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OKDeanna
5.26.07, 11:40 PM
Posted here at Coffeerooms and at my website, About Passions: The OKDeanna Fanfic Collection (http://www.geocities.com/okdeanna)


The Alphabet Series
By
OKDeanna (okdeanna@yahoo.com)

Post Fancy

Part One: Addicted to Gone


Addicted

“Isn’t that your ex?”

Luis sank the eight ball in the corner pocket and straightened, his blurred gaze lifting from the near empty green felt to follow his most recent opponent’s line of sight. Between the thick layer of smoke and his alcohol consumption, it took him a minute to bring the pool hall’s newest patron into focus. When he did, he wished like hell he hadn’t.

The black off the shoulder halter-top and short, leopard print skirt wasn’t familiar. If it had been, Luis knew—without a doubt—his mind would have recalled all the ways he’d coaxed her out of it. All the ways his hands explored her soft calves. Her toned stomach. Her slender neck.

His fingers would itch to cup her breasts, massaging the firm, apricot peaks with his hands until she begged for his mouth to do the same. Her sweet, low moans of pleasure would fill his ears, her wild and passionate cries driving him closer and closer to his own release.

His insides quaked with the need to hold her in his arms, kissing his way along her bare flesh, ravishing her lithe body the way he had so many nights before. Even now, amidst the crowd of regulars, he could feel the slow burn of desire erupt beneath his skin. Warming him from the inside out.

Yet instead of losing control and giving into his more primal urges, he shook his head and sighed. “That’s Sheridan,” he said clearing his throat, praying his friend didn’t pick up on his rusty tone of voice. “I wonder what she’s doing here? This isn’t exactly a typical hangout for a Crane.”

“Typical? Now that’s a word I’d not associate with a lass as beautiful as her.”

Luis wouldn’t, either. At least not the Sheridan he’d come to know and—

Don’t go there, buddy. You know where thoughts like that lead. Heartache central.

Mac’s face broke out into a fond smile of remembrance as he said, “I never thought I’d see the day anyone beat me at darts, but I’d be damned if she didn’t do it, mate. Your Sheridan impressed us all that first night, didn’t she? She’s one of a kind that lass. A bloke would have to be daft in the head to let a fine as woman as her get away, am me right?”

Unless the ‘lass’ wanted to get away, Luis thought bitterly. “It’s…complicated.”

“Love always is, me friend. Love always is.” Mac tossed a twenty on the table and clapped him on the shoulder before heading for the front door…and Sheridan.

A wide smile spread across her ruby lips as his friend placed a chaste kiss against her cheek. Mac said something, causing her to laugh and then…her sapphire eyes were on him, their gazes locking much the same way they did the first time they met.

Luis followed her progress as she weaved her way through the crowd, coming to a stop in front of him, her blue eyes bright with life. “Hi,” she whispered softly, an almost shy smile resting on her lips.

“Hi yourself,” he said denying the urge to once again kiss her senseless.

And that’s when it hit him. No matter how much pain they put each other through. How many times they said it was over. It would never be true. They were connected. Always had been, always would be. He supposed it came with the territory when you loved someone as much as he loved her, and vice versa.

Love was an ever present, mind-blowing addiction.

And he was, without a doubt, addicted to her.

Still.


Breathe

“I…didn’t expect to see you,” she whispered softly, her sapphire eyes following him as he removed his hands from the back of her chair and slid into his own seat opposite her. “I don’t even know why I came. I haven’t been here since…well, a long time.”

He nodded once. “Yeah, it’s been a while for me, too.” He reached for his mug of beer and brought it to his lips for another sip as he asked, “Why isn’t Chris with you?”

She frowned at the question, and hurt flickered across the features of her face. “I can’t believe you would think that I— I would never bring him here, Luis. This is—was—our place.”

They had a lot of places once. She couldn’t keep Chris out of all of them. “It hasn’t been ours for a long time, Sheridan. We both know that. But…I’m glad you didn’t bring him with you. This way I get you to myself again. At least for a little while anyway.”

