself. "How many days does that make that I have been in this awful place? Nine? Ten?"

She had totally lost track of time. In actuality, Sheridan had been trapped in the makeshift dungeon for almost two weeks.

Her only company had been the deranged woman in a clown costume who fed her from above. Sheridan had come to hate mealtime for this reason. She was always hungry, and knew that her unborn child needed nourishment, but she despised the sinister voice of her kidnapper. "She must be mad," Sheridan thought. "Only a madwoman would do something like this - throw a pregnant woman in this terrible pit."

Tears welling in her eyes, Sheridan's mind turned to her baby - the tiny life inside of her. "What's going to become of you?" she wondered. "I've got to do all I can to protect you."

Actually, Sheridan had spent the first few days trying to escape her dark prison. She soon learned her efforts were futile. There was no way out - at least by escape. The only way she was going to get out of here was if someone found her - or let her go.

Sheridan knew Luis was doing all he could on his end to rescue her. That was a comfort to her. She turned her thoughts to what she could do to get out. That would involve talking her captors into letting her go.

Although she had once seen two people in clown's masks leaning over the pit, only one of them - the large woman with the hideous laugh - ever interacted with her. And that was only to snicker at her and call her "Blondie."

"This must be the woman who tried to kill me," Sheridan deduced. "But why would she keep me here in this pit for days? Why is she feeding me and giving me basic necessities, like blankets and vitamins?"

Sheridan thought that just maybe this woman couldn't go through with her sinister plan to murder her - that she might actually have a heart after all.

"Maybe I can talk to her and get her to let me go," she thought. "I've always heard if you try to let your kidnappers get to know you as a person, then you have a chance."

Hearing footsteps overhead, Sheridan knew she was going to get her chance!
"Well, well, Blondie," the voice sneered from above. "Guess you'll be wanting your din-din!"

Looking up, Sheridan saw the large woman, her face hidden behind a clown mask, leaning over the edge of the pit.

"Oh, hello," Sheridan said nervously. "Listen, I'm glad you're here. Yes, dinner would be nice. You know, I have really been feeling kind of lonely down here. I thought it might be nice to have someone to talk to. Like, maybe we could get to know each other, and I could tell you some things about myself, and listen to whatever you want to..."

"What do you think this is - a dating service?!!" roared the woman, adding, "I don't dig blondes. You're barking up the wrong tree, missy!"

Sheridan, dumbfounded, lowered her head in defeat. "That plan really worked well," she murmured sadly to herself.

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"Here you go, Mr. Crane," the chief security guard said. "All the videotapes the Crane security cameras took on the night Mrs. Lopez- Fitzgerald disappeared." He laid the box of videos down on the office counter of the main security building on the Crane estate.

"You know," he continued, "Officer Lopez-Fitzgerald already viewed these tapes - the day after your sister turned up missing. He didn't find anything. We've all heard she just ran off anyhow. Of course, I guess you still want to find her - her being pregnant and all."

"These aren't the tapes I want," Julian insisted.

"But they're the only tapes we've got, Mr. Crane," the security guard declared, "the only tapes our cameras took on that night."

"Matt," Julian said, softening his tone. "Your name is Matt, right? Well, Matt, I know that you have other videos from that night, and it is those videos I am requesting. Kindly produce them."

"I...I don't know what you're talking about, sir," Matt stammered. "There...there are no other tapes."

"Matt, let's get something straight," said Julian, looking directly into the eyes of his chief security guard. "I am well aware of the cameras my father had installed on this estate. I know that they are far more extensive - dare I say intrusive? - than the regular Crane security cameras. It is those videos that I am requesting now."

"But sir," Matt protested, "even if that's true and such tapes exist, I can't give them to you. Your father would not allow that."

"Matt," Julian said, his voice suddenly turning quite cold, "let me explain something to you. Either I walk out of here with those videotapes in my hands right now, or you don't ever walk again. Am I making myself clear?"

"Y-yes, Mr. Crane," the security guard stammered. "I think I can get those tapes for you now - if you'll just wait a second."

Julian smiled to himself. Sometimes you just have to know how to deal with people...

Courtaney
5.5.07, 10:45 PM
*Note - Charlie is not really Alistair in this fic.

Chapter 5 - "Evil Women"

Charlie slammed the basement door shut behind her. "I hate blondes!" she roared.

Mrs. Wallace moved her walker toward the crazed woman. "I think Sheridan is a nice lady," she protested. "Sheridan is good."

"Sheridan is a blonde," Charlie stressed. "All blondes deserve to suffer."

Mrs. Wallace fingered her graying hair. She was glad she was not a blonde or she would have been in the pit right alongside Sheridan. "Listen, Charlie," Mrs. Wallace tried to reason with her, "Sheridan is pregnant. She needs to get out of the pit so she can have her baby in peace. She needs to go back to Luis. Can't you do that? Can't you just let her go?"

Charlie groaned. "I'll never let Blondie go!" she insisted. "Sheridan will never get out of that pit! That baby is mine and Beth's. We're going to raise it together."

"And you don't think anyone will get suspicious - Sheridan disappearing and you two showing up with a baby?"

"We've got all of that covered, see," Charlie answered. "Everyone thinks Beth's pregnant, so she'll just have to fake giving birth and..."

"How does someone fake giving birth?" Mrs. Wallace asked. "What's she going to do when the doctor delivers the baby? Say, 'Would you like some tea to go along with that sugar?' "

"We haven't actually worked that part out," said Charlie. "I guess Beth'll have to have the baby here. Yeah, that's it - she'll have a home birth. I can be the midwife!"

"But don't you think people will be suspicious. I mean, Luis will want Beth to see a doctor, won't he? And what are you two going to do when that happens?"

"We'll work that out," Charlie replied. "My Bethie is one smart cookie. She'll know what to do."

Mrs. Wallace just shook her head.

Frowning, Charlie asked, "Where is Bethie? Where has she been all day?"

"Where do you think?" Mrs. Wallace answered. "She's with Luis."

Jealous at the mention of Luis's name, Charlie started fuming. "She's been spending too much time with Luis lately - way too much time. We'll just see about this!"

With that, she stormed out of the house, leaving Mrs. Wallace to smile to herself. "That woman's a loose cannon. Maybe she'll explode, and Luis will find out the truth about Sheridan. Yeah, and then he'll come and rescue her. Oh, Bethie, you will pay for this! You'll pay!"

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Charlie parked her old sedan down the road from the gates to the Crane estate. Looking around to make sure no one was watching, she made her way over the fence. The psychopathic nurse headed for the cottage near the main house. She crept close to the cottage and pressed her face to the window. Inside, she could see that Beth and Luis were talking.

"Luis, Sheridan wanted to go away," Beth insisted. "She wanted to protect her baby. You can understand that, can't you? I mean, if my baby's health was in danger, I would do anything I could for it."

"I know, Beth," Luis agreed. "Sheridan would do anything for our baby. It's just, I can't see her leaving - not without telling me."

"But, Luis, I think she left because of you."

"What are you talking about, Beth? Sheridan loves me. She wanted more than anything for us to be together. If it weren't for Antonio..."

"Luis, Sheridan does love you; I agree. But it's you who were putting all that pressure on her to get her to tell Antonio the truth about the two of you. It's you who were causing all that stress on the baby."

Luis sadly shook his head. "I didn't want to put her under any kind of stress - or the baby. I just wanted to make everything OK. Telling Antonio the truth would have been tough, but then it would have been all out in the open. The stress would have been gone."

"Do you really believe that, Luis?"

"What do you mean?"

"Have you ever thought that that's when Sheridan's troubles might have really begun?"

"No, everything would be out in the open then. Sheridan and I would be free to be together."

"Luis, I hate to say this, but maybe Sheridan wasn't sure who she wanted to be with. Have you ever thought of that? If you told Antonio the truth, Sheridan would have to face that head on. She would have to choose who she wanted - you or Antonio."

"That's not a choice, Beth. Sheridan said she wanted to be with me."

"I know that's what she said to you, Luis. That's certainly what you wanted to hear. But what would she have said to Antonio in the same situation?"

Luis raised his hand in protest. "No, she doesn't want to be with Antonio. She only wants to be with me."

"Are you sure?" Beth continued relentlessly. "I mean, didn't Sheridan ever tell you that she cared about Antonio - that she loved him?"

"She did say that she loved my brother," Luis replied, "but not the way she loves me. Sheridan is in love with me, Beth - totally and completely. We're soul mates."

"That's what she told you, Luis," Beth said. "But what did she tell Antonio when you weren't around?"

Luis turned away from Beth, a pained expression on his face.

"Good," Beth thought, "from the look on his face I can tell the seed of doubt is there - ever so small. I'll just keep watering that seed. Soon you will be mine, Luis. You'll forget all about Sheridan Crane."

Courtaney
5.6.07, 8:33 PM
Chapter 6 - "The Clue"

Julian sat on the edge of his bed, the VCR remote control in his hand. He had been fast-forwarding and watching the videotapes from Alistair's secret cameras for what seemed like hours. So far the tapes had yielded nothing out of the ordinary on the night his sister Sheridan had disappeared.

He had brought the tapes to his bedroom so that just perhaps his father would not know what he was up to. "That would be a first," Julian muttered to himself, "if I can keep anything from dear old Dad."

He had remembered one time that Alistair had said he had removed the cameras in Julian's bedroom because he was sick of all the sex games Julian and Rebecca played there. "Maybe I will be able to watch the tape without Alistair's interference," he said hopefully.

Julian didn't really know why he was so concerned about Sheridan. He had never before gone out of his way to help her, in fact on several occasions he had even tried to hurt her. He just knew that this time it was different - he was different. He had found his soul again when he had made that trip to Oz with little Timmy, and he was a changed man.

Julian popped in the last of the dozen tapes that showed the happenings on the grounds of the Crane estate the night Sheridan had disappeared. So far he had found nothing. "Maybe they're right and she just ran off," he said, "but I doubt it." He knew his sister wouldn't leave Luis like that, especially when they were about to have a baby. Passionate love was something he and his sister had in common, and he knew she couldn't just walk away from Luis - no more than he could walk away from Eve now if she had wanted to be with him. He would rather die first.

Thinking of Eve, Julian smiled sadly. She had not wanted to be with him, even after their recent kiss. She had chosen her family over him, and he understood that. Her family was a big part of her identity, the identity she had built for herself after he had nearly destroyed her. Without her family, Eve would be completely vulnerable to him again, completely open to any possible pain he might cause. She couldn't take any more pain, he knew. Once in a lifetime was all anyone could take what he had put her through.
"I wouldn't hurt her ever again. I would die before that happened," he vowed to himself. Still, he understood that she couldn't take that chance, and he respected her for it. Had he been in her shoes, he didn't think he would ever have given his former lover the time of day again - and certainly wouldn't have allowed the person back into his heart.

Julian closed his eyes momentarily and relived the passionate kiss they had recently shared once more in his head. At least he had this memory to cling too, to file away with all those memories from long ago.

Suddenly, a hand was placed on his shoulder. Startled, Julian turned around, half expecting Eve to be standing there. It was only Rebecca!

"Ooh, Pookey, what are you watching?" she asked in a seductive tone. "Can I watch with you?"

"It's nothing, Rebecca," Julian said in a rather irritated voice. "You know you should really announce yourself when you come into somebody's room. I could have had a heart attack."

"Oh, Pookey, if you never had a heart attack from all the things we've done in this room, I don't think you'd have one just from me sneaking up on you."

"Yes, well, Rebecca, I'm not getting any younger," he said, not sure why he felt embarrassed at what she said.

"Is that why my Pookey has taken to watching videos instead of the real thing? Is that why you haven't joined me in my bedroom in awhile? Is my Pookey sick? Is something wrong with Little Julian again?"

"These aren't those kinds of videos," Julian protested. "It's just work. See? Nobody's even on the screen."

"But where is the cast of characters?" Rebecca asked, not believing what he had told her. "Pookey, this tape seems kind of bland. If I were you and I wanted to get in the mood, I think I would pick a different one."

She walked over to the box of videos on the floor sitting by the TV. Kneeling down, she picked up one. "Oh, Pookey, this sounds like a good one - RF-69. Hmmm, maybe I'll have to watch that one with you."

"Becks, why don't you go shopping and pick yourself out something really nice? Here," he handed her his credit card. "Now see that you don't max it out today, huh?"

Rebecca grabbed the credit card. "Sure, Pookey, anything you say. I think I'll visit Gwen too. She is doing much better. I called the hospital this morning."

"Good," Julian said. "I hope everything turns out all right for her and the baby."

Rebecca left, and Julian turned his attention back to the TV. There on the screen he saw the figure of a woman outside of Sheridan's cottage. He got up and moved closer to the TV. The woman was dragging something across the ground. What was it, a large sack of something? Looking closer, he couldn't believe his eyes. It was Sheridan!

Courtaney
5.7.07, 10:06 PM
Chapter7 - "The Pursuit"

Charlie continued gazing into Sheridan's cottage, watching what looked like a quarrel between Luis and Beth. "Good," she thought, "at least my Bethie's not trying to comfort him or anything."

Inside, Luis was having trouble getting his point across to Beth. "Listen, Beth, I can understand why you think Sheridan might not know who she wants to be with - my brother or me. I mean, if I was looking at the situation from the outside, I might get that impression too. After all, she is married to the guy."

"And maybe pregnant with his child," Beth said.

"No, no, the baby is mine," Luis insisted.

"You don't know that," countered Beth. "It could be Antonio's, Luis."

"The baby's not Antonio's, OK," Luis exclaimed. "I know it deep down in my heart. You wouldn't understand."

"Why wouldn't I understand, Luis? I am pregnant too, you know. I can feel the love you and I have for this child we created deep down in my heart too," she said, patting her sugar-filled stomach.

"I do love our child, Beth," Luis said, "and I don't want to hurt you. But you know the love that Sheridan and I feel is special, don't you? What we have is a once in a lifetime kind of love."

Beth had trouble concealing her pain; her lower lip began to quiver.

Outside, Charlie grew angry. "Don't let that man upset you, Bethie," she said to herself. "Men aren't worth it. I'll never treat you that way." She smiled, fantasizing about her and Beth taking a leisurely stroll in the park, the baby in tow.

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Julian looked at the image on the screen intently. There before his eyes, he could see the large, reddish-haired woman dragging a motionless body outside of Sheridan's cottage on the night his sister disappeared.

"Good work, Father," he said to himself. "You finally came through for your daughter, even if you don't realize it. Those hideous cameras of yours actually captured Sheridan's kidnapping!"

He studied the woman on the screen carefully, memorizing her features. "A rather homely looking brute, isn't she?"

"Well, I need to get this tape to the police so they can try to identify this woman," he said. "At least now we know for certain Sheridan didn't run away. She was kidnapped!"

Julian ejected the tape from the VCR and walked over to pick up his jacket off the chair by the window. Looking outside, he gazed toward Sheridan's cottage. He couldn't believe what he saw: the same woman who had kidnapped Sheridan, peering inside the cottage window! Wait, she was leaving!

Julian hurriedly dropped the tape, grabbed his jacket (with his car keys in the pocket) and took off for the staircase. Running down the steps as fast as he could, he opened the front door and bolted outside.

"Now where did she go?" he wondered. He caught a glimpse of the woman heading toward the fence.

"Damn, where are the security guards when you need them?" Julian asked. He headed toward his car, which had been brought around to the front of the mansion for the business meeting that he was supposed to attend two hours ago.

Hopping in as fast as he could, Julian started up the car and headed toward the front gate. "I need to get through this gate before she gets away!" he cried.

The gate opened automatically, and Julian sped through it, hoping he was off the estate in time.

He could see a car just pulling away from the side of the road. "It's her!" he realized.

Julian knew he should have gotten Luis before he left, but there wasn't time. "I've got my cell phone," he said. "I'll call him when I get to wherever she's headed."

He tried to stay far enough behind the woman's car so that he did not bring any suspicion to himself, but the old sedan was flying. It was all Julian could do to keep up with her.

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Eve Russell put the medical file she was looking at down on her desk. Her mind wasn't on her work at the moment, and she knew she needed to take a break. Rubbing her head, she thought of all she had been through the past few weeks. What a terrible time for her family!

First, Whitney had announced she was moving to LA with Chad. Then she had said they were getting married. TC had disowned her and had blamed the whole mess on Eve's lack of being there because of her job. If that wasn't enough, Simone had declared her hatred for her sister, and had called Whitney a slut.
There were other problems as well - Ivy had seen her and Julian kissing, and Fox was close to the truth about her past. She hoped Julian could handle his son. "The last thing I need is somebody else blackmailing me," she thought.

Eve knew she needed someone to talk to, but there was no one she could turn to. Grace was away with David, something else that upset her. And Julian...
She paused, thinking about him. They had become so close lately, so close it scared her. He was the only one she could really confide in, the only one she trusted to reveal all her problems to. She could tell him anything, and he wouldn't judge her. She had called him her rock - heck, he was her boulder. She never needed him like she did now.

They had crossed a line with their kiss - Eve knew that. That was why she had told Julian in plain, simple terms that there was no future for them. She loved TC and her family. It could be no other way. Why did her heart feel so heavy though?

She had not seen or spoken to Julian in two weeks. She missed him, she realized. She missed his company and the way he always cheered her up.

Eve knew that the two of them would have to eventually see each other - he was looking for their son, and she wanted to be informed every step of the way. She fingered the phone on her desk. "Maybe I should call him - to see how the search is going."

She picked up the phone and dialed his cell phone number, taking a deep breath as she waited for an answer. "Hmm, he's not picking up," she said, her heart sinking with disappointment.

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Julian heard the cell phone ringing but ignored it. He couldn't take his attention away from the car ahead of him. She was pulling away from him - how fast could an old clunker go? His brand new sports car could barely keep up with it. "Maniac driver," he said. "Of course she's a maniac - she kidnapped Sheridan."

The car turned a corner into a lower middle-class neighborhood. It came to an abrupt halt in front of a little house on the middle of the block. Julian parked his car several houses down. He waited for the woman to enter the home. When she was inside, he crept toward the house and peered inside the window. Not seeing anything, Julian pondered what he should do. "I should call Luis," he realized. Faintly, he heard a muffled scream coming from inside the house. "Sheridan!" he cried.

Julian tried the front door. It opened easily. He entered the home carefully, looking around for anyone. He saw no one. As Julian walked toward the closed door in the back of the house, he heard a voice coming from the other side - the voice of an elderly woman. "There's something familiar about that voice," he thought. The door began to swing open. Panicking, Julian opened up a different door nearby and stepped inside, closing the door carefully behind him.

His eyes adjusted to the dim light. He could see that he was at the top of the basement stairs. He cautiously climbed down the steps. He could make out what looked like a large hole in the center of the basement. Quietly making his way to the hole, Julian leaned over and peered inside. He could just make out the outline of someone sitting down in the pit - Sheridan!

Overwhelmed at finding his sister, Julian did not hear the sound of footsteps coming up behind him. Nor did he see the baseball bat that was raised in the air above his head. "Crack!" was the sound that the bat made when it struck him in the back. He tumbled head first into the pit. The sound of his body hitting the ground caused a loud thud. He lay motionless on the floor of the deep, dark pit.

Charlie smiled to herself. "That was close! Good job with your swing, ole Charlie girl. You've still got your touch. You hit a home run with that one!"

Courtaney
5.8.07, 10:02 PM
Chapter 8 - "Company"

Sheridan stood up in the pit and slowly walked over to the crumpled form lying on the ground. He was lying on his stomach, so she couldn't tell who it was. Bending down, she carefully turned him over and looked at his face. Squinting to see in the dim light, she studied the features on the man's face. In an instant she knew who it was - Julian!!!

"Oh my God, is he dead?!" she cried, trying to feel for a pulse.

Just then, he started to stir. Lifting his head up off the ground, Julian opened his eyes and tried to focus. "What - where am I?" he muttered.

"Oh, Julian, you're alive!" Sheridan cried, throwing her arms around his neck. Julian winced in pain.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, "I shouldn't have touched you. Julian, maybe you shouldn't move. You might be injured."

"No, I'm all right," he said, managing to sit up. "I think I just got the wind knocked out of me, that's all." He felt a surge of pain shoot across his upper back. "Ouch!" he grimaced, rubbing his back.

"What happened?" Sheridan asked. "How did you fall down here?"

"I think I took a nasty hit in the back," her brother replied. "I don't know what was worse - being struck in the back or falling down into this God-awful pit."

Sheridan sat down beside her brother, trying to make sure he was indeed all right. "Julian, what are you doing here?" she asked. "How did you find me?" Then, as if the realization suddenly dawned on her, she said, "You came to rescue me!" Jumping up, she exclaimed, "You must have brought Luis!" Sheridan smiled broadly as she yelled, "Luis! Luis! I'm down here! We're both down here in this pit!"

"No, Sheridan," Julian said soberly. "Luis isn't here. It - it's just me."

"Just you?!" Sheridan said incredulously. "You mean you didn't bring Luis with you? Or anyone else?"

"I'm sorry, Sheridan," he said sadly. "There wasn't time. Looking back, I should have called him, but I was afraid I'd lose her." He relayed the events of the day to Sheridan, hesitating when he got to the part where he arrived at the door. "I...I thought I heard something inside - a scream or something - so I just came on in. The door was unlocked. Imagine that - a kidnapper leaving the door unlocked. Some mastermind, huh?"

"A psychopath is more like it," Sheridan said. "Julian, you thought that was me screaming? You were worried about me, weren't you?"

"I - well, I thought you were in trouble," he said. "I mean, who knows what that clown could be doing to you?"

"Clown is the correct word here," Sheridan said. "You don't know how right you are." She got up and leaned over him, putting her arms around his neck from behind. She hugged him gently. "Oh, Julian, you really care about me," she said. "Thank you for trying to save me."

"Yes, well, anybody would have done it," he said a bit uncomfortably.

"Awww, such a touching scene!" a voice bellowed from above. "You break my heart!"

Julian looked at the top of the pit. Leaning over the edge was someone in a clown mask! "What the...?" he said.

"This, Julian, is the clown I was talking about earlier. She is the one who has been keeping me in these wonderful accommodations - feeding me three square meals a day - you know, I think she deserves a tip!" Sheridan surprised herself with how nervy she had become. It was good having someone here to share in her predicament, she thought. It gave her courage.

"Don't get smart with me, Blondie," Charlie said. "I can just cancel your room service anytime." She then turned her attention to Julian. "So, Mr. Whoever-you-are, what's the story? Why did you follow me to my beautiful abode?"

Julian thought about making up a story but decided against it. He and Sheridan were in this together. They might as well stand together, as one. "I'm Julian Crane, Sheridan's brother," he said. "I saw you peeking into her cottage and decided to follow you. I wondered what you were up to."

"Well, I guess you found out," she said. "And it's too bad for you because those that enter my clean, comfortable hotel don't ever seem to leave. HA, HA, HA, HA!" With that, Charlie moved away from the edge of the pit.

Sheridan shivered at the hideous sound of the kidnapper's laugh. "That laugh gives me nightmares," she said.

"You always did hate clowns, didn't you?" Julian said sympathetically.

"Ever since I was a little girl," Sheridan admitted. "I've always been frightened of them. Lately I've been having these terrible nightmares..." She relayed every detail of her dream to Julian, even the part where the clowns took her baby.

Julian shuddered at the thought of the baby being stolen. It brought back all the memories of his child with Eve possibly being abducted from the hospital. "Sheridan, I'm not going to let that happen to you," he vowed. "I'm not going to let anyone take your baby."

Sheridan smiled a little at the declaration from her brother. She had never seen him like this - actually caring about her and standing up for her. She knew he was being sincere, but she just didn't know how much he could do. He was no hero, like her Luis, but right now, he was all she had.

Courtaney
5.9.07, 10:29 PM
Chapter 9 - "Hassled"

Beth arrived home from her visit with Luis and slammed the door shut behind her.

"What's wrong, Bethie dear? Trouble in paradise?" asked Mrs. Wallace.

"Nothing's wrong, Mother. Everything's fine between me and Luis."

"Yeah, I'll bet," Mrs. Wallace responded. "I hope you're not having hormone problems then. I never knew sugar could give you that kind of trouble, though." She laughed, enjoying her little jab at Beth.

"Shut up, Mother," Beth fired back, "or I'll have to call that nursing home again - you know, the one with the rats crawling all over the patients."

"No!" her mother cried. "You can't do that, Bethie. I'll be good, I promise."

"There, that's more like it," Beth said, smiling. Looking around, she asked, "Where's Charlie?"

"Oh, wait till you hear this one," Mrs. Wallace said, suddenly remembering the little problem in the basement. "It seems we have a new guest - courtesy of your Charliegirl."

"What are you talking about, Mother? What guest?!" Beth exclaimed, her eyes widening in fear.

"Well, it seems Sheridan's brother - you know, that rich guy Julian Crane - the one who treated me so terribly at that party - well, he came looking for Sheridan, and now he's in the pit too."

"In the pit?!" Beth shouted. "What do you mean he's in the pit?!"

"Just what I said, Beth. I thought I was the deaf one!" Mrs. Wallace replied in a defensive tone. "Your pal Charlie just threw him in there too. Before we know it, half of Harmony's going to be in that pit! Then the rest of the town will come looking for their friends, and what are you going to tell them? Everyone just happened to slip and fall in while they were admiring our basement décor? No, you're going to pay, Bethie. It's going to happen. There's no getting out of it now."

"If I pay, so will you, Mother. You'll be wearing stripes right alongside me for this," Beth insisted. Then, looking worried, she said, "There's got to be a way we can handle this."

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Down in the pit, Julian tried to survey his surroundings. "There's got to be a way out of here," he said, feeling the walls of his subterranean prison.

"There isn't, Julian. I've tried everything. We're not getting out unless someone lets us out, unless someone comes to rescue us." Sheridan's face suddenly lit up. "Julian, they'll figure out you're missing. Then, maybe someone will put two and two together and realize that both of us have been kidnapped by the same person."

She looked at him then, a thought suddenly coming to her. "Julian, someone has to know you came looking for me!"

He shook his head. "The security guard knows I have the videotapes, but he won't say anything. He's too afraid of Alistair."

"Alistair!" Sheridan cried. "Maybe Father knows something. You know how he always seems to find out everything that goes on in town. Maybe he knows where we are."

"If he did, I wouldn't hold my breath," Julian said. "Alistair Crane certainly would never win any Father of the Year awards."

"But, Julian, he's our father. We're his only children. Surely he wouldn't want us to die down here in this horrible place."

"Oh, Sheridan," Julian thought. "If only you knew..."

"It's too bad you couldn't tell Luis about that woman," Sheridan said, thinking of the man she loved. "I miss him so much. Is he all right? Is he taking the news of my kidnapping well?"

"Luis has been working night and day to find you. Some of the others think you just ran away, that you couldn't handle all the stress in your life and wanted to protect your baby from it. Luis doesn't buy it though."

"He wouldn't." Sheridan smiled. "Luis and I are so in tune with one another. He would know I was in danger. I just wish you had a chance to call..."

"My phone!" Julian yelled. "Sheridan, I forgot I had my cell phone on me!" Hurriedly he got it out of his jacket pocket and pushed the power button. "Damn!" he shouted, shaking the phone. "It's not working. It must have been damaged in the fall." He threw the cell phone down on the floor.

Tears came to Sheridan's eyes. "We were so close to getting rescued...a phone call away."

"It's going to be all right, Sheridan," her brother said, putting his arms around her hesitantly. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you. Not ever again."

"Are you sure you two are brother and sister - the way you're always hugging and stuff?" the familiar voice taunted from the top of the pit.

"Somebody needs to put an end to that clown," Julian whispered to Sheridan, putting his arms at his sides.

"What's that you've got there?" Charlie cried in fear. "A phone? Give that to me now!"

"You want it, you're going to have to come and get it!" Julian countered defiantly.

"Julian," Sheridan whispered, "just give it to her."

Charlie picked up a large rock and aimed it at Sheridan's head. "Your sister's head is going to be smashed in if you don't cooperate."

Julian moved protectively in front of Sheridan, shielding her from the kidnapper.

"Julian, just give it to her. It's not worth it," Sheridan pleaded. "It doesn't work anyway."

Her brother reluctantly picked up the phone and tossed it to the kidnapper above. "Nice catch," he told her. "Didn't I see you in a circus act once?"

"Cut the crap, wise guy," Charlie hissed. "Now the keys too."

"What keys?" Julian asked, feigning ignorance. "Oh, my car keys! I don't have them. They must have gotten lost somewhere in your house. Maybe if you search the place on your hands and knees..."

"I've had about enough of your mouth, rich boy!" the giant woman blared. "Your sister needs to be kept alive - for the time being. You, however, are expendable."

Julian turned to look at Sheridan, wondering what the kidnapper was talking about - him being expendable, but not her. They were both worth a lot of money...

Sheridan looked at Julian, her eyes pleading with him to give in.

Finally, he removed his set of keys from his pocket and hurled them as far as he could above the top of the pit.

Charlie ran after them, temporarily leaving the edge of the pit. She returned, waving the car keys above her head. "These just might get us out of the mess we're in because of you," she said, glaring at Julian. "Oh, yeah, these may help us write off the great, powerful Julian Crane once and for all!"

Courtaney
5.10.07, 11:23 PM
Chapter 10 "Missing Person"

Luis walked down the hospital corridor, looking for Eve Russell. He turned the corner and spotted her outside of the emergency room. "Dr. Russell, I want to talk to you about Sheridan."

"Sure, Luis, what is it you need to know?"

"I was wondering about her last check-up with you. Was everything OK? I wasn't able to be there with her; Antonio came. I just couldn't bring myself to ask him about it. I have a feeling he wouldn't tell me, even if there was something wrong."

"Luis, you know I'm not supposed to talk about patients' medical conditions with anyone," she said, noticing his disappointment. "But since Sheridan is missing, I'll tell you whatever I can."

"I know you told me recently that Sheridan's condition is delicate - that her life and the baby's could be in danger if she continued to be under too much stress."

"Yes, that's right," Eve replied.

"So I guess I want to know two things. First, did you tell Sheridan anything at her last visit that would make her want to leave town on her own - like if she didn't, the baby would be in trouble?"

"I didn't say anything like that, Luis. I would never suggest someone in Sheridan's condition just up and leave town. Travel itself would not be good for her."

"OK," he said, "I figured you were going to say that, but I just had to check. I don't believe Sheridan left on her own accord. I mean, Beth says she ran away, but I don't think she would stay away like this. I believe someone took her - after she left the estate grounds. I just know she would have come back by now otherwise."

He continued, "Now for my second question: I want the truth, Eve. Do you think that Sheridan and the baby's lives are in danger if she was kidnapped and is being held somewhere? I mean, if otherwise she's being treated all right?"

"I...I don't know, Luis. I've never been kidnapped, but I can guess it would put someone under a lot of stress - tremendous stress. That wouldn't be good for..."

"Oh, Luis! Luis!" The two looked up to see Rebecca coming down the hall, out of breath. "I just came from checking on Gwen. She's OK, but Luis, I have to tell you I am very worried about my Pookey."

"Your what?" Luis asked, confused.

Eve looked at Rebecca intently, worry showing on her face. "What's wrong with Julian?" she asked, unable to wait for Rebecca to explain to Luis just who her "Pookey" was.

"He...he didn't come home last night!" Rebecca revealed. "Look, Luis, you've got to do something - file a missing person alert or something. Please."

"Hold on now, Rebecca," Luis said. "How long has Julian been missing? When was the last time you saw him?"

"He was in his bedroom yesterday afternoon, watching some videos. I couldn't see why he was even watching them - I mean they didn't look that good if you ask me, but Pookey has been having some problems lately, if you know what I mean - so maybe they will help him, I don't know."

Eve felt herself blushing at Rebecca's story.

"Listen, Rebecca," Luis explained, "I don't think we need to get into all of Julian's uh, troubles, not right now anyway. Can you just tell me what time you last saw him?"

"I guess about three o'clock yesterday afternoon. He gave me his credit card to go shopping with. I bought the neatest costumes, but when I got home to try mine on for him, he was gone."

"Is his car missing?" Luis asked.

"Why, yes," Rebecca answered. "It had been parked out front when I left."

"I don't think I'd worry just yet, then," Luis said. "Julian has been known to - how do I put this delicately - visit other people sometimes, am I right? He likes the company of ladies in general, and maybe..."

Again, Eve could feel her cheeks getting hotter. "Good thing the two of them aren't looking at me," she thought.

"Oh, no," Rebecca declared. "Pookey wouldn't go behind my back with another woman. Not unless..."

"Unless what, Rebecca?" Luis asked.

"Well, not unless she came back to him," she said, raising both hands in the air.

"Who is 'she'?" Luis inquired.

"Well, there's this woman that Pookey's been pining after his whole life. Lately, he's been thinking about her a lot. He's hardly been my Pookey," Rebecca said, her voice pained from the thought of Julian's heart belonging to someone else.

"And you think that just maybe, he's with this woman? That they might be together?" Luis asked.

"I guess it is possible," Rebecca admitted, looking like she lost her best friend. "But I never imagined that's what it was."

"Luis, don't you think you should take Rebecca's statement anyway, and go looking for Julian?" Eve asked, knowing that she was the woman they were speaking of, and Julian wasn't with her...

Luis checked his watch. "From what you're saying, Rebecca, it looks like Julian has been missing for eighteen hours at the most. I'll have to wait another six hours to officially start the case, but I guess there's no harm done in taking your statement a little early. Let's go somewhere to talk in private." Luis led the shaken Rebecca to the waiting room.

Eve stood frozen in the corridor, worry about Julian taking its effect on her. "I hope he's OK," she thought. "I can't lose him again."

She carried on with her duties outwardly like nothing was wrong the rest of the day. But inside, Eve was sick with fear...

Courtaney
5.12.07, 12:21 AM
Chapter 11 - "Togetherness"

Charlie motioned for Beth to come toward her in the living room. She wanted to speak to her in a hushed tone so that Mrs. Wallace couldn't hear what she was saying.

"OK, Bethie, last night I put Mr. Crane's car in the garage and shut the door, like you said - that way it's hidden," Charlie said. "We still need to come up with a plan for getting rid of it though - and Sheridan's brother."

"All right, let me think about this for awhile," Beth said. "I'll come up with something."

"Wha-What are you two whispering about over there?" Mrs. Wallace called out.

"Nothing, Mother, just mind your own business," Beth responded.

Mrs. Wallace started heading toward the pair, ignoring her daughter's command.

"Listen," Charlie said to Beth, "there's something I need right away - a gun."

"A gun!" Mrs. Wallace cried, fear rising in her voice. "What do you want with a gun?!"

"Mother, why don't you go into the kitchen to check on dinner? Now!" Beth ordered.

Mrs. Wallace carefully made her way toward the kitchen door with her walker, but went as slowly as she could to pick up what was being said between the conniving pair.

"It's too hard to control two of them without a gun," Charlie explained. "Blondie's not too bad, being pregnant and all. But her brother's a different story. I don't like the looks of that guy. He doesn't seem trustworthy, you know."

Mrs. Wallace chuckled as she headed into the kitchen. "And you do?"

"That's it! One more word out of her, and she's in the pit too!" Charlie exclaimed, looking at Beth.

"Mother, I told you to get going! Now do it!"

"OK, OK, I'm out of here," Mrs. Wallace said, mumbling under her breath about how what goes around, comes around. She shut the kitchen door behind her.

"Charlie, are you sure you need a gun?" Beth asked. "I've never liked guns."

"It's necessary," Charlie said, "for your safety - and mine."

"OK, well, why don't you go to a gun shop tomorrow and get one?" Beth suggested.

"See, I can't do that," Charlie said. "They have some useless law now that says you have to have a background check to get one. That means I'm out."

"Why?" Beth asked, somewhat fearful about finding out the answer.

"Oh, some little mishap from my past. It's nothing," Charlie answered.

Beth, however, looked worried. "What crime had Charlie committed in the past?" she wondered silently. "What have I gotten myself into?"

"I guess I could get one," Beth said finally, "but isn't there a waiting period on guns?"

"On a handgun, yes," Charlie replied. "That's why you need to get me a rifle."

Beth let out a deep breath. "If you think you really need one, I guess I'll have to get it. I'll do it first thing tomorrow."

"Thanks, Bethie," Charlie said, smiling. "Now any ideas on what to do about the car in the garage?"

"Well, there's something I saw in a movie once," Beth began, her partner in crime nodding, a devilish grin on her face.

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Julian awoke and sat up, rubbing his hand against his neck. "Blasted dirt floor!" he cried.

Then looking toward Sheridan, he noticed that she was already awake, sitting up on the lawn cushion, a far-away look on her face.

"Sheridan, how are you feeling?" Julian asked, his voice revealing his concern for his pregnant sister.

"I'm all right," she replied. "I guess I'm pretty used to these accommodations by now. You, however, can't be yet."

"Oh, I'm OK," Julian said. "I've been through a lot worse."

"When?" Sheridan asked. "Julian, your whole life has been nothing but upscale mansion living and first-class hotels."

"Yes, well, some of them weren't so first class," he responded. "Listen, you needn't worry about me. You've got your baby to think about."

"That's always on my mind," Sheridan revealed. "Luis's and my baby - always."

"Sheridan, did you find out the baby was Luis's? I mean, I don't want to hurt you, but I thought you didn't know if it was his or his brother Antonio's."

"Oh, I know now that Luis is the father of my baby," Sheridan said. "I just feel it. When you have a connection like we do, between two people who are deeply in love, you just know things - like Luis knew that I didn't run away. You probably wouldn't understand. Most people don't."

"No, probably not," he said wistfully, his eyes fixed on the ground. Then changing the subject, he said, "I think we need to tell each other everything we know so far about these kidnappers. We need to put all our cards on the table, so to speak. Maybe we can come up with something."

Sheridan nodded. "I already told you there are at least two of them - the large woman who you've seen, plus another woman, more normal size. Both were wearing clown masks."

"Yes, that's right," Julian said. "Is there anything you recognized about them? Anything about their voices maybe?"

"Well, I only heard the large one talk," Sheridan said. "Come to think of it, the other one didn't say anything to me. Do you think that means something?"

"It could," her brother answered. "Maybe she thought you'd recognize her voice."

"Hmmm..." Sheridan pondered the idea. "Maybe that's it. Maybe I know her from somewhere! Julian, we could be onto something!"

"When did you see this silent woman?" Julian asked. "How many times?"

"Only once. It kind of seemed like she was in charge. The other one - the big one - kept going over and whispering to her, as if she was asking her advice or something."

"So the other woman, the small one, might be the boss," Julian said. "Interesting."

"Why so?" asked his sister, her eyes now vibrant with excitement that her brother might be onto something.

"Well, Sheridan," Julian replied, "kidnappings where women are in charge - where women are the only ones involved - are very rare. This just doesn't seem like a normal kidnapping. You heard what they said - that I'm expendable. I'm a billionaire, for God's sake, but they didn't ask for a ransom," he said slowly. "And they didn't ask for a ransom for you either, Sheridan. They're not after money."

"Then what could they be after?" Sheridan asked, her voice becoming alarmed. "What could they possibly want from me if not money?"

"That seems to be the question of the day," Julian said softly. To himself, he wondered, "My God, what could they be after?"

Julian didn't let Sheridan see his worry. "We'll figure something out, Sheridan. You and me together..." he started to say, and then stopped.

"You and me together what?" she asked.

"I was going to say, you and me together can't be beat," he said softly. "That's what Mother used to say when you were really little, do you remember?"

Sheridan shook her head sadly. "I can't remember much about our mother - except what she looked like, and how sweet she was - how much she loved me."

"Oh, she loved you," Julian said, "so much. She used to tell us that apart, bad things could possibly happen to us, but together, we couldn't be beat."

"I never knew that," Sheridan said, smiling warmly.

"I just hope our mother was right," Julian thought to himself. "God, how I hope she was right about that..."

Courtaney
5.12.07, 11:45 PM
Chapter 12 - "Escape Attempt"

Charlie entered the Wallace's front door and glanced around the living room. Seeing no one there, she headed for the kitchen, where she found Mrs. Wallace preparing lunch for herself.

"Where's Bethie?" Charlie asked.

"Do I look like my daughter's keeper?" Mrs. Wallace questioned. "If I were, Bethie would not be doing all the terrible things she's doing to Sheridan right now."

"Oh, get over it," Charlie huffed. "That blonde deserves everything that's coming to her, and then some."

"Sheridan is sweet. She's an angel. She and Luis deserve each other."

"You may be right there," Charlie responded. "If the pit wasn't already so full, I would just love to put Luis in there with her. Then I could really see her suffer as he slowly starved to death! Yeah, that would be a riot!"

Mrs. Wallace got a sick look on her face as she saw the gleam of excitement in Charlie's eyes. "This psycho is a real nutcase," she thought. "Bethie, I think you finally found someone nuttier than you!"

Out loud, she simply said, "You should suggest that to Bethie, but I don't think she'd want you to put Luis in the pit - him being a cop and all."

"Oh, I can handle him, cop or not. Just wait until Bethie gets me that gun tomorrow! Then you'll see how I handle our prisoners!"

"Speaking of those poor people in the pit...what are you going to do about Sheridan's brother? You're not going to...to off him, are you?"

"Not right away," Charlie said. "Not unless he gives me trouble. No, Bethie and I decided it's best to take care of the two of them together when this is all over."

"But what if they come looking for him?" Mrs. Wallace asked. "People may realize then that Sheridan was kidnapped too - that she didn't run away."

"Oh, Bethie thought up something good so they won't come looking for him - something she saw in a movie once. Oh, Bethie's a sharp one, she is! She always comes through for us!"

"Yeah, Bethie's sharp, all right! She will come certainly through for us," Mrs. Wallace said. To herself, she added, "She'll get us all thrown in the slammer - that's how she'll come through for us!"

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Down in the pit, Sheridan and Julian continued to discuss what they knew about their abductors.

"So, you think I may know who one of them is - the woman who doesn't talk?" Sheridan asked.

"It's possible," Julian replied. "This other lady - the behemoth nutcase - doesn't seem familiar to you at all?"

"No, not at all," Sheridan answered. "Believe me, I'd never forget someone like that!"

"Neither would I," Julian said. "My back still hurts from that blow she delivered when I found you in this pit."

"You've got to be careful of her, Julian. She would like nothing better than to have an excuse to pummel you to death," Sheridan said worriedly.

"Oh, I'll be careful," Julian promised. "But I will also do whatever I can to get us out of here - even if it means risking a beating from our friendly bat-wielder. Really, I get beat up enough by TC Russell. I'm kind of immune to it."

"Why is he always after you, Julian?" his sister inquired.

"Oh, old grudges," Julian shrugged. "Nothing really; just some scores we never settled."

"Well, hopefully someday you can work out your differences," Sheridan said. "Look at us...we're getting along much better than we have in years."

"We are, aren't we?" he said, smiling a bit. "I wish it was under different circumstances though."

"Me too," Sheridan agreed. "You know, Julian, I just thought of something! You told me when you first came down here that you didn't really know where we were at - that you didn't recognize the house or even see the street sign."

"I didn't," he said. "If I had only looked, maybe we would be able to figure out where we are."

"Maybe we can anyway," she suggested. "Why don't you tell me everything you remember about the chase - every place you made a turn onto another street. Maybe if we put our heads together, we can figure out where we are."

Julian began relaying every detail he remembered about the car chase.
"It sounds like you were in one of the eastside neighborhoods, near the wharf or the Book Café," Sheridan deduced.

"It's not right by either of those places, although it could be within walking distance," he admitted.

"What was the neighborhood like, Julian? The houses - were they mostly one- story or two? What colors were they mainly? What materials were they made of?"

"I don't know," he said. "It's just your typical boring peasant class neighborhood."

"Julian!" Sheridan exclaimed. "That's hardly being politically correct."

"Political correctness is on its way out," Julian said. "Anyway, I wouldn't worry about offending these people. After all, they did kidnap us!"

"OK, back to the houses...were they mostly wood, siding, brick, or stone?"

"Wood, I guess," he shrugged.

"And what color was the house, Julian? Didn't you tell me before it was brown? What shade of brown - was it tan or dark or...?"

"I don't know, Sheridan, honestly. Brown is brown!" her brother responded. "I've never had an eye for colors, really. Ivy always handled those details when we were married."

"All right then," Sheridan said, "maybe we have enough information already. Let's see now...a lower middle class, eastside neighborhood; a brown house on the middle of the block. It could be any place, really. Heck, it even describes Beth's place." Sheridan laughed. "And of course, I know it's not hers!"

"Beth? You mean Luis's old girlfriend? Hmmm..."

"Julian, you don't know Beth. She's been such a good friend to me and Luis. She would never be involved in..."

"Din-din time, my basement friends!" the familiar voice interrupted from the top of the pit. "Wonder what goodies are in here for you today?"

"Sheridan, follow my lead," Julian whispered.

"What are you talking about?" she asked. "Julian, don't do anything stupid!"

"I'm not," he whispered. "Just stay back, OK?"

Charlie lowered the picnic basket down into the pit with the rope pulley.

"It sure smells good today," Julian said in a kind voice, moving toward the basket.

"Ye-yes, it does," Sheridan added. "We sure have enjoyed your cooking. It is so kind of you to..."

As she was speaking, Julian suddenly grabbed hold of the rope and began to pull himself up it!

"Why you...!" Charlie yelled. "Damn, where's that axe when I need it?" She left the edge of the pit to retrieve her weapon.

"Here's our chance!" Julian cried breathlessly as he neared the top of the pit. "Whatever happens, just stay back!"

"Oh, God, Julian - be careful!" Sheridan cried.

Julian pulled himself up over the edge of the pit. As he stood up, he saw Charlie, baseball bat in hand, looming toward him.

"I couldn't find my axe, but this will do nicely!" she hissed. She raised the bat over her head and swung it forward. Julian reached his hands up to protect his head as the bat came at him through the air.

Charlie suddenly changed direction with the bat, and with a tremendous force, cracked the bat against his ribs. Julian doubled over in pain. A second blow to the legs knocked him backward into the pit!

"NOOOOOO!" Sheridan screamed, as her brother hit the hard floor of the pit.
She ran over to him, desperate to see if he was all right. "Oh my God, you've killed him!" she cried. "You've killed Julian!"

"Good!" Charlie blared. "He deserved to die, trying to escape like that! And anyway, it saves me from having to put my little plan into motion tonight..." She backed away from the pit, leaving Sheridan to cry over her brother's motionless body.

Courtaney
5.13.07, 10:27 PM
Chapter 13 - "Luis Confesses"

"Julian!" Sheridan cried, putting her arms underneath her brother's neck and cradling his head against her chest. "Just when I thought we were finally getting close..." She began sobbing uncontrollably. "I...I need you, Julian! I can't take it here without you. I'll die in this place!"

A sound could be heard coming from Julian's chest. Sheridan's eyes widened in surprise and delight as she watched her brother's chest move up and down, providing his body with the air needed to live.

"You're alive! Oh, Julian!" Sheridan exclaimed with joy. "Thank God, you're alive!" She bent down and kissed her brother's forehead.

Julian's eyes opened and then closed as he lapsed on the verge of consciousness. "Eve..." he mumbled softly.

"What, Julian? I'm right here; it's Sheridan. I can't understand what you're trying to say."

Julian again opened his eyes, trying to fix his gaze on the woman leaning over him. "Sher - Sheridan, is that you?" he asked, his voice a faint whisper.

"I'm right here, Julian," she sobbed. "Just don't talk, OK? You had another bad fall."

"This one - worse." Julian mumbled. "The pain..."

"Shhhh, you're going to be all right," Sheridan said with overwhelming compassion in her voice. "Everything's going to be OK." She continued to hold onto her brother as he lay in agony in the bottom of the pit.

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"Here you go, Luis, the new missing person's file on Julian Crane," the young officer said, laying the file on his superior's desk. "Any ideas where Crane might be?" he asked.

"Probably out on a drinking binge with some young thing," Luis said, a slight smile creeping up on his face. "I wouldn't worry about Julian Crane if I were you, Kevin. He can take care of himself."

As the young officer turned and walked away, Luis picked up a second folder on his desk - the one containing information on Sheridan's disappearance. Sheridan, I know you can take care of yourself too - and the baby," he said to himself. "But I wish I could be there for you. I want to protect you, to help you through this awful time."