“Where is…Fancy?” she questioned hesitantly. “Why isn’t she with you tonight?”

She didn’t bring Chris, but she thought he would bring Fancy? Here? He shook his head. “Same reason Chris isn’t with you,” he lied. For some reason, he could bring himself to admit he and Fancy weren’t together anymore. Not that he thought Sheridan would give a damn, but…he did. It was easier to think of them as finished if he could pretend he had someone else waiting for him at home. Even if that were no longer true.

He averted his eyes toward a pool table in the distance. “You remember how to play pool?” he asked, turning his attention back to her. “I could use a new opponent.”

“Why so you can beat me the way you beat Mac?” Amusement lit her eyes. “He told me you slaughtered him. Warned me never to bet against you.” She winked and admitted, “I told him I’d challenge you to a game of darts instead.”

Darts? He hated darts. “I don’t think tonight is a good night for that challenge. I can play pool drunk off my ass with my eyes closed, but darts? I might seriously injure someone.”

Amusement turned to laughter. “Somehow I doubt you’ve had that much to drink.” She titled her head to the side, studying him. “If we can’t play pool and we can’t play darts, what’s left for us to do?”

He could think of a million things for them to do, and a million more ways to do them. But to her, he held out a hand and suggested, “How about we dance?”

She sucked in a sharp breath. “Dance? Here? Luis, I—Are you sure?”

He smiled, nodding. “I’m not sure about much right now,” he said, sliding to his feet and gently taking her hand. “But I am sure about this. Come on. It’ll be fun.”

He helped her out of her chair and led her through the thick crowd, pulling her in close the second they reached the small, hardwood dance floor in the back. He captured one hand against his chest, and as they slowly began to sway to the music, the other moved to drape along the back of his neck, her red fingernails lightly scraping his skin.

Luis met Sheridan’s eyes then, and suddenly, he forgot how to breathe.


Captivated

Luis couldn’t remember the exact day he fell in love with Sheridan. To tell the truth, he couldn’t remember much of anything outside of the two beautiful, sapphires orbs gazing back at him. The longer he stared into those glittery blue gems, the more he forgot why he wasn’t supposed to care.

Which suited him just fine.

“Luis, I—”

Her voice broke off as his gaze dropped to her lips, mesmerized by the way they parted, all but daring him to sample the succulent, burgundy softness his own mouth craved. Her tongue darted out, moistening her bottom lip and Luis did the only thing he could do—he closed his eyes and gave up the fight.

He touched her lips once. Twice. A third time. Before finally, mercifully, she began to kiss him back. Slow, tender, and passionate. Each gliding movement snapped another rung of his control, until finally he let his own hunger and passion for her take over.

She tasted like strawberries. Sweet, tart, and spine-tingling, delicious.

He wanted more. Needed more. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get that here. With a reluctant groan, he lifted his head and met Sheridan’s stunned gaze. “I…won’t apologize for that, sweetheart. I wanted to do that since the second I saw you tonight.” She made a surprised O and he couldn’t stop himself from stealing another kiss before he admitted, “You still captivate me, Sheridan. No matter what happens between us, I won’t ever stop caring about you.”

Tears welled in her eyes. One hand moved to touch his cheek. “I’ll always care about you, too, Luis. I… haven’t forgotten what we had together. I never will. Nothing else comes close to the way you make me feel. The way you have always made me feel.”

He knew what she meant. He felt the same way about her. “So what do we do, baby? Where do we go from here?”

“I don’t know, Luis. I just don’t know.”

The song ended and Luis led her back to their table. He wasn’t surprised when she made the move to leave. He was, however, shocked by her invitation to join her. “Are you sure about this?” he asked, as he grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and draped it across her shoulders. “What will you tell Chris if he finds out we were together tonight?”

“What will you tell Fancy?” she countered, giving him a pointed look. She slid her arms into the sleeves of his coat and sighed. “Why don’t we save those thoughts for another time? Besides, it’s just a walk on the wharf. It’s not like I invited you home with me.”

No, but if she had, he’d have gone. Regardless of the consequences it might hold. “You’re right,” he whispered instead. “It’s just a walk.” He smiled when she grinned at him, and motioned for her to lead the way through the crowd to the front door. When she asked about his being cold, he shrugged. “I don’t think I’ll have to fight any cold tonight, sweetheart. The blood is pumping too fast for that.”

She blushed at the bluntness of his words and sighed. “Oh, Luis, what are we going to do?”

Hell if he knew. But right now, he didn’t much care, either. “Let’s just enjoy the moment, sweetheart. Whatever comes later can wait.” His smile widened as she reached for his hand, linking their fingers together. He gave her a light squeeze in return and together, hand in hand, they walked toward their favorite spot—the wharf.

Dazzled & Dazed

Gorgeous, shimmering patches of moonlight caught on the raven hair of the man beside her, illuminating the coarse, black strands with a halo of iridescent blue beams. For a moment, she was struck silent by the sheer beauty of the sight. Dazed by the handsome profile of his olive-toned features, at once both so familiar and so utterly mystifying she inwardly gasped.

She swallowed the protrusion of anxiety in her throat, and blew out a short breath, turning her attention back to the immeasurable expanse of rough, darkened water and pale, breaking waves. In the distance, a seagull cried, its mournful call so reminiscent of the longing she felt inside.

Despite the knowledge that it was wrong, that she didn’t truly deserve a second chance at real love, she couldn’t deny her feelings for the man beside her. She wanted him. Back in her life. With a ferocity that simultaneously petrified and exhilarated her.

“Hey,” Luis said, reaching out a hand to gently clutch her elbow. “Are you all right? You look sad all of the sudden? You having second thoughts about asking me to come with you tonight?”

She shook her head. “No, it’s not that. It’s just— Things have been so complicated between us these last few years,” she admitted, twisting to face him. “Somehow the dreams we had to share our lives got lost along the way and…I miss them. I don’t think I realized how much until tonight.”

He smiled down into her eyes, lifting one large palm to cup her cheek. “I know what you mean,” he said, his amber gaze searching her face. “I miss the way things used to be between us, too. Very, very much.”

He meant it. She could see the truth within his eyes. “Luis, I—”

“Shh,” he said, covering her lips with two fingers. “Don’t say anything. Just…let me look at you.” He trailed his finger across her lips, his eyes dropping to follow its path. “I almost forgot how soft these were. How full and sensual and…tempting.”

She swallowed, hard, and her tongue shot out to moisten her dry lips, catching the tip of his finger, the unexpected contact causing them both to gasp aloud. He looked up at her then, his eyes glistening with unspoken questions, and she watched, mesmerized by the intensity of his gaze, as his hand fell to her hips and his head slowly descended toward hers.

Her breath caught in her throat. Her knees nearly buckled from the anticipation of his kiss. From the utter joy of—

His lips brushed hers. Light, hesitant…and oh so tender.

She gasped again, startled by the overwhelming power of emotions that shot into her veins. By the sheer electricity of his touch as it crackled to life beneath her skin. As if needing to remind her how strong of a connection they held between them.

But she knew. She had always known. Men who kissed like him were hard to forget. She should know.

Luis angled his head and increased the pressure of the kiss, his callused fingers sliding beneath the thin material of her shirt to dig into the bare flesh at her waist, until she had no choice but to step further into his embrace. His other hand lifted to the back of her hair, tangling in the strands, gripping them as if he were afraid she might pull away.

But she wouldn’t. Couldn’t. She wanted this kiss as much as she needed the air to breathe. And she desired it even more.

Her hand fisted into the material of his black button-up, her trembling fingers itching to undo them one by one, until she could explore the smooth, powerful muscles shielded beneath. Yet, instead of undressing him, she forced her grip to relax, and lifted her hand to the back of his neck, groaning into his mouth as the heat from his skin seeped into the pad of her fingers.

His waiting tongue swept across the opening of her mouth, its rich velvet texture catapulting her senses into an overload of sweet, mesmerizing sensation. She repaid his ministrations with a tentative swipe of her own tongue, and then…she was lost, both dazzled and dazed by the power of her desire as their kiss propelled her to another place.