His mind replayed all the adventures they had had together - all the times where he had helped rescue her, barely, from danger - first in New Mexico, then Paris, and when she was buried alive...

Luis paused at the next memory that flashed in his mind. "Not Bermuda though," he said bitterly. "Why couldn't I have been the one to find you in the sea after the boat exploded? If I had found you, things would have been so different..." He shook his head, not letting himself imagine what course their lives would have taken. "Antonio," he muttered. "You definitely wouldn't be married to him now."

What they had been through this past year! Sheridan having amnesia, falling for his brother; then Antonio being sick, the wedding - it was all a nightmare for Luis. The worst part of it all for him had been that they could never tell Antonio the truth. Every time they had tried, something had always stopped them - first Antonio's illness, then Sheridan's delicate pregnancy. How he had wanted to tell Antonio the truth and remove that burden from her, but it had not worked out.

Luis thought about the whole situation with his brother - how Antonio believed that Sheridan had run away. Luis knew that wasn't true; he knew Sheridan so well. Maybe she did need a little time to herself, but she would never had stayed away this long, not without contacting him. He couldn't say that to Antonio, however. He couldn't reveal his true feelings for Sheridan in front of him...let him know that she was his soul mate, and he knew in his heart that she would never leave him.

"I can't take this now," Luis declared to himself. "With Sheridan missing, and her and the baby in danger, I can't take this whole idiotic mess with Antonio anymore." He considered an idea that had just come to him - an idea that actually had been in the back of his mind for a long time. Luis nodded his head and jumped up from his desk. "I'm going to do it," he said firmly. "I'm going to tell Antonio the truth."

He walked out of the police station with his head held high in determination, as if a big weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.

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Sheridan smiled as Julian once more opened his eyes; this time they were focused better. The dazed expression was gone from his face. He tried to move, but Sheridan cautioned him against it. "Don't move yet, Julian. Just rest."

He smiled at her. "I can't believe you're doing this for me, taking care of me, after all the things I've done to you."

"That's in the past, Julian," she said. "The imposter business - all that's in the past."

"But there's so much more," he insisted, "so much you know nothing about. I don't think I'll ever be able to make it up to you."

"You already have, Julian," Sheridan assured him. "You risked your life to try to save me. You protected me from that evil woman. I'll never forget that."

"I just wish I could have done more," her brother said softly. Then, half smiling, he said, "I'm no Luis, am I?"

"No," she admitted sadly, "but then, there's only one Luis."

"You miss him, don't you?" he said suddenly.

"Of course," she answered. "He's all I think about."

"Hold onto those thoughts," Julian said. "If you can't be together, those thoughts can be your treasures."

"I never knew you were the sentimental type, Julian," Sheridan joked.

"There's a lot about me you'd probably be surprised to know," he said simply. Then, moving his head slightly to look into her eyes, he added, "Thanks, Sheridan."

"Everything's going to be all right," she said. "Remember what Mother said? 'Together, we can't be beat.' "

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Luis pulled his car up to Sheridan's cottage and took a deep breath. "Well, here goes nothing," he said. He exited the car and headed for the front door.

Without knocking, he opened the door. Antonio was just walking out from the kitchen. He stopped when he saw Luis. "What's going on, Luis? You look upset. Have you found out something about Sheridan?"

Luis shut the door behind him and looked straight into his brother's eyes. "No, it's not about Sheridan's disappearance," he said. "There's no new information."

"OK, well then, what's up? Why are you here?"

"Antonio, listen, there's something I've been meaning to tell you for a long time...and I'm just going to have to come right out and say it."

"Go for it, brother," Antonio said, a strange look suddenly appearing on his face.

"All right, here it is," he said, taking a deep breath. "Antonio, Sheridan and I - we're in love. We have been for years." Luis exhaled slowly, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Antonio sighed and hung his head for a moment. Then, raising his head once more, he stared directly into Luis's eyes, his own blue eyes so piercing that Luis felt like they were cutting into his very soul.

"So," Antonio said after a long pause, "you finally decided to tell me the truth."

Courtaney
5.14.07, 10:57 PM
Chapter 14 - "A Brother's Betrayal"

Sheridan sat on the floor of the pit, continuing to hold her arms around her ailing brother's neck. "Are you feeling any better at all?" she asked, leaning over to look into his eyes, which she could barely see in the dim light of the basement.

"I think I'm going to make it, if that's what you mean," Julian answered softly, trying to smile. "We Cranes are a tough breed, aren't we? Look at all the things we have escaped in the past."

"Yes, especially me," Sheridan said. "There have been so many times I have almost died - from the gangsters in Paris, being buried alive, and the boat explosion in Bermuda."

Julian winced at the mention of the incident in Bermuda. A wave of guilt overtook his whole being as he remembered what he had tried to do to Sheridan. "Sometime when I'm better, there's something I need to talk about with you, Sheridan. Some things I need to tell you."

"It can wait, Julian," Sheridan said, not sure what her brother was referring to. "You probably shouldn't even be talking now at all - you should just rest." She got up and gently laid Julian's head down on the floor of the pit. Sheridan retrieved a blanket and folded it up neatly. She then lifted his head up and put the blanket underneath as a pillow. Then she knelt down beside him.

"You're being a very good nurse," he said. "I don't deserve all the kindness you are showing me, but I am thankful for it."

"Julian, you're my brother. No matter what's happened between us in the past, you know I'll always be there for you when it counts."

"God, how did I ever deserve a sister like you?" Julian asked. "If you weren't so much like our mother, I would say you couldn't possibly be a Crane. There's not a trace of Alistair in you."

"You're not exactly a chip off the old block either, Julian," she replied. "I see a lot of Mother in you too - like when you were worried about my safety earlier. I'm sure that's something our mother would have done too."

"Yes," Julian admitted, "but I do have some of our father's traits as well, unfortunately. I think it's high time I stand up to Father, though...high time I start being my own man, no matter what our dear old dad has to say about it."

"I'm impressed," Sheridan said. "I've never heard you talk like this before, Julian. Has being down here changed you that much?"

"I suppose it has, along with some other recent events," he answered thoughtfully. "I believe my epiphany came when everyone believed I was dead. I realized where my life was headed, and I didn't like it."

Sheridan nodded slowly. "Being close to death can change people, usually for the better. I know with me, it made me more determined than ever to be with Luis, the man that I love."

Julian smiled in agreement. "Just like I realized who I wanted to be with too."

"But you are with Rebecca already," Sheridan said. "There's nothing standing between the two of you is there?"

"So, Blondie's brother didn't die after all!" the hideous voice bellowed from the top of the pit.

Looking up, Julian and Sheridan could see the masked female leaning over the pit's edge.

"No thanks to you!" Sheridan cried, as Julian tried to motion her to stop.

"Well, well, Blondie does have a backbone!" Charlie yelled. "And it looks like you're going to need it!" She laughed in a loud voice. "Of course, it won't do you any good," Charlie continued. "And now that that brother of yours is alive, I'm going to have to go out of my way to make people think otherwise. It would have been easier just to throw his body off a cliff."

"What are you going to do?" Sheridan asked fearfully. "You know, Julian is worth a lot of money - billions. I'm sure our father would pay a lot to get him back."

"It's not money I'm after!" Charlie declared angrily. Then in a calmer voice, she said, "I just want a happy life - a peaceful life, with someone I love. You, Blondie, are going to allow that to happen."

As the masked kidnapper left the edge of the pit, Sheridan and Julian looked at each other in utter confusion. "What on earth was that insane woman talking about?" they both wondered.

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Luis stared at his brother, completely speechless. He had just told Antonio the truth about him and Sheridan, and his brother's reaction was far from what he had expected...

Antonio had said, "So, you finally decided to tell me the truth!"

Luis couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You knew?! All this time, you knew and you said nothing?! You bastard!" He lunged at Antonio, grabbing him by the shirt with both hands. "I ought to kill you for what you've put me and Sheridan through!" he declared, pushing Antonio back against the living room wall.

Antonio forced Luis's hands away with his own. Luis backed up and swung his fist at his brother, striking Antonio in the mouth.

Antonio wiped the blood from his lip with his right hand. "I deserved that," he said simply.

"What the hell have you been up to - lying to us all this time, pretending you didn't know anything about Sheridan and me?"

"I didn't know the whole time," Antonio insisted. "I didn't know until Sheridan and I came back to Harmony."

"That was eight months ago," Luis said. "You've known for eight months and you said nothing?" He lunged toward his brother again.

"Listen, Luis, I can explain," Antonio said, "if you just give me the chance."

"Oh, this ought to be good," Luis sneered. "Go ahead, big brother, explain. Explain how you have put Sheridan in jeopardy, and the baby..."

"I didn't mean to hurt Sheridan," Antonio insisted, "or the baby. Look, Luis, this goes back a long time ago, to the night I left town."

"You mean back to the time that our father disappeared? What did you have to do with that?"

"Nothing!" Antonio insisted. "It's not what you think. Alistair Crane had something on me, and he had Julian force me out of town."

"Force you out?!" Luis yelled. "You mean he bribed you, don't you? What the hell for? What did you do, Antonio, huh? What kind of crime did you commit that had the Cranes after you?"

"It wasn't a crime," Antonio said. "I don't want to get into that now. It's not what's important."

"You let me decide what's important," Luis retorted.

"OK, Luis, the important thing is Sheridan, right? It's finding her and the baby."

"You bastard! If you had anything to do with Sheridan's disappearance, I swear I'll kill you - brother or not!"

Antonio held his hands up in front of him. "Luis, just listen... I had nothing to do with Sheridan's disappearance - honest. I truly believe she left town on her own, just like Beth said."

"All right, Antonio," Luis said, folding his arms. "Tell me what it is you do know then."

"It started a long time ago," his brother revealed. "The Cranes made me leave town. I left the country - went to Mexico first, then hopped around all the islands in the Caribbean. Finally I landed on St. Lisa's, where I found myself, really. I became a pretty good fisherman."

"Keep going," Luis urged, not impressed with his brother's tale of how he 'found himself.'

"Then one day I fished a beautiful woman out of the sea - you know all about that. I had no idea who she was, Luis. You have to believe me. I had no idea until I came back to Harmony."

"How did you find out then?" Luis demanded.

"It was Alistair. He called one day - said he had to talk to me. He told me everything, all about you and Sheridan. I couldn't believe it at first - that my own brother would lie to me. Finally, he convinced me he was telling the truth."

"That bastard!" Luis yelled. "He never gave a damn about Sheridan."

"He told me to keep quiet about everything, to not let on," Antonio said. "What he wanted me to do seemed easy enough - just stay with Sheridan, the woman I love."

"Why would he accept you with her and not me?" Luis demanded. "Because you were his stool? Is that why, Antonio? Because he could control you?"

"I guess," Antonio shrugged. "As I said, it seemed easy...but it wasn't. I knew how much I was hurting the two of you, but I did it anyway. Inside, it was killing me."

"Oh, I bet it was," Luis said angrily. "You were the victim in all of this, of course. What about your illness? Was that all faked too - part of the plan?"

"No, Luis," Antonio said. "I really was sick. That part was true."

"The wedding - how could you go through with that? How could you do that to Sheridan, knowing she was in love with me? Don't tell me you ever loved her. You couldn't."

"I did love Sheridan; I still do, Luis. I wish she really was mine, completely - she and the baby."

"The baby?" Luis asked. "What do you mean you wish the baby was yours completely?"

"There's something I need to tell you about the baby, Luis," Antonio said softly. "I guess I owe you that much."

Courtaney
5.15.07, 10:13 PM
Chapter 15 - "The Truth"

Luis couldn't believe his ears. "You know something about the baby? What is it? Tell me!"

Antonio looked down at the floor and started moving his right leg back and forth uneasily, scraping the carpet with his foot. "Luis, I know you're never going to forgive me for not telling you I knew about you and Sheridan...for letting you believe that Sheridan had to stay with me because I was sick, because you thought the shock would kill me."

"That's right," Luis agreed. "I will never forgive you for that, Antonio...for all the time you've cost me and Sheridan."

"I loved her too," Antonio insisted. "I still do, even though I know her heart belongs to you."

"Then why, Antonio? Why'd you do it? Are you that scared of Alistair Crane that you would sell your soul to him? If so, you don't really love Sheridan. You can't. I wouldn't have done that - not in a million years would I have made a deal with that bastard."

"It wasn't like that," Antonio said. "I didn't make a deal. Like I told you, Alistair and Julian made me leave town when I was just out of high school - they had something on me, OK? Something that doesn't concern you now. It's not important."

"You just let me say what's important," Luis said. "So you ran off, lived a carefree life for all those years while Mama and I were struggling to make ends meet. Then you rescued my fiancée, fell in love with her, and brought her back here to Harmony. Am I right so far?"

Antonio nodded. "We've been through this, Luis."

"Now we get to the really interesting part," Luis said, "the part where you stabbed your own brother in the back."

"It wasn't like that," Antonio insisted. "I wasn't trying to hurt you, Luis. God knows, I owed you a lot for everything you went through when I was gone."

"You weren't trying to hurt me? You allowed Alistair and Julian to make you play dumb..."

"It was just Alistair. Julian wasn't involved this time around."

"Yeah, I'll believe that when I see it."

"It's true, Luis. Alistair called me and brought up what he had on me from the past. He said if I didn't go along with his little game, he would make trouble for me and my family."

"So you sold your soul to the devil!" Luis yelled.

"Luis, listen, I didn't mean to hurt anyone, especially Sheridan. I wanted to be with her - that's all Alistair said I had to do - just be with her. He even said if I didn't go along with him on this, he would hurt you. I didn't want that, Luis."

"Don't pretend you did me any favors," Luis said angrily. "You're more of a bastard than I thought if you believe that."

"All right, I won't say anything else about that," Antonio said. "Really, Luis, I figured it wouldn't be that bad for you. You had Beth after all - heck you were engaged to her. I kind of thought you two had made your way back to each other."

Luis shook his head, incredulous. "You just aren't taking the blame at all, are you? You aren't sorry one bit, not the way you're trying to turn this around on me."

"Luis, I am sorry, really - especially with the way Sheridan ran off from all the stress I put on her. If anything happens to her or the baby..."

"The baby!" Luis shouted suddenly. "I want to know what you said you had to tell me about that. Sheridan always said you and she..."

"We did, Luis," Antonio said, "on the island. Not here in Harmony, I swear."

"You would have liked to though."

"You're right, I would have - but I didn't," Antonio said. He lowered his head once more, his eyes staring at a spot on the floor. "I always wanted a family, Luis. I always saw myself as a father."

"Antonio, look, I know you hope this baby is yours, but it's not," Luis declared. "It's mine and Sheridan's. I know you're probably mad that that's even possible, but I don't give a damn. Sheridan's mine, and so is this baby."

"You're right, Luis," Antonio responded, looking into his brother's eyes. "The baby is yours."

Luis looked in disbelief at his older brother. "But I thought you just said..."

Antonio nodded. "Sheridan and I did sleep together, Luis, several times on the island."

"Then how do you know you're not...?"

"The father?" Antonio asked. "Because I can't have kids, Luis."

"What are you talking about?" Luis asked, not believing his ears.

"It was a racing accident I had several years ago on the island. I was paralyzed for awhile. Physical therapy helped me, and Liz took good care of me - but there was one thing that couldn't be fixed. The doctors told me I could never have children; there was too much damage. I can, you know, sleep with a woman...but I can never be a father." Tears came to Antonio's eyes. "I just thought this was my one chance to have a family. I thought I could be a father to Sheridan's baby."

"My God, you make me sick," Luis cried. "I ought to beat you to a pulp for what you've done, for making me wonder all this time - making Sheridan have doubts too. So help me, if this costs us our baby..."

"It won't, Luis. Sheridan will come back; you'll see. Everything will be fine...even better for her than before because I won't be here when she gets back."

"Now that's the one smart thing you've said all day," Luis said. "Just see that it's soon."

"It will be. I'll call and make the arrangements. Then I'll go see Mama and tell her goodbye."

"She'll miss you," Luis admitted, "but she's the only one."
"I know there's nothing I can say that's going to make you forgive me, Luis. I just want you to know I did it for the family - for all of you."

"Tell that to Mama; I'm not buying it," Luis said. He walked to the front door and opened it. "Just so you're clear on something - I never want to see you here in Harmony again. Have you got that? Because if you try to come back and cause trouble for Sheridan..."

"I won't, Luis; I promise. I'll let the two of you live your life in peace - with your baby."

Luis turned and walked through the door, slamming it shut behind him.

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Charlie drove the Crane sports car out of town. "I could get used to riding in this thing," she said dreamily. She pictured herself and Beth riding along the coast in it on a warm summer's day, the baby in a car-seat in back. "Now that's life," she said, smiling.

"Ah, well, you can't have everything you want out of life," she sighed as she parked the car along the side of the road, the front end pointed toward the edge of a cliff. Down below was the Atlantic Ocean in all its glory.

Charlie left the engine running with the car in park. She felt around the floor of the passenger's side of the vehicle and retrieved a large object. The massive woman got out of the car and looked down at the water below her. It was dark, but the moon was full, so she could just barely see the waves lapping up against the rocks. "Nice night for an accident," she said, and then let out an evil laugh.

Charlie held the object up and examined it. It was a piece of driftwood that she had retrieved from the beach that afternoon. "Oh, you'll do fine," she told the piece of wood, smiling broadly. "You'll do just fine." She put the piece of driftwood on the accelerator and rolled down the driver's side window. She stood up beside the car. "Now all we have to do is wait."

Five minutes later, a car could be seen in the distance, heading along the quiet road toward town. Charlie smiled excitedly as she leaned in the open window. She slipped the gear into drive and quickly headed toward the woods on the other side of the road.

Julian Crane's sports car rolled over the edge of the cliff into the ocean as the other car approached the scene. The driver of the car slammed on his brakes.
From her hiding place in the trees across the road, Charlie watched as the driver exited his car and looked over the edge of the cliff, shaking his head.

"Oh, Beth, you come up with some of the best plans," she said to herself as she hurried through the woods back to town. "Now nobody will think Julian Crane was kidnapped, and no one will think someone has both him and Sheridan. They'll still think Sheridan ran away. We're safe now, Bethie. It's smooth sailing from here."

Courtaney
5.17.07, 2:39 AM
Chapter 16 - "The Bandage"

The morning light softly found its way into the deep pit. Sheridan awakened and went to check on her injured brother. Julian started to stir and tried to sit up. "Do you think you're ready to do that?" she asked, gently grabbing hold of his arm.

"More than ready," he said. "I think I'm feeling quite a bit better this morning." He slowly sat up with Sheridan's help.

"Is your back all right?" she asked, concern in her voice.

"I don't think it's broken, if that's what you mean," he said. "But I'm not going to pretend it doesn't hurt. I think I'll have a nasty bruise on it."

"You're lucky," his sister said. "I was so afraid. At first, I thought you were dead. And then I was afraid you may have broken your back - that you wouldn't be able to walk."

"Fortunately, I'm still here," he said. "And all in one piece, although," he stopped, wincing in pain as he tried to sit up straighter.

"Although what, Julian? What's wrong?"

He placed his hand gingerly on his right side. "I think I may have broken some ribs. That beastly clown with the bat must have done it when she struck me."

Sheridan's eyes revealed how worried she was. "I don't know what we can do for broken ribs," she said.

"Nothing," her brother said sadly. "If we had some tape, I guess we could bandage them - so I could move around."

"Maybe we could make a bandage, Julian," Sheridan said suddenly. "Your t- shirt - if we get it off you, maybe we can rip it to make a bandage."

"I guess it's worth a try," he said. Sheridan carefully helped him slip out of his jacket, going even slower when she could tell by his face that he was in pain. She then unbuttoned his shirt. She was able to get it off of him as well, as he carefully lifted his arms to help.

"Now the t-shirt's going to be the hardest part, Julian," she said. You're going to have to raise your arms as high as you can. I'll go slowly."

He smiled as Sheridan started taking off his shirt. "You know, usually when a woman's taking off my clothes, it's under slightly different circumstances."

Sheridan laughed. "We're almost there," she said as she finally pulled the t-shirt over his head.

"Now that you've succeeded in getting that t-shirt off of me, what are you going to do with it?" he asked, grinning as much as his injuries would allow.

Sheridan said, "I'm going to rip it, of course!"

"Oh, you're going to rip it, are you?" he joked. "I have to see this!"

"Well, you will!" she declared, as she struggled to no avail in her attempts at ripping the shirt. "I'm glad to see you're feeling so much better that you can make light of what I'm trying to do!"

"Here, let me help you," Julian said kindly. "Let's put one end under your foot - like that. Now you and I are going to pull up at the same time - in different directions...on the count of three."

"Are you sure you can do this? I mean, you're hurt." Sheridan said worriedly.

"That's all right, dear. It's my good side that will be doing most of the pulling. Besides, it will only hurt for a second. Are you ready? One, two, three..."

Sheridan and Julian pulled hard on the shirt at the same time. It ripped slightly. "See there? You've got it started," Julian said.

"I think I can handle it from here," Sheridan said confidently. She finished ripping the shirt apart.

"There, now I just have to wrap this around you..." She carefully put the makeshift bandage around her brother's midsection, tying it in back. "Is that too tight?" she asked. "I know it has to be pretty tight, but..."

"It's fine - perfect," Julian said, sighing. "What did I ever do to deserve a kind nurse like you?"

"I'm flattered, patient," she joked. "But since I am the nurse, and you are my patient, I get to order you around, right? So, that's what I'm going to do. It's time for you to get some rest."

"Rest? I just got up!" he argued playfully.

"Now, Julian, you know that if we weren't in this pit, you would be in a hospital. You really do need to lie down and get some rest. Why don't you let me help you over to the cushion?"

"No," Julian said, "that cushion's for you, Sheridan. You're pregnant. I'm perfectly fine here on this blanket."

"All right," she sighed, realizing he wouldn't give in. "Just as long as you lie down. I think those ribs of yours have had enough movement for one day."

"Fine, fine. I'm not one to argue with my nurse," Julian said, lying down on the blanket.

"Oh, Julian, I'm so glad you're going to be OK," Sheridan admitted. "I was really worried about you. You know, what could have been an awful day has turned into a kind of happy time, hasn't it? I mean, as happy of a time as two people being held captive might have."

Her brother nodded. "You're right about that." Silently, he knew how true her words were. He knew that what lay ahead for both of them would be anything but happy. He closed his eyes and thought of how sweet Sheridan had been to him - how much she reminded him of his mother. He thought of Eve next. Would he ever have the chance to see his beautiful love again? He drifted off to sleep with Eve's face in his mind...

Courtaney
5.18.07, 3:12 AM
Chapter 17 - "The Bombshell"

Charlie bounded into the Wallace kitchen, whistling a happy tune. Mrs. Wallace turned around from the sink. "What in Heaven's name has you in such a good mood this morning?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't know - just maybe how our little plan is working out so well. Beth, me, and the baby will all be one big happy family real soon."

"I wouldn't hold your breath," said Mrs. Wallace. "Luis will find Sheridan. He'll put you and Bethie in prison for this."

"If we go to prison, you will too, old woman!" Charlie yelled. "And prison would be worse for you than any of those nursing homes Beth's been talking about...much worse. You know, some of my best friends are locked up, and they'd take one look at that those pretty green eyes of yours - woo!"

Mrs. Wallace's eyes widened in fear.

"Oh, and how they would love to chase you around with that little walker," Charlie continued.

"All right, all right, I won't say anything more about Luis," Mrs. Wallace grumbled. "I just hope your and Bethie's little plan doesn't end up putting all three of us in the big house."

"It won't," Charlie declared. "I just took a big step to keep that from happening last night."

"How? What did you do?" Mrs. Wallace inquired.

"Well, Dame Edna, let's just say I put the cops off of Julian Crane's trail. They won't be tearing the town up searching for him."

"Why not?" Mrs. Wallace asked in surprise. "I mean, he's a Crane, isn't he? He owns this town. I'm sure Luis is out there right now searching for him. He's Sheridan's brother!"

"Doesn't matter, see," Charlie explained, "because nobody's going to think Julian Crane was kidnapped - not after last night."

"What happened last night?" Mrs. Wallace asked, half afraid to hear the answer.

"It seems Julian Crane had a bad accident. His car went over a cliff and wound up in the ocean!" Charlie laughed.

Mrs. Wallace's eyes were as wide as saucers. "You...you didn't put Julian in the car and send it over the cliff, did you?"

"I wish," Charlie said. "Nah, Bethie thought that would be too risky. She thinks it's best to take care of the two of them at the same time, you know. I suppose she wants me to shoot 'em and fill in the pit. Me? I'd like to see them slowly starve to death, especially Blondie."

"Neither of those ideas sound too good," Mrs. Wallace said, making a sick face. "Hey, wait a minute! If Julian Crane wasn't in the car, how are they going to think he's dead? I mean, won't they still be looking for him?"

"See, that's the really good part of Beth's plan. They'll be looking for him all right - in the ocean! I rolled down the car window. They'll just think his body washed out to sea. As far as they're concerned, Julian Crane is dead! HA HA HA HA!"

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Eve sat down at the kitchen table with her cup of coffee. "It's finally nice to have a day off," she thought. She grabbed an orange from the bowl of fruit on the table and began to peel it. As she did this, her thoughts turned to Julian. Rebecca had said he didn't come home the night before last. Eve had tried to call him on his cell phone several times since then, but did not get an answer. She wondered if he had come home yet.

"I hope he's OK," she said to herself. Eve was pretty sure he was. She always knew Julian as a man who could take care of himself. Still, it was kind of strange for him to run off like that, without telling anyone. Luis had tried to dismiss the whole thing, assuming Julian was off having a fling somewhere. Eve didn't believe that - not the new Julian, the changed Julian.

Of course, if he were having a fling, how could she really blame him? After all, she had told him in no uncertain terms that there was no chance for a future with her - that her place was with her husband, and her heart belonged to him.

She reflected on the conversation she had had with him that night on the wharf, several nights after they had kissed. The look of pain in his eyes when she had spoken those words to him was embedded in her head. How much she had wanted to hug him right then, to kiss him once more - but she knew she couldn't. She was married, and her place was with TC.

Eve fingered the pieces of orange peel on the table. "Maybe he did run off somewhere, because of what I said that night," she thought. It had been over two weeks, but maybe he just couldn't stand it anymore and had to leave town for awhile. Eve knew him so well, as much as he knew her, as much as he knew what was in her heart. She shuddered. Julian knew that what she had told him about TC owning her heart was not exactly true. She could tell by his reaction. That was what had stung him the most - that she was living a lie.

Eve quickly wiped those thoughts out of her head. "I can't go there," she told herself. She knew if she searched her heart, she couldn't face what she would find.

Instead, Eve concentrated on figuring out what had happened to Julian. Maybe he had gotten a lead on their son. Julian had hired a private investigator to search for the child that she had given birth to - their child, the child they believed had been stolen from the hospital so long ago.

"If he got a lead, wouldn't he call me?" she wondered. He had promised to let her know the minute he found out anything. Still, maybe he didn't want to, after what she had said to him. No, she thought, Julian wouldn't have let that bother him. He would have respected her wishes and kept her informed.

She started to feel more concerned than ever about his whereabouts. "I should call the police and ask what's going on with the case," she said aloud. But what reason would she give them? What reason could she come up with that would explain why she wanted to know what they had found out? She knew she couldn't tell them the truth - that inside her heart was suddenly sick with fear...

Eve realized that she didn't care what the police thought. She just had to find out something. "I'll call Luis," she decided. After all, she was there the day Rebecca had reported to Luis that Julian was missing. "Luis will fill me in," she told herself, "especially since I helped him with Sheridan's case."

Eve walked over to pick up the telephone. As she did, TC entered the kitchen, a big smile on his face. Eve put the phone down and walked over to greet her husband. "Good morning. You sure look bright and chipper today."

"I think it's going to be a good day," he said, "a good day for all of Harmony, but especially for my family."

"Why? What's up, TC?" she asked, smiling slightly at her husband's words. Had something finally good happened after all the tragedies lately?

"Oh, I just heard something on the radio that kind of made my day," he answered. "Now, you know I'm not one to relish in other people's misfortunes, but in this case, I feel justified."

"TC, just tell me, what is it about?" Eve asked. She felt a sudden unexpected chill come over her.

"Julian Crane," he said simply.

Eve's heart sank in her chest. She momentarily forgot to breathe. Her palms were suddenly drenched with sweat. Finally, after taking a deep breath and swallowing hard, she asked, "What did you hear? Is he still missing?"

"Better than that," TC said smugly. "They announced on the radio that our favorite Harmony resident is more than likely dead."

Courtaney
5.18.07, 11:09 PM
Chapter 18 - "Nightmare"

Eve stood frozen in her tracks. For a moment she could not breathe, see, or hear. She could only feel. A terrible sense of dread came over her as her stomach churned, and a wave of terror shot through her whole being.

Finally she was able to speak, "Ju-Julian, dead?"

"Well, the police think that he's probably dead," TC admitted.

"How...how did it happen?" Eve asked, her voice shaking.

"It was a car accident. Apparently last night, Julian drove his car over the edge of a cliff just outside of town. They've recovered the car, but they haven't found a body yet."

"So he might be alive?" she asked, grasping at the tiniest sliver of hope in what TC had just said.

"I doubt it, honey. I don't think anyone could have survived that kind of crash. And if he had lived through it, they would have found him by now..."

"Maybe it wasn't Julian in the car," Eve said hopefully. "Maybe it was someone else...I don't know, someone who borrowed his car? That's probably what happened." She smiled to herself. "He's OK then," she thought.

"I guess that's possible, but not likely," TC said. "I mean, can you see Julian Crane letting anyone drive his sports car? I don't even think he'd let Rebecca drive it. Anyway, I don't wish anything bad on anyone else - you know I never wish harm on anyone, honey. But if there's one person in this town I would like to see get his just due, it's Julian Crane."

Eve drew in a deep breath as a wave of fear again came over her. Her stomach was so upset, she knew she was going to get sick.

She ran to the bathroom, with TC close at her heels. Slamming the door shut behind her, she lifted the toilet lid and dropped to her knees before it just in time...

"Honey, are you OK in there?" TC called, worry very much apparent in his voice.

Eve sank down beside the toilet, sobbing. She pulled her legs up to her chest and collapsed her head on her knees. She totally forgot where she was for the moment as she gave in to her emotions.

"Eve, do you think you have the flu? Was it something you ate?" TC continued to inquire through the closed door.

Lost in her pain, Eve could not hear him. Her mind was someplace else - somewhere far away in time and space...

After a few more minutes, TC rapped on the door. "Eve, honey, do you want me to come in? I'm worried about you."

Eve snapped back to the present. "Wha-What?" she called out. Looking at the door, she realized who had spoken. "No, TC, I'm OK," she said, her voice shaky. "It was probably just something I ate."

"Oh," he said through the door. "I thought for a minute there it was more than that."

"What do you mean, TC?" she asked, trying to make her voice sound natural, but really not even caring to cover up her feelings.

"Well, for a moment it flashed through my head that you might be pregnant, that you might be having morning sickness."

"No, TC, it's not morning sickness," she said. "Would you give me a few minutes? I just think I need time to recover."

"Sure," he said, sounding confused. TC walked back to the kitchen.

Eve's head fell back once more on her knees. Tears flowed freely from her eyes. "Julian, you can't be dead," she said. "You can't be gone."

Her body began shaking uncontrollably as her weeping continued. "I need you," she pleaded to him, hoping that somewhere, somehow he could hear her. "I need you in my life. You can't be gone; I love you."

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Julian snapped awake from his nap in the bottom of the pit. "Eve," he said to himself. "Something's wrong..."

Sheridan walked over to where Julian was lying on the blanket. She knelt down beside him. "Are you all right?" she asked worriedly. "I thought I heard you say that something was wrong."

"Oh, I am fine," her brother replied, trying to shake off what he was feeling. "It must have been a bad dream," he thought to himself. "I'm sure Eve's all right..."

"Good," Sheridan said. "I didn't want my favorite patient having any more problems."

"I'm your only patient," Julian said with a smile. "But you know, you do make a fine nurse. I'm sure the hospital could use your services. Since I am on the board, maybe I could put in a good word for you."

"Well, maybe I'll have to check into that someday," she joked. Then turning serious, she said, "Julian, you don't know how glad I am you're going to be OK."

He smiled. "I have to be. I have to make sure you're all right, until Luis comes."

Sheridan nodded. "And he will come; I know that. I just hope it's before..."

"Before the baby comes?" he asked, reading her mind.

"Oh, God, Julian," Sheridan said, rubbing her hand over her stomach. "What am I going to do if this baby arrives before Luis finds us? How am I going to have my baby here in this pit?" A sense of dread overtook her, and she shivered at the horrible thought of giving birth to her beautiful baby in this hellish prison.

"That's not going to happen," Julian insisted. "Luis is going to find us soon; you'll see. And anyway, I would never let anything happen to you or your baby. You can believe that."

"I know, Julian," Sheridan said, giving him a slight grin. "As I told you before, if you weren't here, I don't know what I'd do."

"AWWWWWWW, such touching words!" Charlie yelled from above.

The two prisoners looked up once again to see the dreaded woman in the clown mask peering at them over the edge of the pit.

"Good day to you too," Julian returned.

"It is a good day!" countered Charlie. "And I'm glad to see you're doing better. Of course, that's not what the town of Harmony believes..."

"What do you mean?" Julian asked, taking her bait.

"Oh, let's just say the great, powerful Julian Crane had an accident last night. It seems his car plunged over a cliff. Of course, they haven't found a body yet...but then the ocean current can be tricky!" She laughed evilly.

"You crashed Julian's car?" Sheridan cried. "You made everyone think he was dead? How could you?"

"Oh, it was easy," Charlie answered. "And it will help keep everyone off his trail, and yours."

"I can't believe she did that," Sheridan said, turning to Julian. "Luis will know something's not right; you have to believe that."

Julian nodded hopefully. He thought of his earlier dream about Eve. Was it really a dream, or was it Eve crying out to him? "Is that what was wrong?" he thought apprehensively. "Does Eve think I'm dead?"

Courtaney
5.19.07, 11:06 PM
Chapter 19 - "Mourning Julian"

Eve slowly opened the bathroom door. She knew she would have to face TC eventually. She had been in the bathroom for what seemed like hours, but on checking her watch discovered it had only been thirty minutes.

Eve had calmed down enough after the initial shock to compose herself. She had stopped crying; she had no more tears left to cry. She had made an attempt to wash her face and straighten her clothes, but she really did not care what she looked like.

Taking a deep breath, she walked back to the kitchen. TC was still there, reading the morning newspaper. He looked up when he heard her coming. "Hi, honey, how are you feeling?" he asked, concerned.

"I've felt better," she replied. "I'll be OK. I...I think I just need to rest."

"All right, honey. You don't look so good. Why don't you go upstairs and lie down?"

"I think I will," Eve said. Her eyes roamed to the newspaper TC was reading. "Is there anything in there about...?"

"About Julian Crane's accident?" he finished for her. "No, I guess they didn't have any information when they printed this. All I know is what I heard on the radio - that his car was seen going over a cliff last night. They got the car out, but didn't find a body. The reporter said things didn't look good for Crane. Let's hope he was right."

"TC, that's a terrible thing to say," Eve scolded, fresh tears forming in her eyes.

"Baby, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. Look at you. You are the most perfect wife a man could ever want - the most perfect person. You even worry about people you don't like."

"I...I know Julian from the hospital, and we've seen him around town a lot these last few years. He saved Whitney's life in the elevator accident, don't you remember? We wouldn't have our girl if it weren't for him."

"Yeah, I remember," TC said. "I always wondered why he did that - saved Whitney. Julian Crane never did anything for anybody unless there was something in it for him."

"I think he's changed," Eve said. "He's become a better person since everyone thought he was dead."

"Well, I certainly didn't see any difference," her husband countered. "But I hope for his sake it's true, because where he's going..."

Eve shuddered at the thought of what TC was trying to say. It brought back the reality of Julian's likely death. She let out a little wail, and then put her hand over her mouth.

TC looked at her with concern in his eyes. "You are really not feeling well, are you?" he said. "You just go lie down. I'll check on you later."

Eve walked slowly toward the stairs. Her hand had never left her mouth in order to prevent another sob from escaping. On the way upstairs, she wondered why TC never caught onto how she was feeling - that she was in tremendous grief. Eve was glad that her secret past with Julian didn't come out, however...not on this day of all days. She couldn't have handled it. Still, she couldn't believe TC didn't pick up on any of the clues. "Doesn't he know me at all?" she wondered.

Reaching the bedroom, Eve closed and locked the door. She collapsed on the bed and gave into her emotions once more. She was safe here - safe to be herself, safe to feel what only she could feel...

She fell asleep after she had once more rid herself of all her tears.

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Luis rummaged through Julian Crane's accident report. He had been in his car when a witness called to report the incident. Luis was one of the first officers to respond to the accident. He remembered feeling surprised when he later found out the car belonged to Julian Crane.

Something about the whole case bothered Luis. First, Julian had recently been reported missing by Rebecca - but he had been missing since a day and a half before the accident. Also, Julian's car was apparently headed out of town when he went over the cliff, but nobody in town had seen or spoken to him since his disappearance. Rebecca maintained she had not seen or heard from Julian in the last two days.

Luis had been sure that Julian was merely off having a fling with some girl, so he hadn't even bothered to check out any leads on his disappearance - until the accident. Now, he was not so sure. Something smelled pretty fishy about the whole thing.

While Luis did not personally care at all for Julian, he was a police officer, and as such would do his best to solve the case. What really started to get to him was the fact that two Cranes were currently missing - Sheridan and Julian, and one was likely dead. He suddenly wondered if there was something more behind Julian's accident: Had he been targeted by the same people who took Sheridan?

His suspicions were further aroused when he had looked through the preliminary accident report. No body was found. The driver's side window had been left open, which could explain that. The car was empty, except for a piece of driftwood. That could have floated in through the window, of course...

Luis shook his head. Something did not seem right about the whole thing. Taken separately, each piece of evidence seemed all right - it was explainable. But when it was all put together, there were a lot of empty holes.

"Hey, Sam," he called, "anything else come in on the Crane accident?"

"Nothing new," Sam replied. "No body found yet, if that's what you mean."

"That's strange too," Luis said. "The accident occurred near shore. The tide was coming in. Surely a body would have washed up to shore by now."

"It is a little puzzling," Sam admitted. "What do you make of everything you've seen so far on the case?"

"Something's off," Luis said. "I don't know what yet, but something is not right here."

"I think I'm inclined to agree," Sam revealed. "If we just took the accident itself, I would think it's a little odd, but throw in the fact that Julian had already been reported missing - I don't know. Something doesn't fit."

"Two Cranes - two strange disappearances," Luis said. "You don't think Alistair...?"

"I wouldn't put anything past Alistair," Sam said. "Didn't he hire the guy that impersonated you that time?"

"He and Julian," Luis replied. "And that's just it. I can see Alistair doing something to Sheridan, but not to his prized son. I can't see him wanting to hurt Julian. He's his mouthpiece."

"I don't know, Luis," said Sam. "What is your gut feeling about all this?"

"My gut tells me there's something fishy about this accident, and it has nothing to do with the fish that were swimming around Julian's car."

"Was Crane really in it?" Sam asked. "Or is this some big smokescreen?"

"I don't know," Luis said. "If it is, then who's behind it? Either Julian wants to make it look like he's dead for whatever reason or..."

"Or someone else has gone to a lot of trouble to make it look that way," Sam deduced. "And if that's the case, we need to find out why."

"The press has practically declared him dead," Luis said.

"I know," said Sam. "And he may be dead. But I don't think it's cut and dried."

"Far from it," agreed Luis. He picked up the accident report once more. "The key's here; I just know it."

"I'm going to have to talk to the press," Sam said. "You take your time. I want a thorough investigation here. Don't leave any stone unturned."

"What are you going to tell the press in the meantime?" Luis asked.

"I'm going to tell them the truth - that this is an ongoing investigation, and that any reports of Julian Crane's death were premature."

"As would be appropriate in any investigation where there's no body," Luis said. "That's good."

"If Alistair or someone else is behind this," Sam said, "they won't know we're onto them, just that we haven't closed the investigation yet, and won't - not until a body's found."

"I think that's the right path to take," Luis admitted. "It's the middle ground for this case. We're not saying he's dead, but we're not revealing our true suspicions either."

"I thought you'd agree with that approach," Sam said, turning to go back to his desk.

"And anyway, it's not like anyone really cares a whole lot about Julian Crane, one way or the other," Luis declared. "I bet there's no one out there grieving over the reports of his presumed death, not even Rebecca."

"No, Rebecca will be grieving," Sam said, "for the loss of all that Crane money. They weren't married, remember?"

"Well, then there's one person in town who's sorry he's dead," Luis said. "But I bet she's the only one."

Courtaney
5.20.07, 11:25 PM
Chapter 20 - "Julian Opens Up"

Sheridan awoke and sat up on the cushion she had been sleeping on. She turned around to look at her brother. Julian was already awake, sitting against the wall of the pit. He smiled at her.

"So, you sure look better," Sheridan said.

"I feel a lot better," Julian agreed. "Your nursing did the trick, sister dear."

She smiled. "I did the best I could. I'm just glad you're OK."

"Well, I've seen better days," he admitted, "but I am definitely on the mend."

"How long have we been here now?" she asked.

"Together? Three days," Julian said. "But you were here two weeks before I arrived. I don't know how you stood it for that long."

"I almost didn't," Sheridan revealed. "Now you know why I've lost all track of time."

"That's certainly understandable," said Julian. "One can forget about a lot of things down here."

"Being trapped down here does make you focus on what's important in your life," Sheridan said. "I never stop thinking about Luis. He's always on my mind - he and our baby." She smiled, patting her stomach. She was now eight months pregnant.

"You never think of Antonio then?" Julian inquired. "I mean, I understand your undying love for Luis, but don't you think about Antonio as well?"

Sheridan shook her head sadly, feeling somewhat guilty. "That's just it. I don't think about him," she said. "It's all about Luis. I guess that's one good thing about being down here. It certainly cleared my head of what was not important."

Julian raised his eyebrows in surprise. "I know you cared for Antonio or you wouldn't have married him."

"Oh, I do care about him," she said. "I even loved him at one time, but it was nothing like what I feel for Luis. I can see things so much better now. How I wish that we had just told Antonio the truth months ago! Then Luis and I could have been together all this time. Now all those months seem like they were wasted. I realize now how precious that time really was."

Julian nodded sadly. "I know what you mean about wasted time. I feel that way myself sometimes...like I've wasted a lot of years."

"You mean with Ivy?" Sheridan asked. "I know the two of you didn't really have a conventional marriage. At least that's over with now, Julian. You've moved on with Rebecca."

"Yes, Rebecca," he said. "More wasted time..."

"Julian, I thought you and Rebecca were close," Sheridan said.

"Appearances aren't always what they seem, my dear," he replied. "Rebecca and I have had some fun times together, but really it meant nothing compared to..."

"Compared to what, Julian?" she asked. "Who were you closer to than Rebecca and Ivy?"

Julian hesitated about saying anymore to Sheridan. He had never told anyone of his feelings for Eve. No one knew how he truly felt except Eve and his father, of course. But Alistair was incapable of understanding love.

"I...I did have a relationship once," he began, looking not at Sheridan, but instead at a spot on the wall of the pit opposite him. "It was a wonderful relationship. We loved each other completely." He smiled sadly and then continued. "She was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. We had something so special together, a once in a lifetime kind of love. It reminds me of what you have with Luis."

Sheridan's eyes widened at the realization that her brother was capable of such a deep love. She had never thought of Julian as someone who could harbor such strong emotions for someone. "Julian," she asked, "what happened to her? Where is she? Why aren't the two of you together?"

"It's a long story," Julian said, finally looking at his sister. "You see, Father didn't want me with this woman. He had made a deal with the former governor that I marry his daughter."

"I had no idea that you were in love with someone else when you married Ivy!" Sheridan exclaimed. "Julian, how could you go through with it?"

"I was weak," Julian said, hanging his head. "Father threatened to disown me if I went against his wishes and married the woman I loved."

"So it was the Crane fortune or the love of your life, and you chose the fortune," Sheridan said.

"I'd give anything to have that choice back again," Julian declared. "I wouldn't make the same mistake again. I've regretted my actions everyday since."

"But how could you do it, Julian? How could you just give up the woman that you loved?"

"You're disappointed in me, aren't you? Well, I am in myself as well. Actually, I had planned to keep her in my life - as a ..."

"A mistress? Julian! That's not how you treat the woman that you love."

"I know, I know," he said. "Anyway, it never got to that point. When I saw her shortly before the wedding, I found out she was pregnant."

"Julian!" Sheridan exclaimed. "You abandoned this poor woman and her baby? How could you?!"

"We, it's a long story," he said. "I had to marry Ivy. At the time, that's what I believed. Now I know I could have chosen a far different path, and should have." He paused for a moment and took a deep breath. "Later, I heard that the baby died shortly after he was born."

"Oh, Julian!" Sheridan cried. "How awful for both of you. That poor woman - what she had to go through, all alone. It must have been a nightmare for her."

"It was," he said sadly. "I will never forgive myself for letting her go through that by herself."

"It's such a heartbreaking story," Sheridan said. "So tragic. I feel for you, Julian, I do. But I especially feel for that poor woman and what she had to go through."

"You and me both," Julian said, tears forming in his eyes. "That's not the end of the story, either. Recently, we - this woman and I - have come to believe that our child may not have died after all."

"What do you mean?" Sheridan asked incredulously.

"We think that maybe Father had him kidnapped from the hospital, and the doctors lied about his death."

"My God! I know our father can be cruel, but even he wouldn't stoop to that level, would he? To kidnap an infant, and make the mother think he was dead..."

"I believe Father could do even worse," Julian revealed. "I think he would have killed my son if he had to."

Sheridan's eyes opened wide in total shock. "My God, Julian, why would he want to kill an innocent baby?" She placed her hands protectively on her stomach as she talked.

"The child was an embarrassment to him, a thorn in his side," Julian offered. "When our father wants someone out of the way, it usually happens."

Sheridan got up and walked over to comfort Julian. "I'm so sorry," she said, putting her hands on his shoulders. "I don't know what else to say. I've never heard such a tragic story."

"There's more," Julian said, wiping a tear that had fallen from his eye. "But if it's all right with you, I think I'll wait until another time to talk about it."

Sheridan hugged her brother. "Of course it can wait. I'm here for you, Julian, no matter what."

Courtaney
5.22.07, 1:41 AM
Chapter 21 - "A Connection?"

Eve sat on the living room couch, lost in thought. She had called in sick that day at work - the day after she had learned about Julian's accident. She just didn't know how she could function at her job. TC was at the school, helping with a summer tennis camp. He was worried about her, she could tell. He just assumed Eve had the flu, however. He could not recognize the signs that said she was undergoing tremendous inner pain.

There was nowhere she could look that didn't remind her of what had happened to Julian. It was all over the newspapers, the radio, the TV and even the Internet. Julian Crane was a rich and powerful businessman. Even the national cable news stations were reporting on his accident.

Eve had heard Sam's press conference live on TV the day before. He had not really revealed any facts about the accident, just told them that any reports that Julian Crane was presumed dead were premature. For all intensive purposes, he had stressed, it was an ongoing investigation. There was no evidence that anyone had died in the crash.

Sam's statement had made Eve feel somewhat better. She was now clinging to the sliver of hope that Julian was really alive. Perhaps there was a chance.

She could not believe how Julian's accident was affecting her. Yes, they had shared a great love once, and had a child together, but their romance was over long ago. For years she had hated him. In recent months they had become friends, even kissed once, but she still could not fathom why his possible demise was making her feel so empty inside, like her heart had been wrenched from her.

Eve had barely been able to eat or sleep. When she closed her eyes, she only saw Julian. When she opened them after a brief nap, at first things were fine, until reality hit her again and the wave of loss crept over her once more.

She spent hours thinking about their past together, about their child that may still be alive - the child Julian would likely never get to meet. She also thought about Julian in recent times - how he had been her close friend and confidante, always there to lend a hand. She thought also about the kiss they had shared, how passionate it had been, and how she had wanted more. Now she may never get a chance.

Eve remembered how she had told Julian there could be no more kisses - that she loved her husband and belonged with him. She could still see the look of pain in his eyes. She had hurt him deeply, and now there was no going back.