Enchanted Dreams

As the world around her melted away, a dizzying current of pleasure raced through her blood, igniting the first real spark of a long, enchanted dream. Where nothing mattered but this—the feel of his lips, the touch of his hand…the strength of his embrace as he softly, tenderly whispered words she never expected to hear again.

But it can’t last, a tiny voice warned. Nothing this good ever lasts.

Panting, completely devoid of breath, Sheridan pulled back, her eyes widening as they connected with the shocked, amber gaze of the man that stood before her. A man so much a part of her soul it terrified her.

Her lower lip quivered, and she lifted a hand to still it, the action unintentionally drawing his tormented gaze back to her mouth. She watched as he struggled to regain his composure, taking in huge gulps of air even as his eyes begged for another taste, another kiss.

Oh God. What had they done? “Luis, I—”

“Don’t,” he ordered hoarsely. “Just…don’t.” He shook his head. “We both…wanted it to happen. We still want it to happen.”

The fact that he was right did not ease her discomfort in the least. She drew another breath, and turned away from him to walk toward the wooden railing in the distance. Lifting her hand, she curled her fingers around the hard, weathered beam.

Beneath her palm she could feel the indention of two sets of initials. His and hers.

A reminder, he’d once told her. For whenever times got tough. So she would never again doubt how much he loved her. How much he wanted to be with her. And for years, she had clung to the promise in those words, as if they were the only lifeboat in a chaotic sea.

But they hadn’t saved her from the pain and heartache their relationship wrought. Nor had they saved her from the many mistakes they made between them. Yet, somehow, she still clung to the hope—the need to believe that it was true.

“I’m sorry,” he announced from behind her. “I never meant to…hurt you. I just… I needed to know it was still there. That connection between us. I needed to know I hadn’t killed it fully.”

She twisted her head to look at him. “Why? What does it matter now? I’m married. You’re in love with Fancy. Whatever we had, or could have…,” she paused, turning back to the ocean, “…is gone.”

“Is it?” he questioned, coming up behind her, his arms trapping her against the railing. His lips hovered near her ear as he challenged, “Tell me you didn’t feel something when I kissed you just now. Tell me you didn’t imagine my hands on you. That you didn’t imagine the two of us…being together.”

His rich, velvet tone sent a million tiny shockwaves through her nervous system. Even if she wanted to deny his claim, she couldn’t have. The effect of his voice, so deep and sure, would have given away whatever facade she tried to hide. “It still doesn’t change the facts, Luis. I’m married, and despite what we’ve done in the past…I won’t break those vows again.”

“Because you love him?” he asked, his tone both amused and irritated. “Or because you’re too scared to face what you feel inside?”

Scared? She wasn’t scared. She was…absolutely petrified.


Flushed

A tingling of excitement raced up her arm as he gently swung her around to face him. His dark eyes moved across her face—searching for an answer, she assumed. She twisted her head to stare at the empty boardwalk in the distance. “I should go,” she whispered after a moment. “It’s getting late and…”

“Your husband awaits,” he finished for her, his voice as emotionless as his words. He reached up, clutching her chin with his thumb and forefinger, and she had no choice but to look at him again. “Will you kiss him the way you kissed me tonight? Will he make you feel what…I make you feel?”

Her body trembled at his words. She shut her eyelids. “Why are you doing this, Luis? Why… now?” His palm flattened against her cheek, this thumb caressing her cheekbone. She opened her eyes. “I thought we… settled this between us. I thought… we both moved on.”

“So did I.” He lifted another hand to her face, framing it inside his large palms. “But then I saw you tonight. Really saw you. You aren’t happy with him, Sheridan. I can see it in your eyes.” He stopped, dropping his hands to the wood beams behind her, trapping her body with his words as well his movements, and shifted closer as he announced, “You still love me.”

Her skin flushed scarlet beneath his hypnotic gaze. “No, I…don’t.”