"I've got to snap out of this," Eve told herself. "For my family's sake, I've got to get over this." She knew she wouldn't be able to, not until some closure was brought to the case. "It's the not knowing that's the worst," she said. "I have to know. I have to find out what happened to Julian; I've got to know if he's OK."

She stood up from the couch, grabbed her purse and keys, and headed to the door.

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"Is there still a mob of reporters outside?" Sam asked Luis, who had just entered the station.

"Just as many as yesterday, if not more," Luis answered. "I tell you, this accident has got the whole world tuned into our little town."

"Julian Crane is a wealthy, powerful man," Sam said. "Their family is almost as famous as the Kennedys. I guess we should have expected this."

Luis nodded. "I didn't see all these reporters when it was announced that Sheridan was missing, or either of the times she was declared dead."

"You're right, Luis, the Cranes have never been one to push their women to the forefront, especially in business."

"I don't want Sheridan in the family business," Luis said, "but it would be nice if her family would show some sign that they cared about her. That bastard of a father of hers didn't even come to her own funeral."

"I remember that," Sam said. "Luckily, Sheridan wasn't really dead. Do you think Alistair knew that?"

"I wouldn't put it past him," Luis declared. "I think he tried to have Sheridan killed in Bermuda."

"I can't believe a man would want to kill his own daughter," Sam said. "And for what reason?"

Luis shook his head. "I don't know, Sam. And Julian's just as bad. I know he was into the mess in Bermuda up to his eyeballs. He'd do anything Alistair ordered him to do - even if it meant killing his own sister."

Luis sat down at the chair behind his desk and fingered a pen lying on it. "Alistair and Julian never wanted Sheridan and me to be together. I don't know why. I thought it was the class thing before - me being a cop and the son of the Crane housekeeper. Or even that my last name contained the name "Lopez." But now, I'm not so sure. I mean, Alistair didn't object to Antonio marrying Sheridan. He even..."

"What, Luis? He even what?" Sam asked, curious about what his friend had to say.

Luis hesitated but decided to just come out and say it. "Alistair even blackmailed Antonio to keep Sheridan and me apart."

"What?!" Sam cried in disbelief. "Antonio knew about you and Sheridan?"

"The whole time he was here," Luis said, sighing. "I just found out yesterday. I finally had decided to tell Antonio the truth. What a joke that was! He admitted everything."

"Was it all a big lie? Even Antonio's illness?" Sam asked.

"No, Antonio was really ill, but I'm sure some of his little episodes were faked. I mean, how convenient that something always seemed to happen to him just when we were about to tell him the truth."

"I would have beaten him to a pulp, brother or not," Sam said.

"I almost did," Luis admitted, smiling at the thought of smashing Antonio's face in. "I did get in one good punch, but in the end, I thought it wasn't worth it. I needed to get back to Sheridan's case."

"Where is Antonio now? Is he still at the cottage?" Sam inquired.

"He's left Harmony," Luis replied. "I talked to Mama this morning. He said his goodbyes and left for parts unknown. Good riddance."

"Did Antonio ever say what Alistair had on him?" Sam asked.

"Nope, he just said it had something to do with the night our father disappeared. He wouldn't go into any details. I should have beaten it out of him, but right then, all I could think about was Sheridan."

"This is good news for the two of you, Luis," Sam said, smiling.

"It's the best news," Luis agreed, grinning broadly. "There's more too, but I want to tell Sheridan the rest first."

Sam nodded. "We're going to find her, Luis."

Luis put the pen down on his desk and met Sam's steady gaze with his own eyes, a look of determination in them. "I know we will, Sam. There's no doubt in my mind that Sheridan's alive, but I do believe she's in trouble. I'm going to do everything I can to find her - follow every lead."

Picking up Julian's accident report, Luis added, "If that means finding out what really happened to Julian Crane, then I'll work on it night and day. There just may be a connection between their disappearances, and if there is, I'll find it."

Courtaney
5.22.07, 11:46 PM
Chapter 22 - "Need for Atonement"

Julian ate the last of his tuna sandwich and then made a face. "This stuff they're feeding us isn't exactly Harmony's best cuisine."

"Good ole Psycho Clown probably didn't attend one of the world's leading culinary schools, did she?" Sheridan joked, grateful at being able to laugh for the first time in weeks.

"Good Lord, I don't even think the lady has been to a McDonald's," Julian quipped, picking up a bottle of water to sip.

"I didn't think you had ever been to a McDonald's either, Julian," Sheridan laughed.

"I haven't, but I've heard stories," her brother answered, "probably from the help."

Sheridan slowly drank her milk. She was grateful the kidnappers provided it for her. They did seem to look out for her baby, with the kinds of food they provided, and the fact that they got her some prenatal vitamins. "Julian, what do you think these people want with us?" she asked.

"I don't know, but you can bet they don't have our best interests at heart."

"Most kidnappings have to do with money, right?" Sheridan inquired, setting down her empty carton of milk.

Julian nodded, "That or sex crimes, where they kill the victim immediately. And in this case, I don't think either one of those is the motive. I'm stumped. All I know is, it is you they were after. I'm not important to them."

"I'm sorry I got you into this mess," Sheridan said. "If you hadn't come looking for me, you wouldn't be trapped here with me now."

"Don't even think that, Sheridan," Julian said warmly. "There's no place I would rather be, with you being held down here in this hellhole. The last thing you would need is to be here alone."

"What did I do to deserve a brother like you?" she asked, smiling at Julian's selflessness.

"Oh, Sheridan, I've probably been the world's worst brother up until this point," Julian admitted sadly. "Before I came into this pit, we hadn't spoken in months. I guess I was trying to avoid you, which for all intensive purposes probably wasn't a bad thing."

"What are you talking about, Julian? How could us not speaking to each other, not spending time together, be a good thing?" she asked, startled at his confession.

"I haven't always had your best interests at heart, Sheridan," Julian revealed. "You know about some of the terrible things I have done - like hiring the imposter to keep you and Luis apart."

"That was on Father's orders," Sheridan said quietly. "I have forgiven you for that."

"It was all on Father's orders," Julian said, "but that's beside the point. The man is evil incarnate. I never should have listened to him. Because I did, I'm no better than one of Satan's hounds. And what was it all about? Money? Protecting the Crane name? You're my sister, for God's sake! You are more important than any piece of paper or world standing."

"Thank you, Julian," she said, brushing a tear from her face. "I never thought I would hear you say those words."

"There is so much more I want to say to you, but realize I can't, not in your condition. I just want you to know that in the past I haven't stood up for you, my sister, where our father was concerned. I've taken part in every sadistic scheme he has come up with - beginning when you were a little girl, and he sent you away to that sanitarium in France. I should have fought to protect you then, but I didn't. That's going to change."

"Why did our father put me in that awful place, Julian? What was behind it all? Were my nightmares really true? Did I kill someone?" Sheridan inquired, becoming more alarmed with each question she asked.

"No, you did nothing wrong," Julian said, trying to soothe her. "Alistair's motivations behind what he did aren't important. You just understand that it was nothing you did. You were the innocent victim in all of this."

Sheridan nodded, feeling better about those terrible childhood events. "I've always been afraid that I did something horrible, something that made me unworthy of love. That's why I always thought fate seemed against me and Luis. I guess I felt I didn't deserve his love."

"Don't think that," Julian said. "If there's anyone who doesn't deserve love, it's me. I've made a mess of my life."

"You're talking about the woman you loved, the one you had a child with? I still can't believe that tragic story. You and I are a lot alike, Julian."

"How so?" he asked, looking deep into her beautiful, emotional blue eyes.

"We both are capable of incredible love," she answered simply. "And if we are unable to be with the person we love, it tears us up inside."

"I've felt like that for years," Julian said, shifting his eyes to the wall of the pit, "until recently."

"What happened recently?" Sheridan asked.

"She and I have become closer," he replied, smiling a bit. "I love that too. I told you we are searching for our son. We have bonded over that search, and I have helped her through some tough times lately."

"You mean she still lives in Harmony?" Sheridan asked, surprised. "Julian, you've lived in the same town as this woman, all your life? That must have been hard for you."

"Very hard," he said. "But for years, our paths didn't cross. She led her life - a happy one with a husband and children and a successful career, while I led my sorry existence of a life."

"So she married then and had a family?" Sheridan asked. "I think that's wonderful for her, after what she went through."

"I am glad she was able to have more children," Julian admitted. "She loves children so much."

"You said you have helped her through some tough times - is it family trouble?" Sheridan asked, careful not to pry too much.

"It all has to do with our past together," Julian said, shifting uncomfortably. "There are so many things that could come out - more than the situation with the baby. Any one of these things could destroy her, the life she's built."

"And you are trying to be noble and protect her from the secrets coming out?" Sheridan said.

"I owe her that and so much more," he said, getting a far-away look in his eyes.

"You really love her, don't you?" she asked, surprised at her own boldness.

"With all my heart," he admitted. "She's all I ever seem to think about, night and day. She's always there, in the back of my mind. Sometimes I don't know how I'll make it through the day without hearing her voice. That's why I play her tapes; she was a singer, and I have copies of her music. I play her tapes, and I'll be lost in her voice for hours."

"Forgive me if this is too forward of me," Sheridan said, "but I was wondering if she still feels the same way about you?"

Julian smiled sadly. "You're not being forward. It's good to talk about it, really. And to answer your question - yes, I believe she does - though she hasn't admitted it."

"You said she was married - happily I'm guessing?" Sheridan asked.

"As happy as she can be with all the secrets," he answered. "I don't want to do anything to take that away from her - her family. It means so much to her."

"You really do love her!"

"More than life. That's not saying much considering the pathetic life I've lived."

"I hope things can work out for the two of you somehow," Sheridan said, feeling her brother's pain.

"I almost thought recently we had a chance," Julian said, relaying to her the story of their kiss. "I guess I couldn't be so fortunate. I still have a lot of atonement to do as far as she is concerned, just as I do with you."

"Julian, if this woman feels the same way about you that you do about her, then she's going to be devastated when she finds out that your car went over that cliff."

"I know," he said. "It's not something I want to see happen. I know some people might in my situation. They might be glad that their former lover is feeling pain because it shows that they still love them. I wouldn't wish pain on her, ever."

Sheridan nodded, realizing at that moment that Julian's love for the woman from his past was greater than she had ever imagined.

Courtaney
5.23.07, 11:46 PM
Chapter 23 - "Real Hope"

Eve Russell walked into the police station and headed toward Luis's desk. She did not really know why she was there. It seemed her body had simply taken over and had led her to the station. Her mind and heart were still in turmoil. She took a deep breath as she approached Luis.

"Dr. Russell! I'm surprised to see you here," Luis said, getting up from his chair. "It's crazy in here with all the stuff going on with Julian Crane's accident - a regular circus. Can I help you with anything? Everything's all right at home, isn't it?"

"Yes, Luis, ev - everything is fine," Eve stammered. "I...I just wanted to know what you have found out about, about Julian Crane's accident."

Luis got a confused look on his face. "Julian's accident? Why would you care about that? I mean, don't get me wrong - I know you're a very caring person, Dr. Russell, but I didn't think anyone in this town really gave a damn about Julian Crane."

"I...I don't," Eve lied. "I am really here to represent the hospital. Julian is on the board. I was off duty today, so they called me to see if I could come over and check on things. The hospital has become quite a circus as well."

"I think the whole town of Harmony has," Luis admitted. "You should see outside of the estate - there are TV trucks and vans lined up for miles. It's not much better at Crane Industries, either. Every place with a Crane connection in this town is completely overrun with reporters."

Eve nodded. "So I've heard. Listen, Luis, is there anything at all you can tell me?" Her eyes pleaded with him for information.

Luis noticed the concern in her eyes and voice. There was something in her eyes at that moment that reminded him of Sheridan. He thought for a moment about what she had requested and against his better judgment, decided to reveal a little of what he and Sam had discussed. "This is between you and me, Eve. It doesn't go back to the hospital - not yet, OK?"

Eve's eyes widened in both fear and relief as she answered him, "Nothing you tell me will get out; I promise." She took a deep breath and clenched her hands, wet with perspiration, into fists at her sides. She tried to be ready for whatever Luis would tell her...

"You know we don't have a body, right?" Luis began.

Eve exhaled. She was so relieved that was still the case. "Thank God," she said under her breath.

Luis noticed the extent of her reaction and was puzzled at it as he continued. "Sam and I think maybe the no body thing is a little too convenient."

"What do you mean?" Eve asked, her heart racing.

"We think, again, this is strictly confidential," he said, meeting her eyes with his. "Sam and I believe that this whole thing might have been staged, by Julian or someone else, to make it appear like he is dead."

A wave of relief and joy swept through Eve's body at Luis's revelation. She smiled broadly at the unexpected news. "So you really think this was all faked; Julian is alive?"

"Don't get ahead of me now," Luis cautioned. "He may be alive. I don't really know. Someone went to a whole lot of trouble to try to make us think otherwise, if my theory is correct. If it was Julian, then that bastard is going down for wasting the time and energy of this police department, when we all could have been looking for Sheridan."

"Julian would never have done this," Eve said. "He wouldn't want...his family to think he was dead."

"Julian's never given a damn about his family," Luis said. "Remember, he let everyone think he was dead before."

"That was when he feared for his life," Eve explained. "I think just about everyone in town was gunning for him then." She looked down at the floor in order to hide her own guilt.

Luis nodded in agreement. "I second you there. It wasn't too long ago that everyone in this town wanted Julian dead, and I mean everyone."

"If it isn't Julian who is behind this, and I know it couldn't be, then who is it?" Eve asked, a worried look returning to her face.

"I wish I could share the same faith in Julian that you have," Luis said, "but I don't. Still, if it wasn't him, then it has to be someone who was after him - someone who may have him - dead or alive. That's what really worries me, because if someone was after Julian..."

"What, Luis?"

"Then it might mean there's a vendetta against the Cranes. Maybe the same person has Sheridan. One of Julian's enemies could have both of them. Who knows what they would do to Sheridan? If they have Julian now, maybe she's expendable to them." His voice choked up as he said the last part of his sentence.

Eve reached out and put her hand on Luis's arm. "It's going to be OK, Luis. They're going to be all right; you'll see. If someone does have both Julian and Sheridan, you know that Julian won't let anything happen to her."

"Yeah, that'll be the day," Luis said dryly, wondering who Eve was talking about. Was it the same Julian Crane that he knew?

Just then Rebecca Hotchkiss rushed into the police station. "Luis! Oh, Luis, there you are!" she cried, hurrying over to his desk. She gave Eve a look that seemed to say, "Why are you always hanging around Luis? Don't you have anything better to do?"

"Rebecca, I suppose you want to speak about Julian's case," Luis said.

"Well, of course I do!" she exclaimed. "He is my fiancé after all!"

At that moment, Beth entered the station, wearing her sugar-filled pregnancy device. She had a big smile on her face. "Luis, can I talk to you? It's important."

Luis nodded. "Rebecca, if you could wait just a minute, I need to speak to Beth." He ushered her over near the water cooler, where they were out of earshot of the two women.

"What's up, Beth?" he asked.

"I've missed you, Luis," she said. "It's been a long time since I've seen you."

"I know," he agreed, "but you know I've been very busy working on Sheridan's case and now Julian's."

"I heard about that," she said. "So Sheridan's brother is dead, it looks like."

"Well, that may not be the case," Luis stated. "There still isn't a body yet."

"But I thought it washed out to sea," Beth said. "That's what they hinted at on the news."

Luis shrugged, "We just don't know, Beth. Is that all you wanted to speak to me about?"

"Well, no, I wanted to talk about our baby. I thought maybe we could discuss names. If it's a boy, what do you think about ..."

"I don't think this is the right time or place to discuss baby names," Luis said, cutting her off.

Beth pouted. "Luis, what's wrong? I mean, I know you're worried about Sheridan, but something's different. What else has got you in such a foul mood?"

"Antonio," Luis replied, looking at the floor. "My idiot of a brother - he had us all fooled."

"What do you mean?"

"He knew all along about me and Sheridan. It was all a big put-on by the stupid fool. He was working for Alistair the whole time."

"I don't believe it," Beth said. "Why would he do something like that to you?"

"He says it's because Alistair was blackmailing him. Who knows? That may all be a lie too."

"So this means there's probably no hope for Sheridan and Antonio, huh?" Beth said, trying to hide her disappointment.

Luis was shocked that she could even ask such a question. "Hell no. He's out of town already, and all I can say about that is good riddance."

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Rebecca looked at Eve and shook her head. "You sure like them young. Not that I blame you really. I mean, Luis is certainly a knock-out, especially when he's in uniform."

"What are you talking about, Rebecca?" Eve asked, disgust creeping into her voice.

"Well, it's just that every time I've seen you lately, it's been with Luis. If you're not after him, then why are you always hanging around him? I mean, I know that look."

"What look?" Eve asked, raising her hands to emphasize that she had no clue what the other woman was talking about.

"Oh, that look that says a woman is thinking of a man other than her husband. I've seen you have that look before. In fact, I see it right now. And if it's not Luis, then who?" Rebecca inquired, narrowing her eyes.

"I don't know what you are talking about!" Eve said, turning to leave.

"Oh, you can bet I'll find out!" Rebecca called after her. "I always do!"

As Eve walked away, Rebecca added, "Of course, why you would want another man when you have TC is beyond me. He just has to be so virile!" She said this last statement with a yearning look in her eyes and a sappy grin on her face.

Eve ignored Rebecca's racist remark. She walked past Luis and Beth on her way toward the door. She stopped and gave Luis a smile. "Thanks for all your help, Luis. I'll keep what you told me under wraps, until you say it's OK to let the hospital know."

"Sure, Dr. Russell," Luis said, turning back to Beth. "I've really got to go now, Beth."

"Luis, why don't you go out to lunch with me? We can go have a hamburger, anything!" Beth said, grabbing onto his arm.

"Oh, Luis, Luis! Please come and tell me about my Pookey!" Rebecca called out, waving him over with her hand.

Eve shook her head, smiling at Luis's predicament. She didn't envy him having to spend time with either of these two women. She exited the police station, feeling a burden lifted from her for the first time in two days. There was hope now, real hope. Luis believed Julian was alive - she could tell. And if he had that kind of faith, she could too. She would get to see her Julian again; she just knew it!

Courtaney
5.25.07, 12:59 AM
Chapter 24 - "The Promise"

Sheridan woke up in the middle of the night and called to Julian. "I think I'm going to need help getting up. It's getting harder and harder for me to be able to stand."

"Sure, just let me get myself up first," he responded. She could hear him grimacing to stand. His ribs were still hurting him. She could barely see him in the tiny bit of light that was coming from above.

Julian walked over toward Sheridan and bent down, grabbing onto her arms. He pulled her up gently. "There you go," he said.

"Thanks," she replied gratefully. "Pregnant women do need to use the restroom a lot."

"Some restroom," Julian complained. "Merely a hole dug in the corner of this blasted pit."

"It's better now that you hung the blanket up on those pipes sticking out of the sides of the pit. It makes a nice curtain," Sheridan said.

"Too bad those pipes weren't higher," Julian grumbled. "Then we could have climbed out of here."

"I don't think either one of us is in any kind of shape to climb out now," Sheridan said. "We are kind of a sorry lot, aren't we?"

"Yes, I guess we are," he agreed, rubbing his right side.

After Sheridan used the makeshift latrine, she eased herself back onto the cushion on the opposite side of the pit. Julian walked over and sat down beside her. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

"Pretty good for 36 weeks gestation," she joked. "Really, Julian, I'm fine. But I certainly hope Luis finds us soon. The last thing I want is for my baby to be born in this awful place."

"How much time do you have left? Four weeks?"

Sheridan nodded. "Anywhere from two to six weeks is normal, they say."

"No problem, then," Julian assured her. "Luis will definitely find us by then."

"Are you sure?" she asked, worry creeping into her voice.

"He'll find us, Sheridan. If there's one thing I know about Luis Lopez- Fitzgerald, it's that he never gives up. The man's a bloodhound when it comes to searching for you. Why in Bermuda..." he stopped, realizing his own part in what had befallen Sheridan on that island. Julian sighed and began to choke back tears.

"What about Bermuda? Julian, what's wrong?" Sheridan asked, concerned that her brother was so emotional. She had never seen him like this before.

Julian shook his head and did not answer her. He was suddenly overwhelmed with guilt.

"Bermuda," Sheridan said, deep in thought. "Luis always suspected you had something to do with the boat explosion. I was never sure."

Julian turned to face his sister. "Sheridan," he began, "there is so much I am sorry for. What happened in Bermuda is one of the lowest points in my life. I was a monster, an ogre. I had no soul." He stopped, unable to go on.

"You mean you were involved?" Sheridan asked, tears forming in her eyes. "My own brother tried to..."

"Sheridan, listen to me," Julian said, finding his voice once more. "I can't make it up to you - the terrible things I've done for Father. There's no way I can. That explosion led to you and Luis being separated for a year..."

"And to me being married to Antonio, instead of Luis. Oh my God, Julian! You were behind everything terrible that has happened in my life in the last two years!"

"I have no excuse," he said. "I just want you to know I am truly, truly sorry for what I have done."

"You tried to kill me!" she cried. "My own brother and my father wanted me dead!" The tears began to flow from her eyes. She put her head down in her hands and sobbed freely.

"Sheridan, I want you to know one thing: I love you. You're my little sister. I will not do anything to hurt you again," Julian declared, putting his arms around her lowered shoulders.

Sheridan pulled back, pushing his arms away with her hands, and continued to sob. "How can I believe that - when you tried to kill me?!"

"I'm not the man I was then, Sheridan. Thank God. That man is dead, for all intensive purposes. Your brother is back. The brother who played tag with you when you were little, do you remember that? The brother who promised our mother..." He stopped, thinking of the promise he had made to their mother before she died.

"What did you promise our mother?" Sheridan asked, looking at him through her tears.

"I promised her I would take care of you," he said. "It was right before she died. She asked me to look out for you, and I said I would. I've done a terrible job of that up until this point, obviously."

Sheridan wiped her tear-stained face and considered Julian's words. Her brother had just admitted that he had once tried to kill her, but he also had declared that he was a changed man, vowing to take care of her. Which was the real Julian?

Julian hesitantly reached out and patted Sheridan's shoulder with his right hand. This time she didn't pull away. "I don't blame you if you never forgive me. I can't forgive myself for what I've done. Just know this - I will never hurt you again. I will do everything I can to protect you, in this pit and out. I'll give my life for you, Sheridan. I owe you that, and so much more."

Sheridan looked into her brother's eyes once more. "I believe you, Julian. For some crazy reason, I do believe that you'll do what you can to protect me. You've already shown that, here in this pit. You tried to find me and were so desperate to get to me when I screamed that you rushed on in, without calling Luis. And when you tried to escape the other day, your first concern was for me."

"I will keep my promise to our mother, finally," Julian said. "I'm just so sad that it took this long for me to say that - to try to do that. Our mother's been gone so many years."

"Since I was a small child," Sheridan said, wiping her eyes once more. "Julian, you obviously have changed, completely, since I was in Bermuda. What happened to cause it?"

"I suppose a lot of things," he said slowly. "When everyone thought I was dead, I was hiding out. I think I realized then what a mess I had made of my life. The whole town wanted me dead, even..."

"Even who, Julian?" Sheridan asked, sitting up straighter.

"Even the woman I love," he replied. "I was such a jerk to her. I threatened to expose our past. I don't blame her for wishing I was dead."

"The two of you must have had some stormy relationship these past few years," Sheridan said, in a lighter tone of voice.

"It's never been smooth. If there's one thing I can say about our relationship, it's that there's always a lot of passion between the two of us."

"Kind of like me and Luis, in the beginning," Sheridan suggested. "We always argued. We got into it something fierce. But underneath all of that, there was a whole lot of passion - and love."

"My love for this woman has something to do with the change in me," he admitted. "It was during that terrible time that I realized how much I still indeed loved her."

"I can tell how much," Sheridan said. "She must be one special lady."

"The best," Julian agreed. "And she's not the only one who helped me change. Little Timmy had a lot to do with it as well."

"Timmy? You mean Tabitha's grandnephew?" Sheridan asked in surprise.

"Yes," Julian said, lowering his head in sadness. "Timmy and I came across one another when I was hiding out. He and I had some great adventures together. He really made me see the good in life, and what I was doing wrong."

"Then poor Timmy died," Sheridan said, putting her hand on Julian's. "I'm sorry; I had no idea the two of you were close."

"His death hit me hard," Julian admitted. "I was really out of it for awhile. Then everything kind of came together to slap me in the face and make me see myself for who I was. I didn't like what I saw."

"You have made some awful mistakes, Julian. You've done some really terrible things. I'm just glad that even this late in life, you decided to change. You have turned your life around."

"I'm trying," he confessed. "But I realize there is so much I still need to atone for, especially with you. I think maybe fate - my God, I am sounding like Theresa now - but I really do believe that fate led me to you here in this pit."

Sheridan smiled and laid her head on her brother's shoulder. "I'm not sure whether it was fate, or God, or pure chance that brought you here, but I am just glad you're here, Julian."

With that, Julian knew that he was forgiven. He couldn't believe how truly special his sister was. He was now more determined than ever to keep the promise he had made long ago to their dying mother...

Courtaney
5.26.07, 5:57 AM
Chapter 25 - "Julian's Vow"

The next morning, Luis went into Sam's office to talk to him in private about both missing person cases. He shut the door behind him.

"I don't know what we're missing," Luis said. "But I'm sure we're right about Julian Crane not being in that car when it went over the cliff."

"There's just got to be some piece of evidence that will back up our theory, something we aren't seeing," Sam stated. "Let's go over the facts in this case again."

Luis sat down in the chair opposite of Sam's desk. "Well, we have the missing person's report that Rebecca Hotchkiss filed on Julian Crane the day before the accident. She actually had not seen Crane since the day before that. The last time she saw him, he was watching a video in his bedroom, and apparently not a G-rated video, if you get my drift." Luis let out a laugh.

"Figures," Sam said, shaking his head. Then, becoming serious once more, he said, "Go on."

"We know that Julian Crane's car was missing from in front of the mansion. His cell phone was apparently on him at the time, but he didn't answer any of Rebecca's calls. He wasn't seen by anyone from 3 o'clock that afternoon on. I checked all the hotels in the area, the airport, the bus station, everywhere. There was no report of Julian Crane being in the area. None. He didn't take the Crane jet, and you know he doesn't fly without it."

"So Julian wasn't off having fun," Sam deduced.

"He even missed several important business meetings during this time. Alistair was really ticked off at him, according to someone who works at Crane Industries. Just today, Alistair called the station and urged us to find Julian."

"You're kidding!" Sam exclaimed, his eyes wide in surprise. "I never thought I'd see the day when Alistair Crane would be begging us for help."

"Steve talked to him," Luis said. "I guess he didn't want to speak to me - the bastard. He knew I would get on him about his lack of interest in Sheridan's disappearance, not to mention what he had Antonio do to me and Sheridan. I'm sure my bastard of a brother already informed that snake about what he told me."

"If he did, he'd be putting his life in danger," Sam said. "Alistair doesn't take kindly to people betraying him."

"I don't really care about that," Luis admitted. "Let Alistair go after him. He deserves whatever he gets."

Sam looked at Luis sympathetically. "Maybe someday you and Antonio will be able to straighten out your differences, but right now let's focus on the case before us. We've gone over the background information. How about the physical evidence?"

Luis opened the file and reviewed his notes. "We have a witness who says they saw a dark-colored sports car go over the side of the cliff just outside of town at around 10 p.m. on the night of the accident. The witness called police. Several officers arrived on the scene within minutes, including myself. We were able to call divers in almost immediately. No body was found, but the sports car was recovered. It suffered heavy damage in the wreck. There was nothing unusual found within the car, except for a piece of driftwood."

"Driftwood!" Sam exclaimed, sitting up suddenly in his seat. "That's it!"

"What's it?" Luis asked. "I thought the driftwood simply floated in the open window."

"No!" Sam said, "That's what we were led to believe. The driftwood's the key to this whole thing. It's our missing puzzle piece!"

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"Another day in this damn sinkhole," Julian said when he awoke the next morning and began stretching. "This makes five for me, and what? Nineteen for you?" he asked Sheridan.

His sister nodded. "Almost three weeks. I don't know how much more of this I can take." She tried to stand up, but was finding it more and more difficult to do this late in her pregnancy.

"Here, let me help you," Julian said. He got up as quickly as his injured ribs would allow and made his way over to where Sheridan was sitting. He helped pull her up by her arms.

"It feels good just to stand up," Sheridan said. "We really do need to exercise more, Julian. Why don't we walk around the pit in circles for a little bit?"

"Just what I've always wanted to do," Julian said sarcastically. Then, seeing that she was serious, he agreed. "Sure, why not? It's not like there is anything better to do."

The two walked around the edge of their confine until they felt they could not go any farther. "That was a good work-out," Sheridan admitted. "It's important for me to stay in shape for the baby's sake."

"Then by all means, I shall join you everyday in this endeavor," Julian joked. "I think I need to wash up now, however." He walked over to the side of the pit where there was a bowl filled with water and a bar of soap.

Julian eased out of his unbuttoned shirt and washed off with the water and soap. The water felt like ice to his skin, but he continued to wash up. He was careful not to get the bandage wet. When he had done a satisfactory job of washing the upper half of his body, he brushed his teeth. "A guy could get used to all the amenities in this hotel," he quipped.

"They do make sure we have the basics," Sheridan agreed. "I think it's because they knew they would be keeping us for a long time - or me for a long time. They probably didn't want me to have to see a dentist down here!"

"If they were so concerned about your oral health, you would think they would be concerned about your mental health too - and let you go! This place would drive anyone bonkers. I'm surprised you haven't snapped."

"I'm sure I would have if you hadn't arrived, Julian," Sheridan admitted, walking over to wash up. Washing her face, she turned to add, "I've told you this before - you keep me sane down here."

"I don't know how you lasted so long alone in this hellhole," Julian said. "Lord knows, I wouldn't."

"I guess I just have so much faith in Luis," she said. "I knew he wouldn't give up. And if he didn't, how could I?" She went on to brush her teeth as well.

Sheridan and Julian then went to sit on the cushion, which during the day had become a sort of couch for them, and at night was Sheridan's bed. Crossing her legs in front of her, Sheridan leaned back against the wall and sighed. "I have been so tired lately. I just really want to go home."

"And we will, Sheridan - soon," said Julian, placing his hand on her arm. "I just feel so helpless not knowing what these people are after. I'm used to knowing everybody's angle in the business world, but here, I have no clue as to what is really going on. It's hard to fight when you don't know what the game plan is."

"Well, it's not money they're after," Sheridan said. "We already know that. They don't seem to be sadistic serial killers either - at least they haven't tried to kill us yet. We know it's me they were after. What do I have that they could possibly want?"

Julian shrugged, "I don't really know." As he said it, a thought suddenly crept into his head - a thought that had been simmering down in his subconscious for quite sometime. He knew one thing that Sheridan had - something invaluable - something that these evil women in clown garb might actually be after. "Dear Lord, please don't let it be that," he thought. "Anything but that."

Outwardly he smiled and patted her arm. "No matter what, Sheridan, we'll get through this together." While inside, Julian tried to shrug off the chill that had suddenly come over him. What was he going to do if they tried to take Sheridan's baby? How was he going to be able to protect his sister and her child? He made a silent vow right then to do anything he could to prevent such a travesty from happening.

Courtaney
5.27.07, 12:48 AM
Chapter 26 - "Wrath of TC"

Eve stood behind her kitchen counter, chopping onions for a salad. Her mind drifted back to the conversation she had with Luis the day before. She was so thrilled when Luis told her that there was a good chance Julian was still alive. In her heart she had hoped this was the case, but she was never completely sure. Now she had the faith and belief that she would get to see Julian again. She couldn't wait until they were reunited. She pictured running to him, arms wide open, eagerly planting a welcome home kiss on his warm lips...

Just then, TC entered the kitchen. Eve shook her head as her mind bounced back to reality. "You've got to watch where your thoughts go, Eve," she told herself. "You've got to stay in control."

"What's up, sweetheart?" TC asked, walking over to the counter. "You looked like you were a million miles away just now."

"I was," Eve said, smiling at her husband, "but I'm back now."

"And you sure seem to be in a good mood too," he said, grinning at her. "Maybe you're in the mood for some romance this afternoon. Simone's out of the house, and we both have all day."

"Not right now, TC. I have this salad to fix and, and I'm really kind of tired."

"Oh, all right, maybe tonight then," he said. "You haven't been feeling too good lately, I know."

"That's true," Eve answered, "but I'm feeling so much better now." She picked up some carrots to peel.

"I can say that I'm feeling pretty good myself, what with Julian Crane's accident. I just wish they'd hurry up and find his body. What I want more than anything in this world is to see that bastard in a coffin."

"TC, that's cruel," Eve lashed out. "You should never want to see anyone dead."

"And I don't, not anyone else - well, maybe that punk Chad. He and Julian Crane don't deserve to breathe the same air we breathe. I really think Julian's accident was God's way of ridding the world of a leech, a parasite that was feeding on our town and sucking the life out of it."

Eve began chopping up the carrots. "I know you've always blamed Julian for your accident, TC. Still, that's no reason to wish anyone dead. Julian's actually done a lot of good for Harmony recently. Remember all the charity donations?"

"Those were Theresa's donations. Julian had nothing to do with it," TC countered. "Why are you always defending the guy?"

Eve put the knife down and looked at her husband. "I suppose we don't agree on everything," she said finally.

TC shook his head. "You need to see that bastard for what he really is. He's pond scum, and I can't wait to spit on his grave."

"I don't think you'll get that chance, TC," Eve said, her face brightening with a smile she couldn't hold back. "I don't believe they'll ever find a body. I think Julian is still alive."

"If by some crazy chance he is, it won't be for long," TC spat. "I'm enjoying the reports of his untimely demise so much; maybe I'll have to make it a permanent thing." With that, he walked to the kitchen doorway.

Turning around, TC looked back at Eve. Her eyes met his. "I don't know what's come over you with this change in attitude about Julian Crane. That was something we both always agreed on. I hope you're not softening your opinion on the jerk just because of some charity donations or hospital deeds. The man is a pig. He's either already in hell, or he's on the fast track there." He walked out of the kitchen on those final words.

Eve considered what TC had said. "I've got to be more careful with what I say," she realized. "TC can't find out about my feelings for Julian. If he does, he will surely kill him. My marriage won't be the only thing that is dead."

She put the salad in the refrigerator and shut the door. Eve paused for a minute by the refrigerator and closed her eyes. "Wherever you are, Julian, I pray you're safe," she said.

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Julian picked up his bottle of water and took a drink. "Eve, I hope you know I'm OK," he thought. "I wouldn't want you to worry." His mind flashed back to their recent kiss. He smiled in a dreamy sort of way.

"I can tell who's on your mind," Sheridan said, laughing.

Julian looked up, startled for a moment. "You can, can you?" he asked, recovering. "I was just thinking about business. I've really missed out on a lot of meetings while I have been down here. Crane Industries can't run itself, you know."

"Oh, sure, sure," Sheridan joked. "I get that same look on my face when I'm balancing the checkbook."

Julian took another drink from his water bottle. "And just where has your mind wandered to recently, sister dear? When I looked your way a couple of minutes ago, you had this sappy grin all over your face."

"I did not!" she exclaimed, smiling. "I never look sappy, Julian."

"I'll have to ask Luis about that, the next time I see him," Julian said.

Sheridan sobered at the sound of her lover's name. "I sure hope you get that chance, Julian," she said. "I sure hope we get to see Luis again real soon."

"You'll never see that boyfriend of yours again. Never!" bellowed a voice from above.

Julian and Sheridan looked up to see Charlie, wearing her clown mask, leaning over the pit.

"You're scaring the poor girl," Julian said. "Can't you see she's pregnant?"

"Oh, I know she's pregnant," Charlie roared. "If she wasn't, she wouldn't be here!" She let out a hideous laugh. Then, looking at Julian, she said, "Hey, Mr. Rich, I wanted to show you my new toy I've got. Look here."

Charlie waved a brand new rifle over the edge of the pit. "Isn't it a beaut? I just got it today. So in case you're planning another escape attempt - well, I wouldn't," she laughed, aiming the rifle straight at Julian.

The psychotic woman pulled back on the trigger. Julian jumped in shock, while Sheridan let out a scream. The rifle made a small sound, but no bullet was fired. The chamber was empty!

"HA, HA, HA, HA! I got you on that one," Charlie laughed evilly, lowering her weapon. "Next time the rifle will be loaded though. I hope you won't be foolish enough to try another escape attempt!" Charlie roared with laughter again and left the basement.

Sheridan turned to Julian, still in shock. "My God, I thought she was really going to shoot you."

Julian let out a deep breath. "So did I, Sheridan." He wiped the sweat off of his brow. "It looks like these women really do mean business."

"They bought a rifle; it's scary," Sheridan agreed, stepping closer to her brother. "Julian, what do you think she meant when she said I wouldn't be here if I weren't pregnant? What was she talking about?"

Julian noticed the fear in his sister's eyes and tried to calm her down. "I think she's just talking nonsense," he said. "She's trying to throw us off the trail of what's really going on."

"Do you really believe that?" Sheridan asked, alarm still in her voice. "I mean, what if she - Oh, my God!" she cried, "Ohhhh!"

"Sheridan, what is it?" Julian asked anxiously, rushing over to his sister's side as she doubled over in pain.

"I...I think I'm in labor!" Sheridan cried, still hunched over and fighting back the tears of pain. "Oh my God, the baby's coming!"

Courtaney
5.28.07, 12:41 AM
Chapter 27 - "The Real Thing"

Luis looked at Sam, completely taken aback at his response. "What's so important about the driftwood, Sam? I don't get it."

"Luis, it's the missing clue we were searching for. The one that proves the whole accident was rigged!"

"OK, you lost me there," said Luis, looking down at his notes. "It just says there was a piece of driftwood in the car. Everyone thought it floated in there."

"That's what they wanted us to think!" Sam said enthusiastically. "Luis, if you're going to send a car over a cliff - with nobody inside it - what do you need?"

Luis thought for a second and then smiled in excitement. "Something to hold the accelerator down!"

"That's right!" Sam cried. "Our piece of driftwood!"

"My, my," Luis said, rubbing his chin with his hand. "Whoever's behind this sure was crafty there. A piece of driftwood is the last thing we would expect to be hard evidence."

"Exactly! Because it's natural in the setting," Sam agreed. "They simply rolled the window down and let everyone think the piece of wood floated into the car."

"And to think our biggest piece of evidence could easily have been lost or disregarded," Luis realized.

"Which I'm sure the kidnappers wanted," Sam said. "Thank goodness you and the boys were thorough on this, Luis."

"That's got to be it, Sam. We both expected that this was staged - now we know how it was physically possible."

"We just need to decide who was behind this," Luis continued, looking intently at his boss. "Was it Julian, trying to fake his death, or was it the work of some kidnappers, who are holding him?"

"I vote for the kidnapper theory," Sam said. "There is too much that doesn't seem right about Julian being behind this. It just seems like he disappeared for no reason."

"Well, you know I wouldn't put it past him," Luis said, an angry look creeping onto his face. "But I think I'm inclined to agree with you here. There's too much else going on that points to him being kidnapped."

"Are you talking about Sheridan?" Sam asked.

Luis nodded sadly. "Two Cranes missing at the same time...it's just too weird. I believe someone kidnapped Sheridan after she left the grounds of the estate that night. I think someone has them both - someone who found it was easier to take Sheridan, but later got their hands on Julian as well."

"So now all we need to figure out is who was behind this," Sam said slowly. "That's going to be tough."

"The Cranes have so many enemies," Luis said. "Alistair and Julian are such bastards when it comes to business. So help me if anything happens to Sheridan because of those two..." He stopped, getting choked up over the thought of something bad befalling the woman he loved.

"We'll find her, Luis," Sam said soothingly. "We'll get her back."

"She's pregnant though, Sam," Luis said, tears forming in his eyes. "What if, God forbid, she goes into labor? What if she has the baby while she's being held?"

Sam got up from his seat, walked over to Luis, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "We'll find her before that happens; I promise."

Luis put his head in his hands and sobbed. "If anything happens to Sheridan or our baby..."

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Julian grabbed hold of Sheridan's arm with his hands. She was still doubled over in pain. "Are all right, dear? You have me scared."

Sheridan slowly stood up, grimacing. "It...it had to be a contraction. I'm in labor, Julian!"

"Are you sure?" her brother asked, concern written all over his face. "Maybe it was just the fear of that blasted rifle that did it. Maybe you're not really in labor."

Sheridan shook her head. "The pain was too intense. It has to be it. What am I going to do?" Tears flowed freely down her cheeks.

"Maybe you should sit down," Julian said kindly. "Here, let me help you over to the cushion." He led her slowly by the hand and gently helped her sit down.

Sheridan eased herself back against the wall and sat there, her hands rubbing her stomach.

"Is that better?" Julian asked nervously. "Do you think you're all right now?"

"I don't feel any more pain right now," Sheridan said. "But then labor pains come and go in the beginning. They're not supposed to be real frequent."

"Let's hope it wasn't really labor," Julian said, kneeling down beside his sister. "Isn't there some kind of false labor pains that women have?"

Sheridan nodded. "It's called Braxton-Hicks. It could have been that, I guess. It was just so intense..."

Julian let out a sigh. "I bet that was it then. You're going to be OK."

"I sure hope so," Sheridan said, her eyes still revealing the fear she felt at the idea of being in labor. "It's too soon for me to have this baby - four weeks too soon!"

"You'll have this child when it's due, in a hospital, with Luis at your side," Julian promised. "Don't think otherwise." Silently, he prayed that that would be the case.

"I can't have my baby down here!" Sheridan cried. "Not in this horrible pit, without medical care. My gosh, what would happen if I really was in labor? Who would deliver this baby - you?!"

Julian took a deep breath. "Please God, don't let it come to that," he thought. To Sheridan he said in a comforting tone, "We Cranes are good at just about anything. If it comes to that, I'm ready. But it won't. That baby of yours is going to wait until the right time. You'll see."

"I hope you're right about that, Julian," she said. "Maybe I was just upset about the rifle, and about what that woman said." Her mind drifted back to Charlie's sinister words. "Julian, what did she mean when she said that I am only here because I am pregnant? She...she doesn't want to do anything to my baby - she can't!" Sheridan cried.

"I won't let anything happen to your baby, Sheridan," Julian said softly, placing his arm around her shoulder. "I promise you that."

Sheridan's worried look lifted a little, and she smiled at her brother. "That's so sweet of you, Julian."

"I mean every word of it," he swore.

"I can tell you do," she said warmly. "We've come such a long way these past few days..."

"I know," Julian admitted.

"If someone had told me a month ago that you would be comforting me like this, I would say they were crazy!"

Julian smiled. "I think we both have surprised each other - in a good way."

"In the best way!" Sheridan agreed. "Julian, I want to thank you for everything you've done for me since we've been down here."

"It's not necessary," he said, shifting uncomfortably. "Anyone would have done what I'm doing."

"That's not true," Sheridan argued. "You've gone above and - oh no!" Again, a wave of sharp pain hit Sheridan in the abdomen. She hunched forward, crying out in agony.

"Sheridan, my God, what is it? Are you having another contraction?"

"Yes!" she screamed in pain. "Julian, this is the real thing! It's not false labor. My baby's coming!"

Courtaney
5.29.07, 12:12 AM
Chapter 28 - "Labor Pains"

Julian sat with a shocked look on his face, unsure of what to do. "Sheridan, are you all right?" he asked anxiously, placing his hand on her shoulder.

His sister was sitting on the cushion, doubled over in pain. "It - it's definitely labor," she said, her eyes squeezed shut tightly.

"What can I do?" Julian asked, the color draining from his face.

Sheridan raised her head slowly and opened her eyes. "I don't know," she said, her voice shaky. Then she took a deep breath. "It's gone now."

"They were about 15 minutes apart," Julian observed, looking at his watch. "They need to get you to the hospital. Where are those blasted clowns anyway?" He stood up and walked over to the center of the pit.

Julian began shouting at the top of his lungs for the kidnappers, but there was no response. He turned his attention back to Sheridan. "It's going to be all right," he said, trying to give her the reassurance she needed. "They'll come soon, and they'll get you the help you need. I'm sure they're not the monsters they seem to be..."

"I don't know, Julian," Sheridan said. "They haven't let me out yet; why would they now?"

Julian knelt back down beside his sister. "No matter what, I'm here," he said in a comforting tone. "You're not alone."

"Thank God for that," Sheridan replied, tears flowing down her cheeks. She grabbed his hand and held onto it. "I need my big brother now."

Minutes turned into hours. Sheridan's contractions increased in frequency and intensity. Her water broke during this time. Julian put a blanket on the cushion. He then covered Sheridan with another blanket as she prepared herself for the impending birth. She lay back down on the cushion, exhausted, with the blanket pulled up to her midsection.

Julian stayed by her side during each of her contractions, putting his hand on hers and at times wiping the sweat from her brow with his handkerchief. He looked back over his shoulder toward the top of the pit. "Where are those stupid clowns?" he wondered. "Why haven't they checked on us since this afternoon?"

Sheridan and Julian normally were visited by the larger of their two abductors toward evening. She had yet to show. "Stupid woman," he scowled. "She probably is off playing with that damn rifle somewhere."

He turned his attention once more to Sheridan. "Would you like some water, dear?" he asked. When she nodded, he opened a bottle of water and gave her a few sips.

Sheridan drank the water eagerly. "Thanks," she said. "I feel so hot."

"I am trying to do what I can for you," he said. "I don't know much about any of this, really," he admitted.

"You're trying, Julian," she said, giving him a tired smile. "That's all I can ask for." She lapsed into another contraction.

"They're getting closer," Julian said nervously, squeezing her hand tightly in his. "Six minutes apart now."

Just then a figure appeared at the top of the pit. It was the large woman with the clown mask. She looked down at the duo in the pit. For a moment, she was speechless. "What - what the heck's going on?" she asked finally, without accompanying her remark with her usual laugh.

"My sister is in labor," Julian explained quickly. "And you need to get her to a hospital fast."

Charlie snickered loudly. "I don't think so, Mr. Rich," she declared. "Blondie's staying right here."

"You don't understand," he said. "She needs a doctor; she's in labor. The contractions aren't far apart. She's much too early. This baby will be born prematurely."

"She looks far enough along to me," Charlie said, surmising the situation. "I think the baby'll make it."

"What are you going to do about it? How are you going to help her? Look at her! She needs a doctor."

"You'll have to do," Charlie said, shrugging. "Hey, I was delivered at home. I turned out OK."

"This isn't exactly a home - it's a pit," Julian said. "And I'm no midwife, or Aunt Martha for that matter."

"It was Aunt Sarah," Charlie said, thinking back to her childhood. "I hated the lady too. She was a blonde."

Julian held up his hands and sighed. "You're not going to do anything for her then? My sister is in labor, prematurely, and having a rough time of it, and you have planned for nothing!"

"What would you expect I do?" Charlie asked. "Look at the animal world. None of them go to a hospital to have a baby."

"This is not an animal we are talking about," Julian said calmly, but with a hint of anger. "It is my sister. She is in agony over there! Can't you see that? Now I would like for you to come up with a plan - immediately! You need to think of a way to help her."

Charlie shrugged. "I guess I could go speak to my partner about this."

"Well, why don't you go do that?" Julian said, his anger seething just below the surface. "Idiot," he muttered under his breath.

He turned his attention back to Sheridan once more and headed over to the cushion. She looked up at him. Her eyes were full of fear.

"Don't worry," Julian said. "It's going to be all right. They'll do something about it. You'll see."

Sheridan called out in pain yet again, even louder than before. "They're...getting...worse!" she cried, out of breath.

Julian heard the sound of someone running above him. He looked up and saw both of his abductors, faces hidden behind their masks.

"Are you sure she's in labor?" Beth whispered to Charlie.

"Well, look at her!" Charlie exclaimed. "What do you think we should do?"

"I thought you were going to deliver the baby, Charlie. You said you would," Beth said quietly. "Charlie, you have delivered babies before, haven't you?"

"Well, not exactly," Charlie admitted. "You see, I never really worked in a delivery room, but I have watched people giving birth on TV."

"Well, why on earth did you make me think you could deliver a baby? Charlie, this is serious!" Beth whispered more loudly than before.

"I would have tried to do it, Bethie, if it weren't for Blondie's brother there. But now, what would we do with him while I'm down there trying to help Sheridan give birth? It's not like I can point the rifle at him the whole time I'm trying to catch the baby, and I don't think you could keep a weapon on him, for what could be hours."

"Then what do you suggest?" Beth asked nervously.

"I think we should let Blondie's brother do it," Charlie said. "Why not? He's halfway through it already."

"I suppose so," Beth agreed hesitantly. "We'll have to send some things down to him of course - water, towels, that sort of stuff."

"Sounds good to me, Bethie," Charlie said, putting her arm around Beth's shoulder.

Beth moved out from under Charlie's arm. "Let's go round up the stuff."

During the kidnappers' conversation, Julian had been tending to his sister, whose contractions were now five minutes apart. When he looked up and realized the abductors were gone, he couldn't believe it. "Hey!" he yelled. "We need an ambulance - fast!"

His pleas went unheard as Beth and Charlie rummaged through the house getting the necessary supplies.

Sheridan moaned as she felt tremendous pain shoot through her body once more. Her hair was completely wet with sweat now. She was totally exhausted. "Julian," she said, "I don't know how much more of this I can take."

"There, there, dear," Julian said, wiping sweat from her brow. "It won't be much longer. You're holding up really well. Just breathe, Sheridan. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly."

Sheridan did as Julian directed and exhaled slowly. "You seem to know a little bit about childbirth," she said once the contraction had passed.

"Well, I wasn't there for the births of any of my children, as you well know. I have had the opportunity to watch some deliveries on television, however. Those real-life medical programs are actually quite entertaining," he explained.

Time continued to roll by with more and more contractions for Sheridan. Julian helped her focus and breathe through an especially painful one. "I can tell that was a particularly rough one. You did well, Sheridan."

"Thank you, Julian," Sheridan said wearily. Her head fell back on the cushion in exhaustion. "It's too soon though...the baby...too soon."

Julian grew more worried by the minute. He wet his handkerchief with the bottled water and laid it on Sheridan's forehead. Her body tightened with yet another contraction. "Come on, Luis," Julian thought. "Come on, anyone."

A few minutes later, Beth and Charlie returned to the edge of the pit, their arms full of items for the birth. "Here you go!" Charlie called down. "Everything you need!" She tossed clean towels, blankets, and sheets down into the pit. Julian jumped up and caught what he could of the pile and put the items on his blanket.

Beth put a lantern in the picnic basket and lowered it down by pulley. Julian grabbed the basket and removed the lantern. "Do you have matches to light it with?" he asked.

Beth tossed him down a box of matches.

"One match - we want the rest back!" Charlie yelled.

Julian lit the lantern and tossed the matches back up to Charlie. He had more important things to do than argue over matches.

He set the lantern near Sheridan. It would be getting dark soon, and they would need all the light they could get. Julian took a deep breath and assessed the situation. His sister was in pretty bad shape, he realized, and it looked like he was all she had.

Sheridan cried out in pain once more, "Luis!" she called. "Get me Luis!"

Julian put his hand on her forehead. "She's burning up!" he cried. Standing up, he looked around helplessly for something to help his sister. He knew a wet handkerchief was not enough. "She needs to get to the hospital, damn it!" he yelled to the abductors above. He got no reaction from them.

Walking over to the center of the pit, Julian fell to his knees and placed his head in his hands. "I can't do it," he said in a defeated tone. "I don't have the strength to help her. God, please give me that strength. Help me do what I need to save my sister and her baby."

Courtaney
5.30.07, 2:11 AM
Chapter 29 - "Julian's Request"

Julian got up slowly from the floor of the pit, still overwhelmed with the prospect of being alone with Sheridan through her impending act of childbirth. He could not believe the situation that had befallen him - that he would have to deliver his sister's baby - here, in a place that was not even up to dungeon standards. He shook his head in disbelief. He was all Sheridan had, he knew. He must be strong and help see her through this. Somehow, God willing, he would manage.

"Good to see you're not going to stay on the ground all day!" a voice bellowed from up above. Turning in the voice's direction, Julian eyed the larger of the two clowns peering down at him.

"I sure wish that you would tell your boss - the mute one beside you - that we need to call an ambulance for Sheridan. Things are getting worse. She's in tremendous pain; you can tell. I'm really worried about her." Julian's voice revealed how deeply concerned he was.

"My partner here is well aware of how Sheridan's doing," Charlie smirked. "There will be no ambulance for Blondie. You'll have to make do."

Julian held his hands up in protest. "Do I look like a doctor? I know nothing about childbirth. If you care at all about this woman and her baby, you will get her out of this damn pit this instant and get her the help she needs."

"Sorry, pal, it's you or the rats that'll deliver Blondie's baby. Take your pick." Charlie sneered. Then, grabbing Beth by the arm, she pulled her away from the edge of the pit to discuss the matter.

"I don't like the looks of things," Beth said in a hushed voice. "Sheridan doesn't look well. I mean, I know I have never had a baby, but something seems wrong about this. Maybe it's because the baby is early."

"What do you want to do, Beth? Risk everything by trying to take Sheridan to the hospital?"

"No, we can't do that," Beth said. "This baby will have to be born right here. I just hope he or she makes it."

"Oh, our baby's going to come out of this just fine, Bethie," Charlie said, putting her arm around Beth's shoulder. "You'll see. We'll have a feisty toddler running around the place in no time."

Beth and Charlie headed back upstairs, leaving Julian completely alone with Sheridan. He had not had any luck picking up on what the revolting clowns were discussing. Julian turned his attention back to his sister.

He wet his handkerchief once more and applied it to her forehead. She opened her eyes and looked at him wearily. "Thanks," she muttered softly.

Julian smiled at her. "Looks like Dr. Julian will have to take better care of his patient," he said. "I'm sorry I left you for a moment."

"Don't be," she said. "You have been doing all you can for me... I want to thank...you."

Another contraction came on all of a sudden. Julian grabbed Sheridan's hand. "Breathe like you did before," he said. "Let it out in little bits."

Sheridan followed his advice and breathed through the contraction in a way that helped her handle the pain. The contraction soon ended, and Sheridan lay back on the cushion once more, completely exhausted. "How...far apart?" she asked.

"Still five minutes," Julian answered after checking his watch. He was grateful that the light from the lantern allowed him to see well enough to keep track of the timing of Sheridan's contractions. It was now almost dark outside; he could tell by the disappearing light from above.

Time continued to slowly tick by. Julian stayed by Sheridan's side for several more hours, helping talk her through each contraction. The kidnappers kept coming to check on them every half hour or so, he noticed, but normally would not even say anything. They would simply peer into the pit, whisper to each other, and leave. Julian had given up on pleading for an ambulance. He knew it was useless.

One thing that didn't change during those hours was the timing of Sheridan's contractions. They were still five minutes apart. From what little Julian knew of labor, he was aware that something did not seem quite right about that. Her labor did not seem to be progressing. "I know contractions are supposed to get close," he thought. "I've heard people talk about 'two minutes apart' and such. She's not even down to four after all this time."

Sheridan too seemed worried, but she said very little. Her mind and body were completely and utterly exhausted. She closed her eyes in between her contractions, not having the energy to leave them open.

Julian tried to talk soothingly to her, telling her that she was doing a good job, that Luis would be so proud of her right now, and that her baby would be born soon, and everything would be fine.

"Luis..." Sheridan murmured. "If I don't make it...tell Luis..."

"Sheridan, you're scaring me!" Julian cried. "Of course you're going to make it. Please don't talk like that."

"I...don't know..." she said, in a voice that was barely audible. "I feel...so strange... I just want to rest."

"Rest then, Sheridan," Julian said, trying to at once comfort his sister and urge her on. "Save your strength. You'll have more energy if you rest in between contractions."

Tears welled up in Julian's eyes. He felt so bad for his sister. He would give anything to trade places with her right now. He was the one who deserved to be suffering. He was the one who had wronged his sister time and time again. "Don't leave me, Sheridan," he thought. "Not when I just got you back. I can't lose you too."

Julian wiped the tears from his eyes. "Sheridan, hang on. You can do it," he said as he brushed the wet hair from her forehead.

Sheridan's body was rocked with yet another contraction. After Julian had tenderly helped her breathe through it, he noted silently that the interval was still not changing. Sheridan's contractions remained five minutes apart. "I know something's wrong," he thought.

Sensing her brother's thoughts, Sheridan opened her eyes and looked at Julian. "I think...the stress has hurt....the baby," she said in a voice now no louder than a whisper. "Dr. Russell said...the baby and I could....die...if we had...too much stress."

Sheridan's statement hit Julian like a dagger through the heart. "Sheridan, I had no idea," he said. "I didn't know there were problems with your pregnancy."

He quickly covered the devastation he was feeling from her words. "She can't see me worrying," he thought. To his sister, Julian remarked in as upbeat a tone as he could muster, "Everything's going to be all right, Sheridan. I just know it is."

Sheridan did not hear his words, however. She had lapsed into unconsciousness.

Julian noticed that her head had rolled to one side. "Sheridan," he said. Then in an alarmed voice he called out, "Sheridan! Wake up!" His sister had passed out, he realized.

"My God, someone has to help her!" Julian shouted. He jumped up and turned his eyes toward the opening of the pit. He saw the two women in clown costumes staring down at him. "Well, don't just stand there - do something!" he cried.

The abductors whispered to each other. He could not tell what they were saying. Julian grew more desperate as his heart raced with the urgency of the moment. "Please don't let my sister die!" he pleaded, "And the baby... Please don't let anything happen to that innocent baby." He remembered what Eve had gone through, losing their child. He would never wish that kind of pain on anyone else, especially his sister. What she had gone through these last couple of years! Most of it, because of him!

The guilt, fear, and hopelessness of the situation made Julian cry out loudly, tears flowing freely down his face. "I can't lose my sister! I can't! Not now, not after we just found each other again!" His head dropped into his hands as he sobbed uncontrollably.

Fighting back the sobs, he looked at the two kidnappers, his eyes pleading for help. "Sheridan is going to die! The baby is going to die...if we don't do something fast!"

The kidnappers whispered to each other some more.

Julian looked over at his unconscious sister and hung his head. "I promised Mother to look out for you," he cried. "I have done such a horrendous job of it so far... I was really trying this time... I was trying." He sank to his knees on the floor of the pit, sobbing.

While his head was bowed down toward the ground, a thought suddenly crossed Julian's mind...a flash of hope. He beat it back. He did not want to go there. "No," he muttered to himself. "I can't do it... Anything but that."

Julian slowly lifted his head and turned it once more to look at his sister. He wiped his eyes with his hands so that he could see her better. "If I don't ask, she's going to die...both she and the baby," he realized. "I can't let that happen. Please forgive me," he pleaded, closing his eyes tight.

Julian stood up and faced the kidnappers. He lifted his head toward them. He had just made the most selfless decision of his life - and the most devastating. But it was Sheridan's only hope. "All right," he said to the two of them, mustering up all his courage for the words that needed to follow. "Since you won't take Sheridan to the hospital, can you at least bring her doctor to her? Can you get Dr. Russell and bring her to this pit?"

Courtaney
5.31.07, 12:35 AM
Chapter 30 - "The Kidnapping"

There was a moment of awkward silence as the two kidnappers considered Julian's request. His heart was racing during this entire time, and he was in turmoil - part of him wanting them to say no, while the other part hoping they would agree to his idea.

Charlie looked into Beth's eyes peering through her clown mask. "We can't do that, right?" she asked in a hushed tone. "I'll tell him there's not a chance in hell we can bring that doctor here."

"Wait, Charlie!" Beth whispered loudly, grabbing onto the other woman's arm. "Let's consider this for a minute. I need time to think."

"I was sure you would be against it," Charlie said, surprised. "You know what a risk that would be."

"I know," Beth said, "but I don't want the baby to die. It looks like if we don't get Sheridan some medical help, then that is what will happen. I want that baby. That's my baby - mine and..."

"Yours and mine, right?" Charlie asked, putting her arm around Beth's shoulder. "All right, Bethie, if you want that baby to live, I'll do anything it takes - even if that means to risk kidnapping a doctor."

"OK," Beth said, stepping back from Charlie so that the other woman had to remove her arm from her shoulder. "I guess Dr. Russell is our best hope since she is Sheridan's doctor. We don't know if she's on duty though, or when she gets off. It would be best to take her from the hospital. I guess if she's not there, we'll have to find another OB/GYN."

"You let me worry about that," Charlie said. "I'll take care of planning everything. But I was wondering what we're going to do with the doc...afterwards."

"Same as all the others, I suppose," Beth said. "Let's not worry about that right now. Time is of the essence here. We need to get the ball rolling - now."

Charlie leaned over the edge of the pit and spoke to Julian in a loud voice. "OK, Mr. Rich, it looks like you're going to get your wish!"

Julian bounded up from the floor where he had been checking on an unconscious Sheridan. He looked at the clowns with anxiety all over his face. "Please, whatever you do, don't hurt her," he pleaded.

"Oh, I won't hurt her," Charlie sneered. "She's going to help my friend and me get exactly what we want." She added an evil laugh to the end of her message as she and Beth moved away from the pit.

Julian closed his eyes and did something for the second time that day that he rarely ever did - prayed. "Please God, protect Eve. Don't let them hurt one hair on her head. Help her to save Sheridan and the baby. And when this is all over, help all of us get out of this pit safely."

He knelt back down beside his sister and clasped her hand. "Please, Sheridan, hang on a while longer. Help is coming."

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Eve Russell had been called in to work the evening shift because a fellow doctor was ill. She actually didn't mind. It got her out of the house and away from TC's horrible slams against Julian. Plus, she was glad to stay busy. It kept her mind from thinking about Julian's kidnapping every single minute.

Still, no matter how busy she was, she worried about him. Luis's comments at the police station had reassured her that Julian was still alive. She felt it with her whole being. She knew that that was only part of the problem, however. He still was being held somewhere, against his will, and maybe even tortured. She shuddered at the thought.

Eve also knew that poor Sheridan was possibly with him, as Luis suspected. She only hoped that the stress of the situation hadn't affected her pregnancy. She was in such a delicate condition the last time she had examined her.

She took a deep breath, trying to remove the thoughts of Julian and his sister from her mind. "Stay focused, Eve," she told herself. "You can't allow this to affect your job; you don't want to endanger the patients."

"One more patient is all it looks like I'll have time for," she muttered under her breath after looking at her watch. "Dr. Andrews will be here to replace me soon." Eve headed toward the patient's room.

Twenty minutes later, she took off her doctor's coat and hung it in her office. Grabbing her purse and medical bag, she headed out the office door, locking it on her way out. Eve walked down the corridor to the stairwell. She usually took the stairs since her car was parked near that side of the building. Arriving at the bottom of the stairs, she pushed open the heavy door and exited the hospital.

Eve saw that the sky was completely dark now. The stars were out in full force. The moon was a beautiful crescent. She always liked the crescent moon the best. She remembered back to a time when she and Julian had sat and looked up at the sky in Bermuda. He had never seen someone as dazzled as she was with the night sky. He had showed her where many of the constellations were and tried to locate the planets for her. Eve laughed when she remembered how hard it was for her to pick out the pictures Julian was pointing out in the night sky. "Is that really supposed to be a bear?" she had asked.

Nearing her car, Eve smiled at the fond memories of the time she had spent with Julian in Bermuda. Her mind was so far away that she didn't hear the footsteps coming up behind her. As she leaned forward to unlock the car door, someone grabbed her from behind, placing a hand over her mouth. Eve tried to resist and scream, but she could get no sound out. Her abductor was too powerful and kept a hand tightly over her mouth.

While Eve tried to get away from the abductor, a second person came behind her and bound her wrists with ropes. The kidnapper tied a blindfold around her head as well. Eve thrashed her feet out to kick her abductors. That's when the one who had her mouth covered thrust a sharp object against her side. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," she said in a deep voice.

Eve stopped kicking and started to cry. Her heart was beating so fast from adrenaline that she was afraid she would have a heart attack.

The one who had the knife on her spoke again. "Now, I am going to remove my hand, but you're not going to yell. If you do, you're going to get this blade deep in your side. Do you understand?"

Eve nodded her head. When the abductor removed her hand, Eve turned her head toward where the voice had come from and spat in her direction. The kidnapper threw a wicked punch at Eve's face. She cried out in pain. The other abductor quickly put tape around the doctor's mouth. Together the two women shoved a terrified, sobbing Eve into their vehicle's back seat and locked the door.

Jumping in the front, the passenger, who had held the knife to her side earlier, turned around to talk to her. "I've got a gun on you now, doc, so just behave and nobody will get hurt. We're not taking you to harm you, really. We just want to borrow your services for awhile." She laughed hideously.

Eve sank back into her seat, terrified beyond belief at what was happening to her.

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Julian rubbed his hand over Sheridan's forehead. "Wake up, Sheridan," he said tenderly. "You need to wake up so that you'll be ready to push this baby out. Help is on the way. You'll have your baby in your arms in no time." He shuddered at what the large clown had said - about Sheridan giving them what they wanted. He knew that the only thing they could be referring to was the baby. He pushed the thought out of his mind. It was too awful to think about. Julian knew as well that before he could worry about that, Eve had to save Sheridan's life and the baby's. That was the first hurdle to overcome.

Thinking about Eve reminded him of what he had done - how he had put the safety of the woman he loved in jeopardy to save his sister's life. "I hope Eve understands," he thought sadly. "I hope that one day she can forgive me for what I've done."

Sheridan's body was rocked with another contraction. Toward the end of it, her eyes fluttered open. She stared at her brother with a strange expression on her face. "Luis?" she said softly. "I knew you'd make it... The baby's...coming... Thank God...you're here." She smiled weakly.

"My God, she's delirious," Julian said to himself. "She thinks I'm Luis." He put the wet handkerchief on her forehead once more. "There, there," he said gently. "You're going to be just fine."

"Luis..." Sheridan mumbled in a barely audible voice. Her eyes closed again, and her head rolled to the side.

"She's passed out again," Julian realized. "Please, Eve, get here soon."

Just then, Julian heard a commotion from above. It was the sound of the kidnappers marching Eve across the basement floor. Charlie and Beth each held onto one of her arms as they led her toward the pit. Both abductors stopped to grab their masks off a shelf and hurriedly slipped them on with their free hands as they neared the pit.

Stopping close to the edge, Charlie stuck the knife against Eve's side once more to get her to calm down. Beth untied the rope around her wrists and removed the blindfold. Eve squinted so that her eyes could adjust to the low lighting. Beth ripped the tape off her mouth, and Eve let out a scream.

Julian rushed over to the front of the pit just as the clowns pushed Eve over the edge. She screamed in a terrified voice and clamped her eyes shut as she fell toward the bottom of the pit. Julian reached his arms up to break her fall, and the impact propelled him backwards to the ground, with Eve winding up on top of him.

Opening her eyes, Eve looked straight into the face of the man she loved. "Julian!" she cried in a surprised yet delighted tone, her face one big smile. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his in sheer joy.

Courtaney
6.1.07, 1:11 AM
Chapter 31 - "The Birth"

Julian eagerly returned Eve's kiss, his lips hungry for the taste of hers. Pulling back, Eve exclaimed, "Oh, Julian, I just knew you were alive!" and threw her arms around him once more, lavishing his face with kisses.

"Well, if I am dead, I know I've gone to Heaven." He grinned, running his hands through her silky hair.

Eve laughed and began lifting her body off of Julian's. When she put her hand on Julian's side to help herself up, he screamed out in pain. Eve quickly removed her hand. "Julian, you're hurt!"

"No, it's nothing," he said, slowly raising himself to a seated position and patting his side. "Just my ribs. It's Sheridan - she needs you, Eve." He pointed to where his sister was lying on one side of the enclosure.

Eve stood up and looked toward Sheridan. "Oh my God!" she cried when she saw the unconscious woman on the cushion. She rushed over to her and began checking her pulse. "What's happened to her, Julian?" she asked. "How long has she been this way?"

As Eve continued to check Sheridan's pulse, Julian joined her at his sister's side. He began relaying exactly what had been going on with his sister throughout the day.

"She's been in labor how long?" Eve asked, examining Sheridan's pupils.

Julian checked his watch. "Since three o'clock this afternoon. About ten hours, I suppose."

"Well, ten hours isn't unusual for a first child," Eve said, "but from what you've told me, Sheridan still has a long way to go."

"She doesn't seem to be making any progress," Julian said. "She got to five minutes apart really quickly; then it just stayed like that all this time. And she's so weak. She's been in and out - mostly out - for the last two hours. That's why they came and got you. Eve, I'm sorry; I thought Sheridan and her baby were going to die... I asked for you." He hung his head in guilt.

"Julian, I'm glad I can be here for Sheridan. Her condition is very serious. I just hope that I got here soon enough."

"Can you save her...and the baby?" Julian asked, genuine concern in his voice.

"I'll do everything I can," Eve assured him. "Right now, I need to examine her." She looked at the lantern on the floor. "Julian, I'm going to need you to hold that lantern over here near Sheridan while I work. Do you think you can do that?"

Julian nodded. "I'll do anything I can to help my sister - anything," he said protectively.

"Good. I'm going to need my medical bag," Eve said.

Julian hurried over to where he had seen something lying on the floor. "Here it is!" he shouted. "I guess they threw it in after you."

He looked up at the opening of the pit and noticed the clown-faced abductors leaning over, spellbound at the happenings in the pit.

"Now I know why you insisted on us getting that doctor, Mr. Rich," Charlie laughed. "Looks like you and the doc have got something cooking on the side."

"Lay off," Julian said sternly. "I just hope your delay in getting my sister medical attention won't end up costing her life and the baby's life."

He quickly walked back to where Eve was standing and handed her the medical bag. Eve opened the bag and removed several items from it. She immediately checked Sheridan's blood pressure. "It's dangerously low," she said.

Eve put on a pair of latex gloves. "I've got to examine her fast and see what's wrong. We don't have much time."

Julian picked up the lantern and held it by the foot of the cushion as Eve performed a thorough examination. He made sure his eyes were averted throughout the exam.

"Look, Blondie's brother is shyer than I thought!" Charlie sneered. "I bet you wouldn't be so shy if it was the doc here on that cushion."

Julian made a disgusting face on hearing the clown's remark. He felt his face turning red, but was glad Eve was too busy to hear what the idiot had said.

Eve frowned as she examined Sheridan. "Something's not right here," she said. Then, realizing the problem, she cried out, "Oh no, the baby's breech!"

"What does that mean?" Julian asked, turning to look at Eve, his heart pounding fast from the alarm in her voice.

"It means the baby's not turned right," she explained. "Instead of the head being down, in this case, it's the baby's bottom. This is a serious situation, but not uncommon in babies that are four weeks early."

"Can you...fix it?" Julian asked. "Can you do that here?"

"I'm going to have to," Eve said. "But there are things that need to be done first - lots of things."

At this point, Sheridan started having another contraction. Both Julian and Eve rushed to her side. Eve was amazed at how Julian went straight for her hand, clasping it in his. She watched as he rubbed his hand across her forehead and smoothed the damp hair away from her eyes. This time, Sheridan did not regain consciousness.

"Sometimes she wakes up for a moment," he said, "but this time I guess it was too much for her." Julian choked back sobs.

Eve was amazed at how close Julian and Sheridan had become during their stay in the pit. In one week's time, the siblings, who had rarely spoken to one another, had bonded as closely as any brother and sister she had seen. She could tell another thing too. Julian genuinely loved his sister. This was the only time that Eve had seen him lavish true affection on someone besides her. She could tell his feelings for his sister came from the heart.

Julian gently let go of Sheridan's hand and turned toward Eve. "Please do everything you can for her," he said, tears in his eyes. "I'll help you anyway I can."

"I will, Julian," Eve said, reaching out to grasp his hand. "Together, we're going to do all we can to save Sheridan and the baby."

Dropping hands, the two began surveying what items were already in the pit and deciding what was needed for the procedure and eventual birth. "Those sheets - are they clean?" Eve asked, pointing to the bundle that Julian had set on his blanket.

"Yes," he answered, "our wonderful jailors threw them down here today. I caught them, so they didn't touch the ground."

"OK," she said, thinking fast. "We need to get Sheridan off the cushion and put some of the sheets down. Will you help me with that?"

The two quickly tackled that task, with Julian gently picking Sheridan up while Eve laid out the sheets. After Julian placed Sheridan back down on the cushion, Eve removed her blanket and replaced it with a clean sheet.

"What's next?" Julian asked.

"We need some boiled water," Eve said, "and plenty of clean towels."

Julian called up to the clowns, "Did you hear that? Get her some water and towels - fast!"

Beth and Charlie left to retrieve the necessary supplies. Julian turned back to Eve, "Is there anything else you need, dear?"

"Some forceps would be nice, but I don't think we'll get them. Let's just hope what I'm going to do here works, and Sheridan is strong enough to help push."

A while later, the kidnappers returned to the pit. "Here you go!" Charlie yelled, tossing down the towels that Eve had requested. Julian ran and quickly caught them before they touched the ground.

Beth lowered a large pan of boiled water in the basket. Julian carefully removed the pan and set it near the cushion. Eve quickly sterilized some instruments in the water. "We're ready," she said, taking a deep breath.

Julian grabbed the lantern and held it near Eve as she slipped on a clean pair of gloves. He looked away as much as possible during the procedure, but at one point when Eve cried out, he looked at her to make sure everything was all right.

"This baby is hard to turn," Eve said, clenching her teeth as she worked to turn the infant around inside of its mother. "Come on, baby," she said, "just a little bit more..."

Finally, Eve drew back and replaced the sheet over Sheridan's legs. "Well, it's done," she said, sighing in relief. "The baby's now head first."

"Thank God!" Julian said, putting his arm on Eve's shoulder to celebrate. "You have saved that baby's life, Eve, and Sheridan's."

"Let's hope," Eve said, removing her gloves. "The first major hurdle is over with. Now we need to see if Sheridan's labor progresses and she is able to give birth naturally."

Sheridan's labor did progress. Soon, her contractions were down to every two minutes. Julian smiled as his sister woke up during one of them. "Hey, dear, how are you feeling?" he asked in a loving tone.

"Still...hanging in there," she said softly, trying to focus her eyes. "Dr. Russell? Is...that you?" she asked, startled at seeing her doctor in the pit. She wondered if she was hallucinating.

"Yes, it's me," Eve said, smiling. "We're glad you're back, Sheridan. Soon you will have your baby in your arms."

Sheridan smiled weakly and laid her head back on the cushion. This time she did not pass out. Julian stayed by her side, talking to her tenderly, while Eve continued to examine Sheridan and prepare for the birth.

When Sheridan's contractions were down to a minute apart, Eve announced, "It's time. She's fully dilated." She got up and walked over to speak to Sheridan. "Honey, it's time to push. Do you think you're ready?"

Sheridan nodded, her eyelids heavy from exhaustion.

"OK then, Julian's going to stay by your side and help you through this, while I tend to things down here." Eve's eyes met Julian's. He nodded, reassuring her that he could do the job that was required of him.

He helped prop Sheridan's head and back against the wall of the pit and sat beside her, holding her against his side so she could feel his arms around her.

Eve let Sheridan know when it was time to push. She bore down with what little strength she had left and sank back into Julian's arms. "You're going to need to push again, Sheridan, when I tell you. Harder this time." Sheridan again pushed with all her might, and collapsed once more into her brother's arms. Eve and Julian locked eyes. They were afraid that it was too much for her.

Sheridan remained conscious, however, and was able to give them several more pushes until Eve finally cried, "I see the head! Loads of dark hair." She told Sheridan to cease pushing as she further examined her.

"OK, Sheridan, you're almost there," Eve said. "This little sweetheart wants to see its mommy."

Sheridan's eyes filled with tears. "Luis...I wish...Luis...were here."

"He's here in spirit," Julian reassured her, "even if he's not with us right now. You will all three be together soon enough. Just think about how thrilled Luis will be when he sees your baby."

After several more pushes, Eve announced that the head was finally out. "We're almost there! We just need to get the shoulders out." Sheridan took a deep breath and mustered up all the strength she had. She pushed on Eve's directive, and the doctor called excitedly, "Great job, Sheridan! One more push should do it!"

Again, Sheridan was compelled to use the strength that even Eve was amazed she still had to deliver one more big push, and the baby freely came out into Eve's hands. "It's a girl!" Eve shouted. Sheridan smiled and collapsed into her brother's arms.

Eve quickly cleaned the baby's airway and checked her vitals.

"Is she all right?" Julian asked. "Is the baby going to be OK?"

"She's perfect!" Eve said, and then smiled at Julian. "Would you like to cut the cord, Uncle?"

Julian hesitated and then gently lowered Sheridan onto the cushion. He got up and walked over to where Eve was holding the baby. His nervous eyes met hers. Seeing her smile gave him the reassurance he needed. He took the instrument from her hand and carefully cut the cord in the spot she directed him. "Oh my goodness," he said, tears in his eyes. "She's so tiny!" He reached out with his free hand and touched the baby's cheek.

Eve smiled at Julian's reaction. She cleaned up the baby and wrapped her in a fresh towel. Then she brought the newborn to her mother. Julian followed. "Sheridan? Do you want to see your baby girl?" Eve asked, a big smile on her face.

Julian helped Sheridan sit up, and she leaned against his arms, tears in her eyes. In a stronger voice than she had managed for hours, she cried, "Oh my gosh, look at her...so tiny, so beautiful." She reached out and touched the baby's delicate hand. "Hi, baby, I'm your mommy... yes ... and I've been waiting for you...for so long!"

Courtaney
6.2.07, 1:25 AM
Chapter 32 - "The Vision"

Luis woke up from a deep sleep and sat up suddenly in bed. "Sheridan," he said. He rubbed his head. "Was I dreaming?" he asked himself. "I could have sworn I heard a baby crying - Sheridan's and my baby. Could it be here? Am I a father?"

He got up and walked over to the window, pulling the curtain apart to look outside. He could see that all of the stars were out. It was a clear night. Luis sought out his and Sheridan's star. Finding it, he smiled, remembering all the times he and Sheridan had looked at that star together. His smile turned to concern when he thought about the dream he just had.

"Sheridan," he said, hoping the star would be his transmitter to the woman he loved. "I just heard a baby crying - our baby. Is it real? Is our child here?" His eyes suddenly filled with tears. "I didn't want to miss this - not for anything."
Luis wiped the tears away from his eyes so that he could see the star more clearly. "Sheridan, look, if you have had our baby, just remember that I love you. I love him or her too - so much. And Sheridan, believe me when I say that I am doing everything I can to find you - everything! I won't give up, either. Not until you and our baby are back with me where you belong, safe and sound."

Bowing his head, Luis began to pray, "Lord, please look out for Sheridan. Protect her from the evil ones who have her. Keep her safe, Lord; please don't allow any harm to come to her. And our baby..." Luis began choking back tears. "If our child is here, please make him or her feel all the warmth and love that a child needs. Keep our baby safe from harm until I am able to find them both. Amen."

Luis raised his head and fixed his eyes on that special star once more. "I love you, Sheridan, with all my heart. I love you, baby, even if I don't know you yet. I love you as much as any father here on Earth ever loved his child." Luis stood silently, staring up at the heavens for several more minutes.

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"A girl, Bethie, we have a girl!" Charlie cheered, forgetting for a moment that she was at the edge of the pit, and there were people down below who might hear her reveal her friend's name.

"Shhhh!" Beth warned her, grabbing her arm. "Charlie, what if they heard you say my name?" she asked nervously.

Charlie looked into the pit to see if there was any reaction. "No, Beth," she whispered, "they didn't hear a word I said. I think Blondie is practically passed out over there. And her brother and the doc were too busy with the cord thing. Hell, they wouldn't have heard anything anyway, the way the two of them were making goo-goo eyes at each other."

"Yeah, that was really strange the way they kissed earlier, wasn't it?" Beth admitted. "I had no idea there was something going on between Dr. Russell and Julian Crane. Who would have guessed? Of course, it doesn't surprise me about him. My gosh, I've heard rumors the man just can't keep his hands off anyone."

"Well, I'd like to see him try something with me," Charlie declared. "I'd smash his face in."

Beth laughed. "Somehow, Charlie, I don't see that happening..."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Charlie asked defensively. "You don't think I'm attractive? Is that what you're trying to tell me?"

"No, I mean yes," Beth stammered. "I mean, sure, Charlie, you're a very attractive...woman. Just not Julian Crane's type, I'm sure."

"Oh," Charlie muttered, her anger dissipating. "Well, I'm not of course," she said, playfully socking Beth's arm with her fist. "I'm your type, Bethie. We make a great couple. And now it looks like this couple has become a family."

"Yes," Beth said, trying to force a smile, forgetting her face was covered by a mask. "It does, doesn't it?" Beth was thrilled the baby was here, but had new concerns of what to do about Charlie. How was she going to handle her partner in crime, now that she wanted to become her partner in life as well? Beth shuddered at the thought. "I must be careful," she told herself. "Very, very careful."

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Sheridan examined her baby with loving eyes. She could see her well in the glow of the lantern. "She's simply...beautiful," she said, with tears in her eyes. "She looks so much like her daddy. She's so dark ...and gorgeous."

"She's an angel, Sheridan," Eve said. "A precious, precious baby. I can see a lot of you in her as well. Look at her nose and mouth."

Sheridan smiled. "She is a perfect combination...of both of us...isn't she?" Then she asked suddenly, "Are you sure she's all right? I mean...she's so early."

"Well, 36 weeks is early," Eve admitted. "37 is considered full-term. Had she been a week earlier than this, we may have needed an incubator. But she seems fine. She's breathing so well and is a good, healthy color. Girls tend to be more developed than boys, too. You've got a strong little one here."

On cue, the baby began crying, showing how strong her lungs really were.

"She is a definitely a Crane," Julian joked. "I can hear her now, yelling at the servants."

"Not the servants," Sheridan chided. "If she yells...it will be...in the boardroom."

"I think she would make a great businesswoman," Julian admitted. "Maybe I'll have to take her under my wings at Crane Industries."

"Let's not...go that far," Sheridan laughed.

Eve was still amazed at the change in Julian and Sheridan's relationship. She was so glad that Julian had healed things between him and his sister. Of course, she had no idea just how much healing and redemption had taken place in the pit. She did, however, suspect that something big had happened to get them to where they were.

"She's so tiny... How much do you think she weighs?" Sheridan asked her doctor.

"Oh, I'd say around 5 ½ pounds," Eve said. "You know, I need to finish some work with you, Sheridan. Julian, would you mind holding the baby while I take care of your sister?"

Julian smiled nervously and shifted his weight from one leg to the other. "I have never held one this small," he revealed. "But sure, I think I can manage."

Eve carefully placed the infant in Julian's arms. "Like that. You've got her. Good, Julian."

Julian grinned at Eve and then slowly began walking around the pit, talking softly to his niece. Sheridan and Eve looked at each other and smiled. They couldn't hear what Julian was saying, but they were each processing in their minds the image of him holding the tiny baby. It was a picture they both wanted to keep - always.

Eve began taking care of what needed to be done with Sheridan, while the new mother settled back and rested. Sheridan was exhausted, yet at the same time exhilarated after the birth of her daughter. She was thrilled that the baby was healthy. She was so grateful Dr. Russell had been there to deliver the baby. Although she hadn't been told the whole story, she was well aware that Eve had saved her daughter's life.

Sheridan suddenly gasped. "What's wrong?" Eve asked, still performing a post-childbirth procedure.

"Eve, how did you get here?" Sheridan asked. "I just realized...they must have come and gotten you - my kidnappers... Were you hurt?"

"I'm OK now, Sheridan," Eve said. "While I never wanted to be kidnapped, of course, I'm so glad I was here for you when you needed me."

"So am I," Sheridan said, sighing. "If you hadn't been..." She shivered at the thought of what might have happened had Eve not been brought to the pit. Surely, both she and her baby would have died. She knew what that would have done to Luis. The man she loved with all her heart would have been completely devastated.

When Eve finished with Sheridan, she removed her gloves and walked over to where Julian was standing, still holding the baby and talking to her.

"You are a pretty little girl. Yes, you are," Julian cooed to the infant. He looked up at Eve as she approached. He blushed upon seeing the smile on her face. He could tell she was delighted with how he was bonding with the baby.
"She's wonderful," he said, returning Eve's smile.

"She is a beautiful baby, isn't she?" Eve said. "She's every bit as beautiful as..."

"Our baby?" Julian finished quietly for her.

"He was beautiful," Eve said softly, tears starting to form in her eyes. "I wish you had seen him."

Julian hung his head in shame. "I do too," he said sadly. "I wish I had been there with you."

"Maybe someday soon, you'll get the chance to see our son. Maybe we both will," Eve said gently. She looked around to make sure that Sheridan hadn't heard their conversation. She saw with relief that she was already sleeping. The horrible masked abductors were no longer standing over the pit either, so that in itself made her feel better.

"We'll find him, Eve," Julian promised. "We'll find our son."

"I hope so," she said, running her fingers along the baby's face. "I want that more than anything." Her eyes met his. They did not need to speak anything more on the subject. Their eyes communicated what they both felt in their hearts.

Eve took the baby from Julian to examine her once more. She carried her over near the lantern to do this. "You know, we're going to need something for this baby to sleep in...and diapers, a blanket. I'll need to swaddle her. Plus, it's cold down here. She'll need to be kept warm."

Julian called out to the clowns in case they were in earshot. Not long after, the larger of the two appeared at the opening of the pit. "I just came to make sure there wasn't something dirty going on down here," she said, laughing.

Rolling his eyes at the tasteless remark, Julian began relaying to her everything they needed for the baby.

Charlie snickered. "Well, I guess you may need those things...but not for long!" She sealed her comment with a hideous laugh.

"I don't know what you are planning," Julian stated, "but I can assure you this - if you harm one hair on that child's head, I'll kill you."

"Well, that would be kind of hard for you to do from the bottom of this pit, now wouldn't it?" she said, laughing evilly. "Believe me, none of you are going to ever see the light of day again." With that, she was off to talk to Beth about the supplies.

Julian turned to face Eve. Her eyes met his. She had heard what Charlie said, he knew instantly, and she was worried. He headed over to reassure her.

"It's going to be all right, Eve. We'll get out of this, I promise you..." he paused for a second, realizing that he was the reason she was even in this mess.

Reading his mind, Eve reached out with her free hand and grasped Julian's left hand. "Don't blame yourself, Julian. It's OK; I was meant to be here. If I hadn't been, Sheridan and the baby would have died."

"I know," he said sadly, linking his fingers with hers. "But if anything were to happen to you...I would never forgive myself."

She nodded. "I understand how you feel, but try to let go of the guilt. You did what you had to do for your sister. I admire that."

"It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life," Julian said, looking into Eve's eyes.

"Honey, I know that," she said, squeezing his hand. "I...care about you even more knowing that you were able to do that - have them come and get me for Sheridan's sake. That took great courage."

Just then, Charlie and Beth headed down the basement stairs, carrying supplies. "I still don't know why we need to throw all this stuff down there," Charlie complained. "Can't we just get the baby up here now?"

"Not yet," Beth replied. "We aren't ready for that yet. I mean, suppose someone came and found her up there?"

"You mean Luis?" Charlie asked, a hint of jealousy in her voice.

"Well, of course I mean Luis," Beth said, stopping before she got too near the pit. "Look, Charlie, we can't have Luis finding out about the baby - not just yet. So until my plan's all ironed out, the baby has to stay down here."

Charlie shrugged and walked to the edge of the pit. "Got your things here, folks," she bellowed. "Come and get 'em!"

Julian ran over to catch the blankets and baby clothes. He allowed a clothes basket and package of diapers to hit the ground.

The kidnappers went back upstairs as Eve began diapering and swaddling the newborn. The baby had fallen asleep peacefully and didn't stir during the whole time she was being dressed. "Now we'll get you all warmed up," she said sweetly, smiling at the baby.

"I guess the baby is supposed to sleep in this," Julian said, picking up the clothes basket.

"Well, it will have to do," Eve said, shaking her head. "What on earth are those people thinking of, keeping a pregnant woman trapped in this pit...and now a baby?"

"I'm sure whatever it is, it's not good," Julian remarked.

Eve placed a blanket in the basket and then laid the newborn inside. She wrapped the blanket around the infant and then placed another on top of it. "There, now that should feel better," she said. She set the basket down beside Sheridan's cushion. Sheridan was still sound asleep."It must be almost morning," Eve said, yawning.

"A quarter past five," Julian said, checking his watch in the lantern light. "It will be light soon."

"I'll be able to hear the baby if she wakes up," Eve said, "but I need some rest."

"There's a blanket over there," Julian said, pointing to the far side of the pit.

"Is that where you sleep?" she asked.

He nodded. "But you can use it tonight...I'll be OK," he said, looking around for another place to sleep.

"Oh, come on, Julian, it's cold down here," Eve said, motioning him to follow her to where he normally slept.

Julian sat down and leaned against the wall. Eve curled up beside him, laying her head against his chest. Julian pulled the blanket over her and held her close. When it was apparent by her change in breathing that she had fallen asleep, he kissed the top of her head. "I love you, Eve," he said tenderly, "more than anything in this world. And I promise to get you home safely, where I'll never let anyone hurt you again."

Courtaney
6.3.07, 3:47 AM
Chapter 33 - "Heated Exam"

TC began waking up and reached over to touch his wife. His hand landed on her pillow. Opening his eyes, he noticed that Eve wasn't home yet. He looked at the clock and saw that it was almost seven o'clock. "Hmmm..." he murmured. "Eve was supposed to be home hours ago."

He wondered if he should call the hospital to check on her. "No," he said, shaking his head. "She has worked late every night she's been on call lately. All those extra hours... Maybe the hospital does need her, but this family needs her more."

Rubbing his eyes with the backs of his hands, TC continued conversing with himself. "If it hadn't been for all that damn overtime she's been putting in at the hospital, our family would still be together. Whitney would be in Harmony, playing tennis, instead of running around LA with that punk, Chad. And my little Sugar Bear would be happy, instead of moping around in her room all the time."

TC looked at the clock once more. "Nah, Eve's probably just putting in some extra hours again, giving her time to others instead of us. Well, the hell with it, she can call me to let me know what she's up to!"

He firmly pressed down on his pillow with his hand and lay back down. "Come to think of it, she probably didn't call because she was afraid she'd wake me. I guess at least that part's good. Eve knows how much I enjoy my rest in the summertime. He smiled, closing his eyes. "I'll just catch up on my sleep," he decided and began nodding off again.

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Eve stirred and opened her eyes. It did not take long for them to adjust to the dim morning light that was streaming down from above. "There is obviously a window up there somewhere," she surmised.

Feeling secure in Julian's protective arms, she looked up at his face and noticed that he was sound asleep. She had forgotten how adorable he looked when he was sleeping. Absentmindedly, she ran her fingers along his face. He began to move.

Eve quickly dropped her hand before Julian's eyes opened. He turned his head so he could see her better. "Eve..." he said softly.

She smiled at him. "I...I tried not to wake you," she stammered. "I was just going to get up to check on the baby." Julian moved his arms and lifted the blanket so that she could get up. Eve walked over to the clothes basket. Leaning over the basket, she could tell that the baby was still asleep. She headed back to Julian.

"She's still sleeping, but I know not for much longer. She'll be hungry soon, and I'm going to have to show Sheridan how to nurse her."

"Here," Julian said, raising the blanket up for her. "It's cold out there." Eve hesitated for a second and then freely went into Julian's arms, snuggling close under the warm blanket.

"It feels good to be near you, Julian," she said, "to feel you and know that you are alive." She smiled as she lay with her head on his chest once more, her left hand and arm touching his back.

"You really did believe I was dead?" Julian asked. "I mean, I just thought maybe..."

"What? That I would just somehow know that you weren't dead? That I could feel it?" she asked.

"Well, no..." he started. "I don't know. I hoped that you wouldn't have to go through any of that."

"Well, I did," Eve admitted sadly. "At first, when TC told me that you were probably dead, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was completely and utterly devastated. I hadn't felt like that since..."

"Since you were told our child had died?" Julian asked softly.

"Yes, not since then," she said, tears forming in her eyes. She began sobbing at the reminder of all the pain she had gone through - recently and long ago.

"My dear Eve, everything's going to be fine," Julian said, tilting her head so that he could wipe her tears away with his thumb. "I'm all right, and our child is too. You'll see."

"I am thrilled that you are OK," Eve said. "I was pretty sure that you were alive after I talked to Luis. He suspected that something just wasn't right with the accident."

"So Luis knows that something else is going on? That I'm being held prisoner?"

"Yes, he does," she answered. "And he even thinks that whoever has you has Sheridan."

"Good," Julian said, relieved. "Maybe the police will find us, then, before it is too late."

"Julian, why did these people kidnap you? If it's not for money, then what?"

"First, they didn't really kidnap me - not in the way you are thinking."

"They didn't?" Eve asked, turning her head to get a better look at Julian.

Julian relayed the whole story of how he had acquired his father's videotapes and studied them, looking for clues to Sheridan's disappearance. He told how he had seen the kidnapper, a woman, on the tape and at that same moment had spotted her spying on things outside of the cottage. "When she left, I immediately jumped into my car and followed her. She was driving like a maniac. I kept up with her until she parked in front of this house."

"So you know where we are?" Eve asked, excited that maybe that could give them a clue to what was going on in the minds of the kidnappers.

"I didn't recognize the place," Julian admitted sadly. "I wish I had looked around for a street sign or something. All I know is we are somewhere on the eastern side of Harmony, not far from the wharf and the Book Café."

"But how did they get you in here?" Eve asked.

Julian filled her in on how he had approached the home, planning to call the police on his cell phone, but had heard a noise that sounded like a faint scream. "So without thinking, I barged inside," he said.

"You were worried about Sheridan, weren't you?" Eve said, touched at his feelings for his sister.

"I really was," Julian admitted. He told her about hearing the voices in the kitchen and then hiding in the basement. "That's where I discovered Sheridan in this Godforsaken pit," he said. "But before I knew what was happening, I got struck from behind, probably with a baseball bat. That's when I woke up here."

"You fell all the way down?" she asked incredulously. "It's a wonder you survived."

"Apparently Sheridan had a similar kind of entrance," Julian reported. "When they brought her here, they simply threw her in."

"Those pigs!" Eve cried. "That poor girl - it's a miracle she and her baby have made it through all of this."

Julian nodded. "And that's thanks to your medical expertise," he said admiringly.

"Speaking of my 'medical expertise,' how about I use it to take a look at those ribs of yours?" she said, remembering his injury.

"They're not too bad," Julian said, telling her how he was again struck by the bat-wielding maniac during his escape attempt.

Eve shook her head. "Julian, that sounds horrendous. Let me examine you."

"They don't hurt any worse than when I cracked them last October," Julian revealed. "But I guess I can allow Harmony's finest physician to examine me." He smiled at her in a devilishly fun way.

"Flattery will get you nowhere," Eve laughed. "But I am going to take a look at those ribs." She pulled the blanket back and began unbuttoning Julian's shirt. He shivered at the touch of her fingers against his chest.

"My fingers must be like ice. It's so cold down here," Eve said, noticing his reaction.

"Funny, I was just thinking how hot it was getting," Julian said, a sexy grin on his face.

Eve tried to keep a straight face as she finished unbuttoning Julian's shirt. "Don't distract me from the task at hand," she said. "I have my doctor's hat on at this point."

"What about when the doctor's hat comes off?" Julian asked, continuing to press the issue. He couldn't believe how much she had returned his banter up to this point. Something had definitely changed with Eve from the last time he had seen her, when she had told him that her heart and life belonged to TC. Julian decided to see just how much things had really changed.

Eve did not reply to his last question, but her mouth turned up in a slight grin. Julian also noticed that she was beginning to blush. "Why, doctor, apparently you have sensed the heat as well," he said, caressing her face with his hand.

Eve turned her face toward his as her heart began racing in a reaction that only Julian could invoke. Noticing the desire in her eyes, he gently pulled her face toward his as he leaned in for the kiss. Their lips hungrily sought each other. Eve soon parted hers, allowing Julian to explore her entire mouth with his tongue. Then in a wave of passion, his tongue and hers furiously danced together, as each gave in totally to the moment.