“Yes…” he paused, giving her a knowing smile, “…you do.”

The mystery in his eyes beckoned her. Called her. Dared her to resist his charm…his words. And she wanted to. God how she wanted to. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t because deep down she knew that he was right…

She did love him. More than she loved the air to breathe.

“Admit it,” he ordered softly, pulling her body tight against him. “Tell me how you feel. Tell me what you want. What you really want.”

You, her mind answered, I want you. But to him, she said, “I want to go home.”

It took more strength than she expected to break out of his hold, and when she did, she wanted nothing more than to have him pull her back in again. “I have a husband, Luis. A husband that…,” she refused to look at him as she forced the rest of the words past her lips, “…isn’t you.”

“A husband you stay with for a little boy you love.” He gripped her arm, and twisted her around to face him. “That isn’t a life, Sheridan. Hell, it’s barely even breathing. You don’t love him. You sure as hell don’t belong with him. You never did.

“You belong with me.”

“So says the man who is sleeping with my niece.” She shook her head, pulling her arm free of his hold. “You want to talk about where I belong? What about you, Luis? If you love me so much, how could you go after Fancy? How could you do that to me?”

He lowered his eyes, and thrust his hands into the pocket of his jeans. “How could I not?” he asked after a long moment of silence. “She reminds me so much of you. How you used to look at me. With that big, beautiful sparkle in your eyes that…you only got whenever you’d see me.

“She had that,” he admitted in a whisper, lifting his eyes back to her face. “And I needed that. In some twisted way, I think it gave me hope. Allowed me to believe that someday I’d see that same look in your eyes again.”

He stepped toward her. “And I did see it, Sheridan. I saw it tonight.” He reached up and ran his knuckles across her cheek. “I’m not proud of what I did with Fancy. I know it was wrong. Some days I could barely look at myself in the mirror because of it. But…being with her, laughing with her, it… made my loneliness a little easier to sleep with at night.”

“Oh, Luis.” She lifted her hand to the one on her cheek. “I am so sorry I… didn’t know. I didn’t realize—.”

“You know now,” he interrupted, capturing her hand, lowering their arms until he could pull her back against his chest. “Tell Chris you’re leaving him, Sheridan. Tell him you want to be with me. That you… still love me.”

Her lower lip quivered as she hoarsely whispered, “I…can’t do that.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Both,” she confessed softly. “We’ve tried so many times before, Luis. It never works. And I refuse to tear my son’s world apart over something that won’t even last.”

“But you’re willing to break both our hearts for a man you don’t love? A man that will never make you as happy as I can?” He released her and stepped back. “Maybe you’re right then. Maybe we don’t belong together. Because the woman I see right now…I don’t even recognize her.”

Some days she didn’t, either. She closed her eyes. “I…have to go, Luis. I…” she opened her eyes to look at him, “…need to get home.”

“Yeah,” he muttered, turning his back on her. “I guess you do.”


Gone

In his peripheral vision, Luis saw her lift her hand, its trembling movements hovering just above his left shoulder blade. For a moment, he expected her to make the contact. To offer him the solace he knew he could no longer feel.

But she didn’t. Hell, maybe she couldn’t.

He frowned when she dropped her hand, and listened as she silently removed his coat from her shoulders and placed it on the wooden banister beside him. The click of her heels echoed in his head as she quickly backed away out of his reach, and the only thing he wanted in those few seconds was to somehow find the words to make her stay. To make her…believe in them again.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered softly, her voice filled with the tears he couldn’t shed. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Luis. That’s the last thing I ever wanted to do again. We just…aren’t the same people anymore. We want different things now. Different…lives.”

No, they didn’t. They wanted the exact same thing. She just refused to let herself trust it. Trust him.

He shut his eyes. Fought to retain control. Ignore the mounting anger that seeped into his bloodstream, desperately trying to escape his thoughts—his voice. When he finally found the courage to lift his eyelids and speak, Sheridan was…

Gone.