After several minutes, their lips parted, and Eve pulled back slightly and looked into Julian's eyes. He saw in her eyes all the love that he used to see - what he had not seen completely for over twenty years.

"I love you, Eve," he said, reaching up to touch her face once more with his hand.

"I know you do, Julian," she said. "I...I..." She tried to deny her feelings for him - to tell him that they had just been caught up in the heat of the moment, under very unusual circumstances. But looking into his eyes, and seeing all the way to his soul, she just couldn't do it. She remembered the tremendous pain she had felt when she thought he had died, the overwhelming joy at seeing him alive, and the delight in noticing how much he had matured lately, particularly in regards to Sheridan. Lastly, she reflected on the passion he was able to stir in her, the way he could always reach a place with her that no one else, even TC, could venture near.

Eve took a deep breath and smiled, looking deep into Julian's eyes. "I didn't want this. I have fought the notion back with every ounce of my strength these last few months. But God help me, I can't do it anymore. I love you, Julian Crane. So help me, I do."

Julian's heart filled with joy on hearing Eve's confession. Her love for him didn't surprise him in the least. He had known her true feelings for so long. What did surprise him was that she finally admitted it to herself and to him. He reached up to pull her into another kiss, but she beat him to it.

They immediately deepened the kiss this time, sharing a passionate moment unrivaled by any either of them had shared with another. Julian moved his hand up to the back of Eve's head, pulling her body closer until it was firmly pressed against his.

Eve fingered the back of Julian's neck, and then moved her hand into his hair as well.

Slowly and gently, Julian pushed Eve backwards onto the floor of the pit, while the two continued their steamy, magical kiss.

Pressing himself gently on top of her, Julian's left hand caressed Eve's back, keeping her head up off the hard ground. His right hand began to roam down her shirt, finally tugging at it in hopes of untucking it.

Eve suddenly pulled her mouth away from Julian's, gasping for air. "No, Julian, we can't," she said, after she got her breath back. Seeing his obvious disappointment, she nodded toward the cushion. "Sheridan..." she said, her eyes moving to where Julian's sister was sleeping soundly on the other side of the pit.

Julian lifted himself off of her and grinned. "For a moment, I completely forgot where we were," he said, blushing. Secretly, he was pleased beyond measure that she had added the "Sheridan" part as her reason to stop what was happening. At that moment, Julian knew that somehow, some way, Eve would be his again. He already had her heart. Soon he would have all of her.

As if reading his mind, she looked at him intently. "What are you thinking?" she asked, smiling at him in a scrutinizing but sensual way.

"Only that I am the luckiest man in the world," he said, pulling her in for a hug. They leaned back against the wall and sighed, completely secure in each other's arms.

"You're trapped in a pit, Julian," Eve said, slowly rubbing her fingers along his arm. "I would hardly call that luck."

"Well, that's why I just said 'world,' " he explained, grinning. "If it weren't for this pit, I would have said I am the luckiest man in the universe."

Eve laughed and leaned her head against his chest. Despite the danger they were in, at that moment, she felt completely safe lying there in the arms of the man she loved. The man she loved! She felt so free after revealing her true feelings to herself and him. She had no idea what the future held in store for them, but one thing she was certain of - her life would never be the same again.

Courtaney
6.4.07, 12:27 AM
Chapter 34 - "Bonding Time"

Luis reached in and turned the water on in the shower. He withdrew his hand as the water started gushing out of the faucet. He removed his watch and boxers. Leaning in to test the water with his hand, he waited until it was warm enough and then stepped on in.

He stood for several minutes under the stream of water, allowing its warmth to spread across his entire body. There was nothing better to wake a person up in the morning than a hot shower, he thought. It did the trick better than coffee.

Luis hadn't been sleeping well since Sheridan disappeared. Last night he did not get much rest at all because of the strange dream he had in the middle of the night. Was it a dream?

Grabbing the soap, he began lathering it up onto his washcloth as he prepared to wash his face and body. "I don't know if it was a dream or not," he told himself, "but it seemed so real. I am sure I heard a baby crying - mine and Sheridan's baby. And if that's the case, then that means that our baby has already been born."

Rinsing off his body in the warm rushing water, Luis sighed. He had wanted to be there when his child was born - with Sheridan. He knew how frightened and alone she would be, having the baby without him. Plus, he knew it was early - their baby wasn't due for another four weeks. Still, if it was here already, he knew that the dream was a good one. He had heard the baby crying, so it must be healthy.

Luis began lathering shampoo on his hair. He had accidentally applied too much, and it was oozing through his fingers and down into his eyes. He rubbed his eyes with his fingers as the stinging drops found their mark. He remembered his prayer to God, requesting that He keep his child safe and loved until he could find the baby and Sheridan. "I will find you too," he said. "You have to believe that."

Rinsing the shampoo out of his hair, Luis thought of everything he had done so far to find Sheridan and tried to focus on what else had to be done. He figured that the key to finding Sheridan lay in finding whoever took Julian. A Crane enemy, perhaps? Alistair? No, he shook his head. Alistair would never want any harm to come to his lackey, Julian. Plus, Crane Industries had only suffered recently with Julian not at the helm. He couldn't see Alistair doing anything that would harm his corporation.

Luis stepped out of the shower and grabbed his towel. Drying off his muscular body from head to toe, his thoughts returned to the baby. If his child was already born, what was it, he wondered - a boy or a girl? He remembered telling Sheridan he was hoping for a boy. Still, he secretly wished for a girl as well, a child as pretty as Sheridan, whom he could teach to dance. He smiled, thinking of dancing to the tune of "Daddy's Little Girl" one day with a daughter.

"Well, whatever the baby is, boy or girl, it is going to be the most loved child ever," he said, sighing. "You couldn't be any less loved than that, baby, because you come from the greatest love on this planet - mine and your mommy's."

Luis walked out into the bedroom to get dressed for work. He knew he had a lot to accomplish today so that he could find his family and bring them home safely.

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Sheridan awoke and opened her eyes. She could tell by the light coming from above that it was morning now. She felt an overwhelming rush of love and excitement from the sudden realization that there was a new little person in the world for her to love and care for - her precious baby girl. Sheridan suddenly wondered where the baby was. She turned her head to the side and saw the clothes basket beside the cushion with her newborn daughter inside. Sheridan smiled and reached out to touch the infant. "She's still sleeping," she thought. "Such a beautiful little angel..."

Realizing that Julian and Eve must still be asleep, she scanned the pit with her eyes and discovered them on the far side of the enclosure, lying in each other's arms. Eve had her head and left arm against Julian's chest. A smile was on her face. His arms were around her, holding onto her protectively. Sheridan was shocked at the degree of intimacy between the two. Even though they were asleep, the way the two were holding one another so peacefully signaled only one thing to her - genuine love. She stared at them, dumbfounded.

Her stupor was interrupted by the sudden crying of her baby girl. Sheridan reached over to comfort the infant. "Hey, baby, good morning! I bet you are a hungry girl. Yes, I do." Sheridan ignored the soreness she felt as she raised herself to a seated position and carefully lifted the baby from her basket. "You must have been so warm," she said. "Dr. Eve had you bundled up like an Eskimo."

The baby's cries awakened Eve and Julian, who began stirring on the far side of the pit. Realizing that the baby needed her, Eve quickly loosened herself from Julian's arms and jumped up, heading straight for the cushion. Her eyes met Sheridan's. It suddenly dawned on Eve what Sheridan must be wondering about her and Julian. Blushing, she straightened her rumpled clothing and took a deep breath to steady her nerves as she prepared to greet Sheridan.

"Good morning, Sheridan. How is our new mother doing today?" she asked, looking from her to the baby.

"I'm all right," Sheridan replied, "but this little one seems to be a bit fussy this morning."

"Well, I bet I know what will change that," Eve said. Gently running her fingers along the baby's cheek, Eve spoke to the newborn girl. "You probably want some breakfast, don't you, sweetie?" she asked.

"I guess I should start nursing her," Sheridan said. "Would you be able to show me how, Dr. Russell? I am pretty green at this."

"First, it's 'Eve,' " her doctor replied, smiling. "No more titles, OK? Especially down here. We are all in this together. Secondly, I will gladly help you get started with nursing this little angel."

At that moment, Julian came over and stood several feet from Eve. He looked at Sheridan a little sheepishly as he realized his shirt was open, exposing the makeshift bandage she had put on him some time ago. Julian began fumbling with the buttons on his shirt as he tried to explain, "Uh, Dr. Russell just wanted to check out my ribs...where I hurt them," he began, feeling his face redden.

"Did you tell her I did my best with that bandage?" Sheridan asked, smiling at Julian in an attempt to make her brother feel more comfortable. She had never seen him like this. He was acting like a schoolboy who had been caught kissing a girl in the hallway.

"We...uh...never got that far," Julian stammered, looking at Eve.

Eve's face turned the color of crimson. "I guess we were so exhausted, after being up all night, that we just fell asleep before I could finish with the exam," she covered, throwing Julian a sideways glance.

Right then, Sheridan knew that whatever her brother was feeling for Dr. Russell, it was mutual. Not wanting to embarrass Eve any further, Sheridan changed the subject. "I think we had better get this little one fed before her cries bring the walls of this pit down on us," she joked, trying to soothe the wailing infant.

Eve smiled. "Well, we had certainly better. Julian," she said, turning to look at the only male in the pit, "why don't you go find something to do. I'm sure the pit needs some tidying up...way over on the other side."

Julian grinned. "I get it. I suppose you don't want a man hanging around when you show Sheridan how to feed this little babe. I understand. I'll just go make myself useful over there," he said, pointing to the far side of the pit.

"You do that, Julian," Eve said, smiling at him when their eyes met.

Sheridan noticed the look between the two of them and averted her eyes so that Eve wouldn't feel uncomfortable. "Maybe she doesn't realize how obvious it is - the love she has for my brother," Sheridan thought. "When you look in her eyes, it's all you see."

"OK," Eve said, reaching down to touch the baby. "Let's get this little one fed."

Sometime later, as the baby was eagerly nursing, Eve walked over to where Julian was standing on the other side of the pit. She smiled as she approached him.

He returned her smile. "I want so much to just hold you in my arms and kiss you," he said softly.

"Julian, you know that's not possible," Eve whispered, tilting her head in Sheridan's direction.

"Maybe later?" he suggested, hoping that she wouldn't turn down his request. He was literally dying inside to touch her now that he knew her heart belonged to him.

"Maybe," Eve softly whispered, "but you know we have to be careful. Sheridan already suspects something, I think."

"Don't worry about Sheridan," Julian said, soothing her fears. "She won't say anything. We have become very close. Actually, I have told her some things...about us. I didn't say it was you, of course, but she knows someone has taken over my heart."

"I had a feeling that it was more than just seeing us together this morning," Eve said. "I guess it's hard to hide things when you're trapped in a tiny pit together."

"She was bound to find out," Julian agreed. "I wouldn't worry though, Eve."

"I'm not," she said matter-of-factly. "I can't believe I'm saying that, after I've spent the last few years desperately worried that our past would come out. Now I almost wish it would." She reached out and touched his hand with hers.

"You've certainly come a long way since I last saw you, Eve," Julian said, adjusting his hand so that his fingers intertwined with hers. Eve's body blocked the handholding from Sheridan's view.

"I know I have," she said in a hushed voice, "and I have never felt freer...but we still must be careful, Julian."

"Because of TC?" he asked slowly.

"Yes, because of TC," she said, "not to mention Alistair and Rebecca. But mostly because of TC... Julian, he's my husband; we have children together."

"I know," Julian said, lowering his eyes. "I don't want to cause problems in your marriage, Eve - that wasn't my intention."

"I know it wasn't, honey," she said. "But like it or not, we know it has come to that. There is no way at this point to avoid problems in my marriage. I can't just bury my feelings for you anymore. I'm not going to."

Julian's heart filled with joy on hearing Eve's proclamation. "Did I tell you I loved you?" he asked, giving her the warmest smile she had ever seen on his face.

"I think I might have heard you utter those words sometime during the night," she said. "I may have been dreaming though."

"Well, hopefully after tonight you won't be confusing dreams and reality," he said seductively.

"Julian, what do you have planned?" she asked, blushing. "You know we can't..."

"I didn't say we had to, you know... I just was hoping for a little quiet time alone with you again - that's all."

"Hmmm... I'll have to think about that proposal," she said coyly. "I just might have a better offer come my way tonight." She grinned and then let his hand go as she turned and headed back toward Sheridan.

Julian watched her walk away and took a deep breath. He looked toward the wash basin on one side of the pit and sighed. "Right now I'd give anything for a cold shower," he said to himself, shaking his head.

Courtaney
6.5.07, 12:39 AM
Chapter 35 - "Love Uncovered"

"Sam, anything new while I was out?" Luis asked, stepping into the police chief's office.

"Nothing," Sam sighed. "But we're not giving up, Luis. We'll find her."

"It may be 'them' by now," Luis revealed. "I had a vision of sorts last night, maybe a dream. I don't know. But I get the feeling that Sheridan has given birth - that I'm a father now."

"Are you serious, Luis?" Sam asked, coming up out of his chair. "That's great...or is it?"

"If the baby's here and it's safe, it's wonderful," Luis admitted. "But if it's in danger, and I can't be there to protect it, well then it's the worst thing in the world."

"I know what you mean, Luis," Sam admitted. "When Kay was in danger - she has been so many times these last couple of years - I just felt so helpless. I'm her father. I'm supposed to be able to take care of her."

Luis nodded. "I guess being a father is a lot harder than most men realize. It can cause you the greatest heartache in the world..."

"Or bring you the greatest joy," Sam said, smiling. "You will find that out, Luis. When we get Sheridan and the baby back with you safely, you'll see what I mean."

"I know - I will be thrilled beyond measure," Luis said, grinning broadly. "To have the love of my life back, along with a life that our love created, what more could a man ask for?"

"That's right," Sam said, lowering his eyes. "I just wish I could get my own life straightened out. Grace and I belong together, but right now it doesn't look like..."

Sam was cut off by the ringing of his office phone. Picking it up, he said, "Yeah, put him through... TC, what's up?... Yeah... Really?... Oh my God... Sure, pal, we'll be there right away!"

Hanging up the phone, he looked at Luis with both surprise and worry in his eyes.

"What's wrong, Sam?" Luis asked, his heartbeat quickening.

"That was TC. He's over at the hospital. He says Eve's missing. She got off work late last night, but her car's still at the hospital. No one's seen her. He's there now."

"Let's go! I'm with you," Luis said. Sam grabbed his keys and weapon as they headed out the door.

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"Where are those horrendous clowns when you need them?" Julian grumbled. "They are always popping up when you least expect them, being nuisances, but when you really need something, they are nowhere in sight."

"I really do need something to eat," Sheridan said. "I think all this nursing has made me really hungry."

"And it will, sweetheart," Eve said kindly. "Hopefully, they will send some food down soon." She bent over the clothes basket. "She's still sleeping. You're lucky to have such a calm baby from the start. She seems to only cry when she's hungry."

"Can you imagine what it would be like if she cried all the time down here?" Sheridan asked. "We would need to ask for some earplugs for my brother over there."

"Me?" Julian asked. "No, I don't mind the sound of babies crying at all; I'm just not that used to it."

"Well, that's because all of us Crane children were raised by nannies," Sheridan said. "It's not going to be that way with this one though. I don't plan on letting her out of my sight!"

The baby stirred in the basket. Sheridan reached over and carefully picked her up.

Eve knelt down and touched the baby's hand. "I don't blame you at all, Sheridan. If I were you, I wouldn't let this little angel out of my sight either..." Her voice trailed off as Eve suddenly choked back tears.

Julian came up behind her and gently put his hand on her back, so that she could feel his presence. He knew what had her so upset. She was thinking of the baby she had had with him, and how when he was out of her sight, someone had apparently stolen him.

Sheridan looked puzzled for a moment, and then suddenly her eyes widened in the realization of what Eve was upset about. She knew at that instant that Eve was the woman whom Julian had told her about - the one who had given birth to his child - only to have him taken from her, through death or abduction.

It all made sense now - the intimacy she had spotted between the two when they were sleeping, the little looks they gave each other every now and then, the hushed whispering on the other side of the pit, and the hand touches when they didn't know she was watching - it was all finally clear: Eve Russell was the woman her brother had always loved. And she loved him. That was obvious to Sheridan. The two of them shared a love as great as hers and Luis's, she realized...and as tragic. What was it about the Cranes? Could they never live happily ever after with the person they loved? She hoped she would finally break the Crane curse and have a happy life with Luis. She wondered about Julian and Eve though. Was there any chance for them? She wasn't sure, knowing that Eve was a married woman, but she knew that the love between these two would be hard to be denied. It was so obvious now when you saw them together.

Eve got up and stepped aside so Julian could have a look at the baby. He leaned over and put his index finger underneath her tiny little fingers. The infant curled her fingers around his, squeezing tightly. "What a grip she has on her!" Julian cried, surprised.

Laughing, Eve said, "It's something all newborns are able to do, Julian. It was a reflex used by babies long ago so that they could hang onto their mothers."

Julian grinned. "Well, this little one wouldn't have any trouble holding on," he said. Removing his finger from the baby's hand, he looked at Sheridan. "So, have you decided on a name for this little girl, or do I have to continue calling my new niece 'Baby?'"

Sheridan laughed. "Actually, I have thought of a good name for her," she said, smiling. "But I want to talk to Luis about it first. After all, he is her father."

Eve looked at Julian, puzzled by the comment. She was under the impression that Sheridan wasn't sure who the baby's father was. She knew of course that the child's black hair did signal she was likely Luis's.

Julian noticed Eve's inquisitive look. "Sheridan is certain the baby is Luis's," he explained. "She was finally able to see that when she was trapped down here in this pit."

"I just knew," Sheridan nodded. "It all suddenly became very clear to me. I don't know why I didn't see it before. There was just so much going on lately that cluttered my mind, I think. After spending time alone, I was able to see things straight - what should have been obvious to me - that I was carrying the child of the man I love. A woman just knows that, I think. She just feels it through her whole body, especially if she and her lover are soul mates."

Eve turned her head and took a couple steps away from the cushion. Sheridan's words had hit her hard. Julian turned and put his hand on her shoulder. "It's all right, Eve," he said, walking her across the pit. "Some soul mate I was - a damn fool."

"I've forgiven you," Eve said softly. "But sometimes it still hurts."

Sheridan realized she had said something she shouldn't have, remembering that Eve too had carried a child of the man she loved inside of her, wishing the whole time that she and the baby's father could be together. It was still hard for her to picture Eve having a past with Julian. They were so different. But here it was, right before her eyes. Her brother and the upstanding Dr. Russell were once lovers, and if they had it their way, she believed, they would be again.

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Sam pulled his police cruiser up beside of TC's SUV. His friend was standing on the other side of it, by his wife's empty car. Sam and Luis quickly exited the cruiser.

"TC, how are you holding up?" Sam asked, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder.

"I don't know, man. It's hard, Eve being missing..." He put his hand over his eyes to wipe the tears away.

Sam patted TC's shoulder. "It's going to be all right, pal. We're going to find her. You just get yourself together enough so you can tell us exactly what happened, OK?"

TC took a deep breath. "I'm OK now, Sam. I just love Eve so much, you know. She's the perfect wife, the perfect woman. If anything happened to her..." He choked back the tears that were starting to flow.

Luis walked around Eve's car. "There's no sign of a struggle," he said.

"Look here," TC said. He held up Eve's car keys.

"Where did you get them?" Sam asked.

"I found them on the ground by her car door. The car was still locked," he replied. "Someone jumped her here - took her. Someone has my wife!"

"OK, listen. We don't want to jump to any conclusions yet, TC," Sam said, taking the keys from his friend. "I wish you had left these keys where you found them though, just in case."

"In case what, Sammy? In case there were fingerprints on them? You do believe something's happened to Eve, don't you?"

Luis came over and joined the pair. "Why don't you start at the beginning, TC. Tell us everything."

"Well, Eve got called in yesterday evening to work. Another doctor was sick. She was supposed to get off around midnight, but you know how that goes. She's always asked to stay longer. I just went on to bed. When I woke up at seven, I saw that she wasn't home, and I just figured she had forgotten to call. Hell, I was even mad at her," he said, kicking himself for having acted that way.

"I went back to sleep and got up around ten. I called the hospital a little while later. They said she got off at midnight. I couldn't believe it. Eve always comes straight home. So I rushed over here. I found her car, but then I went inside just to make sure the receptionist was right. She was. There was no sign of Eve. I checked everywhere - even her office - just in case she could have fallen asleep in there. She hadn't."

"And then you called us?" Sam asked.

"I'm so worried, Sam," TC said. "I just know someone took her. I'm going to kill him if he lays a finger on my wife!"

"We'll find her, TC," Sam said, doing the best he could to reassure his friend.

At that moment, Rebecca Hotchkiss came out of the hospital. Seeing the trio huddled together, she walked on over to join them. "What are all of you boys doing outside of the hospital?" she asked. "Is someone hurt? It's not my Pookey, is it?"

"No, Rebecca, it's not about Julian," Luis said.

"Well then, who is it about? You guys look so...long in the face."

"If you have to know, we are discussing a different disappearance, one that just happened this morning," Luis answered.

"Who disappeared?" Rebecca inquired, her eyes as big as saucers.

"My wife!" TC yelled, agitated at all of Rebecca's questions.

"Dr. Russell's missing?!!" Rebecca exclaimed. "How weird! First Sheridan, then Pookey, and now Dr. Russell too... What's going on in this town?"

"That's what we'd like to know too," Sam said.

"Of course, with Dr. Russell, one does wonder whether it was truly a kidnapping. I mean, maybe she just ran off with, I don't know, one of those strong orderlies with the biceps...ooh...or maybe a sexy patient with a mysterious past charmed her away or..."

"Rebecca, Eve's husband is standing right here," Sam said, admonishing her.

"Well, I know that, Chief Bennett. Nobody misses TC. Hi, TC!" she called, smiling and waving at him.

TC ignored her attempt at flirting and shook his head.

"I hope you explore every possibility with Dr. Russell the way you did with my Pookey," Rebecca insisted. "You were quick to think he had run off with someone else, but if you ask me, it's the good doctor's eyes that have been wandering lately. I told her that myself yesterday."

"My wife would never look at another man, ever," TC said defensively. "She's the most perfect wife in the world. She hasn't been with anyone but me her whole entire life and hasn't wanted to. I'm the only man for her, so whatever you're thinking, drop it." He gave her a glare filled with so much anger that it surprised even Sam.

Luis began walking around Eve's car once more, thinking. "Something Rebecca said makes sense," he thought, "when she said that everyone in this town keeps vanishing. I'm sure Sheridan's and Julian's disappearances are related. Maybe Eve's is connected to them too. But what would Crane enemies want with a doctor?"

A light bulb suddenly went on inside of Luis's head. "Oh my God," he said, running over to the others. "Sam, my dream last night - what if it really was true?!! What if Sheridan really went into labor last night, and they needed a doctor?!! What if they came and took Dr. Russell to deliver her baby?"

Sam considered Luis's theory. "I guess it is possible, Luis," he said finally, "if that dream you had was really some sort of vision."

"Then I really might be a father!" he shouted. "And Sam, we may find some clues here that will help find all three of them!"

"Who are the three?" TC asked, confused. "You just said Eve might be with Sheridan."

"And Julian," Luis said.

"Julian Crane?!!" TC roared. "That bastard is dead, isn't he?"

"We don't think so, TC," Sam said. "We think he's being held with Sheridan."

"And you think my wife may be with them? I swear if that scum lays one hand on my wife..."

"TC, if they're together, they're being held prisoner. It's not Julian's fault," Sam cautioned.

"Oh, you can believe this whole thing is somehow Julian Crane's fault. That stupid bastard. If anything happens to my wife because of him, he's going to wish he died in that accident."

Rebecca, who had been standing quietly up until this point, now joined in with her own displeasure at the thought of Julian and Eve being held somewhere together. "That woman had better keep her paws off of my man if she knows what's good for her," she declared.

The men all looked at her, stunned at her comment.

"Well," she said, "a woman knows when another woman's interested in the scenery, you know." With that, she turned and walked away, wiggling her bottom. All three men stared after her, speechless.

Courtaney
6.5.07, 11:52 PM
Chapter 36 - "Julian's Date"

Sheridan wolfed down the last of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "This is kind of bottom of the barrel cuisine here, even for this establishment," she said, picking up a stale potato chip. The three occupants of the pit were having a picnic of sorts on a blanket spread out on the ground.

"I think it's the extra mouth to feed," Julian joked, looking at Eve.

Eve laughed at his remark. "Well, if I am hurting your menu choices, Mr. Crane, I had best be leaving this fine hotel."

"If only we could do that," Sheridan sighed. "I just want to get home - to get my baby home. Julian, when do you think they're going to release us?" She asked the question with a hint of fear in her voice.

Julian shifted uncomfortably on the floor of the pit. He had a feeling there would be no release, at least until the kidnappers got what they wanted. He prayed he was wrong with his assumptions. He knew Sheridan had heard the one abductor hint at wanting what she had. She had been in the beginnings of labor then, and for all he knew, had wiped the comment out of her mind. "I hope soon, dear," he said quietly.

Eve noticed how uncomfortable Julian was with the question, but did not probe him for fear of upsetting Sheridan. She too had heard something the kidnapper had said that made her wonder exactly what they were after.

At that time, the baby began crying. Sheridan got up off the floor and went over to check on her. "I guess someone noticed us eating and got a little jealous," she called as she bent over the clothes basket. "If you two don't mind, I think I'll finish my dinner later. This little one has to eat."

"By all means, feed my niece," Julian said. "And don't worry about your share of this delicious meal. We'll save you plenty!"

"I was afraid of that!" she cried. Lifting her infant out of the basket, she sat down on the cushion and prepared to nurse her. She started singing to her child as the newborn began to suckle.

Realizing that Sheridan was now otherwise occupied, Eve turned to Julian and in a hushed voice asked, "What do you think really is going on here, Julian? Why are they keeping all of us in this pit?"

Julian lowered his eyes. Eve could tell by his reaction that something was deeply troubling him. "I have my suspicions," he said slowly. "And I hope to God I am wrong."

Eve glanced over at Sheridan, who was singing softly to her nursing infant on the other side of the pit. "Is this about the baby?" she asked, turning to look into Julian's eyes.

He looked away, not able to face the fear he saw in the eyes of the woman he loved. The fear that what happened to her may be played out again - but this time with Sheridan as the grieving mother. "I believe so," he said slowly.

"Oh, Julian, no!" Eve exclaimed, managing to keep from crying out too loudly, which would have alarmed Sheridan. "That would be the most horrible thing I could imagine - for them to take Sheridan's baby."

"I know," he said, finally looking at Eve again. "I will do everything I can to protect her and the baby. I just hope it's enough."

"I know you will, Julian," Eve said. Then she wondered something about the young mother. "Does Sheridan also know what they are after?"

"I think deep down she does," Julian replied softly, looking over at his smiling sister. "I think right now she's in denial, which may not be a bad thing."

Eve shuddered. "Oh, Julian, I hope you are wrong," she said, "but I am wondering what else it could be."

Julian reached out and touched her hand. "We'll find a way to keep them safe," he said tenderly.

"And us?" she asked, suddenly understanding that the two of them were now completely useless to the kidnappers if it was the baby they were after.

Julian reached out to touch her cheek, but noticing that Sheridan was looking their way, he quickly lowered his hand. "Eve, I got you into this mess. I'm going to get you out of it, if it's the last thing I do. I'd give my life to protect you, you know that. I just wish that were enough."

"Julian, if I lost you, my life would lose a lot of its meaning," she said, surprising herself at the words that had just slipped from her mouth.

He reached up and caressed her cheek this time, not caring if Sheridan saw. The new mother was actually checking on her nursing infant at this point. "Eve, I love you," he said simply. "And I promise to do what I can to get all of us out of here. I just can't fail you again, or Sheridan."

"You've done so much already," Eve said, trying to reassure the man she loved. She reached up and placed her hand on top of his, which was still on her cheek. "You have saved Sheridan's life and the baby's. If it weren't for your love, they would be dead right now."

Julian shifted his hand so that his fingers locked with Eve's as they lowered their hands to the blanket. "I've tried to be a help to Sheridan, to make amends with her. I think I have done that to some extent. I just wish it didn't have to be at your expense."

"I know, honey," she said, squeezing his hand tightly. "And I truly believe we will come out of this OK. God wouldn't get us back together here, in this pit, just to rip us apart again. It would be too cruel."

"Unless He was giving us one last chance to say goodbye," he said sadly, looking deeply into her eyes. "But if that's the case, I'm not going to waste it." Lightening his tone, he let go of her hand and smiled. "Remember, Eve, I've got something planned for tonight, for the two of us. Are you game?"

She shook off the feeling of dread and smiled back at him. "It depends what you have in mind, dear," she said playfully.

"Oh, you leave that up to me," he said, his eyes beginning to twinkle. "I am going to give you a night you won't forget - a PG rated one, of course."

"So you can't even manage a PG - 13 one, then?" she asked, feigning disappointment.

"Well, we'll have to see about that," he laughed. "I guess you can say the movie has yet to be rated."

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Beth continued pacing back and forth across the living room floor. Mrs. Wallace stared at her daughter, shaking her head in disbelief. "I cannot believe that you are still going forward with your plan - to steal a baby from its mother. How cruel that is! You will go straight to Hell for that, Bethie - if you don't wind up in prison first!"

Beth stopped and faced her mother. "I am only getting what I deserve - Luis's baby. It would be my baby if Sheridan had never come back from the dead!"

"Oh, Bethie, how can you talk like that? Luis and Sheridan created that baby!" Mrs. Wallace insisted. "I would hate to see any baby you would create - it would be evil incarnate!"

"Why, Mother, because it would have inherited your genes?" Beth fired back, her eyes flashing wildly.

Mrs. Wallace ignored the slam. "What did I do, Lord, to deserve a daughter like this?" she asked, looking upward.

"God is on my side," Beth said. "He wants me to be happy. You'll see."

"What a sick, delusional woman you are if you believe that, Bethie! God would never want you to rip another woman's baby from her arms and pass it off as yours," Mrs. Wallace said. "How are you going to do that anyway, Bethie? How are you going to make Luis think you gave birth but couldn't call him?"

"Well, that's what I'm working on now," she said. "I'm trying to think of a way to make Luis think I was called out of town suddenly, had the baby, but then got released from the hospital before he could really make it there. What do you think?"

"Personally, I think you're bonkers. And what are you going to do about Charlie, huh? How are you going to make sure she's out of the picture so you and Luis can play family here?"

"I haven't really thought that far ahead," Beth said, worried that her plan just might unravel before her eyes. "Any ideas, Mother?"

"Oh, I have plenty of ideas for you, Bethie. For starters, let all those people out of that pit. Blindfold them or something, I don't know. Just let them go."

"Oh, no! You know I will never let Sheridan go. And the others? It's just too risky," Beth said. "Only the baby is getting out of that pit alive. The rest will meet their fate soon."

Mrs. Wallace shivered in fear and looked heavenward. "Please, Lord, protect those poor people from my daughter's wacko schemes," she begged.

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Julian shined the flashlight at Eve and grinned. "Now I can see you at least," he said.

She giggled, grabbing the plastic flashlight from his hand. "This is for Sheridan, so she can feed the baby when she wakes up at night," she said. At least the stupid kidnapper had thrown it into the pit when they told her the lantern was out. Still, it wasn't the best device for seeing in the dark.

"Sheridan and the baby are now sound asleep," he said slyly. "So what if I tell you that I promise to have this flashlight back by her cushion in oh, two hours or so, when it's time for the baby's next feeding?"

"I would want to know exactly what you had planned," she said, blushing.

"Oh, my dear, that's for me to know and you to find out - soon!" He grabbed the flashlight back and grinned. "Why don't you, good doctor, go wait over there by the latrine while I get things prepared."

"So you're sending me to the latrine, huh? I hope you don't do that with all your dates."

"Only the nosy ones," he joked. "Now on with it, doctor, before you spoil the fun."

Eve complied with Julian's request and waited in the dark by the latrine while he stumbled about getting things in order for their date. She could only make out a little of what was going on, as he tried to keep the light pointed toward the ground.

Finally, Julian said, "OK, it's ready!"

Eve walked over to Julian's blanket. He held the flashlight up and panned it over the blanket for her to see. On it was an assortment of food. "Another picnic!" she cried out softly. "Where did you get all this, Julian?"

"Ah, well, a gentleman can't reveal all his secrets now, can he?" he said with much devilish charm. "Let's see what kind of goodies we have here for you...This box of Crackerjacks here, such a delicacy; half a bag of exquisitely stale potato chips; some rare peanut butter crackers...and of course, the house water to wash it all down with."

Eve chuckled. "I guess I may not be dressed for such fine dining, but if you'll allow me to eat at your establishment looking like this, I will be very generous with the tip."

"Ooh, how generous are we talking about?" he joked.

"Just you wait and see," she flirted back.

The two sat and ate the leftover bits of snack food. To them, it was better than the finest cuisine at any five star restaurant. They were together, and that was all that mattered.

After the meal, Eve smiled. "That was, terrific, Julian. Thanks for the nice surprise," she said.

"Oh, the evening's not over yet," he said coyly. "Think of that as the appetizer. The main course is still to come."

"And just what is the main course?" she asked, curiosity getting the better of her.

"Well, that's where the PG rating comes in," Julian said. He began collecting all of the food and paper plates and moved them out of the way. He walked over to the wash basin, shining the light as he went, and returned with something in his hand.

"What on earth do you have there?" Eve asked, her eyes lighting up in the semi-dark pit.

"Why, this bar of soap here is for your massage, my dear," he announced, grinning seductively.

"A massage!" she exclaimed. "Well, you think of everything."

"I wanted to be close," Julian said, "and since we couldn't do everything I wanted to, I thought maybe this would be a nice way for us to have some intimacy. What do you say?"

Eve smiled at Julian's idea. She wondered if she could handle this. She knew the kind of passion he could stir in her with his touch. "Well, I guess it's all right," she said finally, "since you did go to such a bother."

"Thank you, my dear. Now, to get a good massage, doctor, one does need to remove her shirt."

Eve blushed as she pulled off her top and threw it out of the way. "I think I gave all of my tip money to the waiter," she joked as she lay down on the blanket.

"No problem," Julian said, smiling. "Maybe we can work something out."

He sprinkled some water on her back. She gasped when he did this, her body startled by the cold. "On second thought, I'm not going to worry about that tip," she quipped.

Julian rubbed the bar of soap on her wet skin and began to lather it up. He used his hands to spread it all over her shoulders and back. "My how tense you are," he said jokingly. "I am glad you decided to come to my house of massage. Maybe I can work some of this tension out."

"I think if you keep rubbing your hands all over my back, I'm going to feel even more tension," she said, shaking her head. What his touch was doing to her body! She knew any minute now her will power would be gone completely.

Smiling at her last statement, Julian carefully poured some more water on Eve's back and grinned as she cried out in shock. He wiped her smooth skin clean with a cloth. He then began working his hands all over her exquisite back. The beauty of her finely toned body and heavenly golden brown skin was really getting to him. How he wanted her! The urge in him was rising by the minute. He didn't know how much longer he could keep this up without taking her in his arms...

Eve suddenly rolled over on the blanket, taking Julian by surprise. "Do...you want me to...do your front now?" he asked nervously, taking a deep breath. He didn't know if he could handle any more of this. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea...

"No, I think that's enough of the main course," she said. "Now how about the dessert?"

Julian's heart started to beat faster. His face began to sweat. "I...I didn't plan on any dessert," he stammered awkwardly, taking another deep breath.

"I did," Eve said seductively, putting her hands on the back of his neck and pulling him closer. "But you may just have to up that movie rating of yours - how high remains to be seen."

Julian's heart was racing at an all-time high at this point as the passion surged through his body. Breathless with desire, he asked, "What...about Sheridan?"

"If you promise to be gentle, I'll promise to be quiet," she said with a grin, pulling him down until his body met hers.

Courtaney
6.7.07, 12:36 AM
Chapter 37 - "Evian Loving"

Beth continued pacing back and forth across the living room floor. "You're going to ruin that good carpet if you keep doing that!" Mrs. Wallace called from the other side of the room.

"Be quiet, Mother, I am trying to get my plan in order in my mind. I think I almost have it."

"You think you almost have what - a mind? I don't think so, Bethie. If you did, you certainly wouldn't be doing the things you are doing."

"Watch it, Mother, or I will throw you in that rat-infested nursing home this instant!"

"No, you won't," Mrs. Wallace fired back. "I have too much on you, Bethie, with all this stuff going on in the pit. You could go to prison for life."

"Well if you tell, you'll go right along with me," Beth said. "Now, Mother, just leave me alone. I think I just about have it all planned out."

"Well, don't keep me in suspense, Bethie. Go on, tell me your plan!"

"OK, I have to make Luis believe somehow that I've had the baby, right? But it can't be here, because he would wonder why I didn't go the hospital, or he would try to make me go afterwards, which would be worse. I need to make him think I was out of town and had the baby...so how about this? How about I call him and tell him that I went to, I don't know, a little town in New Hampshire, to take care of your sister..."

"I don't have a sister!" Mrs. Wallace exclaimed.

"I am aware of that, Mother, but Luis doesn't know that. So I'll just tell him that I drove there to spend a couple of days with her and went into early labor...and they had to put me under, so I couldn't call...and then later, the phone lines were down in a bad storm, and I couldn't get a call out. What do you think?"

"I think he's going to say, 'Where was your cell phone?' " Mrs. Wallace smirked.

"I'll just tell him the battery was dead, if he asks," Beth explained. "But I don't think he will, Mother. He has been so preoccupied with poor Sheridan lately. He's hardly had any sleep. I don't think he'll ask many questions."

"Doesn't that tell you something, Bethie?" Mrs. Wallace asked. "That he is so worried about Sheridan? The man is in love with her, not you."

"Well, I just have to help him get over her, that's all. And the baby is the perfect way to do that!" She clapped her hands together excitedly.

"What's going to prevent Luis from coming to New Hampshire to see you?" Mrs. Wallace asked. "Did you think of that, Bethie?"

"I did, Mother. See, I'll be on the way home by the time I phone Luis. I'll say some friends of my aunt's offered to take me and the baby home, and I used their phone to call. It's perfect!"

"But, are you really driving to New Hampshire?"

"No, Mother, Luis will just think I went there. Really, I'll be hiding out here - upstairs - so nobody sees me."

"And just when do you plan to put this little scheme of yours to work?" Mrs. Wallace asked fearfully.

"Well, I just saw Luis recently; so to make it work, I can't call him tomorrow. It'll have to be the next day. That'll give us time then."

"Time for what?" Mrs. Wallace asked, her eyes as big as saucers.

"It'll give us time to take the baby," Beth said matter-of-factly, "and time to get rid of everyone in the pit."

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Eve and Julian lay in each other's arms, leaning back against the wall, the blanket wrapped up around them. They had just had the most exquisite round of lovemaking either had ever experienced. Two souls joined as well as two bodies. They both realized what level they had reached together. Neither one had to speak of it. They just knew in their hearts that they totally belonged to each other now.

Eve reached out and caressed Julian's face. "I love you," she said softly. Tears formed in her eyes as she thought of what could lay ahead for them. "This may have been our last time...to be together like this," she said.

Julian turned his head toward hers and placed his hand under her chin, lifting it up. "Eve..." he said slowly, trying to find the right words. "Whatever happens, know that I love you with all my heart...as much as any man has ever loved a woman...and if we can't be together in this world, I pray to God we will be in the next."

"Oh, Julian," she cried, choking back sobs.

"Here, here, I didn't mean to upset you more," he said, wiping her tears with his fingers. "I was trying to make you feel better."

"What you said was beautiful, Julian," Eve said. "It was the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. I'm just so happy and so sad - all at the same time."

Julian caressed her cheek once more. "You know I would never intentionally hurt you, don't you?" he asked carefully, trying to phrase the words correctly in what was probably one of the most important conversations in his life. "I wouldn't have allowed this to happen if I thought it would upset you or mess up your life. You know that, don't you, dear?"

"Honey, I am not sorry that we made love," she said. "In fact, I am thrilled beyond belief about what just happened here tonight. It was simply wonderful...so much better than anything I have experienced before, even with you. There was an innocence about it that wasn't there twenty years ago, something almost spiritual. You felt it too, I know."

"I did," he said, nodding. "I think that's because I'm not the man I was twenty years ago. I have possession of my soul again, and it was free to join with yours."

"I should probably feel guilty for what we just did, but I don't," Eve admitted, looking down at the blanket. "I know it was wrong that I broke my marriage vows, but on so many levels, what happened here just now was so right. I think it was meant to be - destined perhaps - maybe long overdue."

Julian pulled her in for a hug and moved his strong arms gently down her back, caressing her soft skin.

Eve pulled away finally and placed her hand on his cheek. "I love you, Julian, more than I have ever loved any man. It is you my heart belongs to. You know that, don't you?"

"I think deep down, I have always known that," Julian said, grabbing her hand from his cheek and pulling it to his lips for a kiss. "I was just too scared to find out for sure...for all those years...afraid of my own guilt...afraid of the pain I saw in your eyes. It was easier to just ignore it and pretend I was only after one thing with you."

"Oh, you were good at that." She smiled. "But even then, Julian, when you were at your worst, I still couldn't stop thinking about you. Did you know that? Whatever power you have over me is too big for me to fathom. It's just there, and like it or not, it always will be."

"I hope you like it," he said, laughing. Then he became serious. "Eve, I know exactly what you mean. You hold a power over me like no other. Oh, you might say Father has power over me too. He does, to some extent, with his threats and illicit spying on me. But that doesn't hold a candle to what you have over me. I literally haven't been able to function these last few months. Did you realize that? I couldn't do anything when I was at home - I just lay on the sofa and listened to your tapes all the time, over and over, and tried to use alcohol to take away the pain of not having you in my arms. It didn't work."

Eve reached up and played with Julian's hair, feeling how soft it was even though he had been down in this filthy pit for so long. "I had no idea...that it was that bad for you, Julian," she said. "I wish I had known, but then I don't think it would have made a difference. I wasn't ready then to see what I see now."

"Which is what?" he asked, grasping her free hand in his.

"That I was living a lie," she said slowly. "That I wasn't the person I was pretending to be. That for good or bad, the person I really am is the woman I am right now, right here...with you."

Julian sighed. "I knew that you weren't allowing your real self to be free," he said. "But it wasn't my place to push. I had to honor what you thought you wanted, which was to be a respectable physician, perfect wife, loving mother, and an upstanding citizen of Harmony - someone beyond reproach."

"I am some of those things," Eve said. "But others I only pretended to be - like the perfect wife. If TC could only see me now."

"I think he would see blood if he saw us now," Julian said. "My blood...and I don't blame him. Here I am, with his wife, when I don't have the right."

"I'm sure he would go ballistic, Julian," Eve agreed. "But as for you not having the right to be with me like this... I don't know, in some ways it seems more right than it ever was with TC."

"Because it's more real?" he asked.

"Yes," she revealed, "because I am my true self now. There are no lies between us; there's no pretending. What you see is what you get."

"And I like what I see," Julian said, pulling her closer.

"I know you do." Eve smiled. "I can't believe it took me so long to realize that. You knew the real me, all along, and loved me. I was so afraid to show that side to TC and lose his love...but it didn't matter to you. You love all of me, even the part of me that I think is unlovable."

"Nothing about you is unlovable," Julian said, placing his hand on her smooth cheek. "You are the most beautiful, wonderful, caring person I know...and the most lovable. Only God knows how much I love you."

Eve smiled warmly and leaned in to kiss Julian. Their lips met first, greeting each other in anticipation. He parted his lips as her tongue swept over his, unleashing the passion that was always just under the surface when they were together. Hungrily they kissed, tasting the pleasure of each other's mouths.

As the passion surged in both of them, Julian placed his hands on Eve's shoulders, feeling every inch of them. Then he slowly ran his hands down her arms and moved them over to her breasts.

Eve suddenly pulled back and touched Julian's face with her hand. "I think we should stop," she said, catching her breath. "It must be almost time for the baby to wake up."

"We have time for another round, I think," Julian said enticingly, "if it is a quick one. What do you say?"

"I say, how can I resist a man who lives on the edge?" she asked seductively. "But we had better make it fast."

"Well, I think I can manage...if you can keep up with me," he laughed.

"Honey, I was ready for another round the minute we finished the last. It's the man who has to recharge his battery."

"Well, this battery is fully charged," Julian said in an alluring tone, "but I think we should take it for a test spin - just to make sure."

Eve laughed. As the pair feverishly reclaimed each other's lips, she ran one hand through Julian's hair and the other across his back.

Julian wrapped both arms around Eve's back and gently pushed her down onto the blanket. Lying on top of her, he began exploring her body with his hands.
Eve placed both hands on the back of his head and ran her fingers through his thick hair. Then, moving her hands down his back, she pressed her fingers tightly against his skin, sighing as his touch stirred even more desire in her body.

The lovers again gave into their passion completely and shared another precious wave of bliss. Their forbidden, but oh so right, love expressed itself once more in the magic of their time together on that fateful night.

Courtaney
6.8.07, 12:25 AM
Chapter 38 - "Love and Marriage"

The next morning, TC burst into the police station, with Rebecca close on his heels. Finding Sam at Luis's desk, he hurried over to talk to him. "Sam, have you heard anything about Eve? Anything at all?"

"No, TC, I'm sorry," Sam said, looking from him to Rebecca. "Did you two...come together?" he asked, puzzled at why they would be arriving at the same time.

"Of course not, Sam, we just met outside the station," TC explained, a disgusted look on his face.

"TC, I didn't mean anything like that - I just thought maybe you had given her a ride over here, since you two are kind of in the same situation."

"Oh," TC said, easing up a little. "Well, I guess we kind of are in the same spot here, aren't we, Rebecca?" he said, finally acknowledging her presence.

"Yes, we certainly are," she responded. "So maybe we should try to comfort each other." She reached out to grab his hand.

TC jerked his hand away and shook his head. "You just don't change, do you, Rebecca? My wife is missing, and here you are trying to make a move on me!"

"I was not!" Rebecca defended herself. "I was just trying to show you my support."

"Yeah, whatever," TC said, rolling his eyes. He turned his attention once again to Sam. "Sammy, please, you've got to help me find my wife here. I'm dying inside without my Eve. She's what keeps me going, you know? She's the most perfect person in the world. Without her, I would return to the bitter, angry man I was in the past."

"In the past?" Rebecca slammed. "Sounds like you just described yourself in the present."

"Hey, watch it!" TC retorted. "I have never struck a lady. But then again, I don't see any ladies here."

"Oh, you have asked for it now, you big dumb ox!" Rebecca shouted, whacking him on the head with her purse.

"Hey, hey, hey!" Sam yelled, pulling Rebecca away as Luis grabbed hold of TC to steady him.

"Just ignore it, TC," Luis said. "She's upset here too, I guess. She's going through what you and I both are."

"Yeah, well, no one can compare losing that scum Julian Crane to us losing our terrific women, Luis. They are worth a million Julian Cranes."

"I agree completely, TC," Luis said, "but just settle down, OK? Her nerves are frazzled too."

Rebecca, meanwhile, was enjoying having Sam's arms around her. "Now I know why Grace and Ivy are always fighting over you," she said in her most sexy voice. "Ooh, you do have a firm blue-collar grip. Ah!"

Blushing, Sam immediately released his hold on Rebecca. Taking a deep breath, he said, "I think we should turn our attention back to police matters, if that's OK with all of you."

TC and Rebecca nodded.

"All right then, Luis can brief you on what we know so far."

"It's not much," Luis said, "but Sam and I do think that the theory that Eve was abducted to deliver Sheridan's baby has merit. We have had her car examined for evidence, but so far that has turned up nothing. We kind of expected that, since we don't believe Eve made it into her car the night before last."

"But someone had to see something, right?" TC asked anxiously.

"Right now we have no witnesses," Luis said sadly. "It seems like Dr. Russell simply vanished."

"No, no, there has to be someone who saw something," TC said, hanging his head.

"Hey, we're working on it, pal," Sam said soothingly, stepping over to place his hand on TC's shoulder.

Rebecca, noticing the attention that TC was getting from the police chief, feigned a deeper concern for Julian than she truly had, hoping to reap some rewards. "My Pookey, he's the light of my life," she cried, choking back fake tears. "I...I don't think I can go on without him. Please, oh please, you must do something to find him!" She hung her head and pretended to sob.