End of Part One

OKDeanna
5.26.07, 11:44 PM
The Alphabet Series: Part II
By
OKDeanna (okdeanna@yahoo.com)

Helpless

“Like a moth to a flame we become helpless to the beautiful ghosts that true love sheds” -- Ryan O'Neal

She twisted against the firm, plush mattress, the expensive cotton sheets curling around her legs like a dull vice, imprisoning her body in its soft, warm folds. Emotions long buried pulled within her chest, burning her veins with the promise of something more, something real, something…dangerous.

One large hand cupped her cheek as dark eyes focused on her face, their benevolent gaze hypnotic as they intensely peered into her own. Questions danced inside his amber irises, daring her to either ignore… or answer the sinful call.

Rather than answer, Sheridan struggled to free herself from the mystic dream. To overlook the sweet sensation of his touch. The smoldering memory of his kiss. To deny the deep penetrating query that broke the calm within her once peaceful slumber.

Too late, a miscreant voice admonished thrusting the image of his striking face back into view. He lives inside you now. He is the ghost that haunts your dreams. He is part of you.

A whimper caught in her throat, its childlike wail shattering what was left of the sleep her weary body craved. A strong arm engulfed her waist, yanking her body forward until it hit a frail wall of soft, smooth muscle.

Her eyes shot open, the whisper of a name fading from her lips as her faint gaze landed on the calm face of her sleeping husband. She panted for breath, and quietly eased herself from the comfort of his variable embrace. After a few seconds of untangling shaky limbs from dampened sheets, Sheridan tossed back the covers and lowered her feet to the floor.

The digital clock on her bedside table read one-fifteen. Had it only been twenty minutes since she last closed her eyes?

She shook her head, reaching for the robe on the chair a few feet away, and silently shoved her arms into the satin sleeves as she made her way toward the door. Once outside the bedroom, she softly closed the door, and took two deep breaths, praying the fresh intake of oxygen could somehow ease the guilt that froze inside.

After briefly checking on James, she headed into the kitchen for a glass of water. Outside, the wind howled, its distinctive roar rattling the windowpanes as if warning her of an unknown danger. Despite the chilled air, she opened the back door and stepped out onto the lattice-enclosed patio, lowering herself onto one of the lounges a few feet away.

In the summertime, the patio never failed to ease her troubles. Tonight, she doubted even its proverbial peace could help.

She lifted the glass in her hand to her lips, closing her eyes as the cool rush of clear liquid slid across her parched tongue and down the back of her throat. In the distance, she heard an engine roar to life, the sound of gravel being thrown from a squeal of tires lighting the air.

She opened her eyes, frowning. Despite the knowledge she knew what she would see, she still got up and walked toward the open latticework that faced the mansion. As expected, her gaze landed on a modest size sedan a mere second before its taillights disappeared onto the main road.

Luis.

Sheridan drew in a shaky breath, her heart already making the decision before her mind fully formed its question. Walking back inside, she placed her glass on the counter and reached for the phone that rested on the wall, punching in a set of familiar numbers. When the person picked up, she said the only thing she could say…

“I need to see you…tonight.”

Impaired

“Sometimes the very thing you’re looking for is the one thing you can’t see.” --Vanessa Williams

Gwen opened the patio door to the mansion the second Sheridan knocked, quickly ushering her inside the study before anyone came downstairs and questioned them. “What’s going on?” her friend asked. “You really sounded upset on the phone. Has something happened?” She waited a heartbeat before she softly questioned, “Is it Chris?”

Sheridan shook her head. “No, it’s not Chris. Not really anyway.” She lowered herself to the couch and searched her friend's concerned face before blurting, “I need you to help me forget Luis.”

“I don’t understand,” Gwen stated, confused. “I thought you said you were over him? That you loved Chris.”

And she believed her? She must be a better liar than she thought. “I did say that, only…” she stopped, and blew out a breath, “it’s not true. I’m still in love with him. I never stopped loving him, and now… he knows it, too.”

“What do you mean he knows it? How could he know that? Did you tell him?”

“Not intentionally,” she muttered under her breath. “He kissed me, Gwen, and I…kissed him back.”