Luis, younger and a tad more naïve than Sam about the tricks a woman like Rebecca will resort to, placed his hand on her shoulder for comfort. "It's OK, Rebecca," he said awkwardly. "We'll find them."

Rebecca, head still lowered, secretly smiled at the attention she was getting. "Not one, but two of Harmony's finest have had their hands on me today," she thought happily. "Oo-la-la!"

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Sheridan smiled while nursing her baby girl. She enjoyed being a mother so immensely. It was more than she ever imagined - the love she felt for this little girl. Nursing was her favorite bonding time with her daughter. She only wished Luis had been there to share in these early moments of their daughter's life.

Eve walked over to check on the new mother. "How are things going with this little one?" she asked. "From the looks of things, she is eating up a storm!"

"She does have quite an appetite," Sheridan agreed. "I think she gets that from her father."

Eve laughed. It was good that Sheridan could joke while in this terrible situation. She just hoped it didn't get any worse for her. She knew they all needed some sort of release from the stress of their confinement. She and Julian had found that release - and so much more - the night before.

She turned to look at Julian. His eyes met hers, and they smiled at each other. There was so much they could communicate silently. As a couple, they were beyond the need for words to get their feelings across.

Sheridan noticed their look and wondered at the intensity of it. She saw something in her brother's eyes that wasn't there the night before - satisfaction? Confidence, perhaps? She knew something had happened to change his demeanor...something after she had gone to sleep.

Eve turned back to the nursing mother. "I think I'll give you some privacy," she said. "Just let me know if you need anything. When you get done with that little angel, I'd like to give her a check-up. It's just a routine exam, don't worry."

Sheridan nodded, smiling. "I'm so grateful to have you down here, Eve. When I think what would have happened to me and my baby if you hadn't been..." she shuddered, not wanting to comprehend the tragic outcome that would have been almost certain without Eve's medical prowess.

Eve smiled and patted Sheridan's hand. "I know I've told you this before, Sheridan, but I truly meant it. I am glad to have been here for you - you don't know how glad," she said, glancing back at Julian.

He walked over after the baby had finished nursing and Sheridan had covered herself once more. "So, how is everything going with my favorite little niece?" he asked, placing his hand on Eve's back as he joined them.

Eve smiled at his touch. She loved the simple things between the two of them every bit as much as she loved their lovemaking...and that was exquisite. She sighed, remembering the magical night they had spent together. Thank goodness Sheridan had not awakened during that time. She didn't know how she would have explained it. Somehow, though, she felt Sheridan would have understood.

"Your niece is doing just fine," Sheridan said, "although she seems to eat like a pig." She giggled.

Eve bent down and carefully took the infant from Sheridan's arms. "I'm going to take this little piggy over to the wash basin to bathe and change her. Then I'm going to give her a little exam, if you don't mind."

"Go right ahead," Sheridan said, smiling. "That will give me time to catch up on things with my big brother here."

She grabbed Julian's hand and pulled him over to chat. Making sure Eve was out of earshot, Sheridan softly asked, "So, what's new with you, Julian? Something sure is different..."

Julian could feel his face reddening. "Well, uh, I..." he stammered, not able to find the right words.

"It's OK," Sheridan laughed. "I'm just teasing you." She smiled at him. "It looks like you had a good time last night, am I right?"

He returned her smile. "I guess you can say that," he said, blushing more.

"I can't believe my playboy of a brother is getting embarrassed. He must be in love!" she said lightly. Then she turned more serious. "Julian, I'm glad you two had a good time together. I think you needed that. You deserved it. I just wish Luis..." she stopped, choking back tears.

"Sheridan, Luis will come; I know it," Julian said, kneeling down to comfort his sister. "He's going to rescue us. You'll see."

"I know," Sheridan said. "I have so much faith in him. It's just he's missed out on so much with our daughter already...I don't want him to miss anything else."

"Hopefully we won't be here much longer," Julian sighed. "I am as ready as ever to get out of here and start living my life again."

"And does that life have anything to do with our Dr. Russell?" she probed.

"Well, let's just say I hope it does," he answered. "There are, however, a lot of things that we need to work out first - especially her. She is, after all, a married woman."

"And so am I," Sheridan said sadly, remembering the vows she took with Antonio. "Julian, I don't know the status of Eve's marriage to TC, but from what I see here, she is completely in love with you. You two remind me of myself and Luis. I never thought I would say that about any other couple, but it's true."

"We have a great love," Julian admitted, "as do the two of you. I am so sorry for my part in trying to break you two up. I was as bad as Father was with me and Eve..."

"That's water under the bridge now," Sheridan said. "But Julian, seeing what you and Eve have together has made me realize what you risked having those goons kidnap her for me."

Julian looked at her, surprised. "How did you...?"

"Eve told me," Sheridan said. "We had a little chat this morning when you were over at the wash basin."

He grinned. "So you two ladies were having a little girl talk, huh? My ears should have been burning."

"I just think Eve wanted me to know what you had done for me, Julian," Sheridan confessed. "I was so out of it then, I didn't really remember anything that went on. I just figured that getting my doctor was something the kidnappers had thought of - that maybe they each had a heart after all."

"I'm just glad they listened to me," Julian revealed. "If they hadn't..."

"If they hadn't, I wouldn't be here, and neither would that precious little baby over there," Sheridan said.

"I couldn't let that happen," Julian admitted tenderly. "I couldn't lose you, Sheridan."

"I know that." She smiled. "And I also know what you had to risk to keep that from happening. That woman over there means more to you than anything in this world, Julian. I'll be eternally grateful for your sacrifice."

"I hope I have made up for some of the bad things I have done to you in the past," Julian confessed. "I know I owe you so much..."

"Julian, this more than makes up for everything," she said warmly. "I have my brother back - the brother I idolized when I was a little girl. And I have a little girl of my own, who is as healthy as can be, thanks to you."

Julian smiled and hugged her close. "I love you, Sheridan."

She returned his hug. "I love you too, Julian."

Courtaney
6.9.07, 2:02 AM
Chapter 39 - "One Terrible Night"

"There you are! Finally!" Beth cried. "I have been wondering when you were going to get here, Charlie."

"What's up, Bethie?" Charlie asked, closing the front door and giving her friend a wink.

"Tonight's the night we have to take the baby," Beth said. "I need to get her used to me before Luis comes. I'm going to call him tomorrow and tell him I had the baby!"

"So you are going through with that New Hampshire crap?" Charlie asked.

"Yes, I think it will work," Beth said. "It has to."

"Beth, I still don't understand why you are going to go to so much bother to make Luis think this is your baby with him, when we are going to raise her together. It doesn't make any sense."

"Well, see, it's all part of my final revenge against Sheridan," Beth explained. "How could it hurt her more than to think that Luis and I are raising her baby together? It'll be the final nail in that girl's coffin." She clasped her hands together and laughed.

"So you're going to tell her then? You're going to let Sheridan know you are the one who has been keeping her in that pit?"

"I will, right before I kill her!" Beth revealed. "It will be such fun to see the shock on her face when she realizes that Luis and I and her baby will be a family!"

"But that's not really true - right, Beth?" Charlie asked, jealous at her friend's apparent delight in the idea of raising the baby with Luis.

"Of course not, Charlie," Beth said quickly. "I am only going to pretend with Luis for awhile...to hit Sheridan where it really hurts before she dies. I may try to continue it for a little while longer, just so I can step on her grave properly...while carrying her baby! Ha Ha Ha! Then, of course, I will dump Luis, and you and I can raise the baby."

"Well, when are we going to take care of the three losers in the pit?" Charlie asked, worried that she would likely have to do the bulk of the job herself.

"Maybe tomorrow night, after Luis has seen the baby and I tell Sheridan my plan to raise her with him," Beth said. "I think I'll have you shoot them, and then we can fill the dirt back in on top of them. No one will ever know!"

Charlie smiled. "That sounds like a pretty safe plan as far as we're concerned. There's not much risk involved. OK, let's go over all the details before we head down to get the baby."

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"It's almost nighttime," Sheridan said. "I always hate the dark down here." She was holding the baby while seated on the cushion. Julian and Eve were sitting nearby.

"It should be getting dark soon," Julian agreed, looking at his watch. "I guess that means we will have to spend yet another night in this hellhole."

"I can't wait to get out of here too," Eve admitted. "I really miss my family." She realized how that sounded to Julian only after the words had already escaped her mouth.

He looked at her quickly, and she saw the pain in his eyes. She could tell he understood, however. She had had her family for over twenty years. Of course she missed them. He hoped it was the girls she was thinking about more than their father, however.

"I know Luis will find us soon; I just know it," Sheridan stated.

"I'm sure he's working on it around the clock," Eve agreed. "And now that I'm missing too, I bet they have put two and two together and realize you've had your baby, Sheridan."

"Do you think so?" she asked. "I had kind of thought that Luis would sense our baby arriving. I've hoped that; I just didn't know."

"You can bet Luis is doing everything he can to find us," Julian said, "especially the baby. There's nothing worse than knowing you have a child out there somewhere that you can't locate and protect."

His eyes met Eve's. She knew he was referring to their child as well as Sheridan's. She wanted more than anything to be reunited with her firstborn, the child created from the greatest love she had experienced in her life.

Julian reached out and grasped Eve's hand. She smiled at him sadly.

Sheridan understood exactly what Julian meant as well, but decided to remain silent on the subject for Eve's sake. She wasn't sure if Eve knew that she was aware of everything now. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt the woman who had done so much to help her.

"I think this little gal needs a diaper change," Sheridan said. "I'll do it this time." She got up and carried the baby over to where the package of diapers was located and began to change her.

Julian turned to look into Eve's eyes. "I'm sorry you are sad about our son," he said. "And I also feel bad that you have to be apart from your family. I've hurt you so much by having you brought here, Eve."

"Don't think that, Julian," Eve said. "There are three big reasons I am glad I was brought to this pit. I was able to save Sheridan's life and the baby's life and..." She paused, looking deeply into his eyes.

"What was the third?" Julian asked softly.

"That I could be with you, Julian," she said, smiling. "Making love with you last night was not only a whole lot of fun - it was also a major turning point in my life. I'm sure of it. This whole experience has been, beginning with me thinking you were dead. That was a horrible couple of days for me, but it got me to open my eyes to what was around me and to look in my heart."

"So you don't have any regrets then, about what happened last night?" Julian asked, wanting to be sure of where she stood.

"Julian, I don't have any regrets," she said. "Maybe that means I'm a horrible person; I don't know. I just know that I am in love with you and thrilled that I was able to show you how much."

He reached up and touched her face with his hand. Oh, how he wanted to take her in his arms again and kiss her... Maybe he could tonight, after Sheridan went to sleep.

"Look at the lovebirds!" boomed a voice from above. "Can't keep their hands off of each other, I see!" Charlie added an evil laugh to reinforce her jab.

Julian quickly lowered his hand and glared at the masked abductors peering over the edge of the pit. "What do you two want?" he asked angrily.

Sheridan had just finished changing her daughter and hurried back with her toward the others.

"Just where do you think you're going so fast, Blondie?" bellowed Charlie. "You can run, but you can't hide." She chuckled hideously.

Sheridan felt chills run down her spine when she heard that evil laugh. She quickly sat down on the cushion and huddled near Julian and Eve.

"We've come for something," Charlie continued. "You can make this easy on yourselves, or you can make it hard. It really doesn't matter to me."

Eve's stomach churned. She feared that she knew what those monsters were after. She looked at Sheridan. She must have known too, for her eyes were wide with alarm, and she clutched her baby tightly to her chest.

Julian jumped up and faced the kidnappers. "I don't know what you think you're after, but you're not going to get it. So why don't you just turn around right now and go back the way you came?"

"OK, Mr. Rich, you could have made it easy on yourself and them. But since you're not, I think it's time to play hardball." Charlie reached down and picked up her rifle. She aimed it at Julian. "Now, I want you to go over and get the baby from your sister and bring it over here. My partner is lowering the basket right over there as we speak, so I want you to put the baby in the basket real gentle now. Understand?"

Sheridan shrieked in horror from her spot on the cushion. She clutched the baby even tighter and bent down over her, shielding her with her body.

Eve gasped and put her hand over her mouth as the realization sunk in that the kidnappers really had come to take the baby. She reached out and touched Sheridan's arm. "It's gong to be OK," she told the desperate young mother. "We won't let them take your baby."

Julian kept his defiant stance. He wasn't about to comply with the abductor's request.

Charlie cocked the rifle. Julian backed up toward the women and put his arms out to shield them. "Get behind me," he whispered. Eve did as he requested and huddled with Sheridan on the cushion. She too would protect the mother and child.

"You're just delaying the inevitable," Charlie said. "We are not leaving here without the baby."

Beth had lowered the basket to the floor of the pit by this time. She stood in fearful anticipation of what might happen. She couldn't believe they were trying to defy Charlie's orders.

Charlie aimed the rifle at Julian's chest. "This is the last friendly warning you get, pal. Get the baby, put it in the basket, or die."

"Never!" Julian declared. "You'll have to kill me first."

Eve shrieked at Julian's last statement. She knew he meant it.

Sheridan was murmuring something incomprehensible at this point, still not lifting her head to look at Charlie. She continued to shield the baby with her body.

"OK," Charlie said, "we were planning to give you all a little more time to live, but it doesn't really matter now." She prepared to fire the rifle.

"No, wait!" Eve screamed, standing up beside Julian. "Don't kill him!"

"Eve, sit down," Julian ordered. "They're not playing games. This is serious."

"Julian, they're going to shoot you!" Eve cried. "Come over here with us." She grabbed hold of his arm to pull him toward the cushion.

"How do you know I'm going to shoot him?" Charlie snickered. "I just may shoot you instead." She aimed her rifle at Eve. Julian quickly stepped in front of her. The action startled Charlie, who fired, knocking both Julian and Eve down with the blast from her rifle.

Sheridan raised her head to watch her brother and Eve fall to the ground, Julian landing on top of the woman he loved. Neither moved. Sheridan let out a shriek and desperately clung to her child, sobbing uncontrollably.

"Now you've killed both of them," Beth whispered. "And Sheridan is a basket case. You're going to have to go after the baby yourself."

"I will then," Charlie said. "Bethie, you cover me with this rifle. I'll go down and get the baby." She cocked the rifle once more for Beth. "If anyone tries anything, point this right at them and pull the trigger," she said.

Charlie went to retrieve the rope ladder and secured one end to a basement pole. She flung the ladder over the edge of the pit and proceeded to climb down.

Beth aimed the rifle at the two motionless bodies in the center of the pit.
As Charlie neared the bottom of the ladder, she looked at the two cautiously. There was still no movement from Julian or Eve. She jumped to the ground and headed toward Sheridan and the baby.

Suddenly, Julian leaped up and lunged at Charlie. She turned and tried to fight him off. "Now, Beth, shoot!" she cried, dropping to the ground to avoid the shot.

Beth looked through the scope and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit Julian in the arm and flung him around. He sank to the floor of the pit in pain. Eve got up from where Julian had whispered for her to stay and rushed to his side. Neither had been wounded before, but this time it was not pretend. Julian had been hit!

Charlie jumped up and ran over to Sheridan. She grabbed hold of her hair, yanking her off of the baby. Sheridan cried out desperately. The stronger woman ripped the baby from her arms and headed toward the basket. "My baby!" Sheridan cried after her, "My baby!"

Julian tried to get up to stop her, but fell back in pain. Eve managed to leap up and made a valiant attempt to grab the baby out of the kidnapper's arms. Charlie responded by delivering a strong blow to Eve's head with her left arm while holding the baby in her right one. While Eve tumbled backwards toward the ground, Charlie quickly put the baby in the basket and yelled at Beth to pull her up. She did.

Then Charlie began scrambling up the ladder, before Eve and Julian could do anything to stop her. Eve jumped up and headed for the ladder, but Charlie was almost to the top. Pulling herself over the edge of the pit, Charlie shook the ladder furiously as Eve tried to hold onto the ropes and get a foothold. The shaking eventually knocked the doctor off, and Charlie quickly yanked the ladder up.

Eve jumped up from the ground and banged her fists against the side of the pit, sobbing. She realized that she had failed in preventing the kidnapping of Sheridan's baby.

Sheridan herself was sobbing hysterically on the cushion. Eve noticed she was lying in a fetal position when she turned around to check.

Julian was lying on the floor, grabbing his arm in pain. His face was deathly white. Eve realized he was going into shock. She rushed to his side. "Julian, let me see," she said, extending his arm out so she could see where the bullet had hit. She quickly removed his shirt so that she could inspect his wound. "You're going to be OK, but I have to stop the bleeding," she said. She noticed he was slowly losing consciousness. "Hold on, honey. Don't you leave me now."

Eve retrieved her medical bag and set to work saving her lover's life. She had to prevent the loss of blood. She applied pressure to the wound and made a tourniquet out of his shirt to help stop the bleeding. The cleansing of the wound and removal of the bullet could come later, she knew. Right now, there were more pressing things to do to save Julian's life.

She looked back at Sheridan as she tightened the tourniquet. She knew she too required immediate medical attention. "Julian," she asked, "how are you doing?"

He was still deathly pale. "Eve..." he murmured, opening his eyes, "Our baby...couldn't save...our baby."

"Oh, God, he's delirious," Eve said. She gave him a shot of a common antibiotic that she kept in her medical bag for emergencies. Then she ran to grab a water bottle and put an acetaminophen tablet in his mouth. She held his head up and gave him a sip of water to wash it down. "That and the shot should help with the fever and preventing infection," she thought. Eve thankfully noted that the loss of blood had stopped. She hoped that she got to him in time to ward off shock. "You're going to be all right, Julian," she said, caressing his cheek. "I won't let anything happen to you."

Eve eased Julian's head gently onto the ground and turned her attention to his sister. Sheridan was in a terrible state. The loss of her baby had hit her hard. Eve bent over the sobbing mother, and tried to talk soothingly to her. Sheridan was in a far-away place, Eve realized. She could hear nothing the doctor said. Eve decided that the best thing to do was sedate the poor girl. She prepared the injection. "Sheridan, I know what you're going through," she said as she gave her the shot. "I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone, not in a million years."

The sedative began to take effect, first calming Sheridan down, and then putting her to sleep. Eve brushed the hair out of the sleeping woman's eyes and stood up. She looked from her to Julian. The two siblings, healthy just moments ago, were now in terrible shape. Eve sighed, realizing that at that moment she was the only one in the pit who could do anything to get the baby back. She had no idea what she possibly could do, but knew she would try. She couldn't let Sheridan suffer like she had all those years ago...

Courtaney
6.10.07, 5:17 AM
Chapter 40 - "New Father"

Eve leaned over to check on Sheridan, the flashlight firmly in her hand. "Good, she's still out," she said to herself. Sheridan appeared to be sleeping peacefully, but Eve knew that that was simply the work of the medication she had given her. The nightmare she had just lived through would be waiting for her to deal with when she woke up.

"I hope we can get your baby back for you, Sheridan," she said, getting down on her knees to check her patient's pulse.

Eve gently laid Sheridan's arm back down on the cushion. "This is the last thing I would want you to have to go through," she said, remembering her own pain when she suffered the loss of her first child.

Standing up, Eve shined the light back over at Julian, who was still lying on his side in the middle of the pit. She had covered him with a blanket and had put another blanket under his head. He was getting some of his color back, which she knew was a good sign. She noticed that he was starting to stir.

Eve rushed over to his side and got down on the floor beside him, laying the flashlight down on the ground. The beam made an eerie glow on Julian's face. She reached out and touched his cheek with her hand. "Julian, how are you feeling?" she asked, the love she felt for him abundantly clear in her voice.

"Cold..." he said softly, opening his eyes. He tried to focus them in the dark pit. Everything looked blurry to him at first. His eyes came to rest on the familiar face that he saw in all of his dreams... "Eve..." he said.

"I'm right here, Julian," she answered, rubbing his arm through the blanket to try to warm him up. "I'm going to go get you another blanket. I'll be right back."

Eve retrieved the only other blanket in the pit and spread it out over Julian. She knew the coldness he was feeling came from the blood he had lost earlier. The chills from the fever that had set in shortly after he was shot didn't help either. Eve wasn't sure if Julian was still delirious from the fever or not.

"Julian, can you tell me where you are?" she asked, reaching under the blanket and pulling out his arm so that she could check his pulse.

He squinted his eyes and blinked them several times, trying to focus on Eve's face. "Heaven..." he whispered. "It...has to be...Heaven."

Eve wasn't sure if Julian was hallucinating at this point or simply being Julian. She tried again. "Julian, what's the last thing you remember?" she asked.

"They were going...to shoot you..." he said softly. "Couldn't...let them..."

Eve let out a deep breath. Julian remembered some of what had just happened! That was a good sign. His pulse was also stronger now than it had been just a little bit ago. That, together with the color returning to his face, all pointed to the fact that he was starting to recover.

"Julian, honey, everything's going to be OK," she said, smoothing his hair with her hand. "I would never let anything happen to you. I love you so much." She bent down and kissed his cheek.

Julian reached his hand slowly up to his cheek. "I will get...shot more often...if I get...this kind...of treatment," he said, smiling weakly.

Eve laughed and wrapped her arms around Julian's neck, running her fingers through his hair. She knew then that the man she loved would be all right. She just hoped that he, like the rest of them, would be able to deal with the loss of Sheridan's baby.

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The next morning, Beth sat on the couch, holding Sheridan's baby on her lap. She was trying to give the infant a bottle, but the child would not take it. Nothing Beth did could make the baby stop crying.

Exacerbated, Beth threw the bottle down on the couch and sighed. "What am I going to do, Mother? Why isn't she eating?"

"Because she misses her mommy," Mrs. Wallace said, heading closer to the couch with her walker. "I told you this wouldn't work, Bethie! Didn't I? I knew God wouldn't allow this to happen! He is not making this easy for you, and I for one am glad!"

"Oh shut up, Mother," Beth fired back. "She's just getting used to me and the bottle, that's all. I knew I never should have let Sheridan nurse her. Oh well, she'll be all right. I'm just glad I decided to bring her up here so she could get used to me before I called Luis."

"Luis is going to know in an instant that that baby doesn't belong to you! Look at the way you are handling her. You don't know anything about babies."

"I do too," Beth retorted. "And anyway, a lot of first-time mothers have problems getting started with their newborns. That's why they have the baby's grandmother help out. Of course, that's probably too much to ask from you..."

"I'm not that baby's grandmother!" Mrs. Wallace exclaimed. "I'd pity the kid if I were, because that would mean you really would be her mother, which is pretty scary. Who knows what kind of spawn you would give birth to?"

Beth shot her mother an angry look and stood up, trying to hold the wailing baby comfortably in her arms. "Maybe if I just walk with her, things will be better," she said. She began pacing back and forth across the floor.

"Oh great, now you have the baby going with you on your little neurotic trips across the carpet," Mrs. Wallace blared.

Beth rolled her eyes and was preparing to retaliate verbally when the door suddenly opened and Charlie entered.

"Charlie, I'm so glad you're here!" Beth cried. "Do you know anything about babies?"

"Oh, I had a lot of experience with all my little cousins when I was growing up, and of course you see a lot of babies when you're in the medical profession. Why, what's wrong?" she asked, looking from Beth to Mrs. Wallace.

"What's wrong is the baby won't eat. She only took a little bit from the bottle last night. She's hardly slept. I was up half the night! I am at my wit's end here, Charlie. If I can't get this baby settled down, then the whole plan's going to fall through."

"OK, OK, let me have her," Charlie said, taking the baby from Beth. She held her in the crook of her arm and smiled at her, talking baby talk. Beth and Mrs. Wallace looked at each other in surprise. They were amazed at Charlie's maternal instincts.

Immediately, the infant calmed down in Charlie's arms. "Now, where's the bottle?" she asked. "I bet you anything she'll eat."

Beth retrieved the bottle and gave it to Charlie. Sure enough, the tiny girl began to take the formula.

Relieved, Beth smiled. Although she was somewhat jealous of Charlie's rapport with the infant, she was so grateful that Charlie was able to calm her down and feed her. "Can you show me how to do that?" Beth asked. "For when Luis comes?"

Charlie nodded and carefully returned the baby to Beth's arms. "Here, you have to hold her like this... That's right. And it's good if you can talk to her while you feed her."

Beth began talking to the baby. "Mommy's here," she said in the sweetest voice she could manage. "You will love your new mommy. And Daddy's coming soon. Yes, he is. I can't wait until he sees you!"

Mrs. Wallace rolled her eyes. "It's just going to be one big happy family!" she shouted, throwing her hands into the air.

"Temporary family," Charlie corrected. "Right, Bethie? You and I are really going to raise this little baby. I think we're doing a great job already." She patted the baby's head while Beth fed her.

"That picture's enough to have made Norman Rockwell give up painting," Mrs. Wallace muttered under her breath, looking at the two psychopaths cozying up to the infant. "Lord, what is this world coming to?"

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Luis picked up Sheridan's missing person file on his desk. Opening it up, he stared at the picture of Sheridan that was paper-clipped to the top of the stack of papers. "She is so beautiful," he thought, running his finger along the lovely face in the picture.

Luis's mind flashed back to when he had asked Sheridan to marry him in the gazebo. He had never seen her looking more beautiful than at that moment. It was such a magical time in their lives - the calm before the storm, you might say. And she had said yes! She had made him the happiest man in the world that day...

His mind then turned to their botched wedding. How beautiful Sheridan had looked walking down the aisle... Too bad Ivy had to go and mess everything up! But they had taken their honeymoon anyway. He remembered the last day he and Sheridan had truly been free to be together...such a wonderful time...and then the horrible boat explosion.

Shaking his head, Luis sighed. It had been two years since he and Sheridan had been together as a couple, other then some precious stolen moments; it seemed like a lifetime. Now, they were free to be together again, with Antonio out of the picture - but Sheridan was gone.

He thought of the baby they had created together - had it really been born, as he sensed? What was it - a boy or a girl? His mind drifted to a time in the future, where he was teaching a little boy to play baseball...and then onto another fantasy, where he was teaching a little girl how to dance, as she was standing on his feet. Luis laid his head in his hands. He couldn't help but get teary-eyed when he thought of his child...

"Luis, are you all right?" Sam asked, coming up behind him and placing his hand on his friend's shoulder.

"I'm OK, Sam," he replied, turning to look up at the police chief. "It's just hard, not knowing about the baby...and Sheridan... I want to find them so bad. My body aches just thinking about them."

"We'll find them, Luis," Sam said, trying to comfort the younger man. "We'll bring your family back to you."

Luis smiled. "You don't know how glad I am that you're on the case," he said.

Just then, another officer shouted from across the room, "Luis, you have a call on line two!"

Luis picked up the phone. "This is Officer Lopez-Fitzgerald," he said. "Beth? What's up?... What? You're kidding, right? ... You're serious?... When did it happen?... Is everything OK?... It's a girl? Really?... Beth, where are you now?... How far away?... You think you'll be there by seven?... OK, I'll see you then! Beth, I'm glad everything is OK with you...and the baby." Luis hung up the phone. He rubbed his hair, stunned.

"Luis, what was that about? Was it Beth? Did she have the baby?" Sam asked.

"Yes, she had a little girl," Luis replied, smiling in surprise. "It still doesn't seem real."

"Come on, I'll drive you over to the hospital," Sam offered.

"No, she's not there," Luis said. "She was spending a couple of days with her aunt in New Hampshire when it happened. She said she couldn't get through to me until now. I guess someone's driving her back right now, a friend of her aunt's. She should be in by seven this evening."

"Luis, when did all of this happen?" Sam asked.

"She said she had the baby two days ago," Luis replied. "That's odd...that she and Sheridan would both have their babies at the same time, especially when neither of them was due for another four weeks."

"That does seem strange," Sam admitted. "I guess it's just one of those things. So it's a girl, huh? That's great, Luis."

"Yeah," Luis said, smiling, "a little girl. I have a daughter."

"Congratulations!" Sam said. "This calls for a celebration. Come on over to my office; maybe I can find a cigar for the new dad in there."

Luis followed Sam. He felt numb all over. He couldn't believe that he was now likely the father of two babies, neither of whom he had yet seen. What he would have given for that to have been Sheridan on the phone, telling him about their baby. He shook his head sadly. "You may not be with me now, Sheridan, but you soon will be," he promised. "I'll have you and the baby here with me where you belong. I won't stop until I do."

Courtaney
6.11.07, 3:42 AM
Chapter 41 - "Mending Hearts"

"And just how are you feeling now?" Eve asked, checking on Julian. He was sitting up, leaning against the wall of the pit. A blanket still covered him. He looked tired and weak, but he was definitely on the mend.

"I think I will make it," he joked. "I guess I dodged another one. This time it was thanks to my beautiful physician."

"I don't think beauty had anything to do with it," Eve quipped. "It was skill that saved your life, Mr. Crane."

"Oh yeah?" he said, grabbing onto her arms and pulling her closer. "Maybe so, but it's your face I was fighting to stay here for."

"Only my face?" she said. "Wow...and to think I never believed that Helen of Troy stuff in the history books."

"Oh, the right face can change the course of history - completely alter the future," Julian declared. "Yours has certainly put me on a different path."

Eve smiled. "I can tell you are getting better. You are starting to turn up the charm. Remember, I am your doctor here..."

Julian laughed. "It's going to be awhile before this patient is ready for anything more than pretty faces unfortunately...but I'll let you know." He winked and released her arms.

Turning serious, Eve brought up the subject that neither had wanted to face - Sheridan and the baby. She felt he was strong enough for it now.

Sheridan was still sleeping on the cushion. Eve had spent the night and biggest part of the morning going back and forth between her and Julian - making sure they were both OK. She was thrilled that Julian had made a turn for the better, but knew Sheridan was not out of the woods yet emotionally.

"I failed her..." Julian said soberly, looking over at his sister. "I couldn't protect her child when she needed me to. I had hoped that I could do for her what I hadn't done for you, but I failed... I guess God is not through with my punishment."

"Julian, God didn't take the baby to punish you," Eve said, kneeling down beside of him. "And he didn't do it to hurt Sheridan. We don't know why some things happen - they just do. We have to make it through these situations the best we can."

"But I could have prevented it, if I had tried harder," Julian insisted. "Then Sheridan wouldn't have had to go through any of this." He hung his head in shame.

"Julian, listen to me," Eve said, placing her hand under his chin to lift his face up level with hers. "You tried your best. You took a bullet trying to prevent that kidnapping. You did everything you could to protect Sheridan's baby. She knows that. She won't blame you."

"I blame myself," he said, choking back tears. "I should have been there for you, Eve, when Father had our son kidnapped. You know I could have somehow kept that from happening. I am as guilty as he is in that whole sad affair..."

"Julian, Alistair was, and still is, so powerful. If you had been with me, he may have taken even more drastic steps to keep our family apart."

"I have thought of that," Julian said slowly. "I don't put murder past that evil bastard. I believe if anyone could kill an innocent baby, he could."

"Then let it go," Eve said. "Let the guilt go, Julian. If you don't, it will eat you up inside."

"I just should have been there for you, Eve," he continued, "to help you through the pain. You were all alone. I was off married to Ivy, jet setting around the globe, and you were going through the most horrible thing a woman can go through. How you can still look at me...much less love me, is beyond what I can comprehend."

"It's because you do feel this way that has allowed me to realize I still love you, Julian. I was able to release my love for you from that place deep inside me where it was locked up. The key to that place in my heart was learning how much you really loved me and our baby. Bit by bit, that key began slowly turning the lock, and there was nothing I could do to stop it."

Julian put his hand on Eve's shoulder. "I love you, but I don't deserve you."

"It's not about deserving," she said. "If only perfect people found love, our world would be a very sad and empty place. We have something great here..." She paused, suddenly realizing the effects that her rekindled relationship with Julian would have on her life.

"I've made you sad, brought you more trouble than good," Julian said. "Even now, look at how I have interfered in your life."

"Julian, you haven't interfered. I was, and am, a willing participant in this," she said, trying to think of the right words. "I don't regret our time together in the past or present. It has brought me some of the greatest joy in my life."

"And the greatest sadness..."

"Yes, I'm not denying that. But great sadness can only come as a result of great love. I love you, Julian...right or wrong, I do... It's something I can't change, and it's not something I want to hide anymore."

He reached out and grasped her hand. "I love you too, Eve. You make me feel...like I'm worth something. Nobody has ever made me feel that way."

"Oh, honey, you are worth so much to me - and to Sheridan. Don't think you're not worthy of our love. You wouldn't be capable of giving the kind of love you give to me and to your sister, if you were unworthy of love."

"I do love you so much it aches, Eve," Julian admitted. "And Sheridan, I just got her back in my life. We had come so far; then, this happened."

"She won't blame you, Julian. She'll know that you did all you could to prevent this from happening," Eve said, placing her other hand on top of his so that she sandwiched his hand between her two.

"I just feel like I let her down," he said. "To put her through what you went through - oh, God! I don't want to think of that."

"I don't either," Eve said. "It will be a nightmare for her. But Sheridan's strong, and she has us. She's going to need you, Julian, so much during this time. You have to be strong for her, OK?"

Julian nodded. "I know," he said. "I'll help her every way I can...until we get her baby back for her. And we will get her back."

"Now you're talking like the Julian I know and love," Eve said, letting go of his hands so she could balance herself as she leaned in to kiss him on the cheek.

Julian smiled. "I don't know what I did to deserve your love, but now that I have it, I'm going to cherish it."

Eve looked into his eyes and matched his smile. "Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve a man like you, who could love me as I really am."

"Exquisite is what you are," he said. Then he sighed. "We are quite a pair, aren't we? Neither one of us thinking we deserve to be loved. I know this, Eve, I will love you until the day I die."

"It's the same with me," she said, caressing his hand with her fingers. "You're my man, Julian, and you always will be...my knight, my rock, whatever you want to call it. You're mine, and I couldn't be happier." She leaned in and gave him another kiss, this time on the lips. "Now get some rest, Mr. Crane, or I will have to report you to the hospital administration."

"Yes, doctor," he said, smiling. Before he closed his eyes, he murmured, "I could also report you, good doctor, for harassing your patient."

She smiled good-naturedly and got up, leaving him to rest. It was time to check on her other patient...

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Several hours later, Sheridan opened her eyes. She lifted her head and looked around the pit for a moment, dazed. She reached over where the clothes basket had been and discovered that it had been moved. Sitting up, it suddenly hit her that her baby had been kidnapped. "Nooooo!" she screamed. "No, no, no!"

Eve ran to the cushion and sat down beside her. She put her arms around Sheridan and held her tight to make her feel safe. "My baby!" she cried. "They took her! They took my baby!"

"I know, sweetie," Eve said softly. "It's going to be all right. We'll get her back. You'll see."

"She's gone," Sheridan sobbed. "My little girl is gone..."

"Sheridan, look at me," Eve said, pulling away slightly so she could see Sheridan's face. "They're not going to hurt your baby, sweetie. I think they just wanted a baby of their own. Maybe it's someone who couldn't have a baby. I'm sure she's safe for now."

"They won't hurt her?" Sheridan asked. "What if they don't mean to, but they don't know anything about babies? What if she won't stop crying and they get angry? Eve, she's my baby girl... What if something happens to her?" She collapsed into Eve's arms, sobbing.

"There, there, it's going to be all right," Eve said soothingly. "We're going to get your baby back, dear. You won't have to go through..." She stopped, feeling her own pain return.

"I won't have to go through what you did?" Sheridan asked, lifting her head off of Eve's shoulder and wiping the tears from her eyes.

"I wasn't sure you knew about that," Eve said quietly. "I knew you were aware of some things..."

"I kind of put two and two together, here in the pit," Sheridan revealed, choking back her tears. "Julian told me some things about a woman from his past that he was still in love with. When you came, it was so obvious that that person was you."

"So you know about our baby," Eve said softly.

"Yes, Eve, that's such a tragic story. I'm so sorry you had to go through that."

"It was the worst time in my life," Eve admitted. "It's almost too painful to think about. But Julian has people looking for our son, and with any luck, we'll find him soon."

"That's wonderful," Sheridan said. "I hope you do." She hung her head down and began to sob. "I just can't go through that, Eve. I can't. I'm not strong like you." She started crying loudly.

Eve gently put her hands on Sheridan's shoulders and looked into her eyes. "Sheridan, listen, you are very strong. Look at all you have been through these past few years. You have persevered through things that most people never have to deal with. I don't know how you managed, but you did. You were completely alone in this pit for two weeks before Julian got here. Most people would have given up long before that, but not you."

Sheridan nodded. "I just had faith," she whispered.

"And faith is all that is necessary to get you through this too, Sheridan. Your faith in God is strong. I know that. He got you through your labor safely and allowed you to have a healthy baby. I don't think He would do that just to take her from you. You'll get her back - you'll see."

"I...hope...so," Sheridan sobbed, wiping her eyes once more.

"And there's Luis," Eve said. "You know how much he loves you, right? And he is such a fighter. He never gives up. Sheridan, he won't give up here until he finds you and your baby. You know that, don't you?"

"Luis is terrific," Sheridan said, smiling. "He sure doesn't give up. You're right about that. I don't know how many times I told him he should just walk away from me in the last year, but he never did."

"He loves you too much to give up on you, sweetie...in love and in this."

"He is tenacious," Sheridan said fondly. "He's so persistent. That's what attracted me to him in the first place - his stubbornness. It got to me, you could say." She smiled, remembering the tense early days of their relationship.

"You see there? Luis is stubborn," Eve said. "He'll never give up until he finds us."

"I think you're right," Sheridan said. "He'll find our baby and protect her. He would never let anything happen to her."

"Not in a million years," Eve said. She and Sheridan hugged.

Sheridan pulled back finally and asked, "Where's Julian?"

"He's sleeping over there," Eve motioned. "Sheridan, do you remember what happened with Julian?"

"I just remember him trying to shield us, to keep us safe," she said.

"He did," Eve said. "At one point he tried to step in front of me. The gun went off. We hit the ground. Neither one of us was hurt, but Julian whispered for me not to move. I think he wanted it to look like we were dead. It worked, because one of the kidnappers came down here to get the baby. That's when Julian tried to fight her off, and the other one shot him."

"Shot him!! Julian was shot?!" Sheridan cried. "Is he going to be OK?"

"He's going to be just fine," Eve said, reassuring her. "He was hit in the arm and lost some blood, but I got it stopped in time. He's kind of weak, but he'll be all right."

"Did you get the bullet out?" Sheridan asked.

"No, I don't think it's a major concern right now. When we get him to the hospital, the bullet can be dealt with. It can wait."

"I can't believe my own brother was shot, and I didn't know anything about it..." Sheridan said.

"Sweetie, there is only so much a mind can take. I think yours tried to block out what it could last night, to help you cope with what had happened." Eve grasped Sheridan's hand in hers. "Julian's going to be all right, and we're going to get your little girl back."

Sheridan smiled. "I can't lose faith when I'm around you, Eve. You've been through so much yourself, and if you can keep your faith, so can I." The two women hugged once more, and then Sheridan got up to check on her brother.

"He's been such a hero to me down here," Sheridan said, leaning over Julian and fingering his hair.

"To me too," Eve said, coming up behind her. "I'll never forget how Julian saved your life and mine."

"It's unbelievable how he has changed," Sheridan remarked, sitting down beside her sleeping brother. "Or maybe it's just that I didn't really know the good side of Julian."

"There is so much good in him," Eve said lovingly. "He just doesn't let a whole lot of people in to see it."

"I, for one, am glad he let me in," Sheridan said. "He's one incredible guy."

"That he is," Eve agreed. "One incredible guy..."

Courtaney
6.12.07, 4:04 AM
Chapter 42 - "Luis Arrives"

Julian opened his eyes and saw Eve standing in front of him. He smiled. Then, feeling someone beside him, he turned and saw Sheridan sitting with her back against the wall of the pit. Julian leaned toward his sister and greeted her. "Sheridan, how is it going?" he asked gently, the concern evident in his voice.

"I'm OK," she said, reaching out to grasp his hand. "I'm just trying to make it through this."

"If you need anything, Sheridan, don't hesitate to ask," he said softly.

"The main thing I need from you is for you to get better," she said. "I love you, Julian. I don't want you putting yourself in danger again, OK?"

"Ah, it's just a little bullet wound," he said, brushing off the seriousness of his injury. "The good doctor here patched me up quite nicely."

"Yes, and I want you to stay that way," Eve laughed. "Sheridan is right. Your heroics are done for this adventure, I think."

"Not on your life," Julian countered. "There is still fight left in this old dog."

"Yeah, well right now, 'this old dog' needs to rest so that his arm can heal," Eve said, stepping in closer. "Julian, you're slowly falling apart - first your ribs, now your arm..."

"As long as my heart is still intact, I'll be fine," Julian said, smiling at Eve.

She returned his smile. "I guess I can't argue with you. You always have the perfect comeback."

"There, you see?" he said, turning to Sheridan. "It has taken Eve what - twenty years or so? - to learn that you can't win an argument with Julian Crane. You should remember that too, dear."

"Oh, maybe one of us is no match for the great Julian Crane, but together, I think Eve and I will win every time," Sheridan laughed. "Eve's right, you know. You do need your rest."

"All right, all right, I know when to give up," Julian said, feigning defeat. "Just remember, Sheridan, if you need anything, even if it's just to talk, I'm right here."

"Thanks, Julian," Sheridan said warmly. "Both you and Eve have been so wonderful to me. I'll never forget your kindness." She squeezed his hand and then let it go as she stood up. Sheridan walked over to the other side of the pit to get a drink.

Eve walked over to Julian and knelt down in front of him. "You were so good with her," she whispered, placing her hand on his arm. "She's lucky to have a big brother like you."

Julian took Eve's hand in his. "How is she really doing?" he asked softly.

"I think as well as can be expected," Eve admitted. "She has a tough road ahead of her, but with a lot of love and support, she'll make it through."

"I've just got to get that baby back for her," Julian said in a hushed voice. "If it's the last thing I do..."

"Sheridan will get her baby back," Eve said. "I have faith. But I don't want to hear you talk that way, Julian. I've almost lost you twice already. I can't take a third time." Tears welled up in her eyes.

"I'm sorry, darling," he said, reaching up to touch her cheek. "I never meant to hurt you. I just want to protect my sister...to make sure she doesn't have to go through what you went through."

"She won't," Eve declared softly. "I just know everything's going to be OK. But right now, I need you to rest. That's how you can help us out - by getting stronger. All right?"

"Yes, doctor," Julian said, grinning, "I suppose I am outnumbered here."

"That's exactly right," she said, letting go of his hand as she stood back up. She ran her fingers through his hair. "Looks like someone could use a nice shampoo about now," she joked. "I think we all could use a hot bath."

"What I wouldn't give to be taking a hot bath with you right now," Julian revealed.

Eve sighed and playfully tapped him on the head. "You're supposed to be thinking about getting better, not that..."

"But what other reason is there to get better?" he quipped. Then he nodded his head. "All right, good doctor, I'll sit here and rest if you look out for my little sister over there."

"It's a deal," Eve said, starting to turn. She stopped and looked back at Julian. "Sheridan's strong like her brother," she told him.

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Beth paced back and forth across the floor. "It's six-thirty. Luis should be coming soon." She smiled nervously.

"Oh, Bethie, I wouldn't be getting my hopes up too high," Mrs. Wallace cautioned. "I think that's when all hell's going to break loose."

"Oh, Mother, you're just jealous," Beth retorted.

"Jealous? What is there for me to be jealous of?" she asked, letting go of her walker and putting her hands up in the air.

"You're just jealous that I have a guy like Luis and you have no one," Beth replied smugly.

"Yeah, you really have Luis," Mrs. Wallace said, shaking her head. "He's only coming here to see the baby - which is really his and Sheridan's baby."

"Not anymore," Beth said. "She's my baby now. I'm her mommy."

"Oh, and that's why Charlie's over there taking care of her right now?" Mrs. Wallace asked, pointing to the couch, where Charlie was feeding the newborn and cooing at her.

"Well, Charlie's just better with her right now," Beth said. "But I'm learning. Charlie, maybe you should give the baby to me...I need to practice a bit more before Luis gets here."

"OK," Charlie said. She stood up and brought the infant over to Beth. "Here you go, Bethie. I had better be getting down to the basement anyway so I can keep an eye on our friends down there. We wouldn't want them to scream out while Luis is up here."

"Good idea," Beth said. "Then when he leaves, we can take care of the three of them...after I have my final revenge against Sheridan."

Mrs. Wallace shuddered and put her hands together as if she were praying.

"You're still going to rub it in that you and Luis will be raising her baby together?" Charlie asked, grinning.

"Oh yeah," Beth said. "I'm so looking forward to seeing her face when I tell her that." She looked down and smiled at the baby. "That will be the icing on the cake."

"You go, girl," Charlie said, winking at Beth. "It's a great story, even if it is a lie." She headed for the basement stairs.

When she was out of sight, Mrs. Wallace turned to Beth. "There's one little thing you forgot, Bethie. What about your dear friend Charlie? What is going to happen when she finds out you want more from Luis than a few weeks of revenge?"

"Well, see, I've been thinking about that," Beth said, pausing to bite her lip. "I think I'll send Charlie out of town - way far away - to start looking for a house for us...so we can get started on a new life together. While she's gone, I should be able to talk Luis into moving away somewhere with me and the baby. We'll be gone before Charlie gets back." She smiled at her plan.

"You're delusional, Bethie, if you think that Luis is going to just pick up and leave town with you, especially when Sheridan is missing."

"But see, that's why he should go - to get away from all the stress of Sheridan's disappearance. It's just not good for the baby." She bent down and kissed the infant in her arms. "Mommy's here now, sweetie. You like your new mommy, don't you?"

Beth smiled. "Look, Mother! She fell asleep in my arms." She walked over and put the baby down in the bassinet that was sitting by the couch. "There you go, baby, you take a nap. Daddy will be here soon."

Mrs. Wallace rolled her eyes at the scene. "Of all the daughters in the world," she mumbled, "why did I have to get stuck with a lunatic?"

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Luis stepped up to the Wallace front door and took a deep breath. He looked at his watch. It was a few minutes past seven. He couldn't believe that he really was a father now to a baby other than Sheridan's - or that he would soon see the child he created with Beth on the night he couldn't remember anything about...

He nervously knocked on the door. Beth flung it open and hugged him. "Oh, Luis!" she cried excitedly. "You're here!" She pulled him into the house. Her eyes scanned the man of her obsession. "I love the uniform!" she exclaimed. "That will look perfect in your first pictures with our daughter!"

Luis smiled nervously. "Hello, Mrs. Wallace," he said, nodding to Beth's mother. Then he turned to Beth and asked, "So where is this little Rugrat?"

"Oh, Luis, I have the perfect name for her," Beth said, grabbing hold of his arm and pulling him toward the bassinet. She stopped for a second and took hold of his other arm as well. "What do you think about...Wallace Louise Lopez-Fitzgerald?"

Mrs. Wallace let out a chuckle. "Sorry, don't mind me!" she called, covering her mouth with her hand. She could barely contain her laughter.

"Wallace...Louise...?" Luis asked. "I guess that would be...interesting."

"Well, see, Wallace is for me, of course. But if you remember, Wallis Simpson was the lady the King of England gave up his throne for a long time ago. Wouldn't that be a great name for our baby? She could grow up to be just like her someday, someone who is loved so much...and Louise, well that's after you. And of course, our baby will have your last name. So what do you think?"

"I think we should talk about it after I see the baby," Luis said, pushing past Beth. He headed straight for the bassinet. Bending down, he took a good look at his precious child...

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Charlie had the rifle pointed at the captives in the pit. As always, she was wearing her clown mask. "So, have you enjoyed your little stay in our comfortable pit?" she bellowed. "I hope so, because your visit will soon come to an end here." She laughed wickedly, remembering a line from the Eagles' hit "Hotel California." "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave! HA HA HA HA!"

Chills ran down Eve's spine as she heard those words. She backed up closer to Sheridan, who was standing in the center of the pit, staring at Charlie. "My baby!" the younger woman suddenly cried. "You give me back my baby, you witch!"

Charlie snickered as Eve reached for Sheridan's arm to try to comfort her. "It's OK, Sheridan," she whispered. "Come on over here." She led her over to where Julian was sitting.