“You what? When? Where? Was it tonight? Where was Chris?”

Sheridan sighed. “I went out for some air after dinner. I ended up at the Pool Hall and…Luis was there, playing pool with a friend. We ended up dancing and then…before I knew it, things were turned upside down and inside out.” She groaned, and covered her face with her hands. “What am I going to do, Gwen? He knows the truth now. He knows I still love him. That I still want to be with him.”

“Because you kissed? Or because you told him?”

She dropped her hands. “Both,” she confessed softly. “He knew and then I stupidly confirmed it.”

Gwen frowned. “What about Fancy? I thought he was in love with her?”

“I thought so, too, until tonight. After everything he said, though, I’m fairly certain they broke up. But even if they didn’t, I know he doesn’t love her. He told me as much tonight. He was only with her because he couldn’t be with me, and now he wants me back.”

Tears pooled in her eyes. She lowered her head back to her hands. “Oh, God. I’ve lost my mind. I love him so much. I’d give anything to be able to be with him again. But it’s impossible. It’s always been impossible. It probably always will be. We just…aren’t right for each other.”

“Who says?” Gwen reached for her hands, lowering them away from her face. “Sheridan, what you and Luis have…what you’ve always had, it’s rare. Very rare. The kind of love that truly does come along once in a lifetime. Don’t turn your back on it again. If you do, you could lose it forever.”

Did Gwen think she didn’t know that? Hadn’t told herself that same thing a thousand times before? “Are you forgetting the fact that I’m married to someone else? Chris is my husband, Gwen. Not Luis.”

Her friend dropped her hands. “You don’t love Chris, Sheridan. You never did. You married him when you thought Luis was dead. You adopted James for the same reason. You wanted the family you didn’t think you could have with Luis.

“But you can have that, honey. Both of you can. All you have to do is let go and follow your heart.”

Easier said than done. “I can’t do that, Gwen. I just…can’t.”

“Yes, you can, and you have to. Chris is a nice guy,” she said. “He deserves to be with someone that truly loves him. Just as you deserve to be with someone that you love. Staying with a man out of obligation is no life, Sheridan. It’s a death sentence. Believe me here, I know what I’m talking about.”

How could she? She married the man she loved. “Gwen, we both know that’s a lie. You love Ethan. You have since you were children.”

“Yes,” she admitted with a nod. “I do love Ethan. I probably always will. But we both know he doesn’t love me. Not the way he should at least. He loves Theresa, and I can’t compete with that. I’m tired of even trying.”

Sheridan’s eyes widened at that. “What are you saying, Gwen? Are you… Do you plan to leave Ethan?”

She nodded sadly, her eyes welling with tears. “As much as I love him, I can’t be with him anymore. I can’t take his constantly calling out Theresa’s name in his sleep. I tried, but… it’s just too much. I have to get out, for both our sakes, and so do you, Sheridan.

“You have to leave Chris. You know you do. You belong with Luis. You always have. You always will.”

A sharp intake of breath interrupted whatever Sheridan might have said. But it didn’t really matter. The heartbroken man and teary-eyed boy standing in the doorway pretty much said it all.

“I guess we should have knocked.”

OKDeanna
5.30.07, 1:40 AM
Jaded and Just
By
OKDeanna (okdeanna@yahoo.com)

Sequel to Impaired


We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”
Bertha Calloway


At the loud, brisk knock on his apartment door, Luis bolted upright in the bed, his gaze automatically straying to the digital alarm clock on his nightstand. Three twenty-eight. He’d been asleep exactly twenty-two minutes.

Scowling at the unwelcome interruption, he tossed back the covers, lowering his feet to the floor, and reached for his bedside lamp switch, wincing only slightly as his forearm made contact with the cool glass of a half dozen empty beer bottles. Several fell to the floor at his feet, thankfully landing on the blue jeans he haphazardly tossed aside earlier that evening.

Pushing the bottles aside, Luis yanked on the discarded jeans and headed for the living room, mentally cursing whoever chose to grace his doorstep after a rare and much needed drinking binge. As his distorted gaze landed on the calm face of his current nemesis, he cursed aloud…and straightened to his full height.