He was eyeing Charlie and appeared to be lost in thought. Eve noticed the strange look on his face as she sat down on one side of him, while Sheridan sat down on the other. "What's wrong, Julian?" she asked softly.

"Nothing," he whispered. "I was just thinking about the drug you gave Sheridan."

"The sedative?" she asked. "Why?"

"Maybe there's a way we could get that big oaf down here again, and you could stick a needle in her, along with some of that medicine. It would knock her out."

"I like your idea," Eve said. "It could work. I think I'll go get a syringe ready...but Julian, how are you going to get her down here?"

"I'm still trying to figure that one out," he said quietly.

"What's going on down there?" Charlie roared. "What's with all the whispering?"

"Nothing," Eve said. "His arm is hurting from where you shot him. Do you mind if I go get some medicine for him?"

Charlie lowered her rifle. "Go ahead. I just wish my friend had been a little more accurate in her aim. Then I would only have to waste two bullets tonight."

Eve headed over to where her medical bag was lying near Sheridan's cushion, trying to focus on the task at hand rather than what her kidnapper had just said. It wasn't easy. She knew she had to be strong for the others, who were counting on her.

Sheridan shuddered at Charlie's words and huddled closer to Julian. He reached up and caressed her soft hair. "It's OK, Sheridan, just ignore her," he whispered. "We're going to take care of her soon, and get you out to see your baby."

"I hope you're right," Sheridan sighed. "I want that more than anything." She laid her head down on Julian's shoulder.

Eve walked back over and knelt down beside Julian. She lifted up his arm and put an antiseptic on it while Charlie watched from above. Then she pretended to give Julian an injection. He feigned a grimace, and she slipped the syringe into her pocket. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" she asked loudly.

Charlie laughed evilly. "If you're scared to get a little shot, wait till you see what I have in store for ya!"

Julian nodded to Eve, letting her know he was going to try something. He called up to Charlie. "Uh, miss, I just wanted to have a little business chat with you. You do know who I am, right? Julian Crane, one of the wealthiest men in the world? Maybe you could come down and talk business with me for a minute...to see how I could make your life better." He pulled his wallet out of his back pocket.

Charlie looked at him, confused. "I can't be bought," she said. "You tried that before, remember?"

"Yes, I do," he said. "But that was when your boss was here with you. I thought maybe since you are here alone, you could use that smart head on your shoulders and think for yourself. What she doesn't know won't hurt her."

He opened up his wallet and removed a card. "I have here a number for a Swiss bank account. It is totally untraceable. It has millions in it."

Charlie took a deep breath. Julian could tell she was considering his offer. "Why don't you just come down and see what's written on this card?" he asked enticingly.

Looking around slowly, Charlie said, "I bet it's a trick. I'm staying right here."

"Bring your rifle with you if it makes you feel safe," Julian said. "Just put that rope ladder over the side and come on down."

"Nah, you're too eager," she said. "I bet something's up." She looked like she was deep in thought for a moment. "What were you planning - to jump me once I got down there? I can see it in your eyes...this was all a trick to escape." She aimed her rifle at Julian and cocked it back. "I'll show you what I think of your plan, Mr. Rich!"

"Noooooo!" Sheridan and Eve chorused.

"Hee hee hee...I had you going there for a second, didn't I?" Charlie cackled. "Well, you'll feel the effects of this rifle again soon enough. For now though, I'm just going to check on things upstairs." Charlie released the trigger of the rifle and laid it down at the edge of the pit and walked away.

Eve turned toward Julian. "You tried, honey," she said, reaching up to touch his face. "I thought she almost bought your story."

"We would have had a hell of a fight down here, but I think we could have taken her with the help of that little syringe," he said sadly.

Sheridan got up and walked over to the center of the pit. She knelt down and began to pray.

Eve grasped Julian's hand. "I want you to know that I'm proud of you and that I love you," she said softly. Tears began to form in her eyes. "I don't know what would have happened if we would have made it outside tonight, but I do know that I would have wanted to be with you."

"And I with you," he said, bringing her hand up to his lips for a kiss. "I love you, Eve."

"I love you, Julian," she said, burying her head in his chest.

Julian put his arms around her and rubbed his fingers through her silky hair. "What I wouldn't give for another chance with you," he stated. "I would make it right this time."

"I know you would," Eve said, lifting her head from his chest and looking into his eyes.

In the middle of the pit, Sheridan finished saying her prayer. She kept her head bowed and began sobbing. She didn't hear the footsteps walking across the basement floor.

Julian and Eve did. Eve gasped when she looked up at the opening of the pit. Julian stared, dumbfounded.

Slowly, Sheridan lifted her head up and focused her eyes on the face staring at her from above. She couldn't believe her eyes. "Luis!!!!" she cried, a look of shock appearing on her face, replaced almost immediately by a huge smile.

"Sheridan...sweetheart," he gushed, leaning over the pit. "I'm so glad I found you!" He fell to his knees and gave thanks.

Courtaney
6.13.07, 3:26 AM
Chapter 43 - "The Rescue"

"Luis!!!!" Sheridan cried out from the floor of the pit. "Is that really you?" She could not believe her eyes - that after she had nearly given up hope, here he was - the love of her life had found her!

"Yes," Luis said, returning to his feet and looking down at her. "It's me, Sheridan. I can't believe I have found you...and you're OK!" Tears of joy formed in his eyes. He smiled as he wiped them away so that he could see the woman he loved more clearly.

"How did you find us?" Sheridan asked, everything still not sinking in. It seemed too good to be true to the woman who had been through so much.

"I'll explain all of that real soon. First, I have to find a way to get you guys out of there..." He began scanning the basement with his eyes.

"There's a rope ladder up there somewhere!" Julian called, finally getting his voice back after the shock of seeing Luis. He and Eve looked at each other. She smiled broadly and hugged him, careful not to hurt his injured arm.

"I can't believe it's really Luis. We're safe!" Eve exclaimed.

Julian pulled back and looked into her eyes. "Thank God you are going to get out of here..."

"We are going to get out, Julian," she corrected him. "You aren't staying down here, you know." She smiled.

"A part of me wishes I could stay," he revealed, "with you."

"Oh, Julian," she cried, realizing what made him say that. "It's going to be a rough road ahead...but remember one thing: I love you." She hugged him again.

"I love you too, Eve," he said softly, running his hands along her back.

"I found it!" Luis called from above. He quickly attached the rope ladder to a pole and flung it over the side of the pit. In two seconds flat, he had shimmied down the ladder and run into the waiting arms of the woman he loved.

"Oh, Sheridan," he sobbed, lifting her off the ground and spinning her around. "I thought I would never see you again." Luis let her down and looked into her eyes. Then he slowly leaned in and kissed her. Her lips eagerly welcomed his. She soon parted them and their tongues met in the most passionate kiss the two had shared since they were in Bermuda.

After the kiss, the young couple embraced warmly. Sheridan slowly lifted her head from his shoulder and stepped back a bit so she could see him. "You look so wonderful," she said, fighting back her tears.

"So do you, sweetheart," he said, putting his hand under her chin. "You don't know how I've missed you."

"Oh, I think I do." She smiled. "And if it's half as much as I've missed you, then it's enough to last a lifetime. Never again am I letting you out of my sight..." She stopped, remembering then what else she had to tell him. "Luis, the baby..."

"Yes, I know," he said softly. "She's upstairs, and she's just fine."

Sheridan let out a squeal of joy. "Oh my goodness! She's fine?! You've seen her?!"

"Yes, sweetheart, and she's wonderful. She's sleeping upstairs as we speak."

"I...I want to go see her - now!" Sheridan cried.

"I know you do, Sheridan, and you will," Luis said gently. "There are just some things I think I need to tell you first." He looked around at the others.

Eve stood up and helped Julian get up off the floor. The two walked over to where Sheridan and Luis were standing.

"Luis, thank God you found us," Eve cried happily. She reached up and touched his arm.

"Yes...we're very grateful," Julian said, hesitating a bit because he knew how Luis felt about him.

"I'm so glad you're safe too, Dr. Russell," Luis said, hardly giving Julian a glance. He looked once more at Sheridan, gave her a big smile and hug, and then stepped back, keeping one of her hands in his.

"I guess I should explain where we are first, so it's not a shock to all of you when we go upstairs."

"You mean I know this place?" Sheridan asked, wide-eyed. "Where are we, Luis?"

Luis took a deep breath. "Beth's," he said simply.

"Beth's! But how..." Sheridan looked puzzled. "Why would we be at Beth's?"

"You mean Beth Wallace was behind this whole thing?" Eve asked in surprise.

"Beth Wallace? The Book Café owner? Luis's ex?" Julian asked. "I wondered about her in the beginning...the whole 'woman scorned' thing."

"Well, it seems Beth isn't playing with a full deck," Luis admitted. "I never caught on. She had me fooled."

"I can't believe Beth..." Sheridan said, shaking her head. "I thought she was my friend."

"She obviously only pretended to be your friend, Sheridan," Luis said. "This whole time she was after me."

"And I thought I was the only one with crazy women from the past coming back to haunt me," Julian said, rubbing his neck.

"What crazy women?" Eve asked, giving him a funny look.

"Not you, dear," Julian whispered. "I was speaking of others from my past."

"Oh," Eve said, still wondering who Julian was talking about.

Luis looked from Julian to Eve with a puzzled look on his face. He shook his head, realizing he didn't even want to ask, and turned his attention back to Sheridan.

"Sheridan, honey, Beth is sick," Luis revealed. "Maybe she always has been, or maybe something just made her snap; I don't know. But what I found out tonight leads me to believe she is not in her right mind."

"Because she kidnapped us and held us in this pit?" Sheridan asked.

"Yes, and because she took our baby," Luis answered. "Beth wasn't really pregnant, Sheridan. It was all an act to try to hold onto me, I guess. She wanted to pass our baby off as hers."

"How horrible!" Sheridan exclaimed. "And she was going to kill us! That's what the other one - the big one - said."

"I can't believe it," Luis said, shaking his head. "Beth was such a sweet girl."

"I always said, 'Be careful with whom you sleep. It may come back to haunt you,' " Julian admitted.

"Yeah, you would know, Crane," Luis said, scowling. "I'm still wondering how you got mixed up in all this - especially since it was Beth who was behind it. What on earth did she want with you?"

"Julian came here to rescue me," Sheridan revealed.

Luis looked at her incredulously.

"It's true. He got hit over the head and knocked into the pit by that brute friend of Beth's. If it weren't for him, Luis, I wouldn't even be here." She went on to tell him how Julian had been hurt trying to escape, how he had worked to save her and the baby, and how he had been shot trying to protect their child.

Luis's mouth was wide open in surprise. "I never would have believed it..." he said, stunned.

"It's true," Eve said. "If Julian hadn't talked the kidnappers into getting me, both Sheridan and the baby would have died."

"I guess I owe you an apology and my sincere thanks," Luis said, offering his hand to Julian.

Julian firmly shook hands with Luis and smiled. "I would do anything for Sheridan," he confessed.

Luis frowned, remembering all the bad things he knew Julian had taken part in that had affected their lives.

Seeing Luis's look, Sheridan patted him gently on the back. "Julian and I have mended fences," she revealed. "There are no more secrets between us. Let's just say I know Julian's heart now, and find it very similar to my own."

Luis took a deep breath and shook his head slowly, considering what Sheridan had just said. "I guess you went through a lot down here - all of you. Sometimes these kinds of crises bring people closer - even enemies," he said, looking at Julian and Eve. Something seemed up with those two. He thought they couldn't stand each other, but now there seemed to be some sort of intimacy between the two of them. Nah, maybe he was just imagining things, he thought.

"Luis, can I go see my little girl now?" Sheridan asked excitedly.

"Sure, darling," he said. "I just wanted you to be prepared first with who else you're going to see upstairs."

"Is Beth still up there?" Sheridan asked fearfully.

"Yes, but don't worry," he said. "I have her handcuffed to the table. She's not going anywhere."

"And the big one with the rifle?" Sheridan asked. "Luis, she's dangerous."

"I took care of her too," he said. "I had to use my club on her though, right at the top of the stairs. She's out cold, but I put my other set of handcuffs on her, just in case. Back-up should be here anytime." He looked at the trio of captives. "Anyone for getting out of here?" he asked, smiling.

Luis watched as first Sheridan and then Eve safely made their way up the ladder. Eve turned and called down, "Julian's going to need help!"

Luis nodded and said to Julian, "I'll follow you up. Take it slow."

Using his good arm, Julian slowly eased his way up the ladder. His ribs were killing him, but he was able to grin and bear it. He simply thought of all the good things awaiting him above - mainly Eve.

Eve reached down and helped Julian up over the edge. The two hugged on the basement floor after he had made it safely up.

Luis pulled himself up next and eyed the intimate embrace. He looked at Sheridan questioningly.

She smiled and shook her head as if to say, "Not now." Sheridan ran over to hug Luis again. "I hated leaving you out of my sight...even just for a moment!" she said.

He laughed. "It is I who is never going to leave your side again."

"Let's go get the baby!" Sheridan said, pulling Luis up the stairs after her.

Julian and Eve scrambled to their feet and headed after them. "Are you OK?" Eve asked, noticing he was in pain.

"I'm fine," he said, squeezing her hand as they headed upstairs.

The main floor of the house was now swarming with police officers. Sheridan looked all over the living room, desperation on her face. "Is this what you're looking for?" Hank asked, lifting the baby up out of the bassinet.

"Oh, Hank," Sheridan cried, running to her infant. She took the baby from him and held her tightly in her arms. "My little angel," she said. "Mommy's here for you." She lowered her head and kissed her daughter.

Luis came up behind Sheridan and put his arm around her. "She's beautiful, isn't she?" he said, the love he felt for his daughter so evident in his voice.

"She's the most beautiful baby in the world," Sheridan declared. "And the most loved."

"She's ours," Luis said, rubbing his hand along Sheridan's back.

"I know, I have just felt that she is ours," Sheridan said, smiling at the baby.

"No, I mean she really is ours. I know for sure," Luis said.

Sheridan turned and looked at him in surprise. "How do you...?"

Luis explained the whole Antonio situation to Sheridan. She was shocked, then saddened at her husband's cruelty, and finally relieved. Most of all, she was thrilled. "I knew it, Luis! I knew she was ours!" She kissed the baby again and said, "Now we are totally free to be together!"

Luis reached down and touched his daughter's face with his hand. "Our baby..." he said softly.

Julian and Eve smiled at the touching scene across the room. "Looks like everything has worked out for the two of them," he whispered.

"Yes," she agreed. "You can't keep true love down." She turned to look at Julian, grasping both of his hands in hers.

He smiled at her, knowing the unspoken words she was communicating. Looking around at the officers, Julian reluctantly dropped her hands, knowing that all too soon someone else who knew them may come through that door.

Eve realized that they were back in the real world now, and she would have some big decisions to make. She knew soon she would have to tell TC the truth. She wanted no more part of the lies she was living. Life was too short to pretend to be someone you're not. Eve wanted to be true to herself the rest of her life. She would need to gather all of her strength to do what was necessary to make that happen. She smiled again at Julian. Somehow, someway, she would see that he was part of her life. She wasn't about to lose him again...

Courtaney
6.14.07, 1:28 AM
Chapter 44 - "Busted"

Luis leaned over and gave his baby daughter a kiss. She was safe in Sheridan's arms, where she belonged. He couldn't believe he had his beloved Sheridan back, along with their child. That night, he knew, was the beginning of the rest of their lives.

They were still at Beth's house, where the touching reunion between mother and baby had taken place.

Julian and Eve headed over to where the new family had gathered. "I am so thrilled you have your baby back, Sheridan," Eve said, smiling.

"Yes, it's wonderful," Julian agreed, looking down at the infant. "You can tell she's happy to see you too." He reached in and tickled her chin.

Sheridan smiled. "I know. I love her so much. This is like a dream come true. Thank you guys, both of you, for making this happen."

"And Luis, my goodness, we would still be in that pit if it weren't for you," Eve said warmly. "You saved all of our lives tonight."

"That he did," Julian said. He looked at Luis intently. "Just how did you figure out we were down there?"

"Yes, how?" Sheridan asked, looking over her shoulder at Luis.

"We can thank this sweet little baby for that," Luis answered, a big smile on his face.

"I don't understand..." Sheridan began, looking from Luis to Julian and Eve.

"Well, let's just say her face gave it away," he said, reaching in to caress the baby's cheek.

"You mean you recognized her? You knew she was ours?" Sheridan asked, shocked.

Luis nodded. "Beth called me earlier in the day and told me she had had the baby." He went on to tell them about the details of the phone call. "So she told me to come over here at seven to see her."

"And that's when you just knew she was Sheridan's?" Eve asked.

"Oh, yes," Luis said. "I just knew - she looked so much like Sheridan when I saw her. They have the same shape face, nose, and mouth. Sheridan's face is so etched in my brain - and when I leaned over that bassinet, that's what I saw - Sheridan! At first I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, but the more I thought about it, the more it all seemed to fit - Beth being due at the same time as Sheridan, not wanting to see a doctor, having the baby out of town...and on the same day I knew that Sheridan's and my baby was born."

"How did you know that I had had our baby?" Sheridan asked incredulously.

Luis explained the dream he had had three nights before.

"That's when she was born!" Sheridan exclaimed. "Oh my goodness!"

Eve smiled. "What a connection the two of you have!" she said.

"The three of us now," Luis corrected.

"But what happened after you realized she was Sheridan's baby?" Julian asked. "Did you get Beth to talk?"

"Oh, she tried to deny it, to worm her way out of everything, but I saw through her lies for the first time," he answered. "It was actually Mrs. Wallace who cracked first, when I started turning up the heat."

"Mrs. Wallace knew?" Sheridan cried. "That sweet old lady?"

"Yeah, she knew," Luis said. "She said Beth had been threatening to send her to some rat-infested nursing home if she talked. I get the picture she wanted to turn her daughter in all along, but she was just too scared."

"That poor old woman," Sheridan said.

"What kind of daughter could do that to her mother?" Eve asked.

"The loony kind, I guess," Julian offered.

Just then, the kitchen door opened and two officers stepped through. One was leading Beth, in handcuffs, while the second was following Mrs. Wallace as she slowly moved across the floor with her walker.

Sheridan placed the baby in Eve's arms. She marched across the room to where the officer was escorting Beth. He stopped. Beth looked down at the floor to avoid Sheridan's eyes.

"You bitch!!!" Sheridan cried, slapping Beth across the face with all her might. Beth flinched and put her hand on her cheek, rubbing the spot Sheridan had hit.

Luis ran over to pull Sheridan back. "It's OK, Tom," he said to the officer. The policeman nodded at Luis.

"You're going to let her get away with that?" Beth asked angrily. "What a jerk you really are!" She spat at Luis.

"Get her out of here, Tom!" Luis ordered. To Beth, he said, "I don't know what I ever saw in you."

"Oh, Bethie, I told you that you would pay!" Mrs. Wallace cried. "God won out in the end, didn't he? He always does!"

"Shut up, Mother!" Beth yelled.

At that very moment, a third officer entered the living room through the hallway, helping a dazed, handcuffed Charlie make her way toward the door.

"That must be the one who was tormenting us all that time!" Sheridan cried. "Hey, I've seen her before! She's the woman who attacked me a long time ago on the wharf! Who is she? How does Beth know her?"

"Oh, she and Bethie are goooood friends," explained Mrs. Wallace, winking. She turned to Charlie. "You know Beth just used you all this time, don't you?"

Charlie scowled. "I always hated blondes and everything they stood for. Now I hate brunettes too." She glared at Beth. "I hear you tried to sell me up the river; you blamed this all on me, huh, Beth? You just wait until I see you in prison!" She roared with laughter.

Beth shivered and looked away.

"Come on," Tom said, leading her toward the door. Beth glanced over her shoulder one last time at Luis, and then headed on out.

As Charlie was about to be escorted out, Eve quickly but carefully handed the baby to Julian and approached the brutal kidnapper. "I should slap you too for what you did to them in that pit. You shot Julian and took poor Sheridan's baby. I hope they throw the book at you!"

Charlie grinned. "Trying to protect that boyfriend of yours? Well, he looks no worse for wear than he did before. Of course, that's not saying much." She cackled loudly.

"You're disgusting!" Eve shouted. She backed off when she felt Julian's hand on her shoulder.

Charlie was led out the doorway, and Mrs. Wallace soon followed. She paused before she went all the way out. "I want you to know I'm glad you're all OK," she said. "My Bethie is one sick girl. I'm glad none of you were hurt too badly." She lowered her head.

"Thanks, Mrs. Wallace," Eve said.

As the elderly woman was helped through the door, Sheridan turned to Luis. "What's going to happen to her?" she asked.

"They'll question her, but I doubt if charges will be brought against her," Luis replied. "She'll probably end up being placed in a nursing home, hopefully a better one than Beth threatened her with."

Sheridan nodded. "I do feel sorry for her." She walked over to where Julian was holding the baby. "You are great with her," she said, smiling. "But Julian, you're going to hurt that arm of yours holding her like that. Here, let me take her."

"It's OK, really," Julian said, handing the infant to Sheridan. "I'll be fine."

"I had them call an ambulance for you," Luis told him.

"I don't need an ambulance!" Julian protested.

"It's best," Eve said. "It's procedure for gunshot wounds."

"I will be driving you and this little one to the hospital in my cruiser," Luis said, speaking to Sheridan. "They're supposed to be bringing me a car seat."

The group headed out the door to wait on the ambulance and infant seat.

Eve pulled Julian aside on the sidewalk. "I just wanted to tell you one more time that I love you. Remember that," she said, squeezing his hand in hers.

Julian smiled. "That is something I will never forget," he said, his eyes shining.
"So are you ready for what's in store for us?" he asked.

"Ready as I'll ever be," she replied, pulling him in for a hug.

At that moment, an ambulance pulled up to the curb. Eve walked Julian over to it. The emergency personnel got out and began preparing him for transport.

Just then, a car came screeching up and parked near Beth's house. Sam jumped out of the driver's side; and from the passenger's side - TC! He ran over to where Eve was standing near the ambulance. "Eve, baby!" he cried, scooping her up in his arms. "I'm so glad you're safe!"

She smiled uneasily, knowing that Julian was watching the scene. "TC, it's good to see you," she said.

"Is that all the greeting I get after you've been away from me for three days?" he asked, pulling her in for another hug. He finally released her.

Eve patted her husband's arm. "I am just...tired," she said. "It's been a long three days. A lot has happened, TC."

"I know, but we'll have plenty of time to catch up," he said, wrapping his arms around her once more. "And when I get my hands on that scum Julian Crane... I heard he was the reason you were kidnapped. Where is that bastard?!" TC let go of Eve and began scanning the crowd that had gathered outside the house.

"TC, Julian didn't do anything wrong," Eve said, trying to calm her enraged husband. "I was glad to be there to save Sheridan and the baby. If I hadn't been, they would have died."

"Yeah, well, I still don't like the way he thinks he can play God with my family," TC blared. "He thinks he can put his needs and his family's needs above everyone else's. You could have been killed!"

"I don't think Julian has put his needs over the needs of others for a long time," Eve said slowly. "A very long time..." She turned and looked at Julian. The paramedics had strapped him onto the stretcher.

TC followed Eve's glance. "There you are, Crane!" he roared, moving toward the stretcher.

"TC, no, he's hurt," Eve said, trying to pull her husband back.

"He will be hurting even more when I get through with him," the angry man vowed.

"TC, you may not know this, but Julian saved my life in the pit. He stepped in front of me when one of them fired a gun at us. Julian is a hero."

"Yeah, some hero," he spat. "Crane, if I ever catch you having anything even remotely to do with my wife again, you'll be a dead man. Understand?"

Julian looked at Eve. He saw the worry in her eyes. "I understand, TC," he said. "I'll have no more to do with Eve than I did in the pit."

She smiled at him, understanding the underlying message. "My, he has a way with words," she thought. Julian returned her smile.

TC wondered why Julian was smiling. "Strange fool," he murmured to himself.

The paramedics began loading the stretcher onto the ambulance. Eve turned to TC. "I really should ride with Julian to the hospital - he's been shot."

"Are you crazy?" he asked, looking at his wife like he didn't recognize her. "I'll take you to the hospital. You need to be checked out too, but you're not riding with that pig. He has plenty of help anyway." He pointed to the paramedics that were climbing into the ambulance. "Now let's go."

Eve reluctantly began following TC to Sam's car. She turned for one last look at Julian in the ambulance. He lifted his head up and waved at her. She raised her own hand slightly in a wave, careful that TC didn't see. Eve then turned and headed toward the car. She opened the passenger side door and paused before getting in, taking a deep breath. "Lord, please help us through the tough times ahead," she prayed.

Courtaney
6.15.07, 2:13 AM
Chapter 45 - "A Special Name"

Eve entered the cubicle where Julian was being examined by Dr. Simmons. "How is he doing, Craig?" she asked the emergency room physician.

"I think he's going to be just fine, thanks to you," he said, smiling. "Mr. Crane here told me all about how you saved his life down in that pit. Nice going, Eve."

"Thanks, Craig," she said. Eve looked at Julian and smiled. "Mr. Crane here saved my life as well in that pit."

"It sounds like there were a lot of heroics going on down there," the doctor said.

"There definitely were," Eve stated. "Craig, does he have to have surgery?"

"I think I can do what needs to be done right here, with a local," he replied. "I don't think we'll have to put him under."

"Good," Julian said. "Then that means I can get out of this place tonight."

"Not so fast," Dr. Simmons said. "I think you're going to need to stay a little while for observation - maybe a day or two."

"Oh, come on," Julian complained. Turning to Eve, he asked, "Can't you pull any strings for me, doctor?"

"Actually, I'm in complete agreement with Dr. Simmons," she said. "I think you should stay for observation."

"Oh, thanks," Julian said disappointedly.

"It's not all bad," Dr. Simmons said. "With qualified people like Dr. Russell taking care of you, I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay."

Julian's face lit up. "Well, in that case, I think I will stay as long as you need me to."

Dr. Simmons laughed. "I am going to leave you here for a little bit so I can get things ready for the procedure." He left the room.

"We're finally alone, doctor," Julian said, his eyes twinkling.

"Yes, I can see that," she grinned, inching closer to her favorite patient.

"You know I am in such pain I think I need a kiss to make it better," Julian said enticingly.

"A kiss, really? On your arm?" Eve asked, smiling.

"Well, actually, it's my mouth that's hurting at the moment," Julian flirted, "from missing yours."

Eve laughed and couldn't resist Julian's advances any longer. She leaned in and kissed him on the lips. With his tongue, he urged her to deepen the kiss. She obliged, and the two were swept away in an incredibly passionate kiss.

Pulling back finally, Eve smiled and tried to catch her breath. "You certainly...don't seem sick," she said, laughing.

"Not anymore," he joked, reaching out with his good arm to take her hand in his. "Eve, how did your exam go?" he asked.

"Quick and easy - I'm fine," she said. "Sheridan is in another cubicle right now with the baby. They are going to admit them too - just for observation, like with you."

"Good," Julian said. His demeanor became more sober. "Is TC still here?" he asked.

Eve nodded. "He's in the waiting room. He didn't want to let me out of his sight."

Julian took a deep breath. "It's going to be difficult..."

"Very," Eve said. "But I have to tell him the truth about my past. All that I've been through recently has made me realize life is too short to spend all of your time worrying."

"I'm glad you finally see that," Julian said. He looked at her intently. "It's going to be hard for him to take."

"I know," Eve agreed. "But what I'm worried about most is what he might do to you."

"Don't worry about me. I have money to hire all the bodyguards I need," Julian said. "It's you I'm worried about."

"TC won't hurt me, not physically," Eve said. "He will be angry, and upset. But can we blame him?"

"No, I will totally understand his feelings," Julian said. He hedged a minute, unsure of whether to say what else was on his mind.

Eve could tell something was bothering him. "What's wrong, honey?" she asked, rubbing his good arm.

"I just don't know what your plans are...for the future," he said slowly.

Eve took a deep breath. She didn't know exactly what the future would hold for her either. "Julian, there are a lot of things I'm unsure about," she began. "But one thing I know for certain is I want you in my life - somehow. I couldn't stand being separated from you for another twenty years."

Julian smiled, relieved that at least Eve was counting on some sort of future with him.

At that moment, Dr. Simmons returned to the cubicle. "Things are all ready for the procedure, Mr. Crane. The nurse will be here any minute to assist. Are you staying, Dr. Russell?"

"No, I had best be going. I have some other patients to look in on," she said. She smiled at Julian and then turned and headed out of the cubicle.

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Luis entered Sheridan's cubicle. "There's a swarm of reporters out there now," he said, coming over to greet her. "I guess everyone wants to find out the story of how Sheridan Crane was rescued from the pit." He leaned in for a kiss. Ah, the taste of her sweet lips! How he had missed that most of all.

Sheridan smiled and held onto Luis's hand. "The only thing I care about is seeing you. I have missed you so much, Luis. And not just for the three weeks I was in the pit. I have missed you since I returned to Harmony and got my memory back. It's been such a long time for us."

"It has been a terrible time," Luis agreed. "And we can thank my brother for most of it."

"I still can't believe Antonio knew the truth about us for nearly a year...and that he allowed my father to blackmail him to keep us apart. What on earth could he have done that was so bad that Father could blackmail him like that?" she asked.

"All I know is it's the same thing that allowed your father to drive him out of town," Luis said. "He wouldn't go into it much. And you know what? I didn't really care...just as long as he left town. I told him as much too."

"Do you know where he went?" Sheridan asked, suddenly concerned about something.

"No, but I figured it was somewhere in the islands," Luis replied. "Why?"

"Well, I just thought of something. We need to know where Antonio is so that we can get the annulment filed."

"Oh, don't worry about that," Luis smiled. "I have that all taken care of."

Sheridan looked at him in surprise. "What do you mean?"

"Before my brother left, I told him to pick up some annulment papers and sign them. I called Mama to make sure he did. It was all taken care of, Sheridan. The papers are at the cottage."

"That's wonderful!" Sheridan cried, pulling him in for a hug. "Now there is absolutely nothing standing in our way!"

"Except your father...and maybe Julian," Luis said.

"Not Julian, Luis," Sheridan declared. "He and I have made peace. I trust him completely."

"I can't believe how close you two have become in such a short time," Luis admitted.

"It was one thing I was glad to see happen in that awful pit," she revealed. "Julian opened up his heart to me - he let me in, so to speak."

"I wouldn't have imagined he had a heart," Luis said. "He never seemed like it before."

"Oh, he does, Luis! A wonderful heart... In fact, he reminds me somewhat of you."

"OK, OK, I think you're going too far with this," Luis laughed. "But I am grateful that he saved you life, and the life of our sweet baby." He looked around suddenly. "Where is our little angel anyway?"

"Here she is!" a nurse called, entering the cubicle just then with the baby in her arms. She handed the precious bundle to Sheridan. "She checked out fine," she said. "The two of you will be staying a day or two for observation, I'm sure you've heard."

"Yes," Sheridan said, making a face. "I've already been told that. I just wish we could all go home now."

"It's really for the best," the nurse explained. "But I promise you two will get good care." She smiled and left the cubicle.

Luis grinned. "You still don't like hospitals, I see," he said.

"I hate them!" she insisted. "But at least our baby will be with me." She smiled at her daughter.

"There's something I wanted to talk to you about," Luis said. "We can't keep calling her 'our baby.' We need a name for her." He reached in and rubbed the baby's cheek. It was so soft!

"I was thinking about that," Sheridan revealed. "I have come up with the perfect name for her."

"Let me guess - Katherine Pilar?" Luis suggested.

"Well, early on that was the name I wanted for a little girl," Sheridan admitted. "But now I have another name in mind."

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Two hours later, family and friends gathered in the waiting area of the hospital to welcome back everyone and to greet the newest little Crane- Lopez-Fitzgerald baby. The police had given a news conference, at which both Sam and Luis had spoken. Luis even gave a Polaroid photo of the baby to the press. That seemed to have satisfied them, because they had all finally left.

Pilar, Miguel, and Charity were there, as were TC and Simone. Grace had come to join Sam, even though things were not smooth between the two of them. Hank was there as well.

Eve walked out and hugged her daughter. Simone was thrilled to see her. "Oh, Mom, I'm so glad you are safe!" she cried.

"Me too, baby. It's good to be back," she said, finally pulling back to take a long look at her little girl, who was now quite grown up.

"I even phoned Whitney...in LA," Simone said. "I found her number, and I called."

"I'm so proud of you, Simone," Eve said, squeezing her daughter tightly. "That took a lot of guts. You've become so mature."

"Thinking someone you love might be dead can really make you see what's important," Simone said.

"I know exactly what you mean, sweetie," Eve said, looking over Simone's shoulder at Julian as he was being wheeled into the waiting area.

Pilar and Grace went over to give him their thanks. Julian smiled at them, a bit uncomfortable being surrounded by so many residents of Harmony who had previously despised him.

Just then, Luis entered the room with Sheridan and the baby. Everyone gathered around to see the newest Lopez-Fitzgerald. Pilar got the first look. She kissed her grandchild. "She is just gorgeous, mijo," she said. "It's a miracle you two are safe."

"It certainly is," Sheridan said, smiling. Her eyes met Julian's. He shyly returned her smile.

"Theresa sends her love from LA," Pilar went on. "She is out there visiting Whitney. Ethan has taken Gwen to see a specialist, or I know they would be here too."

Sheridan nodded. "It's just so great that all of you could make it. I've missed you all so much."

"We're so happy you are safe," Grace said. "All three of you... Four," she said, looking at Julian. She went over and hugged Eve.

"We're thrilled to be back," Eve said, smiling at her friend.

TC came up on the other side of Eve and placed his hand on her shoulder. "I'm never letting her out of my sight again," he said.

Eve and Julian exchanged looks. "This is going to be hard," she thought.

Luis cleared his throat and smiled at the group. "Well, we wanted all of you to gather out here so that you could officially meet our little girl. We have finally come up with a name that suits her. I think some of you may be a little surprised, but when you think about it, I think you'll see why we both agree it's the best name for this little gal." He looked at Sheridan, who was beaming at him.

"Well, without further ado," she said, "Luis and I would like all of you to meet our daughter, Julia Eve Lopez-Fitzgerald."

A hush fell over the group. Then, slowly, "oohs and ahs" could be heard.

Eve's eyes met Julian's. His mouth was open in shock. He couldn't believe it. "I...I don't know what to say," he said, his eyes beginning to tear up.

"Without you, Julian, and you too, Eve, our baby and I wouldn't be here," Sheridan said. "This was the least we could do."

"I think it's a wonderful name!" Pilar exclaimed, taking the baby from Sheridan. "Little Julia Eva," she said in her Spanish accent.

"I am so very honored," Eve beamed. "That is such a surprise." She turned to look at Julian again. He was thrilled, she could tell. His eyes met hers. They were both thinking the same thing: Here was a child who bore both of their names, in a way - a child who tied them together with yet another bond.

"Thank...you so much," Julian said, looking at Sheridan and Luis. They grinned.
Even Luis was ready to forgive, he thought. He could not believe the love that had come out of their horrible stay in the pit.

"You're welcome," Sheridan said, coming over to hug her brother. "You know I love you, Julian, and I'll never forget what you did for us in that pit."

Everyone gathered around Pilar to greet the baby. Even TC went in for a better look. Eve held back and joined Julian and Sheridan. She gave each of them a quick hug.

Sheridan smiled. "It's good to be out, isn't it?" she asked.

"Yes, it certainly is," Julian said. "I can't wait to see the next thing life has in store for all of us."

Eve looked at him and smiled. Neither could she, she realized. It was going to be a tough road ahead, but it would be worth it.

Courtaney
6.16.07, 12:32 AM
Chapter 46 - "Cutting Ties"

"Oh, Pookey, there you are!" Rebecca cried, entering Julian's hospital room early the next morning. He smiled rather nervously as she threw herself on him, showering him with kisses.

"Be careful, Becks...arggggh!" Julian cried out in pain.

"Oh, Pookey, I'm sorry!" Rebecca said. "I didn't know you were hurt."

"Well, I am in the hospital, you know," Julian said.

"Oh, Julian, what's wrong?" she asked. "I just heard on the news this morning that you were found. I guess I was sleeping too soundly when the police called last night."

"I was shot," he revealed.

"Shot! Oh, Pookey, where were you hit?" she inquired. Her face suddenly paled. "Not...little Julian?" she asked anxiously.

"No, not little Julian," he replied, rolling his eyes. "I was shot in the arm, Becky."

"Oh, Julian, how terrible!" Rebecca cried. "When I see those horrible men who did this to you..."

"Well, actually, they were women, Rebecca."

"Women! Some women got the best of my Pookey?" Rebecca couldn't believe her ears.

"Well, they had weapons," he said. "I even broke my ribs again."

"Oh no, Pookey! Last time you broke your ribs, we weren't allowed to have any fun for a very long time!" she cried, disappointment showing on her face.

"Yes, well..." Julian stammered, remembering the fun he had had in the pit. "I'm sure the doctors were just being cautious."

"It's just the worst news a girl could hear!" Rebecca whined.

"Well, Becks, hopefully you could think of worse things - like me being dead, for instance," Julian said, frowning.

"Well, I guess that would be worse because it would be permanent," she agreed.

Julian shook his head in disbelief. At least she was honest, he thought. "Rebecca, there is something serious I want to talk to you about," he said.

"Serious? My Pookey? This doesn't sound too good," she said.

"Well, it could be," Julian declared. "Just let me finish, OK?"

"Sure, go ahead," Rebecca motioned.

"Becks, we have had some good times - really, really fun times," Julian began. "I have enjoyed your company. It's just...I don't really love you, Rebecca...and I don't think you love me."

"What does love have to do with anything, Pookey? You said yourself: we have fun together."

"I know, Becky, it's just that I want more out of life... I want love," Julian admitted.

"I can't believe my Pookey is talking about love! Who is she, Julian? What woman has turned your head?"

"It doesn't matter, Rebecca. The point is - I am not in love with you."

"Oh, yes, it does matter," Rebecca said. She thought for a moment. "You were in the pit for over a week! How could you...? Oh my gosh, I knew it! Dr. Russell!" she exclaimed.

"Dr. Russell what?" Julian asked, surprised that Rebecca had figured it out.

"I knew that hack of a doctor was looking elsewhere from that strong, virile husband of hers. A woman just knows these things. If only I had realized that she would make a move on my Pookey."

"Rebecca, she didn't make a move on me," Julian insisted. "She and I...we were in love years ago, and we've since found our way back to each other."

"I had no idea..." Rebecca revealed sadly.

"I can't continue with you, Becky, when I am in love with somebody else."

Rebecca started to cry. Then her emotions changed from sadness to anger. "You can't just dump me, Julian," she said. "Remember, I will use the information I have on you to send you away to prison."

"Go ahead," Julian said quietly.

"What? You can't mean that?!" she cried. "Prison?"

"You could tell the police, and I'm sure they would bring up charges, but I really doubt if they would stick," Julian revealed.

"Well, why not, if I am the star witness?" Rebecca asked in disbelief.

"Because they will look on you as a woman scorned," Julian said. "And not only that, but it is your word against mine. You don't have any proof."

"Well, don't they listen to people anymore?" Rebecca asked.

"The courts listen to people like my father," Julian said. "Do you really want Alistair to get involved in this? You know what would happen, don't you?"

"I have the goods on Alistair too," Rebecca declared. "I can send him up the river right along with my Pookey."

"Becks, Alistair owns just about every judge in this state. Not only that, but you'll be lucky to remain alive if you turn on him like that. Use your head, dear."

"Well..." Rebecca started to cry again.

"Becky, listen, I don't want you to have to go away empty-handed. I am planning to give you a sizeable going away gift...for what we had together."

"You're serious?" she asked, brightening a little. "How much are we talking about, Julian?"

"Oh, quite a few zeroes," he explained. "I don't think you'll be disappointed."

"Oh, Pookey!" she cried. "That is wonderful!" She leaned in and gave him a big kiss on the lips.

Julian wiped his mouth and gave her a fake smile. "Yes, well, you deserve it, Becky. We have some great memories that will last a lifetime."

"We do, don't we?" Rebecca agreed, thinking of their time together. She smiled. "I can't wait to get my hands on that check!" she said. "I will shop till I drop! Thanks, Pookey!" She leaned in for one more kiss and then floated out the door.

Julian shook his head and then grinned in satisfaction. One obstacle down, two to go.

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Eve walked into Sheridan's room. She was alone and had just finished feeding the baby. "How is little Julia Eve doing?" she asked, a big smile on her face.

"Your namesake is doing just fine," Sheridan replied, smiling. "She ate like a little pig, same as always."

Eve laughed. "I want to thank you again, Sheridan, for naming this little gal after Julian and me," she said.

"That's the least I could have done," she responded. "Even Luis was more open to the idea than I had expected. He's just truly grateful to have us back. You and Julian had a big part in that happening."

Eve smiled. "I know it was all worth it when I look at this beautiful child."

"I know," said Sheridan, patting her baby's dark hair. "To me she looks so much like Luis...but to him she's the picture of me."

"That's love talking there," Eve said. "You both see the person you love in your child."

Just then a nurse entered the room. "It's time to take the baby back to the nursery," she said, smiling.

She carefully took Julia Eve from Sheridan and grinned at her. "She's just so adorable," she said.

"Your accent is adorable too," Sheridan told the burgundy-haired nurse. "Where are you from? Germany?"

"Kathy is from Canada," Eve replied. "She just moved here and joined the staff a few weeks ago."

"The accent is actually Austrian though," Kathy explained, "with a little Canadian thrown in for good measure."

"Well, it's lovely," Sheridan said. "What brings you to Harmony?"

"Oh, I got a calling to go into nursing, you might say," she explained. "So I left the family farm and went to school. This is my first nursing job."

"Well, we're glad to have you here," Eve said. "You get along so well with the staff."

"I try," Kathy remarked, heading for the door with the infant. She turned around slowly. "Sometimes it's the patients who I enjoy the most, however. Like that brother of yours, Miss Crane. What a handsome guy!"

Eve and Sheridan laughed.

"It's too bad he's taken, or I would ask him out in a heartbeat."

"How do you know he's taken?" Sheridan asked.

"Oh, I heard he had a fiancée. I think she's in there right now," the nurse revealed. "But I didn't need to know those details. You just have to look into his eyes to know he's deeply in love. Oh, what I wouldn't give to be the object of his affections," she swooned.

"Kathy, I think it's probably time to get the baby back to the nursery, don't you think?" Eve suggested.

"You're right, Dr. Russell," she said, blushing. "I guess I just got carried away. Perfection in a man does that to a woman..." She headed out the door, her face one big smile.

Sheridan and Eve looked at each other and giggled. "I think you may have some competition for your man there, Eve," Sheridan said.

Eve smiled. "Kathy or Rebecca?"

"Both," Sheridan laughed. "I'm only joking of course, Eve. My brother loves you with all of his heart. I can't see him looking at another woman ever again."

"He definitely has changed," Eve admitted.

"So what do you think is going on in there with Rebecca?" Sheridan asked curiously. "I say he's dumping her as we speak."

"You think so?" Eve asked, her hopes rising.

"Oh, yes, that was only a matter of time," Sheridan said. She thought for a moment. "So, Eve, have you given any thought as to what you're going to tell TC?"

"Not really," Eve said. "I guess I have been staying busy here to try to avoid thinking about that. But it's something I can't put off forever."

"Are you going to tell him everything? Or just about the past?" Sheridan inquired.

"I will definitely tell him about the past," Eve said. "I'm not pretending to be anyone I'm not, ever again."

"And if he accepts your past...what then?" Sheridan asked carefully, watching for Eve's reaction.

"I don't know, Sheridan," Eve admitted. "TC and I have been married a long time - more than twenty years. We have a family together. It's hard to just give that up." She looked off into space, a sad expression on her face.

"And it's hard to give up love too, isn't it?" Sheridan asked. "I know. I tried to give up Luis when I married Antonio. It was just too difficult."

"I can't see myself giving up Julian either," Eve revealed. "Not with what we have together. I guess I am in quite a spot."

"Even worse than where I was at," Sheridan said. "Your marriage to TC lasted so much longer than mine to Antonio...and there were children."

"Exactly," Eve said. "But I do have a child with Julian too - if we can just find him." She shook her head. "Either way I am going to hurt someone I love."

Sheridan nodded. "I loved Antonio too," she said, "just not the same as I love Luis. He and I are soul mates. I see that same kind of love with you and Julian."

Eve smiled sadly. "So do I, Sheridan. I just wish so many people didn't have to get hurt because of it..."

She started heading for the door. "I'm going to let you get some rest now. Thanks for listening."

Sheridan nodded, watching as Eve closed the door behind her. "Oh, Julian, I hope things work out for the two of you," she declared. "I want you to find the happiness that I have found."

Courtaney
6.17.07, 1:35 AM
Chapter 47 - "The Dance"

Later that afternoon, Eve ventured into Julian's hospital room. His face lit up upon seeing her. "What did I do to deserve the honor of a visit from the wonderful Dr. Russell?" he asked.

"Oh, just maybe being the greatest friend a woman could ask for," she said, coming over to his bedside.

"Only a friend?" he asked, pretending to be disappointed. "I was hoping to be a little more than that to you."

"Well, maybe you are...just a little more," Eve said, smiling. She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "So how is my favorite patient doing today?" she asked.

"Well, until just a minute ago, he was missing his favorite doctor."

"Oh, I thought you had loads of company today," Eve said. "I even heard Rebecca was here for quite a while this morning."

"Jealous, are we?" he asked, reaching up to caress her arm with his good one.

"No, I'm not jealous," she laughed. "Why would I be jealous just because you were entertaining your fiancée in your hospital room? And why would I be envious of the fact that you have half the nurses in this hospital fawning all over you? There's one, I swear, who wants to marry you." She chuckled, remembering her earlier conversation with Kathy, the newest RN at the hospital.

"Well, first of all, I am just a lovable guy, which is why all the nurses can't keep their eyes off of me," he joked. "And second, I wasn't entertaining Rebecca today...actually, I was breaking her heart."

"What?!" Eve asked in surprise. Could Sheridan have been right?

"You knew it was only a matter of time, Eve," Julian said. "I am in love with you, not Rebecca. My time with her is over and done."

"Did she take it all right?" Eve asked curiously.

"Oh, as well as could be expected," he replied. "She never loved me, of course. Oh, we had our moments, but there was no genuine love there...nothing like what I have with you." He took her hand in his and smiled. "My heart belongs to you, Eve."

"And mine belongs to you," she declared. "Now, I want to know how you convinced her to go. I always thought Miss Rebecca would put up one hell of a fight."

Julian laughed. "She tried to. I just had to convince her that walking away was in her best interests."

"You gave her money?!" Eve asked incredulously.

"Well, don't be so shocked, dear," Julian said. "I would have given her every dime I had if it meant I could be with you."

Eve smiled. "What can I say to that? I am flattered. My, how you've changed, Julian."

"That's what love does to a man," he said. "It makes him all mushy inside."

"You're not mushy," she said.

"No?" he asked, his eyes twinkling.

"No, you're just...incredibly romantic." She leaned down to give him another kiss on the cheek, but Julian turned his head and pressed his lips to hers. He encouraged her to deepen the kiss, and she obliged, opening her mouth to give his tongue access.

Julian ran his fingers through her gorgeously silky black hair, while she placed her own hands around his neck and head.

Eve ran her tongue along his, which gave her a tremendous amount of pleasure, and then drove her tongue into the recesses of his mouth, arousing even more desire in both of them.

Julian pulled Eve onto the hospital bed with him as the kiss turned even more passionate. He lay on his side, facing her as their hands moved up and down each other's backs, their mouths still joined as one. Julian moved his hand along Eve's arm, and then slowly maneuvered it to her chest.

Suddenly, Eve pulled back, breathless. "Julian...we need to stop...if we go any further, I could lose my job." She got up from the bed and smoothed her rumpled clothing.

He sat up in the bed and laughed. "I am on the hospital board, darling. I wouldn't let them fire you over a little tryst in this hospital bed."

"I'm not about to have a 'little tryst' anywhere, Julian, in this hospital bed or anywhere else. I think you know I'm not that kind of a person."

Julian turned serious. "I know that, Eve. That's one reason I am incredibly attracted to you. You want to give all of yourself to a relationship. I wouldn't want anything less."