“What do you want?” he asked eyeing the man suspiciously. “It’s late, and I’m tired.” Not to mention slightly inebriated.

What the hell did the bastard think he was doing anyway? Had he heard about the kiss and come to warn him away from Sheridan? Or had she finally found the courage to tell the truth about her feelings for him? For both of them?

A swift moving fist connected with his right jaw, answering Luis’ silent question and forcing him to take a couple of unbalanced steps back. He tripped over one of his own black boots, his left eyebrow introducing itself to the corner of one dark rustic end table on the way down.

Luis blinked against the fast flow of blood that trickled from the wound above his eye and stared up at the man that punched him in startled surprise. “I’ll be damned. I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“You’d be surprised what I’m capable of, Luis. Especially when it comes to protecting my family.”

Luis bit back a laugh, getting to his feet again, absently reaching for a clean washrag from the short stack piled on his newly reupholstered overstuffed leather chair. “But she isn’t your family anymore, is she?” he asked, pressing the cloth to his skin. “Because if she was, you wouldn’t be here looking to fight me. You’d be sleeping beside her.”

“You think you’re so smart, don’t you? You think you know her so well. But you don’t. You don’t know her at all. She loves me, Luis. And James. Maybe she doesn’t love us the same way she loves you, but that won’t keep her from fighting for us in the end.”

Lowering the rag, he eyed the man with disbelief. “You have got to be kidding me. You actually think she’ll want you back after kicking you out? No way. She made her decision. If she wanted to be with you, she would have never asked you to leave.”

“That’s just it,” Chris replied, a knowing smile on his face. “She didn’t ask me to leave. And she didn’t kick me out. Instead, she begged me to stay. Begged me not to leave her. Begged me not to break up our family. Our family, Luis. Not yours. Ours.

“You haven’t won her heart back yet. Not fully. And I, for one, plan to make sure it never happens.”

Good luck with that, pal. “It’s a lost cause,” Luis warned shaking his head sadly. “Whatever you do, it won’t be enough to make her forget what we had. It will never be enough. She and I have something you could never even hope to touch. It’s real, and it’s forever.”

“Where was that forever when she ended things with you and married me?”

This time he couldn’t stop the laugh that bubbled from his chest. “Aren’t you forgetting something in that little summary of yours? Like the fact that she thought I was dead?” He sobered, eyeing the man with a stern gaze. “She loves me, Chris. She’s in love with me. You know it. I know it. And more importantly, she knows it.

“The only thing keeping her from being with me right now, right this second, is her guilt over hurting you and disappointing James. It has nothing to do with loving you and not wanting to lose you. It has nothing to do with not being able to live without you.

She cares about you. I won’t deny that. She has the biggest heart of anyone I know. But that doesn’t mean she gave that heart to you. Because the truth is, she gave it to me a long time ago and I sure as hell never gave it back to her.”

“And you think a shared past together justifies your going after another man’s wife?” Chris arched an eyebrow at him, his voice and well as his tone holding both anger and certainty. “Do you honestly think she’ll break the vows we took and leave me and James for you? You can’t be that naïve, Luis. You killed her son and our unborn child. She won’t ever forgive you for that. Or forget.”

Luis averted his gaze, staring at spot just over Chris’s left shoulder. “I would never ask her to forgive or forget who was responsible for the death of our son or her baby with you. Nor would I expect that from her.” He moved his eyes back to the other man’s face. “But just because I would never ask or expect it, doesn’t mean I afford you the right to discuss it with me. I’ll let it, along with that sucker punch you landed, slide tonight. But don’t think for a minute my lenience will extend to tomorrow.

“Now get out. And don’t even think about coming back. I might love her enough to let her handle things with you on her own for now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t kick your ass if you show up here again.”

“This isn’t over, Luis. I won’t give Sheridan up without a fight.”

Neither will I, Luis thought slamming the door shut and thrusting the locks back into place, neither will I