"I'm sorry, it's just been so hard lately," she revealed. "There is so much pressure." Her eyes suddenly filled with tears.

Julian reached out and brought her in for a hug. "I'm sorry that this has to be so hard for you," he said.

Eve ran her hands along Julian's back and let the tears flow. "It's just good to be in your arms again. I feel safe here," she said.

"I want you to always feel safe, Eve dear," Julian revealed, concerned for the woman he loved. "What is it I can do to help?"

"Nothing," she replied, pulling back to look at him. "It's up to me now, Julian. I have to tell TC the truth, and I'm going to do it tonight."

"Do you want to wait until tomorrow, when I'm out of here...so I can go with you?" he asked.

"No, this is something I need to do on my own," Eve declared. "It's going to be the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I must do it...for everyone's sake." She moved forward and embraced him again.

Julian placed his hand in her hair and closed his eyes. "My sweet Eve," he said softly. "If only there was a way that we could be together without hurting you..."

She pulled back and caressed his face. "I love you, Julian...so much that it hurts. But soon, I hope everything will be all right."

"It will be," he said. "I just know it's all going to work out for us." They hugged yet again, and although he was happy to be close to Eve, Julian's mind started to have doubts. What if she feels sorry for TC and decides to stay with him? What if he forgives her? What if she just can't give him up? He pushed the thoughts out of his mind as he held her even tighter. They were just too painful to consider...

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"There she is!" Luis exclaimed upon entering Sheridan's hospital room. "I just went down to the nursery to see little Julia Eve, but she wasn't there."

"She missed her mommy, so I asked if I could have a visit," Sheridan said. The baby was lying calmly in her arms. She had just been fed.

"Well, I can see it right now. Daddy's going to get slighted because Mommy's going to hog all the time with you, isn't she?" Luis asked, reaching down and rubbing his daughter's tummy.

Sheridan laughed. "Well, at first, it is kind of hard for daddies to feed their babies, but of course changing diapers is another story."

Luis made a face, feigning a dislike for that less than ideal duty. "Maybe this daddy isn't suited for changing diapers," he said. Then he smiled. "You know I'm just kidding, don't you? I want to be involved in anything and everything in our daughter's life."

"Even changing diapers?" Sheridan asked, her eyes twinkling merrily.

"Especially changing diapers," Luis remarked.

"Good," Sheridan laughed. "I think she needs a diaper change right now. Here's your chance."

"Wh-what?" Luis asked, becoming nervous. "I thought the nurses change them...in the nursery."

"Well, they do," Sheridan said, "if the babies are in there. But since they're allowing babies to stay in the rooms more and more, who do you think has to change them?"

"The daddies?" Luis asked, his face becoming pale. "Of course I would like to do all I can to help. It's just...she's so tiny. I'm afraid I'd break her."

Sheridan laughed. "I'm just joking about the diaper change right now. Don't look so scared there. You'll get the hang of it soon enough." She grinned.
"You do need to get used to holding her, Luis. She won't break." She leaned toward him with the baby.

Luis held out his arms, and Sheridan carefully laid Julia Eve in them. "There you go, Luis. See? She's so comfortable with you already."

Luis smiled at his daughter. "Julia...Julia Eve... You are the most beautiful baby in the world," he said. "You are the picture of your mother."

"And your father!" Sheridan called out. "I love her dark hair, Luis. And it looks like her eyes will be brown like yours. They're so dark already."

Luis smiled. "You can definitely see the Lopez side of the family in her," he agreed. "But it's your face that makes her beautiful, Sheridan. She looks like a little angel."

Sheridan smiled and leaned over to kiss her baby. "Julia Eve, we are so glad you are finally with us. We are your parents, sweetie. We love you so much."

"You are our firstborn," Luis added. "We get to try everything out on you first." He laughed. "Hopefully, we won't make too many mistakes, but bear with us. We're new at this."

"I think she'll understand," said Sheridan. "Do you see the way she's looking at you? She loves you already."

Luis smiled. "I can't wait to teach her how to dance someday," he said.

"Why wait?" asked Sheridan. "Why don't you ask her for this dance?" She reached over and turned on the radio on the nightstand next to her bed. She adjusted the dial quickly, finally settling on a slow love song. "Here you go," she said. "Perfect!"

"Well, you'll be my littlest dance partner ever," Luis said. "But if you're willing, Julia Eve, I would like to have this dance."

Sheridan smiled as Luis began slowly moving to the music with the baby in his arms. He kept his eyes on Julia's face the whole time. He was totally engrossed in his new daughter.

"I wish I had my camera," Sheridan said, tears of joy in her eyes.

Luis smiled. "I think Julia Eve is really enjoying her first dance. She may never let Mommy cut in."

"Maybe Mommy can join the two of you," Sheridan suggested. She got up out of the bed and made her way over to Luis. She put her arms around him and looked down at her daughter who was snuggled tight in her daddy's arms.

The small family began slowly and carefully moving to the music. The love that they shared filled the room. Julia Eve let out a sweet cry. Sheridan and Luis looked at her and smiled. "This is heaven," they both thought.

Courtaney
6.18.07, 1:35 AM
Chapter 48 - "Eve Admits All"

Luis opened the door to the cottage and flipped on the lights. "We're home!" he said, a big smile on his face.

"Oh, it's so good to be back home!" Sheridan cried. She was holding the car seat in her hands, with a sleeping Julia Eve inside.

"I would carry you over the threshold, but with the baby..."

"That's not necessary," Sheridan laughed, walking into the cottage. "I am just thrilled to be home!" She set the car seat down on the couch. "I would get her out, but she's sleeping so peacefully."

"Let her sleep," Luis said. "We can show her the place later."

"Oh no!" Sheridan exclaimed.

"What's wrong, darling?" Luis asked, his concern for her evident in his voice.

"The baby, Luis! We're not ready for her; we don't have any place for her to sleep even." She scanned the room frantically with her eyes. "What are we going to do?"

Luis grinned. "That's not a problem, Sheridan. Come with me," he said. He led her into the bedroom and turned on the light.

Sheridan let out a gasp. The room had been completely transformed. Near the bed was a beautiful white bassinet, trimmed with pink. In the corner sat a baby swing. Beside the dresser was a wooden changing table that matched the room's furniture perfectly. Next to it was a stack of diapers.

"My goodness!" Sheridan cried. "How...how did you do all this, Luis?"

He smiled, thrilled that she loved the surprise. "Mama helped me pick things out," he explained. "We went shopping this morning. She stayed to organize things a little while I went to see you in the hospital."

Sheridan's eyes filled with tears. "This is so wonderful," she said, walking over to the bassinet and rubbing her hand over it.

"Look over here - a chest for the baby's things," Luis said. He motioned to a small wooden chest near the bedroom door. "Go check inside," Luis urged.

Sheridan walked over to the chest and opened up a drawer. Inside were all the baby clothes Julia Eve would need for months. "Look at this...sleepers, onesies, gowns, socks, booties." She held up a pink pair of booties. "How wonderful!"

Luis grinned. "Mama did most of it," he admitted. "She knows how to shop for a baby."

"I'll say!" Sheridan said. "This was the most special thing anyone could have done for us. I need to call Pilar right now and thank her."

"In a minute," Luis said, walking up behind Sheridan and putting his arms around her. I just want to give you a welcome home hug."

She turned around and slipped her arms up around his neck. "How about we have a proper hug then..."

Luis tightened his arms around her waist and bent down to lean his head against hers. He gave her an affectionate squeeze and lifted her feet up off the floor.

After Luis had gently set her feet back on the ground, Sheridan looked into his gorgeous eyes and smiled. "I can't believe how perfect everything is," she said.

"I wanted it to be perfect," Luis stated. "And you haven't seen everything yet. There are all kinds of baby things in the bathroom and toys in the closet. Here's something I wanted to get her." He reached on the bed and picked up a stuffed giraffe. "Do you think she'll like giraffes?" he asked. "They've always been my favorite animal."

"I think she'll love giraffes!" Sheridan declared, taking the stuffed animal from Luis. "They're beautiful animals." She giggled as she put the giraffe down inside the bassinet.

"What's so funny?" he asked, beginning to laugh right along with her.

"Nothing," she chuckled.

"Yeah, nothing, huh?" he joked. "Why don't I give you something to laugh about then?" He began tickling her as he inched their bodies closer to the bed.

Sheridan laughed and jokingly tried to get away from his tickling hands. He pushed her down on the bed and began roughhousing with her. She couldn't stop laughing as she screamed, "No, no, stop!"

"Stop?" he said, pretending to be hurt from her rejection. "Then I suppose you'll want me to stop this too..." He leaned down and kissed her, his hands on the bed on either side of Sheridan, supporting his weight.

"No, no," Sheridan said, coming up for air between kisses. "Don't stop that!"
Luis grinned and gently pressed his body against hers as their mouths met for an intensely passionate kiss. How long he had waited to taste those exquisite lips again in this cottage...to feel her tongue joining with his in a sensual dance! Luis realized this must be what Heaven was like - he had been living in Hell for too long.

His hands cupped her face and felt her smooth, beautiful skin. Hers roamed from his shiny, thick hair to his strong neck and on down to his broad shoulders. She then pressed her hands firmly against his back, and as she did it, she could feel the passion rising between the two of them.

They finally parted their lips and Sheridan fought to get her breath back. "Wow! That was the longest kiss I have ever experienced!" she exclaimed.

"It was great, wasn't it?" Luis said, running his fingers through her hair as he lay beside her on the bed. "I wish we could do more but..."

"I know," Sheridan said, sounding disappointed. "But I'm not allowed for a couple of weeks because of the baby - Julia Eve! Luis, I almost forgot all about her. She's still in the car seat. I'm going to go check on her." Sheridan quickly got up off the bed and headed for the living room. Luis followed.

There on the couch, still sleeping in her car seat, was their beautiful baby girl. Sheridan bent down and kissed her. Julia Eve opened her eyes and looked at her mother.

"I think she recognizes you," Luis said.

"You too, Daddy," Sheridan said, smiling. "Our wonderful family is finally together. What more could we ask for?"

"I can't think of anything," Luis admitted. "I have everything I want right here." He leaned down to kiss Sheridan and then got on his knees and kissed the baby's cheek.

"She's perfect, isn't she?" Sheridan asked.

"Oh yes," Luis agreed. "Both of my girls are perfect."

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Eve slowly opened the door to her home. She took a deep breath as she
walked inside. The lights were on, so she knew TC was still up. She walked over to the sofa and set her purse down beside it. She nervously paced the floor in front of the couch, thinking of what she was going to say.

Just then, TC entered the living room from the kitchen. He was carrying a bowl of popcorn and a can of soda pop. He smiled when he saw Eve. "Hi, baby, I'm glad you're home already," he said. "At least they didn't make you work late on your first full day back. Want some popcorn?" He lifted up the bowl and smiled. "I made plenty. Simone's out with a friend, so it's great to have someone to share it with."

Eve shook her head. Already, guilt was creeping into her consciousness. She took another deep breath. She knew she couldn't let anything stop her. Tonight was the night for truths. "TC, listen, I need to talk to you," she said as bravely as she could manage. "There are things I have to tell you - things you're not going to want to hear..."

TC looked at his wife in surprise. "OK, baby, why don't we sit down here and talk?" He set the popcorn and drink on the coffee table and parked himself on the sofa. Eve hesitated and then walked over to the chair that was perpendicular to the couch and sat down on it. She felt it was better if there was some space between them when she told him the truth.

Eve sat staring at the wall for a minute, trying to figure out where to begin. She had planned on giving TC a hypothetical situation first, to kind of ease him into it. Then she wanted to admit the person she was talking about was her. She would first discuss her days in school, next her job at the Blue Note, and then she would slowly reveal the story of how she met and fell for Julian Crane. Discussing the child they shared would be one of the last things she told him - unless she got up the courage to let him in on what had been going on recently.

Looking at her husband just now and noticing that he was so curious as to what she was going to say made it difficult for her to get up the nerve to tell him the truth. TC seemed so eager tonight, so mellow - nothing like the bitter man that she had seen so much of lately. Eve was hard pressed to know where to start.

Sensing his wife's hesitancy, TC smiled. "What's going on, Eve? What did you want to tell me?"

Her heart racing, Eve thought of all the things she had planned to say...how she was going to ease into the truth about her past. But looking at her husband, she just couldn't do that. She felt like the swimmer who was preparing to get into an ice-cold pool. There were two ways to do it - ease yourself into the water slowly or dive right in. Eve was one to always dive right in. It was better to get the shock over with quickly, she surmised. Tonight would be no different.

Eve took in a deep breath to calm her rapid heart and blurted out, simply and clearly, "I'm in love with Julian Crane." There, she had done it. Now, she waited for all hell to break loose.

TC stared at Eve. The expression on his face didn't change. She wondered if he had heard her.

"I...I said that I am in love with Julian Crane," Eve repeated, hoping to get some sort of reaction from her husband. Was what she said just too much for him to process and accept?

"I heard you," TC said softly, swallowing hard. "Is this some kind of a joke? Are you telling me this just to get me to fly off the handle? Should I be looking around for hidden cameras here?"

"No, TC, it's true," Eve revealed. "Julian and I are in love." Thud. If her heart was going crazy at this point, what was happening to his? She looked at him worriedly.

"I know what this is - you're just confused from your time being held captive in that pit. That's it. Sam was telling me about cases like that, where victims fall for their abductors. That's what happened here, isn't it? Only you got close to Julian because he was being held with you, not because he was your kidnapper." He let out a sigh. "Well, it's not real, honey... We'll deal with it."

Another wave of guilt swept over Eve. His mind was already trying to reason away what she had said. He wasn't able to handle it. "No, TC, listen," she tried once more. "It's not that, really. I don't think you understand. You see, Julian and I were involved long ago, before I met you. We loved each other years ago too."

TC's face began contorting. His eyes suddenly glazed over with a look that could kill. She had never seen such anger and hatred in those dark eyes before. TC was often angry, but usually it was a loud, boisterous kind of anger. This was different. There was a cold, silent rage enveloping her husband. A chill ran down Eve's spine. In TC's eyes she saw one thing and one thing only - murder!

"TC, listen, I didn't intend to fall in love with Julian again. It just happened...not in the pit either, but before. We have become close lately. He's helped me through some tough times...like with Whitney."

"I'll...kill that bastard. He's a dead man!" TC blared, his eyes so enraged they made Eve fear that he would lose it at any second.

"This isn't Julian's fault," she tried to explain. "There were always feelings between us, I guess - things that we had never dealt with. I tried to wall them up and pretend I was the perfect wife and mother. He buried them under booze and countless women. But I guess those feelings were always there for both of us."

"This has been going on for years?!" TC hissed, his eyes bulging and nostrils flaring. Eve knew his blood pressure had to be going through the roof. "You and that pig have made a fool of me for over twenty years?!!"

"No, TC, it wasn't like that," Eve said, using the calmest voice she could manage. "There was nothing going on between Julian and me during the past twenty years, nothing. I was faithful to you for all of those years, believe me. Actually, I truly hated him. It's just I realize now that there were still feelings there, all that time, buried beneath the surface."

"But you haven't been faithful lately, have you? You've slept with him, haven't you, Eve?! I can tell; I can see it in your eyes. You whore! You slept with my worst enemy, the scum of the earth Julian Crane, not just before you met me but recently...and you think I'll understand? Is that it?! You think I won't want to kill both of you with my bare hands?!"

He stood up quickly and in two strides was over to where Eve was sitting. She jumped up hurriedly and backed her way to the front door. He put his arms out against the door, pinning her in between them and stepped closer so that he was inches from her face. "What are you going to do now, Eve? Are you going to run straight to your lover's arms? Well, I don't think so. I think you're going to stay right here with me. I won't let that pig have what is mine." He inched his face even closer to hers.

Eve's eyes reflected the fear she was feeling. What was he going to do to her? She had never seen TC so upset before. She never thought he would hurt her, but now she wasn't so sure...

TC moved closer and forced his lips upon Eve's, kissing her roughly. She tried to resist, but couldn't get away. He was too powerful. She finally did the only thing she could - she bit his lip hard, drawing blood.

He screamed out in pain and pulled back, wiping the blood with his hand. "Damn bitch!" he yelled, looking at the blood on his fingers. His icy gaze returned to Eve's face. "You're not worth it anyway," he sneered, his teeth clenched. "You've been soiled...soiled with the likes of Julian Crane. I don't want you, Eve. I'll never want you again. I want you out of this house - now!"

He backed up some more to let Eve free. "I...I need my things...my purse," she cried, her eyes full of tears and her body shaking like a leaf.

"Get them! I'll be in the kitchen. I want you gone in ten minutes, and I never want to see your face here again, is that understood? You've made your bed with that pig, now go lie in it!" He turned and marched into the kitchen, never once looking back.

Eve's hands were shaking so much she could barely pack. She sobbed loudly as she gathered up her purse and some of her essential belongings. It hadn't sunk in yet that she may never be back in this house again.

When she was done, Eve set the suitcase down by the door. "I'm going now, TC!" she called in a loud, shaky voice, hoping that he would hear her. "I never wanted it to be like this!" She wiped the tears from her face and gave the living room one last glance. "I never wanted it to be like this," she repeated softly, fighting back more tears. She picked up her things and headed out the door.

Eve had no idea where she was going, but she knew where she wasn't heading...to Julian's. She couldn't go straight from TC's arms to his; she wasn't ready. There were still things she needed to discuss with TC as well.

Sighing, Eve put her belongings in her car and got in, her hands still shaking as she fumbled with her seatbelt. She looked sadly at the house she had lived in all these years as she backed her car out of the driveway. She knew that no matter what she decided to do from here on out, her life would never be the same again. There could be no turning back now.

Courtaney
6.19.07, 1:40 AM
Chapter 49 - "Decision Time"

THREE WEEKS LATER ...

Julian knocked on the door to Sheridan's cottage. She opened it and smiled when she saw who it was. "Come on in," she said happily.

"I'll just stay for a minute," he said upon entering the cottage. "This is for the baby." He handed Sheridan a small gift bag.

She opened it and pulled out a silver piggy bank. "Oh this is beautiful, Julian!" she exclaimed.

"I thought our 'little piggy' might like a bank," he said, laughing. "I put some coins inside it for her. What good is an empty piggy bank, you know?" He smiled. "I also wanted to tell you that I have set up a trust fund in Julia Eve's name. It'll work much the same as yours does. She should never have to want for anything."

"Thank you, Julian. I appreciate that," Sheridan said, reaching up to hug her brother. "Why don't we sit down over here...if we can find a spot." She laughed as she quickly threw some scattered baby items from the couch to the floor. "I'm sorry this place is such a mess," she said as they sat down on the couch.

"Don't worry about that," Julian urged. "You have had your hands full, I'm sure." He looked around the room. "So where is my little niece and namesake?"

"Napping in the bedroom," Sheridan replied. "I finally got her to sleep. She has been rather fussy lately."

"Have you been getting enough rest? I could hire a nanny for you..."

"No, no nannies," Sheridan vowed. "I am going to raise this little girl on my own - with Luis's help, of course."

Julian nodded. "I understand...and I envy you for your determination, Sheridan. I think that young lady in there is lucky to have you as a mother."

"And you as an uncle," she added. Then her face turned serious. "So, Julian, have you heard from Eve?"

He shook his head. "Not since the morning after she told TC...right before I checked out of the hospital."

"She needs some time," Sheridan said, placing her hand gently on his. "I'm sure you'll hear from her soon - when she's ready."

"I know," Julian said slowly. "It's just with each day that goes by that she doesn't call, I'm more afraid that I'm going to lose her."

Sheridan squeezed her brother's hand. "I don't think you're going to lose Eve, Julian. I think that the love you two have for each other will win out in the end." She smiled. "You're going to be as happy as Luis and me - you'll see."

Julian nodded. "I hope you're right, dear," he said, getting up off the couch. "Well, I had better go."

"So soon?" she asked.

"I know you have things to do. Give the baby my love when she wakes up."

"I will," Sheridan said, giving her brother a warm hug. "I just want you to be happy, Julian."

"When I come here, it's rather painful to see what you guys have...the love that resonates in this place," he admitted. "I'm terribly happy for you, don't get me wrong; it's just I am rather envious too."

"You'll find that happiness too," Sheridan promised. "I see you someday, down the road, playing with all of your nieces and nephews in the yard..."

He smiled at the lovely thought. "I can't wait," he said. "I think I'll make a fine uncle. I had some problems as a father, but I think I'm ready to try again with a new generation."

"Well, Julia Eve will come to adore you, I know," Sheridan said, "as will all of the others Luis and I plan to have."

"You want a big family then?" Julian asked. "I like that."

"Oh, Luis wants half a dozen," she laughed. "We may have to compromise on that."

"You'll certainly need to build on here if you plan to stay," Julian said. "And I hope you do stay." His eyes almost begged her to say yes.

"I think we will stay, Julian. We love it here - the peace and quiet, the beautiful grounds, and the security. Luis likes that aspect of this place."

"Good," Julian said, the dark cloud over him lifting some. "You don't know how that pleases me." He hugged her one last time and then exited the cottage, slowly making his way to the mansion.

"Oh, Julian," Sheridan whispered after him, "I sure hope you can realize your dream."

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Eve sat in her office at the hospital, trying to concentrate on her work. She had somehow drifted through the last three weeks, putting everything she had into her job. She found it more and more difficult to stay on task, especially when she was alone, as she was in her office. That's when her mind would always start to wander.

For the past three weeks, Eve had been staying in a hotel in town (not the Crane Hotel, however). She had wanted her space...to be away from both TC and Julian...until she could figure out what it was she really wanted.

What did she want? That was hard for her to answer. She had been with TC for over twenty years. They had two wonderful children together. She thought back to when she had met him in the hospital after his accident...how he had swept her off her feet, making her forget the pain in her past. Most of the years had been really good ones, until recently. That's when everything she had bottled up inside her had begun to pour out - the truth about her firstborn child, as well as the feelings that were buried deep in her heart...the feelings for Julian Crane.

Just thinking about Julian made Eve's heart flutter. The love she felt for that man was immeasurable and incomprehensible. How could she be so in love with a man that had hurt her so deeply? She shook her head. There was just something about Julian. He owned her heart, like it or not. She was his and always would be. And he had changed. She couldn't believe how he had matured during the past year...or the bond he had managed to form with his sister Sheridan in the pit. Sheridan also saw the love Julian was capable of, Eve knew. She wasn't the only one captivated by his charms.

Eve knew she wanted to be with Julian more than anything - to feel his arms around her like she had in the pit. How safe she felt with him, so free from the lies and secrets that had surrounded her for years. He was her rock, the loyal, caring friend whom she could count on when in trouble. He was also the only one who could set her body on fire with his touch...

How could she give that up? How could she go through the rest of her life never having what she really wanted? Eve couldn't fathom it. She had missed out on so much with him these past twenty years...yet had she been with Julian, she never would have had her daughters, her family.

Eve thought of Whitney and Simone. Her leaving TC would tear them up inside. Simone was having a hard time already with the separation. Eve had clued her in on some of the difficulties, but hadn't mentioned Julian's name. TC may have told her, she realized, but Simone hadn't let on. How she was maturing!

Whitney... At least she was safe in LA, enjoying the sights and sounds of that remarkable city. Eve had called her to tell her that she was staying at a hotel for awhile, but didn't go into a lot of details over the phone. She thought Whitney would understand though. She knew what true love was like.

TC, her girls' father... She never wanted to hurt him, but she had. She still remembered the look in his eyes when she had told him about her and Julian. Never had she seen such anger directed at her. For a moment she had feared for her safety...but TC didn't hurt her, as she knew he wouldn't.

Eve was surprised TC had not gone after Julian, but he hadn't ventured near the Crane Estate from what she had heard from Sheridan. Julian had hired more security, just in case. Maybe TC finally realized violence wasn't the way to handle his problems. Maybe he was just too devastated to even attempt a fight. Eve felt guilty for what she was doing to TC. She wondered how he would cope if she left him for good.

Eve shook her head sadly. "I know what I want," she said, sighing. "I just wish there was a sign that it was OK for me to go after it. I wish I had a sign that this was the right choice, and not just me being selfish." She laid her head down on her desk and prayed.

She was suddenly roused by a knock on the door. Eve called out, "Come in!"

A nurse entered, carrying a stack of folders. "These are the latest lab results for all of your patients," she said, handing them to the doctor.

"Thank you, Vicky," Eve responded, as the nurse turned and exited.

Eve thumbed through the files until she found a particular one. She opened it up and gasped when she saw the results. "Oh my goodness," she said, resting her head on her hand. "I had no idea..."

She closed the file and beamed. "I think I just got my sign," she gushed.

Eve swallowed hard as she picked up the phone and dialed her home number. "TC, it's me. Please don't hang up. We have to talk... Will you still be there in a few minutes?... OK, I'll see you then."

She took a deep breath to steady herself as she got up to leave. Her future would begin today...

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Much later, Eve steered her car up the familiar road, her heart racing as fast as the engine of her vehicle. She was going to greet the man she loved, the man she was going to spend forever with. It had been three weeks since she had seen him, and that was much too long.

Eve fingered the car phone and decided to pick it up. She dialed the number and held her breath as she waited for it to ring. She was thrilled hearing the sound of his voice on the other end of the line. "It's me," she said. "I am on my way."

Pulling her car in front of the house, Eve jumped out and ran to the door. She was surprised to see it standing ajar. She carefully pushed it open and peered inside.

That's when she saw him. He was standing in the living room, straight and tall, looking at her. She felt the power of his eyes even from that distance.

As he started walking closer, Eve took off and ran into his waiting arms. "I'm home!" she cried, throwing her arms around the man she loved.

Julian picked her up and spun her around, as tears of joy flooded his eyes. "Eve...my Eve..." he said softly. "You are finally home." He eagerly pressed his lips to hers.

Courtaney
6.22.07, 2:15 AM
Chapter 50 - "Dreams Come True"

Luis put another log on the fire. He turned and smiled at Sheridan, who was sitting on the sofa with Julia Eve lying on her lap. “It seems so early to light a fire in here. It’s only September. But it’s so cool out all of a sudden, and I don’t want the baby to freeze.” He got up and walked over to the sofa, sitting down next to Sheridan.

“I think it’s perfect!” Sheridan professed, watching the flames dance before her eyes.

Luis smiled and put his arm around Sheridan. “Do you know how much I love you?” he asked.

“Oh, I think I have a pretty good idea,” she giggled, leaning in to kiss him.

“Mmm,” Luis said, coming up for air. “I will light a fire more often if this is the treatment I get.”

“I am counting on that fire,” Sheridan said, winking at him.

“Oooh, you are really making it hard for me to hold off until this little one goes to sleep,” Luis moaned, gently patting a drowsy Julia Eve’s head.

“I think she’ll be in dreamland soon enough, from the looks of her,” Sheridan said. “And then we’ll see what kind of dreams are in store for her mommy and daddy.”

“I can’t wait,” he replied, leaning in for another kiss. Pulling back, Luis looked into Sheridan’s eyes and held her gaze for a second.

“What?” Sheridan asked, smiling. “I can tell something’s on your mind, and it isn’t just that, which for you is unusual, once you get in this kind of mood. What’s up, Luis?”

“Well, besides the obvious…” he paused, chuckling as she jokingly slapped his arm. “It was just something you said before, about dreams. I wanted to run something by you.”

“Really? What is it, Luis?”

“Well, I have been thinking… What happened to you has me realizing how short life is. And now that I am a father, it also has me wanting to do the best I can to support little Julia Eve and all of our future babies…all six of them.” He laughed as Sheridan once again smacked his arm. “Hey, hey, I was just starting to get serious here!” he groaned.

“OK, I am sorry, go on,” Sheridan said, intrigued at where the conversation was leading.

“Well, I know I told you once that my dream was to become a lawyer, only I gave it up so I could help support the family when I got out of high school. I joined the police force instead of going to college. But now…now I have been thinking of what it would be like to go for it, you know, to do what I have always wanted to do, to go after my dream.”

“You want to be a lawyer?” Sheridan asked, shocked.

“Yeah, what do you think about that? Think it’s a good idea?” He searched her eyes with his.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea, if that’s what you want!” Sheridan said. “We have my trust fund. We don’t need to worry about money. And it could easily pay for your tuition too…”

“Whoa, hold on. This is something I want to pay for myself, not with Alistair Crane’s blood money.” Seeing her hurt expression, he reached up to touch her face. “ Sheridan, I really want to do this, but I want to be the one who pays for it. I will save up as much of my salary as I can. I can go to school nights, just part-time. I want to be here for you and Julia Eve as much as I can. And one day, I want to fight criminals in the courtroom. That’s always been my dream.”

Sheridan smiled. How could she argue with anyone’s dream? Here was a man who loved her and their baby with all his heart, a man who would do anything for her. He wanted to achieve all of his dreams, while keeping his pride intact. She wasn’t about to deny him that. “OK, we will do it your way,” she said. “And you can pay the tuition using your income. But you had better keep that promise about being here for Julia Eve and me, because I don’t know what I’d do if I never got to see you much.”

“Oh, you never have to worry about that,” Luis said. “I will always be here for my two favorite ladies. He bent down and kissed Julia Eve on the cheek. “Sheridan, she’s finally asleep.”

“Awww, I will go put her in her bassinet.”

“No, allow me,” Luis said. He picked the baby up and carried her into the bedroom, gently placing her inside her bassinet. “Night, night, my sweet princess,” he said, kissing her forehead and then patting her head. He smiled at his baby girl. Looking up, he saw Sheridan in the doorway, her eyes shining.

Luis walked over to her, taking her by the hand back into the living room. He pulled the bedroom door shut behind them. “Now that Julia Eve is in dreamland, it’s time her mommy and daddy join her,” he said devilishly, leading her to the couch.

Sheridan threw her arms around his neck as the two connected with a kiss so passionate, it just about knocked her socks off…no, that was Luis taking off her socks with his hand! “Luis,” she giggled, coming up for air, “what are you doing to my socks?”

“I just wanted to feel your feet against mine,” he said. “I love how your feet feel. But, we can’t have our feet feeling lonely now, can we? I guess that means we’re going to have to let the rest of our bodies join them, piece by piece.”

“Oooh, I like the sound of that,” Sheridan said, setting her hands to work at following Luis’s suggestion.

Soon, the two were engaged in the heights of passion that only they could reach, the kind of dream they hadn’t dared possible just a few short weeks before. Sheridan and Luis had found one another again, and they would never be apart again.

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Julian and Eve kissed passionately as they entered his bedroom. Julian shut the door behind them and fumbled with the lock, his lips never leaving Eve's. He didn't remember how they had made it up the stairs to his bedroom - but somehow they had. The trip across the foyer and up the stairs had been one long, beautiful kiss.

Eve finally pulled away and tried to catch her breath. She could not believe the passion that this man stirred in her, the desires that his simple touch could unleash in her body. How could she have lived without this for so long?

"What...are you thinking?" Julian asked, finally getting his wind back.

"Just that...I love you...so much," she said, tears flowing down her cheeks. "I don't know why it took me so long to see what was staring me in the face all this time. Why was I so blind?"

"Don't blame yourself, Eve," Julian said, cupping her face with his hands and using his fingers to wipe away her tears. "It took me almost as long to realize the same thing. I don't think we were ready to see it before. I had some growing up to do..."

"And I had to sort out all my problems," she added. "We have missed out on so much..."

"We still have the future," Julian said, bringing her hand up to his mouth for a kiss. "And I for one plan to live another thirty years at least."

Eve smiled. "Only thirty? I was hoping you would make it another forty. I plan to."

"Yes, well, I am older than you are...but for you, dear, I could live to be a hundred even, if I have you to keep me company."

"You have me," Eve said. "The past is in the past. The future begins tonight." She reached up and began unbuttoning his shirt.

Julian drew in a deep breath. "Oh, Eve, you are making me lose my mind here..."

"Already?" she laughed, taking care of the last button. "It's not as though you are a teenager, Julian."

"Well, when I'm around you, I feel like I'm seventeen again...and the world is fresh and new."

Eve ran her fingers along Julian's masculine chest. "The world is fresh and new," she whispered. "It's a whole new beginning." She removed his shirt as he lifted his arms to help.

He nodded in agreement, his eyes, deep with desire, holding hers. Then, wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her close, his lips hungrily seeking hers. His heart pounded when she parted her lips, allowing him to deepen the kiss. As they kissed, Julian's hands caressed her silky hair and moved on down her back, pressing her closer.

A few minutes later, coming up for air, he gazed into her deep brown eyes. "I love you," he whispered as he nervously began fumbling with the buttons on her blouse.

"And I love you, Julian, with all of my heart." Eve smiled tenderly, and then chuckled at his unsuccessful attempts at manipulating her buttons. "Here, let me help you. They are tricky, even for me." She finished removing her blouse for him and stood in front of him in her bra and skirt.

Julian's eyes filled with desire as he reached behind her to unfasten her bra, smiling when she helped him slip it over her head and arms. His heart fluttered upon seeing her beautiful breasts, ready and waiting for his touch. "I want you so much," he whispered as he moved in to explore her exquisite chest.

"Then take me," she replied, her body yearning for his touch. Their mouths locked again in a sensual kiss as Julian's hands moved to arouse even more desire in her.

He slowly maneuvered her back toward the bed, his lips never leaving hers. Laying her down gently on the soft bed, he let her mouth go. Bending over her, leaning against the foot of the bed, he stared for a moment at her beautiful, sensuous body. "In the pit, I never got to see you like this," he said, his eyes taking in all of her beauty. "You are exquisite... There is no one like you, in any way." He reached down to caress the soft skin of her elegant arms.

"Nor you, Julian," she said. "That is why I love you." She noticed that his eyes were suddenly filling with tears. "This is supposed to be a happy occasion," she joked. "We are making love here, Julian, not attending a funeral."

"I know," he said, swallowing hard. "I was just thinking that I don't deserve this pleasure, after all I have done."

"Remember what we said about the past?" she asked, reaching up to touch his face. "It stays in the past. It's the present we're working on now, and the future...and I don't know about you, but I am thoroughly enjoying myself here." She gently wiped the tears away from his face.

Laughing lightly, he looked into her deep, beautiful eyes and saw his own feelings reflected back at him. It was then he knew for sure that there need be no more apologies, no more guilt... This woman loved him for who he was, and would love him until the day he died. Of all the men she could have had, he was the one she wanted - her true love, her soul mate.

Eve smiled tenderly as she slid her hands around his back and pulled his body toward hers. When she reached under him to unzip his pants, he groaned in anticipation, no longer able to contain his yearning for the woman he loved.

Julian hungrily joined his mouth with hers as he removed the rest of her clothing. When she was finally lying undressed on his bed, he took in her beauty, as his heart filled with the most incredible love and desire for her. He had never felt this way about anyone else, and knew there would never be another who would grab onto his heart like Eve. Slowly, he descended toward her, knowing now that he was worthy to give her all of his love.

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Much later, Eve woke up in Julian's arms. Noticing that he was sleeping peacefully, she smiled. She couldn't believe that she was finally here, in the arms of the man she loved, completely free to be with him.

She had met with TC earlier and had told him that she was going to Julian. He had appeared hurt at the news, but had brushed off his sorrow and covered it with indifference toward her and anger toward Julian.

Eve knew he was deeply wounded, but also knew in the end it was the best decision for all involved that they separate. TC had agreed to a divorce, acting as if it was what he really wanted, although she knew differently. She could still see his love for her in his eyes...behind the pain.

The two had talked at length about her past, and Eve had revealed the sad tale of the child she had lost - Julian's child. She could tell TC was upset with the news, but more than that, he was astonished that she had forgiven Julian for what he had put her through. It was then, Eve knew, that TC had realized the depth of her feelings for Julian. He finally understood that she was no longer his, and had never been completely his from the start because of her secrets and lies. TC, although terribly hurt, had at last agreed to let her go.

She had wanted to part on good terms with him for the girls' sake, and was pleased that she was able to do that. Eve knew that she still must call Whitney and break the news to her about the divorce. She was planning on seeing Simone in the morning to tell her what she and TC had decided as well. Neither girl was going to take it well, she realized, but she hoped they would come to understand the reasons behind her choice. It would be a shock to them, she knew, but they were big girls now and both seemed to have matured tremendously in the past year.

Julian began stirring at that very moment. He opened his eyes and blinked them, as if to see if what he was looking at was real or a mirage. He smiled at the love of his life. "Eve..." he said simply.

"Yes, love?" she asked.

"I thought for a moment this was all a dream," he admitted, looking into her gorgeous brown eyes. "I can't believe you're actually here - in my house - in my bed..."

"In our bed," Eve corrected him, her face all smiles. "As I told you earlier, I am home now...and you know that will mean some changes."

"Changes?" Julian asked, remembering how when Rebecca moved in, she had completely refurbished the mansion. He grinned. "Redecorate whatever you want, my dear - just as long as you're here, that's all that matters."

"I wasn't talking about redecorating, Julian," she said, playfully slapping his arm. "I meant that there would be changes with you...with the lifestyle you're used to."

"Oh, that," he laughed. "I gave up womanizing long ago, Eve. There's only one woman for me now."

"I know that," she said. "And I'm sure that will always be the case; it doesn't worry me in the least. No, I was referring to things like sharing your room with somebody else. You've never really done that, have you, Julian? I mean, I know Ivy had her own bedroom, and I'm assuming Rebecca did as well."

"Yes, they did," Julian said. "But don't think for an instant that I want you away from me any night. This is where I want you always, Eve, in my arms." He caressed her hair as he leaned over and gave her a kiss.

Eve returned his kiss and then pulled back. "Then there's my career, Julian. I work late hours. Are you going to be understanding of that?"

"Just as long as I have you, dear, I don't care about the rest. I'm thrilled you have a career of your own; Ivy and Rebecca never did. Maybe that was part of the problem with them."

"I'm glad you are so understanding," Eve said, smiling, "because the biggest change is yet to come..."

"What else?" Julian inquired, not sure where the conversation was headed.

"How are you going to handle the 3 a.m. feedings?" she asked, a huge smile on her face.

"What? 3 a.m...." Julian looked confused for a second. Then it hit him! "You're...you're not...?"

"Pregnant?" Eve smiled, blushing a little. "Oh, yes, Julian, you're going to be a daddy again."

Julian was completely shocked by the news. His eyes were as large as she had ever seen them, and his mouth hung wide open for what seemed like an eternity. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, giving it time to sink in. He thought of little Julia Eve, and his demeanor brightened suddenly. A broad smile spread across his face. He had never in a million years imagined those words coming out of Eve's mouth: She was pregnant! He couldn't believe what that meant for him...a new beginning, a second chance for them to have a family together, and a way for him to make things right with her.

Turning to his only love, Julian looked through the sudden tears in his eyes and said, "You have made me the happiest man in the world tonight, Eve."

"I am thrilled about it too," she admitted, smiling as much as he. "Quite surprised, but thrilled."

A thought suddenly crossed Julian's mind. "Are you sure that...?"

"That's it's ours?" Eve asked. She reached up and pushed the hair back on his forehead. "Oh, yes, honey, I'm sure. TC and I hadn't been together for awhile...and besides, we had trouble conceiving a child together after Simone was born. TC always said it was me - I think it hurt his pride too much to think otherwise. I guess we now know the problem was not with me." She shook her head and sighed. "Plus, as an obstetrician, I am pretty good with dates. And, like Sheridan, I just know that I am carrying the child of the man I love." Eve smiled as she said this last part, her eyes never leaving Julian's.

He leaned in and kissed her gently. "Is it OK, at your age and all?" he asked, worried.

She laughed. "I am not the youngest mother who will deliver at our hospital, but I am not quite the oldest either. More and more women my age are having babies," she said, "but usually with outside help." Eve chuckled. "That's one area you've never seemed to have had a problem in, Julian..."

"What? Getting a girl pregnant?" he asked, blushing. "I suppose not."

"We will just have to be very careful from now on," she laughed. "I intend for this to be my last."

"And for me, my best," he said. "I was never there for my other children, Eve. They hardly know me. I want to do things differently this time...to be a good father."

"You will be, Julian, the best!" Eve declared. "I have seen you with Julia Eve. You are wonderful with her."

"She is a precious little girl," he said. "I'd like a girl. I was always a man who favored sons, but I see now that daughters are very special in their own right."

"Yes, they certainly are," Eve beamed. "I have two wonderful ones myself."

"If it's a girl, I think we should call her Eden," Julian said. "Because even though she was conceived in a pit, it was like paradise for me and my Eve."

"And if it's a boy?" Eve asked.

"Is there a male version of Eden?" he wondered, grinning.

"I think Aden is the male form of Eden. We could use the Irish version - Aidan - what do you think?"

"Aidan Crane...hmmm... It has a nice ring to it," he said. "My dear, you have made me so very happy tonight, in so many ways," he declared. "I couldn't love you anymore than I do right now."

"I couldn't love you more either," she revealed. "You make me whole, Julian. You fill the void that has been in my heart since you left."

"I could say the same about you, Eve. Without you, I am not a complete person; I have been a mere shell of a man these last twenty years. Now I am whole again, ready to tackle whatever life throws our way."

"This child will be loved," Eve said, gently patting her stomach. "And I hope we can find our son soon. Then we will really be a complete family."

"We will find him, Eve. He is out there; I just know it." Julian leaned in and kissed his precious love.

"There is one more problem, Julian."

"What?" he asked, having no clue as to what she was referring.

"Alistair," she said. "I'm sure by now he knows that I am here."

"Yes, Father would have seen us on the cameras...except not in here," he reassured her. "We have total privacy in this room."

"Do you think he'll follow through on his threat and disown you?" she asked, her heart knowing his answer but wanting to hear it one more time.

"I don't really care if he does," Julian said. "I would take being penniless and having you over having billions without you."

She smiled and kissed his lips. "Whatever he does, it will be soon."

Julian nodded. "If there's one thing good I can say about Father, it's that he's definitely swift in his actions. I wouldn't worry though, Eve. I'm certain he'll remove me as the Crane heir, probably fire me from my position at Crane Industries...but he can't take every dime I have - some of the money is in my name too."

"I'm not worried," she said, looking deep into his adorable hazel eyes. "I would stay with you even if you were kicked out on the street. That's how much I love you."

Julian sat up and then re-positioned himself gently on top of Eve, his hands caressing the soft skin of her beautiful face. "I love you, my dear, more than you can imagine." He closed the gap between their mouths, meshing his lips with hers.

At that moment, the telephone rang next to the bed. "What timing," Julian groaned, making a face. He rolled off of Eve and scooted over to the side of the bed to pick up the receiver. "Yes, Father, what do you want?" he asked, his tone radically different from when he was speaking to Eve. "What?!" Julian cried. "Are you sure?... Unbelievable!" He clumsily hung up the phone and sat staring ahead into space.

"Julian, what's wrong?" Eve asked worriedly.

Her lover suddenly began laughing hysterically. "Yes!" he exclaimed, turning to her and smiling.

"What is it, Julian?" Eve wondered, the suspense killing her.

"The best news we could get, aside from finding our son," he replied. "Father is dead."

"You're kidding, right?" she asked. "Alistair - dead? I never thought I would see the day that that..."

"Bastard?" he helped finish for her. "You can say it. He certainly was one."

"Yes, that bastard... I never thought I'd see the day that that bastard would die. He seemed indestructible."

"Yes, he did," Julian admitted. "But I couldn't be happier. I am finally free!"

"What did he die of?" Eve asked curiously.

"He was killed," Julian said, "murdered, to be exact."

"Murdered?" Eve cried. "By whom?"

"It's by what, not whom," Julian said. "And the answer is, our love."

"I don't understand..." Eve confessed.

"Well, it seems that my dear father saw the two of us kissing each other earlier...You know how we get carried away with our kisses...and he had a massive coronary, right there on the spot. Apparently he just fell over dead on his desk. His secretary's the one who called me."

"I don't believe it," Eve said, trying to hold back her laughter. The picture of that formidable, evil man keeling over from watching them kiss was just too funny a picture for her. And what luck! She smiled broadly. "Our last obstacle gone - now I know we are destined to be together. Everything has worked out for us, finally."

"Well, almost everything," Julian said, grinning.

"What hasn't?" Eve asked, confused.

"Well, the phone call interrupted us," he said in his sexiest tone, "and we never got to finish what we started just now."

"I think I can fix that," she laughed.

"You can? Good, because I was hoping..."

"Come here, my man," she said, reaching for him to come back to the center of the bed, and then pulling him by his arms down onto her. "Let's celebrate your good news."

Once more they made love, this time realizing that nothing was left to prevent them from living out their lives together at the Crane Estate. Eve was home...and she and Julian would enjoy their home together for decades to come.

Courtaney
6.22.07, 2:45 AM
Epilogue ...

Julian took over complete control of Crane Industries upon the death of his father, Alistair. He improved the company's image while maintaining its success in the business world.

He and Eve were married as soon as her divorce from TC was finalized. They were wed on the beach in Bermuda and enjoyed a relaxing and passionate honeymoon on the island.

Eve continued working at the hospital and was never hassled again about her late hours.

Eight months after she moved into the Crane Mansion, Eve gave birth to a healthy baby boy, whom they named Aidan Seth Crane. He was the perfect mixture of his parents, bearing his father's eyes and nose and his mother's mouth and complexion. Only his hair was his own - it grew in as gorgeous locks that were the deepest shade of brown. He was the apple of his parents' eyes.

Whitney eventually fell in love with and married Julian's son Fox. They moved into the mansion for awhile after their wedding. Fox and his father slowly worked out their differences and eventually forged a true father/son relationship.

Simone transferred to a college in Florida, and there met and fell in love with a young architecture student who showed her the true meaning of love.

TC eventually remarried after meeting a former nun on a cruise. The two hit if off big and have been inseparable ever since.

When Aidan was six years old, Julian and Eve learned the truth about their first child...that they had had a daughter, not a son. They were stunned to learn she had been so close to them, in Harmony, all of her life. With both of their children home, Eve and Julian were on cloud nine.

Julian groomed Fox to one day replace him at Crane Industries, hoping that sometime in the future Aidan would be able to learn the ropes from his big brother and become the next Crane heir.

Rebecca used her millions to buy a yacht that she stocked with a well-built crew. She was last seen setting sail to South America, as happy as could be about the scenery.

Mrs. Wallace ended up in an excellent nursing home, thanks to Sheridan. She kept herself busy chasing the home's young manager around. He was always looking over his shoulder for signs of his walker-wielding admirer.

Beth and Charlie both received life sentences for their involvement in the triple kidnapping. They were sent to the same prison, much to Beth's horror and Charlie's delight.

Sheridan's annulment from Antonio came through quickly. She and Luis were married immediately afterward in a small ceremony at their church, with Julia Eve as the "flower girl," spending most of the time being lovingly held by her parents' two guests of honor, Julian and Eve.

After the wedding, the couple spent their honeymoon in Sheridan's favorite city, Paris, and in Spain, which Luis had always wanted to see. Before they left, Julian surprised them with his wedding gift - a temporary nanny hired to go along on the trip and look after Julia Eve, so that she could be with her parents on their honeymoon.

Much to Julian's delight, Sheridan and Luis stayed on at the estate, building a new home near their beloved cottage. They eventually had three more children - another daughter, Katherine, who looked just like Sheridan with her blond hair and blue eyes, and identical twin boys named Martin and Michael, who were the picture of their father, Luis, right down to their gorgeous smiles.

Luis finally realized his dream of going to law school. Upon passing the bar exam, he set up a practice in Harmony that catered to the underprivileged. He fought hard for every client. Then one day, he was elected Harmony's district attorney.

Sheridan raised her children without the help of a nanny, and when the twins started school, she went to work as an executive at Crane Industries, right alongside her brother Julian. He was amazed at her capacity for business and ashamed that he had overlooked her talents for so long.

Julian and Sheridan remained close. She never told anyone the secrets he had revealed to her in the pit. She knew that Julian's redemption had become complete during his time with her there. There was no more need to dredge up the past.

She always smiled when she saw him in the yard playing with little Aidan and her children. He loved spending time with them. Julia Eve, she knew, would always hold a special place in her uncle's heart. She was what led him back to his one true love, and her name forever symbolized their togetherness.

Although none of the three captives looked back on their time in the pit with complete fondness, it was an experience that would bind them together forever. Not one, but two miracle children had come out of that time...children that had forever changed their lives.

The End